Time flies when you’re lost in a good book

Humidity and heat = AC and books!

I chose to take June off from blogging. Then the heat and humidity of a South Carolina summer sapped me of the strength to do anything more in my garden than just water the plants and let them be. Doing so left me nothing to blog about from my garden – how many posts can I write on wilting vines?

Summers in SC are perfect for staying indoors, reading, sipping sweet iced tea, and enjoying Mr. Willis Carrier’s wonderful invention of commercial air conditioning. To keep this short, I’m just posting a list of some of the books I read since June, with maybe one or two lines of description. Tell me what a person reads and I’ll tell you about that person….

June

Kindle

Out of the Silent Planet
by C. S. Lewis

The beginning of Lewis’ lesser-known trilogy for adults. Fanciful yet deep. It rewards constant re-reading.

Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot
Bill O’Reilly, Martin Dugard

I’ve read so many books about the Kennedys – this was one of them. I can’t remember much about it.

January 6: How Democrats Used the Capitol Protest to Launch a War on Terror Against the Political Right
Julie Kelly

Julie Kelly has been the voice of those who have no voice in this matter. Read it and be infuriated.

OUTCRY: Why does Pope Barnabas release Catholic clergy from their vows of celibacy?
Ned Cosby

A piece of fiction which imagines a future pope determined to rid the church of sexual abuse.

Paperback and hardcover

Uncharted (1) (Arcane America)
Sarah A. Hoyt and Kevin J. Anderson

I love Sarah’s blog and love to read her books.


July

Kindle

The Devil’s Hand: A Thriller (Terminal List Book 4) AND

In the Blood: A Thriller (Terminal List Book 5)
Jack Carr

I had to read both of these to finish the series before I watched an episode of Amazon Prime’s Terminal List series. My conclusion: I’m happier with the books.

Blessed With All This Life (The Wilder Bunch Book 7)
Max Cossack

The last of the Wilder Bunch series, and yes, of course I have them all. I was turned on to the famous novelist Max Cossack by his lovely wife who writes the Ammo Grrrll columns at Powerline blog.

Paperback and hardcover

The Bodies of Others: The New Authoritarians, COVID-19 and The War Against the Human
Naomi Wolf

Still finishing this one up – it makes my blood boil!!


August (so far)

Kindle

The Iron Web
Larken Rose

A chilling look at a possible dystopian future, where men have forgotten how to be free.

The Puppet Masters
Robert A. Heinlein

My introduction to a master – thank you, Sarah Hoyt!

The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress
Robert A. Heinlein

I’m 75% of the way through this and it makes me cheer. The transportees settled forcibly on Luna (our moon) have risen up and declared their independence. I’d heard of this one before I read it – it is a masterpiece.

Waiting in the wings

The Little World of Don Camillo (Don Camillo Series Book 1)
Giovanni Guareschi

Another delightful recommendation from Sarah. Can’t wait.

Paperback and hardcover

One Row at a Time
Rochester A. Baker, Sr.

Rochester is in my Toastmasters club, Two Notch Toastmasters. He has written a lovely book which is both a memoir of lessons learned in his long life, “one row at a time,” and a tribute to his late wife Sheilda. She came with him to Toastmasters meetings years ago, before she passed. A wonderful elegy.

Gotta get back to my latest …

As you can see, I’m still finishing a couple or three. I’ll usually have four or five on the go at all times. Oh, yes, I read two Jack Reacher paperbacks as well this summer, but they’re in the car, destined for the Little Free Library on the corner and I can’t be bothered to dig them up.

A good book, a glass of sweet tea, and a little something to munch on – it don’t get better than this!

– Aunt Gem’s dad

Adventuring with The Hobbit

Dear readers: as you know, my site now focuses on four things: gardening, baking, cooking, and books. Today it’s time to focus on my love of reading.

So many books have famous first lines. There’s “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Herman Melville started Moby Dick with “Call me Ishmael.” And “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a large fortune must be in want of a wife.” My favorite is from the book I just finished with my book club: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” Of course, that’s from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

As much as I love the first line, the first paragraph of this adventure is what truly draws me in:

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

Tolkien’s verse

We gathered Tuesday night for the final session on The Hobbit, and we all were sad to leave it. Everyone was quoting favorite lines from the book to each other, just to hear Tolkien’s lyrical prose. One of my favorite parts of the book, aside from the sheer adventure of it all – the dramatic journey of our little hero, the modest hobbit, fighting with evil spiders and a DRAGON – was some of the poetry Tolkien crafted as the songs sung by the dwarves and the elves. The songs reflected the characters’ nature: light, cheerful verse for the elves, cruel consonant-heavy lines for the goblins. And of course, our hero Bilbo Baggins, invented silly verses on the fly when he distracted the spiders away from his friends.

Old fat spider sitting in a tree!

Old fat spider can’t see me!

Attercop! Attercop!

Won’t you stop

Stop your spinning and look for me!

-The Hobbit, chapter 8

A complete world

Beside the poetry, everyone who has read Tolkien knows about the care he takes with what the sci-fi community calls world building. I’ve always thought of it as scene setting. The maps on the inside covers of the book were created by the author. But you can get it all from the descriptions Tolkien gives of the Shire, of Bilbo’s very nice hobbit hole, of the paths the adventurers take through the deep forest of Mirkwood, the wastes near the Lonely Mountain and finally in the dragon’s cave. Everything is described so beautifully that I can picture every scene of the book. But of the first Hobbit movie – I remember nothing except the first dinner scene. That’s the magic of books – you, as reader, collaborate with the author in creating the story in your mind.

Finding the Lonely Mountain

A brief, final battle

I’m thankful that Tolkien resorted to the “Deus ex Machina” technique of the using the Eagles to shorten the final battle – because it nicely shortened a brutal war scene. I thought that at least 30 minutes of graphic fighting could have been cut from “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy movies – which I DO remember – without sacrificing the story. And it was somehow so hobbit-like for Bilbo to be conked on the head with a rock, causing him to go unconscious and miss the last part of the battle.

A humble hero

Bilbo Baggins is described as a hobbit who “looked and behaved exactly like a second edition of his solid and comfortable father” and indeed he lived a decorous life until he was 50 years old. But then, with the visit of Gandalf the wizard, the part of him from his mother’s people, the adventurous and less respectable Tooks, came out. The two halves of his personality warred within him starting with the unexpected tea party he hosted for the 14 dwarves. In shock the dwarves were expecting table service (and knew his larders better than he did) he muttered “Confusticate and bebother these dwarves!” Then after being thought a grocer instead of fierce, he marched forth to join the fray. On the journey Bilbo went back and forth from bemoaning the lack of a pocket handkerchief to devising ingenious plans to save his friends from danger. That was Bilbo’s charm: he was a hero who didn’t think highly of himself, who forgave those who did him wrong (witness his weeping over Thorin) and who was pleased to be “quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!”

Notes

I’m sure I don’t have to tell this erudite audience from whence the lines in the first paragraph came, but in case you don’t know:
A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
Moby Dick, Herman Melville
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

The cover of the copy I have – the 75th Anniversary edition.

Watching Life Instead of Living It

Now that the COVID-mania of 2020 and 2021 seems to have lifted, I want to live life instead of watching it happen. Doing, instead of being in the audience, is my thing. That’s why I joined the choir in my church – I didn’t want to just watch other people sing; I want to be in on it too! Why be a spectator?

I’ve made strides toward more living, less watching before. When I first moved into my house in December of 2016, I moved my circa-2000 television with me. That thing was an old bulky set – definitely not a flat screen. The remote control stopped working sometime in the late 2010s.

My TV looked a LOT like this one. Heck, it could have been this model.

I worked around it by actually getting up to change the channel, like in the 1970s. I started watching less and less television over the years, and I decided once I moved, I was going to put that old wreck on the curb and run an experiment: how long can I go without a TV in the house?

Continue reading “Watching Life Instead of Living It”

When hobbies turn into obsessions

How I turned coloring into a terrible habit

Today, I’m actually staying out of my back yard because I’m having a new small deck and stairs put in, to replace the crumbling, uneven, definitely home-made brick steps. So I’m posting about a different hobby today; one that has gone bad.

Remember when adult coloring books became all the craze? I bought one and found it to be so soothing. My friends soon found out I was into coloring and though, aha, this is a solution to gift-giving! For the next two years I was inundated with coloring books.

Wouldn’t you know it though – any good thing quickly gets turned into an app for your smart phone. And THIS is where I went bad with the hobby. A friend introduced me to the “Happy Color” app. This is not just soothing – it is ADDICTIVE. I have taken it off my phone twice. Sometime in 2019 I put it back on the phone and during the craziness of 2020 I just threw myself into it.

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It’s Saturday and time to garden

I begrudge the time spent indoors on a day like today

The gardening bug bit me

Question: How do you know your green thumb is turning from lime granita to grasshopper green?

Answer: When you start eyeing potted plants your neighbors put on the curb for the yard trash guy, and think, that’s some really good soil. I could use that.

Me, last Monday

This happened this past week, along with another gardening bonus: One day this week I walked my dog at lunch and came across my elderly neighbor raking good, brown dirt off one part of her lawn – onto the street. Just to leave it there, like trash! I hustled back to my house, dropped off the dog and took the wheelbarrow back to Miss Jane’s house to pick up some of that good dirt. It’s going into the base of my latest raised bed, to nourish my new plants. I haven’t yet gotten to the point of picking up dog poop to work into the garden, but if the price of fertilizer goes up any more, I just might. Fortunately, our local zoo sells “comPOOst” – produced by the rhinos, giraffes and zebras.

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Ready, Set, Spring: Let’s Garden!

the first of many, many posts about my new favorite hobby, gardening

Hello, longer days and Goodbye, Seasonal Affective Disorder! Now it is time to get my hands grubby and dig into the dirt. I actual begrudge the time away from my garden to do this blog post. Because I feel behind, already. In two weeks my CSA farm in lower SC will deliver its first shipment; and I’m still starting seeds. Every day now I hear “hurry up, hurry up” in my head.

The first thing I planted: one type of spinach – which I started outside, and sadly, I think I started it too early. It has failed, so no picture. I started another packet of seeds a couple of weeks later (after the last frost) and they have LIVED. See how nice:

Back right, spinach. Middle row, carrots. Front left row, buttercrunch lettuce.

I’m so excited to see these grow. Last year, when I was just playing, I grew only two salad bowls’ worth of lettuce. It was nice lettuce, though. Right after the spinach-that-failed, I started spring onions:

Continue reading “Ready, Set, Spring: Let’s Garden!”

Hello friend; going my way?

Welcome to all the new readers who’ve joined and signed up for updates. For the past six or seven weeks, you’ve been getting a weekly post about my spiritual journey. I hope you all stick around as a pivot to a blog about my hobbies: baking bread *yum*; cooking all sorts of things and sharing recipes; volunteering at my church, reading, reading, reading, and reading some more as I balance two book clubs; writing something besides this blog; and finally, going deep on gardening this summer. I’ve bought so many plants, potting soil, seeds, and more that I can truly relate to this meme:

Seen, felt, heard.

Simple pleasures: coffee

This week I’m away at CPAC, meeting up with old friends and making new ones. While I’m waiting to go to breakfast with a few new friends, I couldn’t help but think about this.

Coffee…ah, coffee. In my late teens and very early 20s it seemed that coffee was falling out of favor with my generation (this was the mid-to-late 80s.) After seeing that Juan Valdez and his donkey were just making the kids laugh, coffee marketers came up with a lame slogan for Gen X: the coffee generation. That fell on its face.

And lo, a star arose in the West: a young man named Howard Shultz determined to bring Italian cafe culture to America. Starbucks eliminated the fears that Gen X and all those after them would stop drinking coffee. I can still hear my dad – “$5 for a cup of coffee? I wish I’d come up with that idea.”

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Starting Seeds

I’m going to start turning my blog toward a hobby focus – fewer internal ramblings, more hobbies! Today: hoping my thumb can turn Pantone Light Moss Green.

Last fall I set out my first lettuce crop ever – a fall crop I planted in November (I think – I haven’t reached the stage where I actually keep a garden journal.) I harvested enough for two lovely salads in January – success!!! This year – boy, am I bold and adventurous. I’ve already planted two rows of Riverside Baby Leaf Spinach in the raised bed outside. In the interest of experimentation, I’m starting other Riverside Baby Leaf Spinach seeds indoors, in my new Park Seed Bio Dome. My own version of an adult science experiment.

First came setting up all the equipment. I unpacked my beautiful Sunblaster Nano-tech grow light, complete with reflector, so I could shine grow lights on my sweet plants. Then I discovered that the package just had the light. No stand. Super. Back to Park Seed to order the universal light stand. I might just become Park Seed’s new favorite customer.

All the goodies laid out – seeds, Bio Dome and Bio Dome starter. I got the 60-cell model; go big or go home.

After reading the instructions I realized I needed to soak the starter plugs in tepid water for 15 minutes.

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