Best Boutique Hostels and Unique Budget Stays Along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way        

When I suggested we stay in hostels on our Wild Atlantic Way trip, Liam groaned, “I did hostels thirty years ago. I’m waaaaaay beyond the age of traveling like that.” He proceeded to recount tales of waking up to a goat in his room, a bathroom with a clear glass door that didn’t lock, and […]

The post Best Boutique Hostels and Unique Budget Stays Along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way appeared first on Irish Fireside Travel and Culture.

          A Rusty Venture: Writing a text adventure in Rust        

After a couple of months of playing around with Rust, I’ve finished a project! It’s a simple text adventure game in the vein of class text adventure Zork called Adventure!. The feature set isn’t as wide as Zork; there is no combat and movement & world interaction is pretty simple. I was never really into text adventures myself, but I though that it would make an interesting & fun first project with Rust.


I wanted to write a game containing of a few rooms, with a few things to do in each room. The feature set wouldn’t go past picking up objects, adding them to an inventory, and using inventory objects with static objects in the world. I didn’t want to involve combat on NPCs as I didn’t want to work on this project for the long-term; it’s a toy project for learning a bit about how Rust works.

Changing Rooms

My first design involved having Room structs that would contain a member connection: Connection. This Connection struct would itself have 4 members: north, south, east and west. The value of these members was to be an Option<Box<Room>>. The main Game object that ran the whole show would have a current_room reference that points to whatever instance of Room the user was in.

Unfortunately, this design gave me trouble with the borrow checker. I got many cannot moved out of borrowed context errors thrown at me. At the time, I didn’t really fully understand how the borrow checker works - and honestly, I’m pretty sure I still don’t understand fully. I decided to take a simpler approach: I’d store current_room as an integer representing an index in the vector of rooms. In Rust, the index of a vector is the type usize, a pointer-sized (therefore system-dependent) unsigned int. At first, I stored current_room as an i32 but this led to lots of as usize casting all over the place. Connection objects would be Option<usize> and changing rooms would be as simple as replacing current_room with another usize value.

The downside of this approach is having to know each Room’s index in the vector ahead of time. I kept track of the room number while designing the game ‘map’ so it wasn’t a big deal in my particular situation. I thought being able to ‘point’ to other Room directly with a reference would be simpler, but that would bring its own problems with it. For example, this would bring about circular references (eg: Room 1 is connected to Room B, but if we create Room 1 first, how do we define this relationship when creating the Room object? My solution: You wouldn’t, you’d connect the rooms afterwards).

Flags & Actions

My next set of problems came with dealing with state change in the game. I ended up declaring a HashMap<&'static str, bool> in a struct Flags at the top-level of the game that gets passed around to the different functions. Originally, each Room was going to have its own set of flags but I didn’t want have to reach across rooms to check the state of something - especially if an action in one room can have consequenes elsewhere.

Dealing with the actions took the longest to figure out. I had an important questions I needed to answer at this point: How can I define each Item or Room to have different behaviour depending on the state of global flags? To solve this, I used closures. For instance, here is how an Item is defined:

struct Item {
    name: String,
    is_grabbable: bool,
    on_grab: Box<Fn(&mut Flags)>,
    on_use: Box<Fn(&mut Flags, String, usize) -> bool>,

Both on_grab and on_use accept closures. Because our state is stored in a global object, each room doesn’t really need to worry about what’s going on in other rooms - they only need to know the state of the world through the Flag objects they receive. This allows me to use closures to define certain behaviour.

I’m not exactly sure if this method is idiomatic Rust. I’ve been writing primarily JavaScript for my day job for the past few years so I’m still in that state of mind where functions are first class citizens that I should be taking advtange of. I wasn’t really sure how else to define individual behaviour for separate instances of the same type.1

For instance, this is an example of how an Item is defined:

Item {
    name: "shovel".to_string(),
    is_grabbable: true,
    on_grab: Box::new(|flags: &mut Flags| {
        println!("The shovel looks as if it has never been used before; the layer of dust that falls off as you pick it up shows that it has been sitting on that table for a long time. You slip the shovel in your pocket.");
        flags.update_key("pickedUpShovel", true);
    on_use: Box::new(|flags: &mut Flags, object_name: String, current_room: usize| -> bool {
        // this sucks; checking if we are in the room before perfoming action
        if current_room == 1 && object_name == "glass door" {
            if flags.get_key("smashedDoor") == Some(&false) {
                println!("It takes a few swings before a couple of cracks appear in the glass. Wondering why such strong glass is needed for a greenhouse door, you continue to swing away until a loud crash and gust of fresh air announces the success of your swinging endeavours.");
                flags.update_key("smashedDoor", true);
            else {
                println!("You seem to have already done a number on that poor door - maybe you should leave it alone?");
        else {
            println!("You aren't sure how to use the shovel with the {}", object_name);

… and that’s just one item! Imagine a whole Room, with it’s own behaviour and items! (Or see for yourself and check out the source file with the levels defined).

Another issue is that this method leads to cases where certain objects that don’t use a specific callback have empty closures, which makes rustc complain about unused variables. This isn’t a huge deal, but it can clutter up compiler messages which is slightly annoying.

Originally, I planned on serializing each room into data files instead of hard coding them into Rust source code. This way, anyone can write their own text adventure without knowing a line of Rust! As soon as I decided to use closures, however, that task seemed like it would be much more difficult. How do you serialize behaviour? The only method I can think of is via a scripting language, and that was way out of scope for this project.

Other random notes

  • It would be nice if there was a way to initialize a HashMap by passing a series of key/values to its new() function or via a literal. I’m using a macro I found on StackOverflow to do the job right now but it would be neat if this was built into the standard library.

Conclusion: I like it.

In the process of writing this post, I’ve had to question a few of my design choices and actually learned new stuff (the idea of changing the type of current_room from i32 to usize happened due to this post)!

The likelihood of me continuing to work on this project is low. Howevever, if I were to make an ‘Adventure! 2.0’, I’d make the following changes:

  • Spice things up with Termion. I came across this great blog post by the author of the termion crate, ticki. Maybe making some item names show up in Zelda’s “Important Noun” red, or having more of a persistant GUI on screen such as the inventory.
  • Take advantage of more core Rust/Cargo tools, like rustdoc.
  • Tests! Testing is important. I worked on this project for a few hours a week over the span of a month so it wasn’t something at the top of my mind.
  • Figure out cross-compilation so I can build executables for Windows & MacOS from my Linux desktop

I had fun working on Adventure. If you’d like to check it out, here is the GitHub repo. I’d like to figure out cross-compilation soon to get some binaries up on on the GitHub page. My next project will involve gasp graphics! Until then…

  1. As I write this, a few ideas come to mind (although I’m not sure if they actually work). Perhaps creating a trait that all Rooms/Items implement, and write a macro that creates a new struct with said trait with the individual behaviour defined within? Just a thought. 

          Kantin – Istanbul        

Let’s see… A couple of stairs, enter through the glass door, greeted by smiling faces, crowd is eating happily, yes again full, should I wait for a table at the terrace or anywhere, let’s see what is on the big board today… White table clothes and fresh flowers meet the...

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          Advantages of Utilizing Shower Screens        
Shower screens really are great for the purpose of building some sort of barrier from water in your shower while they don't deter from all the style of any bathroom. Nearly all bathrooms necessitate some sort of shower curtain to actually hold water within the shower if they don't come equipped with a sliding glass door.
          Leading Glass Sliding Doors Manufacturer and Supplier        
Duraslide has emerged as a leading manufacturer and supplier of glass sliding doors and has specialized in Manual/ automatic glass door (sliding/swing), Slide & Stack System, Glass works such as shop front, shower screen, skylight, glass railing, stainless steel railing, staircase, cladding etc.
          Getting The Gang Back Together: Bush Family, Friends Convene In Texas To Celebrate H.w. - The Washington Post        

Bush Sr. lost in 1992 amid complaints that he didnt care enough about domestic issues, and he didnt win many conservative fans for his reversal of his oft-quoted line, Read my lips, no new taxes. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq havent helped the family brand, either. tanah A recent Post-ABC poll found that half of all Americans say they definitely would not vote for another Bush as president. Ive never actually believed that his name would drag him down, said Kaufman, who in addition to working for 41 helped advise Mitt Romney on his 2012 presidential campaign. Americans are so tired of a very broken system that theyd do anything, and give their vote to anybody even Attila the Hun if they think that person will bring competent leadership to Washington and the White House. Even Trippi, after hearing Jeb speak, found himself surprisingly impressed: You know I used to think, Oh, my God, Hillary Clinton and a Bush, here we go again, he said as he left the town hall. But Im really starting to think that might be the best way to get an actual debate about the issues. For folks such as Alan Simpson, the former Wyoming senator, the nostalgia tour was in full effect.

Aside from repurposing the old shipping container , Poteet used recycled soda caps and telephone poles in this gorgeous green guest house perched at the top of Stacey Hill. To keep the message of sustainability at the forefront, Poteet decided to leave the exterior of the shipping container as is, including its original blue color and markings from when it was used to haul goods. The end was cut away and replaced with a large floor to ceiling window, while part of the side was replaced with sliding glass doors that create a flow of both natural light and air. The opposite ends corrugated walls were kept with a smaller, higher window added, which allows for a private bathroom. Related: PHOTOS: Couple Moves into Stacked Shipping Container Home in Williamsburg The sliding doors, which function as the guest homes entrance, open onto a large elevated deck, which was made using recycled soda caps .

          my croissant odyssey: from 0 to :) in ten days        

my croissant odyssey: from 0 to :) in ten days

Having learned innumerable useful croissant techniques from folks on The Fresh Loaf, I decided to sign up and share my path to producing open, airy croissant, pain au chocolat and pain aux raisins. 

There were four light-bulb moments during this process. The first involved dough hydration; like others have noted here, lower hydration doughs work better with sheeters than they do for home bakers and a rolling pin. The second was yeast amount and selection. Most French recipes call for fresh yeast, which I, a lowly Philadelphian, don't have easy access to; I started by using ADY, but wasn't getting sufficient ovenspring, no matter whether I bulk-fermented before lamination, or delayed fermentation entirely by going straight from mix to fridge/freezer. I switched to instant yeast at a little less than half of the recommended weight of fresh yeast. Third was lamination technique. I switched from three letter folds to one book fold and one letter fold, and I used the French two-thirds up, one third down book fold method, as well as, for lack of a better word, what I'll call the open-ended method for sealing the lamination butter. The fourth and final light-bulb moment was timing, which probably varies such that my exact recipe and timing might not transpose perfectly to a different environment, but I'll provide it all the same.

I started with Rock the Bretzel's CAP recipe: It's in French; I've provided a translation below.

 Ingredients (for 16-18 croissants) For the dough:
  • 500 g flour
  • 115 g milk
  • 115 g water
  • 75 g butter at room temperature
  • 75 g sugar
  • 11 g salt
  • 20 g fresh baker's yeast
 For the lamination butter:
  • 250 g "dry" butter (they recommend AOC Poitou-Charentes)

At 46% hydration, this dough was near impossible to roll out without tearing, despite multiple rest periods at the final roll-out, before cutting and shaping. 

After multiple attempts at varying the level of gluten development I'd arrive at before the final roll-out, I threw in the towel on this rather low-hydration recipe and started working with the gold-standard, tx_farmer's poolish croissant (after AB&P). I ended up hybridizing these two recipes to arrive at a consistent recipe for my purposes, which was to be able to start my poolish the night before I wanted to bake off the croissant the following afternoon/evening. I make a half-recipe; the poolish is identical to tx_farmer, and the rest resembles CAP's lower hydration method.

2-Day Croissant, with time-table, in a 72F kitchen

Day 1:

Poolish. Mix, 8PM.

80g AP

80g water

1/8 tsp instant yeast (I use Fleischmann's)

Mix with a fork, leave to ferment at room-temperature overnight, or for about 10-12 hours.

Day 2: The rest.

Step 1: Mix, 6AM. (I add the ingredients in this order, which is probably unnecessary!) 

60g whole milk

37g sugar

37g room-temperature butter (AA is fine)

4g instant yeast

170g bread flour (I use KA)

The poolish

5.5g salt, reserve

Mix 2 minutes with paddle attachment, first speed. Switch to dough hook, mix 1 minute at first speed. Mix 3 additional minutes with dough hook at second speed. Flatten dough on work surface and sprinkle roughly half of reserved salt over it. Fold and knead a few times, then flatten and sprinkle the rest of the salt. Fold and knead a few times, flatten, cover with plastic wrap, and stick in moderate freezer for 25 minutes.

145g butter for tourage (again, AA is fine)

Step 2: preparing the butter.

Plasticize the butter by beating flat with a rolling pin between two sheets of aluminum foil (or parchment). Once the butter is first flattened, expose the butter and break it into 2 or 3 chunks, stack them on top of one another, and recover with foil/parchment. Beat into a rough square about 3/4in thick. Use the rolling pin to squeeze the sides into a rough rectangle, about 5in by 4in. Beat this rectangle or roll it lightly until it's about 6in by 5in. At this point, grasp the foil at either end and bend the butter square over the edge of the work surface or counter at a sharp right angle, a few times. The goal is to test whether the butter has been well-plasticized: flatten it on the surface and remove the top layer of foil/parchment to make sure that the butter hasn't cracked. If it has, repeat the plasticization steps until you have a homogenous, smooth butter packet.

NOTE: the butter will be cold, but warmer than might be expected at this point. This is good! It will arrive at a similar temperature and texture to that of the dough. Leave it covered in the foil/parchment sheets and place in the fridge for the remainder of the 25 minutes left for the dough to rest and get nice and cold.

Step 3: lamination!

Before I lay out my lamination method, I'd like to assure the first-time croissant baker that there is no substitute for the headache and annoyance of producing several batches of less-than-ideally-laminated dough en route to arriving at the right feel for the pressure and speed of rolling required for even lamination. Some croissant recipe gurus recommend a pair of level steel bars and a long, plain rolling pin to arrive at uniform thickness at each stage of the lamination process. I have resolved to accept a certain amount of variability in the thickness, which is probably even greater due to my use of a French (tapered) rolling pin. That said, whether one chooses the analog-sheeter method or the quirky unevenness of the tapered pin, as long as a final thickness of about 1/8in is reached before shaping, both methods will produce a consistent, airy crumb.

A reminder that, give or take 5 minutes for assembling ingredients and transitioning the workspace, approximately 31 minutes have elapsed since beginning the dough and butter packet preparation. A further reminder that fermentation has been completely delayed by the freezer. In some cases, I've removed the dough to find that the edges are frozen. If that's the case, simply rest it on the counter for a minute or two and work the edges with your hands to assure that it does not crack when you roll out the dough to seal in the butter.

Very lightly flour the work surface - I use a three-fingered pinch of AP and flick my fingers, using 2-3 of these sprinklings to achieve a dusting sufficient for this first step - and place the dough on the surface. Lightly flour (in the same manner) both the dough and the rolling pin, and roll the dough out to about a 12-12.5in long, 5.5-6in wide square. It is very important that the dough be shaped with roughly 90-degree corners at this point, so as to seal the butter perfectly with no overlap.

Remove the butter from the fridge, unwrap, and place in the center of the dough so that the longer edge is aligned with the long edge of the dough. The shorter edge of the butter should very nearly meet the long edges of the dough. Fold the top and bottom of the dough lengthwise over the butter packet, and let the folded edges meet in the middle with no overlap. They should just touch.

At this point, the croissant dough and butter package will be about the size of the butter packet before sealing, with a horizontal dough seam running from side to side. Attempt to even the corners of the dough, but it is perfectly fine if there is a sort of V-shape at each side, with the butter peeking through.

Now, give the dough a quarter-turn, so that the horizontal seam is vertical, and the butter-peeking edges of the dough are at the top and bottom. Gently press and roll back-and-forth a very, very small distance, and very gently, starting from the middle of the dough, working toward the top; then, start from the middle and do the same thing, working down to the bottom. At this point, the butter and dough will feel like one entity; there will be no fragmenting (in fact, it will be hard to tell the difference, under your hand, between the two components).

Roll the croissant dough to about 18 inches length, top to bottom. It may take a few passes; each should cover about 3/4 of the dough, extending to the very top (or bottom). Strive for a uniform thickness of a little more than a 1/4in. Only roll along the length of the dough, not the width. It is tempting, but this is a easy way to catch the vertical seam and end up with a non-uniform layer of dough. It is a good idea to release the dough from the work surface once or twice during this lamination process, and feel free to flour (sparingly) the work surface and dough.

Brush any excess flour from your dough before making the book fold. Then, take a sharp knife and trim the edges so that the inner butter layer is exposed, making sure to square them. Reserve this trimmed dough and butter in plastic wrap, which can be used to make little brioche boules, or as a chef to be added to a future batch of laminated dough. 

Fold 1 - the book-fold: I found that a 2/3 up, 1/3 down method (whereby the seam of the ends is trapped inside the fold) leads to a uniform thickness and no tearing at the edge during the second letter fold. Fold 2/3 of the dough up, and fold the remaining 1/3 down, letting them meet, then fold from the new top edge of the dough down to the new bottom edge - the seam created by the initial fold will be seen to be in the third big layer of dough from the bottom, in this book fold.

Cover with plastic wrap and reserve in fridge for 15 minutes.

Fold 2 - the letter fold: flour the work surface, place the dough on it, and give the dough a quarter-turn so that the open edges are along the left vertical edge. Lightly pat the dough all over with the rolling pin, and begin to roll out without applying much pressure - the goal is to lengthen it, rather than flatten it. Give the dough another quarter-turn and lightly roll along the short edge to widen it. Flip the dough over, give it a reverse quarter-turn, and lengthen again. Repeat these steps a few times until the dough is roughly the same size it was before the first fold was performed.

Again, trim the edges to square them, and reserve the trimmings with the others. Now, brush any excess flour from the dough and fold the bottom third of the dough up in a letter fold, and fold the top third down over it. Reserve in the fridge for 1 hour. This is the minimum length of time the dough will need to relax. I have left it for a few hours; it will puff up slightly, which is fine. I tend to get to the final roll-out before the dough has undergone a long, cold ferment at this stage, and I am unsure as to whether it would affect the oven-spring if it were left for a longer period (like overnight)...

Step 4: final roll-out and shaping

*Somewhat more liberally flour the work surface,* (this helps avoid tears in the outermost layers of the dough in this final step, which really tests the elasticity of the gluten), remove the dough from the fridge and give it a quarter-turn, again so that the open-edged seam is along the leftmost vertical side. Roll the dough out as far as can be done, releasing it from the work surface a few times, flouring as necessary. I can usually roll it out to the size of a half-sheet pan width, and a few inches shy of either side, length-wise, which is about a 1/4in thickness, before the dough begins to retract on itself. As soon as this retraction begins, stop rolling! Brush as much excess flour from the dough as can be done, and reserve the dough in the fridge on a half-sheet pan, covered in plastic wrap (on both sides) for another 15 minutes, minimum - longer is, of course, fine. 

Remove the reserved dough and place it on the work surface. Roll it out to 1/8in thickness, taking care to roughly preserve a rectangular shape. Trim the dough on all sides, minimally, but making sure to expose the lamination at all points; make sure not to leave any part of the dough sealed by itself (by folds from previous steps in the process). 

At this point, croissant, pain au chocolat, or pain aux raisins can be produced; in fact, all of these can be had from this single batch. I generally produce 4-5 croissant, 2-3 pain au chocolat, and 4 miniature brioche (from the trimmings) from this recipe.

I shape the croissant by cutting 9in or 10in triangles, using the two-croissant-from-a-single-rectangle method, which allows me to avoid the two mini-triangles at either end of the dough that one ends up with by cutting the first edge of the first croissant at an angle. Even though by the laws of trigonometry this 2-in-a-rectangle method always gives the croissant triangle one edge that's slightly longer than the other, when you stretch the final croissant before shaping, it roughly evens out.

A NOTE ON SHAPING: if the lamination has been performed well and the croissant are proofed at room temperature, so that the butter does not melt, any breadiness of the final product will generally be a result of squashing the dough during the shaping. Stretch the final triangles by sliding the fingers gently along the length of the croissant from tail to tip, taking care not to pinch the tip as your fingers reach the end of it. Do not push the dough at the base to stick it to itself in the beginning of the roll; it is fine, and I think, possibly, a very good idea, to have some space in this first roll. I assumed that rolling croissant was like rolling a roulade or Swiss roll, and at first, I had very dense, bready, central crumb. Aiming for a looser roll seems to promote an airier center.

Step 5: Proof and bake

Place each shaped croissant with the tip firmly squashed underneath it on a parchment-lined half-sheet tray. I find that I can fit about 6 if I angle then and line them in a 3 by 2 arrangement, though some may end up touching. If you're a stickler about this, try 4 on a sheet - it seems spacious, but each croissant will really explode in the oven.

Mix 1 egg with about 1 tsp water until completely homogenous. Use a soft, wide brush to glaze the croissants, trying to avoid the laminated layers, which I've read can end up being sealed-in by this initial egg-wash, which impedes the expansion you'll want during proofing. Proof the croissant at room temperature for about 4 hours, at which point, you'll see the layers begin to separate at the sides of the croissant, which will be very puffy and slightly, almost imperceptibly jiggly when the pan is moved.

Preheat the oven to 365F and pour a glass of water and place by the stove. Once the oven is at temperature, give each croissant another glaze of egg wash. Place the croissant half-sheet pan in another half-sheet pan (unnecessary if you've used a silpat rather than parchment), and place in the oven, splash some water on the heating element to create steam (avoiding the oven light and, if you have one, the glass door, as both are liable to explode if water hits them), lower the heat to 355F, and bake without opening and without turning for exactly 30 minutes. This may certainly vary from oven to oven, however, I caution against baking at higher temperatures for shorter periods, as in my limited experience, this caused the butter to run out before the dough layers had sufficiently expanded and absorbed it, leading the bottoms of the croissants to fry and the inner texture to be crispy, dry, bready, and largely inedible.

Meanwhile, heat 100g of water and 50-100g of sugar (dependent on taste) to dissolution, for a mild glaze to be applied to the croissant after removing from the oven. This is an optional, but highly tasty step!

Croissant evolution (right-clicked text descriptions of photos will load externally, via Imgur):

The first batch - laminated, but underproofed and overbaked.

underproofed, overbaked


The second batch - proofed in a humid environment at probably +100F. All the butter ran out, leading to a dry, quasi-brioche texture.

proofed too high temp


proofed too high, post bake


inside, proofed too high


The third batch - still using ADY, which may have contributed to the less-than-stellar ovenspring. Also, these were way, way undermixed, with no bulk ferment, and at 46% hydration, this meant a very underdeveloped gluten structure.

undermix ady proof


undermix ady bake


undermix ady crumb

The fourth batch - *still* ADY, but switched to a higher hydration, which made roll-out easier. Still a bit of flatness and little ovenspring, which I think was, at this point, partially a function of the type of yeast I was using, and partially over-proofing (this batch was proofed at room temperature for 7 hours).

overproof ady


overproof ady


The fifth batch - one last shot at the ADY recipe at a milder hydration, without poolish. This was as close to good as I was going to get from that recipe, with clear lamination, so I chalked it up to the recipe and decided to move on to a poolish. I don't have a crumb photo from these, but it was bready, which was disappointing at this stage!

bready ady


bready ady sideview


The sixth batch - the poolish hybrid CAP/tx_farmer recipe from above, at the lower oven temperature recommended over a higher temp, shorter bake. 

hybrid proof


hybrid pain au choc


hybrid croissant


hybrid batch


hybrid crumb


I hope this proves useful to those starting out on their own croissant adventures! Patience, persistence, and a tiny bit of obsession goes a long way :)


          Using Prefab Containers To Build A Home        

Building A Home With Prefabricated Containers   Prefabricated Containers Can Be Built To Spec! This home was created using two custom built 30′ containers. At the customers request it came ready with windows, doors, and sliding glass doors.     Ability to Customize Modular construction gives builders and home owners various options and design possibilities. This helps […]

The post Using Prefab Containers To Build A Home appeared first on Container Management Group.

          22780 Mini Kitchen Multi-Cooker        
22780 Mini Kitchen Multi-Cooker

22780 Mini Kitchen Multi-Cooker

Are you pressed for space but enjoy cooking and baking? The 22780 Mini Kitchen from Russell Hobbs is a compact, space-saving appliance and is designed for roasting, baking, boiling, frying and grilling. Whether you’re thinking of using the Mini Kitchen as a main oven, in a second home, caravan or boat it has a sufficient 30-L internal capacity, which allows the appliance to be neatly stored whilst still giving you enough volume for all of your cooking needs. Its size allows the oven to be placed almost anywhere, so if you find bending down to reach into conventional ovens a struggle, don’t worry as you can easily sit the mini oven neatly on the kitchen work surface. Easy Cleaning The Russell Hobbs Mini Kitchen is so easy to clean; you’ll save time on domestic chores and have more time to spend tasting your delicious creations. Double Hotplate To complete this versatile kitchen appliance, there’s a double hotplate incorporating two different sized hobs with individual variable temperature controls. Fan Assisted Oven The fan assisted oven gives an even distribution of heat, which helps to reduce the time and temperature required to cook food, saving on energy. Thermostat Control The Russell Hobbs Mini Kitchen features an adjustable thermostat control ranging from 60-230 degree Celsius giving a wide choice of temperatures for all of your cooking needs. Accessories For increased adaptability, the 22780 Russell Hobbs Mini Oven comes with an additional baking tray and grilling rack meaning you can conveniently cook several items at once. Practicality The black metal finish means this product will fit discreetly into your home and the semi-transparent mirrored glass door means you can see how your cooking is coming along without having to open the oven door. Featuring a main oven light for easy visibility, this oven also has a power indicator light so that you can instantly see when the oven is on. You don’t have to worry about calling in the electrician as the Russell Hobbs Classics Mini Kitchen simply plugs in, just like you would with a kettle or toaster. It’s also safer as you don’t have to worry about gas or open flames.

          Belling Classic 60E Cooker, Cream        
Belling Classic 60E Cooker, Cream

Belling Classic 60E Cooker, Cream

The Belling Classic 60E Cooker with stylish cream finish looks great in any home. The hob has four easy to clean ceramic burners, two of which are 1.7kW and two that are 1.2kW, with rotary controls The main cavity is a fanned electric oven with an actual capacity of 69 litres (65 litres usable capacity). There are two adjustable shelves with five possible positions, as well as an oven light, a defrost function and a programmable timer. The top cavity is a conventional electric oven with an actual capacity of 39 litres (37 litres usable capacity). There is one shelf which can be placed in two possible positions, as well as an oven light, a fixed rate electric grill and a drop down glass door

          BP300306KM MaxiKlasse Pyroluxe Electric Single Oven with with SteamBake, Stainless Steel        
BP300306KM MaxiKlasse Pyroluxe Electric Single Oven with with SteamBake, Stainless Steel

BP300306KM MaxiKlasse Pyroluxe Electric Single Oven with with SteamBake, Stainless Steel

MaxiKlasse Pyroluxe® Oven with SteamBake, Multifunction with 10 Functions, Retractable Rotary Controls, Pyroluxe® Cleaning, Fully Programmable Timer, in Anti-fingerprint Stainless Steel. SteamBake function adds steam for the best baking results Thanks to the SteamBake function on this oven, you will be able to bake with steam and get great baking results for your bread, cakes, muffins, pies and a lot more. Just pour water in the oven cavity before you start and then push the steam button while baking. This keeps the dough moist on the surface to create a golden color and tasty crust on your bakes, while the heart stays soft and tender. Pyroluxe®Plus system for the highest standards in cleanliness To enable you to meet even professional standards of cleanliness, this oven has Pyroluxe®Plus. By heating the oven to 500°C, this self-cleaning system reduces all food residue to a fine ash, which you can wipe away completely with a damp cloth. And with A-class energy efficiency Pyroluxe®Plus has low energy consumption. MaxiKlasse oven with OptiSight timer for perfect results If you are a cook with professional aspirations, the MaxiKlasse oven will enable you to achieve professional results. For example, the OptiSight timer enables you to precisely monitor the cooking process, and to program the oven to switch on or off at set times. Removable glass door to provide better access for cleaning The glass door of this oven can be completely removed, which not only enables you to clean the door even more thoroughly, but also provides better access to the oven space itself. ThermiC°Air system for higher performance and energy efficiency With this oven, using energy efficiently also means cooking efficiently. It has a new convection system called ThermiC°Air, which ensures hot air circulates evenly throughout the oven cavity. The result is that the oven heats up faster and cooking temperatures can be reduced by up to 20%, saving you both time and energy.

It’s another pretty dismal-looking day.

Joni (comment yesterday),  you solved the mail problem. I keep forgetting that I use googlemail on my iPad, accessed through Safari – but that the machine itself prefers its own mail app. There I found the Northmavine Hap. Here it is:

That picture was taken 24 hours ago. I’m not much further on – the rows are long. I counted stitches when I had officially finished the fourth repeat, and was surprised to find myself two stitches short. I am currently engaged in the first pattern row of the new repeat. Something is slightly awry.


I took Archie and his brother Mungo to lunch yesterday at Wahaca. We had a nice time. If I had hoped to learn anything about university life in Lancaster or Oxford, I failed. The conversation largely demonstrated to me how little I know about contemporary life anywhere.

There was a moment – Mungo told of visiting an Oxford friend at home on a newly-built estate in conditions of what seemed to him like preposterous wealth. (And Mungo has Greek friends who have demonstrated to him what preposterous wealth looks like.) His friend’s father had something to do with a hedge fund, Mungo said.

I said, “Bernie Madoff must have lived like that.”

And they, for once, didn’t know who I was talking about.

Helen and I are thinking of going to Strathardle this weekend. What about the cat? I want to take her there, and introduce her to freedom. But Helen has a dog. He is a very amiable dog, who pays no attention to Perdita when he is here. She pays little to him, although she is wary. But I feel his presence will add to the stress of strangeness for her.

I am sorry to have given the wrong impression in my reference to the cat yesterday. I love her dearly, and value her company – but am beginning to realise that she is almost as much of a responsibility as my husband was. I can at least go out during the day, if I can face that reproachful furry face at the inner glass door when I get home. 

We’ve all seen them but perhaps not noticed them, large glass and chrome monoliths, or drab grey concrete buildings lacking joy and empathy, bland corporate logos above the shining glass doors, staff packed in like battery hens as they try to “push the envelope” or provide “boots on the ground” – I am talking about office buildings – faceless corporate almost entity’s in themselves and an unavoidable part of our landscape. Pressure cooker culture with impossible ideals to meet, homes of one upmanship and targets and “dress down Friday  and staff nights out that no one really wants to go on. It was pretty inevitable that Torchwood would investigate one of these, and in this months release this is just what Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd) does. He doesn’t particularly want to, it is Friday night after all and he does have The Apprentice to watch, but investigate he does and for Ianto Jones this is a Friday night like no other, this is a Friday night where just once he should have gone home and watched The Apprentice, because the Office building that he is investigating seems to have been waiting for him….
There is something inherently creepy about deserted buildings, and even more creepy about deserted buildings that still seem to have a function – this one looks and feels like an office, but there is no one around, and Ianto is locked in. You can feel the tension and the building paranoia as Ianto explores his prison and discovers that perhaps this is a prison built specifically for him – but why? Why has he been lured here, and WHO is the girl that he meets (Bethan Rose Young) who claims to be in charge of security but cannot remember her name – can he trust her? Will he ever get to see this weeks (or any other weeks for that matter) episode of The Apprentice?
This story goes right to the heart of what Torchwood are and what they do, it deals with the consequences of those actions almost like no other story before it and lays Ianto’s soul bare – Ianto always was the softer side of Torchwood, this explores how he deals with the contradictions in his job and how those contradictions can devastate the lives of those who Torchwood sometimes only think of as all in a days work.
The special features for this story describe it as inspired by The Avengers episode “The Joker” and I can definitely see that – claustrophobic, dangerous and unpredictable and trending upwards (to use the vernacular of the Office) 8/10.

          10 Ways To Make 2017 A Better Year After Divorce        
10 Ways to Change for 2017I frowned as I stared out at the gray sky and all the snow that had piled up overnight. It was so cold, my sliding glass door had... Read More
          My 2009 in Movies        
The year has been ordinary one in terms of movies. Some of the best ones were sci fi and that is the only consolation. However I am not going to make a best of 2009 list quite simply because unlike the professional critics at Uncle Sam’s place I havent been able to watch all the movies that have been released yet and anyhow in a month or so we will be counting down to the Oscars and doing a list then is best. By then most movies will be available for consumption. Since the Oscars are so prestigious, we movie people should simply give up calendar years and do our lists around it. The movies featured during Oscars often get forgotten and end up in neither lists not this year and not the year before. So i am going to take a different path. We critics are innocent folk with everyone living in their own glass doors. We can  celebrate Christmas whenever we feel like.
When it comes to me personally this hasnt been a stellar year like the year before where I Mad Men Teams Up With Banana Republic could clock 240 movies (inspite of the TV shows). This year I could only clock 192 but its ok ‘cos life has changed in many ways and TV shows like Mad Men and Friends (yep it was my first time) made life richer in their own ways. The first two months were spent watching and writing about the Oscar nominees of 2009 and I was exposed to some really fine movies like Rachel Getting Married, Waltz with Bashir etc. There were a lot of classics, foreign language films and rom coms. There were a lot of indie films too. This was also the year I fell in love with Spanish movies and this was partly aided by the Spanish Film festival which happened in Hyderabad. So really as a movie buff what matters to me more than the best I have seen of this year is the best I have seen in this year. So I have compiled a list of must watch films I have seen for the first time this year and believe you too should sometime. So something like a 3rd time of Casablanca or Wall E wont count. There wasnt a single 10 this year I could see. Star Wars was the last one in October 2008. The 9’s were rare too but there were a plenty of 8’s. Here it goes!
Best films I have seen in 2009
user624_1146450241 star_trek_xi_ver16_xlg
The 9/10 ‘s

1. Waltz with Bashir
2. La Vita E Bella ie Life is Beautiful
3. Star Trek (2009)
4. In the Mood for Love
5. The Blues Brothers

Technically 8 (but they are better than that)

moon_movie6. Moon (2009)
7. Full Metal Jacket
8. My Fair Lady
9. Sex and Lucia
10. Rachel Getting Married
11. Synecdoche New York
12. Waking Life
13. Suspicion
The 8/10’s
14. Cool Hand Luke
15. In the Loop (2009)
16. Revolutionary Road

17. The Hurt Locker (2009)
18. 4 Months 3 Weeks 2 Days
19. About Love
20. 500 Days of Summer (2009)
21. Milk
22. Mary and Max (2009)
23. Siete mesas de billar francés or 7 Billiard Tables
24. Il y a longtemps que je t'aime
25. Okuribito
26. Slumdog Millionaire
27. Up (2009)
28. Away We Go (2009)
29. District 9 (2009)
30. Taken (2009)
31. Where the Wild Things are (2009))
32. Julie and Julia (2009)
33. The Hangover (2009)
34. Bullitt
35. Doubt
36. The Blind Side (2009)
37. Rushmore
38. The Wrestler
39. Invictus(2009)
40. Hunger
Or should I say best Indian movie I have seen this year:
Rocket Singh:Salesman of the Year (2009)

That was a long list! But these were the better ones among the roster I had seen. So another year ends and a new year begins soon. Looking back this wasnt a great one from a personal viewing perspective either. However it had some great beginnings from this blog’s perspective, it’s initiation in the current form, the very gratifying Oscar  road, the distinct URL and uncharacteristically me writing. I want to make the next year much better! Julie and Julia inspired me in this respect. So here is what I have set as the goal:

200 Movies & 100 Reviews

This site will get more time and more features too. It wont be easy like the previous years, because now I have a full time job and am juggling many things but for the love of good Cinema this has to happen!
Wish you all a very Happy and Cinematic New Year as i hope for a merry and filmi new year.

          Thanksgiving, Day 2        
J ran through the house calling for E, “Hurry, E! Come and look, there is a robin in our backyard!” They watched through the glass door in wonder as the birds frolicked in the yard. “There’s a black one with a shiny blue tummy!” “There’s an all red one, Mommy!” I told them the red […]
          One of a kind townhome in Treasure Island Fl for sale        
Click for details
This town home is one of a kind! It is made for the buyer who is looking for something out of the ordinary and very special. There are not enough words to describe this beauty, the interior was custom designed with only the best materials and craftsmanship to create a warm inviting feeling. In over 2000 sf. you have gorgeous wood floors, travertine tiled areas, more granite than you have ever seen and a beautiful color scheme that is neutral; but has a classy and elegant feeling. On the ground floor you have a 2-car garage and a large bonus suite with sliding glass doors to the outside with gorgeous water views. On the first living level is one huge room with a state of the art kitchen that has 2 dishwashers, double ovens that are all stainless steel. Custom made pantry, exquisite granite counter tops, eat in space in kitchen plus dining area, powder room and living room that is flooded with natural light. The upstairs is one giant master suite including a grand walk-in closet with French doors leading to fabulous custom designed bathroom. You have 2 beautiful balconies and a nice patio all looking over the sparkling waters. This town home has more upgrades than we can mention. It is walking distance to the beach, around the corner from TI Yacht Club, public golf and tennis courses. The community also features a very nice pool area, plenty of guest parking, boat slips that can be rented for $78 per month and this complex is pet friendly and will not be effected by the new flood insurance bill.
          Great, remodeled single family home for sale in South Pasadena        
Click for details
EVERYTHING is remodeled. This estate like home sits on a half an acre of prime real estate in the beautiful and charming South Pasadena area. This house has 4 bedrooms plus a media room, 3 full bathrooms, a huge kitchen/living room combinat ion, extra storage and laundry room, an over sized 2 car garage and a circular driveway. The backyard is very private with lush landscaping, alley access, and features a 32 by 56 feet screened pool, spa and patio enclosures. Also a storageshad matching the house. This home is absolutely stunning with a s;lit floor plan, granite counter tops, all new cabinets, top of the line appliances, neutral tile though out, lots of natural light, sliding glass doors every where to integrate the outside. hurricane shutters, alarm system, all new windows, room for RV and boat parking, saltwater system pool and spa, too many things to list them all, see for yourself. 
          Penthouse Sofia Webber        
Sofia Webber giving her mailman and milkman quite an early morning show, by caressing her naked breasts and mooning her ass from behind her front glass door.
          Chipmunk Roundup!        
'Tis the season.

It's spring. For me that means running, opening the storm windows, mowing, Ike's allergies, sidewalk chalk covered driveways, ants and chipmunk roundups.

...because for every sacrificial chipmunk, there are at least three roundups.

I know I'm not the only cat owner who regularly experiences The Food Chain: Live and in 3D, but I do believe that Charlie is an overachiever of sorts.  The time she delivered two [dead] baby bunnies and placed them parallel to one another on the back door mat (the day after Easter, oddly enough), I knew I was contending with a hunter of impressive ilk.  Since then there have been rabbits too numerous to count, mice by the dozens, and birds of many a feather, in varying states of living brought to and into my home.

The Chipmunk Roundup is a relatively new activity at Casa del Mar. I suppose we had our first rough go at one in late spring of last year, but had perfected it by fall.  While most nine year old girls might be frightened (or delighted) to find a living, breathing chipmunk in her room, Princess Pearl now sighs in exasperation and then loudly announces, "Chipmunk Roundup!" This is a family event, after all.

Through trial and error, we have developed a patent pending technique that is as follows: Upon the sounding of the alert, doors are closed to all rooms which are known to not harbor said chipmunk. A ruckus is then made in the remaining room and generally within a minute the offending rodent has exited to the hallway. Easily persuaded from the hallway into the main living quarters, the we-added-this-bifold-shuttered-door-to-this-awesome-mid-century-house-when-we-remodeled-in-the-seventies door is closed and the chipmunk is now carefully quarantined in the living room.  One child is charged with opening the front glass door, while another is put on guard between the kitchen and living room (great open space for entertaining, but a slight challenge for Chipmunk Roundups).  At this time, the rodent has typically hidden behind the Chair of Fabulosity or another piece of discount (albeit similarly delightful) furniture. The cat is then introduced as a key player (don't fret, this isn't gory...usually) who can sniff out said visitor, sending it into a slightly panicked state that usually leads it to the great outdoors.  The front door is then closed, high fives are distributed and the Three Little Diggs return to their previous duties.

How do the chipmunks get into the house? Charlie brings them inside. But how? Her "cat door" (a window without a screen) which is left open during fair weather. So yes, it is easily be argued that Chipmunk Roundups could be all but eliminated. As would the family bonding that they induce.

So I'm keeping that window open again this spring...because at my memorial service, the kids will need something to talk about.
          Caution Glass Door Safety Sign        
Caution Glass Door Safety Sign

Caution Glass Door Safety Sign

Caution Glass Door Safety Sign

          College Service & Class Projects        

Masons, September 2016
Donated and applied a second slip resistant coating product on ceramic tile library/elevator ground floor entryway.

Masons, September 2016
Donated and replaced broken and missing ceramic tiles in entryway to one of the Apprenticeship offices in Building 4.

Masons, August 2016
Donated and applied a slip resistant coating on ceramic tile library/elevator ground floor entryway.

Painters, April 2016
Prepared walls and painted Student Lounge (Building 2).

Painters, Spring 2016
Painted and re-painted lines in parking lots and fire lanes.

Masons, February 2016
Created and placed concrete stops along HCC/PK Elementary School boundary to divert rain run off from the School to the storm drain and to prevent flooding of the Welding Shop.

Masons, February 2016
Excavated, prepared and poured concrete slab behind the Print Shop to prevent flooding of the Print Shop.

Painters, Fall 2015 and Spring 2016
Prepared walls and painted a number of classrooms and common spaces within Building 14 including restrooms, stair wells, hallway and 14-111A & 14-111B.

Masons, November 2015
Prepared and filled in nine 4'X4' tree "planters" on the Mall to enable unimpeded access by emergency vehicles.

Painters (ABC), October 2015
Painted the dumpster enclosure and cafeteria kitchen entryway.

Glaziers, September 2015
Donated and replaced shattered pane of glass on cafeteria store front.

Carpenters, September 2015
Removed shattered pane of glass in cafeteria store front and temporarily boarded up the window.

Electricians (Local 1186), September 2015
Diagnosed and remedied no lights problem in four offices on the 6th floor of Building 7.

Painters, May 2015
Painted eaves and ceiling of Plasterers' pavilion that is located in the back of Building 12.

Masons, April 2015
Extended a section of red brick in Laura Ruby's sculpture between Buildings 2 and 7.

Masons, March and April 2015
Prepared area and poured approximately 8 cubic yards of concrete in front of AMT building to simplify maintenance and create spaces for picnic tables.

Electricians (Local 1186), February 2015
Replaced three old night lights on the exterior of Building 4 with LED fixtures.

Carpenters, February 2015
Removed and replaced termite damaged walls on Mala storage shed.

Painters (ABC), January 2015
Painted Building 4 Ewa-side and Mauka-side walls.

Painters (ABC), January 2015
Re-painted Apprenticeship Office outer wall and raised sign.

Tapers, December 2014
Donated all materials and taped and finished 2'X2' plumbing access panel that was cut into Apprenticeship Office kitchen wall.

Plumbers (ABC), November 2014
Provided materials and repaired leaking copper pipe in Parking Lot 3. Also, donated and replaced a leaking water bib outside of Building 14, Room 114 (Masons' Shop).

Masons, November 2014
Placed concrete piles along the Kokea Street entrances to campus to prevent cars from parking too close to the edges of the driveways. When cars are parked too close to the driveway, drivers exiting the campus don't have a clear view of oncoming traffic on Kokea Street and risk collisions.

Drywall, September 2014
Replaced water damaged and discolored acoustic ceiling tiles in Building 14, Room 212.

Painters, January 2013 - September 2014
Prepped, donated the paint and painted Building 14, Rooms 103A, 103B, 111A and 212.

Electricians (IBEW), September 2014
Installed power switch to air exhaust system in the Building 14, Room 106 (drywall lab) to enable occupants to turn on the exhaust system without going next door to flip the switch.

Masons, September 2014
To remedy tripping hazards, numerous red brick pavers that are located directly beyond the Student Lounge makai entrance (under The Pub) were removed and re-set.

Plumbers (ABC), September 2014
Installed drinking fountain in Building 2 first floor breezeway and assessed functioning of existing fountains on the second to sixth floors.

Painters (ABC), April 2014
Painted Building 5 upstairs walkway walls.

Electricians (Local 1186), April 2014
Diagnosed no power problem with lamp poles across campus.

Floor Layers, April 2014
Provided all materials and re-floored TRIO classroom in Building 3.

Glaziers, March 2014
Completely serviced all cafeteria doors.

Glaziers, March 2014
Serviced and attempted to repair locking mechanisms in double glass doors - Building 27 front and back doors. Components were too old to repair.

Plumbers (ABC), March 2014
Repaired two malfunctioning faucets in Building 4 men's restroom.

Glaziers, March 2014
Serviced and attempted to repair locking mechanisms in double glass doors - back entrance to Building 7. Components were too old to repair.

Plumbers (ABC), February 2014
Repaired leaking copper pipe and installed shut off valve in masons training area (wall) in Lot 3.

Electricians (Local 1186), February 2014
Re-connected power line to classroom building in the carpentry yard.

Electricians (Local 1186), February 2014
Traced and removed unused electrical lines in Building 12.

Carpenters, January 2014
Installed extended support for protruding AC unit on Building 72B walkway to mitigate head bumping hazard.

Masons, January, February, March, April 2014
Removed old and damaged curbs and poured new ones in Lot 3.

Floor Layers, November 2013
Cleaned, prepped and re-set dislodged piece of rubber floor covering in Building 4 entrance.

Floor Layers, November 2013
Cleaned, prepped and replaced damaged tile in TRIO Office in Building 3.

Painters, November 2013
Primed and painted hallway outside of Building 2, Room 609 where the drywall had been repaired.

Painters, October and November 2013
Prepped and painted two 12'X4.5' SeaFlight plastic seating modules.

Carpenters, October 2013
Installed deadbolt locks on men's and women's restrooms in Building 4.

Painters(ABC), October 2013
Painted Bldg. 5 courtyard walkway pillars and Dillingham Blvd. side walls of cafeteria and Bldg. 4.

Masons, October 2013
Repaired 30' of curb in Lot 3 in front of the Carpentry Shop.

Masons, September 2013
Repaired large hole in Maintenance/Print Shop driveway.

Painters (Local 179), April 2013
Prepped and painted Rooms 103 A and 103B in Building 14.

Masons, April 2013
Installed 4" conduit in Building 20 CMU wall for computer lines to be passed through from one room to the next. Conduit donated by Hawaiʻi Electricians (Local 1186).

Masons, March 2013
Formed and poured concrete in dirt area fronting Building 14 to remedy soil run off problem caused by rain.

Painters (ABC), March 2013
Prepped and painted the front exteriors of Buildings 8/9, 13, 16 and 18.

Masons, February 2013
Formed and poured curbs to divert water from Mala storage building.

Masons, December 2012
Installed a new chain post at Lot 2 mauka entrance - original had been knocked over by a truck.

Masons, November 2012
Prepped, formed and poured concrete pad for Print Shop split AC unit.

Masons, November 2012
Plastered the CMU wall that was earlier erected.

Masons, October 2012
Built 6'X30' CMU wall in the back of Building 14 which will serve as a portion of the enclosure for the Tech 1 sustainable garden.

Painters (ABC), October 2012
Primed and painted Building 12, Room 102.

Painters (ABC), September 2012
Primed and painted the plywood construction wall/barrier on the mall-side of Building 7.

Painters (ABC), September 2012
Primed and re-painted the shelter/pick up area that is located in the front of Building 7.

Masons, August 2012
Dug and poured foundation/support for pole supporting green house photo voltaic panel.

Painters (ABC), April 2012
Caulked and painted the PCATT storage building on the Kokea site.

Masons, April 2012
Layed out, formed and poured concrete ramps for the PCATT storage building on the Kokea site and east-side steps of Building 45.

Carpenters, March 2012
Built wooden dexterity and sizes exercise "toy" for Childcare Center.

Sheet Metal, March 2012
Welded nut and bolt dexterity and sizes exercise "toy" for Childcare Center.

Masons, February-April 2012
Prepared site and poured curb and slab in the back of Bldg. 14 to create space for sustainable garden and Welding Dept. waste metal bins.

Roofers , March 2012
Roofed Consruction Academy storage structure.

Masons, March 2012
Formed and poured a curb along the mauka-side wall of the Mala storage to divert rain water and eliminate flooding.

Masons, February and March 2012
Remedied water puddling problem in Gopal's green house by installing ceramic tile on the floors.

Drywall Installers, February 2012
Cleaned out Building 12 - debris from other classes and what had accumulated over the years.

Plumbers, February 2012
Hooked up instant water heater for Apprenticeship Office kitchen sink.

Roofers, February 2012
Roofed PCATT storage on Kokea property.

Carpenters, November 2011 - April 2012
Constructed and erected steel frame PCATT storage on Kokea property.

Masons, November 2011
Ordered and distributed gravel around the Mala with Bobcat. Gravel will be used to create work areas and pathways.

Drywall Installers, October 2011
Installed acoustic drop ceiling in Bldg. 12, Rm. 101

Carpenters, October 2011
Removed termite eaten door jamb, installed new jamb and re-hung door in Bldg. 12, Rm. 101 - Elevator Mechanics' workspace.

Painters (ABC), October 2011
Painted exterior front of Building 12.

Masons, October 2011
Poured slab and curb for Kokea Training Center storage building.

Carpenters, October 2011
Constructed a concrete form for Kokea Training Center storage building.

Masons, August-October, 2011
Formed and poured 200+ feet of curb along the parking Lot 3 Dillingham perimeter.

Carpenters, September 2011
Constructed, erected and dismantled stage for OSHA 40th Anniversary Celebration.

Masons, August 2011
Removed, prepared and re-set red brick in Mise en Scene sculpture/ art work.

Masons, July-November 2011
Prepared wall and applied plaster (Venetian- style) to hallways in Apprenticeship Office hallways.

Masons, May 2011
Ground, prepared and sealed cracks in Mise en Scene sculpture/ art work to prevent further water damage.

Glaziers, May 2011
Donated and cut two pieces of reinforced glass to replace broken panes in AERO facility.

Roofers, April 2011
Roofed (singly ply) the Mala storage building.

Carpenters, April - May 2011
Framed, sheathed and finished Mala storage building.

Masons, April 2011
Formed and poured slab for Mala storage building.

Masons, March 2011
Used bobcat to help move/distribute moss rock as Mala wall was constructed.

Painters (ABC), March 2011
Prepped and painted a classroom in Building 71.

Painters (ABC), February -March 2011
Prepped and painted exterior (courtyard side) of Building 71.

Masons, February 2011
Continued forming and pouring a curb that runs the length of Buildings 20 and 24.

Masons, January 2011
Formed and poured slab and curb along east end of Bldg. 12 (across Welding Shop) to create a cemented area for roll offs when they are brought on campus.

Carpenters, November 2010
Removed base cabinets, counter tops and wall cabinets in Bldg. 2, Rm. 316 in preparation for a room remodel.

Plumbers and Fitters (RC-A), November 2010
Replaced two fans and fan motors in the Bldg.4, Rm 23B central air conditioning unit.

Plumbers (ABC), November 2010
Disconnected plumbing, removed sinks and dismantled cabinets in Bldg. 2, Rm. 316 in preparation for a room remodel.

Roofers, November 2010
Roofed (fiberglass shingle) the new Kokea storage building.

Masons, November 2010
Excavated, formed and poured curb and gutter along the backside of Bldg. 24 (between driveway and planter).

Masons, October 2010
Added two steps to Kokea Training Center steps landing to remedy a potential fall/tripping hazard.

Masons, October 2010
Formed and poured a slab to extend old Kokea Apts. foundation to create more storage and workspace for classes.

Carpenters, September - December 2010
Designed and erected a steel frame storage building next to the Kokea Training Center.

Masons, September 2010
Poured a two piece concrete cover for the greenhouse sump.

Masons, September 2010
Plastered a CMU wall on the outside (Waikiki end) of the Bldg. 2 breezeway to prep for the new MELE sign.

Masons, September 2010
Fixed extreme tripping hazards in Bldg. 20 walkways (mall side) which were caused by tree roots.

Drywall, August 2010
Repaired sagging acoustic ceiling tiles runners in Bldg. 7, Rm. 433.

Masons, August 2010
Poured and finished fiberous concrete slab where the dumpster enclosure used to be and poured small slab between the incinerator lot pedestrian gate and asphalt driveway.

Carpenters, August 2010
Trimmed bottom of doors in new Hawaiian Center (new carpet) and rehung doors.

Masons, August 2010
Demolished CMU dumpster enclosure between Bldgs. 2 and 6 and prepared the site for concrete pour.

Masons, May 2010
Poured pervious concrete sidewalk along Gopal's green house with Carpentry 22 class.

Masons, May 2010
Formed and poured driveway from incinerator lot to Kokea portables.

Masons, April 2010
Formed and poured sidewalk for Kokea portables.

Masons, April 2010
Formed and poured two small slabs in Gopal's pump house.

Masons, April 2010
Plastered CMU retaining wall in front of Gopal's greenhouse.

Masons, April 2010
Erected CMU retaining wall in front of Gopal's greenhouse.

Masons, March 2010
Formed and poured slab for Gopal's greenhouse with Carpentry 22 class.

Masons, January 2010
Prepared, formed and poured concrete slab behind Building 12 for Plasterers' training.

Masons, January, February, March and April 2010
Prepared, formed and poured curb and driveway between Buildings 8 and 13.

Floor Layers, January 2010
Removed old carpet and donated and installed new carpet in Apprenticeship Conference Room.

          Elevator Control Switch        
Chip and Dan Heath, professors, researchers, authors, entrepreneurs, and contributors to Fast Company magazine, have recently released a second book called Switch that claims to help folks manage or initiate change in their lives, businesses, etc. Dan recorded a video about the book for a group of VA Senior Executives to be played during last year’s Senior Management Conference, and his speech is available via VA’s Training Management System (TMS), but no one can find it there because the system’s search engine is about as useful as the following procedure:
1. Set up a manual typewriter next to a cactus in the desert

2. Type the question “what is Switch”

3. Swing the carriage return

4. Stare at the cactus

(but that’s another post)
Dan’s video boils down the message in the book which is essentially: people don’t actually resist change, they resist ambiguity, vagary, lack of direction. Dan points out that folks regularly go willingly toward some of the most massive changes a person can experience by simply breaking them down into manageable next steps. We voluntarily join the military, get married, have kids. Those are some pretty massive changes and humans seem to embrace them, not run from them.

He tells that story to explain this one: we like to think change is hard because we’re all schizophrenic. We have a rational side that fully understands why we shouldn’t spend so much time blogging or Facebooking, why we should drop 10 pounds, or why we should get up early tomorrow. Humans also have an emotional side that ignores the rational side and tells us things like one more drink before last call won’t hurt, or we deserve that donut, or hitting snooze one more time is the right decision. The Heath brothers describe this situation (actually they cite the psychologist who described it) as a rational human rider on the back of an emotional elephant. In a battle, the elephant will obviously win. So, the Heath brothers explain, any call for, or attempt to change anything must come with a rational appeal for the rider and an emotional appeal for the elephant. The rider must break down what it wants the elephant to do into easily manageable key steps and then provide the motivation to make those steps appealing to the elephant. Read the book, or, if by some miracle you can find it in TMS, watch the videos. They’re way better at explaining it than I am.

I told you that story to tell you this one: I was in New Orleans last week for the program in which I played that Switch video for a small group of VHA employees in a leadership training program. The hotel where I stayed, gorgeous though it was, had the strangest elevator control system I’ve ever encountered. Before I go on to describe it I should emphasize that I’m one of the folks who don’t need to read Switch in order to be convinced that humans embrace change. I’ve always enjoyed change. I get bored easily. I’d much rather be involved with creating or implementing or revising the new than with maintaining old. It’s just the way I’m wired. I tell you this so you’ll better understand, and perhaps better be able to help with my dilemma.

Back to the elevator control system. I vaguely recall as I checked in to this hotel, the clerk mentioning that I had to go up two floors (via escalators) to the main elevators in order to get to the guest rooms. Like most big city hotels, the first few floors were conference space, public areas, bars, restaurants, Starbucks, and FedEx store. The clerk also said something about swiping my room keycard in order to use the elevator. That seemed odd from a main floor. As a regular traveler, I belong to several of the major chain’s “preferred customer” groups and so I assumed she referred to those floors or areas reserved for card carrying preferred customers, like a top floor lounge, or the floor with just suites or something like that. I was too busy trying to remember her directions for how to even get up to the elevators to think much more about how my key card might be necessary to operate them. It was a good concern to have cuz it turns out I could have walked to another hotel (with my luggage) in less time than it took to get to these damned elevators.

As I approached them, I realized I should have paid more attention to what she said about how to operate them. Unlike every elevator I’ve ever been in, this bank of four cars had a touch screen on the wall between each pair of cars right where you normally find the simple “up/down” buttons you usually associate with elevator operation. I watched as another guest swiped a key card under the touch screen and walked into the car that opened behind us. My past experience with elevators told me to just follow her rather than fish through pockets for my keycard, and so I dragged my roller suitcase into her car, smiled politely, and then turned to press the button for the 7th floor.

