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.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

U is for umbrellas




Somehow when I think of this word Mary Poppins comes to mind.  We have little rain in the desert, so an umbrella isn’t needed often.  When we lived in Oregon, we needed one every time we left the house.  I never saw so much rain in my life.

The umbrella originated in China years ago.  It’s also called a parasol, but generally the parasol isn’t waterproof and is used as protection from the sun, not rain.

Umbrellas can be collapsible, including the handles, but some are made so just the canopy is collapsible.  They’re used on patio tables, picnic tables and at the beach in the summer.  Handles can be wooden, plastic or metal.

The earliest records about umbrellas dated back to 21 AD, but parts for a Chinese collapsible umbrella were found in an old tomb on an archeological dig in the 6th century BC.

Umbrellas were also used in the Middle East, ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, India, Siam, in the Aztec Empire and Europe.




Today the original silk canopy is usually replaced by cotton, nylon, or plastic.  Currently the US Patent office employs four full time employees just to oversee all the different patents coming in for umbrellas.  Today’s umbrella has been streamlined to improve their response to wind.  This is a good thing, as I had an umbrella years ago that would invert in heavy wind, thus not doing the job of an umbrella at all.

In 2005, A Dutch design student invented a storm umbrella that can withstand winds up to 70 MPH without turning itself inside-out.  This umbrella is sold under the license by Totes in the USA.  I have no idea how much one of these new umbrellas cost, but I suspect it’s quite a bit.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The goat that ate figs



Okay, this is a short story that we made up for the kids after doing a demo for this goat and fig cheese at Costco for three nights in a row.  We were all pretty rummied by the third day and had a good laugh about this goat cheese as we wondered how it even came about to start with. 

Apparently this cheese has many uses besides a regular table cheese.  You can use it as a spread on sandwiches, smear it on toast or pancakes, or put it in numerous recipes, etc.  It has a sweet flavor and is more like a desert cheese than a regular table cheese.  No wonder all the kids liked it.  I’m not sure how the Celebrity Company came up with the idea of adding figs to the goat cheese.

Here’s our story:

One day a goat was walking along and got very tired so it decided to take a nap under a fig tree.  The large leaves provided nice shade and it soon fell fast asleep.  Halfway through its nap, a ripe fig fell off the tree right onto the goat’s nose.  Being curious, as goats are, it looked it over at the sweet fruit and decided it was ready for a little snack. 



 From Costco Website
 
It took a small bite and then another and before long it had gotten up and eaten every fig off the tree.  Soon the master was calling it in.  It was milking time, so the goat, revived from the nap and the figs, frolicked over to the barn. 

“Why are you so happy today?”  The farmer looked at the goat curiously.  It wasn’t long and the farmer found out the goat had been in the garden munching on the figs.  Once the milk was processed for cheese, it had a distinct flavor and was sweeter than the other cheese. 

From that day forward the goat was allowed to wander into the garden of fig trees and eat his fill.  The farmer planted more trees so the goat would never run out of his favorite snack and he would never run out of his famous cheese.  By then everyone in the village was waiting for the next batch of goat fig cheese.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Speaking in public


This is something I hate to do.  I never took speech class in high school for this reason.  When I was asked to give a speech at our graduation from the citizens’ police academy, I didn’t know what to say.  I was shocked that she asked me because we had lots of people there in the class, but I was also flattered.  She said she asked because I was writing a mystery series of books and wanted my perspective of the academy once it was over.  I have a hard time saying no too, so I told her I’d do it.  I had one day notice and was a bundle of nerves.

I sat down at my computer that night to type up something I had roughed out earlier in the day.  I was going to use bullet points and then speak letting those jog my memory, but in the end I ended up writing a two page double-spaced speech to read.  I figured I’d probably get tongue-tied and it was better to have everything written up that I wanted to say.  And I didn’t want to leave anything out.

The next day before class I went over it again and printed it out.  My neighbor was my guinea pig and good enough to listen to it beforehand.  I was grateful for that.  I got a bit emotional while reading it to her.  I thought I’d be a basket case at the graduation.  After all, the mayor, chief of police and deputy chief would all be there, along with a few of the officers.  However, I tried not to think about all this as I drove over.  I do speak to strangers at Costco all day long, day in and day out, so I tried to envision my audience in that way.  I have no problem at all talking about my demo all day long.

The mayor spoke first and then the police chief.  I thought “oh no!  I’m next.”  But as it turned out another older man and volunteer at the department was called next and then I was last before our completion certificates were handed out, along with a class picture we took a few weeks ago.  We were called up in alphabetical order and had to walk to the front, much like any graduation, except there was no cap and gown.  Afterwards we had to go down the line and shake hands with the mayor, police chief and deputy chief and the officers there that got in that line.  The officers were all gracious and thanked me for saying such nice things about them.  I meant every word.



 Our binder of info, the graduation certificate and class picture
 
I did become a bit emotional as I told them how sorry I was the class was over, how nice and prepared all the officers were and how passionate about their jobs they are.  I wanted to thank them all because I learned so much and I know it took a great deal of their time to prepare all the presentations for us.  We had power point slides and handouts.

After that we all had snacks that were nicely laid out on two big tables in the back of the room.  There were sandwiches, chips and dip, veggie trays and fruit platters.  The water was in big, clear glass dispensers, one with lemon slices and the other without.  It was all very nice.  We formed small groups and talked about the class as we ate with our fellow classmates.  Of course we joked about not knowing what to do on Tuesday and Thursdays nights now that the class was over.  We decided we might need a support group, or an advanced class. 

A few of the class members have stopped by for some samples at Costco since that night.

I’m still looking for the right frame for my diploma and class picture and will hang it proudly on my office wall.  

Friday, April 21, 2017

R is for rabbits and roadrunners





We have lots of both these critters in the desert.  Surprisingly, they aren’t predators of each other.  The rabbits eat grass and other green bushes they find in the desert.  Roadrunners usually stick with lizards and other small prey.



The rabbits always find a way into our yard to get at the lawn.  The back is walled in but the front isn’t.  Rabbits eat all day long.  It’s amazing they can eat so much.  They can also make themselves skinny enough to fit between the pickets in the gate and through the Y-block we have as drains.  Their bones must be very pliable.



 He must have been hot

The other day I caught this one in the water dish cooling off.
 

Here's a jackrabbit napping in the front yard






 This roadrunner is hunting in our backyard
 
The roadrunners are predators looking for meat, usually eating lizards, bugs, small snakes and other small prey.  They come by about every month or two and are here a few days before moving on to other parts of their territory.  Usually they come alone, but I have seen them in pairs.  We have some very smart lizards here that must be on the lookout for them because some of them are actually quite big and fat. 



 Roadrunner


Roadrunners have wicked looking teeth, very sharp and fang-like.  They capture their prey in those teeth and then beat it to death on the block wall, or other large rocks.  They roam around the desert freely and have quite a big territory.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Adventures of Quincy O’Quail





What a nice little quail he was with striking feathers and a black face topped by a crown that had just the right amount of tilt.



Quincy grew up in a large household and loved the fact he finally was old enough to go out on his own and not be under his parent’s constant supervision.  He would venture down to Mr. McGregor’s garden because he knew the old man put fresh seed out for the birds several times everyday.  So Quincy had a good time in the green grass and surrounding rocky areas.  Of course, he learned to do the “chicken dance” from his parents when he was a tiny quail.  Scratch, scratch, scratch, peck, peck, scratch, scratch, scratch, peck, peck… life went on day after say with Sergeant O’Quail keeping watch on the garden fence.





 First baby quail of the season

On day, Herbert decided he wanted to accompany his worldly brother, so he tagged along.  Quincy told him to stay with Sergeant O’Quail because it wasn’t safe, but did he listen?  No, of course not!  Soon he was pecking on the lawn beside his brother.



“He doesn’t know of the dangers I face out her everyday,” thought Quincy.  He couldn’t enjoy his feasting because he was very worried about Herbert.  Even with Sergeant O’Quail on duty, it wasn’t always safe.  The birds of prey liked to swoop in and catch them unaware and then there was always the roadrunner with his cunning smile and sharp teeth.





 Quail with babies

Herbert was happily eating away as he did the “chicken dance,” very unaware of any lurking dangers.  Quincy found he couldn’t indulge in any pleasure at all because he was always watching for predators and keeping an eye out on his brother.  He made up his mind he would talk to his parents that very evening after they got home.



They arrived at the family hovel, just before dark.  They were lucky to find this large sagebrush, big enough to accommodate everybody.  They shuffled inside and tried to find a place to tuck in for the night.  The bush was overflowing with the family and visiting relatives who lost their sagebrush during a windstorm.  Life in the desert could be treacherous.  Besides the predators, there was always nature to put up with and it wasn’t always kind.





 Quail with teenager babies

“Mama, I have to talk to you,” Quincy tried to barge in, pushing his brothers and sisters out of the way.  “It’s important, Mama,” he said.



“Will you younguns’ go and find a place to roost?”  She shooed them off and then turned to Quincy.  “Okay, what is so important, son?”



“Mama you have to keep Herbert with you.  He wants to follow me and I can’t scrounge for food and watch after him at the same time.  As you know there are lots of dangers we face here in the desert.”



