Pheathers & Pages – The Life of Birds and Bird Cams

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I can’t remember where I found this book on ‘The Life of Birds,’ written by David Attenborough, most likely on a library, thrift shop or yard sale treasure hunt. I’ve read through the first chapter, and have found the accompanying BBC/PBS series available on Amazon. This weekend I’ll watch the coinciding show of the series and then read another chapter in the book.

One of the joys in my life is the birds that I see and hear throughout the day. This week I took my camera with me on a walk around the block. The trees were filled with red-wing blackbirds, grackles, starlings, and other birds that flock with them.

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I have included the Cornell Lab of Ornithology bird cams in my posts many times, and will probably point the way to them in the future also. They are amazing, and just about now some of the birds might be ‘feathering’ their nests in preparation for new life.

Take a look at the Sapsucker Woods Bird Feeder. I enjoy the sounds as much as the sights of these live cams.

All the bird cams can be found here: Cornell Lab of Ornithology Bird Cams. Some aren’t online now, but will probably be back soon.

Plants – Looking Down At Things

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Nothing is growing tall, or looming large, in my gardens now, except maybe, the dried out stems of last year’s blooms. To find patches of green I must look down, a perfect pose to find an answer to Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge of “Looking Down At Things.”  Wild Cress, even in the middle of February is thriving. This small weed, in shades of shamrock green, grows all over my yard and garden beds through the winter. It is a favorite of mine for pressed flower crafts. The foliage is lush, probably due to the insulating Styrofoam pot and rocks it is growing between and near. At this time of year I’m not picky, I take delight in green plants wherever I can find them.

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I was thrilled to discover this small volunteer sprout of Larkspur, growing in winter against the odds. Larkspur need a period of cold for germination success. I will soon plant a milk carton for winter-sowing. Plants that need cold for growth do well when winter sown.

I’m sure the next few weeks will find me in my garden, looking down…and dreaming.

Peculiarities & Place – The Atlantus and Cape May Diamonds

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Sunset Beach in Cape May, New Jersey, has two unique draws: The Atlantus and Cape May Diamonds. The Atlantus is a concrete ship sunk here in June of 1926. Slowly, the ship is being claimed by the sea.

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Cape May Diamonds are quartz pebbles polished to a diamond-like clarity by their passage down the Delaware River. The man in the photograph must be a serious beachcomber; he brought along a small rake to search for Cape May Diamonds.

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I enjoy sorting through all the beautiful pebbles. Most are polished to a lovely smoothness.

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I didn’t come home empty-handed. Here are a few of the ‘diamonds’ I found on a piece of moonshell. For us, a visit to Cape May always includes a quick stop-over at Sunset Beach.

Place – Cape May/Points of Interest

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Near the Cape May Point is a small pond. A beautiful duo of swans were swimming in the water. I hoped to capture a wonderful photo of their long necks regally extended, but they were intent on feeding, and this was the view they gave us.

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On the way home we stopped at the Cape May Zoo.

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I had never seen it so crowded. We saw an opposite image of our pond swans, black swans in one of the zoo’s pond enclosures.

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The giraffes are always a favorite…

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…as are the zebras. The animals have very large areas to roam and run in.

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The zoo was very crowded, we had forgotten it was a holiday weekend. I wished I could fly like a peacock and set myself above the commotion.

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By the time we left we felt as exhausted as this napping camel. Isn’t he/she cute?

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If you are ever in the Cape May area take a few hours to visit this amazing zoo. It is a free zoo, if you would like to make a donation you can do so when you enter for parking, but it is not required.

Place & Quote – Cape May, New Jersey/Solitude

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“And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” ~ Mark 6:31

One of the aspects of towns along the seashore in the off season is the ease of finding solitude. For those of you who see shapes and faces in objects, do you see the shape of bird wings on either side of the sun? I do.

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The shoreline of the Cape May Point State Park is a perfect place to walk, do a little bird-watching, or admire the Cape May Lighthouse.

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Cape May, New Jersey is a lovely place to spend a week or a few days for a seashore getaway. More to come on this southernmost tip of New Jersey to follow this week.

Photograph – Screamin’ Green Smiley Face

I love a challenge, and today I am taking part in four challenges with this post. Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge asks for ‘Things That Look Like Faces.’

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Can you see the smiley face on the ‘Screamin’ Green’ moss? Screamin’ Green is today’s Color Your World – 120 Days of Crayola Challenge.

When I began this post I had no idea what expectations to have. Expectation is one of the challenge words for this week’s WordPress Daily Post.

The shadows in the rock help create the face. Shadow was this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge. I wonder what challenges I will face in the week to come. Have a lovely weekend my blogging friends!

Quick Tip & Pets – Cat Scratch Mat

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My cats Rusty…

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and Hans, love to sharpen their claws. This is not a good thing if it involves furniture or rugs. I’ve found a bit of catnip, a fibrous doormat, and a box of some kind makes a quick, easily moved, cat scratch mat.

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Place the mat over something that will give it some height.

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In our case we used a wooden box. Sprinkle the area that has a bit of a bend with catnip you’ve finely ground. The catnip sinks into the fibers. To stir this up for easier smell appeal my cats sharpen their claws against the swell of the mat against the box. Voilà  the perfect cat scratch toy, and better yet, it is about a third of the price what a store-bought mat will cost you.

Plant & Product – Mistletoe Cactus

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On a recent trip to Longwood Gardens I spied this amazing hanging basket filled with Pseudorhipsalis ramulosa, or as it is also known, Red Mistletoe Cactus. I love the combination of soft pink with apple green. (Granny Smith Apple – Color Your World – 120 Days of Crayola) I would love to grow this beautiful plant in a hanging basket, but have no idea where it is sold other than mail-order. Perhaps I can find a source for seeds.

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This year, for the first time, I have found a large variety of hard to find seeds on Etsy. I’ve ordered from three sellers and have been very pleased with the packaging and speed of delivery. Upon searching the site, I found seeds for the Mistletoe Cactus, but they were rather pricey at 11.95. A little high for something without a guarantee to grow. Check out Etsy for rare and unusual garden and houseplant seeds.

Project – Terrarium Part II/The Stopper

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One of the pitfalls of creating a terrarium is finding the perfect stopper, or lid, that will not detract from the beauty of the planted jar or vase. I wanted to follow through on the natural theme, but also hoped to find something entirely unique to seal in the moisture. For the natural, I placed some double stick tape on the top of the vase, and wound several strands of dried grass around the rim.

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Next I glued a few pieces of dried moss to the rim.

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I finished off the natural elements with some skeletonized hydrangea flowers. These beautiful blossoms naturally lose their flesh when left beneath the bush through the winter. I find them beautiful, and they are not as fragile as they look. I always let a few strands of my arrangements behave in an unruly manner, in this case, a few pieces of grass and buds unfurling from side give the arrangement a bit of whimsicality and movement.

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Lastly, I placed a beautiful moss green Christmas ornament on the top of the vase to work as a stopper/lid. I love the way the color of the Christmas ball mirrors the color of the moss inside the terrarium.

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The arrangement/terrarium looks good from several angles, top and sides.

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The Christmas ball reminds me of the Gazing Balls that many have on pedestals in their gardens.

 

Place – The Woods

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The weather has been a bit warmer, the snow has began to melt, a perfect time to walk in the woods and get some sunshine.

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We were surprised to see ‘No Trespassing’ signs in an area that both my husband and I played in as children, and walked in as adults. It saddened me to see that the signs had been put up by a local church. It seemed unfriendly somehow, but then, on further thought, I realized the area is within walking distance of Rowan University, and the signs are probably there to prevent late-night partying and bonfires.

I enjoyed the walk, and so did my husband, but for some reason it also made me feel a bit blue. I had that strange heaviness inside that sometimes comes when we revisit places that have meant a lot to us throughout our lives. It reminded me of friends who I used to play with in this area who are now gone on to heaven, or have moved so far away I only see them once every few years.

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Beyond the unexpected sadness, I did enjoy the walk. This small piece of land has beautiful patches of moss. The variety is amazing.

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One eerie thing about this area is the absence of birds and wildlife. It’s very quiet, no birdsong, no scurry of startled squirrels. Whenever we walk here we remark on the strange hush. We have wondered many times if it might have to do with chemicals leaching from the glass factory waste still in the ground. The Glass Factories that thrived here from 1780 – 1929 gave Glassboro its name.

When we walk in this area we always find new pieces of glass ‘culls’ or waste glass that was dumped over 100 years ago. Most of it has been covered over by years of soil, but when it rains, especially the big nor’easters that barrel through, pieces will come to the surface again. Here are a few we found Saturday. If you look close, you can see the melted bottle top of cobalt blue that was discarded here.

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I don’t know if I’ll walk here again. The ‘No Trespassing’ signs warn of prosecution, and the remembrances make me miss friends who are gone.

Planting & Project – Terrarium in Photos

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I chose a thrift store vase for this project. The bottom is heavy, a good choice since this will keep the terrarium from easily flipping over.

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A layer of pebbles…

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A layer of charcoal…

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A layer of potting soil…

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Moss and small garden cress plant dug up from outdoors…

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I rolled the sheet of moss into a tube to slip into the slender neck of the vase…

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A pencil tamped the plants in place…

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A bit of water from a slender tipped nozzle…a few seeds of alyssum…

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And a beautiful Block Island stone with a stripe running through it…magical! This post will be continued next week with a surprise upcycled stopper for the terrarium top.

Pots & Pans – Masquerade Cookies

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Company was coming, I had no dessert prepared. I knew all my guests enjoy Chocolate Chip Cookies, but I had no chips on hand, and zero inclination to run out to the store. Hmmm…what to do? I opened the pantry and my eye fell upon a snack baggie with some leftover pretzels, and another with about two dozen malted milk ball candy. I grabbed these and using the smooth side of a cooking mallet, crushed them into bits inside the plastic bags.

I mixed up some chocolate chip cookie dough and added my broken pieces of pretzel  and candy, crossing my fingers as I put them in the oven. Oh MY! What a delicious experiment. The pretzels tasted just like salty nuts, and the malted milk balls were amazing. I was so pleased. Even better, the faux nut taste the pretzels created was a great treat for one grandson; he has a peanut allergy and is not able to experience the saltiness of nuts in baked good recipes. I’m wondering now what other bits and pieces I can add to my Masquerade Cookies next time. Any ideas for me???

I used a classic Toll House Chocolate Chip recipe for the basic dough. Original Toll House Chocolate Chip Recipe

Peculiarities – The Difference a Day Makes

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Yesterday was so warm I went outdoors and weeded one of my gardens without a coat or jacket. The only winter apparel I wore was a brimmed hat, and that was to keep the brilliant sun out of my eyes. I’m amazed by the tough arugula still growing. They self-seeded in the Autumn from plants I neglected, and are growing strong.

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This is the same patch of arugula today. We are in the beginning stages of a strong Nor’easter.

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The bright snow is the perfect foil for the cardinals visiting my yard.

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The strong winds ruffle even the most demure little lady-bird’s feathers. I’m glad I’m inside, but I’m sure around noontime, after hours of birds feeding, I will brave the storm and go out to refill the feeders.

 

Project – Valentine Heart

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Valentine posters are an inexpensive, quick and easy craft for children. All the elements in the poster were purchased at the dollar store: foam board, stickers and ribbon. An adult version could easily be created using old jewelry, beads, glass pebbles, etc.

The first step is to cut the foam board. Oh my, this is the part that gave me the hardest time. Foam board is notoriously hard to cut without shredding the edge. I had success by placing it on a cutting board, using a metal yardstick as a guide, and with heavy pressure cut through the board with a box cutter in one non-stop swipe. If you stop, the board will shred. (I know this from experience) Poster board is a good alternative to foam board and cuts easily without shredding, but it is not quite as stable. My finished backing measured near 18 x 22 inches. You can make this project in any size.

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Create a guide with a large sheet of paper. I have found gift wrap or tissue paper to be a good choice. I usually have some spare pieces lying around the house. Cut the paper several inches larger than your finished backing, fold in half and cut a large heart. Center the heart on the backing and wrap excess paper around edge to back of board, attaching it to the back with tape or glue stick. The front should be taut and smooth.

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Place the stickers on the exposed foam/poster board inside the heart shape. No need to be neat, they look great layered, sideways and even upside down. One caution however, don’t try to change the placement of a sticker once it is down, it will most likely rip the foam/poster board if you do. When the area is filled, carefully peel the paper guide away. We didn’t worry about the appearance of the back and easily attached the ribbon for hanging with duct tape.

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This project pleased everyone. We made two, one for each family to take home. My grandchildren range in age from two years old to ten, they all loved creating the heart and one of them pronounced the finished poster, “AWESOME.”