A Farewell to Summer

Please join me while we take a last peek at summer and enjoy the first signs of fall….no pumpkin spice or mums involved! 

Let’s say goodbye to the flowers first.    The petunias fared well with all that rain.Petunias

The dinner plate hibiscus are always late to the party, but they are like Beyonce, they make such a statement when they finally arrive that nobody minds.

Dinner Plate Hibiscus

The Rose of Sharon was so full of flowers it bowed down to Mother Nature.

Rose of Sharon

But the morning glories were not so glorious, lots of foliage draped over the back fence but no buds in sight.   

morning glories

They were very late last year so I still have hope, but here’s a link to last years (unpublished blog), A Glorious September Morning, plus a bee having his last drink of the summer.  

morning glory and bee

The nectar of the gods

My mother always grew glads and zinnias in the farm garden, but this year my glads were a disaster both in color and form.   My vision of them lining the back fence like little pink soldiers faded into the sporadic appearance of a spike of pale lavender or orange.   Lavender is okay, and peach I could handle, but I dislike orange, and pale orange is even worse.   Is it too much to expect the color on the box is the color you get?  

Next year I’ll just buy some at the farmer’s market. 

pink glads

I have never had any luck growing zinnias but my neighbors were prolific,

and the water lilies in their pond finally bloomed.   

pond lily

The sunflowers are drooping but are decorative enough for a vase.

Sunflowers - AMC

Sunflowers in a Vase

The lavender was late as I replanted it all in the spring, but it still bloomed if not extravagantly.  

monarch

The hot humid rainy summer produced a rain forest jungle of a vegetable garden which desperately needs sorting out.   More on the potager in another blog, after the harvest.

potager before

Where are the monkeys?

The monarchs have all flown south, except this little guy with an injured leg/wing who I rescued from a parking lot.   He was able to crawl a bit so I brought him home to lie among the lavender.   

monarch

This year I have seen more monarchs than I have in years.   After the township sprayed all the ditches, they almost became extinct, but now that gardeners are planting milkweed again, they are slowly making a comeback.  They tend to congregate in Point Pelee Park in southern Ontario on their annual migration route, before crossing Lake Erie to the US and eventually Mexico.   Tens of thousands cluster to rest and wait for the right wind conditions to cross the 40 km stretch of lake – the park posts the daily monarch counts on it’s social media pages.   One picture is of a friends backyard near the lake, and one is a weather-watcher picture of Point Pelee.   I wonder how such a small creature can make such a long journey?    For more information on monarchs, check out garden blogger Invitation to the Garden‘s wonderful post on The King of Butterflies.  She also has posts about the different kinds of milkweed you can plant to attract butterflies.

monarchs

just dropping in to say goodbye

Monarchs

Rendevous at Point Pelee Park

Our last look at the beach, and my favorite photo of this summer.

Beach umbrella

Beach Day

Our first look at fall, the maple leaves they are a changing….

fall leaves

The chestnuts are starting to fall from the trees near the library.   Chestnuts always bring back memories of gathering them on my grandmother’s farm at Thanksgiving.   Last year one of the librarians made the nicest wreath from chestnuts…..nothing I would attempt as I’m sure it involved lots of glue. 

chestnut tree

The crab-apples are ripening and getting ready to drop and annoy all the grass cutters.    

crabapples

The first of the apples are being harvested.   We stopped at an orchard last week and they had Galas and Mac’s just picked that morning, a bumper crop. 

Gala Apples

The scarecrow festival has started with a large party in the town square.

scarecrows

The crunch of dry leaves underfoot and the smell of wood smoke reminds us summer is winding down.    The days are growing shorter, it’s getting dark by 7:30, time to go inside, light the candles and welcome fall.     And if you are in the mood to feather your nest check out last years (unpublished) Autumn Decor blog for some cozy fall ideas. 

Asters - AMc

Fall Flowers

There will be a harvest moon on Sept 24, so here’s some music for a fall night.    This song is about as jazzy as I get but it has great lyrics and it always reminds me of my student days and walking home through a park after pub crawling….not sure anyone would do that now in downtown Toronto, they’d probably be mugged or shot.

Song of the Day:   Moondance by Van Morrison 

“Well, it’s a marvelous night for a moondance
With the stars up above in your eyes
A fantabulous night to make romance
‘Neath the cover of October skies
And all the leaves on the trees are falling…”

 

 

 

 

Back in Class

      Remember all the fun stuff about back to school when you were a kid, before the reality of homework set in?    Please join me for some arts and crafts and some back to school shopping in pursuit of classic plaid.    Sorry this is so tardy, I know it’s mid-September already, but the dog ate the first draft…   

         When I was a kid in the sixties, art class was a rare treat, saved for special occasions when the teacher was too frazzled to do anything else.   I recall making mothers and fathers day cards but that was about it.   I was never a Brownie or Girl Guide.   In older grades, I got a C in art which nixed my dreams of becoming a fashion designer.   I can’t draw a straight line or paint.  But today I am a regular patron of Michaels the craft store.   Their 50% off coupons lure me in every time. 

       I ran into someone a few weeks ago and she was looking for plants for her parents grave-sites.   We started talking about those hideous purple and yellow gravestone wreaths, and I asked why are you buying those when you can make your own much nicer and cheaper, with a green wire hanger from Michaels and some flowers from the dollar store.   She thought that was an excellent idea, so I hope someone else might find some of these ideas inspiring.   Here’s a link to last years (unpublished) post Arts and Crafts 101:     (As I recently explained in my one year anniversary post, my blog was private last fall for the first three months).

After picture

       I had a quick look through the mall recently and the stores are full of plaid flannel tops, despite the fact that the forecast this weekend is for the same hot and humid weather we have had all summer.   You would think we were a country of lumberjacks, but then plaid is a perennial fall favorite.   Here’s a link to my blog from last fall, Mad for Plaid.    Enjoy! 

Plaid pencil case

(I bought a new pencil case at the dollar store for old-times sake – it might be good for stashing makeup in or all those small things which fall to the bottom of your purse).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All That Jam

          The farmer’s markets are full of peaches right now, a little past their prime which is perfect for jam-making.  peachesLast Saturday I bought a big box of peaches for $16 and made 3 batches of jam on Sunday as they had ripened so fast as to be almost spoiling – two of freezer jam and one the old-fashioned boiled on the stove way.  

