Saturday, January 29, 2011

Is Louisiana on the Cutting Edge?

For the last couple of years, I've marveled at these signs near Sportsman's One Stop directing you back down a dead end road where Coons and Musk are purportedly sold. I've often thought, "Who would drive down that little road and actually buy a dead raccoon?"

At certain times of the year, extra little neon colored "step-in" signs appear at the corner as if to say, "We're supplementing the signs because we've really got a LOT of coons this week!"

So yesterday on my way to buy dog food at Greco's,  I was daydreaming and missed the turn for Airline Highway that would have led me through Baton Rouge's "normal" moderately dicey areas.  I then had to exit the Interstate at N. 22nd Street and wander around for a few minutes in a part of town where perky little blue Bernard the Mini was wildly out of place among the Buicks with massive rims.

In about a half mile stretch, I passed two... that's TWO.... men selling raccoons from ice chests in the backs of their pickup trucks.  Now I'm all fine with buying shrimp from ice chests on the side of the road, in fact that's where you'll probably find the freshest shrimp.  Strawberries, satsumas, sweet potatoes and Tyler roses are all pretty standard side of the road fare.  But raccoons?!

Are we on the cutting edge of something here in Louisiana, or is everyone across America being besieged by raccoon sellers?  Have coon purveyors set up umbrellas at Fisherman's Wharf?  Are they muscling in on the hot dog and pretzel sellers in Manhattan?   Will I find coon for sale on Rt 11 in Lexington?

For the curious among us, this begs many questions.  How are these raccoons caught?  From my memories of Where the Red Fern Grows, it takes an awfully long time to track down one single raccoon.  Are there so many raccoons in our area that you can catch enough to keep up with the demand?  Or are they "farmed"?  How exactly do you cook a raccoon?  Are they frozen or fresh in those ice chests?  Whole or in pieces?  How much do they cost?  If they're dirt cheap then can somebody make enough money selling raccoon meat to make it worthwhile?

I really, really, really wanted to pull over and see what exactly was inside of the ice chests (do they really leave a paw on to verify that it isn't a cat?), but I'll wait until I'm driving the truck and look a little more like I might just possibly buy one.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Dramatic Home News!

No, we didn't sell the house or even get an offer.... scale back the expectations a little!

We took a leap of faith.  One day the house WILL sell; plans will be in our hands; equipment will arrive at the land and begin to excavate for a foundation..... so we rented a house in Lexington!!

Sight unseen but the pictures looked nice and the storage sounds perfect!

As soon as we get the paperwork, we'll be signing a 15 month lease starting March 1st and going up with a Penske truck full of everything from upstairs and enough from the kitchen etc to make it comfortable.

We haven't been renters since we were newlyweds!

Shrimp Burgers!!

I charged the battery and had the camera lying* on the island all night long.

Operative word.... ALL night long.  I forgot to take a single picture!  :(

We had John, Sue, Brian and Sharon over for dinner last night; the meal was light and easy enough that I didn't feel stuffed or worn out with making it a huge production.  My goal was to have a slightly nicer than normal weeknight dinner, relax and visit.

We had a simple light appetizer:  Apple Slices topped with Goat Cheese and a sprinkling of ground Pistachios.  New "recipe" and I'll do it again.

Found this photo of  buns from last year...
 I miss my pink tile! :(
Dinner was Shrimp Burgers with Homemade Buns.... Thanks to Mrs. Zojirushi (the bread machine) the buns are simple and spectacularly good, worth the 5 minutes to put the ingredients in the bucket and 10 minutes of shaping the dough.

This was the second time to make the Shrimp Burgers and I've gotten the amount of shrimp adjusted so the recipe is just right now and a keeper.

Sides were Mixed Greens with Feta and Red Grapes that had a Lemon/Olive Oil Vinaigrette (another idea from the Whole Foods app) and Oven Roasted Sweet Potato Salad (with cayenne/lemon/toasted sesame seeds....) served warm or at room temperature, I found the recipe last year and it gets compliments everytime I make it.

