Monday, May 22, 2017

Small Things

I have always loved small things.  I often carry a small polished stone in my pocket.  I have another polished stone in my jewelry case.  It was given to me by a dear little girl who got a rock polisher for Christmas more than 45 years ago.  And I have several small things scattered over my study.  A talisman for every need.  I do so admire people who can work in miniature.

So you can imagine how thrilled I was when our daughter gave me a little sea hutch, filled with items for a scientist at the sea.  She knows that I love the ocean.  And I love small things.  So this was a perfect gift.  The top shelves of the chest contain various sea items.  Note the chest has four drawers, all of which open and contain miniature treasures, and two side panels which also open to reveal tiny surprises.  I will not reveal all the surprises in this post.

The lovely wooden hutch

Here you can see the items in the left panel.  And the tiny wooden box which was behind the right panel door.  It is complete with metal hinges and handle.

What could be inside this box?

It's something every would-be scientist needs.
A microscope

These are the items from the left panel.  Note the little insect in resin
The papyrus does indeed open as well.

I often take the hutch down and open all its treasures.  Then I give my imagination leave to go wild.  And for that moment in time, I am not a mountain woman at all.  I'm a child of the sea.

A quarter leans against the chest to give you a perspective on the size.
The height of the hutch is a mere six inches

[NOTE:  I'm having camera issues so these photographs were taken with my somewhat older iPod.  So the photographs do not do the hutch justice but you get the idea anyhow.]

The chest was handmade by Janice VanBeck.  You can find her  shop here but she is currently not taking any orders.  Click on the reviews to see more of her amazing work.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Lucy Upstaged this Friday

Lucy, you don't mind if we don't give you center stage this Friday.  Do you?
"I don't like it but I guess not.  But only this once.  And only if my picture goes first."

I really don't see what's the big deal here.

Monday's post contained a hint of a secret.  A photograph of violets.  Well here is another photograph of a violet; and this one is our first grandchild, born last Friday afternoon.

Right out of the delivery room into her new mother's arms.
(All photographs taken by Violet's mom and dad.)

Our Violet is a tiny little thing, but strong and healthy.  She and her new parents stayed in the hospital until Monday partly because it was the weekend and some legal stuff needed to happen.  It was a good thing, though. Her parents had more time to learn hands-on how to provide all the care she needs. The classes they had taken helped prepare them, but nothing is quite like holding your own infant.

The neonatal nurses held her a lot.

At five and a half pounds she looks even smaller in the car seat getting ready for the ride home.
Had she been even a few ounces smaller, a new car seat would have been mandatory for the trip home.

Here she is swaddled and comfy and finally home.

Our little Violet saw her own pediatrician on Wednesday who pronounced her perfect.  We are so blessed to have this little girl in our family.

At the pediatrician's office
Seriously bonding with her daddy

Violet's dad's lovey was a little Winnie-the-Pooh which he carried around with a pink blanket.  Both of them had been his sister's but she never cared much about them.  He abandoned the loveys when he was about three. When he was about five our son identified with another A.A. Milne character.  Tigger.  Yes, "bouncy, trouncy, flouncy, pouncy, fun, fun, fun, fun, FUN."  It fit the boy perfectly.  So it was only fitting that Violet's paternal grandparents (that's ME and my husband---we are grandparents, people) should send her a Tigger.

Our son sent us a photograph of  Tigger and Violet.
He immediately wrote that yes, he took the toy out of the crib as soon as the picture was made.

Special thank yous go to all the social workers at the adoption agency, the staff at the hospital where Violet was born and all the friends who helped get things ready when things happened at a warp speed no one imagined.

And most of all our deepest and heartfelt thanks to the courageous and wonderful birth mother who selected our children to be the forever parents to the child she felt she could not keep.  Our hearts are filled to the brim with love and gratitude to her and the most wonderful gift she gave us all.

Today's quote is from Carl Sandburg:

"A baby is God's opinion that life should go on."


