Tree Squared: Another Kind of Tree

There are things that are called trees besides those living, breathing plants we have around us. A family tree, for example, is called a “tree” because from one individual, it spreads out in several branches. I have an earring tree! On its branches I hang my many pairs of earrings. This “tree” is rather gnarly and has knots in its branches so the earrings don’t fall off. So for Becky’s challenge TreeSquare, I am featuring my earring tree!

CMMC: Up Close and Personal

Cee’s Midweek Madness Challenge this week has the topic close-up or macro.

Hazel doesn’t really like me getting this close for a photo. She seems to be sleeping, but one eye is slightly open!

Center of Queen Anne’s lace

Taken from our balcony on our river boat cruise on the Rhine: apparently this swan is used to getting up close to humans (probably wants an edible tidbit!)

At a Buddhist temple in Des Plaines, IL

Our niece got into the shot I was aiming for.

Sometimes you run into (almost literally!) an unexpected subject. This caterpillar was hanging from a single thread – probably weaving its cocoon.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell what I’m taking a picture of! Take a guess!

I took this selfie when I was about to go outside for a prolonged period in February – rather frightening! With my glasses on, wearing a mask caused my glasses to fog up and I could barely see!

A piece of a multitude of faces, taken at Morton Arboretum’s display of sculpture by Daniel Popper. (See my blog post in PPAC #4 for more!)

SYW: On Annoying Commercials, Nasty Food, and the Creative Process

“Monday Melanie” has given us a new set of questions for her Share Your World challenge!

QUESTIONS

What’s the worst commercial you’ve recently seen (or heard)? Why was it so bad?
This is a hard one because so many are terrible! Most annoying are the Liberty Mutual ads. I would not recommend this company to anyone due to their ubiquitous, stupid ads! Everyone I talk to hates their commercials as much as I do. Also ads for intimate products, like tampons or sanitary pads.

Since you crossed off “recently”, the ads for Folgers Coffee were awful. In one ad, a person says, “Is your coffee grounds for divorce?’ I mean, how tacky!! Another really old Folgers commercial bragged about the “crystals” in its coffee. Who wants crystals in coffee?? Just give me pure, finely ground coffee, please! No additives!

What takes a lot of time but is totally worth it?
My hubby says, “love.” Awwww!

So I will say something else: the creative process of seeing a project through to the end. I spend long hours and weeks completing photo albums but I love doing it. I can say that a lot of my blog posts fall into this category as well. They’re time consuming, but fun to do. I’m in an art workshop – same thing. The camaraderie of other people who love art is part of it, but also dedicating 90 minutes a week to painting or drawing something is calming and fun, even if it takes weeks to finish it or to come back to. I’m in a writing group – same thing again. I have written a lot of things, and some of them are quite good, others not so much, but it’s worth the time because it is the creative process that is totally worthwhile, especially when producing a finished product I can be proud of!

Have you ever smiled at a stranger and then wished you hadn’t? Why or why not?
Yes, but only because the stranger stared straight ahead and made no attempt to smile back. So rude. Fortunately, where I live now, everyone – whether we know them or not – smiles and says hello!

It’s good to be able to see smiles again after over a year of wearing masks!

What do you think is the nastiest tasting food?  (This one might be a recycled question.  It’s familiar to me anyhow)
Olives. They’re so bitter.

GRATITUDE SECTION (as always, optional)

Are you at peace with yourself?   Your world?   Please share, whether you said “yay” or “nay”! 
Yes, pretty much. Most of the horrors of my life – the failures, dissatisfying experiences, vindictive people – are behind me. In the senior community where I live, we are all retired and we do pretty much what we want and like to do. Most people are friendly and pleasant to be with.

There are many problems in this world, and a few in my life, but I am overall happy and without regrets.

Gratitude Quotes

FOTD: Strawberry Flower

Last year I planted strawberries (transplanted from my former garden) in back of our new house. This year, the plants have spread and are blooming! Whether or not we’ll get strawberries remains to be seen, but meanwhile, these pretty little white flowers hold the promise of delicious fruit!

