Monday, August 25, 2014

The 10-Book Challenge

A fellow blogger challenged his followers to list ten books that had an influence on them. This really got me to thinking back to my childhood.  It took a while but I finally came up with a list. I decided I could just as well post it in case some other bloggers might want to take up the challenge

Here they are in no particular order:

1)  Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Suess.  I have loved this book for as long as I can remember. "I meant what I said, and I said what I meant, an elephant's faithful one hundred percent." That makes me puddle up every time I read it.

2)  The Book of Knowledge 1943 edition. I don't remember how old I was when my parents bought this children's encyclopedia set, but I spent many hours browsing through it. I think it gave me my interest in travel, archaeology and ancient history.

3)  The Household Searchlight Recipe Book. As a child, I loved to browse through my mom's cookbook reading about fanciful things like hors d'oeuvres and souffles and other foods that never graced our kitchen table. I yearned to be a sophisticated grown-up and make all those exotic dishes. ( I do occasionally make a quiche or a bundt cake but I'm still not sophisticated enough to make anything really elegant.)

4) The Nancy Drew Mystery series by Carolyn Keene. I avidly read those gripping mystery stories, sometimes under the covers at night so my mom wouldn't catch me. After I read all they had in the library I moved on to other writers and subjects. The Nancy Drew series was updated in the 70's because the books were no longer PC (eg. all the bad guys were "swarthy") but I'm sure they are still luring girls into the love of reading.

5)  The Golden Nature Books series. These handy little paperback-sized books were just right for taking on family camping trips in the woods. They helped the kids and me to identify birds, wildflowers, trees and critters.

6)  All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriott and also his subsequent books. I fell in love with Yorkshire, the people and the English countryside. When I finally traveled to England and the plane slowly banked over stone-fenced fields dotted with sheep, I nearly wept with joy.

7)  Harbrace College Handbook. I was issued this English grammar book my first quarter of Community College back in 1982. I enrolled in an English composition class to recover from my combined divorce-and-empty-nest-syndrome collision. Ever since, this book has been my valuable resource when I need to check whether to use affect vs effect or who vs whom.

8)  How to Talk Minnesotan by Howard Mohr. Like most people, I grew up feeling quite ordinary and average. Sometime in the 70's and 80's, Mr. Mohr--along with noted humorist, Garrison Keillor noticed that we were kinda unique in our own folksy way. This book paved the way for our "Minnesota Nice" identity. So even though I may have a Minnesota accent, I can take some pride that along with that I also hold doors for people and defer to others in conversation, in elevators and driving.

9)  The Synonym Finder by J. J.Rodale 1978. I'm the sort who's always groping for words. I picked up this large book at a garage sale some years ago and I use it all the time. 

10) Family Cookbook and Memories by Janice Wagar 2007. It's probably tacky to include this among my favorite books since I compiled and wrote it, but allow me to explain. After I retired in 2005, I decided it was time to do the cookbook of family favorites I'd been thinking about for years. I collected recipes from family and friends which also brought back memories. I started including anecdotes and family history plus some humor in the book. By the time I was done, I had created something unique for my family. I sometimes re-read it and cringe at small errors or see things I wish I'd done differently, but all the same, it still gives me a boost to have actually created it.


Saturday, May 17, 2014

I am the proud holder of a library card!

I love libraries. Of course I love bookstores too, but in libraries everything is free. You can browse all day if you want. You can relax and revel in being in the company of kindred souls.

I was introduced to the library at an early age. My second grade class was escorted across the street to the imposing Carnegie Library. Around on the right side was a half-flight of stairs leading down into the children's section. We were then seated in a half circle around a tiny woman named Miss Mole (or so it sounded to me) who read us a story book. The book was about a little boy who ate so much, he turned into a balloon and floated away. This concept was confusing and a little frightening but I was enthralled--there were lots and lots of other books in the library with other stories. We were each issued our very own library card so we could come back and check out books again.

The prestige of being the holder of a library card was pretty heady stuff.  I was hooked!

The adult section was up those stairs and you were not allowed to check books out of the adult section until you turned thirteen. It therefore became a "rite of passage" to ascend the stairs and be issued your adult library card.

Oh the wonderful things that were to be found in the upstairs library! There were books on archaeology and foreign countries, murder mysteries and science fiction, biographies and even humor! I loved reading so much, I would smuggle books upstairs and read far into the night. 

Of course, that old library no longer exists. It was built in an era when nobody gave a thought to providing access to the elderly or handicapped. It also became far too small for a growing population and too expensive to maintain. I'm sure that was the fate of many Carnegie libraries around the country.

But how wonderful that we had those treasures while we did!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Happy Mother's Day to all species!

                           I hope these give you a smile

  You have to look closely to see the baby snuggled between the parents.




Thursday, May 1, 2014

It's a muddy May Day

After a three-month hiatus, I'm slinking back. It's been a lousy winter and so far, it's a lousy, cold and rainy spring. There is still part of an unmelted snowbank over in the corner of the parking area.

