Sunday, June 30, 2013

June says, "Au Revoir," with Purple Clematis

Ah, Summer months are in their typical rush to come and go. Think about it. We begin and end the year with Old Man Winter. There tucked into the middle of the twelve-month span is this tiny gem of time. Already, 2013's Friday of Summer is kaput.

What to do? Savor every moment of the coming days.
Our most precious commodity.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Predators Lurk

In spite of these fun photos taken just moments ago, there's a dark side to this post. 

We've read that hummers are brave in facing adversaries. A swarm of them can actually succeed in chasing away hawks, a fact that might explain the disappearance of our resident raptors. However, it seems that the feral cat who's been lurking about might have gotten a nest of other less fortunates, last night... after dark. There are adult feathers, as well as many downy versions worn by the young, strewn about the patio. Perhaps a junco's nest. I'm not pleased. But the police force couldn't show for this event, as they did to assess the
break-in at Bri's house last night... after dark.

Someone let him or herself in the front window, climbing on a chair found on the backyard deck. How brazen. Evidently, the culprit was well hidden by (a) darkness, (b) a large rhododendron and (c) the rain that was coming down in buckets. Thing is, the burglary attempt was thwarted by an alarm system and a watchful neighbor, to whom we owe thanks. Regardless, it was creepy to walk about the house, afterwards, knowing that predators lurk and watch for opportune moments to attack.

We consider this unfortunate episode a warning to be extra careful, this summer, in locking houses securely and using caution upon returning home. A dangerous intruder could be lurking. There's no room for foolish bravery in the human world. Even a swarm of us cannot win against deadly weapons. Still, whatever our coat and color, we need to unite, beat our proverbial wings and collectively do everything in our power to thwart a predator's attempt to invade our space. It takes a village.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Lone Ranger of Orange County

Today, I rode shotgun with Joe. His work took us through some gorgeous countryside, blooming in every shade imaginable.
Our day was enhanced by an encounter with this masked man stallion, aka Lone Ranger of OC. Y'all might recall how I love to name horses, as per our recent visit to the OBX. When we stopped, Ranger galloped to the fence to greet us, most likely looking for food. 
His kindly human screened his eyes, to keep flies and bugs away. Quite a mysterious and dashing effect, don't you think?

Gav at Cape May, Today!

Caution Personified

All the way from the kitchen island and through glass sliders, I captured Big Kahuna, as he perused the yard from a hemlock tree. Clearly, he's one of our winter regulars. But seed feeders are stored for summer months, so we do not often see him. We do, however, hear him, as early as 5:30 a.m. The bird population is abundant in our neck of the woods; however, extreme caution is necessary to sustain its numbers. This morning's case in point:

As I passed by the front doors en route to the kitchen at 6:30, I heard and saw what seemed like a boatload of birds screeching and fluttering about. A quick glance downwards revealed a feral cat lurking on the portico. I opened the doors to scare him away. What a fiasco, as parents returned to what must be nests in every tree available!

A good save. But what about tomorrow?
Sweet-Smelling Jasmine on Portico

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Crispy Pizzelles

Thought kids of all ages might like to make ice cream sandwiches with these. So when our sunny morning turned into a stormy afternoon, I whipped up a batch for the freezer. Traditional recipes are available online. I recommend choosing a 3-egg version for cookies aplenty. Mine are with vanilla and lemon zest - minus the licorice/anise flavoring, favored in Italy. The Cuisinart Press works just fine.

A Tip:  
If batter overflows what should be the edge of baked goods, cool for a minute and trim with kitchen scissors. Don't toss those crumbs! Put in a small Baggie... great on sundaes.

Easy and fast, why shouldn't pizzelles be all-year-round treats and not just for holidays? Makes sense to me.

Buon Appetito. 
Raindrops on Petunias - Real Time iPhone Photo

Monday, June 24, 2013

Paula Deen - My Two Cents

In my opinion, she probably can't truthfully deny being a racist - it has been culturally engrained
in her. But prejudice is equally felt, the other way around... culturally, you know. Ahem. 

I'm not a fan and I dislike her unhealthy style of cooking. That said, just as there is a choice to be racist or not towards different skin colors, so is there a choice to watch her on the Food Network...
or not.

