Saturday, February 28, 2009

Camera Critters

Camera Critters is another fun meme hosted by Misty Dawn. You can find other critter photos by clicking on the icon above. Thank you Misty.

This is Isabella. She is my nephew and niece's cat. I took these photos when I last saw her. She was gracious enough to put up with this human following her around to take photos of her.

Pussy cat, pussy cat
Where have you been?
I've been to London
To look at the Queen
Pussy cat, pussy cat
What did you there?
I frightened a little Mouse
Under her chair.
Mother Goose

Cat Owner's Prayer
Because I'm only human,
It's sometimes hard to be
The wise, all-knowing creature
That my cat expects of me.
And so I pray for special help
To somehow understand
The subtle implications
Of each proud meowed command.
Oh, let me not forget that chairs
Were put on earth to shred;
And what I like to call a lap
Is actually a bed.
I know it's really lots to ask
But please, oh please, take pity;
And though I'm only human,
Make me worthy of my kitty!
Author Unknown
Cats Sleep Anywhere
Cats sleep anywhere, any table, any chair.
Top of piano, window-ledge, in the middle, on the edge.
Open draw, empty shoe, anybody's lap will do.
Fitted in a cardboard box, in the cupboard with your frocks.
Anywhere! They don't care! Cats sleep anywhere.
Eleanor Farjeon (1881 - 1965)

The man, the dog, the cat and the rat.

This is a video of a homeless man in Santa Barbara and his pets. They work State Street every week for donations. The animals are pretty well fed and are mellow. They are a family. The man who owns them rigged up a harness for his cat so she wouldn't have to walk so much (like the dog and himself). At some juncture the rat came along, and as no one wanted to eat anyone else, the rat started riding with the cat and, often, on the cat! The dog, will stand all day and let you talk to him and admire him for a few chin scratches. The Mayor of Santa Barbara filmed this clip and sent it out as a holiday card.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Butternut Squash with Onions and Pecans

Another recipe - must be in the groove. I bought more butternut squash than needed for the other dish I posted, and didn't want to leave it in the fridge, maybe forget about it and have to throw it out. So I found this recipe. It has all the ingredients that we enjoy and you can make it four hours ahead of time.
Butternut Squash with Onions and Pecans
Serves 8
3 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, diced
2 1/4 pounds butternut squash
1 cup chopped pecans
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Place pecans on an ungreased baking sheet. Toast at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 5 to 8 minutes.

Peel the squash, and remove the seeds. Cut into 1/2 inch cubes. There will be about 6 cups squash.

Melt butter or margarine in a heavy large skillet over low heat. Add onion and saute until very tender, about 15 minutes. Add squash and toss to coat. Cover. Cook until squash is tender but still holds it shape, stirring frequently, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Can be prepared 4 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Rewarm over medium heat before continuing.

Stir in half of the pecans and half of the parsley. Transfer mixture to bowl. Sprinkle with remaining pecans and parsley. Serve.

I remembered to add the parsley this time. It looks real pretty mixed in and with a little sprinkled on top.

I served this side dish with steak and a jacket potato. It was delicious and will be another welcome addition to my 'have to try again' folder.

No fingers were cut or Batman band-aids used in the making of this dish.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Cleaning out old boxes and meeting with friends.

It's amazing what you find when you start doing a little early spring-cleaning. I am still going through old boxes. They say if you haven't used something in the last year then you should most definitely throw it out. I think I am the consummate pack-rat, I hate to throw anything out and the things I have in those boxes have been stored for a lot longer than a year. I came across this old USA map designed with children in mind, probably bought a long time ago for a forgotten project son-one-and-only had to do. It effectively stopped my clean-up as I studied it, and by the time I had finished studying the mood had left me. You know that mood don't you? The one that tells you you've had enough of going through old boxes and you drift off onto other things. I have the attention span of a flea these days.

Good job it was near the time I had to get ready, as I have started seeing friends more regularly now that I no longer have to go to the restaurant where I used to work. Off to Wegmans again, as I have mentioned before, my favorite supermarket. That place is starting to become our regular place, our "Cheers", though have to say no-one shouts "Norm" when we arrive. We can sit in their dining area upstairs after plopping ourselves down into the overstuffed chairs that are tucked away in one of their out-of-the-way corners. We can lose ourselves literally for hours and no one ever bothers you or even looks your way. There are enough tables and chairs for the lunch crowd and you don't feel you are overstaying your welcome. You don't get a staff member giving you one of those 'get-out-of here' stares and no one gets their little broom to sweep under your feet, to give you the hint to get your chatty selves off the premises.

