Thursday, April 20, 2017

Lazy Thursday in the Backyard ~ 4/20/17

Explorer has separation anxiety.  I went to use the bathroom last night and he cried and cried behind the door. And then, when he rejoined me in bed, he plopped himself right in the middle of my pillow, on his back, so I could give him a belly rub!  And since he's a spoiled kitten, I let him sleep right there and I scooted down to give him room so my feet were sticking out from the mattress.  And I thought to myself: "Good thing I bought the cats a full-size mattress!" and I felt quite like Cinderella :) But my babies were comfy (Princess had found herself a spot by the foot of the mattress, but on the side. She's far more considerate!) and that's pretty much all that matters, sometimes.

And then Tabby Kitty decided to dig to China at 5:50 a.m. and that took forever. Seriously, it's a litter box, dude, it's not going anywhere!  Then he had himself breakfast and he's the loudest eater ever. I need to teach him to chew with his mouth closed.  Then it was time to get up.  So all in all, it was an OK night.

I've decided that I'm not going to Trader Joe's today. I went away over my grocery budget this week and you know that I won't stick to just buying 6 little cartons of whipping cream if I drive all the way to Orlando and pay tolls to get there!  So I might go on my way home from the airport when I drive Greg there next month.

Plans for today include watering the potted plants and transplanting my new flowers into the tiered planter.  Beyond that, I haven't thought of it yet.  Luckily (and this is written sarcastically), I have a big bad To Do List to remind me of all the ways I've been procrastinating!

  • Defrost meat for dinner DONE
  • Water all outdoors plants DONE
  • Put the laundry away DONE
  • Iron Greg's clothes for next week's trip
  • Sweep/vacuum kitchen, breezeway, Cat Room
  • Wash Cat Room windows (outside)
  • Schedule trip to Trader Joe's (need whipped cream) Next month when I take Greg to the airport
  • Scrub the bathtub 
  • Research state park to visit next weekend - I think I'll have to wait until later in the week to see what fires are burning and if Greg's foot has stopped hurting
  • Declutter the printer stand in progress
  • Give a driving lesson to my son with the stick shift 
  • Take Youngest Son to get a haircut - Greg will take him next weekend unless I can't stand it anymore sooner than that!
  • Clean bathroom ceiling 
  • Clean hallway ceiling right outside the bathroom
  • Clean downstairs bathroom sink
  • Sweep downstairs bathroom
  • Take down the "seed nursery" and try to store it in little shed
  • Make my bed  DONE
  • Earn Microsoft Rewards credits DONE
  • Input weight into WHBRHC  
  • Set 15 minute timer and try to accomplish as many chores as possible in that time
  • Unload dishwasher 
  • Do the dishes by hand, drain/dry in the dishwasher (AFTER DINNER) 
  • Put mattress out with the trash (Tuesday morning) 
  • Make a dermatologist appointment for Youngest Son
  • Back up external drive to its own external drive!
  • Start a list of the electric outlets that I want to get replaced
  • Exercise at least 35 minutes on my bike  (weekdays only)  
  • Clean upstairs litter box   DONE (late last night)
  • Put away the clipped articles from Kiplinger's magazine 
  • Inventory the pantry
  • Inventory the freezers
  • Purge the top drawer of the file cabinet
  • Take RaceTrac surveys 
  • Scrub patio pavers with bleach (wear old clothes and shoes, gloves and goggles)
  • Finish decluttering exercise room shelves
  • Call my bank to consolidate my IRA accounts
  • Ask Discovery Gardens staff about the trees from my backyard or look at the Audubon site that Pixel shared.
  • Clean the barbecue (as in scrub it because I sprayed the inside with wasp spray)
  • Mend sliding door window screen - get cat resistant screening material?
  • Plant and water the tree
  • Track my and Greg's IRAs for the IRS
  • Download all March pictures from Canon camera, and Panasonic camera to external drive 
  • Reply to blog comments  DONE
  • Purge the dresser in the upstairs hallway
  • Purge the top drawer of the file cabinet
  • File all the pending documents
  • Use brush on fridge coils
  • Schedule maintenance appointment for my SUV
  • Try making yogurt in yogurt maker
  • See if can mend Youngest Son former backpack straps
  • Read a library book in progress
  • Preserve the peppers and tomatoes that are on my counter 
  • Take cuttings of the jasmine and root them
  • Ask to take cuttings of the neighbor's hibiscus and root them
  • Sew headphones in place
  • Add bleach to furnace line
  • Add Drano to kitchen sink plumbing for preventative maintenance
  • Trim the hedge
  • Trim the bushes
  • Reset the new hose reel in a better position (make sure handle is accessible)
  • Take Youngest Son shopping for jeans and shorts
  • Mix more Chicago Steak Seasoning
  • Mix more Ten Things Farm Seasoning
  • Mix Chili Seasoning for Friday
  • Add zippered plastic bag to fanny pack to protect camera if it rains
  • Plant new flowers in planters  DONE
  • Dice and freeze green peppers
  • Pay water bill DONE
  • Order big cat food DONE
  • Bake peanut butter sheet cake (Baking notebook for recipe) 
  • Order graduation announcements - Middle Son Waiting for him to email me his picture, sent him another reminder today

  • I had an OK night and didn't feel tired when I got up.

  • As usual, Youngest Son packed a lunch to take to school, I dropped him off there and he'll ride the bus home. He remembered to dress for success today so he can earn some extra credit (that he doesn't need since he already has straight A's!).

  • I packed a sandwich and other goodies for Greg to take to work.

  • The side of one of his feet hurts and he doesn't know why. It started out of the blue a couple of days ago. So I'm not sure we'll be able to go walking this weekend.

  • I opened the windows when I came home from dropping off my son at school and turned off the AC. However, I'm keeping the sliding door closed as Explorer always climbs that screen and it drives me nuts.

  • As soon as Greg left for work, I set about watering all the outdoor plants. It takes about an hour just for the few plants that I have since I do it by hand.  I collected the water dripping from the hanging plants into those planters I bought yesterday but I'm a big fat hypocrite because I don't have a plan (yet!) for collecting all the water I'm wasting by blasting those damn aphids off my hibiscus!  I need to put my thinking cap on...

  • I also refilled the bird bath.

  • Instead of dumping the murky water from the kittens' water bowl this morning (they like to drop kibble in it!), I used it to water the little plant that I had gotten for free at the gardening festival.

  • Lastly, I transplanted the marigolds and impatiens that I bought yesterday into my tiered planter. I also moved it onto the patio so I can truly enjoy it. I hope the flowers survive this ordeal!

  • A couple of hours later... it is disheartening to see how fast those darn aphids come back!

  • While I was out watering, my neighbor Jeff let his dogs out before he left for work so I gave him the can of dog food and the BOGO coupon that I had received from SampleSource. He was very appreciative and incredulous that I would get things for free in the mail.  I'd teach him how to do it but he's not the type of guy who would sign up for such programs, and I don't think his wife is either.

  • My daughter doesn't have any classes today so I don't expect that she'll be driving anywhere. I don't plan to drive anywhere either. I would suggest she and I go on an outing but she has an essay to write for a final.

  • USAA texted me at 7 a.m. and then following this with an email letting me know that they were also sending me a letter about the fact that I have an "urgent" message to tell me that my term life insurance policy will increase... by $4 a quarter.  Seriously?! Stop texting me!  I didn't sign up for the text alerts for this.  It is so annoying to have your phone beeping at you all the time with such non-urgent matters.

  • I told my son I might bake a cake today. Me and my big mouth!  Oh well, if I don't, it's not like we don't have lots of snacks. Plus we have tons of apples, clementines, oranges, bananas, and grapes, papaya...

  • An anonymous commenter asked me if I had signed up for the Swagbucks Team Challenge... this is how out of SB I have been I didn't even realize that there was a Team Challenge going on!  So I signed up and was assigned to the winning team (for the moment) "Bunny Hoppers". Of course the challenge ends tomorrow and I had already completed the few activities that I do every day before seeing the comment so now I have to try and get 400 team points really fast to qualify for the Swag-up reward. So I'm running automatic videos on my laptop. I've earned 190 team points as of 4/20.  We'll see if I can reach 400 by tomorrow! But it might all for nothing since I still need 500 SB to reach the 2,200 SB needed for a $25 GC. I might need to redeem my SB for a lesser amount.  Update: at 3:15 p.m. I'm up to 345 team points. However, my team is losing ground to the other two!

  • That's IT!  It's 9:05 a.m. and the cats have lost their window privileges as I just caught Princess and Explorer doing their claws on the Exercise Room window screen!  It sucks for the other 4 cats who didn't do anything, I feel like a high school teacher punishing the whole class because one or two students weren't listening...  so I turned the AC back on.  Sigh.

  • I had checked on the older cats' food last night and realized that I probably needed to order a new bag of it so I did that this morning and I'll pick it up next week.  Next month I'll order two bags so I have an extra one for hurricane season, just in case...

  • I earned the Microsoft Rewards credits for the day. I should be able to order a $5 Amazon gift card tomorrow... Bonnie, I'll let you know if it doesn't work since you report that you're still not able to see those in your line-up.

  • Arrgh, I think I'm giving up on the Team Challenge: nGage still doesn't give me any SB (nor team points) and neither have several "Discover" activities that I have undertaken.  I'm not spending my day doing this, there are birds to observe!

  • I looked up the new rebates on Checkout 51 and SavingStar.   I don't shop just because there are rebates available, but it's nice to know there are offers I could take advantage of.

  • I harvested 4 ripe grape tomatoes. Woohoo! I'll use them in a salad soon.

  • I scheduled the payment for my water/sewer/recycling bill online. I don't like those being automatically deducted and charging it to a credit card would cost me an extra fee. So I have them email me my bill and I schedule my bank to mail them a check. It's free to me and saves me an envelope and stamp.  This month again my bill was $57.51.  It'll be higher next month since I've started watering the potted plants, as I have run out of rain water (well, that's not true, I just realized that I still have maybe 15 cat litter jugs that are full of it, I ought to use them up next Monday!).

  • Since I always budget $100 for my water bill, I reported the extra $42.49 to next month.  I do that all year, which is designed to make sure I have the money already set aside for those months when my bill might be over $100.  So next month I have actually $255.41 earmarked for my water bill. It also helps me by keeping a little cushion in my checking account, since I budget in advance.  I do the same with the electric bill. My budget for that actually varies from month to month (based on historical data) but next month's budget sees $848.64 set aside for electricity. My actual bill will probably be between $200 and $250 (since the AC is pretty much running non-stop already).

  • Crap, I'm hearing sirens... I hope there's not a wildfire near us... it's so dry. My "lawn" is now straw. And since it's actually weeds, we have lots of bare spots.  Greg driving into the backyard to retrieve and return the kayak doesn't help!  I might have to buy him a small kayak cart to save our "grass".  Amazon has one right now for just $32 with free shipping.  I ordered it for him as early anniversary present. I redeemed my Amazon Visa Reward points so my OOP was only $9.24!

See?  I'll bet he'll refuse to stop driving into the backyard, though.
  • I printed 4 "premium" coupons that Betty Crocker emailed me.  I'm getting low on cereal and my son has started eating it for breakfast again so I probably need to stock up again. I hope a good sale is on for next week.  Which reminds me...

  • I checked the ad previews for CVS and Walgreens next week.  CVS will have the milk on sale at $2.79 a gallon, but no cereal sale.  They will have the Diet Dr. Pepper on sale at 3 for $10 so if they manage to actually have it in stock, I'll buy 3 more packs. Walgreens has a cereal sale but I don't want to pay for it. I didn't buy sugar at Aldi this week because the price went back up (along with the price for the cake mixes, etc.) but Walgreens will have it on sale for $1.79 and I have a $1.50 Register Reward so I'll use that to get cheap sugar.

  • I was going to go back inside but a nice cool breeze just started blowing. Maybe I'll have lunch out on the patio and read some more of that "$2 A Day" book.

  • I set out some tilapia fillets to defrost for dinner. I'm making that pecan-crusted tilapia recipe again (without the grits this time) since my daughter had really liked it.  I'm now out of tilapia so I suppose I should drag myself to Walmart next week and stock up. 

  • Lunch was a 2-egg salad sandwich. I finished the flat bread that I had bought at Publix a couple of weeks ago, used up 2 eggs out of the 3 that I had boiled last week. I might have to throw away the 3rd egg as they're getting a little sulfury :(  then I finished the can of fish fillets in spicy mango sauce that I had opened last week as well, and the brown banana from the fruit bowl.  I just announced in the "Nature" section that I'm going back indoors (it's 1:20 p.m. and getting a little too hot) and, right at the same time, all the birds started singing again and the cool breeze came back!  Nature wants me to stay on the patio!  But I think the kittens might like me to go back inside so I can cuddle with them too! Decisions, decisions. Notice that I didn't talk about doing any chores once inside, lol.  I really want to read my library book.

  • I've been looking at my To Do List and telling myself that really, chores like "decluttering" and "filing paperwork" should be kept for the summer, when it's too hot to be outside and too humid to be able to take good pictures!  So those tasks might remain on my To Do List for several more weeks...  What I should be doing right now in the mornings is weed, bleach those darn patio pavers to get rid of the grime, trim the bushes, making new self-watering bins and replant my tomato plants that have survived so far, and maybe trying to turn the mess of ferns and wild plants that are growing under the cardinal feeder into a real planter with "real" plants and a more refined look. Oh and plant something under the living room window where I used to have the raspberries. And also weed the beds in front of the house because I never do anything to the front of the house. I'm always in the backyard... or rather, I should say, sitting on the back patio!

  • I chatted with my Daughter. Her dad had said he would come this side of town to take her own to dinner before Prom but now "logistics" aren't working out so he's not coming. I offered to take her out to dinner or pay for dinner for her and her BFF before Prom but because of the BFF's severe stomach issues, she wants to avoid eating before Prom so she's not sick. So my daughter said she'd just eat something at home before going. She's doing her own hair and make-up too.

  • Then she and her BFF needed to go to the high school to pick up their Prom tickets so she texted Youngest Son to ask if he wanted a ride home instead of taking the bus.  Awww.  I told her to stop by McDonald's and get everyone (but me, I don't like those) shakes or something. He'll be excited.

  • While we were talking, Tabby Kitty brought me yet another pair of Greg's socks. Where is he finding them?!  He played with it for a couple of minutes and just left it discarded on the ground. Greg thinks he's trying to tell me to do the laundry. But I did it on Monday and those socks are clean, Buster!
That pair of woolen socks is almost as large as he is, lol.

  • Last year, Youngest Son won a $100 visa debit card from a local bank that had sponsored our library system's Teen Video Awards (his video won 1st prize).  He's not a spendthrift so he still had the debit card.  Today he asked me if I could buy it from him by giving him cash instead so I agreed. I can only use the card at a POS (point of sale) so I think I'll use it to buy two $50 gift cards for a retail store instead and then give them to my graduates as part of their graduation present.

  • I commented on Anne's blog (New Happenings At The Table and Whatever) about backing up one's Blogger blog once in a while since I myself had lost a year's worth of posts in another blog and had had other problems in yet another blog and then I decided to follow my own advice and back up mine. It takes 30 seconds or less and might come in handy, especially if you aim at keeping your blog posts for whatever reason!  I hadn't backed up mine since January 2016, oops!  I'm going to put a reminder on my calendar to do it once a month so the most I would lose is one month worth of posts.

  • Youngest Son hasn't been very enthusiastic about learning how to drive, so he decided to walk to the library again today, for his D&D Club.  I had asked Greg to pick him up on his way home tonight, unless no one shows up again and then my son will walk home early.  I felt bad about no one showing up to play  D&D with him the past few weeks, but the Teen Librarian reminded me that since it's the end of the school year, the teens are busy with sport practices, play rehearsals, and other things like these. Hopefully he'll get more players over the summer.

  • Crap, I hadn't checked the news all day and I just realized at 5:30 p.m. that there had been a terrorist attack on the Champs Elysées in Paris.  One policeman is dead and two are seriously injured.  Some subway stations have been closed. I emailed my brother and SIL who live in Paris to make sure they're OK and her family too. My brother works in the subway  and my other brother used to be a policeman in Paris (but now works behind the scenes in Marseille) so news like these always make me panic.  It's 11:30 p.m. over there,  so I hesitated about texting them. Is that silly?  Maybe I should text them.  My brother is probably still up so hopefully he'll reply to me soon (if he thinks of checking his email).  Ugh.

  • In other depressing news, if you're saving for retirement in a tax-free IRA, you might get a nasty surprise in the form of a tax bill at some point. As usual, things like these make my eyes roll back in their sockets so I need to print the article and then try to understand if it would apply to our IRAs at all.  Ugh, why does everything have to be so freaking complicated?  I wonder how many people could be saving for retirement but don't because they're intimidated by all the choices, rules, loopholes and incomprehensible scenarios!  And you can't even print articles anymore because some moron has deemed that having a little printing icon takes too much space or something, so I have to copy and paste the text into a Word document first. Good grief, stop trying to make this whole paperless world happen. It ain't happening!

  • I checked the mail since Kohl's emailed me to say that my package had been delivered. But there wasn't a package. Thankfully, once I tracked it and saw that it was Fedex that delivered it, I checked the front door porch that we never use (due to several additions on our 87-year-old house, we have 2 main entrances, one of which we never use) and there it was!  So now I have a mattress cover for my new mattress. Yay!

  • I also found: a letter from my great aunt (I have got to call her!), 2 issues of Outdoor Life magazine for Greg (I had gotten him a free subscription, somehow.  The "how to amputate a limb" article might come in handy when we go hiking!), and a sample of Rachael Ray cat food, which I will donate to my BFF next time I see her.

  • Carrabba's sent me a pretty cool offer. I love Carrabba's and we haven't been in a while. I think we might even have a gift card for it.  We have an anniversary coming up (although after April 30th) so I should suggest that we eat there, provided that we do have the gift card, still. If you want to use the offer, apparently you only have to "mention the email" (and order the spaghetti!).

  • Every night at about 6 p.m. Greg calls me to tell me he's on his way home. My iPhone 5S is really bad for making calls, I can't understand other speakers unless I put my calls on speakerphone. So I always answer my calls on speakerphone (which is why I almost never answer calls!).  Every night, when Explorer hears Greg's voice on the speakerphone, he jumps on my lap and starts cuddling!  Tonight, he "stopped short".  You have got to be a Seinfeld fan to understand the reference :)  I called Greg and told him that and Greg, LOL, replied "Hey!  It's my move! He stole my move!!"  hahahahaha.  Anyhoo, now I have to go cook in about 10 minutes and I have a purring kitten that has his paws all over me.  You see why sometimes I don't cook dinner?!

  • It's 9:15 p.m. and I never heard back from my brother or his wife... I should have texted them, darn it. Now it's definitely too late for me to text them.  I hope to have an email by the time I wake up tomorrow.

  • Amazon: $9.24 I (anniversary gift)
  • McDonald's: $8.96 (shakes for the kids)

  • 2 issues of Outdoor Life magazine (free subscription)
  • A sample of Rachael Ray cat food
  • Requested a coupon for a free bottle of Nestea Iced Tea

  • Fed the kittens
  • Packed a lunch for Greg
  • Prepped his breakfast
  • Dropped off my son at school
  • Aired out the house
  • Caught up on the news
  • Watered the outdoor plants
  • Transplanted the new flowers into the planter
  • Spent the morning enjoying the backyard and the birds!
  • Worked on the Rewards programs
  • Ordered cat food
  • Replied to blog comments
  • Commented on blogs
  • Unlocked new rebates
  • Scheduled bill payment
  • Ordered an anniversary present for Greg
  • Printed some coupons
  • Checked ad previews and worked on my shopping list
  • Chatted with Daughter
  • Put the laundry away
  • Made my bed
  • Commented on more blogs
  • Researched current instructions on how to back up Blogger blogs, posted about it in a comment, and backed up my own blog since I hadn't done it since January 2016!
  • Cooked dinner
  • Rinsed off and organized dirty dishes (I'll do them in the morning)

  • For an amazing and relaxing morning in my own backyard!
  • For emails from companies alerting me that my packages have been delivered to me... because otherwise, I might not even realize that they're right outside one of my doors, apparently!


8:42 a.m.: the first cardinal visit of the day. Hello, little one!  I never see them drink at the bird bath (or taking baths, for that matter), I wonder where they get their water from?!

The neighborhood is full of the songs of birds, I love it!

5 minutes after I said that I wondered where the birds got their water from (well we have 2 lakes within a block so it's not a huge mystery!) a female cardinal appeared there. Then a tufted titmouse (I think, I'll need to look it up)!  And then the male cardinal rejoined the tufted titmouse while the female cardinal was on the ground looking for... bugs, I guess.  Wow!  I wish they had taken a drink or a bath but they didn't. And then I realized that I was poorly positioned for the pictures so I moved my chair on the patio.  They had flown off by then but I hope they returned!

Who is this?!

Well, hi there, little Tufted Titmouse!

I shooed that darn black and white cat away. Why does he always choose my backyard?!

9 a.m., first hummingbird sighting of the day!  Woohoo!

Male Ruby Throated Hummingbird, in all its glory!
I just heard a tiny bird flying over my backyard (it was screeching as it went) and spotting him landing atop the tallest tree bordering the back of the yard so I was able to take a picture. When I zoomed on it, I realized that it was a downy woodpecker!

9:56 a.m. There's a large blue jay in my orange tree! I wonder if he's eating the bugs on it?  He jumps in the grass under it once in a while, perhaps to catch a small lizard?  Do they eat lizards? Maybe it's tryin to catch one of those dragonflies or other flying insect that I see fluttering about. I don't know. I'm excited to see one in my backyard, which very rarely happens!

Look at those wonderfully colorful feathers!  It looks like a miniature peacock!

It always surprises me to see what a large bird it is, It's easy 3 times the size of the birds I usually spot in my backyard (save for the ibises, hawks and cranes, of course!)

And look!  I was so excited to see this when I downloaded the picture!  It was lizards he was chasing and he caught a couple of them!  I think he was banging it against the branch to kill it?

He hid himself delicately behind some leaves to eat his prey (so my sensibilities wouldn't be bruised, I guess), and then he was back on the hunt. Looking to the right...

And to the left...

And to the right again (bear with me, I told you I was excited to see a blue jay!)

And then straight at me!  From the other side of the backyard (he was about 100 ft away!)

Ah, there's a blurry spot on my lens but he caught some little bug.

Funny how he didn't eat in. I guess it was a take-out day for him. He went back to the tree to gulp it.

And here he was eating another lizard, I think. It looks kind of bloody when I zoom in on it.

A little female cardinal came for a snack at the green feeder, really close to me. She throws as much seed on the ground as she eats!  I spotted that darn cat sneaking back into my backyard so I chased him again. I don't want him chasing my birds away!

Hey, you have something on your beak!
The red bellied woodpeckers are flying from tree to tree and a yellow-bellied bird does the same thing, dancing a little ballet above my yard. I love it!

