Friday, May 31, 2013

Cephalopod Coffeehouse: The Paris Wife

Honestly, I wondered about the wisdom of signing up for a book review blog hop--no matter how awesomely named--taking place the last day of May. It has been a busy month, and I have gotten one step farther behind every day. But! I finished my book last night and am ready to give it a short blurb before reading the much more thoughtful and less last-minute-y reviews from the other Cephalopod Coffeehouse participants.  (Find that list here.)

So, without further ado, The Paris Wife by Paula McLain is a story told in first-person by Hadley Richardson, who is better known as The First Mrs. Ernest Hemingway. She's a woman I knew nothing about, and I was captivated by how this relatively ordinary midwestern gal found herself married to an extraordinary man (Hemingway), living in an extraordinary city (1920s Paris), and befriended by an extraordinary social circle (including Gertrude Stein and the Fitzgeralds). 

From Chicago to Paris to Canada to Pamplona, the down-to-earth Hadley drinks too much, goes to bullfights, has a baby, and weathers the storms of high-society and the moods of her mercurial husband. Throughout it all, her voice remains accessible and true, and the book comes across as genuine and unpretentious. Things don't end wonderfully for Hadley and Ernest, but, considering the man and the times, it could have been much worse.

So if Leo as Gatsby has you wanting more Jazz Age drama, give this book a look this summer. It's a good one for beach or poolside, though it may make you wish for a waiter in a white tuxedo to bring you a drink on a silver tray.

Thanks to Coffeehouse host The Armchair Squid for putting this hop together!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Berthoud Funeral Home...and Arts Center?

When I was a girl, my mother's parents lived in the little town of Berthoud, which is about 30 miles south of Fort Collins. My grandfather was the funeral director at the Berthoud Funeral Home. Growing up as the child of a mortician endowed my mother with a unique perspective and a good sense of humor. In Kansas, her family lived above the funeral home, and she would tell her friends that if the floor collapsed, her bed would land right on the embalming table. 

Thankfully, the Berthoud Funeral Home was separate from the residence. My sister and I visited often, and that arrangement was creepy enough for us. Just knowing that the brick building across the yard housed dead bodies on a regular basis gave us the willies. 

I haven't been to Berthoud in years, but last week when my younger son had a baseball game there, my older son and I walked over to check things out while the team warmed up. I didn't know it years ago, but the house my grandparents lived in is historic. It was built by F.I. Davis, the town's first mayor, who came to Berthoud from the Sunshine mining camp west of Boulder in 1886. I learned this from the plaque out front. The house has been converted to offices, but it was after hours, so I couldn't get inside. 

The funeral home is now an arts center. I tried to keep an open mind, but after a look through the window into the big room where the caskets used to hang out--sometimes occupied, sometimes not--I told my son that no matter how colorful the outside of the building was:

it would always be a funeral home to me.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Photo of the Week: Assembling the Wall

As part of our Memorial Day observances, the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall will be at Veteran's Plaza through Monday. I'd heard about the traveling wall, but I didn't know until recently that it is just 20% smaller than the real wall. The assembly was only half-completed when I stopped by for a picture, but even that was much too long, with way too many names. It's a somber sight. 

The wall will be lighted and guarded 24 hours a day, and admission is free. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Estes Park Jazz Fest

With a couple of budding jazz musicians in the family, we made a point to zip up to Estes Park on Saturday and spend a little time at the 23rd Jazz Fest and Art Walk. Estes Park is a mountain community about an hour's drive from my house. The town is named for Joel Estes, who settled there with his wife and 13 children after striking it rich in the California Gold Rush. 

The altitude makes the growing season too short for farming, but the area has supported many cattle ranches, past and present. in 1903, F.O. Stanley, co-inventor of the Stanley Steamer, came to Estes Park seeking a cure for tuberculosis. He built the luxury Stanley Hotel at a cost of more than half a million dollars. It opened in 1909 and still stands in white magnificence on the hill. It is reportedly haunted, like any historic hotel worth its salt, and was the inspiration for the Overlook Hotel in Stephen King's book The Shining.

