Monday, August 31, 2009

Misty Mornings

The sun is sleeping in later and later. Sunrise today is 7:03. And the sun goes to bed much sooner. Tonight's sunset will be at 7:59. It has been a while since the sun set before 8:00.

Morning mist and fog is very common in the mountains during spring and fall and it lingers much longer as the sun rises later and later. A common phrase around here is "I'll be there as soon as the sun burns off the fog a little."

The mist and fog give us new views of our common sights. Here a mother and her twins have breakfast in the grass by the roadside in the early morning mist.

Quite accustomed to people, the deer stand and stare at the camera.

Finally the mother decides to lead her little ones away. The disobedient one ran into the woods while the good little fawn follows Mom's footsteps.

If the later sunrise weren't sign enough, look at the leaves behind the woodpecker. They are all becoming dusky and some of them are beginning to show a little hint of fall color.
Yes, fall is approaching. Already the "experts" are predicting the extent and peak times of fall color. Some say the leaf season will be shorter than usual; some longer. Some predict the color will be duller than usual; others say it will be spectacular. Some say it will be sooner than usual; others later. They all have sound reasons for their predictions. About the only things that we know are true...the leaves will indeed turn and the tourists will flock to the mountains to view them. And we who live here will enjoy them every bit as much as the tourists.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Fridays are Golden

Regardless of what you thought, admired, or hated about the two men...doesn't there seem to be excessive disparity between the television coverage of the life and death of Edward Kennedy as compared to the coverage of the life and death of Michael Jackson? Am I reading too much into what this says about us? Just curious.

A small package arrived the other day. Not an unusual event. My husband put the package and the rest of the mail on the kitchen counter. Both of the dogs immediately stood near the counter, noses in the air. Such strange behavior.

My husband opened the package and the girls stood there as if the contents were intended for them.

He put the opened package on the counter. Lucy is sniffing away. Notice that she is very careful not to put her nose higher than the edge of the counter. That's strictly forbidden around here. As usual, she comes as close as possible without crossing the line.

I have no idea what has set the dogs into high gear. Then my husband showed me. The package contains their heart worm preventative and the company always includes a doggie biscuit. Actually, it's quite a BIG doggie biscuit.

Lucy smiles with anticipation and delight.
"I just know that's all for me, isn't it? We might as well send Ellie downstairs."
No, Lucy. The biscuit is plenty big enough to share.

Both girls watch excitedly as my husband breaks the unexpected treat. They always seem so surprised when they get a treat since they don't get them very often at all.

Relaxed and happy, the girls look toward me as if to say, "There wasn't another one in there by chance, was there?"
We order our medications Online because our veterinarian's office is a bit out of the way. As a convenience to his patients, he charges the same price as the Online company so he doesn't make any profit from them and we don't think we are harming his business. While we order our medications Online, we still take the girls in for annual physical examinations and blood work. In fact, I hate the commercials that tell me I am saving on vet bills when I order from them. Not true at all, and unsafe for your dogs as well.
---------------It's the last Friday in August!!! I'm not at all happy about seeing summer leave us. It has seemed so brief this year.
Make the most of this last August weekend. Forget about the house and yard. Just get up tomorrow morning and decide to do something fun. Stay safe and happy and enjoy your loved ones, human and animal.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Summer Dancing in the Streets

Since its completion in 1881, the Transylvania County Courthouse has stood guard over Main Street in the center of Brevard. It has seen quite a lot of sights during those 128 years.

Every Tuesday night during July and August, the Courthouse enjoys standing guard over the "Old Time Street Dances." One of the great joys of life in a small town is that we will close off a street for a party at the drop of a hat. So every Tuesday in July and August, Main Street is closed right smack dab in the middle of town.
[Late note: My eagle-eyed bird watching daughter clicked on the photograph and determined the black spots over the Courthouse to be swifts! That woman doesn't miss a thing! She didn't miss anything as a child, either.]

The street closes around 6:15 when "rush hour" is over. People bring lawn chairs and use the street benches to get ready for the dancing to start at 6:30.

Typically the children are the first to venture out. Here they "wind up that ball of twine."

Soon the older generation pairs up and the fun really begins.

The band is playing in the gazebo near the Courthouse. Various bands are featured throughout the summer and all of them are really good. The "callers" are excellent, and volunteer staff are ready to help anyone learn the square dance moves. Here the adults are "winding up that ball of twine." [NOTE: The picture is straight. In the mountains even the downtown streets are hilly.]

This little girl was not so sure how she felt about the music. Tuesday dancing-in-the-street is a family affair and lots of young couples bring their children and grandparents bring their grandchildren.

Even in public places, I never take a picture of a child without the parent's permission. When I asked if I could photograph this little cutie with her ice cream cone, she look at me defiantly and stomped her little foot, yelling, "NO!" Her parents said otherwise, so I walked around and later caught her unawares. (I didn't want her to think I would invade her privacy.)

