Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Washington D.C.

We have traveled all over the world visiting most of Europe's capitols, but we had never visited our own capitol until our daughter moved there, and now I can't understand why we didn't go sooner.  It's a beautiful city and though we've now been many times I don't think we'll ever see it all.
This trip we visited some of the Smithsonian museums, an absolutely incredible collection of 19 museums that were originally funded by an English scientist named James Smithson (1764-1829).
We went to the Freer Gallery a creation of Charles Freer who was a 19th century collector of American artists and amassed the nation's largest collection of James Whistler's work, and it is this rotating collection I always want to see.  On exhibit this time were a number of small engravings, water colors, drawings and one magnificent oil painting, Sweet, Silent Thoughts.  His work is so luminous that it makes me despair of ever painting anything worthwhile.
Then for something completely different we went to the Air and Space Museum to enjoy the history of American flight from the Wright Brothers to the Apollo modules to the Mars rover.  We expected the museum to be packed but it wasn't and we had a great time, could have spent the whole day there, but lunch called.

Charles Lindbers's Spirit of St. Louis




Apollo 11
One of Amelia Earhart's Planes















The Wright Brothers' Plane
Next time it's to the American History Museum, they've got Julia Child's Kitchen and I must see it.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Travels

We're back from D.C. where we went to spend Thanksgiving with our daughter and we had a wonderful trip, it had all the best elements, a visit with our daughter, good food and great sightseeing.
We had a good Thanksgiving dinner with her in Annapolis at Buddy's Ribs and Crab, and just like last year it was wonderful, not too salty as buffets can be, loads of seafood, many meat choices, 4 different seafood soups  and tons of veggies and desserts.  We stopped just before we had eaten too much.  The best part of going out for Thanksgiving, besides not having to cook, is not having a ton of leftovers that you feel obligated to eat.  Buddy's was packed, and for good reason, good food at a reasonable price and open on a holiday.
But even better than that the next day April took us to a Cuban restaurant she'd discovered  in D.C. called Cuba Libre.  It was actually a  rum bar and a fantastic restaurant.  Looking over the menu, deciphering the Spanish, deciding how hungry we were,  we started ordering.  And we ordered enough tapas to fill two tables, chicarrones, albondigas, gauva bbq ribs, papas rellenas, and pulpo. Mac and April raved about the pulpo, that was fried baby octopus, and I preferred the papas rellenas, stuffed potato skins, and the albondigas, those were meatballs.   For dessert we had pudin diplomatico, warm banana and chocolate  bread pudding with a rum and pineapple sauce,   tocino del cielo, flan with a candied orange salad  and dulce de leche, the best ice cream I've ever eaten.  We forgot to take pictures of anything but the meatballs (albondigas) and the desserts.
The setting was beautiful and the food was even better.  And as a final touch, your bill is brought to you in a cigar box, oh funny is that! We all love Cuban food which is a cross between Spanish, not Mexican, and Caribbean food.  Can't wait to eat there again.
Our last morning there we hit the Honey Bee Diner an old-fashioned 50's diner that serves breakfasts big enough to feed an army, and needless to say the place was packed.





We always laugh about the fact that when we get together we always eat, but isn't half the  fun?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

It's Thanksgiving tomorrow and I just want to mention a few of the things I thankful for.
First my husband and daughter, the two people who make my life worthwhile. Each day is a gift and I am thankful.
I'm thankful for my extended family and friends who are spread all over the place but are always close to me in my thoughts and heart.
I'm thankful we're all in good health here and wish it were so for all our friends too.
I'm thankful that though I'm blind as a bat I can still see.
I'm thankful for Miss Kitty our furry friend who keeps us on our toes.
I'm thankful we only have presidential elections every 4 years, it just seems like we have them all the time.
My knees are thankful we're having a dry Autumn.
I'm thankful I don't have to cook tomorrow.
And I'm thankful for Blogger, it's just so much fun reading blogs!

