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

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

ABC Wednesday: Petite Pupils & Pumpkin Hummus

Before launching into the lighthearted part of this post, composed last week, I'd like to begin by saying our thoughts, prayers, sympathy and concern are with everyone who endured and is now dealing with the daunting aftermath of Sandy. The scenes of loss and devastation on television and the internet are painful and incomprehensible, not just in the US but in the Caribbean as well; I can't begin to imagine experiencing it in person. May everyone affected, human and non-human, find comfort, strength, support and healing in the weeks to come.

Here are some ways to help the people and critters suffering in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. And here are some ways to help heal the earth and reduce global warming.

However much concerned I was
at the problem of misery in the world,
I never let myself get lost in broodings over it.
I always held firmly to the thought that each one of us
can do a little to bring some portion of it to an end.
Dr. Albert Schweitzer



And happy ABC Wednesday! How perfect that it falls during P week, as I predict a probable plethora of pumpkin posts from participants, and mine is no peculiar exception. Although perhaps the pumpkins here are particularly petite ~ in keeping with the pint-sized pupils and surroundings... 

A pupil, possibly named Paul, passes up playing with his pals 
to carve a perky jack o'lantern for the Halloween party :-)

~Click on any photo to enlarge~

... because my pumpkins are placed in a miniature one-room schoolhouse, produced more than 30 years ago by my mom and presented to me last year because I always preferred it (and periodically pestered her for it!)...

The perceptive will perceive that the publications to the left
are eerie, predictably including the petrifying prose of Poe!

Note the barrel of apples in preparation for bobbing,
and the black cat posing by the pot-bellied stove.
(Mom and I made the peewee paper chains!)

Let's peer in for a closer peek...

Mom often placed a girl in her miniature scenes to portray me.
I'm puzzled why this plastic girl has red paint on her face, 
but it makes her look like she's got a bloody nose ~ 
pertinent since I suffered from them persistently as a child, 
plus it does add a pinch of creepy ambiance!

I particularly love the wee plaid thermos on the desk, 
and the Autumn scene behind the window panes.
I presume the plump lad in the pumpkin costume
is pleading with his professor for a postponement 
of that upcoming book report due date!
(Perhaps he's planning to pen his report on Poe's 

If you'd like to see more of my mom's miniature collection,
please visit these posts from the past:

Last week I came upon this recipe for pumpkin hummus and prepared it with a change or two. It was such a popular palate pleaser that by Saturday I'd made my third batch of it, so others could partake of it at a neighbor's Halloween party...

Pumpkin hummus plated with organic blue corn chips

Pumpkin Hummus
This is great with pita triangles or fresh veggies for dipping. For a pretty Halloween palette, serve with baby carrots or organic blue corn chips.

- 15 ounce can of garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas), drained
- 2 cloves of raw garlic
- 1/2 cup of pumpkin
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- juice of one lemon (3-4 TBSP)
- 2 TBSP tahini (I use salt-free organic tahini made with dry roasted sesame seeds)
- 1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
- water (if needed) for consistency
- 1/2 -1 teaspoon salt (to taste, if desired)


1. Put all of your ingredients except the pumpkin seeds into a blender or food processor and process until smooth.
2. Transfer to a glass bowl with a lid and chill until you’re ready to serve. Top with the pumpkin seeds just before serving, if desired.
Notes: When using salt-free garbanzo beans and salt-free tahini, I add between 1/2 and 1 tsp of sea salt to the mixture. I drain the garbanzo beans first but don't rinse them (if you use a salt-added variety I'd drain and rinse them), and I usually add about 1 TBSP of water to the mixture as I process it for a smoother consistency.

(I buy whole cumin seeds (as well as other spices) and grind them in a coffee grinder as needed. The cumin is fresher, smells wonderful, and is less expensive that way!) 

I also found this yummy-looking recipe for Dreena Burton's cleverly named Pumpkincredible Hummus yesterday, and plan to try it next!

