Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Yesterday and Today


The day after the heavy snow was all melted, the daffodils began to bloom. I love their sunny faces!

The tulips are very close to blooming, too.

The columbine is really looking good! Wait...that's not a columbine bloom...


Bah, humbug!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Summer Movie Fest

This is going to be the ultimate summer of movies! There are so many that I actually want to see in the theater, rather than waiting for the DVD release.  I think this is the most jam-packed summer movie must-see list I've ever had. I’d better be saving up a lot of popcorn money!


  • Iron Man 3
  • Star Trek Into Darkness
  • EPIC
  • Man of Steel
  • Despicable Me 2
  • Lone Ranger
  • Pacific Rim
  • The Wolverine

While I am really looking forward to seeing all of these movies, I am most excited about Iron Man 3, Star Trek, and Man of Steel. I can hardly wait for them to hurry up and come out already!

I will have a break in September and October. As for fall, November’s must-see movies are:

  • Left Behind
  • Thor: The Dark World
  • The Hunger Games: Catching Fire


Who knows, there may be more that I'll want to see that I'm not aware of right now. So, if you need to find me this summer, try the movie theater first!

Are there any movies you’re looking forward to seeing in the next few months?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Back To Your Regularly Scheduled Season

The remains of Monday's snowstorm are just about melted. With temperatures reaching around 60°F today, and low 70s by the weekend, it seems we are finally returning to our regularly scheduled season; spring!

Papa Sparrow. He has a nest under the roof of the patio. He's probably glad spring is back, too!

My poor daffodils have been in this same stage of growth for over 3 weeks now. I was afraid they'd be trying to bloom under the snow and we'd miss seeing their sunny faces. Instead, it seems they just went dormant and were patiently waiting for the snow to melt. Same with the tulips. Hopefully everyone can get on with their blooming now.

Maybe Old Man Winter is gone for the season. I certainly hope he is. Now that things are being set right with spring's return, Mother Nature and I will again be on speaking terms.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Definitely Not Birdbrained

This past Saturday, I glanced out the window and saw an interesting bird at the feeder. It was slightly bigger than the sparrows, black and white with feathers that seemed extra fluffy. I watched this bird dig around in the feeder for a bit, then it flew just a couple of feet over and down, and started to poke it's beak into the wooden post that is a support for the roof over the patio. This process was repeated many times over the course of about 20 minutes. Dig in the feeder, fly down to the post, poke around, fly back to the feeder. What was that bird doing? It looked like it was filling a crack in the wood with the birdseed. Why would it be doing that? I knew this bird had to be some type of woodpecker, and wondered if they stuff food into wood to save for later? Fascinated, I hated to leave the room to grab my camera, but I didn't want to miss out on the photo opportunity either.

Camera finally in hand, I began to snap pictures.

See the little tongue?

I was sad when the bird finished it's trips back and forth from the feeder and flew away, but was so curious about what it was doing, that I ran right outside to get a closer look at that crack in the post.  Here is what I found:

See the opened and empty sunflower seed?

In an act of pure critter genius, this bird was using the crack in the post as a tool. Not storing food, instead it was using the crack to hold the sunflower seeds so they could be easily opened!  The ground below the post was littered with shells discarded after the bird had exposed and eaten the fleshy seed.  All that digging in the bird feeder was finally explained; it only wanted the sunflower seeds.  I was amazed and in awe of this little bird, and the smarts given to it by God.

After going back inside, I looked up this bird, and identified it as a female Downy Woodpecker.

She is definitely NOT a birdbrain!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Best. Taco. Seasoning. Ever.

For years, I've messed around with making my own taco seasoning mix. I'm just not happy with the store bought stuff. It's got way too much garlic in it, and something else that just seems kind of strong (we are not onion and garlic fans). In the search for the perfect seasoning mix, I have tried many recipes, tweaked them, tweaked them more, and still wasn't satisfied.

All of that is finally over! I believe I have a slam dunk recipe for taco seasoning mix!

