Thursday, December 15, 2011

That Time of Year

Well, friends, it's almost Christmas.  I want to wish everyone a safe and peaceful Christmas season this year.  As usual, my greatest wish is for world peace.   



I'm looking forward to spending the holiday with my in-laws' in-laws (how's that for an extended family?) in Tennessee.  We'll be driving on Christmas Eve and the day after Christmas and I hope the traffic is not too heavy.  We've chosen a route that does NOT take us through Atlanta, and I'm happy about that.  I have nothing against Atlanta the city, just Atlanta's traffic.  OMG! 

Yesterday, Richard and I went Christmas shopping.  Every year we take a day off from work in the middle of the week and go to the mall in Valdosta.  We shop, have lunch, and shop some more.  We also go across the road from the mall to one of my favorite places, a bookstore.  Not only did we do our Christmas shopping yesterday, but we also managed to get the oil changed in my car, and bought groceries -- all by 5:00 pm.  We usually do our grocery shopping on Wednesdays, but we generally don't get started until 6:00 pm (because we both have jobs); then we go to dinner; and then buy food for the week.  By the time we get home, it's 8:00 pm.  Yesterday, we were able to have a nice leisurely dinner at home and spend the evening relaxing.  Oh, wait... we also prepared our Christmas cards and they'll be going out in the mail today.  Yay!  Then we relaxed.  I got some knitting done, Richard got some reading in, and we also watched most of a Christmas movie. 

I hope everyone has a pleasant holiday, and if you're of a faith that doesn't celebrate Christmas, I hope whatever winter observances you participate in are peaceful and joyful.  

Take care, everybody!  Have some eggnog.

Monday, November 28, 2011

...Wherein I Talk About the Day My Pants Caught Fire...

I went to college and finally graduated after floundering around trying to decide on a major.  When I did I settled into Fine Arts with an emphasis on theater.

 This really is the main campus of my alma mater.

All of us theater majors formed a company, calling ourselves The College Players.  Our first (and maybe only) production was Godspell, which was a popular play at the time.  I was not an actor, but a stagehand-type, and we made me stage manager.  I helped construct the set and kept everybody in line during rehearsals and the performances.  

Our set consisted mainly of a gargantuan unadorned cyclorama and an iron fence.  My friend Louie and I were in charge of making the cyclorama, sewn from yards and yards of 36-inch-wide burlap.  We had a little portable Singer Featherweight sewing machine.  I did the actual sewing while Louie supported the weight of the fabric as it moved through the machine.  When we had all the strips of burlap sewn together, we added a 30-foot long strip of webbing across the top of the hanging (because that's how wide the dang thing was).  Into that, we punched holes and hammered in grommets. 

Louie and I had quite an assembly line going with the grommets: I punched the holes and he hammered the grommets.  In fact we had it down to a science and were moving along merrily when all of a sudden the cyclorama would not move.  We tugged a time or two, and then turned around to find our production manager's dog, Bear (big black Lab), happily lying on the burlap, his tongue hanging out of the side of his mouth in sheer joy.  We had to love on him for a minute before we removed him to another spot. 

The cyclorama was hung to the rigging over the stage and stretched across the back of the stage and around the sides.  The iron fence was placed in front of that.

And speaking of that fence, I helped construct it as well.  We used heavy iron pipe cut and welded together to make the fence.  My job was to hold the upright pieces of the pipe while someone who knew something about welding fused them together.  I had on a welder's mask and everything.  

Holding a piece of iron pipe in an upright position was not particularly exciting and my mind began to wander.  I was just blithely daydreaming when I felt my ankle starting to get warm.  I lifted my mask and looked down, and my pant leg was on fire.  MY PANT LEG WAS ON FIRE!!    I was momentarily rendered inarticulate, so I started beating the welder on the shoulder and when he looked up at me, all I could do was point to my pants.  He turned off the torch and slapped at my ankle and put the fire out.  Lucky for me I was not burned.  I had to sit down after that, and boy did I get some ribbing  from EVERYBODY!  The legend probably continues.  I kept the pants and eventually sewed patches from them (they were jeans) into a vest that I made.  

So that's how my pants caught on fire.  I hope you got half as much of a giggle out of that as we all did, back there in Charleston.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!!


HAPPY THANKSGIVING
EVERYBODY!

I HOPE YOUR HOLIDAY IS A GOOD ONE AND THAT YOU HAVE PLENTY TO BE THANKFUL FOR;

I KNOW I DO!!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

It is not a form of insanity...


I want to tell you something revealing about me.  There was a time in my life when I was clinically depressed.  It was the worst time of my life.  Everything was dark in my mind.  I had feelings only of profound sadness, complete and utter worthlessness, and fear.  I felt I didn't deserve to be alive and that the rest of the world would be better off without me.  I did not, however, formulate any plans for doing away with myself.  I suppose I wasn't completely dead inside.  Somewhere deep down, my inner self was struggling for some light.


There are those who, first of all, just don't understand what depression does to a person.  They think you should just get over it and cheer up.  Like it's easy to do that.  When you're in a deep abyss with no means of egress, there is no "up," cheering or otherwise. 

I wasn't an idiot about it.  I knew that it was a physical problem and that it was fixable.  I just didn't know how long it would take.  I went to my doctor and told her the situation.  I didn't have to be diagnosed by her; I knew for a fact that I was depressed.  She prescribed meds.  I took them.  The side effects were almost as bad as the depression.  So I went back.  She prescribed other meds.  Same deal.  So I went back.  Then she referred me to a psychiatrist.  He and I talked and he gave me an intelligence test.  (Don't know what that was for, but I went along.)  Then he left his office for a minute and came back with samples of some meds (one for depression and one for anxiety, depression's constant companion), handed them to me and said that anyone as intelligent as I could figure out how to take them.  Well, it was written right there on the packaging.

Things got a little better.  It took weeks, though, before I felt better.  After a while I was not as afraid of the world outside our house.  We started doing things.  I went back to my night class.  I drove by myself.  But I could still feel the pressure of depression.  I began to despair that I would never again be able to forget the sadness, worthlessness, and fear.  I realized during all this that depression had been creeping up on me for most of my life before it hit full-force.  I also found out that depression can run in families.

And then Richard found out that we were going to have to move.  I was against it.  I became disengaged from the process of preparing, packing up, and moving.  But I did it anyway, though I felt like a zombie.

The worst of it happened years ago.  After a while (and after we had moved), I thought I was over it and I weaned myself off the meds.  I was okay with that for a while, but then it started to creep back into my life.  I waited a little longer than I should, but I finally took some action.  I got more counseling and more meds.  I'm a little disappointed that I can't get rid of the depression and anxiety without the drugs, but after a while, I started having little nanoseconds of actual happiness.

They were few and far between, but these moments started coming more and more frequently and lasting longer than a nanosecond.  I will be a slave to the meds for the rest of my life, but I remember and once again know happiness.  I feel it.  I'm strong.  I can approach people I don't know at a party or meeting and start a conversation.  I'm happy about my advancing age.  I fought long and hard to get here.  Now I want to live forever -- or at least as long as my long-lived grandparents. 

Depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain.  The meds provide the balance.  There is always hope.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Most Recent Books I've Read

Last weekend our HD cable box died.  I mean dead as a doornail.  Black screen.  Nothing. 

So I had to read. 

I say that like it's a chore, but I enjoyed all four books I finished that weekend.  I have a few others that I read before the weekend, so here they all are.

Fools Rush In, by Kristan Higgins.  This one was definitely up to Kristan's standards.  I loved it.  Here's the blurb from Amazon:  "Millie Barnes is this close to finally achieving her perfect life…  Rewarding job as a local doctor on Cape Cod? Check. Cute cottage of her very own? Check. Adorable dog suitable for walks past attractive locals? Check! All she needs is for golden boy and former crush Joe Carpenter to notice her, and Millie will be set.  But perfection isn't as easy as it looks—especially when Sam Nickerson, a local policeman, is so distracting. He is definitely not part of her master plan. But maybe it's time for Millie to start a new list…"

Jane (I'm-Still-Single) Jones, by Joan Reeves.   Jane is a designer in New York City who goes to her ten-year high school reunion in small-town Louisiana.  The last person she wants to see there is the geeky boy who broke her heart when they were in school, but now he's a very successful, very rich, very hunky guy.  They immediately lock horns like neither wants anything to do with the other.  Slowly we learn the back story of the two former sweethearts, and of course, as in all romances, one thing leads to another, and the truth comes out.  It's an engaging book, although parts of the dialogue are a little hokey, but I enjoyed reading it and would recommend it to anyone who likes romances.

