Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year's Eve!


Ah, yes another year has passed.  It all goes by so quickly doesn't it?  What will 2013 bring for us?  What resolutions will we make?  And which ones will we actually keep?  Will you be ringing in the New Year on the town with your party hat on, or toasting the new day from the comfort of your living room sofa?  Will you be preparing for a New Year's Day feast with dishes said to promote luck (black-eyed peas), or nursing a wicked hangover?

Well, regardless of your party plans and resolutions, as we welcome in the New Year this evening, please be safe.  Many local cab companies offer free rides tonight.  If you don't have a designated driver, please take advantage of these generous offerings from our local cab companies and get a ride.  We want to see everyone to have a fun and memorable New Year while remaining safe.

Best wishes to all for and healthy, happy and prosperous New Year!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Artwork for Story "The Early Bird"

I have received a copy of the artwork for my next story, "The Early Bird" scheduled to be published by The Story Shack on January 3rd.  This illustration is by the talented Mike S. Young, a California native and regular contributor to the publication.  A really like Mike's visual spin on my story and think you will as well.  Look for it soon after the Holidays.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Lovable Grinch, the HOA Community and the Endless Roast Beast

Ah yes, 'tis the season once again.  Out come the armfuls of Christmas themed videos and the cups of hot cocoa as we settle into the sofa to watch our favorite movies.  Some make us laugh, others make us sing, and an occasional one may even bring a tear to our eyes.

Last year I wrote fondly about one of my favorites, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in my blog entitled, "Grumpy Santa and the Non-Conformists", and this year, I'm going to reflect on . . . . (insert drum roll here), The Grinch.

Oh now, I love this one too.  Of course I realized early on that there was a clue that this green menace must have a bit of a heart.  After all, he did have a pet dog.  Now, his treatment of said dog I do admit would have put PETA and the SPCA on high alert, but he did pat the little dog on the head before throwing him out in front of the runaway sleigh.

And who can forget the littlest cast member?   I adore little Cindy Lou Who and her questioning eyes as she asks the mean old Grinch, "Why Santa, why are you taking our Christmas tree?" Poor little darling was too young I suppose to have a clue something was amiss.  Never did I remember seeing a green Santa in my storybooks.

Anyway, after the Grinch succeeds at stealing all of the decorations, food, presents and even crumbs too small for the Whos' mouses, you see a scene of Whoville come to life on Christmas morning, which is when it hit me -- Whoville looks like a little HOA community!  All of the houses are identically shaped and decorated.  Hmm, could this have been the start of our planned communities?  But let's get back to the story.

Now as you know, the Grinch's heart grows four sizes that day, and he saves Christmas by riding into Whoville with all of the items he had taken the night before (which contents remain in impeccable condition I must say).  I particularly love when he sits down to carve the Roast Beast.  You'll notice that with each slice he carves, the roast amazing remains the same size.  Have you seen the size of their community table?  No wonder they only needed one of those magical endless roasts to feed that army!  By the way, have you ever ordered a pound of "Roast Beast" at the deli?  If you get a smile, you know you have found a Grinch fan.  (Oh yes we (he) did.)

So next on the list was the classic, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, told by Fred Astaire.  Whoa!  Hold on.  Now don't even get me started on that one!  That's a whole other story in itself.  Perhaps I'll have to tackle that one later.

Cheers!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Can We Say SPOILED?!?!

Okay, I just had to share this one.  So "the boys" went to the groomer yesterday and well, it must have been an exhausting ordeal.  Here they are basking in the afterglow, sporting their nifty red and green checked scarfs, courtesy of our groomer.  As I  stated in the above title -- can we say spoiled?  Just exactly where are the humans supposed to sit?  Gotta love it.

Whew!  Hard day.  Had to go to the groomer.

Oh, so sorry to disturb you, little prince.  By all means, please don't wake up on my account.

Close up of their cute little red and green checked scarfs.  Yeah, those won't last a week.

New Story to be Published Next Month -- "The Early Bird"

Hi everyone,

I recently received my illustrator pairing and a tentative date for my new story, "The Early Bird", which is scheduled be published next month (January 3rd) on The Story Shack.  I will keep you updated of its progress.

In the meantime, I hope everyone is having a great week, and oh, only 19 days until Christmas!  (Sorry, couldn't resist).  For a detailed countdown of days, hours, minutes and seconds guaranteed to elevate your holiday anxiety level, go to http://www.xmasclock.com/.

Chris

Monday, December 3, 2012

Story Going Live Today - "A Homecoming Revelation"

Today "A Homecoming Revelation" goes live on The Story Shack.  This is a polished version of the story I posted earlier this year on my blog.  Be sure to check out both the story and the artwork by the very talented Shantala Robinson at:  www.thestoryshack.com, and as always, I welcome your comments.

Have a great week!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Sunday, November 25, 2012

When Life Gives You a Rotten Turkey, Make TV Dinners!


Well you all know the saying, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade."  This year we applied this saying to our Thanksgiving meal.

