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Monday, December 30, 2013

A Winter Discard - Our new Cat, Claire


 This is Claire. She was in our woodpile when it was below zero and the creek was frozen a few weeks ago. She was eating the bread  I'd left for the raccoons for its moisture content, by-passing the dry cat food. She was dehydrated and  famished (a big black tom was thinking he got first choice at the food - not sure the raccoons were getting any of it, but they always manage). It took a couple of days to catch her. Once inside a warm house with some decent food, she showed that she was gently raised, affectionate, and has good toilet habits. Someone had dumped her - city folk think cats will do just fine out in the country. Not true.

Pepper and Claire

Claire and Pepper get along well. But we have to keep her in Jay's office (especially since she was recently spayed), because Geordie


furiously attacks her, intent on driving her from his home. He is so big with long sharp claws and big teeth, with fur like armor. She is so small. I doubt she's fully-grown. 

How did such a cute little fellow

Geordie as kitten

                                               become such a bully and ruffian?

Harry, our 16 year-old, just stares at her through the open doorway and goes on his way. Sleep is his priority.

I'm sure it will eventually work out -- in the spring.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Winter Light & Stained Glass Windows

In the 1880s and later, Pittsburgh was called "Hell with the lid off." These two stained glass windows I purchased about eight years ago came out of an 1880s house in Pittsburgh, still bearing coal dust ground into their seams and pits on the outsides. It's a part of their history. The house wasn't torn down, but the elderly lady who lived there had them removed and windows with bars put up. My seller is a stained glass maker named Kari in Pittsburgh, who repaired them and put them up for auction on eBay.

When I purchased them I had a positive attitude that someday I would have a house I could install them in. Finally.  Our neighbor Davy framed all of our windows in an arts & crafts style this autumn. We carried the old windows in their original heavy frames to a stained glass maker and she carefully removed the old frames. Then Davy made new frames and installed the windows on the inside this past weekend. I am so pleased with the result.

This first one catches the morning light in our bedroom.

The second one takes the western afternoon light in my study.

And my Christmas cactus did well this year. I bought it last year at Walmart and it had been over-watered. The blooms and buds all fell off. But it was worth waiting a year for it to recover and reward me with a multitude of blooms.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Paean to Outlander & Diana Gabaldon

Why this giddy sense of anticipation for the Outlander TV mini-series, scheduled to air in 2014 on STARZ? Familiar feelings, yes. I had them as a teen many years ago. We all look forward to events as a part of our pursuit of happiness - vacations, holidays. But this? My husband Jay, who has not read Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, just shakes his head in wonder at me.

If you are not already a fan of the novels of the Outlander series - seven so far with the eighth due out in Septermber 2014 - then may I suggest you try the first book in the series, Outlander.

 Then you'll be ready when the series airs on STARZ. As I write it's being filmed in Scotland with fine actors and a lot of money behind the production.

I nearly bought Dragonfly in Amber (book #2) at a library book sale years ago, but a woman looking over my shoulder said, "That's the second in the series . . . don't read it until you've read the first book,  Outlander. They're really wonderful." I put it back on the shelf.  Finally, in the autumn of 2010 I began  Outlander (it was then free on Kindle). And I was hooked. I read the next six, one after the other, each longer and more complicated than the last. I finished them sometime in February, 2011. I can't think of a better way to spend a cold winter.

It all begins shortly after the end of World War II when Claire, a married English nurse, visits some standing stones in Scotland and is flung back to 1743, two years before the Battle of Culloden.

Caitriona Balfe as Claire Randall

 The fantasy in these novels is butter cream frosting on a superb dessert of historical fiction. Claire's forced marriage to Jamie Fraser, who epitomizes all the attributes you would want in a complicated male protagonist, begins one of the great romances in popular literature.
Sam Heughan as Jamie Fraser

 Each book is better than the last. Why?  Accurate historical renderings, complicated relationships, a lot of action -- and gentle humor.

Even if you aren't overwhelmed by Outlander, give the second book, Dragonfly in Amber, a chance.

 Claire and Jamie go to Paris in an attempt to stop Bonnie Prince Charlie from raising the highland clans in Scotland against the English crown, a rising that will end on the bloody field of Culloden. Gabaldon really hit her stride in that book - and hasn't stopped since. The series eventually takes Claire and Jamie to North Carolina prior to and during the American Revolution.

And if you become a fan, as I hope you will, you can watch with others as Karen Henry rounds up the latest on this fansite Outlandish Observations.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

November Apples

In September and October these three varieties of apples were hard and bitter. I picked from other trees. What a difference a month makes.

Last year we allowed our neighbor Davy to feed his hogs apples from this tree.  Nights of frost, but not hard freezes, have allowed the apples to perfect themselves. The leaves have fallen and the apples ornament the trees like old-fashioned glass Christmas balls.

