Sunday, April 23, 2017

High Falls State Park

Well, we seem to be on a roll here.  It is raining today, but last week we went off hiking again at High Falls State Park.  We got up and out early and arrived at the park around eight.  Almost no one was around and it was still a little cold even.
After awhile we could smell the smoke from morning wake up camp fires.  It made me think of the bacon and eggs we used to eat when we camped when I was a kid.  The smell of fire and sizzling bacon always was just enough to pull me out of the warm snuggle of my sleeping bag (though the morning cold in New Mexico is real, not like Georgia at all where all we had was a little shiver in our short sleeves).

One of us was a snake hunter of course, but we did not find even one snake.  There were many little toads and tadpoles, baby ducks and even some baby birds fallen from a nest which I hadn't the heart to take a picture of.  Here and there wildflowers bloomed, but not prolifically.  You had to be paying attention.  Lots of them had little horn or bell shaped blossoms.  And poison ivy was all over the place.  Sticking to the trail was a must.

The remains of an old water power house are fenced off, though the fence is knocked down in places and the gate lags open.  Signs warn not to enter.  The information placards said that the power house made this a boom town until the railroad was built further away and commerce went in the direction of the railroad.  A little sad.

We walked both sides of the river.  One side zig-zagged back and forth between water and hills.  There were many, many signs about the Danger of Death from playing on the rocks or in the falls.

Down away from the falls, the water was quieter, even almost swampish and later in the year I am sure it will be an insect paradise.
As it was, we came home with a few ticks (!).
It was a holiday, and by the time we left, many families with picnics were arriving and throwing frisbees and rowing little boats on the lake above the falls.
We headed back to the city for Chinese food.  And later, our snake hunter went out and found 3 snakes in our neighborhood park.  How's that?!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Great Smokey Mountain National Park

Earlier this week we decided to explore Asheville, NC and en route, take in some of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park.  It was a stormy day, so not much good for hiking, but we did manage to venture out of the car a little bit.

I'm not usually one who takes pictures of signs, but the Native American Cherokee writing here was interesting to me, as the fantastic graphic.

Here you can see the characteristic "smoke" in the background hovering on the hills.  This is what gives the Smokies their name.  It is actually fog, or water vapor from the plants.

We call these gourds on posts "bird hotels."  They are seen widely throughout the southern states.

Part of an old homestead exhibit.  Later in the season there will actually be animals here.

A field of elk. The greenish tinge to the trees here is from moss.

The water was high rushing brown.

A few days later, we drove along the Blue Ridge Parkway which overlooks the Smokies.  Luckily for us the road was open because the storms had passed.

This is Looking Glass Falls.  The spray from it was fresh and COLD!
On the right side of this picture you can see exposed rock.  This is where the ice forms and then becomes the waterfall as it melts.  Because of the way the light reflects on the ice it is called Looking Glass.  We could hear the waterfall from this point.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

My Life in Cookbooks

Wow!  It's spring and I need a new banner.

I have been walking a lot and it is gorgeous in my neighborhood.  A real feast for the eyes, as everything is in bloom.  (Unfortunately, for some it is super pollen time and miserable to be outdoors).

I seem to have a lot of dried beans and lentils that need using up, so that aim sent me into my cookbooks to look up my most used and best loved recipes.  I got to looking at these books as objects of my  life and wanted to share two of them here.
The first is this one:

This book is about 30 years old.  Unbelievable!!!  It is the book that taught me the most about fresh food and herbs and how to prepare them.  It has lots of lists and general basic information that I read again and again.  Some of the recipes are complicated (like Torta Milanese), but most are pretty simple.  Many of these recipes have become ones I have used so often, I no longer consult the book anymore.
My brother gave me this as a Christmas gift the same year my dad gave me a cookbook.  The one my dad gave me was a large, beautiful hardbound one with lots of amazing pictures. When I closely examined the recipes though, I read things like "gas mark 4" and "gateau" and I realized it was an English cook book for recipes in a French style and that wasn't really my zone.  Instead, "Seasonal Vegetarian Cooking" got used way more than I bet my brother ever anticipated!

And then, there is this treasure:

I got this book for one dollar as part of a "Buy one book and get three for one dollar" mail away book club offer.  (I don't even think those things exist anymore.)  I bought this book and wore it out.

There's a note from my now passed mother-in-law about how to hydrate dried tomatoes used as marker on this page.  Her recipes are all around my cooking bibliophily.