The Love Goddess' Cooking School, by Melissa Senate.  "Holly Maguire's grandmother Camilla was the Love Goddess of Blue Crab Island, Maine--a Milanese fortune-teller who could predict the right man for you, and whose Italian cooking was rumored to save marriages. Holly has been waiting years for her unlikely fortune: her true love will like sa cordula, an unappetizing old-world delicacy. But Holly can't make a decent marinara sauce, let alone sa cordula. Maybe that's why the man she hopes to marry breaks her heart. So when Holly inherits Camilla's Cucinotta, she's determined to forget about fortunes and love and become an Italian cooking teacher worthy of her grandmother's legacy. But Holly's four students are seeking much more than how to make Camilla's chicken alla Milanese. Simon, a single father, hopes to cook his way back into his daughter's heart. Juliet, Holly's childhood friend, hides a painful secret. Tamara, a serial dater, can't find the love she longs for. And twelve-year-old Mia thinks learning to cook will stop her dad, Liam, from marrying his phony lasagna-queen girlfriend. As the class gathers each week, adding Camilla's essential ingredients of wishes and memories in every pot and pan, unexpected friendships and romances are formed--and tested. Especially when Holly falls hard for Liam . . . and learns a thing or two about finding her own recipe for happiness."  This was a lovely book, and somewhat deeper than your basic romance.  I think I'd call it a mainstream novel.  

I got tired of reading romances, so I switched to a mystery:

Dick Francis's Gamble, by Felix Francis.  This is the first Francis novel penned solely by Felix, and it's just as good as all the other Francis novels. "Nicholas 'Foxy' Foxton, a former jockey who suffered a career- ending injury, is out for a day at the Grand National races when his friend and coworker Herb Kovak is murdered, execution style, right in front of him-and 60,000 other potential witnesses. Foxton and Kovak were both independent financial advisers at Lyall & Black, a firm specializing in extreme-risk investments. As he struggles to come to terms with Kovak's seemingly inexplicable death, Foxton begins to question everything, from how well he knew his friend to how much he understands about his employer. Was Kovak's murder a case of mistaken identity...or something more sinister?"  (Amazon)  This description of the book doesn't really address the excitement and suspense in Gamble.  It was a roller coaster ride throughout much of the book; an exhilarating read!  

Welcome to Temptation, by Jennifer Crusie.  "Prepare to be absolutely charmed by Jennifer Crusie's riotous tale of two slightly twisted sisters and a town chock full of hunks, coots, and petty politics in Welcome to Temptation.  Sophie and Amy Dempsey are just two wedding filmers trying to hop to the next level of their careers when they agree to produce a documentary of aging film star Clea Whipple's return to her hometown of Temptation, Ohio. But things are never easy in rural Ohio, and what starts off as an esoteric art film project soon evolves into potential porn.  Clea's husband Zane turns belly-up, the race for mayor turns dirty, and Sophie and Phin turn on the heat full steam.With clever characters and Crusie's trademark wit, Welcome to Temptation will keep your eyes glued to the page and your stomach aching with laughter." --Nancy R.E. O'Brien (Amazon review). 

The Violets of March, by Sarah Jio.  "In her twenties, Emily Wilson was on top of the world: she had a bestselling novel, a husband plucked from the pages of GQ, and a one-way ticket to happily ever after.  Ten years later, the tide has turned on Emily's good fortune. So when her great-aunt Bee invites her to spend the month of March on Bainbridge Island in Washington State, Emily accepts, longing to be healed by the sea. Researching her next book, Emily discovers a red velvet diary, dated 1943, whose contents reveal startling connections to her own life."  (Amazon).  Oh, this was a lovely story!  The "startling connections" get even more startling toward the end of the book, but it's all perfectly believable.  This is one of the four that I read on the fateful dead-cable-box weekend.  I was looking for something different from the run-of-the-mill romance and I found it in this novel.  I highly recommend it.

Daniel's Gift, by Barbara Freethy.  Daniel St. Claire is the 12-year-old son of a single mother, Jenny.  He wants very desperately to know his real father, but Jenny keeps putting him off.  Danny doesn't like Jenny's current boyfriend, a cop named Alan.  He finds out from snooping in his mother's closet what his father's name is, and he also finds out that his father has recently come back to San Francisco.  Luke Sheridan is a highly successful doctor in medical research who has followed his parents' expectations for him willingly throughout his life, and he thinks that he is happy and content.  When Danny shows up on Luke's door on the night of an important party, Luke's wife shuts the door in his face and tells Luke that it was just a kid selling candy.  On his way home on this foggy night, Danny is struck by a hit-and-run driver and seriously injured.  When Jenny finds out what Danny has done and also finds the house empty, she goes on a frantic search and goes to Luke's house.  It's during the party and the maid turns her away at the door.  When Luke asks the maid about the visitor at the door, she tells him Jenny's name and  he runs outside trying to catch her but she's already gone.  Luke reads about the accident and starts going to all the hospitals in town looking for Danny and Jenny.  When he and Jenny had parted thirteen years earlier, he was on his way to medical school and he gave her $500 and told her to get an abortion.  The accident leaves Danny with a serious brain injury and in a coma, but his spirit travels out of his body, accompanied by his guardian angel, Jacob.  (Freethy makes all this believable.)  Danny tries to get his parents to at least talk to each other and most of the book is taken up with the ups and downs of the story.  It's a very good novel, although in places it's a little more lightweight than I was expecting, but it was enjoyable.  I recommend it.  You'll love Danny.  He's a good kid.

And I will continue reading.  But, you know, it's October and I really should get back into my knitting.  I know I can do both (not at the same time!).  I just ordered some yarn to make a scarf and I need a quick project like that.  I read the Yarn Harlot's blog and am amazed by how much knitting she does.  I imagine her hands are a blur while she's knitting. 

Well, happy reading everybody.  And go knit something soft and cuddly.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Random Thursday/Friday in October

Anybody besides me getting tired of the Republicans' war on women?

I work in an academic library.  This semester, there has been a noticeable turnaround in the attitude of the student population.  They are more focused, more polite, and visit the library in greater numbers.  I hope this is because of a change in admission requirements and not just a fluke.

My boss retired.  The rest of us are sort of flopping around like fish out of water, trying to hold things together with a skeleton staff.  We've had a meeting with the administration and things should start happening in the not too distant future.  Keep your fingers crossed that everything goes well.

I know it's a little early to be talking about this, but Richard and I will be hosting the family at Thanksgiving this year.  Just like the dinner we had with them in March (or was it April?), we are looking forward to it.  Since my father-in-law passed away, there will only be seven places at the table rather than eight, and he will be missed.  I hope everybody has a good time anyway.  I know the food will be good (main course, deep-fried turkey). 

Even though I am a PC user, I was sad to hear of Steve Jobs's passing.  It made me want to go out and buy an iPad 2 in his honor.  What a genius!  I do have an iPod, so I'm not completely anti-Apple.  And I'm seriously contemplating that iPad 2. 

My friend Julie is having a beer-tasting this weekend.  I don't drink beer, so she's going to make me a Cosmopolitan or two (or ten).  Seriously, though, I'll probably stop at two, as I will be my own designated driver that evening. 

I got a little tired of taking Amazon's recommendations for books to download to my Kindle.  I started reading about five of them and got bored with every one.  So I am now reading a hardback copy of Dick Francis's Gamble, written by Felix Francis, his first on-his-own mystery since his father died.  I guess I wanted some variety.  I have a feeling that if I finish reading several of those Kindle books, I will be glad of it.  Maybe I was just missing mysteries.  I've put a few mysteries on my Christmas wish list. 

Speaking of Christmas, Richard and I blithely go through most of the year spending our separate disposable incomes on things of our own choosing, but as of October 1, there is a moratorium on both of us buying ourselves anything until after Christmas.  You never know what your spouse is going to come up with for Christmas gifts, hence the moratorium.  However, I told Richard he could spend money on camping gear ("Why, Mr. Richard, you know I don't know nothin' 'bout no campin' stuff!") and I can buy clothes.  Anyway...

The diet is going along nicely.  I can no longer stuff myself at mealtimes.  I would probably be in physical pain if I did.  And it was not even hard to decrease my food cravings.  I guess because I'm eating a more balanced diet and eating more low-calories things that fill me up and keep me satisfied longer.  Yay Duke Diet! 

The weather around here finally dropped out of the high 90s.  We've even put a blanket on our bed!  A couple of mornings it was down in the low 40s when I got up at oh-dark-hundred.  We just had more insulation added in our attic, and the other day Richard said he wished it would get really cold so we could find out if our house stays warmer. 