That actually happened to me once and having not so long ago worked in the restaurant business I can sympathise, though I don't think I would ever have done that to any of my customers. For one thing, most of them were more like friends but I did visualize on certain days of great tiredness, getting the hook to yank them out the front door, God love them. Some dear souls knew me well and if they saw that I was falling asleep on my feet, they would ask me to sit down with them, which I did on a couple of occasions - only when things were quiet - and they would show me their baby photos, holiday photos and wedding photos. In some ways I miss those days, but for the time being I am loving my freedom. Attention span of a flea? You betcha!

So here I am at Wegmans and first thing I do is buy my coffee along with a breakfast sandwich and head upstairs. I can't tell you how good it is to see my friends' smiling faces. We drink our coffee and chat away through four-and-a-half hours. No hook was forthcoming in any direction. We managed to journey our way through many topics of conversation. The longest was Carol's summer and autumn in Scotland last year. She still has family over there. Like me she is British - Scottish - and we talked of highlands and bagpipes, and haggis and Rabbie Burns. It was wonderful. She and her husband have a home in a small hamlet and have made many friends. She showed us photos of quaint little cottages surrounded by glorious scenery, and we saw her friends at their gatherings, either at each others houses or at the local pub. Gail and I told her to expect long staying guests next year. We were kidding of course but she told us we could visit any time we wanted and I know she meant it so who knows, maybe one of these years we will take her up on it.

I brought things to a close when I told them it was two-thirty and I needed to get back before rush hour. I didn't want to be stuck in all that traffic. It is always the same, we express shock after looking at watches, and we go our separate ways until the next time one of us calls. Before I left I bought a lettuce and a hot house cucumber and headed for home. Traffic was heavy but free flowing. If I had left any later it would have been bumper to bumper.

I got home around 3.30 p.m. and pottered for a while. I didn't have to cook as we were eating more left-overs; spaghetti sauce made a couple of nights ago which we ate with angel hair pasta. I had made this the day before the squash dish I prepared yesterday; that we will be finishing off tomorrow. I LOVE left-overs. Dishes always taste better the day after anyway, they have a chance to get happy, isn't that what Emeril would say? I wonder if he eats left-overs? I threw together a salad and toasted a couple of pieces of cheese bread which popped out of the toaster just as Gregg walked through the door. He had called to say he was a few minutes away from home.

That's been my day today. It is now 11.47 p.m. and I am going to wrap up, get off to bed and wish you all sweet dreams. I'll be back tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

SkyWatch Friday

Thank you Dot for originally creating SkyWatch and thank you Klaus, Sandy, Ivar, Wren, Fishing Guy and Louise who now run the SkyWatch Team. If you would like to join in and post your own photos, or just want to look at sky pictures from all over the world, you can visit by clicking on the icon above.
These were taken in and around the Washington DC area. Above is part of the Washington Cathedral.

This hard thinking rabbit can be found in one of the sculpture gardens along the mall.

Not sure what the above building is but it is not too far from the museums.

I think many will recognize the Washington Monument.

Roasted Garlic and Butternut Squash Cassoulet

I am trying to put more healthy, good-for-you-meals into our daily eating. It took a couple of hours to find the one I am posting. I love to read through old cookery books when I am in the mood, and this day I was in the mood for cooking. A word of warning, if you don’t like beans feel free to move on, this dish is not for you.

You can assemble everything the day before and then pop it into the oven to bake on the day you serve it. I measure, chop and prepare everything before I start, and have it all in front of me to put into the pot so that it takes all the thinking out of it. This is a big help when you want to smooth things along. I started preparations first thing this morning and refrigerated it by noon. All I had to do was take it out of the fridge and throw it into the oven this evening. If I had thought about it I would have prepared it the day before and made today even easier.
I usually buy a whole butternut squash but I nicked one of the tips of my fingers two days ago. When you suddenly decide to buy a professional set of cooking knives for the first time in 33 years you have to remember they are sharper than you are used to. This isn't the first time I have done it and you would think something would have sunk in by now, but I was chatting to son-one-and-only the other day when preparing another meal, and as I looked in his direction while slicing through a vegetable I looked up and well, need I say more?

