Sunday Night at Home with a Movie

Today I’m taking my inspiration from my good friend Debi Walter and her wonderful blog The Romantic Vineyard. I’m not referring to Debi as my good blogging friend or Facebook friend. We literally have been friends for 40 years, and she is every bit as wonderful in day-to-day life as she is on her blog. Actually, she is more so.

In case you’re not familiar with The Romantic Vineyard, check it out here. It provides “a rich harvest of ideas to help your marriage grow.” It says so right at the top of the banner.

Debi and I are as alike as we are dissimilar. She writes a romance blog. I write a humor blog. Clearly that’s one way we’re similar. Okay, we both write. I’ll leave it at that.

When I read her Five Friday Favorites – At Home Meal and Movie Dates, I was inspired. I told Debi that I was wondering what I would serve for my home meal and movie date.  What would go with some of my favorite comedies? She told me to go for it, so here you are.

First, the disclaimer, Debi is a wonderful cook and she loves cooking. It is one of the ways she shows love. I view cooking as something that I have done more than enough, but I am willing to cook – if I have to. I’m even a pretty decent cook, but the thrill is gone. One of the ways people can show me that they love me is to cook for me. I’ll just put that out there in case anyone needs an idea. Already you can see why Debi and I have a well-suited friendship.

Favorite Comedies (not exhaustive, of course)

Movie #1 – RED with Bruce Willis – All this movie needs is a glass of red wine. That’s how I read the cover.

Movie #2 – Groundhog Day – This takes a little more planning. The night before, make a double batch of whatever you’re cooking and save enough to serve during the movie.

Movie #3 – The Help – I know this one is not a comedy, but it has its moments. It made Debi’s list, too. All you really need here is a big batch of chocolate cream pie served at just the right moment.

Movie #4 – Back to the Future – hamburgers, fries, and a Tab or something else without sugar in it.

Movie #5 – The Big Year – wings

Movie #6 – Fever Pitch – I try to watch this on Opening Day of Baseball Season. Hot dogs and beer with sides of peanuts and Cracker Jacks is perfect.

Movie #7 – The Court Jester – Perhaps my all-time favorite comedy. It doesn’t matter what drink you offer as long as it’s not served in the Chalice with the Palace. Try the Vessel with the Pestle instead, but be careful you don’t break it and have to use the Flagon with the Dragon.

 

Do you have any movie pairings you can add to the list? What are some of your favorite comedies?

 

This is Post #28 in the Ultimate Blog Challenge to post every day in April.

 

Wildlife Weekend

I’m a bit of a birder – not quite a “Big Year” type, but I have the Peterson Field Guide to Birds app on my phone and I try to keep my life list up. Binoculars are always on the ready by my back door.

My mother bequeathed me with this passion and we love to bird watch together. Twenty minutes from our home is the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive. It usually takes us three hours to do the 11-mile drive at a maximum of 10 mph. We stop a lot. You just can’t help yourself. There’s so much to see.

The drive is part of the successful effort to restore beautiful Lake Apopka, which is northwest of Orlando, and home to 369 species of birds, though some are quite literally snow birds. It’s a big winter migration area.

Today, the wildlife drive really lived up to its name. Mom and I spent the morning there, and we agreed it was the best day we’ve ever had on the drive. We identified 24 different species of birds, witnessed an alligator turtle laying eggs, and observed more American alligators than you can shake a stick at. Note: Don’t shake sticks at alligators or feed them. It’s against the law.

 

These beautiful flowers grow in the water.

 

Baby Gallinule

 

You can tell it’s springtime. There were baby gallinules everywhere. Here’s a family portrait.

 

I always find a gator in this particular spot. Today as we pulled up there was a woman taking pictures of the babies. Do you see them? There were five altogether but only four are in this pic. At first we didn’t even notice that mama had her eye on us.

We had never been to the drive during alligator mating season. It began a couple of weeks ago. Their gestation period is 65 days, so I guess this mama got an early start. Since we’re talking about alligators here, it brings more meaning to the fact that they are fiercely protective of their babies. When we saw the babies, we knew she must be close by so we were happy to spot her from a safe distance.

 

Great Blue Heron

 

Gator grabbing lunch

You know how you can be out in the wild and hear something and turn to discover you’ve just missed a spectacular moment? Well, we saw the spectacular moment. We were standing along the shore when this alligator leaped out of the water and caught a bird. I think he leaped from below and snatched it on his way up. We saw most of his white underbelly. It was quite violent and really cool. I snapped this picture right after the jump. You can see the poor bird in his jaws.

 

Anhinga drying its wings.

