Eclectic, quirky, and sometimes edgy…this is how things look from my front porch.

Friday, May 27, 2011

May is National Law Enforcement Memorial Month

I don't talk about the law enforcement side of things too much in this blog.  However, I couldn't let National Law Enforcement Memorial go by unrecognized.  Actually, I did a lengthy post following our local memorial commemoration which Blogger "ate" when the system went down for 24 hours. 

While walking in Virginia Beach last weekend, I came across this stunning painting on the side of a building.  If you look closely, you can see a tear in the eye of the sad police dog mourning his human partner. 

Officer Down is the most gut wrenching thing you can ever hear if you live in the law enforcement world.  The most recent Officer Down I know of is Officer Andrew Garton of the Hawthorne , California Police Department.  His watch ended yesterday.  Please pray for his family. 

Seventy-three police officers have been killed in the line of duty so far this year, with 20 in the month of March alone.  This number is up 17% from 2010.  Approximately 60,000 officers are wounded in the line of duty each year.

Rick Spaulding, a Portsmouth Police Officer, died in the line of duty.  His watch ended November 23, 2005.  He served his country in the military.  Prior to being hired by the Portsmouth Police Department as a paid officer, he served as a auxiliary (volunteer) officer for many years.  Rick is the person I honor this month.  Thank you for your sacrifice.  You have not been forgotten, nor have the other 12 fallen officers from Portsmouth.

So over the next few weeks, if you see an officer as you drive along, pray for his safety.  And if you happen to run across one directly, thank her for her service to your community.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Getting a New Disposition

I noticed this sign at the Naval Hospital the last time I was there.  I almost took a number, so I could be No. 9.  Because when the employee who sits on the right got back from her break, I wanted a new disposition.  I wasn't having a good day and, up until this time, I didn't realize that new dispositions were so readily available.

Now I'm sure if you consider it, you could think of quite a few folks who could use a new disposition.  Maybe you could use one, you never know.  The pharmacy tech I always seem to get really could use one. For someone I have to deal with through the Civic League, a new dispostion would really be excellent, as far as I am concerned. 

Quite a few people I see speeding across the West Norfolk Bridge could use a new disposition, especially the ones who give me digital encouragment for obeying the speed limit. 

Finally, the rude guy on the bike on the Great Dismal Swamp Canal Trail could use one.  He was one of the self-absorbed clowns in a court jester outfit with his head down, crouched in a stance to get the least drag to improve his personal best time on his bike because everything has to be a competitive event.

I had slowed down to talk to a walker.  Her friend, further up the trail had twisted her ankle and had gone to sit at a park bench.  I delivered the message.  After nearly running the walker down because he had his head down where he could only see his cycling feet, the biker opined, "You people really need to pay attention to where you're going" in a rather stunning example of the psychological term "projection."   He seemed pretty surprised when I suggested that a switch to decaf might be helpful for him.

Maybe I should have grabbed number 9 and gotten a new dispostion after all.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Virginia Beach Sunday

Sunday was glorious.  I took a long walk on the Virginia Beach boardwalk. 

This is Rudee Inlet, at the very end of the boardwalk.  After the long walk, I had grilled shrimp here:

and enjoyed this view:
Life doesn't get too much better than this.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Long Bike Ride Part 2

There is an interesting abandoned house from the 1800's about 4.5 miles along the trail.

I think I like it better in sepia

Here is another view of the Canal

 Some lucky folks who had a house on Old Route 17 decided to stay there.  Here's one of them:
There are a great many things I love about the trail.  Please consider these two signs.  I'm not sure which one cracks me up more.  This one:
or this one:

I did not have an ummmm "bear encounter" on this trip.  Here is the view from Kelly's where I tucked into a Greek salad for lunch:

Long Bike Ride

On Saturday, I drove across the canal above via this bridge:

And across here

To this bike trail.  This was once Route 17, but they made a new 17 and turned this into a bike/hiking trail.

This was an unbelievable feast for the senses on Saturday.  A light breeze was blowing.  The piercingly sweet scent of flowering blackberries and honeysuckle made the 16 miles fly by.

The trail is bordered by the Great Dismal Swamp Canal, part of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.  I guess they call it "dismal" because the water appears black from the tanic acid from the trees.  The Canal is ANYTHING but Dismal.  The water is more like a sheet of black glass the reflects everything around it.

This area reminded me of Monet's work with lily pads at Giverny, France.

More to follow in Part 2.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Triangle Flower Bed


No matter what I put in this triangle flower bed, it didn't do well.  The spot is shady quite often during they day. There is a crepe myrtle tree off camera and the roots run under the bed, which didn't help.

I was reading one of those special interest magazines that was called "Cottage Gardens."  There were pages after pages of concepts called "Garden Rooms" where homeowners actually planned out outdoor rooms with park benches, bird baths, and other architectural elements.

I didn't have a lot of money to spend, so I settled on bright kindergarten colors and focused on some old chairs I had.  My neighbor, Nancy, rescued the cabinet hanging on the fence from the trash left out one Thursday night.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

National Police Week 2011

In Valor There is Hope
I never talk about my law enforcement side of the house on this blog, but I was so moved today at the Portsmouth Law Enforcement Memorial service today that had to mark it somewhere, somehow.

Twelve department members, 11 officers and one crossing guard, have died in the line of duty in the Portsmouth Virginia Police Department.  The first African American police officer killed in the line of duty died in Portsmouth about a hundred years ago.  The most recent member to die in the line of duty was Officer Rick Spaulding in 2006.  Rick was a retired Coast Guard service  member and had been an auxiliary (volunteer) officer before joining the force as a paid officer.  He had a wife and family.

Congress designated this week to remember fallen law enforcement officers.  Over 19,000 officers have died in the performance of their jobs since the 1800's.  In this country, a law enforcement officer is killed every 53 hours.  Sixty thousand law enforcement officers are physically attacked in the performance of their duties every year.   Deaths in the line of duty are up 17% over 2011. 

Our keynote speak today was Dr. Jack Enter, a retired police officer, who had been providing departmental training on proactive policing.  His speech was short, but extremely poignant.   He relayed how history has found one of the first police officers to die in the line of duty in Pompei, which was over taken by the eruption of Mount Vesuvias (modern day Naples) in 79 A.D.

As archeologists were working to excavate the site, they were less careful in one part of the city, where people would have had enough time and distance from the eruption to survive.  They did not expect to find human remains.  Soon, however, a human foot was found and further digging revealed a Roman centurion with his breastplate and distinctive helmet still intact.  The judgment of the archeologists was that he died there because he stayed at his post, doing his duty until the volcano engulfed him.  Died at his post, in the line of duty.

The media loves to concentrate on

Monday, May 9, 2011

Evening Bike Ride to Olde Towne

I think this looks much more like somewhere in Europe than it does like a very favorite restaurant in my own hometown of Portsmouth, Virginia.   This should be in Vienna or Berlin or something.  They have some rocking cucumber salad and cooked red cabbage that makes me want to put on some lederhosen and yodel.

After having an entirely frustrating time working on an important Powerpoint presentation that the computer apparently ATE, I redid the three hours of work I lost.  A friend suggested that I go get a Starbucks.  I did just that, in the gathering shadows of the late afternoon.  I rode my bike instead of driving, along the Naval Hospital and the Elizabeth River. 

I love the light of this time of day, not the glaring harsh light of mid-day, but the more mellow colors that you see after 4 p.m.  Olde Towne is a fun area, not far by bike from my little neighborhood.  The Bier Garden in the pic is not too far away from Starbucks and considerably more quaint.  I love the way the vines grow all over the garden area.  

And by the time I got home, I was refreshed, invigorated, and nearly forgot about the computer.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A Cum Laude Miracle

This is my baby.  Surprised?  Me,too!  I never thought I'd have a six foot four inch African American son, but here he is.  He doesn't look that tall standing next to his girl?  Let me give you a hint, she just graduated from NC State, captain of the basketball team.  Did I give birth to him?  No, but I might as well have.

This is what he looked like when I first met him, just a young kid fooling around with my big wolf malamute hybred on Halloween:

Julius, child of my thinker, my court jester, my clown.  The kid who fell through the balcony from the second floor and landed standing on his feet hollering, "I didn't do it" as the railing crashed to the floor.  Julius who danced to "I Will Survive" in the spare bedroom so hard with his younger brothers that my dining room ceiling fell in.  Literally.

When Julius was about 11, he must have seen an Elvis movie with a female character named Claire.  Most people who do Elvis impressions say, "Thank you, thank you verrah much."  For years, Julius would say, "I love you, Claire" in a perfect Elvis voice to me as he left the house.

As he got older, his vocabulary expanded.  His voice got pretty deep after it changed and when he was particularly disgusted by something he'd say, "Miss Annie, that's riDICulous, it truly is."

After Julius went on a full scholarship to a private Christian University in Raleigh, NC, he sadly said to me, "Miss Annie, I don't come home much, because everyone I came up with is either dead or in jail."   It was a commentary on an entire generation of African American males.  Thank God he is in Raleigh.

Today I watched a miracle.  I watched Julius Gregory graduate with honors from Shaw University.  My Number 15, GO SHAW BEARS. He beat the odds.  He left the streets.  He starts his job coaching young people on Monday morning.  Thank you, Jesus.  Thank you verrah much.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Is Your Breadmaker Out in the Garage?

Where's your breadmaker?  Do you still have it?  Is it out in the garage on top of the old refrigerator in a laundry basket with a hole in the side next to the almost empty can of bug spray from last summer?  Bring it inside!

I bet you haven't used it in a while.  Don't worry, you can download the instructions from the Internet.  There are all sorts of fabulous recipes on line, here is a good place to start looking:

So here's the secret about bread machines.  Bread cooked in a bread machine tastes icky because it is actually steamed and not baked.  However DOUGH prepared in a bread machine is a lot easier to work with  The little paddle on the inside mixes things very effectively and there's no mess on the counter.  The bread machine does a lovely job of letting the dough rise.  When your dough is finished, you take it out and pop it into the oven. 

I use my bread machine to prepare pizza dough about once a week.  I make a whole wheat crust and put Italian spices right into the dough. The dough process takes about an hour and a half.  Then I knead and form the crust.   I put the crust only into the oven and cook for half the recommended time.  This keeps the crust from getting soggy when the ingredients are put on top.

I take the pizza out, brush it with olive oil, add my vegetables and cheese and put it back in to finish. You can see the result above; this particular pizza was topped with sliced fresh Roma tomatoes, carmalized onions, mushrooms, and green peppers.  Another favorite combination is spinach, carmalized onions, red peppers, and feta cheese.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Grilled Cheese

We all have comfort foods, don't we?  They are the yummies that we gravitate towards when we are feeling puny or the weather is cold.  Nursery food, they call it in Great Britain.

I don't think you can do much better in the comfort food department than grilled cheese.  Humble you might say.  Sublime I say.

Yesterday was a frustrating day. You know, one of those times when you have to do five things to get one thing accomplished.  While I was preparing dinner, I had a very important phone call come in, the cordless phone went missing.  Then I cut myself chopping vegetables.  All rightie then, bring on the grilled cheese.

No expensive Brie, Gouda, or Chevre need aplly for this job.  Nope.  Just your basic individually-wrapped American cheese singles and some good quality whole grain bread.  Just the right amount of browning on each side in the skillet.  Too little...the sandwich is too soft.  Too much and it is burned.  Other than the weighty timing issue, the grilled cheese sandwich couldn't be more simple. 

I served my grilled cheese last night with homemade soup and orange slices.  Yikes, was that first bite of crunchy toasted bread and molten cheese the essence of perfectly balanced flavor and texture or what.  And comforting?  Boy howdy.

My grandmother, Helen, used to suggest that a "nice cup of tea" would make everything better.  I'm sure she was right, but last night, it was all about a nice grilled cheese sandwich.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Why I am not Martha Stewart

The other day I was hurrying out the door to the gym.  I noticed that the yellow roses in my elegantly tarnished silver pitcher (purchased at Goodwill for $3.25) needed to have the water changed.  No ordinary dime store vase for me, oh no, all my containers have to be chic, thrifted, special, vintage, or antique.  Thinking that this little chore would just take a moment, I put fresh water in an ironstone pitcher and filled the silver one.  And filled.  And filled.  My, I thought, that water must have really gotten low.  

Then I noticed that the water I was pouring in was pouring back out down the spout of the silver pitcher all over the dining room table, on the green silk runner, all over the napkins, and the green placemats.   Finally, it was developing into a puddle on the floor. It was a Martha Stewart moment for sure.

The next morning, I took a whole chicken from the freezer and left it in the sink to thaw.  About four, I decided to stuff the chicken full of fresh herbs and lemon slices and roast it.  Then I realized that I had frozen the bird with the giblets inside.  The chicken was frozen solid down the middle.  I had no other ideas for dinner.  I started running water into the cavity.  It didn't budge.

Then I had a brilliant idea. Needle-nosed pliers, that's it!  I got some and started pulling and pulling.  I was GOING to get that frozen giblet packet out.  I braced myself, concentrated, and gave a mighty pull. The pliers slipped off and the momentum caused me to smack myself right in the face.

And that, my friends, is why I'm not Martha.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Rest in Peace AT LAST Pride of Midtown

Engine 54, Ladder 4, Battalion 9


Psalm 72:2

May He judge your people in righteousness, your afflicted ones with justice.
Finally, may you rest in peace.