Thursday, November 5, 2009

Bird Day Thursday--Tribute to a Fellow Birder

William Belton, Self-Taught Ornithologist, Dies at 95

Read the article in NY Times. Be sure to click on the audio clips for a couple of samples of his bird recordings!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bird Day Thursday-- Natural Bird Feeder

This summer marks my first ever successful planting of sunflowers. Well, perhaps it's because I wasn't the one that actually planted them, so I won't really take credit for it. Nonetheless, they have been a source of great beauty and enjoyment for me throughout the summer.

I don't know how many hours I spent observing, photographing and videotaping the steady supply of bees that are attracted to the abundant pollen of these monster flowers.
But now, even though the bright yellow sunburst petals and ginormous, perky green leaves have been replaced by drooping, browning, decaying parts, they continue to attract my attention on a daily basis. The bees are not the only critters that love sunflowers.

(And I mean they REALLY love them!)

Now that harvest season is here, and the bees have done their work collecting and spreading all the pollen, the sunflowers are now producing seeds, which attract a whole new lineup of daily visitors. I don't know why anyone would spend their hard earned money on expensive bird feeders and bird seed when they can just plant a little sunflower garden instead. If you look at a bag of store-bought bird seed, guess what one of the main ingredients is? Sunflower seeds! That's because sunflower seeds are highly nutritious, providing an abundant source of unsaturated fats, protein and fiber, and important nutrients like vitamin E, selenium, copper, zinc, folate, iron and phytochemicals.

Among the many visitors to my Natural Bird Feeder is on everyone's list of favorite birds: The Chickadee. What could be more satisfying than providing a healthy little afternoon snack for one of the cutest, most loved birds on the planet?

Next in the lineup is, in my book, one of the most stunning backyard birds in the Northwest: The Stellar's Jay. He may not be on everyone's "Top 10 Feeder Birds" list, as they are sometimes viewed as bullies that prevent other birds from getting their fill, but he is a welcome visitor to my backyard any time.

Now, I know that most sane people do not regularly put up a bird feeder for the benefit of the neighborhood Crows. And why should they? Crows are one of the most well-adapted urban species around, and seem to have no trouble finding food in anyplace where humans also inhabit, providing an endless supply of bread crumbs and fast food leftovers.

Well, even crows need to eat healthy once in a while. The Crows in my backyard seem to enjoy the harvesting process as much as the food itself, and it's an interesting experience to watch the adults pass along their skills to the younger ones.

The last sunflower-loving critter on my list is definitely not a welcome one to anyone's bird feeder. That's because he is not a bird! Bird feeder people try every trick and contraption in the book, both store-bought and homemade, to keep Squirrels out of their bird feeders! Squirrels need to eat, too, and they're going to find a way into your bird feeder no matter what you do. The nice thing about a Natural Bird Feeder is that the seed is not costing you any money, so it really shouldn't matter who is enjoying the tasty, nutritious food. So you can sit back and enjoy their acrobatic show as they go in, out, through, and under the various parts of the plant to get to their coveted treat.

I realize that my Natural Sunflower Bird Feeders will not last forever. But sunflowers are just one example of the many plants that can be used to attract birds to and/or feed birds in your backyard.

Another successful planting in my garden this summer was my tomatillo plant, which was a daily stop for bees and hummingbirds.

Other than attracting pollinators (birds, bees, butterflies) to your garden, there are many specific native plants and trees that can be planted in your yard that will provide food (seeds, nuts, fruit, insects),
nesting habitat or shelter for different types of birds during each season of the year. To find out what types of vegetation can be planted in your part of the country, check with your local Audubon Society, and look for books specific to your region.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

We Want Answers!

Oh my! It seems as though it's been quite some time since I have written... Readers are demanding to know why. Plus there are Name that Bird answers to reveal and winners to announce. In this blog post I will attempt to answer these questions, and quell any worries that the Grapevine may be disappearing.

Fear not! I am still here, only there is a little more of me now... apparently there is a little bun baking inside my oven that has been demanding even more of my time and energy than my loyal readers!

