iPhoneography: Baby got books

8 12 2017

Yep, she sure does! (Love my new supersize mug)

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved. iPhone 6s / Snapseed app effect & border)

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It’s all my father’s fault…

19 07 2013

…my obsession with collecting books. You can read all about my “biblioholism” in Marisa Sarto’s interview with me in the summer 2013 issue of Celebrate Home Magazine! She also shot images in my library to illustrate the feature. I wrote an accompanying article, “Alas, Poor Borders, I Knew You…,” an ode to Borders Books & Music. Michael wrote a lovely essay about how his parents fostered his love of reading in, “Why I Love Reading.” Check out all these book-related articles by downloading the issue free in the links below. Visit our website to download previous issues at http://www.celebratehomemagazine.com.

View the issue as reader spreads (my favorite!):

CHM Summer 2013 Spreads

View the issue as single pages (suitable for printing):

CHM Summer 2013 Single Pages

Splurge and purchase a beautiful print copy on magcloud.com (no markup; at cost + shipping):

http://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/600404

Help us spread the word! Share Celebrate Home Magazine with your family and friends.

Photography and design by Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Rampant Biblioholism





Re-post: Alas, poor Borders, I knew you…

26 11 2012

Originally posted 11.16.2011

I was at Home Depot last week, parked in the upper level garage, when I noticed this guy in a cherry picker removing the last vestiges of our local Borders. The last evidence that it ever existed. We frequented this Borders for so many years. It was our place to go after dinner on Saturday nights. Sometimes we would be out riding around and we would say at the same time, “Wanna go to Borders?” When our friends Carmen and George still lived in Virginia, we would go to dinner (usually Mexican at El Paso) and straight to Borders afterward—scattering in four different directions, then returning with an armload of books.

Borders enticed me to part with my money many a time, but I have a confession to make. More often than not, I only purchased when I possessed a 40 or 50% coupon or if there was a discount book that I simply had to have off their remainder racks. Okay, I confess. I’m a magazine junkie, too, so it was not uncommon for me to go in and spend $40 on photography, craft and gardening magazines in one visit—until I buckled down and learned to subscribe to them cheaper. I was just one of the many bookstore regulars who would occasionally look at a book, write down the title and price, then go order it for 25-40% less on Amazon. For this, Borders, I apologize. However, I talked to one of your loyal salespeople and she told me it was poor management that got you in the end. That relieved me of at least some of my guilt. (Although truth be told, I contributed to your success for many years—it’s not my fault you chose to squander it recklessly!)

So, as a tribute to you, dearly departed Borders, I offer my Top 10 Memories (in no particular order) throughout the years.

Memory #1: Borders in Tysons Corner, one summer evening. Scores of coffee table books stacked up against the windows. Each marked with that lovely red triangular-shaped sticker—$1. $1? It can’t be. Gorgeous color books on every subject imaginable (some interesting, some not so much). I promptly buy one of each. Yes, you read that right. One of each. It takes four trips for me and Michael to carry my loot out of the store. Most topics were of interest to me; those that were not could surely be gifts for someone else, no? It is my fondest moment shopping at Borders. We would go on to find other instances where beautiful books were marked that low, but this excursion was magnificent in its quality and range of subjects. It certainly doesn’t help that in my profession, I’ve actually designed books on numerous occasions—I’ve been known to buy a book solely for its brilliant presentation. Besides, who doesn’t need an oversized book about the history of the John Deere tractor for just $1? I still have dents in my forearms from holding overstuffed plastic carts while in line. Truly good management would have provided those little mini-grocery carts for biblioholics like me. I’m just sayin’.

Memory #2: Michael catches up on his zzzzzz’s in a public forum—ah, fond memories of finalizing my (seemingly random) selection for the evening, then heading to find Michael. Where would I find him tonight? Battling cyborgs in the science fiction aisle? Woodworking? Contemplating learning more about the harmonica, lap harp or guitar? Considering hydroponics or welding as a sideline? Pondering on whether we already owned this particular one-pot cookbook? Honing his wilderness survival skills in the nature section? Having an overpriced coffee and skimming through books he didn’t plan on purchasing in the coffee shop? Wherever he was, he would invariably be nested in a comfy chair, head bowed, an open computer book in his lap. Asleep.

Memory #3: When we first learned just a few of our area Borders were closing, we took advantage of the closing sales. As usual, the discounts came painfully slow, seemingly like this: Now going out of business—everything in the store—10% off (Really Borders? 10%? How bad do you really want to close?), then week after week finally progressing to 60 then 70% off. Thank you for finally breaking the 70% barrier and filling in those gaps on my shelves (as if there were any gaps).

One would think there wouldn’t be much to choose from at that point. Au contraire! We are fascinated by virtually any subject (just call me a bower bird). Of course, there are exceptions—anything mathematical immediately sends me back to painful days in college, wondering how I could finagle a diploma without passing math that final year. I did graduate (bless her little heart) and it did not involve special favors to any professor—although if you had told me at the time that it was the only way I would graduate, I am not ashamed to admit I would have given it serious thought. I am fairly adept at many things; aptitude with numerals isn’t one of them.

Memory #4: My father was the bearer of the bad news: All Borders were closing. Deep down, I subconsciously knew it was coming. Mercy, I was in such denial. No Borders? Where would we buy an overprized hot chocolate with yummy foam, white chocolate shavings and that cute little chocolate stick in the middle (even in the summer)? Where else could I buy yet another obscure cookbook for just $1.99? I still possess A Taste of Eritrea (really, Cindy?) among my culinary tomes. This is particularly funny, given that I cook maybe once a month and only if you can catch me in that kind of domestic mood.

Michael and I hit every single still-open Borders once the discount got to 60% and higher. Our best purchases were three short chrome bar stools covered in black pleather. Now we have some of the Borders coffee shop ambiance in my craft room. And you know those black plastic divider labels with the circular tags that stick out from each section? I scored a complete set for my own library—one for each letter in the alphabet. Just 25 cents each! (You do the math; you know how I am with numbers.)

Memory #5: Borders was one of the first stores (to my recollection) that let you listen to the music of select artists. I fell in love with Eva Cassidy’s voice when she was a staff selection and I eventually bought everything she recorded in her short life. Thanks for introducing me to Tingstad and Rumbel, Cheryl Wheeler, Katie Melua, Lara Fabian, Christine Kane and Tina Arena as well.

Memory #6: Free coffee grounds for my garden. Thank you for enriching my little paradise for so many years, Borders.

Memory #7: Lindt white chocolate balls, impulse buys at checkout. 3 for $1. I was visiting my family one Christmas and my dad and I went to a Borders. I bought three and handed him one. He hadn’t ever had one and the look on his face when he bit into one was priceless. All he said, with his voice trembling, was “oooooooooooooohhhhhhh.” I only had one complaint, Borders. When you sell them 3 for $1 and there are two people involved, it’s virtually impossible to evenly split that third one without getting greedy with the oozy (and best) part!

