Birthday Lunch with Old Man Winter

Thursday, February 19, 2015


I will not, I will not, I will not, I will not............begin this post complaining about the ridiculously cold winter we're having.   Ooops, well I tried!    What I will do is take a few moments to share with you one of the benefits of having a real, old fashioned northeast winter.  I think you all probably know by now that I'm more of a fair-weather kind of girl which means I don't snowmobile (although I did in my younger days), or ski (would never) or partake in any outdoor winter sports.  My idea of winter sports is taking a drive in the country shooting photos out the car window.  Lame, I confess.  Blame it on old (middle) age, I guess.  As a kid I ice skated (and mostly stayed on my feet) and as a young adult I enjoyed snowmobiling, even in subzero temperatures.  But these days I'm happy tucked inside my warm home or car being a spectator of the snow-covered world around me.
Yesterday was my hubby's birthday and a balmy, sunny 21 degrees!   That called for an outing.  Hubby chose the Log Jam for his birthday lunch (yummy choice).  As always, we had a delicious meal.  John chose one of yesterday's specials -The Scottish Cheddar Mac & Cheese, Tickler Extra Sharp Cheddar cheese sauce tossed with cavatappi pasta and Nueske’s Bacon. Garnished with seasoned breadcrumbs.  It was, as you might imagine, sinfully delicious.   I chose a crock of French Onion Soup and while it was very delicious, it was not quite as good as the onion soup at Power's Pub.  There's is the best and the only one that I can and want to finish.  If you haven't tried it, and you like french onion soup, I highly recommend it.  Nothing against Log Jam, theirs was very good too.  Both of us enjoyed the salad bar which is by far the best and most interesting and fresh salad bar around.  Then, because it was a special occasion, John had to have dessert!  He chose a chocolate layer cake which was so dense, moist and delicious, served with a scoop of chocolate ice cream and a pile of fresh, homemade whipped cream.  And yes, except for the two bites I had, he ate the WHOLE thing!
This was AFTER my two bites!
 All of this delicious goodness was served to us by our delightful waitress, Jen D, who was not only top-notch efficient, but so friendly and kind.  I love when wait staff are efficient and still take the time for a little small talk!  I felt sorry for the poor waiter at the next table.  He had a man who was dining alone, maybe a businessman.  The waiter was the consummate professional - efficient and friendly.  He tried his best to perform above and beyond, yet this diner was the most unfriendly, stone-faced guy.  Throughout his entire meal he did not smile once or acknowledge the great service he received.  Shame on him.  I just don't get why some folks find it so difficult to warm up.  It just annoys me when people refuse to acknowledge a job well done.  Maybe this guy was having a bad day, but still, he could have managed some sort of smile.  Doesn't cost a dime to smile and say thanks!  I'm sure he relished his chicken wings and Reuben, along with great service.
Anyway, after lunch we took a ride north to catch a glimpse of the snow sculptures in Lake George.  Each year Lake George hosts a month-long Winter Carnival.  Every weekend in February is filled with family-friendly events consisting of outhouse, dog sled, ATV and snowmobile races, chili and bbq and chicken wing cook-offs, helicopter rides, activities for the kids, and so much more.  This coming weekend will feature 4 x 4 Truck races, a chowder cook-off and chicken wing cook-off, fireworks Saturday and Sunday night at 6:00pm, and much more.  If this sounds fun - check out the their official website for a complete list of events and times. http://www.lakegeorge.com/winter/carnival.cfm
This year's events feature the First Annual Lake George Snow Sculpture Contest.  Three teams of well known artists have worked to create some pretty amazing sculptures.  Some of these are in Shepard Park, at the Visitor Center on Beach Road and elsewhere in the village.  The three teams consist of  Glenn Durlacher and Tony DeStratis , local ice and wood carvers (and event coordinators). Olympic World Champion Peter Vogelaar from British Columbia will be bringing his team to compete, along with USA Champion Jerry Merrill from Sackets Harbor.  (Thank you to the Adirondack Journal for this information.)
In case you aren't able to make it to Lake George, you're in luck.   I have a sneak peak at some of the sculptures for you.  They are pretty impressive and thanks to this weather, I'm pretty sure they'll be around for a while.
Don't forget - for a larger view, click on any photo to be taken to a slide show format.





WOW!
 

Lots of talent out there for sure!  These are all winners in my book and kuddos for all these artists for braving the conditions to create such masterpieces for everyone to enjoy.   Although some snow is expected this weekend, the temps are predicted to rise into the toasty 20's and 30's.  Check 'em out!  Thanks to the Log Jam Restaurant for another great meal and to Jen for being such a great server!  Next time you eat out, take a moment to recognize great service.  These guys and gals work hard for their money and when they do a job well, they deserve some praise.  Don't we all appreciate some recognition?
Thanks for reading and go out there (or stay inside) and have a great day.  Thanks for riding along through Life As I See It!

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The Magestic Pileated Woodpecker Pays a Visit

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Some things never change, and lately around these parts that seems to apply to the weather.  I know it because there seems to be more than a little whining going on these days on Facebook, among friends and neighbors, even the anchors on the local news.  The weathermen seem to be enjoying reporting the upgraded snow totals and the record temps and as much as I normally like my local weathermen, I have to admit they are getting on my nerves just a little.  But hey, it is their "thing", right?  Still, I won't be too upset when they are reporting weather that is a bit less 'arctic'.
This crazy cold didn't seem to be bothering one backyard visitor yesterday.  He seemed to be  oblivious to the temperature as he worked diligently at his task.  I couldn't help but capture his antics and share them with you today.
It's no secret that I love my backyard birds.  If you've been following my blog for any amount of time, you've likely seen them in a blog or two.  There's nothing more beautiful than a pair of cardinals at the feeder, or a flock of little juncos, some bright yellow goldfinches, or a teeny tiny hummingbird, but there's not much more impressive than a Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus Pileatus)!  I had just thought recently that I hadn't seen any this winter, and then yesterday there he was!

This handsome fella worked for over 30 minutes on a huge willow behind my house.  Thirty minutes!  Crazy.  And I was crazy enough to watch him all that time!   You know me....I had to do a little research to go along with my photos!  You also know I've just got to share it with you.....

 - Pileated woodpeckers are about the size of a crow measuring in at 15"-19" in length, weighing around 8-12 oz.
 - They have a wing span of 26-29"......wow!
 - Their favorite food is the Carpenter Ant, but they will also gladly dine on wood-boring beetle larvae, termites, flies, and other insects.  They will also eat berries from holly, sumac and dogwood, poison ivy, and will even sometimes find nourishment at your bird feeders and suet - like this.....

- Pileateds will drum on hollow trees to claim their territory.
- They dig 'rectangular' holes in trees - sometimes so deep they cause  small trees to break in half.
 - They will make up to 16 holes in each tree to provide an escape route should a predator enter the tree.   They also peck at the bark around the holes to make the sap run.  This will keep the predators , such as snakes, from entering.
 - A group of Pileated Woodpeckers is called a 'crown' of woodpeckers.
 - Pileated Woodpeckers are the largest woodpeckers in North America.
 - The design of its head is in a manner so the constant hammering of trees does not cause adverse affects.
 - As one would expect, they thrive in areas where there are plenty of dead trees providing food and habitat.
 - They have a sticky substance on their tongues allowing them to collect large numbers of ants at once.  Because they have larger appetites than other woodpeckers, pileateds will spend long periods of time searching for food to eat, as I witnessed yesterday.
 -  The holes created by these craftsmen are often used as nests by other birds and small animals.
 - They are mostly found in northeastern North America, the Great Lakes, the boreal forests of Canada and parts of the Pacific Coast.
 - They have very few predators with the exception of hawks, and large owls.
 - Except for the damage they do to trees, these birds do a great deal to control the population of many insect outbreaks.

Once a pair has decided to mate, they will find a dead or decaying tree to create a nest in.  The male bores the hole which is lined with nothing but wood chips.  The female will lay up to 4 eggs.   The female will incubate during the day and the male at night.  In about two weeks, the young will emerge and stay in the nest for about 8 weeks, although they begin to fly after about 4 weeks.
The nest is only used one time by this pair, which stays together in this territory for the entire year.



Here's a small sampling of what I witnessed during those 30 minutes, while Mr. Red Cap drilled away - only taking brief breaks to collect and dine on his findings.  Let me tell you, the tree he's chosen for  his dining pleasure is a four story, very old willow which has already lost many of its branches.  While it may not be right next to our house, it is not so far away that the idea of him doing too much damage doesn't scare me more than a little.   I'm hoping he moves along before putting 16 holes in it because it is close enough to come dangerously close to the house if it falls, if not on it.  I feel pretty confident after witnessing this display of sheer determination and hammering that our big guy went directly to the nearest pharmacy for a large supply of excedrine!  Talk about working for your dinner!!! 
Notice - this is his second hole!  The first one is probably 4" high when you factor that he is probably 15-19" long.  Some little bird will make a fine nest in here!
 
 
 


P.S. For those of you old enough to remember Woody Woodpecker (who may or may not be modeled after the great Pileated), use this link to view a very time appropriate cartoon from 1941!

