Tag Archives: nablopomo

Day trips – Sculpture Garden

For various reasons, we won’t be taking an official Vacation this year. Instead, we’re going to visit several touristy places that we never go to because, after all, they’re right around here and we can visit them any old time.

Any old time is now.

So last weekend we got on the interstate and drove up a little north of Trenton to take a look at “Grounds for Sculpture“, located on what was once the State Fairground.

It’s the kind of place that puts the “garden” in “sculpture garden”.

You never know what you’ll find next

as you wander around narrow pathways

and climb towers

and walk through the woods. (For those who care: I’m not going to post photos of them, but there are one or two very very nude sculptures in the woods.)

Sometimes the sculptures mingle with the visitors

and sometimes you start to wonder “Is this more art, or just furniture?”

They can be a little frightening

or charming

or strange.

Oh, and there are water lilies and koi and peacocks. (Did you know peacocks roost in trees? I didn’t. Unfortunately, they were so very high up that my camera wasn’t up to taking a good picture; being silhouetted against the sun didn’t help.)

We had a wonderful time, though it’s just as well we didn’t stop at this little cafe. You can’t count on prompt service from the waiter.

100 Word Challenge – On the Border

It’s Week 51 of Julia’s 100 Word Challenge for Grownups. This time our prompt is ….the line was drawn…. There are all sorts of lines; for this story, the question is what makes a line real, and how much keeping it real might cost.

If you’re a young border guard, it might cost more than you have…

On the Border

The line was drawn on maps, but here there’s just sand and scrub and coyotes and jackrabbits, and little trails. Some made by the jackrabbits, who wouldn’t understand a map no matter what you said. Some made by the men called coyotes, who wouldn’t care.

My job’s stopping coyotes from crossing the line on the map. I remember what one of the old-timers said to me. “Sure, there’s rules. In the book. Out there? You’re God out there. You make the rules.” I kept wondering if I ought to be a cruel God or a kind one.

But you know that last coyote? The one with the good gun and good aim? He showed me it don’t matter which I am.

186 Cookbooks: Who can resist?

Seriously, who can resist a title like “Forever Summer”? We may not long for the heat and humidity, but when you’re thinking about food, summer is the magic land of luscious fresh produce, more of it than you can eat, more delicious than you could remember after a whole year of waiting for it to return.

And the recipe I tested is so flexible it’s almost shapeless; it’s almost cheating to try it. I (mostly) followed Nigella Lawson’s basic recipe: marinate chicken in lemon juice, olive oil, onion, and rosemary, and grill it. (I used drumsticks instead of whole chickens, and white onion instead of red; I had white onion.) But Nigella tells us that she also marinates chicken in peppercorns, garlic, and wine vinegar, or replaces the rosemary with tarragon, or uses sambal oelek (chili paste).

I haven’t tried those variations, but this one is great. Of course, chicken, lemon, onion, and olive oil are available year round; but the rosemary was about as fresh as it gets, straight off the little rosemary plant at the corner of my backyard garden. So that’s definitely summery.

And a small confession: this cookbook could be classified as a ringer, if this project is intended to identify cookbooks I’m willing to get rid of. There are a few authors whose recipes match my taste so well that there’s no chance I’ll ever give up one of their books: Julia Child, Rick Bayless, and the wonderful Nigella. On the other hand, it is true that I bought this book a year or two ago and hadn’t gotten around to trying anything from it yet. About time. Yum.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside

And here we go again with WordPress’s Weekly Photo Challenge! This time the topic is “Inside”. But what if you find something inside that ought to be outside??

I saw these cows grazing

and chewing their cud

inside the Amsterdam airport terminal several years ago.

Friday Fictioneers: Vintage

It’s Friday Fictioneers time again, and this week Madison Woods wants us to tell a story about grapevines. Inspired by grapevines. Somehow related to vines.


“Well, we’ll have a party,” Grandma said. “Make sure your Brian knows he’s welcome.”

So the family squeezed together under Grandpa’s grape arbor. And Grandma brought out the good wine. Trouble was, that meant Grandma was going to make a speech.

“Tina and Brian.” She beamed. “We wish you a marriage that endures like this wine. But remember, great wines suffer. They survive drought and heat and grow strong. We wish you happiness – but as the years pass only the strong stay happy. We wish…”

Tina stopped listening. None of it had anything to do with her and Brian. They were young and in love and life stretched forward like this summer day in the shade of the big grape leaves. Happy.

* * *

(This story took more cutting than anything I’ve written yet for Friday Fictioneers, and it’s still 122 words long. Of course, that means that I managed to get rid of 170 words, and I wish I could put some of them back. I especially liked the little glimpse of Tina’s Mom and Tina’s Dad’s current girlfriend managing to avoid each other because the family is so enormous…but Mom, Dad, and girlfriend all had to be evicted. Alas.)

Classics Reading Challenge: The first blogger?

Review: The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon
(translated and edited by Ivan Morris)

(A keeper? Yes, yes, yes.)

Such a strange book. About a thousand years ago, the woman we remember as “Sei Shonagon” (Sei was her family name; Shonagon was a rank or job title – so it’s a little bit like knowing her only as “Assistant Director Johnson”) worked as a lady in waiting to the Empress – well, one of the Empresses – of Japan. (Emperors of the time routinely had several wives, plus various ladies of lower status.) “Her” empress gave Sei Shonagon a supply of blank paper, and she used it to record her experiences and opinions, things she saw and did and thought and said.

Notice all the parenthetical explanations I had to stick into that first paragraph? Well, let’s get the most annoying flaw of this book out of the way right now: Sei Shonagon lived in an alien world. Many of the details of her daily life make no sense at all to us, without explanations. And, in the Ivan Morris edition, we certainly get explanations. Footnote after footnote…many of them are interesting in themselves, all of them are informative, but there are So. Many. Of. Them – a total of 584 footnotes for 264 pages.

Actually, if you don’t already know something about Heian Japan, you should probably start by reading through the Appendices, which will introduce you to the basics of Sei’s world. The drawings of houses and clothes – so important to her, and so different from what we’re familiar with – are particularly useful.

By this time, you’re probably wondering if it’s worth your time to bother with the Pillow Book. Yes, it is. Not every writer can make you care about ancient gossip and scandals; Sei Shonagon can. (Maybe it helps that, to her, all of this involved cutting edge fashion and life-or-death politics.)

More than anything, reading the Pillow Book is like reading a really good blog, one where you never know what the next post will focus on. There are lists – often funny – of things she finds offensive or beautiful or embarrassing.  There are odd little incidents involving people she knows and likes or dislikes. She gives us vivid short stories, probably fictional, about the adventures of young men at court, or tells us how the court ladies built a snow mountain and made bets about when it would melt away – and then tried to manipulate the results.

And, just when we’re overcome by the strangeness of her world, she gives us something universal: “Adorable Things:….One picks up a pretty baby and holds him for a while…he clings to one’s neck and then falls asleep.”

100 Word Challenge: Rain

Here we are at week 50 of Julia’s 100 Word Challenge for Grownups. And this week’s prompt is

… the rain turned the road into a river…


During the night, the old man could hear rain hammering his roof.

Disaster, the TV said. Floods. The doorbell rang.

“Sir, do you need a ride to the shelter?”

“No. This is my house.”

“Yes, sir, but you need to evacuate now.” The old man slammed the door. Later, the rain turned the road into a river.

Good, he thought. Keep them away. In the morning, the living room was flooded. He splashed to the kitchen, gathered crackers, retreated upstairs.

Police with a bullhorn and a rowboat. “Mister, time to get out.”

“You’re not taking my house.”

“It’s dangerous!”

He retreated to the attic. Huh, watch them get him out of here.

Ever so slightly, the house shifted on its foundations.