Memory #8: Ah, love me some 40-50% off coupons in my e-mail. And Borders Bucks. And Borders Rewards Plus. And free drink coupons. They may have been part of why you went out of business, Borders, but they did not go unappreciated. These were the times when I could justify buying that lovely coffee table book about fancy chickens or one of Martha Stewart’s many visually arresting “look what I have that you don’t” books. And oh how you discounted those gardening books. You’re the main reason my shelves are overflowing with hundreds of books on that very subject (and no, I will not tell you just how many). Although you are gone from my life, Borders, I will always love you more than Barnes & Noble. They are now the only game in town, and although I am forced to frequent them now, I will do so with a wee bit of disdain. And by the way, I know you probably profited by selling them that membership list with my name on it, but unless they’re going to start sending me 50% off coupons, I am ignoring their repeated attempts to lure me in completely.

Memory #9: Finally, when the periodicals hit 80% off, I could afford one issue each of those $15 craft and foreign Photoshop magazines I always avoided!

Memory #10: And my final memory…my very last visit to a Borders. It was in Woodbridge, Va at the end of summer. I drove by and saw “last day” on the storefront. (How could I not stop?) As I got closer, I saw “everything 2 for $1.” Then the “2” was crossed out and “4” was written over it. Everything was 4 for $1. Really? Surely there wasn’t much left at that bargain, right? Think again. After passing over the romance novels and books written entirely in Spanish, I scored enough books to spend $4.50 total. At those prices, I even considered a book on math (but only for a nanosecond). I’m currently 62 pages into how Chastity become Chaz. (Bower bird, remember?)

AFTERTHOUGHT: I neglected to thank Michael for all those wonderful $50 and $100 Borders gift cards he begifted me throughout the years on various occasions—birthdays, anniversaries and Valentine’s Day. Those cards are the reason why my library is topped off with oversized, gloriously illustrated books whose sole topics are snowflakes, penguins and succulents (to name an obscure few). Though some might find it an impersonal gift, he is a man after my own heart. Only a biblioholic would truly understand. I just had someone comment that they didn’t know all the stores had closed and that they guessed they could no longer use their gift card. How in the world do you keep one that long? Mine were spent before I could say thank you to the giver!

CHIME IN! Do any of my fellow biblioholics have any treasured stories about frequenting Borders? Leave a comment and I’ll compile fodder for a future posting!

PREVIOUS COMMENTS:

From composerinthegarden.wordpress.com: A witty and fond look at a once great place to gather. Here in the rural suburbs, it was a beacon of civilized life and a favorite gathering spot, complete with live music on Fridays. Now sorely missed. Thanks for the great post!

From jntquigley.wordpress.com: Great ‘farewell to Borders’ post! I miss it terribly, also. It was always my favorite getaway place on my day off or after work.

From thatgirlwhit.wordpress.com: saddest. thing. ever.

From barbaragarneaukelley.wordpress.com: Cindy: What a lovely post! And, I have been the lucky recipient of some of the bargain books you have bought over the years.

From thekingoftexas.wordpress.com: Loved every word of it, and you aren’t exaggerating about the countless books and magazines and various ephemeral items such as the white chocolate you grudgingly shared with me. I should know, because I’ve staggered out with many a load of books for you—in fact you have a large box of books that has been in the closet waiting for you.

The way I remember the white chocolate was that you consumed two of the three pieces before you asked if I wanted one.

One more thought: Do not ever chide me for the length of my postings—never, I say, never, never, never! You used 1635 words (I speed-counted them in blocks of 25) You could have just said, “I bought a lot of books and other stuff on sale when Border’s went out of business.”

Just look at the amount of ink and paper you used—this was so not green!

All seriousness aside, this was a great posting and a glorious tribute to a worthy organization. You done good, ija de mio.

From Dan: How Chastity became Chaz? Shall I draw you a picture?!





Alas, poor Borders, I knew you…

16 11 2011

I was at Home Depot last week, parked in the upper level garage, when I noticed this guy in a cherry picker removing the last vestiges of our local Borders. The last evidence that it ever existed. We frequented this Borders for so many years. It was our place to go after dinner on Saturday nights. Sometimes we would be out riding around and we would say at the same time, “Wanna go to Borders?” When our friends Carmen and George still lived in Virginia, we would go to dinner (usually Mexican at El Paso) and straight to Borders afterward—scattering in four different directions, then returning with an armload of books.

Borders enticed me to part with my money many a time, but I have a confession to make. More often than not, I only purchased when I possessed a 40 or 50% coupon or if there was a discount book that I simply had to have off their remainder racks. Okay, I confess. I’m a magazine junkie, too, so it was not uncommon for me to go in and spend $40 on photography, craft and gardening magazines in one visit—until I buckled down and learned to subscribe to them cheaper. I was just one of the many bookstore regulars who would occasionally look at a book, write down the title and price, then go order it for 25-40% less on Amazon. For this, Borders, I apologize. However, I talked to one of your loyal salespeople and she told me it was poor management that got you in the end. That relieved me of at least some of my guilt. (Although truth be told, I contributed to your success for many years—it’s not my fault you chose to squander it recklessly!)

So, as a tribute to you, dearly departed Borders, I offer my Top 10 Memories (in no particular order) throughout the years.

Memory #1: Borders in Tysons Corner, one summer evening. Scores of coffee table books stacked up against the windows. Each marked with that lovely red triangular-shaped sticker—$1. $1? It can’t be. Gorgeous color books on every subject imaginable (some interesting, some not so much). I promptly buy one of each. Yes, you read that right. One of each. It takes four trips for me and Michael to carry my loot out of the store. Most topics were of interest to me; those that were not could surely be gifts for someone else, no? It is my fondest moment shopping at Borders. We would go on to find other instances where beautiful books were marked that low, but this excursion was magnificent in its quality and range of subjects. It certainly doesn’t help that in my profession, I’ve actually designed books on numerous occasions—I’ve been known to buy a book solely for its brilliant presentation. Besides, who doesn’t need an oversized book about the history of the John Deere tractor for just $1? I still have dents in my forearms from holding overstuffed plastic carts while in line. Truly good management would have provided those little mini-grocery carts for biblioholics like me. I’m just sayin’.

Memory #2: Michael catches up on his zzzzzz’s in a public forum—ah, fond memories of finalizing my (seemingly random) selection for the evening, then heading to find Michael. Where would I find him tonight? Battling cyborgs in the science fiction aisle? Woodworking? Contemplating learning more about the harmonica, lap harp or guitar? Considering hydroponics or welding as a sideline? Pondering on whether we already owned this particular one-pot cookbook? Honing his wilderness survival skills in the nature section? Having an overpriced coffee and skimming through books he didn’t plan on purchasing in the coffee shop? Wherever he was, he would invariably be nested in a comfy chair, head bowed, an open computer book in his lap. Asleep.

Memory #3: When we first learned just a few of our area Borders were closing, we took advantage of the closing sales. As usual, the discounts came painfully slow, seemingly like this: Now going out of business—everything in the store—10% off (Really Borders? 10%? How bad do you really want to close?), then week after week finally progressing to 60 then 70% off. Thank you for finally breaking the 70% barrier and filling in those gaps on my shelves (as if there were any gaps).

One would think there wouldn’t be much to choose from at that point. Au contraire! We are fascinated by virtually any subject (just call me a bower bird). Of course, there are exceptions—anything mathematical immediately sends me back to painful days in college, wondering how I could finagle a diploma without passing math that final year. I did graduate (bless her little heart) and it did not involve special favors to any professor—although if you had told me at the time that it was the only way I would graduate, I am not ashamed to admit I would have given it serious thought. I am fairly adept at many things; aptitude with numerals isn’t one of them.

