Friday, July 31, 2009

Home Grown

Summer afternoon - summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language. ~Henry James

I picked five squash and our first cucumber yesterday. Nothing tastes as good as freshly picked ANYTHING. It's amazing how much better veggies taste from the garden -- they are crisper and yummier. WAY more flavor. Summer spoils me for store bought stuff. My tomatoes are all splitting before they get ripe, though. I need to look into why that happens.

In Pillar Place: Monarch, Lenape and Maria are both in a "J" and Jane is on her roof, so I anticipate her making her J soon. I'm glad, actually -- it means they'll all hatch around the same time and then it'll be done. Still, I'm really horrified at the small number of pillars we found this year. It really brings home the fact that the monarch is having issues.

Butterfly Tidbit: Butterflies cannot fly if their body temperature falls below 86 degrees.

I dreamed last night that we had two raccoons and a bear at our bird feeders, and I tried to scare them off with my pooper sccoper... lol. If that isn't full of symbolism, I don't know what is.




You Are Cobb Salad



You seem simple, but you're actually a very complicated person.

You stay well organized, and because of that, you're on top of all the chaos in your life.



You work well with others. You are able to check your ego and cooperate.

You are also very open-minded and accepting. You're happy to let people do their own thing.



Um... about 75% right... You? As an aside, I love Cobb Salad, especially the bleu cheese crumbles. I bought some at the store yesterday, opened the dish and DD proclaimed "It smells like dirty socks." I told her she didn't have to have any :-)

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Bad Dog, No Cookie

"Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside..." - Lance Armstrong

So yesterday started out with a bang... or perhaps saying a "boom" or a "thud" would be more appropriate. I took Dd for a walk in the morning and, as I circled the loop at the end of the cul-de-sac, I started getting pinged by a deer fly. They HURT when they bite and (as I mentioned yesterday) once they find you, they do not stop trying to get you. So... I ran. It's only about 1/8 of a mile back to my house, so I figured I could beat the deer fly home.

Dakota, OTOH, thought I was playing, grabbed the leash in her mouth and started bouncing and leaping and... well, at one point she zigged when she should have zagged and bounced right into my path. While I was running. It was one of those things where you see it coming, and everything goes into slo-mo but you can't do anything about it and...

Yep. I fell. Hard. And slid several inches. In the gravel on the side of the road. Ow. I rolled over and lay there for a few minutes, just processing what had happened and trying to keep the dog from crawling all over me ("Oooh... mom's on the ground, she must want to wrestle") and realizing that 1/8 of a mile seemed like a really, really long way when I was bleeding from the knee, elbow and hand.

Why don't we bounce when we get older like we did when we were kids? Today, the pain in my knee, elbow and hand is mostly gone, but all my muscles hurt.

Bad doggie.

==========================

I was reading Denise Robbins blog yesterday and laughed when I read why she opted out of the RWA conference. It's so true what she said about a new WIP bouncing around in your head.

==========================

Speaking of blogs, Romancing the Blog took their author/reader blogs down from their sidebar and I am sad. I used to go there now and then and randomly read new blogs and now I don't know where to go to find new blogs. Anyone have any ideas?

==========================




You Are A Train



You are a true romantic. You have big dreams about how life should be.

You take life at a slow and steady pace. You try to appreciate every moment you have.



You are a very visual person. You are always on the lookout for beauty and inspiration.

You are able to relax and let go more than most people.



That is almost completely wrong, lol... how about yours?

===========================

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Not Your Regularly Scheduled WWWWH

Two-legged creatures we are supposed to love as we love ourselves. The four-legged, also, can come to seem pretty important. But six legs are too many from the human standpoint. ~Joseph W. Krutch

Through an error in scheduling, today doesn't have a WWWWH blog scheduled, so you're stuck with me. Not that I have much to gab about, really! LOL...

This morning, my inbox had an email from Chris Baty and the NaNoWriMo team that included this paragraph:

JUST 96 DAYS UNTIL WE START WRITING OUR NEW NOVELS!
I know, I know. It scares me too. But it's a good kind of scared.

That also means there are only 150 more shopping days until Christmas. Just saying.

If things are looking sort of under control at LASR/WC, I may give NaNo a try again this year. We'll have to see...

If you want to hear what Judy and I sound like (Judy has a great southern accent, BTW... not me, I'm from California and we don't have cool accents. Maybe I'll practice my New England ::::cah, bah, Wahl-Maht:::) we're going to be on Rowena Cherry's Crazy Tuesday radio show next Tuesday (August 4th). Should be interesting...

I tried to get some pictures of my garden for you yesterday, but kept getting dive-bombed by a deer fly and once one of those blood-suckers finds you, they NEVER stop attacking unless you kill them or run really fast. I tried to swat him, and did manage to whack him a couple times, but it did no good. So I had to run really fast (Dakota thought this was great fun). And I got no pictures.

Bad, bad deer fly.



In other insect news, in Pillar Place: Monarch the three remaining pillasr appear to happy and healthy and hungry. Hope they stay that way.

============================



You Are Royal Blue



People find you difficult to understand. In fact, you often find it hard to understand yourself.

You think so much that sometimes you get lost in your own thoughts!



