Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Another Five Things...

Today's 5 things are "Greatest Cereals of All Time." I can think of at least six. We'll see how this goes.

1. Rice Krispies. When I was five years old I was in the hospital (at Christmas (!) for heaven's sake!). I kept asking when I could go home (I was afraid Santa Claus would not be able to find me) and the damned doctor kept saying, "Well, maybe you can go home tomorrow." I swear he said that for the whole week. Anyway... one day the doctor asked me if I wanted anything, and I said, "Rice Krispies." Later that day I got a whole box of cereal. I was one happy child. I had my favorite cereal and Santa Claus did find me. Another reason Rice Krispies are so great: Rice Krispies Treats. Yummy.

2. Cream of Wheat. My mother used to fix this on cold mornings. It's a childhood favorite that I still eat to this day. I put butter and just the right amount of sugar and it tastes like warm, buttery shortbread.

3. Oatmeal. I use only the old-fashioned oats, none of this instant gruel. This is another cold-weather treat. Our normally unsociable cat, Bennis, likes to lick my bowl when I'm through with my oatmeal. I usually leave her a few little bites.

4. Frosted Mini Wheats, Maple and Brown Sugar. I eat this cereal every weekday morning. I like it; I don't have to think about it in my near-somnambulistic early-morning state; it has a good amount of fiber; and it usually keeps me full until lunchtime.

5. Granola. I love this mixed with vanilla yogurt. It's crunchy and sweet and tart, all at the same time.

6. Grits. Grits is served as a side dish, although technically it is a cereal. ("Grits" is singular.) In 1980, I went to visit my Aunt Dorothy in Spokane, WA. That's the year that Mt. St. Helens blew her top. Anyway, Aunt Dorothy knew I liked grits, so she went shopping for some. She looked all over Spokane, and finally found it in an international food store. (I guess the folks in Spokane think the South is another country.) She served it in a bowl, expecting me to put sugar and milk on it, so I had to explain to her about grits being a side dish. (Oh, yes, GRITS is also an initialism for Girls Raised In The South. That's me!)

I love carbs.

Monday, October 19, 2009

38 Degrees This Morning

Now 38 degrees may not seem very cold to some people, but down here in south Georgia, it is. It has been cooling off gradually for a couple of weeks, but it wasn't so long ago that it was in the 90s.

We had rain for a few days at the end of this past week; in fact, it was pouring when I got to work Friday morning. But Saturday was a beautiful day, with cool temperatures and that distinctive bright blue sky you see in October.

I got out my favorite sweatshirt and layered it over a tank top and a long sleeved t-shirt. Our cat, Lila, loves that sweatshirt. She gets in my lap and kneads her paws in the inside of my left elbow, and purrs like a fool, then she puts her head down and takes a cat nap. Lila also loves me more in cool weather. She spent every possible moment in my lap this weekend, seeking my body warmth.

I love cool/cold weather. I must have inherited some of that thick northern blood from my mother. I like bundling up in my pajamas, bathrobe, and fuzzy slippers and sitting in the recliner with a cat in my lap. I also like evenings when we can light a fire in the fireplace. The cats desert my lap for the space near the hearth. I console myself with a cup of rich hot chocolate.

As much as I like cold weather, I don't want to move out of the South to anyplace where it snows like crazy every winter. When we lived in north Georgia, we got snow a couple of times a year, and an occasional ice storm; that was enough for me. Although it occasionally gets down into the 20s or teens in the winter, it doesn't last very long. I have warm clothes and outerwear, so I can take it. And as long as there is air conditioning, I can deal with summertime temperatures in the 90s with heat indexes in the 100s.

I hear El Nino is affecting our weather, giving us these unseasonably cool temperatures this week. It's going to warm up to the high 70s near the end of the week. Oh, well.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Books Set In Charleston

I've recently read two books set in Charleston, SC, one of the loveliest cities in the country. I went to college in Charleston (GO Cougars!) and wound up staying there for fifteen years. I made some good friends and had a good time.

The first book is The House on Tradd Street, by Karen White. It's a ghost story/mystery/love story. Our heroine, Melanie Middleton, a type-A real estate agent, inherits the house on Tradd Street from a colleague of her grandfather. The old man has no relatives of his own. Melanie doesn't like getting attached to anything. She lives in a condo with white walls and sparse furnishings. The old man stipulated in his will that she had to live in his house for a year before she could sell it, because that's exactly what she had intended to do when she heard she was the benificiary of his will. In order to sell the house Melanie had to first renovate it. Of course she grows to love it, but that's not the crux of the story. Enter Jack Trenholm, a well-known writer of true-crime mysteries. There was a story that the old man's mother had run off with a known gangster and seemingly disappeared from the face of the earth. Jack wants to help her renovate the house and research the story of the missing couple. Melanie doesn't fully trust him because she really doesn't trust anybody. She's also a bit of a misanthrope. Oh, yes, the ghosts: Melanie can see ghosts and the house seems to have two of them, one benevolent and the other decidedly evil. She has to fight the evil ghost and wonder about the nice one. She knows there is a reason why she was chosen as beneficiary of the will, and of course she spends most of the story trying to figure out why. I'm not telling this as eloquently as I'd like, but it was a good story, a little different from what I usually read, and it had a very satisfying ending. I really enjoyed it.

The other book with a Charleston setting is South of Broad, by Pat Conroy. It's the story of Leo King and his group of friends. They all met in high school and remained friends decades later. The characters in this book include Leo and his parents, a loving father and a difficult to love mother; a set of extremely talented, artistic twins and their drunken mother; three orphans; a black football player (who later becomes chief of police); several Charleston blue-bloods and their extremely snobbish parents; and one very scary sociopathic pedophile. There are other characters, but I don't want to give anything away. You must read this book. You don't even have to know anything about Charleston to enjoy it. Conroy uses many real names of people (he probably knows these people personally) and places and changes others. From his beautiful writing you get a sense of the loveliness of Charleston. Leo tells the story and right away you find out that he, at nine years old, was the one to find his older brother in the bathtub with his wrists and throat slit. Leo has spent time in a mental institution, and when the story opens he is doing community service for having been caught at a party with a large amount of cocaine in his pocket. Someone else put it there, but Leo never told the police who it was. Leo is rebuilding his life. He's seventeen and has a strong character, so he's doing well with his rehabilitation. He also inherits a house on Tradd Street, but Leo is thrilled about it, unlike Melanie in The House on Tradd Street. (I don't think there was any plagiarism going on with either of these two books, just coincidence.) The story covers the years from 1969, when Leo and his friends were in high school, to the early 1990s, after Hurricane Hugo hit Charleston. There is a very harrowing description of the night Hugo hit and of the aftermath of the storm. (For anyone who is wondering, Charleston recovered at least physically if not emotionally from the hurricane's mess.) At one point in the story, the friends all go to San Francisco to find and rescue one of the twins, who is suffering from AIDS. My friend Theresa, who hasn't finished the book yet, thought it seemed a bit far-fetched in places, but it's FICTION people! Suspend your disbelief and just enjoy it. My description, and the one on the flap of the book jacket, do not do justice to this stunning book. I would recommend it to anyone.

Karen White has a sequel to The House on Tradd Street, which I have already placed on my wish list. I wouldn't mind seeing a sequel to South of Broad, but I'm not sure Pat Conroy writes anything but stand-alone novels.