I was a little nervous to try it out on my family...they can be scaredy cats. I had to keep quiet about it being a new recipe, because if they even suspect I'm using them as guinea pigs, the jig will be up. They'll be so suspicious of what they're eating, I won't get honest feedback untainted by the taste of fear they've got going on! Adding to the intrigue, we had company; a friend of Megan's was visiting. I know! I'm terrible using a child not my own to experiment on. What can I say? I'm an adrenaline junky!

So, I was stealthy like a ninja about this being a new recipe and crossed my fingers as I served them their tacos.

Hooray! Almost instantly there were comments like, "Wow, these are good tacos!", and "I think these are the best tacos ever!" Every one of them went back for seconds. The new recipe was a hit!

After they'd tasted and liked, it was safe to admit that they were guinea pigs. With their mouths full of yummy taco, they didn't care in the least.

Taco Seasoning Mix

2 Tablespoons chili powder
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon dried cilantro
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Put all ingredients into a ziploc baggie and shake until mixed well. 

Now the tricky part...how much to add? I just dumped some of it on my browned hamburger, added enough water to get it all thoroughly mixed (half a cup, maybe a little more?), then simmered for about 5 minutes. I tasted the meat mixture to see if it was enough, and it was.  I'm guessing it works out to being about half the recipe per pound of hamburger. Just be conservative, you can always add more if you need too.

If you try this recipe, I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Here We Go Again...

It is never a good thing when the phone rings at 6 a.m. This morning, the ringing woke me, and my first thought was, "Oh, no. It must have snowed a lot during the night, and school is cancelled." Our school district has an automated calling system, and the superintendent's recorded message was indeed telling us school had been cancelled for the day. It's April 22, 2013, and once again, we wake up to a thick blanket of fresh snow.  As always, I'm thankful for the moisture our parched, drought-stricken area is getting, just wishing our April showers could be the wet kind, not the frozen white kind!

Thanks to our snowy conditions, there is a major hitch to the day's plan.  I was supposed to take my mother to an appointment with her glaucoma specialist today.  He's in Rapid City, SD, which is 140 miles away.  The snow is all the way across between here and there, no travel is advised, and schools are closed in most of the towns along the way.  We are just not going to be able to make the trip.  This will be the second time Mom's appointment has had to be rescheduled due to bad weather.  The pressure was up in one of her eyes at her last visit with the doctor in February, so he put her on some new medication to try and get the pressure back down.  Since mom already has permanent damage to her eye from the glaucoma, it is very important to get the pressure down so no further damage happens.  The doctor wanted to see her again in 3-4 weeks to make sure the medication was working.  It has now been twice that length of time, and I am praying that the medicine is working and the pressure is down in her eye, whether we know it for sure or not.  I hope she will not have to wait long to get another appointment, and that we will have good weather for travel on that day.  The third time's the charm, right?

The Weather Channel has named this wintry storm Zeus.  Since it is the last letter of the alphabet, I hope it will also be the last winter storm we have until next fall or winter.  No more alphabet, no more storms!

Here are some of this morning's view on this fine spring day.  If you are getting Zeused along with us, stay warm and safe today.

The "Christmas tree" across the street.

The idle windmill. 

I wish the rain gauge was measuring rain...

The birds might have a hard time finding their breakfast in this bird feeder!

I love the sunflower's snowy beard!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Favorite Things

The song, "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music, has been running through my mind.

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things

Cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudels
Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things

Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favorite things

When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I'm feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don't feel so bad

                                                                  -Rodgers and Hammerstein
I sure wish that highlighted line would hurry up already!
Anyway, the song got me to thinking about my own favorite things:
  • Cuddling up with a purring cat
  • Hot chocolate and a good book on a snowy day
  • Watching my daughter crack herself up with a corny joke and hearing her crazy laughter
  • Running the Saturday errands with my husband
  • The thick blanket of stars and the Milky Way on a clear night in the mountains
  • Hearing our parakeet whispering sweet nothings to his favorite toy
  • Everything about Yellowstone National Park
  • Clicking on the "next blog" button and seeing what random stranger's blog I land on
  • Sitting around a campfire on a summer night in the mountains, listening to the coyotes calling to each other
  • Summer gardening

I could go on and on.  What are your favorite things?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Dinosaur Tracks!