10:16 a.m. Well, the darnedest thing just happened!  This little bird thought it was a hummingbird!  Also, I've had the hardest time trying to get my camera to focus properly this morning. I was in the automatic setting so I should have any problems... and then I realized that one of the dial buttons that... does something with the focus had switched positions.  Arrgh. Apparently, that was the problem. Despite being on automatic. I don't understand my camera. I need Middle Son to give me an extended lesson... hopefully next month, at Epcot!

I think you're a little confused, birdy...

I love this picture!  He perched himself on the cardinal feeder and then dove back toward the hummingbird feeder.  He looks like a little kid jumping into a pool.

Maybe he's actually eating the bugs that keep on drinking the nectar?

A couple of hawks are flying far above, exploring their lunch options, probably. Hmm, what's on the menu for today?!

The large yellow-bellied bird that's flying from tree to tree always seems to have something in its beak. I wish I were fast enough to photograph it!  It's either a dragonfly or a twig. I think it's a bug, though. It's probably feeding its young! 3 minutes later... it just did it again!  I still couldn't see what it was carrying in its beak!

A small fritillary butterfly just passed by but didn't linger on any of my flowers.  My milkweed doesn't seem to be attracting any butterflies, save for the one I had seen just 5 minutes after I had transplanted the milkweed, last week.  That's what I should have bought more of yesterday, at Lowe's!  I need to go back!

Bad news: no butterflies. Good news: no caterpillars eating them either (because I really love them and even though caterpillars would mean new butterflies, I'm happy to be enjoying them right now).
11:39 a.m. two male lizards are fighting on my patio!  At first I thought maybe it was a courtship ritual but... I don't think so...

I have a short video of the fight and it's funny at the end of it because the winning lizard keeps smacking the face of the other one, but it might be too small for you to see properly (Blogger doesn't let us pick the size of the videos, sadly).

Then I got distracted by this little fellow that returned, but this time to the green feeder (he didn't stay) and then by the larger yellow-bellied birds that are still shuttling from tree to tree with something in their beaks, just under my nose!  I still haven't been able to photograph one in flight and so I still I don't know what it is that they're carrying!

The larger, yellow-bellied birds that kept on crisscrossing my backyard today were actually a brown-crested flycatchers!

12:22 p.m.  Well, darn it, a hawk just flew over my yard, just a few feet over the ground, and I was so amazed to see it fly towards me, I completely forgot to take a picture!  Never mind that my camera has been ON, sitting on my chest for the whole morning!  Arrrrrrrrrgh! It flew right over me and I could have taken a picture of that but... I have the patio umbrella open.  Double arrrgh!  There was an unidentified smaller bird flying over him so I think the hawk was being escorted out of the backyard by that bird.  There was some kind of noisy commotion, which is how I realized that the hawk was flying towards me as I had been busy typing a comment on a blog at that moment.  On this note, I can't believe it's that late in the day already!  I've done nothing!

That bird might have been a crow or a blackbird because I saw one chasing a black vulture, later on!

It' 1:15 p.m and even though I'm quite entertained by those birds flying back and forth across my backyard, it's getting hot, even in the shade. I think I'm going to pack it in and head indoors.  I can't wait to be back out there tomorrow morning!

But... the cardinals have returned!  It's unusual for me to spot a male on the ground. I've seen the females on the ground under the feeders on several occasions but never the males, I don't think.  I just spotted this one in the grass, in my neighbor Jeff's backyard.

OK, I can go back inside now: a yellow-bellied bird just landed on the electric cable close to me with something in its beak and it's... mulch!  Which would explain why I kept on seeing them fly from Greg's shed area to the trees. They're building a nest! I took the picture right as it was flying off so it'll probably be blurry.  Mystery solved!  Now I'm going back inside.  Ah, dang it, more birds came out to play and the clouds are now obscuring the sun, which makes it much cooler all of a sudden. I swear, Nature does NOT want me to leave right now!  I can hear a woodpecker in the tree closest to me but it's hidden by the Spanish Moss.

Mulch! That was the mystery cargo!

I usually mostly see the brown-crested flycatchers perched at the tip top of the trees first thing in the morning, so I was happy to see them much closer today. They were everywhere!  I think there were at least 2 pairs of them flying through the yard, stealing our mulch. Why they didn't go straight for the large mulch pile that we have behind the feeders, I don't know...

I can never take too many pictures of the sweet cardinals!

Did you have a productive Thursday? What animal would you be most excited to see in your backyard?  For me, pretty much anything other than a cat, a dog, or a squirrel!


  1. Your planter is very pretty. You will be able to enjoy it on the patio on those days when there is no wildlife to photograph. In the meantime, there seems to be quite a lot going on in your backyard. You have a lot of birds that seem to be getting quite used to seeing you out there and even take the time to pose and/or perform for you. Those fighting lizards would probably freak me out, but they are still very entertaining.

