Author Archives: Gita Mani

About Gita Mani

Nature lover. Punster. Foodie.

Tote’s awesome

If you’re mentally removing apostrophe from headline, don’t. My lunch tote, a fabulous blend of form and function, really is awesome.

Igloo tote exterior

Polka dots add a playful pop to a color that goes with everything. Shoulder straps leave hands free.  A wide base means the tote won’t topple. And its compact exterior belies a seriously roomy interior.

Igloo tote capacity

This capacious carrier comfortably holds lunchbox, fruit, water bottle, train read, and light cardigan. All that and a bag of chips (not pictured).

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Ethio-paean

The friendly folks at the family-owned Merkato Grocery and Cafe, an Ethiopian spot in Murphy, Texas, seem keenly aware of the adage that you eat with your eyes first.  Proof: their Vegetarian Sampler!

20170715_192154Three kinds of lentil dishes, collard greens, beets, a potato/carrot stew, green beans, and cabbage sit atop a fluffy injera, a pancake made from fermented teff batter. And the basket holds even more injera, all rolled up and ready to eat.

The injera’s soft, porous texture makes it perfect for scooping up the various heaps of serious yum. Plus, its similarity to the Indian dosa puts it in the category of comfort food for me.

 

Cheep thrills

When it comes to building a home, some say location is everything.

house finch nest

house finch pair

Just ask Mom (right) and Dad (left). Can you guess what birds they are?

house finch nest

Look at their finch-astic creation and its “pebbled” rim.

house finch nest

Tucked in a carport nook

My apartment community has 3 banks of carports with a total of 70 nooks (possible nest sites). Fourteen of those nooks have nests in them. Carports closer to the tree-lined property edge and adjoining field have four times as many nests (12 of 42 nooks) as those near the interior (2 of 28). Makes me wonder if easy access to twigs and leaves (building materials) drove nook selection.

house finch nest

Short on neatness, big on warmth

house finch nest

The other nests are mansions compared to this one, but its Birdie B&B listing reads, “Cozy nook offers eggs-cellent shelter and total privacy.”

house finch nest

Talk about green building!

I walked over to the two adjoining sister properties to check their carports.

house finch nest

That “pebbled” rim again

house finch nest

house finch nest

Active recyclers with a zero carbon footprint

By building nests in carports, house finches enjoy protection from raptors and tree-climbing kitties, as well as shelter from the elements. I’m in awe of the little fliers for their design skills, building prowess, resourcefulness and strategic thinking. And they sing! Their chirpy tweets help me greet each day with a smile.

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What’s that bird?
I turned to this most awesome field guide to narrow it down.American Bird Conservancy's Field Guide: All the Birds of North America

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The range maps for redpolls, bramblings and Cassin’s finches don’t include Texas, so those birds are out. Besides, the male redpoll has a small red cap, but Dad has a lot more red on his head. So it comes down to purple finch or house finch. Given Dad’s red head and chest (but no red on his back), it’s a house finch pair.

house finch pair

This photogenic pair made identification a snap.

20170620_052236I have an older edition of All the Birds of North America, the American Bird Conservancy’s Field Guide. One of my most loved books. It was prescribed for an Intro to Birding continuing ed class I took at UT Arlington several years ago. I love the guide for ease of identification, water-resistant pages (in case you drop it in a pond), and small check boxes in the index (think life list). Amazon has a newer edition.

All About Birds by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is an amazing online resource. I learned that house finches “nest in a variety of deciduous and coniferous trees as well as on cactus and rock ledges. They also nest in or on buildings, using sites like vents, ledges, street lamps, ivy, and hanging planters.”

The print and online guides were my ID mainstay for the longest time.

But now there’s an app for it!
The magical Merlin Bird ID app (North America) suggests a location-based “bird pack” upon download. Five easy questions on location, date of sighting, bird size, main colors, behavior — and boom! — house finch.

Do I like the precision, speed, and convenience of the app? Absolutely. But I still have a soft corner for the print guide. Using range maps and matching coloration/markings on birds I see to beautiful illustrations works the brain and brings a different kind of thrill. Call it finding as much joy in the journey as in reaching the destination (that’s my bird!).

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P.S. I made sure to take nest photos when the parents were out foraging so as not to startle or alarm them. As an extra precaution, I took the pics sans flash, and all from below.

Crowley Park, Richardson

On a post-dawn walk through Crowley Park, I noticed it has something for everyone.

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Whether you picnic with friends in the pavilion,

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flop down for some “me” time,

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or hit the trail that circles the park

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for a flower-flecked walk or run,

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you’ll find views that thrill

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and views that soothe.

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Have tots with energy to burn? The park has two play areas, this one ringed with trees.

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Takin’ a breather without robin the bank

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means you sit on a deck

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watching ducks and turtles gather.

At ~58 acres, Crowley Park is the second largest of Richardson’s neighborhood parks. What strikes me is the city’s meticulous care in keeping the place pristine. Add me to Yelpers who love Crowley Park.

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Correction: In the original post, I stated that Crowley Park is Richardson’s largest. But it isn’t. Breckinridge Park (~417 acres) is. I love Breck, too!
– Gita, 13 May 2017

Daiso detour

Ever been to Daiso? The Japanese chain has four stores in DFW. I popped by their Plano location for rainy day inspiration. Here’s a tiny sampling of the cute stuff on offer.

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thumb-sized toothpick holders

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purrse-friendly prices

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mug shot

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pot shot

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i oink, therefore i ham

Daiso also has stationery, bento boxes, itty bitty dressing bottles, pretty Japanese paper fans, and loads more. Oh, and snacks! And Marukawa fruit-flavored bubble gum 🙂