Saturday, July 30, 2011

TODAY'S FLOWERS # 154

All my flowers this week were taken at Meadowlark Gardens.

This story doesn't relate to my post but I was just listening to the news. There was a place somewhere in Maryland that was very overgrown and people thought the house was abandoned. I only came in at the end of the story but apparently a lady lived in the house who was a 103 years old. The story went on to say that when the local firefighters found out, 25 of them volunteered their time to clear her garden for her. I think this lady will be well taken care of from now on.


This very interesting cactus was taken near the visitor center's front door.



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

Friday, July 29, 2011

Foodie Post - Pasta Salad with Summer Sausage


With all this hot weather I had no desire to turn on the oven to get dinner ready. I found this recipe while browsing through "Tastespotting". The recipe comes from "Pip and Ebby's Messy Kitchen, which you can find here. I feel like I have to apologize for the photo as I kept forgetting to take a picture and I quickly took this one. It's not one of the best and if you need a prettier view please go to Pip and Ebby's Messy Kitchen. The honest truth is that this was one of the most flavorful and delicious pasta dishes I have ever had, and you've just about got everything you need in one pot.

You will need a very large pot to mix all the ingredients. I ended up using the largest stockpot I had and when Gregg came home and saw how much I had made, he asked me which army was coming for dinner! I probably should have made half the recipe there being only the two of us, but I don't do anything by halves apparently. Next time I will but it was nice to be able to take various friends an evening meal. Everyone enjoyed it enough to ask for the recipe, and I can tell when people as sweet as they are, are just being polite. We still had enough for several meals, and in the end I decided to freeze some as an experiment. It thawed out quite nicely and we enjoyed it again a couple of weeks later. You can make it the day before so that the flavors have time to blend nicely.

1 16 oz. jar of Zesty Italian Dressing
1 lb. box of Rotelle pasta, cooked, drained and rinsed (I used elbow macaroni because I had a box already in the pantry)
1 medium yellow onion
8 medium celery stalks, thinly sliced
16 oz. package CoJack cheese, cubed
16 oz. tube summer sausage, cubed
3 13.75 ozs. quartered artichokes, drained
2 6.5 ozs. cans pitted black olives, drained
2 8.5 ozs. jars julienned sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (I forgot to buy fresh Parmesan cheese and used the kind that you keep in your fridge in the green container)

Mix all ingredients well and allow to marinate overnight. You can play around with the ingredients to suit your own taste. Fortunately we liked everything used.

I would definitely make this again. It would be a great dish to take along to a potluck. Gregg actually had three helpings. He has seconds sometimes but rarely thirds. Because I am calorie counting I calculated all the calories item by item and measured servings out by the cup. One cup has approximately 300 calories.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Just had to share this.

