Movie Review: Christopher Robin

Standard

Not being able to find a serious movie on Netflix or Amazon last night, the family decided on Christopher Robin, which was recently in theaters. It was such a great choice! We alternately laughed, chortled, and chanted a lot of the phrases we remembered from the books – in short, we had a great time.

It’s hard for a movie to elicit nostalgia from every generation, but after 90 years, Winnie the Pooh is a still character to which we can all relate. The first Winnie the Pooh story written by Alan Alexander Milne first appeared in the London Evening News in 1925 on Christmas Eve. The story, “The Wrong Sort of Bees,” would be the first chapter in the first volume of stories, “Winnie-the-Pooh,” published on October 14, 1926. Milne named the boy in the story after his son, Christopher Robin Milne, and named Pooh after Christopher Robin’s teddy bear Winnie. A  2017 movie concerns this part of  the bear’s story, Good-by, Christopher Robin.

My own children grew up with the books, as had I, but they also saw Disney’s The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh on TV, a series running from 1988 to 1991. The theme song and the catch phrases from each character have stuck in my head from their many viewings!

Christopher Robin is pure fantasy – of course created by Disney – with Pooh and all the other character from the Hundred Acre Wood – Eeyore (my personal favorite), Piglet, Owl, Rabbit, Tigger, Kanga and Roo. The story is simple: it begins with Christopher Robin at his going-away party in the Hundred Acre Wood with all of his friends and his last day for many, many years with Pooh. He goes to boarding school and grows up into a joyless, all-too-responsible adult, neglecting his wife and his daughter Madeline, while he works to save his job.

Christopher Robin receives a surprise visit in London from his old childhood pal, Winnie the Pooh, who needs his help to find his friends who have gone missing in the Wood.

Christopher Robin goes back to the Wood, battles a Heffalump and finds the old friends, but has to return to London with a plan to save his department in the luggage manufacturing company.  His plans get left in the Wood, so the lovable bear and the gang travel to the big city to help Christopher fight a Woozle and rediscover the joy of life.

https://nerdist.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Christopher-Robin-trailer-3.jpg

Jim Cummings, a Disney voice actor mainstay, returns as the voice of Winnie the Pooh, a role he has had since 1988. Ewan McGregor plays the grown-up Christopher Robin and Margot Robbie his frustrated wife. Pooh and the other characters are CGI, but are made to resemble weathered toys. McGregor and the actors worked with real, plush, stuffed animals that matched their onscreen counterparts.

I can’t recommend this movie enough. If you have children who have read Winnie the Pooh, they will love it. If you are a Winnie the Pooh fan, you will, too. Watch it together.

Some of my favorite Pooh quotes:

Sometimes the smallest things take the most room in your heart.

If there ever comes a day when we can’t be together, keep me in your heart, I’ll stay there forever.

One of the advantages of being disorganized is that one is always having surprising discoveries.

People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day.

A day without a friend is like a pot without a single drop of honey left inside

If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.

Advertisements

Josef Lada, Czech Painter and Illustrator

Standard

                                     Bust of Josef Lada in his home town of Hrusice

Today is Josef Lada’s birthday. He was a Czech painter and author born on December 17, 1887 in in the small village of Hrusice, Czechoslovakia, into a cobbler’s family, Lada moved to Prague at the age of 14 to become an apprentice binder. Entirely self-taught, he created his own style as a caracaturist for newspapers, and later as an illustrator. He produced landscapes, created frescoes and designed costumes for plays and films. Over the years he created a series of paintings and drawings depicting traditional Czech occupations, and wrote and illustrated the adventures of Mikeš, a little black cat who could talk.

He is best known as the illustrator of Jaroslav Hašek’s World War One novel The Good Soldier Švejk, a classic book I urge everyone to read. It is a humorous political commentary on the Czech world view. He produced nearly 600 cartoons of the Švejk characters, depicting Austria-Hungary officers and civil servants as incompetent, abusive and often drunk.

  • Some interesting facts about Lada

  • At the age of one, little Josef fell over in his workroom and managed to injure himself so badly that he permanently lost sight in his right eye.

  • He has had gallery exhibits in Paris, Vienna, Geneva, Riga, Venice, Rome, Edinburgh, Budapest, Moscow and Sofia

  • He designed costumes and theater sets for the National Theatre and other Czech theaters.

  • There is an asteroid named for Josef Lada (17625, 1996 AY1).

