Gran and Kindness

Today is my Grandmother Myrtle’s one hundred eighteenth birthday. She has been gone since 1982 and yet every time I think of her, I remember kindness.

She was the kindest person I have ever known.

Myrtle was one of those people who made you feel special. That is a too rare gift, especially when it is bestowed from an adult to a child.

When I was a kid, Gran went out of her way, quietly and without fanfare, to make sure that I felt every bit as important as the grown ups in her life. She bought play dough and assembled kitchen toys, keeping them stowed in her walk in pantry for any time I might visit.

She valued my exploration and growth more than any precious piece of furniture or beloved collectable and she was wise enough to know how to set reasonable, kind limits.

A collection of records of the day were available to play. I can still hear the old walnut encased record player filling her modest apartment with music.

Gran made the most amazing family style dinners. Pork tenderloin is one I recall. Tender medallions of gravy drenched heaven accompanied with home made mashed potatoes, veggies and what she called “Ice Box Cake” for dessert. This decadent concoction (name reflecting a time before electric refrigeration) incorporated delicate lady finger cakes, butter, chocolate and whipped creaminess filling. Heaven.

 image of lady fingers

Ice Box Cake

4 eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 pound sweet butter

1/2 bar Bakers sweet chocolate

2 1/2 dozen sponge cake lady fingers

Melt chocolate with one teaspoon water. Stir until smooth. Cream butter in medium bowl. Add in sugar, then add chocolate. Beat four eggs for five minutes in separate bowl, then add mixture to eggs and beat until creamy.

Grease 2 ice cube trays with cooking spray or oil. Slice lady fingers in half horizontally and line the trays. Pour 1/2 chocolate mixture and spread to cover ladyfinger layer. Repeat with second layer of lady fingers, chocolate–ending with lady fingers on top.

Chill overnight in ice box.

***************************

Gran was Norwegian.  Her mum immigrated to Chicago from Norway as a young woman in the late nineteenth century. Great gran was a widow too young and raised seven children with the help of what has also largely gone out of fashion–her family and neighbors. Gran was number six in line. Her great gran in fact was a baker in the royal court, so she came by her baking wizardry honestly. Before the days of low fat this and reduced calorie that, we enjoyed reasonable portions of real food that nourished our bodies and our souls.

Thank you for taking me to the toy store ‘by accident’ as we did your errands in Chicago’s ‘Loop’ together. Thanks for buying a small trinket there to make me feel special. Thanks for letting me dig in your garden. Thanks for the memory of rich cooking aromas and laughter.

Most of all, thank you for making me feel like an important person at a time when the old adage ‘children should be seen and not heard’ was still largely accepted as wise.

I loved you then, I love you still and as long as I live, you will be alive too, not only in my heart but in the ways you taught me. First and foremost–be kind.

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In Time of Trial, I Wish You Grace

If I could say one word to you in time of fear, trial and waiting…

that word would be

GRACE:

Patience to endure the unknowable.

Strength to handle whatever is to come.

Wisdom to accept that all things have their time and purpose.

Friends that will be with you in silence–to listen, to exude love

Time to reflect and be grateful for all that is good

Elegance in acceptance of what is– “It is what it is.”

Mercy and pardon both from on high and in your deepest heart so you will be free from  guilt and self-flagellation

Acceptance  of any perceived weakness and all emotions

Forgiveness where it is needed-of self and others. No one needs carry the burden of a grudge.

Peace to still the quivering heart

I wish you GRACE

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mt Hood and Columbia River Gorge

June in Portland Oregon region is warm and tender apple green as life bursts forth toward the summer. Azaleas, roses and rhododendrons show off their finery.

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Image by C London

Image by C London

Image by C London

Wildflowers dot roadsides; statuesque foxglove spears the swaying grass.

Image by C London

 

Image by C London

Foliage drifts on the breeze like a bird soaring on an updraft.

Image by C London

 

The forest floor is shaded and bespeckled with sun. Ferns and tiny flowers share the space with a large variety of green.

 

The power of the Columbia River is highlighted at Booneville Dam-

–it’s spillway and fish ladder demonstrating the winter’s abundant rainfall.

Image by C. London

Mount Hood stand watch over the verdant lowlands, still deep in snow above the timberline.

Image by C London

Travelers who drive up toward the summit are reward with a leisurely sit on the bare wood Adirondack chairs of the back patio of the WPA era constructed lodge, a cool breeze off the snow and the opportunity to see those intrepid souls who hike it’s summit and ski year round.

Image by C London

 

Resinous pine branches bob under the weight of their new needles. Yellow and white heads dot the underbrush of taller graceful grass rippling gaily in the breeze and rows of tall pines stand guard over the highway–soldiers dedicated to the future on the mountain.

Waterfalls cool the air along the Columbia River Gorge.

   

Image by C London

 

Even the city weary and overworked can relax.

