Sunday, February 27, 2011

Pain and Wonder*

I has it.

I had an eventful weekend.

My first stupid move was to catch the inside of my arm in the zipper of my purse.  Stupid!  Stupid!  Stupid!  It would take too long to explain how I managed to do that, but I sometimes go through phases of stupid, freaky accidents like that.  And it hurt.  Ouch!

The real pain and wonder came about Friday night when Richard and I and a group of friends went to Cafe Harika and Hooka Bar in Cordele, GA.  We sat on cushions around a low table which was placed on a platform.  Close to the floor without actually sitting on the floor.  Well, I am not the most limber or agile person on the planet, so I had a hard time getting comfortable.  My friends suggested I sit next to the wall so that I could have something to lean on.  As I was scooting (or my clumsy way of  scooting) into the seat, I lost my balance and fell backwards onto a low wall.  At the same time I heard a loud >crack<, I hit the wall right on my spine (the crack was not my spine).  My first, simultaneous, reactions were pain, fear, and surprise.  I'm always surprised when I do something stupid.  I don't think I'm really like that.  I'm into denial.  I flopped down on the cushions beside me, trying not to cry (I was successful).  I finally lumbered myself into the corner backed by a plethora of soft, supportive cushions.  My friend Jeannie offered me some ibuprofen, which I accepted and which had some effect, and I was glad because it let me enjoy the rest of the evening. 

(Lord, I wish I had pictures of the evening!)

Anyway, the wonder set in when I tasted my dinner.  It was delicious, particularly the shrimp shish kebabs marinated in a saffron paste.  The restaurant advertised themselves as having American Mediterranean food.  They had some Greek dishes, Middle Eastern dishes, and of course, American.  My shrimp was served on a bed of Basmati rice, cooked in some kind of broth to give it some flavor (I'm not crazy about plain white rice).  I was a little fearful when I saw that the shrimp was a bright red and I thought, "Ooh, I hope this is not going to be lethal," but it wasn't.  There was a little spiciness, which took me about halfway through the meal to discern, but I could still taste the shrimp, and I loved it.  Despite my embarrassing myself this time, I'd go back to that restaurant.  I love shrimp, and if it's on the menu, that's what I usually go for.  Most of the other people had lamb shish kebabs, and they all raved over theirs, too.  Our hostess brought out hummus and baba ganoush, along with some freshly-baked and warm naan.  It was all wonderful.  I was afraid I was going to fill up on the hummus and naan and be too full to enjoy my shrimp, but it didn't work out that way.  Before the entree, I had some tabbouleh (very lemony).  For dessert, I had baklava.  (The baklava was good, but my Greek friend Takis in Athens makes better baklava.) 

As if that weren't enough to enjoy, out came a belly dancer.  She was great.  I've only ever seen belly dancers on TV and in the movies, so it was very entertaining to see it live.  She was pretty and graceful and we showed our appreciation with applause after every dance.  I had been warned that men should not speak to the dancers, because then their brothers would come out to "have a word of prayer" with them.  But that turned out to be ridiculous in this case.  After all, this is south Georgia.  The girl is American all the way, from Cordele, but dancing professionally in Atlanta.  She's competed in ballroom dancing and and she was quite forthcoming about her professional life.  Nice and friendly, just the way a Southerner should be.  After she had done her show, she brought out some filmy, triangular scarves with shiny things sewn to them.  These she offered to the women of the group and got four of them up to dance with her.  She tied the scarves around their waists and taught them a few belly-dancing moves.  Richard asked if I was going to get up and dance, and I informed him in no uncertain terms that I was not moving until it was time to get up and go home.  I was too comfy against my pile of cushions.  We did eventually leave, but altogether I had a great time.  Everyone was in a good mood and I laughed a lot. 

Saturday morning we had to take Lila and Dashiell to the vet.  They are so traumatized by being put in carriers, taken outside, put in the car, and driven across town.  They meowed all the way, especially Dashiell.  Poor babies.  The vet visit was quick and relatively uneventful for the cats, but I got to pet other people's doggies.  First there was a black and white terrier type and she was sweet.  She was interested in our cats; her owner said they also have cats at home.  After we saw the vet, there was a grown golden retriever and a puppy.  The grown dog was so friendly and if you know goldens, they frequently look like they are smiling.  This dog was very happy to see me, even though we were strangers.  Later that morning we went to the first ever Southeast Lawn and Garden Expo, sponsored by the Literacy Volunteers of Tifton.  It was small, but they hope to do it again and that it gets bigger.  Anyway, the director of the local animal shelter was there with a rescue dog, a pit bull with scars on his face, so you can guess what he was rescued from.  This was an old dog and very placid, such a sweet old thing.  They say dogs are great judges of character, and this dog seemed to know that he was in loving, caring hands now.

