Inspiration From The Distant Past

Inspiration From The Distant Past
Found note in an old book... warms the cockles of my bookish heart...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Biblio-Blunder: Quiet in the Library!

Biblio-blunder is a recurrent feature in which the Mrs. BG gals (mainly me, unfortunately) share our bookish gaffes with the world. Click on the label biblio-blunder to read more. 

Have you missed my silliness? Possibly not with all the entertaining and informative posts published by the fabulously talented DeLynne, Izzy, Tracy and Leslie--- but I have certainly missed reporting all the silly bookish happenings from rural Oklahoma. 

Even with all the aggravations that have thwarted my blogging recently (hurricane flood, major work deadline, computer virus and worse), little absurdities continue to make me laugh (mainly at myself) and to perk up my day. Actually, this particular event was not so much a perk up as it was a jumpstart of adrenaline.

Now, it has been awhile since I have had a goofy doofus moment to share (or biblio-blunder as it is now known)--  but this one is a doozy:  

As I  sat in the school library totally immersed in speech therapy paperwork, an odd sound caught my attention. A hissing coffee maker sound. After ignoring it for a few seconds, I glanced around for the source. Nothing hissing on my table so I turned to get up and looming right behind me was a six foot tall figure that looked something like this:
AAIIEEEEEE!   Yep,  a bloodcurdling scream right smackdab in the middle of the library!  An oscar winning scream!  Okay... Okay.. that is an exaggeration but it was definitely a scream worthy of one of the  horror movies  that Enbrethiliel features at Shredded Cheddar. For all I know, librarian's ears pricked up world wide... Okay, that is another exaggeration but the mental image tickles me. 

What I do know is that the scream scared the bejeebers out of my lurker---  which gave me immense satisfaction. Mwahahahha!

Poor lurker---  He exclaimed: Didn't you hear me breathing!!
As if the scream was my fault!  Wonder if my claim that he sounded like a coffee maker crushed his ego? Probably not if the heehaws, as he raced down the hall, were any indication.

Vengeance will be mine though. You see, I have discovered his identity...

Have you ever committed a 'too loud' biblio-blunder in a library?  

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dinner Dictionary; Dialect


This Friday I had the pleasure of dining with my friend Miriam and her lovely girlfriends. We had Thai takeaways and watched an episode (they are movie length, but episodes just the same) of Montalbano.

At the table were four of us

  • A French woman
  • An American (me, clearly)
  • A first-generation Australian of Italian descent, and
  • A first-generation Australian of Maltese descent.

Each speaks at least two languages, and naturally the conversation turned to linguistics. The Italian woman explained that her parents were from different areas of Italy, and spoke different dialects. She said that her own Italian was a mish-mash of Standard Italian and the two quite different dialects.

We then debated the definition of 'dialect' and whether or not English had any. We agreed that maybe Cockney fit the definition, but there were probably no English dialects, since most English speakers could understand one another (except maybe Americans who are rarely exposed to other Englishes).

My search of internet wikis and dictionaries has proved us both wrong and right. Cockney is, indeed a dialect, but there is an enormously long list of English dialects. I should have thought of African American Vernacular English (AAVE), which I understand and have to translate for my Aussie husband. There's even Texan, my native language.

'Dialect' is defined as differing from a language in vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation, while still being mutually intelligible.


This is in contrast to the way Italo-philes (and Wikipedia) define Italian dialect. In Italy dialects are not understood by one another or Standard Italian speakers. In reality, these should be called languages. So, by our definition as Romance language speakers and Mediterraneans, English doesn't have any dialects.

If you're curious, the website where I got the US map explained it all really well.

What with all the talking and nibbling and chatting and eating (at the table--the hostess was French, after all!) we didn't actually finish the movie until one in the morning. It's a rare evening when I crawl into bed at two am, but it was worth it!

Have a look at the list of global Englishes and see which dialect you speak. We'd love to see a comment below.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Traveling in place: India

First, thank you Man of La Book for giving me the courage to say I occasionally hate books and don't finish them. The last book I put down with irritation shall remain nameless, because someday, if I write a book and someone hates it, I don't want them to mention the title. Read it forward?

