Monday, January 31, 2011

Last Day of January

We finally made it to the end of January -- it always seems like a really long month each year. We had a little bit of snow all day and I was able to snap a quick photo of this beautiful male cardinal while I was eating my lunch today. There's nothing like a brilliant red cardinal to brighten up a gray winter day.

Yesterday I finished a little shawl that I started last August. This is the Multnomah Shawl, and you can find the free pattern by clicking here.

I like these little wool shawls because they're nice to dress up any outfit, plus they're actually pretty warm too. An added bonus of this shawl is that the green in this variegated yarn is an exact match to this godawful green blouse I bought on clearance at JCPenney's a few years ago. Now I know I'll be wearing this green blouse much more often (notice my happy face!)

The other neat thing about this shawl is that I got the chance to use one of the new shawl pins I purchased last week from one of my fellow Etsy shop owners. This cute little flower shawl pin is perfect on this shawl. If you're looking for a shawl pin, please check out some of Amy's other cute designs at this link to her website.

A couple months ago, a new yarn shop opened in Winona, Minnesota. It's called Yarnology and I've already made several trips down there where the wonderful shop owners have everything I need to satisfy my knitting addiction. Last weekend they had their grand opening celebration so Mr. Johnson and I made the drive to Winona again so I could take part in the grand opening event and sign up for a drawing. The really nice thing about going to Winona (in addition to Yarnology) is that we have usually have time to drive through the scenic Whitewater WMA and look for birds & wildlife, plus Winona has lots of restaurants and we get a chance to try a new one on each trip. Anyway, getting back on track here, last Sunday afternoon, I got a phone call from Gaby (one of the Yarnology owners) letting me know that I had won a prize in their drawing. Woo-Hoo!! And look at this fabulous prize I won.......
A beautiful lacy shawl pattern and 10 skeins of Elsebeth Lavold's Silky Wool yarn to knit it with (plus a little package of T-pins for blocking). On the way home, I also picked up 2 tubes of glass beads that will look beautiful on this shawl. I was so happy to receive such a wonderful prize and can't wait to get started on this shawl (as soon as I finish a dog sweater for a co-worker and the last Special Olympics scarf). I'll be sure to post pictures of this shawl once I get started on it.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A New Gadget!

Here's my newest gadget for enjoying birds & nature: the Nature's Window 3 outdoor monitoring device! I ordered it shortly after the first of the year and it arrived last week. Six feet of microphone cord is the standard with this unit. However, because of where I planned to locate my unit, I paid for an additional 30-foot microphone cord.
Here's the microphone -- it's really tiny! I was a little skeptical of how much sound this might pick up.

After setting up the monitor and running the cord out the dining room window and across the arbor that's built over my downstairs patio, this is all you see of the unit. It's almost completely invisible except for a little bit of the cord coming from the side of the house to the arbor.

The sound quality of this Nature's Window monitor is fantastic! It picks up bird sounds from a good distance away. Because we live so close to the highway, it also picks up a fair amount of highway noise, however instead of sounding annoying, this constant background noise almost ends up sounding like ocean waves, so it's actually kind of relaxing!

What I really like about this monitor is that now I can hear the outside sounds without having to crack open a window on these dreadfully cold days! And I can't wait until spring when the cardinals start singing their cheerful songs. Once summer arrives, I'm thinking I'll probably leave the monitor turned on all the time -- what could be better than having crickets and tree frogs sing me to sleep and waking up to the songs of orioles, rose-breasted grosbeaks, robins and brown thrashers!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Hello? Is Anybody There?

Downy Woodpecker stopped by the dining room window yesterday morning with a message:

"Hello? Ruthie, are you there?"

"Could you please put down that stupid knitting long enough to fill my suet log?"


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sharp-Shinned Hawk

Sundays and Mondays are my designated weekly Project FeederWatch days. There were any number of household chores I could have tackled this day, but I chose to sit near the dining room window with my knitting projects and watch birds in the backyard instead. Of course, my new camera was within arm's reach also and I was lucky enough to be ready when this little Sharp-Shinned Hawk flew into the backyard! In the absence of bluejays -- chickadees sounded their frantic "dee-dee-dee-dee" alarm call to let all the other little birdies know that this Sharpie had arrived!

She landed in the oak tree for only a few moments before she decided to take wing again. (I LOVE the continuous shooting mode on this camera!)

My disappointment in her departure was quickly replaced with joy as she flew just a short distance to a branch in the crapapple tree about 3 yards from where I was sitting!

Right below this tree hangs a small tray feeder frequented all day long by juncos and house sparrows. I love the intensity of her gaze as she scans to make sure no little birdies might be hiding somewhere down there.

Scanning the feeders across the yard for potential meals.......

Isn't this a great shot? I was wishing there would have been a sparrow down there somewhere for her!

When no little birdies showed up, she took the time for a little preening.

But always ever watchful for any prey that might unknowingly venture into the backyard.

A little preening of the back feathers always feels good too!
And still no prey in the backyard.......

Taking a little more time for preening those back feathers and then she was gone, flying out to an evergreen in the backyard where house sparrows like to hide.
Total time elapsed for this visit was about 5 minutes, but what a treat for me to see this beautiful little raptor up close! I wished her luck in her hunting endeavors and urged her to help herself to as many house sparrows as she could manage! (The other really cool thing about this Sharp-Shinned Hawk is that I can record her visit on my Project FeederWatch checklist as a backyard feeder visitor!)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Recently Completed Knitting Projects

I haven't shown you any photos of knitting projects lately, so that's what this post is going to be about. Last year, one of my resolutions was to try an keep an accurate record of knitting projects I started and finished during the year. I printed out worksheets and actually did pretty good until the middle of November when I was just so busy with knitting projects that I didn't take the time to keep track for the last few weeks of the year. However, I was pretty faithful about recording my projects for the rest of the year. In a review of the list, here are the results for 2010: Projects started was 112! Projects completed was 98. Ideally the number of completed projects would be greater than projects started, but only in a perfect world (which also explains why I have so many unfinished projects stashed all over the house!)

