Friday, January 31, 2014

Friday Books: Cloudstreet

Cloudstreet by Tim Winton: I read this book while on my cruise last week, therefore I have warm feelings about it, remembering how I sat in the sunshine and soft breezes, warm in the Caribbean sun, reading a good story about Australia.

Two families share a large house on Cloud Street. This is the tale of the inner circles of each family and how they overlap. Individuals experience loss, grief, joy, love, and hate and deal with what life throws at them; the family units deal with the same issues. How they interact and grow and/or fail to grow together is the main theme.

The writing is great! Paragraphs are as short as two sentences or as long as many pages. I love Winton's clever phrasing. Example (not an exact quote)-- 'a breeze stopped the scene from becoming a painting.' Winton is Australian and some of the colloquialisms will be unfamiliar to an average American reader, but it's fun to get a taste of Aussie vernacular and to figure out the gist from context. Or find an Aussie who can help translate!

I gave this book only three stars out of five. I liked it, but sometimes it veered a little into the "unusual," and I wasn't always sure what it meant. With further reading, the loose ends re-connected, however it's a style that I found a tad disconcerting.

The two women pictured here are readers in Nassau, Bahamas. The woman in darker orange peeked up at me as I snapped the shot.. I told her what it was for, and she gave me permission to use the photo. I love finding readers wherever I go!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

I'm a Snow Grump

Just let me complain for a bit, OK? It snowed today. It was really quite pretty! But, it snowed heavily right after Husband had gone into town on the bus, so he'd not had opportunity to shovel.

I had to leave the house later in the day. I chose not to attempt to shovel. I hate shoveling, anyway, and the snow was still coming down.

Finished my work and chores, started on my way home, and while sitting at a red light, someone rear-ended me... TWICE! Not sure how that happened. Miraculously, my car had very little damage, while his sustained most of the owies, so I said "forget it" and we went on our merry ways.

I arrived home to find six inches of snow in our driveway, and a MOUNTAIN of snowplow crap at the end of our driveway. We'd not been home or had time to shovel, so our mailbox was also still snowed in, and the letter carrier did not even stop at our mailbox. No mail delivery for us naughty not-yet-shoveled-out people.

I had to park in the street; first I galumphed through almost knee-deep snowplow crap to get into my driveway, then into the house. Why does all the snowplow residue get piled so high in our driveway?? Neighbors never get anywhere near the same amount in theirs! It really irks me. We're the Shovel Family, and they all have snow-blowers! Very annoying. I sat and stewed for a while, and decided I couldn't really leave ALL that shoveling for Husband when he would come home after dark.

So I ventured outside again and did some shoveling. Had an aerobic work-out and my back sort of hurt, so I quit. I had made a dent; at least Husband wouldn't have to do every inch of the driveway.

Husband came home after dark. He was cheerful! Maybe because he takes the city bus and didn't just drive through icky streets and get rear-ended out of the blue.

He went out and finished enough shoveling to at least get my car back in the garage, and hopefully tomorrow we'll get mail delivered.

I'm sick of winter. And feeling too old to pick up another shovel EVER.

Rant completed. Thank you for listening.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Warming Up to 6 Below Zero

Last week I was in the Caribbean. Skies were blue and sunny, temperatures were in the mid 80s F, and I was warm and comfortable.

This week I am back home, and it is so cold that most schools in the whole state are closed, to protect the children from dangerous cold and wind-chills. Looking on the bright side, skies here in Minnesota are blue and sunny, just like in the Caribbean! No clouds = no insulation, so night temps really plunge. But I do like the sunshine.

Today, mid-afternoon, it has warmed all the way up to 6 below zero (F).

In an effort to be warm, I will post pictures of my fabulous vacation. What a blast! I went on a cruise with some quilters. I'm very lucky to have had this opportunity to escape the cold and be warm for a week, not to mention hanging out with quilters! FUN!

We sailed out of Miami. It was beautiful there.. palm trees are a good sign that I am no longer in Minnesota.

Flowers in January! Will never happen in Minnesota; I was enthralled.
our room, and my first-ever cruise meal.
This is me, being waited on by a hunky guy.... HAHAHA! Did you believe me for a minute? If I had a bod like that, I would have been showing off pictures of myself for a long time now... nope, that ain't me, but a gal can dream, right?

first shore excursion.. to St. Maarten...the real me is in the red hat, and the other two are quilter friends of mine.
une fleur a Marigot, St. Martin
beach at Philipsburg, St. Maarten
more flowers; we saw three iguanas sunning themselves in treetops; walking back to our ship which is the one on the right

the tell-tale red hat: that's me again. This is my favorite shore excursion: St. John Virgin Islands. I would love to go back there for more time to play and explore. It's a U.S. National Park - did you know that??

one of about three pools on board the ship, random head shot of me, quilts that other people made while out at sea (I didn't sew a stitch), third shore excursion was to Nassau, Bahamas where we also enjoyed a gorgeous sunset.

my final excursion was a bus tour after the cruise, back in Miami. I toured the South Beach area and got off to spend time on the beach. Enjoyed seeing the long line of art deco hotels on Ocean Drive and LOVED the waves at the beach.

waves, waves, waves - I cannot get enough of them!

Some randomness: the ship's wake, a band that entertained us on the ship, an art deco post office in Miami - it was beautiful!, a ship from Panama, and I'm pretty sure that guy in the last photo is just wearing his underpants. Well, why not? It was too hot for long pants anyway!

I've had my lucky bouts of travel - Europe in the fall, Caribbean in the winter. Now it's time to buckle down and put in more work hours. At least there's nothing else to do when it's 6 below zero.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Friday Books: A Caribbean Review

Hi!! I have been on a fabulous Caribbean Cruise this week! I'm writing this report from the ship. I finished, aboard ship, a book called A Tale for the Time Being. I'm sorry I can't recall the author's name, and my Kindle is several decks above me right now in my "steerage" cabin (bare minimum but plenty good). It was an interesting story: a woman in Washington state finds a diary washed up on the beach. It was written by a girl in Japan and presumably washed out to sea by the tsunami. The story takes you back and forth from the writer in Japan to the finder/reader in Washington. I love the premise.

There are times when the story turns a little weird, but overall I enjoyed it. The characters are rather fascinating; I liked the writing style, and I seem to be an easy sell for books that center on diaries. The family in Japan goes through many different stages of self-discovery and of each other as well. I liked this book but did not love it. Still, I'm glad I read it.

I'm paying for my internet time by the minute, so that's all I'll say for now. While Minnesota freezes in below-zero awfulness, I am having fun in the sun and sand. Apologies to my wonderful husband who is holding down the very cold fort. Lucky, lucky me. Pictures will follow some time next week.

Stay warm, everyone!

Later: author of A Tale for the Time Being is Ruth Ozeki.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Friday Books: Cambodia

This week I finally finished a book; it took me over two weeks to read it. The title is In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner.

This book was beautifully written. I loved the language. The story, however, is not a pleasant one. I was expecting the level of gruesomeness, but it's still hard to read it. The narrator starts out as a 7-year-old girl in Cambodia when Khmer Rouge is taking over. In fact, it is a fictionalized story of the author's own experience.

I cannot imagine surviving what she experienced at such a young age. She was a very precocious, bright girl. That probably had something to do with her survival. It was very interesting, and yet at the same time, it took me a while to get through this book; something about it did not grab me. The girl and her father were poetic, "dreamy" communicators. Maybe that is what I did not relate to. Sometimes I felt it dragged a bit as she cogitated over stories and poems.

Otherwise, it was a good story, and a good look into the psyche of revolutionaries and how their ideals get twisted due to past injustices and love of power.

Now I'm reading a book about a girl in Japan. I'll report on this book next Friday. (I'm glad I'm back on track.)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Quilt Tops Ready to Go

I have ten quilt tops that need to be finished. Lucky person that I am, I have found a couple of helpers to whom I will send these tops. Quilting is the step that slows me waaaaayyy down, so I'm always thrilled to send them on to others who can do this step more quickly and better than I can. Thank you so much, dear quilt helpers!!

These tops (when completed) will be sent to Wrap a Smile:

These will be sent to Quilts Beyond Borders: