Friday, April 29, 2011

Spring Flowers

Yesterday I bopped outside with camera in hand and visited my front yard, looking for stuff to take pictures of.  First up was the rhododendron right outside the front door.  It's in need of some shaping, but I'm afraid to hack at it for fear of killing it.  (As it is, the Bee 3 icicles took out a big chunk of the back of the plant this winter.)

But the big treat was that a huge bee was out there, dipping into the pollen.  This new camera has a telephoto lens and -- whoa!  There he was, big as life.  (And see the pollen on his butt!  Is that cute, or what?)

Next to the rhodo we have a little stand of daffodils.  They're the spring plant that keeps Close up daffodil on giving.  They've been out for over a week, and we've had a couple of really hot (Wonderful!) days, but they're still pert and perky.  (I have to learn which setting gives me a sharper background.  Hey, it's only been a couple of weeks--give me time, give me time!

Tulips We didn't plant the tulips out front -- and usually we have only one straggly bloom, but this year we had more--go figure!  (And I'm certainly not complaining.)  Sadly, tulips seem to last a day or two (especially if it's hot).  As you can see, they're already getting a little brown around the edges, and they'd only been open a day.
Dandilion Of course, while spring is great for flowers, it's also great for weeds.  Why do they look so pretty when they flower--and so ugly when they turn into puff balls of seeds a day or two later?

Apple blossom1 The former owners told us they had a row of ornamental cherry trees along the side of the driveway, but the ice storm of 1991 took out all but one.  It's the oddest looking tree because it's tall with very short (they all broke in the storm) limbs.  Most of the year it looks like it needs to be put out of its misery.  But for a couple of golden (or should I say platinum) days in the spring, it flowers and almost looks pretty.  (Well, it does look pretty close up.)

I stopped using my SLR camera about ten years ago and almost exclusively used a point-and-shoot.  And when we got our first digital cameras, they, too, were point-and-shoot.  I love my "big-girl" camera and realize how much I missed taking really good pictures. 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A No Construction Zone!

The other day, I looked out the bathroom window and noticed a robin sitting on the roof, looking around.  It jumped to the ground, looked around some more, and then jumped onto the faux craftsman lamp we have next to our front door.  It then flew back to the roof, back to the driveway, and then back to the lamp, obviously satisfied with itself.

"There's a bird out here thinking about building a nest," I told Mr. Ivy.

Nothing happened and we forgot about it.

Until this morning.  Mr. Ivy went to get the morning paper and, HELLO!, there was a fully built nest.  It wasn't there last evening.  After breakfast, Mr. Ivy went out and removed the next.  (He didn't tell me this, of course.)  Three hours later, I went out to put a letter in the mailbox.  HELLO!  There were all kinds of dead grass and sticks up on the light again.

Thinking it might be filled with bird cooties, I took off my shoe and Nest knocked the nest down, and went back inside.  "Mr. Ivy!" I called, rather annoyed.  "I thought you were going to remove that nest."

"I did."

"Oh, yeah!"


He came out and was astounded at how much work this robin had accomplished in just under three Light hours.  By the end of the day, I'm sure there would've been several eggs in that nest.  In order to discourage the bird, we put a heavy piece of broken patio block up there.  (You can never find a rock when you need one.)

Mrs. Robin was quite upset, as would any mother-to-be, but we didn't want to lose the use of the light, and the nest would've been a fire hazard, not to mention the bird poop that we would've had to scrub off the house and step (we've been there, done that).

Yes, it was all for the best.  So why do I feel so mean?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Look out! DUCK!

We bought our wonderful house despite the fact it came with an in-ground pool.  We'd looked at scores of houses (and I'm not kidding--more than 80, I kept track), but this was the only one that "spoke" to us.  Mind you, it was a compromise for me.  I'd always envisioned living in an old farm house, or maybe a Victorian.  This is a contemporary ranch, which I've spent the last 14 years trying to countrify.

And then there's that in-ground pool.  Once the snow melts, I nag until Mr. Ivy pumps the top of the pool cover off.  This year he was on top of it before I could say a word.  ("Good dog, Ubu!")  Then nature conspired against us and it has rained enough for us to consider building an Ark.

Ducks on pool cover I suppose we could pump it thing off in the rain, I mean, I don't understand how the submersible pump works.  I was always taught electricity and water don't mix. Mr. Ivy usually waits for a nice, dry, warm day to do it.  It had better be nice today, because yesterday we had our first (and I hope only) visit from Mr. and Mrs. Duck.
Our neighbor to the south encourages ducks to swim on her pool cover.  She thinks it's cute.  It is not cute when our fowl friends leave their calling cards in the form of excrement.  What are these birds eating?  Steers?

Right now the pool has at least six inches of water on it.  That's just fine for wading say Mr. and Mrs. Duck.  I can see The Money Pit out my office window and ripples in the usually still water alerted me to their presence.  It's annoying to find one or more of the cats watching our little ducky visitors and not say a word to us.  ("Meow" would suffice.)

When I see ducks, I dash out yelling and clapping my hands, letting the know they are not welcome.  They flap their wings and take off, using language that would curdle milk as they tell us just what inhospitable hosts we are.
Rubberduckies But the biggest reason to discourage ducks, besides their calling cards, is the potential for duck deaths.  On two occasions we've had Mama Duck decide our pool would be a fine place to bring up her babies.  The first time this happened Frank was alone, trying to deal with ducklings who could swim faster than he could catch them.  There were eight fatalities that day.

I was angry and upset he hadn't been able to save any of the ducklings.  And then it happened to me.
Ducklings in pool I found you can easily get Mama duck out of the pool, she flaps her wings and goes airborne.  The babies aren't so lucky.  The water is about 6 inches from the concrete deck which may as well be a mile to a baby duck.  While you try to scoop up the ducklings, Mama is on the shore screaming instructions to "stay away from those humans at all costs!"  So you try like mad to fish them out and they swim away, dive underwater, laughing at you the whole time.  This can go on for hours.

Then they start to get tired AND suffer from hypothermia.

Working together, we were able to save three of eight.  Those three were more dead than alive by the time we got them out of the pool.  They laid on the grass for an hour or more before they revived enough for Mama to lead them away.  Meanwhile, five of their siblings lay on the garden compost.  There are few more heartbreaking sights.

So while it sounds mean that we discourage the ducks in the spring, there's method to our madness.  Still, as long as ducks have bird brains, I'm sure we'll have to deal with the situation again.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What The Easter Bunny Brought

Tooth1 When I was a kid, our dentist was shyster.  He drilled away most of our molars, filling them with lead amalgam, forced us to endure expensive fluoride treatments (and to this day I detest fake grape flavor in any form), and emptied my father's wallet of much money.  One dad Dad said, "Enough!"  We changed dentists and mysteriously stopped having cavities.  (Yeah, and thanks to Dr. M I've got a mouth full of crowns and implants  because eventually all those molars fell apart, leaving nothing but fillings.)

Because we had such bad teeth, the Easter Bunny used to bring us other stuff; like records and books.  I liked that better anyway.  (Once I got a Beatle Album. I still have it and it's in good condition!)

Easter Baskets kind of fell by the wayside when I was in my late teens.  That changed when I got married.  Mr. Ivy was used to doing Easter Baskets and by God we were going to have them!  But now it wasn't my teeth that was the issue, it was weight.  DON'T GET ME ANY CANDY! I'd holler.  He gave me candy anyway.  But I have trained him to tone it way down.

Alumuttar This year he got herring, sardines, anchovies, mixed nuts, a bag of pistachios, a can of Underwood chicken spread, and a genuine Russell Stover peanut butter "egg."  Meanwhile, my basket contained three packages (or ready-to-eat) Indian lunches:  Rajma Masala, Pav Bhaji, and Alu Muttar (ooooh!  Yum, yum, yum), a jar of extra hot Chinese mustard, a small bag of Virginia peanuts and a tiny box (4 pieces) of Russell Stover (private reserve) chocolates.

Do you think the Easter bunny went all the way to India for my lunches?

How about you?  What was in your Easter Basket?

Monday, April 25, 2011

A refreshing side dish . . .

Waldorf_salad Years ago, Waldorf Salad was a staple at our holiday dinners.  It was made by a former family member and it was really nice.  But since she's no longer a part of my family, I've had to do without.

Until this week.

My mother-in-Law presented me with a fruit basket. Now I'm not much of a fruit fan, but I also hate to waste good food.  So I gave away the oranges and wondered what I should do with the apples, grapes, and pears.

Pears are a no brainer.  We often eat them sliced with our dinner.  We're fond of Empire apples, but not Red Delicious, and guess what kind of apples came in the basket?

So I thought--why not make a Waldorf Salad?

I got on the Internet, found a recipe and within about 15 minutes had whipped up something delish for our dinner.  (Lucky I had all the ingredients on hand, eh?)

I've still got four more apples, but no more grapes (and they're not cheap this time of year).  Aha!  You can substitute raisins for grapes.

Guess what I'm making this week?

What's your favorite fruit recipe?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Rain On The Roof

Why does it always seem to rain during daylight hours and ruin Unbrella perfectly good days?  Days that should be filled with baseball games, picnics, boating, gardening, and other enjoyable stuff.

Okay, the flowers/crops need the rain.  I get that.  But the days are gloomy and depressing.
On the other hand, I love to fall asleep at night with the sound of rain on the roof.  It's kind of magical.  It lulls you off to dreamland in a peaceful way.

Mind you, I'm not opposed to an occasional night-time thunderstorm, either.  I love to watch the sky flash with lightning.  I'm not so keen on the wind that accompanies said storms.  I fear toppled trees that take power lines with them.  (Our little post office was hit with a tree during a storm just the other day.  Took out a HUGE portion of the roof--right where the customers stand to have their letters and packages weighed.  Scary!)

