Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Shhhh! Come closer!

Don't tell anyone! Seriously! Shhhhh!

We're going to look at a dog on Saturday.

It's a Rat Terrier. She's really a cutie -- about 7 months old. Her breeder can't use her in her breeding program so they are looking for a good home. Her name is Ruby. She's smaller than we were looking for but well . . .

here's the deal . . . I had to make a deal with the devil -- err -- my husband. He wants a mastiff. I want a smaller dog so . . . masters of compromise that we are . . . we are going to do both. The small dog comes first but we are going to start the process of searching for a mastiff puppy.

What an adorable little thing who will end up this size . . .

Yikes. Holy guacamole.

But don't tell anyone . . . I don't want to jinx it. Fingers crossed that it all works out.

But seriously, this is what it's going to look like when we walk our dogs . . .

Okay, so I'm off to visit In The Company of Dogs because I don't have anything for a little dog . . . oh, and do you think its a good sign or a bad sign that I already have the picture of Ruby as my desktop pattern on my computer? Oh, I hope she likes the kids and all goes well.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Life in the Rainforest

Redwood trees on the golf course
Redwoods on the golf course across from my house.
I love living in a temperate rainforest. We live at the southern tip of the west coast's temperate rainforest. Temperate Rainforests are less well known than their tropical counterparts!Our dominant trees are Coastal Redwoods. We normally get around 60 inches of rain a year -- the highest year I've lived through was 111 but people died from the rain that year and we'd rather not do that again, thank you! (Mudslides are not our friends!) This year, to date, we have had 12.5 inches (our rainfall year starts in October). This is upsettingly low for the end of January which is usually one of our wettest months.

{Interesting historical record of Boulder Creek rainfall totals}

So, bottom line as pleased as we were to get a couple of days of rain, it's not enough. We need days on end of rain. Usually by this time of year, we are complaining about the mold on the windows and counting the mushrooms growing in the yard, not worrying about dry skin and wondering if we should turn the sprinklers back on. It's a wild year, alright.

In other news, we got our game table yesterday. It's wonderful. Of course, now we have to move lamps, make cushions for the chairs, figure out what this means for the rest of the living room but it's all good.

new game table
Look, Gage is dealing us up a hand of Crazy Eights!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Murky depths

Still Water
Originally uploaded by egret's nest.
Water is everything in a redwood forest. Without it, we won't have redwoods. We live in a rain forest but it only rains during the winter. In the spring, summer, and fall, we get very little rain. Instead, we get fog. The redwood trees suck moisture out of the very air and drip it down on their roots. But, in the winter, it rains and rains and rains.

Not this winter, however. We have had almost no rain. I'm sure the redwoods were suffering. My hands and feet and skin were dry and parched. There wasn't enough lotion in the house to keep my skin from cracking and hurting.

And, then the rain came. Like a long cool drink of water on a hot day. Like a breath of fresh, soft air. Moisture found its way back into our pores. Mine and those on the redwood trees. You could almost hear the forest heave a sigh of relief.

Or was that just me?

Sunday, January 28, 2007

A Day at the Dog Show

What fun! We got up early. Very early. Greg told Ruth last night that if she woke up and it was after 6am and we weren't up yet to wake us up. So, guess how long she made it? 6:04 am! So, we got an early start but I did still get my two cups of mocha in, thank goodness.

We went to this show to research dog breeds, let the kids and Greg interact with some breeds I was familiar with that they weren't and to have a fun day.

Fun? Mission accomplished. We all had a blast. The kids really enjoyed the dogs quite a lot. Gage isn't the biggest dog fan in the world and he really enjoyed it a lot. He even let a dog wash his hand. Aren't Norfolk Terriers adorable?

Norfolk Terrier -- what a cutie

But, totally not the right breed for us. I adore them and their little Norwich Terrier relatives but they are too terrier for us, thank you!

Ruthie had fun too but she prefers the dogs that dive right in and wash your face for you. Here she is getting a bath from a Viszla . . .

This viszla thought Ruthie was sweet!

Our criteria are . . .

Me: temperament, temperament, temperament. I want something sweet, patient, and not particularly yappy. I also don't want a hugely shedding dog. (Labs shed a bit too much for me so anything with a fluffy coat is out . . . no corgis, no malamutes, no samoyeds). I'd also prefer smaller than a lab -- we want this dog fully integrated into our lives which includes going camping with us.

Greg: Mastiff. Protective but not aggressive. No shedding, please.

Gage: a dog that won't like me in the face and jump on me

Ruth: playful, cuddly, sweet, loving, will sleep with me

No problem, right?

