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

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A very "grave" post

I've had plans brewing for this year's Halloween post since last year. Alas, my old computer gave up the ghost last month and I lost all my bookmarks (where the goodies I'd intended to share were stashed). I remembered and was able to find a few of them, but the rest are lost to the mists of time and my foggy memory. I spent so much time trying to remember and find my lost web sites, as well as scout out a few new ones, I didn't have as much time as I'd like to compose this post. So I fear it might not be

but it's the best I can do for now! :-)

If you've been following my blog for more than a few weeks, you know I love exploring cemeteries and have since I was a little kid (and this should come as no surprise since my blog's name was inspired by a tombstone!) I find cemeteries peaceful, lovely and contemplative places, not depressing nor frightening ~ despite the eerie graphic I chose for the top of this post. :-) I especially love exploring historic cemeteries, and ones with beautiful sculptures.

In other words, I love cemeteries, history, sculpture... and, of course, photography. If you enjoy any or all of these too, you might enjoy joining me in a little online cemetery exploration on this eve of All Hallows' Eve. :-)


Stunning photos, mostly of New England cemeteries

Haunting photos of cemetery art from around the world
(Olansky Cemetery in Prague is my favorite so far.)

"Celebrating the beauty of cemetery art since 2006"
Beautiful photos of North American Cemeteries
as well as a collection of epitaphs and reflections on death.
And don't miss their slideshows set to ethereal music!

I visited this one, but before the days of digital cameras.
Amazing sculptures by talented Italian stone carvers
memorialize the departed in interesting ways.

The photos are small, but there are far more of them.

This web site's name says it all.


I wish I could post the video here but their web site changed.
Scroll to the bottom of the film list, just before the comments,
and click on the image to watch this achingly beautiful video.


The author, Pythia Peay, is definitely a kindred spirit!


So cemeteries can be places of peace, beauty and inspiration, but who says they can't also be amusing?

I found this on many web sites and though it made me chuckle,
I wasn't going to include it till BW practically insisted.
(It's a guy thing, I figure.) ;-)

These folks were Austrian. I'm sure that's a lovely name there,
but it's pretty bloody unfortunate once you get over here!

Here's a chipper greeting from beyond the veil...

For an even more amusing take on this,

I hope you did, too! :-)

Have a Happy Halloween!

And remember, don't eat too many goodies
or drink too much pumpkin ale! ;-)

P.S. For some spirited Halloween entertainment, visit my post from last year with its links to some wicked fun Halloween web sites!

P.P.S. I took the photo of the TOOGOOD headstone in the UMWA cemetery near tiny Klein, MT on my way home from Mom's in August. I just loved the name. I mean, how could you ever be naughty or grow up with self-esteem issues if that's your last name? :-)

P.P.P.S. As much as I love visiting cemeteries, I have no intention of spending eternity in one. My plan is to be cremated and have my ashes scattered ("scattered in death, as she was in life," they can say about me afterward, *snork*), to feed and become part of the soil and plants. I believe in living green and think dying is no excuse to quit! :-) And apparently this Aussie chap thought so too...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Crazy-Dog Plant

What, you've never heard of a Crazy-Dog plant? Yeah well, me neither. Last thing I knew, this whisky barrel had Portulaca planted in it! So where did this fuzzy flower come from?

A circa 2008 photo found on my old camera during an organizing frenzy last week

One early spring a couple of years ago, Josie went through a sudden, inexplicable and funny-as-hell phase of climbing into the barrel early in the mornings to perform her own unique Sunrise Salutation. This phase lasted about 2 weeks, and while it had her in its thrall there was just no keeping her out of the whisky barrel, which had been there forever and had never before interested her in the least.

The barrel and the fence behind it are no longer there, as they were both decrepit eyesores that we removed a summer or two ago. Now I plant my Portulaca in the big round hole in the concrete base where the whisky barrel used to be, and Josie was faced with the challenge of finding new quirky behaviors to amuse us with. (But given that all three of our crazy girls devote large chunks of their days to thinking up new ways to be entertaining, that hasn't been a problem!) :-)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Tall mom's tiny world

My mom, who is six feet tall, has always lived in a miniature world in her imagination. Her favorite book as a child was Twig, about a little girl who created a magical wee world in her backyard that she herself became small enough to inhabit. Mom also collected dollhouse furniture as a child, and that hobby continued and evolved into her adulthood. So I grew up surrounded by smaller worlds within my world - an amazing general store, a one-room schoolhouse decorated for Halloween, a Santa's workshop, a huge bookcase of dollhouse rooms, an ice cream parlor, and this antique secretary desk whose bookcase mom turned into a Victorian dollhouse...

It even appears to have a full unfinished basement. ;-)

Most of her miniatures are stored away (though I have the Santa's Workshop, which she gave me for Christmas when I was 12) or on loan to the town library, but she always has this one on display in her living room, so I took photos of it during my recent visit.

Would you like a tour? Then step into the parlor...

(As always, click on the photos to see larger versions)

Everything is scaled 1" to 1', with the exception of the Springer Spaniel by the fireplace (Mom grew up with black and white Springers named Judy and Pookie, so miniature versions of them usually found their way into her dollhouses. This one wasn't to scale, but she was willing to fudge in this instance). :-)

The rug is a tiny, tiny petit point (as is the picture in the wooden screen to the left of the fireplace). Can you imagine the patience it took someone to make that? Can you imagine the eyesight it took to make that?

And the organ, though it doesn't play, does have moving pedals and knob thingies (clearly, I'm not an organist!)

(If you'd like to listen to a little period organ music as you explore the rest of the house, open this page in a new tab and turn your speakers on).

While Mom did make some of her dollhouse furniture, most of it is in her general store (including an old timey post office that takes up one corner, which she made using just an X-Acto knife and glue!) All of the Victorian furniture here she bought from miniature dealers.

Note the carved ball & claw feet (and casters),
another example of tiny petit point,
and the wee photo album and stereoscope.

The dining room...

Mom bought a full-size china cabinet like the one on the right
for $30 at the Trenton, NJ Goodwill in the mid 1960s.
It was gnarly, but she refinished it and, naturally,
displays dolls in it! :-)

Yet another painstaking petit point rug!

The daughter's bedroom...

Mom always liked to make up stories about the people who "lived in" the houses. According to her, the daughter is engaged to a young man who is away at some unnamed war, yet who was thoughtful enough to remember (and amazing enough to be able) to send her the roses on the bed. ;-) In case you're wondering, that's his framed photo on her nightstand...

My favorite touches in this room are the quilt on the bed
(Jo and Daphne, take note!) & the dog sleeping by the stove.

The rocking chair is "caned" with thread.
And I see our dear girl left her socks on the floor,
(something this daughter was never permitted to do!)
Note the chamber pot between the bed and the footstool.
Mom thought of everything! ;-)

The sewing room...

Probably not a room I'd have thought to include! ;-)
I'd have gone with a kitchen! (Or a woodworking shop. lol)

I hope you enjoyed your visit to the Miniature World of Mom, where men send roses from battlefronts to young ladies who leave their socks on the floor and their chamber pots out in full view. It's a magical world indeed! ;-)


P.S. If you enjoyed Mom's dollhouse, check out Colleen Moore's Fairy Castle! Mom had a coffee-table book about it from which she drew a lot of inspiration. ;-) It's truly unique, and with the notably unfortunate exception of the ghastly "polar bear" rug in the Prince's bedroom, the castle and its treasures are really impressive.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Big Sky Country

Willow and I drove up to Havre, Montana in August to visit my mom for a few days. (Well, I actually did most of the driving, Willow just looked out the window and napped). ;-) So here are a few photos from our little sojourn in "Big Sky Country"...

Mom's house and rock gardens

She has a very green thumb!
Her beautiful rock gardens contain a huge variety of plants,
from snapdragons and petunias to portulaca and Moon flowers.

Her fun rock garden fountain

Her yard and gardens always have lots of dragonflies too. I took this photo of this beautiful red one in her rock garden three years ago. (It also appears on this post from my '07 visit, but think it's pretty enough to share again)...

We spent part of a beautiful day at Beaver Creek Park near Havre. A narrow strip about a mile wide and 17 miles long encompassing 10,000 acres, it's one of the largest county parks in the US. And running as it does along the northern slopes of the Bear Paw Mountains, it's got to be one of the prettiest too...

Mom and Willow enjoy a little walkabout by Bear Paw Lake

Cattails along Bear Paw Lake...

The big mountain in the distance is known as "Old Baldy."
Mom has a view of it from her living room window.

Some pretty hayfields across from the lake...

We hiked up a good portion of the 3.5 mile Bear Paw Nature Trail, which has 20 interpretive panels that share information about the archeology, history, and wildlife of the park.

Some lovely wildflowers along the trail...

During our hike, we met a family from neighboring Rocky Boy's out picking Juneberries (better known to BW and me as serviceberries) to make pies. We helped them with their berry-picking for a while, though frankly for every berry I put in their cans, easily five went into my mouth! (This is a seriously yummy fruit!)

A bit further down the trail, we came upon these berries, which were soft and velvety and such an unusual color. I picked a small branch and took them back to our new Native American acquaintances and asked if they knew what they were. Their reply was, "Don't eat them! They're poisonous!" After I assured them I wouldn't chow down on an unknown berry (they probably were alarmed after watching how I plowed through the Juneberries!), they said they didn't know the official name, but they'd always called them Snake Berries. They sure were pretty... like little apricots!

I was able to reciprocate with a bit of my flora knowledge
when they asked if we knew the name of a wildflower
their son had picked by the armful.
Sure did - it was wild bergamot, one of my favorites! :-)

And before we leave Beaver Creek Park, here's one last view from the trail...

It's such a beautiful and peaceful place!

We'll be returning to Mom's in my next post, to visit a "house within a house." I think you'll really enjoy it!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


My friend Rose was given this lovely Versatile Blogger award, and she was sweet to include me in her list of bloggers she passed it on to...

I love the award as well as the assignment that went along with it: list seven obscure facts about yourself, then pass the award on. (Check out Rose's obscure facts list!)

Here's my list, although some of these facts aren't at all obscure to some of you!...

1. This is a good one for a post near Halloween: I came back from the dead! Mmmwwwahahaha. :-) When I was several months old I suddenly went into convulsions while my mother was feeding me (shows what I thought about being fed a cow's milk!) At the hospital my temperature reached 106º and I lost all vital signs. My mother, who can be prone to exaggeration for dramatic effect, says I was officially pronounced dead. But obviously I was revived as my being here to blog about it would suggest! ;-) I never had another seizure and there was no explanation found for that one, but Mom's always suspected it had something to do with the smallpox vaccination that I'd gotten two weeks earlier. Ironically, we'd just gotten home from the doctor's office to have my vaccination site checked when the convulsions hit. (And going to doctors still gives me fits!)

2. I once danced a brief, impromptu tango with Jeff Goldblum in the alley of an L.A. studio.

Yarite, that's us and that's the alley. LOL

3. The farthest north I've been is Goose Bay, Labrador (at 53º North), the farthest south is Nosara, Costa Rica (9º North). I'm no dummy, I spent 3 weeks in Costa Rica, only a few hours in Labrador!

4. Those of you who have read my Needle-Toothed Beast post from January already know this, but I took Industrial Arts instead of Home Economics in the 7th grade, the first girl in Virginia to do something so outrageous. :-) Among my shop class projects were these mahogany and pine salt & pepper shakers, a Christmas gift to my grandparents that year. My mom has them now, and I photographed them during a visit in August (a visit I'll blog about soon)...

5. I didn't get my driver's license till I was 21, barely in time to put an AARP sticker on my car! ;-) But at least I passed my driver's test on the first try!

6. I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1994. After two bad experiences, I just say no to drugs. Though it was what started me on the road to becoming vegan (which definitely makes it a blessing in disguise), MS isn't the reason I'm vegan. It is, however, the main reason I'm a McDougalling vegan.

7. On a lighter note, at least I'm immune to poison ivy (a handy trait I inherited from my paternal grandmother!)

Though the blogs that make me happy are produced by bloggers who are very versatile with their topics, art, photos and writing, I agree with Rose that passing along these awards is a perfect way to highlight and share fun blogging finds with others. So the Versatile Blogger award goes to... three fresh faces!