One of those e-mails you just love to get. A friend sent this to me and I was absolutely bowled over, so I am hoping you haven't seen it before, or even if you have that you won't mind seeing it again. The last shot of the bears was taken in April of 2010.

~~~

Black bears typically have two cubs, rarely one or three. In 2009 in northern New Hampshire, a black bear sow gave birth to five healthy young. There were two or three reports of sows with as many as four cubs but five was - and is - very extraordinary. The photographer learned of them shortly after they emerged from their den and set a goal of photographing all five with their mom - no matter how much time and effort was involved. He knew the trail they followed on a fairly regular basis, usually shortly before dark. After spending nearly four hours a day, seven days a week, for more than six weeks, he had that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and photographed them. He used the equivalent of a very fast film speed on his digital camera. The print is properly focused and well exposed, with all six bears posing as if they were in a studio for a family portrait.

The photographer stayed in touch with other people who saw the bears during the summer and into the fall hunting season. All six bears continued to thrive. As time for hibernation approached, he found still more folks who had seen them, and everything remained okay. The photographer stayed away from the bears because he was concerned that they might become habituated to him, or to people in general, and treat them as approachable friends. This could easily become dangerous for both man and animal.

After Halloween, no further sightings and could only hope the bears survived until they hibernated. This spring, just before the snow disappeared, all six bears came out of their den and wandered all over the same familiar territory they trekked in the spring of 2009.

The photographer saw them before mid-April and dreamed nightly of taking another family portrait, a highly improbable second, once-in-a-lifetime photograph.

On April 25th, 2010, he achieved his dream.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Barn Swallows

First of all these photos aren't the sharpest, but I think they'll show you part of what we experienced on last Sunday's walk mentioned in this post here.

We came across about a dozen of them resting on tree branches on the side of our walking path. Normally we observe them flying over the water, catching bugs out of the air or flying right next to the surface where they will pick up water bugs presumably, or maybe they are drinking. One even caught a downy feather in mid air, one that had been dropped and quickly caught again, no doubt using it to line a nest. They have never stayed around long enough for me to get a photo of them as they have always been on the wing. You can imagine my surprise when we saw several of them just sitting still for a change.

The Barn Swallow has a long forked tail making it easy to identify among the North American swallows. It measures 5-1/2 to 7 inches long with pointed wings. It has a very short beak, and is dark blue above with a dark rusty throat. The rest of the underparts are a buff or pale rust color.

There was a nest in the eaves of the gazebo with two young swallows peaking over the edge. We didn't realize at first that mama had perched nearby and flew off shortly after we turned up, so we quickly took our photos and left them in peace.

The nest is a cup of mud pellets lined with grass and feathers. Both male and female build the nest.
The female lays three to eight eggs that are spotted with reddish brown.

The eggs are incubated for 14 to 16 days, and the young will leave the nest in 18 to 23 days.

Two broods a season may be attempted and Barn Swallows will return to the same nest season after season. If you would like to hear how they sound and find out more about them, click here.
In the last picture you can see another nest - top right - that of a mud dauber which is a type of wasp. If you click here it will show you what they look like and also give you some information.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

One of my favorite poems


I Have Found Such Joy

I have found such joy in simple things;
A plain, clean room, a nut-brown loaf of bread,
A cup of milk, a kettle as it sings,
The shelter of a roof above my head,
And in a leaf-laced square along the floor,
Where yellow sunlight glimmers through a door.

I have found such joy in things that fill
My quiet days: a curtain's blowing grace,
A potted plant upon my window sill,
A rose, fresh-cut and placed within a vase;
A table cleared, a lamp beside a chair,
And books I long have loved beside me there.

Oh, I have found such joys I wish I might
Tell every woman who goes seeking far
For some elusive, feverish delight,
That very close to home the great joys are:
The elemental things - old as the race,
Yet never, through the ages, commponplace.

~Grace Noll Crowell~

~~~

The joy for me and I find this the older I get, is a walk around one of our favorite local parks. All the photos above were taken at Meadowlark Gardens this past Sunday. (You may remember other posts I have shared.) The lines of the poem don't exactly go with my photos, but this is where I find my simple joy.

It was very peaceful and there was hardly another soul but us. We passed a few people but as time wore on it was almost as if we were entirely alone. The hot weather had kept the numbers down. Even the lady at the visitors' center thought we were a little mad to go for a walk on such a hot day. However, we honestly didn't find it that bad. Maybe I am getting used to the humidity? No, I don't think so, I was more than glad to get back to the visitors' center, as by then I knew I had had enough and I felt the heat radiating from me. You could probably have cooked an egg on my forehead.

So, when the lady took one look at us and laughed as she said, "You must be crazy", that old Noel Coward line came back to me, "Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun!" I think Noel would have enjoyed it here. There may be larger and more magnificent gardens around the world, but Meadowlark has it all as far as I am concerned. A lot of people work very hard to keep it that way.

