Saturday, July 31, 2010
And had me sniff the air and the grass,
And feel the cool wafts of breeze,
And hear the tinkling of rain on bricks,
And watch the scudding, low clouds,
I'd say it was late September.
But it's July.
What a respite today is! I could truly live in this weather all the time: 70 degrees, cool, damp, soothing, just a hint of something brisk in the air.
Adam says he needs it 10 degrees cooler, and I must agree with him. Because I want weather that's comfortable with long pants and a sweater. I want to be chilly in shorts.
About 3 days of summer is adequate for me; give me autumn!
Friday, July 30, 2010
Philip took this picture of us before we headed out on our anniversary date. Not a very good one (fuzzy) but then, we are getting old.
We went to this upscale Mexican restaurant. That means they don't serve you free chips/salsa 30 seconds after you sit down.
We ordered chips and guacamole for an appetizer. The young man made the guacamole for us at the table, and it was smooth and delicious.
Adam heard about this restaurant from one of his FAVORITE radio shows, "The Splendid Table." They travel the country, looking for little places like this that serve excellent fare. This restaurant qualifies! Also, it used to be a Catholic church, so the interior is spacious and dark. Here's a bad interior pic:
One interesting thing served to us was this delicious butter for our rolls; it's pink! And sure enough, when we savored it on our tongues, it had a faint strawberry flavor - yum.
Adam chose a jumbo shrimp/mango sauce dish which was good, but mine turned out to be better -- more flavorful. It was a boneless chicken breast served on rice/onion/corn, with a truly lovely tomato/pepper cream sauce. It's the sauce that makes the dish. This sauce had a little too much spicy for my particularly delicate palate, but Adam loved it.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
But, hidden beneath all that fine greenery, my fern has some secrets. Here they are:
Anybody know what kind of mushrooms these are? They're very persistent. I pick them and throw them away, and they come right back.
It's been such a long, hot, dry month. Finally yesterday the weather seemed to break. I think it broke right over our heads!
We had such thunder and lightening! It was close and crashing. The lights browned. I went to bed. Then I wondered, sleepily, whether the AC might have tripped off, so I went to find Adam, so he could check the breaker. Couldn't find him in the house ANYWHERE, in the middle of a torrential thunderstorm. I shouted downstairs. Then, surprisingly (did I mention it was about 11:15 PM?), Philip came TEARING up the basement stairs. His bedroom is in the basement, an unfinished, rather-ugly, concrete slab room. "I've got to go bail!" he shouted. "It's pouring in the window!"
I chased him up the stairs. He dashed into the rain and proceeded to bail the rain that was topping out the basement window well. A few minutes later he would realize he was bailing the WRONG window well. Oh well...
I walked fearfully downstairs, imagining the water gushing into my laundry room, rising upon my washer and dryer and spare frig. I opened the door, but ... no water! Hm???
Then I walked into Philip's room. And that's where the water was. About 1/2 inch of rainwater all over the floor. I stood there in my summer nightgown, trying to form a plan in my groggy brain.
We did get it cleaned up, swept the water into the floor drains (Praise the Lord for floor drains!!) and moved ALL Philip's stuff into the den. If you have a teenaged boy, you know the kind of trash/paper/books/shoes/undies/kleenex/ELECTRONICS he has on his floor. (I kept telling the kids NOT to electrocute themselves while standing in the water!)
At 11:45, the basement was a chaos, the water was subdued, the thunder was rumbling, my back was aching, and it was past time for bed. Oh, and I did finally find Adam. He'd been walking around in the yard, IN THE STORM AND LIGHTENING, getting wet just for fun. Strange man.
Tonight, the rain is coming down again, not quite so forcefully. But Adam spent today putting up a new gutter on the back of the house that will protect our window wells, thankfully. So Philip won't float away in the middle of the night :)
Monday, July 26, 2010
Julia requested a homemade ice cream cake. It has: 2 crushed waffle cones, chocolate ice cream, whipped cream, chocolate sauce, cookie dough.
This cake was frozen solid overnight, and was nearly impossible to cut!
