Tag Archive: family


The Genius of Harold Lloyd

Cyd Charisse and Gene Kelly

Cyd Charisse and Gene Kelly in Singing in the Rain, 1952

While I was at my parent’s house for Thanksgiving, I decided to stay the night so I could more easily go to the famous Sun City Arts & Craft Show the next day. That night, I stayed up with my dad and we got to watch a compilation film done by silent film comedian Harold Lloyd in 1962, that featured all of his best work. I will admit that other than his most famous film Safety Last, and really only the clock tower scene, I hadn’t really watched anything of his. My husband is less appreciative of classic Hollywood movies than I am, so the only time I really get to watch good old movies is when I am with my parents, and more specifically with my dad. He really got me interested in Old Hollywood films circa 1890s-1950s, and it was because of him that I took some film history classes during my undergraduate career. My parents are the reason I grew up watching film stars like Gene Kelley, Cyd Charisse, Fred Astaire, Howard Keel, Leslei Caron, Ann Miller, Frank Sinatra and Bob Fosse instead of more traditional 80s and 90s stars like Molly Ringwald, Matthew Broderick or Jennifer Grey. The last star at least I made up for in Graduate School the first time as my friends and I went through an obsessive Dirty Dancing faze.

Harold Lloyd in Safety Last

Harold Lloyd in Safety Last!, 1923

Anyways, I enjoyed watching the compilation movie Harold Lloyd’s World of Comedy, not only because it prompted an in-depth conversation, with my dad, about the three great silent film comedians: Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and of course, Harold Lloyd. We talked about the differences in their style of comedy, but my dad didn’t know all that much about Lloyd’s background so I thought it might be fun to research it. Harold Clayton Lloyd was born in Burchard, Nebraska on April 20, 1893 and from an early age, had an interest to perform on stage. He enrolled in the School for Dramatic Arts in San Diego, CA. He originally snuck onto the Universal Pictures studio lot and met famous producer Hal Roach, who would later go on to produce Laurel & Hardy movies, who let Lloyd join his new production company. Lloyd starred in many “Lonesome Luke” films, where he played similar to Charlie Chaplin’s tramp. He knew this would not go far with early silent film audiences, so he completely changed his persona. He became the everyman with his trademark round horn-rimmed glasses, straw boater hat and messy suit. According to his official biography from Harold Lloyd Entertainment “Harold was the first film comedian to portray a character that looked and acted like someone sitting in the audience – an average guy, the boy-next-door. With this “glass” character as Harold called it, He could experience the humor in everyday life. And, as an average fellow, Harold’s boy-next-door could have a romance. It was the beginning of romantic comedy in films. As his new character grew more popular, the one-reel comedies became two-reels.” I should first explain a little bit about the terminology one-reel and two-reels. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, “In the early days of motion pictures, each reel ran about 10 minutes, and the length of a picture was indicated by the number of its reels.” Therefore it was possible for early film comedians like Chaplin, Keaton and Lloyd to literally makes hundreds of films during their extensive careers. By 1922, Lloyd had progressed from making two-reel films to five reels (modern full-length movies).

In August 1919, Harold Lloyd was posing for a photographer with a cigarette, which he was lighting with what he thought was a prop bomb. Only it wasn’t a fake and it went off, temporarily blinding him and taking off his pointer finger and thumb of his right hand. The doctors believed his career was over, but he recovered and had a prosthetic hand made so he could continue working in film for a further 29 years and making a total of 200 films. So it is pretty crazy to imagine him only holding on to the famous clock hand on the side of a building in Safety Last with his left hand and only three fingers on his right hand! Even more so because apparently despite all his crazy stunts involving tall buildings, he was afraid of heights.

