Monday, April 30, 2012

Z is for Zebra

This introduces Janjak, a paper mache Zebra created in Haiti, bought at Anthropologie and created from pages of a French book with his black stripes painted over the pages.  Janjak is a Haitian Creole name, and since he is so dashing, I had to give him a name. If you click on the photo, you can see the words.  All you French speakers out there, any idea of what is written in French?  I see the word amour here and there.

Since the A-Z Challenge had a Zebra on their web site, Janjak seemed the perfect way to say adieu and merci to everyone on the challenge, the editors and all the bloggers out there in cyberspace from so many places.  This has been a challenge and a wonderful trip for me.

To end on a positive inspiring note, I am adding a link to a segment  I saw a few weeks ago on 60 Minutes, here in the United States, which perhaps many of you saw.  It is about an orchestra that was created in the Kinshasa, Congo, the capitol of a poor and war-torn country.  The people who have come together to make beautiful music in Kinshasa, feel priveleged to be able to be part of something greater than their day-to-day experiences.  As one woman says, she feels that while she is singing classical music, she is in a different place. Hard to describe what one man did years ago in the Congo, beginning with just a few instruments and progressing to a complete orchestra, singers and chorus.

Arman Diangienda is the gentleman who is behind this amazing story.  His biography is on Google.

"60 Minutes" preview: "Joy in the Congo" - CBS News Video
Apr 6, 2012 – CBS News video: "60 Minutes" preview: "Joy in the Congo" - "60 ... only all-black orchestra in the world in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the ...

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Y is for Yesterday

"Yesterday" by Paul McCartney and the Beatles. Such a haunting song which introduces my "Y" theme.

Yesterday is such a fluid word--what if yesterday were tomorrow and tomorrow was in the past?

The Aymara Indians see future as behind them and the past in front of them.

Are we going in a linear or circular path?

The best description of the ambiguity of time is F. Scott Fitzgerald's last lines from the The Great Gatsby:

"Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us.  It eluded us then, but that's no matter----tomorrow we will run faster, stretch our our arms farther. . . .And one fine morning----
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

Thank you all for this writing journey together.

Friday, April 27, 2012

X is for Xylography or wood engraving, especially of an early period.

St. Petersburg, 18th century
Early  wood  engraving of St. Petersburg, Russia with Admiralty Building in background.
Thank you American Heritage Dictionary for this word, Xylography.  This is  an illustration for a children's book, depicting St. Petersburg, which was a ship building center, during the time of  Peter the Great.  The small figures in the middle are wearing 18th century costumes.   This woodcut was purchased years ago from a friend  who had visited the Soviet Union.  I am not sure of its age, but it is pre-1917, I think.  The years after 1917 did not focus on the positive aspects of Russian history pre-revolution and St. Petersburg became Leningrad until 1991 when the name was changed back to St.Petersburg.

The woodcut is small on this blog, but you can enlarge the engraving by  click ing on it and  you will see more details.

Note:  If any one has any information about this wood cut, especially any Russians who view this blog, comments would be very appreciated.  And of course,  all a-z bloggers.  I have learned so much during this challenge.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


"Read, read, read.  Read everything--trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it.  Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master.  Read!  You'll absorb it.  Then write.  If it is good, you'll find out.  If it's not, throw it out the window."      William Faulkner

I used this quote for my "Q" letter, but this introduces my topic today, and why I love The Wall Steet Journal.

Mr. Hobbes reading  the Wall Street Journal 
For me The Wall Street Journal is a daily, except Sunday, pleasure.  Although I do not always have time to read it, I will save it until I do.  Yes, you can read it on line or on the ipad, iphone or?  Which is fine, but I like to hold the paper, cut out certain articles and either save them or send them to friends.  I am a "clipper," one of those people who likes to send clippings from the paper or magazines to friends.  I think it is flattering to receive a piece of writing from someone who thinks you might find it interesting.  I know you can also use e-mail for this, but to me it isn't as special.  And yes, I am encouraging the use of paper, by encouraging you to buy the paper.

