Monday, January 31, 2011

Kolorful Koi

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It has been a gray day.  Not exactly cold -- but not warm either -- and very gray.  Low-lying clouds brought in by the advancing cold front (or perhaps from the advancing warm front coming up from the Gulf of Mexico) hung in the air, depositing a fine mist upon everything.  Not enough to work the windshield wipers, but enough to be noticed, and felt upon the skin.

I worked this morning in the church office, as I do on every Monday (except when I declare myself a holiday.)  I finished and mailed the year-end required reports to the state withheld tax division and to the Internal Revenue Service, calculated and prepared the January payroll checks, and remitted the withheld federal taxes to the appropriate governmental agency.  It's all done online now, which in someways makes it easier, and in other ways more difficult.  I've worked with payroll, and relevant taxes, for over 40 years, but it takes this old dog a bit longer to learn new tricks.  I frequently have to refer to the several pages of paperwork received from the IRS last fall to be sure I'm doing it properly.

After leaving the church, I made a quick run by Gardening Daughter's home. She, hubby and the youngest child are in Texas visiting their son, who is stationed (oh, so sad...not!) at the Coast Guard Station on South Padre Island, leaving the care of the home in the hands of their daughters, aged 23 and 17.  Older daughter has a job nearby and the 17 yr old is a junior in high school.  Grandma, that would be me, makes  two or three runs to the house during the hours they are both away to allow the dogs (Buddy and Snuggles) to roam the large fenced yard for ten or fifteen minutes.  I don't mind this small duty at all.  I'm just delighted that last year, after seven years of living in the house, they finally fenced the yard. I used to have to walk the dogs on leashes to let them do their business.  That's OK in warm, dry weather, not so thrilling when it's cold and damp.

When I got home, I felt the need for a bit of color. First, I made a flowery greeting card for a far away friend who needs a special hug.  We stampers like to say that "A handmade card is a hug with a fold in the middle."   I got the card in the mail and, still seeking some color, I started looking  through some of my old computer files containing photos I took a couple of years ago. Lots and lots of flowers, but they were not what I wanted.  Then I came across the one above.  It was just what I was looking for.  And, this one:


 
These photos were taken at a local garden nursery which I visited in the company of Gardening Daughter and my then 4 yr old granddaughter. I was captivated by the nursery's beautiful Koi pond, and took several photographs of it that afternoon.  I learned from reading the Wikipedia article (the link provided above) that Koi are among the longest-living vertebrates on Earth, some surviving for over 200 years!

I feel quite uplifted by these splashes of color!

More, later. Tomorrow is also a day.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

'Weather' I Like It, or Not ...

2 p.m. - 69 degrees and gathering clouds

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...the anticipated cold front is beginning its move into Arkansas.  At church time this morning, there was hardly a cloud in the sky.  By mid-afternoon, it was hard to find a shard of blue. 

In a few days, northern Arkansas is supposed to have snow, and southern Arkansas is supposed to receive heavy rain -- supposed being the operative word.  Weather forecasting being what it is, we shall see what we shall see.  I just hope that the folk in central Arkansas will not have to (1) get out the snow shovels and tire chains or (2) row, row, row our boats.  Geographically placed as we are between south and north we're likely to have ice -- if anything.

If it's going to get really cold again, I'm glad I haven't yet cleaned away the leaves that have blown into my flower beds.  This latest warm spell has encouraged my spring bulbs to send up green shoots. I'd hate for them to freeze.

While I wait to see what's going to happen to the weather, I'll be reading and napping, not necessarily in that order.

Tomorrow is also a day.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Good Day for Cards

(click to enlarge)
(*see note below)
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I belong to a rubber stamping group that has been in existence for over 11 years.  Although the group's members are currently all female, we have had talented gentlemen members in years past. Our youngest active member is in her early twenties, the most mature in her mid-80's.  A faithful group of folks, many of them charter members of the group, meet on one Saturday afternoon each month to practice new --or old -- card-making/designing techniques or to demonstrate new tools and materials used in the craft, to swap handmade cards, and to catch up with what's been going on in our lives since the last meeting.   Eighteen of us gathered this afternoon, and it was great fun, as usual.

Since I had cards 'on the brain,' so to speak, when I got home I started looking back through my computer files at the hundreds and hundreds of images of cards I've made and received during the past 11 years. I selected a few (of the cards that I made myself) to create the above collage.   

My taste in rubber stamp images is eclectic, to say the least. I require only an interest in or appreciation of the art.  Some tickle my funny bone: the image in the lower left hand corner of the collage is one of my favorites.  Art?  Maybe. Or Not.  Whimsey? Definitely.  I presently own a great many rubber stamp images of various sorts, having acquired them with the same abandon that I once reserved for the purchase of books.

I must have been behind the door when God passed out creative/artistic abilities.  There seems to be a broken connection between what my eyes see and what I can do with my hands.  I simply cannot transfer what I see to any sort of media. I don't sketch; I don't paint (except walls and woodwork); I once tried sculpting in clay - hahahahahah! All I got was dirty hands!

I truly enjoy my stamps, inks, papers, ribbons and other embellishments, and the physical act of creating cards or other art work using images that I could not have produced through my own abilities.  

* Insofar as I can remember correctly, since some years have passed since I created most of these cards, copyrights to the images shown above are held by: Hero Arts; Stamp It!; Magenta; Red Castle Rubber Stamps; Personal Stamp Exchange; B-Line Designs; Stampamania; and Penny Black, Inc.

