Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Winter-White Party Cake...

...with the help of Betty Crocker. I use the cake mixes, and I am inspired by the "deluxe" instructions on the back or side of the boxes. Then, I change things to "make it my own". In this case, I left out some peanuts and snicker bars, but added some good chocolate chips, frosted the thing with a cream cheese frosting I had left over from a carrot cake, and added the cherries. There is a butter/brown sugar/cream drizzle on the cake that makes it special. I've never followed a recipe in my life. The cake is now history.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Back to reality...

it's cold and snowy--and very pretty outside.
Yesterday, our summer baby bunny (all-growed-up now) visited underneath the bird feeder with a nervous squirrel. Just trying to snare enough sun flower seeds to keep going till the grass lets lush once again: three and a half, maybe four months.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

An Evil Barbb Christmas story, of sorts...

we have a surrogate-"grandchild", a 5-year old niece: she of the "furry friends birthday party event" previously covered. She is a big fan of the original Wizard of OZ movie, but with a twist: her passion is not young virtuous Dorothy and her sweet little dog. Instead, our girl loves the witches--of East and West. She has dressed for Halloween in the same green-faced witch custume for two years now--it won't fit next year. Comes Christmas: at school, the children are asked what they want for Christmas (not a public school, naturally) so the requests could be forwarded to parents. The girl declares a green-faced witch; I am happy to supply--except there is some confusion at the last minute about whether it's really the green-faced witch or the witch in the red dress; there is also a shortage of red-dress barbie-witches. Santa, at the North Pole, was so confused he actually had to call my sister-in-law on her cell phone with the child present to confirm the request, which was "red". As it happened, this was funnier than it is in the telling; but here is the doll, and the answer to the question we've had all these years: what did the deceased Witch of the East look like before she was hit with the house? Like Angelina Jolie, it turns out.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Uncle Bob's Restaurant in Lena...

...see, lots of cars; lots of peeps in seats inside. Hubsy calls this "the after church crowd"; harking back to his baby-boomer boyhood in Kansas in the 1950's; Leave it to Beaver days, in other words. They had a real latte in a real china mug (large). Hubs had a ham-loaf dinner, which was very homey and very good.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Uncrowded street scene in Lena....

...back in November when we drove out to look at some listings near Freeport. To be exact, this was a raw, cold Sunday morning and most people were parked at a nice restaurant down the street, warming themselves with french toast and latte's. I like the restoration and decoration that was done on this office front.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Hubs likes this one better.

Sunset, Dec. 17, 2009

Near the winter solstice, I like to hop out the front door and snap a quick record of a warm glowing 'set. As if, since it looks so warm and peachy, it somehow is. In earlier years, the pictures were better, but then they built that larger home on the corner and it blocks out the horizon.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Rustic Rail Line, Galena, IL

Hubs' like anything with a train in it: museums, tracks, rail-to-trail bike paths, whatever. He sees to it that I always get enough railroad site seeing! He likes Galena because there is a place where the tracks make such a severe curve that the trains wheels make a lot of screechy noise. Little boy fun! This isn't the place, it's the other way. But it's quite noisy.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Galena isn't settling for this recession....

Woo-hoo! My first non-family member comment on my blog!! Seemed like an alert guerilla-marketer encouraging tourism to the fair little city. So I'll bite: I like to go to Galena with Hubsy to take a long, long walk all around town.
We mostly window shop, look at houses and scenes, take pictures, etc. The town is crawling with restaurants, so we definitely have a good lunch someplace among them. It is like a little getaway to the 19th century, without the horse poop in the streets and the contagious diseases.
Hubsy is "good" for a trip about every two years: that's just Hubsy. This photo shows Mrs. Grant's view of the town, assuming she had time to sit around and enjoy it.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Ok--Just a second....

just finishing up with a nice bath...then I'll wish you a
Happy Chanuka. I'm only a cat, so I may not spell it right.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Something with snow in it....

...taken last winter on a getaway to Galena, IL.
This is US Grant's historic former pre-Civil War home. A nice old brick home. Unfortunate placement of photographer (me) regarding that one tree, near center. We live and learn; that was then: now I'd probably watch for something like this.

Monday, December 7, 2009

So, I was telling you about this book...

"My Faraway Home" by Mary Mckay Maynard. It made me think of the novel, "A Town Like Alice" by Nevil Shute, except this is a memoir written years after the events; amazingly, the author maintains her sense of wide-eyed wonder at all that was happening around her; circumstances she has no control over. Like a child holocaust survivor's account, only in the tropical jungle.

And, Family, the author actually knew our Uncle Fred Feigel! He was the assistant to her father in the operation of the Mother Lode Gold Mine on Mindanao! I found the book by googling Fred's name one evening a month or so ago. She knew Aunt Jean, Fred's wife, too. Amazingly small world, sometimes. I'd heard about the submarine rescue of Jean, and this book tells the exciting story of how all that went down. They had all been stranded due to the Japanese attacks all over the Pacific that included Pearl Harbor--by coincidence, the anniversary today--and had to hide out at the company's remote mining camp. Had they been found, they all would likely have been killed. Several of the men, including Fred, were eventually killed by the Japanese.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Big Dictionary is back with a word:

Palimpsest - a parchment or the like, from which the writing has been partially or completely erased to make room for another text.

I'm reading "My Faraway Home" by Mary McKay Maynard; a WW II-era memoir inwhich the author as a little girl is stranded with her parents and a few others at a remote mining camp in the Philippine jungle for two years. She's running out of paper to practice writing, so she erases pages to provide herself more space.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Two bundles of energy...

l'il pearl and hubs' powering the great westward migration a few months ago. good ol'days.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Don't see this everyday...

...normally, the girls (Hobbes and Scotchie) don't get this close. Their "other cat" locater sensors must have malfunctioned.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving Casserole...after the turkey sandwiches, but before the soup...

I'm sure somebody thought of this before me, but I've never seen a recipe anywhere. I started making these about 20 years ago. It varies from year to year, of course. Just construct a casserole of leftovers from your Thanksgiving dinner: turkey, mashed potatos, stuffing, peas/green beans/carrots; a little left-over gravy to moisten.
Sprinkle crumbed corn bread on top, if you have some. Bake at 350-degrees for 40 minutes to heat it thru. Tonight we had little portions, along with a simple green salad---almost healthy again....well, we did finish the pumpkin pie....

Thursday, November 26, 2009


I. Love. Red. Always have. Cooking your own cranberry sauce for the holidays is a satisfying and fun way to enjoy the color red.
1 package cranberries
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
Simmer all together gently in a big shiny pan with the nice bright light over it, so you can enjoy all the red. Take a picture, if you like. When the skins of the berries are all popped (hence the name cranbubbles) you're almost done. Just cool to room temp., then store til needed in the 'fridge.
I like to replace a bit of the water with equal part lemon juice. Just makes it better. A Happy kick-off to the Holiday Season to All!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Crystal Rainbow

We have some of those crystals you hang up in a window and get colors on the walls. So naturally, eventually I got around to trying to photograph one: turned out fairly well.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Don't usually see one of these standing around... in Ill. Outside of town, on a very quiet gravel road, we saw a little burro and it's goaty little companion. So I took the official photo, for the record. You just never know what you will find out there to record. (p.s. this is one of those "click on the image for a better view)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Silver Sun

This made me think of some outpost in the frozen north. The sun was so completely veiled, it seemed more like the moon. Hubs' was fascinated with the old building, located in the heart of Lena's business district, next to the railroad tracks, which are still active. Likely, a style of old freight house.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Where is Rapunzel?

In Lena, IL we found this interesting water tower. It's a bit over 100 years old and an the National Registry of Historic Places. Unique; we like to visit the random little towns and villages that dot the map. The Rail/Trail biking habit guarantees that we ride thru the "back yards" of these hamlets. So I can say that this is the first tower like this I've ever seen. Impressive. We were not biking this day, just taking a chilly stroll after brunch.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Going Rogue--4 year old style--at the Furry Friends Party

One curious and brave little party-maverick decided to go check out a gaggle of canada geese far across the park. She was off like a shot, undeterred by parents' cries for her to stop and come back. She headed straight into the flock, waving her arms and doing her best to get the geese upset; her little face (eyes) at beak-level to the geese. They are feisty birds; I have experienced several "goose charges" when I'm riding my bike. So there's my brother in the striped shirt, after the drama was over, herding the little outlaw (just behind the bush) back to the group. Good times.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Celebrants discover the nature of prairies... autumn. Here are three of them, along with an instructor from the center. They did a good job of making it interesting for the little kids; there were about 12 kids in all, along with a few parents and extended family members.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Furry Friends - Chapter 2

In which the children were conducted on the nature walk on a nice path around this pond. Keeping with the Addams Family spirit of the weather, my brother (and dad of the birthday girl) lowered the video camera as they were leaving the water fowl observation deck long enough to say "this reminds me of the pond behind the Bates Motel, as they were hauling the car out...", literally over the heads of the little peeps.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Once again, a sombre Saturday sonata...

