Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Happily Ever After

#5 on the What's In a Name Challenge for this year is to read a book with an emotion in the title.  I looked through my shelves and pulled down Happily Ever After by Harriet Evans to meet this category.  

When I picked up Happily Ever After, I thought it would be just a book full of fluff- a fun "beach" type read. In a lot of ways I was right, but there was also more to this one. We start out in London with Eleanor Bee fresh out of college, living on a friends couch and searching for a job in publishing. She finds a position at tiny BlueBird Books that is antiquated and has been around for ages. A perfect place to begin. Elle is young and a mess. She wears too short of skirts, rumpled usually, spills coffee on her boss, loses a prawn sandwich in a file drawer, and many other calamaties. Life has thrown the Bee family a few curves. When Elle and her brother were young pre-teens, their parents who fought constantly divorced. Their mother drinks too much, their father moved on right away, marrying a young lady and quickly having two new children, replacing his older kids. Elle and her brother don't get along, he's kind of a pig, and she rarely see's her father. Her mother has quit drinking and, after all these years, has a boyfriend. Elle's brother doesn't think mom has quit drinking, only that she's hiding it well, and if she has a boyfriend, why has no one ever met him? Fast forward a few years. Elle has taken a job share for a few months to a publisher in New York City. While there, she charms an older writer and quickly becomes a rising star. Her job share turns permanent and she is in love with New York. A wedding brings her back to London to face the old Elle and her old life, with some hard decisions to go along with it. 

I really liked Elle. Even though she didn't know it, she was a strong young woman, especially once she learned to stand up for herself. This was really a good story that I completely enjoyed!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Where Lilacs Still Bloom

Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens
Woodland, Washington

Just a bit east of our little town, along the Columbia River, is a sign I've seen for years that points the way to the Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens.  I've often wondered about these gardens but, always in a rush to get here or there, have never taken the time to stop and smell the flowers.
Recently a friend gave me a copy of the Jane Kirkpatrick novel Where Lilacs Still Bloom and I was transported to the 1889 gardens of Mrs. Hulda Klager.
Hulda and her family soon became my friends, so I told Riff that I really wanted to go to the gardens.  Being the wonderful husband that he is, he said, "Great!  Let's go next Saturday!"  And we did.
Hulda came to America with her parents from Germany when she was just 
two years old.  At age thirteen, her family moved to Washington and bought the farm on the banks of the Lewis River at Woodland.  Her daddy built the beautiful farmhouse you see in the pictures here.  
Hulda married dairy farmer, Frank Klager, living and raising their family on a neighboring farm.  Hulda was irritated by the fact the apples from her parents orchard were so small and soft.  It took a huge amount of apples to make just one pie and they were difficult to peel, so with her Dad's help, she begin to graft different varieties onto the tree's in the hopes of producing a bigger, firmer apple.  It took years, but Hulda's hard work finally paid off with
 the apple she was trying for.
Hulda really loved her flowers and after reading about the work of Luther Burbank to improve plants through propagation, she really caught the bug.  Frank supported Hulda's interests and after a long illness, he sold two of his cows to purchase her dream lilac starts, Madame Lemoine, from France.  This was just what Hulda needed, helping her get over her illness.
Her dream was to produce a creamy white lilac, with 12 petals on a sturdier stalk.  Every spring, Hulda would painstakingly pollinate one lilac bush with the pollen of another, marking each plant with tags that told the color, petals, scent and strength of each bush.  
Not only did she work with the white lilac's, but Hulda also strived for a deeper purple, a pink, a red.  By 1910 she had fourteen new varieties of lilacs and in another five years, she had so many varieties that she begin to host Lilac Days during the spring bloom, which is still going on today.  Lilac days runs from mid April to Mother's Day each year.  (This is the only time that lilac's are available for sale, you can tour the farmhouse and the gift shop is open.)
(this is Sensation.  One of my favorites!  I brought a start home!)
Hulda was an incredibly strong woman, re-building her lilac gardens time and again when the Lewis River and the Columbia River would overflow their banks and flood the farm.  Along with her family, she would work tirelessly to pull up her beloved lilac bushes, putting them on rafts to float above the waters until the floods would recede.  
In 1948, the biggest flood ever destroyed the gardens.  Hulda was 83 and tired.  Not only was her beloved Frank gone, but she had lost two daughters as well.  She just didn't think she had it in her to re-build her gardens one more time and so many of her varieties were destroyed.  Then, one by one, neighbors and friends who had purchased Klager lilac's begin to drop off starts at the farm.  Soon word spread and Hulda's lilacs were coming to her from all over the country.  
At the age of 85, in 1950, Hulda had restored her gardens and Lilac Days was held once again.  Amazing!
Today, the gardens are owned and maintained by the Hulda Klager Lilac Society.  They sit on 4 acres of the original homestead and the farmhouse has been restored to it's Victorian origin.  The society does their best to keep the gardens historically authentic.  They are absolutely beautiful!
These gorgeous gardens are well worth the drive if you live anywhere near.  The scent of lilac's just permeates the air.

