The birds, non-Hitchcock style (thank goodness)

We get a number of species of birds on our property. Some are so common here that I ignore them now…which I shouldn’t because they’re still lovely birds, like the Northern Cardinal and the American Goldfinch. But others are rare enough that I get a thrill every time I spot one. Forget Blueberry Hill, I find my thrills right in front of our house!

Because I’m 1) lazy, 2) not tech-savvy, 3) lazy (have I mentioned that?), I haven’t found a way to transfer photos from the DSLR to my computer. So, I take a photo of the photo on the DSLR view screen. I’ll wait until you finish laughing at me.

Fox Sparrows are one of the easiest sparrows to ID and they have beautiful coloration, too.
We’re in the Eastern Towhee range, but this Spotted beauty found us somehow and has been hanging around all winter.
Now that our pine trees are mostly mature (the Spousal Unit planted them when we first moved here in 1999), we are getting more Pine Siskins!
Yellow-shafted Flickers are really neat birds. But I just realized while looking at this photo that it’s triggering my trypophobia.
Lastly, we had this really cool vagrant that appeared back in 2019. After posting to eBirds that we had a Harris’s Sparrow, people showed up from all over Indiana, and even from OH and IL, I think, to take a look at this rarity.

What’s the most unusual bird you’ve ever seen? If you’re not a birder, I recommend it as a hobby. It’s been shown to bring people happiness!

I’m going to teach a class

My mom, who was a teacher, would be surprised…and pleased. I wish she were still around for me to say, don’t get your hopes up that I’ll make it a regular thing. The spousal unit is the teacher (professor) in this household. I’m just the useless trophy wife. 😂

What class, you ask? It’s called “BECOMING A NONFICTION WRITER: A TWO-PART ONLINE COURSE FEB-MAR 2021” taught virtually via the Highlights Foundation by notable author Jen Swanson.

I’ll be teaching a one hour session on “Picture Book Biographies: an overview” within this workshop. It should be a terrific event as Jen is brilliant and editor Katie Heit is equally amazing. I invite you to register if you have ever wanted to write nonfiction books for kids.

Happy New Year!🎉

Most people would probably like to kick 2020 to the gutter and never look back. For me, it wasn’t the worst year; it had the usual peaks and valleys, but nothing out of the ordinary and some of the initial set-backs turned out to be blessing in disguise. I have my family’s health and safety, as well as the election outcome, to be thankful for.

Still, I have high hopes that 2021 will be a better year. I usually end a year with thinking that next year will be the best year yet. I should start taking bets on which month will I come to realize that it’ll be hard to beat 1986 for a personal best. 😂

I don’t usually do resolutions either. The very word is an invitation for fate to laugh loudly in your face. But, I like to make somebody laugh. It’s the closet comedienne in me. So, for 2021, I vow to do my darndest to be organized. Part of being organized is upping my game on the kanban board. That, spreadsheets, and my Planner Pad will hopefully keep me from forgetting too many things.

can kanban

How do you stay organized? Share your tips with me on Twitter! I can trade you my first born for your secrets. 😉

蘿蔔糕 – my kind of holiday food

Tis the season for 蘿蔔糕! The spousal unit (SU) harvests the daikons (蘿蔔) in the fall, and it’s generally late November or December by the time we get around to cooking with them.

Get a load of these giants; I put a ruler in for scale. They usually grow huge, so this is no reflection of SU’s gardening prowess.

To make this special dish–so special that my mom never made it and my aunt, her sister, always complained about how much work it was to make–you shred the daikon and mix in rice flour plus some savory stuff that’s been diced and fried. Typically, it’s dried shrimp, Chinese sausage, and re-hydrated, marinated shiitake mushrooms. Once all mixed, you dish the goopy mixture into a pan to steam. Because we inherited about 4 glass pie pans after my MIL died, we tend to use pie pans for this step.

We steam each pan in the wok.

And once steamed, the mixture changes opacity.

If you want to see a couple more photos, SU has some on his Twitter feed.

You could eat that as is, or, the way SU prefers, slice it and pan fry it to give it a crisp exterior. We drizzle Hoisin sauce to give that that extra umami kick. And here in my dish, I also topped it with Chinese Mahogany Sauce, which, thanks to my sister buying me a couple of jars, I am addicted to.

Sadly, I’ve not been able to find a source for the sauce here in the U.S. So, Kid1, a grad student in botany, ordered some toon (in the mahogany family) seedlings. We planted them and one day soon, we can hope to recreate this sauce. Hope is the operative word.

What is your special holiday food? Share with me on Twitter!

Look Who Came to Play Today~

One of my all time favorite birds on one of my all time favorite blogs! Happy Sunday…

A burrowing owl,

at his Salton Sea home in California.

He stayed out for his modeling shoot,

and didn’t fly off or run into his burrow.

He was definitely ready for his close-ups!

Burrowing owls (athene cunicularia hypugaea) are a California species of special concern and are listed as endangered in Canada and threatened in Mexico due to excessive development and habitat loss.

This is his Salton Sea home.

Cheers to you from Southern California’s sociable burrowing owl~

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Hair today, gone tomorrow

The last time I went to my hair stylist was March 5th of this year. By the end of June, it had gotten this long:

So on July 10th, I had to cut it off myself:

It turned out pretty well, I think.

But hair keeps growing, as it usually does…unless you have male-pattern baldness, like my spousal unit. So on August 15th, I cut it again.

I’m a little scary without makeup!

By October 2nd, it’d grown pretty long again:

But I let it go until December 7th (because I was pretty busy in October and November), and then went a little nuts with the scissors.

I think I will try to let it grow to shoulder-length again. It’s a pain to cut your own hair. I don’t even get the spouse to trim the back anymore for me. Who’s gonna see the back on my head on Zoom anyway?

How about you? Have you been braving enough to venture out to get a haircut or brave enough to cut your own? 😂

Frosty, the cold plants

I swear everything reminds me of a song (ask my sister). If Weird Al weren’t so much better at parodies (and I didn’t dislike performing), I’d think about it as a career for a hot second.

Anyway, much as it’s lovely to live in the tropics, there’s something truly magical about frost on plants. So, I’m going to share some that I saw on my regular morning walk a few days ago.

It would be nice to end this photo series with some lovely quote about nature, but instead, I’ll share something even better: advice! Don’t be so caught up in nature photography that you accidentally step on coyote poop.

You’re welcome!

Passion fruit jelly…try, try again

The spousal unit had planted passion fruits that are cold-hardy on the southwest corner of the house. First off, a word of advice: they spread like weeds so I recommend putting them in planters or isolating them such that they can’t spread all over the rest of your yard.

They also grow like the bean stalk in “Jack and the Bean Stalk” and put out a prodigious amount of fruit, seemingly in defiance of the laws of physics. One year, when the pregnant wife of SU’s colleague was craving passion fruit, we gave her many grocery bag-fulls of them.

Another year, nobody wanted them and so I tried making jelly. I don’t know what the heck I did wrong but it was an epic fail.

Well, now that I’m older and a more experienced jelly-maker (though, sadly, no wiser in general), I decided I would “try, try again.” I followed pretty much the same method of juicing as I do with our wild blackberry and wild black raspberry harvests.

And lo and behold! It actually worked this time.

And it was pretty damned tasty.

Next year, we’ll have to keep up with the harvest so I can make more jelly. This year, the wild critters (raccoons, squirrels, possums) got to have their fill.

Have you ever tried passion fruit jelly? Let me know on Twitter!

Read Native

In honor of the indigenous population on whose land we are all trespassing, I would like to recommend some children’s literature by and about them for this Thanksgiving holiday.

Each of these will give you greater insight into people who were here first.

I hope you have had a safe and happy Thanksgiving!


Thanks to a grad student in the Spousal Unit’s department tagging me on Twitter, I found out a couple of days ago that C.S. Wu, the subject of my picture book biography, will have a U.S. postal stamp in her honor!!!

The news was announced by her granddaughter, journalist Jada Yuan:

I can’t wait to buy a whole bunch of these in 2021!

My friend Kathy Berman, author of the fabulous book, Birth of the Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound, started talking to me about stamps during the Twitter thread. I told us I inherited my uncle’s stamp collection when I was a kid, and would show her some photos. So, here they are:

All the albums are his. That’s even his name and old address on the commemorative envelope at the bottom.

The stamps are so old, Vanuatu was still known as New Hebrides!

I don’t collect stamps anymore, not in a static way anyway. I search for cool ones that I use to actually send mail to people. Some of my favorites have been the Star Trek, bio-luminescent, and moon series. I also love perusing the post office’s Philatelic catalog!

Have you ever collected stamps or do you have a favorite design? Tell me on Twitter!