Susan Marie Molloy

Life in the Oasis


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My Christmas Reading Gala 2017: Update #1

A couple weeks ago, I set a reading goal for myself, of books I want to read before the end of this year.

So, how’s it going? you ask.

Pretty well, I reply.  Have a seat.  Pour yourself a cuppa.  Here are the books that made it to the “Finished Reading” shelf as of today:

1913: In Search of the World Before the Great War by Charles Emmerson
• This is a fascinating, history-political science work that takes the reader around the world to every continent (except Antarctica) and the major cities to show what governments and people were thinking and doing. To put it succinctly, World War I was a little bit of a surprise for most of the world. I recommend “1913” it is a lengthy book, so be aware.

The Three Daughters of Madame Liang by Pearl S. Buck
• Madame Liang, long abandoned by her husband who took up with concubines (gasp!), has three daughters who are the center of her world. She runs a restaurant for the elite in Communist China, while her daughters – Grace, Joy, and Mercy – live their lives in China and the United States. People are suspicious. People are spied upon. The lives of Madame Liang, her daughters, their husbands and boyfriends, their children and close friends are all intertwined to bring a fully rich story of youth, age, and wisdom. I recommend “Madame Liang” for its beautiful descriptive scenes, remarkable history, and well-rounded characters. Note that it is filled with overt messages about governments, change, and tradition.

The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra by Helen Rappaport
• In “The Romanov Sisters”, we get a look at the personalities of the four sisters, Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia. We get a good understanding of their schooling, social interactions, familial roles, their relationship with their parents and brother, Alexi. What I found the most interesting is what the author believes is the real reason Czar Nicholas II abdicated, Czarina Alexandria’s unmistakable poor health (and how much was it, really, psychosomatic?), and the back and forth between Nicholas and Alexandria and the other royal houses of Europe in trying to find husbands for Olga and Tatiana. I recommend “The Romanov Sisters” for its thorough research, interesting photographs, and clearly written chapters and index.

The Case of the Perjured Parrot by Erle Stanley Gardner
• This is the fourteenth Perry Mason book, published in 1939. The pace moved along quite well in “Parrot,” and the twists and turns were remarkable. Just when I thought I knew who the murderer was, there was another twist to the tale. About two chapters to go, I nailed the murderer down. But there was Mason, bringing up another fact, and wouldn’t you know it? The murderer was the last person I thought. The funniest passages in the book were the back-and-forth between Mason and the sheriff at the coroner’s inquest. Is the parrot a witness? Was the parrot sworn under oath? Should we believe the parrot? Brilliant light comedy! I recommend “The Perjured Parrot” for fans of detective fiction, mystery, and Perry Mason, in general.


Here’s what still left on my Christmas Vacation reading list:

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Southern Reconstruction by Philip Leigh
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Rest in Fleece: Ghosts Tall Tales & Horror Stories by Jan Olandese
A stack of books by Bobby Underwood:
Beyond Heaven’s Reach, Lover’s Tide,The Unlocked Window, Nautica City, Dark Corridor, Galveston, Surfer Girl, The Trail to Santa Rosa, Holly, Passage to Tomorrow, The Black Dahlia, The Wild Country, The Velvet Sea, Grover’s Creek

I’ll continue to update my progress here and on Goodreads, where you can read my more in-depth reviews of these and the other books in my library.

©2017 Susan Marie Molloy and all works within.

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The Cookbook Case (Part 2)

Woke up this morning to a chilly 33*F, and the sun is out to help warm up things.  This past weekend, I made lasagna from Pope’s book, and that helped to warm things up.  Daily life is getting busier since Christmas is a mere fourteen days away.  These are good days to catch up on reading.  Later this week, I’ll write an update to my Advent-Christmas Vacation Reading Gala 2017.

Today, here’s an update to the cookbook shelf we devised, as we make our home.

A little over three months ago, I realized I needed a way to contain all of my cookbooks. When an old bathroom shelf was not useful any more, I thought up a new application for it. The result was pretty and utilitarian, too, as I wrote about in, “The Cookbook Case (Part 1)”.

The shelf after my beau put it up. (c) 2017 Original photograph by Susan Marie Molloy.

Finally, I weeded through my recipe clippings and the duplicate (and triplicate!) copies, too.

The result is that there are no more clippings in disarray, no extra pieces of paper, the recipes I kept are organized neatly in binders, hardcover cookbooks and pamphlets are easy to find, and it’s all so organized.

The shelf today, fully useful.
(c)2017 Original photograph by Susan Marie Molloy.

This was a project I was meaning to do for so many years, and now I can go about other need-to-do projects guilt free.

Now, about those photo albums

©2017 Susan Marie Molloy and all works within.


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Morning Meditation: Five Ducks

Five ducks I discovered during a chilly December walk.  The Muscovy duck with the red head steals the show.


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Date Night: At the Movies – The Man Who Invented Christmas

The past couple of days have been cool and grey, with off-and-on rain. It led my beau and me to an early show and a trip to the bookstore.

