Monthly Archives: May 2010

Hummingbird Update: 5.28.10

The first egg hatched on May 24, the second egg hatched on May 26.

See first post, of nest and eggs.

You can see both chicks in the nest, below. Nest is made out of spiderwebs and will stretch as chicks grow. It takes about 10 days for them to regulate their own temperature. At  three-four weeks they are ready to fledge. Mom feeds them every 15-20 minutes.

Two hummingbirds in one nest. Bird on right is 2 days older.

Close-up of just-hatched babies. One on right is four days old. One on left is two days old.

To get an idea of how small they are, compare the eggs, below. Orange container holds a chicken egg. Blue container holds a Mexican dove egg. Pink container holds a hummingbird egg. The egg shell was almost all there when I picked it up, but is so frail that the breeze broke it in my fingers. Tiny egg, tiny babies!

Egg-size comparison: hummingbird egg on top, Mexican dove on left, chicken egg on right.

My only real fear is that the nest is in our fig tree, and the figs will be ripe before the chicks fledge. I’m concerned about crows, grackles and starlings, all of which eat hummingbird eggs and chicks.

The Trick to Saying “No”

Over the last few days, I’ve been inundated with requests for help from clients, almost-clients, and never-will-be-clients. All of them wanted a fast turnaround. All of them have gotten quick responses from me before. And none of them knew that I was in the middle of a project that was sucking up time faster than a Shop-Vac sucks up tacks, a project that demanded lots of focus and came with a built-in tight deadline.

NoI begged off two projects only to get hurt emails back, insisting I help and pointing to some wince-inducing guilt lurking off-stage.

Several years ago I piled on a bad mix of too much paying and non-paying work and ended up slathered in humiliation and unfinished, promised work. Not wanting to do that again, I gathered up my coaching stamina and skills. . .and stayed up till 3 a.m. for three nights doing everything so people would like me. Damn. Personal growth can be a bitch.

Here’s what I learned. (I hate learning while it’s going on; afterwards, it’s always worthwhile. But when i see a learning experience coming on, I cringe.)

–When people ask me to re-write something,  they think it will take 10 minutes. It doesn’t. It takes 3 hours. When I sweat over it for 3 hours and they tell me I missed the deadline, I sigh. When they add “I just spiked your email, you were late,” I stuff down rage.

Lesson learned: When I open the email request, I send back an email that says, “This will take me 3 hours, and I can get to it next week. Is that all right?” The return email says, “I thought it would take 10 minutes, I just want you to glance at it and give me advice,” I reply, “Nope, that’s 3 hours. Next week OK?” The key is to stick to the time YOU know it will take you and define a time you will deliver the finished product. Figure accurately the time when you can get to it. Let the requester decide if that fits their deadline. If they tell you they need it sooner, you can honestly say you are booked. That’s the point where you started.

–In an ideal world, people get their work done before the deadline. In my world, I get requests to look at this “right away.” If I’m jammed up myself, I make up mean thoughts of their inconsiderate selves.  In reality, they aren’t thinking of me at all, they are trying to get something done. Back goes an email, “I’m jammed up right now, I can get to this in three days.” You have to stand up for yourself. Without making up ugly stuff about your colleagues. Just stick to the facts.

Lesson learned: Be honest with yourself first, then your client. That way “no” feels better coming out of your mouth.

If you don’t want to do it, simply say “I can’t take this on right now.” You don’t have to offer more explanation. That’s hard, because we want people to like us and tell us it’s all right. But people are not concerned about what we want, they are concerned about what they want. Which is why they don’t care once you’ve said “no.” It’s amazing how well it works

–Quinn McDonald is a certified creativity coach who is still learning, and plans on making a life out of learning. You can see her work at Rawartjournaling.com

Letter to a Suicide Survivor

Note: An acquaintance tried to commit suicide last week. It wasn’t the first time. This time, it resulted in Dave [not the real name] dumping all the pills so he wouldn’t be tempted again. And then Dave had a moment of regret. He wrote me, and this was my answer.

Calla lilly © QuinnCreative

Your story and regret is not surprising. None of it.
You have regret because you closed the secret escape door, forcing you to find new solutions to problems, living with them instead of taking the unsolved way out.

