carolinainmymind

can't you see the sunshine….

What happened to May?

My favorite month is almost over.  At least it is now reliably warm, sometimes HOT!  And the rain, Man! has it rained here.  Lots.  I am still without a camera but here are a few snaps of how wonderful the deck looks.

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This is how it looked about 10 days ago

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Those elephant ears have taken off.  I started the caladiums from the bulbs of last year.  Usually they don’t come back for me, but this year they did.

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Most of the plants on the  table have moved to the new garden that I started this spring.  (More about that in another post) I was tickled that the light jars made the move safely.  And check out my cool pink wine glass. (thanks Jane)  Those who knew us in Virginia might remember the blue and yellow planter boxes that I used there.  I packed and stored them.  They survived and are being used again.  My father made these for me from light weight wooden produce boxes that he probably picked up from a trash pile in Florida.  I painted them to match a table top that we had there.  If they make it through the summer I might paint them black for next year.

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Under the table, again this year, I have a nice mix of begonias and impatients.  I just have to remember to water them occasionally since they don’t get rained on too much.  I think they have filled the space nicely.

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This summer spiraea is doing well.  Can you even see the gas meter?

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All and all it has turned out to be a great space.  Guppy enjoys it too.  Now if it will ever stop raining and I can just get rid of the UGLY buses….. working on that.

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Getting Excited

I was being checked in at the doctor today.  I had overheard the conversation the receptionist had with the patient before me so I just had to continue it.  The Royal Wedding….. Yes, we are all agog here in the US about it.

The receptionist is driving from North Carolina to West Virginia to share the day with her daughter and grand daughter.  They have hats and all kinds of things to celebrate.  I have only my mugs from Kate and William’s wedding. (thanks Margaret and Howard).  I believe they will add an authentic touch.  (At 4 in the AM all the authentic touches I can find are good)  The rest of my menu is still in flux.  But I guess that I need to figure that out soon.  I had briefly considered having someone over but then realized that I would be forced to play hostess and might regret those duties so it will just be Ben and me.

I have been having a several month (starting in February)  quandary over what TV station to watch it on.  I really would like to watch it on BBC.  We don’t have cable.  I spent a lot of time exploring ways to get BBC.  Not really any.  I was hoping that PBS would be rebroadcasting the BBC feed.  Corresponded with PBS.  They were exceedingly vague.  In March there was a column in the paper about how to watch the basketball games without cable.  I decided to contact the columnist.  She had not considered the wedding as  a column topic but certainly would.  To watch the games we had gotten a subscription to Sling TV.  BBC America.  I contacted them.  They had no idea what was going to happen.

It gets closer and closer.  Promos are telling me that all the US stations will be covering it in great detail.  But I still want to see it on BBC.  Finally I catch something online that PBS is going to be showing it.  So I start poking around the local PBS station to find it.  It takes several emails to find out that here in North Carolina it is going to be shown on PBS Explorer.  No matter, even if I give them money I still can’t get the station.  Finally we are watching something on Sling (CNN maybe) and there is a promo for BBC America.  Indeed they will have full coverage.  With specials all day long, starting on Tuesday beforehand.  And as their promo says “The Only Proper Way to Watch the Wedding”

As we were talking about it, Ben pointed out that this was almost as good as ACC basketball week.  I think it is too.

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Good Eating

I will admit that I miss food in Italy.  Everytime I consider going to Lidl (grocery store) I remember that in Italy, we would plan our Lidl trip to include a stop at the edge of the parking lot for lunch at the seafood store.  Gosh, we miss their fried calamari.  I miss a nice piece of grilled meat.  I miss good, thin pizza.  I miss eating lunch at Menchetti.  I miss the clean, simple seasonal food of Tuscany.  So every now and then,  I break down and make something Italian.  And if I am going to cook that much we should have folks over.