  • To complement Jaroslav Hašek’s Good Soldier Svejk, Lada’s drew over both 1300 illustrations (both color and black and white). New editions of this book are still published in many countries all over the world. The 1956 animated version of the movie “Svejk” by Jiří Trnka is considered a treasure of the Czech cinematography.

  • While Lada’s Christmas scenes remained popular under communism, the regime took exception to religious figures in a 1970s calendar which were replaced by a bowl of fruit.

  • His children’s book Mikeš about a talking black cat recently sparked a debate about racist undertones in Czech literary works for its depiction of a Roma character.

  • His youngest daughter Eva tragically died during an aerial bombardment on February 14, 1945. She was only seventeen years old.

I find his love his illustrations, particularly these two.

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Little School in the Woods by Emily Brewer

Standard

This is a special book and is suitable for both elementary and middle school children. I discovered it at a book fair in Winston Salem and talked to the woman who inspired it, Mary Neely Grissom. She is a soft-spoken lady with a heartfelt desire to tell this story.

Julius Neely was born to former slaves. Caroline, his mother, had been owned by three farmers and had given birth to a daughter, Harriet, who had been taken away, bequeathed to another family. Caroline ran away from her third owner and hid in the woods, finally taking refuge at Smith Plantation where the slaves hid and fed her. In the spring she headed for the plantation of her first owner, Mr. Neely. There she met a freed slave named Jonas Gillespie, who hid her from the Smith’s overseer. The Civil War ended soon after, she and Jonas became recognized as a married couple, and they had six children, the last of which was Julius Neely.

Julius was a smart lad, and he recognized early in his life that education was the way to move up in the world. This story is about the school he built for the children and grandchildren of former slaves, hidden away in the woods because education was not supposed to be available to them. Built in 1908, the school education 1,300 students over 40 years.

It’s also the story about Julius’ daughter May, who got a college degree and returned home to teach in the school, and one of the students, May’s niece who just happens to be Mary Neely Grissom. Long years passed before Mary came back to try to find that little school in the woods, and the rest of the tale is about what happened to that school building.

This is a sweet, lovingly described tale, which touches on slavery, oppression and segregation in a non-confrontational way and above all, shows how adversity can turn to hope and how dreams can be realized through integrity and hard work.

How this book was written is serendipitous. Mary Neely and Lynn Parker grew up at the same time but in distinctly segregated communities in North Carolina, but finally met through Lynn’s church in 2000. Mary told Lynn the story of her grandfather and his school, and Lynn in turn introduced Mary to the writer Emily Brewer. Together Mary and Emily collaborated on this book, which is charmingly illustrated by Maggie Shibley, a studio art and English graduate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

I can’t recommend Little School in the Woods more highly. It is a perfect teaching tool about the educational struggles of the early Jim Crow era in North Carolina and reflects the history of the South.

About the author:

Emily Brewer launched Legacy Storybooks in 2012 in order to help families create narratives that both mine family stories for the meanings that have shaped the family’s identity and crystallize the legacy of loved ones from generations back.

Her background in academic historical research, in journalism, in teaching college writing and literature, and in editing and design all come together in her roles as researcher, storyteller, project manager, and book designer.

Emily has previously worked in Venice, Italy, is learning to play the ukulele, and was once interviewed on Good Morning America after she helped deliver a stranger’s baby while she was waiting for the CW bus on the UNC campus.

She grew up in Asheville, North Carolina, and now lives with her husband and son just outside of Chapel Hill.

The book is available through Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1389279219/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1518490594&sr=8-4&keywords=little+school+in+the+woods

and has its own website: http://littleschoolinthewoods.com/

 

A Reblog of a poem from Sue Vincent and Ani

Standard
Couldn’t not spread this offering from Sue Vincent and her adorable dog Ani:

Go to    https://scvincent.com/2018/12/08/from-the-small-dog-3/#comment-170064 for the original!

From the small dog…

bird and dog 001_DxO

“The time has come,” the doglet said,
“to talk of many things;
Of tennis balls and squeaky ducks,
and sneaky bees with stings;
of why the sparrows fly so fast
and if that cat has wings.”
“Just wait a bit,” the writer said,
“I’m busy with these things.”

“But writer,“ said the small dog then,
“The sun will shortly set,
the pheasants will be playing out,
and rabbits too, I bet.
I really should be practising,
I haven’t caught one yet.”
“Hmm. Never mind, it’s raining
and you don’t like getting wet.”

“Ok then,” sighed the little dog,
“We could consider, please,
the therapeutic benefits
of sharing Cheddar cheese.
Or why that spider’s sitting there,
Or why do you have knees…”
“You scratch a lot,” the writer said,
“You sure it isn’t fleas?”

The clouds were turning dusky pink,
Upon the fading blue.
The writer sighed, put down the pen
another task was through.
“Come on, small dog, go get the leash,
your walk is overdue.”
The small dog answered sheepishly,
“Tough luck, I ate your shoe.”

With apologies to Lewis Carroll….
But none at all to her.
She should come out more.

Laughter 1Thank you Sue and Ani for the chuckles!

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Blue by Nancy Bilyeau (@Tudorscribe) #RBRT #historicalfiction

Standard

This review was supposed to be published yesterday, at the end of the tour, but due to a mix-up I am blogging this review as what I call a clean-up at the very, very end!

This book is about porcelain, something I’ve never really thought much about, except for choosing my tableware pattern before I married. I never realized that in eighteenth century England, fortunes could be made or lost on it. In The Blue, historical fiction writer Nancy Bilyeau crafts a story as lovely and colorful as the porcelain about which the tale centers.

Genevieve Planché, London-born descendent of French Protestant Huguenots who fled the persecution of Kings Louis XIV and Louis X, views porcelain with disdain. She has talent and wants to be an artist, but her grandfather, with whom she lives in London, has arranged a career for her as a decorator of porcelain at the Derby Porcelain Works. The thought of it makes her want to scream. No male artist in London will take on a female apprentice, so in a last desperate attempt to avoid her fate, she crashes a party at the home of William Hogarth, the internationally famous painter. She pleads with him to accept her as a student but is rudely rebuffed. While there, she meets Sir Gabriel Courtney, a charming roué, from whom she escapes when she leaves the party.

Her unavoidable departure for Derby is complicated by two things – first, the reappearance of Denis Arsenault, journeyman silk weaver with whom Genevieve had been besotted. Arsenault is wanted by the law for leading a riot in the workshop where he worked. He’s returned to take Genevieve to New York with him. But before that can happen, the second complication occurs: Sir Gabriel reappears as a dinner guest at her home and offers her an opportunity she can’t refuse – learn for him the secrets of porcelain manufacture at the Derby Factory and in particular the formulation of a new, unknown color of blue. If she does, he will send her to Venice to study art.

She travels to Derby, takes up her apprenticeship, but in doing so learns more than she wants – not only about porcelain but also about industrial espionage.  Genevieve resolutely faces the obstacles to her dreams with no idea of the danger that lies in what she’s been asked to do.

The Blue is a rich romp into 18th century patriarchal society and the role of women. The author has crafted a tale with colorful, memorable characters against the teeming background of London and the midlands in the 1700s – all impeccably researched. Even the lesser characters have a three-dimensionality. The political animosity between England and France during that century (the colonial wars, the Carnatic wars) creates an unsettling daily environment in which the reader becomes immersed and feels much in the time.

Genevieve is a great leading lady: dogged, intelligent, and brave, but has compassion and understanding, even when she’s been wronged. Sir Gabriel is a worthy villain, debonair and desperate. The reader may find themselves almost liking him when his reasons for drawing Genevieve into his plots is revealed. Thomas Sturbridge, the chemist responsible for formulating the blue, is an aw-shucks sweet man with a backbone of kindness. In general, with the exception Thomas and Genevieve’s grandfather, the men in this book are unpleasant, rude and often crude; I suspect that in a competitive situation with the amount of money and fame at stake, this would be the case. In any event, the author is clearly invested in her characters.

The real surprise is the descriptions of the production and decoration of porcelain, something fragile and unimportant in the historical scheme, but which fans the flames of fancy and avarice in people rich and poor and tests the limits to which the very rich and important will go to possess the finest. I was heretofore completely ignorant of this aspect of 18th century life, and the author demonstrates a fine touch of ingenuity in making this the centerpiece of the story.

The plot has many surprising twists and turns which take the reader one way and another. Spies, secret writings, robberies, chemical experiments, kidnappings and escapes – there are many things to entertain woven into the story. I also appreciated that the morality of industrial espionage, even in those times, was not ignored.

If you are looking for an increasing wild ride of well-informed historical fiction, this book is for you.

About the author

Nancy Bilyeau is a magazine editor has lived in the United States and Canada and who has worked on the staffs of InStyle, Good Housekeeping, and Rolling Stone.

She is also the author of the Tudor mystery series The Crown, The Chalice, and The Tapestry. In The Blue, Nancy draws on her own heritage as a Huguenot. She is a direct descendant of Pierre Billiou, a French Huguenot who immigrated to what was then New Amsterdam (later New York City) in 1661. Nancy’s ancestor, Isaac, was born on the boat crossing the Atlantic, the St. Jean de Baptiste. Pierre’s stone house still stands and is the third oldest house in New York State.

