Friday, March 27, 2009

Casa Braccio by F. Marion Crawford

Casa Braccio is the first, but not the last, novel of F. Marion Crawford that I have and will read.

It is the compelling story of a young nun who flees the convent with her lover, a Scottish doctor/nobleman. He used a young woman's corpse, the victim of suicide, to create the impression that the nun has died in a fire, instead of going over the cloister's walls and disappearing.

Twenty years later, the nun dies and her husband and daughter, Gloria, live in Rome.

In a maze of intricate twists and turns, the novel goes on to explore the intrigues and triangles and passions of Gloria and her circle. Eventually, she commits suicide and her father is left to contemplate how his sacriligious deed of long ago has ruined many lives.

It is literally unputdownable and has hooked me on this newly discovered author. It is my very favourite kind of book.

The book is in two volumes . I downloaded it free Manybooks where it is available in many different electronic formats.

F. Marion Crawford

Every once in a while we discover a new author who fast becomes one of our favourites. Recently, I discovered such an author. Like any new discovery, I’m suddenly very excited about it.

I’m always searching for all things Italian to blog about and always on the prowl for novels set in Italy. Through the magic of e-books and my new found passion for reading e-books on my smartphone, I have been able to search for books, published long ago, that are free. This is how I stumbled upon the books of F. Marion Crawford, aka Francis Marion Crawford.

Crawford was born at Bagni di Lucca, Italy, on the 2nd of August 1854. He was the son of American sculptor Thomas Crawford, and the nephew of the poet, Julia Ward Howe.

He attended university in Cambridge, Heidelberg, and Rome. In 1879 he travelled to India to study Sanskrit and became an editor. He returned to the United States to study Sanskrit at Harvard University.

In 1882 he wrote his first novel, Mr. Isaacs, about Anglo-Indian life touched with a bit of Oriental mystery. This book saw great success. In 1883 he wrote Dr. Claudius then returned to Italy where he made it his permanent home. Each year thereafter, he published another novel – each one successful, several of them being in the genre of historical fiction.

Here is a picture of Crawford at his home in Sorrenta in front of a small fountain in his back yard. The caption reads: In the garden of his house in Sorrento, Italy, where he writes in the summer. The tablet over the fountain to which Mr. Crawford points, bears a verse in Greek, beautiful in form and sentiment, which the novelist's wife composed, and had cut in the tablet as a birthday thought for her husband.

He is considered a most talented narrator, and his books of fiction, full of historic vigour and memorable characters became hugely popular. He could spin a story in a dramatic way and set his plots against charming backdrops.
He died at Sorrento on the 9th of April 1909.

Following are a list of his books. I’ve already been able to find several of them in e-book format and am very excited about reading them.

Mr. Isaacs (1882, novel)
Dr. Claudius (1883, novel)
A Roman Singer (1884, novel)
An American Politician (1884, novel)
To Leeward (1884, novel)
Zoroaster (1885, novel)
A Tale of a Lonely Parish (1886, novel)
Marzio's Crucifix (1887, novel)
Saracinesca (1887, novel)
Paul Patoff (1887, novel)
With the Immortals (1888, novel)
Greifenstein (1889, novel)
Sant Ilario (1889, novel)
A Cigarette-makers Romance (1890, novel)
Khaled (1891, novel)
The Witch of Prague (1891, novel)
The Three Fates (1892, novel)
The Children of the King (1892, novel)
Don Orsino (1892, novel)
Marion Darche (1893, novel)
Pietro Ghisleri (1893, novel)
Katharine Lauderdale (1894, novel)
Love in Idleness (1894, novel)
The Ralstons (1894, novel)
Casa Braccio (1895, novel)
Adam Johnstons Son (1895, novel)
Taquisara (1896, novel)
A Rose of Yesterday (1897, novel)
Corleone (1897, novel)
Ave Roma Immortalis (1898, history)
Via Crucis (1899, novel)
In the Palace of the King (1900, novel)
Rulers of the South (1900, history)
Marietta (1901, novel)
Cecilia (1902, novel)
Whosoever Shall Offend (1904, novel)
Soprano (1905, novel)
Gleanings from Venetian History (1905, history)
A Lady of Rome (1906, novel)
The White Sister (1909, novel)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Ottonian Jewelry

I'm making great progress with my novel, A Scarlet Mantle. For those of you who are unfamiliar with my work, A Scarlet Mantle is a novel about the life of Matilde of Ringleheim, Queen of Germany in the 10th century.