======================

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

And Then There Were Three

I shall not die of a cold. I shall die of having lived. ~Willa Cather

We're in a bit of mourning here at Pillar Place: Monarch. Three of our eggs didn't hatch (Kathy, Karen and Oscar) and one of our pillars died (Nancy). Monarch pillars seem to be particularly fragile ... I've never gotten through a season without losing some without warning. I blame one of two parasites (taken from Wikipedia):

The bacteria Micrococcus flacidifex danai also infects the larvae and causes “black death”. (We've lost pillars to this in the past, but this wasn't Nancy's problem)

The protozoan Ophryocystis elektroscirrha is another parasite of the monarch. It infects the subcutaneous tissues and propagates by spores formed during the pupal stage. The spores are found over all of the body of infected butterflies, with the greatest number on the abdomen. These spores are passed, from female to caterpillar, when spores rub off during egg-laying and are then ingested by caterpillars. Severely infected individuals are weak, unable to expand their wings, or unable to eclose, and have a shortened lifespan but probably occur at low frequencies in nature. This is not the case in laboratory or commercial rearing, where after a few generations all individuals can be infected. (I suspect this may have been what affected Nancy)

Regardless, all I know is that one moment she was fine, and the next she was hanging limply from the wall of her container with a puddle of green "goo" (we call it pillar vomit, though I don't know what it's from) beneath her.

So... we're down to only three: Lenape, Maria and Jane. And still no more eggs.

It's a rough year for butterflies.

=======================

As I lay in bed, trying to get to sleep last night, I began thinking about my fantasy novel ... it's truly a pet of mine, and I love the story, but it's HARD to write. Still, the final scene played through my mind like a movie and I was so excited to see it! It was nothing like what I'd originally imagined, but I think it's going to work even better.

I know I sound like an ADD writer (maybe I am?), but this story draws me like no other. I don't work on it as much because the world-building is tough and I have to remember to remain consistent. It's not just a simple matter of writing what I know.

Today, my plan is to write that final scene while its fresh in my mind. Wish me luck -- it's action-packed and quite dramatic and that can be difficult to put into words effectively.

======================




You Paint the World with Vibrant Colors



You are a true visionary. You are very inspired.

Your friends can always count on you to be adventurous. You're up for anything.



You are a truly bold person ... though sometimes you can be a bit too outrageous.

You are a bundle of energy. You are hyper morning, noon, and night.



Hmmm.... dunno. What do you guys think?

==========================

Monday, July 27, 2009

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream...

Insomnia is a gross feeder. It will nourish itself on any kind of thinking, including thinking about not thinking. ~Clifton Fadiman

I hate my husband's pager. He has it for one month every four months or so... and he sleeps like the dead. So, nearly every night for the past oh, three weeks, I'M the one who is awakened from a dead sleep at 2 a.m. ( *BEEP* *BEEP* *BEEP* *BEEP*) and gets up to bring it to DH who will usually look at it, say, "Ah...nothing important." and go back to sleep.

It's not so easy for me. I have trouble sleeping, trouble getting to sleep, trouble staying asleep. So, once I've slept a few hours (from, oh... 9 p.m. - 2 a.m.) it's all over for me. I'll try to get back to sleep, and though I may doze a bit, I never really SLEEP.

This makes me cranky.

What I would love: One whole weekend ALONE -- no DH, no DD, no Dd, no cat, no *&^% pager. Just me & a bed.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh....

What about you? Light or heavy sleeper? Do you have trouble sleeping or just fall right into dreamland?

============================




You Are Impatient



You hate to wait, and you hate to waste time. You get antsy quickly.

You have zero tolerance for any situation you don't like, and as a result you get stressed easily.



You have a short fuse, and its easy for you to lose your temper in a major way.

People tend to annoy you. You don't have tolerance for anyone else's crap.



LOL... this is about 85% right. **snort**

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Writing Struggles

“You can’t be a serious writer of fiction unless you believe the story you are telling.” - Norman Mailer

So... I took some time yesterday to do a bit of writing. I worked on "A Jewel for Geoff" because it was on my mind. I wrote an entire scene but it felt rather flat and I finally figured out why: I'm not particularly attracted to him.

Usually, when I write a story, I fall madly in love with the hero -- I should, right? If I don't love him then why would a reader?

The problem is that the cover for "One Love for Liv" portrays Geoff as a follicly challenged geeky guy... not how I had pictured him at all. But, that cover was my last hurrah -- and I had no choice but to take it (w/o complaint). So instead of the rather handsome and yuppy-ish Geoff I had pictured in my mind when I wrote the book:



I ended up with balding Geoff:



And I can't get past it. One line I wrote had Geoff raking his fingers through what little hair he had left, and I kinda went... eww...

**sigh**

So what do I do now? I can't change him into a different person. He is who he is in the first book... It's a conundrum. A quandary. A problem.

Of course, Mike didn't look at all like I'd planned either. Here is my Mike:



Fun, irreverent, goofy -- not Mr. hot and intense from the cover.

I'm thinking this sequel may not end up written, which makes me a little sad. Geoff deserved a HEA. I'm just not sure I can write it.