Even Pepper got involved, running off with an apple and digging a hole. Realizing it wasn't a bone, he walked off without burying it.

We'll see how the apples last during the winter in the garage. I"ll probably plug in a little oil radiator to try to keep them from freezing. As they deteriorate or, if we have a heavy snow, I'll feed them to the many whitetail deer that will come begging.

Friday, October 25, 2013

A Trip Over Moon Pass, Idaho

I'm writing a novel titled No Law South of Wallace and had wanted to experience the famous tote road that ran south out of Wallace, Idaho, across Moon Pass and into the St. Joe Valley to Avery, an area where much of my story takes place in the logging camps during World War I. The Indian summer has been perfect and off we went. We arrived in  Wallace, once a great mining town and still a fine town, and then  headed south on Forest Road 456. In earlier days pack mules carried supplies over the mountains. It had been especially crucial during the great forest fire of 1910 until Wallace itself partially burned. Along the road through a valley we saw remnants of what we thought had been great cedars that died during that conflagration, their hulks still standing. They're called the Silent Sentinels and the valley is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The tamaracks and foliage were glorious.
Jay's Brittany Pepper came along, as usual -- he insists on the car windows rolled down so he can poke out his snout -- but because we drove slowly and it was warm, I didn't complain.

There were sparkling streams, low at this time of year.

Over the mountains and down the other side, the Forest Service road enters the old Milwaukee Road railroad bed, now a part of the Hiawatha Rail-Trail for hikers, and cyclists (and autos). The Chicago, Milwaukee and Puget Sound Railroad was laid over The Bitterroots out of Montana, through the St. Joe Valley, and on to Puget Sound, completed  in 1909. Below is the Kyle Tunnel, one of the few totally rock-faced tunnel portals on the Milwaukee.

And so we came out at Avery and then followed the highway down the Shadowy St. Joe River, the highest navigable river in the U.S., to St. Maries and then home again.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Jay Says it So Well - My Own Private Idaho: The Long Autumn

My Own Private Idaho: The Long Autumn: Hawthorn Turning Autumn's come in hard. Sweatshirts and gloves in the mornings when I take Pepper for walks in the hills. The gr...

Friday, August 23, 2013

Change in the Air (When My Husband Says It Better than I Could)

My Own Private Idaho: Change in the Air: The first chill of an approaching autumn was in the air yesterday morning as I walked Pepper down to the county road to get the newspaper. T...

Monday, May 20, 2013

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

My Own Private Idaho: A Week at the Spring

My Own Private Idaho: A Week at the Spring: You're too close. Step away from the camera. Last fall, we bought a trail camera at Cabela's to capture some of the wildlife ran...

Monday, February 18, 2013

A Lady's Bath - or, the Cat Room

I decided that I'll never finish changing the decor of my bath, so I might as well give a little tour now. Had I realized how large it would be, I would have pulled in the wall to make the guest room behind it large, but - oh well.

During the summer, while the house was being built, we picked out this wonderful marble for the vanities, called Rainforest Brown. It comes from the marble quarries of Rajasthan in western India, the same area that the Taj Mahal marbles come from (that particular quarry long depleted).  the serpentine striations in the marble inspired me to weave my own frame for the mirror, using willow, hawthorn and elderberry from our property. I'm rather pleased with the result, but Geordie, pictured, does like to chew on the corners. Here's a close-up of the marble.

I love my deep soaking tub.  It's here many of my writing ideas take form as I allow my body and mind to relax in a bubble bath.  Scenes and dialogue float into my mind, much like watching a movie.

I wanted a shelf above my tub for special things.

The shelf was a house-warming gift from our carpenter neighbor, Davy.

Since it's my personal bath, I can decorate the walls however I like. Original prints and images printed off the Internet, mostly of cats.  Not my erstwhile cats (that would only make me sad), but cats I've never known, but would like to.

I believe this and the next one are by Louis Wain

Geordie must always be the center of attention.

But other images decorate the walls. Little old things found in charity shops that I thought would like to live with me.

This wooden heart must have been made and hand-painted for a special woman many years ago.

And these pressed flowers in their old original frame.

A small silk weaving made in England for the tourist trade.

I have more wall space left --above this second vanity that fits behind my tub and in the toilet stall with its sliding door and across from the shower stall.

So many walls to adorn, and years to do it in, I hope.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

When Good Dogs Go Bad

Pepper back from a run and full of self-satisfaction

Here is my husband Jay's Brittany Pepper, after he came back from a run on our 66 acres, avoiding coyotes, but not mud.  He loves to dig.  Jay had to take him into the shower for a shampoo.  Now that the snow is mostly gone, this may become a daily ritual.