About Me

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Recent retiree--35 year's experience teaching reading, English, adult basic education and volunteer leadership skills. Started this blog to exchange ideas and commentary with friends and others having an interest in joining the discussions. Greatest life accomplishments include: 1.organized my 3rd grade class to check out library books for me to get around librarian's weekly limit--Amazon.com, the Mullins Elementary 3rd Grade Class of 1956 is still waiting for "thank you" notes; 2. volunteered in the Peace Corps, island of St. Kitts, West Indies; 3.taught adults to read, earn their GEDs., and speak English as a second language; 4. bought a border collie puppy for $6, got evicted rather than give him up, and began a life-long love affair with all things "Dog"; 5. joined a physical fitness boot camp in my mid-50s--don't mess with someone who's been doing regulation pushups in wet grass at 5:30 a.m.; 6. walked across Northern England with best friend Sally--over 80 miles from the Irish to North Seas; and 7. travelled to many foreign countries for pleasure and work.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Floral Friday - KY Derby Roses, Oaks Lilies

The first Saturday in May is a great time to be a Kentuckian and live in Louisville. A week of celebrating builds to a great climax when late Saturday afternoon around 20 beautiful thoroughbred horses fly out of the starting gate at Churchill Downs for the fastest two miles in racing--the Kentucky Derby Run for the Roses.

The Kentucky Derby became known as the Run for the Roses because of this gorgeous blanket of red roses that adorns the winning horse. The blanket is made from 400 Freedom roses. The centerpiece of the blanket contains one perfect rose for each horse in the race.

Here you see Calvin Borel, one of the hardest-working and all around nice, modest jockeys to race in the Kentucky Derby. He's on Street Sense, winner in 2007. That win earned him a trip to the White House and a chance to meet Queen Elizabeth, a great horse fancier, who attended the Derby that year. Calvin also won last year on a surprise dark horse, Mine that Bird. Pretty good for an ole country boy from Louisiana, right? He's racing Saturday, so watch out!

The winner's blanket is designed at my neighborhood Kroger's
Supermarket floral shop
. On Friday afternoon several florists set up in the store and work into the night designing the blanket. Shoppers can drift by at any time and watch them working. On Saturday morning the blanket is carefully transported to Churchill Downs and displayed with the Derby cup until it's time for winner's circle ceremony.

But, before the Derby with all it's out-of- towners, celebrities, and in-field madness there's another race on Friday that's considered the hometown event--the Kentucky Oaks. This time the girls take center stage since it's limited to three year old fillies.

The Kentucky Oaks has it's own winner's blanket--"Lilies for the Fillies" Garland . Since this is all about girls racing, you probably wouldn't be surprised that there's a lot of pink going on. In addition to the blanket, if you look over the grandstand crowd, it's a sea of pink--hats and fashion for both women and men. This year's race supports the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure for breast cancer.

The Lilies for the Fillies Garland is also designed at the Kroger's Floral Shoppe on Thursday night before the Friday afternoon race. A 142 Star Fighter Lilies--white with deep magenta throats are nestled in white tulle in individual water vials. Silk magenta ribbons from Switzerland accent the crown of the garland.

Last year the wonderful filly Rachel Alexandra romped her way to a record breaking win and into our hearts. Ridden by--who else--Calvin Borel! She went on to beat the boys in the Preakness. Got herself a cover of Vogue Magazine and title of Horse of the Year as well. You go girl!

No floral post about horse racing would be complete without some mention of Derby and Oaks hats. They are flowery fantasies where more is always more. Derby costumes are planned around the hat, like this lovely which is probably going to be seen at the Oaks. Now, I won't be at the races, but I'll keep up with all the glamour and sport on TV. If you're betting, hope your horse wins!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Reading Brooklyn this Teaser Tuesday

This week the dog was getting shorter walks, bills not paid, the lawn turned to a hayfield and still I read on. From the opening sentence where young Eilis Lacey looks out the upstairs window on her world in a small Irish town to the end of this small novel where Eilis makes a life choice that leaves us questioning, Brooklyn, by Irish writer Colm Toibin, had my full attention. It's a book I hope others will read, so am featuring it for my April 27 Teaser Tuesday, on Miz B's book reading meme over at Should be Reading .