I think she liked it :)
Sunday, July 25, 2010
However, this whole stink about Shirley Sherrod, a US employee with the Georgia Dept. of Agriculture, has forced me to talk about it in a place where I can say more. Mrs. Sherrod gave a speech earlier this year to a gathering for the NAACP. She's a black woman who has endured quite a bit; in her speech she relates how her father was murdered by a white man in rural Georgia, when she was only 17. A cross was burned in her yard. The 40s and 50s were a brutal time of racism for some in the South. She is to be commended that, in spite of this history, she's made huge strides in her attempt to overcome her own response -- hatred.
When one person is hated because of her race, and she hates the other race in return, her hatred is exactly what theirs was: racism.
Mrs. Sherrod's speech was 43 minutes long. In it, she relates how, 24 years before, her initial reaction to a white farmer who needed her help as a gov't official in saving his farm land, was racial intolerance. She gave him minimal assistance. Later, she realized her error, and came to believe that the issue wasn't "white vs. black," but "rich vs. poor."
Andrew Breitbart, a conservative blogger, decided to post a portion of her speech. It's understandable that he wouldn't want to post a 43-minute speech on his blog; nobody would listen to it all. He posted the video where Sherrod describes her response to the farmer, and then her change of heart -- her new understanding. Here is the text of the video clip that Breitbart posted. Mrs. Sherrod said:
“The first time I was faced with having to help a white farmer save his farm, he took a long time talking, but he was trying to show me he was superior to me. I know what he was doing. He had to come to me for help. But what he didn’t know was while he was taking all that time talking, trying to show me he was superior to me, was I was trying to decide just how much help I was going to give him. I was struggling with the fact that so many people had lost their farm land. And here I was faced with having to help a white person save their land. So … I didn’t give him the full force of what I could do. I did enough. So that when he … I assumed the Dept. of Agriculture had sent him to me, either that or the Georgia Dept. of Agriculture, and uh, he needed to go back and report that I did try to help him. So I took him to a white lawyer that had attended some of the training that we had provided because Chapter 12 bankruptcy had just been enacted for the family farm. So I figured if I take him to one of them that his own kind would take care of him. That’s when it was revealed to me, y’all, that it’s about poor versus those who have. And not so much about white – it IS about white and black – it’s not, you know. It opened my eyes. Because I took him to one of his own."
I want to point out here that Breitbart did include (in fact, he made it the climax of the video) her description of her change of heart, of her rejection of her previous racist attitude. Breitbart didn't have to include that last portion, but he did.
If fact, if his intention had truly been to paint Sherrod as a racist, he would NEVER have included this part.
Mitch Albom, a Free Press Columnist, today posted an article vilifying Breitbart. He says this is an instance when we should "shoot the messenger." Some liberals have described Breitbart's blog post as trying to destroy Sherrod.
Indeed, the result of Breitbart's post was devastating, but it wasn't his fault. The NAACP & the White House made it devastating. The NAACP attacked Mrs. Sherrod -- remember the NAACP? The group to which she was speaking? The group that had the ENTIRE video tape in the first place? They claimed they were "snookered" or tricked, by Breitbart and Fox News, that they were misled by a video clip that misrepresented Sherrod.
Did it misrepresent her? No. It was her own account. It showed BOTH her previous stance, and her change.
But they were too hasty, too impatient, to examine even Breitbart's video carefully. The NAACP -- and the White House -- gave a knee-jerk reaction, resorted to their usual reflex of whipping out the Race Card. (Perhaps they should practice that action less often, eh?) And the White House fired Sherrod from her job.
Oh. My. Word.
And when they decided to watch the whole video? (Or read the whole health care bill. Or the Arizona law. Sigh. Do these people have NO one who does a little research for them?) They were, naturally appalled, and stumbled over themselves to apologize.
I never thought I'd live to see the day when Obama or the NAACP would apologize to a black person for accusing her of reverse racism. Who needs movies when such things are in the news?
And somebody had to be blamed, so it is Mr. Breitbart, as you see. Mr. Albom's article is all over my Google Feed Reader, telling the world to shoot Mr. Breitbart. Breitbart posted a clip from a video, an accurate clip that showed both sides of a woman's journey. Will no one say so?