I've already decided I won't be keeping track of any knitting projects this year -- at least not officially. However, here are a few of my FOs (finished objects) for 2011.

A co-worker asked if I could make an earflap hat for his wife similar to a hat they saw on the Columbia website. I didn't have a pattern, but drawing on my years of knitting experience and components of several different hat patterns, here's how the hat turned out. It had to be purple and pink with long tails on the earflaps. I knitted it with Vanna's Choice 100% acrylic yarn, so it's machine washable and dryable (plus the yarn is really soft). I really like how this hat turned out.
Here's one of the scarves I'm knitting for the 2011 Special Olympics USA Scarf Project. I found out about this project from another knitting friend's blog. I've pledged to knit 3 scarves in these "official" colors of blue and turquoise. All of the athletes will have a handmade scarf to wear when participating in the 2011 Special Olympics. I'm sure it will be quite a sight to see all of them wearing these beautiful scarves.

I like to try new yarn colors. I picked up this ball of Patons wool a couple weeks ago because I was curious to see how this weird color combination would knit up. I probably will not buy this yarn again, but I'm sure there's someone who will see these half-mitts in my Etsy store and will love them enough to buy them.

Lastly, here's a small shawl I finished last week. I started it on Dec. 24th and the yarn used to knit this was Berroco Sox Metallic. (Ravelry members can download this pattern for free -- it's the Dane Shawl.)

I wore it to work yesterday. I love that it will coordinate with a lot of different colored tops. I know I will wear this shawl often.

Here's the back view. I was going to be just a few yards short to finish up this shawl but then I visited Yarnology (where I originally bought the yarn), the lovely owners there had a partial ball of this yarn in their backroom and graciously loaned it to me so I could finish up my shawl without having to purchase a whole 'nother ball. Now that's what I call "customer service!"

This yarn is beautiful with a silver metallic thread running through it. It was hard to photograph, but if you look real close a the photo below, you might be able to see it.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Life Bird -- Golden Eagle

Today my best birding friend Lynne and I attended a Golden Eagle seminar and field trip at The National Eagle Center in Wabasha, Minnesota. After an enjoyable lunch at the local Chinese buffet, we headed back to class at the Eagle Center where we learned about all the differences between Golden and Bald Eagles that would help us become proficient at Golden Eagle identification.

After about an hour of classroom time, we were ready to head out into Golden Eagle country and test our newly acquired ID skills. Hopefully the Golden Eagles would be there waiting for us........ After a short drive to the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi, the first pair of Golden Eagles was spotted perched together in a tree far across the valley. After driving a few more miles, another pair was spotted -- again, quite a distance away.

Fortunately for us, our teacher and Golden Eagle expert Scott Mehus was saving the best for last. On our final stop between 2 bluffs, we were treated to a flyover by not one, but a PAIR of Golden Eagles!As we were getting out of the car at this last stop, Scott said, "this is the place -- you'll want to get your cameras out and ready." "How can he know this?" I wondered to myself. "It's not like he has any control over the appearance of these birds, does he?" Skeptic that I am, I didn't have my camera out when the first Golden Eagle flew over the top of the hill, but you can bet that I scrambled my sorry butt double-time back to the car to get my camera out in time to photograph the second eagle when it flew over the hill a few seconds later!
Turns out Scott didn't control these birds, but he has followed them long enough to know that they roost overnite in this valley and the approximate time they arrive in the late afternoon each day. I snapped pictures until my fingers were numb with cold (it was only about 5 degrees). It was an awesome finale to a wonderful afternoon and I was thrilled to get such wonderful looks at these magnificent raptors. Only 4 days into the new year of 2011 and what a spectacular check-off for my life list!

Monday, January 3, 2011

My Holiday Day

Since last Friday was a regular working day at IBM, today was our day off for the New Year's holiday. It was nice to be able to sleep in for one last day and also to have another day for taking pictures with my new camera. These little Pine Siskins at the thistle seed feeders on my deck were good models.

Later on in the morning, I switched from tiny birds to a really big bird! This is one of the Bald Eagles from the pair that has the nest just up the road from our place (we call it the Fleet Farm Eagle because the nest is across the highway from the big Fleet Farm store). It was perched on this branch, but I asked Mr. Johnson to try driving a little bit closer so I could get out of the car and take a few more pictures.

I actually was hoping this eagle might decide that it didn't like us getting so close and decide to fly away.

Which it did! (and in case you're wondering, it wasn't too disturbed because it only flew about a hundred yards away to another tree farther away from the annoying person by that car)

I like the continuous shooting feature on this camera which enabled me to get this series of shots as the eagle flew past me.

I especially liked this shot! Click on the photo to enlarge it so you can see the beautiful detail on this raptor's feathers.

I look forward to taking more pictures of this pair of Bald Eagles in the spring when they're ready to occupy their nest at the edge of this woods and raise another family.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone! I'm looking forward to learning how to use the new camera Mr. Johnson gifted me with for Christmas. I see a little bit of a problem coming up here with learning to divide my time between 2 enjoyable far, I haven't knitted a stitch this morning, but I did manage to take these wonderful pictures out the dining room window.

An abundance of peanut-loving bluejays are my best subjects so far!

When I die, I want to be reincarnated as a bluejay!

Don't even think about trying to get this last peanut Dude!

The Victor!!

Chilly doves!

Chickadees are good subjects too -- esp. since this mealworm feeder is right outside the window.
Oops! Almost got that one!
OK, let's eat!