Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

Well, Happy New Year! I really don't know what else to say. I have a very boring life, and not much to report.

As much as I enjoy reading lists, like "Ten worst blogging mistakes of 2011" or "Five best design moments in your home", or "The inside scoop on where the best five broken meters are in town," I can't think of a list to write myself.

Speaking of meters, I remember a place I worked for 6 years, in a bedroom community of Portland Maine, a large town called Gray. It had a busy intersection, five state routes plus a turnpike interchange met just 100 feet from my office door. It was the only route for Poland Spring Trucks, logging trucks, and modular home trucks from the industries that produced them upstream. Trucks passed by the office constantly. Or I wished they passed. Once they got off the turnpike, they spotted the Cumberland Farms next door, or the McDonald's next to that or the Chinese restaurant across the street, and they screeched to a halt, parking at the first longish straight stretch they passed by: the driveway. Often, like, daily, they would park in front of our exit, blocking us, and our customers in. It was a problem.

Briefly and jokingly, me and my friend who owned the property thought about putting up a meter there, just so see what the truck drivers would do. We didn't, but the idea gave us a lot of giggles.

I'm not much of a retrospective, reminiscing kind of person. I had a good 2011. I assume 2012 will be equally as good. Or it won't. I don't know. That's about it for a year in review.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas Vacation

Our school department gives us two weeks off at Christmas and New Year's. I look forward to it every year. We start school on August 1st so by the time December comes around I'm ready for a long break. Contrary to popular myth, we don't get paid during this time. We get paid through this time but we only get paid for the days in the year that we work, 185 days. The pay is just spread out through the year so we can plan and budget.

Our District does an excellent job of that. Really excellent finances. I'm proud to work for the Madison County Schools. But when the vacations come along I'm happy for those too.

I don't have furniture that is all that comfortable. My couch is a futon, and the depth is off. If you sit with your back straight against the back, my knees don't hang over the edge. Moreover, it tilts upward. So when I want to get up, my knees are not hanging over the edge so I have no leverage, and I have to hurl myself to get over the deep tilt. Of course the cat laying across my legs and the other one draped across my shoulders are also a hindrance, lol.

Anyway, I put my laptop on a pillow and type or surf the net as I watch TV. TV is so inane these days I could be working on solving cold fusion and still get the drift of most TV shows. Every website I've read says NOT TO DO THAT to your laptop. Finally after about two years I heeded the warnings about pillows and overheating laptops and I bought a laptop desk. It came yesterday and I really like it.

It is a lot lighter than I thought it would be and less bulky too. It works like a charm. Unfortunately as I went to the page describing the product is says out of stock, they don't know when more will be in stock. Too bad! I would have bought another one, they are only $12. But now I can surf with the computer on my lap, guilt-free.

I also ordered a book, The Apostle: A Life of Paul by John Pollock. The editor's description says "The Apostle masterfully combines careful adherence to biblical text, detailed research, and a storyteller's gift to create a book equally relevant for both casual readers fascinated by Paul's life and serious biblical scholars. Pollock begins his fast-moving narrative with Stephen's death and follows Paul through his conversion, missionary journeys, and eventual execution. Many will enjoy it simply as a satisfying and insightful true-life story, although maps and a study guide allow for deeper exploration. The Apostle was originally published in 1969, and this new edition marks the first significant revision in many years." I started it last night and I really like it.

What a blessing it is to have time to read, to cook, to rest. The resting part is especially appreciated. After four and a half months of daily contact with every germ known to man, I am well and truly sick by the time Christmas comes. Ever since I started teaching, I always spend Christmas vacation recovering from bronchitis and this year is no exception. My lungs feel like they weigh 90 pounds and my throat is raw from coughing, suppressing coughing, or recovering from the last cough. Good timing though, just when I need to rest my body and my throat, I can stay home and sleep and not use my voice. Except when I talk to the cats, of course.

This week I am going to try and make pasta e fagiole, and make a citrus salad with the oranges I was given, and pineapple and kiwi. Avocados were on sale for 78 cents, yay! I'll make something with those, or just eat avocado and tomato sandwiches, one of my favorite sandwiches of all time.

I've been working on a series on the other blog that means a great deal to me. I love writing, and I feel most at home in front of a keyboard. I remember when I switched from typewriter to computer, what a happy day that was. The scene in my head is vivid: college circa 1981, in my loft efficiency apartment, sun streaming in, me at my desk in front of the typewriter. Deadline looming, this paper has to be finished NOW. But I never had lessons in typing and I am not an accurate typist. I was awash in Wite-Out, managing my typos, waiting for the white-out to dry, adjusting the paper with an eagle eye attempting to line up the last thing typed with the marks on the typewriter roller...I remember screaming AAARRRGGGHHH! And yelling that 'someone HAS to invent a better way!' By the time my Master's degree course rolled around in 1997 I was comfortably enconsed in front of a PC with word processing software, pressing cut and paste and the backspace with no Wite-Out in sight. Goodbye typewriter! Whaddya know, someone DID invent a better way. I was at the library a while ago and as I browsed near the table with an old typewriter on it, a child said, "What's that, Mommy?" I would have answered "It's a torture machine, son".

Isn't it weird to be old enough now that the common things you used in your youth are now obsolete relics. I often used to wonder what life was like in that regard for my grandmother, born in 1901 and emigrated to the US in her twenties. She was born in England when electricity and telephones were relatively new inventions, and she died in 1982 after we had gone to the moon, invented computers, and vanquished polio. Her life  during the twentieth century must have been a whirlwind of new technologies emerging every day.

I'm finding myself tuning out of the latest inventions. I don't care about Blu-Ray (I don't even own a DVD player). I wonder why the Birds are so Angry, why don't they spell Wii correctly and I don't need a virtual reality when the one I'm in is just fine, thank you. I think I am on my way to becoming an official fuddy duddy. Oh, well, at least they still have books. For now at least.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas (vacation) is here

Christmas and holiday vacation is here. We are released from school as of yesterday afternoon and won't go back until January 6th.

I am liking this! I plan to rest and recuperate from my sinus infection that is heading toward bronchitis. [coughing a lot today!] My mum sent me birthday bucks. I went hog wild and bought a book on the life of Apostle Paul and a laptop lap desk for when I'm typing on the couch. I am really looking forward to both!! My bible reading plan is to re-read several of the minor prophets, probably Obadiah and Hosea, and Micah.

For fun I'll likely lounge on the sofa writing while using that new laptop desk, and watching old reruns of Law&Order, lol. I'm at peace and very content, and 100% sure of the Holy Spirit's working in me for God's glory.

I am looking forward to visiting with friends, and writing. Eating the goodies people have shared with me, including making a wonderful fruit salad out of the many oranges I've been given. What I do not plan on is being busy. I have enough of that at work.

The Holy Spirit has given me a job that puts me in a lower standard of living economically but a high standard of quality of life. I have the opportunity to work with children, which I consider the noblest of professions. That is high-quality to me. I have time off,  lots of it, to pursue my interests. I can rest my mind and be refreshed to study deeply, without being tired, and that is very high-quality to me. I have opportunity to recover from the myriad colds and sinus infections, and that is very good. I can be with friends through online ministry or in real life, OR stay by myself if I want to, and that is excellent. All these and many other things are wonderful benefits of the job I have.

So the next little while will be filled with the same peace and contentment I feel every day, except I'll be able to appreciate it in a less hectic manner because all is calm at the Prata house.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Some photos I like

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Thursday, December 01, 2011


At recess today, a kindergartener was eating a Nutty Buddy ice cream cone. Examining the wrapper closely, she said to herself, "I'm nutty. And this ice cream is my buddy. So that fits..."

Another kid...came running up to me, frustrated. Yelling, she said:
--"I went over there to tell those boys to stop wrestling, but they wouldn't listen to me!"
--They didn't listen to you because you are not the boss.
--"But why? Why I am not the boss?"

I feel your pain, honey.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Octopus walks on land at Fitzgerald Marine

The video appeared on Youtube, and then was picked up on Yahoo. The article at Yahoo is excerpted below, but it was the comments after the Yahoo article about the octopus that made me laugh out loud.

"If you're curious to learn more about the sea creature's possible motivation, there has been some great research on the understanding of octopus intelligence recently, including this surprisingly moving article in Orion magazine, chronicling a researchers bond with a giant Pacific octopus named Athena."

"As it turns out, walking on land in the octopus kingdom is not as unique as you might think:
Some would let themselves be captured, only to use the net as a trampoline. They'd leap off the mesh and onto the floor—and then run for it. Yes, run. "You'd chase them under the tank, back and forth, like you were chasing a cat," [Middlebury College researcher Alexa] Warburton said. "It's so weird!"

"Octopuses in captivity actually escape their watery enclosures with alarming frequency. While on the move, they have been discovered on carpets, along bookshelves, in a teapot, and inside the aquarium tanks of other fish—upon whom they have usually been dining."

"However, it's quite unusual to capture video of a walking octopus in action. Part of the reason that studies on the creatures have been so limited, aside from their brief three-year life spans, is that they are notoriously shy, usually avoiding contact not only with humans, but with any other creatures, including fellow octopi."

Louisc • Tulare, United States •
"I only see fresh walking sashimi, delicious! this one probably walk close to wasabi! They make a good combination."

Sid • Quezon City, Philippines •
caught that octopus and make it Calamares!.hehe

Gman • Wichita, United States •
Why did the octopus cross the road?

If Octopusses started walking around Earth the big ones would definitely band together and take over earth..They are clever beasts...we can never trust them!!!

Mang Gooseteen • Makati City, Philippines •
its squidward!!! and where the hell is spongebob!!!

Victoria • Irvine, United States •
Octopi are extremely intelligent -not surprised he came out to hunt...not surprised he didn't stay either. Probably got a whiff of the politics and lousy TV and went back down where it's safe.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Would you like some biscuits along with that heart attack?

Now step right up and hear a tale, a tale of domestic fail...Here we are again, me at home...doing domestic things. This morning I thought I'd bake some biscuits. Yes, Georgia ladies, biscuits! I had purchased a Peel N Pop tube of biscuits and now I was ready to bake them. Only problem: I'm afraid of peel and pop. I am also afraid of Jiffy Pop popcorn, but that is neither here nor there. It was the price of 59 cents that caused me to overlook the fact that I'd be petrified when I had to pop them.

I put the tube in the sink, peeled it, turned my face away and held my breath. Nothing. I peeled some more, my hear rate increasing, still no pop. I peeled ALL the paper pop.

By now I have a cardboard tube, a pile of paper scraps, and a fluttering heart rate, but no pop. What to do? Go outside and football spike it on the concrete. POP! There. Nothing like full contact baking.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Reading update: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I enjoy reading. I always have. As a kid I'd curl up under my favorite tree with a good Nancy Drew book. As a teen in high school I'd hide The Iliad inside my algebra book. As an adult I became entranced with a good legal thriller (Scott Turow), the newest adventure of global trotters like Jon Krakauer, or a science book by Stephen Jay Gould or Isaac Asimov.

My reading tastes as a high schooler and young adult were firmly in the classics aisle. I have read most of them (except Dickens, can't stand him). Yeats, Hardy, Twain, DeFoe....been there. I read Cervantes in Spanish and the Gallic Wars in Latin. However I was also a literary snob. Having such a reading resume under my belt I was feeling a bit superior.

Later on I got saved. I grew older and my reading tastes changed. Formerly I would never have picked up a John Grisham, believing it was beneath me to descend to gasp, popular fiction. LOL, I'm such an idiot.

But as I grew older I exhausted legal beagles Jonathan Harr and Scott Turow, so picked up a Grisham and I loved it. Quite rapidly I blew through all of Grisham's legal thrillers, and also his fiction, A Painted House. Eagerly I awaited this latest installment, The Litigators. I had thought Grisham was retired but I was delighted to discover a new book on the way.

The Litigators is excellent. At page 8 I stopped to reflect on what I had been reading and also reflect on how the author does what he does. By page 8 I noticed that the three main characters were firmly set in their respective settings in my mind. They were vivid, fleshed out, and distinct. The city and the offices in which they worked are also vivid and set. How does an author do this so firmly and in such economy of words?  A good one. I read the book in two days and hated it to come to an end.  I recommend The Litigators.

