Making Suet Dough: The Movie

This is a video Zick and I made showing how we (as crazy people) make our suet dough for bird feeding. It also features cameos by Chet Baker, Boston terrier and by Liam Thompson, creeper. Much of the video footage was shot by Phoebe Linnea Thompson.

I hope you like this short how-to video. It felt like we were shooting some weird cooking show for bird watchers.

Blue Tights and Fur Coats

One of the great things about visiting Canada is getting a true taste of winter - the people in this country are so lucky to experience the glory of four well-defined seasons (although they might beg to differ when a freak snow storm shows up in May).  Remember when I visited in fall and got these great pictures?  They're some of my faves even now.  Admission:  I get homesick every time I look at them.

It was tough to stick to two bags on this trip because I kept on imagining all kinds of fun outfit concoctions for the cold, snowy days (aside from all the sweats and t's for luxurious tv-filled afternoons on the couch. ha!) we don't experience in SoCal.  As wonderful as warm weather can be, it kinda hinders the true essence of the winter wardrobe.  So today I got a hint of the crazy and strolled out into a winter shorts, tights and shag.  I kinda wanna wear this one every day.  

The first 10 minutes in freezing cold are always the easiest.
Especially if you're wearing something resembling a bath mat or '70's carpet.
Bringing a bit of the snow leopard.
Delusion sets in as the cold goes to my head...this is not the house.
Busting through drifts I make it back to the sidewalk...
With this grin frozen, quite literally, onto my face.
It was around this time the camera began to fog up from the temps.
Time for more chocolates and cookies!

Outfit details: Zara-Shag Coat, Current/Elliott-Shorts, J.Crew-Leopard Belt and Tights, Forever21-Booties, H&M-Mittens, Tom Ford Sunnies



Hey everyone! I hope you had a wonderful holiday with the special people in your life.
I'm still in Canada with my fam having a great time.  We're enjoying moderately cool temperatures with just the right amount of snow - not too much, but certainly enough to keep us in the spirit.  Christmas was super relaxing and quiet with all my mom's yummy food to top it off.  No matter how old I get it's always so nice to come home.  To see the people who have always loved and cared for me.  To sleep in my old room that's been preserved just for me, and be reminded of the safe place I have to come and take a breather.

There should be some interesting outfit pics to share later this week or next, but in the meantime here's an idea of just how remote and fantastically peaceful it is where we are.

Cat tracks in our yard.
Snow covering hay bales in the distance.
Big Red Barn!
A taste of California on the stone work of our steps...
courtesy of my cousin who spends half the year in Mexico and SoCal.
And my dad!! Looking super cool in his insulated wellies,
camo jacket and sunnies.
And they wonder where I got it from...hehe

Happy Tuesday! Are you working this week?  I went out for awhile today and was greeted by dead streets in the city.  It was a big difference from the usual after Christmas hustle and bustle, but my hair guy said very few people are working here this week.  Sigh.  Long live days off.  (Until bills show up)

Merry Christmas

I hope you're all having a great day wherever you are and however you're celebrating!

I posted this before I left, but if I know one thing I'm probably cold (it is Canada in December after all) - but very well fed and surrounded by chocolates and cookies.  My faves.  Oh and my family, too.  hehe
Merry Christmas!!

Persimmony Pursuit

When the fall colors paint the woodlands we know that soon the trees will be naked. Perhaps the only redeeming thing about this transition from blazing scarlets, oranges, and yellows to bare leafless branches is that it reveals a delicious fruit treat known well to woodland sprites and observant humans: the persimmon.

Phoebe, Liam, and Chet on our persimmon quest.

Off we go to the site of last year's best persimmon tree, out at the end of the meadow. Once there, we turn our eyes skyward, hoping to see this:

Persimmon fruits stand out against the sky in the leafless persimmon tree.

After locating the source tree, we scour the ground below it for "drops." These are persimmons that have already fallen. Conventional woods wisdom holds that persimmons rarely fall before the first hard frost. And if they DO fall before that event, they will be bitter and not fit to eat. This autumn the persimmons we found—well before the first hard frost—were perfectly juicy and delicious.

Phoebe and Julie looking up and down for our quarry.

We shake the tree, gently encouraging it to share. As the small fruits (about the size of a large grape or a small Brussels sprout) drop we try to catch them. If they make it to the ground, they seem to disappear—their warm orange hue blending in with the leaf-covered ground.

Tenacious persimmon.

