Ten Little Celebrations – April 2019

April has been a busy month – only at home for a week out of the month and not all at the same time. There was plenty to celebrate with spring in full swing and the travel to see it in different places.

Certified Zentangle® Trainer (CZT) class. There were so many perspectives of the CZT class to celebrate: the beauty of the creations everyone was making, the conversations, the food…the challenge of being a student…the Zen.

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Train ride home. I don’t go many places where taking the train is feasible…but the CZT class was one of them. I celebrated the low stress hours going home…a fitting finale to the class.

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4th and 5th grade field trips. The early April field trips happened with great weather and the students enjoying being outdoors to learn about the Patapsco heritage (land, water, and rocks) and BioBlitz. It’s always inspiring to see their curiosity and enthusiasm --- celebrating a spring field trip.


Getting to Dallas. I had to travel to Dallas quickly and it was easier than a thought it would be. And I celebrated that I was less stressed by the rapid change in plans (maybe the Zentangle class providing an added benefit.

Spring days. Noticing the rapidly developing blossoms of spring is fodder for many celebrations – oxalis is probably one of my favorites right now. It blooms when the sun is shining!

Rainy day (spent indoors). After busy days – having a rainy day spent indoors is something to celebrate…with homemade soup for lunch!

Josey Ranch Pocket Prairie. A little bit of prairie – carefully tended by volunteers – in a Dallas suburb! Right now it is a celebration of spring wildflowers.

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Cedar waxwings. Birds are migrating and there are serendipity sightings of birds that don’t stay around the area long. I celebrated seeing a small flock of cedar waxwings last week.

Botanical reminders of my grandmother. Many flowers in my parents’ Carrollton yard were planted by my grandmother…good memories to celebrate.

Home again. Providence, Rhode Island to home to Carrollton, Texas to home to Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and Smith Island to home. I like to travel…but coming home is celebratory too.

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Ten Little Celebrations – March 2019

March had increased activity from February – a nice ramp up to the busy months of the spring field trip season of April, May and June. It was easy to find little celebrations all during the month.

A Creative Live course on bird photography – I always celebrate courses that hone what I already know…and show me something new that I want to try.

Getting new glasses – I had skipped getting new glasses last year – thinking that my prescription had not changed enough. It’s worth celebrating to see better again.

Snow on the ground but no on the streets – I celebrated a beautiful snowy day when the streets kept enough warmth to remain clear. It’s one of those instances where you can enjoy the scenery and not worry about hazardous driving conditions.

Cleaning out stuff – We donated two carloads of stuff (a bicycle was a big part of one load. I celebrated making progress on cleaning out accumulated things that we no longer need.

Then there are signs of spring – appearing throughout the month – and celebrated for the breaking of winter’s hold on the landscape:

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Miniature daffodils blooming in the front flower bed that bring back memories of my mother-in-law that bought and planted the bulbs in another garden 30 years ago.

Tulip poplar and cherry buds brought inside and opening a few weeks before the buds outside open.

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Doves mating on the deck railing.

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Frogs eggs in the little pool at Mt. Pleasant.

A spring-like afternoon – full of sunlight and a warmer temperature.

The biggest celebration of the month was the news that both my daughter and son-in-law have faculty positions beginning next fall in the same place! It’s quite an accomplishment for them to both get their PhD and then do a couple years as post docs…then this milestone.  

Snow Day

Years ago, when my daughter was in school, I almost always took off when the schools closed for snow – either with vacation or make up hours or working at home. Now that I’m retired, I am still doing it. Having a snow day is a mini-holiday with traditions. My daughter knew all the best sledding slops in the neighborhood. I enjoyed being outside too although it was usually to shovel the drive or take a walk. The snow day last week did not require shoveling since the forecast for the next day was temperature in the 50s. So - I took a walk. I bundled up in lined boots, snow pants, coat with a hood, scarf with a hood and gloves. I took my cell phone and small camera with me – deciding not to take the larger camera since it was still snowing, and I couldn’t shield it inside my coat easily.

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There were about 3 inches on the ground already when I opened the garage door and headed out.

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The fire hydrants in the neighborhood looked festive with their burden of snow.