Cee’s FOTD 5/18/21

L-APC: Getting to Know You

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #145, hosted by Scillagrace, has the theme “Getting to Know You” (I am already singing the next line of the song from My Fair Lady in my head: Getting to know all about you…).

This is how Scillagrace describes the theme: My invitation to you is to present a “Getting To Know You” post showing your relationship with a subject you’ve photographed. The subject could be a Person, a Place, a Culture, an Object…anything that has captured your attention, won your affection and taught you a thing or two.

I have chosen a selection of my photos and observations of the birds on the ponds of our community, especially the swans, but I enjoy the ducks too! While observing these birds (which was one of my main entertainments in 2020 during the pandemic), I was curious about some of their habits, and did some research to learn more.

We have two pairs of swans that arrive in March to occupy our ponds until late fall. Last year there was a contest to name the swans, but I had my own names for the swans, especially those on West Pond: Sidney (cob) and Celina (pen). Swans mate for life and we were able to observe their mating rituals. One afternoon in March, we actually saw them mating. I was so awed I didn’t even think to pull out my camera and take pictures, although I did get their post-mating “heart” – where they put their heads together and form a heart shape – it’s like their kind of kiss!

Two weeks later, Celina began laying her eggs. Swans lay one egg at a time, usually two days apart. Even though they may lay several eggs, their method of incubation causes the cygnets to be born about the same time. The pen doesn’t spend as much time sitting on her eggs until all have been laid. She pulls feathers out from her belly so that the clutch will have direct contact with her skin to maximize their warmth. One of our photographer friends spent a lot of time observing this pair, and he not only got photos of their actual mating, but even one photo of Celina in the process of laying an egg! With my cellphone camera, I only got a photo of her with two eggs, and then 5 eggs when she was temporarily in the water feeding. (She laid a total of 6).

To keep us entertained during the pandemic, there was another contest to predict when the eggs would hatch! I’d found out that the incubation period is about 35 days, so I calculated May 21 as the date we would see the hatchlings! Unfortunately, there was a huge storm that swept in on May 18 with high winds and rain. Alas, all the eggs were lost, blown into the water where their precious cargo immediately drowned! (Bird eggs cannot be saved from the water – since oxygen does permeate the egg shell, once they fall into the water, the babies drown.) It was a great disappointment to many in our community, since we were greatly looking forward to watching the cygnets grow. Because of the pandemic, their loss was particularly devastating for us.

But Sidney and Celina carried on, not laying any more eggs to replace those they’d lost (sometimes swans will do this). The photo below was taken the week before the storm. Sidney had been vigilant about keeping potential intruders away from the nest. Here he chases a Canada goose out of the water. (Once the eggs were lost, both swans lost interest in chasing geese away.)

More tranquil scenes, in July

A daily visitor to our ponds last year was this heron – he’s back again this year, but I haven’t taken any new photos of him (or her – I don’t know which it is)!

Sidney and Celina were returned to us this spring, but within two weeks, Sidney died of unknown causes! Instead of taking the pen back to choose another mate, a substitute cob was brought to the pond two days later. This year, Celina has laid 7 eggs, but I am unsure whether these were fertilized by Sidney or the new mate – perhaps a few of each. I haven’t been able to find out whether this is possible. As a stepfather, though, it remains to be seen whether the new mate will bond with the cygnets once they are hatched (if in fact, he is not the real father). Surprisingly, Celina and her new mate (I will have to come up with a name for him) seem to get along well, so I hope things will work out between them and their new family!

Although we had no cygnets last year, we did have plenty of ducklings! Ducks, unlike geese and swans, do not mate for life. In fact, they can be quite promiscuous, mating with multiple partners during one season! But usually they are seen in pairs, until the hen is ready to make a nest.