Unfortunately, this means my photography and art have been severely neglected. Crafting time has been replaced with all things Baby-- doctor visits, reading pregnancy and nutrition books, preparing the nursery, etc. I did have one last, very successful craft fair in July; and I may still find the time to list some new items before the holidays, and before the bambino arrives (which happen to be around the same time). I'm not promising any sort of regularity, but I will also make an attempt to keep the Grapevine active.

Now for the fun stuff. The last online version of Name that Bird was all the way back in May! This one was a straight up bird identification with a video and photo of the "mystery" bird. This is not one of your common backyard birds or a cartoon, so it was a little more challenging than some of the other contests. The bird in question is a Purple Martin.

If you couldn't identify this bird by it's physical features, another clue would be the gourd-shaped nest boxes. Purple Martins are a type of swallow that migrate north from South America during the breeding season, and nest in secondary cavities, such as old tree hollows or cliff ledges. On the East coast and in the Pacific Northwest, they have become dependent on human-provided nest boxes, usually in the form of a gourd or multi-compartment wood or metal house. The gourd style houses are usually man-made, but were originally made from actual gourds that were dried and hollowed out by Native Americans.

In other parts of the county, including the mountainous regions of the west, and along the California coast, the birds have not taken to the artificial nest boxes, and still use natural crevices of trees and cliffs to breed and raise their young. For more detailed information about Purple Martin migration and breeding, you should check out the Purple Martin Conservation Association. Congratulations to Sarah W. for correctly identifying the mystery swallow, and winning one of my handmade recycled photo tiles!

In July, I also held an in-person Name that Bird contest, at the Wedgwood Art Festival. Up for grabs this time was a copy of "A Spring Without Bees" by Michael Schacker. Rather than a handmade goodie, the prize was a little different this time, as a tribute to my dog, Lily, who passed away one year ago on July 7th. You are probably wondering what the connection is between bees and my dog. More specifically, it is the disappearance of the bees, and the cause of their disappearance that makes the connection. Lily died from cancer, which I believe may have been caused from the use of chemical-based flea medications. Despite my better judgment, and my usual adherence to natural remedies and an overall healthy alternative lifestyle, I did sometimes resort to these types of treatments to deal with those pervasive pests. While we can never know for certain what caused the cancer in the first place, it is known that some chemicals found in these flea remedies are carcinogenic, and coincidentally, the same chemicals found in the agricultural pesticides that are responsible for the disappearance of the bees!!

If you think this is a stretch, I encourage you to read the book. In addition to shedding light on the "mystery" of Colony Collapse Disorder, this book has strengthened my resolve to stick to organics and natural products even more so than before.

If you are Matthew K. from Wedgwood, then you get the chance to read it for free! Lots of people correctly identified the Cedar Waxwing from a photo display at my booth, but Matthew was the lucky one this time. Congratulations, Matthew!

Cedar Waxwings can be identified by their prominent black mask, slight tufted light-brown crest (sometimes more apparent than others), pale yellowish bellies, bright yellow tips on the tail feathers, and sometimes-hard-to-see brilliant red "wax droplets" on the wing tips.

They are a big fan of berries, so look for them in forested areas with lots of fruiting trees or flying over water, where they also like to feast on flying insects.

Another type of waxwing, which may cause some identity crisis, is the Bohemian Waxwing. The two are very similar in many ways, such as the black mask and yellow tail tip, but also have some specific differences that you can look for when trying to distinguish between the two:

The Bohemian Waxwing has a reddish brown head, and no white above the mask. Bellies are gray, rather than yellow, and the body is grayer overall. The under tail is reddish brown, rather than gray.

For more detailed information, photos, and voice identification, check out the Cornell Lab of Ornithology "All About Birds".


Sunday, June 14, 2009

I Did It!

First off, let me apologize for my lack of posting lately! Lots going on at home, that I will fill you in on later. For now, I just wanted to make the announcement that I finally caved in to all the pressure from family & friends to do something I have been resisting for a very long time....

I joined Facebook!

This sudden jump into the latest craze of the technological revolution came, not from the promise of great riches, nor the desire to get in touch with long lost high school friends, but from an invitation from my 84 year old grandfather to view HIS Facebook profile!! I simply had no choice.

So now you can "Be a Fan" of Aguavino for all the latest and greatest news about my art and crafting. Well, maybe not very many updates for now, cause I still have no clue as to what I'm doing, or how best to use it for biz promotion. But having some fans will encourage me to learn and explore.