Anhingas swim through the water with their head and neck poking out of the water. They look like a snake, hence the nickname Snake Bird. They’re also called water turkeys. They’re beautiful in flight.

Cutest Bird Award goes to the Black-Necked Stilt

 

The green is so vivid that you almost don’t notice what’s lurking just under the surface.

Is the north side of the gator where the moss always grows?

 

Here’s a close-up of our camo-gator.

We heard a lot of gators bellowing. At first I thought it was a bullfrog, then I remembered it was mating season. We were on alert because these big guys can be submerged right in front of you and you not know it. On the drive, food is aplenty, and I’ve never seen anyone harass or feed a gator, which I have witnessed in other areas of Florida. Don’t feed the gators! It is a felony and makes them lose their fear of people and start to look at them as a food source. It’s funny to think they fear us. If a gator offered me food, I’m pretty sure I’d think it was up to something and fear it more!

Pretty sure this is a White Ibis. The bill being dark on the end makes me doubt a little.

 

Alligator Turtle laying eggs by the side of the road. I think she’s pretty ugly and maybe not too smart. People were right next to her. But I guess when it’s time, it’s just time.

 

Another Great Blue Heron. He just took a bath and was cute and fluffy.

I hope you enjoyed going on the drive with me. Any birders out there? I’d love to hear from you.

 

This is Post #14 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge to post every day in April.

 

Hope

Ella two years ago at the Lake Apopka North Shore Wildlife Drive. She’s a serious birder.

There is a birding bond between my granddaughter, Ella, and me that helps us keep in touch even though we are now long distance. Ella will turn 13 next month, and ever since she was a toddler she has been fascinated by birds. At an early age she could identify all the backyard birds that visited our feeder. None of this red bird or blue bird stuff for her. She wanted to know their proper breed names.

We have taken her and her older sister, Mia, birding a couple of times. Ella loves it. She is an excellent spotter as well, picking out birds hiding in bushes and trees far better than I.

I’m never surprised when she or her mom, my daughter Dena, sends me a picture to try to identify a newbie. I was surprised to get this picture.

This poor little guy flew into their sliding glass door. Ella was crushed and quickly scooped it up and laid it in their vacant bird-cage. Since her mom wasn’t home, Ella texted this picture to her. Dena sent it to me as she was not in a position to help. Ella and I began to facetime each other. She was convinced that the cardinal was still alive, so I had her wrap it in a cloth to keep it warm in case it was in shock. Ella held it and tried to will it to live. She named it Hope.

While facetiming I also was interacting with the rest of the kids. For hygiene’s sake, I asked did anyone else touch the bird. Mia, who was holding the cat way too close for comfort to our little patient, scrunched up her face like I had suggested the unthinkable and said, “No!”

Layna, who is six, showed her concern by reiterating that the cardinal is the state bird of North Carolina. I’d say what a poor little thing it was, and she would say, “I know and it’s our state bird.” Such concern over the potential loss of so proud a symbol of their state mixed with pride over knowing this important fact was impressive.

But Jett’s mind presented the most interesting prospect and potential problem with helping this beautiful, red cardinal. “What if it explodes?” he asked. I think he’s played one too many games of Angry Birds.

Meanwhile, I told Dena that she could give it a couple of drops of whisky from an eye dropper when she got home. If there was any life left in it, that might help. Unfortunately, they only had Vodka. I’m not sure that made a difference.

Finally, it was decided that Ella should put Hope in an open shoe box and tuck it under some bushes to see if it would revive. Alas, Hope died.

If love alone could have brought Hope back, he would have flown away to live on. He left behind a sad Ella, but I believe he taught her a few things, too. This was not the first bird that she has rescued, but it was the first one that didn’t make it. Life is full of learning from things like this. On the other hand, at least it didn’t blow up. I don’t think she could have handled that.

 

Birds of a Feather Flock Together for Lunch

Carolina Wren hiding in bushes

Carolina Wren hiding in bushes

One of the things that I miss from my old house is my backyard birds.  I had a feeding station set up just off my porch.  Watching the birds was one of my joys.  I guess you could say I’m a birder, but not one of those go-out-in-the-great-beyond birders who knows where and when different species migrate to add them to my life list.  I wait for them to come to me.  They are my perfect little pets.  (They never mess up my house.)

As the crow flies, I don’t live far from my old home.  It was suggested to me that I leave a trail of breadcrumbs so my feathered friends could find me.  If that would have worked, I probably would have done it; but I figured it was time for me to make some new feathered friends and let the new owners of my old house enjoy the regular visitors there. I guess you could say I’m branching out to a new birding environment.