Instead of the karmically unmentionable book with an Indian theme, I read
"Climbing the Mango Tree: A Memoir of Childhood in India, a biography by Madhur Jaffrey. and loved it from the forward to the last word so much so that I hardly know where to begin so I'll tell you how she began,
"I was born in my grandparents' sprawling house by the Yamuna River in Delhhi.  Grandmother welcomed me into this world by writing
Om, which means, "I am" in Sanskirt, on my tongue with a little finger dipped in honey." You can't say enough about the upside to a really good grandmother.

 Jaffrey is a titan of the culinary world, was friends with James Beard to the point of having taught some his classes when his health began to fail and while she began as an actress she has become a prolific cookbook author, specializing in, get ready... Indian cuisine!  Shocking! I know!.   So why not one of her many cookbooks?  Well, I chose her biography because I'm trying to lose weight and just didn't think it would be a good idea to have any more reasons to want food.   My husband and I go out for India food. Fewer leftovers=smaller sit down ( optimally at least ).
Kakri cucumbers.  Seeds available from
Diamond Seeds
Needless to say, food is a main character in her biography from the honey on her newborn tongue to the summer cucumbers called kakri  hawked in the streets of Delhi by vendors crying out "Laila ki unglian hain, Manju ki pasliyan", "These are the fingers of Juliet, the ribs of Romeo"  though I'm not sure how you get either Romeo or Juliet from that.  She translated and I figure she knows more than I do about Hindi(?).   The book is a good read and a tour of India taken from your own cozy book nook.
Maybe you have the last few summer kakri sitting sadly on their withering vines and if so, though this isn't even remotely Shakespearean, maybe you'd like an idea about what to do with them:

Raita Salad
  • 1 cucumber peeled, seeded and coarsely grated
  • 2 cucumbers peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 cups non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped mint, firmly packed
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne ( to taste and omit if heat isn't your thing )
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • salt and pepper to taste
Hindu Temple, Calabasas, California.
Take off your shoes.. Thank you.
Combine all the ingredients and allow them to marry in the fridge for an hour or so. The Greek yogurt has a very high protein content and thus this is a good salad to pair with some steamed rice  as a meal.  This is also delicious served as a condiment to grilled meats and how much damage can you do with vegetables and non-fat yogurt?  I will tell you, using Greek yogurt makes a difference.  

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Little Boys Will Be Little Boys - Our Bedtime Stories

I was thinking about this today, about which story I will be reading to my little ones tonight.
My boys like non-fiction stories about dinosaurs, sharks, and other PREDATORS (duh-duh-DUH). I sigh and read them, with feeling (ok, Izzy?)

But sometimes, I get to read the stories that I prefer. They are compromises, still about dinosaurs and reptiles, but sweet stories. Fiction, of course!

One of my favorite series are the "How Do Dinosaurs..." by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague. These are sweet little rhymes written for children who pretend to be dinosaurs. The drawings make me smile, as I see my own little dinosaurs acting like those in the illustrations - in this case, before going to bed!

Another group of books that I enjoy reading to them are written by Ann Whitmore Paul. The books we particularly enjoy are the ones written in English, but with Spanish thrown in. Adorable retellings of fairy tales. For example, Tortuga in Trouble is a twist on Little Red Riding Hood.

These stories make a nice change for us, and since they are not too long, on nights when I don't have much time, I can get in a story that relaxes them and gets them to slip into to Slumberland.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bedtime Stories

Confession time; I, Izzy Rose, 13-year-old, am not too old for bedtime stories. In fact, I would be very upset if bedtime stories were discontinued in my house. They're not as childish as they may sound, and only the finest shall be read to me as part of my nightly routine. A fine collection of old and new, including A Little Princess, The Secret Garden, A Wrinkle in Time, Chinese Cinderella, The Lost Island of Tamarind and Wee Free Men.

It is comforting to be read to at night and often puts me to sleep before the chapter is even done. The elements of the story and the reader must fit a certain criteria tailored for me and my sister's tastes. Criteria:
  • The reader must have a comforting voice, and is not allowed to read in a drab monotone. (no offense Dad)
  • The book cannot include any blood, guts and gore, especially no vomit.
  • If there is a chapter with a suspenseful, uncomforting ending, the reader must let me stay up late, reading with a huge dolphin torch, to see if everything turns out okay.
  • Must have a good storyline, and keep me entertained.
  • If demanded, reader must read another chapter.
  • If book is not liked, reader must switch immediately.
That is all. And they lived happily ever after.

Books for your next flight

One day I had completed roughly 17 hours of the 26 hours it takes me to get to my beautiful Mother's house. I was in LAX, having left the international terminal for the domestic one. My two gorgeous girls must have been about seven and three years old, and I think they were both asleep as we came in to land. So they were wearing PJ's. In the middle of the day in the middle of the airport.

What with landing and waking them up and gathering all our stuff and being slowly but inexorably swept out of the plane and through immigration and customs I had not yet had a chance to change them into the undoubtedly cute and matching outfits they always wore at that age. And they were still young enough to think it was OK to traipse through foreign airports in flannel.

And then, from a coffee shop I heard my name. MY NAME. No doubt about it. My name is unusual enough, so I was sure it was me this person had called. But I had not lived in America for maybe a decade and a half. I had never lived in LA. I knew approximately two people from college who had moved to California. Who would be calling my name?

It was my long-lost cousin Tracy (before you think badly of our family loyalty, this was way before email). She said that she had noticed two cute girls in jammies and then me following them. We had not seen each other in absolutely years and years. Last I had heard she was married in Texas. I asked what she was doing in LAX.

She told me she had been visiting her boyfriend and her marriage was over and she was moving to California and she had left her church and she was a computer person. For me it was as if the Earth had shifted on its axis. Nothing was as I expected and I was a little dazed. (Travel with two small children is enough to do that alone, I'll admit.)

When I went to the counter to see if we could get on the same flight I couldn't even remember her name. For the longest time I had the ground crew searching the manifest for her maiden name. I had been to her wedding, of course, and knew her as a married woman, but was just a little lost.

So, on the plane we sat together and caught up with one another's lives. She hadn't met my younger daughter, and I heard the news of her girl.

Oddly, we each had one of our grandmother's rings. I had mine on my finger, as always, and she had hers tucked in her bag. But what struck me most about her was her choice of reading material for the flight. I tend to read trash on flights, something easy and light to keep my mind off the impossibility of me and a plane and trolleys of food and toilets flying through the air. Books that make me laugh uncontrollably and embarrassingly.

But my incredibly clever and cultured and interesting cousin carried two books for her flight. One was about chess moves and one was an art appreciation book. Both compact sized, really intellectual books. I was so impressed. She's always been wonderful.

Izzy has discussed in-flight reading already. What do you read during flights?

Dinner Dictionary; Napoleon’s biscuits

Well, you know a girl's far from home when she has to make her own Bisquick. And it didn't end really well, but some people don't know any better and others are too smart to say anything.

And that brings us to Dinner Dictionary. We had an Australian at the table, one who hasn't been to America. For Aussies 'biscuit' means 'cookie' while 'scone' means 'biscuit'. So Jack was a little puzzled when I said we were having biscuits for dinner, but he had thirds, so must have been converted.

During the meal he asked how they could be called biscuits when they weren't twice cooked. He maintained that the word comes from bi (twice) and cuit (French for cooked). So biscuits are supposed to have a firm texture, like hard tack for the armed forces. And the Online Etymology Dictionary agrees with him.

He also said that Napoleon commissioned the development of margarine, and I added that he supported the invention of canned foods. A Food Lover's Companion backs up the margarine claim, except that it was Napoleon III.

You just never know where the dinner chat will lead you.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Emma and I are working on things, but she’s moved out of the nightstand. She’s admitted she has feelings for Frank Churchill and I’ve seen how she looks at Mr. Knightley. She says it's all for Henry's sake, but I have my doubts. There was even talk of us ending it altogether, but we’ve decided to slow things down until we know where our relationship is headed. We’re still seeing each other a couple times a week for lunch or drinks after work, but I haven’t told her I’m reading another book. 