My destination was the water retention pond. When I got there the old cattail stalks were catching snow and the still parts of the pond were skimming over with ice. The temperature was in the low 30s.

There were two pairs of ducks at the pond! The surprise (for me) were  Hooded Mergansers.  

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I’ve seen more of them this year in our area and I wonder if their numbers are increasing. Were the pair was looking for a good nesting area? I don’t think our water retention pond would be a good place for ducklings although the pair were occasionally diving and (maybe) finding something to eat in the pond.

The other pair were Mallards. They are dabblers and I noticed they both had snow collecting on their backs since they don’t go completely under water for edibles.

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I headed home. The pan and spatula to collect snow to make snow ice cream was in the garage to cool down. I filled the pan to overflowing then left it to prepare the other ingredients: peppermint candy puffs in a Ziploc broken to bits with a hammer and vanilla soy creamer (it has sugar and vanilla already…so it reduces the ingredient list). I got out the electric mixer and big bowl.

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Then I went out to get the snow. The bowl is so large that it holds the whole pan of snow. I added the peppermint candy and creamer…then beat it all together. The snow was drier than expected so I added more creamer and vanilla coconut almond milk to get the consistency I wanted for the ice cream.

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My husband and I each had two large servings to finish it off in one sitting. It was a yummy lunch.

Ten Little Celebrations – February 2019

February is usually a quiet month for me – not much going on. February 2019 was dominated by the birding after the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival in January, family visits, and celebration of the staff where I volunteer. It seemed like a busier than usual February.

Conversations with my daughter – I celebrated my daughter being more available recently. Seeing her forging ahead in her career and life is something to savor. It feels good to see how wonderfully independent and caring she is these days.

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Icy day – staying indoors – Ice is much worse than snow but has its own beauty. This one was easy for me to celebrate since I didn’t need to get out and none of our trees were damaged.

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Snow day – What’s not to like about a snowy day if I can stay at home. Since I am retired…staying at home when I want to is easy. I celebrate every snow day – taking pictures and making snow ice cream. On our most recent snow day, the weather was warming to 50 degrees the next day, so we didn’t even shovel the drive way.

Spring-like day – And then we had a breezy day in the 50s. I celebrated that this will become the norm in a few short weeks.

Books – On all the cold days, I enjoyed good books on my PC, on my iPad and regular books. Celebrating all the forms that books come in these days.  

Cleaning out progress – We have so many things in our house that we no longer need or use but getting motivated to collect and then donate, recycle, or trash things is challenging. I am celebrating that I am making some progress…building the will-power to continue the trend.

Howard County Conservancy staff – The volunteers held a big celebration for the staff of our favorite non-profit this month. The staff makes volunteering a pleasure and a shared celebration is one way we show it.

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Downy woodpecker – I was home in cold, snowy, or icy weather and enjoyed birding from my office window. I celebrated many of the sightings…the downy woodpecker the most. It’s small, it’s hyper, and it seems to enjoy both our trees and our feeder.

Pink egg salad – I discovered that adding a few slices of beet to hard-boiled eggs and mayonnaise in the small food processor makes beautiful, spreadable egg salad…celebration worthy food.

Headspace app – I subscribed to the Headspace app and am doing a meditation prompt every day. I am celebrating how easy it is to get started and keep going with this app.

Ten Little Celebrations – January 2019

As usual – it is easy for me to find little celebrations every day…and here are the top 10 for January 2019.

Getting rid of ‘stuff’ – My husband and I celebrated taking two loads of ‘stuff’ to the landfill (trash and recycling) and donation. I feel like we are finally making progress in getting rid of things we no longer need. We managed to fix 4 floor lamps that we thought were broken…just before we were set to take them to the landfill.

Wedding anniversary – My husband and I usually have a quiet celebration when our wedding anniversary comes around just after Christmas and the beginning of the year. We’re always pleased with ourselves for becoming long-time marrieds….but realize that it has been easier for us than it is for so many others.

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A morning hike at Mt. Pleasant – It was muddy but otherwise an excellent day for a winter hike. I enjoyed getting outdoors.

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New hiking boots – I celebrated getting new hiking boots. The lining of my 4-year-old boots was tearing. I bought the same brand (Merrell) but waterproof and a little wider to leave more room for bunions and thick socks.