Harold Lloyd3

The reason he is a genius stems from his knowledge of his audience. He knew just how to be both funny and moving. According to the PBS American Master’s webpage, he also knew how much fear helped heighten comedy. “One day while on his way to the studio, he watched a man scaling the side of a building. Crowds had gathered around and were completely consumed by the sight of the climber. Lloyd knew that if he could keep an audience on the edge of their seats like this, he could make them laugh even harder. So, using the tricks of photographic perspective, he began to shoot scenes that looked as if they were happening on the sides of buildings, on scaffoldings, or hanging from clocks. These acrobatic hi-jinks seemed amazingly real in a time before special effects. More than simply renewing the audience’s interest in his work, these progressive techniques earned him the respect of others in the film industry.” My dad and I watched several snippets of his films, including Safety Last and Why Worry? that use these “thrill comedy” techniques. When Safety Last opened in 1923, it was immediately a huge success and he was nicknamed “The King of Daredevil Comedy”. According to his biography from Harold Lloyd Entertainment, “By the mid 1920’s, Harold had left Roach and was producing all the films in which he starred. Of all the silent film comedians, Harold Lloyd was the most profitable. His films out grossed the movies of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, and he made more films than both of them put together.” I find this film gross fact to be particularly fascinating as I would say most people nowadays have never heard of Lloyd, but have heard of Chaplin and may have heard of Keaton. The biography goes on to say that “In 1928, Variety proclaimed him the highest paid film star. When talking pictures came along, Lloyd was one of the first filmmakers to embrace the new medium. He was the fifth film star to immortalize his hand and footprints in the pavement outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, and he has two stars on the “Walk of Fame.” So go check him and his movies out!

Resources

Biography Section from Harold Lloyd’s Entertainment website

PBS American Masters biography section about Harold Lloyd

Encyclopedia Britannica article on reels

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Book Reviews Dec 2014

I can’t believe this year is nearly at an end. It has definitely been an interesting one, especially in regards books and my professional life. I finally got a library job after 4 years of searching, and it’s in the area I want to be in, i.e. Youth Services. I get to do storytimes and help kids and parents find the books and other material that they need. I have beat my reading goal for the year with 345 out 321 books read. I have, unfortunately, gotten really far behind in writing reviews. But I am working to catch up on that for the new year and get back on a good schedule of writing and posting them. I am definitely going to try and write more blog posts in 2015. I already have a few ideas rolling around in my head. My son has been growing like a weed and though he is a handful, he is becoming more independent. He’s getting better with the alphabet, though we’re going to have to over the numbers again as he seems to have forgotten them in the meantime. I’m hoping he’ll be able to read soon and we can read more together.

As usual I rate books on a scale of 1 – 5 stars, with one being the lowest and five the highest. I will add pictures from books I like (and there was a lot this time around).

Children

Wow! Said the Owl written and illustrated by Tim Hopgood

Wow said the Owl

This was a very cute story about a young owl discovering all the colors that occur during the day. Added bonus about this book is that I can use it for ToddlerTime on owls and a Discoverytime (Preschool storytime + science) on rainbows. I am very happy about the last part. Recommended for ages 2-6, 4 stars.

I Love to Dance written and illustrated by Anna Walker

I was looking for another book about dancing for my Toddler Storytime, when I found this book. I liked the soft but simple ink on watercolor illustrations about Ollie, who I think is some kind of dog sock monster or maybe stuffed animal, who loves to dance. I liked the descriptions of his dancing, especially “I love to dance like jelly and shake my wobbly belly.” Recommended for ages 2-6, 3 stars.

I’m Not Cute! written and illustrated by Jonathan Allen

This was another adorable owl book that I plan to use for a Toddler storytime on owls (not trying to be pun-y but it was). Baby Owl insists he’s not cute even though everyone he meets say he is. He insists that he is instead “a huge and scary hunting machine with great big soft and silent wings.” In actuality, both statements are true, as it is later confirmed by his mother. Recommended for ages 2-6, 3 stars.

except if written and illustrated by Jim Averbeck

except if

I really enjoyed this book and the concept of it, and planned to use it at my Egg Preschool DiscoveryTime (though it would also be great for a Toddler storytime; didn’t arrive in time unfortunately). It’s all about an egg hatching and the possibilities about what could be hatching from it. For example, it could be a bird except if it is a baby snake, etc etc. My son loved this book. Recommended for ages 2-6, 4 stars.

