Friday, October 9, 2015

New Monarch

This morning a new Monarch butterfly was born.  I watched him as a caterpillar eating milkweed and getting bigger and bigger.  Then, when he had made a beautiful chrysalis, I cut the leaf it was hanging from and placed it inside a net container so that it was protected.  This morning, the normal jade green chrysalis had become completely transparent and the beautiful colors and patterns of the Monarch wings could be seen through the skin of the chrysalis.  Here are some pictures I took:

Nothing happening yet.....

Here we go!

More and more emerges...

The body is about to flop out.  It literally drops down - the butterfly was folded in half inside the chrysalis.  My pictures of this part were blurry.

All out and still wrinkly - has to stretch and dry.

Again and again, the butterfly flexed his wings and I even noticed the segments on the abdomen plumping and flattening from top to bottom.

He twists and turns from side to side gently while hanging from the broken chrysalis.

So beautiful.

There - that looks more like it!

While the butterfly is flexing his wings and abdomen, he is also rolling and unrolling his proboscis and moving what look like fuzzy eyebrows in and out.  His two long antenna remain behind his head during this time.

A different view.

Closeup - you can see the eyes quite clearly.

From this angle I could see him move his wings apart and together, airing them out and stretching them for flight.

Another closeup.

Such color!!

Closeup of the wings - you can see the tiny "tiles" or scales of color that make up each wing.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

First Good Migratory Bird Day Fall 2015

Today was the first day I could spend in the yard without fighting off mosquitos and feeling as if I was surrounded by hot liquid air.  Hurricane Joaquin picked up the cold front headed our way and pulled it through from west Florida to east Florida, as it moved northeast in the Atlantic.  It was cooler than it has been, much drier and breezy.  The butterflies were flitting everywhere, and there were more Monarchs than I have seen in a long time.  I also saw two migrant warbler species - a Prairie Warbler that I got some photos of, and a female American Redstart that I could not get anything but blurs. Below are some of the photos from today.  

At the bottom of the pictures are some Sparrows at our feeders.  I couldn't label them above the picture because Blogger wasn't cooperating. 

A Skipper butterfly

Above and below - the beautiful Prairie Warbler

Below - some posing dragonflies

A couple of Monarchs - one nectaring and one laying eggs

A Gulf Fritillary                                                    

Sunday, August 9, 2015

This Morning in My Yard

I was sitting on the back porch sipping my coffee when I heard the parrots.  We have all kinds of wild parrots here in South Florida.  In every case, they are escapees that successfully mated, had families and have "been fruitful and multiplied".  Years ago, the only parrots that came to our yard were the Monk Parakeets, which are very common now.  They are famous for making huge communal nests of twigs, leaves, moss and sticks on power towers, hence their survival in more northern places.  I've even heard they are seen in Chicago, but with their sub-zero temps in the winter and the blizzards they have, I don't see how even a communal nest could keep parrots warm, let alone allow them to find food to eat.   They are regulars in our yard whenever we put bird seed out.  Next are the Nanday Conures.  These are larger than the Monks and they have black faces, bright red legs and red and bright blue feathers hidden under the more prevalent jungle green.  In short, they are beautiful.  They like the black oil sunflower seeds and they announce their entrance to our yard very loudly.  I can tell the difference between their call and the Monk's call.  Finally, the piece de resistance - the Blue Crowned Conures.  They love the tiny berries growing on the native Wax Myrtle bushes we have in the back yard.  These birds' call is slightly different than the Nanday;  just as loud, but not as demanding, at least it seems to me. 
The Blue Crowned Conures raucously announced their arrival and we ran for our cameras.  Sure enough, they were in the Wax Myrtles on the east side of the yard.  Since it is summer, our plants, trees and bushes are growing insanely, and we had to dodge the branches of other trees to get a good view of the parrots feeding.  Below are some pictures from this morning:

Some other photos from this morning before the parrots arrived - I love the sun on leaves and flowers.


My husband took the picture of the Nanday Conures above, waiting on the line for us to fill the feeders with Black Oil Sunflower seed.  They were there at the same time as the Blue Crowned Conures.  Since he had to shoot into the sun, they didn't come out very well, but you can see what they look like.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Hand Made Journal

It all started with a trip to Barnes and Noble.  We hadn't been there in quite a while, so it seemed fun to get a cup of coffee and a treat of some sort while perusing magazines and books, one of which we might bring home.  First I treated myself to a good look around the store.  I love the journals, the art supplies, the desk accessories, the bright colors of everything.  As I looked at the journals, picking one or two up and looking closer, then glancing with dismay at the price tags, I thought, "I could make these".

I realize that book binding is a whole craft/hobby in itself, so this will take some practice of different binding methods to find out which one is the best.  

You can cut your paper to fit, cover some cardboard pieces with decorative paper or material, make some holes, and, if you have ribbon, you can tie the whole thing together.  This is what I did for my first try.

The next type of binding I want to try is more involved.  It is to take paper folded in half - several sheets to make a folio, say maybe eight sheets.  Gather 8 folios together, making 64 sheets, and then after cutting holes, sew the binding.  The best idea is to make 5 equidistant holes along the folded edge, and once the covers are prepared and corresponding holes are made in them, something called Coptic Stitching can be used to sew the binding. I'm wondering if I can incorporate my love of crochet into this somehow.  Coptic stitching looks like this which leads to this Youtube video tutorial.

I think I also like the look of this binding:

I bought a Grommet Kit today at Home Depot because I like the look of the grommets in the thick cardboard to the left.  I'll have to see how they made those covers.

To begin, I got out my stash of fat quarters.  For those of you who don't quilt, fat quarters are precut pieces of fabric.  They are each one quarter of a yard of material.  If you had one square yard of material, you could cut it into 4 fat quarters.  Why the word, "fat" is added, I don't know, but it sounds much more fun than just plain old "quarters."

Since I'm addicted to color, I have packages of fat quarters in rainbow colors, some of which are tie dyed.  I just like to look at them.  While I don't quilt at present, I use these quarters for making patches, for edging on jeans, whatever I might need a small amount of fabric for.  I chose a lime green fat quarter and found 2 equal 5 1/2" X 5" pieces of thick cardboard from some Amazon package we had received, and proceeded to figure out a way to cover the cardboard with the fabric.

These are fat quarters:

At first I tried to hot glue gun the whole thing, but I needed a hem around the edges, so I went to the sewing machine and 1/4" hemmed both fabric pieces.  Lest you think I just whisked over to my sewing machine and whipped up the hem (which I should be able to do), I had to first learn that I needed the hem by burning 2 fingers and 1 shin with hot glue.  The hot glue squirted out onto my shin (I was sitting cross legged on the floor) when I put a new glue stick in the back.   Feeling the pain, I reached to get the burning stuff off and proceeded to burn the 2 fingers and the thumb I used for that.  Once I started gluing fabric instead of myself, I realized I couldn't glue the hem under while holding the fabric without causing myself further injury, hence the sewn hems.  I also pricked my finger on the sewing needle AND had to wind 2 bobbins because the first one kept getting all tangled up.  It took way longer to make 2 simple hems than it should have, but I don't sew that often.  Nothing daunted, I took my injured, bandaided self and the hemmed fabric back to work on covering the cardboard.  Now that there was a neat edge, I had no trouble, although the corners are thicker than I'd like because I didn't cut away excess material. 

I also put some layers of soft Viva paper towel (I didn't have any quilt batting) between the fabric and the cardboard on one side of each piece so that I could use push pins to fasten things to the outside of the journal.  Here are pictures of the finished journal:

I happen to have a paper cutter, so I was able to take some lined paper I had and cut it to fit.  I didn't take the time to really make it exact, so the edges of the paper aren't all even, but close enough.  I remembered that I had brought home some of my father's tools as mementos - he had fine tools made in the USA back in the 30's to the 50's, amongst which were 2 awls.  I used the awl with a hammer to punch holes through the cardboard first, and then the paper.  

Once I finished that, I threaded a large eyed needle with some ribbon yarn I have-this picture is exactly the kind I used:

I threaded the needle with the ribbon and pulled off enough to make a long double strand, then I sewed the covers and paper together.  I added a couple of push pins on the front so if I have a shopping list I can just pin it on the outside of the journal/booklet for ease of access.

I'm pleased with the outcome, but I think the grommets would have been neater and perhaps metal rings would be nice, too.  I will be experimenting to find what I like best.  

My cats tried to "help" me with the ribbon by grabbing it in their mouths and trying to run out into the hall with it - just part of the crafting fun.  Oh - and my leg and fingers are healing nicely (burns are the WORST!)

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Gotta Have, Gotta Do

I don't know about you, but in my more ambitious moods, I bookmark several blogs where the authors post recipes, household hints, and things like 25 ways to save money....or 12 ways to use leftover rice.....or get out of debt NOW - you get the gist.  I take a look at my limited time (I still work full time and will for a few more years) and resources, not to mention energy (I turn 60 in 6 months) and foolishly plan how I'm going to do it all.  

I'm a person who never really learned to cook.  For various reasons that never happened for me.  I can follow a recipe that doesn't contain too many flourishes that require advanced cooking techniques.

This is true for so much of the other things I can do.  I can adequately crochet and knit, I can adequately garden, but I haven't had much luck with growing veggies down here in South Florida, although I don't give up.  I can keep a clean house within reason, but dusting isn't my forte and I have a lot of stuff lying around that gather dust, not to mention 5 cats, so don't look too close.

In other words, I can follow directions as long as they aren't too difficult.  But anything beyond being adequate isn't in my repertoire.  I blush to tell you how many knitting or crochet projects I've started that I have not finished.  I also blush to tell you about the kitchen appliances I have purchased and rarely, if ever use.  My bread maker.  I've used it, but haven't in a long time.  Of course I was going to make my own bread ALL THE TIME.  My juicer I've used maybe twice - so that my husband and I could be HEALTHY.  I have made a few purchases that I am glad I did - my cast iron pans are wonderful and I do use them.  And get this - I HAVE NEVER CANNED.  Oh the shame of it.   I have scads of essential oils to make my own face creams, shampoos, skin oils, sugar scrubs - and I have made some, but not as often as I think I should.    I have budget notebooks that I've created and never used because, well, time.  Just time.   And I still lust after a grain mill so I can grind my own grain to make the bread that I never make.

I wish I could live on a homestead and grow all my own food, can everything, have sheep in order to have my own wool which I would hand-dye and then either put on a giant loom or knit or crochet.  In addition, I'd like to make sure I've decorated my home carefully, not too cluttered (like it is now), good eye-pleasing colors which I would paint myself. Any repairs would be made right away by either me or my very handy husband (again - another story we won't get into now.  Suffice it to say, my husband is excellent at working outside the home.) and all would be creative, lovely, useful, hand made, frugal, budgeted - and we would live happily ever after.  If any problem came up, my extensive knowledge of just about everything would solve it pronto.  

I've taken some of these blogs very seriously, and showed them to my husband as examples of things I'd like to do.  I get a "bug" and decide we're going to finally be the people we should be - and that includes my husband - and I try to bring him into the plan by showing him what so lit my fire.  When I sent my husband a link to one of these blogs about being frugal and living on less, he pointed out that the person who wrote the blog had ads all over the place to entice one to purchase, had a professionally created web presence with the requisite high Google hits, often had items for sale either through Etsy or directly from their page, was retired and had a large homestead with all comforts and necessities.  In other words their advice works for them but may not for us.  I've felt very disappointed with myself for not being able to just become the best cook, the most frugal user of my resources, the most creative crafter, the most prolific knitter or sewer - you name it.  And all at the same time.  I just need to go back about 30 years in age so I can get all this accomplished and have the energy to do it.

Can I tell you how many times reading these blogs cost me money I didn't need to spend for things I didn't need to do?  That was not their fault - it is rather a compliment to their ability to convince me.

Now don't get me wrong.  These bloggers paint a beautiful picture.  They make me imagine what I could do.  What I am describing is something I've noticed in the past 5 years - more and more household bloggers have crossed the road into trying to make money with their blog.  One of these blogs was very upset lately when their account was hacked by someone in Europe, thereby deflecting all the ch-ching hits that normally would accrue to their financial account, now disappearing down the European drain somewhere untraceable. 

I don't see anything wrong with trying to make money, but posting in such a way as to appear just another housewife with some helpful advice that she has tried - and really being someone who is thoughtfully using advertising, color, ideas not her own or not really tried by her, a professional web site, etc. etc.  is dishonest in my opinion.  Maybe I'm the dumb one.  Maybe everyone who goes to their sites realizes what the person is doing and is quite happy with it.  Maybe I'm a gullible idiot who really believes these women do all they write about.  And maybe some of them do.  

But there's a suspicion I have that many of these are just like the advertising in any commercial enterprise - made to draw you in, but not necessarily true or even possible.  There is one I read for years and she really was just another blogger with some helpful hints and interesting blog posts.  Then - bam, she changed.  It started to become all about a particular brand of Essential Oils and how you, too, could sell them.  Every blog post was about some aspect of how she was using Essential Oils in cooking, health, household maintenance - you name it.  A blog I used to like had become......commercial.  And I didn't feel like I knew that person anymore or could trust what she had to say.  There is a price for trying to make money on the web with your oh-so-cozy blog hints and tips.  

That said, I'm wising up.  I can still use these FREE sites - it doesn't cost me money to go there and get their advice, most of which really is great if you can do it.  I just have to remember that I'm not going to be able to do everything I read about and that I have to pick and choose both the tips and the blogs.  Caveat Emptor and all that - and how about "know thyself" and not having what my mother used to call, "eyes bigger than my" (it originally ended with "stomach", but this isn't about eating too much) ability.

There are blogs that are inciteful, truthful and helpful without being all about money.  They also have links for Amazon or Google or whatever and get a little help from those links for purchases.  They can even sell things or put a link to Paypal so you can donate.  The difference is they are real people and you can see it.  I can relate to them because they aren't perfect and don't have a solution for every single thing in the world.  So it really isn't about the money making - I'm all for it - it's about the voice behind the blog.  Is it real or just a bunch of stuff to draw people in and make money?  Is it someone you'd like to meet and have coffee with?  Is it someone whose real self shines through or is it someone who is covered over with the latest designs, great colors, perky to the nth degree all. the. time.

I guess that is my beef and now all I have to do is fight the urge to wallow in all those bloggy places and fantasize how I'm going to do it all.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Quick Squirrel Post

Is this not one of the cutest squirrel poses you've ever seen?  He/she is tucked into the crotch of a palm branch right outside my desk window.  His little eyes never completely close, poor thing - but he is as relaxed as I've ever seen a squirrel. Look at his hind paw just hanging down.......sweet little thing.

In the morning I can hear him run across the roof - and then he appears in the palm, sitting on the branch he is now curled up in, barking and barking.  He must wear himself out.