No cavities – I went to the dentist for a checkup and celebrated ‘no cavities’ or anything else that required follow-up! It’s been that way for the past few appointments…and I’m glad my teeth seem to be OK and stable.

Anticipating Zentangle class – I registered for a Zentangle class scheduled for late March and started working through the pre-work….what a joy and worth celebrating both the tiles I am creating now and the anticipation of a great experience in the class.

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Walking in snow at Belmont – I celebrated the beauty of snow on the landscape….and that my boots didn’t leak!

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Witch hazel blooming – What a thrill to find the burst of color in the browns, dark greens, and whites of a winter day! I like that the petals are like little streams as well…. appropriate for a celebration.

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Peppermint snow ice cream – Yum! Yes, I was very cold after I ate it but is was well worth it…celebration-worthy food!

Macro photograph collection – I celebrated the macro photographs I’d made over the past year or so as I prepared charts for a presentation. I have enjoyed the clip on macro lens more than any other photography accessory!

Brookside Lights

Last week, we managed to get over to see the holiday lights at Brookside Gardens. They are worth at least one evening walkabout between Thanksgiving and the end of the year. It’s a family tradition for many people in our area of Maryland. There are things that stay the say…some things that are new...every time we go. This year there was another frog sculpture (with a butter fly and little frog) in the visitor’s center; I hadn’t noticed it before.

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The caterpillar tunnel was the same near the entrance to the gardens just outside the visitor center.

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The spider web and rainbow with lightning and clouds with raindrops were also repeats from previous years.

I always like the dragon (mom and baby). In previous years they spewed smoke.

Another new display: saguaro cactus light shapes.

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The butterfly and lights on a water feature (lights instead of water for the winter) were oldies but goodies.

I also like the spotlight on the sphere sculpture that I like so well during the day. The irregularities in the rock are more visible with the shadows. This might be my favorite picture from the whole evening!

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I created a slideshow with my other favorites. I like the nature theme for the lights -  flowers and moon and trees shapes, insects, tall stalks, a snake and ants and a fox, mushrooms. Sometimes I am not sure what it’s supposed to be…but it’s always fun to guess.

It’s also fun to listen to parents interacting with their young children. I noticed a toddler almost in front of us walking across the sidewalk; his father said “Don’t sit in the mulch” and the child promptly took a few more steps, turned around, and sat down in the mulch. He was helped up…dusted off in the back (it was cold so he was well bundled up). Everyone laughed…a good time!

Happy New Year 2019

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A brand-new year…a beginning…full of potential. I got up to see the sunrise this morning; it’s become a minor tradition and this year I set an alarm to make sure I didn’t miss it. This time of year, it isn’t hard to be up and about before sunrise!

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There could be some big changes this year with my daughter make a career move that requires relocation, elderly family members in precarious health, and me wanting to reduce ‘stuff’ that is filling our house. Enter another tradition for the first day of the year: a bit of introspection…making some decisions about what I want to discontinue, continue or start. It’s an evolution of the tradition to make resolutions – which rarely meant very much.  Everything on the list needs to be something important, achievable and measurable. I’m having trouble coming up with something to discontinue in 2019!

YE Thinking: Favorite Images

Looking for a way to summarize my year in pictures for this last post of 2019, I selected 3 favorite photos from each month – not an easy task for me. Many of them are from at home…some from other places close to home…then Socorro NM and Carrolton Tx. It’s been a good year! Enjoy the slide show….celebrating 2018!

December on the Trolley Trail

The Howard County Conservancy organized a winter hike for its volunteers last week on the Trolley Trail (Trolley Trail #9 near Ellicott City/Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum). We were celebrating the end of another fall field trip season. About 40 people met in the Banneker parking lot and headed out.

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The connecting trail from Banneker to the Trolley Trail was through the forest and very muddy. There was an Osage orange tree that had dropped its fruit recently. Most of the fruit look pristine. When I got home, I did some research and discovered that the fruit is not eaten except sometimes by squirrels. One theory is that the fruit was eaten by large mammals that are now extinct (ground sloth, mammoth, mastodon) and that these animals would have spread the seed. Now the tree is propagated by people for its wood and as windbreaks.