Nancy studied History at the University of Michigan and clearly feels most comfortable with writing about past centuries. She is currently the deputy editor of the Center on Media, Crime and Justice at the Research Foundation of CUNY and a regular contributor to Town & Country and The Vintage News.

She currently lives with her husband and two children in New York City.

You can find her on

Twitter: @Tudorscribe

On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NancyBilyeauAuthor

On her own book site: http://nancybilyeau.com/

And on her blog: http://nancybilyeau.blogspot.com/

And here is the banner for the book tour, which you may have missed. Mea culpa!

Christmas is Coming, the Goose is Getting Fat

Standard

I’ve always loved this carol. It was one of the few my Dad could sing on key!

Before we left for a three day trip to the mountains, we went to see Hamilton. I can’t say enough how I enjoyed it. My daughter and her husband bought us tickets in the orchestra, about eight rows from the front, so we were really in the musical. The voices were wonderful, the story great, with lots of humor and also some pathos. The fellow playing King George had us rocking with laughter. I had listened to a CD of part of the production, following along with the libretto, and had no trouble understanding the rap. If you get a chance to see Hamilton, do it. The ticket cost is worth it, and you will learn a lot about our early history from the all minority cast!

https://saylingaway.files.wordpress.com/2018/11/0f022-hamilton.jpg?w=352&h=352

 

https://i0.wp.com/media.vogue.com/r/pass/2015/06/23/hamilton-musical-broadway-01.jpg

So we spent this past weekend up in the foothills of the North Carolina mountains, near the Pisgah National Forest. Our friends built a house on a low mountainside with spectacular views of Grandfather and Tabletop mountains. It was just what we needed after the energy we expended over Thanksgiving!

 

 

 

 

We visited a small arts and crafts store where I bought my first decoration of the season. Yes, that’s Garfield in the background – he liked the poinsettia, which it turns out are NOT poisonous to cats but can give them a tummy upset if they decide to chew some leaves. He was alone while we were gone and has been purring and sitting all over me since we got back. I’m sure he’ll have something to tell you soon. He’s been talking to me non-stop!

 

We returned home to find our Japanese maple in its full fall glory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take a deep breath, make your holiday list, and enjoy the season.

 

Happy Post-Thanksgiving to My Blog Followers

Standard

I hope you are all enjoying the posy-turkey glow of a full stomach and lots of football and basketball. We had a terrific meal with turkey and all the trimmings (including my great-great-grandothers meat stuffing and creamed turnips) and my two favorite Thanksgiving pies – sour cream pumpkin and bourbon pecan. Belch!

I want to recognize that I have a goodly bunch of new followers. I wish I could recognize you individually as I used to do, but the numbers are overwhelming my time! I thank you so much for being willing to read my scribblings as I wander where my little gray cells lead me from one topic to another.

Since I can’t follow all my followers, here’s a challenge. If you stop by a post of mine that interests you and leave a comment, I’ll wander over and visit you! That way we can keep in contact,

Thanks so much for your support  –  you are the jewels!

ACORNS

Standard

     I’ve been collecting acorns for the last two autumns, mainly to feed my squirrels. When they are full of acorns and fat and sassy, they don’t try to empty my bird feeders.

Along the way, I’ve learned a lot about these nuts. Did you know that some oaks bear acorns so low in bitter tannins that they can be eaten raw?  One mature Valley Oak can drop 2,000 pounds of acorns in a really good year. We have no oak trees on our property so I have to depend on friends who do, and who consider  the acorns a big headache in the fall.

Other than eating the sweet ones raw (or feeding squirrels), there are other things you can do with the mighty acorn. Several cultures roast and salt acorns and serve them like roasted chestnuts.

Did you know that their innards are a carbohydrate (starch) and you can make flour with them? Turns out the acorn-eatingest people in the world right now are the Koreans. If you go to a good Asian market, there is a good chance you will find acorn flour and acorn noodles, which look just like soba noodles. From what I can tell the noodles are eaten in the same way soba noodles are; and yes, they also appear to a lesser extent in Japanese cuisine. Berbers will sometimes make couscous from acorn flour, and Italians make acorn flour pasta, too

Acorns, which are, for the most part, bitter and need to be water-leached at least once or twice to be palatable. They lack gluten, and acorn cooks up dark, because of the sugars in them.

