Archive for July, 2008

The Bee’s Knees

July 31, 2008

Yesterday’s trip to the sunflower patch was very productive, from a blogger’s standpoint. I got lots of photos of sunflowers…and lots of shots of other things. Enough for 3 days worth of posts.

I have been a little bit concerned about the bee decline. If you’re not up on the topic, just Google “bee decline” and you’ll quickly be brought up to speed. I was really relieved to see thousands of the little guys buzzing around the sunflowers yesterday. Most of them were these tiny, golden workers which are difficult to see against the sunflower centers. Do you see them both? Sometimes there were six or eight on the same flower. Just workin’ away! I couldn’t get them to stop long enough to pose.

sunflowerbee1bgr
These guys were larger and easier to see. But, I don’t see how they could stand it in the sun, seeing as how they were wearing those thick fur coats, and all.

sunflowerbeecloseup3bgr

 

I found them fascinating and could have watched all afternoon.

Well, maybe if it had been just a TAD cooler, I could have watched them all afternoon. The spirit was willing, even if the body was suffering.

Before I gave up and headed to the air-conditioned comfort of my car, my attention was diverted by this beauty –

 

 

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I was so taken by the translucency of his wings. There were a couple hundred of his buddies there with him. I’ve always looked upon butterflies as creatures with just a touch of magic about them. There was certainly magic everywhere yesterday afternoon.

So, that’s the second installment of the Trip to the Sunflower Patch. Tomorrow we’ll take a peek at something growing nearby that *I* had never really seen up close before. I’ll bet many of you haven’t either.

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Field Trip!

July 30, 2008

Every day I drive past this field which is part of a public park/wetlands conservation area. Throughout the year, it contains an ever-changing array of growing things. Sometimes it’s corn (and later, a corn maze)…sometimes it’s cotton…sometimes it’s stuff I can’t identify. But, right now, it’s…

sunflowerfield3bgr

SUNFLOWERS!

Who doesn’t love sunflowers? I decided to spend my lunch hour exploring the sunflower patch. I’d never looked at them so closely before. I discovered that I like them in all sorts of ways.

I like them unborn….

 

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I like them as babies….

 

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I like them in profile….

 

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I even like their little backsides!

 

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I like them in groups!

 

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But mostly, I like them up close and personal.

 

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Who knew they were so complex?

 

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I picked a day when the heat index was well over 100. But, I figured sunflowers wait for no one, so I risked heat stroke and enjoyed every minute of it.

Tomorrow, I’ll show you who else was enjoying the sunflowers.

Tweedy – Before and After

July 28, 2008

A while back we had Jeff Tweedy in the house. It was a great night. The fans were great. The artists were pleasant and easy to work with. I enjoy working with the promoter. All was well with the world.

But, I hadn’t bought my Nikon yet. My crummy little (albeit expensive) old camera just wasn’t up to the challenges of this really demanding show. The light was exceptionally low, and everyone wore black. I enjoyed the night so much and really wanted my own brand of souvenir of the event. But, what I got was this – nothing to write home about.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So, I applied one of my favorite plug-ins – Virtual Painter. I used the colored pencil filter this time (the same filter I used for the Lancaster Musicians photo I blogged about a couple of weeks ago).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I really like this effect and find that I use it pretty often. This shot would have never been seen by anyone but me, had I not gussied it up. Now, it is among the pieces that rotate through my office gallery. What do you think? Artsy? Or contrived? Interesting? Or just plain boooorrrrring? What’s your opinion? I can take it!

 

Simple Pleasures

July 26, 2008

Even though this weekend is projected to be the hottest of the year so far, I decided to get out and poke around a bit. This little farmer’s market is less than five miles from my house. Counting this visit, how many times have I been there this summer?

Twice.

I’m an idiot sometimes.

It’s got a little bit of everything. Herbs….

And lots of flowers.

I’m not sure how I left without some of this man’s glads.

And, of course, lots of veggies. I try to buy from people who appear to be “real” farmers. They’re in the minority. Most are just people who buy produce by the case somewhere else and hawk it here. I got some great-looking fresh blackeyed peas from an elderly couple. And tomatoes from the girl who operated this booth.

I stopped long enough to enjoy a bit of entertainment with my ‘maters.

But, the ultimate treat was a simple shave ice on the way out. My tongue’s still blue!

Not a bad way to start the weekend. Blue tongue and all.

Worried….

July 24, 2008

Warning. This post concerns kitty body functions. And I’m not talking purring.

