Monday, April 28, 2014

Book Review

I have just finished reading a great book, "Shadowed by Grace: A Story of Monuments Men" by Cara C. Putman. It is an historical fiction love story placed in Italy during World War II. Rachel is a photojournalist on assignment to photograph the war, in addition to another purpose that you must read to discover. Scott is an officer with the U.S. Army's Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Division. I loved the characters. We had recently seen the movie, "The Monuments Men", so this book really came alive for me.

I highly recommend it! Local peeps, you can find it our church library.

The story followed the war from Naples, to Rome, through Tuscany and on to Florence. In 2005 Rich and I were privileged to visit Italy with a tour group of Westmont College alumni and parents. We did not visit Naples, but we visited the other places mentioned in the book. Here are some of our photos from those places. Pieces of art are beyond description!

Views of Rome from the Vatican.


Art in Vatican Museum.

Rome Colosseum.

Colosseum Arch of Constatine.

Arch of Septimus.

Views of Tuscany.

Arno River from Pt. Vecchio.

Ponte Vecchio.

Florence Duomo Complex.

Thankfully there were those of the Greatest Generation willing to risk their lives for the art and culture of this marvelous country!

Progressive Dinner

Saturday evening 20 or so ladies from our church went on a progressive dinner. We gathered at church to meet/greet, gather in two groups and enjoy an appetizer of strawberry soup and accompaniments. Each group went to three homes, one for salad, one for main dish, one for dessert. It was a delightful evening! What began as a very windy evening, ended so relaxed.

Our salad course was hosted by Joan, who set such an elegant table!

We all loved how Joan folded the napkin folded into a rose bud.

Ladies in my group were: Judy, Elaine, Tina, Brenda, Rosemary.

Hostess Joan, Lisa, Della, Cathy, and Donata. We would catch up with Gail, our main course hostess at her home.

We began by going around the table introducing ourselves.  There were women I knew fairly well, some not so much, some not at all, so it was a very sweet time. Because we were on a schedule for our hostesses, we would finish our "story-telling" at Gail's. Theses are some of the things we learned:

  • All but one (I think) was born on a farm (yes, even I was born on a farm!)
  • All but one (that would be me!) has lived in Kansas/Missouri all her life (big surprise there!)
  • Four of the gals were/are teachers.
  • Three of the gals were/are nurses or PA.
  • Three of the gals have grandchildren/great-grandchildren of mixed ethnicities.
  • Three of the gals have daughters getting married between now and July.
  • Two are expecting grandbabies in the next two months. 
  • Two are great-grandmas.
  • Two of the gals are cancer survivors.
  • Each lady has "something" that she is dealing with in her life; big, life-changing issues, yet all have the common bond of being a sister in Christ. Very sweet!

We were so busy touring Gail's new home and admiring her collection of depression glass, that I failed to get photos.  Such a shame. Gail prepared a yummy pasta dish with chicken, broccoli, and orecchiette pasta in a yummy Alfredo sauce. Orecchiette pasta is shaped in a round disk with a little hollow in the center (good for collecting sauce!). Orecchiette means "ear" in Italian, and I've heard it called "pigs' ear" pasta on TV cooking shows. No matter what it's called, it is delicious.

We ended our delightful evening with dessert at Brenda's home. She set tables on her deck, which was mostly protected from the wind. She prepared a beautiful dessert called, Pavlova.  It is a yummy meringue dessert named for the Russian ballet dancer, Anna Pavlova. Brenda served it on a "squiggle" of chocolate sauce and topped with fresh strawberries. Delicious!

Our lovely hostesses: Joan (salad), Gail (main course), and Brenda (dessert).

What a lovely evening it was sitting around candle-lit tables, getting to know one another! It was such fun to see each home, and appreciate the hospitality of each hostess.

Feeling blessed.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

While in Branson we took a lovely side-trip to Bentonville, AR, about two hours' drive south and west, near the Missouri-Arkansas border. Driving up and down VERY steep roads, through hills and hollers we saw some beautiful country. And did I take a single photo? No! You'll just have to take my word for it - it was a beautiful drive on a beautiful day. Bentonville is the home town of Sam Walton, so as you might expect there was a Wal-Mart center you could tour, but which we did not. Our destination was the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

Crystal Bridges is the brain-child of Sam Walton's daughter, Alice L. Walton. The world reknown Boston architect, Moshe Safdie, designed the 201,000 sq. ft. museum on a site around two ponds on 120 acres of land formerly owned by the Walton family. It is very contemporary in style and fits so perfectly into the landscape.

The buildings are of curved glass, wood, concrete.

The grounds are lovely and boast of 3.5 miles of hiking and walking trails, along with commissioned pieces of sculptured art. The silver tree was especially stunning!

We had a great curried chicken salad for lunch in the on-site restaurant called "eleven". I asked a server about the significance of the name.  The museum opened on 11-11-11 at 11 am, hence the restaurant name. This mirror-polished stainless steel heart with transparent gold color coating hangs from the restaurant ceiling. The magenta grosgrain ribbon is fashioned out of stainless steel. It's very LARGE and beautiful.

The museum contains works by American artists from the Colonial era to present, with largest concentration of works coming from the 19th and 20th centuries. We spent four hours and still didn't get to the last exhibit room. Our legs and feet were DEAD.  There are some pieces of sculpture but most are framed pieces.

Two pieces that I especially loved are the following:
The Reader by Mary Cassatt

Rosie the Riveter by Norman Rockwell

Unlike her predecessors who set out to put great works on display in cultural capitals like New York and Boston, Ms. Walton's mission was to bring "high art to middle America here in this town of 35,000 that is best known as the home of Wal-Mart." That she has certainly done!

A couple pieces of trivia ... In 2005 Ms. Walton began to buy works of art specifically for the museum and was often one the mysterious anonymous buyers at auctions and galleries where great sums of money were paid.  She paid a reported $4.9 million for Rockwell's Rosie the Riveter!

Ms. Walton began to seriously think about building an art museum on family land in the late 1990s and began to bring it up at family meetings held three times a year. Since she has no children she felt she needed the backing of her nieces and nephews, who would have inherited the land. "That decision brewed for a year and a half", she said, before there was unanimous agreement.

We truly enjoyed this art experience and I imagine we'll visit again. Well worth the drive!!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Springtime in the Ozarks

Surprised to see me blogging?  Life and my iPhone keep me from my computer for several days at a time, so alas, no blogging. However, we took a little trip to Branson, MO, last week and since I have photos to share, thought it might be good to take the time to blog! So here goes! (Perhaps I'll get back on track.)

Springtime in the Ozarks is quite lovely. Since Branson is some distance south of us, Spring is a little further ahead. Oh how we loved the flowering trees! After a brutal and cold winter, they were indeed a welcome respite! These beauties were on our timeshare property, Marriott's Willow Ridge.

Dogwood were also in bloom. Two varieties, pink and white and they were gorgeous! We haven't seen dogwood since our time in the Great Smoky Mountains while on sabbatical in 1975-76!

There is a dogwood legend that says the bloom is shaped like a cross with two long and two short petals. The end of the petal is notched and bears a slight rust and red color, symbolizing the nails that pierced Jesus and the blood He shed for the sins of the world. While this is simply a legend - nothing Biblical about it - it was a beautiful reminder of what sacrifice Jesus made for us. We were at this place over Easter weekend and loved the display and the legendary significance.

A room with view on a nice rainy day. We witnessed Spring literally bursting forth every day!

More to come! Next stop - Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR.