Patio Pots—-Thriller, a Filler, and a Spiller

There you have it–the formula for your patio pots or planters.  Find a thriller–a showpiece for color or pizzazz like my red geranium.  Then use a “filler”–I used Dracena spike–and it looks pretty good (when it’s not gale force winds!)
and then a “spiller” or vine type falling out of the pot like my purple scabiosa or as the nursery woman called it “scabiola”.

The photos need work and the arrangement a little time to spread out and enjoy the sun . . . but you have the idea I hope.  Have fun!

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A Good Choice by Ann Hallum

Oh, my goodness!  talk about “armchair travel”!  The author has a sure hand as she carries us along with Bella, who is traveling in Europe on business for her New York fashion company.  We open in Paris and she has recently caught up with an old acquaintance, Gianni Giambelli, who heads an age old fashion business in Paris and he has invited her for a drink at his hotel, the Crillon, after the day’s show.  He also tries to persuade her to stay a few extra days in Paris and postpone her trip back to New York.  He even says he’ll handle changing the plane reservations!  (A keeper!)  She is convinced easily enough and remains for a few days being wined and dined in the best spots in Paris–not hard to take–and the author gives us an effortless (on our part) tour of the city.  Giambelli also hints at an upcoming important position in his firm that Bella might fill.

Eventually Bella heads back toward New York, on a trip towards her husband, Paul, in California.   They have had a separation due to a conflict in schedules—he has been awarded a plum job in his research field which would involve his staying in California, but instead of joining him or staying with him, Bella opted to continue her work in New York.  She wants to see if they can work things out and keep the marriage.  After her flight to New York  her trip is somewhat circular, a train trip going through New Orleans.  On the way, she meets a fellow traveler, Jacques, and they become attracted to each other.  He is a sophisticated European and years younger than she, but there is a spark between them and soon she’s being wined and dined in the best spots of New Orleans—the author again hitting the high notes of the city, even luring us in with the delicious treats of beignets.  They ramble about the city of New Orleans, visiting jazz joints and drinking Sazearac and playfully talking in first year French phrases.  He calls her “countess” and she calls him “Jack” to toy with Americanizing his name.  They laugh a lot and she wonders if it is possible to make a choice of someone younger than her “certain age” and whether or not she should continue on west to be with her husband Paul.

The story never falters as we zip along, almost on tour as well, and the book’s 200 pages are a delight  as we eat and drink only the best on this make believe journey of ours.

It’s a book that the world needs right now—easy, light, and
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three antique mother of pearl carved buttons ©booksandbuttons

Three Button Review–three antique mother of pearl carved buttons ©booksandbuttons

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A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers

This was the book club selection for May.  It was the National Book Award winner in 2012.  It’s generally a reflection of the author’s take on the devastating effect of the recession on American business and workers.

Alan Clay and his company, Reliant, are in Saudi Arabia to give a presentation of their IT experience to set up the technological footprint for a brand new proposed model village, including a hologram to present to the king.

Clay has a history of failed start up businesses and this project doesn’t seem to take off very hopefully either.  Delay after delay prolongs the book as Clay and his team are rebuffed and ignored as they try to work up their presentation to be given to the king.  But they have been assigned to work in a big sweltering tent with no wifi connections.   Rather discouraging–and the Chinese are also in the running to get the assignment . . .

I found little to recommend reading the book for enjoyment–perhaps a more
philosophical viewpoint would be more forgiving, but I didn’t like Clay nor what he represented.  A saving grace of a character was Yeosuf, the native driver who seemed to have more of a practical outlook on life.

There are 312 pages and I read the book in drafts of 50 pages.  The first batch went well because  Clay is a big joke teller and they were funny, but an author can’t rely on jokes to fill up a book of that size and seriousness of purpose.

Read it to see if you agree with the award (!) but most of the book club found that the movie, with Tom Hanks, was a much better portrayal.   Suit yourself, but for me, it was “Pas pour moi!”  Next month’s selection is The Racketeer by
John Grisham–that’ll be a page turner!

two small mother-of-pearl paillettes ©booksandbuttons

two small mother-of-pearl paillettes ©booksandbuttons

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Dead Wake by Erik Larson

If you are happily contemplating a cruise vacation in the near future this might not be the book you want to read right now!

