Authors! Novelists can be anyone we want to be! by da-AL

Novelists can imagine ourselves into whatever characters we choose! Ones who’ve already published, like Valeska Réon, from Germany (given that I’m the soon-to-be self-published author of the upcoming “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat”) inspire to me to no end! I found this photo of her while I was searching for something else (isn’t this always the case?) — and love it so much that I’m sharing it in the hopes that it’ll inspire you too!…

Image by Valeska Réon from Pixabay

I don’t understand German, but I love how boldly she assumes identities on her video channel. In addition to a host of careers she’s had and currently pursues, she loves dogs — she often features them on her Instagram!

Even Valeska Réon’s dog gets in on her act!
Valeska Réon and her dog indulge in a black and white moment.

Who do you imagine yourself as?…

Video: Craters of the Moon, New Zealand by da-AL

Crater at Craters of the Moon, Taupo, New Zealand.

Nowhere is it more evident that New Zealand owes its geography to tectonic uplift and volcanic eruptions than at any of its geothermal parks. Our visit there began with Auckland and Rotorua, then the Redwoods and Huka Falls, plus Taupo and Pirongia, as well as Hamilton Gardens. (Later in Australia’s Gold Coast, we visited familyand birds of Australia Part 1 of 2 plus Part 2 of 2.)

Steaming burbling craters galore behind Khashayar and da-AL at Craters of the Moon, Taupo, New Zealand.

Along our drive to Taupo, (before we’d view the Waitomo Glowworms Caves) we stopped at the aptly named Craters of the Moon.

Straying from the path isn’t advised at Craters of the Moon, Taupo, New Zealand.

Heat and steam from below percolate up to uncork land, leaving behind jagged craters, some of them huge. Visitors are told, not asked, to keep to the trails, lest they become boiled and billowed…

Do you have craters near you?

Video: Huka Falls, New Zealand’s Longest Falls by da-AL

Huka Falls bridge, New Zealand by Khashayar Parsi.

Green, lush, and filled with surprises. Everywhere we went, New Zealand amazed us! From Auckland, we drove to Rotorua and then hiked the Redwoods. (Later we’d visit Craters of the Moon and the Waitomo Glowworms Caves, then Taupo and Pirongia, as well as Hamilton Gardens. Later in Australia’s Gold Coast, we visited familyand birds of Australia Part 1 of 2 plus Part 2 of 2.) Next, we visited Huka Falls, where water waits for no one!

Up to 220,000 liters (just under 5,300 gallons) of water rush down the series of falls per second. They begin at New Zealand’s longest river (Waikato River) and drain the country’s largest lake (Lake Taupo).

Panoramic of Huka Falls bridge, New Zealand by Khashayar Parsi.

Have you visited any waterfalls?

Guest Blog Post: Who are you calling stupid? by Jean-Paul

I admit it. I’m a terrible friend to you. I’m sharing the following sample of London-based blogger Jean-Paul so that you’ll be snared like I am. Experience the same one-two-punch love-hate I have with his site. #1) I love that he’s so talented!!! (though I am jealous!), and #2) I hate that every time I visit, I can’t resist spending way more time there than I plan for — even his friends who comment are clever!! Read on, my forewarned friend…

Photo by blogger Jean-Paul of “myhusband&i: two guys making out & trying to make it”

“Who are you calling stupid?” by Jean-Paul

When it comes to math, I’ll admit I’m a complete dummy. At school, I understood a lot, but arithmetic? It was all mental to me. My husband, on the other hand, has a brain like a push button calculator.

“You’re not stupid,” said Guido after dinner last night, “you just need some math practice with imagination. I have an idea,” he said, “sit back right this second and imagine yourself in a farmyard.”

As you can see, we really do need to get out more.

This was worrying. I had a sneaking feeling I was going to be asked to talk algebra to a chicken. I’ve only ever visited a farm once in my entire life, and I seem to recall a pungent odour. It was strong enough to make me squeeze my nostrils all day long.

“Okay,” I said involuntarily pinching my nose, “what’s next?”

There was a pause.

“What are you doing?” Guido asked, eyebrow raised.

“I just think it’s important that I embrace this part of the exercise before we move on to any complex multiplications or differential equations. Though I’ll admit, I’m becoming anxious about whether I should go put on rubber boots?”

Take it from me, this was a totally bona fide concern. If you’ve ever walked around a farmyard, then you’ll know there are some big brown stinky things you really don’t want to stand in. Did I mention the flies?

“Don’t worry about that. This is the cleanest farm ever.”

This was reassuring, but I held onto my nostrils just in case of an unexpected whiff of ammonia. I couldn’t see any flies though.  Which was even more re-assuring on account of my limited one arm swatting abilities.

“Now imagine there are 13 animal heads and 40 legs in front of you,” said Guido.

One moment I’m in a loft apartment eating a perfectly adequate mid-week lasagna and the next I’ve suddenly been put out to pasture herding a bunch of unidentifiable livestock. As you can tell, I like to take my visualisation pretty seriously. Which is more than I can say about the math. I mean, where was the straw?

“Now tell me,” said Guido, “how many sheep and how many ducks can you count?”

I closed my eyes. I could actually see the sheep just standing there staring at me. They seemed pretty friendly with only the occasional baa. The ducks, on the other hand, were all over the place quack quack quacking and waving their wings about. Anyone would think they’d just been told the hunting season had started.

There was another short pause.

“Well?” asked Guido.

“Hang on,” I said, “I’ve counted the sheep, but the ducks are proving problematic. Have you got any stale bread I could feed them?”

It was, I think, at that point, Guido began to understand the challenges my teachers had all those years ago.

“Hmm, I think we’ll leave this lesson for now,” said Guido wisely pouring me a glass of wine.

