The secret behind pumpkin spice

The local drive-through java supplier (when I resort to buying a cup) has begun offering the “limited time” pumpkin spice coffee.  As hot as it has been, an iced latte sounded wonderful to me.

The past year, there was a lot of buzz on social media about pumpkin spice THIS and pumpkin spice THAT.  People seem to think that it’s too much of a good thing. Not me, and one product I’d like to see again is the pumpkin spice roasted almonds that I enjoyed during the winter!

But I digress.

I began to wonder why pumpkin spice is so popular and people look forward to it in the waning days of summer. When I returned home, I realized the truth.

Distracted by my delicious, aromatic beverage, I nearly ran into this:


An orb weaver poised near the door, looking for an opportunity to sneak inside. Baby, it’s going to get cold outside – and a cozy winter abode is inches away!

Clearly the pumpkin spice is meant to fill humans with good feelings and distract them from the spiders lying in wait to invade our homes and lay their eggs at leisure. Sure, the scientific literature I’ve read says that spiders who live in houses become dependent on the human-created environment and can’t survive outdoors. But that sounds like a risk the little critters are willing to take!

Heaven knows I’ve had to deal with spiders all over the house the last few days. Not including that wolf spider who was on the ceiling just a moment ago but has mysteriously disappeared while I opened the blinds. Just thinking about where it may have hidden, ready to pounce… Yikes!

It does give me pause that there’s an archnophiliac conspiracy working in the food industry. (The all-black-clad, Halloween-loving baristas whom I mistook for gothy fashionistas are clearly among the spider-lovers!) But after that pause, I admit nothing calms me down like a sip of pumpkin-spiced latte.

I guess I’m doomed.


Ditch bouquet 2016



Spicebush swallowtail (Papilio troilus) on a flowering chicory (cichorium intybus). Copyright 2016 Jean Balconi.

This is photo is for Derrick, whose beautiful garden photos are one of the charms of his eponymous blog.

Years ago I used to have a running series on my first blog (now defunct). I called it “Ditch bokay” (a country spelling I used to see in the Thumb). I’d be traveling along fields or shorelines, only to stop short because of wildflowers or weeds in bloom.  I’d take snapshots with my low-quality digital camera and upload them.

Asters, lilies and the elusive buttercup – there are dozens of beautiful blooms growing in the fringes.

Distractions from writing

Although this is my second annual DIY Writer’s Retreat, I wish I’d seen Kristen Pope’s advice, particularly this: “If you need to look something up for your draft, make a note and look it up later.” She refers to the Internet; I’ve found the same is true of physical sources. Continue reading

Epic vacation

I decided to go to the Homestead for a while, visiting the ancestors. Ha ha. It’s been fun to wake without an alarm and to devote entire hours – hours! – to reading.  I consider it a wonderful setting for writer’s summer camp.

There’s the familiar sights and sounds of summer, whether taking walks down the dirt road or watching summer sports. It didn’t take more than a day before I felt an epic poem coming on, a la The Song of Hiawatha:

By the shores of Wiggins Lake,
in the big brown stuff’d recliner,
rested the warrior, The Old Man,
pointing with the TV clicker,
shouting at the TV, angry,
angry at the lousy Tigers.

Unfortunately, my father didn’t like the reference to “The Old Man” – a proud warrior’s title, I thought. I suppose the Detroit Tigers won’t like it, either. Everyone’s a critic.

Rain, rain, go…. right here!

When it rains – even with accompanying lightning –  I’m very happy. It’s been so dry that I started carrying buckets of water to certain plants, such as the rhubarb and hydrangea.

On the other hand, the dryness made the heat bearable. Last week was in the mid-90s again, but it felt cooler than previous humid days. Plus the mosquito population died back.

I should mention I live in an extremely humid region, a marshland bordered by a river. I’m not native to The Swamp – as my colleagues call it affectionately – but I learned a few things quickly:

  • Cardboard storage boxes are pointless. They absorb moisture whether they’re in the attack attic or shed. Sometimes they fall apart in your hands even if they don’t look rotty. Sometimes they attract creatures that like humidity… yikes!
  • Musty smells differ just like flower scents. I like loamy dirt and after-rain smells, but cool nights cause the warm swamp to “breathe” –  blech!
  • Perspiration doesn’t have a cooling effect because it doesn’t evaporate. It just rolls down your body, under your clothes. It’s like wearing a sauna but without the camaraderie.
  • In the dry winter, the humidity is forgotten – until you take out the good stationery to write an old-fashioned holiday letter. Then you’ll discover that, sometime during the summer, the humidity glued the envelopes shut.