Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Spotted Jewelweed

You'll notice a common theme to my posts this week. With no end to the gas crisis in sight, Doughboy and I stayed close to home this past weekend. This is abnormal since we are typically on the go. If a gas station was fortunate to have a supply of gas, invariably the lines were long as frantic customers lined up. People are crazy! Oh well, deperate times call for desperate measures. I was lucky to locate a station with a short line and filled my car. My full tank ought to get me through the week.

Anyway, the weekend weather was spectacular and we took several drives along the neighborhood path with our golf cart. Even Doughboy didn't criticise my numerous stops to photograph flowers and bugs (as compared to this post). My bloggy friend Kate, at Chronicles of a Country Girl, identified the Jewelweed from a previous photo post (here). Thanks, Kate! There are large bushes of this delicate flower close to the bridge that connects the two phases of our neighborhood together. Jewelweeds prefer marshy areas and will bloom until late fall.

The striking orange flowers of the Spotted Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) tell half of the plant's story. Look, but do not touch, often explains the other half of the plant's story, because it is also called a touch-me-not flower. The plant's seed pods pop whenever they are approached by humans, animals or birds.

Jewelweed is also celebrated as a natural treatment for skin rashes caused by poison ivy and mosquito bites. When you are out in the field and find you have been exposed to poison ivy, oak, or stinging nettle you can reach for the Jewelweed plant and slice the stem, then rub its juicy inside on exposed parts. This will promptly ease irritation and usually prevents breakout for most people. Regardless of the plant's medicinal value, it is still a fun and fine looking flowering plant.

Monday, September 29, 2008


If the other fungi are nature's recyclers, lichens are nature's pioneers. Lichens find their homes in some of the most barren and inhospitable parts of the world. From there they slowly begin the process of creating a foundation for habitation by others. A lichen can literally eat stones, survive severe cold, and remain dormant for long periods without harm.

Structurally, lichens are among the most bizarre of all forms of life. That's because every lichen species is actually composed of two, possibly even three, distinct species of organisms. One species is a kind of fungus. Usually the other species is an alga, but sometimes it can be a photosynthesizing bacterium known as a cyanobacterium. Sometimes all three organisms are found in one lichen. Lichen is also very sensitive to air pollution. If you live in an urban environment, finding lichen won't be easy. See how many types of lichen you can find.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Ayden's Sleepover

Four-year-old Ayden had another sleepover with his Mimi and Bumpa last night. It was a cool fall evening and we shared a warm fire in the fireplace before going indoors to watch a movie. I think Ayden enjoys sleepovers with us because he has the undivided attention of his two doting grandparents and it's a treat to escape the antics of his younger brother. Whatever the reason we're glad he likes to hang out with us. One of Ayden's favorite pastimes is taking a bath in Mimi's bubble tub. After drying his hair and brushing teeth, Ayden delared himself clean and shiney!

Another of Ayden's favorite past-times is driving the golfcart (with a little help from Bumpa). Our neighborhood has several miles of a paved path that winds through forested areas, meadows, and an ancient pecan grove. The path and acres of green space are two reasons why we chose to live here. It's really beautiful year round, but fall is my favorite for taking a ride on the path. Last week we celebrated one year living in our new home.

Like any young inquisitive mind, Ayden enjoys all the wild flowers and bugs (especially the creepy ones) that we encounter on our ride and in the yard. Like this grasshopper that hitched a ride on the windshield...

We almost always end our ride in the 100-year-old pecan grove. This quaint little gazebo would be a great place to curl up with a book.

Sadly our time with Ayden came to an end and he had to go home. But he will return for another sleepover so long as we have fun adventures and a store of cookies. I hope he will fondly remember these times with us just like I recall memories with my grandparents who are long gone. I hope you had an enjoyable weekend!

Friday, September 26, 2008

What Did You Say?

One of my all-time favorite flicks is Pretty Woman starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. And, one of my favorite lines in the movie happens in the opera scene. Gere takes Roberts to her first opera. Roberts is so moved by the experience that tears spring to her lovely hazel eys and she applauds exuberantly at the opera’s curtain call. An elderly lady approaches Roberts and asks, “How did you like the opera, dear?” to which Roberts replies, “I was so excited I almost peed my pants.” The elderly lady looks quite puzzled by Roberts admission, and Gere quickly corrects the situation by saying, “She said it reminded her of the Pirate of Penzance”. (there’s a point to all of this rambling, really)

After picking up Doughboy from the airport tonight, we decided to dine at one of our preferred upscale establishments – The Downtown Grille. It was a spectacular evening –warm and sultry with a softly blowing breeze. We dined outdoors to capture every moment of the magic and took our time catching up on the week’s events. Next to our table was a rather large party and, as evidenced by the increasingly loud voices, they were having a good time. Doughboy and I decided to cap off our wonderful meal by sharing an order of fruit crêpe. Being the perfectionist I am, I pronounce crepes in the French fashion – “krepp” that rhymes with met– rather than the Americanized version “krapes” with a long a.

