Monday, October 25, 2010


I gathered these wonderful persimmons while in Virginia last month. After 24 hours of travel, including a hotel stay, they weren't beautiful, but I loved them anyway. This is the American persimmon and they can grow wild on the edge of the woods. That is where we found these. They are smallish, maybe the size of a half-dollar. I tried to make persimmons preserves and failed, but I am determined to try again. They really are quite beautiful before they get all squishy...I wish I had taken a picture. However, I wanted to share this beautiful poem. I read it for the first time about a year ago and I still love it. The persimmons mentioned in this poems are the much larger ones native to Asia.


by Li-Young Lee

In sixth grade Mrs. Walker
slapped the back of my head
and made me stand in the corner
for not knowing the difference
between persimmon and precision.
How to choose

persimmons. This is precision.
Ripe ones are soft and brown-spotted.
Sniff the bottoms. The sweet one
will be fragrant. How to eat:
put the knife away, lay down newspaper.
Peel the skin tenderly, not to tear the meat.
Chew the skin, suck it,
and swallow. Now, eat
the meat of the fruit,
so sweet,
all of it, to the heart.

(Omitted stanza is not PG)

Other words
that got me into trouble were
fight and fright, wren and yarn.
Fight was what I did when I was frightened,
Fright was what I felt when I was fighting.
Wrens are small, plain birds,
yarn is what one knits with.
Wrens are soft as yarn.
My mother made birds out of yarn.
I loved to watch her tie the stuff;
a bird, a rabbit, a wee man.

Mrs. Walker brought a persimmon to class
and cut it up
so everyone could taste
a Chinese apple. Knowing
it wasn’t ripe or sweet, I didn’t eat
but watched the other faces.

My mother said every persimmon has a sun
inside, something golden, glowing,
warm as my face.

Once, in the cellar, I found two wrapped in newspaper,
forgotten and not yet ripe.
I took them and set both on my bedroom windowsill,
where each morning a cardinal
sang, The sun, the sun.

Finally understanding
he was going blind,
my father sat up all one night
waiting for a song, a ghost.
I gave him the persimmons,
swelled, heavy as sadness,
and sweet as love.

This year, in the muddy lighting
of my parents’ cellar, I rummage, looking
for something I lost.
My father sits on the tired, wooden stairs,
black cane between his knees,
hand over hand, gripping the handle.
He’s so happy that I’ve come home.
I ask how his eyes are, a stupid question.
All gone, he answers.

Under some blankets, I find a box.
Inside the box I find three scrolls.
I sit beside him and untie
three paintings by my father:
Hibiscus leaf and a white flower.
Two cats preening.
Two persimmons, so full they want to drop from the cloth.

He raises both hands to touch the cloth,
asks, Which is this?

This is persimmons, Father.

Oh, the feel of the wolftail on the silk,
the strength, the tense
precision in the wrist.
I painted them hundreds of times
eyes closed. These I painted blind.
Some things never leave a person:
scent of the hair of one you love,
the texture of persimmons,
in your palm, the ripe weight.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Of Human Bondage

Early this summer while I was stuck at home with a cold and poison ivy, I had the wonderful opportunity to read as much as I wanted. I had stumbled across a practically new copy of Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maughm at a thrift store downtown. It had recently been proffered as a suggested read for the Meredith College Alumni Book Club. I voted for it, but alas, it was not chosen. So, being stuck in bed, I decided it was the perfect time to read a 600 page classic. And boy did it end up being good! The story is about a young orphan named Phillip who is left in the care of his aunt and uncle after the death of his mother. He is sent to boarding school where he is made fun of for having a club foot. He is churlish and mean and leaves school early to travel abroad. He searches for the meaning of life; he becomes obsessed with a woman named Mildred. Phillip returns to her every time she casts him aside. I fully expected to hate Phillip throughout the course of the book, but he grows as a person as the book progresses. He learns to empathize with the poor and, most importantly, he learns to give and receive love. I liked Of Human Bondage much better than The Painted Veil by Maughm. There was a recent article in the NYT about Maughm that essentially labeled him a second class writer. I have to disagree. I thought Of Human Bondage was great!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Movie Review: The Book of Eli

I bought Joel a movie for his birthday-one that he had been raving about and had to own. Normally he won't watch a movie more than once in about five years, but he wanted to re-watch this one as soon as the credits ended. The movie was The Book of Eli. He told me the plot line as soon as he got home, which was fine since I don't normally watch rated R movies. This one, however, sounded interesting. Picture post-apocalyptic America (imagine the TV show Jericho 30 years on) and you have the idea. An unnamed man (Denzel Washington) is traveling west through the country with only a sack on his back. He has some essential weapons and a book which he fiercely guards. He comes to a town that is run by a power-seeking despot (Gary Oldman) who is searching for books, one in particular. He evenutally finds out that the traveler has a book in his possession and sets out to retrieve it at all costs. I can't say any more without giving away essential information-you'll have to watch the movie. It is a fabulous. There is language and violence (hence the R rating), but provided you are a mature adult it is a must-see. Denzel Washington is, as always, an amazing actor. If you don't watch it for his performance, though, watch it so that you can see Michael Gambon (a prolific British actor) play a country/Western post-apocalyptic American. I think it is the funniest and most unusual role I have ever seen him in. Though never touted as a Christian movie, it will build your faith and leave you pondering what is really important in life.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Go Brasil!!!



Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Essays, Short Stories and a Change of Heart

I was never a fan of short stories or essays until a year ago... I didn't like the fact that they were over so soon-I felt like I was getting a snippet of something that could be longer and better. However, on a trip to Washington D.C. to see the Red Sox play the Washington Nationals and visit my college roommate, I was encouraged (wait a minute, was that forced?) to read a book of essays by E. B. White. Despite the fact that we lived 5 hours from each other, she lent me the book. If you read E. B. White's books as a child (Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little), you will love him even more as an adult. He is insightful and witty and his essays will downright pull you in and not let you go. It is a book to own and re-read throughout the years; it is a book that will grow with you. Run to the bookstore and buy Essays of E. B. White. It might open up a whole new world for you just as it did for me.

After reading most of the essays in the book, I felt comfortable moving on to short stories. It was obvious that I had been missing out on something. We read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows in the Meredith College book club. It is the story of a book club that meets during the German occupation of Guernsey during WWII. One member of the book club reads the Essays of Elia by Charles Lamb. I was curious about these essays, so I got an alumnae library card at Meredith College and checked out a VERY old copy of the essays. I was entranced. Though they are called essays, some of them seem to be short stories that fall somewhere in between the categories of fiction and non-fiction.

And so I moved on to fiction-specifically short stories by Willa Cather. My favorite short story of the bunch was The Bohemian Girl, but there was not a bad story in the entire collection. (The Essays of Elia and many short stories by Willa Cather are all in the public domain and can be downloaded for free through book reading applications like Stanza and Kindle.)

I found a collection of short stories at a yard sale about a month ago for 50 cents. I love to own the books that I read, and so I try not to pay more than $1 for a used book. I decided to read a short story by W. Somerset Maughm called The Book-Bag. It was extremely interesting, beautifully written, and quite tragic.

Next on the list was The Secret Sharer by Joseph Conrad. This was such a wonderful short story. I first read Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness at camp in Brasil. There is a bookshelf full of old, termite eaten books which has yielded up some of my favorite books. The Secret Sharer did not disappoint. As with all of his books that I know of, it takes place on a ship. I am amazed by his grasp of the English language (he uses nautical words that I have never even heard of), yet he only learned to speak English around the age of 20. His command of the English language is much better than many native speakers; this only enhances the beauty of his writing.

Long post short, don't be afraid to try something new. I have grown so much since I allowed my college roommate to challenge my notion of good writing. Now if I could only learn to like modern fiction...

Monday, May 31, 2010

A Love Affair

I have a love affair.

With ketchup.

My family will attest to this. As an adult, I finally stopped sucking the ketchup packets clean when my husband (then fiancee) told me how many germs were on said ketchup packet.

The following exchange cemented my love for the new t.v. show called The Middle. Mike is the father and Brick is the quirky, book-loving youngest child. (Even though I'm the oldest, I'm the quirky one. Just ask my sister):

"Ketchup packets?" -Mike
"They are my security condiments. They soothe me." -Brick

Three facts about ketchup:

1. Ketchup is spelled ketchup, not catsup. That is what we say in North Carolina when the 20 lb. cat finally comes into the living room at the end of the day. "Cat'sup."

2. Ketchup is good on everything. Especially on some pinto beans with a little onion chopped up on top. YUM. They practically laugh at you at the Angus Barn if you ask for ketchup to go with your steak. Too bad, people. Laugh on.

3. Ketchup can lead you to a lot of good places and one strange, entertaining, mentally ill man named Joe Gould, aka Professor Seagull. He lived in Greenwich village and sometimes survived on coffee and ketchup. So much ketchup that when the local diner waitresses saw him coming, they would hide all the ketchup bottles. He was a well known bohemian figure in Greenwich Village and posed nude for the famous portrait artist Alice Neel. (A note for my audience, the portrait is NOT G-rated. It is impressive nonetheless.) Joe Gould was most famous for working on An Oral History of Our Time. He claimed it was the longest book ever written with over 9,000,000 words. After his death some of his notebooks were found but they were not the impressive work that he claimed-they were just a few stories from his life along with his diary.

e.e. cummings featured him in the following poem from his collection called No Thanks:

little joe gould has lost his teeth and doesn't know where
to find them(and found a secondhand set which click)little
gould used to amputate his appetite with bad brittle
candy but just(nude eel)now little joe lives on air

Harvard Brevis Est for Handkerchief read Papernapkin no laundry
bills likes People preferring Negroes Indians Youse
n. b. ye twang of little joe(yankee)gould irketh sundry
who are trying to find their minds(but never had any to lose)

and a myth is as good as a smile but little joe gould's quote oral
history unquote might(publishers note) be entitled a wraith's
progress or mainly awash while chiefly submerged or an amoral
morality sort-of-aliveing by innumerable kind-of-deaths

(Amerique Je T'Aime and it may be fun to be fooled
but it's more fun to be more to be fun to be little joe gould)

You should read the book Joe Gould's Secret. It was my find of the year at the Wake County Public Library sale last November.

I'll leave you with Joe Gould's poem My Religion even though it has nothing to do with ketchup.
It makes me laugh. A LOT.

My Religion
In winter I'm a Buddhist,
In summer I'm a nudist.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A few of my favorite things :-)

These are a few of my favorite things...

The Callis family

The Harmon Family

My husband!

One very special niece


Beautiful flowers (Janie grew these)

Cookie dough *nom nom nom*

Nature (not Cary traffic)

Our garden.

There is more to come on the garden!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Hmm... I'm not really sure if "rereadables" is a word, but I'm going to use it today. Here is my list of rereadable books in no certain order. These are books that I have loved; books that hold so much more in them than what you can absorb the first time you read them. All of these novels, for some reason or the other, resonate inside of me.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Narziss and Goldmund by Hermann Hesse
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

Memoirs of a Geisha barely made the list, but when I read it I was enraptured with the culture and I remember being in awe of the book. It was unlike anything I had read before. The two most recent additions are Wuthering Heights and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. The first is mostly full of terrible people while the latter is full of great people; both are fascinating. Jane Eyre is a beautiful love story and Great Expectations is a masterpiece. Narziss and Goldmund describes the balance that needs to be achieved between humanity and the spirit. If you go too far in one direction or the other, you end up being unable to understand that you need a little of both to live in peace. The Good Earth is beautiful because it shows man's relationship with nature. Finally, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is hilariously funny, and there is just way too much craziness inside that book to only read it once. My descriptions don't explain these books the way I want, but hey, it is a start.

Please leave feedback today! What are the books that you think are worth rereading?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Beautiful girl

Beautiful girl-my sweet niece. I just can't get enough of her (nor can I figure out how to get rid of the underline :-)

Friday, January 22, 2010

When my husband took me to Brasil for the first time (in case you are wondering, I spell Brasil the way Brasilians spell it, since I am married to one) he introduced me to plantains. I knew about them and had probably even eaten them here in the states, but in Brasil I learned how to cook them. And I love them! Thus the title of the post: plantains two ways-for breakfast and desert.

Unlike bananas, plantains are ripe when they begin to begin to blacken and are soft when you give them a gentle squeeze.

To cook your plantains for breakfast, cut them into 3 pieces. Place them in a pot of water and bring to a boil.

Your plantains will be ready when the flesh of the banana extends beyond the skin. Remove from the water and simply peel and eat!

To fry plantains, cut your plantain in half and then peel and slice likewise.

Fry in canola oil in a regular frying pan. You want a good coating of oil in the pan, but you don't want the oil to go any higher than halfway up the side of the banana.

When the bananas are browned on both sides, remove them from the pan and place on paper towels to drain the excess grease. Transfer them to a plate and sprinkle liberally with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar.

Eat the plantains while hot! This is one of our favorite snacks.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Bibliophile

Do I have a problem with bibliophilism? Do I have bibliophilistic tendencies? You bet. I share with you the mess in my den. They are

I weeded.

I arranged my books by height so I can stack smaller ones on top. I made a lot of progress. Here is my semi-organized bookshelf. I'm so proud. :-)

And then there's the box of books I forgot I owned.


Friday, January 15, 2010


I got to spend some quality time with my friend Julie this week. We were staying in a nice hotel laying in our own personal queen beds and talking about childhood memories. Julie tells me one about watching an elephant on television. The elephant's name was Beachball... long story short, Julie's mom is yelling at the t.v., "Run, Beachball, run!" All that is to tell you why elephants are on my mind.

When you combine elephants and poety, you get one of my favorite poems. I don't even know who introduced me to this poem, but I know I was young and even then my sense of whimsy won out. Here goes...

Once there was an elephant,
Who tried to use the telephant—
No! no! I mean an elephone
Who tried to use the telephone—
(Dear me! I am not certain quite
That even now I've got it right.)
Howe'er it was, he got his trunk
Entangled in the telephunk;
The more he tried to get it free,
The louder buzzed the telephee—
(I fear I'd better drop the song
Of elephop and telephong!)
-Laura Elizabeth Richards

Still on the subject of elephants, this is where I would go if I had a bucket list. Maybe I should start one and make this first on the list-an elephant sanctuary where you can volunteer to work with elephants. It sounds like a little bit of heaven.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Expiration FAIL

I decided to make supper tonight... The way I said that made it sound like it was a big decision, but it wasn't really. I've been wanting to have gluten-free gnocchi with homemade pasta sauce for some time now. And I finally had the time. I cooked some bacon (slightly expired but unopened-it smelled fine, so I used it.) I sauteed the onion that looked like it might only make it a couple of more days. I diced the garlic (the first two cloves were yellow and wilty-I threw them away). It was time for the tomato sauce! I casually checked the date and it said 2007. EXPIRATION FAIL.
I will used expired foodstuffs provided they smell and look okay, but I drew the line at 3 years. So I looked in my fridge for a substitute and found slightly expired Prego spaghetti sauce. I did the smell test and into the pan it went. Why was I making homemade pasta sauce to begin with? Because I didn't want Prego. Oh well. I added some tomato juice and some sugar to spice things up, tossed in the gnocchi and voila-supper was served... with peas that I put up myself last spring. I think they were the only non-expired ingredient I used. Just a note though... if you are a scientist and think I will die from everything I just ate, don't leave a comment. I don't want to know!