The End Of Summer

swimming pond

I hate to break it to you but summer is over.  I know this because my son went back to school yesterday and my daughter goes back tomorrow.  We all know that it is the school calendar that dictates the start and end of summer and the school calendar declares summer over.

We will ignore the fact that yesterday it was almost 90 degrees.  Today it is about 70.  I was able to bake banana chocolate chip muffins without heating the house up to an ungodly temperature.  My gardens are getting that blowsy, overdone look and the nights are cooling down.


My thoughts are turning toward big pots of chili and loaves of homemade bread, to cozy afghans and big books.  I have several I have been saving for the long, dark evenings ahead.


We will go for long walks, sit around a campfire or two, bake lots of cookies, and probably go apple picking.

apple tree

There is a nostalgic feel to the very end of summer, regret for all the things that didn't get done, the moments of laziness that were not fully indulged, the swims that were not taken, the places not visited.

I like a lot of Robert Frost's poetry.  He is such a New England poet and his poetry always seems to catch a mood and give the image in my head words.  Here is one that ties in with the feel of the end of summer.


When I go up through the mowing field,
The headless aftermath,
Smooth-laid like thatch with the heavy dew,
Half closes the garden path.

And when I come to the garden ground,
The whir of sober birds
Up from the tangle of withered weeds
Is sadder than any words.

A tree beside the wall stands bare,
But a leaf that lingered brown,
Disturbed, I doubt not, by my thought,
Comes softly rattling down.

I end not far from my going forth
By picking the faded blue
Of the last remaining aster flower
To carry again to you.

Thoughts On One Year Of Blogging

I started this blog one year ago this week. I feel like this post should be headed by a photo of a big number one shaped balloon, possibly a bit of confetti, and maybe a cake. Instead, you get a photo of a thistle.  Take from that what you will.

So here I am, one year into blogging,  This is what has and hasn't happened.

I haven't acquired hundreds and thousands of followers.  It is much harder than I thought to get people to read my ramblings.  I knew I wouldn't instantly have a huge number of followers but I did think by now I would have more than I do.  I must admit, I get a little envious when I see other blogs the same age as mine that have many, many more followers.  That can make me doubt what I am doing. I am being honest about that feeling because it is easy to feel like you are the only one whose blog is growing at a snail's pace.

I haven't discovered my niche.  Everything on the internet says you need one.  I am not good at sticking to one subject.  Mainly I talk about books because I love books.  They are my comfort, my escape, my education, and my safe place.  However, I also talk about vacations, kids, and random thoughts spinning around in my head.  Maybe I would be more successful if I stuck to one subject but I seem incapable of doing that.  And I will probably continue to write the occasional post about being a parent even though those are the least read things I ever write.  I am not sure why, but any parenting post seems to fall dead in the water.

I haven't gotten to grips with Twitter.  I keep trying but I know I am not using it to the full.  I still find it scary.  It feels a bit like speaking into a void or maybe, even worse, sitting down at the lunch table with the popular kids.  You don't know what reaction you are going to get,  maybe everyone will be friendly but maybe you will be ignored.  No, I wasn't one of the popular kids.  Too shy and quiet.

I haven't told anyone in my real life about this blog.  Well, my husband and kids know but that is it.  Should I?  Shouldn't I?  I can't decide so I do nothing.

I haven't been offered any free books to read and review.  There must be a way you can help that to happen but I don't know it.  But free books?  That would be living the dream.

I haven't convinced myself to write that many book reviews.  I like books, I like to talk about books, I don't necessarily like to write formal reviews of books.  I do it occasionally when I have something I particularly want to say or when I am doing a review for the Classics Club but I am just not motivated to review every book I read.  I don't think I can really call myself a book blogger which brings me straight back to having not found my niche.  Oh well.

But what has happened because I started blogging?

The biggest, and it sounds like a cliche, is that I have created something I am proud of.  It took a lot of work and effort for me to figure out how blogging worked.  I did it.  I fixed my mistakes and I learned new skills in the process.  There is still room for improvement but since I was a bit of a Luddite when it came to computers this is a huge step forward for me.

