Sunday, May 27, 2018

An Unwitting Button Collector

I wrote about my love for dishes in my last blog post written almost two months ago.  Now I find myself writing about being an unwitting collector of buttons. I wager I’m not the only woman who has become a button collector without realizing it. 

Not that there’s anything wrong with collecting buttons. Button collecting is the third most popular collection, according to a button collector’s blog I read. Button clubs, button conventions, and a national button society all cater to avid collectors.

My mother sewed and made clothing for my two sisters and me during our school years.  She had a stash of buttons still on their cards, as well as a button jar.  When my sisters and I were young, the button jar fascinated us. We were like King Midas with his gold coins. We loved looking at the buttons in the jar.  We loved dumping them out, counting and sorting them. Some of the buttons came from clothes we owned.  The biggest button that I remember came from one of Mother’s coats.  It was a mottled brown button with a convex surface, the kind of button that attached behind the button face, with no holes showing after it was sewn on the coat. I wonder what happened to the button jar, perhaps one of Mother’s grandchildren squirreled it away.

I don’t sew except to reattach the occasional loose button or to hem a pair of slacks, so why do I have a button collection? If you’re a woman, you may already know the answer. Every blouse, sweater, skirt, coat, and jacket purchased comes with a small plastic bag or tiny paper envelope attached to the clothing.  Inside the bag is an extra button or two.  For years, I’ve removed the envelope containing the buttons from the clothing, opened a dresser drawer, put the button packet into a larger zip lock bag, and closed the drawer. Then I would forget about it. I never used any of the buttons. 

Recently I opened that drawer and saw the zip lock bag full of button packets. It was like seeing them for the first time. “Why am I saving these?” I asked.

I decided to open the packages and look at the buttons, knowing I no longer owned the clothing that went with the majority of the buttons. I bet there were a hundred small envelopes.

Empty packages that held buttons
I opened all the packets and dumped the buttons into a single clear plastic zip lock bag so I could see them. I noticed several green buttons that went with a raincoat that I haven’t owned for years. It was a three quarter length coat and I thought I looked pretty cute in it. One of my favorite buttons was a large button with a tribal design on it. I remembered the navy sweater shirt it went with, gone for more than a decade. The short-sleeved shirt buttoned up the front and was designed to hang loosely. It barely covered my midsection. I felt risqué when I wore it to work, so I never raised my arms very far above my head. I immediately recognized a fabric-covered button that went to one of my all-time favorite dresses, a red and navy swinging shirtwaist that looked like it came from the 1940’s.

Zip Lock Bag of Buttons
I sorted through black, red, green, blue and white buttons, thin mother-of-pearl buttons, clear plastic buttons, fabric-covered buttons. If I lose a button now, I can look in the zip lock bag and have a better chance of finding a match.  More than likely, I’ll just use the buttons in arts and crafts projects. However, some nights when I’m alone, you might discover me dumping out my bag of buttons and running my hands through them as if they are golden coins—or perhaps, golden memories.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

It's Dishes Day!

People who know me know that I love books. I have a library in my house with shelves full of books and a sliding library ladder that allows easy access to those on the highest shelves.

But people may not know that I also love dishes—I’m talking plates and bowls, cups and saucers, teapots and pitchers.

Teapot from my sister and vintage platter
I own a lot of china, pottery, and glassware:

A white-on-white Moonspun Lenox fine china setting for eight, almost 50 years old now, made in the USA. This pattern was made by Lenox from 1968-1995.

Moonspun by Lenox
Vintage china passed down from my mother, or given to me by friends from their mothers and grandmothers.  
Vintage china and stoneware
There are beautiful plates with sky blue rims and 24 karat gold borders around a floral bouquet, passed down from my mother who received them as wedding gifts.  My sisters and I each have two plates to display in our homes.
Vintage plate, made in the USA, passed down from my mom
I have fine bone china from several English companies, a plate from Germany perfect for serving cookies, china from Japan, old stoneware, and other plates from US china makers. The place of origin and the marks on the bottom tell a story about each piece.
China cabinet in dining room

I love all this sweet vintage china.
The 50th anniversary gold-plated coffee set, with a mark that says Winterling Bavaria Germany that belonged to Ricky’s grandparents. 

