Sunday, January 31, 2010

TODAY'S FLOWERS # 77

I took these photos when we were at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond last summer.
You might remember this little rabbit a while back when I first posted on the Gardens.


TODAY’S FLOWER’S was created by our good friend Luiz Santilli Jr.

You can find beautiful and unusual flowers from all over the world by clicking here.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Camera-Critters #95

Because I was such a distance away these photos are better viewed when enlarged. Photos are a little fuzzy as I tried to improve them in paint shop pro and also did some cropping.

Looking out at Monterey Bay I was struck with how peaceful this scene was. The rolling effect was very calming to me, as it always is when I look at the ocean. I have said it before, if I lived close to it I would be there every day just sitting on the sand staring as far as the eye could see. I would be that rather strange lady who sits for hours as still as a statue, looking for anything that lives in and on that pretty blue water in any season of the year.

I had just seen the Kelp Forest exhibit inside the aquarium and realized that what I had thought of before as debris was actually kelp, and amongst that kelp were little dark blobs, and as I stared more keenly those dark blobs were actually moving.

Much to my delight I realized they were sea otters. These photos are about as good as I could get but I was thrilled to get my first view of the sea otter in years. When we lived here before they seemed to be closer to the shore but these little guys were way out there. If I had been brave enough I might have rented a kayak like the ones I saw; their 'drivers' seemed to be following the golden rule of not getting close enough to disturb them in their natural surroundings. They seemed happily content to keep munching on whatever they were munching on and I was mesmerized, but oh what I would give for the eyes of a hawk.

I found the following paragraph here and there is another great article which you can find here in which Mr. Harper says that there are two subspecies of sea otters, the northern and the southern. The northern version is larger, with some males recorded as weighing over 100 pounds, with the average between 70 and 90 pounds. Sea otters can reach 4.5 feet in length and live as long as 15 to 20 years in the wild. Capable of diving as deep as 330 feet in search of food, the sea otter spends most of its life in the water and is not comfortable on land.

"Sea otters are the most recently evolved marine mammal. It is believed that they originated from river otter stock or ancestors approximately 5-7 million years ago. Sea otters are in the weasel or mustelid family. Other members of that family include badgers, polecats, skunks, wolverines, martens, weasels, fishers, sables, and river otters."

I loved how this family seemed to be in a perfect circle and were using the kelp to anchor themselves. A group of sea otters is called a 'rack', so this small rack of sea otters kept me riveted for almost an hour. In the top right of the photo is some kind of bird, a Cormorant maybe?

I hope they are around for a very long time but like so many they have been labeled as an endangered species.

I found the following information here.

Sea otters are a classic example of a keystone species; their presence affects the ecosystem more profoundly than their size and numbers would suggest. Sea otters keep the population of certain benthic (sea floor) herbivores, particularly sea urchins, in check. Sea urchins graze on the lower stems of kelp, causing the kelp to drift away and die. Loss of the habitat and nutrients provided by kelp forests leads to profound cascade effects on the marine ecosystem. North Pacific areas that do not have sea otters often turn into urchin barrens, with abundant sea urchins and no kelp forest.


Camera Critters is a wonderful meme created by Misty Dawn.

You can find other critter photos by clicking here.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

SKYWATCH FRIDAY - SEASON 4 EPISODE 29

I once again went into my happy place - aka my vacation folder - and decided to share these photos we took while walking around Monterey. You can barely see him but that's Snoopy on the side of the blimp.


Thank you Klaus, Sandy, Wren,Fishing Guy, Louise and Sylvia for hosting SkyWatch Friday.

If you want to join in click right here.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Watery Wednesday

I am still sharing photos from our visit to Monterey back in October of last year, so I hope you're not getting bored with them yet. Hopefully soon I will get some inspiration and take new watery shots around here but in the meantime I will continue to go into my vacation folder.

We were at the aquarium on their observation deck looking out across the bay and there was a lot of activity going on. First of all we spotted the Cormorants sitting on the rock, and then we saw a man snorkeling not too far away from them. From our angle it seemed as though they were very interested in what he was doing.


If you enlarge this photo you will see that a curious seal has joined in. The red float is attached to the man in the water who is out of sight for the moment. The seal is in the top right of the photo.

That looked like so much fun.

There were also kayakers a little beyond this group but I'll share those in next week's Watery Wednesday post.


Thank you 2sweetnsaxy for hosting this great meme.

You can get there by clicking here.

Monday, January 25, 2010

A thank you to two very special ladies.

I have met many wonderful people since I have started blogging. I didn't want to let any more time go by before recognizing two lovely sisters from Greece, Antigoni and Marina. I'm sure many of you already know who they are from their very entertaining and enjoyable blogs and if you click on their names the link will take you to them. They sent me these lovely gifts last Christmas, a beautiful Santa ornament from Antigoni and a book on Greek Mythology from Marina. Thank you both so very much for blessing me with such kindness.

Another act of kindness was one of the first times I had actually met Antigoni, when she sent me a very special gift at a very sad time in my life. I hope she knows how much that meant to me. I keep that gift with me always. She also sent me a Christmas ornament last year but because of that sadness I neglected to recognize her here in my blog, and so now I wanted to let her know how much I love that too. Unfortunately I can't show you it because it is packed away with my other treasures until next Christmas. The only reason I can show you this one is that I wanted to keep it on display for as long as I could, along with sister Marina's book which I am now happily reading. People such as Antigoni and Marina are the heart of Greece.

I don't think I have ever told them this but my first job after I left school was with a travel agency in a town not too far from the village I lived in at the time. I was definitely a "gopher". "Go for this, go for that." I was sent on many errands that I really didn't enjoy. If someone had any personal shopping to do they would send me off to get it for them but you have to start somewhere I suppose. Unfortunately that job didn't last very long as I was feeling a bit like a slave. You know how things are when you are very young, sometimes you just feel put upon, and when I ended up babysitting for my boss who used to go off with his wife and come home at three o'clock in the morning and because I had a hard time saying, "No I don't want to babysit your five unruly kids because I'm not much more than a kid myself!" I realized we weren't a good fit.

However, I used to pour through the brochures and always stopped at the pages where they showed the most gorgeous pictures of Greece, and longed to go there - I still do. Hopefully one of these days my dream will come true. In the meantime I will enjoy going to Antigoni and Marina's blogs and see it through their eyes.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Winter Poem

Talking in Their Sleep

"You think I am dead,"
The apple tree said,
"Because I have never a leaf to show,
Because I stoop
And my branches droop,
And the dull gray mosses over me grow.

But I'm still alive in trunk and shoot;
The buds of next May
I fold away
But I pity the withered grass at my root."

"You think I am dead,"
The quick grass said,
"Because I have parted with stem and blade.
But under the ground
I am safe and sound
With the snow's thick blanket over me laid.

I'm all alive, and ready to shoot,
Should the spring of the year
Come dancing here
But I pity the flower without branch or root."

"You think I am dead,"
A soft voice said,
"Because not a branch or root I own.
I never have died, but close I hide
In a plumy seed that the wind has sown.

Patient I wait through the long winter hours;
You will see me again
I shall laugh at you then
Out of the eyes of a hundred flowers."