It’s a book of poetry originally written in Persia during the thirteenth century, by Rumi, poet, sage, student, Sufi, whirling dervish. The collection I’m reading now and read often when I feel myself swimming too hard in the wrong direction, or too hard in what I think is the right direction for that matter, is “The Essential Rumi”, translated by Coleman Barks.  
Do people even read poetry any more? Should I have admitted I do?

Reading Rumi is reading about love, the vast deep what-we’re-made-of  kind. It’s about letting go and occasionally it's about laughing at our egos, our smallest self. The titles alone make me smile: Love Dogs, Chickpea to Cook, Dissolver of Sugar, Unfold Your Own Myth, Where Everything is Music These are, for the most part, beautiful poems, but there are pieces in this collection that are better passed over if you're squeamish. 

The allegories Rumi uses are sometimes very crude. He talks about the pitfalls of unbridled physical attachments to things, including bodies very graphically and is occasionally coarse in an effort to make his point strongly. An example of this is The Dervish at the Door, who takes it upon himself to turn a selfish, hoarding man’s home into a temporary privy. It makes perfect sense to the dervish to “fertilize” since nothing vital or living or bounteous is  happening in the place, otherwise, why would the man have denied him dry bread, gristle or water. I cringe occasionally, but read on, knowing anything that has lasted almost eight hundred years must have merit. I also read on because the majority of the works are like this untitled piece:

"The way of love is not
a subtle argument, 

The door there
is devastation. 

Birds make great sky-circles
of their freedom. 

How do they learn it?
They fall, and falling,
they’re given wings."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Eating with Emperors and Mandela

As I have said before, we are a book-giving family. Books are always a good gift, in general, but it can be difficult to narrow down to which book. Here is a comparison of a recent exchange between Hubby and me.

The last book he gave me is Eating with Emperors by Jake Smith. It is an amazing book which traces 150 years of the banquets, feasts and pig-outs of rulers. The author started out collecting printed menus from royal meals and ended up with an exhaustive body of research presented in a cloth-bound, gold foiled tome. It even has a satin ribbon to keep your place.

It’s an incredible read, and talk about fantasy DIY! Thought you might whip up some sauteed young partridges or a truffle salad or maybe some Champagne sorbet? Well, here’s how! You can eat venison roasted just like Emperor Nicholas II of Russia liked it, or prepare a chicken dish from the wedding menu of Prince George and Princess Mary (soon to be King George V and Queen Mary).

There is so much about the history of food; the caviar trade in the early 1900’s, the illicit eating of the Ortolan, and Rasputin’s last meal. You can read about the China in the White House or how the Maharajahs discovered French cuisine.

There are photos of Hitler and Mussolini dining, the Hindenburg dining room, and descriptions of the Khedive’s table.

Some of the text really puts you off your food, to be honest. Times and tastes have changed, thank goodness. There is no moderation, no low-fat, no portion control here. Mr Woodhouse would be horrified.

And to Hubby I gave this gorgeous, weighty book about one of our generation’s most important people. My neighbor said she had a biography of Mandiba that was dry and hard going. This book doesn’t look like it will be at all boring. The text appears to be comprehensive and well-researched, with no detail left out, and might have been boring on its own.

However, the pages of text are interspersed with stark black and white photos and full-page quotes. It’s the kind of book that could rest on your coffee table for months, being opened and enjoyed at random.

Neither of us has had a chance to read it yet, but the book has captured me nonetheless. I love looking at the photos and even the graphics that are watermarked on many of the pages.

It’s a funny juxtaposition-- research about royalty, excess, indulgence and waste next to inequality, deprivation, hardship and injustice. Either book would be a welcome addition to a reader’s library.

What is the best book you were ever given?

Friday, September 17, 2010

I am sure there's been a mistake!

Somehow I gave off the impression that I have something interesting to say! I am sure this will be remedied and access denied, but until then, I will do my best to gain control and take over THE WORLD.

Hi! My name is Leslie. I am a work at home mom with 3 children under 10, a loud husband, two in-laws (another day), two hamsters, a dog that destroys everything, and fish (the only ones who don't complain, they are my favorite family members).

I love to read. Don't have much time for it, but I do love to read.