       Unlike last year, where I experimented with different types of pectin, I just used the Bernardin No Sugar Needed brand as I don’t like jam to be too sweet, although I did add 2/3 of a cup of sugar as the package insert suggested.   I like to be able to taste the peaches.  Of course there is nothing so lovely as a big bowl of peaches peeled and sliced on their own, or mixed with some vanilla yogurt.   

peaches

I woke up with a sore right shoulder (probably from carrying the box), so I recruited my mother to help peel the peaches, which she enjoyed very much as it reminded her of all the canning she did on the farm.   My nostalgia for homemade jam was one of the memories which lead to the creation of the homeplace blog (see Out in The Country).  

For more canning memories, you can check out last fall’s unpublished blogs,  Jamfest and Lavender and Pears, (although it is not quite pear season yet). 

Peach jam is best served in January during a blizzard while looking out the window at two feet of snow and dreaming of summer….

(200 words – almost makes up for the last weeks 4000)

Peaches for Sale - AMc

Peaches for Sale

 

 

One Year Blogging Anniversary – More or Less

       (Some musings on blogging – this is a long post but I’m tired of editing it, so I’m just going to throw it out there, sink or swim).

        WordPress recently congratulated me on my two-year blogging anniversary, but it’s only been a year – more or less.     While I created the blog in August of 2016 I only posted once that summer, a short entry about  one of my mother’s paintings and a photo of the sailboat which had inspired it, plus a song link to Sailing by Rod Stewart.   One of my initial reasons for blogging was to get some local PR for her folk-art, and one of my plans was to fit a song, photo, painting and/or book into each weekly theme.   The person who helped me create the account had gone back to school and no one I knew blogged, so I quickly abandoned it – it all seemed too complicated, (now it just seems routine).    In August of 2017 I edited that first post with a comment “I wonder how many abandoned blogs are out there floating in the WordPress sea” and mine would have remained one of them were it not for a summer student at the library who blogged herself on WordPress and who was an enormous help with the setup.   And so I launched my ship, on my way to a new adventure, tacking into the wind or whatever you do on a sailboat.   (I know nothing about sailing other than the sails are so pretty).  

sailboat canatara

I made a personal commitment to blog once a week and wrote out a list of  ideas in a pretty journal, with one page dedicated to each month and so had 50 or 60 topics lined up.…more or less.     

Journal

For the first three months I kept my blog private.   My writing skills were rusty and I wanted to achieve a certain level of comfort before taking it public.   As a high school student, I had been good in both English and chemistry but chemistry seemed more practical and so I trained for something medical.   (Back then you were either artsy or a science nerd, never both, techies didn’t even exist).   I had a wonderful career for 35 years and don’t regret my decision, there was always a part of me that wondered what if?   While I was and always had been an avid reader, my only writing for decades had consisted of medical shorthand, which may have been a forerunner for those texting abbreviations like OMG and LOL.   Only in this case SOB means shortness of breath, and F/U means follow up in 1 week, (not quite what you were expecting eh)?   Brevity was valued.   My grammar and punctuation skills had also deteriorated accordingly.   I am still unsure where to place commas and brackets but am too lazy to try and find my high school Mastering Effective English textbook in the basement (I had two copies at one point), and too cheap to sign up for Grammarly.  

Like many Canadians, I am a reserved person by nature, so it was a big step for me to take my blog public, which I did in October of last year but only because I needed help in the WordPress forums (I had the free plan then).  My very first follower had a blog about all things paranormal and she went back and read all my weekly postings which was very encouraging.    My second follower had a blog about Indian food.   She said she liked all my pretty pictures, but I didn’t have the heart to admit I couldn’t eat spicy food.  She unfollowed me shortly after I declined one of those chain letter type awards, (when you only have a few followers you can tell who unfollows you), but I honestly didn’t have any blogs I could pass it on to because for the first three months I didn’t even know that READER section tab was there – that’s how naïve I was.   (or maybe it wasn’t there because my blog was private?)       

My goal for the year was quite modest, to post once a week and to get 100 followers.    My intention was to write about interesting uplifting things and to share a little bit of loveliness in what is often a depressing world.    (In Real Life there are always plenty of things to be discouraged about – just turn on the evening news).  There would be no angst in my blog, but plenty of books.   

Have I achieved what I sent out to do?   More or less. 

I don’t quite have 100 followers….only 85 but I have until my Oct. public anniversary date.    I seem to have plateaued this summer, but I find WP quiet lately, views and likes down.   Is this just a normal summertime dip or a general trend?    

I have blogged once a week …..more or less….56 posts so far since Aug 8 of last year.  (I never quite got the other features on my main menu off the ground, Favorite Books, The Vintage Corner or product reviews under The Scoop).    November was a difficult month, I only got three up (I like to plan ahead for Christmas, then don’t go near the stores in December).  May and June were difficult too, but we had such a cold miserable spring that I was able to get 6 or 7 blogs ahead, mostly gardening stuff and just filled them in with photos and edited when the time came to post.   Once the hot humid part of the summer started, it was not a chore to stay inside and write.   For me writing the initial draft is always the hardest part.   I don’t mind editing, although I can be obsessive and waste too much time on finding just the right word.         

What surprised me most about blogging?

Meeting people from all over the world, and how nice and kind, and similar we all are.   Somehow, I had expected that only readers from your continent saw your blog, so the international aspect was one of the pleasant surprises about the WordPress world.   I have had readers from the UK, France, Italy, and recently Cambodia, and some from tiny little countries I have to look up to see where they are.      

How much time it takes to do just one blog per week.    I tend to be perfectionistic, (is that a word), and edit a lot, right up until before I post.   I use all my own photos and it takes time to take, edit and upload all the pictures, plus my photo files are such a disorganized mess I can waste hours looking for the one I want.   (Sometimes I think I might just like to have a photography blog).   Most of my posts are personal topics, not requiring a ton of research, but even at once a week, it was more of a time commitment than I had expected.     I don’t know how bloggers who post more often do it?    Maybe their words flow more easily…

How much I have enjoyed the whole creative process, especially the layout design, putting the pictures, music and books together for each topic.  (I think I might have enjoyed working for a magazine).    I had great fun doing the Jane Austen interview and the historical posts.   I love history and anything vintage so I found researching my Irish Roots and Uncle Charlie’s WWI post time-consuming but fascinating.  

What would I do differently?

Begin as you want to go on, as the saying goes.

I wish I had spent more time researching the title and theme.    I chose the  Sela theme initially (well my helper chose it for me), but I don’t like the thin font so I have to bold it, but if I edit the font then it changes all the previous posts.   I grew up on a farm so I knew I wanted the homeplace for my name but it was taken so I had to add web on the end which just sounds awkward, plus somewhat misleading as people might think my blog is about homesteading or farming, when really my aim was to find a simpler more peaceful existence.    Although many of my initial posts referenced growing up on a farm (see Out in The Country), my blog evolved in different directions.  I still want people to drop in and stay awhile though!   So think twice when you chose that title.        

I wish I had signed up for the paid plan initially, instead of the free one.   I switched in February and some of the layout of my earlier posts got messed up.    I upgraded to get rid of those annoying ads.   (I know that’s how you make money but if a blog has too many ads or pages in it, I don’t hit next, I hit exit – I don’t care how suspenseful the title).   

I wish I had kept my blog TOTALLY anonymous.   In the initial excitement of blogging, I shared it with a few people (less than ten), some close, some not so close who I felt might give me honest feedback.   With a little encouragement six signed up as email followers, but when my screen froze back in February and I lost my email list, none of them noticed or have inquired about it  since.   I told the only person who eventually asked that I had stopped blogging, it was too much work.     Lesson learned, no one cares about your blog as much as you do!  You may want to share to get feedback but be prepared for a lack of interest.  People are busy with their own lives. 

Also, try to develop a thick skin, especially important if you are sensitive soul.   Of those initial shares the reaction was muted and the constructive criticism basically non-existent.   I may cringe when I read my earlier posts, but were they so bad as to deserve total silence?    You can be prepared for anything but silence is especially unnerving.    What new bloggers need is support and encouragement not apathy.  (I’m a big fan of the if you can’t admire someone’s creation then at least applaud the effort school of thought).   There was the person who had suggested I blog in the first place, but then never read it.    The person I emailed it to and never heard from. When I inquired as to what she thought, she said she was still reading, and then I never heard anything further.    The person I mentioned it to over lunch who said that’s nice and changed the subject to something more interesting.   Or the person whose sole comment was that it had spelling mistakes (I use British English), but couldn’t name any.   (I am sure it did, and still does, and will in the future, typos creep in, and there are many many days I think I could benefit from a good editor).   Or the person who was very encouraging at the beginning but who stopped reading once she realized her comments were public…at least she had warned me she wasn’t a reader.   And the one who said with surprise, oh it’s a personal blog.   What were they expecting, a treatise on the serotonin theory of rat rewarding behavior in lab mice?  (Sorry, but I’ve left all that behind).  Some of them were puzzled as to why I would even want to blog in the first place.  Besides, isn’t everyone a writer these days with social media – what’s the big deal, it’s nothing special.   It’s hard not to take it personally when people you know don’t share your enthusiasm or even pretend to share it enough to read for ten minutes once a week.   (I can write this freely as I am quite confident none of them are reading).   So now I wish I had just kept it totally anonymous from the beginning.     Plus I think then you are freer to write what you want without worrying if someone will take offense to it, especially family members who might worry that they are in it.    My mother knows about the blog of course because of the artwork, (she calls it my blob), but then she is ninety and doesn’t have a computer.   (Some of her artwork is listed under The Artist on the main menu).       

A Timely Topic

What time of day/week to post?    I have not noticed any difference whatsoever in terms of response, but I tend to prefer posting in the morning as if I work on it too late at night I will sometimes edit in my sleep and wake up thinking I must change that word!   Lately I have been posting on Mon/Tues but I have posted other days too.  Although I know it is important to have a regularly scheduled day, I don’t seem to have one.   Sometimes two weeks would go by before I could get something up, but I mostly stuck to my four per month quota.    (This post is 3 weeks late as I couldn’t find the time to edit it). 

A Timely Subject 

Some topics (gardening, books) get more attention than other more obscure subjects – The Simply White Dinner, The Insta-Pot review etc.   My topics are all over the map because I post about what interests me, but it’s very easy to get discouraged when you spend hours on something with little feedback.    Books are always popular because all writers are readers.   My last post on Beach Books got the most views all summer.

Your Target Audience:

 If I had known how many excellent blogs there were out there in the WordPress sea I doubt I would ever have proceeded – sometimes ignorance is bliss.    Before I signed up with WordPress I had only ever looked at two blogs – Susan Branch and Victoria magazine.   In fact, readers who enjoy these blogs plus baby boomers might be my intended audience.   My blog is a lifestyle blog so it’s general to begin with, but if I label my blog for baby-boomers, am I then eliminating a potential portion of my audience, even though they might not get my music links?   You know when some people first follow your blog and you check theirs out they are not going to stick around and vice versa, (like me with the Indian food).   While you can’t really predict who might be interested in your blog, there must be some better way to reach your target audience than random tags and hit and miss following.  When I started a year ago there were 33 million followers on WP, now there are 45 million bloggers.  It’s a big sea out there, with a lot of boats going in different directions who might not have any interest in joining your regatta.   Would it have been better to have self-hosted and steered my own course instead of bobbing around in the water hoping someone will notice?    Does anyone have any experience with self-hosting they would care to share?    Should I hire a consultant to make my blog more seaworthy?  (or should I stop with the ship metaphors at risk of being made to walk the plank)?  

The Golden Rule

Thou shalt not compare…..followers….easy to say, hard to do, and don’t we all count our stats?      

The whole followers/readers/views/likes/comments situation remains a puzzle to me.   I don’t know how people get so many followers – when I click on their blogs and see they have 500, 1000, or 5000 followers – what did they do to get that many?   How many years have they been blogging?   I follow and read and like about 30 other blogs, although I don’t comment as often as I should.   Some of these are people I have followed right from the start, and they seem to have a steady uptick in their followers, but others seemed to have dropped off the radar completely.   Their posts never show up in my Reader, or they will for awhile and then they drop off.   Notices about some posts will show up in my email, but others do not.   If it is an algorithm like Facebook, where you only see the posts of people you like and comment on, if their posts don’t show up, how are you suppose to read them.         

I appreciate all my readers and am happy if a few comment that they loved my post or said that was a great read, but we always want more don’t we?  And now that I am aware of the like-pirates who scroll down and plunder your posts with false likes, I wonder if it’s comments I should be counting, but who has time to comment on everything they read?  (Conversely, when you want to comment but the comments are turned off, that can be annoying too as that is part of the fun).       Pirates

 Statistical analysis:  (or Followers do not equal Readers)

       Being an analytical kind of person, I tried to do the math.   If you have 5000 followers, it is physically impossible for all those people to have your blog show up in their reader, (and vice versa), unless they have signed up with a personal email, and even then, they may not click on it.   Statistically if someone has 5000 followers and they get 50 likes that is only batting one percent (like baseball).   If you have 100 followers and ten people like your blog that’s 10 percent, so you are actually ahead stats wise.   So having more followers, gets you more likes but certainly not proportionally.  It’s the law of diminishing returns.   And what if you get a lot of views but not many likes (maybe you kissed the blarney stone and your posts are too long and meandering like mine and people give up).  Maybe that is why WP recently deleted the views from the published post section?  Do you shorten your posts to the length of the average attention span – 500 words…..or write on? 