========================

Good news in Pillar Place: Swallowtail!! Carole hatched yesterday without any problems! She popped right out of her glued pupa and fluffed up her wings in no time at all. We released her without incident about an hour after hatching. It was a beautiful thing.

In Pillar Place: Monarch things are about the same. We have five pillars munching away happily and growing in leaps and bound, while the other five eggs show no sign of hatching. Odd. We also haven't found any more eggs. This whole pillar season has me worried this year. I sure hope somewhere there is a bumper crop of pillars, because it surely isn't here.

Butterfly tidbit: The caterpillar has about 2,000 muscles in its body. That would be 1,344 more than us humans, we only have 656.

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Busy

I haven't lost my mind; I have a tape back-up somewhere. ~Author Unknown

One of the things that's been taking my time:



The other thing that's taking my time:



So I leave you with a quiz (and a promise that things should be better by the end of the month):




You Are Bermuda Shorts



You are sophisticated and classy. You always dress, speak, and act appropriately.

You have a natural sense of style, and you always look good.



You are a thoughtful, careful person. You always try to think before you act.

You are very modest and humble. You may have a high opinion of yourself, but you don't let it show.



I'm just thankful I didn't get "Daisy Duke Shorts"...

======================

Friday, July 24, 2009

Wherein I Summarize Using Many Colons

When I get real bored, I like to drive downtown and get a great parking spot, then sit in my car and count how many people ask me if I'm leaving. ~-Steven Wright

Color me swamped. I'm overwhelmed at The Long and the Short of It right now -- we're having an anniversary celebration next month and it's going to be HUGE... lots of fun and prizes, culminating in a giveaway of not one, not two but THREE Sony eReaders.

This is taking a lot of work and organization (things on which I normally thrive) to the point my head feels like it's going to explode (unfortunately, that's not figurative, as I've been fighting a three-day headache... so far this a.m. it's feeling pretty good, though :::fingers crossed:::).

I tell you this so you'll understand the brevity of this post.

Weather: pouring rain.

Pillars: Growing like weeds (we have 5 hatched monarchs)

DD: cranky because no boating today.

Dakota: Sleeping on the couch -- she had a long day of being chaotic yesterday. SEE:



Writing: Limited, but there.

Gardening: Did some weeding yesterday... barely made a dent. Killed another squash borer moth (grrrrr...). Picked one squash and about 8,009,765 peas and green beans.

Me: Spinning plates.

Have a great weekend!

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

My Life in Pictures

A good snapshot stops a moment from running away. ~Eudora Welty

Several of my Asiatic lilies had flopped over, so I cut them for a vase inside:



DD decided she needed to paint them:



I think she did a pretty decent job! I'm putting her in homeschool art lessons at our local art museum this fall -- they work in all different mediums and, because it's a homeschool class, too, delve a bit into art history and the famous masters. I think she'll enjoy it.

I've been trying to lose a few pounds this summer and have been taking long walks every morning -- good for me, DD and the dog. But I've found that my dog has a fetish... she can't pass a water bottle and leave it.




She'll carry the bottle with her through the entire walk and when we get home, she'll toss it around the lawn a bit, playing with it, until we finally dispose of it properly. She has a thing for paper, too, but luckily we don't find much of that on the road.

I found a flower growing on the side of the road during our walk recently that looks a little too much like milkweed for comfort. I wonder if it's one of the plants that the monarch lays her eggs on and then, when the pillar hatches and tries to eat, dies. This is the plant:



This is milkweed:



Pretty close, huh?

In Pillar Place: Swallowtail, we released a butterfly yesterday -- Georgina (formerly Greg) hatched and was healthy! PHEW.



The only one left is Carole, the one I had to glue in place. She should have hatched before Greg/Georgina, since she made her pupa several days prior. I wonder if my handling killed her? At this point, we're six healthy butterflies released, two handicapped butterflies, and one question mark. Not horrible, I suppose, especially considering that the likelihood of their survival was pretty low outside due to the constant rainfall after they hatched.

Still... I'd prefer 100% success.

Today looks like it's going to be sunny, so I might play a little hookey and work in the garden a bit. It needs weeding. My plants are still pathetically small, except the squash which are getting huge and happy (I'm trying not to think negatively, but can't help but assume the squash borer has laid her eggs on them since I've see the moth buzzing about). I hope to get enough squash to eat (my new fave recipe? Slice, brush with olive oil and sprinkle a bit of seasoned salt on them, then toss on the barbecue) and to grate and freeze for squash bread and muffins through the winter.

Have a great day!

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What, When, Where, Why and How with Vivi Andrews

Give a huge HOWDY to Vivi Andrews -- a funny lady with a great taste in jokes.

What is your favorite joke?

I am a huge nerd. My favorite joke is a philosophy joke. You know how Rene Descartes is famous for the phrase I think, therefore I am? Well, my favorite joke goes like this: So, Descartes walks into a bar and the bartender says to him, “Hey, Rene, you want a beer?” and Descartes says, “I think not.” And then poof! He disappears. Hee, hee, hee. That one kills me.


When you were young, what did you do?

