Not Dead Yet

I can’t believe it has been almost a month since I last posted any recipes, book notes, inspiring stories or general ramblings. What have I been doing? A friend of mine emailed me wondering if I was well since she hadn’t seen any postings. Well, let me rack my brain, what have I been doing?

Since we last talked on March 8…

• I have attended two different book groups.
• Sold two journals, one was a custom order so I had to build that one.
Brushed the cat
• Worked on a brain hat for the March for Science. ( I made Pussy Hats so I know I can  make Brain hats)
• Got the taxes done
• Worked the Big Book Sale at my library
My son was home and he brushed the cat.
• Raked lawn (we had one warm day)
• Baked a batch of ‘They Might Be Breakfast’ cookies (from Dorie’s Cookies by Dorie Greenspan)
• Baked Raisin Bars (same as above)
• Continued at the Health Club 2x a week exercising and strengthening my new knee
Brushed the cat.
• Got on an embroidery craze. (Worked on my Stitch a Day project and finished one auxiliary project and started another)
• Binge watched season 3 of Grace and Frankie.
• Binge watched Season 3 of Chef’s Table
Brushed the cat. (Damn! She should be bald by now.)
• Read or listened to 8 books (3 graphic novels, 3 audio books, 2 book books)
• Got my hair cut
• Went to the chiropractor
• Did a little birding, (added grackle, cowbird, sandhill crane, black duck, hooded merganser, northern shoveler, killdeer, redhead duck, lesser scaup, song sparrow, ringneck duck, coot and white pelican to my 2017 list)

Starting upper left: custom journal, Chef’s Table, Raking, Stitch a Day, The Cat, Cookies, Hooded Merganser, Book Sale Boxes, Knitting brains, Leg Press, Embroidery 1, Embroidery 2, Reading, The Cat again!

And then when you add in all those pesky weekly and daily chores like washing dishes laundry and grocery shopping…well, I guess I’ve been busy. So to my friend in Colorado, I’m alive, sort of busy, but nothing too exciting. Unless you count filling up a grocery bag with cat hair exciting. Hmm, I think we can build a new kitten from all that hair.

While looking for Swans We found a New Restaurant

Right now we are involved in the Great Backyard Bird Count. This is a 4 day worldwide birdwatching deal that anyone can participate in. No matter if you don’t know the names of all the birds, just identify and count the ones you know. And yes, you know more than you think. I know you can identify cardinals, sparrows, goldfinches, seagulls, geese…and if you happen to know more so you can say Northern cardinal, House sparrow, Tree sparrow, Lesser goldfinch, Herring gull, Canada geese, well then, all the better. It’s fun, lasts 4 days (Feb 17 -20) and you can do all four days and watch on and off all day or just one day for 15 minutes and then quit. Today is the last day for this year.

We get a bit more into it, so yesterday since it was 50 degrees on February 19th in NE Wisconsin instead of huddling in our house viewing birds from our windows we decided to take a field trip up to Door County, specifically Baileys Harbor where friends of ours reported seeing Tundra Swans.

BUT, this post is not about birds it is about lunch. Once we got to the town in question, about 60 miles north of here, and, finding no swans anywhere, we looked for a lunch place. In the winter not many places are open up there, especially on a Sunday but we did see a restaurant called Chives which had an OPEN sign in the window. We had heard of this restaurant but thought it was on the west side of the bay of Green Bay. And yes it is, same owner. Friends had given it good reviews. So, with not many other options in sight we went in.

Chives, Baileys Harbor, WI

Chives, Baileys Harbor, WI

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was nice looking inside. First room had seating and a bar but we were taken to a second room that had a very nice view of the Lake Michigan. Later we discovered a small room with couches, casual seating and small tables and a dining area that looked like a library.

Looks like a great place for dinner.

Looks like a great place for dinner.

We had a nice corner seat by the window.

We had a nice corner seat by the window.

The waiter brought the menu that was a combination brunch/lunch. It was sweet and savory/ breakfasty and lunchy.

menuLots of good choices. The menu reminded us of a favorite restaurant we frequent in DePere, WI called The Creamery. When he found out it was a charcuterie, Curt ordered the first item called House-made Grilled Sausage. It was composed of a ramp & morel sausage, three aged cheddars: Dunbarton Blue, Hooks 7 year & Blue Mont. A schmear of brown mustard, a mustard seed caviar and two slices of crusty bread. He paired that with a side salad. He said if he ordered it again he would asked for two sausages because it was excellent.charcuterieI decided on The Bistro which was a grilled cheese sandwich ( Muenster and White cheddar on a rustic bread), soup of the day (white bean and smoked ham) and a salad. The salads were already dressed with an interesting vinaigrette. The soup was wonderful and so hearty I really didn’t need the sandwich but it was great cheese combination and I ate it all.

