Sunday, January 30, 2011

Foreign Lands by Robert Louis Stevenson

Foreign Lands

Up into the cherry tree
Who should climb but little me?
I held the trunk with both my hands
And looked abroad in foreign lands.

I saw the next door garden lie,
Adorned with flowers, before my eye,
And many pleasant places more
That I had never seen before.

I saw the dimpling river pass
And be the sky-blue looking glass;
The dusty roads go up and down
With people tramping into town.

If I could find a higher tree
Farther and farther I should see,
To where the grown-up river slips
Into the sea among the ships,

To where the roads on either hand
Lead onto into fairy land,
Where all the children dine at five,
And all the playthings come alive.

~Robert Louis Stevenson~

While looking for something else in one of our rooms where we seem to store everything in no particular order I found these old photos of our son. The room is actually my old craft room from back in the days when I used to paint wooden ornaments and sell them at local craft shows, and now 'a catch all for any item that we don't know what else to do with and don't want to throw it away just in case you might need it again one day' room, filed under complete chaos.

Thankfully I know where each item is and can put my hands on them within minutes. Gregg is always amazed. Today I forgot that other thing I was looking for because I found an old box of much treasured photographs. Short attention span? You betcha! I can't even remember what I was looking for originally but to me this was a much better find. Gregg and I have just spent an hour going through them and doing our 'remember when' thing. Tidying that room up is 'on the list'. We will get there eventually, that's what we keep telling ourselves anyhow.

In the top photo dear son was climbing a tree on the grounds of one of those lovely old country pubs we had stopped at. Gregg, Brad and I, along with my Mom and Dad, drove up to visit my sister and brother-in-law. This was before my niece came along. The three of us had flown to the UK to Heathrow Airport in the summer of 1983 and caught the train in Reading down to Devon. After a few days we piled into Dad's car and drove up to see my sister and her husband 300 miles north of us in Worcestershire. They lived in a lovely little village called Naunton Beauchamp, not too far from Worcester. It was an idyllic time and the weather was gorgeous.

The other photo was taken a couple of years earlier. On the back of the photo I had written "Brad at the NAS Baseball Picnic - San Diego, CA - June 1983", which would have made him 3 yrs and 10 months old. So strange that I don't remember much of this day but I don't feel so bad because Gregg can't remember either photo being taken. All that is really important is that we took the photos and captured a very special moment in our lives. I'm looking forward to going through the other old photos because we've found some real treasures.


Saturday, January 29, 2011

A few of my backyard visitors.

Here are a few birds taken over the last week.
Above a Carolina Wren.

The bright colors of a male Cardinal. It's our State Bird. Below is the female Cardinal.
.
A Blue Jay taken as he flew off a branch before he opened his wings.
Tufted Titmouse
Dark-Eyed Junco.....
and a blurry one caught as he flew off his branch.

Black-Capped Chickadee
Lastly I have had a single crow check out my back deck for a couple of weeks now.

He isn't a regular visitor but as he popped in last week I decided to share him. He arrived before the last snow and I am wondering if he will be bringing his friends next time.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Gregg's long drive home......

Losing electricity for such a long time made me realize how totally unprepared we are for things like this. I used to be very organized and had everything on hand; spare drinking water, flashlights, one of those camping stoves, etc., etc. This time it took me a while to put my hands on a flashlight that actually worked. It's one of those large heavy ones, a big old clunker, that you could use as a defensive weapon if you had to. I never put it on a top shelf in case it dropped on someone's head when they opened a closet. Those found in the kitchen drawers, in every single blessed one, the batteries had either been taken out to put into something else or had run out a long time ago, never to be replaced. And yes I kicked myself here. I used to keep a flashlight in my purse, a tiny one, but the thing gave up on me and I never replaced that either. I have a small camping lamp, the kind you can hang on a hook in a tent, but don't ask me where that disappeared to. Probably got thrown in a box somewhere in one of my cleaning frenzies. I have those occasionally, usually when we are expecting company, and these things mysteriously disappear. Our favorite phrase around here when we can't find something is "It must be in a box somewhere." which means there is no hope in you-know where of finding it when you need it. There's even a flashlight on my phone but that doesn't work if you don't remember to charge the thing. I remembered okay. As I normally do I put it on charge at night but just as I plugged it in, that was when the electricity decided to go out. So to family and friends out there, I hope you are better organized than I am and have your flashlights loaded up and ready to go.

