Archive for the ‘Folklore’ Category

I don’t often see my name in print, even though it has recently gained in popularity, thanks to the actress Penélope Cruz! Ever since Penélope became famous, I have noticed most people can now pronounce my moniker! This is a most welcome development as I have spent most of my life cringing, not because I do not like my name (I do), but, because it is usually, well, let’s just say it is usually “butchered”. Pen-op-o-lee. Pen-o-lope. Pen-o-lo-pee, and more with accents on different syllables to add to the pain.

I was named for my paternal grandmother, a custom of many cultures, especially among Greeks. Even among Greeks, there have not been many Penelopes that I have known. (Okay, only two, and they were brief encounters, and one was my Yia Yia’s goddaughter.

So it was that on a recent morning Penelope appeared in my email inbox.

I subscribe to A.Word.A.Day, which is fun to receive and often enlightens or inspires me. It brings to mind a high school English class, creative writing. We used a small paperback book which I believe was called “30 Days to a Better Vocabulary” as part of the curriculum.

Back to my inbox and the day’s word, which surprised and delighted me – Penelopize ! Well, by gosh and by golly, that explains why I might procrastinate, put things off, stall; I’m really and truly penelopizing.

Do you ever penelopize?

Do you subscribe to a daily message?

From my inbox, with a few links:


A.Word.A.Day from Wordsmith.com


verb intr.: To delay or gain time to put off an undesired event.

From Penelope, the wife of Odysseus and mother of Telemachus in Greek mythology. She waited 20 years for her husband’s return from the Trojan War (ten years of war, and ten years on his way home). She kept her many suitors at bay by telling them she would marry them when she had finished weaving her web, a shroud for her father-in-law. She wove the web during the day only to unravel it during the night. Earliest documented use: 1780. Her name has become a synonym for a faithful wife: penelope.

Image source here.



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Cough drops.

All I needed was cough drops.

I parked as close to the door as I could on a recent cold and rainy day. This was one of a few short errands that had me in and out of the car for a few minutes at each stop. Gas station. Cleaners. ATM. The grocery store was on the route and had a pharmacy, so, there I was.

I didn’t need a cart, or so I thought, silly me. One always needs a cart in the grocery store, even if just running in for one item. If nothing else, a shopping cart is something to hold onto when you are navigating the aisles and trying to find your phone, which, at that moment was ringing. Loudly. It is set to chirp like a bird!

Missed call.

I was momentarily stunned by the visual display of tulips, daffodils and orchids in the floral department. I know. It is hard to imagine someone like me sidelined by flowers, but, there I was, soaking in  the radiance of blossoms. I must have admired every petal before recalling my mission as a coughing spell commenced. It abated just long enough for me to wander down the sale aisle where ornaments, candy, paper napkins and doo-dads were reduced. No, thought my reasonable self, head down, Penelope, and off you go to the pharmaceutical aisle.

It was just as I turned right that my left eye caught something moving in between the styling gel, hairspray, and deodorant.

Penelope Pitstop, ace sleuth in the supermarket, off on another amazing adventure.

I slithered down the aisle, muttering to myself,  hoping no one was watching me. I could be wearing ear buds, a Bluetooth, toothpaste, paste wax, or whatever those ear thingies  are called. I could be on a mission of utmost importance.

There is was. Again.Under the shelves.

I tiptoed, in my galoshes, slowly, step-by-step, and there is was, looking at me as if hearing the call of my phone, then quickly crossing the aisle and ducking under another row of shelves.

Aha. Playing hide-and-seek are you? Be careful. There’s a clerk over yonder, stacking shaving cream and men’s deodorant. Actually, she didn’t see the bird,. She was eyeing me with a measure of suspicion. Sometimes I wish I had an invisibility cloak. 

I tiptoed around, following it; not a mouse (thank goodness), but, a sparrow gathering tidbits under the shelves. In and out she slipped, from magazine to cleaning supplies, under the peanut butter and over the canned peas. If she keeps this up, i muttered, she’ll end up in the meat department, but, no, there she was in produce, before the next round of hacking coughs sent me back to what I came for.

Humming Peter, Paul, and Mary’s rendition of Keep Your Eye Upon the Sparrow (Wish I Was a Single Girl), I grabbed the Luden’s, paid for my purchase, and hoped the little, lost sparrow found her way out of the grocery store and back to wherever she nests, humming my way back home.

I hope all is well with you and yours.

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DSCN5512What better way to start or end one’s day than with a little dip into the honey pot, especially in September, which is National Honey Month?

During the harvesting season, I seek out vendors at local farmers markets and farm stands for jars of this liquid gold. It is said that consuming local honey has health benefits, especially for those with seasonal allergies. I don’t know how scientifically true this is, but, I do know that I don’t sneeze as much when I’ve had a wee tad of local honey on a regular basis.  I always find honey farmers are eager to talk about their honey and that this year they say their bees are producing more.

My gardening friends and I all agree, we are seeing more bees in our gardens. A good sign that leaves one hopeful, in a very tentative way.

I’m a romantic, at heart, dear reader, but, a realist in mind, and the plight of the bee is precarious. This should be alarming to all of us, for without bees, we no longer have the pollination we need to grow fruits and vegetables. Our food supply is in danger in a very large way.

It is more than honey, and More than Honey is an intriguing, stimulating, frightening film that I would like to encourage you to view. Celestia, my co-chair of our garden club’s conservation and education committee, arranged for our club to have a viewing of More than Honey before a recent club meeting. It is a fascinating documentary of bees; their origin in Europe, colonization in North America, how bees are being genetically modified, the plight of migrant bee farmers (I didn’t know there were migrant bee farmers), and much, much more.

Through modern technology, we enter the beehive and soar with the queen. We cringe as we see, first hand, colony collapse and disease, and ooh as a minuscule camera is attached to a bee that we follow as it seeks a new hive. We watch hand pollination in China and explore the lives of killer bees, which may give us hope rather than something to fear.

Please take a moment to click below to see the trailer for the film. I’m sorry if there is an advertisement. It is the trailer you want to click.  You can, of course, buy it from the website or rent it from sources such as Netflix.

This trailer for the film was on YouTube.

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His name defines American folk music. His songs and words are as easily recollected as our own family reminisces. “If I Had a Hammer”, “Where Have all the Flowers Gone”, “Michael Row Your Boat Ashore” . . .  they roll off the tongue of so many of us. We know the lyrics well, for we sang along with him, and the many artists who recorded his songs, for as long as we can remember. I thought about Pete Seeger, his music and his legacy as I wandered the internet, looking for something to post in honor of him at his passing this week. There are so many songs, but, the one song, a simple tune that Pete Seeger put to music from the book of Ecclesiastes, that I think embodies him and his music in the final season of his life.

Thank you, Pete Seeger, for making the world a little bit of better place through your music. Rest in peace.

(Source of this version for YouTube here. Thank you.)

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DSCN3279I have been watching one of my favorite BBC television series, Lark Rise to Candleford, every Thursday evening. The fact that PBS continues to re-run this engaging British import every year or so is but one of many reasons most of my television viewing centers on these jewels in broadcasting. Watching these period pieces with their sense of time and place, not to mention impeccable costuming and atmosphere is like attending a feast for me.

I adore the mostly gentle folks; Queenie and Twister, Alf, the Timmins, Laura, of course, and Miss Lane. (I think I have always longed to be a postmistress, with all those cubby holes for letters and stamps and the activity that hovers around a post office. Have you ever watched Lark Rise to Candleford?

Each time the series airs, I make a mental note, which is not a good way to make notes as my mental notes get misplaced faster than my paper ones. My note to self is to read the book this series is based on.

I finally did!

Oh what a treat Flora Thompson’s trilogy is. Based on her years growing up in an Oxfordshire hamlet in the 1880’s, it is more of a primer of a way of life that once was  in the English countryside, full of folk ways and sayings in a more peaceful time at the cusp of great change. There is no plot to this book, though it was found in the fiction section of the library. It is really more of a memoir of Flora Thompson’s childhood. She calls herself Laura in the book as she recalls going to school, how women dressed, skills and trades, farming, the cottages, festivals and traditions., gathering the harvest, etc.


It was my great fortune at finding this illustrated, abridged edition, which I have slowly read, for it is a gentle read, over cups of tea, in the arbor, on the sofa, mostly wherever the sun set its angel rays, for there is no other way to immerse oneself in the book. Flora’s words are so gentle and the illustrations like those out of horticultural books , with exquisite paintings every fourth page or so.

“Many casual callers passed the hamlet. Travelling tinkers with the barrows, braziers, and twirling grindstones turned aside from the main road and came singing

Any razors or scissors to grind?

Or anything else in the tinker’s line?

Any old pots or kettles to mend?

After squinting into any leaking vessel against the light, or trying the edges of razors or scissors upon the hard skin of their palms, they would squat by the side of the road to work, or start their emery wheel whizzing, to the delight of the hamlet children, who always formed a ring around any such operations . . . “

DSCN3275From celebrations to gathering the “leavens'” of the harvest, going to school to the security of cottage families, this book is a wealth of insight into a bygone era. It is filled with the words to folk songs and the olden sayings, adages, and vernacular.

I must be truthful here, dear reader. I loved stepping into the cottage life of the 1880’s in the pages of this book, even if I would never want to live in those times. “Lark Rise to Candleford” was a serene visit to another time through perfectly placed pages in these early days of Autumn. Here is a segment of the television series you might enjoy. If you click on to watch it on youtube, it should appear.

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Having just read Belle, Book, and Candle’s thoughtful writing on commonplace books, and a bit too busy right now to write a new post myself. I am reposting my own post on commonplace, which I wrote several years ago, in hopes that you will not only take the time to read Belle, but that you will consider keeping a commonplace book yourself – or tell us about the one you do have. Belle, Book, and Candle’s post can be found here. Thank you, Belle, for the inspiration I needed today.  Penny

Commonplace. The recording of words and ideas in a common place. It was started many hundreds of years ago and became known as commonplacein the 1600′s. It is used to this day by writers, poets, speechwriters and songwriters – even scrap bookers. I started thinking about the practice of gathering ideas in a commonplace book as I was reading a blog about books.

Do you have any idea how many blogs there are just about books? There are blogs about mysteries and children’s literature and authors. There are Pearl Buck and Jane Austen blogs. There are blogs about decorating with books and making books, and, of course, many authors these days have their own blogs.

They are all commonplace.

I have kept card files on books I’ve read since my first Kiddie Lit class. I no longer include such things as publisher and copyright date, but, I do write a brief synopsis of the book, what it was about, the month and year I read it and sometimes, when I’m really full of myself, I rate it. ★★★★★ Commonplace.

I also have kept a book with quotes. If I hear something notable or read something, I will write it down and cite the author. Sometimes, I will cut a quote out of a magazine or on a greeting card and paste it onto a page of my quote book.  Commonplace.

Emerson and Thoreau, Jefferson and Whitman, Hardy and Twain all kept such personal books. Many even learned the practice of commonplacing at Oxford or Harvard – or at their tutor’s direction.

My mother kept scrapbooks of pictures and memorabilia  that I enjoy today and my father kept succinct books that recorded good fishing spots and articles.

dscn6694I first heard such a collection of phrases mentioned as a commonplace in “Tasha Tudor’s Heirloom Crafts”. Tudor was, among many things, a crafter of dolls. Her dolls lived in intricate, homemade doll houses, so famed that they were attracted to the folks at the Smithsonian and displayed there. Her dolls, clothed and appointed with furniture evoking the 1800′s, had their own commonplace book with tiny writing on the pages.

I love the idea of a commonplace book and was intrigued by the realization that I have kept such books not knowing their origins for much of my adult life. Quite exciting for something so common to me.

Do you practice commonplacing?

Do you keep a journal, special notebook, scrapbook, or log?

The image is from “Tasha Tudor’s Heirloom Crafts”. Photography by Richard W. Brown.

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Uh, huh!

This little folk tune had been playing around in my head last week. Then Tom mentioned it when we were wandering around the arboretum on Sunday. He in a private grade school, me, a public, both recalled the music teacher rolling the school piano down the hall and into the classroom and teaching us “Frog Went a Courtin’ ” .  Neither of us could remember who Frog was courtin’ though.

Uh, huh!

(Miss Moussie, of course – thank you Google.)

Do you remember this? Frog went a courtin’ and he did ride, uh-huh

Frog went a courtin’ and he did ride, uh-huh

Frog went a courtin’ and he did ride

With a sword and a pistol by his side, uh-huh uh-huh uh-huh


Need more? Try Bob Dylan.

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Sharon shared a simple, and simply delicious, recipe for an Italian Pasta soup with me the other day. I made it on Saturday night. As I was putting the ingredients in the pot, I was thinking about the Oak Park Farmers Market I visited earlier in the day and the stone soup that would be made by a local restaurant with ingredients supplied by the vendors; carrots, turnips, beans, parsley, thyme, whatever is still being harvested come October 30. They call their final market Stone Soup and hand out cups of soup to patrons, first come, first serve.

An article I read on Oak Park’s Farmers Market’s Stone Soup said the soup is ready at 9 am – and the pot is usually empty by 10! Imagine. Hot, tasty soup on a crisp, maybe even cold, late October morn with the freshest of ingredients served outdoors. Can you see the steam rising from the cup?

Stone Soup

Do you know the story? It is old, very old, and comes as a folk tale with variations from many countries; France, Russia, Japan, Portugal, to name just a few. The basic story is that someone(s) come into a village, hungry, tired, perhaps poor, and ask for some food, usually carrying a big empty pot. The villagers refuse to feed them until the crafty soldiers or monk or whomever the protagonist is, set the pot on a fire,  put water in the pot and add a stone or an axe or a nail, and proceed to make soup, admitting it would be so much better with seasoning. No matter who tells the story, no matter what language is spoken, a villager always offers up a carrot or potato or turnip to sweeten the pot. Not to be outdone, others ante up with whatever they have and sure as rain a tasty soup is quickly simmering and all are fed, especially the crafty fellow who wandered into the village that day.

Sharon’s recipe was outstanding and we have leftovers for another day. She and I are always sharing recipes and my life is more flavorful is so many ways for knowing her.

I was thinking about stone soup while the pot of Italian Pasta soup started to boil. I was pondering how much better our world would be if we each started a pot of stone soup to share with folks who are hungry or weary. Don’t you agree?

What ingredient would you give to a stone soup today?

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The Song of Hiawatha

Dark behind it rose the forest,

Rose the black and gloomy pine-trees,

Rose the firs with cones upon them;

Bright before it beat the water,

Beat the clear and sunny water,

Beat the shining Big-Sea-Water.

from The Song of Hiawatha by Longfellow

Last spring, I wrote about Susan Jeffer’s beautifully illustrated book of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem The Song of Hiawatha. My good friend Janet recalled visiting Minnehaha Falls when she was a child and coming home to reread the poem. At the time, I mentioned it to Katy, hoping we could see it sometime when we came up to visit.

On Friday, looking for another park in Minneapolis on the computer, Minnehaha Falls appeared and Katy asked if that was the park I said I’d like to see.  I’d forgotten it, but, yes, I did and it was in the vicinity of where we were headed, so, off we went.

What a beautiful day it was; warm and sunny and filled with the colors of Autumn. We wandered around, looking for the falls, for the statue of Hiawatha, for the “clear and sunny water” and as we headed toward a bench so Kezzie could be fed, I turned around and there it was, the statue of Hiawatha carrying Minnehaha.

We rested and we walked and we marveled at the waterfall and at the beauty surrounding us. The park is wonderful with miles of trails for walkers and bicyclists, and a gated dog run along the river. Minnehaha  Park is right in Minneapolis.

Close to the falls is circular garden dedicated to the poem. A flower-filled fountain, plantings, and benches are within and it is surrounded by some of Longfellow’s words and etchings on the stones.

Longfellow never visited the falls.

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