My life has a superb cast but I can't figure out the plot.
~ Ashleigh Brilliant


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

ABC Wednesday: Birds, Barns, Bling!


For this week's ABC Wednesday, I bring you a swarm of Bs!

From Beautiful Birds...

I looked out the window one morning last weekend and beheld a huge flock of birds in our two backyard juniper trees, breakfasting on juniper berries. They were so busy inside the dense evergreens, bouncing from branch to branch, that it took me a bit to identify them. They were Cedar Waxwings and Bohemian Waxwings - the first I ever recall seeing!

They were very bashful, taking flight (and refusing to return) whenever I stepped outside to photograph them. So I took these through the kitchen windows, and was pleasantly surprised by the results...


Cedar Waxwing on a juniper branch

Bohemian Waxwing

An unintended action shot as a Cedar Waxwing barged in
on the bigger Bohemian Waxwing I was photographing!

A beautiful Bohemian Waxwing

A large flock of robins had also appeared, and were gobbling up the berries that were falling at the base of the trees. (We never saw robins back in Big Horn until March!)

This robin reminds me of Michael Smith's brilliant photo,

One robin in particular amused me with his unique, bustling style of berry-hunting among the dead leaves...



To Bodacious Barns...

A beautiful barn on Beaver Creek Road
benefits from its Big Horn Mountains backdrop

An historic barn, no doubt bewildered by its new surroundings:
a golf course, businesses, and new housing developments.

And lastly, some Birthday Bling!...

A closeup of a bit of my very blingy birthday gift,
bestowed by my blogging bud Barbara in Old Blighty,
back on the "big day" earlier this month.
Know what it is? Leave your best guess in a comment,
the answer will be revealed in this very spot tomorrow!
(Barbara and AdventureJo, already knowing the answer,
must recuse themselves from the guessing game!) ;-)

And here's the answer...

How do you like my "special effects?" :-)

Bravo, Rose, you guessed correctly! Barbara's blingy birthday bestowal is indeed a pen, beautifully bedecked with blossoms, beads and jingle bells, no less! :-) She's not sure if it's from India, but she said the shop where she bought it carries a lot of fair trade items, so it very well could be.

Now be a good do-bee and go behold more Bs at...


Monday, January 23, 2012

Here There Be Dragons!



Happy Chinese New Year, and welcome to the year of the Black Water Dragon! (The Year of the Dragon doesn't actually begin for 12 days, on Feb 4, but since most folks mark the start of the new animal zodiac today, I don't want to feel left out!)

Dragons in Chinese lore represent power from heaven. A dragon year is ambitious (often overly so), daring, and unpredictable (but aren't they all?), a year when successes and failures are magnified, though the water element that goes with this cycle's Dragon year will soften things, making it a more empathetic and compassionate year.


I got up very early yesterday to start working on this post. When BW - who was not consciously aware we were about to begin the Year of the Dragon, and like me had no idea it was specifically the year of the Black Water Dragon - got up and joined me, I told him what I was working on. He gaped at me (like a gaping thing, as my friend Barbara would say!) and then told me about the dream he'd had that night...

In the dream, BW was standing on the bowsprit of a large (perhaps 60 foot) sailboat that was slowly motoring rather than sailing down a narrow, gently winding river overhung with a canopy of huge trees on either bank. There was a handful of other unidentified people on the boat with BW. As the boat came around a bend, BW saw a huge black salamander, twice as long as an alligator, swim past the boat, going in the opposite direction, just below where BW was standing. The captain at the helm called out, "Water dragon!" and the dream ended.

Hmmm.... :-)


I thought that in honor of this new lunar year, I'd share a favorite book with you: Dragonology!



I originally bought this book in 2003 for AdventureJo's daughter Melissa for Christmas. But when it arrived, I had a very hard time parting with it and ended up buying one for myself a few months later. Want to take a peek inside?

As you can see, the illustrations are beautiful...

(I chose this colorful page to photograph at random,
noticing later that the dragon on the right is a Chinese lung,
which swims rather than flies
and is associated with all types of water!)

... and it's filled with wonderful specimens any dedicated Dragonologist might find in his or her pursuit and study of this mystical creature. Like shed dragon skin....


...and dragon glitter (often found on the walls of their lairs)...


We learn about the lifecycles of dragons (European dragons live an estimated 300 years, but no one knows how long Chinese dragons live!), about their nests (they needn't be soft, but do have to be warm), and such handy tips as:

1. Do not release young dragons into the sewer systems of large cities (or, I would think, cities of any size!)
2. Don't leave children and hungry dragons alone
3. Dragons are innate hoarders, so hide all shiny or valuable objects!


The dragon's eye, which can see across many parts of the light spectrum and spot a valuable gem from 6000 feet (not unlike most women, lol), will always reflect the image of a true Dragonmaster. Look closely and you can see a little of my photo-taking self reflected in this one's eye! ;-)

I was born to catch dragons in their dens
And pick flowers
To tell tales and laugh away the morning
To drift and dream like a lazy stream
And walk barefoot across sunshine days.
~James Kavanaugh

BW's day began with promise, when he was offered the day off. So we'll be celebrating with our favorite vegan dishes from our favorite local Chinese restaurant! How will you be inviting dragon magic into your day?