Okay, is that random enough for you?  I guess I was just feeling talky.  Take care.  Read a mystery.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Jazzed and Motivated

I've done something I swore not too long ago that I would never do again:  I went on a diet. 

Throughout my life I've been on and off diets so many times I lost count.  As everybody already knows and as I finally realized, they don't work.  Especially ones that use gimmicks. 

I don't remember just how I came across it while I was surfing the 'net one day back in June, but I got on the Duke University Medical Center Diet and Fitness Center website.  I read up on their approach and became a believer.  I signed on at dukediet.com and started a journey. 

This is a journey that you can stay on forever.  I haven't really changed my lifestyle, but I have adapted (fairly easily I'd say) to tracking my weight every day and also logging my calorie intake every day.  Believe it or not I look forward to getting up in the morning (at 6:10, mind you) and weighing myself.  (My friend Theresa pointed out that that's kind of sick and I agree.)  I know that programs like Weight Watchers and the WebMD site advocate weighing in weekly, but daily works for me. 

Counting calories is the way to go.  With Duke's online food log, it's so easy.  You can look up nutrition information for many foods on Duke's website (and if you can't find it there, look at nutritional labels on food packaging, or the WebMD site's "Food-O-Meter").  Duke's online weight tracker draws you a graph and lets you see your progress. 

One positive thing about this new (to me) way of eating is that I'm never really hungry.  I consume between 1200 and 1400 calories a day.  Sometimes I go over, but I've found that doing so occasionally reminds your metabolism that it has a job to do.  I've started eating healthier food, like more fruits and veggies, fewer white starches.  I'm allowed up to two snacks a day, but I sometimes don't have both of them.  I started out by measuring my vegetables and now I'm pretty confident that I can eyeball a half cup of food.  Duke has helpful articles and charts you can use as aids. 

I had resigned myself to accepting my body as it was, but I have high blood pressure, sleep apnea, acid reflux, and arthritis, all of which are exacerbated by weight.  I realized back in June that it was time.  I guess I could not start a diet until I had reached that realization.  My previous doctor had nagged me about losing weight and I resisted mightily.  Well, she retired, so I had to find another doctor.  He never said a word about my weight, except an occasional comment if I happened by sheer chance to lose a pound or two.  He is now thoroughly impressed.  (I'm rather impressed by the whole thing, myself.) 

 Wanna know how much is gone?  Well, I have hit my first 15-pound goal and have started on the second one.  I'm taking it 15 pounds at a stretch, because that is doable for me.  To say, "Okay, I'm going to lose 30 pounds," is a bit overwhelming, but 15 at a time is manageable.  I'll quit with the increments when I get to a point that I don't need to lose any more.  Stepping on the scale and seeing another pound gone is very motivating.  And now I'm sleeping better, the joints in my lower limbs haven't hurt in months, I haven't had heartburn in a long while, and I'll check with my doctor about the blood pressure thing when I go back the next time. 

I am excessively proud of myself.  I needed this.

Take care, everybody, and eat healthy.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Things I'll Probably Never Do

1.  Enter a competitive-eating contest.  Eating that much food in such a short period of time just can't be good for you.  They hardly even chew!  And it looks kind of gross anyway.

2.  Run in a marathon.  Let's get real here.  I'm an old fart who's been essentially sedentary most of my adult life.  The farthest I've ever run is a half mile.  I have actually done active things, like playing tennis, horseback riding, hiking, building sets for plays; you know, fun stuff.  I've also had accidents and if I didn't know me better, I'd think I was clumsy, but I'm really not.  But now it's the old part that holds me back.  I know that active people older than me have trained and done it, but for me it's so far outside the realm of probability it's not even on the chart any more.

3.  Take up boxing.  Boxing involves hitting people and I almost never want to hit anyone.

4.  Win the lottery.  The odds against winning are astronomical, and no matter how many tickets you buy, the odds never get more favorable.

5.  Climb Mt. Everest.  Well, first of all, it involves climbing; then there's the freezing coldness, the wind, the fact that you have to camp in that cold, the gazillion layers of clothing you have to wear, the freezing cold, the stuff you have to carry, the cost, the freezing cold, etc.

6.  Sing in public.  I can't sing (although a friend of mine, a musician, once told me that anybody could sing; he apparently never heard me).  When I do break into song, the cats look at me as if I've gone round the bend and they look frightened.  I sing flat, off key, and I have no breath control.  It's a kindness on my part that I do not sing when other humans can hear me.

7.  Walk a tightrope or swing on a trapeze.  I don't have a death wish.

8.  Give my cat a bath.  See #7.

9.  Drive in a NASCAR race.  Aside from the occasional crash and burn, driving around in a circle could get boring.  I don't know how they do it.  It also involves a car with no functioning doors, fireproof suits, crash helmets, amazing speed, heat, noise, driving too close for comfort, and other dangerous stuff.  I'm a chicken.

10.  Own a restaurant.  I like to cook, sometimes (mostly I like to bake), but I don't have a passion for it.  I also don't have a passion for owning my own business.  The accounting part would kill me.  And then there's the fact that I have retirement in the cross-hairs.  I've been in the work force since 1967 and I'm ready to quit.

11.  Wrestle an alligator.  Alligators have teeth, and extremely strong jaws, and they live in swamps, and they're just downright scary.  I saw some testy alligators at the National Zoo in Washington, DC.  They were snapping and growling at each other.  Maybe they hadn't been fed yet.

12. Sky dive.  The idea of jumping out of an airplane, on purpose, into thin air just gives me the willies.  I'm okay with the flying part, especially in small planes, but I want to stay in the plane until after a nice safe landing. 

Okay, that's enough.  I tried to stay away from things that might be misconstrued as tempting fate.  I try never to take things for granted because I know circumstances can change without warning. 

Take care and have a good day.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Random Whatever

"The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it."  ~James Bryce


 I have a friend who asks me, every time I see him, "What are you reading now?"  Lately I've been reading romances, and when I tell him that, he gets this sort of indulgent look on his face.  He is, by his own admission, a bit of a literary snob.  I do have my standards, you know.  If a romance is not well-written, I believe it's not worth reading.  And I tell him that.  I like a good story with quality writing, and it doesn't hurt if it has some romance and/or humor and/or mystery.  I've read literary novels; some I've enjoyed and some I haven't.  I don't care how facile a writer's use of the English language is, if it ain't a good read, why bother?  Some Pulitzer Prize winners are just plain boring (which makes me wonder about the people who read them), and if a book is boring, I won't finish it.  I used to finish every book I started, prided myself on it in fact, then I finally realized that life is too short to read bad writing.  That's my opinion, and I'm sticking to it.  Apparently, I'm not the only one.  Read this blog post that I ran across just this morning:  "How I Stopped Being a (Literary) Snob."   The blogger didn't get into the quality of writing, but he acknowledged that your mass market paperback is just as worthwhile as anything else.



A couple of weeks ago, we were told about an event that was supposed to have a bunch of bluegrass pickers playing, so we arranged to go.  When we got there, they were playing a rousing tune, an instrumental.  As the evening went on, however, we discovered that the music was all bluegrass gospel.  Now I have nothing against gospel music, and I love the older, gospel quartet, foot-tapping stuff I used to hear back in the '60s.  But they weren't playing any of the good stuff I remember.  Most of it was new stuff that I had never heard before, and frankly, it just wasn't that good.  Just because it's religious doesn't mean it's good music.  Well, it is good in that the words are usually heartfelt, but it doesn't seem to be good poetry, if you know what I mean.  We stayed for a little over two hours.  The pickers were quite talented, but there was only one good singer and he sang right after we sat down, but I was hoping for some good Appalachian mountain music.  Oh well.  Sometimes things work out and sometimes they don't.

Wow! I'm just full of complaints, aren't I?  I'll try to be more positive.



I'm positive I had a good time at the party we went to on Saturday.  Aside from the food (including some super-yummy banana pudding), the highlight of the evening was the game of Tifton Jeopardy!  Our friend Bret likes to do this at parties and it's lots of fun.  He prepares all the questions, makes up a game board with Post-Its, gathers up some prizes, and directs people to organize themselves into teams (Jeopardy! by committee).  Our team came in second.  Of course teams change with every party.   We were supposed to have Redneck Jeopardy! at another recent party, but for various reasons, that didn't happen.  Julie and I were all set to be on the same team because we each come from a long line of rednecks and thought we could do well.  Maybe Bret will do that one another night.