A glimpse of the gold plated china and the demitasse cup 
A collection of demitasse cups from Ricky’s mother, some plain white, others decorated with pink roses or butterflies, and one advertising the May 12, 1937 coronation of Prince Edward VIII.

Cut glass pieces inherited from my parents and Ricky’s aunt and uncle. 
 Detail of cut glass reflected in mirrored walls of china cabinet
Our everyday Botanic Garden BritishPortmeirion dishes featuring different flowers with their common and scientific names.  

Everyday dishes of British Portmeirion stored in butler's pantry
The Pyrex (which turned 100 in 2015) and Fire King mid-century modern glassware that my estate-sale-going friend Rebecca passes on to me.

Miscellaneous glassware in butler's pantry
A Somayaki Japanese tea service Ricky brought home from Vietnam. The Somayaki pottery is unique because of its double wall construction, which keeps the hot liquids hot while the outer layer remains cool to the touch. Unfortunately, the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and subsequent nuclear disaster at the Fukushima nuclear facility, resulted in the mandated abandonment of the village where Somayaki pottery was made. Local rocks that were responsible for the unique glaze are now contaminated. Some young artisans around Japan are trying to keep the tradition of Somayaki pottery alive with mixed results. 

Japanese Soma-yaki tea set
A set of heavy-duty Iron Mountain stoneware dishes, the Blue Ridge pattern, manufactured in East Tennessee from 1965-1992 not far from my Southwest Virginia hometown. I acquired mine in the early 1970’s, and many are from the “seconds store.” 
New Lenox Christmas china, now manufactured in capital “C” China, with green holly leaves and red berries on each piece. These were gifted to me over several Christmases from our friends in New Orleans whom we met as a result of Hurricane Katrina. Admittedly, Christmas dishes are a big weakness of mine.  
Christmas dishes displayed in butler's pantry
More Christmas dishes

 My favorite Christmas mugs
There are more treasures that I didn’t mention. I know owning all these dishes may seem excessive in this time of minimalism of belongings, but what can I say—I‘m a collector!

Luckily, we have sufficient storage for my dishes and china collection. We have a large formal china cabinet in the dining room passed down from Ricky’s grandparents 

Ricky's grandparents on their 50th wedding anniversary
A corner china cabinet in the dining room just for cut glass, a butler’s pantry hutch (now part of the kitchen) for storage of less formal dishes and serving pieces, plus another old china cabinet in the guest cottage. We also have regular kitchen cabinets where daily use dishes are stored.

Portmeirion tea set
The obvious question becomes why do I keep all these dishes? 

To me, their beauty and uniqueness are sufficient reasons for owning them. I also enjoy creating displays with the dishes. It’s both a form of play therapy and a creative outlet. I love the stories attached to each piece—sometimes a personal recollection of how I acquired the item; and sometimes it’s the story of the manufacture of the pieces and the history behind them. Many of the companies that created the china, glassware, and pottery are no longer in business because of the changes in cultural practices, the surfeit of cheap items from China, or misfortune befalling the manufacturer. 

I think the beauty and diversity in our world is diminished as these companies and their wares disappear.



P. S. I'm not the only person who loves vintage dishes. View Susan Branch's blog here to see and read about her collection of vintage dishes.


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Wednesday Hodgepodge Questions

I was looking at a blog post that was linked to a blog hop, From This Side of the Pond, and I'm not even sure what a blog hop is. In my subsequent explorations, I accidentally linked my blog to the Joyce's Hodgepodge blog hop page and its weekly random questions, so now I must answer a series of questions and figure out what the next step is to keep the "hopping" going.

1. What's a word that describes your life? A word you wish described your life? 
The word to describe my life is happy, the word I wish would describe my life, productive (and happy).


