Thursday, June 28, 2007

Therapeutic Knitting

I worked late again today and am going in extra early tomorrow morning, so I don't feel like doing much except sitting out on the deck knitting and listening to my birds (which is where I'm headed as soon as this post is finished).

Here's the progress on "designing my own dishcloth" based on the pattern of the lace shawl I finished a couple weeks ago.

The first dishcloth is all done.

The design is charted and I just have to get my handwritten scribbles transferred into a more legible typed version.

The second dishcloth is still a 'work in progress.' This pattern is a little more complicated and I have to slow down my knitting enough to chart and write out each row as I knit it. I should be able to get it done next week sometime.

Penny is usually sitting somewhere nearby to oversee my progress..... although she usually just hops on my warm chair cushion when I get up to re-fill my coffee cup. She also enjoys playing with my pen or the little white-out cartridge.

I'm finding that designing knitting patterns is fun, but actually getting them written down and printed is turning out to be the difficult part.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Windchime Wednesday

Another long day at work today, but only 2 more days to go till EOQ. I think I can, I think I can.....

I'm pretty sure what's bothering me most about all these extra hours is blogger withdrawal. I want to sit for a couple hours and read through everyone's blogs and comment, and I just don't have the time. I know I'm missing some good stuff, but I can get caught up next week.

I decided I'd better post something tonight and while I was walking around the yard taking all my pictures, I could feel the stress going out of my body.

Here's a something about me that probably nobody knows outside of my immediate family members.....I'm NUTS about windchimes. I have windchimes in every conceivable size and in almost every conceivable location--indoors and outdoors. When I had a car, I even had a windchime in my car! People who rode with me either loved it or hated it.

So without further ado, here's a photo essay of some (believe me, there are more!) of the windchimes inside and outside my home.

Cardinal windchime hanging from the ceiling light in the foyer.

This seashell windchime hangs in my kitchen doorway. Dave, my boss at Wild Birds Unlimited made it for me when he got my name for Christmas a few years ago. Every time I bump it and the shells clink together, it reminds me of my days as a WBU employee.

My windchime necklace (thank goodness I didn't spill any supper on my shirt!)
This little windchime tinkles in the breeze when my patio door is open. It's too fragile to hang outside.

A tiny hummingbird windchime that hangs by my hummingbird/butterfly perennial garden.

This windchime hangs in the dead tree in the front yard. It's the chime I hear as I fall asleep at night and wake up in the morning.

The Wind(chime) In The Willow

This is my largest (weighs over 25 lbs) and most expensive windchime. You can't tell from this picture, but it's sparkly! It hangs from the pergola over my back patio, right below the dining room window. It has such a beautiful, mellow sound and you can hear it in the house even with the windows closed. It's chiming as I'm writing this post.
This chime hangs by the front door. Because it's ceramic and bamboo, I had to put it in a more sheltered place so it didn't blow down and break. If you've never heard bamboo chimes, they have a very unique sound.

This little brass bear bell hangs behind the garage. It has turned a nice verdigris color over the years.

This chime in a crabapple tree was a wedding anniversary gift one year from Mom & Dad.

This poor chime is broken....the wind-catching thingy has blown off and I have to reattach it one of these days.

Here's a little windchime that hangs by my hammock--it has a delicate little sound (reminds me of a fairy).
This brass bell chime hangs from a tree in my little aspen woods. Brother Phil got it for me when he was stationed in Korea during his Air Force days.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Manic Monday

I had an awful day at work today. Sometime between last Friday and today, one of my suppliers who's supposed to be taking back all of their NCM (non-conforming material) parts has decided that they now can't manage to do anything with it, so all the requests I spent last Wednesday through Friday preparing (opening boxes, scanning barcodes on parts, looking up pricing and PO information, and then repacking) were no longer acceptable today. That was hours and hours of work down the crapper and thousands of dollars still in inventory! I was able to copy and paste all of the information into new RMA (return material authorization) requests going to another supplier, but that wasted a lot of time when I could have been working on new requests. (I have close to $900,000 of inventory that I need to try and get moved out by the end of the quarter--this Friday.)

The other problem was another IBM plant that is now refusing to accept my RMA requests, because they don't have time to (or don't want to) do the failure analysis on their modules that are failing in our machines. All in all, it was a pretty disappointing day and I must admit there was a fair amount of profanity flying around in my brain and trying to get past my lips. I got to work at 5:30 this morning and didn't leave till 4:30 this afternoon, so that added to my tiredness also.

The absolute worst thing is that I'm so darn busy I don't even have time to look at anybody's blogs during work time and now tonight I'm just too tired. I'm looking forward to next week and going back to my "normal" schedule that allows a little time for non-work-related activities during the day.

I'm really trying to keep a positive attitude, but this has been the worst end-of-quarter ever and many people are starting to become very short-tempered. I heard about 1 person getting fired over the weekend and another person who made an inappropriate comment to a co-worker (a Manpower vendor like me) and was suspended from work for 4 days without pay, put on probation for a year, and demoted to the manufacturing line.

So, long story short, I have no inspiration for a lovely post tonight. I need to run the dishwasher, do some more laundry, and then go knit to get some sanity back.

Here's the picture I took yesterday morning of the Gray Catbird and her "kitten" in their nest (see the little beak in front of her at the edge of the nest?) Aren't they precious?
I noticed she incorporated a string from the blue tarp that's blowing to shreds in my neighbor's yard.

Thanks for listening to me rant. I'm hoping for a better day tomorrow.....

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Church of Our Benevolent Mother Nature

I attended services at the Church of Our Benevolent Mother Nature this morning. A bunny and raccoon were hurrying in ahead of me to get to their spots.

Pre-service music was provided by indigo buntings, cardinals, pee-wees, chickadees, and nuthatches.

Downy, Hairy, and Red-Bellied Woodpeckers provided a short, but heart-felt sermon.

After service, I headed to the pond for post-service social time.

Mrs. Whitetail and her fawn were already there, but she wasn't the least bit happy to see me.

She snorted and stamped her foot at me, but I held my ground. "Hey, that's not very good fellowship," I told her. Since she couldn't get me to leave she took off running one direction while her little fawn took off the other way.

As I was heading home, I spotted these three juvenile delinquents messing around all by themselves. I'm guessing they snuck out the back of services for some good times while Mom was still visiting. Don't you just love their ears?

Can we get a close-up on those spots?

Oh-oh, we are so busted. Let's go guys!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Short Post Tonight

Whew, I'm exhausted. I went into work for 7 hours this morning, then came home and took a little nap. I bought some perennials on sale at Hy-Vee last night, so I went out and planted them, and also the flat of impatiens still sitting around from 3 weeks ago. That was a good job done--now all my flowers are finally planted.

Then I tackled the bird feeders. In between cleaning out the bird feeders, I also pulled some weeds. Made some supper and after that, I got the birdbaths cleaned out too. It's good to finally get all that stuff out of the way.
The trick for getting that sludge and algae out of your birdbath is white vinegar and a good birdbath scrub brush. The vinegar cuts through the yuckiest gunk and it's not toxic to the birds or pets who drink from your birdbath in case you don't get it all rinsed out. Bleach is still good for sterilizing, but it's not a household chemical I use anymore for a number of reasons I won't go into here. For me, vinegar is a good all-purpose and non-toxic alternative (it also kills weeds!)

While I was out cleaning the birdbaths, I saw the gray catbird with an insect in her beak and she flew over to the evergreen tree. The catbirds have been hanging around here for several weeks now and seem to really like that evergreen tree, but it's thick and I've never been able to spot the nest. I marked the spot where I saw her fly in and walked over there. Sure enough, about 7 feet up, I finally spotted the nest. I could see 2 little baby beaks begging for that insect. Hopefully I can get a picture tomorrow when the light's a little better.

That's all for now. Here's Daisy enjoying a summer evening on the deck and keeping a watchful eye for bunnies.

Friday, June 22, 2007


We've had over 2 inches of rain in the last 36 hours. Now I'm not complaining about the rain, we're still behind in moisture for the year, so this rain is most welcome.

However, that much rain has made a mess of my birdfeeders.

When the drain holes get plugged in the seed catcher trays I'm left with this watery, slimy mess floating in the trays (and it stinks too).

I'd found that the safflower seeds are the perfect size to lodge in the drain holes, thereby allowing these trays to fill up with rainwater.

Some of the rain we had was driven by thunderstorm winds (a 52 MPH gust was recorded yesterday evening). Even the tiny holes in the thistle seed feeder get rain drops driven into them. Then the water runs down the inside of the feeder and pools at the bottom. Fortunately this thistle feeder has an easily removable bottom--making the clean-up much easier.

Here's the tray feeder where I put my grackle/squirrel feeding blend that contains cracked corn. It has a screen bottom, but once that corn gets wet it turns into a yucky goo that I'll have to scrape out.

And then when I get done cleaning the bird feeders, it will be time to tackle the birdbaths!


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Special Artwork

Many thanks to everyone who submitted their favorite artwork to me. We share our love of nature and outdoor beauty with each other, but I was curious about what people have inside their homes that contributes to the beauty and happiness of every day life. Here are the submissions I received with the stories "in their own words." Enjoy the show!

This might be the most ridiculous art form you’ll see, but I’m submitting it anyway.

My daughter saw the movie “Free Willy” when she was in middle school and immediately knew she wanted to become a Marine Biologist. She painted this in the sixth grade and we have displayed it in her bathroom since then. It is still displayed in our guest bathroom. We moved it from Maryland to Delaware to North Carolina. One of these days I will frame it instead of hanging it with push-pins! She has a passion for marine life and swam competitively for twelve years but did not earn a degree in Marine Biology at the University of NC at Wilmington. She earned an Environmental degree instead. We have some very nice artwork in our home, but I think I treasure this piece most of all.

(Mary, it's not ridiculous at all. I love the colors and how happy all the marine creatures are!)


From Anna (my sissy):

Here's my favorite piece of artwork. It's called Yellow Moon Rising and it's by Peter Paskas. It's an artists proof, #34/50. I love the picture because it reminds me of the areas around home....valleys, barns, cows, rural countyside. I like full moons also. I just feel very relaxed whenever I look at that picture. I can almost smell the country air! That's the story about my favorite piece of artwork.

(I was working at the art gallery when Anna got this picture, in fact I made the frame for it.)


From Jayne at Journey Through Grace:

Around Christmas time when Sam (who has autism) was in the third grade, he was struggling mightily with wanting to know what was in those wrapped packages for him under the tree. He would pick them up, shake them around, and ask me what they were. I kept merrily telling him that he'd better not open them, or else he'd have nothing to surprise him on Christmas. Theory of mind is one of those concepts that kids with autism generally don't possess, and so imagine my glee when he came out of his room with this work of art for me. "That's me," he said with a grin, as he showed me the picture he'd drawn of himself representing the struggle he was having wanting to open his gifts. I could only chuckle as I saw he'd drawn himself with an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. This work of art is just simply priceless to me.

(We framed lots of 'kids art' when I worked at the gallery. I always enjoyed hearing the stories that went along with their pictures.)


I'm sure others have already said it, and I will, too -- there are so many "favorites" -- but the attached is probably at the top of the list. If the attached doesn't come through very well, let me know and I'll try taking another picture. BTW, thanks for the invitation to participate. It sure made me think about what I have and admire the most.

This is a Navajo sandpainting. I have always admired many works of art by Native Americans -- their rugs, jewelry, pottery, and sandpaintings. My husband and I had the opportunity to live in Albuquerque for a few years, and I enjoyed learning more about these people and their cultures while living there. What better place to learn more about the Navajo and Pueblo people than the Southwest. Sandpainting, to me, is such an intricate work of art -- to me it's more precise and intricate than rug weaving or making jewelry or even creating their pottery. My husband and I bought this sandpainting, among other pieces of art, a few years ago when we went back to New Mexico for a visit, and it was after we had part of our house remodeled. This sandpainting is the focal point in our living room where everyone can see it as they enter our home, and it's my hope that everyone would feel a sense of peace while looking at it.


I have attached a picture that I love that we framed last year.

I took the photo of my daughter sitting on a bench at the market with a bag of apples. My daughter, Becka, then photoshopped it in sepia, keeping the mural in colour and a few red focal points.

I would never have had the patience to do that.

I like pictures that have personal meaning. My grandparents were both artists and I have a few of their paintings. Becka has inherited their talent in drawing so I will likely add her work to my collection.


From Donna at kgmomumblings:

When our daughter studied in a semester abroad, in Glasgow Scotland, the University had a month long spring break. She and two college mates of hers decided to do some touring in eastern Europe. They flew to Vienna, and from there a bit at a time, they traveled by train, with Istanbul as their terminal destination. Their travel luggage, for the most part, were the large backpacks that they could carry on their backs or by hand. When they got to Istanbul, our daughter saw the perfect gift to bring home for us--a lovely blue plate to hang on a wall.

This is a plate hand-made in Turkey that our daughter bought it in a local market, even bargaining for the sale price. The inscription says "The God knows everything; The God is everywhere."

She packed it in her luggage, carefully wrapping it, and managed to get it all the way home across Europe, back to Scotland, and then back to the U.S. without the plate breaking.

So, for all those reasons it is my favorite piece of art--a gift from our daughter, a wonderful inscription, a marvelous travel tale!


Lastly, here's my art. Because I worked at an art gallery, there are pictures on every available bit of wall space that isn't already occupied with Rick's trophy hunting mounts (my niece doesn't like coming to our house because of all the dead animals looking at her!)

While I was working at the gallery, I fell in love with the art created by Carl Brenders. He is a painter from Belgium and creates some of the most fantastically detailed wildlife paintings you have ever seen. Click on the link below to see more of his art through his publisher, Millpond Press.