Before I leave this matter entirely, I'd like to look more closely at Mrs. Sherrod's original speech. As I said, she has come a LONG way, a very long way, as she digs herself out of the racism she was born into. But she's not all the way out of it yet. Later in her speech, she also says this:
“I have never seen such mean-spirited people as I’ve seen lately over this issue of health-care. Some of the racism that we thought was buried, didn’t it surface? Now, we endured 8 years of the Bushes, and we didn’t do the things these Republicans are doing because you have a black president." (Clapping from audience.)
Whoa!!! Did she say what I THINK she said? That Republicans are hate-filled and mean-spirited, and it's actually racism driving their attitudes, AND it's all because there's a black man sitting in the Oval Office?
I've never heard such ridiculous drivel in my life. And she said this to a room full of black people. Do you think that's designed to produce the reconciliation between the races that she claims to long for?
Argh!! Clearly, she's not quite there yet.
Folks, I'm saying this ONE. LAST. TIME. Republicans don't dislike Obama because he's black. I'm perfectly indifferent to the color of skin of the president. I'm VERY concerned about his qualifications, his policies, his views. Sherrod's statement above is a classic example of the Race Card being slapped on the table, so that the real issues aren't addressed.
Sherrod said many good things in her speech. She encouraged the races to work together, to get rid of our disagreements. She encouraged the young blacks in the room to excel, to study, to achieve. She laments that more of them aren't working in her department:
“In Rural Development there are 129 employees, and guess how many of them are people of color. There are 129 in my agency … there are less than 20 of us. We have 6 area offices, and sub offices. And when I look at who’s coming up in the agencies, there aren’t many of us.”
Now, this means that in her department, one in every 6.5 employees, is a non-white. The black population in the US is about 16%, last time I checked. 1 in 6 is rather close to the national percentage. I understand that Sherrod would like the young black people she knows to excel, and she wants them to look at opportunities in her department.
I just wish she were more careful in her speech. "His own kind would take care of him." "There weren't more of us." She seems still be stuck in a "us vs. them" mentality, and friends, that's nowhere that Americans need to still be. As Morgan Freeman said to Mike Wallace, "I'll stop calling you a white man if you'll stop calling me a black man." Can't we just be PEOPLE? Can't we get to the point at which the color of my skin is no more important than the color of my eyes or hair? Sure, it's there, but no one's going to hate me for it?
Saturday, July 24, 2010
When we returned from Music Conference, our little back yard pool was aswim in algae. Adam cleaned it up and got the algae out, but the pool is STILL cloudy. He's worked and worked on it, to no avail. Well, today, our neighbor, who has a nice in-ground pool, said he called in some pool people ($$$), who told him it is a result of the VERY WARM WEATHER, and there's nothing you can do about it!
Well, at least I know it's safe to swim in, even if it is a little scary not to be able to see one's feet.
So, we're being indoorsmen today. Julia, Adam & I watched "The Young Victoria" today, in the basement, where it's always cool. We've had a little trouble with our air handler -- it's leaking water onto the cement floor downstairs. Into Philip's room, soaking the rug and wetting down a few of his books and things. This gave us another excuse to spend time in the cool basement. And I'm doing laundry there too :)
Not much more to say. Philip returns home this evening, with Rebecca in tow. (I should say she is bringing him home, so perhaps she has HIM in tow.) Anna has about a week and a half left to work at Ridgehaven. Adam is awaiting to hear whether he'll be asked to come preach at a church in Mississippi that is looking for a pastor. I prepare in a haphazard way for the school year, setting up tentative schedules and reading over "Beowulf." The hot summer slogs on, day by sunny day.
Friday, July 23, 2010
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Here's a close-up of the middle bag, my favorite.
Julia has been begging for a hat. Then she saw some yarn I had -- this deep, rich aqua. I had a crocheted hat already in this same style, and she REALLY liked it, so this morning, I made her this:
I think she looks pretty sharp in it!
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Here's a generation gap for you :) Our host visits with a young guest.
My friend Patty enjoys some lovin' from her granddaughter. As soon as she realized I was taking her picture, she gave me some warm eyes :) Penny the poodle enjoyed herself too.
In mid-afternoon the skies darkened, and wind whirled, and a few drops fell, but there was no storm -- only a lovely drop in temperature! It was an almost perfect afternoon. We ate hot dogs, chips, watermelon and dessert.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
So, meet Wally! Isn't he growing well?
