Wednesday, December 31, 2014

HERE COMES 2015!

Tyson's Corner (at the shopping mall) near the ice-skating rink.  We were here sitting in a chilly courtyard because there was no room inside the crowded restaurant.  We ate a quick lunch with tall buildings surrounding us, and fortunately pretty blue skies overhead.


Good Fences and SkyWatch Friday



The Zamboni cleaning up the ice-skating rink surrounded by fences.



Now ready for the skaters



There were several of these seating areas.  In the middle is a gas fire.  All the seats were filled.


I froze and it tickled Gregg to come back to our seat and find me like this.  Gregg found out about this new burger place that he wanted to try out.  They were good and I told him I would be happy to go back in the Spring.  It was colder than I thought it would be and I didn't bring a coat or gloves, and I didn't know we would be sitting outside.  The weather was mild the last time we went out.  Don't worry, we didn't stay there too long.  Just long enough to get lunch and then go for a hot chocolate inside the mall afterwards, to warm up my numb fingers and frosty nose, and did I mention my ears were tingling?  





It was fun to see everyone enjoy themselves on the skating rink.  And that's the way to start them out, when they are real young.







I'm glad we got to see the Christmas Tree before it was taken down.



I bet it's so pretty all lit up at night.  It was enormous!




Another sky reflection in one of the glass ornaments and you can just make out Gregg and me.




Scattered here and there on the stone benches were sculptures of birds.  A very nice decorative feature I thought, just so long as you were aware they were there and didn't try to sit on them.




It is time to go back inside the mall.... 




and get that hot chocolate.





Isn't this overhead light festive?  It covers a very large part of ceiling, located near the escalators.



Gregg wanted his photo taken in front of the book store for nostalgia reasons.  Our son used to work here.




One last shot for Theresa's Good Fences.




I discovered something new today. As we are driving out of the underground parking lot I noticed all those red lights.  They signify that there are no parking spots.  Every light is over where you would park your car.  When we came across the rare green light it was an empty space and you could see that green light at the opposite end, they were clearly visible in between all those red ones.  As soon as a car pulled in the light turned red or when a car backed out it turned green.  It does not take much to fill me with wonder, and yes I am smiling.  It actually took both Gregg and me a few minutes to figure this out as the green light went on, to pardon the pun.




Willy Nilly Friday Five

1) I have lost count of how many times in my 64 years that I have sung this song.  In my family it was a wonderful tradition on New Year's Eve.  Aunts and Uncles would come on over, as well as close friends of Mom and Dads, and we would be listening to Hogmanay on the TV.  

What is Hogmanay and for those who are unfamiliar to the term, this is what I found online:


"Hogmanay is the Scottish celebration of New Year's Eve and can last for days.  No one celebrates the evening quite like the Scots.  It is believed the Scots inherited the celebration of Hogmanay from the Vikings and their celebration of the shortest day.  Many, however, believed that as Christmas was virtually banned and not celebrated in Scotland from the end of the 17th century until the 1950's, New Year's Eve was an excellent excuse for revelry, to drink whisky and eat good food.  To this day Hogmanay involves parties and festivals all across Scotland, with the largest and most famous public party in Edinburgh."


I had an Aunty who was born in Scotland, who used to tell me how she celebrated it as a child. I love those memories of her stories as much as I love my own. We all crossed arms, held hands and sang Auld Lang Syne to say goodbye to the Old Year, then we would hug one another and raise a glass to bring in the New.  It was the only night of the year that we kids were allowed to stay up late and party with the adults, that and Christmas Eve.  There was always a lot of laughter in our house, especially at times such as these.

2)  Here's a video I got off YouTube, such a pretty version.  If you can't access the video below you can also go here.



Auld Lang Syne
by Robert Burnes in 1788

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!

Chorus:
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne.
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And surely ye'll be your pint stowp!
And surely I'll be mine!
And we'll take a cup o'kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

Chorus:
For auld lang syne, me dear,
For auld lang syne.
We'll tak a cup o'kindness yet,
For auld lang syne

We twa hae run about the braes,
And pou'd the gowans fine;
But we've wander'd mony a weary fit,
Sin' auld lang syne.