 

 

 

Image by C London

More on Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/christinelondon/pacific-northwest/

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Yikes–I Think I Have Turned Into a ‘Grandma’

 

My kids have not had children—yet, but recently I have noticed the definite signs of Grandmother-dom.

Image courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

Kids have flown the coup and dang it, I am not yet blessed with human grandchildren. The silence would be deafening—if not for the dogs.

I have had dogs all my life. As most anyone will tell you, training and consistency are the hallmarks of a well behaved, pleasant to be around canine. So too, I have always been consistent in training my dogs. High expectations of compliance have been what I’ve lived by…

…until now.

My name is Christine London and I am a doggie grandma. There. I said it. Is there a twelve step group I can join to confess this truth?

I spoil. Dang it—I even go so far as to encourage the breaking of doggie table manners—101.

Bassett hounds and golden retrievers – past who have shared the surname of ‘London’ have always remained either beneath the table, snoozing, or at a distant from the dining area whilst humans were partaking in food consumption.

Image courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

I confess. I have turned into a grandma.

Grandmas are allowed to, even expected to, buy their grandchildren toys and sweet treats far outweighing reason. Gluttony in the name of Grandma’s right to spoil is one of the nicer things about having reached the esteemed age and high office of the elder. We are supposed to be allowed–at least tolerated, as we feed our grand kids three scoop ice cream cones topped with gummy worms, sending them home spinning like the Tasmanian devil to their chagrined parents. Right?

As my Golden Retriever nudges my arm from beneath the table, providing her muzzle as a sort of ‘arm-pit mouth’; I spear a small piece of broccoli and chicken, knowing full well any dog mother would be mortified at what is to come next.

Yes. Golden Kiki opens her mouth in a dainty ‘O’ and turns on the canine vacuum, cajoling the morsels from my tines. No one really noticed, did they?

Image courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

Truth be told, I wouldn’t care if they did, because I have officially reached the age and status to do such things and attribute them to having joined the esteemed ranks of grandmother-dom.

So as I offer my tea cup Yorkie, sitting on my opposite side, a bite-sized piece of baked chicken as he stares, on high alert, from his pillow on the chair next to me, you will indulge me right?

I am, after all,  a grandma now.

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“Z” for Zenith

The highest point or culmination – Zenith

As we come to the end of this year’s A to Z Challenge, I want to thank those who conceived of this blogger’s event as well as all the minions who manage the minutia involved in every large undertaking.

Exercising flabby blogging muscles in the spring reminds we who write that it is, indeed possible to create something of entertainment or educational value everyday.

If you have enjoyed this April’s entries, I invite you to click on the “Sign Up’ button to your right–leave your name and email addie–and you will receive a notice every time there is a new posting here.

I hope we get to know each other better in 2014 and beyond through the vehicle of this blog, my books and short stories. Please feel free to comment on any of my past blog entries and together, we shall grow.

Welcome the lusty month of May as we cascade toward summer.

Be well

and smile :)

Other places to connect:

Christine London

Author 100 Romances Best Of the Year, When We Were Amazing
Tweet sweet with Christine at https://twitter.com/ChristineLondon
Impossibly Pretty Pinteresting: http://pinterest.com/christinelondon/

 

 

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“Y” is for Yellow

“They call me mellow yellow.” -Donovon

Have you noticed that many town’s fire departments have traded in the classic red fire engine for a neon yellow model?

image courtesy freedgitalphotos.net

Even in low light or at a distance, yellow can be seen better than any other colour.

Yellow is also associated with optimism and cheerfulness. A yellow tone painted on walls suggests sunlight in a dim room or hallway. The highest quality pencils were originally made in China–yellow in homage to their Emperor Huang Ti. Yes–we copied this quality right down to the sunny jacket. Cabs are yellow for the same reason fire engines have gone that route–seen well at a distance.

image courtesy freedgitalphotos.net

Mankind’s roots have us hardwired to associate yellow with the sun and daytime when we could go forth, gather food and keep ourselves safer from what lurks in the shadows and night.

The limonoids in lemons help fend off cancer. Bananas? – a good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin C, Potassium and Manganese, and a very good source of Vitamin B6.

Post it notes? Uh, sorry—not originally yellow because it makes them easier to see. There was a surplus of yellow scrap paper at the 3M plant.

image courtesy freedgitalphotos.net

 

 

 

 

 

Nevertheless…

Add yellow into your life to lift your spirits and colour your world optimistic.

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Xerophilous – Are You Capable of surviving in a hot dry climate?

Not only am I capable, I absolutely whither in the cold and rain. Actually it is not so much the wet stuff. Rather it is the low light levels day in and out that bring about what has been dubbed “S.A.D.”, or Seasonal Affected Disorder.

There are a fair percentage of people so effected. ( prevalence in the U.S. ranging from 1.4% in Florida to 9.7% in New Hampshire. ) Most often this severe case of the blues is a winter event. Shorter days and gray skies are the culprits.

However, if you are someone who live on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, and you are not a vampire, you just may find yourself pulling the covers back over your head more often than is healthy – year round.

It has been argued that SAD is an evolutionary adaption in humans that is a variant or remnant of a hibernation response in some remote ancestor.

As a resident of Los Angeles, I happily, no longer suffer. My year in the great Northwest was not so merry.

Image Courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

Here in the land of sunshine, residents are at little risk of falling low on their Vitamin D stores. Even those of us who have indoor jobs can gaze out brightened windows and doge outside for tea or a coffee break. Weekends are meant for outdoors and the pleasure of a daily walk, bike ride or other form of workout is available year round.

I remember as a teenager feeling as though I were plugged into some great recharger when I sat poolside during summer vacation. Like a warm blooded reptile, I basked. The more sunshine, the great energy. So true to this day as I take my morning coffee beneath a sun umbrella at the table on my patio.

Do you need a daily dose of sun?

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“W” is for Wanderlust and the Photographer’s Eye – Setting

Dickens and Elliot wrote pages describing setting in their novels. In today’s popular fiction market, readers expect a faster paced, more dialogue-rich read.

 

Stratosphere – Las Vegas Image by C London

HOWEVER…

 

This does not eliminate the need for rich, visceral experiences that immerse your reader in place and time.

Setting is an opportunity–not an obligation. Words, chosen carefully, can evoke place as well as show aspects of your character in ways that flow naturally as they divulge information.

 

Setting well done, can be a character in and of itself. It can provide emotional tone and tension whether mountains, desert or lost in space. As characters interact in a place, so your reader can be brought  along as they accesses their own past experiences, merging them with your book and characters.

Weather as part of setting paints a feel. Sun versus rain not only effects mood, but can be used as metaphor for story as it unfolds, either literal or to provide contrast.

 

Unusual powdering of snow- North Carolina relative’s house

It is the author’s job to take a reader into a virtual reality; the stage where characters play out the story.

 

To infuse a tone, set atmosphere and mood the author needs to maintain setting credibility.

 

RESEARCH : It is perhaps the best time in history to make setting come alive.

 

The devil, however,  is in the details.

Books, travel brochures & documentaries, Google Earth, You Tube and photo hosting sites such as Photobucket, Flickr and Picasso are but a few sources.

 

The Thames, London, by Night – Image by C London

Many public places have websites. Some include 360 degree views. Most have still photo gallery.

 

Setting does not have to be foreign or fancy. Your hometown and drive-able surrounds are within a reasonable budget, both monetarily and time-wise.

Online information can only give you so much insight. Experiencing a story’s setting first hand provides invaluable sensory data — sights, smells, tastes and sounds that cannot be appreciated through a computer screen.

Onsite research - Take your digital camera. Digital and downloadable photos will allow you to snap many more than needed AND act as a record of details you may not notice in the moment.

Visit local ethnic areas and festivals. People, crafts and foods there will have strong ties to the mother country.

Don’t forget geography, religious views, technological architecture (or lack thereof), art, flora and fauna.

Foreign language CDs from the library can set the mood as can songs of the setting.

Blog about your experiences:

Not only will this provide an invaluable memory journal, details that are lost to time are best saved shortly after the experience.

Gerard Butler – Hollywood – as seen during red carpet event outside theater. Image by C London

Blogs about travel, even around your own stomping grounds, provide welcome entertainment to readers. They enjoy a vicarious experience in which you have included photo illustrations, as well as rich visceral descriptions (those sights, sounds, flavors and tastes) Here is where you can get away with more description than in your fiction. It is a travel journal and expected!

 

Don’t wait to NEED a setting experience. Save all places you go and all you do for future reference. Holidays, business travel, visits to relatives –all enrich your personal stash of setting potpourri.

 

Just as you would draw up a character sketch complete with back story, gather details of information about your setting. Find out as much as you can. It will probably be more than you need, but will allow you to create an aura of authenticity not possible with sketchy details.

 

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“V” for Vindictive

Vindictive is to be- ‘Disposed to or inclined to revenge’

A very human reaction to betrayal. But is it constructive?

“Revenge may sometime lead us to harm others in the mistaken conviction that it will benefit us and bring us some sort of happiness. Actually, it creates suffering not only for the victim of our deeds, but also for us.” – Dalai Lama

When actions are motivated by revenge, what most likely transpire is equally unjust. If we as the wounded can see past our own anger and fear and respond out of compassion for the woundedness that led the person who hurt us to do so, we are recognizing the importance of expanding the circle of healing not only to we who suffer, but to those who caused the suffering.

In this way, forgiveness can allow us to recognize the humanity we have in common with those who have injured us.

“Anger makes you smaller, while forgiveness forces you to grow beyond what you were.” – Cherie Carter-Scott

Forgiveness is not a gift to the wrong does. It is a gift to ourselves. It is our ultimate freedom from the emotional burden of anger and hate.

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