Sunday, February 27, 2011

Spring Meets Winter

The Camellias are still blooming profusely and they are used to being the only show in town throughout much of the winter.

One of the oldest on the driveway (var. Mathotiana if I remember) is so laden with blooms that it looks like a carpet of red on the ground around it.  

Since December, these garden workhorses have been blooming away while the rest of the garden is mostly slacking off!

But sometimes there's a bit of overlap when spring bursts out just before the camellias have decided to pack it in until next year.  

And when that happens..... what a riot of color!!

The dark purplish-pink blooms of the Oriental or Japanese Magnolias (on the left) are striking, but
the particular tree (I've only got one) that I'll miss the most when we move is the beautiful Magnolia Stellata or "Star Magnolia" (var. Dr. Merrill) that's behind the Camellia in the top photo and on the right in the photo just above.  

It's a deciduous magnolia and the blooms can get zapped by a late freeze some years, but when the frosts stay away in late February, beautiful Dr. Merrill is covered with the most lovely pale pink blooms that you'd ever want to see.  It lights up the entire driveway for 10-14 days.  

It's been slowly growing now for about 20 years and, as far as Magnolia Stellatas go, it's positively huge.  

 Unlike the Orientals or the big evergreen Grandiflora Magnolias, each 6-8" blossom is soft and just a little floppy.  

Beautiful from afar and even more striking when you take the time to go up close... they even have a little bit of scent.... perfect!!  

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Dueling Xterra's?

It's Feb Break for Clark, so he came home to give his mother a hug.... oh yes and also to get his new car!  

No more old gray truck,  leaky Land Rover or geriatric Tahoe for the soon to be college graduate!

In a fit of father/son bonding, they moved their cars into the parking bay, brought me the camera and requested that I take a photo and put them on the blog!  So I'm happily obliging.  

Then they decided that competing SUVs wasn't enough so they would bring in "their" pets for the photo-op's final shots.  

Would you rather ride with the trusty "tried and true" team in the charcoal model or the flashy young pair in the ruby red edition?   

They said the matching blue shirts weren't done on purpose, but it is a cute touch!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Do German Shepherds Shed?

Yesterday, I noticed the little telltale tufts of hair that were poking out just a little along Atta's rear flanks and near her tail. 

Yes, Atta has decided that it's springtime and time to get rid of the winter coat.

To anyone who may wonder whether German Shepherds shed, 

here are a few snapshots after about 5 minutes with the rake and Furminator.

Even Mr. Biggs looked on in awe!  

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.... and Linwood?

The February meeting of the Zachary Book Group was held Wednesday at Jo Ann's lovely home Linwood.

Linwood will be familiar to anyone who has read A Confederate Girl's Diary by Sarah Morgan Dawson.

Sarah probably would have been a blogger in today's world since she kept a diary for over 3 years from 1862-1865.  She stayed at Linwood for months while she and her family were fleeing the battles in Baton Rouge.  Danger followed them to Linwood too, but a back injury after falling from a horse forced them to remain at Linwood while the battles at nearby Port Hudson were ongoing.

I'll fess up that I've never actually read the diary (though the excerpts I've read are fascinating) and will make an effort to remedy that this year.  I'm hanging my head in shame!

Linwood is about 4 miles from our house and can't be seen from the road.  After about a mile drive down a gravel road, you come to the home as it is today......
It's a comfortable, welcoming house on the interior.... very "livable" and a place to call "home".

Photo from Documenting the American South:
University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

But back in Sarah's day, it was out in the open.  I imagine that there were agricultural fields all around the house.

I'd have been petrified of the cannon fire and roaming troops.

Definitely an easy target!

Continuing with our 2011 focus on children's classics, this month's book for the Zachary group was Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and there is an unusual connection with being at Linwood and learning about Lewis Carroll, so read on......

My memories of Alice from childhood were that it was a long book, but to my middle aged mind, it was an easy afternoon's read.  

I was disillusioned as a child reader of Alice because I was told (or read) that there was a lot more to it than met the eye and that it wasn't "just" a children's story. Supposedly the Queen represented a British Queen; the Rabbit was meant to be some political entity; the cards were symobolic of something etc.... This was too much for my grade school brain, and consequently I eyed my hardback copy of Alice combined with Through the Looking Glass with a bit of awe and dread and always felt that it was too much book for me since I didn't understand any of the allusions and hidden meanings.