Dessert was comfort food! Individual bowls of Banana Pudding with Baked Meringue on top; another tried and true recipe.  Though it's all from scratch (NO I don't make the vanilla wafers!) it doesn't take much work .... easy!!

Anybody want a recipe?

*Clark and Raeanna, note my proper use of "lying".... I actually had to think about it!!  Is anyone else lay/lie challenged?  I've been informed by the aforementioned couple that telling dogs to "Lay down" is incorrect, but I've ordered too many dogs around over the years to change.  

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Reminder

Just a little reminder of what we're aiming for.... the truck is about in the center of the den.  I've taken to calling it "our flat house"  meaning that is only in one dimensional and on paper.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Another Book Finished!

The New Year's resolution is fully intact....I finished Cormac McCarthy's The Road last week.  Awesome book and I'm sorry that I put off the reading of it for so long.

I believe that Carter gave it to Joe as a Christmas gift last year.  The forbidding black cover hinted at the dark subject matter within and I knew the general plot:  father and son wandering across the country after some sort of apocalyptic event causes earth's near destruction.  I wasn't in a hurry to read something that, no matter how critically acclaimed, I thought would be gloomy.

There's not much chance of forgetting many of the details.  Character names:  the man and the boy.  Even I can't forget that!   Setting.... somewhere on the east coast of the US.  The two try to stay alive as they move toward the south and warmer climate pushing a shopping cart and huddling beneath a plastic tarp in a barren landscape, virtually alone except for a few maurading bands of people who have lost all sense of morality.

It will seem strange to say that a book involving a struggle to live, cannibalism and the loss of all natural beauty on earth was NOT depressing, but it wasn't.  Yes, it was bleak and occasionally horrific but also lyrical, engaging, strangely hopeful and very, very very memorable.

The man and the boy talk about "carrying the flame"... a symbol of the possibility of reigniting the good that might be found somewhere still and a reminder to themselves that they are the "good guys".  The motivation of the human spirit to rise above the grimmest of circumstances and and continue on with life reminded me of Slavomir Rawicz' The Long Walk.  Knowing that each day may only prolong your agony, what drives someone to get up every morning and press forward in the midst of decay and pain?  Hope.

Apparently the critics knew what they were doing when they gave it the 2007 Pulitzer!