That was the good. Now for the bad. I wrestle so often with my desire to read versus and awful trash that is today's literary market. Secular books have so much in them that disqualify them from being remotely appropriate, never mind Godly that I often have to toss them aside after only a few pages. It is one reason I like Grisham, they're clean books.

So I turn to Christian books. Almost exclusively they are romantic or sentimental stories of wives or sisters and quilts and brownies and giggling. UGH. I am not sentimental and I am not romantic and I like a high tech adventure or a science mystery. There are only a few of those. So a day comes when I'm desperate and I pick one of these up. Invariably they have flowers on the front, or maybe a needle and thread. And a sunset, with softened color tones and gauzy type. Sigh.

I have only read one good one. It was called "One More Sunrise" ironically enough, and written by Tracie Peterson and Michael Landon. (The famous Michael Landon's son). All the rest that I have read are bad, bad, bad. A few I've been able to get through holding my nose. "Doesn't She Look Lovely" by Angela Hunt is one of those. The issue with all of these books is that they are written badly, with cliches that literally make me wince, and clunky sentence construction you can spot a mile off. Foreshadowing that is like a hammer instead of a whisper. Worst, sap all the way through. Christian women's fiction is in a terrible state. Please, Michael Landon, write another one!

The ugly has to be the book I read this week by Susan Casey called "The Devil's Teeth" and it is about sharks. No, the devil's teeth are not the sharks' teeth, but the location at which they appear each season at the Farallon Islands just a few miles off San Francisco. Yes, the Islands really DO look like devil's teeth, and those teeth have claimed many a ship.

Casey is an excellent writer, and I enjoyed her book on large waves called imaginatively, "The Wave." Although most of the book is a recounting of  Casey's globetrotting with hunky surfers from wave location to wave location, she did take a few pages out to attend a scientific conference on the formation of large, rogue waves and present some information about that.

The Devil's Teeth is her first book, and she styled it in the way of Jon Krakauer, of Into Thin Air, the expedition to Everest that went so awry. Adventure writing sprinkled with a heavy dose of history and some science is right up my alley, and that is exactly what Casey delivers. So why is the book in the ugly category? Because of how she acted and what she did.

Two-thirds of the way through the book I realized that her accumulated ethical breaches, whining, carelessness, and self-absorption had set me over the edge. She had wormed her way onto the island though it was forbidden, she rented a sailboat and anchored off the island but failed to take even the most rudimentary safety precautions, oh, like knowing what kind of boat it was, how the mooring set up, what to provision for her stay (she thought about it while she was at the store) whether there was refrigeration on the boat, and boat handling. When I was getting ready to live aboard my sailboat I took a week-long boat safety and handling live-aboard course and then another one  for one day about navigation.

She was going to put her life in the hands of a vessel moored off the most notoriously stormy and dangerous islands and took not one whit of precaution. It is like the tourists who show up to a Tundra expedition in flip flops.

Then she lost the boat. It slipped moorings and sailed off into the dark and stormy night. She behaved in such a way that it got one of the scientists on the island fired, and it wrecked the career of another. She got the project shut down. Worst of all, this was described in a careless sentence or two at the end of the book, with not a whit of regret. Just, 'so sorry, boys, see ya on the flip side.' Ugh. Or should I say, ugly.

This week I am reading Caleb's Crossing, a novelized story about the first Native American to graduate from Harvard, in 1665, and whatever else I can get my hands on. Happy reading, bifocal people!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Domestic day

I am not a 'domestic goddess' as Roseanne used to say in her stand up routines in the 1980s. I don't like doing domestic chores. But I'm pretty fanatical about having a clean and orderly apartment. I hate to clean but I want it clean. I guess hope springs eternal, and I wake up every day thinking that a horde of cobbler's elves have arrived and done the tasks overnight. It hasn't happened yet.

So Saturdays are usually in one form or another a day when I clean up. The ladies around here are really cleaning kind of women. Their homes are always spotless. I mean even behind the toilet, the baseboards are clean. The back edge of the highest kitchen cupboard is clean. They clean. I don't.

I vacuum, dust, do the laundry, clean the kitchen and put everything in order. Occasionally I wash the couch afghans and the throws, and once in a while I run a Lysol wipe over the windowsills and baseboards. I should take the curtains down and wash them, but though I think about it often, I don't. On that score I have a reason: they are high and I have no ladder, not even a step ladder. Last time I put up curtains I stood on rickety chairs and wobbly hassocks, and that's dangerous to do when you live alone.

Yesterday I went all out and did the above, except not the curtains. I did vacuum the ceiling fan. So here are a few photos of domestic Saturday.

Hang the towel outside on a nice day, maybe one of the last warm ones? Time will tell...

The cats take advantage of a clean couch and a clean throw. Thanks for messing it up right away, guys.

Awww, but they're so cute! I forgive you.

I like the view outside. On my way to the garage where the washing machine is, there is the red birdhouse by the shed.

My laundry bag, atop the shelf waiting to be grabbed as I go out to get the clean clothes from the dryer in the garage.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Kids and their funny wisdom

Kids today were hilarious. And that's good because I needed some laughs.

One little five year old guy and I were talking. As we finished our conversation, I said, "You sure are a cutie pie." He said, "Speaking of pie, I'm going to help my mom make a strawberry pie tonight." A five year old who's mastered the art of the segue. Pretty cool.

Another guy saw that math papers were being passed out. Immediately he said, "I don't feel good." I said, "What's the matter?" He said, "I've got heartburn. I need to go home and rest my heartburn."

At snack time outside, one gal eyed another little guy's snack across the picnic table. She pointed to what he was eating and asked, "What's that?" He replied absently, taking a huge bite, "I don't really know."

One guy had gotten into trouble. He was standing there at the trouble spot on the playground. As I walked by he said mournfully, "I'm so sorry for what I did!" I paused and asked, "What did you do?" His reply? "I don't remember!"

Aren't they characters? I really love talking with them and I truly love listening to them talk with each other. They lift my spirits.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fall break is almost here

I work in an elementary school as a teacher aide in Special Education Kindergarten. I love it! I get to work with kids and not have to plan lessons or have the heavy responsibility that the teachers have. It's still hectic and stressful though. We do our full 8 hours, and stop for very few of those minutes.  It's go-go-go all day. That's a why I'm looking forward to the four-day fall break we get this weekend!