It’s not a bad cut and after I had tended to it I reached for the first band-aid I laid my hands on. I bought these on a whim long before my chick flew the nest. Look at that lovely Batman band-aid. Isn’t it spiffy? I didn’t want to tempt fate and try to cut up a whole butternut squash and instead decided to buy the already cut-up-for-convenience package when I was at the store. Gregg asked me to take this photo of him when leaving our local supermarket, to remember the place when he finally retires and we move on to other pastures. We are slowly documenting photographically everything in our area. I have to add that retirement is still a few years down the road.
Now where were we? The bears were a big help putting everything together.

Roasted Garlic and Butternut Squash Cassoulet

1 whole garlic head
4 ounces Pancetta, chopped (you can substitute regular smoked bacon but use less as the smoky taste would be a lot stronger)
2 cups vertically sliced onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
4-1/2 cups (1/2 inch) cubed and peeled butternut squash (about 2 pounds)
1/2 cup organic vegetable broth

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 (16 ounce) cans cannellini or other white beans, rinsed and drained
1 bay leaf

2 (1 ounce) slices white bread
2 tablespoons grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Remove white, paper skin from garlic head but don’t peel or separate cloves. Wrap it in foil and bake for one hour and then cool for ten minutes.

This is what mine looked like after I took it out of the oven.

Separate into cloves and squeeze each clove to get the pulp out. Use only half the head of garlic, put the other aside to use in other recipe. Discard skins.

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add pancetta and sauté 5 minutes or until crisp.

I'm afraid I was a little lax in photographing my other steps. I think I must have gotten carried along with the momentum.

Remove pancetta and set aside but leave drippings in pan. Add onion and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to drippings, sauté 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cook 25 minutes or until onion is very tender and browned. Stir in vinegar.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Add garlic pulp, pancetta, squash and next six ingredients to the onion mixture, stirring well. Place bread in a food processor or blender and pulse 10 times or until coarse crumbs measure about one cup. Combine breadcrumbs, cheese and ½ teaspoon oil, sprinkle evenly over squash mixture. Cover and bake 375 degrees F. for 50 minutes, or until squash is tender. Uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes or until topping is browned. Discard bay leaf. Sprinkle with parsley.

Serves: 6 people (each serving size is 1-3/4 cups)
There are 259 calories per serving.

I forgot to sprinkle with parsley, oh well. Next time!

Will we make this again? Most definitely, it was delicious and we both enjoyed it. An actual honest-to-goodness, good-for-you recipe we want to make again. I think next time I will try a green salad, or maybe some asparagus. We will be eating leftovers in a couple of days. If there is any left after that I will try freezing it. It does seem to make quite a big pot.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Watery Wednesday

Thank you 2sweetnsaxy of Eyes Mind Heart for creating this fun meme, Watery Wednesday. If you would like to see other photos from around the world or share your own, you can click on the icon above.
Like last week's WW post, this week is also from Sea Life Park. The photo above and the video below show feeding time in the aquarium. There are other video's and photos in several posts below this one. I couldn't choose between them so decided to share them all. If you don't want the sound on you can slide the dial to mute on the right hand side.

Feeding time - part 1

Feeding time - part 2

Hawaiian Sea Turtle

Marine Life at Sea Life Park

Feeding time - part 3

Monday, February 23, 2009

My World Tuesday

Thank you Klaus, Sandy, Ivar, Wren, Fishing Guy and Louise for hosting My World. You can visit this wonderful meme by clicking on their icon above.

This is part of our road trip to Pennsylvania the weekend before last. Without even looking for one, we came across this covered bridge. We couldn't find a name for it and were just wondering down quiet little roads to see if we could find something interesting, and there it was.

They are sturdily built and I find their structure inside a work of art.

This is the brick wall leading up to the bridge. Gregg and I are always interested in the way they are built too.

The river was very slow moving, very quiet with no birds to be seen either on the river or up in the trees.

No wildlife but we still found interesting things to photograph, like these old leaves and a fungus.

This old fallen tree stump was covered in fungi.

And the top of the post was covered in moss.

We left our covered bridge and about an hour later we found another one.

I thought this old house was lovely.

I enjoy looking at all the farms in the area. There were many of them.

My focus was on the washing line.

But we said goodbye to this farm.

Someone had found a very clever way to display their birdhouses for sale.

What attracted me here was that old car.

I have passed these spires many times over the years. We are on the freeway heading home, driving through Maryland. This is a Mormon Tabernacle located in Kensington. It opened in September, 1974 and is the only Mormon Temple East of the Mississippi, so I read on line.