I found somewhere to use my desire to write.  I have always wanted to write but after several abortive attempts at writing fiction I thought that maybe it just wasn't for me.  Then I found blogging.  It seems this is for me. I enjoy it and I love the sense of satisfaction I receive when I publish a post.

I have a place for all the random thoughts in my head to go.  Not all of them get published but they have a home now and that gives me a clearer head and hopefully a less stressful life.

I discovered an interest in photography.  I am still not very good at it but I am taking small steps forward and that would not have happened if I hadn't needed photos for my blog.

I have found so many new books to read.  I have read book blogs for a long time but having my own has helped me to come across even more and that has introduced me to even more books.  My old method of finding books was to wander around the library but since I live in a small Connecticut town with a rubbish library system that didn't work too well.  Now I have an unending list of books I want to read.

Many kind and like-minded people have read my posts and commented on them.  I truly, truly appreciate that. I still get a thrill every time I get a notification about a new comment.  It just amazes me that people read what I write and then feel motivated to say something about it.

I wanted to write a witty and clever post to commemorate a year of this blog but somehow it didn't come.  Instead I had a head full of random thoughts.  But really, that is what my blog is all about, the random, frequently book based thoughts that swirl through my head.

Thank you for reading.

And now, here are a few of my favorite posts from the last year.

My Love Affair With England  

How To Turn Your Child Into A Reader

What I Want For My Daughter

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

Tips for a Happy Marriage

A Place In The Country

Greenwood farmhouse

Sometimes all you need is a place in the country.  An old farmhouse is ideal, with well-worn couches and creaky  floorboards.  It should have a front porch to drink tea on in the mornings and a well-filled woodshed for campfires at night.  It should be set in the middle of nowhere so you can pretend that you are the only people in the world.

 Ideally, it should have a reading nook and bookshelves jammed with books by Josephine Tey and Wilkie Collins and Dorothy Dunnett.

reading nook

You should be able to walk out the door onto dirt roads that seldom see a car.  You will want to happily meander down them, scuffing up dust as you go, and stopping frequently to admire the views. There will be cries of excitement as you spot the many deer roaming throughout the fields.  Eyes will be kept wide hoping, and fearing, that you will sight a bear.  Fossils will be found in the stream and wildflowers picked from the meadows.

country road

kids on country road

field with deer

A swimming pond is essential with a dock off which to jump.  You should definitely spend long hours sitting by the pond listening to the silence.  You will realize that it is not really silent.  Your ears will adjust to the sound of the breeze through the grasses, the birds in the meadow, and the endless murmur of bees and crickets.  There will also be the constant chatter of a child observing pond life but that is soothing in its own way.


The days will stretch on endlessly with no clear beginning or end.  Life will slow down and only be punctuated by the meals you eat and the books you finish.  Stresses will fade away and be lost into the reality you will eventually have to return to.  But not yet.  Definitely not yet.  Because for now there is still nature to appreciate, walks to take, books to read, and sunsets to admire.


For now, all you need is a place in the country.

Comfort Me With Books

books--elizabeth von arnim

I buy books when I am stressed.

I also buy books when I am bored.

And when I am happy.

And when I am...well you get the idea.  I buy books.  I buy books a lot.  I have been trying to cut back but I gave that up as a lost cause as you will see when I list all the books I have gotten lately.  In my defense, I am feeling less stressed, bored, and unhappy after all these purchases.  Why mess with what works, right?

I saw a review of Love by Elizabeth von Arnim on Heavenali's blog. I have read a number of Elizabeth von Arnim's books but I have never heard of this.  Obviously, that meant I had to buy it immediately.  I also ordered a copy of The Caravaners, which I have heard of but haven't read, and a copy of The Enchanted April, which I love. I have it on my Kindle but if I love a book I want to own a physical copy.  I have written about The Enchanted April before in this post.


I bought two biographies.  Both were recommended to me after I read Claire Tomalin's biography of Jane Austen.  Unfortunately, I can't remember who recommended them.  I need to keep better track of these things.  The first is Samuel Pepys--the Unequalled Self which is also by Claire Tomalin.  I once tried to read Pepys diaries when I was a teenager and gave up on them.  I didn't have the patience to wade through the old-fashioned language and boring bits (or what I found to be boring bits as a teenager) in order to read the passages I liked.  Maybe this will just give me all the good bits.  Whoever suggested it to me described it as fascinating so I have high hopes.  I also picked up The Sisters--The Saga of the Mitford Family by Mary S. Lovell.  I got it at the library for fifty cents.  I always have this compulsion to mention just what a bargain some books are, I don't know why.  Anyway, I think someone on Instagram recommended this.  I keep meaning to read more of the Mitfords.  Now I have the opportunity.


