Well Read

 

Like most of the country, we’ve had weird unseasonal weather down here. Last time I wrote you, it was so hot we were eating salads for dinner. Now it’s definitely autumn, with a freeze or two thrown in for good measure.

One day it’s flip-flops, and the next it’s boots and a puffy jacket. Ah, Texas.

I am grateful that I can choose not to go anywhere when the weather is beastly… and stay home and spend the day reading. As a friend recently said, “We’re retired, every day is Saturday!” Now that I can focus enough to savor a well-written book again, I want to share what I’ve recently read and loved. I think all of these would make great holiday gifts for the readers on your list.

  1. City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert – I am a big fan of all Ms. Gilbert’s work, although my favorite is still The Signature of All Things. This newest book creates an immersion into the sexy and fast-paced 1940’s show-biz, club scene with a coming-of-age tale that will sweep you up and take you along for the roller-coaster ride!
  2. Educated by Tara Westover – This New York Times best-seller is a stunning, insightful memoir that reads like the very best fiction. The author was born to survivalists in the Idaho mountains. Her family distrusted both the educational and medical systems, and lived with their own skewed code of ethics. Teaching herself enough to get into college, she went on to graduate from Brigham Young, Harvard and Cambridge Universities.  An eye-opening read about a young woman’s courage and conviction to get not only an education, but a better life for herself.
  3. Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs – Another memoir, this one is by Steve Jobs’ daughter. I will say, I alternately hated him, wanting to quit reading, and felt sorry for him. It felt voyeuristic to keep reading at times… and my heart broke over and over for the author. The book gave me some perspective on Steve Jobs, being told by a wise, insightful, and talented writer that wanted to love him, and be loved by him in return.
  4. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens – Also a N.Y.T. bestseller, and it’s very easy to see why! This story – of a fiercely independent young girl living alone in the marsh, leads up to a suspected murder that takes place in 1969, the year I graduated high-school. I found it easy to empathize with, and admire, the main character. I know I could not have had the courage to live as she did. I also appreciate that this is the author’s first novel, and she just turned 70. If you love nature (and Barbara Kingsolver’s books) you will absolutely love this book!
  5. Sand & Water by Michael Hoerning – Who knew a romance story could also be a can’t-put-it-down-page-turner?  I’m not a fan of the romance genre, but this engaging and well-written debut novel won me over. Romance, friendship, personal growth and spirituality, this book has it all. And, the icing on the cake… Michael is my cousin! I am very happy that his work is so good, and hope he writes another book soon.

I’ve also been re-reading my own book: Sick and Tired & Sexy, Living Beautifully with Chronic Illness. I find that it’s good to remind myself of what I know… taking my own advice, so to speak.

All of the books here are available at Amazon.com. Now, I need your help: have you read a great book you’d like to recommend? I need a great vacation read. One that will distract me on the plane, and amuse/entertain/educate me poolside. Please share your ideas in the comments below.

Thank you in advance,

XO Donna



Don’t Tread on Me!

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I was greeted yesterday morning, over a delicious cup of coffee NOT made by me (since I’m clever enough to sleep an hour later than my darling) by the news that our neighborhood newsletter was warning more about snakes needing to be removed from people’s homes.

Do you remember the scene from the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indiana Jones is hanging over a pit full of writhing serpents and says, “Snakes. Why’d it have to be snakes?”

That’s exactly how I feel about them, and to hear about this before I’d even finished my coffee.  Arrrggghhh!!  

So what’s a gal to do?  Since we live in a city, (we’re out in the country, but it’s still within a city) a shotgun is out of the question. Not that I’d ever kill one, no matter how afraid I was.  Education (as with most things in life) is the answer!

Having been horrified when I moved here, upon learning that there are poisonous snakes everywhere in Texas, I took advantage of an avid herpetologist friend’s knowledge  to learn everything I could about snakes.  I wanted to be able to recognize the ones I needed to worry about…  instead of worrying about them all.

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As it turns out, any snake will try to bite us to defend itself, even a little green garden snake.  The State of Texas is home to 15 potentially dangerous snake species or subspecies. 

Despite this, each year, there have been more deaths in Texas attributed to lightning strikes than to venomous snakebites. The four poisonous snakes species here: rattlesnakes, copperheads, water moccasins, and coral snakes.

By not hanging around the banks of rivers, streams, and brooks, I can avoid water moccasins. Copperheads? Rattlesnakes? Out here, in the woods… and I’m not a hiker through uncharted trails. Nope, thanks.

Coral snakes are small with little-bitty mouths, usually only biting fingers when we stick our hands somewhere without looking first. I don’t garden without gloves, don’t reach into trees or bushes or woodpiles without looking first. 

 Snakes tend to be accidental house crashers. You might find one curled in a corner on your patio looking for coolness in the heat of the summer. Or in your garage… seeking the same. 

The good news? Rattlesnakes will usually signal if you’ve startled them by rattling or buzzing their tails,  giving you an opportunity to pee in your pants then run in the opposite direction! 

I’ve lived here for 41 years, and have never seen a dangerous snake anywhere besides my herpetologist friend’s house! More good news – they are as afraid of us as we are of them! 

The newsletter shared common-sense tips for living where there are poisonous snakes: turn on a light and have a look around before stepping out on your patio at night, or into your garage. And even look around first before stepping out on your patio during the day. Mindfulness, that’s all.

If you encounter a poisonous snake in your garage, on your patio, or in your garden… run away, and call wildlife management. Or, if you live out here, you can call the group of “snake wranglers” who will come fetch them. 

XO Donna

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Like Goldilocks

I realized after we moved in that I’d sold my set of modern black bookcases. Somehow, I remembered having kept one… just in case. 

Now, in order to set up my office and conquer the chaos, (I have six boxes of books waiting for a place to live) I need to buy a new bookcase… which is actually pretty exciting. 

I also realized that I have finally outgrown my “black phase,” which is pretty exciting, too. This all seems relatively simple and straightforward, right?  

What I want is a white bookcase. Or maybe a very light grey one. Under $200.00. With a little bit of trim, so it won’t look like dorm furniture.

Plan A:  Get online at IKEA, since there’s one nearby, and see if there’s one that fits the bill, then go get it. I’m always up for the challenge of assembling a piece of furniture. I quickly found exactly what I was looking for, and my sweetie and I headed off for a short field trip. 

We thought we knew the shortcuts through the maze at IKEA, but they have done some rearranging and we ended up totally missing the furniture section and display of bookcases. 

No matter, I went to the Information kiosk, looked up the product number and aisle location, and voila! There was just one problem: the box was more than six feet long and weighed almost 75 pounds! We couldn’t lift it. Well, he couldn’t do it alone, and I couldn’t help since my shoulder is still out of whack. This bookcase was just too big!

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I moved on to Plan B: Find someone who delivers… preferably for free. Amazon, Rooms to Go, and Home Depot (did you know they now sell really nice looking furniture online?) Nothing I liked on Amazon. Nor at RTG. I went to Home Depot’s website and found a beautiful bookcase, but it was shorter than I wanted; so maybe a pair might work. Alas, side-by-side they were five inches too wide for the space allotted. Dang it, this bookcase was too wide!

 Who knew that buying a bookcase could be such a challenge? 

I looked further, but I wasn’t finding what I had in mind. Staring at the floor, well actually, at my new rug, I realized I could probably find one at BirchLane.com the same place I bought the rug. As Gomer Pyle used to say, “Surprise… surprise, surprise!” 

They had so many nice ones that I had to enact another plan.  Plan C: pick out the first three white ones in my price range, write down their measurements, see which fits best and get ‘er done!

One of them was off-white, and another was rustic white; picturing them next to my modern white desk, I decided on the third one, which was white. At last, a bookcase that was just right! 

image from catalogue 

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I was expecting it Monday, but got an email this morning saying it would be delivered today. It just arrived, and it came with free shipping!

XO Donna

(P.S. – I am not compensated in any way for any store I mention when I write. I wish! I have faves, and I like to share what I have good experiences with.)



Got the Blues

Before we left Texas, I’d harvested a bunch of the red fruit (tunas) of prickly pear cactus where we were camping. I’d made prickly pear juice quite a learning curve, with quite a few sticky (ouch!) issues.  And I had another bag full of tunas thinking I’d do it again, using my new wisdom, and make thick syrup to give as gifts for swirls in Margaritas.

Passing through Santa Fe, we were invited to return for Mad-Stock, a Woodstock themed celebration of music, peace and love. I decided I’d make tie-dye shirts for the guys our of the prickly pear juice! Both said they didn’t mind wearing hot pink… what a washout!!!  After all my work; cooking them in the hot juice for an hour, then letting them sit overnight in plastic bags, when I untied them they were gorgeous. When I washed them, this color faded completely away.

Now, you know full well that if I spilled any on a good white blouse, it never would have come out!

I was even more determined now, and after looking through Pinterest, I decided to try again, this time using an old friend from the 70’s…  RIT dye in a lovely Indigo Blue.
I used some of my old tying techniques (I used to love doing tie-dyes in pretty patterns, but simple, beautiful colors) incorporating tying stones into the folds, simple pleat-and-band, and Japanese Shibori folding and resistance techniques.

I followed RIT’s instructions TO THE LETTER, and when I pulled them from the dye bath (done in a 3-gallon bucket in my kitchen sink) I was over-the-Moon thrilled! Indigo blue! Shibori folds! Gorgeous circles with marigold-like patterns within!

Still following instructions carefully, I washed and dried them, and what I pulled from the dryer 40 minutes later was a pale imitation of what I had put into the dryer.  My well-defined lines of indigo and white had become a soft cream and denim blue design. Sigh. I went to bed that night feeling like a failure…

Turns out the failure was in RIT’s isstructions, for when I looked online there were completely different guidelines than on the box. Had i known, I would have gladly taken all the extra time they were proposing. I hoped the guys would still wear them.

The next morning when I awoke, the first thing I saw on my FB feed was this post by a friend, Lynn – “Failure is an event, not a character flaw.”  That changed my mind, what I did failed, but now I know where to pick-up next time. This was entirely too much fun, too relaxing, and too fulfilling to quit. I’m not ready to take orders yet, but I see a lot of Blue in my future!

 

XO DONNA