Cats Night Out written by Caroline Stutson, illustrated by Jon Klassen

Cats Night Out

This was another book I chose for my dancing Toddler Storytime. The book featured dancing cats at night with all kinds of amusing costumes and dance styles/positions. Plus Jon Klassen’s illustrations are just so detailed but the cats all seem to remind me of the Jets and Sharks (ala West Side Story) as they just look so cool and relaxed dancing. Recommended for ages 2-7, 4 stars.

Rap a Tap Tap written and illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon

RapATapTap

I was looking for a book for my Toddler Storytime on dance when I came across this gem from Leo & Diane Dillon. It’s a book about Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, one of the world’s most famous tap dancers and has a rhyming repeating text. I had heard of him before this book, but this was the first time I’d seen a children’s book based on the his life and dancing skills. Recommended for ages 2-7, 3 stars.

Waiting is Not Easy! written and illustrated by Mo Willems

Waiting is Not Easy

I borrowed a copy of this book because A. I love Elephant and Piggie and this was one of the newest ones and B. I hoped it would explain patience better to my 3 yr old son who is quite possibly the most impatient person in the world. He does kind of get it now, though he’s still pretty impatient, but is a good book for explaining the concept. Gerald is having a hard time waiting for the surprise promised by Piggie. He waits all day and is getting really tired of it, when his surprise finally comes and he realizes it was worth waiting for. This book can definitely be appreciated by kids and parents alike. Recommended for ages 3+, 4 stars.

The Littlest Owl written by Caroline Pitcher, illustrations by Tina Macnaughton

I have been looking for books to use with my owl Toddler storytime and this book was a bit too much for them. But a cute book nonetheless. I just feel like quoting Despicable Me and say that that little baby “is so fluffy I’m gonna die!”. A mommy barn owl has laid four eggs and three have already hatched. The fourth takes a bit longer and is smaller than the rest. When a storm hits, the four babies and their mother must fly away from the willow tree that is their home. The first three go with no problem, but the fourth hasn’t flown before and is hesitant. Eventually he gathers up his courage and flies for the first time. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

I’m Going to Catch My Tail! written and illustrated by Jimbo Matison

I'm Going to Catch My Tail!

 I saw this book while browsing for storytime books and just had to get it. The illustrations are so adorable and a bit cartoony. The book is about a silly cat who decides to catch his tail, who speaks with a separate voice, as he goes about his crazy everyday life, you know messing with the laundry, tearing up toilet paper and generally causing mischief. I was more enthused than my son was, but he still thought it was funny. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

Snippet the Early Riser written and illustrated by Bethanie Deeney Marguia

Snippet the Early Riser

I picked this one up because I love books about snails. Honestly I liked the illustrations more than the story. Snippet is a very energetic snail, pretty much like a normal under 7 year old and likes to play soccer, draw, and get piggyback rides. Like small children, he wakes up way earlier than his parents and sister and does everything in his power to wake them up so they can all play together. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

Harold and the Purple Crayon: Race Car written by Liza Baker, illustrated by Kevin Murawski

My son loved this book, but he loves cars (especially racing ones), so I’m not surprised. Harold is playing with his toy car in his room when he decides to he wants to drive a real one. So he draws one with his magic purple crayon and a second car and has a car race, along with his dog Lilac. They face fog, snow, the desert, and still manage to save the second car and finish the race. Recommended for ages 3-6, 4 stars.

Julia’s House for Lost Creatures written and illustrated by Ben Hatke

julias house for lost creatures 2

I picked this up originally while I was looking up storytime books and thought the cover looked cool. When I found out First Second books was the publisher, I knew it was gonna be awesome (they just always seem to do cooler than normal books and graphic novels). The book starts off with Julia’s house being on a giant tortoise, which delighted my son to no end. She comes to a new area but is bored, so she puts a sign outside for welcoming in lost creatures. In no time at all, some start to show up, like a patchwork kitty, a bridge troll, and mermaids. The illustrations are super cute and really help to tell the story. Like Kirkus Reviews has mentioned in their review, the creatures do start up a bit of a Wild Rumpus, ala Where the Wild Things Are, and Julia quickly tires of it. She establishes some ground rules and things quickly settle down again and become more like a family. Recommended for ages 3-7, 5 stars.

