"In every walk with nature one receives more than he seeks."
John Muir

Monday, February 28, 2011

Parade Magnetism

For the record, I am NOT a Mardi Gras person. I don't care for the whole concept and don't "celebrate" the occasion. I'm a Scrooge, you could say.
However, while on a pleasant walk around the neighborhood, we learned of a parade ready to begin nearby. Parades are just magnets for children and me, so we pushed the stroller in that direction.

The funny thing of this particular parade is that it is organized by just one neighborhood (and our Sun City has over 50 at last count) and the parade route is one street loop that is only a mile long. People living there decorate their golf carts, but there is more: miniature ponies, Georgetown High School marching band, Firemen with bagpipes, police cars, unicyclists and Shriner clowns to name a few of the enthusiastic participants.
Gigi enjoyed this little person just her size.

Lots and lots of beads and candy were tossed to the crowds and Gigi was one of very few children so she ended up with tons! Shoeless Joe wore his beads, too.

Although Baby Abigail slept through most of the parade, Gigi shared some beads with her.

And Kathleen decorated herself and the stroller.
After all the excitement, we walked home all the happier for the unexpected music,
costumes, fun and, of course, beads!
Not sure the history behind the beads, but we had fun when our simple walk turned into an unplanned parade. Just one more of life's unexpected pleasures.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Little Beach Story

This story begins on a sunny, white sand beach.
We were leisurely strolling the shore, lattes in hands, when we discovered a large number of shorebirds grouped in one spot.
Some were alert, some seemed bored.

I figured I could conjure up a tale of these birds since they were all gathered on one side of a beach volleyball net and were facing in the same direction. A watchfulness showed in the posture of the birds.

They were a team that had scheduled a volleyball game but were waiting for the other team to show up. This other team was very late and they weren't sure what to do next.
The seagull was the captain and even he was having trouble keeping the energy level high among the players, dozing a bit himself.
I think some had given up completely.

The afternoon sun was warm and one by one the birds grew drowsy, closing their beady little eyes and tucking their head under their wings.
The captain's challenging words fell on deaf ears (where are those little ears, anyway?).

We walked a long way down the beach and then eventually returned.
Sadly, we realized the game had still not begun because the players were still sleeping and the persistant captain gull perched on the net post, watching diligently for the opponents.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Valentine's Day--Lots of Sugar, No Calories


To most of us, this happy day means love,

In our family, this sweet day is Sweet Gigi's birthday! This year she is 6.
Grandma bakes her a heart cake every year
and she doesn't mind that my cake decorating skills are quite rudimentary.
As long as there are candles to blow out, all's well.

On this day she met her new baby cousin Abigail as we all trouped in to her schoolroom during the Valentine's Day/Birthday Party. Already flying high from all the attention, she bubbled over with excitement over Abigail's arrival.

Later, all 3 cousins tried on the birthday hat and got acquainted.
And despite all the candy, birthday cake and ice cream,
for me, this was the sweetest part of Valentine's Day

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Please Don't Feed the Gators

We took a great walk through a swampy river park while in Florida.
Most of the walkway was on an elevated boardwalk so we could view the plants and wildlife without disturbing them. This sign was posted in a very obvious place for an obvious reason.
Apparently the power of the jaws of a gator are not much different than some dinosaurs.
Quite impressive information.

Looking a lot like a dry log at the bank of the river, this 6 or 7 foot long mother appeared
sleepy and uninterested in much. This look was deceiving.
The more we studied her, the more we saw.(A truth for all of life.)
Peer carefully to the left of the end of her tail. Do you notice anything?

Maybe this will help you identify one of her children.
We were fortunate enough to have a man who knew lots about these gators standing nearby. He explained that these babies grow about 1 foot per year so this one below is actually 2 years old. Keep studying this picture and you'll see a new baby to his right, sort of hiding under the stick. This youngster is only 1 foot long and was born recently. As our eyes grew keener we noted numerous gator kids swimming and resting. All near Mama and a hole she has built into the bank to hide them at night. The knowledgeable man nearby said that the herons "eat the babies like popcorn"--oh, my!
I tried to post this little video of a baby gator swimming, but I can't get it to play. Any advice from anyone on how to post videos, I'd sure appreciate it.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Zooming in the Camera Lens

While visiting Florida recently, I spied something that caught my attention.
It looked like a bunch of white cloths or plastic bags had blown into a row of trees and were stuck there. I hadn't noticed this before so I walked a little closer.

As I kept staring, straining to focus in on these white, ghost-like things,
they suddenly took flight and I recognized them for what they really were.

The frenzy of flight passed and these pretty white shorebirds resettled into the trees.
They fluffed and primped and then tucked their long necks around until
their heads were hidden under their wings.
This happened each evening so I took my camera across the street the next night so I could get these pictures for you. The "bird-ghosts" are gone each morning and the trees remain bare all day long. But, as the sun sets and evening settles in, dozens of these birds return to sleep peacefully, safe and happy, looking like white cloths caught in the branches once again.

Thought I'd share a close up this egret I watched on another day.
Some of those white birds in the trees were egrets like this one.
They are graceful birds that walk intentionally, gazing around
with a wise calmness that is most fascinating.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Liquid Sunshine

I recently returned from a 2-week long visit with my mother.
She lives on the west coast of Florida and has this wonderful tree in her yard.
It is filled with an abundance of delicious oranges.

When my children were living at home and we made an occasional
winter visit from cold New York to sunny Florida, they loved 3 things:
swimming, roller blading and making orange juice.
In those days the juicer was electric and the sound of grinding was heard day and night. Gallons were squeezed and drunk!
It seemed endless.

This visit started out with just me and a little manual juicer.
What fun to step out the door early in the morning, reach up and grab a handful of warm oranges to carry inside. Twisting each on the little glass dish made the sticky and sweet juice pour down the sides. The fragrance was intoxicating!

And the taste is like nothing else! No store bought OJ can even begin to compare with the taste of such a fresh and warm glass of this! Smooth and thick and sweet.
We call it "liquid sunshine" and cold germs don't dare even peek around the corner
when it's in our glasses. Boy, I wish I could share some with you right now!
I'll close with a sweet memory:
Many winters we had to remain in snowy and cold upstate New York and couldn't make the trip to visit Florida. My Dad, while he was still living, always wanted to share some of these super oranges and would annually pack up a box and mail them to us. He always left a few green leaves on a stem to remind us of the tree. I smile to recall the excitement in the kitchen when that box arrived--squeals and laughter as each of us stuck our noses inside the cold box and took a long whiff of the honey-sweet fragrance of those little oranges.
Then we got out the little glass juicer and sliced and squeezed and poured.
A moment of reverent silence followed as we each brought those glasses to our lips, closed our eyes and, for a few brief moments, we were flooded with Florida's warmth and sunshine.
There just aren't words that describe such pleasure.

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Most Welcome Sight (the Sequel)

This post is a sequel to the one just prior, about our local snow "storm".
All traces of snow are past.
I took a walk in a t-shirt this afternoon.
The fountain's water is once again gurgling over the rocks so our backyard deer
are returning there and to the birdbath for evening drinks.
I don't think they realize it is meant to be a BIRD bath,
but I'm not going to say anything.

Here's our attentive mama deer and one of her twins.
The fawns' spots are gone
and in only a few months they will be the "big" brother and sister.
Please notice the bluebird house in this picture because...

One of the trees in our yard was adorned with several of these beauties the other morning!
While living in New York, we coveted these little bluebirds for years and had several nesting boxes available but usually the tree swallows filled them with their families instead.
That wasn't a bad thing since those busy swallows eat tons of mosquitoes.
But still we longed for the bluebirds and eventually a couple stayed
and raised their brood of 5.
After we moved, the bluebirds returned and my friend and neighbor kept me informed of their health and well being (the birds', that is).

Alas, our yard is also home to a very bossy and irritable mocking bird.
This annoying creature has chased off early spring bluebirds for several years.
But, I rejoiced to see a feisty bluebird come and stay last spring. He wooed his fair bride with bugs and such while she tentatively checked out our house. I empathized with her mate as we nervously awaited her decision.
Was it big enough? Did the door face the right view?
It took her days to make up her mind and I had chewed off all my nails
in the waiting and watching.
But, in the end, she decided to stay and set up housekeeping.

We soon learned why this particular little male bluebird didn't get "ruffled" by that
miserable mocking bird. He, himself, was quite
a stubborn little bird with a big attitude.
Every morning he started banging on our windows at first light.
See him hanging on the screen on our bedroom window?

He perched on this little wind chime and flew over and over
into the window, smashing his beak into the glass pane.
We understood that he was fighting his reflection, but my oh my, this went on for many days and both Jack and I, as well as the little bird, ended up with headaches from this carrying on.
Eventually he gave up or "won", I don't know which, but he stopped the knocking.
The mocking bird left him alone and Papa bluebird now put his energies into providing for his healthy family of baby birds.
It was wonderful to have them flying around in our yard.
So, seeing 8 bluebirds in the tree the other morning filled me with joy!
Maybe it is the whole family of last year stopping by
to check out the old homestead.
I can imagine the parents telling the children, "Now, that branch over there
was were you first flew alone..." and such.
I'm crossing all my fingers in hopes that one of them chooses to stay.

Friday, February 4, 2011

A Most Unusual Sight

This week was COLD in most of the USA.
Meteorologists say 30 states had snow.
Even we had a little bit of snow yesterday!
The confused look on our little dog's face is due to white snow on trails.

I realize most of these 30 states had blizzards, high winds, and deep snow.
But for those of us that live in Central Texas-- ice, 10 degree temps,
and 1 or 2 inches of snow makes for a a very unusual situation.
It pretty much shut down life as we know it with schools and businesses closed.
Imagine having a snow day from school from just 1 inch of snow!?
(Did I just hear you murmur "wimps?")

The pond in our little backyard fountain has been frozen solid for 5 days.
The deer don't know where to find a drink.

Our neighbor's continuously flowing fountain looks like this:

Somehow snow tucked into the fronds on this palm tree looks out of place,
don't you agree?

And snow on this prickly pear cactus looks photo-shopped.

There is one plant in our yard that looks "right" adorned with fresh snow--
the holly bushes. I could use this picture on next year's Christmas card.
Today warmed up to normal 55 degrees with lots of bright sunshine.
The snow is gone and with it the excitement of snowballs and snow angels.
Maybe we'll see a day of snow again next year.
And it will take us Texans by surprise, again!