1. Notes from the Vegan Feast Kitchen/21st Century Table - as its name suggests, it's all about the food, but a vegan chef like Bryanna Clark-Grogan is nothing if not versatile! Creative and talented, too! (Her website is full of resources from tips on how - and why - to become vegan, to food and cooking pointers, recipes, book reviews, nutritional info, recommendations and lots more!)

2. What do I Know? - Kathy is an ex-pat American living with her family in England, and her posts cover all kinds of topics. I particularly enjoy her photos, especially of her jaunts around the UK and Europe. She also takes wonderful photos of critters.

3. Folkways Notebook - a very recent find with a variety of interesting, informative posts and some wonderful photos.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Happy 101 Award

I'm very tardy with this particular post due to my mad desire to finish my vacation posts, as well as a series of unfortunate events beyond my control. So, without further delay, here's my very first blog award, generously presented to me by my wonderful blogging buddy Rose...

Accompanying this award is the suggestion to share a list of ten things that make me happy. Ironic and challenging, given all the unhappy things that have been happening to us lately, but a really good exercise that came along with perfect timing. (In fact, much as I struggled to come up with 10 things at first, by the end the struggle was with limiting myself to 10 things!)

So in utterly random order, here's my list...

1. Critters - whether wild or tame; furred, feathered, finned or scaly; family, friends, or those I've never met. Of course my precious furbabies, with whom I spend the majority of my time and with whom I have the closest bond, make me happiest of all. (By the way, though not officially a furbaby, BW counts as a critter too! So, for that matter, do each of you!) :-)

2. Natural Beauty - just frinstance; wildflowers, rainbows, trees, starry skies, sunshine, birdsong, fluffy, sparkly diamond snow, sunrises and sunsets, interesting clouds, rain, mountains, lakes and streams and waterfalls and ocean surf, Autumn colors...

3. Being vegan - we celebrated our 10th vegan anniversary in August. Though awareness of the tremendous suffering that billions of land and sea animals endure every minute of every day the world over is very painful, becoming vegan is the best thing we ever did and we are forever grateful for gaining the knowledge we needed to adopt this way of life. Becoming vegan was easy for us, and being vegan definitely adds great joy and deep meaning to our lives. It's also introduced us to some awesome people and fantastic food!

4. Others being and becoming vegan - Bonus happy points if I've helped someone with their transition to the vegan lifestyle, since others helped me with mine!

5. Good books - I remember being read to by my maternal grandparents when I was very little (The Wind in the Willows was my favorite, and my copy illustrated by Tasha Tudor is still a prized possession as well as a favorite book), and read my first book all by myself when I was four (Here, Kitty - which I also still have). I love all sorts of books, and though it's the stories, learning and/or entertainment I mostly enjoy, just holding a book in my hands and soaking in the words while my imagination provides the pictures makes me happy too. (Books on tape are great, but give me a book to hold and read any day!) I particularly enjoy reading while sitting in warm sunshine, or curled up on a blustery, rainy or snowy day with a mug of herbal tea. :-)

6. Synchronicity - You know, those magical "coincidences" that show up from time to time (or maybe all the time, if we're paying close enough attention!) To me, they've always represented a clear message from the Universe (which is good, because I often have to be hit over the head repeatedly before something becomes clear, which hurts!) I used to experience synchronicity often, but it's been elusive in recent times and I'd love for it to return. It makes me feel less alone, for one thing... (By the way, peace & quiet and simplicity vied for this spot in my list, though frankly, the whole trifecta makes me happy!)

7. Seasons - I don't think I could live where the weather is basically the same all the time. A friend used to crack me up with the story of her mom - who was from New Jersey and loved to do crafts - throwing open the drapes of their Hawaii home every morning of the four years they lived there and greeting the relentless morning sunshine with a heavy sign and the disgusted lament, "Well, looks like another shitty day in Paradise!" She wanted occasional wind, cold, rain, snow... anything but balmy sunshine every day! I am the same. I love the sunshine, but I also love the different seasons and the transitions between them.

8. A clean house - not the cleaning part necessarily, just the having a clean house part. ;-) Oh, on cozy days I don't mind cleaning so much... I play some fun, lively music - there's another thing that makes me happy - and when I'm done, I light candles and my little lamps and fairy lights and switch to restful music, and feel such a sense of accomplishment and comfort! And then I usually bake muffins. :-)

9. Travel - I love exploring new places (and revisiting old ones). There is little more inspiring, refreshing and invigorating to me than a change in scenery and routine. Rather like #8, most of the time it's the being there, not the getting there, that I enjoy, especially when it comes to air travel! I usually do enjoy a road trip, and though I've not done it for years I always loved riding trains. But when it comes to flying the "friendly" skies, I'd rather just flip my I Dream of Jeannie ponytail and be at my destination. (Only I don't have an I Dream of Jeannie ponytail, and if I did you can bet it would be on this list!)

10. And last but not least... your fun, friendly, interesting, inquisitive, informative, observant, witty, funny, and of course complimentary blog comments! :-)

Passing this award on to 10 of the blogs that make me happy is also part of the Happy 101 Award tradition. So I hereby present it to the following blogs, in no particular order and whether or not they've gotten it before, because it's a nice way to acknowledge some of the many blogs I enjoy and give you a chance to become acquainted with them as well (if you aren't already). What you ten happiness-spreading bloggers do or don't do with this award is entirely up to you. I just wanted you to know that I think you and your blog deserve it! (And passing it along also makes me happy!) :-)

1. Dandelion - what do you get when you mix a sense of fun and curiosity, gentle wisdom, adorable critters, beautiful flowers, scrumptious food and glorious photos? Rose's beautiful blog Dandelion, one of my favorite places to spend time!

2. It's a Vegan Dog's Life - Molly's recipes for healthy dog treats are my girls' favorite feature, her fantastic photos of her adorable furry girls (two dogs, Emma and Rowan, and two cats, Crystal and Sophie) are mine, but her product and merchant reviews, critter-care advice, travel adventures and more make It's a Vegan Dog's Life a great blog to visit often! (Your dog or cat will book mark it if you don't!) ;-)

3. Gilding Lilies - with brief posts of simple yet exquisite beauty, Jennifer's blog is unique, creative and restful. Even if you only have a moment, this is a beautiful place to spend it!

5. Static8 Journal - rift's blog is a cornucopia of books, crafts, thoughts, gardening, philosophy, critters... I enjoy its random riffs (haha, an almost-pun!) on a variety of topics. And it was rift who got me blogging, by urging me to participate in the 2007 Blogathon! (What a way to get your feet wet! LOL)

5. Happy No Ears - a new-ish blog of an "old" friend, Sue has become an amazing photographer, and her blog is full of wonderful daily photos, most featuring the beautiful coast of Maine where she lives.

6. Vegan Backpacker - great food-related travel tips for vegans, great vicarious travel blog for everyone! Featuring plenty of her own far-flung adventures as well as those of fellow vegan world-travelers. (Not only are we vegans everywhere, we get around! And we know all the good, affordable places to eat, thanks to blogs like Vegan Backpacker!)

7. FatFree Vegan Kitchen - as fat-free vegans ourselves, this is my go-to recipe site! I've barely scratched the surface of her vast volume of vegan recipes (and she shares lots of vegan cooking and baking tips), but I'm working on it! So far, everything of Susan's we've made has been a hit. She's amazingly gifted and generous.

8. among the trees... a very recent find via Rose, I've really been enjoying looking at Lucy's photos from the enchanted north of Scotland where she and her family live.

9. My Milk Toof - the adorable adventures (and misadventures) of Lardee & ickle. This is one of the cutest and most creative blogs I've ever seen. But don't just listen to me - nearly 4,500 followers can't be wrong!

10. Bizarro - I agree with his philosophies (which he sometimes shares) and really enjoy his sense of humor (which he always shares!) A fun glimpse into the crazy world of a talented cartoonist.

Honorable Mention: Gaia's Vegan Blog - I just found this one, which is fairly new, but what a treat! Gaia and her husband run a beautiful vegan B&B in Provence, France. It is, as you might imagine, a lovely as well as thoughtful blog (and the B&B web site is gorgeous too!)

This would have completed this post, except that the ever-generous Rose just bestowed another award upon me and it's accompanied by a very fun assignment... so guess what's coming up next? ;-)


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  • THE HUMANE GARDENER ~ Nancy Lawson
  • THE WORLD WITHOUT US ~ Alan Weisman

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"

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