Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Racoon Raids Bird Feeder

I was sitting in the family room late last night when the back yard motion-activated light popped on.

I ran to the door in time to see a raccoon making his way across the patio, up on the deck and over to the bird feeder.
I didn't have the heart to scare him off. Heck, raccoons have to eat, too.

I tried to photograph him but, as you can see, only his eyes reflected the light.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Monday, April 28, 2008

Yard Waste Removal -- Elkhart County Style

Open burning is still allowed here in Elkhart County. (Thank goodness!) Not sure what we'd do with our huge pile of bushes and leaves otherwise.

We haven't burned the pile yet, but keep an eye out for a glow over Jimtown.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Special Guest

Mr. Peanut dropped by for a visit this evening.

I felt a bit under dressed compared to his formal attire.

What fantastic product packaging. I didn't even bother to check the price on the other brands of peanuts on the store shelf, and I'm sure that's exactly what Planters was hoping for.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Getting Ready for the Veggie Garden

We got more accomplished Saturday before lunchtime than we've done any other Saturday since last year's summer of fun ended. We started at 7am, dropping off Bruce's truck for a new brake line.

Then, off to breakfast. When we finished eating, I left Bruce at the table while I went to the cash register to pay the bill. I came back with four singles to leave for a tip and as I sat back down at the table and laid the tip on the table, I looked across and saw a stranger laughing at me. I had sat down at the wrong table!

While we were eating, a TV commercial for Varner's Greenhouse came on so we thought we might stop out there to burn some time waiting for the mechanic to finish the brake job.

When we pulled into Varner's parking lot we heard a wild animal screech that sounded like a Velocaraptor.

And, as we shopped for our veggies, we continued to hear the noise.

We made our way to the back of the greenhouse and found a full-blown
aviarie. Turns out the birds were fussing so much because their handler was preparing lunch.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

New Bird on the Block....

... And he's a long way from home.

This is the first time I've seen a real, live Baltimore Oriole.

He tried to help me convince the crazy cardinal to stop slamming into the window.

But after a while, he gave up and flew away.

I think he said something about being late for a baseball game.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Crazy Cardinal

This crazy cardinal has been around the office for the past three years.

Several times a day he pelts himself against the glass of our kitchen windows.

We've tried just about everything to convince him that he's only seeing his own reflection in the glass, but he just won't give up.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Desperate Landscape

With the help of former neighbors Judy and Paul, we spent the afternoon pulling out all of the bushes in front of our house. I'm not sure what we're going to replace them with yet, but I'm sure it will be much better looking than the overgrowth we've had.

I made a video of the front yard and entered it in the DIY Network's Desperate Landscape Front Yard Makeover contest.

Check out my entry.

There are hundreds of entries on their website, but none as deserving as our front yard.

Check out DIY Network's America's Most Desperate Landscape Contest

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Rough Ride Home

Sharon Nearly Eaten by Barracuda --News at 11

Saturday, April 5, 2008 -- Waterlemon Cay, St. John, USVI

Day 7 of snorkeling and we finally saw the elusive sea turtles. We were in our happy place, gracefully floating over the sea turtles when I turned to my right and saw a barracuda that was about 4 feet away and about 5 feet long.

I looked at him and he at me and I'm not sure if I swam to the shore or I shot straight up out of the water and made a 90 degree mid-air turn to make it over to the shore. But I ended up with skid marks on my knees from sliding into the beach.

Either way, I decided that was enough snorkeling for the day.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Greetings from Paradise

Thursday, April 3, 2008 -- One Particular Harbor, St. John, USVI

This is the first day I've set the alarm. But, my internal clock, with a bit of assistance from a pounding rain storm, woke me before the 7am alarm sounded. After a quick “California” shower (turn water on long enough to get wet, turn water off, shampoo, soap up, turn water back on to rinse), we packed up the previous evening's trash, our travel partners and the beach bags and we were ready to head down the mountain in our trusty rental Suzuki mini SUV.