A mallard couple last April

Once the female goes off to nest, the male stays behind and doesn’t participate in duckling rearing. Over time, as the females went off to nest, there were an increasing number of mallard drakes (males) hanging out together, which I dubbed “the bachelor club!”

I loved watching these families grow – the ducklings were so cute!!

This is my favorite photo of a duck family – the ducklings were so adorable, always following Mom!!
As the ducklings grow, you can begin to see their tiny wings, and gradually they take on the colors of male or female adult mallards.
Two duck families – usually they didn’t swim so close together.
A mallard hen preens herself.

It’s a new season and the life cycle of our swans and ducks has begun again. Celina has seven eggs, but the swans on East Pond, in spite of diligently working on their nest, and even squeaking at us when we got too close, have not produced any eggs – they didn’t last year either, but it was their first year as a couple. Often swan pens don’t produce eggs until three or four years old.

A pair of Canada geese – I don’t know where their nest is, since they are not “permanent” residents here. Still, geese tend to return to the place where they were born, so these two quite possibly were born here a year or two ago. Last year, we had one family of geese that was always around – the parents and three goslings.

The Colors of April

Lens-Artists’ photo challenge this week is Colorful April. Becky’s April Squares are bright. And Cee’s FOTD is about anything that flowers! (My FOTD is this tiny bright pink one that makes a colorful ground cover.)

April’s colors range from the green of new grass and plants whose flowers have not yet bloomed to bright yellows, fuschias, and whites to the gentle hues of lavender and pink. The first photos (which are square) are of a ground cover flower that is a brilliant fuschia – I don’t know the name of this flower, however. All of these beauties are my daily finds as I take walks around our community’s campus.

Zoom out:

Zooming out further, you can see the entire patch of this flower.

April makes me think of daffodils, which are one of the first flowers of spring. I think of them as miniature trumpets, heralding the arrival of spring!

By mid-month, we are beginning to see the first tulips, in bright hues of red and yellow, as well as many other colors.

Gentler colors are the hues of hyacinths…

magnolias…

and the breathtaking canopies of white and pink of flowering trees – crabapple, pear, and in Washington D.C., cherry blossoms.

Some people add color to the front of their houses with potted flowers, such as these bright yellow and orange pansies.

SYW: Haircuts, Flowers & Weird Stuff

Melanie’s thrown me for a loop this week! But I’ll take a stab at her weird questions in this week’s Share Your World! (Thanks for the challenge of thinking “outside the box!”)

QUESTIONS: 

What would be the worst “buy one get one free” sale of all time?
Mastectomies.

Have you ever gotten a really bad haircut?  Do share!
Not “really bad” but let me just say…radical. I’ve had my hair long (a little past my shoulders) since I moved to this senior community a year and a half ago, and I was sick of having to wear a ponytail whenever I exercised (or afterward) when I get all sweaty on my neck. I usually have my hair cut before going on a trip, but since that didn’t happen last year, my hair just got longer. So I finally decided I would get a short haircut. I’ve had them often enough before and usually am pleased with them while they last. I figured it would be my Easter haircut.

I couldn’t go to my usual salon, where I knew some of the stylists, because it closed about 6 months ago with a change in management. Since I had a gift card for that chain, I went to another one, closer to where I live now, but that I’ve never been to before. I thought I could show the stylist a picture of me with short hair from my Facebook photos, but when I looked for them, only a few showed up. I looked in my cellphone camera archives – nothing. So I showed her a photo of another friend of mine with short hair! (Later I realized that – duh – I had my purse in my lap, and always have paper & pens in there, and I draw pretty well, so I could have drawn it but I didn’t think of it then.)

I always have to take my glasses off during a haircut because they get in the way, and I didn’t think anything was amiss until I heard the buzz of a razor being used ON MY NECK! By then it was too late, and now I have hair shorter than I have ever had in my life that I can remember. At first, my head felt cold – the weather was still chilly in late March, and I had to go around wearing scarves over my head. And every time I look in the mirror, I look like a boy! Now it’s starting to grow out a little bit and I’m used to it, so I just smile and say “thank you” when people compliment me (which almost everyone has done).

