Thursday, October 25, 2018

Cooper and The Garden Guest

I discovered earlier this summer that finches aren't the only thing that like my thistle seeds. Even though there is a plethora of seeds on the ground, this little daredevil shimmies up the iron pole, tightropes across the shepherd's hook, rappels down the rope and eats them directly from the source! 

He's a tiny White-Footed Wood Mouse and I see him most nights when I take Moose out before bed. We chat a bit and then I leave him to it. As long as he stays outside, we don't have any issues. 

Since he normally comes out after dark and I have closed the blinds way beforehand, Cooper has no idea that inches from his window seat hangs a potentially tasty hors d'oeuvre.  That all changed the other night when I walked down to Gus's diner in the daylight to meet a friend for supper and didn't get home until well after dark. I came home to this!

Come here, little guy. I just want to be your friend. 

So close and yet so far...I can't even stun him with my laser beam eyes!

Maybe if I climb up the window from the top of my cat tree, I can get the jump on him! Death from above!

He was going absolutely bananas so I finally closed the blinds. The minute I did,  Cooper immediately curled up and went to sleep on his window seat! No trying to get through the curtains. No more meowing and carrying on....he was done. Out of sight, out of mind! Now I pull the curtains at dusk and we haven't had a problem since. I wish all issues were resolved this easily!


I can't believe how excited I still get over finding fossils out here. This whole area was submerged in the Cambrian Sea about 550 million years ago, so the ground is mostly a limestone base fulled with corals, trilobites, crinoids and shells. The beaches are full of fossils, as are rocks in quarries and even the landscaping rocks around businesses. I've been here 30 years and you would think I had found a finorkin' T-Rex every time I spot one. It's the little things I guess!

I found some beauties (to me) in Algoma.

Chain Coral

Chain Coral

I don't know but the black bits looks like the outline of a small crayfish. 

Honeycomb or Petosky. I'm not sure really. The holes are much bigger and darker than the other honeycomb pieces I found. Here is the other side of it. I'm leaning towards Petosky.

Thought this was a lightning stone but it's just a rock with some kind of concretion. Still cool!

Crinoid fossil. Crinoids were organisms that looked kind of like segmented reeds. 

This is just a piece of sea glass but I was happy to find it since it's one off the biggest pieces I've seen in a while and I've been hunting Lincolville beach every summer for years!

I stivered back to the car with my winter jacket pockets so loaded I could barely waddle, happy as a clam! Some people buy expensive lucky and I that I'm happy with a rock!

Crazy Autumn/Respite in Door County

It's been a crazy autumn around here. I've loved it, but am eagerly anticipating a little bit of a slowdown after the holidays! At least I've got my Christmas shopping done. If I don't get it done by Halloween, I have failed. My dislike of being trapped in the Madison crowds and getting folded, spindled and mutilated at every turn, prevents me from enjoying 'holiday' shopping in the traditional sense.  Thankfully the stores have their Christmas stuff out in August now so I can get a jump on it!

Work has been nuts, but I was able to get a couple of days to go up to Door County to see Northern Sky's production of 'Muskie Love'. Friend, Doug Mancheski, was in it. Someone told me that since I love 'Guys on Ice' so much, that I needed to see 'Lumberjacks in Love' (which I did two summers ago) and 'Muskie Love'. The perfect trilogy! 'Muskie Love's basic bones structure kind of lies in  Shakespeare's 'Much Ado About Nothing' ..but as a musical comedy....set in a fishing village.... in Door County, Wisconsin... and the Packers are kind of in it. There is a character named DNR Doug that was hilarious! I loved the music and hope they put a CD out. Doug sang a song by Dave Hudson called 'On Green Bay' that was so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes! What a voice and what a poignant song!

Stayed overnight in Fish Creek, since the play was at the Door County auditorium, had breakfast at Al Johnson's Swedish Restaurant (goats on the roof doncha know) in Sister Bay, and then did the fall foliage drive back by Northern Sky's soon-to-be new home before crossing over to the other side of the peninsula and going to Bailey's Harbor. My plan was to go to Whitefish Dunes State Park and fossil hunt on the beach. Great plan, except there was no beach! The water was so high and the winds so wild that the water was coming right up to the trees and the beach was closed. Instead, I walked up the shore the other way to Cave Point where things were really rocking and rolling!

I met a bunch of nice folks at the point and took pictures for a bunch of people with their cameras and cell phones. For some of them I'd take a picture of myself first. I like to think of them back home  in Chicago, going through their vacation pics and wondering who the heck that lady is! I walked the path through the woods, along the cliffs, which are 2-3 stories above the water, and still got hefty doses of sea spray, although it was worth it to hear the water sing in the caves in the limestone cliffs-like Thunder Hole in Acadia x10!  It was only 40° so I was glad to get back to the warmth of the car after an hour and a half outside although the walk totally restores the soul.

From there, I drove down to Algoma where  there was a beach I could walk to look for rocks.

 I'm glad it was a long beach because one half of it definitely belonged to these guys:
And I didn't want to have to sift though all their poo for the good rocks. Better to just stick to my end of the shore! There was a beautiful lighthouse at the goose end too!

Manitowoc and Two Rivers have a bike path/park that run down the entire length of the shoreline with placed to sit and watch the lake. It's absolutely gorgeous, no matter what the weather.

I went by it on the way up to Fish Creek and had wanted to stop on the way home, but after 90 minutes at Cave Point and another two hours at Algoma, I was cold and done in  and still had about a 3 hour drive to get home so I just went back through Green Bay. I am relieved to tell you that I actually made it back over the scary, tall bridges in Green Bay. They are knuckle-tightening on a calm day and the winds were really whipping making them extra exciting! I may or may not have said a few swear words in amongst my prayers! I didn't invent any new swears, but I t strung the existing ones together pretty creatively while traversing a swinging concrete slab way up in the sky!

I had a wonderful time. The play was awesome. Visiting with Doug is always a pleasure and I got a little taste of the coast of Maine right here in the Midwest. I found lots of fossils, made new friends and didn't catch my death of pneumonia out traipsing around in the wind and rain. Can't ask for more than that!

Thursday, September 20, 2018


I've been spending every free moment studying Zentangle materials for my CZT class at the end of October. I've been practicing the art and method Zentangle for about 8 years now, but I have only been doing what I enjoy so it's time to learn, or at least become familiar with, all of the things I haven't tried. If my company is being so generous with  their money, time, and faith-sending me to class, the least I can do is be prepared!

So, I had seen the term 'Zenbuttons' bantered around but hadn't really investigated them. There is a section in the Zen Primer that talks about reticula and Zenbuttons stem from that, so I thought I ought to at least try it. What I saw online didn't grab me that much but I decided to do at least 5 so I could get the hang of it.

The first one I tried was with purple and black on a tan tile. It went OK but I wasn't thrilled with the process or the outcome. My outside circle was wonky, the highlighting was weak, and it just kind of sat there overall. 

So I went back to the drawing board. (Pun intended.) I looked at the instructions and then at the first tile and decided all of the things I wanted to change with the second one. I used blue and black on a tan tile and put a Zengem in the middle. I like that one a little better but it still didn't pop for me.

For the third one, I decided to make more bands and spaces for the reticula to make it a little less clunky, stayed away from the strictly monochromatic colors and upped my white highlight to make it 'shinier'.

This is what it looked like before shading:

 I was amazed at what a difference a little bit of graphite and white chalk could make. Finally, one I was happy with.

 I guess the thing that I am most happy with is that I can see definite progress with each new button as I get used to the method.
(From left to right).

That and the fact that while the process got a lukewarm reception at first, I really like doing them now and have idea for my last two already! Why is it that my inner three-year-old never learns to stop dragging her feet and just try something before she decide she doesn't like it!? Two more under my belt by the end of the weekend and then it's on to square medallions! Wheeeeee! Loving the ride!

Update: Finished the last two!

# 4 Orange Autumn

#5 Red and Black

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Diva Challenge 367-'NZepple

Laura's challenge this week was to use the tangle pattern 'NZepple. 'NZepple is one of my Mac and Cheese tangles. It appears in 90 % of my work. It's so relaxing to do and I love the way that, even though the same design is repeated over and over in a grid, it creates a secondary pattern.

I love to use it as in the background of this tile.

Or make it wonky style and turn it into sea shells like in the bottom left hand corner of this tile. (Kudos to Margaret Bremner who first turned us on to this variation called 'Cockles and Mussels'!)

As long as 'NZepple, Hybrid, Quiltz, Mooka, and Zinger exist, all is right with my world! What are your Mac and Cheese Tangles?

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Diva Challenge 365: Back to Basics

Laura's back over at the Zentangle Diva site! I'm so happy to see her! It's been a long, boring summer without her! Her first challenge upon returning is one that gets us back to the basics of Zentangle-dots, frame, string, basic tangles. It's a particularly apropos one for me right now since I will be traveling to Providence in October to attend a class to become certified to teach Zentangle! Since I found out, I have been concentrating on getting back to basics so this challenge is perfect. It uses Hollibaugh, Crescent Moon and Printemps.
Thanks for a great challenge, Laura!!!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

DaVinci DaVotion and Lunchtime Luck

Although a lot of other groovy stuff happened, the main reason for going to the Mississippi River Museum was to see the traveling DaVinci exhibit they are offering this summer. I'm a huge fan of both his genius and his art so was delighted with the treasures that were available!

They took a lot of the sketches of inventions that he had created on paper and put them together in real life.  This is the uber-creepy underwater breathing system he thought up. I think the white makes it more slimming, no? The backpack mounted on the front covers a multitude of sins! did he really envision that the air bell would be a two ton heavy thing made out of wood? I swear I've seen this guy on Doctor Who!

Some of the exhibits you could touch and some you couldn't. This was DaVinci's armored tank. You could get inside. I did and tried to take a picture but the resulting photo looked very confusing from that angle! I think the shape sort of looks like one of the lunar space capsules! I think I would like it for a She Shed! I'd replace all the metal hardware with a huge soft cushion of course, so it would be a cozy place to nest up and read a good book! I'm pretty sure that's what DaVinci had in mind anyway!

Vitruvian Man is one of my favs! Our company put out a tshirt quite a few years back with him on it.

Of course Mona was there. I love all of the theories! Was she a real person? Was DaVinvi himself the model? Was she pregnant-is that why her hands are that way? Mona just smiles enigmatically...she's not telling!

They also had a reproduction of The Last Supper. It was amazing to see it in its actual size! I've seen it in pictures all my life but I was amazed at all the things I had missed. I sat on a bench and looked at it a long time. I didn't get any great pics though because it was so big I couldn't get far enough away.

Of all the things, this was my favorite. I'm overwhelmed by DaVinci's notebooks. I've read every reproduction and also books about them. For a long time in my 20s, and as a keeper of journals myself, I had an unnatural obsession with them!  The exhibit had 'archival quality reproductions'. I think that means 'really good fakes', but I loved seeing them anyway!

After the exhibit, it was lunchtime so I went down to the in-house cafe only to discover that I would have to put a second mortgage on the house to buy a hot dog. Diamond Jo Casino was across the street and I had noticed on the drive in that there were several restaurants in the complex (including a Subway), so I put $20 and my driver's license in my pocket, threw my purse in the trunk, and headed over.  (This is the part where 'other groovy stuff' happened!)

I planned to buy lunch with the $20 and whatever was left over I would spend playing the penny slots for a few minutes before heading back to the museum to feed the stingrays. I got a lunch in a cafe and had a $10 bill and some change left over. I headed to the casino floor and put the $10 bill in a penny slot machine. Woohoo! That's a lot of pennies! Feeling flush, I opted for the max bet...80 tokens! .80 cents...big spender! I hit the button and as I did, I noticed that the machine allows you choose a denomination, .01, .02, .05 or .10 cents....and someone had left it on .10! Oh no! No! No! No! Undo! Undo!  As I checked the display to confirmed that indeed-I had wasted $8.00 on one spin, the bells and whistles started. I just sat and stared as money started pouring into my account...a penny at a time. But by the time it was done....well....this!

I know right!? I didn't even give it one more go! I punched out, took my voucher to the cashier, got cash and hurried from the casino like I'd robbed the place. I kind of feel like I did! And I think I know why Mona has that look on her face. I had a similar one on my face for the rest of the afternoon!

All in all it was a lucky, lovely day and I had a wonderful time! Mona and I highly recommend it!

