Saturday, March 31, 2012

Library expansion

Our public library has concluded a one year, nearly 3M dollar expansion. It adds 7500 square feet to the library. It adds classrooms, a geneaology research center, light, and bathrooms. It is gorgeous.

The library has been open all the while the expansion has been going on, and as I've swapped out library books every two weeks I looked at the addition's progress. But today was the ribbon cutting and official opening. I decided to go, but first to quickly hustle on down to the Comer Farmer's Market first and buy a couple of plants for my container garden I will set up on Monday.
Comer Farmer's Market picture
After that I though I'd mosey down to the library to take part in the ribbon cutting. I deliberately skipped the speeches and got there at about 10:40 just as they were finished. I walked all through the library and I have to say it is gorgeous.

The picture is a bookmark given out at the ceremony. All the facts of the expansion are on the back of the bookmark. I was busting with pride. I am so thankful that our county has men and women running it who plan ahead, and prepare for facilities upgrades like this. One of the Librarians at the ribbon cutting told me later that they said in the speech that we are just about the only county to have had a surplus. That is quite something in this economy. The expansion was paid for by a 1.5M grant from the State of Georgia, and $600,000 in SPLOST money. Wikipedia explains SPLOST better than I could:

"In the U.S. state of Georgia, a special-purpose local-option sales tax (SPLOST) can be levied by any county, for the purpose of funding the building and maintenance of parks, schools, roads, and other public facilities. Georgia's state sales tax is currently 4% (groceries and prescription drugs exempted), with the counties allowed to add up to 2% more for SPLOST. A SPLOST is passed by a county commission, usually with the agreement of its city councils, and voted up or down by residents in a referendum, usually during the next scheduled election. A SPLOST only lasts five years..."

I like that SPLOST is limited in duration, fiscally dedicated to a particular plan, and is enacted by all the governing bodies, including the People.

The rest of the money was from grants, Athens Regional Library system, Friends of the Library, the Library Trustees and the estate of respected Jere Ayers. Way to go Madison County! I'm proud of you!

It was a peaceful drive. I go up Route 98 without turning, about 8 miles. Along the way I pass this:

And when I come home I see this:
The tiger lilies are fading now but even as they fade the bush looks like it's aflame. So pretty. All in all a great Saturday morning.

I am on vacation this week

I know the populace at large doesn't think so, but we work really hard in elementary schools.  We balance the emotional, physical and educational needs of 22 students at every moment of every day, 7 hours at a time. It is quite a juggling act to get a classroom full of 5 and 6 year olds to function as a cohesive whole. My hat is off to the teachers. As a teacher's aide myself I know the hard work my para-pro colleagues do as well.

We are on spring break this week and I am really glad. The weather is perfect and I am looking forward to kicking back. I've accumulated several books to read, theology etc. I plan to do a little work at my front door sprucing it up with plants and bushes. The landlord dug out the soil last year and cemented over right next to the door so I can't plant, but I'll put some pots out and some flowers. I plan to take it easy, but I'm not traveling anywhere. Gas prices are too high and I like to be home anyway.

I read this morning that three people won the record jackpot Mega Millions, splitting 200 million apiece. Wow. What I could do with that money... Someone's life is changed this morning. I'm glad for the three families, but worried too. That much money always brings trouble.

My cat is so polite. When I'm on the couch, he sits on the floor and looks at me quietly. He only jumps up to my lap if I pat the couch invitingly. This morning he sat on the other end of the table and waited for me to finish breakfast. I don't know how he knew I was done, but when I took the last sip of coffee and set the cup down, then he got up and sat next to me.

I was reading a book with a kindergartener in class. Sam and Al. Sam is a lion and Al is a zookeeper. Sam and Al are pals. I explained what pals are. At one point Al patted the lion through the bars of the cage. I said, "I don't know if I'd pat the lion with my hand like that. He might bite it off." The child said, "Mrs Prata! They're pals." Everything is so literal and so simple for kids.

Though in another instance, their minds make a leap that are uncannily spooky. I was working with a boy in math. We had a pile of little colored plastic puppies. I had him do different groups that make up ten, and then I said he could play with them. He immediately lined them all up in rows of three. I said, "That looks like a kennel." He didn't know what a kennel was, so I explained that it is a place where doggies go when their human mommy and daddy go on a trip. All the dogs stay at a place like a doggie hotel. He must have picked up on the abandonment part and not the hotel part. He immediately rearranged the groups and said, "Look. They're waiting for their soup."

I laughed and said it's not an orphanage...but he was sort of right.

