Wednesday, August 31, 2011
A little bit interesting: Two weeks before the earthquake, I switched Homeowners' Insurance companies. The new one offered earthquake coverage. We don't get earthquakes, but it was inexpensive, so I opted in. Little did I know...
Have you experienced an earthquake? What did you do? What would you do differently next time?
Monday, August 29, 2011
Sunday, August 28, 2011
American Curls are people pleasers. They are affectionate without being a nuisance. Got young ones? This cat is good with children. It likes to ride on your shoulder and play fetch. The Curl like most cats is curious, if not downright nosy. American Curls normally do well with other pets.
A little side note of interest about their ears. They aren't born with curled back ears. They arrive into the world with ears that look like any other kittens. Between one and seven days they plump up and curl backwards.
Curls have a medium build with a tail that's wide at the base and tapers. These cats weigh in at anywhere between seven and eleven pounds. They can be long or short haired with fine silky coats. Their fur can be any color or pattern and are non matting.
Because of tipping backward the ears need to be gently handled so that the cartilage isn't damaged. They are prone to ear infections. But overall are healthy cats.
If you are interested in this breed of cats, please remember you find any breed including American Curls at petfinder.com, in rescues and kill shelters. Save a life: adopt.
Saturday, August 27, 2011
Some plants seem to come in and out of favor, becoming old-fashioned only to be rediscovered. One such plant is the Sempervivum tectorum or by its common names either houseleek, or hens and chicks. They used to be present in everyone's garden and many remain in tribute to their hardiness as their name suggests: semper meaning always and vivum live.
The species name tectorum comes from 'of the roof,' for they have grown on tile roofs of houses for over 2,000 years in their native regions of southern Europe. It was claimed Zeus gave man houseleeks to protect his home against lighting and fire, and that centuries later Charlemagne in his conviction of that belief, ordered it grown on every roof. Don't know this for certain, perhaps they're just legends.
Sempervivum are listed in one of my herbals. The leaves have an astringent quality and the inner juice rubbed on irritated skin can relieve burns, insect bites and other itches. Their taste doesn't recommend them for any culinary purpose, and there is no proven method of preserving them.
For many years they have languished, overlooked in neglected garden nooks and crannies while newer more exciting plants took the spotlight. A few years ago they became very popular for use in 'living wreaths,' but are more commonly grown in almost any type of container from worn out shoes to elegant urns. Their interest as garden plants rekindled as gardeners sought plants with easy upkeep. Sempervivum certainly provides that, along with a unique form that provides a geometrical dimension and a fine soft blue-green color that makes them a stand out among dozens of leafy mounding type groundcovers.
The flat rosettes of overlapping thick, fleshy leaves seem architectural in arrangement, and the abundant offshoots (the chicks) easily root providing many new plants. Given time a hens and chicks plant will form a low mat in even extremely difficult garden locations. A relative of Sedum, Sempervivum like fast draining soils, full sun or partial shade, survive drought and neglect, and succeed just about everywhere except boggy soil.
These evergreen succulents come from the Alps and Pyrenees mountains in Europe and are hardy to zone four. The flowers are more interesting than beautiful, notable for growing long rope-like stems covered in scale leaves and hold their small flowers in thready, coarse bunches. After flowering the rosette dies, so don't feel bad about pulling it out and giving the chicks a chance to grow on.
Many interesting cultivars are available changing the color spectrum of the plant a little, and more nurseries are carrying Sempervivum, so look for new ones to become available. Other species are not reliably hardy to zone four, but will survive in dish gardens where they can be stored in warmer locations during winter. Sempervivum arachnoideum or the cobweb houseleek is one to try.
Friday, August 26, 2011
I was notified of a friends death last evening. This woman at one time was like a mother to me. A stern disciplinarian but I learned so much from her.I'll always be grateful for our time together
I met her in a chat room in 1995. We were editors together at now long defunct publishing companies and in 2001 we, along with two others formed Wings ePress.
She will be missed.
Rest in peace,Lorraine Stephens
Thursday, August 25, 2011
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
I have one my grandmother gave to my mother in the 1970's, and Mom passed it on to me. It heats quickly and cooks quickly.
I bought a large oval Crock Pot about five years ago, large enough for a whole chicken. The handle broke off of the glass lid when I was removing it. No injuries, thank goodness. I have repurposed the green crock as a water feature on my deck. Just perfect for the small pump I had.
