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

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Glad Tidings!

 Wishing you a most magical Christmas! 
(and belated Solstice blessings!)

Friday, December 13, 2013

SkyWatch Friday: Happy houses for "Flutter Mouses!" :-)

Last month, during our long stretch of balmy weather, we took the dogs to the Sheridan VA Medical Center a couple of times for fun romps. The VAMC has been on BW's UPS route for years, and he enjoys taking his lunch break there - it's a beautiful place of panoramic mountain views, lovely parade grounds and handsome old buildings (it began life as Fort MacKenzie in 1898, and the first troops stationed there, in 1901, were "Buffalo Soldiers"). Though BW knows the VAMC well, our off-road hiking led to some fun new discoveries - including a very impressive array of bat houses! We estimated that there were about 50 of them and they stretched for close to a mile. Some looked a bit aged and weathered, others brand new. We have no idea what their story is, but my theory is that they're made by some of the resident Veterans as a therapeutic project. I think that would be great - something that helps the vets and the bats!

By the way, I much prefer the German word for "bat" - Fledermaus, which translates to "flutter mouse!" :-)

On our first visit I didn't have my camera, so I insisted we return the following weekend - Thanksgiving weekend - so I could photograph them (and some other goodies, fodder for future blog posts). As you'll see, we enjoyed quite a variety in weather and skies during the hour or so we spent there...

Living in community 
That large building in the background is the commanding officer's quarters. More staff residences follow the line of bat houses into the distance. Having bats as neighbors provides great benefits, as a single little brown bat can eat 1000 mosquito-sized insects per hour. And that's just one benefit bats provide to their eco-systems, and to humans. The vast majority of bats (2/3) are insect eaters, consuming many insects that are damaging to crops or that spread diseases. Most of the remaining 1/3 are fruit and nectar eaters, making them important pollinators and essential seed dispersers, playing an especially major role in rainforest regeneration. (Read more about the benefits of bats).

Mystery solved!
The actual houses face toward the mountains and away from the VA grounds, so when we first saw them from behind they just looked like a lot of very tall blank plywood signs! As we approached them to see what, if anything, was on the mountain side of them, we could start to see that they were three-dimensional and not just flat squares of plywood, but agreed they were awfully tall to be birdhouses. So I guessed they might be bat houses, and ta da! Indeed they were. I love the little bat image to help clarify it (for the humans rather than the bats, I'm sure!) :-)

It's definitely the off-season, as bats in temperate climates must hibernate or migrate to warmer places. But we look forward to seeing how many residents might show up with the insects this spring!

A well-planned community
Bat Conservation International provides great instructions and tips on building and/or installing bat houses, and it sure looks like the VAMC definitely did everything right.

No trespassing!
The metal sleeve helps keep any predators from reaching the bat bedrooms!
And isn't the sunlight pretty on the distant dry hills? The views are lovely in every direction.

A vibrant, diverse neighborhood
That huge brush pile on the right, which extends well beyond the edge of this photo, is a popular habitat for many more critters, especially bunnies!

Rooms with a view
That bats are blind is one of the many myths surrounding these misunderstood critters. Though they use echolocation (sonar) to navigate in the dark, which allows them - through sound alone - to see everything but color in great detail, many also have excellent sight vision. So this spectacular view is not wasted on them! :-)

Learn more about the fascinating lives and myriad benefits of bats, install your own bat house(s), and/or help bat conservancy with a visit to Bat Conservation International!


And, as always, enjoy wonderful glimpses of skies around the world with a visit to...

Friday, December 6, 2013

SkyWatch Friday: November's Farewell Sunrise

Our sunrise on the last day of November made a fitting farewell for the month, as beautiful as the ones that came before it

But so far December has been the opposite. Mostly leaden, snowy skies and frozen air. Just as well, since it's been too bitterly cold to take outdoor photos. Today the high is only supposed to reach MINUS 10ºF with -25º wind chills. Hasn't been above the single digits all week, and most of the time the wind's been blowing like stink.

From the icy weather blanketing most of the US and Canada and the fierce winter storms in northern Europe, I know that many of you in the northern climes can relate. So here's wishing everyone clearing skies and temps just cold enough to set a festive holiday mood, where appropriate. :-)

And please don't forget...

They may be furry, but they can also suffer and die when left out in the cold too long. Please bring your furbabies inside and enjoy some warm cuddles (and report neglect if you see it). 

