Category Archives: Sharon Yang

NH Adventures: Claude Rains, Mt. Roberts, and the First October Full Moon

This month has blue moons, two in one month.  The first day of October this year was the first full moon of the month.  So, we celebrated  with a trip to New Hampshire that was a triple header for us.  First, we visited the grave of my favorite actor, Claude Rains, in the Red Hill Cemetery.  It’s a small, peaceful place, with lots of firefighters R.I.P.ing there.  The graves of Mr. Rains and his wife Rosemary are beautiful polished black stone Gothic arches.  To pay tribute, we brought one of the pumpkins that we had grown ourselves this year.  I liked presenting a little gift that Yang and I had worked hard to cultivate together.  The foliage by the cemetery hadn’t quite turned yet, but there were still some pretty trees.  When we go a bit later in the season, you often see some magnificent colors.  Check this link to a blog with pictures of the foliage in a past visit.
It was still a lovely place for Mr. Rains and his wife Rosemary to take their final rest.  I did want to place the pumpkin between the graves to honor them both, but I was a little worried it might roll off or get pushed away if it weren’t resting against the stone.  So, Mr. Rains got the pumpkin.  Maybe next time, I’ll bring two, especially if we have a bigger pumpkin crop.  Click here for news on what we did harvest.
We also did a drive- by of the classic colonial with it’s three pillars where Claude Rains last resided.  I wonder what the inside is like?  It was nice to see a Jean Shaheen sign out front.  You can’t see it in this photo, though you can see a beautiful sugar maple behind and to the left of the house.

Next on the agenda was to hike the Mt. Roberts trail in Moultonborough.  It’s on the grounds of the Castle in the Clouds, but it’s free to visit and hike.  Usually, we go up Red Hill, but I asked if we could start with something that ascended a bit less steeply, as this was my first major mountain climb of the year-major for me, anyway.  It really wasn’t all that easy, but the hike was definitely worth it!  We enjoyed the terrain, the changing colors, sighting a Brown Thrasher and a Wood Thrush (thank God for binoculars!).  When we got to an overlook, we sat and ate tea eggs that Yang had made, then chunks of the yummy pumpkin bread I’d baked the night before.   I was tired when we got back down, but I loved it!  There are lots of trails on these grounds, so I’m looking forward to going back.

 

We thought this little toad was cute, too!

Does anyone know what kind of tree this leaf comes from?  It’s actually a little darker in real life.  The camera was accidentally set to overcompensate, so I’ve tried to properly adjust the color to match what I actually saw.  So, if you know what the tree is, drop me a line in comments of on FB.  I’d really like to know!

 

Last and never least:  the first full moon of October!  Yang took me to Weir Beach-I hadn’t been there since I was a teenager!  It was pretty deserted, after the summer season was done, but there was a nice boardwalk from which to view the moonrise.  When the moon first came over the trees, it was ENORMOUS!  I thought Kronos was rising.  These picture don’t do it justice.  Click on them to get a bigger image.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a lovely evening to complete an exciting day.  Gosh, I love our autumn rambles through the Northeast!  I hope you’re having some fun ones as well.  And if you can’t get out, please enjoy these.

 

 

Adventures of a Pumpkin Grower: Harvest Time

My last post was about the denizens growing in my pumpkin patch.  Now, I can write you about the harvest.  I still have one large orange pumpkin on the vine, and two embryos actually got fertilized about a week ago-who knows if they’ll make it.  However, most of the others are now decorating my house!
Number One Son is here in the living room, decorated appropriately for Halloween.  He may not be the biggest of the family, but he’s the brave first to be fertilized and survive.  He’s right next to the television, so we can see him all the time.

 

 

 

Here is Number Two Son on the dining room table-another place that we spend a lot of time.  He’s a bit bigger than his elder brother, and he is strong and handsome.  You can also see he shares the table with a lovely striped gourd.  Each of these was the only survivor on its respective vine, but both do the mother plant proud.  They certainly fit nicely with the Halloween decorations, don’t they?

And speaking of handsome gourds in the dining room, here’s this gorgeous  melange of orange and green.  He’s a perfect fall color!  The first gourd on his vine grew for a while, but didn’t make it.  This chap grew up next, initially hanging from the fence where the vine had climbed.  His healthy form soon brought the vine down to earth.  Beautiful color and shape, wouldn’t you say?
I have already harvested three more orange pumpkins.  I suspect they are sugar pumpkins, but they are just too pretty to eat.  Two of them, I have put by the fireplace with a white pumpkin and a green striped one.  I think they make a neat combo.  How about you?

