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Winter Nature Walk

February 5th, 2017

It's been cold here . . . real cold! So when the weather forecast for last Monday was that temperatures would climb from the 30's to the 50's, my husband and I decided to take advantage of the warm-up.

We went to Fontenelle Forest in Bellevue, Nebraska, a National Natural Landmark and a local treasure. The thaw had made the miles of winding, hiking trails in the 1400 acre forest so muddy and slippery we were unable to use them. Fortunately, there's a well maintained and extensive boardwalk, so we were still able to get out and enjoy the fresh air.

We saw a deer, but I couldn't get a good photo. A flock of turkeys was more cooperative. And I spotted a cool, new-to-me fungus, the scarlet cup; it was so bright that at first I thought it was a bit of candy wrapper or other litter some thoughtless person had discarded. By the time we headed back up the boardwalk to the visitors' center, the afternoon light was low enough to bring the few leaves that are still clinging to the branches to life.

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TJ and Her Art

January 16th, 2017

In the car on the way home Friday, our five-year-old granddaughter noticed some clipboards I’d salvaged from camera club and forgotten to take into the house. She immediately decided she wanted to make a book. I embraced the idea enthusiastically.

"Sure, you can use one. What else do you need?"
"A pen and some paper."
"Big pieces or little pieces?"
"Big. Three. Three is enough."

So when we got home, she went straight to the paper supply and got three sheets of paper. She set herself up at the kitchen table and proceeded to draw. After the first picture, she called me.

"Grandma. Can you come and write the words?"
"Sure. What do you want me to write?"
"An angel. Smiling at a cow. But I didn't draw the cow."

I obliged.
The next one was a slide, and even though there's a person beside it, that's all she wanted written on it. "Slide."

Then she drew stairs and a mountain.

That was followed by another angel. I was to write "The Little Angel" on it. She's been learning her letters this year, one per week, and is up to "T". She learns uppercase and lower case, practices writing them, learns what their sounds are, learns what words start with them and makes projects with some of those words - like a tiger this week. So knowing she knew all the letters in "the little angel", I suggested she could write it herself if I spelled it for her. We started with Little. All went well until she made an "A" for the "E" at the end. She knew immediately she'd goofed and looked up with a silly sort of "oops" expression.
Then she asked, "What did I write?"
"Littla," I pronounced.
"Littla," she repeated. And then, triumphantly, "That's her NAME! Littla!"
So "Littla the Little Angel" it was.

The other drawings included a robot and yet another angel - this one the mother of the angel smiling at a cow. And then we were done. The angels are roughly triangular in shape but with large scallops down the sides for the wings. They are invariably happy. Their halos look like apples with long stems - a circle perched on top of the angels' pointed heads with a line coming out of the top. I asked carefully about the lines, and she drew a circle in the air above her own head and then drew the line down to show how the halo is attached to the head. Who can argue with that?

Anyway, we read it three times that evening. She and I read through it when I finished stapling. Then she took it down and she and Papa read it together. Then it came upstairs with us and became one of our bedtime stories.

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Toadstools in My Yard

January 10th, 2017

Well, not exactly toadstools . . . and not literally my backyard . . . but geologic formations that resemble them and in Nebraska – that’s what we found on a recent trip to the northwest corner of our state.

Toadstool Geologic Park is in the Ogalala National Grassland which is part of the Nebraska National Forest. It is a small, remote park, but well worth the visit if you enjoy unusual landscapes with a western flavor. The first section of the one mile hike through these “badlands” is on level ground and well-marked, but soon after that the trail becomes a connect-the-dots adventure. U.S. Forest Service employees have driven posts into the ground to mark the way, but it’s up to the hiker to find a way to get from one to another.

Because there is no shade and the soil has a lot of clay in it, I recommend against visiting in the heat of summer or when it has rained recently (clay is very slippery when wet and the road out to the park is not paved).

A replica sod house located near the parking area is a fun bonus.

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Savoring the Season, Parts 2 and 3

January 4th, 2017

As promised, the weekend of the 17th we put up and decorated the tree. Well, we started to decorate it – we actually never finished. I had expected her to tear into all the boxes, taking everything out as quickly as possible. Instead she removed the ornaments slowly, discovering or rediscovering each one as she unwrapped it and, until I caught myself, it was I who was hurrying her along. Then I stopped to listen.

“Oh, my very favorite angel! I’ll put her with my other favorite angels.”
“A goose! Look, a goose! It can be the mama for the duck.”
“A spider web! That’s for Halloween.” And she hastily put it back in the box. The ornament was actually a dreamcatcher, but it looked like a spider web to her.
“ANOTHER cross. Mama had a lot of crosses, didn’t she?”

There are a lot of clusters on the tree – and a lot of bare spots, too. We got done what we got done. I finished the rest later, hanging not half the ornaments we have, but all the ones she had taken out and wanted on the tree.

We wrapped the presents for her family (we had shopped for them over Thanksgiving weekend). There were DVD’s for her daddy, her 16-year-old sister, and her oldest brother – “Happy Feet 2” and Barbie and Scooby-Doo videos. She confided that she hoped they would watch them with her and have snuggle time. And there was an adult coloring book for her mother, a book on how things are made for her other brother, and a set of plastic breakfast dishes and foods for her little sister that the two of them can use in their toy kitchen.

And we read more books – lots more books.

Two weeks later we ended our celebrations with opening stockings and presents, playing with said presents, reading more books, and writing thank-you notes. We were supposed to take down and put away the decorations, but somehow we never got to that. I’ll take care of it.

