celebrating colin’s birthday with 2 treats from The Secret Garden Cookbook (+ a giveaway)

♥️ Special thanks to Marian from the Netherlands for inspiring me to write this post. 🙂

“You can have as much earth as you want,” he said. “You remind me of someone else who loved the earth and things that grow. When you see a bit of earth you want,” with something like a smile, “take it, child, and make it come alive.”  ~  Archibald Craven (Frances Hodgson Burnett’s, The Secret Garden)

 

 

Guess who’s turning 60 on September 10?

Hint: he knows how to rock a waistcoat and cravat, is fluent in Italian, plays the guitar to relax, likes to tease fellow actor Gary Oldman about the size of his *ahem* manhood, almost voiced Paddington Bear in the movies, looks good WET (dry, and in-between), and even if you cook blue soup, he likes you just as you are.

Yes, it’s Colin, aka my secret husband (SO secret, even he doesn’t know about it). Fine specimen of a human being, don’t you think? Doesn’t look a day over 39. 🙂

 

Colin Firth as Archibald Craven in The Secret Garden (2020).

 

Unless you look at him playing Archibald Craven in the new Secret Garden movie. Have you seen it yet? They were all set for a big UK cinema premiere back in April, followed by the U.S. in August. But of course the pandemic changed everything, so instead, the movie went straight to video on demand beginning August 7, and will now open in UK cinemas October 23.

 

 

Colin, Colin, Colin, you’ve never looked so wretched, weary, or downtrodden. But Archibald is, of course, consumed with grief over the loss of his wife, making him inaccessible to his son and unable to properly care for his newly orphaned niece Mary Lennox, who comes to stay at Misselthwaite Manor.

 

Mrs Medlock (Julie Walters), Mary Lennox (Dixie Egerickx), Colin Craven (Edan Hayhurst), Dickon (Amir Wilson) Archibald Craven (Colin Firth)

 

This new 2020 version (don’t worry, I promise not to be too spoilerish), is the fourth produced for the big screen, and Colin was attracted to the role because of the lavish garden scenes (which unlike previous films, were not confined to a single, walled-in area, but features an expansive, wide ranging terrain representing Mary’s unbounded imagination), as well as the “design concepts” of the castle, which really became a symbol for Archibald’s state of mind: dark, destructive, depressive. The creepiness of the house is highly atmospheric and underscores the tragic decline of what was once a joyful life.

Colin doesn’t get much screen time in the new movie; this makes sense since the story revolves primarily around the three young people: Mary, Colin Craven, and Dickon. The time period has been moved up to 1947, after WWII, instead of the early 1900’s as the book was originally set, and there is a new “character,” a stray dog named Jemima (later Hector, when his gender is confirmed), who helps lead Mary to the garden wall and gate key along with the robin.

 

Mary with Hector (this scraggly pup is a scene stealer!)

 

The spirit remains true to the original — the transformation of sickly, morose, isolated children into happy and healthier souls who blossom and thrive with newfound friendship, fresh air, good and nourishing food, and the magic of making things come alive.

Did you know this was the second time Colin appeared in a Secret Garden adaptation? Thirty-three years ago, when he was just 27, he played an adult Colin Craven in the 1987 Hallmark TV movie that’s told as a flashback from the POV of an adult Mary. Colin only appears at the very end, when he reunites with Mary after the war . . . and there’s romance!

 

Colin as Colin Craven in the 1987 Hallmark TV movie.

 

So it seems fated that Colin appear in these films, since there is a ‘Colin’ who has a major role in the novel, and he actually played this Colin years ago. Something else that’s cool about the 1987 version is that it was filmed at Highclere Castle. As a Downton Abbey fan, I enjoyed seeing familiar exteriors and interiors. 🙂

In addition to studio sets, the new 2020 movie was filmed at various gardens around England and North Wales, on location in Yorkshire, and at Knebworth House in Hertfordshire. Knebworth is a cool place all its own, known for hosting awesome rock concerts (Stones, Paul McCartney, Elton John, Eric Clapton), and has been a choice setting for many other films, including “Nanny McPhee” and “The King’s Speech.” I imagine Colin feels quite at home there. 🙂

 

Poor Archibald. He needs some good food to restore his spirits!

 

The Secret Garden is one of my top three all-time favorite children’s novels, so it’s really icing on the cake to see Colin, however briefly, in two of the movies. Revisiting this classic, whether between the covers or up on a screen, tends to make me hungry because hearty farm-fresh Yorkshire fare helped restore Mary and Colin to optimum health. Okay, time to eat.

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strawberries: a taste of something wild and sweet

“Each moment is just what it is. It might be the only moment of our life; it might be the only strawberry we’ll ever eat. We could get depressed about it, or we could finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life.” ~ Pema Chodron

 

Hello, good-looking friends. How are you holding up?

Hard to believe it’s already June. It’s certainly been a trying three months! Time to anticipate summer with a little strawberry love. 🙂

As we hunker down in our private spaces, our strength, resilience, faith and patience are being tested as never before. Each day brings a new concern as we reassess our priorities and consider an uncertain future.

Rather than perpetually bemoan forced confinement, we can mindfully pause to carefully consider, with humility and gratitude, the time we are actually being given and the challenge to use it wisely.

