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I live in the open mindedness of not knowing enough about anything.

~Mary Oliver

by Dixon Lanier Merritt

A wonderful bird is the pelican,
His bill will hold more than his belican.
He can take in his beak
Food enough for a week.
But I’m damned if I see how the helican.

I love learning the secrets of my plumed neighbors. The latest: That pouch suspended from the lower half of the pelican’s long straight bill? It really can hold up to three times more than its stomach. Enough for a week.


One episode of Downton Abbey is my personal pelican pouch.


The fiendish games and sweet scenes Julian Fellows dishes out weekly, the keep-‘em-wanting-more shenanigans (like when Mr. Pamuk dies ‘on the job’ so to speak) fuel me from Sunday to Sunday. If you’re a proper obsessed fan ~ one of 25.5 million ~ of the Most Successful Ever British Drama, you’re mourning the end of the series.

I’m already hungering for the 2016 plot-clinching twists. Tom and Lady Rose may be out of the picture, but there must be some oil-on-the-fire sizzling hijinks ahead for Lady Edith and Lady Mary.  Then there are the nonplussing matters of inheritance, wills, and family squabbles, oh my.

Downton Abbey Series 3 Phyllis Logan

I wonder if Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson will marry and leave to run a B&B sooner than later? (Oh, wait, there is no later, only season six.)  Will the distressed and downtrodden Edith marry the pig farmer?


Will Cousin Isobel (ugh, that Lord Merton and his dastardly spawn) and Cousin Violet move in together? Maybe Violet will bob her hair. Oh get over it, she’ll say.


Maybe Spratt and Denker will share a bowl of chicken soup.


embargoed_downton_abbey_ep3_13Will Mr. Moseley marry O’Brien and become B&B couple #2?


I’m used to the idea that nothing good ever happens to the perennially unlucky, wrongfully-convicted, and alternately-jailed Anna and Bates. But they do suffer nobly, don’t they?


More importantly, will Daisy go to Oxford? 


I wish they’d bring back Isis. Whatever was the point of that?


Oh, I’m going to miss those juicy Crawley plotlines.

No more sniping over the duck breast (oh no, the estate’s in peril again, what do you plan to do about it?), exchanging confidences over a glass of sherry, letters, letters, letters. I hoped the sun would never set on Downton Abbey. Hints from Fellowes in his New York Times interview a few weeks ago were marrow-freezingly scary. “Well, you know, Downton is a bumpy path.”

Bumpier, yet, when Robert loses his fortune and it’s my pouch that’s empty.

Toni 3/27/15



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Weddings burst with joy by the gigabyte. 

GodfatherWeddingHHIn our Italian-American family (not unlike the Corleones), as more and more paesani arrived, the size of our weddings grew…and grew…and grew. Everyone was invited. 


Family, friends, neighbors, and all the kids celebrated with the newlyweds after the traditional Roman Catholic Mass. Receptions were mostly in church basements and halls, featuring simple but multi-course feasts of Italian food. (This was long before plating and black truffle oil became de rigeur.)



Carloads (yes, carloads) of cookies and desserts made by the nonnas (grandmothers) and zias (aunts) were always part of the wedding feast. My favorite? Twists of fried dough, powdered with sugar.  And, of course, Italian wedding ‘confetti‘, the candy-coated almonds symbolizing the bitter and sweet of marriage, five wrapped in tulle for good luck.

E ‘ intorno al tavolo che abbiamo capito meglio il calore dello stare insieme.

Toast for the couple:  “It is around the table that friends understand best the warmth of being together”. 


My Grandmother, in pearls and corsage

So, how do you know it’s an Italian wedding?

Find out here.

Toni 3/26/15

Warren Groen rips into 4th graders like a Red-tail Hawk doing what makes him a carnivore. But that doesn’t explain the wrong-headed remarks of this New Hampshire legislator. Some Civics lesson, but, hmmmm,maybe the kids need to see this example of how we’ve got to improve the quality of our law-makers. And, I hasten to add my apologies to any Red Tail Hawks soaring overhead. (BTW? Rep. Groen? That’s another vicious raptor on your State House. Better get a ladder and take her down. (a 420-character, 9-line poem)


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Lesson learned by the kids proposing the Red-tail Hawk as NH’s state raptor:

Rep. Groen must remove the Bald Eagle from the NH capitol dome because,

being a raptor, it too rips it’s prey limb to limb

(& steals the prey of other raptors.)

Groen’s a hammer man who sees only nails, (or Planned Parenthood ploys.)

I mean

why else would he compare the eating habits of the Red Tail

to a late stage abortion.

Lesson learned?














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That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think how different its course would have been. Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.

― Charles Dickens, Great Expectations


This was one memorable day.


Every March, Bookmania and the Martin County Library System showcase the best literary talents from around the country. As soon as the author/book list comes out, I start reading.