I have a friend with two beautiful children, a boy and a girl. I was watching the little girl be a little girl, racking my brain because she reminded me of someone I knew. Someone familiar.

Aha! A Little Princess, with some Secret Garden, and a bit of Anne of Green Gables.
Now her mother, my friend, actually taught literature in high school. Literature!
I was sure she would be delighted (as I would be) to have her daughter compared to these delightful girls! Right?

To my utter disappointment and shock, SHE HAD NEVER READ THESE BOOKS! And it gets worse! SHE HAD NEVER HEARD OF THEM!

My jaw literally dropped! Maybe I got the title wrong (I mean it's not rocket surgery, but maybe I mixed the names up?)?? Maybe she just forgot the title.
I summed up the stories. Nope. "Please email me the titles. I'll check them out." She actually said this a bit snobbishly. Like they were on par with "See Spot Run".

Well, a lot could be said, I guess for the educational system - a lit teacher, a self-professed lover of the classics, had never even heard of these. BI-ZARRE!

But my thoughts were that she missed a huge amount of joy and fun. I loved these stories when I was little, when I was a teen, when I was in my twenties, and now that I'm in my thirties, I look forward to reading these again. This time with my little princess, in our secret garden, pretending we are besties with Anne.

Many thanks for allowing me to be a part of this fun least until you come to your senses! ;)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

BLU aka the Biblio Liberation Army

Even I, with my pacifist views regarding what to do with "extra" books, am beginning to feel the need to pick up a banner. It's is getting bad out there people. At least now we know what they're doing with the covers

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Tea and sympathy

Lesa and DeLynne are the anti-whiners/whingers so they won't tell you but they're both playing rock'em sock'em with the universe at the moment. Lesa's been battling mother nature who decided to place a great deal of water in places where water ought not be, particularly at 2:30am, and DeLynne's Mom had a health scare.   We've all been the fortunate recipients of much pleasure from their beautiful place in cyber space and wanted to send well wishes to them both.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Mean girl?

Just in case anyone needs to reach me, I'm having my mail forwarded to the sixth circle of heck.
As I tighten the chin strap on my hard hat in preemptive defense against the incoming rocks, I have to say, I'm not sure I'm liken' me some Miss Woodhouse. Austen's book, yes, very much, but for Austen's "heroine", the best I can do is "meh".
I was more than a little put out when "handsome, clever and rich" Emma Woodhouse used emotional blackmail to manipulate her "own sweet little friend", Miss Harriet Smith regarding one Mr. Martin of Abbey-Mill Farm. I gave Miss Woodhouse a time-out. She spent several days in the corner thinking about what she'd done. Okay, well, I'm actually the one who's been thinking about what she's done, and what I've been thinking is, "Shame on you, Miss Woodhouse."
I know I know. Emma wants to help. Emma likes Harriet. Emma's scheming seems motivated by a desire to better Harriet's standing in society during a period in time where that sort of thing is very very important to a connectionless woman. Emma is hemmed in by her own standing in society, prettily hemmed, but hemmed none the less. I get all that. I'm just not happy about it, but I am surprised. Aren't all these Austen heroines dear, angelic creatures?
Emma is the protagonist, and so, like all Austen's protagonist, she should be likable. Right? I now suspect she could just as well be the antagonist and the book becomes much more engaging when Emma isn't the girl with the "happy disposition".
According to her nephew and biographer, James Edward Austen-Leigh, Miss Jane Austen was said to have written Emma intending that we NOT like its main character. Austen-Leigh quotes his aunt before she began Emma as having said, "I am going to take a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like." Well done, Jane. I'm not all together sure Miss Woodhouse is to my liking, but I'm reading again.

Wait a minute! I might have found the first person I intend to throw off with due decorum!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Which Bookmark for Emma?

Do you match your bookmark to your book? Lesa has written before about bookmarks, in particular, lagniappes, but she didn't discuss the process of choosing a bookmark to match the text.

I collect few things, but bookmarks are one of my weaknesses. Being adverse to clutter, I am drawn to bookmarks. They are small and easily corralled. They can be souvenirs of an art exhibit or travels. Some of my most treasured bookmarks were purchased in Paris with Tracy, Leslie and my beautiful mother. Others were made by my girls.