Here's my stack of "To Be Read" books waiting for me on the oak side table.  I culled the downstairs bookshelves of the fiction books that I haven't read and came up with nine titles that will save me from spending money at the bookstore.  They range from classics to thrillers; between these and the book group reads, I've got enough to keep me busy for a while.

~~~My standard book review disclaimer:  I'm not writing this for anybody's benefit other than my own.  I'd love it if you see a book that strikes your fancy but I've no pretense of being a literature expert....this type of post falls into the journal aspect of the blog.  Nothing house or family oriented here.... just a book report to help me remember the details of what I've read. 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Good Week for Cooking

Part of the original intent of the blog was to do some food posts and they have been pretty sparse.... ok almost nonexistent!  So I wouldn't blame anyone for wondering if the Papa John's pizza delivery truck was a constant fixture at the house or we had our own personal table at the Mag.

There have been a few periods in recent months where the concept of not building a kitchen in the new house makes some financial sense considering how often we were eating out.  However tempting it is, taking the 100K+ that the new kitchen will add to the total cost for the new house and using it to pay for meals at Lexington's restaurants probably wouldn't be the best for resale value.  

So this week, I've been on a cooking binge.  In the last few days we've had Cobb Sandwiches, Thai Pork Salad with Broccoli Slaw, Shrimp Tacos (in soft corn tortillas), and this afternoon's delicious Italian Sausage and Spinach Calzones.....

Yesterday morning we had a breakfast fit for Kings (or a Queen).... a Puffed German Pancake with Fresh Pears.  Made with whole wheat flour and absolutely delicious.

Since this is all about sharing, here is the recipe.  I found it on my Whole Foods App.  My blender bit the dust so I made it with the hand beater. It did take longer to bake and set up in the center than the 25 minutes called for in the recipe.  I drizzled each serving with just a little bit of maple syrup and sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Following is the recipe as it is online, but I cut it in half and cooked it in my small All-Clad Skillet.  Perfect size for two!

Enjoy!  And let me know if you try it!

From Whole Foods Online
Serve this big, delightfully puffy pancake right from the skillet, or transfer it to a platter by running a knife around the edges and then loosening the bottom with a spatula before sliding the pancake onto a platter.  Serves 4


2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 large eggs
1 cup reduced fat milk
2 tablespoons cane sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 Bartlett pears, cored and thinly sliced
2 teaspoons powdered sugar (optional)


Preheat oven to 425°F. Place butter in a large (11- or 12-inch) cast iron or ovenproof skillet and heat in the oven until butter is melted, about 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a blender, combine eggs, milk, cane sugar, cinnamon and salt. Blend until smooth. Add flour and blend again. Remove skillet from oven, swirl butter to coat the bottom and sides of the pan, and pour in the batter. Top with pears and bake until the pancake is puffed and browned and pears are tender, 18 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and cut into wedges for serving. 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Kitchen Help

Lucky me!  I have live entertainment while doing the dishes!  

A goldfinch has been pecking at the window and perching in the camellia on the left side of the bank of windows.  He/She is quite persistent at trying to make its mirror image go away and isn't at all bothered by my standing at the sink.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Musical Cars

It's not unusual for us to play musical cars!

When Clark mentioned that the Tahoe had a hiccup at Christmas and didn't want to start moving after being shifted into Drive, visions of a new transmission ($$$) floated through Joe's brain and visions of Clark being stranded on the side of I-81 floated through my head.

As a result of these parental forebodings, Clark returned to Lexington after the Christmas holidays driving Joe's 5 month old Xterra and Joe once again became the proud driver of every middle aged man's dream:  his old white Tahoe with almost 200,000 miles.

But we'll be reclaiming the gray Xterra soon!

  The Tahoe was used for a trade-in and look what we found for Clark's early birthday/graduation/"we're glad you're our son" present.......

A spiffy new RED Xterra!

We're breaking in the engine by driving it a little until Clark can claim it in February.... a hard job but somebody has to do it!

Since Clark has always driven the oldest of the cars in the fleet, this is quite the change for him.  Good thing that he's having a little time with the gray Xterra so that he can break out of his white Tahoe persona gradually!

Weekend in the Country

Last weekend was the Third Annual Ladies Reunion Get Together at Carol B's beautiful camp.... 

Bluff at the creek
There were 8 of us there for the three day weekend:  four friends from my high school class and four from the year ahead of us.

It's a rare treat to get to spend a three day weekend discussing "life" with other women, and I'm so grateful to Carol for coming up with the idea of the mini-reunion and for being such a relaxed and gracious hostess.  We laughed and talked, got and gave advice, shared photos, and enjoyed being away from day to day demands.

Bend in the creek

I realize that I can be guilty of gushing over how great Lexington is and how excited we are about moving to Virginia so it's always nice to remind myself that there are still places in Louisiana with beauty and natural areas that are well managed.   ...... not to mention good friends!
Even when we went out for a walk, the talking didn't stop for a second!

I wonder if I was the only one who had a hoarse voice from talking so much over three days!

Carol's friend Don was kind enough to come and give us help and direction with skeet shooting  The man is a Saint..... patient to the max!!  I was using the "elephant gun" as Carol called it and so that helped my percentage of hits!  My shoulder was just barely sore from the kick, but my arms were killing me the next day from lifting the weight of the gun!  Obviously I'm horribly out of shape!

I'm hopeful that I can come back next year for Reunion #4.... it'll be an easy trip if we're still here or a long journey if we're in Virginia but I've marked it on my calendar!  

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Anxious..... can I do this?

News Flash!!!

We had another showing this afternoon.  The couple who had looked in early December came back for a second showing.... I just gave the realtor a few more facts about what we pay for monthly expenses.  Supposedly they are thinking of putting in an offer.

Since I've always pictured a young family taking over the house again, it's bizarre to think that someone 20 years older than us is considering buying it!

I don't know if I can express how tense I am about this..... I'd feel a lot better if we had our plans and if we had gotten an estimate from our builder of choice.

I feel like I'm abandoning ship and switching to the dinghy when I'm still not in sight of land.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Vanity Fair.... No not the Magazine