The acorn may have been one of the earliest foods. From a blog comment (a person named Claire) I learned the following: “I am reading about the Druids and they think the word is cognate with the Greek “drus”, meaning “an oak”, and “wid” meaning “to know” or “to see”. My book says “The origin of the Druid caste has had its root in the ‘food gathering age’ when extensive oak forests covered Europe. We are speaking of a period prior to 4000 BC when primitive hunter gatherers saw the oak as a symbol of plenty, collecting acorns as a means of food and finding them easy to store for more difficult days….According to Pliny, the acorn was ground and baked into bread. Publius Ovidius Naso, the poet Ovid, speaks of the acorn as the first food ever given to humans when they were dropped from the great tree of the sky-god Jove or Jupiter. Strabo speaks of acorn bread as a staple diet of the Celts of Iberia, while the Leabhar na Nuachonghbala, composed about AD 1150, records that in one particular bad year every ear of corn bore but one grain and every oak only one acorn, which indicates that the acorn was still regarded as an article of food classed with grain by the Irish.”

I’d love to try an acorn recipe – maybe a tortilla with acorn flour? – but it would deprive my squirrels of food this winter.

RED OAK

 

Coming Out of the Closet…

Standard

It is with great trepidation that I reveal to my followers and friends…I’m a Republican.

I know this must come as a shock to many of you, and I’ve been afraid, very afraid, to reveal this. Yes, I did vote for Trump. I did not put a Trump sign in my yard, because it would have been stolen or possibly had vile things spray-painted on it. I did not put a Trump sticker on my car because the car would have been keyed. Democrats at my voting place tried to force a Democratic sample ballot on me until I told them to back off because I was one of the Deplorables, a label that truly hurt. That was when I decided to ‘come out.’

I live in a very deep blue area, and being a Republican in this sea of blue is not something you want to advertise. After all, a Republican headquarters just down the road was fire-bombed. When my son joined the military, several people came to console me. Imagine their surprise when I told them I was proud of him. I’ve lived in the closet by choice in order to get along.

What I am not: homophobic, zenophobic, sexist, racist, Islamophobic and any of the other -obics and -ists that Republicans have been labelled. I am one of the women and white college-educated professionals who came out of hiding on election day to give the Republicans their victories.

What I do believe in (adapted and expanded from an article in The Washington Post, which said it better than I could) in no particular order:

  1. An originalist theory of constitutional interpretation that seeks to determine the intended meaning of the text and does not grant judges free rein to think up new rights and powers.

  2. Faith in the private sector to afford opportunity, reduce poverty and create jobs.

  3. A conviction that our debt crisis is real and must be addressed.

  4. Support for Israel.

  5. The conviction that civil institutions including the family, voluntary associations, churches and synagogues are the lifeblood of a society and should be protected from government meddling and pressure. Having said that, I am not against gay marriage and believe that the rights of the LGBTQ communities should be upheld. Where they conflict with the religious beliefs of others, I trust in adjudication.

  6. Personal opposition to abortion – I’m a Catholic – and especially abortion after 20 weeks and definitely late-term or partial-birth abortion, except in the case of the mother’s health. Would I stand in an abortion clinic’s door and prevent a woman from entering to have an abortion? No, but I’d like to know the reasons behind her choice.

  7. A belief in limited government, a desire for less regulation and a defense of constitutional rights – especially first and second amendment rights.

  8. A belief that national security is the first obligation of the federal government.

  9. Rejection of the view that the U.S. has been the problem-making or corrupting influence in the world. I believe the U.S. is a force for good in the world and we are the most generous of all people. Have we done some reprehensible things? Yes, but hopefully we as a people are learning from them.

  10. Belief that the history of our country, both good and bad, is worth learning. It can’t and shouldn’t be rewritten to remove what is offensive. That is part of our history and if we don’t know it and understand it, we are doomed to repeat it.

    11. A reasonable immigration policy. The country can’t afford unlimited, illegal immigration, on many levels – support for the illegals once they are here and the competition for jobs with citizens, just to name two. We are already seeing the effects on our economy, our health care system and schools. Our neighbors to the north and south have strict immigration policies. Why don’t we?

    12.

    The belief that each person is responsible for their own place within society. The government’s role is to enable the people to secure the benefits of society for themselves, their families, and to help those who are unable to do so for themselves, with limited intervention.

This is the one and only post on politics I will ever write. I do not want to get into arguments with anyone, and thus will not reply to any comments to this post. If you still find that I am deplorable, feel free to unfollow me.

I love and respect all of you, because of your many thoughtful and heartfelt points of view. God bless this country. I am so very fortunate to live here.