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Parks & Memorial Day Weekend

May 27th, 2020 Comments off

Saturday (05/23) morning we headed to Northside Park in Wheaton. We arrived early enough (7 am) that there were hardly any people there at all (it can get really crowded on nice days). I brought an actual camera (my Canon P&S) but I have to say, I think my iPhone 11 took better photos.

We spent about an hour walking around the park and made two full loops around. I would have liked to stay a little longer but one section of the loop had a crazy Red-winged Blackbird who kept trying to attack me. When I first spotted the bird, it was just hanging out on some tall grass a few feet away from the trail, but once it spotted us it started hovering above us, much like seagulls do when they’re looking to be fed. In fact, that’s what Joe assumed the bird was doing until it stated squawking and dive-bombing us. It only did it once to Joe but came at me multiple times. I could literally feel its wings on the top of my head which made me scream. I can only assume it was trying to protect a nearby nest.

We didn’t see it at first on our second loop around, and even though we made a point to veer to the far side of the trail away from where it was hanging out, it still tried to attack me. Not Joe, just me! I took that as a sign we should leave. Other than that, however, it was a really nice visit. The air was still cool out, there were plenty of beautiful birds, including barn swallows, out and about, and it was refreshing to get out of the house for something other than grocery pickup.

Saturday evening I was chatting online with my friend K and was showing her how pathetic my town’s parks page is. It doesn’t even render properly on a mobile device, and the only information it provides is the name of the park, address, and a link for directions which goes to Bing. Bing! Are you kidding me?

In contrast, Carol Stream’s parks page lists each park name, and when you click on it you get the address, a map, the park’s history, and a list of amenities. It irks me we pay so much in taxes and our town can’t put together a decent website. I said Carol Stream’s page looks like something Leslie Knope created and my town’s was done by Larry Gingrich. And if you don’t get that reference, you’re dead to me.

I commented on one of my town’s Facebook posts asking if there was somewhere I can go to see more information about their parks and no one bothered to answer. I mean, why would they? It’s no wonder there’s very little engagement from the public on anything they post to social media.

Also, also, a few weeks ago they posted a list of local restaurants in town they encouraged people to visit to help stimulate the local economy. This list was in NO type of order, alphabetical or otherwise, only listed an address but no phone numbers, and couldn’t be searched because it was a jpeg. For the love of god, someone hire me so I can save them from themselves. There’s no doubt there’s some overpaid lazy person responsible for doing the bare minimum. I only say this because I have to deal with the least friendly, slowest worker, every year when I go into the village hall to buy my parking stickers and pet registration. I dread it every time and was pretty excited to learn I could renew them online this year without a few. Too bad they didn’t send me the pet registration notice! On the plus side I was able to correct the errors in their database that I’ve only pointed out in past years for them to ignore. My last name was wrong and they had my car listed as a Cross Truck (its a Crosstrek). SMH

Sunday (05/24) we headed out early (7 am) once again, but this time to Armstrong Park in Carol Stream. This park isn’t quite as picturesque as Northside Park, but it does have a few ponds where different birds congregate, including a special island where a colony of purple martins live. The park was relatively empty so we could walk around the loop (only once, as it’s quite large) without worrying about getting too close to other people.

Monday (05/25) we woke up to rain so there weren’t any outings in store for us. Later in the day we grilled some ribs we grabbed at Costco the week prior and were thoroughly disappointed.

We’ve had and loved them in the past, and from my quick research they are exactly the same ones they’ve always sold, so I can’t understand why they sucked so much. They weren’t nearly as flavorful, or as tender, as they were before. Needless to say we won’t be getting them again. What sucks is they were only sold in 2-slab packs so there’s more in the freezer that I have no desire to make now. Maybe they’d come out better in the crockpot? I honestly don’t know.

Categories: Animals, Holidays, Neighborhood Tags:

Arizona – Wednesday, November 16

November 17th, 2016 Comments off

Macaw

Wednesday we got up early to heard to Wildlife World Zoo in Litchfield Park, Arizona. The drive is about an hour from Joe’s parents’ but wasn’t too bad thanks to the awesome HOV lanes – we flew past the traffic! I love the expressways in Arizona because they are all in fantastic shape thanks to the lack of snow and ice. Plus they are all absolutely free; no tolls whatsoever. Gotta like that!

