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Friday, March 24, 2017

Comfort Reading: Dashed

Is there no escape?????

From Laurie Colwin's "More Home Cooking" (1993). I've probably read this book, or parts of it, 100 times. Top 1% in the Comfort Reading Pantheon.

If I had a dollar for every time someone said to me, "I don't have time to bake bread anymore," I would be as rich as Donald Trump used to be.


No escape.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

More Comfort Reading: Some of the Books that Fell on the Floor


I have been much in need of comfort reading. It is difficult to find the right book. I like cookbooks with a personal sensibility (Diana Kennedy, John Thorne, many others); I like reading organization books (though it would be better if I actually followed some of the recommendations); I like Diana Phipps (a frugal countess!). Fiction is hard. I don't like reading most best sellers, even those of higher brow (sorry Ann Patchett; I do like your essays on owning a bookstore and I love that you spoke about my favorite clothing shop UAL, which has a branch in Nashville). 

So to continue the list I started a few days ago: my efforts were interrupted by the falling down of a teetering pile. 

John Mcmcgahern: The Leavetaking (a book I bought at a library sale, had never heard of author---WONDERFUL)

Coln Toibin: The Master (a fictionalized bio of one of my faves--Henry James. The book has a creepy sense of repression, perhaps appropriate to its subject)

Somerset Maugham: The Painted Veil (We saw the film based on this. The book is ok, but I got bored and skipped a lot--a privilege of age. What is so great about Maugham??? Not feeling it)

Maugham again: The Razor's Edge. (See above)

Lily King: Euphoria (a loan from a colleague. She said "Don't give it back." OK, but I can hardly believe that the main female character would submit to....spoiler. Must find someone to give it to.)

Deneice Schofield: Confessions of an Organized Housewife. (A Mormon mom of 5 who is super-organized. Worst tip: chop suey recipe containing canned mushroom soup and bean sprouts. Best tip: use dish pans for easy and cheap shelf storage--genius).

More on the floor, alas. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

What is my Gift?

Thinking about retirement. The thing about frugal people. We don't fear retirement (TOOOOO MUCH) because if the stock market tanks, we can always be MORE frugal. Though, of course, we'd rather be less frugal. That's why I've been frugal all these years.

Reading/Literature: LOVE
Teaching literature: LIKE, sometimes a lot
Doing Academic things: not so much anymore

The only one I can't do in retirement is #2. And no, running book discussions at the library is NOT the same and, in fact, I don't like doing that.

One of my favorite things to teach is Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. One of my favorite lines in the play is this one:

What is yours to bestow is not yours to reserve.

Viola, disguised as Cesario, is urging Olivia to reciprocate Duke Orsino's love. The larger point is a Biblical one (from the Parable of the Talents): what is yours to give is not yours NOT to give.

You need to use your gifts.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Personal Bookshelf: Bedside Stack

Once again, I must note that this is no longer a blog about frugality, but a personal site for my musings about this and that. Older posts on frugality remain. Frugality is timeless!



From Roy Strong, "A Country Life": "The classification of a private library ought to reflect the structure of the owner's mind, and that inevitably changes over the years" (147).

That explains why this book (by the great scholar of Elizabethan portraiture among other things) is in a stack with Ferrante's "The Story of the Lost Child" (I cried to finish this series, but am also angry/annoyed at the cruelty of the ending--to readers?--and the cruelty shown by the narrator to her friend), Laurie Colwin's "Home Cooking" (comfort reading/comfort cooking in these stressful times), library copies of BOTH Marie Kondo books (which are spiritual at core), plus a bunch of others that have now fallen on the floor.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Refugees:" What country, friends, is this"

Note: this space is for personal musings. See older posts for frugality!


"What country, friends, is this?" Shakespeare, Twelfth Night.1.2.

My father's family

Harry G: arrived with mother and siblings in 1910 from Russia. Father Benzi already in America. Benzi died at age 32 from a botched hospital procedure, leaving a pregnant widow and four children. The two oldest children sold candy to support the family. the mother, Rose, opened a grocery store and took in boarders.

Sylvia F: arrived with parents and several siblings from Poland in the teens. They had one baby, the beloved David, in 1920, assuming that a baby born in America would protect their status.

My father B, named for his grandfather, was born in NY in 1928.

My mother's family

Leo O and Emma O and my mother Renee arrived from Vienna (by way of Belgrade and Cherbourg) in 1938.

