Why You Need Birdwatching As A Hobby

I can vividly remember the second grade, when our teacher asked us to write down of all the birds we had seen in our life so far. Most of the students wrote down things like crow, hummingbird, pelican and sparrow. But because I had become a bonafied birdwatcher at the age of five, I wrote down birds like the Marbled Godwit and the Roseate Spoonbill, beautiful birds that I had seen birdwatching with my dad. The teacher wrote me back, ‘Are these real birds?’ so I took in my field guide and showed her and she was astonished.

Being a birdwatcher has always been a great part of my life. My dad and I have had some great times together, out in the woods, hiking, watching birds or driving along the Oregon Coast. We have been to some amazing places and seen incredible things because of our shared hobby. Here’s a few reasons why you too, should consider birdwatching as a hobby.

1. Gets you outdoors-Birdwatching is a great way to get you and your family out into nature. Many cities or counties have bird or wildlife refuges that have hiking trails or viewing points and birdwatching gets you outdoors, enjoying nature and its beauty.

2. Gets you exercise-Being outdoors and walking those trails is a great and fun way to get exercise. You can watch birds for a few hours and not even realize that you are out and walking around, burning calories and staying active.

3. Like detective work-When you see a bird, figuring out what kind it is requires Sherlock Holmes-like abilities. You have to determine the category of bird, whether its located in your area, different characteristics like the color of its wingbar or what it looks like when it flies. Your Peterson Field Guide is invaluable to eliminating birds its not, and finding out which bird it is.

4. Appreciate beauty of nature-There are so many different birds in North America and the world, with different and beautiful colors, shapes and sizes. Birdwatching can help you realize the diversity and abundance of creativity in nature and encourages me to take care of our environment so that these birds are here to stay.

5. Fun way to relate with kids-Birdwatching can make a family hike or outing a lot of fun for kids. You can send them on tasks to find certain birds and the joy of discovering a new species is a lot of fun for kids. There are kid’s bird books or bird identification games a many kids stores.

So if you’re looking for a way to get outdoors this fall and winter, going driving or hiking in the woods or your nearest bird and wildlife refuge could be a great new hobby to try. Bring a pair of binoculars and your bird book and start your life long list. Its a hobby you’ll love and appreciate.

How To Write A Love Letter

In the era of texting, facebook and email, a good love letter is hard to find. Being able to write down feelings and express undying love seems to be a dying art form and something deeper than, ‘I think you’re hot!’ is difficult to find in the language and culture of the millennial generation. But what about those great poets, those who penned some of the deepest and most heartbreaking letters of love that our world has experienced. What was their secret? How were they able to so effectively and beautifully describe their emotions to the objects of their affection? And how can we, the literary common folk, woo those we admire through the writing of a love letter? Here are a few tips from the greats!

1. Be Descriptive–Create a picture that describes how you feel. Use similes and metaphors (my heart is like a thousand stampeding elephants)

Example: Abigail Adams to John Adams, 1782: “should I draw you the picture of my heart it would be what I hope you would still love though it contained nothing new.  The early possession you obtained there, and the absolute power you have obtained over it, leaves not the smallest space unoccupied.”

2. Use Nature–Draw on the person you admire’s visual senses. Consider this excerpt from Nathaniel Hawthorne: “You are a sort of sweet, simple, pathetic ballad, which Nature is singing, sometimes with tears, sometimes with smiles, and sometimes with intermingled smiles and tears.”

3. Only Use ‘Forever’ and ‘Everything’ If You Really Mean It–Nothing taste more bitter than promised eternal love when the relationship has ended. Be honest and don’t overcommit. Honesty is better than flowerly words with no meaning. Elizabeth Barrett Browning gave herself completely to her husband and poet, Rober Browning when she said, “You have touched me more profoundly than I thought even you could have touched me – my heart was full when you came here today. Henceforward I am yours for everything….”

4. Remember That Words Are Music To One’s Ears–Words are meant to be crafted and performed, especially poetry. Pay attention to rhythm and meter. Consider that even Mozart wrote love letters to his wife Constanze, “An astonishing number of kisses are flying about — The deuce!– I see a whole crowd of them! Ha! Ha!…I have just caught three– They are delicious!–”

So here are a few tips to get you started. Keep in mind as well, that any letter given to anyone about how they feel, is meaningful if it is written with love and with kindness.

letter excerpts taken from The Romantic.

What are your kids eating at school?

With school now back in full swing, your kids are eating at least one, maybe two meals a day at school. With awareness, attention and pressure being placed more and more on schools for providing healthy lunch options for kids, students have more chances now to create good eating habits. In a previous post, Making After-School Snacks Fun and Healthy, I mentioned some ideas you can use with feeding your kids snacks when they come home from school. But equally important is knowing what your kids are eating at school. Even with school’s offering more healthy lunches, the options are still there for kids to make unhealthy decisions. According to an article at About.com “the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and the Healthy School Lunch Campaign say that the ‘menus served in school lunch programs are too rich in saturated fat and cholesterol and too low in fiber- and nutrient-rich fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.”

While I’m not advocating that you strap a camera to your son or daughters back when they go to school to monitor if they eat healthy or not, do encourage them to make healthy eating choices when at school. Here are a few tips that can help put your kids on the right track.

1. Make sure they get a good breakfast–A healthy breakfast provides them with the start to the day that they need and curbs uncontrollable appetites that could lead to over consumption or unhealthy choices.

2. Pack them a lunch–Make the lunch for them so that you are revealing to them what a healthy lunch ought to look like. SuperNanny gives tips on packed lunches. “When packing a lunch, variety is best; choose an assortment of fruit and vegetables in various colors and sizes. This ensures that kids receive a mix of vitamins and minerals, and it will prevent them from becoming bored with the same packed lunch routine every day. Kraus recommends including a type of whole grain product in the meal, such as tortillas or bread, with a lean protein, such as tuna, turkey or chicken.”

3. Give them healthy snacks–Trust your student to take healthy snacks to school that they like and that they can eat at snack time or in between classes. Eating smaller amounts less often will again, keep their energy and focus high and their hunger low.

4. Model healthy eating habits–Your kids will look to you to and model your eating habits. Make a change in your own life, for their sake, and yours, and eat healthy when at home and at work. Your kids will take notice of what and how much you eat and it will be easier to get them to eat healthy if you are doing so as well.

Other tips for helping your kids eat healthy? Leave a comment below.

6 Tips On Taking People Pictures

With the inventions of digital cameras and network interfaces like Facebook and MySpace, taking pictures has become a HUGE past time. It seems like everything I do, whether its hanging out with friends, going to a big get together, or even just at a restaurant or school, people are snapping pictures left and right. Professional photographers are having a hard time staying in business because people are taking more personal photos then ever before. But are they GREAT photos? Does it really matter?

If you are someone like me who is tired of trying to capture a great smile or a perfect moment, but instead wind up with an awkward blur or a shot that is unbalanced, here are a few tips on making your pictures of people memorable and lasting:

Use natural light-Cloudy days can be the best time to take pictures, because people won’t have to squint there eyes to keep them open.

Take Candid photos-Don’t feel like you have to make people look at the camera all the time for a great shot. Try to blend into the background so that you’re barely noticeable and shoot them doing something natural. You are more likely to capture who they really are when you let them be themselves.

Get close-Closeups are great way to capture facial features like eyes or a great smile. Try taking close ups at an angle and get cool effects.

Get in!-Use a time feature on the camera so that you can be a part of your pictures. Don’t just take pictures of a great trip or important day, live it and be a part of the experience yourself.

Vertical/Horizontal-When taking pictures of one person, hold the camera vertical, with more than one person, go horizontal for a better effect.

Get Level-Take the picture on the same level with your subject. This will provide an accurate perspective when viewing the portrait and make the focus of the picture the person, rather than the angle.

How to Keep Your Cookies Fresh W/ a Slice of Bread

This morning I was offered some cookies at work and as I went to take a cookie I noticed a piece of bread on top of them inside the ziplock bag. I asked why, and I was told that a piece of bread in with the cookies keeps them fresh. And apparently people have been doing this for years. This was news to me, so I wanted to find out more about this and how it works.