So it is 63 degrees out, the birds are singing. There was a gentle rain all night so maybe the pollen will lay down today. It's sunny and bright. I have the privilege of deciding whether to go to the Farmer's Market, or stay in and slunge in my PJ's. Ahhh, vacations.

Friday, March 23, 2012


Spring is popping out back. With the warm temps comes flowers, but also pollen and fire ants. I love that the lawn has all these wildflowers that bloom. They always come back after a lawnmowing. I'm not talking about dandelions, but several other kind that are so precious looking. I don't know what they are but they sure are pretty.

I love that there are so many birds flying from the hedges to the trees over the field to the other trees. They swoop and sing, and it is a lovely background music when the windows are open.

Apple blossoms out in the back yard.

Apple blossoms closer

Apple blossoms closest

The culprit of the current misery for all Georgians! Pollen!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


The pollen counts are 9,369. The usual amount is like 800 or some ridiculous number. It is a record breaker. The pollen count is more than 35 percent higher than the previous record. The previous record was 13 years ago and the then-record pollen count was 6013. It's taking a toll on people and animals, for sure. We stayed inside from recess today, and that is a first, I think. Not too hot. Just too much pollen. The high counts are not from the unusual heat we've been having, but the mild winter. With every upside there's a downside, I guess.

Rain will take care of the problem. Now, a good, cool, rainy Saturday would be just the thing!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Rube Goldberg Machine: catching monsters

This is definitely wonderful. If you like kids, gizmos, science, and cuteness, watch the 4 minutes. A Rube Goldberg machine for the ages.

HT Dan Phillips

Monday, March 12, 2012

In love with succulents

I live succulents. They appeal to me because of their hardiness, various shades of green, and because they can start small and can remain small. I had a beautiful patio garden at my apartment in Maine. It was on the second floor, and it was full of gorgeous cacti and succulents in pots. Here is one photo of the hens and chicks I'd had

I guess the new design trend is succulents. I'd blogged this week about the sweet succulents in an egg cup I discovered. I plan to make these. In looking at the design websites today I found this: a succulent orb:

And also on that same website there were these cuties:

And not to be outdone, there were these wall art succulents from Sunset Mag:

I love succulents! So what did I do?? Put a "Wanted" post on my Athens Freecycle group. Hopefully someone is getting rid of some and I will take them away! (Free).

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Egg cup succulents

I like small things. Small books. Small pieces of glass. Small greeting cards. So this display attracted me: A New Use For Egg Cups.

Love it! I wanted to do it right away! Only problem is, I don't have egg cups. I looked into buying some at, but the were expensive. What to do? Yard sale, naturally.

Coincidentally, a friend called me yesterday to go yard sale-ing. I love coincidences like this. So off we went, on a happy spring day late enough in the morning where it wasn't too cold and the sun was up bright and warm.

I swung by the Farmer's Market on the way over to her house and grabbed a half-loaf of fresh, homemade bread and a dozen free range organic eggs, and got there in no time flat. Nothing like the smell of fresh deals in the morning to get me out and about...

I was on the lookout for spring tops, and I found a couple, along with a bud vase. And then...

Lo and Behold in short order I found ... not egg cups, but Pier 1 Espresso Cups. I liked that they were plain white so the green succulent will contrast nicely. I liked the handle was a sweet perfect circle reminiscent of Fiesta Ware. I really liked that they were ten cents each.

Pen for scale
So the next purchase will be little succulents, tiny cactus or maybe hens and chicks. I have to be careful about bringing plants into the house, the cats eat them and most are poisonous to felines. I don't have any plants or flowers inside the house, except a bud in the bud vase on the windowsill by the kitchen sink. That's where I'll put the succulents. Whenever I get around to buying some, that is. Meanwhile I have the cups to look at.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Closeup photos of pretty things

It was such a nice, and a long, dusk that I went outside to take some photos  closeup of some things I think are pretty. That's all. :)

Closeup of feet of angel statue in my hanging garden

Closeup of a fabric flower in my hanging garden. It was part of a gift someone had given me. I thought the flowers were too bright and pretty to be thrown away.

Closeup of a marble on a hanging sun and moon windchime, another gift from a special and lovely person.

Coming back into the house, this painting hangs above my dining table. It is a painting of Naples Italy, and Vesuvius. The painting was given to me by a wonderful person I knew a while ago. People are very nice to me giving me these gifts. Whenever I look at them I think of the people who gave them to me.

Another detail from Naples Italy painting.

Pretty busy day, hoping for auroras tonight

The days at school are getting busier. As teachers test for end of year, aa para-professionals get trained for the screening process of incoming kindergarten registrants, as Special Ed teachers finalize Individual Education Plans, we are all performing "extra" duties within the normal course of the school day. It gets busy, and as each day finishes I feel like I've been in a whirlwind. And for the life of me I cannot figure out how to make it any less so. Therefore the day disgorges me at 3:30 with straight-up hair and stumbling toward the car.