~~~Following is my book review disclaimer:  I'm not writing this for anybody's benefit other than my own.  No pretense of being a literature expert....this type of post falls into the journal aspect of the blog.  Nothing personal or family oriented here.... just a book report.
     I've found that a few weeks after finishing a book, I often forget key elements of the plot, what the final resolution was and sometimes have even lost the gist of the entire outline.  Was that book set in World War I or II?  Was that the one where everybody died or the one where they all lived happily ever after?  By creating a post about most of the books I'm reading I hope it will help me to remember the details of the book later or at least I'll be able to hit search and then say .... 'Oh yeah, I remember that book'!~~~

My first book of 2011 was Vanity Fair written in 1847 by William M. Thackeray.  Sadly my only prior knowledge of Vanity Fair is the magazine, so it came as a surprise that the term has derogatory connotations as a name for an imaginary place where vanities rule and superficial fair-goers live shallow lives of pretense.  Not exactly what I'd think of as a a positive name for a magazine.

Not required for one of my reading groups, this one was my choice.  I "won" the book on an ebay as a leather bound Easton Press version and have had it lingering around for the past year.  I cracked into it and expected to have a "serious" British novel, somewhere along the lines of Brideshead Revisited and Madame Bovary.

Set in the early 1800's, the novel begins at a girls boarding school (Chiswick) where two of the young ladies have completed their education and are leaving.  Amelia is the favored, wealthy, kind, quiet girl about to return to her family's home in London.  Becky is poor and orphaned and leaving to take a job as a governess; she has been at the school only as a charity case and is not well liked or understood though she's pretty and has plenty of brains.

The book is living up to my preconceptions of being a "serious" tome until the moment that the girls drive away together in a coach from the boarding school.  Amelia (the wealthy one) has received the cherished standard Dictionary as a parting gift from the headmistress.   Becky wasn't seen as worthy enough to receive the gift but the sister of the headmistress takes the liberty of bestowing the gift upon the young lady at the last moment by running out to the carriage with the book.  Moments later, my vision what type of book I was reading changes; as the carriage begins to depart, Becky tosses the Dictionary out on the lawn and declares, "So much for the Dictionary and Thank God, I'm out of Chiswick."

Wait!  It's going to be Peyton Place set in 1815!  It's as much satire, parody and comedy as it is drama.... a parody with a moral warning not to get too swept away at 'Vanity Fair.'

So begins the tale of these two.... think Scarlett and Melanie from Gone With The Wind.  Becky/Scarlett goes from one scandal to the next and is a social climber to the Nth degree.  Amelia/Melanie is so naive, gentle and sweet that I wanted to give her a slap in the face.

It's a satirical and a withering take on how the wealthy use and abuse their power and the shallowness of "manners" and social graces.  People are rejected or accepted based on their bank account status or family ties.  The titled are allowed to skate out on their debts just because of their family name and wealth can bring overnight status to those lacking in family connections.  Not much has changed over the years!