When tomorrow at 3:15 hits, I am out the door. I plan to cuddle up this weekend with some fresh baked apple crisp, tea, and my new book on giant, rogue waves. I'm going to write a lot and relax. I'll listen to music and turn on the heat as the temperatures fall a bit and stay warm knowing I don't have to go anywhere for four days (except church, which I enjoy and will be a part of the relaxing and nice festivities.)

Here is a fall photo from yesterday, haying in the field next door. The first guy with the circular blades rides around in a grid pattern and fluffs up the hay. The second guy comes after, in a tractor type thing that scoops up the fluffed up hay and apparently it is molded into a round bale inside the tractor. When the receptacle is full, the lid slowly opens and for all the world it looks like a dinosaur poops out an egg.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Jaguar blanket weather

The weather finally cooled off. It is cool enough at night to need a touch of heat, and a blanket. This is the story of my blanket.

I love my blanket. I look forward all year to getting it out from the closet, and sleeping under it, and admiring it. It is a special blanket.

I bought it in a Native textile market in Otavalo, Ecuador. Otavalo is world renowned for its textiles, hand woven colorful blankets, sweaters, and tapestries. Here is a wikipedia photo of the market.

The tapestry of the three Otavalenos looks exactly like the tapestry I bought my mother. I bought a blanket. it is allegedly of alpaca wool, the finest, softest, most pliable and warmest wool, like, ever. Alpaca fleece is the natural fiber harvested from an alpaca, which is an animal similar to a llama. It is light or heavy in weight, depending on how it is spun. It is a soft, durable, luxurious and silky natural fiber. It is similar to sheep’s wool, but a lot warmer, not prickly, and has no lanolin, which makes it hypoallergenic. Alpaca is naturally water-repellent and difficult to ignite. Perfect for a blanket!

My blanket has a tiger motif but I call it a jaguar simply because I like saying jaguar blanket. I changed the sheets and got the prized blanket from its box in the closet where it had been stored since last March.

Here is a close-up of the fibers

Here is my itty bitty jaguar protecting his domain from the large jaguar entering his territory!
Not really. Bert loves his bed and he is simply yawning. He jumps up there the minute I begin changing the sheets. I have to boot him off a billion times just to get the bed made.

So it's jaguar blanket weather, and every year I put the blanket on the bed, not only do I enjoy this wonderful natural fiber, but I think about that long-ago time when I walked the aisles of a South American Indian market under the shadow of a volcano.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Of pumpkin jack-o-lantern art and MST3K/Twitter

The pumpkins my neighbor bought are turning into real works of art! I've never seen one this good!

Two weeks ago, lacking my regular tv show to watch due to having stopped for the season, (The Closer) I fell into watching the new sci fi show Terra Nova. It is about people from 2146 traveling back in time to the dinosaur period to start a colony of humans 'to do it right this time'. If they survive the huge comet that supposedly wiped out all the dinosaurs and all the mammals down to rodent size, that is.

It's a bad show but the allure of time travel plus dinos plus not anything better being on TV at that time by default gives me, the couch potato, the impetus to watch it. But there is something eminently better than Terra Nova to watch while I'm watching Terra Nova. Let me explain.

In the dim, dark ages of 1988, before cable really got going, there was a man named Joel Hodgson who created a subversive sci-fi series called Mystery Science Theater 2000 (later changed to 3000 to sound more futuristic). It ran for 11 seasons until 1999, and won a Peabody Award. The series features a man and his robot sidekicks who are trapped on a space station by an evil scientist and forced to watch a selection of bad movies, often (but not limited to) science fiction B-movies. To keep sane, the man and his robots provide a running commentary on each film, making fun of its flaws and wisecracking (or "riffing") their way through each reel in the style of a movie-theater peanut gallery, says Wikipedia.

Their comments were hilarious and elevated a bad movie to superstardom simply by the number of guffaws emitted by me. Enter twitter hashtag #TerraNova.

By listing the television show you're watching, hopefully a bad one, by its hashtag, the comments twitter-ers make are often just as hilarious as the old MST3K guys. Reading them plus watching a bad tv show at the same time is just as entertaining as if the show was good to begin with. Twitter streams dedicated to a particular show are the new Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Terra Nova is on tonight at 8pm on Fox. Twitter hashtag #TerraNova. Be there or be square.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Friday, October 07, 2011

File this under 'totally obvious'

I had a great week, though a tiring one. I have sinusitis that has turned to bronchitis, the usual, blah blah blah, cough cough cough. But the weather has turned sterling, and this was a four day week with the kids, today being a teacher work day. So that was good.

One of the things I did today was to sharpen pencils and refresh the kids' pencil boxes with 8 standard crayons. It sounds silly but it's satisfying to make sure the kids have the tools they need to do their work. The teachers, of course, were busy preparing report cards and working with their data in advance of parent conferences, but I like doing the simple tasks in the background that help both the teachers and the kids.

The County Fair came to town last week. I didn't go. I feel that I left the fair last year on the pinnacle: having finally experienced the vaunted "funnel cake". There is nowhere else to do but down after that. LOL.

Leaving church this week I got caught at the tracks with a train going by. With nothing to do for a few minutes, I took out my camera and casually snapped. When I got home and saw the juxtaposition of the word train on the train car against the train lights, I laughed.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Really Big Flag

In Cumberland Maine, ten years ago the firm Sevee & Mahar Engineers (SME) had put up the huge flag in honor of those fallen by murder and terrorism on 9/11/01. I understand the urge. On "that day" in September ten years ago, I had the urge to buy the biggest flag I could find and put it up, too. I love my flag, even if Michelle Obama doesn't.

Sunday, September 04, 2011


The hummingbirds have found my re-filled feeder. I took some shots out the window and others hurriedly at the front stoop. Today I will try to set up a blind and hunker for hours down like the wild nature photographers in the jungle do. OK, not really, but I'll sit at the stoop quietly with the camera on the correct setting, and try to get some better shots. Meantime, here are the ones I already managed to snap last night at dusk:

Here he comes!

Slurp, slurp! I like his little feet

Drink up little buddy!
They were fussing and fighting big time. Two hummingbirds were fending each other off. One would retire to the tree and wait for the other to appear and then chase him off. Then the other one would do the same. It was quite a ruckus.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Happy weekend!

