Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Josie Still Working on Thank You's

Josie was sick all last week with some unidentified virus--not the flu or covid or anything nameable, according to the pediatrician. Her folks kept her home and away from the aged grandparents (us,) not wanting to spread the contagion. It took about seven days to run its course but as of yesterday, Josie's back in school and feeling fine. 

So yesterday, we returned to the writing of thank you notes for those kind folks who donated to her school's fundraiser. Three to go but we only got one done today. (I tried to suggest that 'thank you for helping my school' would be more graceful than 'thank you for the money,' but she was in favor of brevity. And as she reminded me, she's only in kindergarten.

When she finished the picture and the note for Janet, she wanted to paint some fruits and vegetables. When she finished the apple, she very proudly pointed out that she'd left a little white highlight like I'd showed her weeks ago.

She went on to do an orange, a blueberry, a strawberry, a potato, a banana, a chocolate bar, some broccoli, a tomato, an eggplant, and a slice of pepperoni pizza.

I'll be picking her up Wednesday and Friday and am confident we'll get those last two thank you notes done!


Monday, January 30, 2023

Taking Some Time Off

Busy searching the house for classified documents ... meanwhile, here are a few pictures.

A path of light through the woods

More watercolors and snow on the far-off Blue Ridge.


Saturday, January 28, 2023

More Than the Sum of Its Parts


 I kinda feel like I posted this recipe previously but can't find it so here goes.

We are big fans of collards and have been forever, long before kale came on the scene. There was a time, I recall, along about the first grade, that I didn't like collards but when my mother told me that Vance Smith (a boy in my first-grade class that I must have had a crush on) loved collards, I gave them another chance and have eaten them happily ever since.

My family always cooked them in broth with some sort of meat--fatback or hog jowl. I add onion, garlic, a tiny bit of sugar, red pepper flakes and serve them with chopped raw onion and vinegar. Sometimes I stir fry them. Mighty good, either way.

Then I saw this recipe on the package of greens (yes, a shortcut--chopped greens) and found another thing to love about collards.

Mixed with cooked potatoes and a little milk, the greens are elevated to, well, maybe not quite fine cuisine, but seriously and surprisingly good. Maybe an American version of England's Bubble and Squeak? Whatever--it's delicious. Would be a nice base for a fried egg too.

Here's the recipe:

3 pounds white potatoes, cut in two- inch chunks


2 TB. Olive oil

16 0z. chopped collard greens 

1/2 c. chopped red onion (or more) with more for garnish

1/2 to 3/4 c. milk

Cook potatoes in salted water to cover till tender. Drain in colander and set aside.

Add olive oil to drained pot, heat over medium heat, add greens and 1/2 tsp. salt. Stir till wilted.Add onions and cook another few minutes.

Add the drained potatoes to the greens and mash well. Stir in 1/2 c. milk. More milk and more salt if desired.


Friday, January 27, 2023

The Heavens by Sandra Newman

It's probably not for everyone but I was enthralled by the pinball-like plot of this book. If you liked The Time-Traveler's Wife (which I did), this might be for you.

Kate has dreams--vivid dreams of a life in 16th century England --and as her consciousness shuttles between modern day Manhattan and the world of Will Shakespeare (in which she is the 'dark lady' of the sonnets), she finds on each return to 'real' life, things have changed-- sometimes small things, sometimes past events that she remembers turn out not to have happened.

For me, this was compulsive, highly enjoyable reading. If I've piqued your curiosity, there's an excellent review that will tell you more HERE


Thursday, January 26, 2023

Learning Curve

Our amaryllis gave us weeks of enjoyment and I took lots of pictures. Now, while we wait for what looks like a second flower stalk on its way, I'm trying to use some of those pictures to help me learn how to deal with that tricky mottled shading. (A previous attempt, working from the actual blooming plant, showed me I had a long way to go.

I also resurrected a picture taken many years ago at the Grant Distillery garden in Scotland--a Himalayan blue poppy--the most amazing shade of blue and one I tried to replicate without success. I'll try again, but first I'll do some color samples till I find what works to show the wonderful transparent glow.

It's almost a form of meditation. I get so deep into the picture, paying such close attention to every curve and line, that sometimes I forget to breathe.  And the imperfection of the work is beside the point. It's the doing that matters--process, not product.


Tuesday, January 24, 2023

The Amazing Maurice

Not since the rats of NIHM has there been such an endearing gang of rodents. A group of rats (plus one cat), suddenly have the power of speech as well as enhanced intelligence. In search of the good life and the means to fund it, they decide on the old pied piper dodge. The rats will infest a town and Maurice, with the help of a seemingly dimwitted youth who plays the penny whistle, will see that they are rewarded generously for 'getting rid' of the pests.

Of course. it being Terry Pratchett, there is word play aplenty and social commentary and philosophy interwoven in this hilarious take on an old fairy tale. Highly recommended.

Sir Terry wrote about 70 books. I have lots to look forward to.

Monday, January 23, 2023

A Favorite Old Story



This is a re-post, inspired by a recent email from Lynn, the heroine of the story.

The Diaz family had fled Castro's Cuba (this was 1962) and were now settled in Gainesville, Florida -- very poor and just beginning to learn English. They were lovely, hardworking people and so kind to us four college girls who lived next door.

At some point I found out that the family had been given clothes by a local church group and were delighted with the windfall -- but there had been nothing in the assorted garments for Senora Diaz. Alas, in a few weeks there was to be a big dance party in the Cuban immigrant community -- and Senora Diaz had nothing fit for such a fiesta.

I went home that weekend and asked my mother if she had any dresses she'd like to pass on. She obligingly made up a parcel of several nice dresses she was tired of -- including a dressy number in mustard-colored, black and white dotted silk. There was a draped effect at the hips and jet beading at the bosom and, as I recall, a flounce or two.

I'd never liked the dress at all though it had been a favorite of my mother's for several years. But now, perhaps because it was out of style or possibly because she just felt like she'd worn it to enough parties, she was passing it on. Still, it was probably with a bit of a pang that she parted with this frock.

When I returned to Gainesville, and before I got over to my neighbor to deliver the parcel, I had a visit from a high school friend on break from Agnes Scott. Lynn was staying with us for a few days, just in the middle of sorority rush week.

And a plan was formed. Why shouldn't Lynn go to my sorority's rush party? Why shouldn't she present herself as the daughter of the best friend of the National President -- as an iron-clad legacy. And why shouldn't she look and act . . . rather odd?

We dressed Lynn in the yellow silk dress (it was a casual tea -- everyone else would be in Bermuda shorts.) The dress was about two sizes too large and so hideous looking that Lynn could only be convinced to go through with the caper if we had a friend waiting in a getaway car at the back door of the sorority house. 

Lynn was magnificent -- she made herself look and act like a sorority girl's worst nightmare. She introduced herself as Mozella Beasley and was loud in her desire to pledge this sorority, assuring everyone that Aunt So and So (the National President) had assured her that she would be welcomed.

Lynn played the part perfectly till she found herself surrounded by a ring of incredulous sorority girls -- all the sisters had left the other prospective pledges to come see this supposed legacy -- at which point Lynn broke and ran for the back door and the getaway car.

Those of us in on the joke were hiding behind the punch bowl, weak with laughter. The rest of the sisterhood were left looking at one another and wondering what in the world they could do to avoid pledging this social misfit.

"She's so tacky!" wailed one sister, stretching the word 'tacky' into about five syllables. "Did y'all see that awful dress?"

Those of us in on the hoax kept quiet and as days went by, eventually the sisterhood breathed a sigh of relief when Mozella Beasley was never heard of again. I assumed the story would go no further -- certainly that it wouldn't get back to Tampa, especially since the name Mozella was that of a friend of my mother's.

And the yellow silk dress went to Sra. Diaz who was delighted. I saw her wearing it the next weekend to go to her party. She had altered it to fit her plump little body and it looked terrific with her dark coloring and Latina flair -- an amazing transformation.

But imagine my surprise on receiving a call from my mother yet a few weeks later.

"Vicki, I just had an odd call from Mary Will Eastland. Her daughter wrote her about the rush party that you all took Lynn to. Tell me . . . what funny old dress of Mrs. Lane's was it that Lynn wore?"

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Inspiration Is Where You Find It

 And no, he isn't missing a leg. The one on the right is his left hind, the right is (presumably) hidden behind a front leg.


Saturday, January 21, 2023

January Treat

I couldn't resist these lovely heirloom tomatoes at the grocery store. When I got home, they seemed to be telling me I needed to make a tomato galette--never mind that I'd considered this a summer dish.

So I did. And it was very, very good.  Even without the fresh basil garnish I would have had in summertime.

I gave the recipe on a previous post HERE.


Thursday, January 19, 2023

Morning Stillness

The fog comes 
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
Over harbor and city
On silent haunches
And then moves on.

Carl Sandburg

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

Wrapping itself round
barn and meadow
It stretches,
And then moves on.

(with apologies to CS.)


Wednesday, January 18, 2023

"Boys . . ."


As I was fixing my breakfast, I was reminded of a (possibly apocryphal) story about Bill Monroe, Father of Bluegrass. 

Some years ago, Monroe and his band The Bluegrass Boys were on tour up north. At their hotel, breakfast was laid out buffet-style. Bill went first and after a few puzzled moments, turned to warn the group, "Boys, don't touch those doughnuts. They're hard and they're cold and they ain't a bit sweet."  

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Josie Writes Thank You Notes

It was Martin Luther King Junior Day and there was no school. My kindergarten teacher Ms. V told us about Martin Luther King Junior and why his day is important. Mama was home too but Meema came and got me after lunch so I could do some thank you notes to some nice people who sent money to my class for extra materials.

I also painted pictures to go with the notes I wrote.

I am getting good at writing, but Meema still has to help me spell some words. I know words like YOU and FOR and THE and LOVE and, of course, JOSIE. I wrote two notes and painted four pictures and then I needed a break. Meema said that was okay, we would do more after school on Wednesday.

I painted some flowers for Sandy and then Meema said maybe I would like to do a monster for Uncle Ethan because he likes monsters. So I did a monster with horns and wings and I gave him an ice cream cone. He is a happy monster.


Monday, January 16, 2023

Disney vs. Classics

Posting Pooh's hum yesterday got me to thinking about old favorite children's books I love--and wondering if the magic could be the same for Josie, considering that she's already familiar with the Disney versions. When I read Winnie the Pooh to her, she assured me she already knew all about it--though she was fairly engaged as we read. 

Mary Poppins, The Wind in the Willows, Alice in Wonderland, spring to mind. Can just the words and a few illustrations compete with the full color, singing, dancing extravaganzas? Same with The Wizard of Oz.

When I was falling in love with these books and with reading in general, we had no television and movies were an occasional treat. I have a real feeling things will never be the same. But I'd be happy to be proved wrong.


Sunday, January 15, 2023

One of Pooh's Hums

The more it snows,
(Tiddley pom)
The more it goes,
(Tiddley pom)

                                                                The more it goes,

                                               (Tiddley pom)

On snowing.


And no one knows,
(Tiddley pom)
How cold my toes.
(Tiddley pom)

How cold my toes.
(Tiddley pom)
Are growing.

A.A. Milne


Saturday, January 14, 2023

Snow, and the Birds Aren't Thrilled


Friday, January 13, 2023



The Secret Garden was one of my very favorites when I was growing up. So, when I was perusing books at the library on Wednesday, Moongarden, a sci-fi/kids version of the classic, caught my eye.

It's fun to see the parallels between the two novels. A secret garden on the moon--secret because since all plant life on Earth became toxic, forcing humanity to migrate to the other planets, seeds and growing things are forbidden. 

Myra, the protagonist, is every bit as crabby as Mary in the original and the magic the garden works on her is as profound. There is a boy whose mother's loss is blamed on the garden and whose father hates the garden but doesn't destroy it because his wife loved it.

A very fun and quick read.

Here's the official synopsis: "Centuries ago, Earth’s plants turned deadly, and humanity took to space to cultivate new homes. Myra Hodger is in her first year at an elite school on the Moon, and she’s crumbling under the pressure. She doesn’t fit in and, worse, the tattoos that signal her Number Whisperer magic aren’t developing. In her heart, she knows she doesn’t have a Creer, and soon everyone else will, too.

Wandering the halls while cutting class, she discovers a secret lab hidden behind one of the unused classrooms and, beyond that, a secret garden overflowing with plants. 

As she learns more about the garden, Myra begins to wonder if she does have a Creer after all—one that died out when the Earth did. One that could help solve the food shortages the government doesn’t want anyone to know about.

The Secret Garden for a new generation, Moongarden weaves together STEAM themes and intense social pressures in a stunning series starter and introduces a dynamic heroine who might just grow a revolution."