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.

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.