Thursday, January 18, 2018

Snowfall brought the Northern mockingbird . . . . . . . . . .

Out of the blue, and white, the Northern mockingbird arrived on the front porch 
 at breakfast today.
He stayed for a long time, more just resting than eating, but long enough
 for me to take lots of photos through the dining room window. 
Thank you sweet bird for not flying away for a long time.
This is the bird who looks so sleek until it perches and fluffs up its feathers.
It is really handsome/pretty - male and female are identical. 
I love having it in the garden.

Such a beautiful morning - snow and sunshine!
Our snowfall of yesterday brought 7" between 9 am and 6 pm.
It just kept falling into the evening dusk, bringing such quiet beauty 
to everything it touched.
Today, we continue to be housebound due to hazardous driving conditions. 
Areas around us had up to a foot of snow, but this is not a problem - in
fact I'm loving it. As it will re-freeze tonight I will probably be here for 
several days. Remember, this is the south, we're not well equipped
for snow removal!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Scribble Picnic. . . . . . Hot Chocolate

My photo edited to a sketch via PicMonkey - watercolor pencils.

HOT CHOCOLATE:  Also called hot cocoa, drinking chocolate or just cocoa,
 is a heated beverage consisting of shaved chocolate, melted chocolate, cocoa powder,
 with heated milk or water and perhaps a little added sweetener. . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . .and so delicious, especially on a cold winter day.

Believed to have been created by the Mayans 2,500-3,000 years ago as an
essential part of Aztec culture, this beverage became popular much later in
 Europe after being introduced from Mexico.
The history of drinking chocolate is quite amazing so, if interested, be sure
 to go HERE for the entire story.

My SCRIBBLE PICNIC offering today for Michael's theme of Hot Chocolate
is the latest version I've seen for preparing a warming mug of this delicious drink,
Believe me this is the way to go but, sadly, these little gems from Germany
 discovered at our brand new LIDL store before Christmas, sold out so quickly. . . . 
I'm kicking myself for not buying a case! They have not reappeared on the shelves
 and, being a seasonal item, most likely will not return until next Christmas.

Coming two to a packet - with a choice of dark or milk chocolate - one for you
 and one for someone dear who likes to share a beverage break, perfect!
All that's necessary is to plop your stick of chocolate into your favorite mug, pour
 on hot milk and wait until it melts into a deep, dark mug of chocolatey heaven.
I'm calling these. . . . . . . 'grown up Popsicles/lollipops!"

Looking forward to seeing what chocolatey drinks our group comes up with
this week HERE - with another cold snap here I'm all for new hot chocolate drink ideas.

P.S. Don't forget, if you haven't entered my guessing game
 as to where I'm traveling to in March, there's still time.
Go HERE and leave a comment with your guess - two countries.
 There will be a little prize for the winner later!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Motivation. . . . . . . . . .

This morning:  I watched this sweet female Eastern bluebird searching the
 feeders for breakfast on yet another below freezing morning in the garden.
Her mate soon joined her, always delightful to see.
The sun is bright but the air bitter cold.

Snow is forecast for tomorrow, starting around 5:00 am which will cause
 early morning traffic havoc. Yellow school buses are likely to remain
in their parking lots, kids will don parkas and boots, fashion makeshift sleds,
 then search for a hill - which around here is usually no more than a slope.
Tonight will see a rush to the grocery stores to 'stock up' on bread,
milk, and perhaps wine and beer! Although the snowfall is expected to be light, 
and on Thursday it will warm up again and surely melt, people in the south get 
nervous at the thought of being snowbound without a stockpile of essentials. 
This is the roller coaster winter weather of the southeast states.

~ Female Eastern bluebird ~

While outside checking the firewood supply for tonight and tomorrow - we'll be
 staying close to home - filling bird feeders and melting icy bird baths, I also chased
 off five squirrels gobbling down seed and suet. This one refused to leave, playing
 'catch me if you can' on the tree branches - I gave up yelling and hand clapping
 allowing it to return to nibble for a while.

Oh, why the title of Motivation for today?

Last night I went to my first Tai Chi class!  
I roped in daughter, granddaughter, and two neighbors to join me.
 We had two hours of verbal instruction and learning the beginning
 position of this ancient Chinese exercise.
I'm planning to continue and hope the others will also. The group was
an interesting mix and the instructor pleasant. I've always wanted
to try this gentle, excellent way to get the body and mind moving.
I'm now having to admit that at this age 'gym rat' is not listed in my
 personal profile!  This way of exercising (although great for all age
 groups, and the younger you start the better) seems to be the way to go.
I need more balance and less stress so hopefully this will work for me.

Have you ever tried Tai Chi?

P.S. Don't forget, if you haven't entered my
 travel contest yet, do check yesterday's post.
  Many of you have already submitted some awesome guesses. 
There will be a little prize later for the winner when
 I return from the trip! 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Where am I going next?

Time for another travel inspired guessing game. . . . . . . and I hope so
 much you will take part.
Those who have a passion for wilder places on the planet may 
already have been here, or at least know of it.
Shaped by fire and ice, this is a hauntingly beautiful, rugged land, and
I'm so excited to be heading there in March.

I'm sharing this one photo from our travel itinerary brochure. . . . . . . . and
 hopefully I'll have opportunities to be taking such photos myself when on 
the expedition.

Leave a comment on this post with your guess
 by January 22 - I'll check back here each day. 
I'll be in two countries, please try to name both.
I'll save the correct answers and draw a winning name. 
After the draw, and naming the winner, I'll add more
 details about the planned trip.

I'm hoping to find a little memento during this exciting
 trip to send to the winner after I return in April.

Come on, give it a go!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Keeping the winter garden lively. . . . . . . . . . .

It's a lovely Saturday here - cool of course but not cold. Sun is shining
and the birds are busy making the garden a bright and lively place.
Just want to share these photos of some of the visitors this past week.

~ Carolina Wren ~

~ Chickadee ~

~ Mockingbird ~

~ Cardinal ~

Wishing you a wonderful weekend.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Bluebirds of happiness. . . . . . . . .

The past few days have been sunny and quite a bit warmer giving some respite
 from the bitterly cold we experienced earlier. Weather in the southeast is strange
 as to how it can change so rapidly. Today the barometer is already at 60F early
 in the morning, so different from the 10F reading at the beginning of this week.

We're not coddling the garden birds quite as much - no rows of seeds along the
 porch railing in addition to filling feeders and suet holders, no buckets of hot water
 being sloshed into the icy birdbaths several times a day.
They are managing fine, still singing in the bare fig tree and scuffling about in the
 leaf mold...........and now and then I'm able to get some unexpected photos such as
 these from a couple of days ago when of a pair of beautiful bluebirds arrived together
 for a few fleeting moments in the back garden.
These birds are non-migrators in the Carolinas, feeding mostly on insects and fruit, 
but also come to suet and seed feeders in winter months. 
Interesting fact - a pair will have two broods of 4-5 a year and the young from 
the first brood help raise the young of the second.

Eastern Bluebird: Sialia sialis

Easy to tell apart, the deeper blue of the male is somewhat faded in winter, and the
 more grayish female only ever has touches of pale blue on tail and wings, both have rusty
 red breasts and white bellies

To think this lovely bird was nearly eliminated from the Carolinas due to lack of
 natural nesting cavities as trees were felled and farmland built upon. However, with
 the aid of bird enthusiasts who put up thousands of bluebird boxes, they have made
 a remarkable comeback - thank goodness! 

"There's a bluebird on my shoulder" says the song, well not quite, but they do 
frequent my garden and that makes me happy.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Scribble Picnic - Favorite Fiction Character. . . . . . .

