Our night-scented tobacco is finally blooming. I’ve never grown it before, but the Tomato Man was selling it as a companion plant for tomatoes. The theory is that it attracts tomato hornworms, so they’ll chew it up and leave the tomatoes alone. I don’t know how well it will work, but I figured it was worth $2.50 to find out. It’s certainly growing well. I haven’t seen any hawk moths in our neighborhood, so I don’t know if hornworms are really a problem here. I guess we’ll find out.

Anyway, it’s a pretty addition to the garden.

Some of my roses have buds on them, and a few zinnias came up behind the back fence — descendants of last year’s crop — and are about ready to bloom. I planted two more daisies and some baby’s breath out there tonight. We’ll see how they do. We’ve also got blossoms on the cucumbers and Jacob’s cattle beans, a few pods on the peas, and loads of buds on the zucchini. At least one zucchini blossom is ready to open any day now.

The sunflowers are getting big, too. We just planted them in late April, and they’re already almost as tall as the air conditioner:


I’m looking forward to seeing them bloom so I can deliver bouquets to some of my friends this summer. I always enjoyed taking flowers to work in Belleville. We had all kinds of flowers in the yard — lilacs and roses and rugosas and irises that we inherited from a previous homeowner, tulips and grape hyacinths that I planted in a container, and a huge assortment of wildflowers I’d planted, including zinnias and sunflowers and Indian blankets — and those flowers became quite popular with my colleagues.

It all started when my boss was having kind of a crummy day, and just for the heck of it, I came back from dinner with a tulip or something and set it on her desk. After a while, the tulip wilted and looked pretty pitiful, so I told her if she’d give me the vase back, I’d take it home and refill it with something new. After that, it became kind of a running thing for me to put fresh flowers on Candy’s desk.

For some reason, I brought an extra flower in one night, and our hard-boiled investigative reporter — a tough, tenacious ex-con who delighted in digging up dirt on people — asked if he could keep it on his desk.

I laughed and told him to go ahead.

When the flower wilted, he put the vase back on my desk with a note that said, “More flowers, please.”

I refilled the vase and returned it to his desk, and then another guy asked if he could have it next, and that started this running thing where the vase would sort of make its way around the newsroom — the flowers would die, and I’d take the vase home and refill it and put it on the next person’s desk.

I had enough flowers and got enough requests that I brought in some extra containers and kept them all filled with flowers. I think at one point, we had upwards of a half-dozen jars and vases and bottles scattered around the newsroom. It was really cute.

Mrs. Eddy refers to roses as “the smile of God.” After seeing these tough, cynical journalists’ face light up when I set fresh flowers on their desks, I think she must be right.

Maybe we’ll see some smiles in my current office this summer when jars of sunflowers start showing up on people’s desks. 🙂


Mother Roading



We went over to Miami (that’s “My-AM-uh,” as in Oklahoma, not “My-AM-ee,” as in Florida) this evening in hopes of photographing the newly restored neon sign at the Coleman Theatre Beautiful.

Unfortunately, the sign wasn’t turned on, but I did enjoy a portabella mushroom sandwich, a terrific limeade, and a nice sunset at Waylan’s Ku-Ku.

On the way to Miami, we followed Route 66, stopping in Chelsea to explore the pedestrian tunnel under 66.


Ron had been skeptical as to its actual existence, but I had seen the entrances for it in the past, so I showed him where it was this evening, and we got out and wandered through it. I hadn’t realized it was still open and accessible to tourists.


Tunnels like this were a necessity during the heyday of Route 66, when traffic was so heavy that crossing the street was a dangerous proposition.

East of Afton, we drove part of the Sidewalk Highway — a very early, very narrow alignment of Route 66 — until we came to a railroad crossing that was blocked by a train that was just grinding to a halt as we arrived. We turned around and went back to the main alignment, but not before I popped a couple of shots of some Queen Anne’s lace that was growing alongside the road.

Queen Anne's lace

Queen Anne's lace

I have a soft spot for Queen Anne’s lace, because it really saved the day at our wedding. I discovered at the last minute that the flower arrangement I’d made to go on the altar looked great up close but really terrible from a distance. I was running out of time and money, so I handed Ron a pair of scissors and a big vase and sent him out to a railroad right-of-way near our apartment to gather a bouquet of Queen Anne’s lace. Those delicate white flowers made a perfect backdrop for the unity candle, and nobody was any the wiser. 🙂


These hollyhocks were growing in a huge raised bed/planter sort of thing in front of the Coleman this evening.


The Coleman’s sign was off, but I thought the building, with its fabulous architectural details, still looked marvelous silhouetted against the sky.

Hope your Sunday was as good as ours.


Turtle 911

My friend and I went for a run this morning. We were out about an hour and a half. During the course of our run, we met two very large, very friendly dogs who wanted to follow us. We walked them back to their owner, a retired schoolteacher who has horses and gave me her number so I can call her and come pick up some manure for my garden.

We also saw tons and tons of beautiful flowers and all sorts of wildlife: a turtle, a little rabbit, squirrels, and something tiny that was moving too fast for me to identify. I think it was a field mouse. It moved like a rodent.

When we got back to the house, I was showing my friend my garden, and she said, “Look — a turtle!”

A little turtle — presumably the same one I photographed a couple of weeks ago — was struggling to escape the confines of the yard by forcing itself through the chain-link fence. The poor little thing couldn’t understand that its shell was simply not going to fit through that fence. It got its head and front legs through the fence, but its shell was caught and wasn’t going anywhere.

It took some doing to disentangle the little critter without getting clawed or bitten, but I managed to free it and took it around to the front yard, where I put it under one of the mystery shrubs. If looks could kill, I’d have been a dead woman. That turtle was NOT happy about being picked up and carried around the yard. It was just flailing its little feet and head all over the place until I put it down. I never saw a turtle run so fast as that one did once I set it on the ground.

I’ll get some photos of the garden this weekend. The sunflowers are getting really big, and the zucchini plants are just enormous.


Taking it easy

I have a glorious plan for this Memorial Day weekend: I am going to do nothing.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I’m going to replace the toilet, clean my office and my bedroom, and plant some flowers this weekend. But that shouldn’t take more than a day, and then I’ll have two more days to curl up in my papasan chair in my nice clean house and read in between naps.

I started my weekend by getting off work early this afternoon and coming home to take a nap. A couple of hours later, I got up and made plans to do some hill training with a friend first thing tomorrow morning … went out for some groceries so we can have a good breakfast after our run (omelets and fruit and cheese and bagels and orange juice) … cleaned the kitchen … picked up some junk in the living room … cleaned the bathroom … and applied a bottle of henna to my roots, which desperately needed it.

Yeah, I said “bottle.” God bless ’em, a company called Surya is making liquid henna. Anybody who’s dealt with henna knows that it’s the best red dye money can buy, but it’s a monumental pain in the butt to apply, because it comes in powdered form, and you have to mix it with boiling water to make a sort of mudlike paste that you work into your hair. It takes forever to apply and forever and a day to rinse.

I am hoping this liquid version works out. I’ll know in half an hour, when I rinse it out and see what it did.

If it turns out as pretty as the picture on the box, I’ll have Ron take a picture so I can post it here.

Hope you have a good weekend.



Not much to report today, except that it has been hot. Very, very hot.

Also, I was out taking pictures of the old Crystal City shopping center for work yesterday, and I noticed there’s some utterly gorgeous coreopsis growing here and there around the parking lot. I will go back with my own camera, on my own time, and get a picture of it this weekend if I have time.

I also want to photograph my neighbor’s cactus. Somebody around the corner is growing an enormous cactus that is just covered in pink blossoms. Gorgeous.


Frog songs

The tree frogs are just croaking and croaking tonight. I haven’t actually seen any of them, but they’re making a LOT of noise. If it weren’t so hot, I’d open my windows so I could listen to them … but it’s just warm enough and humid enough that we really need the a/c on, so I guess I’ll have to skip the amphibian concert this evening.

Funny moment: As I was standing in the parking lot tonight after church, shooting the bull with Brad and Heels, a ladybug landed in my hair. I caught it and handed it to Brad, who laughed as he put it on the tree next to him. (If you’re just tuning in, Brad is the guy who jumped up in the middle of church one Wednesday night to rescue a ladybug that had gotten in, so we have kind of a running joke about ladybugs now.)

Too bad he was out of town last week, when a starling somehow got into the building and went flying all around above our heads until the First Reader paused the service for a few minutes so some guys could get a ladder and catch it. We have these interior shutters, and the guys managed to corner the bird between a shutter and a window for long enough to climb up there and rescue it. The poor little thing was scared half to death, but they got it out safely, and nobody freaked out about it, although a couple of people who were working in the nursery said they were just as glad to miss it, as they are not comfortable around birds.

I’m comfortable around birds. If I had a lot more floor space and more money than sense, I’d demonstrate that comfort level by buying myself a big ol’ hyacinth macaw. But since I don’t have the money or the room for a bird that big, I’ll just have to talk Ron into a pair of Gouldian finches instead. They’re almost as pretty, and much cheaper and quieter….


Quiet evening

I’m having something I haven’t had in a long time: A quiet evening at home.

Part of me wants to go over to Miami and get a picture of the Coleman Theatre’s newly restored sign, but another part of me just wants to take a nap. I was up until 5 a.m., putting the Trip Guide on a CD to send to the printer and finishing up a couple of other Route 66 projects I’d been putting off, so I think maybe I’ll just curl up and read, do a little housecleaning, and take it easy for the rest of the evening.

It’s nice to have the option of spending an evening doing nothing after going hell-for-leather all spring on one project after another. If Scout hadn’t pulled all the stuffing out of the papasan pad, I’d park myself there all night.

