I'm discovering that "city life", as it is commonly thought of, is not very much to my liking. There's no surprise in this for me, really. The pointless traffic and acres of asphalt leave me wanting for home...
One perk, though, is that the mass of humanity I live among is a stop on many a national book tour. I can slog my way into the ridiculous traffic that always looms outside the door and find myself, at the local Baptist church, in the company of some of my favorite authors. This week it was Khaled Hosseini touring for his new book, And the Mountains Echoed.
"... a novel about how we love, how we take care of one another, and how the
choices we make resonate through generations. In this tale... Hosseini explores the many ways in which families
nurture, wound, betray, honor, and sacrifice for one another; and how
often we are surprised by the actions of those closest to us, at the
times that matter most."
If you've somehow never read his earlier books, please do find them. He's a wonderful storyteller. They are not easy happy stories, but wonderful in the way he leads his characters through a world of sadness and loss to a place of hope.
For many years I used Hosseini's The Kite Runner in the remedial reading classes I taught at the community college. For most of my students, it was the first novel they "willingly" read and discussed. Many of them, as well as my colleagues, questioned my choice of a novel about Afghanistan and one with such difficult themes. The thing is, while his books are mostly set there, they're not necessarily "about" that faraway place and it's the poetry of his words and his ability to speak to emotion and human shortcomings that make him a great read, I think.
I brought along my dog-eared copy to be signed by the author. I was embarrassed at the thought of actually having him sign it, with the state it's in... pages falling out, a hundred vocabulary words highlighted, my notes for student discussion scribbled in the margins.
I was saved from offering him any explanation by rain pelting the church windows and the sound of sirens. We were told a "strong storm" was approaching and the signing line was hastily closed. Totally drenched on my way to the car, I asked someone what the sirens meant...
Add the possibility of tornadoes to the list of things that are not to my liking... where I come from, the only time we heard those sirens was on winter mornings to announce to the community that schools were closed for a snow day. Do they still do that where you're from? Those sirens are a happy sound in my memory! Talk about culture shock.
Please take the opportunity to hear him speak if you should be lucky enough to live somewhere that his book tour will visit. He feels like a very, very genuine man and is as great a storyteller in person as on the pages of his novels.
As always, let me know what you think! Let talk books!
So I've been taking photos of some of the adoptable dogs and cats for the PAWS Atlanta website for a couple of months now. I started volunteering there shortly after we adopted Sadie. At first, I assisted their photographer by helping with equipment set-up and herding the animals during their photo shoot, but after a while the regular photographer moved away and I was promoted to full-fledged official volunteer pet photographer.
As volunteer gigs go, it's pretty sweet! I don't have the fancy studio set-up that the other guy did and I don't usually have an assistant and I mostly don't know what the heck I'm doing, but it's so much fun! And oftentimes there are puppies and kittens to be photographed and loved on and snuggled some, too!
The cats are often a challenge, though. Or they're a different sort of challenge than the dogs. The last couple visits I've been met with running, hiding, hissing and spitty kitties. I try to reason with them, but not being a cat person, I can't seem to get them to understand that they're not doing themselves any favors by looking so... so... dangerous!
I would encourage anyone with photography skills and a love for animals to consider offering your talents to a local shelter. The time spent befriending the animals (even the meanest of scaredy-cats) is therapeutic to us both, I think, on a personal level as well as in the quality of the photos. A happy, comfortable animal makes for a more beautiful photo; both of which make their adoption more likely!
You can see the pets currently available for adoption at PAWS (as well as some of my photos of them) by clicking here.
As a kid, I loved having tacos for dinner, but could hardly convince my dad to ever make them. I guess assembling all the proper parts was too much trouble. What I'm sharing tonight are not tacos, but something better, I think.
Jay calls these "Poor Man's Tostadas" and we had them for the first time last week before our first Braves game of the season. They came together quickly and were delicious! We started with a corn tostada instead of a taco shell... important to the stability of the end product, I think. We used warmed refried beans spread in a thin layer over the tostada as the base for the yummy things and as a "glue" to hold it all together.
We made a meat-free version, hence the "poor man" title, with boiled carrots and potatoes in place of any meat. On top of that we added a crumbly Mexican cheese called queso fresco, diced tomatoes and diced jalapenos.
The final touches were sour cream, fresh cilantro and a green tomatillo salsa. All very yummy!
A proper approach is necessary, so that you don't lose the whole thing in your lap. It's definitely worth the trouble balancing it all, though. I'm trying to dream up something besides potatoes and carrots that might be used as an alternate... any ideas?
I'd been waiting ever so patiently (not) for that glorious day that felt like Spring for the first time and it finally came on Saturday last. I sat in the sun for a couple hours and finished the latest Barbara Kingsolver book. It's a good one; I'd recommend it, especially when combined with some overdue sunshine.
I seem to have lost all tolerance for cold weather. Probably that happened around the time that I moved here and threw away most all of my winter clothing in the process.
Spring happens differently here... everything is coming into bloom at once. Daffodils and Redbud and Forsythia and Azalea are all screaming for my attention at the same time. It's hard to relish any one thing.
In an ongoing effort to keep myself busy, I'm starting volunteer training later this week to be a docent for Trees Atlanta in their Beltline Arboretum program. I'm doing this so that I can lead bird walks on the Beltline for Atlanta Audubon and be able to sound as intelligent about trees and art and the history of Atlanta as I do about birds. We'll see how that goes.
I've been reading a lot of cooking blogs these days and I think that, more than anything, this attests to just how out of sorts I'm feeling. I hate cooking, remember? I do enjoy reading about it, though, and enjoy the excuse of trying out a new recipe because I saw it on a favorite blog. Anyone have a good cooking blog to share? The blogs I enjoy the most are written by people who seem to approach cooking the way I do... as something like a science experiment. I like reading about their failures and mistakes because it makes me feel less incompetent myself...
Do you like scones? I have a couple recipes that I use often... a favorite is maple walnut scones. I tried dressing them up a couple weeks back with frozen blueberries that were leftover from some we'd picked last summer. I was wholly disappointed with the results... those frozen blueberries had no flavor whatsoever!
It turned out that the frozen blueberries I'd used were actually black beans. Ask me what they were doing in the freezer. Ask me, too, how I didn't realize they were black beans instead of blueberries.