Archive for April, 2012

To be overcome by the fragrance of flowers is a delectable form of defeat.

                                                                           Beverley Nichols


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Have you ever wondered why a hall is?Did you know a hall was once a home? How did the first sofa come about and why does a fork have four tines?

From the origins of the first mousetrap, to mouse fur being used as eyebrows, Bill Bryson takes us on a  “history of the world by walking from room to room” in his trivia filled tome,  At Home: A Short History of Private LIfe. 

For our trip up north a few weeks ago, I checked out the audio version of At Home, read by the author, to keep us entertained for the 800 round trip miles we would cover. At 12 CD’s of unabridged words, we barely got half way through. It has taken me until today, with the due date looming, to finish the book.

It was worth every minute.

Whenever I head up to see our Minnesota limb of the family tree, I try to have an audio book with. The public library or Cracker Barrel always accommodate my whims, and off I go. Traveling alone brings about a different kind of “read” than when the Antler Man and I go up together. It is a fun challenge to select something we both will like. At Home proved to be just the right pick.

From Chippendale furniture to shellac, we travelled the miles, with an “aha” or “I didn’t know that” to chuckles at Bryson’s pithy remarks. We enjoyed listening together as the author took us from room to room in his Victorian manse and from century to century in any manner of things he chose to explore and expose. The drawing room and the kitchen, the stairs and the bedroom, and any number of items found in them or on them are exposed. We learned of fashions and fads, medicine and codes of conduct,  and the  good, the bad and the ugly of centuries.

My book group read Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods several years ago and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  When I saw At Home on the library shelf, I was certain that both Tom and I would enjoy it. It moves along at a good pace and the reader can easily skip a chapter (like the one on rats) without losing the gist of the book.

What more can I say? If you have a chance, I encourage you to read At Home: A Short History of Private Life and discover via Bill Bryson how the history of world always finds its way into our homes.

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Being fingerprinted is a little like scanning barcodes in the self-checkout lanes at the grocery store, which I used once, several years ago, with disastrous results. Hmmm, maybe that’s why my fingerprints are so murky. Seeing as I’m rather busy at the moment and without a new post, I thought you might enjoy this repeat of an earlier post.

Lifeonthecutoff's Blog

1 box Cheerios

1 package toilet paper

1 cantaloupe

$2,194.96.  Priceless

I never use the self-checkouts at grocery stores. I usually have more than enough groceries in my cart and it isn’t worth the bother and, honestly, I don’t want to put anyone out of work.

No problem there. Especially after Monday’s visit to the local chain store. I ran in for a package of toilet paper and a box of cereal. The cantaloupes looked pretty good and we just can’t get enough of them in summer. Cantaloupe and cottage cheese. My summertime favorite.

I digress.

I only had three things in my cart, passed the self-check lane and made a snap decision to use one. Three items. Should be easy, I thought. Club card swiped. Bag open. Cheerios. TP. Cantaloupe. Enter code. What code? I don’t see a code. The bar code? I tried the bar code on the…

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Just the facts, ma’am.

Sitting inside the police station, waiting to be fingerprinted, my feet dangling on a chair that was just a bit too high, “wanted” posters and Rules of the Road pamphlets decorating the sitting area, I thought about how much the world has changed.

The strains of the long running television series Dragnet, kept running through my head.

Dum, da, dum. Dum, da, dum, dum, DUM!

Just the facts, ma’am.

Joe Friday didn’t really say it like that, but, legend has him uttering those words, much like the line that wasn’t from Casablanca.

Play it again, Sam.

Ma’am and Sam – and me, swinging my legs on a chair, waiting to be fingerprinted.

 I wasn’t being “booked” for a heinous crime, or any other crime. I just wanted to be a good citizen and serve on my city’s beautification committee. In order to be sworn in as a committee member, a background check is required.

An officer came out, asked me politely to follow him, and I was led into the fingerprinting room. He asked why I needed to have my prints recorded and I said to be on the beautification committee.

“Are you a tree hugger, ma’am?”

“Yes, officer, I am, and my fingernails have dirt underneath them because I’ve been pulling weeds.”

“Just the facts, ma’am. Just the facts.”

Another officer would be taking my fingerprints and, are you ready?, I wouldn’t need to get my fingers dirty.

I stepped up to an interesting machine. A computer, of course. This is 2012, after all. My thumbs were put on a touch screen, and there they were. My opposing thumbprints. The picture wasn’t clear enough, though. Some sort of cream and a wipe of my hands and we tried again. Then the rest of my fingers. All ten digits and not one clear picture.

I wonder if they’ll still let me be on the committee?

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. . . go this way and that way

Go this way and that way

Have you even seen a laddie

Go this way and that?

This is a different type of peony, a dwarf peony, that blooms in early spring then dies back in midsummer from the heat. Its leaves are more reminiscent of ferns and the petals are a single row. It is blooming now in our garden, with the breezy weather we have been having making the blossoms sway, this way and that, reminding me of the childhood singing game we used to play.

It is called Laddie. Paeonia peregrina.

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Gardener’s Prayer 

by Karel Capek

O Lord, grant that in some way

it may rain every day,

Say from about midnight until three o’clock

in the morning,

But, You see, it must be gentle and warm

so that it can soak in;

Grant that at the same time it would not rain on

campion, alyssum, helianthus, lavendar, and others which

You in Your infinite wisdom know

are drought-loving plants-

I will write their names on a bit of paper

if you like-

And grant that the sun may shine

the whole day long,

But not everywhere (not, for instance, on the

gentian, plantain lily, and rhododendron)

and not too much;

That there may be plenty of dew and little wind,

enough worms, no lice and snails, or mildew,

and that once a week thin liquid manure and guano

may fall from heaven.


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The Chinese tree peonies are riot of color in the front island garden. I worried and fussed over them in late winter when I discovered the deer had been at them, but they held their own council and began showing off about a week ago.

First these deep fuchsia colored buds started to show their colors, pushing their way past the thick outer covering of the bud.

Then they burst into bloom!

A companion bush with lavender blossoms is eager to enter stage right any moment.

The common peonies are just starting to show buds and will take their turn in the spotlight a little later this spring. For now, these saucer sized blooms are more than my heart can handle. I just love the slow excitement that the blooms of springtime bring.

Don’t you agree?

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