Showing posts from December, 2015

A natural woman

Every year the Kennedy Center in Washington honors a group of people in the performing arts for their lifetime contribution to American culture. Among those honored this year was singer/songwriter Carole King. Carole King's songs have meant a lot to me. There was a time in my 20s and 30s when her music felt like the theme song of my life. And of all her songs, probably the one that meant the most was "You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman." (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman   by Carole King Lookin' out on the morning rain I used to feel uninspired And when I knew I had to face another day Lord, it made me feel so tired Before the day I met you, life was so unkind But your love was the key to my peace of mind 'Cause you make me feel, you make me feel You make me feel like a natural woman When my soul was in the lost and found You came along to claim it I didn't know just what was wrong with me Till your kiss helped me name it Now I'm

My excellent year of reading (with update)

(UPDATE: In rereading this post, I realized I had left off one of my *favorite books of the year read in October. I've now added it, raising my total favorites to 22. And growing.) Everybody's doing their end-of-year recaps, so why should I be any different? The most popular way of recapping is to do the "top 10" list. I pulled up my list of books read in 2015 and tried to narrow my favorites down to a top 10. I couldn't do it. Next I thought I would pick a favorite book from each month of reading. I've read 98 books (so far) in 2015. Surely there would be one special book in each month that would jump out at me when I tried to make my list. Nope. I made a list of all the books that I read and truly, unequivocally loved and then tried to narrow that list down to a bloggable few. I found I couldn't bear to exclude any of them. So, here it is - my list 21 22 favorite books read in 2015. Some old; some new; some rereads and most read

A year of blooms - and other things

This year, as every year does, held challenges for the gardener. And yet, in spite of uncooperative weather, a plague of weeds and occasionally insects - not to mention garden "helpers" who didn't always follow instructions - it turned out to be not an entirely bad year in the garden. Here are some of my favorite pictures from each month. In January, the Christmas poinsettias were still in full bloom. I do love the sweet little leucojum blossoms that brighten dull February. By March, the redbud was in full bloom, a cafeteria for bees. April is amaryllis month. This frilly one held hidden treasure between petals of its blossom - a little green treefrog. Love those eyes! In May, the water lilies began blooming. And by June the crocosmias were finishing up their blooming.  What would July be without sunflowers and bumblebees enjoying them? By August, the blossoms of the beautyberry had begun ripening into its eponymous berries. B

Birds of 2015

One of my goals for 2016 is to work on improving my bird photography. I can't claim any outstanding shots of birds in 2015, which is one of the reasons I know I need to improve! The birds were there; I just didn't always capture them with my camera.  Nevertheless, good or bad, here are some of my favorite pictures that I featured in the blog throughout the year. A regular visitor to the backyard in January was this Cooper's Hawk . I photographed this Common Gallinule on a trip to Brazos Bend State Park in February. By March, the American Goldfinches were beginning to get their new feathers, changing into their colorful courting duds. In April, the first of the Baltimore Orioles showed up. The Northern Mockingbird is always here, in May and throughout the year, the sentinel of the backyard. A female Eastern Bluebird checking on her chicks in June. Another permanent resident, the Blue Jay , in July.  By August, the firs

A Lonely Death by Charles Todd: A review

A Lonely Death by Charles Todd My rating: 3 of 5 stars It is 1920 and ex-soldiers who survived the horror of the trenches in World War I are being killed in a particularly gruesome manner in the quiet countryside of England. Three men have been garroted, and in the mouth of each has been found one of the identification discs that World War I soldiers carried into battle. However, the identification disc with which each man was found is not his own, and, in fact, appears to be unrelated to that particular ex-soldier. It seems a classic case of misdirection. Scotland Yard is called in to help with the investigation and Inspector Ian Rutledge is sent as the agency's representative. But sending in the Yard does not halt the murders. After Rutledge arrives, another man - another ex-soldier - is killed in the same manner. Where will the serial murderer strike next? The clear implication is that all of these deaths are somehow related to something that occurred during the war, but all

The Redeemers by Ace Atkins: A review

The Redeemers by Ace Atkins My rating: 2 of 5 stars In Ace Atkins' fictional county of Tibbehah in North Mississippi, Quinn Colson, the ex-Army ranger, has just lost his re-election as sheriff. The corrupt money in town had backed his opponent, an insurance salesman, and that won the day for the man.  In Colson's last few days in office, he is still trying to find a way to bring down his main nemesis and the purveyor of corruption, Johnny Stagg. Stagg is well-entrenched in the halls of power in the county and the state and putting him behind bars will not be easy. Colson is aided in his quest by his estimable assistant, Lillie Virgil. Lillie is one of the few - maybe the only - truly virtuous characters in this southern noir suspense novel. Most of the characters, including the sheriff who is carrying on an illicit affair with his former high school sweetheart, are flawed in the extreme. As the novel begins, Quinn and Lillie are in Memphis waiting outside a house of ill r

Festivus for the rest of us and all those other holidays

I doesn't seem much like Christmas. Winter Solstice has come and gone and still we've had no frost. Our high temperature today is predicted to be 80 degrees F. but will probably go higher. The high for Christmas Day is projected to be 82. Santa is going to be very uncomfortable in that red wool suit with the fur trim. He might want to wear a Speedo instead. Whether or not the weather seems appropriate, however, the winter holidays relentlessly continue their march through our calendar. Today, Festivus; tomorrrow, Christmas Eve; then Christmas, Boxing Day, Kwanzaa, New Year's Eve and Day... Blogging will be sporadic for the next several days as I celebrate with my family. Whatever holidays you celebrate at this time of year, my wish for you is that they be filled with peace and joy. As for my house, just now it looks a little like this:

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante: A review

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante My rating: 4 of 5 stars With the publication of The Story of the Lost Child in 2015, Elena Ferrante completed her quartet of extravagantly praised "Neapolitan Stories." It seemed about time for me to get on board with reading the books to find out what all the shouting was about. My Brilliant Friend , published in 2012, was the first of the series. It begins with the main protagonist, Elena, learning that her friend Lila has disappeared, not for the first time. Elena and Lila are now in their 60s and Lila's latest disappearance causes Elena to reminisce about their long friendship and the events which marked and shaped their lives. My Brilliant Friend is a telling of those reminiscences. Elena and Lila grew up on the outskirts of Naples. It is the 1950s when we meet them. Both girls are six years old. They live in a neighborhood where violence is an everyday fact of life. Men settle their inevitable disagreements on the streets

Poetry Sunday: Amazing Peace

My featured poem this week is by Dr. Maya Angelou and it celebrates the season. It gives voice to the hope that we all have for the year-end holidays that we celebrate, whatever they may be. "It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time," she writes. Would that it could be true. Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem By Dr. Maya Angelou Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses. Flood waters await us in our avenues. Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche Over unprotected villages. The sky slips low and grey and threatening. We question ourselves. What have we done to so affront nature? We worry God. Are you there? Are you there really? Does the covenant you made with us still hold? Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters, Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air. The world is encouraged to come away from rancor, Come the way of friendship.

This week in birds - #186

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : "Snow birds" is what we called them when I was growing up because they usually showed up with the first snow of winter. They are Dark-eyed Juncos , a very pretty member of the sparrow family. No snow and no juncos so far here in the subtropical South, but I photographed this one a few years ago on an autumn visit to Rocky Mountain National Park. *~*~*~* The Christmas Bird Count is underway . It started on December 14 and runs through January 5. The is the 116th consecutive year that it will have been conducted, making it perhaps the oldest of the Citizen Science projects that are now so popular. It is the forerunner of projects like the Great Backyard Bird Count and Project FeederWatch . *~*~*~* 2015 has been a memorable year in the world of science. Here is a list of some of the most significant scientific events of the year. *~*~*~* One important scientific study of 2015 has uncovered the orig

Hypothermia by Arnaldur Indriðason: A review

Hypothermia by Arnaldur Indriðason My rating: 3 of 5 stars The title Hypothermia could refer to a tragic incident in Inspector Erlendur's childhood when he and his younger brother were lost in a sudden blizzard while out helping their father look for the family's sheep. The two brothers became separated in the storm and the younger one was never found. He was presumed dead. Erlendur survived - barely. He was covered by several feet of snow and suffering from hypothermia and frostbite when found, but the searchers were able to save him. The title could also refer to a technique of deliberately lowering the body's temperature to the point that the heart stops and the person is clinically dead. If not too much time has passed, the person can then be revived by medical personnel and brought back to life. Supposedly, while the person is "dead," he can visit "the other side" and see what, if anything, waits for us there. As it turns out, such a medical exp

Throwback Thursday: The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

In December of 2013, I read a book by Elizabeth Gilbert that I thoroughly enjoyed. No, it wasn't Eat, Pray, Love . It was a novel written after that blockbuster book. It was about a woman scientist in the 19th century and that book was recently recalled to mind by something that I read. I reread my review of it and decided to feature it as a "Throwback Thursday" post. I hope you enjoy it. *~*~*~* The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert: A review My rating:  4 of 5 stars Elizabeth Gilbert of  Eat, Pray, Love  fame has written a remarkable novel featuring a remarkable woman of the 19th century. Alma Whittaker, born in 1800 to the richest man in Philadelphia, grew up to become, in fact, a female counterpart to Charles Darwin in the century of Darwin, a time when the idea of a  female  scientist would have been laughed at. Before we meet Alma, though, we meet her father, Henry Whittaker, a low-born Englishman who was banished because he stole plants