Monday, May 15, 2017

A Couple of May Birds

We spend a lot of time watching the birds.  We look for them when we are out on the trails.  We look for them at shopping centers and downtown.  And we are truly lucky to find plenty of them right at our house.

The banks along our street have shrubs that are home to several Eastern Towhees.  We hear them very early in the morning and throughout the day.  It is not uncommon to see one of them sitting on the mailbox post in front of our house.  In May, one of the males sits there and sings his "drink your tea" song loudly.

He is so lovely in the bright sunshine

He looks a bit angry as he begins his song.
But it is a sweet song indeed.

We have known for a couple of weeks that the Red-bellied Woodpecker's eggs had hatched.  The adults would gorge themselves at the suet and then fly off with a mouth full deeper into the woods. We are also certain a Pileated Woodpecker pair, and a Downy Woodpecker pair have nestlings as well and wondered which would see first.  Turns out it is the Red-Bellied.  While Red-bellied Woodpeckers have a small streak of red on their lower breast, they have more marked red on their heads.  The juveniles lack the red.  Their heads are gray, perhaps as a safety feature.

Fat little Red-bellied Woodpecker waiting for food

The parent (in this case the male) goes to the suet and comes back to feed the young one.

It is not obvious from this angle that the red on the head is unbroken, but it is.
Both parents feed the young.

This  is such an exciting time for new growth and new birth.  Which brings me to a little secret.  No, I can't tell you yet.  I just said it's a secret.

But here is a little hint:

"Sweet violets, sweeter than the roses"
Photograph from Pinterest

Friday, May 12, 2017

We Love Lucy

Here it is Friday again and there has been so much "breaking" "news" that the week has seemed much longer than usual.  Our weather has warmed but we had begun to believe there is no such thing as "typical" weather anymore.

Our dear Lucy continues to keep us grounded with her routines and lack of concern for the world outside Lucy.  She loves to lie on the deck and soak up the sun even when it feels quite warm.  We bought canvas beds so the dogs would not have to lie on the rough deck, but Lucy doesn't care for them at all.  If she gets too warm she will move under the umbrella.

The deck has a south-eastern exposure and is one of the few places that gets full sun.  So that is where we plant our little herb gardens.  And baskets of blooming flowers, of course.

Lying on the hot deck
Lucy always looks a bit unkempt even if she has just been brushed.

She's very interested in the contents of the trunk any time it is opened.

She does not ever try to jump up into the back.
After all she rides in the passenger seat.

She stands inside the garage to see what is being unloaded.

I'll wait here out of the way.

But when the first of the herbs are placed on the floor she investigates.  She buries her face into each one and sniffs but surprisingly enough does not try to taste anything.

We will enjoy the fresh herbs all summer long.  It's ever so nice to watch the plants grow and to snip off enough for a meal.  In a very short while we will have wonderful summer tomatoes from our local farm stand.

And that means two of my very favorite things to eat.  One is a tomato sandwich on white bread.  The tomatoes must be room temperature and the slices must be very thick.  The sandwich is so juicy that the best way to consume it is standing over the kitchen sink.  I'm rather a purist and I don't want bacon or lettuce on the sandwich.  Just tomato, Duke's mayo and salt.  The other summer favorite is a Caprese salad with slices of fresh tomato alternating with slices of buffalo mozzarella, and basil leaves from the little herb garden.  A sprinkling of salt and a drizzle of olive oil.  This is consumed in a more mannerly fashion---sitting at a table and using utensils.

There is nothing to compare with the promise of comfort food to take one's mind off the happenings around us.  Hooray for these small things.  We enjoy them all the more in these troubled times.

It's is unfortunate that today's quotes are timely.

From Aesop (of the fable fame):
"A liar will not be believed even when he is telling the truth."

And an anonymous quote:
"We live in a world that is built on promises constructed by liars."

And from Fyodor Dostoevsky:
"The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to such a pass that he cannot distinguish the truth within him."

I came across this marvelous explanation of many things.  By Stephen Fry, it's well worth the seven minutes it will take for you to watch and listen. Here is the link .