So, if you live in an area where there's old and decaying trees, keep your ears out for the hammering of the Pileated Woodpecker.  He's quite handsome, if not a little prehistoric looking, and he'll provide you with quite a show.   Till next time, thanks for joining me on this journey through Life As I See It!
And if you want to read more about Pileated Woodpeckers:

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Fifty Shades of Grey - The Secret Lives of Squirrels

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Feeling a bit like you're stuck in a bad dream?   Tired of waking up to the view outside your window? It sure has been an interesting winter, not one we'll forget anytime soon.  If we're lucky spring is only 34 days away!  Don't know about you, but I can't wait.
There's a day for everything....really....I don't know who comes up with this stuff, but January 21 was National Squirrel Appreciation Day.  I can't figure out who declared an "appreciation" a day for these pesky creatures, but National Wildlife Federation had a blog about it so it must be true.  In weeding through and deleting old photos, it came to my attention that I have quite a few shots of my backyard visitors, some of which are pretty entertaining, so I thought it might be fun to poke a little fun at these little comedians and share some fun facts you may or may not be aware of.


Let's start with some facts:  Squirrels are from the rodent family, specifically the Sciuridae family.  Sciuridea means "shade-tailed" and refers to the bush tail which can shade a squirrel's whole body.  Squirrels account for about 40% of all the living mammals in the world, partly because they have successfully adapted to alterations made by humans and the environment.  Not surprisingly, squirrels prefer to live in urban areas and woodlands, especially where there are oak, beech, hickory or any tree that produces nuts.  Although squirrels are mostly vegetarians living mostly on nuts, berries and seeds (they are quite happy to share sunflower and other type seeds from your bird feeders), they are also known to enjoy tender spring buds from the trees and shrubs.
Sometimes just before spring when their buried stash has depleated, or when buried acorns have sprouted making them inedible (squirrels actually know this and don't eat them because once they sprout, they lack nutritional value!), squirrels might even eat eggs, or birds or smaller rodents.  I was shocked to see a squirrel sitting in my pine tree dining on a junco......Yuck!
A squirrel's lifespan is 3-7 years.  They normally have two litters a year, mating first in January with litters arriving about six weeks later generally consisting of 2-4 young..  The second mating occurs in late spring or early summer.  Baby squirrels are kits or kittens.  After about 7 or 8 weeks, the babies are weaned and leave the nest but never go more than two miles from their "home", unless the area is heavily populated and there is too much competition for food.  Now I know why I have such a large population!!
Squirrels teeth never stop growing.  They must gnaw on wood to keep them trimmed and sharp.  It takes some special choppers cracking all those acorns.  A squirrel's hind legs are double jointed allowing them to run up and down trees quickly, it's sharp claws helping them to 'hang-on'.  And when they let go - they can jump 20 feet and can run up to 20 mph!  They are quite the athletes!

-Squirrels are also clever.  Did you know that a squirrel will actually pretend to dig a hole and bury a nut, then cover it up when he hasn't actually buried anything?  That's to trick potential thieves.
-Squirrels can smell their buried treasures in up to 12" of snow!  They dig a tunnel and follow the scent of their (or their friends') buried snacks.  This year must be particularly challenging for them.



-Their memory is not quite as sharp as their sense of smell resulting in plenty of forgotten buried acorns - consequently, squirrels can be credited with replenishing the tree population!
-When squirrels feel threatened, they run in a zig-zag pattern to confuse their predators.  That might explain why they never just run straight across the street!
-In order to keep warm over the winter months (grey squirrels do not hibernate), they beef up by adding some extra fat.  I think this a good example of that....
-Squirrels have been known to be imposters, pretending to be something other than the furry creatures they are.  It is not uncommon to catch these bandits pretending to be hummingbirds.  After finding my feeders drained dry more than once, I finally set up a sting operation and caught the thieves red-handed!

- Although a newborn baby squirrel is only about an inch long, weighs about an ounce, has no fur and is blind, an adult squirrel weighs about 12-28oz and is between 9-12" long plus an additional 7-10" for their tail.
- Female squirrels only mate twice a year, but males mate more often.  (Yeah, you knew that!)  A male might try to get a females attention by slapping the bark of the trees with their paws and chattering loudly.  I think we refer to that as show-boating.  LOL.  Once the squirrels mate, the male has no responsibility in rearing the young.  C'mon guys, get with the program!
-Squirrels make their  homes (called dreys) in nests built in forks in tree branches using leaves, in tree hollows, or in empty bird houses - unless of course they can find better accommodations in your attic.  Grey squirrels often build several nests, using them all.  Females live alone in their nest with their young, but in the winter, nests are sometimes shared for warmth.
- A squirrels tail acts like a parachute.  It can fall 100 ft and land on earth unhurt!!!  That must come in hand when performing these sorts of tricks.....

- It's eyes are large and placed on either side of its head enabling it to see things behind it!  Their eyesight is said to better than a human's.  Human mothers only dream of having eyes on the sides of their heads!
- A very clean animal, the male squirrel takes twice as long to groom himself as a female!  (I'm not making this stuff up folks!)


