Tag Archives: seasons

Savor summer with Peanut Butter Chocolate Pudding Pops

On my list of ways to savor the flavors of summer in this strange pandemic season, I listed “make homemade popsicles.”

I remember my mother making popsicles long ago in the ’70s. It’s exactly the type of recipe Jell-O would have popularized back then to promote sales among homemakers. Nowadays, people just buy popsicles.

But on the theory that making them myself would help savor the popsicle, I made some. Fortunately, Mom gifted me some extra molds she described as being forty years old, meaning they were the same ones she used back in the ’70s. If that isn’t a testimony to Tupperware, I don’t know what is.

I wanted to make fancy, three-layer pops with peanut butter being one of the layers (because I love peanut butter). I could not find such a recipe several pages deep into Google search results, so I made one up and it turned out great (despite my father’s skepticism about the structural integrity of such fancy pops). If you like peanut butter and making a big mess in the kitchen, you might like it, too.

Popsicles in process

June 28: Make homemade popsicles.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Pudding Pops

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 (3.5 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder

Directions:

  1. Beat milks, pudding and sugar in a bowl until thoroughly combined. Fill popsicle molds one-third full.
  2. Remove two cups of vanilla pudding mixture to a new bowl and beat in peanut butter. Fill popsicle molds with resulting mixture to two-thirds full.
  3. Remove one cup of peanut butter pudding mixture to another bowl and beat in cocoa powder. Fill popsicle molds to full and freeze until firm, about three hours.
  4. Depending on the size of your molds, you may have extra pudding. Spoon it carefully into glass dishes (so you can see the layers), and enjoy with whipped cream.
  5. Release mold from popsicle with the heat of your hands. To really savor your popsicle, you’ll lick it. But I like eating it in bites. You do you.
Pudding Pop

Yum!

 

 

 

How do I love thee, summer

We’re nearly a third of the way through summer, by Minnesota Transplant’s accounting (I mark the first day of summer as the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend), and here are dozen more ways I’ve been savoring this sweet season.

2020.06.08 walleye

June 8: Eat fresh walleye.

Somehow, I missed listing this flavor of summer on my original list, but of course, dining on walleye is a summer-must in Minnesota. Earlier this month, we drove waaaaay up north to see my parents. My father shared his hard-won bounty with us and fried it up in a pan (he is a master at frying good food; read about his fried eggs here). My Beloved and I gobbled up more than our fair share.

2020.06.08 rhubarb

June 8: Eat rhubarb something.

After our walleye feast, Mom served up bowls of gluten-free rhubarb crisp topped with vanilla ice cream. So sweet and tangy! You should have seen all the rhubarb in her garden! She had a bumper crop.

2020.06.09 radish

June 9: Dip a fresh radish in salt.

Mom gave us a tour of her garden, and while we were admiring her rhubarb, she picked a bunch of radishes. This snack was a crunchy treat.

2020.06.09 bee

June 9: Watch a bumble bee work.

This noisy insect buzzed around sipping nectar and spreading pollen while we were traipsing around the garden.

2020.06.09 watermelon

June 9: Eat watermelon.

Are you sensing a food theme during our visit to the ‘rents? Mom dressed up lunch with a fruit and cheese tray.

2020.06.09 grave

June 9: Place flowers on a grave.

It wasn’t actually me who placed flowers on my brother’s grave when we visited; Mom watered the flowers she had placed there earlier this summer.

2020.06.10 steak

June 10: Eat a freshly grilled steak.

On our return journey south to home, we stopped at my sister’s house and celebrated being carnivores. Check out those grill marks!

2020.06.11 loon

June 11: Listen for a loon.

This bird’s call wasn’t on my original list either, but hearing the distinct, eerie call of a loon is somehow built in a Minnesotan’s DNA. It says home (and also, maybe, buy a lottery ticket). A pair of loons live on lake outside my sister’s house, and this one was making a racket when an eagle threatened her baby.

2020.06.13 al fresco

June 13: Dine al fresco.

My Beloved and I relished in a special occasion: meeting my stepson’s fiancée’s parents for the first time. We dined beneath a tiki hut outside of a Caribbean fusion restaurant. Minnesota was just opening its restaurants more widely after months of pandemic-related closures, so eating out was a real treat (as was meeting my stepson’s future in-laws).

2020.06.15 marigolds

June 15: Appreciate marigolds.

