Friday, August 26, 2011

Rock the Shot Challenge

I've been entering some photography challenges and there are some amazing photographers out there!   Rock the Shot's August challenge is silhouettes and I happen to have one from my "killing time" session with Erin the other day.

We're in the Orange High football stadium.  Without the tripod it was impossible to get her "touching" the light. The sky makes up for it!

Back to school

The peeps headed back to school yesterday.  Everyone said they had a good day; it was good to see their friends. And this morning they had a hard time getting out of bed.  There you go, one day of school excitement and getting out of bed easily.

Here, in high school, the students take four classes a semester. Each class is 1.5 hours long. Do bureaucrats really wonder why drop-out rates are so high?  Even if you like a class and have an interesting teacher it's going to be difficult to stay focused for that amount of time. That seems like asking for trouble to me.  I'm sure doodling (and pocket texting) is rampant. Boys need to move a lot, I can imagine the leg wiggling, fidgeting, sighing, and sleeping that happens by the afternoon.

Erin is enjoying seventh grade, so far.  Today they had a Team Building day where they named their team, came up with a chant, and they need a motto.  This is the kind of thing I'm also very glad they didn't do when I was in school because any group game activities bummed me out.  I don't care for games - I appreciate that other people do (rock on, other people) but just allow me to watch quietly from the sidelines.  Erin is also trying out for volleyball this year.  Right now she's at the first dance of the year (day two and there's a dance already?).  I think she likes having middle school to herself without the boys there to cramp her style.  Ditto for them in high school, of course.

I just edited this picture today of Erin and her friend Becca on the zip line at Becca's house.  When there's not a drought, it goes over the edge of their pond and ends in a pine straw bale at the other end.  The two of them will do this for stretches of time.  

Irene is headed our way (North Carolina, not us in particular) but many local events have already been cancelled for the weekend.  It seems the Outer Banks are going to get slammed this time.  I was talking to a guy picking up his grand-daughter from school and he said, "I don't know why people live down there - you've got water on both sides of you, of course it's going to do damage!"  We were interrupted but I wanted to ask if he goes to the beach.  He probably does, most of us do.  We wouldn't  go to the beach if there weren't people who lived there, ran restaurants, hotels, fish, etc. so that we could go to the beach and enjoy ourselves occasionally.  I agree that it's a big risk, but it must be worth it or no one would do it, right?

Here's to the people willing to take the risk!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Where did my muscles go?

That's a joke because I've never had much muscle! Being in my 40's now, I've been noticing that my upper arms are rather flabby and wobble when I raise them.  This is not cool!  It's too hot in the South to stay covered up in the summer.  Added to that, I've never worn a bikini either, but after twins and the lovely "seersucker" stomach I got in the process, I don't wear one piece bathing suits.  Now I wear  a complicated, double fabric Miracle Suit tankini (it's last season's so I can't show it to you - unless I take a picture of me in it and that ain't happenin'!).  These two things in combination have me back on the exercise wagon.

The only time I ever followed a real Diet Plan was after all the kids were born and I weighed around 180 lbs. I don't own a scale, so I don't know for sure but it was definitely the biggest I've been when not pregnant (I was wearing sizes 14 and 16). I purchased a Suzanne Somers book, it was one of those high protein, no carb diets and it totally kick started my metabolism and I lost a lot of weight quickly.  That kind of diet is not for long term use, in my opinion, and I ate reasonably after a couple weeks and got to a size 10 and was pleased.  She also reinforced by belief that chemicals in food you cannot pronounce are not good for you.  The more "diet" the food the more chemicals they add to make it taste better.

After that I had personal food revolutions. I went vegan for about three years and was quite healthy (good cholesterol was high, bad cholesterol was very low).  Vegan for me didn't mean just not eating animals though and it's really complicated when you start to think about which is more important, not eating animals or not eating chemicals?  I remember going to a restaurant with a vegan friend and she was so excited because they had "vegan" ice cream.  I asked what was in it and she said, "Who cares? It's vegan!"  Well, I care.  A lot. No chemicals in my food please. Also at that time there were more soy proteins available by some major brands (e.g., Morningstar Farm) that I was buying. Come to find out they're made with genetically modified soy beans.  Geeze, this eating thing was getting complicated!  Plus,  I'm not into defining myself by labels anyway so I stopped being vegan.

