Friday, June 27, 2014

Crazy Granny Stashghan

If you Google granny stripe afghan, you can find photos of beautiful, color-coordinated crocheted afghans, many in rainbow hues, and some with elaborate borders.  And then there's this:

What I call my crazy granny stashghan.  I admit, calling it "crazy granny" is a little bit politically incorrect.  After all, most grandmothers are not crazy.  My own grandmothers were both hardworking women.  

My paternal grandmother married a Pennsylvania coal miner and raised ten children.  They never had much money, and she never had much free time until she was older.  She was a talented lady though.  She designed and cut her own patterns and sewed clothes for her kids.  She could draw and paint; I'm told she drew beautiful horses. When she was older, she loved Avon and always colored her hair and painted her nails.

My maternal grandmother married a bit later in life.  She married a widower with six children, one of whom wasn't quite two yet, I believe.  She then had two children of her own.  She was a farm wife who cooked three hearty meals a day, every day because farm work was hard work with a mule to plow with and tobacco worms to pick off the plants by hand.  She killed the chickens herself, churned the butter, and made quilts out of flour sacks.  My father, her son-in-law, said she made the best biscuits he ever tasted.  In later years, she lived with her oldest daughter, my aunt, and was the quietest, calmest person I have ever known.

I look back now and wish I'd taken more time to talk to my grandmothers, to hear the stories of their lives.  There are so many things I'll never know.

Perfect for lounging on the hammock.

This is the second granny stripe afghan I have made, both using up excess, leftover yarn from my yarn stash.  Honest, the only yarn I bought was some extra pink and teal to finish the border.  This crazy afghan is a mix of acrylic, wool, and even some cotton.  I love making these because they are so easy to do.  The only pain is weaving in all the ends.  

Monday, June 23, 2014

Like Magic: Mushrooms on a Monday

Parasol mushrooms in the park around the corner, taken with a phone.

Mushrooms seem to appear magically overnight with all the rain we've been having here.  The rain is keeping everything very lush and green, and the river is high on our morning walks.  Getting the outdoor painting done is a challenge, but I just snatch opportunities when I can.

In our lawn.

Sad news from our walk.  One of the neighborhood foxes was hit by a car, probably last night or early this morning.  We saw the body about 6:00 this morning, just a few feet from the street.  Poor fox.  Watching for it in the mornings has been a highlight of my walks the past month.  I hope its mate stays safe and away from the street.

Friday, June 13, 2014

An Empty Nest

This is my last robin post, I promise!  After three of its siblings had left the nest yesterday, this one final fledgling was left alone.  What to do?

Here is the lone fledgling.  "Oh so lonely."  "Maybe I can do it!"  "No, I can't, but what's all that chirping I hear?"
As I watched this little bird think about leaving the nest, I could hear robins cheeping and chirping all around.  Finally a parent bird flew up and landed close to the nest on an electric wire.  Loud chirping ensued.  I think his mama was telling him to get off his duff!  Then the next thing I knew, he had flown the nest!

He was too quick for me, but you can see him flying away on the far left side.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Robin Fledgling!

Picture taken through a window and storm window, so forgive the quality.

I have been anxiously watching the robin nest the  last few days.  (Earlier posts here and here.)  I knew it couldn't be long until the baby robins were ready to fly on their own.  There seemed to still be one or two in the nest this morning, but then I also saw this fledgling on the bird feeder.  It was first perched on top but then lost his footing and slid down. It managed to land on the ledge and perched there for half an hour or so, cheeping, and no doubt wondering where its parent/food service had gone.  It's exciting to see "my" birds grow up.  I feel quite protective of them.  I'm going to have to keep one eye on my work today and one eye on the yard watching for feral cats.  (You can read my feral cat story here.  Don't get me started on that topic.)

Taken with a phone in early morning light.

It's been quite a week for wildlife here in the neighborhood.  Monday's walk brought us about twelve feet from a very calm doe, who seemed as likely to walk up the riverbank and join us as to run away.

On Tuesday's walk, a dashing red fox ran across the road in front of us and then along the river.  Later, it was sitting quietly, peeping over some tall grass between the river and the woods, watching us walk by.  I wish I could have gotten a picture of the fox, but camera phones do have their limits!

It's amazing how much wildlife lives right here in town.  

Monday, June 9, 2014

Keen for Quinoa

Quinoa is one of the current darlings of healthy eating.  While quinoa has been grown in the Andes for centuries, most Americans didn't discover it until the latter twentieth century or even the twenty-first century. It's a fun change of pace from rice, even if it isn't actually a grain. (It's a seed, did you know that?  I used to think it was a grain.)

Quinoa has become popular in my family, especially with our son.  He discovered that a local grocery store sells bulk quinoa, so he stocks up when he visits and uses it with chicken several times a week.  Because, you know, this family eats a LOT of chicken.

I often marinate chicken in some variation of a soy sauce marinade before grilling.  It's fast and I always have ingredients on hand.  Recently, I came up with my own version of a common quinoa recipe using soy sauce and garlic to pair with the grilled chicken.  This is a simple weeknight kind of meal.  It comes together quickly and is tasty and healthy.  Pair it with a salad, and dinner is ready in half an hour, tops!

I call it Fusion Quinoa Chicken because it has South American quinoa; olive oil and garlic, often associated with Mediterranean diets; and Asian-inspired soy sauce.  (I always use Kikkoman soy sauce because it is made in Walworth, Wisconsin, less than ten miles from the Illinois border, near a town we used to live in.  I was so surprised the first time, years ago, when I saw the factory sitting in a Wisconsin field.)

Fusion Quinoa Chicken

Chicken :
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
2 large chicken breasts, well trimmed

Slice chicken breasts in half horizontally to make thinner pieces.  Set these aside in a shallow dish.  Combine olive oil, soy sauce, vinegar and sugar in a small bowl and mix well with fork.  Pour marinade over chicken and allow to marinate for about 15 minutes at room temperature.  Turn chicken occasionally.  While chicken marinates, prepare ingredients for quinoa.  After quinoa has reached the simmer stage, grill chicken, turning occasionally, until cooked through.   Baste with remaining marinade whenever turning the chicken.


1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4-1/3 cup diced onion
3 cloves minced garlic (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
1 cup mixed red and white quinoa (you can use a single color if desired)
1 cup water
1 cup reduced sodium, fat free chicken broth
3 teaspoons low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon salted butter
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Heat olive oil in medium saucepan over medium heat.  Saute onion and garlic until soft.  Add quinoa and cook about one minute, stirring constantly.  Add water, chicken broth and soy sauce.  Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for about 15 minutes, until liquid is absorbed.  Turn off heat and add butter, stirring until it is melted.  Stir in parsley and transfer quinoa to serving bowl.   Top quinoa with cooked chicken breasts and serve.  

Printable recipe

Sunday, June 8, 2014

What Happened While We Were Away or A Full House

The bat house has tilted from the weight of the birds.

We got home late last night after two weeks away.  I was so pleased to see that the robins hatched (and grew!) while we were gone.  There are four nestlings, which makes for a crowded nest and two very busy parents.  The day was quite overcast, and I wish I had a longer lens, but at least you can see the little robins in these pictures.

Lunch is served.