The punishment seems exaggerated. But I choose or not, in both cases.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Done Way, Way Too Soon - James Gandolfini

We spent countless hours with Tony Soprano in our living room. What an awful shame.
HBO Photo

The Voice - It's A Woman's World

Screen Capture
Well, ya can't win 'em all, as the saying goes. Congratulations to Danielle, whose voice is undeniably gorgeous... and further kudos to the runners-up.
KIA top-three prizes made the trip worthwhile. The Swon Brothers hope to travel in theirs to many a concert Swoncert. Hopefully, we'll see Michelle tagging along with Usher, on occasion. 

Always a Cher fan, it was nice to see her on TV again, though the repetition of the same Woman's World lyric could have ended two minutes earlier, for me.
She certainly redefines my age in looks; however, I sport the uncut version.
Pun intended, but hey, she's Cher.

We were once again amazed to recognize all of the talent that passed
through this season's stage, as they returned for encore performances.
A good year for music lovers. A woman's year. A woman's world?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Start Spreadin' The News! CONGRATULATIONS, KEITH!! ♡

Love you both.

Found A Surprise On My iPad ♡

No-Bake-Mega-Berry Cake

Today's Garden Roses and Tonight's Luscious Treat
If you simmered down that ginormous bag of frozen berries as per my Fun Food recipe, you probably have some sauce left over.
Same goes for toasted coconut - you should always do an entire bag and freeze what you don't need. That way, it's always ready to go.
Your freezer is your friend. 

Just bring on the perfectly fresh blueberries and a packaged angel food cake for a quick and deliciously legal dessert. It'll taste great, about midway through two hours of The Voice, tonight. Switch it up to coincide with the best fresh fruit available.

Super Hoopla

Net Photo

Who doesn't love Superman... or shall it soon be who didn't love Superman? What's with the latest hoopla of our hero gone violent? What? Superman? Can it be? Previously psyched to see the latest version (it's the kid in me), I'm upset to read the spoilers.
Hmmm, so that's why they're called "spoilers".

Out of it all, though, comes this bit of humor. Do you recognize that eyebrow? No?
Well, simply go to the link and chuckle along with me.

The Voice - Team Usher and Michelle Chamuel

Michelle continues to have my support and also won Joe's vote, last night. YAY! She surpassed the "vote for different" aspect and once again proved that her voice and incredible stage skills have great depth. Last night's performance with Usher was beyond belief.
A great song choice, with a favorite by U2. What a combination. ONE!

Danielle has an undeniably gorgeous voice. In my opinion, though, she lacks stage presence and began to sound the same in every song - no surprises.

Kudos to the Swon Brothers for their entertainment value and lovability. 

Here's hoping for Michelle! And seriously, I want to see Usher live; (link) Hunter knows!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Fizzy Me

I admit it. I'm an addict. Carbonated water. Seltzer. Whatever. You see, there are only so many 
8-oz. servings of flat H2O a gal can consume in a day, before desiring some zip.
So, "Beam fizz me up, Scotty!" it became.

A little retail therapy by way of a SodaStream and a week of use later, here's my review:
It's fabulous.

No more cases of seltzer or bags of debris. Just me, my Brita and Fountain Jet. That's right; I bought the cheapest model available. No bells and whistles. No Coke or Sprite flavorings. Just sparkling agua.

Is it cost efficient? Am I saving $$$? Probably not, which is the reason I won't advertise further. If you're interested and you want to fizz along with me, Google the product.  Read the pros and cons on various sites. If it's a go, look for a coupon... mine was reduced by 20% and shipped free, via Home Depot.

Here's to the bubbly. Cheers!


Ha, ha. The amazing thing is - he's still playing. Can't scare 'em off.

Real Time - Monday Morning

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Fun Food!

Oooh, Color-Me-Gorgeous Berry Sauce!

Aubrey and Gavin loved having choices, this morning. Gav kept calling the waffle boats "banana boats". So cute. Aubs topped her waffles with the works. 

"I'm not sure how this is going to taste, G'ma."
Apparently, the combo was a success!

Have the waffles ready ahead of time; use your favorite recipe. When it's time for brunch, pop them into the oven, right on the rack for a crispy and delicious result. Raid the fridge and offer everything you can think of for toppings. Let the kids fix their own. They'll actually enjoy being at the table for a while, as they go for seconds. And we lucked out, as Old Sol made an appearance. Disposable servers made for extra fun, outdoors style. I served a big pan of scrambled eggs and lots of turkey bacon, as sides.