It would appear that squirrels might be holy creatures as this guy seems to be particularly attached to St. Francis.
 So, as much as these mischievous critters make birdwatching a challenge, they do provide some warm-hearted entertainment.  Next time you're about to chase one from your yard, remember some of these facts and what interesting creatures they are.....and then chase them away!
Hope you enjoyed reading about the Secret Lives of Squirrels.  Come back soon to Life As I See It and if you like what you read, please tell a friend!  To read more about squirrels, links provided below!
 



Sciuridae
Sciuridae

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Before You Pack Up and Head South.............

Thursday, February 12, 2015

While there is never a shortage of controversy and conflict in the news, there is one area where one can find almost certain agreement......at least here in the Northeast, and that is regarding the weather.  Unless you happen to be wintering in Florida, just about everyone you talk to has had about enough of this snowy winter.  People are frustrated, exhausted, and crying "Uncle".   It's sure been an old fashioned winter in these parts......lots of cold temperatures, even sub-zero cold, with many more days predicted.   The snow has come in waves - sometimes a few inches at a time, other times in bonus totals exceeding a foot.   The snowbanks are piled high making it hard to turn onto roadways from driveways and side streets.  People are running out of places to pile the snow.  Houses are adorned with rows of icicles, and although pretty they are causing ice damage and roof leaks.  Yes, some could say this is winter in the Northeast and we should expect this and they would be correct. Yet, most anyone you talk to has had enough and is ready for spring.  And so we are reminded that time moves at its own pace, regardless of the conditions we are enduring, whether that be this artic weather or circumstances in our personal lives.  Time stands still for no one nor does it speed ahead.  We, its passengers, are simply along for the ride.

One of my winter projects has been the task of cleaning out my digital photo files.  One of the great advantages to digital photography is the price (or lack thereof) which allows us shutterbugs to snap away taking countless photos - often of the same subject.  Maybe it's just me, but I end up with tens of thousands of photos many of which are duplicates, triplicates, out of focus shots, closed eye shots, 15 of the same sunset at different settings............and the list goes on.  Be honest - you all are guilty of a little of this, right?   Well, in sorting through photos I came across a series I took last winter - February 11th actually.  In case you're forgetting last winter in the depths of this year's totals, last year was also a pretty snowy and icy winter.  Yet on this day last February 11, 2014, I was entertained by this flock of visitors.
Now seeing robins in the middle of winter is not all that uncommon anymore.  While they may not be constant visitors, they do make an appearance from time to time.   This particular sunny day, a flock arrived hungry.  Unlike this year, my crabapple was still full of fruit.  This hardy bunch made themselves at home for the afternoon dining on this frozen treat.   They seemed almost oblivious to the cold or to the frozen groundcover beneath them.  Watching them that day and thinking back on it today made me think...................



In life we are met with all sorts of challenges, obstacles, and circumstances.  Some of them test our endurance, others test our resilience and others test our tenacity.  At various times in our lives we're faced with loss.  That may be of a job or a loved one; it may be a friendship gone bad.  At times we're faced with illness.....this winter has been particularly hard in this area where so many have been sick with the flu and its complications.   So many folks are struggling with today's economy,  some barely making ends meet.  During these extended days of frigid temperatures, the news is always announcing Code Blue - a status that indicates that shelters will be open to the homeless.  While the reality of the homeless never escapes my awareness - at times like these, it is so much harder to comprehend how people actually live like that from day to day, sometimes for years of their lives.   It is incomprehensible to me how those people survive these winter months.  Those of us fortunate enough to live in a warm home, putting our head on a soft pillow under a warm blanket every night seem pretty whiny and self-centered complaining about the cold temperatures or the snow we have to shovel or blow from our driveways, don't we?   What little we have to complain about!!
So, while we all zip our coats a little higher, or add another layer of clothing, or crank our heat a degree higher - let us be thankful for our blessings.  If your roof is leaking - thank God you HAVE a roof!  Remember that there are many, many folks out there who don't have a warm home to come into, or a warm bed to spend the night.  Consider donating some hats or gloves or coats to the local charities.  Yes, we are enduring a brutal Northeast winter, but focus on the positive -- you are ENDURING.  Be like the robins - make the most of your conditions.  Count your blessings.  Find some silver lining to your circumstances whether that means tackling a project, going for a drive, or watching your own feathered friends  -  take this opportunity to make the most of your circumstances.  Life may not be perfect, you may be sick of driving to work in these treacherous conditions, your driveway might look like Mt. Everest, but if you're reading this you are breathing, you have your eyesight and you probably have many more reasons to be thankful.



In the words of Art Buckwald, "Whether it's the best of times or the worst of times, it's all we've got!"
And when you really stop to think about it - we've got a lot!   Stay warm, stay safe and thanks for coming along on Life As I See It!

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