Category Archives: Home Front

Fantasy Oasis

Home garden and decorating magazines—and the fact that I live in a desert—long ago inspired in me a yearning for a fantasy oasis. Oh, nothing excessively artsy-fartsy, but I dreamed of a private, lush garden to relax in. Lots of greenery. Trees to enfold our little house and obscure those surrounding us. Perhaps a little artwork tucked away here and there to liven the view and add a little whimsy…

In the Beginning

When we moved into our new house three years ago, there was grass from the street all the way to the back fence. Luckily, there were three mature trees, too. Well, they were advertised as mature, but they were more like adolescents. Maybe I’m being a snob, but I think a mature tree should actually provide some shade! Where was my fantasy oasis? Continue reading Fantasy Oasis

It’s Been a Busy Week!

Hello, faithful readers!

This is not the post I’d planned for today, nor the time I meant to post it (oops! I’m late!), but it’s been a busy week, so what I have for you is a quick update.

On May 21, grandchild #3 came into our lives. We are smitten. He is adorable.

Then, on June 7, grandchild #4 appeared. She, too, is adorable and instantly melted our hearts. We have such cute grandchildren! (No, really!)

Between those two amazing events we began a super-sized yard makeover: taking out a big chunk of sod in the back yard and putting in a flower bed, a little patio, (hopefully) a big patio (but we’re still waiting on the Patio Dudes), and repairing the insane sprinkling system we inherited when we bought our house. (Who puts sprinkler heads meant for the entire yard behind trees? Three out of four across the back fence, and don’t get me started on the rest!)

AND… it suddenly became summer here. We’re having temperatures in the upper 80s and lower 90s, which would be great if we were sipping cool drinks on the patio, enjoying the new scenery, but it is not very fun to work in!

Backyard Makeover 2017
The west corner of the back yard… and it looks pretty much the same all the way to the east corner, so I’ll spare you more pictures. For now…

Wish us luck! And stay tuned for more interesting things to read soon… Er… eventually?!

Of Ocean Breezes and Green Gomboo…

Original plans called for me going through vacation pictures and making witty captions to post about my recent vacation in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. However… The Green Gomboo came along for the trip. I spent half my would-be gorgeous vacation in the sun and sand sick as a dog. (Ever wonder where that term came from? Me, too. Read about it at World Wide Words. Luckily, I am not sick as a cushion.)

 

My sister has a time-share in Myrtle Beach—and it’s Continue reading Of Ocean Breezes and Green Gomboo…

Spelunking for Fun and Research

SpelunkingForFunAndResearch_pinI have a WHOLE lot more sympathy for Crow’s experience in caves after spelunking (read: “crawling on my belly”) through part of Mammoth Caves…

Last weekend was the annual family reunion. 30 people in a 3-bathroom cabin in Brian Head, Utah. Yikes. Sounds cramped—but what a great group of people for making the best of things! I didn’t hear anyone complaining (except maybe about crickets… and spiders… and perhaps a mattress or two…!). There was bike-riding, hiking, tram-riding, fishing, games, s’mores, great food, stories, coloring, and… spelunking.

Driving to Panguitch Lake on Saturday, we passed the sign to Mammoth Springs. Hubby says, “I want to take you to see Mammoth Caves.”

“Okay. Let’s!” says I.

So we did. Check this out! Continue reading Spelunking for Fun and Research

Landscape Elves Garden Gate

A Visit from the Landscape Elves

Landscape Elves are awesome.

Let me tell you, today has been one of those days. I’ve been thwarted at every turn!

There were the bed sheets that don’t actually fit; we have to tie the bottom sheet down with sheet fasteners and even that doesn’t really work. The sheets have developed strange runs in them. I have been cursing the darned things since the day we bought them. What the heck are they made of, anyway?

Cuisinart Ice-Cream MakerThere was the ice cream. We are big into homemade ice cream and this batch is the first one we’ve made this year. However… the recipe makes a little more than fits in my very beautiful Cuisinart Automatic Frozen Yogurt, Sorbet, and Ice Cream Maker. I held back some it but, as you can imagine, it still overflowed. I had a mess to clean up, and they don’t make the beater very easy to lick! (Wasn’t gonna waste it, yo!)