Everyone can play who loves sharing good books. Ms. B's rules are simple:

--Grab your current read,
--open to a random page,
--share a couple of "teaser" sentences from the page,
--watch out for spoiler lines,
--share the title and author--and a brief synopsis--so that other Teaser Tuesday participants can decide if they'd like to read your selection, and post your link in the comments on Miz B's webpage, and finally
--the fun part, check out everyone else's teasers!

Brooklyn, A Novel
by Colm Toibin

Enniscorthy, Ireland -- "As Eilis watched her, it struck her that she had never seen Rose look so beautiful. And then it occurred to her that she was already feeling that she would need to remember this room, her sister, this scene, as though from a distance. In the silence that lingered, she realized, it had somehow been tacitly arranged that Eilis would go to America." p. 25

Synopsis: In the hard years after World War II, young Eilis Lacey joined thousands of other Irish in emigrating to America, leaving her elderly mother and capable older sister Rose behind in their small Irish town. Eilis is just beginning to make her own way, getting a job in a local shop, studying bookkeeping and starting to date. Then Father Flood, an Irish priest from Brooklyn, shows up at their home and offers to sponsor Eilis in America by helping her find lodging and work. The decision is made quickly--mostly by Rose and their mother--that Eilis must go and make her own way in the world. Eilis complies and boards a boat for New York.

Brooklyn in the 1950s, as seen through Eilis' eyes, is a community where different people learn to live and work together, slowing moving past social, cultural, and racial divides. Can the Irish be friends with the Italians? Can "colored" women be served courteously in the local Italian women's department store? Can a bookkeeper date a plumber? Eilis learns to navigate all this turmoil--suffering homesickness, finding love and success in her work and studies. Then she is called back to Ireland and faces a situation that, if the wrong choice is made, will seriously damage her future.

The New Yorker had this to say about Tobin's writing: ". ..Purging the immigrant novel of all swagger and sentimentality, Toibin leaves us with a renewed understanding that to emigrate is to become a foreigner in two places at once." That was young Eilis' dilemma.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Fun Mondays, Coffee, and 200 Blog Posts

How timely. Gattina, our host for this week's Fun Monday over at Writer Cramps asks: What do we drink in the morning? Especially on the dreaded Monday mornings? And from what do we drink our beverage of choice? Well, most mornings you'll find me at the computer happily drinking a cup of hot, milky coffee and checking out blog and Facebook buddies. On Monday mornings I'm concentrating on my oldest blog friends, the Fun Monday group. And this post is special indeed--it's the 200th one I've written since starting Summit Musings in May 2007. If you knew me better, especially my track record for following through on projects, you'd realize what an achievement this is. Plain and simple, I'm really glad to be a part of a community of bloggers, sharing the ups and downs of everyday life with people from all over the U.S. and several other countries. Virtual friends rule!

Now Gattina, back to your assignment. My morning beverage of choice is always steaming hot coffee with a generous slurp of 1% milk. I use a cold water Coffee Toddy plastic container to make a syrupy rich coffee extract that I store in the fridge. To make a cup of coffee, just pour the extract in a mug, add milk and water (equal parts of the three) and nuke for about three minutes in the microwave. Perfect results every time.

I have several favorite mugs, many of them bought when traveling and carefully wrapped and tucked into my luggage to keep from breaking until I can get home. The mug in the above photo is from 2005 gardening tour of New Zealand. I bought the cup at Te Papa (Our Place) Museum in Wellington on the North Island. This amazing museum celebrates the Maori, New Zealand's native people. You can see the similarities in the mug etchings and the the carvings on the walls of this Maori meeting house that was set up in the museum.