It started Thursday morning with anticipation high in the air.  We pulled the turkey out of the refrigerator and prepared to make a wonderful feast.  The natural brined turkey was in its plastic casing and then wrapped again in a clear plastic bag.  I took a scissor out to snip the clear plastic bag and yikes!  The odor smacked us in the face.  We grimaced in horror.  We didn't dare attempt to cut the plastic casting around the turkey.  It was obvious it was bad.  So what to do next . . . .  We drove by the specialty store where we purchased the turkey, but it was closed.  No surprise really, so next we went to our local grocery store.  They had turkeys, but all were frozen rock solid.  We thought about how to solve this little dilemma looking at hams and roasts, but all were just too big for the two of us and besides, we wanted turkey.  So with an idea in our heads and a smile on our faces, and a determination to make this holiday mishap a little fun, we decided on the next best thing -- frozen turkey dinners!  Yes, that's right.  That night we dinned on turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and vegetables from plastic containers cooked in the microwave and knew this would be a memorable year.  We reflected on the many things we had to be thankful for and knew that one rotten turkey in the 23 years that my husband and I have been married was not about to ruin a thing.  We have learned that with life, you have to be flexible.  After all, we have our health, our friends and families spread all over the country, and wonderful pets to share our lives with, and we are truly grateful for all of these.  A stray lemon now and then, well . . . . .

So Friday we took the turkey back to the store without any fuss.  Our money was returned to us and the manager insisted on giving us a turkey too.  They were afraid our Thanksgiving was ruined to which we said not at all and declined the need for a new turkey.  But they were determined for us to leave with another even better turkey.  So we picked the smallest from the bunch and upon exiting the store were handed a bunch of fresh flowers from the assistant store manager.  We told her how unnecessary this all was, really, but thanked them all for their generosity. 

Saturday morning we pulled the turkey out, stuffed him (oyster stuffing), and five hours later . . . . viola! -- turkey feast.  (Followed of course by turkey coma.)  Happy day!

We hope you all had a memorable and enjoyable Thanksgiving, and thank you all for your friendship and memories.




Sunday, November 18, 2012

Artwork for Story "A Homecoming Revelation"

Good Morning,

Yesterday I had the opportunity to preview the artwork for my next flash fiction piece being featured on The Story Shack and again was pleasantly surprised at the result.  Another wonderful piece by another talented artist.  The scheduled publish date for this story is slated for December 3rd.  I hope you all tune in to see the final result.

Enjoy your Sunday!


Friday, November 9, 2012

Quote of the Day

“Gratitude means to recognize the good in your life, be thankful for whatever you have, some people may not even have one of those things you consider precious to you (love, family, friends, etc). Each day give thanks for the gift of life. You are blessed.” 

--Pablo 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Story Time - "Under"

Well, the date has arrived!  The following is a link to The Story Shack, the online publication founded by Martin Hooijmans, which has published my flash fiction piece "Under":  www.thestoryshack.com.  The illustrator I was paired with for this story is the very talented Mark Reihill.  This story is a little dark, a diversion for me from my current work in progress, so I welcome your thoughts.

Next date -- December 3rd for a very different story with another special illustrator.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Round Two!

Hi Folks,

The publish date for my flash fiction piece "Under" is rapidly approaching (November 6), and while I have been excitedly waiting for this date to arrive, I was ecstatic to see the arrival of another email from this same publisher accepting another flash fiction piece I wrote, "A Homecoming Revelation".  On this piece, I will be working with another very talented artist who is located in British Columbia.  The scheduled publish date for this piece has been set for December 3rd.

Thanks everyone for all of your support, and I will be providing you with the link for my first story shortly.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Update!

Hi All,

An update to my October 8th post.  I received a copy of the artist's illustration for my flash fiction piece this morning.  One word:  Wow!

More info coming soon . . . . .

Have a great weekend!

Chris

Friday, October 12, 2012

Quote of the Day

“I have come to accept the feeling of not knowing where I am going. And I have trained myself to love it. Because it is only when we are suspended in mid-air with no landing in sight, that we force our wings to unravel and alas begin our flight. And as we fly, we still may not know where we are going to. But the miracle is in the unfolding of the wings. You may not know where you're going, but you know that so long as you spread your wings, the winds will carry you.” 

-- C. JoyBell C.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Exciting News!

Friends,

A quick note:  I am happy to report to you that a flash fiction piece that I wrote has been picked up by an online publication.  I am currently being paired with a very talented illustrator based in Belfast, and am excited to be involved in this project.  A scheduled publish date has been set for November 6th.  I will provide you with more details in the coming weeks.

Stay tuned!


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Monsoon Critters - (My "Creature Feature")


So this was our first monsoon season, and we really didn’t know what to expect from that scary "monsoon" term.  But for our east coast friends, basically it was rain and thunderstorms with occasionally wind and dust.  Not too bad, we weathered it fine.  Thankfully, since we are in northern Arizona, we did not get the Haboobs that Phoenix saw.  By the way, a Haboob is a dust storm that looks like a wall coming towards you – think of the movie, The Mummy.  Google Haboob sometime to see some awesome pictures.

Now, as for the critters that came out during the monsoon season – yikes!  We saw some amazing creatures, some we liked, as many we did not, but it was “interesting” to say the least.  So now that the weather has changed back to dry, I thought I’d share with you some of the creature encounters on our property.  (Many of the below photos I sent off to Nature Abounds "Watch the Wild" volunteer program.)  Enjoy!  (Don't forget you can click on the photos to view larger images.)

Horned Lizard/Horned Toad
A Horned Lizard (aka Horned Toad).  He was cute.

Green beetle on the Artichoke flower.

A little baby Horned Lizard/Toad.  Aw!

Okay, I know I've shown you these little lizards before, but this character somehow got into the house.

Meet our nemesis, the grasshopper.  What's wrong with a little grasshopper you ask?  Ha!  They came by the millions and haven't left yet!  They are messy and are everywhere you step outside.  See following photo.
Invasion of the grasshoppers!!

Bull/gopher snake.  I am supposed to want to see these non-venomous snakes because they will make a dinner out of our  problematic  pocket gophers.  So I am trying to practice the mantra, "Bull snake good.  Bull snake good."  Ugh!