“That's quite true Quincy, but he has to learn the same way you did.”



“Well Mama I barely escaped with my life that time.  You know the roadrunner almost got me when I was a child.”



“Yes, that's true, but you survived and you’re the wiser for it now.  Isn’t that right, Quincy?”



“Yes, Mama.”



“Well, I think Herbert needs to learn as well.”



“But Mama I don’t know if he can escape the attack the way I did.  In fact, I wonder how I even did it when I go over it in my mind.  I could very well not even be here today you know.”



“Yes, I know that, but you got away and you are here.  It’s your responsibility to teach the others; after all you were the first to hatch.”



“Well I refuse to be held accountable for the outcome of Herbert, if he tags along,” Quincy stomped his foot for emphasis.



“Try to get some rest, Quincy.  It’s a big job to be the older brother and a lot of responsibility.”  His mother ruffled his feathers and gave him a peck on the cheek.



He found a spot in the corner under the sagebrush, finding it hard to squeeze into a place that another relative didn’t occupy.  He tucked in to brood.  In the desert, night came on fast and it was getting quite dark already.  Quincy could hardly make out his relatives in the sagebrush.  They were only silhouettes and soon he was fast asleep.  He began to dream.

Here are some small babies with mama at the water dish.

I hope you like my short story for Q.  This is reblogged from my post 10-7-2012

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Puzzles




These aren’t just for kids anymore.  Today we have a wide range of puzzles around for our enjoyment.  I think mind games help with dementia and other brain diseases.  It’s so important to keep our minds sharp.

My mother suffers with dementia.  She seems to be getting worse with her memory as the weeks go by.  I’ve done a lot of reading on dementia and Alzheimer’s since her diagnosis.  One thing I know for sure is that I don’t want to get it.  I do my best to exercise my mind daily with reading, writing, puzzles, or anything else that will make me think.

My youngest sister does a lot of board puzzles.  She loves the most complicated ones with a thousand pieces.  These are probably her favorite puzzles and she has even framed a few of them.  I’ve known other people to put together and frame those big puzzles too.  They make beautiful wall art.




I have another sister who likes the crosswords.  I enjoy the ones full of random letters where you have to find the twenty words hidden in those letters.  I try to do several of those a week. 

I’m not sure if anyone in my family does the Sudoku puzzles with all the numbers.  I’ve done them, but they really are quite challenging.  I imagine, as with anything, one gets better with practice.

I don’t think anyone of us wants to end up with dementia or Alzheimer’s, but who knows what the future holds.   If it’s inherited, perhaps we’ll get it anyway no matter how much we use our minds.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

O is for oils




We have oils for everything today, maintaining your car, cooking, perfumes, for you hair, and to change your mood.  I’m sure I’ve missed a few. 



When I was growing up we had motor oil and vegetable oil and that was about it.  In the sixties, I discovered essential oils and started using them in place of perfume.  My favorites for this purpose are musk and patchouli.  I still use them to this day.  Oils stay on all day, unlike most perfume that dissipates in a few hours.  A drop or two is all you need too.




I never use vegetable oil these days, but instead use olive oil, coconut oil, sesame oil, or peanut oil depending on the flavor I desire for what I’m cooking.  I think these are healthier oils than vegetable and canola.

Toasted sesame oil lends a great flavor to oriental dishes.  I love stir fry with rice noodles, or rice, and all the veggies. 

Olive oil is great for most other things I cook, like meat or eggs, or stir-fried veggies, unless I want a hint of coconut.




Moroccan oil and Argon oil are great for your hair.  They give it shine and are a big help against split ends and breakage.  It only takes a couple of drops too, so the bottle will last a while since this stuff isn’t cheap. 




But coconut oil is the most versatile oil I know of.  It can be used in cooking, as a hair conditioner, as a body lotion, a makeup remover, etc.  I’m sure there are many more uses for it.  I must warn you to keep this oil capped up well and also zipped into a large storage bag after opening.  Ants love this stuff.  I guess they can smell the coconut a mile away.  I had a small jar in the bathroom that had a nice screw-on lid.  I had it capped tightly, but the ants still got in there and ate all that oil.  The only thing that alerted me to this situation was all the ants covering the jar and the trail headed for the contents.  Needless to say, I was flabbergasted.




Lastly, a large variety of oils are used in aroma therapy today.  They’re usually placed in a diffuser so the oil is dispersed in small amounts at a time to fill the room with pleasant scents.  Some of these oils are used to relieve stress and help you sleep, among other things.  I imagine these have been used for centuries and are enjoying a revival today, but I haven’t researched that.