Becky climbs the social ladder with dogged determination; acquiring money and mingling with the uppercrust her aim in life.  Though she loses her claims at social status along with her husband, child and money when an affair with a titled Lord goes awry, she's unrepentant.  She thrives on the material pleasures of life:  clothes, men, drinking, gambling.... you name it.  She's the poster child for lousy mothers.  Meanwhile, her schoolmate Amelia gets married and spends most of the book as a poverty stricken widow doting on her son and memorializing her dead louse of a husband.

In the end, it appears that Thackeray will wrap it all up neatly.  Long suffering Dobbin (aka Ashley Wilkes) finally gets to marry Amelia (Melanie) and Becky (Scarlett) has gotten her much desired fortune (probably illegally and by committing murder, but who cares!).  In a little twist, the final short paragraphs turn the whole happy ending on its ear... Becky has apparently become pious and charitable and there are hints that Amelia hasn't really found the love that she has always pined for.....

The final sentence:

"Ah! Vanitas Vanitatum! Which of us is happy in this world? Which of us has his desire? or, having it, is satisfied?" —Vanity Fair

All  is not as it seems in the superficial world of Vanity Fair.

I wouldn't call it riveting but neither was I bored.  I was genuinely wanted to find out what was going to happen next to the characters plus gossipy tone made it actually fun to read.... that's saying something for a book that's over 150 years old.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What's Happening With the Move.... or not happening.

~~~ After finishing this post, I see that it's a lot of "almosts."  So if you're in a hurry and don't want to read, here's the synopsis:  we almost have plans; we are almost are ready to rent a Virginia house; we are almost ready to fire our realtor....~~

This month is test of either looking at the glass as half full or half empty.....

The house plans are still only partially finished; we had assumed that we would have a completed set of construction documents in our hand by January 1st at the absolute latest.  At one point it had seemed possible to have the plans by July or August.  Can you say 'naive'?

On the other hand, the imaginary walls are no longer moving and it does seem that the end is in sight with only decisions to be made that can "easily" be changed on the fly once construction is closer to beginning.

How in the world did we do the plans for this house in six weeks!  Six weeks!  Using a photo from a magazine for exterior wrap around porch detail, graph paper and a draftsman that we paid $800!!  We were both 28 years old, had 2.5 kids, and no internet.  I can't imagine.

Given the glacial pace of architectural progress, hesitant as I am to throw around the term "blessing," it really is a blessing that the house hasn't sold yet.  So as depressing as it is to have had only 6 showings, if the house had sold in the summer and we were living in a rental for the past fall and winter and still without any house plans in January, we'd be pretty frazzled.  That's an understatement, we'd be depressed, aggravated, testy and anxious.

 So the time frame although slower than either of us had ever imagined is working out just fine.  If I keep saying that maybe I'll believe it!

I won't let myself think of the once seemingly realistic scenario where the plans were completed in July, the house here sold in August,  we broke ground in September and actually had WALLS in Virginia right now.  OK I'll think about it just a little.

The contract with our realtor expires in February and over yesterdays morning coffee in bed, we discussed whether to renew or find another realtor.  There are positives to both courses of action.  The communication from our realtor has been pretty nonexistent.  We don't blame her for the market, but it doesn't take much to send us updates.  And yes, we've asked.... repeatedly..... for weekly updates on what she's doing.  But the million dollar (or half million dollar) question is what other realtor is a better choice?

We're giving serious thought to finding a Virginia rental by mid March since we are hoping that we'll be breaking ground by April 1st whether we've sold here or not.  Joe is more interested in the initial construction; once I see that it's in the right spot on the land, I could be content with not being there until after the walls and roof were up.

Problems in the shape of a German Shepherd, a Jack Russell Terrier and a tabby cat make it a little hard to jet back and forth between houses.   So we'd probably have to divide and conquer and live largely apart for a few months in order to keep from piling the miles on the cars.

