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Sunday, November 20, 2016

Book Review: “Longshot” by Dick Francis

Book Review: “Longshot” by Dick Francis

I have loved Dick Francis novels since I was a kid.  Horses and mysteries.  What better combination is there?  I think I may have read this book in my youth, but I am blessed with forgetfulness.  I remembered absolutely nothing, so I enjoyed it just as much.

As always, with Dick Francis, he mixes horses with something else.  This time, it was training steeplechasers with a writer of survival guides.  The writer will need all of his survival skills in this novel.

It is as fast paced as a steeplechase, and I enjoyed it immensely.  I think I will read some more Dick Francis with my extra time this winter.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Tomatillo Sauce

Tomatillo Sauce

4 cups tomatillo
¾ cup sugar

Slice tomatillos.  Add sugar.  Cook in microwave on high for about 10 mimutes.

Tastes great.  Can be used for whatever you would use a sweet, fruity sauce.  I love it mixed in plain yogurt.

If you are low on tomatillos, add apples or zuchinni.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Book Review: “The Heart of the World” by Ian Baker

Book Review: “The Heart of the World” by Ian Baker

I love a good adventure story; particularly if it is true.  In Tibet, there was a legend of a large waterfalls in Tsangpo Gorge.  Author, Ian Baker, Ian Baker, was intrigued by it and set out to discover it.

Baker interweaves the history of the area, ancient accounts of the waterfall and how to get there and the stories of those who attempted and failed to find it.  We learn all about the Buddhist belief of reaching a place called Yangsang; a paradise on earth.  The waterfall is supposed to be a gateway to Yangsang.  Is it real?  

Baker chronicles several journeys into the area; climaxing with a race to reach the waterfall before a Chinese exploration party gets there first.  The hardships they endured, from near constant rain, dangerous crossing across the gorge, sheer cliffs and leeches--lots of leeches, kept me enthralled.  

I loved this book.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

My Softball Days

My Softball Days

Watching the Cleveland Indians in the World Series brought back some old memories.

Long ago and far away, I ventured into the world to team sports.  I was never athletically inclined.  In fact, I was a team sport disaster in my youth.  I grew up in a neighborhood that consisted of my sister and best friend, Bonnie.  We didn’t make up much of a sports league.  When we tried to play baseball, we had very small teams and had to keep track of many “ghost men.”

I didn't have much of a chance to learn sports, and even in gym class, I didn’t catch on.  We would play kick ball, and on a good day, when they chose teams, I would be the second last person chosen.  I would go way out in the outfield and hope that no one would kick a ball in my direction.  The bad part of that was when one would escape everyone and go flying down the field into the playground and beyond.  I would have to be the one chasing it and bringing it back.  I will never forget the day I caught a ball.  It fell in my arms, and I just stood there stunned.

I must have been in 6th grade when my elementary school had an after school softball league.  I don’t even know how it was possible that I joined it.  My mother didn’t drive, and my dad worked odd shifts.  It was seldom that I could get a ride home if I didn’t take the bus.  Walking was out of the question because I lived on a very busy street with no sidewalks.  Some friend of mine must have had a kind parent.

Anyway, I found myself on a softball league.  I don’t know how the teams were chosen, but once they were, a captain had to be picked.  One of the teachers in charge chose me to be the captain on my team.  I was shocked, but did the best I could.

I often wonder why that teacher picked me.  I don’t remember who it was, so I don’t know if she realized that I was a poor athlete that usually was chosen last because no one wanted me.  Did she feel sorry for me?  Did she think that this would give me a chance to shine?  Did she actually think I would be a good captain?  Did she know that it would mean a lot to me?

The captains didn’t have that many responsibilities, but we did have to make the big decisions like figuring out the team’s lineup and figuring out where the players should play.  I understood how baseball worked quite well, even if I couldn’t catch a ball.  Back then, I was a big Indians fan and listened to the games all summer on the radio.  Rarely, I would have a chance to see them on TV.  

I couldn’t hit a ball very far, but for some reason, I rather consistently hit base hits.  When the season was over, I was surprised to realize I was batting over 300.  When the other team was up, I would borrow a mitt; which didn’t even fit--yes, I didn’t even own my own mitt--and go out far into the outfield and pray that the ball wouldn’t come out to me.  I could barely catch a softball; having so little practice using a mitt.

By some miracle, my team came in first in the league.  I like to think it was my managerial skills, and maybe it was.  Just because I wasn’t good at sports didn’t mean I couldn’t make good decisions.  The winning team got the ultimate prize at the end of the season.  We got to play the final game against the teachers.  Everyone else would be watching.  I was so proud of our team, and I wanted so much for them to beat the teachers.  Everyone wanted to play in that game, and I had to choose the lineup, of course.  In order to win, I realized that the person with a borrowed mitt that didn't fit and couldn’t catch a ball with it shouldn’t be playing the game.  I made the ultimate sacrifice and stayed on the sidelines--directing the game.  Isn’t that what managers do?  I was so proud when we won the game.

The experience didn’t launch my career in sports.  I never joined another league in any sort, again.  I was still picked last for teams in gym.  I hear they don’t do that anymore, and I sure hope that is true.  It did boost my confidence in other aspects in my life, though, I’m sure.  I never hesitated when given the opportunity for leadership roles, and I always felt I did my best.  

I did turn out to be a rather athletic person, but not in team sports.  I need activities that I can learn at my own pace, such as, horseback riding.  It is not unusual for me to hike for hours a day, too.  I still don’t know if I could catch a ball with a mitt...

Shadow Darner

Shadow Darner

I was out walking Maggie on the park by myself; enjoying a good book.  Yes, I read when I walk, and I never trip and fall.  It is the only way I know how to read without getting sleepy.  I end up going on longer walks, because of it--something that is good for both Maggie and me.

The book I am reading on my walks it “The Heart of the World” by Ian Baker.  It is the true story about the author’s journeys in Tibet looking for a legendary waterfall in an inaccessible Tibetan Tsangpo Gorge.

The Tibetan Buddhist believe there are difficult and wonderful places hidden in Tibet where a person can go on a spiritual quest to find enlightenment.  Not only are these places most wonderful, but they offer a portal into the hidden world--the one that is there that we can’t see.

I got to a particularly lovely spot of the park where I closed the book to walk and enjoy the scenery, and pondered what I read.  If there is a hidden realm invisible to us?  Is it possible that we wouldn't have to risk our lives by wandering in Tibet.  Couldn’t it be right before our eyes, and we merely need to look harder?

At that moment, I heard a noise by the vernal pool that I was passing.  I glanced over and saw a large dragonfly chase off another.  Now, this was the summer of the dragonfly for me.  On my travels, I searched for dragonflies and learned to identify them.  Some were cooperative and would sit on a branch for me, so I could get a good look at it.  The larger ones would cruise around so fast that I could barely make out their markings.

Just a few hours, previous, I was out hiking with Kevin near the Rocky River Nature Center to see the new steps they installed on Fort Hill.  I was lamenting that we no longer see dragonflies.  Little did I know I would see one more before winter.

Now, here is the special thing about this dragonfly.  I walked over to get a good look at him, and he just hovered in place.  I said, “Hello,” to him and got as close as I could.  He let me stand just a foot from him for well over a minute.  I looked him over the top and side to side.  What a gorgeous insect!  He had a blue head, dark body, stripes on his tale and two hash marks on each side.  He then flew away and circled about the pool until I couldn't see him any longer.

As soon as I got home, I looked into my guidebook that I got from the Ohio Division of Natural Resources and easily identified him as a Shadow Darner.  Their flight period is from July 4 to November 6.  This was on November 2, so it really was one of my last chances to see one.

Is there a hidden realm for us to find?  Do we need to travel to remote and mysterious places to find it?  Or can we just open our eyes to the amazing things around us right in our own backyards?  My visit with the dragonfly saved me a trip to Tibet.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

One More Week of Growing Season

One More Week of Growing Season

We still haven’t had a frost at my house.  I have never had a garden go into November like this.  Not that there is much in it, anymore.  There still is no frost or freeze on the horizon.

Here is my volunteer pumpkin.  It is nearly ripe.  I have one more harvest of lima beans and I should have a ton of tomatillos when I do my last picking. I am trying to come up with a recipe for tomatillo sauce.  Most people make salsa out of them, but I am trying to come up with a sweet dessert.  The last batch I made was way too sweet, and I had to mix it with plain yogurt to thin it out.  The tomatillos themselves were great.  I just added too much sugar.  I should have enough tomatillos to make a couple of experiments.  I have a few peppers, eggplants and tomatoes that I am just letting grow bigger to right before the frost.