Wednesday, September 13, 2017


Sunflower field in Nebraska.
I am native to North and South America, I follow the direction of the sun. Helianthus is my genus and my family is Asteraceae. The common variety that will grow in a field or your yard is known as Helianthus annuus. Flowers can range from a few inches to about a foot (.30 meters) in diameter. I am a sunflower. Helios means sun and anthos means flower, hence my name, sunflower.

Sunflowers by Vincent Van Gogh
My sister decorated her kitchen with sunflower decor, Van Gogh made a famous painting using the them, if you drive through the state of Nebraska or through the great plains, you will see fields and fields of sunflowers from your car window as you are zipping down the highway. Tourists enamored with Tuscany will conjure up pictures of sunflowers fields as they dream of their romantic getaway. (Those sunflowers originally came from North America.)
Sunflowers are a common and popular symbol. Their usual yellow stands for "sunniness" generally meaning happiness. No matter how hard we try to eradicate them, we usually get a bunch of volunteer wild sunflowers growing on the edges of our vegetable garden each year. I usually leave them be if they are getting bigger because they provide a lot of cover for the wild birds and also feed them with the delectable seed heads in the fall and winter. The stalks are tall and tough and sometimes a bit difficult to remove when clearing out the garden bed but I wind up liking them there because they are fascinating to watch grow. Right now we have some wild ones growing at least ten feet tall along the garden patch. The birds and bees are always flitting through them.
Sunflower field in Tuscany

I found out some interesting tidbits of information recently after staring at the sunflowers in my yard and deciding I wanted to learn more about them. All species of the sunflower are native to North America (explorers brought them to Italy in the 18th century where they were first used as ornamental plants), except for three species that are native to South America. Sunflower roots are used in herbal medicine, the leaves are used in teas, the flowers are used in dyes, and the stalks are used as fiber in paper and cloth. The seeds, of course are used as food for humans and animals and for oil, in grain products such as bread, or made into a butter like peanut butter. 

The oil is considered a premium oil because of the mild flavor and light color, low saturated fat content. There are the black oil-seeded types (used as oil and bird feed) and striped seeded types, most often used as a snack. Sunflower roots are said to clean soil up from lead or arsenic contamination. Because they are known to clean up toxic substances, millions of them were planted in Japan after a tsunami destroyed the Fukushima nuclear reactor to help rid the ground of radiation poisoning. 

Fukushima, Japan
Each sunflower is made up of hundreds of tiny flowers. The type of flower is a composite of disk flowers and ray flowers. The disk flowers are in the center and each disk flower makes one seed. The ray flowers are generally yellow and surround the middle containing the disk flowers.
The ray flowers can be fried up and cooked as food. Sunflowers are fast growers classed as annuals. When they are growing the emerging flower head follows the sun in the sky as it grows. After blooming it stops this behavior of following the direction of the sun, which is known as "heliotropism". At sunrise the heads will face east and by the time sunset arrives they will face west. They are generally easy to grow, requiring adequate water and a place that gets lots of sunshine in the garden. The French word for sunflower is tournesol, and it means 'turns-with-the sun', the Italian word is girasole, meaning sun-turner. Sunflower seeds which arise from the tiny disk flowers, are arranged in spirals in the flower head. The spirals in the head follow the Fibonacci sequence, which is an amazing mathematical formula found in many places in nature such as flowers, sea shells and in the proportions of living things.

Sunflowers have disk flowers and ray flowers.
Spirals in a sunflower head

Sunflowers are pretty amazing.

Closeup view of the disk flowers of the suflower.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

70's Blast from the Past!

Which Partridge kid was your favorite?
A page from the Sears 1970 Catalog. Polyester special. Ouch! My eyes!!!

Blast from the Past!!!

I was remembering some fads from when I was a tween-ager today. Yes, my sister and I had pogo sticks! We also had footsies. We played stick ball with the other neighborhood kids in the middle of the street (it really wasn't that busy of a street), whenever a car did happen to come by we all moved out of the way and got right back to our game after the car went on its merry way. We wandered around in the woods, just a few kids together, and rode our bicycles all the way around the lake, (two miles?) by ourselves, alone. We did not have much need to fear anything, we were innocent, lucky to live in a small, rather rural town, and probably a bit sheltered, too.
Ye olde Pogo stick.

This is a footsie! It kept us hoppin'.
Halter tops, straight hair, and fringe were the fashion when I was almost a teen. I had a pair of lime green bell bottoms and wore wedge shoes at my 6th grade graduation. Peace signs made their appearance but my Dad didn't like them, I had a brown suede a purse with a peace sign attached via a little silver chain when it was purchased, he removed it.
These are similar to the ones I had, only mine were a dazzling white.

I also had a brown suede jacket with wonderful fringe all down the arms, a crochet mini skirt and vest set made for me by a family friend, and we used Herbal Essence shampoo on our hair, it was so groovy! My Mom got me a bedspread and curtain set for my room, (from the Sears catalog), it was quite a loud design, but was the latest fashion at the pink, orange, lime green, and kindof like the Partridge Family Bus on floral steroids (Yes, we watched that show and I always imagined myself as the big sister who played piano, Susan Dey, and had a secret crush on Danny). How did I ever sleep in the room with all that color saturation surrounding me?
Color saturation overload.
The grooviest shampoo.

My Dad owned his own Barber shop. He made friends with the local twenty somethings because they hung around jawing at the shop and ate together at the one and only "luncheonette". One band they listened to was "Country Joe and the Fish". I liked Steppenwolf and Three Dog Night, there was nothing like Chuck Negron and his rather large moustache. My Dad had a neighborhood barbeque for some of those friends. We grilled hamburgers and sunfish we caught ourselves in the lake. After that those young friends of his were gone. To Canada. Some of them had been drafted and were opposed to the war. I was really too young to understand what it all meant but when my 6th grade English teacher gave us an assignment to write about Viet Nam my Dad got angry and gave the teacher a piece of his mind. Needless to say, I didn't have to do that assignment. I had a good childhood back then, growing up on the lake,
in my little town.
Chuck Negron from the band Three Dog Night.
Country Joe and the Fish

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Kissy face...

Have fun with words and memories....
Describe your first kiss: "Heavens, I don't even remember it. Must not have been that memorable I guess. Something I do remember though is the first boy I ever went "steady" with. His name was Carl, we were in the sixth grade. I am pretty short, but at the time I think he was a bit shorter than me, poor guy. He was a dreamy sixth grade musician, complete with seventies style nerdy horn-rim glasses. We held each others hands (very daring), in a death grip, during the sixth grade class trip."

Describe your last kiss: "It was a perfunctory goodbye kiss with hubby before he left the house for work this morning."

Describe your next kiss: "With hubby it will definitely be more passionate."

(Do grand-kid kisses count too? If so, I kissed, kissed, kissed, the tops of their cute little heads earlier today after spending some time with them this afternoon! In the future I can guarantee that I will not be able to resist doing it again when I see them.)

I have wanted to write for weeks now. You would think that with three of the four kids out of the house I would have oodles of time to do whatever I want. Wishful thinking. I am still working, but only part time now, there are animals to take care of, a household to run, and loads of laundry and weeds in the yard that constantly need attention, sigh. Health challenges continue but I can't dwell on it too much or I will just get bitter or depressed, better to keep my mind and body occupied and not let the daily pain completely stop me from living my life, even though it has slowed me down. As a boxing referee might say, "Down, but not out". Not yet anyway!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Spotlight on author and illustrator William Steig...

Our family was introduced to author and illustrator William Steig through his children's books, namely Amos and Boris, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, and The Amazing Bone. These are delightful children's stories that are not just for children. The author's illustrations add greatly to the tender charm of these stories. Friendship and family are themes which are celebrated in the books.
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble

Steig, was born in 1907 into an immigrant family in New York City. His parents encouraged their children to become familiar with art and music. His father worked as a house painter and his mother worked as a seamstress. Even as a child William enjoyed creating art and reading, which assisted him in becoming a success as an author and illustrator. The great depression was hard on his family and he contributed to their support, at that time, by selling his cartoons and pictures around the city. He became an illustrator and eventually produced 2000 cartoons and over 100 magazine covers for The New Yorker. 

He became an author, at age 61, in a round about way, after a fellow worker at the magazine asked him to write a children's book. He wrote a children's puzzle book and then, the story of Roland the Minstrel Pig, and eventually, all the other titles. He received awards for his art and his books and died of natural causes at the age of 95. Most recently he is known as the creator of Shrek

Some of my favorites by William Steig:

Amos and Boris- Amos the mouse and Boris the whale: a devoted pair of friends with nothing at all
in common, except good hearts and a willingness to help their fellow mammal.
Amos sets out to sea in his homemade boat, the Rodent, and soon finds himself in
extreme need of rescue.

Dominic- It's time for a change, so Dominic packs his collection of hats and his piccolo and heads
out, letting the world take him where it may.

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble- Sylvester can’t believe his luck when he finds a magic pebble that
can make wishes come true. But when a lion jumps out at him on
his way home, Sylvester is shocked into making a wish that has
unexpected consequences.

