Thursday, February 26, 2009

Food Again, or The Restaurant That Is No More

Let me get wistful here. I miss Lulu's.

Shortly after Richard and I moved to Tifton, we heard about this really nice restaurant in Valdosta. Valdosta is down Interstate 75 about 50 miles. That sounds like a long way to go for dinner, but when the pickings are slim, you do what you have to do. Tifton has lots of places to eat, but they are mostly chain restaurants. Boring.

Anyway, we thought we'd try Lulu's for our anniversary. Well, it was like walking into a small oasis of class, compared to all the chains. The decor and the lighting were subtle. The small open kitchen was at the front of the restaurant. There were real tablecloths and napkins, candles and flowers on the tables. The wait staff was friendly and efficient, and the food was great.

On our first visit we had the baked brie as an appetizer. It was in a puff-pastry crust with a pecan and caramel sauce and it was divine. We went to Lulu's many times before it closed. We tried as many of the entrees as we could. We tried pasta dishes, fish dishes, meat dishes, whatever. The menu was not long but we were never disappointed with the food.

If your waiter found out that you were celebrating an event, he/she would stick a skinny little candle in your dessert. The candle sparkled and it was one of those that relit itself. I don't mind a little humor in my classy restaurants. My favorite dessert was the carrot cake. It was definitely not from a bakery. It tasted like homemade. The cake was dense and rich with lots of carrots and nuts and that lovely cream cheese icing. My mouth waters just thinking about it.

I was heartbroken when I found out Lulu's had closed. We have yet to find a comparable restaurant. But we have hope.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Stinky Stuff (and a Couple of Books)

See this interesting-looking purple thing? That's a flower. Richard orders lots of plants for the garden and this is one of them. He read the description in the plant catalog and thought it looked interesting, so he ordered it. What the description failed to mention, however, is that when it blooms, the flower smells like sun-baked, rotting, festering road kill. The smell of rotting meat is so strong it attracts flies.

Since Richard did not know this at the time, he planted the thing right next to the screened porch, so you get that aroma when you're trying to enjoy pleasant weather on the porch. Fortunately the blooms don't last too long. Unfortunately, it's a perennial, so we get to experience it every summer. This thing is called, I think, a dragon arum (more like dragon's breath arum, I say). I have to admit it is interesting, and it's big. The flower is almost two feet long.

Continuing with the "stinky" theme, I used to work in a marine science library in Charleston, SC. I wish I had pictures, but I didn't know at the time that I would be doing a blog. One day a student turned in a book that had been found in the bottom of a vat of formaldehyde. How it got there is anybody's guess. Another student, who was studying sharks, turned in a book that was soaked in shark's blood. Talk about stinky. He had been dissecting a shark on the dock and had the book with him as reference. Very irresponsible, if you ask me. He was very arrogant and didn't even offer to pay to replace the book. And he wasn't at all contrite about it. Needless to say, we did not retain those volumes in the library’s collection.
Okay, let's change the subject.

I finished Jar City. I had read a couple of chapters and then put the book down. However, when I got home from work last Friday at 3:00 pm (Small Public Institution closes at that time every Friday), I sat down, picked up the book, started reading, and had a hard time putting it down when it came time to fix dinner. Wow! Talk about a page turner. I mentioned there was a twist at the end, but it turned out not to be so twisty. The ending was completely in keeping with the story and very satisfying. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. If his subsequent books in the series are as good, then I will be a happy reader.

I finished Jar City on Saturday and, because I have so many books in my to-be-read pile, again I had a hard time deciding what to read next. But I chose Dead Heat by Dick Francis and Felix Francis. Dick Francis has always been one of my favorite authors. The first mystery I ever read was Whip Hand, by Francis. It was the one that got me started on a literary “life of crime,” so to speak. (Yes, I consider genre novels as literature.) The thing I like about Dick Francis’s novels is that I always learn something. He does a lot of research and then writes clearly and interestingly about the subject he’s chosen. His first novels were about horse racing, and the racing world is still always the backdrop, but he branched out into other fields. Dead Heat’s protagonist is a restaurateur. I’ve read all of Francis’s novels so far, and not one of them was ever dull.

How about a cat picture?

This is Horace. He was born when I was about eight years old, and he lived to be fifteen. I consider Horace to be the World's Greatest Cat. (You may have other ideas about that.) Horace put up with two little girls playing with him and treating him like a baby doll. Over the fifteen years of his life he grew to be a great friend. Every year on his birthday (May 15) Mama bought him a can of sardines in mustard sauce, which he loved. It was a sad day when we had to say goodbye to him.