Now, I eat non CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) meat - I don't eat out much, either - organic fruits and vegetables, limit the many ways corn products invade my food systems by eating grass fed pork and beef, and buy directly from farmers whenever I can.  The fluids available in our house are water and local milk (and the milk is just for breakfast). The junk food in the house consists or tortilla chips and bagel chips. I know, it's not good and I'm trying to figure out an acceptable alternative for the peeps, but they already feel like aliens in the food world at school and their dad's house. (And I have a Crazy Lady reputation - you should see the reusables I use to pack their lunch - poor peeps.)

All that sounds pretty good, right? Where on earth am I headed with all this? You can't be svelt without working at it. Damn. Ok, there are a few people out there and I know them, but by and large if you want muscles you need to work for them.  I've decided it's worth it and I'm willing to do it from here on out.  I signed up to receive newsletters from after I heard Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum on The People's Pharmacy talking about sugar addiction.  One of the newsletters had a link to a woman who is a fitness guru but is on the same food and health page I am (rare!) so I checked out her website, bought a book, and am starting week number three of interval training and weights.  I'm seeing some muscles in my arms, my abs are tighter,  my clothes are fitting better, I have more energy, and it feels great!  The only downside is she's a celebrity fitness trainer, but since I don't have cable or tv reception at my house, I didn't know that. The woman is JJ Virgin, the book is Six Weeks to Sleeveless and Sexy (I'm a little embarrassed about the title, but I didn't write it), and it's working for me! The best part is my 45 minute walks are over.  With interval training there's a lot more bang for your training buck, which I appreciate.  The weight routine is manageable and you don't need lots of equipment.

When I get really brave I'll post a picture of me before and after.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Food is near and dear to my heart. I like all kinds of food and when I'm not trying to figure out what to feed the picky peeps I enjoy making grown-up dishes with spices.  We all have beliefs about food, for whatever reason: political, moral, ethical, healthful, etc.  The interesting thing about food and where we are now, is that we are killing the planet by creating food.  How bizarre is that?

In the interest of full disclosure, I have no faith in the USDA, FDA, and the EPA for that matter.  Almost all of the people involved making sure our food is "safe" and "healthful" work directly or indirectly with giant agribusiness corporations. They've changed the food pyramid (again) and now when you go to the USDA  website it customizes the food pyramid depending on your age, but it still tells each of us to eat too many of the wrong carbs, not enough vegetables, and that all meat and vegetables (as long as they're cooked well enough) are safe for us to eat. According the the USDA meat from cows fed a steady diet of corn (not their natural food choice),  antibiotics, and sometimes other animals is healthy.  Despite recalls due to various meat processing related diseases. (Food Inc. does a thorough and enlightening job of showing this without beating you over the head on the issues.)

Our government doesn't  do any better with vegetables or oils.  Did you know that almost all oils (other than organic) use hexane (a biproduct of gasoline production) as an extraction method? It is not listed on the ingredients because the hexane "evaporates at low temperatures".  Ditto for soy processing (including tofu).  Is this really safe?  I'm sure studies have been done, but are they done by an independent company or one that's payed by the corporation itself (kind of like drug trials).

Ok, so our food production is hurting our personal health, but it's also hurting the planet.  30% of the earth's surface is devoted to raising animals for consumption. And that number is expected to increase over the next 40 years.  18% of the planet's greenhouse gasses come from meat production. I am not advocating a meat free diet (I would have in the past and that is a whole different discussion) but we eat, in general, five times the amount of meat we need to a week.  Does it makes us stronger and healthier?  No. For all the talk about health and wellness in this country, we are some of the most unhealthy people on the planet.

I am a huge fan of TED.  The TED talks can be a rabbit hole for me, but educational, so I rationalize it as being ok.  Here's one of Mark Bittman from 2007 on food.

It's worth the twenty minutes out of your day and life - trust me.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

What's for dinner?

That is the number one question at my house every day. I enjoy cooking but there are times when my mind draws a complete blank. Since the beginning of August the boys have been having soccer try-outs and practice from 6-8 pm because it's so *^#&-ing HOT. On the days I drop them off for practice and pick them up I have plenty of time to figure out the dinner plan. Yesterday was the first game day, boys need to be there at 4, JV game starts at 5, varsity at 6:45. We didn't get home until 8:15 and it was a home game. There are 20 more regular season games and "away" is very away - Roxboro, Oxford, Graham, Eastern Alamance to name a few.

The good news is that Bowen and Morgan made the team! Bowen made varsity as a rising ninth grader - very exciting! He's been an attack man his whole life and is now doing a fine job defending (three very nice saves yesterday). Morgan loves defense and will be continuing on jv in that position. That boy has the ability to move like the wind (he saves it for the field, btw).

The downside, for me only, is that there are now two games to watch a night and I'll have to have my dinner plan figured out. Soon. There are games on Wed. and Thurs. (one in northern Durham and the other at home). Add to the mix my idea what constitutes a healthy meal and this is complicated. Our most recent quick meal is a buying a roasted whole chicken (which is cheaper at Weaver Street than buying an uncooked whole chicken - go figure) adding pasta, pesto, cut up peppers, zucchini, peas, and roasted mushrooms. I can usually get two meals out of one chicken so it's thrifty as well. Egg production is up to 3-4 eggs a day! Suddenly frittatas, quiche, and tarts seem like an option. I'm sure I'll only be able to get away with an egg meal one night a week, though. Maybe the slow cooker will come out from hibernation to help out. I have a Thai pork and rice with peanut sauce that is amazing and super easy.

Maybe dinner will be ok after all!

Monday, August 8, 2011

It's Black & White

I like black and white photography, but seldom play with it much. I've been practicing my editing skills and having some fun with favorite photos (new and old).

One of Erin with a frog in Mel and Angela's pool a few years ago.

erin frog bw

Morgan with the same frog in the same pool.

I convinced Bowen to squish himself into this fallen over hollowed out tree stump for a picture. Due to flooding the stump is no longer at the Eno.

bowen tree stump bw

A different Eno trip, this one was in February and the peeps will pretty much get in the water no matter what temperature it is. As you can tell, it wasn't too cold no one's limbs are purple and falling off!

bw bridge

This is Tiger-Cato checking out one of the chickens. I didn't let them around each other until the chickens got big. Tiger went to investigate them one day and got pecked on the nose. He's learned from that experience and now sits on top of the ark (or run) and watches from a distance. (I wish he would be such a quick learner from his tree experiences!)

tiger and chicken

And, the peeps all time favorite picture. We saw this puppy at Wrightsville Beach and they loved it. Nothing makes the peeps melt like a puppy.

puppy on beach

That's all I've got for now, back to editing fun!

Monday, August 1, 2011

It's all about Bob

Things have been a little crazy for the past few days. On Friday, what was supposed to be a regular gateway to the weekend kind of day did not go the way my mind thought it should. Usually, when I get up and let Eowyn out for her morning digestive ritual Tiger-Cato comes running up and wants to come inside for breakfast. No Cato. Button and Mac were here and I saw Button running around the corner of the house. I thought maybe he was going after a bird so I followed. Nope, he was standing under a tree and looking up at my very untalented cat! For the second time that week he was stuck up a tree. It's gotten so bad that Richard has just left his giant extending ladder with us. How embarrassing. I spent a few minutes calling him and he mewed back sorrowfully but would make no attempt to try and climb down. (In the back of my mind thoughts ran to leaving him up there until he came down on his own. After all, "you never see cat bones in a tree.")

I woke the boys for a regular mowing job. Before we left we set the ladder up against the tree in case Tiger-Cato wanted to have a go by himself. It was supposed to be super hot (again), I reasoned if we got to the job by 8:30 it wouldn't be so bad and we'd be done by 10. We started out and things were fine until we realized we needed to lower the mower. Even with some lubricating oil, those levers can be sticky. As I was trying to do the left front lever my arm bumped against the hot exhaust and I felt my skin sizzle. Within half an hour it looked like this

Lawn mower burn on wrist

Brilliant, eh? Then, with about a third of the yard to go the mower conked out. No amount of fiddling would start it. I checked the oil and it was very low. Now I know a lack of oil won't make an engine not start, but it certainly will kill one that runs for a while. I left the boys and went to our local hardware store Dual Supply to get some. I had no idea how much oil to put in a mower and put in too much. The mower still wasn't starting. Luckily, the woman we were mowing for said we could use her mower. Good deal! Mowing commenced until four or five passes from the end and it quit as well. Things were not going well and it was unbearably hot. I apologized and told her we'd get our mower running again and come back and do it Monday at the latest.

We get home and see our cat is still in the tree (it is a different tree each time he gets stuck, in case you were wondering). The peeps are getting picked up by their dad for the weekend any minute, so the boys head off to the showers. Their dad pulls up and he, Erin, and I look at Tiger-Cato in the tree, look at the lawnmower (which has a very clogged air filter from us tipping it up and cleaning out the grass clumps), and check out the chickens. The boys are ready so we say good-bye and they're gone. I head off to a box store to get an air filter for my lawnmower.

When I get back I change the air filter (which is very nasty), check for eggs in the nesting boxes, and notice Button sitting under Tiger-Cato's tree again. Some part of me hopes that since it's like 105 with the heat index, my kitty-cat will just get thirsty enough and come down. I talk to him a bit and he meows back pitifully and I notice his eyes looking over my head and tracking something. When I turn around and look there's a baby Blue Jay sitting in the grass not even ten feet from Button! This not being an ideal situation for a baby bird I pick him up and take him to the back yard. We have a dog pen, that dogs do not like to use so I set the baby bird in there. He peeped for a few seconds and then hunkered down like he was going to take a nap. You would also think a baby bird on the ground might entice my cat out of a tree. Apparently not.

A couple hours later Richard came back from a trip and I showed him the cat in the tree (and his ladder still waiting). He climbed up and wrenched Tiger-Cato off the branch and brought the pokey-clawed creature down. For someone that doesn't want to be up in a tree long term, he sure clings to the branches when you try and help him! Then I took Richard around back to see the baby bird, sleeping in the dog pen. I had Button inside (and Cato had been up a tree) so he was safe. I was hoping the little guy would be in one piece in the next morning.

On Saturday morning when I went out to let the chicken ramp down, I looked in the dog pen and the baby blue jay was still in there. (There has been no sign of the parents through all of this.) The chickens like to get out of the ark and range around the yard for a bit everyday so I let them out. The chickens will go in the dog pen because there's a bunch of plantain in there to munch. Two chickens headed in and the baby Blue Jay popped it's little head up and started to peep at them. He looked like he was saying, "Another bird! Hey, I'm over here and I could use some food!" The chickens looked at him briefly and went on to other weeds. The baby blue jay kept peeping and looking around for them and hopping! After herding the chickens back in the ark and watering the garden I went inside to keep cool for a bit.

Fast forward a couple hours, I look out the kitchen window and the baby blue jay is sitting beside the chicken ark! I went outside to check it out and once I talked to him and the chickens noticed they all came to the edge of the run and tried to peck him! Good grief, the poor little guy just wanted some feathered companionship. I moved him back to the pen and hoped his parents would find him.

An hour later I look out the window and don't see anything, so I go outside to check on him. Yep, right by the pen again. I picked him up and he peeped at me and flapped his little wings. He was definitely hungry. Dried mealworms are a favorite chicken treat so I went in and got some while Richard held him.

Baby blue jay

As you can see, there are some real feathers, so he wasn't so small and helpless, but he was very clumsy. I was breaking the mealworms in half and giving them to him. He ate a few but it wasn't going so well. Richard did some research on the interwebs and it said to get a box and put some grass in it and hook it to the side of the tree where the bird was found and it's parents' will find it and feed it. We did see a blue jay flutter around for a minute, but no landing and feeding. We got a box, filled it with grass, and brought it inside. The bird was still hungry so I moistened some meal worms and he ate about four and then his eyes started to close and he was out like a light. Food coma happens to birds too! Richard found the Animal Rescue number and I called. They asked if I could text them a picture of him (of course) and then they would get back to me. I sent them the picture above and they called back to say "put him back outside, in two days he'll be able to take care of himself. He's a fledgling and he has a good chance." I mentioned the two dogs and two cats in the house and the woman said to try and keep them indoors as much as possible. Really?

Richard and I talked about it, it didn't seem likely he would last for two days without food and being dog/cat bait. As I was pondering Richard said, "Whatever you do, don't name it." And I replied, "Bob is going to be fine." Richard rolled his eyes.

Bob would wake up and chirp (really quietly for a blue jay, in my opinion) and I'd give him some meal worms. He'd literally try and swallow part of my finger to help the food get down. Two days and he's not going to need to eat like this? Surrogate bird mothering is intense, but not like kids. They chirp, you give them a few worms, and they're asleep. There was a lot more rigamorole with children as I recall.