Chorus:
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne.
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidl'd in the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar'd
Sin' auld lang syne.

Chorus:
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne.
We'll tak a cup o'kindess yet,
For auld lang syne.

And there's a hand, my trusty fere!
And gie's a hand o'thine!
And we'll take a right gude-willie waught,
For auld lang syne.

Chorus: 
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne.
We'll tak a cup o'kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

3)  This week returning back to normal after all the fun activity of the holidays.  Back to being good after all the delicious goodies we don't get to eat that often, just as well but boo-hoo! 

4)  Trying to put No. 3 back on track is hard, but we're getting there!

5)  As this is the last Willy Nilly Friday Five of 2014, I wanted to say that I have so much to be thankful for.  It has been a phenomenal year.  I take no day for granted because having family and friends whose lives have changed in the blink of an eye and with events that have happened in our own lives, I know only too well that I need to count each day as a blessing.  If I have made any New Year's Resolutions it is this, to tell those nearest and dearest to me how very much I love them, and how much better I am for having them in my life.   Happy New Year everyone!  May 2015 be your best one yet.


Thank you to our hosts for these great memes.

Good Fences here
SkyWatch Friday here.  
Willy Nilly Friday 5 here


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Random Photo


I took a photo of this enchanting scene in Norway last June.  I will be sharing many photos from that lovely country.  I took enough to last me through the winter, which I will share over the next few months. As I watched grandfather and grandchildren feeding the birds, you just couldn't help but smile at the joy on grandfather's face and the happiness of the children  It is a scene that is played out all around the world.  My post today is dedicated to all the Grandparents and Grandchildren, and also Great-Grandparents everywhere, as they share their love and joy in each other's company.  

Monday, December 29, 2014

Monday Food Post - Two recipes today, Orange Chicken and Hoppin' John


Our company has gone and we are back to eating in the kitchen off our every day plates, but still using what's left of the Santa napkins. 

I am sharing two recipes today so this post will be a little longer than usual.

The first dish I made was Orange Chicken a few days ago.  

The Hoppin' John I made last year but as we enjoyed it so much I will again be making it on New Year's Day.  No photo yet but I will add one later.    

I love my Crockpot, which I know I have  mentioned every time I post a crockpot recipe.  I have used it more in these last couple of years than in the last 10. Consequently the old Crockpot that I bought well over a dozen years ago is still as good as new, moreorless.   

As we were having company for Christmas I wanted to have a couple of easy dishes on hand to serve up quickly.  This one was perfect and I found it here at 'Mom's With Crockpots', written by Amanda.  It is always worth checking out the original recipe for any extra tips.

I served it up for the first time on Christmas Eve and it was a big hit, especially with the men who had seconds.  Yes, this is a keeper.

Crockpot Orange Chicken

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 6 hours
Total time: 6 hours 15 minutes

Ingredients for original recipe:

1-1/2 pounds boneless chicken, cut into two-inch chunks
1/2 cup flour (Amanda used Oh My Gluten Free Flour Mix)
Olive oil for browning the chicken, cut into two-inch chunks
Dash of salt
6 ounces (1/2 can) frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons ketchup

Instructions:

Dredge the chicken pieces with the flour and shake off the excess.

Throw away any remaining flour as this will not be used again because it had raw chicken dipped in it.  

On the stove heat olive oil in a large skillet and brown the chicken on all sides.

There is no need to fully cook the chicken, just sear it enough for the flour to stick and give it a nice coating.

Place seared chicken pieces into your slow cooker.

In a small bowl combine the thawed orange juice concentrate, brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, salt and ketchup, and mix thoroughly.

Taste at this point.  If you like your chicken a little sweeter, add more sugar.  I didn't think it needed it but this is entirely up to you.