"Anyone who says they have only one life to live must not know how to read a book."  ~Author Unknown

I have been reading (so what else is new?).  The latest reads are:

A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg.  Charming, engaging, lovely.  Beautiful story.
All I Ever Wanted by Kristan Higgins.  Also charming, engaging, and lovely.
Par for the Course by Jenna Bayley-Burke.  Fair to middling.  Lots of melodrama.
Charlie All Night by Jennifer Crusie.  Funny, romantic, good read.
Catch of the Day by Kristan Higgins.   This woman is such a good writer and storyteller.  She deserves to be on the best-seller lists.
Maid for Love by Marie Force.  Not bad.  I'll read more.  Parts seemed a little far-fetched, but it's fiction.
Savannah Blues by Mary Kay Andrews.  Mary Kay never disappoints.  Mystery, romance, humor.  Great!
My One and Only by Kristan Higgins.  Do y'all get the idea I like Kristan Higgins?  Another wonderful read.

This coming Monday, August 29th, is the birthday of Henry Bergh, born in 1813.  He is the founder of the ASPCA.  I would encourage everyone to contribute to this wonderful organization. Also adopt a homeless pet.  They need loving, forever homes.


Happy August!  And take care.  Hugs to your pets.


Monday, August 1, 2011

Happy Birthday to ME


 It's my birthday.  I turned !@#$%^&*+ years old at 1:15 this pm.  A bunch of my Facebook friends and family have already wished me happy birthday.  Richard and I went to a party on Friday that had absolutely nothing to do with my birthday.  About 9:30 pm, the party ordered pizza.  Our hostess had provided nice and tasty hors d'oeuvres (or however you spell it; I can never get it right except by accident). 


On Saturday night, we had a small dinner party.  I meant to take pictures and forgot.  (That should tell you how old !@#$%^&*+ is.)  We had, as an appetizer (see? I'm not going to try my spelling again), spanakopitas, or as our wedding guest (so many years ago) called them, collard tarts.  Of course, they don't have collards in them!  What were you thinking?  Richard used the traditional spinach and feta. 


For our main meal we had crab cakes with remoulade sauce, shrimp and tortellini, broccoli salad, and rustic bread.  For dessert, I made a zucchini cake and cream cheese icing.  The cake broke (alas!) as I was removing it from the pan (I hate that particular pan), so we served the frosting on the side:  a very rustic slice of cake with a dollop of cream cheese goodness. 


It was a fun dinner party.  We sat around the table until about 11:00 pm with never a lull in the conversation.  My kind of party.  When everybody left, Richard washed up and I put away the food and dried the flatware (hate water spots!), and then we collapsed into bed. 

On Sunday, I curled up with my Kindle for a while (until the battery was low and I had to recharge). 


I also watched a Braves game (and took a nap during).  They lost.  But they did win the first two games of the series with the Marlins.


Tonight I get to find out what Richard got me for my birthday.  I always like what he gets me, so I have no worries.  We usually have pasta for dinner on Mondays, but I'm going to insist on something a little more exciting.  After all, it IS my BIRTHDAY, for heaven's sake!!!

Happy birthday to Me.....

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Counting My Blessings

I was thinking last night that I actually have blessings to count.  Everybody does, even those who are eternal pessimists.  So I thought I'd list a few here.

1.  I have an education.  I was fortunate enough to have parents who believed in education, despite the fact that neither finished high school.  Or maybe it was because they didn't finish high school that they believed that education was a necessity.  My father never made it past eighth grade but he made a deal with both my sister and me:  Go to college and graduate and he would foot the bill entirely; fail to graduate and we'd have to pay him back every penny.  We both graduated, I from the College of Charleston and Carla from Clemson.  Neither of us finished in the usual four years.  Carla had to go part-time as she was a young newly-wed and mother (her daughter once asked her, "How come you get to go to school when you're just a mommy?").  I, on the other hand, took six years to graduate because I changed my major twice and (gulp!) flunked out once.  I had to lay out a semester to get my shit feces together.  I finally settled on fine arts as a major and my GPA shot up.  When I graduated, my mother gave me a card that said, "Graduating already?"  She did have a sense of humor.  My parents also helped me out when I went to graduate school, although I didn't ask them to pay for it, and now I also have a master's degree.



2.  My sister.  We haven't always gotten along.  She's older than I am and she used to have a mean streak a mile wide.  When we were kids, she would pinch me and beat on me and just generally be disagreeable.  Then when I was 12 I had had enough.  She slapped me and I hauled off and hit her back.  Then I sat down and cried.  She never touched me again after that, at least not in a mean way.  Maybe she was just trying to toughen me up, I don't know (never thought to ask).  Now that we're a tiny way past middle age, we get along fine.  She's one of my favorite people.  We don't see each other very often but every few months one of us will call the other and we'll talk for an hour or more.  The last time I saw her we went out to dinner and she apologized for having been so mean.  When she was about fifteen, a neighbor who was my age but bigger than Carla, dared to touch her breast and she bloodied his nose.  His mother stormed over to our house and demanded that my father punish Carla, and Daddy told her just where she could go and why.  Carla was feisty.  Now she's mellowed and quite philosophical, just my kind of person.  She's also very good-hearted and I love her.



3.  The family I married into.  I couldn't ask for better in-laws.  At my father-in-law's funeral recently, Richard's sister's husband and I agreed that we had the best father-in-law ever, and we did.  My sister-in-law (Beverly) is another of my favorite people, as is Paul, her husband, and Katie and Alex, their daughters.  And I love my mother -in-law.  Not everybody can say that.



4.  I have a job.  In the current economic situation, this is truly a blessing.   Although I am looking forward to retirement, I'm glad I have a job.  They don't pay me diddly-squat, but I have a job.



5. Sunrises and sunsets.  So far in my life they have come around like clockwork, beginning and ending each day, and I'm grateful for every one of them.  I would love to live somewhere that regularly has beautiful sunrises and sunsets and to live in a house that has views to both the east and west.  I love seeing them over water, especially at the beach.



6.  I live in a democracy.  Our democracy is struggling right now, what with all the partisan politics (we need statesmen, not career politicians), but I wouldn't live anywhere else.  Well, maybe Canada except that I would freeze to death the first winter.  I imagine the founding fathers are all spinning in their graves at this time.  But the good old U.S. of A. is home.



7.  I live in the American South.  It's warm down here.  The winters are not harsh.  We have good people.  We have good food.  I once had a t-shirt bearing a description of the South.  I don't remember the exact wording, but it mentioned magnolias, peaches, front porches, cool breezes, and fried chicken.  The South is like anywhere else in the country, except that we all talk funny.  Some people not of the South think we're all racists down here, but we're still no different than the rest of the country.  (Racism is ugly, no matter where it is, from D.C. all the way to the tiniest rural hamlet in northern Minnesota.)


8.  Indoor plumbing.  When I was under the age of six, we lived in a house out in the country with four rooms and a path.  The path led down toward the woods to an outhouse.  It was a two holer.  We had electricity, but not running water.  I don't know how my parents managed, but they did.  We had a well out by the back porch (the kind with a pulley and a bucket).  I remember one summer when my aunt and her kids were staying with us that Mama and my aunt would fill up two #2 galvanized washtubs with water and take turns bathing us kids; one washed and one rinsed.  Thank God for indoor toilets and showers! 


9.  Cats and dogs.  Animals add so much to our lives.  You love an animal, it loves you back.  They know.  People with animals around them have lower blood pressure.  And the little critters have such personality!



10.  Good food.  I love to eat.  I love to go out to dinner.  And I love to cruise recipe websites.  I love parties, family gatherings, pizza, creme brulee, corn, bread, cheesecake, pie, carrots, etc.  I could go on.  I just wish that plant breeders would breed for flavor and not shelf life.  There's nothing like a good tomato sandwich in the summer.  Or peach pie.  Yummmm!


Take care, y'all.  Tell me about your blessings.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Book Review... of Sorts

The Bitch-Proof Suit by De-ann Black.  "The Bitch-Proof Suit is a sparkling and exciting novel, brimming with romance, humor, friendship, rivalry, Irish cocktails and scandalous behavior. When Blue (Bluebell) Byrne is up against the odds in the world of New York fashion marketing, she needs the ultimate in accessories - a bitch-proof suit. Her marketing experience has helped her create the perfect suit. She had it made by bespoke tailors, cut with twice the precision at half the price. No labels, no trends, just sheer cutting edge class. The story starts in Manhattan. Blue is about to put her suit to the ultimate test when she vies against a boardroom full of conniving business rivals to win the top job assignment - to work in the company's office in Dublin, Ireland, and settle a few scores at the same time. The suit, her negotiating skills, and gutsy determination help Blue win the job. Within hours she sets off for Dublin. It's the one place she swore she'd never go back to. Six years ago she'd left that city behind, along with Morgan Daire, the man who broke her heart, sure she'd never return. It had almost destroyed her once, but hell...she loves a challenge! She'll be working with the unspeakably glamorous and influential Verde Valmont, and Verde's Irish assistant, Emer. Blue will also be facing up to the formidable Dubliner, Morgan Daire, the man whose past is inexorably linked with hers. Then there's her friend, Dublin designer, Murphy, an incorrigible rogue whose flirting causes jealousy and all sorts of trouble. She also encounters the sexy and handsome Sears Pearson, a New York coolhunter. The Bitch-Proof Suit did actually exist. The author, De-ann Black, designed and wore it several years ago when living and working in Dublin, and it served its purpose brilliantly."  I lifted this "product description" straight from Amazon.  The book was a 99-cent Kindle download and it was quite readable, well-written, and with a good story to it.  I enjoyed it very much.  Murphy was a hoot.