Back from the country, safely at our kitchen table, I let go of my nose. In the end, I couldn’t teach Guido that much about the sheep but what I did tell him was if something walks like a duck and talks like a duck then it’s usually a duck. And there’s nothing stupid about that.

Guest Blog Post: Artists Studio Tour by Gail Werner

The workspaces of artists always fascinate me! Here’s how to visit the studio of artist Helen Werner Cox, who’s written for Happiness Between Tails before, along with those of 43 other artists…

Steven by Helen Werner Cox
Steven by Helen Werner Cox
Darwin Grey by Helen Werner Cox
Darwin Grey by Helen Werner Cox

“44 Local Artists Open Their Studios for the 9th Biennial Mid-City Studio Public Art Tour” by Gail Werner

Long Beach Mid-City Studio Tour June 1-2, 2019

On Saturday, June 1 and Sunday, June 2 from 11 AM to 4 PM Long Beach artists will open their studios to the public during the 9th Biennial Mid-City Studio Tour. The free, self-guided tour is made possible in part through a micro-grant from Arts Council for Long Beach and a grant from the Port of Long Beach.

The Mid-City Art Studio Tour is a unique look into the lives of 44 professional artists with a wide range of artistic sensibilities. It allows the public to see working studios and to learn from artists about their inspiration and process. Mixed media artist Annie Stromquist says, “The Mid-City Studio Tour is a special weekend for me. I love having such a wide array of visitors to my normally very quiet workspace. People ask interesting questions that often prompt me to think in new ways, and the interactive weekend charges me up for new work after the tour is over.”

A small group of friends, mostly working from studios connected to their homes, started the Mid-City Studio Tour in 2003. Since then the group has expanded and become more diverse. This year, aside from individual studios, there will be an artist co-op and two galleries, Chez Shaw and Greenly Art Space, on the tour route. Art mediums include painting, works on paper, mixed media constructions, handmade artist books, photography, printmaking, jewelry, silk painting, weaving, ceramics, sculpture, installation, and glass/neon.

Images and artists’ bios can be previewed, and a tour map of the event is available at http://www.midcitystudiotour.com. Artwork will be available for purchase at studio prices. Sponsors include Arts Council for Long Beach, Partners of Parks, Port of Long Beach, Krishna/Copy Pro, Ralphs, Socal Modern Group, and Trader Joe’s.

To see more of Helen Cox’s work, click here or contact her for a studio visit.

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Happy Sounds Video, New Zealand Redwoods and Corrugated Pets by da-AL

Turn your sound up high to listen to the ASMR happy sounds of redwood trees creaking in the wind, sounding like old-fashioned rocking chairs…

Most people know of the redwoods of California, where trees are so awe-inspiring that they’ve got names and their Avenue of the Giants. But did you know that New Zealand has its own redwood forest? For our New Zealand vacation, we’d seen a bit of Auckland, then Rotorua, later Huka Falls and Craters of the Moon and Waitomo Glowworms Caves, then Taupo and Pirongia and Hamilton Gardens. Later in Australia’s Gold Coast, we visited family and birds of Australia Part 1 of 2 plus Part 2 of 2. Now we got out of our car and hiked up, up, up…

da-AL strolls up to New Zealand’s redwood forest.

Back in the early 1900s, New Zealand officials admired our redwoods — and then planted some of their own! — resulting in the Redwoods Forest of Whakarewarewa. New Zealand soil is so dense with nutrients that the trees grew faster there than they do in the U.S. Like California’s, New Zealand’s big trees provide homes to an abundance of wildlife, including endangered creatures.

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Trees actually talk to each other, creating an ecosystem among themselves that feeds everything from below their roots to far into the air! Redwoods can live for thousands of years — unless humans cut them down or pollute them to death. Alas, the largest was felled around 1945. The most massive tree on earth now is the General Sherman, at 83.8 meters (275 ft) high by 7.7 m (25 ft) wide. The world’s oldest tree lives in California too — a bristlecone pine that’s 5,068 years old. Let’s hope we don’t kill them or their kin.

A little further along, we stopped to pet corrugated animals in the city of Tirau!…

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What’s the biggest tree you’ve ever seen?

Rousing Rotorua, NZ by da-AL

We landed at Auckland Airport early, rented a car — and learned how to drive on the ‘wrong’ (har-har-har) side of the road. A quick look around and lunch later, we headed south for Rotorua (after that we had a great time at the Redwoods and Huka Falls and Craters of the Moon and Waitomo Glowworms Caves, then Taupo and Pirongia, as well as Hamilton Gardens. Later in Australia’s Gold Coast, we visited familyand birds of Australia Part 1 of 2 plus Part 2 of 2.)

Rotorua is lovely, including its historic district.

Breath in! That rousing scent, which is e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e (even where no water is visible), is that of healing minerals permeating the air! In unscientific terms, New Zealand is the result of volcanic activity. Hence, the region teams with gurgling springs from where steam plumes and billows. Some are pleasingly warm to soak one’s body in, others are hot enough to cook in.

During the late 1800s, officials saw tourism money in those spas. They erected buildings, planted gardens, smoothed out sports greens, and more — all with the intent of creating a resort destination.

Here’s the historic district built in the late 1800s/early 1900s, which still attracts busloads of visitors…

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Part of the historic area pays respect to the indigenous Māori (who, by the way, fought valiantly in World War II)…

Elsewhere in Rotorua is a marae, a Māori meeting grounds complex set within a residential neighborhood. If you ever find yourself at one, remember that visitors must be formally invited inside.

A Māori meeting house in Rotorua.

Rotorua’s current mayor is Steve Chadwick, a long-time politician born Stephanie Anne Frizzell, was into her 60s when she was elected into office.

Who are the indigenous people where you live?