Sunday, April 12, 2015

My Wonderful Iris Afternoon

Spring is definitely here in Southern California! 
I had a wonderful ramble this afternoon at 
Wild Oak Farms in Yucaipa.
The farm, located in Live Oak Canyon,
is home to the gorgeous Iris Gardens!
I had a great visit with the owner and her faithful, 
gopher-patrolling sidekick!
The flowers are lovely.
 I had no idea how many varieties there were... 
And there are other gorgeous blooming plants 
in the ornamental garden!
I love this rose SO MUCH.
 So sweet!
 There were other visitors as well...
The iris season only lasts a month and a half...
so you locals need to get out to the farm 
and enjoy the riot of color and fragrance while it lasts! 
(Did I mention one of the iris varieties 
smells like jellybeans?!)
The irises can be visited (and purchased, along with
 many interesting drought-resistant plants) at
 32026 Live Oak Canyon Road
Hours are 8-5 through May 16th

Monday, November 24, 2014

Time Warp

So it appears our heroine was extremely lax in her blogging  for a whole YEAR! What? Practically unforgivable. Thank goodness she just happens to have a WAY BACK MACHINE  and some quarters! Hop on!
November 2013: Hubby challenged me to to try writing a romance novel for NaNoWriMo. I have nothing against romance novelists...but as he well knows, I make immature gagging sounds at the end of every movie where the last two people who survived the alien invasion/volcano eruption/sharknado/zombie apocalypse start kissing in new-found love while the freshly decapitated/partially eaten/melted by a ray gun/buried under rubble bodies of their friends and loved ones lie in the jungle/desert/ruins of NYC/alien landscape. Ew. Kissing. Gross. So the idea of writing a "love story" was yucky. But I am proud to say I did it! It's no Harlequin, but I really think the whole "nanny falls for rich troubled widower" scenario has been done to death, anyway. I might have strayed from true romance with the addition of talking animals. Dunno.

For the sake of saving quarters, let's see if I can just SHOW you a few flashback from the year:

Went to an awesome airshow!!

Had another birthday!

Worked alongside the experts during a
BioBlitz at the Petrified Forest National Park 
and got to catch critters!

Installed a hardwood floor in the bedroom! 
Oh, yeah, I did it myself!
(Hubby supervised and used the power tools)

Got a new car and shed a tear for the purple PT.  
I loved that ol' eggplant.

Gossiped with a big cat!

 Became very intrigued with fungus...
...because it's just so cool.

Discovered raccoons in my garden.

Watched these little guys hatch right outside the kitchen door.

Road trip to Utah with my Bro!

Enjoyed a few toasty fires with hubby.

Watched lizard porn.

Discovered purple carrots.

Had some Halloween fun.


Yup, October 2014 was all about finishing the edits on Hobo Annie Hits the Road, the Journals of Annie Howland (my pen name, for those of you who didn't know me as that already). Ten years worth of adventures, abroad and state-side. I wrote down everything I was experiencing in notebooks, so my hubby could share every unique experience. The journals helped me to feel less afraid and lonely in foreign lands and twelve years later, it seemed like a good idea to share them with the rest of the world. The book is now available on AMAZON!!

Present Day: We're back! Are you saddle-sore?
 I'm on Day 24 of a NEW NaNo Novel, and this one is all fantasy, baby. Talking animals, and magic, and lizards...not magic lizards, but, hey...they could be!
There. We're all up to date, and you didn't have to leave your chair. Unless you're viewing this on your phone, and in that case, sit down. You could run into a pole.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Dreaded Love Scene

Today is day 14 of National Novel Writing Month, know affectionately as "NaNoWriMo" unless it is Day 25 of your one month time-frame to write 50,000 words which point you may just be calling it the "thing I swore I wouldn't do again, lest I become a heavy drinker."
I was doing pretty good, until I reached day TEN. That was the day I had to write (she whispers) a SEX scene.
Yeah. My characters usually get strangled, poisoned, eaten by werewolves or this was new territory.
 I wanted this scene to be romantic (as romantic as a one-night/day/night stand can be) and passionate. Without using all those '-ing' words. I sweated a lot over this (no pun intended!), but when I was done...