I have 6 of his pieces in my house, but "Power and Grace" is my favorite.

Because I have a special fascination with white-tailed deer, I knew I had to have this picture. I love the way he has painted the deer with their ears turned different directions--I have watched deer do this many times. The grasses and thistles look exactly as the fields would look in the late summer when you might see deer together like this. Although this print had been sold out for many years, the owner of the gallery where I worked was able to order it from another gallery and this framed picture was my Christmas gift to myself one year. It's definitely the most valuable piece in my home gallery and is the focal point on my living room wall.

Here are a couple other Carl Brenders prints I have in my basement. (I apologize for my poor photography skills-it's hard to take a picture of a print under glass with artifical lighting.)

Den Mother-Wolf Family

Full House-Fox Family

Thanks again to everyone and have a Happy Summer!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Baby Wrens & The Clean-Up Crew

This is going to be a fairly short post because someone at home thinks I've been spending far too much time blogging lately....

The baby wrens in the apple tree house have hatched and are becoming quite vocal. The apple tree is probably about 30 yards from the house, but they're so noisy that I can hear them chirping from their house inside our house if the windows are open.
Here's how they look after about 1 week. I could see 6 for sure (there were 7 eggs). As soon as I took down the house to take this picture, they never made another peep. However, the mom was quite upset when she caught me over there messin' with her house and babies. I'm not sure if wrens swear or not, but it sure sounded like she was swearin' at me!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Here's my clean-up crew:

Eastern Chipmunk
Cleaning up all the seeds that fall from the birdfeeders on the upper level deck. I think he lives in the hosta & fern garden under the deck

Here it looks like he's licking this it salty? I'm not sure what goes on in a chipmunk brain to cause this type of behavior.

13-Lined Ground Squirrel (we call them streaked gophers).

Here's what she looks like sitting up and eating birdseed.

There are lots of these gophers all around the yard and our township offers a bounty of $1 per gopher. Our dogs have become quite expert at catching these little critters.

Both of these guys spend a lot of time outside the basement patio door and they drive our poor dogs nuts!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Perching Robins

Here are pictures of some of the places robins like to perch in my yard (in addition to the usual tree branches and other "normal" bird perching spots).

On the hummingbird feeder. This is the first time I've seen a robin do this--they usually perch on the metal pole that holds the hummingbird feeder.

This is a foam target deer we use for practicing our bow & arrow shooting. It's close to my little pond where the robins like to bathe and then they fly over to perch on the deer's head (or sometimes the deer's butt) to dry off their feathers.

On top of a tomato cage in the garden.

On top of the "lawn boulder" (after the deer head, this seems to be their most favorite perching spot in the backyard).

What's the most unusual thing you've seen a robin perching on?

Monday, June 18, 2007

Neighbor Treats

Scott (our neighbor at the end of the cul-de-sac) has some beehives in his backyard. A couple months ago, he brought us a quart jar full of honey from his hives. He told us when it was gone to let him know because he still had 10 quarts at home to give away. Yes, that's right....GIVE AWAY! We priced honey in the grocery store one day and though we didn't find a jar this large, based on prices of the other honey, we figured a jar this size would probably cost us at least $15.

Last Wednesday night, our doorbell rang at about 8:45 in the evening. "Geez," I grumbled to myself, "don't you know we go to bed early?" I got to the door and looked out and there was Scott, holding a large ice cream bucket filled with.....strawberries, just picked from their garden. I quickly recanted all my grumbles. I also gave him back his empty honey jar.

Yesterday evening, the doorbell rang again and there was Scott on his bicycle, with another quart jar of honey for us.

Isn't it beautiful?

I plan to take Scott's empty strawberry bucket back today and I'm going to fill it with some ginger snaps I baked after work this afternoon. It's definitely not a fair repayment, but I'm sure thankful for the bountiful gifts from their yard and garden that they share with us.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Old Fashioned Gingersnaps

3-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp ground ginger
1-1/2 baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter (softened)
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup dark molasses
2 tsp cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease baking sheets. Combine flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt in a large bowl and mix well.

Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Lightly beat eggs and add to butter mixture. Add molasses and vinegar and beat well.

Gradually add flour mixture to molasses mixture and mix until stiff dough forms. Shape dough into 1-inch balls and place on baking sheet about 1-1/2 inches apart.

Bake cookies until the edges are slight browned, about 10 minutes for chewy cookies or 13 minutes for crisp cookies. Place cookies on paper-towel covered wire racks until cool.

I made my cookies bigger than 1-inch and got about 4 dozen.

I rolled my cookies in granulated sugar before putting them on the baking sheets to bake.