UPDATE: I made this pumpkin hummus version yesterday, and it's delicious!

If you'd like the pleasure of partaking of more posts 
paying homage to the prestigious letter P,
(and quite probably to plenty of pumpkins),
please pay a visit to this week's

And enjoy a pleasantly spooky and very...

Friday, October 26, 2012

SkyWatch Friday: Hauntingly Beautiful Sunrises

Mmmmwwwahahahaha! How about some bewitching skies for some pre-Halloween SkyWatching?

If you've ever wondered why Autumn sunrises and sunsets are so vivid, here's an interesting article from The Weather Channel (along with some gorgeous photos) that explains it.

For many more magical skies, visit...

And may everyone in the path of Hurricane Sandy stay safe!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

ABC Wednesday: Outrageous, Opulent Autumn!

Okay, it's my Opinion that while the Other seasons have their Obvious beauty, Autumn is the most Overtly, Outrageously Opulent (and it's my favorite!) 
Since I'm Obviously Obsessed with Ogling its Ostentatious colors, I feel Obliged to Offer some photos I took in Our new neighborhood last week before Obnoxious 50mph winds Overwhelmed and Obliterated much Of the foliage! Feel free to exercise the Option of Openly Oooohing (and ahhhing) Over the Ones you Observe to be Outstanding, because Obviously these trees and bushes have Outdone themselves this year and I'm Optimistic that you'll agree. :-)

A crimson Maple (and a Barberry beside the mailbox)

No idea what this scarlet beauty is!

A dash of orange offers some oomph

Another gorgeous Maple variety

A Barberry (L) and two Burning Bushes (R)
(If only we hadn't had a hard freeze a week earlier,
the Russian Sage in the foreground 
would have been a lovely shade of purple.
On the other hand, that freeze is responsible
for this Fall's outrageous colors, so I'm okay with it!)

This golden poplar tree is an obvious showstopper 

I've saved my favorites for last...

The most beautiful Barberry I've ever seen,
even on the overcast day that I photographed it
it glowed from within like an oven (only prettier!)
I took an outrageous number of closeups of it,
and couldn't narrow them down further than these...

Oh man, look at all those colors in one little shrub!

Is that color over the top or what?!

More O's await your Obliging Observation at...

Friday, October 19, 2012

SkyWatch Friday: Sneaks & Beaks

Since August, I've noticed a strange spate of sneakers hanging from power lines around town. All of them Nikes. Is it some enigmatic ritual? Bizarre hiding place for a sneaker theft ring? Early Halloween prank?

Maybe it's part of a new ad campaign for the rare Nike Air Jordan "Sky High" sneakers! :-)

Here is a sampling of some of the hightops on high...

Fun as that was, if I'm going to photograph power lines, I'd much rather they be decorated with beautiful birds, like these sweet Eurasian Collared-Doves...

See what else is decorating the world's skies at...

There's more skywatching on this week's ABC Wednesday post,
in case you missed it and want to see some dramatic skies!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

ABC Wednesday: Nimbostratus

I was stumped for a post for N week and had nearly given up, when I looked up and found the answer written in the skies. :-) As our weather has become increasingly volatile ~ normal for Autumn in Wyoming ~ we've had some incredibly photogenic skies as various fronts move through. I was curious to learn the name of these particular clouds, and as luck would have it they're Nimbostratus! So, I learned something new and my ABC Wednesday dilemma was neatly solved. Nifty. :-)

I took these photos on walks and bike rides Monday and yesterday around our neighborhood...

This one really illustrates our recent weather diversity

Our house is the 2-story green one in the middle.
Heading home on my bike from photographing fall colors,
I nervously made it just before fierce wind, rain and hail hit!

Do you ever notice images in the clouds? Did you know that the word for seeking and finding familiar objects within the shapes of clouds is nephelococcygiaI think this cloud looks like a spaceship coming in for a landing...

I'm a bit of a nephelococcygia nut, apparently ~ check out my hang glider cloud and my unicorn cloud! And naturally, never neglect to navigate....

Friday, October 12, 2012

SkyWatch Friday: A snowy sunrise

A lovely Saturday sunrise beautifully illuminated the results of last Friday's snowfall...

from our backyard

from our front yard 
(I love the pink hues the sunrise cast on the mountains!)

By the way, today is supposed to be sunny and 80ºF. What a difference a week makes!

Happy Friday and Happy SkyWatching!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

ABC Wednesday: Millefiori Lamp

As I mentioned in my Illumination post from ABC Wednesday's "I" week, this week I wanted to share my favorite lamp (and probably most treasured of all mmaterial possessions), a Millefiori glass lamp made in Murano, Italy that I bought nearly 30 years ago...

Millefiori"a thousand flowers" in Italian, is manufactured from mosaic glass rods or canes called murrine. The making of mosaic beads goes back to Ancient Rome, Phoenicia and Alexandria (in other words, the Mediterranean area), while the murrine process began in the Middle East or Ancient Rome (both are credited) about 4,000 years ago and was revived in the early 1500s on the Venetian island of Murano, where a multitude of masterful glassmakers held a monopoly on glassmaking for many centuries. They developed or perfected various techniques, and still manufacture their magnificent glass treasures today (click here for a virtual visit to the Venice Glass Museum). The process of making the mosaic beads and canes alone is painstakingly meticulous; making them into vases, jewelry, paperweights and lamps is mindblowing...


I didn't get to make the trip to Murano to buy my lamp (she muttered mournfully!) Instead, I moseyed less than 1/2 mile from my apartment in Alamogordo, New Mexico to The Serbian Peasant, a quirky shop in an old house owned and restored to resemble a Balkan cottage by Millicent Shyne (isn't that a marvelous name?) Millicent, who was 70 when I met her, traveled all over Europe and beyond to find unique items to sell in her shop; amber from the Baltic, glass from Venice, and even a belt she'd bartered from a Bedouin tribesman. Millicent was a force of nature - my roommate Liz and I found her quite intimidating (she'd scold us without mercy in menacing tones if she caught us meddling with the merchandise too much!), but from the first moment we entered it, her shop became our favorite haunt. It was on our first visit there that I spied "my" lamp (the only one in the shop) and fell desperately in love, but I was a brand new AF lieutenant with student loans, a car payment and rent, and the lamp's $240 price tag made this indulgence a major purchase that meant spending too much money, even for a masterpiece.

So I kept my eye on it for a year hoping it would go on sale (it never did), painfully mindful it might sell (it didn't), and saving my pennies. Finally, when I nearly had enough money saved, I mustered the moxie to approach Millicent about marking it down. Miraculously, she took 10% off, didn't charge me sales tax, and agreed to put it on layaway for free. So for three months I made my payments till the day I finally managed to bring my lamp home. It has since made nine moves (and been evacuated for a wildfire), and you can bet that I'm the one who always packs it and it travels with me - this lamp will never see the inside of a moving van while it's mine! 

Millicent Shyne retired and the Serbian Peasant closed not too many years after I left Alamogordo, and Millicent died on March 3, 2010 at age 95. I've yet to find another shop as unique as The Serbian Peasant, nor another lamp anything like this magical, magnificent Murano Millefiore ~

I love how the shade casts its candy colors on its surroundings

Here's the lamp in its newest home. When I saw that our Malone house floor plan specified a built-in bookcase in the study, I made sure to design it around the lamp! (Maybe my contractor thought I was mad as a March hare, but I didn't mind)...

And speaking of the madness of March hares,
click here for a closeup of the Mad Tea Party scene 
from Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland,
displayed in the cubby to the lamp's right.
The schoolhouse to the left will star in my Halloween post!

Meanwhile, Make ABC Wednesday your milieu
and don't miss more merry M's at... 


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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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