Monday, April 30, 2012

A to Z Challenge - Z is for Zonk

The A to Z Challenge is winding down and some of the bloggers have posted some kind of a wrap-up. I was so honored to find out that Thelma, at Widowsphere, included my blog as one of her top 26 favorites. I was also blown away that she visited all one thousand and something blogs participating in the challenge. I'm impressed.

Anyway, if you have a moment, stop by and visit her blog. It is a good one, and be sure to check out her X is for x-rated words. You will be shocked at what the New York City school system has put on a censored list. 

And now back to our regular scheduled programming. In keeping with my nature theme, I could write about zebras. They are interesting animals that I have always liked. Maybe because they look like a horse that just escaped from prison? And who couldn't love this little foal. 

But the z word that keeps popping into my head is zonk. I keep hearing the lines from a play I recently directed at the local community theatre that had this word. The two players were so good and gave their lines just the right inflection that this little snippet of a scene has stayed with me.

The play is "Woman in Mind" by Alan Ayckbourn, and the scene is between Susan and her husband, Gerald. Susan is not happy, and she has been trying to talk to him about the fact that she can't sleep.

"Perhaps it is because I'm not very happy, Gerald."
"Well, who is? Very few these days.
"You seem happy."
"Do I? Maybe I'm just better at hiding things. Who knows."
"At least you sleep at night."
"Only because I'm exhausted from a full day's work. I give my body no option."
"I beg your pardon?"
"You just zonk out"
"I have no idea what that means. Zonk."

At this point, the players would always get a little chuckle from the audience, even though this was a serious scene. The light touch of humor was a good way to lift the audience up a little, and is a trick used by many playwrights.

I am so lucky to work with a talented troupe of players who can make lines and scenes so memorable.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Sunday Mix Up

Today I was supposed to write a review of Return to Exile as part of the blog tour the author is doing to promote the book. Apparently Eric was not able to do a tour when the book first came out, so the idea of a "spring re-launch" was conceived. If all of the various pieces had come together, this kind of tour was a good idea. A publicist did the major work in organizing a month-long tour, not anticipating that there would be a problem actually getting the books to blog hosts due to a problem with getting the books from the warehouse.

This tour was planned some time back, and you have probably noticed the badge on my right sidebar. I wanted to stretch myself a bit in my reading tastes, and this looked like it was going to be a good book. Fantasy and paranormal fiction is all the rage and I wanted to see what it was all about. 

The publicist, who is a very patient young woman, at least I think she is young, but then, I am old, so most people are younger than me, was very helpful. She sent messages to the publisher alerting them that all these bloggers were lined up and ready to help promote the book, and we had no books. She then sent us all messages to let us know that there was a problem with getting the books shipped. There was also much rearranging of scheduled blog stops, to give us time to receive and then read the book.

My date was moved from early in April to today, in hopes that shipping and reading would happen, but it has not. Now I have to move on to reading some books that I need to review for May for some of my Wednesday's guests.

Shadow Wargs
The book may still arrive at some point, and if it does I will read it and post a review in the future. I'm already intrigued by reading the first few pages on Amazon, and absolutely love the illustrations.

is the first "Snare" in the middle grade, urban fantasy series, THE HUNTER CHRONICLES, written by E. J. Patten & published by Simon & Schuster.

Snare 2: THE LEGEND THIEF is coming December 4, 2012!

The cover art & internal spot illustrations for THE HUNTER CHRONICLES were done by John Rocco of Percy Jackson fame.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

A to Z Challenge - Y is for Yam

Which is not the same as a sweet potato, although they are closely related. For most of us, we have heard the terms "yam" and "sweet potato" used more or less interchangeably, but almost all of the different varieties of yams and sweet potatoes found in American markets - no matter what color the skins or flesh are - are actually from the sweet potato family.

Sweet Potato
Sweet potatoes are one of my favorite vegetables. I like them baked with a little bit of butter and maybe a light sprinkling of brown sugar or cinnamon. They are also very good mashed and baked as acasserole with marshmallows on top, or just sliced and steamed. They are a very nutritional vegetable, loaded with carotenoids, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber.

Did you know that the sweet potato was brought to the rest of the world from Saint Thomas by Columbus? I'm so glad he did.

While sweet potatoes are common in most grocery stores, yams are more difficult to find. Some international markets that carry African or Caribbean foods might have them. True yams are quite a bit larger than sweet potatoes; they can be up to the size of a man's arm. They're often cut into smaller chunks at the market.

Whole Yam
Although yams and sweet potatoes are both angiosperms (flowering plants), they are not related botanically. Yams are a monocot (a plant having one embryonic seed leaf) and from the Dioscoreaceae or Yam family. Sweet Potatoes are a dicot (a plant having two embryonic seed leaves) and are from the Convolvulacea or morning glory family.

For a detailed explanation of the difference between the two potatoes here is a site to visit.

I remember my mother putting a sweet potato in a glass with just the tip of it touching the water. She would balance the potatoes up by toothpicks resting on the edge of the glass. After a week or so, roots would form, and then she would plant the potato in a big pot. It made a lovely decoration for our porch, and I have done that here in recent years. The leaves trail out of the pot and are perfect for a hanging basket in the shade. At the end of the summer, one can then harvest a few potatoes from the pot.

Here in East Texas, the small town of Gilmer perpetuates the confusion between a yam and a sweet potato with its annual Yamboree Festival. Gilmer is one of the sweet potato capitals of the country, and we can get plenty of fresh sweet potatoes in the fall.

Friday, April 27, 2012

A to Z Challenge - X is for ????

All month I have been dreading this day. I remember from last year and the year before when I visited some bloggers who were doing the challenge, they all came to the letter x and said "yikes," even though that does not start with the letter x.

There are lots of things I could write about that start with today's letter. There is x-ray, but that doesn't connect directly to my nature theme. Yes people get x-rays and people do x-rays, but the whole topic is just not that interesting. Radiation? Who needs it?

Then of course there is Xerox - it has two x's. But again boring unless you need a reminder that whenever you use this word it needs to be capitalized. It's a brand name and should be capitalized when used in place of the generic "copy." I need a copy of this so I can remember. Please Xerox it for me.

If you go to this website, you can find lists of words that begin with x. It is a neat site for Scrabble players to get help so they are not stuck with the letter x when the other player(s) are out of tiles. 

When I went to that site, I found a plethora of words beginning with x. Which one to choose? Which one to choose? Since I only recognized a few, I didn't know which of those I didn't might relate to something in nature. Then I saw this one "xyst." A phonetic pronunciation could be "cyst" so I thought it might fit my theme, but, alas, it wasn't so. A definition I found online says a xyst was a covered portico used as a promenade in ancient Greek and Roman architecture. In some places in ancient Roman the word referred to a garden walk planted with trees.  

I wonder if the paths I have worn around my property that winds through some trees qualifies as a xyst? Possibly, but maybe I should just keep calling it a path since I have no idea how to pronounce xyst.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A to Z Challenge - W is for Wildflowers

The most popular and widely known wildflower is Texas are bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush, but we have some other very pretty gifts from Mother Nature that dot our meadows.

Here are just a few that I have seen in recent weeks on my morning walks. I have been known to mow around some of them that grow in my front pasture area. My husband laughs, but then flowers mean little to him.

This first one is my favorite. I let it grow wherever it pops up, and when the flowers in my old plow died in the drought last year, I didn't buy new ones. Now I don't have to.

This next one is an early bloomer in Texas and sometimes the fields will be a sea of pink and coral.

Here is another favorite of mine. This one reminds me of Queen Anne's Lace that I remember growing wild in Michigan, where I grew up a little wild, too.

This little  flower pops up all over, especially along the road, and one day I stopped to really look at it and thought it was quite lovely. Some of them are white, others yellow, and I've even seen some pink ones.

It's important for us to stop and take note of these little treasures around us. Sometimes we get so busy we forget that there is a whole world of beauty out there.

You'll notice that I have not named any of these. Do you know what they are?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A to Z Challenge - V is for Volcano

Until I started doing some online research, I did not know that Texas has a number of extinct volcanoes.

In late-Cretaceous time, Central Texas was part of a vast marine shelf on which carbonate rocks were deposited with the entire area gradually subsiding as sediments were laid down. The volcano formed when magma worked its way to the surface and encountered water-laden, unconsolidated sediments with the existing water rapidly vaporizing into steam resulting in an enormous explosion that formed an explosion crater. Pilot Knob is one of around 75 late-Cretaceous Period volcanoes scattered around Central Texas from Waco to Austin, San Antonio, and Del Rio. All of these volcanoes have been extinct for millions of years.

The Pilot Knob volcanic complex consists of four small, rounded hills (including Pilot Knob proper) forming the volcano's core area in an area two miles in diameter. The hills are composed of trap rock which is an erosion-resistant, fine-grained mafic volcanic rock.

It's a relief to know that there is probably no threat of a volcano erupting in Texas. We have enough natural disasters without that one. However, I did find this little tidbit on the University of Texas wesite:   The only real threat from a volcano for San Antonio is if a super volcano, such as the caldera under Yellowstone National Park, should erupt with a cataclysmic eruption. Such events only occur about every 100,000 years, and if there were an eruption of the Yellowstone caldera, scientists state there is little if anything that anyone from Montana to Texas could do to protect themselves. 

While we may not have to worry about a volcano, earthquakes do occur in Texas. Within the twentieth century there have been more than 100 earthquakes large enough to be felt; their epicenters occur in 40 of Texas's 257 counties. Four of these earthquakes have had magnitudes between 5 and 6, making them large enough to be felt over a wide area and produce significant damage near their epicenters. There has been an increase in seismic activity in recent history, and some tie that to the drilling method of fracking. In this method, millions of gallons of chemically treated water are forced underground to break up rock and free trapped gas. Most of the drilling fluid returns to the surface where it is either recycled or disposed of in underground wells.

Researchers think an increase in waste water injected into the ground by drilling operators may be the cause of a sixfold increase in the number of earthquakes that have shaken the central part of the U.S. from 2000 to 2011, according to a U.S. Geological Survey study. U.S. Geological Survey researchers found that, for three decades prior to 2000, seismic events in the nation’s midsection averaged 21 a year. They jumped to 50 in 2009, 87 in 2010 and 134 in 2011, according to the study, which was presented April 18 at the annual meeting of the Seismological Society of America. 
Source -

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A to Z Challenge - U is for Ugli Fruit

This morning I was stymied. This is the day for the letter "u" and I couldn't think of a single thing in nature that begins with that letter. I could always fall back on the most obvious "U is for Umbrella" and write something about rain, but that would be so.... obvious and boring.

So I did a Google search and came up with several things beginning with the letter "u". One I'd actually heard about before but had forgotten, the ugli fruit. My daughter had picked one up at a Whole Foods market and shared it with me some years ago. I'm surprised I forgot about it. It really is an ugly little fruit, but it tastes good.

Inside of Ugli Fruit
Here is some of what I found on Wikipedia. UGLI is the trademark of Cabel Hall Citrus Limited and under which it sells its Jamaican tangelo, a citrus fruit created by hybridizing a grapefruit,   an orange and a tangerine. The fruit was first discovered growing wild, possibly having developed in the same way grapefruit was created, in Jamaica where it is mainly grown today. It has an unsightly appearance with rough, wrinkled, greenish-yellow rind, wrapped loosely around the orange pulpy citrus inside.

The light green surface blemishes on the ugli fruit turn orange when it is at its peak ripeness. The flesh is very juicy and tends towards the sweet side of the tangerine rather than the bitter side of its grapefruit lineage, with a fragrant rind. The taste is often described as more sour than an orange and less bitter than a tangerine. The fruit is seasonal from December to April. It is distributed in the United States and Europe between November and April, and sometimes is available from July to September.

I found images and more information about the ugli fruit on this website.  

Have you ever eaten an ugli fruit?

Monday, April 23, 2012

A to Z Challenge T is for Trail of Tears

At first glance it may appear that I am once again diverging from my nature theme by writing about this sad moment in American history, but bear with me.

There are many atrocities involving death and incredible injustices to groups of people that should never be repeated, and the Trail of Tears is one of them. It is a name given to the forced relocation and movement of Native American nations from southeastern parts of the United States following the Indian Removal Act of 1830. The removal included many members of the Cherokee, Muscogee (Creek), Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw nations, among others who were all living peacefully in areas in the southeast. When that land became prime for new settlers, the Indians were forced to walk from their homelands to Indian Territory, located in eastern sections of the present-day state of Oklahoma. Many Native Americans suffered from exposure, disease and starvation en route to their destinations and many died, including 4,000 of the 15,000 relocated Cherokee.

The Legend of The Cherokee Rose holds that when the Trail of Tears started, the mothers of the Cherokee were grieving and crying so much, they were unable to help their children survive the journey. The elders prayed for a sign that would lift the mother’s spirits to give them strength. The next day a beautiful rose began to grow where each of the mother’s tears fell. The rose is white for their tears; a gold center represents the gold taken from Cherokee lands, and seven leaves on each stem for the seven Cherokee clans. The wild Cherokee Rose grows along the route of the Trail of Tears into eastern Oklahoma today.

Because of my Cherokee heritage, I was deeply touched to find some of the roses growing along the fence across the road from me. I didn't know what they were at first, but my neighbor clued me in. The roses don't bloom every year, and I had not seen them for several in a row. Imagine my delight when I saw them blooming this year. They were deep in a thicket, so I could not get close enough to capture the center, but HERE is a picture that shows the details of the rose.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Gift From Me to You

As writers it is important to stretch ourselves beyond what we normally write. This is something I learned in a great critique group in Omaha NE, where we would always start our meetings with a short class on some form of writing. This is where I was encouraged to write poetry, although that is not my medium of choice, and I learned how to write with more conciseness.

For one of our class assignments, we were asked to write a short story based on some classic fairy tale or nursery rhyme. I decided to use Goldilocks and The Three Bears and put a modern twist on it. The result was my short story "The Visitor" which I published myself on Kindle. It is free today through Tuesday, so if you enjoy short stories you might want to snag a copy. If you don't own a Kindle, there are all kinds of Kindle apps for computers and iPhones and all kinds of smart phones.