The pear trees are blooming, and they are beautiful. The soft mornings are lovely and light. Though I understand that comes to an end this weekend as we turn the clocks ahead. Whose idea was it, anyway, to mess with time?

I hope the current coronal mass ejection that is now enveloping the earth will yield auroras this far south. Initially there was some hope because the CME was so large, but its impacts are less than previously thought. Hope for a colorful sky tonight is fading, but I'm still going to look up.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Spring is so pretty

March is a great month in the south. Winters in Maine were like this:
And they lasted a long time. This photo could well have been taken in March.

But in Madison County GA, spring begins with green grass in January and February.

The absence of foliage throughout the year isn't as heart-breaking because the grass is like a velvet carpet that livens the eyes.

The forsythia pops. They are blooming now.

And then it's flowers, flowers, flowers! Yay!

Sunday, March 04, 2012

I finally got a haircut

I know, this isn't big news. But I let it go so long, not attending to what had become an obvious beauty need, that when I finally hauled myself to the shop and got it cut I felt like I'd won the Battle at Midway. My hair had gotten long and unruly. I looked like a cross between Bob Marley and Medusa.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Grits and storms

We had a non-stop train of storms come in last night. There was frightening thunder, lightning that caused a great many fires, rain that overflowed my plant pot that is 8 inches high, and of course, tornadoes. We were not hit by any tornadoes nor any straight-line winds right around here, but a little ways out, they were.

My cat Bert was inconsolable, He trounced on my head all night. I mean that literally. He would bound up onto the bed and lick my face and sit in my hair. Every hour or so when another storm would roll through he would do that. And he would do that in between storms too. The storms were unstoppable and Bert would not stop. I tried to comfort him as best I could by cuddling and talking to him. It makes for a tired Cat Mama the next day though.

I made the biggest load of grits a person can fit in the crockpot today. My friend gave me the recipe and it was for feeding the entire kindergarten class, 19 kids plus 3 adults. She told me to cut it. The first time I make a recipe I always make it exactly the way it is described, so I know how it is supposed to come out, and that way I have a benchmark to tweak it against. So I did not cut it. But this is a ridiculous amount of grits. I could seal my driveway with them.

The movie My Cousin Vinny came out 20 years ago. I enjoyed that movie. It was about a NY Italian lawyer who had to travel to Mississippi to defend his cousin who had allegedly committed a crime there. It was basically a show about the fish out of water, the comedy stemming from the clash between the hardened, brash New Yorker in the genteel southern culture. In the trial, the amount of time it takes to cook grits became an important part of the defense. At the time, I laughed so hard at this exchange:

Vinny Gambini: Oh, oh, oh, you testified earlier that you saw the boys go into the store, and you had just begun to cook your breakfast and you were just getting ready to eat when you heard the shot.
Mr. Tipton: That's right.
Vinny Gambini: So obviously it takes you 5 minutes to cook your breakfast.
Mr. Tipton: That's right.
Vinny Gambini: That's right, so you knew that. You remember what you had?
Mr. Tipton: Eggs and grits.
Vinny Gambini: Eggs and grits. I like grits, too. How do you cook your grits? Do you like them regular, creamy or al dente?
Mr. Tipton: Just regular I guess.
Vinny Gambini: Regular. Instant grits?
Mr. Tipton: No self respectin' Southerner uses instant grits. I take pride in my grits.
Vinny Gambini: So, Mr. Tipton, how could it take you 5 minutes to cook your grits when it takes the entire grit eating world 20 minutes?
Mr. Tipton: I don't know, I'm a fast cook I guess.
Vinny Gambini: I'm sorry I was all the way over here I couldn't hear you did you say you were a fast cook, that's it?
Mr. Tipton: Yeah.
Vinny Gambini: Are we to believe that boiling water soaks into a grit faster in your kitchen than anywhere else on the face of the earth?
Mr. Tipton: I don't know.
Vinny Gambini: Well, I guess the laws of physics cease to exist on top of your stove. Were these magic grits? Did you buy them from the same guy who sold Jack his beanstalk beans?

Magic grits, lol. Now I need a magic genie to come and eat them all.

Who knew that twenty years later I'd me making grits from a recipe a southern lady gave me. That me, a Yankee, would be making grits like a southern lady and loving them so much and even living in the south. Ahem, though these are not instant grits (horrors!) they are 'quick' grits. They took 4 hours in the crockpot.