Friday, February 17, 2017

Pileated Woodpecker




 We enjoy watching the birds at our feeders.  We've had quite a variety of birds visit our suet and our bird feeding station this winter.  This morning, Grayden took the most marvelous photos of an elusive, shy bird--The Pileated Woodpecker (Drycopus pileatus)!  This is one bird that we have never seen at our suet feeder.






When we are out in our garden working or walking in our neighborhood we often hear the call of this large bird.  Call and drumming of Pileated Woodpecker  They  are quite hard to see.  Always going to the other side of the tree, they elude our viewing.  Once you've seen one, you wonder if he is a tropical bird.  His head is very small compared to his large body.  Winter is your best time to see one when the leaves are not on the trees and live within this area.


Range of pileated woodpecker


This woodpecker was declining while most of our heavily forested areas have been cleared.  He is making quite a comeback in a lot of areas where there are still large trees.


  

The majority of their diet is the eating of carpenter ants and wood-boring beetle larvae.  They do enjoy fruit, nuts and seeds.  Suet is another treat that they enjoy as we have observed.  This is the first year we've had them visit our suet. 

I was also lucky to be able to take a few more photos as the Pileated Woodpecker returned this afternoon.  An adult is 16 - 19 inches long.  His wing span is 26 - 30 inches. The male has a red streak under his cheek.  We noticed he has a red streak along the jaw as opposed to no red streak on the female.




As we were about to sit down for dinner I spotted a pair at the feeder.  I quickly grabbed my camera and was able to capture a so so photo of the pair.  The blur is the window pane.  They can quickly eat a new suet in a couple of days.  I wonder if they are going to call their cousins and aunts and uncles to visit.





Have you ever seen a Pileated Woodpecker?  We've been quite excited to view them closer than ever.









Monday, February 13, 2017

Down by the River





Do you get antsy in the winter?  I tend to stay in our home for days working on projects and then I feel I must get out. Most days we walk our neighborhood, so it's not like I don't go outside.   It doesn't matter where we go, I just need a change of scenery.




  
We have our main meal in the middle of the day since Grayden retired.  We call the largest meal of the day dinner.  It's convenient for us and our grandson, Samuel.  He has morning classes and works in the evenings.  So this arrangement has worked well for us.  

Since it has been staying lighter longer, we have been enjoying our supper down by the river.  It's very close to our home.  Recently I made us ham and cheese sandwiches and fruit salad. Grayden enjoyed the cappuccino he made and I took along my mug of Earl Grey.  Some days we buy a sandwich at the local eatery and take it along to enjoy by the river.  Just these little trips with my husband sure help to beat the winter blues.




Water has always been an important part of my life.  We always see interesting sights on our little outings.  The weather was nice and we just sat and talked and observed nature.  Geese fly by.  We have seen bald eagles. Folks with their lines in the water hoping for the big one to bite. The train racing along the railroad trestle.  Simple pleasures.  Simple times.

If you look up on the hill the building of George Washington's boyhood home is being reconstructed. The myth about the cherry tree began at this site.  At the bottom of the hill you can see where young George was said to have thrown a silver dollar across the river.  It is quite narrow here and I imagine he possibly could have.  It is considered a myth about him throwing money away, but it is thought he probably threw a rock across the river.  At the time the river at this point was 300 feet wide. It isn't a myth that George Washington lived here from age 6 to around age 22.  This is where he learned to survey, joined the Masons, read his first book on the military, copied the rules of Civility and petitioned the colony's British governor for his first military office. It's pretty exciting that the excavations by archaeologists found the foundation of the Washingtons!  The home is being built on the original foundation.  I hope to report updates as the building continues. If you wish to read more about Ferry Farm you can go HERE 





We in Virginia and particularly our area, are quite proud to stand where Washington stood and try to understand how this young man became our first president. February 22nd is his birthday so I thought I'd share a little history of him that may not be familiar to you.  We were friends of a local writer when we first moved to Fredericksburg.  In fact she helped us buy our first home and always talked about the history of George Washington's boyhood home.  It was her dream that this property be saved and restored to its time when the Washingtons lived here.  I often think of her and wished she could see the progress that is now being made at Ferry Farm.  She wrote Ferry Farm and gifted a copy to us.  











Gilchrist Waring also wrote historical books about Williamsburg.  You may have seen some of her books there.  Her books are geared to children, but I find them wonderfully informative.





Upon leaving the river after our little picnic we were treated to the most amazing sunset.





Since tomorrow is Valentine's Day you may want to have some sweet Valentine tags or make a banner like I did.  You can go to Nora Murphy's blog and download these little tags  HERE  I just printed mine out on card stock and used kitchen twine and little clothespins to attach to my kitchen window.





February can be a cold and dreary month for some of us.  As winter seems to go on and on, I hope there will be times of joy for you, my friends. ♥




















Monday, February 6, 2017

A Little of This and That


 I've mentioned we have steadily been working to organize and declutter our storage areas.  Our progress has been going quite well and we're pretty happy with the decisions we have made. 