We spent about two hours as we walked the shortest loop, made good use of the shade trees and sat down on several benches along the way. One of those simple joys we will be repeating many times, for this place calls to us throughout the year.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Butterfly

We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it is forever.
~Carl Sagan~


Just like the butterfly, I too will awaken in my own time.
~Deborah Chaskin~

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Friday, July 22, 2011

Son and Daughter-in-Law are at ComicCon in San Diego

A quick post but I wanted to share these photos son put on his Facebook page, taken - with his cell phone - at ComicCon in San Diego, California. Brad has been saying how much he would like to go there for years, and now he and wife Lisa are spending four days attending this event, and another four days doing the regular tourist stuff. Below William Shatner and Scott Bakula.

Brad was ten when he left San Diego and Lisa left when she was a toddler. Lisa was born at the San Diego Navy Hospital, Brad was born at the Long Beach Navy Hospital 90 miles away up the coast, with Los Angeles 30 miles further north. What was the chance that they would meet all these years later 3,000 miles away on the other side of the US in Virginia?

It sounds like they are both having a blast. Brad is a William Shatner fan and every year he and Lisa hold a big party for all their friends where they will watch movies, and hold raffles, and any money they gather goes to William Shatner's Charity. This has been the third year they have held it and now he gets to see him live, albeit with thousands of others, being interviewed on stage with other members from the various Star Trek series. I remember watching Star Trek from the very beginning and have watched subsequent spin-offs ever since.

Lisa is a big Twilight fan so she got to see Robert Pattinson on stage. There are huge screens at every presentation; even though the actors are way off, they can see them on the TV screens behind where the actors are sitting.

I'm really happy for them and they have waited in two hour lines to get tickets to attend several sessions. It's great that they are having so much fun. When he shares other photos of any interest I will post those too.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Carol Highsmith and another bit of a ramble

I took this photo when we were at Lewis Ginter Gardens a while back. I have another post about this urn if you click here.
Carol Highsmith is an amazing photographer. I listened to her being interviewed by Brian Lamb last Sunday night (17th) on C-Span. What I liked about her was that her passion for photography really comes through, and she laughs easily and came across as a very nice lady, one whom you would enjoy having a chat with about her obvious incredible talent, about her life, her travels. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to her and made a note of her website. Many of the photographs shown on the show are on her site. Click here to see them if you are interested. I was in awe.

I have always enjoyed Brian Lamb interviews. Gregg has been listening to him for years and I first learned about Mr. Lamb through him and it wasn't long before I became a big fan. He asks interesting questions and actually allows his guests to talk about themselves, and does not interrupt until they have finished talking. It made for a great interview.

My thoughts have been with my niece in Germany as she had minor surgery (not so minor if you're having it of course) and was in hospital for a week recovering. She is back home now and I'm hoping to catch up with her on Skype today, or at least in the next day or so. She is very dear to me and I have always called her my little sister, as in many ways we are very alike.

Gregg is working in Washington DC and went off this morning feeling better, though not 100 percent by a long shot. The medication for the poison oak/ivy - I really have to get out there and take a photo of the stuff so that I can go online and find out which - not getting that close - will take it with my zoom lens!!! - is doing its job, as he had a pretty good night's sleep last night. Thank goodness for that!

We've had overnight company, my in-laws Celia and Gully. It was a short but fun visit as they arrived yesterday in the early afternoon and left this morning at eight o'clock. When we see them we always wish it could be for longer but I am happy that they are going on such a fun road trip and am looking forward to hearing more stories and seeing all the photographs. Celia enjoys taking them as much as I do and I will be sharing some of her lovely shots in the not too distant future. Tonight they hope to stop in Ohio. They are on their way to a family wedding in North Dakota and are visiting friends along the way.

Tomorrow evening we are expecting one of my sister-in-laws who is in town on business. She will be staying for a couple of days. I am also getting together with friends and after having to postpone our last get-together I didn't want to change things around again, as even though I said for them to go ahead they said no, we'll get together next week instead.

I was going to show you the work we have done in our family room. We had floor-to-ceiling, built-in bookcases made by a very talented young man we found through his dad and brother who had previously painted the family room and kitchen, and eventually will do the whole house. Finding this family was our lucky day as they are like gold. Anyway, it's taking me longer than I had thought to fill the shelves as I haven't had much time, but hopefully I will show them in next Monday's post.

I'm longing to get out of here but I have a repairman coming to sort our air-conditioning out. With the heat index getting up to 110 this week we need it working properly and it's struggling to give us cold air. The unit isn't that old but it has become apparent that we have a problem, and I am hoping they will be able to fix it today. This being the case the doorbell just went and I answered it thinking it would be the repairman. It was another man from the county wearing a bright red shirt with matching cap, and a tag clipped on his shirt pocket saying County Assessor or something like that. I thought yes I can make one of those easily on my Paint Shop Pro program. I can be so suspicious and yes Gregg would probably laugh and say once again, "Policeman's daughter!" Anyhow, the man said he was conducting property assessments in the neighborhood. He asked questions about how many rooms did we have, bathrooms, had we had a new kitchen done, did we have a basement, etc., etc? I honestly didn't like answering these nosy questions and I said you don't expect to come inside to measure things do you, because I'm not letting you over the doorstep?

He was quite nice and friendly, a jolly smile and I certainly am not comparing him with Jack the Ripper, but I'm sure Jack the Ripper and his ilk had a jolly friendly smile? So there I was at the door answering all the questions that I didn't feel were too intrusive, with a nice friendly smile too while watching my neighbors in the background, and he didn't see me with the big heavy flashlight I had in my hand at the ready just out of sight, and the other hand on the door ready to slam it shut at any sudden movement. I'm a big girl and all the time he was talking I was weighing him up and saying to myself, yep, I could push him off that doorstep like a feather while screaming blue-bloody-murder if I had to, while backing inside quick as a flash and slamming the ruddy door faster than a speeding bullet. Yes even that thought crossed my mind. After all, I am a policeman's daughter, just ask Gregg, and I probably am overly caution to the max as he will attest to. I remember the self-defense moves my Dad taught me and the quiet chats about a young girl avoiding certain situations, being aware of body language, even checking out a person's eyes, etc., etc. I still fully believe that you can tell a lot about a person by looking into their eyes, the windows of the soul don't you know. I can always tell when a person is smiling with his mouth but not with his eyes, or her eyes. Policeman's daughter well trained in childhood, what can I say? Thanks Dad!

Yes, my imagination can start rolling down the hill like a snowball sometimes, can't it Gregg? But to this day I am always aware of my surroundings when I go outside and I never take what anyone says to me at face value. Policeman's daughter? Yes, and very proud of it I might add. My Dad always took care of his girls' welfare and again, thanks Dad!

All this being said I normally never answer the door to anyone when I am on my own, and I was mentally kicking myself that I had this time. The repairman isn't supposed to come until this afternoon, but I will look through the blinds and see what his van says first. If it doesn't have anything to do with air-conditioning on the side, he can tootle on back to wherever and I'll cook inside the house for a few more days. Sometimes everyone needs a little reminder that safety comes first and there's always a nicely air-conditioned shopping mall to walk around. I am always thankful on hot days that the previous owners of this house installed ceiling fans in practically every room.

Fanciful meanderings not meant to be taken too seriously, but with a point. Do be careful when opening the door. Years ago it seemed that we didn't have to take so much care.

Added note: the repairman came and I didn't even have to bop anyone over the head with my truncheon-like flashlight. He looked hot and thirsty and I took pity on him. I asked him if he he would like a glass of water. I keep a large jug in the fridge. He was in a hurry to get to his next job and said he wouldn't mind a cold bottle of water to take with him if I had it. Unfortunately I did not but offered him a large bottle of icy cold Pelegrino instead. He accepted gratefully. I almost said, "Lime with that?" but before I could he thanked me and was on his way. Yes I'm joking and no I didn't offer him lime. Bless his cotton socks, we now have cool air running through the house. Hope everyone else is able to stay cool out there while this heatwave is going on.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The attack of the poison ivy, oak, whatever it is, and a Monday Morning Ramble

It's been a fast and a busy week, visiting and chatting with family and friends and getting a carpentry project done in the family room (that will be in my next post). Gregg had a business trip and was gone from the Monday morning to Saturday afternoon. He started off in Kansas City and ended up in Seattle. On Saturday I picked him up around 6.15 in the afternoon and when he called me he asked me if I would buy some cortisone cream because he developed a fiery rash while he was away.