Memory #4: My father was the bearer of the bad news: All Borders were closing. Deep down, I subconsciously knew it was coming. Mercy, I was in such denial. No Borders? Where would we buy an overprized hot chocolate with yummy foam, white chocolate shavings and that cute little chocolate stick in the middle (even in the summer)? Where else could I buy yet another obscure cookbook for just $1.99? I still possess A Taste of Eritrea (really, Cindy?) among my culinary tomes. This is particularly funny, given that I cook maybe once a month and only if you can catch me in that kind of domestic mood.

Michael and I hit every single still-open Borders once the discount got to 60% and higher. Our best purchases were three short chrome bar stools covered in black pleather. Now we have some of the Borders coffee shop ambiance in my craft room. And you know those black plastic divider labels with the circular tags that stick out from each section? I scored a complete set for my own library—one for each letter in the alphabet. Just 25 cents each! (You do the math; you know how I am with numbers.)

Memory #5: Borders was one of the first stores (to my recollection) that let you listen to the music of select artists. I fell in love with Eva Cassidy’s voice when she was a staff selection and I eventually bought everything she recorded in her short life. Thanks for introducing me to Tingstad and Rumbel, Cheryl Wheeler, Katie Melua, Lara Fabian and Tina Arena as well.

Memory #6: Free coffee grounds for my garden. Thank you for enriching my little paradise for so many years, Borders.

Memory #7: Lindt white chocolate balls, impulse buys at checkout. 3 for $1. I was visiting my family one Christmas and my dad and I went to a Borders. I bought three and handed him one. He hadn’t ever had one and the look on his face when he bit into one was priceless. All he said, with his voice trembling, was “oooooooooooooohhhhhhh.” I only had one complaint, Borders. When you sell them 3 for $1 and there are two people involved, it’s virtually impossible to evenly split that third one without getting greedy with the oozy (and best) part!

Memory #8: Ah, love me some 40-50% off coupons in my e-mail. And Borders Bucks. And Borders Rewards Plus. And free drink coupons. They may have been part of why you went out of business, Borders, but they did not go unappreciated. These were the times when I could justify buying that lovely coffee table book about fancy chickens or one of Martha Stewart’s many visually arresting “look what I have that you don’t” books. And oh how you discounted those gardening books. You’re the main reason my shelves are overflowing with hundreds of books on that very subject (and no, I will not tell you just how many). Although you are gone from my life, Borders, I will always love you more than Barnes & Noble. They are now the only game in town, and although I am forced to frequent them now, I will do so with a wee bit of disdain. And by the way, I know you probably profited by selling them that membership list with my name on it, but unless they’re going to start sending me 50% off coupons, I am ignoring their repeated attempts to lure me in completely.

Memory #9: Finally, when the periodicals hit 80% off, I could afford one issue each of those $15 craft and foreign Photoshop magazines I always avoided!

Memory #10: And my final memory…my very last visit to a Borders. It was in Woodbridge, Va at the end of summer. I drove by and saw “last day” on the storefront. (How could I not stop?) As I got closer, I saw “everything 2 for $1.” Then the “2” was crossed out and “4” was written over it. Everything was 4 for $1. Really? Surely there wasn’t much left at that bargain, right? Think again. After passing over the romance novels and books written entirely in Spanish, I scored enough books to spend $4.50 total. At those prices, I even considered a book on math (but only for a nanosecond). I’m currently 62 pages into how Chastity become Chaz. (Bower bird, remember?)

AFTERTHOUGHT: I neglected to thank Michael for all those wonderful $50 and $100 Borders gift cards he begifted me throughout the years on various occasions—birthdays, anniversaries and Valentine’s Day. Those cards are the reason why my library is topped off with oversized, gloriously illustrated books whose sole topics are snowflakes, penguins and succulents (to name an obscure few). Though some might find it an impersonal gift, he is a man after my own heart. Only a biblioholic would truly understand. I just had someone comment that they didn’t know all the stores had closed and that they guessed they could no longer use their gift card. How in the world do you keep one that long? Mine were spent before I could say thank you to the giver!





Iron Chef Bobby Flay and the Sneeze Guard Heiress

21 09 2011

This afternoon Barbara and I went to the Westfield Annapolis Mall in Annapolis, MD for a booksigning by Iron Chef and author Bobby Flay at the Williams-Sonoma store. You can learn more about Bobby Flay here.

I have watched every season of the Next Food Network Star, so it was fun to meet one of the judges/hosts in person. Unlike a few well-prepared line-waiters, we did not bring a folding chair. That would have come in so handy. We did get a chance to sample several things from the cookbook—Williams-Sonoma salespeople brought around samples of a pumpkin soup with toasted pumpkin seeds, chives and cranberry-maple creme fraiche (delicious!), a red velvet cupcake (good!), hot potato chips with blue cheese sauce (yum!), and apple chopped salad with toasted walnuts, blue cheese and pomegranate vinaigrette (really, really tasty!).

We stood in line beginning about 1:00 p.m. until we finally got into the store to meet him and have him sign our copies of his latest book, Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain Cookbook. How’s that for perseverance? The last image I shot was time stamped 15:34:36, so we waited exactly 2 hours, 34 minutes and 36 seconds to get the photo of Barbara and Bobby below! Barbara did get a chance to mention to Bobby that she is a Sneeze Guard Heiress (to learn more about that story, click here). Barbara had him sign my book as well, but I had to get the shots! At last count, there were more than 200 copies sold when we made our way through the chain in the store. (Jeff Evans—you would be happy to know that Bobby shares your love of black and white Converse sneakers. He be stylin’!) Check out Barbara’s blog, Kelley Hospitality, here.





National Geographic Live! events: Don George interviews Frances Mayes and Andrew McCarthy

30 06 2011

On April 12 Michael and I attended one of two travel writing lectures, part of the National Geographic Live! series. At the reception prior to the lecture, we feasted on Italian appetizers (an unexpected surprise, and welcomed since we hadn’t eaten dinner first!).

Frances Mayes was the guest author that evening. Mayes is the best-selling author of Under the Tuscan Sun and Bella Tuscany. Her recent book is Every Day in Tuscany, which chronicles her latest renovation project—a 13th-century house in the mountains above Cortona.

National Geographic Traveler editor Don George hosted the interview. George is a legendary travel writer who has worked as a travel editor at the San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle and was the Global Travel Editor of Lonely Planet Publications. His books include The Lonely Planet Guide to Travel Writing, The Kindness of Strangers, Tales from Nowhere, By the Seat of My Pants, and his latest book, A Moveable Feast. He also writes the “Bookshelf” column in National Geographic Traveler magazine.

We thoroughly enjoyed the interview. Frances Mayes weaves a verbal tale as well as she writes one and Don George asked a wide range of questions about her life in Italy and her writing process. I learned that Mayes was born and raised in Georgia, where many of the relatives on my mother’s side live. During the book signing, I got a chance to chat with her about Swan, the town she lived in. I told her that as a child I spent a few weeks every summer in Georgia with my maternal grandmother and various aunts, uncles and favorite cousins. Mayes and her husband now divide their time between their homes in Cortona and North Carolina. We bought several of her books and she signed them for Michael while I got the record shot. Check out her website and journal here.