There there was the hose. We have some frustrating dry spots in our yard where apparently the grass isn’t getting enough water. Someone stole our hose last year and the replacement doesn’t reach all the way across the yard. Oops. So I have to hook one up in the backyard and run it under the gate. A nuisance, but not impossible. Unless I’m feeling really lazy. Well… the sprinkler absolutely refused to stay flat.

Crazy WomanAnd then there’s the computer which, because I have a lot to do today, ran more slowly than cold tar. Even after I restarted it and (reluctantly) shut down some a few applications. Am I the only one to have five or six apps open? And 15 or 20 tabs in my browser? And this stuff is important, I tell you!

This kind of nonsense continues throughout the day. So right when I am thinking about throwing a temper tantrum, the doorbell rings.

It’s my son…

With hugs! And help! It was a good break. 🙂

BUT, I bet you’re wondering about the Landscape Elves, right…?

Wall-to-Wall Grass, or A Dreary Yard

When we moved into this house two years ago, we moved onto a blank canvas. Seriously. There was a tree in each corner of the back yard (still fairly young) and one tree on the side of the backyard. And two weeping mulberries—also in the back yard, and not centered on anything. There’s maybe twenty feet between them. About every other day, my husband threatens to rip them out. “But sweetie, they’re actually grown! They take up space in the utterly flat green carpet of fence-to-fence grass!”

We put in some Spartan Junipers, and they’re growing wonderfully fast. It won’t be long until they’re actually providing privacy, but they no longer look like funny little dots of afterthought. We also installed a couple of yews and put two trees in the front yard: an Autumn Blaze Maple (reputedly good in alkaline soil) and a Shademaster Honeylocust (ditto).

Landscape Elves to the Rescue!

This year, the Landscape Elves have been so busy! They added a lovely new flowerbed to the front of the house.

Landscape Elves 01
Before (March 2016)
Landscape Elves 02
During (April) — The elves hard at work.
Landscape Elves 03
After (Jun 2016)

There is a lot more we want to do, but it will have to come in stages. It is amazing how much this single flowerbed changes the feel of the house. Curb appeal increased by about a million percent!

The bed goes around the side of the house, where we transplanted some mums we rescued from the pathetic little bed near the front door. There’s now a lilac in the corner with lily-of-the-valley planted beneath. Every time I see them I think of my sweet mama and how much she loved them…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

What outdoor projects have you been working on this year?
What’s your favorite plant, and why do you like it?

photo credit: Magic gate via photopin (license) and photo credit: Hahaaa via photopin (license)

You Had Me at “Aloha”

Does everyone dream about going to the beach, soaking up the sand and the sea? I have splashed in the surf of the east coast and the west coast, but never Hawaii — until now. My husband won a ticket for a free flight to anywhere the airline flew, and he (we!) elected the longed-for but never-before-realized dream to finally visit. Where did we go? Lovely, green Kauai.

We rented a go-cart (my husband’s term for the little Nissan Versa) and went sight-seeing, hiked, swam, snorkeled, walked on the beach, got sunburned, and took a million pictures (okay, only about a thousand between the two of us!). A week was too short. Much to my relief we managed to miss Hurricane Ignacio. (Whew! I wasn’t stressing out about that. Much.) The natives told us that our week was unusually hot and humid, encouraging us to make a return trip. I was told the water was cold; it was not, it was lovely. But salty. Really, really salty… There were chickens everywhere, which I found enormously amusing (along with all the variations of signs telling folks not to feed them or leave cigarette butts on the ground for them to smoke). Everyone was wonderfully friendly. The island was fantastically beautiful. The sunsets were spectacular. Even the rain was pretty!

I am lucky my husband is a photographer. Look at these pictures! (Some of my favorites from the trip!)

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Would I go there again? You betcha! There is still SO much more to see and do!

Pioneer Day and Finish Lines

In my neck of the woods, today is a Big Deal. Pioneer Day is an official holiday for the state of Utah, and some of the regions in surrounding states originally settled by Mormon pioneers have celebrations, too. The holiday commemorates the arrival of Brigham Young and the first Mormon pioneers into Utah’s Salt Lake Valley in 1847. Between Pioneer Day and Independence Day, we pretty much party all month. There are parades, concerts, barbecues, pancake breakfasts, reenactment treks, retail sales, and rodeos. And fireworks. Oooooh, yeah. Once upon a time folks would just set off their fireworks whenever they pleased  during the month. Local ordinances have changed. Now we are only jolted awake in the middle of the night for the three days before and after the holidays and 11 a.m. to midnight on the actual days. See? We get to sleep in so we’re well rested for the Event-with-a-capital-E.

The 4th of July is like a warm-up for the 24th. Yeehaa!

Naturally, this gives me more ideas for fictional holidays (they’ve appeared here and here before.) And that makes me want to take the rest of today to play in the world-building pool. But… as fun as that is, I really need to focus on my current Work In Progress. The Fantasy Sci-Fi Network group has been running a challenge for its authors. 100 words per day, 7 days per week. Easy peasy, right? It is! Better yet, it got me back into the habit of writing every single day. Soon my word count was at 500 per day. Now it’s closer to 2,000.

KaiBk1_Scriv_01

Woot! I like that! I’m in high gear, racing toward a finish line I can actually see in my handy-dandy Scrivener doc. It is the first draft, yes, and there’s still a lot of work to do after, but it’s a stage that is nearly finished. Another week or two (I’m feeling that optimistic), and then I am going to celebrate with something dangerous like Pomegranate Häagen-Dazs (Soooo yummeh…)

haagen-dazs-pomegranate

R&R For the Win!

Guess where I’ve been?

On vacation!

Spending a week with my sister in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, has been so fun and so relaxing. I’ve hardly looked at my computer, and I don’t feel the least bit guilty. We all need a little time to disconnect, reconnect with what’s important (Hello, sis an fam!), and recharge.

Gotta jet, but here’s a peek at a few pics!

 

What do YOU like to do to regenerate? Where do you like to go?

Wedding Bells—Again!

We are celebrating another wedding! Preparation for this one was crunched into two months, and of course the last bit has been hectic! I was able to design the invitations again—I love that—and the hubster has, of course, done the pre-wedding photography again.

So. Tomorrow’s the big day, and tonight there’s a wedding dinner to attend (which is good, because I’ve had no time to cook today!). Sunday I’m taking a looooong nap.

(names and information changed to protect the innocent)

Isn’t she pretty?

And he’s okay, too… 😉

Is the picture too small to see? Click on it. I’ll wait.

I wish I could post a picture or twenty two of her in her wedding gown, but it’s still top secret. Maybe I’m a teensy, tiny bit prejudiced, but I think she looks so beautiful in it!

Rescue Robin

A tale of tragedy, love, growth, freedom… and worms.

I got the most unique gift for Mother’s Day this year: an abandoned baby robin. It actually fell out—or was pushed out—of its nest on Saturday. From my living room window I saw this fluttering orange thing and had to take a closer look. “That looks like a bird…” I mused. And sure enough, it was a baby bird, gasping and panting in the sun (and looking a wee bit sun-burned).

My gallant husband fetched the extension ladder and bravely leaned it against the upper branches of our  gangly pine to return the poor thing to its nest. On Sunday, it had been ousted again, but this time it was perishing on the hot cement of our driveway.

“What do you want me to do with it?” Husband asked.

“You can either put it out of its misery or bring it in. I can’t bear to have it die a long and terrible death on the driveway. On Mother’s Day, no less.”

So he brought it in. It was not a pretty sight. It reminded me of the creatures in the old fantasy movie Labyrinth.

About 4 days old
Only the quills and fuzz kept it from looking entirely like a dragon. Thanks to the invention of the internet and web browsers, I was able to look up information that told me its age (4 days in this picture, as near as I could tell) and how to care for it. My grandson, now an ancient three months old, eats about every 3-4 hours, but this tiny tyke requires food every 15-20 minutes. Earthworms or mealworms were the preferred natural food, but moist kitten chow and hard boiled eggs were also supposed to be quite good for it. (Cannibal!) My daughter decided to name it “Nugget” (as in chicken nuggets). I strenuously objected.
6 days

Well, guess who turned his beak up at kitty food and eggs? Mm-hmm. I learned something new, though. Put a worm in the beak, and you get an immediate return on your investment. We lined a small round plastic dish with strips of paper towels and discovered that these itsy bitsy beasties have a built-in instinct to lift their (very bare and completely featherless) bums over the side of the nest to poop. This probably works better in a nest built to fit the bird, but we had moderate success. And it didn’t take the bird long to decide that moist kitty chow and hard-boiled eggs (Whites only. Must have been listening to my daughter or something) were perfectly acceptable foods to consume. By about the third day in our care, there were suddenly small, fluffy feathers on the chest, and the tail was produced some stunted, quarter-inch long attempts at feathers that did absolutely nothing to disguise the bareness or aid in balance. The quills on his wings started sprouting barbs. You could almost watch the bird growing, it grew so fast! It was utterly fascinating.