By the Light of the Harvest Moon by Harriet Ziefert

Another book I picked up for Autumn Preschool Storytime, I liked this one for its great illustrations. It is a story about the Autumnal Equinox on Sept 22 or 23. A farmer and his crew have been busy harvesting and go to bed exhausted. After he goes home for the night, the leaf people come out to celebrate the Harvest Moon/the Autumnal Equinox with their families. They play games like bobbing for apples and making popcorn necklaces. The leaf kids try to see who can stack pumpkins the highest. The best part was the dessert party, where the kids proudly announce that they get to eat pie. The only thing that was off-putting about this book was the fact that the leaf people (whose heads were pumpkins) ate pumpkin pie and played with pumpkins, but I guess you have to extend your imagination to not look at their head and remember that they are made up of leaves. Recommended for ages 4-7, 3 stars.

When Blue Met Egg written and illustrated by Lindsay Ward

I thought I might use this book when I did a Preschool DiscoveryTime on eggs, but it didn’t quite work. But I thought it was cute and so brought it home to read with my son. He liked the story, though it was a bit long. Blue is a bird who lives in New York City and one day she meets the lonely Egg, who she sort of adopts as she takes him around the city trying to find his mom. They are together winter to spring when he hatches into something special. I had to explain the ending to my son as he didn’t pick up on it. Recommended for ages 4-7, 3 stars.

In November written by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Jill Kastner

I am doing a Preschool Storytime on Autumn and I found this book. I think it is a more winter book than autumn but I will probably use it as a backup book. It tells about all the different things that go on during November. There are no leaves on the trees, animals and insects are hibernating or getting ready to do so. Snow is coming down, people are baking and getting together for Thanksgiving. I loved this line from the text “In November, the smell of food is different. It is an orange smell. A squash and pumpkin smell. It tastes like cinnamon and can fill up a house in the morning…” I loved the oil painted illustrations, which just made everything seem more homey and snuggly. Recommended for ages 4-7, 3 stars.

Max’s Castle written and illustrated by Kate Banks

I have not read the first two books in this series, but found this while browsing for storytime books and thought it looked fun. Max finds some forgotten wooden alphabet blocks in his room and he and his brothers uses their imagination to create a castle with the blocks forming words that make up the features of the castle. I loved the illustrations of this fun and creative book, though it was a bit too long for my son. Recommended for ages 4-8, 3 stars.

Pele and the Rivers of Fire adapted and illustrated by Michael Nordenstrom

Pele and the Rivers of Fire

I was looking for a book to do with Preschool DiscoveryTime storytime and found this book. Thankfully there is a pronunciation guide in the back of the book as some of the Hawaiian names are rather hard to pronounce. This book tells the story of the volcanic fire goddess Pele and how she came to the Hawaiian islands. I loved the beautiful acrylic/watercolor on paper collage illustrations. It’s really cool that this book was written by a librarian and you can definitely see his passion for the subject in the book. Recommended for ages 4-9, 4 stars.

Maybelle the Cable Car by Virginia Lee Burton

I love Virginia Lee Burton’s books, so I immediately picked this one up while looking for car books for my son. It is based off the true story of how the city of San Francisco banded together to save the cable cars, despite the city fathers wanting to get rid of them in the name of progress. Maybelle, as the title suggests, is one of the old cable cars that is thankfully spared the chopping block and her and her fellow cable cars are allowed to run up and down the hilly city. She eventually becomes friends with Big Bill, one of the new modern buses, who originally thought of her as old-fashioned and as competition. The book also tells in detail how the cable cars work, so I’m sure kids will be pretending to drive one of these while reading or listening to the story. Recommended for ages 5-9, 3 stars.

