Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year’s Resolutions? Who Needs Them...

As the cat sings in this video: New Year’s resolutions are made to be broken. Just don’t write them down.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Pictures Of The Year

What better way to highlight events that shaped the news in 2011 than with pictures. After all, they are worth a thousand words.

1 - A protester stands in front of a burning barricade during a demonstration in Cairo January 28, 2011.

2 – Transvestite Tiffany, 19, shows a scar of a knife attack in Tegucigalpa March 10, 2011. According to leaders of LGBT organizations (lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders), 34 people have been murdered in the last 18 months. The U.S. embassy and United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) have requested the government to investigate the murders and safeguard the rights of the LGBT community, local media reported.

3 - Vehicles belonging to forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi explode after an air strike by coalition forces, along a road between Benghazi and Ajdabiyah March 20, 2011.

4 - Ducks swim past a submerged vehicle after the earthquake and tsunami in Yamada town, Iwate Prefecture in northern Japan, March 24, 2011.

5 - A Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) soldier stands in line during a rehearsal of the Independence Day ceremony in Juba July 5, 2011.

6 - A man sets himself on fire outside a bank branch in Thessaloniki in northern Greece September 16, 2011. The 55-year old man had entered the bank and asked for a renegotiation of his overdue loan payments on his home and business, according to police, which he could not pay, but was refused by the bank.

7 - Villagers stand next to trees covered in spider webs in the flood affected areas of K.N. Shah, located near Dadu in Pakistan's Sindh province, December 7, 2010. The cocooned trees have been a side-effect of spiders escaping flood waters in the area. Although people in this part of Sindh have never witnessed this phenomenon, they report there are now less mosquitoes, thus reducing the risk of malaria.

8 - Divers of the Prefectura Naval Argentina inspect the Rio Limay covered with ash from Chile's Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcano chain at the mountain resort of San Carlos de Bariloche in Argentina's Patagonia June 16, 2011. Some towns in Argentina's Patagonia remain blanketed in volcanic ash. Airline activity is getting back to normal after days of chaos caused by a towering ash cloud, but Andean towns are covered in a thick, ashed blanket that is disrupting water and power supplies and raising fears over the key winter ski season that starts next month.

9 - A man wades in neck-deep water filled with debris while searching for valuable items after a fire razed some 500 houses along a coastal village in Malabon city, north of Manila April 7, 2011.

10 - A boy holds a flower during the funeral of 16-year-old Karina Ivette Delgado in Ciudad Juarez February 3, 2011. Delgado was killed in crossfire between suspected car thieves and federal agents, according to local media.

11 - Eight-year-old Sumayya, whose uncle, Imran Ali, was injured in a shootout by unidentified gunmen, looks at him as he is brought to a hospital for treatment in Karachi August 23, 2011.

12 - A baby gestures minutes after he was born inside the pediatric unit at hospital Escuela in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, October 21, 2011.

13 - A North Korean child suffering from malnutrition rests in a bed in a hospital in Haeju, capital of the area damaged by summer floods and typhoons in South Hwanghae province September 30, 2011.

14 - Two kitchen chairs are all that is left in a destroyed house as its foundation is prepared to be bulldozed following the May 22 tornado in Joplin on June 1, 2011.

15 - Homeless women look on during the baptism of former homeless alcoholic Sergei Ratov in a spring in the southern Russian city of Stavropol May 30, 2011. The Brotherhood of the Holy Spirit is a group of around 70 reformed alcoholics and drug users who have built a rehabilitation centre outside Stavropol, with the support of the Orthodox church.

16 - A newborn baby rests in a box, listening to music played through earphones in Saca Hospital in Kosice, east Slovakia May 25, 2011. The hospital uses music as therapy for newborn babies when they are separated from their mothers.

17 - Students in graduation robes stand on a stone bridge submerged underwater at the flooded Donghu Lake in Wuhan, Hubei province, China, June 21, 2011.

18 - A man in handcuffs cries as he says farewell to his son after he was arrested by the police on suspicion of drug dealing during a pre-dawn raid in an impoverished neighbourhood of Bangkok February 25, 2011. The Narcotics Suppression Bureau of Thai police said their aim in 2011 is to stop the expansion of narcotics problem in the country.

19 - Zukhro, an employee of the city zoo, walks with Vadik, an 18-month-old male lion, on the territory of the zoo in the capital Dushanbe, Tajikistan, January 20, 2011. Employees take the lion from its cage to have a promenade along the territory two times a week while holding a piece of meat to attract Vadik's attention so it walks nearby.

