Thursday, June 30, 2011

Danger, Will Robinson . . . Danger, Will Robinson . . .

Ok, this has got to stop!  I'm mad as hell, and I'm not gonna take it anymore!  I laid out the rules.  They were concise.  They were straightforward.  There was no room for misinterpretation.  Absolutely no snakes of any size, shape, color or creed on the two acres of land I have claimed as my own.  None!  How hard is that to get?  If you are a snake and you come onto Green Acres, you die - no pleading for leniency, no three-strike policy, no pardon from the Governor.  You die and your slimy, disgusting remains are fed to a buzzard.  Please do not give me your sob story about being helpful because you eat mice and rats.  Whoop-di-do for you!  You may patrol a perimeter outside my space and eat every last damn varmint that comes near.  If you are doing your job correctly, we will never meet and we'll both be happy.  Well, I'll be happy - you'll just be not dead.  So, here it is, one more time.  Listen up:

You have the right to remain the hell away from my house.  Anything you hiss or do can and will be considered cause for your immediate death and dismemberment.  You don't have the right to speak to an attorney.  In fact, you have no rights whatsover.  Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?  Good!

And most importantly - - the No. 1 inviolable rule - - Up to this point you have been fortunate to be rooted out by the dogs BEFORE  I saw you.  If you disregard this warning and venture into my space, be warned!!!  If you startle me and make me wet my pants I will invent new ways for you to die slowly and painfully.  (Of course, Dave will have to be the one doing the killing.  I'll be the one screaming, crying, and running/climbing things.)

That is all!

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

This book came out last January and I wrote a passing recommendation and promised a full review later.  I guess it's later.  I picture you all sitting quietly, perhaps sipping a little summer drink with an umbrella in it, with nothing to read because I haven't gotten around to telling you to run as fast as you can to get this book. Shameful!

How can it be anything but love-at-first-page with a book that includes the line:  There is no problem that a library card can't solve.
The Andreas family is one of readers. Their father, a renowned Shakespeare professor who speaks almost entirely in verse, has named his three daughters after famous Shakespearean women. When the sisters return to their childhood home, ostensibly to care for their ailing mother, but really to lick their wounds and bury their secrets, they are horrified to find the others there. "See, we love each other. We just don't happen to like each other very much."  But the sisters soon discover that everything they've been running from - one another, their small hometown, and themselves - might offer more than they ever expected.
This story includes two things that are dear to me - sisters and books.  I am the middle child of three sisters and, even though some days you would be hard put to tell that they are dear to me, there's always a connection down deep (w-a-a-a-a-y down deep) - A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. ( Ecclesiastes 4:12)  In spite of age, arguments or life-events, there is a dynamic between three sisters that never changes.  Parts of the story are written in a rather odd "community voice".  I have no idea what the technical term would be, but some passages are told from the perspective of the sisters as a group - one unit with one emotion, one viewpoint.  It's a bit disconcerting at first, but it also strengthens that sister dynamic.  Ms. Brown obviously has sisters of her own, because she captured it perfectly.  When brought together by a common crises, the Andreas sisters each instinctively returned to her childhood role.  The story is in how they moved beyond them.  

One sure measure of how much I like a book is the number of passages I mark to remember later.  This book had a peacock plume of sticky-notes by the time I finished.  There are lots of wonderful lines about aging, books, and family relationships.  Here are a handful of my favorites:

"We were fairly sure that if anyone made public the various and variegated ways in which being an adult sucked eggs, more people might opt out entirely." (p. 7)

"We were never organized readers who would see a book through to its end in any sort of logical order.  We weave in and out of words like tourists on a hop-on, hop-off bus tour.  Put a book down in the kitchen to go to the bathroom and you might return to find it gone, replaced by another of equal interest...Cordy claims this is the source of her inability to focus on anything for more than a few mintues at a time, but we do not believe her.  It is just our way."  (p. 23)

"How can we explain what books and reading mean to our family, the gift of libraries, of pages?" (p. 70)

"I keep waiting to feel old, to feel like a grown-up, but I don't yet.  Do you think that's the big secret adults keep from you?  That you never really feel grown-up?"  (p. 188)

"She remembered one of her boyfriends asking, offhandedly, how many books she read in a year.
'A few hundred,' she said. 
"How do you have time?' he asked, gobsmacked. 
She narrowed her eyes and considered the array of potential answers in front of her.  Because I don't spend hours flipping through cable complaining there's nothing on?  Because my entire Sunday is not eaten up with pregame, in-game and post-game talking heads?  Because I do not spend every night drinking overpriced beer and engaging in dick-swinging contests with the other financirati?  Because when I am waiting in line, at the gym, on the train, eating lunch, I am not complaining about the wait/staring into space/admiring myself in available reflective surfaces?  I am reading!
'I don't know,' she said, shrugging.
This conversation, you will not be surprised to know, was the impetus for their breakup, given that it caused her to realize the emotion she had thought was her not liking him very much was, in fact, her not liking him at all.  Because despite his money and his looks and all the good-on-paper attributes he possessed, he was not a reader, and, well, let's just say that is the sort of nonsense up with which we will not put."  (p. 71-72)

"Our mother shook her head...'You girls are all the same like that.  I don't know what we did to give you the idea that you had to be some master in your field by the time you were thirty.' ...'
'I don't really want to be a master in my field,' Bean said.  'But I'd like not to be a complete and total f*ckup.'
Here we expected our mother to rebuke Bean for her language, but she didn't.  She just smiled indulgently and said, 'Oh, honey, we're all f*ckups in our own special ways.' " (p. 308)

Oh...ain't it the truth!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Flip . . . Flop . . . Fun

Flip-Flop!  Flip-Flop!  I completed my review of Smokin' Seventeen by Janet Evanovich, but when I re-read it, I realized I sounded like a certain political candidate from a few years back who's opponents waved rubber sandals to accuse him of "flip-flopping" on the issues.  
I have been with Stephanie from book one, and have eagerly awaited the release of a new adventure each June.  I even drove 110 miles through torrential rain and hail to purchase one volume on release day.  However, *FLIP* you may remember (from this post) that I nearly called it quits after Sixteen.  The stories were beginning to feel re-cycled, and there was no progress in Stephanie's life.  

Character advancement is a delicate balance.  Too little and the stories seem repetitive.  Too much and the focus of the story changes.  Many a television series has fallen victim to the "too much" side of this coin (Murder, She Wrote and House, to name a couple.  Ask me about my opinions, I'll be glad to share.)

After reading Smokin' Seventeen, I still feel the series errs towards the "too little" side, but there's a "but". *FLOP*  Dave is relatively new to the series.  I think he's read three or four (and all out of order, which is bold new territory for him).  He reminded me that, advancement or no, the stories are funny!  Just read them for enjoyment and don't try to make it deeper than that.  We're not analyzing Shakespeare, we're just having a good time.  And he's got a point.  The familiar crowd - Grandma Mazur, Lula, Connie, Mooner, et. al. - were as comical as ever.  The plot was full of nutty villains and exploding cars.  There's even more sex!

Did Stephanie make any crucial life or relationship choices?  No, *FLIP* but *FLOP* she took steps in the right direction by realizing she has let the Morelli/Ranger situation fester too long.  Admitting you have a problem and all that. . .  By the last page, she APPEARS to have made a choice.  *FLIP*  I say appears because we've fallen for that cliff-hanger before.   *FLOP*  At least this time we don't have to wait as long to find out.  Explosive Eighteen
is coming in November and you know I'll be waiting in line.

Dave gifted me a lovely autographed copy of Smokin' Seventeen for my birthday.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

One Summer, by David Baldacci

You're traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That's the signpost up ahead - your next stop, the Twilight Zone! - Opening narration, Season Two. *cue spooky music* 

It doesn't look like a science fiction novel.  The azure waters, the peaceful beach, the classic lighthouse - not your typical sci-fi setting.