Sorry, didn't remember to take photos until after I had started in

Sorry, didn’t remember to take photos until after I had started in

Service was very good. We didn’t have to wait long at all for our food. Wait staff was attentive but not overly so. It just was a pleasant lunch all around. If you go, hours are limited because it just isn’t super busy in Door County in the winter. Matter of fact, this is the first winter this restaurant has decided to stay open but it is only Th – Sat: 4pm to close ( dinner service) and Sat/Sun: 9 – 2 (lunch/brunch). Well worth the trip. However if you are looking for swans I hope you have better luck than we did. We did see a lot of Herring gulls, Common crows and Red-tailed hawks. Better luck next time.

Stitching My Way Through the Year

flossWay back in December when the world seemed yet a bit normal I received a post on Facebook from a friend about a project called 1 Year of Stitches. I clicked the link and discovered a very interesting post from a Sara Barnes about joining a group of embroiderers and essentially starting a year-long stitching project and posting one’s progress on Facebook or Instagram or both. She was inspired by another embroiderer who was just finishing her 2016 year. All I had to do was fill out a brief survey, respond with a yes and instructions would appear in my email before 2017 and then we would all get started. By December 22nd I had a response that it was on. I was only just getting a sense of the scope of this project. About a week later the “rules” of the game were sent out.

1. Make at least one stitch every day. (If you can’t do this, it’s okay. At least take a            picture of it that day)
2. Take a picture that shows your project. Don’t get discouraged if progress looks slow (or not at all).
3. Date your picture and write a sentence (or a few words) about the embroidery or your day.
4. Share online—through social media or a blog. On Instagram, tag it with: #1yearofstitches and @1yearofstitches  Post for sure once a week on Sunday.

A private group was set up on Facebook and as mentioned above #1yearofstitches was put on Instagram. Never having used Instagram I decided now might be the time. I do have an account (I guess that is what it is called) but my learning curve is a bit stunted so even though I post I am not really sure how to post from my phone or actually find anyone I am following. Well, least of my worries I guess.

What is really fantastic is the scope of this group. I am not sure of the total participants but the private FB group alone has 2822 members. There are a bunch on Instagram as well, some are duplicates but not all. As to the rules, well everyone got so excited in the beginning they were posting all the time. Sara started to have to dial people back a bit because everyone’s feed was getting clogged with pictures.

Where everyone is from is also amazing. When the first responses started I could see that we were a worldwide mob of stitchers. At some point in week 2? or week 3 someone posted, “Where are you all from?” Replies came from almost every state in the US, almost every province in Canada and tons of Australians. I also saw notes from New Zealand, Argentina, Mexico, Germany, France, The Netherlands, Scotland, Iceland, England, Poland, India, So. Africa, Israel and the Czech Republic. I am sure there are many I missed. We were a worldwide group of women, men and children all connected by embroidery floss. And once the pictures started appearing it was apparent we were also people with a wide range of talent. Some are rank beginners who said they always wanted to try embroidery, others have been doing this for years and are very proficient. Some have exquisite technique while others who have minimal technique and range are fabulous artists. Some are literally trying many different embroidery stitches, others are sticking to one or two or they are quilting or cross-stitching or adding beads. And it is all good because we have this interesting connection, this common language of thread and fiber. Here are a few of my favorites.

Starting upper left and going clockwise: Dartford, UK - Sheffield, UK - Utrecht, Netherlands - Toronto, Ontario - Pennsylvania, US - Wexham, UK.

Starting upper left and going clockwise: Dartford, UK – Sheffield, UK – Utrecht, Netherlands – Toronto, Ontario – Pennsylvania, US – Wexham, UK.

I put my self smack in the middle. I am using just a few stitches and concentrating on imagery. Also being in the season of winter I have time to work on the piece a lot. (It is 7 degrees outside today with a stiff breeze). I decided to divide my piece into months but I am almost done with February already.

My piece, Week 5

My piece, Week 5

So I started a second piece just to keep my hands busy and off the yearly project. I am doing it entirely in a stitch called knotless netting, a stitch I learned in graduate school where I studied under Renie Breskin Adams. I forgot how much I loved this stitch till I started working with it again.

Other piece, working title: Garden Dreams

Other piece, working title: Garden Dreams

So along with journals, knitting, travel, working out, reading and trying to avoid politics, that is how I am spending my winter and also, it looks like, my year. It is a very welcome distraction.

Just Who Was Wearing Those Hats?

hatsSaturday, January 21, 2017 was the Women’s March, a significant and historic event. I was not available to march but lent my support by knitting 13 pink hats known as Pussyhats. Three of my hats went to the Washington March with a High School friend and two of her companions. They reported that the experience was amazing and on their way home they continued to proudly wear their hats. At rest stops and gas fill-up people asked to take their pictures. The hats also served as very positive conversation starters. By the way, the latest numbers I saw on the Washington Women’s March was a half million.

My Washington Marchers from Illinois

My Washington Marchers from Illinois

Two of my hats went to Madison, WI with two very close friends. They marched with 75,00 to 100,00 other participants. At one point near the end of the march a young woman asked my friend Marjorie where she got her hat and how could she get one. Marjorie immediately removed her hat and gave it to her. Then Patricia gave her hat to the young woman’s companion. It was that kind of day.

My Madison Women in front of the the statue 'Forward" A Wisconsin Women's Memorial from the Columbian Exposition 1893. Sculptor: Jean P. Miner

My Madison Women in front of the statue ‘Forward” A Wisconsin Women’s Memorial from the Colombian Exposition 1893. Sculptor: Jean P. Miner

Proud owners of new Pussyhats courtesy of two amazing women.

Proud owners of new Pussyhats courtesy of two amazing women.

As you can see from the last picture not all people who marched on Saturday were women. There were many men there in support of women and women’s rights. And a lot of them were wearing hats, yes Pussyhats, with courtesy and permission from their ladies. They didn’t just take them. Here is an album of Wisconsin men at the march from the blog Each Little World. All photos copyright of photographer Mark Golbach.

The remainder of the hats I knitted went to Washington to be distributed to whoever needed one. But now what? The march may be over but there is still alot of work to be done. Here’s my pitch if you want to be part of the movement. The Women’s March project has initiated 10 Actions in the first 100 days. Follow this link to get involved. First action, postcards to your senators. Go ahead, do it, do it now.

Birds or Beans: Follow-up

crows

Crows. They all took to the air as I pointed my camera their way.

Well New Year’s Day was just beautiful. Sunny, mid-thirties but a bit windy. Still we bundled up since we were headed to the Green Bay and Lake Michigan shore. Always cooler by the water. We always start our birding at home (New Franken on the map) since we have a ton of feeders and we also do the Cornell Feederwatch count. So before we even left for the road we had 11 species.

We got out of the house at 9:15am and our First Stop was the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary. There we picked up three more birds. You can always count on Mallards, Canad geese and Black ducks there. Next Stop, the Mouth of the Fox River. A Peregrine Falcon was a nice surprise. He was sitting up near a box where a pair will nest later in the year. Stop Three, Starbucks for coffee.

In the neighborhood

In the neighborhood

After we had our coffee we tried to find a Snowy Owl in an area where we had seen them earlier but no luck today so we hit the highway. The plan was to drive down to Sheboygan and then slowly make our way back north along the Lakeshore. Before getting to the lake we got a few hawks and some wild turkeys along the highway and then stopped for a fast lunch.

MickeyD is quick and they are running a great promotion: Buy one sandwich and get second for price of yesterday's temperature, 40 cents.

MickeyD is quick and they are running a great promotion: Buy one sandwich and get second for price of yesterday’s temperature, 40 degrees = 40 cents.

birds2

Whoops! Almost forgot we also got a whole group of Wild Turkeys while we headed down the highway to Sheboygan. Forgot to list them on the map.

In Sheboygan while we were looking for gulls, the Polar Bear Club was getting ready to dive into very cold Lake Michigan. We did not stick around for the shivering. Ducks and gulls were abundant. Best sighting was a Glaucous Gull. Surprising how tiring birding from the road can be. It’s a lot of driving and a lot of scanning rafts of birds in some cases. We tried to stop and just stretch our legs once in awhile but you really have to keep going if you want to cover a lot of territory.

These are the masses of gulls one has to scan at times. We were lucky to get a Black-backed gull and a Glaucous today. This bunch are mostly Herring Gulls.

These are the masses of gulls one has to scan at times. We were lucky to get a Black-backed gull and a Glaucous today. This bunch are mostly Herring Gulls.

We got home by 4:00 pm and ended up with 33 birds for the day. A great start on our year list. But the best part was we knew dinner was done and waiting for us at the end of the trip. Here is my bowl of Red Beans and Rice ready to eat.beans

Spring?

It’s April. It snowed yesterday. My daffodils that are trying to bud have quickly tucked their heads in. Today the sky was gray and it rained  because luckily the temperature got up to 34, barely. Tonight it is expected to go down to 23. Can this be Spring?

Well the goldfinch guys think it is. They are quickly changing into their Spring plumage in order to woo the ladies. I will trust them and hope for the best.finches

It must be working, that Lady Cardinal looks interested.

We are Going to get Gas

Natural Gas. Not the natural gas from legumes and cruciferous vegetables but the kind that heats your house and cooks your food.

Ever since we moved out to the country, away from our local urban area, we have heated our home with propane. Well, to be honest, we heated with oil for a short time but quickly had that removed and contracted with the local propane company. A tank was installed in our yard and every 6 weeks or so the propane guy would show up and top off the tank. Prices varied from year to year but we didn’t have much choice. Natural gas didn’t come down our road because we didn’t have enough residents along our mile. And we weren’t interested in cutting and splitting wood and stoking a stove. We did have a small wood stove for a while but it super heated our living room while the rest of the house froze. Creosote build-up and chimney fires were always a worry.

Last year we had a super cold winter. Our locked in price on propane ran out and we had a few pretty high bills. So this year we prepaid at a locked in price for the full season to get a good price.  A month after we paid the money Wisconsin Public Service ( the local natural gas company) sent us a letter inquiring about our interest in natural gas. I guess we finally had enough people living on our road. Great timing!

Sure we were interested but what were the details? Were we going to take a big loss on the already purchased propane? When is this happening? Once we got the details it wasn’t as dire as we might have imagined. Still on propane this year, natural gas next spring. Whew! That saves some trouble and money.

Breaking ground

Breaking ground

But the pipe was getting laid this fall and two weeks ago it began. Pretty slick. Dig a hole, dig another hole further down the road feet (up to a 1/4 mile away), force a bore through the ground until you get to the next hole – attach the gas line to the bore and then pull the gas line back through the hole.  Not as much digging as I thought until – the bore is steerable and can maneuver around underground obstacles.…until they got to our house. Lots of rocks made it harder to just force the pipe through. So they dug a big hole and moved on down the road to lay the rest of the pipe on the other side of our neighbors house. Plan was to force the pipe from the other direction. Great idea until they hit the mother of all rocks. As the pipe went 6,7,8 feet down rather than forward, they gave up. So an actual trench had to be dug.

Conference: "Sheet! That's a big effing rock"

Conference: “Sheet! That’s a big effing rock”

Digging the trench.

Digging the trench.

 

Some of the "smaller" rocks

Some of the “smaller” rocks the size of watermelons, microwave ovens and ottomans

 

Trench and pipe

Trench and pipe

Well whatever they planned must have worked because yesterday they hauled away the big rocks, back-filled the trench leaving a hole open in the front of our house. Next week they’re supposed to dig another trench up to our house to make the service connection. Wonder if there is another big rock waiting for them?

We were left with a smaller hole and attractive orange tubs.

We were left with a smaller hole and attractive orange tubs.

Quite Apropos

Just a day after posting about the chimney swifts I was checking for the dates of the Birds in Art exhibit at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Museum in Wausau, Wisconsin. As the page popped up I was surprised to see this picture listed in the exhibit information.

Andrew Wyeth, 'Swifts', 1991, watercolor on paper, Leigh Yawkey Woodson Museum

Andrew Wyeth, ‘Swifts’, 1991, watercolor on paper

It was as if Andrew Wyeth had been looking through the same lens I was looking through the other night. This piece will be part of an upcoming exhibit, Audubon to Wyeth: Paintings, Drawings and Sculptures. To make it even more special, it is owned by this little gem of a museum, right here in central Wisconsin. Definitely worth a visit if you are in the neighborhood.

Swift Watching

ALineOfSwifts

Picture credit: Jonestown, Texas Swiftfest

Right now a lot of birds are on the move since we are just beginning the fall migration. Chimney Swifts are no exception and they display a behavior which is fun to watch. Swifts look like little torpedos with fluttery wings, thus the nickname ‘flying cigars.’ Their wings move quite fast and the birds emit a high-pitched chattering while flying over your head. You probably have seen them and not known it because they tend to hang out with swallows. During migration, thousands of swifts roost together in chimneys, funneling into them at dusk.

To get a sense of how many are migrating, Audubon asks bird clubs and bird groups to conduct a count in their area. There is worry that the Swift population is diminishing because more chimneys are being capped or just removed because they are no longer in use. Our count was on August 8th and the chimney we watched became the overnight roost for 86 swifts. Other watchers got less than ten or none but a few got anywhere from 200-300.

This week one of our local birders reported seeing 2000 chimney swifts going into a large local chimney at the St. Norbert’s Abbey in De Pere, Wisconsin. I had a dinner engagement on the evening following this report so I decided to drive over after dinner to see if the swifts were still around. They were. There was another birder there and between the two of us we counted at least 2500 chimney swifts.

The next night I said to Curt, “Let’s go find some swifts.” And this time I took the camera.

When we got to The Abbey the sky was full of birds. (note: click on the picture to get a larger view)

Swifts in the Sky

Swifts in the Sky (How many do you think are in this frame? The answer is at the end of this post)

They swirled in a clockwise direction. Around and around. The sun set at 7:33pm but they still kept flying. Then about 7:45pm they started dropping into the chimney.

They dropped into the chimney.

They dropped into the chimney.

and dropped.

and dropped.

and dropped.

and dropped.

and dropped!

and dropped!

These pictures were taken in just the first minute. The birds continued to go into the chimney and in another minute or two the sky was empty. I think we once again had 2000 – 3000 birds. They will roost there overnight clinging to the vertical masonry. The next day will be spent foraging. They may roost again in this chimney or move on, eventually ending up in South America for the winter. It was a wonderful and amazing sight.

Swifts a bit closer up.

Swifts a bit closer up.

Answer.  We carefully counted 175 birds in just this small section of the sky

Birdhearing

One more bird story. Promise. (for now) But this is a good one and it demonstrates why I love to go birding with my son.

First, a little about the bird, the American Woodcock. This bird is very secretive and has excellent camouflage so for the most part you are going to hear him before you see him, if you see him at all. An exception to this rule was a woodcock who took up residence right under a window at our friend’s house. He called us and said, “Hey, we got some weird bird here under our window.” We rushed over and was amazed to see a woodcock. Usually they look like this:

There's a woodcock in this picture. See the outline on the right picture.

There’s a woodcock in this picture. See the outline in the picture below.

hiddenThe one under their window looked like this:

woody2

Still blends in pretty well but he moved around so he was spotted

If you are trying to find a woodcock, you go out at dusk, starting at the end of March, in a likely habitat. A brushy field is good. Then you listen. If one is in the area he will make a peent! sound, then about 6 seconds later another peent!. This goes on for a while and then he will take off in a crazy zig zag flight (his wings make a twilling sound) and then land pretty much back where he started and call again. He’s looking for a lady friend. Some years we have heard the peent! and one year we heard the flight sound and a dark object whipping through the sky ( just barely). But this year we have had no luck.

Okay. Flash back to Sunday evening, May 10, La Crosse, Wisconsin. My husband and son and I have spent all day birding and now we have gone to dinner in La Crosse. No tiny town. It was Mother’s Day, busy downtown, cars, bars, general ambient sound. It is dusk and we are leaving the restaurant, talking and laughing, while we walk to the car and suddenly my son Nathan says, “Woodcock!” and stops.

BWnathan2

“woodcock!”

“What?” Here? In town?” I say.

“Yes, listen”, he replies.

We shut up and listen.   “PEENT!”   “PEENT!”

Yep, he heard a woodcock.* They don’t usually make that sound when they fly so it must have been sitting on a roof. We don’t know. But Nathan heard him. And then so did we. I love my son.

 

*revision: After further consideration based on habitat Nathan feels he heard a Nighthawk. Everything else I spoke about applies. Difficult to find and mostly active at dusk. Calls extremely similar. He still heard it over the noise of the city.