On Tuesday, we went over to Mort's Deli in Golden Valley, a suburb of Minneapolis. It's on the other side of the Cities so I don't get there often. They have a unique menu so it's one of my favorite places to eat. We met my granddaughter, Samantha and her sister's boyfriend, Mark for lunch.

Mark works on the far western side of North Dakota at a "boomtown" oil drilling site. There are lots of guys who go out there for the high-paying jobs. He works twelve hours a day for two weeks and stays in a bunkhouse with some other guys. Then he has two weeks off and comes back to the Cities (on the eastern side of Minnesota) for the next two weeks. Since Samantha's sister is at work during the day and Samantha had the day off, they were hanging out together.

Anyway, back to the food. Mort's has lots of New York deli menu items like blintz's, knishes and matzo ball soup. I ordered the beef brisket sandwich with chopped chicken liver "schmear" on rye. Samantha ordered the Elvis Burger, apparently based on a favored sandwich of his. It was topped by a fried egg and peanut butter! She loved it.
                                       Samantha selfie
It's one of my pet peeves that you can drive from one end of the U.S. to the other and find the same restaurants every, single place you go! Most of those places are waaay down on my list of desirable places to dine. MacDonalds, Arbys, Subway, Perkins, Taco Bell, Burger King, KFC...

So here's to all the independent restaurants that provide a sense of adventure to eating out!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

A salute to the squirrels!

We've been having historic low temperatures for a long stretch along with lots of snow. There doesn't seem to be any relief in sight either. I am always amazed to see the squirrels racing around in the trees like it's a spring day when it's 20 below 0. I put out an assortment of food every day for as many as eight squirrels and the flock of sparrows who show up for a handout.
                                     (Borrowed image)
With all the snow and bitter cold, there is very little going on outdoors. I'm so grateful for the uplifting energy and spirit of those little furred and feathered creatures who brighten my day.
                      (Borrowed image. Eastern Gray Squirrel)
                      Our area is home to three kinds of squirrels.
                          (Borrowed image of Fox Squirrel)
They're more caramel-colored. After the bad storm we had last June, the Gray Squirrels disappeared and some Fox Squirrels moved in. It seems like there was a "Wooded Lot War" and the Gray Squirrels took over again.
                                                    

                        (Borrowed image of Red Squirrel)
.There are also several little hyperactive Red Squirrels that sneak over to snack on the food too. They're half as big as the other squirrels but very active and noisy.                                    

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Batting 1000

I'm figuratively batting 1000 going into 2014. This is my official 500th post and I recently did my 500th workout at Curves. I'm not sure I can claim that as a single accomplishment, but I take my victories where I can get them.

Here is my first, ever-so-optimistic post from 2008:

"Hallelujah, I'm a Blogger!
 
I chose the title Ms. Sparrow because I have a lot of affection for house sparrows, a much under-appreciated bird. They congregate in small trees or shrubs in the evening where they twitter away as though chatting about their day--sorta like a homey tavern where people gather after work. There is something about driving past a boisterous and busy sparrow tree that invariably makes me smile.

Sparrows were originally imported from England where they are now declining in numbers. More's the pity. They are industrious, resourceful and chirpy. They will settle in urban areas and for many inner-city children, they are the only representative of the bird family besides pigeons. That's a lot of responsibility for such a little bird.

Sparrows are common, drab and always around. This is a trait I am content to share."

                                      (Borrowed image)
This winter, instead of a flock of turkeys, I'm feeding a flock of sparrows plus an assortment of other birds and lively squirrels.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Remembering Pearl Harbor

Today is Pearl Harbor Day. The sneak attack was 72 years ago and killed 2400 Americans  in a bombing that sank the battleship Arizona. I was a little over a year old at the time. The news stories today reminded me of my encounter with the father of a sailor who died in the attack.

When I was eleven years old, my family was living in a tiny town in Minnesota called Dovray. My dad was the contractor on a Norwegian Lutheran church being built in that farming community of 100 people. The town was really behind the times in 1950. My younger siblings all went to school in the one-room school house down the hill. (I've often felt envy that they had that experience while I had to make a one-hour long bus ride over to Westbrook for 7th grade.)

There was a general store called Smestad's Mercantile a block away. I was sophisticated enough that I knew how old-fashioned the store was compared to other places we had lived. It was just like the general stores I saw in old cowboy movies. On one side of the store the old man and his wife sold "dry goods" like flannel shirts and four-buckle overshoes. On the other side they sold groceries from a counter just inside the door.
                                     (Borrowed image)
There were open cardboard boxes of cookies and sheets of saltine crackers standing by the counter. The customer could take a brown paper bag and fill the bag to be weighed and priced. With no air conditioning and sealed packaging, the cookies and crackers were often stale. I don't remember if I was in Smestad's for cookies that day but I remember standing by the counter as he told me that his boy had been at Pearl Harbor when it was bombed. 
                                      (Borrowed image)
He was terribly sad and I was very confused. I'm not at all sure that I responded appropriately. Being a kid, with the off-kilter sense of time kids have, ten years seemed so very long ago that I wondered why he was talking about it.

Now that I am 73, I realize how very recent his loss was and how much he was still hurting from that dreadful day.