Wrong forecast, right day

spring dawn by JulieAnn Corbin

For the past few weeks if the forecast calls for overcast skies and/or rain, it’s pretty certain it will be overcast and/or rain. Even if the forecast doesn’t call for such conditions, it’s pretty certain they’ll arrive. Yesterday the forecast said fog in the morning then clearing and becoming mostly sunny. Well, it was certainly foggy in the morning but it never really cleared and I can count the times I saw the sun through the clouds on one hand. On top of that, the predicted high was 55 and it only got up to 46. I was rather bummed because I really wanted to see the sun after days of cloudiness and rain.

I didn’t have much hope for seeing the sun today as when I checked the forecast last night it was predicting rain and clouds all day long. However, when I woke up this morning, the sky appeared brighter than usual and lo and behold, when I looked out the window, I could see the sun! I was so happy I almost did a little dance! I managed to control myself though and went about the usual morning duties of waking the girls, making their breakfasts, packing their lunches and seeing them safely on the bus to school. You can bet I was smiling the whole time though!

plum tree in country by JulieAnn Corbin

Plum tree, my back yard and the farmer’s field beyond.

After I did a couple freelance blog posts, the clouds had returned but the forecast had changed from all day rain to chance of scattered thunderstorms. I considered that a vast improvement! As it wasn’t raining yet when I finished my work, I decided to tackle cleaning up and arranging my backyard bird oasis. I started the bird oasis two springs ago and every year it’s in the same spot, but always a little different. I put a little fence up around my bird feeder poles and I set planters of flowers around them with a fountain/bird bath in there somewhere.

After mowing the grass that had grown a foot tall around the formerly fenced border of the bird oasis, I then arranged the area, put the little fence pieces back in the ground and filled the fountain/bird bath. Unfortunately, when I turned the fountain on, it didn’t work so I’ll need to buy a new pump to get it running again. Not a big issue and the fountain can serve as a water holder for now. True to form, I hung my bird feeders, crouched down to fix a few things and then stood up whacking my head on the bottom of one of the feeders. I just wouldn’t be me if I didn’t do that at least once and it’s usually more than once…

backyard bird oasis by JulieAnn Corbin

Needs a few more flowers and feeders but otherwise good!

I usually move all of my bird feeders off the deck and into the backyard bird oasis, but I’ve grown so fond of watching the birds out my desk window that I’ll be leaving some on my deck this year. That means I have to get a few more for the oasis, but there are two hanging back there now and the finches have already found them and started feasting.

Once the bird oasis was arranged, I had some lunch and then took Jazz for our daily walk. The sun popped out a few times as we walked, which helped warm the day up further. After the walk I eagerly spread the comforter out on my deck swing, grabbed my beading supplies and settled out on the swing to focus on beading up flower earrings. I hooked Jazzmin up to the lead I attached to the deck and as it’s long enough for her to sit in the grass next to the driveway, she happily stayed there watching for squirrels.

Beading on that swing with the birds eating at the nearby feeders and Jazz on squirrel patrol nearby is one of my new favorite past times and I beaded away blissfully for a couple hours until I realized it was past dinner time. I wasn’t especially hungry yet, but I figured Jazz was so I brought her inside and got her dinner before assembling my own. Once I was done eating, I was back out on the swing, refusing to waste a single moment of warmth and periodic sunshine after being trapped inside for so many days lately.

beaded flowers by JulieAnn Corbin

My beaded flowers and new bead mail. Tons of happiness!

Eventually the sky turned rather dark, the temperature dropped and it started to sprinkle as a little rain cloud passed over so I decided it was time to call it a day and head inside the house. I took my beads inside and then went back out to fold up the comforter to bring inside and I realized that my cheeks were sore because I’d been smiling so much while I was beading. My mind, body and spirit had really needed the warmer temperatures, sunshine and fresh air that I got a huge dose of today and although the forecast had been wrong, the day had gone very right!

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Feathered and furry, friends and family

swallow sunset

I imagine that compared to most people, my life seems pretty boring. It’s Friday night and I imagine most people have fun plans to go out with their friends while I’m sitting home writing up a blog before I get back to beading. I say “I imagine” because I don’t really know. What I do know is that I like my life and am pretty darn happy on a daily basis. Do I have my down days? Sure, everyone does but I always find the light eventually and remind myself how blessed I am.

I live in the country hills of Upstate NY. When I look west from my deck I have a lovely view across the valley and surrounding hills. I spend my days writing freelance blog posts for a variety of companies while being kept company by animals. I don’t just mean my dog Jazzmin and two cats Avi and Owl. I mean the birds, bunnies, woodchucks and deer that live around me. When I don’t have my girls, I talk to either myself or the animals. I don’t say a lot out loud really but I’m constantly thinking.