The hummingbirds are at my feeder, the cats are napping on the couch...and it is the start of a long, holiday weekend. I'm looking forward to it!

I get to write the prophecy newsletter tomorrow, and also study for the Sunday night faith group I attend. Monday is supposed to be cool and rainy, hallelujah!! Finally some cool weather. It has been a long time since we had raised up windows and cool days. There was one day this summer that was cool, high temps in the 70s. That's it. It has been in the 90's consistently since April. I'm looking forward to Monday, if indeed the cool weather arrives. The humidity might be a killer of the Tropical Storm Lee arrives instead.

The author of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series has written another book and I checked it out from the library. His books are happy, simple, easy to read, and has no immoral conundrum in the plot to pester me. I got a few other books, too, none whose title I remember at present. Most books I read these days are awful. Badly written, poorly edited, boring. I have no hope.

I plan to make fig purses this weekend. I received a bag of figs from a friend and I want to try these cute fig tarts.

I did my cleaning on Wednesday so I won't even have to do it on Saturday and inconvenience myself with unwanted chores. Lol. And I'm all about not inconveniencing myself.

I miss the beach

Sunday, August 28, 2011


Funky pics I like

A funky watering can at Bendzunas Glass Gallery in Comer

Artistically adorned door to BlueBell Gallery in Comer

Hens and chicks from my old deck in Maine. I had a lot of nice potted plants.

Taking a picture of myself in a yard art blue globe glass ball

Double exposure of my keyboard, lomo pic

I like the marble against lace.

You lookin' at me? Goldfish in a pond

Their job is on the line

Saturday, August 27, 2011

It was a good week!

We just finished the third full week of school It was a good week, filled with the usual laughs, praises, productivity and exhaustion, lol.

I find that I prefer a regular schedule. I do not mind doing the same thing over and over, each day, and in the same way. It gives me comfort. This week I went to a movie after school with a friend and then went out to dinner. We had a great time. But I still prefer to go home after school each day. I enjoy my Saturday routine of cleaning and then writing, and Sunday's routine of worship at church then cooking in the afternoon, interspersed with a nap. I don't know why I adhere to a routine so strongly, but it works for me and I'm going with it.

I'm watching the Outer Banks beach cam and the surf is pretty high. The camera is plastered with salt and rain and rocking back and forth in the wind, so the picture is blurry but the general state of things is clear enough. Hurricane. I hope the people along the Eastern seaboard heed the officials' warnings. Hurricanes are nothing to fool with. And parsing the Category 1 or Category 2 is nothing to fool with either. People say, 'Oh it's 'only' a category 1 so I'll just stay right here in my beachhouse on stilts and ride it out...' That is a foolish thing to do.

Category One Hurricane Barbara in 1953 left one dead and damages over $1 million in 1953 U.S. dollars. Hurricane Stan in 2005 was a Category One storm but the heavy rains it produced resulted in a deadly toll. Unofficially, as of this time, there have been up to 1,500 deaths in Guatemala, Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica from that Category One storm. Officially, there have been 796 deaths. Hurricane Katrina came ashore in Florida as a Category One hurricane and we all know what happened after that. She strengthened to become one of the worst hurricanes on record in terms of deaths and damage. Officials are worried about Hurricane Irene's rains and flooding capabilities, so please be careful out there and heed the warnings.

I put some more Maine photos on my Facebook photo albums and some friends with whom I work complimented me on them. It is fun to see Maine through their eyes. Maine IS a beautiful state, with many things to recommend it. I particularly love the wildness of the foggy coast, and I do miss seeing it quite a bit. I think I'll put up some more photos later, and re-visit my old state via pictures.

The weekend is here and I am thinking of what to cook for my workweek lunches. I think this week's main dish will be corn chowder, along with corn muffins, and granola bars. I've made casseroles three weeks in a row and now it is time for some soup!

Have a good weekend everyone and stay safe!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Random photos

I don't know why I like these, I just do. I've posted the egg pic on this blog before but I pot it again because it intrigues me. Maybe the notion of the spilled out egg, no longer of use, and the different heather flowers at various stages of their life have a synchronicity. Maybe the synchronicity is only in my head. But that's OK. I see it.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A satisfying job

Today I made a kid with a skinned knee laugh. I got to relieve a kid's fear of a test and help them relax. I got to give a hug to a lonely kid. I got to say 'I love you' to a troubled one. I got to encourage a struggling child and praise a successful one. I tied shoes, opened milk, passed back papers. I zipped backpacks, issued reminders to wash hands and plucked tissues for runny noses.

I did not solve the global economic crisis. I did not earn fame for a stunning new novel nor cause waves in the celebrity world just for being me. I had no paparazzi follow me nor did I star on a billboard. I had no calls to speak at a conference, nor did I balance a budget or quell a riot.

My labors today were mundane, anonymous, and wonderfully satisfying.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Kids again

I had a great day. The kids made me laugh so hard. In one small group I was hosting, they got done with their math and for the last 3 minutes I said they could play with their manipulatives. We had been counting with little plastic puppies. One boy set them all in a good sized circle, and put one puppy in the middle, and two others were chasing each other around the outside of the circle. I said, "What are you playing?" He said "Duck Dick Goose!"

I get annoyed at the adults of the world. I watch Judge Judy sometimes when I get home. I see adult after adult live off of welfare, tell the Judge that they don't have work, never worked, don't want to work... They lay around their parents' home watching tv...or doing much of nothing. I see this kind of attitude reflected in quotes from people in the newspaper, I see adults in real life being lazy. It's a problem, these adults who slack. It's annoying. Even of the many who do work (and are blessed these days to have a job), they don't have a lot of 'go get um' attitude. Slacking is an art form these days.

I watch these kids, though. They are five years old, entering school for the first time. School is a huge building populated with really tall adults, lots of walking by them really fast. There are tons of kids they don't know. There are dozens of routines, and hundreds of tasks they must accomplish each day. They miss their mommies. They miss their daddies. But most of them, you know, try hard. They work. And most of them are cheerful about it.