Close up of Bull/gopher snake.

We estimate that the Bull/Gopher snake was about 4 foot long.

Dactylotum bicolor/Barber Pole Grasshopper
Ah, now this was an interesting creature -- Dactylotum bicolor (common names include:  Barber Pole Grasshopper, Rainbow Grasshopper, Uncle Sam).  This picture really doesn't give it enough justice.  It was a beautiful red, white and blue.  Hmm, hence the nickname Uncle Sam?

Now you get an indication of the size of the Dactylotum bicolor (Barber Pole Grasshopper).

Okay, now we get to the spider section of our creature feature.  The Tarantula.  I  really didn't care for these guys to say the least.
Another one on another day.  We saw them for about 2-3 weeks and then they were thankfully gone.

And my least favorite creature of all -- the Black Widow.  I don't have a photo of her red hourglass, but here is a picture of her and her egg sack on top of our propane tank  By the way, she and her offspring were promptly exterminated shortly after this photo.  (We didn't especially feel like making any emergency room visits.)

Well, that's all folks!


Monday, September 10, 2012

Quote of the Day

"There are as many worlds as there are kinds of days, and as an opal changes its colors and its fire to match the nature of a day, so do I."
--John Steinbeck

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Quote of the Day

"Those who dance are considered insane by those who cannot hear the music."
-- George Carlin

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Zucchini Anyone?

Today's Riddle:  So if an apple a day keeps the doctor away, what will a zucchini a day do?

Can we say zucchini explosion anyone?  It seems that every day I go out to the garden I have a new zucchini waiting to be picked.  If you're in the area and would like some, by all means let me know.

Now what to do with it all . . . sauteed zucchini, grilled zucchini, stuffed zucchini boats, chocolate zucchini cake . . . hmm.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

"Art"ichoke


Every year we try to grow something new in our vegetable garden, and this year was no exception.  Since this is our first "Arizona" garden we thought we would try something more indigenous to the area.  

So determined with cash in hand, we headed out to peruse the local gardening stores, and low and behold there in a corner we spotted a homely little fellow beckoning to us with its spiky leaves.  Intrigued, we cautiously approached.  Upon further inspection, we found this plant to be, the artichoke.  Oh what fun!  Why not, we thought and quickly scooped him up placing him in the cart alongside our tomato plants.  You could almost see the tomatoes cringe, staring at this ugly duckling and scoot to the far side of the cart.  But we wanted this little fellow to succeed.  We cared for it, watered it, gave it a home in our garden and gave it a little love.  We excitedly watched as it sprouted new growth.  And then one day it gave us flower buds. 

Now apparently you are supposed to harvest these buds when they are tight if you are using them for consumption.  We had heard that some people grow them just for their flowers.  We puzzled, these little spiky critters are grown for their flowers?  Well, we had fully intended to consume these chokes with a little melted butter and a glass of crisp white wine.  However, being new at identifying when a choke was ready to harvest, I allowed them to remain on their stalks for a wee bit too long.  Their buds started to loosen.  I figured, well okay, let's see what you've got.  This misfortune however was in fact a surprise.  

I therefore am sharing with you the “Art”ichoke.  Behold, the ugly duckling has morphed into a beautiful swan . . . . 

Flowering Artichoke plant

Flowering Artichoke Plant

Flowering Artichoke Plant

Green beetle on flowering Artichoke plant
Apparently we are not the only ones enamored by these beauties.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Quote of the Day

"Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything."
-- George Bernard Shaw

Friday, August 10, 2012

Book Review Time - "The Beach House" by James Patterson & Peter De Jonge

I had no idea what to expect with this book, but having enjoyed the movies, Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider, and having read When the Wind Blows and Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas, I was game to read another James Patterson book.

First, I thoroughly enjoyed Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas, a really touching love story that was uncharacteristic for Patterson at the time.  Now, When the Wind Blows I found to be a little strange (people that could fly), but what the heck, it took place in the foothills of Colorado (Boulder and Idaho Springs) and since I was living in Colorado at the time, I was interested in reading that book.

The Beach House was different from these others.  Taking place in the Hamptons, a murder occurs in the exclusive community that has the locals crying foul.  It was an extremely quick read for me, which means that it kept my interest and made me want to turn the page to find out what was going to happen next.  That being said, I found it a little bit of a let down.  It was "okay".  I don't know, but for me I could take it or leave it.  It's not a book that I'm going to say, "Oh, you have to read this."  This disappoints me a bit because When the Wind Blows didn't blow me away either, no pun intended.  I guess I'd have to say that these were beach reads and nothing more.  It is commercial fiction after all, not literary genius.  So I give this neither a thumbs up or thumbs down.  To me, it was average.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Quote of the Day

"The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it."
-- Terry Pratchett, Diggers

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Try Kiva for Free!

Friends,

Once again Kiva is extending an offer to try them out for free, and for a limited time they are giving $25 to new users. If you are unfamiliar with Kiva, it is an organization that allows you to lend money to borrowers all over the world.  The borrowers consist of both individuals trying to improve their lives and small businesses.  You can view multiple profiles to find out how they are going to use the money, see their payback stats and choose who you'd like to lend money to.  Go to www.Kiva.org to find out more. When you are ready to try them out for free, go to:  http://www.kiva.org/invitedby/chris26043165  and feel good about helping someone improve their lives.

Thanks!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Book Review Time – “The Almost Moon” by Alice Sebold


Okay, I don’t quite know where to begin with this one, so I’m going to keep it short and sweet.  No, strike that, let’s say short and simple because sweet definitely is not the correct term to use here – no warm fuzzies hiding inside this book jacket.  

First, let me say that this is the author of The Lovely Bones, so I was eager to read another book written by her.  And although I felt unsettled reading this book, I do respect the author and her craft.  That being said, this book deals with some very difficult topics, namely matricide (killing one’s mother), mental illness and suicide, so definitely not light reading.  It is a fast-paced book starting immediately with “the act”.  The entire book takes place over a 24 hour time span during which the narrator takes you through childhood, bringing you to her current day calamity.   I will say that I liked the explanation the main character’s father used when describing her mother as the almost moon, meaning that she was almost whole, unlike the moon which is always full even if we don’t always see it.

A reviewer of this book likened Sebold’s writing to Edgar Allan Poe, and although it has been many, many years since I’ve read Poe, I’d have to say from what I remember, that it’s probably an accurate description.   Words that come to mind for me after reading it are:  disturbing, haunting and yes, well-written.  I suspect that some will abhor this book while others will find it successful.   Should you choose to read it, I’ll leave that up to you.

Now, on to the exciting part of finishing a book -- what do I read next?  Something a little more lighthearted perhaps?   Well, let me see . . . 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Fifty Shades of Lizard


I thought I would share with you some photos of the many different ornate tree lizards that we have been seeing around the property.  Like the Fifty Shades books, our little territorial lizard fellows feel the need to show off a little.  Do we have black, tan and white lizards?  Well yes, but they don’t stop there.  Instead they go about strutting their stuff all over the place in a wide array of colors.  I guess these guys feel the need to show off a little in the brown dry dessert! 

We have grown attached to our little Lizzys and so have our dogs and cat as they watch and chase them around the yard.  Having so many is a good thing though, because these little critters scurry about eating all the crickets, bugs, spiders and other insects (“go team”!).  They are also an inspiration.  Why?  Well every morning we can observe them keeping fit by doing their daily push-ups.  (I’ll have to try to catch this hysterical display on video sometime and post it.)  These push-ups apparently are their way of communicating with other lizards. 

As for the different colors, well it has to do with their hormone levels at different times of the year.  So without further ado, behold the Ornate Tree Lizards!

By the way, I think we have officially found a name for our property . . . The Lizards’ Lair.  Fitting, wouldn’t you say?

(Click on photos to enlarge.)
Brown lizard staring me down.  He looks a little cross with me for taking his photo.


Pretty patterned lizard at back door.

This one has a blue gray back.  He was out by our vegetable garden.

This male has blue on his under belly and neck.

Close up of blue neck.


Here is our orange lizzy.

Another photo of our orange lizzy.

And finally, here is a lizzy with bright green stripes on his side as he sits upon a tumble weed.

Another photo of our green lizzy.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Quote of the Day

"It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt of it."
-- Maurice Switzer

Monday, July 2, 2012

Quote of the Day

It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it.
-- Oscar Wilde

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Book Review Time – “Track of the Cat”, by Nevada Barr


If you enjoy suspenseful novels that take place in the great outdoors, then Nevada Barr is your author.  “Track of the Cat” is the first in Barr’s Anna Pigeon series, which take place in various National Parks across the country.  Her protagonist, Anna Pigeon, is a park ranger who manages to stumble upon all sorts of calamities during her posts.

Having read “Deep South” by Nevada Barr several years ago (set in the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi) I was excited to read another one of her works.  “Track of the Cat” takes place in Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas, and involves the accidental death of a fellow ranger.  Anna of course couldn’t shake her suspicions when things didn’t quite add up.  Then when her own life is threatened and another fellow ranger ends up dead, well . . . now she’s in way too deep to turn away.   Being true to herself, Anna couldn’t let well enough alone.

Throughout her mysteries, Barr’s love of wildlife and the great outdoors is apparent as you read along.  Barr herself was a park ranger and spent time at many of the parks depicted in her books, so you know the descriptions are thoughtful as well as accurate. 

Conclusion:  Although I still like “Deep South” better, I have to say “Track of the Cat” was a fun read, and I look forward to reading about more of Anna’s adventures.  

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Western Coachwhip Snake vs. Man & Baby Bird

Well, just another boring day out in the wilderness. . . . . Ha!  The following is an account of our excitement last Friday.  I just started volunteering for an organization named Nature Abounds for their "Watch the Wild" program.  I had only hoped to be able to start off with a bang, but couldn't imagine what my first incident report to them would be.  The following is my observation and photos of an interaction with what I believe was s a young Western Coachwhip snake and baby Cassin's King Bird. We believe the snake was a young snake approximately 3-4 ft long.

Observation: At approx 10:00 am I saw a snake climbing our flowering plum tree heading towards a nest containing a baby Cassin's King Bird. My husband and I ran outside and my husband flung the snake out of the tree with a rake. The snake dropped the baby bird and very quickly slithered away. The snake kept trying to come back and my husband kept flinging it away. When the coast was clear, we used a shovel to gently pick up the baby bird and put him in the nest. Not wanting to put human scent on the bird, but knowing that he still needed help, I put leather gloves on and uprighted him by his legs only.  The adult birds kept flying around but would not go back to the baby bird. The below photos explain why. Apparently, the snake climbed up an adjacent tree and crossed over to the tree containing the baby bird. Once again we ran outside and flung the snake away (this time before he got to the baby bird). My husband then transported the snake to a field across the street from our house.

Time will only tell now whether or not the baby bird survives, however, I am happy to report that about an hour after this incident the bird parents returned to the nest to tend to their baby. 

Do you see it?  Look closely . . . . 

Western Coachwhip snake going from right tree to left tree.

