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.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Fun Monday - Always Faithful

Our host for May 31st Fun Monday is the Church Lady over at Living Life in PA . Kelly, aka Church Lady, is giving us a chance to share a photo for Memorial Day. I found this image of two present day soldiers paying respect to their fallen comrades:

"Always Faithful" by artist Susan Bahary is a war monument commemorating 25 Marine war dogs who gave their lives helping to liberate Guam in 1944. These dogs served as sentries, messengers, scouts and mine detectors in World War II. A Marine medic who tried unsuccessfully to save Kurt, the Doberman pinscher on this monument, insisted that he be buried with other fallen soldiers. Twenty-four other canine soldiers joined their human comrades in a common burial ground on Guam in recognition of their service.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Teaser Tuesday Read - School of Essential Ingredients

This week's memes, Fun Monday and now Teaser Tuesday, both happen to be about a favorite topic--food and cooking. Yesterday I posted about my love affair with pasta. Today, the book I'm sharing for Teaser Tuesday is about a very special cooking school and what a small group of students learned about themselves while learning to cook.

Teaser Tuesday is a book sharing meme hosted by Mz. B over at Should be Reading . All readers are welcome to play. Here are the rules: open your current read to a random page; share two "teaser" sentences from that page; give the title, author, and a brief synopsis (if you like) of your book; post your link in the comments on Mz B's webpage; and try to comment on other players' selections.

The School of Essential Ingredients
by Erica Bauermeister

"The first question people always ask me is, 'What are the essential ingredients?'" Lillian paused and smiled. "I might as well tell you, there isn't a list and I never had one." p. 43

Synopsis: Once a month on Monday nights eight students met at a restaurant called Lillian's. On the surface they gathered together to learn to cook from Lillian, the restaurant owner. However, their motivations for joining the class were all different: Claire, a young mother, needed to recapture the person lost to motherhood; Chloe needed to improve her cooking skills to find work and regain self respect;Tom was rejoining life after losing his beautiful wife to cancer; Isabelle was trying to hang on to reality as she dealt with beginning dementia; Carl and Helen were mending a marriage; Ian the computer geek needed to learn to live more instinctively; Antonia was an Italian transplant looking for community.

So, on Monday night the class worked together to make simple, delicious food--omelet, cake, crabs, pasta--and, at the same time, learn some valuable life lessons. I liked the way the author organized the book. Each student, and Lillian, had a chapter with his or her own background story. Each chapter was illustrated with some simple drawings of a food, herb, or flower that was especially significant to that student. I dabble a bit with drawing and watercolors, so here are my versions of the illustrations:

"A delicate, meltingly lovely hymn to food and friendship."

Maria de los Santos, author of Love Walked In

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Fun Monday - Lotsa Pasta

Fun Monday for May 24th is a piece of cake--or, in my case, a bowl of pasta. Our host is Debs over at 1 Crazy Stitcher and she's asking us to share our favorite foods and, if we have them, foods we really dislike. Well, getting the dislike out of the way, for me it's soft cooked eggs, especially the yolks. Just can't do it. Aside from that, I haven't met a food that I didn't like. Unfortunately?

Penne-fusilli-farfalle-orecchiette-lasagna-vermicelli-cavatelli-angel hair-linguine. That's what flashed before my eyes when I read Debs assignment. Love, love, love pasta in all its forms and preparations. When I eat out, I go to the pasta entrees first. At home my shelves are stocked with several varieties of pasta at all times. I especially like the Barilla brand. And now they have my favorite pasta shapes in "piccolini" or mini versions. Cute little penne tubes, farfalle bowties, fusilli corkscrews. Now I wish I could say that I also enjoy whole wheat pasta, but I'm not there yet. It just doesn't have the al dente bite that the other pasta has.

Preparation is simple. It could be elbow macaroni cooked in tomato juice of my childhood or mac 'n cheese. Sometimes I'll make what Rachael Ray calls "stoup", a cross between stew and soup that contains a bit of chicken or ground beef, lots of vegetables and pasta cooked with tomato. Or, it could be vegetarian--farfalle with broccoli, olive oil, red pepper flakes, garlic and Parmesan cheese. Version two would be penne with frozen spinach, artichokes, and Parmesan cheese. Sometimes its traditional spaghetti and meat sauce. It won't be Alfredo though--that sauce seems like overkill to me.

