Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Living simply. And tiny.

It is still vacation and it is still raining. I don't believe those two are linked together, but when we return to school Monday if the sun comes out I'll be less sure of that.

A LOT of rain has pushed through today. Temps were warm though, upper 60s
The rain has been wreaking some havoc. We are under a flash flood watch and indeed, the river down at the State Park at Comer has overflowed its banks and inundated the parking lot. Friends who ventured out tell me that Ingles and Kroger parking lots and the road approaching the two grocery stores were flooded with lots of water. I scheduled a trip to the stores on Friday then I remembered Friday is New Year's Day, and the day before that is New Year's Eve. I wouldn't make it till Sat or Sun, I was nearly out of litter as it was.

Ugh, I had to reschedule my weekly airing out and that meant going out today. But the thunder was booming and the rain was pouring so I decided to just go the one mile into Comer to the Dollar Store, and grab a few fresh things at the tiny grocery store next door. (A store I never go into). I'm glad I didn't make the trek even the 8 miles up the the slightly less tiny grocery store I usually shop at because of all the water on the roads. I got soaked just bringing the cart out to the car and walking it back. I always walk it back. I feel guilty leaving an unattended cart in the middle of the parking lot.

I am still having a quiet week. I love it. Right now I've got the Jimmy Buffet station on Pandora and listening to tunes from Buffet, Creedence, Paul Simon, James Taylor, etc.

I have watched a lot of tube. Well I don't own a TV but I watch on the internet on my laptop. I fell in love with The Detectorists, a British slow moving, quiet show about a small group of friends in County Essex who use metal detectors as a hobby to find Saxon gold, or more usually, pop tops and coins. I had mourned the loss of the 2-season BBC show called The Cafe, and The Detectorists is very much like The Cafe. Witty, understated, character driven, quiet, but sentimental and tender. British shows only have a 6 episode season so bingeing through 2 seasons is still only half as long as one American season of a show. I finished The Detectorists a few hours ago and I hope there will be a third season someday, but no one is sure if it is coming back.

I also watched a Doris Day film called That Touch of Mink, which was just OK as far as plot goes and visually stunning but had Audrey Meadows which was the best thing about it. Also the back and forth between Gig Young and Cary Grant was great.

A sweet little movie called Foster AKA Angel in the House was also a pleasant find. Interstellar was OK, I fast forwarded it and read the recap after a while just to get it overwith. Good Ol' Freda the story of the Beatles' secretary was a delight from start to finish. The HGTV show Fixer Upper was a delight too, I watched the entire season over the last ten days. Ingrid Bergman in The Inn of Sixth Happiness (story of missionary Gladys Aylward) got me to order her autobiography, which came today. Maid in Manhattan was terrible but I watched anyway, and Little Boy was terrible too.

And sermons, sermons, sermons. I love the internet.

I played with photos and banked some for my morning posts on Facebook.

This is the time of year a lot of people make resolutions, and one of those sometimes is to simplify lives. I learned a lot about living simply throughout the 1990s when I experimented with it. I had to shed the American materialism instilled in me that more is better, bigger is better, and I downsized my house, my car, my possessions. Here is a link that makes sense on how to start simplifying, if that is something you want to do.

101 Physical Things that Can Be Reduced in Your Home

I agree with these in the article. Especially glassware. I have three kitchen cabinets in my small apartment and two are devoted to food and half the other is devoted to Tupperware and casserole dishes. That leaves one shelf for dishes, glasses, bowls and mugs. It's plenty, believe me. I've possessed and given away more furniture than anyone I know. I have a hard time with not collecting too many books but when I buy one it's with giving it away in mind. If I end up with too many that means I'm not giving away enough. The only ones I'll hang onto are the JMac Commentaries and other commentaries. The Tiny House movement is making headway as is the Tiny Apartment movement too, sometimes called micro-housing. The second link mentions aPodments, which are storage containers made into apartments and when you want to move you load the whole container onto the truck and move to a different city (as long as the receiving aPodment has a vacancy). Live small, you won't hoard or possess. Live big, and you'll feel compelled to fill up all that space.

I'm on the downward slope for back to school. Once January 4 hits, there will be a long haul until the next break. We are technically half way through the year. Wow, hard to believe I've been working as a para-professional for 6 years and working for the Madison County Schools for 8. I'm proud of that. Madison County schools are spectacular and the Board, Superintendent and principals are tremendous.

Oh well no point in thinking about work when I still have 4 more wonderful vacation days to cling to! Happy new Year early everyone.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Jon Naar: The Birth of Graffiti

This week I wrote about having to go out and do errands. I hate errands. But I also decided to do a little shopping in town, so as to lengthen my 'airing out' as I like to call my reluctant emergence from the apartment, and to support local merchants. I'd found some fabulous finds at a second hand store, one of them being a Swedish classic book printed in the late 1800s with pretty endpapers and a marbled cover. I also mentioned I'd found some other books, two art how-to books and a graffiti coffee table book by John Naar.

I'm not a huge fan of graffiti. Certainly it distresses me when I see it on trains or buildings. It seems to me to be only artistic litter. And yet, there is also something compelling about it. Maybe it's that the voice of the voiceless is crying out from rain darkened streets from the depths of poverty and oppression, the medium being the message, as Marshall McLuhan would say. If we were to put words to the pain of graffiti in poetry it'd be Allen Ginsberg's poem Howl's opening lines:
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,
Angel-headed hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection
to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
I noticed at Thanksgiving when I was re-organizing my photos into folders, that I have apparently taken a lot of graffiti photos over the years. Huh.

In the store when I leafed through Naar's book, I saw that the photos themselves were stupendous. Eyes and faces and fists and art and life and streets and subway tunnels, not howling naked but vibrant and saying something. This guy can take a picture. I bought the book. After all, I could not go wrong for $1.

When I researched Naar I discovered that the man is a renowned photojournalist. I learned that his book The Birth of Graffiti was a follow-up to his (and Normal Mailer's) seminal and culturally ground-breaking book The Faith of Graffiti. I definitely had a find on my hands.

Naar's Wikipedia entry states-
Jon Naar is a British-American author and photographer celebrated for his pioneering images of New York City graffiti in the 1970s. Still active in his nineties, Naar has had a multifaceted career as an intelligence officer in World War II; a globe-trotting executive during the postwar years; and an environmentalist, with nine published books to date.
It seems now with this new information that his book selling for only a dollar is a crime. Some of his work hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art for heaven's sake!

Of his book The Birth of Graffiti, Wikipedia says-
By the 1970s, Naar's reputation was well established and he was redirecting his energies toward on-location corporate work for a diverse range of clients. Then in 1972, a commission for the London-based design firm Pentagram morphed into a full-length book project, with the 1974 release of The Faith of Graffiti (UK title Watching My Name Go By)—the first book-length examination of New York City graffiti art. Featuring an introduction by novelist Norman Mailer, the controversial collection would become "like a bible to later graffiti artists," in the words of Brian Wallis, chief curator at New York's International Center of Photography. Naar "legitimized" graffiti "a decade earlier than anyone else, and he came at it with a graphic design sensibility—he understood color and composition and bold design." It is for this groundbreaking series that Naar himself remains in demand, with numerous recent retrospectives and a 2007 collection, The Birth of Graffiti, which includes 130 previously unpublished photographs from the original assignment.
Oh my. I definitely, definitely had a find on my hands. There is minimal text in Naar's book, just an introduction, and then the photos speak for themselves. And they do speak. His work is colorful, artistic, voicing the minds and hearts of a generation of graffiti artists/vandals now grown and gone. Graffiti wasn't born in NYC in the late 1960s-early 1970s, that happened in Philly in the late 50s-early 60s. But graffiti came to popular culture in NYC during the cultural revolution and in effect that is where it was really born or at least came to consciousness to the eyes and horror of America. And NYC Mayor John Lindsey who went to war on graffiti, a howling suit shaking fists at empty spray cans and running feet...

Here are a few of my own graffiti shots.

The moral of the story is, when you shop at an eclectic second hand store, keep your eyes open, peer into the untraveled corners, and take your time!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas movie watching: Good Ol' Freda

Merry Christmas! I hope your morning has been relaxing. Or at least joyful over squeals and ripping wrapping paper.

My cat woke me up at 6:00. He likes to shoot a glass coaster off the coffee table. I put it under three heavy coffee table books last night to prevent his unique breakfast call, but he still managed to unearth it and shoot it off the table anyway. Good ol' Murray.

Speaking of good ol', I watched a great documentary last night. It's called Good Ol' Freda. For fifty years, the untold story of Freda Kelly remained untold, until Freda herself decided to speak. Freda was the Beatles' trusted secretary since before their rise to fame until their breakup, 11 years overall, and their friend throughout their rise to fame. Yet never then or now did she capitalize on her insider status to grab fame or money for herself. Her integrity is noted throughout the film. The movie synopsis says,
"Freda Kelly, a shy Liverpudlian teen, works for a new local band -- the Beatles -- hoping to make it big. As the band's fame multiplies, Freda bears witness to music and cultural history but never exploits her insider access."

Here is a Guardian story about the premiere, Good Ol' Freda: The Beatles' secretary tells her story.

And here is a review:
Freda Kelly was the the secretary to Brian Epstein and The Beatles and the president of the official fan club all throughout the history of the band, and started with them when she was 17 years old. She was there from the earliest club performances in the Liverpool underground – literally in the case of The Cavern – through and even beyond the breakup. Aside from Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr themselves, there’s probably no one living who has more insider info and stories about those heady days than Kelly. And she’s never cashed in on that trusted relationship, nor broken confidences in 50 years. It’s that kind of integrity and trustworthiness, along with hundreds of rare Beatles photos and a soundtrack that features several Fab Four tunes that buoys Good Ol’ Freda from the opening frame.
There are hundreds of candid photos, some archival footage, and the testimony of Freda herself. A documentary that rests as much on one person as this one does needs to ensure the personality is sincere and engaging, and Freda sure is. She's humble and sincere, witty and with a twinkle in her eye, tells the story plainly, but never turning it sordid or gossipy. That's a rare thing for any documentary, but especially one involving the music business. Coming in at an hour and a half, the length is just right. And surprisingly, they managed to obtain permission for four original Beatles songs to be used in the film, along with other great music of the era. All in all, it was a pleasant surprise to discover and well worth watching. On Netflix.

Have a pleasant day with family or whatever you're doing. May it bring you peace, though the best peace of all rests in knowing the reason for the day's celebration, Jesus Christ.

Merry Christmas

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

This is why I love second hand stores

I mentioned earlier today that I'd planned to go out. I needed to do some errands and then I wanted to check out the new stores in town. After I did my mundane things, I went to the new produce shop, then around the corner to the not so new antique shop. It's been there a while but I've never gone in, and they recently expanded, too.

The ladies had a wonderful inventory at present. I fell in love with a mid-century modern chair and a lamp, and enjoyed looking not only at the hung art, but the frames. Gorgeous.

Then I headed to the more my speed price-wise second-hand store. It is an auction house that buys lots when things get damaged or been in a crash or just is used You never know what you'll find, and inventory changes often.

Since I'm frugal, I didn't really have any particular item in mind to buy, except a kitchen cooling/drying rack. When I make candied citrus or bake something I'd like to have a rack to dry or cool the items. But it isn't a big deal as I can make do with what I have. I'm on vacation and I wasn't in a hurry. I was mostly just taking the car for a ride since it doesn't like to sit for long periods, or else it hesitates and tends to want to stall if I let it sit.

I didn't see a drying rack nor did I see anything else to buy or even anything I was especially interested in anything I saw...until...I saw a marbled book lying as a non sequitur amongst some clocks and sheets.

Picking it up, I saw that the marbling was genuine and the leather binding was too. Knowing something about bookbinding, the cover style meant it was probably published in the 1800s. The title page held no publishing information, but the language was foreign. I surmised it was Swedish.

Pretty end papers

Title page, Svenska is the word Sweden in Swedish, so...
It was selling for $2 so I put it in my basket with little hesitation. Now the problem was to find enough other things to raise my minimum limit to $5, the lowest amount they will let you use a credit or debit card. I had no cash on me.

I poked around some more and went to my trusty section where I know I'll find functional things- I usually need a fridge magnet-pad, where I write my grocery list. I also used up my little post it tags to mark pages or verses in my bible when I'm reading. I don't write in my bible or underline, so the sticky tags are my go-to item for marking stuff I want to remember. Hmmm, still not up to $5.

I wandered toward the back of the store. It's in an old gym without large windows, so the place tends to be dark. They have lights stationed around, but it's still a dark place and the back is really dark. I peered around and spotted a bookcase with some books in it. Hmmm, anything good? Yes! I should say so! I found a hardcover John Grisham I never knew existed! "The Innocent Man". I thought I'd read all his books! It had no dust jacket on it but in scanning the first few pages, it looks like one of his non-fiction tomes. It was selling for $1. Score!

Then I found this! I was excited because artist instructional books like the Mixed Media one and the Collage one pictured below usually run around $20-30, and these were all $1. Although I'm not a huge fan of graffiti, I saw when I reorganized my photos on the laptop that I have taken lots of pictures of it. I recently made a folder containing all my graffiti pics. When I saw the book chronicling the rise of graffiti in NYC for $1 I thought it'd be an interesting read.

So definitely the haul was a good one. I came home and looked up August Strindberg, author of the Swedish book. It turns out he was a prolific and famous novelist, playwright and poet in Sweden at the turn of the last century. His book Swedish Destinies and Adventures, the translated title of the one I bought, was published in 1883. Here is a link to his amazing life, career, and hobbies (he was an excellent painter and photographer too).

August Strindberg
A hundred years after his death, August Strindberg (1849-1912) continues to fascinate. He was a trailblazer and innovator in his time and still manages to provoke audiences in theaters around the world.
LOL so I go out the get gas and check for eggplants at the produce store and return home with an antique book by a famous and controversial Swedish playwright and novelist. You never know...that is why I love second hand stores.


I'm going out today.

For most people, leaving their home is something to which they don't give a second thought. They get dressed, open the door, and get in the car and go. For me, it involves a great gearing-up, a mounting up of will and courage. I hate going out.

But it's important to keep the wheels greased and continue doing what is necessary. In this case, going to the bank, getting gas, and hoping to be squeezed in for a haircut. Out. Not in. Sigh.

Gas is the least expensive it's been since 2012, I read in the news headlines. What a relief to pay for a necessity that won't break the bank! So I want to capitalize on that.

Our town is small, very small, lol. One stoplight and about three streets comprise the main part of town. The town in its entirety is widely spread out, with pastures and chicken houses and horses, cows, donkeys, sheep, roosters, and all manner of sheds, barns, and tree-lined ponds. But the commercial center is small. Of course there are the obligatory gas stations competing on three corners, with the Post Office on the fourth. A historic church dominates another nearby corner.

Despite the small size, there is often a lot going on. Over the past months some interesting stores have popped up.

A block out of town (across from my haircut lady) is a store called Second Time Around. I may have mentioned it before. It's a store that buys in bulk, if a truck turned over and the merchandise inside was damaged, they buy it. Oftentimes the merchandise is perfectly fine but the boxes are torn or bent. It's like's 'Warehouse Deals" section where the merchandise is OK but since the box is damaged they can't sell it as new anymore.

Before putting the merchandise on the floor, the proprietors ensure all the parts are there and in working order. Then they sell it at a reduced price. Other stuff is used. And some is absolutely new, but sold at a dramatically reduced price. They bought an old gym which is perfect for their purposes, and it's on a corner along the main drag, so the location is good. For me, it's great because it's a mile from my house, if that.

Inventory changes frequently and you never know what you're going to find. They sell anything from furniture, small appliances, craft supplies, dishware, lawn implements, you name it. It is like Job Lot if you're from Rhode Island or Mardens if you're from Maine. LOL, the last time I was there, as I left a truck pulled up and began unloading the new inventory, including huge snowboards decorated with a painted penguin.

Our town also has a new produce store/deli. It's called Earthly Goods Produce. I haven't been in there but they put up new photos of the interior and it looks like they DO have a lot of produce and one of the piles looked like eggplants, which are not sold in the county except if I go all the way to the border of Athens tot he Kroger with their 50 aisles and mounds of people. Not happening. So, eggplants a quarter mile from me, I'll check it out for sure. With Bountiful Baskets suspended for the holidays and maybe permanently in Georgia, and the last Farmer's Market in town has concluded, this might be a good stop-gap. And hopefully they will make a go of it and add more produce all the time.

There's a store called Shabby Chic Cottage. The ladies re-purpose vintage furniture, and also sell vintage items such as dishware (Fiesta, Hocking glassware etc). I have seen their stuff on the sidewalk as they made tableau to advertise their wares, and looked in the windows when they're closed, but I've never been inside. Nice stuff. Most of it (OK all of it) is out of my price range but I am looking for a Shenandoah-ware Jonquil pattern cereal bowl from Paden City Pottery. If anyone would have it, they would.

A high-end organic artisan bakery located in town but selling retail at the Athens Farmer's Market only had bought a large pizzeria across from Earthly Goods, with intent to open a retail bakery located here. They are in the process of renovations but the renovation is taking a long time. People occasionally ask them on their Facebook Page when they will open, and they keep saying they have run into budget constraints and also have been busy at the Athens Market. But now with the Athens Market holding its final Market of the year they hope to open this month. I hope so too. It's a really good bakery. Crusty bread galore. This is last week's bread they sold at the Athens Farmer's Market, Hazelnut fig bread. Won't it be nice to have a produce store and a bakery across from one another right on town, a halfmile from my house.

There are a few other great places to shop here too. Bendzunas Glass, a real glassblowing artisan factory with retail shop, as well as an authentic Asian market that caters to the Burmese refugees a few miles down the road at Jubilee Partners, and super restaurants like Maggie's Cafe and Chief Burger.

I admit I enjoy writing about going out more than I enjoy going out. I enjoy thinking about it more than doing it. But the bank and the gas station calls, and just as soon as it stops soon as it warms up a soon as the sun comes soon as I check the car's oil soon as I finish watching this episode of HGTV's Genevieve's Renovation...I will definitely go out. Definitely.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Surprisingly warm weekend, quiet Saturday, cooking, cat

What a great day! The morning dawned glowing and warm and it only got better. I walked around the yard at dawn taking photos of the beautiful yard and sunrise.

Then my bible reading today took me through Genesis 31 and Martyn Lloyd Jones definitely lived up to his nickname 'Logic On Fire' in his exposition of Acts 5, the judicial killing of Ananias and Sapphira and the church's reaction to it. What a tremendous preacher is was. I listen on but his sermons are all available at

Cooking today (while listening to Hank Williams cowboy yodeling) yielded mango-cantaloupe smoothie, black bean dip with roasted garlic and cilantro, broccoli-mushroom casserole, and Mexican one-pan quinoa chili.

Now relaxing with making photo verses to post through the week and I'm about to watch Interstellar in a moment. The perfect day of unwinding after a terrible week.

My car broke down and it turned out I needed a new radiator. Rats, and right before Christmas too.

My cat that was very sick died last Monday. I was glad I had opportunity to spend a last weekend with him. The photo below was him sitting next to me while I worked at the laptop on his last day of life. He was a cuddle bunny for sure and loving and a perfect cat. The house has been very quiet without him. Luke will be missed.


Further reading

Why do Autistic people like cats?


Friday, December 11, 2015

Mini-chopper, humus, and upcoming weekend plans

The last few days before Christmas break are tiring and hard. The kids are so wound up anyway. Then on top of that we have a suspended routine. There are last minute tests to administer before the break, the Christmas play, the Polar Express movie and hot chocolate extravaganza, VIC party for the well-behaved kids, Santa coloring pages, craft projects, etc. Long story short, I'm tired.