Alice with the Dodo
I'm vindicated now, after learning this week that Charles Dodgson (pen name Lewis Carroll) was adamant that it was strictly a children's story and had no deep meaning at all.... just entertainment.  So there!

Disjointed and fantastical, and no need for me to do a plot summary since we've been exposed to Alice so much that even if you haven't read it, you know about falling down rabbit holes, "Off with their heads," following white rabbits, and growing bigger or smaller by eating mushrooms and drinking magic elixirs.

Dodgson was a mathematical genius who was employed at Christ Church college as a math tutor/teacher until his death, never married,  an Anglican deacon, photographer

 ...... and here's the bit of trivia for the day.....

He had a severe stammer. 

 Dodgson/Carroll gave his characters names or personas based on the children in the boat, friends etc and Dodgson wrote himself into Alice as the character of the Dodo since when speaking his name he often wound up introducing himself as "Charles Do-do-do-do-dogson. 

As Paul Harvey would have said, "And now you know the rest of the story."

But not quite all the story.... here's the coincidence factor that I realized as a result of researching today's blog.....

On July 3, 1862 Sarah Morgan wrote these words, "Another day of sickening suspense. This evening, about three, came the rumor that there was to be an attack on the town to-night, or early in the morning, and we had best be prepared for anything".  She and her family were about to flee Baton Rouge and head for Linwood.

While Sarah was selecting her possessions to pack for their exodus, Charles Dodgson aka Lewis Carroll and a friend were languidly rowing 5 miles up the River Thames from Oxford with the Dean of Christ Church's three young daughters.  Ah, the difference that a few thousand miles can make..... On July 4, 1862 in Louisiana, Sarah Morgan was worrying about her family being blown to smithereens while over in England, Charles Dodgson/Lewis Carroll was taking a pleasure outing with friends.

As they rowed along, Dodgson/Carroll told the three little girls a story and later one of the children (Alice Liddell) asked Dodgson to write it all down.  Three years later in 1865, Carroll's work would be published as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland while Sarah's words would be published posthumously by her son as A Confederate Girls' Diary in 1913.  Radically different views of the same world on the same day both producing works of literature.

And 150 years later, I spent the morning learning about Lewis Carroll at Linwood......funny how the world works.

* 02/25/11 postcript:  Jo Ann sent me the following note about the old photograph of Linwood. 
"...the picture of Linwood was probably taken between 1904-12.  Dated by the addition of the gable.  When Sara lived here there were actually 100s of trees--many Linwood trees-- all were blown down during a severe hurricane in the early 1900s.  If you've ever been to the Rural Life Museum (Baton Rouge) and toured the grounds you have a good picture of what Linwood looked like--cabins, school, 3 churches, blacksmith ship, etc.  It was like a small village.  The huge sugarhouse stood in existing front pasture."   Thanks, Jo Ann!!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Step Two.....

Smiles all around.... we've got our final set of house plans!!!  

Our architect Kevin Harris and his assistants (Cheryl and Michael) are smiling because they finally get rid of us.  

We're smiling because now we move on to Step Two of How to Build a House in 4 Years or More which involves finding out how much it will cost to build the house that we've all designed.  

We may not breathe until we see some numbers that give us hope that we haven't designed the Taj Mahal on a Double-Wide budget.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Such Romance...

No flowers or lace trimmed cards.... we ate our Valentines this morning!  

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Two Books....Manfiction and X-rated Ancient Greek

The Promise of Light by Paul Watkins made its way to my "To-Be-Read" stack via the West Feliciana Parish Library book sale.  I bought it for .25 cents a couple of years ago!  The author was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for his first novel and won an award for novel #2, so I hoped that the quarter might be a safe investment!
Set in 1921, the book centers around US citizen and recent college grad Ben Sheridan.  So far his New England upbringing has been an ordinary one, and he has just landed his first post college job in a Rhode Island bank.  But in  Chapter Two, Ben gives his father an emergency direct blood transfusion.... and it kills him (the father that is) which is a pretty dramatic way to bring to light the secret that Ben is not the son of the Irish immigrants who raised him.

Pretty soon he's off for Ireland to try and learn just whohis parents really are and he lands (literally) in the middle of the ongoing violence between the newly formed IRA and the British troops.  He gets swept up in the bloodshed and it's all realistically captured:  the hatred, confusion and distrust.

