Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Personal Project: Learning About Russia

At any time, I am usually reading three books. I have my daytime book, my audio book for daily car travel, and my bedside nonfiction, which is usually spiritually inspiring or instructive. In the past, I've enjoyed pre-sleep wisdom from The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith by Marcus Borg, The Faith Club: A Muslim, A Christian, A Jew-- Three Women Search for Understanding by Ranya Idiby, Suzanne Oliver and Priscilla Warner, Without Buddha I Could Not Be A Christian by Paul F. Knitter and special favorites Longing for Darkness: Tara and the Black Madonna by China Galland and Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness (Shambhala Classics) by Sharon Salzberg. Without going into a laundry list of my spiritual beliefs, I'll just say that learning to be a kinder, more compassionate person is very important to me. This brings me back to books.

For my recent beside spiritual reading, I chose Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life (Borzoi Books) by Karen Armstrong. I certainly recommend it, and admire the way that Armstrong suggests that you learn about compassion in action in history, as well about educating yourself about those different from you, now. I apologize that I don't have the book in hand at the moment, but I can tell you that one of the steps mentions that you may adopt a foreign country and learn about it and its people. You can read their stories, listen to their music, celebrate their holidays and follow their news. I thought it over, and I’m choosing Russia. For one thing, I was born in the 1960s and I'm sure that most of my view of Russia was shaped by the Cold War. Russia was the Soviet Union and its people were Communists and a threat to the USA. Russia was the spies Boris Badenov and his crony Natasha from the cartoon " Rocky and Bullwinkle," the Beatles song "Back in the USSR" and villains from James Bond movies. But also, it was fascinating, the "Land of the Midnight Sun", with folktales of Baba Yaga and her house on chicken feet, glamorous Faberge eggs, and the tragic massacre of the royal family in 1918.

Although I have learned a better balance of information since my younger years, I am still admittedly quite ignorant. So, I plan to focus on learning about Russia for six months or so. I know that I can only find out a very modest amount in that time, but it will be more than I knew before.

Where to begin? As a former children’s librarian and lover of picture books, an easy in for me is reading illustrated fairy and folktales from Russia.

Other reading:

• Russian literary classics

• Novels about Russia

• Novels by Russian authors

• GLBT experience in Russia

• General nonfiction about Russia

• Nonfiction Russia travel books

• Nonfiction history books

• Art books

• Other cultural arts: dancing, music, handicrafts

• Cookbooks

• Poetry

• Fairy and Folktale collections


• Fiction movies

• Movies in Russian

• Documentaries

• Travel


I’m basically clueless here. Without research, I’d say:

• Russian ballet

• Classical

• Russian Gypsy Music

Language learning:

• Databases: Byki and Mango

Other activities:

• Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis

• Russian restaurant

• Current news

I plan to write here about the resources that I use. I welcome any input and suggestions!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Welcome to the family Maisy Rae!

Here is our new kitty, Maisy. We adopted her from the Humane Society on Saturday. Maisy is 7 months old and 5 lbs big. She is very sweet and loving, and is tolerant of the dogs, at least from her perch on her cat tree. I'm so glad that we found her!

Friday, October 29, 2010

I was a forty-something zombie!

We did our Zombie Makeup 101 program for teens at the library this week. The incredibly talented Gabriel Wimmer came to Zombify us. I was thrilled to be a creature of the night!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

More Flowers from Our Garden

Delphiniums, Blue Butterfly, I think

Hollyhocks, Peaches and Dreams
and Chater's Double Red

Close up of Hollyhocks

Foxglove, Camelot Rose

Snapdragons, Pansies, Nasturtium in small front bed

Visiting friend

These photos were taken in July. The Hollyhocks look sad and bare now, unfortunately. The Delphiniums are rebloomimg, though and so are the Foxglove. Kristian's vegetables are going to town! Our corn stalks are growing little ears. I'm very excited. We've also had tomatoes, peppers, peas, beans, and sun berries. We are farmers! ;)

Now, I'm looking ahead to spring and I'd like to start planting bulbs. I long for Crocus, Tulips and Daffodils, but it will mean clearing another bed. We'll see how ambitious I get!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Early (May-June) Photos of our Flower & Vegetable Gardens

My second year perennial garden in a wannabee Cottage Style

Pink Columbine, Biedermeier Mix

Dirty Gardener on the Job

Swan Pink & Yellow Columbine

Pink Bleeding Heart

Unknown Purple Iris

Kitty garden art in honor of my dearly departed cat, Rubaiyat

Cottage Pinks

Campanula Blue Clips

Anytime Rose Stocks

Peaches 'N' Dreams Hollyhocks

Bare earth just waiting to become K's vegetable garden.