Now, saying all this I got off lucky compared to the journey home that Gregg and many others had to deal with. The snow started falling at about four in the afternoon. He left work at 4.30 p.m. and didn't arrive home until 1.45 a.m., a journey of nine hours and one that would normally have taken maybe 30 minutes, an hour in rush-hour at the most. It is a distance of about 13 miles.

You may have heard about it in the news. We are blessed with a ton of traffic around here and rush-hour can be pretty bad at the best of times, at the worst a positive nightmare. There were so many vehicles on the roads that the snowplows couldn't get through to plow or lay down the salt. I read that the new technology in the metro buses didn't help because they are designed to shut the engine off when the bus starts sliding. People were abandoning their cars in the middle of the freeway either getting stuck or finally running out of gas. Gregg passed dozens of them. I also heard that a tree fell on a truck and while the firefighters were cutting the poor man out, more trees were falling around them. There were good Samaritans everywhere and a lot of people helped where they could, giving rides to those they found walking on the freeway with the snow still falling.

Gregg had his cell phone and called me on the hour. At one point he decided to get off the road and spent two hours in McDonalds. The place was packed with 50 people in line. His aim was to wait for the traffic to die down and after chatting to three other customers they all decided to get back to it at around at 9.30 p.m. Nothing had changed, in fact things had gotten a lot worse. His battery on the cell was running low and after one last call at around midnight, he made the last part of the journey home.

All night I saw cars slowly trickling into the neighborhood and this was still going on after midnight. I kept hoping that one of those cars would be Gregg. I saw another set of headlights making the turn off the main road and watched it get stuck as the wheels started to spin in the snow and ice. My first thought was poor guy, getting so close to home and getting stuck within looking distance of his own front door. My second thought was I wonder if that's Gregg. By this time it was 1.15 in the morning.

I watched for a few minutes, saw a darkened figure get out and under the street light I recognized someone familiar. It was Gregg. He eventually managed to get around the corner but got stuck at an angle across the road right in front of our house. He got the snow shovel out and I went down to see if I could help. I even took my exercise mat down thinking he could put it under the wheels, but he told me it was so flimsy that it would probably get stuck around the tire. I was so glad to see Gregg that I had thrown a coat over my pj's, and had a pair of pretty flimsy shoes on and had rushed out of the house without thinking too much about it. I didn't even feel the snow overflowing into my mules and it was bitingly cold. After about 15 minutes he was able to park next to the curb. Just as we walked through the door the electricity went out again. It had returned after being off for about three hours that evening and came on half an hour before, though the lights had been fluttering. It stayed off until around 2.30 p.m. the following day. Neither of us cared, Gregg was just glad to be back under his own roof after that journey and I was glad to see him, as I was beginning to think he wouldn't be able to get home that night. I know some had to sleep in their cars. We just piled more blankets onto the bed and gave a thought to all those homeless folks in DC and elsewhere, hoping that they had gotten some warm shelter for the night. It would be a terrible night to be outdoors.

This was a wet heavy snow, great for making snowmen but not so great when you are driving home, not so great because the tree limbs fall down and break the power lines, and God forbid those trees can fall. So to you all out there stay safe on those roads okay, and remember to check those flashlights every now and again? When I have a quiet day I am going to clear out one of our cupboards and stock it with emergency supplies. We may not have another storm for a long time and that's the problem. When we do get one it kind of takes you by surprise.

The next day the sun was shining and there were pretty blue skies. Across the street we noticed that our neighbor's tree had lost some of it's branches and were laying on the ground.

These photos were taken looking out the back of our house.


The trees were covered with clumps of snow that had turned into ice.

But I will leave you with the flowers I bought, two weeks ago and still looking pretty good.




Now where are those flashlights?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Necessity is the mother of invention....

No electricity, freezing inside the house, Englishborn ramble girl is longing for a nice hot cup of tea. What to do, what to do. Hey, it took a while for that water to boil but it got there eventually and she was able to take her cuppa upstairs to the warmest room in the house, closed the door and jumped into bed with a tent of many blankets. The snow storm arrived yesterday and she couldn't get out of the neighborhood even if she wanted to.

She also heated up a cup of hot milk for her Weetabix. She and Sammy both had breakfast this morning.

She will tell you all about Gregg's commute back home last night in the next post.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Resigning....

I Resign

(one the most classic motivational poems)

~~~

I am hereby officially tendering my resignation as an adult.

I have decided I would like to accept the responsibilities of an 8-year-old again.

I want to go to McDonald's and think that it's a four star restaurant.

I want to sail sticks across a fresh mud puddle and make ripples with rocks.

I want to think M&Ms are better than money because you can eat them.

I want to lie under a big oak tree and run a lemonade stand with my friends on a hot summer day.

I want to return to a time when life was simple.

When all you knew were colors, multiplication tables, and nursery rhymes, but that didn't bother you, because you didn't know what you didn't know and you didn't care.

All you knew was to be happy because you were blissfully unaware of all the things that should make you worried or upset.

I want to think the world is fair.

That everyone is honest and good.

I want to believe that anything is possible.

I want to be oblivious to the complexities of life and be overly excited by the little things again.

I want to live simple again.

I don't want my day to consist of computer crashes, mountains of paperwork, depressing news, how to survive more days in the month than there is money in the bank, doctor bills, gossip, illness, and loss of loved ones.

I want to believe in the power of smiles, hugs, a kind word, truth, justice, peace, dreams, the imagination, mankind, and making angels in the snow.

So...here's my checkbook and my car keys, my credit cards and all my responsibility.

I am officially resigning from adulthood.

And if you want to discuss this further, you'll have to catch me first, 'cause,

"Tag! You're it."


Monday, January 24, 2011

Garlic Ginger Chicken, Sesame Green Beans and Carrot-Ginger Rice

I found this meal over at For The Love Of Cooking and fixed it this evening. You can see the original recipes here, here and here.

Garlic-Ginger Chicken

2 teaspoons olive oil
5 boneless and skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of any fat
1/4 cup red onion, sliced
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (I used 2 oranges)
Zest of 1 orange
Freshly cracked pepper to taste

Combine the chicken, onion, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, orange juice and orange zest in a large Ziploc bag. Place in refrigerator for 1-24 hours.

Heat a grill pan over medium high heat with the olive oil. Once the pan is hot add chicken thighs. Cook for 4-5 minutes or until the meat is cooked through. Set on a platter, let the meat rest for five minutes before serving. Enjoy.


Sesame Green Beans

1 lb. green beans, ends trimmed
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
2-3 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame seeds
Sea salt and and freshly cracked pepper to taste

Bring a pot of water to the boil over a high heat. Add the green beans and cook 4-5 minutes or until just tender. Drain the water.

While the beans are cooking combine the vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil and sesame seeds together and mix until well combined. Add the mixture to the cooked and drained green beans, and toss to coat evenly. Season with salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste and serve immediately.


Carrot-Ginger Rice

1 cup of Basmati rice
2 cups chicken broth
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup sweet yellow onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and grated
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 clove garlic, minced
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
Dash cayenne pepper
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Combine the rice and chicken broth together in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to low. Cover with a lid and steam for 20 minutes. Remove lid and let sit for five minutes before fluffing with a fork.

While the rice is cooking, heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for five minutes, stirring often, until tender. Add the carrot, ginger and garlic to the onions. Cook, stirring constantly for 1-2 minutes. Add the rice to the mixture along with the cilantro, sea salt, freshly cracked black pepper and dash of cayenne pepper. Stir gently so that all the ingredients are combined. Serve immediately.


Added note: I had to cook the chicken a little longer because the first time I checked it was still pink inside. When I first marinated the chicken I had forgotten the fresh ginger on my last trip to the store, and used a teaspoon of ginger powder that I already had. The next day I picked up fresh ginger for the rice dish. I thought the rice was just about the best one I had ever tasted, and I also enjoyed the green beans. I usually use low-sodium soy sauce.

I marinated the chicken the day before, and the day I served up the meal I measured out all my ingredients and prepared the vegetables several hours earlier, covering everything and refrigerating what I needed to. Things go quickly and more smoothly when fixing this meal with everything all laid out beforehand.

Gregg thought the chicken thighs were great and has asked me to serve these up any time I want to. We both gave this meal a big thumb's up and will be serving it again. We had enough rice left over for another meal and are having it with tomorrow's dinner. There is coconut shrimp in the freezer and I will probably toss a green salad together.

Monday Rambles from A Squirrel's Point of View

Hi, my name is Sammy and I live in one of the trees in the back garden of this lady who is always pointing her little black box at me. Between you, me and the lamppost, I think she is a little 'squirrelly' for squirrels. She stares at me through the window of her patio door, always with a big smile on her face. Sometimes her mister joins her, he smiles at me too. She's a little bit scary, just a little bit, even though I hear her tell me that I ought to be used to her by now, that I shouldn't run back up to the tree every time she opens the door to throw peanuts out and give us fresh water, that she is a friend to all of us and would never think of doing us harm. I am trying to telepathically relate the fact that it isn't good for wild animals - like me - to get too used to humans and I think she understands, but it doesn't stop her from trying.

In the meantime we're all putting on weight around here. Mrs. Squirrel is complaining that she has to do extra aerobics in the tree tops and she's having trouble jumping from one branch to another without them snapping in two, but I keep telling her that we need to be a little on the weightier side to be able to stay warm against the winter cold, that this will all stop and she will be able to get her girlish figure back when the raccoons start raiding the bird feeders when the warmer weather comes. That's the funny lady's signal to stop filling the bird feeders and letting her mister eat the peanuts instead of us, as this tells her that food will be plentiful in the natural world and she won't have to worry if we are getting enough food.

After the last snow it got real windy around here and our homes suffered because of it. We have all been carrying old leaves and twigs to make our houses strong again. We've also been tearing up tufts of grass, stuffing our mouths as much as we can to carry up to our nest because that really makes for great insulation. We repeated this several times and I saw that strange lady observing us. I think she is getting to know our habits pretty well, enough to write a book. I tell her that having a home takes a lot of work. There's always something to be done to keep it altogether. "Tell me about it!" says the strange lady. She's just told me to make sure our home is padded and anchored well, that she just heard there is a possible east coast storm heading our way in a couple of days. We've been lucky so far and the snow hasn't been that deep, but we wonder how bad it's going to be every time.

Uh oh, the door has opened again and she's trying to hit me with a shower of peanuts. I'm out of here! I'll be back down again in a few minutes, when I know she's safely behind that glass. She will be enjoying a cup of tea and reading one of her books. That won't stop me from keeping one eye on her, just like she will be keeping one eye on me with that goofy smile on her face. What a squirrelly woman but I don't think she's all that bad. She says she's friend to all animals and we will always be welcome here. Other people may think we are rats in fur coats but she says she thinks we're beautiful. Pssst......she thinks rats are beautiful too. This woman loves ALL things in nature. She really is squirrelly isn't she?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

How to get people to take the staircase and avoid the escalator.


The Dreaded Stairs (HG)

This takes place in Stockholm, Sweden. There is a set of stairs with a moving escalator next to it, both of which lead to the same spot on the floor of the upper level. At first no one took the stairs, almost 97% of the people took the escalator. A group of engineers got together and decided they wanted to change the percentage around. Notice what these scientists did. They have reversed the percentages as a whopping 65% more people take the stairs than ride the escalator. One way of getting people to exercise more!

The videos are 'cut off' here but if you remember to click twice on each, this will you to the large screen where you can see the full version.



Does anyone remember the movie "Big"? Here, actors Robert Loggia and Tom Hanks perform one of my favorite scenes in that movie dancing on a larger than life piano 'mat'.  You can go here to see it.

TODAY'S FLOWERS

These have lasted a long time. I bought them over a week ago.




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.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Oh no.....

Someone is getting tired of being followed around with a camera.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Dark-Eyed Junco

Such an expressive face!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

An icy start to the day.



"Bare branches of each tree
on this chilly January morn
look so cold so forlorn.
Gray skies dip ever so low
left from yesterday's dusting of snow.
Yet in the heart of each tree
waiting for each who wait to see
new life as warm sun and breeze will blow,
like magic, unlock springs sap to flow,
buds, new leaves, then blooms will grow."

~Nelda Hartmann - January Morn~

~~~~~~~

Right now it is 34 degrees F. Last night we had an icy rain that started in the late evening and lasted until the wee hours. It stopped me from getting off to sleep as it slapped the window. When I peeked through the blinds this morning to see what it was like I saw my neighbor - in his SUV - slide down his driveway and hit his mailbox. Not a good start to his morning. It brings back a memory of our poor mailman knocking on our door to apologize for hitting our mailbox. The pole holding it had snapped in two. It was a very similar morning weather-wise. Gregg has just left for work. I'm sure the main roads will be fine but getting out of the neighborhood is the challenge. After seeing several cars coming slowly down the road without incident he felt it was okay to go into work, though he borrowed my car instead of his van. Easier to drive in bad weather.

We watched a new show last night called Harry's Law with Kathy Bates as Harriet Korn, a patent attorney who gets fired from her job and decided to open her own practice. It's a comedy-drama and the first show was excellent. I've always been a fan of Kathy Bates and felt the whole cast had a great chemistry. One of the funny side-lines is that Harry's secretary sells shoes out of the same office, so basically they have a lawyer's practice/shoe store, which is a hoot.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Monday Rambles


I thought I would share three photos from warmer days, all taken on our last vacation in San Diego. One of a wall mural I discovered when visiting the botanic garden, the sea turtle swims through a mosaic of blue glass. Its creator is unknown to me. The hummingbird I found at the San Diego Zoo and I bumped into John Wayne on the front porch of one of those quaint homes in Coronado.

Gregg spent the week in Long Beach, California on a business trip but as I am always busy the time goes by fast. He told me that the temperature had been nice and warm and he had watched some beautiful sunsets. I told him that I didn't listen to one country and western song, but did listen to a lot of opera. I saw son and daughter-in-law one day and chatted with various friends during the week, watched a little TV, read a good book, did the usual housework, ran a few errands and enjoyed my backyard wildlife. It was a good week and it didn't seem long before Gregg was walking through the door.

I really need to write things down more because now I can't remember what I did on which day, so I think this is going to be one of my shorter rambles.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

TODAY'S FLOWERS

I have been absent for a few weeks but am very happy to be once again participating in Today's Flowers.

This is a small pot of Campanula portenschlagiana that I brought home from the local supermarket.

According to the marker that came with it, the planting mix needs to be kept moist. Place in indirect sunlight indoors, trim spent flowers outdoors. Perennial will flower in spring through the summer, performs well at an indoor temperature of 65-75 degrees F., and you need to apply liquid fertilizer monthly.

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.