Heart Stone Feathers

Word Nerd – Feather Finder – Heart Stone Hunter – Synchronicity Searcher Winging It While Lovingly Writing Through Life

So, So Very Simple…

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If you’re not standing or sitting in your kitchen right now, go there as FAST as you safely can and MAKE THESE! Do not doubt me…do not ask questions…just go. I’m pretty clueless about what “Paleo” is (something about non-processed foods, I think), but it doesn’t make a damn bit of difference where this recipe is concerned. I simply made these because they have chocolate and coconut in them and because a dear friend recommended them (Dear Anni – bless you; I owe you a HUGE one!). It will likely take you longer to pull the few ingredients out of your cupboards than it will for you to actually mix them together. Of course, waiting for it to harden in the refrigerator for an hour or so will seem like torture, but it WILL be worth the wait. I promise. And just in case you’re curious – I used Nutiva Organic Virgin coconut oil, Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder, local maple syrup (the recipe lists maple syrup in the ingredients, but then it refers to honey in the actual directions; you can use either), and organic coconut extract in place of the vanilla. No salt for us, but go for it if you like it. If Tim doesn’t hurry home from running errands, he might not get any. Seriously…they’re THAT good!

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2016 Reviews: Books #7-#8

Atwood Orxy

“Oryx and Crake” by Margaret Atwood (Shortlisted for the 2003 Man Booker Prize, the Giller Prize, the Governor General’s Literacy Award, and the 2004 Orange Prize) – I admit it. I’ve known about Margaret Atwood for years (probably decades!) and I’d never read anything of hers until last year (even though I’ve had one of her multi-award-winning books, “The Blind Assassin,” sitting on my bookshelf for at least two years). Instead of starting with “The Blind Assassin” though, sometime last year I finally dove into “Wilderness Tips,” her 1991 collection of short stories that had also been gathering dust on my bookshelf. By the end of the second story, “Hairball” – a wonderfully odd tale about a woman who lovingly keeps the red-haired, bone-encrusted, benign tumor that was removed from her in a jar of formaldehyde on her fireplace mantle, I realized what an idiot I’d been for waiting so long to discover for myself why Atwood had garnered such rave reviews over her lengthy writing career. To witness the range of her writing abilities, I recently picked up a copy of “Oryx and Crake.” Regardless if you call it science fiction, speculative fiction, a dystopia, or whatever other term you like, the events that transpire in this story are not difficult for me to imagine. In fact, with the way the world is going these days (e.g., all the talk about building “walls” to separate populations, genetically modifying organisms), it seems frighteningly realistic. Snowman (aka Jimmy), the main character, is a gloriously flawed individual (who knows it). A self-professed “word person” (just like me) in a world that appears to place greater value on “number people,” I loved passages like this: “The more obsolete a book was, the more eagerly Jimmy would add it to his inner collection. He complied lists of old words too – words of a precision and suggestiveness that no longer had a meaningful application in today’s world…wheelwright, lodestone, saturnine, adamant. He’d developed a strangely tender feeling towards such words, as if they were children abandoned in the woods and it was his duty to rescue them.” If your interest has been piqued, you can read an excerpt of the first section of “Oryx and Crake” here (simply click on the “Read An Excerpt” button that’s displayed below the book cover). Granted, the subject matter is in a genre that I don’t often read, but as it’s Book 1 of 3 in the MaddAddam Trilogy Series (and I’m wondering what happens next), I imagine that I’ll be reading the other two someday soon. Who knows, I might even finally get around to reading “The Blind Assassin.” (4½ stars)

Gordimer Beethoven

“Beethoven Was One-Sixteenth Black” by Nadine Gordimer (Winner of The Nobel Prize in Literature, 1991) – This was another one of the short story books I recently found when I helped set up a book sale at our local library. Gordimer, like Atwood, was a prolific writer during her lifetime (she died in 2014), yet once again I have to confess that this is the first book of hers I’ve read. The range of topics covered in this book is immense. From the lowly tapeworm in “Tape Measure” (which was actually one of my favorites, perhaps because it was told in the first-person point of view of the tapeworm) to “Allesverloren” (a Dutch word that means “all is lost” and that relates to a grief-stricken widow who is trying to make sense of a piece of her husband’s past), many of the stories hit the mark for me as a reader, but some fell short or went a little too far over my head. As a writer, I was quite intrigued with “Alternative Endings” (“The First Sense,” “The Second Sense,” and “The Third Sense”). Gordimer, in an attempt to show how “the forms of storytelling are arbitrary,” presents the reader with three different story resolutions that are based on the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition that, “The senses usually reckoned as five – sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch.” While the three stories themselves didn’t really “grab” me, the technique she used to write and to present them did. If you’d like to sample the book, another one of the short stories, “A Beneficiary,” is available online. (3½ stars)

A Simple Decision (or not)…

Mudroom Cabinets

After many hours spent discussing, measuring, more discussing, remeasuring, and remeasuring yet again, Tim and I finally ordered the new cabinets yesterday for our mudroom renovation. More than a year ago, we’d started making a Pinterest folder with ideas of what design features we wanted in the room. When we recently sat down together and looked at all of the various photos we’d saved, what it boiled down to was clean lines and as much hidden storage space as possible to keep the “eye clutter” to a minimum.

In one of my early morning web-surfing sessions to get some ideas about what types of cabinets were available, I stumbled upon the FlowWall system. Marketed mostly as cabinetry to organize your garage (but also used in laundry rooms, craft rooms, home offices, etc.), I immediately liked the look of them. As I sat there groggy-eyed watching numerous YouTube videos about how to install them, I was surprised to learn that each cabinet lacks a “backside” to it, which allows them to slide along a slatwall track system so that, if and when you decide you want/need to change the layout of your room, you can do so quite easily. That kind of design flexibility made me like them even more. Tim was pretty much sold on them right away too.

The problem we encountered was in having too many options for how to customize the cabinets that would fit into our space (I know – that doesn’t really meet the definition of a “problem”). Regardless, we tweaked, we re-tweaked, we re-re-tweaked and drove ourselves (and each other!) crazy with possibilities. When the FlowWall company emailed us a 20% discount code on Friday that had to be used by today, we took it as a sign to stop dawdling and to start deciding. Bless you FlowWall as Tim and I might have still been discussing cabinets in 2017!

In the end, instead of piecemealing together various individual cabinets, we chose the two “kits” shown in the above photo that we can take apart and arrange to our own liking. We also ordered several extra shelves and hooks, just to be on the safe side. And yes…we went with the maple color, even though we both also liked the white. Knowing how much traffic that room gets though, we didn’t think white was going to be a good option in the long run.

Tim did a great job of insulating, dry-walling, and spackling the ceiling so while we wait for the cabinets to arrive, we’ll (he’ll?) be priming the ceiling and walls and picking out the final paint color. I’ve happily delegated that decision to Tim and he’s leaning towards some version of a “sea-glass blue.” That’s a decision I can live with…

Mudroom Ceiling

2016 Reviews: Books #3-#6

Fair warning…having just completed Sarah Selecky’s four-month-long writing class, The Story Intensive (which focuses on short fiction stories – both writing and reading them), many of the book reviews I’ll be posting this year will likely be for short story collections. No matter what the genre of book though, my comments will be written from the perspective of a wanna-be-writer, as well as that of a general reader. When I can, I’ll provide a link to excerpts, chapters, etc. that can be read online so you can decide for yourself whether it looks like a book you’d enjoy. As someone who’s blessed to live in an area where there are numerous book sales held throughout the year at local libraries, I also tend to read a lot of older books that were reviewed long ago. In my mind, good writing is timeless, so if anything appears to be “out-of-date,” it’s most likely my opinion.

