Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day-December 2010

Wow, happy Last GBBD of 2010, everyone!  I am super excited because this is the first time that I've been able to show you this:  (Please let me know if you are having trouble viewing the photos-I had to link to them differently than I usually do, so it looks OK to me, but I don't know if it will look OK to everyone else.  Thanks!)

Pink Quill (Tillandsia cyanea)

Usually it is either just preparing to bloom or has just finished blooming when GBBD rolls around, but this year, I got it!

Next, as if it knew Christmas is right around the corner:

Bleeding Heart (Clerodendrum thomsonae)

The rest of this is probably going to be a little minimalistic since I have to run in less than 30 minutes to get to an appointment, and I'm still drinking my coffee and haven't showered yet.  TMI?  Sorry.  

Shrimp plant (sorry, that's all I have right now)

Mexican Pointsettia (Euphorbia leucocephala)

I noticed several of these little guys on the Euphorbia this morning.


African Daisy (Osteospermum)

Scallion-I know this one's not quite blooming yet, but it looked so cute, I thought I should take its picture.

Sweet Alyssum

White spilder lily (Crinum asiaticum)-I almost missed this one today because at first I didn't see it hiding in this mess:

Can you see it?  It's tucked away right in the middle. 

Variegated Hau (Hibiscus tiliaceus) behind a red Euphorbia-that creamy yellow flower will turn a dusky burnt orange color and fall off the tree by the end of the day.  

That's it for today, kids!  I've got to run-need to leave in less than 10 minutes.  Thanks for touring my garden with me.  Please visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens to see what else is blooming today!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

What I'm Reading Now-Soulless

Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate)Soulless by Gail Carriger-I first heard about this book from Jennie at Biblio File, and I'm going to suggest you go there to read her review because A) I agree with everything she said, B) I think she probably did a better job of it than I would and C) I'm SOOO behind on my reviews right now.  I need to wrap this up quickly and move on!

I will give you a couple quick snippets to give you an idea of why I liked this book.  Okay, so Alexia Tarabotti is a young lady without a soul in Victorian London.  Also traipsing about London are vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and supernatural creatures of that sort.  They have been completely integrated into London society-think "True Blood" but with more respect from the general public.

At a party one evening Alexia has a run in with a vampire who doesn't play at all by the standard rules of society.  He just attacks her.  Without even asking!  As a result this unfortunate being meets his demise.

The creature stood stock-still, a look of intense surprise on his handsome face.  Then he fell backward onto the much-abused plate of treacle tart, flopping in a limp-overcooked-asparagus kind of way.  His alabaster face turned a yellowish gray, as though he were afflicted with the jaundice, and he went still.  Alexia's books called this end of the vampire life cycle dissanimation.  Alexia, who thought the action astoundingly similar to a soufflĂ© going flat, decided at that moment to call it the Grand Collapse.  

I love that she is cool enough immediately after a vampire attack to not only objectively observe and analyze the vampire death process but to give it a name that is just more fun to say.  As part of the ensuing investigation by alpha werewolf, Lord Maccon, and his second, Professor Lyall:

Alexia interjected, "He seemed perfectly sane to me--aside from the attacking part, of course.  He was able to carry on a decent conversation.  He even tried to charm me.  Must have been quite a young vampire.  And"--she paused dramatically, lowered her voice, and said in sepulchral tones--"he had a fang-lisp."

Professor Lyall looked shocked and blinked largely at her through the asymmetrical lenses; among vampires, lisping was the height of vulgarity.

Although Professor Lyall is a werewolf, he is not a beast.  He is quite aware of the delicate sensibilities of those around him.

While the population of the greater London area, in specific, and the British Isle, in general, had learned well enough to accept werewolves on principle, to be faced with one engaging in the act of conversion was an entirely different matter.  Professor Lyall considered himself rather good at the change--elegant and graceful despite the pain.  Youngsters of the pack were prone to excessive writhing and spinal gyrations and sometimes a whimper or two.  Professor Lyall simply melted smoothly from one form to the next.  But the change was, at its root, not natural.  Mind you, there was no glow, no mist, no magic about it.  Skin, bone, and fur simply rearranged itself, but that was usually enough to give most daylight folk a large dose of the screaming heebie-jeebies.  Screaming being the operative word.

