Wednesday, December 28, 2011

#526 Christmas reading

Christmas reading is fun!

To compile my Christmas 2011 reading list, I searched the PS shelves in Alderman Library; I re-read Fannie Flagg's A Redbird Christmas; and at the public library, I even found a Christmas-themed mystery set on a cruise ship.  Ho! Ho! Ho!
  • The Birds' Christmas Carol, Kate Douglas Wiggin
  • Christmas at Monticello, Helen Miller
  • A Christmas Blizzard, Garrison Keillor
  • A Christmas Card, Paul Theroux 
  • The Old Peabody Pew: A Christmas Romance of a Country Church, Kate Douglas Wiggin
  • One Christmas, Truman Capote 
  • A Redbird Christmas, Fannie Flagg
  • The Romance of a Christmas Card, Kate Douglas Wiggin
  • Santa Cruise: A Holiday Mystery at Sea, Mary Higgins Clark
  • Winter Solstice, Rosamunde Pilcher

This year's favorites were both written by Kate Douglas Wiggin.  I don't know how I've missed these two Christmas gems for so long, since Kate also authored Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and founded the Salmon Falls Library in Buxton, ME!

The Old Peabody Pew: A Christmas Romance of a Country Church,1907

The Romance of a Christmas Card, 1916

If the Alderman Library is not convenient, you can download these early-20th-century titles for free from your favorite e-book vendor.  Now that's a merry Christmas!

Yours in unabashedly enjoying Christmas romances,

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

#525 Ginkgo!

One hundred fifty-one years ago Mr. Pratt planted a ginkgo tree on the University of Virginia grounds near Thomas Jefferson's Rotunda. 

Every November, Mr. Pratt's ginkgo puts on a show in Charlottesville.  Here is the 2011 performance:

Yours in enjoying the ginkgo spectacular,

Saturday, November 26, 2011

#524 Switching Art

When I reach for a kitchen switch, I see an Alaskan moose.

When I reach for a hallway switch, I see the Sunflower state.

When I think about the artist who created these wonders, I smile.

Thanks, Donna!

Yours in appreciating creative friends,

Friday, November 25, 2011

#523 Including the kitchen sink

Our townhome builders are a thrifty bunch.

In our kitchen, Ryan Homes installed an aluminum sink, 5.5 inches in depth.    I think it was probably made for a motor home.  Lowe's doesn't carry any sinks that small.  

According to Lowe's prices, it looks like installing a sprayer would have cost our builder another dollar or two.

So, we bought our own sink.  It is black and made of composite granite.  And best of all, it is NINE inches deep with a fabulous sprayer.

Kelly took out the motor home sink...

And installed a sink for our grown-up house.

Now, doesn't that white wall need to be painted?

Yours in spraying and splashing,

Saturday, November 19, 2011

#522 Christmas Dozen

I love a good Christmas movie! Aren't I lucky the list of Christmas films is so long?

I tried out a new holiday film already this year:  The Tsarina's Slippers, a Russian opera composed by Tchaikovsky and performed live at London's Royal Opera House.  I like the opera, especially the Cossack dancing scene in Act 3, but my top dozen Christmas films (including one from every decade since the 1940s) remains unchanged.

Be sure to let me know what's missing from my list of favorites.

12. Scrooge (1970)

11. A Christmas Story (1983)

10. The Holiday (2006)

9. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

8. Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)

7. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

6. Holiday Inn (1942)

5. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

4. Miracle on 34th Street (1994)

3. It's A Wonderful Life (1946)

2. Love Actually (2003)

1. White Christmas (1954)

Yours in a fabulous cinematic Ho! Ho! Ho!

Sunday, November 06, 2011

#521 Take One, Leave None

The take-one-leave-one fiction library on board the MV Explorer is one of my favorite spots.

Voyagers leave behind books they've finished and look for their next read.  Their goal is to find a break from their study, light reading that will require no struggle to understand.

And, of course, there are many other groups who like to take a book and leave a book.  You'll find plenty of recent news about the Little Free Libraries and the recently formed People's Library at Occupy Wall Street.

And now I, too, have jumped on the book-sharing bandwagon and installed my own Guest's Library at home.  Though quite a bit smaller than the People's Library or the MV Explorer take-one-leave-one library, one recent guest became the first to take home a book. The Postmistress by Sarah Blake now lives in Mukiteo, WA. 

So next time you're visiting, be sure to check out our Guest's Library.  Or if you see something you'd like on the shelf, I might even deliver!

Yours in sharing books,

Friday, October 21, 2011

#520 Happy birthday, Yamaha!

My piano is 30 years old! 

This loyal Yamaha console piano has stayed with me through quiet times, through 10 moves, and through 30 years of 1960s and 1970s folk music.

And my first post-college purchase was a great investment!  Calculations show the cost to be less than $10 per month.