Friday, November 29, 2013

SkyWatch Friday: The Skies of November

No gloomy November skies here! But then, we don't live on the Great Lake they call Gitche Gumee. So (with a nod to the incomparable Gordon Lightfoot's sad and haunting song), when the skies of November turned dreamy, I got out the camera and captured them as best I could. Here are some examples of our skies during our benevolent November…

Sunrise, 11/10

Same sunrise moments later
(these first two are a rerun from an earlier post, but I just had to include them!)

Pastel Sunrise, 11/16

Moonrise, 11/16

Sunset & Contrail, 11/17

Full Moon & Clouds, 11/17

Cotton Candy Sunset Clouds, 11/19

 "Fly south for winter - check!" :-)
Geese flying in checkmark formation, 11/24

Blazing Sunrise, 11/26

Dawn's Early Light, 11/27

In contrast to our mild and sunny November, December is predicted to greet us with a decidedly cold shoulder with snow and temps in the single and sub-zero digits most of next week. Ho-ho-oh-no! Oh well, we're grateful November's skies and weather played nice, and hope you enjoy gentle skies wherever you are!

And a very Happy Hanukkah to all who celebrate it!

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Murder of Grabwell Grommet (a repost)

Some longtime followers may recognize this, a favorite of mine I've posted before. But it's been a few years, and especially as the holidays roll around again it bears repeating! Enjoy, and live healthy, my friends! :-)

The Murder of Grabwell Grommet

On the morning of his 42nd birthday, Grabwell Grommet awoke to a peal of particularly ominous thunder. Glancing out the window with his bleary eyes, he saw written in fiery letters:


With shaking hands, Grommet lit his first cigarette of the day. He didn't question the message. You don't question messages like that. His only question was, "Who?"

At breakfast as he salted his fried eggs and buttered his toast, he told his wife, Gratia, "Someone is trying to kill me."

"Who?" she asked with horror.

Grommet slowly stirred the cream and sugar into his coffee and shook his head, "I don't know," he said.
Convinced though he was, Grommet wasn't going to the police with his story. He decided his only course was to go about his daily routine and hope somehow to outwit his would-be murderer. He tried to think on the drive to the office. But the frustration of making time by beating lights and switching lanes occupied him wholly.

Nor, once behind his desk, could he think a moment what with jangling phones, urgent memos and the problems and decisions piling in as they did each day.

Tom Grill/Getty Images
It wasn't until his second martini at lunch that the full terror of his position struck him. It was all he could do to finish his Lasagna Milanese. "I can't panic," he said to himself, lighting his cigar. "I simply must live my life as usual."
So he worked until seven as usual. Drove home fast as usual. Studied business reports as usual. And he took his usual two Seconal capsules in order to get his usual six hours sleep. As days passed, the man fully stuck to his routine. And as the months went by, he began to take a perverse pleasure in his ability to survive. "Whoever's trying to get me," he'd say proudly to his wife, "hasn't got me yet. I'm too smart for him."
"Oh, please be careful," she'd reply, ladling him a second helping of beef stroganoff.

"The Glutton" by ciosuconstantin
The pride grew as he managed to go on living for years. But as it must to all men, death came at last to Grabwell. It came at his desk on a particularly busy day. He was 53.

His grief-stricken widow demanded a full autopsy. But it showed only emphysema, arteriosclerosis, duodenal ulcers, cirrhosis of the liver, cardiac necrosis, cerebrovascular aneurysm, pulmonary edema, obesity, circulatory insufficiency and a touch of lung cancer.
"How glad Grabwell would have been to know," said the widow smiling proudly through her tears, "that he died of natural causes."
~Art Hoppe 

Art Hoppe, columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, died of complications from lung cancer in February, 2000.
If we do not change our direction,
we are likely to end up where we are headed.

~Chinese Proverb

Friday, November 22, 2013

SkyWatch Friday: grateful to be an early riser

Don't have much time today, but here's a colorful sunrise I photographed from our back patio last week… 

We've had several beautiful skies lately and I've photographed each of them, so I hope to share those next week on...

In memory of President John F. Kennedy
May 29, 1917 - Nov 22, 1963

Friday, November 15, 2013

SkyWatch Friday: The Talk of the Town

After a long dry spell of bland sunrises, we had a doozy Wednesday morning that was the talk of the town. BW's been on vacation this week and we had several appointments and errands that day, and everywhere we went people asked us if we saw the sunrise that morning. Despite the fact (or maybe because of the fact) we so often get gorgeous sunrises, people here seldom comment on them. But not this time!

I took these photos from our front porch (which faces west!) Except for a little sharpening and size reduction, these are unedited. At first the clouds appeared to be mammatus clouds, which are unusual here so late in the year....

The entire time I stood on our porch snapping photos and enjoying the beautiful, eerie sunrise, I could hear the distant honking of approaching Canada geese. It seemed to go on for a long time before the huge flock finally appeared above the roof of the school, heading north (everything was backwards that day! Sunrise in the west, geese flying north through springtime clouds in November…) 

You may need to click on the photos for larger versions to see them better, but in this first one you can just make out the large "V" of geese against the dark sky, flying below the clouds and above the school and the flag...

Wishing I'd had time to switch to my telephoto lens, I followed the flock with my camera as they flew around us bearing northeast. At least they showed up better against the sunrise-lit clouds!...

It was a much larger flock than I could fit in one frame!

So our skies more than made up for the long lack of colorful sunrises with this one, and I was glad to finally have some decent photos to contribute to...

Our hearts go out to the people and animals of The Philippines 
in the devastating aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Quilt Show 2013, Part 3: Our Top Picks!

For the finale of this year's Sheridan quilt show posts, I'm sharing our favorite quilts in the exhibit. My friend Jo enters (and very often wins) many quilt shows, attends many quilt shows, and someday aspires to judge many quilt shows. So although Sheridan's show is an exhibit rather than a competition, we decided to have some fun and privately award our favorite quilts two prizes that are common in quilt shows: A Viewer's Choice Award and a Judge's Choice Award. A Viewer's Choice award goes to the quilt that you the viewer love best, the one you'd most like to take home with you. The Judge's Choice is like the judge's Viewer's Choice, going to the quilt the show's judge would most like to take home. Since their personal preferences can't enter into their actual judging, this is where they get to play favorites! We both selected a Viewer's Choice, but just Jo selected a Judge's Choice winner since with all her quilting experience she's able to discern better than I if a quilt is well made as well as personally appealing, something she said that as a quilt judge she would take into account because her favorite quilt, no matter how beautiful, could never be her favorite if it weren't well made. Me, I just judge using the Eye Candy Quotient, so I stuck with a Viewer's Choice. :-) 

As always, I'd love to hear which one(s) you like best, so please feel free to bestow your own Viewer's Choice award in the comments! (As always, remarks of interest from the artists' info cards are in quotes and italics, and you may click on any photo for a larger view).

First, here are my runners up…

I love the colors in this one, as well as the Flying Geese design around the gorgeous center compass, and the jaunty checkerboard pattern for the border…

Technique: Machine Pieced & Quilted
Artist: Jo Hadley-Day
Quilter: Laurie Sheeley
"This quilt is a combination of Mariner's Compass designs by Brenda Henning and Claudia Clark Myers with a checkerboard pieced border that I designed
 This quilt is named '13' because the big center compass 
and the three compasses in each corner equal 13."
(This is a small excerpt from a long explanation about this quilt. 
Should any quilters out there want the entire explanation, let me know!)

I love this dramatic black, white and grey star quilt, in part because my Mom had decorated the guest room at our old Maine farmhouse in these colors. It was a strikingly beautiful room, and this quilt would have been gorgeous in it...

Reflections I
Technique: Strip Piecing - Bargello
Artist: Buffy Shatek
Quilter: Laurie Sheeley
Pattern by: Jo Hadley, "Kitchen Table Designs"

And given my love of bright colors, how could I not be smitten with this fabric fiesta?!…

Mexican Party
Technique: Pieced
Artist: Jackie Waters & Kaffe Fassett
Quilter: Mary Jane Collins
"I designed this quilt with Kaffe Fassett in 2011 
at Material Girl Quilt Shop in Grand Island, Nebraska"

Wow! Thanks to attending our local quilt show every year, even a non-quilting rube like me knows who Kaffe Fassett is! A textile artist, designer, instructor and author from London, his fabrics are extremely popular, colorful, and recognizable. How cool she got to design this dazzling quilt with him!

And speaking of colorful and dazzling, I loved this whimsical wall hanging and thought the border and beads were great touches…

Who Cut Up the Rainbow?
Technique: Machine Pieced, Hand Appliqué
Artist: Nancy Etchingham
Quilter: Karen Van Houten
Pattern by: Susan Garrity

And now for the moment we've all been waiting for, here are our grand prize winners! :-)

Jo had no trouble selecting this striking maze quilt for her Judge's Choice award...

Jo with her "Judge's Choice" winner:
Technique: Machine Piecing
Artist: Kandi Davis
Quilter: Robin Wacker
Pattern is "Labyrinth Walk" from Quilt Magazine

Here's what Jo wrote about her choice of this quilt:

"I personally liked the A-Maze-ing quilt because of the bold graphic design. I loved the colors and thought the values were selected especially well. I loved the quilting pattern and thought the circular motion of the pebbles was a good complement to the angular pattern. It's a quilt I'd have loved to take home and just put on my bed!"

Here's a closeup of the pebbles she mentioned...

Detail of quilted pebbles on "A-MAZE-ing"

Jo's love of this particular quilt has a fun story to it. She was so smitten with it that she wanted the pattern and the opportunity to compliment the artist, but the info card with it didn't give us too much to go on, and we couldn't find a pattern for it online using the name "A-Maze-ing." So we looked up Kandi Davis' address and that's when I realized that we'd be walking right down her street the next day on our way to Kendrick Park. But when I did a Street View so I could see which house was hers, I was excited to see that she lives in one of my favorite houses in Sheridan! It's a lovely place with incredible mountain views, always beautifully landscaped with tons of flowers, right across the street from the elk and bison pasture portion of Kendrick Park and just a block or so away from Kendrick Mansion. Talk about a great location! 

Jo said that rather than call Kandi, she'd wait till we walked by her place and see if she happened to be outside. I told her that I've walked past her house dozens of times over the past couple of years and while I see her husband outside a lot (and have spoken to him more than once), I have never seen her.  So it wasn't likely to happen this time! But Jo said she would let Fate decide - if it was meant to be, Kandi would be outside. ("Yarite," I thought. "Fat chance!")

But as Jo, BW, the dogs and I walked by Kandi's house the next day, I could hear noises coming from their garage (which faces the side street, not the street we were on). Figuring it was probably Mr. Davis - but at least that would be a start - I walked around the corner to ask him if Kandi was home. Imagine my surprise to see a woman puttering in the garage instead! I waved Jo over and she walked up the driveway and introduced herself and she and Kandi had a delightful conversation! That Jo, stuff just works out for her, I tell ya! :-)
Kandi was thrilled that she had a little fan club for her quilt, but unfortunately the pattern was not her own design and she couldn't remember its name or where she'd found it. But after we got home, I did some more online sleuthing and located it! So that was a fun and happy story all the way around, don't you think? :-)

The eagle-eyed among you may have spied a small portion of this quilt peeking out from behind a corner in the second photo on this post. And those of you who chose "Garden Nouveau" from Part 1 as their favorite because of the bright colors on the dark background are in for a real treat with Jo and my shared "Viewer's Choice" winner...

Jo stands beside our mutual "Viewer's Choice" winner:
Catch Me If You Can
Technique: Machine Paper Piecing
Artist: Buffy Shatek
Quilter: Laurie Sheeley
"This was a challenging but so much fun to make project. I loved the outcome.
There is no traditional assembly to this quilt. Fun! Fun! Fun!"

Feast your eyes on the lovely, colorful details…

After we left the quilt show, we went to lunch and then to Sheridan's one and only quilt shop. There used to be more, and you'd think with all the quilters around here they'd all be thriving, but they've all closed except for this one…

Fortunately, The Quilter's Fix turned out to be a really wonderful quilt shop! Jo was very impressed with it, and we had a lot of fun browsing. Despite not being a quilter, I do love all the colors and textures of a quilt shop - and it's always fun to help Jo spend her money. :-) This time was no exception, as you can see from the shopping bag she's holding in the photo! Here is her haul...

The Sunflower Swirl Quilt pattern was done up as a display and it was really pretty! We both loved it, and since Jo and I have adopted a tradition of buying each other our birthday gifts when we're together, regardless of the time of year, I bought her the pattern. Can't wait to see the results when she transforms that pattern and all that delicious fabric into beautiful works of art! 

I hope you enjoyed this year's Quilt Show! It was really special having Jo here to enjoy it in person with me! If you still find yourself in need of more quilted eye-candy, check out my Pinterest Quilts board. There are some really beauties there (including a couple of Jo's!) 

Click here for 2013 Quilt Show Part 1
Click here for 2013 Quilt Show Part 2


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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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