2. Back in my day we played outside with the neighborhood children because there were dozens of Baby Boomer kids all around.  We entertained ourselves for hours by playing simple games. We played badminton, croquet, a game we called Indian ball with a batter, a pitcher and a couple fielders--you hit the ball, the person who fielded the ball rolled or threw it aiming for the bat which the batter laid on the ground in front of "batting box." If the fielder hit the bat, it was his/her turn to bat and the batter took the field or became the pitcher. We had large games of Kick the Can or Hide and Go Seek when the Oklahoma cousins were visiting in the summer. Our hiding territory stretched over multiple backyards.  We got mayonnaise jars from our moms and hammered holes in the lids, then we spent all evening catching lightning bugs and putting them in our jars. When it was time to go inside, our mother made us release the trapped lightning bugs. When fall arrived, we went Trick or Treating at Halloween with no fears or hesitation as to our safety.  In the winter, we went ice skating on frozen ponds in our neighborhood, we went caroling to the neighbor's houses at Christmas.  Childhood play was more free wheeling then and less circumscribed and facilitated by adults.

3. When it comes to takeout are you more likely to opt for Italian, Mexican, or Chinese food? Does a typical week at your house include takeout?

If we do take-out, it's usually Chinese, occasionally tacos from the small Taqueria on the edge of our neighborhood. We eat out quite a bit, more often at lunch, and mostly dine-in places.

4. Think about the people you most respect. What is it about them that earned your respect?

Their authenticity--they are comfortable with who they are and are kind and caring toward others. I also like intelligence.

5. What's something your friends might see and say is 'so you'?

Probably a book or something vintage.

6.  Insert your own random thought here.

I don't exactly know what I'm doing on this blog hop.  I'm still trying to figure out the rules. That's mainly my thought process at the moment, nothing very deep.

Other random thoughts: I'm thinking about my niece Emily's new website,www.halfnhalf-life.com, where all her blog posts are archived and her new ones will appear.  She writes about her family's life living in the Czech Republic while returning to the United States a couple times a year to visit family and ground herself and the kids in American life and culture. The website is so professional in its appearance, the photography is gorgeous, and I even read some blog posts that I somehow missed when they originally appeared in the Prague Monitor. 

I'm wishing I was going to be in Paris with her, her family, and my sister and brother-in-law this week.  They are going to have adventures that I can enjoy vicariously when I talk to my sister or read about them on Emily's website. Our trip last weekend to New Orleans is the closest I'll be to France this year. We stayed at an AirB&B near Magazine Street so we spent a lot of time roaming in that fun and funky part of town. Our B&B was only a block from LaBoulangerie on Magazine Street with its delicious pastries. We bought our breakfast pastries and brought them back to our hidden courtyard to eat.



The rain here in the northwestern corner of Louisiana has finally stopped--and it's started up again. We've been getting inundated the last couple of days. Tomorrow I need to unload the five bins of Mardi Gras throws we brought back from our friends' house in NOLA.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Sixth Grade Self-Contained Class of 1979

My sixth grade self-contained class
(with apologies to the students with half a face)
I'm the first "kid" in first row on a bad hair day.

Me in 1979 when I was teaching the 6th grade self-contained class

Years ago, I taught middle school. My last year teaching in the Knox County, Tennessee, school system I had the most wonderful self-contained sixth grade class. It was an unusual situation. The parents had petitioned for their children to stay together in a self-contained class through sixth grade, instead of changing classes and having a different teacher for each subject. The students had all been together in a self-contained fifth grade class at another school. Surprisingly, my middle school honored the parents' request and chose me to teach the class.  Previously, I had been teaching social studies to 125+ middle school students.

I loved teaching that year, though teaching math and science challenged me. I used the project method of organizing the curriculum whereby we explored a topic from all perspectives, cutting across traditional subject boundaries. If the students came up with a good teaching topic or strategy, we would go with it.

While I did have paperwork to complete, supervisors to please, and only a moderately supportive principal, it was nothing like today.  Generally, as long as my class didn't bother the principal or other classes, we were left alone. I had confidence that as long as the children were focused and involved in their learning, their test scores would take care of themselves.  I stressed reading and writing and engagement. I wanted the students to stick with a task to completion while experiencing the joy of learning.

I've thought of those sixth graders so often, and wondered if they remembered their sixth grade class and teacher. When cleaning my library recently, I found the 1979 school yearbook that I had forgotten existed. Finally I had the students' last names that had faded from my memory in the ensuing decades. I wondered if I could find them on Facebook--those amazing children who would be moving into middle age by now.

First I decided to try to locate the student with whom I spent the most time. This sixth-grade girl lived near the school and would often stay late to help me with various classroom chores. I immediately found her and recognized her from her current photograph, but she had also posted an older photo from her youth that confirmed it.  I couldn't believe my luck. I glanced through her page and located another of the students, a boy, who was so special to me.

I told my sister, who also used to teach middle school, about my search and asked her if she thought it was appropriate if I reached out to these individuals. I didn't want to creep them out. She assured me that any former student would be pleased to hear from me.

I first sent a private Facebook message to the female student. In a couple days I received a response. She said she had been searching for me off and on for years. However, I left Tennessee after teaching them, moved to a Sioux reservation to teach at an Indian college there. I next moved to Louisiana, divorced, and changed my name--all factors making it more difficult to locate me through the internet. She was delighted to hear from me (but not half as happy as I was to find her).

She told me she married the "little red-headed boy" from our class. I remembered him immediately. He was the quintessential American boy--red hair, freckles, hyperactive but just adorable. She said he still appreciated my taking the time to figure how he learned, then I gearing my teaching to his learning style. She said I was his favorite teacher ever! I know I encouraged him in his creative writing. She said he hoped I remembered his story of the red dot in space. I would need a little more prompting on the plot to pull that up from the depths of my aging brain, but I sure remembered him. I even remember where he usually sat in class.

She filled me in on her life, the good times and the not-so-good. Her career path has been as unique and diverse as I would expect from a gifted child. She keeps in touch with several of the other students from the class. I remember them all. Perhaps on one of my drives back to my hometown in Virginia, I can stop in Tennessee and reconnect with the students who remain in the area.

Next I wrote the other student I saw on her Facebook page, the boy who has continued to be her friend over the years. He lives in the DC area with his daughter.  He told me I had touched his life when he was going through a rough period in his childhood. He is now a successful counselor and appears to be a wonderful dad. Again I swelled with pride and pleasure seeing the man he has become.

(I've purposefully not provided names nor many details about the students in this post. I respect their privacy and in no way want to intrude on their lives. And don't ask what I had done to my hair, or more importantly--why? I think a permanent was involved.)

I'm not quite sure what my takeaway is from this experience. I guess I will go with the obvious one. Teaching in the public schools is difficult, even more challenging, if not impossible, today. There is no money in teaching. There is frequently little appreciation for a teacher's efforts, but there's a chance you can make a difference in a child's life that he/she will carry into adulthood. And if you're lucky, you will meet students who will steal into your heart. You will never forget them and know that your life has been the better for knowing them.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Channeling a Housewife: Cabbage and Potato Soup

Last week a man left two boxes of books on the porch for our Little Free Library.  As I walked outside to greet the stranger, our dog Treble ran past me and tried to eat or at least intimidate the poor guy. After I rescued the man, I apologized profusely and thanked the now in a hurry to leave man for his donation.

I always sort through books donated and put nonfiction in one box, general fiction in another, mysteries and thrillers together in a box, romances in another, and children’s literature has its own section in our Plant Room where I store books awaiting placement in the LFL. 


Plant Room Hiding Place for Books


Under the tie-dyed tarp is a treasure trove of books for the LFL
As I examine the books the man donated, I notice a 1980 compilation of Southern Living recipes. Leafing through the book, I look up cabbage recipes because I have a head of cabbage leftover from New Year’s. Hmmm, cabbage potato chowder catches my attention so I mark the place.



After a brief warm spell, the weather turned cold again in Shreveport so I seriously start thinking about the cabbage and potato soup. I grab the cookbook, then look at a few recipes on-line to see other ideas for potato cabbage soup.  I decide I’ll add carrots and celery to my soup since I have both on hand. 

The soup making and nesting process begins. I chop up the carrots, celery,  ½ head of cabbage, and one large Idaho potato. The vegetables steam in a little water until they are getting soft, then I add four cups of chicken broth, a bouillon cube, several cups of milk and heat everything together.  I throw in seasonings—black pepper, a little rosemary, and a heaping teaspoon of Dijon mustard, a stealth ingredient mentioned in an internet recipe.  After everything is hot, I add a partial bag of grated Monterey Jack cheese because it's in refrigerator and needs to be used. Once it melts, soup’s on.
Cabbage Potato Soup
Corn bread, also made using a recipe from the pictured Southern Living cookbook, completes the comfort food duo. Finally I prepare a quick Waldorf Salad to add fruit to the meal.




I feel as if I’m channeling a ghostly housewife from years gone by who isn’t quite ready to give up her KP duties, but that’s okay. So far as I can tell, it’s a win, win arrangement.


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Quintessentially Highland

Sometimes you have to grab hold and celebrate the small things in life.  Actually I’m not sure if a perfect weekend is a small thing, but I recently experienced such a weekend, and it was a quintessential Highland weekend.  Of course I realize what is great for me might be less pleasant for you. I accept that, just indulge me for now.

It’s the second weekend in September, and it starts on Friday with books—and not just any books, but tens of thousands of books at the Centenary College Book Bazaar.  I LOVE books, I don’t need any more books, I don’t have room for any more books, I don’t have time to read any more books, but that’s beside the point. When it’s time for the Centenary Book Bazaar, my husband Ricky and I are in line at 4:00 Friday afternoon waiting for the Book Bazaar to open its doors. Ricky always heads upstairs to look through the vinyl, a.k.a. record albums, while I move slowly, shoulder to shoulder with other book lovers, along rows of tables crammed with books. I look for books that call to me, “Buy me, take me home with you, I’m a bargain.”
Some of the books I bought at Centenary Book Bazaar
After a decent interval, I decide I probably have enough books---my rolling backpack is full and the overflow bag I’m carrying is cutting into my shoulder. I check out and less than $50 later, I go home with a couple dozen books.

Music Room featuring some of Ricky's albums
By then I’d worked up an appetite, so Ricky and I drive a couple blocks out of our neighborhood for Friday night Tex-Mex at Tacomania. We could have gone to El Compadre, another good Tex-Mex restaurant, and stayed closer to home, but we alternate food venues and it was Tacomania’s night.

Saturday morning we are up early for the 2nd Saturday Highland Clean-up (a monthly event) with members of the Highland Restoration Association, Highland Jazz and Blues folks, and Fairfield Neighborhood Association. In truth, very few members of these groups show up but I enjoy the early morning clean-ups. It’s not like I enjoy picking up other people’s trash (a pox on all litterers and their kin), but I feel like I’m making a positive statement—showing appreciation for the beauty of the earth and for our neighborhood by removing what “less evolved” people throw down. This time we’re cleaning the area around Columbia Park in preparation for the Highland Jazz and Blues Festival. I’m often still out picking up trash after the allotted time for the clean-up, because I like to stop and talk to people. It’s a great way to see what’s going on and meet neighbors.

After lunch at Strawn’s, home of the famous strawberry pies, I stop by the Enchanted Garden Gift Shop on Line Avenue, a couple blocks from my house. While I’m there, I run into store proprietor Debbie Cockrell. I always enjoy talking to Deb and the subject of books came up.  (We have a Little Free Library and Deb has some books for me.) Laughing, I tell Deb I’m suffering from a book-related injury. By Saturday afternoon, my lower back is hurting from carrying books around the Book Bazaar the day before, plus carrying full garbage bags during the morning clean-up. Before I know it, I’m in one of those massaging chairs in the store’s back room.  Deb shows me how to adjust the chair’s massage options, and she leaves me there. I might be there yet, but other customers come into the room shopping, so eventually I decide it’s time to pay for my purchases and go home. As I check out, Debbie brings a tin of homemade sweets to the counter and offers me and other customers a sample. A massage chair and homemade cookies—it’s a wonder I didn’t take up residence at the store right then.

