Thursday, May 31, 2012

Library books

I had a good haul from the library today. I ran out to do errands this morning, which include PO, bank, Dollar Store, Grocery Store, and library. I go out once per week. It is because I am so bare bones on my budget the gas in the car is just about  the only personal expenditure I have wiggle room on. So I don't hop in the car and zoom off at will. In summer I go out once per week and this really saves a lot on gas!

I got The Big Year:A Tale of Man, Nature and Fowl Obsession by Mark Obmascik. It is a recommendation that fellow blogger and wonderful artist Beth Stone made over at Beth Stone Studio. Her recommendation was actually of the movie that the book was made into. She said that "It's a pretty low-key movie about birding starring Steve Martin, Jack Black, and Owen Wilson. With that trio, you'd think it would be a slap-stick comedy, but it's really not. It has a few "chuckle" spots, but overall, it's just a mellow, feel-good movie about birdwatching." Beth is a Christian woman and it's good to hear that there is a nice, clean movie out there. I'm looking forward to reading the book and then finding the movie to watch. And you all know how I feel about birds already. Love them!

I also checked out Incendiary: A Novel by Chris Cleave. The blurb states- "Living hand to mouth in London's East End, the unnamed mother's life is shattered when her policeman husband (part of a bomb disposal unit) and four-year-old son are killed in the stadium stands" by an al-Qaeda terrorist attack. Throughout the book she reveals the desperate sadness of a broken heart and a working-class life blown apart. So it's a light summer read, then.

In the pile is The Darlings by Cristina Alger, "A sophisticated page-turner about a wealthy New York family embroiled in a financial scandal with cataclysmic consequences." Here is almost the whole reason I picked up the book. At the end of a hyper-hyperbolic synopsis, the last lines goes like this- "The Darlings offers an irresistible glimpse into the highest echelons of New York society-a world seldom seen by outsiders-and a fast-paced thriller of epic proportions." It is a debut novel "of epic proportions!" Quite a feat for a debut novelist to manage those heights right off the bat. I mean, it's epic as in the world's best and longest selling book, the Bible. Or of the world's most famous and one of the longest epic books, War and Peace. Or the world's most romantic epically sweeping book, Dr Zhivago. Or a true epic as defined by Webster's dictionary, "a long narrative poem telling of a hero's deeds" ... like Homer's Odyssey! Therefore, since The Darlings is a book of epic proportions, as august as the aforementioned, I have GOT TO READ THIS book about the rich guy in New York!

And because I didn't like the new Sherlock Holmes book House of Silk all that much and I am STILL WAITING for the 6th novel in the Barker and Llewellyn detective series (hear that Will Thomas?) I checked out another gritty Victorian whodunit, The Poe Shadow. "Baltimore, 1849. The body of Edgar Allan Poe has been buried in an unmarked grave. The public, the press, and even Poe’s own family and friends accept the conclusion that Poe was a second-rate writer who met a disgraceful end as a drunkard. Everyone, in fact, seems to believe this except a young Baltimore lawyer named Quentin Clark, an ardent admirer who puts his own career and reputation at risk in a passionate crusade to salvage Poe’s."

The guy must have done a good job, because Poe is renowned now. I crack myself up. All sarcasm aside, Poe did have a terrible reputation when he died and his death was of very mysterious circumstances, the likes of which are not known today.

Last, I got a non-fiction book called Art Explained. Because, well, sometimes I need someone to explain art to me.

The books on the left are a Grisham and a Larry McMurtry compendium of short stories. Those authors are in a class by themselves! The books on the bottom shelf are religious books, non-fiction and theology. I'm in for some happy reading.

What book has your bookmark in it these days?

NY Public Library

As I get ready to make my weekly trip to the library, I was thinking of the mother of all libraries, the NY Public Library in Manhattan. It is a wonderful institution, the library, invented by none other than Ben Franklin in 1731.

Having seen movie depictions of the wonderful Reading Room of the NY Public Library, seeing the place used as a setting in many films, most notably The Day After Tomorrow and Ghostbusters, I wanted to see the real thing. It would be a pilgrimage of paying homage to our nation's commitment to the free education that is available to any person at any time, for free.

I went to NYC in 2004 on a journalism convention. We stayed in the Grand Hyatt on Park Avenue, yes, that Park Ave. The hotel is atop Grand Central Station, and by going down to the lower level you walk a hallway of wonderful and famous boutiques to emerge in the grand hall of the station. Up the street by a mere three blocks is the Library.

