Wednesday, May 30, 2012

What I'm Reading

Sullivan's Island by Dorothea Benton Frank

One of Dorothea Benton Frank's books was on my list on a recent library trip, but I couldn't find it on the shelves. Since then, coincidentally, my stepsister mentioned how much she enjoyed the works of this author, so I made a point to look for her again. I found this one, and it turned out to be a good read:

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

As for author Kristin Hannah, I intend to read every book of hers I can get my hands on. Just finished Winter Garden last night, and it was a wonderful story--and a terrible one at the same time. I didn't want it to end.

For a description and reviews of either of these books,
click on its image above.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Lush Louisiana

In this part of the Deep South, one doesn't dare stand still outdoors for too long. To do so is to risk being entangled in the tendrils of rapidly growing green things. I'm kidding, of course, but the idea isn't too big a stretch of the imagination.

Here's a photo I took at the Cajun Village in Sorrento, Louisiana, on January 26th of this year:

Now look at this one, taken May 16th, of the same structure:

What a difference in less than four months!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Sepia Saturday: Taking the Bull by the Horns

As much as I love old photographs, participating in the Sepia Saturday challenge is forcing me to acknowledge that my own collection of old photos is somewhat limited in scope. I could have searched through them until the cows came home and still wouldn't have found a sepia image that fit this week's photo prompt.

Well, never mind. I've missed the last two weeks because I didn't have suitable photos to post, but it happens that I do have some newer ones that fit this week's theme perfectly. So, by golly, I'm gonna post my modern-day cow pictures and hope nobody has a beef with that.

Below is a horizontal strip of cows I photographed from my car:

I had to crop all their hooves away to get rid of
a big blur of barbed wire that was in front of them.

On another day, again in my car, I spotted the next two cows lolling in a field near an unsightly interstate highway overpass. Because a blogger never knows when she'll need a cow photo, I snapped their picture.

Hmm. Missing hooves again. These girls were either lying on
 them or were standing in very tall grass.

Here comes my pi├Ęce de resistance, a drooling bull:

This guy lives at a local rural life center. Isn't he handsome?

Now, do you want to know why it was so important to me to do a Sepia Saturday post this week in spite of the fact that I didn't have any appropriate old photos? It's because I found the absolutely perfect Saturday Song Selection to go along with the theme and was determined to share it with you:



The song is "Cows with Guns" by Dana Lyons.
Thanks to camedser for posting this video on YouTube.
Click here to read the lyrics.

To see what others have posted in response
to this week's photo prompt, click on the image
below and follow the links. Some of their
 old photos might just moooooove you.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Of Fantasy and Reverie and Mother Nature's Kiss

The special thing about Houmas House isn't the antebellum mansion. Oh, it's beautiful, all right, and full of wonderful antique furnishings, and it has an amazing old spiral staircase that's held together by wooden pegs. It's definitely worth a visit just to see the house.

But the real thing about Houmas House--the magic of it--is in the gardens. The gardens weave an almost mystical spell, one that draws me into the midst of the vivid flowers and the gauzy veils of Spanish moss and makes me wish I had the time and the money to go there every single day. To stroll through those gardens is to be kissed on the forehead by Mother Nature and rocked gently in her arms. They are that soothing. If there are not fairies living there, then it must be true that fairies don't exist, because when I walk those paths, I can believe they do.

I'll give Mother Nature and God Himself plenty of credit for the awe-inspiring beauty of those gardens, but they didn't do it all by themselves. The head gardener, who has been at Houmas House for many, many years, is a wonderful artist who expresses his ideas through multiple painting techniques, various forms of sculpture, and, yes, plants and seeds and fertile soil. The 38 acres of the plantation grounds are his canvas.

My stepsister and I spoke with him on our recent visit. He let us wander through his studio to see the wide range of his inanimate creations (non-garden-variety art in more ways than one). Afterwards, when we asked him about his designs for the gardens, he said he approaches them the same way he does his other art forms: "I wake up every morning and ask myself what I feel like doing."

Take a little walk with me now, and I'll show you a few of the things he has felt like doing:

(I've kept these images small in hopes that they'll load faster for you, but please be sure to click on them and view the larger versions. I think you'll be glad you did.)