A recent weather report said we had a 60% chance of Rain on the roof rain overnight.  Oh goody, I thought--another night of rain on the roof.  Unfortunately, the weather man, with this "predicting dartboard" was wrong again.  Come on, with all the supposed improvements in weather prognostication, you'd think they could get it right at least 50% of the time.  I know, I've crabbed about this in the past in respect to snowstorms, but they're apparently no better at predicting summer weather, either.

In the meantime, I do have a number of thunderstorm CDs.  I can play any one of them any time I please (which is just about every night), so I never have to be without some form of soothing, night-time rain.  But I prefer the real thing.

How about you?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sucidal Worms

April showers bring May flowers -- and they also bring out the worms.

Worm on driveway It rained A LOT yesterday, and sure enough, this morning the driveway was full of suicidal worms.  When the drive was wet, they probably thought it was a fine idea to wiggle out there and warm up, but now that the sun is out and the drive is drying -- so are they.  And the dim bulbs (well, to be fair -- they have no real brains) just lie there and die.

I was coming back from taking the trash can to the curb and saw a BIG, FAT, GOOSHY worm near the garage and, I don't know what came over me, but I felt sorry for it.  So I did something I never thought I'd do.  I donned a gardening glove, picked it up, and placed it back in the dirt.  Hey, worms are good for the garden, right?  Nature's engineers and all that.

All I can say about the experience is ICK -- major ICK.  But, hopefully s/he'll survive and reproduce and my garden will flourish, right?

Bird and worm If not, there're a lot of robins around looking for lunch.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ain't nothing like the real thing, baby

Maple syrup production Once upon a time, I read a story about a little girl from the city, who visited her country relatives in Vermont.  These relatives made maple syrup.  She was left alone with the boiling sap and at a crucial moment, did something (for some reason, I thought she put in a little pitcher of cream), and saved the whole batch.  She wasn’t just some dumb city girl anymore—she had saved the day.

That’s about as close to making maple syrup as I’ve ever been.  But I can’t say the same of my friend Janet.  Every year, she and her husband tap the sugar maples on their property on the shore of some frozen lake way up in Michigan, and then boil the sap for what seems like a million years (I think she said it was two weeks—but that can seem like a million years when you have to keep stoking the fire) and eventually—TA DA!  Maple syrup.

I think she said (some reporter I’d make, eh?) that she had to accumulate between 50-70 gallons of sap to make two gallons of syrup.  No wonder the stuff is as expensive as French perfume and sold by the ounce!

Janet's syrup As it happens, I am the happy recipient of a jar of Janet's 2011 maple syrup production!
Confession time:  I have NEVER had real maple syrup before.  I know, I know—how sheltered can one woman be?  I’ve only had the fake stuff…and truth be told, don’t like it much.  I have had maple candy, which costs the moon and is Waffle breakfast so sweet you can only take tiny bites.  So it was with much anticipation that I planned Sunday’s breakfast.  Ahh, lovely Mennonite bacon, extra crisp homemade waffles, and Janet’s maple syrup.

Let me tell you, that fake crap ain’t passing my lips from this day forward.  The homemade stuff was divine, and Hubby said it was better than a lot of Vermont maple syrup he’s purchased over the years--and in fact, the BEST he's ever tasted.  We’re already planning on a repeat of Sunday’s breakfast.  In fact, many repeats – at least until Janet’s maple syrup is gone.

I saw a story posted on AOL saying that Maple Syrup is in hot demand because there have been several bad seasons for collecting sap. Prices are as high as $100 a gallon for the pure stuff.  Which makes Janet's gift all that more valuable, and thoughtful.

Hmmm…now to figure out how to stay on Janet’s syrup distribution list.

Do you eat the real stuff or the imitation syrup?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Back to Winter?

Snowflake Ugh.  Snow.

That was my first reaction when I looked out the window this morning.  It's not a lot of snow, hardly more than a trace.  But there's something very depressing about seeing snow covering your snowdrops, crocuses and around your daffodils.

The other day we had April showers.  Yeah, and they promise May flowers.  So April snow only brings...slippery roads, sidewalks, and COLD!

Daffodils2 I don't know about you, but I'm ready for spring.  I'm ready for flowers and open windows and fresh breezes.  I'm ready to have the sliding glass doors open all day so the cats and come and go into the enclosed porch when they want. I'm ready to hear the wind chimes playing a tune.  I'm ready for sunny skies and planting my potatoes and tomatoes.

I'm ready for summer.

Unfortunately, the calendar isn't.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Dreaming of Cupcakes

Trying to eat healthy is hard, especially when all you can think about is fattening food.

Lately I've been dreaming about cupcakes.  Beautiful cupcakes.


Okay, four cupcakes is too many.

How about just one?

Carrot Cupcake

Wouldn't just love to eat that?  (And with a cup of tea?)