All refugees, save one. All fleeing persecution.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

A dream

please note: this is now a space for my writing. older posts on frugality remain for those interested.



A dream from a few weeks ago:

I was sitting with my grandparents Emma and Leo. We were cuddled together watching a video. The video was one that was recently sent to me by Evan, the son of my mother's late first cousin Herbert.  Herbert's parents had made a movie of their doted-on son--then named Heinz--in Vienna 1937. I hardly know Evan, but we saw him in Seattle last spring and he promised to make a copy of the video for me.

The video shows mostly Herbert at age 3--in the park, on the city streets. Near the end are a few glimpses of his older cousin, my beautiful mother at age 7. There are even a few glimpses of Leo, easy to spot with his round, completely bald head.

My grandparents and I were waiting for the parts with my mother. We were joined by a blog-friend, whom I've met. I said to her,  "Wait; I want to show you my mother."

My grandfather turned to me and spoke for quite a while. It was all in German. I was trying to figure out if I could understand any of it.

********************************************************************************

It has occurred to me that my grandfather never really knew English very well. The only thing I remember his saying to me is "I just want to live long enough to see you get married." That didn't happen. I was so happy to see my grandparents in the dream.

Friday, December 9, 2016

My Mother's Chauffeur

Note: This is a personal space for writing now. Older posts on frugality remain; frugality  is a timeless practice.


I know so little about life in Vienna, the city my mother's family left in 1938. On election night, I felt an increasing sense of panic and fear. I said to my family: Perhaps this is 1% of what my grandparents felt in the years before they left Vienna, while in Belgrade, and even when they arrived at Ellis Island.

Although my mother's photos were all lost during her move to Florida, her cousin's widow gave me some photos. I have a thumb-sized photo of Herbert and his parents getting ready to board their ship for America. And then I remember an exhibit of anonymous newspaper photos that we saw in Amsterdam: the one that haunts me was of an upper-middle class young Jewish couple, she in a fur coat, he in a suit, being turned away by immigration officials in Cuba in the late 30s. The look of horror on their faces. They knew what they were in for.

Sadly, I only have fragments. The people who did remember have been gone for many years. My mother mostly says she remembers nothing. Many years ago she said "We had a chauffeur to take me to school." When I expressed amazement, she airily replied, "Oh, everyone did."

This comment has given my husband the impression that my mother's family was extremely wealthy. That is not the case. They were middle-class in a time when middle-class families had household help, as my husband's family in the midwest also did.

A few months ago, a thought popped into my head. Why a chauffeur? My grandparents lived right across from the Freud Museum at Bergasse 19. Surely in that densely populated residential area, there were schools within walking distance.

Then the next thought: Was my mother driven to school so she would not have to walk? Then a worse thought: Did my mother have to wear a yellow star?

I have not had the courage to ask my mother these questions. She is 86 and seems to be fading. Perhaps I will ask. I do want to know.

From Viennacitytours (!)


By the turn of the century, Jews were adding to the prosperity of Vienna in all areas of cultural and economic life. Such prominent names as Oscar Straus and Sigmund Freud were recognized as making large contributions in the fields of music and science. In fact, three out of four Austrian citizens awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine were Jewish. More than half of Austria's physicians and dentists were Jewish, as well as more than sixty percent of lawyers and the majority of university professors. Many were also leaders within the Social Democratic Party.

Because of an atmosphere of religious, economic, and cultural freedoms, the Jewish population of Vienna grew exponentially. While there were only 6,200 Jews residing in Vienna in 1860, in 1870 there were 40,200. By 1900, this had increased to 147,000, and in 1938 the population peaked at 185,000. 

WWII
While anti-Semitism had been steadily increasing as the Jewish population had continued to prosper in the first three decades of the 20th century, violent displays were always policed. Nonetheless, Vienna's prominent mayor, Karl Leuger, was elected five times. Together with Georg Schonerer, another prominent anti-Semite, Leuger was was noted by Hitler as being one of his biggest mentors.
Nazi Germany annexed Austria in March 1938. Jewish apartments and businesses were pillaged, prominent Jews were forced to scrub the city's sidewalks and were chased through the streets. Any residents who tried to aid their Jewish neighbors were likewise arrested and deported to concentration camps. In May 1938, Nazi Germany put the Nuremberg Racial Laws into practice. Jews were subsequently stripped of most of their civil liberties, excluded from most professions as well as the city's universities, and were obliged to wear a yellow Star of David badges at all times. Jews fled Austria, with over 30,000 settling in the United States.