The WSJ has excellent writers, and they write long articles.  I like the formal aspect of their writing, using Mr. Jones and Ms. Smith instead of just the last names, and "Please turn to page. . . . "  And even if, as a liberal, you disdain reading the WSJ,  just skip the editorials and read the last sections.  Their Friday Review and Saturday Personal Journal are always worth reading.  The header for the Review lists, Books, Culture, Science, Commerce, Humor,  Language, Technology, Art, and Ideas.  The Personal Journal has Style and Travel, Leisure and Arts, Sports, and Gear and Gadgets. 

I like Jason Gay, one of their sports writers.  I wish I had saved Mr. Gay's articles on the World Soccer Championships, but I gave them to a friend.  His comments on the Vizulas and the personalities of the French team were priceless.  In case you think the WSJ is stodgy, there was  one article, "Live in Concert.  The online buzz about the ghostly image of deceased rapper Tupac Shakur used on stage last weekend's Coachella music festival." And on the same page, a weekly column, "Week in Words" by Erin Mckean who writes about the unusual words used in the WSJ, "boondocking," "particularist,"  "hotelling," and "bar codes" were April 21st's words.  

Book reviews are interesting.  Two books about Africa were reviewed, with a five- column, almost full-page spread.  "Greetings From a New Africa" was the title and an excerpt read:  "Small mobile-phone companies set up masts in African capitals hoping that the rich would buy mobile phones.  They were wrong.  In a continent of talkers with fewer than 27 million landlines, everybody wanted one." (From the April 21-22 issue).  There is so much more, every week.

Will reading the WSJ make you a better writer?  I don't know, but it will give you a wealth of ideas. 

What magazines, newspapers, professional journals, and books do you read for ideas, information and entertainment, either in print or on-line?  And I think you can get ideas from everywhere, People magazine too.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

V is for Vacuum or why I love my Roomba

R2 D2 is a valued member of our household.  He is a robotic vacuum cleaner called Roomba.  It's hard not to think of R2 as somehow human as he industriously works hard to clean the floors and rugs of our house.

I was skeptical at first, thinking the Roomba was just a gadget which would not do a good job of cleaning, but I was amazed.  He does do a credible job of cleaning and is entertaining while he works, as watching R2D2 as he sweeps back and forth, is mesmerizing.  And I gave him a name, R2D2 which I do for inanimate objects that I am fond of.  I read that there is a web-site that sells clothes for Roombas, but I am not quite ready for that.  

The above illustration is from the Wall Street Journal, 4/21/12.

Roombas use software that was originally developed for Naval mine sweepers and the Roomba directions encourage you to think of other ways to use Roomba, but I am barely able to function in the A-Z Challenge, never mind creating new software.  I will just allow R2D2 to do the job he was designed for while I watch him work or read the paper or do other things, happy knowing someone or something else is cleaning my house and I am not.

The video from You Tube shows another use for Roombas.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

U is for UP:

favorite animated film from Disney and Pixar

If you haven't seen UP,you are in for a treat.  Carl Fredrickson, a retired widower, and balloon salesman, decides to tie hundreds of balloons to his house, which is scheduled for demolition, and fly off to his youthful dream, Peru.  But, he has a stowaway on board, an overeager Explorer Scout, who has unwittingly stood on Carl's porch, trying to earn his Explorers badge by helping Carl, and the house takes off with Russell hanging on, terrified.

The animation is excellent, the story interesting.  The perfect little movie for a rainy day with children, or just a funny movie to make you laugh and remember what fun it was to watch movies as a kid.

Released in 2009.  What are your favorite animated films?

                           Movie Trailer, Courtesy of You Tube
                           and Disney/Pixar

Monday, April 23, 2012

T is for Travel to Russia

"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderely again." Last night I  
dreamt I went to Oranienbaum again.  Thank you Daphne Du Maurier.

 Oranienbaum which means 'orange tree' in German is the estate of Alexander Menshikov, Peter the Great's companion in arms.  It was built in the early 18th century near St. Petersburg, Russia. From the early 1700's to 1760's when all the buildings were completed, it saw many architectural changes and additions.  There were four major architects over the 18th century: Fontana, Schadel, Rastrelli and Rinaldi, Italian and German.  But artisans were commissioned from all over Europe to work there and add to the art collections and work on the interior and exterior of the buildings.