My friend and I enjoyed rambling in there. We were disappointed that the Reading Room was closed for repairs, but nonetheless we enjoyed the marble halls, the gift shop, and the architecture- including the decorative gilt surrounding the stately windows. Here we look out from the lobby at the intersection of East 41st Street and Fifth Ave, looking up E41st.

And here is the same view from Google Street View looking from E 41st St into the library at Fifth Ave. You notice in both photos, the three-part billboard at the bottom of the steps. Even though the photos were taken 7 years apart, the first by me in 2004 and the second by Google in 2011, the view is unmistakably the same. I enjoy photos of the same scene from different perspectives. I hope you do too.

And don't forget to support your local library!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


I took all these photos. They are from the local area in Madison County, mostly Colbert-Comer, though the goldfinch was taken in Gray Maine

Bird protecting

Bird feeding

Bird eating

Bird surveying

Bird relaxing

Bird running

Bird scaring

Bird washing

Bird soaring

Birds clucking!

Some things I like about summer

Summer means:

Reality TV: (Duck Dynasty and Food Network Star and Design Star). Guilty luxuries but hey, they're rated G! I love that the next morning I can scan the blogs and recaps and comments and commentaries. A time waster for sure.

Birds: lots and lots and lots of them at dawn. I love my yard. I live that I love where it is quiet enough to hear them through even my hazy waking up veil of sleep.

Big breakfasts: today it will be pancakes. A second pot of coffee if I feel like it. Carefully scanning the online ad in making my grocery list with steaming cuppa joe next to my notepad. Little things that keep me functioning but pleasurable to be able to take the time in doing them.

Flowers: I threw some morning glory seeds around last year that I'd dried. The ones I threw at the base of the large tree out front took. Now there are pure white morning glories almost as big as a bush climbing up the south side of the trunk and when the afternoon sun sets it lights them up so brightly! Gorgeous!

Blogs: Searching out bloggers worth reading. I like blogs that feature lots of photography, the kind where they post big pictures of birds or their kids or their farm and I don't have to read a lot. I read all day, by the time for leisure arrives I just like looking at pretty or nice things..

Facebook: As stated so succinctly on The Big Bang Theory:
"Leonard Hofstadter: I thought you hated Facebook.
Sheldon Cooper: Don't be silly. I approve of anything that replaces human interaction."

It's true. I can stay engaged without fear of being suddenly hugged. I love reading the witticisms from my friends, like this "It's summer and the weather is getting hot. Girls of Madison County High School: You can't fit 10 pounds of potatoes in a 5 pound bag."

Or this:

"This status goes out to all of my friends who might get a job out of high school because they didnt post nasty status updates & pictures of them smoking a blunt."

Photos: My friend Jeanne used to drill it into me when I was editing the newspaper, "Pictures, pictures, pictures! And make them big." I love looking at even unknown people' photos of anything, family, birds, landscapes...but I always forget to post photos on my blog! That's gonna stop, right now.

O made my pass around the property this morning while the dew was still glistening. I checked the figs, the birdhouses, the magnolias, enjoyed the hayfield and the birds flitting over it.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Random and disjointed thoughts

You would think that with being at home for the summer and having few responsibilities, that I would not let the dishes pile up in the sink. You would think that...but you would be WRONG! LOL.

I just did a totally Asperger's thing. I rarely wear this certain shirt, and I decided it was because the tags were bothering me. So I cut them off. And I decided the collar was bothering me too, so I cut THAT off too.

For a while this morning I was listening to Ave Maria instrumental of flute, while my cat was curled up in my arms and kneading my neck with his little head tucked under my chin. Can you say relaxing?

I was hoping my area of north Georgia would receive some rain from tropical storm Beryl, but  I think we're just shy of the rain line. Too bad. We need the rain!

A satisfying and filling breakfast is a good thing. I note this because 180 days per year I do not have breakfast. I get up, have coffee, do my morning routine, and head to school. My first meal of the day is lunch at 11:30. I am aware that this is my own choice. I could get up at 5am instead of 6am and have breakfast. But I'm not hungry then. I don't get hungry until after 8am. So that's that. In summer I do enjoy having the time to make a regular breakfast and having the time to eat it.

The best thing about summer is being able to regulate my environment to one that is pleasing to me in every dimension: sight, sound, aesthetic, temperature, and clothing. Of course, being able to do what I want day after day is pretty fabulous, too.

Here is a random photo from the Italy files. It is the partially remaining outer wall of Rome's Colosseum. If you want a sense of how big this structure is, note the guy walking next to the wall...