Marigolds’ unpleasant musky odor doesn’t excite the nose, but their bright color demands attention. On a walk to the post office, I admired my neighbor’s marigold presentation in a front yard caldron.

2020.06.20 bouquet

June 20: Arrange a bouquet of fresh flowers.

I can take no credit for creating this lovely crown of fresh daisies and baby’s breath beyond making a phone call to the local florist. She was delighted to create it for me since so many brides have canceled their bloom-festooned occasions this summer. I indulged in this adornment to celebrate the summer solstice, the longest day of the year (and to wear to a very small dinner party we hosted last night).

2020.06.20 bonfire

After our guests departed, I wanted to dance around a bonfire in the back yard, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” style. Alas, it was raining, so we lit some candles under the picnic table umbrella and toasted with a shot of tequila as a nightcap.

2020.06.20 sparkler

June 20: Light a sparkler.

I bet you assumed lighting a sparkler was meant for Fourth of July. Well, I might do that, too, but as a final welcome to the official first day of summer, I lit a sparkler and twirled around the patio, avoiding raindrops. Here’s to squeezing every last bit of joy out of summer, folks!

Lord, what fools these mortals be!

~Puck, in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

 

11 ways to savor summer down, 97 to go

Conscious that more urgent topics deserve attention, I am nonetheless savoring this sweetest of seasons. Please don’t judge. Even the highest-minded of us can appreciate a distraction once in a while.

I’ve determined that one way to savor summer is to record me savoring it. Let me count the ways. Here are a few of the 108 ways I’ve savored summer so far:

2020.05.23

May 23: Pick a dandelion.

2020.05.23.asparagusI didn’t actually pick a dandelion, but this bunch is one of the biggest I’ve seen. Fortunately for some weed-killer-wielding landscaper, it wasn’t in someone’s yard; I found it on the side of the road in an asparagus patch (stretching along behind the dandelions there). I hadn’t harvested wild asparagus before, but it was a bit of a game, picking spears out from among blades of grass. My Beloved and I walked for about 300 yards, finding a couple pounds of spears. Technically, I think eating asparagus is a way to savor spring, but it was still delicious on Memorial Day weekend.

2020.05.24

May 24: Eat corn on the cob.

It shouldn’t be so delicious so early, but my Beloved picked up fresh corn on the cob at the local mushroom farm, and it was as sweet and tender as I expect it to be in July.

2020.05.28

May 28: Get a pedicure.

My Beloved and I ventured out for a pedicure. We wore masks, and we agreed to wash our hands upon entry (the technicians washed our feet). It felt like an extra-special treat this year especially.

2020.05.29

May 29: Smell lilacs.

I spent an hour one morning exploring my own yard. The white-flowered bushes that line most of the perimeter are in frothy bloom this time of year, and three lilac bushes decorate the row. They are as sweetly perfumed as they look.

2020.05.30

May 30: Fill a birdbath.

It wasn’t on my original list, but one can’t fill a birdbath in winter in the upper Midwest because it freezes solid. I filled my mother-in-law’s birdbath after my Beloved power washed it clean. Her birds can appreciate even more crystal clear splashing now.

2020.05.30 picnic

May 30: Picnic.

If you dine on a picnic table, it’s a picnic. My Beloved and I enjoyed some Chinese take-out in the park.

2020.06.01

May 31: Drink wine outdoors.

My Beloved and I subscribe to Zerba Winery’s wine club after we tasted this particular brand of the nectar of the gods during a jaunt through Washington state a couple of years ago. We imbibed on a bottle of Cabernet Franc on the patio while my Beloved grilled a couple of steaks.

2020.06.03

June 3: Take a twilight walk.

Summer light is just different in Minnesota. The angle of the sun, the long days—something just makes an evening walk in my home state stand out. During a visit with my Adored stepson, his fiancée and my granddog, I accompanied them on a twilight walk. You can even see the almost-full moon there among the treetops.

2020.06.04

June 4: Take a boat ride.

My Beloved invested in a new-to-him boat this year, and I joined him on the St. Croix River on what he called the maiden voyage (it was actually his second outing, but this boat ride lasted longer than just getting the engine up to full speed and down again). I assume this will be the first of many boat rides this season.

2020.06.05

June 5: Mow the lawn.

I lent a hand to my stepson by mowing his lawn. Naturally, I mowed it on the diagonal because I think it looks better that way. I classify this act as a way to savor the scents of summer, though I can’t say I truly appreciate the scent of freshly cut grass; I was thinking too much about working up a sweat.