PS:  A portrait of Houmas House's head gardener is the featured image on my photo blog today. Click here to check it out.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Racing through the Month of May

I've been crazy-busy over the past ten or twelve days, but I think I've enjoyed every single minute of it. It's great to be able to say that, right?

In the interest of getting caught up, I'll post a brief recap today, then flesh out any blog-worthy topics over the next few days. Here goes:

We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Programming:
I've missed two Sepia Saturday posts in a row. I would have managed to squeeze out the time to write those posts if I'd had any old photos that might conceivably have fit the prompts, but I came up empty.

While I was looking for suitable photos, though, I did manage to "sepia-ize" and otherwise doctor up a picture of my brother-in-law, who had a birthday earlier this month.

A belated Happy Birthday, David!  

Mother's Day
On the 13th we enjoyed our traditional Mother's Day crawfish boil at my daughter Kelli's home. This year the younger generation of males in the family took over the cooking under the watchful tutelage of my son-in-law, Troy. Mmm-mmm, good!

A Special Visitor
My stepsister, Donna, arrived for a couple of days that we crammed full of good stories, hearty laughter, good food, and tourist attractions. More than anything, I wanted her to experience the magic of Houmas House Plantation and Gardens, and we did that for the better part of a day:

We also visited the Cajun Village, not once, but three times in short spurts:

Genealogy Research (Bordering on Obsession)
A friend asked for my help in tracing relatives of a woman born in Poland in 1885 whose passport he recently found. He thinks they might like to have it. Turns out she came to this country as a schoolteacher, mostly in private girls' schools. I've learned quite a bit about her, including the fact that she apparently died without ever having married or given birth to children. I'm still looking for brothers or sisters who might have given her nieces or nephews, but I'm afraid the trail has grown cold.

I also did a little research on my stepsister's family on her mother's side. (My mother married Donna's father, so we already knew about his side of her family). Genealogy research is always fun for me, and I continued exploring Donna's family history after she left to go back home. Let me tell you that, after discovering that one of her multiple-times-great-grandfathers and his brother had both been killed by Indians--in separate incidents in different years--I was hooked. For most of this last week I've been glued to this computer from morning to night, digging up the stories of that family. What a fun journey it's been!

Here's a picture of one of Donna's great-great-grandfathers (not one of the scalped ones). She hasn't seen this yet, but it's included in the package I mailed to her today:

Clinton H. Ferguson

The Return of an Old Friend
A wonderful friend with whom I'd lost touch for nearly 15 years contacted me this week. What a pleasure it was to hear from him! He's had some hard times since we last talked, but he's in a really good place now. I hope to see him soon, and I'd love to meet the amazing lady who is his new bride.

The Double-Dogs Dare Me
Gimpy has been with us for nearly six weeks now, and things are going great! I look forward to writing an update about the special relationship he enjoys with his brother, Levi. To borrow an often disparaged phrase from Debbie Boone, they really do "light up my life." 

Levi (left) and Gimpy

If you're reading this, thanks for sticking around in spite of my infrequent posting. I'll try to make it up to you.

What I'm Reading: The Siege by Stephen White

I've enjoyed a number of Stephen White's books over the years, and this one was another terrific read. Kudos to the author for coming up with a believable plot that was different from anything else I've ever read.

For a description and reviews of this book,
click on the image above.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Purging Paperwork

I am a saver of documents. Maybe it's because of the former legal secretary in me who rears her head every time I hold a piece of paper in my hand and whispers, "Don't throw that out. You might need it some day."

I save cards and letters because rereading them always makes me smile. I save old envelopes and scraps of paper on which I've written someone's address or phone number or  noted a few words of the lyrics to a song I liked and want to hear again. I know it isn't necessary to save a utility receipt once the new bill, showing a payment, has arrived via mail or email, yet I still had some receipts from as far back as 2009.

There are important documents in my files, of course, ones that need to be kept. In fact, I was looking for one of those over the weekend and became annoyed with myself because I couldn't find it where I knew it should be. That one misplaced document (I did find it later) started a purge-and-shred project that has consumed several hours each day this week.

The reason this job is taking so long is that I'm consolidating all those scraps of information into computerized lists before shredding or filing them, and sometimes that  leads me down rabbit trails. I still haven't finished, but my mountain of paperwork is now a stashable molehill, and I've reached a good, temporary stopping point.

Now I need to put up my hands and step away from the shredder for a few days. I'm having company next week, and there are other chores to be tackled around here, areas to be cleaned that are more visible than the inside of my file drawers. I will get back to this project, though, and finish it.

In the meantime, what are some of your best tips for taming the paperwork monster?

What I'm Reading

Magic Hour by Kristin Hannah


Night Road by Kristin Hannah


If Wishes Were Horses by Robert Barclay


Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

Each of these books is a little treasure. I'm only halfway through the bottom one, but as of right now I can't begin to tell you which of these four I liked best. I will say with some certainty that I'll read everything else I can find by these authors.

For a description and reviews of any of these books,
click on its image above.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Sepia Saturday: Traveling on the Night Train

There's something about the sound of a train whistle in the night that has tugged at my heart for as long as I can remember. Lying in bed, almost asleep, I hear that distant whistle and I am transported onto that train. In my imagination I am elegantly dressed and clinking champagne glasses with other passengers in a luxurious dining car. Another time, I'm curled up in an upper berth, listening to the snoring of the nearest passenger and the rumbling of the wheels on the track below us. Or, I am a young girl, dressed in tattered overalls, my hair tucked under a straw hat, holding the hand of my beard-stubbled father, huddling together in the corner of a freight car, keeping our distance from the other tired hobos as we pass through the midwestern night.

These imaginary journeys have been with me since childhood, each one different from the last one, but every one comforting in its own way.

This week's Sepia Saturday prompt is a picture of a miniature railway. I don't have any old photos of trains, sepia or otherwise, but I do have a newer  one, taken only this past November at a local museum:

The photo isn't old, but the train is. As it turns out, the only train in my photo collection is also a miniature. That's serendipity, I think.

So tell me: what kind of magic does a train whistle work on you?


This week's Saturday Song Selection is a long-time favorite song about trains. I'm pretty sure it's one you know.


The song is "The City of New Orleans" by Arlo Guthrie.
Thanks to fender1955 for posting this video on YouTube.
Click here for the lyrics.

To see how others have interpreted this week's theme,
click on the image below and follow the links. Allllll abooooard!

Thursday, May 03, 2012

The Weatherman and King Midas

The weatherman had predicted we'd get some rain yesterday, so I went for my (supposed-to-be-daily) walk early and ended it when the man who mows my yard showed up. Between the expectation of rain and my allergy to fresh-cut grass, I was pretty sure I'd spend the whole day indoors for one reason or another.

The rain started mid-morning and didn't let up. I kept waiting for a slack period so Levi and Gimpy could go outside, but there was no slack period. By one o'clock in the afternoon they were practically crossing their legs, so I let them go outside despite the steady rain.

That turned out to have been a good decision. From the time the rain started until it stopped just before sundown, it did nothing but increase in volume. I've lived in this house for fifteen years and don't think I've ever seen more water in the yard. Here's how it looked in the late afternoon:

This is the backyard, viewed from the backdoor.
(Be sure to click on the images to enlarge them.)

This is the view from the carport, looking across the driveway.
The back of my car was about two feet into the carport, so you know
how hard it must have been raining to get that much water on the car.

Television programming was interrupted over and over by flash-flood warnings and film footage of cars stalled in high water on major area roads, and I was glad there was no place I needed to go in that kind of weather. As the day grew later, the storm grew in intensity, with lots of lightning, lots of thunder, and intense happiness on my part that Levi and Gimpy are not plagued by the kind of storm phobia that always terrified Kadi and Butch. (Gimpy did spend part of the storm under my desk, but he was napping, not cowering.)

After hours and hours, the rain stopped abruptly. It didn't slow first, just turned off as suddenly as if a big hand in the sky had reached out and shut off a faucet. And then, about a minute later, an amazingly beautiful light came through my front windows and, like King Midas, turned everything it touched into gold. I stepped outside to see the source of that light, then ran back in the house to get my camera. 

That deluge of rain we had? It was definitely worth it.