Garden Foe

I tend to get a tad behind on my outdoor chores – well, most of my chores – during the Spring.  I intend to plant as soon as the threat of frost has past, but it never works out that way.  Invariably, it is May before my beds are planted.  Last year, Texas suffered through a summer of record heat with little to no rain.  Watering restrictions were imposed and subsequently, quite a bit of my landscape perished.  The only thing to survive and flourish were the sweet potato vines I planted in one small space.  Being the lazy proactive gardener that I am, I decided that the sweet potato vine would dominate my landscape this year.  If they survived last summer, they could survive anything.  A couple of weeks ago, I marched myself down to the local nursery, bought several flats in three varieties, and proceeded to plant. 

Yesterday, I came out of my front door and found this:

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…and this…

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…and this…

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The culprit?  This adorable little baby bunny who lives in my front bushes.

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Note to self:   Bunnies are sweet potato vine kryptonite.

Just Write: Self-shaming Sunday…er…Wednesday update

When I last left you, I was struggling to find Anna’s new voice.  I received some great suggestions from my fellow writers and bloggers, and I thank you all for that.  It helped.  I must say once I reconciled myself to the fact that she was not who I initially intended her to be, things began to flowed and the scene came together quite nicely.  The tone has been set and I am largely pleased with it – and myself.

This week’s process has been hampered by another stumbling block.  A need for a few additional scenes that were not on my original outline.  And, as Anna needed to change, so too did another essential character – one who used to be a contributing villain.  I’ve cleaned him up a bit, given him a purpose, and put the burden of national security upon his war-weary shoulders.  I think I sort of like him now. Maybe I will have to kill him off about midway through.

So on to some news.  I’ve decided to participate in this summer’s Camp NaNoWriMo.  Every November several members of my writing group delve into the madness of NaNoWriMo and they’ve produced some pretty impressive stuff.  I always feel a twinge of envy, when they do.  November is a crazy month for me and to commit to such an undertaking would land me in an institution, and maybe even divorce court.  Except for a family vacation near the end of the month and my dreaded 40th birthday, I have nothing going on in June.  I have no obstacles and no excuses.

Bring. It. On.

The nitty-gritty:

Last weeks goal:   Work out my characterization problem with Anna and her team; write the aftermath and resulting mission; and accumulate a word count in the 5000 range.

Goal met?:  Yes and no.  I have worked out my character issues with Anna and her team, written the initial disaster but am still working on the aftermath – it is a more complicated situation that requires additional scenes.

Next weeks goal:  Finish up what I lagged on this week; begin the frenzy that is Camp Nanowrimo; have a very nice word count to show for my efforts.

Evening glow

There are a lot of things I should have done tonight – a blog update, a hospital scene for my WIP, a load of laundry or two – but the setting sun cast an inviting glow across my backyard and it seemed like the perfect time to work on my manual setting skills. 

I liked this one.

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Morning Dew

I haven’t had the opportunity to get out and practice with my camera lately.  This morning, I had the itch to shoot something, anything.  My backyard was the logical place to start.  It was early enough that everything was still dripping wet with dew. I always like the effect water can have on an otherwise boring subject.

Enjoy.

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Things I learned this week

I learned this week…

…that it’s turning out to be a rough year for music.  This week we lost another great – Robin Gibb of the Bee GeesAs I said last week, the Bee Gees were a staple in my house growing up.  Many of their songs rank among my favorites, many of them from the disco era, but the tune that I love to listen to over and over is this one:

No surprise that it was released in the sixties – the greatest musical decade in the history of rock & roll.  RIP Robin Gibb.

…that I smell clean, or so a woman at my local mall informed me this week.  I’m going to take her unsettling observation as a compliment, because to do otherwise would cause my overactive imagination to kick into overdrive and I will begin to believe that I am destined to die at the hands of a deranged serial killer whose taste for blood is triggered by the April fresh scent of my fabric softener.

…that the loss of my tooth crown virginity is a momentous occasion – at least to the staff at my new dentist’s office.   I have to say, I’m confused by their level of excitement.     This is how the conversations went:

Hygienist #1:  How many crowns to do you have?

Me:  None.

Hygienist #1:  None?  This is your first?

Me:  Yes.

Hygienist #1 (with a giant grin on her face):  Awww.

One week later at final fitting and placement:

Hygienist #2 (as she studies my panoramic x-rays on a computer monitor):  You don’t have any other crowns?

Me:  Nope.

Hygienist #2:  Really?

Me:  Really.

Hygienist #2:  Oh wow!  Your very first.  Awww.  (she then gives me a motherly pat on the shoulder)

I think someone should inventory this office’s supply of nitrous oxide.