2020.06.06

June 6: Lay on the ground and look at the clouds

On an absolutely perfect 60-degree morning, I practiced yoga on my stepson’s back deck. While in savasana, I gazed at the clouds drifting by rather than closing my eyes. They look almost tropical, these are the leaves of the rather unique hackberry tree in my stepson’s yard.

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How are you savoring summer?

108 precious days of summer

It happens every five or six years: the calendar gods bestow us with an extra long summer.

Astronomers might start counting summer’s days at the summer solstice (June 20 this year), but I don’t. Summer for a native Minnesotan begins with Memorial Day weekend and ends on Labor Day.

Most years, including last year and next year, there are 101 days between the Saturday before Memorial Day and the Monday of Labor Day. But this year, Memorial Day falls as early as possible (May 25) and Labor Day occurs as late as possible (Sept. 7). That means there are 108 days of summer—a full week more than usual.

The calendar hasn’t been structured this way since 2015, and before that 2009. A quick look back reminds me I was spending precious early days of that summer of ’09 watching Little League baseball, running long distances and grocery shopping. Actually, those are not the worst ways to spend summer days.

In a year when spring this year wasn’t only weird, it was isolating and downright scary, the prospect of a long summer sounds pretty appealing. Even if I can’t enjoy it in the usual ways, I want to savor every one of those 108 days.

So I made a list of ways to appreciate the sounds and scents and flavors of summer, one for each of those exquisite days. Some of the things on my list might not be possible in a pandemic (stock car races,  a parade, fireworks), but I’m operating from an optimistic perspective, which is probably healthier if not entirely logical at this point. I packed in lots of little ways to enjoy summer, not matter what COVID-19 has in store.

Some of the items on my list are specific to my interests. I can’t roller skate, I hate golf and cotton candy is way too sweet for my tastes, but those summery things might be right up your alley, especially if you don’t eat meat or wear a ponytail, which made my list.

108 days of summer

If you like the idea of celebrating summer right down to slapping mosquitos, mowing the lawn and making fried green tomatoes, I turned my list into an image so you can download it and print it out.

Beginning Saturday, the first official day of Minnesota Transplant’s summer, here are 108 ways to fully enjoy it.

Sights of summer

  • Go to a county (or state) fair.
  • Go to a parade.
  • Attend a family reunion.
  • Lay on the ground and look at the clouds.
  • Light a sparkler.
  • Go to a drive-in movie.
  • Visit a museum.
  • Stop at a historical marker.
  • Take a road trip (interstate highways don’t count).
  • Appreciate marigolds.
  • Watch the sun rise.
  • Watch the sun set.
  • Watch (or listen to) a baseball game.
  • Go bird watching.
  • Count the stars.
  • Watch a bumble bee work.
  • Watch fireworks.
  • Enjoy sunflowers.

Sounds of summer

  • Listen to the wind through windchimes.
  • Go to an outdoor concert.
  • Listen to a rainstorm.
  • Listen for a cardinal.
  • Pay attention to crickets.
  • Make a summer playlist.
  • Listen to a mourning dove.
  • Listen to children playing outside.
  • Listen to frogs in a pond.
  • Count the seconds between lightning and thunder.

Flavors of summer

  • Eat a fresh tomato.
  • Eat corn on the cob.
  • Make homemade popsicles.
  • Eat an ice cream cone.
  • Eat a s’more.
  • Make fried green tomatoes.
  • Dip a radish in salt.
  • Drink an iced coffee.
  • Drink wine outdoors.
  • Eat watermelon.
  • Eat a freshly grilled steak.
  • Make cucumber salad.
  • Eat a hotdog (preferably a Chicago dog).
  • Buy meat from the source.
  • Shell peas.
  • Make gazpacho.
  • Make berry cobbler.
  • Drink a tropical cocktail.
  • Dine al fresco.
  • Eat a fresh peach.
  • Eat fresh basil.
  • Picnic.
  • Drink an Arnold Palmer.
  • Drink freshly made lemonade.
  • Attend a backyard barbecue.
  • Blow bubbles with bubblegum.

Scents of summer

  • Arrange a bouquet of fresh flowers.
  • Take a walk after the rain.
  • Smell lilacs.
  • Mow the lawn.
  • Eat rhubarb something.
  • Smell peonies.
  • Use coconut sunscreen.