We were meeting M, J, and O so we had time to stop at the nearby McDonald’s for a quick breakfast since we were due to arrive at the zoo ahead of them by at least twenty minutes. We arrived at the zoo about fifteen minutes after they opened and they were already there. Doh! Turns out their GPS overestimated how long it would take them to get there.

It was a rare cloudy/overcast day – our first one since arriving – which turned out to be perfect since it got into the mid 80’s throughout the day but without the sun beating down on us it felt very comfortable.

The zoo didn’t seem that large at first glance but it turns out they have a ton of animals. The highlights included the zoo show where they introduced some of the more intelligent animals such as Ollie the Otter and an African Grey Parrot. The baby animal nursery was awesome too – they had a white tiger cub, a leopard cub, and two lion cubs.

White Tiger Cub

Lion Cub

Included in the admission price was the chance to feed the lorikeets.

Lorakeet

They only allow the feeding at certain times but we were able to attend the first feeding. Before going into the enclosure it was explained to us that the green bucket of apple pieces were to feed the birds and the red bucket was for any pieces eaten or that have fallen to the ground. We were also warned that anything that went into the birds would be coming back out within fifteen minutes and that we’d get a two minute warning so we could clear the enclosure in time. Feeding the birds was fun although a bit stressful when you have three of them digging their claws into your arm while picking apart a quartered apple in the palm of your hand.

I also got some great photos of the resident leopard which was exciting since most of the time they are sleeping.

Leopard

Leopard

Oh, and for 50 cents (per handful of food) you can feed the giraffes. You can’t get as close to them as at the Phoenix zoo, however.

Giraffe Feeding

I finally got a sharp photo of a meerkat too!

Meerkat

Around 2 pm we were super hungry so we decided to take a break and eat at the on-site restaurant, Dillions KC BBQ. I had the half chicken and Joe had the beef brisket, both of which were good. Their $2 onion rings were awesome as well.

After lunch M and crew decided to leave while Joe and I stuck around to look at the aquarium portion of the zoo which was the only section we hadn’t seen yet. I toured the majority of it alone, however, since Joe had a phone interview (his second of the week; he had one on Monday for a different company while we were at the Botanical Garden).

We left the zoo around 4 pm and made a pit stop at Walmart for a couple of things.

Later that evening everyone met up at Joe’s parents, including M and crew, who bought a Nothing Bundt Cake for Joe’s mom’s birthday. M had asked for lemon but apparently someone screwed up because we ended up with white chocolate raspberry. Luckily it was delicious anyway!

Hummingbird

September 18th, 2016 Comments off

Last Saturday (9/10) I was sitting at the dining room table staring outside when I spotted what I thought at first was a large dragonfly zipping around the flowers we had planted. I quickly realized, however, that it was a hummingbird. I instantly became excited because in all the years we’ve lived here I haven’t seen a hummingbird even once with the exception of the botanic garden last year. I caught Joe’s attention and he got to see it too before it flew away. It was a very brief visit but it got me hopeful. I immediately mixed 1 part sugar with 4 parts water, boiled it, and once it cooled put it in the hummingbird feeder we had purchased last year.

Fast forward to Sunday afternoon and Joe was watching the Bears game while I was rifling through the pantry for a snack. I was standing behind the couch munching on some cheese puffcorn (a recent discovery thanks to my brother; now I can’t stop eating them!) when I spotted a hummingbird and called Joe over. We were both very excited to see one again and I quickly grabbed my phone and took a video of it since I knew a photo would never come out very good.

We didn’t see one on Monday but Joe saw one twice yesterday when I was at work so either the same one keeps coming back or he’s told his friends about the feeder. I need to dump the mixture I made and make some new stuff. The only thing I hate is that the feeder quickly fills up with ants which is gross. Right now there’s a ton of bees all over it as well, and we haven’t seen a hummingbird in days so we might just take it down for the season and try again next year.

Categories: Animals Tags:

Milwaukee Zoo

August 22nd, 2016 Comments off

We decided to visit Milwaukee Zoo today since admission is free with our Cosley Zoo membership which is due to expire in four days. I don’t think we’re going to renew it for awhile since we just visited not long ago and we usually get our money’s worth by visiting other zoos where we can get in free or for half price but we don’t have any vacations currently planned. Plus in December admission is free for their zoo lights so we might wait until next year to renew, or when Joe gets a job, whichever comes first.

I think today’s visit was our longest ever, probably because it wasn’t too hot or crowded. I brought my newest zoom lens (55-250 mm) and was rather disappointed with its performance, particularly in low light. My 28-135 mm lens produces much sharper images but doesn’t have the reach. Luckily I was still able to get some halfway decent shots by playing around with the settings. I just wish I could afford a higher quality zoom lens so I can get the shots I want. Maybe some day!

IMG_9060-Revised

Amur Tiger

Jaguar

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African Lion

Reticulated Giraffe

Female Guam Kingfisher

Flamingo

I was happy to get a few photos of the red panda even though he wouldn’t stop moving so they aren’t as sharp as I would have liked.

Red Panda

Red Panda

Once we left the zoo (after being there 3.5 hours) we visited the new Mars Cheese Castle.

Mars Cheese Castle

The last time we visited we weren’t impressed but the new one is much nicer.

From Wikipedia:

In 2011, a project widening Interstate 94 forced the store to relocate 50 yards (46 m) away from the freeway. The new store, over twice as large as the previous building, was designed to more closely resemble an actual castle; it features a watchtower holding the store’s wine and an entrance which resembles a drawbridge. A special statute passed by the Wisconsin Legislature allowed the store to keep its 80-foot (24 m) sign at its new location despite a state law prohibiting signs that tall.

We purchased a couple of pastries and then drove to The Brat Stop for lunch where Joe had a brat and I had a cheeseburger which I had been craving all day. We had packed a lunch for the zoo but decided not to eat it.

Categories: Animals, Excursions, Photos Tags:

Armstrong Park & Family Game Night

August 22nd, 2016 Comments off

Another fun-packed weekend is over.

Friday we visited Armstrong Park again because I wanted to see the Purple Martins. We didn’t spot any, but I did get a few good photos of some egrets and a great blue heron.

Egret

Great Blue Heron

Saturday was our rescheduled (from July) game night at my second cousin’s house. We arrived around 3:30 pm and debated whether to go swimming in the pool. It wasn’t quite as warm as I would prefer and then it started drizzling so we went back inside to chat. About an hour later her daughter, who is my first cousin, and her family arrived. I haven’t seen her in over a decade (the last time was at my grandmother’s funeral in 2003) so that was nice. Plus I got to meet her husband and 9 year old son. I also met my second cousin’s youngest daughter (she’s 22 or 23) when she got home from work. My second cousin and I were never really in contact until my uncle passed away two years ago which is why it took so long to meet her one daughter.

Anyway, my cousin made this ridiculously tasty blueberry vodka lemonade that I could not stop drinking. Luckily the alcohol content was weak since I have a low tolerance. We had a delicious dinner of grilled chicken, red potatoes, pasta salad, and a spinach salad with walnuts, cranberries, and feta. After dinner we played Uno Attack and then took a break for dessert which was the brownies I brought topped with ice cream. After dessert we played Aggravation and a game I had never played before called LCR (left right center). By that point it was 10 pm so we decided to get going since it’s about an hour and fifteen minute drive back home.

It was nice to spend time with family members we usually don’t socialize with. My mom and my second cousin never really got along so if it wasn’t for Facebook I probably never would have spent any time with her or her husband which is a shame because even if she wasn’t nice to my mom growing up she’s always been nice to me.

Sunday morning we decided to visit Armstrong Park again but to ride our bikes since it was a gorgeous cloudy day. The park has a very nice, mostly flat, paved path so we got almost an hour of riding in before I got tired.

Balog Island

Lake George

Later the same afternoon I wanted to check out a small park in Wheaton called Hurley Gardens to take some flower photos. I brought my Canon SLR with the stock 18-55 mm lens and thought I was losing my mind when it wouldn’t focus on the flowers. Turns out something is wrong with the lens. Joe’s lens of the same type, plus my other lenses, work on my camera fine. I’m glad it’s not the camera itself since I wouldn’t be able to replace it for awhile.

Categories: Animals, Excursions, Family, Photos Tags: