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 aguavino@gmail.com, 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.