Thursday, November 30, 2006

In the gloom

Coyote yipping
in the creek behind
my house
Not quite dawn
the light grows
but the darkness still fills the woods
Are you looking for your brethern
who spread out in the night hunting
playing running
in the cold
Go find them and curl up in
a quiet spot
Little Coy-dog

© 2006, Liza Lee Miller
All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

What Kind of Reader Am I?

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Dedicated Reader

You are always trying to find the time to get back to your book. You are convinced that the world would be a much better place if only everyone read more.

Literate Good Citizen

Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm

Book Snob

Fad Reader


What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

Despite what this poll may or may not say about me, I am a seriously obsessed reader who is anxiously awaiting the return of my reading free-time! I will be finished with my Teaching Credential Program on December 9th (actually sooner than that in all likelihood) and I am longing for a return to my REAL life. I have a long list of books I want to read, crafts I want to craft, things I want to do around the house. Two years is a long time to put off living but that's what it feels like I've done here. So THANK GOODNESS for moving forward!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

Originally uploaded by egret's nest.
We're home from our trip to the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains. What a fantastic trip! Gathering both sides of our family together is usually successful but adding in lack of privacy, five days of togetherness, holiday stress, and all that good stuff ups the ante a bit. Thankfully, it all went really well.

Here's a brief rundown!

Tuesday after school, we headed off to the mountains! We left home at 2pm which is exactly what we hoped for. The kids were great on the drive which is a long one. It helped that for the first time, we let them watch a DVD in the car. We only allowed it after dark and when it was nearing bedtime. We drove through Yosemite National Park in the pitch black. I made Greg drive down Tioga Pass since even though it's pitch black I know all to well how long a drop off it is with no guard rails. We arrived at my folks in June Lake around 9:20pm.

We got up to a beautiful day in the Sierra. We wanted to do a little boondocking and since my mother a) hates driving on 4WD roads and b) had a lot to do to prepare, we headed off to do it. We were hoping to see wild Mustangs in the Montgomery Pass area but we didn't see any. We did see some horse poop on the road which was probably from them, however. We saw lots of amazing sites and explored some abandoned mine buildings. We made it up a nasty 4WD road with switchbacks to the top of Queen Saddle which has a lovely view all the way around. It was very cold and blustery up there -- I didn't even get out of the truck! On the way back down, we saw a very sweet and cooperative Mountain Bluebird (life bird). He posed on a tree for us and Igor (my step-dad) got a shot of him. Very fun! Greg's folks and sister and nephews joined us around 7:30pm that evening.

Thanksgiving Day dawned clear and bright. We decided to do the Bodie trip that day since I can easily lead it and Mom and Igor have been to Bodie plenty of times in their lives, thank you. So, off we all went. On the way to Bodie, we saw a Golden Eagle (life bird) wheeling around on the side of the road. Bodie is always spectacular. Thankfully the weather was pretty good -- cold but not unbearable. It's either miserably cold there or miserably hot there. My favorite part was watching my kids run wild in the town -- they were more secure going off from us with their cousins close at hand. We arrived back at my mom's in time for cocktails at her neighbor's house. Then we walked back home and had a great Thanksgiving feast. Igor cooks the turkey on his Weber grill and WOW is it the best turkey you've ever had! I really find all other turkeys to be "okay" at best after his! It's utterly fantastic. We ate and ate and ate. I felt a little sick at bedtime from all the food.
Friday was another fun day. Thanks to Igor's generosity, we took our kids skiing for the first time. They had an absolute blast! We sat in the cold (again not TOO cold) and watched them learning to ski -- it was wonderful! That night was my parent's anniversary so they went off to Convict Lake for dinner and we went to the Tiger Bar for our dinner! Totally fun!
Saturday may have been my favorite day. Igor and Greg took all the kids on a super hike. They went to Lake Gardinsky. Igor and my oldest nephew Evan took it even further and went up to the top of Tioga Peak. His first peak! They all had a blast but it was hard and tiring and cold. They saw tracks of bear, mountain lion, and Sierra Big Horn Sheep on the hike which was very cool. We gave them hot chocolate on their return and let them watch a DVD. Evan fell asleep but there was no doubt that he had earned it! Meanwhile, the rest of us went shopping. We explored June Lake which was mostly closed -- my mother went into every shop announcing, "I come bearing tourists!" Our favorite stop was the Thrift Shop -- we all made purchases including my father-in-law! Dinner that night was a conglomeration -- turkey left-overs and Igor's homemade wonton soup. YUM!

Sunday morning, we ate pancakes, packed up, and headed home. We hit rain when we got out of the Sierras which was lucky -- we got to use Tioga Pass both ways on the trip which saved us hours of driving -- Phew! The drive home was uneventful. We arrived home to a new roof on part of the house and a cat in the house. The roof is great -- no clue who the cat is or why she's hanging with us and crying. No pee or poop in the house so we think maybe the roofer came to check how the roof was holding up today and let her in either by mistake or thinking she was ours. I put her outside in the rain and gave her some turkey. Poor thing is still hanging around crying!

We're glad to be home though. What a great trip!

Birds seen on trip:
Common Raven - 40 or something crazy like that
Lesser Goldfinch - 1 (broken foot, staying at feeder instead of migrating)
*Mountain Chickadees -- countless
*Cassin's Finch - 2 (male and female)
*Golden Eagle - 1
*Mountain Bluebird - 1
Steller's Jays - countless
Dark-eyed Juncos - 6
American Robin - 1
American Coot - countless
*Northern Harrier - 1
Unidentified Hawks - countless
Hairy/Downy woodpecker (couldn't id) - 1
Great Egret - 8
Turkey Vulture - countless
Pigeons - countless
American Crow - countless
Merlin - 1
Gulls - countless and no specific id
*White-tailed Kite - 1
*White-breasted Nuthatch - 1
Pygmy Nuthatch - 2
Blackbirds - countless ( couldn't id)
(* means Life Bird!)
Other wildlife -
6 point Mule Deer buck

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Lessons learned at my mother's knee

When preparing for a trip, always make sure your laundry is at least a month behind schedule. That way, in order to pack, you must do 42 loads of laundry and stay up until at least 1am in order to accomplish said goal. Further, you will then be able to enhance your trip preparation by being too tired to think of everything so you'll have to take part of the next day off from work in order to accomplish what you could have done while you were watching HGTV and waiting for the dryer to finish another load. While you are home from work, you can do two loads of dishes, put away 42 loads of laundry (not that there's any hope of that -- who has that sort of closet space?), and with any luck think of everything that you've forgotten to pack but can't live without on a five day trip to the mountains. And, best of all, you know that 5 minutes down the road, you will absolutely think of at least one more thing that you can't live without. Repeat that last step 3 times -- for each additional member of the family -- and you have a fair approximation of what my night last night was like and what my day today looks like.

And, then we have the 6 hour drive across California!

Are you jealous yet?

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. We'll be home on Sunday!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Haikus for the Senses


The raven calls
His great wings flapping
up silent streets

One Deep Breath posed a challenge this week for the senses. This image has been dreamlike in my skull since I saw it a week or so ago. Looking out my bathroom window, I heard a raven call and then it flew past in the fog -- it's wings moving the air. A moment later its mate followed again with a call and then the wings flapping the air. Maybe this one should have been a haibun to really convey what I wanted to say. Nevertheless, the haiku is good. I'll have to think of some other senses haikus before the end of the week and add them.

My poetry can be found here.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Thanksgiving Plans

Over the river and through the woods to my mother's house we go.
We are off to lovely June Lake, California for Thanksgiving. June Lake is in the Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains and is high-desert. Mono Lake -- an important bird area -- is nearby. The scenery is dramatic as the mountains on that side of the Sierra are rugged and steep. It's lovely and isolated.

Thankfully, the weather is with us -- no snow planned and the best pass (right through Yosemite National Park) is open and looks to stay open until we come home. It will take us about 6 hours to get there (with no stops). Today, I'm thinking about the drive up. We're taking our truck which means close quarters. We're leaving around 2pm or so. School gets out early on Tuesday and then Ruthie has an eye appointment. After that, we're coming home, packing up, and heading out. Should be a fun trip. We won't arrive, however, until around 10pm (because there WILL be stops!). The kids will do well on the trip but at some point boredom and bickering are inevitable. So, how to counter it . . .

Here's what I'm planning on.

  • Each child will pack a small backpack with favorite toys, books, and beloved things. They'll have pillows and special blankets too to make sleeping in the car easier.
  • I have bought a couple of books designed to make long car rides easier. We'll see how that goes.
  • We bought whiteboards for the kids to use. They can use them for math, writing, drawing, etc. We've done this in the past and it was successful.
  • Movie. We have an in-car DVD player now. We aren't big fans of watching movies in cars but I'm thinking that when we are in the dark for 5 hours, a movie or two will be a good thing for the kids. They can watch and then sleep. This will be our first time to try this method. It won't happen until after dark.
Other suggestions for keeping kids from killing each other (or causing their noise-sensative mother from killing them) will be appreciated!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Life's Lessons

Life can be a hard provider of lessons. And, this week, my darling daughter learned a tough one. Our little hamster friend, Flufsy -- she of the many esacapes -- died this week. I have no idea what happened. She was well cared for -- cage cleaned weekly, food and water, regular exercise. She was handled and cared for at least twice a day. Ruthie was exceptionally gentle with her. She hadn't gotten out of her cage in weeks. She was just curled up in her nest, peacefully dead. So sad.

Ruthie has handled it well. She found her and knew that a cold hamster meant nothing good. She has been very brave about it. I think she was surprised how much work a pet was and she really wanted a cuddle, mellow pet which hamsters are not particularly. She didn't feel safe holding and cuddling her so I suspect that Ruthie isn't as sad as she could be.

She decorated a box for Flufsy and we buried her yesterday in our rose garden. The whole family participated and it was very nice. She was a sweet pet and her time with us was way too short.

Saturday, my big dog, Gander is going back to his breeder. This is very sad for us but it is best for us and best for the dog. Part of being a responsible pet owner is knowing when you can't do your best for a pet. I didn't do well by Gander because I kept trying to ignore the fact that he didn't have a good home with us. We loved him but his seizures unnerved us all so much that we didn't spend enough time with him. As a result, he's been a very lonely dog -- especially since Rosie died. I let my feelings get in the way of what was best for him on so many levels and that is something I'd always vowed not to do with a pet. So, I'm correcting a long standing wrong.

And, for the first time in about 17 years, I will have no pets. It will be a difficult adjustment for all of us. Tonight, I'm going to give Gander a good brushing, pack up a crate and food for him, give him a huge raw bone to chew on. Tomorrow, a long walk in the morning before he goes off to with Greg. I don't think I'll be too sad -- he'll be so much happier living with someone with lots of dogs and nothing but time to spend on him.

It's tough to admit that I failed with something I set out to do -- particularly when it involves the care of a living creature but what's harder is that I knew I was failing a long time ago and it took me this long to suck-it-up and change things.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Cleanup Crew

Cleanup Crew
Originally uploaded by egret's nest.
One of my favorite things about the school that I work at and my children go to are the birds. We have a flock of ravens (poetically known as an unkindness of ravens) who live at the school. There are 8-12 around the school at all times. Ravens are gorgeous birds -- big, black, shiny, and very smart. They make the most amazing range of noises.

They are normally pretty solitary and aloof from people but these are used to us. Still, if you get too close, they leave the area. In the picture above, I took two more steps and they left the area en masse.

Yesterday, I watched one of the ravens walk past my classroom door. He (She?) turned and went up the stairs. He hopped up the stairs all the way to the 2nd floor. Funniest thing I've seen in a long time -- and no camera available.

I love seeing and hearing the ravens everyday. We live 3 miles away from the school and rarely saw ravens around here. Thankfully, this spring, a pair moved into the area. I hear them almost every afternoon and see them often. They are not used to people and remain wild but we've seen some dramatic flights over our house.

I got the closest I've gotten to a raven with my camera today and got this shot here . . .

Brave Raven (closer)

To my husband . . .

Companion in Life
In darkness, we tell stories
Of our days and kids

When life is hard, we team up
When life is good, we laugh hard

a solo renga
11/15/2006 -llm.

submitted to One Deep Breath, Week 24

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Recorder Practice

Recorder Practice
Originally uploaded by egret's nest.
Our school has a very limited music program. One of the things we do right is teach all the kids to play the recorder. First graders learn and then the upper grade music teacher does recorder karate.

Ruthie is in 3rd grade and still remembers how to play beautifully. Gage is just starting on his in 1st grade. Here are the kids playing together.

Please ignore the messy house. It never looks like that normally. [cough!]

Monday, November 13, 2006

Gray day

Rain in my driveway
Originally uploaded by egret's nest.
Feeling gray and dragging today. It's pouring rain and all I want is to curl up in front of my fireplace with a good book, some popcorn, and a glass of good wine.

Instead, I'm sitting at my desk, procrastinating getting to work, and giving a good whine about the weather.

It's not a good alternative!

On a more upbeat note, this will be my second year participating in Project Feederwatch. I counted birds on Saturday and Sunday this week and saw:

Chestnut-backed Chickadees - 6
Steller's Jays - 1
Anna's Hummingbirds - 3
Pygmy Nuthatch - 1
California Towhee - 2
Dark-eyed Junco - 6

I can't say that I'm totally serious about PFW yet but I did get my feeders set up and organized before the Nov 11 startdate this year and I am counting from the very first weekend. This is such a fun project and so important for the data. I am proud to participate and even sent a kit to my parents this year -- I hope they participate! And, I'd love to see more people to sign up too. The east coast is well represented but the west coast and mid-west are more lightly represented. And, Alaska and Hawaii -- sad!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Maple Tree Haibun

Fall is my favorite time of year -- cool crisp days filled with sunshine and just enough rain to make us appreciate the sun while it lasts. Living here, though, we don't get enough fall color. So, when my maple tree dresses for Autumn, I feel so grateful. Sometimes I catch my breath when I look at it.

glowing from within
dressed in autumnal colors
japanese maple

Fall is my favorite time of year -- cool crisp days filled with fall colors that make the trees catch fire and glow.

Submitted to One Deep Breath. This type of poem is called a Haibun. It's a combination of poetic prose and haiku. This is my first haibun. Thanks to Somewhere in NJ for introducing me to this site.

Friday, November 10, 2006

I cook for the birds!

Lynne from Hasty Brook asked if I would share my suet recipe. Of course I will!

Chickadees love my suetSuet Cake
(adapted by myself from several sources from the Internets!)

  • 1 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 cup lard
  • 1 cups quick oats
  • 1 cups cornmeal
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • Additions - bird seed, dried fruit, chopped peanuts, etc.
  • pot large enough for ingredients.
  • containers that are about the same size as your suet holder.
  1. Assemble ingredients.
  2. Heat peanut butter and lard in pan on stove, stirring until melted.
  3. Remove from heat.
  4. Add oats, cornmeal, and whole wheat flour.
  5. Pour into containers.
  6. Freeze until hard.
Note: In the winter, suet does great but in the summer, this recipe will melt and make a mess. It also has a risk of going bad. Watch it carefully!

A larger visitorSuet Dough
(introduced to me by the amazing Julie Zickefoose, also here [click].)

  • 1 cup melted lard or beef suet
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 2 cups quick oats
  • 2 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar (optional)
  1. Melt lard and peanut butter together on a low burner.
  2. Take off heat and add remaining ingredients.
  3. Spread on cookie sheet and allow to cool in refrigerator until mixture is just hard enough to cut into pieces.
  4. Store in freezer bags and use as needed.
Note: I use a large plastic container to cool and store my bird dough (as I call it). I pour some out on my hanging platform feeder each day and the birds LOVE it. My dark-eyed Juncos which are normally ground feeders come right up on the platform to eat it. I always toss some out in the yard for them and the other ground feeders too.

Hummingbird feederWhile I'm at it, here is how I prepare my Hummingbird Juice. I have Anna's Hummers here year round and pretty soon should start seeing Rufous and/or Allen's Hummers too. So, keeping the juice flowing in the winter is a good thing. A hummer is usually the first bird I see in the morning when its cold! Oh, just FYI, the feeder in the picture is not filled with cloudy juice -- it's 42 degrees out and it's covered in condensation. Brrr!

Hummingbird Juice
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 2 cups cold water with ice
  1. Boil 2 cups water.
  2. Add sugar to water. Stir to dissolve.
  3. Add cold water and ice.
  4. Pour into feeders and distribute.
Note: I use the ice method because I usually am making the juice when I've already run out of hummingbird juice and the hummers are anxiously awaiting its arrival. I often get buzzed while I'm putting it out. They love it.

For what its worth, this is my favorite hummingbird feeder: The Best-1 feeder -- it's easy to clean and care for. It holds a lot of juice (I have the 32 oz one) which isn't useful in the summer as I still have to change it often but in the winter, I go ahead and fill it as the juice doesn't grow mold in the winter. I'm thinking about getting the Dr JB feeder to try as well.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

I voted!

I voted yesterday and I'm proud of it. I have missed maybe 2 elections in my adult life. In my very first election, I voted for Dianne Feinstein in her mayoral recall election -- I've been proud to vote for her everytime since then. A classy smart lady!

I'm over the moon with how the voting went -- particularly on the national level. Taking back the House! HUGE!

In California, we have a statewide sense of humor. The Governator is back but he's got all Dems to deal with now from Lt Governor on down except for Insurance Commissioner. But, Iw as disappointed in our Proposition results. A modest ($50/parcel) property tax to benefit education was voted down as was our landmark taxes on oil and cigarettes. (However, they did pass in my county which is not a surprise -- we're mighty liberal here, folks!)

Still and all, though, this is a day for celebration, dancing in the streets. An election unstolen. An election where the voters turned out and spoke their minds. Groundbreaking change is coming. Pelosi will be our first woman Speaker of the House. Hurrah! The Senate was nearly taken cleanly and may yet be won.

A message was sent. Is the fool in the White House listening?

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Everybody's doing it . . .

Thanks to Hawk Owl's Nest for this survey.
What state (or country) do you live in?
How long have you been birding? I started birding when I was about 17. Then I stopped until last year.
Are you a "lister"? Yes. I keep my lists on eBird.
ABA Life List: Don't know what that distinction is.
Overall Life List: 58 species.
3 Favorite Birding Spots: Big Basin State Park, my backyard, Henry Cowell State Park.
Favorite birding spot outside your home country: Haven't birded outside the US.
Farthest you've traveled to chase a rare bird: An hour away to see a Crested Caracara -- I was unsuccessful.
Nemesis bird: Don't have one.
"Best" bird sighting: Black Crowned Night Heron -- spotted him in his juvenile plummage and watched him change all winter until he was looking sharp.
Most wanted trip: ???
Most wanted bird: Clear sighting of a Pileated Woodpecker would be nice. Even better if it would be in my backyard! :)
What model and brand of bins do you use?: Cheapies from Kmart.
What model and brand of scope do you use?: Don't have one.
What was the last lifer you added to your list?: Barn Owl on 10/1/2006
Where did you see your last lifer?: Elkhorn Slough near Moss Landing, CA.
What's the last bird you saw today?: Well, it's early in the morning and no one is at the feeders yet. The last bird I saw yesterday was a Chestnut-backed Chickadee.
Best bird song you've heard ever: Mockingbird. I had one that used to sing for hours in my backyard years ago in another house. And, it learned to imitate my dog's whining and would trick me into going out to see what was wrong.
Favorite birding moment: That moment when you identify a new bird and you're SURE. Too many times I'm NOT sure -- being sure is a nice feeling. :)
Least favorite thing about birding: All the lousy pictures I've taken of something cool.
Raven Shadows
Favorite thing about birding: Getting out and communing with nature.
Favorite field guide for the US: Sibley and Peterson in concert -- I like to check them both.
Favorite non-field guide bird book: ???
Who is your birder icon?: Julie Zickefoose and Bill Thompson III. I idolize their life.
Do you have a bird feeder(s)? I have several.
Favorite feeder bird? Anna's Hummingbird and Chestnut-backed Chickadee tie for that honor. They are my most consistent feeder birds.
Hummer my little chickadee

Monday, November 6, 2006


Cozy Sleeping Quarters
Originally uploaded by egret's nest.
We took a much needed long weekend to go camping in our FMC. We met up with a bunch of other FMC owners and had a wonderful weekend. Here is our sleeping quarters. The kids' bunks pull down from the upper cabinets and they slept above us. It all worked beautifully but we'll be making some changes as time goes on.

The whole weekend was wonderful and much needed. Despite being less than 10 miles from home, we took it easy. No work. No stress. Both Greg and I needed that and had a great trip. The kids loved it and were disappointed to come home!

More pictures here . . . [click]

Thursday, November 2, 2006

Goodbye, Rosie

Campbellcroft Cibola Rosette -- Rosie
February 27, 1992 -- November 2, 2006
Rest in Peace, Rosie-Posie.
We love you.

Liza, Greg, Ruthie, and Gage

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Chickadees love my homemade Suet

November 1. Start of Project Feederwatch.

I'll be starting late this year though. November 1. Day of utter insanity for me. Day when I stayed up until 1:30am processing a videotaped lesson that has to get onto DVD and be fed-exed off the next day. Day when we are supposed to be packing up to go camping. Day when . . .

So, here is an archived photo of a Chickadee at my feeders. I took this picture and it is recognizable as the bird that it is. So, there ya go. You easterners and mid-westerners, meet the Chestnut-Backed Chickadee. The most frequently seen bird in my backyard. In the winter, I'll have upwards of 30 of them swarming my feeders. They are cheerful, greedy little things and utterly charming. They get so used to us and the feeders that they'll fly in and chirp at me that I'm not moving fast enough when I fill the feeders in the morning. We'll get other birds, no doubt, but these little cuties are my year-round staple bird. Without fail, I'll see bunches everyday. (Except when I'm doing The Big Sit, of course! :).