Big change in reading habits

I cannot imagine a day without books.  Before I could actually read for myself, I sat and listened while parents and grandparents read to me.  My grandfather said he never had to look for me.  He would sit on the sofa and say, “Once upon a time…” and there I was.

For many years, I thought it was a rule that once you started a book, you had to finish it, like cleaning your plate before you could have dessert.  I got over that as I got older and realized I was wasting my eyes on things I didn’t like.  It was a liberating feeling to shut a book in the middle and not care how it came out.

Still, I persisted in thinking I should only read one book at a time.

And then the Kindle came into my life.  My first Kindle was version 2.  It was easy to read and to carry around.  I was still using the library most of the time and let the Kindle serve as my back up, choosing from the huge number of free books and nibbling my way through a lengthy biography of George Washington interspersed with lots of light mysteries, many written specifically for eBooks.

It was great to carry when I was going to the doctor or any place where I might be forced to kill time.  It fit nicely in my purse and I had a selection to choose from.

When my retina developed a tear, my vision deteriorated and being able to make the type bigger was a terrific help.  I began using the Kindle more and more.  The Kindle Fire came out last winter and it was like going from the old black and white TV with 3 local channels to a color TV with cable.  Suddenly, there seemed to be a lot more free or discounted books.  Amazon thoughtfully had a special offer every day and there are even web sites like Pixel of Ink that list multiple free books daily.

Now cookbooks had color photos and so did my quilting or art books.  It was better than being a kid in a candy store – no calories!

The cherry on the cake was when I discovered Scrabble.  What a great way to kill time while you’re waiting for your tea to steep or you just don’t feel like reading.

Currently, I am in the middle of Quick & Easy Mexican Cooking: More Than 80 Everyday Recipes, Creative Thinkering, Murder Most Maine, New Creative Collage Techniques and Surface Treatment Workshop.  I can make notes, highlight, search and touch words to read the definitions.  When a reference is made to something or someone online, I can look it up right in my Fire!  Even better, my local library now lets me check out books for the Fire online.  They don’t have many yet but are getting more every day.

I don’t want to see paper books go away and I hope that many generations will grow up with them as I did, but this takes my reading to the next level.

How about you?  Are you resisting the call of eBooks or have you come over to the Dark Side?

( P.S.  My sister gave us her hand-me-down iPad.  It has some nice features but it is heavier and harder to hold when reading.  It certainly doesn’t fit in my purse.)


Butterfly wings

I’ve finished processing all the butterfly pictures.  The bulk of them will be on display starting this weekend at on the Student Commons page, but I wanted to share a few more here.


This is one of my favorites.  All the parts of the butterfly are so clear.  Makes me feel like a good photographer.  Actually, I have one of those digital cameras where you can only look at the screen and not through the lens.  My husband picked it out and I will never buy another one like it.

In any situation where there is a lot of light, such as outside, the glare on the screen means you cannot see what you are taking the picture of.  Whoever thought of that should get the Moron of the Year award.

You would never mistake this gorgeous jade bush for the anemic version seen in my windowsill at home.

In addition, holding the camera out in front of you and pressing the shutter button practically guarantees it will jerk in your hand.  Holding it to your face is much better.

Yes, the camera obviously has a great stabilizer built in but the zoom feature means less clarity.  Are you getting the picture, no pun intended?  Some changes to streamline things are not progress.

The white space is an information board at the information table.The butterfly was oblivious and just kept drinking the nectar from the flower.

Imagine having to hold onto your food while balancing yourself,
just to get a little drink.

Ready for my close up, Mr. DeMille

You look at the amazing detail on the wings of all these creatures and you know that somewhere there is a power greater than we are.  This kind of thing couldn’t possibly happen by accident.

Father’s Day thoughts

My mother used to say that she didn’t need any sons, she had Martin. My father was not only a child at heart, he knew how to let go and enjoy life the way a child would.

When I was little, he brought home a series of amazing toys like an accordion, a full-sized trampoline and a cotton candy machine.  Don’t be fooled.  Those were all so he could play and we were welcome to join him.

Long before there were audio cassettes and portable tape players, he bought a 4-track tape recorder.. He said it was so he could practice his sales pitch.  Ha!  You could sing with yourself and play the musical accompaniment.  He spent hours recording himself whistling tunes, singing tunes and playing the melody on his piccolo.