Difficult because it forces you to change—-not one big, dramatic sweep—-that was yesterday–the drama, the thrill, the heroism.

Today is the day of putting it together, of figuring out the “how”—-that’s a lot harder. That demands traction of your action.  Courage is often rash—we jump to follow a gut feeling of bravery before we realize the long-term results. Then we rationalize our way out of it. It’s much harder to live with that moment of bravery. Most often, there is no medal or party to celebrate, just confused friends and relatives who want us to be “normal.” And the relief that we did not leave children, relatives, friends behind to try to untangle the confusion of “why did Dave choose this?”

This is the way of a troubled life. First, you re-live with excitement the rush of terror, of danger, of suffering. That was clean, bright pain with the rush of adrenaline, it was a torture we can point to in horror. And then there was the dull aftermath, the stuff we drag along, day to day. Not so much bright, more dull, and we build our stories around that, making the clean pain into dirty pain. This is the stuff we use to make our stories—-the stories we tell ourselves to make it OK not to change. It’s an excuse to behave the way we always

This calla lilly is a surprise--I was told they could not survive in a pot through out hot summer.

have. Change is hard, it’s complicated. Change requires re-thinking the ways “we’ve always done it.”  The dull day-to-day stuff of gauging others needs and choosing others instead of yourself is hard for you. It is hard for everyone. Something you never learned when your world was about survival, not growth.

Dumping the pills puts you in charge, but with different choices.  You are dealing with what shows up, demanding new choices from yourself. You are freely giving up control of ending your life to make others wrong–because that is what suicide is–”see, you made me do this,” and throwing your lot in with those who live in the moment, who don’t know when death will come. That is a new way to live—-with uncertainty, with certain death but uncertain time, making every moment count so that when we are struck down, we don’t have regret, and we have memories, will to continue, and resources when much, maybe all we knew before,  is taken away. How wonderful that you built this chance, this choice to do it in a new and healthy way. And how scary for you. It will not be easy to re-think the choice of suicide and choose a harder one–living with problems, not being able to fix them all. It’s a struggle, this life. Choosing life is often harder than choosing death. But choosing death makes others responsible, raises questions that can’t be answered. Thanks from your friends and kids for not leaving us to wonder. And wander without you. You did a hard thing; I hope the next week you’ll see it was also worthwhile.

–Quinn McDonald is a life- and creativity coach.

Review: Amy’s Baking Company in Scottsdale

Note: There is a follow-up post that deals with the Yelp review and the aftermath running into August 2010.  I felt it important to add lessons learned to the issue. Please do not leave comments or advice  for Amy. She doesn’t read the blog. the times I have been there, the food was good and I got excellent service. But I was also told that Amy does all the cooking and baking, and that was not true. And food servers not getting the tips? Inexcusable.

* * * * *
Amy’s Baking Company is SO much more than a bakery. We went for dinner last night and both of us had the best meal we’ve had in a long time. Maybe even since we moved to Phoenix. Owners, Samy and Amy Bouzaglo, are on site all the time. Amy is in the kitchen preparing organic salads and fresh bread, Samy is out front, spoiling customers.

Prickly pear margarita, sugared rim

The bistro is wonderful—-sparkling black-and-white tiles, black granite tabletops, black beaded crystal chandeliers, Venetian plaster walls and gilt mirrors welcome you to a European-style Patisserie (or Conditorei if you are German). You walk past a glowing pastry case where toffee cheesecake, ginger cupcakes and flourless chocolate cake are heaped with exquisite caps of perfectly piped whipped cream. You brain immediately makes room for dessert, but you walk past and sit on a black-upholstered chair and start to look at the menu.

Prosciutto and fig preserve crostini and marinated olives

We had the A.B.C. House-Made Marinated Olives ($3)  The portion was generous, and the marinade incredible—-sage, peppercorns, rosemary, fennel seeds and other savory delights. The olives are neither slippery nor over-vinegared. Calamata and red olives are perfectly spicy and salty, like a good olive should be.

We also shared a plate of three crostini–crisp, tooth-friendly bread with prosciutto and a dab of fig jam. Perfect. We splurged on drinks–a dirty martini for him ($6) and a prickly pear margarita for me. ($4) Both yummy. My margarita was dipped in sugar instead of salt, which was just right for the citrusy cactus juice mix.