The trick is simple: place a slice of fresh bread in with your cookies a day or two after you’ve baked them, or whenever you find their texture has deteriorated. The moisture from the fresh bread will migrate to your cookies (through cookie osmosis, see diagram above), rendering them soft and chewable again. It will literally unstaleify them!

Originally posted at megnut.com.

And by the way, the cookies tasted great! I think I will have another!

10 Different Ways to Make People Happy

Often we go through life just living, making ourselves happy and not thinking about what would make other people happy. Now I know that if you have a spouse, most likely your not thinking of yourself only but your thinking of them too. And if you add children to that mixture, then you probably don’t have a lot of extra time on your hands. But any way you look at it, thinking of others and making someone else happy is a good thing! You will be surprised at the Joy you will receive from your outward actions and amazed at how little time it actually takes to make someone happy.

1. Smile – You would be amazed at how far a smile goes.

2. Write a letter to a long lost friend.

3. Give someone a compliment.

4. Call up someone who’s lonely and invite them to do something with you.

5. When engaging someone in a conversation, ask them questions about themselves, let them feel free to talk about themselves and really listen.

6. Talk to someone you don’t know when passing them by on the street or in the store. Make sure and smile.

7. When baking, make extras and take them to the neighbors.

8. Anonymously take care of a need for a friend.

9. Babysit for a friend who’s not able to get out much.

10. Bring home flowers to your wife, even if you picked them out of the neighbors yard!

Three Great Tailgate Recipes

One of my favorite things about the Fall is looking forward every Saturday to waking up to the sound of college football and the smell of BBQ and Tailgate Parties. Whether you’re at the big game or just at home with friends, watching college or pro football on TV is a relaxing and fun way to spend your weekend. Rooting for your favorite teams, and eating your favorite meat, can bring joy to your heart and your belly.

Here are some great tailgate recipes to try this weekend:

GRANDMA FRIED FALCON

INGREDIENTS:
1 – Family pack of chicken wings (18pc)
2 – Vidaila Onion or Yellow Onion
1 – 16oz. Bottle of Buttermilk or regular milk   (Buttermilk is better)
1 – Bag of Season Chicken Breader   (Normal flour will work if needed.)
2 – Aluminum Trays
Vegetable Cooking Oil
Italian dressing

Rinse chicken wings and season with favorite ingredients (NO SALT IF USING SEASON BREADER).

Peel and cut both onions into rings. Mix chicken and 1 Onion together in bowl. 2nd Onion place in ZIP LOCK BAG separate.

After seasoning evenly place chicken and Onions into Zip-Lock bags, before sealing bags sprinkle Italian Dressing on chicken.   Place chicken in refrigerator overnight.

Heat Oil in deep fryer. While oil is heating up, pour buttermilk into separate tray and pour chicken breader into the other tray.  Empty 1st bag of chicken into buttermilk tray, coat chicken and onions with buttermilk then transfer to chicken breader tray.  Coat chicken evenly with breader and transfer to cooking oil Repeat with 2nd bag of chicken.

Once Oil is hot put the separate onion into the oil….Let cook for about 2 min. Then add breaded chicken….

Cook chicken until golden brown and drain excess grease… 10 – 15 min…

from Tailgating

GIANT’S FLANK STEAK
MARINATE:

1 flank steak (poked w/ a fork about 100 times, w/ shallow cross-slits cut in both sides)

OVERNITE IN:
soy sauce
minced garlic
black pepper (I always used fresh cracked)

GRILL:
brushing w/ a Teryaki BBQ Sauce.  Remove while still rare.

VERY IMPORTANT: cut very thin slices @ an angle.  Toss on a steak roll.

from Tailgating

BBQ RIBS

Time Required:  Only 15 minutes for prep and 15 minutes to grill, but requires overnight marinating and at least four hours of unsupervised cooking

Ingredients:

  • Enough ribs to feed your crowd

  • Canned Coca-Cola (not diet)

  • Your favorite BBQ Sauce

  • Garlic, salt, pepper, onion powder

Steps:

  • Place the ribs in a baking dish and pour  Coca Cola in with the ribs until they are covered.  Add BBQ sauce and spices.

  • Allow the ribs to marinate overnight.

  • Slow cook the ribs in the Coca Cola in an oven at 200 degrees for at least 4 hours (up to 12 will make them very tender).  Make sure you cover the ribs to avoid burning them.  If you’re short on time, you can boil the ribs for about 2 hours.

  • Remove the ribs from the oven. Be careful, the meat may fall off the bone.  You can refrigerate at this point if you’re making the ribs for a next-day-tailgate.

  • Place your ribs on the grill.  Brush with BBQ sauce.  Sprinkle Old Bay or Cajun seasoning over the ribs if desired (or mix the spice with the sauce before brushing for the best effect).

  • Serve and enjoy!!

If you don’t have Coke or want a different marinate, you can use BBQ sauce, vegetable oil or light olive oil, spices, and water.  Be sure the ribs are covered with liquid while marinating.  Cook them in the marinate.

from Johnny Road Trip

So try one of the recipes listed above or submit your own in the comment section below. Enjoy a great weekend of football and food!

Fall TV Line Up

Ahhh, the cooling of the air, the changing of the leaves, college football, back to school and, oh yes, TV show season premieres! There’s nothing like the fall and this fall proves to be no different with exciting new shows and others that I’ve been waiting all Summer to come back on. With the writer’s strike a bitter, fading memory, shows have the full season to make us laugh, cry, cheer and think as we enjoy drama, comedy and others each night after a day’s work. The average American watches, 4 hours of TV a day. That’s 28 hours a week, more than one full day, and 2 months straight a year. On average, an American youth spends 600 more hours a year watching TV than they do going to school.

In order to find a balance, choose a few of your top shows and stick to the them, occasionally adding others if your night is particularly slow or your kids are doing homework. WARNING: TV can be addicting and pull you away from your loved ones, sucking the life out of you and your family. However, TV shows can also be a great time to get together with your family or friends as you enjoy your favorite show together. Check out Television Statistics for info that will boggle your mind on how much we are glued onto TV.

My wife and I watched the series premier of ‘Fringe’ last night and for us, that’s actually what that show will be for us, a ‘fringe show’. Something we watch occassionally (although its plot line was so intricate and daunting, it may hardly be accessible) Here are some of our favorite ‘core shows’, ones that we will not want to miss each week and there season premiere debuts. Choose wisely for you and your kids as you begin this fall.

Monday: Prison Break–while the season premiere was a little slow, last Monday’s episode picked up and the chase is on again. The exciting 24-like tension and high speed chases make up for the poor acting and recurrent themes. Prison Break is on at 9/8c on Fox.

Tuesday: House–sarcastically negative Dr. House solves rare and random medical diseases while battling his own inner epiphanies and dysfunctional social skills. Last season ended with House being responsible for the death of his colleagues wife. House premiers next Tuesday at 8/7c on Fox.

Thursday: a double-header for us….”The Office” and “Lost” are two of our favorite shows and the one’s we look forward to the most each week. This perfect combination of random and outrageously funny comedy and absurd and confusing mystery are shows we love to experience with friends. Laughing at Steve Carrel, and then 30 minutes later scratching our heads in confusion as to what really is the black smoke, make this TV night an exciting addition to our TV cache. The Office premieres at 9/8c on Sept. 25th on NBC and Lost begins in early 2009 on ABC.

So while our TV show watching tends to favor the more ‘dramatic’ shows, we love being on the edge of our seat and feeling the adrenaline rush in our TV experience. Check out ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX for more shows and info.

How To Avoid Being KO’d By A Fish

My experiences with fishing have always been interesting ones. My Dad’s dad never really taught him to fish, and so when it came to teaching me how to fish, his advice was to get the scissors and cut the line every time it snagged or got in knots, which for me as a twelve year old boy with ten thumbs, was every other cast. I did have a few interesting fishing experiences, however, and enjoy and covet others who daftly and with accuracy cast their line gracefully into a river or lake. I had my most success at Rainbow Trout Farms, where the ponds are small and the fish are plenty and if you wanted to walk in water, this would be the place to do it. I also ‘hooked’ a fish on the Kenai River in Alaska, but had to throw it back because the fish accidentally swam into my fishing line and the barb caught its fin.

But never have I encountered a fish like the one that Seth Russell at Lake Chicot, Arkansas met while he was inner-tubing. A Silver Asian Carp jumped out of the water and left him unconscious. According to an article at MSNBC.com, “He doesn’t remember anything at all,” the boy’s mother, Linda Russell, said last week. “He was laughing, and the next thing he remembers, he is waking in a hospital.”

Apparently this is not the first time a Silver Asian Carp has judo-chopped an innocent homo-sapien. In an effort to curtail random and devastating bouts with these ninja like creatures, here are five things you can do to be prepared when the Silver Asian Carp, or any other of its samurai buddies, attack you, without cause (unless your trying to catch and eat them).

1. Prepare for your enemy-Watch all seven ‘Rocky’ movies and constantly maintain the ‘Eye of the Tiger’ when fishing or around any open water.

2. Know your enemy-Confuscious say, “understanding enemy, victory will give you” (or was that Yoda?) Check out Wild Jumping Carp.

3. Respect your enemy-Maintain appropriate distance even when you have an adversary on the line or in a net, because an animal cornered is at its most dangerous.

4. Intimidate your enemy-When entering the water, or a boat or inner tube, make loud noises and thrash wildly in order to strike fear into any fish that might dare try a crouching tiger or hidden dragon on you.

5. Be prepared for your enemy to strike-Wear proper helmets, shoulder pads and other protective equipment while enjoying water recreation and, in the event that your enemy subdues you, recreate with a friend who knows the effects of a malicious fish attack and can give you proper treatment and care.

If you’ve ever been the victim of a lake or river fish attack, and are emotionally able to articulate your experience, leave a comment below.

Try a Hobo-cation for Your Next Vacation

Have you ever wanted to get away from it all? Take a trip to all those places you’ve always dreamed of but haven’t had the money? Or just get out on the open railroad without a care in the world? Well why not try out a Hobo-cation?

Hobo is a term that refers to a subculture of wandering homeless people, particularly those who make a habit of hopping freight trains. Hoboes differentiate themselves as travelers who are homeless and willing to do work, whereas a Tramp, travels but will not work and a Bum, who does neither.

When on your journey across this great nation on your hobo-cation, make sure and visit The National Hobo Convention in Britt, Iowa in early to mid August. Hobos from all over come to town and stay in the “Hobo Jungle” telling stories around campfires at night. They have a Hobo Day parade, where the hobo king and queen for that year get to ride on special floats. Following the parade, mulligan stew is served to hundreds of people in the city park, as live entertainment, a carnival and a flea market give everyone something to do.

You don’t want to the other hobos calling you an Angellina(young inexperienced kid), so before heading out on your Hobo-cation, you will want to memorize some of this hobo lingo.

  • Accommodation Car = The caboose of a train.
  • Bindle Stick = Collection of belongings wrapped in cloth and tied around a stick.
  • Bullets = Beans
  • Cover with the moon = Sleep out in the open.
  • Hot = A fugitive hobo.
  • Stemming = Panhandling or mooching along the streets.
  • Pullman = A rail car.
  • On The Fly = Jumping a moving train.
  • Mulligan = A type of community stew, created by several hoboes combining whatever food they have.
  • Blowed-in-the-glass = A genuine, trustworthy individual.

Now your Hobo-cation could become difficult if you don’t know the hobo code. Hoboes came up with a system of symbols to help provide directions, information, and warnings to other hoboes. Here are some that you may need to know.

  • A traingle with hands signifies that the homeowner has a gun.
  • Sharp teeth signify a mean dog.
  • A top hat and a triangle signify wealth.
  • Two interlocked humans signify handcuffs.
  • A cat signifies that a kind lady lives here.
  • A wavy line above an X means fresh water and a campsite.
  • Two shovels, signifying work was available.

Now that you have the information you will need to successfully join the hobo way of life, grab your bindle stick and a warm coat and enjoy your Hobo-cation!