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Italian antipasta on Chinese fish china

 

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After antipasta we had an asparagus risotto, followed by braciole

What are known as braciole in the United States are called involtini in Italy.[2][3][4] Involtini can be thin slices of beef, pork, or chicken rolled with a filling of grated cheese (usually Parmesan cheese or Pecorino Romano), sometimes egg to give consistency and some combination of additional ingredients such as bread crumbs, other cheeses, minced prosciuttoham or Italian sausagemushroomsonionsgarlicspinachpinoli (pine nuts), etc. Involtini (diminutive form of involti) means “little bundles”. Each involtino is held together by a wooden toothpick, and the dish is usually served (in various sauces: red, white, etc.) as a second course. When cooked in tomato sauce, the sauce itself is used to toss the pasta for the first course, giving a consistent taste to the whole meal

(Thanks Wikipedia)

and sausages and salad.  Finishing with olive oil cake and strawberries.  Since we had a risotto I saw no need for a pasta.  Anyway, my picture taking stopped after getting the antipasta ready.  Our friends, Debby and Pat and Jim and BK came.  I was pleased that the table worked well for 6 people.  We could even have managed 8 around it, but I don’t have 8 plates.

Anyway, all of that combined with a few left overs satisfied my Italian food desires for a while.  Although I am considering getting a small grill to use this summer.  I do miss a properly grilled steak.

 

 

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Happy Lunar New Year

I try to honor Ben’s Asian heritage as much as I honor my Italian background.  Usually we celebrate with a large Asian meal, but for some unknown reason, this year, I am stuck in the comfort food roasts and stews mode.  I’ll be over that soon and we will have a belated big Asian feast.  Until then, I know it is the year of the dog, however, here is our Chinese dragon head to send you best wishes.

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I can’t resist telling the story about how I got the dragon head…. when we were in Hong Kong in February/March of 1996 with Jim and BK I bought it at the local version of K-Mart.  (Great store, can’t remember the name but I could probably walk there if I was in Hong Kong )  Now keep in mind this was 1996 before airlines got so nasty about bringing things on planes.  Our suitcases were full with china and other treasures.  The dragon head was in a box, roughly 2 feet square.  Weighed less than 1 pound.  I was carrying it on.  It is only paper mache and could be easily crushed.  I really did not want to check it.  Well!  You would have thought I was bringing on live snakes!  Such a fuss!  The box was a little too big for the overhead bins.  What to do?  What to do…. finally an accommodating member of the crew found a place for it in the first class closet and it made it safely back to the US.  It did not travel with us to Italy but has been in storage.  Now I am happy that it is out and hanging, guarding our back door and spinning around freely when the heat or air comes on.

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Happy Valentine’s

I just finished reading As Always, Julia. The Letters of Julia Child and Avis De Voto edited by Joan Reardon.  A collection of letters between the two women.  Avis acted as a recipe tester, researcher, cheerleader and go between Julia and her publisher for Julia’s first French Cookbook.  Besides writing about food it is interesting to note how much of their correspondence was also about politics.  And how, even taken out of context, their comments could apply today.

There are a number ‘letter’ books, some fiction some nonfiction that I have read.  All of these letters got me thinking about what will be left in the future for folks to read.  Who writes letters now?  I do.  I send about 10 a month.  Two of my friends reply with letters.  But, oh my, they are definitely not as deep and serious as the exchanges that Julia and Avis had.

Anyway, back to Valentines.  Julia and Paul Child spent a large amount of time living outside the US.  Julia wrote that they could not get organized to send Christmas cards so they started sending Valentine’s cards back to friends and family in the US.  It helped that Paul was an artist and an accomplished photographer.  Still to get this card done took a good bit of planning and organization in 1954 Germany.  Besides finding a bathtub big enough to accommodate 6′ Julia, they had to have two rubber stamps made, get enough photos printed and get them in the mail before the 14th.   I had to wonder what folks of such talents could have accomplished if they were alive with today’s resources and technology.

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Our simple little photograph only required getting Jim to wait patiently while our friend BK took a picture.

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Note my cool authentic Scottish tam that John and Richard gave me.

Happy Valentine’s from Ben and Martha

 

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Catching up

I really don’t know what, if anything, I have done on our condo since I last wrote about it.  We had a very busy November and December so I took a little break from trying to get anything done.  January is January.  What can I say.  There are basketball games to watch and books to read!

My biggest push to get things done was to hang pictures.  We have a lot of things to hang.  Years and years ago (way before smart phones where everyone carries every photo they have ever taken around with them) I started taking pictures of our trips or when we got together with friends and having the good ones enlarged and printed.  I decided the best way to display them was to use plain, clear, plastic box frames.  Inexpensive, don’t add or detract from the photo and they go on sale.   And way before it was a ‘thing’ I took pictures of food.  Especially at outdoor markets.