Ah, and then the main course. I had ordered coconut shrimp on an organic mixed-green salad. ($16) He had ordered butternut squash ravioli in a butternut squash cream sauce. ($22) Without asking, a plate of bread appeared with the order,

Cocnut shrimp over organic field greens. Umm, one shrimp is already gone.

so we could soak up the cream sauce. OK, so this is not the dish to order when you are on a diet, in case you were wondering. The ravioli were toothy, generous, and the filling so good we goth groaned with delight. The bread, cut in wedges and looking like an untopped pizza, was perfect for soaking up the sauce. Not a hint of grease–you’ve eaten sauces

Butternut squash ravioli

that leave an oil slick on your palate and have you licking the roof of your mouth like a dog dealing with a spoonful of peanut butter.  Not this sauce. Napped onto the plate like a bolt of heavy silk, the sauce was a creamy blend of herbs and richness that supported the butternut-squash stuffed ravioli.

On my plate, three very large shrimp, perfectly cooked, were wearing coats of crisp coconut. Exactly how the chef managed to get the coconut golden and the shrimp not overcooked is beyond me, but that’s what it was. Perfect. The shrimp were in a mixed field green salad of perfect proportion, lightly dressed with care not to over-vinegar it. (A problem with most mass-market restaurants–too much vinegar, not enough emulsifying.) Topping the salad were toasted macadamia nuts and hot, fresh sauteed mango. When the waiter came to pick up the plates, only the tiniest shred of shrimp tails remained.

See that tiny dried rose to the right of the raspberry? It smelled like a rose. That’s attention to detail.

My brain reminded me that I’d passed that bakery case, so back we went. We chose a lemon tart and a flourless “chocolate pie” which was really a tart of chocolate with a chocolate crust. ($8 each, but one can easily be dessert for two or three). The topping was a mix of whipped cream and mascarpone–a rich, spreadable Italian cream that is often called cheese. Well, it is, but not what we Americans think of as cheese. Neither tangy nor salty, and with the consistency of pudding, mascarpone is a promise of heaven. It can be used either savory or sweet, and on these tarts, it was mixed with whipped cream to lighten in and vaguely sweetened. One of the signs of a chef who knows what he or she is doing is a light touch with sugar in whipped cream. Sweetness should be scarcely noticeable, and here it was, allowing the other flavors to bloom. We had the desserts with French press coffee–fresh, blooming with flavor and perfect with the rich desert.

This delightful evening, complete with drinks, appetizer, main course, dessert and coffee came to $70 without tip. It was the best $70 I’ve spent since I found the Mephisto sandals on sale.

When we left, we knew we would be back–soon. Amy’s Baking Company is conveniently located on Shea, close to old-town Scottsdale, around 74th St. Worth a trip from anywhere–including Ohio.

Amy’s Baking Company *  7366 East Shea Boulevard * Scottsdale, AZ 85260-6471 * (480) 607-0677

Quinn McDonald is a writer, foodie and life- and creativity coach who dined and went to heaven in Scottsdale last night.

Hummingbird on Board

Updates: First egg hatches, May 24, 2010 (photo at bottom)

She built her nest in the fig tree in the yard. She’s tiny, even for a hummingbird, less than 3 inches long, head to tail (but without the beak). Distinguishing one hummingbird species from another, particularly the females, who don’t have the colored feathers at the throat, is a mystery to me. I think she is an Anna’s hummingbird, maybe a Costa’s. There are many species of hummingbirds here in Arizona, so I’m not the best one to ask.

The hummingbird nest is about the size of a ping-pong ball cut in half.

The nest is in an exposed fork of the fig tree. It’s about the size of a ping-pong ball cut in half. It’s made of spider webs, leaf bits and tiny plant parts.  My cats have no interest in the hummingbirds, as the larger Broad-Tailed hummingbirds routinely chase the cats inside by dive-bombing them. The three feeders encourage birds, and the cats are no longer interested.  As the heat increases, the cats want to spend less and less time outside, so I’m not concerned.

Hummingbird on nest.

