Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tornadoes

We had weather this past weekend

On Friday a tornado was spotted in the county just west of us, so a warning was issued. (Watch=conditions are right; Warning=tornado has been spotted). We had to round up all the students in the library of Small Public Institution and herd them into the stairwell. Most of them were cooperative and uncomplaining, but one girl wanted to leave the library and, I don't know, do battle with the tornado? Oh, to be young and indestructible again. The warning got cancelled, so we all got back to what we were doing beforehand.

It rained most of the day on Saturday. I was snoozing in the recliner with a cat on my lap when a thunderstorm moved into the area. I didn't hear any of it until a loud clap of thunder occurred right over the house. The electricity cycled off and on about three times in the space of two seconds, causing the lamp by the chair to flash several times in quick succession. This scared the cat and she launched herself off my lap like she'd been shot out of a cannon. The cats don't like Thunder Monster.

That was the worst thing that happened on Saturday, but then I found out another tornado warning had been issued on that day. It's a good thing I didn't know that on Saturday, otherwise it would have made my day very tense. Ignorance is bliss. Also very dangerous.

The thunderstorm blew on by and things got calm again. I never heard anything about a tornado touching down in Tift County, thank goodness, although there was some wind damage to the auditorium on the Small Public Institution campus.

According to the weather channel, we're in for some more inclement weather in the next few days. I hope it will just be a nice soaking rain. We've been in a drought for several years now.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

If It's A Family Gathering, There Will Be Food

We went to my sister-in-law's home in Senoia, GA, for a family dinner. We were celebrating both Richard's birthday and our niece Katie's birthday. Beverly and Paul (SIL and husband) are centrally located, so they usually host the family gatherings. For lunch we had a low-country boil, as it is known in Georgia. In South Carolina, it's also called either Beaufort Bog or Frogmore Stew (Beaufort and Frogmore are two towns between Charleston and Savannah). For those of you unfamiliar with this particular meal, it consists of red potatoes, smoked sausages, corn on the cob, and shrimp cooked in a large pot of water flavored with Old Bay seasoning. Because Beverly and Paul don't have a huge pot, they cook theirs in stages: first the potatoes and sausages and then the corn; that's all removed from the pot when it's done and then the shrimp goes in.





I don't have a picture of the shrimp because by the time it came to the table, I was too busy shoveling food into my mouth and I forgot about taking its picture! Silly me.



Because we were celebrating birthdays, there was cake.



This is the lemon pound cake before the feeding frenzy.



Here's the cake after.

Just because spring has arrived, here's a picture of the Confederate jasmine growing on Beverly and Paul's back deck. [Edited: This is NOT Confederate jasmine, but rather Yellow Jessamine (the state flower of South Carolina); I was misinformed.]

Richard's birthday gift from Katie was a whole bunch of gourmet foods that we can't get down here in the Georgia Outback. Katie went shopping at Trader Joe's Market in Atlanta. I meant to take a picture of all this bounty, but sometimes I have a little trouble getting all my youknowwhat into one sock and I failed (sort of like with the shrimp picture).
I always have a good time at my in-law's and this past Sunday was no different.

Friday, March 20, 2009

First Day of Spring

My camera and I have been wandering around the yard again. This is actually a relatively new activity for me. The yard is pretty much Richard's domain because HE has the only green thumb in the family. I'd usually rather be indoors with the cats, the books, and the knitting. But since I got the camera, and because I do love flowers, I've been going a bit nuts. Here are some pictures:


Aren't these pretty? They're pear flowers on our baby pear tree. Richard has been buying fruit trees lately. We just acquired the vacant lot next door and it has become an extension of the garden.


Here's an iris. Probably not its best angle but I was trying not to step on other growing things.


I think camellias are the quintessential Southern flowers. That may be because the gardenias are not blooming yet.

Here's a pink camellia.


And the wisteria is blooming already.

Finally I have a picture of azaleas.

And last, but not least, is the typical azalea-colored azalea.
I hope you enjoyed the stroll around our (well, okay, Richard's) garden. Today is the first day of spring, and I'm glad to see it come.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

She's Reading Again

I didn't tell you enough about my latest reads.

