• 2010 Reading List

    What I've read this year:

    "The Other Queen" by Phillipa Gregory (Rating: C)

    "The Welsh Girl" by Peter Ho Davies (Rating: A)

    "Mistress of the Sun" by Sandra Gulland (Rating: A)

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For the (snow) birds

We had a beautiful snow on Friday, and for anyone in the northeast, I’m sure you are sick of it, but we are not! Just a few days ago, Charlotte saw snow, but on our side of town, we mostly got the sleet and ice. Friday night’s snow was of the  light and fluffy variety, and was beautiful to watch (even though it quickly melted and was practically gone the next day).

Eastern Bluebird

I had made chicken pot pie for dinner the weekend before, and it turned out to be the perfect evening for a hearty and classic dinner. Alan has always sworn that he didn’t like chicken pot pie, but I was convinced that it was likely due to the fact that he had only ever had store bought, not homemade. I’ll have to share the recipe I used, but the end result was a delicious, with a thin broth rather than a thick, pasty textured filling, which you typically find in many other versions. However, today’s post is not supposed to be about food – it should be about our birds!

Taking notes

We have officially submitted our results from the Great Backyard Bird Count, and had a great time sitting by the windows on Saturday, watching and counting.

House Finches

The Peanut began working on his own bird book, drawing pictures of the birds that frequent our yard. Overall, we saw a fair number of birds for our area. Unfortunately, very few of our neighbors have feeders or baths, but we are doing our best to bring the birds back to our yard.

Mourning Doves & House Finch

We saw 4 mourning doves, 5 House Finches (apparently there is a harem nearby…we have 1 male, but 4 females…hmmmm), 1 eastern bluebird, 2 mockingbirds (one of whom is a bit of a bully to the finches, which the Peanut does not appreciate), and 1 Carolina Chickadee whom I never caught on film. He seems a little skittish, and doesn’t linger long enough for me to steal a shot of him. I hope that you also participated in the count. The Peanut is learning more and more about birds every day, and if our small, urban backyard can be a venue


Great Backyard Bird Count

In just about a week, the 13th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count begins! This is the first year that my family will officially be participating, but I’m really excited about it. We’ve been keeping our yard stocked with special bird treats over the past few weeks, in the hopes of attracting some new feathery friends to our space. If you’ve never participated, or don’t know about the Great Backyard Bird Count, here are the simple things that you need to know, directly from the website www.birdsource.org/gbbc/howto.html.

Also, check out the Audubon Society’s website fora couple of great bird games for the kids (www.audubon.org/educate).

1. Plan to count birds for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count. You can count for longer than that if you wish! Count birds in as many places and on as many days as you like—one day, two days, or all four days. Submit a separate checklist for each new day. You can also submit more than one checklist per day if you count in other locations on that day.

2. Count the greatest number of individuals of each species that you see together at any one time. You may find it helpful to print out your regional bird checklist to get an idea of the kinds of birds you’re likely to see in your area in February. You could take note of the highest number of each species you see on this checklist.

3. When you’re finished, enter your results through our web page. You’ll see a button marked “Enter Your Checklists!” on the website home page beginning on the first day of the count. It will remain active until the deadline for data submission on March 1st.

Carolina Wren, Jim Lockyer, CA, 2009 GBBC

Other helpful tools and information:

  • Data form. Some people find it helpful to fill out the form before entering it on the website. By printing it off ahead of time, they know what information they need to be aware of, such as snow depth, for example.
  • GBBC Photo Contest rules

Playing hooky in the woods

Yesterday I played hooky. I needed a mental health day, so I took the day off, and spent it at home and in the woods. Over the past three or four days, my brain has been going into overdrive. I lay in bed at night, tossing and turning, thinking about a million different things, and willing myself to fall asleep, wanting to wake-up my husband just to say “I can’t sleep!” It is the most frustrating feeling in the world…

I’ve been looking for a new job for the past few months, with little luck. There have been a multitude of applications sent out for positions which I am over-qualified, and yet I don’t get a response. And then, last week, I got a phone call wanting to schedule a phone interview. It couldn’t have come at a better time. I had been in a meeting all evening, dealing with negativity, swallowing my pride, and realizing just how much my job has changed in the past 6 months. I walked out of the meeting feeling physically heavy, and emotionally broken. And then I heard a voice mail about a phone interview.

We talked for 30 minutes on Friday, and the conversation was incredible. The position is right up my alley, with a non-profit that I greatly admire. It would be an amazing change of pace, and something that I feel will reignite my passion for my career. Tomorrow I have an interview with the Director, and I am starting to get nervous. I don’t deal well with nervousness. It is something that I don’t feel often. I’ve interviewed for countless things before, and not felt the anticipation that I’m feeling now. This is the number one contributing factor to my restlessness this week.

