Thursday, February 25, 2016

your review warmed the cockles of my heart

So you know that review I wrote for Susan Branch's book, A Fine Romance?  Well like most of my reviews I shared it on the website for the library I work for.



Here is our lovely exchange:

Susan Branch (not verified)
 (changed ) 
Well, you must know I could not stop myself from thanking you Hannah Jane C. for your lovely words. I'm SO glad you were able to come to the English Countryside with us! By the way, we are going to the Scottish Countryside this fall (2016), sailing again on the Queen Mary, and taking everyone (virtually) on my Blog with us . . . and we'd love to have you come along. One more thing, A Fine Romance actually was all hand written, not a font. Just a wee bit of an FYI, I have the chiropractor bills to prove it. :-) If you're at BEA in Chicago in May, stop by the Baker & Taylor booth and say Hi so I can thank you in person.

Hannah Jane C (not verified)
 (changed ) 
Wow, your comment totally made my day. I am thrilled to hear you are taking another journey this fall and I am looking forward to it as much as Martha's Vineyard, Isle of Dreams!
If you're ever in the Kansas City area I'd love to hear you speak or maybe even host you at our Library. Thanks again, so much!

Susan Branch (not verified)
 (changed ) 
Well, we just happen to be coming there on Wed. the 18th of May, to Unity Temple on the Plaza, for Rainy Day Books . . . Call them for details because I think it might be ticketed. I have a new book coming out . . . so many bookstores we're going to are working with their local libraries to put on these events, I wish I would have known you before! Thank you again Hanna, your review warmed the cockles of my heart. And I hope your loved one is all healed up now. Hope to see you in KC! xoxo

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

mostly gables

The house is starting to look less like a giant kleenex box and more like a tornado dropped in for a friendly visit.  

We have mostly gables now!  

And the back porch is also going in.  This is a view from the bedroom.  I can already picture opening the door to let the dogs out for their early morning frolic.  

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

a present for me!

Lookee what a friend of mine, Hebah, gave me for a belated holiday present!!!

A journal which pretty much says it all before it's even opened : ), and a lovely bag for the multitude of books I always carry around.  

When I showed Robert the journal he said oh that's a perfect journal to write about me.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

two enthusiasms, two planets

Excited Patron: Do you have the second season of Game of Thrones? 

Me: Nope, but I can have it brought over from another library for you.

Excited Patron: Great, thanks, that's awesome, he says pounding the desk with his fist.  It's such a great show.  And I'm watching it with my best friend. Have you seen it?

Me: No, I haven't.  But I totally know how it feels to be caught up in a good series because I'm in the middle of Heartland.

Excited Patron: What's that?  I've never heard of it before.

Me: It's like a cowboy soap opera about a girl who heals horses.

Silence.  Well, silence plus a weird look plus he backed away from the desk like it was on fire.

Yep, I totally deserved that.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

A Fine Romance

I couldn't help myself.  I can't stop talking about this book. It's definitely made it into my top ten favorites so it deserves a long-winded review. Enjoy.

I couldn’t have read A Fine Romance at a more perfect time.  It was the perfect book to read while cooped up in a hospital room waiting for Robert to heal.  I sailed right along with Susan Branch and her husband, Joe, as they journeyed to England via ship and explored the country for two months. This book is not only Susan’s diary during their vacation in England.  It is also a very informational and exhilarating guide to both well-known and hidden places in England, many of which belong to the National Trust.  Above all else, this book is a journey of the senses, using a mixture of her characteristic font that looks like handwriting, gorgeous watercolors and real photographs to describe, with incredibly absorbing detail, two months of smelling, tasting and sight-seeing springtime England. 

The beginning chapters quickly but romantically describe how Susan and Joe met and fell in love.  It’s an ordinary love story bedecked with remarkable details like the illustration of Joe with an enormous bouquet of flowers - an illustration I cannot help but keep revisiting.  After enjoying their first journey to England in 2004 Susan and Joe decide to visit again in 2012, this time documenting their adventures.  Susan’s diaries wholly reflect their love for history, food, gardens, art, and old-timey movies and music.

I was mesmerized by the beauty of this book, often spending several minutes examining pictures and illustrations - their messy ship room, or rather, ‘cocoon,’ strange English curiosities such as the magnetic soap holder, gorgeous illustrations like Susan’s black teapot drawing, and inventive mixed media techniques such as the watercolor tea being poured into a picture of a real teacup.  It took me at least an hour to carefully comb through the Beatrix Potter pages.  Because of Susan’s excellent attention to detail I felt like I was exploring Hill Top as Beatrix Potter herself.

