Monday, June 27, 2016

A Cardinal Follows Suit

It seems our deck rail has now become something of a feeding station.  Last week I showed you the Pileated Woodpeckers.  And this time it's a Northern Cardinal.

A very young cardinal, hardly able even to fly to the deck rail, sat looking rather confused.  I'm not sure I have ever seen a cardinal this young out of the nest.

[You may wish to click to enlarge the photographs]

A face only a mother or father could love

 The father flew to the bird feeder and returned with sunflower chips.  He fed the sweet little thing right there on the deck rail.

 He puts the food far down in the baby's mouth

 The father flew off to get more food.  He returned several times to feed his chick.

 I hope this little one does well.
I'm sure it will be a gorgeous bird one day.

Thoughts go out to those affected by the flooding in West Virginia and the continued raging wildfires in California.  And to all those suffering wherever they may be.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

We Love Lucy

Like much of the country, we have continued to have record-breaking high temperatures.  Ninety degrees in the mountains is damned hot.  Especially when there is no mountain breeze.  Lucy's early morning romps are cut short.  It's been in the mid-70s by 7:00 every morning.  And last evening when I took her out at 9:00, it was still 78 degrees.  Very unusual June weather for us.  We shouldn't complain.  Many areas of the country are far worse.

I've thought about Ellie more often than usual this week.  Her birthday anniversary was June 21.  I sometimes wonder if Lucy has any memory of her.  I suppose no one will ever know what kind of recollections a dog holds.  I know that when people or animals come back into a dog's life after a long period, the dog remembers them.  But do they think of them in their absence?  Is it "out of sight, out of mind" or do they consciously miss the person or animal?  Lucy's behavior in the weeks after Ellie's sudden death indicated she definitely missed her.  But then she returned to her "normal" behavior and settled in to enjoy the life of an only child.

Regular readers know how Lucy used Ellie as a pillow.  What you might not know is that she did that from the time she was a little puppy.  I scanned in an old photograph taken when Lucy was about five months old.

Lucy and her favorite pillow

It's been an interesting week politically, hasn't it?  So many things have happened that are unprecedented in our lifetime.  And the "sit-in" on the House floor is definitely one of them.  So many rules broken to give voice to the need for some sort of gun control legislation.  No votes were called and the House was adjourned in the wee hours of the morning.  But many of the Democrats remained there in protest.

A renowned author, political activist, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and survivor of the Holocaust provides our quote for today.

Eliezer (Elie) Wiesel:

"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest."



Monday, June 20, 2016

There's a Tool for That

One of my very favorite foods is fresh caught shrimp.  One of my very least favorite cooking chores is peeling and deveining said shrimp.  Several weeks ago I was talking on the phone with our daughter.  I had just finished the dreaded peeling and deveining task and lamented how much I hated doing it.  My daughter asked, "Isn't there a tool for that?"  It had never entered my mind that there might be a gadget to help with this job.

I immediately went Online and watched some very clever videos about shrimp peeling tools.  Most of them were plastic and the reviews indicated they were great except that the tip tended to break and thus render the tool useless.

Clever daughter looked on her favorite cooking Website, "Cook's Illustrated" and sent a link to their evaluation of various shrimp tools.  By far, the highest recommendation was for a stainless steel product called RSVP International Endurance Seafood Scissors.  [Disclaimer:  I have no relationship to the company whatsoever.]

I immediately ordered the tool which was  less than fifteen dollars.  It came within a few days and I couldn't wait to try it.

Here's the multi-purpose tool
(Sorry, I had already used it before taking the photograph)
A good photographer would have cleaned it before shooting the picture.

 To use the tool, I inserted the curving blade just under the shell at the top of the shrimp shell.

 Thread it a little further and then snip with the scissors

 I was impressed.  The shell lay open with the vein exposed and easily removed.

 It worked!

Even with the new tool, peeling and deveining is not exactly a fun job.  But it is far easier and more pleasant than the process of removing the shell and then slitting the shrimp to remove the vein.  And the chore is completed in less than half the time.

I'm sure you folks living near the coastal areas scoff at someone needing a tool to devein shrimp.  But this mountain woman is delighted to have this great kitchen gadget.  We'll be having shrimp more often as main dishes and appetizers (think Ina Garten's roasted shrimp cocktail which you can find HERE).

Thanks to our daughter.  Without her I never would have thought to look for a tool.

Friday, June 17, 2016

We Love Lucy

This week has given us heavy hearts as we grieve for the  deaths of so many people and injuries to so many others.  And the week has given us plenty of anger at the inflammatory rhetoric that has come from the mouths of some "leaders" and especially one of the Presidential candidates.  How can they spew such venom at a time like this?  To blame an entire religious group because of the actions of a single mentally ill individual? Kudos to the brave leaders who participated and assisted Senator Chris Murphy (Democrat from Connecticut) in his filibuster to bring some measure of gun control legislation to a vote.  Note that there will be only a vote.  Unfortunately there is little likelihood that meaningful legislation will actually pass in the Senate or House.  The Senate Majority Leader dismissed the filibuster as "campaign talk-a-thon" that kept the Senate from its more serious business.  Seriously, McConnell?  What kind of serious business did you have on your agenda?  Senator Susan Collins (Republican from Maine) said the stalemate was like "Groundhog Day" once again.  And she is correct.  After every major shooting with an assault rifle, the Congress and Senate have a moment of silence and then go about business as usual.

But this is Friday.  And the post should be about our Lucy.  It's been really hot here.  Near record-breaking highs once again.  And Lucy does not tolerate the heat at all.  Understandable since she has two coats that she cannot remove.  She finds cool spots in which to lie, her favorite being the tile.  But sometimes, she just puts her head underneath a chair.  Not sure if this is cooler, but she does it more often when the weather is warm.

Headless dog

Know what, Lucy?  Sometimes I want to put my head under something as well.
Yeah, it works, Mom.  But you'll have to find somewhere else.
This is my place. And your head wouldn't fit anyway.

Our thoughts go out to those who are injured or have lost loved ones.  The victims in Orlando and all others here in our country and around the globe.

The quote today is about hatred, since our deeply divided country seems fueled by it.  It's by a man who had every reason to be filled with anger and hatred, yet he was filled with love.
Nelson Mandela:
"No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion.  People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.

Sunday is Father's Day here in the United States.  So HAPPY FATHER'S DAY to all you fathers. 
Monday is the summer solstice.  The longest day of the year with approximately 17 hours of daylight.  Of course that means the hours of daylight will shorten thereafter, but the changes will hardly be detectable for a while.


Monday, June 13, 2016

And Once Again We Grieve


Friday, June 10, 2016

We Love Lucy

We've had quite an interesting week. Widely varying temperatures and crowded highways as the summer season of tourists flock to the mountains.  We're expecting some record high temperatures this weekend so the recreational areas will be packed to capacity.

Lucy loves to be outdoors, but not when the temperatures get so warm.  She enjoys an early morning romp and then she takes respite in the cool house.  She has always found some strange places to rest her head.  And every evening at dinnertime, she rests her head on the rung of any empty chair.  It looks quite uncomfortable but she often falls asleep that way.  She feels displaced when we have guests and there is not an empty chair.  Or when we eat in the dining room where the chairs have no rungs.

Snoozing on the chair rung.

 Uncomfortable as the chair rung looks, this position looks even more uncomfortable.  Lucy's head is propped on the leg of a recliner.  Her face is contorted in that position.

The electoral votes have reached the point that the candidates for the 2016 Presidential Election have been determined for both major parties.  No one could disagree that this has been the most unusual and unpredictable campaign in history.  Just when we thought nothing else could surprise us, along came the something else that did.

I have two quotes for this week and I feel the need to dedicate them.

The first is for all the voters who are selecting a candidate purely because they are angry at their plight in life.  And who want to stop being "politically correct" so they can call a spade a spade.  And who are woefully uninformed about what powers the President of the United States has at his/her disposal.
“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been.
The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life,
nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that
'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” 
 Isaac Asimov

The other is for those who continue to deny our contribution to global warming and the danger it presents.
“Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge:
 it is those who know little, not those who know much,
 who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.” 
 Charles Darwin

Sunday is the Jewish holiday of Shavuot.  Not as well known or widely celebrated as many other Jewish holidays, it marks two important events in Jewish history.  One is the grain harvest.  The other is the commemoration of the day that God gave the Torah and its laws to the Israelites.

And despite the summer weather in many areas, this is the last week of Spring.

(even if they are family)
All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure. Mark Twain
Read more at:

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Right Before My Eyes: Part Two

Despite the constant calling from the trees, the mother could not get the little Pileated Woodpecker to fly from the deck railing.  Like a terrible two, the little girl seemed to be saying "NO" and refused to fly into the woods.  So the mother flew down and sat beside her little girl on the deck railing.

[NOTE:  If you enlarge the photograph you will see a difference between the eyes of the juvenile (on left) and the eyes of the adult (on right).  The juvenile has completely brown eyes which will turn yellow as an adult.]

They sat there for a while.  The mother looked as if she might fly at any moment.
She clearly was not comfortable

Unable to encourage the little one to fly, she flew to the suet and returned with a mouth full of food.  The fledgling opened her mouth, ready to be fed.

The mother is still quite uncomfortable in this open spot
She usually feeds the baby in the woods, obscured by branches
She kept looking around before feeding the little one

The baby crouched down ever lower

And the mother fed her

[Unscientific observation:  We have observed that when the fledglings are just out of the nest, the parents feed them from above, dropping the food into their mouths.  When the fledglings are a bit older, the parent goes to a position below them and the fledglings take the food from the parent's mouth.  A position more similar to the time when the juveniles feed themselves.]

Please, Mom.  May I have some more?

So the mother obliged.

After being fed several times, the little Pileated Woodpecker was much more obedient.  When the mother flew off, she took off after her immediately.

We have been treated to many sightings of the Pileated Woodpeckers feeding their young.  And the clumsy attempts of the juveniles to land on the suet.  We have even seen parents with multiples.  But never before (and perhaps never again) have we seen these feedings on the deck rail, right in front of us.

Lucky.  Just lucky.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Right Before My Eyes

So far this season we have seen three pairs of Pileated Woodpeckers feeding their fledglings.  And I have tried and tried time and again to get a good photograph.  I had pretty much given up since the "little" ones are now coming to the feeder themselves.  And then I saw yet another new fledgling whose parents were feeding her.  Behind the leaves or on the other side of a tree, of course.  I spent quite a bit of time with the camera at the ready.  No photo opportunity.  Sigh.  Perhaps not this year.

Then lo and behold!  The little female Pileated fledgling flew around and sat right on our deck railing.  Not ten feet away from me.  The adult was calling loudly, almost frantically from the trees, trying to get the little one to fly back to the safety of the woods.  But the little girl was having none of that.

What's with all that screaming?
Come down here and feed me.

The fledgling made no attempt whatsoever to move from the deck railing.  She did not seem to be afraid of flying; she simply didn't want to go anywhere.  She turned around looking at her parent but did not even flap her wings.

Yes.  I hear you.
But I like this railing.

So there she sat.  Like a naughty toddler.

 Mom?  Dad?
Why don't you come on down here?

What followed was an amazing sight.  One I've never seen before.


Friday, June 3, 2016

We Love Lucy

We've had a strange week filled with muggy weather and thunderstorms.  Political rhetoric continues to dominate the television so we resort to reading or watching Netflix or Amazon Prime.  Perfect, especially when the weather obscures the satellite reception.

Fortunately Lucy does not mind thunderstorms at all.  But she really dislikes the muggy weather.  She's pretty quiet after her early morning run.  Can't blame her for that.  She spends a lot of time rearranging her pillows and looking out onto the deck and into the woods.