 It was a little of this:

And a lot of this:

This, of course:


Whew! Glad that's over!

Ok, I'm off to the land of NaNoWriMo to wreak more havoc. 
I'm much better at pushing my characters off cliffs than into the sack together! 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Things I Miss About Halloween

We rarely get children at the door on All Hallow's Eve anymore. The packs of roaming vampires, ghosts, witches, and pillowcase-toting princesses vanished along with the era of homemade popcorn balls and plastic Wonder Woman masks, I guess. I miss them...the toddlers struggling to stay upright with their jack-o-lantern buckets while Mom waited at the end of the walk; the off-key, hopeful chorus of "Trick-or-Treat!" and an occasional giggled, "Smell my feet!" And the "too big for this anymore, but I have to drag my little sister around" teens in their makeshift costumes.They acted aloof until the candy bowl came out...and then they were little kids again, if only for one night. The last teens I had at my door were driving their own car down the street. They hopped out wearing jerseys and basketball shorts (hello--daytime clothing is not a costume), snatched double handfuls of candy and left me feeling like I'd been raided.

I dug up this ancient photo of (gulp) me and my puppy. Um, brother. Then I looked online at kid's costumes. Wow. Life ain't simple anymore. Watermelon fairy. Fallen angel (double comes with fishnets). Zomberina (tutu included). Prom Queen Corpse (no, I'm not kidding). Captain America "party suit". Zombie Skate Punk. Zombie Hunter. And my personal favorite, "Headless Boy".

Carved Jack-o-Lanterns

There is no feeling in the world like reaching into a pumpkin and scooping its brains out. Slimy seeds, sticky tendrils, and the earthy smell just screams Halloween. You cannot have a true jack-o-lantern experience with magic markers, store-bought stickers, or press-on Mr. Potato head features. (oh, the horror!) 

Real Vampires
In my day, vampires were fearsome, blood-sucking, creatures of the night. Not sexy, sparkly boyfriends. Although I admit that Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise had the sexy part down in Interview with the Vampire. But then they tore out your throat, so there you go. Vampires--evil.

Being a Kid
On Christmas, I am a kid. I have a stocking. It always contains a bit of nifty kid stuff. (Thanks to my husband, Santa) It's easy to feel like a child on Christmas.
Halloween, though, is different. That magical feel of being allowed to wander the neighborhood at dusk, jumping with fright at unexplained movements in the shadows, daring each other to approach the creepy scarecrow rocking in a front porch chair, screaming just for the excitement of it all. These things are lost to me an adult. (A grown woman in a french maid costume standing on the street corner...likely to get offered more than a bag of candy corn.)

So, I'll just carve my jack-o-lantern...and I'll leave the porch light on...and I'll have candy.
Maybe I'll get a visit from "Zombie Sock Monkey".
I seriously hope not.
I might have to scream.

Saturday, August 10, 2013


Every year, August lashes out in volcanic fury,

rising with the din of morning traffic,

its great metallic wings smashing against the ground, 
heating the air with ever-increasing intensity.
       Henry Rollins

 This August is no exception around here. Fires are burning their way up the mountains and the asphalt clutches at your shoes. It's a hot, dry month and the clouds are still smothered by summer's haze.
 Feels like the right time to sit in the shade and watch the birds indulge in their bath...

...and maybe share a little poem, inspired by these afternoon visitors!

Bird Bubbles

The tiny sparrows
gather on the rim
of my garden bath,
crowding together 
as they flutter about
in the sun-warmed water,
reveling in the simple
pleasure of the bath
until suddenly, as one,
they fall silent--
cocking their heads
as if to say
hey, who farted?

Monday, May 27, 2013

A Simple Thanks

To all those whose first act of bravery was putting pen to paper and saying, "I'm willing to sacrifice my life for my country." It matters not where you served, or for how long... I THANK YOU. 







For anyone whose hero didn't come home: 

their sacrifice - YOUR sacrifice - 
is NEVER forgotten.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Story of Lucky

This is the story of Lucky the hummingbird.
It is wondrous.
It is nerve-wracking.
It is sweet.
It is brave.
It is scary.
It is amazing.

Lucky hatched in a tiny nest high in our big-big tree. During the terrible winds of April, the branch broke and swung low, low over the driveway. The little nest was thrown sideways and nearly torn loose from its delicate moorings. Purely by chance, I found Lucky on the cement behind my car. I didn't run over him, or step on him. No cats found the tiny morsel of baby bird, and no ants had discovered him. He was ALIVE.

Bearwalker pulled out the ladder and righted the little nest on the branch. He put tiny Lucky back inside. I climbed onto the car roof and, using some waxed thread, tied the nest securely to the branch. We let go and the branch swayed again in the wind, tiny baby Lucky curled inside. Would Mama abandon him and the funny-looking nest? She was buzzing over us frantically. We watched from the kitchen window and waited.

Hooray! Not only did Mama come back, but she seemed unfazed by the mishap. Three weeks passed and the nest stayed put. If you look closely, you can see the bits of spiderweb that Mama began adding to secure the nest. Bet you didn't know hummingbirds did that. Anyway, on with the story. The little baby grew and grew, his tiny beak sticking out of the nest, as he constantly watched the sky for Mom.

Yesterday, Lucky climbed up onto the edge of the little nest. The wind was fierce again, and he clung to the rim, swaying and watching for Mom to buzz in with a bit of protein. Lucky was still fuzzy, so tiny, and we watched him with affection as he examined his big-big tree world.

Later in the day, I heard the unmistakable sound of a terrified and angry mother bird. I ran to the front yard and discovered, to my horror, a huge black crow sitting in the tree, eyeing the baby. Above him, a nest-robber Blue Jay schemed. Mama was fiercely buzzing both birds and chittering, trying to distract them from Lucky, who still sat exposed on his little nest. I yelled. I swung the broom. The crow left, and Mama chased the Blue Jay to another tree.

 Bearwalker watched the nest for an hour. No more invaders.  I relaxed, weeded the garden. I was returning to the house when I saw it - the crow, hanging from the little branch, bending it low...with Lucky in his big black beak. No. No! I ran at the crow, yelling, swinging my arms... fierce as any Mama. He dropped Lucky and flew off. I couldn't look. I was in tears. "He's dead!" I cried, as Bearwalker bent over the tiny body.
"No he isn't," he said, picking up Lucky. He's...why, he's fine!"

We couldn't put Lucky back in the nest, now that the crow knew he was an easy meal. We couldn't feed him like his Mom (hummer babies need a very specialized form of protein; sugar water can literally cripple them since it will halt their normal development). I searched the internet, looking for someone qualified to help our little Lucky, who was very contentedly nestled in Chloe's bird carrier in the kitchen, looking around with interested eyes. When we spoke to him, he hopped up on the edge of the carrier to peer out at us, unafraid.

Finally I found a phone number for the only licensed hummingbird rescue person for miles around. Miraculously, when she answered the phone I discovered she lived only a few blocks away from our house! She was thrilled Lucky had survived and took him in immediately, promising him a meal of special protein formula imported all the way from Germany. She told me she had another little guy of the same age for him to hang out with until they are both ready to be released.

So there you have it. The wondrous, nerve-wracking, sweet, brave, scary and amazing story of Lucky.

"Have you ever observed a hummingbird moving about in an aerial dance among the flowers--a living prismatic gem. It is a creature of such fairy-like loveliness as to mock all description."  
W.H. Hudson