It’s the story of the last Atlantic crossing of the Cunard luxury liner in 1915 from New York to Liverpool, knowingly heading into the waters around Great Britain and Ireland in the dangerous days of World War I.  Supposedly, there was no danger for the passengers because Germany was unlikely to torpedo a civilian ship.  And it was expected that the British would furnish huge destroyer ships to help guide the Lusitania through the St George channel into Liverpool’s port.  But that didn’t happen.

But—-and therein lies the story.  For the Germans were likely to torpedo a civilian ship if they thought it might carry  munitions helpful to the British cause.

Larson tells a two part story–that of the liner, the Lusitania, its passengers, and in a side-by-side story, relates the actions of one U-boat–the U-30 which has its sights on the Lusitania for every page.

the departure of the Lusitania, photo taken from Life Magazine supplementary World War I special edition publication

the departure of the Lusitania, photo taken from Life Magazine supplementary World War I special edition publication

As your history tells you, a torpedo does indeed hit the Lusitania, and she sinks.  1969 passengers were on board and chaos reigned as lifeboats weren’t lowered correctly and life jackets failed.  Miraculously there were survivors.

(It is ironic that the Cunard line offered a 25% discount for any future cruiseline tickets to the survivors.  I wonder if there were any takers on that great deal!

This is a book that keeps the pages moving.   Almost as interesting as the book discussion was a member’s reading of a biography of the author, Larson.

In our book club, one member usually gives a biography of the author.  We select the books together–each bringing a list of 4 or 5 nominees, and we discuss the prospects of reading them–interlacing fiction, non-fiction and biography generally. Then a complete list is typed and sent to each member.  Votes are collected by email. Also, because the books we read are furnished for free by our library, we always have to make sure that there are enough books in the all- county system for our branch to order.

This was a good/great selection for discussion and would be a good one for your book group, too, maybe.  It combines history and action for good reading.

Four button review

Four button review

 

 

Next month’s book club selection is A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers.

Four button review

Four button review

Posted in book club, books, travel | Tagged | 4 Comments

Lincoln: Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Aha—the book club selection for March . . .  remember March?  Well, we met and discussed (what we had read of ) the book.  I had read to page 503 of 783 pages and stopped.  One member only read it entirely—good for her! you say.
And hurray for me while you’re at it—I renewed the book and began reading again at page 503 and finished it!  I had missed reading it at nighttime–so glad I kept at it and finished it properly.  (this added May 3rd).

Yes, it’s long, but hey, Goodwin is good!  A blurb on the back says the book is
“absorbing’.  I can’t go quite that far, but it IS good and interesting to read.

The book (published in 2005)starts out with the election in 1860 of four candidates and Goodwin leads us through their biographies in such an interesting way that I found my self wondering who I should “root” for to win:  Seward from New York, Chase from Ohio or Bates from ST. Louis.  But then I stopped and said, Hey, wait! I’m rooting for Lincoln!  And maybe I don’t have to tell you that he won the nomination–

The campaign, like many, had been tough and rife with bad feelings and false accusations (against Lincoln), but still, Lincoln recognized that FOR HIS COUNTRY, the best choices for his new cabinet posts were these men!  Team of rivals–get it?   And yet, from this page on, Seward, Chase and Bates never give up their dreams of becoming president some day.  Chase loses two wives, but has an elder daughter, Kate, who takes over the position of hostess for her father’s entertaining and throughout the book  ably commands a winning role in Washington for Chase.

The book primarily covers the period of the unsettling Civil War and Lincoln’s quest to hold the country together over the divisive issue of slavery. Some southern states secede and there is always the risk of others doing so as well as continental Europe siding with the south because they need the cotton that the south produces with the help of slave labor.