I so respect these kids. It really would be similar to an adult's 18 hour day, what we ask them to absorb, and obediently too. For the ones who struggle, they smile and giggle with me as we count the dots over and over and over, or say the alphabet over and over and over. They work. And I respect them all for it.

And on top of the privilege I have to help kids, they make me laugh too.

Life is good.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Curious kids

I had a quiet Sunday. I made my usual meals for the week, this time, pressing and marinating tofu for later grilling, fig compote, a marinated tomato salad for putting on crusty bruschetta tomorrow, and a hearty vegetable soup. Strangely, after all that, I'm not hungry and I'm just sipping a large mug of green tea now.

It was relaxing and nice day with the cats. The cats have had a hard time adjusting this week to my absence, with school resuming and me gone now all day. I was glad to spend a little cuddle time with them on the bed or on the couch.

It sure was a tiring week. Getting back to school hits like a ton of bricks. The kindergarteners are great though. On Friday morning as I was walking the line of them down the hall from the gym to their classrooms, one little guy turned and looked up at me and looked at my summer short sleeved sweater. He had questions.

Is that a sweater you have on?
Are you wearing anything under it?
Pause. How best to answer that one. ... This sweater IS the shirt.
Pause. Then:
Why do you have to walk us down the hall? I can go by myself.
I laughed inside. The little one asking me this is exactly the one who should NEVER be allowed to go anywhere down the hall by himself, being so active and curious. I could just see him going into the custodian's closet and turning on all the faucets just to see what would happen.
Because it is important an adult go with all the little kids.
But I know my way.
I'm proud of you for knowing that already, but grownups still need to be around.
Because I love you and I like seeing you.
Oh! OK.

I really admire the curious ones, and I like the ones who stand up for themselves and insist on good answers to good questions (without being disrespectful). I also like simply talking with kids. They are interesting.

Well, my weekend is almost over and I get to talk with a bunch more of the little kids tomorrow. I can't wait to see what they have to say!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Maypops and sweet tea

I'm still learning cool things about the south. Though I've lived here just about five years now, there is still so much to learn about this interesting section of the country. I was at a friend's house Sunday night and as we arrived for fun he handed out a bag of maypops to us all, some toothpicks, markers, and thumbtacks, and said to make something with them. I was told that they are called maypops. I had to learn more about maypops.

"Passiflora incarnata, commonly known as Maypop, Purple passionflower, True passionflower, Wild apricot, and Wild passion vine, is a fast growing perennial vine with climbing or trailing stems. A member of the passionflower genus Passiflora, the Maypop has large, intricate flowers with prominent styles and stamens. One of the hardiest species of passionflower, it is a common wildflower in the southern United States."

The flower is so pretty! I'll have to keep a lookout for them. I was told that when you stomp on the fruit of the passionflower, it pops, hence its name. In the innocent, Andy Griffith Mayberry days, kids would gather them and pop them all day long. Kind of like we do with bubble wrap now. But it's not the same.

You can eat them, though reportedly the maypop fruits are seedy. The leaves are edible too.

We had fun making insects and mini statues with our maypops. Some were lopsided, some were cute. Mine was deemed "interesting." LOL, I'm always the odd one. So I was glad to have learned more about the varied flora and fauna here in Georgia and to have participated in an old-timey fun thing with the natural fruit around here.

In another cute southern thing, at school the next day, I was talking with a couple of friends, and they mentioned the Chicken Express 'Happy Hour.' I was surprised to hear this, because there are a lot of Baptists around here (including me!) who don't drink alcohol (including me!) Turns out, 'Happy Hour' at Chicken Express is half priced sweet tea. Now, don't let anything come between a southerner and his sweet tea!

Monday, August 08, 2011

School began, figs are in, sunsets are lovely

We started school Friday. Today was the second day with the kids. The kiddos are great! I really like my crew this year. Ha ha, like I don't love them every year. But it's hard to let go of the ones I'd worked with all last year and I miss them, feeling that little pang when I pass them in the hall. Soon enough, though they will be used to their new teacher and their new para-pro and I will have settled in to a routine with my current ones. The educational wheel of life turns.

Someone really nice gave me a huge bag of figs today. My fig tree is not bearing for the second year in a row. Unless I'm just really slow to get out there and pick, and other people are coming along and stripping it clean without me any case I never get any figs from it like I did the first year I lived here. So I was thrilled for her to give me the bag. They are plump and great. I really like figs. I just ate a bunch :)

We had our small group faith group Sunday night. These are bible studies held in a home instead of a larger group at church on Sunday evenings. It is the 6th time we've met of our monthly meetings and I'm leading the group in a study. It was very sweet last night. Then as I left the very rural and beautiful home in which we'd met, this sunset greeted me:

Life is pretty good right now. I'm very grateful for my job, my friends, the children I work with, rural sunsets, and for fresh food.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

School bells are ringing

Well, they are for me, but the kids won't start until Aug 5. I go back Monday. I've been preparing my cats to steel themselves for Monday, when their mommy will suddenly disappear for most of the day and our comfortable schedule will change drastically, but I don't think they are absorbing the information as best they might.

I've really enjoyed the summer. I wrote a lot and read a lot and studied a lot and did not socialize a lot. All of which are great. I cooked garden stuff and took naps and watched Judge Judy. I looked at physics documentaries and interspersed them with clips from the comedy show The Big Bang Theory. I weaned myself off of Criminal Minds only to get stuck on cooking shows. I did nothing I didn't want to do and everything I wanted to do. Is it any wonder I'm mourning summer's end??

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Eating on a budget

Grocery shopping these days can be a trial, for sure. When you have a budget and you try to stick to it, the prices today can make that hard. It is very stress inducing, because though you can control your grocery bill somewhat by the choices you make, you can't do without food. It is a necessity.

I'vs shared a few blog entries about eating on a budget, essays containing my ideas on ways to save. One is here, another is here.

Prices are even higher than the last time I posted on this issue. One way to save is to delay shopping for a few days or so. We tend to open the fridge, see that our one favorite item is gone, and say "Goodness, I need to go shopping!" You would be surprised at how long you can delay grocery shopping by just eating what you have on hand. I tried it myself, and I ended up putting off shopping for a week. Now, I'm single and I don't have children, so things will undoubtedly be different at your house. But even then, if the Sugar Pops are out, and you feel you need to go buy more, how often do we emerge from the store with just that one replacement item? Rarely. Try putting it off a day or two or three.