It doesn't sound like a science fiction novel.

It's almost Christmas, but there is no joy in the house of terminally ill Jack and his family. With only a short time left to live, he spends his last days preparing to say goodbye to his devoted wife, Lizzie, and their three children. Then, unthinkably, tragedy strikes again: Lizzie is killed in a car accident. With no one able to care for them, the children are separated from each other and sent to live with family members around the country. Just when all seems lost, Jack begins to recover in a miraculous turn of events. He rises from what should have been his deathbed, determined to bring his fractured family back together. Struggling to rebuild their lives after Lizzie's death, he reunites everyone at Lizzie's childhood home on the oceanfront in South Carolina. And there, over one unforgettable summer, Jack will begin to learn to love again, and he and his children will learn how to become a family once more.
But there's something spooky going on.  Somewhere between the lines of this story, the man on the left, David Baldacci - Master of Espionage and Intrigue - was overcome by his doppleganger, Tear-Jerker Extraordinaire Nicholas Sparks (right).  I had no idea that these two famous authors were actually one man with a split personality.

Yes, of course I'm joking.  This isn't One Life to Live, after all.   But, this was certainly not the book I was expecting from Baldacci.  Even in light of the cover art and synopsis, I still harbored a small delusion that Jack's miracle cure would turn out to be a terrorist plot, or that his mother-in-law was, in fact, a communist assassin.  But no.

This book is exactly what it appears to be - a "beautifully told story" about the "pathways of the human heart" and being "healed by love" - at least according to the trio of famous authors with blurbs on the back cover.   If you are a Sparks fan, or just like a good cry, you'll love it.   Even though I'm not a fan of the genre, it's got some twists that make it unique, and I'll even admit to tearing up near the end.  Worth your time on a slow, summer afternoon. 

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Joy of Reading

365 Bedtime Stories by Nan Gilbert was a gift to my two sisters and me when we were in early/mid grade school.  In our living room there was a swivel rocker that sat next to the front door.  If I opened the inner door and turned the chair around to face the wall, it created a cozy, private reading alcove where I spent hours reading this book start to finish - much to the consternation of my older sister.  Being the organized, rule-following sister in the group, she felt I had "ruined it" for everyone by reading ahead.  But how could I not?  How could I content myself with a few minutes per evening sharing adventures with the kids on What-A-Jolly Street?  I didn't have that kind of patience.  There was just no choice but to devour the entire 365 days as fast as possible.
If you have never said "Excuse me" to a parking meter or bashed your shins on a fireplug, you are probably wasting too much valuable reading time.  ~Sherri Chasin Calvo
What happened to that kind of excitement about reading?  Today when I try to sit down to read, excitement is replaced with responsibilities and distractions.  No matter how many times I promise myself I'll watch TV less and read more, I end up giving in to "just once through the channels" and an hour passes without me having focused on any one show.  A mindless, wasted hour filled with bits and pieces of a dozen shows I wouldn't waste the electricity to watch - yet I just blew the hour anyway.   If it's not the TV, it's the un-folded laundry or the dusty shelf that niggles at the back of my mind, reminding me what I "should be" doing instead.

As a child, I read only books that attracted me.  I never forced myself to read a story that didn't grab my attention. There were no "should be's" in chidlhood reading.  Now, that annoying librarian in my head says "You should be starting the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die.  You're not as young as you used to be!"   My conscience says "You should be reading books about socially relevant issues."  My blogging alter-ego says "You should be reading the current trends and hot bestsellers.  That's what people want to hear about."

Being a woman "of a certain age" comes with it's own distractions.  Gone are the days of sitting cross-legged in an oversize chair or holding a book under the covers for hours.  First my lower back begins to ache, then the restless legs twitch.  My arms tire in one position so I shift frequently.  I'm loosing feeling in my left hand, and now my hip hurts...

I want that youthful enthusiasm back.  That one-lane focus that blocks out everything but the joy of reading.  An excitement for a story that outweighs sleep and hunger.  How do you balance books and real life?  Do you have a special place where you can always get comfy and read?  Do you still feel like a kid when you get a new book?  
There is a great deal of difference between an eager man who wants to read a book and a tired man who wants a book to read.  ~G.K. Chesterton

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Knock, Knock, Knock . . . Housekeeping

It's time to tidy up the blog files.  Like most bloggers, I am sometimes struck by something I see, hear or read and think it would make a good blog post topic.  Because I know my memory is fleeting, I usually create a draft to remind myself to write it later.  Sometimes the draft is nothing more than a title or a link to a web-site, with no explanation of why I thought it was note-worthy.  This can be problematic.  

Occasionally, I am inspired by a post on another blog, so I flag it on Google Reader.  Unfortunately, this often has the same result.  The flag is like a string around my finger.  I know it's supposed to remind me of something, but what?  

I began this cleaning project in early May, trying to decide whether to keep the drafts and saved posts in hopes of an eventual flash of brilliance, or just hit delete.  Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Cate at Show My Face was pondering the same conundrum.  (Actually, I don't know that Cate lives on a ranch.  I have no idea where Cate lives.  It's possible she's in the Witness Protection Program.)  Cate, being much more organized and proactive than I, blogged her idea for a link-up where all interested bloggers could share the goofy things they have stashed in their draft file.  I signed up.  But when link-up day dawned, I didn't get it done.  Did I mention I'm not organized?  Yesterday, I finally got around to sifting through my draft file and flagged posts.  Four items made the cut, meaning I could still remember why I thought you might care, and they will become full-fledged posts soon.  Here's what didn't make it:

Gunn's Golden Rules, by Tim Gunn  I read this book the minute it was released last September and loved it!  I have no clue why the review never got written.  To properly review it now would require re-reading, because I couldn't do it justice without directly quoting his wisdom.  So here it is in a nut-shell:  The man is the embodiment of grace, class, taste and all those "old-fashioned" manners your Grandma tried to teach you.  He balances compassion and respect for others with personal dignity and confidence.  The planet would be a better place if everyone read this book and followed it.

BFF - That's it.  That's all I had written.  Obviously I was going to say something profound about friendship.

The Orange Prize 2011 - I had even saved a link to the Orange Prize website.  I have not read the winning book, any of the books on the short list or, for that matter, on the long list.  Why did i think I had something valuable to contribute on this topic?

Dubious Accomplishments - This was a post I had saved from Jenners at Life...With Books.  She invited her readers to construct their own list which, I do remember, was my plan.  But, I just can't compete with Jenn's humor.  Click on the link to Jenn's list and read it for yourself.  You'll thank me later.

Bibliomysteries - I actually know why I saved this post from The Mysterious Bookshop about "one of the most interesting sub-genres of the mystery world, "Bibliomysteries," which are books about books. They may be set in bookstores or libraries, they may involve collectors, librarians or authors, or they may involve rare books or manuscripts, but, for all of us who love the world of books, these are among the most satisfying books in the field."  I was going to go through their list and pull all the ones I have read, then scour by brain and bookshelves for others I could add and write some grand list of my recommended bibliomysteries.  But I got over myself.   

And lastly was a recipe for the Marlboro Man Sandwich from Pioneer Woman.  If you don't read Ree Drummond's blog regularly, you should be banned from ice cream and forced to surrender your Borders Rewards card.  The title of Ree's post was "Make This Today".  That was twenty-four days ago.  It still looks delicious.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Can We Say That Here?

If you pay any attention at all to the book world, I'm sure you've heard some of the controversy over this new "children's" book. The publisher describes it as: 
A bedtime book for parents who live in the real world, where a few snoozing kitties and cutesy rhymes don't always send a toddler sailing blissfully off to dreamland. . . Adam Mansbach's verses perfectly capture the familiar--and unspoken--tribulations of putting your little angel down for the night. . . Beautiful, subversive, and pants-wettingly funny - a book for parents new, old, and expectant. You probably should not read it to your children.
This book is dead-center, on-the-mark, exactly what every parent has thought at some point when faced with endless glasses of water, trips to the bathroom, stories, questions and a toddler who STILL refuses to sleep.  Be warned, the language is offensive, but it's also what makes the story funny - what makes us sympathize with this parent who is obviously at the end of his rope.  Granted, it could have been dialed back a bit (Don't you blaspheme in here! Don't you blaspheme in here!*), but they didn't ask us. 

The only thing funnier than reading the book is listening to the audio version, read by Samuel L. Jackson.  Warning (in case you ignored the first one)
:  Don't watch this at work, in front of your mother-in-law, or with any kids in the room.

Now admit it - that really is "pants-wettingly" funny!

*Bonus points if you can name that movie.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

If You Were Here by Jen Lancaster

ROTFLMAO!  If you're not familiar with that phrase, ask a teen.  In general, it means I thought this book was hilarious.  Followers of Ms. Lancaster's blog will recognize the story as a thinly disguised, but humorously exaggerated, retelling of the author's experience with a crumbling rental house, gang-related neighbors, and the trials of purchasing her first home.  

Mac and Mia purchase their dream home - a "fixer-upper" - intending to save money by doing the renovations themselves.  If you've ever attempted any home improvement projects, you know what a bad idea this is.  Soon they are dealing with AWOL contractors, rising stacks of bills, dwindling funds, complaining neighbors and a much larger/lengthier project than they ever imagined.  Jen's snarky footnotes and wild backup characters (like spoiled rich girl Vienna Hyatt - veiled reference to Paris Hilton, in case you missed it) balance out the frustration of Mac's procrastination and mechanical ineptitude.

I'm a bit too old for the 1980's John Hughes movie references.  I've never seen "Pretty in Pink", "Breakfast Club" or "Sixteen Candles", all of which play heavily in this story.  But that did not detract from the humor of the book or the lessons on marriage, communication and looking to "things" for happiness.  Laugh-out-loud funny!

Footnote:  Our new favorite phrase, gleaned from this book:  industrial-strength not happy!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

It's Time to Play . . . Name That Bloom

It's me, the Flummoxed Florist, back with another round of What the Heck is Growing in My Yard?

Bloom #1 - For a $5 gift certificate to Fertilizers R Us, name this bloom...
If you guessed "lily" you are correct.  

Bloom #2 - For a rusty planter I found behind the chicken coop and all the hydrangea cuttings you can clip, name this bloom...
If you said "yucca", congratulations!  Bonus points if you wondered why anyone plants a weed (flowering or otherwise) in their yard.  Double bonus points if you recognized the ivy geranium in the hanging pot behind the yucca.

And now for the Big Money Round - playing for an all-expenses-paid trip to Green Acres to help clear cow manure out of what will hopefully become the dog pen, name this bloom...

No, seriously...what is that thing?  It's growing under my mailbox.  It's approximately three feet high and has both pink and purple varieties.  Good luck!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

You Can't Teach an Old Dog . . .

You know what they say (whoever "they" are) - You can't teach an old dog new tricks.  Perfect!  That must mean I'm not old!  Along with the fun of making new friends, and the catharsis of writing, having a blog and reading other blogs has served a third, more unexpected, purpose - learning new tricks.  Every now and then I read a post and think, "I've never heard of that."  Here are a few examples for the past couple weeks:

Zentangles - According to the creators (, "Zentangle is an easy to learn method of creating beautiful images from repetitive patterns. It is a fascinating new art form that is fun and relaxing. It increases focus and creativity. Zentangle provides artistic satisfaction and an increased sense of personal well being.  We believe that life is an art form and that Zentangle is an elegant metaphor for deliberate artistry in life."  If you remove the zen element, this is remarkably similar to doodling, but with a more deliberate intent.  I'm a champion doodler from way back, so I think I'm a perfect candidate for Zentangles.  I learned about Zentangles from Cheryl at Grandma Coco's Designs.  Visit her blog and check out her gorgeous drawings - zen and otherwise.

