10 Years!

Hey there! I’m happy to report this blog crossed the 10-year mark in July. Through monthly posts, it became my corner of the internet to highlight the beauty and creativity in our world. Bits of joy found here and there.

lilac flowers in Stanley Park

Stanley Park, Vancouver

Birds, trees and flowers are frequent topics, with wordplay, math in nature, snack hacks and restaurant reviews making an appearance too.

I might pause posting for a bit to tinker with the site, and think about where to take it next. I so appreciate you for being here. Thanks for reading and following!

Circling back

One day I found a baby bird on my balcony floor. I had no idea what species it was.

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The top of the balcony pillar held a clue.

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A mourning dove momma!

The little guy wandered out of his twiggy abode and took a tumble to the floor. He looked grown enough that I decided not to put him back. Mom probably fed him crop milk during the day, and he got bigger and stronger.

He hung out mostly behind the pots in my balcony, with Mom keeping a watchful eye.DSCN0179

But he loved to sunbathe too. DSCN0184
The stripes you see are balcony railing shadows.

The pot-parazzi weren’t far away.DSCN0182

He looked me squarely in the eye when I popped into the balcony for quick pictures.DSCN0191

Here he is, by the balcony door — a teeny bit closer to my world than his.DSCN0194

Check out the beautiful half moons his feathers make. I left the blue car in this shot so you can see the parking lot below.DSCN0197

Talk about living on the edge! This was a day or two before he fledged.

Mom was back at dawn the next day. DSCN0201And life went on.

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A bird takes wing was the first post on this blog in July 2010. I lost the photo album in that post when an image hosting service wound down some years back. Luckily, I had the pics saved elsewhere, and they became the basis for this piece.

Johnson Street Bridge – Victoria, British Columbia

I love bridges. They are enablers in the best sense. Johnson Street Bridge in Victoria, British Columbia, is a bascule bridge that swings upward to allow boat traffic to pass.

Here it is with vehicular traffic on it. I was south of the bridge for this photo.

JSB by day

And here you can see it lift up.

Johnson Street Bridge is a single-leaf bascule, with one arm that lifts and lowers. There are double-leaf bascules too.

Here’s a different angle of the bridge lifting.


Bells clang and lights flash when the leaf is about to rise. If that happens when you’re on the pedestrian walkway, safely make your way to either end.

Johnson Street Bridge walkway seam

Seam in the pedestrian walkway where the leaf meets the pier

When the boats or ships in the harbor have passed through, the bridge slowly lowers and settles with a resounding whomp!

From the viewing deck you can take in the whole spectacle and see boat traffic too. You might even spy a sea otter doing flips in the water if you’re lucky. I was. 😀

This bridge just happened to be a 5-minute walk from where I was staying. Here it is, all lit up at night.

JSB at night

***
Johnson Street Bridge has evolved since it was first built, with this newest avatar taking five years (2013 to 2018) to complete. Hear from the principal engineers in this American Institute of Steel Construction paper.

Homing in

White-winged doves built a nest in my balcony. Third year in a row. He brought twigs and she arranged them into a shallow bowl. Two days later, an egg!

white-winged dove nest with egg

A rare unattended moment (when both parents went to get breakfast maybe?)

Meet Dad.

male white-winged dove incubating eggs

Dad had the day shift for incubation.

This is Mom.

female white-winged dove incubating eggs

She did evenings/nights.

white-winged doves; mother and baby

Ooh, baby.

The chick fledged roughly two weeks after hatching. It walked to the edge of the balcony, then back to the nest, and paced the length of the balcony … “Am I really ready?” and then it flew the short hop to a railing and took off. “Yes! I own the sky.”

A parent came back that evening.

white-winged dove near nest

Parent and nest with non-viable egg

This species typically lays two eggs that hatch a day part. Last year and the year before, both eggs hatched. This year, only one made it. Wonder what happened …

white-winged dove juvenile

Baby came back the next day

What a treat to watch this all unfold, from nest-building on May 16th to first flight on June 16th. Each day, the nest-duty shift change took place around 9:30 a.m. (Dad’s turn) and again around 5:00 p.m. (Mom’s turn), with the bird on the nest cooing and the other flying in from a nearby shade tree to take over.

I couldn’t have asked for sweeter companions as I sheltered in place. 🙂

***
From the archives:
2018: Dove tale
2019: Dove tale – a spring reprise

Geek out:
The Cornell Lab: All About Birds – White-Winged Dove
Audubon Guide to North American Birds – White-Winged Dove

Plant-based pun and salsa recipe

For a couple months now, I’ve been hitting the grocery store at 6:00 a.m. when crowds are thin. Masked and list-driven, I’m in and out quick. On a recent visit, I found some free advice in the freezer case:  Live Life on the Veg!

CAULIPOWER Pizza - Live Life on the Veg

Two bits of wordplay on each package. See if you can find both 😀

I’m happy to report success with a fully plant-based diet for over three months now. No cheating. Didn’t think I could pull it off! Desi (Indian-style) chai without cow’s milk seemed like an abomination, but Oatly stands in quite well. For your Earl Greys and strong blacks like Tazo Awake or Tetley, Nut Pods (Original), a plant-based creamer, does the trick.