…that a bit of positive feedback goes a long way in boosting my creative confidence.  I unveiled the opening scene for my work in progress rewrite this week to my writing group.  I’ve agonized and obsessed over this particular scene for weeks.   I was apprehensive about their reaction.  They can be a tough crowd, but the scene was well received.  I made it through an entire read without any snickering or side jokes regarding some unintended sexual innuendo or inadvertent Yoda-speak.

…that I have a new theme song.  Sara Bareilles is on of my favorite singer/songwriter/performers at the moment.   She just finished a grueling tour schedule and is now going to enjoy a little time off before she heads back into the studio.  As a parting gift she gave her devoted fans a five track EP.  It’s musical perfection, as usual, and I have a new favorite.

***Warning:  This is not a song you want to crank up at work or in the presence of your children.  There is quite a bit of crude language so considered yourself warned.  Enjoy.

…that last, but not least, this week’s awww moment is brought to you by the elusive Blue Jay who feeds in my backyard.  I’ve tried for weeks to sneak up on the wily little bastard to snap a picture or two.  My patience finally paid off.

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Scarborough Faire

My camera and I – and my family – embraced our inner geek and went to the local Renaissance fair this weekend.  As an avid people watcher, I am always intrigued by the array of people who frequent these festivals, and the lengths some of them go to in their costuming.

As usual I took way too many pictures, most of them were terrible and screamed of my inexperience, but here are a few who turned out pretty decent.

The glassblowing demonstration was the highlight of the day for me.IMG_9130

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I’m not sure who this guy was supposed to be.IMG_9185

Or him…but he rocked that hat.IMG_9175

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A little silliness…IMG_9288

Someone took his job a tad too seriously…IMG_9507

Voodoo child!IMG_9565

No Renaissance fair is complete without a good old fashion joust.  And what is a joust without a king.IMG_9933

And a dastardly villain.IMG_0023

And a king’s champion.IMG_9987

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I’m sad this picture didn’t turn out clearer. These woman made my day.IMG_9120

Just Write: Self-shaming Sunday update

This week I delved in and began the process of actually rewriting my WIP.  I must say that it did not go as smoothly as I’d hoped.  I am struggling with Anna’s new role.  She is less solitary in this version, more of a team player and a bit warmer, with a sarcastic wit that would have never worked originally because her entire life was molded around the desire for revenge.   That is an element of this story that no longer rests on her shoulders, but on those of another.  As such, it is important that the opening scene convey this change in personality.  The reader needs to understand the deep mutual respect and, dare I say, love, that she and her team share.  It is proving difficult because I am having trouble completely letting go of the idea of Anna that I have long held to.

I have written the scene from beginning to earth shattering kaboom, but because of the personality issue, I do not have the tone quite right.  I feel that because this is the opening, it is important for me to get it right before I move on.  Yes, I realize this is contradictory to everything they preach about momentum in basic story writing class, but I don’t give a shit.  If I don’t work out this problem now, it will plague me  down the road.

So what’s the skinny?

Last weeks’ goal:  Introduce the world to Anna and blow up the Piazza Navona.

Goal = largely met

Next week’s goal:   Work out my characterization problem with Anna and her team; write the aftermath and resulting mission; and accumulate a word count in the 5000 range.

Things I learned this week

I learned this week…

…that Donald “Duck” Dunn has died.  You might not recognize his name, but I guarantee you that at some point, you’ve heard his telltale bass line.   He was a member of the studio band at Stax Records in Memphis and played with such artist as The Blues Brothers (he was in the movie), Eric Clapton, Arthur Conley, Neil Young (with whom he extensively toured), CCR, Wilson Pickett, Bob Dylan (who you all know I loathe), Rod Stewart, Otis Redding – just to name a few.   One of my favorite songs is a little ditty called “Green Onions” by Booker T & the MGs.   He wasn’t the original bassist on the 1962 recording, but I think he does it best.

…that Donna Summer has died at the age of 63.  I often talk about how my father’s love of old school country, early rock & roll, and 60s R&B influenced my taste in music.  However, in all honesty, my mother probably had a greater impact on my personal “musicology.”  She is a lover of all music.  She doesn’t discriminate – from old Dean Martin and Sinatra to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and the Beatles to Gordon Lightfoot and Simon & Garfunkel and everything in between and beyond.  When I was a kid, one of my mother’s favorite things to do was to throw open the windows, cue up a homemade reel to reel tape and crank the volume until music filled the house – and the neighborhood.   Sometimes we listened to oldies, sometimes to folk, sometimes to country, but more often than not, we listened to disco.  What could be better than doing your Saturday morning chores to the infectious beat of ABBA, the Bee Gees, and yes, Donna Summer?   She will be sorely missed in my house.  My friend Kelly said “disco died today.”  Perhaps it did.

…that I have been nominated for the Kreativ Blogger Award by kittyb78.  She’s a fellow writer who just happens to be a Black Dragon Kung Fu instructor.  I’m not sure what that is, but it sounds very cool and makes me want to write her into one of my stories as that bad ass character who…okay I digress.   Many thanks to kittyb78 for bestowing such an honor on me.  I appreciate it very much.

Of course, these things come with rules.  I’m supposed to tell you seven interesting things about myself and then pay the award forward to a few bloggers I think are deserving.

  1. I give good stink-eye, and not always intentionally.  I have an odd face with a heavy brow and a natural frown.  It makes me look angry – even when I’m not.  It serves me well.  People leave me alone.  Usually.
  2. I hate the sound of people eating.  Seriously.  I hate it.
  3. I am cynical by nature, but I try very hard to use humor to stave off the negativity.  It’s made me a happier person.
  4. I am a James Bond fanatic.
  5. I have no natural rhythm and no amount of alcohol can change that.  Ask my BFF how long it took her to teach me the Electric Slide back in the day.
  6. I have an affinity for dates.
  7. I love striped pants.
Now to pay it forward:kreativbloggeraward
Check ’em out.  They are all creative, innovative, and worthy of your time.

…that yoga for a grade is like a bad penny.  It just won’t leave me in peace.  As a memento of our time together, it has left me with a little hip injury.  Nothing too serious, just some tendonitis.  They tell me it will go away – with a little time and four weeks of physical therapy.

…that I am captivated by the train-wreck that is Ancient Aliens.  I spend the entire hour yelling at the television, snorting in disbelief, and cursing their flawed logic, but for some reason I can’t bring myself to change the channel.

…that last, but not least, this weeks awww moment is brought to you by a pair of small woodpeckers who distracted me from my gardening this week.  From their behavior, I can only assume they were a mother and her lazy child who refused to get off his ass and get a job.  I could be wrong, though.

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Cake for everyone!

One year ago today, I posted my very first blog entry.  I did it in an effort to find out who I am in life and to find my creative voice.  I think I’ve largely succeeded, though I imagine with every passing day, every new entry, I grow and evolve, and will continue to do so.

If you’re up for a good laugh, you can read my first blog attempt here

Now, who wants cake?

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Just Write: Let the writing begin!

Do you smell that?

That is the smell of uninhibited creativity.

What?  Smell’s like burning plastic…

…humph.

Today, I am getting back into the groove.  Though, if the truth be told, I haven’t really fallen off of the writing wagon.  I’ve just had no time to blog about my progress.  You know how life can be sometimes – it runs you ragged and sucks you dry.    A few months ago, I started outlining the rewrite of my WIP Retribution.  It went badly at first, as I knew it would.   By nature, I am not an organized writer.  A personality flaw to add to my growing list.  However, I figured out what worked best for me, and the awkward process seemed to straighten itself out.  I feel pretty good about what I’ve got to work with, and hopefully it will be enough to get me past the 30,000 word mark – the point at which I threw in the towel last time.

For weeks, I have resisted the urge to write.  Premature writing is distracting and tends to land me in a big old mess of trouble.   Well, the time has come.

Let the writing begin!

To keep with the theme of my self-shaming Sunday update, which will make a return this week, I am going to give myself a goal to meet.

This week’s goal:

Complete draft of opening scene – i.e. introduce the world to Anna and blow up the Piazza Navona.

…and away we go.

After the Rain

The night before my photo taking excursion to the Chihuly exhibit at the Dallas Arboretum, it rained.  When I was sifting and sorting through the photo files, I discovered that I took quite a few pictures of the water droplets that covered everything that morning.

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A disorganized spider web draped along one of the sculptures.

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More organized spider web with a little fog in the background.

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Lily bud.

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Gardenia bud.

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Enjoy.

At the Dallas Arboretum

Over the weekend, I went with my writing group to the Dallas Arboretum to photograph the Dale Chihuly exhibit, currently on display.  It was spectacular and I took a ridiculous amount of photographs.  When I was going through them, I came across some shots I took of the creepy crawlies that make the arboretum their home.  Here are couple of those photographs.

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Honeybees were hard at work all over the park and seemed to be a little camera shy.  I was surprised to see that I actually got a decent shot of one.

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Snail!

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Unlike the bees, this little guy was in no great hurry.  He seemed more than happy to sit and pose for me.

