Thoughts, ideas, photos, and stories.


Dinner Guests

Hanging feeders for the birds,

I had not expected herds,

Bandits coming in the night,

Gobbling food with all their might.

Table manners, not so good,

Faces masked, but without hood,

Swinging on the feeder tube,

Like a common country rube.


One sat on the table top,

One beneath ate what might drop.

Cleaning up left over scraps,

Without worries about traps.


To watch the video, you have to be very quick. It’s only about 4 seconds long. You may have to replay it a few times to see the top raccoon stuffing his face, with the feeder at an angle so the seeds fall out better, and the other raccoon sitting underneath him, cleaning up.

I should be thankful that they clean up after themselves.


The Lilac Notebook

You won’t want to miss this one. Carol Balawyder’s latest novel is something unique.

Here is Carol and a little bit about her.

Carol’s academic training is in English Literature and Criminology. She studied criminology so as to bring credibility to the crime novels she wanted to write.

These days Carol is retired from her teaching post of supervising and teaching criminology to college students. She has been busy as a volunteer, visiting Alzheimer’s patients. She brings along her little dog, Bau. One of the patients, Doris, especially loved spending time with Bau. The sweet relationship they developed is reproduced in Carol’s latest novel.

The Lilac Notebook is a study of the decline of a young woman in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.

Doris had lost her ability to speak. Ms. Balawyder used this as a focal point of the murder investigation in which her fictional character, Holly is accused, but unable to defend herself.

Her main character Holly, is partly based on Doris and her relationship with Bau.

My Review of The Lilac Notebook.

Carol Balawyder’s novel, The Lilac Notebook, left me thinking of the plight of one of her characters for many days afterwards. Although it is a crime story, it is different from every other one I’ve read, because Holly, the main character, has early onset Alzheimer’s.

Her husband has never loved her, and now that she has this debilitating disease, she knows that he will find her a burden. She makes the decision to leave before it gets too bad, signs up for a college course and makes friends with two women who will entangle her in a murder mystery.

We learn in detail of her challenges as Alzheimer’s symptoms manifest themselves. In some cases, Alzheimer’s patients lose the ability to speak. They can still hear and reason, but find it difficult to respond. Sometimes the right word is hard to find, and increasingly it becomes more difficult to speak.

After a second murder takes place in their part of the city, Holly and her friends fear for their safety. Holly is haunted by clues she tries to put together, and suspects that the killer may be somehow connected to them. Her speech is becoming difficult, so she records as much as she can remember in her lilac notebook.

When one of her friends suggests that possibly it is Holly herself who is doing the killing, she is in turmoil because her memory has been failing her more and more. She wonders if her friend could be right. Perhaps Holly did kill those people and she just doesn’t remember it.

I was particularly impressed by the way Ms. Balawyder weaves in the details of Holly’s advancing Alzheimer’s in such a compassionate way. We are made to feel Holly’s fears, trepidation, confusion, and frustration as “the plot thickens” and her disease becomes more debilitating.

Real life still happens to people with Alzheimer’s, but we rarely have a chance to look inside the heads of people who suffer from it. With the murder mystery entertaining us, we empathize with Holly’s plight as she tries to solve the murders even while she is implicated in the deeds.

A well-researched nail-biter of a story.


You can purchase The Lilac Notebook at:




While you’re there, check out her “Getting to Mr. Right” series.

Please feel free to reblog this post and help Carol to spread the word about her wonderful new novel.


Spring is in the Air

These common mergansers feel that spring is in the air.

“Ooh! La! La!” Miss Mergie croons.

(Hope these guys are not buffoons.)

“Are ya lookin’ fer some fun?

Do ya care, my hair’s not done?”



“See you boys have on yer suits,

Least ya don’t look like those coots,

Y’all look fine, all dressed up nice,

Looking fer a little spice?”

“Shoulda known they’d take a hike,

After taking what they like,

Now I’m busy night and day,

Keeping predators at bay.”


“Still, it’s worth it, when I see,

Baby ducklings just like me,

Such a cutie, stay near Mom,

Don’t go doing something dumb.”




My Laziness Pays Off

These chickadees and the nuthatch at the feeders were not there today. This picture was taken on another day. It is perhaps lucky that I’ve been lazy about refilling the feeder these past three sunny days. With the feeders empty today, there were no birds nearby when the visitor swooped in like a harrier jet this afternoon.

Except he was not a harrier; he was a Cooper’s hawk. He sat on the fence, wondering why there were no birds at the feeder.

Maybe they’re hiding in the shrubbery below the feeder.

Disappointed, he flew away to check out the neighbours’ birdfeeders.


Drumming Up Business

This flicker likes my chimney. It’s a perfect drum for establishing territory, possibly for protecting nearby nesting areas. She was here doing the same thing a year ago. How do I know it’s a “she”? The male red-shafted flickers have a red moustache slash. The females do not.

She hears another flicker and answers the call and then drums to assert her right to the territory.



And speaking of drumming up business, please visit my other blog site, annelisplace for everything related to books, reading, and writing. https://annelisplace.wordpress.com/2023/03/28/say-youll-come/


When the Swallows Come Back…

This is the time of year when the swallows come back to Capistrano. The Mission San Juan Capistrano has been a destination for a migration of cliff swallows since the early 1800s.

These swallows winter in Argentina and then migrate north about 6000 miles to California or even farther, but the Mission San Juan Capistrano being the tallest building around that area in those early days, was a destination for the swallows who were looking for a place to make their mud nests.

When I was in Mexico in February of 2007, I saw these swallows sitting on the overhead wires. I’m not sure if they are the cliff swallows that were enroute to California (the timing would have been right) or if they are barn swallows. They look very similar, and of course it was dark when I took these pictures.

The sidewalk below, was a dangerous place to walk, as I found out when I reached my rented bungalow and took off my blue velour jacket which was now covered with whitish splats. I seem to remember having to wash my hair too.

But look at these guys! They’re all facing the same way, except one or two. There is always one who travels to a different drum (second wire down).  I see another one on the bottom wire. Just above him is a little guy who was trying to tell him to turn around, and nearly lost his balance himself.

But the most unlucky fellow was the owner of this vehicle who had made the mistake of parking under the wires. Thankfully, it’s not mine.

He’d be looking for a car wash in the morning.


Nervous Water Fun

I’m a tourist, and I play,

Just a fool on holiday,

Yes, I saw the crododiles,

On the beach, back several miles.

Goodness gracious, says the fish,

Lady thinks she’s such a dish,

Well, she could be, for a croc,

Hope she doesn’t get a shock.

Don’t go scaring her too much,

Obviously out of touch,

She’s more worried ’bout the shark,

That is lurking in the dark.


It’s a quiet day, you know,

No need to alarm her so,

Did you see her splash in fear,

When that seaweed strand came near?


Where she came from there’s no sun,

And she has no swimming fun,

Not this early in the season,

She’s just nervous for no reason.


Don’t you kid yourself on that,

I attack in seconds flat,

But I’d rather wait ’til night,

Then I’ll take a hefty bite.


Hee, hee, hee! Hee, hee, hee!

Guess what is inside of me,

Best be careful in the sea,

And don’t snorkel near to me.

That was such a tasty snack,

Sun feels good upon my back,

I’ll be lazy for a while,

Says the grinning crocodile.


Bran Muffins Plus

I’ve made these muffins a few times now, and  find they are very forgiving, so I get braver each time.

This time I’ve added cranberries, coconut, pecans, and dates to the main recipe, but you don’t have to do that. You probably could add a lot of other things instead, if you felt adventurous. If you have a nut allergy, of course you would leave out the nuts. Just put in what you feel like adding.

The bottom line is, they are very easy to make and taste great.

The basic recipe is at the bottom of the page.

The loaf tin has hardly anything in it, but that’s where I always put the extra batter I have left over. Nothing is ever wasted.

Bran Muffins (Basic Recipe)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a big bowl, mix:

2 cups flour

2 cups bran

1 and 1/4 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

3/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut (optional)

1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

1 cup raisins (optional)

I add the cranberries and dates to the measuring cup with the wet ingredients (below), mainly so the flour doesn’t stick to them and make white lumps in the batter.

1 cup cranberries (optional –  I use frozen cranberries that I thawed out in a small measuring cup with hot water – drain the water, of course)

1 cup chopped dates (optional, but really good)

In a big measuring cup:

2 cups milk with the juice of half a lemon

1 egg (lightly beaten and added to milk)

1/2 cup molasses

About 3 Tbsp. melted butter (use it to brush the muffin tin and the loaf tin and add the rest of the butter to the liquid.


Add liquid ingredients to dry ones in the bowl and mix as much as you need to, the less the better.

Fill muffin tin to about the top of each “cup” and pour the leftover batter into the loaf tin. The batter will be a bit on the runny side.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

** The muffins will get higher if you add fewer of the optional ingredients, but the texture still came out good even with all the heavy things I added.

If you don’t have molasses in the house, you could probably substitute a half cup of brown sugar and put it into the bowl with the dry ingredients.

Best enjoyed with a friend visiting, but tastes great all alone too.


Pancho the Parrot

Pancho the parrot’s a bird with two lives,

A town bird, and yet, in the jungle he thrives.

His base in the cafe is safe in a storm,

But in the wild jungle he flies in fine form.

Customers interest him, tourists abound,

Mama Lupita is glad he’s around,

Guests love to see him and come back for more,

Internet clients pour in through the door.

Pancho the parrot has seen many things,

He wonders if this hand might have shiny rings.

If it comes closer, he’ll give it a nip,

It might be such fun just to hear that man yip.

Bored with his perch at the cyber cafe,

He flies to the jungle to have a buffet.

A mango, banana, papaya, or lime,

He knows where to find fruits that taste so sublime.

Daylight is fading, and Pancho is tired,

Morning is gone when he felt so inspired,

Time to return to the cyber cafe,

Lupita is hoping that he is okay.

Watching and waiting as daylight grows dim,

She prays every day, nothing’s happened to him.

He flies from the wire and lands on her hand,

As bird mothers go, she’s the best in the land.


He grips her hand tightly, and she does the same,

Holding his toes as she whispers his name.

“My Pancho, I love you, let’s get in the car,

We’ll drive home and get those good seeds from the jar.”


PS.  I believe Pancho is a lilac-crowned parrot.


Windy Days

“Wow! Will ya look at the birdfeeders swinging sideways!

And what gives with all the birds making themselves at home in MY home?

There must be a hundred of them parked in all the entrances to my hidey-holes in the woodshed. Zoom on in and look at the pieces of wood. Nearly every piece is occupied.

Oh, well. They’re just trying to get out of the wind too. I suppose I can always sneak in the back door if need be.”



Grab a bite of seeds to eat,

Head for cover quick.

Hope the gusts will not unseat,

Gripping tight’s the trick.

Every chunk of wood is used,

As a ledge to sit,

With this wind we’re so abused,

Flying branches hit.

Siskin! Better hang on tight,

To that swaying feed,

Hope that you will be all right,

And no help you’ll need.