So we set up the feeding station in our new backyard and waited.  I could hear the birds in the trees which surround my yard – hear them but not see them.  Days passed and I wondered what was preventing them.  I know there are hawks around.  Perhaps these birds weren’t willing to risk going out in the open.  At long last, the blue jays came.  I appreciated their loud cackle alerting me to their visit.  Eventually a titmouse popped in and soon returned with his whole family.

I was a happy girl…for a while.  Here’s an analogy that might help you understand my temporary happiness.  It is the reason why I shouldn’t open a large bag of M&Ms.  I can start out with a few and be content, but soon I want more.  I don’t have to see them.  I can hear them calling me from the pantry – just like the birds in the trees.

The sound of cardinals in the trees really bothered me.  What was it going to take to lure them in?  Sometimes I would see one on my fence, but he never stopped at the feeder. I also heard a sweet little bird called a Phoebe, whose call sounds like his name. I would hear him every day but never lay eyes on him.  Until today.  Phoebe stopped by.  He doesn’t spend much time at the feeder but he loves to perch on top of it and fly from perch to perch around the yard.  While I was looking at him, the cardinals stopped in.  (They usually travel in pairs.)  I caught a glimpse of the female leaving as the brilliant male made a pit stop.  This is happiness for me.  Watching the birds relaxes me and is one of the things God uses to still my anxious heart.

He uses my friends that way, too.  Today I had lunch with two such friends.  I’ll call them Phoebe and Cardinal.  I often hear how they’re doing on Facebook or receive a phone call or text, but I really need to see them.  Visit a feeder with them.  Spend time with them.  One of the things that I’m adjusting to is my access to my friends.  They are not as readily available, but I’m only 15 minutes away from that old neighborhood.  That is practically nothing.

Patience was what it took to see birds at my feeder.  Intentionality is what it takes to keep friendships near and dear.  Even if those friends are only fifteen minutes away.

Isn't he beautiful?

Isn’t he beautiful?

Bird Watching in the Sixties

“Mom, why is there a statue of a naked lady in our backyard?”

This is a question that I thankfully never had to answer, but my poor mother did – just this morning.

My mother has influenced my life in countless ways.  Her love of birds has been passed down to each of her children. While I was growing up, there was always a feeder in our backyard, and we learned to identify the local birds at a young age.  We also had a bird bath featured prominently off our back porch.  When I was nine I took this picture of my parents, grandparents, and my little sister.  The statue in the bird bath is featured in the foreground.  I can picture my mom, so wanting to encourage me in my new hobby, and so wanting to pose for the picture anywhere else.  (Hey, how about we stand in front of those garbage cans?  The light is great there!)

The picture is blurry, just like Mom and Dad's recollection of the bird bath statue.

The picture is blurry, just like Mom and Dad’s recollection of the bird bath statue.

I have several scenarios in my head as to why there was a nude woman in the middle of our bird bath.  I debated whether or not to ask my parents about it.  (I didn’t want to bring up any old arguments.)  Finally I couldn’t stand all the questions circling in my mind so I made the call.

I didn’t want to put them on the spot, but inquiring minds want to know.  First I asked Mom.  She had no recollection of it, but got a good laugh out of the question.  Dad also denied any memory of it.  Hum, how could these people, who remember so many details from their 67 years of marriage, have blocked this shocking display from their minds!  (And, why can’t I forget it?)

I picture my dad going to buy it and installing it in the backyard without Mom’s input.  He has always been like that.  He’d see something that he thought would work and act on it.  I’m sure he was happy to bless my mom.  I’m also pretty sure Mom would have been happier with a garden gnome.

Things were a lot different in the 1960s.  (They say if you remember the sixties, you weren’t there.)  Perhaps my parents were classier than I give them credit.  Maybe there was an artsy side of them that I did not appreciate at the tender age of nine.  After all, I always liked the velvet painting of a matador that Dad brought home from Mexico.  Yes, that’s the story and I’m sticking with it.

The Cardinals

I’ve been watching them for weeks, so it probably won’t shock you to find out that on this rainy day I have been keeping up with the cardinals.  I have always been fascinated by them and love their red caps and capes.  There are four in particular that have caught my attention.  I’ve watched them parade around, eat and drink, and even visit my bird bath.  I think they’re a family – mom, dad and twin boys.

On a side note, I hear they are gathering in Rome to select a new pope today.

Gathering the Cardinals

Gathering the Cardinals

Some are on the fence

Some are on the fence

Chatting over Lunch

Chatting over Lunch

I hope you enjoy these pictures from my backyard as we await the selection of a new pope.