Monday, November 21, 2011

My Life As a Turkey

Last weekend we watched an interesting/strange program on PBS about Joe Hutto, a naturalist, who spent 18 months raising a family of wild turkeys in Florida.  He'd found a bowl of 16 turkey eggs on his front porch and decided to incubate them, imprint them on himself and raise them.  The show reenacted the 18 months he spent living with them, living closely, very closely, spending hours a day in their coop after he'd lost one to a snake, with them.  I can't imagine being that close to turkeys, we lived near, a mile or two away, from a turkey farm in Colorado and on windy days boy did they stink!
The program was intriguing, I loved his relationship with Sweetpea and Turkey Boy, I liked that he learned to mimic their vocalizations, but I didn't need to see him eating a grasshopper or really believe all the personality attributes he gave  to the turkeys, a bit of wishful thinking at times I think.  I don't think I realized that turkeys flew, I mean I know chickens fly short distances, but it was wild to see the turkeys fly up into the trees to roost.  We saw a flock of wild turkeys the last time we were out on Cumberland Island, they we certainly a long-legged bunch, darn near as tall as  me, but then I'm not very tall.
Wild turkeys are rather different from our domestic ones, they look taller and definitely have smaller breasts.  Our domestic ones have been bred to have huge breasts so there'll be lots of white meat at dinner.
After 18 months of being their mother the turkeys all left him, except for Turkey Boy, who eventually turned on him and attacked him.
He's now living in Wyoming with a herd of deer, rather a strange man.
Here's Mac's painting of a turkey he did a few years ago.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Reading, Reading, Reading

Back on August 18 I began keeping a Reading Journal for a couple of reasons.  I wanted to keep track of what kind of books I was reading, what I liked or didn't like about them, and how many books I was actually reading.  Now I've always been a "heavy" reader.  I keep books in the family room, in the bedroom and in the bathroom.  I knew I read a lot, but even I was surprised to find that since August 18 I have read 35 books.
A lot of crime books: In the Woods, The Likeness, Faithful Place --all by Tana French
The Complete Works of Agatha Christie Volume 1, the Early ¥ears
Found Wanting   Robert Goddard
The Crossing Place and The Janus Stone   by  Elly Griffths
A Duty to the Dead,  An Impartial Witness and Test of Wills   Charles Todd (a mother/son writing team)
The Closers,  The Narrows   by  Michael Connelly, I have 3 more of his waiting to be read.
I also read some classics:  Pride and Prejudice (for about the 100th time), David Copperfield and The Age of Innocence
I read a bunch of Rumer Goddens that I had read years ago or read for the first time:  Black Narcisscus,  Peacock Summer, China Court and I'm currently reading Greengage Summer by her.
There were several books I just couldn't finish.  I've tried for months, literally, to get through Steven Erikson's Gardens of the Moon.  It was highly recommended, I like science fantasy on a large scale, but I slowed plowed through nearly 400 pages of it, still had to keep looking characters up in the index at the front of the book to keep people, and things, straight, and finally realized I just didn't care enough to finish it.
I also couldn't finish How to Live in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu, too, too pretentious.
I also didn't like Book Lust by Nancy Pearl.  She's a well regarded librarian who has written a number of books on book recommendations, but I found her recommendations too politically correct to be worth while.  What do I mean?  Well, you have to read this African/American author, this woman, that immigrant, that homosexual, that single mother etc.  I don't pick my books that way.  I would recommend 1001 Books for Every Mood by Hallie Sphron PH.D. instead, I reading it now and finding lots of good recommendations.

But the books I've enjoyed the most were a family trilogy by Marcia Willet:  Looking Forward,  Holding On and Winning Through.
It's the story of 3 orphaned children, Fliss, Mole and Susannah whose parents and older brother had been killed in Kenya by the Mau-Maus, and they go to live with their Grandmother Freddy (Frederica) at the Keep in Devon.  I'm an absolute sucker for family sagas and this was a good one.  It reminded me very much of the Elliot Family Trilogy by Elizabeth Goudge (Bird in the Tree, Pilgrim's Inn and Heart of the Family), and in fact one of the characters in this book references those books.
The books follow the children from their arrival when they are 8, 5 and 2 till Fliss, the oldest, is in her 50's.  I was sad to see the last book end, but then I discovered that after a couple of years the author wrote one more about the family, The Prodigal Wife.  I've ordered it but I've held off reading it because I can't stand for the story to end.

