Macro Photo – A Study in Scarlet Wine Dregs

Don’t be alarmed! This isn’t a photo of blood, but I did think it was interesting that the quotation below discusses scarlet, and in this photo the scarlet ran over a colourless object. No more clues – what is this a photo of?

There’s the scarlet thread of murder running through the colourless skein of life, and our duty is to unravel it, and isolate it, and expose every inch of it.
– Holmes, in “A Study in Scarlet”, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The photo is a close up look at dried wine in the bottom of a wine glass!

Quotes about Wine: From the Vintners Cellar

Who was Al Capp and What is a Shmoo

Sun and shadow slice across the kitchen wall. The pillar above the sink is decorated with a figure called a Shmoo. Below it is a set of moose measuring spoons.

The Shmoo was a fictional animal created by Al Capp (not Andy Capp!) in 1948 for his classic comic strip, Li’l Abner. The Shmoo required no food itself, but was a perfect source of food for humans. It was a prolific breeder, so there were always enough of them to go around.  Shmoos didn’t need any care. They dropped dead with just a glance from anyone who was hungry. In addition to being food, they could become just about any other product a person wanted.

Can you imagine the fate of mankind in a world where everything is free and readily available? Can you imagine the fate of the Shmoo?

Arizona – A Visit to Never Never Land and Javelinas

For the past 10 days The Car Guy and I have been Canadian Snow Birds. Yes, we packed up shorts and sun tan lotion and headed south to a place where snow flakes rarely fall – Phoenix Arizona. We have a few friends there, several who like us well enough to invite us to stay in their home. So stay we did – 5 days with some fellow Canadians, and 5 days with an American couple we met in the Middle East.

We enjoyed ourselves immensely, which made us wonder how we could stay there for several months a year. We made some mental calculations. How many friends would we have to have if we wanted to stay as guests  in their homes (as opposed to buying a house or hauling a honking big RV down south each year?) There were too many variables to come up with an exact number, but it appeared that 5 days was about the maximum we could expect to be welcome before the host ran out of wine and beer and the towels needed changing.  So, let’s say we moved to a new home every 5 days, and let’s say we planned on staying south of the border for about 4 months (and let’s say each month has 30 days, just to keep the arithmetic simple). That means we need to have 24 friends.

The 24 Friends who live in Arizona Plan is no more likely to happen than my 52 Friends who live all Around the World Plan. So we ended up back where we have been many times before – a discussion about a combination of staying with friends, buying some more timeshares, and/or a mobile domicile of some sort. We have never seriously considered buying a house there, though. Note the word ‘never’. Never is a word you should never, under any circumstances, say out loud. It will come back to bite you every time.

Our Arizona-Canadian friends, who also don’t have 24 friends who they could stay with, have bought a winter house outside of Phoenix. The second evening we were there, a family of Javelina strolled through the back yard. Dad, Mom, a couple of little Javelina kids. I didn’t get a very good picture, but I have good memories of the warm evening air and the lovely dinner on the outside patio, (and the wine and the beer). That night we watched the stars from the comfort of our lounge chairs.

The next morning our host picked a bucket full of oranges off one of his fruit trees. He made them into juice which accompanied our breakfasts on the patio.

Many of the prickly plants (which all plants seem to be to a greater or lesser degree) were blooming. On the day before we were leaving, the Echinopsis finally opened. What a huge trumpet shape flower!

But – getting back to Never. We were never going to buy a home in this Never Never Desert Land. But a respite from a long Canadian winter looks more and more attractive as the years tick by, and we are, by nature, people who like to have a roof over our heads that we can call our home. We returned to Canada with a list of housing options, and the willingness to open the door to the thought that we would like to be Snowbirds. It wasn’t all that hard to think this change is a good thing, because when we got home, it started to snow again.

Lily Spots – Macro Monday

Humor is a social lubricant that helps us get over some of the bad spots.
– Steve Allen


On the whole, spots are not looked upon kindly. Blind spots, the wrong spot, skin spots, eye floaters, water spots, age spots, trouble spots – the list goes on and on.

There are lots of pleasant spots, though, and the ones in this photo are a good example. Where would you find these spots? I found them inside a yellow lily!

Goldfield Arizona – Where History Comes Alive

ghost town buildings cactusGoldfield Arizona was an active community in the mid 1890’s. Today it is a Ghost Town, full of beautifully old things. It is even possible that the Saguaro cactus in the middle of the photo is almost as old as the town.

The theme of the WordPress Photo challenge this week was Two Subjects. Which two subjects are your favourites in the photo above?

Here are a few more photos taken in Goldfield:

Visiting Cards – Yesterday and Today

All visiting cards are engraved on white unglazed bristol board, which may be of medium thickness or thin, as one fancies.
Etiquette absolutely demands that one leave a card within a few days after taking a first meal in a lady’s house; or if one has for the first time been invited to lunch or dine with strangers, it is inexcusably rude not to leave a card upon them, whether one accepted the invitation or not.
– Emily Post (1872 or 1873 to1960). Etiquette. 1922 –

antique Copp's Fine LinenThese were my grandmother’s visiting cards. Emily Post would have approved.