I also have a tiny little Crock Pot that is fondue sized. The crock will not come out of the outer element. I have to wipe it clean, and no matter how thorough I am, I'm never convinced it's as clean as it could be.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Not much else going on today. I hope your week is lovely and those of you on the East Coast - watch out for that storm! Julia
Sunday, August 21, 2011
Saturday, August 20, 2011
Both plants are from the genus Asclepias. A name derived from asklepios, the Greek god of healing. Perhaps named because milkweed has been used to treat everything from warts to pleurisy, cancer to backache, and everything in between. It has even been used as a contraceptive. Long ago, if you had a disease or injury, milkweed was thought to cure it. That's quite a record for a plant poisonous to livestock. The milky sap is the poison culprit, and each milkweed species' poison strength varies. Most animals won't eat it unless there is nothing else left to graze, and there are cases of milkweed poison causing death.
Common milkweed is Asclepias syriaca. Linneaus, who gave most plants their botanical named, erroneous thought milkweed came from Syria in the Middle East.
Milkweeds are beautiful, well-adapted native wildflowers throughout much of the United States. They have one very important function. They are the only host plant for the monarch butterfly larvae. These large white, black and yellow striped caterpillars with their black horn-antenna on both the front and back ends eat milkweed leaves non-stop. While eating the leaves the caterpillars consume the glycosides that make the plant poisonous. These chemicals then make the caterpillar unpalatable to its predators.
Common milkweed is not as showy as butterflyweed, but it is sweetly scented -- very similar to vanilla. The plant has a strong structural look, standing upright on one strong three to five foot stem with large, long, ovate leaves. Several flower umbels with a hundred or so flowers form near perfect globes during the last half of summer. The flowers appear dusty pink to dark pink sometimes fading to a soft buff yellow.
If you look closely at one flower you will see a most unusual structure shaped like an hourglass. Five colored sepals bend or reflex backward from the middle of the hourglass. The upward facing structure consists of a hood of five united petals surrounding five horns that bend inward to a central stigma with a distinct waxy appearance.
While the plant causes problems in crop fields, milkweed has positive attributes never commercially developed. The milky sap forms a latex rubber and the seeds contain triglyceride oil. The down makes an insulating material and has been used in flotation devices and to stuff pillows. Fibers from the stems and seed down have been woven into textiles, made into paper, and twisted into cords and ropes. Flowers have been used to make wine.
Perhaps common milkweed is like common man: abundant, talented, contradictory and under appreciated.
Friday, August 19, 2011
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Couldn't resist! Yeah, I know, I usually talk about hiking and the outdoors, but what could be more outdoor-ish than potatoes???
I dug these from a single corner. I planted purple, Yukon gold and red bliss. I cannot tell you how many I've already harvested - and we don't even really eat potatoes.
This is the first time I've ever grown potatoes. Knowing how productive these plants are, I'll probably plant half the number of seed potatoes next year.
I have to say - this is so cool!
Monday, August 15, 2011
Sunday, August 14, 2011
I saw this post at Kim'Dehn's blog awhile back and enjoyed it so much that I asked her if she'd consider posting it here. She graciously agreed:
Helen, the Deaf and Blind Baby Raccoon
I love critters. I’ve shared my life with dogs and cats and birds and fish…but critters like raccoons and possums make me physically weak. My sister says I channel Ellie Mae Clampett. I take that as a compliment.
I have provided food and water for critters in my current home since 2007 when the Mid-South temps soared over 100 for several weeks. The raccoons were out at noon drinking the stray cats water and food. I put out a kiddie pool and scattered dog kibble along the wood line behind my home. They’ve been coming ever since.
On June 21st I discovered a blind and deaf baby raccoon. I noticed her eating with intense concentration long after her mom and siblings left. I went out to check on her, and was shocked that I was able to get close enough to take photos without a zoom lens. She never indicated she knew I was there. And I wasn’t deliberately quiet.
It was clear she recognized my smell as I was out there with food and changed the pool water every day. However, when my husband went to see her, she felt her way into the woods, to a tree where she climbed as she had been taught. She went up perhaps two feet, not high enough to protect her from danger. As we are dog less and kid less, I didn’t fear for her safety during the day. At night, you never know what hungry animal may happen along.
What would Ellie Mae do? Well. She’d ask Pa if she could keep the little critter, and surely Jed would say, yes! Unfortunately I’m overwhelmed with indoor cats and outdoor cats, not to mention my husband’s patience could snap any moment.
Fast forward two weeks.
I named her “Helen” as in Keller. Every day I’d see her by the kiddie pool, eating kibble. Alone. The size of a basketball, she would have been easy pickings for a dog or whatever to kill her. The morning a stray yellow lab appeared to eat the kibble, I knew time was running out.
I called Petra of Mississippi Wildlife Rehabilitation. I barely got the words ‘blind and deaf baby’ out of my mouth when she asked if I had the baby trapped. Well, no. I have enough cats to know what goes into their mouths comes out their bottoms. I wasn’t going to catch Helen until I knew I could hand her off immediately.
A live trap would not work on Helen. I would catch every member of her family before she accidentally stumbled into the trap. Petra suggested I drop a blanket over Helen, sweep her up and put her in a box, then call her.
Uh…too simple. Which meant I had to put my own sweet spin on catching her.
I didn’t like the idea of using a blanket. I have never caught an animal that way. I prefer luring into a baited live trap or cage and slapping the door shut. It worked many times on the wildest of stray cats, so that was the route I would take.
I found a large box, an old blanket, gloves (I’m no fool) and was making two peanut butter sandwiches (Helen loved peanut butter) when my husband called. I told him what I had planned for the day. He made a scoffing sound. “What?” I demanded.
“It’s not going to be as simple as you make it sound,” he said. “Its never simple with you. There is always a bigger story.”
I got huffy. Not everything I do with cats and critters ends with a bigger story. We agreed to disagree and hung up, with Ray saying he couldn’t wait to hear the bigger story, and me sticking my tongue out at my cell phone.
It didn’t take long before Helen appeared with her family. I waited until the others returned to the woods, then grabbed the box, gloves, sandwiches and a plastic lid from a storage box. I walked right up to Helen and set the box on end so she would walk into it. Then, Gidget decided to help.
Gidget is a year-old ex-stray and has watched her father, Jesse the Wonder Cat, smack raccoons when they try to grab his dinner. I’ve seen Gidget copy her dad, so I didn’t want her around when I trapped Helen. As it happened, Helen smelled Gidget and became frightened. She backed into the woods, and climbed a pathetic 2 feet up a tree.
I went back inside to wait for Helen to return. When she did, I put Gidget in the laundry room. I also said a prayer that I would be smart about trapping Helen. I didn’t want to frighten her. Imagine being deaf and blind, and suddenly something grabs you!
Helen sat in the middle of the kibble munching happily. She always had a perpetually happy smile on her face. A happy, blind and deaf baby raccoon that smiles and loves peanut butter sandwiches. I would never forget her.
I set the box between Helen and the woods, and baited it with a sandwich. I slipped a small bite under her nose. She went right for it, nibbling off tiny pieces. I gave her a really small portion, but it took her like, ten minutes to eat it. Meanwhile I’m standing over her, baking in the sun, itchy from the flies buzzing around the damp kibble and Helen, taking her sweet time eating.
When she finished, she picked up another piece of kibble. My patience thinned. I was ready for both Helen and me to get on with our lives. But then she smelled more peanut butter and headed for the box, only to stop and sniff the strange object, and back away. I held my breath. Please! I thought. And she walked in, part way. Ahhh, the power of peanut butter.
While she worked on the sandwich, I applied the plastic lid to nudge her further in, and at the same time tipped the box up on end. Helen toppled into the bottom and before she could make a sound, I had the lid taped shut. Yep. I used two strips of tape designed for sealing storage boxes. It had to be good stuff. My husband doesn’t buy cheap-o crap.
I called Petra, who cheered, and we agreed to meet half way. I released Gidget from the laundry room, and then placed the box with Helen in the backseat of my car. She road quietly for ten minutes. I could hear her smacking her lips. Then…she finished.
The box with the happy smiling deaf and blind baby raccoon began to shake. I had one eye on the road and one eye on the box, not easy to do unless you’re Marty Feldman. I was thankfully on a Mississippi backwoods highway with nary a car in sight. Very thankful when I turned around for a third time and saw Helen stick her nose out of the box top.
Looked like Ray’s comment that I always had a bigger story was about to come true. Which pissed me off! Yeah, I had taped the box shut. Two whole pieces! Dirty rotten cheap-o tape. Ray’s tape! I had something to blame him for!
Feeling much better, I pulled over and shook the box, thinking Helen would huddle quietly in the bottom for the rest of the drive. Nope! She ramped it up. Deaf and blind. Yes! Raccoon with claws? Damn straight!
I finally flipped the box upside down, with the cheapo-taped top against the seat, hoping Helen would sit on it quietly and I could drive and…
Nope! She dug at the bottom with power-tool-like claws.
I had a flash of déjà vu, taking me back fifteen years. And yes, it was one of those ‘bigger stories’ Ray mentioned. I had thought the feral cat I was taking to be neutered was safely locked in my cat carrier…except he kept head-butting the door and actually punched it out so that I found myself driving with a feral cat head-butting my windshield less than a foot away.
With visions of that dancing in my head, I threw my purse on top of Helen’s box, and held it down with one hand while driving like a demon for my exit. The box rocked and rolled. I tapped on it, hoping to…not scare her, rather…communicate. Yes! My tapping was me spelling w-a-t-e-r to Helen, assuring her she didn’t need to panic cuz I was doing enough of that for both of us.
I prayed my exit was coming up. It was! I prayed Petra would be pulling into the gas station at the same time as me. And she did.
Clearly Petra thought I had everything under control. I guess my wild eyes and shriek about Helen wanting out of the box NOW gave Petra pause. Instead she tossed aside her paperwork and opened the car door. Helen’s arm reached out from the box’s crap-o taped bottom (formerly top.) Petra pushed the paw back inside. Helen then punched her nose out the hole she had chewed in the box’s top (formerly bottom.) I think I yelped. Not sure. Everything went black for a second.
When I came to, Petra had a small pet carrier and a yellow bath towel. She opened the top and peered down at Helen. She then dropped the towel into the box and scooped my raccoon up like they had been made for each other. I watched with envy while Petra held Helen up to inspect her. Helen hung limp like a rag doll. Nothing like the boxed maniac terrorizing me down I-69.
“She has no eyes,” Petra finally said. “There is nothing there.”
I felt bad for thinking of Helen as a maniac. She didn’t have eyes!
Petra determined Helen was 3 months old, and was amazed she had lived that long. I wasn’t. Helen had been born to the right raccoon mom who, generations before her, had set up camp in the woods behind my house. Helen didn’t have to go far from her bed to get food and water. Ideal in every way to nurture a baby raccoon with birth defects.
I donated to Helen’s care, and Petra and I hugged twice. I was teary driving home, relieved Helen would be safe from harm. Relieved there are Petra’s out there to devote their every waking moments to critters in desperate need. Relieved I wouldn’t have to worry about the helpless little basketball of fluff groping her way around my yard.
Before we parted, Petra told me she currently had 20-some raccoons in her care, one of which had a broken leg. Clearly God put Petra in my path. Who better to take Helen than someone totally devoted to the species?
Interested in learning more about Kimberley Dehn?
Find her at: www.kimberly-dehn.com
Saturday, August 13, 2011
Have you ever considered, though, garden settings in our literature? Have you ever noticed how many gardens appear in poetry and fiction? It seems as though as man's cultivation of gardens developed from prehistory our literary history also became steeped in garden settings. During our long written discourse the garden setting has been used as a powerful analogy for God, procreation, mysticism, life, nature, magic, or women.
There are many reasons for gardens holding such an impressive position in fiction, probably because gardens were an important source for food and medicine, and represented man's growing power over fickle nature. So in some ways even our acres of fields planted in corn, barley, or wheat can be considered 'garden' settings, but we usually think of growing vegetables, herbs, or flowers as gardens, and the purely ornamental garden is the most mystic and beautiful of settings.
The Garden of Eden in the Bible and the fabled Hanging Gardens of Babylon in Persia come quickly to mind, but there are many more. You can probably think of many fairy tales and myths with garden settings, and most historical novels mention herb gardens, maze gardens, fountain gardens, or even 'parks' designed by landscape designers--even the Egyptians designed ornamental gardens. They all create a mental image for the reader, a 'real' place where imagination and experience fill in the voids. Imagine the Gardens of Versailles and see where your mind takes you. Write fantasy? It is a well know fact fairies and goblins and other mythical creatures inhabit gardens.
So as you read or write in the future, perhaps you will consider the garden setting and its purpose as a setting. I often write science fiction space operas, and each one mentions a garden influenced from memories of the biodome, as do most of my other fantasy and romance books.
Here are a few titles tied to garden settings through setting or tile you might want to check out: The Merchant's Tale by Chaucer; Rappaccini's Daughter by Nathaniel Hawthorne; The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (One of my favorites!); The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde; The Tales of Peter Cottontail by Beatrix Potter; Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt (considered non-fiction). Gardens run the gauntlet of genres from children's fiction to science fiction and everything in between.
If my meanderings have made you think of a story with a garden setting, please leave a comment on it. Thanks.
My new fantasy release this month is an anthology, Legend's Cipher.
What would you do – spy on others so you could publicly betray their secrets, or expose a secret that you believed would destroy you?
Friday, August 12, 2011
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Anyhow, we have a dishwasher, range and refrigerator in stainless steel now. The instrutions say not to use any harsh cleaner, nothing but water or mild dishwashing soap. Guess what? Water and mild dishwashing soap don't remove, grease, grime, grit or fingerprints!
So I Googled stainless steel appliance cleaners and found fab reviews for a cleaner that was included as a sample with some lucky purchases. I didn't get any samples. Anyhow, it apparently isn't sold in stores, because I tried Home Depot, Lowes, Wal-Mart and Giant. So I bought another brand, with the same active ingredient, mineral oil, and it works. More or less. Well, it works, but I have to rub and rub and rub really hard.
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Me on Jalapeno Grande. Just got back. Life has been weird and sad these past few days. Someone I love died unexpectedly so as you can imagine, I've been, well, more or less distraught. He was a very close friend.
I'm better today. I know I'll have good days and bad days over the next few months. I've decided the best thing to do is remember him as he looked the day I met him, smiling, robust, full of life and love.
As my husband says, everybody dies. I guess my friend was the one person who was so much larger than life he'd never, ever leave.
Happier post next week. Julia
Monday, August 8, 2011
Sunday, August 7, 2011
Saturday, August 6, 2011
|Strange flower! Echo chamber leaves!|
Friday, August 5, 2011
(This works with any flavor cake and jello)
1 Lg box lime Jell-O
1 Lg box vanilla instant pudding mix
1 regular size container Cool Whip
Thursday, August 4, 2011
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
As much as I love eBooks, and am addicted to my NOOK Color, my frugal inner budget baby told me to sample recently published personal finance books on NOOK, then order the paperback and hardcover books from my local library. I devoured them.
I had taken a personal finance course at a community college in the ahem, 80's. I still have the binder, and refer to it from time to time. But the American economy has grown and changed, that I felt I needed up-to-date thinking. There were some experts I found more sensible than others, mostly because of my modest risk taking need, and how much I guard my dollars. There were major categories that they all seemed to agree on. So I put those items at the forefront of my brain, trying to assimilate as much as I can into my family budget.
Refinance done, check.
I also called the customer retention department of my TV, Internet and Phone company, told them there are other companies out there wanting my business and what could they do for me? The suave young man 'rebundled' me and my bill will be $20 a less per month for a year. Not a huge savings, but that's $240 of found money, and it only cost me five minutes on the phone.
I didn't even realize there was such a thing as a customer retention department. Thank you financial expert books.
This week I've begun the time consuming, brain challenging search for auto and home insurance quotes. I was freaked out at first to do an online auto insurance quote and with just my name, address and birth date, they instantly pulled up the vehicles I insure. Big brother and all that. After filling out a few different online forms at different companies, I grew to love the ones with the public information. It was annoying putting in all the car info myself (we have four, because our adult children are still living with us, going to school and on our policy).
If only we could get an apples to apples quote, but alas, it's like shopping for a new mattress. They all have different options, and you can't get a black and white comparison. Hopefully we'll make a decision this week.
Are you doing anything different in your budget this summer?
Monday, August 1, 2011
So far we have chosen either a method of meditation or a subject to meditate on. In other words we have controlled our meditations.
Today I am giving you--quite literaly-- a blank canvas to meditate on.
But first I'd like to offer some advice. Humans are, to a large extent, guided by their senses, and that means audio, visual, sentient and olfactory and this meditation will invoke your predominant sense.
Please accept what you receive, and at the end of this meditation please write down what you get.
It is likely you will understand the messsage within the meditation, but if you don't there will come a time/incident when something will trigger you back to this meditation and any notes you make now may be relevant at this later time.
When you are ready, calm and center yourself as you always do, and then imagine you are in front of a blank canvas.
You may feel the need to fill the canvs yourself, that's fine.
Allow your inner creative self take over for as long as needs be.
When you are finished study the result and tune into your emotions and note how you feel.
Take time to understand the message from what is in front of you.
And when you are ready return to the present and write down whatever comes to you without stopping to edit.
Write until you have finished befoe you read over it.
For those of you who prefer to watch the blank canvas to see what come--a bit like witching a cinema screen--
Take note of what you see, hear, sense, or feel, then 'listen' with your 'inner ear' to what is being conveyed to you.
When the impressions cease and you are ready to return to the present, please write down, without interruption, everything you experieced during this meditation.
If when you read it back, it makes no sense, don't be disappointed, know the message will reveal itself at the right time.
There are multi puroses to this meditation.
a) Trust in your inner self/instincts not to control the contents of the meditation.
b) Possibly discovering your dominant sense from/upon which many of your attitudes shape your impressions of the world and people around you.
c) Acceptance that at a subconsious level your brain is receiving and interpreting messages and informtion all the time.
d) by offering the blank screen/canvas your subconsious has the chance to connect with you aon alevel neither of you have used before. So instead of using the accepted 10% of your brain's conscious output, you are harnessing that inner % at a time of your choosing, but without chaining the connections with conscious controls.