Dirge for Two Veterans

Dirge for Two Veterans
By Walt Whitman

THE last sunbeam Lightly falls from the finish'd Sabbath, 
On the pavement here, 
and there beyond it is looking, 
Down a new-made double grave. 

Lo, the moon ascending, 
Up from the east the silvery round moon, 
Beautiful over the house-tops, ghastly, phantom moon, 
Immense and silent moon. 

I see a sad procession, 
And I hear the sound of coming full-key'd bugles, 
All the channels of the city streets they're flooding, 
As with voices and with tears. 

I hear the great drums pounding, 
And the small drums steady whirring, 
And every blow of the great convulsive drums, 
Strikes me through and through. 

For the son is brought with the father, 
(In the foremost ranks of the fierce assault they fell, 
Two veterans son and father dropt together, 
And the double grave awaits them.) 

Now nearer blow the bugles, 
And the drums strike more convulsive, 
And the daylight o'er the pavement quite has faded, 
And the strong dead-march enwraps me. 

In the eastern sky up-buoying, 
The sorrowful vast phantom moves illumin'd, 
('Tis some mother's large transparent face, 
In heaven brighter growing.) 

O strong dead-march you please me! 
O moon immense with your silvery face you soothe me! 
O my soldiers twain! O my veterans passing to burial! 
What I have I also give you. 

The moon gives you light, 
And the bugles and the drums give you music, 
And my heart, O my soldiers, my veterans, 
My heart gives you love.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Summer schedule

Since school ended, I've been noticing how hard it is to go full blast and then come to a full stop. I've been re-training myself on the how-to of living a slower life. LOL, I have been failing, because I've been getting up earlier each day. Today I awoke at 4:00am, made myself stay in bed until 5:30 and then I got up.

The cool of the day is a pleasant time, though, I enjoy a cup of coffee that I'm not gulping, and I can actually sit down and enjoy a perfectly ambient room. Best of all is listening to the birds.

Normally in the school year I spend 8 hours out and at work, plus another hour for errands and necessities, plus 3 to 4 hours studying and writing my other blog. Saturdays it takes me about 10-12 hours to write and edit the Prophecy Newsletter I send, and Sundays are for worship. That leaves little time, if any, for personal relaxation. So during the school year I pretty much forget about personal relaxation, unless it is during Christmas or Spring break.

By the time summer rolls around I have to actively remember how to live slowly and meditatively. It doesn't take me long to remember, but it does take a bit longer to get used to it. That's OK.

When I awake I make the coffee and drink it while scanning the overnight news and blogs. Then I listen to a sermon. Right now I'm going through Ezra with Pastor Damian Kyle. Then I read the bible passage again that I just heard a sermon on. Or I read it first and then listen. After that, prayers, and then writing.

In the mix is making breakfast. I enjoy a late and large breakfast around 10 and a light lunch around 2 or 3. By 11:30 to noon or so I'm tired of sitting so I do my errands. Once per week I go to town and get groceries and a new load of books from the local library. Otherwise, errands means I run to the local post office a mile away, or I just walk around the yard and pick wildflowers and check the birdhouses.

On today's walk I was not only rewarded with some pretty flowers, but the first figs! I spotted some ready-ripe ones in the higher branches. But they were not too high for meeee! I have Gumby arms when it comes to plucking out-of-reach figs. Where there's a will, there is a way, and I have the will.

I mentioned a while back about seeing a sweet idea for potting small succulents. It took a while but I finally finished the project. I had found beautiful espresso cups at a yard sale and a few days ago a friend gave me some aloe cuttings. Here is the result. I actually have four:

Here is the scene, flowers, succulents, etc:

 Windowsill in kitchen:

The summer schedule suits me. Though I miss my little guys at school a wicked lot. Or as they say down here, a big ole bunch.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Day one of summer vacation

So this morning was my first morning of summer vacation. Yay! Of course, my body is on the same schedule it was yesterday. My head knows I could sleep late, my body does not.

I gave up and got up at 6:09, nine whole minutes later than usual. Woot! I'm living large!

Having lots of energy I'd usually expend in the hallways at school chasing after five year olds whose legs, though short, really scoot along, I expended today on cleaning the kitchen and messing it up again by cooking stuff. It is going to be hot the next few days and I decided to and make all the veggies into...something. I put scallions into oil, salt and lemon juice for half an hour, then grilled them on my George Foreman grill. Fabulous!

I par-boiled sweet potatoes and when they cooled, sliced them the long way, tossed them in oil and salt and laid them on the GF grill. Another winner!

