Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Stitching Sheep

Last June, Jen1, Barb, and I popped into a stitching shop in Cambridge on the way to our knitting class in Kitchener with Kate Atherley. Barb and I both bought 'Sheep in the Meadow' by Country Cottage Needleworks.  I started it back home and tossed it into my craft suitcase when I was packing for our trip south. After stitching almost a dozen biscornus, I picked up the sheep project last night and stitched the sheep and a bit of the grass while watching TV
When I was at Judy's Stitchery Nook in Harlingen a couple of weeks ago, I bought a smaller version that was actually published 3 years later (2013) and has slightly different colours.
I like the yellow flowers and blue house. I'm going to use those colours on the larger project instead of all that lavender colour. We're going to Harlingen again on Thursday with our birding group so we'll stop into Judy's again so I can pick up the threads I need and possibly a lighter-coloured linen fabric for the smaller project.

There are DMC equivalents for the hand-dyed threads but I like the look of the hand-dyed ones on big expanses like the grassy area. I spent an inordinate amount of time on Pinterest last night looking at potential projects. And people wonder what retirees do with all their time...

It's 28C out. The swimming pool calls...

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Hummingbird Biscornu Revamped

I finished the second hummingbird biscornu today while sitting by the pool. It's the top one.

It's a bit plainer. Two of the hummingbirds have the heads out and two have the heads in.
I put beads in the flower centres on the top and on the pink flower centres on the bottom.
The fabric is 32 count Irish linen - the good stuff. Not that pesky Charles Craft stuff. I omitted the beads on the little flowers on the bottom.

 I like the colours. There is also a pattern for a needle case with the hummingbird and flowers.

The linen was lovely to work with. It felt nice in my hand and the needle slipped in an out of the fabric easily.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Evenweave Isn't Always Even

I bought some 18 count Aida cloth at a craft supply store the other day to make a biscornu. I happily stitched away using the Four Little Hearts pattern. Doing the Rhodes heart was a little tricky on Aida as there aren't two separate threads to stitch through but I persevered. I used the DMC 4210.

The pattern is 36 x 36 stitches. Does that looks square to you? It certainly didn't to me. It measures 2" across.
But more than 1/4" longer for the same number of stitches! Almost 16 count lengthways. What??? It's not square??? Who knew Aida cloth wasn't square???

So this fabric isn't any good for biscornus that require pieces to be square. Rats!

Last week I redesigned the hummingbird biscornu pattern.
Original pattern

I replaced the blue 'snowflakes' in the corners with flowers and rotated two opposite birds 180 degrees so their heads were towards the centre.

Again, I stitched the first side on 'evenweave' 28 count linen. And it didn't turn out to be square either.

Across, it measures 4 1/2".
But vertically, it's only 3 3/4". Argh!!!
Who knew 'evenweave' fabric would have different measurement of the warp vs. the weft?  If being square or a particular measurement isn't important, this commercial fabric would do. But now I know why we should buy our stitching fabrics from a reputable stitchery store.

Fortunately, I did bring some good 32 count linen fabric with me and the first hummingbird piece I stitched tonight is square. I'm now working on the second side. This one will stitch together nicely. Stay tuned for an update in the very near future.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

March 18 National Butterfly Center in Mission

We tried to go to Quinta Mazatlan this morning but there was a big event going on and hundreds of people so we bailed. There's no way the birding would have been any good with all those people milling around. We can pop in there tomorrow or just skip it altogether. We quickly changed our plans and drove down to the National Butterfly Center in Mission.
The water feature by the parking lot is a lovely, cool oasis inhabited by a red-eared slider turtle and some water lilies.

Along the trail, there are many suspended logs with 'butterfly brew' smeared into the grooves cut in them.  The butterflies love to feed on this sugary substance. Here you can see the thin yellow 'tongue'. I was unable to get a shot of this butterfly with the wings open but when I get back to my butterfly book, I'll figure out what kind it was. The right wing looks a little damaged.
This butterfly looks really drab.

 Then voila! A flash of blue - it's a Mexican bluewing.
In the back corner of the wooded area is a nice, feeding area with a water pipe trickling onto a big rock. All kinds of critters use this area.
In flew a curve-billed thrasher.

We got to see a clay-coloured robin a couple of times while we were sitting there.
The red squirrels like to drink right from the pipe.

Golden-fronted woodpecker
Another favourite bird of mine is the Altamira oriole.
A peanut butter mixture had been smeared onto logs all around the feeding area. It guaranteed that the Altamira oriole would pay the area a visit.

Altamira oriole - back view

This little fellow is a cotton rat. There were about a half a dozen of them. They make a great meal for the owls and raptors in the area.
Green jays also frequent the area.
Kiskadees also like the peanut butter mixture.

The female cardinal really had her crest up.
 This was the second appearance of the clay-coloured robin.

I was excited to see this  Northern Bobwhite.
I thought it was a life bird for me but when I checked my list, apparently I'd seen one before.
On the way back to the car we spotted a couple more butterflies that I will need to identify when I get back to the condo.
Texas Crescent southwest variant
This one was only about an inch wide. I think it's a red admiral.
This is Spike, the resident African Spurred Tortoise. He is about 15 years old and is about 2 1/2 ft. long. He came right over thinking we had food for him. Unfortunately we didn't.
We really don't know enough about butterflies nor do our cameras lend themselves to photographing them to fully appreciate the butterfly centre, however the birding is great and we'll probably make a point to come back here the next time we're in the area.

Friday, 17 March 2017

March 17 Birding in Hidalgo

Today, we accomplished several things on our wish list of things-to-do on our 'vacation from our vacation'. First, Skip shot a bucket of balls at the Palm View Golf Course in McAllen.  He is getting tuned up for his golf leagues which will resume when we get home next month.

We wore our green shirts in honour of St. Patrick's Day.
We then headed southward to Hidalgo to visit the world's biggest killer bee. It's located right in front of Hidalgo's City Hall and Public Library.
Then we continued down to the World Birding Centre at the Old Hidalgo Pumphouse. It is located on an estuary branching from the Rio Grande River.

The border wall and a gate through it (which is monitored 24/7) is adjacent to the park.
The park is a very popular place for wedding photos. In fact, there are signs informing photographers (except bird watchers) that they need to register at the park office.

This pavilion provides lots of shade for park visitors.

I imagine it serves as the site for many weddings as the surroundings are green and lush with bird- and butterfly-attracting vegetation.

First, I spotted a Couch's (or possibly tropical) kingbird.
The buff-bellied hummingbird is the symbolic bird of Hidalgo. There were lots of feeders in the trees. This guy posed for us for quite a while.
Then several monk parakeets flew into the trees overhead. Then 3 of them flew down to the grassy area and fed on seeds dropped from the tree above for about 20 minutes.

Monk parakeet
Then one of them flew up into the tree just in front of us.
This male cardinal and a female were also spotted here.
We also saw a vireo of some kind, grackles, many mockingbirds, and great kiskadees.

We worked up quite an appetite so popped into Delia's (a tamale fast-food franchise restaurant) for lunch.
Do you have a craving for tacos? Enchiladas? Chalupas? Chiles rellenos? You're out of luck. They only serve tamales. Several different kinds, mind you. And they're only sold in packs of 6 or 12 for dining in or to go. They may also be among the best tamales I've ever eaten. Our 6 pork tamales were $4.69. Adding in our drinks, the total bill with tax was $9.13 US.

After lunch we went to Jo-Ann Fabrics - probably the only one south of Corpus Christi - so I could pick up some more cross-stitch and sewing supplies.

We're back at the suite hotel (Drury Inn & Suites) now where we are getting ready to consume our three free drinks and free snacks .

It was a very productive and fun day. Oh yeah, and it's 29C and sunny here.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

March 16 Birding with the Bay Area Birders in Brownsville

This morning we drove over to Brownsville and parked to the west of the university in the abandoned parking lot of the old Holiday Inn on Elizabeth St. just north of Ringgold.

We customarily get a good look in the palm trees for the parrots which became established from a small group of escapees from the 1970s. They did not dissappoint.

We saw several groups squawking and flying. They are very social animals - highly intelligent and in great need of companionship. As I may have mentioned before, Skip says they're like a three-year-old with a can-opener on its face.

I believe these are red-crowned parrots. Others seen in this area are red-lored parakeets, white-crowned parrots (we saw some today), yellow-headed, and lilac-crowned parrots.
Much to our delight, this one posed for us. "See? I can hang upside down!"
Along the resaca we saw a green kingfisher but he was behind too much vegetation for me to get a good shot. Across the resaca, this anhinga was drying out its feathers.
On the bridge across the resaca, I saw the yellow-crowned night heron fly in. He stayed in the shade so the shot wasn't all that great.
 You can really see its yellow crown here.

Great Kiskadee

The black phoebe seemed to follow us wherever we went. I got this shot through Bob's spotting scope.

Black phoebe
On the north side of the resaca on the campus, there was great excitement when this black-throated green warbler was spotted.
My camera doesn't take the greatest shots in the shade but you get the idea.
Along the path where the kumquat trees are, we saw a house finch that was a yellow (orange) variant.

It was an excellent morning of birding. Skip and I will definitely pay the campus another visit before we head for home.

We then stopped in for lunch at El Gallito in San Benito. According to TripAdvisor it is the #1 restaurant out of 26 in that town. We had taquitos de bistek with charro beans. I give it a 3 out of 5. They didn't give us a pile of fried onions and the beans were from a can. El Cien near Los Fresnos, Mexiquito in Port Isabel, and Cap'n Roy's in SPI are our favourites.

Last year Skip picked up a free calendar at the SPI visitors' centre from Our Lady of San Juan del Valle Basilica in San Juan, about 30 more minutes up the valley from Harlingen. We see the huge mosaic mural from the highway every time we drive by. Today we stopped in to check it out.
Around the basilica are the 14 stations of the cross - all life-size. I noted that Jesus had fresh flowers on his thorny crown. This is station #3 where Jesus falls for the first time.
We got in through one of the back doors and immediately came upon this room where people were praying and lighting candles in front of a huge 3D mural which is lit by a strategically-placed sky light.
The stained glass windows appeared to be grouted rather than leaded.
When we entered the main part of the church, the mural is actually the backdrop for the altar.

Various saints are posted on the walls around the circular hallway around the main part. This is St. Francis of Assisi.
 Back outside we got shots of the beautiful facades and landscaping.
These are the main stairs but there are lots of wheelchair ramps.
To the left of the staircase is the holy water fountain. People were filling jugs here. I'm not sure what they do with the water. I don't think I'd drink it, though.
Nearby is a table where CDs of the music from the weekly mariachi mass are sold as well as the current calendar (which Skip got free last year).
The old holy water fountain was just to the right of that. It had a sign directing people to the newer, bigger fountain.
A mosaic of Our Lady is above it.
In the gift shop, I found one of the mariachi CDs. I held back from buying one, although the music was playing in the gift shop.
On our way back to the car, this fellow flew up to the overhead wires. A loggerhead shrike.
I couldn't help taking a bunch of photos.

We then continued up the valley to check into our lodgings for the next three nights. It is our escape from Spring Break on the island. It was starting to get really noisy last night with sounds of sirens and car horns every once and a while. The folks in the condo behind ours partied quite loudly at their respective pools although it didn't keep us from konking out.

We have a list of about 10 things we want to do while we're in the McAllen area. Eating at El Gallito and visiting the basilica were two things we were able to check off today.

The weather is supposed to be hot (29C - 31C) for the next few days and mostly sunny. It should be a good weekend.