Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Southern Living

I don't take many magazines anymore, in fact I only take one: Southern Living.  All its articles, pictures, recipes are about the South, from Maryland to Texas and all the places in between.  That's where we live so I love reading about this part of the country.  It helps us plan trips, gives good gardening tips and has the best recipes anywhere.  One year for our daughter's birthday I made a Key Lime Pie for her based on their recipes.
But more than anything else I love the pictures.  A couple of months ago they had a pictorial on growing lettuces in containers.  One of the pictures really caught my eye and I knew I had to paint it.  Finished it yesterday and it's upstairs drying so we can frame it and hang it.  Have to put it some where in the kitchen.





My Painting

Monday, April 29, 2013

Languages

I saw a funny little blurb somewhere, can't remember where, that soon China will be the largest English speaking country in the world.  It always amazes me how other nations insist on their  citizens learning another language, usually starting at a young age, and a foreign language is not a requirement in high school or in many colleges here in the States.
There was a joke I heard when I was a Bilingual teacher:
What do you call a person who speaks 3 languages?   Trilingual
What do you call a person who speaks 2 languages ?   Bilingual
What do you call a person who speaks 1 language?  An American

It's sad but true.  Other than people who grew up in a home where a foreign language was spoken most Americans only speak English, and not even that very well.
I've lost a lot of my Spanish since I retired from teaching and don't speak it every day, but I'll never forget it, and keep several Spanish textbooks on my Kindle so I can practice a bit from time to time.

I speak a bit of German too, what I call kitchen German, I can shop, order food and ask directions.  We lived in Germany and I took classes in it, but we lived on an American base and didn't have to use it daily.  If you don't use it you'll definitely lose it.

Mac grew up in a house where the parents spoke Spanish to each other, but not to their kids (not after the first one because the school complained when he started school and he didn't speak English) and though he understands it, has a great accent, can really trill those "r's", he doen't really speak it.  In college he took German and when we lived in Turkey he really got quite good at Turkish,  a language I could never get a handle on.

I think learning a foreign language is important, our daughter took German classes when we lived in Germany, French all the way through high school, Spanish in college and Japanese classes for years.  She says that she regrets that she didn't do an undergraduate degree in linguistics.

On April 16 Dawn Treader  at Beyond the Lone Islands wrote about what languages she could speak and read in, I was amazed.  It made me feel very uneducated.

What do you think?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

I Need a Mulligan

Using our backyard and the putting green we golfed today and Mac absolutely skunked me.  He even eagled one hole.    Whereas my long game, or what passes for a long game in our backyard was totally off.  I had to take a drop because of one lie (we're talking major stickerweed infestation here) and had to hit left handed for another.  I had a beautiful putt going and my ball decided to stop and  just sit on the lip of the cup.  Mac made an almost identical putt and his went in.   My only excuse is that I was tired from housework and aerobics.  He laughed.  Wait till next time.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Piano Tuning

My piano tuner came today, it takes about an hour to get it to sound like I haven't been hammering on it for a year.  As we sat in the other room Mac commented that it sounded, literally, like a rather boring job.  I said that at $100 an hour it was pretty lucrative though.
Miss Kitty hates to hear the piano being tuned.  Though she enjoys my playing and has been known to pick out a few notes herself she becomes quite "bat-earred" when it's tuned.  She'd probably pay him not to do it.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Another Great Book

I go through long spells of reading books that are ok, not great, not brilliant, just ok.  Then I get lucky and start hitting some gems.  One of those gems was The End of Your Life Book Club, and from that book I found The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett.  Bennett is an author I was not familiar with, but I should have been .  He is better known as a playwright and wrote the play The History Boys and co-authored the screenplay for the movie.  I LOVED The History Boys!  He also wrote the play and screenplay for The Madness of King George another movie I love.  So I shouldn't be surprised by his absolutely brilliant little  book The Uncommon Reader, it was wonderful, and far too short at 120 pages.  I plan on rereading it immediately!
The story is simple, one day while chasing her dogs outside at Windsor Castle Queen Elizabeth notices a Book Mobile, a traveling library from the City of London parked out back.  The dogs enter it and she follows.  Inside she chats with the driver/librarian and the lone patron, Norman, who turns out to be a worker in her kitchen.  Not wanting to be ungratful, and though she's not much of a reader, "she read of course, as one did, but liking books was something she left to other people." she checked out a book.  She worked her way through the book and meant   to  have someone else return it the next week, but   instead finds herself in the book mobile once again  where,  with the help of Norman her kitchen helper she checks out another book, and soon her fascination with books  really takes off.   To the  dismay  of nearly everyone she turns into a reader.
Oh it was so much fun to watch her journey through books and how she grew as a person.
What a great movie this would make, I picture Judie Dench or Helen Mirren (hasn't she played her once before?) playing her.
If you're looking for an amusing, well written book I couldn't recommend it more highly. Mac, after listening to me go on about it, says he's going to read it too.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Busy, Busy, Busy

Busy, not like a beaver particularly, though I do waddle a bit like one.
How did I ever find time to work?  Did I have my students working for me?  I barely get things done now that I'm retired, I must have been much better organized.

Monday wasn't too bad I finally got cushions made for my outdoor chairs, that's only been on my to do list for 3 years, but  it took me forever to:
a)  find an outdoor fabric I liked
b)  find an outdoor fabric that didn't cost an arm, leg, firstborn cat
c)  figure out why my sewing machine wasn't working right, eh, that will have been pilot error

Then I started a raspberry pink throw for what's going to eventually stop being the white bedroom and become the pink bedroom or at least one wall of it.

Tuesday was spent grocery shopping, have I mentioned I hate grocery shopping and hauling tons of groceries up the stairs?  We've started pricing dumbwaiters.

Today  Mac and I walked 2 miles and then made peach jam, all of their jar lids have popped so they're ready to put up.
We also wrapped a painting that sold on Ebay and need to get another wrapped.
Then I listed 7 more paintings.

In between I did my aerobic exercise, I'm really getting too old for all of this.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Mustn't Grumble, HA!

It was 87˚ here yesterday, working in the garden I sweated enough to fill a small goldfish pond.  Doing my aerobics was even worse.  Then the rains came, and that's a good thing because it washes some to the pollen out of the air, pollen that has been running around 5,500 parts per cubic meter.
So the rains came, the air cooled and today the high is supposed to be 69˚, but it's going to be a real struggle to reach that because it nearly noon and it's only 54˚ and it's not acting like it plans on warming up much more.  Now I know that 54˚ isn't really cold, but compared to 87˚ it is and my bones and joints would be the first ones to tell you so.
But I'll be good and I won't grumble because then it might turn 90˚.

Friday, April 19, 2013

New Purse

I've been carrying my backpack purse forever, I'm not very stylish, and I began to worry that I was going to wear it out and I need it for when we travel.  So while shopping the other day I gave the purse aisle a look and found this one that's not quite as big as I like, but I refuse to carry what look  like oversized messenger bags and that's what most people seem to be carrying.  Nor am I attracted to the neon sacks that are posing as purses these days.
Last year I was all into polka dots, this year I think I prefer little checks.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

When You Live Next to a Lagoon

When you live next to a lagoon here in the south you never know what you might find on your doorstep.  I opened the front door and found a snake on our welcome mat one time, but I guess we're luckier than the lady who lives in Hilton Head, South Carolina.  She opened her front door yesterday morning about 5 am to take her dog out for its morning walk and found a 12 foot alligator on her front porch.
Security in their gated community were unable to lure it back into the lagoon next to the house and professional animal wranglers had to be called in .  At first, figuring the home owner had exaggerated about the size of the animal, all alligators look huge to nonprofessional alligator folks,  they only sent one man.  They ended up having  to send for more help because the gator was about 12 feet long and weighed more than a 1,000 pounds.
Some gators get relocated away from urban areas, but this one was too big and too aggressive, he was put down.
Right now we have 2 gators living in our lagoon, one about 4 feet long and the other about 7 feet.  Probably time for the bigger one to be removed, certainly don't want to find him sunbathing on our back deck.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

In Times of Sorrow

I feel so sorry for my country, this use to be a wonderful place to live.  Neighbors knew each other and watched out for one another.  Doors were left unlocked.  Children played in the streets.  Families ate together.
The country of my childhood it no more.
Whether it was a foreign national or a home grown loony we're once again reminded of how unhappy people are, of  their need to spread hatred and fear.
I sat in my garden yesterday and though it soothes me it doesn't heal.  Is there a way to heal a country?  Is there a way to bring people together?  I thought after 9/11 we had a chance, but it slipped by, we're more divided, more angry, more fearful than ever.
It's too sad for words, how many times are the scenes on my tv to be repeated?
















Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Masters

We're not golfers, but we do enjoy watching it played, the courses are gorgeous, and none more so than the Augusta Golf Course where the Masters is played.  It started Thursday and in homage to that Mac resurrected our putting green, planted some new rye grass, relined it with pea gravel and made a Duffer to hold the hole flag and sort of protect our satellite dish.
We played 6 holes today with our own strange set of guidelines and I won by a stroke, that won't happen again.
What I feared when we had such a long winter, even though it could only be considered cold by a thin-blooded southerner, seems to be happening.  We're going from winter to summer, giving spring a miss altogether.  Yesterday it was 88 here and though it's a bit cooler today it definitely feels more like summer than spring.

Friday, April 12, 2013

A Great Book!

I just finished an incredible book, The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe.  I had read a number of reviews of it, but didn't really think it was my kind of book, it was about a man's Mother dying of pancreatic cancer, how could it be anything but a a downer no matter how well written.
Finally I succumbed, found it at my local library and checked it out via my Kindle, I figured that way I wouldn't lose any money if I decided it wasn't the book for me.
I was so wrong, it's a wonderful book, yes it's about a Mother dying, but it's so much more.  It's a love story,  a son's love for his Mother and hers for him, their love of books and what they shared because of the books they chose to read.
Mary Ann Schwalbe was an amazing woman: Founded The Women's Commission dealing with refugees
Served as Director of Admissions at Harvard and Radcliffe
First woman president of the Harvard Faculty Club in New York
Director of College Counseling at the Dalton school
Head of the Upper School at the Nightingale Bamford School
And so much more, she had traveled the world working on behalf of women and children.
At the beginning of the book she is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and told that it was "treatable, but not curable".  Most people with this diagnosis live 6 months or less (Mac's brother lasted barely 4 months after receiving this diagnosis), but she live another 2 years, going through chemo, a variety of illnesses and the wear and tear of the disease.
Until the end she never slowed down, still traveling, still writing, still working to have a library established in Afghanistan.
Through it all her family and friends are with her, particularly her son Will and they form a book club of 2 and read and reread a number of books, and such interesting books that told so much about who they were as people.
I'm always looking for new books to read and I've already ordered 3 of the books they read (The Uncommon Reader-Alan Bennett, Crossing to Safety-Wallace Stegner, Olive Kitteridge-Elizabeth Strout), a number I'd already read ( The Great Santini-Pat Conroy, Auntie Mame-Patrick Dennis)  and many more.
I don't recommend a lot of books, people's taste varies too much, but this  is  a wonderful book, not about death, but rather a celebration of life and love.

Mary Ann Schwalbe

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Thoughts on Talking

I'm still reading The Kinta Years by Janice Holt Giles and I'm enjoying the parts about her first year of school.  She said she liked school and only got switched once, for whispering across the aisle.
 I sympathize, I was always in trouble for talking at school.  I was a fairly quick learner and generally finished my work long before my classmates and so it was time to talk and I did, frequently getting in trouble for it.  I guess I was lucky that they no longer "switched" you for that or I would have frequently been punished.
The author said that she earned good scores (the grades were numeric) in everything but Deportment, that was the whispering.  As late as my Sophomore year in high school a teacher wrote on my Report Card,  "Talks too much!", to which my Father responded, "Stop her!", to which my teacher next replied,"Only one man, need an army!".  I still have the Report Card, good for a laugh now and then, and yes, I still talk too much.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Memory

I have been working my way through The Kinta Years by Janice Holt Giles (it was recommended to me by Morning's Minion) and I'm really enjoying it.  I had read a number of books by this author when I was growing up ( Johnny Osage, The Kentuckians), but I'd never read any of her autobiographical books.
This one is about her family moving to Kinta, Oklahoma when she was 4 and she talks about her earliest memories.  I was fascinated at the clarity of her memories from such an early age.  I have very few memories of my childhood and most of those begin when I was 8 or 9.  This is not a factor of old age, it's always been that way.  I use to ask my Mom if something happened to me or the family that wiped out most of my memories, but she'd laugh and say it was just an ordinary childhood.
I look at pictures of me at 4, 5, 6 and though I recognize myself I have no memory of the pictures being taken.
 I don't remember moving to Kansas City, MO when I was 3 and the trip took a couple of days and my Mom said I talked to everyone on the train, I don't remember my younger sister being born when I was a bit over 3 (my older sister who was 4 1/2 at the time says she remembers it well), I don't remember starting Kindergarten (who forgets their first day of school?), I don't remember First Grade, the move to Oklahoma, Second Grade or the move back to California the year I was 7.
I remember the house we rented when we went back, some friends from that time and my paternal Grandmother Lola.  But I don't remember ever having seen her before, though I had.
How strange.  Mac says he remembers laying in his crib and his Mother picking him up.
Am I the only one whose memory doesn't go back to very early childhood?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Are Potato Eyes Poisonous?

As I was peeling potatoes today, and digging out the eyes, I remember something my Mother?, my Grandmother?, some bit of arcane knowledge picked up who knows where?, that you should cut the eyes out of potatoes because they're poisonous.  So after peeling my potatoes I went to the Net and researched this to see if it's really true or just some old wive's tale.
Well, the answer is yes and no.  The eye itself is not toxic, but the sprouts (you know, those ugly white things)  that grows from them are.  They  contain glycoalkaloids that can cause nausea, cramping, vomiting, stomach upset, and diarrhea.  So that's the part that should be removed, you don't have to dig the eyes out, but I will, I know me.
The article I read went on to say that potatoes exposed to light will have higher concentrations of glycoalkaloids and cooking only makes that stronger.  Potatoes exposed to light will also develop green areas, this is chlorophyll, which is not toxic, be is an indicator that there is a high concentration of  glycoakaloid and the green area should be cut out.
Should also mention that potatoes, but not sweet potatoes, tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers and egg plant are members of the nightshade family.  The potato itself is the only part of the plant that isn't poisonous.  Just a little something to think about as you fix dinner.
I've always removed the eyes (dig those puppies out) and the sprouts, but I didn't know about removing the green area from a potato, one more thing to look for while peeling potatoes instead of day dreaming.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

FINALLY


If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.




It's a beautiful day here, finally!  Did a 2 mile walk and then worked in the garden, it's so pretty out there.  The Wisteria didn't do as well this year as normal, but still smells like heaven.  All kinds of bulbs coming up, the snowball tree is starting to bloom and the lemon tree looks like we're going to get a few lemons this year.
The tubs are full of potatoes, onions and garlic.
Time to go read a book.







Friday, April 5, 2013

Rainy Friday

It's been raining here since Thursday morning, not hard, but fairly steady.  Guess we're going to have a wet spring after having a wet winter.  Still much too cool here, barely in the 50's today, should be in the upper 70's.  I need to work in the yard, but the ground is way too wet.
We both had our 6 month, 60,000 mile check-ups yesterday and we're in pretty good shape for two old folks.
I got a little sewing done today, making new pillow covers  for the white bedroom. I put a green cover on the window seat when we first moved in, but I've been tired of it for quite awhile.  It matched the cream/ green with magnolias cover I had on the daybed, but I got tired of that too.  I flipped the cover over so only the cream shows and now I've covered the cushion in the window seat  with a bright pink cover, looks almost red.  Next I made new covers for the pillows I put there.  I bought some antique crochet trim (it has hearts) to go on the pillows, but found I didn't have enough for both covers  and ended up putting some eyelet on one of them.
I've taken all the stuffed animals out of the window, usually the whole window seat is covered with them.  When Miss Kitty naps there it's hard to pick her out from the stuffed critters.  It's kind of like ET in the closet with all the toys. So they're banished for a while  I'm sure they'll start creeping back in soon.
They're promising sunshine for the weekend so maybe I'll get to play in the yard.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Notes to the Traveling Public

For the most part we had a good traveling experience this trip, except Delta, yes you, who say we're Medallion Class Travelers and you want to make our flying experience memorable, who got us into Atlanta late, and no I don't blame you for weather delays, but I do blame you for landing us at the for end of one terminal when our flight was at the far end of another one, for not letting our connecting fly know we were hurrying as fast as we could to get to our gate, for not getting us a cart and whisking us there, for shutting the doors to our flight 10 minutes before departure and refusing to let us board even though the plane was just sitting there, or your gate agent who had to be found and seemed rather indifferent to the whole problem and for the agent who rebooked us (thank you for that) for the next available flight and put us in seat 13 E and F---gee, wonder why they were available at the last minute.
I guess I shouldn't be too upset with Delta because there was another factor at work last night too.  Most flights  move away from the gate on time nowadays instead of waiting for passengers they know are on the way.  You know why?  Because Congress decided to help the weary traveler and start fining airlines that don't leave on time so airlines don't wait for you any more, thank you Congress, I guess it's you I should be railing against instead of Delta, so you can have a Boo, Hiss too.
Now a few other notes:
•  Our compliments to all the children, and their parents,  we flew with this weekend you were wonderful.  We heard not one crying or whining child, it was amazing.
•  To all the men who wear sandals, your hairy toes are gross and there was no where we were where the weather justified sandals anyway.
Had a great trip overall, but boy it's good to be home.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Easter

Spent Easter in DC with our daughter, had great weather.  The cherry blossoms weren't out as they're having a late spring too.  But they did have kite flying on the Mall, saw some incredible kites.  Then we  went to the National Gallery to visit the Pre-Raphaelite painting exhibit.  Mac says he feels humble now, I just feel incompetent.
The Pre-Raphaelites included:
And most of these were represented at the exhibit as was Ford Mattox Brown.
We all agreed that John Everett Malais was our favorite.
I would have loved to have taken photos, but when I asked if it was allowed the room's docent said no because the paintings were on loan from the Tate (London) and they'd asked that there be no photos.  Too bad others didn't check for many were taking pictures.  I borrowed mine from the Net.
The purple in this painting just glowed!
We also ducked into an exhibit of Albrecht Durer drawings and engravings, but it was so crowded we didn't linger.
No matter how many times we visit the Smithsonian Museums there's always something new to see.
On the Mall outside the museums it was the annual kite flying festival, hard to see the kites, but there were some fantastic one.
All in all a great weekend.



Saturday in the Swamp

Beautiful cold day here, down to 36º last night and only expected to reach 60º today, but the sky is blue and it looks wintery. Lots to get...