So that's where we are with the move..... still here and still hoping.

.... odds and ends.... Dinner last night with Tim/Ada and Matt/Suzanne.  I've been working in the gardens for the past couple of days .... pruning, raking and weeding.  Now it's bitterly cold though.... damp and windy too.  20's  forecast for the next couple of nights.  Breakfast at the Birdman yesterday with a nice long visit with several St Francisvillians.   Errands in Baton Rouge tomorrow.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Squirrels-0 Grace-6

If you have to be deported, West Feliciana Parish is a nice place to live........

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Dick Russell.... I can't believe he's gone...

Photo from Dick's website
Dick Russell, friend and dog trainer died on Thursday.  I regret that I didn't know he was ill.  I was in one of those phases without a young dog and not "needing" Dick.... I had temporarily drifted out of his life for the past couple of years.

I imagine that it was normal for people to float in and out of Dick's life.  Get a new pup and then you'd be back in his sphere.  He'd greet you as though it was just yesterday even if you'd not seen him in years.

I've been disturbed by the fact that I didn't know that he had cancer, though apparently he kept it fairly quiet and true to "normal" Dick Russell style he was doing things his way until close to the end.  Though he was 20 years my senior, he felt like a contemporary.... or maybe even younger than me.... what a zeal for life he possessed.

He was so amazingly generous and I'm not sure I gave him back enough in return for what I took over the years.  He gave away his time and talent both literally and figuratively.  His lifelong guarantee of training for a dog based on a single payment for a beginner class; his refusal to take payment from people who were old friends (for Atta's classes I had to resort to bringing him homebaked bread and desserts since he refused my money yet again); his no fee policy for rescue or pound dogs; his free large group socialization classes on Saturday mornings; free home visits... the list goes on.  He never asked for anything after that initial small charge for beginner obedience classes.

Back in the 80's and early 90's when I was "into" the obedience and tracking, Dick was part of my weekly life.  Loading up Nanny the Bernese Mountain Dog in the Suburban and going to Baton Rouge for Wednesday night training classes was a part of my sanity prescription for surviving 3 children under the age of 4.

After a couple of obedience titles on our dogs (and a Championship for Nanny), several of us got the harebrained scheme to teach our dogs to track.  Between the three of us crazy ladies, we had 8 young children and I was pregnant with Clark.  We had to twist Dick's arm to take any money, but we paid him a small pittance as a flat fee to meet with us once a week and check on our progress.  You'd have thought we were all beauty queens in the way that Dick flirted and shelled out the continual compliments and offers of romantic liaisons should any of us decide to ditch our husbands.  We knew it was all tongue in cheek (hmmmmm?), but still it made us feel good and didn't we have fun together!

One of my favorite memories of Dick was when we were out in a field one morning.  It was uncommonly hot for April and Clark was due any day.  Vein problems had me wearing stockings, so I couldn't stand the extra heat of wearing jeans.  So there I was 9 months pregnant and wearing rubber boots and a huge maternity jumper, leaning back against the tracking line as Nanny drug me across the fields following a trail that Dick had walked several hours earlier.  As we tracked, he would follow from a distance and shout out hints and advice.  That particular day he bellowed out, "Good God Grace, you look like a ship under sail out there!"   Only Dick could make that statement and have it sound like sort of a compliment that we would laugh about for years.

~~~We were a justifiably proud group here in early 1990 holding the gloves that our dogs found at the end of their tracking tests.  We managed to get slots at the same tracking trial and all three dogs passed.  Nanny (left) had previously gotten her Tracking Dog (TD) title at a test in Fort Worth so this was our second test... just for fun), Gita (Rottweiller) passed her advanced level TDX and Chuckie (Cocker Spaniel) earned his TD title that day.
Dick had come to watch us and cheer us on.... I'll cherish the memory of that day.... "Mom" jeans and all!! ~~~ 

Dick encouraged me to teach obedience classes in Zachary and was insistent that I freely use his program.... no cut or fee, no hesitation on his part:  just go ahead and use his system of training, copy all of his handouts, hard work and expertise.

