Marcia Strykowski

Welcome to my Porch

We all have our favorite activities and places and one of mine is spending time on my back porch. Porches seem to be an extension to a home where the dreariness of day-to-day tasks can be left behind. Our porch was built on ten or so years ago, first only screened, and then later the windows were added into the same slots for a maximum outdoorsy feel in all kinds of weather. I designed it to be a round porch which is tricky to get into one picture so I merged two (hence the warped beam which in real life is straight).I liked how the ceiling looked with wood between the beams except as they are wont to do these days, it was stamped with bold lot numbers. We put up with this look for a few years but my longing for a sky ceiling became stronger. Trouble is I didn’t want to lose the beams, didn’t want to do it the easy way. There weren’t many options for covering the rough wood in between each beam, but eventually we decided on ceiling panels. They were easy enough for me to paint the pieces after we measured and sawed them. But the real chore was for my husband who put them all into place. Many hot hours were spent on a ladder with a cramped neck, as he painstakingly screwed each panel into its homemade system.One of the last additions was a grass green rug which brings an added coziness to the porch.“Nowadays, people are so jeezled up. If they took some chamomile tea and spent more time rocking on the porch in the evening listening to the liquid song of the hermit thrush, they might enjoy life more.” Tasha TudorNow we’ll go out the back door and visit the little patio garden.Here’s a recent picture of my sister and I helping our mom celebrate her June birthday. It was a chilly day and just right for enjoying the porch.

Back Yard
by Carl Sandburg (1878 – 1967)

Shine on, O moon of summer.
Shine to the leaves of grass, catalpa and oak,
All silver under your rain to-night. 

An Italian boy is sending songs to you to-night from an accordion.
A Polish boy is out with his best girl; they marry next month;
to-night they are throwing you kisses.

An old man next door is dreaming over a sheen that sits in a
cherry tree in his back yard. 

The clocks say I must go—I stay here sitting on the back porch drinking
white thoughts you rain down. 

   Shine on, O moon,
Shake out more and more silver changes.

Scenic New England

As most of you know, I was born, bred, and buttered (as they say around these parts) right here in New England and no matter where I travel, I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be. As is typical here in June, one day was warm and the next cool, however there were plenty of perfect weather days for sightseeing. I’ve been using my little point & shoot camera for years, nothing fancy, but still I can’t resist pulling it out wherever I go and where I’m drawn is usually to water. Here are a few quick shots from last month. First we’ll pop in on Ogunquit, Maine where the tulips were still going strong past Memorial Day.Then we’ll swing by Prescott Park in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.Can’t leave out Newburyport, MA. Boats of all sizes stop by this pretty little harbor.And last, but not least, it was quite a treat to see the Tall Ships in Boston. We even got to go onboard one of them.

So, that was June and I’m thankful for a bright start to the season. If only summer would slow way down, I’d be happy as a clam at high tide. 🙂

The Tiniest Books

After enjoying your comments on my Tiny Books post, I decided to do a post on even tinier books. These first pictures show books I’ve had since childhood. All are hardcover with book jackets. First up is the Christmas Nutshell Library by Hilary Knight. This cute little boxed set includes 4 tiny books, each 2 1/2″ x 3 1/2″. They were published in 1963 by Harper & Row and are unpaged (meaning no page numbers). Titles are A Firefly in a Fir Tree, Angels and Berries and Candy Canes, A Christmas Stocking Story, and The Night Before Christmas.There are also wonderful collections of Maurice Sendak books in the Nutshell Library series. My next book is A Pocketful of Proverbs by Joan Walsh Anglund (also unpaged). This 1964 tiny book with case was published by Harcourt, Brace, & World, Inc. It is 3″ x 4″ tall. Next up is a completely wordless, hilarious set of books created by Mercer Mayer. Four Frogs in a Box was published by The Dial Press in the early 1970’s. Each book is 3″ x 3 1/2″. Titles are A Boy, A Dog and A Frog (1967), Frog Where are You? (1969) A Boy, A Dog, A Frog and A Friend (1971 by Mercer and Marianna Mayer), and Frog on his Own (1973). The Little Book of Hand Shadows stands 2 1/2″ x 3″ tall and is reprinted and adapted from the original 1927 edition. This beautiful little book put out by Running Press in 1990 was created and drawn by Phila H. Webb and the verses are by Jane Corby. There are 77 pages. Also above is another pretty book from Running Press, 1992. The Nutcracker by Daniel Walden and illustrated by Harold Berson was adapted from the ballet which was based on E. T. A. Hoffman’s 1815 story: The Nutcracker and The Mouse King. There are 155 pages in this tiny 2 1/2″ x 3″ volume.

The below photograph shows a group of my daughter’s tiny books, all of them less than 4 inches wide. Here are two public domain pictures that show just how tiny books can be. I did a little research on Charlotte Bronte and her brother Branwell’s tiny books which they made when they were only 13 and 12 years old. There are 20 of them and I was happy to discover that 9 of them are nearby in the Houghton Library at Harvard University. They measure less than 1″ by 2″ and have amazing detail. You can see one of several at this link.

The smallest book in the world is 2.4mm x 2.9mm and is housed at the San Diego Central Library. It’s an ABC book, leather-bound and printed in 4-color. A strong magnifying glass is needed to see, never mind read, this tiny tome.

Speaking of wee books, my thoughtful son and daughter-in-law gave me this beautiful little leather book necklace. It actually opens up and contains blank pages with pretty end papers. Those of you who are really into collecting tiny books might like to join the Miniature Book Society. Their well-done website has a wealth of information.

