Five Minute Friday

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I have been reading a wonderful blog called The Gypsy Mama. Every Friday she does a really cool thing--she gives you a writing prompt and tells you to go at it for 5 minutes. No hesitation, no editing. Just GO for 5 minutes. I think this sounds like a wonderful idea, so I'll be trying it out over the next few weeks.

Today's prompt is: HOME.




Home,home, home. So many sayings, so many memories.

I've been going through boxes of pictures. And I means big old honking boxes of pictures. They were Mom's and she just saved EVERYTHING. But I've been most interested in trying to look *into* the photos. To see what my childhood home looked like. See if I could remember what it felt like, smelled like, tasted like. It's almost like peering around the corner of the pictures and stepping into that world again.

I remember my childhood home's kitchen. The push buttons on the stove. The washer and dryer running. The piles of papers everywhere because not one of us ever learned how to clean as we went.

Evaporative air conditioning, so that it was only cool if you sat right under the vent. One telephone with a LOOOOOOOOONG cord that reached into the bedrooms. The piano in the living room that everbody ran their fingers along as they walked out the door. First boyfriends who sat on the couch and watched TV with us and shyly pecked me on the cheek on the porch when they left.

Oh, home. And all that it means.......



What does home mean to you?

Booking Through Thursday

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Today's real question on BTT is about e-books, and I am still cogitating about them, even though I have, and love, my Nook. That's for another post. Since we haven't done a BTT entry in, like, forever, I decided to take an earlier week's question:

Do you ever feel like you're in a reading rut? That you don't read enough variety? That you need to branch out, spread your literary wings and explore other genres, flavors, styles?

Yes. Oh, yes, yes, yes, yes. That's why I'm always listening for what other people are enjoying that they are reading. I have a younger friend who is into fantasy in a big way, and it's not a genre that I've ever been particularly drawn to--other than, say, Lord of the Rings or Narnia, if those count as fantasy.

When she put a fantasy novel in my hands and said, "Want to try this? I really liked it." I was tempted to say no. But she is such a dear, and we really share a lot of the same perspectives on things (albeit mine are more staid and OLD!). So I took a flyer on it and completely enjoyed the book.

I still don't read fantasy. But a good book is a good book, and I'm happy that someone opened my eyes to something that was out of my box.

What about YOU? Read anything I should be reading lately???

Music for Your Monday


Just something to get your heart pounding this rainy North Texas morning. We went to see The Chieftains when they were in Dallas and has an amazing and glorious time. But look who all has played with the Chieftains!

First, I love me some Earl Scruggs. And banjo!

And Allison Krause sings Molly Ban:


Emmylou Harris sings Lambs on the Green Hills:

But we'll end with Cindy by the Chieftains and Ricky Skaggs:

Happy Monday, ya'll!

Whatcha Reading? Wednesday


Well, it's been awhile since I did one of these reading updates. Since I cannot go back to the last one and bore you with everything I've read since then---oh, ok, I could, but I won't--I'll just give a quick update of the few latest things I've read.

Mike and Psmith in the City by P.G. Wodehouse. These are the first two books in the Psmith series. Mike is basically a book about the English school experience of two young men, the Mike of the title and Psmith, the "p" being silent in this case. It is about cricket, too, and I had to go read the rules of cricket (and watch some cricket on YouTube--isn't the internet amazing?) to really get into the book, but once I did, it was quite amusing. Mike's father falls upon hard times, so in the second book, he has to go to work at the bank instead of going on to University. Psmith follows and carries things along in his very, um, unique style. You run into evil bosses, socialist soapbox orators, and all kinds of cricket players.

Wodehouse is probably an acquired taste that not everyone has. He once remarked that there were only 2 ways to write: as if everything mattered or as if nothing mattered, and he chose the second. I find him immensely funny and refreshing. I've got two more in the Psmith series on my Nook and I'll be popping into them over the summer.

Besides the widely acclaimed Jeeves novels, Wodehouse also wrote a series about the inhabitants of Blandings Castle with one of his funniest characters--The Efficient Baxter. One of the scenes in the first Blandings book had me laughing so hard I nearly cried. Priceless, and highly recommended.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. I am not normally a reader of fantasy literature. I don't know why, it is just a genre that I never read much in, beyond, say, The Lord of the Rings. A young friend of mine gave me this book to read, one she thought was extremely well done. I cracked it open with more than a little trepidation. I really dislike it when someone gives me a book that they loved and I think, "Huh, wonder what the big deal is about this?"

That wasn't the case with this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and was amazed that it was actually a first novel. It is very long--probably too long--but it is a page turner and keeps you interested in what will happen to the characters.

It is the story of Kvothe--a hero of some sort--told in his own words to a Chronicler. So we only learn the pieces of his life a little at a time. Kvothe is the son of traveling troupers, used to performing and singing and moving about from place to place. Kvothe's parents, indeed his whole troupe, are killed by mysterious demon-like bad guys--the Chandrian--who are more than the stuff of myths and songs. Kvothe finds his way into the University after some years living alone on the streets. There he begins refining his great intellect, making friends and enemies, and falling in love.

But we don't know much at the end of 800 pages, and that's where I find fault with the author. He is genius for making a world up that we believe in. He has a main character that I care about. But he has meandered through 900 pages, and his hero is 16 or so. We still don't know how he becomes a hero and what terrible things happen to him to put him in the place he is now. Plus, after luxuriating along for hundreds of pages, the ending to this book seems tacked on and abrupt.

But it was good. Good enough to make me want to read the second book. Good enough for me to pick up some different fantasy works and try them out. So I recommend, with a few reservations.

And finally, because it is obviously my nature to be an eclectic reader:

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. I don't know how I missed these novels as a girl. Lord knows I read plenty in the same genre. But I picked the first couple of books in the series up at the last used book sale. After the long haul of Lent and Holy Week, I wanted something young, fresh, hopeful to read. The story of the orphan Anne Shirley and her adoption by the old brother and sister, Matthew and Marilla was just the tonic I was looking at. Anne is always falling into trouble, but she has a good heart and an exceedingly good outlook on life. I would have loved this book as a 10 year old, and I love it now as a grownup.

Mega thumbs up on this one. I'm on to Anne of Avonlea next.

How 'bout ya'll?

The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything


Just finished reading this book, by Fr James Martin, SJ. He's the same guy that wrote My Life With the Saints, which I read very profitably a year or two ago. When I saw this one at Half Price Books, I had to pick it up.

This book is a discussion of Ignatian spirituality and its application to life--and not just those who decide to become Jesuits! (Thank goodness, since I am not about to become a Jesuit. I think my husband would object.)

Fr. Martin writes clearly and lucidly on the subject, with anecdotes that give examples of what he is talking about. He has a gift for using his personal life to illustrate points that I find very charming and useful. He certainly doesn't hold himself up as a paragon of virtue or the greatest living Jesuit, or anything like that. He just lays out some basic principles and discusses how to use them in various situations.

I found the parts on living simply interesting, since that is an area that tugs at my heart as I contemplate the mass of possessions and STUFF by which I am surrounded. I was also quite taken by his discussion of decision making. And I was smacked down by the insight that (to paraphrase Fr Martin): No decision, even the right one, will come with no downside or faults.

Sounds obvious, no? But it is not ever obvious to ME. In trying to come to a decision, I find myself vacillating, "How can this be the right decision, when I can see that this could happen, or this, or this....."

Anyway, Fr. Martin is doing his level best to redeem the Jesuits in my eyes and in my thinking.

I recommend this book.

Over on Amazon, there is a blog called Al Dente all about food and cooking gadgets and the like. The discussion for the past couple of days has been about the "eat on $7 a day" challenge. It is based on the maximum amount a person would receive in food stamps per day.

In fact, as published on that blog later, the amount really comes to $7 for one person, $12 for 2, $18 for 3, or $22 for 4. And there are some weird restrictions. You can't use anything you already own, except for salt and pepper.

