Discovering Podcasts ~

I’ve always loved learning new things. Even as a child, my favorite word was “why?” 

Sometimes I feel there just aren’t enough hours in my day to consume everything! Between my knitting, reading, watching Netflix, social events, etc.

I guess that’s the reason I multi-task while knitting. I always watch a Netflix movie or series or one of my recorded shows. But I’ve yet to discover how to read/learn AND knit. Until now!

I happened to be on my knitting group page in Facebook and saw people mentioning they like to knit and listen to podcasts. I’ve heard about podcasts for quite a while but never actually took the time to investigate as to what, exactly, they are. Well, now I have. And I’m hooked! 

I’m able to listen on my iPad with my headset and knit away. I’m listening to Tides of History narrated by historian, Patrick Wyman. He explains that he did all the grad work and academics and brings it to the laymen level. He will be explaining and speaking about the fascinating topics ranging from the rise of the sovereign state to the fall of the Roman Empire.  This was just released this month.  It’s a 45 min. show and will air three times a month.  I’m just about finished with the first one and I’m hooked.

I admit I wasn’t that enthralled with history in high school but in college, I loved it. I soaked up History of Western Civ and when I began to have the opportunity to travel extensively, I loved history even more. And at age 70, its easy to understand how history got us to exactly where we are in the world right now.

So I’m delighted that I took the time to discover podcasts. And from what I see, there’s a million topics. I’m told there’s even some on knitting.  

See you here next time…………..

Coffee Snob ~

Yeah, I admit it. Over the years I’ve somehow evolved into a coffee snob. 

And you probably saw the recent report that coffee prolongs our life. Well, that’s today. I remember a few years ago when they reported the opposite. And as always, I kept doing what “I” felt was best for me. So there was no pause or decrease in my coffee consumption.

I began drinking coffee around age 18.  I was a young mom and back in the 60’s, it was common to gather with other young moms in the neighborhood to chat, exchange news, and drink coffee. I admit I wasn’t fond of the taste initially. And…..horror!…….I drank it with saccharine tablets to sweeten it. (YUK!) And…….horror again…….I had no problem with instant coffee. Well, it wasn’t long before all of that changed.

When my mom dropped by, she wanted a “decent” cup of coffee, so she bought me a percolator. Not the one you used on the stove, but an electric one. All of a sudden, coffee began to taste better for me. And around that time artificial sweetener in packets came on the market. A major improvement over that saccharine!

And over all these years, I’ve come to truly love (and crave) my coffee. However, I’m also very fussy about my coffee.  It has to be strong. And dark. And the artificial sweetener disappeared about ten years ago. (WHAT a difference in the taste! That only distorted a very good coffee!)  It has to have a splash of Half & Half or cream. And it has to be hot. (Although I love iced coffee, but not in the morning for my first cup) And although I’ve tried the flavored coffees over the years, I very seldom have hazelnut, vanilla, etc. Told you I was fussy. Just give me good coffee!

And preferably, make that French coffee! (Big surprise, huh?) The first time I tried coffee in Paris in 1985, I was astounded at the difference from American coffee! It was SO good that when I’m in France, I drink it black. And on one of my trips there quite a few years ago, I returned home with not one, but two, French presses.

Oh, I think I neglected to mention that my snobbery isn’t isolated with just coffee itself. I love anything coffee related. Pretty or unusual mugs, various coffee makers,  coffee grinders, etc. At that time, I was working full-time in nursing management. So I bought a French press for use at home and a smaller one for my office afternoon coffee breaks. (I purchased them at Galleries Lafayette in Paris, so now they have warm memories) And…..I always, always came home loaded down with coffee in my luggage. Both ground and coffee beans. And I still have some in my freezer, which is always a treat when I use it.

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And over the years my love for coffee only increased. I purchased an espresso/cappuccino machine. And I also have a machine to make just one cup. 

 

As a young mom, I consumed huge amounts of coffee. And during all my working years, same thing. I’m sure I had 6 to 8 cups a day. And yes, I actually did still sleep at night. Coffee never affected my sleeping. And decaf? Oh, please! No! I took a sip once to try it. That was my last sip. (Told you I was a coffee snob!)