Monday, May 8, 2017

Cold Snap and Blackberry Winter

Ask almost any Southerner why it is so unseasonably chilly right now in May (it was 31 degrees here this morning) and most of them would respond, "Well it's Blackberry Winter, of course."  Most of us learned this phrase as children.  After warm shirtsleeve days, we awoke to find the house chilly and we pulled out a sweater or sweatshirt instead of a tee shirt.  Upon asking why it was so cold we were invariably told it was because of blackberry winter.

The blooming of the blackberries  (rubus fruticosus) in the South coincides with a weather pattern that occurs each Spring.  Simply put, the air flow in the upper atmosphere is blocked over the Arctic, thus diverting the cold air over the Southern United States.  This is an annual weather event and the timing may be early to late May.  The blackberries bloom for three to four weeks, so invariably a cold snap will occur sometime during that time frame.  Southern logic says: the blackberries are blooming and the weather turns cold.  Obviously the two must be related and we have blackberry winter.

Throughout Appalachia (and in many other areas of the country) blackberries grow wild in abundance.  A drive along any mountain road this time of year brings sights of the lovely blackberry plants in full bloom.  Native Americans used blackberries for centuries before the early pioneers moved westward.  Blackberries were an important seasonal food for the pioneers who ate the fruit but also used many parts of the plants for other purposes.  To this day, blackberries are used by herbalists and others to make natural remedies.  Roots are used as astringents to treat mouth ulcers and sore throats.  The leaves can be crushed and used to treat thrush.  Crushed blackberries, along with bits of the root are mixed with honey to make a soothing cough syrup.  Tea made with the berries, roots and leaves can be used to treat diarrhea and bladder infections.  The roots and leaves can be made into a poultice and placed on wounds to help stop bleeding.  All parts of the blackberry plant contain a lot of tannin which seems to be the primary medicinal "active ingredient."

[NOTE:  I am in no way advocating the use of blackberries to treat illness or disorders of any kind.  I do however, strongly advocate a big serving of blackberry cobbler to treat your soul.]

These photographs were taken of blackberry bushes grown right along the roadside at Looking Glass Falls in our county.  Just a step off the sidewalk.
Visitors pick them as soon as they ripen.

Notice that there are five petals on each blossom

The green center of each blossom will continue to grow and ripen into a blackberry.

As a food source, blackberries are quite nutritious.  They are rich in Vitamins C and E, have antioxident properties, and are a good source of fiber.

Nowadays I buy fresh blackberries from our local produce stand.  But I went berry pickin' many a day in my childhood.  My mother paid my brother and me a dime for each Karo Syrup can full of ripe blackberries we picked for her.  She was quite a taskmaster and would penalize us for rejects such as green ones or leaves in with the ripe berries.  Each pail held three quarts of berries and they had to be filled flush with the brim.  We picked several pails of berries three times a week while the berries were ripe.

This photograph is from Pinterest displaying antique items
And yes, I do feel old when I see things common to my childhood classified as antique
Even before my time, these pails were used as lunch buckets for rural children.

Blackberry picking is hard work even for children.  They ripen in the hot summer sun.  We encountered the stinkbugs and other insects and the occasional snake.  Not to mention the typical childhood quarrels and berry smashing each other.  Since I am so old much of my youth pre-dates sunscreen so we came home not only scratched and bleeding from the blackberry thorns but also with sunburn on all exposed skin.  But all that was forgotten once inside the house where we got our dimes, washed up and enjoyed a dish of blackberries with cream and sugar.  And best of all, Mom would bake some blackberry cobbler for dessert after dinner.  You might think we would be tired of blackberries by then since we had eaten them all day but you would be wrong.

I do remember asking my mother why the blackberries didn't get ripe in blackberry winter when the berry picking weather would be nicer.  She gave me one of her common phrases, "In God's own time, honey.  In God's own time."

My paternal grandfather had yet another use for blackberries.  He made blackberry wine while the women put up the jams, jellies, and preserves.  He thought that was the best medicine of all.

Friday, May 5, 2017

We Love Lucy

Our Lucy continues to keep us grounded during these times.  She accepts whatever happens and lives her life to the fullest, running free in the sunshine whenever possible.  Lying on her beds and snoozing when it's raining.  Unlike too many of us humans, she is not at all reluctant to indicate that she needs a bit of affection for whatever reason.  She will walk over and lean against your legs.  After some head scratching, petting, and an occasional belly rub, she walks back contentedly to snooze again.  If she could talk, I'm sure she would say, "Thanks.  I needed that."

We have had only a bit of sunshine this week.  Mostly we have had heavy rain and high winds.  And that's all right too.  Today the high is 48.  Strange weather indeed.

Lucy and her shadow running in the brightest sunshine.
Her smile says it all.

I cannot comment of the events of this week. My son sent me a text saying, "Ugh.  I hate everybody." I feel much the same way, so this post will be short with three quotes:

"We are going to be considerate and compassionate to everyone.  But my greatest compassion will be for our own struggling citizens"
Donald J Trump

And this quote by Bernie Sanders yesterday, as Republican members of Congress joined the President at the White House to celebrate their victorious passage of a new health plan:
"Donald Trump and Republicans just celebrated voting to let thousands of Americans die so that billionaires get tax breaks.
Think about that."

And from the Dalai Lama:
"I truly believe that compassion provides the basis of human survival."

And from an old poem, author unknown:
"Oh Lord, help us and save us."

Continue to write your elected officials and tell them what you think.  They may not listen but it's still the least thing you can do.  Look for appearances at town hall meetings or other times when you might join others to express your feelings.  Do whatever you can to make your voice heard.


Monday, May 1, 2017

Yard in the Woods

When we built our home, we asked that every possible tree that could be spared would be left in place.  It made life a bit more complicated for the contractor, but has paid tremendous dividends in having birds come right to our deck.  The widest area of cleared space is the front yard.  Three terraces keep the sloping yard level and livable.  There is not full shade, but the sun is the milder late afternoon sun.  So the plants are shade tolerant.  We worked with a great landscaper who drew up plans that allowed us to have a little something in bloom all the time.  We never have anything in profusion, but even in the dead of winter there is something perfuming the air or bringing a bright spot to the eye. We also focused on plants that are generally not highly favored by the deer with whom we share our space.

In March, April, and even sometimes February we can count on the hellebores.  They seem to love the soil and brief late afternoon sun.  We have several of them, white and purple.

We have two large camellias.  One has bright pink blossoms and the other has more fragrant white blossoms.  They seem to have no predictable pattern to their blooming.  If there is a streak of mild winter weather, they will burst into blossom.  Many times they have large and full buds that are ruined by another cold streak.   So it's hit or miss with the blossoms.  But the lush green plants are gorgeous even without the blossoms.  Both are about ten feet tall.

The rain has beaten down the lower branches.  Daisy Duck ignores them.
This one is Camellia japonica, also known as "Pink Perfection"

Pieris japonica blooms in late winter and continues through most of the spring
The leaves and the nectar from the flowers are quite poisonous.
Despite its beauty, the plant could be deadly if eaten.
All these plants are near the house.

Today, all of these flowers are drooping as we are having heavy rains and gusty winds.  The birds are having a bit of trouble getting to the feeders.  But they persevere.  We suspect three of our woodpecker varieties have fledglings.  So while we appreciate the flowers in the front yard, we also appreciate the birds in back.  All the bird boxes are swinging wildly and we suspect a few might be on the ground before this weather system passes.

We are safe and comfy with no need to go outdoors except as Lucy dictates.  Since she hates the rain, she will wait as long as possible.

Time to brew some tea and watch the rain.

Friday, April 28, 2017

And So Lucy is Back

Life has been good up here on the mountains.  We have had lots of much needed rain although we are still far below normal.  Everything is green and the dogwoods and mountain magnolias are blooming throughout the forests, adding their lovely white to the various shades of green on the hillsides.  Our injured player is very nearly back to normal and life is rich and good.

Why, then, am I so disconcerted?  Why this feeling of unease that permeates my soul?  It has to do with government, both Federal and State.  I watch the "news" only to get the weather reports for the real climate.  Yet I'm drawn Online to newspapers and publications that give me the current political climate.  Difficult as it is, it's a bit easier to digest in print.

I think my biggest concern is that for the first time in my life, I have little or no respect for people who still support certain leaders.  In the past I've had many friends whose politics differed from mine.  I still respected people who have supported leaders whom I did not care for.  But this time it is quite different.  For the first time in my life I consider certain people no longer important to me because of their political support for certain leaders and the direction our country is heading.

I need to be more like our Lucy.  She does not worry about anything.  She doesn't even fear we might forget her breakfast or dinner, because at the appropriate time she will lie down in front of the person in charge of feeding her.  When that person gets up, she runs to her room and stands next to the dog food bin.  Just in case we might have forgotten where the food is kept.  If the day is rainy and cool, she doesn't care that it's mid-April.  She is happy enough to lie amongst her pillows and watch the rain.  She doesn't care about anyone's politics.  She is interested only in whether or not they are willing to pet her.

Perhaps she does worry about things.  Because every now and then she hides her head under a chair. Or other times she will root one of her pillows until it covers most of her head. I really don't think she is worried, but I'm not sure what it means.  I'm sure she is not feeling the same things I am when I want to go lie in bed and cover up my head to get away from worry.

I have no idea why this is comforting for her.  But it seems to be.

I am trying to be more tolerant of those whose views are different from mine.  Honest.  But these people seem to believe that their religious beliefs allow them to discriminate against anyone whose lifestyle does not conform to theirs.  They seem to believe that no religion is valid except Christianity. Not just Christianity, but Christianity as they believe it to be.  And they seem to think they are immune to the laws of this country if every detail does not reflect their own specific belief.  In fact, they seem to believe that the very idea of humanity is no longer meaningful.  They don't even want to help the poor and disenfranchised.

OK.  Stop it.  No more ranting.  I truly am trying to be more charitable to people on the other side of this humongous divide in which we live.  But it is so very difficult for me.  And believe it or not---I accept that they are having just as much difficulty in respecting my views as well.  So we all have a lot of work to do. And I admit it has to start with each of us.  And I will try. For a while I was content to simply write off these people and I know that is not fair.  Every single person with whom I come in contact has something to teach me.  And I'll never learn that with my mind as closed as it has been since November, 2016.

So I will heed the words of those much wiser than I.  Beginning with this quote from Mahatma Ghandi:

“You must not lose faith in humanity.
 Humanity is like an ocean;
If a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Now It's Really Spring

Seems as if I've been absent for quite a while.  I did have a good  reason for putting the blog on hold.  I was caring for an injured player and taking on the many household duties he normally performs.  But truth be told, I have actually been apathetic about my blog.  Some call it a lost muse.  Whatever it has been, I have not missed writing and I have managed to keep up with most of you even if I might not have commented.  Now it's time to decide whether to continue so I will give it a try.

The injured player is nearly normal now and we are delighted.

Like much of the country, we have had very strange weather indeed.  Temperatures all over the place. We are turning on the air conditioner one day and turning on the heat the next.  But some things remain constant.  Our woodpeckers are nesting and we are almost certain one pair of Pileated Woodpeckers has a nestling.  The adults come to the suet to eat and then grab a mouthful for carry-out.  Our Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are back and the spring migration is in full swing.  The trees are filled with American Goldfinches as the migrants join our resident birds for a while.  The Purple Finches are leaving us for parts to the north.  And we've had several little Red-breasted Nuthatches join our large White-breasted Nuthatches for a brief while.

One of our favorite visitors is passing by now and we are always delighted to see them.  These lovely migrants are the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks.  The males always come first and in a week or so are joined by the lesser brilliant but still beautiful females.  Not long after the females arrive, the males will move on to the north followed a week or so later by the females.  How lucky you are if you live where the gorgeous birds nest and raise their broods.  Still we are happy to have them for the few weeks that we do.

The male Rose-breasted Grosbeak takes a break while getting a drink of water.

In coming days we will welcome more migrants.  And throughout the summer we will take delight in seeing adult birds bring their fledglings to our feeders.  It's a great time of year.

Seeing these lovely birds gives me great solace in times of such concern over our Mother Earth and what is happening all around us.  But sitting on our deck and watching all the wonderful birds fills me with peace.  Would that it could last.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

We Love Lucy

We are finally having some normal winter weather.  And none too soon.  Two weeks of unusually warm weather have not been good for the plants or for us.  We're glad to see the frost again.  Lucy loves the cooler weather and I had her out to take some pictures of our camellias in full bloom.  (Alas, those lovely blossoms are already turning brown.)  I decided to snap a few pictures of her while we were out.

She definitely did not like having to stop her running and sniffing to sit for a photograph.  And the look on her face says it all.  No caption needed here.

OK, Lucy.  Let's move over next to the bear.

I hope you don't think I will like that one bit better.

Come on, Lucy.  Give me a smile and I'll give you a cookie.

Nope.  I'll not be bribed with a little treat.  I'm tired of this sitting stuff..

I decided to give up and let her have her fun.

I just discovered that my new laptop does not have an opening for my camera card.  And the extra USB cord I have does not fit my camera.  (The camera was bought in 2005 and I'm not sure where to find the cord that came with the camera.)  So the only way to load a photograph to my blog is to download it to another laptop and either email it to this one or put it on a flash drive.  With the injured player and the upcoming surgery, recovery, and rehab, I simply won't have time to manage the blog, so I'm going dark again, probably for a month.  I'll still be reading your blogs but I won't be posting.  All is proceeding well.  But as you might imagine, we have lots to do.

Today's quote is from Anne Frank who had more reason to despair than any of us:

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

So let's be about improving the world even as some around us try to destroy it.  We don't need to wait a single moment.  Get going and do what you can.  We must rely upon one another as never before.



Friday, January 20, 2017

Lucy is Back

Of course, Lucy has not actually been anywhere.  My computer limped along, allowing me to read your blogs but not to comment.  Or to post on my own blog.  What with the holidays and so many other things going on, I did not get a new laptop for a while.

It became more and more clear that my laptop was seriously impaired so I had it checked and was told that if we were lucky, they could obtain the really important data from it.  But there was nothing to do for the major problems with the C drive.  I was lucky.  The computer expert was able to pull all the data from the laptop.  Off I went to get a new one and in no time I was back in action.  I am totally in love with this new one.

Turns out that 2016 had one more kick in the posterior for us.  We have an injured player again who is impaired and awaiting surgery in early February.  We will definitely be able to call him a bionic man because of his metal joints.  So while I am back in cyberworld, I am also back in the real work of undertaking all the work of maintaining the household.  So I won't even try to post on a regular basis, but will hope to give you some glimpses of our Lucy in action.  (Or inaction as the case may be.)

This week we had record high temperatures, so it's hard to believe that we had 12 inches of snow just a few weeks before.  I managed to keep up with shoveling the decks and made a three-foot wide path up the driveway to the street.  Several people walking their dogs offered to come back and help.  I explained that we weren't going anywhere but thanks, anyway.

Lucy "helped" me by running zoomies in the snow until I finally made her stop and took her inside.  Goodness knows, we don't need another joint injury around here.  I was too busy to take any photographs, but this one from last year is exactly what she looked like.

Go dog go!

I had no plans to shovel the entire drive since I knew we would not get out anyway.  But the next morning, I heard people outside.  And there were three of our neighbors with their shovels working on the drive.  I grabbed my shovel and went out.  We had such a good time, catching up on the latest gossip and shoveling the snow.  In fact, we had so much fun we decided that we would gather and do all the driveways next time it snows.

While I'm glad to be back,  but I will not be posting much since I have more important duties at  home.  Good thing, too.  I can more easily avoid the "news."  I've changed from a news junkie to someone who avoids it all.

Today's quote is from Henry Ford:

When everything seems to be going against you,
Remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.