He wasn't too happy with us for taking him away from his meal.

However he did allow me to take a good shot of him.

Scott taking him to find a new home in a neighboring field.

It's hard to see, but the traumatized baby Cassin's King bird is back in his nest.

P.S.  Unfortunately this weekend we noticed that the nest was barren.  We can only assume one of two things happened, either a snake came back or the bird died.  Trust me, I was hugely upset at the snake because I so wanted that little bird to live.  However, after simmering down, I do realize this is nature running it's course.  I like to think that my husband and I have been very lucky to have observed some of the many wildlife incidents that we have.  One day when it's time to leave this earth, we will be able to say, "Wow, how fortunate we have been to have experienced life so fully."

For more information on Nature Abounds' Watch the Wild program, IceWatch USA, and their other initiatives, visit:  www.natureabounds.org.  

Have a great week everyone!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Garden Escapades – Radishes a plenty and more!


Today I plucked the remaining radishes out of the garden, and I have to say that this year I had a fabulous crop!  I wasn’t sure how these little red gems would do in the Arizona heat, but with a little shade netting and cool night temperatures, they did just fine indeed. 

I planted three different types all from Ferry-Morse.  The first, Cherry Belle, was the most abundant with a mild radish flavor.  The white Icicle radishes didn’t produce too many, but what did come up was mild in flavor, not my favorite, but fun to have a different color and shape.  Now the third radish, the Sparkler, was surprisingly hot.  These red and white radishes left my tongue screaming and my husband laughing at me (he doesn’t eat radishes).  Of course the question he posed to me was, “If they are so hot, why do you keep eating them?”  Well, I guess as any hot pepper lover knows, you just can’t help yourself.  It’s addicting in a way.  They are good and spicy, and they came from my garden, so by golly I’m gonna eat those little buggers!

Anyway, now it’s time to tend to the other items in the garden, all of which are doing fairly well.  That is, except for the carrots.  Yesterday I went out to water and discovered that all the green tops had been eaten off of those little sweeties.  As Elmer Fudd would say, “Hey there’s something awfully screwy going on around here.”  Yes, the rabbit is back.  Last month he promptly demolished our green bean plants which were doing so, so well.  Let’s just say if we find that little critter we’re going to make some hasenpfeffer stew!  But I digress. 

Back to the point.  The tomatoes are doing well, the peppers are doing well, the eggplant looks so good we have to pinch it to make sure it’s real, and the artichoke (our new experiment) is growing in leaps and bounds.  So I will report back on any interesting gardening tidbits, and in the meantime, “Shhh, be very, very quiet.  I’m hunting rabbits.”  Where is that Elmer Fudd when you need him? 

Happy Summer Solstice to you all!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Book Review Time – “Gone”, by Lisa Gardner


What do you like to read?  Do you like a little mystery?  Suspense?  Maybe a kidnapping?  Or perhaps a homicide or two?  Well, excellent!  I have a recommendation for you. 

I have to admit this is my first Lisa Gardner book.  I picked up “Gone” at a garage sale a year or so ago and just pulled it off my shelf to read a couple of weeks ago.  Let me tell you, I was happy that I did. 

So without telling you too much and giving the story away, “Gone” takes place over a two day span and is about a kidnapping that has more twists and turns than a roller coaster.  Gardner gracefully jumps back and forth between characters, a successful maneuver to keep you turning the page to find out what happens next. 

Along with your dose of suspense in this ever changing plot, she gives you interesting characters with human faults.  Characters that laugh, cry and are a little twisted, and meanwhile slowly feeds you bits and pieces that will leave you vested and hungry to learn more.    She’ll have you wondering if this crime was done by someone the victim knows, or if it could possibly be related to a heinous crime the victim was involved in some time ago.  Then again, could it just be random?

Of course I didn’t realize it at the time, but this book is the fifth in Gardner’s FBI profiler series.   But it didn’t matter one bit.  I never noticed.   If anything, now I want to read more of her books.  Well done, I say.  This book’s officially going on my recommended list.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Quote of the Day

"A woman is like a tea bag; you never know how strong it is until it's in hot water."
-- Eleanor Roosevelt

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Breaking News -- Donna Summer Passes

Those of you who are old enough to remember the disco era from the '70's and 80's will no doubt remember such hits as:  "Bad Girls", "Last Dance", Love to Love You Baby" and many more.  These were songs with an infectious beat.  Admit it, how many of you would hum or sing "Toot toot, ah beep beep".  I particularly remember the lyrics to this song (Bad Girls) from my dance class as a kid.  That's why it was sad to hear of Donna Summer's passing this morning, which was apparently due to a battle with cancer.  Whenever a music icon passes we remember where we were or what we were doing in our lives when we first heard their songs. Sometimes the memories are fond, other times the memories are difficult, but either way music has a way of transporting us back to another time and place.

So do you have a favorite Donna Summer song?  Or perhaps you weren't a fan at all.  But either way, you have to admit that she made an impact on the music industry.  What music transports you back to another time filled with fond memories?   Whatever it may be, I'm sure you'll reminisce about it with a faraway look affixed to your face and a smile threatening to escape your facade.  But for now, I'll leave you humming a little disco melody, "Toot toot, ah beep beep . . . toot toot, ah beep beep . . ."

Quote of the Day

Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.
-- Rabindranath Tagore 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Quote of the Day

"Those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind."
-- Bernard M. Baruch


Monday, May 7, 2012

Birds of a Feather . . .


Ah, Spring.  So far the majority of our “free time” has been occupied with building raised garden beds.  This has had its challenges due to the dry and windy climate here, but I will tell you more about that another time.  

What I really wanted to report to you today is that I think one of things that has amazed me the most about living in the high desert is the amount of birds we are seeing and hearing.  Frankly I didn't know what to expect considering our deficiency of trees.  However, I have been pleasantly surprised.  Each day starting in the early morning, we are being serenaded.  The songs continue throughout the day with an abundance of melodies, and last into the evening as we watch the sun slowly retire behind the mountain range. 

We are noticing a wide variety of birds (new to us), and I was able to identify a few right off the bat, such as the familiar Mourning Doves.  However I needed assistance with others and consulted the Web.  I stumbled upon a helpful website, www.whatbird.com.  You can search by area, habitat, size, color, wing shape and many other identifying markers including listening to their song.  Now I knew that we had Western Meadowlarks, Mourning Doves, Roadrunners (very cool to see these) and confirmed what we suspected were House Finches, but there was a yellow and olive gray colored bird we were unfamiliar with.  So plugging in the criteria, I believe I have identified the Cassin’s Kingbird.  We see these birds throughout the day, but also notice them in the evening flying around our flowering plum trees. 

Now another thing I have noticed is that birds are not unlike humans.  We have two bird’s nests in two of our plum trees.  I am not certain who has inhabited the one closest to the garage (mourning doves nested there last year, see photo below ), but I believe the Kingbirds may be inhabiting one of these this year.  You see, these birds like humans, scoped out the neighborhood first by flying around doing drive-bys and hopping from tree to tree to see if they liked the area for their new home.  Then, once they moved into their new nest, just as humans do, they started redecorating. 
Mourning Doves nesting in flowering plum tree
The first thing I noticed was that they built an addition onto their home with the accumulation of some fresh greenery, a bright green branch of needles from a nearby pine tree.  Then, they acquired some new furniture consisting of some fuzzy type of material which lined the inside of the nest, and now they are happily flying around and just hanging out.  So it appears that Elvis and Priscilla have finally settled in (sorry, but they are Kingbirds after all – get it?  Yeah, yeah, I know.).  Anyway, now I just need to identify those little sandpiper looking birds that hop around on the ground.  We've nicknamed them bandits because of the black band across their eyes. 

It certainly has been interesting seeing the different wildlife here -- found a dead gopher snake this weekend just outside of the fence at the furthest point on the property.  Yes, the bad news is that it was a snake.  The good news however is, that it was a “gopher snake”.  The point thereby being that maybe they will help us with our battle of the pocket gophers!

So rest assured I will continue to update you on our encounters, including a future blog on our little Ornate Tree Liizards, and if one day we happen to see the elusive Javelina, I will be sure to tell you!

Have a great week everyone!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Quote of the Day

"What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make."
-- Jane Goodall

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Hail to the Easter Bunny!


Walking through the stores this week, you couldn't help but see rows upon rows of all of the pastel colored candy waiving at you from the aisles.  So this of course made me think back to my own Easter basket which was sometimes filled with such items as jelly beans, foil wrapped gold coins, and chocolate peanut butter and coconut eggs to name just a few. 

So where did the Easter Bunny come from anyway?  Of course he has nothing to do with the true meaning of Easter, but instead represents the more playful side of the Holiday.  A little research quickly revealed that the first documented origin of the Easter Bunny (a/k/a “Oschter Haws”) can be traced back to the 1500’s in Germany, although even earlier accounts mention spring festivals and the symbolism of eggs with fertility and rebirth.

Then in the 1700’s when German immigrants landed in Pennsylvania Dutch country, they brought with them their tradition, and thereafter American Folklore soon developed. Children eagerly waited for the arrival of Oschter Haws with baskets of colored eggs.  Eventually this custom developed into the swapping of the colored eggs for candy or small gifts, similar to the tradition of good old Saint Nick (gotta love my German ancestors!).

Now personally, my fondest Easter Bunny memory hands down has to be that singular solid chocolate bunny wrapped in plastic and tied with a bow, standing center stage in the middle of the basket.  This bunny was revered to such a degree that he was cushioned by a soft pillow of glossy green, yellow or pink grass and surrounded by a bounty of colorful subordinates.  The accompanying marshmallow chicks (while still good) unfortunately could not hold a candle to this confectionary delight.  And as for myself, I had an entire system down in which to savor this little fellow.  It began innocently enough with biting off the tail (a mere tease at this taste of chocolate heaven), then the ears quickly followed.  This of course would be quite enough for the first day, because after all, I couldn’t make him disappear all at once.  Gradually the nose, head, feet and body would soon follow (yes, precisely in that order).   I would relish each delicious chocolate bite to the fullest.  (In hindsight I suppose this is where my chocoholic origins came from.) 

Now I know of some friends who do not actually like chocolate (I shudder at the thought), so I wonder what their favorite treat was from the Easter Basket.  Was it the jelly beans?  The marshmallow Peeps?   Or some other equally sugary treat?  What was yours?  Did you receive a unique treat unlike anything your friends found?  My basket magically appeared in my bedroom sometime in the middle of the night.  Did yours also or did you go downstairs to find it awaiting you in the kitchen? 

So hail to the Easter Bunny for bringing smiles to children across the country, and thank you Germany for sharing your “Oschter Haws” tradition with us.

Wishing you all a safe and enjoyable Easter.
Chris

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Good Morning Friends!  I just wanted to let you know that I am in the process of tweaking this blog a little, so if it looked one way yesterday and another way today, that's why.  I'm also adding new gadgets to the site and hopefully will be including pictures soon.  Today, for example, I added a gadget for SocialVibe to help support the American Red Cross (bottom right corner on this blog).  All you need to do is click on the gadget to show your support.  It's free, so why not do what we can to help disaster victims.

