Tuesday, February 28, 2023

I've Always Wondered...


These tousle-headed daffodils are the ones I see most often around old homesteads here. I have quite a few myself--descendants of some bulbs given me by a neighbor when we first moved here. I've always wondered what their name is but never found them in catalogues.                                                        

And now I know. They are Van Sion daffodils--at least 400 years old, and their extreme hardiness has contributed to their proliferation. And that proliferation probably explains why they're not in catalogues--everyone who grows daffs already has them or can get bulbs from a neighbor.


More info about Van Sion HERE 


Monday, February 27, 2023

What Do You Read? Why Do You Read?


 After my post last week about the book Read Dangerously--an invitation to read subject matter that may make you uncomfortable, even as it expands your awareness of society-- I kept thinking about this topic. 

Reading dangerously is certainly a good thing--but it's not the only thing. There's comfort reading--books that will make you feel good. In my case it's pretty much always a book I've read before and can trust not to give me any unpleasant surprises. In fact, the day after I finished Read Dangerously, I took Josie to the library and while we were perusing the books, I found myself taking down Little Women and diving into that sweet, moral world. It doesn't hurt that this is a book my grandmother read to me when I had measles and wasn't allowed to read. I've read and re-read till my copy (previously my grandmother's) has fallen apart. So (spoiler alert) Beth's death won't be an unpleasant surprise.

Other of my favorite comfort reads include P.G. Wodehouse, C.S. Lewis, Agatha Christie's Miss Marple, Madeline L'Engle, Elizabeth Goudge, and Rosamund Pilcher. When I'm feeling fragile and reluctant to immerse myself in reality, these do the trick.

I like to read to learn, as well--good historical fiction such a Mary Renault or James Michener or Edward Rutherfurd has taught me a lot. Sarah Vowell's non-fiction is equally enjoyable and instructive.                                                        

And there's reading for escape--for a cracking good story you can get lost in for a while. Thinking of John Grisham, Neil Gaiman, Tony Hillerman, Laurie R. King . . . just the tip of the iceberg. Those are some I re-read, but there are many, many others.

What's your reading fancy? And what categories have I missed?


Saturday, February 25, 2023

Pilaf, Pilau, Purloo, Bog

So many names for a dish popular in many countries. Basically, rice (or some other grain) cooked in broth with aromatic vegetables and maybe some meat. The variations are endless-- Spanish Arroz con Pollo, Cajun Jambalaya--this one leans Greek.

It's quick to make and really tasty.  

Greek-ish Chicken Pilaf (4-6 servings)

Boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about a pound and a half)
Olive oil
1 1/2 c. rice (Basmati, preferably--it cooks up quick and fluffy)
1 or 2 chopped onions
4 or 5 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
A handful or so of greens--I used collards, spinach would be more authentic.
3 c chicken broth
Juice of 2 lemons
Salt, pepper, dried oregano
Feta cheese

Cut chicken thighs into manageable chunks. Pat dry then brown in olive oil over high heat. Remove and set aside.

Sauté till soft onions and garlic in pan used for the chicken. Add rice and stir till coated with the oil and turning translucent. 

Add chicken broth and lemon juice and stir to deglaze the pan. 

Add tomatoes, greens, salt, pepper, oregano, and chicken. Bring to boil then reduce to a simmer. Cover pan and cook about 15 minutes or till rice is done.

Serve topped with feta.


Friday, February 24, 2023




Thursday, February 23, 2023

Read Dangerously

Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran writes, in the guise of letters to her late father from the time of the 2019 protests in Iran to the killing of George Floyd, a guide to literature for troubled times--both in Iran and in an increasingly authoritarian USA.

She says: "We in this country have lost the art of engaging with the opposite. This is where reading dangerously comes in...it teaches us how to deal with the enemy . . .Knowing your enemy involves discovering yourself . . .It depends upon us being made to think, and rethink, assess, and reassess our own positions, face both the enemies outside of us and the ones within."

In other words, this sort of reading (James Baldwin, Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdie, Plato, Ray Bradbury, Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, Ta-Nehisi Coates to name most of them) this sort of reading may well take one out of one's comfort zone and introduce one to the harsh realities of other lives. One may even become "woke" by which I mean, aware of and empathetic to the suffering of others. 

It's uncomfortable reading that matters. When we decline to step out of our comfort zone, we stop growing and learning. (Which is not to say there's anything wrong with comfort reads--but an exclusive diet of them is like a diet based on sugar and chocolate.)

This book is an excellent guide to the sort of books that get banned--not because they are pornographic but because they make people in power uncomfortable. 

Nafisi's experiences in Iran and later in Trump's America make for a compelling narrative and offer a hard one wisdom.

"Isn't this what great literature does, drawing upon our shared humanity while also pointing out our differences?"


Wednesday, February 22, 2023

About the Age Thing

I have been grinning like a Cheshire Cat as I read more about President Biden's surprise visit to Ukraine--a war zone, no less. He may be old but, by god, he's got guts.

Can you picture the Former Guy putting himself in that kind of danger? 