I bought three more books about Britain during WWII.  My fascination with the time period seems in no danger of flagging.  The first is The Secret Life of Bletchley Park by Sinclar McKay.  I visited Bletchley Park when we were in England in April and I found it very interesting.  I read a book about the actual code breaking but I wanted to know more about what life was like for the people who lived there.  I am hoping this book will tell me more about their day-to-day life.  I also bought Living Through the Blitz by Tom Harrisson.  Harrisson was a co-founder of the Mass-Observation organization. Many of the diary compilations I read are put together from information gathered by Mass-Observation.  I am looking forward to reading a book by the man who helped start gathering social history of the time period.  The third book is Backs to the Wall--The Heroic Story of the People of London during World War II  by Leonard Mosley.  This is basically self-explanatory.  It is the story of British people during the war, I am going to read it.

book--dorothy dunnett

Lastly, I bought King Hereafter by Dorothy Dunnett.  I finished the Lymond Chronicles and that left me with a Dunnett shaped hole in my reading life.  I wasn't sure I was ready to commit to her other series so I bought this.  It is a stand-alone novel and apparently, Dunnett viewed it as some of her finest writing.  If it is anything like the Lymond Chronicles I will spend the first third of the book slightly baffled, the middle third resisting the urge to start over so I can pick up the pieces I missed, and the final third galloping toward the conclusion missing sleep in the process.

There you have the nine books I bought recently.  Oh my, nine.  Let's just concentrate on the fact that I am not bored and that the sight of these books is immensely cheering.

Why couldn't I be the type of person who cleaned her house when she was stressed?  Or exercised?

But then I wouldn't have a stack of beautiful books to look forward to.

So yes, comfort me with books.

Book Snippets

book shelves

One of the interesting things about reading is the words that strike a chord, the phrases, sentences, and paragraphs that make you stop.  Sometimes you stop because they make you think, sometimes because the words say it so perfectly, sometimes just because you like the way they sound.  Here are a few things that have struck a chord with me recently.

I just finished Assignment in Brittany by Helen MacInnes.  I read all her books years ago but I don't really remember them.  They are great spy and intrigue novels, fun and enthralling.  In this one MacInnes writes an introduction in which she discusses how accurate her novels are in regard to history and location.  She has this to say about an author's responsibilities to an audience.

If we demand an honest statement of the ingredients of every package of food we buy, it seems odd that we should treat our minds more carelessly than we do our stomachs.  False pretenses in the world of ideas (and literature conveys ideas, or opens a new door to the view of the world outside our own lives, or discloses a different light on what we have either accepted as fact or dismissed as exaggeration) can be as deadly in their effect as the adulteration of food.  The writer who alters the facts of history, or twists events into a false pattern, to suit his own ideas, is providing his readers with his own package of particular poisoning.  The mind is more vulnerable than the stomach, because it can be poisoned without feeling immediate pain.

If you have read this blog for any length of time then you have realized that I am fascinated by the British home front during WWII. Last week I read Keep Smiling Through by Susan Briggs.  It was a more basic overview of life during the war but I did still find it interesting.  It was filled with many more photos than some of the other books I have read.  I found this extract from a booklet given to every American soldier entering Britain to be interesting.

Britain may look a little shop-worn and grimy to you.  There's been a war on since 1939.  The houses haven't been painted, because factories are not making paint-they're making planes.  British trains are cold because power is used for industry, not for heating.  The British people are anxious for you to know that in normal times Britain looks much prettier, cleaner, neater.  Don't be misled by the British tendency to be soft-spoken and polite.  They can be plenty tough, too.  The English language didn't spread across the oceans, mountains, jungles and swamps of the world because these people were "panty-waists".  Remember that crossing the ocean doesn't automatically make you a hero.  There are housewives in aprons and youngsters in knee pants who have lived through more high explosives than many soldiers saw in the last war.  If your British host exhorts you to "eat up- there's plenty on the table",  go easy- it might be the family's ration for a week, spread out to show their hospitality.

I frequently borrow books from my dad.   They are almost always books I wouldn't pick up on my own, he is interested in government and history and politics.  My father is a retired newspaper man so many of his books are about writing and the newspaper field.  This time I borrowed Strunk and White's The Elements of Style.  I have heard of this little book, it seems to be a Bible for writers with basic information about grammar and style written in an engaging fashion.  I like this about an approach to style.

The use of language begins with imitation.  The infant imitates the sounds made by its parents; the child imitates first the spoken language, then the stuff of books.  The imitative life continues long after the writer is on his own in the language, for it is almost impossible to avoid imitating what one admires.  Never imitate consciously, but do not worry about being an imitator; take pains instead to admire what is good.  Then when you write in a way that comes naturally, you will echo the halloos that bear repeating.

I also borrowed The Writer Who Stayed, a collection of essays by the journalist William Zinsser.  This is what he said in reply to a question about his favorite word.

I don't have a favorite word like williwaw that I keep in a display case to moon over....Those words please me when I see (and hear) them, but unless they fill a precise need-oscillate, lapidary, filigree-I abstain, fearful of being sucked into the bog of academic prose where monsters like adumbrate and ineluctable lurk.  My favorites are the hundreds of vivid replacements for words that are just too dull-too humdrum-to make writing come alive.  Brazen, used instead of bold, not only catches the reader off guard with the fanciful z; its sound exactly conveys its meaning.  A brazen scheme is more than merely bold; listen and you'll hear a mountebank.

I love words and phrases and paragraphs.  I love the sentences that make me stop and think, stare into the distance, and then reread.  I love the way words can be put together to touch your mind and heart and imagination.   What words have made you stop and take a second look?

Summer Days

summer field

It has been a good week. Last week was hot and muggy and miserable and full of annoying problems but this week, this week has been what summer should be.

Of course, the kids go back to school in three weeks.  Every year we just settle in to summer and it is time to start planning for the new school year.  It seems to take them half the summer to decompress and unwind from school stresses and then we have to start all over again.  This has been a good week though and we are going to concentrate on that.

Books I...Strongly Dislike

southbank book market

I almost wrote "hate" but early conditioning kept telling me I couldn't say that. Does anyone else remember the teachers who wouldn't let you use the word hate?  "No" they would say "you don't really hate squash, you strongly dislike it."  Huh, really?  I think I hate it.  Anyway, I still feel bad about using the word so we are going with "books I strongly dislike."  Though, I must admit, immediately after having read them I would have said hate. I am not talking about books that are poorly written.  I usually cannot work up a good hate for a book that is not well-written and does not have possibilities.  I am talking about the books that bothered me in some way, the books that made me angry, the books I wanted to throw against a wall.

The first book that comes to mind is Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt.  I just checked Goodreads and this book has a rating of 4.1 out of 5.  Huh, apparently I am in the minority.  A friend of mine highly recommended it.  I should have known better.  She likes gloom and doom in her books and I don't.  I understand a book is possibly going to be sad at times but unrelenting depression and misery are more than I can handle. I also found the main character self-centered and completely unsympathetic.  Actually, I don't think I liked a single character in the book and I don't think one positive thing ever happened.  My memory is of babies being born, babies dying, children going hungry, and the main character being supremely annoying.  This is a book I wanted to throw against a wall and just thinking about it is making me angry all over again.  Apologies to anyone who loves it.  I just couldn't.

I love The Diary of a Provincial Lady by E.M. Delafield.  It is witty and funny and relatable. Her novel, Consequences, did not impress me.  It made me angry.  I read that it was Delafield's favorite of her works.  I understand what she was doing.  The novel highlights the plight of girls who have no option except for marriage.  My problem, again, is that I disliked the main character.  She seemed to be constantly making decisions that just made her life more miserable and there seemed to be a general 'woe is me' feel to the whole thing.  And let's not even talk about the ending. I stayed up late to finish the book.  I had a morbid fascination at this point, convinced that it just had to get better, that something had to go right for the main character.  It didn't.  I was so filled with rage that I went upstairs, woke up my husband, and ranted to him about it.  I read this quite a while ago as a free book on my Kindle.  I was quite bemused when I found out that Consequences is in the Persephone catalogue since I usually love their books.  Delafield wrote another book with a similar theme and I enjoyed that book much more.  I actually thought Thank Heaven Fasting was excellent.  You can read my review here.