Watercolor pencils, smudging via PicMonkey editing.

 . . . . . . however on the second time round, she came upon a low curtain
 she had not noticed before, and behind it was a little door about fifteen inches high: 
she tried the little golden key in the lock, and to her great delight it fitted!

The Queen of Hearts has been busy baking today.
 I've decided to bring a mouthwatering selection of
 her delicious raspberry and lemon curd tarts to the
 picnic. . . . . . after all what's a picnic without jam tarts.
 We all need a little sugar for the energy required to
 follow Alice down the rabbit hole and off on the
 ultimate magical adventure.
Alice's 'Wonderland' has to be the most amazing
 expedition to unknown places - goodness I have
 'wanderlust' just thinking about it all. . . . . . . 

. . . . . . . . .and as Cheshire Cat says:
"If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there." 

Hope you all stop by Michael's SCRIBBLE PICNIC today - it's 
going to be interesting to find out whom each member of the group
has chosen as a favorite fictional character. . . . . . and of course
how they have illustrated this week's challenge. I'm sure it will be one
of the most fun picnics ever!

As for magical adventures and expeditions, I'll be off on another one 
soon. It won't be down a rabbit hole with Alice, but it will be to what is 
reputed to be a magical place - more on that later!

. . . . . and at the picnic, in her clipped British accent,
 Alice called across the Mad Hatter's table. . . . .

"Dorothy dear I'm noticing your sparkly red shoes,
 they're beautiful, however you are rather overdressed
 for a picnic aren't you?" 
Dorothy in her mid-western drawl  replied. . . . . . "come
 on now Alice, this is wonderland isn't it?"

Monday, January 8, 2018

Decor for the New Year. . . . . . . . .

"Taking down Christmas" makes the cottage look somewhat bare. 
All the red touches, which I admit I really enjoyed for a few weeks, are packed
 away, the glitter has gone and all that remains to make the holidays a lovely memory, 
is the faux tree and its decorations still in the gazebo - just too cold to spend time out
 there. With the warmer days coming later in the week I'll have to make the effort
 and get out there with the waiting green storage boxes! Meanwhile I'm loving the
 lighted tree at night, and turn it on for a while these freezing mornings.
I've left a few of the faux pillar candles scattered around the rooms, timed to
 come on at 6 pm they brighten up these cold evenings without any effort, prior
to lighting a roaring fire on the hearth.

I really don't have any etched in stone house projects in the works for this year. 
I admit to having a little 'secret list' tucked away and, once it warms up in late Spring,
 after our travels in March, I may decide to tackle - with help - an interior painting project.
Currently we have a leaking toilet tank plus the HVAC system needs checking - enough
to be concerned about right now.
Talk about 'a clean slate', the house does appear to be that way again. 
The early morning watery sunlight is quite cleansing. 
I'm still searching for the items I had to remove from places to make
 room for Christmas decor.
Do you do that and then, like me, have to look high and low
 (under beds for example) to find where you've hidden them? 

Sunday, January 7, 2018

How can you not care?

When an entire family of Mourning doves sits patiently on such a cold, frozen place, 
waiting in hopes of a meltdown and a drink soon, how can we not head into the garden
to give them some attention.

"How do you do, I'm a White-throated sparrow and I love to drink - can I wait with you please?"

These lovely gentle birds perked up when I opened the door ready with the
 tea kettle and warm water. They flew off but returned later to drink - unfortunately
 with these low temperatures the water re-freezes very fast.

Bob was up before me today and said the barometer was at 8F, our coldest
 morning yet. The record was broken at Raleigh-Durham International Airport where it
reported 4F! In this photo the temperature was already climbing. By the end of the
 coming week we will return to the 60's which will feel like a heatwave. . . . . much
more normal here in the south!

This Sunday you will find me close to home - this is just too cold to be outside for long.
I'm afraid my planned walking weather has been put on hold for now!

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