Fast forward eighty years or so, and internet visitors can leave Visiting Cards too. These ‘cards’ are computer generated graphics and they are generally called Avatars or Gravatars (Globally Recognized Avatar). You don’t have to be a blogger to have a Gravatar. Anyone can associate one to the email address they use when they leave comments on blogs.

Many people use their photograph for their Gravatar. There are good reasons to do this, particularly if you want to build a brand based on your persona. I sometimes chose to use a graphic rather than a photo. I thought this image captured me, but in an exaggerated way – the grey hair is too curly and I would certainly never sit in my comfy chair with a whole box of chocolates at my fingertips. I keep the box in the closet, and I get out of my chair and go get each and every chocolate, one at a time. (This would be a wonderful way to burn calories if the closet was several miles up the road.)

I also encourage all women to abandon hair dye and “Go Grey, Girl!”  (Just think of all the chocolates you can buy with the money you save.)

I’ve seen a few photos of Emily Post, but I can’t determine if she ever let her hair go grey. In her day, was it as appropriate for women to go grey as it was for men? Was grey hair a sign of maturity and stability for both sexes? Why isn’t it that way now?

Magpies – Rats with Wings

Norway Rats are one of the most destructive creatures known to man. Fortunately, the Province of Alberta is one of the few place in the world that does NOT have any rats.  What it does have are Magpies (Pica  hudsonia), which some people refer to as Rats with Wings.  A member of the crow family, they are scavengers that will eat just about anything. But much can be forgiven of them because they do not come close to being as despicable as a Rat, no matter what the movie Ratatouille might have you think.


Magpies are both beautiful and comical birds with their black and white tuxedo like coat and long iridescent tails. But their raucous voice and irritating habit of harassing me when I walk in the woods – they make me less than thrilled to have them live nearby.


They don’t migrate either. All winter long they leave their little forked foot prints all over the snow – reminders that they are still in town, and will be arriving any moment to scold me for being present in their world.

The Feather Files
Name: Black-billed Magpie
Species: Pica hudsonia
Native to and Migration: Resident, with some regional winter movements
Date Seen: April, 2012
Location: North of Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Moose Tracks in my Alberta Yard

AlbertaThis past winter a new set of tracks appeared on the edge of our woods – Moose. These tracks were made by several moose, likely travelling together.

Exciting, but moose can be very dangerous during certain times of the year. One of them has already challenged a car on the road out front, I hear.

I’m not too concerned about my personal safely, however. I have an early warning system – the chatty birds – Magpies. I’m not the only creature they harass! Owls, deer, coyotes, crows, fox, skunks – nothing slinks through these woods without being vocally assaulted by the magpies. All I have to do is listen carefully and I’ll know in advance if there is something I should be aware of.

AlbertaJust how big is a moose?  This is a close up shot of one of the tracks in the snow. The two little holes on the right side of the track are left by the animals dew claws which are two small extra toes that are situated a bit higher up the back of the leg. This track would be about 5 inches long.

The moose in the photo below is standing next to a fence that is 4 feet tall (and I am just over 5 feet tall) so you can understand why I would not want to be near a moose if it was having a bad day! I feel much safer with my trusty Magpies on full alert!

Case of the Disappearing Leg – Reality Sometimes Hurts

I don’t think I will become a fan of America’s Funniest Home Videos. I only watched the first few minutes of one of the shows and thought, what is so funny about incidents and accidents where someone gets their feelings or their body hurt? What kind of person would take videos of those types of things and then send them off to a TV show? For that matter, why do people watch this kind of thing and then laugh?

Of course, I’m feeling a bit touchy about an incident that might have been funny if Charlie Chaplin had done it for a movie, but wasn’t so funny when it happened to me. Let me set up the scenario for you – we have a set of stairs at the back of our property. Two risers and a landing. They go nowhere, but the landing is a wonderful place to stand when I want a panoramic view of sunrises or sunsets. Yesterday morning’s sunrise was not one that held promise, but I had seen The Fox trying to rustle up breakfast in the field and when the fox finally settled down in a depression just beyond our fence, I thought I could sneak down to the viewing platform to get a better look at it.

The fox was not inclined to oblige me and departed very quickly. I decided to take a photo of something anyhow, so I climbed up the stairs onto the landing. I took one quick photo, then turned to take a picture in the opposite direction.

The broken board that allowed the deck to swallow my leg.

That is when one of the deck boards gave way. My right leg went with it, stopping only when the bulk of the upper part of my thigh matched the width of the gap in the decking. Twenty two inches of my leg  disappeared from view.

I sat there in stunned silence for a few seconds, then started to take inventory. My leg hurt in two places. My left hip and right shoulder were hurting too. The camera was still in my right hand, and both were resting on the deck. My hand felt okay, but I didn’t know if the thump had damaged the camera.

With a bit of effort I retrieved my leg and limped down the stairs, then back into the house to survey the damage. I’m a Hurtin’ Albertan!

Later in the day I  looked at my sunrise photo. It was as uninspired as I predicted. So I loaded it into Photoshop Elements and played with the Lighting Levels. Once the sky and cloud colours matched the colours of the bruise on the back of my thigh, I was satisfied.