Saturday, December 17, 2016

Running in the Winter is Bliss

There is just something about a cold evening, even better if it's a cold snowy evening that makes me crave a run through Lincoln Park and along Lake Michigan. Weird? Crazy? Lost my mind? Probably all of the above.

Maybe it's the feeling of adventure? Feeling really tough and hardcore? Knowing how happy my husky will be running out in the cold? The joy of the complete silence running through the park, only hearing the snow falling. Or the awesomeness that is having the lakeshore path all to yourself.  When I'm out there I feel so alive, alert, focused, my senses heightened. I'm living life! -2 with windchill won't bring me down!

Probably all of the above. Maybe the secret is coming home, drying off and showering and then snuggling up with a good book in front of the fireplace with Christmas music playing and sipping on hot apple cider tea. The epitome of koselig.

Pretty perfect if you ask me!

When it's less than 20 degrees outside I'm wearing a lot of clothing, in fact i'm toasty!

What to wear:

  • 2 pairs of gloves
  • 4 top layers (tank, long sleeve, puffer vest, shell)
  • 2 bottom layers
  • Wool socks
  • Waterproof trail shoes (I have yaktrax but never use them. You don't need them for the snow and if it's that icy I don't think it's safe to run)
  • Neck gaiter
  • Headband
  • Musher's wax for your dog's paws 
Just channel the famous Norwegian saying: "There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing".

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Baked Margherita Spaghetti Squash

I made this delicious recipe for lunch today using my spaghetti squash and tomatoes from the Farmer's Market. Best spaghetti squash I've ever made! Usually it's a bit too bland for me. I think using the olive oil, salt and pepper prior to roasting the squash made a big difference. The broiler was fun to use and made the cheese look so yummy. Very hot out of the broiler though-beware!

Tastes as good as it looks!

Hooded Merganser

Quite a unique and amazing duck! I saw one yesterday and two today at North Pond, hanging out with the mallards. Easily identifiable to say the least.

Eye catching. Thanks Pinterest. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Quote of the Day

“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”-Jane Goodall

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Butternut Squash Soup

For a gloomy Sunday, I made butternut squash soup for the first time. Butternut squash, sweet potato, onion, garlic, ginger, tumeric, nutmeg, cayenne pepper and coconut milk. Cooked in the slower cooker for 2 hours and then blended. It tasted delicious with focaccia bread!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Black-throated Blue Warbler

Saw this beautiful creature Wednesday evening at Montrose Point, the Magic Hedge no less!

I am so gorgeous!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

American Kestrel

What a gorgeous bird! I sighted and properly identified a female American Kestrel this morning! Several Northern Flickers were pestering it to leave. The American Kestrel is our country's smallest falcon. Being able to identify a new bird is such a cool feeling. It's kind of like making a cool diagnosis in medicine, but even more cool because I haven't received any training in birding, everything I know is self-taught, and no sickness involved!

Alluring American Kestrel -copyright Audubon

Monday, October 3, 2016

5 New Lifers!

Chicago during fall migration is the happiest place on earth! Unless you are the rabbit that I saw a juvenile Cooper's Hawk eating right outside the gates of Lincoln Park Zoo... I added FIVE species to my life list this morning. I know if you are an experienced birder, you are rolling your eyes at me, since most of these birds are pretty common. But to me, this is super cool!

Killer Cooper's Hawk

Dark-eyed Junco in the shrubs on the edge of North Pond.

Dreamy Dark-eyed Junco

About a dozen Northern Flickers, a type of woodpecker that pecks at ants on the ground near North Pond Restaurant. Absolutely beautiful colors and pattern!

Northern Flicker

A teeny tiny Ruby-crowned Kinglet, cousin of the Golden-crowned Kinglet I saw over the weekend.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

A White-throated Sparrow. So many sparrows today, this little guy as well as more white-crowned sparrows and house sparrows.

White-throated Sparrow

Thanks to pinterest and all the birding websites for these fabulous photos. My blurry pics are not worth posting... Quincy was patient during my two hour birding walk this morning. He even found a nice place to perch.

Quincy the happy Husky. :)


Sunday, October 2, 2016

Golden Crowned Kinglet

Explored Illinois Beach State Park this morning, and saw my very first kinglet - a golden crowned kinglet.  Right next to the sandy beach bluffs, within perfect view. The bold yellow crest on a cute little bird is unforgettable. Apparently this little guy can withstand -40 degree F winters! We will definitely be returning to this State Park, it has a mix of habitats including marsh, dune, swale, oak
woods, beach and Lake Michigan, which make it an ideal birding location. Plus Quincy loved it. :)

Look at that glorious golden crown! Thanks Pinterest

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Winter Wren

Like the chickadee, the winter wren is a CUTE bird. I found him on the ground, looking for insects most likely, near the North Pond restaurant yesterday morning.