Our condo is oriented with east and west windows through which, at various times of day, strong sunlight comes in.  Before hanging too much I wanted to observe the light patterns to avoid fading of things that will be hanging.   In October, I started on this wall outside the upstairs bedroom and bath.

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All the shelves were full of frames.  One by one the frames committed suicide by jumping off the shelf.  I use these little shelves because the holes in the back of each frame are different and I would never be able to get all the pictures straight.  I experimented with all sorts of putties and potions to help keep them attached to the wall and finally found a 3 M tape product that works.  Two weekends ago while watching basketball, I washed all the frames.  I had the tape.  Pictures in frames, all staged in rows on the bed.  Tuesday morning, the time allotted to start hanging I was all ready to start putting pictures up.  Oh no, our internet died.  My whole Tuesday morning had to be spent trying  to get that working again.  Now Ben will tell you, I can be mean as a snake when things are not going the way I planned.  Finally, I was able to get back to and finish this project.

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I am pleased with how it turned out.  It is a lot of pictures.  The uniformity of them and grouping by themes makes the display work.  Well, that is what I think.  After all of these went up, I still have 30 more.  A future post will show where they ended up.

I have also managed to finish the chandeliers for the two pendant lights over the dining table.

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These were just naked bulbs.  My parents had saved all the wooden spoons.  I found these blue and white chop sticks at one of the Asian markets.  Used a thin  piece of light colored wood veneer that I glued around a wooden embroidery hoop.  Getting the spoons and chop sticks to stay on a curved surface was the trick.  Finally, several coats of Mod-Podge did the trick.

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I am real tickled with how both of these projects turned out.  The man who rented from us most of the time we were in Italy was by the other day.  He was interested in seeing all the changes we had made.  I know the man’s taste.  He is a minimalist.   His eyes could not have been bigger.  Almost overwhelmed by all that we have in here.  But, I am pretty sure he approved of the changes we have made.

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Sleeping with sharks under the stars

The majority of the furniture that we stored for 10 years was storage pieces.  Some that I had bought and four bookcases that had been my parents.  My father had gotten the school book cases from the Louisville Public Schools.  Before I left their home, he and I refinished one and I used it as a china cabinet for many years.  The others had been in their house.  When I closed their house, I moved those three up to Virginia.  And then into storage in North Carolina.  And then out of storage.  Two went upstairs (a real treat to move up the steps) and have clothes and pictures.  Two remained down.  The former china cabinet has become my pantry.  And this one has become a Murphy Bed.

 

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Murphy bed (in North America), also called a wall bedpull down bed, or fold-down bed, is a bed that is hinged at one end to store vertically against the wall, or inside of a closet or cabinet.

History

The bed is named for William Lawrence Murphy (1876–May 23, 1957), who applied for his first patents around 1900. According to legend, he was wooing an opera singer, but living in a one-room apartment in San Francisco, and the moral code of the time frowned upon a woman entering a man’s bedroom. Murphy’s invention converted his bedroom into a parlor, enabling him to entertain.[1] Earlier foldup beds had existed, and were even available through the Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog,[2] but Murphy introduced pivot and counterbalanced designs for which he received a series of patents, including one for a “Disappearing Bed” on June 18, 1912[3] and another for a “Design for a Bed” on June 27, 1916.[4]

Murphy beds are used for space-saving purposes, much like trundle beds, and are popular where floor space is limited, such as small homes, apartments, hotels, mobile homes and college dormitories. In recent years, Murphy bed units have included options such as lighting, storage cabinets, and office components. They have seen a resurgence in popularity in the early 2010s due to the weak economy, with children moving back in with their parents and families choosing to renovate homes rather than purchasing larger ones.[5]

In 1989, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that the term “Murphy Bed” had entered common usage so thoroughly that it was no longer eligible for trademark protection.[6]

Designs and models

Most Murphy beds do not have box springs. Instead, the mattress usually lies on a wood platform or wire mesh and is held in place so as not to sag when in a closed position. The mattress is attached to the bed frame, often with elastic straps to hold the mattress in position when the unit is folded upright. Piston-lifts or torsion springs make modern Murphy beds easy to lower and raise.

Since the first model several other variations and designs have been created, including: sideways-mounted Murphy beds, Murphy bunk beds, and solutions that include other functions. Murphy beds with tables or desks that fold down when the bed is folded up are popular, and there are also models with sofas[7] and shelving solutions.[8]

Hazards

When attempting to pull a Murphy bed down from the wall, if not installed properly, it is possible that it could collapse on the operator. In 1982, a drunk man suffocated inside a closed Murphy bed,[9] and two women were entrapped and suffocated by an improperly installed wall bed in 2005.[10]

In popular culture

Murphy beds were a common setup for comic scenes in early cinema, including in silent films. Among the films which use Murphy beds as comic props are Charlie Chaplin‘s 1916 One AM, several Three Stooges shorts, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, the James Bond film You Only Live TwiceMel Brooks‘s Silent MovieThe Pink Panther Strikes AgainThe Great Muppet Caper, and in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

It’s also used as a gag in the Tintin album Red Rackham’s Treasure, when Professor Calculus unknowingly activates a Murphy bed while Thompson and Thomson are sitting on it.

In the popular PC video games The Sims 2 and The Sims 3, Murphy beds have the potential to kill playable characters, an allusion to the hazards of pulling them down.

 

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Pantry on the right, Wayne who made the Murphy Bed in the center and the Murphy Bed on the left on the day Wayne delivered it.  Wayne owns The Master’s Craftsman.  We decided on a Murphy Bed to make the ground floor look a little less like a bedroom and to give us more floor space when it is folded up.  I am really tickled that I found Wayne on Craig’s List and that he was willing and able to do the work.  And that he listened, understood what I wanted and did it.  Many times when you are a small woman your ideas or desires can be ignored or poo pooed by workmen.  Wayne did not do that at all!

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It took a while, but I got it painted.  Found a cabinet that fits between the two and now holds cook books.

Wayne was excited about   using an existing cabinet to make a bed.  Normally he makes these beds from scratch with woods that the client picks.  He is a true craftsman.  Notice how he carefully kept the original handle and lock and key.  Inside, he reused the wood from the shelves to make the head board and the frame to attach the bed to.  I like the original wood and choose not to paint it.

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After a few nights of sleeping in it I realized I could have stars!  So when Wayne was back a few days later to deliver our table (more about the table in another post) he drilled the holes that I wanted in the top.

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Can you see the Big Dipper?  They twinkle too.  Sooo cool!

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Today I put on my shark sheets.  (Southern Tide brand at Belks.  Very soft and a great shade of blue).  So I’m sleeping under the stars with the sharks and tickled pink!

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Getting Ready for Fall

Well I finally got my bed.  I had a Murphy bed made out of one of the old school book cabinets that my parents had.  There were 4 and I kept all of them.  Somehow, years ago, I knew I would need good storage.  Two are painted white and are upstairs crammed full (mostly of things that came from my parents’ house) and two are down, one is my pantry, the other now a Murphy bed.  I am very pleased with it.  More about that later

 

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Wayne, the bed maker from The Master’s Craftsman click here if you want to see his site

In between the two cabinets I found a kitchen cabinet at Restore (the Habitat for Humanity outlet) that holds cookbooks.  Today I have been painting (as my father would say) a hunk of wood, faux stone, to be the counter top for it.  I certainly channeled my inner Richard for that.  Tuesday the 31st , Wayne will bring back my island base and a table top for it.  Finally!  I will be almost ready to declare the downstairs more or less finished.  We can have folks over for dinner!  What fun!

 

But of course the ice maker remains but a dream.  It worked for 2 weeks and then started over flowing, making an iceberg.  After a few weeks the distributor replaced the fridge.  That icemaker worked for 3 maybe 4 weeks and then started doing the same thing.  That was July.  Various fixes have been offered including a full refund, replacement of the same again, or a different fridge (stuck out 4” more) or wait to see if manufacture can come up with a fix.  We have tried several fixes and are now waiting on a new different idea…..

