Sunday, June 26, 2011

Bird Watch


Yesterday afternoon my beloved and I spent some time on Lake Lowell, which is a 14.5 square mile reservoir with 28 miles of shoreline five miles southwest of Nampa, ID. The fish were not biting, but we didn't really care. We enjoyed simply boating around the lake, watching the beauty of the sky, seeing different birds, and spending some time together.

One of the birds we saw in abundance were many Western Grebes They are interesting to watch because they will be swimming along on top of the water in groups, much like a flock of ducks, but then all of a sudden they disappear completely as they dive down below to go fishing for minnows. Ducks will stick their heads down to nibble fish, but you can still see their feet and butts in the air. Not Grebes. They go deeper and stay down longer. So as we drifted along in the boat it was fun to watch them popping up and down as they hunted their dinner.

As we went exploring around the shore we saw a duck box along the shore which makes me think there are probably wood ducks there too, although I didn't see any yesterday. Wood ducks are one of my favorite water birds. Their colors are so pretty. We used to get them in our backyard all the time when we lived in Malaga on the shore of Lake Cortez.

I also saw a bird building a big nest up on a platform that might have been an osprey, but we were not close enough to be sure. There are 18 different birds that nest on platforms, so there is no way to be certain. Next time I'll take binoculars. I'd love to have my camera along for the ride, but didn't want to risk getting it wet.

I did see a comorant recently and was a bit surprised as I did not know they lived in this area. Also on one of my walks I saw a big fat chucker in a neighbor's yard.

Little by little I am learning to recognize more of the birds of the region. Of course with hundreds of species there are out there, I still have a long way to go.

Time Bank Idaho


I recently signed up to become a member of Timebank Idaho. This is a non profit organization that facilitates barter arrangements to mutually benefit its members.

One of the basic premises of Time Bank Idaho is that everyone's time is valued equally. You give an hour. You get an hour. It's that simple. The strength of the program is built on people developing relationships and empowering communities to find non-cash solutions to their needs.

For example, one lady baked an elaborate birthday cake for a kid's party. That took her 3 hours. In exchange she tapped into the available hours of a family law attorney who was a member to get her legal needs met.

Somebody might spend their giving time running errands or driving some older person to doctor appointments. In exchange they might receive the services of good car mechanic or house painter or massage therapist or language instruction.

The basic premise is that we all have needs. We all have skills and abilities that can benefit others. Time Bank Idaho provides the coordination so that we can help one another. The person who I teach how to garden may not have anything I need. But maybe the person I help will have EXACTLY the skills someone else I've never met needs and THAT person may have the skills I need.

In theory it sounds like a fantastic way of bringing people together. It remains to be seen how well this will work out for me. But I'm definitely intrigued by the premise and ready to give it a try. From time to time I'll post some of my experiences to track how it's going.

Time Bank USA, the parent organization, has been going for nearly 20 years and there are various Time Banks set up in 22 countries. Time Bank Idaho is just beginning to get off the ground. I'm interested in helping this idea to take root and grow here in Boise.

I am incredibly intrigued by the rather radical notion that everyone's time be valued equally.

In the sociology courses I teach I spend a lot of time discussing social stratification, the ways in which societies rank the comparative levels of prestige, power, and wealth that are given to various individuals. Age, gender, race, body size, and education level are just some of the factors that determine how "important" or "valuable" someone's time is in our culture.

But does it really make sense to say time of the man who picks up my garbage each week is less valuable that that of the guy who compiled my tax return??

I'm looking forward to learning more about Time Bank Idaho and the people who choose to become affiliated with it. MAYBE I'll find a cool new way to meet some of my needs without costing me any of my limited discretionary dollars. Or MAYBE I'll find a way to change the way I and others view the value of ourselves and everyone around us, whether they happen to be members or not.