    I like your plans for the flower beds and hope that you will take before and after pictures of what you accomplish before it gets too hot for working outdoors. Our day here started out wet and rainy AGAIN, but now the sun is trying to come out. If it dries up even a little bit, I will try to get outside to do some more weeding.

    1. I'm laughing because I had the same plans to turn my messy wild plants "flower bed" into a more refined flower bed last year and you said the same thing "I love the idea, please post before and after pictures!" and... I never did it! Much like that squirrel sign that I never finished. And now I can't really finish it because I explicitly asked the sign selling guy at the gardening festival last month to make sure to make a squirrel sign for next year because I wanted one :)

      Yes, the birds are getting quite cosy with me on the patio. There was a a flycatcher that flew right over me, just a couple of feet above me, this morning, with his bit of mulch in his beak! It's lovely to be in the middle of it all. They're very entertaining.

      I'm envious of you rain. Weeding is less taxing when the ground is already wet, so that should be a plus! Don't overdo it. I remember your posts of previous years when you ended up weeding for 4 hours!

  2. You have been in my thoughts a lot since yesterday when I saw the news regarding Paris. I hope by this time you have heard from your family and all are safe.
    We have wildlife come into our yard too. We have deer come onto our property, we like to look at them and we chuck our rotting apples out there for them sometimes, and we have other animals coming around like racoons, foxes, coyotes, etc.
    The other morning the red fox who drives us crazy was trying to attack our cat. The kids were at school and I was upstairs and was just starting to get ready for the day when the dog started barking like crazy. Then I heard the fox and the cat screaming and hissing and I flew down the stairs in my pj's and out the door to see the fox continually lunging at the cat. It was a scary moment and I knew it would be bad to send the dog out there and I was not going down after the fox cause he was acting crazy and aggressive. So I started making all kinds of loud insane barking noises to get the fox's attention away from the cat so the cat could get away. I tell ya, you would have thought I was out of my mind cause I was making the strangest sounds and jumping around. Then it hit me that the dog's barking box (that we never even use) was by the door so I grabbed it and pushed the button to see if it shocked the fox and as soon as I pushed it the fox went to lunge again at the cat but stopped midair and jumped backwards as if he was shocked. I realized it worked and kept pushing the button until he backed across the street and went away. My poor dog was probably getting shocks too but the cat is his best buddy and he would have been devastated if something happened to the cat so I guess he took one for the team. He and the cat have been sticking pretty close to each other over the last couple days. Now here comes the best part of the story. After the fox went away I was about to go back inside when I looked across the street and standing there was a neighbor lady that I had never met and her mouth was just kind of hanging open. She was probably thinking 'what in the world is wrong with that chick in the zany pajamas barking at the fox?' Lol. I was embarrassed so I went inside and got dressed and then walked over to her house to let her know I wasn't drunk or anything. See, this is how much we keep to ourselves- we've lived here for over a year and a half and I don't even know anyone around here other than my one neighbor across the street. Lol. Anyway it turns out that she is a super nice lady and she had the whole situation kind of figured out when she saw the fox run away. We parted feeling like we both just made a nice new acquaintance, but I have a feeling she may always remember her first impression of the wacky woman across the street who barks and hisses at wild animals. Lol.
    I hope you have a nice weekend, Nathalie, and again, my thoughts are with you and your family across the miles.

    1. Dawn, you are so sweet, thank you for thinking of us, as always. Yes, my brother and his wife and her family are all OK. They both reassured me that they never go to the "tourist" sites and my brother seems to have this weird idea that nothing will happen to them if they stay away from tourist sites. Well, maybe, but I'm not convinced and I'm worried about him being in the subway if there is an attack there. But anyhoo, they were fine. They're fed up, though, and I don't blame them.

      Your fox story is crazy! That fox may have been rabid, which is why it wanted to attack the cat?! I'm laughing picturing you barking at the fox and then realizing afterwards that your neighbor had seen you, HAHAHA! I'm glad you made a new friend, though. Be careful with that fox! I actually read your comment yesterday (I've just been lazy in replying) and right after that, I was exploring the Google Doodle of the day, and it was one of those in several stages, that told a story related to Earth Day, I suppose. Anyhoo, two of the "heroes" were a fox and a cat! I took a screen shot of one of the vignettes and used it as the title of my post yesterday (4/21) just for you :)

      Anyhoo, I'm envious of the wildlife you get to see in your yard: racoons, deer... that's so much more exciting than just birds, squirrels and that rascal cat :)

  3. I've never seen a brown crested fly catcher--that I recognized anyway. Great pictures.

    1. Thank you! My guide says that they nest in former woodpecker holes, which makes sense since I have several woodpeckers that live around the backyard! It also says that it's rare to see them on the ground, so I'm excited that I got to take several pictures of them on the ground as they were collecting mulch, yesterday (4/21)!

  4. Oh, my goodness, it's non-stop action in your backyard! I am tempted to buy myself a patio set (I used to have one until the table broke!) and set myself up to watch what's happening in my backyard, too! Probably not much, other than the stray cats! Great photographs, by the way! And your tiered planter looks so nice!

    1. You should totally get yourself a lounge chair, set up a bird feeder, and sit there in the mornings to see what happens! You might be really surprised! Our breezeway windows face the backyard so when I walk from the living room to the kitchen, I pass them and I also look out the windows to see if anything is going on. And anything is rarely going on. So you'd think my backyard is the most boring place ever. And sometimes it is. But when I sit there and just observe, I see all kinds of things! And as Susan mentioned in a comment recently, I think the birds have gotten used to seeing me there so more and more are coming now. You have so many nice flowers blooming right now, you're probably getting hummingbirds and at the very least some butterflies! I'm glad you enjoyed the pictures.

  5. Hi Nathalie, after your comment to me over at Anne's blog, I just hopped over to say hi from France! What a small world we live in. Your dad lives 20 minutes away from me in France and we used to own a house in Polk County, Florida! It's knocking on 1 a.m. right now so I won't start reading tonight but will look forward to it tomorrow. A bientôt. Anna

    1. Salut Anna! Polk County! That is such a small world! One of my blogging friends, Pixel from From My Corner of the Couch , lives in the Lakeland area. She and I met for the first time last month and we had a great time hiking together. She's from Germany. I'm linking to her blog in case you used to live there and would be interested in seeing pictures of Lakeland these days. She takes great pictures of interesting places around town.

      As I mentioned on Anne's blog, I've been reading your blog for several months. I can't even remember how I found it but I was fascinated that you seemed to live close to my dad's and by your adventures in commuting to Geneva. It's a gorgeous area, you're very lucky to live there. I've enjoyed reading about your family and your many activities! Sadly my dad and I are estranged (and I don't see the situation changing), but I visited him several times in years past, as recently as June 2015. He lives outside of Thones, in a chalet. I posted some pictures of our stay there in my post about the first part of my (and my 2 youngest children's) trip to France in this post.

      Btw, I love your idea of writing down your childhood memories as well as other memories, for your kids. That's a lovely idea. I'm really into genealogy and part of my husband's family was Mormon at some point, so I was able to read personal letters describing their lives and we have quite a bit of information about his ancestors. But it's been hard for me to research my own family and I started thinking that I really should write down what I know about them and about my life so far as well, for my own kids. I've started doing that but, like many other projects that I start and then abandon, I haven't worked on it in a while. I should do that again :)

      Talk to you soon. Aurevoir!

  6. I wonder how many people could be saving for retirement... Sadly, the average American isn't saving enough for retirement. So many people drive fancy new cars, eat out all the time, and go on expensive vacations...while there's nothing wrong with that, it has severe consequences if you don't save for a rainy day/retirement/emergencies at the same time!

    I love all your animal photos, but those fighting dragons...well, lizards, are amazing!

    And now I have to head over to Anna's blog to check it out. Isn't this a small world?

    1. That is true. I really wish that I hadn't been so stressed trying to pay bills and pay off credit cards, when I was younger, to fully understand that even putting just $20 a month in a 401(k) was better than doing nothing. A friend of mine was begging me to start a 401(k) once I was eligible for one when working at Disney but I was a single mom at that point with quite a bit of credit card debt so there was no way. Paying off debt has always been my #1 priority. (now it's not incurring any!).

      I read personal finance blogs by young (in their 20s) bloggers who are so aware of this and actually building up their wealth now and I wish my own kids would be like that. But no matter how many times I've talked to them about it, sent them the blogs, etc. they don't seem to understand or care. Like me back then, they're more worried about paying this month's rent, putting gas in the car... We also stopped contributing for 7 years starting with the crisis of 2008 because our portfolios were sinking so why add money to them, right? I just spent a while this week trying to project our net worth over the next 10 years and in the best possible world where we don't actually lose any money and Greg keeps his job and we're able to save and no incur any debt, it'll still take us 10 more years to reach that famed $1 million that one supposedly needs in retirement, a number that is, unfortunately, woefully low actually since the life expectancy is so much longer and medical costs are increasing at a scary pace. Of course that doesn't account for any profit on our investments either but still.

      So then I think "Well, I should go back to work". But the types of jobs that I would be able to find, even if I was lucky enough to get hired, would not pay nearly enough to offset the fact that it would throw us into the throes of the AMT (additional minimum tax). I refuse to go to work only to give away most of my salary to the government, especially in these times!

      But: we're still in a much better position than a large portion of the population, which is super scary in itself.


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