As has become Mother Nature's routine, the rain stops and the sun starts peeking through the clouds about the time we're ready to start our roller coaster ride down the mountain.

After depositing our trash bags at the community trash-depositing station, we were on our way to this morning's destination -- Donkey Diner in Coral Bay.

Donkey Diner is locally famous for breakfast, pizza and Internet access.

The plan was to have breakfast and get to Vie's beach when she opened at 10am. We didn't take into account that the Donkey Diner's staff was working on “Island Time” so we didn't make it to the beach until about 10:30.

Breakfast was very tasty. Bruce and I both had the sampler breakfast with eggs, bacon, potatoes and pancakes, plus ham and sausage. A bit more meat than I wanted for breakfast so Bruce happily shared in my leftovers.

Add to that Bruce's coffee, my Diet Coke and a normal tip, and Donkey Diner was $26 closer to being in the black.

Not sure what happens to a person when visiting the islands but it seems that, at least for me, concerns about germs seem to be relaxed.

Normally I rinse my hands with instant hand-sanitizer after I touch a restaurant's menu. At Donkey Diner, I didn't go as far as eating the blob of my eggs that hit the table, but the quarter inch of mold that was growing on our table's umbrella didn't seem to bother me.

I didn't take advantage of Donkey Diner's Internet access because I didn't want to take my computer to the beach today. Even though they offer computers for rent, I can't remember the URL for accessing my work email when I'm not on the VPN. I seem to recall that I set a Google bookmark for my work email so I may check it out next time we're in an Internet cafe.

Vie's Snack Shack and Beach was open for business when we arrived. The $2.50 per person admission charge was well worth the investment in our day of fun in the sun.

As the signage will tell you, Vie's beach has been private since 1894. Since Vie only looked to be 85 or 86, I'd have to guess that her father originally owned the beach-front property.

Some beaches in St. John are great for snorkeling, some for body surfing and others are better suited to lay back in a chair and enjoy the sun. We did quite a bit of snorkeling at Vie's beach, but most of our time was spent enjoying the gentle waves and the sun.

Vie's beach is book-ended with short cliffs. That's where we expected to see the majority of fish while snorkeling. Bruce saw a barracuda and I saw several spiny urchins and small tropical fish around the rocks.

The snorkel twins -- Christy and Jim -- saw a small stingray, but they went out a lot further from the beach than we did. I'm feel pretty safe snorkeling until the water gets more than 30 feet deep. At that point, I have some feeling in the back of my mind that a shark will be more likely to take off my legs as I paddle through his afternoon meal of thousands of tiny little fish.

After a few hours of snorkeling and sun-worshiping, we made the long trek (50 feet) over to Vie's Snack Shack for lunch.

Her two specialties are garlic chicken, and beans and rice with meat sauce. We ordered both to be sure we didn't miss out on a taste sensation.

It was especially fun watching next week's chicken dinners running around the Snack Shack while Vie cooked up today's lunch specials.

After the whitest people in our travel group were thoroughly toasted, it was time to pack up our beach gear and head up to the Love City Market for our evening's eating and drinking supplies.

While the boys shopped, I enjoyed visiting with the Love City goats.

Another semi-gourmet dinner tonight. Bruce and I are the only non-cooks in the group so we happily provide clean-up services after our travel companions prepare our tasty meal.

Tonight's fare included roasted hot dogs (the non-gourmet portion of the meal), along with roasted plantains and rice-corn-black-bean-cheese stuffed orange peppers. I know why I keep asking for the recipes after we enjoy each night's dinners. It's because the food tastes so good, I'd like to enjoy it again in the future. The sad part is that, as soon as we return to Jimtown, I'm sure we'll return to our same old 10 tired recipes.

We'd been wanting to play ship-captain-crew (dice game) a few days ago, but didn't have enough change to go around. Tonight Jim came up with the brilliant idea of using the money from the house's Monopoly game as our betting chips. After the dice game, most played poker while I edited the day's photos.