Thursday, July 9, 2009

Peruvian Apple Cactus

Last July I wrote about our Peruvian Apple Cactus, and
it has become a fairly popular post on the Hummingbird Happiness Blog. Since the cactus is blooming again, I thought I'd do a little revisit;)

Definitely a member of our family, it was planted in the backyard (much too close to the fence;) about 30 years ago. A gift from my brother-in-law, it arrived as a section of trunk and roots, huge, heavy, and ancient. I couldn't give it's exact age, but my guess is that the original plant must be at least 70 years old.

For safety purposes, we've trimmed it back to the original trunk a number of times. The 'spires' are quite tall and very heavy, so we utilize a method of pruning using ropes, a ladder, and bow saw to take them down one by one. Timber!!!! Cuttings can be rooted, so they often become second generation cacti.

The flowers are lovely, but night-blooming, so early morning is the best time to enjoy them. Notice (in the photo above) the complete flowering cycle of a bloom. There are the small buds, one ready to open, the open flower, and the beginning of the cactus fruit, or pitaya, where a spent bloom has fallen, leaving a dangling string behind.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The (Box) Turtle

The turtle can't go out to play,

Or sell his house or rent it;
For when he moves,
His house moves too
And nothing can prevent it.

It's always a good day when I see our box turtle.
Half the year he hibernates; the other half he forages for he can hibernate! He keeps the snail population in check, but, sadly, he has reduced the number of fence lizards in the yard too. Today I found him floating in the pond. Mosquito fish for lunch? Possibly!

(Poem courtesy of Can Teach)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Isn't She A Beauty?

An alligator lizard among the roses. Now that's juxtaposition! She brings back memories of my childhood when catching just one alligator lizard trumped corralling five to ten “blue-belly” fence lizards. Alligator lizards have attitude. They're arrogant loners with powerful jaws, a snake-ish slither, and keeled scales that look like armor. The tail, if original, almost doubles the lizard's length and is slightly prehensile. It can detach too, for a quick escape from predators. Will an alligator lizard climb a tree? Most certainly! Not only do they munch on bugs, but also on eggs and baby birds.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Notice the Nest?

While walking the other day, I noticed a mourning dove flying toward a flowering pear tree. She didn't hold the traditional olive branch in her mouth; rather, dry pine needles. Hmmmm. Maybe I should investigate;) Sure enough, there was a nest, but I did not linger since I was disturbing the two doves working so diligently to complete their home.

My logical mind doubted their choice of locations. The nest was hidden in leaves, but so low to the ground....and SO close to the sidewalk. The tree is located in a park, but fortunately not in a play area. Perhaps no one would notice them. Except me;)

My walking route varies daily, but I do check the birdies when I can. This nest is not the first one I have monitored. One year at work, we discovered a pair of nesting doves. We could see them at eye level through the second floor window, but the best view was from the third floor window looking down. Mom and Dad successfully raised two youngsters. It was a happy day when they flew away, but a little sad to see the empty nest. Wonder if birdie moms feel the same as their human counterparts? ;)

Monday, May 11, 2009

Three Little Parakeets.... pets, and notoriously messy! That's one reason they live outside;) Parakeets can easily survive Southern California winters OUTDOORS (provided they have adequate shelter). When my old walk-in aviary finally succumbed to weather, hookbills, and termites, I razed it with the intent to build something smaller. A few years ago, I discovered some heavy-duty storage racks on clearance at Lowes. The price was right too. With some adjustments to the assembly, plywood, pegboard, a few pieces of cedar and some aviary wire, my three little parakeets had a new home. These days the cage is a little rusty, but my birdies are as pretty as ever!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Spring Blooms are Humming

Colorful blooms have arrived this Spring. Cymbidium Orchids, Kolanchoe, wintered-over Gerbera Daisies, Don Juan Roses, and Bougainvilla Flowers are competing for attention....mine! Potted to decorate my porch, I try to sneak a peek through the screen door many times a day. Hummingbirds visit as well with squeaks and chatter to let me know that company's-a-comin' ;)

That's a Rufous at the feeder!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Let Them Eat Cake!

My baby boy celebrates his 22nd birthday tomorrow, so Saturday morning (before he left for the University) I needed to produce a birthday cake. Recipe of choice? My chocolate sheet cake which takes less than an hour to make from beginning to end. Yay! 'Twas finished in time for his trip to Redlands.....

Happy Birthday Kiddo!!!

Hi Natalie! We received your postcard from Paris! Wish you were here! Sending a celebratory slice of virtual birthday cake your way! Have fun in Italy!

