Saturday, April 30, 2011

Blogging Books 3

Time to tout another book series. The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith. I was Thrilled this afternoon to find book #11 on the shelf at my local bookstore. I also like it that the books are very clearly numbered so there is no question.

Several things make this series special. First of all, Alexander McCall Smith is an amazing writer. So good in fact that I was about three books into the series before realizing it wasn’t Alexandra and “she” was really a “he”. He writes women very, very well and, as you might guess by the title of the series and first book, his main character is a woman.

The place is the African country of Botswana and he paints with words the landscape, history and people of this little known country with love and deep affection. Precious Ramotswe moves from the country to the city after her father dies and she uses her inheritance to establish a detective agency. The problems and mysteries she solves are very ordinary ones: why does a husband stray? Why might a young American disappear in the bush from a commune where he was loved and respected? Who is ransacking the shops along her street? The characters who people her world are written with depth and delight. Every one has their very special take on life and Smith allows them to philosophize about the nature of the world in very natural and compelling ways.

It is good to begin this series at the beginning even though each book stands alone. There is character and relationship development that is fun to follow in its natural order. One of the movie channels, HBO I think, produced a short series from the first few books. The casting is amazing and the actors are wonderful. Seldom have I seen a movie based book that was so right. See it if it comes around again ~ but try and read the books first. Again, this is a series that is nice to read with a cup of tea in your hand even if it isn’t red bush tea from the porches of Botswana.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Shopping On Line

Why don't I just Google any and everything I want to buy? I have been wanting 3 lb weights ever since they started me with them at gym. Di finally told me she had found some in Reno for $12. In the middle of the night last night, I thought - look on line, Susan. Found them for $3.60 each - making my order with shipping $12.16 ~ 16 cents more than Di paid and she had to pay gas to Reno. I assume I will have them by early next week, much sooner and with much more ease than a trip to Reno and searching for a place that has them.

She also bought shoes and a summer dress on eBay. That I can't do - I need to try on clothes and shoes and I know that. Anything else, I hope I know by now that it is time to start checking on line for Everything - :)

Tivo is great!!! I "watched" 5 hours of Royal Wedding in less than 45 minutes - while I had my first cup of tea and before Dean was even up. Saw all the important parts ~ and was most impressed by the crowds following the police line around the streets of London to the Palace. Especially nice speeded up - sort of like watching dominoes fall except they weren't falling, just moving right along.

Looking forward to gym today after a day of "rest" yesterday.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Weighing In

Time for a 68 year old white woman, an "ordinary" American, mother, grandmother and lover of the Constitution to have her say. And then I am going to turn it over to a much more eloquent speaker than I am. But first: No one is vetted more than someone running for the office of President of the United States. Therefore, the sitting President should NOT have to show his birth certificate ever again. And . . . if he decides the mosquito in the room has become such a pest that he Has to show his birth certificate yet again, he needs to hand it to his second assistant secretary's second assistant to present to the public. Mosquito slappers don't need to hold the highest office in the land and possibly the world in order to issue an effective slap.

And now - please take time to watch and listen to the this Very eloquent young man speak for all of us who call ourselves American. ~ with blessings

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Blogging Books 2

Time to blog about books again. Because I am known to be a reader of mysteries, I will start with one of my favorite series, Mrs. Jeffries and the Inspector by Emily Brightwell. The premise of the series is simple. Mrs. Jeffries, widow of a Yorkshire policeman and now housekeeper for Scotland Yard Detective Inspector Witherspoon, is an expert at solving murders. Inspector Witherspoon is not quite as good at it so Mrs. Jeffries and her staff go to work behind the scenes to help gather clues and nudge the Inspector in the right direction.

Everyone of the staff has their own assignment as they go about their hunt. Smythe, the coachman, covers the pubs and darker alleys of Victorian London. Wiggins, the general house boy, has a way of making other young staff from the houses of murder victims and suspects talk. Betsy, the maid, can smile at a grocery clerk and learn all sorts of things about the houses in question. Mrs. Goodge, the elderly cook, never leaves her kitchen but bakes up goodies galore to feed her “sources” that come through and stop for a spot of tea and scones. And always at the end, Mrs. Jeffries puts all the clues together and helps solve the mystery and sends the Inspector to catch the murderer.

Within this pattern, Emily Brightwell sets up mystery after mystery, always just different enough to hold the reader’s attention. She also allows these delightful people their own lives and so reading through the series, we watch them grow, change, fall in love, discover some clues to their own identities and watch with pride as their Inspector gets better at ferreting out clues himself and becoming the most famous detective at Scotland Yard.

