Thursday, June 26, 2014

easy? gourmet? kid friendly? delicious? bbq or campfire? whaaaat?

posted by:  jennifer

so this is an oldie, but a goody.... and you know that those oldies sometimes get forgotten.   and this deserves to be brought back to the front burner when it comes to meal planning.  even more so now, during the summer when thinking about camp meals... or backyard cookouts.

hobo packs!

you know... vegetables, herbs, protein... all wrapped up in a cute little pouch and cooked in it's own juices.   

the many benefits of such a meal include, but are not limited to:
  -easy clean up
  -adaptable to many tastes/dietary restrictions
  -kid friendly
  -damn tasty

the process:
  1. cut up any desired vegetables (squash, onion, peppers, garlic, potatoes*, kale,  whatever!)
          *for the potatoes, i cut into slices and then par-boiled until almost done
  2. cut up any desired protein.  we used chicken breasts and sausage.  i know my husband 
        and son would love shrimp, and tofu would work perfectly as well.
  3. chop up any fresh herbs.  we used:  parsley, summer savory, chives, and thyme.  
  4. gather salt and pepper, olive oil and butter
  5. for each pack tear a piece of heavy duty aluminum foil. mine were about 18 inches long, 
         and about a 12 inch square of parchment paper.
  6.  make your masterpiece:
        -place the parchment paper in the center of the foil
        -in the center of the parchment add any desired ingredients
        -drizzle your vegetables/herbs/protein(s) with olive oil and a pat of butter if desired.  
           season to taste with salt and pepper
        -gather up the parchment and then the foil into a pouch.  you can either use a sharpie
          marker to mark your pouch for identification, or do like my kids do and shape the foil
          in a unique way so you know which is yours.
  7.  on a hot grill, or near the embers of a campfire, cook your hobo pack.  if you are cooking 
        in a campfire, be sure to place the packs on the edges of the embers so that they 
        don't burn.  you will need to rotate them during cooking.  but be sure not to turn them 
       upside down, or you will lose all of those great juices.
  8.  you should smell when they are done.   your mouth will start watering, as mine is now as 
        i type.  i kid you not.  they will probably take about 20 minutes.  
  9.  unwrap, savor, clean up by tossing away the wrapping.

what will you put in your hobo pack?  share if you so desire.  i would love to steal your ideas!!


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Opossum... Overcoming a bad reputation

I'd like to introduce you to today's guest blogger.  Formerly Joey.  Now, Jill Opossum...

Hi everyone!  I'm wondering.  Why don't people like me?
I think I'm rather cute and I am extremely useful.

I was recently rescued from the gutter, having lost my way on my first night out of my den nest.  It's easy to get turned around when you strike out on your own. 
The world doesn't look so large while riding on mom's back.

At 7" long, I am capable of surviving all by myself.  I just need to learn about streets, cars, and such.

I am a Virginia opossum and the only marsupial found in the United States or Canada.  I come from the oldest surviving mammal family in the world, and can trace my family tree back to the age of the dinosaurs.  Pretty good lineage, I'd say.

Because we opossums have no method of food storage or energy storage, I needed to quickly find a food and water source.  Lucky for me, I was brought to the Taylor Certified Wildlife Habitat. 

I have a stable food source here.  And there are many containers with water.  I am also safe from some of the predators which usually kill us opossums: humans, cars, and dogs.  I need to be on the watch for owls though.

I can be such a helper.  I'm really a natural clean up engineer.  I eat so much of what you don't want in your yard...beetles, cockroaches, snails, slugs, mice, and rats.  I will scavenge in your garbage, if it is accessible. I know you don't like that.  But humans aren't the only ones that crumble when it comes to fast food, you know.

I'm smarter than a dog, more on the level of a pig.  (My kind have been tested for learning abilities.) I present far fewer health risks to humans than do dogs or cats.  I am more resistant to rabies than any other mammal, including man.  
I am gentle, very quiet, and really, prefer to be left alone.  I avoid confrontation.  My only defense is bluffing that I'm dead.  It is an unconscious act when I roll over, become stiff, and close my eyes or stare off into space.

I know that this "look" does nothing for my image problem.  I do show my 50 teeth when I'm frightened.  This only gives the appearance that I can defend myself, but I can't.  So please let me, or any of my fellow opossums, just mosey about. We won't hurt you, or dig in your soil, or make any trouble.