Don't forget to grab yourself a copy of Where Lilacs Still Bloom!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Turn the Page...Tuesday

Where have you been  on your reading adventures lately?  It's time for Turn the Page...Tuesday hosted by Adrienne at Some of a Kind.  A time to reveal the wonders of your reading world!  Pop over and join us!

This year, Adrienne has challenged us to read books that movie's have been made from and then watch the movie.  I was really surprised to find how many I already had on my to-be-read shelf that fit this criteria.  For April, I read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.  It had been lingering on my shelf for quite awhile, and I completely enjoyed this book.  What a page-turner!  Full of intrigue, mystery, some really graphic horribleness, and an age old murder to be solved. 

From Goodreads:
Mikael Blomkvist, a once-respected financial journalist, watches his professional life rapidly crumble around him. Prospects appear bleak until an unexpected (and unsettling) offer to resurrect his name is extended by an old-school titan of Swedish industry. The catch—and there's always a catch—is that Blomkvist must first spend a year researching a mysterious disappearance that has remained unsolved for nearly four decades. With few other options, he accepts and enlists the help of investigator Lisbeth Salander, a misunderstood genius with a cache of authority issues. Little is as it seems in Larsson's novel, but there is at least one constant: you really don't want to mess with the girl with the dragon tattoo.

I thought they did a fabulous job with the movie.  Followed the book really well for the most part.  If you only like happy, feel good movie's, this is not for you!  

I'm also participating this year in a reading challenge called What's In a Name? I've done this one a couple of times in past years and it's always fun to go through my shelves and pick books that meet the criteria for each category.  Category 4 this year is a book with Fire (or equivalent) in the title, so I chose Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier
I love Tracy Chevalier. I can't even imagine the time and effort it takes to research the area's and people of history that she writes about. Historical fiction is my favorite genre and Chevaliers books always take us right inside another time and place, feeling the emotions, hearing the sounds and smelling the air. 

Burning Bright is set in the early 1790's of London, where Thomas Kellaway has recently moved his family to try to outrun the memories of the recent loss of one of their sons. This family is from the Piddle Valley- Thomas and son Jem are chair makers while his wife Anne and daughter Maisie are very skilled Dorset button makers. Enter real-life character Philip Astley of Astley's Circus, who helps set the Kellaways up with a room as well as customers, eventually hiring Thomas and Jem as carpenters for the circus. Jem meets Maggie, a neighbor girl, and the two quickly become fast friends while also befriending the printer and his wife who live next door. This eccentric printer is thought to have loyalty for the French during this time of the French Revolution. He turns out to be none other than the now famous poet and engraver, William Blake. While Mr. Blake and Mr. Astley are the true to life characters of the book, the story is really a coming of age story centered around the fictional characters of Jem, Maggie and Maisie with the sights and sounds of 1700's Lambeth Place as the backdrop. Interspersed with Blake's poetry, this is a fantastic read!

                                  When the painted birds laugh in the air
Where our table with cherries and nuts is spread,
Come live & be merry and join with me,
To sing the sweet chorus of 'Ha, Ha, He.'
~Laughing Song, William Blake

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Mazzy's Mansfield Park

“You have qualities which I had not before supposed to exist in such a degree in any human creature. You have some touches of the angel in you.” 
                                                          ― Jane AustenMansfield Park

One of my greatest pleasures is making things for the Little's in our lives, so when I saw the pattern for this sweet jacket I knew that Miss Mazzy Kaye just had to have it.  I love the old-fashioned feel of it, so called it Mazzy's Mansfield Park Sweater.  Don't let that sweet angelic face fool you.  That little girl is a spit-fire!