Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Charm of a French Boutique Hotel




This week I'm celebrating a trip my husband and I took to San Francisco for three days, during which we stayed two nights at a charming hotel, The Cornell Hotel de France, which bills itself (justifiably) as a "French boutique hotel".  (This is a day early for the Friday "Celebrate the Small Things", but sometimes it just works out that way. ☺️) You could say I'm celebrating the hotel, because it looks as if it has been whisked out of the 19th century, even the 18th, with it's beautiful paintings and decor — lots of gilt everywhere.

I like anything remotely historical, and especially anything that smacks of Paris, so this hotel was a find for sure. All the hallways sported prints of famous French Impressionists (my favorite artists), with a particular artist assigned to each floor. Our floor was the Stage Gauguin; the one below was Talous Lautrec. Other floors Van Gogh, etc. In the rooms are different artists. We had a couple of Klimt. Here is a close-up of "The Kiss",  and someone had done a gilt painting around the wall switch! There were lamps on delicate furniture, and the overhead light sported an upside-down Tiffany style shade.

Klimt's "The Kiss"
Light Switch
Overhead Shade
There is also a restaurant,  Jeanne D'Arc, which was closed for renovations while we were there, but I understand the food is very good — and very French.


Restaurant Window
Stature of Jeanne D'Arc
Birdcage Elevator
The Jeanne D'Arc theme was highlighted all through the hotel, in paintings and plaques and statues. There was also a charming, if rackety, old-fashioned birdcage elevator painted with French style decorations on the doors. (Those are reflections you see in the glass tops of the doors.)

The hotel serves breakfast in a basement cafe (included in the overall bill), and it isn't the run-of-the-mill croissants, coffee, cereal and fruit. No, you get a choice of waffles or pancakes, omelette, or eggs served in any style. Or you can have cereal. Or fruit. Each breakfast comes with toast, hash browns, and fresh orange juice. And some of the best coffee anywhere! I wish I had thought to take my camera to breakfast, because the cafe was awesome in its decor, painted to look like stone columns and plaster walls, all of which were decorated with lovely hand-painted art work following scenes from Ste. Jeanne's life and story. You must go there yourself if you can and enjoy it.

Meanwhile, I did think on leaving to take a picture of the staircase going down to the cafe. And a little sitting lounge where you could read the newspapers and enjoy a cup of coffee, if you so wished. And the outside plaques that give you some idea of the hotel's standing as a tourist spot.


















How about you? Are you enamored of French culture and themes? Have you been fascinated by the history of Jeanne D'Arc? Do you like French food?



Celebrate the Small Things  is a blog hop co-hosted by Lexa Cain at: Lexa Cain,  L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge , and Tonja Drecker @ Tidbits Blog. (You can go to any of these sites to add your name to

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Celebrating a Wonderful PBS Series, VICTORIA


This week I'm celebrating PBS Masterpiece Theater's series Victoria, which you can learn more about HERE. You could say I've been celebrating it for a few weeks, on Sunday evenings. Tomorrow is the final for season 1, and I have been completely drawn into this series. Here's why:

(But first: Celebrate the Small Things  is a blog hop co-hosted by Lexa Cain at: Lexa Cain,  L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge , and Tonja Drecker @ Tidbits Blog. (You can go to any of these sites to add your name to the links, if you want to participate. )

So, why am I so drawn to this series? To begin with, I've always been fascinated by Victorian London and the era itself, when inventions we take for granted were just beginning: Electricity, the railroad, the telephone, etc. These were the big things people talked about, while they traveled by stage coach and hansom cab. From stories I read growing up, there always seemed a magical element to the clip-clop of horse hooves against cobblestones and buildings swirling in fog and the gas street lamps and the lamp lighters in the earlier part of the era. 

Then, of course, there was the world of Sherlock Holmes, that uncannily brilliant detective who solved cases by observation and thought. (I'm not big on today's mystery/suspense novels that are solved by forensics and all forms of technology. They don't seem half as interesting.) 

Of course, I was unaware of all the faults of the era: the London of misery rather than the London of mystique and the English inheritance laws that could leave a woman anywhere destitute, the starving and wretched in crime infested warrens, rather than the elegant neighbor hoods where women enjoyed theater and endless parties. All of my awareness of London's social stratification came later. (Commendably, under Victoria and her husband, Albert, many social reforms took place. ) 

But especially interesting in this series is how it brings to life the difficulties of a strong-willed teenager who suddenly found herself Queen of England and who had the determination and savvy to navigate quite a number of plots against her even after her marriage to Albert. From the get-go, she was both assaulted by political rivals and sustained by her own intelligence. And the love affair between her and Albert is so heartwarming for an era where marriage was usually a political alliance first and foremost. They literally fell in love with each other and never got over it. (This season only brings a viewer up to Victoria's first pregnancy, but since they had many children and achieved many social reforms, there really is material to look forward to.)

