Monday, October 16, 2017

Texas Star Hibiscus

Gardening this year has been the best so far in this house. Several plants are well established, and they have put on a grand show. Among these is my Texas Star Hibiscus. I planted this about four years ago. Every year it gets about a foot higher than the previous year, and this year I enjoyed a wonderful profusion of blooms on the plant. I kept dead-heading spent blooms until about mid-July, and I let the last big wave of blossoms go to seed. I have not propagated any of these from seed, but if any readers would be interested, please leave me a comment with your mailing address. I won't publish your comment, but will mail you several seeds, and hopefully you can get at least one plant from them. I'd start them indoors in a sunny place in the winter, if possible. Also, if you're much north of Texas, I don't know how well these would do. They are a heat-hardy/water-thrifty perennial, and the plant dies down to the ground every winter, and puts a new set of canes at springtime. I like the look of the canes, so I let them stay up over winter and snap them off at the ground in spring. Also, unless you have tons of space for them, I would only plant the healthiest specimen to start with.
I first saw a Texas Star Hibiscus at a wonderful nursery in McKinney called The Green House, and they never watered theirs, and it came back year after year. Theirs was a massive stand of canes - probably several dozen canes, around 10' tall, with hundreds of blossoms through the summer. It was magnificent. My current plant will probably need a handful more years to get that tall, but it is on its way.

By the way, the purple plant in the right corner in the shade is a variety of Agastache (hummingbird mint) that I obtained from High Country Gardens. I just purchased that one this spring, and I was amazed at how quickly it established, filled out and started blooming. True to its name, it was a favorite with the hummingbirds, to my delight. :) I took this photo early in the morning when there was shade from trees across the street, but this stand of plants is around a boulder and gets full sun most of the day.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Sunday, Puppy Sunday: long overdue

Yes, this is long overdue. This is the most recent photo of my darlings, although its not the best photo. I thought you should have a peek at them. Will try to post another photo soon.

They have been busy gobbling up as many freshly dropped pecans as they can muster. The nuts were huge early this year, but have only really started dropping in earnest in the last few days. It's a strange crop. Many I pick up are too light to have a healthy, edible fruit inside, and it looks to me as though about half the ones on the ground are bad. It is a shame, because I really wanted to share a huge pecan haul with friends, but it seems there won't be so many when all is said and done. Today it took a lot of effort just to gather about 175, and that added up to a handful of pounds, but when they have been shelled, that is not so many. Add to this the challenge of competing with the doggies for the nuts. I also don't want them eating the bad nuts, but as you know, Mochi will eat anything.

This is my mid-term week. Wow. Amazing. I have a massive annotated bibliography due Tuesday, and that is for a 20 page paper that will be due by the end of the semester. I will be pleased to have done with that. In truth, this is a class I would prefer not to have taken, but it is a small program and there are limited options for grad-level courses. I will be glad to have eaten this frog in the first semester, but I still reserve the right to bellyache. More than the misery, though, is the glory of the English Romantics. I'd never read essays by Charles Lamb. For those of you who do crossword puzzles, you know his alter-ego was Elia. Apparently he knew an Italian named Elia when he was younger and liked the name, plus Elia is an anagram for A Lie. All those years doing crosswords and I didn't know the backstory. So, yeah, mostly, the knowledge is rich, interesting, and meshes with earlier knowledge in a way that gives life a fuller feeling. Is nice.

If anyone is reading this, I hope you have a great week.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Beautiful dreaming

If you have a minute and are bored, do yourself and search google images for Ernest Delune (1857-1949), a master architect who created some of the most glorious Art Nouveau structures in Brussels. I hope to get back there one day, but my heart leapt every time I passed 6 Rue du Lac, in particular. One evening, we drove past in the dark, and the interior lights revealed a glory of stained glass in the lovely windows. *le sigh*

The above image is from a lovely travel blog entitled Milliver's Travels, and on this post, the author includes photos and information about several more lovely structures in Brussels.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Big ideas.

The grad students have been told that this is a vital time for us to attend conferences and submit proposals for inclusion in those conferences. Today I had an idea for a paper that I hope will fit the bill.

I have the most phenomenal professor for English Romantic Literature. The lectures are fantastic, and I love the material. Have fallen in love with Keats, who is absolutely amazing. To Autumn seems particularly fitting today:

To Autumn
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
   Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
   With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
   And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
      To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
   With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
      For summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
   Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
   Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
   Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
     Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
   Steady thy laden head across a brook;
   Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
      Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.
Where are the songs of spring? Ay, Where are they?
   Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
   And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
   Among the river sallows, borne aloft
      Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
   Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
   The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
      And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Wow - has it really been almost 3 months?

