Thursday, April 30, 2009

Magnolias On The Courthouse Square

This is the stately courthouse on the square in downtown Moultrie, Georgia. I enjoy this view from my library window every Tuesday and Thursday.

Moultrie is the seat of Colquitt County in southwest Georgia. It was founded in 1879 (the same year my Grandpa was born), and I believe the current courthouse was built in 1902. Lots of activities are held on the square. There is a small amphitheater on the grounds where they have concerts and such. One week there was a marathon preaching event going on. Mostly it was a succession of people reading from the Bible. They have spring festivals, crafts shows, yard sales, etc. Today, they're having a Rock-a-Thon to collect donations for veterans. I took some pictures, but of course I don't have my camera cable with me today.

The square also has a huge magnolia tree, which is blooming right now. I haven't been able to get a satisfactory picture of the whole tree, but here is one of the blossoms.

The magnolia tree has limbs which touch the ground, otherwise I would not have been able to get a picture of the flower.

Another feature of the square is the collection of crape myrtles. (Yes, I spelled that right. Look it up.) There seem to be two schools of thought regarding the pruning of crape myrtles. One is that pruning is unnecessary (Richard adheres to this school). The other school condones this:

Complete decapitation. Coworker Keisha and I were both horrified when the gardeners did this early this year. However, they are growing leaves now. This is much better:

Before too long they will be all leafy and blooming.

I'm reading another book: Roseanna by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo. This is another of the Martin Beck series, which is set in Sweden, mainly in Stockholm. Actually, this is the first of the Martin Beck series. I've read The Laughing Policeman by the same authors. Martin Beck is a bleak character. He's depressed and unhappy in his marriage, but he's tenacious when trying to solve a murder. The victim in this novel is an American tourist from Lincoln, Nebraska (a nymphomaniac librarian, of all things). She's dredged up from a canal, and so far they are going on the assumption that she was killed and tossed off a tour boat. They have to search all over Europe and America to contact all the other passengers and crew from the boat. As in any good mystery, they're hitting roadblocks at every turn, so we'll just have to wait and see how it all turns out.

I'll leave you with this nice photo of an Australian rain forest. This is another of Richard's pictures from his trip.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Skinny Dip

Skinny Dip is a novel by Carl Hiaasen. I hope nobody thought I was going to show some rude pictures. Hiaasen's books usually start out with the crime being committed. You always know whodunit and the mystery is when he's going to get caught and how he's going to get his just desserts. The punishment, seldom doled out by the legal system, generally fits the crime. A good deal of the book is laugh-out-loud funny. Hiassen, a native of South Florida, often rants in his books about the rape of the environment in Florida, particularly of the Everglades. The rants are well integrated into the storytelling, so you're learning and being amused at the same time. Skinny Dip starts out with the bad guy shoving his wife off a cruise ship in the middle of the Gulf Stream. She survives this murder attempt and, with the help of a retired cop, spends the rest of the novel finding out why her husband tried to kill her. If you care about the environment, if you like to laugh, and if you like a good story, well told, then you might like Carl Hiaasen. I've always enjoyed his books.

When Richard and I got married, we asked a friend and coworker to cater our wedding. She was just starting her catering business so it was a good deal all the way around. One of the food items I requested was spanakopitas, those little phyllo triangles filled with spinach and feta. Dr. B, another friend and coworker, was a guest at the wedding. Dr. B is from South Alabama, a good old Southern boy with a PhD in entomology. At the reception, he was enjoying the spanakopitas, although he didn't know what they were called. At one point he announced that he was going to get a few more of those "collard tarts." Richard and I thought this was hilarious, as did the other people standing in our little chat group. (Trust me, Dr. B knew he was being funny.) Ever since the wedding, Richard and I have always called spanakopitas collard tarts. We told a Greek (by marriage) friend of ours and she thought it was funny as well. I love those moments when a witty friend says something that you will remember forever.

This may look like just a stack of logs to you, but it is really the future home of Richard's shiitake mushroom-growing attempt. The wood is pecan, and I thought he was going to make something in his woodworking shop with it, but he set me straight. So, at some point in the not-too-distant future, we will be enjoying shiitakes in our cooking.

I found out that our climbing roses are actually Cherokee roses.

"When the Trail of Tears started in 1838, the mothers of the Cherokee were grieving and crying so much, they were unable to help their children survive the journey. The elders prayed for a sign that would lift the mother’s spirits to give them strength. The next day a beautiful rose began to grow where each of the mother’s tears fell. The rose is white for their tears; a gold center represents the gold taken from Cherokee lands, and seven leaves on each stem for the seven Cherokee clans. The wild Cherokee Rose grows along the route of the Trail of Tears into eastern Oklahoma today."

I copied this from the Internet. It's a sweet legend in addition to being sad.

OK, I can't stay away from the flowers in the yard. This is Weigela. If you do a Google Images search for it, you'll come up with a lot of pictures which look as if they are showing a lot of different flowers. There seems to be quite a variety of Weigela.


This is a Knockout rose. The center of it looks a lot like the Cherokee rose, but it grows on a small bush rather than a climbing vine. I heard recently that a yellow rose is a symbol of friendship. I like that. Yellow is my favorite color of rose.

Well, it's Thursday, children. The weekend is almost upon us. I'm hoping there will be a Braves game or two on the TV. They were playing the Nationals last night and the game was scoreless until the 9th inning when the Nationals' pitcher loaded the bases and then walked a guy. The Braves won (yay!) 1-0.

Bye now.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Traveling To Australia -- Vicariously

Last summer, Richard went to Australia. He is a research scientist and every five years his professional society meets with an international society. Last year they met in Brisbane. The trip over there took almost twenty-four hours, total travel time! He had to fly to Los Angeles (from Atlanta) then fly from L.A. to Brisbane. That last leg took 13 hours. If I'd had to sit on a plane for 13 hours, I'd have been so stove up I wouldn't have been able to walk off the plane. So I'm happy to take trips like that vicariously through pictures. When he got back and got rested up and sorted out his pictures, we sat down at the computer for a slide show. I have some of his pictures to share with you.


This is a view of the Brisbane River, which apparently runs right through the city.

Here's an emu, getting up close and personal. Richard went to a zoo where you can interact with the less dangerous animals. The others are behind fencing.


This is a cassowary. Richard said these birds are not only dangerous, but BIG. This one he estimated to be about five or six feet tall. Richard is six feet tall, so he was just about eyeball-to-eyeball with this fellow.


This is breadfruit, something you don't see in South Georgia.

Here's a dingo, behind fencing. Richard says they're not all white like this one. They're pretty dogs, though, aren't they?

This is what you've been waiting for, isn't it? That lump of fur on her stomach is actually her baby. All together now, aw-w-w-w, isn't it cute? Richard got to pet one of these critters. He was warned not to pet its head, which is apparently a sign of agression. Not one to mess with Mother Nature, Richard petted the koala's back.


These are kookaburras. They are 11 to 17 inches long and are a type of kingfisher. Their name sounds a lot like their call. There is also the laughing kookaburra, whose call sounds like raucous human laughter.

This is a strangler fig. Birds deposit seeds in the upper branches of a host tree, then the seeds germinate and send roots down the tree and eventually the roots strangle the host. Rude guest, if you ask me.




Here they are, the quintessential Australian symbol, just hanging out at the zoo. Richard was able to be in the enclosure with these guys, and you can see they're accustomed to humans gawking at them and taking their picture.

Richard had a blast in Australia, and he said the food was good too. He didn't get to eat any of the native critters, which may be for the best, since I've shown you two (emus and 'roos) that are on menus in some Australian restaurants. He did rent a car and take in some scenery outside Brisbane. He said driving on the left side of the road was a bit of a challenge at first, but he survived and came home in one piece.

I hope you enjoyed looking at this brief, if vicarious, tour of Brisbane.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Spammed!

I've been spammed. Within seconds of posting the last entry, I got a comment from someone named Jennifer with little hearts surrounding her name. I published the comment without thinking about it, but then I decided to link to the commenter. When I did, a page came up with objectionable content, i.e., porn. I quickly called my friend Theresa to help me find out how to get rid of the comment. She figured it out, so now I'm clean again. According to what I've heard on newscasts, the porn industry has really taken to the Internet. I wish they'd just STAY THE HELL OFF MY WEB PAGE!

Let's talk about food.

I love shrimp. I like the taste and texture of it. I don't want it blackened, or barbecued, or spiced up with tons of ginger. Shrimp doesn't need heavy spices. I like it boiled with beer and served with cocktail sauce; grilled; lightly battered and fried, the way Richard does it; or sauteed with butter and herbs. Yummy! I got a recipe from Southern Living magazine for Shrimp and Tortellini, which Richard and I love. Basically you cook some three-cheese tortellini, drain it, and splash a little olive oil over it to keep it moist. Then saute some basil and shallots in butter, add the completely peeled shrimp and saute that until the shrimp is done. Mix the shrimp, shallots, basil, and butter with the tortellini; serve it up in pasta bowls, and grate some fresh Parmagiano Reggiano over it. (I'm not Italian; I can put cheese on seafood.) Add a salad, or some steamed broccoli, and a little bread and you've got a meal.

Probably the most delicious thing I ever put in my mouth was a raw oyster. The flavor is only a dim memory now, because I have never eaten another one. I used to work at a marine science library, remember? After I had this delicious oyster, I made the mistake of looking at a picture of an oyster in cross-section, which clearly showed the guts. After that, I limited myself to steamed oysters, washed down with lots of lager (and I don't even like beer). We used to have a lot of wonderful oyster roasts during the colder months (those with an R) at the marine lab. During May, June, July, and August, oysters are spawning and are a bit on the scrawny side; not good eatin'. The cooks for these events would build a fire in a spot with several boulders surrounding it, place a large piece of half-inch-thick sheet metal over that, dump a bunch of fresh oysters on the metal, and cover them with wet burlap bags. They'd keep the burlap wet while the oysters steamed, then transfer the cooked oysters to long wooden tables supplied with oyster knives, cocktail sauce, and paper towels. Everybody had a good time at the roasts. Once they held an oyster roast as a baby shower for one of the graphic artists who worked at the lab.

For Christmas Day, Richard and I usually have dinner with his family, but we prepare a Christmas Eve dinner for just the two of us. The best one we ever had included crab cakes and New England style clam chowder. We like to try something new, and even though I'd been making the same clam chowder recipe for several years, we had never tried making crab cakes. I think we used Paula Deen's recipe for those. So I made the chowder and Richard tackled the crab cakes. Wow! did they ever turn out good. The recipe included a sauce, which was delicious as well. We used our Christmas dinnerware and lit some candles and had a very pleasant meal.

Well, I'm starving. How about you?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

One Grisly Murder

I have always liked Margaret Maron's novels, and Hard Row had one of the most eye-popping murders I've read about in a mystery in a long time. After the discovery of the two legs in the roadside ditch, things progressed to finding other body parts strewn around the county. The mystery got a little more complicated when the police found a third hand. I hate to say that murder is ever justified, but the killer in this story had a damned good motive. I just have to remember it is fiction, not real life. Hard Row makes you ask yourself, Just who is the bad guy here? I like and appreciate thought-provoking novels.

Sometime last year (2008, you know: my bad year for reading) I picked up Martha Grimes's Dust, one of her Richard Jury novels. I got to page 81 and just lost interest, so I put it back down. I thought at the time I was just tired of Martha Grimes, and maybe it was time to find a new author to add to my favorites. Since the book was still in my to-be-read pile, I decided to give it another try. I started over at page 1 and it held my interest until the very last word. I was glad for several reasons: I knew then I wasn't tired of Grimes, so I'm hoping she's not tired of writing about Richard Jury; I was able to get involved in the story; and I didn't just give up on the book completely. All in all it was a good reading experience. (If you want a maddening Martha Grimes novel, read The Old Wine Shades; the ending is logical but frustrating.)

How about some pretty pictures?

This is the stinky Dragon Arum surrounded by Amaryllis. The Dragon Arum is getting ready to bloom. Oh, joy.


Here's a close-up of one of the Amaryllis blooms (and my hand). It's such a pretty, cheerful, bright red.