I got home on a beautiful 65 degree day and walked into my house relieved the weekend was here. The weather has been super these last few weeks! And this weekend supposed to be in the 70s so I'm completely anticipating a nice, relaxing weekend, reading outside.

I had bought a mini-chopper for the express purpose of making dips, humus, etc. I enjoy humus and have no problem making it homemade. However using the blender for that purpose has gotten just too aggravating and frustrating. I don't make huge batches and trying to get the small amount of garbanzo mixture out of the tall blender without getting cut by the sharp blades and NOT leaving half of it behind is just too...

Well anyway I got the mini-chopper. For a one-serving helping of humus it is perfect. I had a plate of humus and carrot sticks with hibiscus chilled tea for a snack when I got home. Yum. That is probably all I'll eat because today was the Annual School Nibbles Buffet. That is not its name, I just made that up. All the teachers, parapros, and staff bring their favorite dish and we lay it out in the teacher's lounge all day and we go back and back to nibble on this and that as we want. I made my oatmeal-banana cookies, and cut up a fresh pineapple. Did you ever notice people always go for fresh fruit? I was at a reception earlier in the week and everyone plowed straight through the fruit platter. I always appreciate fresh fruit at a buffet/event/reception so I cut the pineapple. Only, I cut half of it because I got tired of standing there chopping it up this morning. Yes, I am that person.

I ate some green bean casserole, and some chips and spinach dip, a marvelous petit four, and a tortilla soft wrap pinwheel. I don't know what was in the pinwheel. Something red and something pink. It was good.

Projects for this weekend will be to print out and laminate my arts and crafts Christmas gifts I've made, to rearrange my books (there are three stacks on the coffee table and that is too many not on the shelves), to make cabbage slaw/vegetable soup/bruschetta/something with the tofu, and to nap.

So I'm pleased with the mini-chopper and I am enjoying sitting here with a heating pad on my back, all warm and snug and about to watch some shows. Have a good weekend everyone.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

December in Georgia is wonderful

The mornings start off cold, with frost sometimes but the days warm up to a manageable 50s and 60s. The annual Comer Christmas Parade happens the first Saturday of December. Yesterday lined up along the parade route were people in short sleeves. The 5K Reindeer Run also featured people running in short sleeves. It was a mild day, made good by a warming sun. A good time was had by all, according to the photos I looked at on Facebook. That's as close as I want to get to a crowd, noise, parades, and community.

Today I am not cooking too much, though I should. I have veggies I should roast and sandwich stuff I should prepare, but it's a lazy Sunday and I just can't bring myself to. I did make corn chowder and cut up a bowling ball sized cantaloupe. That will get me through the first part of the week. If I wasn't lazy I would make Slaw for sandwiches (cabbage, roasted broccoli, dried cranberries, and Asian mayo put in a wrap). I'd also roast carrots, the broccoli, potatoes, and toast some pita chips. But no, I am still in my pajamas at 2:20 pm and it looks like it's going to stay that way.

Though I had a great week at school and Friday afternoon ended very sweetly with a group of boys I help in writing, I came home with severe sensory overload. For the life of me I can't figure out why some weeks are good but I get overloaded and other weeks that are not so good I sail through the weekend. Friday nights are the Waterloo. I can hang on till 3:30 but then if I am overloaded, all heck breaks loose.

I got home Friday night with my body throbbing and aching, my stomach nauseous, and my head aching to beat the band. I headed straight for the bedroom, put on my comfy clothes, and pitched into bed at 3:30. I stayed there till 6:00.

Which was sad because I was going to go to a Christmas party at 6:00. I was having a bit of trouble getting myself worked up to go, I'm not usually a fan of small apartments with lots of people and loud laughing. I do like fun, just not the kind of fun that most people like. But I wanted to stretch myself and try some social things. However the physical troubles trumped the mental obstacle and my overload meant I couldn't even try to stretch myself and go to a social gathering.

On my weekly grocery shopping I scored a huge bag of baby spinach for 99 cents. It was still all good but the expiration date was the next day. I brought it home and sauteed it up with onion, lemon-pepper seasoning, and fresh lemon juice, thus putting a halt to any temporary spoilage. The next day I made a dip or a spread, depending on how you look at it. I- combined a can of salmon and some mayo with sour cream with the spinach-onion saute. Plopped atop a crisped bagel and it made a nice open face sandwich. It lasted three days for three more meals. Yummy.

In addition to my Christian non-fiction I'm in the middle of, I started Will Thomas' latest book, "Anatomy of Evil." There is a jack-the-ripper type slasher out and about in 1898 London and the enquiry agents Barker and Llewelyn are out to catch him. I really like Will Thomas. He writes well and atmospherically. Saturday night I cuddled up on the sofa with a blanket and three cats in front of my living room gas heat hissing quietly away. Mmm, see, to me that is fun!

My good old car had a breakdown last week but I cannot complain, it rarely breaks down. I have had it for 8 years and that's saying something since it is a 1993 model with 235,000 miles on it. It needed a new radiator, and once it was installed the cold snap came, so yay for me, I have heat in the car again! Just in time. What a relief to find a reputable and cordial and honest garage. I am soooo thrilled. I remember that Seinfeld episode from the 1990s when the mechanic got mad at Jerry and banned him and Jerry was let adrift and at the mercy of an unknown mechanic. As George said to Jerry in sympathy, they could be telling you that you need a new Johnson Rod and you would never know the difference.

Well, just 9 1/2 more days of school then I am out for a 2-week Christmas break. I can't wait!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Candying citrus for the holidays

At our last Bountiful Basket we received lots of tangerines and lots of lemons. I'm always at a loss as to what to do with bunches of lemons. I can only drink so much lemon water. And citrus in general, while I enjoy it, I do not like preparing it. I hate getting sticky when peeling the rind and I don't like dealing with the seeds. Then a week later a BB friend gave me her tangerines, and suddenly I was overflowing with citrus.

In my mind, the implicit contract is that if a friend gives me some of their Basket, I will eat the produce, and not let it go to waste. I began peeling four of the tangerines and it was slow going. The effort didn't produce much fruit, since the tangerines were small. There's got to be a better way.

There is: candy them.

I looked at numerous recipes and the only difference is that some said to blanch the slices before boiling them, to reduce the sourness of the rind. Others said that step was not necessary. Being me, I chose the path of least resistance, and skipped blanching.

Since my usual process when receiving a Bountiful Basket is to soak the produce in tepid vinegar water for ten minutes to clean them, I did not wash these. But otherwise, DO wash them thoroughly. One YouTube recipe gal said that the pesticides reside in the rind so organic is best. Something to think about. Use fresh citrus without blemishes or bruises on the rind. Again, you're eating the rind. Plus, you want them to look pretty.

What you need is citrus of any kind. I used tangerines and lemons. Oranges of course will do. As a matter of fact, you don't even need the fruit. Many recipes described how to candy the rind only.