On May 12 we attended the second lecture in the series. Don George conducted the interview with actor/director (and now award-winning travel writer) Andrew McCarthy (what girl didn’t crush on him in his younger days…hello?). While I was able to get some shots during the Mayes lecture, the McCarthy lecture was being filmed and the audience was specifically told “no photos.” Bummer. I had my gear with me, of course, and was all set with my ISO at 2000 or something like that, but I didn’t want to risk getting thrown out. So, no photos of the older (but still as handsome) McCarthy.

McCarthy is a two-time Lowell Thomas Award winner and was named the 2010 Travel Journalist of the Year. He discussed his acting and directing career at length, but then the conversation (finally!) shifted to how he got involved in travel writing. At the end, the mic was opened for the audience to ask questions, and brave little me had the perfect question ready (after working up much-needed courage)—“Are you a published photographer, too? Do you take a camera with you on your travels?”

One of the National Geo employees saw me raise my hand and came down to kneel by me while McCarthy answered a question from the other side of the room. Before I could ask the question, another attendee stole the question right out from under me. Bummer. McCarthy’s (paraphrased) answer: “No, not really.” (This would have been a very short interaction with him!) Apparently National Geo either has someone travel separately or must use existing stock to illustrate some of the places he writes about. While he has had photographers travel with him, he said he much prefers traveling solo.

Learn more about his acting career (St. Elmo’s Fire, Pretty in Pink, Weekend at Bernie’s, and Mannequin, to name a few) and directing career (Gossip Girl and several theater productions) and read some of his writing on his site here.

Read his profoundly moving essay, “Going Back In,” which he wrote for the August/September 2009 issue of National Geographic Adventure. You’ll find that article by clicking here, then click on the Adventure magazine cover in the second row.





From my library: The Hunting Years

3 05 2011

In June 1983, while working as a fashion illustrator for Jones & Jones, an upscale department store in McAllen, Texas, I accompanied my friend Andrea (also the store’s book buyer) to the American Booksellers Association convention in Dallas. (This was the same convention where I got up close and personal with several celebrities who had released books at that time: Dick Cavett, Erma Bombeck, Shirley MacLaine (can’t believe I actually found a recap from People magazine of her actual breakfast talk here!), Art Buchwald, Leo Buscaglia (‘King of the hug’ author—and yes, he did hug me, unsolicited), Leroy Neiman, Lana Turner and Richard Simmons (got a hug from him, too). I had them all autograph my badge; wish I knew where I squirreled away that item!) In the exhibit hall I picked up an “advance reading copy” of The Hunting Years, a novel by David Kranes. It was later published by Peregrine Smith Books in 1984.

Here’s the synopsis on the back: Hunt is an artist. To his wife Leah, he is an enigma. To his young sons, he is merely “sometimes weird.” In this melancholic/comic third novel, David Kranes gives us Hunt as an artist and family man trying to reconcile the life in his imagination with his life in The World.

Obviously I loved this book—it is still in my library after all these years. I’m not sure if it’s because I can somewhat identify with Hunt “trying to reconcile the life in his imagination….” or just because there are so many passages that are just painfully poetic. After I read it, I could envision it being translated into movie form. (I felt the same way after reading Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees, and voila! the producers read my mind and the movie materialized a few years later. And Hollywood, if you’re still listening, how about a film adaptation of James McBride’s book, The Color of Water?)

In my favorite passage in The Hunting Years, Hunt’s wife Leah, who loves feeding the birds outside their home, is watching the weather suddenly change from sunny to a full-blown ice storm. She had put out food for the birds just before the drastic change in weather and twenty minutes later she returns to the window and sees the birds frozen in place on the lawn.

Hunt! It was Hunt! Hunt had done this! Somehow it was all connected in her mind. And all confused. All of Hunt’s sorry seekings and indecisions had made a heaven, had made a sky that acted with such swift and stupid cruelty. Leah ran outside. No birds moved. It was thirty degrees, another upswing, and sun broke everywhere, splashed carelessly through trees and all over the yard. It made no sense. Leah moved in one direction. Then another. Her throat unwound sounds. She was a murderess! She made a word: “…Bird?” But the world was motionless. No wind even. The food globes hung around like still crystal from their strings. Unable to bear any more complicity, finally, Leah bent and snatched up a glistening husk, an evening grossbeak in its shell of ice, and hurled it, high as she could, into the white pine branches. It was a dozen forms of denial, the act. But it was fury and rage, too. It was terrible anger. But a miraculous thing happened. The boughs of the pine delicately brushed and cracked open the ice. And it dropped away. Like pieces of the finest wineglass, bough to bough, the casing fell. And the bird…! Leah’s mouth swung open. It was as though, ice free, its down and feathers radiated from some center, took on a shape, substance, grew. Leah thought she was imagining. She believed that the madness she had thought possible throughout the whole winter had arrived. But the bird rose! Wings unshackled, it assumed the air. And its freedom…and its flight…were both real. Leah shrieked a new, wild, victorious scream. She ran from imprisoned bird to imprisoned bird, falling repeatedly but lifting and unfurling them high, high into the releasing pine. Now the temperature was thirty. Now above. The sun grew generous; there was a new benevolence in the air. Fractured ice crystals fell, sounding like windchimes. Another grossbeak took flight! A chickadee! A junco! Wings beat! and Leah was spinning and falling and hurling but shouting, “Fly!” to the birds. And, “Fly!”

Although this book is rather old, I did find this excellent review below by Miriam Berkley on the The New York Times website: “Like the ambitious and provocative novel he inhabits, the hero of The Hunting Years is brilliant and elusive. An artist living on a New Hampshire farm, Hunt is a well-intentioned man but not easy to deal with as he wanders through life seeking his proper relationship to the world. His paintings vary widely in both the style and subject matter, reflecting his state of mind. He fantasizes frequently, communicates erratically and equally exasperates his wife, Leah, and his paramour, Anne. (The affair with Anne is brief—the traits that make Hunt a difficult husband, especially his inability to let another person get close, also make him a frustrating lover.) One of two young sons observes, ”Sometimes dad lives on another planet.” When the novel opens Hunt is in his ”Blue Period,” a time of emotional and artistic paralysis during which his canvases remain empty and his marriage goes sour. One morning he awakens literally paralyzed and unable to open his eyes; a doctor’s punch in Hunt’s solar plexus finally unclenches them. Later, while visiting London, he tries to slit his wrists. The landlady at the rooming house tells him, ”don’t be blue,” and upon returning home Hunt follows her injunction and begins painting outsized fruits and vegetables in brilliant colors. As Hunt’s adventures continue—he travels to Las Vegas, Nev., and Tucson, Ariz.—we witness the gradual emergence of his capacity for love. And along the way, there are some wonderful set pieces and humorous scenes—a sendup of the art world, for instance, in which Hunt works as a ”ghost painter,” the visual equivalent of a ghostwriter, and produces a series of paintings that he cannot acknowledge, or the description of Hunt’s turning to minimalism as a way of life and art after being accused of excess. David Kranes’s prose is spare and lovely, his portrait of Hunt as well as that of Leah is compelling, even if at the end his hero remains mysterious. In the final scene Hunt realizes, ”this World is too large. It’s too vast. No wonder, for a while, I was painting only avocados.” Nearly killed in an accident, he’s glad simply to be alive, and thinks, ”It was all startling.” Readers following Hunt’s adventures will agree.”





Baker’s Dozen Link Love

3 11 2010

1. Joe McNally: Common Mistakes by Photographers
One of my favorite photographers, Joe McNally, created a list of common mistakes people make when starting out in photography. Go check out this great post here:
http://www.joemcnally.com/blog/2010/11/02/mistakes-2/

2. Larry Becker’s Cheap Shots
Through Scott Kelby’s blog (love him, too!), I learned about Larry Becker and his new DIY blog, Larry’s Cheap Shots. This blog resulted from his regular segment on the photography web-based tv show, DTownTV. He offers great DIY projects and inexpensive solutions to your photographic needs. Visit his regular blog, also a great site, here: http://lbecker.com/blog/

3. Dan Williams, Bird Photographer
I met Dan Williams, bird photographer extraordinaire, when he was exhibiting during a Craftsmen’s Classic Art & Craft Show at the Dulles Expo in Chantilly, Virginia last year. I had the chance to talk with him at length about his photography career, including his choice of equipment—the full frame 24.9mp Sony A900. After seeing his work, I have concluded that there is no one better at this genre—so I’m leaving avian photography to him! His work is clean, graphic and filled with color. He describes his approach to composition in his blog post, Keeping It Simple Can Produce the Best Results, here. Another insightful post, Breaking the Laws of Nature Photography, can be found here. Check out his website here and his blog here.

4. Bob Krist’s Compact Location Lighting Kit
After seeing freelance photographer Bob Krist on the Nikon Creative Lighting System video, I decided I had to put together a compact lighting kit like his. My only change was a cheaper travel case—although now that I see his Stormcase has wheels, I’ve got that on my wishlist again. I already had many of the items; I just needed to add some of the accessories—such as the smaller collapsible light stands and shorter umbrellas. (The video is well worth the price—lighting guru Joe McNally and Bob Krist show the amazing results you can accomplish using Nikon Speedlight flashes on location. Check out the DVD here). Krist works on assignment with magazines such as National Geographic Traveler, Smithsonian and Islands. His website is beautiful—check it out here. I traveled with my newly-assembled kit for the first time when I photographed musician Richard Reed in Providence, RI, earlier this fall. I was on assignment for Cochlear Americas and posted the results of our two photo sessions here. Richard wrote an article for the November/December 2010 issue of the Hearing Loss Magazine, which went to print last month. I’ll be posting a recap on that issue shortly.

5. Erik Gauger’s Notes from the Road
I discovered travel writer and photographer Erik Gauger’s blog a few years ago and have had the pleasure of corresponding with him via e-mail regularly. I will be interviewing him and profiling his career in a future post on this blog, so stay tuned. His website is not only beautiful, it will make you want to hit the road in search of adventure! His blog has garnered accolades: “Unexpected frontier of the travel blogosphere…” —Boston Globe; “Sumptuous Site” —Time Magazine; and “The best-looking blog we’ve seen” —Forbes Magazine. Erik’s blog is definitely a must-see, must-read virtual trip. Find out why at http://www.notesfromtheroad.com/

6. Kolby Kirk’s Travel Journal
I met webmaster/graphic designer/photographer/traveler Kolby Kirk through my blog. Check out his newest blog—The Journal. He has several other websites that can help you plan your own travel adventures. Click here to peruse that list.

7. It’s (K)not Wood
I have a thing for anything faux bois (fake wood), from vases to dishes to table runners, so I love Emilyn Eto and Jonathan Lo’s It’s (K)not Wood, the blog “dedicated to all things faux bois.” Oh, and did I mention I also love anything emblazoned with leaves, trees, twigs, birds, bird eggs, bird nests, or bird feathers, too?

8. The Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies
If you’re an “old school” graphic designer, you’ll appreciate the trip down memory lane in Lou Brooks’ The Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies. Click on any item from “the ghosts of graphic arts past” to relive its use.

9. The Pantone Hotel
On my list of places to rest my weary head, I just added The Pantone Hotel in Brussels, Belgium. For those of you who don’t know what the heck Pantone is, click here.

10. On my nightstand: A Homemade Life
A few weeks ago, I read A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table, by Molly Wizenberg, the creator of the blog, Orangette. I found myself sniffling in the airport during some of the passages she writes about her dying father, an exuberant gastronomic. Food and memories are intertwined in this short, sweet read. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry…so good, it even made me want to cook—one thing I just don’t do much of, I must confess. Learn more about the book and Wizenberg in this Amazon.com review here. In honor of your father, Molly, I promise to utilize (soon, I promise, soon) my shiny new white KitchenAid mixer—a well-received birthday present last month from my friends Gina, Karen and Rob. I have always thought that if only I had one of these, then I would be a real cook. Guess now I don’t have any excuses to stay out of the kitchen, do I?

11. Matt Bites Blog
I just love food photographer Matt Armendariz’ blog, http://mattbites.com/. His blog tagline reads, “a man obsessed with food, drink & everything in between.” A former graphic designer and art director in the food industry, he is one of the charter members of Martha’s Circle, a selection of lifestyle blogs selected by the editors of Martha Stewart Living. Check out his food & drink, travel and photography portfolios while you’re there. Just reading his recent recipe for Chicken & Potato Patties makes me hungry—oooh, and they include cilantro, one of my favorite herbs!

12. Mark Berkery’s Macro Photography
This site was featured on the “Freshly Pressed” page in WordPress last week—Mark Berkery’s Being Mark blog. His macro photography is jaw-dropping and if you click here, you’ll learn how he gets these amazing shots (it’s not just equipment—he knows technique, too), as well discover that there’s an inexpensive piece of equipment to add to your arsenal to capture images like his—a Raynox Macroscopic Lens. I’ve never heard of this company until now, but was thrilled to find their inexpensive products at Adorama. I first ordered the DCR-250 ($50 + shipping), which allows really high magnification and includes a snap-on universal mount suitable for lens that range from 52mm to 67mm size (I’ll try it first on my Nikkor 105mm micro, but it can be used on any of my lens, macro or not. They can be used on other cameras, too—not just Nikons). After reading the various entries on this Pentax forum here, I decided I also wanted the option of pulling back from my subject, so I also ordered the DCR-150 ($42.95 + shipping). I’ll do some experimenting shortly and will report my findings.

13. And finally, this one is just plain fun!
I learned about HEMA’s site here a few years ago (via graphic designer Chuck Green’s Design Briefs, if I’m not mistaken) and I still think it’s still one of the coolest retail sites online. HEMA is a Dutch department store chain. Unless you’re from the Netherlands, you probably won’t be able to read any of the product names, but wait a few seconds to see the reason this site is so much fun anyway. Do turn up the sound or you’ll miss some of the action. My flight attendant friend Gina has a penchant for visiting grocery stores in her international travels, so I’m sure when she sees this link, she’ll be making plans to patronize HEMA the next time she’s in Amsterdam!





The Year of Living Detailed-ly

28 03 2009

Since early January I have spent a great number of hours unpacking everything we dragged back from Texas and trying to make room for it. In tossing out the old to make room for the new, I came across my green faux leather date book for 1983. At the time I had been out of college for about a year and was working as a graphic designer, illustrator and occasional copywriter for Jones & Jones, an ultra upscale department store.

By “ultra upscale,” I mean there was a really grand marble staircase dead center in the store and the store offered Judith Leiber handbags, Lalique crystal, (I recall a round coffee table priced at $20,000 in the jewelry department), incredibly expensive jewelry and Mont Blanc pens. Not one dress sold for under $200, and of course there was an ample (and avoided by me at any cost) fur department. One of the highlights of my career was being able to bring home $200-300 shoes (they all had to be size 7-1/2, of course) to finish pencil drawings for b&w newspaper ads. That’s the closest I will ever get to shoes that expensive. And yes, I did waltz around in them (on the carpet, of course) on sketching breaks. I have some sample ads from that time—when I locate them in my office, I’ll scan them and share.

Another highlight—when I showed an aptitude for photographing products, they allowed me to transport thousands and thousands of dollars’ worth of jewelry to a warehouse to photograph in a makeshift studio I had set up (me, who wore stuff from Claire’s in the mall). A guard was there behind me when I left the store (and I was actually wearing a few of the pieces), but no one followed me over to the warehouse. At the time I remembered thinking they sure did trust me—but I also feared someone would jump me. I probably had nothing to worry about in the first place—if you saw someone driving a baby blue Chevy Impala (or was it the gold & brown Ford LTD?), with bling on their ears, bling around their neck, and bling dangling from their wrists, would you even give it a second thought that the jewels could possibly be real?

greendiary19831

Later in the year I took a job with my photography mentor, Brian, in Brownsville, Texas. I served as Art Director on Jones & Jones ad and catalog photo shoots that Brian was hired to do. He was a joy to work with and I learned so much from him that when he offered me a job to be his right-hand gal, I didn’t hesitate—even though the commute was 60 miles each way (in that area a 60-mile commute took a hour—in the D.C. area you might get 15 miles under your belt in that time frame, if you’re blessed). We have maintained our friendship ever since. I learned so much the year I worked for him and assisted him on some interesting shoots—photographing an aloe vera farm/processing plant; photographing the world’s largest offshore drilling rig inside and out; photographing land development from a small airplane; and countless other neat experiences. I remember one time I was organizing his 35mm slides and came across a slide of my beloved John Denver standing next to a small plane with his father. Brian had met and photographed him years before! Sorry, I digress…

After just a few weeks of crying about having to fill up practically every other day, Dad gave me his “Panama Brown” VW diesel rabbit (it was pumpkin orange—trust me). He and Mom had relocated to the D.C. area at that time and he didn’t need the car for that job. It was perfect timing. When Dad commuted from our home in Donna to Brownsville to work at the port (in his career as a U.S. Customs Inspector), he would go to Matamoros and buy cheap diesel for the VW (at 12 cents a gallon; he told me he once tested it and determined he got 60 miles to a gallon—in comparison, one would have to spend $30,000 today on a hybrid and get less than 60!). Cheap diesel isn’t very clean and clogs easily, so he told me that if the car started slowing down while en route to work, I would have to pull over and stop, take out part of the back seat out of the car to access the fuel tank with a screwdriver, pick the filter screen out and shake out the gunk. I must have been quite a sight—disassembling my Cindy-rella pumpkin orange coach (um…sorry, Dad….Panama Brown) on the outskirts of a mall parking lot. More than once a stranger stopped to ask me if I needed help. I loved that car, though—I could drive for up to two weeks on just one tank! Disassembling it was quite an accomplishment and made me feel very mechanic-like.

Flipping through the datebook completely distracted me from the task at hand and made me laugh out loud many times. Apparently I was (intermittently and inconsistently) obsessed with recording any or all of the following: who I called or who called me, who came to visit or who I visited, what I wore or ate that day, what errands I ran and whether they were personal or for my job, who I gave money to and got money from, how much gas I put in the car, how many hours I worked on a given day, what movies I watched, and if I exercised or not (I apparently jogged an awful lot during those days—my datebook says so, even if I vaguely remember the pain of doing so). I was also a freelance photographer doing portraits and weddings so often the daily entries were filled with notes about upcoming portrait sessions, putting film into various labs, getting prints out, ordering enlargements, swapping prints for money, who paid and who owed, and delivering prints to people. I also felt it necessary to record whether the pets were fed, what they were fed, and how often. And apparently I had the cravings of a 10 year old because the combination of things I ate on any given day were strange.

One day some random guest at a dinner party might say, “Hey, lemme test your memory—do you remember what you were doing on Wednesday, May 25, 1983?” Armed with this newfound and useless information from my 1983 diary, I could confidently say, “Why, yes. As a matter of fact, I know exactly what I was doing that day!” You don’t know—it could happen.

First, a word of warning—names have not been changed to protect the innocent. And it is written in a stream-of-consciousness style, so it will not win any writing awards, of that I’m certain. I’m just listing a few of the more colorful entries lest I put my visitors to sleep. That is, if that hasn’t already happened….Hey you! Wake up! This is good stuff! Errr…if you have nothing better to do, that is.

LEGEND (AT THIS POINT IN TIME):
Deb
= older sister, Kelley = younger sister, Thelma = Kelley’s best friend and practically my 3rd sister; Rey = Kelley’s boyfriend; Bill = Debbie’s husband; Matt = my boyfriend; Daniel/Eddie/Jimmy/Ray = best guy friends; Margie = best girl friend; Brian = photographer and then my boss; all other names are friends, co-workers, or random people I photographed

Sunday, March 6:
Went with Mom to Brownsville to shoot pics of Las Resacas Condominiums for Dad (who was a part-time real estate agent); ran 1.5 miles with Ed and Jim; my solo photo exhibit “Padre in Color” show starts at McAllen International Museum

Friday, March 6:
Shot transparencies of Lalique bowls and Champagne perfume; worked on jewelry ad; ran one mile with Margie watching; Mrs. White paid $80 for pics; called Faith

Friday, March 18:
Work—a lot of drawing today; dropped off film at Rush labs; hamburgers at Sonic at 1:20; J&J jewelry clerk let me wear an $18,000 necklace, $5,000 bracelet, $21,000 watch, $1200 necklace—WOW! I drove over to photo studio to shoot everything; Jimmy called at work to borrow senior wrap for photos; drop off rolls at Rush for Brian at 6:00; dance at Southern Nights with me, Matt, and Greg to South Texas Wailers

Monday, April 4:
Work, put in trans. roll & 2 rolls C-41 120 color (portraits of family); got paycheck $231; Penny’s at 6:00 run through on lingerie show—I hate this project—it’s driving me nuts; Deb called me at Penny’s and said Fluff had 2 kittens; met Eddie and Jim at track but didn’t run then they came home with me for awhile; called Matt

Friday, April 8:
Fed Phu, Pepper, and Tuffy; finished cosmetic ad drawings; got halftones at Copy Graphics for Ritz proof; Deb called—Penny’s show was good, over $1000 lingerie sold; filled car with $10 gas; called Jimmy & Eddie; ate lunch at Whataburger; print engagement pics with Jimmy at Donna Events office and 8x10s of Andrea; Matt sent red roses, white mums & eucalyptus for our one year anniversary; Jimmy came by 10:30-11:30; Matt called late

Saturday, May 14:
Bought shoes and purse for Thelma for prom and did her makeover; bought almost $40 groceries with Thelma; did nothing else and no one came over (oh wahhhh, poor poor me)

Thursday, May 14:
Mom called in morning; worked on sale ads; called Cyndi’s father to change appt. to Monday at 6:30; lunch with Andy; cut hair with Joe at Barber shop after work (funny thing….this barber only knew how to cut women’s hair like Dorothy Hamill; he couldn’t do any other style—honestly, every girl in Donna, Texas looked a little like Dorothy—that is, excluding me—I looked like Dorothy on a really, really flat hair day. He displayed a wig on a styrofoam head that had half of the wig with normal shoulder-length hair and the other half cut—by him, of course—to show prospective clients what their hair might look like with “The Dorothy Effect” applied); ran 3 miles at track with Jim, Ed, and Pete and one mile from Jim’s and had lemonade (wow—there I am, running again!)

Sunday, May 22:
nothing; clean up; had supper & left at 9:30 pm-ish to Deb’s to chat with Gloria (Sharon’s mum) & Sharon (click on Sharon’s name and you can read about her brush with fame during her singing career–I really do remember the lyrics and the tune to one of the songs she recorded in Nashville—ask me to sing it to you some time); home at 1:30; Rey had house SPOTLESS

Here’s an excerpt (from memory!) from “Leaving You Will Never Mean Goodbye.”

I’m a thousand miles from Dallas
in a small California town
Trying to forget you
and the love I thought I’d found

I sold all of my possessions
for money just to buy some time
Cause I know my leaving you
will never mean goodbye

Wednesday, May 25:
Finished luggage ad; Andrea off; work full time on new father’s day ad; lunch with Jo; home sleep sleep; Ed called Jim there? No; Jim came by about 45 minutes later; Pete & Ed ran in and stayed till 10:00 and I fixed them tea (such a hostess, wasn’t I?); called Matt; Jaime delivered $25; I owe 189.40 not 199.40 as she wrote it

Sunday, May 29:
Sylvia” concert with Debbie, Matt & Bill (Sylvia was the Academy of Country Music’s 1982 female vocalist of the year)

Friday, June 3:
Go to Dallas for book buyer convention with Andrea; Andy took too long, plane pulled away and we almost fell over; she called the stewardess Sugar and the lady gave her the evil eye; Gary royally screwed up our tickets so I’m scheduled for Tahiti—nah; went to Neiman Marcus to look then McDonald’s for dinner (now there’s a contrast—Neiman Marcus and McDonalds); Daniel called about 8:00, saw his apartment, got cokes from filling station then back to hotel

Sunday, June 5:
Andy came in with tickets for Monday author breakfast and pass for me; met Lana Turner (autograph book) and Richard Simmons (autograph, hug, poster & kiss)—with his arms open wide, he yelled out my name when he saw me coming. I was shocked he knew my name! How did you? Whaaaa? Then I remembered I was wearing a name tag. Duh. Met Rosemary Rogers (despite the fact that I am not a consumer of romance novels, I did know who she was) and got book and her autograph; Andy went out with Bob and all; I called Mom and Kell

Monday, June 6:
Breakfast at 8:00 with authors, got autographs from Dick Cavett, Erma Bombeck, Shirley McLaine; picked up big load of books at convention, Leo Buscaglia hugged me and gave me autograph (if you know who Leo was, you know he was well known for encouraging hugs—my friend Andrea told him who I was and he ran up to hug me and I didn’t see it coming. I was shocked that a total stranger would do that; clearly he had me confused with someone else—then he moved away, laughing, and when I saw who he was, it all made sense. My friend Eddie, also a big hugger, was a huge fan of Buscaglia and his books—I remember being so excited to tell him about the hug!); meeting at Adolphus, lunch then met and talked with Art Buchwald in the lobby and got autograph; taxi to airport catch plane—big storm on the way home

Monday, August 1:
Fed Tuffy & Yuki; finished lady teen ad; Matt called; I called university to check if schedule is out; went to Alamo, red light came on, called Rey—had 2 qts of oil put in, $2.50; took car to Rey’s shop and waited for Matt to pick me up; he put 9 rolls of b&w and 1 slide in at Rush Photo for me; bought paper towels, kleenex from TG&Y; Thelma over for a bit; soup yams tea half breast jello; called Becky—designer shoe ad due today; called Shirley at Sun Valley news—ad due Weds.; cleaned up sewing room, dining, kitchen, fed pets again; designed another ad; Matt to picked me up and dropped me off at Rey’s—$87 for car—paid $20 down; cleaned up a bit; Alyce by to look at slides; Tab + cheese crackers + gum







Tomatoes, nasturtiums, herbs and Alzheimer’s

25 08 2008

Hey, I finally found a use for all those plates I’ve collected throughout the years. Photo props!

This is my meager—but no less lovely—edible harvest from this morning. And yes, the Nasturtium flowers are edible, too. These rapidly growing annuals are easy to grow from seed, like full sun to partial shade, come in an array of colors (yellow, orange, pink, red, butter yellow, cream, and mahogany), and have a peppery taste. There are climbing and trailing types available. Nasturtiums are also called Scottish flamethrower or Indian cress. Both the lotus-leaf-like leaves and flowers are edible.

Read this funny and informative post titled, “Nasturtium: The Flower Growing Under False Pretenses,” on Hanna’s This Garden is Illegal blog.

You’ll find growing tips and recipes for Nasturtiums here and here. I cheated this year and bought my tiny seedlings from DeBaggio’s Herb Farm and Nursery in Chantilly, VA. Yes, sometimes I am not a patient gardener! My also-gardening-crazy friend, Karen, introduced me to this family-owned nursery several years ago. We buy most of our herbs and heirloom tomato plants there. (They sell 100 varieties of tomatoes!)

Time for the serious stuff…
In 1975 Tom and Joyce DeBaggio started their family business selling home-propagated herb and vegetables from their backyard in Arlington. Author of several herb books (all of which I own—duh, no big surprise), Tom was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in 1999 at the age of 57. NPR interviewed DeBaggio on their All Things Considered program in May 2005 here and April 2007 here. The Alzheimer’s Research Forum wrote about the NPR Audio Interviews in May 2007.

I read his first book, Losing My Mind, published in 2003 by The Free Press/Simon & Schuster, Inc., after my father shared his observations about conversations with one of my uncles, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. My father said most of my uncle’s waking hours were spent in the past…in his early years…as a teenager….as a young man…repeating the same story over and over. My uncle passed away a few years ago.

DeBaggio’s follow-up book, When It Gets Dark: An Enlightened Reflection on Life with Alzheimer’s, was also published in 2003. Both of these books, as well as his excellent herb books, are available online here. His son, Francesco, now runs the family business.

A review of Losing My Mind from Publishers Weekly:
“I have a clear sense of history, I just don’t know whether it is mine,” writes DeBaggio in this moving and unusual memoir. The author, who has previously written about his gardening business (Growing Herbs from Seed, Cutting and Root), documents his mental deterioration from Alzheimer’s. Diagnosed with the disease in 1999 at the age of 57, DeBaggio undertook this project in order to increase awareness of this devastating illness from a patient’s point of view. He describes how his gradual loss of memory has impacted his life. For example, after he became confused about how to get to his niece’s house, he realized he had to give up driving a car. The increased loss of language has been extremely difficult for a man who once worked as a journalist and a freelance writer. Interspersed throughout the narrative are DeBaggio’s recollections of his childhood events that may soon be lost to him. He also describes the disease’s negative effect on his wife and grown son. Although DeBaggio provides information on the medical advances that are being made to treat this disease, it is clear that a breakthrough will come too late for him. With this rare first-person account, DeBaggio has made a significant contribution to literature on an illness that currently affects four million Americans.

Photo © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Truly a sad day in the publishing world…

20 08 2008

Michael and I just got back from browsing our local Borders. There was a four-book series in the discount cookbook section and I caught the error immediately. If you don’t see it, then you, my dear friend, need to visit the Grammar Girl‘s site. Real quick like.

I flipped each book over and the title is correct (losing the “are” in the title). No, I didn’t buy it—for many, many reasons: 1) we already have a gazillion cookbooks, 2) I’m still doing the vegetarian thing (gave up chicken and turkey two months ago; beef almost 20 years ago), and 3) even though it was only $2.99 (a bargain for a hard cover cookbook), I simply can’t bring myself to put something like that on my bookshelves. I think it was a British publication—the price printed on the back was in pounds.

I just noticed the type in the circle at the top left—“This book just makes you wanna cook.”

No. This book just makes me wanna weep.

As my father, the Grammar Guru, says….so many errors, so little time to correct them all.

Oh. One more thing. This book cover photo is courtesy of Michael’s camera in his new iPhone 3G. What an marvel that thing is! He e-mailed the photo to me while we were in line to check out. How’s that for service?





From my library: The Flower Farmer

7 08 2008

I just finished reading The Flower Farmer: An Organic Grower’s Guide to Raising and Selling Cut Flowers, by Lynn Byczynski. It was first published in 1997. This revised and expanded book was published this year by Chelsea Green Publishing. If you want to know everything about growing and selling flowers, this is the book for you!

As you may have guessed by many of my postings, I do not live on any substantial acreage (much to my chagrin). I live in a townhouse with pretty good-sized front and back yard—but certainly not a place where I could (successfully) start a cut flower business. Nonetheless, the idea fascinates me and I read everything I can on the subject. Should some mysterious (and wealthy) stranger hand over some land, I want to be prepared and armed with knowledge on what to do with it! I found this book at Borders, flipped through it, put it back. Next visit, took it to the table, ordered a hot chocolate (with the works), flipped through it some more, then put it back again. The next time I put it back, it was on my bookshelf, now part of my massive garden book library.

Although it definitely qualifies as a reference book, I actually read this one cover to cover (it makes for great bedtime reading). Not only is the book well organized (with informative sidebars and cut flower farmer profiles to break up the text), it should qualify as the definitive guide to growing cut flowers, whether for sale or as a hobby. As a graphic designer with many book design projects under my belt, I can appreciate a well-designed book. It’s well written, nicely illustrated, and chock full of beautiful photographs. The profiles are especially interesting—it’s inspiring to read about real people living my fantasy—successfully.

Author Lynn Byczynski is publisher and editor of Growing for Market, a monthly newsletter. With her husband and two children, she operates Wild Onion Farm, a cut flower farm near Lawrence, Kansas. They owned and operated an organic vegetable farm and stumbled into flower gardening in a “happy experiment one summer.” They eventually phased out vegetable growing and went into full-scale flower production and have been doing it for over twenty years.

She begins with “Basics for Beginners,” which describes the work involved in growing flowers, covering annuals, perennial beds, annuals, bulbs, the best flowers for drying, sunflowers, herb bouquets, grasses and grains, vegetables, and foliage. This chapter also includes a brief listing of the best cutting flowers for each region. At the end, there is a profile of Texas Specialty Cut Flowers, a family-owned, Texas Hill Country cut flower farm in Blanco, Texas. It’s not far from where my family lives in San Antonio, so it’s definitely on my list of places to visit the next time I’m down that way!

In Chapter 2, we move on to site and soil, and learn what kinds of crops work for home and garden markets, how to calculate how much compost to use, and making raised beds. At the end, there is a profile of Country Garden Essences Flowers in Watsonville, California. Linda Arietta owns and operates this 10-acre flower ranch that also hosts weddings, events, and floral design classes.

Chapter 3: After the ground is ready, here come the plants! The author shares tips on plant buying, how to grow under lights, benefits of a greenhouse (and how to choose one), starting transplants, and her seed-starting system. She profiles The Fresh Herb Company in Longmont, Colorado.

Chapter 4 covers growing in the field—transplanting, mulching, flowers you can direct seed, fall planting, whether to pinch or not to pinch, weeding, drip irrigation, pest and disease control, and more. Charlotte’s Garden, a specialty cut flower farm in Louisa Country, Virginia, is profiled in this chapter.

Chapter 5 covers how to extend the season in the field with hoophouses and greenhouses. There is a flower calendar, recommended flowers for hoophouses and greenhouses, and a profile of Bear Creek Farms, 200-acre farm that doubles as a resort in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Chapter 6 covers the dried flower garden and market, tips for air drying, preserving, freeze-drying, controlling pests, selling tips, and a profile of Valencia Creek Farm in Aptos, California. Valencia Creek also produces award-winning olive oil!

Chapter 7 covers the benefits of growing woody ornamentals, choosing varieties, planting and growing advice, when to harvest, forcing flowers, and a profile of Star Valley Flowers in Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin. Star Valley Flowers touts itself as “probably the largest bittersweet farm in the world,” and has a neat website with a tour of the farm.

Chapter 8 is all about harvest and post-harvest, with timelines, tools, cutting tips, preserving, holding and blooming times, cooling, and a profile of family-owned Sunnydale Spring Peony Farm in Valley Center, Kansas.

Chapter 9 is my favorite—flower arranging! You’ll learn what flowers need to stay fresh longer, how to choose and prepare containers, how to use floral foam and other ways to anchor flowers, bouquet making, and arrangement basics using color, texture, size and style. She profiles Rosebank Farms, one of the last working family farms in Johns Island, South Carolina (another must for a road trip some day!).

Chapter 10 is all about growing flowers for market, with tips on diversification, developing a market, pricing, figuring out how much to plant, a list of six top-selling flowers, plant scheduling, and more. California Organic Flowers in Chico, California is profiled.

And finally, in Chapter 11, the author covers the flower market: trends, retail florists, servicing local florists, building relationships, wholesale selling, shipping, selling to supermarkets, invoicing and payment, farmer’s markets, subscription programs, pick-your-own scenarios, and growing for the wedding market.

If, after reading this book, you decide to buy some land, put on overalls and gloves, and throw your heart (and blood, sweat, and tears) into this lifestyle, you’ll be aided by a comprehensive list of recommended cut flowers, as well as sources for buying seeds, plants, and all the accoutrements of farming life.

The best thing about the book, aside from her revealing all her trade secrets, is the fact that she doesn’t downplay the fact that it really is hard work (as I suspected). This book so thoroughly covers every single facet of growing and selling cut flowers. I still fantasize about that one day…the executor of a total stranger’s estate tracks me down…and tells me I’m an acreage heir! Highly doubtful, but just in case….I’ll be ready!