20 - Covered corpses are seen on the shore of the small, wooded island of Utoeya July 23, 2011, after a suspected right-wing Christian gunman in police uniform killed at least 70 people in a ferocious attack on a youth summer camp of Norway's ruling Labour party.

To see all the pictures (there are 100 in total), click here.

Sunny Side Up

“A new year is unfolding – like a blossom with petals curled tightly concealing the beauty within.”

This week’s smile is an inspirational New Year’s video.

Happy New Year to all my blogging friends, near and far...

Chlorophytum ‘Fire Flash’

If you are having trouble tracking down some decent information about this plant, you are not alone. The first obstacle to gathering proper data is the name confusion. You may find it listed as Chlorophytum orchidastrum, Chlorophytum amaniense, Chlorophytum amaniense ‘Fire Flash’, Chlorophytum orchidantheroides, Chlorophytum filipendulum amaniense (rarely) or simply Chlorophytum ‘Fire Flash’. Then there is the list of common names: Fire Flash (most popular), Mandarin Plant, Green Orange, Tangerine, Fire Glory and Sierra Leone Lily. And that’s just what I’ve been able to gather; there may be even more for all I know.

(In this article, I will refer to this Chlorophytum as ‘Fire Flash’)

The second obstacle is the differing information from web site to web site and from book to book. Of all the plant profiles I’ve ever written, I’ve had more trouble putting together care information for this multi-named plant than for any other. Usually my profiles are a blend of general advice and personal experience, but in this case, the general information has been a little more scattered than usual. So, this profile will be (mostly) based on hands-on care with just a sprinkling of information from my books and the internet.

Perhaps the confusion has to do with the fact that this native of Africa is fairly new to the market; from what I’ve been able to gather, the ‘Fire Flash’ made its way into the plant industry in the late 90s, which may not be long enough to come to a reasonable conclusion about its requirements, shortcomings and frustrating quirks (if there are any). In any case, everyone seems to agree that this plant has thus far proven to be an easy to grow, undemanding and relatively problem-free specimen - aside from the occasional black tips and patches that can develop on the leaves, which is mentioned further down.

Even though they look very different from one another, Chlorophytum ‘Fire Flash’ is a relative of Chlorophytum comosum, one of the most popular indoor plants that we all recognize as the ‘spider plant’. Bearing a beautiful rosette of broad and shiny dark green leaves that contrast with the bright orange petioles and midveins, ‘Fire Flash’ gives its well-known relative a run for its money; it’s undeniable that this new kid on the block is much more colourful and certainly more ornamental.

There are differing opinions on how much light this plant needs. Suggestions include: full shade, partial shade, bright light, bright but indirect light, some sun, filtered sun, no sun ever, medium light, low light and high light. Most of these terms are more confusing than anything else (what exactly is medium light?), and because there are so many recommendations, it’s difficult to determine exactly where this plant should go.

I believe that all the locations listed above are the right place to grow a ‘Fire Flash’ because light varies from home to home and is affected by so many other factors or obstacles. So here is my advice: place your ‘Fire Flash’ near a bright window, out of the direct path of sunlight, and watch for signs of approval or disapproval. If new leaves are small or there is little or no growth, your plant may not be receiving enough light; move it closer to the window or offer it filtered sun. If you do offer it some sun and the leaves become bleached or they develop black patches (this can be caused by other factors), it may be receiving too much light; move it to a shadier location. Unfortunately, you will need to experiment with this Chlorophytum to determine the best location for it.

Note: In terms of light, there are two things that I will not recommend: 1) very low light (the plant will tolerate it for quite some time and then it will begin to deteriorate) and 2) hot, midday sun (the leaves will eventually bleach and/or develop black patches)

‘Fire Flash’ has proven to be quite tolerant of over-watering and under-watering blunders, although I would not recommend that you make a chronic habit of either because sooner or later the plant will show signs of distress. Use a fast-draining, airy medium that retains some moisture without staying soggy. Keep it evenly moist during the active growing season from spring to early fall; reduce watering in the winter but do not allow the soil to dry out completely. If you do over or under-water occasionally, don’t fret; this plant will survive both blunders. Just be careful the next time.

This is an excellent choice for the hydroculture system. Wash the roots free of soil and pot up in the clay medium. Conversion is rapid and fairly painless. A leaf or two may be lost during the process but the plant handles the transition remarkably well. Once the plant settles into its new growing style, succulent water roots will develop within 3 – 4 weeks, possibly a little longer.

Although, under my care, the ‘Fire Flash’ has not made any major complaints when humidity levels are low, this does not mean that dry air is the preference; it may just be tolerable – for awhile. There is a wide range of opinions on just how much humidity this plant really needs. Although dry air seems to be handled fairly well, I would recommend average levels between 40 – 50 percent instead of the Sahara desert style ones of 20 – 30. Again, your plant will show signs of discontentment if it is unsatisfied; if the leaves develop brown or black leaf tips, increase humidity.

Average indoor temperatures are fine. Recommendations from many different sources range from 18°C (65°F) to 29°C (85°F), all of which seem to be acceptable. ‘Fire Flash’ will endure cooler levels, but exposure to very low temperatures should be limited. If the plant gets too cold, unsightly black patches will develop on the leaves and their tips. Feed once a month with a liquid fertilizer that is diluted to half strength. A weaker solution is wiser because over-feeding will also lead to black leaf tips and margins.

Occasionally wipe the leaves free of dust or give your plant a shower to keep it well-groomed. Remove dead or yellow leaves promptly and get rid of the inflorescence once it appears if you are not planning to use the seeds for propagation because it will compete for nutrients, which will delay new growth and may cause leaf chlorosis. Together with excessive light, improper feeding and low humidity, black leaf tips and margins may be caused by high concentrations of fluoride or sodium in the water. If you suspect that this is happening, you may want to consider switching to rain or distilled water.

A lot has been written about the care of this plant because it’s difficult to compress the diversity of information into a few short lines. Everyone has something to say, mainly based on their own personal experiences, which almost always differs in some way or another from person to person, home to home and business to business. Perhaps as time progresses, a general (and brief) opinion will emerge. For now, watch your plant for signs of contentment or discontentment, and adjust accordingly if need be. This beautiful plant is well worth the effort.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Tune Time - Auld Lang Syne

I couldn’t finish the holiday tunes without adding something for the New Year. This is a classic song that I’m sure most, if not all of you, recognize.

Today's Trivia – New Year

This week’s useless but interesting information is an assortment of New Year trivia...

- The celebration of the New Year is the oldest of all holidays. It was first observed in ancient Babylon about 4000 years ago. In the years around 2000 BC, the Babylonian New Year began with the first New Moon (actually the first visible crescent) after the Vernal Equinox (first day of spring).

- The beginning of spring is a logical time to start a new year. After all, it is the season of rebirth, of planting new crops, and of blossoming. January 1, on the other hand, has no astronomical or agricultural significance. It is purely arbitrary.

- The Babylonian New Year celebration lasted for eleven days. Each day had its own particular mode of celebration, but it is safe to say that modern New Year's Eve festivities pale in comparison.

- The Romans continued to observe the New Year in late March, but their calendar was continually tampered with by various emperors so that the calendar soon became out of synchronization with the sun.

- In order to set the calendar right, the Roman senate, in 153 BC, declared January 1 to be the beginning of the New Year. But tampering continued until Julius Caesar, in 46 BC, established what has come to be known as the Julian Calendar. It again established January 1 as the New Year. But in order to synchronize the calendar with the sun, Caesar had to let the previous year drag on for 445 days.

- Although in the first centuries AD the Romans continued celebrating the New Year, the early Catholic Church condemned the festivities as paganism. But as Christianity became more widespread, the early church began having its own religious observances concurrently with many of the pagan celebrations, and New Year's Day was no different. New Years is still observed as the Feast of Christ's Circumcision by some denominations.

- During the Middle Ages, the Church remained opposed to celebrating New Years. January 1 has been celebrated as a holiday by Western nations for only about the past 400 years.

- Traditions of the season include the making of New Year's resolutions. That tradition also dates back to the early Babylonians. Popular modern resolutions might include the promise to lose weight or quit smoking. The early Babylonian's most popular resolution was to return borrowed farm equipment.

- Although the early Christians denounced the practice as pagan, the popularity of the baby as a symbol of rebirth forced the Church to reevaluate its position. The Church finally allowed its members to celebrate the New Year with a baby, which was to symbolize the birth of the baby Jesus.

- The use of an image of a baby with a New Years banner as a symbolic representation of the new year was brought to early America by the Germans. They had used the effigy since the fourteenth century.

