Friday, July 15, 2016

Water for Wildlife

We used to say "It will rain until the 4th of July,"
and year after year this has been true.

But last year started with one of the worst snowpacks in history.

In June, instead of rain we experienced record heat and desiccating winds.

Our home is ringed with sloughs, puposefully left as natural refuges for wildlife. But last year there was no water in those channels.

How far would birds have to fly to find water, leaving their young behind?

I set thrift store serving bowls in shady places in the garden.

Clean rocks provided places to perch and made them shallow for a bird to bathe in.

Some were set up a few feet from the ground, others I left on the ground for the quail. (We have no cats)

Impatient, I kept an eye on them.

Would they find them?
Use them?

Oh yes.

Keeping them filled was quite a task. The birds loved bathing in these, so they needed regular sloshing out as well as re-filled.

As I heard news stories about birds dying in the drought, I was glad to do my part.
This flicker came several times a day to the bowl in the magnolia --- sip ---
--- swallow
 So far this summer we have had our early summer rains, 
but as the temperatures rise I will renew this commitment to our birds and other wildlife.

Even though they did eat every single one of my raspberries.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Baby Owls

Great Horned Owls nest in "The Woods" behind our home. We have come to recognize their various calls, and especially the sounds made by the owlets.

A week ago we heard one screaming, and saw an adult flying from the ground as we approached. Though it was covered by underbrush, we knew a baby owl had fallen from the nest.

"Don't" my husband reminded me.

A juvenile will often leave the nest before it is fully able to fly, and must find a stump or leaning tree to climb upon to be safe from predators. The adult owl will tend to it, and we know not to interfere.

The next day we were both relieved to find it safely watching us from a leaning alder tree.

Every day it would be peering at us from a new perch.

When our grown kids came home the next weekend, I took them out to see if we could find it again. I finally spotted a lump of fuzz high in a Big Leaf Maple. Was it alive? I snapped this before it woke up.
... and then it woke up...

We concluded it must be flying a little now, to have reached this idyllic spot.

My daughter lingered a little with the camera, so enchanted by this encounter.

As she and her husband turned to leave, the baby jumped up to watch them go.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Beauty of Winter's Twigs and Weeds

The trees are budding out, the snowdrops are blooming, and a few early daffodils have already proclaimed an end to nature's sleep.
So this post is a little late.

Sometime before Thanksgiving I start my rambles through the woods, pastures and along country roads.

I find spent Queen Anne's Lace, now become brown snowflakes.

Dock and other weeds playfully remind me of summer past.

As the catkins emerge, a few will grace my kitchen counter.

The alder twigs cast down by the wind form an arabesque.

Early buds from the Hawthorn are deep garnet.

Just before Christmas, rose hips are tucked here and there.

Soon, violets will fill the vases, and camelias will float in little bowls on the table. But I confess winter's delicate gifts make me smile.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The PERFECT Planner (and link to free downloads)

My Favorite Holiday approaches: New Year's Day.

On New Year's Day I get out the new wall calendar, my weekly planner and a ton of colored pens and get to work dreaming, planning, making lists, setting goals, celebrating accomplishments from the past year and making resolutions.

And every year I attempt to find the perfect planner.

Does The PERFECT Planner exist?

For a week now I have scoured the internet, and found many good planners. Many expensive planners. Elaborate systems for people with a lot of time on their hands to get crafty. That is not me.

Here are a few I like.
Bold Blossoms Do It All Softcover Weekly Planner
By  Orange Circle Studios 
I have used this planner for years, and it is nearly perfect.
  • The days of the week displayed in vertical columns with plenty of space to write in appointments by time of day.
  • Lots of shopping/to-do list pages at the BACK that can be torn out. In 2015 they changed the format and it was a lot harder to use. 
  • The planning column and notes in the weekly view.
  • Stickers: Fun (See image right)
  • The POCKET on the cover. So useful to stash things in a hurry.
  • The elastic closure. Protects the pages and keeps it neat in my purse.
  • Monthly tabs would be wonderful.
  • The size is a bit too large for most purses. 
  • I'm not crazy about the cover images. 
  • I wish the days of the week also had lines and hours of the day
  • I wish they would return to the vertical format shopping list with better perforations

Another great planner

Wendy Bentley Exuberance Softcover Weekly Planner
By  Wells Street by LANG
  • Perforated tear off shopping lists on the outer edge of each page - kind of good and bad. I would prefer them at the back.
  • Space for notes in weekly view
  • Stickers (see image on right)
  • Nice looking covers
  • Storage Pocket on inside of cover
  • Horizontal format for days, not as much room to write
  • NO elastic closure!
  • No monthly tabs
  • Cover is lighter weight material

Another one I am considering:

Safavid Large Hardcover Weekly Planner
By  Hartley Marks Publishers
  • Vertical column days WITH HOURS!
  • Gorgeous cover choices
  • Hardbound with magnetic closure
  • Ribbon bookmarks
  • Removable address book
  • Inner "momento pouch"
  • Note column on weekly view
  • No tear off shopping lists. I really use these for a lot of things - sometimes even lists, but mostly to give people information.
  • No stickers. Ah well, can't have everything.
  • No monthly tabs

What I might try this year:

Tools4Wisdom Planner 2016 Calendar 4-in-1: Daily Weekly Monthly Yearly Organizer - Purpose Driven Goals Planning Book - Personal Life Progress Journal Notebook
  • Vertical column days with hours and goal setting
  • Many extra goal setting worksheets: like a life coach in a planner, emphasis on purpose driven living and transformation, not just setting appointments!
  • Monthly tabs
  • It's too big to carry it with me. This would have to be just a desk planner.
  • It looks like a basic spiral notebook - might be flimsy, no closures
  • I don't like any of the covers.


If you love the goal setting features of this product, I discovered that for a limited time you can download these for FREE on their website. I did, and have spent a few hours really digging into my goals for the year. VERY USEFUL!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Ric Rac Rummy, a Card Game for Family Gatherings, version of Contract Rummy

This challenging card game was an important part of extended family gatherings (on my Norwegian side) when I was a kid.

We called it Ric Rac Rummy, but I can't find any reference to that name anywhere. For the sake of someone else on this planet desperately searching for this game from their childhood, here it is!

I did find a card game nearly identical in "Official Rules of Card Games" by The United States Playing Card Company, known as Contract Rummy among many other names, popular for large gatherings.

This game works best if you have many players AND at least a couple hours to spend together. I remember epic games with aunties and cousins crowded around our fully extended dining table.

To help us keep track of the hands, as each hand becomes progressively demanding, my aunties created these little booklets from cut strips of paper. I found one of these booklets in a back drawer. Treasure!

For Thanks-Birth-O-Ween, I wanted to introduce it to my kids. Would they like it?
They loved it.


for 4-5 people, use a double deck WITH jokers as wild cards.
(with 5 players you might want to use a triple for the last few rounds)
for 6-9 players use a triple deck etc...
OTHER WILD CARDS -- the group may choose to use 2s as wild cards also.

Deal 12 cards to each player (for the first few hands)
Place rest of deck in center of table and flip the top card over to begin the discard pile.
Player to the left of dealer may choose this card or draw from the top of the deck.

Player draws the top discard or draws from the top of the deck.
At that point, the player may "go down" if they can.
If they have already "gone down" they may then play on other people's cards on the table.
If they have not gone down, discard one card and end the turn.


Each hand has different requirements. The first hand, for example, calls for 2 sets of 3.

SET: Three cards of any suit that are the same rank, such as 3 Queens or 3 sixes.
RUN: Three or more cards in the SAME SUIT in sequential order, such as 8, 9, 10, J, all in Diamonds.
ACES: can be played as a "one" = A, 2,3,4 OR can be played "high" = J,Q, K, A, but cannot be wrapped around -- such as K, A, 2, 3.

To go down, the player must have ALL the sets and/or runs called for in that round (No partial going down), and ONLY those sets or runs called for.  They may not place additional sets or runs on the table. They may add to those sets or runs however, for example, if they place a run of four hearts: 6,7,8,9  -- they may then add to it with a 5 or a 10 of hearts.

After a player has gone down, they may then play cards from their hand to other player's sets or runs on the table. Unlike Rummikub, they may not split or re-arrange those sets or runs to create new ones. They can however, replace wild cards with the cards they are representing, and according to your interpretation of the rules, the wild card can be used elsewhere in that run only OR you could decide to extend that rule to be able to use those freed wild cards elsewhere on the table.