 Fun fact: "On a per-pound basis, the winter wren generates more song for its weight than any other North American songbird". It is one of the smallest birds around, the size of kinglets (I saw a few of these as well but couldn't ID the exact species). The winter wren differs from the house wren with it's stubbly upright tail. 

The wonderful winter wren!

Friday, September 30, 2016

Red-Breasted Nuthatch

It's a fall-out! Stormy weather in Chicago brought so many great birds to Lincoln Park this week. If only I could identify them all. These fall migrants are tough for a newbie birder like me. The majority of them seem to be colored in variants of brown and yellow, and they are so darn quick it's been tough to definitely identify most of them. The red-breasted nuthatch stuck out though and I was able to make a positive ID. Hip hip hooray!!! :) That rusty-cinnamon belly cinched it for me!

Isn't he handsome? 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Hello Kidney

Just finished my month as senior resident on the Inpatient Kidney Service. Incredibly busy with very sick children all month. Learned a lot, worried a ton. Now have several more grey hairs and probably need a new eyeglass prescription. It's worth it though, I'd do anything for these kids, they are AMAZING. And ridiculously cute.

In case you don't know, the kidneys are really important to every day life.  A litany of potential problems, and possibly all at the same time! Hyperkalemia, Hyponatremia, Hypocalcemia, Anemia, Hypertension, Uremia, Hypertriglyceridemia, Hyperphosphatemia, Proteinuria, Hypoalbuminemia, Thrombosis, Infection, the list goes on...

Any little thing can go wrong when you have kidneys that don't work very well, especially when you are small. Many of our children with severe kidney disease live for years on dialysis until they are big enough for a kidney or until they find a matched kidney donor.

Try to imagine..

  • Having a little baby and needing to connect them to peritoneal dialysis every night for 12 hours a night. 
  • Trying to give a toddler 10 medicines every single day, and they taste bad.
  • Your tween-age sister needing urgent dialysis for kidney failure because of a diarrheal illness a week ago
  • Every time your school-aged kiddo has a fever they needed to be hospitalized to rule out a serious bacterial infection

A few acronyms from the month:

Electron Microscopy of Kidney's Glomerulus. Thx WikiCommons!

Kids with chronic kidney problems are at higher risk of infections than us regular folk -whether it be from immunosuppressive medicines to preserve their kidney transplant, extra fluid that can get infected or having a central line/catheter that puts them at risk for infection. Just in case you weren't a germ-a-phobe already, here's a list of the infections I've dealt with recently:

  • Adenoviremia
  • CMV colitis
  • Cryptosporidiosis
  • Clostridium difficile colitis
  • Enterococcus faecalis bacteremia
  • Infectious Mononucleosis
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae meningitis
  • Ecoli O157H7 

Bottomline: The next time you pee, thank your kidneys. They don't get enough credit for all their hard work!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Love & Birds

In case you missed it, here is a sweet article from the NYTimes from Friday about how a bird feeder in the city impacted one couple: How a Bird Feeder Revived My Marriage

I've been working my 80 hour weeks at the hospital recently. 28 hour call Friday night. Hold your little ones close and give them a kiss. Too many are spending their summer hospitalized. I'm doing my best to get them better and home before the school year starts.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Black Vulture!

What kind of bird did Max see? The best birder I know and amazing friend Wendy in Kansas got to the answer first: a group of black vultures!

Black vulture in flight! Copyright

Black vultures live year round as north as Pennsylvania and as south as Patagonia. They are frequently in large groups, have a black bald head, and white wing patches that can be tough to see.  They are raptors as you know, and like all vultures are usually scavenging and eating carcasses (someone's gotta do it!).

Chillin. Thanks Wikipedia

Thanks for all the guesses! When I first saw the photo Max sent, my first thought was double-crested cormorant because it's the only bird I've ever seen sitting and drying their wings out, but the neck looked too short to be a cormorant. With more research I found out that anhingas and vultures also do this behavior, so then asked if the birds appeared bald. Max did some sleuthing on his own and on found out that someone else had seen a large group of black vultures in the same area and this confirmed our identification.

Double-crested cormorant. Copyright AllAboutBirds
Size and shape, color pattern, behavior, and habitat were all used to correctly identify this bird! It came down to a bald, black, large bird in a big flock fanning out its wings in Pennsylvania in the summer time. Voila!


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

What Kind of Bird is This?

From my friend Max, on a bike trip in Pennsylvania:

"Do you know what kind of bird this is? A whole bunch of them were sitting on the fence and doing this weird thing where they sat with both wings outstretched. There were so many of them, and they were so large and totally unperturbed by humans. I was quite curious."