...the day of the "furry friends birthday party" featured one of those mottled platinum skies we sometimes have around here in November. But it was warmer than it looks. This is what happens when you have your birthday in November....The party was held at a Park District Nature Center, and included a short nature walk--try showing 5-year olds a lot of dry prairie grasses--then the opportunity to carefully pet a large bunny and a small fluffy guinea pig (did someone say Fluffy?) a tour of the center's live animal collection, including two huge snapping turtles and a light yellow corn snake. Then the kid's came back, sanitized their hands and ate cake.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Outside my window...

in the office, Hubs' hung the thistle feeder so it hangs just inches from the glass. Mainly, this feeder attracts the goldfinches; once in a while a few other small birds. The goldies aren't so gold just now. In fall the males replace their brilliant yellow feathers with their olive-drab suits, making them look like the females do year 'round.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Recent bird report....

at the feeder the other day, we had a chickadee or two. They are quick little devils, so it is not so easy to snap a photo. Today, we still had the 'dees, as well as a nuthatch and a fox sparrow. And the rest of the usual suspects, like the juncos, cardinals, goldfinches, housefinches and the "flying mice" aka the house sparrows. A couple of blue jays investigated the big pine tree in back. (since west nile virus, we see few blue jays.)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Hobbes knows the rules...

she is allowed outside with supervision, but only if she stays out of the grass. (She's elderly, she's de-clawed and we'd rather she not get fleas). She knows we (I) will take her back inside if she starts eating grass; so she coyly keeps paws on the border stones. Once she knows she's observed, she usually just heads for the backdoor on her on. She's a smart cat; always has been.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

What kind of sicko....!!?

...but, actually I thought this was great! Not sure whether it's a DIY-job or some Halloween store sells these by the million, but this is the only one I've seen. The photo worked out pretty well, too, considering the light was dim.

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Word from Big Dictionary...'s a quaint, old-fashion word in the news lately:

DITHER or dithering. Dictionary tells me it means "a trembling or vibration"; informally, it refers to "a state of flustered excitement or fear". To dither is to "act irresolutely or vacillate".
In Northern England, it means "to tremble with excitement or fear"; it's a variation of "didder",
from a Middle English word: "diddere".

Anyway, this gave me a chance to get reacquainted with Big Dictionary, who's been on the shelf for a while; I took a break from reading Wm. Faulkner novels.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Demise of the Gooseneck Loosestrife...

..remember? with the great black wasp on the gangling white flowers in the summer? The foliage is almost prettier in the fall.
Still, come spring, I will be out in the yard, ripping them out by the roots to prevent them from taking over the beds. Invasive; that's what they are.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Sedum Plant says good-bye to 2009... the nights grow chilly, the flowers darken and the foliage turns pale green to yellow, creating this "inner glow". The bees and butterflies are gone now; soon the flowers will dry out--if I had any imagination I'd make dry flower arrangements...dust collectors, in my opinion. And speaking of dust....

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

It's officially over....

...close the books on the summer season: here is the Last Rose of Summer 2009, posing for the official portrait in my newest bud vase: Hubs' found it for me at a garage sale; I like it. Naturally, since I like to cut and display my roses, I have to collect bud vases!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The bird feeder is open for business now...

...the migration is in full swing; a few days ago this
kinglet startled me--and itself--by flying into my kitchen window. "bam! flap-flap-flap" as Hubs' likes to say. The bird was only stunned (easy for me to say, I know) and sat for quite a while on the feeder support. It let me open the back door, step out on the deck and snap some photos. Eventually, I watched it fly away, as if nothing happened.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Anything to attract butterflies...

...the asclepia busy going to seed and the seedpod stalk of the lupine standing tall, not to mention a few coneflowers...I keep encouraging these butterfly magnets to multiply; I expect next spring to have many more lupine.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Annabelle Hydrangea gets ready for winter.

Not a great photo, with the unsightly background, I'll agree.
Fitting for today: It's cold, rainy and blustery here and I had to present myself at our local hospital for one of those "old people" medical screenings. The proceedure went well, but it took me the rest of the day at home in bed asleep to shake off the twilight sleep drug. So I'm feeling about as raggedy as these plants look.
Rain is in the forecast for the next days, so we plan a low-key week-end, watch football on Sunday.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Hobbes has a boyfriend....

...and, no, she did not meet him on J-Date! He is one of the passers-thru: occasional tom-cat visiters to the yard. He discovered we have a couple of former-female kitty-cats here, and is emboldened to hang around. He even allowed me to take a picture the other day, after I finished invading the slugs' privacy.
Hobbes isn't much interested; besides, she must be equivalent to 102 in human years. She likes to eat, sleep, visit the litter, carry her stuffed animal around the house and avoid the other cat, whenever possible.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Slugs interruptus....

Who knew? Garden slugs just want to have fun, too. While doing a little much needed weeding, I...uh, walked in on a pair engaged in the first stage of production for next year's garden pests.
They quickly...well, for slugs...headed back underneath their rock. I never know what I will find out in that garden.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Asclepia seed pods from a few posts back...

...started bursting open. They are part of the milkweed family, so the seeds are similar. Butterflies love both plants; very pretty and classy as their seeds--the posterity for next spring--float away in the breeze of mid-October.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Hosta Patch in full glory...

...don't know what variety it is, but the leaves might be prettier now than earlier in the summer. We saw some more fall color yesterday. It was as lovely as a mid-October day can be in Chicagoland, so we took our bikes to the Fox River for a ride from just north of "the Dundees" to Ringwood, IL on the scenic trail. Blue sky, moderate temperatures, un-crowded conditions and a good lunch at the little biker-bar(Harley-bikes, that is) in Ringwood made for two endorphin-happy old folks who slept well last night after the 37 mile ride.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Lovely Japanese Anemones Next Door...

they have a lot of them, which is great in the fall; the plant does well around here. Elegant and fresh for display in the garden, or cut in a bouquet. I have some too, but not so pretty. The pink flower, fuzzy focus, is one of our special heirloom nicotiana, left over from a previous garden in my yard. These have a lovely evening perfume when they bloom; more modern hybrids do not, I understand. We sprinkle the seeds around the beds to encourage their return each year.

Friday, October 16, 2009

One Hollyhock won't call it curtains....

...even tho it's mid-October and all it's fellow hollyhocks long since went to seed. It's a pretty one, too; it came up in a sheltered location and looks as fresh as if it's June. Some things will not live, and some things will not die.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Autumn Arrives ... the Big Garden Next Door. The asclepias tuberosa and coneflower seed heads are darn near as interesting as the flowers, especially when arranged nicely, as here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Scotchie wants to say "hello" too....

...and is very ashamed of the low quality of her portrait; my bad, not hers. She likes to sun herself on the window seat most days, but especially in fall and winter. She's a typical cat: wakes up in our bed, ambles downstairs for breakfast; then onto the window seat for the balance of the day, give or take a trip to the litter box or the deposit of occasional hair-ball--perhaps a tussle with her sister-cat, Hobbes. After dinner is served, she goes to the office to sit on Hubsy's lap for a while. Then back to the sack. A Cat's Day.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Before the power went out....

one evening last week, these big puffy clouds blew in from the NW, against a lavender sunset.
It huffed and puffed; before it was over, we had wind gusts of about 50 mph and a localized power outage a bit over 2 hours. No big deal, except not knowing when the power will be restored; this is the point when I begin to think about what will be spoiling soon in the 'fridge. Blessed, of course, since this was about the worst thing that happened last week!

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Big Garden next door....

has so much depth, variety and vitality. This is just a random shot to show a special garden ornament set in a sunny place, with the last of the year's annuals.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Yes, it does...

I read that the New England Aster attracts bees and butterflies with it's nectar, and that is correct. Bees simply swarm the flowers, and here is a Cabbage White butterfly, slightly frayed around the edges, but still bright contrast for the photo.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Fungus Break

Stop everything! These are so cute! Click on the image to improve it and you will see the tiny Bird's-Nest fungi in the center of the picture. The idea is that a drop of rain splashes into the "cup", dispersing the "eggs" (spores). It works. These were found as Hubs' cleaned out the broccoli patch before lunch today.

Friday, October 9, 2009

New England Asters...

...let's brighten up this blog with some of these; they are brilliantly in flower right now. On a sunny day, the last of the bees and the butterflies cover the flowers. This is such an ugly plant at the beginning of the growing season: I have to be careful not to rip it out. But this is the reward for keeping it-at a time when there is little else flowering.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Last Butterfly of our Season was Freed Today...

He is a spunky male version of a Monarch--see those little black spots on the under wings--that means he's a Boy. He was anxious t...