We gather them up in handfuls, sneaking one or two into our mouths "just to check them for eatability." Here's how to eat a persimmon: You squeeze the insides out of the persimmon's skin, and then begin the exquisite process of divining pulp from seeds. The seeds, which are the size of pumpkin seeds, but thicker, are most of what's inside the fruit. One by one these are ejected onto the ground. Animals that eat the persimmon fruits eject the seeds another way. Scoured by the mammals' stomach muscles and digestive juices, these seeds are the start of a new generation of persimmon trees.

The late-season haul from the line of wild persimmons in our east woods.

In our east woods there is a line of persimmon trees, all about the same age and size. These were probably "planted" by mammals that visited some older, now departed persimmon tree day after day in the fall and early winter. As they chewed up the fruits and took in their pulpy goodness, yesterday's seeds came out the other end, thus ensuring that this symbiotic relationship would continue in our patch of woods into the future.

Knowing all of this makes me thankful that I'm part of this giant web of life.
Happy holidays to one and all! May your new year be full of wild and delicious fruits.

Packing It In

I'm bummed out that I didn't have the opportunity to come around today and wish each of you a great Christmas/Holiday.  On top of torrential rain and a small earthquake, Chef's kitty sprained her leg and had to go to the vet causing upset upon upset for us.  Thankfully she is okay, but we discovered she is 14 years old instead of 4 like we thought so it was a pretty sobering visit.  She's super small and we found her on the street so assumed she was young.  Sigh.

Anyway, all that being said I'm now more behind on last minute things (argh how is this possible?) and have to get the ol' bag packed so am checking out a bit early.  We take off for Canada on Friday morning and there is limited internet (if any at all), so it may be a week before I'm able to visit you or get a post in (uh, minor withdrawals setting in?).  I do, however, have my trapper hat at the ready and am hoping for some crazy snow pics.  Fingers crossed.  Here's wishing you a very Merry Christmas with your family and friends!!  You guys are the best!

 image via weheartit

Are you staying at home this weekend or heading out to visit family?

Jual Kopi Luwak Liar Lereng Gunung

Kopi Luwak adalah seduhan kopi menggunakan biji kopi yang diambil dari sisa kotoran luwak/musang. LinkBiji kopi ini diyakini memiliki rasa yang berbeda setelah dimakan dan melewati saluran pencernaan luwak. Kemasyhuran kopi ini di kawasan Asia Tenggara telah lama diketahui, namun baru menjadi terkenal luas di peminat kopi gourmet setelah publikasi pada tahun 1980-an. Biji kopi luwak adalah yang termahal di dunia, mencapai USD100 per 450 gram.

Asal mula Kopi Luwak terkait erat dengan sejarah pembudidayaan tanaman kopi di Indonesia. Pada awal abad ke-18, Belanda membuka perkebunan tanaman komersial di koloninya di Hindia Belanda terutama di pulau Jawa dan Sumatera. Salah satunya adalah bibit kopi arabika yang didatangkan dari Yaman. Pada era "Tanam Paksa" atau Cultuurstelsel (1830—1870), Belanda melarang pekerja perkebunan pribumi memetik buah kopi untuk konsumsi pribadi, akan tetapi penduduk lokal ingin mencoba minuman kopi yang terkenal itu. Kemudian pekerja perkebunan akhirnya menemukan bahwa ada sejenis musang yang gemar memakan buah kopi, tetapi hanya daging buahnya yang tercerna, kulit ari dan biji kopinya masih utuh dan tidak tercerna. Biji kopi dalam kotoran luwak ini kemudian dipunguti, dicuci, disangrai, ditumbuk, kemudian diseduh dengan air panas, maka terciptalah kopi luwak.[2] Kabar mengenai kenikmatan kopi aromatik ini akhirnya tercium oleh warga Belanda pemilik perkebunan, maka kemudian kopi ini menjadi kegemaran orang kaya Belanda. Karena kelangkaannya serta proses pembuatannya yang tidak lazim, kopi luwak pun adalah kopi yang mahal sejak zaman kolonial.

Gambar Kopi luwak asli

Luwak, atau lengkapnya musang luwak, senang sekali mencari buah-buahan yang cukup baik dan masak termasuk buah kopi sebagai makanannya. Luwak akan memilih buah kopi yang betul-betul masak sebagai makanannya, dan setelahnya, biji kopi yang dilindungi kulit keras dan tidak tercerna akan keluar bersama kotoran luwak. Biji kopi seperti ini, pada masa lalu sering diburu para petani kopi, karena diyakini berasal dari biji kopi terbaik dan telah difermentasikan secara alami dalam perut luwak. Dan konon, rasa kopi luwak ini memang benar-benar berbeda dan spesial di kalangan para penggemar dan penikmat kopi.

Jika Anda Berminat Untuk Menikmati Kopi Luwak Liar

085 790 991 874

Kopi luwak liar ini dikumpulkan langsung dari kotoran luwak liar di perkebunan di seputaran daerah Jember dan sekitarnya.


Glassybaby (to the rescue)

The other day I was talking with a friend of mine expressing angst over hard-to-come-up-with last minute gift ideas.  I really like giving gifts with meaning and, having left things to the last minute this year (never again), was melting under the pressure.  Her voice lit up as she described Glassybaby - a product that I think is going to become one of my fave gifts to give and receive (Santa?, Santa?)

Glassybaby was founded by Lee Rhodes who, in 1998, was fighting a rare form of lung cancer and looking for an outlet to relieve stress.  She had given the gift of a glassblowing class to the father of her kids who, in turn, made and gifted Lee these candle holders in various colors.  They were an instant source of serenity as she filled them with votives and relaxed by their soothing colors.  By 2001 Lee began creating on her own and in 2003 opened her first store in Seattle having hired professional glass blowers to meet growing demands.  That location remains today as the primary store and studio, but two others have been added in University Village and Bellevue - as well as one in New York City.  How great is that?  

At the core of the company is a desire to give back.  Certain Glassybaby's give a portion of profits to various cancer charities.  I picked up the bff for a good friend of mine - I love knowing that 10% will be donated to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. If you have your back against the wall and are looking for a last minute gift totally check out the site - there are so many wonderful colors to choose from I was like a deer in the headlights trying to narrow it down.

*UPDATE* The rain is still coming down and I could use about 700 Glassybaby's to relax by.  Is it January 2nd yet?  No.  To ease my pain are cookies.  Have you guys visited Mara at M Loves M?  She is one of my daily reads - I love her kind heart and great outfits, as well as the fun relationship she shares with her fiance.  Mara's been hosting a Christmas Cookie Recipe Exchange and featured my Thimble Cookies yesterday...totally check her out and read back through all the amazing and fun cookies that have been previewed!! I think these just might be the cutest ones I've ever seen.

Raining Cats and Dogs

It's a hot mess in Southern California right now folks.  We've had rain for 4 days straight and there's no end in sight.  Yesterday we were supposed to get between 5 and 10 inches and I wouldn't be one bit surprised if it was more.  People are either driving like maniacs or grannies - both techniques causing mad collisions:  approximately 264 on Saturday alone.  Drains are flooding, urban campers are fighting in the alleys over dry cardboard shelters and neighbors are arguing amongst themselves amidst the drone of car horn alarm systems far and wide that are failing due to wind and wet.

A trip to UPS allowed me to survey the damage and report back to you.  Warning:  unlike television's onsite reporters, I do not care to wear "the make-up" in a torrential downpour.  I do however enjoy hauling out the appropriate rain gear.  Might as well seize the day!

I call this the "wait a minute I think it's stopped".
No.  That would be a miscalculation on my part.
They call this maneuver the "wait! there's debris in the road!! I need
to slam on the brakes and get rear-ended by speeders behind me".
Flooded drains mean water darn near over the curb.
Cars splooshing through at top speed splashing pedestrians.
Niiiiiiiice last minute shoppers.
I came back home to the neighbors blasting
each other out as one moved out and apparently got
on the older lady neighbor's nerves.
Get over it honey!  We're all getting pelted in the face
with rain and playing cat and mouse in traffic!!
(of course I didn't actually say that, but sure did think it)

Onward and upward to Friday when I fly out to the motherland aka Canada for Christmas...what are the chances of me making it to LAX in under 2 hours without an ark?  (for a 20 minute drive...heeeeeelllllppp meeeeeeee).

P.S. - If you need a last minute gift for yourself or the BFF don't forget Melinda Maria Jewelry is offering 30% off everything in their online store to readers of This Free Bird now through January 15, 2011.  Use Promo Code FREEBIRD30 at checkout.

Outfit details:  Zac Posen for Target-Rain Jacket, Martin+Osa-Hoodie, American Apparel-Leggings, Hunter-Wellies+Liners, TK Bag

*UPDATE* - Have your guys visited Mara at M Loves M?  She is one of my daily reads - I love her kind heart and great outfits, as well as the fun relationship she shares with her fiance.  Mara's been hosting a Christmas Cookie Recipe Exchange and featured my Thimble Cookies today...totally check her out and read back through all the amazing and fun cookies that have been previewed!! I think these just might be the cutest ones I've ever seen.

eBWD: An Award and Video Guide

A screen-shot showing the new issue of eBWD. Click to watch a video!

