This is for the Birds

I got some great feedback from last week’s post which, if you don’t remember, was about ideas for my “garden.” I use the term loosely because right now it’s just a collection of weeds and scraggly shrubs that were planted in the wrong places when the house was first built. In 1989. Yes, those azaleas have been there WAAAY too long. So thank you to everyone who left a comment for me! I got some great suggestions that I intend to use. I’ll post pictures as I get things planted and (hopefully) growing and thriving.

I hope you don’t mind another post in which I ask for your advice.

My topic today is about another harbinger of spring: birds. Until this past week, I had only one bird feeder on my property. It is an egg-shaped terra cotta feeder that hangs from one of the cedar trees in my front yard. The problem is, I can’t see it from indoors. And I don’t want to move it because the birds know to look there for food.

terra cotta bird feeder

So I bought two more feeders and a suet cage. One feeder, also egg-shaped, is wooden. It hangs near my back door. The other feeder is the kind you attach to your window with suction cups so that cats, dogs, humans, etc. can watch the birds eat. Note, I am not fooling myself into thinking that the birds won’t mind if we stand at the window and watch them eat. I am thinking that perhaps we can stand at a safe distance from the window and that we won’t scare them away.

wooden bird feeder 2acrylic birdfeeder

Here’s a picture of the suet and its cage:

 suet feeder

The suet is the berry-and-nut variety, guaranteed to attract the maximum number of songbirds to my yard, according to the packaging, which never lies.

And here’s a picture of the birdseed I’m putting in the feeders:


I don’t know if you can see what’s in the bag, but it’s a delicious-looking mix of seeds and nuts. It looks like trail mix. It’s the alleged bestseller at the bird place where I buy birdseed. And as you may have noticed in the photo above, I also put a quarter of an orange on the acrylic feeder. To attract orioles, apparently.

So here’s the problem: NO BIRDS.

Today I watched from a discreet distance as about a million robins hopped around on the ground under the suet cage and flew back and forth between the feeders. They never stopped to eat any of the food I put out. They won’t touch the seeds, they won’t touch the suet, and they most definitely won’t touch the orange. My cats haven’t been anywhere near the windows, and neither has my dog. Nor have my children. So the problem isn’t that the birds are scared of us.

So what do you think the problem is?

Here’s one thing you should know: patience may be a virtue, but it’s not my strong suit. The food has only been out there a couple days. How long do I have to wait before I start seeing birds enjoying the feast I’ve put out? Also, as you may be able to see in the photo, the suet got wet when it rained yesterday. Will birds eat suet that’s gotten wet?

I hope you have some more words of wisdom for me this week!

Until next week,


Got a Minute?

I just wanted to let you know that Secrets of Hallstead House is featured today on I invite you to take just a minute and read the article. You can find it at Many thanks to Nicki Gorny and for the feature!

Spring is Coming…Eventually…and a Correction

First, I must correct some information I gave out last week about the Hattie Davish mystery series by Anna Loan-Wilsey. You all read how much I enjoyed Anything But Civil, the second book in the series. The third book is actually called A Sense of Entitlement and it was released last June. The fourth book in the series is A Deceptive Homecoming.  I’m so sorry to have caused any confusion about this! I’m looking forward to reading the other three books in the series!

Here in New Jersey we’re expecting another snowstorm to blow in by Tuesday morning. No surprise there. What would surprise me is if we actually got some snow. It’s been way too cold, but really that’s nothing compared to the temperatures they’re experiencing in northern and central New York, where I know many of you, dear readers, live and wait anxiously for spring.

Spring–that’s where my thoughts are headed this week. It’s only a little over a month away, you know, at least by the calendar. Sometimes I think Mother Nature gets the memo a bit late, but we know it’ll be here eventually.

I thought I’d share with you some of the ideas I have for my yard and flower beds. I am always afraid of running afoul of the copyright laws, so I only post pictures on this blog that I take myself or that my family members take; therefore, I don’t have pictures of the things I want to plant this year, but I will provide links for you to look at them if you’d like.

As anyone who has ever been to my house will tell you, the front of my house needs some landscaping work, to say the least (it sports a look now that I like to call “haunted”). Currently there are two beds full of scraggly azaleas that do not thrive in full sun (they bloom for one day, get sunburned, and die), poison ivy, those wild onions (are they ramps? I have no idea), one wayward cedar tree that we swear we’re going to transplant one of these days (it’s about 8 feet tall now and we’ve been saying that since it was knee-high), two obnoxious holly bushes, and a euonymous that is completely out of control.

My dream is to have two raised beds full of things that like full sun and don’t require much fuss. Sure, poison ivy fits the bill, but that’s not really what I have in mind. I’m thinking seagrass, the kind that looks like Fraggle hair. Google “Fraggles” if you’re too young to remember what they are. But not just seagrass- I’d also like some flowers, and I almost always go with perennials because I don’t have the time or the patience to deal with annuals (well, that’s not completely true. I do hang four baskets filled with annuals on my porch, and I have a bunch of containers that I use for annuals on the patio out back…almost everything is dead by August). I might try Shasta daisies and Stella de Oro daylilies. I think I’d like some Russian Sage, too. See and for some photos of the plants I’ve mentioned.

Under our trees, I plant almost exclusively hostas. They literally require no care. I do have a spot in the backyard that is perfect for a couple shade-loving plants. I hear that Lily-of-the-Valley is impossible to kill, but I have done it. Maybe I’ll try it again (planting it, not killing it). HGTV recommends the unfortunately-named Toadlily as a plant that will withstand shade, but I think I’ll plant something else with my Lilies-of-the-Valley.

Do you have any ideas for me? My criteria are as follows: easy, Zone 7. I’m looking for things mainly to plant in the sunny spots.

Until next week, stay warm!


A Review: Anything But Civil

Last week I finished Anna Loan-Wilsey’s Anything But Civil. It is the second in a mystery series featuring traveling secretary Hattie Davish. I won a copy of the book at a Facebook “tea party.” The author mailed it to me and was kind enough to inscribe the front of the book with a lovely message.

Anything But Civil cover 2   Anything But Civil note


Here’s a quick synopsis: Ms. Davish is secretary to Sir Arthur Windom-Greene, an Englishman with a love of American history. He is working on a biography of General Cornelius Starrett, a war hero from Galena, Illinois.

Sir Arthur and Hattie travel to Galena to meet General Starrett and to interview him, as well as to visit other places in Galena of interest to Civil War scholars, including the home of Ulysses S. Grant. While in Galena, Sir Arthur and Hattie have the dubious honor of meeting General Starrett’s son, Captain Henry Starrett, a blustering hothead with a grudge against a member of the community who was branded a traitor during the Civil War by some citizens of the town.

It’s not long before Hattie finds herself dragged into a murder mystery involving old wounds that reach back in time to the War. Convinced that Captain Starrett has something to do with strange and violent events that occur in town, Hattie must walk a delicate line between investigating the mystery, staying focused on her work for Sir Arthur, and not getting herself hurt or killed in the process.

Oh, and Sir Arthur is a suspect in the murder. And it’s Christmastime. And Hattie also has to decorate Sir Arthur’s house, plan menus for the holiday, and buy and wrap gifts from herself and Sir Arthur. She has a lot on her plate, to say the least.

My verdict: I loved the book.

Anna Loan-Wilsey does a great job of intertwining the story lines and the characters, and the amount of research (on not only the Civil War, but also on the town of Galena, the clothing of that period in history, the holiday customs of that era, and the rules of social interactions during that time) that obviously went into this historical cozy is staggering. I was very impressed. I did guess the identity of the killer, but not until the very end, about a paragraph before the answer was revealed. Just like Hattie, I kept running lists of the possible suspects and red herrings. The book was a fun read, and I recommend it to anyone who likes historical fiction or historical cozies.

I haven’t yet read the first book in the Hattie Davish mystery series, A Lack of Temperance, but you can be sure I’m going to. Anything But Civil, though it’s the second book in the series, can be easily understood without reading the first book, but I’d love to learn more about Hattie’s background.

Incidentally, the third book in the series is called A Deceptive Homecoming, but it hasn’t been released yet. I’m looking forward to it!

Until next week,



And the Winner Is…

Every year around this time there’s this huge football game on television. Maybe you’re familiar with it. My kids love it because it gives them an excuse to have Doritos and potato chips for dinner and it gives me an excuse to gorge myself on dips that are very unhealthy. That being said, it’s not all about the food. We do actually watch the game (well, at least I did this year. I can’t say that I’ve watched it every year). And the ads.

Every year after the Superbowl, the USA Today Ad Meter ranks the Superbowl commercials according to popularity. But this year I’ve decided to put out my own list, because I disagree with Ad Meter for the most part.

The winners on my list receive nothing but bragging rights, and I’m not really sure how much they’re worth, but I had a lot of fun ranking my favorites.

Here goes:

5. The public service spot against domestic violence. If you didn’t see it, a woman calls 9-1-1 and pretends to order a pizza so that her abuser doesn’t know what she’s doing and the dispatcher knows something is wrong. Not too long ago when an identical incident was in the news, the woman’s bravery and the dispatcher’s willingness to see the call through and not dismiss it as a prank sent chills up my spine. Happened again during the ad. Want to see it?

4. A commercial for Jeep Renegade. If you didn’t see it, the soundtrack was “This Land is Your Land” and the ad featured photos and video from beautiful places all over the world. I have loved that song since I was little, so I think that’s why I chose the ad for my #4 slot. You can find it at

3. A commercial for Carnival Cruise Lines. If you missed it, it’s called “Come back to the sea” and includes tape of President John F. Kennedy talking about the beauty and majesty of the oceans and why they’re so important. Though the shots of Carnival cruise ships and ports around the world were beautiful, the narration was a very classy way to advertise the cruise line without actually talking about the ships. Incidentally, I’ve never been on a cruise and won’t go on one even after seeing this ad, but the ad was very good, nonetheless.

2. Like almost everyone else who saw the ad, I loved the Budweiser commercial where viewers are reunited with the second-cutest puppy in the world (give you one guess which dog I think is the cutest–mine) and his best-friend-Clydesdale. In this ad, the puppy gets lost, is alone and running out in the pouring rain, and has finally seen his farm again from a faraway hill when he hears the low growl of a wolf (or is it a coyote?) behind him. Miraculously, the horses in the barn hear his whines and bust out of their stalls, running to his aid and scaring the wolf away. Then the horses, led by the puppy, run back to the farm, where the puppy’s owner is thrilled to have his buddy back. This ad is accompanied by the song “I’m Gonna Be,” which I found a little slow, but otherwise matches the circumstances perfectly. If you’ve never heard the song by the original artists, The Proclaimers, I highly recommend it. It’s been on my iPod for years.

1. There was only one ad that made me laugh out loud, and in my opinion that’s the best meter for any ad. Did you see Liam Neeson in the commercial for Clash of Clans? Liam Neeson is standing in a bakery, waiting for his order, playing the video game Clash of Clans. When he loses, he adopts his superhero-like persona from the “Taken” movies, vowing revenge “with lots of barbarians and dragons” on “bigbuffetboy85.” He calls himself “angryneeson52.” An added bonus- the man behind the counter mispronounces “Liam” when his scone is ready. Very funny. The whole ad is just fantastic and I recommend it if you missed it.

Here are the other ads that round out my top ten.

6. Guy with empty seat next to him on plane does everything he can to discourage others from taking the seat. He clips his toenails, sneezes, you name it, until he sees this pretty blond woman in line looking for a seat. He indicates the seat next to him and only then do the people in front of her pass by and he notices that she has a baby with her.

7. Avocado goes to Mexico in the world’s first-ever draft. The polar bear really wanted Mexico. Incidentally, Australia got the kangaroo and Mauritius got the dodo bird. Want to see it?

8. Real girls show how to throw like a girl, run like a girl, etc. Great girl power ad, and especially timely as it comes after the death of Colleen McCullough, the author of The Thorn Birds. For those of you who are not aware, an Australian  obituary of Ms. McCullough focused, unbelievably, on her weight and looks in addition to her literary and humanitarian accomplishments. If you want to see the ad, do a Google search for “Always #likeagirl” and you should find it. It’s not working as a link from my blog, though.

9. Coke makes the internet a happier place. I really liked this ad…if only it could really happen.

10. Microsoft ad with Estella’s Brilliant Bus– a bus that brings tech to underserved kids. Check it out at

What did I think were the worst ads, you ask?

Well, here are a few things I didn’t want to see during the Superbowl: Kim Kardashian (I see enough of her standing in the checkout line at the grocery store and on Yahoo), an ad for toenail fungus, an ad featuring a boy who turned out to be dead (although I must admit that the ad was a powerful one), and anything at all from Godaddy, though I have to say that their choice for a “replacement” ad was much better than their original ad, a totally humorless parody of the Budweiser puppy ad. Interestingly, Godaddy departed from its normal Superbowl fare, which is typically an offensive ad featuring a half-clad woman (by the way, Godaddy’s normal Superbowl ads are the reason I don’t use Godaddy to power my website).

Before I finish this very long post, I’d like to share with you the ultimate winner of this year’s Superbowl: Rachael Ray’s Jalapeno Popper Dip. Here’s the recipe:

What were your favorite ads from the 2015 Superbowl?

Until next week,