Spun by Sorcery by Barbara Bretton.  "While Chloe Hobbs, a half-human sorceress-in-training who owns the popular yarn shop, Sticks and Strings, and the love of her life, the all-too-human chief of police, Luke MacKenzie, are off fighting the forces of evil to protect his daughter’s soul, the unthinkable happens. The town of Sugar Maple, Vermont, disappears—animals, people, buildings, roads: everything. Not only do Chloe and Luke have to figure out how this could be. They also have to engage in another battle to the death with supernatural forces. And they have to face all of this when they haven’t even begun to recover from the previous clash. The third book, following Casting Spells (2008) and Laced with Magic (2009), in Bretton’s decidedly dark saga of Sugar Maple, a place where vampires, trolls, shapeshifters, and werewolves live in peace, is an exciting conclusion to her very clever trilogy. Readers will be on the edge of their seats as Chloe and Luke risk everything to protect the little town they love." --Shelley Mosley (Booklist review).  I am a little disappointed that this is the final book in a trilogy.  I'm hoping that Bretton will have a change of heart and write more sequels.  I have thoroughly enjoyed reading these books.  I know Barbara Bretton writes other novels, so I'll just have to enjoy some of them, too.  Well, I just checked Amazon and a new Sugar Maple/Chloe Hobbs book will be coming out in December.  YAY!! 

Strange Bedpersons by Jennifer Crusie.  Crusie is one of my new favorite authors.  She writes so well and tells such a good story that you can't help but like the books.  She writes such good, snappy dialogue.  In this novel, "Tess Newhart knows her ex-boyfriend Nick Jamieson isn't the right guy for her. He's caviar and champagne; she's take-out Chinese pot stickers. He's an uptight Republican lawyer; she was raised in a commune and thinks Cinderella is politically incorrect. He wants to get ahead in business; she just wants …him—only not the social-climbing Nick, but the sweet, caring, unbuttoned-down Nick.  And Nick wants her, too, but there's no way Tess is about to play second fiddle to his obsession to make partner.  Yet somehow she finds herself agreeing to play his fiancee for a weekend business trip that could make or break Nick's career. And while he's wrapped up in convincing Tess that he needs her in his respectable world, Tess is doing her best to keep her left-wing opinions to herself and her hands off Nick."  This one was up to Crusie's best standards.  The scene in the restaurant near the end is just priceless -- laugh out loud funny.  

Summer Rental by Mary Kay Andrews. 
"Sometimes, when you need a change in your life, the tide just happens to pull you in the right direction….  Ellis, Julia, and Dorie. Best friends since Catholic grade school, they now find themselves, in their mid-thirties, at the crossroads of life and love. Ellis, recently fired from a job she gave everything to, is rudderless and now beginning to question the choices she's made over the past decade of her life. Julia—whose caustic wit covers up her wounds--has a man who loves her and is offering her the world, but she can't hide from how deeply insecure she feels about her looks, her brains, her life.  And Dorie has just been shockingly betrayed by the man she loved and trusted the most in the world…though this is just the tip of the iceberg of her problems and secrets. A month in North Carolina's Outer Banks is just what they each of them needs.  Ty Bazemore is their landlord, though he's hanging on to the rambling old beach house by a thin thread. After an inauspicious first meeting with Ellis, the two find themselves disturbingly attracted to one another, even as Ty is about to lose everything he's ever cared about. Maryn Shackleford is a stranger, and a woman on the run. Maryn needs just a few things in life: no questions, a good hiding place, and a new identity.  Ellis, Julia, and Dorie can provide what Maryn wants; can they also provide what she needs? 
Five people questioning everything they ever thought they knew about life. Five people on a journey that will uncover their secrets and point them on the path to forgiveness.  Five people who each need a sea change, and one month in a summer rental that might just give it to them."  If I didn't wait so long to do my book reviews, I could write them better myself, but when you read one book right after another, things get a little blurry around the edges.  Andrews is a very good writer (I know I say that about every writer I read).  When I listed all the books I read last year, she left a comment on my blog thanking me for including her in my reading list.  That's a nice and rewarding thing to happen.

This Matter of Marriage by Debbie Macomber.  Giving herself a year to meet Mr. Right, thirty-year-old Hallie shudders over her disastrous dates and sets her sights on handsome neighbor Steve Marris, who is trying to win back his ex-wife.  Steve finally wises up to something that his children already know: that Hallie is the perfect woman for him.  The kids are a little sad that their parents won't be getting back together, but they love Hallie.  She and Steve become very good friends, but his habit of running off to his ex-wife any time she whimpers kinds of gets under Hallie's skin.  She moves to another location, but they can't stop thinking of each other.  Steve finally sees the ex as the needy manipulator that she is.

One Was a Soldier by Julia Spencer-Fleming.  "Adjusting to civilian life after a tour in Iraq proves difficult for Rev. Clare Fergusson in Spencer-Fleming's resonant and timely seventh mystery featuring Clare and her not-so-secret lover, police chief Russ Van Alstyne (after 2008's I Shall Not Want). On returning to Millers Kill, N.Y., Clare jumps right back into her duties as priest of St. Alban's Episcopalian Church. But her 18 months flying helicopters in Iraq aren't entirely in the past: she's drinking more and relying on a mix of leftover pills from her Army medical kit. Along with several other returning service members, Clare joins a community support group for veterans. When a member of the group, Tally McNab, apparently shoots herself in the mouth and falls dead into her swimming pool, Clare spearheads an investigation, hounding Russ to consider homicide. Clare and Russ's relationship deepens, while the focus on the struggles of veterans supplies another strong emotional thread."  (Publishers Weekly).  Spencer-Fleming waited quite a while to get this book out, but I think it must have been harder to write than the previous novels in the series.  It was worth the wait.  Now I wonder how long I have to wait until the next one.

Hannah's List by Debbie Macomber. This is a sweet novel.  Michael's wife Hannah dies of cancer.  Michael knew that she was his soul mate and he is devastated.  On the anniversary of Hannah's death, Michael's brother-in-law gives him a letter from Hannah.  In it, she requests that he get married again and suggests three friends of hers as possibilities.  Michael can't imagine loving anyone other than Hannah, so he only halfheartedly approaches these women in turn.  His dates with the first two women are lukewarm at best, but when he meets Macy, he detests her immediately.  She is so different from Hannah.  Hannah was very organized and efficient in everything she did, but Macy seems to be incredibly ditzy.  You can probably imagine where the story goes from here.  The more he sees of Macy, the more she drives him crazy with her flower-child demeanor but, of course, he begins to realize that she is really the woman for him. 

Finding Positano by William James.  "Three years ago Jack Campbell separated from his wife. His daughter, Maggie, wrote him a letter expressing her anger and disappointment. She was 27 then, a finance professional, and maybe should have known better than to take sides in such a private matter, maybe not. Either way, they hadn’t spoken since, and her letter lay there beneath their relationship.  Now, three years later, with the stress of work and difficulties in her personal relationships, Maggie Campbell goes in search of her father, a search that takes her to Positano on the romantic Italian Amalfi Coast, a picturesque town where anything can happen.  What she finds in Positano might just change her life if she doesn’t leave it all behind to return to the comfortable safety of the life she already knows, fearful of the changes that can come from chance decisions.  Finding Positano is a charming story of love, reconciliation and possibility."  I thought James did a good job writing from a woman's point of view.  If his descriptions of Positano are true-to-life, I want to go there.  It sounds like a wonderful place.  There wasn't a great deal of conflict in this story, and you know conflict is plot, but I still enjoyed reading the book.  It was pleasant and refreshing.