It helps to have a sharp knife to make even cuts without a lot of juice loss. My knives were kind of dull and I had to hold the tangerine firmly to slice it and I lost juice and form. You see some of the slices below look a little squished. Slice them about 1/4 inch.

Deal with the seeds. My advice is to buy citrus that's seedless or nearly so. You can tell I have low patience for kitchen work, lol.

The recipes varied slightly on ratio of sugar to water. I used a 1-to-1 ratio. I poured in to my skillet 2 cups water to 2 cups sugar. I used regular, white granulated sugar. Some recipes advise using a deep stock pot. Others say a wide pan is OK. I used a wide pan but I'd use a deep stock pot next time. I didn't like the steam going all over the place. The steam is sugar water and it made the stove top sticky. It would be easier to contain the steam with a narrower opening.

Stir the sugar in the water upon initially pouring-in but refrain from doing that after there are bubbles appearing in the water when it heats up, said one recipe. It will crystallize.

Boil moderately high for a few minutes then moderately low. Cook until the rinds are translucent. As I went along, I just tasted one or two of them at different stages. When it was soft and sweet, I stopped.

Take them out and drain them on a grate over wax paper or a larger cookie sheet. You want them to get really dry. Some recipes say this stage takes a few hours to a few days. Others say after the initial sugar juice is drained well to pop them in a very low oven for a few hours. I did not have a cooling rack or grate to put them on so I made do with a colander. Cooling rack or grate or mesh of some kind is better. You want the air to circulate well.

When they are dry but still tacky, you can put them in a ziploc or a large bowl and tumble them with a bit of granulated sugar to give that crunchy effect. I had ended up using all my sugar in the boiling and forgot to leave aside a few tablespoons. Some recipes say add the sugar at the end, others stop here. It's a personal preference. I thought it wouldn't be the same without the added crunch of the sugar at the end, but the slices were delicious the way they were.

However the small amount you see here is indicative of the fact that I ate most of them right away! Despite the long description here, the recipe is very easy. Slice, boil/simmer, dry, eat. They keep up to two weeks in the fridge. Oh, and DON'T throw away the sugar water! It makes a nice syrup in and of itself!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Taking food photos

I love, love, love photography. I love taking pictures and I love looking at pictures and I love making pictures into art with all the new digital possibilities available these days. In a few minutes a friend is coming over with her camera and we're driving the county to shoot pleasing scenes. It was a stupendous dawn, vivid with pinks and oranges and the temps are already in the 60s. It is a perfect day for it.

Pixlr is my favorite photo editing program. I use their borders, styles, and overlays a lot. I'm too heavy handed most times, which is why I like to participate in Pixlr's weekly challenges. It reins me in and gives me a goal. I can also compare my work with others who are participating in the challenge and see where I stand. (Usually at the bottom).

This week the challenge was taking food photos. I looked through my archives and found three I'd work with plus one I took this week. I always think other people's photos are cool and that mine stink. So I was disappointed in my choices but I worked with them anyway.

This one is of a Tuscan picnic. My friend and I were hiking up and up to get tot he top of a hill to see a castle and we stopped along the way to have a bite of bresaola and focaccia bread with fizzy water while resting on the stone bench.

Overnighting aboard schooner yacht Wendameen, a turn of the last century schooner, doesn't mean we go hungry, A repast was prepared for us of beef stew, corn on the cob, tortellini salad, and biscuits.

Another Italy trip, another repast, this time in Orvieto. Olives, wine, breadsticks, pea salad, tomatoes and frutti dimare, or seafood salad. The seafood was octopus, mussels, squid, and pickled veggies. We ate it atop the roof patio of our hotel.

This was breakfast yesterday, French toast made of a baguette and pomegranates with its own juice.

Pixlr featured the one of the Schooner Yacht Wendameen dinner on the deck. They liked the edits, which tells me something, because I restrained myself. I didn't use a thousand overlays and over-process the picture for once, lol.

I was personally proud of the French Toast picture. It's hard to shoot food. Most of the time it just looks gross, if you don't do it well, and by well, I mean professionally. Composing food is hard and making sure the butter dripping and each pomegranate seed is just so takes work. Setting the right depth of field is hard and ensuring there are no stray utensils or distracting background things also takes an eye.

But, they picked the Wendameen photo and I'm just as happy.

BBC: How to Photograph Food

Nikon: Tips for taking great food shots

Friday, November 27, 2015

I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving

It's the holiday season and then shortly it will be the New Year. 2016. Wow. I remember the 1999 Millennium panic like it was yesterday. Come to think of it, I remember Flower Power of the 1960s, Race Riots in the 1970s, high collared, ruffled prairie shirts of the 1980s, and the grunge fascination of the 1990s like they happened yesterday. The decades pile up.

Yesterday I looked in the fridge and what did I see? Withering cukes, not too tasty to me. Yet when they arrived in what is likely to be our last Bountiful Basket, I'd vowed to use them.  Since I had a package of stale Pita pockets (I buy them that way, they're usually marked down only 50 cents at my regular store) I decided to make raita.

The Pitas being stale already meant they wold become great Pita chips. All you have to do is take a Pita disk, brush or rub with olive oil, and sprinkle with flavoring, garlic salt would do, or in my case I used lemon-pepper salt. Then cut them into triangles. Pop them into a preheated 375 oven for 10 minutes or so and you have a nice chip. Watch them carefully as the done-to-burned moment comes in a flash.

Raita is a cool yogurt dip favored in Indian cuisine because of so much heat inherent in Indian dishes. Curry, Tandoori=spicy...raita is a usual accompaniment to cool the palate.

I used my plain yogurt, and splashed out the yogurt water pooling on top. It makes a thicker raita. Chop cukes small, salt, and let drain or blot. I mixed in some lemon juice, lemon-pepper salt, and the cukes. Let set for a while to let flavors blend. Here is a photo of the result-

Additionally, I made Lentil Soup, Brown Rice and Pea salad, Asian Slaw with mayo-mustard sauce for wraps, and figured out what to do with 15 tangerines from my Bountiful Basket and my BB friend who gave me hers too- I'll candy them.

Also on the docket yesterday was a promise to myself to push away from the computer and read a lot. These are my books currently on deck or in various states of progression:

The Anatomy of Evil is by Will Thomas and part of a wonderful detective series called Barker and Llewellyn. It is a series set in London in the late 1890s where Barker and his sidekick Llewellyn solve a number of crimes on the gritty but not gross streets of the city. Well written and fast paced, it occasionally features Charles Spurgeon, the Director of the newly instituted Scotland Yard, and other notables who had lived at the time.