Although I have endeavored to follow fact, a certain amount of fiction is necessary to fill in the blanks. I often find myself researching jewelery and art of the Ottonian period to help me visualize items as I write scenes.

I recently discovered the below photographs of an Ottonian period brooch and ring circa 960 to 1000 A.D.) from the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History.

The brooch is in the intaglio style, gold with pearls and a star sapphire. Little else is known about it.

I find the ring very fascinating. It is decadent and complexly made. An elliptical flower formed in gold cloisonne enamel sits at the center. In the center of the flower is a cruciform shape made of white enamel encircled by a greenish field with four crescent-shaped petals set in blue glass. Supporting the enamel is a circle of twisted wire inside and out. A flowing vine of twisted wire, a little worn with age, covers the underside of the bezel. Below the outer arcade are small rings to contain the strung pearls, unfortunately lost, within a slot. Supporting the bezel are two opposing felines. The ring is similar to one discovered in Mainz in 1880 in a collection of ceremonial and personal jewelry. It is believed this ring belonged to an Ottonian or Salian Empress around the year 1000 A.D.

This ring excites me because it could very well have belonged to Empress Adelaide, wife of Otto the Great. She died in the year 999 A.D.. If it didn't belong to her, it might have belonged to her daughter Emma, or her daughter-in-law Theophano.

When writing about the 10th century, finding items of that period are not that common and when I stumble accidently upon such an article in my research, well, let's say I get very, very excited.

Stay tuned. You just might see this ring show up one day when I begin writing Adelaide's story.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Canonical Hours

Anyone who is writing a novel set in the medieval era, will need to refer to the Canonical Hours. In the days before clocks, keeping of Canonical Hours was one way to tell time as it was based on the sun rising and setting.

Canonical hours are divisions of time, developed by the Christian Church, serving as increments between the prescribed prayers of the daily round. A Book of Hours contains such a set of prayers.

Canonical hours are sometimes referred to as "offices" because they refer to the official set of prayers of the Roman Catholic Church. These prayers are also known as Divine Office.

This is a sundial found in Italy depicting the Canonical Hours:

Today, the Catholic Church in North America refers to these hours as the Liturgy of the Hours and as Divine Office in the British Isles.

Religious houses such as monasteries and convents, in addition to Churches, followed these hours of prayer. In my research, there are variations to the start and end times, but in general here are the canonical hours:

Matins Midnight to 2:00 a.m
Lauds 5.00 am (sunrise)
Prime 7:00 a.m.
Terce 9:00 a.m.
Sext 12:00 noon
Nones 3:00 p.m.
Vespers 5:00 p.m.
Compline 8:00 p.m.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Natasha Richardson

I am deeply saddened by the loss of actress Natasha Richardson this month in Mont Tremblant, Quebec. Mother, wife, daughter - a vibrant woman who had much to offer the world.

Although I am not a skiier, I live near the Canadian Rockies and I have many friends and family who frequent the slopes. May everyone take that extra step and wear a helmet, no matter the slope, no matter the mountain.

Rest in peace, Natasha. You will be missed, but you will live on through the films you have left the world. Your beauty will never be forgotten.

1963 TO 2009

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A most notorious Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie

This is perhaps the most infamous oatmeal chocolate chip cookie because it is a recipe based upon revenge and as we all know, revenge is always sweet!

So I tried the recipe and it is one of the best oatmeal chocolate chip cookies I have ever tasted in my life. It's a little bit more work than usual, but well worth the effort.

Here is the story, taken word for word, by the original email I received. The recipe will follow after that:

When decent people get screwed over, this is the result!

A little background: Neiman-Marcus, if you don't know already, is a very expensive store; I.e., they sell your typical $8.00 T-shirt for $50.00.

Let's let them have it! THIS IS 20 A TRUE STORY!

My daughter and I had just finished a salad at a Neiman-Marcus Cafe in Dallas, and we decided to have a small dessert. Because both of us are such cookie lovers, we decided to try the 'Neiman-Marcus cookie.' It was so excellent that I asked if they would give me the recipe and the waitress said with a small frown, 'I'm afraid not, but you can buy the recipe.' Well, I asked how much, and she responded; 'Only two fifty - it's a great deal!' I agreed to that, and told her to just add it to my tab.