Doings of summer

  • Walk through rain puddles.
  • Do goat yoga.
  • Swing.
  • Climb a tree.
  • Day dream.
  • Lie in a hammock.
  • Play hopscotch.
  • Read a book outdoors.
  • Go for a boat ride.
  • Kiss in the moonlight.
  • Walk along the shore.
  • Visit a farm.
  • Kayak.
  • Sunbathe.
  • Dance.
  • Take a twilight walk.
  • Walk a labyrinth.
  • Pick a dandelion.
  • Wear a ponytail and baseball cap.
  • Take a day off.
  • Play 7-up (it’s a one-person game with a tennis ball).
  • Watch ants at work.
  • Pick berries.
  • Shop a garage sale.
  • Write a poem.
  • Sit around a campfire or bonfire.
  • Slap a mosquito.
  • Wear shorts and sandals.
  • Attend an outdoor church service.
  • Get a pedicure.
  • Ride in a convertible (or open the sun roof).
  • Go to a farmer’s market.
  • Play mini golf.
  • Go for a run (even a short one).
  • Chase a monarch butterfly.
  • Go to a flea market.
  • Place flowers on a grave.
  • Collect shells.
  • Paint a rock.
  • Visit a sculpture garden.
  • Go to stock car race.
  • Splash in a pool.
  • Go to a sidewalk sale.
  • Raise a flag.
  • Hang sheets on a clothesline.
  • Throw a frisbee.
  • Ride a bike.

Spring flowers

bluebonnets in ditch

Bluebonnet is a name given to any number of purple-flowered species of the genus Lupinus predominantly found in the southwestern United States.

A sure sign of spring in central Texas is bluebonnets blooming in the ditches.

The bluebonnet is the state flower of Texas. Back in the ’70s, Lady Bird Johnson encouraged the planting of native plants along Texas highways in a highway beautification effort. Like cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C., or tulips in southern Wisconsin, bluebonnet blooms are a common sight in the springtime.

Our condo is located near the end of a winding road that makes the most of one of the bends in Lake Travis. Bluebonnets thrive along this road, and they make me happy every time I have to make a run to the post office or grocery store.

bluebonnet closeup

The shape of the petals on the flower resembles a pioneer woman’s bonnet.

Summer begins tomorrow: I declare

Astronomers might start counting summer’s days at the summer solstice (usually June 21) but I don’t. Summer for a native Minnesotan begins with Memorial Day weekend and ends on Labor Day.

Most years, this one included, there are 101 days between the Saturday before Memorial Day and the Monday of Labor Day.

One hundred and one glorious days of summer. And next week feels like a bonus week in May. How often is it that we get four more May days after Memorial Day? In our family, in additional to the regular holidays of Memorial Day, Father’s Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day, we celebrate a half dozen birthdays and our anniversary during summer. This year, we have two family reunions to attend. So much to savor.

Speaking of savoring, I think everyone around here is salivating for some real summer days. It seems like it’s been overcast since September. I tire of dodging raindrops. Here comes the sun, here comes the sun, and I say, it’s all right.

ice cream

You scream, I scream, we call scream for ice cream.

I struggle with assigning a sense to summer. Spring’s fresh air and lilacs win with the sense of smell. Autumn probably gets the color award, what with its fantastic changing leaves and orange pumpkins and golden waves of grain. Does summer best minister to our sense of taste when we enjoy sweet and creamy ice cream cones and juicy fresh tomatoes and buttery sweet corn? Or is it our sense of hearing that summer amplifies? Is it a coo of a mourning dove, the wind rustling the leaves or the laughter of children wafting through the neighborhood that say “summer” to you?

So tomorrow is the first day of summer as declared by Minnesota Transplant, and the perfect opportunity to ponder how you will best experience it. As any good Minnesotan knows, summer is fleeting and we must appreciate every moment. What will you savor?

Aaah, summer—that long anticipated stretch of lazy, lingering days, free of responsibility and rife with possibility. It’s a time to hunt for insects, master handstands, practice swimming strokes, conquer trees, explore nooks and crannies, and make new friends.

~ Darell Hammond, the philanthropist, not the comedian

 

Sign your kid up for swimming lessons now

Throwback Thursday: I shared this post a few years ago, but it’s worth repeating because the pool season is upon us. 

# # #

I saved a kid’s life once.

The Municipality of Sebeka paid me $4.25 a hour to work 40 hours a week at the Sebeka Pool for three months during two summers in the late ’80s, and I remember saving only one kid.