Here are before and after pictures…

Me about a year ago, which is about how my hair was last month when I got it cut.
A selfie I took the day I got my haircut – this is the “nicer” of the two selfies I took, because I’m smiling.

The best thing about my haircut is now I can wear my earrings again!

Isn’t Disney Land and Disney World (and all the variants) just a people trap operated by a mouse?
Allegorically, yes. They are definitely people traps!

What if Batman got bitten by a vampire?   What would happen? 
The vampire would get Covid-19 due to the exchange of body fluids, since the virus originated in bats.

What do you want your final words to be if you could choose?
I’ve done everything I wanted to do in my life and I’m satisfied. I love you all!

GRATITUDE SECTION (as always optional)

Please feel free to share some gratitude! 
I’m grateful for spring flowers. These photos were all taken within the last two days.

SYW: Psychic Octopus, Famous People and Peanut Butter Jokes

Melanie has come up with a new set of questions this week for Share Your World.

QUESTIONS: 

Do you think psychic abilities exist? Yes, and I even know of a psychic octopus. I think some people have a high degree of sensitivity and connectivity to others. There are people who know when something has happened to one of their children, for example. I also believe some people can communicate with spirits. I don’t think that, in general, people can predict the future. But the psychic octopus did!

In the summer of 2010, we were in Spain during the World Cup, which was taking place in South Africa. The Spanish team was doing very well and everyone was super excited. During the semi-finals and finals, there was an octopus named Paul – he lived in Germany, I believe. On the evening before each of the semi-final matches, two little flags would be affixed to the side of two containers in which there was the favorite octopus food, mussels. Each contained a few mussels and both were placed in Paul’s tank. Every game – and this is really true – Paul would eat the mussels from the container of the winning team, that is, the team whose flag was attached. Unfailingly, he predicted every game. Sometimes he might take a mussel or two from both containers, but always selected the majority from the winning team’s container. And, the night before the final, his food selection predicted that Spain would win. By now, nearly everyone believed in the octopus. And, in fact, Spain DID win the World Cup final – it was the first (and so far the only) time they won this coveted award.

After the game, people poured into the streets from the bars where they’d been watching, and there was an all-night party in the streets of central Madrid. A few days later, the team members arrived home from South Africa, and all along the Gran Via (a wide thoroughfare in central Madrid) people gathered, wearing red and yellow – the colors of the Spanish team (and flag) – to wait for the bus that would bring the victorious players down the avenue for the benefit of everyone’s adulation. One of the things people wore were yellow octopus hats! Because Paul had predicted their victory, he was inextricably linked to the 2010 World Cup.

How would you describe peanut butter to someone who didn’t know what it was? A very sticky substance combining pureed peanuts and butter, that you use to spread on bread or to add flavor to a stalk of celery. (My dad had a hilarious joke about peanut butter – well, it was hilarious to watch him tell it, as it required some “acting.” But his description while telling this joke would give the person a pretty good idea of what peanut butter is like!)

Why does an octopus squirt ink? To protect itself from predators – the ink hides it from view and may be an irritant to predators.

Who are two of today’s greatest entertainers in your opinion?  (can be actors, musicians, singers etc)
I always am reluctant to answer this type of question, because my tastes are out of the mainstream for the most part, and I don’t even recognize the names of the current mainstream of entertainers! However, Stephen Colbert of A Late Show is one we watch regularly, and he got us through 4 years of Trump! In a similar vein, I also like John Oliver, who takes on serious subjects but he always gets a few laughs out of me and I love his accent!

GRATITUDE SECTION (always optional)

Please feel free to share a moment of gratitude in your life! 
The unseasonably warm, beautiful weather we have been given the last few days – flowers are blooming and I’m wearing sandals and short pants!