The Fever

“She turned to the sunlight

And shook her yellow head,

And whispered to her neighbor:

Winter is dead.”

~A.A. Milne, When We Were Very YoungIMG_7776IMG_7848IMG_7980Trips to four different nurseries within a week. Vases filled with Daffodils and Daphne throughout the house. Checking on each and every plant and tree to see how it fared during the winter. Soil under my nails. Yep, I’ve definitely got it. Spring Fever!

It’s only late February but the high temperatures have been hovering in the high 60s and even 70s for a couple weeks now. I’m really hoping March brings much more rain, but right now, well, right now I’m loving all these bursts of color. Right now, it feels like spring is bustin’ out all over!

Here, the Weigelias are just beginning to leaf out. IMG_8083I’m filling pots with colorful Primroses, Pansies and Violas.IMG_7702IMG_7969The air is scented with the heavenly fragrance of winter Daphne. Is there a sweeter smell in February? Not in my book!IMG_7977A row of blooming flowering plum trees heralds our arrival along our driveway.IMG_8081And a hedge of tall Photonia brightens up the yard with shiny new red leaves.IMG_8082Flowering Quince and Forsythia are putting on their shows,IMG_7830IMG_7968while graceful Hellebores nod hello.
IMG_7846Oh, I know it’s still early, but I can’t get enough of these happy harbingers of spring. What’s blooming in your gardens right now in late February?

“Spring won’t let me stay in this house any longer! I must get out and breathe the air deeply again.” ~Gustav Mahler

Great Green Smoothies

Just want to share that my new favorite small appliance is the NutriBullet blender. I have enjoyed making green smoothies for quite some time, but this blender is able to do the job in mere seconds! Seconds, I tell you.

I don’t typically use a recipe, aside from using about the same amount of leafy greens to almond milk, and then I just use a variety of fruit that I have on hand.  There are many great recipes for healthy and delicious smoothies, but you can’t go wrong with  The All in One Guide to Making a Green Smoothie at Positive Health Wellness.

Ingredients to make two smoothies:

  • 1 1/2 cups leafy greens
  • 1 1/2 cups almond milk
  • 2 – 3 cups fresh fruit
  • chia seeds
  • cinnamon

Today, I’m using baby spinach and kale, pear slices, pineapple chunks, a whole banana, blueberries, almond milk, a shake of cinnamon and about a tablespoon of chia seedsIMG_7921Throw all the ingredients in this bad boy and turn it on. Thirty seconds or so does the job with no leafy chunks at all. IMG_7922Easy, dreamy, and delicious! I bet you’ll be hooked too!

Valentine’s Day Hiking

Sugarloaf Ridge State Park in Sonoma county was an ideal place to go for a hike on Valentine’s Day. The temperatures were in the 70s and the scenery was spectacular.

There are 25 miles of hiking trails within the park, and so many trails to choose from.
IMG_7799IMG_7802We chose a trail that was mostly shady and was right along a creek, one that would only take a couple of hours.
IMG_7814Look at all the beautiful Spanish moss draping from this tree!
IMG_7811IMG_7809IMG_7805IMG_7808IMG_7806IMG_7801The hike was just what we had been clamoring for, a bit of exploring in a gorgeous location. And then we were off to a late lunch in St. Helena. You know how hard it is to get reservations for dining on Valentine’s Day! IMG_7831We had to pull over and take some pictures of the exquisite views on our drive! Wow! Can you believe this is mid February?

Effie Yeaw Nature Center

We recently shared a delightful morning exploring nature trails with our grandchildren at the wonderful Effie Yeaw Nature Center, located along the American River Parkway. Inside the nature shop were many hands-on activities that the children were engrossed in. Push a button and hear the call of a red shouldered hawk. See a display of natural habitats. That sort of thing. Also, living in the nature shop are a number of non-releasable (due to injuries, becoming orphaned, or having grown too accustomed to people) animals.

Resident birds include :

  • a Northern Saw-whet Owl, Sophia (this was a highlight for the children!)
  • a Great Horned Owl, Echo
  • a Red-tailed Hawk, Tanner
  • a Red-shouldered Hawk, Skye, and
  • an American Kestrel, Rocky

In addition to the birds, there are reptiles, and amphibians on display.

Outdoors, well-marked trails meander through 100 acres of this nature preserve.

IMG_7630IMG_7645We had just gotten started walking on a trail when we came upon the deer. They’re obviously used to being photographed and gawked at!IMG_7633I must share that I have a love/hate relationship with these guys. To see them here was such a joy, but that’s not the case when I see them in my gardens at home, or the aftermath of all the damage they have done. I know they’re hungry and need to eat too; I just don’t want to encourage the chomping on my favorite flowers and foliage! Late last summer while shopping at the feed store, I noticed blocks of deer food. Standing there in front of the display, I contemplated buying a few blocks and placing them on some undeveloped acreage in our neighborhood. I didn’t, but I may in the future. I do use some deer deterrent products in our yard, that work well most of the year, but come late summer those pesky deer are eating everything.IMG_7646We followed a trail that led right down to the American River.
IMG_7658IMG_7710This crew must have been the official welcoming committee!IMG_7662IMG_7661IMG_7666There was so much to discover and admire as we walked along the trails, turned over rocks, climbed on some old tree stumps, and listened to birdsong. A great place to explore, learn and appreciate Mother Nature, for people of all ages.
IMG_7676“If you truly love nature you will find beauty everywhere.” ~ Vincent Van Gogh

Into the Woods

IMG_7728IMG_7759IMG_7737I’m happy to report that last Sunday we made it back up to the Tahoe area to snowshoe again! Our weekends since that day about five weeks ago when it was eight degrees and we only lasted fifteen minutes, were either full or there were storms and less than ideal road conditions.

We returned to Hope Valley and this time the temperature was forty degrees and we were shedding gloves and coats almost immediately. We could not have asked for better conditions or more spectacular scenery. The bluest skies, the most stunning views everywhere we looked; we noticed it all.

And we had this happy snow bear to greet us upon our arrival.IMG_7726IMG_7734IMG_7756IMG_7741IMG_7755What more could we ask for?

How blessed we are to be so close to one of Mother Nature’s most spectacular gifts.

Treats For the Birds

IMG_7691Bird watching in my yard brings me great enjoyment. I try to make sure my bird feeders are clean and full of a variety of seed and suet cakes for them, at all times. Actually, it’s the least I can do for all of the concerts and amusement they provide to us!

The children and I made special treats for the birds recently and hung them in trees.  We threaded cheerios onto pipe cleaners (even the littlest hands were able to push the cheerios down once I had placed it on the tip of the pipe cleaner), we hung sliced oranges with twine, and then we smeared bird booster onto pinecones and hung those as well. The recipe  for bird booster came from Sharon Lovejoy’s Toad Cottages and Shooting Stars book, which is jam packed with fun activities to do with children.

Bird Booster Recipe:

1 cup crunchy peanut butter

1 cup canola oil

4 cups yellow cornmeal

1 cup white flour

A few spoons of sunflower seeds or raisins (I used our no waste birdseed that we always have on hand)

Pinecones tied with twine for hanging

IMG_7628IMG_7629Mix ingredients together in a bowl and then slather the mixture onto and into the scales of the pinecone.

Now it’s time to hang the treats.IMG_7694IMG_7686IMG_7689The wonderful books, Winter Walk by Virginia Brimhall Snow, and Night Tree by Eve Bunting provided the perfect follow up activity.