Young Adult

City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments #6) by Cassandra Clare

This is the final showdown between the Shadowhunters and Sebastian (aka Jonathan Morgenstern). Sebastian is trying to turn as many Shadowhunters and Downworlders as possible into Endarkened (mindless zombies) by using the Infernal Cup and wants a final all-out battle to establish his dominance. Everyone must decide what side they will fight on. Clary, Jace, Isabelle, Simon, and Alec travel to a demon world to find and defeat Sebastian on his own turf. Will they be able to in time? To find out, read the exciting conclusion to the Mortal Instrument series. Recommended for ages 15+, 4 stars.

Holy Moly! What a crazy book and an intriguing end to the series! I mean killing off characters in the prologue was pretty ballsy, but it definitely gets your attention. This book was long at 725 pages, but I managed to get through it in a week because it kept me on the edge of my seat trying to figure out what insane thing the author was going to do next. And she has brilliantly set the stage for her next series, entitled “The Dark Artifices”, though I will admit I’m kinda like “Geez, what else can she talk about for an entire series” as I already think this series went on for a book or two too long. However, I will probably check out at least the first book to see what she’s done. I will admit that I couldn’t for the life of me, despite having read all of the “The Infernal Devices” books, remember who Brother Zechariah actually was before he became a silent brother. I was really happy with the way the romances in the series ended, though I am curious about more Magnus stories in her e-books that I’ve yet to read (that will have to be remedied).

I would like to give a shoutout to Thomas from the blog “the quiet voice” for his excellent review of the book.

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

Ok yes, I totally judged this book by its cover. The story sounded intriguing as well, so I figured I would give it a try. This ended up being one of my favorite books of the year and I was pretty bummed when it ended because it was so good. If you don’t like totally bizarre stories, you are not gonna like this book. That being said, I think the weirdness really works in this case. This is the author’s first book, which is kind of crazy because the language is so gorgeous and quotable and really makes her seem like she’s been doing this all her life. The story kind of reminded me of elements from the movie “Amelie” and “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”. To check out a more thorough review, check out this one.

The book starts off with a letter from the main character and tells the reader that to understand her story, she has to go back to the beginning and tell her grandmother and mother’s stories first. They feature nearly unbelievable tales of love and loss, which once told, make it is easier to understand the winged Ava and her silent brother Henry and how the story unfolds the way that it does. I don’t want to tell too much and give the story away, but I highly recommend this book. Recommended for ages 14+, 5 stars.

Adult

Perdita by Hilary Scharper

Finding Rebecca by Eoin Dempsey

Judy: A Dog in a Million by Damien Lewis

Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters, narrated by Juanita McMahon

Tipping the Velvet is about a young teenage oyster girl named Nancy Astley living in Whitstable, an English seaside town, in the 1890s. She falls in love with a male impersonator, at her local music hall, named Kitty Butler. She agrees to become her personal dresser and embarks on a totally different life than she ever had before. Eventually the two of them become lovers and have a male impersonator act together, before she is cruelly betrayed by Kitty and has her heart broken. The story that follows is Nancy’s journey in growing up and becoming her own person, separate from Kitty. 4 stars.

Wow this was a crazy book! I finally had a chance to listen to it after watching part of the BBC miniseries version years ago and enjoying it. Seventeen discs though, geez! I’m not sure what it is about almost all the books I’ve picked recently but they start off great, get really draggy in the middle and then pick up again at the end (including this one). Ms. McMahon was a great narrator though, and definitely made the book more enjoyable (even in the dragging parts). If you ever wanted to know about British slang for all things sexual, this is definitely the book for you. It’s a good thing I have an English hubby and have always been a bit of Anglophile or I would probably have gotten really lost while listening to this book. I did really enjoy the frank discussions of gender, sexuality, socialism and feminism in the book. I would be interested in reading more of Sarah Waters’ books in the future.

Plenty More: Vibrant Vegetable Cooking from London’s Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi

Another brilliant vegetarian cookbook from Yotam Ottolenghi, and this one is even better than “Ottolenghi”. I swear this man could make anything taste amazing. Plus there’s the gorgeous food photographs (nearly food porn lets be honest) that makes you just drool and make the recipes immediately, especially for the Taleggio and Spinach Roulade, Fig and Goat Cheese Tart and the Tomato and Pomegranate Salad. I’d like to try to make the Udon Noodles with with Fried Eggplants, Walnut and Miso (and I usually hate eggplants, but again he makes it sound amazing); Quinoa Porridge with Grilled Tomatoes and Garlic; Quinces Poached in Pomegranate Juice, and Walnut and Halvah Cake. 5 stars.

Persuasion by Jane Austen, narrated by Juliet Stevenson

Anne Elliot was betrothed to Captain Frederic Wentworth when she was 19 and was persuaded by friends and family to call it. So she did and has regretted her decision ever since. Anne’s father has managed to nearly bankrupt the family with his extravagant spending, so they have to rent out their manor house and move to Bath, England. Anne does not go immediately there, but instead goes to stay with her sister Mary in the country. She is intrigued and a little bit scared to meet up with Captain Wentworth again at Mary’s in-law’s house. It seems he is there courting Mary’s sister in laws, Louisa and Henrietta Musgrove, and Anne must sit there and watch and sort out how she feels about this. Eventually Louisa, Henrietta, Captain Wentworth, Mary and her husband Charles, and Anne decide to visit the seaside town of Lyme and Louisa has a crazy accident which incapacitates her for awhile. Anne leaves to go visit her friend Lady Russell and eventually move back in with her father. Captain Wentworth later comes to bath which really makes Anne wonder if he does still have feelings for her. 4 stars.

I have tried to read the actual book of Pride and Prejudice a couple times but the story was so slow, I could never get through very much. So I thought it would be better if I tried Jane Austen as an audiobook, but go for another of her books (whose movie version I also loved) and so picked this one. The narrator, Juliet Stevenson, was excellent. The audio version was also really slow in the beginning and I’ll be honest, didn’t pick up for me until about disc 5 of 7. But I kept listening and finally the story got more interesting and I dreaded having to leave the car and being unable to continue it until I got back in again. Anne Elliot is one of my favorite characters so level-headed, intelligent and soft-spoken. It sucks that she had such bad advice from her friend Lady Russell. The letter Frederic gives to Anne at the end of the book is one of the sweetest and most romantic I’ve ever heard, and almost tops Mr. Darcy’s declaration to Elizabeth Bennet.

I’ve been bad about posting poetry so far this, even though I have been thinking about posts nearly every day. I’ve been a bit distracted as my husband has pneumonia/flu and has been out of commission since Friday. Last night was the first night I’ve gotten good sleep in about a week. I intend to resolve that discrepancy by posting today about William Wordsworth.

William Wordsworth

This Romantic-era poet was born April 7, in the year 1770. He is credited with helping to found the Romantic Movement in English poetry, which he did with the help of fellow poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. His parents died when he was very young and he and his four siblings grew up with different relatives. His love of nature developed early, and is evident in poems created throughout his life. He really started up writing poetry when he was at Cambridge University, during a European tour of Switzerland and France. He became very vocal about his beliefs in the ideals of the French Revolution. According to the BBC, “In 1795, Wordsworth received a legacy from a close relative and he and his sister Dorothy went to live in Dorset. Two years later they moved again, this time to Somerset, to live near the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who was an admirer of Wordsworth’s work. They collaborated on ‘Lyrical Ballads’, published in 1798.” This collection was not well-received by critics.  In 1799, Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy moved to Dove Cottage in Grasmere (in the Lake Country). In 1802, he married a childhood friend, Mary Hutchinson.

“His political views underwent a transformation around the turn of the century, and he became increasingly conservative, disillusioned by events in France culminating in Napoleon Bonaparte taking power.In 1813, Wordsworth moved from Grasmere to nearby Ambelside. He continued to write poetry, but it was never as great as his early works. After 1835, he wrote little more. In 1842, he was given a government pension and the following year became poet laureate.Wordsworth died on 23 April 1850 and was buried in Grasmere churchyard. “

The first poem is the only one I really know of his, and I like it, so I decided to include it. The second and third ones, I just liked the language of them. I have included a link to the interpretation of the third poem.

