Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Forced Hiatus

I can't believe we have yet another computer problem. I will be back as soon as I can: don't go away.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Big Three-Oh

Today our bicentennial baby turns thirty. A milestone for Lucy and in a way for us too. This photo was taken two weeks ago at the party in DC. Yesterday Lucy came home for a birthday/Memorial Day visit and she'll be here until next Sunday. Tonight we will all go out for dinner.

I remember that day in 1976 quite clearly, especially the part where the doctor told me to leave his office and go home. The nurse persuaded him to send me to the hospital and Lucy began a lifetime of grand entrances by arriving a few minutes later.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


We became acquainted with Nancy Ekholm Burkert when the kids were little. I forget which books we read, but her illustrations, with their vibrant color and painstaking attention to detail, brought the stories to life. Somewhere or other Ernie found and purchased a slim volume entitled The Art of Nancy Ekholm Burkert. It contained not only some of her illustrations of The Scroobious Pip by Edward Lear, and Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach, but also a few portraits in the same style. There was a little girl, called Claire, and a small boy whose name was Rand. We have kept the book on the bookcase in the study for over thirty years. I looked at it the other day and admired once again Rand’s image: look at his serious demeanor and the shape of his head.

Surely I was destined to be Theodore’s grandmother.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

History 101

I know: I’ve got a theme going here. In spite of my new found interest in the Civil War, I do not intend to write a kind of 1865 and All That . I just wanted to call attention to a splendid web site I found en route to looking up something else. I came across the Minutes of the House of Lords. I was in a time machine, beamed back to April 15, 1626. I am often more interested in the “how” rather than the “what”, so I was picturing some scribe with a tired wrist hastily trying to capture the goings on as best he could in those pre-Gregg and Pitman days. He lists all the Lords Spiritual and Temporal present in the chamber that day and could have saved himself some ink if he had prefaced the list with “present” rather than the convoluted Latin phrase he used. By the time he got to the list of Lords playing hooky he had learned his lesson and reverted to English.

What was happening that day? A couple of agenda items are mentioned by title only, then it gets a little more interesting. The Apparel Bill, “an Act concerning apparel” was given its third reading, discussed and passed. Next we move on to Irregularities among the Clergy. That got your attention. It too had its sub-heading, “an Act to restrain and prevent some Disorders that are, or may be, in Ministers of God’s Word”. Note the “maybe.” Got to hand it to the British, none of this guilty until proven innocent. But what the problem was, or how it was resolved, remains a mystery. A sub-committee was appointed and they were scheduled to meet six days later in the Painted Chamber.

This site merits further exploration. So much for the days of searching out primary sources, translating them and so on. I was reflecting on the scope of the Internet and musing, "Soon they’ll have the Magna Carta on-line.” Then I checked, and what do you know. . .

Monday, May 22, 2006

Go to the Head of the Class

Godiva got the trivia question correct. The answers are:

  1. John Warner

  2. Elizabeth Taylor

If things had gone well, the violet-eyed one might be sitting in the White House, drinking Earl Grey with Laura and Condi.

Maybe she would have been a sort of distaff member of the club of movie stars turned politicians, rubbing shoulders with Ronald Reagan, Shirley Temple Black and Arnold Schwarzenegger. And Fred Grandy. Remember Fred Grandy?

Ever wonder why the road from Hollywood to Capitol Hill seems to go only one way? Isn’t there a demand for a remake of The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight starring Dick Cheney? What about an updated version of War and Peace featuring Donny Rumsfeld? With a mustache. Surely we need an Americanized version of Love Actually ? Move over, Hugh Grant. Here comes Billy Bob Clinton.

PS. I am sure a lot (both) of my readers knew the answer. They are educated persons, but claim that in spite of quite adequate GRE scores they cannot figure out how to sign on to the Blogger comments. Try again.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

We're Baaaaack

We returned Sunday night. We hit a horrendous storm as soon as we crossed the Ohio border: thunder, lightning, hail and torrential rain. We pulled off the road three times and eventually arrived home to a garden of windblown tulips and runaway hostas and ferns, all of which require—but will not get—immediate attention.

Our trip was anchored by two wonderful events. The first was Emmanuel’s First Communion. Four family members flew in from Italy to be with him: his grandmother, Patrizia, his aunt Laura, who was his godmother when he was baptized in Pisa, Laura’s son, Tommi, and Gody’s sister, Yvonne, whom we had never met before. The day was too short, even though we got to enjoy their company at a celebration lunch and when we returned to Al and Gody’s house. The second occasion was a joint 30th birthday party for Lucy and her fellow choir member, Franklin, given by another delightful member of the choir. It featured a whisky tasting—my first Laphfroaig. I’ll get some photos up soon.