Tiny Books

In an age of tiny houses (all the rage in USA and Canada) and tiny food (very popular in Japan), I’ve been thinking about how we also have tiny books. The librarian who orders nonfiction at my library is rather petite and seems to like small things, so at first I thought she might feel a connection when ordering such tiny books. But won’t they get lost on the shelf? I wondered. However now I’m realizing she was just ahead of her time. Nowadays these hidden gems seem to be popping up more and more. Below are a few tiny nonfiction books that caught my eye when we recently added them to our library collection.

Nature’s Remedies is a beautiful little book with delicate watercolor illustrations throughout. This user-friendly guide introduces beginner herbalists to a wide variety of medicinal herbs.

I haven’t read The Minimalist Mom but the subtitle alone: How to Simply Parent Your Baby seems to bring a breath of fresh air to all the old texts on the rules of parenting.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up certainly got me motivated to get rid of a few bags of stuff. The narrative sometimes seems a little bit over-the-top but overall the reasoning for how life can be simpler and less stressful when one owns less clutter is definitely one I agree with.

Possibly because I’m part Danish, but I absolutely loved The Little Book of Hygge. I listened to the audio version read by the author himself. This isn’t always the best choice for readers, but Meik did an excellent job and his Danish accent brought much to the performance. I for one quickly got in the mood to gather friends, sip warm drinks, and play board games, all the while a storm rages outside.

At only 5 inches square, Genetics in Minutes is unbelievably packed with information as well as with many photographs and diagrams. There are over 400 pages containing user friendly concepts of genes, DNA, biology basics and much more. As the back cover states: Genetics in Minutes is the “fastest way to grasp genetics, from Darwin’s finches to Dolly the sheep.”

Herbs + Flowers is another little book about herbs but this one explains in detail how, when, and where to plant them  (and even describes what each one tastes like). There are lovely illustrations and a good index at the back. Thirty-two of the most popular herbs and edible flowers are included.

I haven’t dipped into these last three books yet, but their covers prove they hold important information. When flipping through 21 Ways to a Happier Depression I found it to be very visually pleasing–a nice design with splashes of watercolor paintings and quotations sprinkled here and there.

Don’t let these diminutive delights fool you; not only do they easily fit in a pocket or purse for on-the-go reading, but on closer inspection they all seem to reveal great thoughts worth pondering.

Hope you’re all having a wonderful summer and as always, thanks so much for reading!

Edited to add… many of your wonderful and very appreciated comments refer to miniature books, those extra tiny 2 or 3 inch versions of real books. This gives me the fun idea to do a post on those as well, sometime, so thanks for that. For this post, books are mostly 5 x 6 or 5 x 7 inches. Not super tiny, but still tiny in the same way that ‘tiny houses’ are not the size of Little Free Libraries or bird houses, yet still very small when compared to regular houses. 🙂

Tea Time

A while back we had a tea expert come in to do a program at our library. She talked about the various teas, historic significance, health properties, and rituals; mainly focusing on the time period of the Downton Abbey television series.There was a variety of tea foods to sample.And for those who didn’t have a hat, there were plenty to choose from.Time for tea and conversation. Scenes from Downton Abbey were projected on the screen behind the speaker.The presenter brought many items to display.I popped back out of the picture to take one last shot showing these fine friends in front of the big screen.A few years ago the library hosted a different type of tea party, one for the younger set. Click on the below picture to see more of their tea time activities.And once upon a time I hosted a big tea party at my home. If I could only catch up on my to-do list, I’d love to have another one. Click on this next photograph to see a few more pictures from the party.I’m not sure what brought tea to mind this morning, but perhaps it’s because I’m listening to the audio version of The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See. If you check her website, there are all sorts of videos and information about her research for this intriguing book as well as special tea packages for book groups.

“You can’t get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.” – C. S. Lewis

E. B. White

Elwyn Brooks White was born on July 11, 1899, in Mount Vernon, New York. In a 1980 article from the New York Times he discusses his name: “I never liked Elwyn. My mother just hung it on me because she’d run out of names. I was her sixth child.” Later, at Cornell University, he was called Andy and the name stuck with him for life. Andy had several newspaper jobs before starting at the New Yorker magazine in 1927. He worked there as a writer and contributing editor throughout the rest of his career. This is also where he met his wife Katharine. Their son Joel was born in 1930. White wrote plenty for adults including his contribution to The Elements of Style which is familiar to just about anyone who has ever studied writing. As for his classic children’s books, the first was Stuart Little in 1945. This story about an adventurous mouse became very popular. Next came Charlotte’s Web in 1952. I would guess everyone is familiar with this beautiful classic. If you’d like a real treat, I highly recommend listening to the audio book read by the author. I’ve heard it took him many tries to get through the emotional parts of the story without bursting into tears while recording.  The success of Charlotte’s Web was followed by The Trumpet of the Swan in 1970. Awards included the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal in 1970, the National Medal for Literature in 1971, and a Pulitzer Prize special citation in 1978. White died at his home in North Brooklin, Maine on October 1, 1985.
I recently had the pleasure of attending a program about E. B. White. This event was the closing ceremony of the annual Newburyport Literary Festival. After an interesting discussion, a question and answer session followed. Panelists were Melissa Sweet and Martha White. Melissa is the amazingly talented illustrator/author of one of
my most favorite new books of the past year. Some Writer! The Story of E. B. White is one of those books you want to put on your shelf to return to again and again—so much to see on each page. Martha White is not only an author herself, but she is also E. B. White’s   granddaughter. The talk was moderated by journalist Leslie Hendrickson. The second picture shows Martha speaking in front of the large slide show that accompanied their talks.I would  someday love to be one of the lucky few who get to visit and tour E. B. White’s homestead in Maine, but until that day I’ve put together some of his wise words to wrap up this post.

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