What do you think? 

I'll post our amateur bird detective conclusions tomorrow! 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Birding in Action!

An "action shot" of me birding! This was an early morning along the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay oceanfront trail.  A few minutes before this pic this great blue heron ate a mouse. A WHOLE LIVING MOUSE. That was insane. I watched the entire thing through my binoculars and I still get the heebie-jeebies thinking about it.

Copyright Mark Pederson :)


Friday, July 29, 2016


The brief, sporadic sightings of blinking lights on a warm summer night is something I absolutely love about Chicago. They are my favorite insect by far. I've learned there are over 2000 species of fireflies (who knew?) and they are also called "lightening bugs". Bioluminescence is so cool!

Simply magical! Thanks Google Images.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Black-capped Chickadee

This is a CUTE bird. It's size, shape, color, tweets. I first saw one about a month ago around South Pond. Just a few days ago I saw another 3 around North Pond. I love their song, very recognizable and how I first came across the bird. According to, one of their calls is a three syllable, "hey, sweetie". The other typical call you can hear is their warning call, "chickadee-dee-dee", The more "dee's" in the call, the more urgent the warning!  I love everything about the black-capped chickadee!

Adorable!!! Courtesy of Flickr

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

My Garden: Sunny Knock Out Roses

This year I decided to plant a rose bush, mostly for the sweet fragrance. After a big storm this weekend I was watering and to my surprise my rose bush had blossomed! 2 beautiful white roses! Beautiful smelling. With over a dozen yellow buds to boot! After planting the rose bush over a month ago, my hopes for buds this year were low, so this was an awesome surprise!

My petite rose bush! Look at those 2 roses!

Sooo fragrant!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Daily Bird Count: 21 Species!

1. Rock dove
2. American robin
3. Mallard
4. Wood duck
5. Chickadee
6. Domestic goose
7.  Canadian goose
8. Great blue heron
9. Ring-billed gull
10. Green heron
11. Black-crowned night heron
12. Redwing blackbird
13. American goldfinch
14. Northern cardinal
15. Cedar waxwing
16. Barn swallow
17. European starling
19. House sparrow
20. Crow
21. Greylag domestic goose

Thursday, July 21, 2016

City Living: Front Porch

One of my favorite things about where we live is our front porch. We're on a tree-lined street that is nice and shady, and we have four large planters that I take care of. This summer I was so happy because several of the flowers planted last year returned. I  added petunias this year-as annuals they won't return next year, but they are so colorful and pretty I couldn't resist! Even though it's hitting 90+ degrees this week with absurd amounts of humidity, the flowers are thriving with daily watering. Although our front porch is compact, I like working on the front porch, while I'm watering/sweeping/weed pulling/checking the mail, I meet and chat with neighbors, local business owners, the mail woman, fed ex man (who calls Jon "Mr. Pederson" because I order all our packages!), construction workers, dog walkers, maintenance men. Taking care of my front porch is one easy way to make my neighborhood more beautiful, friendly and loved!

Our front porch

A close up of one of the planters

Quincy hanging out


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Semipalmated Plover

My first plover in Chicago! This little fellow was feeding along the shore of the small island in the middle of South Pond.  A plover is a tiny shorebird, this particular type has yellow legs and white underbelly. In my identification attempt, of course I jumped to the conclusion that I saw a piping plover, but given its endangered and rare bird status in Chicago I continued to search and was able to correctly ID it as a juvenile Semipalmated Plover. Common things are common...

Identifying specific bird species is tricky. For the most part, knowing heron vs. duck vs. goose vs. swallow vs. plover vs. wren isn't very difficult. I imagine it's like a regular person knowing colors compared to an artist knowing colors. Different shades, tints and hues. Sure we know blue, but do we know azure, periwinkle, indigo, cobalt, cyan?

For this particular bird I was happy that I could immediately identify it as a plover, but then when you have to identify what type of plover it is, the specific markings, colors, and habitats become very important. Without binoculars it's almost impossible. I saw another new species today but it was too high up in the trees with the sun behind it and it was very difficult for me to clearly distinguish it's markings so I couldn't properly identify it once I got back home.

I was too far away to get a photo. Up close courtesy of

Monday, July 18, 2016

18+ Species Today!

Mostly spotted around North Pond. To put this in perspective, on ebird, the single day high for North Pond this year is 77 species. To give myself some credit that was in early May during peak migration season.  I'm pretty happy with the 18+ I saw today. I really wish I could have successfully identified the last bird!
  1. American Robin
  2. Northern Cardinal (by call)
  3. Red-winged Blackbird
  4. Cliff Swallow
  5. Common Sparrow
  6. Downy Woodpecker
  7. Green Heron
  8. Black-crowned Night Heron
  9. Great Blue Heron
  10. Mallard
  11. Wood Duck
  12. Canadian Goose
  13. American Crow
  14. Common Grackle
  15. Ring-billed Gull
  16. American Goldfinch
  17. Mourning Dove
  18. Domestic Goose
  19. I think it was a Brandt but I can't positively say, will scope out again tomorrow hopefully. 

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Eastern Kingbird Sighting!

A perfect Saturday morning here in Chi-town. Sunny with a breeze and no humidity. We earned it after last week! We were walking along the dirt walking path in Lincoln Park that circles the baseball fields -so many people out playing ball, very picturesque. Then I saw it - a robin-sized bird with a dark black cap and black beak, sleek and looking like he was wearing a tux (black backed and white chested), and when he flew away I noticed his white-tipped tail. Now back at home, using my Sibley Field Guide I can properly give this tuxedo-wearing bird a name: the Eastern Kingbird! My first flycatcher sighting!

Silhouette of the Eastern Kingbird in Lincoln Park

These birds fly all the way to South America on the hunt for berries in the winter, but like a true Chicagoan, love to summer around here.

Up close thanks to the Audubon Society -what a beauty!

When this eastern kingbird flew away, he made a spectacular aerial acrobatic display of what I assume was catching a flying insect in midair! I wish I had caught it on video tape!

I'm all smiles now, great way to start the day! Hope you have a pleasant weekend full of birding!

Wood Ducks and Ducklings

I've been following the wood ducks that live in North Pond for two years now. I still find the male wood duck spectacular with his vibrant and modern color blocking.

Bold lines, vivid coloring, the Matisse of ducks. Thanks Wikipedia.

I also recently saw two juvenile male wood ducks. Being a budding birder, I of course got very excited that this was a different species and possibly a rare bird sighting, but common things being common, eventually identified it as the juvenile male wood duck that it was. Seeing the two side by side you can see the outline of the adult male coloring that will come over the next few years. Amazing!

Juvenile male wood duck. Thanks Audubon Society.

But, this year, the mama wood duck took over the show. She gave birth to NINE ducklings this spring! They are so cute and adorable. I make sure Quincy the husky stays far away so we never scare them. I know urban ducks need to learn to be alert and toughen up quickly, but I'd rather not rush these cutie pies.
Mama and her 9 ducklings. Time for a better camera I think!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Herons, Herons, Everywhere!

Quite a morning for herons around North Pond. Within 20 meters there were three different species of herons: black crowned night heron, green heron and great blue heron! I was able to capture some photos to share.

A small green heron hunting off the tree limb.

One of the two beautiful great blue herons fishing.

A juvenile black crowned night heron learning to hunt.

What a morning for herons! 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Cedar Waxwing

I am thrilled! I spied a species of bird this evening that I've never seen before. Apparently cedar waxwings are common around Chicago, but it was my first sighting! I saw three in the bushes around North Pond in Lincoln Park. Really striking birds with a silky brown color and crest, a bright yellow tipped tail and a black mask. This is one of my favorite birds yet! Plus, as a budding birder, I'm proud that I was able to see it in nature and come back home and identify it. Slowly but surely I'm building my birding muscle. I wish I had heard the waxwing's song!

Copyright Pinterest as usual, my photos are all blurry!

Green Heron

A little green heron has made South Pond it's home this summer. I've had several sightings. Today it was flying all around! Last summer I don't think I saw any in Lincoln Park, so this is a treat!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Downy Woodpecker

Quincy and I were on our morning walk and a little downy woodpecker was pecking away in a tree above us. Quite close up actually. They are so cute, one of my favorite local birds in Chicago.

Photo from Pinterest

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Western Bluebird

In the Bay Area this weekend for a really fun wedding (Congrats Kevin & Liz!), went on a little hike and saw two Western Bluebirds. I was surprised I didn't see more hawks since we saw at least two dozen mice scurrying about. The bluebirds were easily identifiable by their blue back and rust-orange "vest". Love!

Western Bluebird. Thanks Pinterest!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

American Goldfinch

Still jet lagged from Japan, after house cleaning at 3am, Quincy and I took a walk around South Pond. Yesterday I noted a sign that mentioned the American Goldfinch and how common it was, and I thought to myself "hmm I haven't seen one yet". Low and behold this morning one flies right in front of us. It really is a striking bird, bright yellow and dark black. The little guy made my day. Sometimes you have to really wonder how the world works in mysterious ways! Afterwards, Quincy was a big hit at Green City Market. He kept lying down at every vendor, winning over their hearts.

Found on Pinterest, wish I could have taken this photo!