Capping off the weekend on Sunday evening, Ricky and I attend the Shreveport House Concert to hear Shreveport’s own Dirtfoot. The Shreveport House Concerts take place at Fairfield Studios located, not surprisingly, on Fairfield Avenue. We’re big fans of the house concerts with their listening room ambience, perfect for enjoying the singer/songwriters featured each month. And the fact that September’s offering is Dirtfoot, a band with Highland origins, makes it extra special. In my experience, Dirtfoot (accompanied by Pig Stilts) always put on a good show. (See a clip from song below.)



Dirtfoot at Shreveport House Concert

So, my weekend came to a close. It offered a little bit of this, a little of that, but to me, it was a winning combination. I went to bed Sunday night with a smile on my face.

Monday, October 2, 2017

530 Kirby Place: New Life for Shreveport Landmark Home


530 Kirby Place
Wow! The oldest house in Highland (and probably the oldest house in Shreveport, according to prominent historian, the late Eric Brock) at 530 Kirby Place is getting a much needed face lift. The corner of the lot where this historic house sits abuts the corner of our property in the back. Because of our guest cottage and my husband's workshop, we don’t see much of the neighboring house. 

We first heard of this makeover, literally, with the advent of early morning hammering and talking as roofers started re-roofing the house. When we walked out on our upstairs sleeping porch, we could peep at the workers’ progress. 
View from our upstairs sleeping porch

This historic home was a halfway house for men in recovery when we first moved into our home on Wilkinson Street. We never had any trouble with the half-way house residents, but the focus of that owner was never historic detail or aesthetics. When the half-way house closed, a string of residents passed through the property, heard but not seen. 

Several years ago, I was told a group of investors brought the house. The Caddo Tax Assessor's website lists the owners as Trinity Utilities LLC, internet research indicates the company was formed in 2010, but I don't know if this LLC still owns it. 

Whoever the current owner is, I’d like to hug their neck for trying to save this Highland landmark. This old house is looking quite spiffy these days. The porch is redone, and the house has been painted. 

Drive-way side of home























House from the east side


Still working on the house

















                                                                                                                                                     
Our explorations indicate that they aren’t quite finished with the skirting of the house, and I don't know what they are doing to the inside, but they already have a realtor’s For Sale sign out front.


The 530 Kirby Street house was built in 1858 or 1859 at the present location of Creswell Elementary School. In 1923 while the Joseph Agurs family owned the house, the Agurs decided to sell the lot where their home sat on Creswell Avenue to the Caddo Parish School Board. The Agurs family then moved their house “lock, stock and barrel” north a block and around  the corner to its present location. When the Agurs moved the house to Kirby Place, it sat on a large lot. The current lot size is about an acre, most of it in the back.


The house has been home to many prominent Shreveporters—among them a steamboat operator, a physician, a pastor, and a former mayor who became a state senator—before the Agurs family acquired it. 

The only other homes in Shreveport from the same era as this house are part of the LSUS Pioneer Heritage Center.  These two mid-nineteenth century houses were moved to the campus site from other locations. 

I just hope a new buyer of the home is found who appreciates this Highland treasure!


*Historic details about this house are taken  from the Highland Scrapbook compiled by Sue Ball.  Sue Ball credited the late Eric Brock with research about the home’s previous owners.  A complete history of the owners of this house, according to Brock's article, is available upon request, or can be read on the Highland Restoration Association Facebook group page in a discussion thread about this home.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

An Experiment in Microfiction

When I went to my writing group on Thursday, I wasn’t that familiar with microfiction, also known as flash fiction. For one of the evening's activities, our friend Loretta suggested we all try our hand at writing microfiction. She pulled up a site www.zathom.com and read us the site’s rules. 