Time is a nutty business. Amazingly, it's been almost three months since I checked in here. Sorry for the silence, but things have been busy, to put it mildly.

My 7th week of grad school is nearly over. The volume of reading is tremendous, but the material is mostly enjoyable to read. My assistantship is going well, and each interaction with students brings with it a lesson. Next Fall I will be teaching two classes, and I will be giving my lecture on The Tempest to the Shakespeare class in November. I am thrilled that professor asked me to come speak to his class. This is so much fun!

Happily, I was able to attend Blogorado this year, and it was restorative, to say the least. It is great to spend time with some of the dearest and best people in the world. :)

I am attempting to complete the lion's share of my major semester assignments in the next 3 weeks so that I can tuck into National Novel Writing Month with both feet starting November 1. The plan is to complete a novel I started several years ago. I'm also trying to encourage Himself to complete something brilliant he started earlier this year, which I hope he will publish on Amazon sometime soon.

Life is very busy, but things are going well. It is still rather amazing that I graduated in May, but it such a thrill to be working at studies again, and at another level. The challenge of grad level classes is dazzling, but it is thrilling to increase my knowledge.

I will try to check in again sooner than three months. Hopefully I'll have a publication of something from myself or Himself to announce soon.

Take care of yourselves!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Good reading. The Lawdog Files book is available today.

I admit I have a particular bias, but I do know objectively that this book is outstanding, and I highly recommend it.

LawDog's writing is evocative of the cowboy philosopher/poet that so many of us associate with the spirit of rugged individualism that defines the American spirit. The fact that these stories actually happened only makes them even better. Rather than making him seem lessened, the tales of his rookie errors (never insult a feral hog with a mere 9mm) serve as bona fides for his hard-won gravitas. Speaking in a voice that does not condescend or preach, LawDog inspires confidence that hearkens to the very best qualities we hope for in law enforcement personnel. I know many folks follow his blog, and much of this material is available there, through the years, but it is good to have so many stories collected in one volume. I hope you will read it. :)

Monday, July 03, 2017

On Trump's Tweets

In case anyone hasn't noticed, Donald Trump is rather good at marketing. Image is something of which he has a keen understanding. To that end, he has effectively whipped his opponents into a perpetual froth for the past 8 months with his seemingly careless tweets on Twitter. However, his opponents don't seem to have figured out how soundly he has played their feigned sensibilities, these people who were upset about "grab her by the pussy" but felt Bill Clinton's Oval Office sexual exploits were "none of our business" and that his private life should remain thus -- talking out of both sides of their mouths.

After Trump played them like a Stradivarius over the Hamilton/Safe Space tweets, I thought they would finally figure it out and leave off having their chain yanked by tweets: not so.  The outrage will go on and on and on, because Trump haters are cats, and Trump's tweets are his laser pointer. They will never figure it out.

Kurt Schlicter brilliantly sums up the entire state of affairs while hitting some high marks of ribaldry in this post. Read it for a few good laughs, and take his message to heart, whatever your political leanings. This too, shall pass, and I suspect that when Trump's two terms in office are concluded, his tweets may eventually be regarded as the primary way he managed to keep his opponents off balance while he got down to actual business in his job as President.

Never in a million years would I have dreamt of Trump as a candidate, nor as President. But he is who we have, and I want the best for our country. I was no fan of Obama and I certainly wanted fewer of his policies to gain traction, but to wish him ill was to wish a harm on our nation. I wish more people on both sides of the aisle could have such clarity of thought when someone they don't like is elected to that office. Schlicter is right: never mind the tweets.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Happy Father's Day to the best Dad ever.

Like my dear Mom, I can't say enough nice things about my wonderful Father. I am well, truly, richly blessed for parents, and I couldn't be more proud.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

To my dear, sweet Mother on Mother's Day:

I am so grateful for the countless ways you have supported me, Mom. Your encouragement means more to me than I can possibly convey. I love you. Thank you for everything.

Actual mileage may vary.

Today is my first full day as a college graduate. :)

Earning my degree took longer than I expected when I buckled down to finish about 2012, but I also knew that road bumps were a possibility. Road bumps happened. The important thing is that the journey that technically started in August 1987 has officially concluded successfully. 

I have not blogged about same, but the third semester of nursing school, I hit a snag from which recovery was impossible. I knew nursing school would be tough, but I didn't see the fatal blow coming. I'll never forget the saccharine in the voice of the teacher who dealt the blow. I was stunned at such casual cruelty. But sometimes, you have to Roomba that shit, back up, and take another tack. After that hideous exchange on that day, I walked to the English department on campus. Truly, I was reeling, but I needed to get a backup in place, and to do so quickly. That moment was when the story turned to gold and the sailing smoothed out tremendously.

One vital element to my success in my new path of study was the kind stewardship of an incredible advisor/mentor on faculty. A chance discussion on Shakespeare with another professor in November '15 resulted in me delivering a lecture to his class on a particular film adaptation of one of Shakespeare's plays. Another esteemed faculty member came to sit in on that lecture in April last year. No pressure, right? Well, actually, I was quite comfortable and excited, because I knew my subject. The Shakespeare professor has asked me to deliver the lecture I prepared for his Shakespeare class in the coming Fall. The topic of that lecture is the plinth on which my Master's thesis will be built. Funny how things work out, innit?

I have accepted an Assistantship in the English department of my university, and for two semesters beginning in Fall 2018, I will be Teacher of Record for two classes. I will have first crack at crafting a syllabus with continuity that will help incoming freshmen adjust to reading and writing at university level. I plan to craft a syllabus of material that will be easily affordable and one that I hope will be engaging to readers. I will try to find copyright free works of short fiction that students can read free online. The first piece I definitely want to use is An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce. Books that must be purchased will be ones that are available for $4 or $5 and free shipping at eBay or Amazon, or free on Kindle. Student assistants often do not pass muster with their syllabi, so that is why I am not waiting until a year from now to craft mine: mine will likely be fully formed by the end of this year. I will be most deliberate with my choice of literature.

After I receive my MA, I will be qualified to teach at Junior College or Community college level, and that will suit me well. Meanwhile, I have many irons in the fire. I have several streams of creative activities, and this summer will be pivotal for cleaning my house and organizing, and launching into a different mode.

My parents came to town for my graduation ceremony, and that means so much to me. Their support and belief in me has been steadfast, and I truly would not have crossed the finish line without their help in so many ways.

I also owe a debt of thanks to my sweetheart for his unwavering belief in me. When I had to turn on a dime, he was right there to encourage me in that new direction.

I am so relieved to have finished this degree. While I would not have chosen the bitter lessons, the rest were all the more sweet. Thanks to all my friends and family for the support and encouragement. I promise not to take 29.75 years to complete the next degree.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Sunday, Puppy Sunday: My sonny boy sun bunny

It's been in the 50s and 60s here the past few days, and it has been glorious. If you didn't know better, you'd swear it was January! I love it. Chuy, however, hates to be in the shade, and the sun was toasty. I caught him sitting with his eyes closed, basking. Then he turned to me and those gorgeous little ears snapped up, and I was able to get my camera out before he approached me to demand scritchins. He's my sweet boy.

Since Sunday is really over, let's just say 19 days until graduation. It's getting so close.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Nearly finished with school...

I have less than a month remaining in the completion of my undergrad degree. It is dazzling to consider, because it's been so long since I half-heartedly enrolled in a few courses at NTSU for the Fall of 1987. I have a raft of papers to write, but I expect only one to be difficult. I only have two tests remaining, but I expect them both-- in Spanish-- to be difficult. I feel confident of passing Spanish, but it is still stressful. I will get my campus work done early tomorrow so I can come home with a free afternoon to knock out much of the remaining assignments for the semester, as well as complete a job application.

Of late, I have engaged in some therapeutic gardening, and things are bursting into bloom here and there in the yard. I have chosen plants that complement the native perennials that are established, and I have chosen plants that particularly appeal to hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies. I expect that everything will be hog-wild by this time next year. It's odd to cast ahead to a year from now when my commencement will be rapidly shrinking in the rearview mirror. Odd, but good.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Speaking of good reading...

I have blogged so infrequently in the past year that I am remiss in spreading news on some good books that have come out.

My dear friend JL Curtis published a good book not quite a year ago. Rimworld is available on Kindle, and is a fun new take on the Sci-Fi adventure.  He populates his work with capable people who have the skills and intelligence to troubleshoot and come out on top in otherworldly situations. There's something to be said for people who can get things done, and who wants to read about a one dimensional character who never got axle grease under their fingernails?  Good stuff. His Grey Man series is worth checking out, too, even if Mom was a little peeved at Curtis for giving one character a more difficult row to hoe than Mom thought she deserved. ;)

I've read a bit of more stuff that he has in the hopper, and it's just getting better and better. I'll try to be a little more on the ball and let you know as soon as his next book is published.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Monday, Puppy Monday.

Y'all is owed a puppy photo.  Here we have the butts of the elder pooches, while Mochi's head is sticking out. Yes, Chuy's claws are long and evil. It's hard to get out of bed, though. they are such sweethearts.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Sorry for my silence!

I can't believe it's been more than two months since I posted. In my defense, this is my final undergrad semester, and I'll be graduating in mid-May, so things have been brutally hectic. Considering that I first enrolled in a college course in August 1987, approaching 30 years to obtain a degree is perhaps stretching it, a bit. Call me a late bloomer.

Things have mostly gone swimmingly well this semester. I sang a couple of small roles in an opera workshop performance, and it was great fun, and the second night of the show was a personal breathrough, of sorts. There's a regional opera workshop I've been asked to participate in, but I don't think the timing will be right with all my other commitments this summer. It's good to be singing again, in any case. Most likely, nothing more will come of it, but it feels good knowing I broke through some old challenges. :)

In this area of Texas we've really not even had a winter, so I have managed to eke out a little time to work on gardening around the house, and it's starting to look better. To my dismay, though, my rock rose (labdanum) seems finally to have given up the ghost. It has thrived on my neglect for years, but I think I finally let it get too dry for too long last fall. In any case, it's gone, and I need to track down another specimen.  Even though it's been a warm winter, I was surprised to see a big black swallowtail butterfly in the area on Monday. They are my favorites, and I've already potted a bronze fennel for them, but I thought it would have time to get up to size before the swallowtails sailed through. I need to get a few more of those and put them in various places and see if I can't lure more of those lovely creatures.  The butterflies love that type of fennel, and they lay their eggs on the plant, and they look like tiny bright yellow grapes on the stems.  The caterpillars eat the ferny foliage all the way to the stems, often, and then there are more butterflies. It's a fun cycle to watch. I am thrilled to see many new shoots of a tall, sky-blue salvia I love, as well as about a dozen shoots coming up from my Texas Star hibiscus, and they'll get to be about 6 feet tall, or more. :) It's odd, though, seeing perennials appearing that I normally wouldn't see growing until April or May. I hope this summer is not too brutally hot, but I'm not holding my breath, either.

I will try to write more before I graduate in May, but no promises. I have tons of papers to write, and a few huge final projects for various classes. They are largely pleasant tasks, but there are so many, and miles to go before I sleep. All best to all of you, if anyone is still reading.

A new western novel from Peter Grant

My friend Peter has just published his second in a series of western novels. Rocky Mountain Retribution is out on Amazon now, and it's already had a handful of nice reviews. :)

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Glorious music for a new year

I'm sorry for yet another grand pause in blogging.  The holidays were a bit rocky, and I'm learning a couple of parts for Opera scenes at school for my final semester.  I'll be singing Dorabella in Soave sia il vento from Cosi fan tutte, and I'll sing a nice role (not the ingenue, thankfully) from Rossini's Le Comte Ory.  Should be fun, and it's wonderful to sink my teeth into singing these days. I am studying with a superb teacher who was a student of Cornelius Reid for more than 25 years.  I feel like nearly every lesson is a breakthrough, and I daily feel closer to singing with my true voice. These three final semesters of school have been a real gift for me as a singer, and they have come in the nick of time, or at least right when I had decided I'd never sing again.

In opera, I'm generally more fond of the baritone or bass singer in any opera ensemble, but I came across a glorious recording of an opera today on a long-time favorite opera site.  This is a 1959 recording of Bizet’s Les PĂȘcheurs de Perles, and the role of Nadir is played beautifully by Alain Vanzo, a tenor of whom I was sadly unaware.  His voice is like satin.  In truth, the tenor can be impossible to escape or ignore, and often feels like audio trepanning, but Vanzo is magnificent, truly.  You can read more on the link about his performance career, of which there are too few recordings.  Do yourself a favor and click here to listen, scrolling down to the audio file and click on the green play arrow.  It's not a long opera- under 1.5 hours, but the music is outstanding, and is at its finest in this recording.  If you have something to do around the house, crank this up and listen while you do chores.  I think you'll find yourself pausing simply to listen.  This recording is impeccable.  If you listen, please let me know what you think.  I am so delighted to learn about Vanzo, and I hope he will be a happy discovery for you, too.

If you happen to be a fan of opera, or of classical voice, the authors and commenters on that site, Parterre Box, are some of the most knowledgeable and passionate fans of the art, and the discussions are lively and entertaining. Indeed, their enthusiasm gives me hope that the art of opera will endure for centuries to come.