I may chat about my books, what I'm writing or reading, or just general thoughts. You may read posts about my cats or just my crazy life in general. Comments are welcome, if anyone wants to interact with me. Maybe we can share war stories, whether it's writing related or just about life in general.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Zone of Silence

Four hundred miles south of El Paso, Texas you’ll find the Durango Desert in Mexico. As with all desert locales, the arid conditions leave room for mysteries.  Weirdness can happen in the desert.  In the Durango desert there’s a place called the Zone of Silence because this area gobbles up radio and TV signals.

Farmers started to become aware of unusual happenings in this stretch of desert in the mid-nineteenth century when mysterious “hot pebbles” would fall from the clear blue sky.  In 1930, an aviator from Coahuila Mexico noticed his radio would lose its signal.

The “zone” received public attention in 1970 when a missile fired from White Sands Missile Base went off course and crashed in the Zone of Silence.  The same thing happened with boosters on the Apollo project years later.

Engineer Henry de la Pena went to investigate.  He found flat desert filled with thorny scrub brush and snakes like any other desert.  People had been living there for centuries.  A prehistoric watering hole, probably used by indigenous people, is still there.  The closest settlement today is about twenty-five miles away in Ceballos Durango, which is the start of the Zone of Silence.  Mr. Pena and his group couldn’t communicate via walkie-talkie or any other way.  There are no TV or radio signals in town, or on neighboring ranches, even when radios are turned to full volume.  Some magnetic force seems to exist in the region.

Incidentally, the “zone” lies just north of the Tropic of Cancer, south of the thirtieth parallel, putting it in line with the Bermuda Triangle.  Until a few years ago there were still living people in the “zone” who claimed they had encounters with extraterrestrial beings in the early decades of this century.

This leaves one to speculate if there’s a vortex running around our planet just south of the thirtieth parallel.  I wonder if this possibility has been researched by anyone.

There are many strange stories associated with the “zone.”  Many people regularly report seeing lights and fireballs in the sky, changing colors and then taking off with great speed.

There’s no shortage of unusual rocks and fossils in the area.  Physical traces of night time visits can also be found, such as the burned out vegetation after lights had been seen in the sky the night before.

Upon analyzing the desert sand collected, it was found that huge deposits of magnetite (iron ore) exists in the area and that’s what’s responsible for the change in electromagnetic waves.  There’s also proof that uranium exists in the mountain ranges framing the Zone of Silence. 

The region’s desolation stretches for hundreds of miles and yet visitors to the area come across strangers with no provisions to survive in the desert environment.  And in a flash the strangers disappear.  This happens with great frequency. 

I find this kind of stuff fascinating.  How about you?  If you’d like to read more of this story, click here.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Y is for Yippee! I have a celebrity in the house!

Okay, I hope this will suffice for a Y word this year.  I was going to save this for later, but I’m so happy my little fur baby got his mug printed in a magazine that I just had to share this.

Back in February, a local magazine here asked for submissions of spring pet pictures for an upcoming issue.  Naturally, being the person I am, my brain went into overdrive. There had to be some way I could enter this contest.  How could I let this opportunity pass me by?

After thinking on this a few days, I made a trip to the dollar store and the craft store to get some ideas.  I knew the only one I could enter in this contest was Raven because he always indulges all my whims of fancy and will pose for me.  The other cats won’t hold still long enough.

I decided my spring picture had to be another hat because Raven likes them and of course we’ve all heard of spring bonnets.  How I wished they made cat-size hats in the party stores.  But alas, nothing like that was to be found.  So it was to the drawing board for me after I collected a few things at the dollar store and local party store.

Here are the pet pages in the magazine

It didn’t take me too long to whip up my creation.  By late afternoon I had my picture and got busy downloading my camera card so I could submit the entry in time.  The next day I had an email in my email inbox thanking me for my entry and telling me it was cute.

Then the wait began.

I had no idea which month the pet’s pictures would be posted.  When the April issue came out, I began to investigate because we no longer receive the magazines free with the newspaper.  We have to pick them up in newsstands around town. 

Raven in his spring hat

I got on the net and did a search for an online copy.  Not finding any pet photos in April, I looked at the March issue and there on page 27 was my angel in living color.  I had to laugh because it really is a silly hat (plus I was thrilled to see him in the magazine.)  The girl called him a she instead of a he (probably because of the flowery bonnet he had on).  What self-respecting boy would wear that?  But I forgive her.  She probably thinks I left the “s” out of my email and meant to say she.  I’ll give her the benefit of a doubt.

So then several emails and a week later, I finally obtained two print copies of this magazine, one for me and one for the lady at PAWS where I adopted Raven.  After I told her about it, she wanted one of the magazines too.

Call me a nutty cat lady, but I’m over-the-moon about my little celebrity.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

X is for Xavier Steak Recipe

I was at a loss for this letter X until I found this recipe.  This steak looks so simple and easy to do.

Xavier Steak


2 whole (10-oz) New York steaks, or any other steaks of your choice 
These should be about 1 inch thick.

I pinch salt and pepper

2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce

6 asparagus spears or more if you like asparagus

2 tablespoons olive oil

8 slices of Swiss cheese


Season steaks with salt and pepper.  Place in glass dish and drizzle on Worcestershire sauce.  Turn the steaks, cover and refrigerate for fifteen minutes.  Turn the steaks again and marinade another fifteen minutes.

Preheat an outdoor grill to medium-high.  Lightly oil the grate.  Place the steaks on the preheated grill, close lid and cook for 7 minutes.  Toss asparagus spears with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Place asparagus on the grill and turn the steaks over.  Close lid. Cook until steaks are beginning to firm and are slightly pink in the center and asparagus is tender, approximately another 7 minutes.  Turn the asparagus halfway through. 

Top each steak with asparagus spears and Swiss cheese.  Continue cooking until the cheese has melted.  Remove from the grill and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

If you don’t have a grill, you could cook this in a cast iron skillet with a lid, or under the broiler, but I would lower it down from the heat a bit.

Prep time approx 5 minutes

Cook time approx 15 minutes

Serving size 2
Calories 1017
Fat 73.3 g
Protein 76 g
Cholesterol 252 mg

There’s lots of calories and fat in this because of the meat and all the cheese.  But once in a while shouldn’t hurt anyone’s diet too much.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

W is for Wave Rock Australia

Location of Wave Rock

This rock formation is located in the bottom left corner of Australia.  More than 140,000 tourists visit the rock each year.  There’s a fence along the top of the rock that channels rain water to a storage dam.

 Wave Rock
Each September they hold a music festival called the Wave Rock weekender event.

The rock’s wave-like shape was formed by weathering from water erosion and heavy rains.  The streaks are dissolving minerals.

Wave Rock

The wave is almost 40 feet high and just over 328 feet long.  What an amazing natural wonder this must be.

There sure does seem to be a lot of places to see around the world.

Some of the info came from the Trigger Pit blog

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

V is for Valley of the Giants

No, I’m not talking about the redwood trees in Sequoia National Park.  This Valley of the Giants is near Walpole in west AustraliaWalpole can leave one awestruck with its towering forests of eucalyptus trees.  This is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Western Australia’s scenic south-west coast. 

 The Treetop Walk
Walpole is about a four and a half hour drive south of Perth.  Once there, some beautiful scenery awaits you.  The red tingle trees are unique to the Walpole wilderness area.  You can take the Treetop Walk to see the trees from above and then see their massive gnarled trunks from the Ancient Empires boardwalk below.  The Treetop Walk is a lightweight bridge that winds gently upward to the treetops.  You’ll be at canopy level at just over 131 feet in the air.

Once you descend to the Empire Walk, you’ll be able to walk around and through the giant trees, which are estimated to be approximately 400 years old.  Some of the trees are approximately 50 feet in circumference. 

Walpole is surrounded by other natural attractions such as the Circular Pool, which is a great spot to swim and/or picnic.  There are peaceful rivers and inlets, great walking paths and pristine white beaches in nearby Walpole-Nornalup National Park.  Houseboats are available for cruising along the inlets.  If you’re a hiker there’s Mount Frankland, which is steep but short.  Once on top, you’ll have a spectacular view of the forest below.

The area is rich with bird life.  You may even see grazing kangaroos, or spot migrating whales from June to September.  From September to November the region wears a blanket of colorful wildflowers from the windswept coast to the forest floor.

There seems to be many places on Earth that have things in common scenery wise with only a few regional things changed.  I’ve learned a lot researching different things for the A to Z this year.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Underground tunnels

There are ten notable underground tunnels in Texas, some pretty, some weird, and some bat infested. 

This post is about the Washburn Tunnel, but I’ll briefly touch on the rest for anyone interested in tunnels.

 Washburn tunnel
I remember going through the Washburn Tunnel (under the Houston ship channel) as a child.  This thing is dark and very long, 742 feet under water of all things.  There are small lights near the ceiling at intervals.  All of us kids were always nervous when Daddy drove under there.  The tunnel runs from Galena Park to Pasadena.  It was built with 1950’s pump technology making it flood proof but we still didn’t feel any better about this.  After all, there was lots of water overhead.

Clarity Tunnel

Clarity Tunnel is another interesting one that sits in the panhandle of Texas near Quitaque.  This tunnel was the last working railroad tunnel in Texas and today part of it is a hiking trail in Caprock Canyons State Park.

The Super Collider Tunnel

The Supercollider Tunnel in Waxahachie has a strange story.  This 14-mile tunnel runs under Waxahachie and was never finished due to costs overruns.  It started out as a $4.4 billion project but ballooned to 12 billion before congress pulled the plug.  Today everything is abandoned but the property is for sale in case anyone has a bright idea on how to use it and the money to finish it.

 UT Tunnel
UT Tunnel is a seven-mile tunnel under the University of Texas at Austin.  This one is an enticing dare for spelunkers who want to explore.  There was even an independent film made about this one in 2005.  You can imagine the mind could go wild with all sorts of ideas for an abandoned tunnel.

The Rio Grande Tunnel

The Rio Grande Tunnel was built in 1959 in Big Bend National Park in south Texas.  It replaced a road called Dead Man’s Curve.

The Tandy Center Tunnel

Tandy Center Subway is in Ft Worth.  For 40 years this tunnel took shoppers from the parking lot to shopping destinations, a whopping seven-tenths of a mile long, until it closed in 2002.  It was supposedly the only privately operated subway in the country.

 Old Tunnel - this one looks interesting
Old Tunnel near Fredericksburg is a 920-foot tunnel that is home to three million bats in season.  Visitors head there at sunset to watch the bats take flight.  The tunnel is part of the smallest wildlife management area in Texas (about 16 acres).

 Addison tunnel

Addison Airport Toll Tunnel is 1600-feet of tunnel under Addison airport in suburban Dallas.  It costs $20 million to build and will cost you 50 cents to ride.  Below is a modern picture.

 Downtown Houston tunnel
Houston’s Downtown Tunnel system houses seven miles of stores and restaurants.  “It can be busy down there during August when everyone is sick of the heat and not stupid enough to go about sweating themselves to death on the mushy asphalt known as downtown,” according to Tom Wolfe in The Right Stuff.  Today it’s a hodge-podge down there with curious empty stretches so consult a map if you intend to visit this place.

 This is the cemetery at one of the entrances to the Satanic Tunnels
Lastly are the Satanic Tunnels of Athens.  Some people 
are convinced the town sits over a tunnel system shaped like a pentagram.  One of the five entrances to this tunnel is in Fuller Park, which is also home to the Fuller Cemetery, so you can see how these urban legends get started.  There are only two graves in this cemetery as far as anyone knows, Medford Lee Fuller and his wife, Virginia.  After her death in 1938, Mr. Fuller built the cemetery.  I guess you were allowed to do that in those days.  There are rumors that their child is also buried there.  There is no grave marker, but supposedly a bench is his tombstone.

There is evidence of animal sacrifices in this park.  Residents are sure that rituals and Satan worship are alive and well here.

The park during the day is like any other park with nice trees and a place to relax, but at night it’s eerie and creepy with lots of bats and unexplained screeching noises.  If you venture further into the park there’s a dilapidated old barn full of life’s remnants and an old, rusted out tow truck. 

They say Fuller Park is always cold, even in summer.  Enter the tunnels if you dare.

The second entrance is in the country club, but the other three have never been found.

Pictures and info from the Houston Press.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

T is for Taco Crescent Ring Recipe

Taco Crescent Ring Recipe


1 pound of ground beef
1 package of taco seasoning mix (your choice)
1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
2 cans of Pillsbury refrigerated crescent rolls

For inside before serving:
Shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, sliced ripe olives, chopped green onion, taco sauce or salsa as desired, or as a variation serve with guacamole in the center ring


Heat oven to 375 degrees 
In a skillet, cook meat until brown and crumbly and no longer pink
Add taco seasoning mix and about 1/2 cup of water
Simmer four to five minutes.

In a bowl, mix the meat mixture with the shredded cheese

Unroll both cans of dough and separate into sixteen triangles
On an ungreased large cookie sheet, arrange triangles in a ring so the short sides of the triangles form a five inch circle in the center.  Dough will overlap and should look like the sun.

Spoon the beef mixture onto the half of each triangle closest to the center ring.

Bring each dough triangle up over filling, tucking dough up under bottom of dough to secure it.  Repeat around the ring until the entire filling is enclosed (some filling might show a little)

Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until dough is golden brown and thoroughly baked.  Cool five to ten minutes.

Carefully move to a serving plate before cutting into serving slices.  Don’t forget to fill the center ring with your favorite ingredients before serving.

Note:  I did try this recipe that came across my email and it was good, but I would add a bit more cheese and a bit more liquid to make the end product juicier.  My husband liked it but said it was a bit drier than tacos.  I think the dough soaks up some of the juice.

Also, it’s a bit hard to get this sun shape even all the way around.  I think with practice it would be easier.

Friday, April 22, 2016

S is for Scuttlebutt and Scallywag

Scuttlebutt, now where exactly did this word come from?

In the 1800’s, scuttlebutt was the name given to the fresh water supply aboard a ship.  The water cask had a hole cut in it for the dipper or cup to ladle the water out (called a skuttle).  The butt means barrel, which is the same as cask of water. 

Sailors gathered around the water supply to talk about the goings on of the day.  Today, mainly in the US, this is slang for the latest rumors and gossip.  People gather around the water cooler at work to get the latest scuttlebutt

Now, what about scallywag?

The dictionary says this is usually a child who behaves badly.  However, a scallywag can also be an undersized, scraggy and ill-fed animal of little value.  No one knows which came first: “a mean man” or “a worthless animal.”

The word scallywag did crop up in medieval times with several different types of spelling depending on the region.  But the word was first used in western New York in the US.  It’s unclear what country of immigrants brought the word to America.

Back after the Civil War the word swept across the country to mean native white, southern Republicans who gained during reconstruction.  As a result, scallywags couldn’t be confused with carpetbaggers, northern men who came south after the war for economic, political and other reasons.

Later the word shifted to mean any politician that was corrupt, but has softened somewhat today.

Scally is widely used in north-west England, especially around Liverpool, to describe a young person, usually male, who is boisterous, disruptive and irresponsible.  Usually the “lovable rogue” was less than honest, but their crimes were minor and lacked malice.

Today scallywag means “charming scoundrel,” “scamp,” or “rascal” often used by admiring, doting mothers to describe a mischievous child.

So, there you are.  Have you taken part in any scuttlebutt or called someone a scallywag?

Thursday, April 21, 2016

R is for Rust

We went on a hiking outing a few years ago with some friends that were part of a camera class we were taking.  The whole idea was to photograph the wildflowers blooming in the desert, but we ended up taking pictures of rust too once we arrived at our destination and found several rusted out buses along the route.

