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Spring Nature Fun

June 14th, 2022 Comments off

We’ve been trying to maximize our free time the past month by getting out and doing as much in nature as possible before the extreme heat hits (which it did yesterday).

Sunday 05/22 we hit up Armstrong Park & Fountain View Park because it was such a beautiful day out. I neglected to bring my camera to the first park, so I didn’t make the same mistake when we went out later that afternoon.

We went back to Armstrong Park the following Sunday (05/29) with my camera and spotted some cute baby ducks.

Saturday 06/04 we ventured a little further from home to check out a new to us nature center in St. Charles called Hickory Knolls. It was pretty crowded between the native plant sale and all the kid soccer games nearby. We’d love to go back at a quieter time to explore more.

Instead we headed over to Peck Farm Park to walk around and bird watch.

I got a photo of a common yellowthroat, which was exciting since I never knew this bird even existed!

We decided against checking out the butterfly tent this visit since it was overcast and they weren’t terribly active.

After snapping plenty of photos, we drove over to Fabyan Forest Preserve since it had been years since our last visit. Despite my best efforts, I just couldn’t get any photos of the barn swallows that call this preserve home. They move too much and are too far away for even my longest telephoto lens to capture.

By this point it was threatening to rain, so we decided to get over the Windy Acres Farm to check out the strawberry festival I heard about. The place was a madhouse and there was a huge line to get into the festival grounds so we noped right out of there. I’m glad we did because I later emailed them to ask if you had to pay the $12 fee just to get access to the festival food and was told yes. WTF?!? I understand having to pay to go on rides, but not just to get to the food booths. Sorry, but no. It’s too bad as I wanted to try the strawberry donuts.

Sunday (06/05) we visited Northside Park in Wheaton.

We visit this park often because it has so much wildlife to watch. I was able to get a close-up picture of a killdeer on this particular visit!

They are more prevalent in the area than I originally thought. They are just very good at going about their business undetected because they blend in with the landscape. If you do spot one, they usually run off if you get too close. This one was standing its ground, so I suspect it was a female protecting her camouflaged eggs.

On our way back to the car I captured a few shots of this cute fox squirrel.

This past Saturday (06/11) we took a picnic lunch over to Ray Franzen Bird Sanctuary in Itasca.

We didn’t see any good birds (mostly just red-winged blackbirds which are a dime a dozen), but we did spot this cute baby bunny hiding along the trail.

We also saw a dead squirrel. He looked like he had climbed on a tree branch, laid down, and passed. Poor little thing. I want to go back either early morning or closer to dusk when birds tend to be more active.

I really want to buy a new camera and lens to up my photography game. More on that in my next post…

Categories: Animals, Excursions, Photos Tags: , ,

Flora & Fauna

May 19th, 2022 Comments off

The weather has been very frustrating so far this spring. It’s either been really cold (like 40s-50s) or super hot (90s). We finally got some more spring like weather recently, so we took full advantage.

Saturday (05/14) we hit up a local place called Murphy’s Farm to buy petunias and a few other flowers for our patio garden.

New Flowers

Their prices were pretty reasonable, so we might go back as we have a few more pots to fill. We also planted zinnias since the butterflies, hummingbirds, and finches love them.

Speaking of hummers, we put out the feeder on May 7th and saw our first hummingbird on the 11th, so that wasn’t a bad wait at all. Unfortunately all the birds visiting this year are very shy so I’ve yet to get a picture of any of them. The second I move, they fly away. I even sat on the patio on the 17th for a half hour completely still with my camera pointed toward the feeder and got absolutely nothing.

Sunday (05/15) we made our semi-annual visit to Lilacia Park to see the lilacs and tulips.

Lilacia Park

Despite the fact that the lilacs were listed as reaching full bloom mere days before our visit, they didn’t look their best and the tulips were on their way out because they only last a few weeks in peak shape. I guess next year we need to get our butts out there twice to see them each on separate days. I am glad we waited until Sunday to visit, however, because the temperature was much cooler than Friday evening which was our original planned date. There were hardly any people in the park at 8 am either, which was nice. We both are crowd adverse, which is why we always try to get to places early.

The highlight of our trip though, was the chipmunk we came across.

Isn’t it adorable??!? I felt so lucky for the opportunity to photograph it because they’re usually quick to run away.

After the park we decided to visit Churchill Woods forest preserve because I heard it’s peak migration season for many birds.

While I wasn’t really able to get any photos, we did hear a huge variety of birds, identified with my Merlin Bird ID app.

Here’s a list of everything we heard (the asterisk means we also saw the bird).