We headed north on the Trolley Trail first. I didn’t take many pictures because I was so busy trying to keep up with the group. It was the same the last time I was on the Trolley Trail in 2015 with my Master Naturalist class (posted about it here).

There was some stream restoration (and maybe something else since there is infrastructure like sewer lines in the streambed) that was active next to the trail.  The stream did look more scoured than the last time we were in the area.

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We reached the end of the trail at the north and retraced our steps…passing the trails to Banneker to continue south on the Trolley Trail.

We got to the part of the trail that was damaged in the last flood. Repair work was not complete, so we stopped before getting down to Ellicott City; I turned around and took a picture back along the trail. The asphalt of the trail was damaged by the flood; the asphalt edges were uneven, and pieces were missing.

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There were bright green Christmas fens on the cliff to the right

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A little further back up the hill, winter trees looked good against the sky. It’s easy to pick out the sycamores this time of year.

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A waterfall was scenic rather than roaring. I thought more about what it must have been like during the flood to sweep away asphalt a little further down.

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We’ve gotten so much rain this fall/early winter that the moss is thick and bright green – like a carpet.

We made the muddy trek back up to Banneker to retrieve our cars…and head for lunch with healthy appetites.

HCC’s Natural Holiday Sale

I’m catching up on some posts for the events early this month. Back on the 1st of the month, the Howard County Conservancy hosted their annual Natural Holiday Sale. Volunteering in the kitchen for the sale has become a tradition for me; it’s a great way to start the Christmas season. I keep the big coffee urn suppled with Russian Tea (Tang, instant tea, lemonade mix, spices) and restock the trays of homemade cookies for shoppers. The table requires near constant attention to look bountiful and festive.

This year the garden club added suet decorations to their holiday arrangements. I bought two garlands and a large pine cone. My deck will be the most decorated part of my house – all for the birds!

The bins of natural materials and glue guns were a big hit as they are every year…lots of creativity…center pieces that tell a story. See some pictures of the event from 2016 here; it changes a little every year but the cookies and Russian Tea and critter creations are a constant!

Ten Little Celebrations – November 2018

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At the beginning of November, we had a short burst of color before the leaves fell off the trees. I celebrated a glorious fall day…wishing the season had not been so short this year.

HoLLIE (Howard County Legacy Leadership Institute for the Environment) graduation was this month after accumulating enough volunteer hours since finishing the class last spring.

And then came the Festival of the Cranes with so many little celebrations:

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Seeing sandhill cranes in flight – being close enough to their fly out to hear the first few high-power flaps of their wings.

Seeing two barn owls circle above the field where I was standing. It was a first for me….so beautiful and ghost-like.

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Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge. It was my first visit to the place and it’s hard to choose the high point maybe it was the screwbean mesquite the herd of pronghorn playing a running game with our caravan or seeing a shrike with a meal.

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Hooded Mergansers. It was not the first time I had seen the birds (there were some on a local (Maryland) pond we visited during our 5th HoLLIE class). But they were not displaying like the birds we saw during the Festival of the Cranes.

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. What an amazing place….and great hosts to the Festival of the Cranes. I am already planning to go again! There are so many sights and sounds to celebrate here.

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Home again. I celebrate returning every time I am away for longer than a couple days.

Bald Eagle seen from my office window. The morning we left to drive to Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving, a bald eagle flew over the forest behind our house while I was shutting down my laptop for the road trip. It continued over our house. Since I saw a pair of eagles soaring a nearby shopping center recently, I think perhaps their nest is somewhere in the forest along the Middle Patuxent River near us. What a way to start the Thanksgiving holiday!

Thanksgiving….celebrating the day…realizing how much I am thankful for.

New Mexico Earrings

There are still more Festival of the Cranes posts to come, but I am taking a break for a few days to do post on other topics….and to do a little history of our travels to New Mexico via my earring collection.

I have some New Mexico earrings from as far back as the 1970s but I’m going to focus this post on the ones I’ve collected this century.

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I bought the pair of black and silver M design (like a pottery shard) at Bandelier National Monument in 2005. My husband, daughter, and I had met my parents in Albuquerque and used that as a base to see north central New Mexico: Santa Fe, Bandelier, Petroglyphs, and Chaco Canyon.

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On a road trip between Dallas and Tucson, we stopped at White Sands National Monument in 2013. I posted about the barn swallows and yuccas!

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During our first experience with Festival of the Cranes back in 2016, I bought some radio telescope earrings at the Very Large Array Radio Telescope,

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Two pairs of earrings including some stylized cranes at Vertu, the local artist store in Socorro,

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And three more pair in the Albuquerque airport.

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I bought four pair of earrings this year during our second experience at Festival of the Cranes. Starting at 12 o’clock position: there are the polished stones purchased at Vertu (they are thin enough to not be heavy), the dragonfly in cattails at the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge gift shop , the bird flying over water and mountains from a shop on Socorro’s square, and the mosaic type earrings at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge made by an artist from the Santo Domingo Pueblo.

Overall – I don’t remember the years all that well (I must look back at notes), but I easily remember where I bought them. Earrings are still the best keepsake for me to buy, pack, and enjoy – savoring the memory from the time I bought them every time I see them.

Festival of the Cranes – part 1

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We enjoyed our second Festival of the Cranes at Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge near San Antonio NM last week. Registration opened in early September and we decided quickly on the sessions we wanted…were early enough to get into them all. My criteria for sessions was: 1) something that we couldn’t easily do on our own or 2) a topic new to us or 3) something we enjoyed so much last time that we wanted to do it again!

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A few weeks before our departure, I started a packing list color coded by packing location and then marked off as it was packed.

We knew the early mornings to see the fly out of the snow geese and cranes would be very cold…so lots of layers and hand/foot warmers. There were several days that we needed to carry lunch so we took an insulated bag. There was camera gear too; the tripods were in the checked bags – cameras in the carry on.  I took three pieces of luggage: a suitcase that would be checked, a rolling backpack, and a duffel. My husband took four (two that were checked).

We didn’t forget anything…still have some ideas to do better packing next time.

I’ll be posting about the festival over the next few weeks. I took over 5,000 pictures in all because I set my camera on continuous shooting to capture motion (and I took some video too).

Blog posts about our 2016 experience of Festival of the Cranes:

Ten Little Celebrations – October 2018

Glorious fall – even if our leaf color is the least spectacular of the 30+ years I’ve lived on the east coast. All my celebrations this month were outdoors!

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Hiking in the Middle Patuxent Environmental Area after heavy rain – lots of mud but my boots handled it well

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Bald Eagles – the serendipity of seeing them soaring over a shopping center parking lot

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Common Buckeye in a native plant garden on a sunny day

Mushrooms and cobwebs at Centennial Park…spectacular on a foggy morning

Finding a crawfish and hellgrammite in the Middle Patuxent River with high schoolers. We were all very cold but managed to still find some interesting critters.

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Fifth graders with clipboards and pencils on a BioBlitz at Belmont.

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First graders enjoying a hike on a cold fall morning (seeing a immature black rat snake)

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Finding a spotted salamander with a group of 7th graders on a BioBlitz at Mt. Pleasant

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A rainy day in the Middle Patuxent River with high schoolers – and realizing that the students were pleased with the macroinvertebrates we found. They came dressed for the rain!

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A long hike from Belmont to the Patapsco Valley State Park Avalon area – getting all my steps for the day in less than 3 hours

Ten Little Celebrations – September 2018

Every month when I look at the notes I’ve made for each day of little celebrations – I enjoy them again. Many times, it’s hard to pick just 10 for this blog post. Here are the picks for September 2018:

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Volunteering on the last day of Brookside Gardens Wings of Fancy exhibit – It was good to be there for the good-bye day…and know that the next exhibit will open again in April. I enjoy being in the butterfly house and interacting with visitors…it’s a happy place.

Window cleaning – I am surprising myself at how satisfying cleaning the windows (taking the panes apart and cleaning all surfaces except the one on the outside) on a rainy day can be. Instead of spring cleaning – I’m doing fall cleaning! I celebrated the difference clean windows make.

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A monarch butterfly emerging – Caterpillars crawled up from our front flower bed to make chrysalises at the top of the window frames. I finally managed to notice one that was still emerged - hanging from the bit of chrysalis still attached – and then crawling up onto the lentil to finish drying. Celebration!

Yummy zucchini bread – I made a double batch of zucchini bread from squash frozen earlier in the summer. We enjoyed it for days. I celebrated the spicy flavor…helped me feel ready for fall.

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Howard County Conservancy volunteers and staff – With the training for fall field trips, we always have a pot luck lunch and this one – for me – was a celebration of those people (and that they are all such foodies)!

Elementary School Butterfly – What a celebration when the first Monarch butterfly emerged from a chrysalis I took to the elementary school! I wasn’t there for the excitement but got the description from the teacher. They even found another chrysalis on the fence around their school garden while they were releasing their butterfly.

Haircut - I told the stylist – with some trepidation - that I wanted it short….and celebrated the results.

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A birthday spent at Longwood - This is a great place to spend celebrating a family birthday…better than a too-sweet cake!

Yard work – Just as the window cleaning – I celebrated the results. It’s good to know that I’m ending the month in relatively good shape when it comes to the yard…before a lot of leaves have fallen.

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Lacewing larvae – Celebrating seeing (and recognizing) a new-to-me organism (looks like lichen since it covers itself with pieces of the stuff)!

Ten Little Celebrations – July 2018

The little celebrations of every day add up to far more joy that the big celebrations of the years. I always find it easy to highlight 10 each month. For this month – I celebrated

Being home again after being away the last 3 weeks of June. I always appreciate being able to have my quiet time…sleep in my own bed.

The CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) bounty. I sign up for the smallest share but it is still a lot. Still - love the fresh veggies and find it easy to ‘eat healthy’ with the abundance and variety.

 

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Compost in Howard County. I learned a lot when I toured the compost facility in my county and celebrated that they are building a second phase.

A free compost bin. I picked up a free compost bin from the county and have started my one composting – so far so good. I trained enough to be dangerous.

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Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC). I’m always exited to find new/interesting places that are close enough to where live to explore again and again. I am waiting until it is a little cooler to return.

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Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. One of the places we’ve enjoyed in June-July for the past few years. Lotuses are always worth celebrating.

Photo shoots with summer campers. It’s been a summer volunteer gig for the past few summers – always some results worth celebrating. This year I discovered that it was still good even with it rained.

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Wings of Fancy. Butterflies area always worth celebrating…and being At Brookside frequently enough to notice other people celebrating too.

Saddleback caterpillars and sawfly larvae. I always celebrate when I see organisms I’ve heard about but not seen before (I’ll be writing a post about these soon).

Cleaned out flower beds. The vegetation in front of our house was overgrown by the time I got back from Texas. I celebrated when several mornings of work begin to make it tidy.

Father's Day

Thinking about father’s today…

So many good memories and anticipation of the future within my own family of my father and my husband as father to my daughter. There are only memories of my grandfathers at this point but those are good too. Over the years I’ve realized that there as many ways to be a good father as there are to be a good mother…good parents always seem able to sync with the needs of their children. I suppose having days to celebrate fathers and mothers are very much reminders to celebrate families too!

I enjoyed a blog post about Wildlife Fathers too.

Ten Little Celebrations – May 2018

My celebrations in May were all about aspects of being outdoors in spring –

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Finding a snail on a blade of grass at Belmont during a BioBlitz with 7th graders.

Catching the horse chestnut tree in bloom at Belmont.

Discovering a black rat snake coiled in an oak tree when I was hiking with kindergarteners and talking out what might live in the tree.

The smells of spring (and trying to figure out which plant it is).

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Seeing an orchard oriole and Baltimore oriole during a birding event in Baltimore…firsts for me.

And the same was true for the kingbird.

Discovering new perspectives on common plants with a macro lens on my Smartphone

Brookside Gardens – there is something there many months of the year. This May it was dogwoods and butterflies (in the conservatory)….and the many subjects for macro photography that the gardens contain.

Warmer days --- but having time indoors with air conditioning when it is overly warm.

A rainy day at home was something to celebrate because we had been so dry earlier in the spring…and because I needed a day off from field trips and butterfly exhibit volunteering. May is probably one of the peak months for the type of volunteering I do.