Chocolate Sheet Cake

2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup buttermilk
(or 1/2 cup milk with 1 tablespoon white vinegar)
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla (or 1 tablespoon Kahlua liqueur)

2 sticks margarine
4 tablespoons cocoa
1 cup water

Mix together sugar, flour, and cinnamon in a large bowl. In a medium saucepan mix margarine, cocoa, and water. Bring to a boil then pour over dry ingredients. Mix well. Add milk, soda, eggs, and vanilla. Mix well. Pour into an 11" X 16" greased and floured pan, then bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. (Batter will be thin.)


1 stick margarine
4 tablespoons cocoa
1/3 cup milk

Mix ingredients in saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in 1 pound of powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon of vanilla (or 1 tablespoon
Kahlua liqueur), and a cup of chopped nuts (I use walnuts). Frost while the cake is hot. Allow to cool before serving.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Postcard from Salzburg

My son’s good friend Natalie (from college) is spending the spring semester of her junior year in Salzburg, Austria.....
IN A CASTLE! Great gig if you can get it, yes?

I adore Natalie and love to receive the email glimpses she sends our way. It’s that old vicarious thing, ya know!

A portion of her latest ‘postcard’......

Forgive me for the lateness of this email. I haven’t gotten the chance to get on the internet in a while (we don’t have it at the house, and if I want to get online I have to pay for an expensive drink at a bar/café, unless it’s during happy hour).

Salzy is still as amazing as ever. I just finished watching The Sound of Music and it’s so cool to spot scenes in the movie and to know I was actually there (or rather that I actually live here). FYI-The scene where the children
and Maria pass the fountain on the way to their picnic (Do-Ray-Mi), I pass the same fountain on my way into

Since my last email, I have traveled to many places. The second complete weekend at the house (January 22-24), our class took a trip to Vienna with our professors. I’ve already been to Vienna, but it’s just as beautiful as I remember it. We saw many things including the Belvedere, Stephansdom (huge church), the Museum of Art History, in addition to going on a walking tour of the city and seeing other sites. Saturday the class headed back to Salzburg while Morgan (a friend of mine here) and I took a train from Vienna to Munich, Germany. We were there less than 24 hours but saw SO much. We went to the Hofbräuhaus (twice!’s a HUGE beer hall that can hold 8,000 people, supposedly). There are busty women who serve you pretzels and beer (only in liter form). You make friends there quite easily as you just sit down at a table with free space (others may already be sitting there with extra room). Our hostel called Wombat’s was cool, and offered a free three hour tour. We saw many sites, got lost a few times, walked MANY a mile, but made it home safely at around 8pm Sunday night.

The next weekend (January 29-February 1) I went to Prague (the capital of the Czech Republic). I was definitely out of my comfort zone there, as I didn’t even know the simplest words like “thank you” and “hello”. Austria and Germany are a breeze because at least I can get around with the little German I do know; but we had to speak English the entire time we were in Prague (it was rather discouraging). In addition, it was FREEZING. The weather forecast turned out to be incredibly wrong and I nearly froze to death the first day we walked around town. The second day I doubled up on shirts and it snowed. However, we got to see many sites like the Astronomical clock, this tower-like structure modeled after the Eiffel tower that looks out over ALL of Prague, Prague castle, a Salvador Dali/Alfonse Mucha exhibit, an Andy Warhol exhibit (that was interesting…), the Museum of Communism, Charles Bridge (which is GORGEOUS), and many others.......

This Thursday I am headed to Greece for 10 days!!!! We are going to be in Athens, Delphi, Nafplion, and Olympia. I am super excited and canNOT wait to tell you all about it.

For those of you who receive postcards within the next couple weeks, they might be a little outdated (as in, three weeks old) just because I haven’t gotten the opportunity to buy postage for a while, so bear with me please!

Liebe (Love),

P.S. It snowed here this past week and everything looked gorgeous. I’m positive we got over half a foot of snow! But we had a “heat wave” the past couple days and it’s in the 40s, sometimes 50s and all of the snow is nearly gone. I’m hoping it snows again so that I can go sledding.

P.P.S. Sorry for the lack of pictures. It takes FOREVER to upload one picture.

P.P.S. Dad, can you send this to anyone else on your email that would enjoy this? i.e. C and C, the Harris Family, Terri and Jodi, Auntie Cher. Thanks Dad! :D

P.P.P.S. The one picture I have attached to this email was when I was on a sleigh ride through the Austrian Alps on January 11th.

Yes. Thanks, Natalie (and Dad too;)
Can't wait to hear about Greece.....