A blog about my photos, my artwork, quotations, ideas, collections, passions, England, authors, handwork of all kinds, rusty bits, buffalo, and architectural detail...for starters. And the occasional rant.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


My year of the book is now well underway.  The best idea I found for a title was simply to add 'libris' to the title of this blog.  In other words...to turn the mind to books.  My site is up and running, and I have begun posting.  I am now posting photos and information on books I have already made, but my book for January will be along shortly.  There is a reference section and I will be keeping track of my progress.  So please, take a moment to look at http://animumadverterelibris.blogspot.com/ 
This is what you call a teaser.....

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Happy Birthday Alan Alexander

Today is the birthday of A.A. Milne, according to the Writer’s Almanac.  He was born in London in 1882 and was the creator of our beloved Winnie-the-Pooh and friends.  Milne wrote more than just Pooh stories, but his other works were never really successful.  You can get many of them for Kindle free: The Holiday Round, If I May, Mr Pim Passes By, and more.  I have enjoyed them, but that’s probably because I wanted to.

Personally, I was always partial to Eeyore.  I don’t think I am an Eeyore personality type, although no one is really a good judge of his own personality type, but I think I have his sense of humour – both Eeyore and A.A. would have spelled it that way.

When I was a child, many years ago, my brother and I had the four book set which including two books of stories and two books of Milne’s poems (When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six).  As much as I loved the stories, I think I may have preferred the poems.  I still have the books and dip into them occasionally as the first lines pop into my head for no apparent reason and I simply must look up the rest of them.  If you have never read any of them…you should.  You can find them online.  Might I suggest a few of my favorites – I’ll just give you the first couple of lines and hope you are snagged.

                                    Christopher Robin
                                    Had wheezles
                                    And sneezles,
                                    They bundled him
                                    His bed…..

                         Furry Bear
                                    If I were a bear,
                                        And a big bear too,
                                    I shouldn’t much care
                                        If it froze or snew……

And my personal favorite:

                        The Doormouse and the Doctor
                                    There once was a Dormouse who lived in a bed
                                    Of delphiniums (blue) and geraniums (red).
                                    And all the day long he’d a wonderful view
                                    Of geraniums (red) and delphiniums (blue)....

I do remember reading the stories to my daughter, and before that to my nephews.  It’s quite heartwarming that they still remember me reading “The Heffalump”.  I’m afraid I didn’t read the poems as often as I should have.  Perhaps I gave them a choice, in which case we know they would have chosen stories.

On our 1997 trip to England we visited Hartfield and the candy shop visited by Christopher Robin as a child.  It is now a tourist location and full of lovely things to buy.  I limited myself to an Eeyore placemat and several postcards of E.H. Shepard’s illustrations. 

We then drove to Hundred Acre Wood (Ashdown Forest), parked, and set out for Poohsticks Bridge.  I was already having knee problems by then and as we followed the signs to the bridge through the forest, then along the edge of a field for what seemed for miles, the daily wear and tear was really getting to me.  Near the end of the field we met a couple coming in the opposite direction and they stopped to speak with us.  They said it was only over the rise at the end of the field and then down a short hill.  Since they were English, we knew that could mean anything from 300 yards to two miles.  We stood there as they went on their way and pondered just how badly we wanted to stand on a bridge and throw sticks into the water.  Not all that badly.  We had some pride however, we waited until the couple was out of sight before we turned around and headed back. I could just hear Eeyore saying, “Oh well, it was a nice walk…as far as it went.”

When we reached the carpark, we collected some ‘Poohsticks”.  After all, we really were in Hundred Acre Wood, so they were real Poohsticks.  I treasure my sticks, now framed with one of the postcards, but every time I look at it, I am reminded of my feet of  clay.  Or should I say knees of clay.


Monday, January 10, 2011

How to Be a Know-it-all and Still Have Friends

My parents raised me with intellectual curiosity and a willingness to share what I have learned.  In other words, I was raised to be a know-it-all.  I’m not alone, there are a lot of us out there.  Some of my favorite people are know-it-alls. You really can learn a tremendous amount from them because although they certainly don’t really know it all, they often do know a heck of a lot.

Looking back on it, I think I was often pretty obnoxious.  It’s possible I still am, but I hope I have learned a few things that make me easier to enjoy spending time with.  Not too long ago I schooled my cousin, the one with the doctorate in animal husbandry, about the terminology regarding nesting herons.  I’m still embarrassed about that one...it’s a work in progress.

Intellectual curiosity is a wonderful trait, but so easily abused.  Do you find yourself reading all those non-fiction books filled with amazing and amusing tidbits of information?  You may be genuinely fascinated by these tidbits, but that doesn’t mean they won’t pop out at the least provocation to edify what you hope is a rapt listening audience.

I knew my daughter and her soon-to-be husband had a good shot at living happily ever after when two things happened. The first was when they meshed their Legos.  Don’t underestimate the importance of this as an indicator of trust. The second happened while I was having dinner with his family.  There was a disagreement over the derivation of a word (yes, some families discuss things like words over the dinner table – mine did) and someone went straight to the dictionary to settle it.  No one actually said “See, I was right.” But it was hanging over the table like the scent of garlic.  If you have been raised having conversations that end in someone being ‘right’, it is really important you marry someone from a similar background.  It could be more important than a common religion.

Once, when traveling, my son-in-law and I got into a bit of a know-it-all stand-off.  It was awful for my daughter, being caught between the two people she loved most.  It was only much later that I realized she was just really hurt that we hadn’t even considered her as the one who knew all the answers.

If you can admit you are a know-it-all, that is half the battle.  Like alcohol, being right is an addiction.  So here are some of the things I have learned, they may help.

1)     If you are not absolutely, 100% certain, learn to start with the phrase “I really don’t know”.  If you practice, you can say it with a sort of self-deprecating lilt that says you have some idea, but your intellectual honesty forbids you from coming right out with it.  Then you can go on to list the things you do know for certain about the subject and come to a brilliant conclusion they’ll buy into.

2)     Don’t embarrass or try to impress an expert.  For one thing, if the discussion breaks down into teams, you might want to be on their side.  For another, play the odds, if they are an expert they may actually be right.  Let them have their area of expertise…even if they say something that you KNOW is wrong.  My brother is a working musician and composer – I never question anything he says regarding music.  I have been an anglomanic for 25 years and the only thing he ever questioned was the pronunciation of Evelyn Waugh’s first name – I was right, it’s a hard E.

3)     This one is important after about the age of 45.  What was right when you were twenty may no longer be the correct answer.  Things change, science and society in particular.  Look at Pluto.

4)     When you are right, when the Google goes your way…don’t celebrate.  Not even a little.  Practice in front of a mirror, you can learn to hide even that smug smile.  Your best bet is to acquire a pensive expression and say “Hmmmm.”  This also works well when you are wrong.

5)     The most important thing of all is to realize that there are a lot of questions which have no right answer.  You must learn to recognize these when you come across them and allow the conversation to degenerate into what is known as civil discourse.  Then let it go until you can get home and find the necessary information to confirm, in your own mind, that you were right.  And DO NOT make that phone call.

You never get over being a know-it-all.  My mother, at 96, with a seriously failing memory is still willing to mix it up over whether my aunt on my father’s side’s married name was Pinney or Penney.  She has a wonderful phrase she uses whenever it is proven that she is wrong about something.  She looks down a little, purses her lips a little, and says “I suppose so.”  Which translated means, “I will give in because I am a poor helpless old lady and you are a bullying, ungrateful child…but I know I’m right.”  No question where we got it from is there?

One last thing, when you find yourself in a stand-off situation with another know-it-all, whatever you do – do NOT roll your eyes.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Rare Welsh Bits

A few random bits from the 1986 Journal as we traveled through Wales:
  • We had about three hours to kill so we walked around Welshpool.  It did have quite a few nice half-timbered buildings, but the shops were all geared to the mainstream tourists of low mentality.  We figured that we had logged about 50 plus hours of serious tourist shopping in some of the finest shops in England and we were above the likes of genuine Welsh slate with the Serenity Prayer etched on it.    
  • We have decided that we must make a patchwork quilt that looks just like the Welsh countryside.  It will be all in various shades of green, with embroidery in brown and green for the hedgerows and trees, and lots of white French knots for all the sheep.  Then when you lie underneath it and make bumps, you will have the hills.
  • While we were dressing before breakfast, we had laughed at the sheep bleating so loudly for their breakfast, or so we assumed.  With our windows onto the pasture wide open, they were incredibly noisy.  They have so many different voices, and some of them are so rude, that we had great fun trying to imitate them.  When we mentioned it at breakfast, we found out the real reason for all the noise – the first batch of lambs were taken from their mothers this morning and sent to market.  Boy, did we feel foolish…and somehow guilty.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

?Year of the Book?

New Year’s Resolutions don’t scare me.  I’ve been making them and breaking them for years and I think I am the better for it.  I try to make my resolutions rather open ended with no specific numbers or dates so failure just sort of slips by quite easily.  Mainly, for me, the point of it all is a sort of taking stock.  I think just pondering appropriate resolutions is a helpful process, bringing things to the front of your mind and cutting into our regular denial a bit.

In the last year I have instituted several changes in my way of getting through life, most of which are going quite well.  So it seemed to me I that I had done enough pondering of my failings already.  Besides, by the time one gets to my age, it’s pretty much the same failings year after year.

Last year, my daughter made a general resolution to finish projects – some just ‘on the list’ and others started but languishing.  I thought I needed some sort of general resolution or theme for 2011 that I could work at all year and yet still set goals, preferably something creative.

The answer came quickly and easily:  2011 – The Year of the Book.  I’m still looking for a title that doesn’t sound so corny, but it wasn’t difficult to set a list of goals. The list includes organizing, finishing, learning, using up, and more.  It does not include reading them, reviewing them, or talking about authors – that will just carry on as usual.  Since I am having so much fun with this blog, it seemed appropriate to set up a separate site to publish my goals and also follow my progress.  
Pages from a finished book of leaves

Pages from a 'nearly' finished travel Journal from 2007

Pages from another 'nearly' finished travel journal from 2010
And so, my first goal is to set up the new site.  I’ll let you know as soon as it is ready to go.  If you can think of a cleverer name for this project, please let me know.