Solar Cooking:  This also came from Cheryl at Grandma Coco's Designs.  She and Mr. Coco built their own solar-powered oven on their deck.  I guess if we have to put up with summer temperatures, we might as well use them productively.  I really want to give this a try.

Rain Chains:  Marie at Daisy's Book Journal is making her own Rain Chain.  What is a rain chain, you ask?  Me too!  A rain chain replaces unsightly downspouts on your house.  They can also be used as part of a decorative water feature.  They can be as simple as a basic heavy-duty chain, or more intricate like the one in the picture.   They can empty into a standard downspout trough, a water collection barrel,  a decorative bowl with drain, or even into container gardens.  Now that I've seen them, I have to have them.  Our house has two downspouts in very unfortunate locations, but no way to move them without rehanging the entire gutter system.  Rain chains would be a much more appealing solution.  Try a Google image search for dozens of variations.

No telling what new things will surface in the blogosphere tomorrow.  Hang around.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Paris in July

Oooh-la-la!  Tamara from Thyme For Tea and Karen at BookBath are hosting the second annual Paris in July - "a month long blogging experience to celebrate our love of all things French and Parisian."  Since I'm not sure that I actually have a love for all things French - my vocabulary is limited to "a la mode" and "cafe au lait" -  my participation should be classified as Paris-Lite.

After minutes of deep thought, stealing ideas from other blogs, and scientifically cross-referencing them with my local library's catalog, my plan is to devote at least one post per week to the French theme, with one week devoted to each of the following topics:

Movies:  Gigi, a 1958 film starring Leslie Caron and Maurice Chevalier is my pick for movie week.  (I told you I was going lite - no subtitles for me.)

Music:  I plan to investigate the music of composer Claude DeBussey and coloratura soprano Natalie Dessay, among others.

Books:  Chocolat by Joanne Harris.  Loved the movie, and isn't the book always better?

Food:  I received both volumes of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking as a gift more than a year ago and so far I've tried a whopping three recipes.  I'm breaking out the cookbooks and cooking French in July.  (Is there such a thing as "lite" food in France?  July's too hot for heavy meals.)

I might throw in some study of French art and a second book if there is time.  How about a few classic French films - like Ratatouille, Beauty and the Beast, DaVinci Code, or Home Alone (give me a break - the family is flying to France!).  Dave's additions:  The French Connection and the complete series of Pink Panther films.

If you would like to participate in Paris in July, go here and leave a comment.  Even if you don't have a blog, join in and leave your comments here or on one of the host sites.

Joignent à moi pour Juillet.*

* ("Join me in July".  If that's incorrect, blame Google Translate).

Monday, June 13, 2011

Floods, tornadoes and more floods - oh my!

I'm not making light of the weather-related devastation that has been happening in our area lately, but I also haven't been able to force myself to write about such a serious subject.  I have a tendency to entertain myself - and hopefully you, too - by writing about the goofy stuff, but a couple of things caught my attention and I think they should be shared.

First was this article written by a doctor who was on duty at St. John's Regional Medical Center in Joplin, MO on May 22, 2011 when the city was ravaged by a tornado.  It's so easy to read about tragedies in the news and consign them to the "oh that's too bad" pile - that place where we store stuff that we know is tragic, but doesn't directly touch our lives.  You won't be able to do that any more after reading this doctor's story.  It makes the Joplin tornado very real.

Secondly, I was fascinated by the tales of floods.  At first, as embarrassing as it is to admit, it was just an outside curiosity - "Hmmmm.  I wonder what that would be like."  But then I began reading the personal flood story of Marie at Daisy's Book Journal.  Marie's beautiful home in Manitoba has become an island, accessible only by boat or hip-waders. As I read her stories of measuring the rise/fall of water in her backyard, sump pumps, generators, ruined septic tanks and faulty electrical lines, watching forces totally out of her control take over her life, "those people" who are affected by the floods had a face and a name.  

Picture courtesy of

Since we now live about fifteen miles, as the crow flies (why a crow?  Isn't it the same distance for any bird?) from the Missouri River, I have been paying attention to the flooding up-river and the predictions for our area within the next week.  Saturday evening we took a drive through several communities along the river's edge that are preparing for the onslaught.  A grain elevator at Phelps City, Missouri is surrounded by a 12' earth berm.  Homes and businesses in Big Lake, Missouri have been completely emptied.  Farmers are scrambling to move grain out of storage bins before it is ruined by flood waters.   These are our new neighbors.  Though I don't know them personally, seeing the incredible amount of work they have put in to protect their homes, businesses and livelihoods made it so much more "real" than a newspaper or TV story.

But now what?  At this point, I have no clue how to help any of these people.  I have extended comfort through prayers, but some situations require a more hands-on approach. If you read a post I wrote last November concerning our own small tragedy, you may remember that the people we appreciated in that moment were not the ones who offered platitudes or even prayers - but those who "picked up bricks".  How do I pick up bricks for any of these victims?

There are many wonderful organizations - including our favorite, the American Red Cross - who are offering support to those affected by natural disasters.  I know my financial contributions help make that possible and I'm glad to give.  But is there more?  If you are, or have ever been, one of those affected in this way, what did you need most in a one-on-one way?  We can't replace your home, or pay all your bills while your business is rebuilding.  We can't heal your injuries or resurrect the memories that blew away.  But is there a way two people can make a difference?  How can we "pick up your bricks"?

Update: Within the past few hours, several levees have breached and produced flash-flooding in our area.  While our home is not even close to danger, some of our co-workers and neighbors (not to mention hundreds or thousands of total strangers) are facing huge losses in the next few hours/days... and I'm still at a loss for how to help.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Pay It Forward Award

Thanks to Donna at The House on the Corner for giving us this beautiful award.  Donna blogs from her home (on the corner, presumably) in Texas, and includes a wide variety of topics including her family, her faith and her adorable new grandson.  Stop by and have a look around.  Also check out the other winners:

Debby @ Just Breathe
Hilary @ Feeling Beachie
Beverly @ The Beverly Buzz

The Secret Life of Damian Spinelli by Carolyn Hennesy

From the deck of the Smilin' Lila to the halls of General Hospital, from the Case of the Vamping Valkyrie to the Case of the Contrived Contralto, here are Spinelli's tales of intrigue, kidnapping, murder, and more. The office of Spinelli/McCall, P.I., has never been busier. Spinelli may be a gumshoe like no other, but he will save, defend, and protect the citizens of Port Charles until the bitter end!
General Hospital fans are familiar with the imaginary exploits of the Jackal.  Also known as Damian Spinelli, the gangly, awkward computer genius fancies himself a private eye in the tradition of Sam Spade or Mike Hammer.  At any random moment, he fades into daydreams of himself as the hero, saving the damsel (or would that be "broad"?).  The publication of this collection of his fanciful escapades was part of the storyline on the show and then was released in the "real world".  

I have been a GH fan for about thirty years.  In fact, I can't remember exactly when I started watching, but I know it was before we got married in 1982.  While I love the character of Spinelli, these daydream sequences have not really been my cup of tea (cup of joe?).  I'm not sure what made me think I would like them more in print.  This collection holds some appeal to hard-core General Hospital fans and is, at points, quite funny.  I get that these are Spinelli's over-the-top fantasies, but at times they take the familiar characters so far outside their usual personalities that it becomes annoying.  For someone with no background on the characters, it would make no sense at all.

While I can't give this book my full recommendation, GH followers - and especially Spinelli groupies - will get a chuckle and some extra time with their favorite Port Charles-ites.  

Thursday, June 9, 2011

...but give me Park Avenue!

For every laugh there is a tear, for every up there is a down, for every sunny day there is a storm cloud.... It follows that for all the peaceful evenings and beautiful blooms on Green Acres there would have to be a negative.  But does it HAVE to be snakes?  How about plagues of locusts?  Landslides?  Being forced to watch reality TV?  Just NOT snakes!  

The first sighting was reported by the air-conditioning fix-it guy.  He began with, "I don't know how you feel about snakes..."  This isn't going to be good!  He found one on the back patio (yes, not more than 10' from the door and right where I walk to get to the clothes line).  It was "only" a garter snake and it had captured a toad.  The encounter wasn't ending well for either creature - evidently garter snakes are stupid and don't realize they can't swallow an entire toad - so one was choking and one was just dead.  Dave disposed of this one by carrying it down to the pond and leaving nature to take it's course.  

The second sighting was in the garden - another garter snake even smaller than the first.  Dave disposed of this one by heaving it as far as possible into the cattle pasture.  I did at least recognize the futility of killing off the garter snake population one by one.  But last night was a whole new deal.

Molly, our Springer Spaniel, was dancing around one of the lilac bushes like it was a Maypole.  Bark, bark,, run, run...dig, dig....wiggle, wiggle...JUMP!...repeat.  Since she was too engrossed to answer when called or come to the house, Dave went to investigate.   Expecting to find a squirrel or, more likely, nothing at all, Dave parted branches and stuck his head into the center of the bush.  The conversation went something like this:

Dave:  Oh, I see.  It's a snake.  (Just calm as can be, like "Oh look, a butterfly".)

Me:  How big?  (The only rational response to "It's a snake.")

Dave:  You don't want to see.  Do you want me to catch it?

Me:  Catch it, my ass!  Shoot it!!!!!!!

Dave:  Oh, ok.

And yes, dear wildlife lover, he shot it.  I know, I know - it was a harmless rat snake.  Well, harmless unless you're a rat.  But there are certain rules that apply to snakes near my house and rule no. 1 is "Stay the hell away from my house!"  You understand that this snake was in a lilac bush from which I cut blooms, around which I mow, past which I walk to get to the mail box.  This is not acceptable living or lounging space for snakes.  I left the snake's head in the snake bed as a warning to future reptiles who might dare to enter the Godmother's territory.

In the light of a new morning, with the flowers glistening after a rain shower and the first hummingbird sighted at the feeder, I have decided to remain at Green Acres.  Now you'll have to excuse me, I'm headed to town to buy hip-waders so I can retrieve the mail.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

And the Blooms Just Keep on Coming...

More things are blooming here on Green Acres and, once again, I find myself clueless.  As I was maneuvering the lawn mower through the overgrown ditch, I discovered this beauty atop a fence post.
It has grown up the fence post and then tangled amongst itself to make a ball of flowers.  I was sure there had to be a flowerpot under there somewhere, but it is completely supporting itself by winding around it's own stems.  I believe I can identify this as clematis - but feel free to tell me if I'm wrong.  And how do I go about getting a start from this plant? Collect seeds?  Take a cutting?  I would really like to have it growing on the trellis by the house.

And the peonies are here.  We knew there was a bush with white blooms in the front yard, but I discovered three more out by the road near the clematis.  They were buried among weeds that hadn't been trimmed for who-knows-how-long, but once Dave cleared away the junk, we had beautiful light and dark pink varieties.

Next, this scraggly looking bush that I had actually wanted Dave to remove, began blooming in the most amazing shade of neon pink.  And, lo and behold, as Dave continued clearing brush and dead trees, we discovered it comes in a white variety also. Anyone have an idea?

Then there is this huge bed of what we assume to be some variety of hydrangeas??  The blooms are a rather unimpressive green/yellow at this point.  I read somewhere that the bloom color can be influenced by the acidity of the soil.  Anyone able to verify this?
Coming soon:  Tons and tons of lilies, at least some of which are bright orange.  We'll keep you posted.