Finally, there is Lord Akeldama, a very old, very gossipy vampire with a flair for fashion, whom I couldn't help but picture as Austin Scarlett, ("Project Runway," Season 1 contestant and designer of beautiful clothes).  I don't have any quotes for him, I just enjoyed the idea of Austin Scarlett running around Victorian London as a vampire.

I have the next book in the series, Changeless, on hold at my local library, and I'm very excited because the last time I checked (which was about a week ago), they didn't even have it yet.  So, yay!  Maybe by this time next year I will have read it and reviewed it.  

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Chronicle Books Haul-idays Give Away!

Chronicle Books is asking readers to create a wish list of books worth up to $500, and one lucky winner will win all the books on that list!  Blogger bonus:  Anyone who comments on the winning blogger's wish list will also be eligible to win those same books!  So, if you'd like to create your own wish list, visit Chronicle Books Haul-idays page to enter.  If you'd like a chance to win the books I've listed below, please leave a comment here.  If you're not crazy about my list you can visit the Chronicle Books site for a list of other bloggers who have submitted wish lists, and you can comment on any or all of their  wish lists for a chance to win their books as well.  Better hurry though, the contest only runs through December 10th.  Whew!  Got all that?

Here's my wish list:


Griffin and Sabine by Nick Bantock 
Sabine's Notebook by Nick Bantock 

The Golden Mean by Nick Bantock 
The Gryphon by Nick Bantock 
Alexandria by Nick Bantock 

Dante's Divine Comedy (Boxed Set) by Sandow Birk and Marcus Sanders

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Deluxe Heirloom Edition by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

Extreme Encounters:  How It Feels to Be Drowned in Quicksand, Shredded by Piranhas, Swept Up in a Tornado, and Dozens of Other Unpleasant Experiences by Greg Emmanuel
New Orleans Stories: Great Writers on the City edited by John Miller
San Francisco Stories: Great Writers on the City edited by John Miller
SURFER Magazine:  50 Years Edited by Sam George
This is My Best: Great Writers Share Their Favorite Work edited by Kathy Kiernan and Retha Powers
A Year in Japan by Kate T. Williamson
Squeaky Green: The Method Guide to Detoxing Your Home by Adam Lowry and Eric Ryan

Day & Night by Teddy Newton
Frank Was a Monster Who Wanted to Dance by Keith Graves

The Life & Love of Trees text by Lewis Blackwell
Bloom a Day: A Fortune-Telling Birthday Book photographs by Ron van Dongen

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Now is the Time When I Tell You Where to Shop for the Holidays

Okay, so first off, I have to tell you a freaky story.  I've been meaning to write this post for a while, but I finally decided to do it now because I was lying in bed, wide awake at 1:30 in the morning, and, well, now seemed as good a time as any.  Before I got up, I was thinking about what I would title this post, and I thought of the above title, which reminded me of Saturday Night Live's old Sprockets skits.

You may remember Mike Myers as Dieter, Sprockets' host.  "Now's the time on Sprockets when we dance."

Although disturbing, that's not the freaky part.  The freaky part is, I came into the office, brought the computer up out of sleep mode, and I heard a few random sounds-computer starty-up noises, some bell tones, a phone ringing-and then, no kidding, Mike Myers' voice saying, "Welcome to Sprockets.  I am your host, Dieter." You guys.  I almost had a heart attack.  Turns out our iTunes was running, and, among the 5, 833 items in our collection, we have a series of random sound clips that it was running through at the moment that I turned it on, and it happened to land on "Welcome to Sprockets.  I am your host, Dieter."  Are you kidding me?  I had no idea that we even had a Dieter clip.  HOW WEIRD IS THAT??

Anyway, that sealed the deal in my mind.  The time for this post is now!

So, all that is to say this:

If you have been surfing the internet at all lately, and I'll bet you have, you may have seen ads for Gary West Smoked Meats popping up all over the place.  Even if you haven't, I have, and my reaction is always, "Yay!  Gary West Smoked Meats!"  I realized that's not the normal reaction to an internet ad, but I know the people who own the store, and they are super nice people, and they have really great products, so I'm happy to see them, hopefully, garnering some internet traffic.

How do I know these people?  Remember when I told you about the Rat Race in Oregon?  Well, what I didn't tell you was that we stayed with Paul and Whitney Murdoch, the owners of Gary West Smoked Meats.  Paul and Whitney, whom we had never met before, who didn't know us from Adam, who already had five other visiting pilots as house guests in addition to their own two kids who had all of their freinds coming and going, who were in the middle of preparing for the grand re-opening of the bar and grill that is attached to their store, welcomed us with open arms all because they are some of the nicest people in the world.

They fed us, housed us, and let us be a part of their awesome family for the three or four days that we were there.  In return, we used their washer and dryer, took over their bathroom, ate all their food, and bumbled around their store, trying to help but also trying stay out of the way as much as possible.  Seriously, these people deserve a medal.

Gary R. West Meats (as the sign outside their store says) is located in Jacksonville, OR, which has been designated as a National Historic Landmark and is the cutest little town ever.  They have all kinds of meats, but they are known largely for their jerkies (Gary West, not Jacksonville), which are awesome.  These are not the little packs of dried out leather that you buy at the gas station, but hefty packs of chewy, meaty goodness made from buffalo, elk, and beef.  They have several different flavorsnitrite-free versions and they even have dog jerky (uh, just to clarify, that's jerky made FOR dogs, not FROM dogs), which comes complete with a picture of their awesome dog, Gus, on the package.

If you have a lot of people to feed this holiday season and are thinking, Gosh, I wish I could just order a meal in a box this year, you might consider the West Family Feast.  I haven't sampled this myself, but I'm tempted after reading this description from their website:

A huge and handsomely packaged gift box arrives stuffed with treats; One Whole Hickory Smoked Turkey and half a succulent and lean Yuletide Ham. Handmade German, Bratwurst and our trademark Summer Sausage. Papa Liebe's hand-tied Pepper Sticks and Smoked Wild Alaska Salmon. Savory Oregon Blue Cheese and Rogue Creamery's new Touvelle Gouda. Rise-up! Bakery's Ciabatta bread and Brandied Cranberry Garnish. Half a pound of our award-winning jerky, as well as fudge and our Sweet Hot Mustard. A very impressive smorgasbord of local Oregon treats.

That might be more food than you need, but you can also check out their other ham- and turkey-based gift items.  If smoked meats aren't your thing, don't despair; they have plenty of other great items to choose from.  They have gourmet cheeses and sausages, wine, condiments, and one of my favorite new discoveries hulless caramel corn.  I don't know how they do it, I think it's some kind of scientific miracle.  If you love caramel corn but hate all those little kernels and hulls that manage to hide out in your gums for days on end, this product is for you!  Science never tasted this good when I was a kid!

I didn't take a lot of pictures while we were in the store, but I did take one of their honey display because I thought it was so pretty with the sun shining through those decorative bottles.

So, have I convinced you yet?  If you are in the Jacksonville area, stop by the store, have a burger at the grill-they are also awesome-and say, "Hi!" to Paul and Whitney if you see them around.  If you're not in the area, please consider making a purchase from their online store.  They are nice people and they have a great product.  In case that isn't enough, I will bribe you with a picture of Gus, their real-life sweet-heart of a dog who actually exists.  (He's the sleepy-looking old guy in front.  Awwwww.)

Well, thanks for listening to another one of my fairly-biased gift-giving recommendations, and, remember, if you know someone who would appreciate a bouquet of beef jerky, (come on, you know you know someone who would love that!) Gary West Smoked Meats is the place to go!