Next step: Twitter.

I still refuse to get a cell phone.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Name that Bird -- Spring is Here!

Now that Spring is finally here (sort of), the bird scene has changed a bit. All of the Spring migrants should be at their northern destinations building nests, attracting mates, and starting to make babies!

To celebrate Spring's arrival, this month's Name That Bird Contest features a spunky little Spring migrant that I ran into this past weekend out on the Hood Canal of Washington State. See if you can identify this bird with a little audio AND video...

To enter this month's contest, you must correctly identify the bird in the video (common name). Either email your entry to, or post a comment on the blog (comments will be hidden until the end of the contest).

Increase your chances of winning by following this blog, and/or signing up for my newsletter! (One extra entry for each) Be sure to put a note in your entry to let me know if you are already one or both of these, or a new subscriber.

Contest will end Tuesday, May 19th at midnight PST. One winner will be drawn randomly from all correct entries.

The prize is one 4 x 4 Recycled Photo Tile of the winner's choice from my Etsy Shop.

Good Luck!

Here's one more look at the bird in question:

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Bird Day Thursday-- Dancing Cockatoo!

I don't condone the keeping of wild birds as pets--they should be flying free in the jungles. This cockatoo is from Bird Lovers Only Rescue Service, a non-profit bird rescue and sanctuary. I don't know anything about this organization, but you can find out more about their famous dancing bird and the organization on their website. But for now, please enjoy the show (even if you don't like the Back Street Boys):

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Eat Like the Bird--Easy Vegan Recipes: "Simple Smoothie"

One of my favorite ways to start off the day is with a very simple, yet delicious fruit smoothie, created in my own blender. This is my standard recipe, but it is easily altered to create various taste sensations that fit your mood, or to use up a particular fruit that you have on hand.

1 Banana
3/4 Cup Blueberries
3/4 Cup Strawberries
2+ Cups Vanilla Soy Milk

Put all of the fruit into a blender. Add enough soy milk to cover the fruit. Put lid on blender(!), and turn on low to start. Once it gets going you can switch it to high. Add more soy milk if necessary---you want the consistency to be thick, but thin enough that you could drink it through a straw, sort of like a milk shake. When you are satisfied with the consistency, turn the blender off and pour your tasty beverage into a glass. This recipe should fill two pint glasses (that's 16 oz each).

Now, my secret to this recipe is that I use all frozen fruit. I buy bags of organic frozen blueberries and strawberries to keep on hand in the freezer. I also buy fresh bananas, and freeze them as well, by peeling and then cutting into quarters or thirds, and storing in a zip lock freezer bag.

As I mentioned, you can experiment with different types of fruit. In the summer I get a bountiful harvest of blackberries from the back yard that I freeze. Raspberries, and other summer time fruit that you can pick yourself are a scrumptious addition to this recipe.

You can make a "tropical" blend with mangoes and papayas. I sometimes add a dash of pineapple or cranberry juice to the mix as well.

Another little tip-- if you only have plain soy milk, you can add a little dash of vanilla extract, and a couple dashes of cinnamon to spice it up a bit.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

She's Like the Wind

I've never been a particularly huge fan of Patrick Swayze, nor do I have any idea whether my new computer is a he or a she. What I do know, is that I LOVE my new little netbook! After researching online for many hours, and testing out various models at Best Buy, I finally decided on the MSI Wind, for my latest technological advance into the 21st century. I spent about $100 more than I had planned because I opted for the larger hard drive, battery, and screen. I don't spend a lot of money on toys or worldly possessions, and am sometimes accused of being Amish since I have no cell phone or television. So I think it's acceptable for me to splurge once in a while, especially since I got the computer in order to increase my productivity, both for my full time job (inventory & ordering spread sheets) and for promoting my art. And the total cost, including tax and shipping, was still only about $430! So far everything works great, and I have NO buyer's remorse, which is usually a factor in my anti-consumerist attitude!

I found the many customer reviews of this product extremely helpful in making my decision, so I thought I would return the favor and offer my own review for potential buyers.

