Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Get Away

Hi, all. My husband and I went on a 6-day road trip. We traveled up through Wisconsin, stayed in Eagle River, and on the river, which I'll post pictures of. Went on up into Upper Peninsula of Michigan to what they call "rabbit ears" to see Lake Superior and get away from heat and humidity of Illinois. And we did, although a number of the natives were saying it was hotter than normal, even more humid. To us it was a wonderful reprieve from our 60%-70% humidity down here.

I'm just going to post some pictures, and throw in some descriptions below.

Trip through Wisconsin is always more enjoyable than going west through Illinois and Iowa.

Me relaxing with a drink at Bridgewater Inn on Eagle River. I felt for the price of the view it was almost reasonable, but the upkeep could have been better. 

Boats on the river, they had a posted speed requirement, we watched them all slow down at this point.

The next day we headed into Michigan, the Upper Peninsula to reach our goal destination.

Lake Superior is the larges fresh water lake IN THE WORLD! Thus the name.

Above this trail beckoned us to go to the sandy beach, where I put my feet in and acted like a kid. I think acting like a kid keeps me young.

Thanks for joining me.
I'll post rest of trip pics later this week as time permits.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Attention to Detail

I've always been a person who needed to put in detail. While an art student, I drew with ink and pen and did the most detailed drawings. Then my eyes began getting bad in my late 40's and drawing was a bit difficult.

But today isn't about drawing at all. Today is about gardening. Look at picture below and tell me if you think this isn't a natural-looking setting.

I worked on this yesterday, hauling in rocks, moving dirt, digging up the snow-on-the-mountain plants you see draped across the wood. One is a very large grape vine, below it is actually a piece of split-rail post (which I sawed by hand!). The rocks I've moved from an area I no longer use and this took a few loads because rocks are heavy.

I love when blossoms come on and I'd like to share a few with you today.

These are bluebells

This is a black variety of hollyhocks, which I've been enjoying for a few years.
Hollyhock are biannual

above are the pink and white hollyhock, and in front are the daylily "Stella de Oro"

Foreground is the brick which I put in myself a few years back. The white flowers along the edges are candytuft and alyssum. In background are the daylillies, and to the very right is wormwood, has a nice silvery-blue color which I love. 

And here is a garden visitor you absolutely want--a dragonfly.  We have a larger one with a white body that looks menacing (to mosquitoes), that comes through once in a while. 

I'll have more blossoms coming up soon. My Shasta daisies, and other things next time.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Spring Blossoms Late

But better late than never, right?

Here is a beautiful Columbine, which I'd transplanted last year and it took off--and I guarded jealously from the deer! The second pic shows the hosta that came in beautifully too.

This small garden was developed last year, after my husband and I cut out a lot of debris/dead or unwanted trees and growth. I worked hard on this planting. I have several different plants, which will each have their own blooming season. The Iris popped out, and they were showing as well, but didn't take a picture of them.

However, the lupine did well in it's new spot.

This is under that water tower I mentioned in a previous blog, where I worked (again very hard to eradicate unwanted plants, soil, etc.) in order to put in plants I had waiting for the rain to stop and soil to dry out at least some.

Below, this doesn't look like much, but this is from a rose bush. I harvest 90% of my plants either from parent plants, seeds or division. This one went in next to one I transplanted last year. When it finally blossoms, I'll get a picture of it.

I'm a collector of many things, rocks, plants, and even moss. Above, you can see that moss does really well under a tree, and it's even coated a rock next to the little bowl where the birds drink, or take a bath. Taking up moss is easy, since it basically grows across the ground. It's so thick in places, and I love the different kinds I find either on our property or in the woods in the park.

And speaking of rocks... I have been working on this section, which is blasted by the sun, and I've worked hard on, but once the heat came in, I had to quit. However, I have been working on it and will have more pictures to show at a later date.

As we live smack dab in the middle of the forest preserve/wetlands we not only get deer, but other unusual birds or animals. Both Dennis and I have seen the turkey, and some other people have seen it too. Well, here is a picture of it in our backyard. Later on, we learned that people (birdwatchers) who had spotted it--the birdwatchers who come out here--were looking for it, and some woman who spoke to my husband who was ready to leave on his mower asked him whether he'd seen the turkey. Of course he didn't tell her that we had, or we'd have the bird-watching paprazzi pouncing on this place.
This is a female. I've never seen any male, so she's a bit lonely. But she definitely is camera shy, since she came up from the prairie behind the barn, and made her way casually across our lawn. I knew exactly where she was heading.

She's heading into my secret woods (Lorelei's Enchanted Forest), which we've had to protect from the other forest preserve workers who seem to be demented about chopping out trees and vegetation. My husband has had to warn them on several occasions that this area is off limits, they are not to touch it. The deer and, as you can see, large fowl, seek it for their piece of mind. No one can come barging in, as the tangle of grapevine, sticky berry bushes and a few well-placed gates prevent anyone from just wandering in from the park.

More later on in the season as things progress. I'm waiting on my blanket flowers and Shasta daisies to open up. I hope to prevent deer from taking interest in them as well. We've got a new brood of fawns--my husband saw 3 crossing the road from the field into our woods, which is their favorite place to rest and hide from people, only just this morning.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Jack The Ripper... Is the Case Really Closed?

I'm not sure why my curiosity pulls my interests to such macabre subjects, but the horrific crimes of Jack the Ripper have never been solved as to who actually was the Ripper.

Until now. Or, at least we're to believe.

I bought this book about a week ago and I've been reading it with avid curiosity and interest.
Patricia Cornwell is the author of the internationally acclaimed Dr. Kay Scarpetta crime series. In this book she has revealed who she feels is Jack the Ripper, using all her knowledge and spending $$ on bringing in other experts in various fields.

I have to admit she has done a wonderful job of eliminating all of the other possible people who were thought of as suspects. Either they weren't in the area at the time of certain murders, or, in the case of The Duke of Clarence, he was--well, to me sounds as though he was slightly mentally challenged.

These murders all happened in the most disgusting places in London, the "East End" where just about anything happened and did. Murder wasn't new to this area of Whitechapel, however, these murders were unheard of. They were horrific and disfiguring. It's as if a lunatic had struck these women of ill repute.

Cornwell contends that Jack the Ripper was an artist named Walter Sickert was behind these murders, and she puts for quite a theory. Other than the artwork, she points to various Ripper letters with more doodlings than you'd think would be, or should be on a Ripper letter. In solving the cases, there is very little to go on. However, I'll say the jury is out on this for me. I have yet to finish the book, and for other reasons I'm not going to say I agree or disagree with her finger pointing at an artist. Much of the evidence could point to him, since he kept a lot of "secret" rooms, and he disappeared for long periods, where no one knew where he was. Not even his wife, or friends.

Let's examine the art

Cornwell points to the art of Sickert to make the suggestion that these paintings are oddly similar to the murdered victims. Just for the record, Sickert was quite an impressionist. Bold colors and lines are part of the impressionist's form. Below is just one of many paintings he did. He was quite good, for impressionism--not exactly my cup of tea, but then again each his own. As an artist I can understand it better than Cornwell, who began writing as a reporter, then worked in a Chief Medical Examiner's office of Virginia and then published "Postmortem" and the rest is history, as they say.

Walter Sickert’s painting Sickert’s Nuit d’ete – or Summer Night – evokes victim Mary Kelly’s death bed scene

The above is a strange angle for the pose. But possibly that was the artist being quirky. But do note that around the neck there is a string of pearls. Is it merely a string of pearls? Or does it hide the slash at the neck? This is The Ripper's "ha-ha", taunting, states Cornwell. Cornwell has explained the Ripper cut the throats of his victims from behind, first, in order to kill them, and to keep from getting blood all over himself. Then he went to town on other parts of the body. Police records have shown that he would disembowel the woman, and take a souvenir--usually her uterus.

She has learned that Sickert also suffered from some sort of deformity of his penis (you'd have to read about this for yourself), which may have given him pretty much grist for the mill, so to speak.