I’m here to tell you there is good news: Today, it’s your turn. Wherever you are standing right now, I give this to you:

 

“Strawberries” by Alexis Kreyder

 

WHAT IS GIVEN
by Ralph Murre

The likelihood of finding strawberries
tiny and wild and sweet
around your ankles
on any given day
in any given place
is not great
but sometimes
people find strawberries
right where they are standing
just because it is their turn
to be given a taste
of something wild and sweet

 

“Strawberries on Spode Plate” by Jeanne Illenye

 

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[review + recipe] On Wings of Words by Jennifer Berne and Becca Stadtlander

 

Each bird, bee, blossom, butterfly — was a source of joy and wonder for young Emily Dickinson. In this beautiful new picture book biography, aptly illustrated with a butterfly motif, we witness her singular metamorphosis from a keenly observant child into one of the most original and innovative poets in American literature.

On Wings of Words: The Extraordinary Life of Emily Dickinson by Jennifer Berne and Becca Stadtlander (Chronicle Books, 2020), traces Dickinson’s life from her birth on a snowy December evening in 1830 until her death in May 1886, with a unique focus on how her writing liberated, challenged, and sustained her, and why she eventually chose a life of solitude in order to be her truest self.

Berne’s lyrical narrative is artfully interwoven with Emily’s own words, creating an intimate sense of immediacy as we become privy to the poet’s “letter to the World.”

 

 

We first see how young Emily “met the world,” exploring her natural surroundings with great curiosity and affection. Nothing was too small or insignificant to warrant her full attention, and she “found new words for everything she was discovering.”

The bee is not afraid of me,
I know the butterfly . . .
The brooks laugh louder
when I come.

Emily loved so many things — her brother Austin, her school friends, and most of all, books, for each “was an adventure, a distant journey on a sea of words.” From early on, she was intense and passionate, with strong desires, deep thoughts, and heightened emotional highs and lows.

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[review + yummy cake recipe] Saving the Countryside: The Story of Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit by Linda E. Marshall and Ilaria Urbinati

 

Once upon another time, I was lucky enough to visit England’s glorious Lake District, where vistas of pristine lakes, rolling green pastures dotted with sheep, lush vales, charming stone cottages, miles of slate and dry stone walls bordering fertile farmland, and magnificent fells rising in the distance took my breath away.

I was curious to see the area after learning that England’s greatest poets and writers had flocked there for three centuries. Though studying the Romantic poets in college had stirred my wanderlust (my “friends” Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, Coleridge, Blake, and Byron enabled me to envision this paradise on earth), it wasn’t until I fully tuned into Beatrix Potter’s connection with Lakeland that I became totally smitten. Visiting Hill Top Farm made me a forever diehard fan.

 

Hill Top Farm, Near Sawrey

 

Beatrix didn’t just love the countryside, she helped preserve it for future generations. And she established this amazing legacy at a time when it was not proper for women to “travel, attend college, or work.” Her groundbreaking accomplishments are highlighted in this wonderful new picture book, Saving the Countryside: The Story of Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit, by Linda Elovitz Marshall and Ilaria Urbinati (little bee books, 2020).

Young readers will find it interesting that in addition to writing the beloved Peter Rabbit books, Beatrix was also a natural scientist, savvy businesswoman, sheep farmer, and ardent conservationist.

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Savoring the “The Consolation of Apricots” by Diane Ackerman

 

Hello, Friends. I’m so glad you’re here today.

Hope you’re doing well despite these crazy, scary, unbelievably challenging times.

Please help yourself to a warm cuppa and a fresh-from-the-oven apricot scone while you savor Diane Ackerman’s sumptuous poem.

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“Apricot Still Life” by Julie L’Heureux

 

THE CONSOLATION OF APRICOTS
by Diane Ackerman

Especially in early
spring,
when the sun
offers a thin
treacle of warmth,
I love to sit
outdoors
and eat sense-
ravishing apricots.

Born on sun-
drenched trees in
Morocco,
the apricots have
flown the Atlantic
like small comets,
and I can taste
broiling North
Africa in their
flesh.

Somewhere
between a peach
and a prayer,
they taste of well
water
and butterscotch
and dried apples
and desert
simooms and lust.

Sweet with a
twang of spice,
a ripe apricot is
small enough to
devour
as two
hemispheres,
Ambiguity is its
hallmark.

How to eat an
apricot:
first warm its
continuous curve
in cupped hands,
holding it
as you might a
brandy snifter,

then caress the
velvety sheen
with one thumb,
and run your
fingertips
over its nap,
which is shorter
than peach fuzz,
closer to chamois.

Tawny gold with a
blush on its
cheeks,
an apricot is the
color of shame
and dawn.
One should not
expect to drink
wine
at mid-winter,
Boethius warned.

What could be
more thrilling
then ripe apricots
out of season,
a gush of taboo
sweetness
to offset the
savage wistfulness
of early spring?

Always eat
apricots at
twilight,
preferably while
sitting in a sunset
park,
with valley lights
starting to flicker
on
and the lake
spangled like a
shield.

Then, while a trail
of bright ink
tattoos the sky,
notice how the sun
washes the earth
like a woman
pouring her gaze
along her lover’s
naked body,

each cell receiving
the tattoo of her
glance.
Wait for that
moment
of arousal and
revelation,
then sink your
teeth into the flesh
of an apricot.

~ from I Praise My Destroyer (Random House, 1998)

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