Today, thirteen talented authors talked about their books in a full-day event of presentations, panel discussions, and book signings. 10917843_889057731126993_5835719999515293469_n


New York Times bestselling author Hampton Sides told a white-knuckle tale of polar exploration and survival in the Gilded Age.

Ice.  You remember ice.  Or maybe you are still in the midst of it.  But not ice quite like this. Sides’ book is a pack-ice sprawl of history and storytelling that’s unforgettable.



In the Kingdom of Ice:The Grand and Terrible Voyage of the USS Jeanette recounts the harrowing and icy journey of 32 men deep into uncharted Arctic waters on a mission to discover the North Pole.  Author Hampton Sides is, well, masterful.


The story of Captain George De Long who sailed into unknown seas and was trapped in pack ice for two years is riveting. With twists and turns worthy of a thriller, In the Kingdom of Ice is a spellbinding tale of heroism and determination in the most unforgiving territory on Earth.


An electric debut novel about inheritance, belief, and the tender relationship between a son and his ailing father, High as the Horses’ Bridles is the story of Josiah Laudermilk, who as a 12-year-old preaching prodigy, delivered an unplanned sermon describing a strange vision that ultimately defines the rest of his life. Decades later when Josiah (now Josie) is grown and has long since left the church, he returns home to care for his father Gill. Memories of the past overwhelm him at every turn and he’s completely unprepared for what he finds.

This is Scott Cheshire’s first book. It’s both human and divine. Don’t take my word for it. Colum McCann and Claire Messud (and many many others) agree. Cheshire is writing about where he comes from ~ as a child preacher, a Jehovah’s Witness, steeped in the faith’s apocalyptic visions.


Cheshire is a sincerely nice guy. I could listen to him all day.

The title? It’s from the Book of Revelations.

Historical novelists, Patricia Harman (The Reluctant Midwife) and Mary Doria Russell (Epitaph: A Novel of the O.K. Corral) were on the panel with Cheshire.


Looking for an addicting mystery series?

Cara Black, Murder on the Champs de Mars, does tons of research in France and her books are vibrant, living, breathing adventures.  She told us she loves maps, riding the bus, and getting it right. Boy, does she.

Her character, Private Investigator Aimée Leduc, takes on a personal investigation for a poor French Gypsy boy.

Authors Lisa Black, Close to the Bone, and Lis Wiehl, Lethal Beauty, joined Cara Black on the mystery panel. 

After lunch and plenty of time for schmoozing with the authors, the great new writers took the stage.  And stole the show.


18815488What an enchanting and moving debut novel. 2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas features three unforgettable characters and their unlikely connection.


Spanning India in the 1970s to New Mexico in the 1980s to Seattle in the 1990s, The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing is a winning irreverent novel about a family wrestling with its future and its past.

Livings Dog

In Jack Livings’ rich story collection, The Dog, a wealthy factory owner—once a rural peasant—refuses to help the victims of an earthquake until his daughter starts a relief effort of her own; a marginalized but powerful Uyghur gangster clashes with his homosexual grandson; and a dogged journalist is forced to resign as young writers in ‘pink Izod golf shirts and knockoff Italian loafers’ write his stories out from under him.

The final panel talked about their Hollywood encounters, that slippery slope from book to film.  I learned that books have about 80,000 words, screenplays a mere 20,000.  The authors agreed that books are ‘reconceived’, not reproduced, on the screen.


Joseph Kanon, author of The Good German, wrote and sold his dramatic saga of intrigue and love set against the tumultuous backdrop of Berlin in 1945. It follows Jake Geismar, a former Berlin correspondent for CBS assigned to do a series of articles on the American occupation of Berlin, as he tries to find Lena, the German mistress he left behind, and stumbles into a dark underworld of corruption. The Warner Bros. film, directed by Steven Soderberg, was released in 2006 and stars George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, and Tobey Maguire.


Laura Lippman (her husband is the brilliant mind behind The Wire and does she have stories to tell!) wrote and sold Every Secret Thing, a riveting story of love and murder, guilt and innocence, adult sins and childhood darkness. It’s the tale of a terrible event that devastates three families, after two young girls discover an unsupervised baby on an empty street. The cast includes Diane Lane, Elizabeth Banks, Dakota Fanning, and Danielle Macdonald.


Peter Swanson wrote and optioned The Girl with a Clock for a Heart, an electrifying tale of romantic noir, with shades of Hitchcock.

I can’t wait for the next Bookmania.  Maybe some authors I know will be there. Meet Nancy and Patricia and Art. I put their names in the suggestion box. Imagine, it might just be the formation of the first link to their next memorable day.


 Toni 3/22/15

*The Sunday Coze returns.





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The bee collects honey from flowers in such a way as to do the least damage or destruction to them, and he leaves them whole, undamaged and fresh, just as he found them.

~Saint Francis de Sales, patron saint of writers


IMG_0484Toni 3/21/15


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