Marco enjoying his freedom

So, I played hooky yesterday. I took the Peanut to school, came back home, and walked in the woods with Marco for most of the morning. It was great to just forget about the pressure I’m putting upon myself this week, and just walk and relax. Unfortunately, the relaxation did not remain until bedtime…I still ended up tossing and turning most of the night. However, I’m hoping and praying that tomorrow will go extremely well, despite the bags under my eyes, and that I will be called back in for a final interview with the board. So, I’m asking for good thoughts and prayers regarding this interview. I’m hoping that this is the right opportunity for me, and that I will soon find myself in a new, positive, and meaningful work environment. Fingers crossed!

Creatures, campfires, hiking, & waterfalls

How is it that 48 hours of camping makes you feel like you’ve been on vacation for a week? We spent the weekend at Hanging Rock State Park with friends, and had a marvelous time (despite the Ayers having to leave early, and us having to pack in the rain Sunday morning). It was fun, relaxing, entertaining, and much-needed.

Here are the lessons learned this weekend:


Large mouth bass (before being kissed)

Large mouth bass (before being kissed)

1 – Seth will pick-up & then kiss any animal.


Millipede #1 on hike to Window Falls (#2 is still MIA)
Millipede #1 on hike to Window Falls (#2 is still MIA)

2 – While millipedes can provide a ton of entertainment for a 4 year old, they should remain outside of the tent, even if it is raining. (Yes, we seem to have a millipede packed into our supplies somewhere…I’m hoping to find him today while unpacking.)

3 – When fishing, it is always good to be sure someone in your group can take a fish off of the hook! (This realization led to us shouting across the lake for the boys to come back to us for help…not one of our prouder moments.)


Rhododendron's in bloom
Rhododendron’s in bloom

 4 – My parents deserve a gold medal for camping without a Thermarest when they were in their 40’s. At 29, I am calling it quits, and ordering one ASAP.

5 – Everything tastes better when cooked over a campfire…let me just tell you about the asparagus and the potatoes…YUM! (Oh yes, and the dough boys. Seth would have eaten 12 if we let him. We made him stop at 2!)

Eating dough boys by the fire

Eating dough boys by the fire

6 – Finding friends that are really just members of your family is hard to do, but well worth the time!

Upper cascades

Upper cascades


7 – S. has really mastered the art of “let’s take pictures of him from every angle so that we can identify him in the book later.” It is an important skill to have! (And, as a side note, I have never seen so many newts in one place. He caught about 5 during the trip – they were everywhere!)

Belly-side up!

Belly-side up!

Red-spotted Newt

Red-spotted Newt

8 – We need more time in the woods. Camping, hiking, and sitting around a campfire is the best way I know to make your family reconnect. The number of hugs, kisses, cuddles, and secretive smiles I got over two days was amazing. All three of us are at our best during these trips.


One more thing…did you happen to hear the piece on NPR this morning about “Playing for Change?” It is this amazing program that believes that music can overcome language barriers, etc., and bring peace to the world. It is a really cool idea, and the music is great. If you go to the organizations website (here) you can learn more about the group, and even download the music for under $10. The album is a great compilation of street musicians from around the world. Listen to the piece from NPR, and then take a listen online. Also, they have some really cute merchandise for sale, with proceeds going to support this unique idea.

Family time

Yesterday was a long day of fun with cousins! Here is our recap in pictures…

We started out with french toast from the Raisin-Cinnamon Pinwheel Bread. It was delicious, despite my horrible bread slicing skills. I really need to work on that…almost every slice comes out slightly/very crooked.

Raisin-Cinnamon Pinwheel

Raisin-Cinnamon Pinwheel

Next time I will definitely add more raisins. Also, I would like to roll out the dough a bit more for better distribution of the cinnamon before rolling into the pinwheel. You can see in the picture that the bottom of the loaf just didn’t get as much as the rest, but the texture was great. I will absolutely make this one again!

After breakfast, we head to uptown Charlotte for some fun at the children’s museum (Discovery Place). They had a great time exploring and interacting with the exhibits.


Scooping & using pulleys

Dinosaur foot print

Dinosaur foot print

Finding ladybugs

Finding ladybugs

Practicing our balancing skills

Practicing our balancing skills

Lunch at the soda shop

Lunch at the soda shop

Followed by dessert!

Followed by dessert!

One last picture before going home

One last picture before going home

The kids had a blast, and the moms enjoyed some much-needed sister talk. When we got home, everyone took a really good nap (especially the adults), and then spent the rest of the afternoon playing outside.

We hiked down to the pond near our neighborhood with hopes of seeing the beaver or family of otters, but no one was out and about. We did, however, find some really cool cow bones. S., of course, wanted to take all of them home. I talked him into one, which is now waiting to be sanitized before being added to his collection.

Focaccia in the oven

Foccacia in the oven

I also baked up the foccacia last night. The baking process was a little more involved, requiring to be rolled out (despite its fairly sticky nature), and then needing to be steamed/baked. It looks and smells tasty, but the jury is still out. I’m sure that I will make this one again, but I would guess that this will probably be a loaf that I make infrequently. The recipe was a little more time-sensitive, and the bread a little more particular. I will have to evaluate the taste to work ratio, and see how we come out! 🙂

We are off to the woods for the weekend. I hope your plans include some relaxing & exploring outside, as well! See you on Monday!

Commencing countdown

Friday we leave for a weekend of camping at Hanging Rock State Park. This weekend vacation is long overdue, and we are ready to go! After A. being sick for 4 straight days last week, and a busy/stressful weekend with work, I need some time in the woods. I am ready to get away, to sit and stare into the campfire, to make s’mores with the Peanut, and enjoy some canoeing & time in the sun! I am counting down!!!


On another note, have you read the article by Hanna Rosin entitled “The Case Against Breast-feeding”? If you have not, prepare to be angry, and take the time to read it. Also, go here to read Katie’s perspective on the situation, and find a few more links to articles against breast-feeding. (I know – but they truly are arguing against it…)

After reading the posting on Katie’s blog, I read the articles. My initial reaction was anger, but now I’m just discouraged. Why is it that our sex feels the need to judge and compete with one another about something as pivitol as motherhood? We should be cheering each other on, offering advice and perspective, and then supporting other people’s decisions as long as they are made with the best interest of the child in mind.

This is one of the reasons I love reading the blog on Attachment Parenting International. The blog is an open forum, and the site openly offers advice about all aspects of parenting. They discuss parenting frustrations, doubts,  successes, and everything in between. It is reassuring. It is a place where parents can go to get advice and support. That is what this huge community of parents should be doing…

the power of dirt!

I was over at imaginechildhood today, and saw a photo of this amazing fort. Those little men have been working hard creating their own little spot in the world!

In the spiderweb that is the world of blogging, imaginechildhood led me to another new (to me) discovery. Are you familiar with the Children & Nature Network? I was not, but have already added it to my list of favorites! This website offers ideas for connecting children with nature, and even has an interactive map which you can use to search for groups and/or events in your area. This is a great resource for those who are interested in encouraging contact with the natural world, but don’t know where to start, as well as for those who already have nature as a major component of play in their family.

S. catching anoles

S. catching anoles

Raised by two naturalists, I led a very nature-rich childhood. I was aware that not everyone had such a strong relationship with the natural world, but it seems as though with each passing year, the majority of children are spending less and less time playing with sticks, dirt, bugs, leaves, flowers, etc.

I can’t tell you the hours my friends & I racked up playing “Little House on the Prarie.” Of course, we always had to clarify that whoever was Mary that day was allowed to play her BEFORE she went blind. (Otherwise, that person would get tired of keeping her eyes closed, and be ready to stop before everyone else!)  We would collect leaves, mud, flowers, etc., and create “soups.” We would stay in the woods for hours, running, playing, pretending, and loving every minute of it.

And did I mention that we were 11 years old? It is now the norm for 11 year olds to have a cell phone, to text continually thoroughout the day, and to spend hours in front of computers, televisions, and gaming systems. How did that happen?

I guess how it happened isn’t as important as “how do we change it?” Obviously, we start within our own family. But is that enough? We need to reach out to those families that don’t have the ability or desire to encourage their children to love being outside more than playing video games. Those of us who were raised in nature-loving families will pass it along to our children.

Last summer's beach trip

Last summer's beach trip

I remember working with children from inner city New Orleans when I was in high school, through the group Inner City Outings. We would take them 45 minutes outside of the city, into the beautiful, lush swamp. We let them fish, draw pictures of what they saw, climb trees, and be kids. For many, it was the first trip they took outside of the city. I remember one child being shocked, and actually uncomfortable, with the fact that there was no concrete. These are the kids we need to reach. Our local Sierra Club does not have an ICO group…maybe it is time to start one.

If you are looking for something to warm your heart, take a look at the slideshow of images from ICO trips. You will NEVER see a child smile so brightly when seated infront of a video game!