OK, even though I think that "only salt and pepper" thing is stupid, I'll buy the premise for a moment. But then I did some quick math. $7 for one person is $49 a week. It's $210 per month. For two people it is $84 per week, $360 per month. For the four person level, it's $154 a week, $660 per month.

Folks, I know LOTS of people (many, many young couples with kiddos) who are spending far less than that and getting by.

I will grant you that if you have 6 kids (assuming that $22 per day is the max--is it? I don't know) that you would run into trouble. It's expensive to feed those mouths. And if a bunch of them are teenagers? Even more!

But the fact remains that we want to eat at a level far beyond what is necessary. My sister and I have repeated discussions about this. We grew up in homes where basically the same 7-10 dishes were served repeatedly (roasted chicken 2x a month, meatloaf 2x a month, spaghetti 2x a month, etc, etc, etc.). Now we want more variety, more food, more FUN!

I'm not saying that's wrong. But I AM saying that we have strayed from any understanding of what *basic* cooking/living really is. We have added luxuries unknown to even our own mothers' generation and begun to think them necesseties.

Look, the DH and I really do live on a budget only $40 a month different from the one given in the blog. Our line in the sand budget is $100 per week. And that includes soap, toilet paper, dog food, cleaning supplies--you know, everything you normally buy at the grocery store. Plus I regularly feed extra folks--the grandgirl is here for lunch every day, random people come to eat with us all the time. Eating out goes in there, too. Same budget.

I suspect the people who look at those numbers and cannot believe anyone could eat on a number "as paltry as that" have one of two issues:

1. They never cook at home. Eating out is expensive. Buying steak at the grocery (on sale! I never buy meat unless it is on sale!) is expensive. But nowhere NEAR as expensive as buying a steak at a restaurant. I love to eat out! LOVE IT! But it is spendy. No doubt about it.

2. They live in a big city, either east or west coast. Groceries are probably a lot more expensive in New York or San Francisco. Living here in beautiful Texas, I am sure it is way cheaper to shop for food. While I may wish for a Trader Joe's (please, please, please!), I am lucky to be able to shop at Tom Thumb, Kroger, Aldi, and Wal Mart--all within a 6 block radius of each other. Grocery heaven! With just a little looking at the ads each week, I can shop specials like there is no tomorrow.

Or, note to self, they could live in a really tiny town with nowhere to shop but the IGA. But I don't think, in this case, this is the problem. I don't think the author of the Amazon blog lives in Tuna, Texas with no really good grocery.

And there I think I have hit on the real problem for folks depending on food stamps for groceries: the lack of this same ability to shop the sales. And, frankly, the lack of experience in food and menu planning with a budget.

I live in the largest city without mass transportation in the US. Yep, it's a fact. Am I appalled by that?--well, probably not as appalled as I would be by watching buses with 2 people on them zooming around town. It is a problem, if you are living in the Rising Sun Motel over on Division, and you have no transport to get to the grocery store. What do you do?. You walk across the street to that icky little convenience store where bananas are $1 each, instead of 37 cents a pound over at Kroger. And if you are living over at the Rising Sun, where would you keep your food and what would you cook it on anyway?

THAT's the quandry. How do we fix THOSE problems? And the answer isn't up the $7. 'Cause trust me, the convenience store would just start charging more for those bananas.

It makes me crazy.

From St. Teresa of Avila, words of wisdom


Thou knowest better than I myself
that I am growing older and will someday be old.
Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking
I must say something on every subject and on every occasion.

Release me from craving to
straighten out everybody's affairs.

Make me thoughtful but not moody;
helpful but not bossy.

With my vast store of wisdom,
it seems a pity not to use it all;
but Thou knowest, Lord,
that I want a few friends at the end.

Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details;
give me wings to get to the point.

Seal my lips on my aches and pains;
they are increasing, and love of rehearsing them
is becoming sweeter as the years go by.

I dare not ask for improved memory,
but for a growing humility and a lessening cock-sureness
when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others.
Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken.

Keep me reasonably sweet, for a sour old person
is one of the crowning works of the devil.

Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places
and talents in unexpected people;
and give me, O Lord, the grace to tell them so.