So, about two or three months ago, my younger neutered male kitty, Max, clearly developed a problem with his bowels. He was leaving tiny bits of poo all over the house. We weren’t sure where it was coming from at first (3 animals share this space)…but one morning he was totally distressed and was walking from room to room, crying and hissing and depositing a tiny “gift” everywhere he went. Mystery solved.

So, I got on the internet and learned that totally indoor cats sometimes develop bowel problems because they don’t get enough exercise. And it’s further aggravated by a diet heavy in dry food. So, I got him some soft, canned food…and even stirred more water into it. He gets most of a can every day. I also put a little bit of cod liver oil on it, hoping that would loosen him up a bit. I don’t know if that’s appropriate or not. Seemed to make sense.

I really haven’t noticed a lot of improvement. And tonight…he’s bleeding. I mean, I don’t think he’s going to bleed out, or anything….but he’s leaving bloody spots. And a little mucus sometimes. Clearly, my home remedy isn’t working. I’ve got to get him to the vet tomorrow.

I can’t afford a major pet illness. I’m worried for him…and for me.

I’m also worried about the battle that will come in the morning when I try to load him into a carrier. He’s a BIG boy! He can stand on his hind legs and peer over the kitchen counter! He HATES to be picked up. HATES to be handled. HATES, HATES, HATES going into a carrier. And he’s just going to be thrilled with what comes AFTER being loaded into the carrier! Tomorrow is going to be a bad day. I can see it in my crystal ball.

But, it’s got to happen. Can’t have my big boy pooping blood all over everywhere. I am so worried about him!

UPDATE

22 hours and $325 later, the crisis has passed. Max has suffered a ruptured anal gland. Nasty, scary and obviously quite painful. I didn’t even know cats HAD anal glands. He had to be sedated so the thing could be cleaned and medicated. We were sent home with 3 prescriptions, prescription food to help him “loosen up” and lots of instructions. He’s sitting next to me right now, patting me on the shoulder and commenting on my blogging. In other words…life is back to normal. If you don’t count the wound on his nether regions and the damage to my credit card. SIGH….

Lancaster Musicians

July 15, 2008

I think that when things are kind of slow in my life (like now) I’m going to post photos. Sometimes they will be straight, traditional photographs. Other times, like today, they’re going to be “before” and “after” comparisons of photos I have manipulated. Sometimes the subject interests me, but the photo is just missing something. It is lacking that “snap” or color or…whatever…that makes it remarkable. So, I’m starting with a shot of some musicians I photographed in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania a couple of summers ago. The afternoon was so much fun. But, the photo was kind of…lacking. So, I applied some “artsy” treatments to it and got an impressionist version that I really like. I printed it on textured canvas, and it hangs in the hallway of my home. It makes me smile every time time I look at it, not only because of the memories it brings back, but because now I actually like the artistic outcome.

Lancaster Musicians original

Lancaster Musicians original




Lancaster Musicians finished

Lancaster Musicians finished


What do you think? Original…or “artsy?”

Urban Foraging

July 13, 2008

I made the last run to the blackberry patch yesterday. I’m traveling next week, and the next time I’m available, the berries will be in decline. I did get a batch of blackberry jam made, and it was worth the wait. Man! I do good work! Wish you could taste it. It’s just not in the same league as the storebought stuff.

It tastes amazing on my latest batch of bread. (Recipe to share later, after I’m more sure of myself.)



After leaving the blackberry patch, I swung by the middle school again. I took these photos of what I think are muscadine vines. I think they’re called scuppernogs in some parts of the country. I’m convinced that’s what these are. Or maybe they’re just plain ol’ wild grapes. What do you think?


If they are indeed muscadines, they will make incredible jam. They don’t ripen until September. I will be making numerous trips to the middle school between now and then to keep an eye on my crop.

Come Sit a Spell

July 10, 2008

When I moved to Tennessee, I bought what I assumed would be my last home. Facing retirement alone, I wanted something easy to care for – and that meant a teeny-tiny yard. They call ’em “zero lot” homes, but they do have a bit of a lot. I’ve got about 20X20 for a back yard, and approximately double that in the front, with a strip of about six to eight feet running down either side. It’s mostly planted in low-maintenance shrubbery and some fairly decent, carefree grass. Every summer so far, I’ve filled the patio with gorgeous flowers. And every summer, when I came back from my vacation…I found that my surrogate watering plans had fallen through, and my babies were dead. So sad. This year I decided to pass on the flowers, since I was planning a 10-day road trip in August. Well, the road trip fell through. I’m taking one long weekend instead. Surely DD will water my flowers for three days for me. Surely. So, last night I went out and got flowers.