Just One of the Guys by Kristan Higgins.  This is the first Higgins novel that I read and, for me, it ranks right up there with Jennifer Crusie's novels for sheer writing quality.  I will read more.  Chastity O'Neill, the only girl in her family, has four older brothers, all either firefighters or other emergency workers.  She's always been just one of the guys, but at 31 she's getting tired of it.  She wants to fall in love and have a family of her own, but in her small hometown in upstate New York, nobody thinks of her as anything but one of the guys.  Most of her life she's been in love with Trevor, honorary family member, friend of her brothers, another firefighter, but he treats her like a sister.  She meets a handsome surgeon and they develop a relationship, but he's not Trevor.  Does she find true love or will she remain one of the guys?  There are plot twists aplenty in this novel and if you like romance, I'd highly recommend this book.

French Fried; One Man's Move to France with his Wife, Too Many Animals, and an Identity Thief by Chris Dolley.  Chris and Shelagh sell their small farm in England and move with their animals to the south of France.  Chris Dolley writes with great good humor using that dry English wit to describe the most absurd events in their colorful life.  To most of us, these events would be terribly disheartening, but Dolley doesn't wallow in self-pity.  He takes the situation and deals with it, showing us all the way to do it.  France seems to have lots of rules and regulations for foreigners moving there and the Dolleys run into miles of French red tape while trying to do the simplest things, like buying a car.  It's rather hilarious.  Most of the book is taken up with the fight to nail their identity thief.  It gets very complicated as they try to solve the mystery, but they do it, all still with Dolley's characteristic humor.  Unfortunately, I got a little tired of the quest for the identity thief, and thought he spent too much of the book on it, but it was well-written and otherwise I enjoyed it.

Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie.  "Thirty-three-year-old Minerva Dobbs is annoyed when her current boyfriend dumps her three weeks before her sisters' wedding. But she's downright furious a few moments later when she overhears her now "ex" boyfriend bet hunky Calvin Morrisey that he can't take her home and bed her. In fact, she's so angry at them both that she lets Cal take her to dinner and decides to string him along until after her sisters' wedding. Minerva pegs Cal as a handsome "used car salesman of seducers." Cal thinks Minerva is a "cranky, starving, risk-averse statistician." But Minerva's hormones keep whispering "this one," although she knows the gorgeous Cal isn't the man for her practical, white-cotton-bra, several-pounds-over-thin, self. And Cal is blindsided by the lust he feels for the voluptuous, sensual woman he glimpses behind Min's actuary exterior. While Cal and Min struggle to deal with their mutual distrust and attraction, their friends and families try their best to interfere and direct the progression of the unlikely romantic connection."  Such a fun read!  One of the sub-plots in this novel is that of Min's ex getting together with Cal's ex to try to win them back.  Cal's ex is a psychologist who thinks she has the stages of love down to a science and feels certain that Cal and Min will get over their "infatuation" and all will be back to "normal."  HA!

Rescue Me by Sydney Allan.  This is the first and last Sydney Allen novel I will read.  Her writing is just not that good and it interfered with my enjoyment of a pretty good story.  I don't care if she has published 40+ books, she can't write.  The story was good, but the storytelling wasn't.  There were some downright melodramatic scenes in the book but they would have been improved with better crafting.  "She's used to doing all the rescuing. But love has a way of changing everything.  Hailey Jensen is in the rescue business--animal rescue--and more than willing to risk life and limb for fowl or fauna. Just when life couldn't get better, her world crumbles. Her identical twin has cancer, and her marine rescue is failing before it even gets started. Lacking coping skills, she takes refuge behind sarcasm and solitude.  But, thanks to Dr. Rainer Hartmann, her sister's friend and a man who mistakes overbearing control for helping, she finds herself on the opposite end of the control stick. A wildly independent woman, Hailey fights with the determination of a bulldog as Rainer struggles to drag her out of despair...and into his arms."  Sounds good, doesn't it, but don't waste your time.  I'm glad it only cost me 99 cents.

I'm sorry I relied so much on Amazon reviews, but things have been a little different lately.  However, I also apologize for the sucky reviews I wrote myself.  Maybe I should buy a book on writing reviews.  Maybe I should write the review right after I read the book.  OK, done with the disclaimers.  Try the Crusies and Kristan Higgins.  They're both really good writers.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Some Sadness and Some Random

I'll take care of the sadness part first:  Richard's father passed away on Sunday.  He was a retired university professor of microbiology, an avid sailor, a former Marine, and a Braves fan.  He had a great sense of humor, was very generous, and enjoyed writing historical fiction.  He did something when he retired that I'm going to do: he took off his watch and thereafter ignored the fact that he owned one.  I loved that.  And I love him.  I'm so glad that I married into that family.  The funeral will be on Thursday in north Georgia.

The cats are fine, but they're not getting along fine.  Bagheera has some of the devil in her.  She's found out that Lila will hiss if she gets too close, so now she takes every opportunity to make Lila hiss and then they have a little swatting fight.  It's a little disconcerting if we're trying to go to sleep and both cats happen to get on the bed at the same time.  I think Bagheera has found most of Lila's sleeping spots and, though not always, will go and disturb her.  The little devil!  At least nobody is peeing on the furniture. 

We have a little fishpond just off the back of the house.  On Sunday I happened to look out and I saw a golden retriever sitting IN the pool, lapping up water.  I guess he/she was hot and just wanted to cool off a bit.  I had never seen that particular dog in the neighborhood before.  I wanted a picture but I was sure he/she would bolt if I went outside with my camera.

I had breakfast for dinner last night, two eggs (fried in PAM) on lightly-buttered whole-wheat toast.  As I was munching on my meal I was thinking how it was just the thing and how it really hit the spot.  When I was living/working in Charleston, we had a little breakfast/lunch room on the premises.  I frequently would get the nice lady who ran the place to make me a toasted egg-bacon-and-cheese sandwich for my breakfast.  For a while there I quit buying cereal and milk at the grocery store.  Of course I gained numerous pounds, some of which I'm still carrying.  My drink of choice for that meal was a Diet Coke, like that was going to do any good.  HA! 

I'm embracing healthier eating habits now, like eating more fresh fruits and veggies, whole wheat breads, less fat, and more lean protein.  I'm rather fortunate that my protein of choice is shrimp and other seafood, which has way fewer calories than red meat or pork.  I'll let you know if I manage to do something really strange, like losing weight.  (I imagine that if I do lose weight, I'll be crowing about it -- loudly!)

For those knitters among you, have you found Patternfish.com?  It's a wonderful resource for knitting and crochet patterns.  I have a wish list on the site, just waiting until we win the lottery so that I can purchase and download them all.  Every once in a while I feel like doing a little shopping, so I usually buy a few patterns, a little yarn (from my other favorite knitting site, WEBS (www.yarn.com)), and maybe a few books for my Kindle. 

Another favorite website is ePlans.com.  I like looking at house plans, because eventually we'll both be retired and moving to some location above the gnat line (the gnats down here are tres annoying).  I came across a plan a couple of months ago that Richard and I both agree is damn near the perfect house plan.  I have a group of saved plans on that website and this one is listed as the Dream House (my wording).  It's slightly larger than the house we own now and it's in our price range to build.  It has an open floor plan, two guest rooms, a library/study, and a nice master suite.

I watch The Barefoot Contessa on a semi-regular basis, and I'm jealous of some of the kitchen gadgets she owns.  She has a square fluted cutter that she uses when she make scones (she cuts out the squares then cuts them diagonally), and I stumbled across the website where that particular item is sold, Cassandra's Kitchen.  This site has quite a few of the things Ina uses in her kitchen.  Surfing the Internet pays off.

Writing this particular post has briefly taken my mind off our recent loss.  We are glad that daddy-in-law didn't linger and suffer; he went rather quickly and peacefully.  I hope when my time comes I'm half that fortunate. 

Take care, everybody.  Hug your loved ones.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Older Women

I'd love to give credit for the following, but I received it in an e-mail with no author listed.  It is thought provoking... gentlemen.  

A woman over 40 will never wake you in the middle of the night and ask, "What are you thinking?"  She doesn't care what you think. 

If a woman over 40 doesn't want to watch the game, she doesn't sit around whining about it.  She does something she wants to do, and it's usually more interesting.

Women over 40 are dignified.  They seldom have a screaming match with you at the opera or in the middle of an expensive restaurant.  Of course, if you deserve it, they won't hesitate to shoot you if they think they can get away with it.

Older women are generous with praise, often undeserved.  They know what it's like to be unappreciated. 

Women get psychic as they age.  You never have to confess your sins to a woman over 40. 

Once you get past a wrinkle or two, a woman over 40 is far sexier than her younger counterpart.

Older women are forthright and honest.  They'll tell you right off that you are a jerk if you are acting like one.  You don't ever have to wonder where you stand with her. 