Rough Weather (Robert B. Parker) is one of those novels where you know who did the killing right away, but what you don't know is why. That's the mystery. It's a good story, well told. I remember Parker's earlier Spenser novels were not as lean as his current ones, i.e., they were more wordy. Now he uses lots of snappy dialogue which makes for more white space on the page. He seldom has long paragraphs of narrative. But you don't miss a thing. As I said, good story, well told.

J.A. Jance also tells a good story. Her novels are more dense with words than Parker's, but there are no wasted words, no filler. Justice Denied, which I recently finished, is excellent. It's one of her J.P. Beaumont series. It helps to have read her earlier books in the series as the story of J.P. evolves with each one. This current novel has a complex plot which keeps you guessing all along. I didn't figure out anything until the detectives did, and then the fun part was watching them scramble to catch the bad guys before they skipped the country. (I hope I haven't told too much.) J.A. Jance has two other series which I also read; in fact my TBR pile contains a Joanna Brady novel.



I am currently reading Careless in Red by Elizabeth George. It's 623 pages of small type without much white space at all. It will not be a quick read. Elizabeth George always writes lengthy novels. She got the body on the floor (so to speak) right away, and we're currently trying to figure out why this person is lying and why that other person is cranky. Each character in the novel has his or her own story -- and his or her own agenda. It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out.
Well, I must get back to the book. It won't read itself, y'know.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Re: Once Upon A Time ...

I may do a sequel to yesterday's blog post. I'll have to get some more pictures scanned from my very full photo album of England pictures, so don't start holding your breath just yet. Dominic of the comments reminded me of the picture I took inside Wells Cathedral (I bought a photographer's permit for 50p). I'll also have to tell you about Basil. Patience.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Once Upon A Time...

... I went to England. I traveled around the West Country and beyond, seeing lots of Devon and Cornwall. I stayed there for two months and, when it came time to go home, I didn't want to leave. (It's a good thing I did, though; otherwise I would not have met Richard. Things have a way of working out.)

I spent most of my time in Plymouth, working in a marine science library. The librarian made sure I got to see a lot of the sights. I want to share some of my pictures with you. Let me apologize up front for the smallness of the pictures. These were all taken with film cameras (I had two of them) and the photos have been scanned. Click on the photos to see them bigger.


This is the Mayflower Steps in Plymouth. The Pilgrims stopped in Plymouth on their way to America (they originally departed from Southampton) and this is where they got off and back on the ship. You can see the River Plym (which rises on Dartmoor) and parts of the city. That little structure in the middle of the picture houses a representation of Plymouth Rock and a placque commemorating the voyage. On either side of the structure is a flagpole, one flying the British flag and the other flying the American flag. The citizens of Plymouth celebrate Fourth of July, with American flags flying on the fishing boats and such. It's a very friendly city.


I've entitled this photo "Hottie on Dartmoor." I have no idea who this young man is, but he looked so appealing in his black clothes, with his blond hair, riding on his white horse, so I took a picture of him. I was standing on that rock outcropping in the foreground (called a tor) when he came riding by. Dartmoor (the setting for Doyle's Hound of the Baskervilles) is a spectacular place. You can see for miles across the countryside. When I was in England, the weather was almost always beautiful, with lots of sunshine and blue skies. I nearly wore out my camera.


Well, everybody knows what this is. It was another lovely day and I took a dozen pictures of Stonehenge from all angles. One of the interesting things about Stonehenge is that it seems more compact in real life than it does in pictures. That does not, however, make it any less impressive. The day we visited Stonehenge, we left just as a busload of Spanish teenagers arrived, otherwise there would have been a lot more people in my pictures.


Wells Cathedral is in the small city of Wells, in Somerset. Building was begun in 1180 AD. When I was there, they were in the process of restoring the cathedral, employing craftsmen skilled in the techniques used when the building was first being built. All the associated buildings are still intact. If I remember correctly, the Bishop's Palace is also still standing on the grounds. It has a moat.


Glastonbury Abbey was one of the great abbeys seized by Henry VIII after he parted ways with the Church in Rome. Locals used the property as a quarry for building materials and it fell into ruins. What's left is being preserved beautifully. It's the place where King Arthur and Queen Guinevere are thought to be buried.


Buckingham Palace as seen from St. James Park. It was a little misty. The Queen was not in residence that day, not that I would have gotten to see her if she was. I didn't get to see the actual Changing of the Guard, but I saw the Guard riding off down the street afterwards. It was just a matter of timing.

This is fuschia, something you see all over the place in the summer. Did you know that fuschia comes in many colors besides fuschia? I took this picture out in front of St. Paul's Cathedral.


Here's another recognizable structure. I believe I took this on the same misty day that I took the picture of Buckingham Palace. The Houses of Parliament sit right on the Thames, and on the other side of it is Westminster Abbey.


This is a statue of Boadicea (sometimes spelled Boudicca or Boudica), one of the greatest heroines of British history. This statue stands across from the Parliament buildings near Westminster Bridge.


The Tower of London. I took this picture from the grounds of the Tower. The most common picture is taken from the Tower Bridge (I have one of those as well), but I like this one better. I didn't tour the inside of the Tower. I may have been freaked out by the tales of ghosts.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Random Stuff

Rough Weather, by Robert B. Parker, was up to the man's usual standards. One tends to get through a Parker novel pretty quickly because he doesn't waste a lot of words on flowery descriptions of things. He describes crisply, yet still leaves a complete image in your mind. I'm now deeply into Justice Denied by J.A. Jance, also one of my favorite authors. I'll let you know how that one turns out (no, I'm not going to give away the ending!).

Once upon a time I knew how to play backgammon. Remember backgammon? It was all the rage for a while, back in the last century. I went so far as to buy a backgammon board. I bought this board after my friend Louise in Savannah taught me how to play. I was terrible at it and lost every game I played with her. Then I went back to Charleston, where I started playing every day at lunch with my friend and coworker David. David’s manual for learning the game was titled Backgammon for Blood, so you can imagine how I fared with him as an opponent. However, I persisted and eventually I got to where I was a match for David. Then I went to Savannah to visit with Louise again. We went out to a bar that had numerous backgammon boards for the customers. I played Louise, her husband, and my date (whose name I can’t remember and who cares anyway), all of them expecting me to lose, but I cleaned their clocks. It was great. Thank you, David.

My sister says that a truly cultured person is one who can listen to the William Tell Overture and NOT think of the Lone Ranger. Now I don't flatter myself by thinking that I am truly cultured, but I can sit in a concert hall with the orchestra blasting out that great piece of music without thinking of the Lone Ranger. I think the key is hearing it live at full concert volume.

Gratuitous cat picture:

Dashiell, a.k.a. Bubba

My friend Genie, on her blog Telling Stories, wrote about her fear of strange dogs. (Please check out her blog; she tells good stories.) She wrote it with some humor, but an encounter with a strange dog is a serious thing. Sometimes an encounter with a familiar dog is a scary thing. When I was 18, I was bitten by a friend's dog. He just snapped once, but he got a vein on the inside of my thigh. Blood was spurting all over the place and my friend and her family rushed me to the emergency room, where they cleaned and bandaged the wound. For years after that I was afraid of all animals: dogs, cats, cows, horses, rabbits, turtles, guinea pigs, and the occasional frog. Later, when I was in college, I met Bear, a huge black lab. I was taking a stagecraft class and the class met in a theater workshop. Norman, the teacher, brought Bear with him everywhere. I was assured that Bear would not be biting off chunks of my anatomy. So I got used to him and petted him and told him he was a sweet doggie. One day in class I felt something on my arm and when I looked at it I had a moment of panic: Bear was holding my arm in his mouth. I jerked my arm away, but I had felt no pressure, no aggression, so I got over it. Then on another day I got to class early. Nobody was there but Norman and Bear. Bear started barking at me, and grabbing at my pants leg with his teeth. I panicked for real this time, and screamed at Norman, who came running and then started laughing. "He just wants to play," Norman said. And that did it. I lost my fear. I don't know why. Maybe Bear was just trying to show me that not all animals are dangerous. We became good buddies. Bear has passed into doggie heaven now but I will always remember him. I still have a healthy respect for dogs, but I have gotten over fearing them. I won't go to a strange dog and pet it, but friends' dogs are welcome to all the petting I can give them.

I found the most wonderful website: San Diego Zoo. I found the site because I was wondering how much a baby elephant weighs (don't ask me why). I googled it and The San Diego Zoo site came up (not first; I had to wade through a few others). FYI: the average weight of a baby elephant, at birth, is 232 pounds. The website has lots of pictures of the animals there at the Zoo along with plenty of information about each type of critter. They even have videos. The information is very well-written, the pictures are clear and illustrative, and the videos are beautifully shot. I could spend hours at that site.

I went to a party. Yes, friends, there was booze. By the end of the evening even our hostess was pretty snockered. I, on the other hand, was driving, so I had my two-drink limit and then changed to water for the rest of the evening. Here you see some of the activity that went on. For some reason (drink, perhaps?) Julie was asking everybody their shoe size. She has pretty long feet and Joe (on the right) was trying to try on one of Julie's cowgirl boots. Because Julie has skinny feet, Joe was not able to get his foot in the boot. But this is the sort of thing that goes on at a party where there is white sangria as well as red sangria, beer, and pomegranate margaritas. I would show you some faces, but I don't have permission (truth be told, I didn't even ask). Perhaps it was funnier in person.





Things are blooming. Like this dogwood in a neighbor's yard. There are also daffodils, redbuds, azaleas, apple trees, and other things. Some of the azaleas around town are in full bloom, but ours are just getting started, so I don't have a good picture of them.



The pansies are abloom as well, although they will grow in the winter. Wait! It's still winter, isn't it? I suppose they'll still be blooming next week when spring arrives.

Thanks for stopping by. Comments are always welcome. As a blogger, I think comments are half the fun.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

My Reading Habit

I finished up the book I was reading (Dead Heat by Dick Francis and Felix Francis). It is such a pleasure to read Dick Francis. He keeps you guessing and then gives you a good and satisfying ending. I did, however, guess who one of the bad guys was. This character was not the Major Bad Guy, who was a real stinker, but he was bad enough.

Saturday was a seriously rainy and windy day. I was ensconced in my recliner with the footrest up, a cat on my lap, and a book in my hands. All I was missing was a fire in the fireplace. It was a good reading day and a happy afternoon.

After I finished Dead Heat, I was still in a Dick Francis mood and I segued right into the very latest Francis novel, Silks. I read most of that one on Sunday, but I had to wait until after work on Monday to finish it up. The main character of Silks is a barrister (and an amateur steeplechase jockey). There is some courtroom action and it’s enough to tell the story, but not enough that you’d care to skip over any parts of it. The bad guy in this novel has absolutely no conscience whatsoever. Scary. When I finished I felt that there was more to the story, so maybe he’ll write a sequel to Silks. We’ll see. Somewhere, and I can’t remember where, I read that a new novel was coming out in 2009.

My next reading adventure will be Robert B. Parker’s Rough Weather. It’s a Spenser novel. Robert B. Parker is another of my favorite authors. I really like his Jesse Stone series. (Well, I like all his series so far.) There have been five TV movies made based on the Stone novels and starring Tom Selleck. I think they really nailed it when they got Selleck to play Jesse Stone. I don’t really know that much about acting, but I believe Tom Selleck when he acts. I used to watch Magnum P.I. faithfully, and I believed he was that Vietnam-vet, fun-loving, private eye. When he’s playing a cowboy (Quigley Down Under; Monte Walsh) or a policeman (like Jesse Stone), he convinces me that he IS that character and I never think, “Oh, that’s just Magnum playing a cowboy.” As I’ve said before, I’m a great audience (Jaws scared the bejeezus out of me). I kinda got off the subject of Robert B. Parker, didn’t I? It’s been a while since I read one of his novels, so I’m really looking forward to Rough Weather.

For some reason, 2008 was a bad year for my reading habit. I keep track of what I’ve read in a little (formerly) blank book. I enter the books in order of reading, and draw a line in the margin, noting each new year as it comes. Last year I only read about eight or ten books. I don’t know what was wrong with me. That’s one reason why my to-be-read pile is so huge. But this year I’m trying to whittle it down, one book at a time.

Stay tuned for more books (and cats).