While at the Expo, we also visited most of the vendor booths.  We stopped at the Georgia Museum of Agriculture (Agrirama) booth, where they were selling things that can be bought at the Museum: stone ground grits and cornmeal, and some handwoven rugs and placemats.  And they weren't charging an arm and a leg for them either.  We bought some grits and cornmeal.  At another booth we stopped to chat with a man named Tripp (first name) who was inoculating logs for growing mushrooms.  He and Richard talked for a good  twenty or so minutes about shiitakes and oyster mushrooms.  Richard is trying to grow mushrooms, too.  Mmmmm!  Fresh shiitakes!

Well, that was my eventful weekend.  Oh, we had shrimp and tortellini for dinner on Saturday and today I'm baking a carrot cake with cream cheese icing for Richard's birthday, coming up soon.

*Pain and Wonder is the name of a tattoo parlor in Athens, GA.  I never went there.  There is another tattoo place called the Midnight Iguana.  I don't know where they came up with these names!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Daffydills Is Bloomin'! The Daffydills Is Bloomin'!

This is a picture of our first daffodil of the year. They are almost always the first flower to bloom and I find them very cheery. I took this picture two days ago, and now daffodils are springing up all over the place. I love daffodils.

Here's Bagheera, looking shyly away from the camera. Actually she's trying to ignore me. Cats are so good at that. This cat is so energetic I'm glad we don't let her outside. She'd be quite the huntress and would bring us all kinds of dead critters.

My husband, a dedicated cat lover, has all kinds of names for our cats. Let's face it, "Bagheera," is a bit of a mouthful, so right after we got her, he called her Baggie. I protested, but he ignored me. Then Baggie got lengthened to Baggie Boo. A little while later that was shortened to just Boo, and then it grew into Boo Boo. A couple of weeks ago he called her Boo Bear which morphed into Boo Berry. I give him a hard time, but I'm now calling her Boo Baby. Poor cat doesn't know who she is.

I thought y'all might like to know what I really look like, although I will qualify this revelation by saying that I am not particularly photogenic. This picture was taken at a restaurant that we went to for my birthday a while back. My profile picture is of me when I was two years old. I was cute then.

Here's Dashiell, looking a little deranged because of the reflection of the flash in his eyes, but also kind of cute. He's a sweet cat. He's sitting in one of his favorite spots. Sometime I let him sit there when I'm washing dishes and he seems mighty interested in what I'm doing.

I don't know what this flower is called (and neither does Richard), but I thought it was pretty so I took a picture of it. I think this was at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia in Athens.

As you can tell, I didn't have much to say but I said it anyway. I hope you enjoyed the pictures.

Friday, February 4, 2011

OMG -- Does This Girl Do Nothing But Read??

Here are some short reviews of the books I've read so far this year:

Easily Amused, by Karen McQuestion. When twenty-nine-year-old Lola Watson inherits her aunt's house in the suburbs, she thinks it just may be the cherry on a banner year. After all, she’s happily single, with fabulous friends and her dream job working at a popular magazine. Life is perfect—until her new neighbors make her their new “project,” a heartbroken high school friend crashes indefinitely at her house, and her younger sister announces she’s getting married…on Lola’s thirtieth birthday. Suddenly Lola’s not so keen on her newfound domestic bliss. But when she meets handsome, mysterious Ryan Moriarty, Lola dares to hope she’s found the perfect guy to one-up her sister and add a little spice back into her life. This light-hearted romance is headlined by a charming cast of characters, led by the self-deprecatingly funny Lola. Breezy and fun, Easily Amused serves as a gentle, often amusing reminder that love can often be found in the place we least expect—under our very noses. ( Review). I found this book fun to read. It's the first McQuestion book I've read, and it probably won't be the last. I think her other books are probably not so lightweight as this one. The most fun thing about this novel was the ending.

Don't Look Back, by Karin Fossum. This is another of the Scandinavian mysteries that I like so much. This one is set in Norway. A vital young girl of 15 is found dead on a lakeshore, totally naked but arranged in a position as if she were just sleeping. She was covered with a parka, and her clothes were all neatly folded near her. The medical examiner is a little baffled about the cause of death because she had only a few markings on her and they didn't seem as if they were enough to kill her. Inspector Sejer of the Oslo police finds real clues hard to come by, so he concentrates on the people in her small community, trying to find some connection to her death. After much investigation, annoying many in the community by his doggedness, he slowly uncovers the killer. The novel is complex and I found myself unable to put it down. I think I finished it in record time. Karin Fossum has become one of my favorite mystery authors, and I've only read two of her stories so far!