Yours in music appreciation,

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

#519 Americana JVP

Hello USA!

When our family returns to the US after 3 years in Germany, we must focus the Johnston Visitor Plan (JVP) on all things Americana!

Spudnuts.  Though the original recipe might be traced back to Germany, we now claim these potato-based delicacies as an American tradition and, in particular, as a Charlottesville tradition. Any time is Spudnuts time.

Montpelier.  The home of the 4th US president and award-winning barbecue?  Now that's Americana!  The recently restored home of James and Dolley Madison is just about 30 miles NE of Charlottesville.  And nearby Gordonsville offers hickory smoked goodness at the Barbecue Exchange.

College football.  That's an American tradition for sure.  The UVA Cavaliers took on the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles.  Having attended the UVA marching band open rehearsal on Friday night, we knew the band would perform Danny Elfman's Batman theme song on Saturday afternoon.  Next week, look out U-Idaho!

Sonic Drive-In.  Didn't Americans invent the drive-in?  Not only is Sonic Drive-In an American tradition, it is a family tradition.  Carhops have been serving up burgers and those unparallelled Sonic drinks since before I was born.  (That's a long time.)  A drive over the mountain to Waynesboro is well worth the trip!

Humpback Rocks Visitor Center and Mountain Farm.  Having the right guide who knows how to bake bread over an open fire and illustrate life on an 1890's mountain farm makes all the difference.  Thanks, Allison!

Swannanoa.  Though this 1912 Italianate villa needs some work to restore it to its former glory, the extraordinary genius of American stained glass artist Louis Comfort Tiffany is still on display as soon as you enter.

Blue Mountain Brewery.  Brewing may not be an American invention, but those folks at Blue Mountain certainly have perfected it.  The mountain view from the front patio is not bad either.

Sunday Night Football.  The Colts vs Steelers game didn't end the way we wanted, but our Pittsburgh friends are happy.

Luray Caverns.  Pluto's chasm, the Stalacpipe organ (the world's largest musical instrument), and Dream Lake are just a few of our highlights inside Luray Caverns.  Plus, pets are welcome!

Moneyball.  Of all the terrific films about America's pastime, I think I like this one starring the Springfield-Missouri native the best.

We're proud to be the first stop on the "Hello USA" tour!

Yours in Americana,

Sunday, September 18, 2011

#518 Saint and Nation and Maps

Kelly keeps telling me he has a cool job in the Scholars' Lab.  

He's always been inquisitive, so he's energized by working with scholars from so many different disciplines who use Geographic Information Systems.  And he likes to make maps.

A few months ago, he came home with stories of his search for 17th-century political boundaries of Spain.  He'd been consulting with Erin Rowe on her forthcoming book tracking the "Spanish devotion to the cult of saints".
Now Saint and Nation is published and shelved at Alderman Library.  Four maps are bound inside. They clearly show, among other things, Spanish political boundaries from the 17th century.

Yours in agreeing Kelly has a cool job,

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

#517 Plein Air Dining

Sometimes, many wonderful things happen all at once. 

Last weekend - so filled with friends and weddings and gorgeous summer weather and outdoor dining - was one of those times. 

Outdoor dining?  Now, I'm not saying that this was the best part, but we savored every meal from Thursday to Sunday - outside.  We Johnstons don't excel in the kitchen, so mixing out-of-town company with the perfect summer weather yielded Thursday night dinner at Petit Pois, Friday lunch at Basil, Friday dinner under a tent in Orange, Saturday lunch at Eppie's, Saturday dinner outside the UVA observatory, and Sunday brunch at The Nook.

I don't want to be accused of placing the emphasis on the wrong thing here, but really.  Does it get any better than this?  Perhaps we need to modify the Johnston Visitor Plan to focus more on plein air dining, because Charlottesville is really, really good at it.  Much love to Margaret, our friend and weekend dining companion, for joining in the fun.

Yours in enjoying a delightful and delicious weekend,

Sunday, September 11, 2011

#516 Wedding Geometry

Saturday, 9-10-11, was a day for weddings, both geometric.

The afternoon outdoor wedding made fine use of spirally arranged chairs.
To start the service, each member of the wedding party walked single file into the spiral's opening, circumambulating toward the center and the waiting officiant, passing every guest along the way.  
As the service began, we all served as ring bearers.  The person seated at the spiral opening produced the wedding rings tied to a decorative pillow and passed them to his right.  This blessing of the rings passed through the hands of each guest until delivery at the spiral's center.

The evening wedding made fine use of spheres.
Under a hemispherical observatory dome, the bride and groom wed. Hemispherical wedding cakes arranged in sequence away from a central sun cake mimicked our solar system.
We all took turns watching a full round moon through a five-ton telescope.
Yours in appreciating our creative geometric newlywed friends,