And then there is the acting: Jenna Coleman is perfect as the young Victoria. Rufus Sewell shines as Lord Melbourne, her mentor, friend, and political advisor. Tom Hughes is endearing as the besotted Albert, who still must earn respect from Parliament and forge his own role as more than an echo of the queen. This is a stellar cast, with those in supporting roles holding their own, and together they bring Victoria's world convincingly to life. 

If you've missed episodes of Victoria, you can probably find reruns of it on other evenings on PBS.

Do you have a favorite series? If so, is it contemporary? Or historical? Are you a devoted fan? Do you set aside time each week to watch it?

  

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Celebrating That I'm Walking More

One of my resolutions at the turn of the year was to walk more for general health. Well, I started keeping that resolution three days ago. (Yeah, it took me that long to work up to it.)
But first: Celebrate the Small Things  is a blog hop co-hosted by Lexa Cain at: Lexa Cain,  L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge , and Tonja Drecker @ Tidbits Blog. (You can go to any of these sites to add your name to the links, if you want to participate. I recommend it, because it's always fun to see news that others are celebrating, and to share your own as well. )         

So—walking more: 

1. On Friday, I walked 18 blocks to the central branch of the public library, spent some time looking up book publishers, and then walked the 18 blocks home again. That basically translated into walking altogether about three miles. (It also combined my writing resolution with my walking resolution, which made me feel double good.) This week I'll be investigate all the publishers online to see if they are still current and analyze their requirements if they are. I got these from the 2016 Writers Market, because the 2017 was checked out. But the good news is that the nice young man at the reference desk arranged to have it sent to my neighborhood branch 7 blocks away when it comes in, so I can check even further. Meanwhile, it was so pleasurable to be in a library again, I plan to hang out there more this year.

2. Yesterday, my husband and I walked 18 blocks to the Women's March that began at T and 6th streets and ended up at the State Capitol plaza for a rally. It was truly inspiring, and I'll be blogging about it more this week at my Fourth Wish blog "next door", along with posting pictures. But here are a could I put on my Facebook:


That's my husband next to me in the first picture. The sign wasn't mine—we didn't have time to make signs—but the man who took the picture let me hold his. I was especially glad, because that sign resonated with me as a former teacher.  



Today, I only walked two miles. A mile took me to my favorite bookstore here in Sacramento, Time Tested Books. (It's where I had one of my book signings a year and a half ago for Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls.) I stopped by the store and had a good browse, and naturally the owner is saving a book for me to come back and buy this week. (I purposely walk without my purse. It's nice to be un-encumbered.) When I left to come back, I walked a mile in a heavy rain! I had to change clothes when I got home, but it was a wonderful and refreshing walk. 

So I plan to do more of this: Two miles a day, and hopefully, three miles many days.

How about you? Are you a walker? A jogger? Do you attend marches? Do you have a favorite bookstore where you hang out? Do you hang out at your local library? Did you make any resolutions this New Years Day? 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Celebrating Good Books and Submissions

                                                                       
I had mentioned earlier that one of my New Year's resolutions was to write more. Well, I've been scribbling notes for WIPs and new works, but more importantly, I've been submitting work—last week, a picture book and a chapter book. Today, I submitted10 poems to a contest.

On another note, I'm celebrating two good reads: I ordered and have begun to read, Anne Bronte's The Tenant at Wildfowl Hall (which I mentioned in last week's post). And I'm halfway through Amy Thomas's The Detective and the Woman and the Winking Tree. Expect positive reviews for both in posts to come.

What a pleasure good books are!

Celebrate the Small Things  is a blog hop co-hosted by Lexa Cain at: Lexa Cain,  L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge , and Tonja Drecker @ Tidbits Blog. (You can go to any of these sites to add your name to the links, if you want to participate. I recommend it, because it's always fun to see news that others are celebrating, and to share your own as well. )

What are you celebrating this week? Did you make New Year resolutions? If so, were you able to start applying to at least one of them? If not, are you somewhat skeptical of resolutions, and do you just go with the flow or wing it each year? Any good reads to share?


                                          

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Madwoman Upstairs, A Fantastic Read


I have been a fan of the Brontës most of my life, and I was always fascinated by the idea of those tiny books the siblings wrote (complete with maps). When I was around twelve or thirteen, I tried to make and write in an itty-bitty book like they did, and I could hardly get six or seven words to a line with a pencil. How on earth did they manage whole books with metal dip pens and messy ink? I'm also a lover of books that take place in Victorian England, and I'm hooked on mysteries, particularly those with a gothic tone, so this book was a triple pleasure!

The Madwoman Upstairs, by Catherine Lowell, doesn't actually take place in the Victorian era, but the protagonist is a student at Oxford. Her research is focused on the Brontës, so there's quite a bit of delving into their famous books and lives. And how did Samantha Whipple become so interested in the Brontës? She's the last remaining descendant of this intriguing family. I've read Emily's Wuthering Heights and Charlotte's Jayne Eyre more than once, and I've seen many movie versions of both stories, but I never read anything by the younger sister, Anne. It was always my understand she was the dull writer. The Madwoman Upstairs led me to order a copy of Anne's The Tenant of Wildfowl Hall, which I'm now eagerly awaiting.

The plot of this engaging novel involves a mystery surrounding the Brontë estate Samantha is thought to have inherited from her eccentric father. Estranged from Samantha's mother, he homeschooled her until he died in a fire. At Oxford, books start mysteriously appearing in strange places, one by one—books Samantha thought had burned up in the fire that took her father's life. Another professor is trying to find the estate Samantha doesn't think exists. Meanwhile, Samantha is slowly falling in love with her advisory professor, curt, cryptic, distant, and as eccentric as she is. For Samantha is eccentric, and their awkward, often antagonistic, cerebral, budding romance is one of the more delightful relationships I've read in a long time. Samantha's one-liners, whether in dialogue or internal, are just terribly witty and funny.

And, for a novel that involves so much literary probing and history, it was a page-turner. When daily life intruded, I seriously hated to put this book down. I plan to read it again. History, humor, mystery, and the Brontës are an unbeatable combination for me! And there's a reason for the title. Mad women apparently appear in more than one Brontë book. And there are parallels between Samantha's life and the women in those books.

You can order The Madwoman Upstairs at      http://www.simonandschuster.com/books/The-Madwoman-Upstairs/Catherine-Lowell/9781501126307/
 (My computer is acting funny, so I wasn't able to do the usual link thing.)

How about you? Are you a Brontë fan? Do you like history mixed with mystery? And do you like mysteries that involve famous people? I'm always looking for new reads that combine those elements. If you know of some, do leave the titles in your comments.

Happy New Year, and best wishes for a 2017 filled with peace, love, happiness and health.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Celebrating Reading

 
I'm a little late to the blog hop this week, but good fortune has been happening to my writing friends, and I'm celebrating their accomplishments.

First, JaNay Brown-Wood's new picture book, Grandma's Tiny House, will be released August, 2017, but you can pre-order it here:  JaNay is front and center in this photograph. And here is her charming book.

Second, Rosi Hollinbeck's poem, "Sky Zoo," has been purchased by Highlights Magazine, although they haven't announced the publication date yet.  Rosi is to JaNay's left. Both of them are in one of my awesome writing groups. (The other members are Paddy Lawton (behind Rosi) and Marsha Sylvester (to JaNays right.) I am the one peeking into the selfie camera in the lower righthand corner. We have all been together for several years, now, and what a great group this is!

Third, I belong to, Sisters in Crime, an organization of writers of adult mystery fiction, and the local chapter, Capitol Crimes, has just published a collection of mystery stories by some of the members. I bought my copy and am enjoying it. Here is a picture of the flyer.

If you are in the Sacramento area, you can attend the book signing on December 17, at 4:00 p.m. at Avid Reader, at 16th and Broadway in Sacramento.

You can get a copy of the 2017 anthology here:






Celebrate the Small Things  is a blog hop co-hosted by Lexa Cain at: Lexa Cain,  L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge , and Tonja Drecker @ Tidbits Blog. (You can go to any of these sites to add your name to the links, if you want to participate. I recommend it, because it's always fun to see news that others are celebrating, and to share your own as well. )




How about you? What are you celebrating this week? Do you belong to a writing group? More than one? Are you interested in poetry? Picture books? Mysteries? What is a favorite read in one of those categories?

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Poetry and Guests


                                

Happy Post-Thanksgiving Day, everyone. I hope you all had a lovely day. 

Today (well yesterday and last week as well) I'm celebrating three things. 

But first: Celebrate the Small Things  is a blog hop co-hosted by Lexa Cain at: Lexa Cain,  L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge , and Tonja Drecker @ Tidbits Blog. (You can go to any of these sites to add your name to the links, if you want to participate. I recommend it, because it's always fun to see positive news that others are celebrating, and to share your own as well. )



What am I celebrating? 
1. Friends from Spain  David & Terri — are visiting us until the 1st of December. They are originally from England but live in Spain, and we met them several years ago on one of our trips and the friendship has continued. It's been great fun taking them to see various sites.

2. We had a great Thanksgiving with them and a wonderful "pre" Thanksgiving with my god-family. Lots of good eating and good company. 

3. One of my writing friends — Rosi Hollinbeck, a super writer and beta reader — has had one of her poems anthologized in a The Best of Today's Little Ditty, available HERE. Check it out.

What are you celebrating this week? How was your Thanksgiving? Do you normally have Turkey, or have you started different traditions? Are you a poetry fan? If so, what is your favorite kind of poem, humorous or reflective?