And yet, it’s not really a Civil War book, more of a people and personalities of the times book.  Goodwin tells some with tongue in cheek.  For instance, one wily politician of the times was Simon Cameron, who has a famous quote of saying that “The only honest politician is one who, once bought, stays bought.”

Later in the book, Cameron is appointed Secretary of War despite a

questionable history/resume of honesty.  Soon disaster strikes and it is found that millions of dollars, millions of dollars have been squandered by the War Dept on rifles that don’t work, horses that are blind and so on.  It is noted that Cameron has no decent records to consult.  A congressman from Ohio, Albert Riddle, says at the time that when Cameron was asked about the progress of a
particular matter, “he would look about, find a scrap of paper, borrow your pencil, make a note, put the paper in one pocket of his trousers and your pencil in the other.”

This kind of ineptness flourished along with a myriad of jealousies among the Cabinet and military generals, making Lincoln’s job of being president like a
cartoon of herding cats.

Still, he remained steadfast and true to the people he had appointed and would often take the blame himself for plans gone awry rather than embarrass an inferior officer under him.

This was a time in America when the young country was flourishing and ready for qualified educated young men to take advantage of opportunities.  In the week of Lincoln’s inauguration thousands of people flooded the White House looking for positions and opportunities in the new administration.  Lincoln met and spoke with them all despite his aides’ advice to ignore them.

Doris Kearns Goodwin is well known for her historical writings and she has done an outstanding job with Lincoln.  The book is also a pleasure because of all of the pages of historial photographs included.

Mary Todd Lincoln is given a more forgiving portrait in this book—and her volunteer work during the Civil War in the hospitals in Washington DC is noted, as well as that of Walt Whitman and Louisa May Alcott.

Altogether, an interestingj–maybe even absorbing read–try it. Our book for April is Dead Wake by Eric Larson–the Lusitania saga.

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five antique blue glass buttons ©booksandbuttons

five antique blue glass buttons ©booksandbuttons

Five Button Review, thank you to the author!

 

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The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

Settle back for a visit with Isabel Archer for 623 pages–but then, who’s
counting?

Isabel has been  brought to England from Albany NY (!) by an aunt, Mrs. Touchette, and as the book opens, she has arrived at Gardencourt—a lovely old rosy brick mansion where her uncle and cousin, Ralph, live.  It is teatime and Henry James marvels in the glories of the best of all times in his mind.

A very interesting aside, in my mind, is that Henry James based his building Gardencourt on an actual building —Hard Wick House in Oxfordshire–you can look it up—And, And, And!!  that’s the SAME house that Kenneth Grahame used for Toad Hall in Wind in the Willows!!!  James and Grahame were friends and had visited Hard Wick House often.   I love litle facts like that.

Gardencourt–indeed a lovely old home with nice grounds, sits on a bank of
wide lawn leading down to the Thames.  Her uncle, Mr. Touchette, a wealthy banker,  is enjoying his tea outside and two young men are seen talking nearby.  One is Ralph, the son, and one is a neighbor and friend, Lord Warburton, who I think will soon become a favorite of yours (and mine).

Gardencourt from The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James ©booksandbuttons

Gardencourt from The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James ©booksandbuttons

As you might imagine, Isabel, a young woman from America causes quite a  stir and an interest–although old Mr. Touchette points out that American young women are usually engaged.    As a matter of fact, Isabel *has* received a proposal–from Casper Goodwood in Boston, but she doesn’twant to lose her independence by getting married so she has put her decision off to him by asking him to wait one year until she has visited Europe with her aunt.

But! proposals keep rolling in!  Lord Warburton tells Isabel that once he has
fallen for a girl, it’s for life, for life.  (Wow!)  Now, Lord W is a pretty good catch —attractive, in the House of Commons, owns a beautiful estate next door–
Lockleigh (no photo, blessedly).  And, he’s wealthy.  What’s not to like?  But Isabel, brings out that old keeping- her -independence argument, and she refuses him–much to the consternation and mystification of the reader (ok, it’s me).  Still, we don’t write ’em, we just read ’em.