I think when I tell you that we were both working in the garden pulling weeds before he left that it might give you a clue as to what his problem is. Surprise, surprise, we have a whole lot of poison oak - or is that poisonous ivy - and sumac - growing in the side of the garden that we did not know we had. He was up to his elbows in the stuff, wearing shorts and a short-sleeved shirt. I was in another part of the garden where yes we had weeds but not apparently the poisonous kind. We have things growing in our garden that we have never planted and guess who brought them there?







The Bearded Robber Fly is feeling a bit picked on.
Well I know that, you're not a bird!

(By the way, did you know that Kokopelli, an important figure in Native American folklore is partly named after "pelli", a word for the "desert robber fly?" You can read more about Kokopelli and his relationship with robber flies at the Kokopelli site if you click here. You can also find out more about robber flies if you click on its name above my photo. It will take you to a site where I found out this information.)

Getting back to my feathered friends, I said don't worry guys, even though you may have planted the seeds or not planted the seeds, we don't blame you, it happens. And after a busy week away from home and having gone through three tubes of cortisone ointment, Gregg is getting some relief from the itching, and is now back to some down time while reading one of his favorite books.

Great to have you home My Love. I'll venture to say this is much worse than when the mosquitoes attacked you isn't it? Remember that?

It's all relative, it happens! In the meantime, if anyone has any good advice about creams, getting rid of the odious weeds, anything, would you please let me know? I figured the more I hear about the first-hand experience of others, the better off we will be. Thanks! To all my family and friends who have been sending some great advice, thank you too. And that's a second from Gregg.

Added note: this morning (the 18th), Gregg thought it would be a good idea to go to the doctor. The rash seemed to be more inflamed and as he has clients coming into town, he didn't want to be fidgeting all day. The doctor prescribed Prednisone and he is still using CareOne Maximum Strength 1% Hydrocortisone anti-itch cream. Unfortunately this rash can last for several weeks, though I am hoping he will get rid of it a lot faster than that.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Bee Balm for TODAY'S FLOWERS

(I am putting my Today's Flowers entry up early. I will add to the link when it is open.)

Bee Balm
Also known as Eastern Beabalm, Bergamot, Wild Oswego Tea, Horsemint and Monarda, and can be seen in red, pink or lilac. It is a perennial herb native to Eastern North America and grows in dry thickets, clearings and woodland edges from Ontario and British Columbia, to Georgia and Mexico. Native of the Oswego, New York area, found in thickets, fields, on stream banks and cultivated in herb gardens. It is easily grown in ordinary garden soil. It also grows well in heavy clay soils, requires a part shade to sunny place to grow.

Bee Balm is edible and medicinal, the entire plant above ground is edible and used as a pot herb. It is also used as a flavoring in cooked foods (as long as no pesticides are used of course). The flowers makes an attractive edible garnish in salads. It is also noted for its fragrance and is a source of oil of thyme. The fresh dried leaves are brewed into a refreshing, aromatic and medicinal tea. An infusion of young Bea Balm leaves is used to form a common beverage in many parts of the United States.

Bea Balm leaves and flowers and stems are used in alternative medicine as an antiseptic, carminative, diaphoretic, diuretic and stimulant to name a few, and also used in the treatment of colds, sore throats and headaches.

The red variety is commonly known as Oswego Tea and was used by colonists in place of English Tea after the Boston Tea Party, when they threw the English tea in the harbor in protest of the high taxes imposed on it by the British Crown.