Pour the orange juice mixture evenly over the chicken and toss gently to coat all pieces.

Cover and cook on low for 6 hours or on high for 3 hours.

Serve over white or brown rice.

I did as Amanda suggested and doubled all the ingredients so that I not only could use that whole can of Orange Juice Concentrate, but because I wanted enough leftovers to freeze for another meal.  Well, we didn't have any left to freeze but Gregg and I have just finished it off this evening.  Gregg made a delicious fried rice.  I love it when we both get in the kitchen as not only do we have a lot of fun cooking together, but he is an experimenter and he always seems to come up with a very tasty dish.  He didn't use a recipe, just what we had on hand in the pantry and fridge.  Beside the cooked rice there was a bag of the chopped cabbage normally used for coleslaw, sliced celery, beansprouts, grated carrots, sliced lotus shoots and once everything was mixed up, low-sodium soy sauce.  We do love Thai basil which he not only added to the stir fry but also put it on our plate.  We find it is a great palate cleanser.  





Now for the next recipe, Hoppin' John

Traditionally Hoppin' John is a southern dish and eaten on New Year's Day, because it is thought to bring a prosperous new year with lots of good luck.  The peas represent pennies or coins, and a coin is sometimes added to the pot (similar to our English tradition of baking a three-penny bit in the figgy pudding).  If you don't want that cracked tooth or refresh your Heimlich maneuver technique, that coin can be left under a dinner plate, and let guests sit wherever they want so that the lucky recipient can find the coin. That would be my choice.  On the day after New Year's Day any leftovers are now called 'Skippin' Jenny', demonstrating frugality in the hope for an even better chance of prosperity in the New Year.  

No one is sure of how the name originated.  One possibility mentioned was that the name is a corruption of the Haitian Creole term for black-eyed peas, 'pois pigeons'.  

One of the first references for this dish can be found in 'Recollections of a Southern Matron' in 1838, another 'The Carolina Housewife' by Sarah Rutledge, published in 1847.  

I found the above information and much more here

I like to try different recipes.  I found this recipe here.  It goes great with Cornbread, which I learned is also a traditional part of the meal, as it represents the color of gold.  

Hoppin' John for the New Year - Yields 6 servings.



Preparation time: 25 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour and 10 minutes

6 slices smoked bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4 inch pieces
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 celery ribs, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups dried black-eyed peas
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 cup long-grain white rice
6 green onions, thinly sliced

In large saucepan cook bacon over medium-high heat for 6 to 8 minutes, or until crisp.  Stir in garlic, celery, bell pepper and onion. Cook 4 to 5 minutes, or until vegetables begin to soften.  Add bay leaves, tomatoes, broth, black-eyed peas, salt and Cajun seasoning.  Heat to boiling, then reduce heat to simmer.  Cover and cook 1 hour or until peas are tender.  Stir in vinegar.

Meanwhile, prepare rice as label directs.

Serve black-eyed pea mixture over rice and garnish with scallions.



What did we think?  Another delicious recipe and one we will be making a tradition on every New Year's Day but by necessity I had to make a couple of changes.

I thought I had the diced tomatoes but when I came to put my hands on them, no diced tomatoes.  I did however have a pint of fresh cherry tomatoes and I tossed every last one into the pot.  

I still thought that the tomato-ey flavor might be lacking and found a 7 oz. can of tomato paste.  Into the pot it went.  From memory of last year's dish this one did not suffer.  In fact, the sauce was a lot thicker - due to the paste I'm assuming - and we both enjoyed it very much.  I'm thinking that sometimes when these changes are made it all works out for the best.  I can't remember how it compares with last year but I will be using these new ingredients next time.

As for the sliced green onions for garnish, I realized when I went back in the fridge to put the leftovers in, that I had forgotten them. We will be having this again tomorrow and they won't be wasted.