Thirty days later, I received my VISA statement, and the Neiman-Marcus charge was $285.00! I looked again, and I remembered I had only spent $9.95 for two salads and about $20.00 for a scarf. As I glanced at the bottom of the statement, it said,' Cookie Recipe- $250.00.' That was outrageous!

I called Neiman's Accounting Department and told them the waitress said it was 'two-fifty', which clearly does not mean 'two hundred and fifty dollars' by any reasonable interpretation of the phrase.

Neiman-Marcus refused to budge. They would not refund my money because, according to them, 'What the waitress told you is not our problem. You have already seen the recipe. We absolutely will not refund your money at this point.'

I explained to the Accounting Department lady the criminal statutes which govern fraud in the State of Texas. I threatened to report them to the Better Business Bureau and the Texas Attorney General's office for engaging in fraud. I was basically told, 'Do what you want. Don't bother thinking of how you can get even, and don't bother trying to get any of your money back.' I just said, 'Okay, you folks got my $250, and now I'm going to have $250 worth of fun. I told her that I was going to see to it that every Cookie Lover in the United States with an e-mail account has a $250 cookie recipe From Neiman-Marcus...for free.

She replied, 'I wish you wouldn't do this.'

I said, 'Well, perhaps you should have thought of that before you ripped me off!' and slammed down the phone.

So here it is!

Please, please, please pass it on to everyone you can possibly think of. I paid $250for this, and I don't want Neiman-Marcus to EVER make another penny off of this recipe!

NEIMAN-MARCUS COOKIES (Recipe may be halved)

2 cups butter
24 ounces of chocolate chips
4 cups flour
2 cups brown sugar
2 tsp. Soda
1 tsp. Salt
2 cups sugar
1 8 oz. Hershey Bar (grated)
5 cups blended oatmeal
4 eggs
2 tsp. Baking powder
2 tsp. Vanilla
3 cups chopped nuts (your choice)

Measure oatmeal, and blend in a blender to a fine powder. Cream the butter and both sugars. Add eggs and vanilla, mix together with flour, oatmeal, salt, baking powder, and soda . Add chocolate chips, Hershey (Symphony bar is best) bar, and nuts. Roll into balls, and place two inches apart on a cookie Sheet. Bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees.

Makes 112 cookies.


Even if the people on your e-mail list don't eat sweets send it to them and ask them to pass it on. Let's make sure we get this ladies $250.00 worth. Enjoy the cookies, they really are good.

So I did and they're now my favourite, all-time cookie!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Agnodice - First Woman Gynecologist

Born in 300 BC in ancient Greece, Agnodice wanted to practice medicine in an era when women were legally prohibited from the healing arts. According to legend, Agnodice was a noblewoman born with a passion for medicine. The only way she could achieve her dream was to cut her hair and wear men's clothing. Encouraged by her father, she Dressed thusly and soon become an avid student of the famous Alexandrian physician, Herophilus where she earned the highest marks.

After she finished her studies, as she walked the streets of Athens, she heard the screams of a woman in the throes of labor. Agnodice rushed to assist her. The woman, believing Agnodice to be a man, refused to allow Agnodice to touch her. Desperate to convince her otherwise, Agnodice lifted up her clothes and revealed that she was a woman. The woman allowed her to deliver her baby. Women everywhere soon flocked to her. To evade the authorities, she dressed as a man, not only during hr studies but also when she practiced.

When her male colleagues discovered that requests for their services were dwindling, while Agnodice's was increasing, they accused Agnodice of seducing and raping the women patients.

She was subsequently arrested and charged. At her trial, the leading men of Athens condemned her. To save herself from the death penalty, Agnodice revealed she was really a woman. A crowd of her patients declared in front of the temple that if she were executed, they would die with her. The wives of the judges argued, "You are not spouses, but enemies since you are condemning her who discovered health for us."

Under the pressure by the crowd, the judges acquitted Agnodice and allowed her to continue practicing medicine.

Agnodice continued to work mostly with women and is credited with being one of the first women gynecologists in history.

Whether or not the legend of Agnodice is true, it is a story which the world of medicine has long cherished.
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