One Minute After You Die by Erwin Lutzer is a biblical look at what the Bible has to say about heaven, not heavenly tourism where someone comes back and gushes out what they have allegedly seen while they were 'clinically dead'.

I'm in the middle of Angels Evil & Elect by C. Fred Dickason. Apparently Dickason was known for his biblical, scholarly studies on angels, and so far I find it illuminating and fascinating. Ever since I listened to a John MacArthur sermon on Revelation and he pointed out just how much the angels do (execute all the judgments, for example) I have been fascinated with these kindred creatures. Kindred in the sense that they are created by God but are not human, yet we both worship Him. The holy ones among us both, anyway.

The Nov-Dec issues is my last issue of TeaTime. A friend at work subscribed to it as a Christmas gift for me and I enjoy the magazine tremendously. I'll probably re-subscribe in February. The word search, lol...I have been placed as para-support in second grade this year in addition to being in Kindergarten. Occasionally the teacher makes a word search out of the vocabulary words, or holiday word searches for the kids to work on independently. When a student can't seem to find a word and comes over to ask me for help, it's fun. I get addicted. Apparently word searches are relaxing and soothing for kids. I find them to be so as well. I like to do the search while watching an inane show to keep my hands busy and my mind half-occupied.

Speaking of televised inanity, during this week of vacation I've watched

Today's Special: "In this super-feel-good foodie comedy, young Manhattan chef Samir rediscovers his heritage and his passion for life through the enchanting art of cooking Indian food." I wouldn't call it a comedy, but it is a nice movie.

Quartet: "At a home for retired musicians, the annual concert to celebrate Verdi's birthday is disrupted by the arrival of Jean, an eternal diva and the former wife of one of the residents." Featuring Maggie Smith, Pauline Collins, Billy Connolly, Michael is a visual feast, and auditory triumph, and a sweetly affecting movie.

Famous Nathan: (documentary). "A Coney Island-inspired, densely-layered visually dynamic documentary portrait of the life and times of the original Nathan's Famous, created in 1916 by filmmaker Lloyd Handwerker's grandparents, Nathan and Ida Handwerker. 30 years in the making, Famous Nathan interweaves decades-spanning archival footage, family photos and home movies, an eclectic soundtrack and never-before-heard audio from Nathan: his only interview, ever as well as compelling, intimate and hilarious interviews with the dedicated band of workers, not at all shy at offering opinions, memories and the occasional tall tale." An interesting film about a grandson's search for who his grandfather really was. He never found out, but along the way we learned of Nathan Handwerker's backstory from 1892 Poland to immigration to the US at the turn of the century, a rags to riches by the sweat of your brow kind of story that never gets old.

TV, The Man in the High Castle: an alt-history television series that depicts if WWII had been won by the Japanese and Nazis. The US is divided into threes, the left coast being the Japanese spoils, the east coast being the Nazi's, and the middle strip a neutral zone. The show is visually stunning, with an America of the 1960s that looks much the same as it actually did, until the camera pans over a payphone dial with a swastika in the middle, or a poster of the Fuhrer. The series examines oppression and freedom, and it's chilling.

Battle Creek, starring Dean Winters. I like Dean Winters. He's like Donal Logue, everywhere, great at everything, yet unknown. He is a rumpled, old fashioned detective in Battle Creek Michigan resentful of his new partner, a spiffy, technologically adept FBI agent. Fox has canceled the show already and either by the end of the 13 episode series I'll agree with their decision or mourn yet another one-season wonder cancellation like Hope Island, Terriers, Enlisted, and The Finder.

Beachfront Bargain Hunt: (HGTV) Because I like beaches, bright colors (the Hitler tv show and Battle Creek are dark, metaphorically AND literally) and also because I like being mentally critical of whiny, entitled rich people who think having only three bathrooms isn't enough and having to walk across the street to the beach is a burden. I also enjoy looking up the buyers afterwards to see if they are a) divorced yet, b) overextended already or c) renting their 'dream property' instead of living there happily ever after.

And, of course I collaged a little, napped a little, wrote a little, and got started making my Christmas gifts. Last Friday I was invited to a sumptuous dinner at a friend's church and it was relaxing and wonderful. Tomorrow I'm going on gadabout with a friend to take photos of the scenic places in the county, after buying a muffin and coffee of course to sustain us for the drive. Next Friday I'm headed to a Christmas White Elephant Party. So all is well both at home and in my thriving social life. LOL. How are things with you?

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Cucumber casserole?!

This was a fantastically perfect weekend from start to finish.

Friday evening was warm and bright, and I'd come home to a clean kitchen and tidy house. I love it when I keep things up during the week.

Saturday was rainy and drizzly but that is just fine for when you want to write and study and take a nap, which is what I did. I made cream of mushroom soup also, but I've never mastered that particular soup and it always comes out very strong. But I eat it anyway, despite the pungency of the mushrooms. I cut up a cantaloupe and enjoyed the zing, along with some lavender tea. I started watching the TV show The Flash. It was better than I expected. I like the innocent, real life but slightly off center cartoon feel to it, and I enjoyed the action sequences because they are without blood and are interesting. And the science, discussions going from real to almost real to could be real, all in an instant, lol.

I had a long nap, which I'd expected to have. On Friday at school was the quarterly reward party for all students who achieved a high benchmark of good behavior. We got inflatables and each grade had a solid hour to clamber up and scream down. But what that meant for us para-pros is that we stand at each entrance and exit of the inflatables cheering the kids and keeping an eye on safety. Standing in the sun for hours on uneven ground always does a number on my back and yesterday was no exception. It sapped my strength, but it was well worth it to see kids just having fun and being rewarded for their efforts.

Around 8pm a friend brought over the Bountiful Basket I'd bought, she was sweet to pick it up for me. It contained butter lettuce, cantaloupe, honeydew, what seemed like 4lb of grapes (sweet and tangy!) tomatoes, onions, kale, cukes, apples, bananas, plums, and more. I washed it all and looked up some recipes. I don't favor cukes but I found a recipe to use up three of them, cucumber casserole. I decided to make kale chips and cuke casserole on Sunday. In the recipe where they say add wheat germ, I substituted quinoa.

Sunday dawned bright and warm. October in GA is simply spectacular. No humidity, bright sun that still has strength to warm, and clear skies. Temps usually range from low to mid 70s and nights around mid 50s. Perfect. The birds were chirping all day long, and it was a delight to listen to them.

I did make the cuke casserole and kale chips, along with marinated grilled tofu and tuna salad with grapes. Netflix has added one season of the Great British Baking Show and I am enjoying working my way through it. I hate baking myself but I like seeing their artistically created presentations and learning about baking even though I never do it myself. I love the GBBS because the music is nice. Unlike Masterchef which is like the Flight of the Valkyries - on steroids - every week. Also the contestants are nice and genuinely like each other. No sabotage, no snark, no snideness. The judges are gentle and encouraging while still being firm. Not the least reason, the show actually teaches something, which used to be the point of cooking shows. Remember, I grew up on Julia Child and Galloping Gourmet. Plus, it's pretty. The setting on that English estate is gorgeous. I like the hominess of the tent and the quaint rustic touches, not like the space age kitchens of American TV with 30 foot ceilings and imposing stainless steel everywhere.

I crafted as I watched the baking show. A few weeks ago at a second hand store/dented merchandise (like Mardens or Job Lot) I had found crafting stuff from Martha Steward and Artist Loft. I'd bought gilding papers and some paints. I decided to make a basic one-signature soft cover book and use some of the tissue paper and gilded leaf papers I'd bought. I never had used gilding sheets before but hey, I decided to just throw some on there and see what happens. Here is the result, not finished, but 80% done. I'll wait for the book to dry and be pressed, then I will add end papers on the inside and a bead to the thread.

In this first photo of the cover, I laid down black and white tissue paper with a design that looks antique newspaper. Then I'd printed a picture of a fir tree from the internet onto antique book paper torn out of a Spanish dictionary. Last I used the gold leaf the make a frame around the smaller fir tree paper.

Single pamphlet stitch. Here is a tutorial for a five-hole single pamphlet stitch but mine is even easier, a three-hole stitch.

I started on the outside ("start sewing where you want to end up") because I want to add a bead or feather to the outside of the book where the stitch's tail is. Cover is card stock, inside is whiteish artist paper.

Tomorrow is a work day but a teacher work day, no kids will be coming to school. We get to arrive half an hour later (you wouldn't believe how much of a different getting there at 7:45 is compared to 7:15, or maybe you would). The weather looks to be nice ahead, and after this relaxing weekend, which will continue with me reading my book to some instrumental piano music shortly, all seems well in Comerlandia.

Have a good week everyone!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Helvetica, moms, soup, and cities

I enjoyed this visually graphic post about Ten Fonts that Designers Love to Hate. I am with them on Comic Sans. That particular font evokes a visceral reaction in me every time I see it, I hate it that bad. Unfortunately, most teachers love to use it, so I'm surrounded, lol. I had never heard of Bleeding Cowboys font before, go figure. And I was sad to see Helvetica dismissed, solely due to ubiquitousness. I prefer to stay loyal to the things that last and last. Try life WITHOUT Helvetica.

Helvetica lives! They even made a movie about it!

It's a quiet Saturday around here. It has been raining for a few days so the air is cool and the ground is muddy outside. I got a first wind, lol, and cleaned and vacuumed and did dishes and did laundry and even polished the furniture before 9am today. It feels like I have the whole day ahead when my chores get done early.

My friend is going to FB message me when she is ready for me to meet her and pick up my Bountiful Basket she has gotten in the city. She picks up at the site and I meet her halfway to grab it from her before she heads home. I am looking forward to some fresh and good produce. For a change of pace, I will probably make soup.

Here is a UK Daily Mail article about a Utah mom who sang to the tune of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah song but changed the lyrics to share her feelings about being a mom. She has a great voice and the lyrics are dead-on. The video she posted of herself singing it has garnered millions of hits on Youtube and Facebook. It's nice to see there are moms who love being moms. Hallelujah to moms who unashamedly love their job!

Utah woman with the voice of an angel sings her own version of Hallelujah with lyrics being about a mom... and now she's rightly famous
A Utah woman with the voice of an angel is a viral sensation after her version of ‘Hallelujah’ with lyrics about being a mom racked up more than two million views. Shannon Christensen Abbott posted a clip of herself singing Leonard Cohen’s famous song on her Facebook page recently. But she changed the lyrics to reflect her hectic lifestyle as a mother to young children, including: 'It's a dirty job but someone's gotta do it.'
I'm going to play with my photos today also. I have pictures of just about everything. Except...a cityscape. All the times I was in NYC or San Francisco or Miami or Fort Lauderdale or London or Montreal and all the other cities I've visited, even Portland Maine where I lived near for thirty years, I'm shocked I do not have ONE cityscape picture. I have a sunburst one of the street in NYC where the NYC Public Library is, and one top of the skyscraper pic of San Francisco, but that is about it. I'm amazed at the oversight. I'd wanted to play with cityscapes and light but I guess not.

Here are my city pictures and you can see that I took them with a different theme in mind and not the city landscape I now wish I had.

I was fascinated with the heavy door and the gilding, not the city.

I liked the colonial-ness of this Portland street

The closest thing I have to a typical cityscape,
but Portland Maine is a small city and so are its buildings

I framed this to show all the funkiness of San Francisco, contained in one shot
The County Fair is finishing up tonight. It is a very big deal around here. This fair is actually mainly an agricultural fair, given that our economy is so heavily based on agriculture. Of course there is a fairway and funnel cakes and rides and music to go along with the cows and the tractor sales and the sheep show, too. I have some old fair pics I'll probably noodle around with later.

At school we received a bulletin sent from our Superintendent (who is one of 4 finalists for State Superintendent of the year!) regarding the dangers of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI). As the State Coordinator at Georgia Emergency Management Agency-Homeland Security (GEMA) said, and I paraphrase his bulletin, given that poultry farming is a multi-billion dollar industry within the state of Georgia that touches either directly or indirectly every Georgian, and given that there are now many avian enthusiasts who won birds (especially chickens) in their backyard, a case of HPAI will significantly impact our beautiful state. This is something we want to avoid. If you own chickens, turkeys, or other birds please heed the warnings. I am told by farmers and state officials that there have been many meetings in GA lately about the increased risks. The reason the GEMA Coordinator sent the bulletin to the Superintendent is because the school systems are an area where information has been lacking, yet many teachers are also farmers who own birds of some kind in micro-farming endeavors.

So that is my Saturday morning. I hope you all have a great weekend yourselves and enjoy the time, but better yet, redeem the time. (Ephesians 5:16).

My cat is very sick

My cat Luke is doing very poorly. He has been sick for a while. More recently, he's had several hospital visits this month. This week, he has been at the vet since Thursday. He has been declining fast and I was hopeful that the two day visit to the kitty hospital with fluids IV and meds to stimulate appetite would be what he needed to become stabilized. But sadly, no. Today the vet said she would like to keep Luke the rest of the weekend. He won't eat and he has lost a third of his body weight. Poor thing is skin and bones. I think I am about to lose my best friend.

