30 July 2014

A Short Vacation

2014.07.29ColoradoLeastChipmunk01
After the past three months of non-stop work on the house and yard as well as wedding preparations, I was ever so ready for a break!  Two days and nights in Rocky Mountain National Park was just the ticket!  It was also a great opportunity to try out the new camera lens that I gifted myself with!  

I've always had a fondness for small rodents.  Yes, even mice, which I used to raise for the local pet shops when I was a girl.  But chipmunks hold a special spot for me.  Just love those sweet little faces!  But they don't hold still for photos very often and when trying to learn how to use a new lens that is completely different from any I've ever used before, I'm amazed that I managed to get the fun shots that I did!  

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Such a sweet whiskery face!  This is a Colorado Least Chipmunk.  Very tiny, very quick, rarely sitting still for more than a few seconds.  Very industrious!  

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I also managed to get a fun set of photos of a Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel.  If you have a hard time telling the difference between the Chipmunk and the Golden Mantled, you are not alone!  Many people have trouble with it.  One easy way to remember is that Chipmunks are tinier and have striped face masks.  The Ground Squirrels do not have any stripes on the their heads and are larger (and fatter usually).  

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This fellow also sat for a nice portrait, even if his mouth is a little dirty from foraging for seeds!

2014.07.29LushGrasses
There has been so  much rain in the northern Colorado mountains this year that everything is lush and green!  

2014.07.29Fireweed
All that moisture makes for glorious wildflowers like these brilliant spires of Fireweed!

2014.07.29CinquefoilnHarebell
Shrubby yellow flowered Cinquefoil is in bloom all over the park and in many places there are Harebells in bloom as well! 

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I really love the wild Monarda (or Bee Balm).  Just glorious!

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Like a field of pink fireworks!

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The Rudbeckia is also in bloom along with the wild white yarrow.  God plants the best gardens, doesn't he?!  

2014.07.29Fleabane
The Fleabane is also in bloom.  In a few short weeks, the Asters will start blooming.  They look almost like the Fleabane but have fewer and wider petals. 

2014.07.29Coyote
While I was out and about, I was lucky enough to spot this coyote on the hunt.   I was also blessed to see a weasel with a freshly caught vole in it's mouth, running down the road in front of the car at one point!  Love being able to observe Nature's life cycle in action.  

2014.07.29WilsonsSnipe
I saw lots of birds and took lots of photos ~ some good, some not so good.  This one is pretty fuzzy, taken through the windshield of the car after I came to a screeching halt to see this strange bird in the road!  It's a Wilson's Snipe ~ a first for me, and certainly not one I expected to see up in the mountains!  Apparently it's a fairly common bird in Rocky Mountain National Park, even though I had never seen it before.  

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By evening, it started to rain.  I stopped at Sprague Lake thinking I might be able to walk around the lake.  The adjacent beaver ponds were looking lush with new willow growth - a good sign that the beavers have moved on.

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The waterway that feeds into Sprague Lake was full to the brim.

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Alas, the rain was coming down too hard and cold to make it enjoyable to walk in, so this is as far as I got.  Still a lovely spot despite the rain!

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Today, the rain was coming down even harder.  I spent the day attempting to see some birds, but most of them were tucked away in the trees and not out where they could be seen.  After doing a couple of small watercolors, which I'll try and take photos of tomorrow to share with you, I drove up Trail Ridge Road.  I love the sub-alpine forests of Douglass Fir and Engelmann Spruce and the lushness of undergrowth.  Ever since we started visiting RMNP back in the mid 1960's, I've loved this stretch of road lined by young and old trees.  Especially dramatic in the mist. 

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After lunch at the Alpine Visitor Center on top of Trail Ridge, I drove back down and discovered the clouds lifting and the rain slowing.  The creek is definitely flowing full with all the rain!  Love how the rain saturates all the colors and makes them even more vivid!  Despite the rain, it has been a lovely couple of days!  So refreshing to be out enjoying nature and to have no set agenda or long to-do list to accomplish for a change!    

Birding with my Sister - Brainard Lake

2014.07.28BrainardLake01
My sister had to fly home to Arizona late in the day on Monday, but we decided we had time to go do a bit more birding before she did.  Brainard Lake was our destination in hopes of finding a few more birds she wanted to check off on her list.  We arrived shortly after dawn.  Just gorgeous.  To me, this view is what Colorado is all about.  Beautiful mountains, pristine blue skies, clear mountain lakes and crisp air filled with birdsong.  

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The other reason we decided on Brainard Lake as a destination was to see if we could see any of the moose that hang out around the lake in the early morning hours.  As you can see, we were successful!  

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Pffftttt!   I'm not sure this fellow was happy with all the people taking photos!  (Actually - it's just a lucky shot at just the right moment while he was eating!)

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A nice pose for the photographers!

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Peek-a-boo!  It was definitely a fun morning with some fun photos!

2014.07.28BrainardLakeParrysPrimrose

Afterwards, we walked around the lake and birded and enjoyed the the amazing wildflowers.  These Parry Primroses were spectacular!  We saw lots of birds, but I didn't take many bird photos as I forgot to get the fully charged battery for my camera before we left home.  The one in my camera only lasted around a small portion of the lake before it gave out.  

2014.07.28ChickareeSquirrel
The last shot I took before the battery died was this sweet Chickaree Squirrel!  They are much smaller than the usual grey or red squirrels and are a favorite of my sister and mine!  