TO GO OUT: The last card played out of a players hand must be a discard. You cannot go out by simply going down. You must have a discard.

BUYING: Keeps things interesting. After a player discards and BEFORE the next player draws to begin their play, any player may call out "I'LL BUY THAT!" meaning they want the card that has just been discarded.
The players are then given the opportunity to assert their rights for that card, beginning with the player whose turn is next and progressing around the table. If no one with higher rank in playing order wants that discard, the buyer takes the discard AND two more cards from the top of the deck.
If the person whose turn is next wants that card, they draw it normally. They do not have to buy it.

Each player may BUY up to three times per round.
The group may decide to allow four BUYS in the last few rounds.

BUYING becomes essential in order to have enough cards to go out later in the game.


First Round:
Two Sets of Three,
deal 12, each player may buy up to three times.

Second Round:
1 Run of Four
1 Set of Three

Third Round:
2 Runs of Four
Fifth Round: 
One Run of Seven,
One set of Three

Fourth Round:
3 Sets of Three

Fifth Round:
1 Run of Seven
1 Set of Three

Sixth Round:
2 Runs of Four
1 Set of Three

Seventh Round:
3 Runs of Four

Eighth Round:
1 Run of Ten
1 Set of Three
Deal 14 cards
(At any point, if you determine there are not enough cards for players involved,
add one additional deck of cards. Players may also decide to allow up to four buys per round)

Ninth Round:
1 Run of Five
3 Sets of Three
Deal 14 cards

Tenth Round:
3 Runs of Five
Deal 15 cards

SCORING: Play continues until someone goes out by playing the last card from their hand as a discard.
Players then count the cards remaining in their hand as negative points. Cards on the table are not counted.
Numbered cards may be counted their face value OR you may choose to count them all as five points. You decide.
Face cards are ten points.
Aces are fifteen points.
Jokers are twenty points.
If 2s are wild, they are also twenty points.

Lowest score wins!

If you are glad to find this game, let me know! Happy Holidays!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Decorating for Thanksbirthoween

It's a mixed up holiday of our own invention, so the opportunity to be creative was terrific.
(For an explanation of Thanksbirthoween, see my earlier post)
Budget -- basically frugal.
I played with grapevines, leaves and pine cones.
Using what was at hand or free in nature. 
The Birthday gifts were wrapped with shipping paper and leftover wallpaper found at a thrift store. 
Odd bits of ribbons, yarns, jute string and even fabric found in thrift shops added more color.
The most difficult thing I took on was mismatched dinner plates salad plates and cloth napkins. 
Mismatching has become very popular, and I love it, but when you look at a lovely image all put together it seems so easy.
This was not quite perfect, but still fun.

I discovered several things:

Keep to a very narrow color palette, including specific tones in that palette.

The shapes of dishes matter. Some of my dishes were more bowl shaped at the sides, and these don't work as well as those with a slight well and a defined, flat rim.

I discovered that creating individual settings was easy, but making the whole thing look right was much trickier.

And mixing modern designs with antique designs adds a layer of complexity. Some of my favorite individual settings just did not work together.

I have been collecting colorful water glasses for years. These helped tie it together.

I hate tall fussy floral arrangements in the middle of a dining table. I much prefer to see the people I am enjoying dinner with! Four delicious Comice pears and five simple candles was perfect for our centerpiece. And we ate the pears the next day ;)

Monday, November 16, 2015

Pumpkin Eaters

I love photographs of front doorways beautifully decorated for fall, and many times I have tried to create a welcoming entry for our home. But Oregon has other ideas.

Cornstalks mold in the soaking rain, and then the wind breaks and shreds them all over the yard.
Fall arrangements fill up with wind driven soggy leaves and decay overnight. It's just more maintenance. What is pretty for half a day ends up a black slimy mess all over the porch.

So this year, I just set out a lot of pumpkins. They don't seem to mind the wind and rain. Ah, even this has its problems.
We saw the jay start it two weeks ago. What could we do? He has all the time in the world.
This morning as I snapped photos of our saboteur, he suddenly flew away. Had I scared him?
No. Cue the other miscreant.
As soon as the chipmunk scurries away, the jay comes back. So much for my fall decorating.
Back and forth they go.
The Blue Jay
And the chipmunk.