I saw Oranienbaum in 1989 with my husband while on a cruise of the Baltic.  Oraniebaum had just recently been available for visitors as it was under repair and  still is, despite Vladimir Putin's billion dollar refurbishment of St. Petersburg for St. Petersburg's 300-year anniversary in 2003.

Although there are many beautiful places in the area, my favorite was the   Chinese Palace built from 1762-1768 as a little weekend dacha for Catherine the Great.  In one room  are resplendent silk wall panels depicting landscapes of birds and woods, panels inlaid with ivory, many beautiful examples of decorative arts are everywhere throughout the building. There were sculptures outside as well. The building is only one floor, but designed to look like two. Peter the Great wanted Russia to look more like Europe and he was the one who began the tremendous building project that became St. Petersburg.

But what intrigued me was the romantic atmosphere everywhere.  There were woods, a kind of overgrown rustic style landscaping, with long gravel paths that reminded me of French movies where lovers are meeting clandestinely and are running toward each other.  A perfect  setting for a movie, a novel set in any century or even a mystery with a main character called Natasha, of course.

One building, called a viewing pavilion, overlooked the Oranienbaum Coasting Hill, of which there exist only drawings today.  Coasting down sledding hills was a popular entertainment in the 18th century, sleds in the winter and special cars in the summer as the nobility watched from the Pavilion.  

Can you just imagine a mystery set in the 18th century, where the main character uncovers an accident/murder which takes place on the sledding hill?

My photos do not do it justice but you can see photographs on:

And Oranienbaum has a Facebook page as well!

What is a magical place in your memory?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Snow is for Snow Statues:

This is a tribute to my mother who loved to sculpt snow statues.  In the winter, if the snow was just right, on Sunday, after working all week, she would sculpt snow statues.  My sister and I wished she were like other mothers who did "normal" things because sometimes she sculpted nude statues.  "Please put clothes on them,"  we would beg her, but she followed her own muse and made ephemeral statues made of snow.  Often there would be a theme:  Christmas, a creche; Valentine's Day, lovers holding hands behind a tree; and Easter bunnies.  The lover theme she did every year on Valentine's day; first holding hands, the following year presenting a Valentine's heart, and finally, the gentleman on his knee proposing.  The neighbors loved it and occasionally photographs of her work appeared in the paper.  I wrote this poem many years after her death.  The photograph inspired it.
                                                Snow Statues
     Smiling into the camera,
     my hands resting on my
     little sister's shoulders

     My mother asking us to smile
     as we squinted into the sun.

     She wanted to take 
     a picture of her creations,
     the three of us.

     I remember how she loved
     being outdoors,
     sculpting those statues,
     so many of them,
     so many different Sundays.

     As she worked, she and 
     shared the same joy,
     as she sculpted, molding
     the snow into a thing of beauty.

     All those trillions of snowflakes
     transformed into art 
     and for a few hours,
     she forgot the pain
     inside the house.

Friday, April 20, 2012

R is for Russian Girl

Russian-American, Russian, First generation Russian girl?  What was I?  I was born in New York City of parents who were born in Russia, pre-Revolution.  The definition of first generation is a child born of immigrant parents, here in this country.  My mother came to this country in her teens, my father came later after a perilous journey leaving Moscow during the Russian Revolution of 1917, living in Paris for a few years as many "White Russians" did, and then on to New York.  He and my mother met there, married, had two daughters and later came to Colorado.  His story is very fascinating, but unfortunately, as many emigres, he did not share very much of his past, preferring to start anew here in the United States.

