Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The 'Munks Have Left the Hermitage

Baloo is in brave hunter heaven!  Everywhere we go these days, chipmunks are venturing out of their winter quarters. 

They scamper across stone piles.

They sun on boulders beside the bay.

They bask on leftover sawn logs 

And in beams of sunlight penetrating deep into the woods warming hermitage doorsteps.  

Of course, large dogs and humans with cameras can cause anxiety, even for the most intrepid of the wood-wise. 

This little rascal decided to head back into its safe haven.  Just the fuzzy wisp of a tail remains to be seen in the doorway.  

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Gnarly, Man!

As Baloo and I were walking along the road by the bay, we saw this lichen-covered gnome chatting with a piece of driftwood.  In the dappled sunlight, these two gave rise to a bit of fanciful imagining.  

The piece of driftwood almost looks like a miniature winged dragon talking earnestly with its friend. The gnome is so bleached of color and dotted with lichen growth that I didn't notice what it was at first - I thought it was another piece of driftwood until the face suddenly popped out at me. It brought to mind tales of magical creatures materializing out of boulders and tree stumps.  Baloo and I clearly caught these two in mid-shift.  

The receding snow in the park where we sometimes walk revealed these wonderfully gnarly roots. The growths continue all the way up the trunk of this very stately oak.  

Monday, March 28, 2016

Yellow Beauties

I met a new flower while walking with Baloo.  Although he frequently points out items of interest like meadow mice, ducks, turtles and ground squirrels, he seldom takes much notice of the flora side of things, finding hunting for the fauna much more enticing.  He does, however, (usually) wait patiently for me to photograph discoveries along the way - both his and mine (though all bets are off on the mice and ground squirrels - if he sees them, they're considered fair game and it's hard to rein him in).   

After a short research session, I learned these little beauties are called winter aconite or, to give them their proper name, eranthis hyemalis. They are early blooming bulbs that grow low to the ground and are a vibrant contrast to the leaf duff and last year's grasses.  

Aren't they pretty?  The flowers perch right atop the leaf whorls, almost as if they're wearing lacy, green collars.  

These yellow crocus are popping up in the rock garden next door.  Spring is so much fun, since something new is budding, blooming or bursting from the earth every day.  

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter!

One year, when I was in high school, my parents gave me a hyacinth plant for my dorm room.  I loved watching the tight little buds open more each day and my room smelled wonderful.  I named her Hildegard Hyacinth. It's been one of my favorite flowers ever since -  right up there with lilacs, which I seem to have to stop and smell every time I pass by a bush in bloom.

This year, to celebrate the coming of Spring, I bought a hyacinth plant on an irresistable impulse during a grocery stop after walking with Baloo. Hildegard II has been gracing the main living space in the house with both beautiful blooms and lovely fragrance. 

There are no hyacinths (unless you count the small grape hyacinth variety) in my yard, so Hildegard II will find a home in the garden, once the weather warms completely. It may take her a few years to bloom again after being forced in the greenhouse, but it will be worth the wait.  

Happy Easter 
and Happy Spring 
from Baloo and me!

Saturday, March 26, 2016


I wanted to bake something special for Easter feasting this year, so I decided to make this delightfully  rich, symbolic and decorative bread which claims roots in both Poland and the Ukraine.  

The dough is enriched with butter and eggs, which gives it a lovely creamy color, both while it's worked and when the final product is sliced. The larger piece on the counter will be used for the main loaf, while the smaller piece is held in reserve for all the decorations.  

It will rise well above the edges of a standard cake pan, so a buttered parchment collar helps the loaves keep their shape.   

Once the loaf has risen about half way, use the reserved dough to roll out the pieces to make the curved cross, seven pointed sun figure and the coiled ropes to wrap around the edge.  Other traditional decorations derived from nature can also be used.  Sometimes birds are nestled into the arms of the cross, rosettes, vines, braids - pretty much anything representative of spring or rebirth. 

When the decorations are all in place, let the paska continue to rise until it is nice and light.  

Just before baking, gently brush the top with an egg wash.

Voila!  Loaves ready to be blessed and shared for the feast.

Paska has a lovely texture.  It's wonderful with butter and marmalade (or honey), and if any is left over for the next morning, it makes fantastic French toast.   

Friday, March 25, 2016

Culinary Adventures

I have been refining and experimenting with my cream scone recipe.  My sister and her husband have had to put up with several iterations (poor them) as I have played with various methods and flavorings.  My brother-in-law always tells me that each batch is better than the one before, but not as good as the next batch.  He knows which side his scone is buttered on....  

This iteration is a tart cherry and toasted almond combination with just a hint of vanilla. They pair very nicely with a cup of tea - or a steaming mug of latte.  Buttery breakfast goodness.  I probably need to take Baloo for another walk now!    

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Inky Stuff

I thought I would share a little new product information for Stampeaz, since there's some fun inky stuff to tell you about.  

First, there are some new Kaleidacolor colorways.  Two that I find appealing are Vineyard and Denim.  These are probably my favorites of the new offerings because I walk Baloo past a couple vineyards every day and I enjoy the colors as they change through the seasons.  And I'm kind of a denim girl - I'll choose comfort over fashion just about every time.  I know, I know.  I like sweatshirts and flannel, too.  

The other really good bit of news is that there are now inkers available to refresh Versafine Onyx Black and Vintage Sepia pads.  Tsukineko has maintained that the Versafine pads didn't need to be reinked, but I am delighted that they reconsidered, at least with these two popular colors.  I use a lot of their Onyx Black, since it prints such a nice, solid black without gumming up the details in the carving, itself, even after a number of prints.  I hope they will add the other colors to the Versafine inker collection in days to come, but this is a great start, as far as I am concerned!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Signs of Spring - Sing It!

All around the neighborhood, birds are staking out territories and pairing up for nesting.

Baloo and I heard this beautiful songster in the big field where we walk most mornings.  He was hard to get close enough for much of a picture, since he was so shy and kept flitting from bush to bush, just out of good photo range.  


We did manage to get near enough for this nice shot of the bright yellow meadowlark's breast with the black bib as distinctive as his song, even though his face isn't very clear.  

Grackles choose the very tip-tops of the tallest spruce trees in the area.   

The red-winged blackbirds like the spruce tops, too, but they don't care quite as much about height.  

It's so entertaining to watch them get all ruffled up before erupting into song.  

Finches are pairing up and claiming their own little territories.  These two have chosen a copse of densely growing spruce across the street from me.  I'll be alert for signs of nest building!

Even the normally squabbling starlings have taken a romantic turn and perch in the treetops to sing (among swelling buds, I notice).  

They fly from tree to tree to delineate the boundaries of their home turf. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Signs of Spring - Classics!

How can one welcome the coming of Spring without the classic harbinger of warmer days.  

They're about the first to start singing in the morning and the about the last to stop singing at night.  Cheerio!  I'm hoping for a nest nearby!

These snowdrops, or Galanthus flowers were starting to peek up from an ivy bed along one of my morning walks with Baloo.  

The flowers had not yet begun to open, but these are a sure sign of Spring! 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Signs of Spring - Duck!

Migrating ducks have been traveling through the area.  They land and hang around in huge flotillas.  

Baloo and I took a walk by Boardman Lake and there were ducks zig-zagged all the way across the water.

Most of these are redheads, I think, but they had a few friends traveling with them. 

It's hard to get close-ups, since the flocks are so far away from shore, so this goldeneye is a little blurry, but you can easily see who he is.  I know it's not the best picture, but it was the best I could get trying to zoom in from that distance, so I wanted to share it anyway!

Closer to shore, the mergansers swim in smaller groups, often with a few mallards.  

Here we have some merganser girls hanging with their gull pals on the pier.   

This one is with her sweetie.  People frequently mistake the male mergansers for loons, because of their black backs and white undersides - you can sort of see why, but if you saw the two anywhere near each other, there would be no confusion at all.  Loons are a lot bigger, float lower, and have distinctive white patterning on their backs and necks - not to mention the loony red eyes.    

They're pretty common along the shoreline, but I enjoyed watching this mallard swimming and dabbling in the light of the setting sun.  

The sun made the water sparkle from time to time as the clouds came and went.  

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Wings of Winter - Part 6

A big flock of cedar waxwings flew in to devour all the berries and crab apples still left in the neighborhood. 

Every tree in my front yard was loaded with birds.  

My little crab apple tree was a particular favorite. 

These birds can be pretty acrobatic as they reach for tidbits to eat.  

They are fast - and really shy.  If they see any movement (like me sneaking up with the camera in hand), they immediately fly off.  

They never stop moving for long. They flit in, grab an apple and fly off again.  

I have loved the sleek feathers and masked faces since I was a child.  

Once they have eaten everything in the area, they move on to denude any fruit left in the next spot.  

Yes, my Christmas lights are still up in February.  It's hard to take them down when the wires are buried under crusted snow.  Besides, they're cheerful.    

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Wings of Winter - Part 5

The juncos are still hanging out in my juniper bushes and snacking on sunflower hearts that sit in the feeder trays or fall to the ground, but they also occasionally hit the peanut butter feeders.  

A male pileated woodpecker came in to enjoy a little peanut butter. Oddly, he chose the smaller of the two logs, rather than the one that would have given him a better place to balance with his tail.  

He's so beautifully bold against the snowy background.  His red crest almost vibrates with color!

Speaking of red, his poor, cold cardinal snuggled into the leeward side of one of my blue spruce trees.  The wind was howling and he was trying to get as much windbreak as he could!