Do you mean, like, what did I do for a living when I was younger? Because a better question might be what didn’t I do. I think I’ve held every job known to man. Or do you mean “what did you do” as in what kind of games did I play when I was really young? I will confess right now that I used to make up character sketches for my Playmobile toys and write them in Hello Kitty notebooks. I’ve been writing stories since I learned to write. Or was there a third meaning to the question? I think I’m still pretty young, so does that mean you want to know what I’m doing right now? But I fully intend to be young-at-heart for the rest of my life, so are you asking for my entire life plan??? Oh, God! The pressure! My overachiever gene has kicked in and I must answer the question correctly, but I’m not sure I understand the question! Ack! Help! I’m trapped inside my own neurotic need to overanalyze things (which is also something I did when I was young). Trick question!


Where is the best place to have lunch out?

Wherever my friends are. My favorite lunches are always the ones that last for hours, filled with lively conversations and fueled by a dozen refills of Diet Coke. So I guess my favorite place to eat is anywhere that doesn’t kick us out for laughing too loudly. That said, has anyone out there in computer-land ever been to La Madeleine? It’s a chain of walk-up-to-the-counter French bistros with amazing food and this very rustic d├ęcor. Je l’aime, baby.


Why have you told a half-truth? See the answer to the second question?

Where I said I wrote in Hello Kitty notebooks? A lie! It was all a lie! You see, the notebooks were really pink and girly and Hello Kitty-esq, but I think they were actually Bonnie Bell or Disney or some other manufacturer of kiddie notepads. The truth is: I don’t remember what kind of notebooks they were, but Hello Kitty would conjure in the reader’s mind the most accurate approximation of the truth, so I lied. Those are the kinds of half-truths I tend to tell. The ones that are based on my own faulty memory and the desire to get the feel of a memory right, rather than the fact of it.


How do you know when to trust someone?

I am gullible. I have a nasty tendency to trust everyone until they prove to be untrustworthy. Everyone is honorable, trustworthy and capable until proven otherwise. The ‘proven otherwise’ part can be depressing, but I try to maintain a sunshine-and-roses outlook on life through it all. Blind optimism is my delusion of choice.

Vivi Andrews is a mild-mannered accounting clerk by day, transforming into the (nearly) superhuman author of paranormal romantic comedies each night. Her debut novella, The Ghost Shrink, the Accidental Gigolo & the Poltergeist Accountant is now available from Samhain Publishing. Vivi currently resides in the Pacific Northwest with a laptop, a worn-out library card, and season tickets to the Seattle Mariners.

Visit Vivi at: www.viviandrews.com
or http://blogspot.viviandrews.com

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I Have a Confession to Make

Everyone is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody. ~Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson, 1894

I fold my underwear. I never thought this was weird until I got married. My DH doesn't understand why I fold our underwear, or even why I match our socks. When he was single, he had two laundry baskets: clean and dirty. He never folded ANYTHING. When the "clean" basket was empty, it was time to do laundry.

I have another confession to make. I HATE ironing to the point I've been known to got to extremes to avoid it: throwing the item in the dryer with a wet wash cloth or even completely washing it again. But, I also HATE wearing anything that is wrinkled. Yes, it's a conundrum. DH has no problem with wrinkles (nor does anyone else in his family -- which I find odd because they are all tidy to a fault and absolutely freaky about taking care of their stuff to point that it's a little scary). I've seen him walk out of the house in a shirt that he'd had stuffed into his "lake bag" -- wadded into a ball and shoved into the corner, surrounded by damp towels, and looking like it was... well, wadded into a ball and shoved into a corner. I wouldn't leave the house in clothes like that if my life depended on it.

I also alphabetize my CDs. And my books are organized by genre and then by author and series order.

Once, my DD "helped" me clean by reorganizing the spice cabinet. I nearly had a breakdown.

My DH thinks I'm not a tidy person because I tend to keep "piles". I have piles on my desk, a pile by the phone, etc. But what he doesn't understand is that I know exactly what is in each pile, and they all have a reason for being where they are.

Judy calls me an A+ type personality.

I know this: I wouldn't want to live with me... though oddly, I've only had a few room mates, and they all stuck around for years at a time and we were friends even when we stopped living together, so I guess I can't be THAT hard to be around.

Just don't mess with my spices.

What about you? Quirky? How?

=======================

In Pillar Place: Swallowtail -- Dru asked in comments yesterday what we do with the deceased butterflies after we freeze them. We actually have a butterfly graveyard outside in DDs garden. She buries them (usually in cardboard so it will biodegrade eventually) and they get a stone over them in commemoration. One year, she did crosses on popsicle sticks, but they didn't last long.

In Pillar Place: Monarch -- we only found ONE egg at the library yesterday and no butterbabies. Some good news... my friend, Michele, IM'd me yesterday to say she has a monarch egg on her milkweed! Remember, too, that in a month or so, I'll have more milkweed seeds than I know what to do with, so if you have space to grow it, I'd be happy to send you some. Just email me!

Otherwise, no new hatching and nothing much to report. The ones who are hatched have more than doubled in size (though considering how tiny they were to start, they aren't all that big).