In all, between birding at Pawnee National Grassland the day before and at Brainard Lake (and a quick couple of hours in Rocky Mountain National Park) we saw something like 40 different birds, including a couple that were new for both of us!  Lots of fun, especially to spend the time with my sister, galavanting around the countryside as she calls it!  


29 July 2014

Birding with my Sister - Pawnee National Grasslands

2014.07.27PawneeNtlGrasslands
My sister has taken up our folks pastime of birding recently and so the day after the wedding, when we both needed to de-stress from the busy-ness of the day before, we decided to take a trip out to Pawnee National Grasslands.  It's only about 30 to 45 minutes away from where I live, so it was an easy trip out.  Once you get north and east of Greeley, the farmland gives way to the high plains and short grass prairie.  We both love the wide open vistas of places like this.  It may not look like much, but it's teaming with wildlife and especially birds! 

2014.07.27PawneeButtes
In the eastern portion of the grasslands, Pawnee Buttes, a major landmark on the Oregon/California Trail can be seen.  I've hiked out to them in the past.  It's usually recommended to go in the early spring or late autumn as the temperatures can be brutal and there is little to no water anywhere and definitely no shade!  Every time I see them, they give me a greater appreciation for the fortitude of all those men, women and children who dared to make that difficult journey.  

2014.07.27LarkBunting
Our main goal for the trip was to see Lark Buntings.  They are Colorado's state bird, yet most Coloradans have rarely if ever actually seen them.  I've heard many people question why this bird is the state bird as a result.  But when driving the back roads of Pawnee National Grasslands, it quickly becomes apparent as they are there by the thousands! 

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I loved seeing the Nighthawks sitting on fence posts!  We saw several of them!

2014.07.27EasternKingbird
Another new bird for Holly was the Eastern Kingbird.  So pretty and elegant.  We also saw many Western Kingbirds, which are the same shape as the Eastern, but have a buff colored back and yellow belly.  

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Our real find of the day was this McCown's Longspur.  It's an uncommon bird and a real treat to see.  It had a lovely song which we stayed and listened to for a long time!  

2014.07.27hawkNest
Another treat was to see this nest of young hawks!  They don't have enough feathers yet to tell what kind they were though, so Holly couldn't count them on her bird list.  

2014.07.27RoadBlock
Much of the Pawnee Grasslands is open grazing.  We had a bit of a wait for this herd to cross the road! 

2014.07.27Cowbirds
To go with the cows, we saw a whole fence full of brown headed cow-birds! 

2014.07.27HollyBirding

To end our day, we stopped at the Crow Creek Recreation area near the small town of Briggsdale.  It was a favorite spot for our parents to bird and they made many trips there.   But unfortunately for us, we saw very few birds at this location - probably due to our being there late in the day in the middle of summer.  I imagine that it is teaming with birds earlier in the spring as it is quite an oasis in the grassland and one of the few places where water is to be found! 

Married!

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Jessie and David are married!  I took almost NO photos ~ too busy being Mother-of-the-Bride!   This is the only one I took of Jessie at the reception.  Though she is out of focus, you can still see her glow!  

It was a lovely day and I will share more photos and details once we get them back from the photographer!  

22 July 2014

Ring Pillow (July Pincushion for CQJP)

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When my daughter first got engaged, I knew right away that I wanted to crazy quilt her a ring pillow for the wedding.  We looked at lots of ideas, but she decided that what she really wanted was one of my crazy quilted CD pincushions!   When I decided to do pincushions for the Crazy Quilt Journal Project, I knew that July's entry would be Jessie's ring pillow pincushion!  

Wedding Pin Cushion WIP
The first block I pieced was this one in the shades of blue that Jessie chose for her wedding colors.  But after looking at it, we realized it was too dark and that we really wanted something much paler in color.  

2014.04.28CQJP2014JulyPC
So I pieced this one using bits of white and ivory silk that I had.

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The biggest issue for me was how to attach ribbons that would hold the rings, yet could later be removed.  This little bullion and cast on stitch flower was the answer. 

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Since embroidered seams are my favorite part of crazy quilting, that's what I focused on.  Jessie chose a few of the seams to be done out of my stitching inspiration book that I keep, while I choose the rest.  

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All the embroidery threads are silk threads which I've been gathering for a year in preparation!

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The little blue crystal beads have been in my stash for years, waiting for a special project!

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Jessie loves bling, so we had to add a little bit to the pincushion.  Hobby Lobby carries a whole bunch of blingy buttons and some of them were in her wedding blue color! 

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We also found these little hearts!

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I've had this bit of vintage bling for many years and never had a project it quite worked on.  It worked perfectly on the pincushion!  

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It all came together lovely!

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I got the idea for the ribbon and lace ruffle from some of the Russian pincushions that I've seen online.  

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It adds a bit of extra special-ness to the pincushion and makes it seem like a bit more than just a fancy pincushion! 

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Jessie's junior bridesmaid, who is also a ballerina (who has danced occasionally with the Colorado Ballet!) will be carrying it down the aisle at the wedding!

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The completed top. 

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The bottom.  When stitching the bottom, I discovered that soft wool isn't the easiest to embroider.  If I had it to do over, I'd have backed this with an iron on tricot or cotton first.  At least the lettering would have come out slightly more even!

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Once completed, I threaded the ribbons under two of the bullion stitches in the center of the flower.

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The rings were added and bows tied!

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Just lovely!  We are so happy with how it turned out!

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Hard to believe that my daughter is getting married in just a few days!  Getting the pincushion finished definitely makes it seem a bit more real!

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