I also make cold pasta salads like Pasta Primavera with tons of fresh vegetables, vermicelli, and an Italian dressing. Debs asked us to share a recipe for our favorite food and last week I just happened to make a new pasta salad that was a real winner. So, just in time for summer cookouts I give you:

Marzetti's Summer Pasta Salad

3/4 C Marzetti Classic Ranch Dressing (look for it in the produce section)
8 oz. fusilli (I used the Barilla "piccolini" version)
1 C broccoli florets
1 C artichoke hearts, quartered (canned, packed in water not marinated)
1 zucchini, diced
1/2 red onion, about 1/2 cup VERY thinly sliced
1/2 C frozen peas, thawed
1 C cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 C shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 C pitted and halved kalamata olives (next time I may just use black olives)


Cook pasta according to package directions. One minute before done, throw in broccoli florets (be careful to just blanch the broccoli). Drain pasta and broccoli together. Run cool water over to stop cooking and drain well. Combine the pasta-broccoli with the Marzetti Ranch Dressing and remaining ingredients and toss gently. Serve or store in the refrigerator until serving time. Gilding the lily: this would make a wonderful seafood salad with the addition of a bit of lump crab meat.

So, there you have it. My celebration of pasta. Can't wait to see what other Fun Monday participants love to eat--and maybe get some new recipes. Check Deb's place for the list of players.

(Image credit for pasta poster: Pasta Italiana I, Riccardo Marcialis, www.art.com)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Teaser Tuesday Book -- The Painted Veil

I've chosen a classic for this week's Teaser Tuesday book selection. I read it just recently and wish I'd known about it years ago. Before I read the book I saw the film based on the story. Sometimes seeing the story in film, especially for a classic, helps me appreciate the book so much more.

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly book swap hosted by Miz B over at Should be Reading that is open to all booklovers. Miz B's rule of play are simple:

--Open your current read to a random page (I sometimes cheat on this.);
--share two teaser sentences from that page, being careful not to be a spoiler;
--post your link in the comments on Miz B's webpage and, best of all, check out other players' selections and leave a nice comment for them.

The Painted Veil
by W. Somerset Maugham

Kitty Fane: "I'm coming with you to that place."
Walter Fane:
"Oh, good."
"When do you want me to be ready?"
"Tomorrow night."
"I suppose I needn't take more than a few summer things and a shroud, need I?"

p. 85

Synopsis: The Painted Veil is a modern day retelling of one of the stories from Dante's Inferno of an Italian gentlewoman whose husband suspected her of adultry and punished her by banishment and, when he dared, death. Somerset Maugham set his story in England and China in 1925. Kitty Fane, a pretty and shallow young woman, impulsively marries Dr. Walter Fane, a socially awkward civil servant posted in Hong Kong as a bacteriologist. Kitty marries a man that she does not even like to escape her mother's demands that she find a husband to support her. Walter fell in love with Kitty the first time he saw her and asked her to go with him to Hong Kong.

In Hong Kong Kitty soon tires of Walter and has a short-lived affair with Charlie Townsend, an assistant colonial secretary. Walter finds out about the affair and gives Kitty two choices. She must accompany him to a cholera-infested village in inland China where he has been assigned to help treat the villagers and find a way to stem the epidemic. If she refuses, he will divorce her and expose her as an adulterer. Bitterly she accepts her fate and they travel to the village as combatants under one roof. But gradually the horrible conditions help them to lift ". . .the painted veil which those who live call life" and find a way to change and forgive each other.

The motion picture for The Painted Veil was released in 2006, starring Edward Norton as Dr. Walter Fane and Naomi Watts as Kitty Fane. Here's a brief trailer for the film so you can see how right they were to play the Fanes. I also found the cinematography of inland China just breathtaking.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Fun Monday - Pastimes

The Fun Monday topic for May 10 is "Pastimes". Our host for this week is Joangee and she wants to know what we enjoy doing for entertainment, diversion, or just plain fun. Joangee also is looking for photos of our pastimes.

Everyone needs a bit of fun and games these days, but I'll admit that being retired, which I am, makes it a lot easier to seriously pursue these pastimes. For those of you who read this blog you know that this painting represents two of my main passions--dogs and books. Last week I told you about Willie and every Tuesday I write about a current favorite read. And if there's a film based on the book, I'll share it too. Seeing a good drama, on television or the big screen, is a great pleasure also.

One pastime that I haven't written about is painting and sketching. It's not an ongoing thing like caring for dogs or reading, but I'm always interested. I read art magazines regularly, check out galleries and exhibitions on my travels, and have a drafting table and plenty of art supplies set up in my office, always ready when the mood strikes.

I've taken watercolor classes, workshops, and tours with three different teachers over the last ten years. Here's a little sampling of my work. Don't laugh now, remember it's just for fun. This painting is an example of wet on wet. The paper is really wet and then I just dropped the color onto the wet canvas, letting the paints run into each other and "bloom". Before the watercolors dried I took the end of a brush and made some cuts in the paper to represent a rather abstract landscape.

This was an early effort at watercolor landscapes--not that the later ones got any better!

Here's a still life of some apples and a wine bottle that I did as a class painting. Thought I did a pretty good job with the apples, but the wine bottle. . .

Here are two examples of pen and ink with watercolor washes. In the village scene I did the drawing first and then applied just the barest wash of color at different spots on the painting. In the sunflower painting I laid down the color first and then squiggled in the flower shape with pen and ink.

I also enjoy working with colored pencils, especially the soft Prismacolors or graphite tints, as for these fall pumpkins and bittersweet vines:
Sometimes I like creating small thumbnail sketches in pen and ink, drawing for 10 minutes every day for several weeks. When you display them together you can see what consistent practice can do:

Often a book that I enjoy will contain sketches or simple botanical illustrations. I try to copy them. In The Places in Between, this is a copy of the drawing Rory Stewart made of the great warrior dog Babur who accompanied him on his walk across Afghanistan.

So, there you have some examples of a pastime that I don't spend time on consistently, but when I do get out the watercolors, pens, pencils and brushes I enjoy that little spurt of creativity. Be sure and go over to Joangees's place to see what kind of fun all the other Fun Monday participants are getting into.

(Image credit: Rory Stewart and Babur from The Places in Between)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Book Teaser Tuesday - Eli the Good

My book selection for this week's Teaser Tuesday is set in familiar territory, eastern Kentucky where I grew up. I recognize the language, the people, and what they value as Silas House describes in Eli the Good. House himself still lives in that region and set his other award winning novels Clay's Quilt, A Parchment of Leaves, and The Coal Tattoo in the mountains of eastern Kentucky.

Mis B over at Should be Reading is host for this weekly book meme which attracts over a 100 readers each week. Playing is simple and open to all:

--Open your current read to a random page (I cheat a bit on this);
--share two "teaser" sentences from somewhere on the page, watching out for spoilers;
--give the book title, author, and perhaps a brief synopsis, so other players can decide if they want to add your selection to their TBR lists;
--post your link in the comments on Miz B's webpage and check out other players' links.

Eli the Good
by Silas House

"We were not a family who went to church much--both my parents believed that God could best be served by being the best people they could and treating everyone right and being thankful for all they had--so my guilt was not the kind that is created or fostered. I was simply made that way: a boy who cared too deeply for everything and therefore felt that any wrong in the world was partly my fault." pp. 81-2

Synopsis from the book jacket: "Girls line up on lawn chairs in pursuit of the perfect tan. Bob Seger growls from a transistor radio. And bicentennial fireworks blaze across the sky. Yet for nature-loving Eli Book, the summer that should have been the best of times is filled with terrible secrets. His beautiful, but distant, mother is caught between his father, a traumatized war veteran, and his aunt, a former war protester who has come to live with them. His beloved but wild older sister is struggling with her own painful discoveries.. And his best friend Edie, the only person with whom he can still be himself, turns inward when her parents split up. Surrounded by those he loves, watching from the sidelines while they begin to tear themselves and one another apart, Eli becomes swept up in the current of conflict and takes his first steps toward truth-telling and adulthood."

Now if this look inside Eli the Good has made you curious about either the book or the author, here's a video of House reading from the book and explaining some of the story background. The reading is accompanied by House's friend and fellow musician, Ben Sollee. House's voice takes me back to my childhood.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Fun Monday - Willie CloseUps

Our host for this week's Fun Monday, Sayre over at Sayre Smiles ,has given us a simple and totally enjoyable assignment. She wants us to share closeups of our pet(s).

Meet Willie Ray, my almost 14 year old buddy and goodwill ambassador for pit bulls. Willie has had a pretty exciting couple of weeks. He got his spring bath. Then he got introduced on Facebook. He also went to the vet for his annual exam. The vet said he was in fine form for a senior citizen--blood clear, all systems operational, only the beginnings of a cataract in one eye, waist trim and tucked from his daily walks. The only problem is that he has this pesky lump on his hip that may cause trouble. But at his age we're not going to dwell on the eventualities, just enjoy his senior years doing what he likes: hanging out, eating, sleeping, and walking.

Now, here are the results of several days stalking with the camera. Notice I didn't mention getting his photo taken as something he enjoyed. Here he is resting his head on the sofa arm, wondering when we're going for a walk:

Here's a totally functional nose that can still scout out a morsel of food at 20 paces:

These eyes are always on me. I like to think this is an affectionate stare, but have to admit that he's probably trying to hypnotize me, his servant:

Here Willie is on KP duty. He's in charge of cleaning all containers before they're pitched. He especially enjoys the yogurt ones:
And, now for the end (ahemm-mm!) of his photo exhibition. Here he is at his KP station (the living room sofa) doing a bit of clearing. He finds that he works better on two legs for this job:

Hope you've enjoyed getting up close and personal with Willie. I'll be around to check your buddies out real soon. And visit Sayre for a list of players.