It's dark out now and time for me to get going.  I'll be cleaning up the stuff you don't want to see.  The only thanks I need is your respect and acceptance that I am an important part of the natural world.

t.t.f.n. ~ Carol

Sunday, June 22, 2014

practical beauty....or how to scatter joy

posted by:  jennifer

for the last, oh i don't know, year or two, i have been meaning to make a new curtain for our kitchen.  the one i had hanging was a temporary one, a rather sad piece of fabric with a quick pocket sewn into top that the bent tension rod went through... and due to the fact that the tension rod was bent, the whole thing was known to fall down here and there.  all very encouraging things when you feel like you are on top of very little in your life.

but a couple of weeks ago i decided to stop lamenting about this and do something.

i knew i wanted to make a window covering  that had some applique work, including a quote of some sort.  

and this is what i ended up with:

i am quite pleased with it.  how nice to smile when i look at the kitchen window... very refreshing after years of cringing when looking at the same window.

i love doing applique work.   i always use wonder under.  it is a iron on fusing.  (my grandma gave me a yard of it many moons ago, when she gave me a sewing basket for christmas.  i still have the scissors she gave me, and i have been an under wonder fan ever since.)  i tend to also sew around the edges of what ever i have ironed on.  i like the look of the stitching, and it also makes it all the more secure.

for this piece i used a vintage linen i found at an estate sale, hand cut felt letters, a few butterflies, a bird, some ribbon, and some vintage lace gifted to me by my husbands paternal grandma (she has let me at her fabric room....glad to know that her stash will be used.  lucky me!)

the quote i chose is by ralph waldo emerson.  scatter joy.    i like it.  it is simple, and i feel that this is what this curtain does to this corner of the house.   it scatters a little joy that makes me smile.

a smile that lasts until i look down at my nasty kitchen floor.  but between you and me, i have a new bee in my bonnet.   and let's just say, that i predict that in the next week or so the floor in my kitchen will be bringing a smile to my face as well.  wish me luck at home depot today!


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Surprises in the garden & moonflower and water lily updates

Between the beach-like weather we are loving, the orioles, dragonflies, and butterflies, and the flowers blooming, it is difficult to stay indoors.
Well, I guess it is unsettling for me to be inside most of the year, but right now I'm in our gardens, for hours each day.

Here's what is drawing me away from housework.

These bright sulfur yellow mushrooms easily caught my eye last week.  This was how they appeared on that first day and then the  show went on the following day...

They are Flowerpot lepiota.  And, yes, they were in one of my flowerpots.
I found this excellent website for identifying mushrooms.

59 days after I lifted and repotted my water lilies, new flowers graced the pond.  I have had numerous flowers since these first of the season.  

This is a "Throatwort".  The flowers bring Purple Rain to my mind and that is what attracted me to this late spring to early fall bloomer.  The label at the nursery proclaimed that they are good cut flowers and that they attract butterflies.
In the 3 years I've had it, I have yet to see a butterfly on this plant. But then the monarchs, swallowtails, skippers and cabbage butterflies of our yard have the milkweeds and two large butterfly plants, which they float between all day. 

This is one of the moonflower vines.  Of the 3 growing, 2 are showing their heart shaped leaves and are gaining height in feet instead of inches.  The third one doesn't like where I planted it and is still 2" tall.  I guess I should transplant it to a different spot.  Yes, I'm going to do that.

I like to have a columbine in the garden.  This aquilegia is Swan Violet and White.  Because columbines grow wild in meadows and along streams, I am transported to such lovely places seeing them near our pond.

Who's this?  It's a slightly out of focus pumpkin blossom elfin.  It hard to capture one in a photo, but you can see that he is happy to be in the garden just like me.

t.t.f.n. ~ Carol

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

How to Fill a Book (and a Giveaway)

Sketchbook, notebook, diary, journal… I have always wanted to hold in my hand a complete book filled with my thoughts, notes, sketches and/or art. But until recently, I was going about it all wrong. Once, I did completely fill a journal/diary. It felt somewhat satisfying but something about it didn't feel thorough. Although I didn't realize it then, what felt wrong was that it didn't contain any doodles or sketches.  When I tried to keep a sketchbook, I felt my work looked forced, flat and lifeless. Up until very recently, I kept these ~ a sketchbook, a journal, and a spiral bound for lists. When the number of things in a book that I didn't like grossly outweighed the morsels I did, I would go through them, and tear out pages…I would save drawings that I was happy with, of a thought that I felt I had captured well, of the list I needed. All the pages I wasn't happy with were tossed and the blank pages were left. The poor books would end up looking like a binder- just two hard covers leaning into one another left with some blank pages and a bunch of raw edges along the binding inside. 

Well, now I have one book. It is for everything. I have not torn out one page and I am well on my way to filling it up. How did I do it? I started simply. Most often, the page starts as a list (grocery, things to do…) then it may get a quote or something that made me smile that I don’t want to forget. Days later that same page may be revisited with some paint covering the list I don’t need anymore or something I wrote that I don’t feel needs to be read again. It is messy, full of layers. I love it… when I use it as a sketchbook my art feels more alive.  When I need a list, I know right where it is. And, I have never had a journal for my thoughts that I have felt more comfortable with.   

