Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Weekend at the Farm

After the busy Easter weekend, it was great to throttle back a little. We left for the farm on Friday afternoon. Tom spent a lot of time on the tractor--plowing and discing, and doing whatever you do on a tractor. He loves getting dirty. See photo below. I piddled---that means I had fun getting ready for dinner guests on Sat. night. The weather was absolutely perfect. Warm, but not too warm, low humidity, just a little breeze, and not too many bugs. So, it seemed like fun to dine outside again. In just a few weeks it will be too hot, and we'll have to go in the house and turn on the air conditioning. I love this time of year, and I want to enjoy every minute we can outside.

So we had two couples to join us. Anyway, my fun was preparing our outside "rooms" for the evening.

Here are the weekend photos.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

TT #2 My Favorite Books

Thirteen of My Favorite Books

  1. The Fountainhead---Ayn Rand. I first read it in College. I can't say that I buy the philosophy, but it did make me think.

  2. East of the Sun---Barbara Bickmore. Just a great story---about a nurse who goes to Africa as a missionary and stays there for life.

  3. When Bad Things Happen to Good People---Rabbi Kushner. It helped shape my theology

  4. All This and Heaven Too--Rachel Field. I've always enjoyed historical fiction--this is one of the best, I think.

  5. The Clan of the Cave Bear---Jean Auel. I just loved this series. So much research. It is almost historical fiction.

  6. The Valley of Horses---Jean Auel. Ditto. I read all of them, but these two are my favorites.

  7. A Walk in the Woods---Bill Bryson. This is so funny, and yet poignant, about his walking the Appalachian Trail.

  8. A World of Ideas---Bill Moyers. It stretched me.

  9. A Man in Full---Tom Wolfe. My men are quail hunters, and they say Wolfe "nailed" the plantation hunting.

  10. Mrs. Whaley and Her Charleston Garden---Emily Whaley. Just the sweet musings of a lovely southern lady

  11. The North and The South---John Jakes. Another good story

  12. Emily Dickinson: Selected Poems. I enjoy the American poets, but she is my favorite.

  13. Southern Table---Frank Stitt's cookbook. I enjoy the prose as much as the recipes.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others' comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Monday, March 24, 2008

No Time Like Family Time

We had a lovely Easter weekend. I hope everyone did! The weather was perfect for little children and their spring clothes and egg hunts and for big children and their activities.

The young Roneys joined us for the weekend, and we visited with the Castros in Tampa by video---more about that later. On Saturday, Tom and Andrew went shooting at a plantation in Georgia and had a big day---we have lots more birds in the freezer! Tara and Brooks spent the day with her mother, and I cooked. Mother joined us for dinner. Andrew had ordered another quail supper--fried quail, Alabama Truffles, biscuits and gravy. It's easy to be the hero with fried quail!

Then on Sunday morning, we visited with the Castros via the computer. Both they and we have cameras, so we sat here in front of our computer and camera and they sat in front of theirs, and we had a great visit. We can just about see that precious little Alexander growing. He got to see Great-Grandmother, Aunt Tara and Uncle Andrew, Cousin Brooks, and YaYa and Granddad, and we all got to see them. It wasn't quite as wonderful as having them here, but we enjoyed it nonetheless.

Then, later in the morning, off to the farm where John (Tara's dad) and Mott joined us for lunch. We hid some eggs for Brooks, and he did a great job finding them. He got the hang of it quickly, but the real fun of the afternoon was the kite. I found a neat kite that was a helicopter, and, after five adults struggled with it for a half hour---where's a good seven-year-old when you need one?--- we took it over in the big field where there were no trees, and we flew it for about an hour. Brooks enjoyed the kite and the freshly plowed field. Enjoy ours pics--some from Tampa and some from the farm!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

TT #1 Things I Love About My Work

This is my first time to join in on the Thursday Thirteen meme. Click on the title for a link to Thursday Thirteen. I am an administrator at a community college. Here's what I love about my work:
1. My division--the non credit side--is the most dynamic at the college. Something is changing every day.
2. My co-workers are dedicated, enthusiastic, pleasant,and committed to our mission to develop a well trained workforce for our region.
3. My work is three miles from my house.
4. On most days, I arrive first. I like a few minutes of quiet time.
5. I managed a $4.3 million major gifts campaign--the first in the College's history.
6. I have worked at the same college for 24 years, and it is more exciting today than it was in the beginning.
7. It is exciting to work with business and industry and to develop courses and programs to meet their needs.
8. We get off at 2:00 on Fridays.
9. We have a female president who is doing a great job!
10. I think the community college story is a great one.
11. I like to tell people about our mission to provide academics,adult education,and workforce development.
12. I can retire anytime I want to.
13. I don't want to yet.

Top Gun Supper Club History and Evening at the Farm

Top Gun is one of our supper clubs. Eight couples of us have been meeting monthly since about April 1990. We got started when we all joined in to host a big party that month. We held the party at an abandoned airport in a big hangar, and we invited about 400 of our closest friends. Our invitations were paper airplanes, and we called it a Top Gun Party because the movie with Tom Cruise was popular at the time. We had someone make us a little Snoopy with Top Gun on his scarf, and he was part of the decoration.

Of course the party was a huge success, and we eight couples had such fun planning it that we decided we would just meet monthly and call ourselves a supper club. Eighteen years later, we still meet. One couple has moved to Destin, but they join us for Christmas and on our trips. That's another story--somewhere along the way we decided that we would take an annual trip together--We call it "Eat Our Way Across Another Great American City" Trip (we are a supper club, after all). We have been to Amelia Island Plantation, Atlanta, New Orleans, Charleston, Chicago, New York, Nashville, Cashiers North Carolina several times, Lake Martin, Vail, Seagrove Florida, and later this year we go to Napa.

We meet at the Country Club most of the time. Again, early on, Snoopy became the supper club mascot, and he is always part of the centerpiece. The host for the next month always takes him home and dresses him to suit the season, theme, or what's happening in our lives. Over the years, Snoopy has morphed into everything imaginable--beach bum in the summer, football star in September, witch in October, Indian or Pilgrim in November, Santa in December. He's come dressed as a baby when some of us welcomed grandchildren; he changed to a bride to celebrate our children's weddings; he wore academic regalia when I got my doctorate. If we had known in the beginning how important he was going to be in our history, we would have taken pictures of him at each meeting. As you see, he was a farmer this night!

It was our turn to host, and since March is usually a good month weatherwise, our friends indicated they would love to meet for a barbecue at the farm, and we agreed that each member couple could invite two people. I covered the tables with antique bedspreads and some sheeting I bought in browns and reds. I used red and white striped napkins and broom sage in old tin buckets with Spanish moss.

So, last night, 24 of us gathered for another fun evening. Two couples arrived with their guests in a white stretch limo. I took a photo, declaring that it was probably the first time a limo has pulled up at the farm. Not so, Elizabeth, our daughter, reminded me today; for one delivered her and her groom there on their wedding night.

Anyway, we had a big time---good barbecue and trimmings, lots of beverages flowing, beautiful weather, and just the right mix of great people.
I would say it was a magical evening, but then we think all our Top Gun meetings are magical.

Top Gun has been such an important part of our lives; I'd like to write more about it--what we've learned, the kind of people we are, the blessing it has been.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Friday Afternoon At the Fresh Market

I ran errands this afternoon; one of those was to the fresh market.

Seeing such nice produce always makes me want to cook. With the nudging from the sight of the wonderful vegetables and fruits and the yummy sounding Carrot Souffle that Tara posted on her site, I was definitely in the mood. I had nice shrimp so I decided on my Shrimp Destin which I have been making for years and years, a Romaine lettuce, tomato, and bleu cheese salad, and the Carrot Souffle. I've learned that if you have a colorful plate, it will be nutritious--red and green in the salad, a beautiful orange with the carrots, and white and pink in the shrimp dish--perfect!

Here's the recipe for Shrimp Destin:

1/4 c. green onions, chopped

2 tsp. minced garlic

1 c. butter

2 pounds large shrimp, peeled

1 tsp lemon juice

1 T. white wine

1/2 tsp salt

coarsely ground pepper to taste

1 tsp dried dill weed

1 tsp fresh parsley, chopped

2 French rolls, split lengthwise and toasted

Saute onions and garlic in butter until tender. Add other ingredients except dill and parsley. Cook over medium heat about five minutes. Stir in dill and parsley. Spoon shrimp mixture over the toasted rolls and serve immediately.

Here's how the plate looked:

And here's my chief food judge---he loves the job!

The Carrot Souffle was a winner, but I think I overcooked it by 5-10 minutes. I will check for doneness a few minutes earlier next time.

Monday, March 10, 2008

A Cute Little Two-Year Old

You've never heard The Lord's Prayer sung quite like this!

Just click on the title of the post.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

CBS Sunday Morning---The best program on television

Television is just not what it used to be---but then, nothing is, right? Depressing and negative news, silly sitcoms, Law and Order reruns and a few bright spots on the Food Channel, History Channel, and House and Garden channel. Otherwise, dumbed down and dull.

But on Sunday Morning, for an hour and a half, we can watch interesting stories about people, art, literature, music, nature,and other topics. No gratuitous violence, sex, or degradation. CBS Sunday Morning is a magazine-type program with regular features and special stories. I learn something everytime I see it. Check it out one Sunday morning (8:00 to 9:30 am CDT) with your favorite cup o' joe!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

A Dilemma in Our Town

We have a dilemma in our town. Basically, it is an issue of economic development on one hand and values on the other. Nothing is simple, is it? As my friend over at Gray Matters says in her blog title, Life is not Black and White.

Aa couple of weeks ago our county commission and chamber of commerce announced a major new development for our county--a "Branson, MO" type venture to be developed in phases that would include major resort hotels, music theatres and venues, restaurants, theme parks---and "charitable bingo". The developers claim Country Crossings will eventually bring 4800 jobs to the region plus millions of dollars for our economy.

We all know that our world is changing. We do indeed have a global economy, which means that many of our traditional jobs are being moved to other countries. Clothing manufacture, once ubiquitious in the South, is now virtually gone, and other industries are moving as well. Manufacturing in general is streamlining because of robotics and technology. Richard Florida wrote a well-researched book, The Rise of the Creative Class, in which he posits that because many industries will move overseas and because younger generations want more control over their work, the US economy will be centered around "creative" work, such a small businesses providing services--including hospitality. We could use 4800 jobs in our area, most of which would be creative and service. So, the possibility of thousands of people coming to our county to spend typical tourist dollars is intriguing. But for the bingo.

My mother plays bingo several times a week at her assisted-living facility. It provides socialization, a little mental stimulation, and the thrill of saying, "Bingo" and winning a little prize. What's wrong with that? Absolutely nothing.

A group of ministers and citizens has organized a very vocal opposition to the "charitable bingo" part of the Country Crossings development. They claim it will increase crime, wreck families, and introduce undesirable people and values to our community. As they understand it, this "charitable bingo" will be operated in its own building at the proposed development, with 1500 slot-type electronic machines. I have been to a couple of casinos over the years, and I didn't like them. I felt pretty nasty when I left. It was not fun to watch the people who were playing slot machines. From my perspective, they didn't have the resources to gamble, so I wondered what they were doing without to put nickels or dimes or quarters into those machines. I watched elderly people who might have been using their social security checks; I watched men who might have been gambling away the money designated for child support; I watched women who might have been using the grocery money. On the other hand, who am I to judge or to press my values on others?

I admit that I don't know much about this issue. I know that some in our community think this development, even with the bingo, is a good thing; and I know that others think it is a very bad thing. So, I've done a just a little research. I found an article about the charitable bingo business in a county in the north part of the state, Charity Bingo Goes Unregulated in Walker County. I could not link to this article, but if you google "charity bingo in Walker County" you will see that it has created much controversy. I read that electronic gaming, including charitable bingo, is big business in Canada, so I reviewed several articles about their gaming industry. One is Gambling on the Edge in Alberta. Another is What is the link between gambling and criminal activity?

After reading those articles and perusing a few others, I have come to few conclusions. Could the Country Crossing development be good for our region? Absolutely. Could the charitable bingo operation introduce increased crime and unsavory characters to our region? Absolutely. Can electronic bingo be closely regulated? Yes. Is there room for compromise? Maybe.

Bottom line---there are no easy answers, and I'm glad I don't have to make the decision. I hope and pray that those who do make the final decision will consider all views, will strive for compromise, and will try to do their very best for our region.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Does Wine Count as a Fruit?

It's almost Spring--and we know what that means. We'll need fewer clothes and short sleeves and maybe even shorts. Uh Oh! The problem is---there won't be any less of me unless I get back with the program. So, back to more healthful eating---more fruits and veggies, cabbage soup for lunch, no more Alabama Truffles, less wine. Wait just a minute--now why doesn't wine count as a fruit? Wine is just another form of the grape, right?

I remember seeing Lucille Ball stomp those grapes. She stomped all of them--skin and all---in that big barrel---and Voila! The grapes turned to wine. Yes, let's call it a fruit!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

What a Week!

When you do so many different things in a week and experience so many emotions--it seems like a lifetime, doesn't it?

We left Dothan, without much notice, last Sunday morning to travel to Tampa to help the Castros who were all under the weather. Both Elizabeth and Afonso were ailing--laryngitis and knee surgery--and we knew they would recover from those ailments. However, our major concern was their concern about Alexander's high fever and neurological episodes. He didn't have traditional seizures, but it was worrisome nonetheless to all of us but especially to first-time parents. We had a few scary days; however, by midweek we had learned that he had no apparent neurological damage and he was beginning to get his strength back. It was amazing what that news did for all of us. We ended the week with a couple of great worry-free days with precious little Alexander and his parents.

Then on Friday we left Tampa about noon to drive to Apalachicola to meet our friends for what we knew would be a fun-filled weekend. We could hardly get there fast enough. It took us almost six hours of hard driving. When we arrived, three other couples were waiting for us, and the fun began. Apalach is a great little fishing village--population 2800--on the coast of Florida. Our accommodations--which were the best ever--had a balcony overlooking the Apalachicola River. We had a huge two bedroom apartment (in a building of just four apartments), beautifully appointed, and two of the couples had one bedroom units just across the hall. Another couple stayed in a different place. Anyway, we had many hours of drinks, conversation, and laughter on the balcony, a wonderful dinner at The Owl on Friday night and an even more wonderful dinner party for ten in our apartment on Saturday night. The girls shopped; the guys scouted the real estate; we watched the tide ebb and flo. We talked politics, real estate investments; economic development back at home; and how fortunate we are. We told stories--some true; some not. We laughed and laughed and laughed. We were loud and rowdy, and the people across the hall asked us to be quiet--we loved it! We did make friends with them later. We were ten people--some of whom were lifelong friends; some were meeting for the first time. Some have been married forty years; some were dating. We had privacy and space; yet we drew strength from each other. We each brought our experience and activities and histories to the weekend; and we each left there a little richer because of the sharing. What a weekend!

As we arrived home today, the young Roneys and Mother were waiting for us. We enjoyed spending a few precious minutes with them--hearing about their last few days and tellling them about ours. And then they were on their way back home, and we began the process of getting back in the routine.

As we look back, we are very grateful: for the ability to respond when our children need us; for the medical professionals who assured us that Alexander will be just fine; for the friends that are such fun; for the charm of Apalachicola; for the family that was eager to see us today; and for a home that was a welcome sight.