- It was once believed that the first visitor on New Year's Day would bring either good luck or bad luck the rest of the year. It was particularly lucky if that visitor happened to be a tall dark-haired man.

- One of the most venerable New Years traditions is the champagne toast at midnight to ring in the New Year. Toasting can be traced back to the ancient Romans and Greeks who would pour wine, to be shared among those attending a religious function, from a common pitcher. The host would drink first, to assure his guests that the wine was not poisoned. Poisoning the wine was a fairly common practice in ancient times, designed to do away with one's enemies. In those days the wine was not as refined as it is today so a square of burned bread (toast) would be floated in the wine bowl and then eaten by the last person to drink. The bread was put there to absorb the extra acidity of the wine in order to make it more palatable. Eventually, the act of drinking in unison came to be called a toast, from the act of "toasting" or putting toast into the wine.

- The song, "Auld Lang Syne," playing in the background, is sung at the stroke of midnight in almost every English-speaking country in the world to bring in the new year. At least partially written by Robert Burns in the 1700's, it was first published in 1796 after Burns' death. Early variations of the song were sung prior to 1700 and inspired Burns to produce the modern rendition. An old Scottish tune, "Auld Lang Syne" literally means "old long ago," or simply, “the good old days”.

New Year Rituals Around The World

- People in China celebrate this holiday for several days between January 17th and February 19th, at the time of the new moon. The Chinese called this time of feasting and celebrations Yuan Tan. Lanterns illuminate the streets as the Chinese use thousands of lanterns "to light the way" for the New Year.

- The Chinese believe that evil spirits roam the earth at the New Year, so they let off firecrackers to scare off the spirits and seal their windows and doors with paper to keep the evil demons out.

- In Scotland, the New Year is called Hogmanay. In the villages of Scotland, barrels of tar are set afire and then rolled down the streets. This ritual symbolizes that the old year is burned up and the new one is allowed to enter.

- New Year's Day is also the Festival of Saint Basil in Greece. Children leave their shoes by the fireside on New Year's Day with the hope that Saint Basil, who was famous for his kindness, will come and fill their shoes with gifts.

- The Jewish New Year is called Rosh Hashanah. It is a holy time when Jews recall the things they have done wrong in the past, and then promise to do better in the future. Special services are held in the synagogues, children are given new clothes and New Year loaves are baked to remind people of harvest time.

- Iran's New Year's Day, which is in March, celebrates not only the beginning of the New Year according to the solar calendar, but also bahar, "the beginning of spring."

- On New Year's Day in Japan, everyone gets dressed in their new clothes and homes are decorated with pine branches and bamboo--symbols of long life.

- In European countries such as Italy, Portugal and the Netherlands, families start the New Year by first attending church services. Afterwards, they visit friends and relatives. In Italy, boys and girls receive gifts of money on New Year's Day.

- The tradition of using a baby to signify the New Year was started around 600 B.C by the ancient Greeks, who, at the start of a year would carry a baby around in a basket. The purpose of it was to honor Dionysus, the God of Fertility and symbolize his annual rebirth.

- In Columbia, Cuba and Puerto Rico families stuff a life-sized male doll with things and then they dress it up in old clothes from each family member. At the stroke of midnight, this 'Mr. Old Year' is set on fire. This is done with the simple belief that a doll thus stuffed have bad memories or sadness associated with them, and that the burning of these will help one to do away with all past griefs and usher in happiness in life with the coming year.

- In Spain people eat 12 grapes as the clock strikes midnight (one each time the clock chimes) on New Year's Eve. This peculiar ritual originated in the twentieth century when freak weather conditions resulted in an unseasonable bumper harvest of grapes. Not able to decide what to do about so many grapes at Christmas time, the King of Spain and the grape growers came up with the idea of the New Year ritual. Now, if only this happened all around the world...

- Late on the evening of December 31, people of Japan would eat a bowl of buckwheat noodles called "toshikoshisoba" ("year-crossing noodles") and listen for the sound of the Buddhist temple bells, which were rung 108 times at midnight. The sound of these bells is said to purify the listeners of the 108 sins or evil passions that plague every human being.

- In Greece children leave their shoes by the fireside on New Year's Day (also the Festival of Saint Basil in Greece) with the hope that Saint Basil, who was famous for his kindness, will come and fill their shoes with gifts.

- In Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, and Mexico, those with hopes of traveling in the New Year carry a suitcase around the house at midnight. Some even carry it around the block to ensure traveling at greater distances.