Today's Toppings:
A large Sam's bag of frozen Blue and Blackberries, 
reduced with lemon juice, honey, fresh ginger (removed when done) and cinnamon. This simmered for a long time, after which I put sauce through a fine strainer (very seedy). To thicken, I brought it back to a simmer and added cornstarch mixed with a little water.
Toasted Coconut
Vanilla Yogurt
Chopped Walnuts
Fresh Pineapple Chunks
Pure Maple Syrup
The ever-popular can of Whipped Light Cream

Celebrating Our Heroes ♥

What a great day!

Dad's Day ♥

Simply the greatest Firemark and Dad. I never stop missing him.
Photo Circa June 1961 - Store Fishing Trip
FireMarks circa "A Find"

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Would You Like To Guess?

D.A.R.E. to say, "NO!" Congrats, Aubs!

End-of-the-school-year events are always special. We were privileged to share yet another, this morning. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Lovin' The Arts

School would be no fun at all without the arts. We're grateful that so many cuts, layoffs and school closings did not eradicate that which allows exposure of the priceless gifts our children possess. 

After a night of music, Gav wanted to show us his latest art project - 

"G'ma can you stop at my house so that I can show you my pig?"

Aubs joined in the display, and I must say, their work is impressive... and adorable! 
Meet Pig and Dinosaur.

Aubs is a Triple Threat!

Last night's Spring Concert was fantastic, with our girl playing recorder, singing in the chorus and on stage for the first time with her violin. WOW! All those lessons at 7:30 a.m., before the academic day starts, certainly have produced results. Kudos to all involved in bringing this combined-school event to us. Special congratulations to the music teachers; their enthusiasm is unsurpassed.
Thank you, Sugar.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Voice - Which One?

Joe and I call Michelle, Danielle and the Swon Brothers as the three contestants to go to next week's finals. I'm still rooting for Michelle/Usher's team. Joe is liking Danielle/Blake. We shall see...

We'll miss the eliminations tonight, as we're choosing The Aubrey Voice. It's her last elementary school concert; she'll be playing recorder and violin, in addition to singing in the chorus. Then, it's on to Middle School. Just blow me over with a feather, why don't you??
Have I mentioned that time flies?!

So, I leave you with "Time After Time", till tomorrow when we'll know if we called it right... and provided we sit in close proximity to our Grand Love, CMI should include photos of an up and coming Voice.

Resurrected Recipe - Lemon Bars and More

After all that healthy broccoli rabe and parsley pesto, I always need a good hit of something sweet. Not a lot. Just enough to say,
"Dinner is over; it's time to move on." You know, right? So, when I came across this old recipe just before dinner a few nights ago, it seemed perfect for quick salvation. Jeesh, I think the boys were in elementary school, the last time we had these. Whipped it all up in a few and tossed into the oven - twice. They were cooled and ready to go, just when the mood struck.
There are so many recipes online, but here's one for starters.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Step One:

3/4 c. soft butter
2/3 or less confectioners or granulated sugar
1 1/2 c. flour

Cream butter and sugar well; gradually add flour, continuing to beat. Press into Pam-sprayed 13 x 9-inch pan.
Bake for about 20 minutes or till golden.

Step Two:

3 eggs
1-1/4 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. lemon juice (fresh is better)

Beat, beat, beat till frothy and pour onto hot crust. Bake another 20 or so minutes longer, till lightly browned.
Cool on rack and cut into bars.

Original recipe calls for a hit of confectioners sugar, but I had whipped vanilla icing with lemon juice and toasted coconut in the freezer, enough for a glaze. I'm seeing berries baked into the custard, in this dessert's future. Yes?  
And while you have that canister of sugar on the counter, how 'bout this:

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Flower Powered - Part Deux

Sweet Chloe loves flowers - circa 2012
Hunter recently mentioned something in conversation that reminded me of the incredible flower tower I fell in love with, last July.
We'd had such a (link) fantastic day together. I'm pretty sure he triggered this morning's thought - the one that put me and Joe in Home Depot at ten a.m., in pursuit of the makings for its version of the bloomin' beast. You can find many vids on YouTube with instructions; just Google "Home Depot Flower Tower" and take your pick.