My first language was Russian.  Although my parents spoke English, they spoke only Russian to me, as they correctly anticipated that once I started school I would quickly learn, and switch to, English.  This was my opportunity  to learn Russian.  And learn the language I did.  My parents spoke the beautiful pre-revolutionary Russian, which after the Revolution, changed.  The alphabet was shortened and many "bourgeois" words, were removed.  And. . .yes, once I started school and learned English, I refused to speak Russian.  I did not want to be different; when I was seven we moved to the Midwest and there were no Russians at my school or in our neighborhood.  I wanted to fit in and my family was different.  My mother had an accent; she worked--unheard of in my neighborhood.  And on Russian Easter, a priest blessed our home, walking around outside in his long robes, swinging the incense container and chanting prayers.  I prayed that no one would see him.

What have I learned?  First, my one regret is that I did not keep up the Russian language, I lost it.  Yes, I still understand a little and I can say a few words and when I hear Russian spoken in a store here or in a public gathering place, I lean in to hear more, and tears come to my eyes.

Our parents died when my sister was 20 and I was 27, so they never knew how much we appreciated them and all they went through and now we treasure our heritage.

If you know another language, share it with your children.  It is a tremendous asset.  It's hard to keep a bilingual home, but you can make it a game, make it your secret language to be used and practiced just with the family.  Of course, having a grandmother in the home who does not speak English helps, but my parents spoke excellent English, and they finally gave up.

The next two blogs will continue the Russian theme, "S" for snow, a story about my mother, and "T" for travel.  I'll share some travel pictures of Russia.

Thank you for reading this very personal blog.  Read Tina's blog ( about learning Swedish, and see what a happy experience knowing another language can be. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Q is for Quote

 from W.O.W. Writers on Writing, by Jon Winokur

"Take care of the sense and the sounds will take care of themselves."
                                                                                                                 Lewis Carol

"Read, read, read.  Read everything--trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it.  Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master.  Read! You'll absorb it.  Then write.  If it is good, you'll find out.  If it's not, throw it out the window."
                                                                                                             William Faulkner

Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper.  Never correct or re-write until the whole thing is down.  Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on.
                                                                                                            John Steinbeck

As to the adjective:  when in doubt, strike it out.
                                                                                                           Mark Twain

 Writing Itself:

All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.

                                                                                                          F. Scott Fitzgerald

Writing is the hardest work in the world not involving heavy lifting.
                                                                                                          Pete Hamil

I love writing.  I love the swirl and the swing of words as they tangle with human emotions.
                                                                                                          James Michener

I have tried simply to write the best I can; sometimes I have good luck and write better than I can.
                                                                                                        Ernest Hemingway

If I didn't know the ending of the story, I wouldn't begin.  I always write my last line, my last paragraph, my last page first.
                                                                                                     Katherine Anne Porter

Nice writing isn't enough.  It isn't enough to have smooth and pretty language.  You have to surprise the reader frequently, you can't be nice all the time.  Provoke the reader.  Astonish the reader.  Writing that has no surprises is as bland as oatmeal.  Surprise the reader with the unexpected verb or adjective.  Use one startling adjective per page.
                                                                                                            Anne Bernays

Any advice from the writers in the A-Z Challenge?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

P is for Prompt

First line from:  Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, the rest are my own words.

"Going up the river was like traveling back to the earliest beginnings of the world when vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were kings."

The air was oppressive and thick like the jungle on either side.  Greenish, blackish water covered with algae made a troubling path through which the small boat traveled.  The water itself seemed alive, rippled here and there with unknown creatures, large and small that lurked underneath.

Was there human life beyond the river's edge?  The trees at the edge of the river, gnarled and twisted as their roots clung to the wet banks, were so close together and so intertwined that no light could be seen between them. There were sounds coming from those trees, strange bird calls, echoing whoops, shrill notes, repeated sounds with unknown messages.

No one spoke, each lost in their own thoughts, some perhaps questioning their motives for being in this place.  The sun, a fiery orange ball, was setting slowly; strips of purple clouds in the sky gave the scene an unworldly appearance.

The boat slowly turned toward shore.  "We're here," a voice said.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Prompts are like push-ups for writing practice.  Sometimes it's fun to pick a sentence from the paper or favorite book to use as a first line.  Writing inspired by a  photograph is another.  What is your favorite writing "push-up"?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

O is for Opera or:  Why I love Opera and dislike Wagner

Yes, I have to admit it, I love opera, even though most of my family does not.  Opera has everything: costumes, dance, sets, orchestra, chorus, and wonderful music, with the magic of the human voice.