This just in! Well, OK, it happened back around Halloween...

The digital edition of Bird Watcher's Digest (the magazine for which I humbly work as editor) has been awarded a Silver Award from the 2010 Digital Magazine Awards! Everyone here at the offices of BWD is buzzing with excitement over this award, so I just had to share it here on BOTB.

We've produced six issues of eBWD thus far and each one has helped us refine our thinking and offerings for the digital realm. One thing has remained constant: All subscribers to the print edition of Bird Watcher's Digest automatically get free access to our digital edition.
That's correct, amigo. If you subscribe to the print edition of BWD, you get access to eBWD as part of the deal. Feeling the urge? Subscribe now!

As we'd hoped, we have lots of people subscribing solely to eBWD, the digital-only edition. Increasingly readers want to receive their favorite content in some digital medium, and we're happy to oblige.

If you have not yet checked out our "award-winning digital edition" (it's neat to be able to say that) please do so. Some of the features that set our digital edition apart from a print magazine include:
  • videos of featured bird species
  • bird sounds and songs embedded into text links
  • recordings of select authors reading their articles
  • hot links throughout the content and advertisements for immediate exploration
This screen shot shows some of the navigation options in eBWD.

But why read about eBWD when you can:

A: Go there yourself and sample some of the pages.


B: Watch a video in which I and (several of my well-dressed colleagues here at BWD) take you on a tour of eBWD. Here it is:

And remember it's not too late to get a BWD subscription as a holiday gift for that special someone who loves watching birds.

O Christmas Tree

Welp with less than a week left until Christmas I have finally finished the tree. I've never had quite as much of a debacle as this year proved to be...we've had the tree for at least 2 weeks and holy mother of pearl I thought the thing was trying to take me down.  First I had to visit 17 stores for lights after most of the ones from last year decided they were no longer in working order and store after store was sold out.  Then I opened the lights, tested them out and a couple strands didn't work.  Then they did.  Then they didn't (you see where I'm going with this).  So I went back out to get replacement strands and finally managed, after 3 hell-filled work days, to get them all on the tree...only to plug it in and one strand went dead.  Then another.  Did you hear screams coming out of the west last week?  That was me.

I swear that mother stood for 2 days with no lights as I strolled off to bed in tears at 2:30am carrying a fist full of my own hair!!

Perhaps it was kismet for all my tree tricks at the lot. Whatever the case may be I am calling it a year (and a shot of tequila).  Serves me right, too - that's what I get for getting all wound up at the tree lot over a too big tree.  I'm lucky the ornament police didn't haul me over for not enough-itis.

After all the shenanigans that comprised tree trim 2010, please allow me to share some of my faves of what has turned out to be a very fun tree...

It all started in Seattle...
I saw this cat ornament and it was on like Donkey Kong!
I had to fly through Seattle a lot that holiday season.
Every time I did I made sure to get another cat ornament!
And another (note fur coat in background!!)
And another!!  It actually went on for a 
couple of years this cat ornament collecting game of mine.
(I'll spare you the rest) 
How about this cute hot air balloon?
Could only be better if a cat was in it. hehe
 And then there was fur!  
This year I added some xo's courtesy of the kind
people at West Elm...who gifted a couple sets
to me when they saw the frazzled look in 
my eye around Thanksgiving.  Love them!!
 There she is in all her glory...bearing enough lights to kill the breaker if you
try to vacuum and dry clothes at the same time.  Oy

Only a couple more gifts to buy and I am done - Woo hooo!!!  If it keeps pouring and people stay off the road it could happen today.  Here's hoping for victory.  How's it coming along for all of you?

Melinda Maria Promo Code: 30% Off Everything

Okay girls I'm back after a brief respite - during which time the tree got 90% decorated and I managed to successfully purchase a handful of gifts.  How are all of you holding up?  Please tell me I'm not alone doing the last minute hustle.

Just in time for all of us who are still seeking that perfect something special for our best girlfriend, mom or sis (or, ahem, ourselves) Melinda Maria Jewelry is offering readers of this free bird a 30% discount off everything in the online store - including sale.  Simply type in this code at checkout to receive the discount:  FREEBIRD30 - even better, you can use this code from today through January 15, 2011 (you know, just in case you get some VISA check cards in the stocking...)

 In a word:  YAHOOOO!!!

 So many of you have asked about this one...
It's the Margo Circle Ring - and it's on sale!
With the 30% code it's less than $60 and if you're out of state then no tax.
*cue Bing Crosby happy holidays, ha-a-ppy holidaaaays*

Or how about seizing the moment to pick up this favorite?
I absolutely love mine and get a ton of compliments!!

These Galaxy Cluster Bangles are my latest addition,
and I'm kind of in love with them.
I toss a few on and then begin piling on others...

Including a couple of the Pyramid Spike Bangles
as well as a few of the Mini Pod to round it out.
Looks so good!!

Not to worry...if you prefer silver you can get those 
versions in each of the above as well.
Melinda kind of thinks of stone (or bangle) left unturned.

Speaking of silver...
aka my new favorite that has not left my neck in weeks.

Please feel free to share the code with others or on your blogs.  This jewelry does not disappoint (as you've seen on my blog here, here, and here) and makes a wonderful gift.  And p.s. - if any boyfriends, husbands, brothers, significant others, bosses and/or dads out there are asking what to get you *cough* *cough* send them a list, a link and the code for guaranteed success. :)

With that I bid you good shopping, baking and tree trimming everyone.  May your weekends be filled with the best of the best including some quality time to take a breather.

What to Give/What to Get

For the past few weeks I've been reading the wonderful gift guides on so many of your blogs and discovering so many treasures.  Yet because of work and life and chaos, there seems to have been little time to really sit down and think about what to give my family and friends.  This week reality has set in that I have next to no time left - and suffice it to say panic is in the house.  Usually my Christmas/Holiday shopping is complete by the 1st of December, so this is unfamiliar territory and I don't like it.  Today when my mother asked me what I was hoping for all that came to mind was a blank slate.

So tonight I gave some thought as to what I would be happy to find under the tree - and also what I would like to give to some of my girlfriends.  This may be the only "gift guide" I do and it's not in fancy format, but if even one of these treats appears on Christmas morning it will be great...and thankfully I've already picked a couple up for friends.

Kerastase Nutridefense 
This mask is my go-to:  I use it once or twice a week and
it saves my hair from becoming frizzy or dried out.
At $58 I'd be happy if someone gave it to me
so I could save my wallet.
It's a gift every female friend or family member
will use, love and appreciate.

JADEtribe Panada
I have a serious affection for JADEtribe (see story here).
These wristlets are made overseas by women in 
Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.
I will support any business that empowers women...
and am especially in love with the bright colors and boho-vibe of 
JADEtribe's pieces.  

As you all know Dean Davidson is one of my favorite jewelry designers.
Aside from being an incredible Canadian talent (go home team!) he is a 
kind and down-to-earth guy whose rings are so unique.
I've dropped a bunch of hints on this one.

I've mentioned this more than once and include it in my list whenever
anyone asks for a few different ideas on what to get me for any occasion.
It is a true indulgence - if you have any level of stress in your 
life then a good soak in a tub containing a few caps of Sake Bath
will ease your troubled mind.  At least one person
gets a bottle from me every year at the holidays.

While you're in the tub, how about a candle?  
For some reason I've got it bad for skulls this year.  
Don't ask me why, but suddenly I think they're the coolest things.
I already picked this up for myself along with the Skull Snuffer.
They'll look great on my desk after I open them :)
I think they're fun gifts for friends, too.

This is another fave I've mentioned before...I've actually
gifted this to clients of mine who have loved both pieces.  If you 
have a tea lover on your list, this set is just a wonderful gift.
Package it up with some blooming tea from Teavana and you 
have a gift that will be loved and used all year round.

Say what you will but these mothers are at the top
of my list.  I want a pair so bad.
This is a 100% organic cotton knit sock on a biodegradable sole.
They're a cross between a legging and a boot and are
meant to be worn both indoor and outdoor.
I'm crazy for leggings/leg warmers  
(Flashdance anyone? The dream will never die)
and these fit the bill perfectly.  They come in a
plethora of colors and my toes feel cozy just thinking 
about them!!

Okay you guys that's as far as I've gotten.  My eyes are slits and I'm heading to bed (it's midnight on Wednesday morning) because tomorrow is another crazy work day and the tree is still not decorated although the lights are working (at present).  I'm trying to slow it down a notch and have a ton of stuff to do before I leave for Canada next week.  How is it that the days are suddenly speeding by?

All I want to do is relax by a decorated tree before nodding off to sleep.
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