Yes, we prefer women over 40 for a multitude of reasons.  Unfortunately, it's not reciprocal.  For every stunning, smart, well-coiffed, hot woman over 40, there is a bald, paunchy relic in yellow pants making a fool of himself with some 22-year-old waitress.  Ladies, I apologize. 

For all those men who say, "Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?" here's an update for you.  Nowadays 80% of women are against marriage.  Why?  Because women realize it's not worth buying an entire pig just to get a little sausage!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Random Monday in June

Have I ever mentioned that I hate Mondays?  When I was living in Charleston, I used to wear red every Monday because I find red to be a cheery color and I thought it might make me hate Mondays just a wee bit less.  It worked pretty well, but did not completely remove my negative feelings about Mondays.  For some reason, I am at my most comfortable in bed on Monday mornings right around the time the alarm starts going off.  By Friday it's easier to drag myself out of bed because -- well, it's Friday. 

I had a relatively unproductive weekend.  Other than doing my laundry and cleaning up the remains of the dishes after dinner (Richard is one of those jewels of a cook who washes up as he goes), I read.  I finished The Bitch-Proof Suit (De-Ann Black) on Saturday (reviews later), started reading Strange Bedpersons (Jennifer Crusie) and finished it later that day; then I started Summer Rental (Mary Kay Andrews) and finished it on Sunday; and then I started This Matter of Marriage (Debbie Macomber) on Sunday afternoon.  Sometimes my reading just goes like that; I can't seem to get enough of it. 

I may have mentioned this before (but I'm too lazy to go back and look), but when I was in library school I took a young-adult literature course.  One of the books we had the option of reading was The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood.  I sat down one weekend and didn't get up until I had finished the thing.  It was one of the most depressing books I have ever read.  As I told my professor later, it took reading three murder mysteries to cheer me up.

I wasn't depressed this past weekend, I was just in the mood to read romances.  I love the endings.  That's also what I love about romantic-comedy movies -- happy endings.  I think that's also what I like about mysteries.  The endings aren't always necessarily happy happy, but the bad guy usually gets his just desserts and that makes for a satisfying ending. 

The weather forecast for the next few days is for HEAT99 today and 101 tomorrow!  Last summer was particularly hot as well, and then we had an unusually cold winter (for south Georgia).  I feel like I'm living in Death Valley.  We are having another drought.  Richard has decided to have a well dug for the purpose of irrigation.  Using city water for the lawns and flowers is frowned upon during a drought. 

Well, about fifteen minutes ago the fire alarm went off in the building and it was not a drill.  Fortunately, it was also not a fire.  There was something amiss in one of the rooms on the ground floor, but it's been handled.  OK, back to the blog.  The excitement's over.

It was actually nice outside -- in the shade.  There was a gentle breeze blowing and I was sitting on a bench under a tree waiting for the all clear. 

I have embraced e-bills and online payments.  I absolutely love not having to sit down and write a bunch of checks, stuff and seal envelopes, find return address labels and stamps and wait days until my account is cleared.  My bank is a wonderful institution, and they will pay any bill to any creditor.  I also don't have to shred so much paper.  Yay!  I've also become a recycling fool.  Every scrap of paper that doesn't need to go through the shredder and every bit of plastic goes into the bins, not to mention glass and metal. 

I'm going to miss one of my favorite events this year, the Harriette Austin Writers Conference in Athens.  I had to spend an inordinately large amount of cash to upgrade my glasses (I wear three different pairs: computer, dress, and shades, all bifocals).  I debated long and hard about it, but I just can't afford it this year.  I will miss all my Athens friends, but maybe Richard and I can make a trip up there later in the year. 

One of my dear friends turned 50 a few weeks ago.  I got to attend both a surprise luncheon and a party the next night.  Both events were a lot of fun.  I got to talk to people I don't see very often and I met her daughters and other members of her family.  I also had good food.  The lunch was held at a restaurant I had never been to before, so that was an experience.  It's a classy little place.  I had a chicken-salad-on-croissant sandwich and a cup of soup.  At the other party, we had a Low-Country Boil, which is potatoes, corn on the cob, smoked sausage, and shrimp cooked in water seasoned with Old Bay.  There was salad and bread, appetizers, and tons of really good cookies (like macadamia nut and white chocolate chip; yum!). 

Low-Country Boil is what people in Georgia call the above-described meal.  In South Carolina we call it either Beaufort Bog or Frogmore Stew.  Whatever it's called, it's good. 

Shrimp is my favorite protein, but I tried a new recipe a while back which turned out to be an insult to shrimp.  I thought it would be tastier.  I was wrong.  I tossed the recipe in the recycle bin. 

Richard and I have quite a library of cookbooks, some of which we hardly ever touch.  I suggested getting rid of those little-used ones but Richard decided it might be better if we tried a few new things.  So the current plan is to try a recipe out of one of those books once a month, minimum.  We'll see how that goes.  We could find ourselves adding to our repertoire. 

There will be a Father's-Day gathering with the in-laws.  We haven't been to their house since Christmas and I'm looking forward to it.  At the birthday party I mentioned above, they were playing rock-&-roll oldies from the era that I grew up in and my 50-year-old friend was born into.  I think I'll get on iTunes and download some oldies for the road trip on Father's Day. 

Well, I guess I've babbled on long enough.  I hope everybody stays cool and comfy in this awfully hot weather.  I know I'm going to spend as little time out in it as I can.  Hug your kitties and doggies, and take care.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

My Prediction

I predict that I will not read 52 books this year.  It's already almost June and so far I've read only 17 books.  This is not a tragedy.  I read for pleasure, not for records.

A Year on Ladybug Farm, by Donna Ball.  Three friends -- retired, divorced, and/or widowed -- decide to move to the country and restore a farm.  "As the friends take on a home improvement challenge of epic proportions, they encounter disaster after disaster, from renegade sheep and garden thieves to a seemingly ghostly inhabitant. Over the course of a year, overwhelming obstacles make the three women question their decision, but they ultimately learn that sometimes the best things can happen when everything goes wrong..."  (Amazon review).   There are sequels to this book, although I haven't continued reading.  It was a well-written book with good storytelling, so I may read more.

My Reading Life, by Pat Conroy.  Conroy's book is part annotated bibliography and part autobiography.  He tells about the books and how they affected his life.  He writes a lot about his abusive father and his mother, who encouraged him to read, read, read.  He talks about people who influenced his reading life.  Some of his book is Hemingwayesque, in that he had his Sylvia Beach (a bookstore owner in Atlanta) and his Gertrude Stein (a teacher in high school).  He includes several books as paragons of Southern literature, including Gone With the Wind (of course). His all-time favorite, God-I-can't-get-enough-of-it, gotta-read-it-as-often-as-possible book is Look Homeward Angel.  He gushed over that book so much and so floridly that it kind of turned me off ever wanting to read it.  I really enjoyed the autobiographical parts of the book, and I think anyone who enjoys Southern literature would like this book.

World's Greatest Sleuth, by Steve Hockensmith.  Once again, Hockensmith comes through with a great read (he hasn't failed me yet).  This time Otto and Gustav are headed to the World's Fair in Chicago to participate in a sleuthing competition thought up by a publishing house.  Their publisher dresses them up as caricatures of cowboys, which of course they hate, since they are real cowboys.  They're competing with other sleuths, both amateur and professional (and some fake).  Things are very contentious and then, of course, they find a body.  Well, almost everybody is trying to find out whodunit, but a few seem to want to keep the rest from solving the murder.  If you've kept up with the series, you'll want to read this one, too.  I can't wait until Hockensmith writes the next one.

The Red Garden, by Alice Hoffman.   "Hoffman brings us 200 years in the history of Blackwell, a small town in rural Massachusetts, in her insightful latest. The story opens with the arrival of the first settlers, among them a pragmatic English woman, Hallie, and her profligate, braggart husband, William. Hallie makes an immediate and intense connection to the wilderness, and the tragic severing of that connection results in the creation of the red garden, a small, sorrowful plot of land that takes on an air of the sacred. The novel moves forward in linked stories, each building on (but not following from) the previous and focusing on a wide range of characters, including placid bears, a band of nomadic horse traders, a woman who finds a new beginning in Blackwell, and the ghost of a young girl drowned in the river who stays in the town's consciousness long after her name has been forgotten. The result is a certain ethereal detachment as Hoffman's deft magical realism ties one woman's story to the next even when they themselves are not aware of the connection. The prose is beautiful, the characters drawn sparsely but with great compassion."  (This is the Publisher's Weekly review and it is so much better than anything I could write about this book that I decided to use it.)  I really liked this book.  It's the first Hoffman book for me, and since I enjoyed it, I started another of her books (the title of which escapes me at the moment) but I couldn't get into it.  I seem to be more concerned with story than with the author, but read The Red Garden.  It's worthwhile. 

