A Nutcracker Guaranteed to Crack You – Up

Happy Christmas Eve, my darlings! For those of you celebrating some form of midwinter shenanigans or just grateful you’ve got some time off work, I wish you merry festivities. For those of you bah humbugging your way through the next few days, or having to deal with things that make this season less than joyful, you have my sympathies.

I’m deep in re-plotting The Novel, so I won’t be around much unless my characters decide we need a very silly midwinter story. But I did get you something! Of course I did. I love you and wouldn’t leave you with nothing. Here is absolutely the best ever version of the Nutcracker, via my friend Merideth, who always finds the neatest things. It’s okay if you don’t like ballet or classical music. That isn’t really the point. The point is, we can create something new and funny and fabulous when we mix up sophisticated old stuff with delightfully talented modern people. I present to you the most excellent results when you combine dancers Cyrus “Glitch” Spencer, JR Tight Eyex, and James Derrick with the California Philharmonic Orchestra and some Tchaikovsky. [Read more…]

Your Mount St. Helens Honeysuckle. Plus: Bodacious Botany

See, my darlings, you always come through! Kilian Hekhuis and Lithified Detritus were able to identify our orange clarinets as Orange Honeysuckle (Lonicera ciliosa). Can you believe that for once we have a beautiful flower that is a native? Awesomesauce!

I found some down by the shores of Silver Lake this summer. B and I had just arrived as the sun was lowering in the sky, and it shone upon this lovely flowering plant, which was just short of bursting into full bloom.

Image shows an Orange Honeysuckle cluster. The orange blooms are still closed, but on the verge of opening. Sad to say, they look a bit like a bunch of dildoes. Behind them is an oblong leaf or bract that's pointed at the ends. The sun is shining through it, making it semi-transparent and highlighting the veins.

Orange Honeysuckle at Silver Lake.

This is one of my favorite photos of a flower I have ever taken. The sun was absolutely perfect.

The honeysuckle was climbing a bank with some rose bushes, and everything was budding, and it probably would have been spectacular if B and I had just come a few days later. Oh, well. It’s still quite pretty, as you can see here: [Read more…]

Mystery Flora: Orange Clarinets

I’ll have a special treat for you once you identify this one.

Anyway, I was at a bit of a loss as to what to do for this week’s mystery, so I put out a poll on Facebook and G+. It came back Mystery Flora. This is why you should follow me on social media, my loves. You get to vote on things!

This one is from mid-May, when B and I went up to Lord Hill. That’s a really great time to be up on Lord Hill, incidentally – many flowers bursting out all over the place, and everything’s lush and green and splendid. You’ll get to see a few of these singing out around the summit.

Image shows three orange flowers. They're long, narrow, and flare out at the ends like a clarinet.

Mystery Flora I

These aren’t abundant, or at least they weren’t when we were there. I only saw a couple of clusters, and I’m not even sure if some of them are the same flower. This is why I am not in botany today. Okay, I could probably learn how to tell similar flowers apart, but I’m too busy nosing around the rocks. Alas, the rocks at the summit of Lord Hill are mostly covered in vegetation, so I really had no choice but to photograph botany for you. [Read more…]

My Brain is Complete Tapioca. Let’s Talk Entertainment

Alas, my darlings, the time to return to normal programming is not yet. My body is going through an exhausting (and annoyingly early) variation of the monthly wretchedness. My brain is wanting a break. And I got a Netflix account. So yes, I’m catching up on some television while the various bits put themselves back in good order.

If anyone wants to discuss such things, I might start an occasional column exploring the nooks and crannies and themes of some of the shows I’ve been watching. It turns out that in this age of streaming services producing their own content, it’s not just the BBC making stuff that makes my brain do entire gymnastics routines of joy. And in an age of increasing diversity, I can now enjoy fusions of culture that don’t have to star a bunch of white people. My darlings, I am beyond delighted. [Read more…]

Cryptopod: Streamlined

Let’s take a break from books and other holiday booty, and have a cryptopod then, shall we? I’ve got a streamlined little lovely from back at the old place for ye.

Image shows the profile of a small, narrow moth with dark wings and an off-white cowl. It's very pointy in front. Three little feet are visible beneath it.

Cryptopod I

It visited us in early spring, although it looked a bit like it was dressed for winter. Doesn’t it look like it’s wearing a parka? [Read more…]

Fundamentals of Fungi: Triple Fall Fungi

I just realized I missed Amanita muscaria season this year. Sigh. Perils of moving to a new place: when I lived in Bothell, I couldn’t miss them because they were these enormous red things popping up under the oak trees beside the road.