Because really, no matter how much money you have (or don't have), or how many books you've read (or have not read) or how much influence you may have in the world...we ALL need each other in this big, crazy world. That's an idea I believe I can take to the bank. The Time Bank, that is.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Boise to Bogus


When I got off work this evening my beloved and I took a drive up Bogus Basin road. Boise sits at about 2,870 feet and after a very twisty drive up the switchbacks through the Boise National Forest we got up to a little over 6,000 feet at the base of the ski area. We took a nice hike in the pine trees and enjoyed some great views of the city coming back down, even though it was a bit hazy.

One of the things I absolutely love about living in Boise is that I am within 15 minutes of every convenience or resource I could possibly want, yet within 20-30 miles I can be in wilderness.



Along the way we found the trail head to the hike we took with my siblings and some friends a few years ago when we were all gathered here for a family wedding. I always remembered the hike fondly, but since I didn't live here then I was totally out of my element in how we got to it so I really didn't know where it was we went. Now that I know how to get there again I suspect we'll go back, probably take Morgan the Wonder Dog for a bit of an adventure.



Whether we are in the mountains or down by the river, there is no doubt about it. Idaho is a very special place I'm glad to call home.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Here Comes The Sun

FINALLY - after a long, cold, rainy spring the SUN has come out for summer solstice. On the longest day of the year it got up to 87 degrees in Boise. It is supposed to hit the 90's tomorrow. I say BRING IT ON.

My flowers are POPPING in the heat...what were just petal balls and buds yesterday are now full blooms and the garden is growing like gangbusters.

My peonies went from THIS:



TO THIS:







The Foxglove is fully open now:



The baskets are looking great and the vegetables in the raised beds are growing so fast you can almost watch them get bigger:



I've picked radishes, spinach and cilantro. My mouth is watering for my first fresh tomatoes...but those are still months away.

Still... SUMMER is here. At any eclipse or solstice my friend Sylvana says its time to go do the naked jiggly dance in the moonlight. Um, no. Not for me. But I will very much enjoy watching my flowerbeds transform to their summer splendor.
I was sad to see all the spring colors go when the tulips and azaleas faded, but this reminds me all over again that every season has its own beauty.

I dread the high water bills and pulling weeds in the 90+ days is not always fun. But I'm really happy to watch the seasons unfold.

New Read


I picked up a book my husband had checked out from the library just to see what it was. I simply cannot put it down. Sorry love, this one is MINE. You can read it while I'm at work, but in the evenings, hand it over.

The book is Ambler Warning by Robert Ludlum. It has a very intriguing premise.

From the inside cover: "On Parrish Island, a restricted island off the coast of Virgina, there is a litle-known and never-visited psychiatric facility. There, far from prying eyes, the government keeps in "deep storage" former intelligence employees whose psychiatric state makes them a security risk to their own government, people whose ramblings might jeopardize ongoing operations or prove dangerously inconvenient. One of these employees, former Consular Operations agent Hal Ambler, is one of the few who is so dangerous that he is in complete isolation form other patients, kept heavily medicated and closely watched. But there is one critical difference between Ambler and the other patients in the facility: Ambler isn't crazy.

With the help of a sympathetic nurse, Ambler manages to first clear his mind of the drug-induced haze and then executes a daring escape. On the loose and barely one step ahead of the retrieval teams sent after him, he is out to discover who had him stashed in the psychiatric hospital and why.

But the world he returns to isn't the one he so clearly remembers-friends and longtime associates don't recognize him, and there are no official records of any person named Hal Ambler. With no resources and his unknown enemies closing in on him, Ambler has to uncover the truth of who he was and figure out what it is about him-remember what he knows-tat makes him such a danger that someone is willing to risk everything to see him dead."

This book was published in 2005 - AFTER Ludlum's death.

Apparently Mr. Ludlum's publishing house has made a tasty industry of printing several of Ludlum's works since his death in 2001.

One does wonder a bit how many of these words were actually written by Robert Ludlum and how many came from the unnamed author and editor who "prepared it for publishing". But right now, I frankly don't care.

This book has all the intrigue and suspense of Ludlum's other work - the tale of Jason Bourne which was made famous by actor Matt Damon.

Yet this one is not just Bourne in a different setting. It it has it's own unique character development and plot twists. I'm only a little over 100 pages into it so far, but I'm savoring every paragraph.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

DOVES


I've often loved sitting out on the back porch listening to the sound of the mourning doves. Such a sweet sound. But last week I heard a new bird call that I didn't recognize. Found the bird and figured out it was a ringed neck dove.
Their cry is very distinctive. Once you hear it, there is no mistaking them for anything else. According to Wikipedia the males and females look alike so I'm not sure which I've seen. I'm hoping it will come close enough to my feeders that I'll be able to get a photo, but for now I'll settle with what I can find on Bing.


(Photo from http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=ringed+neck+dove&qpvt=ringed+neck+dove&FORM=IGRE#x0y2399)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Nomad flowers

We had a BBQ in our back yard last night - had 50 people over (mostly friends from church or around the neighborhood) enjoying good food, visiting, and walks through the garden. It was a nice night. Several people asked me whether my flowers had all been here when we bought the place or if I had put them in. Some of both...but a lot of the flowers that were here before me were not where they are now.

I've done A LOT of transplanting from place to place.

For example:



Delphiniums / Larkspur

When we first bought our place there were two huge sections of these growing in areas of deep shade. Of course they never bloomed there. I dug them up and moved to a place where they would get some sun and now they are absolutely stunning.



The foxglove / digitalis came from some my across the fence neighbors in back started from seed. It's doing well here, but I'm thinking I may move it to where the delphiniums used to be. Foxglove can thrive in part shade and my sun spots are few and far between, so I'd rather reserve this area for those plants that can't manage anyplace else.

While I like this white one, I'm looking to add to this one with some starts of some others in pinks and lavenders. Since they tend to be short lived biennials I want to plant different ones for a couple years so they can alternate blooming and then reseed themselvs when the originals wear out.



These astilbe htm have been moved FOUR TIMES in the year we've lived here. I think I've finally found a spot where they are very happy and seem to be thriving so I think this is probably where they will stay. I have not yet gotten the big showy plumes of blooms I've seen in photos...we'll see what they do now that they are done moving from place to place.



The petunias I planted in the pot out front were just so-so for a while and the geranium I had growing in the middle never really thrived there. The Morning Glory I planted along with this just up and died. So I yanked the geranium and added one more petunia (the purple) to give the contrasting color the morning glory was supposed to have offered.

Someone at our gathering asked if I considered my yard "done" now that our major projects are finished.

DONE?? Not hardly. I suspect I'll keep moving, shifting, adjusting things from place to place. I'll try new specimens from time to time, giving away some of what I now have. My yard will probably always be in transition.



These Lupine are not mine - I took the picture during my walk along the river. However, I do have three tiny baby lupines I planted out front that were salvaged from a neighbor's seed spill sprouts.

Flowers here, flowers there...I just keep moving them as seems appropriate.
I can't imagine ever really being "done".

Walking the Greenbelt

As we often do on Saturday mornings, my beloved and I took the dog for a walk along the greenbelt, enjoying views of the Boise River and gorgeous gardens of the the lovely homes along the way. These are just a few of the shots I took today.




Friday, June 17, 2011

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

BOOK REVIEW - Sleight of Hand

I spend A LOT of time reading on my computer. Because of that, I did not think I would mind reading this book online. However, when it comes to reading for pleasure, I just want to hold the book in my hands and turn the pages. I would not rule out reading another e-book, but clearly it is NOT my preferred format. Particularly with this book, I found the non-standard font and the lack of page numbers distracting. It simply did not feel like a "real" book, and I missed that.

