Favorite Thing Friday: Wisconsin Wildlife

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After a four year absence, I was finally able to get back to my roots in the Northwoods of Wisconsin last week. I spent most of my childhood years playing in the snow, traipsing through the forest, and swimming in pristine lakes. There’s no place like it on earth and I feel so privileged to know it’s beauty firsthand.

While the trees, lakes, wildflowers, and marshes all lend to the region’s rustic beauty, the presence of wildlife alongside human settlement has always been a source of amazement for me. Northern Wisconsin is peppered with a number of small towns, (most with populations of just a few hundred), with large expanses of state and national forests in between. These forests are filled with everything from deer, bald eagles, bears, and rodents. Throughout my life I’ve had honor of seeing these animals in their natural habitat.

My recent trip up north was no exception when it came to experiencing wildlife.  I’ll be frank and admit that I was worried I had lost my touch in spotting animals through the trees and thick leaves. I live in the city where finding animals isn’t a necessary skill and it’s been a long time since I’ve thought of the “rules” my grandparents and aunt and uncle had taught me as a child.

  • Rule#1: Be quiet and listen.  Rustling leaves can mean a bird or small animal like a squirrel. A dull thud is something larger like a deer. Large rustling and a deeper thud might mean something larger like a bear. A hollow thud up high means a woodpecker is around!
  • Rule #2: Don’t make sudden movements. Move slowly so as to not frighten animals away or trigger an attack out of fear (this is particularly true of bears).
  • Rule #3: Keep your eyes open. Wherever you hear sound scan the area carefully. Animals tend to blend into the background, but if you look hard enough you’ll see them.

Within the first hour of arriving in Wisconsin, my worries were immediately put to rest. On the ride from the airport alone, I saw six deer! Every day after that, my list of wildlife sightings only grew. Luckily, I had my camera with me for some of these sightings.

In Land O’Lakes, on Big Portage Lake Road I spotted a large Red-Headed Woodpecker.

Thump! Thump! Thump! A woodpecker at work.
Photo by: c.b.w. 2013

Walking along Bearskin Trail near Minocqua, I saw a number of little critters:

A chipmunk nibbling on his dinner.

Nom, nom, nom. A chipmunk feast.
Photo by: c.b.w. 2013

A mother duck swimming with her brood of 10 chicks. Look through the two big trees to see them.

Momma duck and her chicks go out for a swim.
Photo by: c.b.w. 2013

A robin clutching an earthworm.

A robin clutches a tasty worm.
Photo by: c.b.w. 2013

A woodpecker (I’m not sure of the species).

Another woodpecker hammers away!
Photo by: c.b.w. 2013

While staying at my uncle and aunt’s cabin near Boulder Junction, I was lucky enough to see a nest of quail eggs and a cute painted turtle hanging out on a log on the lake.

Little quails waiting to hatch.
Photo by: c.b.w. 2013

A sunbathing turtle!
Photo by: c.b.w. 2013

Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera handy for the following sightings:

  • 1 gray wolf. This was an unbelievable sighting and I still can’t believe I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. He was beautiful.
  • More than 20 deer, including a mother with her spotted fawn.
  • 4 loons
  • 2 turkey vultures
  • 2 leopard frogs
  • 1 toad
  • 1 rabbit
  • Countless chipmunks and squirrels (I know they are everywhere, but they are soooo cute!)
  • Fish jumping to catch bugs
  • Dragonflies
  • 1 bald eagle
  • 4 different varieties of owls
  • 3 different varieties of hawks

The Northwoods of Wisconsin will always have a special place in my heart, as will all the beautiful creatures that roam through the trees and lakes.

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What is your favorite thing this week?

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c.b.w. 2013

Favorite Thing Friday: Vinegar

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Yes, vinegar is my favorite thing this week. I actually had fun cleaning the house this week after discovering vinegar is a fantastic natural cleanser.

It all started on Pinterest where I found a post about using vinegar and Dawn soap to clean stubborn stains in the bathtub. To my shock and awe, the concoction actually worked! Hard water stains I swore were permanently embedded in the bottom of my shower disappeared after a short soak and a few swipes with a scrub brush.  I don’t think my shower has ever looked so good.

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Then, I went to clean my kitchen counters and I realized I was out of spray cleaner. I pulled out what was left of the vinegar I bought for the bathtub  and mixed 1½ cups of water with 1 cup of vinegar in a spray bottle.

Miracle cleanser: vinegar and water!

Everything from my counters, bathroom sinks, toilets, and floors came out sparkling clean. I even put vinegar to the ultimate test of cleaning my kitchen tile grout. The dirt came up within in seconds. Like the shower, my kitchen floor has never looked better.

Not only have I been spending way to much money on mainstream cleaning supplies, but I’ve been putting more elbow grease into removing stains than necessary. After cleaning my entire house with a little vinegar and water, I can honestly say I will never buy another bottle of Windex or all-purpose spray cleaner again!

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What is your favorite thing this week?

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c.b.w. 2013

Wreck This Journal: Smile

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The last few Wreck This Journal posts highlighted some critical epiphanies, so I thought it was time to be a little more lighthearted.  There are several blank pages in the journal, which I’ve decided are there for me to experiment with my own ideas.  On one of those blank pages I created a little shrine for a few things in life that make me happy.  Aside from family, friends, and a slew of other little joys, these are some of my favorite things that keep me smiling:

The curve of the book makes it hard to read so I’ll fill in a few blanks!

Books . . . make me think.  I’ve had a book in my hand every since I was little girl.  To this day, a lot of my free time is spent reading everything from literature, mainstream, YA, and historical non-fiction.  It’s a passion!  Every evening, I look forward to time with a good book.

Chocolate . . . is a food group (I swear it is).  This will probably be my undoing, but I can’t resist that sweet, smooth, and delectable treat.  It’s almost like I have a relationship with this stuff, (especially Reese’s Peanut Butter cups!).

Movies . . . remind me to dream.  I go to the movies almost every weekend ($5 on Sunday mornings!) and I have a massive DVD collection in my home.  And never mind, what I keep on my iPod!  I love just about every genre as long as its well-made, original, fun, or thought provoking.  Movies take me to another place and let my imagination go crazy.

TV . . . is both good and bad.  I only watch a handful of shows, but once or twice a week I’m glued to the TV.  After a long day of work or a hard day of writing, my brain needs a break!  Currently, I’m watching Big Bang Theory, Person of Interest, The Office (sometimes), Once Upon a Time, and Psych.

Crosswords . . . keep me searching for the right words.  Every day after work, I sit down with a bowl of cereal and complete a crossword puzzle.  It’s relaxing and it keeps my mind sharp.  As a writer, I’m fascinated by words and I think its incredibly important to always keep my inner dictionary fresh and updated.

Music . . . is my emotional soundtrack.  My iPod is never more than a couple feet away from me.  It’s filled with playlists for every mood, writing project, or event in my life.  Some of my playlists include: At the Movies, Bluesy Rock, BritFolk, Cheese Factory (essentially this is guilty pleasure music that is cheesy beyond belief), Christmas, Classical, Rainy Day, Running Music, If I Could Dance, Easy Listening, Feel Good Mix, and Feelin’ Fierce.  There’s many more, but this is already sounding a bit crazy!

Barnes & Noble Cafe . . . makes me smile and gives me a place to relax.  Yes, I actually cut apart my coffee cup and pasted it to the page! I spend anywhere from 3 to 4 evenings a week at my local Barnes & Noble.  I love the people, the coffee, and the atmosphere.  This is where I write, relax, and socialize.  It’s like a second home to me and I always look forward to walking through the doors.

What are your favorite things?

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For previous Wreck This Journal posts, please see my sidebar and tag cloud.

c.b. 2011