Funny how drinking from this mug reminds me of that day in Wellington. Wellington is a harbor city and we were taking the inter-islander ferry across the Cook Strait from the North to South Islands. Luckily, I spent the day in Te Papa Museum learning about the Maoris and buying coffee mugs instead of touring gardens for there was fierce rain and winds--almost threatening our ferry ride the next day. Here's to many more blog posts and cups of coffee to bring back the good times!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Floral Friday - Dogwood Winter

This past week we've been experiencing what is known as dogwood winter in the South. Some time between mid-April and mid-May when the dogwood trees are in full bloom we'll have winter-like weather where you're turning the furnace back on and looking for socks. A welcome reprieve, because in just a couple of weeks we go from glorious spring to sultry summer. And I begin to complain about the weather. . .

This morning I walked through the yard gathering these flowers that are at their peak of bloom and loving the cool dogwood winter weather. Claiming center of attention is pink dogwood. Can you believe the size of these blooms? Along the edge of the vase you see the lovely--almost like lacecap hydrangea--blooms of the doublefile viburnum. I love the deeply ridged, bold leaves of this shrub as well. And to finish out the color scheme, there are a few reddish-purple leaved branches of the Japanese bloodgood maple. This tree is magical when the sunlight sparkles on the leaves.

To complete this floral arrangement, notice the watercolor lily postcard on the stand. It's an original painting of "Lilium Nutmegger" from a postcard exchange friend in Helsinki, Finland. It's clear why this lily is called the nutmeg lily, isn't it?

Well, I hope you have lovely flowers blooming in your yard and a free weekend to enjoy them.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Teaser Tuesday Books - One Woman's War

Teaser Tuesday is a great way for serious book lovers to share their current reading lists with other bookish types. I've participated for only two weeks and already my list of interesting books is growing. This meme is hosted by Miz B over at Should be Reading . Sometimes you read a book that has been made into a film, which can be a real bonus if you love the book. That's the case for my selection this week. I read the book and then was able to see the film on Netflix Instant Play.

Teaser Tuesday rules:

--Grab your current read,
--open to a random page,
--share two "teaser" sentences from somewhere on the page,
--be careful not to include a spoiler,
--share the title, author and, if you like, a brief synopsis to help other TT participants decide if they want to read your book, and
--post your link in the comments on Miz B's webpage.

A Woman in Berlin
Eight Weeks in the Conquered City, A Diary

by Anonymous

"Damn this to hell! I say it out loud. Then I make up my mind.
No question about it: I have to find a single wolf to keep away the pack. An officer, as high ranking as possible, a commandant, a general, whatever I can manage." p. 64

Synopsis: In April 1945, Berlin fell to the Russian army. For four months a young German woman, a reporter and traveler before the war, kept a daily diary of her life and that of other residents in their bombed out apartment building. The anonymous author depicts her fellow Berliners in all their humanity--craven, hungry, manipulative, sharing and neighborly whenever possible. More than anything, the diary reveals how civilians interacted with their foreign occupiers--especially the women who suffered unspeakable indignities and violence--including mass rapes of thousands of women regardless of age or infirmity.

This diary is amazing because it is free of self pity, expresses no political views, and absent of overt emotion. This matter-of-fact account is even more chilling when you think that the author was not even 30 years old and surviving--barely--on her own, subjected daily to physical violence at the hands of many soldiers, hunger and forced labor. The author required that her publisher keep her identity secret because of the violent public reaction to the diary as dishonoring German women and embarrassing their men for not being able to protect them. She died in 2001.

Here is the film trailer for the U.S. release in mid 2000. Like the book, the film shows us what it was like for Anonymous to survive from day to day in a rubble of a city:

The Los Angeles Times wrote, "Let Anonymous stand witness as she wished to: as an undistorted voice for all women in war and its aftermath, whatever their names or nation or ethnicity." A Woman in Berlin is not an easy book to read or film to see, but I'm glad that I did.

Friday, April 16, 2010

They're Baack!

