Sunday, February 22, 2009
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Next up was the most timid, Luna. She started at the far edge and sniffed her way around, investigating thoroughly. She discovered Shadow still inside ( see her gray back side in the cubby?) and she also backed off. Score again for Shadow!
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Then tonight, a second even larger flock was just passing over my home as I was approaching. There must have been thousands of them, hundreds of V formations in the sky. It's a wonderous thing to behold. This isn't my photo, but it could have been. I plan to have my camera out and ready to go on the seat beside me and maybe, if I'm lucky, I'll get my own shot to share. I love a sky full of flying Vs.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
By 1847, Valentines as we know them had jumped the pond and were becoming a successful business for Esther Howland of Worcester, Massachusetts. She is credited for being the first commercial producer of embossed paper lace. According to a Wikipedia article on Valentines, Her father operated a large book and stationery store, but Howland took her inspiration from an English valentine she had received.
Victorian era lover's embraced Valentine cards with the same over enthusiasm they did any other form of art and design, if a little decoration is good, lots more is lots better! They produced some truly magnificent, frothy designs with romantic imagery of doves, cupids, roses, the works. They had breathtaking pop-up cards that are often replicated today.
When I was in grade school, in the 1960's, it was a tradition to have Valentine's parties at school. The American idea of fairness demanded that every child get a Valentine, to avoid crushing little 7 year old spirits. I really disliked giving Valentines to pesky boys, but at least it gave me something to do with the Valentine cards I really didn't care for!
Thursday, February 12, 2009
When did we become too busy, too modern, too thoughtless to allow for the recognition of these transcendent men on days of their own? When did the significant, but truly individual guidance of these men cease to have value on their own?
On this historical anniversary, take a moment to consider the life of Abraham Lincoln. He endures, not just for the way he met challenges in his career that had never before been faced. He endures, I believe, because we feel he remained like us; flawed but doing our best to forge ahead into the unknown, because to stop is unthinkable.
Look at this man, how a short four years of agonizing choices is plainly written on his face. The top photo was taken in 1861, thought to be the first photo of Lincoln as president. The second, taken in 1865, is the last known portrait before his death.
Today, spend a little time at the Smithsonian's online exhibit, Abraham Lincoln, An Extraordinary Life. Read some of the articles and commentary at CNN's From Lincoln to Obama pages.
Perhaps one day we'll recognize Obama as one of those better angels, that remains to be seen. It is enough today, to know that better angels of our nature have existed and will continue to exist, for humanity could not survive without them.
Sunday, February 08, 2009
I followed the directions to the letter. I am an experienced baker and frequently go off the recipe, but I could tell this was one that I needed to stick to closely. I made the thick fudgy batter and loved the deep chocolate aroma. I had the ramekins in the waterbath, just as I should. The idea of breaking through a thin shell of a crust, to delve into warm chocolate heaven was almost unbearable.
The kitchen filled with that heady unmistakeable smell of baking chocolate. I whipped real cream into soft clouds, imagining how the cool creaminess would meld with the warm chocolate. I made some decaf, and knew the weekend would end on a high note.
I carefully eased my spoon through the crispy layer of crust, carefully loading my spoon with rich, gooey chocolate. I made sure I had a little whipped cream, to tease the tip of my tongue. It was going to be wonderful.
It wasn't. It was, well, way too much chocolate. I thought I must be wrong, took a sip of coffee and tried again. Ugh. I really didn't like the texture of the fudgy part. And it was still too sweet. This can't be. So I decided maybe I could salvage the night by just eating the super thin layer of crispy crust. Two more bites. It wasn't working.
How could this be? I've made several of PW's recipes and been happy with them all. Sinfully pleased with her chocolate sheet cake. Happily surprised with her weirdo Bacon Wrap Appetisers. Totally in love with Pastor Ryan's Spicy Orange FGarlic Shrimp . But this, this was just not fair. PW... I counted on you.
I finished off the whipped cream, drank the coffee and called it quits. It was unbelievable. The one and only chocolate dessert that I have rejected in 50 years.
Thursday, February 05, 2009
This is one of the little joys in my life. Notthing spectacular but, it makes me happy. I like rocks. They're all over my house. One of the best presents I received for Christmas this year was a bag of rocks. Pretty fancy rocks, but rocks all the same. Well, actually, crystals to be more exact. This is a large quartz formation from Arkansas. It's about 4 inches across, with lots of personality. There's some points with rainbow inclusions, some so incredibly small they barely qualify as points and then there are chunky fingers that reach out to grab you. The cluster is sitting on one of my honestly antique books that I love. Enough of worldly doom and gloom. Go find something in your home that brings you a little joy; then come back and tell me about it.
Wednesday, February 04, 2009
One cook insisted that no vegetable soup could be complete without rutabaga and the other had no clue what a rutabaga was. Certianly the use of rutabagas as food has fallen off as we are no longer reliant on only hardy root vegetables through out the winter, but to not know what this is at all?
So, if that could have been you, keep reading.
Rutabaga , (rōō'tə-bā'gə, rŏŏt'ə-, rōō'tə-bā'gə, rŏŏt'ə-) n.
In both senses also called swede, Swedish turnip.
1. A European plant (Brassica napus var. napobrassica) having a thick bulbous root used as food and as livestock feed.
2. The edible root of this plant.
So now you know what it is, you should also know that a rutabaga is one of the hardest substances known to cooks. Trying to cut this monster requires your heaviest chef's knife. And don't even think of trying to get away without peeling. It may be true that most of the nutritional goodies are in the peel, but it's not something anyone would want to ingest. Just trust me.
What do you do with it? Well, I do give in and add it in very small cubes to soup on occasion. Rarely. I hear you can mash it or serve it in a variety of tasty ways, in place of turnips. Since turnips aren't really in my daily recipe file, I'll take someone else's word for it.
I'm not advocating for rutabagas, but I do think people should at least know what they are.
Monday, February 02, 2009
So, how on earth did civilized people in two countries come to decided that a groundhog would be the ideal predictor of weather? Did you even know that Canada also has Groundhog Day? Well, they do.
It seems that Groundhog Day stems from a Western European, probably German, tradition that timed the emergence of hibernating bears or badgers to the end of winter. If the day was sunny, there would be six more weeks of winter. As immigrants always do, they had to make do with what they found in their new homeland. With a shortage of bears, they settled on big rodents.
That’s one theory anyway. More likely in my mind is the correlation of Groundhog Day to the ancient pagan traditions of Imbolic and Christian celebration of Candlemas on Feb 2. The ancient church adapted many pagan celebrations into their calendar, simply because they couldn’t totally get the newly converted pagans to give up their parties! Feb 2 is the day dedicated to the Irish pagan goddess Brigid and also the day ancient Christians recognized as the purification of Mary, 40 days following the birth of Jesus. The symbols of both celebrations involve purification ; candles, spring cleaning, turning over the fields to prepare for spring, fire, hearth, cleansing of the body and spirit. Conveniently, this day also comes midway between winter solstice and the spring equinox.
So, in a round- about way, Groundhog Day is the perfect day for a funny, goofy celebration in the middle of cold, dark season that almost always lasts another 6 weeks, but reliably dissolves into spring.