I had almost waited too long. There were lots of marked down distressed plants…some mums for this fall and some things I don’t like. But, lo! There were some lovely vincas and my old hearty favorites, marigolds.

Aren’t the vincas beautiful? I really like the deep-hued ones like these. I didn’t go overboard…just got these few.

Patio vincas

The terracotta saucer is placed there to provide a nice, stable surface on which to set my scotch and water – I mean sweet tea (ahem!).

Every year I put marigolds in little pots on the back fence. I’m glad they’re back where they’re supposed to be now. I feel better.

Marigolds - ready for their closeup

Back fence with marigolds





And don’t you love my hydrangea bush? I planted it the first summer here.

My invisible hydrangea bush

I still can’t talk about it!

On the opposite side of the yard is the Herb Farm. As you can see, we are expecting quite a large crop of basil, rosemary and two kinds of mint. Now I won’t have to steal mint from my neighbor’s yard after dark. (Desperate situations call for desperate measures!)

The Herb Farm

So, that’s it. For a little under $50 and a bit of time and a tiny amount of sweat, I have a pleasant patio once again. I should have taken “before” photos, but I’d be ashamed to let anybody see them.

Would you like a nice, cool glass of....something?

Come sit a spell with me. I’ll make us a nice glass of sweet tea. Or perhaps something a little stronger?

Scalpers! Scourge of the Earth!

July 9, 2008

Even before I was in show business, I loathed scalpers. I knew in my heart THEY were the reason Ticketmaster gave me nothing but back-row seats a mere 20 seconds after after online sales began. I just knew it.

Know what? I was right.

Now that I’m working on the inside, I can watch it happen before my very eyes. And I can’t do a darn thing about it!

A year or so ago, we had a fairly popular young singer in the house. Tickets were scheduled to go on sale at 10:00 on a particular morning. Our ticketing system at the time required that I manually flip the switch turning the sales on. At 10:00, I promptly checked the appropriate square on my screen and hit “enter.” In the time it took me to close that screen and go to the public portion of our website (not very darn long) a full third of the house was gone! I’m talking mere seconds! When I reviewed my transactions log, I saw that three people in other parts of the country had bought dozens upon dozens of tickets. And each of them had multiple logins going on simultaneously. So, we are talking automation. ARRRGH!

I talked to our ticketing vendor, and they essentially told me I just had to live with it. But, I don’t have to like it! I wish someone would figure out a way to deal with this scum.

This morning a patron called to complain that an online ticket vendor was selling tickets to one of our September events for around $300. List price on those seats is $45 – and we are nowhere near a sellout. Anybody could buy the tickets – directly from us – for $45. Yet, something tells me these crooks have a market for their products, because people are too lazy to check with us – or are just clueless. The real kicker is…the scalpers are offering seats in the LAST rows at those prices! Nobody has purchased any seats back there as of right now. The bad guys know that if they get a taker, they can pop over to our site and get their “inventory” at list price and sell it at a huge profit.

Just makes my blood boil!

UPDATES:

– They moved the horse to another part of the lobby where I don’t have to look at it ALL the time. They left wheels underneath it so it can be moved easier next time. Maybe if I “accidentally” leave the doors unlocked tonight…. I’m just sayin’.

– I haven’t seen Alvin all day. I hope he’s just sleeping in because it’s a gray day.

Relic

July 8, 2008

This may look like an ordinary ivy in a somewhat ugly basket, but look closer. It’s special. Can you tell?

Oldest Living Ivy

This little ivy was part of a dish garden delivered to my desk on the first day of my new job on – are you ready??? –

September 22, 1974.

That’s not a typo. Nineteen SEVENTY-four. Yes, boys and girls. I have had this plant for 34 years. Longer than I’ve had my daughter. Longer than I put up with any of my husbands…added together! I’ll bet that’s longer than some of you have been breathing.

It started life in Arlington, Texas and graced my office in three different buildings in that city. Then, it moved with me and the cat to DC, where it once again shared my cubicle. Nearly 3 years ago, we all moved from DC to Tennessee. It’s hung in there through thick and thin…richer or poorer…’til death do us…. Oh, snap! I think I got my relationships mixed up!

In any event, this is one tough plant. It’s been ignored…and then suffered through the over-watering of my guilty conscience. It’s struggled through dismal situations where almost no natural light existed. It’s been nibbled by cats and lived without plant food for years on end. It’s been cut back to its nubbins. And it always bounces back. It’s amazing, but this is the longest period of time any living thing has endured me – and that includes my mother.