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

ABC Wednesday: A is for Architecture


In celebration of the first week of a new round of ABC Wednesday, here are some lovely Architectural details on a few historic homes and buildings here in Sheridan that I photographed recently...

Now an attorney's office, this was originally one of Sheridan's first banks, built in 1894. You can still make out the faded (or was there a feeble attempt to erase it?) lettering on top that says Bank of Commerce...


A closeup of some of the old bank building's Beaux Arts details...


Regular readers of my blog may recall my referring to Trail End (aka Kendrick Mansion), just a short and lovely hike up the hill from our cottage, in past posts. Constructed during the years 1908-1913, the exterior was built in the Flemish Revival style with Neoclassical details. Threatened in 1968 with being torn down to make space for condominiums (!!!), it was rescued by the Sheridan County Historical Society with donations and loans. Now an authentically furnished and decorated museum on four beautiful acres, all under the care of the Wyoming Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources, here's the front of the grand dame in all her glory...

Click here for more history and photos of the home & grounds

And here are some of her architectural details, set off against a perfect January sky...


I'm sure a block of circa 1968 condos would have been a thing of beauty too (<-- withering sarcasm), but notice, just for instance, how the top of the downspout was made to match the dental molding just above it...


One of Kendrick Mansion's Neoclassical details, the scrolled capital of an Ionic column...


I've always admired this unusual dormer on one of Sheridan's stately homes on historic "Residence Hill"...

(Click here to see the rest of the house)

The lovely Victorian details on another stately old Sheridan home, this one built in 1895 on over an acre by the creek just a few blocks from downtown...

This home happens to currently be on the market,
so you can see more photos of it, inside and out, here!

And be sure to visit ABC Wednesday,
to Applaud Another Auspicious Alternation of ABCs! :-)


Friday, January 13, 2012

Come on in! (Part 2)


Well, once again it's taken me longer than I anticipated ~ these "open houses" are a lot of work! :-) But I'm finally ready to resume and conclude our tour of Dragonfly Cottage (with a few decor side-trips), starting with the tall and wide - but boring - hallway. :-) The master bedroom is to our back, the kitchen entrance and half bath (behind the closed door and too small to photograph effectively) are on the right, and the main bath and the linen/laundry closet is to our left. That's the tiny second bedroom at the end of the hall, which we're using as an office (as always, click on the photos for larger versions)...


I'm not sure if other people use kites as window treatments, but it works for me! It's very pretty when the southern sun shines through my butterfly kite. (Besides, I had nowhere else to store it!) The bookcase is our most recent, and final, furniture purchase, and I consider it my other birthday gift from BW since I have always wanted a bookcase I can take with me (not a built-in I have to leave behind someday!) This one is made of mango wood, and matches the new desk we bought last fall...

(Iain & Sophie - if you click on this photo,
you'll be able to see your wedding photo!) :-)

Here's decor side trip #1: if you clicked on the photo, you may have noticed the tea party scene in the display case on the bottom shelf. That is my favorite scene from one of my favorite books, so when I was in college my mother commissioned it from a pair of local Maine artists who created scenes on driftwood using carved wood figures covered in dyed corn husks, had my dad build the case for it, and they gave it to me as a Christmas gift...

(Notice the set of books displayed beside it?)

This next photo, taken just inside the office door, isn't very interesting but I'm including it as a teaser because on the dresser (one of my first furniture purchases when I was a brand new grown up in my first apartment) is another of my mother's miniature scenes: a one-room schoolhouse decorated for Halloween. She just sent it home with me during my last visit in November, and I plan to feature it in its own post next October. So you'll just have to wait till then to see closeups of all the goodies ~ neener, neener! ;-)


And here's where all my blogging action (such as it is, lol) takes place ~ at my beloved iMac on the mango desk that matches the bookcase...

(See anything familiar on the desk, Rose?) ;-)

The east-facing transom window above the desk, which frames some beautiful sun and moon rises...


Okay, I know most of you are just acting politely interested while it's the kitchen you're most curious to see (it's always kitchens for me too!) So here's our kitchen as you enter from the hallway...


See the illuminated grapes in the basket atop the refrigerator? I ordered them as a housewarming gift to myself shortly after we moved in (not knowing or caring if rentals warrant housewarming gifts to oneself!), with the intention of putting them in that big empty space above the windows. But they looked awkward there, in part because the grape bunches hang 9" below the vine ~ and the vine had just one lone grape leaf on it! So we used it and some artificial grapevines I already had to decorate the basket, and it's now up to that lone wooden folk-art chicken to do his best to liven up the big space above the windows. :-)


The 5-burner Wolf gas range may be our favorite feature in this house. We really love cooking on gas...


Here's a closeup of the stained glass chicken light in the corner. A holdover from the days when our kitchen and dining room were decorated entirely in chickens (an amusing but long story), I've had it so long I can't even remember when or where I got it. But it always gets pride of place in our kitchen, despite our switch a few years ago to a Tuscan-themed decor...


Where the cookbook shelves are (with the living room just beyond) is where the original chimney used to be. Well, it's still there, just not in use and now sheetrocked over with the shelves added. I love the shelves, but wish they'd left the old exposed brick! (I love old exposed brick in a house, especially in a kitchen!) That double oven is the one whose timer tried to trick me into burning my mishap muffins, and to the right of it is an under-counter roll-out island that BW likes to use when he makes bread and pizza dough...


Backing up a bit we find ourselves in the dining area, too small for a regular dining set so we bought this fun pub table. Both the bedroom/office and this dining area are part of a new addition, so neither has the 9' ceilings of the rest of the house...


Here's a closeup of the plaque between the dining area and kitchen...

"Live well, love often, laugh a lot"

This piece of cherry furniture, which I designed and had custom made many years ago to hold all our stereo equipment and CDs, has been repurposed since we got rid of all our stereo equipment during our downsizing. Here it comes in very handy for storing kitchen gadgets like food processors, waffle iron and popcorn popper, and makes a nice display area since it's the first thing you see when you walk in the back door. I fell in love with the old mirror on the wall to the right during our first visit to Red Lodge, MT in the early 90's but talked myself out of buying it, then had the opposite of buyer's remorse when we got back home. So I called the store and had them ship it, kicking myself black and blue for the additional expense but never regretting for a moment that I went ahead and bought it...


Preferring how I had the erstwhile stereo cabinet decorated for Autumn (and for Christmas, too, but failing to photograph it then - how did that happen?), I'm including this photo. I intended to continue displaying the pheasant painting (done by my mother on a piece of slate that fell off a neighbor's roof in a storm), but can't for the life of me find it since putting it away when I decorated for Christmas! (I'm certain this has more to do with living in a tiny space requiring creative storage uses than with advancing age!)...


And here's the dining area with the kitchen to our backs. To the right of the pub table is one of my least favorite features of this house, the trap door to the tiny cellar (which used to be the house's coal storage room, back in the day). Very heavy and awkward to raise and lower, it inconveniently requires two people to open it, and going down the narrow wooden steps with that heavy beast propped up against the wall above your head can be nerve-wracking. So we only store stuff down there that we need access to no more than once a month, since BW has to go down there that often to change the furnace filter...


The back door leads to a covered deck where the dogs often like to sit on hot days, and this is where our tour concludes! Thank you so much for coming to visit! Willow and Josie are already waiting by the back gate in eager anticipation of your return! :-)


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Return of the Prodigal Goat!



Remember my ABC Wednesday's "G Week" post back in August that featured this photo and caption?

A display window in a store two doors down from our hotel
in wonderful Old Town Ft Collins, CO this June.
That empty chair had held the smallest of the three Goats,
and Gosh he was cute, instantly winning my Capricorn heart.
But he sold before I could even Grab a photo of him!
So G is also for Glum, Grumbling and Greatly disappointed.
(How could someone be so Graspingly Greedy?
Gads, the nerve of some people, Glomming the Goodies I like!)
;-)

Well, turns out the graspingly greedy goat-glommer was none other than BW, who ran out and bought him while I showered one morning and successfully hid him on the drive back, in our previous house, during our move and in tiny Dragonfly Cottage until giving him to me for my 50th (yikes!) birthday today!


(And BW definitely scored bonus points when he said the goat is a kid, just like me. Awwww!)

So here's the little goat making his appearance on this blog at last, in his new digs on the window seat display shelf. ;-)


BW's heroic effort to sneak off and buy him, his impressive skill at hiding him, and his amazing ability to refrain from giving him to me before today (because he thought a Capricorn should get a goat for her birthday, not for her anniversary or Christmas), make him Super Birthday Man!
(Look, his cape even has his initial on it! LOL)

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SOME CURRENT & RECENT READING...

SOME CURRENT & RECENT READING...

  • INFERNO ~ Dan Brown
  • MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD & EVIL ~ John Berendt
  • MY NOTORIOUS LIFE: A NOVEL ~ Kate Manning
  • ONE SUMMER: AMERICA, 1927 ~ Bill Bryson
  • QUIET: THE POWER OF INTROVERTS IN A WORLD THAT CAN'T STOP TALKING ~ Susan Cain
  • THE BEAUTIFUL CIGAR GIRL ~ Daniel Stashower
  • THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY ~ Erik Larson
  • THE SHADOWS, KITH AND KIN ~ Joe R. Lansdale
  • THE TIPPING POINT ~ Malcolm Gladwell
There is still strong in our society the belief
that animals and the natural world have value
only insofar as they can be converted into revenue.
That nature is a commodity.
And that the American dream is one of unlimited consumption.
There are many of us, on the other hand,
who believe that animals and the natural world
have value by virtue of being alive.
That Nature is a community to which we belong
and to which we owe our lives.
And that the deeper American dream is one of unlimited compassion.

~John Robbins, "The Food Revolution"