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25 May Boing!

Having recently made the acquaintance (figuratively speaking) of the charming Dr. Fritz de Quervain (who not only had radial styloid tenosynovitis named after him, but introduced iodized table salt), I have been on the lookout for ways to avoid grasping and twisting my wrist at the same time. As an historical aside, de Quervain’s tenosynovitis was once know as “Washerwoman’s Wrists” because women who did washing for a living did a lot of simultaneous grasping and twisting with their hands. But I digress.

I realized that walking the doggies every day with Flexis was probably one of the worst things I could be doing—manipulating the thumb button while the dog pulls one’s wrist in every direction. So I dug around on the web a bit and came up with these:

Bun-Gee-Pup-EEs! (No, I’m not kidding.) Despite the silly name, they are great for anyone with fragile wrists and/or hands. They have padded wrist straps and braided bungee cords, so the dog kind of boings along on the end of the leash whenever it pulls. Much softer impact on wrists, and complete rest for the thumbs.

As you can see by the hanging tongues, the dogs had a good time too.

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24 May The Bones of Copernicus

This past weekend, Nicolaus Copernicus’ remains were re-buried with great honor in a cathedral in Frombork, Poland, after spending over 460 years under the floor of the same cathedral in an unmarked grave.

This is all very well and it’s excellent to see Copernicus vindicated at last, but if his body was buried in 1543 in an unmarked grave—how did they know they had the right person?

It turns out scientists began looking for Copernicus back in 2004—they knew he’d been buried under the floor of the cathedral but didn’t know where. They found the skull and bones of a man of about the right age, and did a computer reconstruction of the face (hello, Bones) that resembled a portrait Copernicus drew of himself. Suggestive, but not conclusive.

Then the most amazing thing happened. They leafed through a book known to have belonged to Copernicus and found hairs. (I also pull my hair out over books from time to time, so I can relate.) They extracted DNA from the bones they’d found and from the hairs and eureka! A match.

So now Copernicus lies under a black granite tombstone identifying him as the founder of the heliocentric theory (well, not really, but the first to model it in full mathematical detail) and a canon of the Roman Catholic church. The stone is inlaid with a design representing the solar system, a golden sun encircled by six planets (the only ones they’d discovered at the time Copernicus lived).

One of the most poignant things about the whole story is that Copernicus published his masterwork De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium in the last year of his life. Supposedly the first printed copy was placed in his hands the day he died. One can only imagine what he felt.

Rest well, Master Nicolaus.

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22 May Desk Lust

I love desks with cubbyholes and drawers and secret spaces. And I particularly lust after this one particular desk, from the Container Store:

(As an aside, I can wander through the Container Store for hours. Next to a bookstore, it’s my favorite store to browse in. I always feel so organized, as if by some magic osmosis.)

Anyway. I want this desk. I have no place to put it and it wouldn’t work at all with a desktop computer, but I want it anyway. I want to tuck important letters and papers in all its intriguing little cubbyholes and shelves and drawers. Desk lust is a terrible thing…

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14 May Friday Book Quatrain

A Murderous Procession by Ariana Franklin:

A ten-year-old English princess will travel south to wed a king.
A doctor from Salerno (a female! outrageous!) will join the procession.
There will be murder and mayhem. One thing, however, is certain:
Spending time with Adelia again will give hours of pleasure.

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06 May Do the Write Thing for Nashville

There’s a wonderful auction of books, critiques, crafts, and other terrific items for writers, readers and everyone, going on over at Do the Write Thing for Nashville. Proceeds will go to the Metro Nashville Disaster Response Fund to help and support the victims of the devastating floods in Nashville.

Nashville-based writers Amanda Morgan, Victoria Schwab, and Myra McEntire are managing the auction.

Each item will be available for five days. Bid early and often!

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02 May One More Rose

I know I said I was going to end my backyard adventures for the time being, but I can’t resist one more rose. This is the first full-blown blossom on our new “Double Delight” bush. Ours seems more yellow-and-fuchsia than cream-and-scarlet as it appears on the David Austin website, but it’s beautiful nonetheless. The scent is classic rose—not terribly strong but then the bush is next to the Pink Peggies, which have a magnificent and sometimes overpowering lemony-rosy scent. So you have to tuck your nose right down into the center of the Double Delight petals to get the true effect of its scent.

Yesterday we introduced one of the darling two-year-old twin boys from across the street to the rosebushes. He was enthralled, and grasped big handfuls of petals (fortunately from one of the Neon Red bushes, which was covered with blossoms and could afford to spare a few) to offer to all of us as presents. I demonstrated throwing the petals into the air (“It was roses, roses, all the way…”) and he joined in with great enthusiasm. Why do moments like that always happen when there’s no camera close at hand?

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27 Apr The Delights of Research

One does find the most peculiar things while doing research into historical periods:

Medieval Scottish Ecclesiastical Toilets

It’s good to know the monks at St. Andrews and the Isle of Iona had such, er, comforts.

Naturally I couldn’t help clicking around through the rest of the site (a Shakespearean chamber pot! the Ottoman Sultan’s toilet!).

Stop by Toilets of the World and you too can be privy to all the details.

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25 Apr Un Gentil Huteaudeau

I just love words.

At one point in The Silver Casket, the heroine Rinette faces off against Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, soon to be Mary Queen of Scots’ second husband. Now Darnley may have been tall, blond and good-looking, but Queen Mary’s own uncle the Cardinal of Lorraine described him scathingly as un gentil huteaudeau, which pretty much means “a pleasant nitwit.” Heh. The male Paris Hilton of the 1560s. Huteaudeau appears to have been an idiom along the lines of what today we might call “a dumb cluck,” because in the sixteenth century it also literally meant “young chicken” or “pullet.”

The word is preserved not only in the Cardinal’s disparagement of Darnley, but in a traditional Scottish dish called “Howtowdie,” a chicken stuffed with skirlie (savory sautéed oats with onions), roasted (or boiled) and served on a bed of spinach with “drappit eggs” (poached eggs). Intrigued? Here’s a link to a lovely authentic recipe:

Ishbel’s Traditional Scottish Howtowdie

I’m not sure about the poached eggs, but the skirlie sounds pretty yummy. I love cooking from the periods I write about and I think I will have to try this!

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23 Apr Stripes Ahoy!

Remember last January when I wrote about the two new rose bushes we’d ordered? Well, after some uncertain moments during our cold, wet spring, little “Scentimental” has come through with flying colors. Here’s its very first bloom:

Incredibly fragrant, as one would expect from its name. Heh. Of course I couldn’t help expecting the scent of peppermint, but what it is, for me at least, is an intense, classic old-fashioned “rose” scent. Heavenly.

And I will end this series of back-yard adventures with this:

…because whenever one is in our back yard, there’s always a beagle observing!

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19 Apr More Garden Adventures

It’s a good year for roses, it seems, in east Texas. Here are some more rose pictures from our back forty:

These are what we call the “Pink Peggies.” They were a wedding gift from my dear mother Miss Peggie, and meant to be white—but when the bare-root bushes were planted and nurtured and started to bloom that first year, lo and behold they were pink. Much correspondence with David Austin Roses ensued. The true identity of the pink roses was never ascertained, which is how they came to be called the Pink Peggies.

The following year we received a trio of replacement plants, and these were indeed the beautiful white “Winchester Cathedral” variety Miss Peggie had originally chosen. At the moment they are just quivering on the cusp of blossoming—look at those dozens and dozens of buds! Later on I’ll post some pictures of the actual blooms.

Now back to sixteenth-century Scotland, and the flowers there…