We had a week between events, and we spent it exploring a bit of Virginia. We did our usual cemetery crawling. Who would have thought that F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda would be buried in a small graveyard down the street from Andrew’s house in Rockville, MD, within earshot of a busy road? Who knew that Patsy Cline was a product of Winchester, VA, a town where George Washington once had an office, and that her grave is just outside the town?

I was most impressed by the Shenandoah National Park. We arrived late in the day and started along the Skyline Drive in heavy fog and cloud. We spent the night in a lodge and by next morning the skies were clear and we could enjoy the fantastic views across the Shenandoah Valley. Today the trails are clearly marked and we could only imagine the logistical nightmare facing Stonewall Jackson as he moved 25,000 men from Antietam to Fredericksburg, crossing the Shenadoah and climbing up and over the Blue Ridge Mountains. The signage was good, even redundant, here, but the sign that seduced us into hiking down Dark Hollow to see the waterfall failed to add the sentence we later found in the National Park Service literature, “Some people find it difficult to climb back up to the parking lot.”

We spent a lot of time getting lost in Richmond, but did make it to the Museum of the Confederacy and the house in which Jefferson Davis lived as President of the Confederacy. Just as I was getting up to speed on the Civil War, we switched centuries and went to Williamsburg. The visit there culminated in an exploration of the nearby College of William and Mary, and then it was back to DC and eventually home.

Trivia question: who is the Senior Senator from Virginia? Who was his second wife?

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Brief Hiatus

I’m off to DC for a week or so and I will see you when I return. If anyone feels the need to find out what is going on in the minds of middle aged women in Grosse Pointe, try Bibliopaloooza or

See you on the other side

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Sorry, Frederick

I have been in the habit in this blog of commemorating the birthdays of my grandchildren. Frederick turned two on April 30! Please don't turn me in to the neglectful grandmothers organization. I did send him a card and a present, and I did phone him on Sunday, but it was another of those senior moments which caused me to omit a posting. I will see him in two days and he will get an extra special hug from me as my way of saying "sorry." Right now he is enjoying the attention of some of his Italian relatives and looking forward to the arrival of more.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Econ 101

I have never understood economics. Nor, apparently, have economists. I mean, if a city needs a bridge, they call in an engineer and voilĂ , his expertise delivers a perfectly workable bridge, if a homeowner wants a nice garden, he hires a landscaper and a yard is designed and constructed, if the bathtub leaks…you get the idea. An expert is summoned, the problem is fixed.

Not so with economists. When they are consulted, whether by towns, states or governments, they mutter on about Keynes and the GNP and interest rates, but nothing ever seems to happen. The government used to trot out Alan Greenspan every few months and hope we got so bored that we stopped worrying.

Specifically, I do not understand the economic viability of marketing by catalogs. I have bought the occasional item from Lands’ End*, Eddie Bauer and merchants of that ilk. They reward me with a steady stream of catalogs. Almost weekly. We must have passed the break even point. They refuse to number their catalogs. Then I could throw away #40 when I receive #41, but I have no idea if “late spring” supercedes “early summer”.

They can’t make a lot of money this way. At least from me. So they warn you that they will make your name available (translation, sell it) to a few select companies. Usually this results in a slew of catalogs from companies that sell similar merchandise. But not always. I recently became the proud owner of

The Sausage Maker® Inc. catalog. How did this happen? I bought a present for Marcie from Lands’ End, but did that send out the vibe that I was a potential client for hog casings or a beef bung? Ernie ordered pants from Eddie Bauer. Maybe that caught the attention of a sharp marketing executive (Hey, Keith, here’s a guy from Grosse Pointe who ordered flat fronts in British khaki. That sort is always in the market for a gambrel** or a stainless steel belly spreader. Let’s sell his name to those sausage guys.) I probably should call and tell them that Grosse Pointe folk tend to like monograms, so they should come up with a line of monogrammed belly spreaders. I have ordered several wedding presents lately on-line, but I don’t recall any of the happy couples including a meat bone duster on their registry. I won’t be ordering anything from these people. Maybe they will send me their summer catalog. Or will it be the “early summer” catalog?

Our jar of breakfast marmalade reads:

Wilkin and Sons Ltd.

I bet Mr. Wilkin hasn’t sold her name to a company that makes brown smoked collagen sausage casings.

* Yes, I know the apostrophe is wrong. Lynne Truss takes them to task in Eats Shoots and Leaves.

** Gambrel was a new one on me. It is derived from the Old North French gamberel, from gambe leg, from Late Latin gamba. It is a stick or iron for suspending slaughtered animals.