Friday, February 27, 2015

Friday's Fave Five 2/27/15

LINK to Friday's Fave Five host blog.
1. The snow day that wasn't.  Supposedly we were to get anywhere between 3-8" of snow.  All the stations, all the models, were forecasting that much.  Schools called the day off the night before.  And--we were right on the dividing line.  The temperature was 2 degrees above freezing.  So, we expected to wake up to a winter wonderland, and instead woke up to - a little frost and minimal ice.  Mostly a cold rain.  I graded papers most of the day and got 3 1/2 sets out of 4 completed - including poetry projects and book reports.

2. A pot of cheeseburger soup.  Mom sent it home with me on Tuesday night, and it was nice not to have to cook.

3. A tight roof, plenty of blankets, gas logs and a heat pump, food in the refrigerator.  Simple things for which we are not grateful enough, especially on cold, wet winter days.

4. A great day in church last Sunday.  Our assistant pastor preached a great message, and the missionaries who came that night gave a sweet program with many memories for our church people who had visited them on two separate missions trips.  We went home, as did many others who commented later, refreshed and filled.

5. Birds are eating me out of house and home!  I found a 50-pound bag of sunflower seeds last weekend at a feed store, for a great price - and may have to get another bag within the next week!  I enjoy watching them.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Friday's Fave Five, 2/20/15

Link to Friday's Fave Five host blog

 1. We survived the ice storm this week with minimal problems.  Power was out from 1 a.m. to 7 a.m. Tuesday night, but that was all.  When I heard it go out at 1 a.m., I thought "Well, that's that for two or three days."  So it was a pleasant surprise to hear it come back on so quickly and so early.  Apparently that was the case, and time frame, for many people in our area.

2. No school Monday for President's Day, then no school Tuesday and Wednesday for an ice storm, then a delayed opening on Thursday because of the severe cold - makes for a nice week of school.

3. Andrew made it safely back to his city in China about 24 hours ago.  He stayed with a family we know in Beijing for almost a week, because there were no flights due to the Chinese New Year.  It's always a relief to know that he is back OK.

4. Very good open house last week.  We do "double school."  The first year the students weren't excited about it, until we did it once and they liked it.  We have a day of school, then actually come back that night for three more classes!  Anyone from the community, or parents, can come sit in on classes and observe what goes on.  And the trade-off?  No school the next day!

5. We saw this goose last Saturday in a cove on the lake.  At first we thought it was just a generic farm goose among the Canadas; then we thought it was a snow goose; but, after studying it, realized it was a Ross's goose - a rare bird for our area.  I've been back several times but have not seen it again.  After posting it on a couple of lists, I've received emails from several other birders, more avid than I am, who thought it was a good find and some who want to try to find it themselves.  My gut feeling is that it is a one-time viewing and has gone on to other places.  But it's always a treat to find a rare bird.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Feeders Going Crazy During Ice Storm

Mike put a flat feeder out this morning before he left for work.  This is what it looked like by half an hour later.  (Eventually I am going to use this feeder for mealworms for bluebirds.)

Feeders have been crazy.  About 60 goldfinches at a time, with about half a dozen pine siskins mixed in.  After all those finches move out, then there are downy woodpeckers, red-bellied woodpeckers, pine  warblers, cardinals, two kinds of nuthatches, Carolina wrens, as well as chickadees, juncos, and titmice.  They are eating me out of house and home.  But in this weather, I'm glad to feed them.

Pine siskin hanging sideways on the suet feeder.  It is similar to a goldfinch (same family) but is heavily streaked, with yellow on wing and tail (easily missed) - in this picture fairly visible.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

"His Love"

This is the song Andrew wrote during the dark days of last winter in China.  He recorded it at our church last Monday.  He then played with it in GarageBand here at home to add the harmonies to it as well.  However - we were getting supper ready as he was doing that, so there are some occasional background noises, especially toward the end.  He told me I can upload it as long as I put in the disclaimer that it is not a professional recording!  There is also a fairly long delay - maybe 10 seconds - before the song begins, so do not think it isn't working if you don't hear it at first.

The only way I can upload audio clips is to import them into iMovie and play with them there, before exporting to be uploaded.  I had hoped to put in a collage of China pictures, but am hopelessly lost in iMovie and have to keep it as simple as possible.  Therefore - when this one picture worked, it stayed.  I took it as we were returning to Andrew's apartment one afternoon.  These are the workers at the fine dining restaurant that is in front of his old apartment.  They are apparently having a break, and are grilling skewers of chicken hearts and other meats on a small charcoal hibachi.  This is a common way of grilling in his area.  I liked the artistry of how it turned out, even though when it was taken, it was only meant to be a snapshot of Chinese life.

Rare Bird! Ross's Goose

We saw a rare bird this morning!!  We drove to the Dobbins Farm Ponds . . . didn't see anything.  At the Fork Bridge we did see a great blue heron huddled against the wind.  Other than that - no ducks, nothing interesting, just a lot of small grass birds that flew too fast to be identified.

We got breakfast, then decided to check out the new Green Pond boat landing, which has just been completed for next week's Bassmasters Classic on the lake.  Afterward I suggested - let's go see what the old landing is like now.  There was a flock of about 15 Canada geese - with a little white goose walking, and then swimming, in the middle of the group.

At first we thought, just a common tame farm goose.  Then - snow goose.  But the more we watched it, the more we realized it was much smaller than a snow goose and did not act like a tame goose at all.  We studied it carefully, and realized it had none of the black of a snow goose on its bill, but it did have the gray at the back of the bill, like a Ross's Goose.  We both determined that that is what it was!!

They are not common around here at all - in fact, you won't even find them on the range maps.   I turned it in to eBird and to the Carolina Bird Club, and got agreeable confirmation on both.  Very exciting for a couple of casual (though hopefully careful) birders!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Videos from Singing

Last Saturday night, we went to the little country church in north Alabama where my dad pastored and assisted for many years.  The little school connected to that church, still in operation, is his legacy and joy.  We had an old-fashioned country singing that night, with many of the people who knew my dad and mom from their days there.  It was a great evening!!



Today is my father's 85th birthday.  Last weekend we met family members from four states for a lunch in Birmingham, AL.  Unfortunately - most of the pictures did not turn out.  And those that did, are on my sister's and her friend's equipment - and my sister has the flu.  So more of those pics may be on the way.

I had been working on a blanket for my niece's baby, for months.  It's not really a baby blanket - it's meant to be a "big-boy blanket" for a little boy whose family LOVES to hunt.  That's why the camo colors.  It's more for him to use when he's a little older.  But it was nice to get it done and delivered to his mother.  And here's a picture of Mike holding the little guy.  Mike hasn't lost his touch.  :-)

We also had a singing for Dad at his and Mom's church of 50 years.  Videos of that will appear later as well.

This morning some of the men of the church surprised Dad for breakfast at a local spot.  Sixteen came out to wish him a happy birthday.  Mike and Andrew were supposed to take him, thinking it was just the three of them - but Mike is recuperating from the flu.  (And I have what seems to be bronchitis.  The symptoms are identical to what is online - low fever, secretions, fatigue, trouble breathing {not acute trouble}.  And 90% of it is viral, so I am avoiding the doctor for a day or two, as if it's viral there's not much he can do.)  So Andrew took Dad without Mike going along, where Dad was surprised by the men of the church.  They really love and care about him.

So, happy birthday to my dad on his 85th!!


Now, there was one more thing about our trip to Alabama for Dad's birthday that made it an outstanding trip.  Outstanding.  We were driving into Decatur, AL, past the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge.  We used to go to the refuge a lot in the early days of our marriage, to see the many ducks and geese varieties that overwinter there.  However, it's been years since that's been a destination.

So we're driving on the main highway, when I look over at one of the impoundments along the road, and realize - those aren't ducks, or geese, but SANDHILL CRANES!!  A bird we've never seen, which used to be uncommon in the east, but apparently is increasing in the area.  They have red streaks on their heads, which was the tip-off of what they were.

We pulled into a driveway and saw about 200 feeding in a field.  We saw all the common behaviors - the way they lift their wings to intimidate other birds, their awkward appearance at flying in and taking off, their calls and squawks.  Of course--we had neither bird books nor binoculars with them.  This is the best pic we could get with a phone, of a couple that wandered closer to us, but it in no way shows the sight we had of those magnificent birds.

I called the Refuge on Monday to ask about their presence.

Apparently, about seven or eight years ago, several hundred sandhill cranes came to the refuge, and their numbers have been increasing every year, until this winter, when the count is at 40,000!!  The geese are way down, but the cranes are increasing.

So that was a wonderful personal addition to the whirlwind weekend trip to celebrate Dad's birthday.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Postal Rant

I received this in the mail the other day.  All that is left of the envelope which I mailed is that shred in the upper left-hand corner, enclosed in the larger envelope (the other side is cellophane).

The envelope says:  

WE CARE - US Postal Service

Dear Valued Postal Customer:

I want to extend my sincere apology as your Postmaster for the enclosed document that was inadvertently damaged in handling by your Postal Service.

We are aware how important your mail is to you.  With that in mind, we are forwarding it to you in an expeditious fashion.

The United States Postal Service handles over 202 billion pieces of mail each year.  While each employee makes a concerted effort to process, without damage, each piece of mail, an occasional mishap does happen.

We are constantly working to improve our processing methods so that these incidents will be eliminated.  You can help us greatly in our efforts if you will continue to properly prepare and address each letter or parcel that you enter into the mailstream.

We appreciate your cooperation and understanding and sincerely regret any inconvenience that you have experienced.

Now, I know that accidents can happen.  However, what irritates me is that the piece is returned to me with an "I'm sorry this happened."  

A couple of summers ago, I mailed an eBay package that got mangled in a postal machine in Washington State.  It took weeks for it to be returned, and then with a similar apology as above.  I hadn't bought insurance, so therefore the responsibility was mine.  I had to refund the person's money, yet had no books back to sell again.

It seems to me that by buying a stamp I am buying a promise of delivery.  The need for insurance ought to be reserved for very valuable things.  At the very least, the post office did not provide what I had paid for, and the cost of postage - even of a first class letter - ought to be refunded!

End of rant.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday's Fave Five, 1/23/15

 LINK to Friday's Fave Five host blog

1. Daughter went to Charleston and brought me a couple of mementos - a towel and a spoon rest.  I am always a sucker for a new kitchen towel - it's the simple things in life that are the best.  And I have NEEDED, NEEDED, NEEDED a spoon rest for a long time.  It's one of those things that is never thought about unless there is a spoon covered with "stuff" that needs to be kept near a pot of soup or something.  And then I just have to use a paper towel, which gets equally nasty.   So I am very glad for her thoughtfulness!

2. Supper with my good friend again.  We had a lot of stuff to talk about, so we went to Red Lobster.  But we didn't "pig out."  We each had a bowl of soup, and we split an order of stuffed mushrooms.  Nice to go to a place like that, enjoy a little decadence, but not feel like you've eaten so much that any attempts at restraint in eating are useless.

3. Another "singing" at my folks' house.  This time the crowd quadrupled.  No joke.  48 people were crowded into their den. It was another good evening.

4. Son and I went out to eat last Friday night, then to our school's basketball games, which were away games in the same town.  I was so proud of our boys.  They were outmatched, both in number and in size.  It could have been a sickening runaway.  But they played their hearts out.  They didn't win, but they only lost by 13, and that was because of a couple of free throws by the other team at the end.  Before going to the games, we stopped to see a couple of older friends at an assisted living center nearby.  Both of those visits were nice also.

5. Monday was a teacher workday, so this was a four-day week!  (A workday is almost the same as being off.)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Some Memorabilia

I'm cleaning through old photos, trying to get the amount of "stuff" on my hard drive down.  Here are some from the past.  There may be more!!

This was a beach trip.  They had so much fun with those boogie boards on that trip.  It was 2000--I remember because it was the same summer as my neck surgery.  We stayed on the inland waterway in a house - in the evening we would go down to the dock.  The kids would go crabbing and fishing and we'd stay out until dark.  Then we would come in and watch old sitcoms until about midnight.  Wonderful memories of that vacation.

I don't even remember this one until seeing it today.  Cute little boy!!

And this was a cute little girl's first beach trip!!  She actually loved it and we would have to stop her from running right into the ocean.  She had no fear.

Didn't really mean to have all the ocean references.  Here was a recital with a cruise ship theme.  They did such a good job!!