Sunday, December 13, 2009

An Old-Fashioned Christmas Tree


Christmas is just around the corner, and I wanted to share with you the nice experience I had with my daughter and son-in-law shopping for a Christmas tree the old-fashioned way.

It's my job these days to assemble our nice looking, but fake Christmas tree. It works for me. It looks good, the needles stay put, and I can burn an evergreen candle if I want a little pine scent. In years past, my husband and I would buy a real tree, pre-cut, at one of the neighborhood lots, but Bruce became less enamored with picking out the tree, bringing it home and setting it up, and cleaning up all the needles.

I finally gave in and we bought the fake, and it is less trouble, but I do sometimes miss getting a real tree. So, I was delighted when my daughter Angie called me and asked if I would like to go to a tree farm and help pick out their tree.

We are not that far from Highland, maybe 10 miles, where a lot of open land still exists and most of the tree farms are located. We visited one of the most popular tree farms first, which featured hay-baled filled wagon rides pulled by a tractor. This was great as it happened to be a beautiful sunny day and only mildly cold. The three of us hopped on the wagon along with a few other people, and headed for the acres of planted pines beyond. It was fun! They dropped us off farther back, and we walked and walked, but couldn't decide between the scotch pine or the blue spruce, plus some of the pre-cut trees they offered looked good also. In the end, we decided to drink some hot cider, then check out another of the tree farms nearby.

Eventually, after more walking, we decided on a blue spruce at the next farm, where many of the trees were nice looking. But as we were ready to leave, the tree tied to the roof, Angie's best friend Darcey and her husband Jim, plus their toddler Andrew arrived. And so we did it all over again, walked through the trees for a third time, to visit with them and to watch while they picked out their tree. I'll admit I was getting tired by this time, also hungry, plus hadn't seen any signs of an available restroom for a while.

It all worked out though. We stopped at a McDonald's for a snack afterwards, then drove back with the sunroof open to make sure the tree stayed securely fastened to the roof.

All in all, I enjoyed myself immensely, and hope to do it again next year.

Enjoy the holidays!

Visit my website to read a FREE EXCERPT of my mystery romantic-suspense novel, Her Last Letter.

Books are available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and can be ordered through most bookstores.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Little Disneyland ... My Bird Feeder

Hi there!

It is cold, cold, cold here in Michigan, especially today. I'm not sure of the temperature, but the winds are fierce. I went out this morning as I usually do and put out seed for the birds and squirrels, and they seemed especially anxious to get to their chow. I have an unusual feeder that my husband built for me. It is shaped somewhat like a cross, about seven feet high, but has three flat boards, one over the other, near the top. I spread the seed on each board, and a variety of birds, squirrels, and chipmunks show up each morning, usually immediately after I spread the seed. When I first started doing this, maybe five years ago, none of them got along. Each squirrel would shoo off the other squirrels and the birds too. Now they seem to know each other, and it's like a little Disneyland out there, birds and squirrels all eating and socializing together.

I originally wanted a bird feeder to amuse my cat Slicky. He gets bored being an indoor cat, and he enjoys watching it all in the morning, though now he is used to it and rarely tries to attack the squirrels that run across the deck. (The feeder is built to one side of the deck so I can reach it easily.) Of course, I really like watching all the action in the morning too. I put out wild bird seed, sunflower seeds, and peanuts. The unsalted peanuts were originally for the squirrels, but the jays usually get most of them. I read that blue jays store food for winter, which surprised me. They are quick, and funny to watch. The peanuts are in the shell, and being greedy, the jays try to stuff more than one in their beak, which doesn't work. After picking up one, then dropping it to get the other one a few times, they settle on just one and fly away to their nest. This repeats for a few minutes until all the peanuts are gone.

I've seen cardinals and woodpeckers, big ones and little ones, and the mourning doves are a large group, plus many smaller birds. I have a bird guide my daughter bought me, so I know most of the ones that come around. I used to see blackbirds and crows, but not recently. I think some birds come by just to see what's going on. One time a duck flew up and sat on the feeder. I tried to get a picture, but something scared it and it flew away. The ducks do walk up from the lake and get seed off the ground in the summer, and they bring their little ducklings. (This makes me glad I have an indoor cat.)

But I wonder how they can stand the cold on days like this, but they do. The squirrels cover their backbone with their long tail, and the birds puff up to capture some body warmth, and their hearts beat much faster than ours, pumping out the heat. Makes me glad I can provide them with some fuel ... and that I can watch them from inside.

Hope you're enjoying the holidays!

Visit my website to read a FREE EXCERPT of my mystery romantic-suspense novel, Her Last Letter.

Books are available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and can be ordered through most bookstores.

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