My life has a superb cast but I can't figure out the plot.
~ Ashleigh Brilliant


Friday, March 29, 2013

SkyWatch Friday: Paschal Pastels

This week's most beautiful sunrise seemed to be making a fashion statement for spring, all dressed up in her pastel best...


... especially in these SOOC closeups I took with my telephoto during the sunrise's deepest hues...

The sky reminded me a bit of this pretty "Happy Easter Smoothie,"


or even this spring ensemble and coordinating hair extension! :-)

To those who celebrate them I wish a Happy Passover and Happy Easter,
and Happy SkyWatching and happy weekend to everyone!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Cattail Striptease

In late March in northern Wyoming, signs of spring are subtle. No soft pink cherry blossoms, cheery golden daffodils, or vibrant green leaf buds appear this soon to announce its arrival. Instead, one must go out on a warm, sunny day and hope to catch sight of a cattail doffing her winter woolies! 


I only had time to get this one photo before the long strand of cattail fluff detached itself and blew away across the marsh. So I had a little fun creating a few more versions of it...




Saturday, March 23, 2013

In memory of Val & Tino

We lost Tino the mouse, one of our beloved furbabies, on Thursday. I found him that afternoon, laying beside the food pile with some sunflower seed shells around his sweet face (how that little guy loved his food!), still warm and looking very peaceful. Tino was very elderly for a field mouse (at least six years old), blind in one eye, and had been quite frail for a while - in fact, we had thought we were going to lose him in January. But he rallied, though he remained feeble compared to his buddy Val.

Tino peeks through the "DIY skylight" in a cardboard tube, a favorite place to sleep.

Val and Tino, who may have been brothers, came to live with us during a bitter Valentine's Day blizzard six years ago (hence their names), when they'd come into our garage seeking shelter from the cold and the storm. We lived in the country and field mice entered our attached garage often enough - until we found the wee hole they were using - that we finally invested in several "tin cat" humane live traps. We'd release the mice near food, water and shelter a good distance from the house (1/4 mile away or more, though goodness knows some of them probably found their way back and got to repeat the adventure!), unless the weather was very bad. For those times we'd bought an aquarium, shavings, food, water dish and exercise wheel, and became the proprietors of the Whiskers Inn B&B. :-) Our tiny guests enjoyed a warm, cozy, delightful stay until the weather turned nice enough to release them back outside, and after a two or three day stay most of our guests made it clear (by dancing along the glass or trying to chew their way through the lid) that they were ready to check out!

But not Val and Tino. Knowing a cushy deal when they found it, they signed a long-term lease and became full-time boarders. Luckily for us, they were both male! They were the first mice to make themselves right at home and remain content to be there, the first to learn how to use the exercise wheel - even teaching themselves games on it - and though never growing tame enough to want to be held or cuddled, quickly grew calm around us, settling into a comfy routine. And so we changed the name of the establishment from the Whiskers Inn B&B to "Mouseville" (a little tribute to Mr. Jingles from one of our very favorite movies, The Green Mile).

Of course we're sad to lose Tino, but it helps to know we gave him a safe, comfortable, hopefully happy, extraordinarily long life. He enjoyed spending time outside on warm, sunny days, was particularly fond of eating organic nom-noms (sunflower seeds, dried soybeans, raw pumpkin seeds, carrots, raw almonds, date pieces, raisins, brown rice, and oat groats), had the adventure of not only moving from room to room within our house several times, but from house to house three times (though at least he got to always take familiar Mouseville with him every time!), and before he grew too feeble to use it much, he adored the exercise wheel. He was the first to learn how to use it and became very skilled at it. (One way we were always able to tell Val and Tino apart was that Val, never as coordinated as Tino in their youth, scuffed his nose once trying to get into the wheel while Tino was spinning it and ever afterward had a hairless scar on his schnozzle!) One of their favorite games was for Val to sit still in the wheel while Tino ran as fast as he could, vaulting over Val every time the spinning wheel brought him around, until Tino would finally jump out of the moving wheel leaving Val to spin around and around until the wheel stopped. I'd have puked my guts out, but Val and Tino just loved that game! :-)

It's hard for us to tell how poor Val is feeling about the absence of his nearly lifelong friend and possible brother, but we can't imagine he doesn't feel the loss. They always slept cuddled up together, played together, and I have no doubt were very fond of each other. Though probably the same age as Tino, Val is still very spry and active, and we hope to enjoy his lively company for some time to come. Tino will be laid to rest in our front flower bed, where he will eventually become part of the flowers we'll be planting there in a couple of months.

Update 4/21/13: Despite doing well for the first three weeks after Tino's death, Val became frail and wobbly in the past week. This morning when I got up and checked on him, I found that he had died in his sleep during the night - one month to the day after Tino. They were probably the same age, and very elderly for mice, but given Val's rapid decline so soon after Tino's death it's impossible not to imagine that Val didn't die of a broken heart, missing his constant companion. Sweet and good to the very end, Val died just ahead of a major spring snowstorm that's due to arrive at noon today, bringing 5-10" of snow to our area over the next two days, giving us time this morning to bury him beside Tino in the still-warm soil of the front flowerbed. Rest in peace, little one, we love and will miss you so very much.

Here are a few photos of the boys together...

Val and Tino during their first days at Whiskers Inn, 
before they figured out how their exercise wheel worked!

Tino and Val at play

100_6477
Tessa LOVED watching Val and Tino! She'd even watch Mouseville for hours when the boys were sleeping inside their tube or burrowed into their shavings, certain they'd come out any minute to entertain her with their antics! BW said that Tess was addicted to "MTV." :-)

We love and miss you, dear Tino and Val! Wherever your sweet spirits are now, I hope there is lots of yummy food, fun games to play, and nice playmates to cuddle with. Thank you for being such dear, precious little friends.

"Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened." 
~ Anatole France 

Friday, March 22, 2013

SkyWatch Friday: Spring on the Wing

As I mentioned in my Vernal Equinox post, we've enjoyed a few lovely warm days recently. Just before heading out on a long walk with the dogs during one of them, I pocketed my little EasyShare camera (more manageable than my Rebel when walking three dogs!) in hopes of capturing some harbingers of spring. My last minute instincts were rewarded when several skeins of geese (a gaggle is a group of non-flying geese) flew overhead...


One swallow does not make a summer, but one skein of geese, 
cleaving the murk of March thaw, is the Spring. 
~Aldo Leopold



And here's a gaggle, patiently waiting for their swimming hole to finish thawing...



I also spied this bird's nest, photogenic against the pretty blue sky as it waits for its tree to leaf out and its tenants to arrive from their winter sojourn to raise a new family...


Happy Friday, Happy SkyWatching, and

For more skies from Equinox week in both hemispheres, check out...

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Springtime Smiles :-)

(An encouraging reminder to friends in the northern Midwest and New England!)


Happy Vernal Equinox to my fellow Northern Hemispherites! :-)

Though like many of you we continue to have some wintery weather, we've also been enjoying some tastes and signs of spring recently ~ from a few sunny days in the mid-60's, to our first robins, to some patches of green grass here and there. Even the snow and ice seem to be happy about their upcoming sabbatical, as they were all smiles at the edge of a local pond...


And just in case you had trouble seeing the eyes, nose and wide smile...

:-)

And seeing this sweet sign on the interwebz made me smile, and will hopefully provide another encouraging reminder to everyone still wishing for spring but buried in snow...

and will awaken soon. Then we can switch to complaining about weeding and mowing! :-)


(And Happy Autumn to my Southern Hemi friends!) :-)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Pecan Leprechaun Shillelaghs :-)


A couple months ago, our neighbor brought over some delicious little homemade breadstick thingies called "Whole Wheat Oat Sticks." Now, we vegans are often wrongly accused of eating things like sticks and twigs. So not wishing to encourage such malicious falsehoods, I set about coming up with something new to call them. Especially since these "sticks" are too yummy for such a stodgy name. A bit reminiscent of a scone and not too sweet (they're sweetened only by dates, unless you use sweetened coconut), they're a wonderful breakfast treat or accompaniment to a cup of tea or coffee. We made a batch of them recently and I decided to share the recipe for St. Patrick's Day... not because there's anything about them that's particularly Irish, but because I wanted a baked goodie to pose with my grandmother's shamrock teacup and saucer from Galway Ireland, and these were perfect...

And the tea within? Why, green tea of course! 
(A gift from my friend Rose, whose husband is from Ireland, no less!) :-)

So anyway, I figured I'd give them a name appropriate for St. Patrick's Day. BW had taken to calling them "Pecan Logs," so I thought about "Leprechaun Logs," but that just made them sound like leprechaun poo. :-) And then I remembered shillelaghs ~ the stout, knotty sticks associated with Ireland, Irish folklore, and leprechauns... 
And I thought, "Begorrah!" :-) So here is the recipe for Pecan Leprechaun Shillelaghs...

Pecan Leprechaun Shillelaghs 
(aka "Whole Wheat Oat Sticks." Boooorrring!)
Closely based on a recipe from Cooking with Natural Foods II by Muriel Beltz

Ingredients:

2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups oat flour or ground oats
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups dates, chopped
1 cup ground almonds
 cup coconut (I use unsweetened)
1 cup water
Finely chopped pecans (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Combine first four ingredients in a bowl. 
In a blender or food processor, mix the ground almonds, coconut and water.
Add the wet mix to the dry ingredients, stirring into a stiff dough. Add more water if necessary. 
Knead only enough to form a dough ball. 
Pinch off small handfuls of dough and shape into "breadsticks" approximately 4" long, 1" wide and ½" thick. 
Roll in finely chopped pecans and place on a non-stick cookie sheet.
Bake at 400º until brown on top and bottom, about 25-30 minutes, making sure the edges don't burn. 
Cool and store in a covered container.
Makes approximately 3 dozen "shillelaghs."


Sláinte chugat ~ "good health to you" ~ and enjoy a festive St. Patrick's Day! May you have a much better time (and hair day) than Medusa...

Friday, March 15, 2013

SkyWatch Friday: a gentle sky

After all of last week's sky drama, our skies - and our weather - have been quiet. The most dramatic sky of the week was last Saturday's sunset, and even it was fairly subdued, though unusual in that the majority of its color was in the east (the direction I shot this photo) rather than in the west.

Such a serene and gentle sky seemed to go nicely with this quote. Skies, like most things in life, don't need to be dramatic to maketh up the best happiness...


For more sky-centric happiness, check out

Have a great weekend, happy Skywatching, and have a

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Bring it on down to Veganville!

Ha! This made me smile, laugh, sing, dance, and crave tofu simultaneously! :-) 


Justin Timberlake - Bring It On Down 2... by IdolxMuzic
(Pity about the ad at the beginning, which may or may not promote something I'd condone,
but the ad-free vid at YouTube was removed not long after it was listed. Bummer!)

My thanks to Bea Elliott and Ecorazzi for bringing this clever video to my attention! (And to SNL and Justin Timberlake for making and sharing it in the first place. Great fun!) :-)

BW and I (a huge Billy Idol fan who'd never heard of Trinidad James) found that listening to at least a bit of each original song parodied here made us appreciate Timberlake's versions even more. :-) So, here they are... 

"Veg Out" - Le Freak (Chic
"Brown Rice Baby"Ice Ice Baby (Vanilla Ice)
"We Found Love in a Meatless Place" - We Found Love in a Hopeless Place (Rihanna)
"Thinking about my Health" - Dancing with Myself (Billy Idol)
"All Veg Everything" - All Gold Everything (explicit) (Trinidad James)
"Drink a Vegan Shake" - Do the Harlem Shake (epic compilation version) :-) (Baauer)

Friday, March 8, 2013

SkyWatch Friday: The Many Moods of March

Temperamental March arrived in rare form in our corner of the world, making for a weekend of wild and wacky weather. She made her gentle, lamb-like entrance on the 1st with this beautiful sunrise, which heralded a lovely day...

Friday's sunrise (3/1)

And she outdid herself on Saturday with this beautiful sunrise, the promising start to an even lovelier day that reached a calm and sunny 56ºF, which in these parts allowed for a long hike with our dogs and a very welcome sunbath in shorts and tank tops on our patio...

Saturday's Sunrise (3/2)

But by Sunday, Madame March had grown moody. Though she started out warm enough for another long, pleasant walk with the dogs (this time with my camera gear), the skies were unmistakable evidence of her mercurial disposition...

Sunday's turbulent skies (3/3)


And here's a telephoto shot (because I don't want to have lugged that lens along in vain!)...


By late Sunday afternoon, March unleashed her inner lioness with swift and sudden ferocity. I took this photo from our front porch of the leading edge of Winter Storm "Saturn" blowing in from Montana (a few miles north of us), where it originated before moving on to wreak its version of March madness across a big chunk of the US...

"Saturn" enters stage right on Sunday afternoon (3/3)
I only had a minute to get this shot before the fast-moving front completely engulfed us.

The storm rapidly dropped our temperatures from 52º to 27º, with heavy snow and 60mph wind gusts that lasted all night and most of Monday, creating wind chills in the single digits and blowing lots of the redwood mulch in our southern side yard past our upstairs windows (a bit like the tornado scene outside Dorothy's window in "The Wizard of Oz," only with Missing Mulch instead of Miss Gulch!) and into our back yard and beyond...

"Saturn" in full-throated roar on Monday (3/4)

And coming full circle, this was our view Monday morning from the same patio from which I'd photographed those two beautiful sunrises and enjoyed basking in the warm spring sunshine as the weekend began...

Blizzard in the backyard (3/4)
Fortunately, Saturn was too fast-moving or too dry at this point to deliver more than an inch or two of snow, unlike the massive heavy wet stuff it dumped on states to our east.

March, darlin', you need to meditate or drink camomile tea or get therapy or something. You are way too deranged! :-)

Monday, March 4, 2013

Panoramas and Pancakes

We had such a beautiful weekend! Friday (and the month of March) started out with a pretty sunrise...

More photos of this sunrise and Saturday's will appear in my next SkyWatch post

... and the day and the weekend just kept getting prettier. We hit a high on Saturday of 56º with no wind and and lots of sunshine, so we boosted our depleted Vitamin D levels with a good bask on the patio (in shorts!), and after a lunch of elaborate kale salads, we boosted our cardio with a long walk with the dogs. We ended up in our old Dragonfly Cottage neighborhood and caught up on the latest with a former neighbor there. It seemed like everyone (and their dogs) was out enjoying the first really beautiful day we've had!

Sunday wasn't quite as nice, so we... well, actually I... decided that a pancake brunch would be grand. BW is the pancake-master in this house, so I'm usually the one who decides when pancakes are a good idea - which he then implements. I think it's a great system. :-) Although cloudy it was pleasantly warm, but the weather was predicted to deteriorate by late afternoon (and did it ever, abruptly obliterating our lovely weekend with very sudden 60 mph winds and snow that are continuing today!) So we took the dogs on another good walk, and this time I took my camera and got some nice photos of the mountains. As with the sunrise photos and a couple of eerie ones I took of the winter storm's leading edge blowing by, I'm saving most of them for SkyWatch posts ~ but here's another sneak peek...



By the time we got home it was about 1pm and BW thought that meant he was off the hook for a pancake brunch. But since I was hungry AND wanting to take photos of them so I could share the recipe on this post, I held him to it. And aren't you glad I'm such a hardass? :-)


Chunky Apple Oatmeal Pancakes
based on a recipe at FatFree Vegan Recipes

Ingredients:

 cups whole wheat pastry flour 
¼ cup rolled oats
¼ cup oat bran
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 TBSP baking powder
½
 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½
 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
½ cup raisins
1 apple, peeled and chopped (we usually use organic Granny Smith or Gala)
2¼ 
cups apple juice (we use organic unfiltered apple juice)

Directions:

Combine dry ingredients. Add nuts, raisins and apple. Gently stir in juice until dry ingredients are completely moistened. Ladle batter by 1/4 - 1/3 cupfuls onto a hot non-stick skillet or griddle. Cook until bottom is brown and spatula slips easily underneath. Turn and brown other side. Makes about 10 plump 4" pancakes.

Friday, March 1, 2013

SkyWatch Friday: The Neglected Storm

While recently checking and cleaning up some post drafts that I never got around to finishing or publishing, I found these photos I'd taken from the deck of our prior home in the mountains in Big Horn, WY one night in late June 2010. Why I never posted them I have no idea, except that I wasn't yet participating in SkyWatch Friday and we left on a 2-week Maine vacation three days after I took these. Anyway, these fell through the cracks and though it feels strange to post summer storm photos more than 2½ years old, I didn't want these to languish unshared any longer!

Though I may have forgotten about these photos, I remember the late-night storm itself very clearly. I perched my little point-and-shoot Kodak on the deck railing to hold it steady in the buffeting wind, used the night landscape setting, and then shot about 2,683 photos trying to capture the lightning illuminating the clouds. :-) The best photo op (though not the best photo) was the last one, when the clouds that had been hiding the full moon parted briefly, and I was able to capture the moon and the lightning and the clouds they both illuminated. I only wish a much better photographer with much better equipment had been there to truly capture this amazing storm...


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SOME CURRENT & RECENT READING...

SOME CURRENT & RECENT READING...

  • INFERNO ~ Dan Brown
  • MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD & EVIL ~ John Berendt
  • MY NOTORIOUS LIFE: A NOVEL ~ Kate Manning
  • ONE SUMMER: AMERICA, 1927 ~ Bill Bryson
  • QUIET: THE POWER OF INTROVERTS IN A WORLD THAT CAN'T STOP TALKING ~ Susan Cain
  • THE BEAUTIFUL CIGAR GIRL ~ Daniel Stashower
  • THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY ~ Erik Larson
  • THE SHADOWS, KITH AND KIN ~ Joe R. Lansdale
  • THE TIPPING POINT ~ Malcolm Gladwell
There is still strong in our society the belief
that animals and the natural world have value
only insofar as they can be converted into revenue.
That nature is a commodity.
And that the American dream is one of unlimited consumption.
There are many of us, on the other hand,
who believe that animals and the natural world
have value by virtue of being alive.
That Nature is a community to which we belong
and to which we owe our lives.
And that the deeper American dream is one of unlimited compassion.

~John Robbins, "The Food Revolution"