When our waiter returned to ask us how we enjoyed our meal, I said I had it enjoyed it very much and that we would like an order of crepes. The waiter looked quite puzzled by my statement – even a little embarrassed. He pointed in the direction of the restrooms and hastily disappeared inside the restaurant. A few minutes later, our waiter returned and asked if we wanted any dessert. Didn't he hear me the first time? Or had he forgotten? After requesting an order of crepes again, it dawned on me. In the noise of voices next to us, our waiter thought I had said something about enjoying the meal so much I had to take a CRAP. Oh my gosh! I was so embarrassed! Doughboy burst into tears and didn’t stop laughing for a full five minutes. I felt compelled to explain myself to the waiter, but decided against making an embarrassing moment even worse. This will give him something to talk about with his waiter friends later. “You won’t believe what one of my diners said!” Oh well…it was kind of funny…

Do you have a similar experience when your words were taken out of context or completely misunderstood? If yes, please share. I really need to know I’m not alone in this experience.

I hope ya'll have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Photo of the Month: Weather

As I mentioned in a previous post, Kacey at Wine On The Keyboard has a monthly photo contest. This month's theme is weather. Spending most of my life in the mid west where extreme weather is the norm, I've grown complacent from Georgia's mild winters.

However, in January 2005, Georgia was locked in a serious ice storm that halted all outdoor activity for two days. A mere prediction of bad winter weather - ice or snow - can cause panic in the lives of Georgians. People rush to the food stores and gas stations to stock up on enough essentials to last an average family a month indoors.

The storm began as rain and quickly changed to frozen rain as temperatures plummeted. Doughboy, our three canine children, and I hunkered down while the storm raged outside. On the day the storm ended, the sun came out and melted all the ice. It was like a fairyland - all crystalline and magical. The following photo is my entry to Kacey's weather contest. Click here to view other scenes from the ice storm...and rush over to Wine On The Keyboard at the end of September to cast your vote!

Would someone please pass the Puffs?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Bizarre Foods

Apparently I’m not finished discussing television programs. One of the strangest shows is the Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods. Host Andrew Zimmern travels to some far flung corners of the globe as he embarks on a quest to taste the strangest foods on the planet in this fascinating program. Spain, Morocco, Ecuador, and the Philippines all provide some curious culinary treats (including guinea pigs, raccoons, live worms, and piranhas) for Zimmern as he undertakes his task.

Yummy! Veal mouth!

With all of the weird foods just mentioned here, not to mention the other rancid, fermented, animal parts – from snout to tail – he’s eaten, you might wonder if Zimmern's ever gotten sick on the job, left spending his nights praying to the porcelain god.

"I've yet to spend a night around the commode because of my job," he says, adding a shocking bit of information. "When the cameras stop rolling, I keep eating".

As peculiar as this show is, I still keep tuning in to see what he'll eat next. Watching this show makes me long for the days before HDTV. Check out what bizarre tastes Andrew Zimmern enjoyed while traveling the globe and filming Bizarre Foods.

Cow's Urine Tonic

Fish Stomach Sauce

Raw Camel Kidneys with Berbere and Lemon Juice

Fresh Goat's Blood

Giant Flying Ants

Tofu Skin with Hana Snails and Salmon Roe

Giant Clam Sashimi

Los Angeles
Wolfgang Puck's Hunan Style Rooster Balls

Niache (seasoned lamb's blood)

Hakari (eight-week-old putrefied shark)
Slatur (blood pudding)

Pickled Lamprey

Chafaina (cow vein stew)
Chunos (freeze-dried rotten potatoes)

Lutefisk (dried cod rehydrated in lye)

Penis Soup
Donkey Skin

It comes to no surprise that Zimmern is the spokesperson for Pepto-Bismol. What bizarre foods have you eaten? What foods wouldn't you eat? When you travel, do you experiment by eating native foods? Or do you search for the golden arches? The older I get, the less of a risk taker I become. Especially when it comes to the foods I ingest. However, since moving to Georgia I have acquired a taste for foods not common in the mid-west. You can keep the boiled peanuts (slimy) and fried okra (super slimy), but please pass the grits and sweet potato souffle. And don't even get me started on my favorite place to eat for breakfast where nothing is lo-cal and everything is fried: Waffle House. They offer fabulous dishes such as heart-attack-on-a-plate (translated to scrambled eggs, hash browns scattered, covered, smothered [crispy with onions and cheese] and bacon). Yum!

Monday, September 22, 2008

DWTS: Season 7

Tonight marks the start of another season of Dancing With The Stars. Woo hoo! I cheered for 82 year old Cloris Leachman (she was actually quite elegant dancing the waltz) and was disappointed by soap star Susan Lucci (a/k/a Erica Kane of All My Children), this season's cougar. My favorite of this season's cast of celebrities is Brooke Burke - a host, actress, entrepreneur and celebrity mom, Brooke Burke has truly done it all. She has graced numerous magazine covers, has her own top-selling swimsuit calendars, and is regularly ranked in men's magazines as one of the sexiest women in the world. She is the mother of four and the most "normal" of all the celebrities.

Doesn't she look great at 82 years old? I should be so lucky...

I never tire of the lively banter between judges Bruno and Len, and the say-it-like-it-is CarryAnne. But it's the celebrities I love to watch. I haven't missed a season yet. Do you watch DWTS? Who was your favorite in tonight's premier? What television shows can't you live without?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Word About Word Verification

Have you visited a blog and wanted to leave a comment only to have to identify jibberwacky "word verification"? It is cumbersome and annoying, which is why I turned off this feature when I first created my blog. Because this feature is transparent to the blog author, you may be unaware that word verification is enabled on your site. The letters are often indescernable jibberish and I cannot always read them correctly the first time. Sometimes I give up leaving a comment altogther, which isn't fair to the blog author.

What is word verification? With the recent antispam action taken by Blogger, bloggers are having to confirm that their blogs are not spammy by confirming a word verification "captcha". Do your readers a favor and disable this feature.

How do I do this, you ask? Sign into your blog, click on the Settings tab, then Comments. Scroll down to the word verification section and check "No" for the question that asks "Show word verification for comments?" If you are concerned about spam, you may choose to moderate your comments before they are posted. However, I have never experienced this problem in the past year that my blog has been active.

Thanks much for letting me vent :)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Black Box

I was checking in with Kate at Chronicles Of A Country Girl and read her post about the Black Box widget. It's very interesting, actually, and I have created a widget on my blog (on the left side) if you are interested in checking it out yourself. Click on DECIDE and you will be given a series of choices. At the end, you can click on the mystery link whereas you will be directed to a blogger who chose similarly. To be considerate, I always leave a brief comment on the blog site telling how I found them.

You may add the Black Box widget to your blog by following the directions here. I am constantly amazed by the talent of many bloggers. If I had all the time in the world, I could easily spend hours wandering from one blog to the next and glimpsing into the lives of others. But alas, my canine children are begging to be fed their dinner.

Before I go, I will leave you with a few photos taken today. Doughboy and I went for a ride around the woods on our golf cart. I took a few photos of more flowers...and a surprise caterpillar.

When venturing into the woods I sometime gets the feeling we're being watched. It must be my vivid imagination...

I hope your last weekend of summer is enjoyable!

Bugs 'N Flowers

Last weekend I was 75% of the way to completing a small album of my 2008 nature photos. I had spent countless hours on my photography, selecting and editing photos, and creating the album (from scratch using AccuCut dies). I was quite pleased with its progress. Doughboy had ventured into my scrap area to check in with me and say hi. Being the only person around, I handed my precious album to him for a look. I knew before handing it to him that his critique was likely to be over-the-top (it usually is). Why do I do this? When will I ever learn? Going from page to page he pointed out all its obvious, and not so obvious, flaws. Not being a scrapbooker himself, he doesn't understand that handmade items come with imperfections and uniqueness. But it was his comment after closing the album that got me thinking. He asked, "When are you going to graduate from bugs and flowers?" What!? My confidence was shaken. Are my photos boring? Repetitious?

Although I visited Madison Park several days this past week, I was reluctant to post my photos for fear of being more of the same. As I think more and more about Doughboy's comment, I have to agree to a point. However, I have a career that consumes most of my waking day. I rise each weekday between 5:15 and 5:30am to prepare my day, make the 30 minute commute to work, and spend my day inside an office until roughly 5:30pm. Once I get home, I have three canine children that need dinner and attention. Sprinkle in my evening chores such as laundry, picking up the house, washing dishes, paying bills, and preparing dinner for myself, there isn't much time before I go to bed and start over the next morning. I have 60 minutes each day - precious little time - to squeeze in a lunch break. Preferring to spend as much time outdoors as possible, and wanting to perfect my photography skills, I spend my lunch break walking around Madison Park or Summer Grove. There isn't much to photograph...except bugs and flowers. Just say the word, Doughboy, and I will gladly quit my job and travel so that I can graduate from bugs and flowers. Until I win the lottery, or someone dumps a wad of cash in my lap, it's off to work I go. And, because most of my readers lead similar lives, I know they will forgive me for my many photos of bugs and flowers. Boring or not, I thank you for looking!

Empty playgrounds seem so sad to me. It needs laughing, playing children. Don't you agree?

I hope you have a safe and enjoyable weekend.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

As Close As I Get

I am fortunate to be surrounded by wonderful family and friends. Family will love me through thick and thin, but true friends are just as special as family. My small circle of friends are "forever friends" and I would go to the ends of the earth for them. One such forever friend, Chere and her hubby, just returned from a whirl-wind European cruise. One of their destinations was London where they shopped at world famous Harrods. I've seen Harrods on the Travel Channel, but living through Chere's experience is as close as I'll get to being there. She informed me that the trademark of Harrods is a Westhighland Terrier, like our Kadybug. Being such a sweet friend, Chere bought me a gift from Harrods that I will always cherish. Even the simple brown wrapper with the Harrods logo looks elegant and understated. What touches me most is that she thought of me while enjoying her spectacular vacation. Thanks much, Chere! It's good to have you back!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Bees, Arachnids, and CPR

Today was hot...and oppressively humid. It was almost too sweltering to walk outdoors, but the pond at Madison Park called to me and my camera. I know my days are numbered before it turns too cold for creatures or flowers to exist for my photographic pleasure.

There is an abundance of flowering weeds along the path. The wild blossoms are filled with bees, probably storing precious nectar for the winter ahead. Honeybees gather pollen from flowers as a source of protein. Most bees in a colony are nectar collectors, but a certain percentage of them are designated pollen gatherers. Bee pollen is created when the bee collects the pollen with her jaws and front legs. She then moistens it with a dab of honey she brought with her from the beehive, plus special enzyme-active saliva, with her legs, which are covered with thick bristles. The she combs these fine particles from her coat and skillfully presses them into her “pollen basket”, a section located on her back legs. When her baskets are full, the microscopic dust will have been tamped down into two single, golden granules. Once their pollen baskets are full, they return to their hive to store the pollen in a comb.

Busily feeding on a ladybug, the arachnid shown below ignored the click of my camera. Obviously its' lunch was more appealing than scrambling out of my view.

I typically carry two cameras -- Nikon D200 and D300. However, I left one of my CF cards in my computer after downloading and forgot to place it back in my camera. Today I had only my D300 and 300mm zoom lens. I took a few photos of a ladybug that didn't turn out very well without my macro lens. It gives me a reason to return to the pond (like I really need a reason, right?) in search of another ladybug. I shoot simultaneously in Program and Shutter modes. I rarely shoot in Manual, although I know I need to practice adjusting my manual settings. I'm usually in too much of a hurry to get a shot, particularly if my subject is mobile. I am not known for my patience. Ask Doughboy.

In less than a month, the three Divas and I will travel to Stamford CT for CPR. No, I'm not referring to cardiopulmonary resuscitation. This CPR is an abbreviation for Creative Photography Retreat (click here for the CPR link). Sponsored by Creative Keepsakes University, the focus of CPR is to improve the student's photography skills using their SLR or dSLR camera, with a focus on scrapbooking. The Divas and I have traveled together to other events, but never have we experienced an event where photography is its sole focus. We are so excited! We're leaving a day before the event so we have a day of play and photography at a location TBD. We may venture into New York, or experience the fall colors of Connecticut, or who knows?

Whatever we do and where ever we go, we always have a fabulous time together. There are sure to be several posts as a result of our experiences. Stay tuned...

Friday, September 5, 2008

Photo Friday

I tried something new. Yes, it's totally out-of-the-box for me which doesn't happen often. I applied an artistic filter to the flower photo above. Do you like it?

As near as could tell, these butterflies were engaged in a ritual mating dance. One butterfly remained still on the ground (had to be a male) while the suspended-in-motion butterfly did all the fluttering. Or, maybe the female is on the ground playing hard to get. Who knows...? Anyway, I jacked the shutter speed all the way up to 4000 to freeze action. The wings of the butterfly were moving so fast that even a shutter speed of 2000 didn't work.

I hope your weekend is safe and enjoyable!