Beginning to make the boxes

Box frames ready

Final garden plan, early June picture

Long shot of both gardens in progress

Little Eggplant flower

Jack and Zoe want to help!

More information to be added! Check back soon.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Giraffe Goes to Paris: Just a Really Nice Book

In the unusual picture book, A Giraffe Goes to Paris by Mary Tavener Holmes and John Harris, illustrated by Jon Cannell, we learn the true story of Belle, a nineteenth century famous traveling giraffe. Belle, born in 1824, was an elegant gift from the pasha of Egypt, Muhammad Ali, to the king of France, Charles X. Belle's story is told by her loving caretaker, Atir. He answers our pressing questions: how does a giraffe, never before seen in France, get there from Egypt in 1826? What does she eat on her journey? What company does a single giraffe keep? Belle fascinated the people, who couldn't figure out what she was, and started a giraffe merchandising craze! I think that this is just a dear book, beautifully illustrated in watercolor and ink, with actual historical artifacts and art from Belle's heyday. A French pronunciation guide is included.

An adult book has also been written about Belle, Zarafa: A Giraffe's True Story, from Deep in Africa to the Heart of Paris by Michael Allin, which is now on my reading list. Interestingly, Mary Tavener Holmes has written another true picture book about a journeying animal, this time a hippo, My Travels With Clara. I can't wait to get my hands on it. Adults can also choose Clara's Grand Tour: Travels with a Rhinoceros in Eighteenth-Century Europe by Glynis Ridley, which I've been meaning to read for years. Pick up one of these titles and see our beautiful creatures through fresh and wondering eyes!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Volunteering to End Hunger

Last weekend I had the opportunity to volunteer for a truly worthwhile project: helping to feed children in Haiti. Organized by Feed My Starving Children, a Christian organization which distributes food to children of all religions, there was 24 hour food packing at the Southdale Mall in Edina, MN. My husband and I, along with members of the church that employs him, Edina Community Lutheran Church , pitched in for a three hour shift. Tables were set up and food was packed through the assembly line technique. Plastic bags were placed over a funnel and filled with chicken (vegetarian chicken bouillon, we were told), dehydrated veggies, soy and rice, then the bags were sealed, boxed and placed on pallets. I was the soy and rice scooping girl. They played upbeat music, the time passed quickly and I felt great after.

Here is the after-the-fact information from Feed My Starving Children  :

Thank you to all who volunteered at the One Community event! Thanks to your support, the final numbers are truly astonishing:

5,166 volunteers

1,710,288 meals

On May 21 and 22, the South Metro community gathered in an unprecedented effort to pack meals for Haiti. The One Community event was truly for everyone - students, families, clubs, teams, churches, businesses, and more - all working together to hand-pack specially formulated meals for starving children in Haiti.

We took over the former Mervyn's store at Southdale Mall for 24 hours starting May 21 at 6:00 p.m. It was a 24-hour blitz to fill Southdale not with "mall rats" but with "pack rats." It was one community uniting for one day with one purpose: Feed Haiti.

FMSC provides nourishing food to:

Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belize, Chile, Colombia, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador,  Ghana, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Iraq, Jamaica, Kenya,  Liberia, Malawi, Mexico, Namibia, Nicaragua, Peru, Philippines, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, Tajikistan, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.

If you have a group of ten or more friends and you live in or are visiting Minnesota, you can volunteer for a shift to pack food. See Group Volunteer Information .

If you're like me, and probably generally can't whip up ten willing friends who are all free at the same time, you can still help by donating. See Donate or Gift of Life and Hope Catalog.

Thanks for reading.


Guinan 1990?-2009

Griffin ?-2010