Where is Cordelia, my little cousin and dinosaur hunter, when I need her?  Even though she is only 3, Cordy is a dino hunting expert!  I could use her help in tracking the dinosaurs that were in my yard yesterday.

I'm pretty sure they were on the hunt for food on the back patio.  You see, this is where the dinosaur feeder is located. It's important to have food available for hungry dinos!

Ok, maybe they aren't really dinosaur tracks, but it is a lot more fun to imagine that they are!  If Cordelia were nearby, it would be a fun game to imagine that a group of little dinosaurs made their way across the back patio in search of food. That's a lot more exciting than reality; sparrows visiting the bird feeder.

One little sparrow left us a pretty gift of wing prints in the snow.

And what is this?

It is truly such a treat to see the clear blue sky this morning!  We've had dark and cloudy snow-filled skies for so long, that seeing the sun out and the sky so blue, is almost shocking to the senses.  I'm so glad the sun is out today.  I've said before that I'm convinced I run on solar power, and I definitely need a recharge.

What kind of adventures will you have today?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Band Angst

Last night we attended a concert featuring the high school symphony, choir, and band.  It was a dress rehearsal for these groups, and they each performed three musical pieces.  Next week they will attend the NE Music Festival, where their performances will be judged.

The symphony went first, next came choir, and the band finished off the evening.  They all did very well, but since our daughter, Megan, is in band, we liked their performances the best. I didn't know this while they were playing, but the last piece was about the end of the world.  I don't know if it sounded end-of-the-world ominous, but I did keep thinking Darth Vader was going to appear at any moment!  It amazes me how a piece of music can stir up emotions, whether you know what the composer intended or not.  All three pieces the band played were good, but I liked that last piece the most.  There were a few little baubles that we could distinguish (very minor stuff like squeaky reeds), but overall, we thought they did a very good job, and we, along with the rest of the packed auditorium, very much enjoyed all of their music.

But, after the concert, Megan told a different story.  I'm not sure why, but the kids were really nervous last night. Maybe they were focusing too hard because they know they'll be judged next week. I don't know. But the nerves got the best of them.  Megan said every soloist made mistakes, and one trumpet solo was skipped altogether when the boy supposed to play it "choked".  The band has been working on this music for a couple of months at least, and one person, the section leader, has been preparing for that solo the entire time.  But, yesterday in band class, another boy asked if he could have the solo.  For some unknown reason, the director let him have it, which understandably really upset the original soloist, and is a strange thing to do on the day of a concert. The poor kid who froze and didn't play the solo will never live it down for as long as he's in the high school band, and he will probably get a good chewing out by the director.  Other kids in the band were already giving him a very hard time after the concert.  Megan said the boy was trying to apologize, but the director refused to even look at him, turned his back, and walked away.

I feel sorry for this boy, and I feel like he's not the only one to blame here.  No, he should not have asked to take  the solo in the first place, but the director should never have given it to him.  I feel like the director was in the wrong for walking away as the boy was trying to apologize for the mistake, especially when he gave the okay for such a major change, for what seemed like no reason, just a whim, at the last minute.  Teenage angst is bad enough without having to live down something like this, and his band-mates are unlikely to show him any mercy.  Though I don't know the boy who skipped the solo, my heart hurts for him.

I hope they get things sorted out and settled down before they attend the Festival next week.  They've been working hard, and I hope all of that hard work and preparation will allow them to shine before the judges.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Road Not Taken

This is my favorite poem, and it's been on my mind for some reason today.  I've loved this, and several other works by Robert Frost, since I was in middle school and introduced to them by Mr. Layton, the English teacher.  He was a wonderful teacher; one of those you never forget.  He had us diving into literature usually not studied until high school or college.  Watership Down, Animal Farm, 1984, R.U.R., and Lord of the Flies, to name a few.  When we spent some time on Robert Frost's poetry, for some reason I enjoyed his work more than any of the other poets we studied.  I hope you'll enjoy this poem as much as I do.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

                                                        -Robert Frost       

Monday, April 15, 2013

Eat Your Birdseed!