Butterfly tidbit: Female monarch butterflies have several hundred eggs to lay during their short life in the spring time (and I want to know why they aren't laying them at MY house... just saying). - courtesy of http://www.monarch-butterfly.com/

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Monday Mourning

All our knowledge merely helps us to die a more painful death than animals that know nothing. ~Maurice Maeterlinck

Yesterday was a rough day in Pillar Place: Swallowtail ... Both Hannah and Fiona hatched and BOTH were massively defective. Hannah looked like someone had forgotten to iron her wings -- they were about 75% pumped up, but didn't quite make it all the way. Fiona, OTOH, never stopped looking all crumpled as though she'd just climbed out of her pupa. Both were unable to fly. Absolutely broke my heart. I thought that maybe Hannah might figure things out, and decided to let her have a chance -- I put her out in the middle of a field of flowers near my house, but I knew Fiona was a goner so she was humanely euthanized (i.e. put into my freezer for several hours).

The worst part about this is that these weren't the ones we thought might have problems. Carole is the one glued to the netting, and Fiona's box-mate, Greg has somehow broken one of his webbings, too. They are the last two swallowtails we have and I sure hope they emerge healthy.

Everything is quiet (except for lots of milkweed munching) in Pillar Place: Monarch. We haven't found any more eggs or bugs yet, but today we're making another foray into the milkweed near the library. Wish us luck.

Butterfly tidbit: Butterflies taste with their feet. They don't have mouths that allow them to bite or chew, instead they have a long straw-like structure called a proboscis which they use to drink nectar. But the proboscis doesn't have any taste sensors. A butterfly's taste sensors are located on the bottom of its feet. By standing on a leaf, the butterfly can taste it to see if it will be good food for her caterpillars.

=========================

Note to spammers: even if you mask your spam links inside what appears to be a legitimate comment... I'LL KNOW. And it will be summarily deleted. Yes, I read all my comments. Yes, I will find it -- even if it's on an ancient post. So really, just stop it.

=========================

Did more writing yesterday. I actually wrote the ending of something (no, that doesn't mean it's finished. I almost always write the ending first or at least right after the first couple of chapters -- gives me something to work toward) but wonder if having these two get engaged at the end might be too precipitous. Twice I've had reviewers state that they felt my characters needed a "hopefully ever after" instead of a "happily ever after" because they thought things moved too quickly. So... I'm giving this ending some thought.

Anyway, it was good to write.

=========================

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Day Before Monday

May those who love us love us,
and those who do not love us,
may God turn their hearts,
and if He cannot turn their hearts
may He turn their ankles
that we may know them by their limping.
~Irish Prayer


That has nothing to do with anything, I just thought it was funny :-)

So, it's hot here. I'm not complaining, really -- I swore I wouldn't complain when summer finally arrived after our month of rain in June. And, to be honest it really isn't the heat that's getting me down, it's the humidity. Yesterday it was only in the 80s, but with the 917% humidity (okay, I might be exaggerating a little...) it made it tough to get out and do anything. Even the dog didn't want to walk in it. Much.

Once I got over the guilties about not working outside in my garden (which is more weeds than garden) I decided to write. I wrote a couple thousand words yesterday, which was awesome... but I seem to have lost my funny bone, which was not. Since most of what I have in process right now is along the lines of a rom/com (except my fantasy), my inability to think funny thoughts made life a little difficult, and I'm going to have to do some pretty major editing on what I wrote because of it. Still, I've been frustrated at not writing, so was determined to do some.

I'm determined to do some today as well. I WILL get something completed and ready for submission by August 31st. THAT is my goal... y'all want to help hold me to it? *G*

=======================

In Pillar Place: Monarch, we hatched another butterbaby -- Jane is now a wiggly-squirmer instead of an egg. So... we have Jane, Lenape, Maria and Nancy thus far. And, despite looking for more eggs on our walk yesterday, we found none (which worries me). AND, we still have no swallowtail babies on our rue or carrots (which also worries me).

Dru asked if the monarch baby always eats its egg. Yes! I don't know for certain why, but wonder if it provides nutrients it can't get from milkweed (protein?). They also eat their skin after they shed it -- and I can't help but wonder if it's for the same reason.

Monarch tidbit: One problem for Monarchs in North America is the black swallow-wort plant. Monarchs lay their eggs on these plants since they produce stimuli similar to milkweed. Once the eggs hatch, the caterpillars are poisoned by the toxicity of this invasive plant. If you see these non-native species in your area, destroy them as they are invasive and deadly not only to butterflies, but to the native plants.

By the way, Monarchwatch.org encourages the creation of "Monarch Waystations". These are amazingly easy to create, beautiful and help with the conservation of not just Monarchs, but butterflies in general. They even offer seed kits and a neat plaque to put in your garden -- it's a great project for you to encourage your schools and libraries to do if you don't have room to do it yourself. You can find information on it here.

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

We Have Butterbabies!

“Butterflies... not quite birds, as they were not quite flowers, mysterious and fascinating as are all indeterminate creatures.” - Elizabeth Goudge

We have butterbabies! In Pillar Place: Monarch we hatched two butterbabies yesterday: Maria and Nancy! My camera won't take the super-duper close up pictures of this, but Bird Chick has this amazing post about Monarch's hatching. The baby is actually far harder to see than the egg! If it didn't have it's little black head, I'd probably never find it on the milkweed.

I found this cool video of a pillar hatching (filmed through a microscope, which should tell you how tiny they are!):



Monarch tidbit: Monarch butterflies are one of the few insects capable of making transatlantic crossings. They are becoming more common in Bermuda due to increased usage of milkweed as an ornamental plant in flower gardens. Monarch butterflies born in Bermuda remain year round due to the island's mild climate.

In Pillar Place: Swallowtail, we had another release. Bugsy emerged and was another female. Welcome Bugsy:



As an aside, we found a pile of Milkweed Tussock Moth eggs, and DD wants to raise them inside, too. I've said "NO", but may cave in a moment of weakness. They ARE really cool to look at, don't you think:



=======================




You Are an Ice Cream Sandwich



You are well grounded, reliable, and very balanced.

You love to work hard, but you also know how to take it easy.



People might be surprised to know you have a very goofy side to you.

You like to let loose and have fun. You just don't let yourself go too crazy!



That's remarkably close! ...

=======================

Friday, July 17, 2009

Pillar Place: Monarch

Flowers and butterflies drift in color, illuminating spring. ~Author Unknown

DD, Dd and I have been taking long walks every morning the past few weeks and yesterday on our walk, we made stops at all the milkweed to look for eggs. We found ONE and were tickled pink.

Later in the day, we ran a few errands, including going to the library. There is a new road behind the library that winds through some milkweed, so we took the long way home, stopping every few feet at various clumps to look for eggs. It was hot, it was humid and the hills were at about a 70 degree angle and I was in flip flops, so it was... interesting to say the least.

But we had some success... we found six more eggs (after looking about about 150 plants with about 10 leaves each... yes, we are dedicated--or insane. You decide).

So, despite the fact there are no eggs (yet) on my own milkweed, Pillar Place: Monarch 2009 has begun.

Meet Kathleen and Karen -- our first "twin" eggs. I've never found two eggs on the same leaf before:



And, just to give you an idea of what we were up against while hanging off hillsides looking underneath all the leaves (because, yes, that's where they lay them so we have to carefully FLIP every leaf to check it) this is the size of the egg as compared to a quarter:



Monarchs are so much easier to raise than swallowtails. We keep them in Gladware that we've punched full of airholes and tape a piece of construction paper on the lid. They eat and then crawl onto the lid to shed their skin, then eat and repeat until it's time to make their pupa, which is ALSO always made on the lid. Unlike swallowtails, they don't stay on their food until they are ready (a rude awakening for me the first year we did them), but they are very predictable and low-maintenance. It's also easier to pick a leaf and put it into the dish instead of having to use floral foam and water to keep them fresh... milkweed is amazingly hardy.

So, now we wait. We prefer to start with eggs since monarchs are a host for a two types of parasitoids: tachinid flies and braconid wasps. These insects lay their eggs ON the caterpillar and the pillar is slowly consumed until, when they go to make their pupa and hang in the "J", the larvae of these critters will emerge (thus killing the pillar). It's impossible to know which of the caterpillars is paratisized, and it's a BAD problem, so we try to catch the pillars before they are.. yanno.. PILLARS.

A small tidbit about monarchs: In December 1995, scientists estimate that 5 to 7 million Monarchs died after a snowstorm hit the overwintering sites. A snowstorm in 1992 killed a similar number. (Source: Monarch Watch)

Eggs hatch about ten days after they are laid. Since we don't know WHEN these were laid, we'll keep you posted on their progress. Currently we have:



Our little family of seven: Jane, Kathleen & Karen, Lenape, Maria, Nancy, Oscar.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Fun With Wildlife

“Always carry a flagon of whiskey in case of snakebite and furthermore always carry a small snake.” - W. C. Fields

Once upon a time, there was an itty bitty garter snake with eyes far bigger than any other part of him. But he was stealthy and he was quick and ... SNAP!! He got himself a meal.

Unfortunately for him, the meal was too big to fit in his itty bitty mouth. So there they lay, in the grass: snake refusing to let go, despite the fact his prey wouldn't slide down his throat (and even if it did, it would kill him), and prey struggling in vain to go free.

Until a savior in pink appeared and called, "MOM! There's a snake out here with a toad far too big for it."

And Mom, who was in the middle of weeding, came to the rescue. She stepped on the snake's tail, causing it to open its mouth. The toad, a bit stunned, only moved away an inch or two. And the snake, being nobody's fool, tried to run... er... slither away.

But he hadn't counted on the speed and fearlessness of Mom who caught both Snake and Toad for a photo op.



Toad was handed off to DD to put in the garden, but Snake got to hang out with us a little while.





Yes, I'm raising a DD who has little fear of anything in the wild -- though she's not too crazy about yellow jackets or other critters in the "crazy stinging" family.

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In other wildlife news, we had another release in Pillar Place: Swallowtail. Ethel hatched! We were actually able to watch her emerge from her pupa and pump up her wings. Unfortunately, she's in the box with Carole, so I couldn't open it up for pictures. I took one through the netting of her fat little behind and crumpled wings because I'm always amazed at how they begin:



We waited and watched and hoped this one would finally be female... and she WAS! Meet Ethel:




You can tell that Ethel is female from how blue the bottom spots on her wings are. Compare her to Daniel:



See how yellow the spots are on his wings?

Also, the females are significantly larger than the males. We think Hannah will hatch today -- her pupa is getting quite dark. We have only Bugsy and Carole left (and maybe Greg and Fiona... but I have a BAD feeling they are going to overwinter).

Still no monarch eggs. Last year, we found our first eggs on July 15th. Not this year.

:-(

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What, When, Where, Why, How with M.J. Fredrick

Give a hearty welcome to author M. J. Fredrick (who write's some pretty amazing books!)...

What hero would you borrow from another author's series that would be perfect for one of your heroines (and why)?

This was actually the hardest question for me because I always come up with my heroes first and give them the heroine. But would any heroine say no to Roarke from the In Death series?

M: Not me... just saying. He's got to be the hottest fictional character EVER.

When would you kill your own food?

When I travel back in time…or when chocolate comes to life. I wrote a scene in my Nano historical where the heroine killed a deer. That was a really rough scene for me to write. I love meat, but I don’t want direct contact with it, ya know?


Where do you do your best writing?

My backyard in my Adirondack chair and my laptop. I love hearing the birds and the planes and the bells from the church down the street. Fortunately, I live in Texas, so I can write outside most of the time. The rest of the year, I write in the morning at my breakfast bar, or in the evenings on my couch.


Why didn't Christine choose the Phantom?

Because he was a psycho stalker and a murderer? Just a guess. Does a woman really want a man that obsessed with her, even if he does look like Gerard Butler?


How do you teach an old dog new tricks?

Very very patiently, introducing the new trick a bit at a time until the old dog can’t believe it never wanted to try this new trick!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I've Been Reading Forever!

"The greatest gift is the passion for reading. It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it excites, it gives you knowledge of the world and experience of a wide kind. It is a moral illumination." - Elizabeth Hardwick

Yesterday, I was going through all my old pictures, trying to find enough for a particular project (I didn't, but that's another story) and came across this (forgive the quality -- it's a picture of a picture as I don't have a scanner):



Yep... that's ME at 2 1/2 years old, book in hand. And, even today, you can pretty much find me the same way at any given hour.

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In Pillar Place: Swallowtail, Ichabod hatched successfully. However, when we found him he was more than ready to fly and so I didn't get a picture. The moment the netting opened he was GONE. We did see enough to know that he as another male. So... three boys and no girls yet. Think that'll be a problem?

Unfortunately, Carole's pupa fell again. And I glued her again. But I'm terrifically worried about all the handling (not to mention worried that the glue has soaked through the outer coating of the pupa and, when she tries to hatch, her wings will be stuck -- I don't think I could stand that).

No monarch eggs yet. Will go out again today and look underneath leaves. We do have milkweed beetles and milkweed aphids (of course -- what fun would it be if there were no pests??).

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Saying Thanks!

Silent gratitude isn't much use to anyone. ~ G.B. Stern



Diane Craver gave me this lovely blog award. Thanks, Diane!

Here are the rules:

1. Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award, and his or her blog link.
2. Pass the award to other blogs.
3. Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

Although I don't always comment, I usually make it by several blogs nearly every day (or at least when the update):

Tori
Brandy
Melissa McClone
Allie Boniface
Dru Ann
Jen
Ceri Hebert
Sarita Leon
Keri Mikulski
Maria Zannini
Jennifer Shirk
Wendi Zwaduk
Charity Tahmaseb

And ... gah... so many more I'm probably forgetting some (I feel a little like I won an Academy Award, lol). But, hey -- I love you guys!!

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As you probably know from the posts below, yesterday was busy in Pillar Place: Swallowtail. Sadly, we may have also had a casualty, though we won't know for a week or so.

Carole, the pillar who made her pupa on the netting, had an accident. When we release the butterflies, we carry the entire box outside with us (the last thing we need is for the butterfly to be lose in the house). Yesterday, when we released Able and had set down the box, the wind blew it over. It gave ALL the remaining pupae a good jolt, but Carole had one set of her anchors break, and literally dangled by a thread. They can't hatch like this, not safely, so I made an executive decision.

Handling the pupae is never a good idea, but I had little choice. And, I remembered reading that super glue was originally developed for closing wounds, so I hoped it wouldn't injure the butterfly.

Yep. I used superglue gel (I figured the gel would be less likely to soak through the outside casing) and glued Carole back into place. I had to hold her for several minutes, though, and just manipulating her into place required a large amount of handling. The last time we had any of our pupae fall, the butterfly emerged only partly formed.

It's been a rough season for Pillar Place. Because of the incessant rain, the butterflies haven't been able to eat or breed efficiently. Last year, we raised nearly 30 swallowtails and we left several butterbabies outside (on DD's carrots) to raise themselves. This year, we've been unable to find ANY pillars except the nine we found originally, and this includes looking on my SILs dill plants (where we hit the motherload last year). So, I'm worried, and I deeply value each of our butterflies. They may be nine of only a few hundred that survive this season.

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You Are a Monroe Piercing



You are glamourous, sophisticated, and very classy.

You're the type to think carefully before getting any sort piercing or tattoo.



You are naturally charming. People find you to be very alluring.

Your manners are impeccable, and you always have something witty to say.



While you look like you're high maintenance, you have simple tastes.

You're a homebody who often rather curl up with a book than go out.



Yep, that's me: glamorous, sophisticaed and very classy! LOL... seriously though, they have most of it pretty close. And since my only piercings are in my ears and I have NO tats I'd say I'm pretty careful about them.

You?

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

And... Miracle Number Two!



This is Able (formerly Abigail -- whose spots indicate that he, too, is a male). We weren't expecting him to hatch since he made his pupa a day after Daniel, but the best laid plans and all that...

He would NOT sit still however, so we couldn't get a perfect picture. He's awfully pretty despite his fidgety behavior. A banner day for butterflies!

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Our First Miracle



Meet Daniel (formerly Diana... his significant yellow spots indicate he is a male). He hatched this morning while DD, Dd and I were out walking. Isn't he gorgeous? Truly a miracle...

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Nothing Much...

Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness. ~Edward Stanley

DH was home yesterday and feeling quite mellow for a change. We went out for seafood at lunch (about a once a year splurge because everytime the check comes, I almost pass out from the shock) and then looked at treadmills. Yes, I'm still trying to find the best bang for my buck before winter comes and I can't do my walking outside. Nordic Tracks are far junkier than I'd expected -- lots of bells and whistles, but they look like they'd fall apart if you actually used them. The one that impressed me the most was the Sole F80 -- it's quite solid (I jumped up and down on that sucker HARD several times and it barely even shivered, as opposed to the Nordic Track which felt like it was going through a 7.0 earthquake), has good legs underneath (it's a folding treadmill, so I was a little concerned) where Nordic Track had rollers, the deck was solid and heavy (again, Nordic Track felt like it was an aluminum can) and just really felt like the most bang for the buck. Now I get to look around and find the lowest price (going to Craiglist first, lol).

We also discussed the garden and DH said, "Why don't we just look at chain link fencing and use that?" -- shocked the heck out of me. He's always been resistant to fencing it, says it looks icky. So, today we're off to various stores to price out chain link fencing. To be honest, I'll probably still plant flowers around it because it DOES look icky, lol...

When I got home, I finished building an author website and finished a new book video:



And then I was done in.

That was MY day. What were you up to yesterday? Anything interesting? I know Judy had her email account hacked and a letter asking for money was sent to everyone on her address list (which may have included some of you) ... which got me to thinking about beefing up my passwords a little more. Stupid hackers. May the fleas from a thousand camels infest their armpits.

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Your Aura is Blue



Spiritual and calm, you tend to live a quiet but enriching life.

You are very giving of yourself. And it's hard for you to let go of relationships.

The purpose of your life: showing love to other people

Famous blues include: Angelina Jolie, the Dali Lama, Oprah

Careers for you to try: Psychic, Peace Corps Volunteer, Counselor



HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.... **snort**... um, not even close. Dear heavens.

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

I <3 Eureka

The kind of humor I like is the thing that makes me laugh for five seconds and think for ten minutes. ~William Davis

Woo Hoo! Eureka was back last night and I watched it this a.m. (under orders from Judy who said she'd bust if she couldn't talk about it). I LOVE Eureka.





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Started working on my new veggie garden plans yesterday... dug out about 12 inches from the front in order to plant various deer resistant plants. I was sweaty and exhausted and only got about half done.

I did find the usual pests in the dirt: wire worms, grubs, cutworms. And... I saw and killed a squash borer moth. Unfortunately, I'm sure it wasn't the only one which means... my squash plants are probably toast. I'm going to start looking for eggs -- something that will become a daily ritual -- because you can't catch the larvae on these. Immediately upon hatching, they bore into the stalk of the plant and begin to feed, eventually killing the entire plant.

I have never lived somewhere with as many pests (both four- and six-legged) as here. Most of the bugs that exist here do NOT exist west of the Mississippi. Is it any wonder I want to move? *sigh*

Today, I hope to finish digging up around the garden and then tomorrow I plant on moving the plants I have. Monday will be spent buying a few new plants: day lilies, coreopsis, and perhaps some herbs. I have chives, rosemary and marjoram but may spring for some sage and thyme to go with.

BTW -- in case you think I've forgotten to say anything... we still have no butterflies in Pillar Place: Swallowtail. My luck, they will all be overwinterers.

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I did do some writing yesterday. I had to run an errand for my DH to get the seat stitched in his new-to-us car. While I sat in the waiting area, I wrote nearly 1000 words on one of my stories. It was good. Fun. I'd been thinking about the conflict and the characters over the past several days and had to go back and weave in a little different characterization for the heroine and then moved forward from there.

I love to write. I really need to make time to do it every single day.

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Friday, July 10, 2009

On the Bright Side

In the long run the pessimist may be proved right, but the optimist has a better time on the trip. ~Daniel L. Reardon

I spent some time in my gardens yesterday, really taking a look at what had been done, what deer resistant plants I might already have that I can move around and what I have that hasn't been touched.

I may take a page out of Maria Zannini's book and plant irises and other deer resistant plants around my vegetable garden (I have foxglove, jacob's ladder and more that I can use -- it's all fairly tall, and if I plant things like chives and oregano at the base it might work).

So, despite the chipmunks doing this:




And the deer doing this:





I still have:








And I even have my very own haunted house spiderweb maker:



So, who am I to wallow and complain?

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