           Incidentally, one of the best bloggers I follow has very few followers and her blog isn’t about anything I really care about, but her writing style is so fine and entertaining that I enjoy reading it anyway.   Many of the bloggers I follow are small in number and sporadic in posting.  Two of the bloggers I really liked appear to have quit.    I saw a blog the other day about the adventures of a dog that had 1700 followers.    Who can figure it out?         

Flogging your blog on other social media sites: 

Yes you should do this, but I admit I have not.  If you didn’t grow up with social media and aren’t comfortable with self-promotion, all those sites  can seem overwhelming.    Recently I joined Pinterest in an attempt to increase my  readership.   I posted a photo of my purple salvia and a link to my gardening blog The Color Purple, and down below there were fifty purple photos much nicer than mine…..the Competition Purple.   Plus if you don’t spend a ton of time on those sites following others, then you don’t get followers.   It’s reminds me of the rats in those old biology experiments – you are rewarded with a like each time so you continue with the same pattern of behavior, accumulating followers instead of food pellets, but what if you want to eat at a restaurant outside of the rat cage?   The first person I followed on Pinterest (recipes) had 10 million followers which is why they showed up at the top of my feed.   The rat reward system obviously works but is it worth the time investment if you are just a small mouse?   I think Pinterest will have to wait until winter when I need a good recipe for Sticky Toffee Pudding.        

I find it is harder to get new followers now that the community pool has closed.   I will sometimes drop in on blog parties or tea parties and those can be fun.   I enjoyed the Quotes contest and that Sunshine Blogger Award brought me the most views – 52.   Most likes in a day was 18 for The Potager.    We would all like to have more followers, but really what does it matter in the end if you have 100, 1000 or 10,000?   It is discouraging to compare, as there is always someone with more.   (I am sorry if this is depressing anyone – there is a cheery song at the end).   Perhaps the most important thing to remember is you are writing primarily for yourself, if others enjoy it too, that’s a bonus.  Plus there is a certain level of satisfaction to be had in having an idea, getting it down on paper and editing it to exactly the way you want – a post can be a thing of beauty on it’s own even if no one reads it. 

Show Me The Money:

Stats are important for financial gain.   I have heard 35,000 is the magic number to make any serious money at a blog, but there is a vast gulf between even 1000 viewers and that number.   Is even a bit of advertising financially worthwhile?   I don’t know  – I don’t know anyone lucky enough to play in the big league.    Having a financially successful blog takes good writing, a major time investment, dedication, commitment, social media PR and sometimes a lucky break (and it helps if you have a dog as everyone likes dogs, except me, I’m more of a cat person).    Having your post re-blogged or promoted somewhere can give you a huge jump in followers.   But it’s all beyond my scope of practice.    I will never be a big league blogger and am not sure I would want to anyway – it’s too much of a commitment for a newly retired person with a long bucket list.   Not to be discouraging to anyone who aspires to that.     If you can get some financial compensation for all the time invested, so much the better.    We all like to write, but I am sure writing for profit would be so much more rewarding!                

 Future Goals: 

          The race may be off course, but I’m not going to abandon ship just because the skies are stormy and the water is rough at the moment, summer storm over lake

but I may cut back to once or twice a month, (I really disliked the schedule), or I may just tread water for awhile.   My mother is having an art exhibit the month of  September (38 new paintings framed and ready) and I will be busy with that, so I may re-post some of those initial blogs which never saw an audience last fall, if they prove not too cringe-worthy, with more likely a mixture of new and recycled.  

Sailboat AMC

Or I may change course and set sail in a different direction.    I have enjoyed the creative process too much to quit totally but I may try some other kind of writing….I think a murder mystery might be fun.   (I can picture it now….six hundred pages with the clues cleverly scattered amongst all those superfluous details, lengthy descriptions and annoying brackets).    So, if this blog has served no other purpose than to jump-start a dormant English major, then it may prove useful yet.     I’ll have to give it some thought….a year at the least.   (Give me a topic and I can write something on it but give me a plot-line and I may be stuck forever…see the sometimes ignorance is bliss quote).     The Woman in Cabin Ten, (a murder mystery about a passenger on a small luxury cruise ship who thinks she saw someone being thrown overboard), made the bestseller list and god knows how much money.    Time to get that notebook out…….ahoy maties!   Full steam ahead!   

PS.  If you hear nothing further, I have sailed off into the sunset or been swept into the Bermuda Triangle….(now there’s a mystery that was never solved….)    Thanks for reading…those who stuck it out.   (4000 words……more or less). 

Song Link:   Triangle – a sailing song by Gordon Lightfoot (Canada’s national folk-singer)    

 

Quote of the Day:  “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”  (The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald)

Discussion:   My apologies if I have offended any of my initial readers, on the remote chance they may be still reading.    My intention was to highlight one of the frustrations of blogging, lack of encouragement and support.    Any bloggers care to share your experiences with any personal good/bad feedback you may have received about your blog from family or friends?   Or is your blog anonymous?  Do you find it difficult to get followers?   Are you satisfied with the progress you have made with your blog so far or did you expect more?   

 

 

 

Beach Books Blog

Beach umbrella

With only a few weeks of summer left there’s still time to get some good beach reads in and often the best time for beach reading is September when the crowds have gone back to school and work.   Here’s my annual list with links to my Goodreads reviews plus a link to last summer’s Beach Blanket books, (a bonus if you are a library patron like me is there won’t be a waiting list for last years).

My number one favorite award of this year goes to The Perfect Couple – by Elin Hilderbrand……set on Nantucket it was the perfect beach book…..so engrossing you never want it to end and you won’t even notice the waves sweeping that dead body out to sea.

waves
The Perfect CoupleThe Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Perfect Beach Read. Her best book yet, the usual island fare with the added twist of a murder mystery. After a dead body is found floating in the water the morning of a fancy wedding all the guests and family members are suspects. Intricately plotted, the characters and descriptions are so real you will feel like you just spent a week on Nantucket. If you take this book to the beach you will not look up once it is so engrossing…..I could hardly put it down. I hope she does more murder mysteries…..looking forward to her new winter series.

Here’s another good domestic drama.   I had grown tired of Joanna Trollope lately but this one definitely held my attention.   
An Unsuitable MatchAn Unsuitable Match by Joanna Trollope

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A thought provoking novel about late-in-life marriages, complete with spoiled millennials, an attractive but penniless suitor, and a divorced people-pleasing protagonist who attempts to keep everyone happy but herself. It’s an intriguing premise, and like the title, a totally unsuitable match. If the book had ended any other way I might have been tempted to boycott all her future books. Fortunately, although love is blind, with age comes wisdom. I used to be a big fan of Joanna Trollope but have found her books lately to be a bit of a struggle, I couldn’t even read The Soldier’s Wife, but this restores her to what she does best, a nice Jane Austen-like drama about the tangle of family relationships.

Who doesn’t love a good murder mystery?     Mary Higgins Clarke never disappoints.   Can be read in one sunny afternoon.  

I've Got My Eyes on YouI’ve Got My Eyes on You by Mary Higgins Clark

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Not as suspenseful as her usual, I guessed who did it and why about a third of the way through, but it was still a good read from the  Queen of Mystery.    She is still churning them out at age 91 but lately I have been preferring her Under Suspicion (fall) series with Alafair Burke.

For a more in depth psychological thriller, Clare MacIntosh is a good choice.    While I enjoyed her spring release LET ME LIE  it wasn’t as good as I SEE YOU, which I read last October and which had me deleting all the personal pictures on my social media accounts.  
I See YouI See You by Clare Mackintosh

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A murder mystery thriller perfect for reading on Halloween night in those lulls between handing out the candy…..ok maybe not such a good idea. Guaranteed to have you double checking all the locks before you go to bed, and I personally ended up deleting all personal pictures from social media. I liked the fact that the characters were flawed, which made the ending so much more delicious – a real treat.

You’re at a cottage and it’s raining so you browse the bookshelves for gems other people might have left behind.    SLEEPING MURDER,  Agatha Christie’s last book written in 1976, is the reason why they call her the original Queen of Mystery.   (80 books, over 1 billion sold).   Miss Marple may be a bit dated and the descriptions tame by today’s standards, but it’s still a masterful plot.   While I had never read much AG, other than Murder on the Orient Express where I already knew the ending, this kept me enthralled on a rainy afternoon and I finished it the next day at the beach in brilliant sunshine.

Beach Book

These are all by female writers, so here’s one for the guys.     A thought-provoking read about the origins of the universe and the future of artificial intelligence.     Dan Brown always tells a good story – book contains the usual steady stream of chase scenes where Professor Langdon is on the run from the bad guys and accompanied by a beautiful much younger woman.   Dream on Dan.
Origin (Robert Langdon, #5)Origin by Dan Brown

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A good read – Professor Langdon is back, the usual cloak and dagger, church versus science, fast paced suspenseful affair. But why does he always seem to be running from danger, in every chapter, usually with an attractive much younger female? I guess it makes for good movie rights. The book got off to a great start, but then kind of sagged in the middle, but I had guessed the ending by then. The plot line was simpler than some of his other books, but I learned some interesting facts about artificial intelligence and the big bang theory – see title.

Lighthouse

A Canadian find and locale.   The Lightkeeper’s Daughters by Jean E. Pendziwol  (plural – not be be confused with similar titled books).     I can’t remember how I stumbled upon this book, but it was mesmerizing.   A five star read.   Good for a trip to a cabin in the northern wilderness.  
The Lightkeeper's DaughtersThe Lightkeeper’s Daughters by Jean E. Pendziwol

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In her acknowledgements, this first time author thanks her writing group for encouraging her to take the giant leap to send her work out there. I’m so glad she didn’t keep the manuscript in her sock drawer because this is a marvelous book, by far the best novel I have read in awhile. Somewhat reminiscent of The Light Between Oceans, but with an Ontario locale as the lighthouse island is set in northern Lake Superior. The author who lives in Thunder Bay, grew up sailing in the area, and has done extensive research to keep the story authentic for the time period – it is set in the 1930-40’s. It is a beautifully crafted book, wonderfully plotted, well written, good characterization, with a perfectly satisfying ending. Why doesn’t something like this win the Giller prize? The author also thanks a ninety-four year old light-keeper’s wife who said wistfully after reading the book that she felt like she was back on the island. That was how I felt too – totally immersed in this other world, and really like the author acknowledged, there is no greater compliment than that for a writer.

So put your toes in the sand, open a cold drink and start reading.    Don’t forget to wear sunscreen.

Toes in the sand

Summer Beauty List

 “Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”  (Henry James)          

        Truer words were never spoken.   Summer afternoons can be beautiful but also extremely hot, making this one of the most difficult times of the year to look your best.    It’s hard to look fresh when the temperature soars to 40 C day after day and the heat and humidity have wrecked havoc on your face and hair.    So read on for a list of products that will help keep you looking as cool as a cucumber.   

not your average beauty review…

Rosewater facial spray

Rosewater Facial Mist

          A hydrating facial mist is a refreshing tonic for sun parched skin – the added antioxidant vitamin E and subtle scent of rosewater can make any dry complexion feel renewed.   I buy The Body Shop version for around $20, (watch for 40% off coupons online), but Garnier has recently released one as well which is cheaper at $9.   Their Soothing Facial Mist with Rosewater promises to refresh, sooth and hydrate, but I found the Body Shop version had a nicer smell.    I keep my bottle in the fridge for an added cooling sensation.  

Lavender mist spray 

Lavender Body Spray

       I bought this  a few years ago at a gift shop because it had such a lovely smell but many lavender sprays can smell synthetic.   To avoid this you can make your own Lavender water by adding lavender oil to a mixture of water and alcohol (check for recipes online).    Keep in the fridge for maximum cooling effect.   Lavender is calming if you are having a stressful day and is also thought to keep mosquitoes away…….you will smell too lovely to bite.  

 

 Blotting Papers

       If you have oily skin or an oily T-zone area this is your new best friend for summer.   Clean and Clear makes a great one but I have also bought the generic brands.    Tuck a few of these tissue thin squares in your purse to take the shine off.    A little glow is okay, an oily sheen is not. 

Perspirex

Perspirex

      If the rest of you is glowing a little too much and you need extra protection, this is a great product to try.   Containing a higher strength aluminum chloride it is designed to be applied at night to completely dry skin and can last up to five days.    A maintenance schedule of once or twice a week keeps you smelling fresh on even the hottest days.   At $21 a bottle it isn’t cheap but a small bottle lasts a long time.   It can cause skin irritation especially if the skin is not completely dry or you apply too much.    Sometimes I have to wipe it off after a few hours but it still works well.    It is similar to Drysol but I find it less irritating.   (Note: due to conflicting medical concerns about aluminum I only use this during the hottest weeks of the summer when I know I will be outdoors a lot, not year round).  

Nail Polish

Sally Hansen Insta-Dry Nail Polish

        I don’t understand the whole mani-pedi obsession.   I’d rather have something tangible for my $40, and don’t get why women waste money on something they could do themselves with a cheap bottle of nail polish.  Ladies, put that money into your travel/house/retirement fund.    The last time I had a pedicure (a Christmas spa gift certificate I never would have bought myself), the nail polish had smeared by the time I made it to the heated pool area, (by far the best part of the day was a couple of hours poolside with a book), and the free bottle of nail polish ended up being re-gifted.   But I do like my feet to look nice in sandal season, and this is the product I swear by.   I would take this stuff to a deserted island, but I wouldn’t have to because it does NOT chip…..ever!   No touch-ups or smearing.   Plus it comes in yummy colors like watermelon and fuchsia.   While I wouldn’t say it dries instantly, it does dry quickly and at around $7 a bottle (on sale at the drugstore this week for $4 so I stocked up), my DIY pedi is good for a month.   Because we’re heading to the beach and who doesn’t want their feet to look beach-worthy.         

sunscreen face

 Sunscreen for the Face

         We all know the drill……sunscreen is the best anti-aging agent ever….as long as you use it.    I have struggled for years to find the perfect sunscreen for my pale sensitive face – non-greasy, hypoallergenic, unscented etc.    Every year I try a new crop of the latest and greatest.   This years specimens include these two by Neutrogena.    The Ultra-Sheer Water Light lotion is a chemical sunscreen with a non-greasy base – the non-greasy feature is always high on my list.   It can be worn under makeup.   The Helioplex sunscreen blocks both A and B rays.   It was light weight as promised but made my eyes water so I couldn’t read my beach book.   As I often have allergic reactions to chemical sunscreens I usually have to resort to a physical sunscreen like zinc or titanium oxide but it’s hard to find one that isn’t thick, sticky or pasty white.  The refined micronized particles in the Sheer Zinc Face Mineral protection make it less so, but I still ended up a whiter shade of pale.   I wish I could find a mineral sunscreen for the face you could spray on.   Is that too much to ask for?    Oil of Olay has recently come out with a line of Whipped moisturizers with sunscreen which promise to be light and non-greasy but they are scented and thus out for me.   The elusive search continues…..time to get the parasol out.   

Parasol  

sunscreen

 Sunscreen for the Body

        I have better luck with Helioplex containing products for the body.   Neutrogena has an Ultra-Sheer body mist that sprays on great and is relatively non-greasy if you are at the beach or poolside, although I wouldn’t wear it otherwise.   I have used this for several years.   And this year I tested their new water gel product Hydro Boost which was good, not too sticky at all.    It also contains hyaluronic acid as a moisturizer.   All these products are water-resistant which is a useful feature when you are at the beach or poolside, but I find they adhere so well to your skin that you really have to scrub at night to remove them…..so you might as well use a nice smelling soap!    

 

Summer Soaps

         On the hottest days, using an orange or citrusy soap in the shower can be an invigorating pick me up.    In the evening, a nice floral scented soap in a cool bath can be a calming wind-down to a busy day.  

Summerhill

Summerhill – Crabtree and Evelyn

 Summerhill by Crabtree and Evelyn is a lovely floral scent which has been a favorite of mine for years.   I use the bath gel and soap and it makes me think of summer even in the wintertime, plus the packaging is so pretty.  

Rose perfume Crabtree and Evelyn

When I ran out of Summerhill room spray I improvised and used their Rosewater perfume.   It’s very concentrated so one spritz will have your house smelling as lovely as entering a Crabtree and Evelyn store.   A great way to bring the roses inside!

Lilac Soap

        I also switch out my hand soaps for summery scents.    Winners is a great place to pick up great hand soaps at cheap prices.    This lilac scented one smells divine, like the month of May all year round.    

 

Lavender is another great summer scent.   Tuck a few lavender sachets under a pillow for sweet dreams. 

hair jewelry

 Hair Accessories

          Arm bracelets can do double duty as hair accessories on hot days.  What a great excuse to put your hair up and who doesn’t feel instantly cooler with a ponytail or chic bun.    Bargains can be found at the dollar and accessory stores – cheap summer fun.

white wicker purse

Vintage Purse

      Dump the big purse for a small vintage bag.    Who wants to lug around an oversize purse in the summer, it just makes you feel hotter and weighed down.    So ditch the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink shoulder bag for a small purse.    This vintage wicker number has a satisfying click and is so chic so you can pretend you are Audrey Hepburn going to a Simply White Dinner (that post simply did not get enough love).     

Quote of the Day:   “What dreadful hot weather we have!  It keeps me in a continual state of inelegance.”  (Jane Austen)

Postscript:  This is my first foray into beauty previews.    No financial compensation was involved in this post, but if any of these products fail to keep you cool in the dog days of summer then there’s always this.   

dog swimming  

Stay tuned for the Beach Book Blog next week. 

       

 

Summer Bucket List

Beach pail

            I always feel sad this time of year because summer is half over and I  haven’t done everything I planned.   Winter is brutal and long here in Canada which makes us appreciate summer even more but even if you can’t afford to rent a cottage most of these summer pleasures are free.   We still have almost a month left though….how many things have you crossed off your summer bucket list?    There is still time to:

Have breakfast outside on the deck    breakfast outside

Dry your sheets on the line….ah the smell 

sheets on line

Vintage clothes dryer

Go to the beach and watch the waves   waves on beach

Buy some colorful beach towels Beach Towels

Read a big fat beach book with your toes in the sand   

Beach Book

The Perfect Beach Book

Build a sandcastle with some little ones 

Feed the seagulls French fries   seagull

Go strawberry picking     strawberry picking

and blueberry picking…..make a pie Blueberries

Feast on summer fruit  

 Lay on the grass and gaze at the stars on a starry starry night 

Starry NIght Over The Rhone

Starry Night Over The Rhone

Visit an art gallery or museum

Watch tiny fireflies   

Watch major fireworks

Toast marshmallows around a bonfire

Nap outdoors on the swing   nap on swing

Barbecue a steak on a charcoal grill while camping    Steak on grill

Dine alfresco at a restaurant with a view of the water   

Visit a farmer’s market   

Peaches for Sale - AMc

Peaches for Sale

Make jam   

Go fishing    

Make a pitcher of punch or lemonade 

Punch

1/3 pineapple juice, 1/3 cranberry juice. 1/3 ginger ale

Listen to summer music while driving (see Summer Playlist

Watch a summer storm over the lake   summer storm over lake

Drink coffee on a park bench

Park Bench

Pack a picnic lunch   picnic basket

Have an ice cream/gelato cone   

Gelato

Simply the best Canadian gelato

Go to an outdoor art/craft show

Watch a sunset   sunset over lake

Attend an outdoor concert

Watch the sailboats race    sailboat race 

Eat corn on the cob and ribs 

Have key lime pie for desert Key Lime PIe

Gaze at your solar lights before bed   

 Watch a summer blockbuster on a hot humid day

Have an afternoon nap on a rainy day

Clean out your summer closet

Shop the summer sales (keeping in mind next years vacation)

If you’ve missed any, you still have time left – get moving, and don’t forget to wear sunscreen!

sailboat

Summer sailboat

What is your favorite summertime activity?