My budget is maximum $30 for fresh food at the grocery store, and maximum $20 for hard goods at the Dollar Store. I was disappointed this week that I'd spent $24 at the Dollar Store and $36 at the grocery store. I was very careful, but still, it was $10 over budget. I hadn't bought any extras, but only the bare minimum.

At the grocery store, I purchased 26 items. Seventeen of those were sale items. Fifteen of the sale items were from the sale flyer, which I peruse before-hand and make studious choices. Studious means I don't buy them just because they are on sale. I buy them if they are something I normally eat, and can make a frugal recipe from. The other two sale items were 'on the spot sale items.' One was tomatoes marked down and the other was bread that was a day past date.

As for the bread, I was pretty excited. It was an artisan bread, a Ciabatta. It was pretty hard, lol. But it was large and only $1.99, the regular price was twice that and so was something I'd never buy in the normal course of things. The other item that was on spot sale was a bag of good, plump Roma tomatoes, a huge bag, for .99. I have no idea why they were priced so low, but I snatched them up before you could say Jack Robinson. At home, lunch became a ciabatta bread bruschetta and tofu I'd grilled. I diced up the tomatoes with their juice and added a touch of olive oil and salt-pepper. Let it soak for a while, then slice up the hard bread and top it with the tomato and juices. It softens up, except for the crust- but I like hard crust. Another way to have hard bread is for breakfast, to add butter and grill or toast, and then top with soft-boiled egg.

Another way to monitor spending is to refrain from eating lunch out. School starts up on Monday, yes indeed. My summer is coming to a rapid end. I pack a lunch every day and I avoid the vending machine. You'd be surprised how 50 cents or 75 cents adds up every day. Not to mention 7 or 8 dollars for lunch. Invariably I'm disappointed with lunch out or brought in. If it is brought in it is always cold, soggy and often not my order, lol. I can have collegiality with my friends but eat my own brought lunch.

From what I read of the farm forecasts and economic forecasts, prices are only going to go up. I pray for families. It is really hard these days to eat healthy on a budget. I hope some of these ideas help you. Please feel free to share your tips.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Summer in my yard

I think the finest thing about summer, and there are many fine things, is to sit quietly in my chair by the window, reading, listening to the birds nearby and the train in the distance, the day waking up with each turn of the page.

That old comedian Roseanne might claim to be the "Domestic goddess" but I definitely am "Domestic Disaster." I don't know why the simplest domestic things confound me, but they do. This week I was taking a shower. I never take baths. Occasionally, the drain gets to draining slow, and you either put vinegar and baking soda down it or Drano, depending on how slow it gets to draining. I noticed this time that the water wasn't draining at all, but quickly rising over my feet, and on up to the ankles. "That's a lot of water," I thought. "The drain must be really stopped up." When I finished I watched to see if it would drain at all, and it wasn't. "How did it get so stopped up?" I wondered. "It wasn't even going slow yesterday. Maybe there is a stoppage in the system from the kitchen pipe or something." I could not attend to it then, It was Sunday and I needed to get to church. On the way home I bought Drano and a plunger. Plunging the drain yielded nothing. I plunged harder. Nothing, Then harder. I broke the plunger. Yet the drain yielded no drainage. I poured half a bottle of extra strength Draino and left if for half an hour. Nothing.

It was then I'd noticed the drain toggle was "UP". I don't know how that happened. I'm like the absent-minded professor or something, nose always in a book while the house burns down around me, belatedly looking up to ask, "Why are all the firemen here?"

Speaking of Roseanne, I'd stumbled across her new show last night. I didn't recognize her at all at first. I knew the voice was vaguely familiar, but didn't notice that she was the same woman as the one from the show from the 1980s for a few minutes. But I did get annoyed that she swore so much. Literally, every other word had to be bleeped. And this was in a speech where was sharing about how her philosophical outlook had changed during the time she was in Hollywood, and became afraid she was going to hell. That was what caught my attention at first. "Oh, good, a testimony" I thought. She spoke of moving to Hawaii and buying a nut farm. I don't know where she's headed but whichever it is the path toward it will be littered with profanity. I clicked the channel.

The field next door turns a pretty lilac-to-magenta color in mid-summer. Clumps of grass blades of a deep purple mixed in with the yellow and orange an the green make for a colorful array.

It's these guys that make it look purple:

The figs are getting ripe, as are the apples and the pears. Yummy times ahead.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Bill Bryson's 'Lost Continent' book: review

I started Bill Bryson's "The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America." I was looking forward to reading it. I enjoyed A Walk in the Woods and Neither Here Nor There. I had high hopes. But I quit reading the book at page 8. Yes, page 8. I checked.


Within the first 8 pages there were so many malignant comments against Republicans, conservatives, God, farmers, small towns, and the entire midwest. I got sick of it, especially the conservative jokes. The derision against farmers was especially unfortunate. These people broil themselves to death in the summer and freeze their toes off in the winter just so we can have food. Apparently Mr Bryson doesn't eat food, or he would be at least a little bit thankful to the people who grow it and not make fun of their tan.

In frustration, because I really wanted to read and not get out of bed to get a different book, I turned to the middle section where he was traveling through Maine. He went up the coast from Portsmouth NH/Eliot ME border to Wiscasset and found nothing good to say. Nada. Zip. Here is the stretch I'm talking about:
It is 100 miles of rockbound coast and Bill Bryson found the entire thing "cold and drear," "messy and bleak." The landscape was "dull". Wiscasset was "just OK" and all of it was "unmemorable." He drove on across the state toward New Hampshire. Good riddance, I say.

Here is my Maine:

Yeah. "Drear."

Well, at least I know myself. I picked up a huge stack of books at the library because at least half of them usually turn out to be bad, profane, or unsuitable. How do so many bad books get published? I don't know, but at least there are good books that are published too. I start Comanche Moon, next!

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Library day!

I finished my books and went to the library, as per usual, on 'Thursday Grocery Day'. I picked up Comanche Moon, the next installment in the Lonesome Dove series. I really like Larry McMurtry's writing. It is expressive without being lengthy or flowery, qualities I admire in  writer. Especially because I tend toward flowery and lengthy, lol.