 

The white pumpkin was actually attacked by a grub and has a hole in it, but a little peroxide seems to have ended the invasion.  I put the side with no wounding out to face the world.  Good-sized guy, isn’t it?  When we harvested it, we found it also had a local root coming off the stem.  I guess that’s how it got enough nutrition to grow this big.

 

There’s also this good sized pumpkin or squash that’s green with stripes.  I don’t know what kind it is, but it sure is pretty.  Does anyone out there know?  I’d love to hear from you so I could find out what I have.  I wonder if there was some cross pollination that created a hybrid?

 

Remember the runaway/escapee?  That pumpkin grew into a real beauty.  There’s even an almost bluish cast to it’s white skin.  Is this a Lumina or  is it another breed of pumpkin?

 

Last but not least, remember I said I’d harvested three orange pumpkins?  Well, the third one is not on display at home. Instead, I brought it to the grave of my favorite actor, Claude Rains and left it as a token of esteem.  Presents you work to create yourself are usually the best!

 

Touring the Gardens and Meeting the Animals at Chez Yang

So, summer is here and all the flora and fauna is out in full force at chez Yang.  We have plenty of avian visitors, as well as furry beasts.  The flowers are coming along nicely – or were until the insects and fungi started to stage their voracious assaults.  Anyway, lets take a tour!
Yang and I were joking that we have about 14 gardens spread around our property.  He set out to improve some of them this year.  We had a triangle of standing flox, dianthus, balloon flowers, and black caps, with a delphinium and two fox gloves returning from last year – all overrun with God knows what.  Yang cleared out what we didn’t want, and we added new delphinium and foxgloves, transplanted some more delphinium, and rounded things out with asters and ageratum.   Above is how the plot looked initially.
Now, the foxglove in the foreground is literally (and I know what the word actually means) taller than I am.  The delphinium from last year has also shot up.  The other foxglove from last year is also doing well, despite a slow start (left of big foxglove).  The black caps are ready for harvest – I’ve already had black cap and walnut scones and black caps with ice cream.  There are more to be plucked.  Sorry, I didn’t take the pictures earlier, so that you could see the flowers in full bloom.  Here’s a close up of the tip of the tallest foxglove, where the flowers remain.  The bees love this garden!
This is the peony garden on the other side of the house, named for – you guessed it! – pink peonies given us by Rosemary Adams years ago.  You’ll notice that there is chicken wire around this garden. Why?  That gets us to the fauna flourishing this year.   We’ve been sighting innumerable rabbits around our property and that of the neighbors on either side of us.  Apparently, they believe delphiniums are delicious!  Especially, the expensive ones you send away for in the mail.  Grrrr! Anyway, here you see one of the wonder bunnies taking a sun bath alongside a Flicker hunting for her dinner in my neighbor’s yard, right next to my fish pond.  Sociable little devil, isn’t s/he?  Some days, I look out in the backyard and see one of the rabbits, some birds, and a chipmunk or two amicably chomping away on clover and seeds or bouncing about under the bird feeder there.  It’s like living in a Disney movie.
 
Speaking of chipmunks, we’ve got quite a few digging holes and taunting my cats in the yard, especially when the girls are looking out the window.  Natasha is particularly in  Ahab mode, sitting patiently outside a hole or drain spout in the yard, waiting for the munk to make a fatal mistake.  She nabbed one once, but we managed to get it free of her.  Our reward will be more holes, devoured sunflower shoots, and gnawed planks on our porch.  Behold what Natasha calls Nemesis.

With all these evil fur balls waiting to decimate everything we’ve planted, Yang created a larger central vegetable garden, fortified by a wire fence and chicken wire.  We’ve got pumpkins, peppers, eggplants, bachelor buttons and delphinium growing in here – yes, we know we can’t eat the last two.  We even have some volunteer tomatoes growing from last year.  This fence is DEFINITELY necessary.  Several times, I looked out to see a rabit sitting outside the fence and staring in.  Another time, I found a big pile of rabbit scat directly outside the gate (which is tight to the fence and flush to the ground).  I know wascally wabbits when I see them.  I’ll keep an eye out for heavy equipment deliveries from ACME.

The birds are less destructive visitors, and they enjoy the gardens – especially the ones with feeders.  Here is an oriole feasting on orange halves.  I haven’t seen any in a few weeks or even heard any in the woods.  Perhaps they have moved on to their next migratory stop.  The catbird loves our suet feeder, and loves to hang out on various perches around the gardens.  We caught him in is ablutions.  You can enjoy a commentary from me and Natalie Wood in Inside Daisy Clover.
We also have window boxes filled with lovely color combinations of flowers. Some flowers have passed now, but the pots and window boxes, on the whole, most are still a pleasure to see.

 

 

 

Our roses have done nicely as well.  Years ago, I bought about four sea-rose bushes and now they have spread to create a slope of beautiful scent and sight behind our house.

 

 

 

One of my favorites is a single yellow rose given us by my mother-in-law about twenty years ago.  Every year we get at least one bloom. Lately, it has only been the single bloom.  However, this year, that single bloom was the biggest I’ve ever seen on the bush.  Beautiful, isn’t it?

 

Happy Gardening!

The Marvelous Marble of the Barre Cemetery

I hadn’t had a chance to do up a blog of this wonderful, remarkable cemetery in Barre, VT before,  which Yang and I visited three years ago in the Fall.  What makes the spot so unique?  Well, this town in Vermont is famous for its marble quarrying and this local product is beautifully worked to produce the most creative, unique monuments.  Many of these take on unique forms to honor the life work or interests of those they honor in death.
Thus,  you can find a musician with this apt memorial.  I wonder what instrument this person played?

 

 

 

 

Appropriately, this man was a sculptor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re a fan of Dr.  Who, don’t blink. Otherwise,  you could be pursued by those pesky stone aliens by car or plane.

 

 

 

 

 

The Fukuda family chose to celebrate their Japanese heritage with this rendition of a Japanese house.

This man seems to be dreaming of or lovingly guided by the spirit of his late wife, though her wafting out of cigarette smoke probably wouldn’t please the Surgeon General.

There are also some startlingly unique works of funerary art, such as the following:

 

 

 

The blocks
The pyramids

 

 

 

 

The open book, as in his life was  an. . . all in French.

And there were more traditional statues, equally beautiful. There was the Pieta.

 

 

 

 

 

Here are the traditional weeping women.

 

 

 

 

 

I particularly love the detail you can see in this closeup shot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And we can never forget the angels and urns.

 

 

 

 

 

 

There were also striking columns

  

 

and mausoleums
and reliefs:

 

All were lovely to see on a clear Vermont Sunday morning, with the fall colors tinting the trees in gorgeous contrast to the blue skies and white wisps of clouds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“My Smart-Talking Gal Mystery Heroine: A Joan Bennett Birthday Tribute”

“My Smart-Talking Gal Mystery Heroine: A Joan Bennett Birthday Tribute”

It’s only natural to honor Joan Bennett on her birthday by explaining her powerful influence on my writing. A lot of this influence goes back to my earlier years watching old movies. As a kid, I started out hooked on Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, and the rest of the stable of Universal and RKO horror films – God Bless Val Lewton! The mystery and otherworldliness of black and white film, the smart dialogue, the clever twists of plot that other forties and thirties film genres shared with horror lured me into a liminal world like a perpetual deep summer night. I was further captured by classic films’ biting wit, challenging plots, and independent women – especially in what I came to know as film noir. And who showed herself the queen of this world? Above them all, Joan Bennett.