If you enjoy “gentle” murders and Victorian England, I highly recommend Mrs. Jeffries. Although nice to start at the beginning, each book stands alone enough that you can pick up one at your library or used book store and spend a lovely afternoon indulging in mystery ~ especially nice if you add tea and scones.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Maundy Thursday Prayer Vigil

This is a strange way of putting it and this is one of my favorite nights of the year. Yes, it is a time when Christians remember Jesus’ suffering and death. And for a dancer, it was a time of ritual drama that spoke deeply to my faith. Services allowed for the singing of some hymns that were appropriate only on this night. We were able to dance to those, or act out the women at the cross; strip the chancel of all the extraneous decorations, draping the cross in black and leaving the room in darkness.

Years ago my church in Virginia began having a prayer vigil following the Maundy Thursday service. People would sign up to pray in the sanctuary for thirty minutes segments from nine on Thursday night until 3 on Good Friday afternoon. It was and still is a time of power and grace. Last year I mentioned to the pastor that I would be thinking of them and he suggested he might sign me up to pray along with someone who would be in the sanctuary. I loved the idea and he did - 9 my time, midnight theirs. I am doing it again this year. To set aside an intentional period of time to be in intentional prayer and meditation is a powerful experience. I will light candles, read scripture and hymns, mediate and be in intercessory prayer.

The time will be a blessing to me. May I be a blessing to others through my prayer.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Reflections on Yesterday

Delightful day yesterday. No agenda. Did do a little buying: a pair of fuzzy slippers as mine had lost all their fuzz years ago and are all worn and tattered; a wide-brim visor that fits with a soft scarf rather than the hard band of most visors ~ in deep purple, my favorite color; a few Easter goodies; and when we stopped at the grocery store, The King’s Speech, on sale for less than any of the pre-buys from on line bookstores. I came home happy, had a dish of ice cream and watched The King’s Speech.

I know I live an easy life. And . . . I had not had an agenda-less day off the mountain for a long, long time. Even when I have made day-trips, it has usually been to show the area to an out-of-town guest. That makes for an agenda. My neighbor didn’t have an agenda either and so we parked and wandered. Lovely little town, Nevada City, CA. Bookstores, art and tea shops, clothing stores. And a delightful hidden away Mexican restaurant for lunch. We ate early in our trip and walked it off with the afternoon’s wandering.

Delightful day for which I am very grateful ~ starting with thanks to Dianne for suggesting it and to my soul for just saying yes. ~ blessings

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

I am missing having a dog. I continue to miss Tessie ~ and the other dogs we have had. And . . . I miss having a dog. I read the rescue stories of amazing animals. I am by myself in the house and would like ears to skritch or another soul to converse with. Dean is going to be gone for several days and I think how nice it would be to have a companion.

Then my neighbor calls and suggests a day trip off the mountain. Almost without thinking I say, sure - let’s go. The only thing waiting for me is the laundry and that will wait patiently until the next day. I am going with no qualms, no worries, no one else to care for or wonder about. I can simply go and enjoy myself for a day of whatever it is. She may have an agenda. At this point I don’t, although who knows what may turn up. We can stay as long or as short as we like. If one of us suggests a later arrival home time, I am free to agree or not based on me. And it would be very nice to have a wagging tail greeting me when I return. It is a dilemma. ~ with blessings

Friday, April 15, 2011

History's Impact 2

Fascinating responses to yesterday’s blog. Commenting on FB, friends went into much more depth and detail than I had regarding the possibilities had Lincoln not been assassinated. Those of us old enough to remember childhood in the 50s remember a life still impacted by the blight of reconstruction.

One story reminded me of a time when I was about 10 or 11. We were at the beach in South Carolina and the woman who owned the cottage where we stayed knew our family who stayed every year and so had come over one night to visit. Somehow the conversation turned to integration - it was in the 50s. She told about her grandmother taking her every Saturday to the steps of the court house in their South Carolina town and telling her the awful stories of reconstruction. Even at age 11, I knew there was no way that woman would Ever be able to move beyond those stories to see people of a different race as in any way similar to herself. I realized that the war that I had thought was history - old and ancient history - was as present in her life as if it was happening in that moment. I am grateful that my young soul knew something wasn’t right.

Peter Gomes in “The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus” says: If God loves all that he has made -- and he has made everyone, not just ourselves, in his own image -- then the commandment to love God means that we must love all whom God has made, even those different from ourselves, and disagreeable to us. Powerful and difficult words to hear and live by ~ and there it is. So regardless of where we are, we must start here in this moment to be and do better and not be defined by the past and what may or may not have happened then. ~ with blessings

Thursday, April 14, 2011

History's Impact

April 14, 1865, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. What might our world, our country be like today if this event had not happened? 146 years may be long enough that the impact today would be less than imagined. On the other hand, every major event of this kind, especially the assassination of presidents, gives pause and wonder as we look back across the span of history.

Of course I have never wondered the impact of the deaths of Garfield or McKinley. I have wondered about the impact of the death of John Kennedy. The other two premature deaths by assassination that come to mind are Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, jr. Kennedy would have been president without a doubt - ok who knows, and the country was moving that way. And King was the leader of a powerful civil rights movement that made a continuing impact on this country but slowly petered out without a strong, charismatic leader on hand.

If these men had lived to play out their political destinies, would this country be more tolerant today? Would “the race card” still be in play or would it have disappeared in a country led to be more inclusive and forgiving? Would we be mired in economic debt or might one of them had the financial sense to know that even a country really shouldn’t spend more than it takes in? These questions can go on and on ~ and there is no answer to any of them because the reality is the death of Abraham Lincoln, 146 years ago today.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Spring Has Come!

It is finally spring. How do I know? Squirrels? They have made an appearance but that’s not it. Birds? The Mountain Jays are back, but that’s not it. The rain-like sound of snow melting off the roof? A very welcome sound, but that’s not it. How do I know it is spring? Because of the way we are dressed.

This morning I had on my workout clothes, with a fleece shirt over the T-shirt, and a jacket and of course sneakers and socks. While I was working out, a young woman came into the office in a spaghetti-strapped very short dress and flip-flops. No sleeves, no jacket. While we were eating lunch, people coming into the restaurant were in long pants, jackets with scarves and brightly colored light-weight spring suits and dresses. Fashion is running the gamut. Spring is here!

As the temperature continues to rise, those of us who are still in fleece and long sleeves and shoes with toes (because of snowy slush and cold, puddled water) will evolve into lighter weight clothing and sandals. I can hardly wait for sandals. And while there are still 4 to 5 feet of snow on my deck and a chance of sloshing through melting snow, I will keep my feet warm and my body covered. I am satisfied with knowing that others are already in sandals and short sleeves because Spring is finally here!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Blogging Books

So I’ve been thinking about all the books I read. There are blogs about all sorts of books: mysteries, romance, etc. I was reading a blog the other day that had books the writer had recently read listed on the side of her blog. I liked that. Then I thought about the books I read. Mostly mysteries. And I don’t want to write a blog about mysteries. I tend to stay in a very small part of that genre and I reread a lot. Plus, I don’t read Just mysteries. I enjoy all sorts of books. So I think I have decided to write a blog once in a while about some books that I have particularly enjoyed over the years. And why not start with books I read as a child? One of the nice things about doing it this way ~ I don’t have to be up to date. Yes, these are children’s books, just not necessarily new ones. I have read them, some times over and over, and loved them. So here we go.

Wait ‘Til the Moon is Full by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Garth Williams. For all my life, I have known the sliver of a new moon is “thin as the curve of a raccoon’s whisker.” I still have this book from my childhood though I have bought it new for almost all my grands over the years.

Winnie the Pooh (story books and poetry books) by A. A. Milne. These were the books that I wanted read to me again and again if I was sick or unable to read them for myself for some reason. Even when I had mono as a teenager, I brought the Pooh books to my bedside and read them when I had the energy.

Every single one of the Dr. Seuss books - whether read by me as a child or read to my children.

Zen Shorts by Jon J Muth. This is a rather new book that I found one year for my grandchildren at Christmas. It teaches several very important lessons in a very gentle and loving way. And I really like Stillwater, the Panda, teacher and sharer of wisdom. The book cover is for a later book purchased last October for Halloween for grandchildren and to have here at the house.

I know that parents can download all sorts of interactive books onto their iPads and Kindles for their kids to read. And I am just old enough and old fashioned enough to believe that holding a child in your lap and reading them a book you love is wonderfully interactive. These are ones among many others that I choose to have in my home still and available for the grands when they are here. ~ enjoy your reading and the next book blog will be along soon.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Day Dreaming

The snow fell lightly. The sky was steel grey. Deep green pines were icing laden with the heavy wet snow of a spring fall. Through the pine branches appeared the rising smoke of someone’s fire, a well-lit chimney offering home, welcome, a night’s rest, perhaps a meal and a stable for her weary horse.