Richard Wagner, who wrote the Ring Cycle, a series of operas depicting old Norse legends, is very popular with opera afficionados.  The operas are long, the music dramatic -- too long and too dramatic or dramatic in a very masculine way.  I like romance, lovely lyrics, a credible story line and just the pleasure of being swept away by the music, as in Mozart, Rossini, Bizet and others.

So, how did I find myself in a local movie theater, which now shows opera live from the Metropolitan, watching and listening to Siegfried, the third opera in the Ring cycle?  I thought my grandsons would like the "Lord of the Ring" aspect to the story with Siegfried, the dragon and all the characters.  And I wanted to expose them to  culture.  And there we were, two grandsons, myself, and my poor husband, who dislikes opera but was there to show support and set a good example.

Remember we were in a movie theater, so the boys had to have popcorn and the one soft drink they are allowed every week, and we settled in.  I had never seen any of the Ring cycle before and it did not take long for me to know that this was not a good idea.  My husband had earplugs, and the boys had no idea what was going on, although I did try to tell them the story of the opera beforehand.  In opera, there is a lot of standing and singing.  In Wagner there is more of it.  It is a very physical role, with the tenor on stage most of the time, and this opera is five hours long.  One of my grandsons dropped his box of hard candies and they noisily clattered down towards front of the theater.  Time to go, I thought.  We stayed through the second act because I wanted them to see the dragon, but he was small and not very dramatic.  

Oh well, I thought, I tried.  My grandsons were very polite and thanked me and said they liked it.  My son said, "Mom, it's OK.  I think it's good for the boys to see things they might not choose to see on their own, just like you did for me."

As Mark Twain said, "Wagner's music is better than it sounds."

Monday, April 16, 2012

N is for Pablo Neruda

Poetry is difficult to write about.  It seems ephemeral to many,  some people hate it, but there are countries, especially in South America, that revere their poets.  One is Chile and that poet is Pablo Neruda.  

He was born in 1904 in Chile, and "enjoyed from an early age the luck of attention."  And from an early age he absorbed his country's sights, sounds and atmosphere.  During his lifetime, he had many roles, diplomat, senator, politician, but always a poet first. He witnessed the Spanish Civil War and wrote a bitter, passionate poem about what he saw called, "I'm Explaining a Few Things," "Explico Algunes Cosas," a poem/painting like Picasso's 'Guernica."

One of his most famous poems is many times simply referred to as, '20.' 

Puedo Escribir Los Versos Mas Tristos Esta Noche 

"Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
 Write for example, 'The night is shattered
and the blue stars shiver in the distance.'

The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines,
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too."

That is just the first part, but notice the word sometimes;
everything hinges on that word 'sometimes.'

He has a huge  body of work, some historical, about the history of South America, some political.  He became a communist when he returned from Spain and wrote some very passionate poetry, intense and filled with imagery. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1971.  He died in 1973 a few days after the coup in Chile in which Salvador Allende was assassinated..

Gabriel Garcia Marquez called him: "The greatest poet of the twentieth century, in any language."

Reference:  Pablo Neruda;  Selected Poems, A Bilingual Edition

 Poems by Neruda can be found on the internet, hard to put more here.  Thoughts, questions, familiar with Neruda?  poetry lover or not?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

M is for Marilyn or:

The Seven Year Itch 

Joe always hated his name. That is, until he found out that his beloved Marilyn had been married to Joe DiMaggio–imagine that, married to a "Joe;" she must have loved him, he thought. " Joe, Joe, Joe" she would have said, and through time, those words drifted over to him, resonated in his mind and became her words to him.

It was the white dress that did it. When he saw the movie, "The Seven Year Itch," and saw her standing over the transom, her hands holding down the white, accordion-pleated dress, as the skirt blew around her, her red lips parted in a huge smile, obviously enjoying the sensation. She was pure sex and he felt pure lust. He fell in love.

