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Contact me at Mom25dogs@gmail.com

Friday, February 29, 2008

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

I finished reading this book last weekend. This book was popular when it came out in 2005 and I finally got it off my TBR (To Be Read) shelf and read it. I doubt I would have read it if I had known it was about Dracula. I'm not into that sort of thing.

Kostova took a very roundabout way to tell this story. She is a master of the tease. She eked out clues on almost every page and I had to finish it. She told the story from the perspective of several generations and it was a little confusing for me. A young teenage girl in 1970's Europe is learning about her father's college years who is following his middle aged mentor's search, etc. And we get to switch back and forth between all these time periods and characters. It's an unusual direction to take but it made things confusing for me so I can't particularly say I liked the approach.

Let's see if I can summarize a little. A 16 year old girl in 1972 finds a book and envelope full of papers in her father's study. She begins to read them and asks her father about them. Over a period of some time and multiple conversations he slowly explains what the papers and the book are about. I'm not sure why one conversation wouldn't have done it but Kostova dragged us through some time and different trips with multiple "confessionals" from her father. So let's switch to him...In 1950's he was a graduate student working on his thesis and his mentor is a middle aged professor. One day at the library he recieves a book with nothing but a woodcut of a dragon on the middle page. He can't get rid of it and he asks his mentor about it. Professor Rossi begins telling him about how he also found a book like that and how he had done some research on it back in the 1930's. In the end of the book you find out that Dracula has had these books made and gives them to the best scholars. I'm still shaky on why he used the books and how he controlled the scholars for his own purposes. Rossi disappears after one of his talks with the girl's father and her father decides to find him. He meets up with a Romanian woman named Helen whom he eventually marries and she is the girl's mother. It turns out that Rossi is her father and she joins him in his search. They use Rossi's 1930's research to try and find the real grave of Vlad Tepes from Wallachia (whom we now call Dracula). So the story jumps from the girl, the father, Rossi, and back again as they go all over Eastern Europe.

Would I recommend this book? Frankly, no. Kostova writes well but I didn't like the jumping around and the lllloooonnnnggg tease. You couldn't skip any of the pages for missing something vital to the story and yet the book is long. I did learn some things so I guess it was worth a read but, otherwise, I thought it was a waste of time. The ending felt a little flat compared to the long anticipation.

2008 Charlotte Southern Spring and Garden Show

In Charlotte, NC they have an annual Home & Garden Show that is really good. It's at the Charlotte Merchandise Mart on Independence Blvd. It starts on Wednesday and goes through Sunday. We like to go on Wed or Thurs before the weekend crowds. It's much more enjoyable. As many in our family as can arrange their schedule try to take the day and go. This year it was Mom, Dad, Stan, his mother, Peggy, and I. It was actually snowing when we got there but it was just a snow shower and didn't leave anything. The clouds blew away and it was sunny, very windy and very cold (for us). It's the first time it's ever snowed when we've gone. It's usually a beautiful day. But, it doesn't matter since everything is inside. They have 3 large buildings. One building has mini landscapes and rooms decorated for spring. You get such great ideas from the vendors who are showing off their skills in landscape design, water features, interior decorations, outdoor living spaces, etc. In this building you also see the orchid show winners and the orchids are always so stunning! And you have the "wine aisle" where local (NC/SC) wineries show off their wares and sell their wines. In the other two buildings you have booths of vendors that are selling things for home or garden. I love shopping in this area too. You find all kinds of things.

Here are a few items that I saw that intrigued me:

A water circulation mattress pad that can be adjusted to heat or cool your bed. A queen size with dual controls runs for $895 at the show. But I could just really get one of these! You can heat one side and cool the other side if you want. At my age, with hot flashes and night sweats, having a cool side would be great and then the dogs could luxuriate in the warm side. But, it was a little too pricey so I had to pass.

A massage chair that massages your legs and all the way up to your neck. A leather zero gravity chair that costs $3495 at the show. It does heat, vibration, shiatsu, tapping, rolling, kneading, etc. I took a time in the chair and made Dad get in the other one. We got a 10 mins massage that helped our aches and pains. Boy, I would love to have it but, again, I had to pass.

Microfiber cleaning clothes and micofiber washclothes and towels, mops...they seemed to work really good. My Mom bought some so I'm interested to see how they work out. I might have to order some.

Cantalope wine! You heard me, cantalope wine! And it was delicious and I bought some from Chateau Laurinda in Sparta. A light pink color, refreshing, fruity cantalope flavor without being too sweet or syrupy. From the same booth, I bought some blackberry wine and sangria too. I can't wait for a hot afternoon where I can relax on the patio with a cold cantalope wine.

A great garden cart. It even dumps. It was $299 at the show so I passed on it too but that is what I want for Stan to move mulch.

All kinds of stoneware like granite countertops, stone tiles, etc. I got to see a lot of different stones and usages. Also got to see a lot of cabinetry. One day, when we gut the kitchen (and that will, please God, be a long time away) I have all kinds of ideas for what to put in my kitchen.

Lots of vendors to sell foodstuffs like dip mixes, crockpot mixes, bread and soup mixes, sauces. We get to graze and enjoy the samples. We always buy some of those things. I bought some Wild Rooster sauces this time. We bought them last year and enjoyed them.

Now, I'm going to post the photographs I took at the show.

I love this dog kennel except I would build it to be 6' high so you can stand in it. Stan built something like this for us when we lived on the farm except we didn't have the building. He did the kennels on a concrete pad and built a shed roof and dog houses. For outside dogs this is ideal and you could heat the dog building safely.

I would love to have this in my bathroom. Maybe we can gut my bath soon and I can do something like this. But, what I have is functional and works so it may be awhile.

I loved these whimsical chandeliers!

Rain will follow the cans and string into the rain barrel!

This has some water details that you have to look for. Rain water collects and comes across the top of the back wall. In the center of the wall is a trough that pours water into a small pool and when it's full, the water then follows a trough under the table and across the patio to another small pool. Back at the top of the wall, there is another trough that pours water to another container and a trough that follows the side wall and drips down into a pool at the keyhole. Then it follows another trough through the keyhold to a last pool.

A nice firepit.

An outdoor fireplace.

Notice the fountain?

Garden shed.

Here are the orchids!

Spring Decorating

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