So what have you been reading?


















Friday, November 18, 2011

Ready For Poirot

I've cleaned the upstairs tv room, it needed it badly.  Sometimes I'm not very good about getting in there and sorting things out.  But tonight we're having a Hercules Poirot evening and I knew that it would not do, he would not approve of the room's condition.  So I vacuumed, dusted, sorted, folded and put the room, or at least the front of the room where we watch tv, in order.  As to the back of the room, Mac's pub, well, I don't know what Poirot would say, but I fear he would not be happy, and instead of solving the crime he'd be organizing things.






Before








After

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fall doesn't come early in the South, and unfortunately it doesn't linger, but as I've grown older  it has become my favorite time of year.  Last Friday night we had a frost and the leaves have finally started changing color and have begun to fall.
Millions of acorns are falling too.  As we make our morning walk you can hear them hitting cars, roofs, driveways and us.  They hit hard and I often wonder if they dent the cars they're hitting.
One of my favorite fall smells is  of wood smoke and burning leaves.
Plants are being moved into the greenhouse, others relocated to free up bed space for more plants,  and bulbs are being dug in.
Mac's turtles are in semi-hibernation in their aquariums now, coming out on warm days for a small bite of food and then reburying themselves.
We've had two days of too warm weather, up in the 80's, but now we're back to the 70's, I could walk forever in weather like this.
Hope you're enjoying fall wherever you are.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Spelling

I have always been the world's worst speller.  Oh I got good grades in it at school, I'd memorize the spelling of words long enough to pass the weekly spelling test and then, unless they were words I used all the time, I'd forget how to spell them.  I always said that it was a small mind that could only imagine one spelling for a word.  Thank goodness for   words like grey/gray, centre/center, theater/theatre.
 I've forgotten nearly all the spelling rules I ever knew, like when to double an ending consonant (hint, if there is a vowel next to it you double the  consonant before adding an ending, sometimes), the adage "i before e except after c" and dropping an ending "y" when adding some endings.
Becoming a teacher and having to teach spelling rules helped my spelling some, but it wasn't until Facebook and Blogger that my spelling got better, they point out your misspelled words and make you find the correct spelling.  Twitter is no help at all, it not only doesn't care if you misspell a word, it actively encourages you to do so.
In the course of writing this Blog today I misspelled 3 words, including misspelled, but thanks to Blogger I fixed them, maybe next time I'll remember.  Now if I could get some grammar help.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Fussy Feet

The Cheap Shoes



Look At How They're Wearing
For years I've bought cheap inexpensive shoes to walk in, my feet liked them, my bank account liked them, we were all happy.
 We walk as least 2 miles a day so it's important to have shoes my feet are happy with. They have velcro closures which I love, both because I'm lazy and the fact that for years shoe companies were putting in shoe laces so long that even when I double knotted them I was still tripping over them.
The New Shoes
 Unfortunately the last couple of times I bought my walking shoes they lasted barely more than a month, I was wearing the heels out and the tread was disappearing at an alarming rate.  When you wear them out that quickly they're no bargain. Mac was having the same problem with his shoes so we decided we'd have to stop buying the cheap inexpensive shoes and find a better brand.  Looking online I found some we were both happy with, at double the price of the old ones.  They look good, feel fine when I put them on, but when we go out for our walk both of us have our feet barking at us.  It's getting better and in time  my feet will probably  like them as well as the cheap inexpensive shoes.
 Meanwhile, when I'm through with my walk, running in and out of the house, and up and down the stairs I grab my feet's favorites, the leopards.  You can almost hear the sigh of relief.