The Forks Over Knives documentary prompted me to really think about what I eat, and the move to plant-based renewed my love of fruits and vegetables. My grocery cart shows it. My plates do, too.

For Buddha bowls, a simple formula of 1/2 cup cooked grain, 1 cup cooked chickpeas/lentils/beans (for protein) and 2 cups veggies/greens takes the guesswork out of nutrient-dense meals that are also satisfying.

A navel orange, cold from the fridge, makes me happy nowadays. Juicy snack and aromatherapy in one! And orange is such a happy color.

I went on a green kick with this homemade salsa.

Homemade_Green_Salsa

Green Salsa
1 pound tomatillos
1 green bell pepper
1 fresh jalapeno
1 clove garlic (optional)
handful of fresh cilantro leaves (no stems)
1/2 teaspoon salt
lime juice (optional – to balance flavors)
1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional – to balance flavors)

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Place halved tomatillos, whole bell pepper, quartered and de-seeded jalapeno, and garlic on lightly oiled baking sheet and roast until bell pepper collapses. A little bit of charring is fine. Roasting time will depend on your oven. Took 30 minutes in mine.
  3. Remove transparent membrane from bell pepper, halve and remove stem and seeds.
  4. Blend roasted tomatillos, bell pepper, jalapeno, and garlic with cilantro leaves and salt. Taste! Add lime juice/sugar/more salt and blend to get a flavor balance you like.

I went by instinct with these ingredients and quantities, so feel free to experiment.

Enjoy salsa with chips, in tacos, on roasted potatoes or grilled vegetables, in savory breakfasts — the possibilities are endless.

Be well, my friend!

***
From the archives:
Love the sight of fruits and veggies? You might like Lettuce rejoice.
Crazy for curry puffs – Hack an Indian snack best enjoyed with a hot cup of chai.

Nestling in North Vancouver

When I won free plane travel at a company Christmas party, I coveted the Ninja Kitchen System a co-worker won in the same raffle. She thought me nuts for deeming her prize superior to mine.

I finally talked myself into booking a trip some months later. I arrived in Vancouver to my Airbnb pad, a garage turned cottage, complete with Murphy bed, kitchen and bath, and WiFi. And skylights! The perfect tiny house nestled in the backyard of my hosts, a retired couple with still active careers.

Cottage

I saw a robin’s nest outside my front door and two more in a trellis.

My hosts turned out to be the nicest people on the planet. I had written off the rest of the travel day to settle in and prepare for the next few days of sightseeing. I had even tucked into my suitcase a few backpacker soups to reconstitute with hot water. But my sweet host, B, wouldn’t hear of it. She wanted me to have a nice dinner on my first vacation day. She drove me to the grocery store so I could buy some salad vegetables, fruit and cheese.

She then dropped me off at a trailhead on the lower slopes of Mount Seymour, with a photocopied map and her handwritten notes. The trail was a short walk from my (already) sweet home away from home.

BridlePathRamble

That night I ate a simple and satisfying dinner of a red pepper/cucumber salad and a  local cheese.

The next day, I took a guided sightseeing tour of Vancouver. It was a quick introduction to the city, covering Stanley Park, Granville Island, Chinatown, and Gastown. Here’s Vancouver’s North Shore as seen from Stanley Park.

NorthShore

View of Vancouver’s North Shore

A visit to the Maplewood Flats Conservation Area, a birdwatching park that overlooks the Burrard Inlet was in my top-three list for the trip. I planned to hoof it there and return by bus, but B offered to drive me there. We went a little after dawn one day. There were waders in the mud flats, including some kind of heron.

BurrardInlet

Burrard Inlet

GreenPlantMacro

Flora at Maplewood Mud Flats

Then B showed me squatters’ shacks that were moved here, relics from the city’s past.

SquatterShacks

Squatters’ shacks, Maplewood Mud Flats

B then dropped me off at Deep Cove, a seaside village that is home to Honey Donuts (endorsed by Kate Winslet in Lonely Planet). A 45-minute hike up Quarry Rock (part of the Baden-Powell trail) led to a panoramic view of Deep Cove and Indian Arm, a salt-water fjord.

IndianArm

View of Indian Arm from the top of Quarry Rock

When I had plans to attend a concert in the city, B and her hubby gave me a lift to Bao Bei, a Chinese restaurant with a contemporary menu, where B suggested I enjoy dinner before the show. I had chickpea tofu for the very first time. Tasty!

One sunny morning I went on a guided hike in Lynn Canyon, which included a walk across a suspension bridge. The other hikers in my group were a pair of graduate students from Toronto and an academic counselor from New York. Our guide’s love of the outdoors showed in his knowledge of local flora and fauna, as we took in the crisp air and canyon views.

