A Veritable Feast OR What Would Diebenkorn Do?

"Readers who prefer clueless heroines, pointless gore and evil mumbo jumbo will find a veritable feast in Littlewood's debut."-- Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2013 issue, page eighteen.

Next to black coffee and a breakfast burrito, nothing kicks a day into gear like a Kirkus. I got all deja voodoo like you do so well when I read of a poet obsessed with the word "garbanzo" in Nicholson Baker's novel Traveling Sprinkler, due out in September.  The Kirkus review of this book won't go online to nonsubscribers for another month, but the Paris Review has added to my anticipation:

Why aren't there more novels about Quaker worship?  It's inherently dramatic, people sitting in silence and waiting for God to speak through them. Dramatic--and really, really funny. For proof look no further than Nicholson Baker's forthcoming novel, Traveling Sprinkler.

I just read a novel about Quaker worship, Tracy Chevalier's The Last Runaway, but that novel lacked garbanzos. Speaking of lacking garbanzos, my sister's Bethesda grocery stores lack Sabra Luscious Lemon Hummus, my current favorite. I have only found this flavor at Market Street grocery stores, but it's worth a longer drive for a fix!

For a Quaker moment I've spent time in James Turrell's Skyspace "Tending (Blue)" at the Nasher Sculpture Center. That experience has been ruined by the hot glare reflected off a new mirrored luxury condo skyscraper next door. Sadly, you can read about that in the New York Times:

One of my favorite Turrell pieces is the Skyspace “Tending (Blue),” which is inside a small stone building behind the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas. To reach the piece, you pass through a Renzo Piano-designed building filled with northern light, then you cross the clean, clear lines of a landscape by Peter Walker. By the time you enter the Skyspace, the city of Dallas is long forgotten. I once lost the better part of a day inside, staring up as clouds lofted and flattened against the ceiling. But last year, a mirrored skyscraper went up nearby, reflecting glare into the building, killing plants in the garden and looming into view of the Skyspace. The museum had to close it.

As the battle continues, getting nearer and nearer to, gasp, litigation I wonder why tent dresses and muu-muus haven't been considered. That look is working for the Washington Monument during earthquake repairs. As my plane landed at Reagan National a few weeks ago the monument looked sort of chubby and gray on a rainy day. Maybe I needed my glasses adjusted. But no, the monument is draped with fabric over the scaffolding, and lighted to create a limited-time-only tourist attraction.


What is a "veritable feast"? Once it meant the feast was worthy of the name, a major banquet spread with or without national holiday status. Now the "veritable feast" is under a snarky dome of rhetorical affected tone.

On the way to a dental appointment, I was hypnotized by an NPR interview with Anna Badkhen, author of The World is a Carpet. Now I am under the spell of her sensuous writing. Got the book at my beautiful library. For beautiful libraries, check out this online list. It's a veritable feast of literary luxury.

Above the library the town hall reconstruction goes clonking and BAMMING along. Down below, we have our reflexes tested and thank heaven for each survival. I feel like the roadrunner racing below the falling anvil while working the circulation desk. On a tour of the construction area I thought of Richard Diebenkorn. What would he do? He would take the construction lines and the colors of the early evening clouds to build the monument. Then he would drape and erase his construction, not with mumbo jumbo, but with a clear conviction to erase the precious and push himself to a new solution.

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder

Pierce Chevrolets on NBC News!

This is bigger news than bras!  A secret stash of nearly five hundred vintage autos is coming up for auction in September in, drum roll please, Pierce, Nebraska. They aren't all in exactly mint condition, but some vehicles have mileage totals under three miles.  Here's the video clip from NBC News.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

The Lambrecht Chevy dealership opened in Pierce after World War II. My parents bought their first car there in 1954 after taking driving lessons. I loved that beautiful pea green Chevy, and I loved Pierce. If you click the link you'll find the many posts I blogged about each.


Pierce was my Neverland, a place I could go in my imagination. It held my roots, at least the roots I claimed, the pull of genealogy and stories told round the dining table after the "littler kids" went to bed. It also held adventure. I feel stitched into this place, bound and free at the same time.

Pierce was a shared territory I could call up for my father as his mind was beginning to fade. We could walk its few streets in we put our heads together. We could peer in the dusty window of the Chevy dealership at the old cars collected there, or we could cross the street to the Home Filling Station for a sip of  water from the fountain out at the sidewalk.

Howie's recollected map of Main Street in Pierce

I cannot auction off memories or connections like vintage Chevys. No one on Craigslist wants the rocking chairs and salt cellars. The map below is a little easier to read than Dad's handwriting. I haven't been to the geographic Pierce in thirty years, but I visit it often in my mind.

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


Extra! Extra! Bras in the news!

Hey, look at the headline. Historical news is being made:

Charged, as I have been, with single-handedly keeping print media alive via the Internet, this was another happy day on task. Waiting for coffee to brew, I flipped through the business section of The Dallas Morning News en route to the sudoku. 

Why, bless my boobies! Hanesbrands now owns Maidenform on its way to becoming an evil underwire monopoly. This is big, big news, as it turns out average bra size is increasing.

More entertaining newspaper items were aquaponic gardening to feed a family of eight, and a seed library blossoming in repurposed card catalog drawers. It's obviously a Barnum and Bailey world, but it wouldn't be make-believe if I believed in WonderBra.

Now just imagine growing tomatoes in Madonna's bra. It gives tomato cages a whole new meaning. Voila!

Topsy-Turvy Tomatoes + MiracleGro + A Fish Out of Water  = WonderBra! 


Q. Wasn't Tom Hanks in a really dumb sitcom called "Bosom Buddies"?
A. Yes, with Peter Scolari back before "Newhart" and "Big".

Q. Isn't a subscription for daily home newspaper delivery getting pretty pricey?
A. Indeed. It's about thirty dollars a month.

Q. Won't the Bobby Book post tell of this blogger's very first crush?
A. Yes, but that will have to wait until after this bizoom update.

Q. Doesn't the blogger at Plano Prairie Garden have a better plan for tomato support?
A. Yes, he uses cattle panel.

Q. Why do reasonably intelligent people say "preventative" when they mean "preventive"?
A. I don't know, but it makes me crabby.

Extra! Extra!
They're drawing a red line
Around the biggest scoop
Of the decade...
A barrel of charm,
A fabulous thrill,
The biggest little headline
In vaudeville

Presenting...in person...
That 3 foot 3Bundle of dynamite...

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


Moth night

The continuing bathroom home repairs are making me groggy, along with my late night out at the "Black Light the Night" event at Texas Discovery Gardens. Planners expected maybe fifteen responses when they sent out an email invitation. Surprise! Two hundred insect-intrigued folks turned out for the free event. That's a lot of people standing around old sheets hung from pvc pipe frames.  

While we waited for dark, we could look at display cases of moths, watch silkworms, hornworms, and sphinx caterpillars munch, listen for Rio Grande chirping frogs, watch bats fly overhead, or wander the gardens. We could have detailed discussions about garden orb spiders with total strangers. Perhaps best was feeling a breeze after a very hot day.

The moths didn't appear until about 9:45. Most were small, some barely larger than gnats.They were easier to see when serious bug guys caught them in specimen jars and turned on flashlights. Then the markings were exquisite, but not camera friendly. Serious bug guys (henceforth SBG) explained about the critter on the middle right. It is a "picture wing fly".

Otitidae - picture-winged flies
Otitidae are called picture-winged flies because most of them have patterns in the wings. They are very common and can be found on logs, brush piles, and leaves. They sometimes hold the wings upright and signal for a mate by waving the wings. 

One SBG explained "sugaring" for moths. Basically, that means painting a sweet and fermented mixture on tree trunks. It was too early for moths to visit, but the bait paint attracted crickets and roaches.He warned that sugaring may stain trees.  

Rio Grande chirping frogs have ridden to Dallas on trucks full of landscaping materials, and established breeding populations out of their normal range. You can hear the chirp at this link.

And at the top of the picture is a stink bug flying away.

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


Thanks, Dallas Morning News!

Wow, I feel so much better, and all because I read the newspaper. If I were an emoticon person, you would see a big smiley face here...... If I was just five years old, you would see a sunshine in the upper left corner of this post. What do you mean you do?

Lest you wonder at my motives, this in not a backhanded insult. I enjoyed reading the long interview with Dallas author Ben Fountain about his terrific book, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk. Another favorite book of mine showed up in the comics. Luann's parents were reading Jess Walter's Beautiful Ruins aloud. 

That is so romantic!

I'm not playing ostrich, but I'd rather eat gravel or oatmeal for breakfast today than study another long feature about Trayvon Martin, the Texas abortion law, the Six Flags roller coaster fatality, child pornography, or yet another way airlines are going to gouge and squish paying passengers.
Can't do it, or the Sunday sudoku either.

Instead I'm cheering Pudge Rodriguez's induction into the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame, and the gutsy Stephenville librarian who took on WalMart when a parking lot cart corral blew into her car. She's got research skills and she's not afraid to use them. Amen! I've got a Doonesbury flipbook, and I'm not afraid to use it. Sure, I wish I'd been the person to write the Humor piece about road trips in the back of a station wagon, but Matt Wixon did it well. He just doesn't look old enough to have ever ridden without a seatbelt. My dad installed seatbelts in our 1954 Chevy in the mid Sixties.

Thanks, DMN, for the good photo of a Mediterranean house gecko in Denton County. In other happy reptile news, Parade magazine had an ad for a picture book, My Snake Blake. I know a little guy who needs to see this book!


If you're happy and you know it, thank today's Dallas Morning News. I quote Matt Wixon:

"It was too perfect to be dangerous."


© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


Plums sixty-nine cents a pound

Chubby toddler knees out for a ride through the grocery store, looking at all the people and colors.  An event, a field trip, a circus of stimuli, and the outing is a demonstration of mastery.

Mr. Short Stack is getting soooo big he can ride in the grocery cart AND wear a hat at the same time. My knees are chubby, too, but I push the cart. The circus of stimuli has matinee and evening performances.

"Did you find everything you needed?," the cashier asks before she tells me another TMI personal anecdote. Next time the young checker devises the optimal bagging plan for my purchases in my reusable bags. That girl will go far!

I did not find God in the produce section, but at least I didn't spy my ex near the 90% lean ground beef. You may spy my favorite photo by William Eggleston bottom right.

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder

Green library night

Bringing my library life list to number sixty-seven, I visited the Timberglen Branch of the Dallas Public Library to hear blogger Plano Prairie Bluestem speak about turning his lawn into a certified wildlife habitat of native plants. His yard has been certified by the National Wildlife Federation, Texas Parks and Wildlife, and as a Monarch way station.

The Timberglen Branch is certified, too, as a Gold LEED building. This is the first time I've seen parking spaces reserved for ultra low emission vehicles and hybrids. You can see information about the building on this interactive site. Sadly, people still litter outside a green building, so I won't post my photos of the rainwater collection/cistern system. The library had a good number of patrons using its services on a hot summer evening.


It was a certified good evening outing all round.

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


Spotted loitering

Mystery caterpillar alert! Suspect is large, alone, and doesn't appear to be eating. It's just loitering, going on two days now, in the Gregg's mistflower plant. That plant is not a known caterpillar food source, although the butterflies feed on flower nectar.

At first glance, suspect is rather nondescript, but on closer observation it has eyespots and a pattern of triangles along its stripes. Looks like a man's necktie. 

Probable identification is yellowstriped armyworm, (Spodoptera ornithogalli). If not eaten by a bird, it will go underground to pupate like a tomato hornworm.

Do not attempt to take into custody. Go on about your business, folks.

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


Self-watering insane asylum

Innocently enough, these obsessions begin most always.  My coworker was telling me in detail of the DIY self-watering planter she had constructed out of buckets with spigots and capillary action and other perfectly logical small is beautiful human engineering techniques.  Without a diagram it wasn't sinking in, or slow dripping.

So, there we were last week in Thomas Jefferson's incredible 80'x1000' vegetable garden, and my sons asked me about those terracotta things in some rows. Maybe self-watering contraptions? I would have to find out, and I would not sleep until I did. Not.

In Monticello's garden 7/5/13

Back home with my downloaded photo I learned that these terracotta gizmos were cloches, also known as bell jars. That's when things got crazy.  


 noun \ˈklōsh\
  1. : a transparent plant cover used outdoors especially for protection against cold
  2. : a woman's close-fitting hat usually with deep rounded crown and narrow brim

The week went along and went along, and I started reading about Nellie Bly going undercover at the Blackwell's Island Insane Asylum. Bly went without sleep for several nights to seem crazy enough to be institutionalized, then had to pray her editor would eventually remember to get her back out.  After her release she powerfully described the inhumane conditions. Many inmates were poor immigrant women deemed insane when they could not speak English.  Matthew Goodman's book, Eighty Days is off to a good beginning. Reviews in Kirkus and Library Journal were intriguing.

If a cloche was also known as a bell jar, maybe I needed to read Sylvia Plath. Although I read J. D. Salinger's "Franny" (1961) several times, I somehow missed The Bell Jar (1971 first U.S. publication). Wasn't a bell jar like the German dome clock on my great-aunt's buffet?

That clock, now belonging to my brother, is a torsion pendulum clock. Thomas Jefferson's seven day clock in the entrance hall is a wonder with its cannonball weights dropping down through the floor. And haven't you ever wanted to just drop through the floor?

Great-aunt Emma's clock

Cover 1st U.S. edition 
Praying incessantly
Mom had one of these.

Diving bell, not Jacques Cousteau
So, what is a bell jar? What are those terracotta containers? Where is my hat?

cloche (n.) Look up cloche at Dictionary.com

type of bell jar, 1882, from French cloche "bell, bell glass" (12c.), from Late Latin clocca "bell" (see clock (n.1)). As a type of women's hat, recorded from 1907, so called from its shape.

It's so cool that this one word, cloche, relates to bells, hats, and clocks. Cloche hats were in style about 1908-1938.  The fitted, bell-shaped hats could have brims down near the eyes, or turned up. I turned up some wild hat photos of my Auntie Em, but no flapper cloches.

Plath uses the bell jar image to evoke bad dreams, lab experiments, and stewing in our own sour air. Many bell jars for the garden are equipped with an adjustable air vent. In lab experiments a bell jar can be used to create a vacuum. Specimen jars and physics experiment images appear often in Plath's novel, which I finally read last night and this rainy morning. The novel's description of descent into insanity and life in sanitariums is as chilling as Bly's, and maybe together they are too much for just one week.

Jefferson's terracotta cloches could incubate young plants from late frosts, protect them from birds, insects, deer, slugs, high winds, and hail. They were used to blanch vegetables to get a delicate flavor and texture bykeeping them in the dark. Apparently this Founding Father liked his sea kale white.

Glass garden cloches are more decorative, but just as practical. They warm the soil and hasten germination. I learned a great deal Barbara Wells Sarudy's Early American Gardens blog, and have placed a link in the right sidebar.

My Auntie Em models several styles of hats in these photos. She is always the person on the right.

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


Yo ho ho me hearties!

Out-heartied by my sister.  She was three for three from the breakfast free throw lane:

  • Day 1.  Popovers with hot maple syrup 
  • Day 2.  Fried eggs and buttermilk drop biscuits
  • Day 3.  Waffles with hot syrup or fresh strawberries and whipped cream
Years ago I ceded popover ground to her, and planted my flag instead on old-fashioned German egg pancakes. Her bacon is crisp, but she doesn't make coffee. Perhaps she was adopted! And all this time I thought biscuits came from a Pillsbury cardboard tube.

Sending a removing-old-caulk-and-grout shout-out to my thighs. I'm stiff and sore after a new assault on the usptairs bathtub. Caulking is not as fun as frosting Pillsbury cinnamon rolls, but dummies can do it.

This is not my sister's recipe, but it's close and it made me laugh. I was in charge of clumping the butter and milk.

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


Black Sea armchair traveler

Last day working at the library before my vacation a couple requested travel guidebooks for the Black Sea, Odessa, and Yalta. Our library is proud of its heavily-used, up-to-date travel collection. Alas, we had nothing to meet the request. * "Nobody goes there!," the husband muttered.  "WE ARE going there!," the wife answered. "We are going to Odessa and Yalta."

Why?  My online search for guidebooks to purchase yielded only Lonely Planet and Badt titles. What was behind the wife's insistence?

Today I found National Geographic had named the Crimea/Black Sea one of its Best Trips for 2013.  Ah, hmmm.  Until now all I knew about the Crimean Peninsula and the Black Sea came from Flashman At the Charge, and Anne Perry's historical mysteries with Hester Latterly, a Crimean War nurse learning from Florence Nightingale. 