Many years later, Marty brought home a player piano.  The rest of us had to pump our hearts out to get music, but he could just sit down and play almost anything by ear.  Sadly, he didn’t pass that gene along to me.  I got his stubborn streak and his love of words.

He played board games in the house and sports in the yard.  The neighbor kids would come to the back door and ask Marty to come out to play.

When it snowed, you knew to be on alert.  At some point, he was sure to show up – in the house – and get you with a snowball!

He loved to build things and would make anything you asked for.  Unfortunately, his sense of scale was often skewed.  The little desk you anticipated would take up half the room but the end table for the sofa looked like a piece of child’s furniture.

Marty finally found his milieu.  After he retired, he started building dollhouses and the furniture that went in them.  He made amazing pieces absolutely to scale with inlaid wood and working drawers.  My mother was in charge of interior decorating and they both shopped for commercial pieces to augment what he made.  I provided the quilts for the beds.

This house was a kit but it is the only one I have with good interior photos.

Like all the others, this house is on a movable table.  My mother would decorate for the seasons and holidays.  I made the trees.

Don’t get me wrong.  In many ways, he was a Victorian father with 19th century rules and values. You broke the rules and you paid the price.  On the other hand, he had only daughters and he expected them to do well in school, go to college and be able to support themselves.  As he wisely pointed out, there were no guarantees that we would get married and have a man take care of us.

He wasn’t very good at expressing his feelings in words but his deeds spoke volumes.  The day after I came home from the hospital with my first child, my dad showed up at the door with an armload of my favorite flowers – gladioli.  He just happened to see them.  Right…..

Our first house had no air conditioning and the summer was – well, it was a typical Virginia summer, oppressively hot and humid.  He came over one day with a window unit and installed it in the kitchen so I could cook for the family without passing out.

I’ve bored you long enough with stories about my dad – take time today to think back over your own stories and share them with your children.

If you are lucky enough to still have your dad, I hope you are able to spend some part of the day with him.  I would if I could.

Judging by Looks

One of the earliest messages we hear is “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.”  Tell that to the butterfly below.


Interesting circles, right?  But a really boring brown color, especially if you were seeing him from a distance.  Then again, if he weren’t sitting on a piece of melon and was on a tree instead, he would just blend into the background.  Imagine these two on a tree without that bright window behind them.


Probably nature’s way of camouflage.  Perhaps that great big eye on the wing is to food birds into thinking it is a squirrel and not a tasty treat hiding amongst the foliage.

I took these pictures this morning at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden where they are having a special butterfly display throughout the summer and early fall.

This brown guy hardly seems worth the trip across town, does he?  Would you have guessed that when he opened his wings, he was hiding the jewel tones you see in this next picture?


How many people look one way on the outside and are totally different inside?  It’s not just the people who wear drab colors and might be quite exciting; it’s all those people who change their clothes to keep up with fashion, acting like chameleons and blending with everyone else.  Or maybe they aren’t acting…..perhaps going unnoticed is exactly what they want.

Do your clothes tell people who you are?  Who you want to be?  Are you a fashion plate because it makes you happy or because you feel you should be?  You don’t have to tell me, of course, but it’s interesting to think about, isn’t it?

More butterflies to come….

Cool dinner idea

I am not showing my age with old slang.  This is a no-cook idea for dinner.  I noticed the other day that I had two cans of Tyson chicken in the pantry.  I bought them during hurricane season last year, in case we lost power.  Happily, that never happened, so I decided I should use them before they go out of code.

Truth to tell, I have never bought this product before and was a little concerned it wouldn’t taste very good. Camouflage was called for!

Out came the emergency pack of pita pockets I keep in the freezer (about the only whole wheat bread I will willingly eat).  I got out a medium mixing bowl and in went

  • a big handful of shredded carrots
  • half a bag of salad, well chopped
  • 3 tablespoons of corn salsa from Trader Joe’s (which I had just bought and never tried)
  • 3 tablespoons of chunky tomato salsa
  • a chopped stalk of celery
  • the drained and rinsed chicken

I also added a bit of salt, pepper and crumbled basil.

I like my pita pockets warmed up and recently discovered that opening them first and tucking the back into the front of the one behind it keeps them open while warming.  I balled up a tiny piece of aluminum foil to stick in the front half so all the pieces are propped open.  The foil ball gets used over and over.

There is a very scientific way of warming them just right.  I put them on a baking sheet, stick them in the oven and turn it on to 350F.  When the beep goes off to tell me the oven is warm, they are done and I turn the oven off.  If I were feeding more than two people, I would leave the other pockets in the warmed oven while I got the first ones stuffed or I would get someone to help stuff!