So, how about you? Do you have any relics in your life?

Alvin!

July 7, 2008

Today was the day I smarted up and brought my extra camera to work. There have been so many times when I longed to have a camera handy…but I didn’t want to run the risk of my Nikon disappearing. And then I remembered the extra camera. You know…the one that’s so obsolete AFTER JUST FOUR YEARS that it’s simply not worth using. The one that I paid ONE THOUSAND SMACKERS for a mere four years ago. That one.

So, I finally had a camera at work. And, lo!

Alvin.

Alvin the Chipmunk

Isn’t he just the cutest little rodent you’ve ever seen? I am calling him a chipmunk. I haven’t a clue if that’s what he really is, but “chipmunk” works for me.

I don’t know when Alvin moved in. Perhaps over the weekend, when things were quiet around here. But, he hasn’t chosen the best apartment. It’s not four feet from a very busy doorway. And there isn’t a blade of grass or rock or shrub or even a pansy to hide it. I guess he never heard the “Location, location, location” thing.

Alvin\'s Apartment

Alvin has a buddy. I’m not sure if it’s a “friend” kind of buddy or that other kind of buddy…if you get my drift, and I think you do. I hope it’s the other kind. On the other hand, I would NEVER get anything done, if there were baby chipmunks cavorting outside my office window.

What the heck – it’s off-season. Bring ’em on!

How I Spent my Holiday Weekend

July 6, 2008

I don’t know how this got started. I never do with these things. Suddenly, I find myself knee deep in a project that has taken on a life of its own and has grown WAY out of proportion.

All I know for sure is that I was in Walmart.

And they had nectarines on sale for 78 cents a pound. Corn was on sale for 25 cents an ear. Good, yellow, slightly chewy corn.

I bought a lot.

And a water bath canner.

And a bunch of jars.

Then I thought more deeply about it and realized that I couldn’t can corn using the water bath method. I went back and got a pressure canner.

So, back at the house, I iced down the corn while dealing with some other issues (returning to the office to finish setting up our ability to take credit cards on the internet Monday morning).

Corn, waiting for its destiny

I piled the rest of the stuff on the stove. Oh, yeah…did I mention that I decided to bake bread as well?

Supplies for the weekend kitchen debauchery

So, I got the internet thing taken care of with just 20 minutes of overtime. Whew! Back at the house, the first order of business was the corn. Before you can strip corn from the ears and can it, you’ve got to blanch it – that is, cook it for just a few minutes in boiling water. Blanching stops the enzyme action (or something) in the vegetable – and makes it all bright and colorful. For my money, the colorful thing is plenty reason to do it.

Blanched corn, waiting to be processed

An hour and a half later, I was stacking four pints and 8 half-pints of corn on the counter. We’re a tiny family. I can in small containers.

Next, came two batches of nectarine jam. Here’s the label I use for my jams and jellies. I never lived near enough to my nieces and nephews when they were children to have hosted this little party in my kitchen. But, I would have. I so would have.

My jam label

I made four loaves of bread (two batches) and threw them away. They just weren’t good. Then I researched and found that I needed to whip up some dough conditioner, because I was using a lot of whole grain, which makes heavy bread if you don’t put dough conditioner in the recipe. (I didn’t even know dough conditioner existed before yesterday morning.) So, off to the healthy supermarket to look for those obscure ingredients. I had to go to two healthy stores to find it all, but I did eventually get everything. I’ll do a separate blog later about the bread and will share the recipes at that time. I eventually got two wonderful loaves. I’ll take one to work tomorrow, along with several jars of jam.

And, then there was the nectarine cobbler. I’m also going to do a separate blog on cobblers. Here’s what it looked like, though….

Nectarine cobbler, hot from the oven

And, finally…I canned the rest of the nectarines – for future cobblers, I guess.

I almost forgot….the chicken!

One of the healthy stores was having a sale on boneless chicken breasts. $2.99 a pound! That’s unheard of. I may go get more. Anyway, I was kind of nervous about canning meat, but hell…my grandmother used to do it, and she wasn’t a rocket scientist. So, I figured I can do it, since I’m no rocket scientist, either. So, I got ten half-pint jars of canned chicken breast. I think it’s going to make amazing chicken salad later on.

So, here are the fruits of my weekend labor – all lined up.

The weekend\'s production

And now I have to reorganize the pantry (major ordeal) so these goodies can be stored. But, first I think I’m going to take a nap.