I got a couple of Christian historical novels. Sigh, hope springs eternal. Usually though, Christian novels stink. They are a travesty of publishing and a malignancy on the intellect so my hopes are very low. I also got one about the Franklin expedition. This was a Victorian-era expedition, the purpose which was to map out the North-West Passage from Europe to Asia. I love a good expedition book. I also love a good science yarn, like Dava Sobel's Longitude, or Brunelleschi's Dome, or a nautical science adventure, like Isaac's Storm, Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea, or The Sinking of the Whale Ship Essex. Books like those are few and far between- well written, scientifically accurate, and a whopper of a good story. The bonus is they are all true events. I'm hoping the Franklin Expedition book will be a good rousing adventure story, though it is tragic as most of the Polar stories are. I really admire those guys who laid it all on the line for the sake of advancing our knowledge of the world.

Bill Bryson is always good for a laugh. I got his book "Lost Continent" about his travels in small town America.

In addition I had purchased a couple of books that I picked up today at the Post Office: John Piper's "Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God" and Tony Attwood's "Complete Guide to Aspergers Syndrome". All this should keep me out of trouble for a while, lol.

Grocery shopping was kind of depressing. I set a budget of $30 for fresh goods and $20 for hard goods at the Dollar Store. I bought 13 items at the Dollar Store and aside from the cat food for $7 all the rest were mostly a dollar. I spent $22 there, buying only minimal things like denture cleaner (for my mouth guard) and mustard and peanut butter...then at the grocery store I spent $34. I was over budget, but at the grocery store I only bought 17 items and none of those were the $4 gallon of milk I usually get. Sigh. English muffins were up 20 cents, eggs are up, yogurt is exorbitant, ricotta cheese is outrageously is sad. I really don't know how families with children do it.

Cat day afternoon, lol. Luke likes the top of the bookcase for his favorite nap-time space. I think he needs a valium. He looks too wound up.

Monday, July 04, 2011

It's not "Morning in America" any more...'s dusk

Ronald Reagan Statue
"A statue of Ronald Reagan is to be unveiled in London's Grosvenor Square, as part of a year of celebrations to mark the 100th birthday of the former US president. The 10 foot bronze will be positioned on a pedestal close to the American Embassy, and stand alongside existing statues of two other 20th Century US leaders, Dwight Eisenhower and Franklin D Roosevelt. With the unveiling scheduled for July 4, US Independence Day, the Ronald Reagan Foundation has invited Margaret Thatcher and David Cameron to attend the ceremony. Condoleezza Rice, the former US secretary of state who worked for the Pentagon during Mr Reagan's presidency, will represent Nancy Reagan, 89, who will be following proceedings from her Californian home."

For those of you old enough to remember the 1980 Presidential election, Ronald Reagan ran as a conservative Republican. The oldest man to be elected to the position, may feared him and his principles, including myself, in which he "advocated reducing tax rates to spur economic growth, controlling the money supply to reduce inflation, deregulation of the economy, and reducing government spending. In his first term he ... took a hard line against labor unions..." These are all positions I believe in now. Back then, I was a twenty-year old liberal agnostic abortion advocate scared to death of a Reagan presidency but having an antipathy to four more years of Jimmy Carter and inflation. If I remember right, I voted for John Anderson even though he was conservative because I've always believed in working toward a third party candidate and the other two candidates were just awful in my opinion.

Of course, we all know what happened. Reagan was a great president. Those people who were not clouded by liberal thought knew he would be great from the beginning, and history bears this out.

Particularly estimable was Reagan and UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's relationship. Both politicians held the same philosophical outlook in governing. They furthered the close relationship that John Adams brilliantly and humbly set the course for back in 1785 when the victorious and newly formed United States met with our former Kin,g George III.

As I look on this Fourth of July holiday today, I can't help but be filled with melancholy. The bright future that won Reagan the re-election, "Morning in America: Prouder, Stronger, Better" came as an optimistic note after the dour and malaise-filled failed Carter Presidency. Reagan's staunch stand against communism was the force that caused it to fail and the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, shortly after Reagan left office. He had stood at Germany's Brandenburg Gate and challenged Russian President Gorbachev to "Tear down this wall!" It was a decade of US hegemony, respect, and where we did Good and were known to do Good in the world.

Twenty-one years later Obama (tried to stand) at the Brandenburg Gate and gave a speech apologizing for all of the above. With our current Oval Office occupier, we have lost the economy, lost our moral stand in the world, lost our way. We place Israel on the terror nation list and invite terrorists in the Muslim Brotherhood to the diplomatic table. Down is up and up is down.

I'm sad for the loss of solidity of the Constitution. It is a crumbling and increasingly transparent document now, being constantly chipped away at and outright ignored. It is a document that used to be a granite foundation for our country but now is simply a ghostly vapor. I miss the bright morning rays over the cornfields in the Morning in America campaign ads that I once was fearful of but know better now. I miss all that, but one important thing has changed with me since 'Morning In America' turned to dusk.

I am saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Though I mourn the place America used to be, I know that she is not my ultimate home. America fulfilled many promises in her work for the Lord, and even in these evil days she is still doing so. I've replaced the State of Liberty with the Cross as my most revered emblem. It might be dusk in America now, with only the bronze statue of Reagan across the sea to remind us of our once glorious days not so long ago, but in Jesus's heaven, every day is morning, bright and filled with His glory. My independence day is December 3, 2003, the day Jesus set me free from my bondage of sin. I became truly free that day and I hope as you celebrate this nation's Independence, that you ponder your eternal morning, and where you will spend it.

Friday, July 01, 2011


When I and a friend were in Italy some years ago, we stayed a couple of nights in Orvieto, an ancient Tuscan walled town. We found a hotel that used to be a villa back in the day. Back in the day in Italy means several hundred years ago. The lighting for the rooms were still the original Murano glass chandeliers, and the wall art were still the same ancient murals that late Renaissance painters had done. Our rooms overlooked a plaza and across the plaza was this church:

The other window overlooked the roofs with typical terra cotta tiles for roofing material. Terra cotta literally means baked earth. Terracotta tiles could be easily made using handy nearby materials, it is resistant to snow and frost, is durable, and the reason I took this photo: it's pretty.