carolinainmymind

can't you see the sunshine….

Basketball, Basketball, Basketball

How I love watching ACC basketball….  We spend several week nights watching.  A big part of Saturday and then again on Sunday.

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And sometimes the games overlap so that I have to watch one on TV and one on my laptop.

Actually one of the best things about moving back to the US.  Now I am wondering if I will ever be able to see an ACC basketball game in virtual reality?

 

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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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Oh Marie,

Regular readers might remember last winter when we first arrived in the US, I went to a thrift shop in Ocean City, NJ and bought a few second hand books to amuse my self with until I could get to my favorite Wake County Public library, Cameron Village.  One of the books I bought was written by the clean up expert, Marie Kondo.    And you might remember that I have written about My Ben and his NEED to keep every thing.  I mean EVERY THING!

So I opened a tote this week and there were the books I had bought in OCNJ.  Some I have read, like Marie Kondo’s book and some I have not read.  I made two stacks, resolving that I have to finish the unread ones before I can get more books from any of the series that I am reading.  And since we just really don’t have room for stacks of books, the completed books need to find a new home.

My Ben and I have been going to a City of Raleigh ‘Active Adults’ center for an exercise class and a music therapy class.  In the lobby of the center is a basket of books that folks bring in to give away.  So I decided to drop off our books.  Today, we arrived for our class.   I got Ben in his wheel chair, put the books in his lap, wheeled him in and went back out to move the car.  Coming back in, Ben immediately says in what passes for his hurt/indignant/angry voice, “Why didn’t you let me see this book?” gesturing with the Marie Kondo book.  I took a step back, fearing that the Gods of Order, Disorder or Irony, any or all of them, might shoot down a bolt of lightning.   It really took a good bit of self control not to fall over laughing or lash out with some sarcasm.  I just smiled and said if you want to keep it that’s fine and removed the other books to the basket as quickly as I could.

So now Marie Kondo has made it back in to our condo.  Beside Ben’s chair where his library book has been sitting for several weeks now.  I’ll give her a few more weeks and then try to slip her out again.  She is just going to have to do her part and fall open to a page that says “PASS ME ALONG TO SOMEONE ELSE!”

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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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