Added note:

Sandra at Mad Snapper left an interesting comment that I thought I would put it under the Hoppin' John recipe.  She said, "I will use bacon but the true way is to put a hambone with some meat left on it and let it cook off in the peas, no recipe, just boil the peas until done and put it over rice.  I read once that the Yankees destroyed the food in the south but left the fields of black eyed peas, thinking they were just food for the animals and we were lucky they did, so started eating them on New Years day for luck."


Thanks Sandra, that's another fascinating story about this dish and next year I will make it with the hambone.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

MUTE SWAN FAMILY

I have already done a post on a Mute Swan and today I am sharing its family.  


The male and the female birds, the cob and pen, usually attempt to mate for life, though if something happens to one the other will find another mate.  


The nest is a huge mound of material, normally dried grasses and assorted vegetation, sticks and rushes, constructed at the water's edge. 


The nest is built by the female, while the male supplies the materials. 


The female lays up to seven eggs between late April and early May. Both sexes incubate the eggs, which hatch after 35-41 days. 


The young birds, or cygnets, sometimes ride on their parents' backs and remain with the adult birds for four or five months. 


Cygnets are generally dingy brown above and whitish below.  Occasionally, cygnets may be all white and are known as 'Polish swans'. 


The young of some pairs are driven off the breeding territory as soon as their plumage is predominantly white (during late autumn or winter). 


Other broods often accompany their parents to the wintering area, and usually join a large flock in which they remain when the parents return to their breeding territory. 


Young birds will not generally breed for the first two years of adult life.


The oldest ringed wild mute swan was 15 years old.







Mom and Dad were doing a great job of taking care of their little ones.


We saw our mute swan family on our last vacation, and were on our way to the airport for our flight home.  







You can click on the links below to see great photos around the world.  I would like to say a big thank you to our hosts for these great memes.


Friday, December 26, 2014

TODAY'S FLOWERS # 329

The new link to Today's Flowers will open each Saturday at 12.00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, U.S., and closes the following Thursday at 11.30 p.m.

You can find all kinds of beautiful flowers from around the      world if you click here.




Weeds?



Pretty weeds!




Luiz Santilli Jnr created Today's Flowers and asked me a few years ago to take over his role as host.  I was very happy to do so.  He occasionally pops in to say hello, so "Hello Luiz and thank you!"







Today's Flowers' home page can be found here.

~~~~~~~~~

I have also linked today with Carol's Garden Bloggers Bloom Day at May Dreams Gardens, which is a wonderful flower meme.  You can it find here.  Thank you for hosting Carol.

The Day After Christmas

We had a super day with our family yesterday. Our son and daughter-in-law came over early in the morning, we had our Christmas meal at noon, opened gifts afterwards, had a great time just chatting, and around 4.30 they left to have another Christmas meal with our daughter-in-law's parents and family to repeat the process.  We always appreciate the fact that they go out of their way to make both parents happy, and for us especially as Brad's Grandfather and his wife Celia are here, and they don't get to see them that often. This in itself made it a very special time. 

I have been enjoying everyone's Christmas Decorations, especially the tree ornaments.  Probably because I have collected them since our son's first Christmas.  I add to my collection every year and also family and friends give them to me as gifts.  I thought I would share the new as well as a few of the old ones too.

A few months ago Celia gave me these British ornaments which she had, unknown to me, bought at Heathrow Airport before we flew home after our trip in Europe.  I love them!



















This one is from my niece in Germany.  She brought us two, one for her and one for me, so that we could think of each other at Christmas she said.   She has always been so very thoughtful that way and I love her for it.


This is from another dear friend who knows how much I love hedgehogs.  It's a nostalgia thing for me as my parents used to feed a family of hedgehogs in the garden for years.


Darling little thing!


And these are the ornaments that Gregg gave me from our trip to Occoquan last week.











I always add a White House Ornament to my collection.  It came in two parts this year.





I have a lot of them that are very special and here are a few oldies.  





This is actually a glass suncatcher I bought from our holiday to Hawaii years ago.  


And here's our Christmas Tree when the gifts are just starting to appear.  I should have taken a later one but I forgot.


And there you go, another Christmas over until next year.