Yes, drawing it out and savoring the season works perfectly for us.

Savoring the Season

December 8th, 2016

Savoring the Season

When it comes to decorations and other things associated with a holiday, some people are like retail stores - eager to put it all out at once, usually months in advance. Others are so caught up in their daily lives the date arrives almost before they know it. (Confession: for years, especially when I was working, that was me.)

Now that I'm retired and, more importantly, a grandmother, I have more time. Our five-year-old granddaughter visits every other weekend, and we're making memories together. We enjoy them the most when we draw them out and savor them, so to speak.

So this weekend we contented ourselves with the crčche, various table decorations, the Christmas books, and a nighttime drive to see the lights.

The crčche has sturdy, unbreakable wooden figures that she moves around as she quietly retells the Christmas story, embellishing it as only a child can. "Move over, Wiseman, you're knocking my sheep over."

The decorations include two large wooden deer, three much smaller deer that she calls "hay deer" because the forms are covered with a green, grassy fabric, and five evergreens cut from barn siding, much too small in scale to go with any of the deer. Scale does not bother our granddaughter in the least, and all of them end up on the same end table because the hay deer go to visit the big deer in the forest.

And on the dining room table are the five wooden angels that belonged to my mother. This year the porcelain headed German angel joined them for their performance. She was the teacher and they were the kids. One of the little angels even went to the bathroom (why not??) and the teacher had to send another after her to see what was taking so long LOL

The Christmas books can be but sampled in a weekend - I read them to her two, three, or four at a time, two or three times a day. We only read the ones with pictures in them, and we only got through about a third of them. Grandpa read her several, too; I listened as they started.
- "Frosty melts, Grandpa."
- "How do you know? I haven't read it to you yet."
-"I read it before! I remember from last year."

And the Christmas light drive was made even more special this year by the fact that it began to snow early in the evening - a lovely, fluffy snow that turned the night into a winter wonderland. When we got home, she spent 30 minutes walking around in the yard leaving footprints, and the next morning was even better. Enough had stuck (and it was wet enough) to build a snowman the next morning- her first.

Next time we will put up and decorate the tree. And wrap the presents for her family (we bought them over Thanksgiving weekend). And read more books - lots more books. And two weeks later we will end our celebrations with presents and a special dinner and taking down the tree. Yes, drawing it out and savoring the season works perfectly for us.


November 29th, 2016

Mugs are perfect for coffee, tea, hot cider, or mulled wine, of course, and popular any time of year but never more so than in the winter. In this season of giving, they make an inexpensive but unique gift that says immediately, “I am thinking of YOU”.

That’s why I’m delighted to tell you that this item has been added to the line of products available with my images on them.

Though you can get almost any of my images on a mug, I think those in my Transparent Background gallery work particularly well. Notice that you can change the background color on these to any color you want – and you can adjust the size of the image, too. I like them as big as possible without running the risk of cutting anything off at the top or bottom, but you may prefer a more discrete size.

Other images work just fine, too. Here are a few ideas to get you started - not shown as mugs, but with the image size on the mug preview maximized. In most cases the image will NOT wrap all the way around the mug – it’s important that you select your background color carefully; click on Image Size to see what the background color on these will be.

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So think of all the people you’d like to get a little something extra for. Now think of a place you’ve been together; their favorite flower, color, animal, or season; a hobby or interest they have; or anything else you associate with them - and get to designing. And above all, have fun!

What Caterpillars Do

November 21st, 2016

Our five-year-old granddaughter picked out a couple of videos at the library yesterday. One of them was an Einstein one and they were teaching about the life cycle of the butterfly. Metamorphosis and all that. They went on and on. Finally they got to the part where the butterfly emerged from the chrysalis and Einstein (or one of the other characters - I wasn't watching) exclaimed with exaggerated amazement, "It turned into a butterfly!!" Our granddaughter declared - with more than a bit of attitude in her voice, "That's what caterpillars DO, Einstein!"

And indeed it is. And what else they do is look absolutely beautiful.

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Loess Hills Autumn

November 10th, 2016

Loess Hills Autumn

I love fall - well, except for the fact that winter follows close behind. But this year the crisp but comfortable temperatures and blue skies have lingered, so a couple of weeks ago my husband and I got out for a day of hiking and driving and photographing. We chose to go to the Loess Hills State Forest in northwestern Iowa. The color of the foliage was a disappointment, but we had a wonderful time and I did find a few pretty scenes.
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Monarch Staging

October 8th, 2016

Monarch Staging

On a sunny mid September day – windy but all the more beautiful for that as the wind was responsible for the event – David and I had the pleasure of viewing a staging of monarch butterflies.
Most people know these colorful creatures, native to North America, migrate. They go north in the spring (it takes three generations to accomplish that migration) and south in the fall (this journey is accomplished by a single generation). They over-winter along the Gulf coast, in Arizona and California, and in Mexico.
The butterflies have to rest and feed along the way, and these particular insects were taking shelter from a strong wind out of the south by clustering on the north side of a small densely wooded area, resting and feeding on the nectar of nearby wild aster and goldenrood while they waited for the wind to shift so they could continue their journey. It was very special to witness this event.

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The F Word

September 25th, 2016

The “F” Word
HaHa – gotcha!
Just finished a weekend with our just five-year-old granddaughter whose pre-school is on “F” this week. So . . .
I present to you Fish, Fun, Flight, and Friends.
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