Additionally, I am playing around with different backgrounds to this site as well as adding a new welcome message.  And if you like what you see, and want to recommend this blog, you can now push the orange Google +1 button on the top right to recommend me on Google.

Now don't forget to scroll through the blog and keep on the lookout for new changes, and if I am lucky enough to be flagged in your favorites, please remember to refresh my page if you do not see anything new.

Thank you, and if I don't have a chance to post anything additional before the weekend, have a Happy Easter!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Quote of the Day

You've gotta dance like there's nobody watching, love like you'll never be hurt, sing like there's nobody listening, and live like it's heaven on earth.
--William W. Purkey

Friday, March 16, 2012

You Are What You Eat: Pink Slime

Okay so here’s today’s riddle:  what is pink, meaty, contains ammonia, and can be found in your hamburger, your taco, your meatballs, and has been in some of your kids’ lunches for years?  Give up?  It’s called pink slime (a.k.a ground beef).  And no, the word ammonia isn’t a typo. 

Pink slime is the result of scraps of meat your butcher would normally throw away that are being used to make ground beef.  These are parts not meant for human consumption because they may contain salmonella. However they are given to dog food manufacturers to use.  Well not wanting to waste this stuff, someone (Beef Products, Inc.) got the bright idea to use ammonia to kill the bacteria.  So apparently they treat it with an ammonia and water solution, drain it, grind it up, and voila!  Hamburger! Now, don’t go looking for ammonia to be listed on the product’s label of ingredients.  It is not required to be there.  Oh, but not to worry though.  Federal regulators say pink slime is safe for human consumption!

Chef Jamie Oliver brought awareness to this outrageous practice last April and asked the public for help.  If you stomach hasn’t completely turned yet (and even if it has), watch this YouTube video (click here) where he informs a group of children and their parents about what really is in their school lunches.  

So here we are the beef eating public for years unknowingly consuming this ahem, meat at fast food joints, supermarkets, and in our kids’ cafeteria lunches. 

Last year McDonalds discontinued use of this product as a result of public outcry.  You should know however, that federal regulators, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Beef Products, Inc. and others have lashed back trying to dispel some of these “myths”, and have websites such as www.pinkslimeisamyth.com to address your concerns.

But now, after years of eating this stuff, the USDA has announced that it is finally taking steps to eliminate this pink slime product from some school lunches.  However, this won’t take effect until the end of the year due to contract issues.

So maybe in the meantime you might want to pack your kids’ lunches and look for hamburger products at your organic and natural grocers.  But hey, that’s entirely up to you; just remember, as the saying goes, you are what you eat.

For more information, check out this informative article from the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/31/us/31meat.html?pagewanted=all

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Feel Good Moment - Beached Dolphins Rescued

Here's an interesting video I just caught on Right This Minute.  In Brazil, a group of dolphins came to shore beaching themselves, and a group of people rushed into the water to help them by dragging them back out to sea.  Enjoy this feel good moment!  Here's the link:  http://www.rightthisminute.com/video/30-stranded-dolphins-rescued-brazilian-beach-goers

Friday, March 2, 2012

Chicago: The Windy City?

This week we have had quite a bit of wind in my neck of the woods.   Sitting here at this moment the wind is howling, the tumbleweed is rolling in the fields, and little birds are courageously perching on the birdfeeders holding on tightly as they threaten to swing horizontally in the wind.  Earlier this week, you could add to the scene blankets of dust blowing through the streets and fields.  With this description, one would think this is shaping up to look like an old time movie based on the Wild, Wild West.  And you thought Chicago was the windy city?  However, when the winds calm and the landscape turns silent, the high desert becomes a magnificent sight to behold. 

But speaking of Chicago and its nickname of “the Windy City”, did you know that this nickname has absolutely nothing to do with the weather?  That’s correct.  Instead it was all the big talk, or “wind” that local leading men in 1890 Chicago were blowing about the city’s stature in this country that lead a New York editor to give Chicago its nickname.  I learned of this little known fact several years ago when I read “The Devil in the White City” by Erik Larson.  At the time this would not have been a typical book that you would find on my shelf (now I read a wider range of genres).  However, I heard it being discussed on the Dom and Jane show, a morning radio program based in Denver, Colorado, and my interest was sparked.  You will find this book in your bookstore’s history section, and if you are a strict reader of fiction then you may find this read a little difficult to get through.  However, if you stick with it, you will be rewarded with a story about a complex and mysterious villain who terrorized the city during the Chicago World’s Fair.  This man was a serial killer who charmed his unsuspecting victims and for many years, successfully got away with it.  This book also has tons of interesting facts.  You’ll learn of when shredded wheat and Cracker Jack got their start and the humble beginnings of the Ferris Wheel. 

Although my first thought for this particular blog was not to turn it into a book review, I think I will put this selection on my “recommended” list.  History buffs will most likely love it, and fiction lovers may not, but hopefully if they give it a chance they may find themselves intrigued by its redeeming qualities – a well written historical account of Chicago during the World’s Fair and the man who chose to terrorize it.   