Last year we had the interior of our home painted.  After all of it was done, I changed some of our decor and didn't put up the same items that were on the walls.  In the kitchen particularly,  we kept the walls a little more bare than usual.  After time has passed, I decided I'm not liking the more minimalist look.  So we have slowly been putting up some of the items that were removed. 





The rooster plates and hanger have been bought up from storage to take their place back in the kitchen.  I love chickens and have many adorning my kitchen.  




The sun has been shining the last couple of days and I couldn't be happier!  It's a great time to take photos of the interior of our home.













Taking good photos is a goal of mine.  I want to learn more about using the manual settings on my camera.  I've always wanted to take photos of the moon that showed the craters and more detail.   Well, I think I am on my way.  I can't tell you how thrilled I was to be able to take a few photos that show the detail I was looking for.
  





Yesterday afternoon we were outside and saw the lovely moon lighting the sky.





Now that I've learned more about my camera and its settings I'll be practicing and enjoying photography even more! 

I also spotted this bad boy in the crepe myrtle yesterday afternoon!  This photo was taken from a window.




Tell me, do you use the manual settings on your camera?  Or do you do like me,  just use the automatic settings?





I hope your days are filled with simple joys , my friends!  ♥














Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Honey Oatmeal Bread





Do you enjoy making bread?  Or do you avoid it because you feel it is too complicated to make?  It's very simple and I hope if you don't make bread you will give it a try.  If you have a stand mixer it is a lot easier than you think to get a wonderful loaf of bread.  I have the Kitchen Aid Professional with the bowl lift.  Of course you can also make bread by hand.  I remember seeing my Grandmother making bread with such fondness.  I truly have never been able to make bread that tastes quite like hers!  With so many of us being so busy making bread by hand can be out of the question.  A lot of the bread making business involves a lot of time where you can be doing other things.  So I hope you will give bread making a try.

I have used many different recipes over the years to find the perfect bread for my family.  Do we eat bread at every meal?  No. We do eat bread at breakfast for toast and bread for sandwiches.  When I make bread I place the finished cooled loaves in the freezer and bring out a loaf to thaw in the refrigerator for our use as needed.  I made a delicious bread today and I thought you may like to try it.  It's from the Kitchen Aid cookbook that came with my mixer.  So you may already have this recipe.







Honey Oatmeal Bread

  • 1 1/2 cups of water
  • 1/2 cup of honey
  • 1/3 cup of butter
  • 5 1/2-6 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup of quick cooking oats
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Oatmeal to sprinkle on top

Place water, honey, and butter in a small saucepan.  Heat over low heat until very warm-120 to 130 degrees.

In mixing bowl place oats, 5 cups of flour, salt and yeast.  If using a stand mixer use dough hook and turn speed to 2 and mix for 15 seconds.  With mixer still on 2 gradually add warm mixture to flour mixture and mix for 1 minute.  Add eggs and mix for 1 minute longer.

Continuing on speed 2, add remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, and mix about 2 minutes or until dough starts to clean sides of the bowl.  Knead on speed 2 about 2 minutes longer.

Place dough in a greased bowl, turning to grease top.  Cover and let rise in warm place, free from draft, about 1 hour, or until doubled.

Punch dough down and divide in half.  Shape each half into a loaf by rolling each half into a 9 by 13 inch rectangle.  Then roll your rectangle into a loaf and seal the ends.  Place in a greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2 inch baking pans.  Cover and let rise until doubled in size about  1 hour.

Beat egg white with water to make a wash to cover the risen loaves.  Sprinkle oatmeal on top of egg wash.  Bake at 375 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes.  My loaves were ready in 30 minutes. 






 “Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.” 

― James Beard

















Saturday, January 14, 2017

To Keep or Not





Last year I read Marie Kondo's books on tidying up our homes.   “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" and "Spark Joy."  Reading Marie's books she explains her theory about not keeping  anything in your home that doesn't bring joy!  I know many of you have read her books as well and have used her methods to tidy your homes.  She suggests doing this job all at once!  For me it's too daunting, but we have used her thoughts in cleaning up our storage areas and other areas as well.  Having a finished basement is a wonderful place to store unused items in closets and "away from view" of our normal living space.  It's good and it's bad.  It's very easy to just take it to the basement!  Our son calls it our "marinating spot!"  As much as this is hard to admit, it's true. 





We have always given away items we no longer use to Amvets.  It's very easy to bag up unwanted items that others may want or need.  They pick up your items right from your driveway.  The proceeds go to help veterans, so it's a win win in our minds.  So many bags and boxes have left our home since we began this purge.




I found a box of David Winter cottages recently and now they are displayed on the mantle in our Florida room.  They really remind me of our time in England.


During one of our recent clear outs, we discovered a drain issue that needed repair.  After Grayden made the repairs we needed to fix the floor to the cabinet.  So while retrieving the wood for the repair, I came across a box marked, dolls.  I used to have my dolls above the chifforobe in the guest room upstairs.  Thinking about these dolls made me realize that I needed to display them or get rid of them.  I can't get rid of these dolls!  Some were my childhood dolls and some were my sister's dolls.  They have been with me for so long, they need to be displayed.  We had a shelf downstairs that used to be in my kitchen.  It would make a nice shelf to put a few of the dolls on in the guest room downstairs.


This shelf would have been on the should we keep it or should it go list.  I'm happy we were able to find a place for my dolls and use the shelf as well.  The Kon Mari method is a little too strict for me, but it has helped us to rid our home of many items we were not using.  I can feel our home sighing relief.  





Last year we purged our closets of our clothes that we no longer used.  I now can store all of my seasonal clothes in my closet as opposed to storing non seasonal clothes downstairs.  We've lived in our home for 43 years.  I imagine if we had moved more we would have gotten rid of a lot of the stuff we are now.  Even though we have gotten rid of many items that would never be used in our home, I have come across items that should be used again.  That makes me happy.


Have you used the Kon Mari method?  I'd love to hear your ideas of tidying up your home for better organization.  








 


Sunday, January 8, 2017

Snow Lessons




Snow brings squeals of delight from most children.  Most adults have different views.  I guess I'm still a little child at heart when it comes to snow!  I feel like I did when I was a child watching the snow fall and hoping for canceled school, so my sisters and I could go sledding down the big hill we lived on.   Even though I no longer sled down the hills,  I enjoy watching the quiet beauty that comes as snow is blanketing our area.  It gives me an excuse not to go anywhere, just enjoy the cozy fire, make chicken and dumplings and potato soup, read and relax.




It's been cold for the last few days.  Please don't think we are wimps!



  
Our son had twice as much snow fall as we had.  He reported this afternoon that schools will close tomorrow and the boys are just ecstatic!  Even though they are very good students, who doesn't like an unexpected holiday?  They have enjoyed rides down the hills just like their Dad did years ago and like I did as well.  I'm glad some things don't change.




  
Grayden and I gifted each other a new bird feeding pole system for Christmas.    Grayden installed this system a couple of days before Christmas and now only the birds are enjoying it.  We have had quite a squirrel issue, but with this new system they are baffled from getting the bird seed.  We also bought the baffle that deters raccoons as well as squirrels.  Last year we had a raccoon  peer into our home on our roof.  One night I was unable to sleep and was sitting in my Lazy Boy resting.  Above my head is a skylight that had two little beady eyes peering at me!  It really frightened me.  After doing research, we found it is not a good thing to have them on your roof as they will find a way inside!  So Grayden and Samuel cut a limb off of the oak tree that was serving as a highway for the little bandits!





We have so enjoyed seeing all of the birds come to the feeders as well as the suet feeder we have on the tree. 












I hope you are enjoying the quietness that winter brings.  Whether it be snow or the cold weather, I hope it brings peace to your soul. 




Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening 


BY ROBERT FROST


Whose woods these are I think I know.   

His house is in the village though;   

He will not see me stopping here   

To watch his woods fill up with snow.   


My little horse must think it queer   

To stop without a farmhouse near   

Between the woods and frozen lake   

The darkest evening of the year.   


He gives his harness bells a shake   

To ask if there is some mistake.   

The only other sound’s the sweep   

Of easy wind and downy flake.   


The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   

But I have promises to keep,   

And miles to go before I sleep,   

And miles to go before I sleep.










Thursday, January 5, 2017

Hello New Year



Hello New Year!  I'm sure all of you are getting your homes put back in shape after the holidays.  I for one am always happy to get all of our Christmas decor put away at the start of the new year.  It's a good time to get organized and label boxes and bags so we don't have to pull it all out again next year.  Sometimes we hurriedly put away the decorations.  Then when the holidays come we have mess.  Hopefully it will help us next year.  Well that is the plan anyway.





During the holidays I received a lovely giveaway from Cathy.





  Cathy writes several web journals.  She is learning to water color and posts her progress each month.  This past year she has focused on the works of Beatrix Potter.  So her giveaway was Beatrix Potter A Journal.



 





This journal is a joy to read.  It is full of writings of Miss Potter and fun ephemera.  Thank you Cathy for this lovely journal!


The year before Cathy focused on the water colors of Edith Holden.  Cathy has really become quite proficient in her water colored paintings.  She wants to self publish her children's story and illustrate it herself.    I am more than thrilled to have this journal as I am a huge Beatrix Potter fan.  You may remember that I was fortunate to go to England and visit Hilltop and the surrounding areas that Beatrix lived in the Lake District.  If you want to read about our visit, it all resides on this blog beginning with our trip over on the Queen Mary 2.  You can start Our Grand Adventure to England and continue to read the posts that follow.





“What heaven can be more real than to retain the spirit-world of childhood?”  Beatrix Potter