Now, don't get me wrong - 
I love HD. But I'm not fond of some of its policies. Salespeople tout this project, but offer the components in bulk only. Ridiculous. We substituted two tomato cages at a couple dollars apiece and stacked, spaced and wired them, in lieu of the pricey roll of wire that we needed only a few feet of. (Thank you, Marty Miller!) Same with the wrapping fabric. Joe had some black plastic from another project; it worked just fine, with a little help from black tape, also on hand. Still, by the time we bought potting soil, vermiculite and plants, plants, plants... not cheap. Another trick from our combined efforts was to put a few very large rocks in the base to (1) stabilize the whole shebang and
(2) fill 'er up with less dirt.
Long story short, we think it turned out great. Of course, the true test will be in the growing. Petunias are tough - lots of deadheading lies in my future. But with the help of my Bose and an iPod full of my favorite rock stars' inspirational lyrics, I'll just do it!

While we were in the pool gardens, two magnificent swallowtails made their presence known. There's no longer a need for my home-made gizmo, a few entries down. We're a-bloomin' big-time... clearly flower powered. Thing is, I need to educate myself before I venture to say exactly which species these yellows are.
A gorgeous day. Giving thanks.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

What-A-Mess Chicken

Water can sure wreak havoc in a home. Don't ask. The well pump had to be turned off, right before dinnertime preps were to begin. Soooo....
With a couple bottles of Aquafina, I rinsed a peeled Vidalia onion and two Yukon Gold potatoes. Into a Baggie went thin french-fry-cut taters, rinsed, halved-lengthwise chicken cutlets, onion wedges, small mango and ginger chunks, paprika, garlic powder, pepper and EVOO. A few good twists, turns and shakes later, it was all spread on a cookie sheet lined with parchment. A hit with plain breadcrumbs helps to seal in flavors and adds great crunch; then, into a 350-degree preheated oven. Watch for chicken to be finished and remove. Raise oven temp and crisp up those veggies.... or pop under the broiler for a minute or two.
Sprinkle with breadcrumbs, at this point.
Spicy and Delicious.
It just looks like a mess!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Do You Verizon?

There is clearly a legacy at risk. Mr. President had my vote - twice. Now, I'm conflicted.
I Verizon. 
Is his interpretation of the Patriot Act unpatriotic? 
Are all degrees of privacy meant to be sacrificed in the name of homeland security?
Al Gore has continually been proven right, of late. Are we experiencing yet another inconvenient truth?
Al Gore Twitter:
"Is it just me, or is secret blanket surveillance obscenely outrageous?"
Trending stormy weather is in need of our careful and cautious observation.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Everything's A Trade-off

Over The Mountain - 5:15 a.m. Today
Cardinals are noisy insomniacs. Kelly had me laughing, recently, as we discussed this fact. She does an amazing recreation of their morning call. Listen. You'll hear them as early as 4:30 a.m., just as the Spring sun is preparing to peek over the horizon... or, in our case, the mountaintops. I can relate to them. The first glimmer of light suggests a new day - even the tiniest beam that shines through the minimal gap in the room-darkening blinds. Ah, it's an internal clock. Ya think? I digress.

We stop feeding them right before mating season. It's a message to all seed-gobblers who frequent our yard for three seasons. Nature provides; they don't need us for a few months. And since they tend to nest near a food source, this suggests a change of venue for summer months. The birdsongs are still audible, albeit from a distance. Brilliant reds can still be spotted in the foliage. 
And so it goes and so it goes...

A sanctuary safe and strong... then provided for the hummers. Listen. You'll hear them, too, unless you're Joe, who sadly misses a lot of secondary noises in this busy old world. A trade-off. But a satisfying one. They pretend to be shy for a few weeks. Then, dinnertime becomes a family affair, as they swarm around us to bounce from feeder to feeder. We all love the cocoon of the forest...

Except for missing sunrise, now barely visible over that mountaintop. If someone asked what color would represent Old Sol, what would you say? It's nearly always depicted as yellow, right? Ah, but what about the orange of sunrise and set. So exquisite. Nature's palette creating magic, once again. Another trade-off, from naked woods to those so overdressed as to block the display of color from the next mountain range. But I'll keep both versions. The change of season can be exciting. There's a capacity to love it all.

And so it goes and so it goes...
Is there an analogy to be made here? Interpret as you wish, but I just have to listen to Billy - right now
Sorry, Neil; but hey, everything's a trade-off and the truth is,
I love it all.
In every there is  a  room...

Monday, June 3, 2013

Real Time - Mimicking Momma

We're bonding. They are building trust and getting a bit closer. Also, I am able to walk outside, now, and they don't bolt - thus the improved photos. How precious the similar poses in each shot...