Well, that’s all for now.  Happy reading and remember, spring is almost here.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Quote of the Day

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
-- Maya Angelou

Monday, February 27, 2012

STORY TIME

Good Morning!  I thought I would share with you a short story I came up with based on a Writer's Digest writing contest. The challenge:  In 750 words or fewer, write a story based on the following prompt:  You return to the house where you grew up, only to learn it has been condemned.  Below is my fictious story:

I rubbed my tired eyes and blinked as the 19th century farmhouse came into view.  I had hoped that my eyes were deceiving me.  The wood post and rail fence was broken and worn, tattered from the secrets that it had held.  Newly built cookie cutter houses now bookended the property to the east and the west where the regal pines once stood, stripping the house further of its original lure.  The house appeared vacant and cold. Windows in the top floor had been broken and paint on the porch’s wood pillars was peeling away from its fa├žade.  I slowed my car as I noticed a large orange sheet of paper blemishing the grand wooden door.  The house appeared abandoned now, so I decided to take a closer look.

I turned onto the driveway lined with wild Queen Anne’s Lace and Black-eyed Susan, and listened to the familiar crunch of gravel beneath my wheels. The sound reminded me of the State’s welfare checks on myself and the three other children fostered in this home.  I found myself wondering if that very noise was the previous inhabitants’ first alarm that the enemy was approaching.  Because just as this house comforted me during my childhood years, it was also a safe house many generations ago for the Underground Railroad. 
Once out of my car, I walked up the creaky old steps and approached the front door until the black print on the orange paper came into view.  CONDEMED it read.  I gasped.  Not this house.  I jiggled the handle on the front door, but it would not release, so I went around to the back door to try my luck there.  It was already opened a crack.  Cautiously letting myself in, I found myself standing in the mudroom, formerly the butler’s pantry, staring at the markings on the doorframe indicating the various children’s heights.  A smile graced my saddened face as I pictured my foster siblings and me sitting at the kitchen table waiting our turn to be measured.  I was the tallest until Bobby shot up in the seventh grade.  He overtook me by a foot that year.
Moving on, I first peered into the cellar, the musty odor both strong and familiar.  Continuing, I walked into the dining room where floor to ceiling panels of red fabric still framed the windows.  Torn and holed, I reached out to stroke the curtains.  A puff of dust billowed forward at my touch enticing a cough, to which I quickly retracted my hand.  The ornate built-ins still remained, albeit covered with a thick layer of dust.
Unable to resist, I bent down and grasped a corner of the hideous brown shag carpet and pulled it away to reveal the servant call button in the middle of the floor.  I remembered my foster parents explaining this fascinating button to all of us kids as we scrambled to see who could push it first.  Those past generations had seemed like a different world to me – maids and butlers a thing of southern storybooks.  But now, I found myself standing here, feeling the roots of this old house in quite a different way.  The foundation supporting much more than four walls of stone and mortar, but holding instead the history of our forefathers to be discovered and learned by those who chose to cross its threshold.  I instinctively knew what I must do.
I quickly walked through the remainder of the house gazing at the old bluestone fireplace and small upstairs bedrooms, taking note of every detail I could. 
Now I found myself almost running to my car.  The high school reunion wasn’t for a couple of hours and it could certainly wait.  This couldn’t.  I hoped that my schoolmate’s mother still worked there as I fumbled around the inside of my purse feeling for my cell phone.  Once located, I quickly dialed information and gained the number I sought.  
I hopped in my car and dialed the phone.  Now dust and gravel flew from beneath my wheels as I headed out the driveway and pointed my car towards town and in the direction of the county’s historical society.  I was going to save this house.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Quote of the Day

A two-year-old is kind of like having a blender, but you don't have a top for it.
-- Jerry Seinfeld

Monday, February 13, 2012

2012 Grammy Performance – Guaranteed to be Remembered

Did you watch the Grammys last night?  If not, you missed everything from soup to nuts – some parts of which you might be sorry you missed, and others, well . . . .
This year’s Grammys started off with a thoughtful prayer from LL Cool J in honor of the late Whitney Houston who passed away on Saturday, and ended with an exorcism performance by Nicki Minaj that is sure to have had many people talking long after the backlight dimmed on their TV screens.  What on earth was that?   I wholeheartedly embrace artistic freedom, but good grief Nicki.  Many are claiming her performance was an attempt to outdo Lady Gaga.  Others are just plain horrified.
The funny thing is it immediately took me back to 1989 when Madonna made a highly controversial music video to her song, “Like a Prayer”.  She too was surrounded by both fans who loved it and critics who hated it.  Comprised of a story about an African Amercian man who is unjustly arrested for a crime he didn’t commit and is then later released, Madonna’s video shows her being kissed by the African American man who is then portrayed as a saint, cutting her hands and bleeding, and dancing in front of burning crosses resembling the likes of an act by the KKK.   It’s easy to see how this video struck a nerve with many.  Religious communities were outraged by what they perceived as blasphemy, while some viewed it as racism, and others yet hailed her as a creative genius.
Fast-forward 23 years and Nicki Minaj’s performance seems to have induced similar results. Viewers watched dumbfounded as a mock exorcism was being portrayed while Nicki flailed around restrained as if possessed, and a scantily dressed female dancer bent over backward in front of a kneeling altar boy.  If it was attention she was looking for, she certainly is receiving it now.  The Catholic League apparently is already speaking out against not only Nicki Minaj but The Recording Academy which approves all performances stating, “Never would they allow an artist to insult Judaism or Islam”. 
Fortunately with freedom of expression comes the freedom to grab the remote control and turn the thing off if you don’t like it.  As for the comparison to Lady Gaga, Steve Helling, staff writer for People magazine summed it all up when he Tweeted, “Suddenly, Lady Gaga seems really, really normal.”

P.S.  Oh, by the way, did you catch the green neon trimmed mouse ears sported by the audience during one particular performance?  You know you’re getting old when Deadmau5 (pronounced “Dead Mouse”), has replaced Micky Mouse. (Sigh.)