“First day here?” she said from behind me as I began to realize the mistake I’d made. This elevator had no buttons inside it save for the alarm bell, and door open/close buttons.
“You’ll have to ride with me to 15, get out, and swipe your card again to get to your floor. Watch the touchscreen to see which car will take you to 7.”

Her instructions seemed about as clear as the ones I’d already ignored at the front desk – they in no way meshed with my four decades of elevator riding experience - but I smiled and thanked her and then rode quietly to 15 with her. I was silently debating whether I would actually get off at 15 until it dawned on me that staying in an elevator with no buttons on the inside was not a useful activity, so when we arrived at 15, I followed her out. I dug my keycard out of my pocket and swiped it under the touch screen. A keypad similar to the one on my iPhone appeared with the “3” and the “7” “keys” highlighted and flashing. I was a tad confused, but I intuitively tapped the “7” and the screen changed to instructions that said something like “take car A to the 7th floor.” And right about then, the door I’d just exited – car A as it turned out – opened. I stepped in and was whisked back down to the 7th floor.

I felt fairly confident with my success. I had passed the first lesson even if, you might argue, I had failed on my first try ending up on the 15th floor. I was now on floor 7 and could now go back to a more familiar process: searching for an indication of which of the four hallways I should follow to find room 725. I pulled my suitcase along while scanning the walls ahead of me and had far less difficulty finding my room than I had controlling the elevators. But the entire time I walked to my room, entered it, hung up my clothes, drank a glass of water, and headed back out to meet with our conference hosts in the building next door, my thoughts were on that elevator control experience.

Was this touchscreen thing that automatically offered me options a better system than the ones I was used to? It didn’t seem like it. It seemed overly complicated, but did I only think that because it was so new and different from well-established prior experience? More importantly, would I be able to work the system to get myself to the second floor – a floor I previously only set foot on between escalators on my way to the guest room elevators on the third floor – in order to meet with my host? I was about to find out. The elevator bank on the 7th floor was rapidly approaching. I had my keycard out and was ready to scan, but I paused to observe for a moment before I jumped right back into this new game. There were two sets of four elevators. Cars A-D were on the far end of the crossing hallway, and cars E-H; on the end nearest the hallway to my room. I had stopped at the E-H touch pad.

I swiped my card and a message on the touchscreen offered the iPhone-looking keypad again, this time with the “3” highlighted, but right below the keypad grid was another box that said, “lower floors.” I tapped it. At that point a new, less complicated grid popped up that offered “2,” “lobby,” and ”upper floors.” I tapped “2.” The screen then flashed “take car A to the 2nd floor.” I headed over from the E-F bank to the A-D bank, and as you can probably guess by now, got to car A just as the doors were closing. I swiped my keycard again, calling up the increasingly familiar iPhone keypad with the “3” highlighted again and the “lower floors” box below the grid. (Apparently, everyone from every upper floor rides to three and then hikes or escalates to 1 or 2??) I tapped the “lower floors” button again, selected “2” again and read “take car B to the 2nd floor.” I glanced up at the two cars I was facing: A & C. I turned around in time to see the doors to car B closing. (did I mention I had an ear infection, and couldn’t hear the doors opening - or jets taking off, or small arms fire - since my plane landed at Louis Armstrong Airport?) I swiped my card again. Tapped “lower floors” again. Tapped “2” again, and braced myself to launch at the first open door. The screen read “take car B to the 2nd floor.”

I tried that once! I thought, loudly.

This time I was ready though, and I managed to enter car B as the doors were closing. Out of habit, I still looked for buttons to push as the car descended to the 2nd floor. I got out, located the skybridge to the connected federal building next door, and made my way over to my host’s office building’s second floor lobby. I passed a bank of elevators marked “Levels 1-4,” a security desk where a friendly guard told me to have a good afternoon, another bank of elevators marked “Levels 5-9,” and finally, just as I was beginning to wonder what problems folks in New Orleans must have had with just plain old elevators in the past, a bank of elevators marked “Levels 9-15.” To my great relief, the elevators to floors 9-15 were operated by the old standard “up arrow/down arrow” buttons. I pushed the up arrow button and climbed on the first car that opened up. Inside, I found the standard panel of buttons (and in answer to the newly forming question in my head, I could actually choose any floor from 1 through 15 in spite of the signage that forced me to walk all the way past two other banks of perfectly good elevators to get to this one. I guessed that the others would have provided the same selection of floors no matter what the signs said!)

I arrived at floor 10, and in typical government fashion, saw absolutely no signage that would confirm nor deny that I was in the right place. To my left was an opening to a hallway. To my right was a set of decorative glass doors with an empty reception desk behind them bearing a Department of Veterans Affairs seal, but no further hierarchical identification indicating it was in the fact the Human Resources and Recruiting Office headquarters. (there are actually a LOT of Department of Veterans Affairs offices)
I walked through the glass doors until I found someone who instantly recognized me as someone who didn’t really belong. I introduced myself, explained why I was intruding, who I was looking for, and discovered I was in fact in the right place. The meeting (and the entire trip) went well from that point on (except for the cabin pressurization/depressurization effects on my ears on the flight home) but the issue of the hotel elevator controls either nagged or intrigued me, and continues to do so.

Each trip I made to and from my room reminded me that I had yet to decide whether or not this change was an improvement. The elevator touch pad was definitely a cool, Star Trek-like, high tech, futuristic kind of toy, and its inconspicuous, brushed stainless steel frame surrounding the glowing blue screen fit nicely with the newly redecorated hotel interior. There was no doubt that the hardware involved was sexy. These touchpads were sleek, slim, cool looking.
There is also no doubt that they worked, once a new user got the hang of them. No doubt that the inside of the elevator was “cleaner,” sleeker looking without all those buttons cluttering it up. No doubt there are fewer moving parts without a button for each floor plus the buttons outside, etc. I can certainly come up with a list of positive things to say about this new elevator GUI, if I may. But the question remains, is it better. If I could become used to it, does it make my elevator experience better than it was in the past?
I’m not sure I’m ready to make that Switch.

So, my dilemma: Do I suspect this new system is not better only because it is so new? Will I grow to love it once it becomes second nature? Or is it sufficiently overly complex and just the latest failure in a line of attempts to replace what is actually a solid existing system that will require more time and effort (and something WAY better than this) to replace it? And how do you ever know?
          Do Antique Glass Door Knobs Fit Modern Doors – Studio A – Will Powers & Luna Kitsuen        
Do Antique Glass Door Knobs Fit Modern Doors They will ride your cock to orgasm and suck you dry to the very last drop of cum! These naughty girls don t let go of cocks until they milk them dry! That s what we call a double cumshot baby! Lustful lasses with springy boobs of [...]
          Home for the Holidays        

So weird and awesome to be in a real home (of our own!) for the holidays. Didn't have much time since we've moved in to hunt down much holiday decor, but did want to share some of the decorating fun we had. The pretty little wreath above is from Target. The first wreath I bought had ornaments and goodies all over it and was awesome, but was way too wide to fit between the real door and the glass door. Boo. Needed something really narrow, so this one fit the bill. (Dear Target: You never let me down.)

Some of our indoor decor:

Pretty little music box tree from my grandparents, with our real tree (well, our fake real tree) behind it.
Sparkly mini tree and a sparkly deer (from World Market), sitting on top of the awesome cabinet Dac's parents got us as a housewarming gift.
Pretty star dish from my friend Rachel. Love mini ornaments in a bowl. Got the shiny charger for $1.50 from Target (like I said...).
Stockings hung by the chimney with care. Plus some poinsettias that were $1 a piece on Black Friday (Lowes),  and a good ole Fossil tin on the mantle. :)
Then there was our first outdoor light experience. We decided to keep it pretty simple this year. Everyone had been talking about how easy net lights were, so we gave them a try ...

... for the one and only time. Our bushes are just too big for them - they pretty much only cover the top (although I'm sure we could find bigger ones). We actually thought we had bought enough for both sides of our front door based on the footage, but we were way off (didn't help that one of the sets we bought was busted and had to go back). And I don't like that the cords are so noticeable during the day. 
We also hung a lit garland around our door, once again from Target.
Dac putting the finishing touches on it. We just used really small nails in a few places to hang it.

Next year maybe we'll attempt lights on the roof, or at least cover all of our bushes. :)

          Touchscreen Wine Refrigerator        
Touchscreen Wine Refrigerator
Stlish and compact wine fridge features dual temperature zones for your whites and reds, controlled by an external digital touchscreen on the front of a reflective smoked-glass thermopane glass door!

Click Here For Complete Details

          Comment on Top 8 Best Logo In Window Shop/Glass Door Mockup For Free by Los 8 mejores mockups para escaparates - Rotulos Xprinta        
[…] Post original […]
          48" Pocket Door #1: Planning the practice version         

I have the framing and hardware installed for a (nominal) 48” wide pocket door off my front foyer. Well, it needs a door and I’ve decided to have a go at building one.

The other interior doors in my house are the common hollow core, wood grained, 6 panel doors common at the home improvement stores. They are painted white. This door will be just a few feet from the front door, which is a wood grained fiber glass door that looks like a stained & finished wood door (if you don’t look too close). It is also panel style. So its clear that I want a panel style door, but it could be either stained & finished or painted gloss white depending on how it turns out. I plan on matching the sizes of the rails, stiles, and panels that are on the other interior doors, so I am planning on 9 or 12 panels in this door.

Because of the large door width I installed the split studs to handle a 1-3/4” thick door.

I’ve looked at a number of postings on doors here on LJ and also on another woodworking site. It is probably overkill, but I am planning on following more-or-less the construction method described by a1jim here. Because this is a relatively big piece and this process uses a number of techniques that I’ve never done before I’m going to take some advice I got on my earlier post and make the first one out of construction grade 2x’s.

The first part of the process is to build up blanks for the rails and stiles. Jim describes a 1-1/4 core that sounds to me like butcher block, that will be covered with 1/4” skins. I do have a couple of questions I hope someone can help me with:

  1. Should I plan on using a vacuum bag when I go to gluing on the 1/4” skins?
  2. Does finger jointing significantly improve the stability of the blanks? It’s going to feel silly chopping up long stock into short pieces just to assemble them back into long pieces again, but if I do that I suppose that the pieces should be mixed up before assembly.
  3. When its time to make the real door out of hardwood, are there any ways to save money on the material used in the core? Can I use a less expensive species, or is there someplace that will sell short scraps at a discount?

This is looking like it’s going to be quite an educational experience. Ouch.

          You Can't Get Better Than Zero!        
The glass doors swoosh and blow a little air into my face as I leave the underground parking lot and enter the hospital headed for the elevators.  I always push the “up” button with the middle joint of my middle finger. Have you ever thought of how many germs have accumulated on those elevator buttons? ! I am much more cautious about such things now.  
No matter how many times I have entered these doors, rode this elevator, headed for floor number 2, clinic B.  I always think back of my first visit.  It has been 33 months.  Almost three years.  This place used to be my battle zone.  Today I just want to put all of that behind me.  Today I see if I have won the war.
The elevator doors open and I leave my dark memories behind.  I step into the beautiful lobby and almost feel at home as I enter the clinic.  I know many of the nurses and employees by name and even more by face.  I haven’t  been here for six months; I used to spend so much of my life here in the beginning. 
 These people know what I have been through.  They understood the fear in my eyes and the crack in my voice when I began treatment.  They have seen me at my worst.  Holding my hand and reminding me to breathe while I brace myself for the bone marrow biopsy. Drawing countless vials of blood and asking about how my family is doing; What I did for summer vacation. They remind me that I can do this. Hopefully they will see me at my best.
Maybe that is why I wore a dress to my appointment today.  Last Thursday I  went through the usual tests. (see test results on side bar)  Not that there is anything usual or common about them.  Today Dr. Tricot head of research and expert oncologist of multiple myeloma (Not melanoma) will go over test results and discuss with me the “Plan.”  (This is where Alex Trebek comes in with the music from Jeopardy.  Hum a long if you would like. Da da Da da. da da da.)
And this is what he said in his Belgium accent................."Things look perfect and you cannot get better than perfect.”   Which interpreted into Western English means.  I am done with treatment!  My numbers are doing what they are supposed to.  And to further explain he added....."You can't get better than zero!"

I am DONE with treatment
One year of not-one-but-two stem cell transplants. High dose Chemotherapy and recovery.
ONE year of Velcade (more chemo) Thalidomide, Revlimid (ugly friends that help "the velcade go down" and do it's dirty work.
ONE year of the nasty but effective steroid that helped me gain 20 lbs, chubby cheeks, and ADD. (Attention Deficit Disorder.)

So after 33 months of very aggressive treatment I am looking forward to a very, very long remission and hopeful cure.  My beloved Belgium doctor thinks that I have a good shot at it.  I'm taking his word for it.

Stay tuned: What happens now? 

And now for a little help from my friends.  How does one celebrate such an occasion?  Any suggestions from a double scoop of chocolate mint ice cream in a waffle cone to an exotic cruise on a limited budget will be considered.

          28 Rustic Cedar Live Edge Restaurant Table Tops        

28 Rustic Cedar Live Edge Restaurant Table Tops

Finished with Envirotex these will fit right in with the décor at the Evergreen Lodge in Yosemite, Ca. They will get some elbow grease using 600 grit very lightly and #000 steel wool to bring them down from a high gloss to a satin finish. One piece is 14” wide and 120” long bar top. All the rest are 30” wide with one 120” long, 2@72”, 11@48”, 9@30”, 2@32” round no live edge and 2@24” round also no live edge. They are being mounted on heavy metal bases with the 10’ top getting three the 6’ top having two and all the rest needing only one weighted base. I will be delivering 18 of them in two days. All this material was milled from salvage logs. I will make a couple more just to have available for craft shows this summer.

You can see in one photo the Black Oak display cabinet in the background. It has lights mounted in the top with glass doors and shelves for the upper section and raised panel doors for the lower section. This is all solid Oak, no plywood and also milled from salvage logs.

          Days 9 & 10 Plus Storms and Veggies~!        

Update for days 9 & 10:

Nutrition: 248
Fitness: 248
Self-love: 248


In other news...

Tropical Storm Beryl been unloading lots of rain on us for the last few days. I'm not complaining, though! I love rain. I love storms. I turned off my a/c today, opened my sliding glass door and listened as the rain pounded my porch. If I closed my eyes I could imagine myself on a lush tropical island st...
          Studio Stacation        
I say every year that when Memorial Day has come, Summer's done.

I love Summer and this sucks.

My birthday has passed and Labor Day is right around the corner!! Somewhere tucked in there is my wedding anniversary. yay!

I am enjoying my walks w/J & C in the morning and the dancing fireflies in the evening. So at the very least, I am actually enjoying Summer without the burn. I've attempted several evenings to photograph the staccato dance of the fireflies in the yard -alas, they mate incognito. Ewwww...

Okay, now I am a photojournalist: Taking mating-ritual photos of bugs. Hmm. Maybe I'll just collect them in a jar like every 8 year old does and take photos... now I've jumped off the deep end because I was about to mention the "p" word. I guess that all depends to whom I sell the photos, right?

Wait! I was going to mention my Stacation.
While the US celebrates our independence this weekend, we're saddled with a stacation.
Def: Stacation is the result of remaining at home on a holiday break. It may be due to gas prices, lack of coin, studio products, or home improvement projects that need to get done.

Our old home, the typical ranch built after the WII is showing it's signs of age. The next imminent project is replacing a double glass door (in my new production area) with a wall and a couple of windows. Oh joy. I can think of other things I'd rather be doing.

We've broken up our trips to Lowe's so that we can prevent paying for one of those oh-so-cheap rental trucks which isn't so cheap after all. Tonight: large and heavy materials like plywood, sheet rock, and God knows what else.

I am looking forward to completely renovating the workshop.

The photo above is from our trip to Edinburgh just before New Year's. We got some awesome footage of the fireworks and river of fire walk for charity on film -I just need to take the time to figure out how to download it from the camcorder. Oh! I haven't scheduled my one-to-one at the Apple store yet, I could do that this weekend.


Andrew would be so disappointed in me if I ran away from this house project.

Anyone else benefitting from or suffering from a stacation? Best answer gets a prize.
Used  >  Workplace  >  Restaurant Equipment & Supplies

          An Encounter with Aunts and Cousins        
My name is Murali. It all started about a few years ago when I was 18. I went to my Aunt Susila’s house to spend the day playing with my cousins, Bala and Lila. Bala, my paternal uncle’s son, was a year older at 19 and was studying second year B.E. at an Engineering college. He was about my size at 6’0 and couldn’t be more than 165 lbs. Lila (my maternal uncle’s daughter)was my age at 18 and we were both studying first year B.E. at another Engineering college. Lila was the type of girl that you knew would be hot at an early age. She was about 5’6 and maybe weighed 95 lbs., had gorgeous legs and started to develop a beautiful set of boobs. They had to be about a C-cup at the time. The thing that she had going though was her eyes. She got her beautiful pair of eyes from her mother, who also had an amazing pair of eyes. Lila didn’t get her hair color from anyone though; she had perfect black hair that ran just past her waist. Everyone else in her family had silky black hair.

My Aunt Susila (my maternal uncle’s wife) was a few years younger than my mother at 36 and had about the same build. She was about 5’7 and 135 lbs., although most of that weight was due to her boobs. They were amazing at a 36DD, meaning that they really didn’t sag at all. They were just the kind of boobs that you wanted to pop out of a dress and suck on for a week. Aunt Susila had long black hair and an absolutely beautiful round face.

Till last May my maternal uncle Kumar and aunt Susila were living at New Jersey, US. This year Uncle got admission for Lila in an EngineeringCollege in Tamil Nadu. Uncle came to India and occupied his vacant house at ECR Chennai and settled aunt and Lila there and my uncle went back to US. My cousin Bala lives near to my aunts house and he used to visit frequently. My residence is located at a far away place. So I used visit my aunt’s house during vacations.

I never really felt comfortable around their family. I always felt like my Aunt Susila was a little mean to me and Bala always acted like he was too old to hang out with me, like he was better than me. Lila was the only one to make an effort, even though sometimes she would chime in with her mom or cousin Bala and make fun of me. I guess she was a bit of a tease in that sense. When we were alone she would be nice and we would have a great time together, but when she was with her friends she acted like she didn’t know me.

Anyway, we were all playing ball badminton in the court in the backyard as my aunt was sitting under a shady tree near to our court in a chairs. She was sitting up a little reading a book. We had just finished one round (which I lost because my cousins cheated) when Lila and Bala said they were going inside to get something to eat. I stayed there itself while they headed off inside. It was pretty cool climate. The sea breeze started flowing. When I wanted to get inside the house I heard my aunt call out, “come and sit here!” I just waded for a moment embarrassed at being yelled at when my aunt called for me to come over to her.

“Where’s Bala and Lila?” she asked.

“They went inside to get something to eat,” I said.

“Go inside and tell them to get the money from my purse and then to come out here, I need them to walk over to the Spencer store.”
I headed back inside the house and went to the kitchen where I expected they would be, but they weren’t. I thought I heard something from upstairs, but then it was gone. When I heard it the second time I headed upstairs to check it out.

I peered into Lila’s room as it was halfway open. When I looked in I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was Bala standing by bed without his shorts. Lila was down on her knees in front of Bala with his dick in her mouth. She had her eyes closed and was bobbing her head up and down on his pole. She let out soft little hums like “Mmm,” as she continued to work on Bala. Bala, meanwhile, had his eyes. His mouth was open as he let out little groans like “Uggghhh.” I stared and watched for a minute, then crept slowly away and back downstairs. I couldn’t believe what I just saw. I couldn’t think of what I was going to tell my aunt. I headed outside and walked over to her.

“Well, did you tell them? Where are they?” she demanded.

“No, I didn’t see them,”

“Aauggh, fine!” she stammered as she got up to go in the house. I stood there for a minute not sure what to do. I looked down and saw my shorts clinging to my legs. I was wearing these shorts that also had a liner in them. They were thin and stuck to my body, which was embarrassing when my dick shriveled up.

Just then I heard the sliding glass door from the house open and my aunt stood at the entrance and called me inside. She walked to her room with a bottle of sun screen lotion. I also followed inside room. She was sitting on a wooden couch. I saw a crooked little smile on her face that she was trying to conceal as she said, “I can’t find them either, oh well.” Did she really not find them or did she and was just lying like I had? What if she saw them and thought that I saw them? Panic started to set in as she sat down on the couch and reclined it all the way.

“Here, can you put some this on my back?” she asked handing me the bottle of lotion as she got on her stomach. All I could say was “sure” and took the cap off as she undid the tie in the back of her nightie. Now my aunt’s backyard is completely covered by trees around the fences. She just kept the door closed and no one really could see from outside, so I really didn’t worry about anyone seeing me put lotion on my aunt with her nightie untied. I put the lotion on my hands and started to rub it along her back. “Make sure you get my sides too,” she said. I started along the sides by her waist, careful not to go near her boobs, which were spilling out, on both sides of her oily body.

“Auggh, like this” she yelled as she grabbed my right hand and placed it onto the side of her tit. “I told you to apply on my sides!”

I started to rub the lotion all over the side of her tit. “Put your leg over and get the other one too,” she politely said. The other one? She obviously meant her breast but I couldn’t believe she was making me do this. I flung my left leg over her so I was kind of straddling the couch. I put some more lotion on and started to rub both of her boobs simultaneously. “Mmm,” she softly moaned. My legs started to get tired and I started to touch her with my ass. “Go ahead, you can sit down,” she said. I sat down on her nice firm ass and continued rubbing her luscious firm boobs. By now I had gotten a pretty good hard-on that I was trying to prevent from touching my Aunt Susila. But every once in a while it brushed up against her ass.

She asked me to come around in front of her and do her shoulders. As I got up I tried to adjust myself as I was sporting a pretty wicked hard-on. The material from my shorts was still clinging to my leg and you could see the outline of my cock. I did the best I could to hide it and walked in front of my aunt. She propped her head up on her folded arms in front of her and had taken her spectacles off. As I started to work on her shoulders, I poured some more lotion on my hands spilling some onto my shorts.

“Whoops,” my aunt cooed as she started to wipe up the lotion with her fingers. She started to rub her fingers along my cock, which was now starting jump around in my shorts as she played with it. She looked up at me with a little smile and then pulled down my shorts. I just watched as she rubbed the excess lotion up and down on my throbbing prick. It felt so good, to have someone else’s hand touching my dick. I hadn’t even really kissed a girl, yet alone have one jerking me off. Aunt Susila then leaned forward and gave the tip a little lick. She moaned softly as she started licking my shaft all over, even stopping to fondle and lick my balls. Then she leaned up and took my cock in her mouth. I was in heaven! I couldn’t believe the incredible sensation of having my dick sucked for the first time. She was humming around my pecker and took it out a couple of times to lick the head. She would look into my eyes before turning her head back down and engulfing my cock. Finally I started to tense up and knew I was going to cum before she took my dick out and lay back on the couch chair. This was the first time I saw her big, beautiful boobs that I had just rubbed the sides of. They were gorgeous as they hung there and I just wanted to grab them and suck on them. She motioned me over to her as she pulled down her nightie bottoms. I started to crawl up to her breasts but she stopped me and pushed my head down to her crotch.

“It’s my turn now, I want you to eat my pussy like a good boy,” she said. I stared at it, looking at her neatly trimmed bush. Obviously I had never eaten pussy before and didn’t know where to begin, although I was sure I wanted to do it. I looked up at her as she said, “Just start licking it.” I wanted to make my aunt happy and didn’t want to be yelled at again so I dove in and started licking around.

“Yes, ooh, that’s it. Mmm, yes just keep licking. That’s good,” she said as her breathing got heavier.

As I licked her I noticed that it tasted and smelled different, but not bad. Actually her pussy was a pleasant mix of perfume and coconut (from the lotion). I kept licking until my aunt lifted my head and said ok. She then spread her legs for me. “Come here,” she whispered. She started to rub my dick and placed it at the entrance of her sopping wet cunt. She grabbed me by my ass cheeks and told me to push. When I did I felt my dick slip into her warm, wet pussy. She positioned herself below me and put her arms around me.

“That’s it, now just move it in and out ok?” she said as her heavy breathing started catching up to my own.

We started to rock back and forth, careful not to make too much noise, as we didn’t know if Bala and Lila were out. The thought of being in side my aunt’s room with my cock slipping in and out of my beautiful aunt’s cunt was unbelievable. I leaned down and started to suck on her luscious mounds of tit flesh. She grabbed the back of my head as I sucked and licked her nipple for all it was worth. “Yes, yes baby suck on my boobs. Suck on your auntie’s big boobs,” she moaned in my ear. I looked up into her beautiful eyes and just kept moving in and out. It was incredible fucking my aunt. I relished the warm feeling all over my body and the sensation of her cunt muscles massaging my prick. It felt really warm and wet as my cock started to make some squishing noises as I pumped in and out of her. I really wasn’t pounding her or giving her the fucking of a lifetime, I just did as she told me. I just lay on top of her and moved my ass up and down, slipping my cock in and out of her delicious pussy. My dick only slipped out once, mainly because I got lost for a moment trying to switch boobs. My dick was a good seven inches, so I really didn’t have to worry about slipping out too much.

My Aunt Susila grabbed my head and moved it up to hers. “Did you see them? I know you did. I know you saw your cousins. Lila is such a good little cocksucker. Mmmmm, yes, do you like fucking? Do you like fucking your auntie?”

“Yesss,” was all I could muster as I felt myself getting closer.

She let out a little moan and pulled me in to kiss me. I started moving my lips against hers when I suddenly felt her tongue slip into my mouth. Instinct took over and I was soon French kissing my aunt as my cock lay deep in her moist, hot pussy. Our tongues played with each other for a while before I pulled away and stopped for a second.

“What is it? Are you ready to cum baby? Go ahead, you can cum in me. Keep fucking me until you cum inside my pussy, I want you to. Oh, Murali I want you to cum in me so bad. Please, cum for Aunt Susila,” she begged.

That was it, I grunted and gave one final thrust into my aunt’s pussy before I exploded inside of her. I must have let forth at least nine or ten spurts of cum inside my aunt before I just lay on top of her and put my head in between her heavy breasts.

“Get up for a second,” she said as she started to push me back off of her. I sat down on the recliner as she stood up and started to wipe herself a little with her towel. “That was beautiful baby. Was that your first time?” she asked as if she couldn’t tell. I told her it was and she responded by smiling and taking my hand. “Come on, let’s go there,” she said as I followed her into the Lila’s room. As we walked, my limp dick just swayed back and forth, all wet and slimy from my aunt’s mouth and pussy.

We started to head upstairs when I started to hear some loud smacking sounds and groans. My Aunt Susila led me to Lila’s bedroom where I saw Bala pumping his cock into Lila’s snatch. The nude Lila was lysing one her back. I looked up at my aunt and she just smiled at me and led me into the bedroom.

“Can we join?” my aunt asked as we walked over to the bed.

“Murali!” Lila exclaimed as she smiled at us.

“Just a minute mom,” Bala let out as he continued groaning and fucking Lila.

“No, I want you two to save some for us. Pull out from Lila,” my aunt replied.

“Come on aunt I’m almost done,” Bala could barely say as he was about to coat Lila’s pussy walls with his semen.

“NO, NOW,” my aunt demanded.

With that a bitter Bala pulled out from Lila before he could climax. My aunt walked me over to the bed and sat me down. “I just popped Murali’s long cock,” my aunt told to Bala and Lila. “Really?” asked Lila. “Way to go man,” Bala said as he smacked me on the back. “Now I want us all to have some fun since I converted Murali to incest,” my aunt told to Bala and Lila. It really hadn’t dawned on me that what I had just done was incest, I was too consumed by the immense pleasure my aunt had given my dick and being able to suck on her glorious boobs. I started to drift off a little and feel somewhat ashamed when I felt someone’s hand on my dick and looked down to see Lila kneeling on the floor in front of me with her hand on me.

“Mmm, you want me to suck Murali mommy?” Lila asked my aunt.

“Yes, stick his big cock in your mouth honey,” my aunt said.

With that my cousin looked up at me as she opened her mouth and placed my cockhead inside. The sight of my beautiful cousin sucking me while looking up at me quickly brought my dick back to life. God it was such a gorgeous sight. Her beautiful eyes just seemed to pierce my soul as her tongue flickered over the head of my dick. I closed my eyes, tilted my head back and moaned with Lila as she gave me an even better blowjob than my aunt (certainly not taking anything away from my aunt!).

Then I heard my aunt say, “Bala help Lila.”

“Awww,” I heard him reply as I felt him get off the bed. Lila pulled my cock out of her mouth as I felt another hand grab hold of my dick. I looked down to see Bala grab my cock and guide it into Lila’s mouth.

“Yes, suck him good Lila, oh fuck,” my aunt moaned as she played with her big tities.

It was a little weird at first and I started to go soft at the idea of my dick in Lila’s mouth, but I have to admit that Lila was pretty good. She started sucking me louder and harder than either her mother had. Then she took my cock out and spit on the head. She started rubbing her spit all over the head of my cock mixing it with my precum while tonguing the underside of my shaft. “Oh, god yes baby, spit on his nasty cock, oooohhh, suck his balls baby,” my aunt cried as she stuffed two fingers inside her pussy. Lila started to tongue my balls and sucked one into his mouth. God, the feeling was incredible. Bala leaned over and suck Lila’s boobs as she was playing with my rod in his mouth. I started to groan and could feel myself coming close again when my aunt told them to stop. I realized that this girl is fuckable.

“Can Murali lick my pussy mom? Lila asked.

“Not yet, I want him to try something else,” my aunt replied. Else, what else? What else was there to do? I figured maybe she wanted me to fuck her or Lila in the ass like I saw in porno magazines, but other than that what else was there? “Bala, get on the bed,” my aunt directed. Lila sat next to me as Aunt Susila grabbed my arm and pulled me down in front of Lila. My aunt got down on her knees with me and started to rub my dick.

Lila slowly slipped her hand on me and started to rotate her fingers around my nipples I was getting exited and for the first time. She started to pinch my nipples. Then I kissed her and all over her body and started pressing her boobs. Her nipples were completely different (I never saw such nipples any where even in any photo or XXX film) there were light brown in color and were nice and big , they were standing stiff.

“I want you to suck Lila’s hot, wet pussy,” she moaned in my ear. Bala and Lila overheard her and they started to laugh and cheer. “Yeah, suck my pussy bitch!” Lila laughed out. Then I started fingering aunt’s pussy and she was really enjoying it a lot she was shouting like hell and was stroking my rod as hard as she could.

NowI took Lilas nipples in between my fingers and started pressing them. Oh God she was very much exited. “Come on, you can do it,” she whispered in my ear. Lila moved over so she could get a good look and listen to what my aunt was saying.After fingering her for about 10 minutes I watched as my dick began to spread her little lips of her pussy and I kept asking if she was sure or if she wanted to stop the whole time. I felt the tip of my dick encased around by the ring of her pussy and almost came.I was in her and now she rode up and down. I stopped her and spun her around so I could rub her tits and clit as she rode me.
“Come on Murali, Lila did it to you so you have to do it to her, it’s only fair,” my aunt said.

As I did both things She came all over my dick as I came in her. Lila was enjoying my hard hits.
“Yeah, come on man, fuck me hard as you fucked my mom,” said Lila after getting exited.

“Now stroke your ass like a good boy,” my aunt said to me. Aunt’s expert advice was helping me. I couldn't lose my hard on and she kept sliding up and down on my shaft the tightness owning me more with each stroke.My cousin leaned back and pushed her pussy towards me to receive my cock fully into her. My aunt continued to push me closer to Lila when her pussy hair brushed up against my cock.
“Ooohhhh, gooodddd, yeeeessss, do it,” my aunt moaned as she started working on Bala’s dick and pushed me towards Lila.

My aunt and sucked Bala’s dick and she kissed. Bala pulled her up and started kissing her. It was so hot that Bala might might have got the feeling of cumming. So he unbuttoned aunt’s nightie and started sucking on her big tits. He took her to another couch and pulled her nightie off and he licked her sweet pussy.Aunt was encouraging Bala to fuck her hard. “Come on Baby Do it hard.” She guided him to stick his rock hard cock in her and that's what he did. She was the wettest woman. Bala was positioning himself between aunt’s leg. He was standing and leaning towards aunt. Aunt was lying back on the couch. He started entering into aunt’s hole. Now he started pumping with an expertise. Perhaps aunt might have taught him. He continued with hard hits. They have changed positions and she got on top of him. She rode on him and he told her he was gonna cum and he tried to hit harder and harder strokes. Aunt guided him to cum inside her. She kept it in and he shot inside of her. She also came at the same time and he grabbed her huge tits while she was cumming.I was busy trying to figure out what to do as my eyes were closed with my cock in my cousin’s pussy.

“Fuck me Murali! Use your full strength Murali, hit me stronly” Lila directed me.
I started to work my tongue around the underside of her pussy as it was the only place I could. Then my cousin started to pull her pussy.

"Enjoying yourself?" Murali asked Lila as he was sitting between her legs. I leaned forward and stroking hardly. I felt her hips rise and fall as I dug my cock into her sweet pussy. The cum ran down the cheeks of her ass. She couldn't stop talking about how good she felt."Lila, oh gezz, I'm cumming, oh yeah, my little Lila," I started cumming inside her. I understood that her pussy was also pouring her cum. I also felt that I was burst out and started cumming and I could feel it running down from my dick, and in between my hips. The liquid was warm, and as it passed through the crease between my hips, it felt cool. The slick wetness felt good.

“That’s because she likes it,” my aunt said. “You like it don’t you Murali, you like fucking me and Lila. God you’re a little fucker,” my aunt moaned in my ear.

I was very fortunate to fuck mother and daughter same day and at same place.
          El Deafo        
El Deafo
author: Cece Bell
name: Robyn
average rating: 4.12
book published: 2014
rating: 4
read at: 2015/02/08
date added: 2017/08/02
shelves: graphic-novel, juvenile, autobiography, diverse-authors
First Line: I was a regular little kid.

Dear Cece,

I was born in the early 80s, so we probably wouldn't have been friends since you were an older, wiser girl and I was just a little kid. I wonder if years and distance weren't separating us if we would have been friends. Would I have been one of the kids who just stared? I like to think little 7 year-old, Care Bear and Cabbage Patch loving Robyn would have just walked up to you and started jabbering up a conversation. Sadly I won't know. Anyway, I loved your book! Reminds me of another author (who I actually got to meet last year!) who wrote down a favorite quote on a piece of paper for me to keep. It was about mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors.


          Ruby, Diesel, Roscoe, Freya, and Ziggy        

We all love our Gizzy quilts - and they flew a long way - all the way to New Zealand. We are a family of 4 Maine Coons living with big sister Ruby who keeps us all in line. We don't have a blog yet (Mum's too busy, but we are working on it ...). It's been winter here, so having the quilts to snuggle up in has been wonderful. And having them on the chairs stops visitors getting covered in cat furs when they sit down! We all think Millie's mum is just so clever and we have ordered the Halloween Gizzy - hope we got in first! The photos show the quilts separately, and us modelling them, so you can see how well they match our furs. Without further ado - introducing:

Ruby - I'm the oldest (8 years). I had a beautiful ginger brother but he went to the bridge when I was only 2, so mum who loves gingers and saw some Maine Coons at a cat show was smitten, so that's how Diesel got to join the family.

Diesel - I'm 6 1/2 years old and a BIG boy - around 9 kg which is about 20 lbs. Maine Coons were still quite rare in New Zealand when Mum got me, but she was so impressed with my looks and my lovely nature, she couldn't resist getting one (or three!) more.

I'm Roscoe (silver grey tabby), and that's my sister Freya (red-shaded silver) below. We're 6 years old. Freya says sorry for the photo of her on the quilt - but she is shy, and it was hard getting her to pose. You can see me and the baby of the family, Ziggy, looking in through the glass doors.

Hi, I'm Ziggy, and I've just turned 2. I have a lot of growing to do (Maine Coons don't fully mature until 3 to 4 years of age) but I don't think I'll end up quite as big as Diesel. That doesn't stop me trying to rassle him all the time though. He's a very tolerant big brother; if he's had enough he just sits on me!

Thank you Millie's mum. We think our quilts are just wonderful.

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          Element 9 Physical & Psychological Health – Hazards & Control        

A slightly different tack on this element as I am a bit behind on the course, but an excellent source of information is Andy Brazier's page lots and lots of stuff here. I even bought his book for a £5 it's a bargain. Below is chapter 13 covering the relevant topic

Physical and psychological hazards

The following can cause physical and/or psychological harm:

Ionising and non-ionising radiation;

  • Noise;
  • Vibrations;
  • High or low temperatures;
  • High humidity;
  • Poor ergonomics - body position;
  • Repetitive actions;
  • Fatigue;
  • Stress.

Ionising radiation

Ionising radiation occurs as either electromagnetic rays (such as X-rays and gamma rays) or particles (such as alpha and beta particles). It occurs naturally (e.g. radon gas) but can also be produced artificially. Everyone receives some exposure to natural background radiation.

It is used or occurs in the following work settings

  • Medicine (for diagnosis and treatment);
  • Industry (for measurement and non-destructive testing);
  • Power generation (nuclear power stations);
  • Research and teaching.

Exposure to ionising radiation can alter human cells. It can cause radiation burns, poisoning and lead to cancer. It can be dangerous to unborn babies. Exposure can be directly from a source of ionising radiation. Consequences can be particularly severe when radioactive material is ingested as the exposure lasts as long as the material is inside the body.

Ionising Radiation Regulations 1999 require employers to make sure exposure is restricted as far as reasonable practicable and is kept below dose limits. Practices must be authorised by the HSE and suitable risk assessments need to be carried out prior to work commencing and reviewed at suitable intervals. Where radiation accidents are reasonably foreseeable, contingency plans need to be developed.

Employers need to appointment Radiation Protection Advisers (often an individual from a specialist company) who achieve competence in the management of risk due to ionising radiation. They should be consulted with to ensure regulations are being complied with.

The regulations specify circumstances when controlled areas need to be defined because people may be exposed to certain levels of ionising radiation within them. Where such areas are necessary it is a requirement to develop .Local Rules. And appoint Radiation Protection Supervisors who have a fundamental role in ensuring compliance with regulations and local rules. They do not need to be present at the worksite at all times, but are the first point of contact for help and advice and so need to be readily available.

People who have the potential to be exposed to certain levels of ionising radiation need to be designated as a .Classified Person. and their dose must be monitored and records kept. Action needs to be taken where someone is exposed to excessive doses of ionising radiation.

Non-ionising radiation

Non-ionising electromagnetic radiation (NIEMR) is the term used to describe the part of the electromagnetic spectrum covering two main regions

  1. Optical radiation including ultraviolet (UV), visible light and infrared.

    Hazardous exposure may result from the sun, sunbeds, lasers and welding.

  2. Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) including power frequencies, microwaves and radio frequencies.

Exposure of the eyes to UV radiation can damage the cornea and produce pain and symptoms similar to that of sand in the eye.

The effects on the skin range from redness, burning and accelerated ageing through to various types of skin cancer.

High-power lasers can cause serious damage to the eye (including blindness) as well as producing skin burns.

Exposure of people to high levels of EMFs can give rise to acute effects. The effects depend on the frequency, with low frequencies affecting the central nervous system and high frequencies causing heating effects that can lead to a rise in body temperature. In reality, these effects are extremely rare and will not occur in most day-to-day work situations

Noise at work can cause hearing loss. This may be temporary, but continued exposure, or short term exposure to very high noise can cause permanent damage.

Also, exposure to high levels of noise can cause tinnitus (ringing, whistling, buzzing or humming in the ears) and working in a noisy environment makes communication difficult and can mean people cannot hear warnings and alarms.

Noise levels are measured in Decibels (dB). Control of Noise at Work Regulations

2005 set limits for short and long term exposure and require employers to:

Assess the risks to their employees from noise at work;

  • Take action to reduce the noise exposure that produces those risks;
  • Provide employees with hearing protection if the noise exposure cannot be reduced enough using other methods;
  • Make sure the legal limits on noise exposure are not exceeded;
  • Provide employees with information, instruction and training;
  • Carry out health surveillance where there is a risk to health.

Legal limits are defined in three categories

  1. Lower exposure action values which are a daily or weekly exposure of 80 dB or peak sound pressure of 135 dB . above these levels hearing protection must be available for employees (although they do not need to use it) and information and training must be given regarding the risks and controls;
  2. Upper exposure action values which are a daily or weekly exposure of 85 dB or peak sound pressure of 137 dB . above these levels the noise must be reduced to as low as reasonably practicable and employees must wear hearing protection;
  3. Maximum exposure limit values which are a daily or weekly exposure of 87 dB or peak sound pressure of 140 dB . exposure must not exceed these levels.

A key element of the regulations is that noise levels should be reduced before

considering hearing protection. Employees have a duty to co-operate with their

employers in protecting hearing, including wearing hearing protection provided.

Reference . .Noise at work Guidance for employers on the Control of Noise at

Work Regulations 2005. available free at


There are two main concerns regarding vibration

  1. Whole body vibration
  2. Hand arm vibration

Whole-body vibration is shaking or jolting of the human body through a supporting surface (usually a seat or the floor), for example when driving or riding on a vehicle along an unmade road, operating earthmoving machines or standing on a structure attached to a large, powerful, fixed machine which is impacting or vibrating. It can cause back pain, often aggravating a previous problem.

Hand-arm vibration can be caused by operating hand-held power tools (e.g. road breakers), hand-guided equipment (e.g. powered lawnmowers) or by holding materials being processed by machines (e.g. using pedestal grinders). Regular and frequent exposure to hand-arm vibration can lead to permanent health effects (occasional exposure is unlikely to cause ill health).

Symptoms include:

  • Tingling and numbness in the fingers;
  • Not being able to feel things properly;
  • Loss of strength in the hands;
  • The fingers going white (blanching) and becoming red and painful on recovery (particularly in the cold and wet, and probably only in the tips at first).
  • Continued exposure can mean people cannot use their fingers properly, especially in cold conditions.

The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations require employers to:

Assess the vibration risk to employees;

  • Decide if they are likely to be exposed above the daily exposure action value (EAV), and if so introduce a programme of controls to eliminate risk, or reduce exposure to as low; and provide health surveillance
  • Decide if they are likely to be exposed above the daily exposure limit value (ELV) and if they are take immediate action to reduce their exposure below the limit value;
  • Provide information and training to employees on health risks and the actions you are taking to control those risks;
  • Consult trade union safety representative or employee representative on your proposals to control risk and to provide health surveillance;
  • Keep a record of risk assessment and control actions;
  • Keep health records for employees under health surveillance;
  • Review and update your risk assessment regularly.

The exposure action value (EAV) is a daily amount of vibration exposure above which employers are required to take action to control exposure.

For hand-arm vibration the EAV is a daily exposure of 2.5 m/s2 A(8) and for whole body vibration 0.5 m/s2 A(8)

The exposure limit value (ELV) is the maximum amount of vibration an employee may be exposed to on any single day. For hand-arm vibration the ELV is a daily exposure of 5 m/s2 A(8) and for whole body vibration 1.15 m/s2 A(8)

Reference . .Control back-pain risks from whole-body vibration. available free at

Reference . .Control the risks from hand-arm vibration. available free at


Working in conditions that are too hot can cause heat stress that can affect a person.s ability to work, potentially leading to heat exhaustion and heat stroke (can result in unconsciousness and can be fatal). Also, dehydration.

Working in cold conditions can cause cold stress and hypo-thermia.

Temperatures in the workplace are covered by the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992. Employers must provide a .reasonable. temperature in the workplace.

It is suggested that the minimum temperature in workrooms should normally be at least 16 degrees Celsius, or 13 degrees Celsius if much of the work indoors involves severe physical effort. A meaningful figure cannot be given at the upper end of the scale because other factors have an affect including radiant temperature, humidity and air velocity.


Humidity is the amount of water vapour in air. Levels are usually quoted as relative humidity, which is the ratio between the actual amount of water vapour in the air and the maximum amount of water vapour that the air can hold at that air temperature High relative humidity (>80%) starts to prevent evaporation of sweat from the body. This evaporation is a major way of regulating body temperature. Therefore, high humidity can contribute to heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Humidity is particularly a concern when people are required to wear extra clothing (i.e. in the form of personal protective equipment PPE). In this case the humidity inside clothing can be significantly higher than outside.

Humidity is covered by the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992.

Managing the risks associated with physical hazards


Ergonomics is the application of scientific information concerning humans to the design of objects, systems and environment for human use. The aim is to use this information to ensure comfort, efficiency, productivity and safety. Ergonomics comes into everything which involves people. In a phrase, the job must .fit the person. in all respects, and the work situation should not compromise human capabilities and limitations.

Ergonomics covers anatomy, physiology and psychology.

Neck and back pain

Neck and back pain can arise in many situations, but the following are known to cause problems:

  • Heavy manual labour;
  • Manual handling in awkward places;
  • Repetitive tasks;
  • Sitting at a workstation for a long time (especially if not set up properly);
  • Stooping, bending over or crouching (poor posture);
  • Pushing, pulling or dragging excessive loads;
  • Stretching, twisting and reaching;
  • Prolonged periods in one position, leading to postural strain;
  • Situations where the whole body is subjected to vibration, jolting and jarring (including driving long distances or over rough ground).

As with many ill health conditions, some people are more susceptible to back pain than others.

HSE have dedicated web pages for neck and back pain at

Work related upper limb disorders (WRULD)

WRULD, sometimes known as repetitive strain injury are problems with the shoulder and arm, including the forearm, elbow, wrist, hand and fingers, and can include neck pain. Any type of work that involves a worker using their arms to carry out tasks can lead to WRULDs, although they are frequently associated with computer use and assembly work. Symptoms include tenderness, aches and pain, stiffness, weakness, tingling, numbness, cramp and swelling.

  • Risk factors include:
  • Repeating an action;
  • Uncomfortable working position;
  • Using a lot of force;
  • Carrying out a task for a long period of time;
  • Poor working environment;
  • Psychosocial issues (lack of control or status).

Finding solutions is not always easy, and it is important to recognise that people are different sizes, have different abilities and some are more susceptible due to disabilities. Certainly workstation and job design can have a significant impact, but behaviours are equally important, including posture, exercise and taking breaks. People need to be informed of the risks and how to minimise them. If someone contracts WRULD it may be sufficient for them to change their working methods. However, in some cases medical treatment and rehabilitation may be required.

Reference- Aching arms (or RSI) in small businesses, available free at

Display screen equipment (DSE)

Poor physical layout of DSE workstations can cause WRULD. Also, screen glare and poor image quality can contribute to tired or sore eyes and headaches (especially for people who wear contact lenses or bi-focal glasses). People using

DSE can suffer from stress due to the expected pace of work or anxiety about new technology.

There is no evidence to suggest radiation from screens is a problem, even for pregnant women. A few people claim skin problems, but this is more likely to be with air quality (that may be affected by electrical equipment) rather than the DSE itself. A small number of epileptics may have problems.

The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 require that operators or users have:

  • Adequate training and information;
  • Proper breaks or changes of activity;
  • Work stations suitable for them which meet, where necessary, the standards in the schedule;
  • Eye tests if they request them.

There are many devices available that are designed to minimise health impacts from using DSE. They include specialised computer mice, document holders and arm rests. As with WRULD, whilst these can assist it is often behaviour (combined with well design standard DSE) that can have the greatest impact.

Reference . .Working with VDUs. available free at

Working environment

Welfare and hygiene

People cannot remain healthy at work if their basic welfare needs are not catered for. This includes the following:

  • Toilets;
  • Facilities to wash (including showers where necessary);
  • Drinking water supply;
  • Places to eat;
  • Places to change and store clothes (if work clothes are required);
  • Rest facilities for pregnant women (i.e. reasonably practicable).

It is important to recognise that people eating with dirty hands can result in them ingesting hazardous materials. Also, that dirty clothes can mean people taking hazardous materials into their car and possibly home to their family.

Facilities have to be kept clean, in good condition and supplied with materials (e.g. toilet paper, soap). Also, rooms need to be well ventilated and at a reasonable temperature (not too hot or cold).

These requirements are all covered by the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992.

A safe place to work

The following fall into the category of general safety:

  • Lighting must be sufficient for people to work safely;
  • People need enough space. As a minimum there should be 11m3 per person (with any height above 3m being considered as 3m for this calculation);
  • Floors and traffic routes must be sound and strong enough. They must not have holes, not be slippery or obstructed;
  • Handrails must be provided for stairways;
  • Clear/glass doors must be arranged so people are not liable to walk into them, and they need to be protected against breaking;
  • It must be possible to clean windows safely;
  • Doors that swing both ways must allow people to see through so people behind them are not hurt;
  • Escalators and moving walkways must be of safe design and condition, and have emergency stop buttons.

Reference: Workplace health, safety and welfare - a short guide for managers, available free at


Stress is the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them. Whilst pressure is an integral part of work and helps to keep people motivated, when it is excessive it can lead to stress. Stress causes chemicals to be released into the body that impact on how the body works. Overtime this can cause significant health problems. Also, stress affects peoples. concentration, information processing and decision making, which undermines their performance and can cause them to commit errors or behave unsafely.

The primary sources of stress at work include:

  • High demands, excessive workload, unhealthy work patterns and working poor environment;
  • Lack of control, no say in the way they do their work;
  • Lack of support, lack of encouragement and resources from the organisation;
  • Poor relationship, tension with management or colleagues and a failure to deal with unacceptable behaviour such as bullying;
  • Poorly defined roles .people not understanding their responsibilities or the scope of their job;
  • Poorly managed change . people not considered in the change management process or not given sufficient information about what is happening or why.

Organisations should have systems in place to manage stress. They should include a policy, organisation and arrangements to identify potential stress (through risk assessment), actual stress (sickness rates) and deal with it. Proactive monitoring of stress, often through the use of staff surveys, should be part of the arrangements. The HSE have a website dedicated to stress at


Fatigue occurs when people get very tired over a long time and/or are unable to rest. It significantly increases the likelihood of human error and over the long term can cause of contribute to stress (with subsequent health problems). Poor working conditions (e.g. noise, lighting, DSE) tend to increase levels of fatigue.

Shift and night work

Shift and night workers are particularly prone to fatigue because their workingpatterns differ from natural .circadian rhythms,. meaning they have to be awake when their body wants to be asleep. They are known to be prone to stomach, heart and psychological problems. Also, working unusual hours can impact on relationships causing stress.

People working at night are likely to be tired and so prone to errors. Also, it is likely to be dark and there is usually less support (e.g. technical), which can create problems.

Good shift patterns and controls over hours actually worked can minimise fatigue.

Plenty of exercise, a healthy diet and getting sleep whenever possible are particularly important for shift and night workers to minimise the risks due to their patterns of work.

          West Sac market firebombed        
NEWS-LEDGER ONLINE — NOV 10, 2014 — West Sacramento police are looking for a person who tossed a ‘Molotov cocktail’ through the window of Venera European Market at 2927 West Capitol Avenue early this morning. Police responded to a commercial burglary alarm “to find the front glass door broken and smoke coming from inside the [...]
          What we did on our summer staycation        
Last week, Jeff and I took the week off together and stayed home and had a great time doing, well, stuff. Jeff read and studied and wrote and actually finished his current online college course a week in advance. This particular course crams 12 regular semester weeks into 7 or so, so that was quite an accomplishment. So proud! If you have questions about the progress of western civilization up to the time of the Renaissance, you now have your go-to guy. Other than that, it was mostly staying home and doing things in a fairly non-stressed way. The weather has been weird and wet and stiflingly hot, a typical August for Florida, I suppose, so I stayed out of our totally unkempt yard except for tending my tiny garden starts. Can you believe it's almost time to garden again here? Circle of life and all that.

I painted the bathroom red. Home Depot calls it "Chianti," and how I wish I had that paint-sample-naming job! Jeff gently pushed me away from the grey family and suggested red, and it looks great with the white and black tile in there.

I also, after almost three months, finished the refinishing of the front door.

And instead of painting the office, which I now know would have been a nightmare, we got rid of an inadequate low bookshelf and bought a larger one with glass doors from the fine folk at IKEA. Two hours of assembly and one trip back to Tampa to replace one teeny, tiny, totally crucial screw later, it looks great. Re-arranged some furniture, covered some magnetic boards with coordinating fabrics (yeah, I used duct tape, so what?), and now we have a much more balanced, if impossible to photograph, space.

What else? Let's see. I read 400 pages of this, which is the second in a series and quite good:

I cooked. Pork tenderloin with mushroom and Calvados cream sauce, New England fish chowder and my very first Tarte Tatin from Julia Child's recipe. I let it go about 45 seconds too long, but it wasn't nearly as burnt as this lousy photo implies. And the photo certainly doesn't tell you how it tasted, which was jaw-droppingly good. Flour, butter, sugar, apples. Four simple ingredients turned into pure deliciousness through the chemical alchemy brought on by heat. I never fail to be amazed by the everyday miracles we encounter and so often fail to appreciate. Sure sure, a guy landed a plane on a river and saved everyone or it rained frogs in Kansas, but have you tasted this??

We watched movies. "District 9" was excellent. "Milk" was quite good. "Watchmen" was a very disappointing bore of bores. And "Cosmos" always made an excellent background for my other major staycation project.

I knitted my very first sweater. No, really, a whole sweater, with sleeves that are four inches too long and everything! The whole thing is about a size too big, which goes to show that maybe you shouldn't guess how big your body is before you choose your knitting pattern variation. It's bulky but perfect for lounging around the house on a chilly day. Clearly, my seam-sewing needs some practice but, hey, I knitted an entire, wearable, non-embarrassing sweater! Another little everyday miracle.

I'm sure we did other things in our seven days together, but that rounds up the big stuff. Good times! Here's hoping everyone had a jolly and productive summer vacation, too. This weekend we're back to the school year pattern, and so it goes.
          PUBCAST: Public Speaking, Motivation and Creating a Working Environment        
Preparing to Speak
- I am not a seasoned public speaker. It makes me nervous. I have long had a fear of it. But I am learning to enjoy it. It all comes down to preparation.
- DON’T WAIT UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE (or at least the VERY LAST minute)
- Pick a topic you have talked about before and are passionate about.
- Break it down into a pain, a story and a solution.
- Create an outline first and slides second.
- Ask the audience questions. Get them involved.
- Plan everything but also plan for spontaneity
- Limit the text on each slide. Use slides as a guide to keep you on track, not as the entire content.
- Do something fun, entertaining or unexpected.
- Write and re-write. Practice by yourself and for someone else. And edit again. Time it. 
On SMMW 15
- So awesome. 
- Everyone going to be there.
- This time I’m going to have friends with me — RECOMMENDED for shy, antisocial types!
- Go to stuff, but don’t feel like you need to go to everything!
- Have a plan!
- Planning on quick “Pubcast” style interviews.
- No real expectations, except that I expect to enjoy myself!
On Vacations, Relaxing and LETTING GO
- I’m going to get as much work done as I can before leaving
- I’m going to do as little work as I can when I’m there
- Seeing the sights with my family
- Not going to be cooped up in a room
- I will do less. Something will slip. And it will be OKAY.
- It’s also why I have a team. My business will not implode.
- If you don’t have a team now, work towards having one — or work towards having some sort of backup plan when you’re away — so you can enjoy it!
On how you must be motivated by more than money
- Baseball season
- Every decision I make is with this time of year in mind (partnerships, public speaking, traveling, commitments)
- You must decide what motivates you. Envision what you desire and envision the motivation — the big way — and allow it to guide you.
- This weekend, my boys’ baseball seasons officially get under way. And our lives are about to get crazy.
- I work from home because of this time of year.
- I started my own business because of this time of year.
- I rarely travel because of this time of year.
- I have created a scalable business that requires less of my time, less maintenance, less production because of this time of the year.
On creating an environment that is perfect for production
- I have a cluttered desk.
- I share an office with my family.
- The office has a glass door and sits immediately outside the entryway to the house from the garage.
- New office is downstairs, away from everyone.
- New office will combine video studio, audio studio and writing/production.
- New office will have one big, empty white wall for recording, carpet for sound absorption.
- New office will have a standing desk, beanbag chair and treadmill.
- New office will be DECLUTTERED and have only what I need to be productive.


- It doesn’t mean designing a new room. But create a space for production, free of distractions.

          Fort Walton Beach FL Condo        

Fort Walton Beach FL Condo 13th Floor Suite! Waterfront, boat docks. Gulf of Mexico view from your Master Suite, Living and Dining Rooms, & even Kitchen! Open concept enhances views of the Sound and Gulf! Features include sliding glass doors to a spacious deck, large rooms, granite counter tops and tile floors, ample storage, interior […]

The post Fort Walton Beach FL Condo appeared first on Southwest FL Real Estate.

          Best Honeymoon Beach Resorts in Thailand        
Thailand is one of many countries in South East Asia that has best honeymoon beach resorts. This fact has been proved by thousand of traveler, where they can find some ultimate romantic and exotic resorts. The resorts offer white beaches, breathtaking views with beautiful scenery and tropical climate that are very perfect for wedding and honeymoon. Follow this article to know more the best honeymoon beach resorts in Thailand for reference of your honeymoon planning.

1. The Paresa Resort, Phuket

The Paresa Resort is including one of the most honeymoon beach resort in Phuket. Here, you will find the lifetime romantic experience. It is located in the high upon a sharp cliff that offers a heaven for couple. All the building is designed on the ancient indigenous forests and overlooks to the blue water of Andaman Sea to provide a spectacular experience for the guests. The resort provides 49 individual suites that faces the sea and offers award winning facilities.

Each couple allows enjoying snorkeling, scuba diving, boating and hiking. They can also enjoying cuisines on their own private deck overlooking the sea, spending time by swimming with the couple in the cliff-side swimming pool and getting relaxation with the massage and spa.

Yes, the entire amenity is provided for the unforgettable experience during your honeymoon.

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2. Sri Panwa Villas, Phuket

The resort is located in the Southeast Phuket that provides spectacular amenities such as a private swimming pool, a private outdoor soaking tub and a jet stream spa pool. It also offers a secluded tropical environment with the stunning panoramic views because it lies on 180 feet above the sea level. The entire suite has sliding glass doors that overlooking the private terrace features and private swimming pool. It is really elegant design.

Here, you can enjoy many kinds of cuisines and treat yourself to the spa and skin treatments. Yes, the resort always offers best services for the entire guest.

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3. Le Meridien Beach and Spa Resort

Le Meridien Beach and Spa Resort is the resort provides three separate swimming pools, putting greens, six restaurants and the award winning spa. The resort is really presents perfect services for the guests. The large swimming pool, big restaurant and the award winning spa are the proof that the resort focuses on the comfort of the visitors.

Here, you will find the sandy beach with coconut palms, waterfalls, caves and exploring mountain service. You can also enjoy sea diving and fishing excursions.

Yes, the resort will allow you make spectacular and unforgettable memories during your honeymoon and come to your home with satisfaction.

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Honeymoon is the special moment; I think it is a good idea if you consider the best honeymoon beach resorts in Thailand for planning your vacation.

Related Posts :

Top 5 Beaches for vacation in Thailand
Top 5 Best Vacation Destination in Thailand

          Best Vacation Resorts in Palawan, Philippines        
Palawan, Philippines is the most popular place that has many best resorts for vacation throughout the year. The resorts promise you perfect accommodation and logistics as well as services for your excellent vacation for getting the best beaches for swimming, surfing and diving and serve special culinary of the country. Yes, the resorts focus on creating satisfaction and unforgettable vacation for tourists. Follow the article to know more about best vacation resorts in Palawan, Philippines for determining your vacation planning in Philippines.

1. Lagen Island Resort, El Nido, Palawan

Lagen Island Resort provides 50 rooms that are divided into many accommodation types such as Water Cottages on the both sides of its cove, Forest Rooms and Forest Suits that built on the fringes of a tropical forest and Beach Cottages with a view of the sunset beach.
Rooms and cottages apply the floors of antique wood and full-height sliding glass doors with the best choice of furniture made of timber Filipino houses. The design allows the guests enjoy the view of the cove, bay, cliffs and sunset.

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2. Miniloc Resort, El Nido, Palawan

Miniloc Island Resort also has 50 rooms on a variety of types involve Water Cottages, Waterside Cottages, Standard and Deluxe Seaview Rooms, Beachside Cottages, Cliff Cottages and Garden Cottages.
The rooms and cottages apply thatched roofs and furniture of native Filipino materials that give the best touch of Philippine’s culture. The resort also provides a mini bar, private toilet with the hair dryer and showers facilities. The resort focuses on the guests can enjoy the views of the nearby islands and coves.

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3. Apulit Island, Taytay, Palawan

Apulit Island Resort provides fifty Water Cottages that divides into two types, thirty Standard Water Cottages and twenty Dekuxe Water Cottages. All the cottages combine traditional and modern design of Filipino with the high touch of art to present the unique cottages that different with others.
Every room in the cottage is designed by the luxury architecture that allows the guests to getting the surrounding island view and dramatic limestone cliffs. The resort also accompanied by the custom-made furniture for creating perfect touch of Filipino art.

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4. Pangulasian Island, El Nido, Palawan

Pangulasian Island Resort presents 42 deluxe accommodation buildings that are designed by the touch of Filipino architecture which the special services such as a private sunset cruise, romantic beach dinner and the spa that provides a choice of luxurious treatments.
The entire of buildings are divided into three types, Canopy villas, Beach villas and Pool villas that accompanied by villa features and special amenities such as Wi-Fi access, iPod dock, satellite TV, coffee and tea making facilities and mini bar. The resort is really wanted to present the comfort place for the guests, so they will feel at home.

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Finding the best vacation resorts in Palawan, Philippines will help you creating the comfortable and happy vacation during your holidays. Now, determine your favorite place among the resorts.

Related Posts :

Top 5 Beaches for Vacation in Philippines
5 Best Vacation Destinations in Palawan,Philippines

          Types of Commercial Refrigeration Systems        
Commercial Refrigeration Equipment Industry A commercial refrigeration system is a free-standing piece of equipment which provides cold storage for a commercial kitchen. There is a variety of commercial refrigeration equipment available in the market, both freezers and refrigerators which range from reach-in coolers to walk-in freezers. There is a growing demand by consumers for commercial refrigeration equipment Market []for food and beverage storage. There is also an ongoing trend of people dining out for meals. Consumers are also buying frozen food items which they want to store and keep for future use.  These two major factors contribute to the growth of this market. Other factors which drive the growth of this market are the increase in consumption of processed food, boom in horticulture around the world, and growing sea food exports. Refrigerators are an important item in every household. Refrigerators market is one of the fastest growing sectors of consumer home appliances today. There is also positive growth in the food industry, which has fuelled the growth of the commercial refrigeration market. Product Segmentation Although, residential refrigeration systems are less expensive, they are smaller and less powerful. The small size tends to compromise the space which might be required in a commercial kitchen. Also, these systems are less powerful which limit the chilling power of the refrigerator. Commercial refrigerator systems have interior corners which allow easy cleaning and meet the design and health code requirements. Reach-in type of refrigerators and freezers are upright, cold-storage systems which are perfect for back of the house operations. They come in glass or solid reach-in units. Some are available in full length, while some are Dutch-style, half-doors. Another type is the refrigerated prep table which is used in the preparation area of a commercial kitchen. These come in two main versions which are sandwich/salad tables or pizza tables. These units are conventionally thirty-six inches high, as they are designed to serve as a worktop. Walk-in refrigerators and freezers are useful for restaurants which need large amount of cold storage space for the back of the house or outside the restaurant operations. These units are set up with commercial shelving systems and have a walk-in unit for better organization. They are used to store boxed or bulk items such as juices or alcohol. Undercounter refrigerators and freezers look similar to upright reach-in units, but they are much shorter in size. They are used to fit in smaller spaces in a commercial kitchen. Bar refrigeration is another type of commercial refrigeration equipment which includes keg coolers, back bar refrigerators, and plate chillers. These systems often come with a stainless steel or black vinyl exterior to maintain the look and feel of a bar area. Refrigerated merchandisers are display refrigerators that allow people to view the products which are on display inside the refrigerator. These units have a glass door or an open front. They are used to promote quick sales of perishable goods. Although, there are many factors which stimulate the growth of the commercial refrigeration equipment market, there are some factors which restrain the growth of this market. Issues such as protocols from Montreal and Kyoto and unavailability of more energy-proficient commercial refrigerator equipment tend to constrain the market. Also, there is a likely risk of electromagnetic radiation exposure to users and exposure to chlorofluorocarbons in refrigerants. Companies such as Videocon Industries Ltd., Godrej Appliances, and LG Electronics Pvt. Ltd. are concentrating on developing more energy-efficient commercial refrigeration systems to meet the demand for more eco-friendly refrigeration equipment. About us is the most comprehensive collection of market research reports. MarketResearchReports.Biz services are specially designed to save time and money for our clients. We are a one stop solution for all your research needs, our main offerings are syndicated research reports, custom research, subscription access and consulting services. We serve all sizes and types of companies spanning across various industries. Kindly visit:

Original Post Types of Commercial Refrigeration Systems source Twease
          Incredible Ranch Home in Highlands Ranch!        
Click for details

Darling 3 Bed, 2 Bath Ranch Style Home in Highlands Ranch! Beautiful Engineered Wood Floors throughout * Open Great Room with Cozy Gas Fireplace * 1,285 Square Feet * Front Study/Bed with French Doors faces front yard * Large Kitchen with Granite Counters, Backsplash, Farm Sink, and Brand New Stainless Appliances * Nice size space for your kitchen table, adjacent to sliding glass door leading out to back yard Patio Area * Updated Baths include Vanity's, Granite Counters, Light Fixtures and Tile Flooring * Laundry Room with Built in Cabinets, Front Load Washer and Dryer included! Everything you need on one floor! Don't miss out! Call The Alan Smith Team Today!

          Sweet Memories + Our New Nest        
Finally we'd moved in to our new house last Friday! With all those cleaning up, unpacking, clearing and organizing (done right after the renovation in early October) our stuffs that had been kept in the rented storage house for more than half a year, there were so much, so many works involved and I just HATE (and have phobia) moving house! This is already the fourth time I moved since young but to be actual, should be the third as the first couldn't be counted because we were too young then, at the age of 5, we don't have to be bothered about all those packing and unpacking, we just needed to move ourselves from the Kampung to high-rise flat Here are some priceless old photos I'd love to share with all of you. These are from my mom's precious albums we got back from the storage house. Enjoy some laughing moments before I move on. Hahaha! 

B/W Photo: Mom's Family Photo-My mom is the last girl at the back row.
Colored Photo: Papa's Family Photo on my parents' wedding day. (My paternal grandpa had long passed away when my Papa was only 2-5 yrs old)
This playground at my maternal grandma's house was my most favorite when young.
I'd always (the only one) asked my mom to send me over to stay during every school holidays.
Really missed those days...  
My parents when they were young. Single to married
This knitted hat is older than me!
Left Photo: Me and my twin brother (just one minute apart) 
Right Photo: Mom would always try to bring the three of us out to the Zoo, Bird Park etc whenever she'd the time.
Our first birthday
My mom always tells me that I'm the smallest size of all and also the ugliest with 'no hair' and small eyes. Hahaha!
(Both my twin bro and younger sister were chubbier and cuter)
Me and my younger sister (2 yrs apart)
African mama with her kids! Hahaha!
With our cousins from my Papa's family
My sister's birthday party when we moved to a HDB flat
We lived together with my parents for almost a year (time flies!) when we sold our flat of about 9 years last October 2010. I was having very bad mixed feelings few weeks ago. Somehow I just couldn't bare to leave my parents and the thought of their house becoming so quiet and lifeless w/o us, especially my two girls, makes me so sad and reluctant to move away! So was Messy too, surprisingly! 
Lucky we aren't too far from my parents, just less than 5mins drive or 20mins walk away. So we're still able to see one another everyday. ;)
I reckon the saddest person of all is my Papa. He even had an agreement with Messy (she's the apple of his eyes) w/o my knowing until one week later when we dined out together! The agreement was having Messy to stay over on every Friday and Saturday nights, coming back home on Saturday and Sunday mornings after breakfast for her weekly home-tution, then going over AGAIN on Saturday nights! So you can imagine how much my Papa loves her (more than me[Yes, you're right! I'm feeling a little jealous here! LOL :P]) that he'll go through all these troubles of fetching and sending her like this every week very willingly! 
Few days after we moved, my parents visited and I was so happy although they just stayed for less than an hour. They bought lotsa Yakult drinks and some candies specially for the girls knowing that I won't be allowing them to have so often times.  
The girls enjoying themselves happily before moving in.
Shoe Cabinet
Hubby bought all these figurines to fill-up those empty spaces
Fu Lu Shou (福禄寿) and Chan Chu (蟾蜍)
Living + Dinning Room
Don't you think that our dinning table and chairs look like those in offices!?!? Since it look like one, I'll just use it like one. It's perfectly for my laptop with a perfect view! 
I love the two Hong Kong comic characters figurines, Old Master Q and Big Potato.
Hubby bought those cool giant beer bottles, $1 each, at the 7-11 convenience store just right below our block. YES, REALLY CONVENIENT but we only buy things there outta no choice as they cost so much higher than other stores and hyper-marts which are just across the road.
Glass sliding door, led lights along both sides of the cabinets and also an oven that hubby promised! I love our new neon-orange clock too! 
Kitchen Toilet
Glass door I requested to have! 
Master Room
Master Room Toilet (Different set of tiles)
The girls preferred this because it's much spacious and also they don't like those tiles in the other toilet. 
Messy's Bedroom
All by herself FINALLY!
Messy's cutie cool bear table-mirror with comb we bought before moving in.
Cheeky's Bedroom (Sharing with Cathy)
We bought that study table from Ikea at the very last minute after realizing that the one in Messy's room will not be big enough for two of them.
Cheeky's cutie sweet piggy table-mirror with comb
Our first simple dinner at new nest
I just dumped whatever I could find in my freezer cooked in Campbell's Mushroom Garlic Soup, seasoned with a dash of black pepper + a little oregano and VOILA! The girls love it especially Messy! She'd two BIG helpings! ;)
Just love having fun photos with my girls!
The girls playing the blind mice on the 3rd day and were laughing so hard and loud that I'd to keep telling them to lower down their volumes as I'm afraid they might disturbed our next door neighbours.
I thought my hubby will tell me to give/throw this tea set away knowing  he's not into this kinda stuffs. SO SURPRISINGLY, he wanted to keep and even told me it'll be for our girls when they grow up and get marry one day! 
BEST PART--Me: "What!? Am I hearing things?? But there're only 3 cups here."
Hubby: "Doesn't matter. We need just 2 cups for the tea ceremony."
GOSH!!! He really think real far! Hahaha! 
Hope you enjoy this post and have a wonderful week ahead!

          Slate Bathroom Shower        
An example of a bathroom shower with a glass door that could easily have been turned into a steam room. By simply taking the glass up to the ceiling. Slate is a type of tile used in many contemporary bathrooms. You’ll also see it on the inside and outside walls of many new commercial buildings.
          Walk-in Shower and Tub        
This picture doesn’t show a clear picture of the walk-in shower, but it is a good example of just how open a shower and bathroom can be if you have enough space to work with. The showerhead is set back far enough from the regular floor of the bathtub that no glass door is needed. […]
          Bathroom Shower with Steam        
To point out a few features of this shower: 3 brass shower heads, 6 brass shower jets, a variety of sizes of smooth edged tile, including 1×1 tiles in the shower portion of the steam room, a glass door that opens both ways, and a digital thermostat for the 10 KW steam generator.
          Worm Crawling Up Sliding Glass Door        
A reader from Florida found a worm-like organism crawling up his sliding glass door. We were unable to recognize the specimen in question.
          Tragedy in a Church, 4 year-old dead, 15 others unconscious during Night -Vigil         

It was a tragic all night prayer as the police in Aba, Abia, has confirmed the death of a four-year old boy during an all night prayer in a church on Saturday morning. The police, who did not give the name of the deceased, also confirmed that 15 other persons were choked during the event. A group called the “Young People’s Christian Fellowship, Ututu, Arochukwu”, were reportedly made unconscious by fumes from a generating set used for the all night prayer meeting. The police Area Commander, Aba, ACP Peter Wabara, made this known to newsmen in Aba. “We got a phone call this morning that some persons were allegedly lying dead in a church at 8...
Eziukwu road by Milverton Avenue, Aba. “So I mobilised my men and called in some doctor friends since the government doctors were on strike and they accompanied us to the scene of the event. “There we looked through the glass door and found them lying unconscious in a scattered manner. Fortunately, some of them were breathing so we moved them to two hospitals,” he said. Wabara said that 11 of the worshipers were evacuated to Austin-Graces hospital on Okigwe road while four of them were moved to Goodness and Mercy hospital on Faulks road, Aba. According to the commander, before leaving the scene, the rescue team searched the church environment and found a generating set that had exhausted its fuel and quenched but was still hot. The commander said that there was a noxious odour in the air of the warehouse-turned-church which gave them the impression that the worshippers may have over-inhaled carbon monoxide. He said that he accompanied the Deputy Governor of the state, Col. Emeka Ananaba (rtd) to the hospitals and found that the persons involved were responding to treatment. Wabara also said that the deputy governor had made a donation of an undisclosed sum of money. The money was donated after a meeting with the Area Commander, the Commissioner for Health and an assistant medical director, at Abia State Teaching Hospital, Aba.

NAN reports that some of the persons brought to Austin-Graces hospital had recovered and could recognise people, but were unable to field reporter’s enquiries during the visit. Dr Philip Richard, Senior Pastor, Word Alife Assembly, Aba, the Secretary of pastors from Arochukwu in Aba, told NAN that the worshippers were all indigenes of Ututu in Arochukwu local government area. “I was not there but I had a phone call telling me this morning that the believers from Ututu in Arochukwu who went to pray in a church in Aba had all died. “I left all that I was doing to get to the scene of the event. We have a fellowship of believers of Ututu origin in Aba and they came to pray for themselves and their community at this venue.

“I was not there. They are from various churches and not from one church. The husband and wife whose child died are from my own church,” he said. Meanwhile, a police source who was among the rescuers, told NAN that the boy died as a result of the weight of his heavily-built father which fell on him when the man became unconscious. The source said the child was seating beside his father and when they became unconscious, the father unknowingly fell to that side of his seat, pressing the boy and making breathing hard for him. Another source from Ututu, told NAN on condition of anonymity that the man and his wife had lost one of their two children last month. She said that they were left with only the boy that died at the prayer meeting on July 26.

          configuring a new addon for my IRL Collections tab        
I’ve collected Breyer model horses on and off ever since I was a kid. For about a decade, I’ve wanted some proper display shelving for my collection. I got some GNEDBY CD towers from IKEA for my 1:32 scale horses last summer, but I still wanted a bookcase with glass doors for my 1:9 and […]
          Of Friends and Granola         

The two M's, an evening at my place, some time in September
It's been almost a week since 'M.' moved away but I still walk past her house anticipating the welcoming glow of lamp-light filtering through her dining room window and her cheery 'Come on in!' that always came moments before I reached her back porch or noticed her on the other side of the glass door. My visits to M.'s house were never as brief as their pretext and I was often there for hours before I reluctantly tore myself away and walked back home.

M is much older than me, a senior citizen if you will, thoughtful neighbour, an honorary grandmother of sorts to my kids, always smiling and exuding energy and positivity. For two years she was a huge encouraging force in my life: she cheered me on while I worked on my Dissertation last year and was the first person who brought me a carefully and affectionately-worded Congratulations card in her meticulous handwriting when I received my grade. Nobody was allowed to get broody with her around: if she got the faintest clue anyone in our circle of friends was feeling down she would go over and drag them out, forcing them to enjoy the outdoors or would tactfully engage them in activities that forced them to shed the blues. There was never a discussion about it, never a long-winded, obsessive hashing-out of whatever ailed any of us. Only an abrupt change in perspective, effective immediately.

In an environment where many fail to find meaningful activities, M didn't have enough hours in the day to do the many things she enjoyed - from Mahjongg to Bridge, teaching knitting to Book Club, Food, Fitness and Travel. M is an amazing cook - she introduced me to my very first Thanksgiving meal (not a tradition where I come from) and we frequently exchanged cooking techniques back and forth. I borrowed ideas on how to make our meals more nutritious and flavourful and in return I taught her how to make Masala Chai, Haleem and baked Biryani.

She's been gone all of four days but I miss her. And I'll miss making things for her. . . A jar of my experimental Chipotle-Raisin Chutney had a permanent place in her refrigerator & repertoire because she and her husband loved how the flavours came together. They were always huge fans of whatever I baked up and brought over which gave me excuses and opportunity to bake even when there wasn't any occasion to.

The saddest part of expatriate life is that every couple of months you say goodbye to someone - because they have either moved on elsewhere or moved back to their native country. It's the unkindest cut.

With time one begins to take it all in one's stride. After living an expatriate existence for a little over a decade these transitions are something I have come to expect almost unflinchingly. There is a little sadness but also the comfort in knowing that social media now makes it so much easier to maintain connections, especially when those on the other side are so good at keeping up at their end. And in this case I'm not at all sad, I miss her for now but I know that I will see M again. We won't be neighbours any more but will be a four-drive away from each other in just a few months. The prospect of having even one good friend in almost close proximity when I move halfway across the world and start a new life, is heartening.

One of my experiments that ended up in a tin on M's kitchen counter is this Granola. I painstakingly made it on a cold, January morning. I say painstakingly only because I couldn't find unsalted, shelled sunflower seeds at the grocery store and  had to shell a whole lot of sunflower seeds to get a measly 1/4 cup . . I just wasn't patient enough to get the whole 3/4 cup the recipe asked for. . and I decided to dry dates in the oven, prior to adding them to the granola, which took me at least one whole day.

To others I seem like a mad woman when I turn seemingly simple tasks into all-day Daring Baker-like challenges. But I find comfort in laborious tasks. I think I get my fastidiousness from my paternal Grandmother. She most likely does not know what Granola is, never baked a Pie from scratch or even considered alternate uses for the oven other than storing frying pans. But when she works in the kitchen she is like me, or I'm like her: fussing over food preparation, mindful of flavours, doing things slowly and thoroughly, losing myself in the process.

The fruits of all this labour were delicious and greatly appreciated by M & P who, like me, had the Granola for breakfast with yogurt and a drizzle of Maple Syrup. I'll be thinking of them when I make a new batch this week. 

The recipe comes from Breakfast, Lunch, Tea: The Many Little Meals of Rose Bakery by Rose Carrarini, a charming, eye-catchingly bright green cookbook I picked up on a whim during one of my travels and has since then become a favourite. 

Right off the bat Rose confesses that she is a pastry chef who is not overly-fond of sugar or sweet things and prefers naturally, intensely flavored food instead. This mindful approach is reflected in her recipes which are simple, un-fussy and focus on wholesome flavours rather than complex technique or saccharine sweetness (in the case of her desserts). I've made several things from this endearing book and hope to feature some in future blog posts. 

For now, here's the recipe for Rose Carrarini's Sugar-Free Granola. Please keep reading after the recipe, I'm not quite done with this post. 

Sugar-Free Granola
from Breakfast, Lunch, Tea: The Many Little Meals of Rose Bakery by Rose Carrarini, page 48
(Serves 6)

300g (4 cups) rolled oats
100g (1 cup) whole almonds
120g (3/4 cup) sunflower seeds
120g (1 cup) pumpkin seeds
40g sesame seeds
1 tablespoon wheatgerm
125 ml (1/2 cup) apple juice
4 tbsp sunflower oil
A handful of dried or fresh fruits such as blueberries, strawberries or sultanas (I used dates and added them later)
natural (plain) yogurt, to serve

Preheat oven to 160C/325F.
Mix all ingredients (except dried fruit) together in a bowl, then spread out evenly in a baking tray.
Bake, turning often, for between 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove and let cool.

I want to say a big Thank You to all the readers who commented on my previous post or left me email messages asking how I am/leaving words of encouragement. 

The sporadic blogger that I am, I don't actually imagine many read or regularly follow my periodic posts. It has been elevating and heart-warming to read all your messages. I have had a few difficult months and all of that is not over yet so I am still not doing much writing, or blog-following. To be honest, I don't much talk to anyone these days either and am nicely, safely wrapped up in my cocoon of silence. But I miss this space and it feels good to be back. Baby steps . . 

Thank you again, for your encouragement! 

          This, Too, is Vanity        

The telephone repairmen had no right to talk about my Christmas tree.

"I've heard of getting an early start on Christmas, but this is ridiculous," I heard Lenny say.

"Hell, Labor Day was last weekend. Do you think he just put it up, or hasn't taken it down?" That was Gus.

"Too lazy to take it down. Look at the dust on it, and the bulbs on the floor," Lenny said. I left the kitchen and walked down into the den.

Lenny and Gus took a credit card number as soon as they arrived on my property. They made sure I understood they would check the lines to the box, but since I hadn't purchased the insurance on the lines--the insurance only cost a buck a month they reminded me--if the problem existed on my side, the charges for the repairs would begin immediately. After fixing the lines, they came inside to make sure I had a dial tone. Unseasonably warm and humid, even for September, the daytime heat gave no hint of the cooler nights we were having. Gus had crawled up on a copperhead while under my house. I heard his shouts all the way out to the horse barn.

"That tree was put up by me and my two sons last year," I said, "My youngest son has leukemia. He helped me decorate it."

Lenny and Gus said nothing. The moment of silence was long, and I let it hang a bit longer than I should have.

"The tree stays right there," I said.

Gus reached his big hand up and touched the scarlet ribbon that circled the tree. He had a well-trimmed beard and a friendly look and smile that reminded me of Tim Allen's partner on Tool Time. This warmth hadn't been present earlier. "We found your problem. Do you have any dogs?" he asked. Gus knew I had dogs. My Walkers chased their truck all the way up the driveway.

"Yeah, I got some coon hounds. The horses get after them and chase them under the house."

"Yep, that's what happened," Lenny said. "That's where the lines separated from the box. But we got it reconnected." He rocked back and forth while he spoke, shifting his weight from his left leg to his right.

"And we stapled the phone lines to the bottom of the joists so it won't happen again." Gus stood calm and patient, still looking at the decorations on the tree.

"Well, I'll have the insurance next time. Never had problems with phone lines before. I've always rented though, so I never worried about it. This is the first place I've owned." I walked past them as I spoke—a wide circle that took me to the tree--where I bent over and gathered the fallen bulbs from the floor. I found niches on the artificial branches and hung the silver, gold, and crimson ornaments again. They swayed slightly for just a few moments.

"Mr. Mitchell, there won't be any charge for this trip. The lines should have been hung better when they were first installed." Gus picked up his tools as he spoke, while Lenny glared at him.

"Thank you."

Gus and Lenny eased toward the door. Lenny stopped. Much younger, Lenny was a tall, heavy man, nearly twice the size of Gus, though Gus was in charge. The back pocket of Lenny's Levis revealed a perfectly round and pale circle from the can of Copenhagen exposed by the threadbare material. Lenny turned to me and spoke.

"It is a beautiful tree, Mr. Mitchell, and I would never take it down." Then they left. I heard an engine fire up outside and listened as Clara and Bandit chased the panel truck down the driveway.

I walked through the kitchen to the bar, poured a double shot of Jim Beam in a fruit jar full of ice and slipped back into the den. After I plopped down on the couch I took a long sip of whiskey. That damned tree. All the ribbon had settled into a mass of overlapping rows on the lowest branches. A dozen ornaments still lay on the floor. Many of them had shattered when they fell. Slivers of the silver tinsel that Clayton loved had fallen to the carpet.

But I didn't know what to do with it.

* * *

Built more like me, my oldest son, Clinton, resembles a stump, with shoulders nearly as broad as he is tall. Towering over his brother by a good foot, Clayton lost twenty-five pounds after he began the chemo and now wears a toboggan on his bald head to keep it warm. His naturally lean body looks frightfully thin and his face is swollen from the steroids he must take daily.

Clayton inherited his athletic ability from my family. He accepts that he will not play professional football like my brother, Verl, who signed with the Atlanta Falcons. His desire to play football his last year of high school motivates him now.

The summer before his diagnosis, Clayton built an obstacle course. He ran that obstacle course during the hottest part of the year, trying to develop more strength in his legs so he could stuff a basketball. By September, at thirteen years of age, he consistently slam-dunked the ball on a ten-foot goal. Then as the fall semester of high school started, he began to experience fatigue. Clayton's struggle to accomplish his goal became even more incredible when the doctors told us in October he had battled leukemia all that time.

The oldest of the three, Candice is a year older than Clinton, and six years older than Clayton. Clayton was more her baby than his mother's. After Arkansas Children's Hospital had made their diagnosis and summoned Clayton to Little Rock to share the news, Debbie, my ex-wife and the mother of my three children, had called Candice and left repeated messages for her to come to Children's Hospital, to Three Gold. When Candice got off the elevator, she read "Blood Cancer Unit" on the wall in front of her. She collapsed.

* * *

Back before my children had been introduced to the words divorce and leukemia, things were simple. Family events evolved around the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus, Halloween Jack-o-lanterns and a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving--not around who would have the children for a certain holiday. The rituals we observed with each season never changed. My children received Easter baskets even after they were too old to hunt the eggs. We always took the children and let them pick out their baskets. Easter was never clouded with the shroud of secrecy generated by Santa's arrival.

At Halloween we would travel to the fruit stands out on 412 highway and search through hundreds of pumpkins scattered over a five-acre field till each child found the one they wanted. Then we'd take the pumpkins home and carve them on the steps of our front porch. Even after we left Fayetteville and no longer had the huge pumpkin patches to search, we still made an event out of going to each store and finding just the right pumpkin for each of the kids.

And every year--even after I divorced their mother—I took the children to find a live tree for Christmas.

Candice seemed to enjoy the excursions the most, even after she reached the age when family events were not supposed to be fun. She always made sure we bought the tree that Clayton chose. Clinton really didn't mind. He knew we couldn't buy three trees, like we did with the pumpkins or the Easter baskets, so he put up a half-hearted fight that he abandoned too easily to ever have been sincere.

Taking the tree down became as much a ritual as selecting and decorating it. We carefully wrapped the cheap ornaments like they were carved from gold and placed them in a box that we stored in the children's closet. They would eat the threaded popcorn and complain to their mother about how awful it was.

"Well, it's only six weeks old, and I didn't even butter or salt it," Debbie said, every year. Those kids knew that popcorn had rotted, but I believe they chewed on it just to complain to their mother about how bad it tasted.

* * *

The first time we went to a tree farm the children took over an hour to agree. They ran up and down the planted rows of trees looking for the biggest one they could find--thinking a big tree meant more presents. I used the saw the attendant gave us to harvest their selection, and I let the three of them drag it up to the sales stand where a man who worked there placed it in a shaker that shook the dead needles out from the branches. He wrapped the tree with a green net and helped us tie it down for the ride home.

During my college years at the University of Arkansas, we were always broke by Christmas. One year it had snowed just after Thanksgiving and the children were anxious to go select our tree. We didn't have the money to buy a live one, but we lived next to the Agricultural Experiment Station in Fayetteville, and they had a patch of Christmas trees on the far side of the school farm. I called Kerry Steelman, a friend of mine, and we went and cut two of the trees—one for each of us--in the middle of the night and dragged them back to my apartment, not realizing we had left a trail in the snow that led to my front door.

The children were disappointed the next morning. They wanted a bigger one. So I told them Santa Claus had delivered it during the night, and they needed to go sweep out his trail in the snow so no one could figure out where he had landed.

After that, I realized the importance the children placed on going with me to select the tree. The next year, I loaded our family in an old Volkswagen Baja and took them out into the White Rock Wilderness. We found a shaggy cedar tree, cut it down and tied it on the top of our rig. Then we took a logging road—we called them pig-trails--back down the side of the mountain, hoping the jolting, jouncing, jarring ride would knock the dead needles out of the branches of the cedar. When we got home, we strung popcorn on threads and decorated the tree.

As an undergraduate student with a family, we didn't go home as soon as school let out in December. My wife and I both worked part time jobs that never paid enough. We always made it to Paragould a day or two before Christmas, though, so the grandparents could buy presents for the kids. The year we got the cedar tree, the children absolutely refused to allow us to take it down before Christmas, so we left it up until we came back.

That old cedar tree dried out fast. A manager of a local tree farm told me we had cut it after the sap left the trunk. The day after Christmas of that year, we went back to Fayetteville. The tree stood in its corner, parched and dry. Debbie wanted to take it down then, and the children already had the boxes out for the ornaments. But I knew classes started in a couple weeks, and I'd receive my grant checks. So we waited on taking the tree down and pretended Christmas came late--with stockings and presents and ham and dressing. A match lit near that cedar tree would have burned the whole apartment complex down, so we passed on lighting any holiday candles. But as soon as we'd opened the presents, we took the tree down.

Every year thereafter we repeated the process of finding a tree. Then after I received my financial aid for the spring semester and celebrated Christmas again, we'd take it down.

Every year my wife pleaded with me to get an artificial tree.

"That tree is gonna kill every one of us," she said. "We'll be as toasty as your popcorn."

The kids laughed and reminded her that she always burnt the popcorn, and they pleaded for her to go with us to get the tree.

Every year she relented, until our divorce. My rituals continued with the children, only I had to pop the popcorn now, and the ornaments were stored in my barn.

* * *

Two months before Clayton's fifteenth birthday in March of 2000, after an unsuccessful bone marrow transplant, the oncologists told us Christmas that year would be the last we shared with Clayton.

The visits I made to Arkansas Children's Hospital always reminded me of the seriousness of the situation my son faced. Of course I knew cancer was a killer, but he looked strong and healthy as he ever had. That made it easy to just pretend nothing was wrong. Every time I walked through the halls of Three Gold, I walked past parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, embracing and weeping over the bad news they had received. As my son's bone marrow transplant and recovery had progressed, I felt guilty walking by the grieving family members. They were family to me also, because we all faced the same demon; we all sought the same miracle. We wanted the Angels of Three Gold to save and restore our children to us.

Nearly a year after his transplant, Clayton came down sick. This lasted for a couple of weeks, so his mother took him to Little Rock to have him checked out. At the time, I was building houses with my father. That day I had gone to work and made it till almost lunch. They call it "Mother's Intuition," but I knew something was wrong.

"Dad, I gotta go to Little Rock," I said.

"Go," he said.

"I hate to leave you with this. You know I'm not one to skip a day of work, but I feel it. I need to be there today."

"I know you don't need an excuse to take a day off. But here's the point. Anytime you do something that puts your children first, son, you'll never be wrong. Now go."

My father had lived by that motto. I had failed miserably.

Three hours later I walked onto the floor of Three Gold and bumped into my children's mother standing in the hall, crying. I never had a chance to say a word.

"I have some bad news I have to tell you."

I leaned back against the wall and bowed my head. I knew what it was; I knew why I felt I had to be there that day.

"He has relapsed again. They say they can't cure him, but they can prolong his life, and maybe science will catch up to him. The decision is his."

The last words she said brought my head upright.

"Is he gonna do it?" The chemo and radiation had ravaged his body. But as long as a hope for a long life had existed, the devastation was worth the payoff. But now, for the first time, I realized my son had a decision to make, that he had to make on his own.

"Oh, he says he's not about to give up."

People passed us in the hall, looking at us occasionally, mostly looking at the floor. One man lay his hand on my back as he passed and said, "Bless him, Jesus." I wanted to chase him down the hall and ask him to pray with me, to pray for me, to pray for my son. But he was on Three Gold. We all prayed for everyone on Three Gold. I wiped the water from my eyes, repeatedly. I didn't want anyone to know we had been given bad news. We had been one of the fortunate families. This wasn't gonna end like this.

"How are Candice and Clinton?"

"It was hard at first, but they're all in there playing Risk now. Do you wanna go in and see them?"


"I'll leave you alone with them for a while."

The room Clayton occupied had two chambers. A sliding glass door separated the outer and inner chambers. This was for sterilization purposes when the patients had low resistance due to their treatments. But Clayton hadn't been receiving treatments, so the door was open.

I walked into the outer chamber and began to wash my hands. They saw me. Clinton got up from where he knelt throwing dice at the foot of Clayton's bed, and Clayton rose from where he lay. Candice continued to sit on the far side of the room in the recliner her mother had slept in so many nights.

"Daddy, are you alright?" Clinton asked as he walked around the foot of the bed.

I tried to say something, but I couldn't. I acted like I was busy washing my hands, and then I made a sound like a frog that had been stepped on when I tried to say, "No."

Clayton had sat up now, with his feet on the floor. The IV lines ran in every direction, and Clinton continued to stand at the foot of the bed. Candice still hadn't moved.

I eased into the room with them. The weight of my divorce, the nights away from home, the many times I had broken their hearts, the promises I'd made and never kept, the days Clayton had battled for his life while I continued to work, every mistake I had made weighed on my soul as I entered that room. I thought of Christ hanging on the cross with the sin of the world on his shoulders.

I had taken for granted that I would have a lifetime to make it up to them. Now I realized those lives I'd taken for granted were fragile, like butterfly wings, and could crumble away before I ever realized it. I no longer had a lifetime with my son to atone for my mistakes. Kneeling at Clayton's feet, I wrapped my arms around his legs and lay my head in his lap. We reversed the roles we had both become so accustomed to. He ran his fingers through my hair and rubbed my back while I fought for composure. No one spoke.

Clayton hugged me tight. With his head on my shoulder and my body in his weak embrace, he said, "You're forgiven, Dad."

Those words erased years of my failures and gave me a future to correct my mistakes. I got up and began to talk with them. The nurses were taking them to Juanita's that night to eat. Would I come along? Of course I would. Candice walked out into the hall. Clayton went to the nurses' station to be unhooked from his IVs, and Clinton sat behind the door, waiting with me to go to a restaurant where we would all act like nothing had happened at all, and our night out was a family ritual--just like any other night.

* * *

I know rituals have a purpose. They are meant to give a familiarity to a season. Observing our rituals with my children after divorcing their mother had allowed us to continue as a family. But her absence was always felt. The activities of any holiday can be looked upon as events that bring families together and give us occasion to be thankful for what we have. But family rituals can also remind us of what we stand to lose.

Like we had so many times before, I wanted to cut a tree that Christmas; I wanted to share the experience one more time with my children and go back to a time when they believed the size of the tree determined how many presents they got, a time when they believed they could erase Santa's tracks in the snow so no one would know he'd come early to our house. But I didn't want the experience tainted by knowing it might be the last time we all went together. I didn't want a videotape of Clayton selecting his last Christmas tree. I didn't want to cut his last tree down; I didn't want to remove the last ornaments he'd hung.

That November I bought an artificial tree at Sears. I wondered why the children acted so funny when I told them about it. Candice even refused to come out and help us decorate it. But Clinton and Clayton helped me put it up. Clayton topped it off with an empty Budweiser can.

Clinton didn't like Clayton's idea for a star. "That's sacrilegious," he said.

"Budweiser's been Dad's Sunday morning communion for years. It has a religious significance," Clayton said as he grinned.

* * *

We started other traditions that year. Our family always took pictures, though we never videotaped any holiday gatherings. That Christmas seven video cameras recorded the event. I felt awkward about the situation. We all wanted to remember that time, to have it permanently recorded. I may not have videotaped any of our Christmas gatherings before, but I record them all now.

The oldest of six children, I have always remembered Christmas with my family as a bustling, crowded, and noisy time, with people taking pictures and opening presents and eating candy, nuts, and oranges from stockings. All grown now, my brothers and sisters have families of their own. But when we come together for the holidays, we still have personally monogrammed stockings stuffed with candy and fruit on Christmas morning--just like the grandkids. Some of our rituals never changed.

That year Christmas morning dawned on a melancholy house. All of my brothers and sisters came out, and both of my sons and my daughter showed up. Instead of the joyful laughs and loud conversation, hushed tones and covered mouths spoke of the genius of the artificial tree that would never be taken down.

With Christmas celebrated at my place, I had the responsibility for filling the stockings of all the others, and I just hadn't felt in the Christmas spirit. The grandkids received theirs. I couldn't disappoint them. But the rest of us did without, and no one complained. I knew Clayton felt it too, and he did his best to perform for all the cameras, trying to give each of his uncles and aunts a special cameo to remember him by. On his Uncle Bill's camera, he gave his Christmas list for next year. On his grandpa's camera, he said he wanted a colt for his sixteenth birthday in May.

"Shine your camera over here, Daddy." After I focused on him he said, "Graduation's only two years away, and you'd better start saving if you're gonna get me a four-wheel drive. But I'll settle for a Baja like you had if you can't afford a truck."

On his Aunt Donna's camera, he told her daughter, Casie, he wanted a date with her best friend.

"I know what you want. You'll just get her pregnant," Casie said.

Her mother stopped filming and looked at her. "He can't have any kids honey; he's had too much chemo. Watch your mouth." The room fell silent.

"See, she's safe with me," Clayton said. Then he laughed, and the moment was over.

"Don't you worry, brother," Clinton said. "You find you a good-lookin' wife, and I'll see to it you get to be a daddy." He got up and grabbed his brother and hugged him with that rough-house style I always used with them when they were little, when I grabbed them and tossed them into the air and caught them and turned them upside down, or snuck up behind them as they walked through the house in their underwear and grabbed the back of their shorts and shouted "Grundy," as I lifted them up off the floor, pulling their shorts up into the crack of their little behinds, and they scurried away, grinning and tugging at their Fruit-of-the-Looms.

I looked around the room for mother. Down the hall at the far end of the house, a closed door led to the master bedroom. I eased it open. Mom knelt by the side of the bed. Her Bible open in front of her, her kerchief crumpled in her clenched hand, she wept as she prayed.

I closed the door and left her alone.

* * *

The phone rang. I looked up from the statement Gus had left behind and saw my empty glass. I got up to answer the phone in the kitchen, grabbing the Beam bottle on my way past the counter.

"Dad, when you gonna turn that coon loose on the pups?" Clinton said.

"Is Clayton all right?" I'd forgotten his appointment that afternoon.

"Clayton's on his way back from the doctor's office. He wants to come out and see the horses."

"I still gotta go see Benny. I'll see ya when you get here."

I bought my hay from Benny Leuker. Benny gave me a discount for hauling off the coons he trapped in his cattle feed, and he had a big boar coon for me to pick up when I came by.

"We'll come out soon as he gets in," Clinton said.

I knew they'd take an hour or more to get there so I poured more whiskey into my glass and returned to the living room where I put one of the videotapes in from last Christmas. I watched our family and thought of how a cautious optimism at Easter had replaced the somber mood at Christmas. The doctors tried a new protocol for treating Clayton's type of leukemia, and the drugs had placed him in remission again, for the third time. Clayton had celebrated his sixteenth birthday that May with the hope for many more. I bought him a black stud colt for his present. But reality had battered our optimism. The doctors said they could prolong his life, but never cure him. The news of his remission did not mean he would live to be an old man. But five years of remission was considered cured. We counted every week as he continued to go and take his chemotherapy, and they continued to check his blood counts. Every week I listened for the phone to ring, expecting more bad news. The news--for a change--was all good.

As I listened to the tape, I stared at that tree. All summer long I had stared at that tree. That tree meant so much to me when we first put it up. As long as I had that tree, Clayton would be there. But that tree began to grow, it seemed, and took on a presence of its own, dominating the room, and the house, and every conversation I had with anyone who visited me. It no longer stood for an everlasting monument to my son. Its image grew darker as over the summer the dust accumulated on its branches and dulled the sparkling ornaments and silver tinsel that hung from its limbs. The tree reminded me of all my failures as a parent—of how many times I'd taken my children for granted. I began to feel ashamed for my lack of faith in Clayton. He knew why that tree was there--because he wasn't supposed to be, because I had more faith in my telephone lines than I did in my own son.

Clayton never said a word when he visited; he just looked at that tree and grinned. For me the experience was like being in the same room with my ex-wife and my girlfriend. They just weren't supposed to be together. Never once did my son entertain the thought that he could lose his battle. That tree stood as a constant reminder that I had, and somehow, I think Clayton competed with that tree, to see which would outlast the other.

But I didn't want to take it down. Afraid to lose his tree, afraid I could still lose him, I began to think of it as a jinx. Would he relapse two weeks after I threw it away? If I took his tree down, did it mean I was vain, or cocky, that I took for granted he would be there for all my holidays? I'd made that mistake before.

The tape ended and ejected as I finished my last sip of whiskey. I checked my pocket for the keys to my truck and left for Benny Leuker's.

* * *

Clinton and Clayton were waiting when I got back from Benny's. They opened the gate and I drove into the pasture. The horses saw and smelled the bale of Tifton Bermuda and chased the truck as I eased along. Every time he bounced in his cage in the back of the truck, the coon squalled. The hounds heard his cry and set up a ruckus, jumping up on the side of the truck and vying for position with the horses struggling to get at the bale of hay.

The boys took the live trap out of the back of the truck and set it out in the middle of the pasture. The hounds couldn't get to the coon, but it could get to them. Its long narrow snout and small, razor sharp claws could poke through the narrow bars of the cage. I pushed off the round bale of hay for the horses and listened to the melee. As the dogs pressed their noses against the side of the trap, the old coon took advantage of them, tearing at their noses and shredding their ears. The baying of the hounds became a medley of enraged yelps and frenzied howls of pain mixed with the squalls of the coon. Like yearling colts, the horses took off around the pasture, kicking and bucking and snorting. Then they raced back to the hay, nipping at each other's flanks as they vied for a position of dominance.

"Hurry up Dad, this bastard's eatin' the dogs alive," Clayton shouted.

I got out of the truck and came around to where the boys egged the hounds on. The pups jumped at the cage and howled like they had seen the devil himself. The coon squalled and growled and clawed at them through the bars of the trap. I hoped they knew instinctively to trail the animal once we'd set it free. Bandit and Clara had never seen a live coon before. Unlike me, I hoped they knew what to do with this new experience. Generations of Night Champions were bred into their pedigrees, though, and they would know what to do. This ritual would have to be repeated for years in order for them to become night champions themselves, but I envied those hounds. If everything in life could only be so clear.

"Turn him loose," Clayton shouted at me. He danced around the cage, first on one side with Bandit, then on the other with Clara, calling the hounds by name as he shouted encouragement to each. I hadn't seen him move so deliberately in a long time. He imitated the squall of the coon, pinching his own cheek and emitting a high-pitched squeal that unnerved the ring-tailed animal as it squalled back at him. Bandit lingered too long against the bars and the coon bit him, hanging its teeth in the end of Bandit's nose and tearing open a gash as the hound jerked away in an effort to get loose. Then the trapped animal spun in its cage and shredded one of Clara's ears, and she howled with pain and rage as she pulled away from those needle sharp teeth.

Clayton's mother would have donated my body to science if she knew he was in the pasture with me, about to set a coon loose on the dogs. I noticed the slight tremor in his hands—a side effect of the chemotherapy. I had nearly cried the first time I took him out to eat, and I watched food drop from his spoon as his hands trembled. He laughed at my concern, trying to set me at ease.

The doctors had good news that day--again. With the cancer still in remission, the chemo would stop for a while.

I managed to get in between the dogs and put my foot on the release lever of the trap. The coon snarled and reached through the cage to grab at my foot and bite at my toe. The fur on its back stood on end and made the animal look twice as big as he really was. I tried it again and made it, causing the front door of the trap to spring open.

For a moment, the coon continued to grab and snarl at the dogs through the cage walls. Then like a gray flash, he sprung from the trap. But instead of running off into the woods with the dogs trailing, he went up the nearest tree, with Clara and Bandit leaping at his tail.

"Who's gonna' shake him out?" I asked the boys.

"I am," said Clayton.

The tree--an elm nearly as tall as the house--stood a short distance form a massive red oak. Its leaves had turned yellow, and many had already fallen. The largest limb was no bigger round than my arm, the trunk no bigger than my leg. Dressed for the occasion, Clinton wore shorts and a sleeve-less shirt. He weighed 200 pounds, nearly fifty pounds less than me, but the branches of the elm wouldn't have held him.

So with Clinton and me giving him a boost, Clayton pulled himself up the tree. He didn't want the boost, but I don't think he'd have made it, even before he was sick. Then again, every time I think my children can't do something, they prove me wrong. Although tentative at first, he made good progress, disguising stops to catch his breath as opportunities to plot his path. The ascent might have been easier if he'd been dressed differently. Because of his increased sensitivity to sunlight, Clayton wore jeans and long sleeve shirts during the day

The coon climbed out onto a smaller branch. Bandit and Clara were Treeing Walkers, and their black, tan and white bodies stood in perfect form, with their front feet against the tree, their tails straight as rods and swaying like windmills behind them, their eyes skyward as they bawled at the coon above.

"Are ya'll ready?" Clayton shouted down to us. He'd gone as high as he could. His breath came in short quick gulps of air that made me think he had hyperventilated

"Give him hell," Clinton shouted.

"Get over on the other side of the tree in case he falls," I said to Clinton.

Clayton began to shake the tree and the coon looked like a trapeze artist. All four paws held onto a branch, and it refused to let go. Spread-eagled and clinging, the animal swayed back and forth as Clayton shook the tree. One paw shook loose and Clinton shouted, "Here he comes," but it managed to regain its grip. In spite of all of Clayton's efforts, he couldn't shake him loose, and my son was wearing out a lot faster than the coon.

"I got an idea," I said. I ran to the back of the truck and grabbed the braided lariat we used to catch the horses. I took it back over to the tree and threw it up to Clayton.

"Tie it around that biggest fork, up as high as you can reach it, then throw the other end down. And get your ass out of that tree," I said.

I got in my truck and backed it up. "Tie the rope to the bumper," I said to Clinton through the split glass in the back windshield.

Clinton fumbled for the other end of the rope. I couldn't see him for the tailgate, but I saw him bend over with the rope, and heard him slap the back end of the truck to signal he was through. Clayton was struggling to get down from the tree, so Clinton ran over to give him a hand.

I pulled the truck into gear and started to ease forward. The slender trunk of the tree gave easily and bent over as I increased the pressure on the rope. The dogs could see the coon now, as he moved back to get further up into the tree and away from the hounds. The tree was nearly perpendicular with the ground when I stopped, put the truck into park, and jumped out.

When I shut the truck door, the rope slipped off the ball on the bumper, and the tree slung back. The coon went air-born into the huge oak tree that stood next to the elm.

"I tied that knot as tight as I could get it. That rope must have broken," Clinton said.

"It's still in a knot, it just slipped off," Clayton said as he inspected the end of the rope. "I can't believe after all my hard work you just slung him over into another tree," he said between laughs.

"He may not have made it to the other tree," I said as I looked up in the branches of the oak. "He may have gone on off in the woods. See if the dogs can find him."

We tried to get the hounds to pick up the scent of the coon, but they couldn't. We made a wide circle around the tree, going out further and further, and joking and laughing.

"That coon didn't go high enough to land that far out," I said to Clayton, as he watched Clara pitching about and snuffling, searching desperately for the scent of the coon. Her ear left traces of red on the parched September grass.

"It's all downhill, Dad. He could've have rolled this far."

The hounds soon lost interest in an animal they could no longer see or smell, and for the first time since Clayton's initial diagnosis, I actually enjoyed his company and forgot about his sickness.

Scared of losing my son, I had expected the inevitable, the unthinkable. I tried so hard to prepare myself for what might happen, that I blinded myself to everything going on around me. There was no way to insulate myself from fate. No videotaped footage of a masqueraded Christmas celebration could ever replace the moments we shared that day. I had missed so much of their lives. I knew I would miss more, but I swore that day to become a bigger part of their tomorrows.

I also realized the significance of rituals, whether holiday rituals or simple day-to-day routines. Even when all has gone wrong, our rituals lend us a sense of normalcy—a feeling that tomorrow will come and all will be well. I had searched for a way to act around my son, a way to act in a profound manner that showed him I loved him and understood what he was enduring. The only way to do that was to act like nothing had ever changed.

With no cameras, no videotapes, we created memories so vivid I can close my eyes and still smell the horses, the hay. I can feel the course texture of the rope in my hands as I throw it up to my son. I can still see the tremor of his hand, the trembling bodies of the hounds as they reared up against the tree, the coon swaying in the wind as he grasped for the branches of the elm. I can hear Clara's jack hammer chop, the booming, bawl of Bandit. I can taste the salt from the sweat that trickled down my cheeks, the whiskey I sipped earlier in the day.

* * *

Clinton and Clayton sat beside me on the tailgate of my old Dodge pick-up, and we talked and watched the horses tear at the hay. The colt contested the other two horse's dominance over the food supply. A quick nip from Ahab, my big gelding, re-established the pecking order. The dogs continued to cast about for the scent of a coon already on its way back to Benny Leuker's barn. The sun had set on our fun, and the whippoorwills began to call from the surrounding woods. Their songs would soon be silenced till the warmth of spring brought another season of new life. The chill of early fall made us reach for jackets.

"I bet that coon thinks he's a duck," said Clinton as he shut the tailgate to my truck.

"He's flying south for the winter then." Clayton had wandered over to the hay and stood petting his colt. "He never touched down on this property," he said.

I backed the truck up against the tree. They both stood and watched, wondering what I was up to next.

"Which of you is going up the tree to shake that rope loose?" I said.

"Your turn, Daddy," Clayton said.

I hesitated for just a second before I jumped into the back of the truck and went up the tree to get the rope. The first branch I grabbed broke under my weight. I fell to the ground with the boys laughing at me like they'd laughed at the hounds.

'Let's go get the chain saw," I said. "We got too many trees on this place anyways."

I got in the cab of the truck to drive up to the barn, and I watched in the rearview mirror as my boys wrestled in the back.

          The Garden: From Seeds to Starter Plants        

This year we started getting our 2010 garden ready back in mid-February.  We decided to start some of the plants from the seed stage and grow them large enough to be planted in our garden a couple of months later.  By following a chart that lists the planting dates for our area, we were able to plant several types of vegetables as early as February.  There are several types of plants that we can still start from the seed stage now and have them ready to plant when we get our garden planted by the end of May.

Although there are several ways you could organize your planting process, I will share what has worked well for us.  We call it our Planting Map.

For each box we planted, we labeled the box with a letter [Box A] and then used small tags with numbers on them.  Then we listed the name of each plant by the corresponding number on the chart and also showed where the row started and ended for that particular plant.  If you look at the picture below, you can see where I used dots to show the seeds and arrows to show where they started and what direction they are planted.  Also, we put the corresponding number on the packet of seeds.  This turned out to be very helpful, because we had one tray that we had moved to the greenhouse and during a couple of days that we were gone, we had very warm weather and the plants died.  We re-planted them in the same numbered area according to the planting map and since the packets were also numbered, the process went quickly.

When we got all of the seeds started that could be planted at that time, we then set up an area in our garage on a workbench fitted with a Jump Start Grow Light System, which has a fluorescent light that hangs above the plants.  We also had a Seedling Heat Mat under the plant boxes to help with the growing process.  We then watered it with a spray bottle a few times a day and had the lights on about 12 hours a day and turned them off at night.  After a few weeks, we began to see some growth!

Once the plants are grown big enough, we transplanted them into another container with separate areas, where they continued to grow until they were large enough to transplant outdoors [see picture below].  Also, in this picture, you can see the fluorescent light fixture at the very top.

Some close-ups of the lettuce and some onions.

When we transplanted them to the second containers, we also moved the numbered tags with them.  This is important, so when you plant them outdoors, you will know exactly what each plant is and you can plant them where they grow best.

As you can see from the above pictures, it was time to transplant these again and move them outdoors.  We moved all the tomato varieties into our cold frame.  A cold frame is basically a wood frame/box that is filled with a dirt, manure, and potting soil mixture that is ready for planting.  We had an old sliding glass door that we had kept from our remodel years ago and we lay it over the frame at night, to help keep the plants insulated and warm--which protects them from the cold and helps keep them growing.  In the morning, we remove the glass, water the plants (or if it's raining, then mother nature takes care of that) and let them grow by the natural sunlight.

We transplanted 65 tomatoes and 27 hot pepper plants into this cold frame, to give you a perspective of how many plants this frame holds. *I've listed the varieties at the end of this post.

We then moved  38 broccoli spring raab plants to one of the raised beds.  We didn't realize how many we had planted or how well they would we do!

In another raised bed, we planted 33 lettuce plants.  This may seem like a lot, but we love those summer salads fresh from the garden.

And a close-up of the Lettuce [Parris Island Romaine] plants.

We also had good luck with these Melons [French Orange Hybrid] and transplanted 14 of these to larger containers, where they will continue to grow in the greenhouse for the next few weeks.

With a little planning and work, you can save money by starting part of your garden from the seed stage, rather than buying everything in the plant stage.  The important thing to remember is to watch them carefully, water them regularly and keep them in warm conditions.

Here are the boxes of vegetables and flowers that we've started from seeds (so far):

1)   Tomatoes [Currant]
2)   Tomatoes [Fresh Salsa Hybrid]
3)   Tomatoes [Oregon Spring]
4)   Tomatoes [San Marzano]
5)   Tomatoes [Roma VF Heirloom]
6)   Tomatoes [Pruden's Purple Organic]
7)   Tomatoes [Red Brandywine]
8)   Lettuce [Parris Island Cos-Organic]
9)   Lettuce [Parris Island Romaine]
10) Lettuce [Spinach Tyee Hybrid]
11) Pepper [California Wonder]

*This next section contains seeds from several varieties of peppers that we grew in 2009.  I don't have the exact name for some of them; instead I described them.

12)  Peppers [2009 Jalapeno]
13)  Peppers [2009 Long, green, HOT]
14)  Peppers [2009 Small, red, HOT]
15)  Peppers [2009 Little, HOT]
16)  Peppers [2009 Medium size, HOT]
17)  Broccoli Spring Raab
18)  Melons [French Orange Hybrid]

19)  Lettuce [Butter Crunch]
20)  Lettuce [Green Salad Bowl]
21)  Lettuce [Carmona Organic]
22)  Summer Squash [Aristocrat Zucchini Hybrid]
23)  Oregano [True Greek Organic]
24)  Money Plant
25)  Red Poppy

26)  Asters
27)  Marigolds [Lemon Drop]
28)  Marigolds [Cracker Jack]

29)  Marigolds [Star Fire]
30)  Marigolds [Frances Hoffman]
31)  Marigolds [Dwarf]
32)  Snapdragons
33)  Hollyhocks
34)  Parsley [Curly]

I'll continue to post our garden's progress throughout the spring/summer/fall seasons and also share some delicious recipes of the meals we will create from our garden fresh foods!

          Bush VS42558-03 Plasma TV Table Stand 36" Video Ba        
Bush VS42558-03 Plasma TV Table Stand 36" Video Base, Cognac Maple, Saber: Accommodates 36" conventional televisions and flat panel televisions up to 50": Concealed storage for media: Adjustable shelf for components behind doors: Tempered glass doors with mitered frames protect components from dust:
          BOOK OF HOURS - First Story in Time and Time : A Collection of Tales        
The sign caught her eye. It was round and gleaming, reflecting the afternoon sun: TIME &TIDE ANTIQUE CLOCKS printed in black letters on an image of a white clock face with Roman numerals. She noticed there were no hands on the clock. Although the shop had been on the outskirts of town forever, she never really took notice of it in the same way as she did on this day. She felt compelled to turn at the entrance next to the sign.
  Helen had driven two hours since leaving the airport.  She had been twenty years away from the sounds and sights of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Familiar to her, but in a dreamlike way, were the horse and buggies clopping along the roads, the makeshift farm stands with bins of pumpkins and squash and adorned with tin buckets of bright zinnias. Modest young girls in plain gingham dresses stood behind jars of relish and jam. She stopped along the roadside to buy a bunch of those zinnias to take to her mother. The sullen girl handed her the flowers and counted out change from a Ball jar and returned dutifully to her post without making eye contact. 
  She had forgotten how the sweeping fields of sunflowers turned their brown eyes to follow the sun’s arc through the sky. The variegated patches of fields stretched like a giant quilt over the rolling landscape toward the misty blue hills beyond. For all the quaint appeal and simple beauty, she felt she had been washed ashore on a lonely island as a stranger. She was not ready to come face to face with the past or the future.
When she got the letter that her mother was dying, she had to come, wanted to come. During all those years away, she had never thought to return, but here she was. It had never felt like home—why she never knew. She found her real home in the Mediterranean—bathed in light and warmth, wrapped in blue sea and sky. She would carry something of it with her into the cold winter ahead, which held the unwelcome promise of grief. There would be this time with her mother before it was too late.  Time was of the essence; this she knew.
Still, she was drawn to make this one stop before going the short distance to that bleak farm house where her mother waited.
She drove slowly down the long drive, past an old white-washed mansion: the  ornate black iron fence, the brick walkway lined with hedge rows, lush shrubs and Victorian lamplights all seemed out of place. The elegance of the stately house gratified her finer sensibilities, distracting her from the otherwise austere landscape surrounding it dotted with plain and practical buildings.
Ahead she spotted the long, grey building and parked in front of it, assuming it was the shop, though she saw no sign or markings on it. When she pulled open the high, church-like door and stepped inside, her eyes tried to focus in what at first seemed total darkness, having come out of the brilliant daylight. Soon, she saw small shafts of light entering from rows of narrow windows along the top of the walls, shedding a misty light on the ticking clocks below. Such an odd place, she thought, as her vision adjusted to take in the sight of hundreds of clocks on multi-leveled shelves set on long tables. Amid the odor of old wood and dampness, she saw no one, not even at the island desk far ahead that seemed to mark the middle of the gaunt space.
She walked an unhurried pace along the main aisle, then through several side aisles, taking in the vast array of clocks standing like old soldiers at attention, waiting to be inspected. She stopped here and there to admire the shapes and designs of the colorful ceramic clocks with their scenes of farmhouses and gardens. She shuddered at the sombre black cases of others. She smiled at the clock with the white marble base on which a brass horse and hound stood to one side, and on the other side, a bright yellow clock face covered with a glass dome.
Where had they been, and what had they seen? Who were the owners, and how had they lived?  She wondered. Where were the souls now who had lived by the dictates of their ringing reminders of passing time.
She was startled to hear a thin voice. “Can I help you?”
It had been a long time since she heard that unmistakable singsongy Pennsylvania Dutch intonation. She looked up to see the old man standing next to her.
“Oh, thanks, but…no, no, I just stopped in to see what you have. I grew up in this town, but I’d never been to your shop.”
“Oh, it’s not my shop. It’s my father’s.”
Your father’s, she thought, but whispered an “Oh?” certain that his father could not possibly still be alive. The man was old and bent over, with grey, wispy hair, and eyes clouded over with a bluish film.
“You let me know if you have any questions, young lady.”
“I will for sure. Thank you.”
“Excuse me?”
“Marchenmeister, I am Earl Marchenmeister, Jr.”
“Oh, right…yes, well, thank you, Earl. I think I’ll just take a quick look around if that’s okay.”
     â€œYah, I’ll just be at the desk there,” pointing to it. She watched as he padded his way back until he reached the dark wooden desk—an island in a sea of clocks. He sat himself down with some effort.
What a strange man! She imagined that over the years he had worked on and cared for each timepiece—recognized their individual chimes, knew where they had been, who had owned them, and maybe even the fate of their owners.      I’m being ridiculous; he’s just an old-fashioned man who’s been doing this all his life. He probably inherited the place and still thinks of it as his father’s. I wonder if he has a son who will inherit the shop when time runs out for him. Now, why do I care? What does it matter? No matter!
Then she saw it: a clock exactly like the one in her island apartment in Italy. It was elegant with a reddish wooden case embellished with gold leaf designs. On the glass door beneath the face was an image of the church of Santa Croce painted in thin golden lines, with the pendulum peeking through. The hands were silver filigree with a flowery red line around the perimeter above the hours on the ivory clock face.
I cannot believe this! 
She had first settled in Florence, across from Piazza di Santa Croce on Via di San Giuseppe. Later, she moved to the Island off Sicily.  She thought it a coincidence when she saw the clock on the mantel above the fireplace in her little sitting room. When it chimed, she sometimes closed her eyes and felt she was back in Florence with her lover lying beside her, warm on the daybed by the fire with his kind and shining eyes looking upon her—the smell of espresso and wood fire smoke drifting in the side window and all the city’s church bells resounding through the room. 
A bit disoriented, she crossed the aisle to gaze at the clock in reverie, for how long she couldn’t be sure. Thoughts of her Mediterranean home warmed her in the cold space where she stood. She had been a wayfarer ever since she could remember—first in thought then in her wanderings. For years, she had traveled the Greek islands, then stayed a year Florence, and finally settled on Lipari. Its grandeur still surprised her each day. Has it been twenty years? Vaguely, lines from a long-forgotten poem came to her—something about two paths diverging and “how way leads on to way” and doubts about ever coming back—back to here, back to there?
She turned to make her way to where the old man sat, dozing with his arms folded across his chest. “Excuse me…excuse me, Earl,” she whispered, so as not to wake him too abruptly.
He opened his eyes and looked up, “You want to know something about one of my clocks?”
“Yes, I guess…I mean, I saw a beautiful Italian clock down the aisle there. At least I think it’s Italian. I had one exactly like it. I mean… it wasn’t mine. It was there in my apartment…in Italy when I moved in…and…”
“This is one of a kind, Miss. There are no others,” the old man said, as they walked together to where the clock rested. As soon as they stopped in front of it just on the hour, all the clocks began a fugue of chimes and bells, so neither of them could speak until the ringing played out and faded into uneven ticking.
  “This is a special one, Miss.” 
“Helen…my name is Helen. One of a kind? But it’s exactly like the one I….How long have you had this clock?”
“Oh, this one’s been here a long time, maybe waiting for you, no? 
“Can you tell me about this special one?”
“The clocks will tell you about themselves.”
“What do you mean? How…how do they tell about themselves?”
“When you have the clocks around and you love them, you hear what they know.”
“Well, then you must know what this clock has to say, right?”
“Yah, yah, I do, but it’s different for everone. Yah, different, Miss Helen.”
“Really? That's very strange,” she said. 
Earl turned from the the clock to Helen again, “Yah, different,  but not so strange. You will see.”
“See? How will I? Feeling a little strange herself, she realized he was not going to tell her a thing about the clock.        â€œThanks, I will think about it…it’s lovely, but I should be going now.” She thanked the old man again, gazed longingly at the clock, then turned toward the door. As she moved away from the clock, she felt she was abandoning it, silencing it somehow.
“Aren’t you going to take it with you, Miss?” he called after her, the last syllable rising in his raspy voice. “It will have things to tell you.”
She did not look back. Who is that man, anyway, the Gepetto of clocks? She laughed as she picked up her pace nearing the entrance. She pushed hard on the heavy door, expecting a burst of light, but, the sun was already low in the sky and disappearing at horizon by the time she arrived at her mother’s house. 
The Hospice nurse answered the door, holding out her hand in greeting. “Helen? Nice to meet you. How was your trip?” 
“Oh, good, yes…good, thanks.  Nice to finally meet you, Mary. Thanks for keeping in touch and for all you’ve done. How is she?” 
  “She was very restless today. I wanted to wait until you got here. She’s asleep now. She’s had her meds. I told her you would be here when she woke up; that made her smile.”
“I should have gotten here sooner, but…” Do you think I could wake her?
“No worries, really, but I know she is looking forward to welcoming you home. She’s just had some morphine, so she may not rouse, but you can try.” Mary showed Helen how to administer the morphine drops for anxiety or pain and how to set up the nebulizer. “I’ll be back day after tomorrow, but now you call me if you have any questions, will you?
“Yes, will do.” Helen walked with Mary to the door and thanked her again, “Good night.”
“Good night, Helen, and welcome home.”
Home. Walking back through the entrance hall, she looked around. Nothing has changed. She went to the kitchen, put the flowers in an old jar she found on the window sill, then took the gift she had brought for her mother out of her bag. 
  She entered the quiet room where her mother lay. So thin and frail. Oh, Mother, I should have come sooner. She placed the flowers on the bedside table, leaning over to put her hand on the slender arm and taking up the blue-veined hand in her own, she quietly murmured, “Mom… Mom, it’s me. It’s Helen. I’m here now.” 
“I’m here now.” 
“I’ve been waiting.” Her eyes drifted to the ceiling, fluttered a moment and closed again.
   “I know…I know, Mom. Look, I brought you something.” 
She placed the gift under the lamp on the dresser across from the bed, so her mother could see it: a mosaic tile on a stand with a scene of Lipari in the sea. Vibrant colors of red tiled roofs, golden bell towers and tall green cedars on the azure hills shone under the lamplight. 
“Look, Mother, isn’t it lovely?”
  The old woman opened her eyes and looked at the tile for a long time. She smiled, “Bring it closer to me,” closing her eyes, as if exhausted from the effort. Her voice drifted off as Helen picked up the tile and set it on the table next to the flowers. She sat at the bedside gazing at the slight figure, holding on to the limp hand of the woman who had been so strong, so severe, so demanding.  She did the best she could. That’s all anyone can ask, isn’t it? The weight of grief about to descend, she arose quickly and went into the hall, picked up her bag, and headed to the little room at the top of the stairs.
  She was taken aback, but not entirely surprised to see that, there too, everything was as it had been when she had left at age nineteen: high school banner above the mirror, jewelry box on the dresser, faded pictures of Einstein and Leonard Cohen on the cork board over the white and gold provincial desk, her bed under the dormer, still covered with the quilt her mother had made for her sixteenth birthday. She took down the board, slid it behind the dresser and stuffed everything else into one of its empty drawers.
  She switched on the lamp in the shape of a sunflower, hoping its warm light would fill the dreary room and the empty feeling within. From her bag, she took a small embroidered pillow, a silk melon flower and a book of hours she always carried with her. Though she was not religious, she often opened it and read the designated prayers when the bells rang out, as they did across every Italian town and village. She took the book to the window, opened the sash and read the prayer for vespers into the silence, with the moon rising above the darkening fields below.
  When she finally lay on the bed, her thoughts turned to the clock shop, imagining everything had disappeared when she left: the stately house, the warehouse full of clocks and the odd figure of a man inside. She smiled at her imaginings and at the old man’s claim that the clocks stood ready to tell what they “know.” She did feel that, at least, the Italian clock would remind her of her island home, and though she could not believe the clock would tell her anything, she didn’t entirely disbelieve it either.
  She dozed off and on throughout the night, getting up several times to check on her mother, but was in a deep sleep when she heard the sound of coughing early in the morning. She bolted out of bed and down the stairs.    â€œMother, I’m here,” leaning down to kiss the old woman’s cheek, she again took her hand. The coughing was so intense and lasted so long that it frightened her. She went for the morphine, took some up into the dropper, opened her mother’s lips with one hand and with the other emptied the few drops onto her tongue. The coughing subsided; the old woman opened her eyes and seemed to focus on the mosaic tile and the bright zinnias. She looked at her daughter and smiled again,  “Helen?”
“I’ll get some water for you and get you started on your nebulizer treatment. I came in last night, Mom. Do you remember? Mary told me you’re doing well,” Helen lied, “and what I needed to do to take care of you. Here, let me fluff your pillow.” She straightened the sheets and set up the nebulizer. “I’m going to make you some hot tea and toast.”
When Helen got back with a tea tray, she removed the inhaler. Her mother turned her head, opened one eye and tried to form words. Helen heard them only as unintelligible whispers. “What are you saying, Mom?” Again, she heard only whispered sounds. On the third attempt to interpret her mother’s wish to be heard, she whispered back, “I love you too, Mom,” choosing to believe her mother’s words had been, “I love you.,” though she had never spoken them before. She sensed the old woman drifting off to somewhere further away than sleep, her breathing becoming a watery sound.
  She took the tray into the kitchen and returned to hear the breathing had become a loud gurgling. A call to Mary confirmed it, “It may be the dying process has begun,” she had said,and offered to come over, but Helen refused.
Dying process…no! She did not want to believe the hour had come. This is what I came for, but not already, not so soon. 
She thought if they had more time together, her mother would have said, “I missed you, Helen,” and asked, “Why did you stay away so long?” She remembered that on the flight home, she had hoped they would not have that familiar conversation again, but now she wished they had been able to talk about it—or about anything.
     â€œI told you before, Mom,” she would have said. “I found a home in Italy, and my work is there.” Was there. Even if I go back, I have nothing to write, nothing to say. She felt her inspiration had gone, with no idea how to get it back. She thought of what she had once heard a successful novelist  say, “I have a million stories in my head, and will never have time to write them all.”
Helen had not even one, and believed she never would again.
All through the day she read prayers and verses to her mother at the appointed hours from her book, to the sound of that breathing she knew she would never forget for the rest of her days. She would also remember her mother’s smile when she saw the gift of the mosaic tile. Helen thought of it as both a welcome home and a blessing on the life she had chosen, if not forgiveness for having left her mother alone.
     During Vespers, the breathing faded into silence as Helen read: 
          What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbors, saying unto them: Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.

    Phone calls were made, a funeral arranged, a memorial service planned, a burial endured. Then there were the legal and financial obligations—and the emotional days of sorting through the things in the house and the things in her heart. There were the family papers, the little mementos her mother held dear. There was a ceramic rose candy dish, a glittery angel, which had never meant anything to Helen—until now. There found pictures, cards and letters she had sent to her mother over the years. She thought of the ritual she had read of in a poem,“…the sweeping up the heart and putting love away, we shall not want to use again until eternity.” She burned them all in the fireplace and prayed in her own way that any resentment remaining in the house over those many years would go up with the smoke into the clean, cold air above.
Then, she was along with her thoughts—of her mother’s love and years of loneliness and of fear that her creativity was gone forever—that which had always sustained her and kept her from despair. The long weeks of winter were spent in that room at the top of the stairs—in the house she thought she had escaped, amid those Lancaster County fields under the grey skies, an ocean away from the light and blue. 
When Helen returned to the clock shop months later, she again walked the long aisles, stopping at the spot where she thought she had seen the Italianate clock. It was not there. She walked half the length of the shop to the little island desk, expecting to find the strange little old man napping. Oh, it’s here! At the counter behind the desk was the clock with its pendulum gently keeping time. A calm came over her and, at the same time, a feeling as if awakening from a long sleep.
Seemingly out of nowhere, came a voice, “You’ve come for your clock, then,” more a statement than a question. “It’s ready to go.” When she turned toward the voice, she saw not the old man, but a younger one about her own age. He did not look like he belonged in what she had since thought of as that fairy tale shop.
“Oh, yes…actually I did come to see if the clock was still here, but where’s the old man, Earl? How did he…how did you know I’d be back?”
“I’m Earl, Earl, Jr. It’s just me here now. My father died a few years ago. I am trying to keep it all going, but there isn’t much interest or sales these days.” He went behind the counter and gently put the clock into a box. “This is a special one.“
A few years ago?  No….it was just….Helen felt as though she would melt away—light-headed and confused—the tranquility she at first had felt dissolved all in that instant.    â€œWhat…I mean, when I was here before the old man told me about this clock. I can see how he thought I might be back for it, but I don’t understand…that was only a few months ago.”
The young man smiled, “That was me, Miss…Helen, right? You spoke to me that day. We talked about the clock, and I knew you would be back because you loved it. Well, no matter! Here you are now, and you will have what you came for.” 
     No matter? “Am I dreaming or what? It was not you…it was…the old man. He said it was his father’s shop…and…”
“We are all dreaming, no?” he interrupted.
“Yes…no, not now, but…I…”
She noticed the man did not have the local accent as the old man had. She felt very drawn to him and stood for a moment, their eyes meeting. It’s all strange…everything, but in a way familiar. All seemed familiar now, his smile, his kind and shining eyes and the clock. She said nothing, not even a “thank you” or a “good bye.” She picked up the box and felt again as she had when she first came here—which felt like a lifetime ago— to this dimension or whatever it was—and again imagined the shop would disappear into thin air the moment it was out of her sight.
She held the box close to her and slowly walked away and out into the overcast day, into that silent stillness before a snow.
    Placing the clock above the fireplace in the front sitting room, she ran her fingers over the case, touching the glass gently.  It was beautiful, but she would not set it into motion just yet. 
She had moved her bed and few belongings to this room, where the southern  exposure allowed the light to linger most of day—so short were the days now in winter. Here she spent all of them in reverie, not even thinking of what she would do, where she would go—back or forward. She didn’t know, but for now she had the company of the silent clock.
On the threshold of spring, she awoke as if she were preparing to sail out on a faraway adventure. She took the key, wound the clock and set the pendulum into motion. She took her book of hours from the place it had remained since the night her mother died. In the following days, when the clock chimed, she read the designated prayers in the hours of daylight, and sometimes through the hours of night. 
  As the chimes sounded, she might feel herself begin to drift into another realm of no place and no time. There she existed, waiting for the silence and at peace.until all manner of dark and light beings began to flash and flutter before her—some in images like holographs, their voices heard in whispers and secret thoughts. When they came, they came like a swift, incoming tide, surreal, filled with beauty and sadness, old regrets and new life—all muddled and intertwined as in a dream.
There was the image of a man coming back to the childhood home he had abandoned to tell of his wanderings to an empty room, and the voice of a woman obsessed with the beauty and peace of the starry sky then brought back to earth through the suffering of others. There was a shadow of an enlightened soul becoming a truer form of herself. She heard a mother grieving for her lost son on sacred ground, and saw a husband left alone to endure the memory of all that was lost to him. She felt the confusion of a young actress who was “tricked by flying too close to the thing she thought she loved.” She thought the thoughts of a therapist whose saintly lover left her a gift.      There was a vision of a teacher whose broken, irreparable things became her strength.
  Were they ghosts lost in time—the tales of those who had once owned the clock? Were they conjured out of her own imagination? Or did they truly emanate from timeless sprits—the minds of men and women who, like the Greek hero Odysseus, had found within themselves ways of contending with the trials they encountered—wandering on their way home— to the place of rest?
Not each day, nor all at once, but over the course of the following year, she saw them, heard them, felt she had become them. She understood them, loved them. She dreamed their dreams and was in the dreams—hundreds of them, maybe enough to last a lifetime.
She would speak as them and for them.

     When Helen returned to her azure island home, she was at peace, coming to rest through the weight of her love for the beings and the truth of their stories she had inside her. She sat by a window from which she could again look upon the turquoise sea and began to write them down—one by one.

Two Years Later
When Helen completed her first collection of tales, The Book of Hours—each one a prayer, she felt she had set the beings free, had given them voice. There were many more waiting to be heard—that she was sure of. 
It was not lost on her that the beings and their tales had found her— not in her beloved island home, but across the wide ocean, in a house that was not her home, in a town devoid of the kind of beauty that had become part of her, in a place she had not loved as she loved Lipari.
Yet, it was there they had found her.
Or had she found them? No matter!

She held the book lovingly in her hands, opened it and wrote a note of greeting and gratitude to Earl Marchenmeister, Jr., carefully wrapped it and sent it off to Time & Tide Antique Clocks. She was not surprised when it was returned to her:“Address Unknown.”

          First time shared        

I've always been a very sexual person. My husband realized this and since then has encouraged me to continue to have fun as along as I let him know what I'm doing and even let him watch (smile) if he's around. I was very reluctant at first because I felt I was happy with my sex life.

One day when we were coming home from a friends wedding and staying over night in a hotel, we struck up a conversation in the hotel bar with a salesman, who happened to sell wine, yum. The guy seemed nice enough and was very funny. He was a much older man though, probably in his early 50s, a bit over weight and balding. He had us laughing from the minute we met him though. After many drinks the bar closed and the guy asked if we wanted to grab another drink. He mentioned that he had a bunch of samples and why spend more money at another bar and cab fare when we could join him on his balcony. We both thought nothing of it, at least I didn't think of anything else but another yummy glass of wine. We were having such a great time his idea sounded great.

We went up to his room and he asked what I wanted. I said that I loved Ice Wine and knew he wouldn't have it. My husband being drunk and bad said that the last time he gave me Ice Wine, I gave him head in return, True Well he had a bottle in his fridge. Oh boy, so now he's asking what he gets. The same? I looked to Erick to defend me but he just said, "Well how bad do you want it honey?" Haha well I was pretty drunk and he was looking kinda cute, much older and not totally my type but what they hey. So I told him to sit down and I proceeded to give him a very thorough blow job. Wow was he thick. I'd forgotten what other cocks were like. Mmmmm nice. I was wearing the sun-dress I have in the picture and was leaning over next to him on the couch. He was rubbing my ass and working his thick fingers into my pussy as I sucked his lovely cock. He then unbuttoned my dress and pulled my tits out of my bra and basically started milking my nipples. He started calling me names and telling me what nice big nipples I had. I was more turned on then I can remember. I was so close to cumming when he surprised me by shooting a big shot of his cum into my mouth that I swallowed as much as I could but a lot spilled out of my mouth back all over his cock. He then surprised me again and pushed my mouth back down over his cock groaning to clean it up. I was choking a little but I didn't have much choice and did as he said. Once he released me I quickly looked over at Erick wondering why he hadn't said anything. He was sitting there asleep with his cock all shriveled up and cum all over it. The man said he saw Erick cum only a couple minutes into it.

I didn't know what to do but drink the Ice Wine that was sitting there for me. The taste of cum and Ice Wine was an interesting combination.

Some days I think back and feel dirty and others I think back and feel excited. So where was I? Oh yes, washing down the cum of an older, fat balding man with some yummy Ice Wine. I couldn't believe what had just happened but oddly I took to being a slutty wife rather easily. I sat there looking over at my husband who was snoring away in the chair with his very shriveled up little cock peaking out of his pants. If I had a camera I would have taken a picture for days I wanted something really nice. But in this case, no camera.

I started to get pretty tired from the Ice Wine and chatting with the salesman about his life. I suggested he help me get my husband back to our room but he said we should let him sleep and that I was more then welcome to lie down on the bed and he'd take the sofa. I was too drunk to argue and made the quick transition to the bed from the sofa.

I woke up a couple hours later to the warm feeling of being spooned. I thought it must have been my husband waking up but quickly realized his shape (belly, very large hard cock and hands) were totally different then what I normally expected. It was the salesman whispering that he just wanted to lie next to me and sleep. His words said that but his cock said other things as it dug into my ass through my dress.

I drifted in and out and soon felt the salesman kissing my neck ( I love that by the way ) and pulling my dress so he could rub my bare ass with his big hands and cock. I told him my husband wouldn't approve to which he said, "He loved watch you suck my big cock, just relax and have fun."

It didn't take much convincing. I was still horny from before and could use a little fun. He started unbuttoning my dress and soon had me naked next to him. His body was very hairy but in the dark just felt very warm and the constant reminder of his huge hard cock told me something good was going to happen. He was sucking on my nipples and kissing me deep. It felt wonderful. He kept telling me how much he loved my big mommy nipples and full swollen pussy lips. He was quickly down licking my pussy and even my ass. It was driving me crazy. He was whispering that I had a cunt made for fucking and that he planned to pound the shit out of me before he was done. I almost came right then. I love nasty talk. Before I knew it he had two big thick fingers deep inside me and was going crazy fucking me with them as he took turns licking my clit and sucking my swollen pussy lips deep into his mouth. I exploded all over his face and even squirted a little. I hardly ever do that.

With that he told me to get up and go out on the balcony. I was sure what he had in mind but he literally picked me up off the bed and pushed me towards the sliding glass door. I got out there and I could see down to the pool. He came out soon after stroking his thick cock and told me to turn around and grab the railing. With that he proceeded to fuck me through 2 more amazing orgasms. My knees gave out on each one and his cock in me and his hands on my hips were the only thing keeping me up. I could hear my whimpering and his slamming against my ass echoing through out the courtyard. Then I saw a light come out across from us and a man open his blinds. What a sight we must have been. A man twice my weight and 20 yrs my senior was fucking the hell out of me as my tits flew back and forth and nipples brushed the railing. I didn't care what the man saw. It felt so good.

The next thing I knew the salesman pulled out and spun me around and pushed me hard to my knees. He then said, "Open your mouth you fucking slut". I did and he proceeded to blast a giant load of cum in my mouth and all over my face. It just kept squirting out in long full streams. I was soaked and felt so slutty and nasty but was also in complete ecstasy. He told me how good of a fuck I was and said he was going back to bed. He turned to go back in and I was still coughing a little from the cum and trying to see since it was covering my eyes.

I made my way back inside once I got my bearings. Erick had missed the whole thing. I lay back down next to the salesman and wiped the cum off me as best I could with some tissues. I was so exhausted from the pounding I felt to sleep. That morning I woke up with the salesman still naked next to me. The light was shining in and I was beginning to realize just how overweight he was. Still his cock was very evenly proportioned to his big round body. He woke up a minute later and said he love another blow job before he had to go. It must have been the day of being a slut but I agreed and was soon over top of him working his cock as he pulled on my nipples, pushed on my head and played with my pussy by reaching around.

This is when Erick woke up. I heard him say Whoa, and Damn Girl. I looked up to what he described to be a mascara streaked, dried cum face. The salesman then pushed my head back down on my cock and he said he was about to cum. At this point Erick must have been a bit too hung over and ran for the bathroom to be sick. The salesman then said he want to fuck me one last time and got me on the bed in the doggy style position. His big cock slid right into me and he proceeded to go at me with everything he had, which surprisingly was a lot. Erick came back into the room to see the salesman and I cumming together in one volcano of a combined orgasm. Erick says to this date he'll never for get that moment and the faces on the salesman and me.

I collapsed on the bed a quivering mess. The salesman said he was late for an appointment, took a quick shower, got our phone number and left. Erick and I didn't talk about the whole thing for about 6 hrs. We were both in such shock over what had taken place, how much I enjoyed it and what a slut I could be.

Any other regular guys out there want some fun? I love it!!!

          Free After 25 Years: A Tale Of Murder And Injustice        

The past few years in Texas have seen a parade of DNA exonerations: more than 40 men so far. The first exonerations were big news, but the type has grown smaller as Texans have watched a dismaying march of exonerees, their wasted years haunting the public conscience.

Yet a case in Williamson County, just north of Austin, is raising the ante. Michael Morton had been sentenced to life in prison for murdering his wife. He was released six months ago — 25 years after being convicted — when DNA testing proved he was not the killer.

Instead of merely seeking financial compensation, Morton is working to fix the system. His lawyers, including The Innocence Project, want to hold the man who put him behind bars accountable. They also want new laws to make sure Morton's story is never repeated.

The Day Of The Murder

On the morning of Aug. 13, 1986, Morton was getting ready for work as head of the pharmacy department at a nearby Safeway in Austin. He closed the door to his home, blissfully unaware that the next time he saw his wife of seven years she would be in a coffin. Morton had nine hours of his normal life left. The clock ran out after work, when he arrived to pick up his son from day care.

"First time I figured something was up was when I locked eyes with the baby sitter," he says. "She looked at me real weird, like, 'What are you doing here? Eric's not here, why are you here?' "

Morton was immediately worried and called home. The man who answered was Williamson County Sheriff Jim Boutwell. The sheriff refused to answer Morton's questions and told him to come home immediately. Morton drove there in a panic.

"There were a lot of cars in the street. There was a big yellow crime-scene ribbon around our house," he says. "Neighbors were across the street, clustered on the corner ... talking to each other, and of course, when my truck comes racing up, they all kind of key on me."

Boutwell met Morton outside the front door and, in front of everyone, bluntly told him Christine Morton was dead, murdered in their bedroom. Morton reeled.

"You really don't know how you're going to react until it happens to you, and with me, I remember it was as if I was ... falling inside myself," he says.

Morton was stunned, nearly mute, which fueled the sheriff's suspicions and became a major prosecution touchstone at his trial. The fact that Morton didn't cry out or weep became evidence that he didn't love his wife and had killed her.

Boutwell took Morton into the living room, his wife's body still down the hall. For the next four hours, Morton answered every question the sheriff could think of and never once asked for a lawyer.

"In my mind, I knew that, 'OK, he's doing his job. You have to eliminate the suspects, so he's got to tick off these certain questions and get rid of me as a suspect and get on with this thing,' " he says.

The 'Evidence'

Morton was wrong. Boutwell had already decided that Morton was his No. 1 one suspect. The previous day had been Morton's birthday, and the family had gone out for a nice dinner. After getting home and putting Eric to bed, Morton was hoping for a "happy ending" with his wife. That's not what happened, though, and Morton's feelings were hurt. He wrote her something the next morning before he left for work.

"Chris, I know you didn't mean to, but you made me feel really unwanted last night. After a good meal, we came home, you binged on the rest of the cookies, then you farted and fell asleep. I'm not mad. I just wanted you to know how I feel without us getting into a fight about sex. Just think how you'd feel if you were left hanging on your birthday. I love you."

This note, left on the couple's bathroom mirror, turned out to be Morton's doom.

Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson used it to weave a sensational tale of unspeakable violence. In Anderson's version of the crime, Morton used a wooden club to viciously bludgeon his wife's head because she wouldn't have sex with him. Then, in triumph over her body, he pleasured himself. The mild-mannered pharmacy manager was transformed into a sexually sick, murderous psychopath.

It was all a prosecutorial fantasy; none of it was true. Yet Anderson pounded his fists into his hands and wept to the jury as he described Morton's perversity. Compared with this vivid picture of the crime, Morton's defense didn't have a lot to offer.

A Mother's Plight: 'The Most Devastating Thing'

Patricia Morton cradles her son Michael in 1954.

Courtesy of Patricia Morton


Listen to Patricia Morton

Patricia Morton's life was upended when her son went to prison for a crime he did not commit. She tells NPR's Wade Goodwyn, "I felt like I was in prison too, because he was my child and I couldn't help him."

"The defense was that [Morton] didn't do it, and we don't know who did it. But whoever did it snuck in and committed a really vicious, vicious murder," says Bill Anderson, now a criminal law professor at the University of Texas who was Morton's lawyer in 1986. "And that is very frightening. A jury, by convicting [Morton], makes themselves safe. They've solved the case and they can go on about their business."

What the jury and the defense lawyers didn't know about was the evidence that had been concealed by Williamson County law enforcement. Only the sheriff's office and the district attorney knew about it.

Undisclosed Information

For the past eight years, John Raley, of the Houston firm Raley & Bowick, has spent thousands of hours pro bono as Morton's lawyer. "There were fingerprints on the sliding glass door, and there were fingerprints on the luggage that was piled on Christine Morton's body," he says. That's not all: A neighbor told police that she'd seen a man in a green van casing the Morton home. Repeatedly.

"The neighbors report that they had seen a strange van driving around the neighborhood, stopping around the Morton house. The man in the van would drive around back to the wooded area and walk into the wooded area in back," Raley says. "The interesting thing is, it's around that area where the bandanna that contains the DNA was eventually found."

A bloody bandanna had been found by a deputy behind the Morton home. Incredibly, the sheriff's office decided to ignore it and left it lying on the ground.

Leads Not Followed

Raley says the evidence trail got even hotter.

"On Aug. 15, 1986, the Williamson County Sheriff's Office was contacted by San Antonio police regarding an attempted use of Christine's credit card at a place called the Jewel Box in San Antonio, Texas," he says. "It was used under fraudulent circumstances."

Another Law Enforcement Fairy Tale

Eric Morton's mother was killed in their home, a year after this photograph was taken.

Courtesy of Patricia Morton

After nearly-4-year-old Eric Morton told his grandmother a "monster" had attacked his mother, Rita Kirkpatrick called the sheriff's department. The deputy who took her call suggested that perhaps the reason Eric didn't recognize his father was that he had put on a full scuba suit and diving mask, then killed his wife.

Yet Morton's scuba suit was not covered in his wife's gore. It was dry and stored away, making the notion that Morton would have struggled into a full bodysuit in a sexual rage so he could kill his wife without his son recognizing him is strange, even ludicrous.

Morton's former trial lawyer, Bill Allison, believes these statements, which were eventually found in the deputy's notes, are evidence of law enforcement bias and he would have argued so in court — had he known about them.

This information should have had Williamson County investigators scrambling to San Antonio. After all, Christine Morton's purse was missing. This was possible evidence of capital murder, since murdering in the commission of another crime brings the possibility of the death penalty.

However, the Williamson County Sheriff's Department never even bothered to return the San Antonio Police Department's call. In a note found 25 years later in the sheriff's file, a deputy mocked the notion that Christine's purse really had been stolen, writing, "'Course, we know better."

This determined avoidance of inconvenient evidence was complete the next day, when the Mortons' son, Eric, who was almost 4, privately told Christine Morton's mother what happened the morning of the murder. Eric told his grandmother that a "monster" came into the house, that the monster was big and angry, that he hurt his mother and his mother was crying.

Raley says the boy described the scene in vivid detail, saying the monster was mad and put a blue suitcase on his mom.

"Which, of course, is exactly the way they found her," Raley says.

Shaken, Rita Kirkpatrick asked Eric if his father had been there when this happened.

"No, just Mommy and Eric was there," he said.

Kirkpatrick believed her grandson completely. His details were horrifyingly accurate. She called the sheriff's department about her conversation.

"You need to get off this domestic violence thing. There is a monster out there," she said.

The deputy who took her call told Kirkpatrick not to tell anyone else about her conversation with Eric and to keep Eric quiet too. Morton was the murderer — they were confident. So Kirkpatrick kept quiet, and she kept Eric quiet too.

'Completely Without Hope'

From the tip about the credit card to the man in the green van behind the Morton house to Eric's eyewitness account of his mother's murder — all of this evidence was withheld from both the judge in the case and the defense attorneys.

In His Darkest Hour, A Life-Altering Moment

"Now, life makes perfect sense to me," Michael Morton says.

Will Weissert/AP


Listen to Michael Morton

Michael Morton was 14 years into his prison sentence when he got the news that his son had taken a new last name. Morton fell into a deep depression and cried out to God for help. Then one night, he tells NPR's Wade Goodwyn, Morton felt God's presence.

And so Morton didn't get to see Eric grow up. When Eric was 12, he stopped seeing his father in prison. When he was 18, he changed his last name from Morton. That broke his father's spirit. Fourteen years into his life sentence, Morton hit absolute bottom.

"The things that I was hanging on to in the world, and he was it. When that was gone, I just cratered," he says. "When you are completely without hope, when you are completely without any avenue of escape, when you're not sure of any reason to go on, I cried out to God. I said, 'OK, I'm done. I got nothing.' "

Truth In The DNA

How was Morton finally freed? His wife's brother had found the bloody bandanna the police left later that day, and he turned it in. For years, Williamson County fought Morton's requests to have the evidence in his case tested. Prosecutors ridiculed his efforts and taunted him, saying they'd consider DNA testing the evidence only if Morton would first take responsibility for the crime.

It was when a Texas appeals court finally ordered the bandanna DNA-tested last year that law enforcement's arrogance was blown to pieces. After remaining silent tor months, Anderson, the former Williamson County district attorney and now a state judge, held a press conference.

"As district attorney at the time, and as woefully inadequate as I realize it is, I want to apologize for the system's failure to Mr. Morton and to every other person who was adversely affected by this verdict," Anderson said.

Christine Morton's blood was found on the bandanna, as was the blood of another man, Mark Alan Norwood. Norwood has a long criminal record, including assault, and is now in jail awaiting trial.

Michael Morton's DNA, however, was nowhere to be found.

Michael Morton (center) and his parents early on in his prison sentence.

Courtesy of Patricia Morton

Michael Morton (center) and his parents a year before he was released.

Courtesy of Patricia Morton

The Prosecutor's Defense

The other bombshell occurred when the appeals court ordered the defense attorney and sheriff's files opened completely. The exculpatory evidence found there stunned Texas legal circles. Anderson says he's not to blame.

"There have been a number of allegations made about professional conduct by the prosecutors, including me, in this case," he says. "In my heart, I know there was no misconduct whatsoever."

For one thing, Anderson's lawyer, Eric Nichols, disputes that the newly discovered evidence would have made any difference to the jury if it had known. He also says there was no duty for Anderson to disclose the evidence to either the judge or defense attorneys.

"The plain fact of the matter is, though, that the law in 1986, '87, did not require that the reports be disclosed," Nichols says, "and Judge Anderson has testified that these are the types of things that he would routinely discuss with defense counsel, even though there was no legal requirement to turn over those reports."

Anderson is not claiming that he did reveal this evidence; his official position is that he can't remember. His lawyers assert that Anderson should be left alone. They say to go after the former DA only compounds the tragedy.

A Second, Preventable Death

While the DNA testing set Morton free, it also wrote a new chapter of grief. After Norwood's DNA was identified on the bandanna, Innocence Project staff began looking for other murders like Christine Morton's in Austin.

They found one. A little more than a year after Christine Morton died, in a nearby neighborhood, another young Austin mother, Debra Baker, was savagely bludgeoned in the head in her home with a wooden club. Spurred on by the Innocence Project, Austin police then compared the DNA found at her murder scene with Norwood's — and it matched.

In 1988, Debra Baker left behind a grieving husband and two little children. Twenty-three years later, Phillip Baker and their grown children are trying to come to grips with the new and unhappy thought that their wife and mother didn't have to die after all.

"We all got pretty angry when we began to discover that they probably could have found this guy in '86, had they looked," Phillip Baker says. "But instead, Ken Anderson simply focused on Mike Morton. We're all extremely angry at him."

Bound together by their wives' murders, the alleged killer and the disastrous fallout from the Williamson County investigation, Phillip Baker and Morton have become colleagues. In the strange way these things sometimes go, it is Morton who has consoled Baker as they sat together in the courtroom.

Michael Morton and his mother, Patricia Morton, in October after a judge announced him free on bond after nearly 25 years in prison for a wrongful conviction.

Courtesy of The Williamson County Sun

A Push For New Legislation

While the vast majority of DNA exonerees in Texas have been black, it is not a requirement for getting caught up in a Texas law enforcement nightmare. For the past 24 years, Baker considered himself terribly unlucky: His wife was murdered, and the murderer got away. Now, he knows better.

"I stand next to [Morton] up in that courtroom; I told him, 'You know, your exoneration was the first time it ever dawned on me that I could have been the one they arrested,' " he says.

Baker's faith in authority is shaken; the idea that his wife didn't have to die makes him feel betrayed. Morton, on the other hand, is further down the road. He's had almost 25 years in prison to get perspective on Anderson.

"I don't want his head on a stick. I don't want him to go to prison for forever and a day," he says. "What I want to do is do what I can to make sure this doesn't happen to anybody else."

At Morton's request, the Texas Supreme Court has appointed a court of inquiry to investigate whether the former district attorney broke the law when he withheld exculpatory evidence.

Beyond Anderson's fate, Morton wants new Texas legislation: If a Texas district attorney is found to have withheld exculpatory evidence in a case, that prosecutor would be subject to a stiff fine and loss of law license.

Morton believes that simple step would solve the problem — that no prosecutor would suppress evidence to put a suspect in prison, if it meant not only risking his job but his livelihood if he were caught.

Meanwhile, Morton has renewed his relationship with his son, Eric. Despite decades of estrangement, friends and family say, it's remarkable how father and son look, dress and even walk alike.

          A Mid-Century Modern Bookcase         

My mother bought this bookcase sometime in the 1940's, I think. It was sitting in my parents living room for over 40 years before they downsized and gave it to me. I brought it to the shop because my apartment already has too much stuff but I liked having it around. In our former location I had an office and had room for the bookshelf and a need for a place for my tool books, but at our current location I've struggled to put it to good use.

I still love the bookcase but I admit it's now in the way.

What continues to charm me about the bookshelf? I'm old enough to remember Scandinavian modern BI -- that is, Before Ikea. I had a Wim & Karen bed. Blond wood, simple and elegant lines. Nowadays the Scandinavian look has been co-opted by Ikea - though to be fair Ikea has also rummaged extensively in Japanese and other nationalities' aesthetics - so much so that some people assumed that the pricey Wim & Karen furniture was Ikea's. But Ikea stuff never had the details of this bookcase.

I love the carved in recessed handles of the glass doors.

I love the glass top. Were the mod-century owners expected to put a highball glass on their bookcases? Of course. No wonder they needed a glass top.

Historically, this piece dates from the early days of "modern furniture". Unlike a modern piece, everything is solid. The shelves are pretty thick but chamfered at the bottom to give the appearance of a lighter design. That's a good trick and worth remembering. Since this is the early days the shelves, pins are turned metal, not stamped out.

I find the details at the bottom - a base that mimics the main carcass but is upside down, very interesting, and the large miters at the corners perfect for a peice that is modern in look but not really in construction.

The bookcase is in pretty good shape, albeit with a lot of nicks and dents. So it might need some refinishing. The glass is in very good shape and moves smoothly on its track, which of course is the key. If you are interested in having it for yourself, $199 or Best Offer takes it away. (Actually, you will need to take it away. We will not ship it though we will help you pack the glass for safe transit.) If it doesn't move in a week or two, off it goes to a charity thrift store and later into a new home of admirers.

In other news - this Saturday is my free sharpening class and on Saturday July 29th master luthier Ian Kelly has volunteered to come to the shop and Carving a Guitar Neck for us and anyone who want to see how it's done. Lutherie is one of the most interesting branches of woodworking where everything is a combination of science, craft, & sculpture. So that's going to be real exciting and it's free.

          Panda Windows and Doors        

Options are the key to custom sliding & folding glass door systems, and Panda offers the best of them. Through a wide range of customization options, we make sure your dream design, whether commercial or residential, can be executed just the way you have imagined it. During the early stages, our team of expert designers will work closely with you to adapt your design vision to the required functionality and government compliances. Panda assists you in the entire process and creates products that respond to those specific requirements.
          Fowl Update        
Back at the end of May / early June, we took a trip that lasted over 2 weeks. When we returned home, there were no more chickens free-ranging. We suspect that owls got them judging by the evidence. We really enjoyed having chickens around. They were a frequent source of entertainment, not to mention the bonus of fresh eggs. We had started with 10 birds, and one by one, nature took them back into the circle of life. But it wasn't always fun and games. When the stairs and landing were finally built up to the bedroom door (which is a full-glass door), Mr. Rooster took advantage and made a point to climb up there at first light to crow, letting me know it was time to feed him and his harem. Yeah, that got old fast. And 4 chickens making their rounds on the deck/porch all day resulted in the additional chore of removing their messes often. So, if you're thinking of starting with some chickens, think twice.
          Texas Kari commented on 'MAMFing'        

Once when I was home from college, I came home very late at night and the lights were off in the house (obv.) except for TWO HUGE SHINING EYES in the living room. I was suuuuper freaked because we didn't have a pet at that time and gently backed out of the room, and as I turned on the hall light, I could hear the glass doors of the fireplace rattle. My heart was pound pound pounding. Sitting in the fireplace was a GIANT OWL! HUGE! ENORMOUS OWL!! The rattling was him trying to open his wings inside the firebox. Dude had big sharp talons so there was no way we could assist him out. The next day my mother called the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and a FOREST RANGER came with protective clothing and those giant thick gloves. He asked us to step outside while he rescued the owl because he was concerned we would be injured if the owl flew around the house! OMG. The forest ranger took him to the, well, forest to release him, but told us to be on the look out for him to return. Luckily, he did not. Freakiest wildlife encounter ever.

           Lisa. Not THAT Lisa commented on 'MAMFing'        

Here's my fun fireplace story. We were at a friend's house for a party. A squirrel suddenly drops down the chimney into the (unlit) fireplace and starts running madly through the room. Friend takes the poker thingy and chases the squirrel back into the fireplace. Closes the glass doors and hits the button to light the gas fire. Roast squirrel. It all happened in like 15 seconds. Friend was calm throughout, as if it happened all the time! He guaranteed us, however, that this was in fact the first time and he acted instinctively. My instinct was to flee, so I was impressed!

The other story was not so funny. We were out of town for a long weekend and came home to discover that a large black bird had come down our fireplace and spent the weekend frantically flying around our house, crapping his (metaphorical? hypothetical? imaginary?) pants. What a mess. Apparently they sit on the chimney (or chimbley as my grandpa called it) for warmth and then get knocked out by the carbon monoxide fumes from the furnace and drop like rocks. When they awaken they are surprised to find themselves in your house - much like June and her dental experience. Lesson learned - we put a guard around the chimney. They could still sit. But when the passed out they fell off the roof instead of in our house.

Lovely post June! Good luck to MAMFy Ned today!

          The Tiny Home of .... Lily Duval         
Lily has whittled down her possessions to fit her tiny Christchurch home, but she has trouble parting with books; the bookcase beside the door – her first building project – was modified to fit the house; the stained-glass door was an extravagance she doesn't regret: "I look at it every day."

Lucy's tiny 14sqm tiny house is in Christchurch New Zealand and is the most homely of all the tiny houses I have seen. I just love that beautiful stained glass door and the inbuilt  shelves. Proving that you don't have to be minimalist in a minimal space.

To see more photos and a lovely interview with Lucy visit Stuff
Absolute Glass and Glazing was formed in 1993, based in Keston , Kent. The company has grown every year and quickly gained a reputation for being a very reliable glazing company with a high standard of workmanship in all aspects of domestic, commercial and structural glazing. There’s nothing we can’t do. Our services include Replacement glass including misted double glazed units. Frameless toughened glass doors. < > Mirrors – made to measure, from standard Silver through all the various tints to Antique. Shower screens & enclosures. Splash backs any colour – great alternative to tiles in kitchens & bathrooms easy to clean and maintain. Glass tops & worktops. UV bonded glass to glass units. Glass shelves. < >< >< > Walk on glass floors. Glass partitions. Full range of safety glass, Laminated, Toughened and fire rated. Sola control and privacy film applied to your existing windows. Conservatory problems – leaking roof, poly carbonate replaced/upgraded Cat flap supplied and fitted/removed. Boarding/glazing make secure service. We also supply and replace domestic and commercial window / door hardware including handles, hinges, locking mechanisms, friction stays, patio door rollers, floor springs and overhead closers. All hardware can be supplied for Upvc, timber and aluminium windows and doors. We specialize in the supply and replacement of frameless glass hardware from all the leading manufacturers. We can adjust locks and seals and add any additional security required. We pride ourselves on providing a fast, friendly and reliable service in and around the south east of England. For any technical advice that may be required, or any general enquiries, do not hesitate to contact our office and speak to one of our team.
          Moving…... The journey continues!        
My Favorite new old hutch

Time for a change on the table. Still has flowers just not the roses. 

Farm fresh eggs!

Gift from my daughter. Love this special cookbook.

Painted old window. So fun!

I love to have my favorites all over my house. It makes me happy!

All my rolling pins are now displayed in a metal basket.

I've used this sign many times in miniature of course it's in my real home too!

My old kitchen was a warm yellow. The white is new too me but I love the change.

There is a place for everything!

The roses have a new home

A closer peek at the hutch
Setting up my new miniature room. Bigger than my old one with more storage! Yay!

Everything has a place. My favorite is my cabinet with glass doors. Holds my room boxes perfectly!

Love this room
Dollhouse moving is a big job
Time to put everything back in place

Craft room in my dollhouse

I spy "Its a miniature life" on the wall

Setting up the kitchen too!

So where to begin. I have been away for awhile. We moved at Christmas. It was a crazy time. But life is starting to get back to normal. I thought you might enjoy some pictures of our new place and my new miniature life :) Thanks to everyone who checked on me. It's nice to be missed and cared about. Hope you had a Happy New Year! I will be back to making minis again soon. xoxo
          A Warmer Spin On Modern Architecture        

Modern homes have come a long way from the cold white boxes of the 1920s, and buyers are snapping them up

Exterior shot of Skye Palm Springs Plan 1 mid century modern

Skye Palm Springs is a reinterpretation of mid-century modern design. Residence 1, shown, is 3,322 square feet and base-priced at $1.5 million. Woodbridge Pacific Group is the builder, with design by Hannouche Architects. Photo: Anthony Gomez

July 26, 2017

Perhaps it’s inevitable that modern architecture is once again making a splash in the residential market. After all, what better fits today’s lifestyles than a home that not only looks modern but also incorporates all the latest technology?

Modern architecture has been evolving since it was introduced in the 1920s by the likes of Le Corbusier and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Starkly free of ornamentation, by the 1960s modern homes were, says Samir Hannouche of Hannouche Architects, in Newport Beach, Calif., like the Jetsons’ home. “They looked very cold,” Hannouche says. “You [wouldn’t want] to live in those houses.”

Today’s modern homes leave chilliness behind, using wood, stone, and other natural materials to warm up interiors and add distinctive accents to exteriors. Instead of living spaces separated by walls and doors, the new modern home has a free-flowing floor plan that spills into outdoor space.Urbanites love modern design, as do would-be urbanites who can’t afford to live in the city but want that same sleek, downtown feel. Roof decks have become an efficient way to provide outdoor living. “They give a two-story home three levels of living space,” says Dustin Karami, VP of SDK Atelier Architecture & Planning, in Irvine, Calif., “and if there’s an elevator, you really get that urban feel.”

In the production housing realm, Karami warns against making modern design too abstract. “It needs to be universally recognizable and emulate the shift from early 20th century urban architecture,” he says. The common denominators are simple forms with clean vertical and horizontal lines, flat or butterfly roofs, large expanses of glass, and minimal ornamentation.

The arches on Plan 2 at Julep at Parasol Park are a shout-out to Irving Gill, an early 20th century architect and pioneer of modernism in San Diego. Shea Homes is the builder; SDK Atelier Architecture & Planning is the architect. Photo: Eric Figge Photography

Homage to Irving Gill

Unlike his famous contemporary, Frank Lloyd Wright, architect Irving Gill kept a low profile throughout his life. But the modern buildings Gill designed in San Diego have influenced scores of architects practicing today. Take, for instance, Plan 2 at Julep at Parasol Park, in Irvine, Calif.; the arches on the front elevation hark back to Gill’s work, Karami says.The two-story single-family homes at Julep range from 1,734 to 2,131 square feet and are priced from $760,610 to $886,360. One of the plans has a covered roof deck adjacent to a loft, compensating for the small square footage, Karami says.

Builder Shea Homes, of Irvine, Calif., touts their “unique urban feel in the heart of Irvine,” and Julep delivers that ambience in a high-density setting (11 DUA). Modern design has particular appeal for “young professionals and Millennials with progressive attitudes who are seeking residences that reflect their personality,” he says. “They’re tired of the old European styles.”Since sales started in January 2017, 21 homes have been sold. A total of 48 are planned.

Honoring mid-century’s roots

Woodbridge Pacific Group, of Mission Viejo, Calif., struck gold with Skye Palm Springs, on a site within walking distance of downtown Palm Springs. The project is not only a hit with buyers, but also won Grand Awards for Residential Housing Project of the Year (Detached Product) and Best Single-Family Detached Home (3,500 to 3,999 square feet) at the Gold Nugget Awards this year. Since sales started in January 2017, all of the 20 homes released to date have been sold. A total of 40 are planned.

Chameleon Design, of Costa Mesa, Calif., utilized a very light color palette at Skye Palm Springs, accented by natural elements such as stone, concrete, and wood. Punches of tangerine, citron, and turquoise, which complement glossy white flat-panel cabinets and large-format white porcelain tile inside, spill over to the outdoor living areas. Photo: Anthony Gomez

“The response to the product has been very strong,” says Todd Cunningham, founding partner of Woodbridge Pacific. He estimates that 75 percent of buyers are mature, affluent gay men, usually couples, from such West Coast markets as Los Angeles, Portland, Ore., San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, and Vancouver, B.C., as well as New York, Wisconsin, and other parts of the U.S. Seventy percent of sales are all-cash, Cunningham says: “They’re writing $1.5 million to $2 million checks.”

Architect Samir Hannouche’s designs range from 3,322 to 3,702 square feet, with options such as pool houses, pet suites, and extra bedrooms. The homes wrap around outdoor living areas designed for cooking, dining, entertaining, and relaxation.

Skye rings true to the mid-century modern vibe that is emblematic of Palm Springs, Cunningham says. But while the original mid-century modern houses had 8-foot ceilings and compartmentalized living spaces, the homes at Skye have 12-foot ceilings and large, open living areas.

He points out that the distinctive butterfly roof is not cheap to execute “because it’s a double roof. The top [layer] is a cool roof; it has a reflective coating. Underneath that is an attic that’s several feet deep. We had to use a lot of insulation, much more than you would with a traditional roof with trusses.”

Pacific Northwest modern

The growing popularity of modern architecture with Portland, Ore., homebuyers convinced builder Vic Remmers that it was time for a new addition to his portfolio. Remmers’ company, Everett Custom Homes, has been building Craftsman, traditional, and Portland Foursquare-style homes on infill sites since 2009. Remmers believes the Modern Homes Collection “speaks to the inherent evolution of not just homes, but lifestyles.” He says, “Our vision is to connect chic minimalism with futuristic luxury. [We’re] carrying crisp exterior metal handrails inside as a focal point. Combined with floating cabinets and distinctive finishes, [they] create an upmarket edge for an emerging public.”

This design, part of the Modern Homes Collection by Everett Custom Homes, has a butterfly roof and natural cedar siding accents for a Pacific Northwest flavor. The trapezoid windows under the roofline are a striking modern touch. Photo: Adam Fous/FousPhoto

Everett is developing a variety of product types for the new collection, including single-family detached homes, townhomes, and condominiums. The first introductions have either butterfly or box elevations and natural cedar siding accents evocative of the Northwest. “We pulled away the gingerbread on the interior in favor of clean lines; larger, simpler windows; and a stronger, simpler geometry for the house,” says Brad Hosmar, Everett’s COO and architectural lead.

Due to the diversity of house types and locations, the price range is approximately $350,000 to $850,000, Hosmar says. At press time, Everett had built and sold four homes and had several more under construction. Each home is built to platinum or gold Earth Advantage Home Certification standards.

Bringing California to St. Louis

Modern houses aren’t the norm in St. Louis, but a family relocating from Southern California was dead set on a modern home. Susan Bower, architect and principal with Mitchell Wall Architecture and Design, in St. Louis, obliged with something that can only be described as ultramodern. “It’s fitting,” she says, “because the client was one of the first hires at Facebook and is a real tech guy. He wrote the code for the [home-automation system], so he can walk around and talk to the house.”

Materials such as wood, steel, stone, and stucco preven this ultra-modern home in St. Louis, Mo., from looking like a white box. Design is by Mitchell Wall Architecture & Design; R.G. Ross Construction Co. was the builder. Photo: Alise O'Brien Photography

The exchange of ideas between Bower and the clients took a few years, resulting in a three-story 11,000-square-foot home overlooking a lake. There are balconies and terraces on every level. The lower level accesses the lake, pool, and lazy river; the kitchen leads to an outdoor garden and screened porch; and the top floor has views of the grounds from the master suite’s private balcony, as well as shared balconies in the children’s and guest bedrooms.

The house is screened from street view. Visitors must cross a water course, a bridge, and a moat to reach the front door. Once inside, they’re treated to a spectacular view of the lake and landscaped grounds.

Wood, steel, stone, stucco, and glass are the primary materials used. “Tactility was important to the clients,” Bower says. “They didn’t want a homogeneous white box.” The custom cantilevered glass-and-steel staircase is a focal point that ties all three levels together.

The fireplace surround is made of slabs of black crocodile marble that were ground and polished. The surround is rough on the dining-room side and smooth on the living-room side, says architect Susan Bower. Photo: Alise O'Brien Photography

The home has aluminum window and door systems, a full home-automation system and home theater, LED lighting, and sleek modern cabinetry. The architect describes it as a “virtual solar farm” with its rooftop array on the south façade. The panels are fully integrated into the structure as shading devices.

St. Louis-based R.G. Ross Construction Company built the home with prefabricated floor and wall trusses from Prairie Building Components, of Altamont, Ill. Vince Mannino, president of R.G. Ross, says panelization significantly speeded up completion time, along with the company’s commercial-construction expertise. “We were one of the first contractors in this area to use panelization on a luxury home,” Mannino says.

The biggest challenge was the staircase, he says: “We had to build a temporary stair tower for construction access while leaving part of the building open until the very end.”

Mannino observes that modern houses are trickier to execute because there is normally very little trim. “Joints and plane separations must be correct and performed neatly,” he points out. “In some locations, the structure is designed as exposed in the finishes, therefore requiring very accurate placement and quality of fabrication.”

Bauhaus-influenced modern

Los Angeles architect Dan Brunn grew up in Tel Aviv, where the houses were “all Bauhaus, with floor-to-ceiling windows, wraparound balconies, terrazzo floors, and seamless open plans.” That influence is clear in a beachfront home he designed in Venice, Calif., named Zig Zag. The 4,500-square-foot home was built by RJC Builders, in Los Angeles.

To prevent this home in Venice, Calif., from looking like a large white cube, architect Dan Brunn used a series of stucco zigzags that line deep balconies. The 4,500-square-foot home was built by RJC Builders. Photo: Brandon Shigeta

Zig Zag was done on a limited budget, Brunn says. “Understanding that structure is a huge part of the overall cost, I designed it with openings in different locations instead of large cantilevers, corner windows, and moment frames, which are more expensive than shearwalls.” Deep terraces at each floor maximize outdoor spaces and ocean views; a roof deck is furnished for living and dining. The interplay of projecting and recessed planes suggests the ebb and flow of the ocean, while complying with local setback and height regulations. The front (beach) façade has stucco zigzags lining deep balconies. Side façades have long, deep apertures as well as varying integral color stucco. The rear façade has recessed dark stucco.

“Modern, to me, means living in the now—using materials that are [readily] available and creating the best possible living machine,” Brunn says. “Materials don’t have to be expensive to create a modern feel. But it’s important to understand and take advantage of site conditions, climate, and views; put windows in the right place; and utilize passive heating and cooling techniques. That’s a lot easier to do with a modern building.”  PB

Cut Costs Without Cutting Corners

The materials typically used in upscale, modern custom homes—concrete, glass, and steel—may not pencil out for production homes. But there are less-expensive alternatives, says Dustin Karami of SDK Atelier Architecture & Planning, in Irvine, Calif.,

“You can emulate the look of concrete with a stucco finish,” Karami says. If the client’s budget allows, SDK specifies a steel accent column to support roof decks or balconies. Vinyl windows are available with veneers that are the color of metal, a popular window-frame choice in modern houses. There is also a stone veneer that captures the look of reclaimed wood, and roofing materials that resemble slate.

At Skye Palm Springs, 12-foot sliding glass doors had originally been specified for all areas facing the backyard, including the master bedroom and game room as well as the great room, kitchen, and family room. “The cost was going through the roof, so we went to 8-foot vinyl sliders in the bedrooms rather than 12-foot aluminum sliders,” says Todd Cunningham of Woodbridge Pacific Group, in Mission Viejo, Calif.

For its Modern Homes Collection, Everett Custom Homes, of Portland, Ore., specified 2 cm-thick quartz countertops, which offer a sleeker look and the same structural integrity as 3 cm countertops, but at less cost. The builder also surveyed prospective buyers to determine whether they preferred glass, cable, or metal stair-rail details.

“It turned out that they liked one of the less-expensive options, which allowed us to keep the vernacular and aesthetic value intact and saved a bit of money,” says COO Brad Hosmar.

          Toughened Frameless Glass Shop Fronts in Manchester        
For a stylish entrance, talk to us about frameless glass doors and automatic glass doors. We work with laminated glass, toughened glass and bandit-proof glass to give you peace of mind for your shop front or shopping centre. Our Toughened Glass Shop Fronts and Entrance Systems are designed to individual requirements, in either 10mm or 12mm glass thickness, joined together using purpose made clamps and fittings. For more details visit our website:
          Hassle-Free Window Treatment For Sliding Glass Door        
One of the more challenging factors of interior design is choosing the best window treatment for sliding glass door in your home. It is important that you find something that is not only attractive, but that is functional as well. Window treatments for sliding glass doors are different from the regular treatments. This is because Read More...
          Celebrating Diversity! Eight New & Notable LGBTQ Books for Young Adults        

In celebration of LGBTQ Pride Month, and in an effort to promote diversity in kids' literature, we've put together a list of eight highly praised LGBTQ books for young adults, all of which published (or will publish) in 2017.

Why is diversity in kids' literature so important? According to Rudine Sims Bishop, Professor Emerita of Education at The Ohio State University, and former selection committee member for both the Caldecott and Newbery awards, in her essay "Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors":

When children cannot find themselves reflected in the books they read, or when the images they see are distorted, negative, or laughable, they learn a powerful lesson about how they are devalued in the society of which they are a part. ...Children from dominant social groups have always found their mirrors in books but they, too, have suffered from the lack of availability of books about others....They need books that will help them understand the multicultural nature of the world they live in, and their place as a member of just one group, as well as their connections to all other humans. ...[B]ooks may be one of the few places where children who are socially isolated and insulated from the larger world may meet people unlike themselves. If they see only reflections of themselves, they will grow up with an exaggerated sense of their own importance and value in the world - a dangerous ethnocentrism.

What do you think of our list? If there are other outstanding YA LGBTQ books you'd like to add you can do so at the bottom. [More]

Growth, consolidation and reorganization force companies to move in order to succeed, survive, and remain competitive. When their moves damage the office building, the results can be disastrous. Elevator lobby-side entrances and main building entrance doors can cost thousands of dollars to repair. Not only is it costly, but it can take weeks to order and install new glass doors and repair or replace elevator frames and lobby-side walls. The Building What can property managers do to minimize the inherent risk of office relocation? At “ground zero” property managers can arm their buildings against major damage. Two products can reduce the risk of building entry/exit wounds. The first new product solves a problem property managers have faced for years: how to protect the outer doorjambs and lobby-side walls of office-building elevators. The Mat-A-Door® consists of two vinyl-covered, high-density foam panels that protect the outer frame and adjacent walls of passenger elevators when temporarily used for […]
          Comment on Sokoke Cat by dirk rezelman        
I believe this type of cat is found down the East coast of Africa from north of Kenya to Durban, South Africa. They result from natural selection crosses between Felis silvestris cafra and Felis catus (Tabbies) and usually end up in feral cat colonies near human habitation. They can grow large and if not captive bred and socialized from birth, they are intolerant of handling. As pets and socialized, they bond with one family member, are jealous of him/ her and are unusually intelligent. Ours is named Skelm (Rascal), and is a 6 year old indoor cat, although we live in a Conservation area she prefers indoors and has mock fights through glass doors with visiting Vervet Monkey troops. DIRK REZELMAN, MTHUNZINI, ZULULAND, SOUTH AFRICA
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          Night Walk        
The all-night convenience store’s empty
and no one is behind the counter.
You open and shut the glass door a few times
causing a bell to go off,
but no one appears. You only came
to buy a pack of cigarettes, maybe
a copy of yesterday’s newspaper —
finally you take one and leave
thirty-five cents in its place.
It is freezing, but it is a good thing
to step outside again:
you can feel less alone in the night,
with lights on here and there
between the dark buildings and trees.
Your own among them, somewhere.
There must be thousands of people
in this city who are dying
to welcome you into their small bolted rooms,
to sit you down and tell you
what has happened to their lives.
And the night smells like snow.
Walking home for a moment
you almost believe you could start again.
And an intense love rushes to your heart,
and hope. It’s unendurable, unendurable.
- Franz Wright

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          Farrell escapes from Apple tyranny        
Farrell escapes from Apple tyranny

Apple stuck a Farrell in charge of Apple quality... what could possibly go wrong?

The Tame Apple Press is stunned after it was revealed that a Farrell has escaped from Apple custody after he had been put in charge of Apple's quality.

Ben Farrell (no relation) has just penned a bog where he exposes what it is really like to work for Jobs' Mob.

"I've just escaped the Apple institution. I've sent in my resignation, and fled down its bright white corridors curated by crass colourful pictures of iPhones past. I handed in my security pass and in return I was able to re-claim my creativity, individuality and free thinking from the secure Apple cloak room. For the first time in two years I feel light, creative and inspired," he wrote.
He writes in the manner of someone who has just escaped from a religious cult – in fact he even uses the word collective "iCult machine whose dirty, worn-out, greasy and naive internal mechanisms of bullying, harassment and mind-games push out shiny and polished iPhones every year."

Farrell said it was ironic that one of the world's largest companies and one that prides itself on innovation, creativity and 'breaking the mould', operates on such soul-limiting, entrenched dogma. It's an organised boys club where perception is valued over substance and tenure over talent.

Two years a Slave 

Farrell spent two years in the Apple camp managing customer service improvement for their technical support contact centres. Can you see what Apple did wrong here?

"Out of fifteen-plus years working in this industry I've never witnessed so many bizarre and unprofessional things, only some of which I have time to touch on here," he moaned.

Working in Apple was like a sheltered workshop with the common language spoken being "passive aggression, sarcasm and Kool-Aid-fuelled stories of 'success' designed to manipulate and intimidate naive workers who have never experienced corporate life outside the Apple walls."

Drink the Kool Aid

Chinese emperors believed the forbidden city in Beijing was the centre of the world and constructed their empire around it people at Apple feel the same. He said it was no coincidence that the new Apple campus looked like a giant spaceship. He wonders if the plan is for everyone to drink poisoned 'Kool-Aid' before ascending to the mothership.

Drinks with colleagues revolved around the same stories told again and again as drunken management told of times when Apple executives made 'strategic' decisions to cut jobs and shut down Apple sites so swiftly and carelessly.
Stories have a notion of power and have an utter disrespect for the actions Apple has on the broader community of contractors, vendors, partners, resellers and business partners they have bent over a barrel of non-profitability.

Addicted to pointless meetings 

Apple is addicted to meetings with 16 hours a day of the things.

"Meetings at Apple reeked of toxic agendas designed to deliberately trip people up, make fools of the less respected and call people out. Team spirit is non existent as 'internal customers' attack individuals and push agendas that satisfy their morning egos," Farrell wrote.

Apple actually rehearses its meetings in advance with "dry runs" to refine impressions and push agendas. How to bend, twist and polish data to tell the story you were instructed to tell rather than the reality the data presents. If a story can't be forged, the data is excluded.

In one case Farrell had to conduct a dry run rehearsale for a a fake menial meeting to satisfy management's ego.
Sickness, family emergencies, and even weddings were given no respect at Apple. If you fall down stairs and injure yourself and have to go to hospital it is listed as a 'performance issue' on your record and brought up during a one-on-one with management as a major 'miss.'

"Even the morning of my wedding I was being harassed by phone and email to send a report someone had lost," Farrell said.

Yet after all this, simply raising concerns about management has got me nothing but retaliation from all involved, he said.

Nothing like the image 

"I'm disheartened as I loved Apple. I loved their products and I've been an advocate for what it allegedly stands for. Unfortunately I've seen behind their glossy and polished stainless steel exterior, I've walked through their frosted glass doors and seen a toxic culture of manipulation, intimidation, threats and politics that are so incongruent to the values they preach."


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          Kiss the rain        
It has been been gloomy days in kuantan. The rain stopped  2 days ago and comes again visiting. Was typing this and looking out the glass door, watching those unstoppable rain. Dont feel like doing anything but to stay inside, put the thick clothes, or yet wear his white shirt. Only had my first cup of coffee and a small box of cornflakes to start the day.  Maybe later, if the feeling arises, would be heading to the kitchen and whipping something simple.

Humphrey has been such an adorable company lately. Been jumping on my bed quite so often now. And he has his own spot on the couch next to mine. Like he knows how i hate to be left alone. And how i wish he could talk so he can say something brilliant which helps my mind to digest. He is being clingy post -op, which is definitely good for me. Dah tak garang macam dulu.

How i wish i could feel the sun again, and enough with this gloomy weather. It does affect one's feeling. And not helping that he has to go, again.

Count your blessing, lyn. Do count your blessing.

          Release Blitz : Legally Charming by Lauren Smith        

Title: Legally Charming
Series: Ever After #1
Author: Lauren Smith
Genre: Contemporary Romance/New Adult
Release Date: March 13, 2017


Felicity Hart has one goal: Completing her masters in art. Falling in love isn’t part of the plan. She reluctantly agrees to attend a Halloween party with her best friend. After sneaking away from the party and falling asleep in an unoccupied room, she wakes to the sexiest pair of eyes she’s ever seen. Eyes that belong to the one man who could turn her well organized world upside down. When he flashes that wicked, panty-melting smile at her the vow to not fall in love seems impossible…
Jared Redmond used to be the ultimate bad boy. But now his legal career is taking off and the partners of his firm are trusting him with high-dollar real estate transactions. Jared’s king-size bed is empty. But when he arrives home on Halloween to find a princess sleeping in his bed – his all work and no play attitude goes out the window. There’s nothing he wants more than to explore the hidden desires of this mysterious beauty and show her just how much of a bad boy he really is by fulfilling her every fantasy.

Underneath the glitter of this fairy tale romance, Felicity and Jared might have found true love. But the mounting pressure of their real lives takes hold again and Jared and Felicity are pulled further and further apart. Can they find their fairy tale ending or will they be left with the dying embers of what could have been?

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Jared Redmond stumbled from the taxicab, his brown leather briefcase smacking his back as he struggled to stay on his feet. He swallowed a growl of frustration. This was the last time he let the senior partners of his firm keep him out late to celebrate. He’d only had one drink, since he was dead tired from the last few months of overtime at the office. Having to smile, laugh, and socialize all night with the partners left him edgy and desperate to get home and crawl into bed.

God forbid he just do his job and do it well enough to earn respect. No, he had to spend hours at one of the most expensive restaurants with them, watching them pat each other on the back when he’d done all the heavy lifting in their multi-million-dollar transaction.

Big fucking mistake.

Now he was completely drained, and his body was determined to go to sleep on him right there on the street. His vision was fine, but his motor skills seemed to have abandoned him. He reached the glass doors of his apartment building lobby, leaning a little too heavily against the glass. Fishing around in his pocket for his keycard, he muttered a string of curses when his hand came up empty. He glanced up and rapped his knuckles. Thank God, the guard recognized him and buzzed him inside.

“Mr. Redmond.” The security guard nodded, a knowing smile on the older man’s lips.

“Hey, Randy,” he greeted, wincing at the slur of his words.

A few more steps and he reached the elevator. After much effort focusing on the series of floor buttons on the panel, he pressed the button to the fifteenth floor and it lit up. He leaned his head back on the mirrored walls, resting. Jesus, it was like he was drunk, but he knew it was sheer exhaustion.

It had been a hell of a day. After two months of negotiations, sleepless nights, long hours, and no chance of reviving his obsolete social life, he’d closed the massive real estate deal, and closed it earlier than he’d anticipated. Everyone demanded they go out and celebrate. He just wanted to crash and sleep off all of the stress pent up inside him.

He was going to walk into his bedroom and face-plant on his bed and not move all weekend from that spot.

Tanner would be out with his girlfriend, Layla, celebrating. It was Halloween, wasn’t it? A little grin tugged at his lips. The apartment would be empty and quiet. The perfect benefit of arriving home early. He’d told Tanner he wouldn’t be back until Sunday, and it was only Friday now. He expected his little brother and girlfriend would be out partying the night away, giving him total silence and a soft bed to crash on without any disturbances.

The second the elevator doors slid open with a soft hiss, he heard the music and the erratic noises of a party. Laughter, voices, all coming from their apartment.

Fucking hell.

“Tanner,” he growled, fists clenched.

So the partying tonight was in, not out.

Jared contemplated turning around and finding a hotel, or worse, calling Shana. No, bad idea. They’d dated on and off during law school and after, but they’d never been exclusive. Currently he and Shana were off. Definitely off.

Lousy timing for Tanner to throw a damn party.

That was the main problem with letting his twenty-four-year-old brother live with him. He’d thought it would be nice to spend some time with his little brother, but with his work schedule he barely saw Tanner. The one night they might have hung out, he was too tired to care. He was not in the mood to dodge drunken graduate students all night and try to drown out all the racket they were making. Luck wasn’t with him tonight. Fuck, he was turning into a crotchety old man if he was going to let a party piss him off.

The door to their place was unlocked, and when he swung the door open, a wave of fresh sound engulfed him. His eardrums throbbed, and he winced at the explosion of the music that drilled into his skull like nails. Scantily-dressed girls bounced about to the pounding rhythm of the music along with guys who were watching with giddy-schoolboy expressions. Some of them cheered and smiled, drunkenly overjoyed that a new person had shown up to the party. Several familiar faces, Tanner’s friends, waved at him or nodded as he walked past them.

“Jared! I thought you weren’t coming home till tomorrow?” A zombie stripper stepped in front of him, hands on her hips. Through the gory makeup he thought he recognized her.


Tanner’s girlfriend was dressed as a zombie stripper. Only Layla could manage to pull off that look.

“Layla, what the hell is going on?” he demanded, gesturing to the insanity. A girl in a sexy Lara Croft costume was singing a bad karaoke cover of “Somebody’s Watching Me.” Holy fuck. He was going to need some noise-cancelling headphones to survive this shit. For a brief second he considered tossing everyone out on their damn asses, but this place was half Tanner’s and he’d told Tanner he wouldn’t be here tonight. Brother code demanded he suffer through this bullshit.

Layla didn’t look chagrined in the least. “It’s Halloween. Oh, and Felicity’s birthday, obviously.”

“Who is Felicity?” He’d never met anyone named Felicity. Not that it was surprising, because he was never around when his brother was hanging out with Layla and their friends. He didn’t really remember what it was like to be that carefree. Law school and work had a way of consuming a person’s good memories.

“Scratch that, I don’t care. Is this thing”—he waved a hand around—“ending anytime soon?” He shifted his briefcase strap over his shoulder. His suit was starting to suffocate him, and as much as he liked the particular steel-gray tie he wore at the moment, he was desperate enough to cut it right off his neck if he couldn’t get to his room fast enough.

“Uh…” She licked her lips. “Don’t know. But you said you weren’t coming back until Sunday.”

“Well, here I am and tired as fuck. So I’m going to bed. Try to keep it down,” he growled.

“Uh, Jared.” She dodged around him, trying to prevent him from getting past her.

“What did you do?” He arched a brow, sensing by the way her eyes widened and she shifted in her stilettos that something was wrong.

“I might have given your bed away.” Layla bit her lip, yet she was brave enough to still meet his eyes.

“What do you mean you gave my bed away?”

She attempted to smile. “You were supposed to be gone until Monday, and Felicity needed a place to stay tonight. It’s late, and I didn’t want her to go home alone. She lives in a sketchy part of town—so I told her she could crash in your bed since you weren’t going to be here.” She glared at him, accusing him of something he wasn’t entirely sure was his fault. “So she’s in your room tonight.” She ended with a finality that did not entirely make sense to his tired brain.

“Let me get this straight. Some girl is in my bed…right now?”

Layla swallowed, her eyes darting away before coming back to him. “Um…yeah?”

“No,” he stated and stalked toward his room, Layla at his heels. Whoever this Felicity person was, she was in his bed, and since it was his bed, whatever Layla and this girl had seemed to think otherwise, he’d have her out of it.

Reaching his bedroom door, he crashed it open and strode in, prepared for all the hell and fury that came with drunk, twenty-something females—and instead, as his eyes adjusted, he found a princess in his bed.

Layla clattered behind on her too-tall stilettos. “Jared, wait—”

He pushed the door open, and a yellow beam of light from the hallway cut across the dark room, revealing a figure lying across his bed.

A princess. There was a princess in his bed.

The burgundy-and-gold gown was draped over his comforter with pearls glowing like tiny moons on the bodice of her gown.

What the fuck?

“Please don’t wake her,” Layla begged.

Wake her? Jared shook his head. What nonsense. He wasn’t a romantic. Even though she was certainly a fantasy. All luscious curves and mystery. Her dark auburn hair cascading over the pillow looked soft. His hands ached to reach out and fist in the strands. She looked like the kind of woman a young man dreamed about and ruined his sheets over, the kind of woman he’d stopped dreaming about a long time ago because he was convinced they didn’t exist.

He didn’t turn to look at Layla as he spoke. “Who is that?”

“Felicity Hart. Birthday girl and, more importantly, my best friend.” The threat was heavily implied. Don’t screw with Layla or her friends. Her loyalty in that respect was one of the things he admired most about his brother’s girlfriend.

Layla’s fingers curled around his biceps and squeezed, getting his attention.

“I told her she could sleep in your room since you weren’t supposed to be here. It’s the only place available for her to sleep.”

“I’m not giving up my bed. I worked seventy hours this week. I’m going to sleep.” He got one step inside his room before Layla practically tackled him, climbing up his back like a spider monkey.

“You. Will. Not. Wake. Her. Up,” Layla growled, nails digging into his arms. “She has a really important research paper due tomorrow, and she needs to sleep.”

“She can stay, but I’m sharing my bed with her. End of discussion. Go back to your party.” With a little shove, he made sure Layla couldn’t get back in before he shut the door in her face.

When he turned back around, he studied the girl in his bed. Without the hallway light he could barely make out her features. Just a silhouette, really, of a princess. Arousal slammed into him. He felt like an idiot. He never dated anyone who was still in school. They were too young. A year ago he’d tried to date a girl who was twenty-four, but she’d gotten pissed every time he’d had to work late. She didn’t get the pressures of his job. None of the girls younger than him seemed to understand that. Layla was all right, but she was still a kid. He needed someone mature who was at the same point in her life as him, an adult.

The hot little princess was the last thing he needed to be thinking about.

Don’t think about her or how much fun it would be to wake her up and kiss her. Just be a gentleman and go to bed.

His inner voice was a goddamn control freak, but he was thankful someone was still responsible.

Turning away, he started to strip out of his work clothes. He kicked his shoes off and then slipped a pair of pajama bottoms on. He didn’t bother with a shirt. He always got a little hot at night anyway. As he moved deeper into the room, he caught his foot on a chair. It screeched as it slid across the wood, and he winced, catching himself against the back of it. He glanced at the bed, but the girl hadn’t woken. A few quick steps and then he hit the bed, landing on his stomach and bouncing a little. The princess next to him didn’t stir. He shifted a couple of inches and slid one arm beneath his pillow to puff it up as he laid his head down. The toll of the night’s celebrations dragged him to the edge of the abyss of sleep. He was so close…

A little gasp and a half-strangled whimper pulled him to the surface again. “Whah?” He groaned and rolled onto his side facing the girl.

She was thrashing and whimpering beside him. Her hands clawed at the bodice of her dress, as though trying to escape it.

“Damn it!” He sat up and flicked on the lamp by his side of the bed. The wash of color in the room showed how flushed the girl was. She still shifted and kicked, moaning as if in pain. Jared leaned over and gently jostled her shoulder.

“Hey, kid, wake up.”

She jolted awake. Bright gray eyes like liquid mercury flashed in shock and fear as her gaze fell on him.

“Hi,” he said.

The princess blinked, her eyes darting around the room, then back to him, focusing on his bare chest. Her pupils dilated.

“Did we…um…who—” She shook her head as though to clear it. “Who are you, and what are you doing here?”

Jared let out a raspy chuckle. “I’m the one who should be asking questions. But it’s been a long day and I’m beat. I’m Jared, and you are in my bed.”

He stood and walked back to his cherrywood dresser. His fingers curled around the brass handle, and he opened the top drawer.

“You’re Tanner’s brother?” Her voice was soft, husky. It rolled over him, soothing his irritation.

He selected a silk striped button-down nightshirt and a pair of boxers from his drawer and then returned to the bed. “Here.” He held the clothes out to her.

“What are those for?” she asked. One elegant brow rose.

“You. You woke up clawing at your dress. Looks like it’s too tight around your chest and it’s restricting your breathing. Unless you have clothes of your own, you’re changing into these so we can both get some sleep. Layla said you had some paper due tomorrow.”

When she opened her mouth, he could see the protest in her eyes and it amused him. Feisty little thing. And damned if he didn’t picture all the things he’d like to do to that little mouth.

“Take the clothes and change in the bathroom. Now.” He deepened his voice, and she hopped out of bed, snatching the clothes as she darted into the bathroom. She froze, then slowly looked over her shoulder at him.


“My dress…it’s the laces in the back. I can’t reach them.”

A sigh escaped him. “Come here.” He crooked a finger and sat farther back on his bed. She sidled up to him, bashfulness in her every movement.

There was something sinful and suggestive about the way she nibbled her bottom lip. He twirled a finger, indicating for her to spin around. She offered her back to him. The silk ribbons on the back of her gown came undone easily enough, but he was surprised to see the second set of laces beneath, which belonged to a corset. It was black with embroidered red roses that set off the color of the loose tangles of her hair. The strands teased the back of his hands as he unlaced the corset. The creamy skin of her lower back made his mouth go dry. The princess was trying to kill him with these temptations.

All too soon the view disappeared as she rushed into the adjoining bathroom to change.

He fell back onto the bed, staring up at the ceiling. His fingers tapped a rhythm on his stomach as he waited. This was not at all how he’d predicted his night would go. He wasn’t complaining—not exactly.
The princess emerged, gown gone. She looked so young, standing there dwarfed in his button-down shirt and a hint of his boxers beneath the hem at her mid-thighs. Her gorgeous hair was wild and long, and it looked like she’d been well loved in bed. He didn’t miss the swell of her full breasts against the thin, expensive silk. The top button was low down her chest, exposing a wealth of creamy skin. Damn.

Author Bio

Lauren Smith is an Oklahoma attorney by day, author by night for Grand Central Publishing, who pens adventurous and edgy romance stories by the light of her smart phone flashlight app. She knew she was destined to be a romance writer when she attempted to re-write the entire Titanic movie just to save Jack from drowning. Connecting with readers by writing emotionally moving, realistic and sexy romances no matter what time period is her passion. She’s won multiple awards in several romance subgenres including: New England Reader’s Choice Awards, Greater Detroit BookSeller’s Best Awards, Breakthrough Novel Award Quarter-Finalist and a Semi-Finalist for the Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Award. To connect with Lauren, visit her at or twitter at

Author Links





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          Luxury 2+2 with Den in Twin Peaks        
Welcome to 850 Corbett Avenue Unit 4. This prime luxury 2 bedroom plus den, 2 bathroom Twin Peaks condo is perfectly situated at the top of Market Street with an eastern view that overlooks downtown. Built in 2003, this one-of-a-kind turn-key property provides the best of contemporary living in a boutique 6-unit building. A grand-scale living/dining room welcomes you into this luxurious home with a gas fireplace and floor-to-ceiling French-style windows that come with scenic views of San Francisco’s downtown. A flexible light-filled den space is raised off of the living room and can be used as a guest alcove, dining area, or office. A well-equipped U-shaped gas kitchen with marble floors opens up to the living/dining area and is perfectly set up for entertaining. The large master bedroom features an en-suite bathroom and a large walk-in closet. A nice separation of the second bedroom and bathroom adds to the wonderful smart layout of this home. An in-unit washer/dryer and a deeded parking space with a storage area add to the value of this home. Full of light, this luxurious and open loft-like home is a city dweller’s dream. With top-rated public schools nearby and easy access to public transportation, Mollie Stone’s, and major Bay Area freeways 280 and 101, this home is a real gem. Unit Features: • 2 bedrooms plus den, 2 bathrooms• 1,690 sq. ft. per tax records• Open living/dining room with fireplace and glass doors for fresh air• U-shaped kitchen with stainless steel appliances• Washer/dryer in unit• Deeded 1-car parking in building garage• Dedicated storage space• Built in 2003• Current HOA dues: $522.37 per month Neighborhood Features: • Easy access to public transportation, downtown, freeways 101 and 280; Muni 37 bus stops half a block away for a short ride to Market Street• Close to groceries including Mollie Stone’s, Safeway, CVS• Nearby schools are Clarendon Elementary, Rooftop, Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts (SOTA)• Local parks include Douglass Playground, Noe Valley Courts, and Noe Children’s Playground 850 Corbett Avenue 4 is listed courtesy of Yelena Laudati with Climb Real Estate. Call 415-963-9822 for more information and availability.
          Removing a Sliding Glass Shower Door        
Of all of the improvements you can do to your bathroom, one of the most difficult to handle individually is replacing a sliding glass door. As points out, in many instances, the bottom track can be glued to the … Continue reading
          Outrunning the Express Train        
By the time I post this, another anniversary of the day the earth shook will have passed, twenty years in fact. It was October 17, 1989 and at 4:25 pm I'd finally knuckled my way through traffic, jaws tight, much gnashing of teeth, inching across the Bay Bridge to take my daughter to an acting class in San Francisco and then head to the McKesson corporation for a meeting.

I worked in the theater as managing director of a company in Oakland so really was not conscious of the sports mania around me. But almost everyone around else was in baseball heaven around the fact that the Bay Area was having it's own version of New York's subway series, the Oakland A's versus the San Francisco Giants. I just wanted the darn traffic to end so that I could get where I had to go.

After seeing my twelve year old down the stairs of a very large, very solid looking office building, essentially in the basement of the building to her youth acting class, I still managed to be on time for my meeting, about ten minutes away by car. I walked into the office of the program officer for McKesson's foundation, hand extended to say hello and thank her for her time, only to hear a crunching, grinding, deep wrenching sound and discovered that I could not stand up. We both ended on our knees in her office. That was probably the proper place to be given what was happening around us and the devastation not too far away. I suspect we both silently prayed our way through what was the longest fifteen to twenty seconds in my life.

Once the moving stopped, and I could catch my breath, we looked at each other, nothing broken, no blood, and both bolted for the door. As any Californian will tell you, when it begins to shake, head for a doorway. In my ten years in the Bay Area, we'd always managed to make it to the doorway. Always. Now the only thing I wanted to do was to get through the door and down the stairs.

I don't remember anymore which floor we were on. I don't remember the pounding rush down the stairs, it could have been silent for all I know, the only thing I remember is the pounding of my heart. The stairway was dark as the power was out, there were no flashlights, and a ton of humanity with one goal, get out of the building.

When we hit the ground floor and rushed through the front glass doors, still intact, I couldn't figure out why there were so many people who'd gotten no further than a few feet from the building. Then I began to see, bricks and masonry on tops of cars, hoods and trunks, tops of cars bashed in with huge huge chunks of buildings on top, glass all over the street, buildings with yawning gaping holes where things used to be. It was eerily quiet, with the exception of the sirens. I finally understood that this may have been the big one.

I thought of my daughter in the basement of that big, solid looking building and my heart almost stuttered to a stop. I heard someone say something about a fallen span of the Bay Bridge, they heard it from a portable radio someone had. The bridge that my daughter and I been not twenty minutes ago, for almost a full thirty minutes because of the game.

My feet began to move and my brain caught up with them. "Where was my car, were the streets passable, the traffic lights aren't working, will they let me drive, where was my car?" My brain seemed be on a loop, fear, panic, think, fear, panic, think. I opted to walk rather than chance the streets, plus there were bound to be after shocks. I've never walked as fast in my life.

In the days before the ubiquitous use of cell phones we used public pay phones. And they worked. And they weren't vandalized. But I digress. But that day the system was over loaded and no calls were going out nor coming in right then. I couldn't reach her school, nor my husband and sons across the Bay, nor my office. I kept walking, and fear took three steps to my every one.

When I got to her building they'd managed to safely get the kids up the stairs and into an open air parking lot with no wires around, and not enclosed by buildings nearby. You think about these things in earthquake country. When she saw me, she grabbed me by the waist and hung on for dear life. She'd heard about the Bay Bridge but didn't remember if my meeting was in San Francisco or back across the bridge in Oakland. She'd been all but rooted to the same spot since they'd fled up the stairs with the noise of the earth moving around and through them, loud beyond measure seemingly following them, chasing them up and out of the dark to the outside. She was velcroed to me for the next two months. ("Really, I'll be in the bathroom for only five minutes." I'd come out and she'd still be there waiting. This was two weeks afterward.)

Now joined cheek by jowl to each other and not yet sure how much damage had been done, and if our family had survived, we made our way to a restaurant with, miraculously, power and television. There I saw with mine own two eyes the price one pays for living in California. Nothing however prepared me for the collapse of the freeway. It too had been a parking lot that afternoon on our journey across the bridge. And now it was...gone, collapsed, on top of countless people, missing my across the hall neighbor by twenty feet. Twenty feet became the difference between life and death that day as she watched cars right in front of her just drop out of sight amidst a cloud of smoke, dirt, dust, and debris.

My daughter wiped tears from my face, tears that I was unaware were even sliding down my face. So close, we were so close to having been a statistic.

I decided to make our way through the hordes of dazed and stunned people to my car and try to figure out how far north I had to go to find a bridge open to get me back across the bay and then head south home. Just as we stepped outside the restaurant, courage in hand and fear on a tight rein, I saw a colleague, the face of someone I knew. Brian was wending his way surely but very slowly home on foot, I had a highly dubious chance of making it across the bay that evening but I had a car. We got my car, went to his place and spent the evening glued to the television and trying the phone every five minutes until finally around 11 pm, Eureka, a dial tone. Brian graciously allowed me to go first as a woman with a family in harms way.

Undoubtedly my relief was all but palpable when my husband picked up the phone and I learned that he and the boys had made it through okay, that our apartment was fine, we'd sustained almost no damage at all. Now that he'd heard from us, our daughter in school back east could rest and stop calling every fifteen minutes, he could relay that the two of us were safe and sound and had a place to stay.

In those fifteen seconds on my knees in the office I'd prayed and promised. I prayed for the safety of my family and I promised that when the next earthquake came, "God, I won't be here." When I got back to work, after making a pilgrimage to the Cypress Freeway where they were still trying to locate survivors two days later, I announced, "I'm outta here."

What was so amazing to me was that everyone else wasn't saying the same thing. Instead they tried to talk me out of it. I finally explained that for me and mine, living in California is like living on railroad tracks. You know sooner or later that express train is going to come running through, and me, I'm getting out the way, getting off the track. I'm bowing to the superior strength of mother nature.

If it were just me, I'd have done what one woman did. Packed up her car, walked away and left everything else in her apartment with a note on her door, "Take it, it's yours, I'm not coming back."

Ten months almost to the day we left California for Chicago. We'd survived tremors, shakes, minor quakes and shrugged them all off. We'd survived the annual fall fire season. We even survived mud slides where the homes of two neighbors gave into gravity and soaked land and slid down the hill. We'd survived floods in the rainy season. And I said good riddance and good bye without a backward look at some of the most beautiful country God ever created, but I suspect he meant for us to enjoy it, passing through on our way some place else.
          3D printer enclosure        

I've got old 500x600 rack and as it is all metal wil hardened glass door, I'm going to use it for my Prusa i3 enclosure. This removes my concer on possible fire hazzard leaving it unatended.




Raspberry PI will be responsible for
  • Web camera (with fish-eye lens)
  • Web interface
    • Camera feed
    • Emergency stop button
    • Internal temperature readout
    • Switching LED lights on/off
    • Turning on fans
  • Proximity sensor switching on internal LED lights
  • Sending e-mail on job completion (RAMBO pin?)
Other improvements
  • Emergency stop button connected to RAMBO halt pin
  • Electrinic and power supply will be located outside
  • Internal led lights (mosfet from Raspberry PI, 12V led strips)
  • Alternative to metalic door - metalic mesh covers for PLA printing
  • Smoke alarm connected to the house security system
  • Quadrature encoders monitoring fillament movement resporting to Raspberry PI filament jams.

One idea to check for filament ratnests is to use motion detection outside the build volume? Not sure ...


          Wrought cast-iron gates can         
If you are superficial for a household recovery project that will add grace, beauty, and appeal to your home, later stare no farther than wrought cast-iron bill gates. Wrought cast-iron gates can be incorporate into lots disparate types of den decor, both interior and outer. Here are more than a few accepted wisdom on mistreatment molded iron william henry gates in your subsequent burrow alteration project.Many homeowners use twisted iron gates as an antechamber to their haunt. These computer scientist can compass from massive and moving to a small, quaint plot takings. Usually the extended william henry gates are seen as entrances to a road. They are recurrently flanked by limestone pillars on which they are affixed. Stone complex all right since shaped cast-iron is so beefy. These enterpriser commonly have a blockade of a number of variety encompassing the place. Wrought iron too plant good for the blockade as it provides cohesion.The nice entry around conjugal revival projects involving produced robust enterpriser is that they can be utilized in so plentiful diametric areas. Another touristed establish one finds produced iron william henry gates is on a home's forward movable barrier. It is habitually in use in concurrence beside a glass door. This provides an deluxe access to one's environment. It is likewise tremendous if you inhabit in a gale prostrate area, since it can shield the glass from twist and jetsam.Post ads:Libman No Knees Floor Scrub / Superfeet Women's Berry Premium Insoles / Clubman Pinaud Finest Talc, 9-Ounce (Pack of 3) / Fit Fruit & Vegetable Wash, Combo Pack, 7.5 Pound Box / HeadBlade HB TripleBlade Shaving System Cartridges - Three / Reach Full head Toothbrush, Firm, Assorted Colors, 2 Count / REALISTIC KIDS STETHOSCOPE -Fun Educational Toy for Kids / Heavy Duty Stainless Steel Toenail Nipper by ToiletTree / Edwin Jagger Rn46 Traditional Black Porcelain Shaving Soap / Diurex Water Capsules, 21-Count (Pack of 3) / Stevia Clear Liquid Toffee 2 Ounces / Dymatize Nutrition Gourmet Elite, Chocolate Peanut Butter,Wrought iron computer scientist are superb greeting to square areas as resourcefully. They impart a Spanish or a Tuscan cognizance to these types of alfresco spaces. It as well makes a bald-faced assertion about your method to everybody entering your marital. If you resign from it to some extent sympathetic it gives a warm be aware of. Leave it unopen and you achieve a lot of quiet. Wrought cast-iron gates, especially in courtyards, add a lot of pro to your sett and are a clever family expansion jut out over.
           Thief girl Lily Rader finds a place to hide for letting mandingo destroy her pussy         

Police chases after thief chick Lily Lader. Petite as hell blondie finds a quiet backyard and knocks on a door. She begs big black dude to hide her for a few hours. Dude gives zero fucks bout that but soon changes his mind when Lily rubs her petite white ass over the glass door. Lily gets inside and unzips house owner's pants right away. That black dude turns out to be a real mandingo and Lily starts having a back thoughts about going to jail rather than being split in a half by that blackzilla. She puts her shit together and blows black monster cock. Black fella eats Lily's hairy pussy and then hammers her doggystyle. Real hardcore interracial shit starts when mandingo mercilessly carry fucks tiny white slut. Sweat is dripping all over his ripped muscular body as he fucks screaming Lily missionary style. She takes mandingo's jizz in her mouth and swallows.

          Chapter Five - Experiments With Lightning        
Matt woke up on a bright and sunny Monday morning. The birds twittered and the frogs croaked at the Albany pond, which was just a few yards away from his school. The sunlight shimmered into Matt’s room causing his eyes to awake suddenly.

He glanced around and looked at his new watch, which had a lightning symbol on its face. It was 6:30 a.m. This was the time when he did his lightning practice. He did a few warm-ups in his room, such as jumping jacks and curl ups. He then tiptoed downstairs to the glass door. He opened it and stepped into the backyard. He looked to make sure that no one was watching. He cried, "Lightning Powers On!" He felt the familiar static flowing into his body. He joined his hands together, took a big breath, and…

“Matt Wu! Come in here this instant!” Mrs. Wu cried from her bedroom window.
“Okay, mom!” He said. He loped to the house, and said “Lightning Powers Off!” on the way.

School ended with the usual long bell ring. Matt ran to the bathroom to change into his basketball uniform. In 5 minutes, he would be playing basketball with the Strikers. His team, the Matthianians, were ready to play, until they saw one of the Strikers’ tallest players.

“Look at that dude,” Sid said.
“He’s probably a descendant of the mighty giant in Jack in the Beanstalk,” Ben said.
“Dat is just a made up story.” Tim said.
“He’s looking at us.” said Vincent.
“Relax guys.” Matt said.

Matt rolled his eyes. The basketball game started with the Strikers getting a basket in 10 seconds. Then they scored twice in just 30 seconds! “We are so dead!” Matt said to himself. He groaned and the game continued for 40 more minutes.

“Congrats!” Coach Nin said, “you lost, 70 to 0!” He laughed.

“Come on, Matt.” Vincent said, “it can not get any worse than this, can it?”

“Actually,” Coach Nin said, “it will. Here is your trophy.” He left.

Matt stood holding a 5 inch trophy made of rusted copper. “Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrggggggggggggggggggggggggggggg!” Matt said, shouting as loud as he could. His lungs racked with pain as his brain hurt from all the shouting…

“How was your day?” Mrs. Wu said.
“Great.” Matt slammed the door behind him.

It was near night and Matt was practicing his lightning powers. He shot a small lightning bolt, which worked perfectly. He jerked his hand even harder, and saw that a bigger bolt exploded out of his hands. It made the tree explode into flame. “Cool.” Matt kicked his behind with his legs and suddenly, two lightning bolts appeared below his shoes. Matt was FLYING! He curved left and right, and zoomed into the air. The wind smacked his eyes, as he felt his nose leaving him from his body. Matt said, “Stop.” Nothing happened. Matt then kicked his behind again, and this time, Matt fell to the ground with no lightning on his legs. Matt was breathing with excitement as he thought that there probably was one more technique to be learned. Matt then heard his mom walking downstairs to probably get a glass of water. Matt ran inside, and smacked into the couch which broke into flame, and then disappeared. What was left was ashes and a horrible sulpher smell.

Matt quickly shoved the ash outside, and said, “Lightning Powers Off.”

Mrs. Wu entered, took a glass of water, and left. Matt had succeeded and said, “Yes.” He now knew all the moves of lightning. He tiptoed up and went to sleep.
          Gothic Murders        
Alex Baranyi

David Anderson

Alex Baranyi Jr. David Anderson

On Jan. 4, 1997, two boys were playing in a park in Bellevue, Wash., an upscale suburb east of Seattle, when they spotted what they thought was a pile of clothes concealed by shrubs about five feet off a trail. When the boys returned to the park the next morning they soon realized what they had seen was a body. They ran home; one of their mothers called the Bellevue Police Department.

by Gary Boynton

At 11:30 a.m., Bellevue detectives responded to the scene, where they found the body of a young woman, dressed in blue jeans, a white T-shirt and "waffle-stomper" boots. Although she did not appear disheveled, as if she had been involved in a struggle, there was a cord wrapped around her neck, with which she obviously had been strangled.

Identification on the body indicated that the victim was Kimberly Wilson, age 20, and that she lived only a few blocks from the park.

After securing and processing the crime scene, Det. Jeff Gomes, an investigator from the King County Medical Examiner's Office, and Senior Prosecutor Patti Eakes proceeded to the victim's home. Gomes, although he'd been a cop for 23 years, was dreading informing Wilson's family of her death as he knocked on the front door of the white, two-story, wood-frame house.

Even though there were three cars parked in front, and the outside Christmas lights were on, the inside of the house appeared dark. When no one answered, Gomes went to a sliding-glass door on the side of the house. Finding it unlocked, he opened it, leaned into the house and called out. Again receiving no reply, Gomes drew his gun and stepped inside.

          First Haibun        
I'm awake late this morning as usual, and I open the blinds to converse with the sun. A sliding glass door keeps me in, but the sunlit view floods into my dining room like an old friend in no need of an invitation. Delighted with the company, I stand and enjoy my good fortune. My full coffee mug warms me, but my bones ache at the sight of the cold beauty in front of me. Everything is just where it was yesterday morning, but today's visitor is unlike any other.

surrounded by wood
frozen and snow-capped in line
nails in a bare deck
          Minimalist Modern Sliding Glass Door Designs        

Modern sliding glass door designs are just perfect for sophisticated people who want to design their houses with modern decoration. Sliding door is not only unique and anti mainstream, it can also save a lot of spaces because when the door is opened, there will be no room wasted for the door opening. Sliding doors nowadays […]

The post Minimalist Modern Sliding Glass Door Designs appeared first on Austin Elite Home Design.

          A period of breath-holding ahead ...        
Slowly our 3-bedroom apartment here has filled with people, there is this continuous ebb-and-flow of family and friends, one that sees Gert's two children coming and going between parents, my daughter and her daughter moving in, Gert and I here since we began, and many many delicious foreign guests and so it is that we combine to fill this place to overflowing oftentimes.

We have a delicious 15 metre balcony but the wrong climate to make much use of it, with the frustration of many mosquitoes who fly in and breed exceptionally well in the warm weather. We have a rooftop view too and an extremely reasonable rent however ... the peasants have been revolting, in every way, and there has been a call for change.

Jessie spotted this very cool old house, with more bedrooms, bathrooms and a garden!! for the same price as our apartment which translates as stunningly reasonable, mostly because there's no car-parking or garage. Perfect for this car-less family who use old-fashioned black bicycles and public transport.

Jessie and I went with Little Miss 4 and fell in love which then meant we had to haul Gert into the process. Haul because it could be said that Belgians are, in general, reluctant movers, especially when compared to the kiwis I know ... but this is mostly explained by the tenancy agreements and difficulties of making a house move.

I took him back to the house this morning.
He fell in love too.

It's 3-storeys high, has atiny steep staircase that is normal for these narrow high old Belgian houses and then there are all these quirky ... yes, quirky is the word that most fits this house ... all these quirky rooms that we can easily fill with people and stuff. New central heating using gas, 2 bathrooms, a cellar, and lots of windows for the light I'm so in love with.

Best of all, the ground-floor is an open-plan series of lounge through into living space, into dining room area and straight on out through double-glass doors into one of those pocket-size Belgian gardens, so full of possibility that I can't stop smiling. Or left to the kitchen, with a real laundry room and a big sink, so missed in this apartment of ours.

The only question mark over the move is when we have to move in by, as it could mean paying rents on two places and that's no-ones idea of a good time.

We hear on Monday or Tuesday ... but we're so in love with the place, so very in love.
I'll let you know.

Note: and as observed by Paola, there's room for a dog in this house that's so close to one of the big city parks ... ;)
          Matzo meets 'his' cats: Slow and steady wins the race        
When Amy and James asked to adopt Matzo Ball, they told us they had two cats at home, in addition to their two dogs.  Would it work?

The dog part would likely go smoothly but the cats were a concern. We were very honest: “He can be an excitable guy and he’s shown some prey drive towards squirrels and birds. We believe he could injure your cat if intros go too fast. BUT, if you take intros nice and slow – and in, weeks-slow rather than hours-slow, and if you stage your intros and monitor every step, we think he could eventually learn to live nicely with everybody.”

The cats’ personalities factored in to the equation as much as Matzo’s. Amy and James told us that one of their cats was fearless and would likely rush Matzo, while the other cat would probably be nonplussed. Knowing that a rushed intro would be more than Matzo could handle, they set up a plan to create the best success. During this intro period, Matzo was with them under a foster/adopt contract and he was marked as having a ‘pending’ adoption. We agreed to hold off on going full adoption until the household had found a healthy and successful rhythm between all the various creatures.

Long story short, it worked. They did such an impressive job making it work that we asked them to bullet out their step-by-step for future adopters. Here’s how they got success:

Amy and James broke their intros process down into separate phases and waited to see solid success before pressing on. Smart. They said.  "Philosophically, we followed similar guidelines to introducing our cats and Matzo Ball as this BR post. We tried to make sure that all interactions, however brief, were positive for both Matzo and the cats. We tried to set things up so that the cats could end the interaction whenever they wanted to, and only moved on to the next phase when Matzo was consistently appropriate at each level of interaction.”

Ingredients for their success:  
Doors and a dog crate for safe separating
Leashes and a Tie-down for managed intros
A squirt bottle for corrections
Training lessons for Matzo (distraction work)
Places for the cats to retreat to
A good game plan, good communication between the humans.
Plenty of patience, time and a can-do attitude.  

Phase One: ‘I Smell You’

"Matzo had no visual contact with the cats at first -- We wanted him to just get used to their smell. We closed off the room with Matzo’s crate so our cats couldn’t get in and so he couldn’t see the cats. The way our house is laid out allowed us to also vary the amount of space between Matzo and the cats -- we started with three sets of closed doors between everyone, then went to two, and then one (plus a crate). We’d also periodically bring Matzo into the rooms that the cats had been hanging out in so he could investigate their smells, and brought some of the cats' beds to him, too.

Our biggest challenge during this phase was actually our brave cat, who wanted to see Matzo so badly he tried to sneak into the rooms he was in. We didn't want Matzo's first face to face with the cat to be when he was excited, so having a cat run at his crate head-first was not part of the plan."

Phase Two: Closed door ‘Greetings’

"Once Matzo thought smelling cat bedding was boring, we had our cats in adjoining rooms so he could get used to their sounds without actually seeing them. Any extreme excitement -- attempts to paw at the door, whining, or get into the room with the cats, for example -- were discouraged immediately with a sharp NO and, if he persisted, a quick spray bottle squirt.

The challenge with this phase was again our brave cat: when she heard Matzo sniffing the door, she would stick her paws under the door to get at him.

This was the longest, most challenging phase for everyone; the cats didn’t like being cooped up, and it was difficult for Matzo not to get excited when our cat initiated a game of Whack-a-Mole under his nose."

Phase Three:  â€˜I See You and I’m Trying to Stay Calm!’

"Once Matzo was consistently showing appropriate interest in the cat paws emerging from under the door -- polite sniffing, but no whining, pawing, barking or fixed staring -- we let Matzo see the cats for the first time. We started with him in his crate allowing him to see us holding a cat through a glass door in the next room. If the cat wanted to leave or if he showed any overt excitement -- barking, whining, panting, pawing, fixed staring -- we told him no, removed the cat and redirected his attention."

(Note from BADRAP: Matzo was learning how to stay calm and focused on his handler around exciting distractions during Saturday Pit Ed class exercises. )

"Once he was appropriately calm when he saw a cat through the door, we tried bringing the cats into the same room with him while he was in his kennel. Next, we had our cats in the same room as him while he was on at tie-down. And then finally, Matzo could be on leash with the cats in the same room.

This phase didn’t actually last long. Again, our brave cat was more of a challenge than Matzo. When she saw the dog, she’d try to get away from us and run over to him.

When Matzo was calm on leash around the cats, we allowed him some off leash time in the room. We made sure there were always places for the cats to retreat to if interacting with Matzo was too much, and supervised these interactions extra closely.

We were lucky that our cats were already very calm around dogs -- they don’t run away when they see a dog, which means that there are few opportunities for Matzo (or our other dogs) to chase the cats. Being around our other dogs who knew the rules about cats also helped Matzo learn pretty quickly."

Important Info from Amy & James: 

"Our cats are also indoor-only cats. Matzo will still bark at and chase the feral cats in our neighborhood that wail on our fence. He still doesn’t have unsupervised interactions with our cats. When we’re not at home, he stays safe in his crate… although our brave cat’s favorite sleeping spot is on top!"

Three cheers for smart adopters and their agreeable animals.

Follow Matzo's Instagram Updates: BlanketMonsters

          Mack Panel Display        
Stained glass door panels designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh / Margaret MacDonald Mackintosh – House For An Art Lover, Belahouston, Glasgow. Follow this link to see my gallery of Mackintosh pictures
          Broovies Cafe @ Bandar Indahpura, Kulai        
Broovies Cafe @ Bandar Indahpura, Kulai

It has been a while since our last cafe hopping and this round, our target is Broovies Cafe in Kulai. Broovies Cafe is located in Indahpura, a new township in Kulai and getting crowded in recent years after Aeon Jusco rooted here. Following the crowd, many eateries have been set up in the vicinity to cater all levels of patrons. Apart from Broovies, there are also other franchise cafes expanding their territory here, i.e. Sugar on Top, UFB, MyLiberica, Anmour cafe and etc.

Because of the banks located nearby, the traffic flow in front of Broovies Cafe is quite busy and you might need to park further and walk across. Broovies Cafe has a dark blue colour signboard with white wordings and a hidden nation flag of UK, the usage of colours and design truly reflect the UK concept of the cafe. *Please ignore the recruitment banner in front of the shop which slightly spoiled its outer look.*

You will definitely be surprised when you walk closer to the cafe. A blue public phone booth right in the walkway, the glass door and windows which we can see through from inside (just like in the dramas), are so attractive! At the entrance of the cafe, the owner has left the unused coffee grounds on a table to be grabbed patrons who would like to recycle them as fertiliser or for other usage.

The interior look of the cafe, which we are amazed at. The cafe is not spacious, but very contented and well divided into different sections.

Those little ornaments are very matching with the overall concept of the cafe.

Every corner in the cafe worth photo-taking. 

Various cakes are displayed in the glass cabinet, not many choices but each of them looks attractive.

We have chosen the rainbow mille crepe. If you are having the cake in the cafe, they will present it in a nice way, the drawing on the plate and creamy flowers on top of the cake are additional which really opened up my appetite.
Peppermint Mocha  RM11
If you are coffee lover but would like to try something more refreshing, peppermint mocha is a good choice. A combination of coffee, chocolate and mint, fragrance, sweetness and refreshing-ness are all in a cup. 
Rainbow Mille Crepe  RM13
Colourful rainbow mille looks nice, but tasted just normal. I still prefer the rainbow mille crepe from Passionfood, which is layered with fresh fruits and jam.

Waffles are one of the signature dishes in Broovies. So, definitely not to miss it. Other than the Banana Nutella Waffle that we had, Broovies has few other choices of waffle as well. 
Special Drink - Buah Long Long Juice  RM3.9
Broovies was promoting Buah Long Long* Juice during our visit, a tropical fruit juice and very popular among Malaysian. We think its price is quite reasonable and worth for a try and it turned out just nice to match with the creamy cake and waffles. Its sourness refreshed our taste bud and slightly balance the accumulated heaviness from the cake and waffle.

*Buah Long Long is also known as Buah Kedondong in Indonesia, its taste is akin to sour and unripe mango, normally made into juice. 
Banana Nutella Waffle topped with Chocolate Ice Cream  RM16
If you are a fan of the combination of chocolate and banana, you will definitely love this. The waffle batter was itself with chocolate flavouring, making it super duper chocolate-ish. The waffle was topped with banana and nutella, the usage of ingredients is indeed generous. To add a scoop of chocolate ice cream on top, the dessert became extraordinary fabulous.

Address : Broovies Cafe
55, Jalan Kenanga 29/5,
Bandar Indahpura,
81000 Kulai
GPS : 1.642151  103.619689

Business Hour : 12pm - 11pm
Tel : 07-665 1019
FBBroovies Cafe
Insta Broovies Cafe

          How a Good Reception Desk Can Transform Your Lobby        

The lobby is the first room your customers, clients, and employees walk into when entering your business establishment and therefor is arguably the room that holds the most importance when it comes to interior design. Since this is the first point o

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f contact for your visitors, the design of your reception room can make a huge impact on how your business is perceived. If they do not have a positive first impression of your business, this may influence them to go to a competitor or have them leaving with a negative opinion of your company. While other factors can influence a customer's perception such as customer service, level of comfort, etc., design has long been known to be an influential determinant of the appeal of any home or office space. In order to create a positive and welcoming environment, it is best to look towards updating the piece of furniture that will stand out the most, the reception desk.

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A reception desk is likely to be the first piece of furniture your visitors will come in contact with before taking a seat to wait to be seen. This will be the first chance you have to give off a positive first impression to your visitors and to wow them. It will also set the tone for the rest of their visit. It may even be seen through windows or a glass door by people passing by. These same people may think to use your business one day when they require the service you offer. Essentially this is the face of your organization, this is where your visitor will schedule appointments, where they will first come into contact with a receptionist, where they will have their first encounter with your business. A pleasing reception desk will set the tone for what the visitor can expect to follow. Too often customers are greeted by an outdated desk with an uninspiring design, which in turn makes the whole room drab and dreary.

Purchasing an attractive reception desk is the first step towards transforming your reception room, however it is also essential to keep it clean and uncluttered to complete the transformation. If your reception station is messy and cluttered, this will defeat the purpose of purchasing nice furniture in the first place and will portray an unprofessional image of your company. A clean desk will show that your company is organized, professional, efficient, and methodical.

Modern reception desks are available in attention grabbing, bold designs that are durable and completely functional. They are available in a range of different wood finishes, perfect for matching up pre-existing furniture that you may already have such as reception chairs or reception tables. Purchasing a reception desk with plexi glass is a quick and easy way to give your desk a contemporary design. Modular units are also available that have separate pieces of desk so you can change the look of your room at the drop of a hat, also convenient for relocating. This also always for the ability to add onto the desk at a later date if needed.

While it may seem that updating your current reception desk will be an unnecessary expense, consider it an investment in your company and an essential cost that will be worthwhile for years to come. Although wooden reception desks will set you back, there are cheaper and durable alternatives available such as thermofused melamine or plywood construction which will make your purchase more affordable. These desks will also last you for years to come, making the initial cost seem worth it when you break it down over the years. Whether you are looking to update your office or create a more inviting environment, a good reception desk can transform your lobby for the better and may ultimately bring you more business.

To view all of SitBetter's high quality reception furniture, please click here!

          Entertainment Storage in Design Studio        

Photo: Materials: PAX Wardrobe & Nexus Black/Brown Cabinetry & Numerar counters Description: Design Dilemma: Create a storage solution with SCALE in an Interior Design Studio with 12′ ceilings. Solution: Combine PAX Lyngdal sliding glass door storage (96″ tall x 118″ wide x 17″ deep) ABOVE 3′ high x 13′ wide Akurum/Nexus Black/Brown base cabinets [&hellip

The post Entertainment Storage in Design Studio appeared first on IKEA Hackers.

          Lavabit Case Shows Why We Need Tech Literate Judges        
While there's plenty of attention being paid to Lavabit's temporary re-opening for the sake of letting people export their accounts, a much more interesting issue is the recent development in the legal case. Lavabit has filed its latest brief, and there are some interesting discussions about the details of the case. From my reading, Lavabit makes a very strong argument that the government has no right to demand the production of Lavabit's private SSL keys, as it's an overreach way beyond what traditional wiretapping laws allow. Lawyer Orin Kerr's analysis argues that Lavabit's case is weak, mainly arguing that the federal government can subpoena whatever the hell they want, and just because it conflicts with your business model: too bad. Lavabit argues that complying with the government's order is oppressive because it would effectively mean it would be committing fraud on all its customers:
[T]o comply with the government’s subpoena would have either required Lavabit to perpetrate a fraud on its customer base or shut down entirely. That is the key point, and the resulting harm goes far beyond a mere inconvenient search for records. Just as requiring a hotel owner to install glass doors on all its hotel rooms would destroy the hotel’s business, Lavabit cannot exist as an honest company if the government is entitled to take this sort of information in secret. Its relationship with its customers and business partners depends on an assurance that it will not secretly enable the government to monitor all of their communications at all times. If a mere grand jury subpoena can be used to get around that (in secret, no less), then no business—anywhere—can credibly offer its customers a secure email service.
But Kerr points out that this is a "really weak argument":
This strikes me as a really weak argument. Lavabit is essentially claiming that its anti-government business model trumps the subpoena power. That is, it is arguing that the subpoena is “oppressive” precisely because it would work: It would allow the government to conduct the surveillance it is allowed to conduct under the Pen Register statute.
Further, Kerr argues that to accept Lavabit's argument would mean that any company that announces an "ideology or business strategy" that opposes government surveillance could then resist legitimate government subpoenas simply by arguing that they are oppressive and abusive.

I respect Kerr and always look forward to his legal analysis, but I think he's wrong at a variety of levels here, and, tragically the judge in the case seems to have the same confused view of what Lavabit is actually arguing (though, one could argue, that is actually the fault of Lavabit in not making its case clearly). Lawyer Scott Greenfield does a good job explaining why Kerr has mischaracterized Lavabit's defense -- first noting that being pro-privacy is hardly being "anti-government" as Kerr implies. Then pointing out that Lavabit's argument isn't that the government's demand for its private keys was merely oppressive because of its business model, but because it would put Lavabit out of business -- which is not the same thing.
This isn't really a fair characterization of Lavabit's point. Initially, the argument is that revelation of the private key would be the ruination of the business. By exposing every customer to government disclosure, and covert disclosure at that, the government would take a viable business, making money and delivering a service as businesses are allowed to do in America, and destroy it. Poof, company gone. Business gone. Revenue gone. Wham, bam, thank you, Ladar.
But there's an even bigger point in here, which I think Kerr misses entirely, and Greenfield skips over: from a technology standpoint, what the government is demanding of Lavabit is absolutely oppressive and abusive. And, for that, it helps to look at Ed Felten's discussion of the case, in which he notes that the judge and other DOJ supporters in this case (including, it would seem, Kerr) are basically arguing that "If court orders are legitimate, why should we allow engineers to design services that protect users against court-ordered access." But Felten points out that requiring "court ordered access" is tantamount to requiring a massive vulnerability to insider attacks:
To see why, consider two companies, which we’ll call Lavabit and Guavabit. At Lavabit, an employee, on receiving a court order, copies user data and gives it to an outside party—in this case, the government. Meanwhile, over at Guavabit, an employee, on receiving a bribe or extortion threat from a drug cartel, copies user data and gives it to an outside party—in this case, the drug cartel.

From a purely technological standpoint, these two scenarios are exactly the same: an employee copies user data and gives it to an outside party. Only two things are different: the employee’s motivation, and the destination of the data after it leaves the company. Neither of these differences is visible to the company’s technology—it can’t read the employee’s mind to learn the motivation, and it can’t tell where the data will go once it has been extracted from the company’s system. Technical measures that prevent one access scenario will unavoidably prevent the other one.

Insider attacks are a big problem. You might have read about a recent insider attack against the NSA by Edward Snowden. Similar but less spectacular attacks happen all the time, and Lavabit, or any well-run service that holds user data, has good reason to try to control them.
Now, go back to the judge's order or Kerr's analysis, and revisit it with what Felten pointed out, and you realize how far off-base both the Judge and Kerr are in their analyses. Lavabit didn't design its system to be setup the way it was because it was "anti-government," but rather because it wanted to create secure email that protects against a variety of different kinds of attacks, both insider and outsider. That's why it found the government's request so "abusive" and "oppressive." Not because of an ideological disagreement, but rather because of the technological reality that handing over Lavabit's private keys absolutely wrecks any real security of Lavabit's system, which is Lavabit's entire business.

So, while Kerr and the judge in the case seem to think it's a mere ideological issue, that's simply not true. It's a technological issue, on which Lavabit's entire business was based. If Kerr and the judge are correct, then, as Felten properly notes, it becomes effectively illegal to build a really secure communications system. That seems positively ridiculous, especially in a time when we're told (by the very government agency that wants to do all this spying) that we need better online security to protect against attacks.

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          Summer Places        

**Photo by Pleasant Point Inn, Flickr Creative Commons. Maine. 

Our setting: a 1930s kitchen with wide windows. Peonies, pink and white and multi-layered, brim from tin cans. All is quiet. 

Yesterday was trains and crowds and noise. 

This morning I stood and looked at the impervious blue horizon of New York Bay, the view from my housemate's tall window. 

This is an island in the Atlantic Ocean.

Each day in these boroughs is stirring in countless ways. Moods change like air currents, like the ocean. In the summer, energy builds--and it is nice to release it in a calm day. 

I recall heat-wave days in Seattle, rare spans adding up to two or so weeks each summer. Skirts, sandals, hollering. Outdoor seating, bars, green-markets. Full Lake Washington beaches, bathers in patched-together thrift-store swimsuits. A populace suddenly finding use for sunglasses. A normally quiet people who hollered as they walked streets late into the night. Beaming rowdiness. 

**Photo in Maine by Carl Lender, Flickr Creative Commons.**

Each summer weekend in New York is a bit like this, but with the addition of hundreds of thousands of tourists.

I often like to lie low. I love Monday through Thursday because they are more normal, less whooping.

In summer, New Yorkers go to their habitual places. Many drive or train to un-fancy cabins and little houses that aren’t outfitted for winter, set in woods, by quiet lakes, along the Hudson River.

They return on Monday, talking about zucchini and tomatoes and sugar snap peas. They love these spots with wood-paneled walls, afternoon light, drinks on the porch, chats at little stores.

**Currants, by Liz West, Flickr Creative Commons 

The introvert in me appreciates such breaks. I like to be sheltered by forest and find mysteries among the tall trees.

By contrast, yesterday ended loudly and fulsomely, after dinner in a non-green section of New Jersey on the Hudson’s edge. Then a train under the Hudson, a subway to the ferry. Waiting in the large and mall-like ferry landing. A band played ‘70s-style R&B electro-funk music. It was midnight, then 12:05, and the ferry had not arrived. With the delay came uncertainty: Until recently, the ferry arrived hourly on weekends, and none of us were sure we weren't returning to such a schedule. Two children under seven whirled and slid a breakdance. Their skill was exhilarating--but how many of us clapped willingly and how many were captive onlookers there in the fluorescent lighting? We watched for the ferry's arriving orange/blue bulk, for wide glass doors to slide open to admit the massive, waiting crowd.

It was a lot for midnight, as it sometimes is.

Today, I am in the 1930s kitchen, here on Staten Island.  I sit at a formica table, looking toward a plane tree and a vegetable garden. A different house-mate rolls ruggelagh dough. She has poured chai iced tea into glasses for us both. 

The craftsmanship makes me happy: the preparation of the dough, the addition of fig jam, and lemon and sugar in the tea.

This kitchen is like a summer cabin, here on this island that was New York's summer escape in decades past. “Must be the wood paneling,” says my housemate, referring to the wood cabinets.

**Photo of Pennsylvania forest, by Nicholas A. Tonelli, Flickr Creative Commons. 

I will talk to nature-seekers. Cabin-goers. Ecologists and naturalists and nature writers.

We'll see what I learn.


          Verizon Rant        

***UPDATE: Repair tech GORDON-BVJ came about 11:30. Seems to have been THEIR problem; although unclear. I was treated WELL because I took the time & trouble to follow their phone suggestion- DISCONNECT everything from phone lines & try testing items one at a time. Didn't work but still it was worth a try. Thank you ! and You're Welcome! HAPPY FEET!

I have some phones and Internet service from Verizon.  Phones go dead, but not Internet.  I may not be the brightest bulb around, but this is not good news.
Quick phone call- all automated, of course.  The best that they can do is check the line- seems okay, but there could still be problems.  Bottom line, I'm not covered for repair work.  Charges are $75/hr.  Could be their problem, could be mine, could be a combo- who knows? 
So I book 'em, Dano.  Really, what choice do I have even though I doubt it's my telephones?
Then I notify my landlord (I live in a condo) of the good news.  Great guy, but not happy lately.  In the current assessment he lost SUBSTANTIALLY- buying at the height of the market.  The building is not new- heading towards 20 yrs. Everything has outlived it's life (and beyo-o-o-ond).
While I've done a lot of maintenance here on my own- I ain't no electrician, plumber, or refrigerator, and my rent ain't cheap. So, he's balking.
Hey, been there, done that.  Every penny you get in rent after you pay mortgage and taxes and other fees, ain't all profit.  Ummm. that's why I RENT!
But I digress.
Verizon is coming- beween 8 AM and 6 PM.  Huh! And I have to pay for this???  ALL DAY WAITING? I could call pizza delivery & get better service than that! Not for !  So I'm pisssd!  And I haven't rec'd a bill- yet! Who takes care of the condo telephone boxes in the lobby?  Hey, it ain't my fault if any wiring has gone bad.  All I did was plug things in expecting that they would work.
The plumber is also coming- broken tub spout valve.  Sigh.  And my very wide glass door blinds don't operate and my new kitchen light turns itself off sometimes.  I haven't even mentioned the rugs.  Sigh.
So nice when the phone companies were deregulated to provide us with hoice & better pricing.  So... how'd that work out for you? Thanks. Pres. Reagan. I don't suppose you're available for condo sitting.... no; any archangels not busy?
Blah, blah, blah.  Update- later!
          Banyuls-sur-Mer (EN)        

So, I'm finally writing about my internship here! I arrived May 14, and I'll be leaving here, to head back to the USA, June 25.

I live in an apartment that is part of the establishment here. It's awesome! My apartment is two minutes, maybe less, of a walk from where I work, so that's awesome! Also, I get to see the sun set on the Mediterranean Sea every night from my living room window (glass door) - so beautiful!

I live alone (which I actually prefer in France); I have two beds, a sofa, a sufficiently big kitchen and a bathroom. However, there is nothing to separate the bathtub from the rest of the room (not even a shower curtain), which is really weird! So each time I shower, I end up adding a few inches of water to the floor. There's no Internet in my apartment (the WiFi is "broken"), so I walk into town and sit outside the Tourism Office every time I want to use the Internet, because they have free WiFi. Otherwise, I just found out that there is free WiFi in the lobby of my building, but it's sooooooo slow!

Every morning before work, I have a breakfast "à la française" (at least according to what I saw in Besançon) : bread or tartines (similar to crackers) with butter and jelly, as well as a nice coffee (and sometimes some Camembert cheese).

As for my work, I work five days a week, 9h00 to 18h00/18h30 with an hour to hour and half lunch break. The other two days are my "rest days" (I can't figure out what to call them because each time I learn more French, it seems I get slower at English). The majority of my clients are older, but there are still some young people every once in awhile (like today for example). For right now, I only do a few types of "cares," but I'll learn some of the cool massages and other stuff later on.


I do these really often. Essentially, it's algae or mud all over the body. You put the client on a table, on top of a plastic sheet, which is on top of a heating blanket. Then you cover them with mud or algae (depending on where they have pain or what they're trying to achieve). Next, you wrap them up in the plastic and then the blanket, and let them sit for twenty minutes. I also do Frigitherapy sometimes which is fun. I basically mummify the legs of somebody with very very cold bands. It's designed to aid/restore peripheral circulation. Nothing too exciting, I know, but hey, it's in a whole 'nother language!

"Boiling" Baths:

There's pretty much nothing to explain here. I fill up the tub with sea water, put the person in, wait thirteen minutes, then take them out. After that, I empty the tub, rinse it, and refill it. On my days off, I like to come and give myself one or two of these...they're awesome! The sea water helps a lot.

Other treatments:

I'm going to learn other (real) types of massage, because for now all I do are massages done by machines. The "Sensolyse" is a machine that emits vibrations and small impulses that stimulate the circualtion. I "strategically place" eight metal plaque things on the person and then turn on the machine. I also do pressotherapy which is fun. You put massive socks onto the person (that go right up to the crotch) and then these enormous (astronaut) boots. Afterwards, I...turn on the machine. The boots inflate, then deflate, then inflate, etc. The pressure helps stimulate circulation (think about a blood pressure cuff).

Other stuff I do:

Aside from that, I do some small tasks every once in awhile for the bosses or whomever. I also got to sit in for a class, with the doctor here, on the anatomy of the skin. Even in French, I could happily listen to anatomy/physiology/medicine for hours upon hours. The course was really interesting, but very easy because the students are going to become estheticians or hydrotherapists, not doctors or nurses. After the course, I spoke with the doctor for awhile (who is actually the sister of one of my New Paltz professors!) and I'm going to work with her every once in a while. I can shadow her while she does some osteopathic work, injections, consults, and other stuff. Awesome! Also, she gave me an osteopathic treatment on Wednesday, which was so cool/helpful.

I think that's about it. I didn't expect to have such opportunities here to interact with so many different types of people and to actually get to work with "patients"; even though it's very basic stuff, it's still a great start! I'm having a great time!

The other photos of Banyuls-sur-Mer

- Matt Lipinski

          And These Will Be Added to You        

Bright-eyed and 23 years old, John paced across his condo balcony. Houston’s medical center towers loomed in his twilit view. He gripped the phone by his ear and smiled as he waited for the answer. “Dad, hey! You won’t believe it—I got a new offer! No, not with the agency—they’ll keep me at the bottom at least another year. This could be my calling. It’s here with my church in Houston, in the youth ministry.”

His face fell as his dad’s voice cut through the wires, “Don’t even think about it. If you do, I will disown you.” Click.

♢ â™¢ â™¢

Sixteen years later, in the back seat of a car on the O’Hare tarmac, John ended another call with his dad: “Gotta go, just pulled up to the plane! You know you could still join me one of these days, anywhere in the world—Hong Kong, Taiwan to see the family, even Tokyo! The benefits are good for you, too.” He hung up smiling, hopeful.

John stepped out of the car and gazed for a moment at the 787 Dreamliner against Chicago’s distant skyline. He breathed in deeply, raising his shoulders and puffing out his chest, then exhaled lightly in rhythm with his first step toward the plane.

He blinked a few times as he stepped into the fuselage, not ready for the set lights stationed at the end of the aisle.

“You must be John!” came from just beyond one of the lights. John turned, still blinking, as a man with a camera emerged a few feet in front of him.

John smiled and threw his arms out to his sides in excitement. “Ready! Where do you need me?” The photographer tilted his head back to gesture toward the end of the aisle where some models were standing. John smiled, politely slid past the photographer, and walked over to introduce himself.

During the shoot, John leaned slightly forward in the aisle, explaining to the seated model the brand new first-class features his team designed, his posture and his expression as soft as the down pillow under his left arm. His eyes darted toward the camera as the shutter clicked. He couldn’t help but smile.

♢ â™¢ â™¢

Back in his office, a knock on his open door made John look up as he set his phone on his desk. “Come on in.”

His manager pushed the door wide enough to lean his head and shoulders in the room while he kept his feet stationed in the hall. He half nodded and cleared his throat. “Actually, I was going to ask, could you join me in my office? It’ll just be a minute.”

Once in his manager’s office, John closed the door behind him and sat in the guest chair, his fingers interlocked over his right knee with his calf propped over his left thigh.

“So I’ll get right to it,” his manager started, hunched behind his desk, hands clasped in his lap. “First, I need you to know this is from above. I know I’ve only been with you for a few months now, and you had a good history with your former manager, and from what I’ve seen you’ve been great.” He looked down to his feet as he continued. “Now, you’re still going to be our product marketing director, but we’re creating a position for someone else to oversee the team, calling it managing director. She’s been with us a while—not with our team, but with the airline since before the merger. She’ll be taking over primary responsibility for all product marketing and development.”

John raised his eyebrows and then relaxed them slightly just as his manager finished and turned up to face him. John smiled and nodded slowly, “OK. Is that all?” His manager nodded, leaned forward with his hands on his knees, and exhaled as he stood. He came around the desk and opened the door to show John out.

John forced a smile as he heard the heavy etched-glass door whisper to a close behind him. Holding his head up and stepping a little high so he wouldn’t drag his feet, he strolled through the corporate maze to his office until he could safely lean back against his closed door and slump to the ground. He dropped his silenced phone to the floor, buried his face in his hands, and exhaled heavily.

♢ â™¢ â™¢

At lunch with his best friend Marcus four months later, John picked up his hot dog, hesitated, and swung his elbow onto the table and leaned forward, looking up as he explained, “So yeah, you know, they take care of their own, but this is industry standard. Especially after a merger, everything’s up in the air. And my pay isn’t changing. I’ve got a secure spot.” He let his eyes drop back down to his tray, “I just need to keep my head down, stick it out.”

Marcus nodded, “So call it good timing, but we might have something for you down in Austin. In fact, we’re looking for someone with almost exactly your skill set. It would be with the church.”

John flinched and his knee smacked the table, sending their drinks and trays sliding.

♢ â™¢ â™¢

John, lying on his side in bed, turned slightly to look over his shoulder at his wife. “You know, Emay, even if my job won’t be the same, it’s still aviation, it’s still basically my dream job, and who knows what will come later? Things always change. And besides, who can complain about this?” He patted the bed then gestured toward the vaulted ceiling and the window overlooking their backyard.

Emay, sitting up against the headboard, nodded, “It is nice, and I know God didn’t bring us here for no reason, but I was thinking—the job Marcus mentioned—you know, it doesn’t hurt to hear them out. Might be something there.”

John waved the idea away, “Yeah, sure, but I don’t know. I don’t want to go through all that and put them through all that if I’m not sure. I still feel like God has us here.”

♢ â™¢ â™¢

Ten months later, John looked down from the sermon to his buzzing phone—a text from Emay. “So what are you thinking? They’ve been so generous.”

He sighed, looking over their children’s heads at her a few seats away, then back to his phone. “I know! My third trip down, plus the whole family this time, and I’m still not feeling it. Maybe the most difficult ‘no’ I’ve ever had to say. You?”

“Yeah, would be hard to leave Chicago. Maybe we’re not ready.”

On stage, the worship leader stepped to the microphone, strummed his guitar, and asked the crowd, “Will y’all stand and sing with me?”

John just read and mouthed the words on the projector through the first verse, his brow furrowed, nodding his head with the melody. He sang softly through the second verse. Then during the bridge, tears rolled down his face. He put his hands up and sang loudly:

In all my sorrows, Jesus is better – make my heart believe.
In all my victories, Jesus is better – make my heart believe.
Than any comfort, Jesus is better – make my heart believe.
More than all riches, Jesus is better – make my heart believe1,

They walked to the car after the service in silence. John reached to start the engine and stopped, “Emay, I really don’t know now. That song—Let’s pray.” She nodded, and they bowed their heads. John prayed, “God we want to obey you. Guide us to make the right decision.”

♢ â™¢ â™¢

John sat at their kitchen table back in Chicago, looking out at the snow-covered yard. The sun, just below the trees, left everything a pale blue. He held his phone to his ear. He swallowed deep as he heard his dad on the other end. “Hey, Dad, yeah, so I decided. We’re moving to Austin. I’m going to run communications for The Austin Stone Community Church.”

A few moments of silence. “Are you sure? Can you really provide for your family like that?”

“Dad, this is what God is calling me to do. He’ll take care of us.” “OK,” his dad sighed.

♢ â™¢ â™¢

John paced slowly across his screened patio with the phone to his ear, fanning himself with his free hand as he watched the sun set behind the trees, “Oh, no, like I said, I’m no longer an employee but got a six-month extension on flight benefits.” He paused in silence, looked through the window at Emay over the sink, and grinned. He continued into the phone, “Right, so this will be my last trip. Austin to Tokyo. Two adults — me, John Yeng, and my dad, Clement.”

1 Austin Stone Worship, “Jesus is Better.”



          Fic: Mea Culpa 1/2        

Mea Culpa

Summary: Neal is missing and Jones thinks about how it all went wrong. Prequel to Fragile.

Warning: Some language.

Author's Note: People really liked seeing Jones' POV before, so here's a bit more to the story!




Peter Burke may not have been the most demonstrative boss that Jones had ever had the pleasure of serving under, but he was a fair, even-handed man who led by unwavering, steadfast example. He was a man who genuinely cared for his agents and in his own brilliant way, inspired them to greater things. Jones couldn’t imagine working for or trying to emulate a better person and for that reason, had chosen to remain in New York with Peter’s team in the relatively small White Collar Division, even when he had been offered a promotion to a more prestigious position in DC. Peter had never spoken of it, but Jones liked to think Peter rewarded that loyalty with his trust.

He also liked to think he knew the man fairly well. In his tenure with the White Collar Division, he had seen Peter at his best, and at his worst, when he was furious, when he was hair-pullingly frustrated, when he was grief-stricken, when he was surprised, when he was smugly pleased with himself, when he was proud of his team.

But as they sat opposite each other in the van, speeding towards a location on the docks, he’d never seen Peter so visibly anxious and worried in all the years he had known the man. Neal was missing and had been missing for over a week now. The pragmatically realistic part of him knew that their chances of recovering Neal alive and unharmed at this point were very, very small.


Jones had come into work ten days ago and had immediately noticed Peter and Neal in Hughes’ office with Ruiz from Organized Crime. Even from a distance, Peter had been distinctly displeased. Hughes looked surprisingly resigned. Whatever it was, it couldn’t be good. Peter suddenly stalked out of the room in disgust, with Neal trailing him like a faithful hound. They talked some more in Peter’s office before Neal left with a jaunty wave and fake smile that fooled nobody. He was already inscrutably unreadable by the time he was seated at his own desk, right beside Jones’ own.

Neal looked up at him.

“Hi, Jones.”

“Morning, Neal.”

Neal was uncharacteristically silent after that. No compliments on his tie that day, whether he’d had a good night, plans for the weekend, how was his mother and so on.

Tentatively, Jones decided a direct approach might be best.

“So what’s up with Ruiz?”

Jones was well aware that Ruiz objected to Neal’s presence at the FBI, and had openly derided him without censure on numerous occasions. It hadn’t sat well with Jones then, and he definitely had a bad feeling about it now.

“Ruiz wants to borrow me for his latest fishing expedition with the Russians.”

Jones tried not to baulk. The body count on that stack of case files was more of a running tally.

“Hughes approved his request?” Jones couldn’t help the feeling of incredulousness. He already knew how Peter felt about all this.

“I get the impression that Hughes doesn’t want to, but he knows the stakes; Ruiz has an in, he’s got to take it. And he’s going to use every...asset...” Neal all but spat the word out “that he has access to. Win some, lose some. That’s how this game is played, isn’t it.”

His brow knit in worry. Jones knew Peter liked to joke that he owned Neal and he wasn’t entirely sure what Neal’s consulting contract covered but Neal didn’t seem to think he had a choice in the matter.

“Neal. You know, regardless of how you came to work for the FBI, you’re a consultant with a civil service and there are laws that protect you. If you’re not comfortable or you think it places you in danger, you can refuse the assignment. Peter will back you on that.”

Neal stilled, serious as Jones had ever seen him, and looked Jones straight in the eye.

“Peter doesn’t answer to himself. That’s how that game is played.”

Jones was no stranger to office politics but this felt wrong on so many levels. It felt wrong that there were people he worked with who thought that they could play fast and loose with a man’s life, but he realized it galled him more that Neal seemed to think he was expendable.


In Jones’ mind, the only word he could use to describe the op itself was one giant clusterfuck. Ruiz being the bastard that he was, refused to let Peter’s team take part in the sting. They’d had to follow every painstaking moment from a hastily set up satellite com station in the conference room. Neal had done exactly as planned and had issued the agreed-upon take-down signal after securing the evidence they needed on tape. But Ruiz had refused to send in back-up, insisting that Neal keep cover until further notice when shots started ringing over the wire. They lost him before they could recover the scene. All they found was an ominous blood trail leading out to where a getaway vehicle must have been stashed.

Hughes had been furious. Jones personally felt that Hughes should have known better, given their track record for all the times they had loaned Neal out to other departments, though Hughes had probably been expecting a modicum of professionalism from Ruiz as head of division.

If Hughes was furious, Peter all but went berserk. He had never seen rage of such intensity flashing in Peter’s eyes or such tension in the lines of his back and in his coiled fists, gripped so tight his nails might have broken skin. When Ruiz’s team finally slunk back into the division office, the whole floor watched as Peter stormed down the stairs, crossed the bullpen in a number of strides and shoved open the glass doors to grab Ruiz by the lapels and slam him into the wall by the elevators.

Jones scrambled out of his chair while everyone else had stood rooted to the spot. It took every ounce of his not inconsiderable muscle mass, and went against every hard-fought instinct of his own to grab and restrain Peter’s fist before it met Ruiz’ wretched face. Because lord knows, Jones bore no love for him either.

“PETER!” Jones ground out; the sheer effort of holding Peter back making his voice shudder in exertion. “Peter, he’s NOT worth it!”

His words had the opposite effect and Peter only struggled harder, cursing him out with words that Jones hadn’t known Peter possessed in his vocabulary.

Jones felt his mind grasping for something, anything that might reach Peter.

“If you do this, Hughes will have no choice but to suspend you and who’s going to find Neal then?”

And thank god it worked, because the fight slowly bled out of Peter and he released Ruiz from his vicious grip and shrugged off Jones’ hold on him too. Maybe he’d picked it up from Neal, because although his eyes were still shooting daggers, Peter tugged his clothes into order, and had schooled himself into a facade of deliberate, straight-backed respectability in that span of moments, intense and severe, as they turned to take in Hughes and Diana standing in the doorway, every eye in the room following them through the glass.


What followed was the longest slog of a week that Jones could think of in living memory. The entire White Collar division had thrown themselves single-mindedly into getting Neal back, and even Hughes had joined them on the floor. Part of him hoped that Hughes felt guilty about his part in all this, though Jones was mature enough to know that at Hughes’ level in their line of work, hard decisions sometimes came with a price. He thought back to his conversation with Neal that fateful morning and felt his own guilt sear through him for not bringing it up with Peter. But Jones looked over at Peter, who was already tormenting himself with enough guilt for all them, and he decided that Peter did not need to know just then that Neal had essentially chosen Peter's career over his own safety and quite possibly, his life.

Jones knew that Peter saw Neal as his responsibility, not just in terms of keeping Neal in line, but also in terms of his protection and well-being. Jones had also watched that improbable relationship grow from the day it started. People wondered how on earth two men so unalike in every way and with a history such as theirs could work so well together. As he turned the thought over and over in his mind, he came to the realisation that it was because they respected one other. And against all odds, they liked each other. He was well aware that Peter turned to Neal first on most any case that came across their desks, that he valued Neal’s input as a partner, and not as a subordinate. Not for the first time, it occurred to Jones that he had every right to resent Neal for seemingly usurping what he could see as his position on Peter’s team, as his most senior agent, and yet, he found he couldn’t and he didn’t. Still, there was something more. Neal wasn’t just Peter’s partner. Jones thought about how they finished each other’s sentences, and anticipated each other’s actions and bickered in alternating fashion like bratty siblings and the world’s strangest old married couple. How they take lunches with Elizabeth at least three times a week and how Neal brings a flask of Italian roast for Peter in the morning and how Peter grumbles halfheartedly but takes Neal to visit his favourite museums outside his radius anyway. How Neal is a frequent guest at the Burke residence and how he takes Satchmo to the dog park every so often (He knows. He’s checked Neal’s ankle monitor often enough) and how Neal straightens Peter’s tie before his meetings with the oversight committee and how Neal makes sure Peter doesn't forget his own wedding anniversary.  Somewhere along the way, Neal had become Peter’s friend and Jones could sense that Peter’s turmoil wasn’t just because he felt he’d failed Neal in his responsibility for him, but because he’d failed Neal in his friendship.  

They took turns crashing for a few hours on the couch in Peter’s office but otherwise they followed up every scrap of a lead that came into the Bureau, no matter how slight the connection or what the hour was. Tempers were fraying, faces were growing haggard in weariness and desperation permeated the office. Peter seemed to age ten years. Jones didn’t think he fared any better as he took in his appearance in front of a mirror. As he splashed water on his face to wash the grit from his eyes, the thought occurred to Jones that he wished Neal could see this, if only so he could be sure of his welcome and his value on Peter’s team; that all these people didn’t think of him as Peter’s pet con but that he truly was one of theirs, one of them, and they took care of their own.

Part 2

          5 On Your Side gets refund for couple after fireplace repairs fail        
Fireplace, chimney repairs go awry for Raleigh coupleA Durham couple was left with a mess that cost them thousands of dollars to repair after hiring a company to install new glass doors for their fireplace and a new chimney cap.
          #49 Jumping with frogs        
Summer in the Hunter Valley has been wetter than recent summers, and it was very encouraging to hear the delightful frog chorus every night, knowing that breeding was taking place in my immediate surroundings. I am not experienced in identifying the various calls all competing, so I have to rely on chance meetings to discover just what species are living around me.

And I have been thrilled to encounter several frog species which have previously escaped my attention. One of the most common sightings has been the cute little Peron's Tree Frog.

Notice the pale green flecks of the Peron's Tree Frog

Peron's Tree Frog - Litoria peronii

Peron's Tree Frogs have bright yellow with black mottling on the armpits, groin and back of thighs which is a key identifying feature if you are fortunate to glimpse this as it moves around. Its back is rough-textured, but varies in colour from almost white to a pale green-grey, through shades of light brown, to reddish brown.

It is recorded that the Peron's Tree Frog will change its colour depending on the light exposure, temperature, moisture and other factors. I have not been lucky enough to observe this.

All Peron's Tree Frogs I have seen have been flecked with pale irridescent-like green irregularly shaped spots over the back, although research indicates that this feature is not always present.

It is an excellent climber with large toe pads, and part webbing. I found the frog in the following photo, on my glass door on top of a spider's web which did not appear to lessen its grip. Notice the yellow with dark blotches on the inner and back thigh.

Peron's Tree Frog is an excellent climber

The Peron's Tree Frogs I have seen around my backyard have all been small slender frogs between 30 and 45mm long. Most reliable records indicate that they can grow up to 50 or 60mm in length, but I found a freshly killed 70mm plump frog in the Barrington Tops rainforest which I believe was a Peron's Tree Frog.

The call is a distinctive "chuckle" consisting of between fifteen and twenty rapid descending notes. There is a link to its call here.

I discovered two Peron's Tree Frogs, active and seemingly healthy, in a thick batch of liquid manure as I used the smelly home-made fertilizer concentrate yesterday. I was astonished to find the frogs in such an unlikely habitat, but I took advantage of the opportunity to photograph the usually hidden thigh colouration before I relocated them to a damp spot where they would not be disturbed.

Distinctive thigh colour of Peron's Tree Frog

Peron's Tree Frog is mainly a NSW species, but its range does extend marginally into adjoining states. Although often occuring in association with rivers and similar large bodies of water, this species breeds in the semi-permanent water bodies that form after rain, in summer. Throughout summer, there were puddles in the paddock adjoining my yard that would have suited their breeding.

Tadpoles are an irridescent green or golden-yellow with a high crested tail. Now that I am aware of this feature, I will search for the tadpoles next breeding season so that I can observe and photograph them.

Most specimens I have found, have been out on wet nights. During the day, they take shelter in protected spots.

A Peron's Tree Frog takes cover as I approach - Note: a reader has informed me that this is not a Peron's Tree Frog, but is Tyler's (or Laughing) Tree Frog - Litoria Tyleri

I observed the following scene in Barrington Tops National Park on the eastern rim of the Hunter Valley: I inadvertently disturbed a Stephen's Banded Snake, Hoplocephalus stephensi, after it had presumably killed a large Peron's Tree Frog. As I lay spread out on the rainforest floor photographing fungi, this scene was played out just metres from me.

The snake was small, and the frog was large. I would have been thrilled to see the snake consume this meal, but it slid into a hole at the base of the tree where the kill took place. However, I felt privileged to witness such an amazing sight in the battle to survive in the wild.

Stephen's Banded Snake with dead frog

There are still frogs about as the warm nights are replaced by a chill, so rug up the kids and take them frog spotting with a torch at night after rain. Discourage children from handling frogs as they have permeable skin which absorbs toxins - just enjoy their activity.

          Chilmark New To Market        

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          Beautiful 2 Story Townhome in West Palm Beach, Florida        
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Stamford at the Villages Townhome with Lake Views, 2 Bedrooms, and 2 1/2 Baths. This desirable, two-story townhome in Stamford at the Villages is spacious, comfortable and inviting. First floor features neutral 16 x 16 tile flooring, and second floor features neutral carpeting. Living Room overlooks the patio area and lake. Storage closet underneath staircase. Eat-in Kitchen with breakfast bar features double sliding glass doors leading out to the patio area, neutral color cabinetry and countertops, a full range of appliances including a General Electric flattop four burner stove/oven, General Electric microwave, Whirlpool refrigerator, Whirlpool dishwasher, and a double bowl, over the counter, stainless steel sink. Laundry Room on first floor with Whirlpool washer/dryer and half bath. Master Bedroom with walk-in closet features shelving and mirrored doors. Master Bath features white 6 x 6 tile flooring, a shower with glass doors, and a double vanity with two mirrored medicine cabinets and plenty of cabinets and drawers for storage. Guest Bedroom features lake views. Guest Bath features white 6x6 tile flooring, a shower/tub combo, and a single vanity with a linen closet. Large outdoor patio area, perfect for entertaining, overlooks the lake. Alarm System. Three community parks features swimming pools, tennis courts, basketball courts, and play areas. Mandatory HOA fees includes basic cable, water, sewer, trash, landscape, building insurance, building/common area maintenance, and reserves; $305 per month. Conveniently located near West Palm Beach's entertainment district and the beautiful beaches of Palm Beach.
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          Jonathon's Cove Townhome        
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...were the numbers I saw when I looked at my clock this morning, as the twin sonic booms reached my ears and rattled my sliding glass doors...

...for the last time. Ever.
          Tonight's the Night        

            I wonder, Sarah thought, what it’s like to be a mother.  She, stunning and youthful, rubbed her bulging belly under the pink maxi dress – two sizes above normal – and looked out to the cul-de-sac where the neighborhood children ran after each other, their eyes wide and mouths open. The sun was almost out of sight over the hill behind the freshly-sodded Pedigree house when the bluish LED lamp turned on and birthed shadows from bushes. Summer nights brought a certain kind of leisure in Missouri. It wasn’t like visiting Uncle B when he lived in Washington D.C. where you could walk around Wisconsin Avenue or Bethesda to keep yourself amused. No, there in the suburbs of St. Louis, you go out and sit on your porch or go for a hike at Castlewood State Park. Sarah was an active women who finished half marathons in a little over two hours. She liked to run down the lakeside trail and watch the ducks float on the river. Ever since her pregnancy and the move into her new home, time did not allow her to participate in these activities as much. As a child, Sarah lived a sheltered life. Her mother was an elder at the First Methodist Church of Chesterfield. Her father left her one week before her third birthday. When Sarah was a teenager, her mother talked to her about the dangers of higher education. Much to her mother’s fear, this discussion did not affect Sarah’s decision to attend college. During her sophomore year at Missouri State University, Sarah met Kyle in one of her elective classes, and their romantic relationship further distanced her from her mother. The only contact Sarah received from her mother was a yearly Christmas card that invited her to church and to repent from her worldly ways by accepting Jesus as her lord and savior.
Billy Conrad, as a member of Sarah and Kyle's neighborhood, liked to sit on his porch. His house was on the end of the street overlooking the main road. Sometimes, Sarah would take a walk to the top of the neighborhood where he lived. She would see him sitting on his rocking chair, hands greasy, gulping a tall boy of Natural Light. If he didn’t see the kids playing down in the cul-de-sac, he would take out his ‘68 Charger (or his ’72 Roadrunner or his ’69 Camaro) and gun it down the street. Sarah called the police department and complained – and so did many of the parents. One time, she even confronted him while he was working on a radiator. “Excuse me,” she said, “but there are children in this neighborhood. We don’t want them getting hurt.” Billy laughed. “I’m sorry missus, bu’ fast cars are made fer driving.” The neighbors didn’t talk to him much.
            After the darkness drove the children inside for the night, Sarah entered the kitchen and reached for her prenatal vitamins in the cabinet above the microwave. There was a letter on the counter; Kyle must have placed it there when he got home from work. He went to the bank about an hour ago, and Sarah expected him to come back anytime soon. There wasn’t a return address on the envelope and Sarah tore the taped flap in subdued anticipation. Inside, there was a single loose-leaf piece of paper – still with the broken frills on the left edge. Sarah recognized the handwriting as her Uncle B’s. Her uncle informed her that he opened a separate bank account to help with groceries and food for the new arrival. He also wrote down his address in the letter for future correspondence. "I did this," he wrote, "so no one at the post office could see it on the envelope. At the end of the message, he wrote, in all capital letters: BURN THIS LETTER AND THE ENVELOPE WHEN FINISHED. LOVE YOU. B. Sarah placed the letter on the table, shook her head and smiled.
                  Uncle B was a retired CIA agent who won $300,000 in the lottery six months ago. Sarah didn’t think that her secretive uncle would think to share his winnings with her. When Uncle B worked for the government, he talked about retiring late in life and using his savings to buy a boat and fish for bass on the Meramec. He previously lived in Washington D.C., but recently moved out in Union to get away from headquarters. The last time Sarah visited him was three years back when he received an award from the agency in D.C. She didn’t see him much, but she talked to him often. Uncle B said he would like to see her as soon as she got situated in the new house. He didn’t like to spoil new beginnings. Sarah crumpled the letter and envelope into little balls and placed them into the trashcan.
            “What a change of heart, Rorschach,” Sarah said, as she looked over to the living-room carpet, where a tabby pumped his paws and kneaded, languid from evening trickery. Sarah heard the garage open and looked at her watch. Kyle walked through the back door and looked tired. “How did it go?” Sarah asked.
            “It went all right,” Kyle said as he opened a sac and scooped grounds of coffee into the French-press while he filled up the kettle. Sarah could smell the earthy scent of ground Arabica as it circulated around the living room.
            “I’m surprised it took that long.”
            “I guess we will have to get used to it. We are going to have at least eighteen years to test our patience. What’s a little financial planning?” Kyle said as he turned from the stove and looked at Sarah with a kind expression and winked. Dimples appeared at the corners of his lips. His smile reminded Sarah of why she married him. She pressed her head firmly into the head of the recliner and her hair pressed outward; her bangs were a fortress.
            “We’ve been married two-and-a-half years now. I think I have the patience,” Sarah said and laughed. Rorschach looked up from the beige pool of synthetic fibers and stared.
            “I got a letter from my uncle today.”
            Kyle took out a mug from the cabinet. “So that’s who sent it. I should’ve known. I keep expecting him to send some sort of microscopic microphone to spy on us.”
            “He probably already has,” Sarah said as she opened the compartment under the coffee table, “I found out that my uncle can help us out with Charlie. Uncle B said he would open up a separate bank account for us.” Sarah took out baby blue nail polish from the cosmetics box. “It’s going to help out a lot especially since I haven’t had any luck finding a teaching job ever since we moved."
            “That’s very kind of him,” Kyle said, pouring the steaming water into the press.
            Sarah felt a sudden rise of uneasiness. She looked down at her fingernails. “All I know is that things are going to work out. We’ve wanted this for a while now. Sarah blew on her fingers and the polish clotted.
            Kyle said seriously, “I don’t think anything can hold us back.” He pressed down the plunger and noted the peculiar color of the coffee.   
            Kyle took his steaming mug and went to his office to research a case summary. After her nails dried completely, Sarah did some of the chores downstairs – vacuumed, emptied the trashcans and wheeled out the receptacle, and fed Rorschach. Then, she went upstairs to look at Charlie’s room. It seemed like there wasn’t a day that passed that Sarah didn’t spend time in it. Paint buckets with dried paint like shagbark hickory around the rims lined the wall. It’s almost time, Sarah thought as she looked at the half-full blue room. 
            The April moon was out and powdered the rooftops with a mix of white and blackish-blue. Children left tricycles and balls in the grass. Sarah and Kyle cuddled and laughed on the couch while they watched Look Who’s Talking.Sarah loved watching old movies she enjoyed as a child. Kyle never watched anything except the Discovery Channel and reality court shows, and Sarah was surprised to find that he didn’t watch lots of things people their age grew up watching. Sarah kissed Kyle’s cheek and then they heard a knuckling at the front door.
            Kyle looked down the hall. “Did you hear that?” Then, after a few seconds, the doorbell rang. Kyle walked to the door. The moment the door opened – the moment when the humid air scurried through the crack, an upbeat male voice said “Hello Kyle.” Kyle turned on the porch light. “Hello Mr. Pedigree,” he said. The visitor wore a formal dinner coat, slick black shoes, and sucked an unlit stogie between his dry lips.
            “I’m sorry it’s late,” said Pedigree, “but we were wondering if you guys had any milk?” His teeth were so white.
            Kyle rubbed the back of his neck. “I think we have some. What’s the occasion?”
The gray-haired man on the porch appeared nervous. “We are going to make pancakes for breakfast tomorrow. Martha was going to get some from the bakery, but we figured you would have it. I thought you two lovebirds would still be up doing something.” Mr. Pedigree guffawed and pat Kyle on the shoulder.  
            The couple was new to the neighborhood, but they met Mr. Pedigree and most of the other neighbors a couple times before. A month ago, when Sarah and Kyle were outside unloading the U-Haul truck, Mr. Pedigree walked over from across the street, wearing a black stovepipe hat and holding a black cane with a metallic eagle head. He introduced himself and said that he stayed home and watched the stock market and his wife owned a small bakery off Manchester. The Pedigrees were well off, although certainly not upper class. Mr. Pedigree said that his style made up for his money. Before he left the couple to unpack their belongings into their new home, he curiously looked at Sarah’s belly and asked how long. “Seven months,” she said. Mr. Pedigree smiled like a mime and said, “Oh my,” and took out one of Rorschach’s mouse toys from a box on the driveway. A playful toss and an “Oh ho!” and the mouse jingled into the grass. Some of the neighborhood children – Nick Jackson, who lived next door to the Pedigrees, and Megan Carlyle who lived two doors over from Sarah and Kyle – told them about Mr. Pedigree’s strange behavior. Nick said he saw Mr. Pedigree digging through their trashcan late at night and Megan swore she heard him having a conversation with himself in the backyard when she came home from walking her dog one night. When the children told Sarah and Kyle about Mr. Pedigree’s behavior, the children’s parents laughed and shook their heads. “He’s eccentric,” they said, “but he’s not crazy.”
            “Yeah, we usually stay up pretty late,” Kyle said, an effort to keep the conversation going.
            Sarah walked to the door and there was a patter from the bottom of her furry white slippers.  “Hello Mr. Pedigree,” she said.
            Mr. Pedigree looked at her bulge and his eyes were owl eyes. “Great Scotts,” he said. “The little guy is almost here!” He balled his fists and brought them toward his chest and shook with excitement. Sarah and Kyle laughed. “Well, we have milk,” said Kyle. “You’re in luck.”
            Sarah went to the refrigerator and came back with Vitamin D milk.
            “Thank you. We don’t need that much,” Mr. Pedigree said. “I will return it to you soon.”
Mr. Pedigree walked two steps and then quickly turned around. “Say, will you guys be home tomorrow evening?”
            “Well, I’ll be home all day except for my check-up at ten,” Sarah said. “One of the perks of a future temporary stay-at-home mom. Kyle has court at four, so he shouldn’t be home later than six.
            “Great. Martha gets off work early in the afternoon. Bakery hours,” Mr. Pedigree said. “You guys should come over tomorrow. Seven o’clock? Nothing big, just dinner.”
            “We’d love to,” Kyle said.   
             As Mr. Pedigree walked back to his house, he took out a butane lighter from his jacket pocket and the smoke from his cigar looked like cirrus clouds rising heavenward. He stood outside his front porch to finish his cigar before when he heard a croaking sound from the backyard. There was a small patch of trees that opened up into a small pond. From among the frogs the sound came, and Mr. Pedigree quickly forgot about it in a sudden wave of excitement as he remembered the shower for Sarah. When he finished and extinguished what was left, Mr. Pedigree put the milk in the refrigerator and went upstairs.
            Martha was sitting in bed, her gray brows creased in concentration. A notebook sat in her lap and her pen twitched between her fingers. Mr. Pedigree took off his jacket, hung it from a hanger, and placed it in the closet.
            “You’re up late,” he said.
            “Did you get the milk, Paul?”
            “Sure did.” he said. “It felt so sneaky borrowing ingredients from the victim.”
            Martha laughed. “Well, I’m glad we got some because if we plan on having the cake for tomorrow – “
            Mr. Pedigree gasped. “They can come, Martha! It will be delightful for them. I remember when our old neighbors from Clayton surprised us when Maddie was born. It created excitement."
            Martha yawned and nodded. “I thought that I could make several layers with blueberries. We can make it a boy theme.”
            “That would be good.”
            “I can get it started when I head to the bakery in the morning.”
            “I’ll be in charge of the festivities,” said Mr. Pedigree.
            Martha turned off the light. “There’s so much to do tomorrow,” Mr. Pedigree said.
Twenty-five minutes later, when Martha was on the edge of consciousness, Mr. Pedigree, fully awake, said, “Oh! We should see if the neighbors can come! And family – they need to see their families!”
“Go to sleep, Paul,” Martha said, but Mr. Pedigree couldn’t go to sleep.

            The sky was overcast and the moon looked like a headlight behind the clouds when Mr. Pedigree stepped outside in a black robe and loafers. The neighborhood was quiet except for chirps and croaks. He saw Rorschach standing by the mailbox – rubbing his caramel face into the pole. “Hey kitty kitty,” Mr. Pedigree said and continued walking toward the end of the neighborhood. Questions exploded in his mind. Should I hire a caterer? What wine should I buy? If the neighbors attend, should he have them park up the street so that Sarah and Kyle won’t notice? He stopped before Shoettler road, which ran perpendicular to the neighborhood street, and turned back. He heard a crunch of a can and saw Billy on his rocking chair. “Mr. Conrad! Great night for beer, eh?” Billy opened up another can and lit a Marlboro Menthol. “What are you doing tomorrow evening around seven o’clock?” asked Mr. Pedigree.
“The same thing I do every night,” said Billy as he leaned forward to get a closer look of the ridiculous character that stood at the end of his driveway. 
“Well, if you find yourself bored, I am having a surprise party for Sarah and Jack. They are the new couple that live down the street. They are about to have their first child.”
Billy brushed his brown hair away from his eyes with a greasy hand. “I know who they are.” His response had a slight tone of agitation.
“Well,” Mr. Pedigree said, “you should come. It will be so much fun! I think I am going to buy fireworks.”
Billy grunted and Mr. Pedigree nodded politely before walking back toward his house, whistling a piano riff from “What’d I Say.”


            Rorschach sat near the pond behind the Pedigree house and looked out over algae and lily pads. Coyotes howled in the woods and fireflies sparked over the greenish water.  The once overcast sky now revealed patches of clarity, and specks of stars peeked through the tree branches. Rorschach perked up his ears and turned toward the back patio, where Mr. Pedigree smoked a cigar and muttered to himself about preparations. The frog in Rorschach’s mouth kicked his slimy legs like a child doing a handstand in a swimming pool.


            The next morning, Mr. Pedigree’s Chrysler 300 drove west on highway 44. Every now and then, after he turned off the highway toward Union, he pulled over and looked at the directions that he scratched onto the back of Uncle B’s crumpled letter. He saw a clan of leather bikers turn into the FLEA M RK T parking lot. Venders left their unattended wares covered with tarpaulin and they looked covered bodies from where Mr. Pedigree calculated his turns.
             He eventually found his location. Uncle B lived in a mid-sized ranch with an in-ground pool in the back and a fishing boat hitched to his Ford Raptor in the driveway. The housing sat on a lot of about three acres, and there was a bullet-holed target set up behind the large open land behind the pool. When Mr. Pedigree parked on the side of the road near the driveway, he saw two white-tailed deer grazing in the backyard. Mr. Pedigree went up to the door and lifted the iron knocker when he heard a voice from the garage, “Who are you?”
            Mr. Pedigree turned and saw a late-middle-aged man with light blue Levis and a lumberjack flannel shirt. Uncle B walked around toward the front of the porch and Mr. Pedigree noticed a revolver holstered to his belt.
            “You must be Sarah’s uncle,” said Mr. Pedigree.
            “How did you find me?” Uncle B asked.
            “I saw Sarah the other day and asked for your address,” Mr. Pedigree said. “The reason why I came was to ask –“
            “Who is Sarah and how do you know her?” Uncle B’s eyes were slitted searchlights.
            “She and Jack live across the street. She said you were her uncle. God, if she is playing a trick on me, she is going to get it,” Mr. Pedigree said with a grin.
            “Spread your arms,” Uncle B said.
            “Oh! Is this a game?” Mr. Pedigree asked.
            After Uncle B frisked Mr. Pedigree and made sure he wasn’t wearing any cameras or microphones, Mr. Pedigree told Uncle B about the surprise party for Sarah and Kyle. He told them about the cake and the fireworks and all the neighbors that might attend. Even his daughter was coming in from Florissant. Uncle B said that this would be a good opportunity to finally see the new house. He agreed to go. After Mr. Pedigree left, Uncle B made a phone call. No one was home, so he left a voicemail: “Why in the world would you give that crazy son-of-a-bitch my address? Love you.”
             It was eleven-thirty in the morning when Sarah returned from her appointment with the doctor. He gave her good news, and everything looked normal. Once Sarah returned home, she wheeled the empty trash bin from the street corner to the garage. She noticed that Mr. Pedigree’s car wasn’t in the driveway, which was odd because he always did his investments in the morning. After she went inside, while the bluish flame fingers warmed the tea kettle on the stove, Sarah had to go upstairs to look at the nursery. Had to. It was going to happen – the child was going to happen. The doctor said so. It was Sarah’s dream ever since she first watched The Lion King as a little girl. Her cub was almost here, and the world would be his. She would teach him all about the great circle and the way things work and imagined her boy with his mama’s bangs and his daddy’s smile clinging to Kyle’s leg as he worked in his study. In a way, Sarah wanted to take her parental opportunity as a revolt against her terrible relationship with her mother. Charlie would view his mother as a guide and Sarah would try her best to make sure that he is well-equipped to deal with life’s adventures and mishaps. On the north side of the nursery wall, the shadeless windows offered glimpses of the outside world and Sarah looked out and saw the toyless lawns before she went downstairs to watch the tea.
Kyle came home around six – more toward six-thirty than six – while Sarah was upstairs straitening her hair. The two of them haven’t had much time to go out lately – especially because of Kyle’s long hours. This dinner at the Pedigree house was a rare double date for Sarah and Kyle.
Kyle took off his shoes, stretched his toes, and combed his hair. “Hey Sarah,” he said, “are you getting ready?” He barely heard her reply.
            As he made himself a whiskey sour in the kitchen, he saw Rorschach pawing at the back sliding-glass door. “Someone wants to come in,” Kyle said with a naïve voice. Kyle opened the door and saw red splotches trailing off into the grass.
            At 7:02, Kyle locked the front door of the house before they walked across the street to the Pedigrees. The sun was a giant grapefruit overlooking the earth.  The neighborhood was strangely uneventful; children weren’t out playing. None of the neighbors sat on their porches either – not even Billy Conrad.
            After Kyle and Sarah knocked at the door and were called to the backyard by a shout from Mr. Pedigree, they were greeted by a surprise from the neighbors. The Jacksons were there and so were the Carlyles. The Pedigree’s daughter, Maddie, also came to help out with the preparations. Uncle B was there too and Sarah couldn’t believe it. He told her that he parked his truck down the street so she wouldn’t get suspicious. It worked.
            Martha brought out the green bean casserole and the steaks with mashed potatoes along with paper plates and everyone except Uncle B laughed as Mr. Pedigree told jokes over the croaking frogs and rowdy children. Blue balloons bobbed in the gentle breeze and the silver streamers twinkled like an old man’s eye. Mr. Pedigree brought out four bottles of cabernet and the adults talked while the children wrestled in the grass as the moon started to show. “Tonight’s the Night” played from a portable stereo. Everyone was smiling and telling Kyle and Sarah about the excitement they had just before they had their first child. Kyle placed his hand on Sarah’s thigh and she met him with a squeeze. Eventually, the toads bounding through the grass distracted the children, and they started to chase after them. Sarah stood up in the middle of the conversation and said, “He’s kicking! He’s kicking!” The neighbors cheered and Mr. Pedigree lifted up his cigar and glass of wine made a toast.

            Every face in the neighborhood grinned in this moment. Even Billy Conrad smiled as his unsteady hands ran along the new clear coat of a Ford Maverick in his garage in an alcoholic haze. "She's so perdy," he said.

            Everyone finished dinner and thanked Martha for the delectable meal. Mr. Pedigree suddenly jumped and almost fell. “Wait! Wait!” he shouted and his face went into an elaborate frown, “I almost forgot the pièce de résistance!

            Billy guzzled three-quarters of his current can and crushed it on his forehead and grunted. He opened up the little wooded box that attached to the wall of his garage and took out keys. 

            Cue the music! Martha pressed a button and the sustained notes from the 1812 Overture filled the backyard while Mr. Pedigree took out a plastic bag hidden behind the steps to the sliding glass door.

            The 302 4.9 liter engine idolled in the garage. Billy put the clutch in reverse.

            Mr. Pedigree placed an artillery shell on a concrete slab beside his house. Everyone waited. The sky lit up as the first shell exploded. It looked like neon confetti. Mr. Pedigree lit the wick on the second shell when Rorschack ran in a greedy, fiendish rush past the side of the house toward the pond. "Oh!" cried Pedigree as he knocked over the firework cylinder. The golden tail of the firework arced across the street and connected with Sarah and Kyle's house. There was an audible tap like a wiffle ball hitting concrete and the shell exploded. There was a rumble up the street as the sparks and heat of the fireworks ignited the light gray shutters of Sarah and Kyle's home. "Call the fire department," Pedigree shouted.  Sarah saw the flames and she ran toward the street. Her open mouth was a black hole. The Maverick hit her right thigh at 40 miles per hour.

      "I don't know if there's any more I can do for you," said a low-pitched voice on the telephone.
            "I'll have to see what my husband has to say," said Sarah.
            "Please do. Oh, and one more thing. Even though it will take a few weeks to process your refund, we can offer our clients a one-month stay at a condominium."
            "It's fine. Thanks. We are staying at my uncle's." She hung up the phone.
A nurse came in and checked her blood pressure. Uncle B was there, sitting on the end of her bed and reading the local news. "I hope that son-of-a-bitch is enjoying his stay at county. There's a short article in here about the incident."
            "I'm done hearing about what happened," Sarah said as she lifted her hands and placed them on her stomach. "It could have been a lot worse." 
Uncle B peeked over the top of the newspaper and seemed to watch something outside the window. Sarah picked up a small carton of milk from the bedside table and sipped from the straw. 
            After all the visitors left her room, Sarah fell asleep. She dreamt that she was crawling toward the edge of a cliff that overlooked the ocean. Her arms strained under the weight of the rest of her body. Gulls cackled somewhere below and the salty air brushed her nostrils. The end of the cliff was just a few feet away - close enough for her to reach out and grab the end. There was an unknown man with a plastic mesh trucker hat with a fishing pole on the beach below. She did not know why, but she could not stop staring. Sea wind exhaled through her hair when the man slowly looked up and stared directly into Sarah's eyes from the beach. The man's face grew larger in small increments just like someone zooming in with a camera. All Sarah could see were his gray eyes.
            Kyle worried about Sarah for the two months between the Billy incident and his son's birth. He tried to stay optimistic by painting Charlie's room at Uncle B's house, which took a lot of lawyering to convince Uncle B to allow his nostalgia-inducing CIA room to be turned into a nursery. Uncle B said he would paint over it when the snail-paced contractors finished re-modeling the upper-story of their house. Sarah was still recuperating in the hospital when her son was born. Even though the doctors said she probably wouldn't walk again, Charlie was a low-hanging fruit of hope that Sarah thought she could reach from a wheelchair.


            Psychologists say that everyday things can trigger flashbacks of traumatic experiences. They say it might benefit victims of traumatic events to seek professional counseling. Something as ordinary as rain could incite the feeling of drowning in someone who almost died at the beach – say. One day, while Kyle was at court and Uncle B was fishing, Sarah heard a car horn at the four-way stop a block away from Uncle B’s house. She experienced a short, intense panic attack which caused her to unwillingly create an impenetrable boundary around herself that did not allow the slightest reaction to the objects around her. A few minutes later, while Sarah was nearing the end of her attack, Charlie started crying. Sarah sat in her wheelchair with her face in her hands. She eventually comforted him, though, after feeling guilt for her helplessness. Sarah used Charlie’s onesie to wipe her tears. This was Sarah’s first flashback.
            That Saturday, after Sarah’s physical therapy session, Martha and Mr. Pedigree stopped by for a visit. Sarah was watching Ghostbusters in the living room when she heard Mr. Pedigree’s laugh in the foyer. She sadly looked toward the ground, then picked up the remote and increased the volume.
            “There she is,” Mr. Pedigree said when he entered the living room. After intentionally ignoring Charlie sleeping on Sarah’s lap, he said excitedly, “Oh! Little lad! Don’t think I didn’t notice you!”
            “Paul, please control yourself. You will wake him up,” said Martha. She handed Sarah a bouquet of roses and chrysanthemums.
            After the Pedigrees left and after Uncle B returned from one of his weekend hunting trips, Kyle grilled chicken on Uncle B’s new propane Grillmaster and everyone ate outside for dinner. Charlie was asleep inside and his inhales and exhales transmitted through the monitor. After taking an aggressive bite from his sandwich, Uncle B said to Sarah, “I forgot to tell you,” he swallowed. “Someone from Fern Ridge School District called the other day. I thought it was one of those annoying telemarketers so I didn’t answer. They left a message though.”
            Sarah took a sip of iced tea. “What did they say?”
            “They said there’s an opening at the high school.”
            Sarah played with a piece of iceberg lettuce in her salad. The teeth of the fork made a cracking sound as she stabbed. “I think I should take some more time to recuperate.” She looked across the field of bluestems and wild rye that grew in wild thickets behind Uncle B’s house. Charlie sniffled on the monitor.
            “You take all the time you need,” said Kyle. “We are fine for the time being. No need to rush things.” Kyle touched her hand.
            Sarah had her second flashback that night when she slept in the nursery while Uncle B and Kyle were downstairs playing poker. She usually turned the T.V. off whenever Charlie went to bed but the tramadol made her drowsy and she fell asleep in the rocking chair. She didn’t know what spurred this feeling – the pain in her thigh had an almost phantasmagoric freshness. It was almost as if Billy Conrad ran into her again. She woke up and gasped. Charlie opened his eyes and hiccupped.
            The following morning, Sarah woke up early to talk to Kyle at breakfast before he left for work. An unexpected misty rain early in the morning formed a giant cloud of dense fog. Toast sprang from the toaster with a ding. Sarah sat down with Kyle at the walnut table and told him all about the flashbacks. “Maybe you should see somebody,” he told her. ”It might be good for you.” Sarah looked down at her hands, turned them over, and scratched her wrist. She knew what a mother would say – a good mother that would stop at nothing to make sure she was in the best condition for parenting. “You’re right, dear.” There was reluctance in her voice and Kyle sighed and straightened his tie. “You’ll be back. These things take time.”
            After Kyle left and while Uncle B was in the garage painting his skiff, Sarah sat by Charlie in the nursery and cried. Sarah felt vulnerable when she was alone. Even since her childhood when her mother and father deemed her old enough to stay home when they went out for short periods of time, Sarah felt exposed. There wasn’t a reason for it; she simply did not like the feeling of aloneness. She thought she was alone while Charlie gazed at the mobile over his crib with spittle running down the side of his chin like a tear.  
            Sarah did not expect her parents to come visit, but they eventually did. After Sarah took a nap, she combed her hair in front of the vanity mirror when she heard her mother’s voice downstairs in the kitchen. She took Charlie out of his crib and rubbed his head. “It’ll be okay,” she whispered. “It’ll be okay.” Her mother wore a pair horn-rimmed glasses and there was a little white swirl of sunscreen on her right cheek. She was talking with Uncle B when Sarah wheeled across the living room. Uncle B looked nervous. “So it is true,” her mother said. “How can my grandson ever expect to have a normal life when his mother doesn’t know the Lord and cannot take care of him?”
            Sarah didn’t answer. “She’s doing fine, Pat. She’s getting it all together,” said Uncle B.
            “I sure hope so. I can’t stand the thought of one of our little ones receiving any less than he deserves.”
            Sarah’s eyes narrowed and a wrinkle formed above her nose. “Why the hell do you care?” Her mother opened her mouth, but Sarah interrupted. “You’ve spent your whole life thinking about protecting me from outside influences that you forgot to show me love. You haven’t even met Charlie.”
            “I tried, Sarah. I tried, but your father – you know about his condition. He hasn’t been himself lately.”
            Sarah started to cry and she took Winston back to her room. She stared at Winston through the bars of the crib. Her hooked finger squeegeed her tears from her eyes as she pushed the power button of the television with her free hand. Just as the Pixar lamp animation displayed on the screen, she opened the door and wheeled toward the front door. Uncle B was standing in the kitchen drinking a Diet Coke and she could hear her mother talking on the telephone on the back patio. His eyes were balmy like menthol on chapped lips. “You’ve been through a lot, sweetie.” The hair above Sarah’s eyebrows were wet. “Can I borrow the keys to your truck?” Uncle B reached into his pocket and tossed her the keys. “I love you,” Uncle B said.
            The easiest part was transferring from the wheelchair to the driver’s seat of the truck. After ten minutes of crying and cursing to herself, she managed to climb into the cab. The wheelchair retreated slowly then turned and rolled down the driveway until it reached the grass before the sidewalk on the other side of the street. She knew that driving a vehicle would be almost impossible for her: her brace didn’t allow for Sarah to bend her knee to reach the gas pedal. She straddled the center console and let her right leg down into the foot space of the front passenger seat. With her left foot, she controlled the gas and the break while she leaned and steered. Tears rolled down her cheeks and pooled between her lips. While driving down Highway 44, Sarah saw the upper curve of the sun peeking over the hill. Dusk colored the sky and clouds a purplish-red. When she arrived at the house, Sarah parked on the street because the construction workers had two POD bins in the driveway. There were plywood boards in one of the upstairs windows, and debris cluttered the roof in small piles. Some of the neighbors sat on their porches while the group of playing children diminished as they went inside for the evening. Sarah thought she saw Rorschach run across the street.    
            Sarah exited the truck – her able leg searching for the ground. The neighbors were nice enough to cut the grass and there were some leftover grass shavings in the driveway. Once Sarah managed both of her legs out of the truck, she bent down on the pavement and crawled toward the front door through the yard. Her arms itched from the grass and she groaned when she tried to pull the locked door handle. She reached into her back pocket for the key before wiping her tears and unlocking the door. Everything she could from the front door looked just how they left it. The objects in the house – the cabinets and furniture – had an unmistakable eeriness to it; it was almost as if Sarah crawled into the ghostly ruins of Chernobyl. Silence permeated the house except for the uneven clunks from Sarah’s brace against the wooden hallway floor. Dust and ash rose in small plumes as Sarah crawled up the stairs. Faces on the walled pictures smile through the dust on the glass. The door to Charlie’s nursery was closed and Sarah cried hysterically when she noticed the Bambi ornament she hung from a nail lying on the floor. She pawed at the wall, lifted herself to the doorknob hole, and saw the black, charred room.

The weather man was right this time around, it snowed. The last time they predicted we’d get several inches, it all went south of us. So, as I write this, I’m looking out the sliding glass door thinking I really should go shovel off the patio, but then again, it’s March. The sun is going to do its job of melting the snow, so I think I’ll just let it be. Especially since I haven’t posted a new blog post in weeks. I’ve been making progress on my next book, which is due to my editor in a few weeks, so every minute on the computer has been focused on researching and working on that story.

The release date for The Cowboy’s Orphan Bride is quickly approaching (March 21st and April 1st). It’s now available for pre-order. I not only love this cover, I love this story. I had an early reader say:  "I have one warning about this book--do NOT have anything in your mouth when you are reading it because most likely the person or object nearest you will be wearing it. Throughout the book I laughed so hard. I also worried and was anxious to find out what was going to happen next. I definitely recommend this book!"

Speaking of early readers, I always have a few copies of each book to give away prior to the release date. If you are interested in obtaining a copy and upon reading it, posting a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or even your facebook page, just contact me via email, leave a comment here, or message me through facebook.

Next up will be the duet Mail Order Brides of Oak Grove which
includes two stories: Surprise Bride for the Cowboy and Taming the Runaway Bride (releasing May 21st and June 1st).

This was such a fun book to write. Kathryn Albright and I collaborated on the two stories in this book and created the town of Oak Grove, Kansas. She wrote one twin sister’s story and I wrote the other twin’s story. Then, much to our delight, it was turned into a series! So there are more Oak Grove stories coming! Characters readers meet in the first book go on to have their own happy-ever-after stories. The next one will be Winning the Mail Order Bride(releasing in September), and then A Bride and a Baby for Christmas(releasing in November). And there will be more Oak Grove stories next year.

I think that's enough for now...Stay happy and keep smiling! It looks good on you! 

          Well... Hello there!        

After putting the kiddos to bed last night my hubby ventures into the kitchen and I return to the coutch to relax. Then I hear my dear hubby yelling in a loud wisper "hurry and come look at this, hurry!". Crap. I jump up from  where my feet were finally getting to rest and in my kitchen on the door I see this:

The flash on the glass door? No. The nasty pile that is the top of my microwave? No. Look close. There is a tiny speck that caught our eye. Here lets zoom:

A little closer? Too dang cute not to get right up in this one's face! 

What a nice surprise after a nasty summer thunderstorm. I must have snapped 4,824 pictures. Really too bad the kiddos were asleep. I will add that unlike the other little creatures that reside here, this one didn't even leave his prints on the glass. 


          Oh I almost forgot...        
Since we (I mean my roomie, Alex and me) have just started back to school AND we're taking 3 classes this semester (which is a little hard for Alex...her mom drank with her or something) AND my upstairs neighbors are insane a-holes, it might be awhile before I get to post again. I've been brainstorming though...I saw that movie with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman called "The Bucket List" the other night.

Isn't Jack Nicholson awesome? I think we would be the best friends EVER! We have so much in common. He can pull off a beard, I've got a beard and c'mon, do I even have to say it? This just works (please see directly below). He likes dating young girls and I totally dig his style. I'm thinking about trading Alex in for a younger model...either that or getting my ear pierced. Roller blading in some spandex isn't sounding so bad either.

Anyways, I was really inspired and maybe my next post will have something to do with my bucket list. Especially since all this Jack Nick talk has gotten me thinking that maybe I'm hitting a mid-life crisis too. There's lots of stuff I gotta do, ya know? People will remember me in a big way. Already when we're walking everyone knows my name and not Alex's. I've always got to re-introduce her.

Oh and by the way, who's got an 'in' with whoever is causing this rain? For some sun, I will teach you my milkshake for free. :) Speaking of the weather, I hope that everyone is stocked up on Greenies and Busy Bones over in Haiti. Man, the weather-makers have got to find another way to release some of that anger. Next time, just a take a page from my book and listen to that Miley Cyrus song "Party in the U.S.A." Nobody wants another disaster like that. Next thing you know, all of the leash free dog parks in Austin are going to be gone. Then what am I supposed to do to entertain Alex, huh? She drives me crazy when she's cooped up for this long. She acts so annoying that I barely trust her on the roads! I have to go everywhere with her and wait in the car so she will remember that just because she's getting out of the house for a little while does not mean she needs to hang out in Walgreens all day. She bought like 20 birthday cards the other day! I'm not joking! Okay, yeah the one with the pickle was funny, but damn! Can a girl get some Dingos? She should have at least picked something up for me. God, she's so selfish sometimes...

Anyways, Alex is not the best at using her blinker so I have to remind her. That's in addition to calming her down. She gets road rage because (in her word) "Apparently nobody knows how to frickin' drive when it rains! Stupid people!" Woo-sah, I say (Thanks again, Jackie boy!). I just try to stay calm and be supportive. You know, let her know I'm here for her and stuff.

MY POINT IS, if it's raining and I've got to accompany Miss Alex everywhere so she doesn't kill herself (or someone else...came pretty close to taking out a white lady in a BMW yesterday, but in her defense, that stupid soccer mom did cut her off), then I don't get my required 12 hours of sleep that might as well be doctor's orders because Lord knows I'm a pain in the ass if I don't. Sigh so yeah, we could use some sun. Thanks.

Also, if anyone has any subject ideas for blog posts, I'm open to suggestions! We've got a research paper coming up soon so I'm not sure if my creative juices will be flowing enough to have a butt-load of topic selections for that AND the blog. Besides, I bet there are things you want to know about me. Here's your chance to find out! Just to cut some of you off ahead of time, no, I don't like to talk about the time I ran full speed into the sliding glass door. Jeez, one 10-minute sneezing fit and no one lets it go...
Gots to go for now. I'm sure I'll catch up with ya sooner or later. Going to try for a nap as it's her turn to do the assigned reading.

Stay cool,

Martini the Magnificent
          Upcoming events for the week of July 16, 2017        

This is what war does - photo from Air Wars, who are tracking deaths in Iraq and Syria. They are based in the UK.


What is the Democracy Asheville Coalition? Our Local Coalition brings together organizational representatives and individuals who agree to work together to change and use the political system so it equips people to take action, promotes grassroots leadership, and serves "the good of the whole." We want an elections process that is accessible, fair, and secure. And we want a government "of, by, and for the people," that fosters equity, solidarity, and justice. Please join us for the next Democracy Asheville Meeting at the Wesley Grant Center (285 Livingston Street in Asheville) on July 17, at 6 p.m. Join us for our regular monthly coalition meeting for updates on the latest voting rights news and plan our next steps for our #FairMapsNC campaign for redistricting reform, including petitions, canvassing, and more. For more information on how to RSVP, place contact Darlene Azarmi at 828-216-3430 or 

Every Tuesday, Veterans for Peace Chapter 099 holds a vigil at Vance Monument in downtown Asheville. Time is 5 PM. This has been happening since 2002. No matter the weather, no matter if it falls on a holiday, they are out there standing for peace. Last year, our former president dropped 26,000 bombs on seven different countries. The current president seems to be trying to match or beat that horrible record. Meanwhile we are banning refugees from those countries we have destroyed. Show you are publicly against our country's endless wars and occupations by standing with Veterans for Peace.

The Do!scussion is a weekly safe space in which to talk about what we see that encourages us to continue to create multi-racial coalitions in Asheville while working to dismantle white supremacy. Feel like you're struggling with the how? Come on over and we'll talk about it. Then, we'll get to do!ing. Do!scussion presently runs on Tuesdays from 10-11:30 AM followed by Do!session from 11:30-1:30 PM during which we working with accountability partners on a particular project or issue. The seven organizing principles of SURJ are: 1) accountability through action, 2) mutual interest, 3) take risks and keep going, 4) calling in more, 5) enough for everyone, 6) growth is good, and 7) centering class. Time is 10 AM and location is Firestorm Coffee & Books at 610 Haywood Road in west Asheville. Contact Firestorm at for more information.

On the second Tuesday of each month, Western North Carolina Veterans for Peace meets to coordinate group activities and programs.Veterans For Peace is a global organization of Military Veterans and allies whose collective efforts are to build a culture of peace by using our experiences and lifting our voices. We inform the public of the true causes of war and the enormous costs of wars, with an obligation to heal the wounds of wars. Our network is comprised of over 140 chapters worldwide whose work includes: educating the public, advocating for a dismantling of the war economy, providing services that assist veterans and victims of war, and most significantly, working to end all wars. Time is 6:30 PM and location is the Center for Art and Spirit at Saint George, address is One School Road in west Asheville. For more information, contact Gerry at

This is a Sustainability and Social Justice Meet-up. Come early for community connections and green drink specials. This happens on the third Wednesday of each month.  Socializing from 5:30 – 6PM and presentation from  6 – 7PM. Location is The Block Off Biltmore at 39 South Market Street at Asheville. Call 828-254-9277 for more information.

Creation Care Alliance Meeting. Thursday, July 20, 5:30-7pm. First Baptist Church Room MB306 Upstairs, at 5 Oak Street, Asheville, NC 28801. Please park near the playground closer to College Ave. Join us to share stories of sustainability, the Wild Goose Festival, and our ongoing work. No contact information. 

Seeds of Peace Sprouting-A report back from the United Nations on a new global treaty to ban nuclear weapons. Pot luck and community report-back from the United Nations Nuclear Ban Treaty session. Mary Olson, Dr Bert Crain, Linda Modica, Dan Keyser, Frances Lambert were in NYC at the United Nations during its negotiations on a new global treaty to ben nuclear weapons. Come learn more—join us on July 20 for a meal at 5:30 on Thursday July 20, or arrive by 6:30 pm for the program—your questions and comments welcome. Location is Friendship Hall - First Congregational Church at 20 Oak Street in Asheville. Sponsored by: Physicians for Social Responsibility; Nuclear Information and Resource Service; Stir the Soul Cafe. For more information, contact Mary at or 828-252-8409 / 828-242-5621 cell.

For ourselves – helpers, advocates, healers, activists, empaths. Participants share tips and strategies for self-care and resilience. Time is 6 to 7:30 PM and location is Kairos West at 610 Haywood Road in west Asheville. Contact Duncan Tam, MSW at for more information.

“Success Equation” Advocacy Training for Faith Communities. Are you interested in joining The Success Equation for public meetings and face-to-face visits with policy makers in support of its policy agenda? If so, you are invited to attend a meeting on Thursday, July 20 in Room 1 of the United Way Building to learn how! There will be a discussion on how you and other members of your faith community can communicate with policy makers about housing, health, early childhood, transportation, and food. The training will last from 9:00 - 10:30 am, and coffee and snacks will be provided.  The goal of The Success Equation is uniting the community to reduce and prevent poverty so all children can thrive. Please RSVP to Tamara at, and feel free to invite others who are passionate about ending childhood poverty in Buncombe County.

Physicians, health personnel and everyone; all are welcomed at our monthly meetings held on the third Friday of each month. Bring a brown bag lunch around noon. This will be held at The First Congregational United Church of Christ, Room E205, at 20 Oak Street (just off College St. in downtown Asheville). Time is noon to 2 PM. Meeting starts at 12:30. Parking is available behind the church. Enter the church or ring doorbell at the glass doors on Oak Street. For more information contact Dr. Terry Clark, Chair, 633-0892 or Dr. Lew Patrie, 285-2599.

Sierra Club July 22: 8th Annual  Summer Picnic. Come one, come all to the 8th Annual Sierra Club Summer Picnic on Saturday, July 22. The picnic is scheduled from noon to 4:00 p.m.  at the Blue Ridge Parkway sheltered picnic grounds located on Bull Mt. Rd. near the VA Hospital on Riceville Rd. This event is free and will be held rain or shine. Please bring a pot luck dish to share and your own place settings. Drinks will be provided.  Badminton and horseshoes will add to the festivities. Directions: Exit 7 on I-240; go east on Tunnel Rd for 2 miles; turn north on Riceville Rd; go past VA Hospital, turn left on Bull Mt. Rd. The fenced-in, sheltered picnic area is on the left about ½ mile up the road. Contact Judy Mattox,, 828-683-2176.

CCA Concert and Fundraiser at Lake Junaluska, Sunday, July 23, 5-7pm. Lake Junaluska Conference & Retreat Center / 91 North Lakeshore Drive Lake Junaluska, NC 28745. Join us for a lovely night in a truly beautiful place! William Ritter & Sarah Ogletree, singers and traditional fiddle, banjo, and guitar players, will begin playing at 5:00 p.m. and will wrap up the night around 7:00 in the evening. They are excited to be putting on a concert for CCA. This came from their website. This kid-friendly event will serve as a fundraiser, a time of fellowship, and an opportunity for new faces to become acquainted with us and our mission. We so look forward to our time at the lake. 

Every Tuesday, Veterans for Peace Chapter 099 holds a vigil at Vance Monument in downtown Asheville. Time is 5 PM. This has been happening since 2002. No matter the weather, no matter if it falls on a holiday, they are out there standing for peace. Last year, our former president dropped 26,000 bombs on seven different countries. The current president seems to be trying to match or beat that horrible record. Meanwhile we are banning refugees from those countries we have destroyed. Show you are publicly against our country's endless wars and occupations by standing with Veterans for Peace.

Buncombe County Lunch & Learn - African American History Series. Don’t miss this African American History in Buncombe County lunch and learn series featuring three great local speakers.  This free lecture series will feature: July 25 - Dr. Darin Waters presenting the history of African American education in Asheville and WNC; August 23 - County Commissioner Al Whitesides presenting the wage gap and historical wealth disparities in the African American Community; September 27 - Dr. Sharon West presenting the access and availability of health care for African Americans in Buncombe County. Come learn more about the history of the African American community in Buncombe County-- the challenges, the triumphs and the future of our community. The lecture series will be held from Noon till 1:30 p.m. on each of the dates listed above at the Stephen's Lee Community Center (30 George Washington Carver Avenue in Asheville) free of charge with everyone welcome.

The Do!scussion is a weekly safe space in which to talk about what we see that encourages us to continue to create multi-racial coalitions in Asheville while working to dismantle white supremacy. Feel like you're struggling with the how? Come on over and we'll talk about it. Then, we'll get to do!ing. Do!scussion presently runs on Tuesdays from 10-11:30 AM followed by Do!session from 11:30-1:30 PM during which we working with accountability partners on a particular project or issue. The seven organizing principles of SURJ are: 1) accountability through action, 2) mutual interest, 3) take risks and keep going, 4) calling in more, 5) enough for everyone, 6) growth is good, and 7) centering class. Time is 10 AM and location is Firestorm Coffee & Books at 610 Haywood Road in west Asheville. Contact Firestorm at for more information.

The non-partisan group meets every 2nd and 4th Tuesdays at the Sneak E Squirrel in Sylva. The next meeting is July 25th at 7:00 PM in the restaurant’s Community Room. Supper at 6:00 PM in the restaurant. OccupyWNC has worked for economic and social justice in WNC since 2011. Newcomers and visitors are welcome. For more information, contact  Lucy Christopher at (828)743-9747.

Bridge the Gap Book Club discusses “Tell Me How It Ends” at Malaprops in downtown Asheville. Structured around the forty questions Valeria Luiselli translates and asks undocumented Latin-American children facing deportation, Tell Me How It Ends (an expansion of her 2016 Freeman's essay of the same name) humanizes these young migrants and highlights the contradiction of the idea of America as a fiction for immigrants with the reality of racism and fear--both here and back home. Time is 7 PM. Call Malaprops for more information.

Wednesday, 7/26/17, 6-9 PM: ASURJ Accountability through Action Meeting. Gather for a potluck, SURJ & Racism 101 education, and resource/info sharing. We won't have an accountability partner presentation for this month's meeting, but we'll be sharing about some upcoming programming plans and enjoying a summer social together. Meeting in Sandburg Hall at the UU congregation of Asheville, corner of Edwin Place and Charlotte Street. Bring a dish to share. For more info, contact

Time is 5 to 7 PM and location is Henderson County Courthouse on Main Street (between 1st and 2nd Street) in downtown Hendersonville. This is put on by a coalition of non-profits and churches. 

Come for a send-off pot luck gathering Asheville Friends Meeting House at 227 Edgewood Road in Asheville (between Merrimon and UNCA). Time is 5:30 pm. Please bring a dish to share and meet and listen to our Peace Pilgrimage walkers talk about their upcoming walk to Oak Ridge. The atom bomb started in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, when the Y12 Plant produced the highly enriched uranium fuel for Little Boy, the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, Japan. Seventy- two years later, Y12 is still 
in the bomb business. Current plans call for a new bomb plant, the Uranium Processing Facility, to be built there to manufacture the thermonuclear cores and cases for nuclear warheads and bombs. The UPF bomb plant is the flagship facility for the “modernization” of the US nuclear weapons complex. This 8-day pilgrimage will arrive in Oak Ridge on August 6, to coincide with the events scheduled there by the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance (OREPA) remembering the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima in 1945. Each day along the way, our meditative walk will be led by the Buddhist monks of the Nipponzan Myohoji order who are building the Great Smoky Mountains Peace Pagoda. Our pilgrimage raises a voice opposed to the UPF and in favor of the abolition of all nuclear weapons and a world beyond war. For more information: Ken Jones at 

Peace Pilgrimage from Asheville to Oak Ridge July 30 – August 6, 2017. The atom bomb started in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, when the Y12 Plant produced the highly enriched uranium fuel for Little Boy, the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, Japan. Seventy- two years later, Y12 is still in the bomb business. Current plans call for a new bomb plant, the Uranium Processing Facility, to be built there to manufacture the thermonuclear cores and cases for nuclear warheads and bombs. The UPF bomb plant is the flagship facility for the “modernization” of the US nuclear weapons complex. This 8-day pilgrimage will arrive in Oak Ridge on August 6, to coincide with the events scheduled there by the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance (OREPA) remembering the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima in 1945. Each day along the way, our meditative walk will be led by the Buddhist monks of the Nipponzan Myohoji order who are building the Great Smoky Mountains Peace Pagoda. Our pilgrimage raises a voice opposed to the UPF and in favor of the abolition of all nuclear weapons and a world beyond war. This pilgrimage will leave from Pack Square, Vance Monument at 9 AM. For more information: Ken Jones at

The final Sunday of each month in 2017, two groups of WNC-based musicians and their ensembles will each perform a benefit concert to raise funding for WNC nonprofits. The music performed each week will fluctuate between jazz, rhythm & blues, soul, jazz funk, jazz fusion, and swing. Each event will host two groups, playing, consecutively between 3 and 5 PM with a brief intermission. All of proceeds go to the nonprofit organization. The nonprofit for today is Youth Outright. Act I is Michael Jefry Stevens Duo and Act II is Wendy Jones Quintet. Location is The Block Off Biltmore at Eagle and South Market Streets in downtown Asheville. Suggested donation is $10, and are available the day of the event. This is a Facebook event. Please call The Block Off Biltmore for more information.

Every Tuesday, Veterans for Peace Chapter 099 holds a vigil at Vance Monument in downtown Asheville. Time is 5 PM. This has been happening since 2002. No matter the weather, no matter if it falls on a holiday, they are out there standing for peace. Last year, our former president dropped 26,000 bombs on seven different countries. The current president seems to be trying to match or beat that horrible record. Meanwhile we are banning refugees from those countries we have destroyed. Show you are publicly against our country's endless wars and occupations by standing with Veterans for Peace.

Join host Bruce Roth for a lively discussion on topics of current interest including war and peace, the economy, the environment, and other hot political topics. This month’s book is “Citizen Scientist: Searching for Heroes and Hope in an Age of Extinction” by Mary Ellen Hannibal. Time is 7 PM and location is Malaprops. Contact Malaprops for more information.

Tuesday, August 1, 6:30-8 PM. ASURJ calling In session. Join us for another night of role-playing difficult conversations and practicing SURJ's core value of "calling in" versus "calling out." Our leader David is especially focused on moving us into less discussion and more role-playing! Let's practice these difficult conversations to prepare us to be better agents of change, racial justice accomplices, and dismantlers of white supremacy. We meet downstairs in the main building of the UU congregation of Asheville (corner of Edwin Place and Charlotte Street). Easiest to enter through the playground gate. If you enter upstairs, just come downstairs. No contact information.

This meeting is organized by the City of Asheville. This meeting is free and open to the public. They meet in the first floor Conference Room at the Public Works Building at 161 South Charlotte Street in downtown Asheville. Time is 5 PM. Call 251-1122 for more information.

Sierra Club August 2: Can Science Save Us from Climate Change and from Ourselves? Join us on Wednesday, August 2, when the Sierra Club presents "Can Science Save Us from Climate Change and from Ourselves?” Location: Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville, 1 Edwin Place (corner of Charlotte and Edwin). Time: 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Robert Cabin, Professor of Ecology & Environmental Studies at Brevard College, will discuss the power and limitations of science to address climate change. This event is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Judy Mattox,, (828) 683-2716.

Every Tuesday, Veterans for Peace Chapter 099 holds a vigil at Vance Monument in downtown Asheville. Time is 5 PM. This has been happening since 2002. No matter the weather, no matter if it falls on a holiday, they are out there standing for peace. Last year, our former president dropped 26,000 bombs on seven different countries. The current president seems to be trying to match or beat that horrible record. Meanwhile we are banning refugees from those countries we have destroyed. Show you are publicly against our country's endless wars and occupations by standing with Veterans for Peace.

Veterans for Peace have a weekly vigil at 5 PM at Pack Square, Vance Monument during most of the year, but after standard time kicks in, they meet at 4:30 PM. 
Showing Up for Racial Justice Do!scussion at Firestorm Coffee & Books at 610 Haywood Road in west Asheville. 10 AM-11:30 AM. Followed by Do!sessions from 11:30-1:30 PM.
Rally at historic Courthouse in Hendersonville at 5 PM on the first Tuesday of the month. Organized by the Progressive Organized Women. 

Haywood Peace Vigilers have a weekly vigil at 4 PM at Haywood County Courthouse in Waynesville
French Broad Riverkeeper has a paddle-n-plant to prevent sediment erosion most Wednesdays and Saturdays. Registration required at 
Green Drinks meets at 7 PM at The Block Off Biltmore on the third Wednesday of the month.
Sierra Club meets at 7 PM at Unitarian Universalist in Asheville on the first Wednesday of the month.

Political Prisoners Letter Writing at Firestorm Coffee & Books at 6 PM on fourth Thursday of the month. Materials provided.
Welcome Home Tour by Homeward Bound on the third Thursday of the month at 11 AM. Call 258-1695 for more information.
Asheville Prison Books Program is held at Downtown Books & News from 4 to 7 PM. 

Women in Black have a weekly vigil at noon at the City Hall in Hendersonville.

French Broad Riverkeeper has a paddle-n-plant to prevent sediment erosion most Wednesdays and Saturdays. Registration required at 
Mountain True holds urban forest workdays on the second Saturday of the month at Richmond Hill Park from 9 AM to 1 PM. Call 258-8737 for more information.
Citizen’s Climate Lobby meeting at 12:30 PM at Kairos West Community Center on second Saturday of the month.
Food Not Bombs serves free vegan/vegetarian food every Saturday at noon at Pritchard Park.
Dances of Universal Peace on the third Saturdays at 7:30 at 1 School Road in Asheville. 


Asheville National Organization for Women meeting at 2:30 PM at YWCA of Asheville on second Sunday of the month.

          Upcoming events for the week of July 10, 2017        

Local protest at Vance Monument on July 4, 2017.


Join host Bruce Roth for a lively discussion on topics of current interest including war and peace, the economy, the environment, and other hot political topics. This month’s book is “Citizen Scientist: Searching for Heroes and Hope in an Age of Extinction” by Mary Ellen Hannibal. Time is 7 PM and location is Malaprops. Contact Malaprops for more information.

Take action to protect our kids in our schools: We are working in the aftermath of the racial threats against a Brevard High School student. Here's the crux of the story, if you haven't seen it. And here's the WLOS follow up from our last NAACP general membership meeting on June 12. We are involved in many ways to find long-term solutions to systemic racism in our county. Join the effort by e-mailing us. Come to our next membership and executive committee meeting on Monday, July 10 at 6:15 p.m. at Bethel A Baptist Church, 290 Oakdale St., Brevard. All are welcome. No contact information, this came from an online post.

Meet the finalists for the City of Asheville’s first Equity and Inclusion Manager. After months of public engagement, planning, and interviewing, the City of Asheville is excited to announce that two finalists have been selected for the position of Equity and Inclusion Manager. This position will lead the City of Asheville’s effort to expand equity in City services and programs, and will be dedicated to helping the City achieve meaningful progress by evaluating the delivery of City programs, services and its decision-making in order to operationalize equity. The Asheville community is invited to engage in conversations with the finalists at a finalists meet-and-greet from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Monday, July 10, at the U.S. Cellular Center Banquet Hall. “We are really looking forward to getting the community’s input on the two finalists,” said Dawa Hitch, Director of Communication and Public Engagement — and supervisor for the new position. “This is an important position to the City, and we believe identifying the best candidate for Asheville relies on the thoughts, ideas and experiences of the community.” More information on the position and the previous public input opportunities can be found on the City’s Equity Manager Project Page.

The non-partisan group meets every 2nd and 4th Tuesdays at the Sneak E Squirrel in Sylva. The next meeting is July 11th at 7:00 PM in the restaurant’s Community Room. Supper at 6:00 PM. OccupyWNC has worked for economic and social justice in WNC since 2011. Newcomers and visitors are welcome. Contact Lucy Christopher at (828)743-9747 or for more information.

Every Tuesday, Veterans for Peace Chapter 099 holds a vigil at Vance Monument in downtown Asheville. Time is 5 PM. This has been happening since 2002. No matter the weather, no matter if it falls on a holiday, they are out there standing for peace. Last year, our former president dropped 26,000 bombs on seven different countries. The current president seems to be trying to match or beat that horrible record. Meanwhile we are banning refugees from those countries we have destroyed. Show you are publicly against our country's endless wars and occupations by standing with Veterans for Peace.

Learn to Canvass for Fair Maps. We gathered over 4,000 petitions for non-partisan redistricting reform in Western North Carolina. Now we're taking the next step. We are going door-to-door to talk about redistricting in the home districts of NC House Reps who are not in support reform. Come learn how to canvass (talk with folks at the door) about this complicated issue in a simple way. We are looking for volunteers but also have some temporary paid opportunities to do this work. Join us for a Redistricting Canvassing Training on July 11 at 6:00 p.m. in Asheville (Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville, 1 Edwin Place, Asheville) to get started. If you have questions, contact Darlene at (828) 216-3430 or

Every Tuesday since December 2016. The Do!scussion is a safe space in which to talk about what we see that encourages us to continue to create multi-racial coalitions in Asheville. It is also a space in which we talk about what we are struggling with. Hard for you to get out of bed and get to work on dismantling the white supremacy? Come on over, and we'll talk about it. Then, we'll get to Do!ing! The six organizing principles of SURJ are: 1) Accountability through Action, 2) Mutual Interest, 3) Take Risks and Keep Going, 4) Calling in More, 5) Enough for Everyone, and 6) Growth is Good. Time is 10 AM and location is Firestorm Coffee & Books at 610 Haywood Road in west Asheville. Contact Firestorm at for more information.

July 13th movie “FIX IT” — Health Care At The Tipping Point. Location is the Pack Memorial Library, Lord Auditorium in downtown Asheville. 6:00 PM doors open, 6:15 – 7:15 movie, followed by Q & A. Free. Email: 

A Courageous and Challenging Meetup for Persecutors, Victims, Rescuers, Bystanders and Allies. Sexism. Queerphobia. Racism. Who are you doing it to? Who's doing it to you? Who's saving whom? Who's doing nothing? Who are you allying with? What's happening when you act out the “Drama Triangle” in any and all the roles of persecutor, victim, rescuer, bystander and ally with others in our world of White male privilege and domination? We explore the dynamics of interpersonal, structural, economic and institutional systems of injustice and the ways each of us is the oppressed, the oppressor and the savior, and learn to serve as allies with less drama and deeper resonance and respect in all our engagements.Time is 7 to 8:30 PM and location is Firestorm Cafe at 610 Haywood Road in west Asheville. Contact Duncan Tam at for more information.

Environmental & Social Justice Film, “Equal Means Equal”, Friday, July 14th, 7 PM, at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville. On Friday, July 14th, we are screening the important award-winning documentary “Equal Means Equal”, at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville. “Equal Means Equal” is an unflinching look at how women are treated in the United States today. By following both real life stories and precedent setting legal cases, director Kamala Lopez discovers how outdated and discriminatory attitudes inform and influence seemingly disparate issues, from workplace matters to domestic violence, rape and sexual assault to the foster care system, the healthcare system and the legal system. Along the way, she reveals the inadequacy of present laws in place that claim to protect women, ultimately presenting a compelling and persuasive argument for the urgency of ratifying the Equal Rights amendment. The film screening is at 7 PM, and is open to the public. Location is the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville at One Edwin Place. There is no charge for viewing the film. Donations are welcome. Contact Charlie at 612-860-6628 or for more information.

Anthony Marr Speaks: How to Overcome Global Warming Denial. Optional potluck starts at 5:30. Bring your own plate, TBob supplies eating utensils. Snacks are available for purchase at the bar. Anthony Marr will speak at 6:30. Join AVS in welcoming Anthony Marr to Asheville for the first of three different talks over three days, as part of his Journey of H.O.P.E tour. On this tour, to Heal Our Planet Earth, Anthony and his wife Shannon Wright will cover 48 states in 8 months. Anthony received the Henry Spira Grassroots Animal Activist Award in 2010 for his outstanding contribution to animal liberation. Anthony Marr holds a science degree and has worked as a field geophysicist and an environmental technologist. In 1995, he became a full-time wildlife preservationist, which has brought him to India three times, earning him the title of the “Champion of the Bengal Tiger” in the [Champions of the Wild] TV series aired in 20 countries. As found of Heal Our Planet Earth he has conducted high profile campaigns in Canada for the bears and seals, and been to Japan twice for the whales and dolphins. He is the author of the critically acclaimed Omni-Science. Whether protecting tiger reserves in India, risking his life in undercover investigations of the illegal trade in endangered species parts, challenging any and all forms of hunting, hosting a radio show, writing visionary books on science, philosophy, and cosmology, embarking on marathon coast-to-coast Compassion for Animals Road Expeditions, covering dozens of US states, or mobilizing scientific research to awaken the complacent of the imminent dangers of irreversible ecological crisis, Anthony Marr is raising awareness, effectively campaigning and blazing new trails. For anyone skeptical of what one person can do alone, or in a strategic alliance with others, or what can be accomplished without large bankrolls…look no further. - Anthony Marr winning the [Best All-Around Activist] award presented by N.I.O. Location is The Block Off Biltmore at 39 South Market Street in Asheville. Call 828-254-9277 for more information.

How to Save A Million Species at A Time. Join the Asheville Vegan Society in welcoming Anthony Marr to Asheville for the second of three different talks over three days, as part of his Journey of H.O.P.E Tour. On this tour, to Heal Our Planet Earth, Anthony and his wife Shannon Wright will cover 48 states in 8 months. Time is 7 PM and location is Firestorm at 610 Haywood Street in west Asheville. Call 775-560-2460 for more info.

“Health Systems Around the World: Myth and Reality” will be presented by Bradley Fuller at the Sunday, July 16, 2017 meeting of the Ethical Humanist Society of Asheville, 2:00-3:30 PM, at Friends Meeting House, 227 Edgewood Road, Asheville, NC.  All are welcome to attend. Join Bradley Fuller for a surprising discussion of the myths and realities of the healthcare systems and outcome measures of several developed countries around the world. He will summarize the salient systems, costs and quality of care in Germany, Japan, Switzerland, the UK and Taiwan. How do these international healthcare systems compare to the US both as it is today and as repeal and replace is envisioned? Informal discussion and refreshments will follow the presentation. For more information: call 828 687-7759, email

What is the Democracy Asheville Coalition? Our Local Coalition brings together organizational representatives and individuals who agree to work together to change and use the political system so it equips people to take action, promotes grassroots leadership, and serves "the good of the whole." We want an elections process that is accessible, fair, and secure. And we want a government "of, by, and for the people," that fosters equity, solidarity, and justice. Please join us for the next Democracy Asheville Meeting at the Wesley Grant Center (285 Livingston Street in Asheville) on July 17, at 6 p.m. Join us for our regular monthly coalition meeting for updates on the latest voting rights news and plan our next steps for our #FairMapsNC campaign for redistricting reform, including petitions, canvassing, and more. For more information on how to RSVP, place contact Darlene Azarmi at 828-216-3430 or 

Every Tuesday, Veterans for Peace Chapter 099 holds a vigil at Vance Monument in downtown Asheville. Time is 5 PM. This has been happening since 2002. No matter the weather, no matter if it falls on a holiday, they are out there standing for peace. Last year, our former president dropped 26,000 bombs on seven different countries. The current president seems to be trying to match or beat that horrible record. Meanwhile we are banning refugees from those countries we have destroyed. Show you are publicly against our country's endless wars and occupations by standing with Veterans for Peace.

Every Tuesday since December 2016. The Do!scussion is a safe space in which to talk about what we see that encourages us to continue to create multi-racial coalitions in Asheville. It is also a space in which we talk about what we are struggling with. Hard for you to get out of bed and get to work on dismantling the white supremacy? Come on over, and we'll talk about it. Then, we'll get to Do!ing! The six organizing principles of SURJ are: 1) Accountability through Action, 2) Mutual Interest, 3) Take Risks and Keep Going, 4) Calling in More, 5) Enough for Everyone, and 6) Growth is Good. Time is 10 AM and location is Firestorm Coffee & Books at 610 Haywood Road in west Asheville. Contact Firestorm at for more information.

Tue, July 18, 7pm – 9pm. Contact David Greenson at or (718)809-2132 for more information. This is a monthly meeting- every Third Tuesday. Location is Kairos West at 742 Haywood Road in Asheville.

On the second Tuesday of each month, Western North Carolina Veterans for Peace meets to coordinate group activities and programs.Veterans For Peace is a global organization of Military Veterans and allies whose collective efforts are to build a culture of peace by using our experiences and lifting our voices. We inform the public of the true causes of war and the enormous costs of wars, with an obligation to heal the wounds of wars. Our network is comprised of over 140 chapters worldwide whose work includes: educating the public, advocating for a dismantling of the war economy, providing services that assist veterans and victims of war, and most significantly, working to end all wars. Time is 6:30 PM and location is the Center for Art and Spirit at Saint George, address is One School Road in west Asheville. For more information, contact Gerry at

This is a Sustainability and Social Justice Meet-up. Come early for community connections and green drink specials. This happens on the third Wednesday of each month.  Socializing from 5:30 – 6PM and presentation from  6 – 7PM. Location is The Block Off Biltmore at 39 South Market Street at Asheville. Call 828-254-9277 for more information.

Creation Care Alliance Meeting. Thursday, July 20, 5:30-7pm. First Baptist Church Room MB306 Upstairs, at 5 Oak Street, Asheville, NC 28801. Please park near the playground closer to College Ave. Join us to share stories of sustainability, the Wild Goose Festival, and our ongoing work. No contact information. 

Pot luck and community report-back from the United Nations Nuclear Ban Treaty session. Mary Olson, Dr Bert Crain, Linda Modica, Dan Keyser, Frances Lambert were in NYC at the United Nations during its negotiations on a new global treaty to ben nuclear weapons. Come learn more—join us on July 20 for a meal at 5:30 on Thursday July 20, or arrive by 6:30 pm for the program—your questions and comments welcome! Location is Friendship Hall - First Congregational Church at 20 Oak Street in Asheville. Sponsored by: Physicians for Social Responsibility; Nuclear Information and Resource Service; Stir the Soul Cafe. For more information, contact Mary at or 828-252-8409 / 828-242-5621 cell.

Every second Thursday at 7:00 pm since Sep 2016 Sexism. Queerphobia. Racism. Who are you doing it to? Who's doing it to you? Who's saving whom? Who's doing nothing? Who are you allying with? What's happening when you act in any and all the roles of persecutor, victim, rescuer, bystander and ally with others in our world of White male privilege and domination? We gather as men to explore interpersonal, structural, economic and institutional systems of injustice and the ways each of us is the oppressed and the oppressor, and learn to serve as allies, being responsive and accountable for what we choose to brave in our own lives, and with and for all our relations. Who's welcome: All Men – White, Cis, Indigenous, Queer, of Color, Trans, and Those called to do Ally. Facilitated by Duncan Tam. Time is 7 PM and location is Firestorm. Call Firestorm for more information. 

Physicians, health personnel and everyone; all are welcomed at our monthly meetings held on the third Friday of each month. Bring a brown bag lunch around noon. This will be held at The First Congregational United Church of Christ, Room E205, at 20 Oak Street (just off College St. in downtown Asheville). Time is noon to 2 PM. Meeting starts at 12:30. Parking is available behind the church. Enter the church or ring doorbell at the glass doors on Oak Street. For more information contact Dr. Terry Clark, Chair, 633-0892 or Dr. Lew Patrie, 299-1242.

Sierra Club July 22: 8th Annual  Summer Picnic. Come one, come all to the 8th Annual Sierra Club Summer Picnic on Saturday, July 22. The picnic is scheduled from noon to 4:00 p.m.  at the Blue Ridge Parkway sheltered picnic grounds located on Bull Mt. Rd. near the VA Hospital on Riceville Rd. This event is free and will be held rain or shine. Please bring a pot luck dish to share and your own place settings. Drinks will be provided.  Badminton and horseshoes will add to the festivities. Directions: Exit 7 on I-240; go east on Tunnel Rd for 2 miles; turn north on Riceville Rd; go past VA Hospital, turn left on Bull Mt. Rd. The fenced-in, sheltered picnic area is on the left about ½ mile up the road. Contact Judy Mattox,, 828-683-2176.

CCA Concert and Fundraiser at Lake Junaluska, Sunday, July 23, 5-7pm. Lake Junaluska Conference & Retreat Center / 91 North Lakeshore Drive Lake Junaluska, NC 28745. Join us for a lovely night in a truly beautiful place! William Ritter & Sarah Ogletree, singers and traditional fiddle, banjo, and guitar players, will begin playing at 5:00 p.m. and will wrap up the night around 7:00 in the evening. They are excited to be putting on a concert for CCA. This came from their website. This kid-friendly event will serve as a fundraiser, a time of fellowship, and an opportunity for new faces to become acquainted with us and our mission. We so look forward to our time at the lake. 

Every Tuesday, Veterans for Peace Chapter 099 holds a vigil at Vance Monument in downtown Asheville. Time is 5 PM. This has been happening since 2002. No matter the weather, no matter if it falls on a holiday, they are out there standing for peace. Last year, our former president dropped 26,000 bombs on seven different countries. The current president seems to be trying to match or beat that horrible record. Meanwhile we are banning refugees from those countries we have destroyed. Show you are publicly against our country's endless wars and occupations by standing with Veterans for Peace.

Buncombe County Lunch & Learn - African American History Series. Don’t miss this African American History in Buncombe County lunch and learn series featuring three great local speakers.  This free lecture series will feature: July 25 - Dr. Darin Waters presenting the history of African American education in Asheville and WNC; August 23 - County Commissioner Al Whitesides presenting the wage gap and historical wealth disparities in the African American Community; September 27 - Dr. Sharon West presenting the access and availability of health care for African Americans in Buncombe County. Come learn more about the history of the African American community in Buncombe County-- the challenges, the triumphs and the future of our community. The lecture series will be held from Noon till 1:30 p.m. on each of the dates listed above at the Stephen's Lee Community Center (30 George Washington Carver Avenue in Asheville) free of charge with everyone welcome.

Every Tuesday since December 2016. The Do!scussion is a safe space in which to talk about what we see that encourages us to continue to create multi-racial coalitions in Asheville. It is also a space in which we talk about what we are struggling with. Hard for you to get out of bed and get to work on dismantling the white supremacy? Come on over, and we'll talk about it. Then, we'll get to Do!ing! The six organizing principles of SURJ are: 1) Accountability through Action, 2) Mutual Interest, 3) Take Risks and Keep Going, 4) Calling in More, 5) Enough for Everyone, and 6) Growth is Good. Time is 10 AM and location is Firestorm Coffee & Books at 610 Haywood Road in west Asheville. Contact Firestorm at for more information.

From circle organizer Duncan Tam: As men of color and culture, we navigate the margins of power and privilege from cradle to grave. We inherit the legacies of our ancestors and pass down our love and pain to our children. In circle, we give support, voice and strength to each other in our personal challenges with the experiences of exclusion and inclusion, and celebrate the contributions we make in our lives and in all our relations. All men of color are welcome. Time is 7 PM and location is Firestorm Books & Coffee, 610 Haywood Rd, Asheville. Contact Firestorm at for more information.

Bridge the Gap Book Club discusses “Tell Me How It Ends” at Malaprops in downtown Asheville. Structured around the forty questions Valeria Luiselli translates and asks undocumented Latin-American children facing deportation, Tell Me How It Ends (an expansion of her 2016 Freeman's essay of the same name) humanizes these young migrants and highlights the contradiction of the idea of America as a fiction for immigrants with the reality of racism and fear--both here and back home. Time is 7 PM. Call Malaprops for more information.

Join the local branch of NAACP for our regular monthly meeting on the second Tuesday of each month at 6:30 pm at Hill Street Baptist Church, 135 Hill St. in Asheville. Now through the General Election in November we will discuss the issues facing voters locally, in NC and the country. We educate and engage on these important issues.

Time is 5 to 7 PM and location is Henderson County Courthouse on Main Street (between 1st and 2nd Street) in downtown Hendersonville. This is put on by a coalition of non-profits and churches. 

Come for a send-off pot luck gathering Asheville Friends Meeting House at 227 Edgewood Road in Asheville (between Merrimon and UNCA). Time is 5:30 pm. Please bring a dish to share and meet and listen to our Peace Pilgrimage walkers talk about their upcoming walk to Oak Ridge. The atom bomb started in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, when the Y12 Plant produced the highly enriched uranium fuel for Little Boy, the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, Japan. Seventy- two years later, Y12 is still in the bomb business. Current plans call for a new bomb plant, the Uranium Processing Facility, to be built there to manufacture the thermonuclear cores and cases for nuclear warheads and bombs. The UPF bomb plant is the flagship facility for the “modernization” of the US nuclear weapons complex. This 8-day pilgrimage will arrive in Oak Ridge on August 6, to coincide with the events scheduled there by the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance (OREPA) remembering the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima in 1945. Each day along the way, our meditative walk will be led by the Buddhist monks of the Nipponzan Myohoji order who are building the Great Smoky Mountains Peace Pagoda. Our pilgrimage raises a voice opposed to the UPF and in favor of the abolition of all nuclear weapons and a world beyond war. For more information: Ken Jones at 

Peace Pilgrimage from Asheville to Oak Ridge July 30 – August 6, 2017. The atom bomb started in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, when the Y12 Plant produced the highly enriched uranium fuel for Little Boy, the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, Japan. Seventy- two years later, Y12 is still in the bomb business. Current plans call for a new bomb plant, the Uranium Processing Facility, to be built there to manufacture the thermonuclear cores and cases for nuclear warheads and bombs. The UPF bomb plant is the flagship facility for the “modernization” of the US nuclear weapons complex. This 8-day pilgrimage will arrive in Oak Ridge on August 6, to coincide with the events scheduled there by the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance (OREPA) remembering the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima in 1945. Each day along the way, our meditative walk will be led by the Buddhist monks of the Nipponzan Myohoji order who are building the Great Smoky Mountains Peace Pagoda. Our pilgrimage raises a voice opposed to the UPF and in favor of the abolition of all nuclear weapons and a world beyond war. This pilgrimage will leave from Pack Square, Vance Monument at 9 AM. For more information: Ken Jones at

The final Sunday of each month in 2017, two groups of WNC-based musicians and their ensembles will each perform a benefit concert to raise funding for WNC nonprofits. The music performed each week will fluctuate between jazz, rhythm & blues, soul, jazz funk, jazz fusion, and swing. Each event will host two groups, playing, consecutively between 3 and 5 PM with a brief intermission. All of proceeds go to the nonprofit organization. The nonprofit for today is Youth Outright. Act I is Michael Jefry Stevens Duo and Act II is Wendy Jones Quintet. Location is The Block Off Biltmore at Eagle and South Market Streets in downtown Asheville. Suggested donation is $10, and are available the day of the event. This is a Facebook event. Please call The Block Off Biltmore for more information.

Veterans for Peace have a weekly vigil at 5 PM at Pack Square, Vance Monument during most of the year, but after standard time kicks in, they meet at 4:30 PM. 
Showing Up for Racial Justice Do!scussion at Firestorm Coffee & Books at 610 Haywood Road in west Asheville. 10 AM. Educating and organizing white people for racial justice. 
Rally at historic Courthouse in Hendersonville at 5 PM on the first Tuesday of the month. Organized by the Progressive Organized Women. 

Haywood Peace Vigilers have a weekly vigil at 4 PM at Haywood County Courthouse in Waynesville
French Broad Riverkeeper has a paddle-n-plant to prevent sediment erosion most Wednesdays and Saturdays. Registration required at 
Green Drinks meets at 7 PM at The Block Off Biltmore on the third Wednesday of the month.
Sierra Club meets at 7 PM at Unitarian Universalist in Asheville on the first Wednesday of the month.

Political Prisoners Letter Writing at Firestorm Coffee & Books at 6 PM on fourth Thursday of the month. Materials provided.
Welcome Home Tour by Homeward Bound on the third Thursday of the month at 11 AM. Call 258-1695 for more information.
Asheville Prison Books Program is held at Downtown Books & News from 4 to 7 PM. 

Women in Black have a weekly vigil at noon at the City Hall in Hendersonville.
Standing Up For Racial Justice event is held at 10 AM at 23 Edwin Street, next to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville. Educating and organizing white people for racial justice.

French Broad Riverkeeper has a paddle-n-plant to prevent sediment erosion most Wednesdays and Saturdays. Registration required at 
Mountain True holds urban forest workdays on the second Saturday of the month at Richmond Hill Park from 9 AM to 1 PM. Call 258-8737 for more information.
Citizen’s Climate Lobby meeting at 12:30 PM at Kairos West Community Center on second Saturday of the month.
Food Not Bombs serves free vegan/vegetarian food every Saturday at noon at Pritchard Park.
Dances of Universal Peace on the third Saturdays at 7:30 at 1 School Road in Asheville. 

Asheville National Organization for Women meeting at 2:30 PM at YWCA of Asheville on second Sunday of the month.


U.S. Forest Service to Hold Open Houses on Forest Plan Revision

ASHEVILLE, N.C., June 6, 2017 - The U.S. Forest Service will hold open houses across the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests from late June to early August to provide the public with opportunities to talk with Forest Service staff about local issues, district projects, and the Nantahala and Pisgah Forest Plan revision.

"Public attendan
          Comment on Win this book! “Good Bones, Great Pieces” by Marnie        
My moms china closet it's just a few shelves with glass doors I've use it to hold DVD in living room to my bedroom to hold vintage purses and of course in the dining room
          Tomorrow’s House Today: Hillsdale Tour Goes Contemporary -- Style Section -- House         

By Amy Krzanik

You can “step back into the past” by viewing historical artifacts or touring ruins and relics, but can you travel forward into the future? I would argue that you can, and you can do it next weekend, on Saturday, Aug. 12 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Hillsdale, New York. The Hillsdale Historic House Tour Committee has turned its popular tour on its head and this year will offer glimpses into six “Historic Houses of the Future.”

The committee, whose last tour was held in 2014, previously had featured homes located along the same street for easy viewing. But, as with all historic things, they’re not making any new ones and a member suggested focusing on contemporary “green” homes instead.

“We had two criteria,” says committee member Meg Wormley. “The homes had to be excellent examples of 21st century design and/or renovation, and they had to be energy efficient.”

You’ll need a car for this year’s venture, but you’ll be rewarded with some fine architectural specimens, and all the behind-the-scenes information, to boot. In two cases, the owners of the houses are the architects and they’ll be there to talk about their designs. Another owner will be on hand to discuss the green aspects of his home and will even take guests into the basement to see how it all works.

A box lunch from Simons Catering is included in the $40 tour price and will be served under a tent at the Roe-Jan Library, itself a “green” building. During lunch, architects from Hudson-based firm BarlisWedlick will give the talk “Classic and Modern: Designing Homes in Columbia County for the 21st Century.” Proceeds from the tour will go toward the preservation of the East Gate Toll House on Rt. 22 in Hillsdale, and provide funding to repair and maintain some of the historic cemeteries in the town.

So, without further ado, let’s meet our homes:

1. Designed by architect Joel Turkel, whose Axiom houses are customized pre-fabs that use minimal material and energy to build, this sleek, energy-efficient home utilizes geo-thermal and solar panels.

2. Architect Bruce Coldham designed this home which was built by the owners, Steven and Kathy Bluestone. It’s been certified by the Passive House Institute US, a highly sought but very difficult certification to earn. The home was built using autoclaved aerated concrete (AAC) blocks, which are up to 75% lighter than conventional concrete blocks and are superior thermal insulators. In addition to being passive, the home is “energy positive,” meaning the house produces more energy than it requires annually.

3. This window-filled home, inspired by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright and fully realized by the owner-architect and his wife, is a stylish contemporary with a commanding mountain view, a pond with a story of its own and a whimsical interior.

4. This glass cabin in the woods, a lifelong dream of the architect-owner, blends the work of the California modernists with the charm of a single-pitch roof popular on local barns. Sixteen glass doors line the long sides of the house so that every room has access to the outdoors and the deck that wraps the house.

5. The newest home on the tour is a recently completed house with two thick zigzag walls under a faceted roof, which results in a versatile two-level floor plan. The home is super insulated and strategically sited so as to use the sun as its major source of energy. This Net Zero house by architect Stephan Green produces as much energy as it consumes.

6. The last house on the tour is a completely redesigned, renovated and modernized 1974-era home that now boasts clean lines and sharp angles, in a palette of primarily shades of gray and black.

Tour tickets are $40 each and can be ordered online or at Passifora or The Hillsdale General Store. All tickets will be available for pickup at Hillsdale Town Hall on Aug. 12 starting at 10:45 a.m.

Patron & Sponsor Tickets
Patron tickets are $100 per person and include a cocktail party on Sunday, Aug. 13 from 5-7 p.m. at an additional contemporary home not on the tour. Sponsor tickets are $150 per person and include the tour, entry to the cocktail party, and your name or business listed in all event material. For more info., contact

Tour and patron tickets must be ordered by Aug 7. Sponsor tickets must be ordered by Aug. 4.

          Guest Blogger Debbie Jacobs: Turns out our stars are not crossed!        

I’m a pragmatic New Englander and although many of us won’t admit it, we take pride in not being like our footloose compatriots who occupy the other coast with their year round tans, Esalen retreats and anything to do with colon cleansing. So when my fearful dog Sunny, who had spent his early life in a pen in Arkansas, escaped from our house in the dead of winter, I did what was reasonable and prudent, and then what may come as a surprise, I called an astrologer.

Sunny was not just shy or timid, he was flat out bowel emptying terrified when he came to live with us in Vermont a month after I met him at Camp Katrina, a site set up to take in animals displaced by the hurricanes of 2005 where he was living after being rescued from a hoarder. Until the day Sunny slipped out of the house he had neither gone up, nor down the stairs without being leashed and encouraged to do so. It was a raw, winter day, freezing rain had started spitting down making a crunching sound as it landed on the dead leaves covering the ground. As I held the door open letting my three other dogs out, I did a mental head count as the clicking of an additional set of toenails descending wooden stairs registered and tickled my consciousness.
All the dogs had gone out the door into an unfenced yard adjacent to hundreds of acres of forest, including Sunny, who for the first time got himself down the stairs and slipped out the door before I realized what was happening. At this point Sunny not only did not have a recall, reliable or otherwise, he could not approach me or any human. Once outside the door he stopped and turned to look at me, it was a momentary glance as he prepared to bolt, and I, knowing that calling him would be fruitless, met his eyes and said, “See ya buddy”, and he was gone, racing off into the trees.

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that along with the sense of dread that dropped like a mound of raw dough in my stomach, I also felt a tiny wave of relief. He was gone. I didn’t have to live with a dog that spent his time cowering from me, had to be walked on leash and even then behaved like I was his personal Freddy Kruger, ready to slice him limb to limb once his guard was down. Then I felt a bigger wave of guilt and the crushing weight of reality. It was February in Vermont and a freezing rain was falling, he wouldn’t make it out there for long on his own.

After I called the shelters and town dog officers in the area, stapled Lost Dog posters into ziplock bags and hung them up at the covered bridge and on trees along the road, walked the woods with my other dogs hoping Sunny would join us, I went home and called a friend. I realized that doing anything- even something that normally would seem so ‘out there’ that I’d chuckle at anyone else who did it- felt better than doing nothing. This friend, an author and historian, had recently finished a book on the history of classical astrology and part of his research had been to  learn the art of creating charts and plotting the positions of the planets and discerning their meaning and implications. I had been surprised that this serious fellow, with a doctorate from Columbia, has become as intrigued as he had with what is considered by many to be a pseudoscience. Nonetheless, with little hope that my still practically feral dog would be found, and the fact that his help would be free (while I am willing to spare little expense when it comes to maintaining my dogs’ health, shelling out cold cash for a dog’s astrological chart would have been a bit much for me even under these circumstances) what was there to lose?

Classical astrology, unlike the popular version most of us are familiar with, is based on the timing, not of an event, but on when a question is asked and heard by the person with the ability to answer it.  After the tone on his answering machine I left this message.

“Hi, it’s Debbie, look at your watch. Sunny ran away. Can you do a chart for me?”

Within the hour I had a return call. The information I received was of the sort that could mean something or nothing. The chart showed that Sunny was in the east (There’s a river east of our house, how far east could he go?) in a low, damp place (We live in a river valley and it had been drizzling freezing rain all morning, where wasn’t there a low, damp place!?), the number 10 came up (Whatever that meant.) and then what gave me the most comfort and relief was this, the chart showed that I would not go to Sunny, Sunny would come to me. This meant I didn’t have to keep tramping through the soggy woods. I had walked miles already knowing it was futile, yet had to do something, and what else could I do? Now there was this, what I had to do was wait for him to come to me.

My friend and his wife came over later in the day with their two dogs, a young male shiba and fluffy, black female chow. Sunny knew these dogs from play visits to their fenced in yard. We hoped that the dogs would lure him back. But even in their enclosure it had been a challenge for me to get Sunny back onto a leash. As dusk began to fall we retreated inside and sat in the living room, where I felt like someone in mourning who couldn’t quite believe that life had suddenly taken such a sharp turn toward dread, but not having yet viewed the body could still maintain the delusion that a mistake had been made.

When my friend called out, “There he is!” my first reaction was that it was a cruel joke, or perhaps an attempt to create the reality we sought, but he was right, there was Sunny out in yard, visible through the glass doors, sniffing and slinking. As luck, fate or my dislike of cooking would have it, there was a grocery store roasted chicken in the refrigerator. I snatched a handful of skin and greasy meat and stepped outside tossing a few bits to Sunny. He warily approached, gobbled the food and leaped back. For months I had been rehearsing what are commonly called doggie ‘calming signals’, yawning, licking my lips, averting my gaze, squinting my eyes, turning my head, getting low to the ground and turning my body away, in order to appear less threatening to him.

I didn’t want Sunny to learn that my reaching for him was a predictor of scary things so when I did manage to get a hold of his harness, I praised him, handed him some chicken and let him go. I realized that he had probably not ever gone far, had found a low, damp place to hide and had been spending the day deciding how long to relish this new found freedom. Up to this point in his life he had always lived in a pen or in our house, which remained a scary place full of unpredictable objects and sounds. After repeating the dance of getting hold of his harness and releasing him a few more times I walked him into the house, fed him his dinner and knew he had chosen to come back to me and whether it was destined by the stars or hunger, I’d never lose him again.

Life With Dogs

*Sunny was gone for 10 hours that day.

Debbie Jacobs is the author of  “A Guide To Living With & Training A Fearful Dog", which was a finalist in the 2008 Dog Writers Association of America’s annual writing competition.

She lives in Vermont with her husband and 4 dogs and created the website to help owners, trainers and rescuers learn about the most effective and humane ways to work with fearful dogs. She met her fearful dog Sunny, the inspiration for the fearfuldogs website at the Humane Society of Louisiana’s Camp Katrina after the hurricanes of 2005.

          My Volcano Phobia is Officially Pining for the Fjords        
We would have ended the summer adventuring season with a bang if Mount St. Helens had been so kind as to erupt.

I used to have a bit of a volcano phobia. I'd have nightmares of majestic mountains suddenly exploding, threatening me with pyroclastic flows and hot red lava. I remember those dreams: tense, terrified sequences that sometimes began with the first jets of steam and ash from an unexpected eruption, sometimes picking up in mid-drama as I tried to gather cat and loved ones and flee. There was a dream where I lived in my childhood home again: the Peaks were putting on a spectacular show outside the sliding glass doors, lava bombs and ash falling all round, hot bits of volcanic ejecta setting off massive forest fires. Lava flows once chased me all the way from Flagstaff to Phoenix, melting the car's tires and cutting off escape routes. I'd wake up exhausted, heart pounding, eyeballing the nearest mountain for the slightest sign of unrest. I'd run through evacuation plans in my mind and check the news (at the time, rumor had it the ground around Flagstaff was rising by an inch a year, and I believed there was a magma chamber filling up below the mountains). I'd watch teevee shows about eruptions and consider that the oldest volcanics nearby were less than 1,000 years old. The volcanoes were sleeping, not dead, and I was ready: if they so much as twitched, I'd be outta there like a shot.

I never ever in my entire life wanted to see a volcano erupt live. Not even the tame little Hawaiian ones. Nossir. I'd take my eruptions on teevee from a safe distance of several hundred miles, thanks ever so much.

So what did I do? Moved to a subduction zone, where things regularly go boom. My stepmother laughed at me. But as I told her, they monitor these things intensively, and the moment one of them woke, I'd be on her doorstep with cat and suitcase in hand.

I never would have gone to Mount Saint Helens the first time if I'd known she was, actually, erupting. And I would have fled if I'd realized the pretty wisps of steam emerging from the dome weren't merely residual heat, but active dome-building. The parking lot was filled with scorch marks from hot rocks falling from the sky. And I was damned glad we'd brought the fast car - if it looked to be an eruption, we'd be so outta there.

And we got home after a hell of an experience, and I looked some things up, and realized I'd stared into the heart of an erupting volcano, one that had violent tendencies, and nothing bad had happened.

Still, I'd run, wouldn't I? If I saw her start to blow, I'd surely scream and run away.

Then I started studying geology.

And then I went back.

And found myself disappointed St. Helens is sleeping.

The scorch marks in the parking lot are faded now. The dome isn't steaming. The seismometers on her slopes are quiet. And I wished she'd wake up. I wished she was busy dome-building again. I wished I could stand on the viewing platform at Johnston Ridge and watch her put on a show. Not a big one, mind, but just a little something for the kids. Cujo and Steamforged had never seen her in person before. I had the new camera. C'mon, girl, just a little plume for your old buddy Dana. I wrote you a get-well card when you blew apart in '80, remember?

No such luck. But it doesn't matter if she's erupting or not - she's still spectacular. The blast zone is still a virtual moonscape, despite all the wildflowers and alders. You just don't get to see bald slopes and deep, wild erosion in western Washington. There's nothing like a VEI-5 eruption to clear away all that pesky biology.

We took the long climb from the parking lot to Johnston Ridge Observatory. At first, the ridge hides the mountain. She peeks at you, gradually comes into view, and you almost don't notice because you're goggling at the downed trees and nearly-naked slopes of the blast zone.

Note the biology starting to get all uppity. I think we need another VEI-5 to teach it a lesson. Yes, it's pretty; yes, that's how western Washington's supposed to be, but damn it, it's beginning to block the geology views.

And yes, that's a bit of the crater rim rising above the bushes. Stick with me. A few more feet of climbing, and you'll see views.

Reach the top, stand on the shoulder of the ridge, and gaze into the amphitheater left by the 1980 eruption. After you've managed to unstick your awestruck feet, walk toward the Observatory. There's another rise, and nestled at the base of that rise, facing the mountain, a monument.

The names of the dead are chiseled in black against the gray stone. Mount St. Helens killed, because we didn't understand her. We didn't know quite what to expect of her, or where the safe places were, or took risks for science, or adventure. Harry Truman stayed in his cabin with his cats, too old and too stubborn to flee his beloved mountain.

David A. Johnston died on this ridge. He had time for one last radio transmission: "Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it!" I don't know how much time he had to realize he wasn't getting out. Two miles to the north, also directly in the path of the blast, ham radio operator Jerry Martin knew what was coming: he'd just seen David Johnston die. "Gentlemen, the uh, camper and the car sitting over to the south of me is covered," he said in his last transmission. "It’s gonna get me, too. I can’t get out of here."

You can hear David's last words, in a film at the Observatory named for him. And after the movie, the screen goes up, the curtain rises, and there she is.

 Stand there for a moment of silence, then go on.

Inside the Observatory, they have some pretty outstanding displays. They've got a huge scale model that lights up, illustrating various phases of the eruption as a narrator speaks.

This one, I think, was showing the pyroclastic flows.

And some of the lahars:

I have a terrible feeling lots of folks have walked away thinking St. Helens spewed rivers of molten lava, but oh well. I wasn't paying that much attention to it, aside from ooing at the sparkles. No, there was another thing there that demanded attention: a display that you could put your hands on to "feel" earthquakes and other seismic events, with a screen showing you what the seismometers had picked up (running elk, helicopter landing, rock breaking, landslide, various earthquakes) and the thing would shake and shake. This, I have to tell you, could keep a person occupied for hours. Wish I had thought to take a picture, but I was too busy playing with it.

Outside in the Plaza, there's one of those USGS markers I love so much:

We stayed for the ranger talk, which I'll be writing up, and then headed out. One last look back:

And then on down to a viewpoint overlooking Castle Lake, where the late evening light and several enthralled people compliment the mountain perfectly.

And with that, the summer adventuring season is well and truly at an end. Good thing, too. I've got so much geology to write up I'll probably still haven't have gotten it all by the time next summer rolls round.

Ending it here, with the mountain that introduced me to the splendid power of volcanic eruptions at the tender age of 5, seems fitting. Mount St. Helens has been part of my consciousness for nearly the entire span of my memory. She was the most spectacular event of my childhood. She's become a part of me, she and the people who were caught up in that day of catastrophic destruction.

She'll likely put on another eruptive display before I die, and unlike me, she won't grow old. She'll constantly be tearing herself down and building herself back up, long after we are gone. There's something very nearly timeless in that, although she's not eternal. She's a moment in geological time. But what a moment she is!
          How Maintaining a Clean Humane Society Keeps Pets Healthy        
Sleeping cat at Oshkosh Area Humane Society

A cat snoozes at Oshkosh Area Humane Society in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

If cleaning up after one or two pets is tricky, try 180. Oshkosh Area Humane Society in Oshkosh, Wisconsin has a fair share of messy monsters, but its staff must maintain a sanitary environment for its furry dwellers and prospective adopters.


"The number one thing is, with people coming to a shelter, if they're assaulted with smells and stink, that reflects poorly on who you are," said executive director Joni Geiger.


Here is how OAHS keeps its mansion of mammals in purrrfect shape.

Super cuddlers in...

Chewpaca, a five-year-old domestic short-haired cat, watches nature scenes on his TV.

Chewpaca, a 5-year-old domestic short-haired cat, watches nature scenes on his TV. TVs keep OAHS cats healthy by boosting their spirits.

When traumatized rescue animals enter an unfamiliar shelter, they get stressed. The key is to assign the animals relaxing placements. Dogs occupy only 10-20% of OAHS and get their own kennels. Cats move into kitty condos if they're antisocial or community rooms of 3-12 similarly-aged felines if they can tolerate interaction.


Geiger said boredom and stress are the two biggest problems for shelter animals. So volunteers walk the dogs every morning, while the indoor-centric cats enjoy toys, climbing towers...and another notable luxury.


"People think that it's kind of silly, but we have TVs in their rooms. It's very important to stimulate," Geiger said. Their primetime lineup consists of waterfalls, forests, small birds and geese.


Entertaining the animals plays two roles in the facility's cleanliness. First, the happier the pets are, the less anxiety-induced vomit or diarrhea the staff cleans up. Second, living in close proximity with other pets increases the risk of illness or disease, so stimulation helps keep their immune systems active. Shelter kittens are susceptible to upper respiratory infections like calicivirus and herpesvirus, while puppies can contract distemper or parvo.

...Super germs out

"Disease control is paramount," Geiger said.


Six workers spend four hours each day disinfecting different surfaces. A schedule tells cleaners which one or two of these four agents they'll use for the day: veterinary disinfectant, soap, bleach and/or a degreaser. Rotation prevents targeted bacteria and viruses from mutating into chemical-resistant super germs.


When using these products, medical coordinator Rhonda Velie said OAHS is mindful to rinse the surface after the products settle and before they dry. Some shelters take shortcuts by masking odors instead of disinfecting surfaces. Or they won't take the time to rinse a chemical after laying it, putting at risk the animals who lick or smell the dangerous mixtures.


"To their defense, they're nonprofits. Some people are getting 30 animals a day and they just don't have time. It's just that crazy in the business," Velie said.


Sleeping cat at Oshkosh Area Humane Society

Proper disinfection is crucial around animals who have had medical procedures, such as Christy, this 1-year-old American Staffordshire Terrier.


Velie said achieving the correct chemical dilution is important with concentrates, particularly around cats and small mammals with sensitive noses.


"You can actually deplete their immune system by just kind of burning it right out of their nose if you use something too strong," said Velie.


Workers wash their hands between every pet they handle because humans are the biggest animal disease carriers. Caretakers handle a number of sick cats and dogs daily and may transmit germs by holding animal after animal.

Cleaning the living spaces, by animal


Snickers, a 10-year-old shih tzu, needs his kennel power cleaned daily because he likes to leap against the glass door.

Snickers, a 10-year-old shih tzu, needs his kennel power cleaned daily because he likes to leap against the glass door.

  • Cats rely on scent, so they feel lost when freshening removes their odors. Workers keep the scent lingering by only wiping surfaces one day and power cleaning the next day. Power cleaning includes washing bedding and cleaning the floors with Swiffers.
  • Dogs rely more on sight, so maintaining scent isn't important. Workers strip dog kennels and power clean them daily. Cleaning up after canines involves scrubbing the walls, glass doors and bars because they love to jump.
  • Small mammals like rabbits and mice stink because Geiger said they are "constant poopers," so their cages get cleaned twice daily. These critters, like cats, are sensitive to smell. Workers coat cage floors in hay and aspen wood chips, not cedar chips, which are widely used by small mammal owners. Cedar is too aromatic for small mammals, Velie said.


Keeping OAHS clean and presentable to the public pays off. The no-kill shelter has an 86% live release rate, Geiger noted, and animals find a home in an average of 17 days after hitting the adoption floor.


"I always say there's somebody for everybody," Geiger said.

          Mediterranean estate with breathtaking view        
In addition, the large windows offer plentiful amounts of natural light. The marble continues toward the family area that includes high ceilings and presents an opportunity for entertainment with built in shelving, fireplace and access to the broad veranda via the retracting glass doors.
          Africa Cup of Nations Qualifying Review: South Sudan make history, Liberia shock Tunisia        
South Sudan earned their first ever competitive victory with a 1-0 win over Equatorial Guinea in their Africa Cup of Nations qualifier on Saturday. The minnows joined the ranks of international football in 2012 and had not found the net since a 3-1 defeat to Kenya in November 2013, but Atak Lual's 52nd-minute strike was enough to seal a 1-0 win in Juba. The momentous result lifts Lee Sung-Je's side to second place in Group C ahead of Benin’s clash with Mali on Sunday. There was similar joy for Liberia, who shocked Group A rivals Tunisia with a 1-0 victory despite being without first-choice goalkeeper Nathaniel Sherman, who reportedly suffered a serious eye injury after inadvertently barging into a glass door at the team's hotel. But a Francis Forkey Doe strike in the 11th minute proved decisive, in the first international match to be held in Monrovia since the lifting of the Ebola ban. Ghana, runners-up to the Ivory Coast in 2015, look well-placed for another finals berth after preserving their 100 per cent record in Group H by edging to a 1-0 win over Rwanda thanks to Mubarak Wakaso's superb 88th-minute free-kick. Morocco were more emphatic in securing their second win in Group F, brushing aside Sao Tome and Principe 3-0. In Group K, Senegal took advantage of Burundi's 2-0 win over Niger with 2-0 win away to Namibia, courtesy of goals from Premier League stars Cheikhou Kouyate and Sadio Mane – a win that leaves them three points clear at the top. Meanwhile, three-time champions Nigeria were held to a disappointing 0-0 draw at Tanzania and could be knocked off the top of Group G should Egypt beat Chad on Sunday, while South Africa's difficulties in Group M continued with a 3-1 defeat to Mauritania. A solitary 25th-minute strike from Tonny Mawejje saw Uganda rise to the top of group D with a 1-0 win away to Comoros, overtaking Burkina Faso, who slumped to a 1-0 defeat at Botswana. Elsewhere, 10-man Seychelles lifted themselves off the bottom of Group J with a 1-1 draw to Ethiopia, while Group E remains wide open after Congo's 1-1 draw with Guinea Bissau.
          Supplier Rating: Christ the King Church        
After being married for a month now, I'm slowly starting to get the hang of married life. But I'm still on a wedding high, it's time to give thanks to our suppliers for a job well done. Hopefully, my ratings will be helpful to other brides-to-be out there. :)

I'll be doing my supplier ratings differently today. I'll separate the hits and misses for each supplier so that it would be easier to see how each of them fared before, during, and after our wedding day. :)

Now, let's begin with our chosen church, Christ the King Church in Greenmeadows, Quezon City.

CHURCH: Christ the King Church
Peso Power: P25,000
Package Inclusions: flowers, use of aircondition units, soloist/organist


At first, Christ the King was not part of our choices because I felt that the church would be too big for us. We plan to only have 150 guests, and because of the church's structure, baka magmukhang aalog-alog mga tao dun. But since we plan to book their function hall anyway, booking the church was the most practical thing to do.

  • The church is so bright and, for the lack of a better term, maaliwalas. I'm not a fan of old churches because they give me the creeps. Feeling ko may multo sa bawat sulok. Haha! So the modern architecture of Christ the King was a big plus for us.
  • I like how spacious the altar is. It's perfect for big family pictures. :)
  • It's airconditioned! This is a must because ours was a summer wedding, so just imagine how hot it was during the day.
  • It's aisle is just right, not so short and not so long. I didn't want to walk down a very long aisle because I'm too scared that I'll trip. At least pag maikli ang aisle, mas mababawasan ang chances na madapa ako.
  • There are a lot of parking spaces available.
  • They have a  garden where you can have your postnup pictures taken. It was a bit of a climb, but at least we were able to go to a picturesque location without having to travel so far away.
Here are some pictures of the church during our wedding. :)


    • Our officiating priest didn't follow our misalette. There were some parts where he added words and phrases so we had a difficult time following the flow of the mass. Even our commentator missed some of her cues because of the priest's different wordings.
    • I liked our priest's homily, but then I learned that he gave a similar homily during one of my friend's wedding. It may not be a big deal, but I just wanted our homily to be a little more personalized. Kaya siguro, it's really better to bring your own priest so that you have an idea how he conducts homilies before your wedding.
    • No wooden doors for a dramatic entrance. You can cover up their glass doors with curtains for a fee, but it's just not the same.
    • Mox finds Ms. Dodo a bit strict and masungit. Hehe.

    RATING: 9 out of 10

    Despite the small booboo with our priest, Christ the King is still HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. :)

              Lawsuit Blames Apple's Glass Doors for Plaintiff's Broken Nose        
    "Apple wants to be cool and modern and have the type of architecture that would appeal to the tech crowd," said the plaintiff's attorney (probably making air quotes around "cool," "modern," and "tech crowd," at a minimum), "but on the other hand, they have to appreciate the danger that this [...]
              News - 06/04/10...        
    The Secret of Kells coming to DVD/BD in October

    New Video has announced that they have acquired U.S. television, digital, VOD and home video distribution rights to the Oscar nominated animated film The Secret of Kells and will be bringing it to most of those platforms (including DVD and Blu-ray) on October 5th, 2010.

    Newman gets star on Walk of Fame

    Composer Randy Newman received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame Wednesday, according to AFP. Newman spent a highly successful 35 years in the business before scoring his first animated film — 1995’s Toy Story. Since then he’s become one of the most popular and honored animated film composers around. Ten of Newman’s nineteen Oscar nominations have been for his work in animated films, with his sole win coming in 2002 for the song If I Didn’t Have You from Monsters, Inc.

    New Toy Story 3 images

    A new batch of images from the upcoming Toy Story 3 have just been revealed at Box Office Mojo. The anticipated Pixar sequel comes to theaters just two weeks from tomorrow.

    Droga5 Adds Brock Lee Into the Recipe For Blur

    Meet Brock Lee (brocc-oli? get it?), a video game drive who isn’t satisfied with his lot in life. He stars in this new spot for Activision’s Blur driving game. The effort was led by Droga5 and directed by Darren Walsh.

    Jacquet Puts Hamsters in New Kia Soul Spot

    For this new Kia Soul TV spot, I think they used humans in mouse suites, keyed out the actor’s heads and added in CG hamster faces. What’s your guess? The ad is titled A New Way To Roll and Antoine Bardou Jacquet at Partizan directed.

    Animated Ad For Disney’s World of Color

    Starting on June 11th, Disney’s World of Color will be open to the public at Disney’s California Adventure at Disneyland (did I mention that it’s a Disney production?) It’s primarily a water show, but there’s lasers, fire, music and lots of animation memories thrown in. Here’s a recent TV spot that features some Mickey Mouse character animation.

    The New ThunderCats and the Retro Revival

    Yesterday's unexpected news about the development of Warner Bros' new ThunderCats cartoon for a 2011 premiere is welcome and interesting for a few reasons worth noting. First of all, I think it's fair to say that assorted animation news in the past nine months has introduced a fad of retro revival. What young adults grew up with in the 1980s are being reintroduced to a new generation by multiple networks to a degree that, I think, we haven't seen before. Sure, in the preceding 00s decade, we did have our throwbacks to 80s cartoons. There was 2002's update of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe that sadly met a premature end, and of course there was the 2003 series for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from 4Kids and Mirage Studios that only recently ended. G.I. Joe made a mild comeback with G.I. Joe: Sigma Six and the much better received G.I. Joe: Resolute miniseries. The Transformers franchise has pretty much persisted with little rest since Beast Wars came along in the mid-1990s.

    However, the examples from the prior decade are dwarfed by the developments that we are now seeing. As we learned late last year, after a short break the TMNT will be back in 2012 for their third animated series courtesy of Nickelodeon. In the short term, a brand new Voltron cartoon will be premiering on Nicktoons this fall. Meanwhile, the imminent arrival of The Hub cable network will deliver a block of old school Hasbro cartoons and a fresh lineup spearheaded by original series for Transformers (Transformers Prime) and a "year one" reboot for G.I. Joe (G.I. Joe: Renegades) along with a return to Pound Puppies, My Little Pony and Strawberry Shortcake. And now we have ThunderCats, which is arguably the most welcome revival yet as a fantasy action series that, unlike the TMNT or the Transformers or G.I. Joe, has gotten no animated love at all since the original series ended more than twenty years ago.

    In sum, in the next two years we will have more renewed properties from the 1980s than what we had throughout the entire 00s decade. The 80s are back again--again. This time the revival is bigger; time will tell if it will be better.

    The skeptic in me does wonder whether this trend is ideal when, in theory, the resources and creative talent going toward these reboots would be devoted toward something fresh otherwise. Also, while I'm happy to witness this in general, I grew up on most of these properties in the 80s and so I do have the benefit of nostalgia. Those issues notwithstanding though, ultimately I do honestly view all this as positive. Just for starters, history clearly demonstrates that returning to the past doesn't preclude innovation at all. Ask any Transformers fan and you'll probably be told that 2007's Transformers Animated was not a "normal" Transformers series, whatever that fan happens to think of it. Likewise, I doubt many fans of the TMNT are complaining about the differences between the 2003 series and the original 80s series today. Japan's Mobile Suit Gundam franchise has a robust history of over thirty years that is now as much occupied by original, standalone innovations as it is by the original story that it had to tell. One could easily go on, especially if we examine the issue beyond animation. It's very possible to do significantly different--even radically different--things with similar basic concepts or iconic characters.

    More to the point, perhaps, it isn't as if we are exactly lacking in fresh new ideas amidst these developments. For Cartoon Network, ThunderCats will eventually be airing along with plenty of original programming. Ben 10, Generator Rex, Chowder, Sym-Bionic Titan, Young Justice, Metajets, and on and on. Nick has its own Nicktoons, of course, and a fresh Avatar-related project that its many fans breathlessly await. For all of its embracing of nostalgia, among other things The Hub has Cosmic Quantum Ray, Deltora Quest, and The 99, the latter of which I'm especially anticipating.

    Besides, as far as I'm concerned ThunderCats offers something that's far too rare today--a simple, straightforward fantasy action adventure. Sure, there's technology there too, but fundamentally it's got catlike heroes fighting evil in an exotic setting where magic is a force to be reckoned with. Superheroics, comedy, science fiction, straightforward action: animation has plenty to offer for those who want any of these things, but for the fantasy fan it seems to me that one's options are depressingly few in comparison. Between the return of the Thundercats and the coming of Deltora Quest to The Hub, however, some welcome diversity will be added to animation programming on television for awhile. Bring it on.

    (Thanks Toon Zone)

    New Futurama Episodes Begin June 26 on Comedy Central

    Futurama’s return with all-new episodes is set for June 26 at 10 p.m. on Comedy Central.

    More than six years since the last original episode of the animated series aired on Fox, the first of 12 all-new episodes will debut with back-to-back episodes.

    The series’ sixth season will include the show’s 100th episode, set to air Sept. 2.

    Created by Matt Groening and David X. Cohen, the series ran 72 episodes in four seasons on Fox from 1999 to 2003. It returned in 2008 with the first of four direct-to-video features that were later broken up into a 16-episode fifth season.

    The 26 new episodes will feature returning original cast members Billy West, Katey Sagal, John DiMaggio and Maurice LaMarche. Guest stars in the new season include Chris Elliot, Craig Ferguson, George Takei, Sergio Aragones, Matt Groening, David X. Cohen, Katee Sackhoff and Mark Mothersbaugh.

    (Thanks Animation Magazine)

    13th Season of Pokémon Set for Cartoon Network

    Pokémon is back!

    The new animated series Pokémon: DP Sinnoh League Victors — the 13th season of the show — will debut in the United States on June 5 at 7 a.m. ET/PT on Cartoon Network.

    The new series is the final chapter in the long-running series’ Diamond & Pearl storyline.

    "Pokémon is a truly global brand with legions of fans spanning the television, film, trading card game, and video game markets," said J.C. Smith, The Pokémon Company International's director of consumer marketing. "This is an amazing year for the Pokémon franchise and we're excited to work with Cartoon Network to bring Pokémon fans the newest adventures in the animated series."

    Pokémon is aired every day of the week on Cartoon Network, with original episodes airing on Saturday mornings and repeat episodes on Sundays. The show also appears Monday through Friday, on Boomerang at 8 a.m. EST/PST.

    Pokémon animation appears around the world in more than 30 different languages. In addition to Pokémon's partnership with Cartoon Network in the U.S., other major broadcast partners include YTV in Canada, RedeTV in Brazil, Cartoon Network Latin America, Gulli in France, RTL2 in Germany, K2 in Italy, CITV in the United Kingdom, and Disney XD across much of Europe.

    (Thanks Animation Magazine)

    Brooklyn Festival Hosts U.S. Premiere of Hasan Everywhere

    Kavaleer Productions’ award winning short film Hasan Everywhere will have its United States premiere at the Brooklyn Film Festival, set for June 4-13.

    The short film about the friendship between an Israeli writer and a Palestinian artist has won four awards in the last five months, including two Digital Media Awards.

    Directed by Kavaleer CEO Andrew Kavanagh, Hasan Everywhere is set to screen at the festival on June 6 at the Indie Screen in Brooklyn, with a second screening set for June 8.

    “It is exciting and such an honor to receive international recognition for this touching story,” says Kavanagh. “For Hasan Everywhere to have its U.S. premiere in New York is the perfect tribute to Hasan Hourani, who studied at the Art Students League of New York.”

    Hasan Everywhere also will screen at the Palm Springs International ShortFest & Film Market at the end of June.

    (Thanks Animation Magazine)

    Toy Story Tix On Facebook

    Disney has created a first of its kind ticket sales app to leverage it's Facebook presence on the social network. Called Disney Tickets Together, could transform how Hollywood sells movie tickets by combining ticket sales with the networking of friends on the social sites. When you buy a ticket through Disney’s application, it alerts your Facebook friends and prompts you to invite them to buy tickets of their own.

    Currently only available for the June 18th release of Toy Story 3, but should the app prove a success, Disney will surely roll this app out for it's other theatrical releases.

    "The whole idea is that no friend gets left behind," said Oliver Luckett, senior vice president and general manager of DigiSynd, the Disney social networking subsidiary.

    Luckett went on to say that Disney Tickets Together, which has been in development for months, works with ticket-buying sites like and covers the majority of the movie theaters in North America.

    Facebook receives no percentage of the ticket sales but does, in theory, get more visitors on its site.

    Rue McClanahan, Golden Girls' Blanche, dead at 76

    Emmy Award-winning actress Rue McClanahan, best known for portraying man-hungry Blanche Devereaux on the NBC sitcom Golden Girls, died early Thursday at 76.

    "She passed away at 1 a.m. this morning," manager Barbara Lawrence told People. "She had a massive stroke."

    Lawrence said that at the time of her death, McClanahan "had her family with her. She went in peace."

    Earlier this year, she had a minor stroke while recovering from bypass surgery.

    The voice of Scarlett on the 1997 Fox Christmas special Annabelle's Wish, she was Grandma on the Blue's Clues video Blue's Big Treasure Hunt (1999).

    In the 1994 Spider-Man: The Animated Series episode Doctor Octopus: Armed And Dangerous, she was Anastasia Hardy. The 2007 King of the Hill episode Hair Today, Gone Today cast her as Bunny.

    Golden Girls first aired from 1985 to 1992 and remains in syndication. She won the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series in 1987.

    One of McClanahan's co-stars, Estelle Getty, died in 2008; Beatrice Arthur died from cancer last year. The last of the Golden Girls, 88-year-old Betty White, has made a remarkable career comeback and recently hosted Saturday Night Live.

    She was born Eddi Rue McClanahan in Healdton, Oklahoma on February 21, 1934. Her father, a road builder, moved between various projects, and she lived in six towns by the time she was 8.

    After four years at the University of Tulsa, McClanahan moved to New York, working part-time as a part-time file clerk while seeking theatrical jobs.

    Finding her first professional theatrical work off-Broadway in 1957, she reached Broadway in 1969.

    McClanahan appeared on TV soap operas until she was seen on CBS's Maude, starring Arthur, in 1972. She was Maude's best friend Vivian.

    She had six husbands, including actor Morrow Wilson, whom she married in 1997. She is survived by Wilson as well as by a son, Mark Bish, from her first marriage.

    "I've always been lucky enough to marry good cooks," McClanahan told People in 1986.

    "One cooked Greek. One cooked Tex-Mex -- chili and stuff." She added with a laugh, "True, one needed a recipe to make a peanut butter sandwich..."

    Radio jock, toon voice Robert O. Smith dies at 67

    Zany Northwest radio personality Robert O. Smith, a voice actor on numerous anime and other cartoon series, died early Tuesday of pancreatic and liver cancer, children Justine Wintersmith and Zach Monroe announced on the blog of "Thorndike Pickledish," one of Smith's many alter egos. He was 67.

    Heard on many Seattle and Vancouver-area stations, Smith was also known on the air and on novelty recordings as The Masked Avocado, Dr. Zingrr, and Walter Wart the Freaky Frog. A number of his discs (such as "Sinister Lunchmeat") were played -- sometimes several times -- on The Dr. Demento Show.

    Smith's regular voice roles in TV series included Bernie, Buck, Cuddles and The Doctor in The Adventures of T-Rex (1992), Manx and Sanctifur in Billy The Cat (1994), Sagat in Street Fighter: The Animated Series (1997), Sparkle in Pocket Dragon Adventures (1998), and Soundwave in Transformers: Cybertron (2005). He was in the voice casts of several episodes of Mary-Kate and Ashley in Action! (2002) and Gadget and the Gadgetinis (2003).

    He guested in Madeline (1990) as Alfred Hamhock in "Madeline's Tea Party" and Sabrina the Animated Series (1999) as Dr. Mixer in "Witchery Science Theater."

    He portrayed Dr. Sevenbrains and the Taxidermy Representative in the 1997 animated film The Fearless Four. He was Yorick in Monster Mash, a 1999 direct-to-video animated special.

    Among his roles in anime series were Kyoko's Father in Mezon Ikkoku (1986); Genma Saotome, Sasuke Sarugakure and the Scroll Owner in Ranma 1/2 (1993); the Old Man in Green Legend Ran (1994); and Gravity Man in MegaMan: NT Warrior (2001) and MegaMan: NT Warrior AXESS (2003).

    His anime feature films included Dragon Ball: Curse of the Blood Rubies (1986), Ranma ½: The Movie, Big Trouble in Nekonron, China and Ranma ½: Nihao My Concubine (both 1992), and Fatal Fury: The Motion Picture and Ranma ½: One Grew Over the Kuno's Nest (1994). In addition, he had many voice roles in English-language dubs of original video animations.

    Smith made several of what he called "bizarre, zany and outrageous" animations using only a mouse and software, ad libbing a voice track. He sold two, "Like a Wormhole" and "Coffee Fi Fi," to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's ZeD TV show, which airs weird videos. They aired under his nom de comedy Thorndike Pickledish.

    Although he had been in physical pain lately, he had made it through recent voice sessions on Vancouver station CKNW. He had also worked at KJR, KOL, KVI, KIXI-FM in Seattle, Tacoma's KTAC, CFMI-FM Vancouver and CISL Richmond, British Columbia, and CKMA in Abbotsford, British Columbia.

    Famed for his ability to do hundreds of different voices, he once created 20 of them for a single radio spot. After living in the Seattle area, he settled in Vancouver.

    Smith held numerous records in the masters division of weightlifting competitions, calling himself "Bench Bozo." A bench-presser until shortly before his death, he had a 578.5-pound official lift.

    What did his middle "O" stand for? Smith kept his full middle name a secret to all but close family members; apparently, it was a peculiar family name, said his daughter, who knows what it was. However, he once claimed in a Vancouver newspaper interview that he was just plain Robert Smith, and that he added the "O" just to differentiate himself from all the other Robert Smiths.

    "His wishes were simple -- no public memorial, no digital gold-plated turbo-casket with fine cordovan leather interior and motion-activated whirling Mercedes-Benz hood ornament," his children said. "He requested cremation and a celebration of life among his closest friends."

    They added: "If you would honor him, keep on doing what you do -- bench with the best of your ability and passion, striving ever toward bigger and better lifts, or create art and sound, inspired by his memory. We will keep that memory alive and continue to update Bench Bozo and All Hail Thorndike Pickledish, sharing images and his original drawings from a lifetime dedicated to lifting and creativity. Our thanks to all who knew, loved, and shared that dedication with him. We will love and miss him always."

    His son is a Seattle resident and freelance voice and visual artist.

    Extra Virgin Olive Oyl

    First Popeye was selected to front a sex shop in Tokyo. Now, who better to represent a line of products using Extra Virgin Olive Oil than… the extra virginal Olive Oyl.

    Reader John Hall sent in this new character merchandising find:

    I was traveling through the Nashville, Tennessee area yesterday and found a bag of Olive Oyl Popped Corn at a local grocery store. The bag has 3 nice drawings of Olive on the bag that look like artwork from the early ’40s Fleisher cartoons. Also on the back is a nice trademark showing the whole Popeye clan with a 2009 King Features copyright. Here are some photos of the used bag (click thumbnails below to enlarge). Oh, and the popcorn is pretty good.

    (Thanks Cartoon Brew)

    A Lost Fleischer Cartoon

    I have friends in the stock footage business. They buy large libraries of old 16mm movies by the ton (usually home movies, travelogues and educational films) and every once in a while, while digitizing and archiving their latest acquisitions, they come across an animated film they cannot quite identify. When that happens they usually send it to me to examine.

    This past weekend I screened one of those films and it’s a real mystery. It’s not a particularly great cartoon, but its quite an exciting find. Watching it conjured more questions than answers. But one thing’s for sure: It’s an undocumented product of the Miami Fleischer studio. I’m posting it in hopes that others may have more clues to explain its existence - and its 70 year absence from any animation reference.

    The Vacationer’s Paradise is apparently part of a proposed series called Traveltoons. It’s sort of an animated travelogue - not unlike what Famous Studios would base their later 1940s series of Screen Songs (like The Sunshine State or The Golden State).

    First off, notice the title lettering done by that mysterious Fleischer/Famous studio calligrapher, whom I’m a big fan of. Next note “Mrs. Doe” - a character design that answers the burning question of what happened to Betty Boop after she retired and moved to Miami.

    Could this have been a pilot for a new series of Fleischer cartoons? Was material created for this series later recycled in the Famous Screen Songs? Could this possibly be the first Famous Studios cartoon? A “blackout” reference certainly places it in either late 1941 or 1942. Note it’s really more of a film about Florida etiquette than Florida tourism. Perhaps it was created for a Miami Visitor’s Bureau?

    Was the film perhaps a contractual obligation of the studio, produced for the Miami Chamber of Commerce, as part of Fleischer’s deal to re-locate to Miami? Why does the film feel so cheap? Why the absence of music in the main body of the film? Why are their no credits whatsoever? Note the voice of Jack Mercer among the background voices. Note the narrator may be Charles Irving, who voiced many of the later travelogue Screen Songs.

    Bob Jaques believes that the man in the live action footage to be animator Tom Johnson. Did Johnson direct the film? Was this done by a group of ex-Fleischer artists as a sample film, perhaps to start their own Miami studio after Paramount took over Fleischers? And yet, there is a fair amount of live action and animation material, which leads me to believe this was done under Max or Dave Fleischer’s watch.

    Lots of questions, no answers… but we have the film.

    What do you think?

    (Thanks Cartoon Brew)

    Salesman Pete Trailer

    French animation students—yes, students—continue to push the envelope for cel-shaded CG animation more than anybody else within the industry. This trailer for Salesman Pete is the latest example (and among the finest) that I’ve seen from a technique standpoint. It also puts to shame the bland indistinguishable visual styling that dominates all mainstream computer animated features nowadays.

    The film’s directors Anthony Vivien, Marc Bouyer, and Max Loubaresse point out emphatically on their Vimeo page that “WE ARE NOT from Supinfocom, in fact we left our school before our last year in order to make this short our own way.” Now this is the kind of dropping-out that I can get behind, but I’m really curious to learn the full story about why such a production wasn’t possible at their school Supinfocom. The have a Salesman Pete production blog with pre-production artwork from their film.

    (Thanks, Dan Pinto and via Drawn)

    (Thanks Cartoon Brew)

    Andrea Romano on "Batman: Under the Red Hood"

    Warner Bros. Animation has released a new interview linked to the upcoming direct-to-DVD feature Batman: Under the Red Hood. This time, fans can hear from long-time Batman voice director Andrea Romano.

    The full press release interview follows. Click any image to enlarge.

    Andrea Romano Finds the Perfect Blend of Voice and Character for Batman: Under the Red Hood

    Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek) provides the voice of Batman, under the dialogue direction of Andrea Romano for Batman: Under the Red Hood, The film will be distributed July 27, 2010 by Warner Home Video. (Photo courtesy of Gary Miereanu)

    Few individuals understand the intricacies of the voice of Batman better than Andrea Romano.

    Arguably the top animation voiceover director in the business today, Romano has been instrumental in orchestrating the vocal tones behind the character’s non-live appearances for more than two decades. From Kevin Conroy and Rino Romano to Jeremy Sisto and William Baldwin, Romano knows precisely what voice will best fit the tones of a particular story or series.

    Enter Batman: Under the Red Hood and all of its deep, emotional undertones. Romano has outdone herself once again, balancing the veteran acting chops of Bruce Greenwood as Batman with the youthful, pained intonations of Jensen Ackles as Red Hood, and tossing in Neil Patrick Harris as Nightwing for humorous resonance.

    All in a days work for Romano, who recruits the best in the business – winners of Oscars, Emmys and Tonys alike – to provide the voices behind some of the world’s best known super heroes for the DC Universe Animated Original Movies.

    Romano’s voiceover casting/direction resume spans more than a quarter century, covering the genre gamut from action (Batman: The Animated Series) to humor (Animaniacs) and contemporary (The Boondocks) to timeless (Smurfs). The eight-time Emmy Award winner (along with more than 30 nominations) is a star in her own right, earning the respect of her peers and the adoration of legions of animation fans. One need only witness the reaction to her introduction at a Con to understand that voiceover work is no longer an anonymous profession.

    Batman: Under the Red Hood is the next entry in the popular ongoing series of DC Universe Animated Original PG-13 Movies from Warner Premiere, DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation. The full-length film will be distributed by Warner Home Video on July 27, 2010 as a Special Edition version on Blu-Ray™ and 2-disc DVD, as well as being available on single disc DVD, On Demand and for Download.

    Romano took a few minutes to offer her perspective on the voices of Batman: Under the Red Hood. Here’s what she had to say:

    Bruce Greenwood provides the voice of Batman in Batman: Under the Red Hood.

    QUESTION: Let’s take the cast one member at a time. What made Bruce Greenwood right for the role of Batman in this particular film?

    One of the coolest finds of this past year for me was Bruce. I’ve seen so much of his work over the years, and he can do so many things so convincingly. I knew I’d have to offer him a big role. Something with meat. And I knew he would really sink his teeth into the material and make it his own. I don’t need to tell you what a wonderful actor he is – but for this film, he gives a terrific, sensitive performance. This is the most tortured we’ve ever seen of Batman and, without overplaying it, Bruce really showed us a lot of the guilt and issues Batman has in his luggage. It’s an exhaustive, emotional piece, and he carried it perfectly.

    QUESTION: How did Jensen Ackles perform in his maiden voyage in animation?

    When you get a first-timer in the booth, there are often risks involved, particularly in understanding the techniques involved in working with the microphone. Jensen picked it up so quickly and was so effective in this very difficult role. Red Hood is written as such an embittered, angry, verging-on-insane character, and it can so easily be overplayed. But Jensen found just the right level of energy and flair. I loved his acting. His quality was dead-on, and he really offers a perfect balance with Bruce (Greenwood).

    As a director, you live the emotions with the actor. There’s one scene where Jensen has to let his emotions completely bubble to the surface. I had to work really hard to see my script through the tears that I was crying with him as he let his emotions come through.

    QUESTION: Who better than Neil Patrick Harris to break up all the emotional drama of this film?

    Who doesn’t love Neil Patrick Harris? He’s charming, talented, friendly, and remembers everyone he works with. He can sing and dance, not that I need that talent for Red Hood (she laughs). And in this instance, he did the unthinkable – he came to record for us on his way to the airport as he was going to New York to host the Tony Awards. Nightwing really does give a comic balance to this intense story, and Neil brought that spunky, funny instinct to the character with his usual effortless performance. He’s completely believable whether he’s doing drama or comedy, and he really added to this film. If I could, I would use Neil on every single project I do.

    QUESTION: Jason Isaacs is such a nice guy. Why’d you have to make him play a villain again?

    Wade Williams (Prison Break) provides the voice of Black Mask in Batman: Under the Red Hood.

    ANDREA ROMANO: Jason Isaacs is a delight. And you’re right (she laughs) – nice guys sometimes make the best villains. I’ve worked with Jason several times, and he’s absolutely fantastic. For Ra’s, I needed something slightly exotic. He’s a great, unusual character, but we had to fight against him getting too cartoony – and I knew Jason had the chops. He’s also a wonderfully intelligent actor – during the recording session, he had so many ideas, and would so respectfully suggest them to Bruce (Timm) and I – and I honestly don’t know that there was one we didn’t use. He helped edit the copy, he added beats where we didn’t even see them, and really nuanced the performance.

    QUESTION: The Joker has had some very memorable live-action and animated performances from some notable performers. How did John DiMaggio fit into that legacy?

    If I weren’t in love with my husband, it would be John. He’s such a versatile, talented voiceover actor. The Joker is such an intense character, and I knew I needed somebody with great range – and John was delighted to come in and play, and he gave it some beautiful new twists. Because he has such a deep gravely voice, and he’s good at comedy, and he’s a good actor, I knew John already had covered most of the points of the Joker. But I didn’t want a light, thin reedy voice, I wanted a voice with some mass to it. That’s John.

    QUESTION: You’ve placed Vincent and Alex Martella as the Young and Younger Robin voices. Had you ever cast brothers in the same film?

    This is the first time I’ve ever cast brothers in the same film. I was familiar with Vincent’s work and had been looking for something for him, and this was a great, interesting opportunity because I needed to cast the younger version of this character at two different ages. Vincent has a younger brother named Alex, who has only just begun in the industry, but because siblings tend to have very similar qualities to their voices, it was kind of a no-brainer to cast his younger brother as his younger self. And they were terrific – Vincent was pure dynamite in his performance, and I actually think Alex learned from watching his older brother record before him.

    What really surprised me was in their attention to detail. They had to set up this character’s life for another actor that they weren’t even going to act in the same room with, and I thought the transitions were seamless.

    Jensen Ackles (Supernatural) provides the voice of Red Hood in Batman: Under the Red Hood.

    QUESTION: What set this cast apart from the first seven DC Universe films?

    Each one of these actors had something to bring to the party above and beyond what was required of them. They had questions, they had input, they had ideas and, because the piece is so adult, complex, intense and dark, they knew they weren’t coming in to play The Smurfs. In order to make sure they were in the right head space and had the right tone, they asked a lot of questions. And that’s always a good sign. When the actors are that involved with their characters and the story, that challenges Bruce (Timm) and I to truly think through everything even more thoroughly, and then it becomes a much more collaborative effort. I’m not above telling an actor how to read a line. But I’d prefer that the actor comes up with the idea himself and I’m able to just tweak things here and there. We all need a challenge, something that keeps us on our toes, and recording this film was one of those experiences. A very, very positive experience.

    For more information, images and updates, please visit the film’s official website at

    (Thanks Toon Zone)

    The Hub/ Hasbro

    I trucked over to the fabled Starz Media building next to Bob Hope Non-International Airport this p.m., and I'm happy to report that The Hub and Hasbro have now (finally) moved in.

    And who the hey are Hasbro and The Hub? As the L.A. Times reported five months ago:

    Cable programming giant Discovery Communications and Hasbro Inc., ...are teaming up to launch a kids channel ... calling the network "The Hub." ...

    The Hub will target primarily the 6-12 age demographic ... taking over the channel space that was occupied by Discovery Kids and will launch in roughly 60-million homes in the fall. There has been concern from children's advocacy groups that the connection with Hasbro will mean the channel will be focused more on selling toys than in enlightening children ..

    Selling TOYS?! Who would have thought?

    But the part of the building formerly occupied by King of the Hill has had a big-time makeover. Where once there was a large, dark, meandering space with musty cubicles, there is now a reception area with leather couches. Nice, glassed-in conference room. And off through double glass doors, a whole bunch of new animation cubes with lights and desks that haven't (for the most part) been occupied yet.

    Upstairs, The Simpsons studio is quiet, with lots of artists out on hiatus, other artists just back from hiatus. One returnee told me that one of the leads who's been with the show almost from Day One has decamped for another studio.

    "Blank decided the writing was on the wall and went off to Disney. He thinks the show's on its last legs and it's better to get out now than wait around for the end ..."

    I replied that I think the Yellow Family has another 2-3 seasons in it because the ratings still hold up and if Fox pulls the plug the money machine will slow down faster. I also predicted that there are at least two more Simpsons features in our movie-going future, as Fox isn't going to abandon any profit centers if it can help it.

    As my predictive powers are strong and flawless, I'm sure that all these things will come to pass.

    (Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

    The Permanence of Three Dee -- Part XVIII

    The Wall Street Journal speaks:

    Katzenberg Says 3-D Is Great -- Except When It's Not

    Yeah, it's a smart-ass headline, but the video at the link is interesting. Jeffrey reiterates what he's said before, but he's still more right than wrong.

    3-D is going to be marching on to greater acceptance and glory. The conglomerates smell big bucks. And Sony, Samsung and the rest know a pricey, profitable new viewing platform when they see it.

    So get used to the brave new multi-dimensional world of movies and teevee.

    (Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

    Exclusive 'Scott Pilgrim' And 'The Last Airbender' Clips To Air During MTV Movie Awards Pre-Show!

    The 2010 MTV Movie Awards kick off this Sunday, June 6, at 9 PM EST — but you should tune in an hour early if you want to catch some new footage from "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World" and "The Last Airbender."

    Yes, you heard it here first, folks: MTV will bring you some exclusive, new footage from the two upcoming films by directors Edgar Wright and M. Night Shyamalan during the Movie Awards Pre-Show, which begins at 8 PM EST.

    If you've been following along at home, you know that Wright's "Pilgrim" movie is based on the celebrated Oni Press series by Bryan Lee O'Malley, and stars Michael Cera as a slacker musician who must battle his new girlfriend's seven evil-exes to win her heart.

    Shyamalan's "Airbender" is a live-action take on the wildly popular Nickelodeon animated series, and follows a hero's quest to save the world from warring tribes that wield the elements in a battle for supremacy.

    Remember: Tune in at 8 PM EST for exclusive sneak peeks at "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World" and "The Last Airbender" on MTV!

    First 'Thor' Costume Images?

    Yesterday, we got a look at some images that might be Captain America's costume in the upcoming Marvel Studios movie, and now it looks like some images of Thor's costume — Mjolnir and all — might have also found their way online.

    While this isn't our first peek at Chris Hemsworth as Thor, the art (which is entirely unofficial and unconfirmed at this point, so keep that in mind) does offer a cool, full-body shot of Marvel's god of thunder. The image also features a nice look at Mjolnir — though it might be old news for anyone who's been paying close attention to the more spoilery corners of the Marvel movie universe lately.

    If nothing else, the images (which should probably be considered "fan art" until we hear otherwise) continue to present a look clearly influenced by the recent mainstream "Thor" comics by J. Michael Straczynski and Olivier Coipel

    Here's one of the images, and you can find a pair of them over at Collider, where they first surfaced:

    What sci-fi films would be like with their original casts

    Kurt Russell in Star Wars? O.J. Simpson in The Terminator? George Clooney in Hancock? Coulda happened. We've only been able to imagine what some of these movies would have been like if they'd been filmed with their original casts—until now.

    wildammo mocked up 17 movie posters reflecting that original casting—and since we know you don't really care whether Jim Carrey might have appeared in Meet the Parents, we're plucked out our sci-fi favorites.

    And it turns out that great minds think alike—as moviefone showed us when it did something similar last month.

    Christopher Nolan Talks Batman 3 And Superman

    In the latest issue of Empire Magazine, Nolan talks a bit about what inspired him to get involved with the latest incarnation of Superman, as well as his thought process on moving on to Batman 3 after TDK..

    In this months issue of Empire, Christopher Nolan talks about his latest movie Inception. But he also briefly mentions his much discussed but rarely quoted involvement with the Superman reboot as well as a chat he had with David Goyer when they were trying to figure out where to go after The Dark Knight.

    He doesn't go into too much detail, and no plot details are revealed, but its nice to hear the notoriously tight lipped director talk about these much anticipated projects...

    "..What it is, while David Goyer and myself were putting together the story for another Batman film a few years ago, you know thrashing out where we might move on from the Dark Knight, we got stuck. We were just sitting there idly chatting and he said ”by the way, I think I know how you should approach Superman".. and he told me his take on it. I thought it was really tremendous. It was the first time I’ve been able to conceive of how you’d address Superman in a modern context I thought it was a really exciting idea. What you have to remember about Batman and Superman is that what makes them the best superhero characters there are, the most beloved after all this time, is the essence of who they were when they were created, when they were first developed. You can’t move too far away from that."

    Nice to hear that Nolan thinks the characters should remain mostly true to their origins. Does that mean we will have to see Supes' exodus from Krypton again? Maybe. But hey, I can live with that as long as we have another villain instead or as well as Lex this time around. Also, the fact that he is so heavily involved in Superman and directing the next Batman really gives hope to an eventual cross over I think.

    (Thanks Comic Book Movie)
              I've come around        
    Hey, good morning! I have a recipe for you! It’s from a couple of months ago, as are these photos. We have so much to catch up on. Honestly, I’m feeling a little stressed about that. You know what I’d really, really like? How about, rather than hanging around the ol’ blog today, you all just come on over for breakfast? It’s early still. You could totally make it. Our table is really quite large, and it’s square, not long and skinny, so we’d all be able to see each other as we chat, and eat, and catch up. Mia will be there, so you could see for yourselves how she counts to 15, and eats more blueberries in a single sitting than most humans I know. You would also see hair! On her head! (Finally.) She’s a grown-up baby now.

    This kid turned twenty-two months last week. Let me tell you something about life with a twenty-two month old: It is wonderful. No offense to floppy little newborn Mia, or squishywishy six-to-twelve-month-old Mia, but talky, toddle-y, twenty-two-month-old Mia, who narrates aloud her every move, takes her ice crushed, her socks purple, and won’t, under any circumstance, let the pigeon drive the bus… You guys: I LOVE THIS GIRL. (“Yeah,” she said, when I told her so this morning. “So much.”  I could slur