~Edith M. Thomas~
1854-1925

~~~

Edith Matilda Thomas was an American author and poet in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Thomas was born in 1854 in Chatham Center, Ohio. She received her education at the Geneva Normal Institute. Thomas gained national attention with her poetry and novels that reflected her interest in Ohio and the Western Reserve. Scribner'', The Atlantic Monthly, The Century and other prominent magazines published her poems. Her writings include "A New Year's Masque and Other Poems," "The Inverted Torch," "The Dancers," and "The Children of Christmas." Thomas acknowledged the influence of American author Helen Hunt Jackson on her own work.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

TODAY'S FLOWERS # 76

Things perfected by nature are
better than those finished by art.
~Cicero (Marcus Tullius Cicero)~

When bright flowers bloom
Parchment crumbles, my words fade
The pen has dropped.
~Morpheus~


TODAY’S FLOWER’S was created by our good friend Luiz Santilli Jr.

You can find beautiful and unusual flowers from all over the world by clicking here.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Camera Critters

I found this interesting little bug on a daisy last summer.

Camera Critters is a wonderful meme created by Misty Dawn.

You can find other critter photos by clicking here.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

SKYWATCH FRIDAY - SEASON 4 EPISODE 28

I took this photo a couple of days ago while at one of our local shopping strips.

Thank you Klaus, Sandy, Wren, Fishing Guy, Louise and Sylvia for hosting SkyWatch Friday.

If you want to join in you can click right here.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Chicken and Basil Dumplings



After a lovely day yesterday where we could get away with wearing a sweater without a coat, the weather took another dip into the downright chilly today. For me that always signals a call for Chicken and Dumplings because a) it is one of my other-half's favorite meals since childhood, b) it is one of those comforting meals that you love to cook up on a cold day, c) it fills the house with the most wonderful aroma and d) it's absolutely delicious.
I have my own version of this recipe but I love to try new ones, so when I saw this over at For the Love of Cooking food blog I couldn't wait to try it. If you click here the link will take you right to the post.


Chicken and Basil Dumplings
Soup:

2 tsp olive oil
1/2 sweet yellow onion, diced
3-4 carrots, diced
3 stalks of celery, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
8 cups of chicken broth (I used homemade)
2 cups of roasted chicken, shredded
1 tsp dried basil
Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
2 tsp chicken bouillon granules

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 3-4 minutes or until softened. Add the carrots, celery and minced garlic and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Add the chicken broth, dried basil, bouillon granules, sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste. Cover and cook on medium low for 45 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.

Dumplings:

1 1/4 cups of flour

1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp butter, softened
1/2 cup low fat buttermilk
large egg, lightly beaten

Combine the flour with basil, garlic powder, salt, and baking powder in a large bowl. But in butter with pastry blender or 2 knives until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Combine buttermilk and egg, stirring with a whisk. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture, stirring until just combined.

Remaining Ingredients:

1/4 cup of cornstarch
1/4 cup of chicken broth
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

Add the chicken to the soup then taste to re-season with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, if needed; bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Combine the cornstarch with the chicken broth and mix thoroughly to make a slurry. Add slurry to the soup, simmer for 3 minutes.

Drop dumpling dough, 1-2 tsp per dumpling, (I used two spoons to drop them into the soup) into the chicken soup. Cover and cook for 7 minutes (DO NOT LET THE BROTH BOIL). Add the chopped parsley to the soup and serve. Enjoy.

The verdict from both of us was this was a great recipe, absolutely scrumptious and I wouldn't hesitate using it again. One of us - not me - liked it so much he had seconds and that always puts a big smile on my face. Yes it's a keeper.

I changed a few things as I didn't use roasted chicken because I wanted to make my own broth and cooked a chicken on top of the stove in the largest pot I had, along with the soup ingredients. I brought it to a boil then turned it down to a simmer until the chicken was cooked through, removing it until it cooled enough to break into small pieces.

I also couldn't lay my hands on my sea salt and used Kosher instead. Of course after I had added everything, I turned around and there was the sea salt right where I had left it but there you go, just like everything else in life cooking should be an adventure.

While I'm at it I might as well admit that I made the dumplings from our usual buttermilk mix that we buy at the store. I only had a little left in the box and wanted to use it up.

I also was very liberal when I sprinkled the dried basil into the broth as you'll see from my photos, and I also put in dried parsley as I didn't have the fresh kind.

Next time I'll stick to the recipe verbatim I promise! Keeping my fingers crossed behind my back here.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Watery Wednesday

Yet another series of photographs from the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The Kelp Forest Exhibit was amazing and beautiful.




This was the only decent close-up of a fish I could get. He is a Blue Rockfish (Sebastes Mystinus). Large groups of Blue Rockfish congregate in the kelp forest. They scoop up jellies and other plankton that drift in from the open sea.





Thank you 2sweetnsaxy for hosting this great meme.

You can get there by clicking here.

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Boy and his Dog!


I have recently received these from Pam who is the daughter of an old family friend in England. Pam has very kindly given me permission to show her photos which I am sharing in today's post. The top one shows her son and their little dog Zanni playing in the snow. I think that of a young boy having so much fun with his dog is one of the most endearing sights to behold. Thank you Pam and thank you Dorothy who asked Pam to share her photos with me.




Zanni my little friend, you are one very cute little pup!



Your photos are brilliant Pam and thank you for allowing me to share them. I will be posting more of Pam's photos when I get them organized.

Added note: I have just learned from Pam that Zanni was a rescue pup after he and his nine brothers and sisters were abandoned on the streets at five weeks' old. Zanni came into their lives five years' ago after they adopted him from the Cheshire Dogs' Home.