This is another one that I have used so much I no longer consult the book.  It is divided by regional ethnic dishes, and some sections I have used again and again.  It has no pictures.  It has reference sections near the back that I needed so much in the course of my adventurous life, for example metric to non-metric conversions and Fahrenheit to Celsius, etc.

These books are like little diaries of my life.  In one of my all-time favorite books called Chilly Scenes of Winter by Ann Beattie, the character who has lost his girlfriend laments her and all the cookbooks she left lying around with her notes scribbled in them, little testaments of her.  I know exactly what this is.

Recipe from a life long friend and excellent cook.  I was learning Italian at the time as evident by my penciled definitions. So much of my Italian came from recipes and food related instructions.

An instance where I combine a friend's recipe--having had this gazpacho at her house one afternoon--and the recipe in the book to hit the perfect combination of ingredients.

Not that I will be making Nocino again any time soon--because tradition says, you have to steal the nuts before the 24th of June -but when I do make it, I know exactly where to find this recipe, and exactly why one year's batch turned out better than the next year's batch. 

I will never make this Turkish dish, but the recipe was taken down  by my 1st husband ( who is now passed) as he made it with our neighbors across the hall who used to bring a bowl of it to us on occasion.  The paper and idea of this food and so much else, makes this artifact dear to me.

And last, a little shopping list of the kind I still make.

I have other well used cookbooks, but these two are the ones most full of notes and etc., the ones I've relied on the longest.  They're my most comfortable old friends.
(And no, I am not a vegetarian.)

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Winter of Discontent: Yarn Stories

Finally, finally, somewhere back there, I finished crocheting the Convergence top, a summer project that didn't get finished until late fall/early winter. The sleeves seem a little pokey-outey so I may need to add some more stitches to keep them down, or they may relax with wear.  But, by the time I was done making this, I was just too tired of it to adjust it.  I loved working with the yarn and the cool way the colors shifted, but my passion to make it just wasn't there. I was making it because I had bought the yarn. Making this was not a disappointment as all, just a lukewarm experience that I think will feel all better once it is summer and I am ready to look at it again in new light.

Discontent #1. So, in my spirit of use up yarn, I made a funny little cloche hat with yarn set for that project about 100 years ago when I was learning about yarn weights, etc. and wasn't very good at it. It is gray cotton yarn and I couldn't think of anything else I wanted to make with it--so, a hat it became. I am not including any pictures of this hat because I am not convinced it is any good and the pictures of it certainly aren't.  But at least the yarn is out of the bottom of my project bag that sits by the couch where I often knit or crochet.

Which brings me to discontent project #2.  I wanted to make a dog sweater for my son's shivery dog Nancy.  She has sparse, close fur like a lot of American bulldogs.  I mathed out a sweater in her size and had it more than half done, when my dog ate a hole in it.  !  This is craziness.  She has never eaten any of my projects before.  She has never eaten anything she wasn't supposed to before.  She is the kind of well behaved dog, that if you left a sandwich on the coffee table overnight, she would not touch it.  It is like she was jealous. As if she knew I was make a sweater for another dog and not her. I was so upset, I just abandoned the project until I feel I can look at it again.

Discontent #3. My dog--who never chews up anything--my 15 year old dog who never eats anything not food--pulled my hat made from lovely (I almost typed delicious!!) blue Misti Alpaca wool off of my coat which was hung over a chair, and ate a hole in it.  It is now fit for a unicorn.

The Guilty Party.  An old dog looking for ways to get more fiber in her diet-ha!

Hat of Christmas Past

Sooooo, continuing in the spirit of use up yarn, I knitted up an Antler Hat which is not on the Discontent list AT ALL.  In fact, I love this hat and have had it on my Want to Make mental list for a long time.  I am making another for my husband who wants a sports team colored one (garnet and gold) which was not in the use up yarn pile, but you know--when someone you love makes request...

Antler #1

I was knitting this hat during the annual Poetry Out Loud contest in fact, and unbeknownst to me, my yarn ball slipped away and rolled, rolled, rolled (down hill of course!) several rows of seats in front of me.  It was a bit of a scramble getting it back--a little like a multi-person Cat's Cradle yarn tangle during the intermission.

Each of these wonderful kids recited two poems while my yarn did a runner.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Sharon Jones and Augusta

Some months ago, before Thanksgiving,  I was down in Augusta at a memorial for Sharon Jones, a soul singer who passed away after struggling with cancer.  The memorial was held in a beautiful old theater downtown, and was quite moving as Ms. Jones' long-time friends and church people shared their stories about her. I saw her perform only twice, and found her energy infectious and inspiring.