On we go, page after page, night after night.  And we become more familiar with this Miss Isabel Archer who thinks quite highly of herself—is well read, well educated, and finds herself more worthy than others generally.  And need I say? values her independence.

One member of book club—oh! did I tell you? it’s the February book selection–emailed me that she’s getting mighty tired of Isabel Archer.

But you and I continue on—loving her or hating her and wondering if she’ll ever marry and getting introduced to some other rather interesting characters along the way—Madame Merle–watch out for her! and Henrietta Stackpole–an old crony of Isabel’s who is afraid Isabel will marry an Englishman instead of her favorite—Casper Goodwood, who owns an industrial mill and is madly in love with Isabel.

Will Isabel ever marry?   (yes)  Will things turn out happy ever after?  (not telling).

Yes, it’s long, but there are strains of interest when James goes off on tangents with his comparisons of America and England. and, there often is–yes! humor.  Good story line to follow–I think  you’ll be okay with this old classic for a few nights.

Read it and weep and then check it off on a million Good Reading lists!

Isabel Archer from The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James ©booksandbuttons

Isabel Archer from The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James ©booksandbuttons

 

 

 

 

 

three antique mother-of-pearl buttons with carved decoration ©booksandbuttons

three antique mother-of-pearl buttons with carved decoration ©booksandbuttons

 

 

 

 

 

Three button review.

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Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

This book was the National Book Award Winner in 2009.  But, more to the point, it is a book our granddaughter claimed to be the best she ever read.  She  is twenty years old and in college and I decided that for her Christmas present this year, I would read it—as a gift to her!  I mentioned this in book club one evening when we were choosing books to read for the upcoming year, and a member said—‘It would be an even*better* gift if the whole book club read it!”

So we chose it for the January selection . . .

The story opens with two brothers growing up in Dublin—product of a broken marriage–and the younger brother, Corrigan, is well on his way to a life of dereliction.  After saving himself, in a fashion, by joining a group of monks, he moves to New York, and most of the rest of the book is told by the older brother who follows him there to be with him.  Corrigan, by this time, is living in a squalid tenement among prostitutes and dope dealers, but as a true Christian, has befriended all of them.  In fact, I am so glad I read the book if only to have met Corrigan—who despite all odds and environments–has lasting belief in the goodness of the world and of mankind.

Among the prostitutes, I think you’ll favor Tillie—the grandmother of a family all on ‘the stroll’.  Her daughter, Jazzlyn (wow!–the name!!_)has two little daughters and has fallen for Corrigan.

AMONGST or midst this scenario is  group of mothers who meet often to commiserate and mourn for the sons they’ve lost in the Vietnam War.  Of these, Lara wonders what she could have, or should have said before her son, Joshua, left.  “Don’t go” is suggested by the author.  That line tears at the heartstrings.

All this takes place in 1974

Let the GReat World Spin 1974

Let the Great World Spin 1974

1974–the year that  a wondrous act occurs in New York –a man crosses the gap between the budding World Trade Center building on a tightrope.

 

 

 

This really happened in 1974 and Colum McCann has taken us on a wild ride to imagine who in New York might have witnessed such a feat—and where their lives were at the time.

There are several stories interlocked in this book—and each becomes connected bit by bit as we turn the pages.  Could it have happened anywhere? No, not this time, not this book.  This story could only be told, in my opinion, in New York—with its diversity, its smattering of different lives, unlike any other place on earth.

I think the author had a brilliant idea to take the whole World Trade center image and bring it under a new spotlight—and from such varying viewpoints—-each time one of the characters spots the tightrope crosser, we are in a different space, with a different person, yet all the same, really, and making all of us the same as if we ourselves were there on the sidewalk, looking up.

Well worth the read—an astounding book with memorable characters–just what you want.

Four button review

Four button review

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Heaven Sent by Helena Rubenstein

When I was out button shopping last week at my favorite antiques group shop, (The Peoples Store, in Lambertville, New Jersey), I was looking in the glass cases downstairs and spied–really *spied* an old bottle that threw me back to the past. The bottle was an old perfume bottle and I’m *sure* we had it when I was a little girl. The perfume was “Heaven Sent” and when I did a little online research, I discovered it was created by Helena Rubenstein in 1941 as a scent “innocent, fresh and beautiful”. Well, the bottle that I remembered must have belonged to my older sister because I was still in my crib in 1941.

I had a little conversation with the clerk about it–which turned out to be almost as much fun as seeing the old bottle full of memories:

Me: Heaven Sent!! Remember Heaven Sent?
Clerk:  And Jean Naté??? Remember Jean Naté?
Me: Don’t forget Evening in Paris !!  That old cobalt blue bottle–
Clerk:  Yes! Evening in Paris!
Me: And then we graduated to Wind Song . . .
Clerk: Prince Matchabelli–

Yes, yes, yes—she hit it on the nose—omg, Prince Matchabelli–how important that sounded in those old days!  Delightful old memories.  Hope it rings a bell in your past, too–

Can you guess that I went back and bought the bottle the next day? So sweet.

old bottle of Heaven Sent perfume by Helena Rubenstein 1941 ©booksandbuttons

old bottle of Heaven Sent perfume by Helena Rubenstein 1941 ©booksandbuttons

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The Gershwins and Me by Michael Feinstein

When I heard about this book I thought to myself :”Michael Feinstein must have been in his crib when he met the Gershwins!” But, no–he was in his
early twenties when he met Ira Gershwin. The book was written in 2012 and dedicated to Ira.

This book was a birthday gift–and it is perfectly delightful. The byline says that the book is written in “twelve songs” instead of chapters, get it?

The songs are Gershwin standards:
1. Strike Up the Band
2. The Man I Love
3. S’Wonderful
4. I’ve Got a Crush on You (you’re humming already, right?)
5. They All Laughed
6.Someone To Watch Over Me
7. Embraceable You
8. Who Cares?
9.I Got Plenty of Nuttin’
10.They Can’t Take That Away from Me
11.I Got Rhythm
12. Love Is Here to Stay

“Gershwin songs still resonate. They are part of our society. Many years ago the legendary writers Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks were working on a television program together when Carl announced he had to visit a doctor. When Reiner returned, Mel asked about the diagnosis. ‘The doctor said I’ve got
arrhyythimia, said Carl. ‘Who could ask for anything more?” was Mel’s instant rejoinder.”

Feinstein’s book opens with a short history of the Gershwin family and their
arrival in New York from a Russian ghetto. They changed their name several times to make it sound more American.

“And vy not?” quips Feinstein.

And we’re off! This is the kind of book where you spend most of your time reading aloud to whoever is in the room—-“Listen to this!!” and so forth.

The brothers were a team–George wrote the music, Ira wrote the lyrics. One time George composed a short bit of music–three short notes and then a long one. He asked Ira to make some words to it. Ira suggested he change it to
FIVE short notes and a long one. And, voila!

“The way you wear your ——- hat———
The way you sip your———– tea————
The memory of all that—-
You can’t take that away from me!” was born!!!!

See? you just have to tell someone about it!

The book carries us along from the early shows in the 1920s up through the years and the brothers’ alliance with Fred Astaire—a natural for the songs-
with *tons* of photographs along the way and great shots of early sheet music covers–the graphics are fun.-
and continues on into the 1950s and later with Feinstein’s take on the way the Gershwin songs have been performed by Sinatra, Judy Garland, etc.

I am hoping you can find a copy to while away your winter in the most
delightful way———-Amazon has it, and our library has it–maybe yours does, too. When you buy the book, included is a cd of Feinstein playing the music.

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Five button review!!!

Five button review!!!

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“shank guaranteed” better photo–

thanks to O’Half and his better camera, I think I can show you a better photo
of that “shank guaranteed” backmark on those old buttons from the last post.

"shank guaranteed" on set of old buttons

“shank guaranteed” on set of old buttons

group of buttons from the 20s or 30s.  The larger ones are almost 4 inches long.©booksandbuttons

group of buttons from the 20s or 30s. The larger ones are almost 4 inches long.©booksandbuttons

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