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Fireworks, weather and travel

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The Pacific Northwest can have some crazy weather, but the last few weeks it really has been. We went from mid 60’s to almost 90 in a couple of days, then right back down. Last week it was hot again, … Continue reading

Sorry and Questions about Book Series

Jillian here-  Sorry I’ve been AWOL but I am back now. I had my surgery (finally!) at the end of April and I was surprised to find that even though I felt much better after about a week, I continued to be really tired and had no energy. I also had no desire to write or do much of anything. I did go back to work part time after three weeks, but took care to leave early as I didn’t want to overdo it.

I finally started a new story last week and was very relieved that my creativity was back. Not being compelled to write was an odd feeling for me.

I read a lot while I was unmotivated to work on my own stuff and read a series called The Shades of Magic  by V. E. Schwab. The first one was very good and I inhaled it. The second one was all right, but not as great as the first. The thing ended on a cliffhanger (pet peeve for me) but I already had the third one (I got these for Mother’s Day). The third one went on way too long and pretty much could’ve been merged into book two very easily- they were each over 400 pages, but two and three could’ve been merged into one at around 550 and been a better story, I think. But perhaps the author had a three-book deal. 🙂

So, my questions are, “Do you think some series are too long? Do you think there is a tendency to pad the word count to get to three books? Do they usually get better or worse as the books go on? How do you feel about cliffhangers where the book stops in the middle of the action- not an overarching plot for the series but when the book just ends abruptly? I feel manipulated when that happens.  I like a beginning, middle and end.

Share your thoughts on book series! Happy July!

Fourth of July

I hope all our USA readers had fun, safe celebrations for Independence Day. How do you celebrate? We tend to stay home.

We aren’t inside any city limits, so there’s no ordinance limiting fireworks where we live. Which means we hear them from the end of June until the Monday after the Fourth of July, sometimes beyond.

And on the actual Fourth, it’s like a war zone. I’ve actually had some issues with anxiety just from all the deafening noise. We’re pretty lucky where we live. Those around us who light off fireworks are pretty careful about it, even if the fireworks are not exactly safe and sane. Still, because things are so active around here on that day, we choose to stay home. Friends generally join us for dinner and some campfire conversation in the backyard, and we make sure the house doesn’t burn down.

It’s turned into a nice tradition, and I love traditions. Here’s a glimpse of the fireworks we got to watch from our backyard.

Have a wonderful summer! I hope you all get to dip your toes in a lake, eat a burger or hot dog straight off the grill, and soak up lots of Vitamin D (with sunscreen on, of course!)

 

Billy One Mate

Meet Billy One Mate. He (I say “he” but it could well be a “she”) is a young starling that thinks he’s a sparrow.

I first became aware of him few weeks ago when the local starling flock of descended into my garden with all their noisy fledglings to feast on the birdseed dropped by the sparrows. The fledglings were able to fly reasonable well and most could feed themselves but preferred like most youngsters to let mum (or dad) feed them. I noticed Billy approaching one adult bird, begging for food. The adult kicked him away. Hmm, I thought, obviously wrong mum. He begged from another. She too kicked him on the head rather aggressively. This treatment was metered out by every adult Billy went too. He’d been pushed , almost trodden on, kicked and clawed away. I’d never seen birds do this to young ones before.  You couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. And when the flock finally flew off, Billy was left on his own. It was obvious he’d been orphaned.

For the next few days Billy No Mates as I christened him was in the garden on his own, sleeping in the holly tree by the fence and during the day sitting on the fence in the shade. I swear every time the starlings flew over he watched them with a forlorn look on his little face. He looked so sad. He spent a lot of time watching the sparrows darting to and fro from the bird feeder. He tried to feed from it too but was unable to get the hang of clinging to the perches. All he could do was follow the lead of the adult sparrows feeding their young on the ground with the dropped seeds or chipped nuts in the bird food. He begged from the sparrows to no avail. so found what he could on the ground.

I happened to look out of my bedroom window one morning to see him flapping about in the koi pond, trying to get out. Not a good place to take a bath and Dave had to rescue him. Billy toddled off into the undergrowth to dry out, no doubt feeling very miserable and sorry for himself. The following day he sat on the fence watching the sparrows bathing in the bird bath. Ahh, that’s where I bath, he must of thought, and joined them. The sparrows accepted him, ignored him really as he splashed and drank and shook and washed.

From then on, he flew with the sparrows. Whenever they came into the garden, you could guarantee Billy was coming up the rear. He’d seemed to have latched on to one sparrow in particular and wherever that sparrow went in the garden, Billy followed, be it among the flowerbeds to hunt for mealworms, up onto the feeder, not that he could feed from it, or into the bird bath. From then on he was known as Billy One Mate. It seemed the two couldn’t be separated. Over the course of the next few weeks, he became braver and bolder, seeing off other young starlings that landed too close to “his” food or his little friend. One morning he even squared up to a female blackbird but soon learned there is a pecking order and blackbird always wins over starling.

As the days have progressed he’s never far behind his little sparrow friend, but more and more now he’s flying with several other young starlings. I’d like to think in a few weeks’ time instead of having just one little playmate, he’ll be accepted into the starling flock and have lots of big friends to keep an eye out for him.

Good luck, Billy. You deserve to do well.

Smarty Pants

20180619_090513Smarty Pants … the new nickname AJ awarded Ms. Vivvy after she passed her Kennel Club Good Citizen’s Gold Award last week. She is incredibly pleased with herself, and I swear she knows that she’s done something of note, LOL.

It was quite a gruelling assessment (if not for the dogs, it was for the owners – phew!). We started at 10am and completed at around 11.45am. The tasks included: walking to heel along a busy road and not getting distracted by cars, people, noise and other dogs; A free run on the field where they had to come to an emergency stop when told (Vivvy was brilliant, and stopped immediately even when a swift decided to swoop down across her eye line at precisely the moment I shouted ‘stop’); and to retrieve a toy and bring it back to the owner. It also included being handled by someone unknown to the dog, leaving a bowl of food until given permission (which she’s been trained to do since puppyhood), and weaving in an out of bollards while staying close to heel.

There was also a two minute stay, thirty seconds of which required the owners to go out of sight of their dogs – something we’ve been working on for a while with little success, because usually as soon as I go out of sight she comes to find me, LOL. But bless her, she didn’t move an inch on the day.

Bronze Assessment Nov 15So, our golden girl now has the hat-trick: Bronze, Silver and Gold. We’re very proud of her.20160726_175911

Where to now? Well, we’ve been thinking about applying for her to become a P.A.T dog (Pets as Therapy). When my late aunt was in a care home, we took Vivvy and she was absolutely amazing. Lots of the residents wanted to make a fuss of her and she absolutely loved it. She was very calm and it was lovely watching her bring a smile to people’s faces. There is also the opportunity to work with children who have problems reading. It’s been discovered that when children read to dogs their confidence and reading ability greatly improves. So there’s much to think about and many options open to explore.

Whatever she does next, we know she’ll be a little star. We couldn’t be more proud of our Golden Girl.

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Taking a well earned rest!

Cornish Pleasures

Peter and I went to Cornwall this month for a much needed break, we booked a cottage for a week.  In September Peter is planning a long cycle journey, 70th Birthday Challenge to himself, so part of the holiday was to test out various starting routes so the bike came too! I’ve put a link below so you can get an idea of the perfect place we based ourselves at for the week. Our cottage was called Spring Water Barn, formerly used as a pumping station for the natural spring water on the Bonython Estate.  Sadly a phone/washing machine incident has prevented me showing most of the photos I planned to show you from Peter’s phone!  No explanations required I am sure!!

Bonython Estate is a 20 acre estate with beautiful gardens which are being restored.  Set on The Lizard in Cornwall, the southerly most point in Britain, it proved to be the most relaxing place I have ever visited.  Our luxury cottage was surrounded by woods in a private garden with sun most of the day, perfect for evenings sipping wine and bird spotting.  In fact most of the time the only sounds we heard were birdsong as the other two nearby cottages were empty all week.  Although it was difficult to leave it we went out each day to visit the beautiful coves and small towns in the area.  The first day we did a 3 mile walk to a cove called Poldhu, great walking down but luckily regular local buses ensured I didn’t have to walk back up the very steep hill back.  We had lunch at a beach cafe watching families enjoying themselves on the beach. The sea sparkled and it was wonderful. Lunch finished with a scrumptious Cornish Cream ice cream cone – perfect.  We had intended to visit the Marconi Monument marking the spot of the first Morse code communication with America but the thought of another steep climb up and down made me change my mind.  I thought of how easily we “chat” with each other so quickly today which started from this small point.

Next day we drove around the coast to Mousehole, where we stayed in November and unfortunately Peter had taken ill.  This time we managed to walk two miles back to Newlyn a centre for artists since the turn of the 18th Century.  A small gallery enabled me to view local art students’ graduate work with sea views through the windows providing Nature’s art work. Lunch in a local cafe of fresh crab provided a welcome break and revitalised we walk along the seawalk back to Mousehole.  It felt a bit emotional as Peter has recovered well and is dealing with his condition amazingly. My big pleasure was the next day when we went Park and Train to St. Ives and the Tate Gallery.  Traffic is so awful in the narrow streets of this popular seaside town that measures are being taken to restrict the volume of cars.  For a small charge it was possible to park all day at Lelant and catch the regular train to St Ives, this branch line is one of the most profitable routes in England.  £10.80 for two adults all day (not worked out dollars sorry) but cheap.  I had two hours of art whilst Peter searched out a lunch spot and explored the town. A Patrick Heron exhibition was interesting, but my favourite works are by Barbara Hepworth. Barbara worked and lived in St, Ives with her husband Ben Nicholson and their children.  Her house is a wonderful place to visit too but sadly I was too tired to climb the hill up to visit this time. I have seen it several times and love the mix of her works and plants in the garden outside her studio.  No room to talk more about her but please look her up.

A wonderful quote by her about her aim as an artist: “…to infuse the formal perfection of geometry with the vital grace of nature.” (Ref. Barbara Hepworth’s Sculpture Garden by Miranda Phillips & Chris Stephens).

The visit was completed with crab sandwiches and a glass of Rosado blush in a cafe on the Porthmeor Beach below the Tate.  As we walked back to the station Peter treated me to another gorgeous Cornish Cream ice cream, I couldn’t understand why he’d just bought one for me – but his chocolate cone had been snatched by a huge seagull before he even managed a lick! Gulls are a bigger problem for St. Ives than traffic, despite copious signs and warnings people will feed them titbits.  They are becoming a danger as they fly down and steal whatever they fancy.  I did share mine with him!

On our last day we visited Porthleven, a small fishing port where the catch is landed daily and then served in the many cafes surrounding the harbour.  Our lunch was in Amelies, next door to Rick Steins, where I had Crab Soup followed by Moules served with home-made bread.  Half a carafe of Provence Rose Blush – heaven. My photo doesn’t do justice but suffice to say one of the best meals I have had, do check out the website.  I hope to return to Porthleaven for a few days In October. The day ended with a walk around Bonython Gardens, one of the treats of staying there is free access and after the public leave it’s one’s own secret garden for a few hours. The highlight for me was the Yew Chapel shown at the start of my blog.  Yew Trees have been trained and trimmed to form a chapel complete with alter and pews with a cross above the altar.  I found it so spiritual, surrounded by beautiful woods and utterly peaceful. So many Cornish Pleasures.

 

 

http://www.bonythonmanor.co.uk/

http://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-st-ives

http://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-st-ives/barbara-hepworth-museum-and-sculpture-garden

http://www.ameliesporthleven.co.uk/

 

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Cocoa

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During our cruise one of the ports of call was Limon Costa Rico. During a river tour we stopped and our tour guide came back on board the bus with what looked like a giant nut. He asked if we … Continue reading