Students from the James Brown Academy of Music performed.  Trust that their work was loads better than my poor photo!  These kids rocked it! (My  pictures of the horn section were so bad I am not even putting them up.)

We wandered around the small downtown, soaking up the sun that fell warmly against the walls, admiring quirky old buildings and signs.

Look!  Palm trees!

My favorite.  We could've got run over taking this one.  We had to stand in the road real quick.

Many hats for men and women displayed. Clearly a town where people dress for church.

We window shopped mostly, though I did buy a vintage coat, a dark, full and swingy thing with a round collar.  In it, I feel like an early 1960's secretarial girl--either that or an old lady! Haha.

I liked the fixtures in the shops--old shelving and display cases like I haven't seen since I was a child. In one place a tailor consulted with a customer while I moseyed around his sewing machine and tape measures and ironing board.  Nice to be in a place that keeps things old and a little jumbled.

Sharon Jones had two memorials.  One in New York, you know, with all the show biz people.  But, I liked this one.  So many people talking about how she liked to fish, videos showing her digging worms, and neighbors saying how she was when she was "home."  And it felt like a person could get near a real soul somehow, or the essence of a person, breathing in that little town and those people. In the shop where I bought the coat, when the proprietress heard we had been up at the theater for the service, she asked if we'd heard a certain man (I forget his name) sing.  We said we had.

"Oh, and doesn't he have just a wonderful voice?" she exclaimed.

Sunday, January 22, 2017


Seems that in the past two weeks a lot of marching has been going on!

March for Healthcare at the Atlanta capital

Last weekend was the Martin Luther King holiday weekend.  I attended a march for healthcare.  The girl who arranged it said she had only announced it less than a week before, and I would say more than 100 people showed up.  People are upset about health costs.  I am concerned about health and medicine costs.  But Obama is not to blame for that.

Many people just do not know that the Affordable Care Act and Obamacare are the same thing. Some people want to get rid of Obamacare because it has his name on it, not realizing that many of the benefits they now have are part of the Affordable Care Act which, unfortunately was nicknamed "Obamacare" in attempt to vilify it.  Many people do not realize that much of the Affordable Care Act was put together by Republicans before the Obama administration.

My son's are both cancer survivors, who therefore have a pre-existing conditions and could be denied healthcare coverage if not for the ACA.

They are both eligible now to be covered by my work insurance while they are in their 20's, which is good because healthcare premiums would eat up their whole paycheck otherwise. This benefit is part of the Affordable Care Act.

Relatives of mine depend on medicare and medicaid.  People who were not able to hold steady jobs because of their health problems.  They need to continue to get that assistance.

There are so many other reasons I support the Affordable Care Act--I am not going to list them all here.  It is just that people need to be aware of what they can lose by casting out "Obamacare," (which, by the way, was still under construction and not a finished product) and politicians need to hear the voice of people so that we can get what we need--whatever the powers that be name the thing.

And so, I marched.

 On MLK day, there was a march.  Although I did not, I wanted to attend, especially as our president-elect at that time, insulted our senator John Lewis and referred to his district--the neighborhood which adjoins mine and in which my son lives--in a totally false and derogatory way.

John Lewis was part of the civil rights movement with Martin Luther King Jr.  He is a hero by anyone's standards.  To insult and degrade him is unconscionable.  That this happened on the MLK weekend is inconceivable.

That is John Lewis on the far right. Martin Luther King Jr. is third from the right next to his wife Coretta.

And then yesterday, I took part in the Women's March.  I took part for so many reasons.
I cannot support a president that is so hateful.  And I cannot support a president--or any man--who could so brusquely refer to grabbing women in their private parts, or belittle women and refer to their menstrual cycle in a public meeting.  This reminds me of those crass boys in high school who sat trash talking girls and snickering.  I will not support that.

I was so happy to see the overwhelming participation in this event.  There were about 63 thousand people there!  I think about 15 thousand were anticipated.
When we got to the metro station, we knew we were in for something big because we couldn't find a place to park.  And then, when we were finally able to ditch our car, the trains were jammed.

I am usually fairly politically active.  I vote in all small elections.  I stay informed.  I put up signs.  But, I've never done anything like this before.  I have never had to.  But now I do.  I have to speak up and speak out.  So much that is going on--or could go on--is NOT okay.  I am so proud to stand with so many in my city.