South Georgia had tornadoes again yesterday. I was home sick and, thank God, nothing happened to our house, but some families in Ben Hill, Worth, and Irwin counties were not so fortunate. I don't think anyone was killed, which is a blessing. Quite a few of the staff and students of Small Public Institution live in those counties, so if you're the praying type, perhaps you could say a few words about them.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A Tree And Some Books

Richard came in the house from one of his yard wanderings and announced that we had a Grancy Graybeard. My response was something along the lines of, "Do whut?" which is Southern for "Please repeat what you said but this time put it into a context that I can understand." He then told me it's a tree. That's the first time I ever heard of a Grancy Graybeard. I've led a sheltered life. Here's a picture of the flowers.
You can see where the "graybeard" part of the name comes from.
Careless in Red (by Elizabeth George) was an excellent book. She writes very well. Because her novels are so long, I'm usually a little bereft when the story is finished and I always hope the next book is coming out soon. I learned a lot about surfing and cliff-climbing in Cornwall; apparently they do a lot of that there. She also mentioned a few towns that I have visited. The story revolves around the death of a young climber, and it does get complicated. George ties up all the loose ends nicely, except for one: whether or not Thomas Lynley will return to work at New Scotland Yard. (If you want to know why he left, you should read With No One As Witness.) I expect that to get sorted out in her next novel.
Speaking of long books, when I was in my early 30s and working at the marine science library in Charleston, we had a precocious fifteen-year-old student worker. She was a freshman at the College of Charleston. When I mentioned one day that I wrote my name in my books on the page that corresponded with my age, she, without even taking a breath, said, "I guess you don't read too many short book any more." I suppose I could have been insulted, but her response was so quick and so funny, I just had to laugh.
When I finished Careless in Red, I started Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World, by Vicki Myron and Bret Witter. I had been waffling over whether or not to buy this book, but I was saved from my quandary by my mother-in-law. Someone had given her the book as a gift, so she loaned it to me with instructions to pass it on to my sister-in-law. I read the whole thing on Saturday. It's 288 pages of not only the story of Dewey, but also part autobiography, part history of Spencer, Iowa, and an ode to libraries. Dewey lived to be nineteen years old, and when I got to the end of the book I had tears running down my face. I knew I would before I started the book. There was nothing about Dewey I didn't like. It held my interest throughout. I would recommend it.
Now I've started Hard Row, by Margaret Maron, another of my favorite authors. It's one of her Deborah Knott series. The body on the floor turns out to be two legs in a roadside ditch. I don't think I've ever run across anything like that in a mystery before. Hard Row won't take nearly as long to read as Careless in Red did, so I'll be able to find out soon whose legs were in the ditch.
Theresa (of Knitting Nonpareil) sent me a website today that is very interesting. It's called Literature Map -- The Tourist Map of Literature. It's sort of a reader's advisory site: you enter the name of an author and it shows you an array of other authors you might like as well. You can click on one of the other authors in the array, and get a whole 'nother group of authors. Try it out.
Okay, I've caught you up on my reading choices. Go home and read.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Sunshine

The torrential rains and the tornado threats have abated for now. In fact, it's a beautiful, blue-sky, sunshiny day.

There has been lots of flooding, athough we do not live in a floodplain. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I drive 27 miles south to Moultrie, GA, to play librarian at the Small Public Institution satellite campus. I drive by many farms and it seems each one has a pond, some of them small lakes. As I was driving home yesterday, I noticed most of them were overflowing their banks. Fortunately, the water was not overflowing the road (thanks to deep ditches). I also cross several bridges on my way to and from Moultrie and there was high water in the creeks.

After I got home last night, my director called to tell me Small Public Institution would be closed today, because of flooding. She also told me Berrien County (sort of ESE of Tift) had run out of "road closed" signs. So you can see we've had some serious weather down here in South GA.


Lest we forget, here's a picture of a dark and stormy night from our front door. Those white spots are raindrops. Not the greatest picture in the world, but it does show how our world looked one evening before sunset. Yes, before.

I went wandering around the yard again today. It's such a pretty day, how could I not take some pictures.


This is some kind of climbing rose. Richard said he looked it up one time, but he's forgotten what it is.


This is our little fish pond (with no fish). This is where all the tree frogs and other amphibians gather at night and sing their little hearts out.


We have some live oak trees in the back yard, along with the obligatory Spanish moss. Did you know Spanish moss blooms? It has extremely tiny yellow flowers.


Richard recently built this raised bed for such things as tomatoes (if they can resist tomato spotted wilt virus, common down here), peppers, and herbs.

I'm glad for the farmers that we had rain, but I'm also glad to see this beautiful day.