- The first Ball Lowering celebration atop One Times Square was held on December 31, 1907 and is now a worldwide symbol of the turn of the New Year, seen via satellite by more than one billion people each year. The original New Year's Eve Ball weighed 700 pounds and was 5 feet in diameter. It was made of iron and wood and was decorated with 100 25-watt light bulbs.

- It was thought that one could affect the luck they would have throughout the coming year by what they did or ate on the first day of the year. It is still held in some regions that special New Year foods are the harbingers of luck. For that reason, the Dutch believe that eating donuts on New Year's Day will bring good fortune. The hog, and its meat, is considered lucky because it symbolizes prosperity. Cabbage is another "good luck" vegetable that is consumed on New Year's Day by many. Cabbage leaves are also considered a sign of prosperity, being representative of paper currency. In some regions, rice is a lucky food that is eaten on New Year's Day. The ancient Persians gave New Year's gifts of eggs, which symbolized productiveness.

- Many cultures believe that anything in the shape of a ring is good luck, because it symbolizes "coming full circle," completing a year's cycle.

- Many parts of the U.S. celebrate the New Year by consuming black-eyed peas. These legumes are typically accompanied by either hog jowls or ham. Black-eyed peas and other legumes have been considered good luck in many cultures.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Cranberry Apple Crisp

What better way to end the last Tasty Tuesday of 2011 than with a sweet recipe? This one can be eaten as a dessert or served alongside a main course. It's delicious - and low in fat!

Cranberry Apple Crisp



3 cups peeled, cored, sliced apples
2 cups fresh or frozen thawed cranberries
1 cup Equal® Spoonful*


1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup stick butter or margarine, melted
1/2 cup Equal® Spoonful** (Use regular sugar if you prefer)


For Filling, combine apples, cranberries and 1 cup Equal® in an ungreased 10-inch pie plate.

For Topping, combine flour, pecans, melted butter and 1/2 cup Equal®. Mix until well blended. Sprinkle flour mixture over apples and cranberries in pie plate.

Bake in preheated 350°F oven 55 to 60 minutes or until fruit is tender. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Source for recipe.

Monday, December 26, 2011


The World Begins Again On January 1, 2012

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background,
or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be
taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

- Nelson Mandela -

We’re just a few days away from wrapping up 2011. A few things have happened this past year; some of it good, some of it bad, some downright awful. But I’m still in one piece, albeit it a little banged up, and no matter what the year dished out, I made it. Life goes on, as we all know, and we go along with it.

The holidays can be a particularly difficult and stressful period for those dealing with grief, health issues, financial difficulties or any other situation that depletes and leaves one weary. And the wish I have for anyone who is facing any such struggle is that they find better days in 2012. More laughter and fewer tears. Good health and no ailments. More prosperity and less hardship. And every good thing that their heart and soul desires.

For all my fellow human beings, but especially for future generations, I hope and pray for the end of all our world’s troubles - war, famine, violence, poverty, slavery, drought, prejudice, terrorism, crime, oppression, disease, pollution, illiteracy, religious strife – and anything else that needs healing. I know it’s a very tall order, but we can hope for a better world. And certainly dream of one.

On January 1, 2012 the world begins again. Let’s do better.

A world of blessings to all of you for the upcoming year.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Greetings

Wishing you all a joyous day!

Beautiful Rudbeckia Blooms

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in,
where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”
- John Muir -

The beautiful Rudbeckia hirta 'Sonora'...

Aren’t the blooms amazing?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Maxine's Night Before Christmas

I just love Maxine!

Is it Christmas yet???

Monster Christmas Tree

Floyd and Maxine get more than they bargained for when they buy a "live" tree to decorate.

Poor Floyd...

It Was A Politically Correct Night Before Christmas

I just had to share this funny video.

Animals Of YouTube Sing "Deck The Halls"

I just had to squeeze in one more of these types of holiday videos. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

It’s almost Christmas!

Saturday Silliness

Here is another round of funny Christmas pictures...

Have a wonderful Christmas Eve, everyone!

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Very Furry Christmas – Part 2

Below is the second set of sweet Christmas photos (part 2 of 2) in furry form.

How sweet is this?

A very festive little dude.

Lots of gifts for a little kitty.

Very sweet looking kitten.

Another cute baby in a Santa hat.

If only they'd always get along like this.

Wherever there are ornaments, there is a cat ready to play with them.

Absolutely adorable!

Poor dignity...

Looks a little grumpy.