Porch Talk

Hey y’all! It feels like forever since we had a good chat.
So sit down here and let me yak at you for a while.

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This little guy was yakking up a storm to us in Ocean City, MD. this summer. We gave them a few fries and that did it. I loved it though. The grandkids have come and gone. We had a great time with them. Ocean City was our last week together and Ian loved the pool. He was afraid of the water and each summer in Maine he got a little more brave and a little more brave, but he wouldn’t swim without the life vest on or jump in the water. This summer he was swimming like a fish, underwater! By the time his folks got there for the last two days with us he was cannon-balling into the pool and diving to the bottom in the 8 ft. end to retrieve toys we threw in! His dad couldn’t get over it. He is nine now, you know 😉 they grow up so fast. I love having them to spoil and enjoy for a whole month each summer.

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I was so lucky to get into  poison ivy at the back of the yard a week before we went to the beach and I had it all down my neck and on my arms! It was so embarrassing!

While my friends were here for the eclipse we went up to Elizabethton and Johnson City shopping and sitting at a red light in Johnson City a Ford Expedition rear ended us! Thank goodness she swerved a little at the last minute and hit to one side of my car instead of square in the rear! I’m surprised it didn’t have more damage. She hit us really hard and pushed me out into the intersection. My car is a 2005 Taurus wagon. They couldn’t total it, but there are a couple parts no longer available too! It’s not too bad of damage so we can live with it. We are going to get a new car next year probably anyway. Its a great car though, this is our third one. We love it. 2005 is the last year they made them and its getting harder to find one that isn’t high mileage now so we have to come up with something else! I’m just glad she had insurance, not everyone in Tennessee does! Your suppose to but you don’t have to show proof of it to get your license or tags. It’s crazy.

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We’re excited about our church’s new building. It’s almost done and we should be able to move in soon! It’s not real big, I’m afraid we will outgrow it too soon. But that would be a good thing! We are holding a City Worship event in Greeneville in October at a place called The Shed. It’s kind of a public building and grounds that different groups use for lots of different things. There’s Bluegrass bands there every Thursday through the summer for free and there are food trucks etc.

Friday for Agatha Christie’s birthday I went to a play at the Capitol Theater, ‘And Then There Were None‘. It was excellent! Last year they did Mousetrap. Their going to show The Creature From the Black Lagoon and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane for halloween! I LOVE my Capitol Theater!

We are off this week back home to Pennsylvania for nine days. Bossman is golfing with his league. We are taking the new camper and camping instead of staying with someone. It will be nice to have so much time to visit. It’s always hard to fit everyone in. My friend and I are planning on taking a day trip to Shanksville to see the Flight 93 memorial. Did you see Vice President Pence’s speech there on the 11th? It was so good. He said he was in the Capitol at the time the plane would have hit and he would have been killed so they saved his life.

Have you ever read Sarah Ward’s DC Childs books? There are three in the series. I have not. I’ve been following her blog, Crimepieces, though and would like to. Well, I just won all three in a contest she had! Stop over to her blog and check it out!

I’ve hosted the Read Scotland challenge for four years now and really enjoyed doing it over at Goodreads. I’ve read so many wonderful books by Scottish authors. But I’ve decided to not do it next year. One of the gals in the group is going to take over for me though so it will continue. I’m glad for that. I’m going to sign up for a challenge but I won’t have to be ‘large and in charge’!

We’ve always played acey-deucy with our backgammon board so I’ve never learned to play that. Recently I was helping Ian collect gems for a dragon game he plays on his kindle. I installed and played different game apps to certain levels to win the gems. Backgammon was one of them. I had to watch videos on Youtube to figure it out. I kept trying to play the wrong pieces! Its confusing after playing acey-deucy, but I really like it and I’v taught Bossman how to play. We play occasionally, but he prefers acey-deucy. Do you play many games and which ones are your favorite? I love playing games!

I picked up a couple new old books recently, Agatha Christie’s Funerals are Fatal/ After the Funeral in the UK, The Silver Leopard by Helen Reilly. It’s an old Dell paperback with the crime map on the back cover! And Michael Gilbert’s Blood and Judgment. Everyone says they like him so I’ve been picking his books up when I see them. One day I’ll get one read!

Well sweeties, my Green Bay Packers are playing and Bossman is waiting for me to get in there and watch with him so I better sign off for now. Hope your doing well and life is treating you grand! I’ve got a few post scheduled for while I’m gone so you won’t forget me!

XXOO”S

 

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The Day the Falls Stood Still

by Cathy Marie Buchanan

70535321915. Niagara Falls. The dawn of the hydroelectric power era. Seventeen-year-old Bess Heath who has led a sheltered existence as the younger daughter of the director of the Niagara Power Company, meets Tom Cole by chance on a trolley platform and finds herself inexplicably drawn to him – against her family’s strong objections. Tom is not from their world. Rough-hewn and fearless, he lives off what the river provides and has an uncanny ability to predict the whims of the falls like his famous grandfather before him. His daring river rescues render him a local hero and cast him as a threat to the power companies that seek to harness the power of the falls for themselves. As the paths of Bess and Tom become entwined, Bess must make a painful choice between what she wants and what is best for her family and her future.

I picked this book up a little over three years ago! The setting of Niagara Falls (Canada) caught my attention. We use to live just four hours from it and would go there often for little get-aways. The winter was my favorite time, it was a frozen wonderland. Thanks to Cathy @746 books for getting me jump started with reading books that have been languishing on my shelves with her 20 Books of Summer. Who knows how long I would have taken to get to this, if ever!

I love reading a book set somewhere I am familiar with and we have gone into museums there and learned the history of the Falls and the power companies so this was really special for me. Ms. Buchanan really brought the time period alive. Set during the early 1900’s when the power companies were harnessing the power of the Falls and people began to fight back and try to protect the Falls. Tom Cole chief among them. Then he falls in love with a girl whose father is a bigwig at the power plant and a proponent for bringing electricity to the area and Canada.

Incorporated in are many of the early stories of attempts by ‘stunters’ at fame by going over the falls one way or another and heroic true rescues. The character of Tom Cole is loosely based on real life character Red Hill. Ms. Buchanan was born and raised in Niagara Falls, Ontario. At the start of some chapters are actual photos from the day.

Love, adventure, history and a family in distress. A meaty, engaging story. You should get your hands on a copy of this! Ms. Buchanan has a second historical fiction novel out, The Painted Girls, set in belle époque Paris and inspired by the real-life model for Degas’ Little Dancer, Aged 14 and by the era’s most famous criminal trials. I’d like to read that too.

 

In the back of the book there is an author’s note about the story and the history. She states that the amount of water plummeting over the Horseshoe and American Falls is now about 50 percent of the natural flow during the daylight hours of the tourist season and only 25 percent otherwise! I can’t imagine being alive to have seen the Falls in it’s full glory before the power plants diverted all that power! It must have been amazing.

Have you gotten a chance to go the Falls? Summer, winter? What were your thoughts about it?

Spring is in the Air?

We have lots of baby or immature birds in the yard this last couple of weeks! I thought that happened in spring?! Seems to be two different ages of young cardinals. Thought I’d share some of them with you.

Lots of cardinals and doves…

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two young male cardinals and dad. one young dove to the left

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Father and son cardinal and young dove in the middle with two adults

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young male cardinal and dove

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young dove

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Father and son cardinal and young dove to the left

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feeding buddies, dove and cardinal kiddies

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two young cardinals, thinking a male and a female

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August 28 male

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September 6 male

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September 6 male

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two young cardinals. notice the difference in the color of their beaks

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Dad has a seed in his beak for junior

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aw! Daddy’s feeding him

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Young female, no red on her chest

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looks like a youngster feeding a baby!

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Not sure what kind of baby this is but think it is a house sparrow with the mom sitting there with it.

We’ve had a nice size flock of house sparrows hanging around the house for the last month. They’ve pretty much chased off the finches. They love the shrubs in the front of the house and mob the feeders several times a day. Sometimes when I’m sitting at the computer I look up and one is sitting on the outside window sill looking in at me.

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He’s not a baby, but he has a boo-boo 😦

We’ve had a bumper crop of rabbits this year too!

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There was a young Red bellied woodpecker at the suet too but I wasn’t able to get a picture of him. I was sitting outside reading last week and a huge red shouldered hawk (pretty sure that’s what it was) swooped low over top of me and I thought he was going to hit me in the head! He was hot on the trail of a bunny in the neighbors yard, but the rabbit run under a car sitting in the yard and the hawk missed! That was quite an experience!

Juneau, Mendenhall Glacier

‘Mendenhall is one of 38 large glaciers that flow from the 1,500 square mile expanse of snow and ice known as the Juneau Icefield. As the glacial ice accumulates seasonally, gravity pulls the ice down valleys. Slowly and steadily the glacier scouts bedrock, grinding everything to powder or transporting huge boulders on its 13 mile path to Mendenhall Lake.’                 *Forest Service pamphlet

We had a limited time here as we had a whale watching trip to catch so we didn’t get to do any of the wonderful trails that were there to hike. 😦  It is a lovely place. We took a bus ride there and on the way we saw bald eagles sitting on light poles all along the road!  There is a waterfall off to the right of the glacier and a nice walk to it, but we didn’t have time! It would have been nice to have two days in Juneau. Mendenhall Lake is gorgeous. Chilly and clear. A man was wading in it though and said it wasn’t too bad. This was our first look at a glacier and they are spectacular. Later on we got to cruise into Glacier National Park and got up close and personal with a couple of them, but thats for another post!

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A glacier bear in the visitor center…

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A ground cone flower, also called broomrape. The bears eat these…

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One more post on Juneau, the whale watching trip!

Emily Alone

by Stewart O’Nan

11506596 Stewart O’Nan’s  intimate novel follows Emily Maxwell, a widow whose grown children have long moved away. She dreams of visits from her grandchildren while mourning the turnover of her quiet Pittsburgh neighborhood, but when her sister-in-law and sole companion, Arlene, faints at their favorite breakfast buffet, Emily’s life changes in unexpected ways. As she grapples with her new independence, she discovers a hidden strength and realizes that life always offers new possibilities. Once again making the ordinary and overlooked not merely visible but vital to understanding our own lives, O’Nan confirms his position as an American master with.


 

This is the second book in a two book series. I didn’t know that when I picked it up at the book sale. But it does fine as a stand-alone. I do want to go back and read Wish You Were Here though as I really liked these characters and was drawn into their lives.

This story is told through the eyes of Emily Maxwell, an octogenarian (We are never told her age but I’m making an educated guess). Her husband has been gone seven years now. Her children and grandchildren live in different states. She is the last of her neighborhood gang left alive and her only companion is her sister-in-law Arlene, and of course her faithful, also elderly, springer spaniel Rufus. I was amazed at how Mr. O’Nan was able to get inside an elderly woman’s head and speak so eloquently for her. He took the mundane, little things of life and made them shine. You saw yourself in Emily.

She has so little to look forward to, with the knowledge that death is around the corner to her, at her age it colors how she sees everything. All the things I wrestle with in my thought life at my middle age (nearing 60!) I thought I would have resolved by the time I reach her age but I guess not. She wrestled with the same issues. Child- parent relationships, her and her children and surprisingly still her and her mother. Was she a good friend, a good neighbor, her flaws, the changing culture, making peace with what she was and what she always wanted to be. It is a touching tale that I think will speak to everyone who reads it.

This book was set in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania in 2008-2009. I lived thirty minutes or so north of there for many, many years and during the time this novel is set. I knew all the places mentioned in the book, places Arlene and Emily went, streets, neighborhoods, events, Eat and Park! We ate there (not in Pittsburgh, but Beaver Falls. It’s a regional chain) many times and went late at night for their sticky rolls and coffee when the kids came home for a visit. It made it that much more personal for me. I felt like I was going home for a little while. Mr. O’Nan was born and raised in Pittsburgh and he made it come alive on the page. He and I share a birthdate too, although he is three years younger than me.

This is my first O’Nan book, but I’m looking forward to reading all his books! Have you read O’Nan? Which books and which was your favorite?

The Butterfly Cabinet

by Bernie McGill

12444816Vivid, mysterious and unforgettable, The Butterfly Cabinet is Bernie McGill’s engrossing portrayal of the dark history that intertwines two lives. Inspired by a true story of the death of the daughter of an aristocratic Irish family at the end of the nineteenth century, McGill powerfully tells this tale of two women whose lives will become upended by a newly told secret.

The events begin when Maddie McGlade, a former nanny now in her nineties, receives a letter from the last of her charges and realizes that the time has come to unburden herself of a secret she has kept for over seventy years: what really happened on the last day in the life of Charlotte Ormond, the four-year-old only daughter of the big house where Maddie was employed as a young woman. It is to Charlotte’s would-be niece, Anna—pregnant with her first—that Maddie will tell her story as she nears the end of her life in a lonely nursing home in Northern Ireland.

The book unfolds in chapters that alternate between Maddie’s story and the prison diaries of Charlotte’s mother, Harriet, who had been held responsible for her daughter’s death. As Maddie confesses the truth to Anna, she unravels the Ormonds’ complex family history, and also details her own life, marked by poverty, fear, sacrifice and lies. In stark contrast to Maddie is the misunderstood, haughty and yet surprisingly lyrical voice of Harriet’s prison diaries, which Maddie has kept hidden for decades. Motherhood came no more easily to Harriet than did her role as mistress of a far-flung Irish estate. Proud and uncompromising, she is passionate about riding horses and collecting butterflies to store in her prized cabinet. When her only daughter, Charlotte, dies, allegedly as the result of Harriet’s punitive actions, the community is quick to condemn her and send her to prison for the killing. Unwilling to stoop to defend herself and too absorbed in her own world of strict rules and repressed desires, she accepts the cruel destiny that is beyond her control even as, paradoxically, it sets her free.

The result of this unusual duet is a haunting novel full of frightening silences and sorrowful absences that build toward the unexpected, chilling truth.


I loved this novel! Gorgeous writing, wonderful characters, engrossing tale.  I always like a novel written in the dual times with different voices weaving a story together and Ms. McGill is a master storyteller.

First paragraph…

Maddie McGlade   8 September 1968

Anna. You’re the spit of your mother standing there – Florence, God rest her – and you have the light of her sharp wit in your eyes. Give me your hand till I see you better. There’s not much change on you, apart from what we both know. Ah, you needn’t look at me like that. Sure, why else would you be here? I know by the face of you there’s a baby on the way, even if you’re not showing. It’s an odd thing, isn’t it, the way the past has no interest for the young till it comes galloping up on the back of the future. And then they can’t get enough of it, peering after it, asking it where it’s been. I suppose that’s always been the way. I suppose we’re none of us interested in the stories of our people till we have children of our own to tell them to.

This is based on a true story. In the back of my book there is a reader’s guide for bookclub discussion and there are questions put to Ms. McGill. One is ‘What parts of the historical record did you adopt directly?’ She answered that it is hard to say what percentage is fictional and what is more closely tied to fact. The events surrounding the child’s death follow testimonies as related by witnesses at the trial and newspaper reports. Harriet’s backstory is complete invention, and Maddie is an entirely fictional character. The ‘real’ woman in this story is Annie Margaret Montagu. She was an avid horsewoman and horses were her passion. In this tale ‘Harriet’ collects butterflies and that is her passion. There is lots of interesting tidbits about collecting butterflies and Harriet compares people to different butterflies.

I found several things about the true crime online. I would suggest not looking up the true crime or persons online until after you read the book. I looked them up when I first began the book and it colored my view of it I think. I love historical fiction, but it sometimes clouds my thinking about the real vs fiction characters. They seem to vie for space in my brain!

There is a new McGill novel out now, The Watch House, and I’m dying to get my hands on it! Have you read any of her books and what did you think?