Here are some bits of it…




I would like to give away a notebook for you to fill. If you would like to be entered to win it, leave a comment. A winner will be announced here on Monday 6/23. ♥

***The winner(s) are both of you who commented! :) 


Sunday, June 15, 2014

feeling artsy? things are looking up.

posted by jennifer:

in my home, i look at many areas as blank canvases.  a spot of real estate to be touched with a bit of beauty.

because i look through such a lens... a lens that is often wondering what i can do to add a bit of life and color, a few of my ceilings have been graced with art.   while two of the ceilings have just a touch or two, one of them is completely covered.  

the first pictures are of the ceiling above our bed.  all i did was paint a moon, and some stars.   i then cut letters out of gold foil.  then i just used tacky glue to adhere them onto the ceiling.  i did this ceiling about 10 years ago, and once i have had to break out the glue and fix some peeling letters.  easy peasy.

the next pictures were taken in our hallway.   this was a bit of leap.  not only because of the ceiling, but more the wall color.    red, with just a hint of a pinkish/orange ting.  i still love it. and it has been, oh, i am terrible with time... maybe 8 years??

the only reason i remember how long ago, the ceiling in our room was done is because i had my now 11 year old contained in the hallway by way of child proof gates when i was working on the room.... so i could see her/she could see me... but she would prevented from joining me up on the ladder.  she always has been a climber.   she was close to a year old at the time.

the hallway ceiling is a stunner.  but, full disclosure..... it has taken much more maintenance.  it may be because it is so close to the bathroom, and the steam from a family of five taking showers and baths hit the ceiling on such a regular basis (can you see the bubbling on some of the surfaces?)... or maybe i just didn't prep the surface correctly...well let's be honest, i doubt i did any prep work.  but for whatever the reason, it needs annual care.

when i did the ceiling initially, i used modge podge, and had the entire area covered with pieces of origami paper as well as pages from books, and other random scraps of paper.

about two years later, when doing my annual maintenance work, i decided to make some changes.  i added some fabric panels... fabric stretched over pieces of foam board, i added some family photographs, and whatever bits and pieces i fancied at the time.  the piece of fabric of the madonna, covers the access panel to the attic.   i admired a curtain at the home of one of my book club friends, and she gifted me with a piece of the fabric she had used to make the curtain.  i knew she would appreciate it being added to the ceiling, since she is an admirer of my hallway.

i guess the good thing about the hallway ceiling needed work every year, is that i can add new pieces to it when i am working on it.   an evolving piece of art....

things are looking up.


Friday, June 13, 2014

Dragon from the black lagoon

My coconut swirled the first time I ended up with an alien looking creature in my hand while cleaning my pond.  It startled me and I involuntarily flung it back into the pond muck.  
Holy crap, what was that?
I had not put any such thing in my pond!

The next time I cleaned the barrel pond of years ago, I was on guard for the bizarre looking stranger.  Sure enough, I scooped up another one in the black muck from the bottom of the barrel.  This time I held it long enough to identify it...a dragonfly nymph.
Of course!

Cover this dude in black muck and it adds to the "get that out of my hand" signal my eyes sent to my brain.

The legs are locked into the position the nymph was in, as it as it hung onto the reed and arrived in the world out of  its waterborne life. The legs also take on this shape when while flying and the dragonfly catches its prey.  The legs create a cage around the caught insect so it cannot escape.  

Dragonflies are thought to be sinister in Europe and in some areas of the Southern U.S.
But for Native Americans, the Japanese, the Chinese and many others, dragonflies are admired and respected. 
I side with those who see these agile fliers as a symbol for courage, strength, swiftness, agility, and happiness.
Dragonflies symbolize the wisdom of transformation and adaptability in life.
The Japanese have a common name for almost all of the 200 dragonfly species that are found in Japan.  I don't even know the common name of the dragonflies in my own pond.  But I'm delighted they grace my garden.

Dragonflies are harmless.  And they are fascinating. 
Their eggs are laid in water and the larval stage, when they look so creepy to me, lasts 2 - 3 years, but can be up to 5 years.
When the nymph is ready to metamorphose into an adult, it climbs out of the water and up a reed.  Exposure to air starts the breathing process.  The larval skin splits and the dragonfly crawls out.  
I recently saw a nymph fresh out of its exoskeleton, as it hung on a pond plant reed while its 4 iridescent wings dried and hardened. 

What a packing job!  That dragonfly was inside this casing.  The abdomen was packed in like a telescope.  

You can see the bulbous eyes well in this picture.  These eyes contain as many as 30,000 lenses, which along with the wraparound feature give the dragonfly nearly 360 degree vision.   These eyes help the dragonfly intercept their prey mid-flight with a 95% success rate.   Also visible is the opening where the mature nymph emerged as a dragonfly.

These delicate, yet powerful, 4 wings each move independently of each other.  Dragonflies can propel themselves in 6 directions--up, down, forwards, backwards, and side to side.

Next time I play "Super Heroes" with my grandchildren, I am going to be 
Ball- of- Fire- Dragon.

 My super powers will be:
I am a fast and powerful helicopter-like flyer.
I can fly upside down, if necessary.
I can fly further than any other insect.
My jaws open as wide as my entire head.
My hinged & serrated jaws immobilize & mash.
I have 30,000 lenses and see things in ways humans can't.
My legs curve around my prey to create a cage that prevents escape.
I calculate to intercept my prey.

Super powers, yes.  But not fictional. 
Mosquitoes and flies don't have a chance.

t.t.f.n. ~ Carol