You look so serious, Lucy.  What's on your mind?
Just thinking about politics
Not such a good idea, dear Lucy.

I was doing some housework and didn't notice Lucy anywhere.  That's unusual, especially since my husband was upstairs.  I was a bit surprised to find her in the laundry room.  She frequently moves to tiled areas to cool off, but she was lying on a rug, not the tile.  The camera tripped the flash so you cannot tell, but the area is pretty dark.

 Why are you sitting here in the dark, Lucy?
 You were right about the politics thing, Mom.
It's pretty depressing.

I have no idea why Lucy suddenly decided to hide out in the laundry room.  Of course, she cares not a whit about politics or anything going on in the world that does not directly affect Lucy.  Companionship, exercise, petting, food and water.  That's pretty much it.  I do envy her sometimes.

Our Muslim friends will begin the holy month of Ramadan here in the United States on Tuesday.  (Yes, DJT, we do have Muslim friends.)

Our quote for today comes from one of my heroes, Eleanor Roosevelt:

Your ambition should be to get as much life out of living as you possibly can,
As much enjoyment, As much interest,
As much experience, As much understanding.
Not simply be what is generally called a "success."

And in the words of another of my heroes:



With an eye made quiet by the power of harmony, and the deep power of joy, we see into the life of things.
Read more at:
With an eye made quiet by the power of harmony, and the deep power of joy, we see into the life of things. William Wordsworth
Read more at:

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Small Town

Our little town is well known for summer festivals.  When one thinks of Brevard, NC, music and summer camps often come to mind.  Music students and professors come from all over to attend Brevard's summer music camps.  We are treated to frequent (and amazingly good) performances by the students.  Music definitely fills the mountain air during the summer.  Our Mountain Song Festivals bring big names into town to entertain us. The Brevard Music Center has hosted such performers as Yo Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Ricky Skaggs, Doc Watson, and our local Steep Canyon Rangers, often accompanied by Steve Martin.

We're becoming known for craft breweries.  Nationally known Oskar Blues has a brewery here in Brevard and Sierra Nevada brews in nearby Mills River.  Our pure mountain water seems perfect for brewing really good beer.

Our town is also "famous" for its abundant white squirrels.  The white squirrels are not albino but a variant of the gray squirrel.  Many stores and literature promote the white squirrel as a tourist draw.  (In my opinion, our majestic mountains and waterfalls are sufficient reasons to visit the area, never mind looking for white squirrels.)  And every year on Memorial Day weekend the white squirrel shares the podium with our veterans for the White Squirrel Festival.  Local craftsmen and vendors set up tents all along the two main streets in town, intersecting at the Courthouse.

The streets are filled early in the morning.

 Another street lined with vendors

 One street has no activity so early in the day.  This is the top of "Jailhouse Hill" which will be filled later with folks young and old to participate in the White Squirrel Derby.  An old soapbox derby with well-designed racers.

 The street is closed to the bottom of the hill.
Hay bales are set up to stop any car if the breaks don't do the job.

 We do have a Memorial Day Parade
And presentation of wreaths at the War Memorial

 The two following photographs were not taken by me but were snatched from the Internet where they were not credited to a photographer.  That white squirrel freaks me out wanders all over the festival.  I have been known to walk across the street to avoid him.

 Pisgah Pete, the white squirrel has his own white squirrel

Too young to be afraid, this little guy accepts a lemon from the squirrel
Seriously?  A lemon?  Is that the best you could do?
How about giving him your little squirrel from your left paw?

The next photograph was taken by me in 2011.  Even more freaky than a giant white squirrel strolling down the street.  A giant white squirrel head just lying on the table.

Jeez!  Couldn't you at least have covered it up?

We do love this little town.  Even when it is flooded with tourists during the summer it is charming.

And just like Lake Wobegone
"All the women are strong
All the men are good looking
And all the children are above average.