From then on she became an obsession. Her image engraved in his brain. Every photograph, every bit of trivia that he could afford, he carefully collected and displayed. Many evenings at home, he would rearrange his Marilyn memorabilia over and over again--photographs, books, dolls, so many things. His favorite was a Marilyn wall clock-- her legs were the hands of the clock, and some of the positions were quite erotic–his favorite ebay acquisition.

Sometimes, feeling especially lonely and vulnerable, he would stare at his favorite photograph of her–looking sad and lonely too. She understands, she knows how I feel, he thought.
There were times when a very strong feeling would come over him; it was hard to describe, it was as if he became someone else.
He opened his closet door. . . . . . . . .
Time passed.

The door of Joe’s row apartment opened, and a very attractive blond walked out. It was a warm summer evening and she wore a clingy, jersey dress that accentuated her curvy figure. Her makeup was carefully applied, the red lips accentuated into a pout. Was that a mole on her lower cheek? She walked down the street with small, sometimes unsteady steps, and disappeared into the night.

I wrote this for the Trifecta Writing Challenge a few weeks ago (no I did not win anything), but I liked this story, and am now thinking I might enlarge Joe's story into a longer piece of writing, but then again, perhaps not.  Would really like critiques from bloggers.

Friday, April 13, 2012

L is for Lions or Lions Rule

Hobbes in Antarctica,  heading toward the Bismark Strait
Today I have a guest blogger:  Mr. Hobbes as he is formally called, or just Hobbes by his friends.  I introduced him on the "H" day as my alter-ego.

My name is Hobbes and I am so pleased to be able to write this blog today.  I do get bored, very, very bored, so "Lover of Words" thought I might like to join the A-Z Challenge.  I will call her "LW" in this blog.

I was born in 1984 as part of a promotional for Macy's Department Stores at Christmas-time.  Every year Macy's would offer a stuffed animal puppet for a small fee if you bought $50 worth of merchandise.  Chloe, LW's sister thought that I would be a perfect gift for LW and I was!  It was love at first sight; I loved my new family, and one of LW's grandsons named me Hobbes after his favorite character from, "Calvin and Hobbes."

Most days, unless LW has little ones for guests, I just sit around and enjoy looking out at the Colorado scenery, but when children come to visit, they love to play with me and make me talk, as they put their hand in my head and make my jaw move up and down, and as a special treat (for me) sometimes, I share their bed and they read me stories.

1.  Favorite movie:  "Out of Africa"
2.  Favorite song: "The Lion Sleeps Tonight
3.  Favorite outfit:  The jean jacket I was dressed in when I was adopted; it has a gold star on the back.  It makes me feel like a rock star.
4.  I am a published author:  Hobbes Goes to South America, a book I wrote with LW's help about my seven-week cruise around the perimeter of South America with LW and her husband.  We wrote the book so she could share her trip with her four grandsons. 
5.  Volunteer work:  Once a year I am invited to Childrens' Hospital, here in Denver to read to some of the patients on Dr. Seuus's birthday.
6.  I am the first one in my family to have seen Antarctica.  
7.  I was always looking for lions in South America, but sadly there were none, I just saw a puma in Patagonia.

I have many more stories about my once-in-lifetime trip, but they will have to wait until LW allows me to write another guest blog. Are there any stuffed lions or tigers out there, perhaps we could start our own web-site.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

K is for Kiss

First kiss
baby kiss
"kisses sweeter than wine"
"Kiss me once and kiss me twice and kiss me once again. . . ."
"Give me a kiss to build a dream on in my imagination. . . ."
chocolate kisses
passionate kisses
sealed with a kiss
good-bye kiss
kiss and tell
Kiss Rock Group

William Shakespeare:

"We have kissed away kingdoms and provinces. . . ."
                                 Antony and Cleopatra 

"Kiss me Kate, we will be married o' Sunday.                                                    
                                  Taming of the Shrew

and my favorite:

"The kiss you take is better than you give."
                                   All's Well that Ends Well.