The feathered and furry creatures I watch on my property and near my house on a daily basis are the friends and family I see the most. As I sit at my desk I watch the male and female bluebirds make the rounds around my house going from front wire to side wire, to tree tops and back again getting worms and bugs for their newly hatched babies.

Male bluebird on my pear tree

Male bluebird on my pear tree

Male bluebird on the wire

Male bluebird on the wire

The tree swallows are swooping through the air all day long catching bugs for their babies and sometimes when one of them and the male bluebird sit upon the same wire, a brief and nasty bird fight ensues.

Tree swallow on the wire

Tree swallow on the wire

Swallow on the left, bluebird on the right. Shortly before the ruckus

Swallow on the left, bluebird on the right. Shortly before the ruckus

I hung two hummingbird feeders on the swing outside the window closest to my desk and the adorable swift-winged birds visit several times a day. Even when I’m typing away I hear their approach, their wings buzzing in a sound like an oversize bumblebee. I then stop my work and turn to watch one of them as he sips.

I have at least two ruby-throated hummingbirds and while they never drink at the same time, they visited today at the same time. One waited on the wire while the other drank.

One hummingbird on my swing frame, the other waiting on the wire

One hummingbird on my swing frame, the other waiting on the wire

I think they’re both males because they sometimes take off in furious flights, their long beaks reminiscent of swords and their face-offs reminding me of the beginning of fencing matches. One or both of them is even brave enough to visit the feeder when I’m standing out on the deck. I never knew they made little squeaking chirping noises until I was able to be this close to them. They truly are amazing creatures!

Hummingbird perched on my feeder

Hummingbird perched on my feeder

Hummingbird drinking

Hummingbird drinking

Hummingbird flying

Hummingbird flying

Hummingbird on the wire

Hummingbird on the wire

In the evening, I often see a bunny or two hopping around the yard. Yesterday a baby bunny hopped out from behind my shed and did some awkward hops before bravely venturing out further into the grass.

Resident bunny

Resident bunny

Another resident bunny

Another resident bunny

Babies are being born and hatching all around my property and I can hear the baby bluebirds chirping in the birdhouse at the back of my property all the way from my kitchen window. After dinner tonight I watched a mother robin and her baby hop around my back yard, the baby chirping as it followed its mother around and eagerly accepting the worms she yanked out of the ground for him.

Mama robin and her fledgling

Mama robin and her fledgling

This afternoon on my way into town, I saw two small brown animals playing around the yellow line in the road in front of me. As I drove closer, I realized they were baby woodchucks/groundhogs. There was no one else on the road so I stopped my car, put on my flashers and got out to shoo the little rascals out of the road. They didn’t move quickly but they did eventually get over into the grassy shoulder. When I tried to shoo them further into the tall grass, one of them actually ventured closer to me and I said to him “I’m not your mama, baby. Go find your mama.” I do wonder where their mother was…

The baby woodchuck/groundhog that came toward me

The baby woodchuck/groundhog that came toward me

I don’t think it’s a bad thing that I have so much interaction with the animals around me. Far too many humans have lost touch with nature and forgotten the fact that we’re all connected. I never forget our connection, I feel it every day and do my best to reflect the positive energy I receive from my feathered and furry friends and family. Beautiful things happen every day when you slow down, take a breath and open your eyes, ears, mind, heart and spirit.

Looking Up in Amesbury, Massachusetts

An Amesbury sparrow watching me

An Amesbury sparrow watching me

I can get lost anywhere, I practically guarantee it. Sometimes it’s on purpose but mostly it’s unintentional. I don’t always have a set destination in mind either and in that case it’s more like wandering aimlessly than being lost.

During my explorations of Amesbury, Massachusetts I became lost on more than one occasion. Anyone who lives there will probably think that’s ridiculous because it doesn’t seem like a very big town. But to me when a place is brand new, it’s infinitely large because I haven’t explored its borders yet. As far as I know it begins where I take my first step and ends when I find my way back to the beginning of the journey. Though in truth, it never really ends. There’s always something new for me to see.

I have a lot to say about my visit to Amesbury and Newburyport but for now I want to focus on one of my first observations as I wandered around. As I turned the corner up one street, something red and high up caught my eye. I have a tendency to look up and in directions most people miss in daily travels. The red object was a little birdhouse placed outside an upper level window. I found this quite cute and intriguing.

The little red birdhouse

The little red birdhouse

When my focus returned to the rest of what was along that sidewalk, I realized I was being serenaded by a chorus of bird songs. That’s when I saw an entire row of birdhouses up over the top of the business door and windows. This made me smile because most business owners adamantly discourage birds from nesting over their doorways. This mini neighborhood of adorable, white birdhouses of various sizes was bustling with sparrows as they chattered about the day’s gossip, or whatever it is birds talk about.