The drive itself was about 75-miles of dirt road full of ruts and rocks, some of which were big ones.  We were glad we didn’t drive our own vehicle.  There were several times I thought we’d be stuck out in the middle of nowhere in the Nevada desert, but somehow we continued.

Flower side of hill


 Barren side of hill
The flowers were a reward on a hot dry day.  I have to post a couple of those too even though this post is about rust.  What was very strange was that one side of the hill was a carpet of flowers and the other side across the dirt road was barren.

Okay, let’s get back to my topic, rust.  Have you ever noticed how pretty rust can be when it’s on things like this?  It’s very interesting.  What makes things rust in such a manner?  There are definitely many colors here.

After this trip, I started notice things around town with rust on them.

Do adventures like this raise your awareness?

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Q is for the Quilting Queen

Thea with a wall hanging

This can be no other than my little sister, Thea.  I’m not sure how she became so good at quilting or why she even took it up in the first place, but maybe it’s because of the cold long winters in upstate New York.  You’d need something to while away all the days.  After she married her second husband and moved there thirty years ago there was probably nothing else one could do in the winter to make it pass by quicker.

 A quilt Thea made for our mother
We all have quilts made by Thea.  These are treasures and made with such detail and precision.  She puts all our projects in this department to shame.  And dare I say her quilts are all made by hand without the use of a sewing machine.  What a task!  I think my fingers would be falling off.

Not only does my sister make beautiful quilts but she’s made wall hangings and stuffed dolls and animals.

Quilts for great nieces

Now they have about nine months of winter where she lives just across the border from Canada.  I think she told me she made eight quilts one winter.  Some of these are king size so you can only imagine all the time and effort that goes into a project like that.  Do any of you have the time and patience for something like this?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

P is for the Pendulum

Pendulums started out in clocks and were the most accurate way to measure time until the 1930’s.  The word pendulum is Latin for “pendulus” meaning hanging.  A pendulum is hung from a fixed point enabling it to swing freely back and forth due to gravity and inertia.

 Grandfather Clock Pendulum
Galileo first had the idea to invent a clock using a pendulum in 1602, but he never did and the world would have to wait another half century for the first pendulum clock, which was created by a Dutch scientist named Christiaan Huygens in 1665.  His clock was accurate to within one minute per day, but he later improved it to ten seconds a day.

Back in the first century the pendulum was used in seismometers to detect the direction of earthquakes.

 Pendulum in the Cathedral Metropolitan
In 1851 the pendulum was used to demonstrate the rotation of earth.  This was discovered by a man named Jean Bernard Leon Foucault.  Up to that point everyone depended on celestial observations.  For the next half century there was “pendulum mania” as Foucault pendulums were set up in several cities to show the rotation of the Earth.

By the 1930’s the pendulum gave way to the quartz clock.  Over the years pendulums have been made out of different materials and in different lengths.  Some clocks still use this method today, namely the grandfather clock and some mantel clocks.

 The pendulum clock in my house.  You'll notice the rubber band on the bottom.  This is to keep Raven out of there because he stops the clock playing with the pendulum.
But did you know that other uses evolved from the pendulum?  For instance, in religious practice the swinging incense burner called a censer, or thurible, is a version of the pendulum.

During the Spanish Inquisition in the Late Middle Ages, a pendulum device was also used to torture victims before killing them.  In place of the bob head usually found on a pendulum, an axe was attached. The victim would be strapped to a table while the axe swung back and forth gradually being lowered until it cleaved the victim’s torso.

 Divination pendulum
The pendulum is also used for divination and dowsing.  This is a way for getting answers to questions, such as identifying allergies, etc.  We learned a bit about this while living in California.  I’ve never seen anyone use one here for that purpose, but a lady surprised me a few weeks ago when she pulled a pendulum from her pocket to hold over one of my samples before she picked it up.  Like I said before, I’m surprised in the workplace sometimes.

In the old days, this was also a method for finding water.

Have any of you ever used a pendulum?