Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Years! A Winter Offering from the Wildlands of California

I've missed visiting Blogville during the holidays! Rounds of "Hallo's" are forth coming. But first I wanted to share some nature for the New Year.

This is a snapshot of what the hills around our country side are offering me in the "dead of winter." Admittedly, the weather in California is not that cold or miserable as some folks must endure back east and I can always find something to botanize over any time of the year.

But I digress. Here's the photo montage from the last day of 2009. I spent the afternoon walking and the "men and children" rode their dirt bikes on trails in a nearby woodland area.

So lets start the New Year off with a bang!! The only fireworks I can show are these exploding mushrooms. Seriously. Here's a huge puff ball that popped. I was disappointed I could not find an intact puff ball to exhibit before and after shots, but you get the idea... It's a rather large powdery mess! And BTW, my second favorite topic, after flowering plants, in college was MYCOLOGY. Mycology for the uninformed, is the study of mushrooms.


The earth splitting forces from the upward thrust of this gilled mushroom left pieces of dirt on the cap. (And I will spare you all the real names of these beasts...plus I would actually have to look them up and I am slightly lazy right now.)


Here is the same species of mushroom just later in it's development. I was experimenting with my flash and no flash with photos. The flash made the color much darker looking. Santa brought me a new wide angle, zoom lens for my camera and while not really intended for close up shots, it got the job done.


This field of miniature brown mushrooms called to me like dainty fairies singing in tune with the breeze. I could see eleven figures dancing around this colony of mushrooms wearing green tunics and brown leggings. Their cheeks shined with sparkling of dew as they frolicked.


Below are pretty, delicate, orange-cream colored mushrooms that curled up on the edge of the caps. I think they are just lovely to look at.


And one of the surprises for me were these gorgeous small sized puff balls. The tiny bumps on the skin of these mushrooms were amazing. When taking this picture the only way to capture the bumps was to get full sunlight on these guys so I had to position myself on the wet ground next to them. Actually, for most of these photos I was kneeling and "in their faces."


Here we have the first blooming vascular plant on the hillside. These members of the Mustard family are called Cardamine or "white maids" or "milk maids." When I see these I know that spring is coming. And this year it appears to be coming early.


Much of the herbaceous flora of California is dependent only upon rainfall and a new generation of plants can begin to grow before the change in daylight from short to long occurs.

Then there were oak trees. The gorgeous, naked, winter trees show all their fine branches at the top of their canopies. The thick tangled arms and long skinny fingers of the oaks show the intricate architecture that nature generates for our wonder and amazement.



And going macro again, the mosses that cling to the northern facing tree trunks always call to me for investigation. These mosses are not yet fully grown and will continue to get longer during the rainy season. Then as moisture is lost they dry to nothing once again in the summer.


The lichens on this fallen branch were stunning. The multi-colored bodies of this symbiotic organism and delicate branching are most prominent in winter. The algae and fungus that form lichens rely upon on another for survival and in the process create texture and layers to feed the eye.


Then there was some metal to capture on film too. This is the old kind of steel and and an olde-time road grader.


Up close and personal, this photo exhibits some of the lichens growing on the rusted metal of a crank or wheel of some kind or another.


More obscene tractor photos showing a gear and the threads that it once turned an eternity ago.


OK. Now that I have bored most visitors with this strange assemblage of mushrooms and annoyed folks with the vague, small sized lichens and mosses, I will provide a parting shot of the littlest of the dirt bike riders. She is insatiable in her need for speed and can be seen wearing her helmet as soon as the word "dirt bike" is uttered by an adult. She will wear it for an hour if she thinks dirt bikes are in the future.

With smashed cheeks and a mushroom for a head, Ella the Fearless rode with the men folk and had a wonderful time.


She was forced to remove her helmet later on after much tears and screaming. But we had to convince her that eating with a face mask is rather difficult. She finally relented but not by her own will. Since she will be an official 3 year old in January, I think her will is getting stronger. But then again her Dad says she is just like her Mom, and I quote, "stubborn as a mule."

Happy New Year!!!!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

File this Under "I am a Dumb A**"

Do you know what this impression is? Don't choke or otherwise hurt yourself laughing at me.


I have been measuring. I have been cutting. I have been ironing. I have been sewing. I have been guilty of leaving the iron ON unattended in my kitchen.

I came back from sewing hems on Wyatt's project (my sewing machine is in my office in a separate building) and I smelled something funny in the house.

Yeah.

It's a perfect imprint of the iron on the linoleum tiles... Good thing I have an extra case of these tile beauties.

So which of my kids was responsible? I'll iron it out of them.

Disclaimer: No children were harmed in the iron mishap. Said IRON was sitting on the floor and was knocked over by someone (smallish child) sliding a chair across the kitchen. No toes or other body parts were burned as a result of this indecent.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Holiday Hub-Bub-i.e. Dragging Myself Though The Holiday Season

What's that? I can't hear you. Really, I can't hear. My left ear has been plugged for about five days now. Also, I love that when I bend over it feels as if my eyeballs might pop from their sockets and shoot across the floor like some errant marbles. Too graphic for you? Sorry.

Trundling along this month in a partial stupor due to the latest wonderful Kindergarten illness, I have been slowly conquering the tasks which December requires. This has not included attending this blog much. My apologies...

The shopping is not done for Christmas presents, but I made it to Costco for the power food trip.

We finally got a tree yesterday, but I have decided not to send out Christmas cards this year.

Here's my favorite ornament. I call it "The Disco Ball." I have a set of six. No, you can't have them. They are mine!! All MINE. Go find you own!!


And here's my second favorite from Gypsy Mare Studios.


About Sewing

I have sewn one of the kids projects, but one more is still needing to be attacked. This is the fabric for Wyatt's duvet cover. One side of his duvet has big squares and the other is a diagonal line pattern.


Ella's fabric waits patiently...


Ella on Me Being Sick

I am glad that Ella, who will be three in January, can survive while I lay in a torpor on the couch. Rest during the children's waking hours was not really possible until now. However, as I laid on the couch yesterday in that state of mind half way between sleep and awake, Ella had mini-fits because she could not get her train tracks working right. All I could muster was, "Just figure it out Belle..." Then she covered me in her little baby blankets and drove a small tractor lightly over my body.

My bed has been calling me at 9:00 in the evening and I have succumbed to slumber MUCH earlier than I am normally accustomed.

My Messy Son

This is what Wyatt does when he gets home from school. Regularly...



Good news:


I deleted 2,780 emails from my sent box. That was liberating.

Predictions

The state of my personal nation will allow me to keep up with a once a week posting schedule until the new year. After the holiday is over, I expect I will be back to visiting folks more regularly and hopefully feeling that creative writing sparkle again!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What the Heck Wednesday

I was sitting in LAX today, listening to a college-age girl talking loudly on her cell phone making fun of a lady working in the terminal who has a little bit of two tone hair. This arrogant post-teen spoke as if visible roots are the worst possible thing in the universe. No compassion, no manners. Then I had to listen to her talk about how so and so is a "douche bag" Yes, she was saying that in a public space with everyone around her… Sad state of college age people that all they can speak about is how wretched everyone is around them. Then she busily cracked her knuckles with impatience when her cell phone call was dropped. Thank goodness for small favors. No more senseless prattle. I was young once too, but I NEVER sounded like that. But now I am complaining...

So anyhow, I had time to write a post while waiting at the airport since my flight home had been delayed one hour and I really had no billable work. Here are my random thoughts that I should have reported earlier for Random Tuesday Thoughts, but was too lazy to get my post together in time.

On Traveling

I have been flying to LA rather frequently for work and as the plane descends, I take the time to gaze over the urban sprawl that is the Los Angeles basin. I can see tidy roads lined up facing east to west. They are framed by a backdrop of the steep San Gabriel Mountains to the east. From coast line to mountain there lays the hive that constitutes some form of humanity. While hard to justify and impossible to prevent, I no longer lament the fact that concrete covers large portions of the landscape.

This line of thought transports me back to almost three decades ago when I was about 10 years old and driving home from a hiking outing. Our trip brought us over the southern end of the San Francisco Bay and views to the west were of a fading pink and orange haze hugging the shoreline. Grey smudged teeth poked up through the pollution where the buildings occupied the landscape. The bay has been filled with earth to make room for more homes and human structures.

The damage was done well before I was even born. I never had a chance to see it before it was plundered and destroyed. All I felt was doom. What had we done to our land? The slow tears of sadness and disgust were impossible to hold back. Almost thirty years later and I have built immunity to it all. Just how does that happen?

My Truck

I will reveal this embarrassing fact: When driving my truck, which is a diesel, I will catch my self turning the stereo volume down, when in fact it is not even on. Then I realize that it’s my truck making all that noise. Somehow, subconsciously, I want to turn my engine noise down with the volume controller.

Starbucks

I am a snob, or rather an unchangeable old lady. At Starbucks I refuse to order drinks by their size names. I am not sorry to say I will not order a small by asking for a TALL.

And a medium drink is not a GRANDE, to me that would mean a large.

And extra large should be just that. Not Venti…

The Baristas try to trick me into saying their Starbucks names by asking, “Do you mean a Grande?” And I always say, “Yes, a medium, please.” It will always be small, medium and large for me.

I refuse to conform.

My Kids

I was shopping at the grocery store with both kids walking around me on their own recognizance when the cell phone rang. It was an important call, so I had to take it. Dangerous grounds with two loose children. And immediately my voice on the phone stimulated my kids to dive under the produce shelves. Seriously, they were crawling under the stands on their hands and knees, cackling in laughter the instant I said, “Hello.”

Note to kids: I will flail you next time you crawl on the floor of the grocery store!!!

Ella’s Lids



This pink and brown hat came from a swap I did with Sara at the Handy Hooker!!!

This hat is made by Doris at Crocheting in Georgia!

Thanks Ladies!!!

Someone I know is a bit spoiled in hats!

I am Cheating on You


I am aware that I have markedly reduced the number of posts per week on this blog. I have a reason.

I am cheating on my blog. Yes, I said it. I am cheating.

Two things have come between me and my blog. I am writing a children’s book and I am playing volleyball again two nights a week. And I have been trying to sew some stuff for Christmas. So that’s really three things interfering…

When I get the book in a presentable format it will be available here since I will have no qualms about pimping myself, for myself.

My return to the volleyball court after an 18 year hiatus was not without physical pain and debilitation. Be assured I have been served my punishment for neglecting my blog. I was hobbling with muscle pain for about two weeks. Now things have stabilized and I am having fun. I even got invited to play on a real team for old ladies. We’re going to play in tournaments this winter.

Sewing two pieces of fabric together is easy. Sewing two pieces of fabric together in a straight line is hard. Matching squares up to get even spacing on a grid is very hard… But my children will not notice. I hope.

I can’t distinguish between my car engine and the radio, my kids continue to be wild, willful beasts, and I am cheating on ya'll. So that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Our Favorite Books: Childrens Book Suggestions for Christmas Gifts

My kids are crazy about books. See...


In addition to the assemblage of Dr. Zeus books we have, there are many other authors who we own and love. As Christmas nears, may I be so bold as to suggest you buy a book for the kids on your list. I am summarizing a selection of stories below that will surely reap the reward of many readings and much enjoyment by the kids who are lucky enough to receive them. I can whole heartedly endorse these books with no other alternate motive than to share the beauty, the stories and the messages that these books provide.

Additionally, I did a book review last year with details of our favorite books from 2008, too. So, if none of the titles below look good to you check last years list for more good children's reads.

Side note: I also rediscovered the public LIBRARY in town and began a bi-monthly pilgrimage to check out new titles and renew those we really like. So if you don't buy any of these, at least try and get them at the library for reading.

So here goes. In no particular order I recommend these for gifts for your kids:

Mammoths on the Move by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Kurt Cyrus, is a story told in rhyming verse which explains the migration of woolly mammoths as they traveled from from the steppes of the arctic tundra to the northern prairies and grasslands below the glacier lines. The pictures are primarily in black and white and are stunningly designed for instant eye appeal to children. This is Ella's favorite.

Turtle Bay by Saviour Pirotta, illustrated by Nilesh Mistry, is the story of a boy and his friendship with a grandfather figure who is wise in the way of sea turtles. The biology of sea turtles is explained in a manner that kids understand and enjoy. The mystery of "when will the turtles arrive to their home beach" provides suspense and the drawings inside are superior. Fun book with introduction to marine biology for kids. Again another of Ella's top pics for story time.

Sailing Home: A Story of A Childhood at Sea by Gloria Rand, Ted Rand (Illustrator). Sailing home is based on the real life of a family that sailed a four mast bark around the world carrying cargo between distant lands. The story is told by a young daughter and explains what their daily life was like while sailing the ocean. Details of historical life that we can no longer imagine are given in this book in a kid friendly format. The black and white photos of the family in the end of this book also ad extra charm to the story.

Hotel Deep: Light Verse from Deep Water Poems and Paintings by Kurt Cyrus. This is one of my favorites for the amazing drawings and poetry. I love the way the verses of this book weave in and out of sea life. The drawings give a broad spectrum of accurately depicted undersea flora and fauna in rich color. There is humor, matter of fact talk about fish eating fish, fish talking about their defense, and underwater biology between the covers of this beautiful book.

Sparrow Girl written by Sara Pennypacker and illustrated by Yoko Taraka. Sparrow Girl is the story of how devastating human intervention can be to wildlife populations. In China, early Communist policy called for the extermination of all sparrows that might feed upon grain crops. The onslaught to the birds was highly successful and the Chinese were able to kill thousands upon thousands of birds in the country side. The following year famine occurred due to the bloom of locusts who wiped out the cereal crops. This book teaches a lesson in the importance of cause and effect. Kill all the birds and the bugs will take over....

The Sea, the Storm, and The Mangrove Tangle written by Lynne Cherry. This story gives a tour of the mangroves that lie off the shores of Florida and shows the detailed steps by which they form. First the seeds germinate in the water and grow. Then the mangroves gradually spread over decades and provide habitat for so many aquatic and pelagic species. Then a storm comes and beats the mangrove up a bit and the cycle begins again. Birth, the destruction and devastation, then renewal as life repeats it's self.

Nature's Paintbox: A Seasonal Gallery written by Patricia Thompson and illustrated by Craig Orback. Fabulous poetry in a story like manner is found in this book. Each season is described with detail to the specific feelings and character they embody. Each season has it's own stylistic painting interpretation. Winter is pen and ink for black and white, spring is water colors, summer is bright primary colors, and fall is oil paint. Well thought out, written and drawn with memorable verse.

Patty's Pumpkin Patch written and illustrated by Patty Sloat, is the story of the birth and succession of the pumpkin patch as tended by Patty. The alphabet is featured here and on every page a new letter is spotlighted with in the context of the seasonal growth of the pumpkin vines. The sprouting of the pumpkins, weeding of the fields, the animals that move through the patch and the end product are all detailed in vivid drawings. Great visual for letters and word association.

So that's all! I hope you can find one of these books for a child you love!!