So from this collection I went to choose a suitable companion for Emma.

These two are just wonderful. I got them at the American Impressionism and Realism exhibit at the Brisbane Gallery of Modern Art. They are both from paintings by John Singer Sargent, and are absolutely commanding in person. They were huge and moving. Simply spectacular.

The subjects are American, and Colonials are perhaps not exalted enough to keep company with Miss Woodhouse. However, they are redeemed by their beauty and station in life. These are qualities esteemed by our protagonist, and she might deign to entertain them.

I think Mrs. Hugh Hammersley 1892 is the most elegant person I have ever laid eyes on. She just oozes confidence and elegance.

But the best, in my opinion, to grace the pages of Austen's work is Mr. and Mrs. IN Phelps Stokes 1897. They are happily married, and Mrs Stokes exudes health, just as Mrs. Weston describes Emma to Mr. Keightly. I thought Mrs. Stokes looked almost smug, as if she had everything right where she wanted it. Emma often thinks she has everything sorted.

Which bookmark are you using at the moment?

Sugar Sugar by Carole Wilkinson

My English teacher absolutely insisted that we "relax" after exams last week by picking out a book from the wonderful selection at my school. Now normally, I am opposed to the idea of the school library due to the fact that the librarians are mean and they don't have a wide enough range of Lewis Carroll. This time though, a book on the latest fiction shelf caught my eye. So I sat down and read it until I was well into the book. And I turned out loving it.

Sugar Sugar is a fiction book set in the 70's about a young Australian girl, Jackie, living in London, who travels to Paris to fulfill her dream of becoming you guessed it, a fashion designer. Now, I know that sounds like the most predictable girly fiction book there is, but I am convinced it is much more than that.

Jackie loses her way, her dream, and her money but manages to get by in the most peculiar ways. From hitchhiking to sleeping in an Italian wheat field, this book shows traveling the other side of business class and Duty Free. And yes, there is a romance. With a mysterious boy Jackie met hitchhiking who left her politely on the side of the road. It is a very strange relationship.

I haven't finished the book yet, so unfortunately I can't ruin the ending for you, but I am dying to find out how she gets home and gets the boy.

That's about it. Read it, and live a little.

For all those lovers of me out there, check out my blog.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Oh Jane, Jane....

C.E. Brock circa 1898
The rest of the watercolors from Emma

Not to hog the blog, so to speak, but I’m almost beside myself about Jane Austen’s Emma and am more surprised about that than anyone. In fact, this has been so pleasurable that I read the first four chapters, felt like I was being rushed, so I started over from the beginning.

The long forgotten pleasure of slowly savoring each delicious sentence of a book is gift from Miss Austen. She's already given me others, and I’ve only really Read (capital R) two chapters.

Until this slow read, I couldn’t have told you why women in particular seem to love Austen. Now I know. I read this enlightening passage of Emma out loud to my husband last night as he watched football, and though we aren’t one of "those" couples, he did have the good sense to nod and grunt affirmatively in all the right places.

Austen was forty when she wrote Emma, if Wiki is to be believed and the wisdom of years comes through in her evaluation of what constitutes happiness within a mature relationship or in the case of the above passage, the lack of said same. It should be laminated and stuck into every bridal magazine ever published. In fact, (spoiler alert *waves at DeLynne) I might take this up as my personal mission, which tells you I have yet to learn the pitfalls of meddling in other people’s lives and should keep reading.

The other thing that has surprised me is that Austen is a mistress of devastatingly subtle humor. I don’t know if humor was her intention, but funny is funny. I cannot tell you how very much I truly want to “throw” some offensive someone “off with due decorum” and to disapprove of their “sort of spirit” with Austen's level of understatement. No one in particular, yet, but that is a social art worth cultivation, to my mind. The beauty of it is that they wouldn’t know they’d been insulted until they were far enough away to discourage retaliation. What’s not to like??

Here I invite, encourage, prod and meddle. Read Emma with me if you haven’t already. Read it again if you have. If nothing else, you’ll find you can call someone a whining hypochondriac without them taking offense. Just use the word valetudinarian and leave off the whining part.

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