For this site, the finished product contains between 48—55 words and has to include at least three words from their lists.  The required words are called fathoms. There’s a regular list of 37 fathoms, from which we must choose two words that range from alien to zombie, from tourist to wallpaper.  Next we must choose at least one word from the “seasonal” fathom list, which contains 61 words, such as genesis, spring, flush, and blush. 

Can’t you see the Zathom editors sitting around, puffing on a medicinal herb, and throwing out random words until they’ve compiled the lists?

With some initial confusion and much laughter on our part (and all we had was a drive-through daiquiri we were sharing), we each chose our fathoms, and settled down to write our microfiction as part of a ten minute exercise. Actually this type of writing is my cup of tea. I was probably one of the few students who loved the elementary school assignment of using spelling words to compose a story.

Several of the writing group counted their words as they wrote. I couldn’t do that and decided to get my thoughts and fathoms down on paper, then edit to the required 48—55 words.

I decided to share my 55 word microfiction with you below. (The fathoms, or required words, are in italics. I included an extra fathom, just because.)

The baby-faced, seventeen-year-old girl stepped onto the dock gazing at a world of tropical gardens, rain forests, and slumbering volcanoes.  The boat captain had kept his promise to show her an island never seen by tourists. As the captain and the village elder greeted each other, the only words she understood were virgin and volcano.




Saturday, August 26, 2017

Al Fresco Dining



At my window, a visitor--
Tiny winged dynamo
Hovering,
Chirping, squeaking,
Staring through plate glass 
Questioning
Friend or foe?
Chancing it
Dining al fresco.


Monday, August 21, 2017

Agua

I feel like I’m just resurfacing from this tropical paradise where I was surrounded by cobblestone streets, Spanish buildings from the 1700’s, walking paths through tropical gardens lush with vibrant colors and verdant greens, volcanoes rising above Mayan villages across a deep clear lake. Paradise did have a few water and plumbing issues, e.g., we had to drink bottled water much of the time, shower water might be cold or tepid, and one hotel had a sewer line issue as a worker made the rounds of the rooms every day with a plunger. None of this was a big deal, except maybe the latter. 

Water meter cover in Antigua
I couldn’t speak the language of the people who live in the tropical paradise, but it didn't matter because their kindness and consideration were easily comprehended. I could read all the signs that said Escape to the green area in case of emergency, i.e., earthquakes. And I believed those signs, because in Antigua, which means ancientI saw piles of huge boulders behind facades left standing, vestiges of 1970’s or earlier earthquakes. 

Antigua Church

Now that I’ve resurfaced in Louisiana, I’m in this hot humid climate that’s kind of like the paradise I left, except for a lack of tropical flowers and volcanoes and an infinity pool overlooking a deep clear lake and cooler temperatures at night, but our place in Louisiana does have plumbing issues, just like paradise did.

For a week after my husband’s and my return, plumbing problems dogged our steps. We knew we had a water leak. Our house sitter saw water coming from under the house and notified us while we were out-of-town that she had turned off the water at the meter. 

Once we got back, we found we had four plumbing problems, but of course they didn't manifest themselves all at once.  That would be too easy, so three plumbers later, but only one plumber who actually did something--he came to our house three times on three different days in order to make our almost one hundred-year-old house conform to the plumbing standards my husband and I have come to expect, at least in our home. 

I could argue that these issues marred our reentry from paradise, but perhaps paradise’s iffy plumbing prepared us for what we encountered upon our return to our house: filling five gallon buckets for flushing and washing; buying gallons of bottled water for drinking; having no running water, having some running water while turning the water off and on at the street; having only brief access to running water because muddy water gurgled like a geyser next to the water meter whenever my husband turned it on; having no hot water in the big house, relying on our back cottage for hot showers; discovering a stopped-up sewer line that caused standing water in the downstairs bathroom and library; having no usable toilet facilities in the main house, requiring that we access the toilet in the cottage. And finally, our water woes are at an end.

