Thursday, July 31, 2008

When the Rain Came Down - Post 50

Didn't it rain, children?!

I had just started checking out the links on Sky Watch this week, when all heck broke loose! Lightening, and thunder so loud the windows rattled. I had to shut down my computer, of course, so what else was there to do than to stand in the doorway and click off a few shots. While I'm happy for the rain, I should have checked the forecast, I think, and saved myself some $$ on what will turn out to be a large water bill, I fear. It has been so dry that I ran a nice trickle of water in my flower beds for about 36 hours, moving the hose from place to place after several hours in each bed. And, then... it rained! And rained, and rained! I expect we received a full inch of water before the storm was over. My flower beds have had their fill, and more.

Crepe Myrtle
Standing in my front doorway, one of the things that caught my attention was the Crepe Myrtle. This particular shrub was planted on my mother's 75th birthday, August 8, 1976. I trim it occasionally, but it's currently higher than the roof. In the horrific heat we had in July, it began to shed its bark, something it does from time to time, taking on a piebald appearance. I can't remember taking a good look at it during a pouring down rain, but I should have; the rain, which was still coming down pretty hard, as evidenced in the background, gave a sort of glow to the limbs, and the shed bark on the grass took on a distinctly cinnamon hue.

Tattered Bark
After the rain stopped, and I could safely take my camera out without also having to carry an umbrella, I took this shot of some of the peeling bark, and the bare spots on the limbs. This loose piece must have grown on the north side of the limb, because it definitely has some moss/lichen on it.
More Peeled Bark
You're probably tired of looking at Crepe Myrtle bark by now, but this piece had such lovely colors that I had to capture them.

Crepe Myrtle Blossoms
Just so you won't believe that all I have to offer are photos of peeling bark, I present one of the still rain-damp blossoms.
Raindrops on Japanese Maple Branch
These lovely droplets of water clinging to the branches of my Japanese Maple also caught my eye. I bought this tree when it was less than 2 feet high; it's now taller than the Crepe Myrtle, and has the most glorious spring and fall foliage. Almost done... just one more.

After the Storm
To look at this sky, you'd never believe there had been a torrential rainstorm just minutes before. As I've reported before, "if you don't like the weather in Arkansas, just wait a minute." I swear on a stack of pancakes that this photo was taken within two hours of the first one.

SWF - All Alone and Feeling Blue - Post 49

A lonely little bird at twilight. He or she had been singing, which is what caught my attention, but its singing was in vain, as it remained alone for as long as I watched.
Sky Watch was created by Dot (visit her lovely blog here). The new Sky Watch is hosted by Tom, Imac, Sandy, and Klaus. I invite you to visit the new site to see sky photographs from around the world. Links will start posting at 7:30 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time (England) on Thursday, July 31, for participants on this side of the International Date Line.
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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sky Watch - Post 48

I don't know if it's because I've just been to a worship service, but I always have an inclination to look UP when I walk out of the church building into the parking lot. Is it coincidental that I nearly always see a beautiful sky?

SKY WATCH is brought to you by our friends Tom, Sandy, and Imac, and the new home page of Sky Watch Friday may be found here.
I invite you to visit the Sky Watch postings of several hundred folks from around the world. Links on the home page are added starting at 7:30 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time (England) on Thursdays. Enjoy!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Is It Soup, Yet? - Post 47

A few days ago I posted that, as one of the things on my to-do-list, I was making a pot of soup. I'm an all-seasons soup eater -- winter, spring, summer, fall. I prefer the sorts of soups that can make a meal, and don't need much else other than a few crackers, or some cornbread or a slice of home-made bread, and something to drink.

One of the comments on that post was a suggestion (not really a request - just a suggestion) that I share some recipes. So, as I was mentally flailing about for a post subject, I decided to share the recipe for Quick Hamburger Veggie Soup. My friend, Elaine, gave me the basic recipe some years ago, and I've doctored it up to suit myself. Pictured is the pot of soup that was simmering on my stove, readying itself for a late lunch.

Because I use canned vegetables, this soup takes only a bit over 30 minutes to make. However, to those who are on a low-sodium diet: you may substitute fresh vegetables for the canned ones in the recipe to lower the salt content. Fresh veggies should be pre-cooked to the 'done' stage in a microwave oven or on the stove top, so that may add a bit to the cooking time.

Elaine's Quick Hamburger Veggie Soup

* 1 t. olive oil
* 1 pound (more or less) very lean ground beef . I generally use the not more than 4% fat variety. If you use regular ground beef, drain all fat after the meat has browned and before adding anything else.
* 2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
* 2 to 4 cloves fresh garlic, finely chopped, or to taste (optional, if you don't like/tolerate garlic)
* 1-28 oz. can diced tomatoes with liquid (I use Hunt's brand) - if using fresh tomatoes, about 4 cups, peeled, seeded and chopped
* 1 quart water

* 1/4 cup dried green bell pepper (if using fresh pepper, about 1/2 cup)
* 1/4 cup dried red bell pepper (ditto)
* Fresh or dried herbs (optional) I generally use 1/2 of a bay leaf, a pinch or two of dried thyme and marjoram, and a palm-full of dried parsley flakes
* Generous pinch of dried hot pepper flakes or 1/4 t. ground Cayenne (optional)
* Freshly ground black pepper to taste

* 1- 14 oz. can Italian Flat Green Beans, drained and rinsed (fresh beans, appx. 2 cups, cooked)
* 1- 15 oz. can LeSeur Baby Carrots, with liquid (tiny fresh carrots, appx. 2 cups, cooked, with 1/2 cup cooking liquid)

Please note that there is no additional salt in this recipe. If using fresh vegetables instead of canned ones, you may add salt to taste or as desired.

To make the soup:

Heat a heavy stock pot or dutch oven (at least 4-quart capacity), then add olive oil to thinly coat the bottom. Add ground meat and cook, stirring frequently, until browned. (If using regular ground beef, stop here and drain all visible fat.) Add chopped onions and garlic and stir until semi-translucent. If using garlic, do not let it brown; it will become bitter.

Add tomatoes and water, bell peppers, herbs, and seasonings. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Add green beans and carrots. Simmer for an additional 10 minutes or, if using fresh vegetables, until vegetables are tender. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.

Makes about three and one-half quarts soup.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

It's Sky Watch Time! - Post 46

A few weeks ago, I wrote about having some trees cut down because they were encroaching on my neighbor's fence/yard. The largest of these trees contained a raccoon's nest (I also described my first discovery of the raccoons, here.)

My SWF photo contribution for this week was taken during the tree removal process as the chainsaw-wielding young man was about to cut down the limb holding the raccoons' nest, which can be seen as the round object at the end of the tree limb (click to enlarge), at about 10 o'clock in relation to the lift bucket. It was a scorchingly hot day with a clear blue sky and only a few contrails visible . You can see the sheen of sweat on his back. I'm mighty happy that I was just standing in the yard taking the photo.

Speaking of Sky Watch Friday, and pay a visit to the new site, here. Several hundred folks from around the globe will be posting their sky photos there, beginning at 7:30 p.m. GMT tonight , and continuing for the next 48 hours or so.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

New Sky Watch Site - Post 45

No... it's not Friday, yet! But.... I can't believe I forgot to post about this sooner!

The folks at Sky Watch Friday, Tom Wiggers and his new helpers Sandy Carlson and Imac, with page design assistance by Klaus at Virtua Gallery, have created a new and completely separate blog site for Sky Watch Friday participants. Hop over and take a look at the new site.

The new Sky Watch blog won't be fully operational until 'official' Sky Watch time, which is 7:30 p.m. GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) this coming Thursday, July 17, but you'll want to save this new site in your bookmarks or RSS feeds so that you'll be ready to participate.

Summer Doldrums? - Post 44

Thanks for your kind comments, friends, to my previous post. It is sort of nice to have a new play-toy that I didn't have to purchase myself, but I didn't "deserve" it so much as it was, as are all give-aways, the luck of the draw. I guess I just needed something to post about and the arrival of the snips was, at least, something. I am in the summer doldrums, I think. Too much yard work, perhaps?

So that this post will be more than just a bunch of words, I've included a photo of my "double" ditch lilies. The initial fans of these were give to me by my husband's sister-in-law in the early 1970's, and were first planted at the home I shared with my husband. About 18 months after his death, I moved to my present residence and some of the lilies came with me. They were, for a long time, the only day lilies I had. They are prolific multipliers and are now in several locations in my yard. It's time to thin them again but, due to the nature of the soil in my subdivision, I'm dreading the preparation of a new flower bed. Thank goodness they don't require pampering.

I don't have much on my agenda for today. I need to stay inside and do household chores during the torrid part of the day. It's very hot, and muggy. I don't know what else I could expect for the middle of an Arkansas July. Later this afternoon, I'll be mowing the grass. The City gets picky if your lawn looks shabby, and while mine is not quite to the 'pasture' stage, it's time for a hair cut.

That's a whole lot of nothing, but I need to get back in the habit of posting every day, or if not daily, at least regularly. Thanks for bearing with me.

Hope you're having a great day.

Monday, July 14, 2008

I'm A Winner! - Post 43

I've been know to whine a bit about "never winning anything!" I've entered many a contest / giveaway in my lifetime and have come to one inescapable conclusion: If I'd just saved the money I spent on postage to the Readers Digest Sweepstakes, Publisher's Clearing House and the like, I could probably paint the inside of my house, or at least a couple of rooms, the cost of paint being what it is.

I can no longer make that statement. The UPS delivery man, otherwise known as Mr. Brown, just brought a small box to my door. Inside the box was a pair of Silvermark Herb Snips, "The versatile kitchen tool for fine cutting jobs" according to the packaging. I am the recipient of these cute lime-green-handled snips courtesy of Jane Marie of Thyme for Herbs. A few weeks ago, on Jane Marie's blog, she invited her readers to participate in a giveaway, the prizes for which would be donated by the W. Atlee Burpee Co. All one had to do was post a comment, and she would randomly select three winners.

I won! I won!

(I know, I know... pitiful, isn't it?) Nothing cuttable in my kitchen or garden is now safe, but it will be cut with the cutest shears you ever saw.

When I was just a kid, Mama always bought her flower seed packets from Burpee, and I sort of fell in love with the sound of the name "W. Atlee Burpee" -- a bit exotic, don't you think? We used to receive seasonal catalogs from Burpee, and we kids would ooh and ahh over all the beautiful flowers and the tasty looking veggies. I'm quite sure I've eaten many a tomato that was started from a Burpee seed. And Zinnias; Mama always had multi-color Zinnias in her flower borders, and those came from Burpee, too.

Before I forget: I can't remember how I came to my first visit to Thyme for Herbs, but I now am a visitor at every new post. Jane Marie has THE MOST BEAUTIFUL DAY LILIES I have ever seen, and unlike myself in regard to my relatively paltry lily collection, she knows the names of 99% of them. She's currently showcasing the current blooms. The lilies, and the photographs, are amazing. If you like photos of flowers, go take a look! Tell her Pat sent you.

Oh! And you can also enter Jane Marie's current giveaway, again courtesy of W. Atlee Burpee -- some cute hats!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

I've Been Tagged - Post 42

One of my faithful readers (bless you, rhymeswithplague) received a Tag from one of his faithful readers yesterday. As things like that go, it went around, and came back to rest on his lady wife, Mrs. Rhymeswithplague. She doesn't (yet) have her own blog (come on, Bob, help your sweet wife get her own place in the Internet world), so she used his blog to answer the Tag questions, and then (bless you, too, Mrs. R.) passed the Tag to me.

Actually, I think that they read my post just previous to this one, and decided that I needed something to write about. So, here goes.

1. What was I doing 10 years ago? That was 1998. I was a self-employed Human Resources Consultant working with small banks and financial companies. I traveled a lot within Arkansas and all the contiguous states excepting Oklahoma. I wrote personnel policies, job descriptions, Affirmative Action Plans, and designed and implemented salary administration programs. I was on the cusp of turning 64 years old and hoping I could hang on financially long enough to draw my Social Security.

2. Five snacks I enjoy. Anything crunchy (celery, nuts, carrots, chips, crackers); that's five but I have to add dark to bittersweet chocolate.

3. Five things on my to-do list today. Pull nutgrass and other grass/weeds from the flowerbed outside the east wall of my den while the soil is still damp from yesterday's rain (only partially completed - I got too hot and had to retreat); make a big pot of soup (completed - I now have enough to last me for four or five meals); put the ingredients for a loaf of Portugese Bread (no fat) into the bread machine (rising even as I type); launder the church linens from the last two services (now soaking); make a few birthday cards.

4. Things I'd want if I were a billionaire. Several of these are altruistic, but as the Lord has a way of providing for my basic needs if I'm reasonably careful, if I had a choke-wad of money there are things I really would want to do.

The first thing is to pay off my church's mortgage and fund the construction of an adequate Christian Education wing and a church library.

Secondly, I'd set up trust funds to assure the further education of my grandchildren and great-grandchildren so that they could attend, without financial constraints, any institution of higher learning to which they would be admitted (they would have to have the smarts and drive to be accepted, otherwise they're on their own.)

Third, I'd anonymously send a humongous check to the Episcopal Relief and Development Fund.

Fourth (no longer altruistic here) I'd hire a two good companies to A. add a modest extension to my home (I don't need to move to another house, it's small, but I like it here) with a nice-sized bedroom and another bathroom, and B. landscape my entire lot and provide maintenance for it until the money ran out.

Lastly, I'd buy a whiz-bang state-of-the-art digital SLR camera and all the fixin's, hire a bearer, or two, to carry all the stuff, charter a flight to Melbourne, Australia, and plead with/ cajole/ bribe/hire or otherwise convince David McMahon to teach me how to take great photos -- and stay as long as it took (or I died of old age/David throttled me, whichever was the first to occur), then, assuming I was still alive, I'd come home via an around the world trip, taking photos at every opportunity! (I stretched this one out, big time.)

5. Five jobs I've had. Telephone switchboard operator, bank teller, bank bookkeeper, VP of Human Resources for a large bank, self-employed HR consultant. (Did I mention I worked for one bank for 29 years, 6 months and 27 days?)

6. Five of my bad habits. Procrastination; not getting enough sleep (caused staying up too late at night); spending too much time on the computer (but I learn such interesting things and it's so much fun); crunching ice (I'm addicted); being a paper pack-rat!

7. Five places I've lived. El Paso, TX; Albuquerque, NM; Clinton, AR; Harrison, AR; Pulaski County, AR (with several stops in between).

Now, that a whole heap more than you ever wanted to know, isn't it?

Now, the question is: Who am I going to tag? Well, I'm an admitted procrastinator, so I'll sleep on this one. I still have to pass along an award I received last week. Making choices is *so* hard.

No Sky Watch Friday Here This Week - Post 41

For lack of what I consider a suitable photograph and/or at least minimally interesting narrative, I'm not participating in Sky Watch this week. However, should you have stumbled across this post, I invite you to visit the Sky Watch Friday host, Tom, at Welcome to Wiggers World to view the wonderful sky photos of this week's participants. That's what I'll be doing this evening.

Tom opens Sky Watch Friday on Thursday evenings at 7:30 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time which is already Friday in Australia and only 1:30 p.m. in the Central Time Zone of the U.S. I'll let you figure it out from there. :)

Happy weekend, everyone!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

A Blog Award - Post 40

Today, I received a blog award, "You Make My Day." Out of the clear blue, as it were, it arrived, courtesy of "Jeannelle," of Midlife by Farmlight. I invite you to click on over to her site (which you will like very much, I believe) and read the post about it. Thank you, "Jeannelle." YOU made MY day!
Now, the hard part; I've got to pass this award to ONE, and only one, blogger. This will be a challenge, and I'll have to sleep on the decision.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Cotton Candy Sky - Sky Watch Friday - Post 39

When I left my daughter's home after this past Sunday's evening meal, there was not even a smidgen of color in the sky. About three minutes later, as I turned a corner toward my home, I saw this beautiful sunset. I pulled into a shopping center's parking area, rolled down my car window and got this shot. The photo is as it came from the camera except for minor cropping. Ain't Nature grand?

I had intended to post more photos of the raccoon's nest which was in the tree recently removed from my property, but decided that it could be another post entirely. Besides, this sky is much prettier.

Sky Watch Friday is hosted by Tom Wiggers. Please visit his site to see beautiful sky photos from around the world.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

No More Ruckus on My Roof - Post 38

The raccoons have been officially evicted. I'd cry over their losing their home, but just can't bring myself to do so. What I could cry over is the loss of my trees. I posted a couple of weeks ago here about the upcoming necessity of removing a large wild cherry tree which was pushing (hard) against my neighbor's fence and dropping numerous limbs onto her property. That particular tree also happened to be the hangout of a family of masked bandits who trip-tripped-tripped all over my roof at night.

Before tree removal

The raccoons' nest was located in the thicker, ivy-draped branches of the taller, sort of wispy-looking-at-the-top, tree behind the tree in the foreground. Very sadly, the first tree, a dogwood planted over 20 years ago, had to be removed to allow access to the troublesome wild cherry. I estimate that the wild cherry was approximately 35 feet tall and, for safety's sake, it had to be cut from the top down, so one of those "cherry picker" buckets was used. That particular piece of equipment is mounted to the back of a very big truck which had to get as close to the tree as possible. Therefore, the dogwood had to go. (See first and last photos; my yard looks naked in the latter.) The west side of my carport and the room behind it are now bereft of the tempering shade of the dogwood and the wild cherry. I expect that my air conditioning bill will increase significantly before the heat of the summer is over.

The tree removal team was a group of most pleasant young men (I don't know how old the oldest was but, at my age, just about everyone is younger.) I had been in the yard photographing the beginning of the process and mentioned to the foreman that I was blogging about the raccoons. When the overhanging limbs had been removed and the raccoon nest exposed, he came to my door to ask if I'd like to have some photos of the nest before it was cut down. Of course, I said "yes," and handed over my camera. Looks like a big bird's nest, doesn't it?

Oh, for those readers who may have some concern about the raccoons, no raccoons were injured in the removal of this tree. In fact, no raccoons were to be seen anywhere in the vicinity. Do you suppose they overheard me contracting with the tree man last week and high-tailed it?

I have a couple of other photos of the nest, taken from the ground, which better display its rounded nature, but I'm saving them for Sky Watch Friday this week.

The tree workers are due to return tomorrow, when they will begin to work on removing three additional trees even further back in the yard. These, also, are fence-pushing wild cherry trees which drop even more limbs onto my neighbor's lawn. I decided that while I had access to the tree-chopper-downers, I'd get rid of those, too. I'm going to have a very sun-filled (and hot) back yard in a few days.

After Tree Removal
Ugly, isn't it?