The Leopards

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Up in My Lair

I've been busy making Christmas gifts up in my lair, uh sewing room.  I'm not very handy so it all takes longer than it should, but it's so satisfying!  The cat has been of enormous help, rolling on all the fabric, jumping on my lap when I using the sewing machine and carrying off small parts I need.
The new sewing machine has been wonderful, it I 'd had it sooner I'd be through with a lot of my projects already, but I'm cheap, eh thrifty, and tried much longer than I should have to keep the old one going.  So I ended up having to redo many parts of one of the projects.
 Can't show what I'm working on but I'm using these books and some of this material.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veteran's Day

Today is Veteran's  Day and we say thank you to all the veterans who have served this country.  I have no relatives who served in World War I, my grandfathers were too young.  In World War II I had uncles from both sides of the family who served, but not my father, bad eye sight (which I inherited), and thankfully all of them made it home.
Mac's family was not so lucky, he lost an uncle in World War II, his uncle Mac who he is named after.  He had served in the South Pacific, met a girl in Australia, got engaged, and then near the end of the war he was killed.  Below is the letter his commanding officer sent to his mother.
                                     
Mrs. Mary Hernandez,
927 Watkins St. ,
Hayward, Calif.

Dear Mrs. Hernandez:

     Your son, Corporal Modesto Hernandez, served in this battalion since February, 1942.  He worked in the message center, and I always saw him several times a day.  I knew him quite well.
     On March 20, 1945, we made the assault landing on the beach at Zamboanga.  We immediately began to shoot at the Japs and they fired on us with artillery all through the day.  About five o'clock in the evening one of the shells burst right in front of the dugout where Modesto was working.  It killed several of our boys and wounded many others.  A fragment flew into the dugout and killed your son instantly.
     He was buried in the United States Armed Forces Cemetery No.1 Zamboanga, Mindenao, Phillippine Islands, on March 11, 1945 with full military honors.  The services were conducted by Father Terwood, Catholic Chaplain to the 41st Division of Artillery.  The  Father knew Modesto quite well.
     Your son served in battles at Salamana, New Guinea, Hollandia, Biak Island, Dutch New Guinea and Zamboanga, P.I.  He was very brave in combat under enemy fire and always performed all of his duties in an exemplary manner.  He was willing, cheerful, industrious and efficient as a soldier.  Everyone in this battalion knew him and liked him.  We called him "Shorty."
     We wish to extend our deepest sympathy to you at this time.  You may be justly proud of the fine record your son made in the Army and the splendid service he rendered to our country.  We who were friends and fellow soldiers with Modesto in combat will always remember him with affection.


                                                         Yours sincerely,
     
                                                         Ralph E. Cole
                                                         Lt. Col. F. A.
                                                         Comdg.  205th F. A. Bn.

Mac's Mother told me that it broke her mother's heart when Mac (his name was Modesto, named for a family friend, but everyone called him Mac) was killed  and I can well understand.
My Mac spent 21 years in the Army and each day I'm grateful that he didn't have to serve in a war.
So I say thank you to all those who've served this country
                                            

Monday, November 7, 2011

Paintings

Mac has finished a couple of small paintings that he's going to put in his pub.  He used his own jugs and flask as models.  I love the colors.  Now he's working on some Christmas paintings.

I've been working on Christmas presents and boy my new sewing machine is making that a whole lot easier.  My sister Susie says she can't sew well enough to make gifts, I said neither can I, but people are going to get homemade anyway.  It is the thought, and the work, that counts.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Tis The Season

I think I'm the Queen of catalogues, they fill my mailbox each day though   I never order from them.  If I find something I like I go online and order it there.  The smart thing , and economical thing,  for them to do then  is to simply send me an e-mail inviting me to their site or sale.   If I'm interested I'll go visit, of course it had better be a user-friendly site, I don't waste my time if the site doesn't operate smoothly and quickly.
Amazon is my ideal.  In fact if I want something and I find it on another site I then go and check to see if Amazon has it and if they do I order from them.  Because I have Amazon Prime which I pay about $79.00 a year and it gives me 2 day delivery on most of the things I buy with free shipping.
But back to the catalogues, some business's have been sending me catalogues for years and I never order from them, how expensive is that?  My mail lady and I laughed about the catalogues one day and she said she got almost as many.  I do which they wouldn't waste the paper though, all of mine just end up in the trash.

Friday, November 4, 2011

I Don't Know Why

I don't know why, but sometimes I collect strange things, little things.  This little collection is in the window in the w.c.  I love John Deere and so ever so often Mac gets me a little John Deere vehicle.  At yard sale time when we were trying to declutter I said perhaps I should sell my trucks, so Mac told me to pick some out, but as I looked through them I realized I couldn't, so I kept them and there they sit, something rather different to look at.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Good Bye and Good Riddance

Possibly Possessed by an Evil Spirit
I have fought with you for the last 2 years, you've made what should have been an enjoyable time a time of frustration.  I've tried to work with you, I've tended your parts, bought you good thread and needles, babied you, read all your manuals, studied all your diagrams, had Mac clean all your tiny parts and to no avail.  You couldn't be bothered to sew a simple stitch, so enjoy your trip down the garage stairs.
My new machine got here yesterday and it is so easy, so simple, so user friendly .   No the bobbin is not hidden inside 2 different compartments that have to be disassembled whenever something goes wrong with the bobbin thread.  It's right there in front of me in a see-through compartment that I can get to so easily.  I drop the bobbin in, pull the thread through the threader and I'm done.
My new machine has a metal thread holder that actually fits the machine and doesn't go flying off into space when I'm speeding along.  
I'm nearly half-way done with a Christmas project that I've tried to work on for weeks, if not for a mistake on my part I'd be almost done.
Sewing is a pleasure again and not a torture.  So when you hit the bottom of the stairs, take your manual and hit the road.

My New Machine
Actually I'll be donating it to Goodwill, maybe they can coax it to work, I just like the image of it flying down the stairs.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Sometimes They Actually Listen

Bureaucrat
Each year for the least few years as house prices have gone down in value, our house taxes have gone up.  Finally this year I decided to do something about it, researched what houses were selling for in our area so  I'd have a better idea of fair market value, which is what our taxes are supposedly based on, and filed an appeal of our taxes.  Mac, though he didn't think it had a chance in h**l,  said to go for it, and I did.  That was back in August
Saturday we got a form from the county tax assessor showing our taxes for the coming year.  They'd accepted my appeal and our taxes have been dropped, significantly.  Of course that means our house is worth less, but we owe far less than its value and have no plans to sell for awhile so that's fine.  So I'm very happy, surprised, but happy.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Flounder Florentine

 I tried a new recipe this weekend and it looked great, but it tasted just ok.   Part of the problem was that I put the flounder in layers and I should have cooked it as a single layer.  I wasn't real happy with the spinach on the bottom either.  Even though I'd thawed it and drained it, wrung out as much of its liquid as I could,  it was still a bit soggy.
Mac had ordered this dish when we ate out in St. Mary's awhile back and asked me if I could cook it.  So I went online and found a recipe for it.  The ingredients were a bit different but I thought it would work anyway,    The one he had eaten had  used feta cheese,  but the recipe I found  called for parmesan cheese.  Knowing Mac loves cheese, even though I don't, I put a bit of each in.
Mac thought it tasted good, but I'm not much of a fish eater and much fussier about how it should taste.  So the next time I fix this I'll do a single layer of fish, cook the spinach separately and put the fish on it when I serve it and use parmesan only, I'll give Mac a bit of feta on his if he wants. The fish also needed a bit of acidity so I'll add lemon juice and white wine next time .  It's fun to try new recipes, even when they don't turn out perfectly.

Tuesday in the Swamp

The house is once again filled with the smell of Gingerbread, I baked a load of little men, even wore my Gingerbread Apron, but I'm too ...