Basic Specs:
MSI Wind U100
160 G Hardrive
1 G Memory (upgradeable to 2 G)
6 Cell Battery
10" Screen
MS Windows XP operating system

Keyboard: Pretty comfortable (although if you have extra large fingers you may find it a bit of a challenge). All of the keys are in the normal keyboard position (I tested some that had the shift key way out in Neverland, and L/R mouse buttons to the sides of the touch screen, rather than the bottom) The touchpad is pretty sensitive, as I think most laptops tend to be, so that is something to get used to. (My cursor sometimes mysteriously teletransports itself in mid-typing, to other parts of my document, creating many humorous non-sensical sentences). The keys themselves are really comfortable.

Screen: This is a 10" computer, which means the actual viewable screen is 8 3/4" x 5 1/4". That's pretty small if you're used to a full size desk top monitor, or even a regular sized laptop. It's totally sufficient for its purpose, but I'm really glad that I did not go for one of the even smaller ones like the 8.9" Acer, which would have made the viewable screen even smaller! The picture is crystal clear, and easy on the eyes.

Battery: As I mentioned, I opted for the model with the larger 6 cell battery, which gives me up to 5 hours of use. This is a great feature for a laptop. If you're out and about, trying to get things done, you never know whether you'll have access to an electrical outlet. And when it is plugged in, the battery charges pretty quickly.

Operating System: With all the negative reports of the newer Vista, it was a nice surprise to see that many of the netbooks on the market are going with the older XP operating systems. This was definitely a factor in choosing this model. I'm not ready to venture into the world of Vista; and prefer to stick with what I know.

Other Features:
--Blue Tooth
--Intel Atom processor
--1.3 megapixel Web Cam
--4-in-1 memory card reader (compatible with Secure Digital (SD), MultiMediaCard (MMC), Memory Stick, and Memory Stick Pro)

One thing to keep in mind is that these NetBooks do not have an optical drive-- so no DVD or CDrom players/readers. Leaving these out of the equation is how they get 'em so tiny. If there are any software programs that you need to install on the system, you'll either have to do it with a flash drive, or download from the internet. Or you can always get an external optical drive that attaches with a USB port, for around $100.

One thing I thought strange, was that there were absolutely NO instructions included with this machine. Granted, the only thing that needed to be done was to install the battery, which was charged and ready to go. But another minor detail that could have been mentioned in an instructional booklet, is that you have to hit FN + F11 to turn on the wireless internet. I only knew that from reading another customer's review of the product, so I am including it in my review for anyone else who might not know this "intuitively".

The computer came with its own little carrying case, which I thought was a nice feature. I wouldn't call it a bag, as it has no handles on it. But it's a padded case that can easily fit inside of a backpack or other bag, for easy transport. I love how tiny and portable this little guy is, and can't wait to take him on his first trip! (hey, I guess I DO know what gender my computer is!)

If you're interested in buying a netbook, I encourage you to read lots of customer reviews, and "test drive" some at your local computer store if possible, to find the one that best suits your needs and comfort. You can click on the Amazon link below for more details about this specific model, and all the helpful customer reviews.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Clogging up the Works

As you may or may not know, I've been dancing with a group called the Eclectic Cloggers for about a year and a half. Summer is our busiest time of year, with lots of performances at bluegrass and folk festivals throughout the state. To prepare for our upcoming summer shows we've been working on some new routines, and brushing up on old ones.

Our summer tour schedule can be found below, but first I thought I'd share a few tidbits about clogging.

First of all, we do not wear clogs!! Our group practices traditional Appalachian style clog dancing, which is very relaxed, energetic and fun, and includes a lot of chugs, stomps and "woos!". We wear regular tap shoes for our fancy footwork and percussive pounding, and (almost) always perform with a live band playing traditional folk and bluegrass fiddle tunes.

Like tap dancing, there are some basic steps involved with clogging. These basic steps, such as shuffles, steps, and chugs, are then combined in various sequences to create rhythmic and/or flashy moves, often named after the person who made them up. It's fun to imagine the ancient characters coming up with their signature steps. I often wonder if they had any idea way back 200 years ago, that their "name" would be carried on through all these years in the form of a clogging move. Here is a list of some of those steps, so you can see if you have a clogging namesake:
Betsy, Earl, Eddie, Bertha, Mark, Pearl, Rita, Paul, Old McDonald, Hoochie(?), and Cotton Eye Joe. I'm sure there are lots more, but I am fairly new to the sport, so my knowledge is still limited. (Coincidentally, there is also a move called The Grapevine, just like my blog!)

In our group, the women tend to outnumber the men by quite a bit. This means that sometimes a lady will have to play the part of a gent. When there are 3 or 4 "same-sex couples" practicing a new dance, it can sometimes get confusing. In an attempt to avoid any gender confusion issues, we sometimes call the roles "A" and "B". That doesn't always make things any easier, especially in dances where there is a lot of partner switching. (Not only are we bi-sexual, we're also swingers!!)

We may look a little hokey in our baggy bloomers, tiered pioneer skirts, and red suspenders, but we try to keep things as authentic as possible, while still expressing our eclectic selves. We are also having the time of our lives, and getting great exercise while we're at it!
If you're in the Seattle area (or Yakima, or Olalla, or Lake Wenatchee), please come check out one of our shows this summer:

Sunday, May 17th
University District Street Fair
University Way, Seattle
2:00 pm

Monday, May 25th
Northwest Folklife Festival
Seattle Center
International Dance Stage
6:50 pm

Sunday, June 28th
Shoreline Arts Festival
Shoreline Center
18560 - 1st Ave NE
Shoreline Room
12:00 pm

Saturday, July 11th
Yakima Folklife Festival
1:00 pm

Saturday, July 11th
Lake Wenatchee
Campsite Fireside Show
8:00 pm

Saturday, August 15th
Olalla Bluegrass Festival
Time & Stage TBA

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Bird Day Thursday--Vegan Eggs?

Last week my chickens were featured on EtsyVeg's "Pet of the Week". Lots of people commented that they would like to see a picture of their here they are:

Don't forget about the Etsy Veg
Earthly Riches Giveaway, which ends 4/28
and my Super Spring Cleaning Sale,
going on through the end of the month!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Earth Day Giveaway & Spring Cleaning Sale

In lieu of doing a "Name that Bird" Contest this month, I am participating in an even bigger giveaway-- the EtsyVeg Earthly Riches Giveaway-- It's sort of an online scavenger hunt to celebrate Earth Day. There are 20 prizes in 5 prize categories, with multiple chances to win. You will find one hidden Earth image in 20 shops, including mine - if you find them all you can earn an entry for the grand prize, worth over $100! (Including a $25 Gift Certificate to my shop!) You can also earn FIVE entries for the grand prize by spending $25 in my shop, and FIVE entries for the first prize for spending $10 (please see rules for details)!

For complete rules and details on how to enter, including a list of shops participating and prizes, please see the EtsyVeg blog. The giveaway runs from April 22-28.


While this fun and excitement is going on, I am also running a HUGE sale in my Etsy shop, which includes the following deals:
Earth Day, 4/22, ONLY:
**FREE Shipping on all orders over $20
From 4/22 through 4/30:
**25% off all Sustainable Photography Art (Photo Collages and 4x4 Recycled Photo Tiles)
**25% off all Jewelry
**$2.00 off all 4 Packs of Snail Mail Greeting Cards
**$4.00 off 10 Card Gift Box Sets

Have fun & Good Luck with the Earthly Riches Giveaway!!


Friday, April 17, 2009

Meet My Girls

My chickies were featured as "Pet of the Week" on Etsy Veg this week.
Check out the Etsy Veg Blog for more photos and the story behind them.....

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Vegan Sample Bags--On Sale Now!

The first batch of Vegan Sample Bags is now available! This is a collection of sample size items from various artists and crafty-type folks-- all without the use of animal products or ingredients. Heather, from Holistically Heather came up with the concept for this a few months ago. After countless hours of work, (including making each bag by hand!), and donations from over 30 awesome vegan merchants (including yours truly), the bags are now up for sale here.

For just $25 you get a beautiful handmade, reusable tote bag filled with 15-20 items. That's a bargain if you ask me. Plus 10% off all sales goes to For the Animals Sanctuary! Vegan Craft Samples are a great way to test out some vegan products that you've been thinking about, and also make a great gift! (Think "Mother's Day"). For a list of all the participating shops, and detailed descriptions of their sample items, you can check out the Vegan Samples Blog.

Get 'em while they last. They are already selling like hotcakes!! And we all know how fast hotcakes sell.....

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Bird Day Thursday-- Bird's Eye Review

So far haven't done much promoting of my own Etsy shop in these blog posts. So for today's Bird Day Thursday, I am going to feature one of my personal favorites from my shop, and give a little background info.

"Hidden in the Holler" is a photo that I took a few years ago while visiting my family in West Virginia. On the long, winding dirt road that leads to my Dad's cabin, deep in the heart of the state, I came across a group of Turkey Vultures (or buzzards) sitting in the newly-turned Fall foliage. The "holler" is what the locals call hollows, the deep valleys that run through the countryside, creating scenes like this one-- the dirt road was at a higher elevation than the trees, giving me a rare "bird's eye view" of the tree tops and the bird's perch. [For a more detailed definition of the term "holler", I came across this blog ]

I love this photo on a personal level because of the wonderful memories of visiting my family, and the fact that Turkey Vultures are such an inaccessible bird to me (I usually only spot them soaring high up in sky). Artistically it's a favorite because of the brilliant colors of the Autumn leaves contrasting with the dark tree trunks and nearly hidden silhouette of the large vulture on the branch.

Currently this photo is only available in the Photo Tile format--The photo has been mounted on a 4" x 4" recycled ceramic tile, with a hanging wire that is also recycled--hand-fashioned from wires reclaimed from an old chandelier. But I will be offering many of my photos as prints and in other formats in the near stay tuned.

Since my immediate family (and some extended) resides in West Virginia, many people make the mistake of thinking that I am from there. I grew up in New York State, in the Mid-Hudson Valley-- Poughkeepsie-area, specifically a smallish town called Wappingers Falls. My family, including my Mom, Dad, and younger brother and sister, migrated to WV in 1992. I stayed in NY with my aunt, and then moved to Seattle about 6 months later. So I have never lived any part of my life in West Virginia. My paternal Grandma, aunt, and cousin soon followed my family to WV, providing me with a convenient one-stop visiting situation. For about the past 12 years, I have been making the trek, usually by train, back to the East coast about every year or two, giving me lots of great photo opportunities that I don't get here on the West Coast.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Blue Star Art-- April '09

Since September 2008 I have been the volunteer coordinator for the Art Wall at The Blue Star Cafe and Pub. Each month features a different local artist and usually an opening or closing night artist reception. The remaining walls and rooms of the restaurant are covered with the many "olde time" black and white photographs that are part of the owner's permanent collection. These feature scenes of early Seattle and the surrounding area, including the customer favorite of the bar scene with a count down to the start of Prohibition.

The featured artist for this month is Christine Brooks, owner and primary photographer for Jersey Girl Photography. Her Seattle-based studio specializes in wedding, event, and portrait photography. As you may have guessed, Christine was born and raised in the Garden State, but she is now proud to call the Pacific Northwest home, having lived in Seattle for over six years. She is a graduate of Utah State University with a B.F.A (Photography Emphasis).

Her most recent photographic series titled, “The Urban Landscape” captures the vivid colors and textures of the city; from concert posters and flyers to hand-drawn sketches and works of art, these images show us the beauty, complexity, humor, and life found within the urban landscape, all without digital manipulation or retouching.

Several of her Urban Landscape photos are on display at the Blue Star Cafe throughout the month of April. There will be no artist reception, so please stop by sometime during the month to check out her work. You can also check out her website to see her full portfolio; and keep up with her comings and goings on her blog.

Blue Star Cafe & Pub
4512 Stone Way N
Seattle, WA 98103

The Blue Star is also a part of the Wallingford Art Walk, which is on the first Wednesday of every month, from May through October. Also look for "theme" months where we will feature the works of several different artists that fit into a selected theme!

Please check in with The Grapevine every month to learn about the latest featured artist. You can also sign up for my email newsletter, so you won't miss a thing!

If you would like to be a featured artist at the Blue Star, please send me an email, including some samples of your work. We encourage customers and friends of the Blue Star, and those in or near the Wallingford area to apply, as we like to keep this as a community event.