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Life and Arts

The Valley Line: Summer reading and Southern visitors enrich her August

Braxton and Brie Sutton at the Reagan presidential library
Braxton, left, and his twin sister Brie Sutton, visitors from Birmingham, Ala., pose with statues of the late former president Ronald Reagan and wife Nancy at the Reagan Library.
(Jane Napier Neely)

Every year I’m on a quest for at least one good summer read. This year’s winner kind of crept up on me in the best way ever, by word of mouth. I kept hearing about “Where the Crawdads Sing,” the first novel of Delia Owens. All I can say is WOW! It is a little bit of everything. It is an exquisite book filled with such beauty and a little bit of suspense sprinkled in. Owens is an artist as she paints with words about the mystique of the marshlands of the North Carolina coast.

I first downloaded the book on my tablet and phone, which I read every spare moment I had. Yes, there is something positive to be said about waiting in a grocery line and reading on my phone — oh-so-much better than being bombarded by the screaming headlines of the tabloids at the checkout stand.

I loved this book so much I didn’t want it to end so I went to Flintridge Bookstore and bought the hardbound book to keep on my bookshelf. I have already picked it up several times just to read Owens’ beautiful prose.



I had just finished reading the book when friends Patrick and Michelle Sutton and their 11 year-old twins, Brie and Braxton, arrived for a weeklong stay from their home Birmingham, Ala.

It was so much fun to have a house full of activity and, of course, I loved catching up with them on long overdue news. They couldn’t believe how gorgeous the weather was here, with no humidity. They kept saying they could never open the windows to let the cool air blow through in the evening that we did every night. They say there is never any cool air during an Alabama August.

At the top of their list of favorite California dining is In-N-Out Burger, a chain unheard of in the South. There were several trips made to this California eatery while they were here.

The Suttons spent a day at Disneyland to experience the new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge exhibit and ride in the Millennium Falcon.


Their next big adventure was a visit to the Reagan Library. I joined them for this outing and it was an incredible day for all of us. We arrived at 10:30 a.m. and were almost the last out the door at 5:30 p.m.

Of course, seeing Air Force One was the most exciting part for the kids, with the presidential helicopter being a close second.

Absolutely stunning for all of us was the fabulous Leonardo Da Vinci exhibit. Not only did we get to peek into a replica of his studio, but we were also spellbound by the many reconstructions of Da Vinci’s fantastic machines, including his flying bicycle.

I was entranced by the beautiful pipe organ and the accompanying video that showed expert keyboard musician Fred Mandel playing “Stairway to Heaven,” the Led Zeppelin standard, on it. Talk about culture shock — Da Vinci would have been amazed!

Replica of Da Vinci’s studio at Reagan Library
A replica of Leonardo Da Vinci’s studio is recreated at the exhibit at the Reagan Library. The original “Mona Lisa” (or “La Gioconda”) still resides in the Louvre Museum in Paris.
(Jane Napier Neely/La Cañada Valley Sun)

The Da Vinci exhibit runs through Sept. 8. Coming up in October is an exhibit themed “Egypt’s Lost Cities,” scheduled to run Oct. 5 through April 12. I’m already intrigued. Take a look at the tantalizing verbiage that Melissa Giller, the library’s PR director shared: “Time may have eroded the memory of a civilization but not the mystery of what was long ago. Two bustling cities in ancient Egypt were known throughout the world as cultural centers of power, of wealth, of trade, and novel artistry. One day as the Mediterranean sun beat down on the bay of Aboukir, the cities slipped into the sea without a whisper of wind, buried for centuries.” I know I won’t want to miss that exhibit.


Things are about to get busier, with school starting up and the community’s many clubs poised to turn their lights back on for a new season. Please remember to clue me in to your varied social activities so I can, in turn, share them with the rest of our readers.


Jane Napier Neely covers the La Cañada Flintridge social scene. Email her at with news of your special event.

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