We went to see the movie, The Man Who Invented Christmas, a story about how Charles Dickens came around to writing the blockbuster novella, A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost-Story of Christmas (a.k.a. A Christmas Carol, published in 1843). Overall, the acting was good, the sets, scenery, and costumes were just right, and the story was fairly true to the events leading up to, and culminating in, the publication of the story.

Leave it to me to find the few “embellishments,” such as the availability of the penny dreadful, Varney the Vampire, or the Feast of Blood, used as a prop in the movie. True, Varney wasn’t available until about two years after the publication of A Christmas Carol, but this was a film, not a documentary, so there’s the creative license that can be overlooked.

It is a good movie, and it’s a movie kids can go see. There wasn’t any bad language, unless you consider “bloody” a swear word. (It is considered so in England.) There is no nudity, although there are bedroom scenes where Charles and his wife, Catherine, are in bed, but they are fully clothed and nothing adult goes on except maybe a peck on the check and a “Good Night.”

We see how a writer such as Dickens goes through the process of gathering ideas, falling back on experiences, and even collecting names for characters. The way it was presented in the movie was good; entertainingly good.

We ended our evening with a trip to the bookstore, where we picked up a copy of A Christmas Carol and a few other books. We need to go back today. I accidently bought a book that I bought a few weeks ago, and I need to return it.

Returning to the topic of The Man Who Invented Christmas: Did Dickens really invent Christmas? I don’t know. By the time he wrote it, England was already, albeit slowly, rediscovering the holiday. Interest in sending Christmas cards was already increasing (people had done cards well before the Victorian years), and although the Christmas tree saw its days in England as early at the 17th century, interest was reborn with its re-introduction by Prince Albert.

A Christmas Carol has never been out of print, and there are probably so many adaptations too numerous to list.  Perhaps the one thing Dickens saved was people’s awareness and sensibilities about how they treat other people, not only during the Christmas season, but throughout the year.

©2017 Susan Marie Molloy, and all works within.


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One for the Books: A Bizarre Day

This day is one for the books.

We woke up this morning to the tiny, breathy “woofs” from our terrier. It seemed he was busy barking at something in his dreams.

Later in the morning, we stopped at Sam’s Club® for baking soda and black olives. With so little to buy, we decided to take advantage of the self-checkout. That went smoothly until this screen popped up:

We waited. And waited. A good eight minutes passed, according to my watch. Then I tried to get the attention of four clerks as they passed by the checkout lines. Each kept her eyes forward and, I guess, didn’t see me waiving and beckoning them for help.

“How ‘bout that guy, over there in the white coat?” I asked my beau.

“That’s the butcher.”

“I know. Just kidding.” I started walking to the customer service desk. I tried to stop another clerk, but she turned her head and kept walking, sipping on a straw in a white Styrofoam cup.

“Excuse me—,” I started to say to another clerk, but she walked past me and over to a young man, and started talking to him. I got the impression he was her boyfriend.

By this time, I made it to the customer service line, and that was so long, I’d still be waiting as I write this article. I headed back to my beau who was still waiting for “an associate” to fix the receipt problem. So much for the motto on their vests that tout something about they are pleased as punch to help customers.

“No dice,” I said with a slow burn. “That line is almost out the door.”

“I. Have. Been. Waiting. For. Fifteen. Minutes. An. Associate. Has. Been. Informed. And. Help. Is. On. The. Way. To. Fix. This. Fifteen. Minutes. Ago, ” my beau bellowed as he read from the checkout screen, stabbing dramatically at every word.

The store went quiet. Most everyone turned towards my beau.

Within three seconds, an associate dashed over to our lane, apologizing with a smile. (By the way, she was one of the clerks I was trying to get the attention of to help us.) She got the receipt printed out, all with pleasant laughter and more apologies. We thanked her, wished her a Merry Christmas, and she did the same, and the customers around us smiled. Sometimes you have to do what you have to do to get something done.

At home, my beau unpacked the shredder we bought at Staples®. There was a dead cockroach in the plastic bag within the box. Bizarre.  It got flushed.

Then we watched the live newsfeed of self-proclaimed “Champion of Women,” ex-Saturday Night Live jokester and current Minnesota Senator, Alan Stuart Franken, profess that “some of the allegations against me are simply not true, others I remember very differently.” Isn’t that a funny way to say, “I didn’t do it, but I did do it, but in different ways?” Bizarre.  That whole thing is bizarre.

Moving along, we read an article that Jorge Mario Bergoglio (the guy sitting in the Vatican as a placeholder while we’re waiting for a Pope) is claiming the Our Father (The Lord’s Prayer) is not what Jesus taught the Apostles. Lord, help me. Can this day get any more bizarre?

For supper, I made pork with lemon and capers (an inspiration from a New York Times recipe). After we ate, and as I was cleaning off the table, I asked my beau where his lemon slice was. “I ate it,” whereupon I asked where the rind was. “I ate it all. It’s zest. And it’s fruit.”  And he proceeded to stab the lemon slice off my plate and eat it.

Not my cup of tea, but what the heck. Remember, it was a bizarre day: One for the books.

©2017 Susan Marie Molloy and all works within.