Monday, July 25, 2016

Summer Days

Finally, the mountain woman returns.  What a treat to have a nice break and visit with family.

Like most of the country, we are suffering from the so-called "heat dome" that hovers over us.  We've had day after day of near-record high temperatures.  The rain that falls is very spotty and unfortunately we have had very little.  The woods are dry.  Our mountain breezes have temporarily deserted us.  It feels quite strange to look out and see such stillness.  But it does make us appreciate the bird activity even more than usual.

We have been treated this summer to multiple Pileated Woodpecker pairs bringing their fledglings to our feeders.  Most often we see only one, but there was one pair who brought two fledglings to the feeders.  The trees were certainly not still when these two big babies screamed for food faster than the mother could fetch it.  I'm sure she was relieved when they finally learned how to reach the suet for themselves.
(You may want to click on the pictures to enlarge)

The mother gets some food while the siblings wait.

 The trio in a tree

 Even in this miserable weather, our birds give us such enjoyment.  The bird bath is in constant use.

 The little ones always seem to have unruly hair.

We are hoping for some respite but that does not appear likely for at least another ten days.  I know it is far worse for many others so we are grateful that we can stay comfortably inside and watch our birds.

I hope you love birds too.  It is economical.  It saves going to heaven.
Emily Dickinson 

Monday, July 4, 2016

Happy Independence Day

...That all men are created equal...

 July 4th is a very special holiday here in the United States.  It is wonderful to be patriotic and loyal to our beloved country.  I advise you however, to be a bit skeptical of folks who boast that they are VERY PATRIOTIC.  Let these and all of us not forget where we came from and that all of our ancestors (except for Native Americans) came here as immigrants or refugees.

 The "New Colossus."  Our Statue of Liberty, Mother of Exiles.
Liberty Enlightening the World

In 1883, American poet Emma Lazarus wrote a sonnet to help raise money for a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty.  The complete poem is on a plaque inside the statue and the final portion is on a bronze plaque on the outside of the pedestal.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she with silent lips.  
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

So as you celebrate this Independence Day with picnics and fireworks, please remember that while we must love our country, we are not alone on this planet.  I hope all of us can strive to be more accepting of other people while still proud to be Americans.


I'm taking another blogging break for a week.  Summertime and the living is easy with guests coming to visit the mountains.

Friday, July 1, 2016

We Love Lucy

Once again we are in the midst of a drought.  Significant rain is falling very near us.  But every afternoon we get thunder and humidity and not a drop of rain.  We do have some in the forecast so we are hoping it comes to fruition.

Every Friday my husband drives to a neighboring town to Fresh Market for seafood, meat, and fresh baked bread.  And each Friday he has a slice of the bread with his salad lunch.  Lucy loves Fridays.  Because I must cut a small portion off the end of the loaf to slice a piece of bread.  And that small end slice gets cut into small cubes for Lucy.  Our Lucy loves bread as much as Oprah does, but unlike Oprah, Lucy gets bread only once a week and not everyday.  [In case you are confused, Oprah does a Weight Watchers commercial in which she talks about her love of bread.]  Always alert to the sounds that mean good things for her, Lucy waits until she hears me open the bread box.  Then she runs into the kitchen to wait for her bread.  She is all smiles as she waits and her tail is wagging non-stop.

It's time, Mom!  Where's the bread?
Forget about the beef, where's the bread?

In these days of frustrating politics and news, it is such a welcome relief to have such a goofy dog.  She makes me laugh at least once a day with her antics.

Our quote comes from Pope John XXIII, a Pope meant to be a place-holder but who made huge changes in the archaic Catholic dogma.

Consult not your fears but your hopes and dreams.
Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential
Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in,
But with what it is still possible for you to do.




Monday, June 27, 2016

A Cardinal Follows Suit

It seems our deck rail has now become something of a feeding station.  Last week I showed you the Pileated Woodpeckers.  And this time it's a Northern Cardinal.

A very young cardinal, hardly able even to fly to the deck rail, sat looking rather confused.  I'm not sure I have ever seen a cardinal this young out of the nest.

[You may wish to click to enlarge the photographs]

A face only a mother or father could love

 The father flew to the bird feeder and returned with sunflower chips.  He fed the sweet little thing right there on the deck rail.

 He puts the food far down in the baby's mouth

 The father flew off to get more food.  He returned several times to feed his chick.

 I hope this little one does well.
I'm sure it will be a gorgeous bird one day.

Thoughts go out to those affected by the flooding in West Virginia and the continued raging wildfires in California.  And to all those suffering wherever they may be.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

We Love Lucy

Like much of the country, we have continued to have record-breaking high temperatures.  Ninety degrees in the mountains is damned hot.  Especially when there is no mountain breeze.  Lucy's early morning romps are cut short.  It's been in the mid-70s by 7:00 every morning.  And last evening when I took her out at 9:00, it was still 78 degrees.  Very unusual June weather for us.  We shouldn't complain.  Many areas of the country are far worse.

I've thought about Ellie more often than usual this week.  Her birthday anniversary was June 21.  I sometimes wonder if Lucy has any memory of her.  I suppose no one will ever know what kind of recollections a dog holds.  I know that when people or animals come back into a dog's life after a long period, the dog remembers them.  But do they think of them in their absence?  Is it "out of sight, out of mind" or do they consciously miss the person or animal?  Lucy's behavior in the weeks after Ellie's sudden death indicated she definitely missed her.  But then she returned to her "normal" behavior and settled in to enjoy the life of an only child.

Regular readers know how Lucy used Ellie as a pillow.  What you might not know is that she did that from the time she was a little puppy.  I scanned in an old photograph taken when Lucy was about five months old.

Lucy and her favorite pillow

It's been an interesting week politically, hasn't it?  So many things have happened that are unprecedented in our lifetime.  And the "sit-in" on the House floor is definitely one of them.  So many rules broken to give voice to the need for some sort of gun control legislation.  No votes were called and the House was adjourned in the wee hours of the morning.  But many of the Democrats remained there in protest.

A renowned author, political activist, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and survivor of the Holocaust provides our quote for today.

Eliezer (Elie) Wiesel:

"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest."



Monday, June 20, 2016

There's a Tool for That

One of my very favorite foods is fresh caught shrimp.  One of my very least favorite cooking chores is peeling and deveining said shrimp.  Several weeks ago I was talking on the phone with our daughter.  I had just finished the dreaded peeling and deveining task and lamented how much I hated doing it.  My daughter asked, "Isn't there a tool for that?"  It had never entered my mind that there might be a gadget to help with this job.

I immediately went Online and watched some very clever videos about shrimp peeling tools.  Most of them were plastic and the reviews indicated they were great except that the tip tended to break and thus render the tool useless.

Clever daughter looked on her favorite cooking Website, "Cook's Illustrated" and sent a link to their evaluation of various shrimp tools.  By far, the highest recommendation was for a stainless steel product called RSVP International Endurance Seafood Scissors.  [Disclaimer:  I have no relationship to the company whatsoever.]

I immediately ordered the tool which was  less than fifteen dollars.  It came within a few days and I couldn't wait to try it.

Here's the multi-purpose tool
(Sorry, I had already used it before taking the photograph)
A good photographer would have cleaned it before shooting the picture.

 To use the tool, I inserted the curving blade just under the shell at the top of the shrimp shell.

 Thread it a little further and then snip with the scissors

 I was impressed.  The shell lay open with the vein exposed and easily removed.

 It worked!

Even with the new tool, peeling and deveining is not exactly a fun job.  But it is far easier and more pleasant than the process of removing the shell and then slitting the shrimp to remove the vein.  And the chore is completed in less than half the time.

I'm sure you folks living near the coastal areas scoff at someone needing a tool to devein shrimp.  But this mountain woman is delighted to have this great kitchen gadget.  We'll be having shrimp more often as main dishes and appetizers (think Ina Garten's roasted shrimp cocktail which you can find HERE).

Thanks to our daughter.  Without her I never would have thought to look for a tool.

Friday, June 17, 2016

We Love Lucy

This week has given us heavy hearts as we grieve for the  deaths of so many people and injuries to so many others.  And the week has given us plenty of anger at the inflammatory rhetoric that has come from the mouths of some "leaders" and especially one of the Presidential candidates.  How can they spew such venom at a time like this?  To blame an entire religious group because of the actions of a single mentally ill individual? Kudos to the brave leaders who participated and assisted Senator Chris Murphy (Democrat from Connecticut) in his filibuster to bring some measure of gun control legislation to a vote.  Note that there will be only a vote.  Unfortunately there is little likelihood that meaningful legislation will actually pass in the Senate or House.  The Senate Majority Leader dismissed the filibuster as "campaign talk-a-thon" that kept the Senate from its more serious business.  Seriously, McConnell?  What kind of serious business did you have on your agenda?  Senator Susan Collins (Republican from Maine) said the stalemate was like "Groundhog Day" once again.  And she is correct.  After every major shooting with an assault rifle, the Congress and Senate have a moment of silence and then go about business as usual.

But this is Friday.  And the post should be about our Lucy.  It's been really hot here.  Near record-breaking highs once again.  And Lucy does not tolerate the heat at all.  Understandable since she has two coats that she cannot remove.  She finds cool spots in which to lie, her favorite being the tile.  But sometimes, she just puts her head underneath a chair.  Not sure if this is cooler, but she does it more often when the weather is warm.

Headless dog

Know what, Lucy?  Sometimes I want to put my head under something as well.
Yeah, it works, Mom.  But you'll have to find somewhere else.
This is my place. And your head wouldn't fit anyway.

Our thoughts go out to those who are injured or have lost loved ones.  The victims in Orlando and all others here in our country and around the globe.

The quote today is about hatred, since our deeply divided country seems fueled by it.  It's by a man who had every reason to be filled with anger and hatred, yet he was filled with love.
Nelson Mandela:
"No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion.  People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.

Sunday is Father's Day here in the United States.  So HAPPY FATHER'S DAY to all you fathers. 
Monday is the summer solstice.  The longest day of the year with approximately 17 hours of daylight.  Of course that means the hours of daylight will shorten thereafter, but the changes will hardly be detectable for a while.