We decided to stay at Richard's house that night, so he took Bob with him and I took the dogs and his cat. Tiger-Cato and Button are BFF but after a couple lack luster traveling experiences, he stays behind and is much happier. Richard reported Bob flapped his wings and chirped most of the way. We wanted to go hit some golf balls, but that would mean Bob would miss a few feedings. I figured he'd had quite a few mealworms and he should be fine for an hour or so. When we got back he was cheeping up a storm! Mac was whimpering and I didn't know if it was because he wanted us to do something to make Bob stop, or because he wanted us to put Bob down so he could eat him. Mac, as a Westie, is a hunter by nature (small animal only - he gave up on deer shortly after his arrival to the country). This is an example of Mac hunting (his nickname is BuddhaMac because he'll sit under trees and stare upwards for hours) or waiting for a squirrel to fall. It's open to interpretation.


The great thing about baby birds is they want food every fifteen minutes while it's light, but they'll sleep the whole night! Absolutely brilliant. I decided that being cooped up in a box isn't the best thing for a bird that is supposed to be self-sufficient in the next 24 hours and I took Bob outside. I'd notice while moving him around his box at feedings (as with all babies when food goes in one end, something comes out the other) that his right foot didn't seem to have any grabbing coordination at all. I wanted to see if there was something wrong or he was just getting the hang of it and I found a twig to perch him on.


He seemed pretty excited. There was a lot of cheeping and wing flapping. Every time he cheeped his wings would go out and up a little bit. He seemed to fit right in at my house - there's quite a bit of talking with hands here. I was sitting on the ground, talking to Bob, watching him practice when all of a sudden this black fur came flying up and swatted at Bob! Luckily Button got my hand and I hopped up and put him in the house. Bob seemed unaware that anything was amiss. Now that Button was onto the bird things were going to be trickier. I put Bob down and let him figure out how to get off the branch and hop about for a bit.


He looks kind of cranky in that picture, but it's just his affect. His disposition was sunny enough. Anyway, the new deal was when Bob is in the house the cat is out; when Button is in the house, Bob is on the deck. Worked quite well and Bob slept through the night again.

Monday morning and it was time for Eowyn, Bob, and I to head back to our house. For some strange reason, Eowyn decided she was not getting out of the car. Maybe she was hoping our destination was somewhere more exciting for dogs or maybe since it was cooler outside that morning she thought that was the place to be. Whatever her reason she wouldn't get out and I left the door open in case she changed her mind. At one point I noticed a flash of blue out of the corner of my eye and looked over at the tree where I found Bob. There was another baby blue jay! And it was being fed by it's parents! I went and got Bob from inside and told him the news. I placed him down by his sibling (it's right eye was white and glassy). It's peeped wasn't as strong as Bob's and I was hoping it had been ousted from the nest on purpose.

Bob and sibling

I walked away and sat at a distance so I could see if the parents came back. No concerned bird parents were appearing and Bob was cheeping for a snack. I moistened some meal worms and headed over. I gave him one and heard concerned cheeping from the tree - not angry, but definitely concerned - it was Bob's parents! I backed up and apologized and she kept looking at Bob and I think she was telling him not to take worms from strangers. She came down and gave him a bug! He was back with his family! It was very sweet. His dad came down and checked on him too. There wasn't a big to-do, more like, "we're glad you're back let's move forward. One more day and you're on your own " and all that.

The peeps came back and got to see Bob and Bobbette (as we affectionately referred to them) and we kept Tiger-Cato indoors most of the time, but he does like to go out now and again. One of the times he was out I didn't see him, but I could hear the blue jays screeching like crazy so I went out and called for him. He came creeping sheepishly out of the shrubbery a good twenty feet from the birds. He had to come inside then. A little later that day I was impressed when I saw Bob about 18" off the ground on the side of the tree.

Bob on tree trunk

Maybe he really would be ready to be on his own! For the rest of the day and part of Tuesday we kept seeing the family in the wee bit of woods by our house. Late Tuesday afternoon they were all gone. Morgan, Bowen, and I searched the woods and found no scattered feathers so we're assuming the family is fine and Bob and Bobbette are now on their own.