 

 

 

Summer Playlist

            Here are six pieces of musical nostalgia for your summer playlist, and a list of activities to accompany them – because life should have a soundtrack.   As I am a fan of all things vintage they are oldies but goodies, dating from the 50’s to the 70’s.    A millennial told me recently that he wished he had been born in 1960 because we had better music, and we did, but I would welcome any newer suggestions.  

Sailboat

Old Cape Cod – I love all those old classics from the 50’s and this song paints a picture of a part of the world I would love to visit, being a big fan of Elin Hilderbrand’s Nantucket novels and Susan Branch’s Martha’s Vineyard books.  It was first recorded in 1957 by Patti Page, but I like Bette Midler’s 1972 version as well.   Best served with a lobster stew in a restaurant with an ocean view.     

 

Hovercraft

You have to be crazy to try this…

Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer.     Originally recorded in 1963 by Nat King Cole, this happy summer song is best served with soda, pretzels and beer while reading a book on the beach and wishing summer would always be here.    

 

Indian Lake

Indian Lake

Indian Lake – another tune from the sixties – 1968 The Cowsills.   I remember listening to this (now politically incorrect) song when I was a kid and we would go up to the Grove-on the-Lake to swim on summer Sundays after church.   Best served with a snack at the Grove diner after renting a canoe or while camping.  

 

picnic basket

 Hot Fun in the Summertime – recorded in 1969 by Sly and the Family Stone shortly after their performance at Woodstock.    Best served out in the country sun with a picnic basket or at any outdoor music concert.

 

sailboat river In the Summertime – Mungo Jerry – a British rock band debuted this hit in 1970 which became the carefree summer song of the baby boomer generation.   Best served with a milkshake or smoothie while driving a jeep along the lake.    (Don’t drink and drive!)

 

pool chair

photo from poolsuppliescanada.ca

Sunny Afternoon – recorded by The Kinks in 1967 as a protest to the British taxes paid by rich rock stars.    Best served while lazing in a swimming pool with an ice cold beer in hand while dreaming of winning the lottery. 

 

Postscript:  I suppose I could have called this six summertime hits from the sixties.  Notice I said we had better music, not hairstyles or clothing!    

What is your favorite summertime song? 

 

  

A Midsummer Garden Tour (The Color Purple)

           It must be a bad year for garden tours as I have not seen anything advertised and July is almost over.     We had a late spring, then it got very hot very suddenly.   We had too many days of over 40 C and very little rain and were fast approaching the crispy grass dried out part of summer where everyone but the most die-hard enthusiasts has given up, when the skies opened to a whole week of torrential downpours.   Now everything is green again but soggy.   Mother Nature is being temperamental this year, but at least we can go to the beach guilt free.  Watering Can

          It’s nice to go on garden tours to get inspiration and new ideas, plus it gives you a good excuse to wear a stylish hat, perhaps something with a broad brim and a navy grosgrain ribbon?   (I’m always in search of the perfect hat and sometimes the hats are more fun to look at than the flowers).   Two years ago, while on a garden tour I snapped a picture of this shady oasis of calm.   

purple garden bench            While purple and green are not colors that I would ever have thought of for a garden bench, the combination was eye-catching, and I believe the homeowner was ahead of the trend, or maybe I was two years behind as usual.   It wasn’t something I thought would work in my predominately pink garden, but I did steal their idea for the birdcage with the ivy flowing from it.  birdcage(Check Michael’s end of summer sale for birdcage bargains).   My ivy did not fare as well being exposed to too much sun, so this year I tried wave petunias which also did not do well either in the small space.    Maybe next year a fake ivy plant from the thrift store?   Would anyone notice?

       I noticed the purple and green theme back in the spring when the nurseries started carrying colored pots.    Purple looks particularly striking with pots of herbs, 

 

  and since then I have seen deep purple Adirondack chairs as well.  purple chair

       So onto my own little garden space.    I will spare you the bedraggled bits and concentrate on the things which looked lovely in June, the most popular time for garden tours.  

roses

          It was not a great year for the Knock-out roses as I pruned them the first of April and then we had two more weeks of winter, so lots of buds but not as much foliage and many dead branches.   For those unfamiliar, Knock-Out roses bloom all summer and are essentially maintenance free. 

         I have lots of pink roses in my garden and purple can be a great accent color for pink.   It can be a dark shade, as in these Jackmanii clematis vines next to the John Cabot climbing roses, purple clematis

trellis

or the purple Salvia, next to the pink Knock-Outs.     purple salvia       It can be a mixture of both dark and lighter shades as in this Purple Iris belonging to a neighbor.   I bought two clumps of this at the horticultural plant sale in May anticipating next spring.   Purple Iris Or it can be a pale lavender shade as in this Russian Sage, Russian sage and Rose of Sharon.   lavender rose of sharon      The Russian sage has been in for five years now and is thriving at over three feet tall.   It is drought resistant.  The Rose of Sharon, eight years old and covered with blooms every year, was another wise choice.     

          Then there are the mauve hydrangeas who can’t make up their mind if they are pink or blue, (wrong with the aluminum sulfate again). 

 

And of course we can’t forget the lilacs, the delight of every May. lilacs

          The majority of my lavender plants did not survive the winter so I had to replant, leaving me with a few spiky survivors.   This two year old French lavender plant in the back corner although not very full compared to my older English ones, blends in well with the pink wildflowers.   Lavender and bird bath                 Then there were the mistakes.   Not every shade of purple is attractive.  These foxglove seedlings from the farmer’s market came up a fuchsia color I did not care for at all as I was expecting a rosy pink. purple foxglove

And the Pink Champagne clematis I planted last year bloomed the same bright shade,  purple clematis lovely in it’s own way but clashing with the bubblegum pink of the rose bush beside it.   It’s unfortunate these two fuchsia friends could not be together but one is in the side yard and one at the back.    Some days I swear I will never buy anything again unless it is in flower and able to speak the truth.    

This year I planted multi-colored morning glories in front of this old recycled trellis…..twice.   They came up and then seemed to disappear. green cartI suspect the rabbits who lounge in my backyard in the evenings have been munching them for desert.   (They were upset because they couldn’t get at all those glorious carrots in the potager.  They have now moved on to sampling the petunias).carrots                        I was pleasantly surprised to see how much purple I actually have in my garden, but as every gardener knows there is always room for more and that neglected corner was telling me to buy a purple clematis to go with the lime green cart, and to think it all started with a garden tour…..