Sickert’s painting Putana a Casa shows a prostitute with bizarre black brush strokes on her face, which are eerily similar to the savage cuts on the postmortem picture of Catherine Eddowes’ face

The above painting, Cornwell claims she finds the black slashes on this woman's face somewhat disturbingly not unlike those slashes to a Ripper victim named Catherine Eddows. I've seen the pictures of both this one and the victim in the book. Above I only see the artist using black as the shadow. Very dramatic, and somewhat dreary. I'm not seeing what she's seeing.

More if you have interest in this:

Here is an article from The Sun about Cornwell's investigation into these murders. WARNING about some of the photos--there's one that particularly gruesome. Plus there's a video--not gruesome, but interesting as well.

There is another interesting article and this is for her newest writing about her investigations into Sickert (hah, what an appropriate name for a sick murderer such as the Ripper). This is called "A New Ripper Mystery: Why Patricia Cornwell won't stop hunting him"

I'm not quite finished with this book, "Portrait of a Killer", which was written in 2002. I must say she does a very thorough job of giving you the facts, and gives a good description of London and the times during 1888. The police, of course, were baffled, and she points out that forensic and crime labs and so forth were not even a dream. They were only just getting to fingerprints at the time. But this guy was clever, he knew how not to get caught.

As for me, I'm only partially convinced by some of the things she's brought up. I hope to get my hands on her second book, which was published this year. There was also one called "Chasing the Ripper" prior to all these.

Product DetailsRipper: The Secret Life of Walter Sickert [Kindle in Motion] by [Cornwell, Patricia]

So, if this is of any interest to you, go for it. Like I've said, I just have a morbid curiosity. My murder mysteries will always have something to do with murder. I just won't put the gruesome parts on the page.

One of my books, Trill, did deal with a mother and son psychopath team, and I nearly forget about this, until this morning when it came up in my editing the 7th book in the series, Interlude.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Because I Can

Hi, all. Well, I've begun my second week off from work for the summer. Feels like longer, somehow. Maybe because I've gotten a lot done. I worked on the garden, and hard to believe it was 80's last week and we put in the window air conditioner, but had to take it out again as it got cold. We had highs in 40's last 2 days!

Since the weather turned bad, I turned to my novel(s), and got the sixth one in Sabrina Strong series finished! (Yay), and because this one has such a cliff-hanger, every time I finish it, I have to read on to the next one, and I do believe others who are fans of the series will HAVE to have the next one. So, I'm going to try and get the 7th one done this year as well, because I think it will be a one-two punch in sales. I don't see any reason I shouldn't get it ready for my publisher now, rather than waiting. Wait for what?

I've got so many interests, gardening and writing are just two. The garden is an extension of my need to be with nature. Maybe because I'm a Virgo? That's an Earth sign. But my writing is that creative side where my fantasies and intellect are both explored and allowed to become something I can visualize--if only on paper.

I'm not one of those people who sits at their computer or I-phone and go on-line to try and drum up sales at facebook sites. I find that to be a waste of time. I don't know how those people [who do] get anything done in a day. I mean is this gadget in their hands all the time? I've got a house to clean a husband to feed, and a dozen other little things that need my attentions throughout the day. [I had to stop here and take care of laundry, breakfast and dishes] Not only that I find the use of gadgets somewhat annoying. People aren't communicating with their mouths any more. They expect you to text them. I told Dennis, when we heard that his sister's children won't call her and expected her to text them, instead, I'd never put up with that. They don't want to speak to me, then fine (a good thing I have no children). I see it on the NIU campus all day long. When someone makes that phone so important to them that they can't look up and see a 12 ton bus coming at them, and I have to step on the breaks, that's really ridiculous.

So. No. I refuse to be part of this technology era. I'm not bending and if my sales suffer, so be it. I'd rather enjoy life to the fullest on this planet filled with animals and birds, flowers and such.

One of many toads that live in my gardens, eating bugs
You never know what you might find if you just open your eyes!
Deer that come grazing through our yard. If you aren't looking out the window while they're here, you'll miss them!
Well, that's all for now. Hope you remember to look out at the birds or flowers today. Just sit outside and enjoy nature in a park or if you have a nice backyard. Try to just not be on your devices for five minutes you might be surprised what you hear or see!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Garden

This spring has been, to put in mildly, putting a damper on activities of clean-up and working the ground for plants. But things have dried off nicely this week. It was good to also be free of the job (for the summer months), and direct my energies toward a couple of new flower gardens.

The above is an area that my husband and I cleaned up last year. We cut out a lot of trees and brush, leaving the older trees in place. So, now I'm working on this spot, and have gotten what I want in for now.

Above is a lupine, very mature and it wanted to go into the ground, but alas, I became sick in between having dug this one up and what with rain and really cold temps, it didn't get done. More on that later.

Above is a "zero turn" mower made by X-Mark. This one has a smaller deck, I believe it's 5 feet wide. My husband uses one like this for "trimming" around borders etc. in the park. His larger mower--70" deck--he does the larger areas, which the largest one will take him two days to mow. 
Anyway, he showed me how to drive this one. Note the nice little wagon on the back. It carries a lot more than my wheelbarrow.

About two weeks ago my aim was to work on this area underneath the pines out back.

I need to tell you about this incredible looking tool. It is what you use to pop dandelions up, instead of trying to get the whole root, which now they've discovered you only need to get just underneath the ground. And this tool is definitely a wonderful invention and gets up ANY hard to pull weed.

Here are my other tools which I used to cut away branches of the pine trees (and others, when I need to).

And here is a faster way of getting the job done. Unfortunately this saw didn't want to work.
Back to the hand tools.

This area took me most of the day to dig out these annoying weeds beneath the trees. The deer have no interest in them, unfortunately.

That's me. See weeds to the right? Those are the ones I was after.
Below you can see a better picture of how large they were.

Once we were done, we decided, since it was cool, to build a fire and...
 Cook some 'dogs. Note my husband's firebuilding technique is not your typical "tee-pee" style. He calls it "log cabin". This sort of fire will last through rain, snow and hail. I've seen it when we camped in the Rockies. I kid you not, this is the very best way to build a long lasting fire.
My next objective, and one of the spots which you see from our kitchen window, and made me cringe every time I looked at it. The water tower has been here as long as the house--over 100 years. Maybe longer, but I don't know. It's the only one of its kind in our county.

You can see how it needs attention. A mulberry keeps growing up around the grape vine--that's that large snake-like thing growing up on right hand side of the base. Grape vines grow very quickly. My husband happens to like it, so it stayed.

More on this clean-up in a later post.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Snot isn't Sexy

Hey, guys. I've been sick. Actually last week I was down with the mother-of-all colds. My husband got it and gave it to me. His work mates had it, and I've traced it back to one of their wives who goes to a gym regularly (and knew she'd gotten it from the sick people coughing all over the equipment). The worst breeding grounds for germs are a gym and a day care. After that it's other schools, and should you think you'd like to enjoy a buffet, may I remind you that EVERYONE just touched those spoons, etc.

This cold goes like this. You get a sore throat, and it might last 1-2 days. You have an accompanying cough which has a signiture of a long, drawn out first cough and then just coughing. You may split a gut coughing. Fortunate for me, I was doing core and ab tightening training, so I had no adverse reactions.

The second week, you are not out of the woods, yet. You are still coughing. I'm at the end of my second week, and have the lovely snot thing going on. You know, where you think you've got it all and it's like somewhere a mile deep. (sorry if that grosses some people out).

My husband had it start about 3 weeks ago, and still has a cough, as do the other guys and the man's wife had it for a month, went to a doctor and still had the cough. There's nothing you can do. It is the COLD FROM HELL.

And I've got this voice that sounds like I've been a chain smoker for life. I said to my driving pal, "Thanks, you mean I sound like a bar fly?" har har har.

And, in the mean time, spring is here and I've only begun working on the transplanting and so forth. We saw some asparagus plants in containers about 3 weeks ago, and decided to get them. Little did we know both the sickness and the stupid rain (and frigging cold!), would keep us from doing any digging out there. This week we began on the bed, which I want raised and get the soil just right. These new plants, I've read, don't tolerate any sort of weeds, so we've gotta get this just right if we want asparagus in the spring, after next year. I had to transplant these into larger pots, meanwhile. But they are putting up little thin sprouts all the time, so they don't mind being on the porch for now.

When time, I'll post a little bit more and maybe with some pictures of what I'm up to.

All for now.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Beethoven and Me

Happy April 1st
No Fooling!
They were playing Beethoven's #7 Symphony this morning, and I had to get out the vacuum cleaner and hit the floors. I had it on in every room while I went about with the noisy contraption, but in between was able to hear one of the most energetic pieces (once it gets into the later movements it's like a horse galloping), he's ever written, and it does get me jazzed up, and I tend to get the cleaning tools out! Anything that gets your heart rate up is good for you, so you should try and do something as simple as cleaning, and walking.

I've been working out with the help of Danette May, and I think I've mentioned her. I am serious about this. I've gotten to the point where at my age I'd better do something, or I'm going to look like all these fat old women leaning on their shopping carts, who have no energy, not to mention wobbly on their legs because they've got a hanging gut and every other thing going on. I was always energetic when younger. In fact I was under weight in school, until I hit my 20's and began using birth control--and I don't care what doctor denies it, your metabolism is messed with. I never gained a lot of weight before that. and then came menopause, which really screws with a woman's body.

I was working with yoga, but it wasn't giving me the results. I also had to get serious about not eating certain foods. Danette May is also a nutritionist, and I find her ideas interesting, but some of the foods are expensive. Things like Kefir, raw cacao, and coconut oil. But there are things I'm doing now that are showing me results, which are the exercises. I knew I wouldn't see my weight come down over night. But I did take my measurements when I began 2 weeks ago this past Wednesday. I remeasured and found I'd lost 2" around the bust, 1" at the hips, and about a 1/4" at the waist--which is where that naughty fat his hiding.

The workouts aren't difficult, if you're in shape. I'm not. Not starting out, and not now. I knew last summer when I couldn't work very long in the garden without taking a breather I was needing help. So, when I discovered this lady, I was inclined to try, she's not one of those trainers with bulging biceps, and one of those drill Sergeant voices. She's cute, and small and someone I feel I could hang out with. She explains how to do the movements, and even comes back in other videos to make sure you understand exactly what sort of movement you need to do in order to do it correctly.

Starting out two weeks ago, I couldn't even do more than 5 of the 20 reps she wanted. But I'm now up to 10 reps on the most difficult ones. I'm seeing results, and that boosts me further. I'm seeing myself 6 months down the road becoming the thinner, stronger and healthier person I once was. The core muscles are the key, and doing the plank move is part of some of her floor exercises, which I'm getting down little by little.

And let me just touch on probiotics here just a little bit. My husband and I thought he had a problem with gluten. But seemed other foods were giving him problems after he ate, like salads. I kept on thinking he must have IBS. Then there was talk about the "angry gut" and probiotics. So, we talked to our resident nutritionalist at our store and she recommended the probiotic pills in their health area. Dennis has been taking these for 2 weeks and is seeing results in that area. By golly he can eat bread again! Not have to buy that expensive gluten-free bread ($6/loaf). Since he still has problems with milk products, he can't really eat Greek yogurt, which as probiotics in it. However, and this is the interesting part, if you think by eating Greek yogurt you're getting enough probiotics, then you need to read this, which I took from Danette's blog:

Kefir grown from kefir grains has between 30 and 50 different strains and approximately 5 billion cfu (colony forming units) per gram.
Kefir from the store is a probiotic drink made from a mix of 4-10 strains of bacteria and yeast and is approximately 2-3 billion cfu per gram. This usually isn’t true kefir grown from grains.
Greek Yogurt is a single strain and is approximately 1-2 billion cfu per gram.
We were walking around the store with our nutritionalist, and she let me try a small bottle of Kefir. It does have an odd taste you have to get past because it's fermented milk. That's exactly what yogurt is, if you've ever made your own yogurt, it sits out fermenting on your counter over night, and like magic, you've got a bowl of yogurt the next morning. I know you can make kefir as well, but I'm not about to go get the cultures for that. 
I can say that my husband is no longer having trouble in that area, after taking the probiotics after 2 weeks. An angry gut is one that isn't getting these probiotics in the large intestines, where things need to work right. If you are experiencing any of these problems, you might try eating plain Greek yogurt, or taking probiotic in pill form. It might surprise you how something so simple could make your life better.
Okay, I'm off to a meeting at my job, and believe me, if I wasn't paid for it, I wouldn't go.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Murder, She Blogged

Last night, I stayed up watching a Columbo show. It was one of his later ones, where Peter Faulk was gray, and looked like someone who should have been enjoying his senior years at home collecting his pension. But the murderers in these stories are not your rough and tumble, ruthless types. They're rich, and Hollywood types. I must admit they do come up with some interesting ways to try and get away with their murders. Their motives are simple, which in every case are usually the basic need to either hide a past or present bad deed, or the need to get rid of a spouse, or a blackmailer for obvious reasons. The list goes on.


But, as in many of the Columbo shows this one had an ending that became almost silly. The murderer is always quite happy to go quietly after Columbo has solved the murder.

murder she wrote:
A lot like in the Murder She Wrote shows where the murderer volunteers to tell what they did and how, even after Mrs. Fletcher has put it all together. In most cases, the murderer has a pretty good motive, and the person they killed deserved it, in my opinion. But always has Jessica shaking her head, because no murder is justified in her opinion.

In nearly all cases in these TV shows, the murdered victim is someone just about everyone (in the show) hates, and has a reasonable motive to kill them, thus, you get a bunch of likely suspects, and usually your innocent person is being taken to jail where Jessica knows that they are innocent and tries to prove the police wrong.

In real life, innocent people are usually victims of murder. Sure, there are a few baddies who need to be snuffed out, but what if that bad person is the killer (more likely they are), and if the reader sees that one or two innocent people are murdered, wouldn't they be more emotionally involved in the story and rooting for the heroine more if it looked like the bad guy might get away, after murdering her friends and acquaintances? Especially if Lainey herself is in danger? I tend to think so.

Party to a Murder: A Lainey Quilholt Mystery by Lorelei Bell

In the first Lainey Quilholt book in the series, Lainey becomes involved because the person murdered was a classmate, Arline, who no one likes. She is last seen arguing with her ex-boyfriend, and a couple of tough girls nearly start a fight during a party, but this is broken up. The town sheriff, John Weeks, sets his sights on the murdered girl's fiance' (AJ) because he was last seen having that argument in front of a bunch of on-lookers. This sets him up rather easily as a murder suspect, but his father is a powerful lawyer type and gets him out of jail on a technicality.

However, AJ did go to Arline's apartment looking for something that is incriminating (that past deed, I spoke of earlier). In his haste he has pretty much trashed the place. However, he has not found the incriminating pictures that Arline took of him passed out behind the wheel of Arline's car while coming back from a vacation. Lainey, being slightly more clever than most, does find these pictures, and more. She's gathering the clues like Easter eggs and not only solves this murder, but a past one involving a rather rough individual who used to go out with Arline's best friend, who supposedly drowned, and she's able to point to the fact this may have been more than accidental.

In the end she helps Sheriff Weeks find the killer in a reenactment. Sure, this is sometimes used in other murder mysteries, but I think it works because there's a twist in what really happened, the killer(s) are caught because they're stupid (as most criminals are), and although her friend is involved, the reason comes to light.

Here is a link to a Instafreebie it's a first chapter, so if you are even slightly curious about the mystery, you can check that out here.

And, of course should you feel the need to buy and read it, here's the link to Party to a Murder. I think it will keep your interest.

Here is a description from Amazon:

Lainey is a 17-year old small town girl - and she has no idea she's about to be involved in a grisly murder investigation.

When Arline Rochell is found brutally murdered one morning, Lainey's suspicions arise. Why does this girl seem to be hated by everyone? While digging for clues, she discovers that blackmail could have been the motive. While trying to understand her friends' hatred for the murdered student, she finds herself in the middle of a second murder cover-up.

Clues lead to a number of other people, including Lainey's friend Wendy... and the more she wants to prove her innocence, the more it looks as if her friend has done the deed. Along with Sheriff Weeks' help, Lainey delves into who had most to gain by killing Arline. But can they find the killer before it's too late?