Fearless Fourteen, by Janet Evanovich.  "Our heroine, the irrepressible bounty hunter Stephanie Plum, finds herself watching over a goth teen called Zook, who is heavily into gaming, after his mom can’t make bail and disappears (or has been kidnapped). A lot of people think there is stolen money buried in or near Officer Morelli’s little house—that’s Steph’s Morelli, the cop who is her number-one boyfriend most of the time, or at least when the entrancing Ranger isn’t nearby. The money is the reason behind Zook’s mom’s disappearance, and it’s the tie that binds Evanovich’s various plotlines, which carom about endlessly, not always resolving. Questions abound: Are Steph’s sidekick, the plus-size Lula, and Ranger’s man Tank really engaged? Ranger is working security for a fading but brassy pop star: How does Steph manage to get into and out of her reality show? Can Zook and his sidekicks protect Morelli’s house—and Stephanie—with their homegrown weaponry (think potatoes as missiles)? Where else but Evanovich’s fourteenth novel can a line like “it’s raining money and popsicles!” actually make sense? Fans will be delighted, but others, who stumble into the series at this advanced point, may find themselves starved for backstory, so much so that they may need to go all the way back to One for the Money (1994)." --GraceAnne A. DeCandido (this is the review from Booklist).  I think this was probably not my favorite Stephanie Plum story, but they can't always be perfect.  I did actually enjoy reading it, as usual, and it won't stop me from reading subsequent Evanovich novels.

Under the Tuscan Sun, by Frances Mayes.  I thoroughly enjoyed the movie version of this book (so much so that I bought a copy), but I managed to start the book with no expectations of it being better than the movie.  The movie is good and so is the book, but the story changed from one format to the other.  Reading the book really solidified my yearning to visit Italy.  Mayes is a wonderful writer (and she's from south Georgia, just a few miles up the road!).  She currently lives and teaches in San Francisco, but she spends her summers and Christmases at Bramasole, her house near Cortona, Italy.  The book tells all about the renovations to the house and it's also a travelogue of Tuscany.  She portrays the locals as friendly and welcoming; she tells all about their favorite meals that they cooked, and even includes recipes!  It was an excellent read and I'm so glad I bought the book.  I bookmarked some of the pages with recipes in the hope that I might go back and try some of them.  If you haven't already read this book, what are you waiting for?

Anyone But You, by Jennifer Crusie.  I love Jennifer Crusie's books.  They are always such fun to read.  Nina, just turning 40 and just divorced, gets something her socially conscious husband would not allow -- a dog.  She wanted a cute and cuddly puppy, but what she got was Fred, a depressed Bassett hound.  But Fred turns out to be good for her love life.  Nina's downstairs neighbor, Alex, is a hunky emergency-room surgeon, who actually likes his job and who resists his family's attempts to get him to specialize in a more lucrative practice.  Unfortunately, he is ten years younger than Nina, or at least Nina thinks that's bad.  She's very sensitive about turning 40.  Her best friend keeps pushing her toward Alex, as does Fred, believe it or not.  They seem to know that 40 is not the end of the world.  Alex is completely smitten.  Now if they can just convince Nina...

Take the Monkeys and Run, by Karen Cantwell.  "Film lover Barbara Marr is a typical suburban mom living the typical suburban life in her sleepy little town of Rustic Woods, Virginia. Typical, that is until she sets out to find the missing link between a bizarre monkey sighting in her yard and the bone chilling middle-of-the-night fright fest at the strangely vacant house next door. When Barb talks her two friends into some seemingly innocent Charlie's Angels-like sleuthing, they stumble upon way more than they bargained for and uncover a piece of neighborhood history that certain people would kill to keep on the cutting room floor. Enter sexy PI Colt Baron, Barb's ex-boyfriend who would love to be cast as new leading man, filling the role just vacated by her recently estranged husband, Howard. When Colt flies in from out of town to help Barb, events careen out of control and suddenly this mini-van driving mother of three becomes a major player in a treacherous and potentially deadly FBI undercover operation. It's up to her now. With little time to spare, she and she alone, must summon the inner strength necessary to become a true action heroine and save the lives of those she loves. The question is can she get them out alive before the credits roll?"  This is the Amazon "product description."  I decided to use it anyway.  I had never heard of Karen Cantwell or her heroine, but this was a thoroughly enjoyable book, especially when it got to where you didn't know which side the players were on.  There are fun surprises in the book and I may read some more of this series.  It was one of those Kindle recommendations that I love.

The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain.  Having recently read Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, I was sort of intrigued by this fictionalized telling of much the same story but told by Hemingway's wife Hadley.  The story takes you from their first meeting in Chicago, their attraction for one another, and their life in Paris and other parts of Europe.  In a note at the end of the book, the author states that she tried to remain true to accounts of Hemingway's life, and if she did, then Ernest was a perfect shit at times, especially where Pauline was concerned.  McLain is a good writer and a good storyteller and I enjoyed most of this book (except the parts where old Ernest was being the perfect shit).  Reading about his relationship with Pauline while he was still married to Hadley made me a little less sad that he finally put a bullet through his head. 

Is It Just Me, Or Is It Nuts Out There?, by Whoopi Goldberg.  I love Whoopi.  She and I have practically identical views on manners, and that's what this book is about.  Reading this book can make you more aware of when you might be stepping over the line between good manners and bad ones.  She writes with understated humor, except for the chapter on bullying.  She gets really serious in that one because it is such a serious subject.  This is not about Miss Manners or Emily Post type of manners, but about doing-unto-others type of manners and just plain human civility, or lack of it.  She addresses cell phone use and other current day issues.  I am keeping this book forever and I expect I'll go back and re-read parts, if not all, of it.

One of these days I have to post some actual pictures of my knitting.  I'm still working on the peace-sign sweater and I have actually finished the motif.  Now I just have to finish the front, knit the sleeves, block it, put it together, and wear it.  This is not rocket science.  I should be able to do it.

See y'all later.  Happy reading and happy knitting!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Family Dinner

Finally!  We got the family to come to Tifton.

After some intensive negotiation, we found a weekend that everybody could come down here.  We had hoped to feed them lunch on Saturday, but some of them ran into an awful hold-up on I-85 because of a wreck.  They were in that traffic jam for an hour and a half.  So everybody got here mid-afternoon.

My niece (the one who gave us Bagheera) arrived wanting to see her former kitty, and shortly after she got in the house, she yelled, "BAGHEERA!  HERE, KITTY!KITTY!KITTY!!"  Well, she startled Richard and me and I'm pretty sure she scared the hell out of all three cats.  Bagheera has adapted to our quiet ways and has become shy of strangers like Lila and Dashiell.  Katie caught one very brief glimpse of Bagheera and that was it.  Nobody ever did see Dashiell, but after a few hours Lila came out of hiding and let people pet her.  After everybody left on Sunday, it was about two hours before Bagheera emerged from her hiding place.  We have no idea where that place was; it's like she just dematerialized.  

I was going to take pictures of all the food, but I got so caught up in cooking it and getting it on the table that I just forgot.  But here's what we had:  Richard grilled steaks because everybody likes cow.  Beverly volunteered to help, so I asked her to make our green salad.  Richard also made a fruit salad (with no dressing because good fruit doesn't need dressing).  I cooked green beans in chicken stock with a little bacon fat thrown in for good measure.  We also had some sauteed asparagus (cut it in two-inch pieces, put a little olive oil in the pan, sprinkle on some salt and pepper and a few red pepper flakes, and cook quickly until done to your liking (I like my asparagus crisp-tender)).  Everybody loved the asparagus.  We also had mashed potatoes, but I don't think everybody else likes them as much as I do.  I bought some artisan breads at the bakery.  I was going to make my world-famous biscuits, but decided I didn't want to be that industrious.  For dessert we had a sour cream poppy seed cake with an orange glaze -- yummy!  That cake is Beverly's favorite.

Since I did most of the cooking, Richard cleaned up after dinner.  That was awfully nice to just sit and vege while someone else did the work.  

Everybody seemed to enjoy the gathering and although I was tired afterwards, I absolutely loved having them all come down here.  Richard's parents and our two nieces stayed in a hotel and Beverly and Paul stayed with us (sounds a little inhospitable to the parents, but they preferred it that way).  After everybody went to their hotel, we had a good time talking with Beverly and Paul.  We are now planning to have just the two of them come down some weekend this summer to hang out and relax and maybe watch a Braves game and a bunch of movies on our nice HD television. 

I hope we can arrange to do this again next year.  I thought it was a lot of fun.  I love my in-laws.