One day recently while shopping for some gluten free foods, my daughter found a bag of puffed millet in the cereal section.  She's always been a very adventurous eater, and wanted to try it.  Puffed millet?  Are you sure?  She was sure, so we bought it.

The only thing I really knew about millet is that it's a major component of birdseed.  Birds really like it, but I wasn't sure I would.  I was kind of afraid to try it, but my daughter wasn't.  She decided to have it for a snack, so poured herself a bowl of it, and proceeded to eat it dry.  She said it tasted like popcorn!

It looks a bit like puffed rice cereal, only smaller.  It smells kind of like puffed rice also.  I still wasn't brave enough to try it.

I decided to do a little bit of research and discovered that there are several varieties of millet, and they are grasses that produce the small seeds so popular with birds.  Turns out it's not just used for birdseed at all, but is an important food source for people in places like Asia and Africa.  Considered a healthful whole grain, it is gluten free and therefore safe for people with celiac disease (like myself), or other wheat allergies.  They are hard little seeds, so millet needs to be cooked, ground, or puffed (like the cereal we found), before it can be easily digested by people.

So, I got brave and tried our puffed millet. You know what?  I like it!  It has a sort of nutty flavor, similar to plain popcorn and puffed rice.  It's really good with some almond milk, a few sliced strawberries and a touch of sugar.

Since trying the puffed millet, I got even more brave and tried some whole grain gluten free bread that's made with millet (among other things).  It's pretty tasty, too.  It's about as tasty as gluten free bread can be, and much better than the plain white gluten free breads.  I think this new bread is a keeper as well.

Go ahead, eat your birdseed!  It's yummy!

Friday, April 12, 2013


Last evening, while at our office cleaning job, I got a completely heart-wrenching call from a dear friend that she needed me to help her bury her beloved little chihuahua, Amigo.  His death was horrific and shocking, and she will be grieving for him for the rest of her life.  She has no children, and little Amigo was her baby.  He went everywhere with her, and has gotten her through some very tough times.  He has been in my home more times than I can count, and has slept many nights in my daughter's bed when we would "babysit" him. Helping to bury Amigo was one of the hardest things I have ever done, just because of the pain my friend was, and is still, experiencing.

I don't know if our beloved pets will be waiting for us when we get to Heaven, but I sure hope so.

Goodbye, sweet boy.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Mama Bear

My daughter is having a rough day.  Due to being very ill for over two months, then having surgery last month, she's still having some trouble with fatigue.  So, she was tired and running a little late this morning, and got to her first class "not more than 2 minutes" tardy.  Her high school has no lenience for being tardy, so she got her very first detention.  And then it was all downhill from there.  For her sake, I won't go into the details, but she was devastated about pretty much every event, and every minute of that first class, and begged me to come pick her up so she could just come home and cry. 

So, Mama Bear came out.  Of course I couldn't take her out of school for the reasons she was upset...but I really wanted to.  I also wanted to take her teacher to task, whether it's entirely deserved or not, just because I wanted to protect my cub.  Because I don't know the full story yet, I will wait to see if I really do need to talk to the teacher.  I know that being a teenager is not easy, and that emotions can run high, but a mother's nature is to want to protect her child from all the hurts.  Because my child is hurting, I am hurting.

When she was little, my daughter's hurts were so much easier to fix.  Now that she's nearly through her sophomore year of high school, the hurts are more complicated, and not so easy to fix.  Even though she's closer every day to being out on her own, I still want to be able to protect her from everything negative.  I know that's not realistic, that I can't charge in there and fight all of her battles for her, but that doesn't stop that instant instinct to want to do that.

So, I will listen to her after school as she tells me everything that happened and try to help her see that it is not the end of the world.  I'll help her pick herself up, dust herself off, and keep on going.  This has been a very difficult semester for her, and I wish she could have a complete do-over.  Since she can't, I will continue to support her as she struggles to catch up.  She's got to do her part, keep doing her work the best she can, but she also needs to be able to rest and recover.  I think she's very much looking forward summer, regaining her health, then having a fresh start with her junior year of high school.

I think, no matter how old she is, Mama Bear will always be around, wanting to protect her.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Walda's Exit

I think (I hope) winter storm Walda has moved on.  Snow continues to dribble down on us this morning, but the clouds are beginning to break up and the sun is trying to come out.  We have been left with quite a thick blanket of very wet, heavy snow.  Just what a drought needs, but I will be glad when spring returns.

Here are some snowy pictures for your enjoyment.

Yep, all of this can be yours for FREE! Come and get it! You know you want some!

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas . . . 

This is not my picture, I borrowed it from google images, and added the words. The robins in my neighborhood are still hiding out, and not cooperating with my ideas for a photo. Their diva behavior has forced me to replace them with a couple stand-ins, and thankfully, they were much easier to work with. ;o)

If you are digging out from Walda today and don't have a plow or large snow blower, you have my sympathies.  Happy Spring!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Where's Walda?

As of the start of the snowy season this past fall, The Weather Channel has gone rogue and started naming winter storms.  The National Weather Service was not amused, and while looking down their meteorologic noses, let it be known that they would not be doing this, and would not acknowledge TWC's names for the storms.  While I think it is rather silly to name the winter storms, I do like the name of the storm we are having now:  Walda.

All sorts of Where's Waldo jokes come to mind.  Have you been acquainted with Waldo?  He's the cartoon character in a series of children's books.  Each page is usually a crowd scene, and Waldo is hidden somewhere in the picture.  Young children look through all the people trying to find him.  He's distinctive looking in his red-and-white-striped shirt and hat, and his goggle-like glasses. 

A typical page from a Where's Waldo book. He's in there! I found him, can you?

Yep, I had thoughts of Where's Walda all day yesterday.  Very goofy, and perhaps only funny to me, but I pictured Waldo's hat in a variety of silly places outside in the snow.  On the antenna of a car that was becoming snow covered, a fence post, a bush, on our dog's head...you get the idea.

We did get a lot of snow, and it's still coming down.  We have about a foot of fresh snow in our yard, and we may have 4 to 8 inches more today and tonight. We have not had the high winds (at least in our neighborhood), so we don't have huge drifts, just a very thick blanket of the white stuff.  The schools are closed, and I'm sure the kids are not complaining about that!  It is a bit insulting though, to go from very mild temperatures in the near 70°F range, to a forecast high temperature in the teens today.

Jack is a big guy and has long legs, but you wouldn't know it from this picture!

I am planning to drink cocoa, bake some banana bread, try a recipe for bread that uses a new gluten free flour blend I found, and watch some Downton Abbey, with a few loads of laundry in between.

If you live in an area within Walda's wintry grip, what are your plans today?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Will We, Or Won't We?

Well, hello there!  Long time, no see!  Life got a little too interesting over the winter, and I found myself taking a break from blogging.  It wasn't so much an intentional break, but more like it was just one too many things to deal with.  A chore I didn't feel like doing, so I didn't do it.  Life is getting back to normal and I feel like I can jump back into the blogging pool.

Today's question of the day:  Will we, or won't we?  Have a blizzard, that is.

We have been enjoying such wonderful and warm spring days, that the "Impending Forecast of Doom", AKA "Winter Storm Walda", doesn't seem real.  Or, maybe I just don't want it to be real.  Getting into the full swing of spring has been so lovely, I just hate to give it up to a spring "winter blast".  Living in Wyoming, we are never safe from snow.  We have had snow every month of the year at some point, and spring blizzards are common.  Walda is packing a punch, and we are being warned about storm totals of possibly a foot of snow by tomorrow.  Factor in the high, gusty winds of Walda, temperatures dropping into the teens and low twenties, and you've got the perfect recipe for white-outs and drifts several feet high that will be around for a few days.

We had a very warm, dry winter, and being in the firm grip of a major drought, the battle cry has become, "We need the moisture!".  Yes, we certainly do, but I vote we break this drought with 70°F and rain!  Ah, now if my vote only counted...

So, we shall see if we will, or if we won't, get this blizzard.  Walda could change her route and not hit us at all, and just leave us with the soft rain we're having right now.  A girl can dream, can't she?

I leave you with some pictures I took of my springtime yard yesterday.  I hope I don't find it all buried under snowdrifts tomorrow morning!

Moose, my faithful photography assistant