Nevermind that she was propped up in her own comfy, 21st century bed, surrounded by pillows and warmth, gazing out of her front windows onto the pines that surrounded the condos across the street. Those facts had no impact on the imagination. She was making that wintery trek as surely as if she were a 13th century religiouse or a 17th century pioneer woman. The smoke spoke hope and home and fireside.

Rolling out of her modern comforts and facing a day of house cleaning after a week of company, she smiled in gratitude at the morning’s vision and a brain that could take her on such a journey with only a glimpse of smoke through the trees across the way.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Granddaughter's First Pie

Grandson had requested a quiche. And to give the Mama Susan credit, I do make a Delicious quiche. Anyway - I was making him one and because I was using a deep dish pie pan, I had doubled the crust recipe thereby having dough left over. Granddaughter was helping me in the kitchen and when she saw the left-over dough asked if she could make her very first pie.

Honestly, my insides grabbed up some. I have lots of talents and I do not negate them. I am even a Very Good cook if I follow the recipe and have time to move through it. I pale a little at the thought of helping a grandchild make a pie. So - I took a deep breath, thought "why not?" and said, Sure. As soon as the quiche is in the oven we will make a pie.

She rolled out the dough. Smoothed out the cracks so the filling wouldn't leak underneath. Tucked in the edges as best she could. I searched the cabinets and found a can of peaches which we used as filling. Voila! Her very first pie. I have promised to help her learn to make crust on her own later. Of course my way to this day - even after 50 years of pie making - is to pull up my Betty Crocker pie crust recipe and follow it to the letter. Hey, it works. And as Dean pointed out ~ making your very first pie is one of the things you are supposed to do at Grandma's house. :D

Monday, April 4, 2011

Good Day!

Some days stand out as special in memory and I think yesterday will be one of those days. What a Good Day! I was up and cooking early so that the pecan pie was in the oven by 9:15. Shortly after that the grits were ready to follow. By the time family arrived back here, table was set, buffet was laid out and I was able to visit and hug and hug and visit.

The conversation immediately rose to a peak of excitement as cousins saw each other for the first time since summer. When Daughter and Son first met, they knew they were soul mates. They became instantly connected step-brother and sister. They need no time to re-connect. They immediately start the questions about business, family life, life in general.

The kids swarm over the house and the outside snow banks. Sometimes buried in their video games, sometimes reading, chatting or begging to play one of the all-family games we play, they are engrossed and entertained. Sometimes they even sit by quietly and listen to what the adults are saying. “Adult” now includes the soon-to-graduate 18 year olds whose participation in such conversations is a given.

Dinner was Wonderful (even if the cook does say so herself), and eaten early enough in the afternoon to allow sleep even on a still full-feeling stomach. Several rounds of Apples to Apples followed by several of Mafia, held the interest of all of us and moved the lazy afternoon along very nicely. The only “problem” with Apples to Apples is that I tend to teach. If there is a subject brought up that one of the younger ones doesn’t know about, I want to tell them. I tried to be good and keep my teaching to a few sentences. :)

Late evening was defined by the return home of one family and the settling in of the rest of us. For some younger growing members of the family, healthy, hefty snacks were the order of the evening. The almost-14-year old ate another meal. But then he is a teen-age boy which means by definition he has a hollow leg.

Seems we all slept well and are ready to face the week with high energy.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Good Eating

When the family is here, we eat Well. Rob and Chenlu made baby back ribs and fried rice last night. Rob made homemade egg McMuffins for breakfast today. Tomorrow is my turn with big family dinner at traditional Sunday dinner time: ham, cheese grits, salad and pecan pie. Yum!!

Rob took the family to Reno to visit and spend the night with Jeff’s family so for lunch Dean and I went to Las Panchitas. Even our eating out is yummy when the family is here. When Michelle and family come for Sunday, she is bring a couple of batches of her best-ever Mama Bear's Kitchen granola. (Stay tuned for a link to her website coming in a little while.)

Carter has requested quiche - so I will make that for Monday or Tuesday night. Then they will go home and I will go back to eating a bit more normally. Still for a few days, it can be fun ~ and not too harmful if I watch my portions. Tasty.