Sometimes other people’s secrets are as much fun as your own. I’ve been bubbling over with one of Alice’s for weeks. Go look, go! Is it not the prettiest place on the internet? Be sure to click all around. One thing that especially delights me is having easy access to all her tea menus. These teas are one of her best innovations and have been enriching my own family’s feast-day celebrations for years and years. I was one of the lucky ones, you know, who got to reap the benefits of Alice’s particular genius long before she came to the internet. (Forgive me if I gloat a little.) I remember when she presented her first themed tea menu (a Shakespearean repast, that one) to her teeny tiny girls waaay back in our young-mama days. A decade later, I am still giggling over some of her menu items.
Her Midsummer Night’s Dream tea is another masterpiece, invented for the cast party of her local group’s performance of that play. Because I (more gloating) got to read her upcoming book in manuscript, and because she is including that tea in an appendix to the book, my San Diego friends and I got to enjoy the very same feast after our Shakespeare Club’s performance of scenes from that play—the club itself being an enterprise I was inspired to launch after hearing Alice’s Shakespeare stories. This is the effect she’s had on me for years, and the effect she’s had on the online homeschooling community since she joined that party: she has all these great ideas and makes them sound so easy and doable. So you jump up and do them, and she’s right. I see the fruit of her genius all over the internet.
Which is why people are going to love her book. One of the reasons why, that is. The personal narrative itself is captivating, and I’m not just saying that because I’m a recurring character. 🙂 Although she did make me cry a goodly number of times as she recounted the story of our own budding friendship back in Queens, NY. What delicious days those were! But beyond the fact that her book tells a darn good story, there’s what I always think of as the “practical inspiration” factor—does a book inspire me to get up and DO? Haystack Full of Needles does. Which I think is pretty impressive, considering I talk to the author on the phone almost every day, so you’d think I’d have heard all her ideas by now. Not so. Because the woman is a fount of them; they bubble out of her. As I read the manuscript, I was thinking, gosh, people are just going to wish they could live in Alice’s area and be part of the things she’s describing. But as I read on, I realized that no, the effect of the book goes much deeper than that: you find yourself energized and eager to put her ideas to work in your own home and circle of friends. It’s a beautiful look at family and community, what we give each other and how we grow together. Which is exactly how I characterize my friendship with Alice Gunther: we have grown up together, as mothers—we met when her oldest was two and my only(!) child was fifteen months old. I’ve been the lucky recipient of her brilliant ideas ever since. It just tickles me pink that now the whole world can enjoy the riches too.
August, 2000. Post Barnes & Noble booksigning celebration. From left: me, unidentified man’s bottom, Alice with our friend Brigid’s sweet daughter Emily on her lap. Photo by Brigid! You can’t tell because we’re sitting, but I was pregnant with Beanie—Alice’s future goddaughter.