Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Christmastime (TV) is (nearly) here...

It's that time of year again... the time for the importation of British holiday/Christmas specials!!

I ran across the trailer for the "Call the Midwife" Christmas special on-line yesterday and was delighted to learn that we won't have to wait very long for this one! (Unlike the "Downton Abbey" air date delays. I don't know about you, but avoiding spoilers was such a pain, I just ended up reading them. Pbbt!!!) Anyhow, back to Chummy, er, "Call the Midwife", PBS will air the program on December 29 at 7:30pm ET!!! (Thanks for not making us wait for this one, PBS!) Per the PBS website, series 3 will be airing in March. (Huzzah for more Chummy!)

Here is the synopsis:
In 1958 Poplar, the holidays are not just about the opening of presents, but also about the closing of deep wounds. Although the weather is unseasonably mild for this time of year, the lives of the midwives are anything but calm. Jenny’s relationship with Alec continues to blossom and Shelagh’s (formerly Sister Bernadette) quiet wedding to Dr. Turner is underway.
When a thousand-pound explosive is discovered, the district is evacuated and the Nonnatus House team is quick to take charge to ensure that the community is safe and warm. Always one to keep spirits high, Chummy decides to forge ahead with the Cubs Christmas party. However, just when the community’s holiday spirit is renewed, Poplar faces an outbreak of polio, with the repercussions of the illness affecting the nurses and nuns more than they could have ever imagined.

I have a feeling that this is going to be a double hankie episode, friends.

And here's the trailer:

Can't wait!! Between this and "Doctor Who" on December 25th at 8:00pm ET, not too bothered about not getting "Downton" on time. And don't forget, series 3 of "Sherlock" starts January 19th!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Halfway through November in Six Sentences

My dear friend Je Glide got married last Saturday.

And there was much rejoicing.

And dancing.

Sister K gets married this Saturday.

It's been a busy November, and I have barely been home.

 I need outdoor staff to deal with all of the leaves on my lawn.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Happy St. Crispin's Day!

One of my favorite speeches in all of Shakespeare:

Henry V Act IV, Scene iii.html

"This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day."

RAH!! Let's go win the Battle of Agincourt!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

My Favorite Time of Year: Autumn in New England

Sister K & I drove up into the northwest corner of Connecticut and then into Great Barrington, MA on Sunday. It was a beautiful day for a sunny Sunday leaf peeping drive, as evidenced by some of the photos I took.

Northwest CT

Northwest CT

Sheffield Covered Bridge

Sheffield Covered Bridge

I am of two minds when we go leaf peeping on a sunny day. I think it is hard to photograph the beautiful fall colors on a sunny day; the camera just can't do the splendid colors enough justice. It is really better to take photos on a gray day to get good contrast, but I would rather drive around on while the sun is shining. Still managed to get a few shots that I really liked. (We've already planned our drive into the "Quiet Corner" for next year!)

Monday, October 7, 2013

Actively listening...

When I was growing up (and even after I had thought I had stopped growing up), I was totally hooked on music. In early days, I would spend most of my disposable income on new tapes (or my free time taping favorite songs off the radio). Then as technology shifted, so did I, moving on to CDs and then on to digital music files. The first thing I would do when I got home from classes or work would be to turn on the stereo. I always have the radio on in the car. I would listen to albums over and over, absorbing the music and memorizing the lyrics until I could sing along with the band. And I loved discovering new music and new bands to increase my collection. Music was my passion, my obsession.

I don't know what it was, but during the last few years, I just haven't been feeling quite that way about new music. I still loved my old favorites, but I just wasn't letting anything new into my heart. Even in the car, I was listening to Sirius' XMs' First Wave pretty much exclusively and not going into any music newer than the late 1990s. Sad. Seriously sad.

However, something changed over the summer, and I am now totally receptive to new (alternative/indie) music. I play Pandora in the house and don't skip over the songs I don't know. In the car, I move the dial up to listen to Alt Nation and Sirius XM U. Right now, I am in a bit of a not quite country music singer/songwriter milieu, and the (new to me) artists I am loving include Neko Case, Aoife O'Donovan, and Luka Bloom. (The kicker about this: I don't like country music. But I do like bluegrass. And I like rockabilly. And Steve Martin and his banjo. So I think that it isn't really that I don't like country music; it is that I don't like pop country.) Anyhow, here are my top three albums of late.

Neko Case: I heard one of her songs ("I Wish I Was the Moon") in a random episode of "True Blood", and I thought it was so cool I went surfing around the internet to find out who wrote it (because TB doesn't list a song credit at the end of the episode.) I downloaded the album the song was on, Blacklisted, and I was immediately hooked. Now I have all of her solo albums. I have pretty much worn out the newest one, The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You, from listening to it in the car.  Her music is totally a "sitting on the porch after work, drinking a beer, having a smoke (if you do that anymore), watching as the sun go down and the light fades away while debating to have another beer or actually make dinner" kind of sound. It's been described as country noir, and I think that description describes her sound to a T.

Aoife O'Donovan: I've listened to her dad on WGBH radio (he hosts "A Celtic Sojourn") and a friend of mine went to New England Conservatory with her, but it wasn't until hearing her on NPR's "Weekend Edition" that I decided to look into her music. Her newest album, Fossils, is fabulous. It is a perfect "quiet Sunday morning, drinking coffee, and reading the papers while sitting on the porch" kind of sound. It's a little bit folk, a little bit country, a little bit rock; the instruments create a rich, layered sound. Her lyrics are stories set to music, and her vocals tell those stories with a sweet, occasionally husky sound. Even if I just put this on in the background, I catch myself listening to this album more closely each time I hear it.

Luka Bloom: Until this past summer, I was more familiar with Luka Bloom's brother, Irish folk singer Christy Moore, than with Luka himself. But after hearing a couple of his songs on the Spectrum channel on Sirius XM, I realized that his was a male counterpart to the music of both Neko and Aoife. I bought two of his albums from iTunes and created a Luka Bloom channel on Pandora, which sadly, ends up having a lot more versions of "Whiskey in the Jar" than I would like it to. (But it also has Loreena McKennitt and Clannad which are two of my all time favorite bands so I don't mind too much.)  Luka's sound is a lot more mellow than his brother's and also more melodic. (The only Christie Moore song that reminds me of Luka's sound is "Sweet Music Roll On".)  I would call it a good "reading on the porch on a Saturday afternoon, drinking lemonade, and basking in the warm sunshine" kind of sound. Great stuff!

So these three have done a great job in reconnecting me to the world of contemporary music, and I am looking forward to finding more new favorites in the days to come.

(Quick disclaimer: my friend MMH said something to me about my playing sad music when I was playing Neko while we getting ready to go to Je Glide's bridal shower. I don't think that this music is particularly sad, but happy Katy Perry pop music this isn't. Not knocking Ms. Perry. She is very good too. Just these three are better!)

"The falling leaves drift by the window"*

I love these early days of fall.

Behind the Hurlbut Dunham House


Autumn in Connecticut

(I especially love them now that the road construction on my street is nearly done.)

*lyric from "The Autumn Leaves". I am partial to the Nat King Cole version.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Shakespearean/PBS Public Service Announcement
image source:
Just learned that American iTunes is selling episodes of "The Hollow Crown" NOW, before the program has been shown on "Great Performances" on PBS. You can also pre-order the DVD from Amazon with a release date of September 17th. (Oddly, you can rent or buy the series from iTunes in either standard definition or in HD, but no word on a BluRay version yet from Amazon. I am holding out for Tom Hiddleston in high-def, because that's how I roll...)  ♥ ♥

The premiere date for the first play in the set,"Richard II", starring Ben Whishaw ("Name That Brit" installment 549: he plays the new "Q" in Skyfall ) is on Friday, September 20th... set your DVR early so that you don't forget! (Although you should check your local listings just to be on the safe side.)

If you don't know these history plays, I highly recommend reading the synopses on the "Great Performances" website. (You can also check out the trailer.) The synopses are really helpful if you are unfamiliar with the plays or with the historical figures/activities they represent. (I read both parts of Henry IV and Henry V in college, as well as studying medieval and Renaissance English history.) NB. It is not a good thing to treat Shakespeare's history plays as fact. True story: My Renaissance history professor asked the class why Henry V declared war on France, and a classmate answered that it was because the Dauphin had sent him tennis balls, which is a plot point in Henry V. I will never forget the lecture the whole class got after that... (It does make for really good drama though.)

Monday, August 26, 2013

"The Game's Afoot!"*

Oh, how I love Masterpiece Mystery! and its host, Alan Cumming. (Seriously, the man raises an eyebrow and purrs "murrrrderrrrr" in his lovely Scottish accent, and I get weak in the knees.) But unfortunately, Mystery! is only on for a couple of months out of the year.

When BBC America was first on the air, they used to have "Mystery Mondays" where they would run British mystery or detective shows. Now it is common knowledge that the British know how to write a good mystery story; heck, the world's first, greatest, and only consulting detective is British - Mr. Sherlock Holmes of 221B Baker Street. Now, (very sadly) BBC America no longer has Mystery Mondays (grumble grumble grumble), but many of the best of the British mystery/detective tv series are on dvd or Netflix or Amazon streaming. So there really is no reason that you can't have your very own "Mystery Monday" at home. And without the commercials!  Here are some of my favorite British mystery programs...

Inspector Lewis
1. "Inspector Lewis"
This sequel to the famous "Inspector Morse" series follows Morse's old sergeant, Lewis, now an Inspector himself, breaking in his new sergeant, DS James Hathaway. Set in present day Oxford (which is a character in its own right), the two work together to solve crimes among the dons and scholars at one of the most prestigious universities in the world. I thoroughly enjoy Kevin Whately's Lewis, but I love Laurence Fox's soulful Hathaway. The two detectives really make a great team despite their different personalities, backgrounds (DI Lewis is working class while Hathaway is Cambridge educated), and emotional baggage, and their characters develop quite a lot over the course of the series. Start with the stand alone pilot episode and then there are four or five episodes per series. (In the US, they are run as one episode, but in the UK they are split into two, and the US ran a couple of episodes in later seasons than they were shown in the UK so if IMDB listing doesn't match with the dvd you rented, don't fret.)
Agatha Christie's Poirot
2. "Agatha Christie's Poirot"
The "little gray cells" are always at work in this adaptation about the famous Belgian detective. I grew up reading Agatha Christie mysteries, and, as far as I am concerned, David Suchet's is the absolute best Poirot. With the help of his secretary Miss Lemon, good friend Captain Hastings; and Chief Inspector Japp of Scotland Yard, Poirot unravels even the most tangled web of intrigue. Set in 1920s London, the art direction and costumes are spot on. (Love the Art Deco everywhere!) The earlier episodes are short, made for a series, while the later ones are longer - tv movie length.

New Tricks
3. "New Tricks"
Following a botched hostage rescue, superintendent Sandra Pullman is put in charge of a new unsolved crime unit. Left to her own devices and short on funds, she decides to recruit three retired policemen, each with his own quirks: Jack Halford is grieving his wife; Brian Lane is brilliant, but unstable; and Gerry Standing is a ladies man surrounded by women - three ex-wives and three daughters. The UCOS investigators may have the experience, but the Met isn't like it used to be back in their heydays. If you like a mystery show that doesn't mind poking fun at itself, then this is the show for you. The characters are hilarious (especially Alun Armstrong's Brian and Dennis Waterman's Gerry), the mysteries are complicated without being confusing, and they film all over London. What's not to like?!?

Foyle's War
4. "Foyle's War"
It's World War II, and Christopher Foyle is keeping the peace in on the south coast of England. Or at least he tries to, because crimes keep occurring, and during wartime, unlawful behavior on the home front seems to takes a back seat to the fight against the Axis powers. However, crime doesn't stop because there is a war on, and it is up to Foyle to look into murders, theft, hate crimes, the black market, and even espionage.  With the help of DS Milner (wounded in early action) and his driver, Samantha Stewart, DCS Foyle and the Hastings police investigate wrongdoing over the course of seven seasons, the most recent of which occurs after the end of the war and is about coming to terms with life in the new peace. Great period show with costumes and old fashioned cars and music and hairstyles plus great mysteries! Really gets you thinking about how the war affected everyday lives and about the balancing act that the police had to perform, especially once the Americans joined the war.

5. "Sherlock"
(I will try not to gush too much about this series, but that is kind of hard for me because I just LOVE IT!) The ever so lovely Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman star in this clever and fast paced contemporary adaptation of the Conan Doyle adventures of the world's only consulting detective and his friend, Dr. John Watson. This update of the stories never strays far from the original spirit of the Sherlock Holmes stories and yet manages to make the stories both fresh and mysterious. The show is another great showcase for London and features a strong supporting cast including Rupert Graves as DI Lestrade and series co-creator Mark Gatiss (and Doctor Who writer) as Mycroft Holmes. (Just you wait until you meet Moriarty!!! Oh, and Irene Adler!! SO GOOD!) Can't wait for the third series to start on Masterpiece! (Sorry, will stop gushing now. Back to serious reviews of mystery programs.)

Inspector Lynley
6. "Inspector Lynley Mysteries"
Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley and Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers are an unlikely set of partners: Lynley is an Oxford-educated earl while Havers comes from a working-class background and has a (massive) chip on her shoulder. But the two of them manage to solve murders despite their regular clashes regarding gender, class, and their very strong (and somewhat stubborn) personalities. The stories are a good balance of mystery and character development, and they definitely grow on you. I would suggest you watch a couple of episodes of this series before deciding whether you like them or not. (You find yourself actually rooting for these two misfits to solve cases and not get themselves fired in the process!)

7. Lovejoy
I am reaching back into the archives for this mystery show from the late 1980s, but you can find it in your library and the first 6 series are on Netflix. (Also, "Downton Abbey" fans, Phyllis Logan aka Mrs. Hughes, is the lady in the series. And, yes, she is literally a "lady", Lady Jane Felsham.) Lovejoy is a somewhat dashing rogue of an antiques dealer who is really good at spotting hidden treasures as well as "inventing" some treasures of his own (usually to help out some really unfortunate person who has been wronged). He is assisted in his efforts by young Eric Catchpole, Tinker Dill (who is known to take a tipple... or four), and the lovely aforementioned Lady Jane. His nemesis in all of this is Charlie Gilbert, a rival antiques dealer who is out for one person only and that is Charlie. Not that Lovejoy isn't, but he and his friends have a lot more fun along the way as they try to separate the "real deal" from the forgeries and recover lost valuables.

Hetty Wainthrop Investigates
8. "Hetty Wainthropp Investigates"
From IMDB: "In order to make ends meet, and to stop a local teenage runaway from becoming a juvenile delinquent, Hetty Wainthropp, a sprightly and intelligent 60-year-old pensioner looking for a new challenge, decides to become a private investigator much to the chagrin of her unemployed husband. Once she makes up her mind, she becomes an unstoppable force, and, led by Hetty, the three set forth to investigate crimes of less interest to the local police force in and around their little village in the beautiful Lancashire countryside." So I totally used to watch this show with my parents, but that doesn't mean it is a older person's show. (Although when my dad first saw Dominic Monaghan on screen in The Lord of the Rings, he whispered to me: "It's Geoffrey!" And he was totally right. Because that's what I had been thinking too.)  Another classic British mystery series, and I like that the detectives aren't hardened ex-copper kind of folks. She's totally NOT the predictable sort of person, which makes her a great detective. Kind of like a Miss Marple, just less sheltered.

Ashes to Ashes
 9. "Ashes to Ashes"
After being shot in 2008, DI Alex Drake travels back in time (or does she?) to 1981, where she finds herself working at the Met and reporting to  DCI Gene Hunt from "Life on Mars". (Sad Anglophile fact: I didn't watch "Life on Mars". I know, SCANDALOUS! But now after watching "Ashes to Ashes", I want to.) This show is pretty awesome. First off, great acting and fabulous characters. Whoever came up with DCI Gene Hunt has a fantastic imagination, and Philip Glenister brings him to life in such a full rich way - you can't take your eyes off of him!! A new crime to solve every week, plus the overarching story of how Alex Drake ended up back in 1981 and how she is going to get back to 2008 and her daughter Molly. Totally quoteable: "Fire up the Quattro, Raymondo!" and awesome retro 1980s clothes and music.

Midsomer Murders
10. "Midsomer Murders"
You might think that living in a sleepy little hamlet in the middle of England would be a peaceful dream, but not so for Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby, who is called on to investigate the numerous murders that occur in the Midsomer communities outside of Causton. Along with his sergeant, Barnaby uncovers village rivalries, affairs, scandals, and feuds - any of which may have led to murder! I recommend watching the earlier seasons: I loved Barnaby and Sgt. Troy. More recent episodes have different sergeants, and, in the most recent series, a new DCI (after Tom retires.) Each episode features a cast of guest stars; great for playing "Name That Brit"!

 Honourable Mention:

Garrow's Law
"Garrow's Law"
While Garrow's Law is really a courtroom drama more than a mystery series, I am including it as an honourable mention because it is set in the 18th century which means: COSTUMES! (And I am a sucker for a BBC costume drama.) And this series is heavy in the drama department and is really very clever and I do enjoy a show that doesn't spoon feed you everything. In trying to come up with a summary for this show, I am going to quote IMDB: "Garrow's Law is the true tale of William Garrow, who acted as counsel for the accused, introducing the concept of 'innocent until proved guilty' at London's Old Bailey. Guided by mentor Southouse (Alun Armstrong - also in "New Tricks") and driven by the affections of a married woman (Lyndsey Marshal from "Rome"), Garrow goes against the judicial system, changing the path of law and order forever." Fans of Masterpiece's "Cranford" and "Jane Eyre" will recognize Andrew Buchan in the lead role.

So here is my list. I'd love to hear if you agree or any recommendations you might have for mystery dramas that would be on your list. (I love getting great suggestions from folks on-line for things that I wouldn't have watched on my own!!)

* Sherlock Holmes' classic line

Monday, August 19, 2013

"Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before"*

Having totally been sucked into This Charming Charlie over on Tumblr, I have had Smiths songs stuck in my head for the last few days.
source: This Charming Charlie (Charles Schultz & The Smiths)
Strangeways Here We Come was a big part of my first year of college. I (like many others in my age demographic) had gotten sucked in by the Columbia House CD of the Month Club, where the introductory promotional offer was 10 cds for a penny. HOWEVER, if you didn't cancel right away, you were stuck with getting the random CDs that Columbia House would send you that you'd have to return right away to avoid the charge. If you are my age, either you or someone you know signed up for this supposed "deal". Ugh, I know that I got stuck with one or two albums that I didn't want because I didn't get them back to the post office fast enough. Looking back, I can't believe it took me over a year before I cancelled. I am such a sucker for a deal. (But I did end up getting a lot of cool music, most of which was recommended by Rolling Stone magazine, back in the day when Rolling Stone actually mattered to the music industry. Like Sarah McLachlan's Solace - brilliant album.)

Up until that point, I really only knew the odd song by The Smiths from the local college radio station or mix tapes from friends. (I was more into REM and U2 at that point.) But Strangeways pretty much became the soundtrack of my freshman year of college. Make of that what you will. (There was definitely angst, but I was 18 so that is kind of par for the course.)

Anyhow, if you are a fan of The Smiths (as I am AND I am even more so a fan of the Peanuts), I definitely recommend checking out This Charming Charlie. It definitely will make you smile; it likely will make you laugh; and it probably will make you remember things you'd long thought you had forgotten. 

* song title from The Smiths

Monday, July 29, 2013

Before and After... House Decorating

My house has a first floor bedroom that the previous owners referred to as the Library because it has built-in bookshelves. They also had their comfy chairs and tv in the room, and they had stashed a small desk set-up in the closet.

Here are some "Before" photos from the listing and when I was doing my home inspection. The room was simply decorated, and the walls are blue with a sueded sand effect on the top and solid blue below the chair rail.

When I moved in, I knew that this was going to be the room that I set up the tv in (it was the only room on the first floor with a cable hook up), but I also wanted a place for my British stuff and for the bar that used to be in the dining room in my old apartment, but which would not fit in the dining room of my new house.

So this is what I came up with (and I know the photos are not fabulous, but I wanted to show what I had done now that it was finally done.) The Union Flag was a housewarming gift from Sister K, and on the opposite wall are my photographs from different trips to England (two of London, one of Bath, and one of Stratford). The carpet was from Restoration Hardware Baby & Child. (Sister B had the catalog at her house, and I just happened to flip through it.) I think it is great because the pattern isn't symmetrical.
In the closet area, I took out the closet doors and the clothes rod. The space was more than deep enough for the bar, and the shelf was a nice place to display some of my glass wear. The vintage Tube print is actually a tea towel from the BBC America shop that I framed which was far less expensive than getting a reprint of the poster from the London Transport Museum shop. The sign with the glass wear was a housewarming gift from my friend MEM. It says "Keep Calm and Drink Champagne". As fine a motto as I can think of...
On the bookshelves, I have a lot of my favorite books (as well as the cookbooks that I have been trying to learn to use recently) and much of the Anglophilia bric a brac that I have accumulated over the years: tea tins and trays, commemorative tea mugs, the TARDIS (sadly, only a replica), and my solar powered waving Queen Elizabeth (a birthday gift from PunkRockMom). I don't love the curtains, but as they are blackout curtains, they do the trick until I can figure out something more attractive and equally effective at blocking out the light.
(You can click on the photos to make them easier to see.)

So this is my "Lounge"; a bit different from the "Library" of old. It really suits my style, and I love that I was able to tie together the existing paint in the room with all my stuff. I had to buy new couches for this room, and I ended up getting a couch and a love seat in a deep navy corduroy. I had the ottomans in Boston; they flip over to be trays so I didn't have to buy a coffee table. Much of the rest was repurposed from various rooms in my Boston apartment or the stuff I had stored in my parents' attic (with the exception of the Victoria Eggs tea towel that I framed which I won from Smitten by Britain and The Bee's Knees.) Not too shabby!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

From Screen to Page to Screen

Before last year, I didn't have HBO, or even access to HBO, so I didn't watch any of those HBO shows that people talk about around the water cooler, like "The Sopranos". But after crashing at my parents' house last summer, I made up for lost time by getting hooked on both "Game of Thrones" and "True Blood".

And by "hooked", I mean that I filled my Netflix queue with all five earlier seasons to go back to the beginning of "True Blood" and binged on two seasons of "Game of Thrones" over a long weekend. And also by "hooked", I mean that that I also bought all the books in the series that go along with them. And now I am binging on them. Well, binging mostly on the Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire Mystery books because I can read one of those in an afternoon; A Song of Ice and Fire takes longer.

(Don't judge me: I spent the first five months of the year reading 19th century English literature at a rapid fire pace; my brain needs a break.)

And I kind of owe my sisters an apology because I may have said several years ago that "True Blood" was dumb after watching the first episode and being horrified by the behavior/stupidity of Jason Stackhouse, who I now find to be hilarious. Sorry, Sisters!

Team Daenerys
Team Eric
And, in case you are wondering: Team Daenerys (For the Throne! FTW!) and Team Eric (because who doesn't like the bad boy? I mean, really. Even the Bronte sisters did.) And if Joffrey and Bill just so happen to die in the near future, I will not have a problem with that. (Not one little bit.)

And totally shipping Jaime and Brienne. (And not just because of this fake rom/com trailer.)
Jaime and Brienne OTP
All photos from

Friday, June 28, 2013

"His Body Abused, But His Mind is Still Free"*

Hearing the news about Nelson Mandela's declining health this week (in case you hadn't heard, he is in critical condition and his family is preparing for the worst), just makes me think about how far South Africa has come since I first heard about Mr. Mandela and the struggles against apartheid in South Africa when I saw the tv movie Mandela on HBO. And shortly after that I saw Cry Freedom, about activist Steve Biko.

Although we read both Alan Paton's Cry, the Beloved Country and Nadine Gormier's July's People in school, for me, the awareness of South African apartheid best came through music (much like most of the issues I became most interested in while I was in high school), and I read a lot of news about apartheid in Rolling Stone magazine (which I devotedly inhaled every other week). The big protest song was "Sun City", and there was also "Biko" by Peter Gabriel, and Paul Simon's Graceland album featuring Ladysmith Black Mambazo, but honestly, I think that The Special AKA really summed up the situation the best.

Thank you, Mr. Mandela, for your bravery and perseverance. You are an inspiration.

*lyric by The Special AKA/The Specials

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

"We are the Sherlock Holmes English Speaking Vernacular"*

Some of my "more favorite" photos from my recent vacation...
Whitehall to Westminster from Trafalgar Square
Buckingham Palace and Statue of Queen Victoria
The Shard
Cutty Sark, Greenwich    Prime Meridian Marker
Canary Wharf
Kensington Palace, statue of young Queen Victoria
St. Paul's Cathedral

Clouds in London rock!!

*lyrics from "The Village Green Preservation Society" by The Kinks

Monday, May 6, 2013


So much has been going on with me lately that I have really been neglecting my blog, but things should be shaping up so that I can redirect my full attention to this again soon.

"What have I been doing?" you may ask; well, I am glad you did. First, I have been taking a 19th century English literature class at Wesleyan University and have crammed in A LOT of 19th century fiction into a very short period of time and have had to write my first academic papers in 17 years a REALLY long time. And that is NOT an easy thing when you haven't had to write an analytical argument of a text since you got out of college 17 years!! a REALLY long time ago.

And then, of course, because I am taking this 19th century literature class about London, I felt it was necessary to go there and do research in person... as you do...

We read Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent, so I thought it would be a good idea to go to Greenwich and check it out the Royal Observatory, completely for class...

The Royal Observatory, Greenwich

And we also read Phineas Finn, which is about an Irish MP, so I thought I would check out the Palace of Westminster...again, final paper research...

There is really nothing quite like a first person accounting of things...

Or bluebells, which always make me think of both Howards End and I Capture the Castle.

Monday, April 15, 2013

"Down by the river, Down by the banks of the River Charles"*

Newbury and Berkeley streets
From 1996 until 2012, I lived in Boston, Massachusetts, and I still have a lot of friends who live and work in town and its neighborhoods. So today's news of the explosions at the Boston Marathon was very personal to me. This morning, my Facebook newsfeed was full of friends and friends of friends running in the marathon or just going to watch the running of the marathon. (When my alarm went off this morning, I thought to myself that this is the first time in a dozen years that I had to work on Marathon Monday. Blerg.) Marathon Monday is a day for barbeques, beers, and cheering on crazy people who run 26.2 miles like they are there to help Paul Revere spread the word about the Redcoats coming. They run for causes and for themselves, and it is a happy, springtime thing that unites the people of Greater Boston.

Shortly before 3pm, I was in a meeting with someone about something rather routine when we were interrupted by a colleague who walked in to tell us that two explosions had just happened at the race. My response was: "Are you sure it wasn't a manhole cover?" because that happens, not infrequently, in Boston. But when he said that wasn't what CNN was reporting, I walked out of the meeting as quickly as I could without drawing attention to myself to get on a computer and find out what happened.

For a while, it was 9/11 all over again - the desperate search for information, the need to know what had happened - except this time, I had people I cared about personally who could have been hurt. Thank goodness for cell phones and Facebook. By 4:15pm, the last of my friends who were at the race checked in, no one was injured, and the nauseous feeling in my stomach started to settle down.

Of course, I am in no way calm about this, and part of me wishes I could be there to help, doing what, I don't know, but being there for my old city. It is saddening and frightening. And it makes me mad too. What do those runners ever do to anyone? They were celebrating the accomplishment of a difficult test of physical and mental endurance; they didn't deserve this and neither did the people there to cheer them on. All I can do is pray and hope. I pray for the police (especially PH, thinking of him), who put their lives on the line all the time to protect Bostonians; hopefully they can stop any further destruction and arrest the people responsible. And I also pray for all the medical personnel at the hospitals who are treating the people hurt in the explosions; they are among the very best in this country and I hope they can save the rest of the badly injured. I pray for the people of Boston, that they don't let this stop them from being "wicked awesome". (I don't think it will. Bostonians have been fighting back against their oppressors for nearly 240 years. They know how to handle this kind of stuff. Just ask those Redcoats...)

Oh, Boston, you're still my home and hopefully always will be.

*lyrics from Dirty Water by the Standells

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Spring has Sprung!

This past fall, I planted a bunch of early spring bulbs up the length of my front walk and outside my front door, and, finally over this weekend, the first ones opened up!!  It is my first spring in my new house, and I am really looking forward to starting up the garden.

First Crocus of Spring
My first crocus in bloom!
Definitely going to be planting roses and hydrangeas - it doesn't seem right to me to live in a Cape Cod style house without hydrangeas!!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Potato leek soup When Sister K and I went to Ireland back in 2010, I had my first experience with the very delicious potato and leek soup. I loved it and ended up eating some in pretty much every stop on our tour (along with the brown bread and scones. Actually, the whole scone thing became kind of an obsession.)
Graveyard, Bunratty, Co. Clare
Today, I am hosting a St. Patrick's Day dinner at my house for my family and in addition to the traditional (American) corned beef and cabbage, I wanted to make something that was actually authentically Irish. I found this easy and delicious recipe over on the Irish American Mom blog and am really looking forward to sharing this with the fam this evening. (I made it earlier today - so that the flavors could meld more and so that I would have time for a redo, if necessary. It is sitting on the warming burner right now, smelling amazing, just teasing me with its deliciousness. But I am being good... for now. Couple of modifications that I made to the recipe: I doubled the number of potatoes and I added some chicken low sodium Better Than Boullion to the vegetable stock. I used Ina Garten's suggestion for cleaning the leeks - a salad spinner. Next time I might use more stock as the soup is on the thicker side.)

Off to start the corned beef...


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