I could smell the ‘raw celery’ smell of the air, taste the bangors and beans and feel the petals of each flower.  My heart danced with joy each time Susan listed all the springtime flowers, the accompanying illustrations so perfectly lush it looked like the flowers were growing from the pages of the book.  Ordinary details such as eating hot milk cake while knitting with a friend, wood pigeons cooing ‘my toe hurts Betty,’  and hillsides ‘dotted with lambs’ made me fist pump the air in elation. 

This book is balm for the spirit. Whether you are looking for a magical retreat, a helpful and incomparable England travel guide, or inspiration to write a memoir or scrapbook of a special moment in your life, this book has something for everyone.  Artists of all varieties - chefs, painters, scrapbookers and gardeners – will be regaled nonstop with inspirational daily passages rich with recipes, gardening and artwork.  Anyone who is a fan of old-timey movies and music, especially Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, will find snippets of songs and scenes on nearly every page.  Adding to all this excitement are many tranquil moments like relaxing by a fire in a centuries old pub, walking ancient footpaths and indulging in afternoon tea.  As you read A Fine Romance don’t be surprised if your heart metamorphoses into fluttering watercolor and unexpectedly takes flight. 

Friday, February 19, 2016

sashaying around the neighborhood

On the days that I work late I play early morning tennis and then either go to water aerobics or take the golden lovelies for a walk. Today my tennis friend cancelled and I totally embraced the moment.  I lounged in my fluffy blue robe.  Robert secured me a cup of coffee which I drank with unbridled glee.  I read what felt like a zillion books and blogs and listened to enough Disney music to worry about diabetes.  After a couple hours of this I started to get the stare from the golden lovelies. They knew it was a beautiful day, windy and the in the 60's, perfect weather for sashaying around the neighborhood.  So we took a glorious walk, checked out all their favorite smell spots and spied on the workers at the remodel.

It is my staunch belief that every time a camel cricket invades my personal space it erases roughly six months of my life.  Thankfully there are mornings like the one I had today that give me back those six months and then some.  It was a very relaxing morning.  

When I got to work I was a little bummed by how caught up we were and how quiet the building was. Don't get me wrong - these are the ideal ingredients for a happy day of playing catch-up on reviews, lists and crazy fun projects for the local writers committee I'm on.  However, it appeared that I was pretty much caught up on everything.  And I was bursting with Disney music-induced energy, which would have gotten so many things done.  

So I received the afternoon holds, which is fancy talk for checking in the items that our patrons requested from elsewhere.  An hour went by without a single patron interaction.  I started putting the holds away, and a few minutes into this the bell at the front desk dinged so loudly it flew through the air.  As I walked over the patron was very shakily picking the bell up off the floor.   It looked as if it scared the bejeezus out of her too.  But even after the bell was on the desk again she was still staring intently at the floor when she mumbled that she needed help at the computer.  As I followed her to the PC I silently hummed Colors of the Wind to soothe my bell-shattered nerves and bolster the patience I knew I would need to help her.

Once we made it to the PC she asked me how to attach a picture.  I asked her where the picture was.  She told me that she hadn't taken it yet.  I paused before I asked what she needed a picture of and she pointed to herself and looked away.  I asked if she had a phone and when she held up her flip phone I asked if her it had email capabilities.  She said no so I told her we could take a picture with my phone and I would email it to her.  She said ok and I asked her where she wanted to take the picture.  She pointed to a wall with a tapestry and said maybe there.  Once we got there however she shook her head no and said that it wasn't going to work.  She pointed to another spot in the library, and after we wandered over to it, she studied the wall intensely before shaking her head no.  

We wandered around to a few more spots before she suggested that we go outside.  Because it was slow and the floor was covered I agreed but secretly wondered if it was part of an elaborate kidnapping scheme.  On the way out she spoke a little, and her long pauses between phrases reminded me of a telegram: 

I'm successful stop 
I raised two kids stop 
they're in college stop 
but I'm autistic stop 
and I can't meet people stop 
the picture is for an autistic dating site end  

With her face intently staring at the ground it felt as if she was talking to herself rather than to me.  Once outside she walked straight to a nearby tree and said, this is it.  I took the picture and once we made it back to the computer, showed her how to crop and attach it.  I wasn't sure if she was pleased until she looked up for the first time during the whole interaction, briefly glanced at my face and said thank you.  

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Rainbow Zen

This etsy item has a little story.

While I was in Tucson during my grandma's passing my mom and I spent a lot of time coloring in those fancy and complicated coloring books for adults.  It was very soothing and when I got home I fully intended on attacking a coloring book of my own.  But first I wanted to see if I could replicate that soothing and meditative coloring experience through embroidery.  So I very carefully picked out a lot of thread (11 colors!), an experience that felt similar to decoding the colors that decorated my grandma's aura.  I chose the wild batik based on how my comfort and happiness felt and looked to me when I was with her.  Then I randomly chose one of the 11 colors for each line as I circled out.  It was even better than coloring.  It had the same rhythm, stillness and concentration plus the motion of pulling the needle in and out that always makes me so happy.   And I could never accidentally color outside the lines!  