My move to the west side hasn’t been completely fungi-free, of course. This is western Washington. We have fungi everywhere. And I have new places to look at them.

Pipa and I found several specimens in Warren G. Magnuson Park. There was this large white one bounding up through the grass.

Image shows a large disc-shaped mushroom poking up through bright green grass and weeds. It's mostly white with a little bit of beige tint.

Mystery Fungi I

It may not be super-exciting and colorful, but it is large. Here is my hand bracketing it for scale. [Read more…]

Mystery Flora: Orange Trumpets of Heady-Scented Delight

Mystery Week concludes with one of the best flowers ever. Seriously, if you all could smell it right now, you’d want to come live here. It’s been blooming pretty much all summer, and it is incrediballs.

Here it is with a tent for scale:

Image looks down from our upper to our middle deck. There is a domed two-man tent pitched on it. Beside it is a flowering bush about 3/4 its size. It has large bright green leaves with downward-pointing, trumpet-shaped orange flowers. There are dozens of blooms.

Mystery Flora I

Yep, that is one huge and happy plant! And the reason the tent is out there is because S spent most of October sleeping with it. Those luscious blooms put out a delightful perfume.

Image is a close-up view of three of the flowers and the huge green tear-drop shaped leaves. The leaves have broadly serrated edges, coming to four or more points down each side, before ending in a drip tip.

Mystery Flora II

I find the scent hard to explain: it’s a bit like the rich, smooth scent of many tropical blooms, but not quite as ponderous. There’s a hint of pollen, and a hint of spice. It’s quite lovely without being overpowering. Which is good, because it has come to live with us in the house now. It’s a summer-loving thing and can’t take the cold.

Image shows one of the blooms in a stray beam of late fall sunshine. It shades from yellow-green at the base to a deep and vibrant orange at the trumpet.

Mystery Flora III

It lives in the south picture window, and fills the living room with its lovely fragrance. But that only happens at night. During the day, you can’t smell a thing. But as evening falls, you catch a whiff, then the scent gradually strengthens until it fills the large, open room. Even just one or two blooms will perfume the entire space.

Image looks into the open end up to the anthers and stamens.

Mystery Flora IV

I have stood there at night, in the dark, cradling Boo and breathing it in. Then I put Boo down and pick leaves off of her food bowl, because the thing is shedding everywhere. It’ll soon be nothing but bare branches, much like my dad’s rubber tree. Then S can prune it back. It feels like it’s taking up half the living room right now! When things warm up in the spring and it leafs out, it’ll go back outside to live in the sun.

Image shows one of the blooms outdoors. The photo was taken looking up into the trumpet, with the leaves fanned out above.

Mystery Flora V

There are more images of this lovely mystery flower here, including some artsy ones of it reflected in our wall o’ mirrors. When you identify it, all of you who love floral scents are going to want one. You can apply to S for a cutting of ours. I think he’s going to have some extras when he gets done pruning this ginormous beauty!

Unidentified Flying Dinosaur: Uncooperative Little Barstard

Mystery Week continues! I know there’s a lot of awful and outrageous stuff going on, but I don’t have the spoons to write about it right now. Need a breather. If you need my occasional sharp commentary on various breaking news, however, you can click this little button right here if you’re a Facebook denizen:

And then you will be able to follow me as I fume. I also post a lot of pictures of cats.

Anyway. Some of you may remember our little trip to Frenchman Coulee a few weeks ago. While we were there, R and I were serenaded by this little delight. [Read more…]

Mystery Flora/Cryptopod Double-Header: Flowery Sprays

Mystery Week continues! In this edition, I’ve got some lovely flora and fauna for ye. Well, lovely as long as you love sprays of flowers and the occasional insect.

Our selections today come from Juanita Bay, where in early July we had many loverly flowers blooming, and lots of insects buzzing round.

Image shows a spray of tiny white flowers dangling from a tall plant. There's a long, narrow brown insect dangling upside-down from it.

Mystery Flora/Cryptopod I

I think we may have had this white one before, but I don’t honestly remember. There are enough new folks round the cantina we can have another go with it anyway. But the most essential part of this photoset is the wee little brown beetle.* [Read more…]

Cryptopod: Latvian Lovers

Hello and welcome to Mystery Week at En Tequila Es Verdad! Thanksgiving is coming up in the USA, I’ve got a book to finish and publish by Friday, and there’s enough Serious Stuff going on that I feel like maybe a break would do us good. So we’re going to have nothing but mysteries and pretty pitchoors!

Let us begin in Latvia, where RQ photographed some absolutely marvelous cryptopods over the summer. [Read more…]