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“Stay Awake” by Dan Chaon (National Book Award Finalist; Winner of The Story Prize 2012) – I’d never heard of Dan Chaon (rhymes with “Shawn”) until one of my fellow classmates in the writing course I just completed mentioned him in our online discussions. I’m SOOO very glad she did! After having read his 2001 National Book Award Finalist for Fiction entitled, “Among the Missing” (5 stars for that one, especially the stories “Safety Man” (which you can read online here), “Prodigal,” and “Falling Backwards”) and then his 2003 book “Fitting Ends” (too many great stories to mention in that  stars book, but “Thirteen Windows” exponentially expanded my view – no pun intended – of how a story can be written), I couldn’t wait to dive into Chaon’s most recent work. Once again, I wasn’t disappointed. If you’re a writer looking for great examples of how to write in that elusive “you” second person point-of-view, track down a copy of Chaon’s story “Thinking of You in Your Time of Sorrow.” I finished reading it before I even noticed he’d done it! One tends to get swept up in the motion, as well as the emotion, when a story begins with, “A baby dies and there is a little funeral. Okay, try to insert yourself into that moment…Everyone probably thinks it is for the best…now suddenly everything can go back to the way it was.” One side-note – I was able to read this book via the Overdrive system that allows readers with a library card to “borrow” eBooks, audiobooks, etc. through your local library. They provide service to more than 30,000 libraries in 40+ countries. If you’ve never heard of them, I’d highly recommend you check out their website. (4½ stars)

image1 (5)“The Hermit’s Story” by Rick Bass (A Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year for 2002 by an author who has also been awarded the Pushcart Prize and the O. Henry Award) – When I helped set up our local library’s recent book sale, I felt like I hit the jackpot when I opened a large, donated box FILLED with short story books! This book was one of them. I’d heard of Rick Bass, but had never read any of his work. I was surprised to learn that his background was as a geologist with an emphasis on wildlife management (I myself was a long-ago Wildlife Biologist for the United Stated Fish and Wildlife Service). This book is described as “a remarkable story collection, [in which] Bass explores the mysterious and near-mythical connections between man and nature.” If I EVER manage to write a story like Bass’ “Swans” or “The Fireman,” I’ll feel like an accomplished writer, regardless if I win an award or not. This. Guy. Is. Good! From a reader’s perspective, as well as a writer’s. And perhaps one of the most unusual traits about him as a short story writer…his stories actually seem to have endings (which so few short stories often do and which usually is the main reason so few people like to read them). I can’t wait to unearth more treasures by this author. You can go here to read the title story online. (4½ stars)

image1 (4)“Interpreter of Maladies” by Jhumpa Lahiri (Pulitzer Prize Winner for Fiction, 2000) –  This was yet another author I had never heard of until recently. Her 2008 book entitled “Unaccustomed Earth” (a multi-award winner for that year) was my first encounter with her work. I’m ashamed to admit that it was also my first real glimpse into the Indian (primarily Bengali) culture. In both books, I was mesmerized by Lahiri’s ability to convey so many rich details within sentences that flowed so smoothly. Reading each story felt effortless, but I would imagine that writing them was a little more difficult. The first story in this book – “A Temporary Matter” – can be read online. (4½ stars)

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“The Year of Magical Thinking” by Joan Didion (National Book Award Winner for Nonfiction, 2005) – In The New York Review of Books, John Leonard stated that he “can’t think of a book we need more than [Didion’s]…can’t imagine dying without this book.” While I agree that it did provide a personal look into the way author Joan Didion processed her grief surrounding the sudden loss of her husband (author, John Dunne) and the fear of almost losing her daughter on two occasions during the same time frame, it just didn’t “do” much of anything else for me. There was simply too much name-dropping and too little substance. Maybe I missed something, but – based on a number of other reviews I’ve read – the readers who seemed to like his book the most were those who were “actively” grieving a recent loss they too had experienced. The first two chapters are available online. I’m not sure who the other contenders were that year for the National Book Award for Non-Fiction, but I’m guessing it might have been a “slim” year when it came to having a lot of choices. (3 stars) 

Simple Beginnings

The renovation work on our mudroom has FINALLY begun. It’s the last room in our house to be “made over” since we first moved in 19 years ago. It’s a tiny space that gets a LOT of traffic. Since Friday, Tim has already removed all of the built-in cabinets and installed a framework on the existing ceiling for us to put up new insulation and drywall. Tearing down the existing ceiling and walls just isn’t an option as it will open up too many “cans of worms” and we simply don’t have the time, energy, money, or desire to completely gut the room. We’ll work with the existing bones, as well as some of the “flesh.” When we redo the floor in there, we’ll also do the kitchen and front entryway floors so they’ll all “tie in” together. Once everything is done, we can start re-doing all of the other rooms that are now due to be repainted, etc. It’s a never-ending process, but we’re simply grateful to have a roof over our heads. I’ll post updates as the process continues…

Mudroom Renovation 2016

Simply Wonderful Friends

FB Robin Post

It’s so nice to be missed, but it’s even nicer to still have these wonderful people in my life. And for those of you who might be wondering, my “SV pals” are the amazing souls that worked 24/7/I-lost-count-of-how-many-days to help reunite people with their pets that were lost during Hurricane Katrina. And yes – that hurricane happened more than ten years ago and we’re still in touch with one another. The work we did was perhaps the most grueling and gut-wrenching I’ve ever been involved with, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat, as long as they were right there in the trenches with me. I simply can’t imagine my life without my fellow SV’ers.

(PS – “SV” stood for Stealth Volunteers – we didn’t get much publicity, nor were we seeking it, but our name did occasionally come up.)

 

 

Simple Directions

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Two Simple Versions

This was my version of simple living this past weekend (Maple Iced Oatmeal Cookies that I made with Brookestone Maple Syrup, THE BEST syrup on the planet!)…

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…and this was Tim’s version (organizing his stamp collection; he’s collected them since he was a wee one and he probably has at least 100,000 of them, if not more)…

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Simply Perfect Gifts

 

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It’s nice to be known so well. So well that the gifts you receive are so “spot on” that you can’t think of anything better you would have bought for yourself.

Yesterday, Tim went to a new reuse-it-type store that he’s been wanting to visit. When he came home, I was outside with the dogs. He kept sticking his head out the back door and saying, “Come see what I bought you.” Finally, the dogs had enough of the single-digit cold and headed on in. Before I could even get the door closed, Tim handed me the stack of green, metal bookends you see in the photo. Not only was he thrilled to have found them, but he was just as happy to have paid only 12-1/2¢ for each one (yes – that’s a CENTS sign). The bookcase is also something I’ve been needing for quite some time and he snagged that beauty for only $10. Talk about a happy guy (and gal!).

As for the other object on the shelf in the photo, that’s an air horn. And if you’re wondering why in the hell that would be a great gift, you obviously haven’t heard me rant about the hunters that trespass on our property and that shoot near our horse barn (or about the neighbor’s dogs who are chained 24/7 and who bark all damn day). Trust me – when I ran out of “air” in my last can at the start of deer season in November, it was quite a crisis for me. Tim remembered it though and bought one for me when he went to Dick’s Sporting Goods store. What a guy!

As for the “tool” that’s hanging off the shelf – that beauty was a Christmas present from my sister, Karen, and my nephew, Mike. Perhaps only I would be thrilled to receive an industrial-sized potato masher! In fact, the label on it says “U.S. Army Potato Masher.” That seems even more fitting as a gift because my father was always talking about how he often got stuck with what he considered to be the “shitty” task of peeling potatoes when he was in the U.S. Navy. Like I stated just a couple of days ago, this Irish lass never met a potato she didn’t like – and now I have a monster-size masher to make even bigger batches of them!

Ahhh….life really is good.

Simply Beautiful

I’d never heard of Malgorzata Chodakowska, a Polish sculptor, until today. According to her website, her usual medium to work in is wood. More specifically, uprooted trees. It appears though that she’s created a number of magnificent bronze pieces. One such collection features fountains unlike any I’ve seen before. Two of my favorites are the Angel (Lordy – those water wings!) and the Ballerina, as shown below. Please treat yourself and watch the three-minute video of them in flowing motion (it’s embedded at the bottom of this post). Even the music is beautiful…

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