For a couple of months in early spring I'm a reluctant landlady. Just last week I spotted signs of new home construction in the viburnum in front of my house--straw,dead grass and a lot of fresh chat from the construction workers every time I walked past the building site. Yes, the Robin Redbreasts have moved
in again and started a new family. They've been squatting on Summit Court property for many years now. Each year I try to negotiate the terms of their lease, but they always win out. The Robin Redbreasts don't care that building their home and accompanying nursery interferes with spring planting and sprucing up the landscape for the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May.

Before the viburnum grew large enough for the Redbreasts to build in it, they used the window boxes along the front of the house. In mid-March I planted cool season pansies for a touch of color as winter ended. The Redbreasts used the window boxes for their condos. Very handy as there was already some good mulch around the pansies that they could use for nest building.

By mid-April the nests were usually full of fat little fledglings, so many that they threatened to tumble each other out of the nests. Each time I passed their digs I gave them my best landlady lecture. It went like this: "Okay, I'm warning you all that it's time for you to learn to fly and quit depending on your parents to feed you. If you're not out of here by the last week of April, I will evict you. I am ready to plant the summer window boxes for Derby." This is how a Derby window box should look. Note: absent the Redbreast nursery.

So, I spent the last weeks of April designing that year's color and plant scheme--looks like pink impatiens, white daisies, and English ivy this year. Then I hit the greenhouses for flats of flowers while the pickings were still good. Finally, before landlady and tenants came to words, I would see the fledglings diving out of their nest, doing a belly flop in the driveway, but finally working out how to fly. Finally! I could remove their condo and plant Derby window boxes. Truthfully, I hope the Redbreasts will come back next year. It's tradition.

Bonus photo above, taken this morning: this is how a double (single?-I forgot) file viburnum looks in full bloom. Gorgeous! Later in the season it will have clusters of jewel red berries that the birds love to eat.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Teaser Tuesday -- What are You Reading?

Teaser Tuesday is described by its host Miz B over at Should be Reading as a "weekly bookish meme" open to anyone who enjoys peeping at other people's bookshelves.

The rules are simple:

--Grab your current read,
--open to a random page,
--share two "teaser" sentences from somewhere on the page,
--be careful to not include a spoiler,
--share the title and author--and a very brief synopsis--so that other Tuesday Teaser participants can add the book to their TBR lists if your teaser piques their interest, and
--post your link in the comments on Miz B's webpage.

Lunch in Paris, A Love Story with Recipes
by Elizabeth Bard

"And then there was Paris--beautiful, slightly inaccessible Paris, like a girl who lures you close with her ruffles and her scent, then leaves you in the doorway, cold and alone with the barest hint of a good-night kiss. I felt like I was standing on the doorstep of a culture, and I wasn't sure if anyone was ever going to let me in. I couldn't just say yes to Gwendal. I had to say yes to Paris too." p. 109

Synopsis: American girl travels to Paris and meets a tap dancing PhD researcher in computer science. They share many lunches in Paris bistros and breakfast croissants in his chilly walkup flat. American girl soon discovers two passions--French cuisine and Gwendal. She moves to Paris and learns to navigate the open food markets and cook in Gwendal's cramped apartment. Gwendal asks her to marry him and proves he's serious by putting her name on the water bill--proof of legitimacy in Paris bureaucracy. Will the American girl accept the challenge and learn to live and love in the most romantic of cities?

About the "with Recipes" part of the book title. Each chapter concludes with a recipe for a French dish that was eaten as part of the story line. You too can try your cooking skills by making Gateau au Yaourt (Yogurt Cake), Soup a' l'Oignon Gratinee ("Better Than French" Onion Soup), or Riz au Lait au Calvados (Rice Pudding with Drunken Raisins).

Here's a photo of Elizabeth and Gwendal:

I'm thinking happy ending. . .

If you'd like to read a bit of Elizabeth's blog, here's the link: Lunch in Paris

(Photography credit: Cindi de Channes)

Thursday, April 8, 2010


Apparently the Geek Squad is right when she says that even a chimpanzee could figure out how to file its tax return using TurboTax. I proved it at 5:00 a.m. this morning by successfully working through TurboTax's program for filing 2009 income tax.

