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

Friday, February 14, 2014

SkyWatch Friday: Skies & Chocolate, My Valentine to You

Happy Friday and Happy Valentine's Day to everyone!

Goodness, where does the time go? Six weeks since my last post ~ I should be tossed into blogging prison for dereliction of duty (thank goodness there's no such place… is there?) :-) I can't tell you how many times I've sat down to put a blog post together only to stare blankly at my screen for 30 minutes before giving up in disgust. On a good day when my creative juices are flowing (at a glacial pace, but at least not completely stagnant), I may edit and upload some photos. But then all attempts to conjure words to accompany them are a vain and painful struggle, till like some pale, consumptive heroine in a gothic novel, I have to retire to my fainting couch. Ha. I'm PITIFUL!

Since I've enjoyed reading rather than writing, watching movies rather than taking photos, and relaxing rather than… well, pretty much anything else, I'm more certain than ever that this is what winter is for - filling our tanks, taking in inspiration and rest so we can expend our creative and physical energy when spring rolls around. At least that's my theory and I'm stickin' to it! 

But enough of this slothful lethargy - if SkyWatch Friday, a Full Moon, and Valentine's Day aren't enough reasons to get a new post published then I don't know what is. Just don't expect me to get around to updating my blog header till I've had at least several more naps. 

So here are a few lovely skies from January, followed by an extremely chocolatey chocolate recipe. Because if I can't make up for my long, lazy absence with an offering of colorful sunrises, dreamy clouds, a full moon above the tree tops, and above all chocolate - then romance as we know it is dead. ;-)

These first two sunrise shots were taken just a few minutes apart…

We've had a lot of wind this winter, and the only good thing about that is how beautifully it shapes and stirs the clouds...

I'm almost never entirely happy with my moon photos, and this one is no exception. But I do love the color of the moon, the way it illuminated that little whiff of a cloud above it, and the silhouettes of the trees beneath it…

On Valentine's Day and every Friday, skywatchers around the world really put their hearts into their beautiful SkyWatch posts, so go feast your eyes - 

And speaking of feasts, since I know how skywatching can work up an appetite, here's my other Valentine treat to you! 

Our neighbor Carol had us over for a delicious five-course vegan dinner (with a Valentine theme) about three weeks ago, and this was one of the two desserts she served: raw brownies. The recipe calls for making them in a loaf pan (which would definitely make things easier when it comes to frosting them!), but Carol had made them in these adorable little heart shapes, so despite my creative slump I was inspired to get the recipe, buy a silicone mini heart candy mold, and make up a batch for a Valentine's Day post (and for snarfing, of course!) And although it's only come together at the last minute, somehow I've managed to pull it off! Guess I'm not a doomed gothic heroine after all. :-)

Carol sent us home with those two little heart containers filled with dried fruit, 
and these little brownies just happen to fit in them perfectly! 

The only thing I subbed in this recipe was maple syrup instead of agave nectar. Though not low-calorie, for all their rich deliciousness these are surprisingly healthy, filled with fiber (especially in the dates), heart-healthy phytonutrients (in the cocoa powder & cocoa nibs), anti-inflammatory antioxidants (in the walnuts), and are sweetened entirely by dates and just 3 TBSP of maple syrup. Carol has a Vitamix and I'm sure a high-powered blender like that would work a lot better for mixing the batter than my food processor did, but it managed. It was a little messy (processing cocoa powder with dates and walnuts and no liquid does churn up some impressive clouds of brown powder!), but the end results were well worth it! The frosting is divine ~ you'll be fighting with your beloved over who gets to lick the bowl and spatula. These are deeply rich with the wonderful bittersweet taste that only dark chocolate can provide. Just look at this chocolatey bad boy; the Johnny Depp of desserts…

Hey, my blog, my fantasy. :-) 

Have a wonderful Valentine's Day and a great weekend!


  1. Beautiful sky shots, the colors are wonderful. And the moon is gorgeous. The brownies look yummy! Happy Valentine's day and have a great weekend!

    1. Thank you, Eileen! I'm glad you enjoyed my sky offerings - and those brownies ARE yummy, I highly recommend them! :-) Happy belated Valentine's Day and enjoy your weekend!

