Saturday, October 15, 2011

Penny Black - New Restaurant in Rochester, MI

Saturday, October 15, 2011


This past summer, my husband and I went to Penny Black, a new Rochester, Michigan, restaurant for the first time. Back then, the food was mediocre, at best. We were completely unimpressed and had no plans of returning. But as of October 10, it’s new all over again, with new ownership and management. And you just have to check it out!

The restaurant happens to be in Rochester’s original post office building, on the corner of Walnut and W. 4th Street in downtown. Thus the name, “Penny Black,” also the name of the world’s first adhesive postage stamp, issued by the U.K. in 1840. (I love historical tidbits.)

Anyway, a friend found out the restaurant was under new management, so I agreed to try it again. And I was pleasantly surprised. The menu of reasonably-priced lunches and dinners is appealing. I was tempted by the Shrimp Quesadilla with white bean dip and a cilantro oil drizzle and the Grilled Vegetable Entrée Salad. I settled for the Grilled Vegetable Salad and loved it. Next time I’m there for lunch, I’ll try the Shrimp Quesadilla.

This evening, when my husband and I were at Penny Black for dinner, I had the Atlantic Salmon, seared in an apple cider reduction, with sautéed herb potatoes and French green beans. The salmon was perfect, the green beans were nice and crisp and the potatoes were sautéed with diced red bell peppers – delish!

My husband had the Chicken Fajitas, which included the best Spanish rice I’ve ever had. It was moist and delicious, not the dry stuff that usually comes with fajitas. We also tried a side of Mac and Cheese, since it’s our granddaughter’s favorite dish. And I can honestly say it’s the best mac and cheese I’ve had anywhere in the Rochester area.

So if you ate at Penny Black before October 10, you simply must go again! It’s a whole new restaurant, and it’s well worth the trip. Oh, and they have live entertainment Thursday through Saturday nights. Penny Black is located at:



124 W. Fourth Street
Rochester, Mi 48307


The phone number is 248-841-1522. And they’re open from 11:00 AM ‘til 2:00 AM Monday through Saturday and from 11:00 AM ‘til midnight on Sunday. Here’s the website, where you’ll find the menus: http://www.pbrochester.com/

Enjoy!


Photo by: Sandy Laurence©
Title: Penny Black

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Sunday, October 9, 2011

Photographed My First Wedding

Sunday, October 9, 2011

About a month ago, I photographed my first wedding. No, I’m not a professional wedding photographer - far from it. I volunteered to do my niece’s wedding, because she and her fiancé wanted to keep the wedding small and simple and decided not to hire a photographer. And since I’ve taken pictures at family gatherings for as long as I can remember, I said I’d be happy to do so at her wedding.

I can’t begin to tell you how nervous I was. In preparation, I read “Wedding Photography - A Guide to Posing” by David Pearce, a fantastic book, and took some classes to better understand my complicated camera. And off I went to the wedding chapel.

The ceremony took place outdoors, in bright sunlight that was broken up by wood slats that formed a latticework ceiling of sorts over the seating area. It was a challenge avoiding the dark shadows cast on faces by those slats. Additionally, the guests’ chairs were set up on gravel, which crunched every time I moved around to get a particular shot. No matter how hard I tried to move during pauses in whatever was being said up front, I couldn’t avoid crunching the gravel.

After the ceremony, we had very little time for photos, because the reception dinner was to be at Vinology in Ann Arbor. And because U of M was playing Notre Dame that night, parking would be practically nonexistent. Incidentally, the food and service at Vinology was fantastic. But if you’re having an event there, don’t do it on a U of M game day – the cost of the dinner was doubled because of the game.

The reception photos proved to be easier than those taken of the ceremony. And when I reviewed the prints on my computer that night, I was pleased to find that they were better than I’d expected. But I have a lot of adjustments to make in Photoshop. Fortunately, I’m enrolled in a class at a local college to learn more about the software. But, for the time being, at least, I’m going to leave wedding photography to the pros.

Photo by: Sandy Laurence©
Title: Wedding

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Monday, September 12, 2011

Rochester Hills, Michigan, Apartment to Sub-Lease

Monday, September 12, 2011
Due to an unexpected job change, my sister-in-law, Kim, needs to move. The lease on her apartment ends on April 30, 2012, but she needs to be out on or before September 30. It’s a lower-level luxury apartment located at:

Village Green of Rochester Hills
1901 Village Green Boulevard
Rochester Hills, MI 48307

It’s a squeaky-clean 900 square-foot unit, with one bedroom, one bath, washer/dryer in unit, ceiling fan, new appliances and garden tub. Here’s a link to the floor plan:

http://www.villagegreen.com/Apartments/module/floorplan_organizer/floorplan_image[url]/49e7183173b80265.jpg/floorplan_scale[value]/1.17