Saddest of all though, is that not just Luke, but all 3 cats have been diagnosed. Bert is showing symptoms and not doing great, and though Murray is not showing any symptoms yet, he will. I fear the empty nest.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Recommended books: Adventure and seagoing

I watched a short documentary (11 minutes) titled "9/11 Boat Lift". It's narrated by Tom Hanks and it chronicles the largest sea evacuation in history- the lifting of 500,000 Manhattanites desperate to be rescued from terrorized, smoky, ash-laden lower Manhattan on 9-11/2001. All the more incredible is that this rescue was not organized, it occurred naturally as mariners of all stripes- ferry boat captains, tug boat operators, harbor pilots, and recreational boatmen realized that there were many fellow humans stuck on an island needing rescue. Manhattan is an island and no one realized it more than did the Manhattanites the day they closed the bridges, roads and tunnels. There was no way off.

Thinking about seagoing mariners and rescue operations and such brought back to mind some great adventure books I've read. These are non-fiction but read like narrative. They're interesting, factual, and  heart breaking in some cases. Here is my list for you to peruse, in case you're looking for some good ole yarns to read. The link brings you to and the blurb is also's.

Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea
In 1857, the Central America, a sidewheel steamer ferrying passengers fresh from the gold rush of California to New York and laden with 21 tons of California gold, encountered a severe storm off the Carolina coast and sank, carrying more than 400 passengers and all her cargo down with her. She then sat for 132 years, 200 miles offshore and almost two miles below the ocean's surface--a depth at which she was assumed to be unrecoverable--until 1989, when a deep-water research vessel sailed into the harbor at Norfolk, Virginia, fat with salvaged gold coins and bullion estimated to be worth one billion dollars.

Author Gary Kinder wisely lets the story of the Columbus-America Discovery Group, led by maverick scientist and entrepreneur Tommy Thompson, unfold without hyperbole. Kinder interweaves the tale of the Central America and her passengers and crew with Thompson's own story of growing up landlocked in Ohio, an irrepressible tinkerer and explorer even in his childhood days, and his progress to adulthood as a young man who always had "7 to 14" projects on the table or spinning in his head at any given moment. One of those projects would become the preposterous recovery of the stricken steamer, and the resourcefulness and later urgency with which the project would proceed is contrasted poignantly with the Central America's doomed battle in 1857 to stay afloat.
Did you know that Herman Melville's story Moby-Dick was based on a true story? Here it is:

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex
Nathaniel Philbrick's In the Heart of the Sea examines the 19th-century Pacific whaling industry through the arc of the sinking of the whaleship Essex by a boisterous sperm whale. The story that inspired Herman Melville's classic Moby-Dick has a lot going for it--derring-do, cannibalism, rescue--and Philbrick proves an amiable and well-informed narrator, providing both context and detail. We learn about the importance and mechanics of blubber production--a vital source of oil--and we get the nuts and bolts of harpooning and life aboard whalers.
Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage
The astonishing saga of polar explorer Ernest Shackleton's survival for over a year on the ice-bound Antarctic seas, as Time magazine put it, "defined heroism." Alfred Lansing's scrupulously researched and brilliantly narrated book -- with over 200,000 copies sold -- has long been acknowledged as the definitive account of the Endurance's fateful trip. To write their authoritative story, Lansing consulted with ten of the surviving members and gained access to diaries and personal accounts by eight others. The resulting book has all the immediacy of a first-hand account, expanded with maps and illustrations especially for this edition.

Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History
September 8, 1900, began innocently in the seaside town of Galveston, Texas. Even Isaac Cline, resident meteorologist for the U.S. Weather Bureau failed to grasp the true meaning of the strange deep-sea swells and peculiar winds that greeted the city that morning. Mere hours later, Galveston found itself submerged in a monster hurricane that completely destroyed the town and killed over six thousand people in what remains the greatest natural disaster in American history--and Isaac Cline found himself the victim of a devastating personal tragedy. 
Using Cline's own telegrams, letters, and reports, the testimony of scores of survivors, and our latest understanding of the science of hurricanes, Erik Larson builds a chronicle of one man's heroic struggle and fatal miscalculation in the face of a storm of unimaginable magnitude. Riveting, powerful, and unbearably suspenseful, Isaac's Storm is the story of what can happen when human arrogance meets the great uncontrollable force of nature.

Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time

Sounds boring. It isn't.
Anyone alive in the eighteenth century would have known that "the longitude problem" was the thorniest scientific dilemma of the day--and had been for centuries. Lacking the ability to measure their longitude, sailors throughout the great ages of exploration had been literally lost at sea as soon as they lost sight of land. Thousands of lives, and the increasing fortunes of nations, hung on a resolution.

The scientific establishment of Europe--from Galileo to Sir Isaac Newton--had mapped the heavens in both hemispheres in its certain pursuit of a celestial answer. In stark contrast, one man, John Harrison, dared to imagine a mechanical solution--a clock that would keep precise time at sea, something no clock had ever been able to do on land. Longitude is the dramatic human story of an epic scientific quest, and of Harrison's forty-year obsession with building his perfect timekeeper, known today as the chronometer. Full of heroism and chicanery, it is also a fascinating brief history of astronomy, navigation, and clockmaking, and opens a new window on our world.
And for a change of scenery: this is one of the most gripping, heart-rending adventure stories I've ever read.

Into Thin Air
A bank of clouds was assembling on the not-so-distant horizon, but journalist-mountaineer Jon Krakauer, standing on the summit of Mt. Everest, saw nothing that "suggested that a murderous storm was bearing down." He was wrong. The storm, which claimed five lives and left countless more--including Krakauer's--in guilt-ridden disarray, would also provide the impetus for Into Thin Air, Krakauer's epic account of the May 1996 disaster.
I really enjoyed this slim but fascinating book:

Brunelleschi's Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture

Filippo Brunelleschi's design for the dome of the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence remains one of the most towering achievements of Renaissance architecture. Completed in 1436, the dome remains a remarkable feat of design and engineering. Its span of more than 140 feet exceeds St Paul's in London and St Peter's in Rome, and even outdoes the Capitol in Washington, D.C., making it the largest dome ever constructed using bricks and mortar. The story of its creation and its brilliant but "hot-tempered" creator is told in Ross King's delightful Brunelleschi's Dome. 
Both dome and architect offer King plenty of rich material. The story of the dome goes back to 1296, when work began on the cathedral, but it was only in 1420, when Brunelleschi won a competition over his bitter rival Lorenzo Ghiberti to design the daunting cupola, that work began in earnest. King weaves an engrossing tale from the political intrigue, personal jealousies, dramatic setbacks, and sheer inventive brilliance that led to the paranoid Filippo, "who was so proud of his inventions and so fearful of plagiarism," finally seeing his dome completed only months before his death.

The Pillars of the Earth

Historical fiction set in the Medieval times, chronicling both the building of a cathedral and the history behind a little- known time when Empress Maud and King Stephen reigned. It was a time of anarchy, survival, love, and betrayal. Note: some sex scenes.

Happy Reading!