Now I can process my experiences in the tropical paradise—actually a two week vacation in Guatemala, where we visited Antigua, Panajachel, Lake Atitlan, and several small Mayan towns. I want to write about the often overlooked Latin American country of Guatemala in my blog, so hopefully I can access all the photos on my aging Iphone, because right now I can see them on my phone's camera but that's it.  There they stay, I can't email them to myself, can't save them to my computer, but I'm not complaining--at least the toilet flushes.

Lake Atitlan





Monday, July 24, 2017

Running Away

Ricky and I are running away from home, heading to Guatemala for two weeks with our friend Bruce.  Don’t get me wrong, we love our home and our animals. It’s hard to leave them. When I told Ricky tonight that I was going to mist the bromeliads, he told me he was going to miss them, too.  Always ready with a quip, that’s my husband!


We are extremely fortunate to have two excellent house/dog/cat/plant sitters who will be living in our house and taking care of everything. One has a dog that our dog Treble is slowly warming to as long as the smaller dog stays away from Treble’s food bowl. 

Daisy Boy
The pack of cats will still be around to keep Treble company. One of our cats, the long-limbed, very vocal Loquacious “Loco” is elderly. We hope he hangs in there until we return.  Another neighborhood favorite, a male cat named Daisy, is such a sweet boy but he is losing weight and acting puny. Luckily another neighbor is as invested in him as we are, so she will monitor him. The tiny cat Lips has a skin allergy that we’ve been treating with a soothing spray, and she has been improving. Katrina, the only cat that is really ours, barely tolerates people and would be happy if all the cats except her disappeared—plus she really glares at her nemesis Treble who took over her laundry room sanctuary when he arrived at our house as a small stray puppy.
Suffice it to say that all the critters will be well cared for is our absence.

Moving along to my summer reading....

Four Michael Connelly novels showed up in the Little Free Library, and I’ve read three of them in July:

 1) The Fifth Witness, a Lincoln lawyer mystery, featuring Mickey Haller, bogged down for me in the details of the daily trial testimony, but was well-paced generally. Connelly develops his characters convincingly, and they continue to draw me in.
2) The Reversal, another mystery featuring Mickey Haller, but Harry Bosch serves as his half-brother’s investigator in this novel so I got a little Harry Bosch fix.
3) A Darkness More Than Night where Harry initially is considered a suspect in a series of murders.  Retired criminal profiler Terry McCaleb has the primary investigative role in the novel, but Harry helps solves the case.

I also read Quiet Until the Thaw, by Alexandra Fuller, one of my favorite authors.  This book, a novel, is a departure for Fuller because she generally has written autobiographical books with intriguing titles. I’ve read Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight; Scribbling the Cat; Cocktails Under the Tree of Forgetfulness; and Leaving Before the Rains Come.  The first three titles are about her growing up in Africa, while the last, Leaving Before the Rains Come, is set in Wyoming and details the end of her marriage.

Quiet Until the Thaw takes place on the Pine Ridge Reservation, a Sioux reservation, in South Dakota. It requires a separate blog post since I spent two years on the Rosebud Reservation, the Sioux Reservation next to Pine Ridge, and I have quite a bit I want to say about this book.

The other mystery I read this month is one of the Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next books, Something Rotten, published in 2004.  Fflorde, a Welsh author, creates an alternative universe where people move in and out of books, into “real life,” usually creating havoc of one sort or another until they are back where they belong—in the covers of a book.  Thursday Next, a Literary Detective with the policing agency Jurisfiction, is currently trying to protect the planet from an egomaniac politician who escaped from an obscure novel and is striving for world domination in the real world. 

Fforde seems almost clairvoyant in Something Rotten as he describes the politician Yorrick Kaine: He was a B character in an A role and had been elevated far beyond his capabilities—a child in control of a nation.  

And that, dear readers, is why Ricky and I are running away from home for a couple weeks—to escape the B character and his ilk who are currently in charge of the United States.