Kim’s phone number is 734-578-7310. If you know anybody who’s looking for a charming and reasonable apartment in a great location (M-59 and Dequindre), give her a call.
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Friday, August 5, 2011

Update on Wen by Chaz Dean Hair Loss

Friday, August 5, 2011







Well, my last post was about how I’ve been losing hair since using Wen by Chaz Dean Sweet Almond Mint Cleansing Conditioner, even though I stopped using the stuff before the 24th of June. If anybody’s interested in seeing complaints from others who’ve lost hair after using Wen products, here are some links:

http://wen-haircare.pissedconsumer.com/wen-shampoo-made-my-hair-fall-out-20110122217733.html

http://wen-haircare.pissedconsumer.com/wen-cleansing-conditioner-causing-hair-loss-20101228213461.html

http://www.wenshampoo.org/wen-and-hair-loss.html

The last one listed is a blog on Wen's site that makes light of the problem. I left a comment about my hair loss, along with the FDA's phone number, and, of course, it wasn't published.

So what am I doing about this? A lot. I contacted the FDA (cosmetic area), as mentioned in my last post, at 888-723-3366 and filed a complaint. The person I spoke with seemed very interested and concerned about the issue. In fact, she also told me that anyone who’s had a problem with Wen products should save the bottles, because the FDA wants the expiration date and the lot number, if you file a complaint.

My bottle of cleansing conditioner had no expiration date on it, and the lot number is almost invisible. You’ll find it on the bottom of the dark brown-colored bottle. It’s NOT the tiny number on the bottom of the label. I had to use a magnifying glass, after a Wen employee told me where to look for it. It appears to be in black ink, and it’s very faint. At first, I told the woman that there was no number there. Why on earth would they make it so difficult to find the lot number? But trust me – it’s there. My lot number is T1088A.

I also wrote a letter to QVC, which sells Wen by Chaz Dean hair products, even though I didn’t buy the stuff from them. I explained what happened to me and told them that I’m working with the FDA. And I ended the letter by saying:

“At this point, I’m working with the FDA, hoping it will eventually require warning labels on Wen products. And I would think it advisable for you to require warnings, as well, since it’s inconceivable that you would knowingly expose even a small percentage of your customers to unexpected hair loss.”

In response to that letter, I got a call from QVC’s Office of the President, asking if they could forward the letter to their buyers and a vice president. The woman who called had me on the phone for at least 15 minutes and said they would be looking into my claims. I also gave them the websites above.

Finally, I visited my dermatologist, who said that she’d never heard of some of the ingredients listed on the bottle. So she can’t speculate on which one caused the hair loss. She told me to start taking Biotin and to come back in two months to see if the hair loss has stopped.

I still can’t believe that Wen doesn’t warn people that some percentage, however small, of its customers will lose their hair. All I want at this point is for Wen to put a warning about hair loss on its label. It would also be nice if they’d identify the ingredient that they suspect is causing the problem. But to do that would be an admission that they’ve ignored their customers’ best interests in favor of profits. If my hair continues to fall out, you can bet I’ll be talking with Wen again.

Photo by: Sandy Laurence©






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Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Jaguar XJL - Better than Sex!

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Maybe I shouldn’t listen to audio books in the car anymore. Because how could I have failed to notice the Jaguar XJL? Two days ago, I saw it for the first time, and it took my breath away. Just look at that back end, those taillights and the jaguar leaping across the trunk. I haven’t been this excited about a car in years! (Back in my early 20s, I lusted after the Jaguar XKE. But that was probably as much about the guy across the street who drove one, as it was about the car.)

Anyway, this magnificent machine is absolutely beautiful, and it has all the muscle I need in its 385 horsepower 5.0L V8. I think it looks best in black, but I like the dark blue, too. The interior is fantastic, with all kinds of extras. But it was the sleek exterior styling that made me wish I was a car thief. The only drawback, aside from the price, is the mileage – only 16 in the city and 23 on the highway. But that’s a small price to pay for something this smokin’ hot.

Alas, I’ll be driving it only in my dreams, because the XJL costs $80,000. I always swore that even if I became wealthy, I’d never pay that kind of money for a vehicle. But this car has made me realize just how narrow-minded I’ve been. Now I’m going to start looking for a job again. Age discrimination be damned – I’m coming out of retirement. I want an XJL!

Now you’ll have to excuse me while I take a cold shower!


Photo by: natetherobot©
Title: Jaguar XJ
http://www.flickr.com/photos/34888294@N02/4338872050/

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Monday, July 11, 2011

My Hair Fell Out After Using Wen by Chaz Dean!

Monday, July 11, 2011

For years, I’d heard good things about the hair products from Wen by Chaz Dean. Well, last month I decided to try it, and I ordered the Sweet Almond Mint Cleansing Conditioner. It arrived, on June 10 or 11, and I used it within a couple of days. I was very happy with the initial result. My hair was much less frizzy, even in the hot and humid weather we were having. And it looked great.

Unfortunately, about two weeks after using the stuff, I started noticing more hair than usual in my brushes. It seemed odd to me, but I wasn’t overly concerned. Then, as the days went on, there were long hairs all over my shoulders. Starting to suspect the Wen product, I decided to do a little research on the internet.

That’s how I discovered that hair loss is a known problem with some Wen products. When I called to cancel future shipments, the guy asked me why I was cancelling. Then, after I told him about the hair loss and asked why they don’t have a warning label on the products, he quickly turned me over to a ”specialist”. She asked me when the hair loss started and if it had stopped yet. She told me to stop using the product and that they’d immediately credit my account for the shipment that was enroute to me. She never admitted that the Company is aware of the problem. I’m guessing their attorneys don’t want it discussed with the victims.

Well, this is crap! For Wen to completely ignore this is unconscionable. I realize that not everybody loses hair from Wen products. But there are enough of us who have lost hair to require, at the very least, a warning on the label. And, for starters, we should also get our money back.

Here’s what you can do: Call the FDA (cosmetic area) at 888-723-3366 and file a complaint. In my case, the woman at that number directed me to the local FDA person in the Detroit metro area. If you’re in southeastern Michigan, that number is 313-393-8189. We shouldn’t put up with this kind of corporate disregard for our health and wellbeing. By ignoring all the complaints, Wen is acting like the Toyota of the cosmetics industry. And it’s got to stop!

Photo by: SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget©
Title: Woman Washing Her Hair
Location: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hygienematters/4505231340/

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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Costco Carpet - Not Such a Good Deal

Wednesday, July 6, 2011




Let me start by saying that I absolutely love Costco. It stands behind its products, is an excellent employer and is a good corporate citizen. But we learned to be very careful when buying carpeting, which is sold from one of the kiosks that are lined up on the way out of the stores. Our first experience with a product from a kiosk was window treatments. We bought Hunter Douglas blinds last year and were very satisfied with the product and the price. So, when we decided to get new carpeting, we went back to the Costco kiosks. We were in for quite a surprise.

The way Costco sells carpeting is through “designers” with whom it contracts. The designers go to a customer’s home, measure and help the customer select an appropriate carpet. In our case, the first problem was that our designer over-measured our carpeting by 405 square feet! For those of you who aren’t paying attention, that’s a 20’ x 20’ room! And as she measured, she mentioned that she’d won awards for her measuring. I’ll bet.

Then she detailed the $13,600 cost, which included $39 per room for moving a maximum of five pieces of furniture; $400 for labor on the stairs (curved staircase), $115 for the staircase spindles and $1,168 to remove our existing carpeting. Oh, and they tacked on a $10 fuel charge. Wouldn’t you think that on an almost $14,000 order, they could waive their stinking fuel charge?

Needless to say, we didn’t get the carpeting from Costco. We spoke with an owner of a local floor covering store, and he told us that he’d had other customers complain that a Costco designer had over-measured their homes. (The over-measuring may be a problem in this area only – we don’t know.) Anyway, we ended up getting comparable carpeting for almost $3,000 less from Georgia Quality Carpet Outlet in Holly, MI (http://www.georgiaqualitycarpetoutlet.com/). So if you need carpeting, check out Georgia Carpet’s website. If they have what you want, call their installer, Bill O’Neal, at 810-234-8318. He’ll give you an even better price than you’ll get in the store.

So now I’m wondering if Costco compares actual carpet purchases with customer appointments booked. I suspect that Costco’s designers’ rip-off installation fees and, if applicable, over-measuring could be driving potential customers away. Hey, Costco, it might be beneficial to know what percentage of appointments result in a sale. This time, you might be in for a surprise.

Photo by: Sandy Laurence©

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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Lunch at Lobdell's In Traverse City - Yum!

Sunday, June 26, 2011
Have plans to visit Traverse City in northern Michigan between now and July 28? Don’t miss an opportunity to experience gourmet lunches at Northwest Michigan College’s Great Lakes Campus. The restaurant, Lobdell’s, is run by culinary students under the supervision of Chef/Instructor, Joel Papcun, and Dining Room Coordinator, Patty Huhta.

It features regional bistro cuisine, or upscale casual dining, where lighter fare is offered, using local products whenever possible. The restaurant, located at 715 East Front Street in Traverse City, sits a mere 67 feet from the Bay, where you can enjoy both the excellent cuisine and the outstanding view. It’s open from 11:30 AM until 2:00 PM Tuesday through Friday, except for July 5, when it will be closed.

This is the first time Lobdell’s has been open during the summer, and it’s been a huge success. So don’t go without a reservation, because it sells out every day. It’s that good! Call 231-995-3120 for your reservation – you’ll be glad you did! I’ve been there twice and loved it.
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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Let’s Stop Catering to Attention Whores

Sunday, June 19, 2011



So now the asshole from Gainesville, Florida – the so-called pastor, who burned the Quran – is back in town to make trouble again. I’m not a violent person; in fact, I abhor violence. But I fear that I would feel nothing upon hearing that someone beat the hell out of Terry Jones, the idiot in question. How dare he come to Dearborn, the home of Michigan’s largest Arab population, to march and condemn Muslims during the Arab International Festival? What possible good can come of it?

The twisted pastor is here for one reason – his picture will be on the front pages of local newspapers, and that surely makes this attention whore’s private parts tingle. But it makes me absolutely ill. What’s wrong with us? We know how to stop people like Terry Jones - turn off the damned cameras! Attention whores wither and die when cameras and reporters disappear.

Everybody knows their game. We’ve all worked with them, people who have to be in the middle of everything all the time. And in every office or plant, there’s a rabble rouser – somebody who isn’t content unless they’re stirring up shit. They don’t worry about the consequences or who they hurt, they just thrive on the tension they create and the resulting attention they get. We have to stop feeding their narcissism.

We need to grow up and turn away from these walking human car wrecks. Don’t give them what they want. They’re ignorant malcontents who aren’t satisfied unless they’ve gotten everybody inflamed. Walk away! And don’t watch Fox News, master of distortion and leader of the attention whore media. Fox News loves the feeding frenzy. Ignore Terry Jones, and he’ll crawl back under the rock from which he slithered.

Photo by: M.V. Jantzen©
Title: Pastor in Black Leather
Location: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mvjantzen/5495632992/

License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/deed.en

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Out of Time - Too Many Interests

Sunday, May 15, 2011

April and May are my busiest months of the year. That’s because I try to get all the required Master Gardener volunteer and education hours completed during those months. (Yes, the woman who hates working outside in Michigan’s hot and steamy summer weather is a Master Gardener.) Then, for the rest of the year, I can pursue my other interests and volunteer assignments without concern over whether I’ll be re-certified by the county M.G. folks.

Well, that often leads to conflicts, like this one. Yesterday, I showed up at a gardening center to report for my 1:00 – 5:00 volunteer shift. I didn’t see the Master Gardener info table in its usual place, but it was raining, and I figured it had been moved inside. So I went in search of the owner to see where I was supposed to be. When she saw me, she laughed and told me that I’d shown up on the wrong weekend!

But I knew I had an assignment for yesterday, so I drove home to check my planner (thankfully, it wasn’t far). And I saw that I was supposed to be at a local hardware store’s garden center instead, and that I was now 20 minutes late. So I flew to the hardware store. As I was driving, it occurred to me that I’d recently committed to volunteering at a farmer’s market the same weekend that I’m supposed to be at the other garden center. Plus, because it’s my husband’s birthday that day, we were supposed to go out to dinner that evening.

So, because I don’t back out of commitments, I’ll be showing up at the farmer’s market at 8:00 a.m. and working ‘til noon. Then I’ll head over to the garden center for the afternoon shift. And we’ll go out for dinner another evening. It’s a good thing that the Mr. is easy going about stuff like this. He’s already proven that, since we never did celebrate his birthday last year. It kept getting put off, until it became silly to continue rescheduling it. Yes, everyone close to me suffers during April and May.

Photo by Sandy Laurence©
Title: Boyne Garden
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Monday, May 9, 2011

Caring for Your Cockatiel

Monday, May 9, 2011
So you have a new cockatiel! Well, I used to breed parakeets, then cockatiels and then lovebirds and have learned a few things about having birds as pets. Whenever someone bought one of my cockatiel babies, I gave him or her a handout similar to what I’ve written below. I hope this info helps you raise a healthy and happy cockatiel!

Health and Safety

• Keep a night light on for your bird. Cockatiels may “thrash” in the dark. That is, they flap their wings and fly into the sides of their cages. This can result in broken blood feathers, which can be very serious. (The experts don’t know what sets the birds off, but it can be as insignificant as a shadow from an outside light or even an insect, like a spider.)

• If your bird breaks a blood feather, use styptic powder (brand name: Qwik Stop) to stop the bleeding. If you’re unable to stop the bleeding, you’ll have to identify the broken feather and use tweezers or needle-nose pliers, depending on the size of the bird, to pull the feather shaft out from as close to the base as possible. Then put styptic powder on the wound. (Although I’m not aware of other birds that thrash like cockatiels do, any bird can break a blood feather. So you should always have styptic powder on hand.)