Our tomato plants, not to be outdone, are producing lovely fruit. By the end of the week, I imagine I'll be canning a little.
Monday, July 19, 2010
Julia, all dressed up for the Friday evening concert. She's in middle school choir now. They did a gorgeous job on their songs -- beautiful pure, round sound.
There was a lot of friendly, competitive game-playing during the week. Here, Philip and Audra contend over the Monopoly board -- for 2 days!
Peter says it was the best year ever for just hanging with friends and enjoying the great social life among the Bonclarken teenagers. Here he is yapping with Addison.
This is where we spent LOTS of our time -- outside, lounging, recovering from too much singing, waiting for Adam to serve up the next delectable meal. This was a great year for fellowshiping.
Rebecca drove over for the concert, after which she and Philip headed off for various things -- a musical, a wedding, moving into her new apartment, etc. They'll have a busy week.
I think everyone in the group is exhausted now after the week, but we'll go back and do it all again next year if we can! Love that singing!
Saturday, July 10, 2010
1. Wednesday evening, driving back home from church, we saw a huge raccoon in the middle of the road eating something. In broad daylight. Raccoons are strange in this neck o' the woods.
2. I finally, finally, got all 27 of my azaleas bushes trimmed, along my front walk. A laborious task I do twice a year and dread beforehand.
3. I made 2 more crocheted bags. (One is blue and brown; the other is white with pastel highlights.) I now have 6 for sale at Hagedorn's, and 2 here at the house, and none of them have sold. Sniff.
4. I think I was in the pool every day this week. Did anyone notice it was HOT?
5. Our tomatoes are ripening. The watermelon is growing, but strangely, it is the only one on all 3 watermelon plants. What's up with that?
6. IT RAINED YESTERDAY. Yeah, that was a SHOCKER.
7. Adam has decided he needs more interesting toppings if he is to continue eating homemade pizza once a week. So, tonight, our "adult" pizza had: mushrooms, feta cheese, fresh roma tomatoes, parmesan cheese, a smattering of bacon and sausage, plus the obligatory colby and mozzarella. Fun enough for ya?
8. I bought a "Cambridge Old English Reader" in Oxford, England, 18 months ago. Never cracked it open. Because I'm so wild about Old English, you know. Actually, I am; I bought this text just at the time that my fervor for Old English was waning that year. Sigh. Anyway, last night I finally opened it. Thought you should know.
9. On Sunday, the search committee at a church that's considering Adam will meet. They'll choose one of the 3 men they're considering, and invite him to preach. We're hoping, hoping, hoping that it will be Adam. Praying too. It would be so nice to have permanent employment.
10. Tomorrow the Music Conference at Bonclarken begins! I'm so excited! Hopefully I'll be posting pictures for your enjoyment.
Friday, July 9, 2010
This view looks generally south, toward Adam's brick oven. Above it is a small magnolia tree.
Next is a towering pine, with a cluster of hardwoods to the left.
This is Julia's "reading tree" and actually the largest tree by far in the yard (although it doesn't seem so in this photo). Its leaves flutter and quiver.
Here's the dominant pine tree in the yard, a central figure. I've studied its gnarled lower branches many times over. It had ivy climbing its trunk but I cut it off. It's really a beauty.
Moving right, and toward the northeast, you begin to see our roof, and the shock of pussy willow and Lady Banks rose, planted together next to our carport, and leaning heavily over the rusted monkey bars. The pool cover is draped over the end of the bars. This rose bush is a shower of yellow sunshine early each summer.
Turning north, looking at the house, we see the pecan tree. This tree gives us lots of shade on the bedroom end of the house. The trunk looks terrible; it's been pocked with hundreds of holes by a woodpecker. We've seen him a few times when he returns to the tree to check his pantry for any handy bugs who've decided to take up residence in his holes. The tree itself it actually healthy.
It's hard to see, but this is the gorgeous tree in our neighbors' yard. It blends with the pecan and in the spring it has huge pink pom-pom blossoms. I'd say it is a Canadiam Plum (we have one in our front yard) but the blooms are not similar. Active, chirping cardinals live in the tree, and in fact we have many pairs in our yard.
Here are the pair of hollies, a male and female. The female is heavy with green berries this summer. They used to have branches all the way to the ground, like HUGE bushes, but I pruned them severely so we could walk under them and clear the soil. I like them so much better this way. They are very close to the pool. This view looks east.
I rescued this dogwood tree last year. It had a large holly growing up in the middle of it, competing for soil and sun. I removed the holly (um, with a bit of manly help...) and now the dogwood is looking better. I love the shape of its leaves and the color of them in the fall.
Now I'll turn my attention to the sky. Here are the tall trees above the brick oven.
I LOVE this chunk of sky above the two pine trees.
This is the largest piece of sky, over our neighbors' house to the west, above the Lady Banks rose.
I thought last summer would be my last one in this house. I'm rather surprised and so thankful to still be here, still enjoying my home and my yard. We will likely move -- somewhere, who knows where? -- in the coming year, so I doubt I'll have another summer to have my soul calmed and my spirit quickened by these simple views. They're not mountains or seaside, nor are they gasp-inspiring treasures. But they are mine. I love them for that.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
3/4 cup milk
1 pkg dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
3 cups + 2 Tbl flour
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
1 stick butter
1 vanilla bean (I didn't have one this time.)
1 Tbl. vanilla extract
2 quarts of peanut oil (or any oil good for deep frying)
Warm milk in a saucepan or microwave -- NOT too hot!! Place yeast in bowl of mixer. Add warm milk. (If it's too hot, it'll kill the yeast.) Sprinkle 2 3/4 cups flour over milk and let stand 20 minutes.
In another bowl, whisk lightly the egg yolks and sugar. Add salt & 1/4 cup flour.
Melt butter in saucepan. Scrape vanilla bean seeds into butter & add pod. Simmer until butter foams and smells nutty. Don't burn. Remove pod. Pour butter over egg mixture. I had to temper the butter (which was rather hot) with some of the egg, and whisk it firmly, before adding it all. Stir in vanilla.
Add butter mixture to yeast mixture. Mix at low speed 1 min. Add 2 Tbl. flour and mix 1 min. (Y'know, I forgot to do this step today, and it made no difference :) Dough will be sticky - very. Lightly oil large bowl. (Okay, this is now bowl #3, and this is perhaps why I avoid this recipe. Too many dishes!) Turn dough onto lightly floured surface, form a ball, and place in oiled bowl. Cover with plastic and allow to rise for 1 1/2 hours, until doubled.
It was at this point this morning that I decided, "Hey -- this would make a blog post! I'd better take some pictures!" Here's the dough after the first rise.
You turn it again, push it down and let it rise another 30 minutes. This pic shows how sticky it is, even after having been on a floured surface.
Here's the finished dough. It is very yellow from the egg yolks.
Here's the set-up. Ignore the bananas. You see the dough, the doughnut cutter (SO helpful!), the hot oil in cast iron, the yummy glaze, and the wire rack.
Let me give you the glaze recipe while we're at it:
1 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream (okay, you could use half/half or milk, but it won't be as good!)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. salt
Whisk together in a double boiler over low heat. Enlist a handy 10 year old to help.
Cutting out the doughnuts:
This is the part I hate -- the oil is very hot -- 375 degrees. Don't let it smoke. These babies brown SO fast that I over-cook quite a few. You need a long-handled slotted spoon to turn them gently and lift them out. Make sure you have everything assembled before you start slinging them in the oil. See those holes that are too brown? Sigh. (They're great anyway.)
Scoop them out and place them on the rack to cool for a couple of minutes.
Your handy assistant will dip them gracefully in the glaze, turn them, and lay them back on the rack. Here are a few choice specimens:
And they were gone in a FLASH!!
Julia's pretty handy with a spoon.
My family BEGS for these.
THEY ARE JUST AS GOOD AS KRISPY KREME. (If you're a Dunkies fan, please just eat a piece of day-old cake, and you'll be fine.)
Today I had no excuse, and besides Rebecca is here. These doughnuts just don't last very long. You might really want to consider making a double batch, because once you go to all the trouble, you might as well have LOTS of doughnuts to show for it! We're trying very hard -- very hard -- to be disciplined enough to save a few (just a few) for Peter, since he's gone till tonight. I don't know if we'll be able to withstand the temptation though.