I'm going to give this technique a break, but I plan on doing this again, definitely on a solid fabric next time thanks to Robert's suggestion, and I will definitely go the route of choosing colors based on someone's aura, but I don't know who yet and even if I did it would be a secret.  

For the moment I've decided to send this out into the world because it's so happy. 

Saturday, February 13, 2016


A poem of mine was published in Nebo!

In the poem, which is called Crazy Quilt, I wove two places together, Lake of the Ozarks, MO, where I grew up, and Tucson, AZ, which is where a large chunk of my family resides, so the poem is very special to me.  Next time I see everyone I will share it with all of you.

Friday, February 12, 2016

garage extension

Despite the deceptively small hole cut into the front, this is the garage extension going up!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Where our rocking chairs will go

The remodel is moving right along.  

This outlines where the garage will be pushed forward and the added porch will be.

And here is the added porch outline, new side entrance with the unfinished door and a few casement windows.   

Sunday, February 7, 2016

ooh watch me watch me

I'm not the person who usually writes the birdy blurb for the calendar, but this month I just couldn't help myself.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

pet flashdrive

​A man came in to pick up his flash drive that he had accidentally left at the library.  The flashdrive just happened to be dangling from a shoestring.  

When I handed the man the flashdrive he dangled it in front of his face and very loudly scolded it, Listen you. I told you to stay where I could see you.
This wasn't incredibly odd, but as he walked away with it he kept it dangled in front of his face, and with a finger pointed at it, scolded it all the way out the door.  

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

body shapes, Percy poems, watercolor galore & rumpy bunches

The best grown-up books I read in January:

The Worrier's Guide to Life by Gemma Correll

- HILARIOUS - inventive and often wacky perspectives about everyday things like body shapes (ex. I'm both broken slinky and pizza shaped) - she's super easy to relate to (esp. if you are girly and like pugs)

The Truro Bear and Other Adventures by Mary Oliver

- for animal poetry enthusiasts this includes poems about all kinds of creatures such as whales and horses - at the end there are a handful of Percy poems - also included is the poem, 'The Poet Goes to Indiana,' with a line that says the nostrils of a horse are 'soft as violets'

A Fine Romance by Susan Branch

- beautifully illustrated memoir written in diary form - magically transports you to England in seconds no matter where you are - lots of National Trust places lovingly detailed, including Beatrix Potter's house

Blue Iris by Mary Oliver

- poems about plants, music, the soul - my favorite poem, Sea Leaves, has a line: 'the only thing I don't know is, should the activity of this day be called labor, or pleasure?' and this is exactly how I feel about working at the library - Mary Oliver uses the phrase 'rumpy bunches' in the poem, Goldenrod, and now I use it to describe my two golden retrievers

The Fairytale Girl by Susan Branch

- memoir written in diary format with lots of photographs and watercolor art - Susan Branch's slow awakening to her artistic powers - if you're like me and cannot get enough of Susan Branch there's going to be a sequel that comes out in June 2016

Humans of New York: Stories by Brandon Stanton

- micro memoirs that will illuminate and augment your perspectives of strangers - often the people in this book are having conversations with each other even though they are strangers - occasionally the people spoke directly to me with stories that were my stories and if I ever feel alone, I will reread this book to remind myself that we're all connected

Monday, February 1, 2016

snakes, friends, teeth & dachshunds

Because I read so many books and do not have the time to write lengthy reviews for all of them I have started writing flash reviews for all my favorites. Starting now I am going to give you a monthly list of my favorite children's and grown-up books for each month.  Because I read so many great books this past month this will be a two-part installment.

The best children's books I read in January:

I Don't Like Snakes by Nicola Davies:

- silly AND educational - quirky illustrations - snake cuddling

Orion and the Dark by Emma Yarlett

- doodle-like illustrations packed with engaging details - the lesson is cleverly sneaky - blobby dark friend is just a chunk of the night sky and can be anyone's friend

Fancy Nancy and the Too-Loose Tooth by Jane O'Connor

- Nancy learns something about honesty - the ups and downs of yearning/refraining/waiting - more Fancy Nancy fashion inspiration ooh la la

Pretzel by Margaret Rey

- adorable hero wiener dog story - illustrations are simple and sweet - Pretzel's crush, Greta, is obnoxious and uninterested, but you can't help who you love and maybe, just maybe, he wins her over