Saturday, September 27, 2014

Mistakes Can Actually Work Out (Or, Pretend You Meant to Do That)

After I transferred my photos from camera to laptop a while ago, I noticed something odd about them. Many of them were over-exposed, while just as many were under-exposed.


After much fiddling and confusion on my part, I finally figured out that I inadvertently pressed the "bracket" (Auto Bracket) button. This means the camera is assuming you will take three shots in a row of the same subject, and each one will go from light to dark, and then you're supposed to go to photoshop and blend them together for an HDR type photo.

But I didn't do that, I just went on my merry way, snapping anything that took my fancy in the park up on our mountain. So some shots looked bleached out and others looked vivid and other worldly.

But once I got over my panic of not knowing what I did (and I fixed it) I kind of liked the shots. Note that these were taken within minutes of each other in almost the same spot.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Hummingbird Rescue

I needed this today, and I suspect many of you do too, after hearing about my tragic raccoon tale, which still has the capacity to make me cry. But this fine morning, I bring you a good news nature story.

Despite the fact that I deliberately keep our cottage windows dirty to prevent bird collisions (confession: the city windows are dirty from pure laziness) there is still the occasional accident.  My husband protests but a) he's not the boss of me and b), see a).

This morning, as I sat outside on the deck reading, a young hummingbird zoomed right above my head straight into the glass, then dropped with a thud at my feet.

I hustled Buddy into the house and we left it alone for a few minutes as it writhed on the deck. Experience has shown that the first few moments will determine whether a bird will live or die. Sometimes death comes in seconds if it breaks its neck, but more often than not, they suffer a mild concussion and recover quickly.

That is, if the squirrels, or Buddy, doesn't get to it first.

Then it becomes breakfast.

So this poor little hummingbird struggled on its back, wings sprawled, fluttering in a circle. But suddenly it righted itself, a good sign even though its eyes were still squeezed shut. Definite concussion, but still.

Buddy and I watched together from inside the cottage so as not to frighten it, but then a red squirrel showed up to spoil the party.

I ran outside and shooed the squirrel away, then I bent over the hummingbird to check on it. It suddenly flew into the air, hovering like a little helicopter in front of my face, the buzz of its wings so incredibly powerful and strong for such a tiny creature. I instinctively held out my hand, and incredibly, it landed in my open palm!

I couldn't believe it. I stood stock still, thinking it was going to take off at any second. My camera was inside, as was my phone, but I'd been reading on my iPad (okay, I was playing Candy Crush) and I thought I might be able to snap a photo if I moved quickly and carefully.

And by that I mean like a stealth ninja.

An old, creaky, plump, stealth ninja.

The photo isn't as sharp as I'd like, but it was left-handed. Using an iPad. WHILE HOLDING A HUMMINGBIRD.

May I say, do you know how hard it is to take a photo whilst juggling an iPad with one hand? With one non-dominant hand? With a hummingbird balanced in the other hand?

I struggled with the damn electronic demon and cursed its stupid design, which slipped and flipped each time I tried to hit the play button (yes, I know about the other button, but again, one-handed, holding a bird) all the while trying to a) not drop it, b) startle the hummingbird.

I did get it on film. The little guy was in no hurry to vacate his warm, cushy home. I had to coax him onto a nearby cherry tree branch. Within a minute or two, he flew off, unfazed.

You can watch the video below, or I recommend you go to YouTube HERE and watch it on HD and on full screen.

Or you can watch the tiny version here:

Monday, August 18, 2014

Me and A Very Rocky Raccoon

What is it with me and wild animals?

It started as a simple task - walk up the hill with the Budster and put all the neighborhood garbage bins back in place. However, my sunset stroll quickly turned into a rescue mission.  

I heard weak mewing coming from one of the bins, ours 'natch. The sound seemed to be coming from our bin, even though there was a large rock on it. I carefully opened the lid and there was a juvenile raccoon sprawled at the bottom. The smell of rotting garbage and who knows what else was horrific. I realized the poor wee thing may have been in there for as long as a week.  It was in really bad shape, so I carefully tipped over the bin, and Buddy and I waited for it to scamper away. It took five, very long minutes to crawl out, then it collapsed on the grass, calling for its mother, unable to get up. It crawled forward on its paws, dragging its body behind it.

It really did look close to death, so I ran (crying) back down the hill to the cottage, got some water in a dish and a bottle (cursing myself for not buying the turkey baster in the dollar store last week! which I had in my hand!) then ran back up the hill and approached it cautiously. I was worried it might bite, but it was so emaciated and thirsty it could barely move. I went right up to it with a water bottle, and poured some into the side of its mouth and on its paws which it tried to lick. It barely managed to crawl over to the water dish and drink with its head half in the water, then collapsed on the grass again. I ran back down the hill again for some dog food, a piece of steak, some nuts, a strawberry, and ran...back...up...the damn hill again.

It took the steak in one hand and the strawberry in the other, and tucked them under its body. Then lay its head down, quietly huffing, struggling to breathe. I was a wreck at this point.

Back down the hill to call the game warden thinking that's what they do, no? Help with wild animals? That was an interesting conversation, since he was French with no English, and I couldn't think of the word for raccoon* but it didn't matter because he wasn't going to come for this. 

*Raton-laveur, in case you wondered. Literal translation is "young rat who washes"

I phoned my trusty guy up here who knows everything about everything, and he said, and I quote, "It's a raccoon! Let nature take its course."

I couldn't. I'm hoping the little guy makes it through the night. I'll check in the morning.

Does this make me a cidiot?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Corn and Black Bean Salad with Chipotle-Honey Vinaigrette

Oh my.

A friend at the lake decided to surprise his wife with a party for her 50th birthday. And by "party" he meant dinner for 43 people in their home.

A sit down dinner.

As a surprise

Guests supplied salads and desserts to go with the German sausages and beef tenderloin and roasty toasty potatoes he threw on the BBQ. I can't believe Karl pulled it off, actually. He faked a back injury (had a massage, took Advil) and sent Mary-Anne off on a 2 hour boat ride, claiming his back was just too painful to allow him to go. Then he enlisted the help of some stalwart friends who rushed over to set up the tables and get everything ready. We all jumped out from behind the house and yelled "SURPRISE!" (which never, ever gets old.)


I needed a salad to feed a crowd. 

When I found the recipe for this salad, it said a similar version of it (with lime cilantro dressing) was a real crowd pleaser and one of the most asked for recipes. It is referred to as "Veggie Crack" which, I discovered, is accurate.

Here it is, with my twists. If you go to the website, you'll see I doubled the recipe. I used frozen organic corn from Costco, not corn on the cob. (Purists could do as the recipe says and cook fresh cobs then cut off the kernels, etc. These are the same people who make their own yogurt and almond milk and churn butter and spin wool.)  I just threw in a bunch of frozen corn, probably 4 cups worth if not more. And I used 3 chipotle peppers which gave it bite without making people splutter.  I also added chopped cherry tomatoes, and substituted basil for oregano, because I hate oregano. Well, hate is a strong word. Actually no, I really do hate oregano. And I doubled the number of avocados because unlike oregano, they are divine.

So here is my version.



4+ cups of frozen organic corn
2 cups of chopped red onion
2 (14.5 oz) tins of black beans, drained and rinsed
2 red peppers, diced
1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro, diced
2 cups of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
4 avocados

Place everything except the avocados in a large bowl. Move on to the dressing.


4 TBSP red wine vinegar
4 TBSP lime juice (3-4 fresh limes)
4 TBSP honey
3/4 cup oil (I used canola)
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp basil (or oregano)
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

Place the dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor and whirl until mixed.

Pour the dressing over the salad, mix well, cover and let it marinate for a few hours or overnight in the fridge. Right before serving, dice up the avocados and gently stir them in. Can be served cold or room temperature. Garnish with more cilantro if you wish.  Put the leftover chipotle peppers in the freezer!

Friday, June 20, 2014

On Today's Walk in Montreal

Overheard on my walk today to the post office. 
A young father pushed his little girl in this giant pram. She couldn't have been more than three, curly-haired, cute as a bug, and she was not so much sitting in it as lounging, resting her head on one hand. 
As they passed I heard him ask her, "I'm sorry, did you just say you want to fly to Vegas?" 
She heaved a big sigh and said,
I died on the spot, as did the father.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Flutter-bys in Arizona

When I was little, I called butterflies "flutter-bys" because in my tiny, unformed brain, that was easier to pronounce. However, I maintain it's because it is more accurate than referring to them as flying butter.

I also called high heels "hee hiles" and the couch (chesterfield) was a "fester-eedle" but I digress.

I visited the butterfly museum in Arizona a couple of weeks ago, and it was pretty special. Except for the 102F temperature outside and extreme humidity inside the atrium where the butterflies lived. And the sweaty tourists with freaked out kids who kept ducking and swatting the butterflies like they were missiles.

And of course, this was the trip I did not bring my good camera. However, I had my trusty point and shoot. Settle yourself on the nearest fester-eedle, put your hee hiles up and take a gander, if you're so inclined.

Blue Morpho, the most beautiful one in my opinion, but also the most difficult one to photograph because they never stopped moving. Except this one. Which got tired. Or maybe it was on its last legs.

The King of Butterflies, the Monarch.

Parthenos Sylvia or Clipper Butterfly. I'd like to decorate a room in these colours. I find them very soothing.

Banded Peacock.

Another view of the Blue Morpho.

Arched-wing Cattleheart

This looked like it was made of plastic. It's called, appropriately enough, Greta Oto, the Costa Rica Clearwing.