I paid for Nanny's beginner classes and gave him that small tracking coach fee.  Then at no charge there was Carter who went through classes with Aravis, Asher with Mr. Biggs, Sammy, Mercy, Atta, advanced classes for probably 5 years with Nanny, advanced classes with Mercy and for a couple of years I taught classes based entirely on Dick's weekly handouts.... all at no more charge.  That's the sort of person he was.  He gave and gave and never asked for anything from anyone except for friendship in return.  How many of us can say we are that generous with out talents and knowledge?  Very few.  

Here's a link to a recent article about Dick in 225 Magazine .  I hope that people realize what a treasure we've lost in Baton Rouge.  Dick had gained world recognition in the past 10 years, but he didn't let that change him.

Selfishly I wish I could see his wry smile again, get a hug and answer his standard question that he would ask when I hadn't seen him for a while:  "Are you and Joe still married? ... Because if not....."  Then he'd laugh and say "Just got to try!"  But more than anything, I wish I could have had the chance to tell him what an impact he had on my life and how many memories I have of the good times.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Beautiful Sunset

I stepped out on the front porch the other day just in time to see this spectacular sunset.  Vibrant pinks and purples were blazing for almost 180 degrees.  Within about 5 minutes it had faded from jaw-dropping beauty to "just" a really pretty sunset so I'm glad that I was able to see it.

When we lived on the highway and had an unobstructed westerly view, the evening sunsets over the lake were regularly showy and colorful.  With the Virginia house having the views oriented to the west, we've got the possibility for some good sunset watching from the back porch.  ..... you know the back porch that isn't built yet!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Wildlife around the House

Although Atta has been barking regularly to let me know that she sees and hears deer,  I'm not seeing much of them.  It could be that since the pasture grass has dwindled down to microscopic levels and Sarge has pretty much vacuumed up all of the acorns, they've got better food supplies in the woods on the other side of the fence.

Squirrels however have returned like a plague to be the thorn in my side.  They've taken over the garden shed in even higher numbers than in previous years.  A trip out there to get a rake last week had SIX of them scrambling around and threatening to drop on my head in their frenzy to get in between the walls. Six!!!  I can't tell you how much this creeps me out when I open the door!  They're so unpredictable and chaotic that I have a mental vision of one falling on top of me.

So the rooftop cage has been set up again, and over the past 10 days I've increased the squirrel population on the north side of Thompson's Creek by three new emigrants.  Any PETA members should stop reading since my fourth captive got caught on a cold night during a thunderstorm and didn't live to repopulate West Feliciana Parish the next morning.

Heres a snapshot taken of one squirrel in the trap and another posing next to the concrete statue on the fence.

We have several beautiful hawk pairs that seem to be living year round with us, but this particular one isn't bothered by much of anything.  For weeks now we've been seeing him almost daily either on the front board fence or in one of the trees of the front pasture.   

Here he (or she?) is hanging out in the crape myrtle by the front porch and parking bay.  

Hopefully it's getting enough mice, frogs etc and so it won't try to carry away a 10 lb Jack Russell terrier.

Mr. Biggs was the loser two years ago when his attempted abduction by a hawk led to stitches, drains and muscle damage.  Biggs isn't able to identify the culprit but this bird is definitely large and fearless enough to be a prime suspect.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

New Years Resolves

No hard and fast "rules" or things I "mustn't" do this year,  just an attempt to do two things a little more regularly.

I took the time to add up my books read during the past year and can't decide if I should think that my total was great, okay or dreadful.  As best as I can remember they were:
  • Antigone (Sophocles) StFran
  • Bottchan (Saseki) StFran
  • Brideshead Revisited (Waugh) StFran
  • Bridge over the River (Boulle) Kwai ZRG
  • Crossing to Safety (Stegner) My Choice
  • Don Quixote (Cervantes) StFran
  • Gilead (Robinson) My Choice
  • The Help (Stockett) My Choice
  • Home (Robinson) My Choice
  • Midaq Alley (Mahfouz) St Fran
  • The Moviegoer (Percy) StFran
  • The Penderwick's  (Birdsall) ZRG
  • Portrait of Dorian Gray (Wilde) My Choice
  • Prince and the Pauper (Twain) ZRG
  • Richard III  (Shakespeare) StFran
  • River Poems (Various Poets) ZRG
  • Watch on the Rhine  (Hellman) ZRG
  • Where the Music Was (East) My Choice
  • Witch at Blackbird Pond (Speare) ZRG
  • Year of Wonders (Brooks) My Choice

The stats are a little sad:  I read 20 books.... not bad, but not stunning considering that one was a grouping of poetry and two were children's books (the Zachary group is doing children's this year so I have an excuse!)  I'll pat myself on the back though over Don Quixote which was over 1,000 pages and yet I'll sheepishly admit that I listened to portions of it on audio while I was driving.  

The telling part of this is that I only read seven books of my own choosing... and most of those in the last two months of the year.  

So Resolve #1 is to read, read, Read, READ and READ..... So many books, so little time, as the saying goes!

For Resolve #2,  I'll be having friends over for meals more often than I did last year.  The first half of 2010, I used the excuse of having sheetrock dust and wallpaper debris everywhere while we used every available minute of free time getting the house prepped to go on the market.  Then I just sort of coasted along from May through December seeing friends at restaurants and hosting only an occasional  dinners here at the house. 

I probably should have taken on losing weight, giving up sugar, walking, learning yoga, drinking more water or taking daily vitamins but steeling myself up for a grueling year of reading, cooking and visiting sounded like not only a more attainable goal but a lot more fun.  

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Back to the Blog

It's been over two weeks since I've blogged about what we've been up to and honestly I'm having a hard time getting back into it.  I've got to break the ice somehow and so here a few highlights.....

Christmas Eve service at church was beautiful and moving.  Memories of the boys when they were younger and thoughts of former church members no longer alive made me pensive at moments and I tried to soak in the emotions and glory knowing that more than likely it would be the last time that I sat in the pew singing Christmas carols and saying the familiar prayers of the Christmas Eve Eucharist.

Santa pulled off a few surprises and tried to walk the line of financially cutting back but not causing withdrawal when compared to previous years of excess.  Lots of thought went into the gifts exchanged by the brothers on Christmas morning and it's fun to see what they've chosen to give.  Christmas dinner went off without a hitch and even was on time at a waaaay earlier hour than normal to get Clark out the door and on his way to his ski trip by early afternoon.

The day after Christmas was a bit of a letdown.  Airline woes, boredom, and expectations set too high (mine) contributed to some testy moments.   For part of the day before calling a truce and going to a movie, things disintegrated into an unhumorous blend of the Griswolds and the Fockers.   Not easy to accept when for a month you've been preparing for the arrival of the Waltons!

After the family rescattered across the country, we had our usual pleasant New Years with neighbors.  Additional friends and neighbors join us but for 25 years we've celebrated the New Year's Eve with the same core group of three couples as our constant.  We've gone to restaurants, done potlucks and changed it up from year to year, but always ending at someone's house for the final hours.  It's a perfect end to the year and I'll miss it when we move.... I hope that eventually we have such dear friends in Virginia.

When we toasted and hugged at midnight December 31, 2009 I was confident that it would be our final New Years Eve in Louisiana and yet we're still here 12 months later with a stagnant real estate market situation and no ground broken for the new house.  No moping around though!  This is a great time of year to be in Louisiana and our friends are priceless.

So here are a few photos from Christmas morning.....

A beautiful tree as usual!  
Santa finishing up his work.... in candy cane socks!  

Checking out the Santa gifts
Dropped off from the sleigh 14 years ago!