Monday, December 29, 2008

Favorite Photos Stir Memories of 2008

I was blessed with many opportunities to travel this year and, of course, with a new camera and a new blog, I took a lot of photos. Oh, it was so much fun! Last night I was reviewing some of my photos and reliving special memories when I decided to post a few of my favorite photos of 2008. Many of the shots have been on this blog, but others never made it.

Do you also have posts in your head which never make it to the page? I've written before about finding a rhythm to blogging, but I still continue to search for my flow. For example, I can't believe I never posted about my trips to Florida and California! It is rare for me to travel so much and these trips were a big deal for me - HUGH, in fact, and yet, no blog entries.

Well, I will still plan to post entries about those warmer climates, probably in January or February when those of us who are snowbound and freezing could use a visit to a sunny beach! For now, I hope you enjoy a few of my favorite, photographic memories of 2008. The photos are from Florida, California, Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, and my favorite place in the whole world, my backyard in southwestern Pennsylvania.

The year of travel and adventure began, for me, in February when I went to Florida. One of my favorite places is now Ft. Desoto State Park. I felt like I was on a film set. Everything was grey when I arrived very early in the morning. My car was the only one in the parking lot. The beach was covered in a heavy fog. I could hear the surf, but I could not see it. Honestly, I was bit afraid. I was alone and it was eerie. As the fog lifted I could see a few walkers in the distance. I never saw a beach like this and the sand was in ridges.

I may not be able to id them all, but I could sit and watch sea birds for days.

Royal Terns,

a Willet,

and a Ring-billed Gull.

There were more sea birds to visit while on a March trip to California. I especially enjoyed my time with this lovely Black-necked Stilt as it hunted in tide pools at Dana Point.

The cliffs at Laguna Beach provided a beautiful overlook of the Pacific. I can almost feel the sun on my face when I look at this photo.

June brought a trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands that took a year and a half to plan. I loved Ecaudor and I want to return someday. My favorite place in Ecuador was the Pululahua Volcano. It was a mystical place and looking into the crater is something I will never forget.

It is true. The Galapagos Islands are enchanting. I snorkeled for the first time, swam with a giant sea turtle, and added many birds to my life list.

A Blue-footed Booby,

Darwin's Galapagos Warbler,

and Espanola Mockingbirds.

My favorite island was Espanola. We were the last group to leave the island and found ourselves with a hike ahead of us as the sun was setting. The light had a rosey glow. It gave everything a pinkish-orange tint that reminded me of how King Arthur described Camelot.

Sunset was always gorgeous.

The trips were wonderful, but as Dorothy said, "There's no place like home."

I look onto my neighbor's cornfield and pasture from my bedroom window. There is a spring which bubbles up on his property and it trickles down through the pasture into a small creek. I was suprised last winter to see dozens of Canada Geese lined up along the edges of this year-round, flow of water. It must have been a tasty treat!

One of my first blog entries was about Cedar Waxwings. I rejoiced that a pair decided to use the wool I hung out as nesting material.

This is a photo of my favorite bird. I don't mean the Red-bellied Woodpecker is my favorite species. I mean this particular bird has captured my heart. I call him Handsome.

I am grateful for the magic that came into my life in 2008. It was a year filled with new places, new friends, new birds and a whole lot of new knowledge! It was a gift!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Fun, DONE List

Thanks to Lynn at Hasty Brook for this idea. Tis the season to have fun... fa, la, la, la, la...

Things I have done are in bold.

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang/played a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill (Not bolded because it was for mental health!)
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person (But, I was too young to remember.)
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David in person
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Gotten flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar (One taste was enough for many lifetimes. Yuk!)
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Made a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit (Sadly, now.)
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Gotten a speeding ticket

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Winter Solstice

Celebrate! Winter Solstice occurred at 7:04 Eastern Time this morning. The longest night of the year is tonight then the sun majestically returns to give us longer days. It is the first day of winter and a day of fresh starts and new beginnings. I love it! Happy Yule!

My Winter Solstice traditions include listening to the Paul Winter Consort on National Public Radio. In celebration of the earth, her creatures and cultures, Paul Winter gives annual Winter Solstice concerts at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. His music not only includes the use of instruments from around the world, but also the songs of animals. He is most known for including whale songs and wolf howls in his music. My favorite part of the concert is when the audience joins in the howling. The concert is always special and beautiful.

Tonight, I will listen to the concert on my local NPR station, WDUQ in Pittsburgh. You can also listen at any time on the NPR website. Enjoy!

Happy Solstice!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving Weekend at the Walnut Tree

Thanksgiving weekend was busy, fun and relaxing. The family gathered here for a fun and filling holiday then the rest of the weekend was quite. It was a gift to NOT set the alarm for 5:15, especially today - it is my birthday! I normally don't go around announcing my birthday, but I have the day off from work and I am thrilled! It is very rare for our school district to not have school the Monday after Thanksgiving. It sure was nice to sleep in one more day! To the powers that be who make that decision, I thank you!

This weekend, before the rain settled in, I did take some photos of the birds who visited our walnut tree. This tree is only about 15 feet from our dining room window so it is a great place to hang feeders. The birds love the buffet. We love the birds who visit the buffet! Here are some of my favorite weekend pics from the walnut tree. Enjoy!

Friday, November 28, 2008

A Winter with John Burroughs

"I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see."

John Burroughs

It is somewhat comforting to know that in the quieter times at the turn of the last century, John Burroughs also had a long to-do-list. A list of desires that is similar to my own. There seems to be never enough time to read the ever-growing stack of books and list of favorite blogs, to have that party, to hike in Cook's Forest, and even to write on my own blog.

I've read about John Burroughs so much I feel like I've read a lot of his work. I have not. Maybe an essay here or there that was in a collection of other works, but I've not sat down with the intent to read his words. Until now. I've recently been focusing my reading on nature writing, thank you Julie Zickefoose for this wonderful new addiction, and Burroughs name keeps popping up everywhere.

When I read an article about a local estate auction a few weeks ago and saw a listing for The Works of John Burroughs, Appleby Edition, I knew I was going to buy those books. Seventeen volumes with titles that begged me to hold them and gently caress and read each page. Titles like, Winter Sunshine, Locusts and Wild Honey, Birds and Poets,and Leaf and Tendril took my breath. Lovely. They were coming home.

I will winter-in with this set of beautiful blue books. It will be a joyous adventure to develop a relationship with this special nature writer. I will learn more about him, his world and myself.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Enjoy a Wonderful Feast!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Meet Missy

Meet Missy, my beautiful Arabian mare. She is a 1980 model and will be 29 this spring. Well cared for horses generally live between 25 and 30 years so Miss. Missy is an old horse.

I bought her in 1981 as a yearling. I was living at the Windstar Foundation in Snowmass, Colorado for the summer and read an ad for Arabian horses. After learning about her bloodlines I had to see her. She is out of a Serafix mare and by a grandson of Bask and her sister had just placed in the National Championship. Those details were important to me then. That was another lifetime and yes, I wanted to see this horse. After a short visit to the Denver farm the deal was struck and she was coming home to Pennsylvania!

Well, I can't believe how many years of my life I spent riding around in circles training and showing horses and teaching equitation. Eventually, my horses got old, Missy is the last survivor, my interests changed and I got tired. Horses are A LOT of work. Missy is now boarded at a lovely farm where she is enjoying retirement. I am also enjoying her retirement. I plan to never again stack bales of hay or haul 100 pound sacks of grain, or clean stalls, or groom, or break ice in the water buckets before going to work in the morning. Missy's life is better and so is mine.

Horse are magical. I am grateful for sharing so much of my life with these majestic creatures and I have many special memories. Thanks, Missy, and all the horses and ponies who have blessed my life.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Brief Visit

It has been over a week since I visited my own blog. Pathetic!

Grey clouds and short days arrived and malaise joined the party. I wish it were a party! By the time I get home from work I'm too exhausted to even think about writing. I've been a bit under the weather, under those huge grey clouds. Moments slip by and suddenly a week has passed.

I'm looking forward to blogging and visiting my favorite blogs soon. See you this weekend.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Winter Ready

The brightness of the male goldfinches vanished weeks ago, but it was just this past weekend that November weather arrived. The first cold always shocks me into reality. It hit me yesterday like a Mack Truck. The high was a mere 35 degrees and it was time to dig gloves out from the back of the drawer. Grey skies arrived and settled in to stay awhile.

I am looking forward to the quite and stillness of winter. There was a time in my life, or maybe it was a past life, when I loved to ski and play in the snow. I won't give up the hope of skiing Aspen Mountain, but not this winter. I will be content and happy to pursue other passions and to go into my own form of hibernation as the snow falls outside. It is time to make divine soups and reflect upon life, to take winter photos, and to get lost in books, many, many books.

I am ready. Let the snow come.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Robert Kennedy may head the EPA

Did you hear the newest rumor? Robert F. Kennedy may be asked to head the EPA! Imagine! An environmentalist running the EPA and enforcing regulations to actually protect the environment! Imagine.

My prayer is that the EPA and FDA be staffed with individuals who are committed to the intended missions of these organizations. While I'm making requests, Mr. President Elect, might we have a new cabinet position? How does Secretary of the Environment sound?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Feel it. The earth has tilted. America has risen to a new beginning. Oh, glorious day!

We have joined together to demand a new world. A world where education is valued, health care is easily available to all, and individual dreams can be realized with work and commitment. Oh, glorious day!

We have hopes for a future where science is encouraged and held with high expectations. A future where wild places and those who live there are protected with reverence. Oh, glorious day!

We now join together to support each other, honor the hard work ahead of us and stand committed to great achievements. We will stop climate change, protect our environment and deliver an era of unity to the world. Oh, glorious day!

The world rejoices in a vision of a new world. Oh, glorious day!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

My Name is Bliss


You can not imagine how grateful I am to meet you. My mother rescued me just over two years ago. I was by the side of a busy road, wet from an all-day, spring rain, and I was only a little fuzz ball. I was about five weeks old.

She took me in, dried me off and gave me a bowl of warmed milk. I have been here ever since.

Look at me now! I am the Queen!

I have grown up to be a gorgeous child. My Dr. Ashby says that my genes didn't know if I wanted to be long hair or short hair, so I'm a bit of both. I don't know what genes are or what the heck he was talking about. But, sweetheart, I do know that I am beautiful!

Mommy said she named me Bliss because of the joy I brought to her heart, but she has other names for me too. I answer to Blissie or Miss. Bliss, but I don't care for it very much when see calls me Smart Ass. Even though she says it with love and affection.

I love to spend time looking out windows. I wonder if mom is going to finish raking all those leaves.

My favorite spot to sleep is on my mother's best chair in the living room. She put a fuzzy, yellow blanket on the chair so I can be more comfy. She doesn't care how many of my black hairs stick to the blankie either. She is the best!

I have the best life! I play and sleep every day. My bowls are always full and my mom loves me. I love her too.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

An Early Snow

We had our first snow today. It is exciting to me to see the first snow fly each winter. Unfortunatley, I have no photos to share. I was at school, heard it was snowing and ran down the hall to look out a window. I watched in silence for a moment before returning to my windowless room to get ready for parent conferences. It was still snowing when I left school this afternoon. I was surprised to see a little snow on the ground as I walked out the door. I was stunned to see my snow covered car in the parking lot!

Even though the snow melted quickly, I am NOT ready for this! There was no scrapper in my car and my old winter coat is still missing new buttons. Heck, I still have yard work to finish! I think I just wrote my weekend to-do-list. I will also be posting. I plan to introduce my fur child to the blog. Please stop by to meet Bliss.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Geese Overhead

Here is one more shot of geese to brighten your day. Enjoy!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Coming in for a Landing

Geese visited the hayfied behind Allhaven nearly every day since August.

They are gone now. I've not seen them for nearly two weeks. I miss watching them feed on the hill, but mostly I miss hearing the honking as they fly over the house in romantic, V-shaped formations. There is something heartwarming about geese overhead. They are endearing and enduring, like a 1940s black and white movie about everyone pitching in to help the U.S. war effort.

Here they come!

Geese fly with grace,

but landing is another story. Look out!

They remind me of popping corn. The hugh birds appear to bounce randomly in multiple directions.

There. It is time to settle in, relax and visit.

Until it is time to be head a little farther north.

God Speed, my friends.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Falling Leaves

The autumn leaf colors are past their peak. Sigh. It makes me sad to see this season coming to an end. The nights have been getting cold and the furnace is running again. There are a few garden chores to finish, but it is time to put everything to bed. I'm holding on to each bit of October beauty for as long as possible.

I hope you enjoy a few more photos of October glory taken in the last week.

The leaves crumble and float away.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Environmental Protection (Really?) Agency

Okay, enough about buttons, this is serious.

In Saturday's Pittsburgh Post Gazette a tiny side story on page A-5 caught my eye and made me gasp!

"EPA may ease mine rules"

What? No!

The proposal is to make is easier for coal companies to dump mountaintop mining waste near rivers and streams. The reality is these are HUGE dumps! How can anyone say this is a good idea?

GREED and the fear of a new administration which might actually care about environmental issues is behind this. The story states the rule change "has been under consideration for four years." Really? Maybe I'll also buy a bridge to nowhere. I don't think so!!!

I am far from an expert on this issue, but I do know the destruction of streams, rivers and habitat is not a good thing!

In my search for answers, I found a great website on my lunch break today:

Visit this site to learn more about mountaintop removal. The site also provides information about the Clean Water Protection Act, H.R. 2169. We need to take action to support this legislation NOW!

Please check it out and contact your representative today. If we all raise our voices we will be heard.

Monday, October 20, 2008

"Button, button, who's got the button?"

I have visions of sewing, of creating beautiful clothes from gorgeous fabrics. My visions include trips to New York to buy fabric and buttons - dozens and dozens of unique buttons. Buttons are gorgeous and fun! I could design a suit around a button.

I have not, however, designed that suit, or anything else, for over twenty years. It has been that long since I made Arabian horse costumes. There are many other amazing things I want to pursue so I don't carve out the time to sew. What I will find the time for is to change the buttons on an old jacket. New buttons, exquisite and elegant, will spice things up a bit.

It was time for a trip to The Parker Button Company on Pittsburgh's South Side.

Walk into the store and you are greated by a wall of buttons.

All of the buttons are color coordinated and are stacked in lovely boxes.

There are simple buttons

and high-style buttons.

Visit Parker Button Company and you leave feeling very creative!