We should all be able to scroll our high school history class mental notes and find the Yalta Conference. We might know Odessa from the famous steps scene in the 1925 movie "Battleship Potemkin".  You've probably seen it. It still blows me away. My youngest broke his arm in Odessa/Midland, Texas, but that is not the mental reel we are rolling, and he was not in a descending baby carriage.

So Saturday evening my grown-up youngest asked me some questions about our family origin, something I've been meaning to put into writing for years. I called up the family legend of our earliest-but-not-named ancestor, "The Unknown Liska" and how he walked from the Ukraine to Prague pushing his dear old toothless mama in a wheelbarrow all the way.  Any oral tradition includes layers of embellishing!

Wider than an airplane seat.

At that particular juncture, we were at a supra feast catered by a woman from Georgia.  Seven of the ten diners had been in the Peace Corps in the Ukraine.  They had all been to the Black Sea coast, Georgia, and all around the area.  Odd coincidence! *See "Nobody goes there," above.

supra is a Georgian celebration involving a series of toasts, wine, food, and song.  My son's friend took the role of tamada (ritual toastmaster), and taught us to clink glasses and say, "Gaumarjos! Victory!"  There are poems to recite with each toast. The first toast is to love, and the second is to parents.  There were supposed to be about twenty toasts, but we got side-tracked.  

I thought the order of the toasts was set, but I learn now they are tailored by the tamada for the occasion. Our tamada was honoring my presence, and I was honored indeed. One toast was

 "To what you do with love."  

Georgian cooks use walnuts to season and thicken sauces. The dishes were spiced with tarragon, coriander, fennelgreek, mint, and garlic. We had beans stewed with walnuts, khinkali dumplings stuffed with pork, and khachapuri, a cheese-filled flatbread.  Then we had katmis satsivi chicken in a walnut sauce. My favorite was a an eggplant dish with pomegranate seeds, walnuts, and peppers.  Somehow thin slices of eggplant were cooked, stuffed, and rolled up like little pigs in a blanket. 

All in all, it was a very exotic evening for this old gal.  I'm grateful to have my teeth, and to travel by a taxi instead of wheelbarrow.

In the continuing education spirit of clarification, I pulled up a Google map and a deck of Authors cards.  

  • Relevant vs. Pertinent on Pay-Per-View
  • Relevant + opportune = 2ap·ro·pos  adjective \ˌa-prə-ˈpō, ˈa-prə-ˌ
  • Into the valley of death rode the six hundred
  • Baklava is prepared with different ingredients throughout the region.

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


It's 101 degrees and I'm wearing a skort


I haven't worn a skort since Apollo astronauts were walking on the moon and the Jackson 5 was singing "ABC". So this is one giant step without regard for fashion. Bystanders should put on their dark glasses due to glare from my very white legs.

The National Weather Service claims we have an average of eighteen days a year over one hundred degrees. In 2011 we had seventy-one days, and that summer is still burned on our memories.

This is a spork.
Skorts should not be confused with sporks, nor Skooter with Skipper. We won't discuss Ricky at this juncture.

Thank heaven I am not climbing on a jungle gym or sliding down a metal slippery slide today! That would sure fry my glaring legs! And what is a juncture?

Checked my shoebox of vintage sewing patterns, but didn't find the skort/skooter/pantskirt/culotte* pattern I remembered. But, of course, you can find everything on Etsy:

Butterick 5488

Butterick 4945

McCall's 8960

Simplicity 8418


Barbie had jodhpurs, but Ricky didn't.
 noun \ˈjəŋ(k)-chər\ 

a point of  time; especially : one made critical by a concurrence of circumstances

 noun \ˈjäd-(ˌ)pər\  plural : riding breeches cut full through the hips and close-fitting from knee to ankle

*Culotte and culottes mean the same thing.

Skooter is cuter.
But Skipper has long hair.

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


Goats in the hood

Long day at the library, but I had to chuckle at the Valley House Gallery exhibit invitation I found in my mailbox when I got back home.  An artist named Lindy Chambers has been painting trailer park art for a couple years. She finds meaning in what others discard and overlook. This just makes me chuckle ... and also wish I could still build rundown trailer parks with my old Sims game. The exhibit opens July thirteenth.

As you trippy-tromp around the still on the way to the privy, remember to

Find beauty wherever you are, 
above or below the troll bridge.

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder