Suzy & Spice

a pinch of this, a dash of that

Archive for March, 2008

Arkansas Literary Festival

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on March 31, 2008

A National Assessment of Adult Literacy estimated that 1 in 7 Americans age 18 and older do not have the literacy skills they need. That’s more than 14 percent of adults in this country. And nearly 25 percent of Arkansas adults do not have a high school diploma.

The folks at Arkansas Literacy Councils want to change that.

One way you can help is to attend the fifth annual Arkansas Literary Festival this weekend in Little Rock. Proceeds benefit adult literacy programs through the Arkansas Literacy Councils.

Highlights of the festival include an author party Friday night, with authors such as Barbara Oakley (I really have no idea who that is, but if it turns out she’s any good I will claim her as a relative) and Saturday afternoon appearances by former White House pastry chef Roland Mesnier and Arkansas’ own Crescent Dragonwagon. Free writing workshops are planned for Saturday.

Sounds like fun, eh? Check it out. It’s for a good cause.

“The man who doesn’t read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.” ~ Mark Twain


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A book for Suzy

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on March 30, 2008

Dog for Susie cover

Sometimes you love something just because you love it, and trying to explain why just diminishes it.

Those of you who read my blog know my name, you know I love dogs (especially pound puppies) and you know I love to read. A book called A Dog for Susie is just perfect for me. Do I really need to explain why?

I won’t explain why I still love this book nearly four decades after receiving it, but I will show you.

Dog for Susie “he needs me”

I really thought this book was long gone. In the great purge of my dad’s stuff just before Mom downsized to a smaller house a few years ago, we got rid of a TON of his things — along with a lot of my books, board games and other childhood paraphernalia.

You see, Dad was a packrat, I am a reformed packrat, and Mom and big brother J.T. are tossers. Therefore, lots of stuff plus the need to downsize, combined with two tossers, a reformed packrat and a river of emotion equals stuff getting thrown out or sold that the reformed packrat will later regret having let go.

And for the past few years I had assumed A Dog for Susie had fallen victim to the great purge.

Fast forward to 2008. Bruce and I are trying to downsize, too. Since he was disabled last year and lost gainful employment (you can’t really count his writing computer programs for me as gainful — I pay him in raspberry sherbet and cups of green tea), we have decided to sell our house. And, friends, we have a LOT of books. Even after filling a “to donate” box, we still won’t have room for all of them in a smaller house. Because we have three rooms with built-in bookcases (in the market for a house? we’ll show you!) and the donation box contains a pitifully small number of donations.

So the other day I was lamenting that I wished we hadn’t tossed A Dog for Susie and how could I have let that book go anyway and how could anyone love it as much as I did, and Bruce — who has nearly recovered from his medical complications and has been busy as a bee, packing our books — said, “No, that book is downstairs on the shelf.” I was skeptical. Thought he must think I was talking about a different book. But he took me straight to the shelf. And there it was: a book for Suzy.

If I didn’t kiss him — on the lips — I should have.

Sometimes a book is meaningful only to the one it belongs to. And sometimes a book is meaningful to that someone’s husband just because he loves books, too, and knows that sometimes you can’t explain why a worn-out children’s book means so much to a 45-year-old woman who edits newspapers for a living.

“I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.” ~ Anna Quindlen

Posted in books, dogs, family, inspiration | 4 Comments »

Cardholders’ Bill of Rights

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on March 15, 2008

I received this e-mail from Consumer Reports, which I subscribe to online. Note that I have not checked out the legislation the letter refers to, so I am not recommending yes or no on contacting your lawmakers to support the Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights. I will comment on it more later, when I know more about it.

Dear Suzy,


Bank of America recently announced interest rate increases, even for responsible card customers — some people reported new rates as high as 28%! And the bank didn’t make it easy to object.


To decline the rate hike, the bank required card holders to write a letter agreeing to stop using the card and pay off the existing balance at the old rate, according to news reports. They couldn’t telephone, nor did Bank of America provide a form or a return envelope to help meet the short deadline. If the company didn’t get a quick response, rates would automatically rise.


Bank of America is not the only bank to hit card holders with high rates and fees. Banks get to raise your interest rates, as well as the fees they charge for most services, because fine print clauses in your credit card contracts allow it. They don’t even have to tell you why they did it.


Tell Congress to protect card holders from unfair rate hikes, exorbitant penalty fees and other fine print “gotchas.”


As the economy softens, some Wall Street analysts believe that big banks want to make up their investment losses by raising rates to good credit card customers.


A bill proposed in Congress would help rein in that practice and limit other “gotchas.” The bill would protect cardholders against arbitrary interest rate increases; hidden interest charges, due date traps and more.


This bill is long past due! Tell your lawmakers that you support the Cardholders’ Bill of Rights.