Greenery Designs, 8 Market Square, Amesbury, MA

Birdhouses above Greenery Designs, 8 Market Square, Amesbury, MA

I paused to take a few pictures of a particularly photogenic sparrow who was all puffed up from the rain that continued to drizzle down that morning. He watched me as I watched him and he chirped curiously a few times before flying to a different perch. I do love bird watching and being able to do so right in the middle of town brightened my morning to such an extent that I forgot how cloudy it was for a while.

Sparrow showing me his best side

Sparrow showing me his best side

What I’d seen above that one building inspired me to keep looking up in Amesbury and I soon made a new discovery. Perched atop a couple of the more prominent buildings were large owl decoys. I wondered how many residents even know the owls are there. They stood silently guarding, deterring pigeons and other nuisance birds from landing atop the stolid stone accents of the building roofs. The owls seemed to be doing a good job too because I never saw a pigeon even think of challenging them.

The 1st owl sentry

The 1st owl sentry

The 2nd owl sentry

The 2nd owl sentry

Local Amesbury residents reading this will undoubtedly recognize the buildings in my photos and I wonder if before now they knew the owls were there. Perhaps they did, maybe there was even a whole article about it in the local newspaper. In which case  they’ll simply shake their heads at the silly observations of the out-of-town girl meandering their streets. Or maybe, just maybe, reading this will encourage them to look up now and then and truly take in their beautiful surroundings as I did. Up, down and roundabout, Amesbury made an unforgettable impression on me and this tale is just the beginning!

Everyday Adventures in this Extraordinary Life

Snapshot 1 (5-31-2013 6-18 AM)

I often joke with my best friend that I could write a book about my life and sell it as fiction because no one would believe it all happened to one person. I haven’t climbed to the top of Mount Everest or formulated the cure for the common cold, I’ve just lived my life and done my best to roll with what comes. I think we all have an amazing and unique story to tell when we escape the mundane of daily existence and see life for what it really is: an endless adventure!

My beloved English teacher and friend, Derek Hulse told me when I was 16 that I should write my autobiography. I found the idea silly because I was only 16 and felt I hadn’t experienced anything that justified an autobiography. Apparently he saw great things in my past and future that were worthy of being told and I’ve been telling them for the past few years in my blogs. I am certain that numerous people live far more interesting lives than I do and I don’t profess to be an incredibly amazing, crocodile-wrestling, swashbuckling woman of the world. I’m just a girl who wakes up every day grateful for another dawn.

I never know what my day is going to bring. Even the smallest tasks turn into large undertakings sometimes. My quest to find a more fuel efficient-and yet still standard transmission-car involves renting an automatic car for the weekend when the first auto deal falls apart. I set out to dig up thistles and the handle on my garden spade snaps like a twig. I go to mow my lawn and the neighbors chicken decide to hold a parade through my lilac bushes. A weekend trip to Boston leads to a whole new direction and purpose in my life that continues to motivate me onward. These are the adventures I’ve lived and continue to live.

So I created a photo montage set to music and uploaded my video to Vimeo for your viewing pleasure…or to at least take up three minutes of your day. You can watch it by clicking on the photo above or the link at the end of this entry. In it I’ve featured several photos from my blogs and others I’ve taken just to document the mind-boggling little mishaps that occur in my life. Stars include my darling daughters, adorable dog, samples of my baking, creatures from the Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory, my mower, the Massachusetts locations of Boston, Newburyport and Amesbury, some of my artwork and everything in between. I believe it tells an interesting story about the everyday adventures in this extraordinary life that belongs to a simple woman just making her way in the world.

Everyday Adventures in this Extraordinary Life

Enjoying the Journey

When I set out on my walk last night with Jazzmin down that access road I’d never traveled before, I didn’t know where it led. But I went anyway. I don’t know if that’s brave or stupid or both, but it’s part of what makes me the person I am. I don’t shy away from the unknown anymore, I explore it until it’s known and understood by me. Life is full of endless journeys and even when you think you know the destination, you really don’t.

During the return walk on the farmer’s access road, I opened my eyes to more of what was around me. I discovered a plethora of mayapples blooming beneath the numerous trees and I saw several flowering bushes that were unfamiliar to me.

A single may apple blossom

A single may apple blossom

The whole hill was covered with blooming may apples!

The whole hill was covered with blooming may apples!

Most of these bushes had white flowers but this one had pink flowers.

Most of these bushes had white flowers but this one had pink flowers.

There are several areas along the road where the view through the trees is breathtaking in its expanse. As I crested the hill once more and walked down it toward home I could just make out my house in the distance. It helped put things in perspective as to where exactly I was.

My house is that yellow speck in the distance.

My house is that yellow speck in the distance.

My yellow house and my white Matrix.

My yellow house and my white Matrix.

It was an amazingly nice night and quite peaceful since no one was mowing their lawns or weed whacking or leaf blowing. The birds were happily flying among the trees and I was relaxed because I knew we wouldn’t encounter any dogs on this road. Jazzmin enjoyed sniffing all the new scents and there were tons of deer track imprints in dry dirt that had recently been mud.

Jazzmin taking in all the new scents.

Jazzmin taking in all the new scents.

The walk helped reinforce to me that it’s like that saying, life is more about the journey than the destination. I do have a destination in mind for my life, in many respects I know exactly what I want. I have however learned that what I want has a way of transforming into something unexpected. I’m working hard toward achieving my goals and dreams but I know better than to focus solely on the destination without taking in every step of the journey. I am hopeful that I have many new and interesting journeys ahead and I am confident that no matter the destination, I will never take one moment of this life for granted.

amazing view

The view through an opening in the trees.

Branching Out

I bought a plum tree today. This is a rather big thing for me because I’ve never bought any kind of tree before, let alone a fruit tree. I probably should have started with something easier like a hardy pine tree but as my yard is already full of pine trees, that seemed silly. I wanted a pear tree but the store didn’t have any. I could have bought an apple or cherry tree but those seemed too ordinary to me. Then I saw the plum trees and they looked so sturdy and friendly that I just had to have one.

The plum tree I chose was about a foot taller than me and I wasn’t sure it would fit in my car but I figured I’d make it work somehow. So I folded down all the seats on the passenger side, laid down a blanket and carefully angled the tree down and into my Toyota Matrix. To my delight, the tree just fit! On the drive home my tree and I became a bit snuggly a couple times around curves but otherwise it stayed put and behaved.

The plum tree just fit!

The plum tree just fit!

Sitting in the front seat looking back

Sitting in the front seat looking back

The plum tree cozy in the passenger seat

The plum tree cozy in the passenger seat

I haven’t decided where I’m going to plant my plum tree yet. I thought about putting it in the front yard but then everyone and their brother driving by would have the pleasure of watching me struggle to dig a hole deep enough for it. I think the back yard is a better choice where only my neighbors can look out their windows and point and laugh. Digging the hole is going to be an interesting challenge since my ground can be rather hard. I’ve tried standing on the shovel before to make it go in further and it barely sinks an inch. I might be a little thing but my stubborn determination is gigantic so I’ll get that puppy planted one way or another!

When I got home I placed the plum tree in the back yard just to see how it would look and I rather like it back there. It’s final place hasn’t been decided yet because I’m going to do an experiment with my new bluebird feeder, but that’s a story for another day…

The plum tree in my back yard

The plum tree in my back yard

After dinner I decided to take Jazzmin on another walk to test the Dr. Scholl’s Active Series insoles I bought to put in my new Asics GEL-Kayano sneakers. I’ve been wearing Skechers Shapeups for the past three years and I’m so used to their rounded bottoms that flat bottom sneakers feel awkward to me. To test the insoles, I thought Jazz and I would take the short, hilly walk but as we came to the first sharp curve, my eyes were drawn to the path the local farmer uses to access the fields behind my house. There’s a gate up but no posted sign. I’ve been wanting to take Jazz hiking somewhere and this seemed like a perfect place to start! I steered Jazz off the road and onto the path that’s been well-traveled by trucks and tractors.

Looking up the access road

Looking up the access road

Jazzmin was quite excited by this change of course and had to work a bit harder to walk over the rockier terrain of the access road. My sneakers were not the proper footwear for this venture but having my hiking boots on would have meant I’d planned ahead. I rarely plan ahead, too many things fall apart when I do that. The view up the path was a beautiful canopy of green trees and underbrush and the only sounds to be heard were the songs of birds. We walked to the top of the hill and down the other side where the road opened up to so much open space and woods that I felt miniscule. Gazing out across the endless rolling green and expansive blue sky reminded me how small I really am on this big world.

The view where the road turned

The view where the road turned

Looking toward the continuing road

Looking toward the continuing road

Heavy rains washed out a section of the road

Heavy rains washed out a section of the road

We started to walk back and I realized we were being serenaded by a rather familiar bird song. I stopped and peered into the tree above us and saw the bright yellow plumage of a male goldfinch. He was perched there all by himself, no sign of a mate but he was happily singing away. I’d been smart enough to bring my camera in Jazzmin’s backpack this time (a smidge of planning ahead there) so I quickly got it out and zoomed in on the branches as much as I could. I snapped a couple photos as the goldfinch sang and then he promptly flew away.

The goldfinch way up in the tree

The goldfinch way up in the tree

A moment before he flew away.

A moment before he flew away.

I took the time to look around me more on the walk back and I discovered I’d overlooked a lot of interesting and beautiful things. I’ll speak more of that journey tomorrow. For today I am content that I branched out by buying a tree and exploring a new path. Every day really is an adventure, you just have to see its potential!