Everybody in my family has had numerous cats since Horace, but none quite as memorable. The collection of kitties Richard and I have now are working their way up to Horace's level. Cats have such distinct personalities. They are a pleasure to observe.

Okay, that's enough for today. Go out and buy yourself a dragon arum. You'll love it.

Friday, February 20, 2009

A Correction

Yesterday, when I was comparing the main characters of the two Scandinavian novels, I think I screwed up. The more I thought about it, the more convinced I became that Martin Beck, the protagonist of The Laughing Policeman, is NOT divorced, but he and his wife have a somewhat strained relationship. I'd refer to the book, but I mailed it off to my sister a couple of months ago. If anybody has read this book and can post a comment telling me whether or not I'm having an extended senior moment, I'd appreciate it. Thanks.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

More Books and Such

I have started a new book, Jar City, by Arnaldur Indridason. It takes place in Reykjavik, Iceland. It starts out with the body on the floor, and it’s rather dark and bleak. The blurb on the back cover mentions a twist of an ending, so I can’t wait to see what that turns out to be.

I know a few people who read the last chapter of a mystery FIRST, so they can see how it turns out, but I think that’s just wrong. Part of the pleasure of reading a mystery is following the story and wondering how it’s going to end. I want to be surprised at the end of a book. I don’t even try to figure out whodunit as I’m reading. I have read a few mysteries where the clues were too obvious (bad storytelling) and I was disappointed when I finished. I’m thinking Jar City is not going to be like that.

Another Scandinavian mystery I’ve read is The Laughing Policeman, by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo. This one takes place in Stockholm. There seem to be no clues whatsoever in this story and it keeps you guessing until the end. The translation was a little rough at first. I don’t know if the translator improved as he went on or if I just got used to his style, but I soon forgot about his writing and got involved in the story. I’m going to read more of this series.

The main characters in Jar City (Erlendur Sveinsson) and The Laughing Policeman (Martin Beck) are similar in that they’re both policemen, divorced, living alone in tiny flats, and each with an ex-wife who is no longer a friend. That’s pretty bleak. I guess the protagonist in a hard-boiled, police-procedural mystery doesn’t need to be a happy-go-lucky guy, does he?

Changing subjects:

As I mentioned in my last post, Richard and I usually go out to dinner on Wednesdays, and last night I wanted comfort food. Richard asked me what I considered comfort food and I told him it usually involved carbohydrates, like mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, casseroles, something with gravy, pie, etc. His comfort foods are meats. He likes a good steak or pot roast, I guess. I like the accoutrements. Well, I got my comfort food. We went to Sonny's (a barbecue joint) and I got fried shrimp, fried okra, coleslaw, and cornbread. Only the coleslaw doesn't qualify as a carbohydrate, but I love Sonny's slaw. The shrimp and okra were breaded and of course the cornbread is mostly carbs. I ate every last bit of food on my plate and it hit every spot that responds to carbs. Richard got pulled pork and french fries with a baked sweet potato on the side.

Did I fail to mention that food is one of the et ceteras referred to in the title of my blog? Neglectful of me, wasn't it?

Since we're on the subject of food, I want to mention our current favorite restaurant. It's called the Tarragon Grill and it's in Moultrie, GA, about a half-hour's drive south of Tifton. We have friends that we try to go out to dinner with on every available occasion (they live in North Carolina). On one of these forays into foodland, Don wanted to go someplace that wasn't in Tifton, so he called up the secretary of the Presbyterian church in Moultrie and asked for some recommendations and the Tarragon Grill was one that she mentioned. So we went there.

It's a small place, located in an old farmhouse, and it's run by a husband-and-wife team. He's the chef and she manages the place. The food is good and hearty and the desserts are wonderful (cheesecake with a caramel sauce -- mmmmm). They have a modest wine and beer selection and the whole staff is very pleasant. It's the kind of place where you're happy to leave a tip. They are even pleasant when they're packed with people and folks are waiting at the door. Richard and I went there on the Friday before Christmas and we had made a reservation. Good for us: people were waiting on the porch to get in. They had our table ready and we got seated right away. While we were eating, we saw Sen. Saxby Chambliss come in, and he had to wait for a table. He didn't make reservations. (Chambliss is from Moultrie, although now he spends most of his time in D.C.)

I could go on about food and restaurants, but I want to post this sometime today. Maybe someday I'll tell you about the favorite restaurant that is no more. Sigh.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Did You Miss Me?

Here it is Wednesday already. I skipped writing on Tuesday, one of my usual days, because I was still steaming from something that happened that morning at work. I had a run-in with a student who was being a complete @#$%^&*!! (fill in your own expletive). There are rules and he wanted them all waived for him. The details are unimportant. Suffice it to say he was difficult. My director and her administrative boss (the Vice President...) both talked me down, since I really wanted to take this @#$%^&*!! by the throat and slam his head against a brick wall (the fact that he was taller, stronger and younger than I is beside the point). I guess the Universe throws someone at you like that every once in a while just to remind you to appreciate that all the other students are very nice, polite, and respectful.

Okay, back to my real world.

My friend Diane didn't win her second go round of Jeopardy! but she was a good player. I'm so proud to know her.

I've added another link to my list of Blogs I Like. My friend Genie (also of Athens, GA) is a storyteller/writer. She's putting her stories on her blog. She's actually won an award for her writing. I'm proud to know her too.

Last week, I gave some squares of vintage flour sacking to my friend Theresa (of Knitting Nonpareil). That very day she took pictures of the fabric and posted them to her blog. Check them out. The colors are still as vibrant as they were when my mother bought the flour, back in the 19xx's. (You thought I was going to give away my age, didn't you? HA!) I can't wait to see what Theresa makes with the stuff.

Tonight is grocery shopping night. We usually go out to dinner before we go to the grocery store. I should get something light and good for me, but I really want comfort food (thanks to the aforementioned @#$%^&*!!).

Think good thoughts for me.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


Happy Valentine's Day!!

Richard and I decided to forego the chocolate this Valentine's Day, something we should have done on Hallowe'en, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Can you say fat? But we did exchange cards and go out to dinner. My dinner looked (and was) so good, I should have taken a picture of it. I had grilled shrimp on a bed of rice pilaf with steamed asparagus on the side. Yummy!

Okay, enough about me. Last night on Jeopardy! our friend Diane from Athens, GA, competed and WON! I'm not a bit surprised. She was her usual calm and efficient self, or at least she gave that impression. Diane told us in December that she was going to be on, and I've been waiting with some impatience to see how she did. Now I can't wait for Monday evening to see how she does again. If you're a Jeopardy! fan, join us in rooting for her.

I hope everyone has a nice Valentine's Day, and if you're lucky like Richard and get President's Day off, Happy Monday!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A List of Random Things (or is that A Random List of Things?)

I've read other blogs in which the authors posted lists and I always find them interesting, no matter what the subject (or subjects). So I thought I'd try it. Here goes:

If you are a mystery reader and like to read series in chronological order (do I sound like a librarian, or what?), then I have to recommend Stop You're Killing Me, a website of lists of mystery authors' books, in order. It's quite extensive and includes authors you've probably never heard of. If you are an adventurous reader, you might like to try some little-known authors. One of its features is a location index. This came in handy one evening when a friend of mine was trying to remember the author of a mystery which took place in South Africa. The website also has lists of forthcoming books and announcements of mystery awards nominees and winners.

Last summer I got an e-mail from Richard telling me that we had a new pet. Her name is Frogzilla. She is a bullfrog. She was living at Patty's little fish pond, but Patty's dog Hobo wanted to play with her and Patty was afraid Hobo would hurt the frog. So since Richard and I have a small fish pond in our back yard, we got elected to adopt Frogzilla. When the weather turns warm, as it does occasionally in the South during the winter, all the tree frogs and other critters come out of their hibernation (if frogs hibernate) and hold a singing competition. All night long. Female bullfrogs don't sing, but I bet Frogzilla was conducting the orchestra. We've seen Frogzilla a few times since she moved in, but she is a wild creature and we don't interfere. She is BIG.

Have you watched Ballykissangel? It was a BBC production (I think) and we heard about it from some friends. They just raved over it so we rented the first series (there are 6) from Netflix. We really enjoyed it, but there was a tragedy at the end of series 3 and I wasn't sure I wanted to watch any more. But, our friends own the entire series and they lent us series 4 through 6. We've been watching it and the writers and producers came back with good scripts and more characters and the quality has not slipped. In fact, it may have gotten better. The setting is a small town in Ireland. There is beautiful scenery, interesting stories and characters, humor, sadness, and other daily-life issues. It's never been boring. Try it out.

I am a librarian, and I love books. But the two things are entirely separate matters. I did not choose librarianship because I love books. Becoming a librarian was the path of least resistance for me, and I loved reading before becoming a librarian ever crossed my mind. (Did you know some people believe librarians get to read books all day at work? No kidding.) I do, however, love reference books. I think that must be because I like trivia. There is all kinds of information in a dictionary (unless you get a small paperback abridged dictionary which makes a good paperweight and that's about all it's good for). In a good dictionary you can find out birth and death dates of prominent people, populations of countries, etymology. Sometimes I get carried away in a dictionary and one word will lead to looking up another. (Am I sounding crashingly boring right about now?) One of my very favorite reference books is Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. (You can find this at Amazon.) It has information and explanations on all kinds of things. Fowler's Modern English Usage is another good reference book. It says it's all right to end a sentence with a preposition AND I can split infinitives. It's like language freedom.

Two days a week I work at a satellite campus of the Small Public Institution where I am employed. On those days I walk down the block for lunch. I'm a creature of habit, so I get the same thing for lunch every time: a hot ham & cheese sandwich, chips, and unsweetened tea. In fact, I'm so predictable that Barbara, who runs the kitchen, starts making my sandwich as soon as I walk in the door. They all know my name (and I theirs). It's good to be a regular. It gives me warm and fuzzy feelings.

In 1940, when my mother was 16, she got kicked off a dance floor for doing the jitterbug too wildly. I told this to a friend in high school, and she said, "Oh, you must be so proud of her!" I guess I am.

Okay, that's enough random stuff for today. I'll try to bore you less the next time I post.

Y'all come back, y'hear? (That's Southern for "come see me again soon.")

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Book Report and Laughing Fits

I finished The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. It didn't have much in the way of a plot, but it was good reading. And I love the way it ended. I would recommend it to anyone. There were some really dark aspects to the novel, but, as in any good story, they were not gratuitous. This book is one that I might read again sometime.

I have a large stack of unread books in my house. I have books by Robert B. Parker, Margaret Maron, Martha Grimes, Janet Evanovich, Sue Grafton, Carl Hiaasen, Alexander McCall Smith, Beverly Connor, Laurie R. King, Jacqueline Winspear, James D. Doss, Tony Hillerman, Sharon Kay Penman, Barack Obama, and others I can't remember right now, just waiting for me. I don't know what to read first. Maybe I'll just close my eyes and grab the first one I lay my hands on. I'll let you know what I pick.

I love laughing fits. Richard and I have been laughing for years over something that happened when we were dating. We were going to a Burger King for dinner, and as we were crossing the parking lot, I let out a very loud belch. Not on purpose, you understand. This eructation was a complete surprise. It was of the kind that men win contests with. It reverberated off buildings several blocks away and set off car alarms all over town. We just dissolved in laughter. This event will forever be known in family history as the Burger King Belch.

Once I heard Robin Williams on TV liken Ross Perot to a cross between and Ferengi and a mongoose. I laughed until I was out of breath and in pain. Laughing fits strike at the most unexpected times. Sometimes it doesn't take much to set one off. Another time I was reading one of Lawrence Block's Bernie Rhodenbarr mysteries. Bernie Rhodenbarr is a used bookstore owner and a "reformed" thief. Of course, he only burgles homes when he's trying to solve a murder. He knows that he must be stone cold sober in order to do some breaking and entering. In the scene that I laughed so hard over, Bernie and his friend Carolyn were in a bar and he was getting drunk on purpose because he didn't want to break into a house for his own gain. As he and Carolyn got drunker and drunker, the conversation got funnier and funnier. I can't remember which book it was in (dammit), but I'd like to read it again to see if I now think it's nearly as funny as I did then. While I don't usually have repeated laughing fits over some thing, I always remember the funniness with a smile.

I guess you had to be there.

The camera has arrived. Yay! I have to install some software on our computer and then learn all the ins and outs of tinkering with digital pictures. That shouldn't take too long (she said, optimistically). Maybe some of my pictures will be as good (probably not) as those taken by Lene, who writes The Seated View. She really has an eye for composition. She's my role model.

Later, Dear Readers. Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Cat (And Dog) Pictures

This is my special cat, Lila. She thinks she's the Queen of Everything. She loves to get into and under things, especially if it's something warm. Lila and Dashiell are littermates and they spend a lot of time snuggled up together or fighting. If it ain't one thing, it's the other. Richard says that Lila loves me and tolerates him, but I know she loves him, too. She's taken up the slack of being in my lap, where Fido used to spend a lot of time.

This is Dashiell. He likes to think he's Alpha Cat, but he really knows that Richard and I are Alpha. I can stare him down. He's a terribly sweet and cuddly cat. And, boy, when it's dinner time, he starts hollering like he's starving and he's not going to last another two minutes unless we feed him NOW.

This is Blossom, who lives two doors down the street. She loves Richard and will come to see him when he is outside seeing to the landscaping. You can see that she is a little tubby, but that's all changed. She's now diabetic and mostly blind, but she still finds her way to our yard. She's one of the sweetest dogs I've ever met (but then I've never met a black Lab who wasn't sweet). She's getting old and we will definitely miss her when she dies.

This is the late, great Fido shortly after his leg surgery. The vet gave him some painkillers after the surgery and Fido thought they were great. He acted as if nothing was wrong with his leg and even wanted to go outside to hunt small animals. It took a few weeks for him to accept the fact that he had become an indoor cat. We still miss him.

This is Bennis, our unsociable cat. She's sweet, in her own little stand-offish way. She likes to eat, never misses a meal, and never misses an opportunity to lick our plates (or whatever) when we have things like cereal, ice cream, eggs, blueberry muffin crumbs, and even Richard's persimmon pudding. She's especially crazy about eggs, fried or scrambled, she's not picky.

Those are the pets. When I learn to deal with photos better, maybe I can make the posts a little more artistic.

I'm still waiting for my camera (Richard took all these pictures). One of these days I'll get to take pictures of my knitting! Such as it is.

I'd love to hear about your pets.

Donate to the ASPCA. I do.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Ta-ta For Now

I mentioned to Richard last night that I am really enjoying doing this blog and that I'm pretty satisfied with my work. He said, "You write well, but that 'ta-ta for now' has to go," or something to that effect. I thought about it and decided maybe he is right.

Perhaps I will tell you where I got that: Years and years ago, when I was a library peon at Clemson University, I had a co-worker who said "Ta-ta for now" every evening when she left work. I can't even remember her name, but she was one of the most cheerful, upbeat people I have ever met. I don't know why, but I thought of her when I was casting about for a way to sign off my posts. It's not very creative, I know, so I'll try to employ a little more creativity from now on.

Wish me luck. (This does not reek with creativity, does it?)

PS: Richard took pity on me because my camera has not arrived and copied some of his pet photos for me. With a little playing around and experimentation, I will post some of them tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Blog About Books

Currently I am reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. It was a Christmas gift from my brother-in-law's brother, Mark. I usually read mysteries, but every once in a while I like to throw in something different, and this book does the trick. It's written as a series of letters and the storytelling is quite effective. It has humor and sadness and a little bit of intrigue. I'm enjoying it and I can't wait to see how it turns out.

I hope no one is looking for a book review from me. I'm not very good at that. But I am a great audience. I readily suspend my disbelief and really get involved with whatever book I'm reading. I remember reading Bellefleur, by Joyce Carol Oates, and I felt as if I had been kicked out of the family when I finished. If I recall correctly (I read it years ago), the family included a vampire or two.

My grandmother was a great reader. In the 1930s, when Gone With the Wind came out, Grandma went to her local public library (this was in South Dakota) and asked if they had the book yet. She was informed, in no uncertain terms, that not only did the library not have that scandalous book, they were not going to get it (censorship in action). Grandma harrumphed and went to the local junior college library and checked it out. She would have loved the American Library Association's Banned Books Week; she'd have used the list as her reading guide.

I come from a family of readers. Grandma and Grandpa both read a lot, as did my parents, and now my sister, Carla, and I are carrying on the tradition. Carla sometimes reads a book twice in a row if she especially enjoyed it. I have a friend, Beverly Connor, who writes mysteries and is a published author. You can find her books on Amazon. Carla always reads Beverly's books twice. I can read a book twice, but I have to wait until I've forgotten whodunit before I read it a second time.

I must mention a book that I read last year: Holmes on the Range, by Steve Hockensmith. This is a western mystery. Two brothers, Big Red and Old Red Amlingmeyer, are cowboys who drift from one job to another. Old Red can read and likes to read Sherlock Holmes stories in magazines. He fancies himself a sleuth and tries to solve mysteries as Holmes would. The funniest part of the book is when he gathers the suspects together to name the killer. I almost had a laughing fit. I checked Amazon recently and Hockensmith has a couple more in the series. I think I'll put them on my wish list.

I'm expecting my camera to arrive this week (keeping my fingers crossed). When it does (and I learn how to use it) I can post pictures of the cats and the knitting.

I'd love to hear what you're reading. Leave a comment. Ta-ta for now.