What great ideas have you discovered at a garden tour?

The Simply White Dinner

simply white dinner

           The Simply White Dinner is an annual event which originated in Paris twenty-five years ago and has now spread to cities all over the world.   The local version of this outdoor picnic has sold out again.  Every year this event gets bigger and more extravagant and every year people pay for the privilege of sitting with 300 other guests all wearing white on a summer evening and listen to jazz music while they dine on their own picnic fare.    Tickets are $60 per pair, (only pairs as the organizers want an even number of tables), and every year it sells out.   And yes, you bring your own food.   The $60 charge is only for the ambiance.   Bottles of wine (presumably white) are available for purchase, but you must bring your own bottle opener, white picnic basket/bag/cooler, white china, glass ware, real cutlery, (no plastic please), white linen napkins (to wave in the air for the group picture) and centerpiece (perhaps white hydrangeas).   You must wear white, and only white, except for footwear.    Elegance is encouraged, hats, fascinators, white boas, white gloves etc.   They supply the tables and chairs, the white tablecloths and the music.   The rest is up to you.   The location is top secret until the day before the event, presumably to avoid gawkers (although it might be hard to hide 300 chairs) but is usually somewhere along the waterfront.   This year they had a perfect summer evening with a lovely breeze coming off the water, last year it was sultry and sweltering hot.   It’s hard to dress chic when the humidity soars to over 40 C. 

           Now if you are a romantic at heart this sounds very enticing.   The event organizers promise a magical evening of outdoor dining, music and dancing under the stars.   It does sound wonderful and very Gatsbyish….who wouldn’t want to dress up like Daisy Buchanan?

       Except even the local newspaper christened it The Chic Potluck because……where are all the men?    The closeup in the paper showed a long table of stylishly dressed women with hats and white flowers or wreaths in their hair, with a few dapper men here and there, coerced into white suits or white golf shirts and white pants by their wives, but they were older, grayer men who may have grown up with John Travolta’s white disco suit in Saturday Night Fever, or perhaps Don Johnson’s pale linen jackets in Miami Vice, or maybe even Humphrey Bogart’s white tuxedo in Casablanca.    White is not a color favored by a lot of men, except for the classic white dress shirt which accompanies suits and ties, and I believe even that has fallen out of favor except for funerals and weddings.   Women enjoy wearing white, and as Jane Austen famously quoted in Mansfeld Park, “A woman can never be too fine while she is all in white” but I think Jane was probably thinking of younger women.    I abandoned white years ago as it can be unflattering to the skin tone of women over fifty.   In fact I don’t believe I own a single white item in my wardrobe.  I also can’t sit in the direct sun for three hours – would my beige parasol be confiscated at the door?   Parasol

Informal poll:  Female readers would your boyfriend/husband/male significant other be willing to don white (and we’re not talking white t-shirts here), to attend such an event?  (Male readers I would like your opinion too).  Men might be enticed by the promise of a good meal, but remember you are bringing your own food and it probably won’t be them making or packing the picnic lunch.   All of these are perfectly valid reasons to just stay home.   Still I am feeling a bit wistful about missing the promise of an enchanting evening(musical interlude from South Pacific) 

             The first year they allowed registrants to pre-order a boxed meal of a salad with protein/chicken for $22 (has anyone noticed that the $15 salad has now become $20) but that was soon abandoned, probably for liability reasons.   There are suggestions for picnic fare on the website…..appetizers, sandwiches, deserts.   The food does not have to be white, but what if it was?  If we’re going to have a theme here let’s go all out.   How about aged white cheddar with crackers, and white radishes and cauliflower veggies with ranch dip as appetizers.   Lobster or lobster rolls, or tuna on French bread.  Or that perennial picnic favorite, cold chicken and potato salad with white chocolate mousse or  crème brulee for desert?    Sounds like a plan, and you don’t have to pay sixty dollars to do it – you can put the money you save towards the lobsters.   Just organize a party for your own backyard some soft summer evening.   Invite some friends over and serve Prosecco or Pina Coladas.   Play old vintage Frank Sinatra/Dean Martin tunes instead of that horrible screechy jazz.   You might even cheat and stay out until midnight if your neighbors don’t object, instead of packing it in at ten as the official white party does.   (I’m not sure how much dancing under the stars would get done when it doesn’t even get dark here until well after nine, but you might get a good forty-five minutes of twilight twirling in). 

      Being possessed of an analytical mind, I decided to do the math.    300 tickets X $30 is $9000.   Nine thousand dollars to cover the rental of the table and chairs, the tablecloths and the jazz trio and DJ, might still leave some money left over, but as I don’t know anything about event planning, maybe they just break even?   They say they do it for the fun, it’s not a charity event.   It does seem like a lot of money though for some ambiance.   Last year I had tickets for a Local Harvest dinner, where for $30 a person you got an actual meal outdoors at the local farmers market square.   Although it was the end of September (timed for the harvest moon) and a coolish night they had heaters and a band played later.  (This reasonable price however might have been subsidized by the culinary arts students from the local college learning their trade).   The meal itself consisted of artisan bread, potato soup, locally sourced salad greens, a beef and a turkey entree, rustic vegetables and assorted homemade pies for desert.   And recently I attended a church dinner where the menu was a starter chopped salad, roast beef, chicken cordon bleu, mashed potatoes, carrots, coleslaw and homemade strawberry trifle for desert.  (This meal however might have been subsidized by the church coffers as a thank you to the volunteers).    And last June I attended a WW2 swing dance in an airport hangar, with a truly memorable roast beef and chicken buffet with the most scrumptious cheesecake for desert with a choice of lemon, cherry or blueberry toppings, and afterwards an evening of big band music with a 23-person orchestra.   Vintage dress was encouraged, some women did, most men did not, although I did see a few who might have been wearing their grandpa’s old uniform.   Tickets for that charity event were $75 per person, but as they have increased it to $100 per person this year they must not have made any money.   So, it is possible to have both food and ambiance for a price, (and it is possible to get members of the male species out for an evening of dining and dancing if there is a vintage B17 bomber on display to tour). B17 bomber

        Perhaps it is a case of country mouse versus city mouse, but if given a choice I think I prefer food over ambiance.   Still if Jay Gatsby offered to buy the tickets next year and pack me a picnic basket I might be persuaded to attend.     

Song of the Night:   Dancing in the Moonlight

Quote of the Day:    “There was music from my neighbor’s house through the summer nights.  In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.  (The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald)