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- Username: pgevans
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- Alone with words
Q: A genie has granted your wish to build your perfect space for reading and writing. What's it like?
A: My perfect space for reading and writing would be a one-room library, a small building (but not a small room) set between a beach on one side and a forest on the other. There would be a small kitchenette and a bathroom in the back of the building so I could spend the whole day there if I so chose.
The books in this library would be from all the usual categories that libraries keep, just not a lot of each kind. I could browse the shelves for a good novel to read, or a volume of poetry. The non-fiction section would have lots about science, history, religion and philosophy, not so much about sports, entertainment, or hobbies. Of course, the books would be all the best of their kind - no need to take up shelf space with poorly written books.
I'd be able to go outside when I got tired of reading or writing, or when I needed to walk and think (walking is a great way to get thoughts going), or just wanted to enjoy some time outdoors enjoying the sights and sounds of nature. But if it were bad weather outside, I could stay inside, sitting by the fireplace or looking out the window (there would need to be some on each side so I would have my choice of views).
There would be heating and air conditioning so I could be comfortable in the summer or winter, plus a fireplace just because that makes the place feel cozy, and windows that could be opened in nice weather to enjoy the fresh air.
I'd have a computer with a fast connection, so I could stay in touch (if I wanted to), so I could look up information on all sorts of subjects, and of course so I could write. (I find that ideas flow much better through a keyboard than a pencil or pen.)
While I think of this as mostly a place to read or write by myself, I would want there to be comfortable seating for at least two, so I could invite someone to join me. It would need to be far enough from towns and major roads that one would be left undisturbed, but not so far that it would be hard to get to.
One question remains, however. Would this genie who would grant my wish to build this place also be able to give me all the time I wanted to use it?
- Where to find a good cup of coffee
Favorite place to grab a cup of coffee? My kitchen, of course. But my favorite place to drink it is in the living room, in a comfortable armchair, with a good book.
Anyplace else I get coffee, it's usually too strong. If I pour it myself, I mix it with hot water. That way it doesn't need so much milk or other sweetener to make it taste good.
I used to add hot chocolate mix to my coffee, plus milk, but since last fall I've tried to stay away from adding sugar to my coffee. At home, I add blackstrap molasses, plus milk. At work, I add unsweetened cocoa powder and powdered milk.
If the coffee isn't too strong, though, and especially if it has good taste (obviously I differ with a lot of coffee drinkers on what tastes good), just some milk is enough.
- Selling fun and games
This very question (If you were going to open up a shop, what would you sell?) was the subject for Table Topics at a recent Toastmasters meeting. I've never been interested in going into business for myself. But if my husband had the money to open a shop, I know what we'd be doing.
My husband would love to have a gaming store. All kinds of stuff for role-playing games (Dungeons and Dragons, Champions, and lots of others that I've never heard of because I'm not into gaming the way he is). That means books, figurines, dice, paper with squares or hexagons to map out scenarios on, etc.
And there would have to be room to actually run games in the store, which would mean also selling snacks to eat while gaming. And other kinds of games, because people who like gaming probably playing other games, such as board games, card games, and of course computer games.
Since a lot of that stuff - especially the books and games - can be purchased online, the store would have to compete (with online stores) largely on its ability to do what the online stores can't - bringing together people of similar interests. People can have fun playing online games with players they've never met, but there's something special about getting together in the same room, sharing the fun of what my husband calls "community story-telling."
Since I'm not the gaming enthusiast he is, my role would probably be in support - taking care of the business side of things (I do have an MBA) and the computer systems, keeping things organized, and maybe having a chance to do some creative, arts & crafts kinds of stuff with displays for different kinds of games.
- A visit to the library
Some of these Plinky prompts are pretty hard to answer. I feel like my interests and habits must be so different from most of the people in cyberspace, or at least the sort of people who answer Plinky prompts or suggest questions to answer. But asking when was the last time I visited a library - yes, I think I can handle this one.
My last visit to a library was ... let's see if I can remember ... three days and six hours ago. It was shortly before closing time on Saturday afternoon, and I was there to get my son and my husband the next books in the series they are reading, plus a book on gardening for myself.
I got Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde for my son, though we had trouble finding it because someone goofed when they made the label for the spine of the book, and it was shelved under "Florde" instead of "Fforde." I got Blood of the Fold by Terry Goodkind for my husband, but had to make sure he didn't start reading it until he was done with his busy weekend (it may have been a relaxing three-day weekend for many of us, but it's a very intense time for a pastor).
For myself, I got All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew. I am determined to have a garden this summer, and actually have vegetables grow that I can put in my salads. I'm not sure just how closely I'll follow Bartholomew's recommendations (I've found blogs by people who do things more or less how he says, but think one can be a bit more laid back about some of the details than he is.) But I intend to follow them for the most part.
I also got a couple of magazines, one on cooking so I could look for good recipes (didn't find anything I was interested in), and an old copy of Smithsonian to read while I'm on the elliptical machine at the Y, so I don't have to depend on finding something interesting in their stock of magazines.
- Gardening without a green thumb
You'd think, with the lack of success I've had growing garden vegetables, that I'd give up. And I did, last year. But this year I'm determined to try again.
As a girl, I had no trouble growing cucumbers. Nothing else grew very well (except the chives, I planted one year and they came up again every year, even though we hardly ever used them in our salads). But the cucumbers grew so well that I used to take the extras to the local health food store, which paid me for them, and then presumably sold them to customers.
When we lived in Michigan, I tried planting seeds a couple of years. Each time something sprouted, something (deer? rabbit?) came and ate the plants. I gave up.
Here in Iowa, I have tried several times. Since nothing much came up when I started with seeds, I tried buying plants that had already been started. The only one that really did well was a tomato plant I got at the farmers market.
The tomato plant I got from Menards the following year did OK, but the entire harvest from it would have fit into a quart basket, I think. I didn't pay attention to what variety of tomato plant it was, but it turned out to produce cherry tomatoes, not full-size. It was nice to get two or three on occasion for my salad, but I had expected a bit more. Most people seem to have more tomatoes than they know what to do with.
I was really expecting to have too much on my hands when I tried growing zucchini. But no, not even a single one! The plants produced flowers, but nothing more. I wondered if maybe there was a problem with a lack of bees in the neighborhood to pollinate them. I tried reading about how to do it manually, and then decided I could live without home-grown zucchini.
I tried growing peppers. Nothing - not even flowers on that plant. I tried carrots. The leaves looked fine, but when I tried pulling one up - late in the season when they had had plenty of time to grow - it was a stubby little thing less than an inch long, and tasted horrible.
I decided that the problem must be the soil. When I prepared my garden each year as a girl, all I did was turn the soil and break it up. But now that I think about it, I vaguely remember, the very first year my father helped me start it, that he added stuff to the soil.
I read about square foot gardening, and decided that this year that is what I will try. Rather than try to improve the soil in my yard, I just create an enclosed area and add new soil on top of the lousy soil I already have. It's a bit of an expense the first year, but I shouldn't have to do much with it subsequent years.
So that's my project this week - to put together a small enclosure for my new garden. The book I read recommends a 4-foot by 4-foot area, but I think I'll start even smaller - 2-foot by 3-foot. I really don't have a very big area of yard to work with, considering that most of the yard is well-shaded, plus I don't want it in the area that the dog can reach easily on her tether.
If I get some decent salads out of this, I'll be thrilled, and maybe expand the garden next year. If not, I'm giving up. Again.
I'll post occasional updates on my blog as work progresses.