Tuesday, February 21, 2023

That Time of Year Thou Mayst in Me Behold


I love this picture so much! John suggested it would be a good author picture if I did another book (which I do not have in contemplation.) I probably will make it my profile picture on Facebook.  It seems appropriate now that I'm an octogenarian.

Good grief. 

The following sonnet was in my mind yesterday. . . though I don't feel as gloomy as the Bard evidently did. 

That time of year thou may'st in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.

In me thou see'st the twilight of such day,
As after sunset fadeth in the West,
Which by-and-by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.

In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consum'd with that which it was nourish'd by.

This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

Monday, February 20, 2023

Mystery Wood

More pretties from John's shop. These weedpots (suitable for dried vegetation) are made of wood from a fallen tree that had been down so long that the bark was gone, and he couldn't identify it. Redbud, possibly. What ever it is, it turned out to have a gorgeous grain.

Two of the little pots cracked. Yay--a chance for some kintsugi! This one is especially nice as he filled the crack with two different resin mixtures-turquoise and brass.

No kitsugi below--just some beautiful markings.

Below, another kintsugi with blue resin.

If anyone has a clue as to what this wood might be, I'd love to know. Maybe there's a wood grain identifier app.


Sunday, February 19, 2023

Excellent Reading

I'd been seeing intriguing ads for The Vanishing Half and was thrilled to find it in the bag 0' books my local book pusher left me.

 Identical twins grow up in a rural Black community then run away together. Eventually one of them decides to 'pass' and leaves her twin. What happens next kept me reading till I finished (after midnight.) It's a page turner but NOT a soap opera--though the setup might suggest such. Instead, it's a profound look at racism in America, and in the Black community as well as others. It's an important, beautifully written novel. Highly recommended.

And then there's Spook Street. I thought I was tired of spy novels, but a very good friend insisted I read this. I'm glad I did. A retires intelligence agent is slipping into dementia. He knows where all the bodies are buried. So who was sent to eliminate him and whose is the body in the bath? Dry British humor at its best. Intelligent, cynical, and highly enjoyable. I'll be looking for the others in this series.


Saturday, February 18, 2023

Josie Spends the Day with Meema

On Friday I went to school but after a little while my tummy hurt and they called my mama who was at work and Mama called Meema and Meema came and got me. So I spent the day with Meema. (And I felt much better as soon as we got home.)

I decided to do some painting. Meema had picked a daffodil on the way in and she said why don't we paint that? She said she liked to draw things in pencil then paint them, so I tried that.  We both did. First I drew the stem, then the sticking-out part that is called the trumpet and then the petals all around.

I also put in the sky and sun and some grass. Then I painted a picture of Blue Elephant.

His trunk is a little hard to do.

I did a lion and a cat. Do you see that I know about apostrophes? The last time I was here, Meema told me how they worked, and I remembered all by myself to use them.

A few days ago, I did pictures of some of my Castle People. You can see the Indian girl and her long black braids. And down below are some of the ladies. Carmen and her red and black ruffled dress is in the middle.

Also we read books and I organized my Castle People and made Play-Doh lollipops. The only colors I had were white and yellow and very pale yellow. Grumpy chose a lemon lollipop and Meema chose pineapple. Nobody wanted the cauliflower one.

It was a good sick day. 


Friday, February 17, 2023

Oh Joy!

These daffs are always the first to open. With their long trumpets and swept back petals, they herald a fast-approaching Spring.

Yes, I know it's too fast and these babies may have a freeze or snow ahead of them. But it doesn't stop me from feeling a surge of delight when first I see them.

Or from taking far too many pictures.

Only a few days ago I was taking pictures of moss--which has its charms-- but these shots of yellow are so nice to see.

Despite a plethora of crocus foliage, we have at present only this one modest bloom up here at the house. Too shady? In need of thinning? Probably. 


Thursday, February 16, 2023

A Challenge

Yikes! Trying to paint a likeness of an animal I actually know is a bitch. (Oops, didn't intend that pun.) As I launched into the preliminary sketch, taken from a photo, I realized the difficulty of the pose-- a side view would have been easier. Still, this is how one learns.

Angeline's front-on picture is easier--except for the difficulty of getting a deep enough black. And then there's the faux-Oriental rug in the background, just for fun. The blue bar in front is the top of the toy chest. That, at least, presented no problems.


Wednesday, February 15, 2023

A Valentine's Day Celebration

This card commemorates the first Valentine's Day of our marriage. 1964 and we were living in a tiny trailer (officially designated 'sub-standard housing' by the Marine Corps) in Midway Park at Camp Geiger near Camp Lejeune. I had just graduated and would not have a teaching job till September; we were living on John's pay as a PFC and the spousal allowance--not a lot left over for frills. Buying a magazine and a TV Guide was a once a week treat.

On that Valentine's Day, John brought me a blossoming branch of wild plum--framed by a coat hanger twisted into a heart shape. I've never had a Valentine I liked more.


We celebrated this 59th Valentine's Day of our marriage in fine style--he brought me an orchid; I made him this card. He went out late in the afternoon to bring home fried chicken. I made potato salad and some salty, caramelly, chocolaty blondies. (Recipe HERE) There was bubbly. And we didn't have to drive home afterwards. 

Life is good.