This is a group blog:  Add kisses of your own.  Can you think of others?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

J is for Japan

On March 11, 2011, an earthquake and a resultant tsunami hit Japan with devastating results.  One year later there are many videos of the disaster posted on You Tube, and this one illustrates the power of the tsunami contrasted with the resilience of the Japanese people. I have to be reminded to count my blessings. With the internet we can now see, in real time, events of all kinds all over the world where years ago people received world news later, if at all. When I watch this video, it helps me realize how very fortunate we are that there are so many good-hearted  people everywhere who stand ready to volunteer their help. The first few minutes of this video shows the devastation as it happened.  The last part is hopeful with the people from Tohoku showing their appreciation for the help they received in the aftermath.  The faces of the Japanese people stay with you after the video ends.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

    I is for IKEA 

After much promotion, IKEA arrived in Lone Tree, Colorado.  The store has done very well, scores of families visit as the store which is very kid-friendly and has  good quality items at reasonable  prices. If you like Swedish modern furniture, this store is for you.  You do feel as if you are not quite in the United States.  They serve free breakfasts on Monday, have special event buffets featuring Swedish food, Swedish Folk dancing, and a few giveaways.  And IKEA found itself as the theme winner of the annual Denver Post PEEPS Contest this April. Peeps are those yellow marshmallow chicks and rabbits that appear around Easter.  The paper sponsors a diorama contest using Peeps.  Other cities do as well.  Since "I" is the letter today, I could not resist sharing the winner with you.  Presenting:  the IKEA living room:  notice the detail, with the Peeps resting after trying to put a furniture item together, Ikea furniture, and food on the bar.  The Denver skyline is seen in the window and the tiny newspaper on the bulletin board announces IKEA's arrival.

After visiting the store, your furniture at home will seem overstuffed and outdated.  The childrens' department is my favorite with well-made wooden toys and lots of items for imaginary play.

Everyone all over the world knows IKEA.   For an interesting look at IKEA's philosophy, check out their website, and click on "Swedishness."  Topics from Sweden's neutrality, food, weather, and philosophy are all there.  Meanwhile, Fike means coffee in Swedish, so have a cup of  Fike and have fun with the A-Z challenge and be sure to check out Tina's blog @ which is all about Sweden including Swedish lessons! 

Monday, April 9, 2012

H is for Hobbes:

Introducing Hobbes:  a stuffed lion puppet and my alter-ego.  I wanted to share our once-in-a-lifetime trip around the perimeter of South America by writing this book for my grandsons.  And I thought I would take  Hobbes, and tell the story through his eyes, taking photos wherever we went.  And so. . .Hobbes is a published author, thanks to  Our trip was magical and it was even more so with Hobbes.  I learned how to say in Spanish, "I am writing a children's book for my grandsons."  and on we went to 23 destinations  from Los Angeles  to Miami in seven weeks.  I could insert my own thoughts about people and places, the beauty, the poverty, the homeless dogs in Chile, the brave Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton, and my favorite poet Pablo Neruda and much more.

Hobbes took on a life of his own.  Our stewardess from Estonia became part of the story as she put Hobbes in different scenarios in our cabin.:  Hobbes doing yoga, Hobbes with his own dune buggy, Hobbes having a little party in our cabin while we were at dinner.  He was "Mr. Hobbes" to her.  If you would like to see the first 15 pages of the book, the link is:  Click on "Bookstore" and then "Hobbes Goes to South America."  I encourage all of you to check out this website.  Their prices are reasonable and it is fun to publish your own book.  I don't sell this book as I would have to have permission from all the people we photographed in order to do this. But I bought quite a few for members of the family and friends.  Take a look at some of the books; they are well done.

This was the inside of the cover.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

G is for Good bye
(continued from previous post, "F" is for France)

Good bye,  Au Revoir.  Good by's are always difficult, especially with American girls.  C'est la vie.
She was so sweet, but oh so dependent and demanding,
not like French women. .  . 

French women  understand that it's all a game,  a game of the enjoyment of the opposite sex with no promises.

She did love Paris and it was wonderful for a while for me to see my city with new eyes, to listen 
to her collection of old French records, especially Edith Piaf.