LynnCanyon

Waterfall in Lynn Canyon

B and her hubby thought nothing of giving me spontaneous rides/lifts. They dropped me off at Lonsdale Quay one afternoon so I could take the SeaBus to Stanley Park and walk the Seawall.

Seabus

On board the SeaBus

When I booked my stay, I had no expectations of my Airbnb hosts other than a quick initial meeting and key handoff at departure. On the flight back to Dallas, however, I realized that B and her husband had helped me experience their beautiful city in ways I could never have planned.

I felt at home.

CottageBlooms

I couldn’t have asked for a nicer perch or better tweetment!

***
For more armchair travel, see my previous posts on British Columbia:
Queen Elizabeth Park – Vancouver, Canada
Pun-tastic British Columbia

Cheers to creativi-tea!

It’s chai time! Let’s have some desi (Indian-style) tea. There are many ways to make it. My favorite is a milky sweetened black tea with fresh ginger and cardamom. I’ll serve it piping hot in these mugs. Choose one and I’ll pour.

Play Clan tea mugs

Colorful illustrations of women and men in the traditional attire of Rajasthan adorn the mugs. That’s not all. The bottom of each 5-ounce (roughly 150 mL) mug has a bonus. Take a peek!

Play Clan tea mugs

Chori means lass or girl, and chora means lad or boy, making this set a hers and his of sorts. I love the bright colors, typical of the garb in the northwest part of India. And I love the creativity and eye for detail that went into designing these everyday objects.

On the bottom of the mugs is the company website, theplayclan.com. Known for products with ethnic flair, Play Clan has a presence in New Delhi, Pondicherry, Chennai and Jodhpur, although I haven’t been to any of their stores. These mugs came to me as a gift some years ago.

More tea for you? 🙂

***
You might like these chai-related posts from the archives.
Made for each other: samosas and chai
Crazy for curry puffs (includes recipe/hack)

Leaping for puns

Hello! It’s February 29th. What are your plans for the extra day we get this year? I’m amping up my love of wordplay by sharing two recent finds.

EspressoWorthaShot

Sign outside FitBrews, Plaza of the Americas

I like the creativity brewing in that coffee shop.

And my response to the question “Want wordplay?” is usually:

YesPeas

At the grocery store

I spotted Yes Peas at Kroger.

Know why legumes need therapy? For help with their nitrogen fixation. Yes, I came up with that. I’m a lost cause, haha.

Go find yourself some pun! 😀

Queen Elizabeth Park – Vancouver, Canada

Vancouver’s gorgeous scenery, delicious food, and waterfront culture all make me want to return again and again. In this post and upcoming ones are some memories from last year’s travel.

Queen Elizabeth Park, Vancouver

Flower bed at Queen Elizabeth Park

This lookout in Queen Elizabeth Park is the highest point in Vancouver, offering fabulous views of the park, the city, and Vancouver’s North Shore (check out those mountains).

QEParkLookout

QEPark_QuarryGarden

Aerial view of Quarry Garden

QEPark_QuarryGardenSign

A bit of Vancouver history and info on Quarry Garden

Bloedel Conservatory, in Queen Elizabeth Park, houses a tropical garden in a geodesic dome. This was a magical place for me because tons of birds flit around you, mostly unafraid. You’re handed a checklist when you enter so you can be on the lookout for the winged wonders.

BloedelChecklist

Take note of Nelson, the dwarf macaw, and see if you can find him in the next photo!

BloedelConservatory

Bird-feeding station inside Bloedel Conservatory. See Nelson?

The scan above is a portion of the checklist, which has 49 additional birds. With names like pin-tailed whydah and red-cheeked cordonbleu, the colorful cutie pies had me mesmerized. I spotted quite a few that day, including zebra finch, pekin robin, and orange-cheeked waxbill. The zebra finch is also at the feeder tray in the pic above, back turned to us.

QEPark_Macaws

Green-winged macaws, Carmen and Maria

At night I skimmed through a book on display where I was staying: National Geographic’s Where the Locals Go.

The next morning I took a bus to Beaucoup Bakery to fuel up for the day’s adventures.

Latte and pastries at Beaucoup Bakery, Vancouver

Latte, almond croissant, cardamom kouign-amman

I enjoyed chatting with locals waiting for the bakery to open so they could snag the almond croissants that sell out first.

***
Previous post in this series:
Pun-tastic British Columbia

Say aah

More like “ooh, aah!” at the creativity in this eco-friendly promo piece from a Dallas dentist at a company health fair. As you might expect, it contains items for your pearly whites, like a travel toothbrush and toothpaste.

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Aaaaaand a pun-adorned tin of mints and tube of lip balm!

Bright paper scraps reborn as confetti fill the charming clamshell package made from recycled cardboard and paper.

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Here’s a close-up of the fun puns in the box.

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On breath freshener tin: You were mint to have fresh breath.
On chapstick tube: You da balm.

How cute is that?! 😀 An oral treat. Aural, too! Lure me in with wordplay and I’m at a floss for words. Totally enameled. It’s the tooth.