Still - Sleight of Hand by Deanna Blackhurst (an e-book published on Smashwords) was such an intriguing read that I couldn't put it down.

The book deals with concepts of choice and accountability, justice and mercy through the story Daniel Cabrero, a con man who has manipulated, cheated, and lied his way through life. Daniel dies of a heart attack on page 5 of the book. The rest of the story deals with how he comes to terms with the "afterlife" he finds himself in.

Daniel is transported to a lovely rural setting that SEEMS like heaven. It's not. When his spirit guide, Jonah, explains that Daniel is actually in "Wasteland", Daniel begins to scheme like he has never schemed before in order to con his way out and into the comfort of Paradise City. After all, those skill sets had worked for him in life, why not in death as well?

While Blackhurst is an LDS author and some of the concepts of afterlife are clearly influenced by the doctrines of her faith, this book is NOT "Mormon Fiction". It is very much a non-denominational speculative tale about what MIGHT be around the corner when we die. It does not preach or proselytize. Blackhurst addresses serious themes in ways that are sometimes humorous and sometimes thought provoking.

As I was reading descriptions of the frustration Daniel felt at being able to drink all the cold beer he wanted but could never get that familiar warm "buzz" of intoxication since he had no body, it made me wonder what sort of things I would most miss.

However, the notion of being able to savor all of the richest, most decadent foods you might dream up with no health consequences sounded pretty heavenly to me.

As Daniel is faced with choices for the next steps he will make in his spiritual progression we are given flashbacks into the ill deeds he has committed throughout his life. This is clearly the G or PG version as the language is generally tame and our bad boy protagonist keeps showing a certain reserve of scruples that stop him from doing things that might be considered truly vile.

Nevertheless, we witness the many ways that one person's choices can impact others as Daniel is forced to recognize the harm he has caused. What he chooses to do about that will determine what his ultimate fate will be.

There were parts of the book I REALLY liked. I appreciated some of the little details about the physical environment...

"The path they traveled curved slightly to the right and then to the left, Daniel noticed, as it meandered its way through the greenery. The foliage was dense, sometimes creating a canopy above their heads, but there was nothing dark or shadowy about the place. In fact, there were no shadows at all, and when he looked up, Daniel could find no trace of sun above them.

"We don't require a burning star for light or warmth here", Jonah said, as if reading Daniel's thoughts. "Each living thing has a light within itself. The purpose of the sky is simply to reflect that light."


There were parts I did not like. Some of the supporting characters seemed a bit contrived. There was never really an adequate explanation about Jonah's predicament.
Also there was one plot twist that served to add suspense and build depth to the Daniel Cabrero character, but the details seemed very unrealistic to me.

Still, overall it was a good read. I enjoyed it and will more than likely look for other work by this same author.

If you are interested to see what OTHER people had to say about this book - check out the side bar of Tristi Pinkston's virtual book tour site. Mine is the second review so far. Others will be added in the coming weeks.

One last note - I would caution the writer to be a little more careful when selecting a title.

When doing a Google search for "Sleight of Hand ebook" I found another that was ALSO published on Smashwords - a completely different novel with the same title by CJ Lyons.

There is a Nook ebook about tribes and vampires by Lauren Dane ALSO titled Sleight of Hand.

There is a mystery for Microsoft Reader by Wilhelm Kate by that same title.

There is an ultra steamy bodice-ripper romance for Kindle by Katrina Strauss of the same name.

There is a thriller that takes place in Las Vegas by Jeff Marriotte with AGAIN, that same title.

Mind you, these are just e-books. There are others in traditional print format.
So my advice to any authors out there is do a little research before you pick a title for your baby book. It can avoid a whole lot of needless confusion.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Perspective


Kudos to Amber over at Aberchronicles for writing a smashing post on perspective.

I was recently thinking along the same lines...noting how perspective can be very different, as I went wandering through a few yard sales this weekend. One man's junk is another's found treasure.

I also had to smile about the fact that I am currently at war with dandelions in my lawn, yet one of the sweetest memories of my life is seeing my first born boy at about six months old grinning from his kingdom of dandelions many moons ago. (1975 to be exact!) In one case they were a beautiful field of precious yellow flowers. In another setting they are evil devil blooms I must eradicate.

Context is everything, it seems.

Reading Amber's post made me ponder over what it is I value and why I value it. This also helped me to remember to be more open minded about other people's point of view who may see things a bit differently than I do.

(Photo from Amber's blog - check it out HERE

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Special Offer



I will soon be reading and reviewing a new novel by Deanne Blackhurst, called "Sleight of Hand." It is a 264-page e-book available in the following formats: Kindle, PDF, online html, online Javascript, epub, rtf, lrf, palm doc, and plain text.

If any of you care to join me, you can get an e-copy of the book for the special price of just $1.99 if you purchase before Aug 31.

To get "Sleight of Hand"
1) sign up (free) at Smashwords by going to THIS LINK.
2) When you click on the buy button, enter the code MX73D to get the special pricing.

About the book:

A Christian speculative fiction novel telling the story of Daniel, a fifty-five-year-old con man. When Daniel suffers a heart attack and dies, he meets his guardian angel, Jonah, on the other side. Jonah shows him to a beautiful cabin and tells him this will be his eternal home. Daniel is sure he was able to scam his way into heaven—he scammed everyone on earth, so why not heaven too? But as he spends time in his cabin, all alone, he realizes that he’s actually in a wasteland. Jonah presents him with a way to escape, but will Daniel want to pay the price for his freedom?

I'm not familiar with this author so I have no idea what to expect. Maybe I'll hate it. Maybe I'll love it. Who knows? But I'm looking forward to giving it a read and seeing how it turns out. Won't you join me?

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Let the Summer Begin!



Here are a few shots from the Relief Society gathering held in my back yard this evening. It was a nice night. We learned how to make some easy summer dishes, how to decorate on a budget, and heard all kinds of ideas for fun summer things to do. Best of all the women who gathered together spent a relaxed evening visiting and appreciating each other. I have a great ward!


Various recipes for chicken tin foil dinner

We also learned to make a great pizza flavored macaroni bake in the microwave - something fun, quick and easy that won't heat up the house for a summer meal.


Picnic cake with Fondant burgers and dogs - how cute is that?



water jug with mixed sliced citrus



decorating with sod



sliced citris in vase



Swiss Chard & Carrots for simple color arrangement


Making fruit smoothies

Friday, June 03, 2011

Ready, Shoot, Aim!

Today I got the camera that I ordered off e-bay. I got a steal of a deal on a Canon XTi 400D with a 28-90 lens. I don't know the first thing about photography so I have a rather steep learning curve ahead of me, but I'm excited to explore with it and see what it will do. My sister, Sharon, has been a committed photographer for many years and does some exceptional work. Her advise is to simply shoot everything and then only show people the pretty ones. Works for me!






Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Bloom Report

I just got back from vacation - had a fantastic trip to Utah which I have chronicled in words and pictures over on my Facebook page...I may upload a few things here over the next couple days. Stunning mountains, great visits with family, and enough time away to fully decompress and relax. (It always takes me a couple days away before I stop thinking about work, so a weekend just doesn't cut it.)

We especially enjoyed the trip down to Arches National Park. Amazing place!

Then when we returned I found SO many things in bloom and many of the tiny starts of plants I left have now grown leaps and bounds....especially the ferns. Once things get started it doesn't take long. Also, the gold finches have arrived in hordes.
As much as I enjoyed the time away it felt awfully good to come back to my gardens.

There's lots that need trimming, weeds that need pulling, a few things I plan on moving - so I have my work cut out for me. Still, this is a kind of work I'll take any day of the week...I'm seldom happier than when I'm diggin' in the dirt!



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