Well, I can't get Greg to take Mastiff off the list. Gage likes the Mastiffs too but only because I haven't told him about the drooling issue. That's my biggest problem with a mastiff. But, Greg adores them and pictures like this don't help . . .

Ruthie and Jimmy J the Mastiff
CH Lamar's In It To Win It -- Jimmy J
Gorgeous Mastiff. His coloring is reverse brindle. I absolutely adored him.

For the shedding issue as well as addressing both my size issues and Greg's size issues (ie. I want smaller and he wants larger), I have proposed a Standard Poodle. Greg hates their hair cuts so we really wanted to find one in a not-for-showing-cut. Mission accomplished and we liked it.

Standard Poodle
Greg, Ruthie, and Gage meet a Standard Poodle.

Last on our list (and least in one way) is the Rat Terrier. We have a good friend with one and we adore JJ. He is mellow, patient, smallish but not tiny, loving, quiet, etc. Ratters come in mini (under 13 inches) and standard (over 13 inches) as well as the Decker Giants which go up to about 18 inches. We would want a larger one. This sweet one, Viggo, is not larger but he was so sweet.

So, where are we? What breed are we getting? Have we narrowed it down to size even? Nope. Not even close. I don't see us getting a Mastiff -- no matter how much Greg wants one. And, if I had to put money on it, I'd say that a Ratter is in our future but I'm not positive.

Stay tuned.

Oh, saw a really lovely Snowy Egret today on the drive over. Also took an amazing sunrise shot which will appear in next week's Good Planets Are Hard To Find carnival.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

A day of women!

detail of cake

My family's version of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood is our own "club" called Crafty Chix. We get together every other month and do crafts of one sort or another. Sometimes its an old favorite and other times it's something new and exciting! The group includes me, my sister, my mother, my sister-in-law, and my mother-in-law. That's it. Someday Ruth will get to come and she's counting the seconds!

My beautiful Mother-in-law, Jerryne

We also celebrate one of our birthday's each time. This month it was my mother-in-law, Jerryne's birthday. She turned 75 years old last week. Amazing, huh? She is as beautiful inside as she is outside. I am the luckiest daughter-in-law in the world! She doesn't look or act anywhere near 75 years old.

One of our newer traditions each year is to do a field trip. Sometimes it's a crafty related field trip. Other times, not so much. This time, we went to Goodwill in Scotts Valley for a little thrifting. I found a very cute sweater. :) Next door to Goodwill, however, is a furniture consignment shop. They have very nice things and their prices are reasonable. My mom and I had been in there on Thursday. They had a gorgeous leather gametable of exactly the type we'd like in our living room. We have four beautiful old chairs that look like leather but aren't that belonged to my husband's grandparents. We went back today and looked at the table. It's still gorgeous. They all talked me in to buying it and so I called Greg to get his blessing - he hadn't seen it!!! He said to measure it and then go for it. The measurements worked and I bought it. It was pouring rain so Greg didn't come down in the truck to get it. We'll pick it up on Tuesday! So excited. Here it is. The white on the surface is the "sold" sign!

new game table

I can't wait to get it in my house! It is going to be so lovely with the green chairs!

Oh, and for more on the crafts we crafty chix did today, well, that would be covered on my CraftyPoodle blog!

Oh, and I saw a cute little Oak Titmouse today -- actually a pair of them are nesting in my sister-in-law's deck in a birdhouse my nephew built. They are adorable little birds who mate for life. They live in the Oak trees of California and are, therefore, on the Audobon Watch List.

Sunday, we are off to the dog show. This is a huge "benched" show in San Francisco. A benched show means that the dogs are on exhibit all day as well as being entered and shown in the show. It's a great chance for us to go look at lots of different breeds and get a feel for what type of breed we are interested in for our next dog as well as connecting with some responsible breeders. This is something that I know a lot about -- I used to breed, train, and show Labrador Retrievers. I used to go to this show every year and show my own dogs. It will be chaotic and loud and I know I'll have a headache when we leave. But, oooooooh, it's gonna be fun.

Final Thoughts on Elkhorn Slough

It wasn't until I did my eBird update tonight that I realized that I had 10 lifebirds at Elkhorn Slough. I'm sure they were mostly birds I'd seen before in my life but not ones that I'd ever counted before. Pretty cool, huh?

Here's the final count . . .

Location: Elkhorn Slough
Observation date: 1/26/07
Number of species: 22

Mallard - Anas platyrhynchos X
Bufflehead - Bucephala albeola 6
Eared Grebe - Podiceps nigricollis 2
Great Blue Heron - Ardea herodias 1
Great Egret - Ardea alba 2
Snowy Egret - Egretta thula 1
White-tailed Kite - Elanus leucurus 2
Red-shouldered Hawk - Buteo lineatus 1
American Kestrel - Falco sparverius 4
Killdeer - Charadrius vociferus X
Black-necked Stilt - Himantopus mexicanus 5
Willet - Catoptrophorus semipalmatus X
Whimbrel - Numenius phaeopus X
Marbled Godwit - Limosa fedoa 2
Acorn Woodpecker - Melanerpes formicivorus 1
Downy Woodpecker - Picoides pubescens 1
Black Phoebe - Sayornis nigricans 1
Hutton's Vireo - Vireo huttoni 1
Western Scrub-Jay - Aphelocoma californica 3
American Crow - Corvus brachyrhynchos X
Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon) - Junco hyemalis oreganus X
House Sparrow - Passer domesticus X

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2 (

A Day at the Slough

The Adventure Begins!
Originally uploaded by egret's nest.
Well, an afternoon at the slough. Our school district gave us a semester break today -- and we took full advantage of it. We headed off on the hour drive to Moss Landing around 9:30 yesterday morning. All was well. Mom and I were chatting. The kids were playing with their Littlest Pet Shop Digital toys and happy as clams.

Until we got right between Aptos and Watsonville and hit a wall of traffic. "Oh, an accident," we said brightly. "Or roadwork." And we inched along. Past the last possible hope exit. Just as we got where we couldn't really get to it, I thought, "hmmm, wonder if I should have gotten off and taken that exit."

An hour later, we finally made it to where the road crew had been working about 1/2 mile beyond us over a big hill. Only they were done now. Unbelievable. As we got there, the traffic opened up and we flew on our way again. Trying to resist the urge to go 90 mph. After all, I suspect that "making up lost time" isn't a good argument in court!

So, we couldn't stop at the huge pottery place and price big urns for the backyard. Nor could we poke around in any of the antique stores in Moss Landing either. Sigh.

But, we did get to eat at Phil's Fish Market and Eatery. YUM! Utterly delish! I ordered their squid and chips. Both kids asked to try my squid which was amazing. I was pretty sure that Gage would try it but Ruthie did too -- her love of anything fried won the day, I'm sure. They both also tasted my mom's scallops. Also delish! But, I preferred my squid. I've been craving it since that horrible shoe leather (or overcooked shoe leather that tasted a bit off as my husband put it) I had in Monterey after we went to the aquarium. This was better!

And, then we were off to the Slough. Beautiful day for it -- overcast but not cold. Sweatshirts and light jackets were fine. We headed off in high spirits. The first bird we saw was singing away in a bush ahead of us on the trail. We stopped and looked through the bins and my camera. Couldn't tell what it was -- it was an unusual song though. Then Mom noticed it was blue through the bins. Hmmmm. We got closer -- brave bird, not concerned about us. The kids are being really quiet and good -- walking, not yelling. We get close enough and realize that it's a Western-Scrub Jay. Not even remotely rare or interesting. Nothing like a new bird for us. A common, everyday, rather annoying yard bird! Hilarious! Set us off on our adventures in good spirits!

We stopped at the overlook. Elkhorn Slough is a nature reserve that is being reclaimed. It was once a dairy and they have left the barns up. You see evidence of it's former life as you walk the trails. The Slough itself is where the fresh water drains down from the hills and collects and mixes with the seawater coming inland. Take a look at this map to see why this is such a special area:

Overview of Elkhorn Slough. The white rectangle in the middle is the barn where the barn owls live. The very regular inlets are part of the restoration effort. They are put in to give shorebirds a place to forage and rest while the slough is recovering from years of dredging. We walked across that causeway above the barn and around the south marsh there and back to the barns and then up to the visitor's center in the lower right corner.

Here is an overview photo I took:

Elkhorn Slough
Overview of the Slough from the lookout area. The barns are below us and you can see part of the South Marsh.

The first REAL bird we saw was tough to id -- largely because I forgot my field guide. Sigh. Anyway, we looked at it, saw field marks, and took pictures. When we got home and looked at them with the guides, we decided it was probably a red-shouldered hawk. Beautiful flying around kind of below us as we were still up high at the lookout area. And, off we went. We stopped at the barn where the Barn Owls nest but didn't see any signs of life -- other than about a bazillion owl pellets. We also saw about a thousand coyote poops on the trail around this area. Lots of life! (well, and, I suppose death! :)

Near the barn, we saw and heard lots of LBJs in the brush. They were adept at hiding and were probably mostly House Sparrows anyway but it would have been nice to know. Shortly after we got back on the trail, I saw this little lovely . . .

Hutton's Vireo Hutton's Vireo
Hutton's Vireo

I believe it's Hutton's Vireo. At first I thought it was a warbler but looking at the field guides, that big eye seems more like a vireo to me. It was small but VERY close to us. Thank heavens for the burst mode on my camera.

Next, we walked out to the water and headed out on the walkway. We saw a ton of shorebirds. The tide was out so it was very different than the last time we were there. We were closer to the shorebirds which was cool though. Saw Willets, Whimbrels, and Marbled Godwits for sure and then bunch of other sandpiper-y darlings that we couldn't ID even with pictures.

Willet Willet's wings
Willet and Willet with wings open.

The Willets amaze me. They look like these non-describe LBJ's until they fly and then you are dazzled by this flash of black and white. The wing picture isn't good but it gives you the idea. The Marbled Godwits looked all warm and carmelly. Gorgeous.

Marbled Godwit
Marbled Godwit foraging in mud and marsh plants.

We saw some buffleheads and eared grebes in the water nearby as well. And, then a very handsome bird of prey caught our attention. It was a White-tailed Kite. Amazing bird and not even remotely interested in letting us get close enough for a good picture. I snuck up on it but when I stepped out from the cover to get the shot, it was gone. I'm sure I will improve in this area but I did get this shots.

White-tailed Kite
The White-tailed Kite who was camera shy.

We wound our way back from this point. It was lovely and we saw some more birds but not close up or I didn't get the shot. We saw two woodpeckers -- Acorn and Downy. The Downy was very close but the light was all wrong and we were hurrying back to the center at this point.

We got back to the center and got a couple of goodies at the gift shop. I got a little backpack sized bird guide (by the Stokes!) so I'll have SOMETHING when I go out next time and forget my good guides. And, I got a gorgeous pewter barrette with a feather on it for my hair. Next time, I'll get this one -- amazing, isn't it?

From there, we headed home, made it to soccer, had a great dinner, and crashed for the night!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Birthday Report and Catching Up

So, poor Gage had to wait until I got home from teaching my afterschool program at around 4:30 before he could open his presents . . . torture for a 7 year old boy but he handled it with good grace!

We all gathered in the living room to watch the excitement unfold. My mother is visiting which made it extra fun! She brought her gifts along so he had three presents to open.

Gage opens a SPYWATCH!

We got him the RC Tarantula that I saw first on Julie Zickefoose's blog. Her son, Liam, is the same age as Gage and loved it. I knew my son would too. And, he did . . .

Gage with his spider!

The only disappointment was that Ushki, my Mom's corgi, was singularly unimpressed with the spider. The RC car Gage got at his party was a great doggy tormenting device however. We think the spider just didn't move fast enough. Still the main goal was that Gage loved it and he does. He's being so careful with it -- putting it up high so it doesn't get stepped on. He didn't even show it to his friend who lives next door and can be rough on toys (broke one toy immediately upon being shown it -- sigh! I'm getting good with Crazy Glue!).

I think it was a satisfying birthday for Gage and I know it was for me!

With my mom visiting, my blogging/computer time is cut WAY down. But, it's nice having her here -- she lives so far away that I don't get quality time with her. I figure having enough time to get irritated with each other is a good thing!

Today, we have no school (end of semester break). We are thinking about taking a walk at Elkhorn Slough. I'll report back on what we ACTUALLY do with pictures and details tomorrow!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Happy Birthday, Gage!

My son turns 7 today. At 10:30 am or thereabouts, the actual moment of the anniversary of his birth will pass. He won't note it and I will likely be busy with other events and not notice at that moment either. But what a life changing moment that was when our family grew by one and we got a whole new injection of testosterone.

Gage has grown and changed so much this year. And, the picture here is the epitome of some of those changes. He is playing the "step on a crack and you'll break your mother's back" game. In the past, walks across campus were agonizingly slow when he was in this mode -- he couldn't possible step on any cracks (or lines) for fear of injuring my back (or spine). But now, he has just called me, "Hey, Mom . . . look at this!" Can you stand the glee on his face? Rotten little boy!

I love him so much! He is funny and smart and kind. He is argumentative and strong-willed and contemplative. He is a good friend, a good son, and a good brother. He is cautious and curious and crazy. He is my boy.

Gage Spinning
Lost in thought, playing a spinning game
Maybe it won't be at exactly 10:30 am, but at some point in the day, I"ll be thinking about those moments of his birth and the joy that he brings to my life everyday.

Newborn Gage - 1/24/2000

A Family of Four

from two
to three
to four
Whole becoming a whole lot more.

And so we add more
more smiles
more funny hair
more belly laughs,
Little Baby Bear

Welcome to our family,
Mister Boy
Little brother, darling son.
We welcome you with endless Joy.
© 2000, Liza Lee Miller

Monday, January 22, 2007

Mostly Miserable Day

Blah! Without going into details, yesterday we had a family party for my mother-in-law's 75th birthday. My MIL is an amazing, fantastic woman and we all wanted it to go beautifully. But, it was a recipe for disaster and as far as I am concerned that's what we got. Thankfully, most of the guests won't agree but for me and my family -- awful. I had to take Ruthie home sobbing uncontrollably early after an ugly scene with other family members. Just awful.

The cure: after calming her down and letting her vent about it all the way home, we changed into comfy clothes, ate some chocolate, and watched America's Funniest Pets and People on tv. It worked! As Greg said, I trained her! And, I'm good with that. I trained her that real women feel emotions, stand up for children, and then come home take off their panty hose and take care of themselves! I'm okay with that!

I still feel all singed by it but thankfully Ruthie is moving past it all quickly. There were so many things that went wrong and it felt pretty much like a train speeding toward a cliff that I could see but not stop effectively. Sigh.

One good thing was seeing this cute little bird. I did get a few minutes out by the hostess' bird feeders and that was nice.

Black Phoebe
Black Phoebe checking out the meadow for flies!

Definitely glad to be going back to work today. Maybe teaching kids division will be a good distraction for stupid family drama.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Whirling Dervishes or Welcome to my World!

Whirling Dervishes
Originally uploaded by egret's nest.
This is what my house looked like today. Today was Gage's 7 year old birthday party. We had a house full of boys! Wheeeeee!

I didn't plan games or activities -- on purpose. The party was short -- 3:00 - 4:30. I let them run around like crazy play, jump on the trampoline until it looks like there will be tears soon. Then we go sit down for cake and ice cream and then presents. More playing ensues and we send them on their way, goodie bags in hand!

It works but boy oh boy is it ever a hectic hour and a half. Especially since they got out Gage's massive sword collection and chased each other around the house and yard having sword fights!

Gage wanted an army birthday. I have to say that I did not give it my all as I have in past years. But, I got army guy goodies for the goodie bag (Thank you Oriental Trading Company!). I got a tank center piece to brighten up our table. I even decorated the cake(s) in camo. That was fun. It didn't turn out perfectly but I was pleased with the result. (Gage wanted two bundt cakes instead of one larger cake so it was a trifle odd but it worked . . . )

Camo Cake!

Here is a group shot of all the kids. They had a good time! It was hard to get them to stand still so I didn't do more than one shot! Get what you can -- besides, it's a more realistic look at the day.

The Whole Gang!
Noah, Brendon, Nate, Michael, Gage, Max, Jordan, Blake, Scotty, and Berkley
Jordan in the back is my nephew -- he's 10 and tall for his age. The rest are all 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade boys.

I am exhausted. Good night!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Another Raven Good Day

Raven Courtship
Originally uploaded by egret's nest.
Got back to school to pick the kids up early today . . . wow! Had my camera and these two ravens were showing off. Flirting, like mad with each other.

The sounds they were making was amazing. I got a bunch of photos of them (BURST MODE!!!) but also got some video. If you listen carefully, you'll hear an odd hollow clicking or knocking sound.

No . . . it's not evidence of Ivory Bills in Boulder Creek! The ravens make this sound. It's amazing. She clicks and then he puffs up and clicks and clacks.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


My friend, Betsy, did this on a snow day . . . I just did mine on a blah day. I did not go into much detail and, frankly, was a little bummed -- I've lived in Europe and according to Google Maps, you can't get there from here. Oh well!

To add in my European Adventures . . . after Glasgow, MT, add in Hargrave, England and after Austin Tx, add Weisbaden, West Germany then back to Austin, TX.

Still, it's fun! Click {here} and consider yourself tagged!

And, to follow up on yesterday's post . . . PMS? Pre-Menopause? Who knows but I do know that my chocolate/sugar/fat cravings are serious!

Last night, I made cashew brittle. It's super easy and super tasty!

AJ's Nut Brittle

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup (light)
  • 1 cup nuts (any nut will do -- I used cashews!)
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  1. Mix sugar and corn syrup in a large microwave safe bowl. Cook in microwave oven on high for 5 minutes
  2. Stir in nuts. Cook 2-3 minutes on high.
  3. Add other ingredients. Be aware that this will cause the mixture to froth in am amazing science experiment manner.
  4. Spread mixture on a greased jelly roll pan. Cool for at least 10 minutes until it breaks apart in the expected manner.
  5. Store in an airtight container or bag.
  • Make sure you use a large enough bowl to contain the froth in step 3.
  • If you have a lower power microwave, the cooking times will have to be adjusted but I have no idea what that adjustment would be!
  • Disclaimer: I am not responsible for any damage to your weight or dental work! You have been warned!
  • I owe this recipe to my online friend, AJ, who amazes us all with all she does for her 4 kids (including new twins) and her family and friends. All that and she shares her recipes too!
Last but not least, this is a day for me to be grateful to my friends! My wonderful friend, BEG, at What's That You Said, sent me a prezzie in the mail. An addition to my collection of bird ornaments (that I blame LaurainNJ for starting me on!). Isn't it wonderful? Before you ask, I don't know where you can find one but I found this source through Google -- no clue if it's a legit business though! {click}

The Joys of Womanhood

I know that there are many, many joys in being a woman. But today, I'm not feeling it. About six months ago, I went on birth control to help normalize my hormones. For a variety of reasons, I went off them this month. And, my body is going haywire on me! Emotions run amok, headaches, cramping, exhaustion, etc. It's delightful. My poor kids have forgotten that Mom used to get this way once a month -- I think even my husband had put it out of his mind. The only good thing is that I can realize what is causing it all now which helps me to control my desire to snap at everyone around me, weep over nothing, and curl up on the couch wrapped in blankets eating chocolate by the pound. Oh, don't get me wrong, I still do those things but I can often stop myself or limit the time spent doing them. It's a huge aggravation though!

Ravens landing in tree

Otherwise, we are doing fine. It is unusually cold here in California now. This morning it's 27 degrees here. Two nights ago, it rained. The roads will be icy this morning which is not good. We have windy mountain roads that are treacherous under the best of conditions. Many Californians simply don't know how to drive on icy roads. Yesterday, Greg took us to school and drove 25 and under the whole way. We didn't get passed but we did see someone roar out of their driveway ahead of us way too quickly. Thankfully, they didn't hit ice while we were watching but I did hear that the tow trucks were busy yesterday. Today should be worse -- it's colder this morning.

We get ice on the playground at school and no matter how carefully you watch, the kids will try to slip and slide on it. The school has started putting out salt on the ice. I hate what the salt does to the plants and stuff but as the principal says, "I don't want to see any blood!"

Yesterday, I saw ravens settling in the for the night at the school. There were 16 in one tree. I've never seen that many before at the school -- of course, when I got the camera out some had flown off but still. There was lots of billing and cooing going on between those pairs. Very cool!

Ravens in Love

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Quiet Thoughts

Boulder Creek -- the creek
The creek behind my house: Boulder Creek.

We bought our house in 2001. This view from our back deck -- which hangs over said creek -- is one of the main reasons we bought this house. This changeable creek runs year round but its character changes dramatically over the course of that year. In fall, it is a tiny trickle. In spring and summer, it is a beautiful flowing creek with deep pools for swimming, ducks, fish, and crayfish. In the winter though, it changes and takes on a new life. When storms rage here, our sleepy, quiet stream turns into a violent force of nature. The water levels swell, it flows downhill at breakneck speed. When we step into our backyard, the roar of it is deafening.

Boulder Creek -- storm swell
Same view, during a winter storm.

I love the beauty that surrounds us. I honestly think we live in the most beautiful place in the world but I never take it lightly. We haven't had a huge storm like this yet this winter which is a becoming more unusual as January is generally when winter really starts going here. Still, this view never ceases to amaze and delight me. At times, it brings me peace and then other times, it can fill me with energy and awe.

Now, a birding question. With this amazing creek nearby, should I provide water in my yard in the summer for the birds? Or assume that they can get water from the creek. In winter, during storms, it isn't an issue. Water is everywhere -- a pool of it would be quite redundant. But in the summer, are there birds who won't go down to the creek for a drink.

PS. Oops! I got caught (as evidenced by the comments) in an editing trap. I originally wrote a post about American Idol. Then I decided that it wasn't saying what I wanted it to say and I dumped it and wrote this post. But, people saw it, commented, and now their comments make NO sense whatsoever! Sorry! So, to recap . . . we watched AI last night as a family. Good: love the show. thought Jewel did a great job. Simon was actually quite decent to people. Bad: I hate it when these delusional people think they are going to win the contest and they are so untalented as a singer that they shouldn't have made it past the screeners. There is a meanness in letting them through that I can barely stand. I'd rather skip the auditions altogether and watch just the contest after they are chosen. And, I really worry about the poeple that they televise who are clearly mentally ill. Didn't see any last night but the previews look as if we'll be seeing some tonight. :( I do, however, get an evil, mean glee out of watching people who claim to be fanatics of the show and think they are going to get on -- that woman at the end who has all the episodes on tape. Isn't she paying attention? You can't just be an okay singer. You can't even be a good singer. To make it, you have to be an amazing singer and have showmanship -- you have to have or be able to develop the package. It's your favorite show and you can't see that? Wow. The funniest one though was the Lion girl. Seeing her sing the Cowardly Lion song was amazing enough but hearing her sing OTHER songs that way . . . {jaw falls open}. And, words I never thought I'd hear myself utter . . . Poor Prince. That medley of his songs. Wow. There was one woman singing one of his songs (the one with the tie who may have been in that mentally ill category) who she was nearly done before I recognized the song. Amazing!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Hummingbird on Cold Morning

Anna's Hummingbird staying near feeder to have easy access to fuel! January 2007

A Quiet Day

Anna's Hummingbird on a cold morning
We had a child-less day yesterday. The kids were with my in-laws and had a great day -- pancakes, the park, breaking up ice in the pond, such fun!

We really just lazed around all day. I did a little bit of bird-watching for Project Feederwatch.

Anna's Hummingbird - Calypte anna - 2
Chestnut-backed Chickadee - Poecile rufescens - 6
Pygmy Nuthatch - Sitta pygmaea - 2
Fox Sparrow - Passerella iliaca - 2
Dark-eyed Junco - Junco hyemalis - 8

Sunday, January 14, 2007

An amazing evening

Last night, we went out with friends. They arranged the evening and we went along with their plans knowing that it would be a delightful evening. Malcolm is the lead guitar player and organizer behind Metaphor -- one of the band's that Greg is in. We have dined at their house a couple of times -- they love food and love fine food so it's always a fantastic treat.

We met at Chez TJ in Mountain View -- about an hour from here. This is a very, very nice restaurant that just got a Michelin Star. That is rather an amazing accomplishment given how far off the bright lights of San Francisco it is. We knew it would be a wonderful (and crazy-expensive) dining experience but we threw ourselves into the experience and simply enjoyed it. I mean we enjoyed it. The company was wonderful. Malcolm and his wife, Eileen, are delightful, funny, kind. They have two daughters a few years older than our kids (their youngest is a year older than Ruth). We always enjoy their company. But the food. . .

I've spent the last half-hour looking for images because I thought it would be tacky to take my camera in and photograph all the food but I really wish I had (or at least taken pictures with Greg's camera phone camera). I found a few images to give you an idea of the type of food {here}. The food was truly the most amazing flavors I've ever had. You read food descriptions of subtle blends of flavors, elegantly presented dishes, wines that combine beautifully with the food. I had no idea what any of that meant before. Each bite was sublime. This was not food presented for it's snootiness factor . . . it was meant to be savored. And, we did.

The other thing that was so amazing was the service. The staff was wonderful. The food was brought out and explained as it was given to us. The staff was friendly and thoughtful and we never felt stupid or awkward. One funny moment came when the waiters cleared the table of the palate cleansing sorbet between one of the courses (it wasn't always sorbet though). The sorbet was served on oversized child spoons -- the kind with the handles that curve around in a loop. It was fun and elegant and we picked them up and used them as spoons. We missed that they had also brought us little small spoons. Everything was cleared without comment and we got a good laugh when I pointed out that we'd all missed that one. Although we all agreed we'd have felt pretty silly eating from a spoon with a spoon.

After dinner, we hurried to the Flint Center in Cupertino and got into our seats just moments before the show started -- phew! It was something completely different from the dinner. We saw An Evening with Colin and Brad. These former stars of Whose Line Is It Anyway did the most amazing evening of comedy improve. Some of the games were from Whose Line and some were not. It was delightful. We were glad to be well back from the front where there was no risk of being called up on stage. We laughed until our cheeks ached. Delightful.

We came home to an empty house as the children spent the night with my inlaws (bless them!). It was very nice to wake up this morning and feel that I had no responsibilities. A true vacation day . . . tomorrow will be soon enough to finish all the gawdawful chores that I've let pile up around here.

Saturday, January 13, 2007


('cause I'm a joiner! )

Hey, if all the cool kids -- Laura, Susan, Julie, Lynne (and anyone else that I haven't gotten to yet) are doing it . . . I gotta join in . . .

two names you go by: Liza and Mom
two parts of your heritage: Scots, Irish
two things that scare you: bridges and the idea of someone hurting my children
two everyday essentials: mocha and computers
two things you are wearing right now: jammies and slippers
two of your favorite current bands/artists: Indigo Girls and Sarah McLachlan
two things you want in a relationship (other than love): trust and stability
two favorite hobbies: birding and reading
two things you have to do this week: finish de-Christmasing the house and setup new computers
two stores you shop at: Safeway and Ben Lomond Market (I don't get out much!)
two favorite sports: my kids playing soccer and . . .
two shows you like to watch: (Only two???) ER and Lost (but the list is quite a bit longer than that!)
two things you’d buy if money were no object: land and a new car
two wishes for 2007: health and a full-time teaching job

SpongeBob enjoys MacWorld

SpongeBob enjoys MacWorld
Originally uploaded by egret's nest.
And so did I. Did not take many pictures but MacWorld was a blast! Exhausting but in a good way. It was nostalgic to me as well which was really nice too. I used to go to this show SERIOUSLY looking for the latest greatest thing to bring back to Stanford to share. I'd go and see tons of people I knew and register for conferences and all that jazz.

I have to say that going and just walking around and looking at stuff was fun too! And, the best part of it was getting to spend most of the day and evening with Greg! That was was cool.

Brag Alert! Greg occasionally writes reviews for MacWorld magazine on products related to architecture. He wrote a review for this product and got quoted on the box:

MacDraft Box

Yes, I made the guy in the booth hold up the box so I could take the picture. I said to him, "Greg's mom will be so proud!" (Ha -- she is but so am I!)

We tried to buy Greg's Christmas gift from me at the show but they were out of the 80G iPods so we stopped at the Apple store in Palo Alto on our way home. That was a fun way to do it because Greg has often wandered in there and looked at all the cool things he couldn't buy. Last night, we bought! We went out to a blissful kidfree dinner on the way home too which was very nice.

Today, I have a CPR class and then we are going out tonight to dinner and a play with friends. This is a big deal for us -- we don't go out to fancy, fun evenings very often! The kids are staying at my inlaws and I get to sleep in tomorrow!


ps. The new PC is working well although it is "quirky" which is why it got to be my "new" computer instead of the one that Greg swears at all the time. The new Mac will probably be set up tomorrow. That one will take longer, I'd imagine!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Winter's Finally Here!

Purple Finch, Female
Originally uploaded by egret's nest.
Now, before you laugh, remember that this is coastal California. We don't get a lot of cold weather here. It rains here all winter and keeps our redwoods looking beautiful.

However, it's cold and getting colder out there. Some weird collection of highs and lows has an arctic cold air mass settling in over us for the long haul. No rain in sight. In the morning, it will be in the 20s outside and tomorrow night in the teens. Brrrrr! I have my fingers crossed that the "rain" forecast to hit here around midnight won't actually hit us!

This cold air generated a FLURRY of activity at my front yard feeder today. I had new guests -- the Purple Finches arrived. It was very nice to see them. It's funny to me. The female is very brave and the male hides in the bushes until he knows its safe. I wonder if that's because he's so brightly colored and more obvious to predators. Although, that doesn't slow our Steller's Jays down at all!

Purple Finch, male

The squirrels were also stuffing themselves silly. This one was laughing as he stuffed his face on my squirrel proof feeder. Should I send it off the manufacturer? Sigh.

Squirrel-Proof Feeder?  NOT!

The regular feeder birds were storing up energy too for the cold night -- the chickadees were frantic in getting food. They were flying in at all angles and getting angry with each other for not moving fast enough. The Dark-eyed Juncos were pretty serious about eating too. This one wasn't satisfied with having to wait for the Chickadee Rejects (seeds they don't like, they just drop on the ground) and came up to get some top choice feed.

Dark-eyed Junco, Chestnut-backed Chickadee

I went out and refilled that feeder and the chickadees and Pygmy Nuthatches scolded me the entire time. I could have reached out and touched the two nuthatches and several chickadees at any time while I filled the feeder. Silly things!

Also, just as an aside, I posted a couple of bird related poems on my writing blog. Take a look if you are interested.

Tomorrow, I'm off to MacWorld in San Francisco. It's been a long time since I've been there and gotten to be a techy for a day. I used to have to go for work and I miss it! This weekend, all my computer equipment will change out too -- no, I'm not getting a new computer at MacWorld. Greg got a new MacBook Pro last night and he's giving me his hand-me-downs. So, no idea when I'll be back online again what with setting them all up. Hopefully sooner rather than later!