I made yellow rice, and sauteed vidalia onion/green pepper/squash/ carrots. Now I have the bones for making other things. I could mix the rice and veggies, I may have a cold veggie salad, I could always toss pasta with the veggies, whatever.

The kitchen is cleaned and there's healthy cooked food in the fridge. I still have half the day ahead, and I'm relaxed. Day one is off to a good start.

New York City municipal archives photos, then and now

The Atlantic Magazine posted 50 of their most favorite photos from the recently opened photograph archive. The NY Municipal archive holds 800,000 photos from 1880- through the 1980s. They are spectacularly wonderful to look at. I spent time with their 50 and then clicked on their link to enter the actual archives at NYC website.

I had a good time last night looking and then googling a street view map that was either exactly at the spot that was depicted int he archive photo or closely approximated it. Here are the results of my tour through then and now:

28th Street Looking east from Second Avenue, on April 4, 1931

42nd Street, looking west from 2nd Avenue. Chrysler Building at top right, "News Tavern" "Goblet Bar" at lower right, ca. 1935-1941.

 A view down an alley, as rows and rows of laundry hang from tenements ca. 1935-1941. Seen looking west from Amsterdam Avenue at 62nd Street.

Italian vegetable sidewalk stand, on Bleecker Street, near Church of Our Lady of Pompeii, in August of 1937.
The fun part about this scene at Bleecker St is that though not directly on Bleecker, but on Carmine St around the corner, there are still vendors on the sidewalk and the area is still Italian.

A crowded street market under New York City Rail Road tracks, looking south on Park Avenue from 123rd Street in June of 1932.

Times Square theaters by day, in New York City. The Times Building, Loew's Theatre, Hotel Astor, Gaiety Theatre and other landmarks are featured in this January, 1938 photo.

The bridge photos at the Atlantic and also the Archive itself are particularly wonderful. I loved the photo of the Brooklyn Bridge painters, and the picture of the mechanic on the bridge, the close-up. I also enjoyed the photos from the 1880s and 1890s, especially Sheep Meadow which is still called sheep meadow today in Central Park, but once actually held sheep.

I loved the photo of the subway power station, and combined with the bridges under construction photos, made me really proud of human ingenuity. The picture of the Washington Bridge under construction, the footings and frame erected, in front of horse and buggies...amazing. We Americans certainly know how to build, don't we?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Always surprised at how tired I get

The school year with kids ended Friday. It has been a good year, and not an especially stressful one, compared to last year. But I'm still always surprised at how tired I get. The accumulation of exhaustion is stealthy, and lurks to leap out when you stop moving. And Saturday I stropped moving. I slept a good 8 hours overnight, then during the day I promptly took two naps!

I feel good now, and have even done three loads of laundry and vacuumed the entire apartment before church! Whoever made up the school year and sandwiched a summer in between them knew what he was doing. Summer is necessary, for the teachers and the kids. Let's have a good, fun, and safe summer everyone! “Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” ― Henry James

Friday, May 18, 2012

School's out for summer!

Callin' out around the world
Are you ready for a brand new beat?
Summer's here and the time is right
For dancin' in the streets

It was a very good school year, and now it is over. Oh, to be sure, teachers and staff have two more days next week to come in and pack up, but the kids are done and gone. It's over. It was an excellent school year and I'm grateful to have a job, I'm happy to have THIS job in particular. I love working with students, and to have the blessed time off during the summer to read, study, and regroup. All is good.

Monday, May 14, 2012


I snapped some photos while I was waiting for friends to arrive from NC so I could help them unload. I need a macro lens. But this will have to do until the day arrives when I find out what a macro lens exactly is.

Meanwhile, here are some REAL photographers and their macro worlds:

Revealing the details of a macro world

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Commanding boys, and school lunch

At recess Friday afternoon, I got a complaint from one of the girls.
"That boy keeps following us around and pointing at us, saying "I am the king of the world and I command you!" Does he command us?
"Can you tell him to stop doing that please?"

Some boys have an outsized ego, early. Some girls don't put up with it, early.

Our school lunches are fantastic. Both cafeterias do a great job of getting hot, nutritious food in front of hundreds of kids within a short time frame. They work with the synchronicity of an Army logistics team and in the 100 degree heat, too. They make ALL their breads fresh on site and they cook up wonderful desserts. The fresh cinnamon rolls the other day were to die for.

I did happen to notice though on one particular day, that the choice of the burrito lunch came with the following interesting note on the packaging:

Um, "Textured Vegetable Protein?" That frankly sounds worse than tofu.

Actually on that day the other choice was cheesy pizza breadsticks with sauce, veggie, and a fantastic fresh fruit salad with strawberries and blueberries. It looked so good I hustled down to my classroom and scarfed up my checkbook so I could buy a lunch. 

It's raining today, a gentle and warmish rain that sounds good. I finished a big project yesterday evening and today I am going to just kick back. Oops, I better hurry up, it is almost 3:00 already! And I haven't even had my Sunday nap yet!

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Plans for the day

It's Sunday, so that means rest. It's hot, so that means not doing much. I'll steam the head of cauliflower I got and mash it up. A friend told me that if you put mashed cauliflower into different dishes it makes the dish creamy and the cauliflower isn't noticeable, yet you get the benefit of the vegetable. She does this to slip veggies into dishes her son will eat, like pasta. I'll make some elbows with tomato sauce and put the cauliflower into that to try out her method.

That is about it for cooking plans today. I made a black bean salad last night that will take me through the next few days, and I have sandwich stuff at the ready. I've got yogurt, fruit, and lots of juices. The next three days (including today) are supposed to be in the upper 80s with heat index over 90. Since I refuse to turn on the AC this early, this means eating light and cold.

I am reading another Sue Grafton "Alphabet book", the Kinsey Millhone detective novel series. This one is T is for Trespass. I renewed my interest in the detective at V is for Vengeance, Grafton's latest book, (which was really good) and I am working my way backwards to where I left off, at O is for Outlaw. I am also part-way into a Bodie Thoene book called Shiloh Autumn. The novel is set in the south during the depths of the Depression in 1931. The author uses heavy dialect and it has a strong sense of place. The pages describing the old General Store were superlative, for example. But in just 20 pages is has already shifted time frames three times and scenes four that makes for slow plowing. The setting and tone of the book reminds me a lot of Cold Sassy Tree but not as good. To be fair, nothing is as good as Cold Sassy Tree. But if Shiloh Autumn doesn't pick up I"ll go full steam ahead with Kinsey and the other books I have on deck.

When school ends in 9.5 work days I will be so happyyyyy. I can read, write and study all I want- all summer long! And consume science documentaries and watch goofy episodes of old favorites like Newhart and Rockford Files. And make salads and nap with my cats. A simple life, but a great one.

Super moon, conjunction, and Bert

I don't have a tripod so my supermoon photos and all celestial nighttime pics, are always a disappointment But that doesn't stop me from trying, lol.

In this one of the supermoon, the moon was lower than it usually is and was peeking out from the trees at the end of the driveway. It also was illuminating some clouds in an ethereal way that the camera and my inability just could not capture.

This is the conjunction a little while back. I forget, maybe a month.

Bert. At his usual place by the window. He looks almost human. He is as regular as the rising moon or the setting Venus. He is a really good cat. :)

Friday, May 04, 2012

A good week, bobwhite!

--Best scene of the day: yesterday, kindergarteners in line, reaching and jumping to catch dust motes in the sunbeams streaming in the windows.
--Best line of the day: Kindergartener: "Mrs Prata?" "Yes?" Arms upraised- "I'm GROWING UPPPP!" 
--Biggest goof of the day: I told my data partner all the wrong numbers to input and we got half the load done before we discovered my mistake.
--Best grace of the day: My data partner who said kindly "That's all right."
--Best food of the day: Gina Belle's strawberry cobbler.

Last night I heard a bob-white quail in the trees, for the fist time! Excited. I looked up the bird call by mnemonic bird song, you listen to what it sounds like and then type in the phrase. This bird call sounded like toot-suite! And when I typed that in, it said it was a bob white. Then I searched Youtube for the bob white call to match what I'd heard and to conform. Sure enough it was a Virginia Bobwhite quail.

When I got to school today I was still excited. I told a colleague, a southern local, born and bred. She said that her granddad used to tell them that when you heard the bobwhite call it means rain was on the way. And sure enough today it rained. We've been in the middle of an extreme drought for some time so the rain was a great relief.

Unfortunately the rain also cancelled our annual Field Day at school. We go outside and have stations and rotate and play games with the kids. It's a lot of fun. It will be re-scheduled to next week, but the day was kind of a loss as far as the activities went.

I got an air purifier for the apartment. It is supposed to take care of the dander and dust. So that will be good. Overall it was a good week and I'm looking forward to a good weekend. And the end of the school year is coming! Only 9 1/2 more school days!!