Monday, March 2, 2015

In Like a Lamb...

It's 58 degrees today, and there's something distinctly springlike in the air.  Outside, bulbs are sprouting all over the yard.

Even the weeds are greening up!  This accursed ground weed that I fear will never be eradicated...

...and is this not the biggest thistle you've ever seen?  It's huge, maybe two feet across!

 The Helleborus have been up for a while...the white ones a little worse for wear because of the ice, but the pink varieties still vibrant.

I was absolutely delighted to lean in and hear a familiar sound.  The bees are back and gathering pollen!  I hunkered down to watch for a few minutes.  They were very aware of my presence, and somewhat cranky about it, but I was able to get a few shots.

Look at those pollen packets!

I've been enjoying the increased presence of birds lately, too, and have captured a few of my favorites.  The Eastern Towhee, with the most beautiful song...

 The Carolina Wren:

A Thrush:


Many Cardinals:

Goldfinches, too, who lose their color a bit in the winter:

Even the shy grey squirrels are suddenly everywhere, but mainly at our feeders.

They are even bold enough to chide me for interrupting...from a safe distance, of course!

Hope you're seeing a little bit of spring, too.  Have a great week!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Of Mice (Houses) and Men

Valentine's Day was a little over a week ago, and as usual I threw myself into preparations with gusto.  I just didn't have time to mail handmade cards - sob! - but I did bake batches and batches of cookies. 

For friends and family, chocolate sugar cookies with royal icing.  The heart shapes were achieved simply by placing a drop of pink icing amid the white and drawing a toothpick through it.

For Todd's suitemates at the university, red velvet Oreos...

...and for their party, a three-layer red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting.  I'd seen an idea online:  crumbling the cake left over from leveling the layers and pressing it into the frosting.  I decided to take it a step further by pressing leftover crumbs into a cookie cutter.

Remove the cutter, and the shape stays.  Voila!

Plenty of crumbs left over to hide my messy frosting job, too.

It was delicious! 

I usually try to do a handmade gift for Valentine's Day.  Although I'm atrocious at embroidery, I had the idea to embroider a circle of monogamous animals in honor of our commitment.  Wolves, swans, beavers, and many birds fit that criteria, but I was quickly overwhelmed at the thought of sketching out many animals that would require so much detail work.  I decided to go with insects, because I'm very fond of them, and there are surprising examples of monogamy within their world...although, to be fair, it's mostly because they live such short lives. 

First, I sketched my choices:  the termite, mosquito, and cockroach.

I darkened the outlines, cut them out, and arranged them on my fabric.

I used my light box to illuminate them for tracing with a fabric pen.

Here goes nothing!

I was really pleased with how it turned out!  It framed easily and now hangs in Todd's office.

My gifts from Todd were a mousepad with an image of an insect I'd photographed last year, plus a scroll saw and boxes and boxes of tools.  Yes, I was thrilled to get power tools, because this meant that we could start our work on the MOUSE HOUSE!  In review, the mouse house is a three foot tall "tree stump" with a cut-away front that shows the multiple rooms within.  We would create the furniture and furnishings ourselves, all in 1:12 scale.  I was absolutely thrilled to get started.  Todd has a mind better suited to architectural drafting, so he sketched out the floor plan...

The updated plans include a little library...hooray!

Next, he calculated room size, cut the boards, and started drilling.

It took several hours to finish the frame.  It *must* be correct, because it's going to be holding a lot of weight.  The frame itself (minus the front opening, of course) will be wrapped in chicken wire, then a type of molding cement for bark, plus the room contents add weight.

It was Todd's idea to leave an opening in the bottom of the house, to mimic the natural openings in some smaller tree trunks.  We'll create more natural curving sides with molding cement. 

Windows, doors, and stairs are coming next.  Stay tuned!

Have a great week! 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Turkey Trot

Even though 'our' turkeys seem to melt away into the woods for several months around this time of year, we've still been seeing quite a few of them.  There's a flock of females and a flock of males, and I've caught them digging contentedly though the leaves together recently.  I saw the beautiful albino female, too.  Her feathers are so lovely.

The males are bolder and so colorful.  I love the way their feathers turn a brilliant iridescent copper in the sun.

There they go!

More lovely birds have been spotted.  The Carolina wren...

...tufted titmouse...

...and a particularly sassy female cardinal.

I love it!

So the weather got warm, many flowers started to bloom...

...aaaaaand...then we had an ice storm.

I have to admit, I was so excited that I didn't sleep well and was up early.  I *love* taking photos of ice.  This may be winter's last - and only - gasp here.  It's supposed to be 50 degrees by the end of the day.

By the way, I'm going to try to find time to do a separate Valentine's Day post in a few days.  I am falling too far behind with my photos! 

Have a great week!