But she wanted me to leave Natalia, my wife, imagine.  I used the same old excuse, moving to Provence, but of course, I'm not going anywhere.  I hope she doesn't cause a scene, but I was careful with my personal information.  Why does it have to be so dramatic with women?

I must change my cell phone number immediately.  I'm getting that headache again.

Thank you to Stephanie from Clay Baboons   who suggested I might switch the story to the man's point of view.  Visit her blog.  She uses clay figures to illustrate her stories which makes her blog very unique.

Friday, April 6, 2012

f is for France

She always had a love affair with France, especially Paris.  Her first image 
of that magical city was from a book that was read to her as a child.

"In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines,
lived twelve little girls in two straight lines."

She was a Parisian girl, self-made, fitting some kind of template in her 
mind, elegant, chic, and thin.

 Now, living her dream in her dream city, she had friends, a challenging job, 
and a handsome, married lover.

Even as she waited for him, she thought of the deliciousness of those past
clandestine meetings, but she sensed that L' affaire was over.

"Let's walk," he said as he saw her.  She heard the words in a fog.
". . .moving to Provence,. . .can't see you again. . .think of those happy times 
we shared. . .blah blah blah."

With a quick kiss, he was gone.

"In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines lived. . ." or did they?

That pinkish-grayish Paris twilight, that she had always loved, turned 
suddenly dark.

She reached into her handbag, yes the pills were still there.

  Using a photograph as a prompt.  Photograph attributed to "Travel and Leisure."

Thursday, April 5, 2012

e is for:  ebay

Ebay is amazing.  I have not bought anything for months, but I have some ebay stories as I am sure many bloggers have.  Ebay gives you access to hundreds of vendors; it's easy to forget this and to take it for granted.   I enjoyed  the gambling aspect of the auctions,  waiting until the last minute to pounce and making a bid, and then. . .did I get it or not?  And it is a learning experience. Among my winning purchases:  vintage pottery  created by artists during the 30's , antique snow shoes, silver bracelets from Mexico,  and an Orrefors Crystal martini pitcher.  I always ask the seller if there is a story behind the object and sometimes there is. 

The seller of the snowshoes wrote this:  "We moved into a house on the Hudson River near Poughkeepsie, NY.  One of the buildings was the first Levi Jeans factory in the United States until the Gold Rush when they moved to the West.  In the building, in the loft were several antiques and the snow shoes were in an old wooden coach box with some other relics.  They belonged to the Shaw family, a worker in the Levi factory."

The seller of the crystal pitcher wrote that Hemingway drank martinis from it while writing Across the River and Into the Trees.  I wrote that I would from then on call it the "Hemingway Pitcher" and I have.  Sometimes the email exchanges are fun,  and it makes the whole process interesting.

"Vincent" was another purchase from a New Mexico vendor, a bird created from a gourd.  He  looks like a Vincent, my name for him.  He arrived with his beak broken off, but I fixed it and for $10 the price was perfect too.

A few years ago my husband and I went on a cruise to celebrate a special birthday.  We had planned and saved for it;  a seven-week cruise around the perimeter of South America was too fabulous to miss.  When I read that there would be eleven formal nights, I panicked.  Eleven, I thought.  How would I buy that many or even half that many dresses  I would never wear again.  .Ebay came to the rescue.  Many evening dresses and prom-type dresses are worn only once and then some are sold on ebay at very reasonable prices, at least 2/3 off the original price.  So, I bought several, planning on wearing them more than once during the trip.  An off- white silk layered sheath was my favorite--floor length, beautifully constructed, which probably had been a wedding dress.  It was my  choice to wear the first night when the gentlemen are in tuxes and the ladies are in floor length gowns.  We sat down at our table, meeting our fellow travelers for the first time, but I felt at ease and knew that I did not look like "Poor Pitiful Pearl."  (Do you remember those dolls?)  One of the guests turned to me and complimented me on the dress, and my husband proudly said, "She got it on ebay!."

Have you used Ebay and bought something funny,or unusual, or worth much, much more than you paid -- a treasure?