The Daffodils

  by William Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A Poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

 

It is a Beauteous Evening, Calm and Free

by William Wordsworth

It is a beauteous evening, calm and free,
The holy time is quiet as a Nun
Breathless with adoration; the broad sun
Is sinking down in its tranquility;
The gentleness of heaven broods o'er the Sea;
Listen! the mighty Being is awake,
And doth with his eternal motion make
A sound like thunder—everlastingly.
Dear child! dear Girl! that walkest with me here,
If thou appear untouched by solemn thought,
Thy nature is not therefore less divine:
Thou liest in Abraham's bosom all the year;
And worshipp'st at the Temple's inner shrine,
God being with thee when we know it not.

The Solitary Reaper

  by William Wordsworth
Behold her, single in the field,   
  Yon solitary Highland Lass!   
Reaping and singing by herself;   
  Stop here, or gently pass!   
Alone she cuts and binds the grain,
And sings a melancholy strain;   
O listen! for the Vale profound   
Is overflowing with the sound.   
  
No Nightingale did ever chaunt   
  More welcome notes to weary bands 
Of travellers in some shady haunt,   
  Among Arabian sands:   
A voice so thrilling ne'er was heard   
In spring-time from the Cuckoo-bird,   
Breaking the silence of the seas
Among the farthest Hebrides.   
  
Will no one tell me what she sings?—   
  Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow   
For old, unhappy, far-off things,   
  And battles long ago:
Or is it some more humble lay,   
Familiar matter of to-day?   
Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain,   
That has been, and may be again?   

Whate'er the theme, the Maiden sang
  As if her song could have no ending;   
I saw her singing at her work,   
  And o'er the sickle bending;—   
I listen'd, motionless and still;   
And, as I mounted up the hill,
The music in my heart I bore,   
Long after it was heard no more.

Welcome 2014!

I hope everyone had a fabulous Holiday Season and I wish you a Happy New Years! Things have been pretty crazy the past couple of weeks at my house as my grandfather was visiting my parents for Christmas, so my hubby, my son and I were spending a lot of time driving back and forth to their house to visit. I’ve not seen him since last September (the last time he visited), so I was glad to do more than talk on the phone with him. He lives in Alabama and we don’t have any time off to come visit, but I want my son to know his great-grandfather, especially as he never got the opportunity to meet my grandmother. Liam said his first “I love you” to my grandfather as we were driving home the last time we saw him, the day after Christmas. It was so cute! Too bad my grandfather didn’t get to hear it. We had a very low-key New Year’s Eve, in fact I’m a little surprised we managed to stay up till midnight as my hubby was feeling poorly that night. When I was pregnant with my son a few years ago, we only stayed up till 10pm before falling asleep.

I have been enjoying my biggest Christmas gift, a new Kindle Fire HD, which is way lighter and faster than my 2nd generation Kindle (which died on me back in Oct). I am voraciously reading the third book in the Game of Thrones series, A Storm of Swords. I have found that I tend to read a little bit faster on the Kindle than a real copy, not sure why. This book is even longer than the second one, and is completely different from the 3rd season of the show (though there are some similar parts as well).

I definitely some things I would like to change/improve over the next year, which I guess you can call my resolutions. For one, I’ve decided to try eat healthier, i.e. eating at least one and hopefully two vegetarian meals a day, with emphasis on more whole grains and way less sugar. I’m sorry, but I can’t give up my iced slightly-sweet tea (guess that’s the Southerner in me), but will try some unsweetened hot teas to balance it out. I want to blog more and maybe even write some more poetry. I would like to read more, though that’s more of a long-term goal. I did pretty good last year with 308 books, though in 2012, I read the most in a long time (424). Below is a graph of my books read in 2013. It got a bit cut off, but the mythology section is “mythology and folk-tales” and the one across from it is fantasy and sci-fi. The “other” section is pretty much adult-age books and cookbooks, and the bottom left section is “birth-to-5-years”.

2013 reading chart

I need to get better about actually having some me-time, which would fit in with the more-reading goal as it is usually what I don’t have time for. This would probably also lessen my stress-levels, another thing I’ve been meaning to work on this year. I don’t deal with stress very well, despite my best efforts otherwise. I know part of that me-time I need to spend exercising. I’ve never been very good or put much of an effort into it, but as part of the healthier eating ticket, I’ve noticed my body not working the way it should and part of that is because of my lack of exercise. So I plan on using my walking shoes for their intended purpose. I will probably have to start doing it after work, as I have absolutely no desire to get up at 5:30am to start walking, plus if I take our dog, it will be less annoying to get barked at after work versus before most people are actually up.

Dia de los Muertos

dia_de_los_muertos_MG_8186

picture by Tom Robinson

I’ll admit, when I first found out about this holiday, I found it a little odd. It was so different than anything I’d experienced. I really didn’t understand it until I started looking at picture books by Mexican author/illustrator Yuyi Morales. They featured a character called Senor Calavera, and eventually I found his website. There was a sizeable Hispanic population in South Carolina, where I used to live and went to graduate school, but nothing like it is here in Phoenix. The 2-day holiday is a huge deal here in Arizona (due to our proximity to the Mexican-American border), and there are at least twelve different events going on this weekend with food, music, educational/art exhibits, parties, processions, children’s activities, and dancing.

I began to know a little bit more about the holiday (at least the part concerning the food)  by going to Ranch Market, a local Hispanic grocery store in town. They have a bakery that makes Pan de Muertos for the celebration. At Talk Time (an English conversation program I volunteer with at the library) this week, we  talked about Dia de Los Muertos and how it is celebrated, as well as other ancestor veneration festivals in other countries (like Japan). I liked this article I found that explains more about the holiday, including common misconceptions. I like the idea of decorating sugar skulls for the occasion, to place on the graves along with the other foodstuffs. Here’s a list of some other crafts you could do to celebrate the holiday in the classroom or in your own home. I, in particular, liked the sugar skull traveling mug craft from that article. They have an exhibit at the library every year where people submit altars to remember a lost loved one or friends and decorate them, just like they would be at a graveyard. This year the theme was music. I also like the idea of using a skull mask as part of a costume for Halloween, so here is a Pinterest page dedicated to that. So maybe I might try that next year. I love the performer’s makeup below, though I would probably do something a bit less complicated.

Dias de los Muertos performer

As Dia de Los Muertos celebrates the life of family and friends that have passed away, I thought I would celebrate it by writing a poem about my maternal grandmother. This will not cover everything I think and feel about her, but I think it will help me. I haven’t written any poetry since my son was born. I started in earnest doing it in college, but have unfortunately lost most of it due to crashed hard-drives. Anyways, here’s the poem.

Grahms

She died nearly two years ago,

though she is never very far from my thoughts.

The one thing I regret

is that she never got to meet her great-grandson,

as I know she would’ve loved him.

I couldn’t properly grief for her at the time,

but I have since then.

It still makes me sad to think about her

even though I know she is in a better place

and no longer suffering.

It is hard for me sometimes

to look at senior women who love interacting with children,

as they remind me of her.

 

I’ll admit,

when I was growing up,

I didn’t appreciate her like I should.

It wasn’t until I went to university

that I recognized that her kind heart

and salt of the earth personality was exactly

what a growing girl needed as a role model.

I have learned,

over time,

that I received  more from her

than just her wavy hair.

My love of baking came from her.

I remember summer days when we’d

go out and pick blueberries from the bushes

and come inside to make a blueberry pie.

Whenever I think of caramel cake,

I always think of the ones she used to make.

My fascination with antique shopping and craft fairs

came from her,

after going to so many over the years.

Important parts of my personality,

such as being a good listener

and loving people with a whole and open heart,

I learned from her.

I’m trying,

unsuccessfully,

not to cry while writing this.

I miss you Grahms,

And I love you.

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