Estes Park is surrounded on three sides by Rocky Mountain National Park, and it is a gorgeous setting in every season. Though the Jazz Fest is growing every year, the admission is still free, including parking where available. We enjoyed an excellent jazz guitar summit and then some Brazilian jazz, with the sounds of hummingbirds buzzing by, before the threat of rain sent us back down the canyon to home. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Photo of the Week: Dandelion Spring

Thanks to all the rain and snow we got in April and the warm temperatures so far in May, many of our grassy areas look like this:

Too bad dandelions are weeds, not flowers. They're really kind of pretty.

Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Awkward Family Photo

Hello again, friends. I didn't exactly mean to take a week off from blogging, but I was blindsided by the month of May, which is busier than even December. Baseball games, track meets, music performances, field trips, tests, projects...whew. Of course, my sons are the ones doing all that stuff--I get to watch--so what am I complaining about, anyway? 

On Saturday, we did something as a family that we haven't done in over ten years: have a professional portrait taken. Considering that everyone in my home has access to at least three cameras at any given moment, this ritual seems outdated and unnecessary to me. But this was my mother's request, and it's hard to say no to a mom when she wants to have a family portrait taken the day before Mother's Day. (Coincidence? Yes, I think so, but it certainly worked in her favor.)

The photographer was a nice guy, and enthusiastic (a little too much, perhaps) about his job. He spent twenty minutes arranging the five of us in various poses and combinations. My husband, who is a foot taller than the the rest of us, was immediately singled out and asked to lower his stool as far as possible, apparently to avoid having him stand out like Gandalf among the Hobbits. 

"Snuggle in," the photographer would say. (Fun fact: 14- and 12-year-old boys do not love being told by a complete stranger to snuggle up to their parents.) 

"You're the man," he told my sons as they posed in turn with elbow on knee and tilted their chins as instructed. (Fun fact #2: 14- and 12-year-old boys do not love being told they're 'the man,' when, clearly, that title belongs to Gandalf.)

Now, I have a history of bursting into laughing fits at inopportune times such as funerals and concerts. (Anyone remember Elaine and the Pez dispenser from Seinfeld? That's me.) And I was close to it on Saturday. Very, very close. I'm sure the portraits will show the maniacal gleam of repressed hysteria in my eyes--especially the shot where I had to "snuggle" directly back into my husband's crotch as he sat on his lowered stool.

As we left, my older son said to me, "I used to wonder how all those Awkward Family Photos got taken. Now I know."

Now for two of my favorite family photos:

My family, circa 1973. That's me on the right.

My husband (also on the right), his parents, and one of his brothers, taken in Holland, 1971, when his dad was working there. 

And if you've not seen the real Awkward Family Photos, you can find them here.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Photo of the Week: It Came Back

Not an annoying rash or a marauding zombie weasel, but winter! We had a foot of wet snow on Wednesday. My younger son took one look out the window and told me, "I'm so done with this." But he did enjoy having the day off from school.

I'm beginning to wonder if my garden bench will ever have a garden around it.

The temperatures are warming steadily, though, and the snow will be gone soon. I hope you enjoy the weather wherever you are this weekend!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May Day!

Congratulations to everyone who jumped in for the A to Z Challenge this year! Was is just me, or was this a crazy month? I started out strong and faded big time, but I did manage to post for every letter. Thanks to everyone who visited, commented on, and followed my blog. I'm sure I lost track of some of you, but I'm going to hopefully get caught up one of these days. And thanks as always to the organizers of this great challenge. It gives me a blogging boost that lasts for months, and for that, I am grateful.

I had a blast reading your posts! Gosh, you're a bunch of clever bloggers. And after a little down time, I'm going to keep working through the list and finding great new voices out there in the blogging world. Best wishes for a happy May, everyone!

Do April snow showers bring May flowers? I certainly hope so!