She was about 6, and her siblings were swimming in the part of the pool that was 5-feet deep. She kept skirting her way down the side of the pool with a death grip on the edge, apparently thinking she wanted to be swimming with her sisters even though it was obvious she was in over her head — literally.

More than once, I told her she shouldn’t be going that deep and she should go back to the shallow end of the pool.

But in a crowd of at least a hundred bobbing around in the water in 90-degree heat, she persisted in inching her way back to the deep end.

Maybe I sensed her fear or maybe I was just lucky, but when she slipped and started gulping in water with a look of wide-eyed panic on her face, I zeroed in on her and was there to grab her and pull her to safety. And like a good Scandinavian who can’t let a “I told you so” moment slip by even in the face of tears, I shook a trembling finger at her and scolded her for  going where I told her not to.

To be honest, I hope the community of Sebeka got its money worth because I think I saved a lot more kids from the brink of death by teaching swimming lessons even on cold, cloudy days in early June when being in the pool was a different kind of goose-bumply water torture.

Every kid in America should learn to swim.

In church today during the children’s sermon, the pastor asked the assembled group of people shorter than 4 feet if they were taking swimming lessons this summer. Only half the hands went up.

OK, maybe the other half weren’t listening. Or they didn’t understand the question. Or they had taken swimming lessons during another season.

But while the pastor was teaching a life-or-death lesson for their eternal souls, I was worrying about those kids who didn’t take swimming lessons this summer. Because it’s a life-or-death lesson for their mortal bodies.

I’m not a parent (not a biological parent anyway), so I generally try to keep my opinions about parenting to myself, fully aware that every task looks easier from an outsider’s perspective (“Sure, honey, your kids would eat their vegetables and wouldn’t throw tantrums in Target. But you don’t know until your toddler spits beets all over the kitchen and holds up the 10-item-or-less line because you won’t buy her gum.”)

Still, I spent two summers of my life teaching 5-year-olds how to swim so I feel like I can safely tread in this territory.

If you don’t give your kids a chance to learn to swim, you’re a bad parent.

Drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death in the United States among children younger than 14 and the leading cause of accidental death for children 5 and under, according to the American Institute for Preventive Medicine. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 10 people die every day from drowning. While some parents go into hysterics about “stranger danger,” only about two kids a week are involved in stereotypical non-family abductions, according to CNN.

A child abduction is a terrible thing, but my point is if you’re teaching your child not to talk to strangers but you’re not taking them to swimming lessons, you’re worrying about the wrong thing.

People drown for a lot of reasons besides a lack of ability to swim — like lack of parental supervision, undertow and consuming alcohol — but the CDC states, “Taking part in formal swimming lessons reduces the risk of drowning among children aged 1 to 4 years.”

To be clear, I didn’t teach 5-year-olds how to swim in the two weeks they bobbed and blew bubbles for a half and hour a day in my classes, but it was a start with the goal being how to breathe in water and float, maybe dog paddle. Nowadays, parents can find swimming lessons for kids a lot younger than 5. A kid really ought to go to swimming lessons for a couple of weeks a year for years in order to learn to swim.

In fact, a kid really ought to wear a swimsuit so much every summer, it fades to white and loses all elasticity because they spend four hours a day at the pool (under the supervision of a parent or at least a lifeguard). That’s how I learned to swim (and eventually teach others to swim) while living in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

Enroll your kids in swimming lessons and they may learn skills to save their lives. If you’re an adult who doesn’t know how to swim, you can get lessons, too. Splashing around in water is great exercise no matter what your physical condition. The life you save may be your own.

# # #

Though through no influence of mine, I’m proud to report my 15-month-old granddaughter is splashing around right now learning to swim in weekly lessons with her momma. Go, Momma! 

 

Blooms in their original place

Another gray day in paradise. The wet fields are preventing farmers from planting their crops, but you know what they say about the upside of April showers: They bring May flowers.

Here are a few tulips I’ve glimpsed recently. Tulips have lovely blossoms that are best viewed in situ.

tulips

This bunch is growing in the middle of nowhere, clinging to a steep hill. “Life, uh, finds a way,” doesn’t it Ian Malcolm (Jurassic Park).

tulips red

These tulips are growing in front of the sign at the other church in town.

tulip yellow

This single yellow beauty is growing in the garden left behind by the former gardeners of our church, now home. It’s a persistent bugger; I have pictures of the bloom last year at this time, too.

I ran across something else today, too, that seems appropriate for the subject matter. I saw this quote in a vanity sink. Yes, you read that right. Kohler made an Artists Edition sink painted with prairie flowers and this verse:

“Our ability to perceive quality in nature begins, as in art, with the pretty. It expands through successive stages of the beautiful to values as yet uncaptured by language.”

~ Aldo Leopold

Leopold was an American author, philosopher, scientist, ecologist, forester, conservationist and environmentalist. He was a professor at the University of Wisconsin and is best known for his book A Sand County Almanac.

A frog’s call signals spring

Call me bold. Or myopic. Or just plain crass. But while the rest of the world mourns the potential loss of a million of the planet’s eight million species in what scientists warned yesterday would be described as the most comprehensive global nature loss ever, I’m celebrating one species: Frogs.

When spring comes, it sounds like there are a million of them.

Our former house bordered a nature preserve. It was really just a detention pond in a large suburban neighborhood, but it sounds better to call it a nature preserve. It was filled with turtles and frogs (and other creatures) with which I would occasionally cross paths while running on the nearby paths and streets. Turtle are a quiet neighbor, but frogs are not. At least not during mating season. The trill of the frogs’ song saturated the air to the point my brain cancelled it out.

It’s not until I moved to this new house, which is not near standing water, that I noticed the absence of the frogs’ peeping. But recently, as I was driving on a back road with the windows open, I noticed the distinctive frog ribbiting as I passed the puddles in the farm fields. Pass a puddle, the sound clamored. Pass a dry spot, the sound died away. Clearly, these farmers aren’t using too much pesticide; even their transient mud puddles attract residents. It was glorious, actually, hearing the frog calls. Such a clear sign of spring.

Frogs are among the planet’s few fully amphibious creatures, as much as home in water as they are on dry land. But water they demand. As I was walking my granddaughter this afternoon, I could hear a frog’s bre-ke-ke from a half block away. I traced it to the decorative pond in the yard of a neighbor.

Couldn’t see him. But definitely heard him.

Winged signs of spring

I’m neither a birder nor a photographer, but I got a real show when I visited my parents in Minnesota recently.

Some people mark the beginning of spring by sighting a robin, but in my parents’ neck of the woods, one might see all kinds of springtime birds. There are 442 species of birds on the official list of Minnesota inhabitants, but I’m not talking about sorts of everyday chirping birds just about everyone has visiting their backyard bird feeder. My parents’ home is remote enough to be nestled on the edge of river, or you might call it a “crik” or possibly a swamp, all depending on the time of year and inches of precipitation. A number of large birds also inhabit the area, apparently because it’s well stocked in fish and small game and whatever else birds eat.

Most of the time, the photos I take of birds (of any size) look something like this:

birds sandhill

See those two blobs in the middle there? Those are two sandhill cranes. You’re just going to have to trust me.

As we drove up to my parents house the first afternoon we arrived, a solemn looking bald eagle observed us from his perch in the middle of a field. Of course, I didn’t have my camera at the ready; I just swiveled my head as I engaged in a staring match driving by. The nest he shared with his mate was clearly visible in the leafless tree bordering the creek, and we saw him frequently during the course of the week as we drove by into town. Eventually, I figured out to have my cell phone camera in hand.

birds eagle

His head is white. Again, trust me.

The bald eagle, once an endangered species, now flourishes across the United States. Even if you’re not all that interested in birds, he’s quite a sight, frequently appearing on lists of the world’s most beautiful birds.

birds eagle flying

This bald eagle wasn’t much for photo shoots. He flew away when I got out of the car.

I also saw a red tail hawk and a pheasant. I’m pretty sure I saw a turkey vulture, too. Here’s my shot of the pheasant.

birds pheasant

Yup, he’s there in the middle, walking away from me.

The birds that put on the most fantastic show were the wild turkeys. Dad lent me his binoculars to observe the males fluffing up their feathers in order to get laid. When they’re strutting about, they look just like they do in those handprint paintings kids do at Thanksgiving with their tail feathers spreading up vertically, sort of like a less colorful peacock. Lots of drama in that mating dance.

The large bird I saw most closely was attracted to the bird feeder in my parents’ yard. I heard it before I saw it though: The pileated woodpecker.

birds woodpecker

I wouldn’t describe myself as a nature girl, but I was amazed to see all these distinctive large birds within a mile of my parents’ house. They were quite beautiful and impressive, bright spots on the otherwise brown not-quite-spring-yet landscape. Signs of more colorful days to come.