Sunday, January 31, 2010

Think Maybe They Will Sleep Well Tonight?

We bundled up, grabbed the camera and braved the deep snow for a little romp around the yard. Zoe is still a little over-enthusiastic about the snow, while Claris seems to be enjoying it more now that Zoe is big enough to really play with!

Oh, JOY! It is a Snow Day tomorrow... the fun continues!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Water Dog in Snow

I think most of today Zoe has been spent her time split between two things: playing outside and napping.

So how many inches is this?

STILL Snowing 1:58PM...

Friday, January 29, 2010


I have never owned an orchid: I feel it would be somehow disrespectful to own something so beautiful that you were destined to kill. I know my limits. Outdoor plants I can keep going, and some less-finicky indoor plants may survive my care, but an orchid would be headed for an early grave if it had to rely upon my ministrations.

That does not mean that I do not appreciate them. There are more than 23,000 species of orchids out there, and they find hundreds more every year. There are exotic orchids in lush rain forests, but there are also beautiful ones native to Virginia as well. Men have died attempting to find and posses the rarest orchids, and there is a thriving trade in orchid poaching. While there are many different orchids and some are plentiful there are others that are extremely endangered, and countless others have disappeared even before we had a chance to study them due to habitat loss.

Thankfully if I want to enjoy orchids I can always take a quick trip to Ginter Botanical and wander around their collection and enjoy the beauty of the exotic tropical flora, along with the talent and hard work of people who know what they are doing. I appreciate the plant-nerds out there!

Daydreaming flowers before the storm

There is a snowstorm coming, and I am thinking of building a flame-thrower. THAT would clear the driveway in no time, but I am sure Oscar would object vociferously. I have a habit of losing eyebrows when I play with flammables, so he does have a valid point. But still, it would be a whole lot easier than shoveling again, and I believe we have already hit the Virginia Snow-quota for this year, so I feel entitled to whine a little bit.

To keep my mind off of the snow, I have changed my desktop background to display a set of floral pictures. I figure if I look at them I will not feel that spring is so far away; not sure if that is foolish hope or wishful thinking, but it works for me either way.

I always want to get very close looks at flowers- they are one of the few things that get even more beautiful and interesting the more you scrutinize them!

So if the groundhog sees his shadow, please don't tell me. I want to live in denial for a little while.

When an orange isn't

Time to eat yet? How about now? NOW?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Super Soup!

In the winter the Yankee in me demands that I make soups; Lots and lots of soups to ward off those winter blues! The slow cooker allows me to make the soups without much intervention and cooks the soups long & slow to really get that home-cooker flavor. Last week I made baked potato soup with Yukon gold potatoes, sour cream, green onions & cheddar cheese- Yum! Today I am working on a Lima Bean (yes, those are limas, just a version called "Christmas") soup. I would call it "Succotash Soup" as it has limas, tomatoes, corn & potatoes, but somehow that does not sound as appetizing as it looks...

Soup is so easy; just grab a base (in this case I used vegetable soup stock), drop in your already soaked & softened beans, two cans of tomatoes ( I used fire-roasted this time), corn, diced potatoes, some chopped jalapenos, diced onions, and chopped garlic. I put it on low and let it cook all day... and dinner is fresh, hot & ready! Less processed food, more love I always say...


I have always loved granola, or at least some granola, but I have never found the perfect kind that had everything I wanted in it... until I found out how easy it is to make!

Basically you grab a box of oats, about a cup of brown sugar, the nuts and seeds of your choice, coconut if you like it, any other grains you may like (amaranth, puffed rice, or other cereals) and get them all mixed up in a steep-sided big bowl. In another smaller bowl I mix up molasses, honey, maple syrup or other syrups (usually 1/4 to 1/2 cup each type, enough to coat the cereal) and 1/4 cup oil. When each bowl is ready I combine the two, then drop the mix onto parchment-lined pans and put them in a 250-degree oven for an hour, stirring it up every 15 minutes to make sure it is evenly browned. When done, pull it out and carefully (I use the parchment to lift it up and funnel it) into the big bowl. You now add the fruit portion (raisins, berries, dried fruit chunks) and mix again. If you want "melty" candy bits, you add them now (this makes a snack granola as opposed to a breakfast one as it makes bigger chunks). Once you have mixed it again, let it cool back on the sheet pans. If you want un-melted chips (carob, chocolate, caramel, white chocolate, butterscotch, etc) add them once your mix is COMPLETELY cool.

I made some berry-mango-crunch and some butterscotch-berry granola a few days ago:

I am currently making a batch for a friend. The first picture is the oats, 7 grain cereal and flaked coconut with brown sugar, then the next is with the addition of the syrups and oil, which in this case are molasses, ginger syrup, maple syrup & honey and my chosen oil, grapeseed.

Once done, this batch will get mixed jumbo raisins, dried blueberries & cranberries. My friend is trying to lose weight, and this mix is filling, while not being too heavy in calories if eaten in moderation. The fruits are high in antioxidants and add such pretty color!

And all done it looks like this:

You know you want a bite!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Fog on the Mountain; Snow Finally Melts

We spent the long King-Day weekend enjoying slightly warmer temperatures, even with the two days of rain (but I am NOT complaining as it helped get the snow to melt faster and clear the drive up to the house enough to safely navigate up and down). We listened to music on, watched deer and a strange animal that resembled a cat that we only got a glimpse of in the distance... We took a hike during one of the breaks in the rain and found the creek brimming over with water thanks to the snow melt/rain combo...

Zoe found a pile of snow that had not melted down yet and dove right in. She seems to not tire of having it around, but I find snow, like fish and house-guests, stink after about three days.

We hiked down Claytor and found it to be a muddy mess, and both dogs loved every inch of it. I think I actually got a better workout due to the fact that there was at least a pound of the stuff stuck to my hiking shoes. Regardless of the mud, I still love all the wet, as it is raising the water table, clearing out the streams and preparing what looks to be a fantastic spring!

The old Claytor School House (from what I understand, one of the only schools for Black Children in Floyd built well before desegregation) is continuing its sad, slow demise. The weather here takes its toll quickly, and I wonder when it will finally collapse and be taken over by the forest. It will be sad to see it go, as I imagine it was very cute when it was healthy. It brings to mind the quote I heard from a farmer when asked what was the easiest was to bring down a building: "Cut a hole in the roof and just wait a bit".

Having the snow almost cleared and the weeds and brush trampled down from around the black-smith shop in the bottom fields made me daydream of what we could make of the old thing. It needs a LOT of work, but it is still solid and has a new roof, so I think maybe it can be saved and turned into something wonderful... but what, I do not know yet.

The deer (I think at least seven came by yesterday) come right up to the house, probably because they love to munch on the few landscape plantings we have. I go between thinking of them as lovely additions to the pastoral scene that is Floyd, to hating them as long-legged county-rats. I am trying to decide what to put in the garden this summer, while Oscar is deciding how to fence it in to keep the deer out. I think we will have to create a "Stalag-13" style enclosure to be sure that we reap what we sow...

Zoe enjoyed watching the critters outside with me... from a safe distance, of course!

Floyd is known for its thick fog, and I love how it makes everything look soft and mysterious. Not the best driving conditions, but if you have nowhere to go, it is nice to sit back with a cup of coffee and watch it roll over the mountain.