Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Berry Weird

Few people get me. I suppose, everybody feels that way every now and then. In my case, it's pretty much all the time. I'm almost always with the unpopular vote, like the only one who wanted to go to the park instead of the mall, the only one who wanted to take the train instead of a plane, etc. It can be lonely, but it just makes finding kindred spirits even more delightful.

Why did I even start with that? It's just that, despite being an oddball all my life, I still get surprised when nobody shares my enthusiasm for, well, whatever it is that I'm enthusiastic about. For instance, in a recent planning session for our church's fellowship activities, I excitedly suggested bird watching. I love birding. It gives me such a thrill to observe different kinds of birds freely flying about. Anyway, my suggestion was met with crickets and some bewildered faces, clearly expressing, "Why would anybody want to do that?" For some reason, I really thought everybody enjoyed watching birds, lol.

More recently, I scored a few berry-bearing plants. I love berries - their taste, their smell, their look... The fact that they are so rare around here also magnifies their appeal to me. Actually, one of the things on my bucket list is to go berrying. It's not just berries though. I love the idea of foraging for comestibles in the wild - ferns, mushrooms, truffles...

Going back to my berry plants. I already have a mulberry and a strawberry, but both have yet to bear fruit. On our way to church camp, we happened upon a place that sold rare fruit plants. It had quite a selection, but I was most interested in their mulberries (fruiting too!), raspberries, and blackberries.

I was over the moon about having these plants... and nobody cared. Not that I was seeking attention, although I was expecting some interest because they're not common around here at all. Oh well, me and my weird fascinations, lol.

So, you probably won't get it, but this right here brings me such joy. :D

Monday, April 17, 2017

Easter Sunday at Home

We just got back from church camp in Pansol, Laguna. It was a fab time, although I wish I could have participated more. Naturally, Mark and I had to spend most of our time minding the boys. Midge no longer needs a lot of supervision, so she was free to go off and do her thing. Apparently, her thing was to boil herself in hot spring water under the relentless Holy Week sun (the sun has always seemed like the most severe to me during this time of the year) and she's now the color of teak for her efforts. She also got a little overtired and overheated, so she ran a temperature when we got home.

Cameron was also a fan of playing in the water (Sawyer hated it with, aptly enough, the heat of a thousand suns), but he has very sensitive skin and he itched something fierce after getting out of the water. He also developed an infection on one of his big toes.

So, with the state Midge and Cameron were in, we had to miss the Easter service at our church. We still wanted to celebrate Easter though, so I gave them their Easter basket in bed and organized an egg hunt within the bedroom.

The basket I put together was a blend of religion and fun. I got them five books, all Bible-based with two specifically about Easter. I was really happy with that Book Sale (secondhand bookshop) haul. I was hoping for just one Easter book and actually found two. Every book I got was also in great condition, like new. The Veggie Tales (anyone else bust their gut laughing watching Veggie Tales?) one even came with a CD, also seemingly unused.

Besides the books, I also included a play dough set, that connect-four-bingo-game thing that every kid has at one point during childhood but we didn't have yet (rite of passage!), plastic Easter eggs that we can reuse (I finally gave away last year the ones I had gotten for Midge when she was but a toddler, so I had to get new ones this year), and candy-coated chocolate eggs.

After the initial egg hunt and rooting-through-the-basket commotion, I read one of the Easter books to the kids and then let them leaf through the other books by themselves and play with the game and the eggs. We also decided to finally eat the Easter eggs we made last week.

That's how Easter Sunday this year went for us. I wish we had been able to make it to church, but it was what it was.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Meet My Latest Gardening Scourge

A week ago, I noticed some fuzzy white spots on our mulberry plant. Worrying that they may be mold, I quickly google-imaged (you know what I mean) "fuzzy white spots on mulberry plant" and discovered that I was dealing with mealybugs.

They're bad news. They're like little plant vampires, and an infestation could mean death. I think the ants lured them over. They supposedly like the honeydew produced by the mealybugs.

Good thing I caught them early, so there were just a few in a couple of spots. I have to tell you though, finally registering those white spots in their bug form kind of gave me the heebie jeebies. I just wasn't expecting them to be creepy crawlies.

The most popular recommendation to get rid of the things was to get Qtips, soak the ends in alcohol and then use those to scrape the bugs off the plant. I tried that and, while effective on the bugs that were fully exposed, the method was a bit more difficult to employ with those squeezed in the nook between the spurs and the stem. I had to try the second least invasive method, which was to spray with a homemade solution of water, alcohol, and dish-washing liquid.

The second attempt effectively dealt with those mealybugs. I did it twice and that did the trick. I'm not sure how long they'll remain discouraged, so I'll be as vigilant as I can. I'm resolute about getting berries from that plant, so I'm quite prepared for combat against plant pests and disease. :D

So far, I've had to deal with slugs, caterpillars, ants, mealybugs, and birds. I let the slugs and caterpillars win, co-exist with the ants, put up stakes against the birds, and sprayed the mealybugs. Adventures in the garden, eh?

What pests have been the bane of your gardener's existence? 

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Different People, Different Braids

I was recently talking to somebody who referred to a Dutch braid she'd done on her hair as a French braid. Being an obnoxious know-it-all, I pointed out that what she actually had was a Dutch braid. This person's ego, however, dwarfed mine because she as good as told me that I didn't know what I was talking about and insisted that her braid was, in fact, French, ta gueule!

How can you move forward with somebody who wouldn't accept correction? You just shrug your shoulders and think, "Oh well. There's no teaching the arrogant ignorant." That's what sensible people who don't want to waste their time do.

Me, however, I make a YouTube video on the subject and rope my daughter into the silliness with me. We did have fun making the video. It was particularly challenging because we made an incorrect assumption (that we could do a voice-over or dub using the YouTube video editor). We experimented with a few free video-making programs downloadable from the Internet before we settled on VideoPad.

And this is what we ended up with.

So now that you know the difference between a French braid and a Dutch braid, you can now live a happy life, rule the world, or smirk knowingly the next time some arrogant ignorant tries to incorrectly school you on this very important distinction. :D

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Weather Made Me Do It!

It's already freakin' summer here, but first everybody had to go and get sick first. The shift in temperature can really mess with the body. Don't ever tell me again that discussing the weather is banal. The thing obviously rules our lives.

Ever since I finished high school, I couldn't care less about summer. The only good thing about it had been that we didn't have to go to school. Living in the tropics, I can't get excited about warm, well, even warmer weather. I just can't. It honestly fills me with dread, especially now that I'm an adult who has to worry about the spike in our electricity bill with the air conditioning running practically the whole day. 

With that no-school perk gone (we're unschoolers), I couldn't find any other redeeming quality. Except maybe it does give me an excuse to binge on ice cream, snow cones, paletas (popsicles), and halo-halo.

Last Saturday, the freezer was stocked with ice cream.

There was marshmallow fluff, leftover from the marshmallow bars I'd made earlier that day.

There were syrup and sprinkles as well, so out came the sundae glasses (a present from my sister Chipi) and we commiserated the miserable (to us - we thrive better in muuuuch cooler temperatures) weather by putting together the most decadent sweet-cold concoction we could from what we had on hand.

If I gain weight and diabetes, the weather is to blame, right? Right? No? Oh well.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Ditsy Tale of a Non-Rescue

*Warning: pictures of lifeless pre-peep.

We missed church yesterday (it was Monday when I started this blog post) because this family's health is still a mess, but we're getting better, don't you worry. It's mainly our bodies adjusting to the shift in weather and the approaching summer.

Anyway, as I set out to water the plants yesterday, I immediately noticed something resting on one of the mulberry's leaves. I thought it looked like chewed up food that somebody flicked off. As I came closer, I could tell that it was a bird and surmised that it was perhaps part of a balut's chick (a balut is a boiled fertlized egg, a common street food in our parts).

Upon closer inspection, however, it became clear to me that it was a partially hatched peep (pre-peep?) with some of its egg shell still on it.

The image clutched at my heart and squeezed. The poor thing. I supposed that there was a nest somewhere overhead because that would have been the second time an egg had landed in that area to my knowledge. The first time, the egg was really young (I don't know how to term it) and the yolk and white splattered on our windshield when it fell.

This one, though. The peep was pretty well-formed, and it looked so peaceful nestled on that mulberry leaf, so the mother in me kicked in. In my mind, that was a baby and I had to do something. I observed that the ants hadn't gotten to it yet so I deduced that it hadn't been there long yet.

This is where I let pure science dictate my actions.

Even though the thing wasn't breathing and I was mostly ignorant when it came to birds and their birthing/hatching system, I decided to go ahead and try to revive it. I placed the peep in a nest I'd made using a plastic bowl and shredded paper towel. I then found a goose neck lamp and tried to warm it up. Belatedly, I realized that the bulb was no good because it was LED.

What to do, what to do? I had to get it warm.

I was in the kitchen, so my eyes lit on the microwave, the oven toaster, the stove top, the actual oven... Don't worry. I didn't stupidly end up roasting the peep I was futilely trying to save. Obviously, those weren't viable tools in this undertaking. I did find something that I could use though. It wasn't the best option, but it was the only one I could come up with at the time - a candle.

So this is where I got really scientific.

I had several candles, all of them scented. The choices were vanilla, apple pie, cinnamon, peppermint, and apple. I decided to go with cinnamon because it would present the best suggestion of that Ikea bowl-paper towel nest being on a tree, considering that cinnamon comes from the bark of a tree. Also, that particular candle was brown, so... Like I said, these were decisions borne of scientific data, hard logic, valid reasoning, etc. 

I know I was being an idiot. When my husband came down, he took in the candle and the lifeless peep and asked me if I was holding a wake. It's just another one of the long list of things I do that he thinks are pointless.
I knew right off that it was an exercise in vain. It did feel foolish (and felt even more so after I read that mother birds sometimes push eggs off the nest themselves), but, hey, that had never stopped me in the past. I had to do it. It's kind of like when I'm at the store and an item falls to the floor. Others walk past it and I tell myself that a clerk will take care of it, but, noooo, I can't bring myself to not pick it up and place it back or put it somewhere safe.

What would you have done? Let nature take its course? Buried the poor thing? If you would have gone through the same trouble as I did, then I hope we're friends because we can have fun doing a lot of impractical things together. :)

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

No Rest for the Weary

We're a miserable bunch here. My eldest has been nursing a cold since Sunday. My second seems to be starting his own bout. My youngest is fine except for what I suspect to be corneal abrasion, so we have to bring him to an eye doctor. I've also heard some coughing from my husband.

And then there's me.

Every month, Aunt Flo comes for a visit and my immune system seriously plummets. I mean, it. Plum. Mets. It takes a plunge into depths unknown and leaves me suffering with all sorts of inconvenient maladies. There's almost always a cold or an allergy attack, both of which may lead to asthma if I don't get any rest always lead to an asthmatic episode. Of course, there's also some sort of body ache, usually a back thing, but it's often compounded with some leg or arm issue. And then there's the migraine, which is a real treat to have if you're also wracked with cough. Every tickle in your throat fills you with dread because you know to cough is to take an axe to your skull and split it open - or it feels that way, anyway.

That's not even getting into the abdominal cramps and the depression.

Now, it's my own fault because I refuse to take drugs as much as I can help it. I pickle myself in vitamin and mineral supplements and just hope for the best. They'd have sufficed too if I could just reinforce them with some rest. There's the rub. There's no rest for the mother of young children,

And so the ailments persist with the invasion until my immune system finally staggers its way up, swinging for all its worth, It usually manages to knock away the migraine and the pains, but the cold/allergy/asthma has the tendency to linger and fester.

This is my roundabout way of telling you why I'm out of commission for one week every month.

I'm in the middle of such a week.

Funny anecdote: Earlier this week, I told my husband, "Aunt Flo is here!" Marguerite was there and happily exclaimed, "Really?" That reaction didn't make sense until I realized that she thought my real aunt whose name is Flor is here for a visit.

My head is beginning to pound and my right eyeball is throbbing, so bye.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Birding in Intramuros

We joined the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines' free guided birdwatching in Intramuros the other day. We were to scout for birds at Plaza Mexico along the Pasig River, and as we approached the area, we already spotted flocks of white birds swooping up and down the water and resting on the power lines.

whiskered terns at flight
We left the car at the Maestranza parking lot and headed to the Bureau of Immigration building to meet with the other participants. It so happened, however, that that was also where legions of fire departments gathered as a starting point for their Fire Prevention Month motorcade.

As we approached the building, the motorcade began with the fire engines' sirens going off at full blast. It was pretty thrilling, but that wasn't the kind of thing that my kids found impressive, so we continued our walk to the quay where the birders had already congregated.

I was so relieved to note that the water didn't smell foul at all. I was afraid there would be a rank odor and we'd have to leave because of the kids, but it was all good. The weather wasn't too warm either, probably because it was later in the afternoon. 

All in all, it was a great trip. We saw a whole bunch of whiskered terns, a couple of little egrets, a black-headed seagull, a glossy starling, a java sparrow, a yellow-vented bulbul, a zebra dove, a brown shrike, a common kingfisher, and a pied fantail. Of course, my back will never be the same again from carrying the baby the entire time, but what else is new?

whiskered terns on power line egret brown shrike java sparrow

I also decided to become a member. I've been meaning to do it forever, but I kept on waiting for a good time. The first time we joined a guided birding trip, it was back in 2010 and Marguerite was only three, so I thought I'd wait until she was a little older, so it would be easier to take her along or leave her with a sitter. The second time, it was 2013 and Cameron had just turned two. Again, I deferred joining until he was a bit older. The third time was last Sunday and Sawyer is all of two. I got tired of my own delaying tactics, and finally made the commitment.

I expect to go birding more often this year and I'm excited. The benefits are awesome.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

View Bingeing in Antipolo

I love nature - love, love, love it. But. I don't seem to be cut out for it. It usually triggers violent sneezing fits or the onset of hives. And then there are the bugs. They love me. They ignore the rest and flock to me. That is, unless my kids are around too. They seem to have the same tasty blood, so they luckily inherited my appeal to the bloodsuckers.

My husband and I like to take the kids for long car rides. We usually park somewhere with a nice view and eat our lunch in the car. This means that the car enjoys more than its fair share of spills and crumbs. It can get pretty disgusting. Fortunately, my husband is a car nut and is manic about maintaining our vehicles.

Recently, while we were parked along Marcos Highway, somewhere between Cogeo and Paenaan (I don't know what that spot is called, but people often stop there to take in the very green vista of the valley below and the mountains across), I suddenly felt a bite or a sting, first on my neck, and then another a bit later on the cheek. We had the windows down so we could enjoy the nice, cool breeze. I didn't see a mosquito, not even a fly. Basically, some noseeum got me. Funnily enough, there was actually a Midge in the car; she's just the human, visible kind. ;D

The good thing about those bites though is that they didn't bother me for long and they didn't leave any lasting welts. They were red while I could feel them, but the color and bump subsided when they stopped being uncomfortable.

After lunch, we took a turn and went up Sumulong Highway. We checked out some properties for sale in a couple of subdivisions up there. We spotted lots of pretty birds, black-naped orioles and many I can't recognize yet.

It's frustrating not to be able to identify the birds. I plan to remedy that and be more knowledgeable about birding. I've been saying that for the past twenty years, but it's not that hopeless. I got a little better. After two decades.

My husband also went a little crazy with all the dill out there. I don't know why he loves the plant so much. It's not like he uses dill a lot. I'll have to ask him because it's obviously a real mystery. I may never rest until I get answers.

It was a good excursion. I've found that I'm willing to suffer through bites, hives, and sneezing fits to get my kids to see nature. The rewards are definitely worth the discomfort. 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Birds Menacing My Herb Garden

I love birds, I do, but not enough to just let them devour my herbs. I discovered the other day that the two rosemary cuttings I had just started cultivating were missing. The rooted rosemary plants were fine. The cuttings, I suppose, were easily plucked out from the soil.

And then I noticed our new dill plant starting to bald - is that the right term? - but the leaves were definitely much fewer, and then yesterday, a stalk was actually broken.

I'm going to roast the culprits if I ever catch them!

Relax - that's just an empty threat. I don't have it in me to hurt a bird.

Those birds are also the reason why we don't bother with sunflowers anymore. They finish up a bloom in just a couple of day, the little gluttons!

Before they make off with every herb in my garden, I need to take steps to thwart those sneaky thieves. Some of the recommendations I've found are:

  • Making a tunnel of bird netting.
  • Using cut soda plastic bottles.
  • Putting up a scarecrow.
  • Hanging or sticking shiny ornaments (CDs, mylar, etc.)
  • Hanging wind chimes.
  • Getting a cat.

I'll probably do the soda bottle and the wind chimes. It might also be fun to put a little scarecrow out there. I'll let you know soon how effective they are.

Do you think they'll leave the plants alone if I install a bird feeder? In any case, if you have any tips for stopping birds from eating up the garden, please comment below.