That's about it for this (almost) end of the first month of the year.

Tomorrow is also a day.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Artistic License

(from a greeting card I made in 2003) 
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Except for the colors, this is pretty much what it looked like from my office window just before sunset today.  It was a beautiful, sunshine-filled day here with the temperature rising to over 60 degrees.  I have to confess that I didn't take proper advantage of this temporary break in the chilly weather.  Instead of hauling out the leaf-blower and clearing the front yard, I took a nap. 

A cup of coffee, consumed with my evening meal at Gardening Daughter's home,  kept my eyelids wide open until the wee hours.  Sometimes I can drink coffee at night and still sleep like a baby. Not last night.   I finally fell into the arms of Morpheus about the time that other folk are rising. My slumber wasn't long enough to refresh me, and I had a bad "sinking spell" about 3 p.m.   Thinking I would just rest awhile (hahaha) I made myself comfy in my recliner, and picked up the book I had begun to read last night. I was awakened by a telephone call just before five o'clock, so I probably snoozed for at least an hour and a half. 

I hope this recounting of my fun-filled day has not left you too excited to sleep tonight.

I'll be going to bed soon.

Tomorrow is also a day.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

How Could I Have Skipped This One?

(flag image from PatriotIcon.org)

Something else, of great import (to my family), occurred on January 26, about which day in history I wrote yesterday.  Perhaps it slipped my mind because it was of such recent history, said event actually occurring only yesterday.

My granddaughter is married to a fine and brilliant man who was born and educated in India.  Shortly after coming to this country to work in his chosen field (about 12 years ago), he finalized all the requirements to obtain a Doctoral degree in Neurotoxicology.  He and my granddaughter, who met here in Arkansas,  have been married for over 10 years, and have two beautiful, highly intelligent and adorable children (and that's not just a great-grandmother talking.)

Yesterday, January 26, 2011, my grandson became a citizen of the United States of America.   Everyone in our family is pleased --no, delighted -- and very happy.

The nearest U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office is in Memphis, Tennessee, and it was to that location that he traveled early yesterday morning to finalize the process of becoming a naturalized citizen.  Unfortunately, my granddaughter was not able to go with him to witness this momentous occasion.  She was in the hospital recovering from unexpected and necessary surgery which occurred late Tuesday afternoon.  Grandson stayed by her bedside until 3:00 a.m., when he was relieved by his father-in-law, my son,  then drove to Memphis  for the 8:00 a.m. official ceremony.  He returned to Little Rock in time to take his wife home that afternoon (laparoscopic surgery is a wonderful thing.)

I understood that becoming a citizen of the United States was not a 'snap-your-fingers'-easy thing to do, but I had no idea, until I started doing some online research, what a lengthy and sometimes tedious process it is.

I heartily congratulate him, and all the people, young and old, who also became U.S. citizens yesterday.

For additional information on the process of becoming a citizen, I invite you to watch this short video.

video

or, click here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AzRxQfsMMSk&feature=related

Tomorrow is also a day.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

This Day in History

The Founding of Australia
(image, Wikipedia)

Exactly what stray thought caused the beginning of my exploration into the noteworthy happenings of this day I no longer recall. Folks who compile this sort of information have it listed on Google, Wikipedia and a host of other sites on the Internet. I had an interesting few hours exploring this day in history. Following is just a smidgen of what I discovered.  The subject matter varies greatly, as you will see.

1788 -- British Naval Captain Arthur Phillip raised the English flag at what is now Sydney, Australia, founding the first permanent European settlement on that continent. Because of the International Date Line, folks in Australia celebrated Australia Day yesterday. I'm sorry to be late in recognizing your special day, friends.

Several years ago, I read a fascinating book on this subject, one that remains in my "keepers" -- The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes. If you have any interest in Australia at all, I unreservedly recommend Hughes' book.

1831 - Mary Mapes Dodge, author of Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates is born in New York City.

1838 - Tennessee passes the first prohibition law in the United States.

1880 - Douglas McArthur is born in Little Rock, Arkansas.

1893 - Bessie Coleman, the first African-American airplane pilot, is born. If you have a few minutes, click on the link to check out the Wikipedia information on this unusual woman.

1905 - The Cullinan Diamond, weighing, in the rough, 3,106.75 carats, is found near Pretoria, South Africa.

1950 - The Republic of India is born, becoming the most populous democracy in the world.

1979 - The Dukes of Hazzard television series premiers on C.B.S.

1988 - The Phantom of the Opera opens in New York City, the first performance of over 4,000.

Of all the hundreds of items listed in the compendiums (compendia?) of historical dates, those are the ones that caught my attention.

Tomorrow is also a day.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"Wild Goose, Brother Goose, ...


...which is best? A wandering foot, or a heart at rest?"

Even from childhood, I had the urge to wander -- to see faraway places about which I read in books, or saw in the movies.  I dreamed of going all over the world, and my 'I want-to-go-there' list included well known and often visited places as well as those explored by only a few or, perhaps, existing only in fiction.

My earliest remembered wishful destination, -- when I was about 8 years old -- was brought on by reading a multi-volume world fairy tales collection housed in the children's section of the Albuquerque Public Library.  I wanted to go into the deep forests of Russia, to seek out the witch Baba Yaga who traveled through the trees in a hut which strode about on chicken legs.  How cool is that!?

Reading Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze* made me yearn to visit China.  The Trumpeter of Krakow* (the first book I ever read that was shelved in the 'bigger' folks area, although I was still under 10 years of age), created vivid mental pictures of the Late Middle Ages.  Although I didn't realize it at the time, I was longing for the ability to travel through time.  * Note: both these volumes were Newbery Medal winners. I was steered, early on, into good literature by the watchful librarians.

In later years, I became fascinated by stories from Egyptian history, both fact and fiction. I longed to float down the River Nile and explore the pyramids and the tombs of the Pharoahs.  Thor Heyerdahl's Kon Tiki made me dream of drifting westward with the Pacific Ocean currents from the coast of Peru to Easter Island,  and beyond. John Master's riveting tales of India set during the 1820's, The Deceivers and The Nightrunners of Bengal, chilled my blood and yet made me wish to be able to visit that mysterious and dangerous continent.  [Note: now that my granddaughter has a husband from India, and they travel there with their children to visit his family, I'm not so sure I would want to go... too many mental images from those old books. Of course, it's not like that, these days, but a dangerous place for the uninitiated, none the less.]

I've been fortunate enough to do a little bit of 'world-wandering' although my travels didn't start until I was in my 40's.  I still have a long held wish to visit New Zealand and Australia and, perhaps I shall yet do it, but my chances are getting slimmer by the year.

I leave you with this video of the song that encapsulates all my 'wandering' dreams.


video


I'm away, now, to read some fairy tales from around the world that were no-cost downloads to my Kindle.

Tomorrow is also a day.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Hurry, Spring

2010 flowers from my garden
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It's not that it's been so cold today (the temperature is well above freezing), but it's gloomy, damp, and breezy.  I am so ready for warmer weather, and it's still a couple of months away.

I buried myself in church accounts, as I do every Monday, until almost 1:30 then came home for lunch.  It was not very satisfying (to me) to eat leftover spicy vegetarian rice casserole, however tasty it may be, when what I really wanted was a big, juicy hamburger and french fries. :::sigh:::  After making three or four meals out of that particular dish, it's all gone, but I still have one serving of another leftover which needs to be my supper.  It's my own fault -- I don't know how to cook  food for just one person.

Because I had a bit of church business to attend to, I made myself go back out into the world after lunch although what I wanted was a nice nap.  That being taken care of,  I made a fun trip to the nearby scrapbook store.  I don't make scrapbooks, 'tho I probably should with as many photos as I have. I do have several old-style photo albums, but these bear little resemblance to the beautiful scrapbooks some folks make these days.

What interests me in this particular store is the lovely patterned paper they carry.  I bought several sheets of Christmas paper at 50% off, and some beautiful new Valentine papers.  Nearly all the patterned papers I buy can be used in making greeting cards, which is my craft of choice. I have some projects in mind; it remains to be seen if I follow through.

I'm currently reading and, amazingly, enjoying the multiple forewords on the Kindle edition of The Travels of Marco Polo (1903). With all the footnotes, revisions, biographies, illustrations, chapter definitions, etc., the actual book must be a foot thick.   Oh, the marvels of the digital age! I hope to reach some of Marco Polo's own accounts soon. However, I fear it will be a while before this one is posted on my 'Books Read in 2011' list.

Tomorrow is also a day.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

My Travels - Part 1A, continued --
The Athens Airport Tale

A continuation of yesterday's post.

From my notes and memories:

"Mizzes!  Mizzes!  That flight is booked.  There is no room.  No, Mizzes, you cannot get on.  You will have to take another flight. You are too late for boarding. Your seat is taken by another."  So said the unyielding agent at the ticket counter at Olympic Airlines.

Panic!  Son-in-law was expecting me at 8:30.  I wouldn't be there!  I realized, after a search of all my purse pockets, that I had left his work telephone number at home.  I had given it to my business partner; I had given it to my son; I told my elder daughter where to find my telephone book in my office -- and then I had come off without it!  Panic, again!

I made my way across the terminal lobby to the OTE (Telephone service), thankful that I had obtained about $100 worth of drachmas from my bank before starting on this trip, and called my daughter-in-law in Arkansas. "Sorry." My son had the number in his wallet. I called my work partner; his wife answered and looked for the card I had given him with no results. "He must have it with him."  Oh, dear! 

When I explained my dilemma to the nice man at the OTE counter, he looked up the number to call Souda Bay Naval Base on Crete, the only number he had for a U.S. military installation on the island.  I reached them; fortunately the operator spoke English,  and when I had made clear the reason for my call, quickly gave me the number of the Iraklion Air Station.  After a bit of delay, I was connected with my son-in-law's shop. I spoke to one of his co-workers who said he would call my son-in-law's beeper and let him know I would not arrive until 11:15.

That done, I felt better, but my mouth was so dry from nerves I could hardly speak.  I bought a carton of grapefruit juice with some of my remaining drachmas and sat down to drink it while "G" went in search of restrooms and to make some phone calls of her own. 

As I was sitting, trying to calm my nerves and allow my blood pressure to return to normal, I was joined by a Greek Woman and her three children.  The mother, who introduced herself as Eleni, tried valiantly to carry on a conversation with me, and although I had a Greek Phrase Dictionary, she faced a losing battle.  She introduced me to her children  --


 Mario Angelo, Manuela, and Christina. What name goes with what child I no longer remember.
I use this photo and their names only because I know they don't look like this anymore.

Eleni chattered, I picked up a word or two and would try to make what I hoped was an appropriate response, which would send her off into a torrent of Greek which I didn't understand at all.  When I indicated that I could not understand, mainly by shaking my head and making a sad face, the two older children, who appeared to be about 5 and perhaps 8 or 9 years old, would come near me and start repeating what their mother had said, very carefully, but not very slowly, begging me with their eyes to understand.  Although I could tell they were disappointed that I could not speak more than a few Greek words, the gift of some chewing gum from my purse (with the prior approval of their mother) seemed to please them.

This slightly nerve-wracking exchange went on for about 20 minutes, then I looked up the words for "it's been nice to meet you" and "goodbye" and fled to get my boarding pass for the 10:25 p.m. flight. 

Having been distracted, I had not noticed that I could no longer see "G" anywhere, so I went into a bar and ordered a Greek Coffee to try to stay awake.  She eventually saw me standing there sipping the thick coffee (I called it 'mud' in my notes, but that's not nice; I learned that you don't ever want to reach the bottom of a cup of Greek Coffee) and we went on out to the departure gate to wait it out.

The flight from Athens to Heraklion is only about 50 minutes, about the same distance as Little Rock to Dallas, so I estimate it's about 200 miles or so. (I just looked it up; it's 209 miles). The plane, a 737, is bigger than the one we flew in from Frankfurt to Athens. It's nearly full -- mostly of Greeks.

The cabin attendant dimmed the cabin lights in preparation for landing, so it looks like the first half of this long journey is almost over.  It has been an experience."

Someday I will, perhaps, write more about my visit to Crete.  I suspect that reading about someone else's vacation is a bit like watching your neighbor's interminable slide show. I don't want to drive you away.

Tomorrow is also a day.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

My Travels - Part 1A
More Sea Photos and
The Athens Airport Tale

Rocky Coast from Shore Level

I'll soon run out of photos of the seas surrounding Crete, but if you can bear with me through two more (can you tell that I loved looking at the sea?),  I'll tell you the story of the delay at the Athens Airport that I mentioned yesterday.

Shoreline from a Higher Elevation


 
Shoreline From An Even Higher Elevation

The Delay at Athens

Although I wrote in my last post that I didn't keep a journal of this trip, that's only partly true.  In digging through some other boxes this afternoon, I discovered that I had made some notes on a lined yellow pad, at least for the first few days.  They were in an envelope with the postcards I bought.  With all the activities I became involved in, I soon had neither time nor energy to keep writing.  Shame on me; I wish I had taken the time to make even a few entries.

I'm going to start this tale with our arrival from the U.S. at the Frankfurt, Germany, air terminal. Looking back at it, things started going downhill from that point.

From my notes:

"Frankfurt airport is a mess.  Huge, and strung out everywhere. We were about fifteen minutes late arriving,  had to take a bus to a different terminal and stand in line for an X-ray check of our luggage. Then we were directed to the wrong gate -- that plane was going to Vienna. We hauled ourselves back up the stairs to the correct gate, went through the luggage X-ray again and through Security for passport check.  All OK  there. We boarded a bus at that gate and were ferried across the huge taxi/runway and hanger area to our plane.  Got all settled in, on time.  We were due to leave at 1:00 p.m. Frankfurt time. Then, the captain shut down the engines and we sat until 1:45, waiting for two other planes' passengers to arrive and board.  Must have been some V.I.P.'s.

The flight to Athens was uneventful, but we were put in a holding pattern for over 15 minutes before we could land -- in the rain.  We were met by another bus and taken to the terminal building, where we went through Immigration Control (with some hassle), then waited and waited and waited for the luggage to come up.  When it arrived 30 minutes later, we had to go through Customs.  No problems.

[Note: On the flight from Frankfurt to Athens, I was seated next to a young woman, "G," who was a nurse at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C.  She was vacationing in Crete for a week, and we mutually agreed that we would stay together until we got there.]

"G" and I got through Customs and went outside to get a taxi to take us to the Olympic Airlines terminal, some miles away.  There was a seemingly interminable line of people waiting for taxis, and we had only about 30 minutes at that point to catch our 7:15 p.m. flight to Heraklion, Crete.  "G" conned a couple at the front of the line into letting us have the next taxi and off we went all the way across Athens -- at breakneck speed -- only to find, when we arrived at the Olympic Airlines ticket counter that...

...we would not be allowed to board!

To be continued. Tomorrow is also a day.

Friday, January 21, 2011

My Travels - Part 1
By the Sea, By the Sea,
By the Beautiful Sea

The Mediterranean Sea as seen from the coast of Crete


 
This afternoon, I started going through some boxes of old photos -- you know, the kind of photos we had before the digital age.  I'm a pack rat, and have hundreds and hundreds of photos, in boxes, manila folders, large envelopes, etc.  Most of them bring back very clear memories of the time and place; some I struggle with trying to remember where, who and, oftimes, why I took the photo and why I still have it.

One of the photo boxes, the sort that is wider than a shoebox but about as long, was almost full of photos I took during a trip to Greece.  While this was not the first of my travels, these are the photos I came across first, and so this is where I shall start.

In the Spring of 1993, I was fortunate to spend almost four weeks visiting my daughter and her family on the Greek island of Crete.   Her husband was stationed at the Iraklion Air Station with the U.S. Air Force. They had, at that time, two children, aged 5 and almost 2.  They had been there not quite a year when my son-in-law was notified that the Air Station was being de-activated, and they would be transferred back to the U.S. in the fall.  They called me to let me know that if I wanted to visit Crete, this was the time!  So, I renewed my passport, arranged to take the four weeks vacation due me all at once, packed my bags, and off I went!

The flight to Crete was uneventful -- at least until I got to Athens where I encountered a troubling and unexpected delay, about which I will post later. It's a tale in itself. 

My departure from Athens having been delayed,  I arrived on Crete around midnight on March 31, 1993.  My son-in-law picked me up at the Iraklion Airport, and we drove 14 km to the smaller sea-side town of Kokkini Hani in which they lived. Arriving in the middle of the night, I caught no glimpse of the Mediterranean Sea, and was most anxious to see the body of water that was so prominent in Ancient History.

Unfortunately, I did not keep a journal of my daily activities, so my photos are not in chronological order. I'll also have to consult my daughter as I proceed with my "Crete" story, since she will remember things that I have forgotten.


For this first chapter of  My Travels, I just wanted to share a few of the photos in which the Mediterranean can be seen.


Yes, it's really that color


 
My granddaughter

A tiny sea-side church - Crete


 
More, later. Tomorrow is also a day.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Mother Nature Fluffed Her Down Comforter ...



... but she didn't know there was a hole in it!

Just before noon, huge feathery flakes started falling from the heavens even though the temperature was a couple of degrees above the freezing mark.  The flakes gradually became smaller and ceased shortly before sunset.  We have no snow accumulation on the sidewalks, driveways or streets, and probably only about 3/4 of an inch on the ground.  However, what snow remains will still be there in the morning since it's well below freezing now.  The forecast calls for continuing chill for the next few days, but the precipitation has moved on.

The birds -- cardinals, juncos, sparrows. doves and grackles -- came to the feeder areas in droves as soon as it began to snow. Is there anything prettier than a bright red cardinal sitting on a bare branch with huge snowflakes falling around him?

I did stay bundled up and, except for filling the feeders, inside all day.  I played with my Kindle, successfully downloading a few free books, and managed to read about 60% of one this evening. It's fluff, but it was free, and is proving to be a relatively quick read, once I became used to the Kindle screen.  I've put a few books for which one has to pay a small fee ($0.89 to $2.99) on my wish list. 

That's it for this 20th day of 2011.  Tomorrow is also a day.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

My Amazon Kindle has Arrived

(image, Wikipedia)

And, just in time.  The weather here is supposed to turn ugly tomorrow and I may be housebound for the day.

The Amazon Kindle was delivered by UPS just before 5 p.m.  I left it charging while I went off to Wednesday night church services.  When I got back home I started, and am still, reading the Kindle User's Guide so have not yet added any Kindle books to my collection.  There are a ka-jillion free books out there, and twenty ka-jillion available for a price -- almost too many from which to choose.

The apparatus comes with the user's guide, a personalized letter from Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon.com  (may he live long and prosper), the Oxford Dictionary of English and The New Oxford American Dictionary installed.  Just to see if I could, I looked up "grebe" on the ODE because that's the first word that popped into my mind.  Easy peasy!

It will take me a while to become familiar with the finer points of operating this 3G marvel.  If you're lucky, I won't spend too much time writing here about my progress.

Tomorrow is also a day (rain and snow flurries expected).

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Spring Creek Prairie - Nebraska

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I've been mentioning the trip I made this past July to visit my youngest daughter, who has retired after 30 years in the U.S. Air Force and now lives with her family in Nebraska.   I was there for several days and had a marvelous time exploring the historic town in which she lives and getting to know the members of her husband's family.    After several days of staying close to home, we decided to go a little further afield to explore a place that was of interest to both of us, and which she had not previously visited.

The photos above were taken at the Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center, in Denton, Nebraska, a few miles southwest of Lincoln, NE, and approximately 60 miles from my daughter's home.  Mother Nature provided us a beautiful day for the trip; bright sunshine and gentle breezes.

Following is very brief description of the photos in the mosaic, moving clockwise beginning with the top left image:

Spring Creek Prairie Education Center.  
View from the back porch of the center looking to the left.  
View from the same place looking to the right.   
Wagon wheel hoops placed in some remaining ruts.   
Three samples of flora -- butterfly weed [orange], tall grass, common milkweed [pink] -- found on the property and a view of the pond.    
Historical marker (lots of information to be found on the web site, the link to which is provided above.) 
Information concerning the hay-bale construction of the Education Center.    
Cut-out in the wall of the entry area showing the actual hay bales.

Before too long, as time permits, I'll post more photos and a bit more information about what we saw, heard and smelled.

Tomorrow is also a day.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Bosom Buddy

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My morning was spent doing church work.  January is a pretty busy month in the church office, as the year end tax reports,  W-2's, 1099's, and annual contribution reports are tasks that have to be completed.  About 1:30, I came home to work on a swap card for tonight's stamp club meeting. (Results shown above)  

Our stamp club meets on the third Monday evening of each month, and Valentine's Day will be a thing of the past when next we meet, so I made a Valentine card.  The instructions for making these cute (I think) heart-shaped torsos came from the blog of an extremely talented woman who lives in Australia.   If you are interested in seeing how this was done, you can check here.  My torsos are not quite as tidy as Valita's work, but I'm happy to say that they were a bit hit with my stamping group.

Today was cool with clouds that met the ground; not a sunbeam to be seen. The foggy mist hung heavy in the air all day.  Not quite rain, but almost.  A trip of more than a few blocks required the use of windshield wipers.

The next time the sun shines, I'm going to have to air out my car; it smells like the inside of a pizzeria.  I was in charge of picking up the lunch for yesterday's annual church meeting.  Pizza is traditional.  I had a back seat full of boxes of steaming hot pizza for the twelve minutes it took me to drive from the source back to the church.  Fogged up my windows, they did. 

Still no post on my Nebraska trip since I did not do any work on it today.  That's why I'm happy that tomorrow is also a day.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Tuckered Out

Gabby Hays

This is a very brief post.  I've had a busy day and am "tuckered out."    (Information on the meaning and origin of "tuckered out" may be found by clicking on the link above, the place I got Gabby's photo.)

I started working this afternoon on a post about my visit to the Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center in Denton, NE, but it hasn't come together, yet.  I'm working on it, selecting from the multitude of photos I took during my visit.

More, later. Tomorrow is also a day.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

New Flowers and More Drip, Drip

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The photo above is of a pair of blooms on my "Christmas Cactus."  I suppose I could rename it  "Epiphany Cactus," as it began to set its first buds only last week.  I've had this plant, a gift from a church member, for several years, but this is the first time it has had more than one or two flowers. 

I always assumed that it was the amount of light the plant receives that plays the major role in bud-setting.  If only I had taken the time to do a bit of research, I would have learned that it is also lower temperatures that encourage buds.  Optimum bud-setting temperature for this plant is between 58 and 65 degrees Farenheit.  In my efforts to conserve on energy costs, I've been keeping my thermostat set to the 65 degree mark during the daytime, and cooler at night.  It seems to have worked.

I also learned from the weekly gardening column in our state newspaper that this plant can be placed outside during the summer, kept watered and occasionally fertilized, then brought inside in the fall.  I (more or less) know what to do with daylilies, but most of my houseplants live or die on their own.

The sun was bright from sunrise to sundown and the outside temperature climbed above the 50 degree (F) mark.  There was a continual run-off from my roof, a most welcome sight and sound.  The only remaining snow appears to be in mostly sun-free spots on the north side of the house.

We're supposed to have several days of rain this coming week but, so far, there is no snow in our forecast.  However, as one of my banking friends used to say, "A thing is not a thing until it's a thing."  I don't think we can assume we will have no more snow this winter. One of the heaviest snowfalls in the Little Rock area since I've lived here occurred on February 20.

That's about it for this 15th day of the new year.  Tomorrow is also a day.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Yay! - A Drippy Day

Goat' s beard
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The photo above has nothing whatsoever to do with this post. I just ran across it while looking though some of my older Picasa folders.  This Goat's beard seed pod was among the hundreds of prairie plants at the Audubon Spring Creek Prairie, just outside Lincoln, Nebraska, which I visited in July of last year.  I had never before seen this plant and thought it was interesting. The resident master naturalist identified it for me. 

Today really has been a drippy day. For the first time in over a week, the temperature rose above the freezing point.  The snow on my roof has finally started to melt and I've listened to drip, drip, drip all day. While there is still quite a bit of snow around, it is gone where the ground gets sunlight for most of the day, but still pretty thick in the shade. It will take a few more days of warmer temps for it all to disappear. At least the icicles that were hanging from the eaves are gone.

I've worked most of the day on church records, a sometimes tedious task, but one I don't mind doing.  I'm just grateful that I have the same software (Excel) and can work on them from home.  I don't even like to think of how long it would take me to do these reports without computer assistance.  

Not much else going on here at almost the midway point of January. 

Tomorrow is also a day.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Books, Books, Books


This shelf of reference books is located within an arm's reach behind me as I sit at my computer desk.  I, being of a curious and inquiring mind, have turned to them many, many times.  Some, like the tattered dictionary and Roget's Thesaurus are well worn, others not so much.

Lest you think, by looking at the book titles, that I'm overly interested in "English Literature," let me haste to tell you that my day-to-day reading is eclectic, to say the least.  I have become enthralled by a highly suspenseful thriller, intrigued by a well-crafted mystery, amused by an English 'cozy', and have spent hours reading non-fiction (usually scientific) books, works of a religious nature, or other more serious tomes.  While I readily admit to being a murder mystery fan, I soon learned that there are books in that genre that I do not care to read.  Many an otherwise potentially interesting and well-written story has been ruined (in my opinion) by gratuitous violence, unnecessarily coarse language or entirely too descriptive sexual activity.  If I encounter any of the above "ruiners," that's the page on which I stop reading, and the book goes back from whence it came. These days,that would be the library.

I have no idea how much money I have spent on books in my life time.  More than enough, I'm sure, had I diverted the same amount to a savings account, to keep me in much more comfortable circumstances than I currently enjoy.

When I moved to my present (small) home, I placed thousands of boxed books in a rented storage facility, where they sat for several years. Many were sold (for a pittance) at our church's annual rummage sales, and I donated well over 1,000 to the local Friends of the Library.  My personal collection has been pared down to a few choice 'keepers,' probably fewer than 100.

In a long-ago post, I admitted to being a pack rat.  I keep all sorts of things, most of which are non-essential but which I cannot bring myself to throw out.  While rummaging in my favorite rat's nest, looking for something else, I ran across a combined monthly calendar/address book from 1999.  I re-discovered that, in the notes section for every month, I had recorded the books I read and, like a school teacher, gave them a grade. The grades are only a reflection of my personal enjoyment of the book, not intended to indicate in any way the skill of the author -- I am not a literary critic.  So, I won't share my "grades" but I will share with you what I read in January, 1999.

The Great Deliverance - Elizabeth George
Pandora's Clock - John J. Nance
The Last Family - John Ramsey Miller
Rose Cottage - Mary Stewart
The Last Day - Glenn Kleier
The Cold Heart of Capricorn - Martha C. Lawrence
The Gourmet Detective - Peter King
Spiced to Death - Peter King (I must have liked his first one)
The Ming and I - Tamar Meyers
Bad Medicine - Aimee Thurlo
Bonjour Miss Seeton - Hamilton Crane
Snow in August - Pete Hamill

January, 1999, was filled, for the most part, with literary fluff.  But I least I was reading.  In January, 2011, I have completed not one single book.  Shame on me!

KINDLE -  I wrote here that my sister had gifted me with a Wi-Fi Kindle.  Not having a wireless setup in my home, I needed to exchange it for the 3G model, which I did today. The new one is due to arrive on January 19.  Amazon was so nice about the exchange that I gave them a bit more business by purchasing a lighted book cover for it.  I've already been perusing the list of FREE books available for the Kindle.  With limited discretionary funds, I don't think I want to pay for a book that I can obtain from my library.  But --- we'll see! 

Tomorrow is also a day. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

If Winter Comes...

Winter has hardly arrived.  It's not even 30 days into the season, and I am more than ready for SPRING. While I think snow (freshly fallen) can be very beautiful, it also brings damp, bone-chilling cold. I'm already tired of taking photos of snow and icicles, mostly because I don't know how to keep warm while I'm doing it!

In keeping with my desire for something Spring-y, I offer the following from my archives -- My first photo mosaic, which I tried for the first time today.  All photos are of plants from my garden or that of Gardening Daughter, with the exception of the yellow rose, which is growing in our church garden in memory of my eldest granddaughter who died three years ago, at age 29, in a tragic automobile accident.  We call it "Christie's Rose."

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Yay! It won't be too long before this is an actuality.   I feel better already!

My day was as busy as I had anticipated. However, my year end financial reports were in balance and I got a few more church-related odds and ends finished. That always leaves me with a feeling of accomplishment, something that (unfortunately) doesn't happen every day. 

Sweetie Pie has yet another ear infection. Poor baby!  I do wish I knew what was causing this.  I'm doctoring her as best I know how, with antibiotic ear drops left over from the last time.    If she doesn't improve by tomorrow evening, it's off to the veterinarian -- again!

It's just about time for my nightly dose of Yorkshire humor.  Our local PBS station is running early episodes of Last of the Summer Wine.  These particular ones were filmed in 1973, the first year of the series.  I'm finding them not quite as humorous as the later episodes, but it's interesting to see how the characters have developed.

Tomorrow is also a day.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

1/11/11 - Going, Going, but not Gone


Although the air temperature did not rise above the freezing mark today, the abundant sunshine started melting the snow. By a little after 3 p.m., when the above photo was taken, the asphalt on the roadway had warmed enough to completely clear away the snow, but what remains on the ground had shown little sign of melting.  I left deep tracks where I walked on the way to and from bird feeders.

While I was looking at icicles hanging off the roof edge on the north side of the house,  my attention was diverted to a white half-moon standing out clearly in the dark blue sky.  I cropped and otherwise fooled around with the photo a bit with my Picasa editing program, but I like the effect.  If you look closely, you can see two eyes and a nose, and a bit of a grin (for those with a good imagination.)

I have lots of work to do during the remainder of this week. Monday's routine church work, which was put off because of the weather, has to be done before the vestry meets at 5:30.  Our church's annual congregational meeting will be held this coming Sunday after church, and I have budgets and reports to prepare before then.

That about wraps up day eleven of this new year. Tomorrow is also a day.

New Year - Day 10 - Housebound

 It was still snowing when I went to bed just before midnight last night, so I didn't know exactly how much would accumulate overnight. I took a ruler outside with me this morning and measured 5" on the flat.  Fine, powdery snow that, given any rise in the temperature, should be gone before too long.  However, a warming trend is not in the immediate forecast, so who knows when this pretty stuff will be gone, and unfortunately, it won't be pretty as it goes. 

I tried to get a couple of photos before I went tromping around the yard in my size 10 gumboots; I do admire the look of unbroken snow.  The photo is of the looks-like-a-mushroom-with-all-the-snow-on-top metal birdbath in the back yard which, except for some critter tracks, was unblemished.  My driveway had deep tire tracks in it and until I remembered that the paper delivery people come up the drive to (supposedly) throw my paper under the carport, I wondered who had been to visit after the snowfall, since the drive was pristine when I retired.

I awoke just before 8. Almost the first thing on my mind, even before coffee, if you can believe that, was that the bird feeders needed to be filled.

You can see from the photo on the right that this one was quite empty.  There are birdy tracks all around the edges of its roof; the birds were up and looking for breakfast long before I rolled out.


After clearing off the snow and emptying the tray of blown-in snow and seed hulls, I filled it to the brim, then made a trip to the smaller feeder further out in the yard. 


It wasn't long before I had a scarlet visitor (photo below right). He was soon joined by a host of Sparrows and a jumble of Juncos, those cute little 'snowbirds.' However, almost before they could get their fill, the Grackles arrived (photo below left). When they are in the neighborhood, I can't keep the feeders filled. Oh, well -- everything deserves to eat, and I did have more bird food.


The Grackles departed after depleting the seed supply, moving on to someone else's feeders, no doubt.  When I felt sure that the larger flock, at least, had moved on, I refilled both feeders, which were soon visited by my 'sweet birds.'

I will keep stocking and re-stocking the feeders several times a day until the snow is gone. When things are back to normal, whatever that may be, I'll only have to fill them once a day.

Needless to say, I did not venture any further than my back yard today.  I made a big pot of beefy vegetable soup, visited a few new blogs, ran a load of laundry and otherwise took it easy.

If there was wintery weather at your place today, I hope you were safe, warm, and dry.

That's it for this 10th day of January. Tomorrow is also a day.

Monday, January 10, 2011

New Year - Day 9 - What is that White Stuff?

Cold Gray Skies - 2 p.m. January 9, 2011
Looks like the forecast was right - 4 p.m.


Pretty, isn't it?  -  5 p.m.

 
Still snowing - 9 p.m.
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The snow began to fall just before 3 p.m. and is still falling as I write this. I may, or may not, be going to work tomorrow.  Whether I do or don't, I see that the bird feeders will have to be filled again in the morning. I filled both feeders at least half full about 2 p.m. The birds came by the dozens to the feeders when it began to snow and kept eating, I think, until there was no more. 

A snowy ending to the ninth day of the new year.  Tomorrow is also a day.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

New Year - Day 8 - Birds, SPEBSQSA - Random Thoughts

Clear Sky with Birds - January 8, 2011
(all those little black lumps on the branches are Grackles)

Not all the birds in Arkansas fell out of the sky last week, as is evidenced by the hundred or so Grackles that are perched on the branches of this tree.   I was working in my craft room in midafternoon when I heard raucous noises from the back yard.  Black birds (not Blackbirds, but Grackles) were thick on the ground, scratching in the leaves for any dropped seeds around the bird feeders, or under the trees and bushes in search of bugs.  Dozens more were  fighting to drink from the bird baths at the same time.  When I tried to sneak around the side of the house to photograph them in the yard, they took flight, many perching in the neighbor's tree before flying on to where ever it is that Grackles go.

I consider Grackles 'nuisance birds' but they do have their own beauty. Sunlight glancing off their feathers reveals a blue/purple/green sheen; their feathers are actually quite pretty.  I hate to have just filled my feeders with expensive bird seed before a Grackle throng appears. They can clean out every feeder in a matter of minutes, leaving my Cardinals, Wrens, and other sweet little birds without a bite to eat.

After supper, I visited one of my rubber stamping buddies.  She lives about five miles from me, and I am a frequent visitor to her home. She has a marvelous craft area, a separate room that her sweet husband built for her several years ago. He says it was in self-defense; he was tired of seeing and walking around her craft supplies in the main part of the house.  That she also entertained her stamping friends in their den, where he really would have liked to have been watching TV, probably had nothing to do with his decision. Wanna bet?

My son, whose birthday it was today, was in Dallas at a Barbershop Quartet competition, so we had no birthday celebration.  He is very active in the Barbershop Harmony Society, also known as the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America, Inc.  or SPEBSQSA.  You can read all about it here should you care to do so.  He is the director of the Diamond State Chorus, and he and three other fine fellows sing together beautifully in a quartet they have named Flashback, They do quite well in local and regional competitions.  I've been thinking about him and wishing them well today.  We'll celebrate his birthday one evening this coming week.

That's about it for this eighth day of the new year. Tomorrow is also a day.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

New Year- Day 7 - Still Windy, Snow in Forecast

Still Windy - January 7, 2011
 

 
The sky in the photo above looks a great deal like the sky yesterday -- mostly blue, with a few puffy clouds and some streaky clouds blown by the wind, which is still quite strong today. The mail delivery person (to be politically correct although it was actually a mail-man since this person was of the masculine gender) caught me in the front yard with the camera to my eye.  I felt I had to explain that I was documenting the new year by taking a sky photo every day.  Now -- lest any readers feel panic creeping up on them, just because I take a sky photo every day does not (necessarily) mean that you will be looking at 365 sky photos in 2011!

Staying with the "windy" theme for just a 'mo, and since I'm still reveling in having learned how to upload videos,  I offer you a rendition of my #2 favorite "Wind" song:

video

Gogi Grant was a pretty woman, and had a beautiful voice.  Too bad they weren't making videos back in 1956, when this was recorded.

Earlier in the day, the temperature was in the low 60's, but it's supposed to SNOW on Sunday!  If you don't like the weather around here, just wait a while.  We shall see what we shall see.

I called my physician's office this morning to request new written prescriptions for the medications I take daily.  This is an annual exercise; my medications haven't changed in several years, but the prescriptions must be rewritten every twelve months, and January is the month.  What has this to do with the weather, you might inquire?  The clerk in the doctor's office to whom I spoke told me that it might be Tuesday of next week before I could pick up the prescriptions because "We're supposed to have snow, you know, and the office may have to be closed on Monday."  

Arkansans, by and large, don't react very well to snow or ice.  I suppose I have to include myself among them, at least when it comes to ice.   However, only one time in the last 40 years of my working life did I miss work because of the weather, in this case about 9" of snow -- not because I couldn't/wouldn't get out and about, but because my mother's "sitter" couldn't make it to my home to stay with her.  Since retiring, I generally have the luxury of just staying in when it snows.  If I'm in a particularly mischievous frame of mind, I can stand in my open doorway and listen to tires squeal as drivers try to make it up the inclines on the freeway, just a few blocks away.

That's it for this 7th day of the new year.  Tomorrow is also a day -- and happens to be my son's 52nd birthday.