Anyway the outstanding planter on the edge of the deck is a big success.  Remember this is what it looked like in the Spring when it was first planted

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So nice and orderly

And now.  Before I begin  to move a few plants that just didn’t do well in the shade and the ones that need to be wintered over

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Finally I got the whole jungle thing going on.  Now if we could just get rid of the UGLY school buses.  But that is next year’s battle.   Our friends Jim and BK will be happy to know that I have pulled out the asparagus ferns and they are just waiting for them to come pick them up and take them to their winter home in their basement.  Just kidding!  Jim and BK were good friends to care for that fern for 10 years and keep it alive.  I divided in the spring and small bits of it will be wintering in Ben’s shower.

Still warm here and dry.  The HOA’s crack gardening staff spread grass seed on the day that one of the hurricanes was supposed to hit us.  It didn’t.  We got about 5 tablespoons of rain.  For 2 weeks I watered the grass seed.  But the gardening staff kept coming back mowing and raking leaves and blowing them away.  And all the grass seed too.  So I gave up.  We have a very bare patch on both sides of the walk to our door.  I found a grass seed patch package that has a papery mulch, seed and fertilizer.  I put that down, barricaded the area off to keep the crack gardening staff and their machines AWAY and we almost have grass.  I have also been working on taming the giant patch of cannas that was out front.  Found a nice clump of day lillies that had been over whelmed by the cannas.  And I have some daffodil bulbs to be planted.  So we are busy busy here.

 

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Another food post

I don’t write as many of those as I used to, do I?  ‘Toto, I guess we aren’t in Italy anymore.’  We don’t get out that much and American food is just not that special.  A few weeks ago we did meet Jim and BK in Creedmoor for Mexican food.  ( click here if you want to see their site)  El Corral.  It was, as always, excellent.  I’m sorry that I didn’t take a picture.  When we used to come back for visits we always tried our best to stop by here since the food is good.  And it still is.

Anyway, we are still trying to find our pizza of choice.

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The box on the right is a brand that we used to get at the Esselunga in Italy.  The contents are on the left of the board.  I have to dress it up for Ben by adding more ham and cheese.  The box to the left and the pizza to the right of the board is Harris-Teeter’s brand.  It would have been excellent except for the American tendency to gild the lily and take dishes one step too far!  The zesty sauce!  What is wrong with good, simple ingredients?  Good cheese.  Good tomato sauce. Simple crust.  No need for some overly garlicy/basil sauce.  None of the take out that we have tried is acceptable.  The hunt continues.

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My tomatoes are just about finished but the green beans have started to come in.  Last night there were enough to make an Asian style dish, Gingered Pork with Green Beans and Carrots.   It was very tasty.

We are still shopping at the Harris-Teeter.  Ground has not even been broken on the Wegmans yet.  Every now  and then I venture into Trader Joes.  Now that we have a car that is not an oven on wheels we might try to get up to the Lidl in Wake Forest more often.  Our friends Jim and BK like Sprouts.  We have still not been to it, although Ben is keen to go.  (Ben is keen to go many places but he is not the one who has to load and unload his wheel chair and all his paraphernalia.  Our trips have to be tied into other errands or appointments)

I did catch on that I can order deli items online and then just pick them up at the Harris-Teeter without standing in line.  And I make our grocery list online too.  If I had a whoop de doo phone I could just have it on my phone.  Still old school, I print it out.

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I also find that while shopping I need to remind myself that the Harris-Teeter is only a few blocks and that I don’t need to over buy.  I have found that we are throwing away more food (spoiled) than I would like.  No exciting food here.  And I know we are very lucky to be in this position to be able to whine about boring food….

 

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What are you reading?

Growing up I always loved summer because I could read what ever I wanted and as long as I wanted.  And many is the night that I stayed awake half the night finishing a book.  The joy of doing that, but oh how awful you feel the next morning….

I know I recently posted about the two series that I am reading this summer.  To my dismay, I discovered that my library doesn’t have all of the series.  (Yes, thank you, I know how to order up books from other branches and have them sent to my branch.  I am talking about the library as a whole)  So either I need to fill in by reading some of them online or buying some (HORRORS!)  Anyway, while waiting to figure that out I decided to expand from the two series that I was reading.  So I have added The Irish Country series by Patrick Taylor and Effie Leland Wilder’s three books about aging in a retirement community.

The Irish Country series takes place after WWII (maybe the 50s) in a small Northern Irish town and centers around the new doctor in town and his settling in.  It is 15 books. That should keep me amused for a while.  I have been to Ireland, but not Northern Ireland, and I certainly understand being an outsider and small town life after living in rural Italy for 10 years.  This is not some great work of literature but an entertainment.

I have also read Amazing Place,  What North Carolina Means to Writers  (edited by Marianne Gingher) a collection of observations by North Carolina writers about how living in North Carolina has  influenced them.  From more than one writer I agreed with the idea of how important it is to write in and preserve the language of North Carolina.  And how maddening it is to read an article written by someone who does not know the area and portrays the entire state as full of hicks and rednecks.

(Which brings me off on another branch, I have made the acquaintance of a brother and sister whom I speak with regularly.  And I have a friend who would turn up her nose about me chatting with these folks because ‘they sound country!’.  (I can tell, that growing up, her Momma instilled in her using proper English and not sounding like you are from the sticks beyond.) Anyway, I delight in being back in North Carolina and having conversations like the ones I have with these folks.  And if you put aside some of the words that they use, you can hear a lot of college level vocabulary used correctly.  Even though I don’t think either one of them went to college. Conversations like these are one of the things I enjoy most about being back in the US and especially in North Carolina.  I can over hear (and 99% of the time no one cares if you join in the conversation) great stories and comments and truly appreciate all of what is said and the little nuances of the words.  Keep in mind that after 10 years in Italy I was just getting to the place where this happened.  Anyway I have digressed)

So I have come to the conclusion that what I really like about the Miss Julia series, (by Ann B Ross, the one that is helping me find my repressed, not so gentile, Southern lady) the Deborah Knott series, (by Margaret Maron) and the three books by Effie Leland Wilder is the telling of a story and the use of dialect when appropriate.

Now off on another tangent…the telling of a story, especially for comic effect.  One year when my Momma was still alive, Ben and I were driving from Virginia to Florida to see her.  From the Vienna, Virginia library we always got several books on tape to pass the time.  The Margaret Maron, Deborah Knott series was agreeable to both of us, so that is what we were listening to.  Hawthorn, the black and white dog was in the back.  (I haven’t written much about Hawthorn, a good ole boy dog, he died 11 months before we moved to Italy and before I started my blogs.)  He was a very good traveler and always went with us to Florida while Siena went to the ‘spa’ in Leesburg.  He never minded wearing a seatbelt, would happily settled himself down in the backseat.  The only time we would hear from him was when we went through the Hardees or BoJangles Drive thru.  That big paw would come forward and smack down on the console between Ben and I.  Just to remind us that he was back there and ‘oh, make sure to get me a butter biscuit.’  So we are driving down the road listening to a mystery about North Carolina and the reader was at the part where one of Judge Knott’s nephews was deer hunting and came upon a deer lying in the road.  Now he already had a deer or something in the back of his truck.  So he proceeds to put this small road kill deer in the front seat with him.  And goes on down the road.  Well, the deer wakes up!  At this point, Ben and I are laughing.  I hit the pause button.  The language, the way the scene was set up, the reader’s voice.  It was all too much.  We are laughing so hard.  Tears are coming down my face.  I rewind and we listen to it again.  Laughing away.  Well, that was just too much for Hawthorn!  HUMPFH! was the sigh from Hawthorn as he got up, gave us the death stare and then resettled himself in the back seat.  Ben and I did our ‘ohhhh, we disturbed the dog’s nap’ routine which caused a raised eyebrow from him before calm returned to the car.

All this leads to, the ability of these three women to tell a good story and lead you up to the place where you at least chuckle if not have a prolonged bout of laughter.  The best comic parts of the Miss Julia books are complicated.  You have to have read the whole book and catch all the nuances and know the Miss Julia character.  The same with Margaret Maron’s books.  A lot of Effie Leland Wilder’s three books are just entertaining but probably only to someone in my age group or older except for this one short chapter in the second book, Over What Hill?.  I will just say that it involves a constipated donkey, a French horn and an Intracoastal waterway bridge.  Recently, well after midnight I read that chapter and started laughing out loud.  Ben wanted to hear it, so I composed myself as best I could and read it aloud to him.  Now I am laughing, Ben is laughing and I am wondering what our neighbors on each side must think.  But, I know what Hawthorn would do….

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Hawthorn and I in the early 2000s.

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