The eggs are the size of a coffee bean, and there are two of them. Laid sometime around May 6, I’m expecting a hatch date of May 22 and a fledge date of 3 to 4 weeks later. The birds are born helpless, almost bald and with closed eyes. Their eyes open around 11 or 12 days after hatching. They grow fast, and two birds in a nest will test the durability of mom’s talent. Spiderwebs stretch, and so do hummingbird nests. As the birds grow, the nest stretches. At birth, baby hummingbirds instinctively know not to soil the nest. They push their rear ends out over the nest and projectile poop. It’s funny to see, and amazing to think they are born with such good aim.

Each egg is the size of a coffee bean.

My big concern is that the female built her nest in the fig trees in May. Figs are ripe in early to mid-June, and attract predatory birds–crows, grackles, and starlings. These birds will eat a hummingbird egg or nestling, and I’m concerned for the nest. This morning, while mom was out feeding, I trimmed some of the figs away from the nest. I’ll do another trim this evening, when she’s gone again.

I’ll keep you posted on this page as the summer goes on.

Another view of mom hummingbird on nest.

MAY 24, 2010: First egg hatches. The photo is blurry, but it’s the best I could do, quick before I got dive bombed! Chick is facing head toward the bottom of the photo. They are born naked, with a racing stripe of fuzz on their backbone. The beak is very short and will grow longer as they get older. It will take about a month to fledge.

Update: May 28. First photos of both chicks in nest and egg-size comparison.

Quinn McDonald is a naturalist, writer and raw-art journaler who lives in the Phoenix area. Her book “Raw Art Journaling: Making Meaning, Making Art will be published by North Light books in June of 2011.

Raw-Art Journal Pages:Minimalist, Color

A few days ago, I posted some new, minimalist approaches to raw-art journaling. Here are two more pages, these with quotes from Wendell Barry, whose poetry I recently remembered through Jill Berry’s inspiring blog (perhaps no relation, but maybe some.)

The first image is in pen and ink. What didn’t scan well was the big moon behind the tree. You can see part of it on the left side of the tree. starting at the rock outline. It’s outlined in silver gel pen and has horizontal lines through it. The poem fragment says, “There are no unsacred places; tere are only sacred places and desecrated places.”

Pen and ink with Wendell Berry quote

The second image is done with sepia tones of Pitt Pen and colored in with orange shades of Pitt Pen. Here the writing follows the landscape lines. It says, “. . . and we pray, not / for new earth or neaven, but to be / quiet in the heart, and in eye,/ clear. What we need is here.”

Raw-art page done in Pitt Pen for color.

–Quinn McDonald is working on a book on raw-art journaling. It will be published in June of 2011 by North Light Craft Books.

Carry Your Magic Close to You

abracadabra talismanDo you have a talisman? A special object to keep you safe, make you strong, avoid the evil eye? Whether it’s a shell you found at the beach or a necklace you wore when you won a prize, your magic object protects you and shows you the path you want to take.  Once you have a talisman, you feel protected. You can concentrate on  what you need to accomplish, and Voila! Magic.

I choose my magic carefully,  even if I have to resort to the help of a jeweler. Some time ago, while doing research for something else I came across the word abracadabra–the magic word you’ve know since childhood.

It turns our that it is, indeed a magic word. There is one story about its use as a cure for illness, but I found another meaning, far more magical to someone who makes a living with words.

The phrase appears  in one of the  tellings of origination myth. The Semitic Aramaic phrase, avra kehadabra, means, “I will create as I speak.” In the Aramiac translation, it was used when  the Spirit divided the light from darkness, creating  day and night simply by speaking the words.

It has a second meaning, one of trust. “I will create as a I speak” is a promise to do what we say, to carry through. The idea of creation and trust are both, at least in my opinion,  attributes of writers.

It seems good to wear it when I write, particularly when I journal, when I create my life and meaning with words.

Quinn McDonald is a writer, life- and creativity coach who believes in symbols, amulets and magic of her own creation. © 2008-2010

Journal Pages: Just Ink and Lines

Art journals right now are filled with color–each page is painted, layered, inked, stamped, collaged. It’s a wonderful, colorful looks that makes books thick with color. It’s lovely if you are in a studio surrounded by equipment. But what if you are just sitting somewhere, with a pen and a journal? Right now, I’m exploring a minimalist approach in raw-art journaling. I’m researching pen and ink artists–both Japanese, Chinese, Indian, and American. There is a lot to explore.  I want to design a page so there is room for words and images, using as little as possible in the way of design. I want to leave room for writing. Below is a sunrise landscape I tried with a Micron marker, leaving lots of room for writing. Maybe I’ll add color later.

02 Black Micron on Co-Mo sketch paper 80 lb.

Almost none of my journal pages show people. I know right now it’s popular to have long-necked, big-eyed women gazing out from journal pages. Again, in this minimalist phase I’m in, I want to explore the suggestion of people, creating spaces inside the image outlines to write. I like the idea of an outline holding my thoughts. I like the idea of hinting at the spiritual aspect of people by just suggesting a form, and letting imagination flood in.

Figure of woman with writing, Micron pen on Co-Mo paper, 80-lb.

–Quinn McDonald is working on chapter 6 of her book, Raw Art Journaling: Making Meaning, Making Art. She’s thinking this idea of suggesting lines is a good way to explore more depth of what is said, or unsaid.

Product Review: Starbucks Markers

Starbucks has come out with four “completely natural” markers. They are colored with materials such as turmeric (a yellow-orange spice) and minerals. The good news is that they don’t smell bad and they are, I guess, eco-friendly. The bad news is that the colors aren’t saturated or true to the lid colors.

From top: Starbucks, Copic, Faber-Castell and Derwent Inktense.

On the left is a chart. I matched Copic alcohol markers and  Faber-Castell Pitt Pens to the lid colors of the Starbucks markers, then added a selection of Derwent Inktense watercolor pencils in colors that matched the marker lids.

The top half of the Derwent Inktense is blended with water, the bottom is just the pencil. And yes, I noticed that I flopped the yellow and orange on the pencils. No other intent, just a mistake.

As you can see, the Starbucks markers are grayed out and not vibrant. They do not soak through the page, which the Copic markers do. Pitt and Derwent Inktense do not soak through or bleed.

Copic markers lay down color more smoothly and deeply; Pitt Pens (Faber-Castell) are intense and true to color, Inktense create a transparent wash that is color-rich.

If you are not interested in the colors, the Starbucks markers work well, go down smoothly and have a chisel tip that writes both flat and on edge.

On a totally different note: The black squares on the bottom are a decoration only. I’m working on an art journaling class that doesn’t use painted backgrounds. That’s where the black squares came from. Stay tuned for more information on the class.

Quinn McDonald is a writer, artist and life- and creativity coach. She reviews art materials when she uses them.

Feedback: Tool and Torture

Feedback used to be something bad that happened to performing musicians. A sound loop occurred and

Electronic feedback is similar to verbal feedback

the pickup from the microphone got looped through the loudspeakers. A shrieking, whistling sound resulted. Jimi Hendrix turned feedback into an art form, the rest of us are stuck with feedback from other people.

Feedback can be great, when, like in music, it is positive feedback–it amplifies what works. Feedback can let us hear how others perceive us, how our communication sounds to others. Just like in the drawing, feedback may also involve an amplifier–something we say that sets off the listener, who then focuses on that one fact as the only fact they heard. There is also the mixer, the person who hears or gives garbled communication, resulting in wasted time and effort.

There are a few problems with verbal feedback. We can’t believe everything we hear. A listener can give feedback with a strong personal bias, and we can choose not to make changes based on it. There is the “devil’s advocate” feedback-delivery from the person who insists on automatically taking the viewpoint opposite of yours and insisting it be treated as equally valid. These people are often lack-and-attackers, and while they may be helpful, they are more often time wasters. Rarely, they are sufferers of Munchausen at work, which I’ve written about before.

Feedback is tricky business. It can be an excellent way to improve based on reaction to our communication. It can also be a perception that is the reality of the listener, and exists only at the listerner’s reality. In that case, it’s doesn’t have to be your reality, you can just walk through the feedback.

Quinn McDonald is a writer, life- and creativity coach who teaches business communications.

©Quinn McDonald 2010