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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Before We Leave...

My Old Dear's aunt was born New Years Eve (year still under discussion). This year was not good to her. She lost her husband in the spring and this fall, fell, winding up in a rehabilitation home. Her dear son arranged a great gathering in the party room of the residence, today, including her 4 remaining siblings. There were originally 8 children in the family. Although the survivors all live in the area, all are elderly and none can drive any more. They had not all been together for quite a while, especially for a happy situation. (Funerals are not the place for family photos) My main purpose for being there was to be the person behind the camera. When the 5 all were together, hugging and greeting one another, there was hardly a dry eye in the room, including the people who work in the residence. Here is my favorite photo.

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

We Are Leaving for Florida Too Late!!!

Posted by PicasaThis is the view of the Detroit River looking toward an island between us and Canada. There is a very narrow channel of water WAYYYY out there. Judging from the piles of ice, the clear strip of water could have been the work of an ice-breaker ship. I can not remember the last time, if ever, an ice breaker was needed in this area.


It was bitterly cold! The date on the calendar said "December 21" but it was hard to believe. There was snow and near-zero cold on the FIRST day of Winter. We thought leaving for Florida after Christmas meant we would miss the worst parts of winter. I guess we should look at leaving in October next year.

Here's why this sight is so remarkable. We are just a mile or so down-river from an active coal-burning power plant. River water is used to cool the generators and pumped back into the river, keeping our part of the river, lake and outer canals warm and free of ice. The only other time I have seen these areas frozen was once when the power plant went off-line for a week or so.

You might say, "So what?" Well, I'll tell you. Our town is full of marinas. I heard someone say there were more boats than the population, but I don't know that for a fact. Most of the boats are pulled out of the water by October 15, when there is danger of a strong wind out of the west that blows the water out of the canals and strands boats on the bottom. When the water returns, the boats may be stuck in the mud and swamp. Bye-bye, boat! Some boats near the main docks of the marinas will stay in for the winter. Some of them have people living on the boat all winter. If the water freezes the unprotected boats could have their hulls crushed by the ice. Some captains will ring the boat with empty milk jugs tied together. The ice may crush the jugs, but the boat will stay safe. Other boat owners will install "bubblers" surrounding the boat at water level which will keep the water moving and from freezing. HOWEVER...those in the main canal, just down from the power plant never had to worry.

I can only wonder what happened. When we looked the power plant was running full blast. We had to guess that the sudden cold snap and snow were more than the warm flushing water could fix.
Saturday, December 6, 2008

Early December Snow



Why didn't we go South in October with so many other Snowbirds? Well, Halloween and Thanksgiving, but as I freeze my toes and sniffle away I wonder if we will go earlier next year.

Oh yes...now I remember. There are all those wonderful winter moments with the granddaughters!!!


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving!

There is no way I can take photos AND serve dinner so I just took some before of the table. There were actually 4 tables, but without food they look a little silly. The four tables were: Appetizers, meal, dessert, and coffee and mints. Worst problem was keeping the little ones out of the candy.
Welcome!

Appetizer table without the crackers, cheeses and meats, veggie-tray, and candy.

This was the dining table set for 8 adults and 2 children. I used my mother's Havaland China, and some crystal that I think was my mother's mother's. I used only a couple of pieces of the sterling that was my mother's. With having the baby here all last week with a little viral infection, polishing silver just wasn't a priority.

Funny story about the centerpiece. I found "the perfect" centerpiece to buy online a week or so ago. I sent for it and waited, hoping it would arrive in time. Wednesday a small box arrived. Too small. It couldn't be the centerpiece with 3 pillar candles on holders. Well, it wasn't. Only the candles were there. I went to the computer and brought up the order. Woops...the candles and centerpiece were separate. I had only ordered the candles. So, on her way back from the pre-Christmas Parade 6 mile run, my daughter stopped at the store and grabbed this one. I was as happy with that as the one I thought I had ordered.

By the time I had salads, breads, and relishes on the table everyone was seated. Then my daughter and I cleared the salads and served the turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean casserole, scalloped corn, creamed beets, kielbasa & noodles. Fortunately, my Old Dear, his son, my sister-in-law, and my daughter made a lot of the dishes.

Dessert was home made (thanks SIL, Chris) pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and mince pie. Coffee with mints finished the evening.
Sunday, October 26, 2008

BEWARE: The Ides of October!

Ides of October? Why beware? No...Julius Caesar was killed on the Ides of MARCH. No...Columbus Day is the TWELFTH of October.

Well, if you had lived your life on the Western shore of Lake Erie, and boated for most of it you would KNOW! One day shortly after the 15th, the wind is going to start blowing out of the West...REALLY blowing, and keep blowing for days. So what? Did you say "So What"? When the wind blows the water out any boat still tied to the dock will be dangling and stuck in the mud...so stuck that when the water comes back the boat will not be able to float and will swamp...probably not usable again. In the summer every dock would be filled with boats. There are several marinas in town, one boat club, and hundreds of homes with private docks. The number of boats is greater than the total population of the town. Many people in inland towns keep their boats here and make this a bustling place in the summer.

So, anyone who has lived here very long knows that all boats have to be out of the water by October 15...it is ALMOST a law! But every year there are some who get too busy, don't know, or don't care. This is what happens:

It was a good day to go for a drive here and there to see what the low water uncovered. As we turned down one little dirt road neither of us had been on before, along a canal, we noticed something I had only heard about...the old corduroy log road...REALLY old! We are talking early settlers in wagons. A few years ago (more than 10) we heard about the discovery of this road by a couple of kids exploring. Soon officials from the state declared it was real, old, and might yield some old treasures if explored, maybe with a metal detector. Only problem is the road being underwater all but a few days a year. I just feel privileged to have photographed it today.

From some old entries in a county history in Indiana, I know my ancestors built and traveled on just such a road from Ohio into Indiana. One diary entry mentioned that the men ran into a newly completed log road and realized they had gone in a circle. I guess they didn't have a GPS.

As we headed down one road we noticed a farm, as a friend said, "In It's Autumn Years"A much nicer title than abandoned. Actually there did seem to be someone working on a car in the yard, but none of the buildings were usable. This tractor overgrown by shrubs had a "look". It was a photo waiting to happen.

The out buildings whispered of years when this was a well-cared for farm, but now seems to be just farmed by an absentee owner. I stood for a moment with my eyes closed and tried to imagine the busy, pretty farm it HAD been.


(More later as I process a few more photos from today)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Purple Beans



I see this wonderful vine from my craftroom window and enjoy it with mixed feelings.

Joan, one of my DSP friends, although we have wandered a bit apart with the demise of Hello, sent me these bean seeds last fall. I planted mine in a long pot to go up my trellis. Well, either the lack of sun, rain, water or all three, or the pot was too shallow, but mine didn't do very well...certainly not like THESE. I had about 5 seeds left over and gave them to my neighbor and look what hers did!

But...my Clematis did better and, now in September, is still blooming. She gave me the Clematis.

Old Adventures

In the "granny forum" there was discussion about Googling your own name. So I started with my full name which I don't use all that often. A description of an adventure I was on years and YEARS ago came up.
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Teacher Laura Lou XXX drives from Michigan to Washington, DC to visit

Us here at ICUG

From Saginaw, Michigan…. The part of the State shaped like "a Mitten on the Map", Laura Lou XXX!

One of the many people that Maga introduced to ICUG and Email and Message Forums. Laura was so impressed with the ICUG Poster Series that she used them in her Public School Classroom teaching her students American History. She also joined Our Computer Network and joined our nightly Brainstorming sessions to create new Projects using Computer Desktop Publishing.

Here in my Office Laura Lou and I take a look at the Front Door Software Program on the PC.

Laura became so excited about ICUG using Scanners, Graphics Design software, Color Printing and Telecommunications, that she decided to take a week off and drive to Washington, DC from Michigan, to spend time with us in the Office and learn the Computer Techniques used to produce the Poster Series. Laura's friends and family were quite amazed that she was so motivated as to drive alone, to visit people that she had never met in person, and spend a week with them. Few people can understand the close friendships that can and do form through people meeting and coming to share and know one another online. So very often we hear about the negative experiences that some people have in the Online Community, but here you'll find the most positive stories. Just ask Mike and Sue! As in life, one should use good judgment in forming any new friendships or associations

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Let's see what else I can find!
Here's another. I had totally forgotten this one from the old Passport to Knowledge project.
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Re: Backyard Biodiversity Survey


From: "Laura Lou XXX"
Subject: Re: Backyard Biodiversity Survey
Date: Thu, 30 Apr 1998 22:48:15 -0400


Our data will be in tomorrow. This survey had to be done by my sixth hour
exploratory class...made up of 20 students from my three science classes.
They will then share with the rest of their classmates.

It is a good thing that I decided to do it this way. We have had a rather
wet Michigan spring. Although the far edge of the campus looks like a
lovely green lawn, it hides a soupy-wet layer of mud. As I was leaving the
team with a plot about 3 feet into the woods after taking some photos, I
tripped over a root and sprawled face-first flat into the muddy lawn.
Imagine a 60 year old woman covered from hair to toes with mud trying to
retain a shred of dignity. It wasn't easy. I wasn't hurt and once the
students could see that, we all had a great laugh. Too bad the camera, too,
was covered with mud and unable to record this moment.

Now aren't you glad you asked.

Laura XXX
XXX Middle School
XXX, MI
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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Florida 2009

As I put away some of my summer clothes and drag out the sweatshirts and heavier slacks Florida seems closer. The nights are getting cool although the days are still warm enough for an occasional boat ride. We are starting to make some decisions about when to leave, where to stop overnight and so on. More later.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Snowbird Summer

Part of being an Snowbird is connecting with other Snowbirds over the summer. There is better attendance at the local Retired Teacher's group lunches. The next will be at a new racetrack that opened not too far away. That must have happened while we were in Florida because the place is a surprise to me.

We (my son and I) have been working on my Home Office all summer. There is still a custom counter-top coming Sept 10. This weekend we probably will finish the list of little details including a mirrored sliding door on the closet. Then after the counter-tops are installed, I can put the cork on the little bit of wall under the cabinets. Looks like it will have to be cork-floor tiles. The roll cork is too thin, they say.


CRAFT AREA

THE VIEW OF MY BACK PORCH AND GARDEN
Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Missed Photo Op

I looked up from the computer yesterday afternoon to see a HAWK perched on the top of the birdfeeder shepherd's hook. I reached for the camera just as he opened those wings and flapped off.

He was a small hawk, only a little larger than the largest of the blackbirds. The dull brown with bits of white on the wing tips and tail are perfect camouflage. His back was to me but he turned his head and the hooked beak was unmistakable.

The absence of all other birds for a while after he left was unmistakable, too. What a cafeteria my garden must be for him!

Lots of Garden Help

The girls enjoy wandering around the garden but I am not getting much help this year. I will be having the younger DGD some days while her mother tutors and her sister is in the Performance Camp. It is really the older of the two who would be the most help, though. I still have some veggie seeds to plant, zinnias, and vegetable beds to weed.




A New Toy

The weeds in my garden path drive me to distraction! I just get it weeded and another variety pops up. I doused it with Preen but that only lasts so long and some weed varieties just don't care. So, I bought a propane weed torch! It is a "Man's Toy" but this woman likes it, too!

It works very well on cement, patio-block, my gravel path and along the fence line. There was a moment when I was hitting the weeds where the fence crosses from my neighbor's grass to weed cloth topped with hay topped with mulch. That hay catches fire real easily, doesn't it? Fortunately I had a hose handy.

I killed back the weeds that sprouted in the expansion strips in the cement between the sunroom and the pool. ALso, I hit the weeds along the back fence. Those were some tall weeds!

Now I just have to see how long the weeds are gone. I am sure I will have to hit the path once a month or so.
Sunday, June 1, 2008

Revisiting the Garden





I think almost all of the containers are planted, now. At last count there were 24.

1. a half-whisky tub of a cherry tomato and 8 herbs
2, 3, 4. three railing planters of bright red geraniums, chartreuse sweet potato vine, and white licorice vine
5. a huge coffee cup planter of begonias...deep red
6, 7, 8. three tiers of geraniums, trailing vines, several varieties of nemesia
9, 10. two tiers of sage in the center pot and 2 different kinds of thyme in the lower planter
11. a huge pot by the doorwall of spikes, and left over filler plants and trailers
12. a long planter of purple bean plants (from my Indiana fellow gardener) hoping to climb my trellis
13, 14. two pots of caladiums from Florida IF the squirrel didn't ruin them
15. a terra cotta pot in a wrought iron holder of nemesia, petunia, licorice, and two geraniums left from last year. If they don't make it the rest will fill in.
16. a little wood slat wheelbarrow of coleus, geranium, trailing plants and a petunia
17. a twig garden cart planted with a little of everything
18. a large round green bowl with a little of everything sitting on an old chair in the corner of the garden
19. a watering can rescued from the trash planted with a tall pink Nemesia and frosty Euphorbia
20. a red basket fo coleus, licorice, nemesia, creeping jenny, spikes
21. a decorative pot (from FranRV) still to fill
22. another terra cotta pot to fill
23, 24. two small "strawberry pots" yet to fill. Now that I know from TV the best way to plant those I am anxious to try.





Bought from the nursery:
3 Black Heart ipomoea batatas (sweet potato vine)
3 Tri-Color ipomoea batatas
6 Margarita ipomoea batatas
White Licorice hellichrysum petiolare
Raspberry sunsatia
Magella Purple perilla nemesia
Flying Colors Coral diaseia (twinspur)
Goldilocks lysimachia nummularia (creeping jenny)
Diamond Frost euphorbia
Silver Dust dusty miller
mixed double Madness petunia
blue lobelia
Solstice Chocolate Regal pelargonium
Compact Pink Innocence nemesia fruticand (twinspur)
ALSO:
pre-planted containers of herbs, perennials, and vegetables which I took apart and replanted.

But, DARN! They look GOOD!

Look and Listen to the Skys

There is a single long island parallel to our 5 little one s, here at the North end of Lake Erie. That long island is a lovely community having its "special weekend" now. At one time, the South tip of the island held a thriving Naval Air Base. Now it is a municipal airport. Private airplanes, small cargo operations, and other endeavors utilize what is left of the old buildings. So, on this special weekend there is a lot of activity in the sky opposite my particular island. There is the morning Fly-by of the Air Force Jets. With the Red Bull Air Races up-river, the Fly-By is doing double duty. At noon a formation of World War II fighter planes flew the length of the river and turned right above us. I was too late for a picture then, but the camera is ready NOW. Who knows what else is going to come into view.


Later in the summer there is another happening at the airport...a "fly-in" of historic war planes known as "The Confederate Air Force". That weekend I need a sound recorder more than a camera. Having spent those WWII days at my grandmother's house within sight of the airbase, I heard fighters and cargo planes on an hourly basis. To hear those sounds again takes me right back to those days...happy for me, but difficult as war years always are. I try to explain things to my way-younger brother and my dear 50s Man, who is just enough younger than I am not to remember the War Years. There is no way to transfer the nostalgia from my memory to theirs.
Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Woodpecker Pair



It finally happened BOTH woodpeckers on the feeder at the same time.
Saturday, May 24, 2008

Duck-Jacuzzi?


Can you see her? That is a female Mallard swimming in my FOUNTAIN! Now, mind you, she has been swimming in the water standing in my pool cover, about 30' x 15'. Not to mention that she has all of Lake Erie less than a block away.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008

An Orange and Black Thrill

Once last year I saw a male Baltimore Oriole in my birdbath. I could hear their call once in a while so I knew they were around.

"Oranges!" it said on Wild Birds Unlimited. "They cannot resist oranges." I was determined to get them coming to the yard regularly so I got two oranges from my neighbor and hung two halves in the suet feeder. Another I hung further out in the yard just on a whimsical little dish on a chain. I didn't know what to do with the last half so I just put it on my deck railing about 5 feet away from the doorwall.

You can guess where I first saw the male...that's right...at the "extra" orange half. He was too fast for the camera but now I know they are around.

Today I snapped these photos. I suspect the first is the female and the second is a juvenile fledgling. The male is just SOOO bright I can't mistake him.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

My Northern Garden



Coming home to Michigan late in April usually means an overgrown garden but, honestly, this year wasn't so bad. The problem has been the rain. I am not about to go out and garden in the rain.

This is the first year to have my lovely back deck/porch since it wasn't completed until last fall. How handy that is! I have a few adjustments for my son to make when he comes by, but it is quite a delight.

The birds practically sit on my lap. They come right on the deck while I am sitting there. Even while my granddaughters are there, if they are quiet. I was amazed that they sit on the birdfeeders while I am on the porch, but coming right on the porch was a complete surprised.

The first thing I cleaned up for summer was the pond and fountain.

This year there will be as many containers of annuals in the garden as I can manage. This twig-cart was a rescue from my daughter's lake house. With the addition of a cocoa mat from ACO and good potting soil it went from plastic and silk artificial plants to real.

The planter will get a liberal dose of Miracle Gro spray every couple of weeks, but there is enough in the potting soil for the next couple of weeks. The cart is much darker in the rain and I like that look, too. I am going to take photos of the planters throughout the summer as the contents grow.
Sunday, May 4, 2008

Northern Nature Can Be Fun, Too.

Every year I mourn leaving the larger-than-life Florida animals and flowers. Then, once I am back North, there are always wonderful surprises.

One of my daughters left a ceramic bird seed dish and seed when she visited my house while I was gone. It isn't high-tech, but looked cute on the railing of my back porch/deck. The birds took right to the new feeder in spite of its close proximity to the house and my doorwall. First the common sparrows and doves then the following photo!


Last year my brother and sister-in-law gave me a finch feeder and thistle seed like they use. I finally got a pair of yellow finches along with some purple or red house finches and some sparrows who really TRIED to reach the seed by hanging upside down. They are nowhere near the acrobats that the Goldfinches are.

This year there have been more Goldfinches! I am delighted.



The birds aren't the only early spring visitors.


Of course, I have been scrapbooking the photos!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

A Butterfly Fluttersby

A door to the screen room was left ajar all afternoon. I discovered this large, gorgeous butterfly trying to get out and I just HAD to take a picture before rescuing it. I had a little Dollar Store butterfly net my granddaughter used to try and catch little lizards. I plopped it over the butterfly and lightly held the wings through the netting. A moment later it was freely flying away to other places.


Here is a more personal item than I usually include. On April 4, our next door neighbor was found unconscious inside her home. On the 12th she passed away. She was an avid gardener and watched the wildlife with me. She introduced me to feeding the big birds in 2002. She was the sweetest woman and will be so missed. I cannot imagine not having her there next winter.
Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Turtles, At Last!


Earlier this winter, as we drove along one of our main routes I was looking alongside the highway into the deep canal at one side. All of the canals, says the sign, feed right into the Indian River. There are fish, and lots of wildlife along with more trash than I would like to see, and, on occasion, an alligator or two.

We had seen a log coming out of the water filled with sunning turtles. However, when I tried to take a photo, the turtles jumped into the water before I could snap. I have been looking ever since for another opportunity to take that picture. Today, there they were...different log, but better. This time I stayed INSIDE the car and well back. We inched forward but they slid back into the water with alarm. Skittish things!

At least I got this photo.
Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Owl, Up Close and Personal

This is too good not to share.

Last evening we gathered down at the edge of the lake to celebrate 2 neighborhood birthdays with a little wine and friendship. We all see different things on the huge communications tower looming over the lake and we often compare "Owl Notes".

There was activity in the nest and around. We saw 4...yes FOUR owls. All seemed to be flying and it got a little confusing but there is the one huge female, slightly smaller male, and two fledglings.

Suddenly we saw one large bird sail over the lake and land on the boat davits 2 doors down. I figured it was the Anhinga that sits there almost every night...but one good look at the head and we could see it was one of the adult owls..the largest one.

I ran (rather, hobbled as fast as I could) for my camera. As I headed back out, the neighbors, still by the lake, were pointing and shouting. The owl had just skimmed a few feet over my head, so silently that I didn't detect it at all. I did find it at the top of the utility pole near the front yard.

The little Mockingbird that had been attacking it by the lake was back driving the owl further down the block until I couldn't see it any more. One of the neighbors thinks there is a mockingbird nest in his bushes.

I tried to get a picture of the huge bird on the top of the pole, but I would have needed more time to steady the camera and adjust the settings. Just not enough time. The flash didn't fire so the aperture stayed open for too long...I couldn't hold the camera that steady. Oh, to have had my tripod attached. I tried to get another photo steadying my camera on the bottlebrush tree, but it was too late.

Back down at the lake we watched the owls fly into the lower part of the tower and fly upward in steps. They must not be high flyers. Other neighbors had watched them do this after sunset, before. It seems to be their pattern for getting to the high nest. The Osprey who built the nest last year could soar right to the nest, but apparently not the owls.

I wish I had photos to share. Here is a digital scrapbook page I made a while ago using elements from Kathryn Balint (www.kbandfriends.com)

The close-up photo is of a Great Horned Owl on display at the Pelican Island Festival a few weekends ago.

About Me

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Laura Lou
Michigan/Florida, United States
I am a retired Middle School Science teacher from Michigan spending 4 months each winter in Florida and learning about a whole new world.
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