Friday, December 30, 2005

The blog year in review, Part II

I decided to make a "favorite blog posts" list for 2005. Not my posts, but others I've read. My husband told me that I shouldn't. The alienate-everybody-who's-not-on-it potential is enormous. There are so many blogs I love that are not represented here. Blogs that make me smile or laugh or cry on a daily basis. But these are the posts that I remembered off the top of my head. The ones that I've gone back to read more than once.

Nuthatch at Bootstrap Analysis writes very knowledgeably about nature and ecology issues and most of all, birds. But the one that really made me grin was about musical ear-worms.

Danny Miller of Jew Eat Yet? has a passion for classic movies, and an impressive collection of personal letters from 1970s celebrities. But in this hilarious post, it's Jennifer Aniston who's trying to control his brain.

Dave Bonta writes one of my favorite blogs, Via Negativa. For me he's got the perfect mixture of poetry and nature and levity and "hmm let me think about that for a while" and "hold on where's my dictionary". Here is Dave channeling the original Nittany Lion. (Language alert here... that's one angry lion.)

Lorianne of Hoarded Ordinaries (love that title) keeps a wonderful illustrated blog of her life in New Hampshire. She wrote very movingly about hunger early in the year.

If you have yet to read Somewhere on the Masthead, you're in for a treat. Magazine Man is the father of Art Lad, who's been mentioned here before. MM can be somewhat of a klutz... (who else has so many head injuries?) but gives such good story.

Jenni of Chanticleer is a poet of many facets, whose lighthearted side often shows through on her blog. She normally removes her work from her blog after a short time, but agreed to put this post back up so I could show you her poem that I love, titled Thirst.

One thing I love about reading A WhipPoorWill is that I so often feel as though I'm right there with Trix. On a hike together I have a feeling that we'd take 3 hours to cover the first 100 feet or so (and be perfectly satisfied). Here she is with her father.

Chris Clarke writes so beautifully. I suspect that most people read his blog Creek Running North for the political information, but I confess that I visit for the nature, the wildlife, and the critters. Tissue warning.

It's fascinating to read about Clare's corner of the world over at The House & Other Arctic Musings... so different from here. His description of Halloween in the far north was especially captivating. (And where else are you going to see a costume involving "a narwhal tusk, a muskox horn, a tea pot, a dress, two different shoes, a caribou parka, and another 'person' attached to the a**"?)

Anne, aka Yellowstone Wolf, over at Inscribed on the Forest Floor, takes the most breathtaking nature photos you'd ever hope to see. So why do I keep going back to this one of her journals? Because they're just so wonderfully made - because I love her handwriting - because I want to read them too!

And finally, from Maktaaq, probably my favorite blog post ever written: Of monkeys, lightbulbs, and factory life.

The blog year in review, Part I

Some bloggy facts:

1. The first blog I ever read was My Blue House. It's gone now.

2. I know the secret identities of seven bloggers.

3. Some are more secret than others.

4. I've only met one other blogger in person.

5. It's one of the seven from #2.

6. One of my resolutions for the new year of 2005 was to start a blog.

7. I'd feel so much better about that accomplishment if it hadn't already been on my resolutions list for several years.

8. This year I was banned from commenting on one blog, for making a real smarty-pants comment.

9. I don't read that blog anymore.

10. Because to me a blog should be a two-way street, or else it's just another web page.

11. But I try to keep my more sarcastic thoughts to myself nowdays.

12. Technorati doesn't work all that well really, but I've found some of my favorite blogs by searching there to see who was writing about things that I was interested in.

13. Blogging has a lot of similarities to one of my former hobbies: writing to a jillion penpals.

14. Except that everyone can read your letters.

15. And you get a lot fewer postcards from the Faroe Islands.

Part II, coming right up.

Thursday, December 29, 2005


On our walk the other day, hubby and I were looking for something specific (Puttyroot leaves - more on that later). We didn't find any. But this was just as exciting.

I'm fairly certain that these were Beechdrops (Epifagus virginiana), a plant that's parasitic on the roots of Beech trees.

I've never seen them before, even though many references call them "common". They probably bloomed in October, but from the photos I've seen, they look about the same whether they're blooming or not. (No chlorophyll.)

OK, I guess you have to be a total wildflower geek to think that this is exciting. But I am, so I do!

Interesting write-up with historical references here.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Strange yellow fungi

Hubby and I were out walking. Right in the middle of being pouty and complaining, I spotted these strange yellow fungi

growing out of the side of a mossy little bluff on the old logging road.

Close-up of the lower one. If it were any larger I think I'd be worried about zombies hatching out and trying to eat my brains.

Close-up of the other one.*

I found another group further down the road. This one's stem was covered in leaves.

I removed them so I could see it in all its, um, glory.

I almost feel the need to say that these photos may not be suitable for young children!

I believe these are either Ravenel's Stalked Puffball (Calostoma ravenelii) or Yellow Stalked Puffball (Calostoma lutescens). I found a couple of keys but neither seems to match exactly.

* Interesting tiny fern (or bryophyte?) on the lower right too. I didn't notice it until I looked at the photos. I couldn't identify it with a quick web search - maybe someone else will know.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Ghosts of Christmas past

December 1961, two years old.

This must have been taken with my grandfather's camera - I don't think we had a color one until many years later.

One of those boxes held a great stuffed tiger, and there was a pink and blue stuffed bear in one of the others. (No I don't remember, I've just got more pictures.)

The table and tea set to the right were the BIG present.

December 1967, with my little brother and sister.

That bear he was sitting on had wheels, and could really scratch up the finish on a floor.

I seem to be holding a Barbie doll, but don't remember playing with them much. (I liked Johnny West dolls better.)

My sister seems happy with her sucker. I think that was her doctor's bag in the foreground.

We always had to wait until my grandfather got there to open the wrapped presents. I remember thinking that he needed to get up a lot earlier.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Christmas notes

Mom's tree

Mom made some horsies for the grandkids. One she had a pattern for, but the other she drew out herself, from a picture in Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

Some cute neices and a handsome nephew, from hubby's side of the family. (Technically not from Christmas, but close enough.) This is before his sister's cats started trying to eat the tree, and it had to be put up much higher.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

I feel it

Ho ho ho!

Christmas art, by our niece. (Click it to see a larger image.)

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Have a merry one

OK I'm a scrooge. I'm Scrooge McScrooge. Bah. And oh yeah, humbug.

I'm not sure what came over me, or exactly when. I used to love all things Christmasy. I could happily shop for ornaments in the middle of July. Now I never want to decorate. My husband finally decided that he'd have to put up a tiny tree himself, or we'd have no decorations at all. I didn't get a single Christmas card sent. (I normally do though - I was just busy filling orders this year. Now it's too late.)

Even though I'm scroogy, I'm wishing everyone a merry Christmas. I haven't had time to go out and take pictures lately. So as your gift, I'm sending you to see someone else's.

This great photo of Western Australia mistletoe was taken by John Dolphin, a fellow wildflower nut. (Also see Maximum Depth of Field.)

If you have bizarro-brain like me, the name John Dolphin makes you think of the Buckaroo Banzai movie. (Sorry John!)

All the Lectroids are named John. Some have normal names, like John Parker or John O'Connor. But others are obviously made up, like John YaYa and John Smallberries. My favorite is John Bigboote, who keeps getting called Bigbooty. ("It's BigbooTAY!")

I must have seen this movie at least a dozen times. I love John Lithgow as the fiendish Lord John Whorfin/Dr. Emilio Lizardo. ("Laugh while you can, monkey-boy!") His expressions while giving a speech to the evil but listless Red Lectroids make it among my favorite movie scenes. ("History is made at night. Character is what you are in the dark!") I guess you could call the film a cheesy, over-the-top, low-budget spoof. The special goggles they use to watch a holographic message are clearly made from bubble wrap. But if you like that sort of thing, come on over. Bring the popcorn!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Oh nooo...

One of my referrals yesterday - the phrase that someone searched on to find this blog - was "Middle Age Blogger".

In fact according to Google I'm currently #1 for "Middle Age Blogger".

Talk about your dubious distinctions.

I made the South Park me above with the South Park Character Generator a while back, and had titled it "Hard Day". (Note the bags under the eyes, grim expression, and dirt.) In light of the above I guess I should change the hair color though.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Look Up

quilted sky

waxwing ornaments

Monday, November 21, 2005


Recovering nicely from their operations.

Ginger (L) is the boy and George is the girl. Clearly, sexing kittens is not among our talents. They laugh at us at the vet's office.

"Ginger Baker!" I want to yell. "George Sand! Rebel cats who'll never conform to your archaic provincial notions of gender roles!"

Anyway, now they are both "fixed".

Looks like I'll be really busy between now and Christmas, filling soap orders. My dreams are filled with boxes and tape. Visions of shrinkwrap, bubble fill and packing peanuts dance in my head.

It doesn't feel normal, not having the time to write here or to visit other blogs. I miss being able to record the small things. It's been dry... it rained... but not enough... the swamp area is almost completely drained... there were four huge male turkeys in the backyard... I snuck out of the craft show to see part of the Veteran's Day parade and was surprised to become so emotional... Mom's been here, helping me wrap soap. See you later.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Why doesn't she call?

Bad dog. Very, very bad dog!

Friday, November 04, 2005

Christmas Craft Shows

We're at the Homestead Hollow Christmas craft show in Springville this weekend with our handmade soap.

Then the next week it's the Christmas Village Festival in downtown Birmingham.

Afterwards I will probably want to lie down and rest for about a month, but that will probably have to wait until January.

Thursday, November 03, 2005


Another one from my sister's Caribbean cruise. She said that the Magnificent Frigatebirds (Fregata magnificens) followed the ship into port, and that she saw as many as thirty at a time.

These seabirds came well inland (to middle Alabama at least) during some of the recent hurricanes in the gulf. Charles Kennedy, president of the South Alabama Birding Association, spoke recently on Weekend Edition about hurricane birds. (His birdhouses are wonderful, by the way.) There's also an article about post-hurricane birding on the SABA site, here.

This bird is one of my favorites to see in flight. I'm not sure which is more exciting, a Frigatebird or a Swallow-tailed Kite. And a day when you see both is truly spectacular and rare.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Grim Reaper

Cutie pie niece, a.k.a. the Grim Reaper.

Not exactly your traditional little girl's Halloween costume...

For more cute Halloween kids, check out the blog of Art Lad, who's the same age as my nieces. Poor kid, he was sick and couldn't go trick or treating in the awesome cheetah outfit his Grandma made him. His sister, who dressed as a fox, was going to collect candy for him. I hope it worked!


The new Circus of the Spineless is up at Snail's Tales. Go see!

Monday, October 31, 2005

I'm so tired


Those lines and this picture brought to you by my sister, and my sister's new camera (Canon Rebel XT), both of whom are back safely from their Caribbean cruise.

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias).

Friday, October 28, 2005

Middle age (is all the rage)

Lady driving large SUV: "How do you like your car?"

Lady loading groceries into small compact car: "Oh, it's great!"

SUV lady: "We've been talking about getting something like that."

Compact lady: "We had an SUV too, but traded it in last year. This car is so much better..."

I just knew she was going to say something about her improved gas mileage.

"... It's so much easier to get into and out of."

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Brown-eyed Susans

A friend of mine from Birmingham Southern College is trying to identify some of the wildflowers that are planted at the Southern Environmental Center's   Ecoscape.

She sent me these pictures to consider. I think it's Brown-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia triloba). I told her I'd put the photos on the blog to see if any of my more knowledgeable plant friends had any better ideas.

Here's a close-up of the bloom:

And here's a view of the whole plant:

If you look closely at the base you can see the triloba part.

Compare here, here, and here.

You can take a virtual tour of the Ecoscape, or browse the Alabama meadow wildflowers.

We had a frost last night so this might be the last flowers here for a while!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


Due to my recent good fortune, I've been working harder than normal.

So I was in the workshop, diligently working away...

... when suddenly I had the feeling that I was being watched.

The Blob?

The Thing?

Sinister alien invader cocoon?

Geez that window sure is dirty.

I need a better angle.


Green Treefrog (Hyla cinerea).

Monday, October 24, 2005

My cup runneth over

Our Amazing Kitchen Soap is featured in the November issue of Cooking Light magazine!

It's very exciting. My sister-in-law was nice enough to send me this scan, since I still haven't received my copy yet. (My mail lady is possibly holding it hostage.)

I knew it was coming, so made plenty of extra Kitchen soap. What I didn't anticipate was that so many people would be ordering 10 or 12 at a time.

So with that and two big craft shows coming up, I may be too busy for a lot of blog writing or reading in the upcoming weeks.

But if I'm missing from here, just imagine me as that figure on the left of the page, with a big smile of gratitude on my face.

Oh yeah, I can also report that besides garlic and onions, the Amazing Kitchen Soap works well on other smelly odors you might get on your hands... fish... bleach... smoke... that odor you absorb when trying to wrangle smelly dogs who've been rolling around in things you'd rather not think about...

Friday, October 21, 2005

Black Walnuts

We've got a lot of native Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) trees around our place.

A couple hang over the path to the chicken coop. I've started wondering if I should be wearing a hardhat when I let the chickens out in the morning.

I'm not that wild about the taste of walnuts, so I haven't shelled many of them. It's easy to get the husks off - you run over them with your car. If you're driving down a rural road and see a line of black stuff in a gravel driveway, you know that person has walnuts.

But getting the meat out of the shell is a different matter. Not easy at all. Someone told me there was a specific type of cracker that would get the nut out cleanly, but I've never seen one.

There are a lot of things you can't plant near walnut trees, due to the toxic juglone that their roots produce. I guess they don't like a lot of competition.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

My sister's house, part 2

Earlier in the year I wrote about my sister's house. Here are some pictures I took at our dinner there earlier this month.

She told me once that she likes it when I mention her on the blog. Here's today's mention: When she gets home, I'm going to kill her for not calling or emailing from the cruise to let me know they're OK.

I'm hoping that they're far enough east that Hurricane Wilma isn't affecting them too badly. But still, I'm going to kill her.

She's got a green thumb

or two.

She has interesting little collections

and arranges them well.

Mom, already worried about bathing suits.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Buckeye butterfly (Junonia coenia)


My sister and her family went on a Caribbean cruise and took our Mom along.

Mom, never having been on a cruise before, was nervous of three main things:
1) a tidal wave
2) a hurricane
3) having to wear a bathing suit.

I kept telling her she had nothing to worry about.

Now there's Hurricane Wilma, and I'm the one who's worried.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Solar Homes Tour

The first weekend in October, we went on a Solar Homes Tour in Blount county. There are tours all over the country that weekend, but this was the only one in Alabama.

The the tour has been getting more and more popular each year. They had to split our group into two since it was so large. Our half started at the modified yurt.

Outside of the yurt, with solar panel.

Inside the yurt. (There was a lot of glare and contrast in this picture and the next. I tried to correct for it, but as a result, ended up with a few dark blotches where they shouldn't be.)

It's open on the top. The theory is that the warm air rises and can escape. I imagine it's closed in winter. It's not difficult to heat in Alabama... cooling is the main problem.

Where the walls meet the roof.

They stressed that incorporating passive solar principles is the most important thing to do. Basically that means you design the house to take the most advantage of the sun, before you ever spend a dime on technology like solar panels. One of the ideas was to grow grapes (or something similar) over the windows for shade in the summer.

The same idea, at a different house. I think I'd prefer blinds though, so you could still look out the window if you needed to.

Some interesting space-saving stairs at the same house.

Most of the houses were heated with wood-burning stoves.

This was a ridgetop underground house. It's open on two sides and underground on the others. I think this one was my favorite of the ones we saw. We missed seeing the last house on the tour though, which was supposedly the best. (It was running late and I had to be somewhere else.)

Colorful bumper of one of the tour guides. I so wanted a Prius when I bought my car 5 years ago but hubby was vehemently against it. (He worried about repair issues.) Click for a larger image.

A stray dog came along with our group.

Zorak wanted to come too!

Monday, October 17, 2005