And now I’ve hit a good place for me. Two cups in the morning and one or two mid-afternoon. (I can be anywhere in the world, without a watch or clock, and I will be able to tell you it’s between 2:00 and 3:00 because my craving for afternoon coffee kicks in)  About 30 years ago my mother bought me a Bunn coffee maker. She insisted they were the best. Mom was right! I’ve owned 3 since then and wouldn’t use anything else for my everyday coffee.

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So needless to say, I was happy to hear the most recent report on coffee. Although, of course, had it been a negative report, it wouldn’t have decreased my consumption or love for coffee at all.

See you here next time…………………

 

Jackie ~

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I have always been captivated with Jacqueline Kennedy. Yes, I’m a Francophile, so I’m sure that’s part of it. But ever since 1960 when she became our First Lady, I loved her. She had such poise. Class. She was well-educated and intelligent.  I loved the fact that she had lived in France (At that time I had never even visited there, never mind lived there myself) She attended the Sorbonne. Even her maiden name, Bouvier had a lyrical, romantic, sound.  Quite simply, I admired her as a woman. 

So when a high school friend of my daughter recently told me about a book she had purchased years ago in Newport, Rhode Island, I knew I had to have it. It was originally published in 1974 and is a portrait of two sisters’ trip to Europe in the golden age of travel.

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In 1951, Jackie (age 22) and her sister, Lee, (age 18) took their first trip to Europe together. How exciting! And as they traveled, they sketched and kept notes, creating a journal of their time abroad. They presented it to their parents on their return home.

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So naturally, I was thrilled to discover I was able to purchase a used copy! It tells of a bygone era . . . when one crossed the Atlantic by ocean liner, took art lessons in Venice, visited counts and ambassadors in Paris and of course, wore white gloves in the afternoon.

It is a unique memoir and I’m delighted to be able to add it to my collection of treasured books.

See you here next time……………………

 

Some day . . .

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So remember the baby sweater I had started last week? It’s now finished. All blocked and waiting for me to finish the matching hat and a blanket. 

I love knitting baby items. The yarn is soft. The colors are pretty. And the project works up pretty fast. But I have no babies to knit for. So I make them as gifts. This one is for my cleaning girl’s first grandchild.

When my kids were small, I had put knitting aside.  Mainly because my mom was an expert knitter and she knitted constantly. So she made the sweaters, snowsuits, hats, mittens, blankets, etc. for my kids. And when I did begin to have grandchildren, I still hadn’t returned to knitting. And my mom continued to knit for them.

And now when I knit on a daily basis? When I’m a definite addicted knitter? My grandchildren are all grown! So I have no babies to knit for.

But I recently recalled hearing about a woman who had one daughter and assumed that some day she’d have grandchildren. So she began knitting baby items.  Lots of baby items! She put them lovingly away in a hopechest to save for some day. And then….some day arrived and she had her first grandchild. All of the blankets, sweaters, hats, etc. were finally going to be used. 

I love that story.  Maybe because it’s an example of hope.  Maybe because it represents the stability of family.  Or maybe simply because it represents love. I’m sure as that woman knitted away she wondered about the possibility of this child who might some day be an extension of her. What he or she would look like. Who they might grow up to become.  And her grandson did arrive and he’s now two years old.

I liked that story so much that I’m thinking maybe I should do that. In between working on adult projects, maybe I should begin knitting baby items for a future great-grandchild and just put them away. For some day. 

See you here next time……………………..

A Rose By . . .

I’ve always been entranced with accents. From different parts of the United States but mostly from Europe. I love to hear a French person speaking in English. It just sounds romantic, no matter what they’re saying! I love a British accent and I’m always drawn to it. Maybe because I’m from New England and the accent is similar to mine. But their’s is more precise. More posh. 

And yes, I also have an accent. Referred to as “a Boston accent.” I was made aware of accents and various ways of speaking at a young age. When I was 7, my dad got transferred with GE from the Boston area to Ohio.  We lived in Reading, just south of Cincinnati.  I transferred in the middle of the second grade to SS Peter & Paul School and quickly realized I was unique to my classmates. Because I spoke differently than they did. Not only did I pronounce my words differently, but we actually used different words for various items.  They called a soft drink “Pop.”  I called it “tonic.” (They said tonic was for the hair) But mostly it was my pronunciation that intrigued them. My lack of  the letter “r” in any word that had one. They didn’t make fun of me. But they did attempt to get me to speak like them. I have no answer as to why, but I was very adamant in not speaking the way they did. I guess I liked my own accent.