9 days old
We’d kept the little bird and its nest in an ice cream bucket, but now it had begun lurching about. Sometimes it got stuck between the “nest” and the bucket. My darling Husband had also grown tired of digging for worms and stopped at the grocery store for a container of night crawlers. Those things are huge (at least when you’re talking baby birds!). They had to be cut in pieces.
EW.
Hubby got that job, which was a little more than I could handle, though I had no trouble feeding the Worm Parts to the baby with a set of surgical tweezers. The little fuzzball was quite hilarious. All you had to do was touch the bucket, and he’d go from quietly snoozing to Full Alert, beak open, neck craning upward, cheeping like crazy.
11 days old (love the eyebrows!)

Since he was getting fed extremely well, and seemed content, we lengthened the times between feeding. Every half hour until dusk was taxing enough. We moved him into a large laundry hamper and introduced some sticks for him to start learning to perch. Unable to figure out how to get down, he’d sit there until we felt sorry for him and put him on the floor. About a day and a half later he was hopping up and down from the branch like a pro. We’d put a board over the hamper to prevent an unexpected escape, but he still surprised me when I lifted it up one day and he hopped up onto the rim like he knew what he was doing. We thought he’d never learn to peck bugs from the floor, and my husband got frustrated. But, like all the other incredible things our little guest learned, pecking and feeding himself came quite naturally, and swiftly. It took him about a day and a half to figure it out, but he didn’t like us watching. (Again, hilarious.) We started putting him out on the back deck to acclimate him to the weather, then we let him run around a bit. Mostly, he just stuck close to me. Except when he ran under the deck where we have motorcycles and the lawnmower stored under a tarp. Getting him out of there was interesting…

But I confess, I was enchanted. He knew my voice, and he let me pick him up, even though I stoically resisted petting him and playing with him, knowing that he needed to be on his own in a matter of days.
14 days old

A little more than a week after taking him in, he was spending his days and nights outside, though we still fed him some. The weather was chilly and wet. I worried about him. Talk about being soft-hearted… On Memorial Day he helped me in the garden. I kid you not, it was just like having a little toddler underfoot. As I was bent over, using a digging tool to uproot weeds, he was running back and forth underneath me or perching ON my tool. He was quite happy about all the bugs I disturbed for him. He also took a fancy to the diamond on my wedding ring. Oo, shiny! I warned him that he was going to get himself whacked in the head—and sure enough, he ran into my hand as I was pulling a weed free. I thought for sure he’d fly away, but he just shook his head and looked a little cross-eyed for a minute, then went right back to what he’d been doing.

16 days old – posing for a portrait

Our neighbors took a shine to him. They brought worms they were digging up in their yard while they worked. Their dog chased the bird, who by this time we’d dubbed “Waldo” because we had trouble seeing him. He was awfully well disguised with his speckled breast. And no, we don’t actually know if it was a he or a she.

19 days old

He joined us for breakfast at the picnic table. When my husband sat on one of our deck chairs, Waldo took a seat in the one next door. If we walked across the yard, he followed. If we left him alone for awhile, he scolded us severely when we returned (scolding before eating, even!). When it was time for a little extra worm supplementation, all I’d have to do was go out on the deck and call him, and he’d crash his way up to me. He actually liked snuggling. He’d nestle right down in the palm of my hand—and take a snooze. He’d been doing his flight practice and bug hunting in our back yard, but on Wednesday I walked over to a friend’s house, and when I came back he was waiting for me in a bush by the front door.

On Thursday—Well, he never showed up. I’ve looked for him several times today, but alas, no Waldo. There are no tell-tale feather poofs in the yard indicating an untimely demise via kitty, so I have decided that he is off for greener, wormier pastures.
I hope he comes back to visit….
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So guess what????
The virtual book tour for As the Crow Flies begins this Monday, June 3rd! Tune in for interviews, reviews, guest posts, and a giveaway!
And if there is anyone who would like to help out by providing a slot on your blog, it’s not too late. I’ve been meeting some awesome writers and bloggers, promoting them and their books as well as mine—and I’d like to get to know you, too! Please drop me a line or comment here. It’s a win/win situation! What are you waiting for?