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Octopus Hugs and Stingray Kisses

Wanna hug? This is the Pacific Octopus at The Mississippi River Museum. Isn't he a handsome fella? He was doing his morning hot laps when I arrived. He was practically running around the circle of his tank.  He would only stop to investigate that pipe you see in the lower left. At first I thought that it was a piece that had somehow come off the aquarium, but turns out it's his toy. He would stop, stick an arm in it, turn it around a little and put it back down and continue on his way. I must have stood there for 20 minutes watching his antics. Better than the Kardashians any day!

I signed up to help hand feed the rays in the afternoon. This picture was taken from the second floor balcony. The kite-shaped ones are Cow Faces Sting Rays. Their noses look a lot like cow noses.  Their wingspan is probably about 3-3.5 feet. They 'fly' all around the tank, using lots of energy so they get fed twice a day. That smaller, rounder ones are Yellow Rays. They are more sluggish and pretty much sit on the bottom of the tank so they are only fed in the morning. 

I got there early and petted them for a while. They come over to the sides of the tide pool-like tank so you can run your hand down their backs. Some of them stick their faces out of the water to have a look at you. It's pretty neat. Just before they are fed, the staff makes everyone stop petting them until after they have been fed. This is so the rays don't get confused every time a hand is in the water.

The naturalist said that normally they have around 10-15 folks sign up and everyone gets around three pieces of fish to feed the rays, but that afternoon was inexplicably quiet and there were only three of us, so we got to feed them all the fish! It took 15 -20 minutes and was such a blast! Sometimes they are fed shrimp, but today's entree was smelts. You take a smelt and hold it between your fingers like a cigarette, then you slide your palm down the inside of the tank wall, about elbow deep, and they come from below and swim up your hand. When their mouth, which is quite far down on their underside, come in contact with the smelt, they suck it right out of your fingers. It feels like little stingray kisses! The Cow Noses are pretty messy eaters, but that's OK.  The little Yellows zoom around the bottom like Roombas, vacuuming up any random bits that get missed.

It was such an amazing experience and I highly recommend it if you are in the Dubuque area. It might be a bit too intense for little kids, but pre-teens on up could handle it. Like I said, it was a fluke that there was only 3 of us, so sign-up early to be sure sure to be included! You too can add 'Stingray Food Transfer Technician' to your resume!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

This Way To The Egress, Ladies and Gentleman!

As I was out adventuring on Sunday afternoon, I saw a sign on the highway that said 'Scenic Overlook', so I pulled off the road and into the upper parking lot. I am a sucker for 'scenic' anything and also for those markers for historic places you come across sometimes. (In Maine we call them 'rocks with writing on them' because the metal plaques are usually attached to huge, usually granite, boulders, but here in WI, they are usually in the form of an actual wooden sign.  But I digress...).

I knew it had to be something really beautiful because I was in the Driftless Area of Wisconsin. The Saint Laurentide Ice Sheet never made it down this far in the last Ice Age. The area wasn't scraped clean by the rampaging berg and rushing waters, so it's all the original Cambrian seabed underneath. Lots hills and vales! I also knew, that if the powers-that-be thought it was important enough to build a groovy, and quite obviously spendy, pedestrian bridge over the highway so the masses could access this wondrous spectacle, it must be pretty. darn. amazing.  

So I set off across the well-maintained parking lot to the fabulous bridge. It was hot and humid and the whole thing was downhill, meaning that after I saw the amazing view, I would have to hike uphill all the way back, but I just knew it would be totally worth it! 

Lovers had locked padlocks on the bridge to signify their eternal adoration for each other. It was sweet to see and I wondered why the bridge wasn't covered with locks in, what must be, a very high traffic area? Hmmm. A mystery to be sure!

Across the parking lot, over the swanky bridge, through another huge, well-mown and paved parking are ( for scenic view enthusiasts coming the other way on the highway) and I encountered this. Pretty, no? Look how well maintained it is-all mowed up nice. It was nice in the shade and there was no one else around which seemed a little odd but my excitement grew.  I just knew that whatever was at the end was going to be SO worth it! I mean why else would they people all the way down here?

The path led to this little observation terrace. All the better to see the scenic view! What a great idea! They've though of everything! I rushed forward to see what I could see!!! And....

View to the left.

View to the right.

Uh...wha???? Is this the point in the horror movie when the crazy park ranger shows up with an ax, having enticed his victim into the wild? The surroundings were such a non-event that even he was a no show!  

Either this was one of those scenic overlooks geared to much, much taller folk than I, or someone forgot to install the scenic view! The only thing around the end of the path was dense vegetation. No one had trimmed the sumac and other assorted growth for years. I couldn't even glimpse a little bit of 'scenic' through the underbrush and tree trunks. And now, I would have to walk uphill through a path, two parking lots and a bridge to get back to my air conditioned car! Doh! Fell for it again! Print the word 'sucker' on my forehead!

 Looking back over my shoulder I could see that there maybe used to be a scenic view but those days, I'm afraid, are looooonnnnngggg gone.

Over the years, I've chuckled at the Scenic View sign on I-95 below Sherman, ME in the winter when it states 'Scenic View Closed'. ( I'm guessing because it's on such a big hill and they don't want to plow it the drive up there.)  I always think, "how can they 'close' the scenic view? Annnndddd, now I know.

To recap:

The ilk of what I expected to see...


 Heavy sigh. I really AM gullible. (I'm a little ashamed to admit that I was taken for a, and I almost didn't write this for fear of ridicule, but if this post can save just one person from heading down that path, it will be worth it! Snicker...)

Now I have to petition the town of Dodgeville to change the sign to include the word 'Ustabeah' in front of 'Scenic View'. Until then, if you're in that neighborhood, don't fall for the shiny, shiny bridge and the promise of paradise....turns out it's just a parking lot!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Governor Dodge State Park

I decided that Sunday looked like a good day for adventuring, so I headed over to Governor Dodge State Park for the afternoon. 

I've only lived in Wisconsin for going on 30 years so I figured it was time. I had heard that there was a waterfall in the park so of course that was my goal. Turns out, it was just down the road a piece from the front gate so it wasn't hard to find. 

The path through the woods was paved, short and very pretty until you get to this part (up at the top):
'Natural Rock Staircase' back pockets!!!

Climbing down was a lot scarier than these pictures make it look. It's all an uneven jumble of rocks to the bottom and pretty steep. Thankfully there is an iron pipe railing to hold on to or I probably wouldn't have attempted it. Some of the 'steps' are pretty far apart for those of us who are short on one end, but I made it to the bottom unscathed! I was rewarded with this bit of loveliness!

Stevens' Falls

Cave next to the falls.

The water is from a spring so it was ice cold and clear. I had to bide my time to take pics because people were wading there. 

That little spring rill has been working on that bedrock a loooooonnnngggg time. 

I made it back up over the scary, scary jaggedy, rocks unscathed! I wasn't even winded. I was so proud of myself...but of course this is my life we're talking about, and it was while I was standing back on the level overlook that I inhaled some kind of a bug and almost died to death from the coughing. It was an exciting few minutes while, thinking I was having some kind of an 'episode', strangers pounded me on the back, tried to get me to drink water, and discussed whether they should call the park rangers or Med Flight. Finally I could suck up enough oxygen to squeak, "I swallowed a bug", and there was a collective "Oh" and everyone went back to their business. Just once, I'd like to have a normal life...just once....

Because this was a family farm back in the day, there was also an old spring house nearby. It sits right over the spring stream and was used to keep things cool before refrigerators were around. I went in  and it was easily 20° or more cooler in there than outside. It was also home to an amazing diversity of spiders but it was too dark to take good pics of them.

All in all, it was a fine afternoon. The only downside was that I wasn't the only one who thought of going adventuring. There were people everywhere! Every natural feature was crowded with folks-both the good and the obnoxious sorts. Made me wish for some of the Maine parks where you can go all day and only see a handful of people. When I'm in the woods or by the water, I like solitude and quiet. Weird for someone who, let's phrase it nicely....'verbally and vocally gifted'...(read *a chatterbox* here). But we know that I am nothing if not an enigma wrapped up in a conundrum, deep fried in paradox oil and smothered in quandary sauce!  Overall it was beautiful but next time I plan to go back either early in the morning, or in the off season when the camping traffic is less. 

Cooper and The Garden Guest

I discovered earlier this summer that finches aren't the only thing that like my thistle seeds. Even though there is a plethora of seeds...