Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Audubon Nature Tour on the Cape Fear and Black Rivers

It was a perfect day for taking the planned Audubon Nature Cruise.  This is the first ecosystem we came upon which are former rice plantations (yes, there once was real Carolina rice which was supposed to be very fine).  In order to properly transport the lovely rice, they dredged the Cape Fear River which caused the Atlantic to intrude upstream and thus killed the rice industry!!  Cypress swamps had been chopped down to create these rice fields. The water was very high today because of the recent rain we have had and the high tide.  We did see egrets (snowy and great) and great blue herons and ospreys but off in a distance.

This was the railroad bridge that had to be lifted to let us up the Cape Fear River.  Unfortunately, there was no one there to lift it for about an hour (budget cuts) so we got an extra tour of the Brunswick River (which really isn't navigable most of the time).  The Brunswick is home to very large gars (fish) which are the preferred food of the local alligators (although we didn't see any).  So we had an extra hour on our tour which was nice.  There were no other boats or people or residences anywhere.

As we ventured up river, the landscape changed to one of cypress swamp.  The cypress have been cleared in the past so most of the cypress now are no more than 100 years old although there were some that were older.  

On the way back down the Black River (black because of the tannin in the water from all the decaying organic materials), the tide had gone down a bit and you can see the roots of the cypress trees and further down, you could see the "knees" as well sticking up in the water.

When we reached the furthest afield part of the cruise, our Audubon guide Andy did a wonderful demonstration/lecture on the ecosystems in the area.  He had lots of live specimens of the various bugs and small amphibians you might find as part of the food chain.  This was a potted purple pitcher plant.  The Wilmington area is known for its variety of carnivorous plants.  He explained that this is because of the nutrient poor acid soil in the region.  This area is the only area in the world where the Venus Flytrap is indigenous.

I would recommend this trip to anyone who wants to get a feel for what the natural world in SE North Carolina is like  -- it changes your perspective when gazing out car windows and makes you thankful that this area hasn't been destroyed like much of the swampland in the Northeast (my old home in Philadelphia comes to mind).  And Gail, supposedly there are lots of Red Cockaded Woodpeckers down here.....

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Carolina Beach Lake

Well, the weather finally cleared after many many days of clouds and rain so it was time to take a walk.  Last year I walked in the afternoons down at the fresh water lake in Carolina Beach which had been drained.  For a month I saw a spectacular array of birds (January).  Having driven by several times, I hadn't seen any birds but I took my camera anyway and was pleasantly surprised!  Even though a little warm still, it was nice to see the sunshine!

This was a tricolored heron which was fishing on the south side of the lake.  I have seen this species before down here.  They are about halfway between the Great Blue and the Little Blue in size and more colorful (orange on the neck and lots of spots on the chest).
This was an American Black Duck which was frolicking with the white domestic ducks (Pekin) and the mallards.  They share a range with the mallards and do interbreed with them as do the domestic ducks. You do get some very odd combinations of feathers with this interbreeding.  This swimming was taking place in a large puddle rather than the lake.  This lake has a habit of overflowing anytime there is a lot of rain (which there has been this last week) and the pumps were going like crazy to take down the lake level.
You can see the beautiful day here.  The lake is really quite small but it has a nice paved walk and is home to many different kinds of  fresh and salt water birds in the winter.
I loved the reflection of the reeds in the water.

Tomorrow is my 4 hour nature tour of the Black River.  Hopefully the weather will hold and I will get some nice pictures!

I have managed to finish two (7 to go) of the quilts I brought down to machine quilt and so the king sized bed will be prepared for winter!  I am working on one of the "One Block Wonders" now -- I have four to finish.  I am freehand quilting around each of the motifs within the hexagon on this quilt -- looking okay so far!
Just another view of the tricolor heron.  He allowed me to get pretty close!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Tour of EUE/Screen Gems Studio in Wilmiwood

Bad enough that I live on an island called "Pleasure Island" which always sounds like a bad porn movie to me, but the movie studio here in Wilmington is referred to as Wilmiwood by the crew.  Here is the link to their website:  EUE/Screen Gems Studio

Here I am standing outside one of the studio sets that we (my daughter and I) toured on Saturday. (I am not quite as round as the picture implies though). I was amazed at the number of people there for the tour, almost all from out of town and as I found out later, HUGE fans of the main series they have been filming there for nine years -- One Tree Hill on CW.  Because of CW regulations, we weren't allowed to take pictures on the sets.  It was great fun to do the tour and listen to the very perky young tour guides describing some of the back stories and describing the process itself.  I was not aware of how much product placement there was in shows now!  Sponsors pay to see their products by name.   They told one story of Sunkist paying for product placement but they included sooo much in the series that Sunkist mgmt. had to tell them to do less!!! They also only use internationally recognizable brands as rabid fans like to recreate the effect and many of the movies or shows are international.  They told of one man from Europe who chastised them for using Harris Teeter products (a SE US food store chain) as he had to fly from Europe to get the products!

The EUE/Screen Gems Studio  is the biggest studio outside of LA in the US.  It has a water tank in one of the studios that is big enough for two submarines to be submerged!  That one is the third largest in the world.  There are ten buildings where they can create sets.  They do a large number of movies and were home also to Dawson's Creek which ran for many years on CW.  An incredible number of stars have come to Wilmington to film as we saw on a trailer that they showed us in the screening room which  is used to watch the daily takes.  I just had NO idea!!

We also took a look inside at some houses as I really want to fully relocate down here to North Carolina!  Now is a good time to buy for sure.  Our agent said that foreclosures and short sales have killed the market down here.  So we shall see what the future holds.  Some day my dear husband may actually come down here to join me!!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Autumnal Equinox Today

This is the combination of the two zig zag quilts that I had originally intended as single bed quilts.  I decided that I needed a king sized quilt more and used a technique of combining the two quilts that I had seen on Melody Johnson's blog (see the side of mine to click on it).  

Basically you sew a very narrow strip to the front and back on one of the halves.  Then you sew the front strip to the second half of the quilt top.  You can just sew the back strip at the same time but I prefer sewing it down by hand.  It really leaves a very nice finish (IMHO) and I may use this more often.  I have done quilt tops piecemeal before but like this technique much better.  You are basically butting the edges of the batting and quilt top and backing with little strips on the front and back of the quilt.  So now I have a quilt that measures 86 x 114 and will be plenty big enough for our king sized bed. It was the first quilt I have machine quilted with the Juki and I love the way the machine handles.  It was especially wonderful for attaching the binding around the outside -- I don't know but it seems to just sew straighter.   So now lots and lots of hand stitching to get that binding on!  I am working on machine quilting the next strippy quilt -- all quilt in the ditch on this one but on the diagonal on a very large quilt.

This is a closeup of the front where I combined the two quilt tops.  You can see the narrow strip in the middle.

Our weather has been overcast and cloudy for the past week which is unusual down here.  The local weather forecasters said there were interesting levels of clouds moving at different speeds because of the combination of all the weird fronts here.  Here you can see at least three levels with the big puffy clouds in the middle.  Well, I have to entertain myself somehow!  Despite the dire predictions, it didn't rain today and we even had some sun.  The rain literally hopped over Wilmington!

Tomorrow off to the Screen Gems studio tour and then to see a couple of houses!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Walking at Ft. Fisher

One of our favorite places to stroll is along the walk at Ft. Fisher historical site about a mile down the road from the beach house.  In the winter, I frequently see birds so of course I took my camera today when I went walking with my friend Vicki.  Ft. Fisher was the last of the Confederate seaside forts to fall during the Civil War and there is a museum there as well as remnants of the battlements.  It sits on  a narrow strip of land between the Cape Fear River and the Atlantic.

What a surprise to find that a film crew was there setting up for shooting something.  We took our walk and then saw a woman sitting and holding some costume parts.  I asked her what they were filming and she said an HBO series (with lots and lots of foul language she added)!!  I found out that the show is called Eastbound and Down and sounds like the language puts a whole new low for language on tv.  I of course commented that I was waiting for Colin Firth and she said she was too!!!
We decided they were setting up for a night shoot as there were lots of lights.  They were putting a small boat into the water.  The costume was a very red, white and blue drum majorette like costume if anyone has any idea what series this might be!
This tent with an American flag on top was set up on the public beach!!  As I had planned a tour of the studio for later this month, quite a treat to see them filming right down the road from me -- now if only Colin Firth were there......

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Word About the People that Brought You This Blogger...

Baker's Cat Eyed Snake - Aruba

As noted in my introduction, I am attracted to natural objects because of my father who was a well known naturalist in his time.  My nephew, who is very much like his grandfather in his aptitude for esoteric research, found a scientific paper on the internet that we think my father didn't even know about!  To back up, my father was born in 1889 and attended the University of Michigan where he obtained his Ph.D. in zoology, specializing in invertebrates specifically land snails.  His mentor was a man by the name of Dr.  Alexander G.  Ruthven who later became president of the university and for whom the natural history museum at Michigan is named.

Evidently my father went on a field trip to Aruba in 1922 and came back with snakes.  I remember him telling stories of bringing back a suitcase full of live snakes from Mexico about 1912 and terrifying the Customs officials but guess they let him bring them back.  So this trip was more of the same.  My father loved to tell these stories when we were younger, always laughing at these as he told them.  Seems that one of the snakes that he brought back from Aruba was a new species and Ruthven named it in his honor in 1936.  It still remains today as a separate species and is pictured above.   I can't believe my father would not have mentioned this if he had known!  My daughter jokingly said that some familes have a family crest but we have a family snake.  

It should also be noted that my father named close to 300 species of snails and one of the last new species he named was  my mother's name (Bernadine) right before they married!  So I have some invertebrates in my pedigree -- thanks John for unearthing this esoteric factoid!  The link is The Article.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Beautiful Beach Breezes!

It's a little hard to spot, but there are actually two rainbows in this picture taken while it was still raining over the water.  Except for these thunderstorms wandering through with the remnants of Lee, the weather down here has been perfect!!  Let's just hope it stays that way!  

I treated myself and ordered a Juki 2010Q which is supposed to arrive tomorrow.  I justified this to myself by saying that I wouldn't send out my "utility" quilts to be quilted which should pay for the machine which was a pretty good deal!  I have the  nine tops down here all basted and ready to be quilted so as soon as my much awaited guest (my very best friend from high school) heads on to her next destination, I will start working my way through all these!!  After all, winter is coming and we do need to sleep under something warm down here!  Lisa is also bringing down my remaining quilting paraphernalia that I had to leave at her house when I picked up her kitties.  Then there is no excuse!!  I am planning to make a couple of quilts using Sara Nephew's Serendipity Quilts and Doubledipity.  These are complex hexagonal patterns using as their base "stack and whack" type techniques but adding a whole lot more.  I have so many old fabrics that lend themselves to these techniques and with some luck I brought along enough of the right fabrics to go with these base fabrics.

Otherwise, sitting on the porch watching the pelicans dive bombing for fish and reading my stash of beach books has occupied my days.  I do like to read books before I see movies so I have recently read The Help (excellent) and am now reading Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy.  Then I can see the movies!!  After these, I will sneak in some Jane Austen (my dessert).  It is nice to have a Kindle and always have 40 or 50 books to read -- most of them free!!  

Monday, September 5, 2011

Relaxing Days at the Beach

This summer brought more than its fair share of drama at the beach house.  We had the transformer right outside the house hit by lightening which took out our elevator as well as other electrical devices in the house.   Of course in a one week period later we had a tornado near by as well as an earthquake and then of course Irene.  It took quite a while for the new elevator parts to arrive and for Jamie the elevator guy to install them.  I took this picture of what the inside of the elevator looked like without the elevator!!  Besides replacing the circuit boards, he tuned things up so now it is quieter, added an extra safety measure and rests on the second floor when not in use (important for if and when we have a hurricane surge which waters down the first floor -- at least the electronics in the elevator will be saved)!  So everything is up and functioning and I am completely unpacked finally.  The weather has been just beautiful here so no quilting has happened yet!!  I am beginning to get itchy though.  I definitely miss my dear husband as well -- who would have thought!
I have been in charge of Lisa's two kitties while she is in New Orleans of all places (she is very wet!).  They like sleeping together on the only piece of furniture which shows their fur -- I have since put a blanket down.
I haven't had much opportunity for picture taking but couldn't resist this dragonfly (or damselfly??) on my neighbor's bush.  He was not easy to get!!

The most excitement recently for me is that Colin Firth is coming to Wilmington to make a movie next month.  This is a posterized version of him that I was using as the basis for my next quilt.  I would love to be able to use my own photo instead of this one.  My plan is to do an Andy Warhol kind of interpretation doing this portrait multiple times in all different colors and different types of fabrics and then add in different movie quotes.   This will not be one of the complex pieced quilts but will rely on fusing as it isn't intended as art, only as fun!! (Let the mocking begin...) If  you have seen my blog in the past, you will know that he jumped to the top of my list of favorite actors of all time after I saw The King's Speech last January.  I am hoping that somehow, some way I will be able to see him in person just to say thanks.  It must be good kharma that just as I was getting ready to do this quilt that he will appear nearby.  In preparation, I am going to do the  Screen Gems studio tour (locally they call Wilmington NC the Hollywood of the East).  Dawson's Creek and One Tree Hill as well as some Matlocks were filmed there.  I was surprised at the number of movies also filmed here --  independents.  So if anyone has any ideas about how I can meet him (or wants to join me on the hunt), please let me know!!  I can offer a Firth Film Festival  as I have many dvds of CF's movies down here with me (I  have a lot of non CF DVDs for entertainment as well)!!  I also have a couple of extra sewing machines and tables so  you could quilt as well!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Trip South and the New River Gorge Bridge in West Virginia

Well, finally got on the road on Monday to head to Charlotte to pick up my daughter's two kitties.  I am officially in charge of them for the next ten days down at the beach!  I took two days to get to Charlotte.  The weather was gorgeous.  Without so much as glancing at a map, I let the GPS guide me and the second day it took me off the main route onto Route 19.  After about an hour of driving, I saw signs for the New River Gorge Bridge.  I had remembered someone visiting there so thought it was worth a stopover.  As Rt 19 goes over the bridge, there was not much of a detour to get to the Visitor's Center and to take a short hike to see some views of the bridge.  I couldn't resist as the sky was so blue, the temps were cool and there was a lovely breeze.    These were the flowers that greeted me at the Visitor's Center.  Don't know what they are but they were beautiful and lush.
This was the view from the top of the hill behind the Visitor's Center.  The bridge is the fifth highest in the world and the second highest in the US (it was the highest before the new bridge around Hoover Dam which wasn't finished when I was there).  It rises over 800 feet in the air.  It is surrounded by National Forest.
I saw a path heading down the side of the gorge with lots and lots of steps so asked someone about it.  I think she took one look at me and figured I wouldn't make it!!!  I decided I would climb down til my legs gave out and spotted a viewing point.  It turned out to be as far as the trail went and I only stopped twice on the way back up (it was about equivalent to about 10 flights of stairs I would guess -- I didn't count).  So it was my exercise for the day.  I did want a view of the river itself which you couldn't see from the top.  You can see the closer view of the steel bridge  here.
This was the view down the Gorge.  It was a beautiful day.  I reached Lisa's at a reasonable hour and we headed out for dinner and then spent the evening chatting.  I managed to sleep in the next morning.  Sleep has been eluding me lately and last night was no exception.

We still don't have the elevator fixed from our lightening strike so I have had to haul groceries up two steep sets of stairs.  Hurricane Irene left us unscathed thankfully.  You could see that the electricity had been off for a very short time but that was it along with a little sand in the driveway.  I live a block from the beach but there is no building between me and that beach so we didn't know what to expect.

I have taken it slowly but have managed to at least unpack the interior of the car although things will stay in the hallway until the elevator gets repaired -- I use it like a dumb waiter as I do like the exercise of going up and down those stairs.  The weather is fantastic down here and I sat outside on the porch with a lovely breeze blowing most of the day while I awaited the five loads of laundry from our last guests to be done!!