Saturday, February 28, 2015


These are from our trip in January 2014.  One of the many reasons I enjoy Florida is because of the abundance of birdlife.  You can get up relatively close to them, especially we found in the Everglades.

Wood Stork

Great Blue Heron

The extraordinary design on the wings of an Anhinga is stunning.

Here is one perched on a tree.....

and another taking off across the water.

I have shared this Green Heron before.  He was busy fishing when we observed him.

This extraordinary looking bird is a Purple Gallinule.  Look at those feet!  It's long toes help it to walk on floating vegetation like lilypads.

A Tricolored Heron.  I have shared some of these birds before, including this one.

Another one of a Great Blue Heron having just caught his lunch!  He was far away and I'm happy to have gotten this photo even though it is a little blurry. 

I decided to add close-up shots of their heads.  A Cormorant is in the top right square.  The others are ones I have identified above.


I am joining the following as they become available, with thanks to our hosts for providing us with such fun memes.  You can click on each link to see other participants.  

Anni at Bird D'Pot, Laura at iHeartMacro, Michelle at Nature Notes, Judith at  Mosaic Monday, and Stewart's Wild Bird Wednesday.  A big thank you to our hosts for these wonderful memes.

Friday, February 27, 2015


You can find all kinds of beautiful flowers from around the world if you click here.  Our new link opens on Saturday at 12.00 a.m. (East Coast Standard Time USA) and closes the following Thursday at 11.30 p.m.

These are photos from last year, July 2014.  We were at The Norfolk Botanical Garden, one of our favorite places when we visit family in the area.  I will identify when I can.

This is called "Variegated Glory Bower - Clerodendrum thomsoniae - 'Variegata' Lamiaceae - Cultivated"

I am sorry, I don't know this one.

The marker nearby read, "Daylily - Hemerocallis - 'Harem House' - Hemerocallidaceae - Cultivated"

Luiz Santilli Jnr created Today's Flowers and asked me a few years ago to take over his role as host.  He occasionally pops in to say hello, so "Hello Luiz and thank you!"

Today's Flowers' home page can be found here.

Thursday, February 26, 2015


This beautiful sky was  found along Skyline Drive a couple of weeks ago.....

and this impressive looking house we found on our mystery road when we took a turning too early.  I often wonder who lives in places like these.  

There was a horse stable a short distance from it.  I didn't get the whole building but it was long and I liked its stone entrance and archway. 

Another beautiful sky scene....

and we saw more horses.  

And now for Willy-Nilly Friday 5, in the order that they happened.

1) I had a lovely surprise a few days ago, a letter from a cousin I hadn't had contact with in well over 40 years.  She is the daughter of my father's sister and I think the last time I did see her was at one of her brother's wedding in Southampton.  This was several years before I met Gregg, so you can tell how long it has been.  It was a wonderful letter, an honest-to-goodness handwritten one, with lots of catching up on her family.  I am happy to be in contact with her and will be replying with my own hand-written missive, and hopefully it won't be chicken scratch as it has been a long time since I wrote anything in long hand, other than writing a few notes here and there.

2) Our son and daughter-in-law came over for Oscar night.  What a fun night!  This has been an on-going tradition for at least the last three years.  To be perfectly honest neither Gregg nor I go to a lot of movies.  In fact I think we may have seen two last year, and were so totally ignorant of what was up for an Oscar.  They came with a page of nominations and we had to circle who we thought would win.  I think I got six right and that was just by guessing.  And of course what made it for us was the company.  Gregg fixed his two Thai dishes that he has been waiting to fix for them, and our d-in-l brought dessert, the most delicious cupcakes.  You can find them here at Taste of Home.  I asked her for the recipe.  The surprise ingredient was bacon as a garnish.  Bacon you say?  Yes bacon!  Before you go all wobbly on me, it was a delicious part of the cupcake.  A little salty to balance out the sweet.  Gregg and I enjoyed them so much we had a hard time not scoffing the lot.  A great night all round.

3) It snowed the day before they were due to come over, so we were uncertain that they would be able to make it.  We had six inches this time.  They couldn't get their car out for a while but thankfully all was well by the time they were due to come over here.  Our neighborhood is very lucky because we have a snowplow that comes through immediately and our roads were okay to drive on, and again once you get on the main roads they are taken care of also.  

4) I read a wonderful post today, the blog, carolabARTz.  If you click on the blue letters it will take you to a very special day when Carola received her American Citizenship.  I smiled all the way through it.  Fantastic!  Congratulations Carola!  

5)  I am finishing off with an animal video.  This one can be seen here if you can't access the video below.  With all the love that I have for all things wildlife, and bears in particular, I never want to get this close to one.

I am linking with the following, with thanks to all our hosts of these wonderful memes.

Theresa at Good Fences, the Skywatch Team at SkyWatch Friday, Misty at Camera Critters, Eileen at Saturday's Critters,  and Tanya's Willy-Nilly Friday Five.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Tricolored Heron, and a quote....

Another photo from the archives.  In January 2014 we were in Florida.  This photo was taken in the Everglades.  Gregg and I love a good journey and the quote fits us perfectly.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Monday Food Post - Slow-cooker Steel-Cut Oatmeal - 6 to 8 servings

This recipe made a whole lot of oatmeal.  I am trying to put some healthy meals on the table, which includes breakfast.  Back in the day when I was a child and it was a cold, damp and miserable day, Mum always put a nourishing bowl of porridge on the table.  It was one of our favorite winter breakfasts, literally did warm you up from the inside out.  

There were days walking to school when we could not see a hand in front of our face. Those were the days of 'smog' and we would walk one behind the other, just like you see how elephants do it now, hanging on to each other's tail in single file, except that we would be hanging on to a piece of clothing.  
(I found this interesting article on smog.)  

I grew up in an industrialized area of England and could hear the whistle of the factory just down the road, to announce the beginning and the end of the working day. I have no memory of what it made or even what it was called, but it wasn't too far from Brunswick Park near the railway track.  We were living in a house owned by the constabulary.  Dad, and you may know if you've been following my blog for a while, retired as a Detective Inspector with the Staffordshire Police Force.   Those police houses are now privately owned and I think the factory was torn down years ago.  I don't believe it is as industrialized now.  Maybe our English blogging friend Valerie from Mixed Bag can educate us, as she lives not too far away from where I grew up.  

"Back to me porridge".  I got the recipe here.  I made this a little while ago and put it on the night before I knew it was going to snow (January 26th, 2015).  

Slow-cooker Steel-Cut Oatmeal - makes 6 to 8 servings

Unsalted butter

8-1/2 cups water
2 cups steel-cut oats
1 (14-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk or 1-3/4 cups whole milk
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Total time: 10 minutes, plus 7 to 8 hours cooking time.

Coat the inside of your slow cooker with a thin layer of butter.

Add the water, oats, coconut or whole milk, brown sugar and salt. 

Stir to combine.

Cover and cook on low until the oats are cooked through and creamy, about 7 to 8 hours.

Stir in the vanilla and serve immediately.

What did we think of this recipe?   One of us gave it a thumb's up and the other didn't.  Gregg wasn't a fan.  It's not everyone's cup of tea I know.  In all fairness he has never liked oatmeal/porridge but it doesn't stop me from trying, when it's been long enough between fixing it, especially if I'm in my 'but it's so good for you' kick."  I know he's teasing me but he actually said he feels like Oliver being given gruel and made me laugh as he lifted his bowl up and said, "Please sir, can I have more?" then quickly took it back knowing I would actually give him more.  "Nuh-uh, no thanks", he said.

Don't worry folks, in another couple of years I'll try again.

If you are curious what gruel actually is, like I was, I found this here.

"Here's a simple recipe for flour gruel:

2 teaspoons of flour

1 teaspoon of salt

Boil one cup water.  Separately, drip water on flour and salt until it makes a paste.  Add the paste to the boiling water.  Stir to a semi-fluid consistency.  Strain to eliminate film.  Serve warm.  

Did orphans really eat it?  You bet they did.

....they contracted with the water-works to lay on an unlimited supply of water, and with a corn factory to supply periodically small amounts of oatmeal, and issued three meals of thin gruel a day, with an onion twice a week, and half a roll on Sundays.

Charles Dickins,

Oliver Twist"

I enjoyed my bowl of porridge but next time would cut the recipe in half as I will be eating this for breakfast several mornings.  Which is fine but even I like a change and I have always been a little too frugal to throw good food away.  Actually, the second time I tasted it, was even better than the first.  I measure out a cup of oatmeal, reheat and then added half a cup of blueberries and a drizzle of home-grown honey that my father-in-law's cousin's gave us a few weeks ago.  It was so yummy.  

I often say this I know but I love my crockpot/slow-cooker.  Steel-cut oats takes a while to cook.  I am not firing on all pistons first thing in the morning, so having it all ready to go when you get up is great, for those of us who like porridge that is.  Also definitely a nostalgia food for me.

You can make short-cuts in calories I'm thinking.  Lower-percent milk or non-fat coconut milk, and spraying the inside of the crockpot with cooking spray rather than butter.  

Sunday, February 22, 2015


You can find all kinds of beautiful flowers from around the world if you click here.  Our new link opens on Saturday at 12.00 a.m. (East Coast Standard Time USA) and closes the following Thursday at 11.30 p.m.

These are photos from last year, July 2014.  We were at the Norfolk Botanical Garden, one of our favorite places when we visit family in the area.

Luiz Santilli Jnr created Today's Flowers and asked me a few years ago to take over his role as host.  I was very happy to do so.  He occasionally pops in to say hello, so "Hello Luiz and thank you!"

Today's Flowers' home page can be found here.

I am linking with Laura's iHeartMacro here.

and also Judith's Mosaic Monday.  

Saturday, February 21, 2015


We had our first full day of snow today.  It started at ten this morning and it is still snowing, not expected to let up until 10.00 p.m.  We have had a couple of dustings this winter, an inch on one occasion, two or three inches on the other, so we have been lucky so far compared to our friends up north.  It may be turning into rain because it doesn't have the look of those big cotton ball flakes that we had earlier in the day.  We shall have to see what we wake up to.

Getting back to the title of this post, the seagulls descended after we left our in-law's house.  Celia was kind enough to send me photos she had taken, so I am sharing them with all the meme's at the bottom of this post.  Thanks Celia!

I cropped a few so that we could see them closer up.

This is the first time they have had seagulls on their deck and they have lived in this house for several years.

I am joining the following memes as they become available.  You can click on each to see other participants.  Misty at Camera Critters, Eileen at Saturday's Critters, Anni at Bird D'Pot, Michelle at Nature Notes and Stuart at Wild Bird Wednesday.  A big thank you to our hosts for these wonderful memes.

Thursday, February 19, 2015


These are sky photos from our road trip down south to see family last weekend.  The first photo was going down and almost towards the end of our journey as we were about to enter the Hampton-Roads Tunnel.  I didn't take any more because to tell you the truth I slept for most of the journey, even though I struggled to stay awake.  I was up late, I got up early. I also take extra pillows with us for the trip and they were very comfortable.  

On the way home it was a different story.  The following photo shows one of the many lakes in the area that was frozen over, not thick enough for ice-skating.  There was a story while we were visiting, of a young teen who had fallen through ice.  Thankfully he was rescued safely, though feeling chilled to the bone no doubt after his unexpected dip.  Well done to his rescuers who take their lives in their hands while saving others.

I am glad to say that the roads were light of traffic, and though getting out of the neighborhood was a bit tricky, once we were on the freeway all was clear.  However, there were warning signs as you can see in the photo below.

At this point we are approaching the Hampton-Roads Tunnel where we can see navy ships in the distance on our left.  There were a few carriers in today.

This is the view on our right.

In the distance we saw a large ship making its way towards the sea.