Once filled, I put a little line of ranch dressing on top to simulate sour cream and served the pockets with chips.  My husband said I could serve them every day the rest of his life – which I am pretty sure is an exaggeration but I take it to mean they turned out pretty good.  That’s why I thought I would share my recipe with you.  Seems like you could serve it in a bowl with fresh hot bread, too.

(We do variations of this with the salmon and tuna that comes in packages.  I have to admit that I liked this better.  The fish is not my favorite.)

‘You guys’ is where it’s at–NOT

Sometimes it’s the little things in life that drive you completely bats.  We went out to dinner last night and the waitress, young enough to be my grandchild if I had one, said, “Hi, how are you guys tonight?  Would you guys like a drink?“ followed on her next visit by “You guys know what you want to order?”

And that was when I smiled nicely (although my husband says that is my shark smile) and asked her not to call me a guy.  She looked blank.  I pointed out that you didn’t need the word guys in any of those sentences.  The simple word YOU would  work.  She struggled with the concept of you as a plural pronoun, even though she admitted she had taken Spanish, where it clearly exists as a plural pronoun.

“Oh,” she said, “I just don’t know what to say to people after all this feminism stuff.”

It is a tribute to my self control that I didn’t point out that the struggles of feminism made it possible for her to choose to do whatever she wanted.

When I mentioned it to my husband again this morning, he professed that he didn’t understand why it bothered me.  I asked how he would feel if every server addressed us as ‘you ladies.’  He admitted that wouldn’t be acceptable.  A small victory.  At least he may be getting it.

Another verbal atrocity is AT, randomly stuck on the end of sentences.  Where were you at?  Seriously?  Why is AT there?  Where were you – period. Yes, yes, I know language evolves, but it is supposed to be better, not sloppier.  We are not supposed to be adjusting the language to the lowest common denominator.  Are we?

It’s not that I don’t like new words. I do.  In my lifetime, we added humongous, a catchy combination of huge and tremendous.  It grew out of college campuses in the Sixties.  I hear that word and think of that time and all the other words that didn’t get accepted into the mainstream, like cool and groovy.  They just sound dated now, as the upside-down meaning of bad will no doubt sound 10 years from now.

Google as a verb is so economical and instantly understandable I think it will stick around.  Even for people who use another search engine, like Bing, google is still the term for the act of searching the internet.  Other brand names, like Kleenex for tissue and Jell-O for gelatin, are used the same way, universally understood even when the actual product is another brand.

You guys is the New York version of you all.  To be totally accurate, it probably ought to be youse guys but I swear, if a server comes to my table and calls me that, I will spontaneously combust.

Garden therapy

No matter what I feel like when I step into my garden or what chores I choose to do while I am there, the garden never fails to make me feel better.  There is something about the concentration of looking for weeds and bugs and faded blooms that just won’t let any other thoughts intrude.

Tall lilies with pineapple sage in the foreground

I bought these lilies in a bag – $10 for 10 – the year we took down the giant willow oak.  They ground out the major part of the stump but there are still large chunks of thick roots just below the soil in many places.  It makes gardening a challenge.  I put the lilies in that first spring and a tiny bit of green came up and then died.  I was simply too busy to plant anything else.

Imagine my surprise when they shot out of the ground the next year and bloomed!  They have been growing, blooming and multiplying for the 6 years since then.  I moved some to another part of the garden where they continue to flourish.  I can’t say that orange and fuchsia is my favorite color combination, so I got a real laugh at the latest JCP catalog featuring a whole line of ladies’ dresses in just those colors!

The pineapple sage comes back year after year and is covered in small red flowers from the end of August until the frost in October or November.  Another nice surprise.  I thought it was an annual.

Astilbe, hosta, campion

Canterbury Bells, Verbena Bonariensis stems

I was surprised to see these deep pink astilbe peeking out from below the campion yesterday.  I don’t remember planting it there.  The Canterbury Bells (I think) on the right are hard to photograph since they face down.  The square stems you see are from the Verbena Bonariensis.  You can see their purple blooms in the lily picture.

These ferns and hostas do great even though they get lots of sun

They promised cool weather this morning and I rushed out right after breakfast only to discover that while it wasn’t technically raining, I was getting wet!  It was kind of like I walked into the middle of a cloud.  Did I give up and go back inside where it was nice and dry?  I did not.  I am a gardener!