Trust Me on This, by Jennifer Crusie. Dennie Banks is a society page reporter with aspirations for more serious journalism, going after a big story. Alec Prentice is a government agent working undercover. When they meet by accident in a hotel lobby, Alec takes Dennie as the partner of an elusive con man he's been after for years. Dennie thinks Alec is a con man. Unfortunately, they are instantly attracted to one another. It seems that everything either of them does just deepens the suspicions of the other. They both resist the attraction they have for one another, because Dennie thinks that Alec is running interference for her interview subject, a well-known professor who has just gotten divorced. As their confusion grows, so do their feelings for each other, and what begins as a comedy of errors may just end in the love affair of a lifetime. As usual, Jennifer Crusie comes through with a fun story. This is the first one I've read, though, that does not have a dog in it. The story did not lend itself to the inclusion of a dog. The lack of a dog, however, did not diminish my enjoyment of this novel one bit.

The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentlemen Farmers: An Unconventional Memoir, by Josh Kilmer-Purcell. When the author and his partner are driving home to NYC after a weekend of apple-picking in upstate New York, they come across a lovely Victorian farmhouse near a small, almost deserted-looking village. They stop in what appears to be the only open business, a hotel and restaurant, and find that the place is not deserted after all. They inquire about the farmhouse because they want a weekend place to escape to. Josh is in advertising and Brent works for Martha Stewart. They end up buying the farm, on which the house has already been restored. The story is of their experiences in the country, finding someone to run the place when they are not there, welcoming animals to the farm, building a garden, and just generally working hard and getting their hands dirty. They get to know the locals and are welcomed by them. The memoir is humorous in the first half, but things get tense when Josh quits his job to live on the farm full time, and Brent is "downsized." Their relationship suffers. Josh was about to be let go from his job as well about the time he decided to move to the farm. It was his dream to do that, and Brent wanted to make it happen for him. They struggled financially, although they got help from the herd of goats that Farmer John brought to the property. They made goat's milk soap, started an online business and a blog about the farm. Things were going pretty well, until the fall of 2008, when Wall Street imploded, and people stopped buying so many non-essentials. The story details the struggle, both financially and emotionally, and their triumph over both. It was a wonderful story. It was one of those Amazon recommendations, so I downloaded it to my Kindle and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Dark Lover, by J.R. Ward. This was a departure from my usual reading selections. My sister recommended Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series, so I have read the first novel. The good guys in this story are mostly vampires. At first I was a little put off by the hokey spelling of the Brotherhood members' names (Rhage; Zsadist; Tohrment; Phury; Vishous) but after a while I just went with it. The main characters are Beth, a half-breed who doesn't know she's about to become a vampire, and Wrath, the leader of the Brotherhood. Beth's father, whom she never knew, was Darius, who was killed by the Lessening Society in a car bomb attack. The Lessening Society's only reason for existence is to kill vampires. They are the bad guys. They have no souls or hearts. Darius asks Wrath to help Beth through the "transition." Wrath doesn't want to because he doesn't want much to do with females because his main focus is protecting his race against the Lessening Society. Wrath is also the vampire king. But after Darius dies, Wrath knows he must honor his friend's request. He goes to see Beth, watching her from outside her apartment. She sees him momentarily and he nearly scares her half to death. Beth is a crime reporter, but she's beginning to find bright light uncomfortable. Wrath does help her through her transition, because he falls in love with her, although he resists it. Dark Lover is a well-written story with lots of twists and turns. After the minor thing about the spelling, I was able to suspend my disbelief and really enjoy this novel. There are subsequent books, each focusing on one of the members of the Brotherhood. I may or may not read on. There are so many things I want to read, I'm not sure I want to commit to a series. But it was good.

Night of the Living Deed, by E.J. Copperman. Alison Kerby has just bought a grand old Victorian house on the Jersey Shore to turn into a guest house so she can support herself and her daughter. Strange things begin to happen in her restoration efforts and after being conked on the head by a bucket of joint compound, she is able to see the two ghosts who inhabit the house. At first, she's in denial. There is no such thing as ghosts, but these two apparitions will not go away. They want her to investigate and find out who killed them. She resists, and Maxie, the ghost who can pick up solid objects, keeps sabotaging her work on the house. She finally agrees to investigate, especially after she finds out that both her daughter and her mother can see the ghosts. She finds out that there may be a deed hidden in the house with George Washington's signature on it that is worth about a half million dollars. An anonymous caller and e-mailer keeps telling her she has a time limit on finding that deed and turning it over to him/her. She has several suspects, but can't really pin anything solid on them. The caller/e-mailer threatens her daughter and her mother, and Alison becomes rather frantic to find the deed. This is a fun read and I think I'm going to put Copperman's next book on my reading list.

My reading efforts are starting off well this year. I have a bunch downloaded onto my Kindle, and I got quite a few books for Christmas. Right now I'm reading Pat Conroy's My Reading Life and A Year on Ladybug Farm by Donna Ball.

Happy reading!