My last disliked book is Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.  I reviewed this a while ago.  It had an interesting premise but it never got off the ground.  Again, it had characters I just could not care about and they seemed incapable of doing anything to improve their lives.  I am sure there is a message and a meaning behind that but I just wanted to yell at them for being idiotic.  I spent the whole book feeling like it was leading up to something big but it all just felt so anticlimactic.  This is a book that actually irritates me more and more the longer it has been since I read it.

While writing this I have realized there are several things all these books have in common.  For one, they all have characters I found to be irritating and unlikeable. I don't need a character to be perfect but I do need them to be someone I can picture myself talking to without wanting to push them off a cliff.  They can have flaws and defects, we all do, but they have to have strengths too. They have to be admirable in some way.  Second, all these books were unremittingly grim.  I know life is hard and sad.  That is just a fact.  But life is also funny and interesting.  The dark needs to be highlighted by the light or it becomes too one dimensional.  Dickens understood this.  His novels could be heart-breaking but they also were frequently leavened by a good dose of humor.  I also found all of these novels to be too heavy-handed.  When I read Angela's Ashes I felt like yelling "Okay already.  I've got it.  Life was miserable.  You were miserable.  Move on.  What did you do with it?"  I don't need to be beaten over the head with the message.  A light touch is preferable.

With all of these books, I felt like I was missing something.  All of them are, as far as I can tell, beloved by many.  I...disliked them.  But that is the thing about reading.  Much as I would like to think that I am the definitive guide for what is and is not a good book, that just isn't true.  I know, I am as surprised as you are.  Though I have to say, if you don't like Jane Austen then I don't think we can be friends anymore.  But I suppose if you back me into a corner and threaten me with no books for a year I will have to admit that you even have the right to dislike Jane Austen.  I think I feel like a traitor even saying that.  But my point is that I can hate these books and you can love them because we all read a different book.  The words are the same but we are not.  Our emotions, our experience, our background, our mood of the moment, all of these combine to make a book good or bad.  Good or bad for us, maybe, just possibly, not good or bad for everybody.

What books have you...strongly disliked? Do you love any of the books I hate?

A Walk By The River


It has been hot, the kind of hot where you step outside and it feels like you are stepping into a steam bath.  The kind of hot where iced tea and ice cream seem like necessary adjuncts to everyday life.  The kind of hot where pools are not refreshing because the water has warmed up so much.  The kind of hot where you are grumpy for a large majority of the time.  Just me?  I hope not.

I hate heat.

My husband, in a bid to save me and my family from my grumpiness, suggested I take my camera up to the river and ignore the world for a while.  He said he would stay home with the kids.  I am going to assume that was pure kindness and not a conspiracy to give everyone a break from my bad attitude.  Either way, it worked.  I puttered along the river trail at the speed of glacier ice, took a few photographs, and finally remembered that the great outdoors can be pleasant even if you are dripping with sweat.


river and bridges

There were almost no people on the trail.  Maybe they were all discouraged by the relentless heat.  It made for a pleasant time for me.  It was so quiet that all the birds and small animals just went about their business and ignored me.

bird in a tree



We have had so little rain that everything looks a little faded and dusty.  I actually think it is a bit unfair that we have had no rain and yet the dew point has been so very high.  If we aren't going to get rain can't we at least have dry heat? I can cope better with that.  Hmmm, I feel the bad attitude creeping back in.  The wildflowers still look pretty though.




I returned home as a kinder, gentler, if slightly over-heated person. I managed to maintain that better attitude through a stop at the grocery store, the cooking of dinner, and the cleaning of the kitchen.  Sometimes we just need a bit of time to ourselves to potter along at the speed of glacier ice and appreciate the little things.

What do you do when you need a bit of a break?

Do you hate the heat too?  And tell me, why is it socially acceptable to complain about winter and the cold but as soon as you say you hate hot weather people look at you as if you said you hated puppies and kittens?