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Of course, the highlight of the trip was the sculptures. 

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Just a snippet of the giant “Yellow Icicle Tower”.

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“Float Boat” was one of my favorite exhibits.  It was also the hardest for me to shoot.  My inexperience is evident in this shot.  I plan to experiment with some effects on this series of photos, but that’s blog for another day.

As I said in yesterday’s blog entry, if you are in the Dallas area and have the opportunity to check out the Dale Chihuly exhibit at the arboretum, do it.

Chihuly at the Dallas Arboretum

Yesterday I went on a little photo taking excursion with my writing group.  From now until mid-Fall, the Dallas Arboretum is displaying glass sculptures by artist Dale Chihuly.  As a novice photographer, I found that while they are brilliant to behold, they were a bit overwhelming to shoot in their entirety.  So, I narrowed my focus to more intricate parts of the pieces.  Here are few of those photos.

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Dallas saw a bit of rain the night before we went, so everything was dripping wet.  It made for some very nice effects.

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Spider web draped across one of the exhibits.

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Just a little burst of color.

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These violin scrolls were my favorite pieces of the day.

A Chihuly exhibit is a must see.  To learn a bit more about him [click here].

Things I learned this week

I learned this week..

…that I’ve successfully conquered another semester – with all A’s, thank you very much.  It’s a great feeling, like the weight of the world has been lifted off my shoulders and the road to a carefree summer is now within my grasp.  As I drove away from campus yesterday, I was feeling good.  I had the windows down, the wind in my hair, and my new Sting compilation cranked up for the whole world to hear.  I’m not a believer in a lot of intangible things, but sometimes, ever so subtly, the universe speaks to me.  As if on cue, a song with a distinct island vibe began to play.   The hustle of midday traffic faded away and I found myself standing on a beach with velvety sand between my toes, a warm sea breeze caressing my skin, and a frozen rum-filled concoction in my hand.  Swaying in time to the intoxicating rhythm, I danced in slow drunken circles across the sand, feeling blissfully numb, and raised my glass in one final salutation to the sun as it descended into the abyss…

HONK!

Sigh.

Reality bites.

Yes, I realize that this imagery is probably not what Sting intended when he wrote Love is the Seventh Wave.  More likely his intention was to protest Cold War proliferation and all of the evil that went along with it.  I’m going to choose to overlook that (and the ridiculous 80’s video) and focus on the drunken beach vacation aspect of it instead. 

…that yoga for a grade is over.    Of course, as one final insult to the emotional injuries we’ve sustained over the course of the semester, my instructor decided it would be fun to have a party on the day designated for our final exam.  If you will remember from last week, we had our final early.  We were instructed to bring food – preferably something healthy, in order to keep with the spirit of the class.  We all brought store-bought cookies.  It was our little bit of revenge.  Of course, revenge is one of those things in life that tends to come back and bite you in the ass.  In response to our cookie rebellion, she made us watch the video she made of our final.    Oh, the agony of defeat.

…that in all the years I’ve watched the summer Olympics, I have never bothered to sit through any of the Equestrian events.  It’s not that I don’t like horses, I do.  It’s just that I’d much rather watch paint dry than watch a horse and rider navigate through a mindless obstacle course.  This year it will be different.  I don’t usually watch real-time television.  I rely heavily on my DVR.  But the other night I happened to catch Rock Center when I was supposed to be studying for my Sociology exam.  Harry Smith (who I really sort of despise) did a story about a horse and rider who have both been through serious hell and have barely lived to tell about it.  Needless to say, I bawled like a baby and have now committed myself to watching every Equestrian event these two will compete in.  I feel that, as an American, it is my patriot duty.   Check out Harry Smith’s story Horse Power, but grab a box of tissues first.

…that the Blue Jay who visits the feeder in my backyard teases and taunts me.  For weeks, I’ve seen him feeding – nearly every day.  For weeks, I’ve tried to sneak a few photographs of him.  For weeks, he’s alluded me.   No worries, though.  I will prevail…if its’ the last thing I do.

…and last, but not least, this week’s awww moment is brought to you by my fat cat, Rollo.  Aptly named, he is enjoying a little nap in the warm afternoon sun.  What a rough life he leads.

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Just Write: Beginnings

Plato once said that “the most important part of a work is the beginning.”

Planning is key.

I think for most of us mere mortals, this philosophy holds true.  Unfortunately, I had to learn this lesson the hard way – through humbling failure.   I have always hated the process of outlining, but I understand now that it is an evil that must be endured – for the greater good of humanity.   At the same time, I think that the spirit of Plato’s words can be applied directly to the physical beginning of a work:  the first sentence, the first paragraph, the first chapter.   They set the tone for the entire body of work.

A few months ago, I accepted that my WIP  needed a major overhaul.  To do that, I had to suck it up and draft an outline.

It was painful.

It gave me a nasty rash.

It took three tries to get it right, and even now, I think “right” might be an overly generous description.

There’s only one problem.

I didn’t know where my story – Anna’s story – begins.

I know where she’s going.  I know why she’s going.  I know, for the most part, how she is going to get there.  I just don’t know where she begins her journey.

That’s a pretty significant problem, eh?  It sort of reminds me of the third Indian Jones movie – The Last Crusade.  You know, the one where the senior Dr. Jones has spent a lifetime plotting a map that will lead him to the Holy Grail, only to fail to figure out where his quest will begin?

That’s where I am at right now.

At the beginning.

Still.

Things I learned this week

This week I learned…

…that sometimes being a responsible adult sucks.  It’s that time of year again when everything converges and there just isn’t enough hours in the day to get it all done.  There’s certainly no time to do the things I want to do – read, write, sacrifice a few brain cells sitting on my couch wearing holey pjs, eating ding dongs, and watching everything the Bravo channel can throw my way.   It’s just the nature of things, and usually I am very good at accepting that this is the journey I chose to embark upon – you know, that whole personal growth bullshit.  This year, however, my rebellious self seems to be having a little trouble keeping his eye on the prize.  Spring is warm, sunny, and intoxicating, and the allure of it all, is just so damned tempting.   So, what do you do when you have a nagging conformist on one shoulder and a mocking rebel on the other?  You lock the conformist in the closet, and you go out to play.  Duh.  Of course, these little bursts of self-indulgence are not without their consequences.   I’ve spent the last week or so digging out from a stack of homework so deep it surely rivals Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stouts’ garbage pile.

…that after sitting through a lecture on sleep deprivation, I realize that I should probably reevaluate my anti-napping ideology.  My husband will be relieved to hear this, and I’m sure he will take full advantage of it should I decide to change my stance.

…that just when I thought I might actually miss “yoga for a grade”, the instructor goes and does something that makes me want to roll up my mat, go home, and say screw the GPA.  From the onset, this class has been disorganized – and that, I feel, is being generous.  Goals and expectation were never established and we’ve had very little guidance in the actual fundamentals of yoga practice.  All of these shortcomings and failures could be overlooked, indeed forgiven, because for the most part, I enjoyed the physicality of the class.  We did, of course, have that little incident early on with the humiliating quiz – you remember, the one where we had to each perform a single pose at the front of the room for our classmates to guess. Charades for a grade.   Couldn’t get much worse than that, right?  Guess what?  I was wrong.  I should have seen it coming, but alas, I did not.  Two weeks before scheduled final exams, she dropped the ultimate bomb on us.  It was nuclear.   It seemed our final exam would require us to come up with a sequence of yoga poses, combine them into cohesive segments, and then teach them to the class.   But wait, there’s more.   We had just two class periods to get with a partners, choose the poses, arrange the poses, practice the poses, and choose our accompaniment music because she wanted to do our final a week early.  Oh, and by the way, our performances would be videotaped so that we could relive our most humiliating moment at the end of semester party she’d planned.  I’m sure I will see the humor in all this someday – when the scars have healed.

…that there are few things in life more enjoyable than sitting poolside with my BFF, a little drunk on wine, trading child rearing war stories.

…that Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys has died.  There have been a lot of notable deaths of late, but I find his to be one of the saddest.   I can’t say that I am an ardent fan of Beastie Boys’ entire body of work, but their first album brings back fond memories of my favorite summer.  It would be my last carefree summer; not long after, the reality of adulthood reached up and bitch slapped me.

…that the three seat belts in the backseat of my car are deceiving.  It is nearly impossible to fit three passengers back there.  Guess I should have considered that before I volunteered to carpool a Sunday field trip to Boyd.

…that I was nominated for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award by my fellow writer Julie over at Word Flows.  It’s always so nice to receive an acknowledgement from one’s peers.  It is doubly nice when it comes from someone you admire and respect.  She, herself, is one inspiring lady.  Go check her out.

…that my work in progress, Retribution, has evolved into something quite different from my original vision.  I blame the outlining.

…that when you add a warm late spring day, a community swimming pool, and a tennis ball together with a group of twelve-year-old boys you will get stupidity to the ninth power.

…that last, but not least, this week’s awww moment is brought to you by this little creeper who has taken up residence on my back patio for the duration of the season.

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Flower Power

Just because they make me smile.

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