Baltimore Oriole *
Barn Swallow *
Blackpoll Warbler
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Blue Jay *
Brown-headed Cowbird
Cedar Waxwing
Downy Woodpecker
Gray Catbird
Great Crested Flycatcher
Indigo Bunting
Northern Flicker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Red-Winged Blackbird
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Warbling Vireo

Categories: Animals, Excursions, House & Home Tags:

October Happenings (including Halloween)

November 2nd, 2021 Comments off

Sunday (10/10) we headed to St. Charles for their annual Scarecrow Festival. When we arrived at Lincoln Park there were no scarecrows to be found! We drove around the area but there wasn’t nearly as much as in year’s past, no doubt due to the pandemic so we drove to the other side of the river to Pottawatomie Park where they put up tents for the craft fair.

We parked in the lot by their community center and pool. There was plenty of parking since the festival hadn’t officially started yet. We didn’t end up staying long because there wasn’t much to see. Even the amount of craft booths was less than in previous years.

They did, however, surprise us with a new pavilion and area you can play cornhole near the miniature golf spot.

It looks really nice! I’ll have to keep it in mind for next summer when we’re looking for something to do.

Thursday (10/21) the kids came over for dinner. K had been talking about missing my spaghetti and meatballs so I made it for the first time in probably years at this point. E works two jobs so Thursday is his only day off. I put together a Halloween basket for them using these fake books I found at Dollar Tree.

I was happy they liked them so much! They only stayed a couple of hours since E was so tired. We sent them home with leftovers, cookies, fruit and veggies, along with the rest of my IZZE bottled cherry lime. They were getting close to expiration and I haven’t been drinking them much. I really prefer how it tastes in cans and now they are offering a 24-pack of them at Amazon I plan to order soon.

Saturday (10/23) We visited Sonny Acres and boy was it busy! The parking lot was packed when we arrived just before 11 am. They open at 10 but their kitchen doesn’t open until 11 am and I assumed that’s where they would be serving the hot apple cider I wanted to try. Turns out they have a special booth for it, and they were just bringing it out when we got there.

There’s second booth down by the kids’ rides where they have it too, so I will try to remember that for next year since it was way less busy than the main booth.

They have some of the best apple cider donuts around, but man do they keep raising the prices! A single donut will cost you $2.50 and they do get cheaper the more you buy but they are still very costly! The hot apple cider was just ok and it was annoying how the bees followed me around trying to get at it.

We enjoyed people-watching for awhile but there’s not too much to do if you don’t have young kids to take on rides.

The rides themselves are more plentiful than back when we’d take the kids there, and they even added a trampoline-like attraction that the kids would have loved. I read that the haunted hayride is $20 per person now which is kinda crazy. It used to be $10. I have mixed feelings about this. The new owners have definitely put more money into the place which is nice because the previous owners were ready to close the place down, but it’s so crowded and expensive it’s probably not as enjoyable to visit like it used to be.

Halloween (Sunday 10/31) was pretty interesting this year because we actually got trick-or-treaters, twelve in fact, which is the most we’ve had for well over a decade now. I’m glad I made up treat bags at Joe’s request even though I was certain no one would come. I’m happy to have been wrong, although with Wookie Crankypants in the mix, it was a bit frustrating as she does not like visitors to HER home.

Categories: Excursions, Family, Food, Holidays, Kids Tags:

Internet Issues, Barn Owls & Pool Parties

September 20th, 2021 Comments off

Friday (9/17) we woke up and our internet was down. I don’t know if I wrote about it, but a few months ago after our Comcast contract expired, and they wouldn’t give us another deal, we switched our internet service to T-Mobile. It worked pretty well, although not quite as fast, but for $50 per month (no added taxes or fees), we figured it was worth trying out.

When Joe called T-Mobile they really couldn’t do much to help other than offer to send out a new device, aka trashcan (nicknamed as such by the T-Mobile internet community on Reddit). T-Mobile Trash Can

The problem? They estimated it would be a week. Unacceptable! Joe warned them that he’d be cancelling if it took that long and they called his bluff, so he immediately contacted Comcast and sure enough, we were able to get 200 MBS for $50/month for the next 12 months, so we signed up. We have our own router and modem so it was all done online, although Joe did have to chat with someone for them to do something on the account to get it to actually work, but we were up within a half hour.

A manager at T-Mobile called around that time to say they were expediting the device but Joe explained we were cancelling and not to bother. T-Mobile ended up giving us a $25 credit for our trouble anyway, and I guess they couldn’t stop the shipment because UPS is saying we’re getting something from them today. I guess we’ll have two devices to send back to them now.

If only Comcast had given us a better rate months ago, we would have stayed with them.

I feel like T-Mobile needs to do more work on their device/service before it’s a viable alternative to cable internet. Just like with their failed T-Vision streaming cable service, which they never invested in because the user interface sucked, they are rolling stuff out that is inferior to their competitors and consumers are paying the price in frustration. It could just be a coincidence, or Apple TV being particular, but we could never watch Ted Lasso on Fridays (the night new episodes are released) under T-Mobile because halfway through an episode it would lock up and crash the Roku. We tried it Friday on Comcast and had no such issues. I think it’s still partly Apple, since none of the other streaming services ever give us issues, but it’s also T-Mobile for being too slow as well. Perhaps in a few years it will be different. I hope so, since there are a lot of rural customers who would benefit from 5G internet and we personally do not like giving our money to Comcast.

Saturday (9/18) we decided to check out the local plant nursery’s open house. Not before stopping at White Castle for breakfast, however. I got a sausage slider, but also wanted to try the chicken and waffles slider based on the description on their website:

White Castle - Expectation

Imagine my surprise/disappointment when what I got was this:

White Castle - Reality

So of course I had to go online and air my grievance with them. We’ll see whether they reply back.

White Castle Feedback 20210920 - 2

(I contacted Meijer well over a month ago to complain about the quality of their broccoli and cheese stuffed chicken (the broccoli is really hard/sharp recently) and they never bothered to acknowledge it, so hopefully White Castle is more responsive).

Barn Owl (the nursery) wasn’t too crowded when we first arrived, so we ate our breakfast in the car and then took a look around. They had a whole building of just bird houses and bird food! I ended up getting this cute hummingbird palm feeder.

Hummingbird Palm Feeder

I doubt I’ll get any birds to feed directly from my hand this year, but maybe next year when I’m planning on putting everything up in April. As it stands now, we’re already seeing fewer visitors to the feeder as they start their migration south. *sad*

They had live owls on display which was really cool!

Yesterday (9/19) we decided to check out the community garage sale at the nearby park. They also had a car show and craft fair going on at the same time so we figured there would be a lot to see. Not so much. Joe wasn’t very thrilled with the cars, there were hardly any craft booths, and only a few garage sale booths. With the amount of cars parked in the area you would have thought more was going on than there was. Oktoberfest in a tent further back is going on right now too, but that doesn’t open until noon and we were there just after 10 am. Needless to say, we were back at home by 10:30.

At one of the booths the owner trapped me in an impromptu demonstration of her product and forced me to take a business card. I can appreciate people wanting to sell their creations, but I really think they should ask you first. I didn’t want to be rude by walking away, so it was very uncomfortable, not to mention a waste of her time since I wasn’t interested.

A good thing came of our little excursion, though! On our way back to the car we ran into our friend D who was walking over (she lives a few blocks away from the park) to check things out and she invited us to come over for a swim later. I enthusiastically agreed knowing it was due to be very hot that day and I have been wanting to go swimming one more time before it gets too cold to do so. We went home to do some light cleaning, ran to the store to grab some snacks to bring over, and took a shower. After getting everything packed up and ready to go I went to use the bathroom and BAM, the time of the month said “SUPRISE, I’M HERE!” It couldn’t have waited just a few more hours, right?

We still had fun hanging out with our friend, but I was only able to deep my feet into the pool. She made us some cheeseburgers and we lounged on her awesome patio furniture under a big tent away from the blazing sun. It really made a difference since my weather app said it was 85 and felt like 95 yet we were very comfortable.

We interrupt this entry to display pics of our friend’s two dogs who love getting pets, particularly the all brown one.

Dog 1

Dog 2

D’s ex, a guy we used to all go to Bingo with back when they were dating, hit her up later on since he was also at the nearby park, and she invited him to stop by, so we ended our afternoon chatting with him before taking off around 6 pm so we could walk Wookie before sunset.

Speaking of, she was so unbelievably excited when we go home she was literally vibrating and panting a lot. She’s been fine being left alone for hours but this was perhaps just a bit too long for her liking (5 hours). Usually she’ll sleep when we’re gone which is what she did most of the time since I checked in our her once in awhile via the cameras. About an hour before we came home I noticed her pacing around the house, however.

Touch-Up Paint & Praying Mantis

September 10th, 2021 Comments off

Saturday (9/4) – Took Wookie to see K & T and she was dog-sitting two other dogs that Wookie did not like (surprise surprise). They eventually managed to co-exist, but it’s pretty clear Wookie is not a dog lover. She’s not really a people lover either, other than Joe and me. She merely tolerates everyone else. I wish she got along with other dogs and people more; it would be less stressful.

Wednesday (9/8) – Finally got around to painting the passenger side mirror on the Crosstrek because way back in January 2018, I scraped the side of my car going into the garage. Ugh!

Crosstrek Mirror – Before

I bought touch-up paint from Subaru years ago, so it was about time we did something with it.

Crosstrek Mirror – After

It does not look great, but better than before so whatever. Luckily I don’t have to look at it much.

Thursday 9/9 – We decided to visit Willowbrook Wildlife Center to walk around and enjoy the weather. Joe spotted this cool praying mantis!

He actually spotted two total. He is always finding the best insects on our walks!

The visitor center is still closed which was a bummer because they keep a lot of cool birds in there.

Categories: Car, Excursions Tags: ,