We had a big surprise when we saw that it was one of the Staten Island Ferries.  It was heading back to New York after being in dry-dock for maintenance.  Neither of us realized that they came to Norfolk. You can click on this link to read about them.  From an article here I read that this particular boat was The Senator John J. Marchi.  Each ferry in service goes to the Colonna Shipyard in Norfolk every two-and-a-half years, to comply with Coast Guard regulations.  The trip to New York Harbor will take about 30 hours.

On our right we pass Fort Monroe, which is now owned by the Park Service.  Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy, was imprisoned here following the Civil War for two years.  He was eventually granted amnesty.

The following three photos were taken on the other side of the tunnel....

We are on the freeway and always pass this huge sign for Chick-fil-A.  It has the cows painting the sign.  The design changes every time we see it.  

When the Kings Dominion signs comes up I always know we are an hour-and-a-half away from home, that is unless we get heavy traffic.  Kings Dominion, for those who don't know, is an amusement park.  The last time we were there was when my niece from Germany visited at 13 years of age.  

I spotted this water tower which I know quite well.  It looks like it has had a new paint job and is very pretty against that clear blue sky.  I can't tell you how many times I have made this journey in the 40 years I have been married.

Often I would spot a tree with its branches dusted with snow.  Always love that!

We are coming into Fredericksburg and I know when we get here, barring traffic, that we are about an hour away from home.

Fredericksburg is always a welcome sight.  I feel the older I get the more my homing pigeon instincts are kicking in.

Salt trucks, what would be do without them?  We owe them a great debt for keeping our roads free and clear in all kinds of weather and nasty road conditions, and they do this at all hours of the day and night.  

There are always plenty of restaurant and gas signs on the freeway.

When we reach this church we are about 40 minutes away from home.

I am starting to get tired again.  Gregg always drives and those pillows are beckoning.

Not too far away from home now.

It wasn't long after we took this photo.....  

that we were rolling in our snow covered driveway.  Gregg is picking up our mail. 

And now for Willy-Nilly Friday 5, in the order that they happened.

1) As I mentioned at the start of this post we have been out of town for the last few days.  We visited family 200 miles south, and it takes us about four hours to get there.  On our way down our niece in Germany texted us and asked us what we were doing.  I told her we were heading south and sent her this photo.  I looked wide awake but that is what sunglasses are for.  

2) On Sunday I attended one of our niece's baby shower.  I thought the invite was so cute. 

I had a fun time and had a chance to catch up with not only family but a very dear friend that I have known since I have been in this family. And as I have said before, it is always good to get together with people you enjoy being with, and on this occasion to meet new people you have never met.  

Our niece whose baby we will all be welcoming in a couple of months is looking radiant.  When it was my turn to introduce myself I had no time to rehearse what I was going to say, and it was going to be just "Hello, I am Denise, this sweet young lady's aunty", but in a flash a memory came back, a very special memory for both Gregg and myself. The night she was born we were looking after her brother for the night, and when we got the good news we took him to the hospital to be with his mom and dad and to meet his brand new baby sister. I told her this and it made me very emotional, because here before me is that same sweet little baby girl about to have a sweet little baby of her own.  Oh my, you know how it goes.  

3) It snowed, quite a bit of snow.  It was not nearly as much as people who are living up north have had to contend with, but the day we were due to come home it was coming down pretty hard.  We decided it was safer to stay for another day and that worked out great because it gave us a chance to visit with my in-laws more, with pop-ins from our nephew, mentioned in the previous paragraph and his little girl, and later his mom and sister.  This was before and after the bad weather, so no one was caught out in it.  Celia fed us well and made some great meals..  

4) And there were birds, lots of birds!  They have this wonderful sun room that looks onto a deck and their back garden. There was a constant throwing out of bird seed and filling up feeders, and of course the squirrels were getting their fair share also.  I saw Cardinals, Black-capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmouses, Grey-slated Juncos, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Carolina Wrens and White-throated Sparrows, all with big smiles on their faces for their full tummies in all that snow.

5) Also a very healthy looking opossum came by for scraps one night. 

I will have more photos from our time away on another post.

My thanks to our hosts of these two fun memes.  You can click on their names below to visit other participants, and their logo's are in my side-bar.