Abel's Island- Abel's place in his familiar, mouse world has always been secure; he had an
allowance from his mother, a comfortable home, and a lovely wife, Amanda. But one
stormy August day, furious flood waters carry him off and dump him on an
uninhabited island.

The Amazing Bone- It's a bright and beautiful spring day, and Pearl, a pig, is dawdling on her way
home from school. Most unexpectedly, she strikes up an acquaintance with a
small bone. "You talk?" says Pearl. "In any language," says the bone. 

Also by Steig:

Doctor De Soto- Doctor De Soto, the dentist, did very good work. With the aid of his able
assistant, Mrs. De Soto, he copes with the toothaches of animals large and small.
Brave Irene- Irene's mother is a dressmaker, she made a beautiful gown that needs to be delivered to
the palace. Irene volunteers to deliver the dress in spite of a raging snow storm.

Roland the Minstrel Pig- Roland the pig plays the lute and sings so sweetly that his friends never
have enough of listening to him. He has bigger dreams, though, so he
decides to take his show on the road and share his music with the world.

Shrek- A book about an ordinary ogre who leaves his swampy childhood home to go out and
see the world.
                                     (Most book descriptions from the Amazon web site.)

New Yorker Magazine cover.

Some Quotes from William Steig's books:

Later she sat on the ground in the forest between school and home, and spring was so bright and beautiful, the warm air touched her so tenderly, she could almost feel herself changing into a flower. Her light dress felt like petals.

"I love everything," she heard herself say.
"So do I," a voice answered.

Pearl straightened up and looked around. No one was there.”
(William Steig- The Amazing Bone)

New Yorker magazine cover.

Her image was in his mind, as clear as life sometimes, and he smiled with wistful tenderness, remembering her ways. Amanda was dreamy. It often seemed she was dreaming the real world around her, the things that were actually happening. She could dream Abel when he was right there by her side. Abel loved this dreaminess in her. He loved her dreamy eyes.

Wherever he went about the island, he wore Amanda's scarf around his neck, the ends tied in a knot. He would not leave it in the log.” (William Steig- Abel's Island p. 43)

One thing I love about his writing is that it is so descriptive. Here is a passage from Amos and Boris:

One night, in a phosphorescent sea, he marveled at the sight of some whales spouting luminous water; and later, lying on the deck of his boat gazing at the immense, starry sky, the tiny mouse Amos, a little speck of a living thing in the vast living universe, felt thoroughly akin to it all.”

Your eyes and ears are in for a treat reading the stories of William Steig with your family. 

New Yorker magazine cover.

Another plus...he's a lefty, just like me!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A bright YELLOW and Happy Wednesday to all!

I'm on a writing kick again, 25 sentences all starting with Yellow. When I thought about which color to do after green, the first two colors to pop into my head were blue, and black. I figured blue would be too easy, and 25 sentences starting with black was a bit depressing, so I chose yellow thinking it would be a little more challenging. Feel free to share your own sentences in the comment section.

I also added another exercise after writing the sentences-checking a thesaurus and then substituting some of the suggested words in the sentences that I wrote to see if it spiced up the writing a bit. Here goes....

  1. Yellow ribbons decorated the trees after the festivities.

  1. Yellow and various shades of gold were evident in leaves that had fallen to the ground on that Autumn day.

  1. Yellow pencils made up the bulk of the available writing implements that were placed on the desk.

  1. Yellow centers in the daisies made for a happy welcome, while strolling through the garden.

  1. Yellow and green were the spirit colors of the new high school.

  1. Yellow highlighting lined every page of the used textbook making the resale price lower.

  1. Yellow fire engines are becoming just as common as red ones.

  1. Yellow vents releasing sulfur gas sat adjacent to the trail which wound up to the top of the volcano, releasing a strong smell.

  1. Yellow garnets are called Andradites, they contain magnesium and titanium which gives them their distinctive yellow-green color.

  1. Yellow pages used to be the place for looking up phone numbers and addresses before the days of the internet.

  1. Yellow and refreshing, the homemade lemonade really hit the spot after a trip to the park with the grand kids.

  1. Yellow Mr. Sketch magic markers really do smell like lemons.

  1. Yellow was the color my cousin chose for the bridesmaid dresses at her wedding, and the men wore yellow ties.

  1. Yellow flowers on a rose bush seem to cheer you up when you look at them.

  1. Yellow and black checkered taxi-cabs were seen everywhere when we visited New York City.

  1. Yellow, red and blue are known as the primary colors and can be seen on any color wheel.

  1. Yellow suns and pink flowers decorated drawings in the pictures that the little girl drew.

  1. Yellow fever is a disease found in tropical areas and it is spread by the bite of infected mosquitoes.

  1. Yellow is how I would describe her face after the first 30 minutes of her ride on the cruise ship.

  1. Yellow blankets and sleepers used to be standard fare at baby showers before the days of ultrasound.

  1. Yellow bananas lined the shelf of the produce section and you could smell them a few feet away.

  1. Yellow with polka dots describes the color of the swim suit in the itsy bitsy, teenie weenie bikini song by Brian Hyland.

  1. Yellow snow, have you ever heard someone admonish you not to eat it?

  1. Yellow blossoms festooned the forsythia bushes, a welcome sign that spring had really arrived.

  1. Yellow daffodils pop into my head when I am thinking of harbingers of spring.

Have some fun with the words!

Now try it using a thesaurus to spice things up with the writing, keeping in mind the exercise is to write 25 sentences all starting with "yellow", so I am not going to change that.

First sentence- "Yellow ribbons decorated the trees after the festivities."
decorated: adorned, bedecked, dressed up, trimmed
ribbons: bows, streamers
trees: forest, shrubs, timber, woods
festivity: joviality, bash, party, shindig, fun and games
after: behind, subsequently, later

"Yellow streamers adorned the shrubs after the fun and games."

"Yellow ribbons bedecked the trees following the shindig."

and so on.....

Monday, February 6, 2017

Green, I am dreaming of Green.

I am a person who needs to keep her mind busy. I am always thinking, thinking. Sometimes it can wear me out, but mostly it energizes me. On wintry days when the snow covers mostly everything and you can't really spend time outside, it is the time to keep my brain busy. I have always wanted to improve my writing skills so here's to developing a writing brain...practice and more practice.

Writing prompt...Write 25 sentences that all start with the word "Green". Just wait and see, something interesting will happen. (You can also do this exercise using any other color you choose besides green.)

Here are my sentences- I just went with whatever popped into my head one evening while I was cooking dinner,back and forth from the stove to the laptop.

  1. Green my valley was not, it was brown, brown from the drying Santa Ana winds that blew generously in southern California .
  1. Green, his eyes were green, greener than a Martian's skin.
  1. Green pom pom sticking halfway out of his mouth, Jonas the cat padded silently down the hallway.
  1. Green, amazing shades of green, that chicken crap was all over the barn.
  1. Green pine needles peeked out among the drifts of snow which blanketed the mountains.
  1. Green tentacles of fungus grasped their way our of that bag of stale bread, which was found behind the fridge.
  1. Green, a sea of green took flight before us, as we watched the flock of wild parakeets when startled in the park.
  1. Green shiny beetles could be found, even inside the house, when we visited my friend in Japan.
  1. Green hordes of cicada strummed a greeting to the visitors that day while we were strolling around the grounds of Nagoya Castle.
  1. Green as a ripe, picked, lime, her cool-aid dyed hair was a sight to see.
  1. Green, it comes in a bottle that's lime green, is this any way to promote the sale of lemon juice?
  1. Green tint in their blonde hair not withstanding, the grandkids really enjoyed their three weeks of swimming lessons at the indoor community pool this winter.
  1. Green, it was on her mind as she gazed out the window at the snowy landscape and longed for spring.
  1. Green with envy, I believe that is how you would describe her face.
  1. Green crayon in hand, the toddler proceeded to make art all over his bedroom wall.
  1. Green, all kinds of green, did you know that a large box of crayons has eight different shades of green within?
  1. Green duckweed floated across the surface of the pond while the fish swam lazily below.
  1. Green smudges decorated several of the preschoolers' foreheads after the finger painting activity.
  1. Green paint can be made by the mixing of blue and yellow paint.

  2. Green taffy and small red and white candy canes were tossed from the fire truck at the Christmas parade.
  1. Green is the order of the day when celebrating the luck o' the Irish.
  1. Green garden snakes are found hidden in the midst of the bushes which populate my back yard.
  1. Green paint on the walls of the living room seemed a welcome relief from the ubiquitous beige in every other room of the house.
  1. Green mistletoe hung from the rafters of the ski lodge in December, inviting the visitors to embrace the holiday spirit.
  1. Green sprigs of parsley decorating the plate are the finishing touch to a gourmet meal.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Teaser Tuesdays- Sparking your interest in Books!

Stoker's Manuscript by Royce Prouty
"A riveting novel of supernatural suspense."- Dacre Stoker
 I raced through this book in a few days, because it was entertaining and I had to find out what would happen next. This book is a fictional account of a person who has been hired to authenticate a manuscript of Bram Stoker's famous Dracula story. Along the way fact and fiction, and supernatural suspense are mixed in together with some interesting things happening to the investigator as he performs his job of trying to determine the authenticity of the manuscript. A great first novel for the author.