Since this is simplest book I've read for a while, it was a pleasure to zip along and not have to think about deep meanings, look up references etc.  Coming on the heels of Vanity Fair and The Road, it paled; however, as an escape/beach/airline book it was top rate reading.  Not "Chick Lit"..... the opposite in fact:  the term is apparently "Manfiction."   But "Manfiction" or not, I did enjoy it and it was .25 cents well spent!

Part Two:  Thank goodness I got a library copy and didn't bother buying Aristophanes' Lysistrata  which was the January read for the St. Francisville group.  It's basically a smutty play from 411 BC; those Greeks were quite a bawdy crowd!

If all that survived from our century was a few scripts from Comedy Central and Saturday Night Live, and 2500 years later people were studying these remnants from the past, would future generations analyze the skits and try and make the case that this was America's finest literature?

In a nutshell, the Greeks have been fighting the Peloponnesian Wars for 21 years.  Exasperated with the state of things, Lysistrata (apparently a single woman) convinces the women of Greece's various warring city states withhold sex from their husbands until a treaty of peace is signed.  The men (and women) quickly become miserable and in due time a peace is concluded with everyone is relieved and free to copulate again.  It had a comedy skit feel to it and was crazily raunchy.

There was a small crowd at book group and discussion was a little lacking..... in my opinion there just wasn't much to debate and it was a stretch to try and find a lot of meaning etc in the play.

It's nice to know the plot and refresh my memory of what was happening in Greece, but I wish I hadn't spent several hours reading it;  knowing just the brief summary of the plot would have been fine.   Yes, it was ancient, but great literature.... I think not.

 ~~My standard book review disclaimer:  I'm not writing reviews 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. 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Not exactly like Grandma's car.....

Grandma used to have a black Cadillac just like this one.... well sort of just like it!!!!

Wouldn't that be at trip if this really was her old car from the 70's?!!!!

Precarious, unstable, hazardous, and crazy were all terms that came to mind when we saw this cruising at 70 mph down the Interstate.

The photos were taken from our 1 ton dually and we looked liked a dwarf next to it.  

The guy driving was waaaay back in his lowered seat so I don't think he ever would have noticed if he ran right over an unsuspecting Mini!  

Just thought I'd share!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Finally a fire in the fireplace....

When I did the big cleaning before we put the house on the market, in addition to clearing out the fireplace ashes, I took the doors off the fireplace and cleaned the glass until it glittered on both sides.

We've only had sporadic cold spells and somehow I just couldn't see getting things dirty.... don't know why I was being so anal about the whole not wanting to risk the house having a smoky smell etc. "just in case" we had a looker.

Well I finally reached my limit on fireplace deprivation.  I enjoy the simple act of laying the wood to build a fire.  I love the smell of the smoke, the crackling sounds and the glow in the room.  I don't care if it sucks every bit of heat from the rest of the house.    

So yesterday when it was in the 20's and damp and sleety.......

Just my luck, we'll have a looker and then one of those rare downdrafts where the den will smell like smoke for a few hours.... oh well.... too bad!

No word from the people that the realtor expected to put in an offer.  It's been several weeks, so I guess that's kaput.  Yesterday we got a call from the architect and we can't meet for about another 10 days thanks to conflicts with both of our schedules, but the end is in sight and we were given a computer link to what they've got so far on the final schematics.

Back to the fire..... it wasn't long before someone who is 15 years and 1 day old asked to have his bed moved closer ......

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Mr. Biggs is FIFTEEN!!!!

To say that we love this little dog is a massive understatement.

Asher, I know that he's really yours but I know I speak for everyone in the family that we ALL love him!  I

I'm glad that you can't have him at your apartment in NYC.... what would we do without him!

Here's a video taken two days ago of his morning paper run, proving that even old, gray, and partly deaf dogs can be spry and useful!!

He's still a jaunty fellow!  Fifteen, can you believe it?!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Yesterday was a beautiful day in the 70's with the sun shining.... so wandered around outside taking photos  of the Camellias.  I'll lose some blooms this week since the temperature is dropping and it will be in the 20's tonight!

Crazy Louisiana weather!

Of the nine varieties that we have growing on the place, six are blooming at the moment.  What a beautiful plant and so special to be flowering when everything else is dead or dormant.

I've tried to do some research to see whether Camellias can be grown in Rockbridge County but I've found conflicting opinions.

Apparently some garden whizzes in the area such as Thomas Jefferson have been successful, but for the rest of us average folk (without slaves or garden help) they can be finicky and tricky.... which probably means that I'd better find another winter blooming plant to love!