And please, take one more moment to forward this message to people you know who use credit cards so they can join you in action for reform, too!


Jim Guest
Consumers Union of the U.S.
101 Truman Avenue
Yonkers, NY 10703-1057

What I will say is that this is a kick in the pants: If you have debt, get rid of it! Because you know that this company is not the only one that is dreaming up new ways to profit from us.

Give me your tips on living debt free.

Posted in debt-proof living, frugal living, money | Leave a Comment »

Week of Color: The Explosion

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on March 8, 2008

Disclaimer: With the text wrap around the photos, some of the text appears to describe the wrong photos. It will wrap differently in different browser windows, so I can’t control how it displays for you. Please keep that in mind as you read. I hope you can identify which flowers are which all on your own!

I am a gal who likes color — bright color, as I mentioned on Day Yellow (speaking of which, I found another yellow photo, so scroll down to the Yellow post or click here. It’s from a “wedding” cake I made last year – really a 40th-anniversary cake modeled on the couple’s 1967 wedding cake).

Brown, pale yellow, light green and all that is nice, but I take after my mom in my love of bright colors, jewel tones in particular. Most of my flowers — annual or perennial — end up being bright reds, purples or pinks.

I’ll share some of them with you here. Let’s start with RED!

Three or four years ago, I decided to start growing roses. I carefully researched and bought five bushes, all different colors. The roses themselves are pretty easy to grow, but I am still pulling up grass in the beds, as I hate putting chemicals in the ground. But all the weed pulling is worth it, because it helps me enjoy these, the firstfruits …

red rose multi

red rose single

pale pink rose

pink rose deweyThe next one is a hydrangea that’s in my back yard. I have always loved hydrangeas. They’re so unusual, so beautiful and so versatile. I love that you can control the color by changing the soil’s pH.

This one came from a funeral arrangement after my uncle died nearly six years ago. We had hydrangeas in the front yard of the house I grew up in (in Batesville), but after my dad died, my mother moved. It was difficult for me to see her give up the house where my dad had spent hours and hours making the landscaping beautiful, so I was going to get a cutting from the house before she sold it. Well, in the chaos of the move, I forgot about, but the new owners said I could get a cutting. However, by the time I actually made it back up to Batesville to get a piece of the bush, they had dug up the hydrangeas! How could they? (I wanted to cry.) So when my dad’s brother died and my aunt offered me a plant after the funeral, I chose the hydrangea. The picture is from an experiment I was trying with my photo software. (I think. Or it could have been that the picture just turned out that way. I can’t really remember! Either way, I like the hazy look of this photo.)

hydgrangea foggy













The next one is from one of the three Rose of Sharon bushes from my mother-in-law’s garden when his parents lived in Virginia. Bruce used to take his son, Courtney, to visit Courtney’s grandparents every summer. Sometimes I went, and sometimes I stayed home. One of the years I stayed home, Bruce brought me three beautiful Rose of Sharon bushes from his mom. One of the bushes has purple blooms, but i can’t seem to find those pictures. Enjoy this pink one.

Rose of Sharon pink


For something a little closer to purple, enjoy this clematis from my front yard.














And this “purple coneflower,” which is actually less purple than the ones above and below it!

purple coneflower single

purple coneflower multi












I potted this purple flower on my front porch a couple of years ago. I can’t remember its name. Anyone?

purple flower wrought iron

purple flower double

I took the next two pictures pictures in Morro Bay, Calif., in 2006. I think this one is a lily.

Morro Bay flowers

And this is a jade plant. I loved the spider web!

jade plant spider web

I have two favorite flowers. My favorite simple, innocent flower is the daisy — just the plain white with yellow center. My favorite exotic flower is the bird of paradise, and I was so excited to stumble across this one at California Baptist University when I was there for a Crown retreat in 2006.

bird of paradise

The last picture is not of flowers but contains a bounty of color. When we were able to participate in the River Market’s Basket a Month program, we got this (and more) last summer. Doesn’t it make your mouth water?

BAM vegetables

I think I’ve had more fun with this post than any other. Thank you, Jerusalem, for your fantastic idea of a Week of Color. Along with being challenged to find ways to illustrate my color likes and dislikes, I have enjoyed all the creative ideas from you and your friends!

Posted in flowers, fun, inspiration, nature | 8 Comments »

How now brown blog

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on March 7, 2008

I told you I would have trouble with brown. I struggled to find pictures I had already taken. I didn’t want to go around my house looking for something to take pictures of (I thought of photographing something I deal with daily — dog poo on the carpet — but Bruce didn’t think that was such a good idea), so the file photos I scrounged up will have to do.

I made this pumpkin cheesecake on Thanksgiving Day for a family from church when I was making money baking for people. The pecan praline topping was a little runnier than I would have liked but so good I wanted to drink it all up!

Click to see the apple pie I referred to in Crust-ophobic no more.

And saving the best for last: Below is Pepper in her sunny spot in the office. She appears mostly “black,” but if you look at her closely in the sunshine (in real life, not in this photo), you realize she’s really just very dark brown. And then there’s the obvious brown, which is the reason I chose her for Brown day.

pepper on Brown day

Want to know why I post more pics of Pepper than Salsa? Salsa is in perpetual motion. I told Bruce she is self-winding. In most of the pictures I try to take of her, she’s just a big blur. I still want Whitney to take family pictures of all of us for Christmas cards; we’re going to need someone professional to take the pictures while we try to corral the furbabies.

Whitney and I tried year before last to schedule a photo shoot but could never work it out. And last year Bruce was sick, and we didn’t really want to take Christmas card pics of him in his bathrobe on the couch. However, he used just such a picture for his blog.

Tomorrow is pick your own color. I’m going to surprise you.

Posted in Crohn's disease, dogs, food, nature | Leave a Comment »

From ‘news of the weird’ files, bodyless feet version

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on March 6, 2008

This story is from The New York Times. I can’t think of anything clever to say about it, so I’ll let you come up with your own comments.

Posted in news of the weird | Leave a Comment »


Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on March 6, 2008

Today’s color is yellow. I have to admit, it’s not one of my favorite colors — unless it’s BRIGHT, like these mums. Although my laundry-room story will seem to contradict that…

butterfly and yellow mums

My laundry room is bright yellow, although my plan was to paint it “butter yellow.” Bruce had decided to surprise me by painting it while I was in California for a wedding. Because of a mix-up at the paint store or a miscommunication on my part (or maybe just Bruce’s not knowing what I meant by “butter yellow”), it ended up being more what I would call canary yellow. But laundry rooms should be bright, right? So it has remained “canary yellow” for nearly eight years.

Sorry there’s no picture of the laundry room. You just get the mums today. (On White day, I linked to a similar picture.)

Tomorrow’s color is brown, quite possibly my least favorite color, although there are some wonderful browns out there nowadays. Still, it might be a challenge to come up with pictures to illustrate what I like about brown.

Added 03/08/08: I found this picture on the last day in the Week of Color, so I just had to add it. It’s a rose from a 40th-anniversary cake I made last year, modeled on the couple’s wedding cake.

yellow cake rose

Posted in family, food, friends, fun, inspiration, nature | 2 Comments »

Going green

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on March 5, 2008

Today is green day in Jerusalem’s Week of Color.

The pictures I chose for today are a little more meaningful than the previous ones. The first is of cookies for my church’s Christmas Interrupted celebration year before last. I didn’t make the cookies — I think my friend Alicia did — but they depict two aspects of the holiday for me. Christmas cookies always mean fun, and Alicia made them just a little whimsical with the green candies (or is that icing?). But the star shape also makes me think of the star in the East, the one that guided the wise men to worship our Savior.


The next picture, also from 2006, is of a park in Kerman, Calif., where my brother, J.T., played Little League baseball. My parents, my best friend and I spent many hours on those bleachers, cracking open bag after bag of sunflower seeds and dropping the shells down below us while we watched my brother and our neighbor boys play the sport I will always love.

In June 2006, when I had a business trip to California, I talked my mom into going with me. We met up with some old friends, and they drove us around our little hometown, which isn’t so little anymore. I took pictures of the first house I remember living in (on E Street); our church (First Southern Baptist Church and its mission, Primera Iglesia Bautista); the elementary school my brother and I attended (Kerman-Floyd); and Kerckhoff Park …

Kerckhoff Park June 2006

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It’s not easy being green

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on March 4, 2008

It seems Jerusalem got sidetracked by the little snowfall we had overnight, so she has postponed her green post until Wednesday. I had just spent a few minutes picking out my green pics when I saw her note, so I am ahead of the game — a rare thing nowadays. I’m too tired to write about what my green pictures mean to me, anyway. So I will take a day off with Jerusalem and go green on Wednesday.

Posted in friends, fun, inspiration, nature | Leave a Comment »

Blue day, blue dog

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on March 3, 2008

Again, I let it get close to bedtime before remembering the Week of Color. (To be fair, I haven’t been home from work that long.)

Today’s color is blue.

After Salsa and Pepper frolicked on the bed for a while, Pepper suddenly scurried under her bed, where she usually sleeps (yes, in the winter, she sleeps under her bed). The bed is blue (you’ll have to take my word for it), and our cheap, dog-proof, ugly comforter has lots of blue in it, so I grabbed the camera. Weird dog to the rescue again!


Posted in dogs, family, fun, humor, inspiration, nature | Leave a Comment »