Wednesday, July 31, 2013


The other night it was my pleasure to take just Eric out to one of our favorite Birmingham restaurants, Chuy's at the Summit. There was a wait, so we stood for about 20 minutes out on the balcony overlooking the area -- they don't call it "the Summit" for nothing! Anyhow, I pointed my camera in all the different directions and found completely different skies in every frame!





Monday, July 29, 2013

EVERY DAY AFTER by Laura Golden

Do you like historical fiction?

Great Depression stories, specifically 1932 Alabama?

strong girl characters?



solid storytelling?

Then you simply must read EVERY DAY AFTER by Laura Golden!

Laura is a fellow Birminghamian, and this is her debut novel. Main character Lizzie Hawkins and Ludelphia would be fast friends.

Something I loved about this book: the chapter titles! For example...

Life Is Like the Moon: Now Full, Now Dark
If Not for Hope, the Heart Would Break
He Who Makes a Mouse of Himself Will Be Eaten by the Cats

According to the Author's Note, these come from Mama's book of proverbs, which is a real book entitled  Curiosities in Proverbs: A collection of Unusual Adages, Maxims, Aphorisms, Phrases and Other Popular Dicta from Many Lands, published 1916, arranged by Dwight Edwards Marvin

In the book, Daddy has left home and Mama has sunk into a depression. It's a lot for a girl to handle! And Lizzie Hawkins is a competitive gal, and she has a good friend Ben and a Nellie-Olsen nemesis named Erin.

One of my favorite passages:

"So what am I supposed to do now? Do I fall on purpose to make Ben and Erin happy? Or do I keep fighting to be the best I can be, no matter who it hurts?"

To find out what Lizzie decides, you'll have to read the book. :) Congratulations, Laura, on a lovely debut!

Friday, July 26, 2013


Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Sherry at Semicolon for Roundup.

I don't know about you, but I love pockets. I love tucking away treasures -- most often my own hands -- and always feel a little lost without pockets. Which is why today I am sharing Valerie Worth poems about things that one might slip into a pocket and savor there in the secret, dark depths. (For more Valerie, see the left sidebar for previous posts in this series.)


These things
Might go
Into the pocket:
A bright
Knitted circles
of Queen Anne's

These things
Come out
Of the pocket:
Sand, splinters,
Of paper creased
And soft
as an old

- Valerie Worth

How's that for an unexpected ending? Love! And of course, my grandmother had The Softest Face. Oh, MISS HER, I do.


Mute mysterious
Token, burnished
Metal carved into
grooves and flanges;

Glinting with
Clues and codes,
Reflecting exactly the
Secret of its lock --

But never, until
All its clever
Little tongues click
Round and home,

Will it tell
What hides in the
Shadowy house, the
Silent expectant room.

- Valerie Worth

I love keys, probably most for the secrets they hold. What's in the cabinet, what's behind the door? And how clever is the key/lock design? How intimate. I love that, too.


Pebbles belong to no one
Until you pick them up --
Then they are yours.

But which, of all the world's
mountains of little broken stones,
Will you choose to keep?

The smooth black, the white,
The rough gray with sparks
Shining it its cracks?

Somewhere the best pebble must
Lie hidden, meant for you
If you can find it.

- Valerie Worth

I love picking up nature items. I know we're supposed to leave nature be and all that, and for the most part, I do... but I do love the idea that there's a pebble meant just for me, if I can find it.


In words, in books,
Jewels blaze and stream
Out of the heaped chests
Or soft, spilled bags:
Diamonds, sharp stars,
Polished emerald tears,
Amethysts, rubies, opals
Spreading fire-surfaced pools,
Pearls falling down
in foam-ropes, sparks
Of topaz and sapphire strewn
Over a dark cave-floor-
How dim, then, the ring
Worn on the finger,
With one set stone.

- Valerie Worth

I rather like the "one set stone" myself... but then I have not witnessed a cave of jewels (except in the movies). So much beauty lies hidden and requires work (and patience!) to reveal... another theme I like. :)


Coins are pleasant
To the hand:

Neat circles, smooth,
A little heavy.

They feel as if
They are worth something.

- Valerie Worth

I did some coin collecting in my youth.. still have my US state nickel cards, not quite filled. But coins around here usually wind up in the jelly jar where they accumulate and accumulate, until the jar is full and we start rolling them in bank papers to trade in for paper money. I am always a little startled by how much those little coins add up to.... worth something, indeed!


Is a list
Of likely
To taste:


How they manage
To flavor
The paper

- Valerie Worth

Some of my favorite candies: Sweet-tarts and Peppermint Patties (not so smart to tuck these in a pocket unless you don't mind scraping the smushy sweet off the paper wrapper with your teeth - which I don't mind at all!). Secret: I used to keep peppermint patty wrappers in an old wooden jewelry box. Sometimes I would lift the lid just to enjoy the remaining sweet smell... almost as good as actually eating the candy!

What's your favorite thing to stash in a pocket?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Last week while niece JuliAnna was visiting, we took a jaunt down to Auburn, where the amazing Chantel Acevedo was running a Creative Writing Studio and had invited me to join the students for a pizza supper to talk professional writing. The group had copies of LEAVING GEE'S BEND, and they presented me with a wonderful keepsake of pantoums written on pieces of fabric all gathered in a binder:

Here's the back:

And here's one of my  favorite poems from inside:

Cool, huh?! THANK YOU, Chantel, students and counselors!!

Also, while in Auburn, we shared a lovely lunch at Amsterdam Cafe with my mom (!)  and Charles AND made jewelry with wonderfully creative and talented Barbara Birdsong at Perch Bead Studio. SO MUCH FUN!

We also stopped in at Auburn Public Library for a summer reading program on raptors:

We stayed at the Pat Dye Cottage at The Crenshaw Guest House, where we enjoyed a fantastic breakfast (thanks, George!) before adventuring around the campus and stadium, complete with lemonade at Toomer's. JuliAnna pretty much fell in love with the campus, and who knows? Miss Engineer/Architect To Be may just find a home there someday.

JuliAnna, Eric, Charles, Mama
Thanks for reading... more catch-up adventure posts to come! 

p.s. Best gift I ever got arrived on this day some 41 years ago. Happy Birthday to my sweetest sis, LTG!!!!

Monday, July 22, 2013


When my 16-this-month niece JuliAnna came to visit last week, I asked her if there was anything in Birmingham that she especially wanted to do. At first, she said nothing. Later she said, "Let's go back to Vulcan."

And so we did! It was about 7:45 - 8:00 pm when we arrived. Here's a few more pics, taken from the top:



me & my sweetheart!

me & JuliAnna all jack-o-lanterned up!

beautiful Birmingham, Alabama!
Not pictured: Eric, who gets kind of freaked out by the mesh flooring that makes his head get all spinny.

Friday, July 19, 2013


Wee me (left), sister Lynn & baby brother MicaJon enjoying a snack
*This post is dedicated to the wonderful, food-n-poetry-loving Jama Rattigan!

Happy Poetry Friday! Haiku Queen Jone has Roundup over at Check it Out. Today I'm continuing my celebration of Valerie Worth's work with poems about food. See the left sidebar for other Valerie Worth posts!


Because of each
Knob and knot,
Hump and dimple
And dusty gnarl,

No potato is quite
Like any other--
Until all are pared
Smooth and pale,

Boiled tender, and
Mashed up together:
A single soft beauty
In their bowl.

 - Valerie Worth

My favorite way to prepare potatoes is to cut them into chunks, toss them with some olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh rosemary, then roast in the oven. I also love McDonald's french fries, creamy mashed potatoes and baked potatoes with butter and sour cream. Really, is there a bad way to prepare potatoes?! 


Somehow the hen,
Herself all quirk
And freak and whim,

Manages to make
This egg, as pure
And calm as stone:

All for the sake
Of a silly chick,
Another squawking hen.

 - Valerie Worth

For breakfast, I prefer my eggs over easy -- though I rarely eat breakfast except as supper! (I'm a cereal girl.) Sometimes I get a crazy craving for deviled eggs - I love to add a little onion, a little mustard, some sweet relish and some paprika dusted on top.


After the yellow-white
Pie dough is rolled out
Flat, and picked up
Dropping like a round
Velvet mat, fitted gently
Into the dish, and piled
With sliced, sugared,
Yellow-white apples
Covered with still another
Soft dough-blanket,
The whole thing trimmed
And tucked in tight, then
It is all so neat, so
Thick and filled and fat,
That we could happily
Eat it up, even
Before it is cooked.

 - Valerie Worth

Pie! Oh my goodness, pie makes me very happy. :) At our favorite barbeque restaurant, they serve lemon, chocolate, banana and coconut, each with a cream topping. (Lately, I'm on a coconut kick.) And oh, fruit pies! I love cobblers: peach and strawberry are tops on my list.


Like a nest
Of snakes
Awakened, craning

Out of the
Ground: to stand
With sharp
Scaly heads

Alert, tasting
The air,
Taking the sun,
Looking around.

 - Valerie Worth

Okay, asparagus. I love fresh, baby asparagus --  not those thick, slimy ones! I like to roast it in the oven with olive oil and Tony Chachere's creole seasoning until it's kind of crispy-brown.

How do YOU like your potatoes, eggs, pie & asparagus?? I'm always looking for new recipe ideas. :)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


Every year my father and I take a trip together. Last year we visited literary New England. This year we journeyed west to Yosemite National Park. It's a destination that had been on both our lists for some time, so it was pretty satisfying to actually make that happen. I could write for days about how amazing our trip was, but for this post I will just hit some highlights.

Here is the early morning sky at the airport in Birmingham as I was walking from the parking deck to the terminal.

My father and I met at San Jose airport, quickly got into our rental car and lingered over a a wonderful lunch at The Fish Market Seafood Restaurant.
We then headed over to our home base for the trip: Mariposa! What a lovely little town! Great restaurants -- Savoury'sSugar Pine Cafe, Happy Burger Diner.  Also, Jantz Bakery, which provided us with delicious boxed lunches each day we went into the park. (We also enjoyed homemade cinnamon rolls and blueberry scones for breakfast. Yum!) AND, we lucked upon their monthly Art Hop, which allowed me to bring home some creative baubles for myself and for others. :)

We took the Arch Rock entrance for our first day in the park. After seeing so many pictures and poring over maps and talking to other tourists, I really was surprised by how BIG everything was! El Capitan took my breath away. All that granite... how deep the valley... WOW.

Here's a picture from the Valley Tour:

And another from our drive up to Glacier Point. (Photo taken... I think... at the Tunnel View stop.)

We shared a wonderful meal at the historic Ahwahnee Dining Room where we were the first guests of the evening and treated like royalty.

Here's another picture, just to give you an idea of the grandeur. It really was like stepping back in time and experiencing life as one of the privileged. Amazing!

We saw a fantastic play with Lee Stetson as John Muir Among the Animals. More amazingness! Another highlight was the Big Trees tour at the South entrance of the park. You really can't grasp the size of these giants from pictures. Some things I learned was how ropy the texture of the sequoia trunks, how redwoods are coastal, and it was the grove that John Muir first fell in love with. 

Here we are at outside Galen Clark's research cabin. Wow, did he pick an inspiring spot in the forest!

Another highlight of our trip was the grand finale: the Moonlight Special at Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad. This included a lovely supper (grilled steak, cowboy beans, corn salad and bread pudding), a 20 minute ride on the narrow-guage deep into the Sierra National Forest, and a camp fire singalong, which felt super-special in dry dry DRY super-fire-risk California. So much fun, and a great way to finish out our visit.

Finally, I will leave you with one of my favorite John Muir quotes, as displayed at Wawona Hotel:

But you know what the best part was? Spending time with Papa. We didn't even need all that fantastic scenery. PRICELESS.

Monday, July 15, 2013


"I wish to say nothing. What does the sky say?"

Just back from my first time ever to Yosemite National Park! All those words like staggering, breathtaking, amazing... they are all true. And yet they are not enough. Aren't the best things in life like that? Beyond description??

Another family-packed, summer-fun week here, but I will be back sometime this week with a run-down of my trip with my father. Happy day!

Friday, July 12, 2013


Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Michelle at Today's Little Ditty for Roundup.

I am out adventuring today but wanted to leave you with some more Valerie Worth poems. What poet doesn't love birds?? For more Valerie, please see the left sidebar for other posts in this series, which I will continue through the summer.


Their Prey.

Comes to
Me, while
I stand and

Quick silver
Swimming into
My glassy

By a mere
Nod of
My wise

- Valerie Worth

The magic years of my childhood were spend in a ranch-style house in Folsom, LA, just across Lake Ponchartrain from New Orleans. Lots of herons in those boggy, coastal parts! I remember trips to the Audubon Zoo and lots of father-daughter dates to wonderful restaurants (that surely contributed to my foodie-love today!). Here's a picture of John James Audubon's Louisiana Heron (from BIRDS OF AMERICA).


When the high
Snows lie worn
To rags along
The muddy furrows,

And the frozen
Sky frays, drooping
Gray and sodden
To the ground,

The sleek crows
Appear, flying
low across the
Threadbare meadow

To jeer at
Winter's ruin
With their jubilant
Thaw, thaw, thaw!

- Valerie Worth

One of my most favorite childhood books MRS. FRISBY AND THE RATS OF NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien includes Jeremy the crow. (This could explain why a current wip of mine includes a pet crow.)


Look how
Last year's
leaves, faded
So gray
And brown,

like flimsy

Beak over
The wind.

But no,
They right

And turn
To the
Stout slate
And ruddy

Of robins,
On steady
Stems across
The ground.

- Valerie Worth

Robins compared to leaves! How wonderful! And here is a pic my sister took of a robin's nest in her yard.


The pigeon shed
is hot, and smells
Of dust and corn;

Bubble, wings scuffle
Above our heads;

We are allowed
To touch the throats
Of the young squabs:

The sink and shift
Like beanbags, heavy
With grain, and warm.

- Valerie Worth

All I can think of when I read this poem is Barbara O'Connor's wonderful book ON THE ROAD TO MR. MINEO'S, which features Sherman the one-legged pigeon. :)


Nothing is less
Rare than
One dust-
Colored sparrow
In a driveway
Minding her own
Matters, pottering
Carelessly, finding
Seeds in the tire-
Flattened weeds:
But because
She can dare
To let us watch her
There, when all
The stately robins
Have fled
Scolding into
The air, she
is as good a bird
As anyone needs.

- Valerie Worth

I love the start of this poem... and isn't it a great reminder that even the commonplace things among us deserve recognition? Also, it reminds me of one of my favorite books of all time -- THE SPARROW by Mary Doria Russell. I have read this book several times and get something new out of it every time. LOVE!

Stay tuned...I will be back next week to share about my adventures!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


Congratulations to fellow Birmingham resident Gin Phillips on her new (and first) middle grade novel! After reading Gin's adult novels, I knew she would bring a certain magic to her work for the younger audience. This is a lovely story of friendship that utilizes a unique setting: an abandoned putt-putt golf course. :)

Be sure to check out THE HIDDEN SUMMER. Here are six of my favorite quotes to whet your appetite:

"Grandpops is as happy with the cookies as I am. 'Tastes like leaves falling,' he says."

"She's someone who would never have gotten on the Titanic before counting all the life rafts."

"She nods. Of course, when she's being sweet to me, there's always the part of me waiting for it. Waiting for her to get tired of playing Mom. Waiting for her to get tired of liking me. Waiting for the ad things to happen. But the minutes or the hours pass and that part of me gets lazy and forgets to be on guard. And then it hurts worse when everything goes bad."

"Her skin is very pale and smooth like a piece of drawing paper."

"I am running fast and easy like an animal on the National geographic Channel. My feet barely hit the ground as I sprint through the grass. Gazelles should stay out of my way."

"The blossoms are scattering off the crape myrtles every time the wind blows, falling like hot pink confetti."

Monday, July 8, 2013


It is my pleasure today to welcome back the lovely, enthusiastic champion for poetry Janet Fagal! Janet emailed me this wonderful picture from Southport, Maine... don't you love the cloud's reflection in the water? It fills me with happiness and energy, and I am so pleased to share it with all of you.

And that's not all! Janet also gave me permission to share her Maine poem, which she wrote in response to David Harrison's Word of the Month blog prompt "fog." (link takes you to the June W.O.M. prompt "harrumph")

Which reminds me... I need a good "fog" picture... anyone? Thank you, Janet for being a part of my "sky" year!

photo by Janet Fagal

Some Mornings in Maine

I hear the fog before I see it.
A slow sad note sounds, then echoes,
blanketing the trills of the morning,
pulling me like a siren song in for a look.

The mist changes the harbor.
Scenes from black and white photographs,
taken long ago, sit stark and crisp,
colors forgotten like an old lover.

Low wisps dance in curls above the current.
Boats at anchor sway like silken scarves.
Draped in their gauzy veil,
they wait for the kiss of the sun.

It is silent now, this harbor, this morning.
Glimmers of light announce the coming change.
I scramble to soak in the sight and the sound,
the world more clear today, dressed in feathery grey.

- Janet Fagal, all rights reserved

Friday, July 5, 2013


fresh Chilton County peaches!

The heat
Bloomed with
Damp, tacky
To the touch,

Like petunia
Stems, or the
Nap on a
Ripe peach.

- Valerie Worth

Okay, this poem: who knows what petunia stems feel like, and who puts that in a poem?! Awesome. I DO have lots of of experience with peaches. I am, in fact, a Georgia peach myself, having been born in Georgia. And it's one of my favorite fruits. I remember my grandfather who lived in north Florida would drive over to Georgia several times during peach season and bring home a truckload of u-pick peaches -- usually Alberta and O'Henry varieties. He then sold the peaches to the local grocery store...and we all feasted.


In the tall
Late summer
Is gone,
The dry

- Valerie Worth

When I think of summer, two of the first things that come to mind are fireflies and crickets. There's something magical about cricket-song... how you can be alone and yet feel as if in the company of some great benevolent spirit. And they are great to fish with, too. :) (sorry, crickets!)


On the front porch
Chairs sit still;

The table will receive
summer drinks;

They wait, arranged,
Strange and polite.

On the back porch
Garden tools spill;

An empty basket
Leans to one side;

The watering can
Rusts among friends.

- Valerie Worth

Sometimes Paul and I like to watch those house hunter shows -- I find them just stimulating enough to keep my attention yet there's nothing in them to raise my blood pressure. On one of the shows recently, a young woman was searching for her first house, and the one thing on her "no" list was a porch. She said it made a house look "country." I guess I'm a little bit country because I love a porch! Especially those old-style painted concrete ones with cool steps to sit on. Here's a pic of part of the mural in my dining room. Look: a porch!


The lawnmower
Grinds its teeth
Over the grass,
Spitting out a thick
Green spray;

its head is too full
Of iron and oil
to know
What it throws

The lawn's whole
Crop of chopped
Green hay.

- Valerie Worth

One of the empowering moments of my childhood was the first time my 17-months-older-than-me brother turned the lawnmower over to ME, little barefoot sis who wanted to experience the vibration of the handle. I didn't even care that he was the one who got the credit for mowing... I knew what I had done.


A far thud,
Then the rocket
Climbs the air,
A dull red flare,
To hang, a moment,
invisible, before
Its shut lack shell cracks
And claps against the ears,
Breaks and billows into bloom,
Spilling down clear green sparks, gold spears,
Silent sliding silver waterfalls and stars.

- Valerie Worth

I'm not a fan of fireworks. While I can appreciate their visual beauty, I don't enjoy the noise. I'm pretty sure this is an "introverted" thing. I'm sure we will be hearing more fireworks in our neighborhood all this weekend. I'd rather just read this poem. :)


Flies wear
Their bones
On the outside.

Some show dead
Gray, as bones
Should seem,

But others gleam
Dark blue, or bright

Or a polished
Copper, mirroring
The sun:

If all bones
Shone so, I
Wouldn't mind

Going around
in my own

- Valerie Worth

"Flies wear/ Their bones/ On the outside." Brilliant! Put a positive spin on a pesky little devil, now there's a poetic trick we should all try. This poem makes me want to write a "Flyswatter" poem. I think I will. Happy summer, everyone! I leave you with a pic of my dear friend Pat showing off how she caught a fly with her fingers. :)

Be sure to visit Keri at Keri Recommends for her very first Poetry Friday Roundup! Also, if you are interested in more Valerie Worth, see the top left sidebar for links on previous posts in this series. Happy day!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


Destin, FL, March 2013
"The setting sun was starting to peek through the clouds, making the whole sky like luscious ink. 'Painter's sky,' his dad had always called it.  -  THE WATER CASTLE by Megan Frazer Blakemore

... and because it's a really good book, and I have more than one Scientist son, I have to share another quote from THE WATER CASTLE:

"Will shook his head. 'But don't you see? You're missing the fundamental point of science. You can't have any ideas before you start. That's bias. You have to see what you see and then make sense of it.'

'You have to have some idea, don't you? Or else how would you know where to look? Anyway, it seems to me that science shouldn't be saying 'No' and 'that's impossible.' I mean, science is about discovery, right? Just like Peary and everyone looking for the North Pole.'”

And on a completely different topic -- well, not completely -- see my "Better than Ice Cream" post today over at Smack Dab in the Middle! Thank you. xo

Monday, July 1, 2013


...he lays down to eat!

Here's how it works:  Bobby lays beside the bowl.

Bobby paws food out of the bowl.

Bobby eats the food off the floor.

Lazy Bobby. He makes us smile. :)
Happy July, everyone!