I must admit that I first came really to know Joan when she appeared in Dark Shadows. Her Elizabeth Collins Stoddard was formidable, reminding me of my mother when I was in deep trouble. How could vampires, werewolves, and witches withstand her powerful, regal stare? Still, like my Mom, there was deep feeling and love for her daughter and her family. However, only in film did I discover Joan displaying one of the traits I loved best about my Mom: that witty, smart-talking-gal sense of humor. In outright comedy, Joan could drop a clever line with style and intelligence, but even in some of her darkest dramas that wit came through. What a delight to see her wield that humor to put firmly in their places anyone trying to crush or bamboozle her. In The House across the Bay, she undercuts a smart-mouth chorine who harangued her, “Cheep, cheep, cheep” with “Where’s the birdseed?” When the obnoxious woman tries to go after her physically, Joan rakes her over the coals with, “Just a minute, Miss Dimwit.  I was silly enough to apologize, but now that you want to make something of it, I’ll give you a good reason. You’re a phony, you’ve got a voice like four panes of cracked glass, and about as much appeal as a can of embalming fluid. I could go on, but that ought to give you a rough idea of how I feel about you.” Eight years later, when Paul Henreid tries to disparage her cynicism towards him in The Scar with a deprecating, “You’re a bitter little lady,” she puts him in his place with a world-weary but tough, “It’s a bitter little world, full of sad surprises, and you don’t go around letting people hurt you.” In The Man I Married, Joan’s not even daunted by Nazis, telling her husband-turned-fascist, “Heil heel” when he promises to dump her and take their son. Her feistiness isn’t limited to verbiage, either. Take a gander at this picture.
Like my Mom, Joan played women of wit, strength, humanity, and confidence – not just what the New York Times dubbed her gallery of “hydrochloric dames.”
So, in my twenties, when I decided to take my writing seriously than developing Victoria Holt knock-offs or spoofs of Dark Shadows, I turned to 1940s style mysteries to inspire my own adventures of romance, danger, suspense, and wit. Interestingly, as a writer influenced by film, I found I could better create distinct, believable characters by casting them as actors with whom I was familiar, blending their traits with some of the people I knew (including myself!). I also knew that I didn’t want my heroine to be wimpy, weepy, and inclined to faint in the final reel or pages, which, unfortunately, did often happen on the page or screen in the ’40s and ’50s. Guess who I saw as perfect for the role of Jessica Minton, a smart, independent, quick-with-a-quip forties gal? Someone who had a sensitive heart and a strong sense of responsibility, but didn’t take guff from anyone – and would smack said guff out of the ballpark with whip smart humor.
Surprise!
I do see a lot of myself in Jessica – and in Joan’s less nasty roles – or maybe an idealized version of myself, anyway. I know that mischievous banter with those I love and pointed barbs for those I don’t is something I share with Jess, which Joan plays to perfection. However, I doubt that like Jessica, I’d have the guts to hold onto a mysterious package left by a mysterious and handsome British stranger at the risk of being liquidated by Nazi fifth columnists – to disguise myself as a maid to get into a criminal’s apartment while he’s still there (!) to retrieve a gun used to frame a friend – to grab a gunsel by the lapels and threaten to turn him into a soprano if he ever threatened my cat again – to show up in a shadow-draped room and wittily bargain with a gun-toting femme fatale and her hired gun to trade stolen jade for my friends’ lives – or to slip into a cove and explore a beached and rotting ship while layers of ocean fog swept in around me. I might dare to weaponize a banana-cream pie, but I can’t guarantee my aim would be as good as Jessica Minton’s. I can guarantee you that any fans of our Joanie could picture her carrying off these adventures with verve and wit, though not without human trepidation.
Those of us who love Joan Bennett and appreciate her talents would also, as Sam Fuller writes, see her as “a sensitive actress” enough to also believe her playing Jessica’s distress at being torn between loyalty to an old boyfriend and to a new man who brings her adventure and love; a sister who gets annoyed with her older sibling’s foibles leading them into danger but sticking by her to the end (though not without a smart quip or two exchanged between them); a sweetheart waiting to hear news of a fiancé lost in the war, then a wife supporting her husband’s struggle with memories from that war. And Jessica loves her cat. I know Joan was a dog person, but heck, there’s still part of me in Jessica Minton. So, she’s a cat person!
Anyway, that’s all I’ve got to say on the subject, but if you’d like to take a peek at some passages from Bait and Switch or Letter from a Dead Man, click on the links on the titles and have fun picturing Joan working her magic as Jessica Minton. Oh, and by the way, I cast her sister Elizabeth as Rosalind Russell (and my sister-on-law). Can you imagine what a grand ride it would have been to catch Joan and Roz trading quips with each other, then marshaling their humor to take on Nazis, criminally corrupt American aristocrats, femme fatales, underworld crooks, and crooked cops? And I’ve got two more books on the way! Viva Jessica Minton and Joan Bennett!
If you love mysteries on the screen or on the page, especially centered on the golden era, click here to go to my web page where you can find lots of interesting stuff – including my Joan Bennett tribute page!

 

 

Photos: Author’s collections