Come to think of it, Pier One has papasan pads on sale for $29 apiece. Maybe I’ll dash over to Utica Square and pick one up. I could grab some spaghetti carbonara at The Olive Garden for dinner while I’m at it.


Road trip

Oliver and Ashley

Instead of taking a short trip out of town to hide out in a motel and read this weekend, I wound up taking a 500-mile road trip to Illinois to hang out with my family and an old friend. That’s my little brother and his wife in the picture above.

I took I-44 to St. Louis and then followed Illinois 13 to Southern Illinois on the way home, with an overnight stop Friday at the Munger Moss Motel on Route 66 in Lebanon, Mo.

I had a nice visit with my family and spent some time at several of my old haunts, including the Makanda Boardwalk and Carbondale’s Longbranch Coffeehouse. My best friend from college used to have coffee with me at Longbranch all the time, so we decided to stop in for old times’ sake. The place has gotten all gentrified. I think I miss my gritty old rough-around-the-edges hangout, but it was good to see it’s more popular than ever. That’s the first time I can remember having to wait in line on a non-poetry-reading night. And school isn’t even in session right now, so obviously they’re doing something right.

Longbranch opened before the coffee fad found its way out of Seattle, and it’s been a Carbondale institution for the better end of 15 years. We won’t talk about how old that makes me feel….

We went and puttered around SIU for a little while. Morris Library is undergoing major renovations and evidently had part of one of its walls cave in during the remodeling project. They’ve stripped off the entire exterior except one doorway on the first floor. It looks like something out of Fallujah.

Wish I’d thought to bring the camera with me; I’d love to have a picture of the library looking so forlorn. I’m sure it will be amazing when they get it done. Hope they don’t throw out all the cool ’60s furniture that was in there. If they auction it off, I want some.

Coming back home, I took I-57 to Sikeston, Mo., and then picked up U.S. 60 to Afton. Did a tiny bit of Mother Roading from Afton to Vinita before latching onto the turnpike.

A few scenes from 60:




I think all three of these are from Sikeston. I know the first two are.

Poplar Bluff

I didn’t write things down like I should have, but I think this cool old theater is in Poplar Bluff.

Big Smith

This was in Willow Springs. I like it because it makes me think of my grandpa, who always wore Big Smith overalls.


Adaptive reuse of a drive-in somewhere west of Willow Springs. The marquee now advertises a flea market.


I don’t remember exactly where this was, but I want to say it was in Republic. I love that Deco lettering style.


The Sunset Drive-In, located in Aurora, Mo., had a line of cars waiting to get in this evening. It appears to be thriving. I’m always overjoyed to see a drive-in doing well.


And as usual, I had to try to bag a sunset for Brad. Still not as spectacular as the one I saw (but couldn’t shoot) in February, but those Parrish clouds demanded my attention this evening. I didn’t even notice that water in the lower right-hand corner when I was taking the picture, or I would have used it to better advantage.

Anyway, it was a good trip, but now I’m tired, and I still have a 2,000-word article I need to write up before I go to bed, so I’d better get offline.

Hope your weekend was good.



I am finally — FINALLY! — finished laying out the Oklahoma Route 66 Association Trip Guide. Ron proofread it for me on his days off, and I made the corrections tonight and converted the whole thing to PDF. It’s gone fairly smoothly thus far. I hope it keeps going smoothly when I send it to the printer. Sometimes crazy technical glitches pop up at that point, and they usually involve things I don’t know how to fix.

I still have a bunch of smaller projects to do, but at this point, I think things are basically under control. I plan to pull a vanishing act this weekend. I desperately need time to rest and catch my breath. It’s been a busy, busy, busy spring, and it’s not likely to slow down a lot between now and late June, so I’m seizing this rare opportunity to spend a day or two reading, sleeping, and doing very little else.

A little part of me really wants to sneak out to Tucumcari to spend the weekend, but I am not sure what time I’ll get out of town Friday night or how far I’ll feel like traveling at that point.

I think what I might do is fill the gas tank Friday evening, point the car in whatever direction strikes my fancy, and go until the gas light comes on or I get sleepy, whichever comes first. But I probably ought to check Roadside America first to see if there’s a Muffler Man or the World’s Largest Something-Or-Other anywhere within a reasonable evening’s drive. 🙂

We’ll see where I end up.


Blossoms, bees, and bad dogs

There’s a purple blossom on one of the eggplants now, and the tomatoes are getting big.

The cardinal climber is growing, too. The whole garden looks pretty healthy. I just have to come up with a way to keep Songdog out of the pond. He ate one of the water hyacinths yesterday and tried to eat one today, but I caught him before he did any damage. I guess I’m going to have to put a fence around the pond, too. I’m getting tired of surrounding everything in my yard with little fences….

On an unrelated note, Ron added a super to the beehive yesterday. The girls were not very happy with him for messing with their house last night, but they seemed content today. I’m sure they’re busy filling up the new space. They seem very productive. I’m glad. I’m looking forward to eating some of that honey on toast. 🙂