  2. That's bad very very bad, not the photos there great, and your moon photo is better than anything I've ever done. Its the chocolate that's bad ;-) yum yum.
    All the best Gordon.

    1. LOL - your comment cracked me up. :-) Thank you for the compliments on my photos, especially your soothing words about my moon photo! And because of you, I added a note to my description of the brownies, reassuring you and anyone else that while they may LOOK bad, very very bad, and even taste downright sinful, they are actually quite healthy. Assuming you don't eat an entire batch by yourself in one sitting. Which believe me, IS awfully tempting! :-)

  3. First of all congrats on meeting your self imposed deadline of my lunchtime! I much appreciated having something entertaining to read while I eat my Dr. McDougall's vegan black bean soup. (Thought you'd enjoy knowing you turned me on to that!).

    So to begin with, your into was really fun. I especially liked the vision of you retiring to your fainting couch!! Too funny.

    The sky photos were great. The sunrise photos were great as usual and had so much color but it was the windy cloud photos that I most enjoyed because it had not occured to me that wind would stir the clouds like that, (it makes sense - I just never thought of it). The second one is especially well stirred and pretty.

    It must be my screen because I saw no little wiff of cloud above the moon (even in the expanded version) but I did really enjoy the color of hte moon. I guess that's where the idea of the moon being made with cheese (vegan cheese of course) comes from.

    Your chocolate treats look amazing!! I'd make the substitution of the maple syrup too. They're great eye candy (as is your bad boy) but I sure wish you could send samples through your post!!

    It was fun to see you back but I totally support you filling your tank as long as you need to!!!!

    1. Thanks, Jo! It was probably good the I had that self-imposed deadline, because the way my head and neck were throbbing, it would have been all too easy to throw in the blogging towel yet again. And I'm glad this post provided you with an entertaining read to accompany your tasty McDougall soup! BW was indeed pleased that you're enjoying his favorite in Dr. McD's soup lineup! :-)

      I'm glad you enjoyed my intro, and the visions of me gracefully swooning onto the fainting couch. :-) I keep thinking that each time I get a post done, it will revive my enthusiasm for doing more (I have at least a couple in the hopper, and all those PNW vacation posts to do!), but it's just not happening yet. I hope my muse shows back up before the beautiful weather and outdoor chores take over!

      Our wind usually doesn't create pretty cloud art like that, but when they're blowing up high (and not just blasting us here at ground level), they really can make a masterpiece! I missed a chance to photograph some very unique clouds a few weeks ago, as I only noticed them as we were heading to town one day and didn't have time to come back for the camera. Best I can do to describe them is to say the sky looked like it was filled with Ruffles potato chips! We'd never seen so many clouds with such ripples and ridges in them. It was spooky! Such a shame I couldn't capture it.

      Sorry you couldn't see the faint little "air-brushed" cloud above that moon, but you really didn't miss much. Our moon is often pink, red, orange or deep yellow as it rises - I am thinking for the same reasons we have such colorful sunrises - maybe the dust in our air?

      I wish you guys could reach in and sample those brownies in my post too (but if my post were that interactive, Mr. Depp would be in trouble. LOL) You'll just have to whip up a batch yourself one of these days!

      Thank you for your support! We slackers need all the enablers we can get. LOL

  4. PS. Apart from my 24 year old daughter, and myself, you are the only person I have come across to mention Loreena Mckennett.
    Again, all the best Gordon.

    1. REALLY? It's true, she's not mainstream - and I haven't heard much about her in recent times - but she is still very popular here, at least among people with good taste in their music. :-) It was my mom who introduced me to Loreena's lovely, haunting, soulful music many years ago and I have most of her CDs and listen to her frequently. Always nice to meet another fan!

  5. Oh goodness - those skies are just stunning! Love the chocolate treats too.

    1. Our skies rarely fail to disappoint (unlike my blogging habits!) :-) And the brownies DEFINITELY don't disappoint! I'll bring some with me, along with a treat for Oscar - just save me one of those chairs on your beautiful frozen lake. :-)

  6. Exquisite skies, wow!!! Happy Valentine's Day:-)

    1. Thanks, Laura - I hope you're enjoying a lovely Valentine weekend!

  7. Numbers 3 and 4 of your photos are my favorites. Beautiful!

    1. I always enjoy it when people tell me which photos were their favorites, so thank you for doing that! Those clouds really were pretty - reminded me of cotton candy and swimming tadpoles! :-) I'm glad I was able to capture and share them, and that you enjoyed them as much as we did!

  8. Welcome back. I have missed you. Some of the best things in life are chocolate - and those brownies look a treat. And not difficult to make either.
    Glorious skies are another wonderful thing - so thank you for both. And happy Valentine's Day.

    1. Thank you, Ellie Sue! I've missed you too. I'm afraid my writer's block has applied to blog comments and most emails, too. Just not too productive in the output department lately! You're sweet to be so patient with me. You definitely deserve a brownie or three. :-) No, they weren't difficult to make at all, and oh-so-yummy!

      We're going to be having springlike temps for most of the week ahead, though we know better than to assume it means winter is over. I hope the worst of the summer heat is behind you, and that it wasn't too awful this year!

      Happy Valentine's weekend to you and the S.P.! :-)

  9. I really like the wind-clouds! It occurred to me as I read the post that I have candy molds, and it might be easier to make raw brownies than the baked ones I was planning for Sunday night. Even though I have a Vitamix, I usually use the food processor for raw sweets because it's a lot easier to remove the mixture from the processor than from the blender.

    1. Hi, Andrea! I know, weren't they pretty? I can't remember now if it rained by the next day, but I definitely see some "mare's tails" that portend it.

      Carol uses her Vitamix for almost everything, so I'm sure she used it for these. As best I can remember, her's didn't have the chewy little date pieces that appear in ours, though I must say I like biting into the chewy date pieces along with the crunchy bits of walnuts and the cacao nibs! These are a delight on every level, I hope you'll enjoy them if you decide to make them! The only thing about them that was time-consuming was frosting each individual brownie in the tray. (I know what you mean about a food processor being easier to empty of its contents than a blender, I use my food processor for everything but liquids for that very reason).

  10. Beautiful skies and great post. Welcome back!

  11. Beautiful skies, as always, and the dessert looks the best! Good to have you back, and I absolutely get it as to your theory of using Winter to re-sharpen the saw, so to speak ;-). Sounds good xoxoxo

    1. Thanks bunches, Spudly! Glad to have your support of my theoretical hypothesis. :-)

  12. All your skies are so beautiful! Wonderful captures!

  13. I thoroughly enjoyed this post. You always have such a whimsical way with words! :)

    The sky shots are beautiful and the cloud ones especially make me long to laze around outside in the warm sun. I love to cloud watch. It's so relaxing! The moon shot is just as lovely. I know how tricky it can be to capture and I think you did a wonderful job with it. The tree silhouettes really add a great touch to it!

    I'm very happy to report that I picked up everything I needed for those brownies at the co-op today and plan to make them tomorrow! Mike say the recipe and said "ohhh!!". Yours really turned out so cute. Such a perfect Valentine's treat!

    1. Thank you, Molly! I'm glad I was able to knock some of the rust off and post something you found whimsical and worthwhile! I'm excited for you to try those brownies! I think you'll love them, and Mike is very likely to make even more such enthusiastic noises once he's popped one of these babies in his mouth. :-)

      I appreciate your compliments about my moon shot! And it's always fun to be able to capture some unique cloud shots to share (photogenic sunrises are practically a given, but interesting clouds are much harder to come by at this time of year!) Still regretting not being able to photograph the ruffle clouds I mentioned in my reply to Jo's comment. They were the most unusual I've seen! I'll have to try to find a photo of something similar online.

      Enjoy a lovely Sunday - and those brownies - and let me know what you guys think of them! If I weren't out of dates (because the stupid store was out of them!) and avocado, I'd be whipping up another batch of them myself today! We just have three left in the freezer, boo hoo! :-)

  14. That first image of the brilliant, neon sunrise reminded me how much you were missed! Totally awesome!

    I can identify with your low-key, short-day, (too) long winter hiatus. I'm in Florida and I move slower November through March as well. Perhaps we are closer related to hibernating bears than we think?

    Lovely! Enjoy your naps! ;)


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  • INFERNO ~ Dan Brown
  • ONE SUMMER: AMERICA, 1927 ~ Bill Bryson
  • THE BEAUTIFUL CIGAR GIRL ~ Daniel Stashower
  • 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"