Welcome reader to my blog - a mixture of this and that. Now that we are living in a retirement community in downtown Columbia, MD my personal gardening activities are somewhat curtailed. I still enjoy visiting gardens, reading, watching wildlife on my walks, traveling, and occasional food commentary. Please leave a comment if you feel inspired to do so. I read every one of them.

Monday, February 28, 2011

"Gold Boy, Emerald Girl" by Yiyun Li

This book caught my eye on the new book shelf at the library. It's a selection of short stories for current day China written by a Chinese woman who had emigrated to the US as an adult. Her stories are quite a snapshot of China now with a hint of what life was like during different periods preceding the present.

My favorite story was "Prison" about a Chinese couple living in the US with their daughter. The story opens after the death of the daughter in an accident. Since they are in their 40s they decide to go back to China and hire a woman to be the surrogate mother for their embryo. Apparently this is illegal in China but they manage it. The husband returns to the US to continue working while the wife remains behind to monitor the surrogate mother.

I don't want to give too much of the story away but I will say this I feel it ends very abruptly. In fact all her stories tend to end before you want them to. In that way they are like snapshots, just a fragment of time and its up to the reader to decide what comes next. It was an interesting diversion from Shakespeare and the long novels I've been reading.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Shakespeare Reading Challenge - First Reading

For my niece's Shakespeare Reading Challenge I challenged myself to read 4 plays. My first attempt was the Merchant of Venice but I had to give up on that one. Next I went to Othello and did manage to read it (mostly). Here's my take on that one.

First I think it was incredible that Shakespeare dealt with racial prejudice at that time. It really surprised me. Othello if you aren't familiar with the play is an African Moor who is a well decorated general held in high regard. He marries Desdemona over the objections of her father. His subordinate Iago is rife with prejudice and plots to bring down Othello and break up his marriage. He is successful in the latter only because he sways Othello into thinking his wife is unfaithful so he kills his wife in unfounded jealousy. When he learns of Iago trickery he kills himself rather than face life without Desdemona.

As I think back over this play I wonder though if Shakespeare wasn't also prejudiced. After all he portrayed Othello as weak enough to fall for the falsehoods whispered by Iago when in my mind I don't believe his character should have. If he was this brilliant general, he would have verified his information before acting. It was not as if he couldn't go to the source and speak to Desdemona about the allegations.

When I say I read it mostly, I got to a point where I needed to learn the ending. Then I read back from the ending. I know that's a strange way to read a book but it worked for me with this play.

I haven't selected my next play. I have time since I'm doing one a quarter. Any recommendations?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Rainy Friday

The rainwater off the scupper is filling the pond. Can you see the ice underneath?

Birds have been devouring the suet. I put two blocks out on Tuesday and this is all that remains. They don't go through it this fast in the dead of winter. I wonder if something else is getting to it unseen in the night. Raccoons?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Pond Work


Here is the pond yesterday.

Here is the pond today. Notice the difference? Yes, the cat tails are cut down. I can only do this when the pond is frozen and I thought with the warm up last week I had missed my window of opportunity. Well, its frozen solid again and covered so after I filled the bird feeders I cut off the cat tails then decided to cut the rest of the stalks as close as I could. Some of the leaves are frozen into the pond so it's not as cleaned up as I'd like it to be. It will have to do.

As a bit of background, this pond is supposed to be a rain garden. When it was graded the plan was that water coming off the roof from the scupper would go into it and soak into the ground. After the first rainfall, a down pour, it filled up and became a pond. Cat tails found their way there. Frogs found their way there so I've treated it as a pond ever since. Eventually the silt may increase to a point that it is a rain garden but for now the gold fish have multiplied and the frogs keep returning, and the cat tails need to be kept to a reasonable size.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sunday Visitor

This doe has made it a habit of late to stop by this one bird feeder to munch on some sunflower seeds. Food is scarce in the woods and fields, I guess. She had her two yearling offsprings with her but they scooted before I could get them on camera.

She didn't know quite what to make of me. She couldn't hear me but she could see me through my window.

My presence stopped her from eating then she ambled down the hill behind her into the glen.

There are some new shoots of skunk cabbage just showing down in the creek in the glen but I don't think that's on her list of likes. I will be spraying with Liquid Fence very soon as the shoots of the likes start showing. She will bypass my gardens when she gets a whiff of that scent and her yearlings will learn to do the same.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

GBBC

The Great Backyard Bird Count is happening right now. It's easy. Just be sure to spend at least 15 minutes counting birds in your yard and submit them on line.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday's Feat - Banish the Snow!

And the snow is just about gone from the perennial garden. Yeah!

The pond is going to be visible any day now.

One day lily near a wall is showing green. Don't let the deer see that. They are so hungry they visit the bird feeder to eat sunflower seeds.

All the raised beds are clear of snow and ...

the lettuce and spinach from the fall wintered over and will be growing very soon.

Is it too much to hope that we will have an early spring?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Will Winter Ever Release Her Grasp?

This week our temperatures are to be above normal - into the 60ºs by week's end. My perennial and pond gardens are still firmly in winter's grasp as of today. I am going to track the disappearance of the snow each day so that hopefully by Friday the gardens will be revealed and ready for spring. Well, I can hope, can't I?


Saturday, February 5, 2011

A Novel of Family, Medicine and Ethiopia

"Cutting for Stone" by Abraham Verghese was recommended to me by a friend in Cincinnati (though she's still reading it). It is a very long book and as I began it I wasn't sure I was going to like it. Well, it's one of those books that grows on you. There are a considerable number of characters and the author makes sure you understand them before getting on with the main story. There's Sister Mary Joseph Praise - an Indian nun serving in Ethiopia, though that's not where she originally sets out for. And Thomas Stone - an English doctor who also ends up at a hospital in Addis Abba. Dr. Kalpana Hemlatha (called Hema) is a gynecologist from Madras, India and Dr. Abhi Ghosh (called Ghosh) is an internist also from Madras, both of whom end up at the Missing Hospital where Stone and Sister Mary find themselves. The author tells their background stories as the birth of twin boys takes place - the children of Sister Mary Joseph Praise and Thomas Stone. You never find out what Sister Mary thinks of this because she dies as her sons are removed by C - section. As for their father, he is stunned and disappears from their lives immediately. Hema and Ghosh marry and raise the twins as their own. The rest of the book is the saga of their lives as told by one of the twins, Marion.

By reading this book I learned about Ethiopia and the political turmoil there in the 60s and 70s. I learned about medicine, diseases, and the human anatomy - both twins go on to be doctors following in Hema's and Ghosh's footsteps. The author is a doctor and writes accurately I'm sure as he describes procedures and ailments.

Finally this novel is of family. The one created once the twins are taken by Hema as her own. By Ghosh as he marries Hema and becomes their father. It extends to their servants like Rosina, their nanny and her daughter Genet who is raised like a sister to the twins. There's Matron, the head of the Missing Hospital who is like a grandmother and Gebrew the gatekeeper and priest and Almaz, the cook, who are like an uncle and aunt. Though no one is related by blood they are a family nevertheless.

Do you wonder what happened to Thomas Stone? He does reappear, but I can't tell you more than that.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

My Loft

Since I've been retired I've been enjoying the loft above our mechanical room especially in the winter time when it's toasty warm. I like sitting there in the afternoon to read and nap.

The idea came to me that I could put a work desk up there and move my sewing machine there or use the space for other crafts - away from the computer! Originally the plan was to build a desk but when we searched for the studs we decided it would be simpler to buy something. Ikea had the perfect set up.

Here's a tour. First, I climb to the loft on alternating tread stairs - more like a sloped ladder but very easy once you get used to it. The stairs start in the laundry room, the garage door is to the right there with my magnet collection.
Once at the top there's a door immediately to the right that goes into the attic. It's to the left in the picture below but not pictured.

At the top of the stairs is a comfy chair, small lamp table, and a footstool (which needs a better fitting pillow).

To the right is this cabinet moved here to make room for the desk. Mostly it stores blow up mattresses which we use in this loft for over flow sleeping beds.

To the right again is this alcove that the desk fits into perfectly. The drawers are on casters and can be rolled out if I need to.

This is the view when I sit in the chair to read. I look out over the front door and beyond into the woods.

I know I will enjoy this space for many years to come.
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