I'm really lucky to have a personal Geek Squad as a buddy. J has taught me a lot about technology over the years. In fact, there's only one area where I outshine her--Facebooking. That I figured out on my own recently. But back to TurboTax. I've felt that I needed to be able to file my own income tax returns for several years. Lord knows my finances are anything but complicated. So J and I have had many conversations about how user friendly the program is. She was so right. Late last night I gathered all my '09 records and, like a child being led through the woods, methodically entered all the information and answered all the questions. As I suspected--feared?--the outcome was pretty bad, but I now have a hard copy ready to sign and mail to the IRS by April 15. Along with my first born. . .

Oddly enough I was watching the National Geographic biopic Darwin's Darkest Hour yesterday. Darwin had a lot to say about chimpanzees and scientific approaches to solving problems. This period drama is set in 1858 when Darwin was suffering major personal and professional crises. Two of his young children were gravely ill with diphtheria. Professionally, he was in danger of having his research scooped by another naturalist on his theory of natural selection or evolution. Darwin's sounding board for this dilemma was his wife Emma. Emma was a very religious woman who loved the scientist Darwin despite their different beliefs. Darwin was keenly aware of the public turmoil, especially in the church, that publication of The Origin of the Species would cause.

So, Darwin seeks Emma's advice about whether the time was right to publish and she quoted this back to Darwin:

Step by step. Method in all things.

And I thought: Whoa! Excellent advice. Whenever we have a problem or challenge to deal with, the best thing to do is break it down into steps that can be methodically managed. That's how problems are solved and good decisions made. Whether it's getting your taxes done or publishing a book that's going to change the way people think about their world.

(Credit for chimpanzee image: http://www.solarnavigator.net)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Teaser Tuesday -- Sharing Great Reads

Teaser Tuesday is described by its host Miz B over at Should be Reading as a "weekly bookish meme" open to any reader who wants to play along. If, like me, you're always curious about what people are reading or always on the lookout for the next great read, then this may be your meme.

The rules are simple:

--Grab your current read,
--open to a random page,
--share two "teaser" sentences from somewhere on the page,
--be careful not to include a spoiler,
--share the title and author--and a very brief synopsis--so that other Tuesday Teaser participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teaser, and
--post your link in the comments on Miz B's webpage.

ONE GOOD DOG by Susan Wilson

Adam: "Doesn't matter. I told you: I'm not keeping him."

Gina: "Give him a chance. Haven't you ever needed someone to give you a chance?"

Adam: "I have always made my own chances."

p. 142

Synopsis: Arrogant self-made businessman Adam March has everything that money and power can buy. Then in one afternoon he loses everything in an office meltdown--job, status, family. He is sentenced to a year of community service serving lunch in a homeless shelter to men he would never have had anything to do with in his old life.

In another part of the city a pit bull mix lives out his life in a cellar as fighter in dog fighting ring. They are thrown together through mistaken identity. One Good Dog is the unsentimental, but deeply moving, story of how man and dog saved each other. If you liked Garth Stein's The Art of Racing in the Rain for the way the dog has its own narrative in the story, you will love One Good Dog.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Taxing Monday

If you're looking for a Fun Monday posting here, sorry. There will no joy on Summit Musings on April 5. Instead, it's going to be Tax Monday. By the time Dancing with the Stars gets in full swing at 8:00 p.m. tomorrow night, I am determined to complete both federal and state income tax returns--without the help of my long time CPA. This is a rather daunting decision to go it alone, but I figure the time has come add the TurboTax notch to my technology belt. Everyone says the program is simple enough that a chimpanzee could use it--we'll see. . .

I will leave you with this wonderful sign of spring--the most beautiful fuchsia and lime colored hydrangeas from Ilnacullen Garden on Garinish Island, County Cork, Ireland--1998 garden tour.

Wish me the luck of the Irish with Tax Monday.