• As with all pet birds, keep yours out of any drafts and avoid severe temperature changes.

• All birds spend a good part of their day sleeping off and on. However, if your bird is “fluffed up” with its eyes closed most of the time, it is ill, and you should see an avian veterinarian. In the Detroit metro area, I recommend Dr. Julie Cappel of Warren Woods Veterinary Hospital (586-751-3350). (Most vets recommend an annual check-up for pet birds.)

• If you use non-stick cookware (Teflon, T-Fal, Silverstone, etc.), do not keep your bird in the kitchen! If any of these surfaces becomes very hot or burns in the process of cooking, the fumes could kill your bird instantly. The safest thing is to not use that kind of cookware.

• Many plants are toxic to birds, so it’s best to keep all plants away from them.

• Many fumes and the accelerant in aerosol sprays are toxic to birds, as well. Air fresheners, cleaning solutions and combustion fumes to name a few, can kill your bird. It’s best to remove the bird from the house, or at least put it a few rooms away, when using chemicals.


Nutrition

You can contribute to your bird’s longevity by feeding it properly. In the wild, cockatiels eat insects, grasses and other greens, seed, fruits and vegetables. When we feed our birds only seed, they become malnourished. The following are some of the recommended foods:

• Vegetables – just about anything is fine – broccoli, celery leaves, beans (all types), squash, carrots, sprouts. Avoid onions.

• Fruits – apples, grapes, pears, bananas, kiwi, most berries, including cranberries, oranges (infrequently, because of the acidity), raisins, etc. Avoid avocado, since parts of it are toxic to birds.

• Grains – whole wheat bread, pasta, rice (preferably brown rice, which is more nutritious), cornbread, cereals (Cheerios, Rice Krispies, Cream of Wheat, Oatmeal). Avoid sweet cereals.

• Protein – eggs (hard-boiled or scrambled with very little fat), chicken (not fried), fish.

• Of course, change your bird’s water daily or more often, if necessary. They may put food in the water or get droppings in it, which could lead to bacterial growth and illness. Also, always keep seed or pellets available to your bird.

Since cockatiels don’t eat much, put only small amounts of fresh food in the cage, and remove it within a few hours to prevent bacterial growth.

The “people” food choices are practically endless (avoid fried foods). Your cockatiel may seem uninterested in what you put in its cage, but keep trying. Eventually, the bird will play with the food and taste some in the process. Then it just might decide to eat more of it.

There are also many excellent pelleted bird foods available, including Zupreem, Harrison’s, and Roudybush. Check with an avian vet for a recommendation. Pellets provide much more nutrition than seed, so I encourage you to provide them.

Seed is like the “McDonalds” of bird food. Still, some experts recommend feeding limited amounts of seed, along with pellets and fresh foods. For my rescue birds, who were fed only seed before they came to me, I buy Kaytee or Sun Seed mixes that have little or no sunflower seeds, which are high in fat. I do sprout sunflower seeds, however, by soaking them overnight, draining the next day and leaving them in a collander for a day or two to sprout. In this form, sunflower seeds are nutritious. I also soak soft wheat (available at feed and health food stores) the same way. They love this.

Do NOT give your bird – any bird – chocolate! It can be deadly.

Many bird owners supplement their pets’ diets with vitamins. If your bird eats soft foods, such as rice or vegetables, you can buy powdered vitamins and mineral supplements to sprinkle on that food. If it becomes strictly a seed-eater, you can buy liquid vitamins to add to its water. But if the bird eats a variety of fresh fruits, veggies and some protein, it won’t necessarily need vitamins. An avian vet can check the bird’s vitamin levels.

Training

Many cockatiels can be taught to talk. Usually, males learn to talk more easily and quickly than females. However, many females do talk, and many males don’t. If you want to teach your bird to talk, it’s important that you begin when it is very young.

Start with a simple two- or three-word phrase. Consonants are easier for birds to pronounce, so phrases like “Pretty bird” are good first words. Begin by putting your pet on your finger or a perch held at about your chest level and softly repeating the words over and over again for about 15 minutes.

Do this twice a day, if possible, making the session pleasant for the bird by speaking in a soothing voice and petting it occasionally. Many cockatiels will begin repeating your words within a few weeks; however, some take longer, so don’t give up. If your bird doesn’t talk after months of training, it may never learn. So just enjoy it for the great pet it has become and consider teaching it to whistle.

Cockatiels are excellent at imitating our whistling. Whistle a favorite song repeatedly when you’re around your bird, and it will start imitating the tune. One of mine whistled “Jingle Bells,” and another did “Sweet Georgia Brown.”

Miscellaneous

Birds, like any animals, can become challenging or frustrating at times. For example, sometimes during the spring, sexually mature birds may be “nippy” with their owners. This is natural and will usually pass within a few weeks. Never strike or in any way hurt a pet bird, because it’s not only cruel and ineffective – they also never forget it.

If your bird develops an attitude, the first thing to do is clip its wings, if they’ve grown out. Have a veterinarian show you how to clip the flight feathers. I recommend keeping the wings clipped at all times for both behavior and safety reasons. Full-flighted birds tend to be more independent, because they don’t need you to help them get around. Clipping the flight feathers usually makes them a little less likely to act up.

Also, a full-flighted bird can fly out an open door or window or off your shoulder, if you forget it’s there and walk outside. Or it could fly into a window, ceiling fan or something cooking on the stove, with disastrous results.

If the aggressive behavior persists after the wings have been clipped, you’ll need to try some corrective measures. Immediately after any unacceptable behavior, say “NO!” firmly, but not too loudly, and return the bird to its cage. After about 10 minutes, let it out again. If the behavior continues, repeat the process. Don’t shout or scream at the bird, because that will just make it become more riled. Plus, they tend to repeat behavior that results in a dramatic response, especially if they don’t get much regular attention.

With some of my birds, I used a “time-out” box. Save a box that’s just large enough so that the bird can flap its wings without touching the sides, and its head doesn’t hit the top. When the bird misbehaves, say “NO!” and tell it that it’s going in the box. Then place the bird on some paper or paper towel on the floor or other flat surface, and put the box on top of it. Birds don’t like being confined in a dark place and will usually straighten out to avoid it. Never leave your bird in the box for more than a few minutes – I limited it to five minutes. And I did this with only one bird, an Eclectus parrot that was going through the “terrible twos” and was biting. So this is something I used only in a severe case of misbehavior.

These are just suggestions. Hopefully, you won’t ever need to use any of them. Cockatiels are people-oriented and get very attached to their owners. If properly cared for, they don’t usually exhibit behavior problems.

There is a wealth of information available from breeders, in books on cockatiels and on the internet. I recommend that every bird owner purchase a book on the breed they’ve chosen. And if you have questions on anything not covered here, feel free to email me at: SLaurence50@gmail.com.

Photo by: hddod©
Title: Cockatiel
http://www.flickr.com/photos/hddod/69054930/
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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Repotting an Orchid in a Hurry

Sunday, February 27, 2011

I used to love growing orchids, watching them come back into bloom season after season, in spite of being under-watered and under-fertilized. That’s right – I’m not a good orchid mom. My 36 plants are under lights in the basement, and sometimes I can almost hear them screaming out for water. I feel guilty about the half-assed care they get during the winter. All summer long, they’re out on the deck, getting watered pretty much every day and fertilized now and then. And until a few years ago, I used to be diligent about their care while in the basement. But I lost my enthusiasm a few summers ago, when the plants came back into the house in October with an entomologist’s dream assortment of bugs.

First, of course, there were tons of spiders of all types and sizes (and I don’t like spiders). I even brought a few huge orb weavers in. Then the phalaenopsis orchids were full of mealy bugs, which I can’t stand, because they’re very difficult to get rid of without strong chemicals. Next came the aphids on about half of the orchids (not on the phals). And this year, we have a new problem – scale insects. And they do like the phalaenopsis.

Well, the other night, I decided to water the orchids. It had been over a week since I’d watered them. One pot was so incredibly heavy every time I carried it to the sink for water that I dreaded picking it up. I knew that the pot itself was too deep and too thick, which made it heavy. But I also suspected that the orchid bark had long ago broken down into rich compost. (Yes, it had been years since I’d repotted that plant. I already told you I’m an orchid abuser!)

Anyway, I couldn’t take its suffering any longer, so I decided – at 1:30 AM to repot that orchid before watering the rest of them. I was tired, and I just wanted to get the orchid out of the pot to see what was going on. And what a mess it was. The roots were just sitting on top of old orchid bark that had almost completely broken down. I had to either use most of my supply of new bark to fill that big pot or find something to take up space in the bottom of it.

Since I’d bought orchids that had those styrofoam packing “popcorns” at the bottom of the pots, I figured I’d take some out of the boxes I’d received in the mail and use them to fill up that too-deep pot. And I thought I was SO clever! I covered the popcorns with orchid bark, buried the roots and watered the plant. To my amazement, when I lifted the pot out of the sink, there was all this white goo floating around the drain. For an instant, I was puzzled . . . and disgusted at the sight of it. But within seconds, I realized that I’d used those environmentally-friendly popcorn things, and they disintegrate when wet.

So now my plant is slowly sinking in the pot, as the white slime slips out the bottom, into the saucer. And I have to repot the damned thing again, only the right way this time. Anyone want some buggy orchids?

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

I Finally Have a Kindle!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

I’ve wanted a Kindle since the day they came out. And when Amazon lowered the price to $139, I decided to get one as a consolation gift to myself, after selling our weekend place in northern Michigan. My plan was to buy the Kindle after we closed on the sale of the house. And since we were just weeks away from closing, I was excitedly anticipating my purchase. So I went to Amazon.com to compare the $139 model to the one for $189, which my son had told me was the one he preferred. He said something about WiFi not being the best option for downloading new material while away from home. That’s because I’d have to depend on somebody nearby having a public network that I could use. He told me to get the more expensive 3G model, but I planned on going with the cheaper one. I’d just download from home.

Well, a few days later, my husband brought an Amazon.com box into the house with the mail. I hadn’t been expecting anything, so I figured it was a backorder or something I’d forgotten about. But when I opened the box, I saw another box inside, with “Kindle” printed on it. I slammed the box shut as if I’d seen a ghost and quickly set it aside. My husband asked what was wrong, and I mumbled something about not remembering that I’d ordered that item.

Now this had me concerned. I’d been forgetting names of people when I ran into them in public and momentarily losing a word I wanted to use, but this was different. How could I not know that I’d placed an online order? And what’s next – making phone calls and not remembering? Forgetting where I’m going, or, worse yet, how to get home? I started thinking it was time to see a neurologist. It had to be a brain tumor! In the meantime, I didn’t touch the box again for a few days, intending to return it, in the event the sale of the house fell through.

Then, as I was worrying about my mental health, my son called to ask if I’d received a package from Amazon. It turns out that he’d gotten a promotion at work and decided to buy me the more expensive Kindle as a gift! I was SO surprised and so very touched by his generosity. But I was also uncomfortable about accepting something that cost $189 from my son, even though he could easily afford it. You see, my father pounded it into his children’s heads that we shouldn’t expect or accept anything from anyone. As children, my siblings and I used to try to return the small amounts of money that our grandparents gave us on special occasions. And even though, as an adult, I realize just how ridiculous that was, I still have difficulty accepting gifts, especially substantial ones like this.

But, happily, I’m handling it. And I absolutely love my Kindle! Even more important, though, is my relief at realizing that I’m not losing my mind. At least, not yet!

Photo by Sandy Laurence ©


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The Little Neighborhood Boy


A neighbor called yesterday to say that her little boy, who’s going on five, was on his way over to bring me a small coconut shell. They had enjoyed coconut-flavored Island Way Sorbet after lunch, and she told her son that I sometimes use coconut shells as toys for my parrots. (Island Way Sorbet is a delicious frozen treat that comes packaged in nature’s own containers.)

When the little guy arrived, I thanked him for the shell, and we talked a while, as he explored the kitchen. Then, as I knew he would, he asked if he could go to the basement, where I keep some of my grown son’s toys for visiting kids to use. He wanted to select a few Matchbox cars to play with at home. Of course, I told him he could. I was busy in the kitchen, so my husband took him downstairs. And when they came back up, my little buddy showed me the three cars that he was taking home. We talked for a few more minutes and said “good-bye” as he walked toward the door.

But just as I turned back to the sink to finish cleaning vegetables, he ran up behind me, put his arms around my waist and hugged me. Naturally, I turned around and hugged him back. I kissed the top of his head and then walked him to the door. I noticed his darling three-year-old sister coming to meet him in the yard and told them that I’d watch them as they walked home. But before they got more than 20 feet away, the boy ran back and called, “Miss Sandy!” And he blew me a kiss. Now if that isn’t enough to melt your heart, I don’t know what is!
Photo by: Ernst Vikne ©
Title: Yummy
http://www.flickr.com/photos/iboy/5442925234/in/pool-childrensportraits

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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Crime Doesn't Pay - Stealing Wild Flowers

Thursday, January 6, 2011


A former employer owns a large piece of wooded land that lies adjacent to its facility. The acreage is completely wild, with a river running through it and all kinds of animals and beautiful wild flowers. Fortunately for the employees, the Company had three walking paths made through the area, so that we could get some exercise and fresh air on lunch hours. I absolutely loved those woods, because once I hit the gravel, the tension from work just evaporated. On nice days, there were lots of people walking, running or eating lunch on the benches that were placed in scenic areas. And for a couple of years, I walked those paths two or three times a week through spring, summer and fall.

Part of the attraction for me was the abundance of beautiful shade-loving wild flowers, including Jack-in-the-pulpit, Mayapple, Tiger Lily, Trillium, Trout Lily, Lily-of-the-Valley and more. Oh, how I wanted some of those flowers in my yard. Unfortunately, in Michigan, it’s illegal to dig up wild flowers. But, I’m ashamed to say, I packed a brown lunch bag with a trowel and a Ziplock bag with a wet paper towel inside it to keep the roots happy. And my walking partner and I hit the woods, looking like we were going to have lunch out there.

When we got to the various areas where we wanted to dig up flowers, we’d listen for other walkers, as I dug up what I wanted. Every few minutes, I’d have to stop, hurry over to the bench and act like I was getting ready to pull a sandwich out of my lunch bag. When the coast was clear again, I’d resume my covert operation. I rationalized that I was just moving them to another wooded area, as our yard backs up to woods that separate our sub from the one north of us. And I knew that I’d take excellent care of those plants. So what harm would come from my crime?

That evening, after work, I lovingly planted those wild flowers in my yard, in the shade just beyond the trees at the edge of the woods. And by the next morning, most of the Trillium flowers had been chopped off by sharp little teeth. I don’t know for sure if it was the deer or the groundhog family that we suspected lived under our deck. By the next day, the rest of the Trillium flowers were gone, as well as some of the other transplants. All that remain today, more than 10 years later, are the Lilies of the Valley.

Forget about turning me in – I’m sure the statute of limitations on wild flower theft has run out. And I learned my lesson. I’ll never do it again. But I think I’ll sneak back into those woods again this spring, because I’d like to see that spectacular wild flower show just one more time.

Photo by: yuki_september©
Title: Lily of the valley
http://www.flickr.com/photos/yuki_sept/4580512369/
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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year - Pull Out Those Guns!!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

What’s happening to this country? I live in an upscale Detroit suburb, a neighborhood where, for the most part, neighbors coexist peacefully and life is good. In the 15 years that I’ve been in this house, there’s been only a smattering of guns fired on New Year’s Eve. I used to think it was a few drunken idiots doing what idiots do. But last night made my blood run cold. I heard so many guns firing that our sub could’ve competed with the worst areas of Detroit. It made me sick. I wouldn’t even let the dog out until 1:00 a.m., fearing she’d get shot. WTF?!

This country is alone in the industrialized world in promoting the widespread ownership of firearms. I won’t even talk about the gun lobby, because I’m not a violent person, but my wishes for those twisted people are definitely from my dark side. We are going to regret caving in to them 100 times over. Just think about what’s going on here.

I’m constantly hearing how just about anyone can buy a gun. There are exposes on TV shows about how individuals get caught selling guns to people without permits, or in one case that I saw recently, without even a driver’s license. Individuals apparently don’t have to do background checks, so any nut case can get a gun.

And what’s a typical gun buyer like? The NRA would tell you it’s a law-abiding citizen trying to protect his or her property. Bull shit! Have you gone into a gun shop or sporting goods store to see what kind of people are looking at guns? I’d love to see detailed stats on gun buyers, because I believe they’re largely uneducated people, many of whom surely have personality issues (anger, obsessive-compulsive, paranoia, post traumatic stress disorder from the horrors of war, etc., etc.). Are those the people you want walking around with guns? Spend a little time at a gun counter, especially one in a more rural location. It’ll open your eyes.

Of course, the typical gun owner is male, although plenty of women are succumbing to the gun lobby’s scare tactics. To a lot of men, guns are power. And it’s the best ever phallic symbol. Hell, if you have a gun, you don’t need any enhancements, if you know what I mean. It gives some of them that “mine’s bigger than yours” warm and cozy feeling. And it allows them to be the shoot ‘em up cowboy of their childhood whenever they feel the urge.

I know of people who have three guns within reach at all times in their homes. And they live in decent neighborhoods. What in hell are they preparing for? If they’re going to get robbed, it’s most likely to be when they’re not at home. And guess what’ll end up stolen – yep, their weapons, so that the thieves can use them to commit other crimes.

Obviously, most of these guns aren’t for hunting – they’re strictly intended to use on people. That’s not to say I think hunting is fine. For me, unless your family doesn’t have enough food, and you’re hunting to put meat on the table, it’s wrong. Some Christians say that God put animals on earth for us to use. So he created bears, so that you can mount a bear head on your wall? Yeah, that makes sense to me. I wonder how your God will judge you for killing his creatures because you think blowing them away is a “sport.” I’d love to hear that conversation.

Finally, Michigan’s become known for its crack-pot militia groups. Have you ever read or watched an interview with any of those people? That’ll keep you awake nights. Yes, we’re going to regret that the gun lobby has prevailed, when the original right to bear arms was because we lived in a newly-settled and uncivilized land. Back then, the guns protected and fed the settlers. Now the citizens need to be protected from the guns. God help us.
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