Gotta Love Michigan Weather!

Last week we had some gorgeous early spring teaser weather with temperatures in the low 70’s and mid-60’s. Even earlier this week it was still in the upper 50’s, close to 60. Still, I knew it wouldn’t last — thus my first garden projects of 2017 (check out my latest posts at Simply Grateful Gardener):

Lean-To Greenhouse

Free-Standing Greenhouse Frame

This morning as I was making breakfast I could hear the rain pelting against the windows and yet thought it was a bit too loud for just rain. Sure enough, it was snow mixed with ice. Nice! The pictures of it falling don’t show the snow very well, but the accumulating slush on my garden gloves, our fire pit cover, and my greenhouse lean-to are testament to the fact that Michigan weather is definitely fickle.

Blurred snow coming down with a vengeance.

Good thing I remembered to put my garden gloves away! At least maybe the snow will help wash some of the dirt off them.

Snow collecting on the greenhouse lean-to.

No worries — With my first two garden projects behind me, the early planting in the gardens is safe and warm. There was a good amount of humidity in both enclosures yesterday and the temps are supposed to rise into the 60’s again this weekend, so things are looking up. Just in time for another garden project, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

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She’s Not A Bird Dog — She’s A Bird Monitor!

One of my favorite things about spring is filling the bird feeders. I know that it would probably make more sense to fill the bird feeders during winter when the birds are far less likely to have an abundance of food, but for selfish reasons I typically only feed them in the spring.

Spring is when I have time to sit and enjoy watching the birds at the feeder. There are feeders set up along the back of our house so that no matter where I’m sitting, whether it’s in the kitchen nook, the dining room, or at my desk in the great room, I have a view of a bird feeder. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly the birds find the feeders even after months of them being empty. It takes less than an hour before the first sparrow visits.

Besides myself enjoying all the activity at the bird feeders, Bell enjoys it just as much. She will sit at the back door staring at the birds flying from feeder to feeder for hours. If it’s warm enough and I put her cushion out on the chair, she will sit there even longer.

One thing about Bell though, she is not a bird dog…she is a bird monitor. She lets me know when there are birds at the feeders, but has never tried to catch them. Just by the position of her ears, she tells me when there are or aren’t birds at the feeder.

If her ears are down, this means there aren’t any visitors. But when her ears go half way up, ahhh, then you know there’s activity.

Ears are getting perky – definitely activity at the bird feeder.

Bell has never chased any of the birds in our yard. In fact she’ll walk by the bird feeder and quite often the birds won’t even leave. She will walk within two feet of them, and they just keep on feeding.

When I fill the feeders, birds are not the only visitors we receive. Unfortunately there is an abundance of squirrels in our neighborhood and the minute those feeders are filled, the squirrels are determined to get their share. To their utter disappointment, however, Bell will have none of that. You see, as much as Bell is a bird monitor, she is even more so of a squirrel evictor.

When her ears perk up as high as her ears perk

and she stands on her hind legs to look out the door

This is when you know a squirrel is nearby. She runs to the sliding door and chases those squirrels out of our yard.

This goes on all day long. I have seen as many as three squirrels at one time in our little plum tree trying to get into the bird feeder, but the minute Bell bounds out the door, they scatter. Bell especially likes it when she traps a squirrel in the tree. She will pace around the tree, run up and down the patio, and try her hardest to climb up the tree trunk for however long it takes that squirrel to get up enough nerve to bolt out of the tree and over into the security of our neighbors fenced-in yard. One morning Hubby and I watched her happily keep a squirrel captive in the tree for 45 minutes before she finally walked far enough away from the tree for the squirrel to make its escape. She certainly slept good that afternoon.

This squirrel escaped to our neighbors roof and sat there growling at Bell for the longest…

Bell definitely has a job! She doesn’t bother the birds, but is sure to chase away those pesky squirrels. The fact that she’s a bird monitor rather than a bird dog is something I am truly – Simply Grateful for!

All clear – Just Bell and the birds!


Blogging Secretary Update

It has been one week since I started using the voice recognition software on my computer to make blog posts and it’s been an interesting week. I’ve learned a lot about using the software, the glitches involved, and even more about myself.

First I’ve learned I can really talk a lot about nothing! The first time I turned on the voice recognition software and started dictating a blog post, within 30 minutes I had four type-written pages of dictation. This transformed into the beginnings of four separate blog posts and I wasn’t even close to being done. I continued to talk as I made dinner and by the time dinner was served, I had the makings for nearly six more blog posts. So far this first round of dictation has resulted in three posts directly from the dictation and three additional posts dictated based on the posts I had done. And I still have dictation to review and edit. Yet, based on what I actually dictated, there should have been enough to fill 20 blog posts. Instead there was a ton of garbage. Boy I have a lot of hot air in me!

Next I’d have to say that dictating is hard. It’s not like you’re addressing an individual or anything like that. You’re basically talking to yourself. Because of that, there seems to be a lot of times when what I’m saying is choppy and not very clear. This can be resolved in the editing process but so often while I’m dictating it’s difficult to know what to say out loud. It’s amazing how much easier it is to think what I want to say than to actually say it out loud.

Further, I’ve learned that talking into the computer is one thing, but making what you have said readable is something totally different. When I put blog posts together in my mind everything seems so cut and dry and perfect. When I started dictating it felt like I had to force the words out and a lot of times I just stammered or stuttered. Even though I thought I had everything clear in my head as to what I wanted to say, I just couldn’t spit it out in a way that was pretty. Plus I’ve noticed I use a lot of words when I’m talking that I would never use when I’m writing. So talking and writing are very different animals.

I’ve also learned that when I do finally get the juices flowing and get on a dictation roll, I need to be sure to stay focused on the subject I want to dictate about. A lot of times I find I go off on a tangent and all of that just ends up getting deleted in the long run. Plus, occasionally the voice recognition software shuts off for no apparent reason. And this must be one of those “Murphy’s Laws,” but it only seems to shut off when I finally get back to talking about what I should be talking about not all the jibber-jabber that ends up deleted. There are definitely glitches to be worked out but it is still a workable endeavor.

Finally, I’ve learned that dictating a recipe isn’t as easy as I thought it would be. I thought I could just list off the ingredients and then dictate the step by step, but the dictation software that I’m using doesn’t put in bullets or number formatting. Knowing this just means I read the list of ingredients needed in paragraph form and then copy and paste it into my recipe template. Still, in a perfect world the software would be able to do this. I know that there are softwares out that have this option, but they cost money. The one I’m using is free, so I really have no right to complain.

Overall I’d have to say this has been a very good experience and it is something I plan to continue to do. I have decided however I do not like doing it when Hubby is around. He can be rather infuriating with his interruptions and making fun of me talking to myself, but I know it’s just because he’s trying to get a little attention. Actually this is probably a good sign. It proves he’s not sick of me yet. Spending 24/7 together for the past year has been wonderful, although challenging at times. The fact that when I finally take a few minutes to do something solely for “me” and he feels a bit insecure and displays this through his actions, well, I think I can cut him a little slack.

So if you’d like to check out my posts that I made last week and today, head on over to Simply Grateful Cooking and check out my recent posts or simply click on the links that I provided below.

As much as I like the speech recognition software, I do have to say I really wish they would come out with something for “thought recognition.” Because although I use the voice recognition while I’m cooking which was one of the times I found myself thinking about making blog posts but was too busy to do them, I can’t use this during the only other spare time I have – while showering in the morning. I don’t think they have a headset and computer that’s waterproof, so for now it’s going to have to be while I’m cooking or if I can find a spare moment when hubby has left the house.

At any rate it’s just another challenge and hopefully this new trick of the trade will enable me to get back to blogging more and for this I am – Simply Grateful.


A Secretary for Blogging

One of the reasons that my blogging has been so sporadic and pretty much non-existent for at least the past six months is that I can’t find the time to sit down and type them up. I’ve taken pictures of tons of things that I’ve wanted to do blog post on, I’ve kept lists of what I wanted to do blog post on, and I have all of the recipes organized for blog posts that I want to do, still there have been so few blog posts that I dare say I can’t even call myself a blogger any longer.

At today’s date, I have more than 300 new recipes that I have pictures of and have tested that I want to do blog posts on that I have yet to do any work on other than organizing it. It is frustrating that I want to do all of these things and yet each week I continue to work on new recipes thus digging myself further and further into a hole. For months now I have complained, “I need a secretary!”

Well I don’t really think the “secretary” thing is going to happen, being a stay-at-home mom/wife and all. It’s hard to believe I’d ever be able to afford such a luxury. However, the thought prevails.

A few nights ago, as I sat stewing because I wasn’t blogging as I sat exhausted on the couch after another day in the homemaking trenches, I began to wonder where in my busy day could I possibly fit blogging. The only time I could come up with was while I’m in the kitchen cooking. Honestly, that’s when I’m thinking about doing blog posts anyhow. That’s when I write out blog posts in my head. So what if there were some way I could actually put my thoughts down somehow while I was cooking. If I could do this, then maybe I could actually get some blog posts done.

These thoughts brought to mind a software I used to use for journaling. Hubby bought me a software called Dragon. It was a voice recognition software. I used it for years and I enjoyed the freedom it gave me, but when my computer crashed and because I had not printed off my journaling or backed up my computer, and therefore lost months worth of journaling, I was completely devastated and stop journaling on the computer and using my Dragon.

That was several years and several computers ago. When I pulled out my Dragon software to see if I could install it on my new computers, I found my current operating systems didn’t work with it and to buy it again would cost around $75. Now that’s not a huge sum, but at the same time I can’t really justify buying voice recognition software just so I can blog. Hubby would definitely support it, but I would feel guilty.

Looking for another option I went online, did some research, and found a few options for free voice recognition software. One was already installed on my computer from Windows. I tried the program, but it was awful. It didn’t recognize the majority of what I said and it didn’t follow commands. It was very basic and not worth the effort.

The second option was through Google Chrome. Since I use Chrome on my computer all I had to do was open a Google Doc, hit the mic button and start talking. It worked far better than the Windows voice recognition software. As I explored Google Docs, I found there were add-ons that could be used to improve various aspects of the Google program. There I found another speech recognition program to add on to the Google Docs that was free. I installed it ,opened it up, and started talking.

Viola! It was like night and day. Everything I said, it typed. There was no punctuation, but for now I’m not concerned. I figure once I get everything down on paper all I have to do is go back and put in punctuation, paragraphs where I want them, and I’m done. I really hope this works. Although it’s only been one day since I began using Google Docs and the Google speech recognition, already I have four blog posts ready for editing. Even this little blurb was dictated into my headset and it took about 30 minutes to edit.

I’m not really sure how this is going to turn out but the more I use the software, the easier it should get. If this does turn out the way I’m really hoping it does, and I’m really really really hoping it does, this could mean I come back to blogging and it could mean getting back to journaling. It’s amazing how having Hubby home 24/7 takes up so much of my time. It seems like half of the day is spent just with him and I don’t even know what we’re doing but it takes time. I’m not complaining though. I have missed him for far too long, so I’m not going to look this gift horse in the mouth. But if I can utilize the time spent just standing around, cooking by myself and simply just talk my posts into the computer, this could be the beginning of something great.

The wonder of technology! I’ve often thought technology is a scourge on society, at least in some circumstances; now I’m not so sure, at least not in this particular instance, and for this I am – Simply Grateful.