And after relocating to Florida over 30 years ago, I guess I still do. Because at least a few times a week I’ll meet somebody new, or a sales person in a store and they immediately say, “Oh! You’re from the Boston area.” So after all these years, I think its safe to say that my accent is a part of who I am. I still pak my ca in the Havad yad.

In my nursing career down here in Florida I even encountered this with doctors and pronouncing various meds. I was taught to pronounce a med in certain way at college in the Boston area. I’m easily understood. However, it sounds a bit different from how others might pronounce it. Both are correct.

And the first time I heard the word scallops pronounced in the south, I almost wasn’t sure what they were referring to. 

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They pronounce it skal-lup.  You’ll never hear that in New England! Speak to any fisherman in Gloucester and what you’ll hear is SKAWL-UP.  That’s how I’ve heard it pronounced since I was a child.  And that’s what I’ll always call them. I do love going to a particular seafood restaurant in my area though, because they serve fresh seafood flown in daily (including clams from Ipswich, Mass!) and yes…….they pronouce it skawl-up.

But at the end of the day . . . a rose by any other name is just as sweet.

See you here next time………………………..

What’s on Your Reading List?

I read constantly. It doesn’t matter the weather or the time of the year. I just read. While I do a fair amount of news reading with the NY Times, Washington Post, etc. I embrace my pleasure reading. But as I mentioned in a previous blog, I’ve gotten choosy with my selections. 

I was browsing on Amazon for something interesting. Not fluff. Not too light. But not too deep that it wiped out my pleasure and only brought angst.  I can’t do angst right now in the present political climate.

So I found a good mystery by Charles Finch.  Apparently, it’s the first in a six book series. This was called A Beautiful Blue Death. The setting is Victorian London and Charles Lenox is gentleman and amateur detective.  The plot held my interest and the characters were likable. For the most part. The ending seemed to drag a bit almost in an effort by the author to prolong the story. But overall, it was an enjoyable read.

However, I’m now reading The Visionist by Rachel Urquhart. I purchased the novel in Stockbridge at the gift shop at the Red Lion Inn where Alice and I had lunch. 

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The setting is the Berkshires, where we were visiting. The author grew up spending summers in the Pittsfield, Mass. area.  And unbeknownst to me when we visited, a major Shaker settlement was located there in the mid-1800’s.  (Hancock Shaker Village is still there and visitors can tour the museum, etc.  I’m hoping that Alice and I will pay it a visit when we return next May)  In the 1930’s the author’s grandfather purchased what had been a Shaker meetinghouse and the author now lives there.

I know very little about the Shakers, except for their furniture.  So I thought this would be a good opportunity to learn because the novel is fiction based on fact. And the author did extensive research. The story is told from three points of view.  Polly Kimball is 15 and through a series of unfortunate events, she ends up at the settlement with her younger brother, Ben, looking for shelter.  Shaker Sister Charity takes Polly under her wing to teach her the ways of the religious sect. And Simon Pryor is the fire inspector investigating the fire of Polly’s farmhouse where her father perished in the flames.

Like so many religions, there are rules and regulations. Sisters and brethren are kept separate in daily life. Once one has agreed to join the settlement, they must renounce all blood relatives. (At age 18, they do have a choice to sign a covenant or leave for the World) They have total isolation. No sex is allowed. Young girls in these communities are being visited by extraordinary mystical visions.  When Polly arrives, she is expectedly exalted as their Visionist, which brings renown to the settlement.

I’m on page 100 and very much enjoying the story. It’s very well written and has a bit of a mystery to the plot. It’s a story of female friendship. But it also questions belief, identity, truth and lies.  I highly recommend it!

I look forward to hearing what you’re reading this summer.

See you here next time…………….

Comfort Zone ~

We all have comfort zones on this journey we call life.  They expand and they contract over time. As a child, my zone of comfort was small and limited to pretty much family. But then it extended to school and making friends. And as an adult, the sky was the limit. Literally. My comfort zone grew to foreign countries and culture. All of this was my physical comfort zone.  But looking back, I can now see that my comfort zone also grew intellectually and culturally. Foods that as a young child I thought I’d never try suddenly enticed me.  Books I thought I’d never read called to me. You get my point.

So it was with a bit of surprise that I recently discovered that my place in the world, specifically this country, has also changed. And like with most things that I’ve learned throughout my life, I discovered this with a book. 

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When I visited Lenox in May, Alice and I stopped by the local book shop. I saw The Paris Architect on the table and recalled I had wanted to read it when it was released.  So after I got home, I began to read it. It’s good. Very good.  Briefly, the setting is Paris during WWII and the architect builds hiding places for the Jews. Although not extremely graphic, it does deal with the treatment of Jews by the Nazis. And I began to find that the more I read, the more uncomfortable I began to feel.

I have read many such books, both fiction and non-fiction, for over fifty years. I have seen many films on this subject. Schindler’s List ripped my heart out. I can still recall the visceral emotions I experienced when I visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam during the late 1980’s. However, although I had the utmost empathy concerning all of this, I recently discovered something new with this novel.  My comfort zone has changed. My sorrow for this time in our history was real.  But now I know why this particular book bothered me to the point that I stopped reading and put it aside.

All of my life I have had a false sense of security.  This isn’t a bad thing.  It’s just the way it has been. Brought up in post-WWII America, I have never had to experience what so many in Europe did during or after the war. I did, however, grow up knowing and understanding about Russia.  Long before I studied the country, its politics and rulers in grade school, I learned that my Polish grandmother left northern Poland in 1908 to escape the Russian influence on her country.  And as I got older I came to understand even more about Russia. I remember the Cold War. I remember my grandmother, never, ever, spoke badly of anybody! Except the Russians! And so, with more study, with paying attention and with growth, I knew Russia was America’s adversary. But . . . I was in my comfort zone.  “I” was okay.  Those books I read? Those films I watched? Those places I visited?  None of that really affected me. That could never happen here, in America! NOT in my country!

And now?  Now I’ve come to realize that once again, my comfort zone has shifted. My false sense of security was exactly that.  False.  And so . . . I pay even more attention, I read more, I watch more, I protest, I do everything I possibly can to prevent that comfort zone from shrinking even more. 

See you here next time……………………….

Happy Birthday, America!

It’s been a very difficult year in our country.  My emotions have run the gamut from hopeful to sad, discouraged, angry, appalled, and everything in between. 

But on this day when we celebrate our country, I feel pride.  We have had our trials. We haven’t always done the right thing. We’ve experienced the best and the worst from our government.

However, although I might be called Pollyanna I still believe that good outweighs evil.  I strongly feel that love will always rise above hate. 

And when all is said and done………….I feel that despite the darkness that blankets our country, light will always rise above that darkness. Eventually.

Wishing you a wonderful and safe 4th and I’ll see you here next time…………..

Fun Times ~

Yes, I’m still following all of the dismal news. However, I’m finding more and more that I must take breaks. For my own sanity. So the other day I got together with my friend, Sherry, and we had lunch at a lovely restaurant in Ormond Beach that we hadn’t been to before. I’m not sure why we’d never been but we will definitely return.

The Rose Villa was established in 1901 as a small addition to Henry Flagler’s Hotel Ormond. Important guests were able to have more privacy staying here.  Over the years the building fell to a state of neglect. But in 2007 it was purchased and transformed into the Victorian beauty it once was.

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A lovely gazebo in the back provides dining and drinks al fresco during the cooler months.

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The quaint dining rooms are beautifully furnished with custom wallpapered ceilings and walls.  And the period furniture adds to the decor. Sherry and I felt like we’d taken a step back in time . . . when kindness and graciousness prevailed.

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I enjoyed a salad of fruits and greens along with a very nice glass of white wine. 

And following lunch we went to the movies to see, Paris Can Wait, with Diane Lane and Alec Baldwin.  It was the perfect movie for a fun day.  The scenery from Provence to Paris was beautiful, the food, the romance and the storyline uplifting, and the entire day was the perfect antidote we both needed.

Sometimes we just need to take a deep breath and we did exactly that the other day.

See you here next time…………….