Dusk appears over the gazebo with its white squirrel weathervane. The dancing continues until 9:30. The last street dance in August signals the end of summer. The children will return to school and Main Street will be open on Tuesday evenings...well, until the next festival.

The joyous and uninhibited street dancing brings to mind one of my favorite sayings. I searched for the author, but I found so many people credited, I'm going to call it "Author unknown."
Work like you don't need the money,
Love like you've never been hurt,
And dance like no one is watching.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Last of the Summer Fledglings

Our Red-bellied Woodpecker pair had a rather late season fledgling this year. The parents fed their first fledgling for a very long time ( In fact, the "baby" was already getting some red coloring by the time he started feeding himself.

The parents seem a bit more eager to get this latest fledgling out on his own. Perhaps it is because of the time of year. [I will call this bird a male for simplicity's sake. I have no idea whether it's a male or female.]

As usual, the little bird flies to a nearby tree while the father goes to the suet feeder.

Oh, I can hardly wait! I'm really hungry this morning.

Much to his surprise, the father does not land near the fledgling. He flies to another branch higher in the tree. The little bird seems quite surprised.

Daaad! I'm over here! Where are you going?

The little bird quickly skirts up the tree, screaming the entire time.

You missed the place where I was waiting!

He chases the father out the limb. (If you click on the photographs, you will notice less and less food in the adult's mouth with each successive picture.)

Hey, Dad! What's the matter with you? Don't you see me? What are you thinking?

The father does not even turn to face the fledgling.

What in the world is wrong with Dad this morning?

Finally, the adult turns toward the confused fledgling.

I'm really hungry, Dad. Can I have that bite?

At last the fledgling gets some breakfast.

He asks his father a question and they have a short conversation.

Tell me the truth, Dad. What was that all about?

Well, son. It's all about growing up. Part of a parent's job is to teach their children well. Someday when you have children of your own you will understand. Just know I love you.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Fridays are Golden

We recently bought a new bird art piece for the yard. After getting her settled, we brought out the Golden Girls to have a look. Lucy had been particularly bratty all day. Ellie would be sleeping quietly and Lucy would grab a tug toy and keep pushing it in her face. Or Ellie would be carrying a couple of tennis balls in her mouth and Lucy would walk up beside her and grab one for no reason.

Ellie was ready for some revenge...always, in her case, served cold.

Just as soon as they were outside, Ellie jumped right in. Lucy clearly realizes that she is in for it.

Lucy runs in one direction and Ellie follows in hot pursuit.

Lucy changes directions, but Ellie is having none of it.

Lucy makes a feeble attempt to be the aggressor, but that is short-lived.

Ellie is clearly in charge of this fracus.

Fortunately for Lucy, they spied the new bird, so they stopped to inspect it.

Their response was rather ho-hum. "Oh, they got another thing for the yard." After a very brief look, they were no long interested.

We came inside and they took one of their favorite spots under my husband's desk. Lucy was less bratty for the rest of the day.

Summer is truly winding down. Fewer hours of daylight are becoming more noticable. The leaves are looking less bright and shiny. Let's enjoy every minute of summer we have left.
Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I Miss the Wisconsin State Fair

I'm a child at heart when it comes to county or state fairs. I LOVE THEM! I love the animals, the vendors, the food, the music and the ambience. I could sit and watch sheep judging for hours. I love watching the 4H teens carefully grooming their animals and showing me their cots where they sleep with them at night. I love the pickles and jams and honey; the quilts and shawls and blankets; the cakes and pies and all the other goodies made by men, women, and children hoping for that blue ribbon. I could stand for hours watching the knife and food chopper demonstrations. I love counting the number of people carrying the latest "magic" mop. Oh, and I love the food. Well, some of the food. There isn't a food item one can imagine that isn't sold on a stick at the fair.

It should come as no surprise that we attended the Wisconsin State Fair the first summer we moved to the Milwaukee suburbs more than 20 years ago. It's a great fair and was held just last week. In Wisconsin, you might just as well say "cream puff" the minute you say "State Fair" because that's the first thing that comes to mind for most Wisconsinites.

The cream puffs were introduced in 1924 and have been a huge hit ever since. There is even a Cream Puff Pavillion! When neighbors learned we were going to the Fair for the first time, they immediately told us we HAD to try the cream puffs. And try them we did. I can tell you that it must be an acquired taste. The popovers were light and tasty, but the cream! Oh, the cream may look light and airy, but it's full of butter, cream and sugar and leaves an oily residue on your tongue. Did I mention it's messy?

I know I am definitely in the minority. During State Fair week, the Cream Puff Pavillion opens early in the morning so people can drive through and pick up dozens of them to take to work. No matter where you work, you will find at least one box (usually empty) in the break room. In 2008, there were 381,926 cream puffs sold at the 11-day run of the Fair.

Here's what a box of cream puffs looks like.

In the close-up you can see how much cream is in there.

And here's how to eat them. There's no other way.

[All the photographs above were taken from the State Fair Website.]

On a related note, Tom Barrett, the Mayor of Milwaukee attended the Wisconsin State Fair on Saturday with his family. He heard a woman's cry for help and observed a man threatening her. The mayor yelled for the man to stop and pulled out his phone to call "911." The man attacked Mayor Barrett, hitting him hard in the stomach and knocking him to the ground. The man told the mayor not to get up. The mayor came up and landed a hard punch. That's how he broke his hand. The mayor was no match for a man with a steel baton and was rather badly beaten, sustaining a skull fracture, losing four teeth, large lacerations on his face and arms and multiple fractures of his hand.
Mayor Barrett himself says he should not have tried to fight the man and should have remained on the ground. But you can bet the citizens of Milwaukee are proud of their mayor who defended this woman and her child.
Mayor Barrett at a news conference three days following the incident:
[Photograph by Gary Porter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]

Within a day, these tee shirts were available for sale with a portion of the proceeds to go to a women's shelter.

[From Brew City News]

The citizens were impressed with their mayor for another reason. The incident happened while he and his family were walking the several blocks to their car. They appreciate that he didn't have priority parking. He drove around and found a space and walked like the rest of them.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

SCOTUS and Innocence

Regular readers know that I do not often wax political. Heaven knows, if I did there I would have WAY too much to say. And I don't often select particular organizations or charities; there are simply too many of them. I do feel, however, that I must once more bring this man to your attention. Here is the latest information about Troy Anthony Davis.

On August 17, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) took an unusual step in the case of Georgia v. Troy Davis. Troy Davis was convicted (wrongly, I believe) in the shooting death of a police officer in 1991. His appeals have been exhausted despited increasing evidence that he is innocent. The Court has ordered a mandatory hearing for Troy Davis, giving him one last chance to prove his innocence.

(Troy Davis photograph from Amnesty International Website)

The evidence against Davis has fallen apart since the time of the trial. Most of the witnesses have recanted their testimony, indicating they were coerced by the police. No weapon was ever found and the evidence against Davis is completely from eyewitness accounts. There was no physical evidence provided at all. One of the witnesses not recanting his testimony has been accused of being the shooter in affidavits sworn by nine people.

In light of the very real indications that Davis is innocent, the SCOTUS allowed him a rare opportunity to have his conviction reviewed even after the appeal process has been exhausted. Antonin Scalia, one of the dissenting judges wrote the following:

"This Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is 'actually' innocent.

In other words, Justice Scalia appears to believe that the Court has no obligation to prevent an innocent person from being executed. Does that frighten you? It certainly frightens me. Also dissenting to the Court decision to give Davis another hearing was...Scalia's clone, Clarence Thomas.

Read more about the Troy Davis case on the Amnesty International Website:

Monday, August 17, 2009

Store Bought is Fine

I love Food Network in general and Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa) in particular. She is among my favorites for several reasons. Her recipes are delicious and look complex although most of them are simple. She uses everyday ingredients. (Although I do love it when she advises to use a GOOD mustard, or a GOOD mayo.) She loves to cook and to entertain and she has a way of making her guests feel at ease. She's the kind of person you would like for a friend. Another quality I like about her is a quality that Julia Child also had: 1) It's all right if you make a mistake, and 2) you don't have to make EVERYTHING from scratch.

Sorry, I got this in an email from a friend, so I cannot credit it.

When we wanted some more boulders on our property, I thought of Ina. We decided that if we didn't have enough natural rocks, then store-bought would be just fine.

I'll give you to process if you ever want to get some rocks for yourself. First you call different companies and ask if they deliver and set up. You'd be surprised how many of them only sell rocks and do not deliver them. When you find someone who does deliver, he makes a visit to your property to see if he can set them without damage to your property.

After deciding how many rocks you want and how big they should be (and what you can afford), you go to the place of business and pick out your rocks. [I went with my husband to the first place (where we found they don't deliver), and then he made the final trip since we both liked the same character in the rocks.] My husband was quite surprised when the owner advised him to watch his step since there were rattlesnakes around there. [IMPORTANT NOTE: Don't wear your Tevas like my husband did.]

The owner gets machinery to lift the rock so you can see it from all sides. Rocks really do have character and some of them are far more appealing than others. Once you've decided on your rocks, you pay the owner half the cost and set up delivery.

When delivery day comes, you pray that it will not rain. You also pray that the people do know what they are doing and will not damage any of your trees. Oh, and you keep your dogs indoors.

Here, the rocks are off-loaded from the huge truck that brought them.

This spot is desperately in need of a rock.

See? I told you it needed one.

Here are some of the other rocks in place. The workers dig holes in which to set the rocks securely. The rocks are great for sitting on to read or just enjoy being outdoors. And I think they are lovely to look at as well. They all look so natural, as if they had always been there.

I always make cookies or muffins for the men who do such work on our property. Such a simple thing and they really seem to enjoy them.
Oh...better make more coffee and extra cookies for the neighbors. As soon as the works leave they are going to "drop by" to see what's been going on. They have been waiting ever since they saw the two big trucks arrive. Ina would be pleased.