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Posts Tagged ‘home’

We rose early. At 5:30 the world was quiet, not just because of the hour but because a heavy blanket of grey fog covered the neighborhood. Houses across the street loomed in the haze, their trees mere outlines. 

The fog is almost gone now but the grey sky remains, a low ceiling that dampens sound. The birds don’t mind. A family of grackles is flitting from back yard to front, jays and finches and robins visit for a bath, and a pair of mourning doves make themselves at home on the stonework. The plants don’t mind either. Yellow tickseed flowers stand open and bright yellow even without the sun. And now, a slight breeze whispers through the maple leaves. 

The wider world awakes.

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My father’s mother baked from scratch, but she always had a container of Cool Whip in the fridge when we came to visit. Did she always stock it? I don’t know, but it was a special treat for us.

I don’t buy it for myself but even now the taste of Cool Whip reminds me of hot summers and warm smiles.

Last week, I whipped up a bit of cream to go with fresh strawberries from a farm down the road. I usually add a bit of Grand Marnier but this time, I decided to try a slight twist. 

It turns out that heavy whipping cream plus vanilla, sugar and a dollop of sour cream creates a thick whipped topping that tastes a lot like Cool Whip. Not as it is, necessarily, but as I remember it. Fun, flavorful, special.

Let’s call it Cool Whip for adults. All of the memories, none of the additives.

Thanks, Grandma.

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Photo by Tangerine Newt on Unsplash

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Me, this morning:

“I am going to get so much done today! My list is long but I’ve got this!”

Me, at noon:

“Hang on, how is it lunchtime already? That’s fine, I’ve still got lots of time.”

Me, as Mr. Man returns from early work because, oh hey, tornado warning:

“Seriously?”

Now I’m off to clear out the garage so we can get the car under cover, charge up all devices, and generally hope that this is a false alarm.

Fingers crossed!

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Photo by Raychel Sanner on Unsplash

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We didn’t go far today but we did have an adventure. A walk on a beautiful sunny day turned into a hike through a wooded ravine that could have been miles away from human settlements. Slick, steep trails, flocks of mosquitoes that chased us a kilometer or more, and the kind of quiet that is hard to come by in a city. All within a few minutes of the house.

It was hot and sticky and itchy and downright delightful.

I celebrated with a new version of a drink I remember from childhood, the lime freeze. Lime juice, ice cubes, simple syrup, cream, and a touch of rose water, garnished with basil from the back garden.

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Son of Bun

We are working on an alternative lawn that contains clover, so it was not a huge surprise to see a happy rabbit bouncing its way through the yard. What was a surprise was discovering the teeniest tiniest cutest little bunny in the back yard, munching on dandelions.

I shall name him Son of Bun!

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I woke to a robin. 

First thing this morning, I glanced out the window and frowned. An odd little lump sat by the back tire of Mr Man’s car. My eyes aren’t great on the best of days and less so at 6:30 in the a.m., so I had to squint a little before I understood what I was seeing.

Juvenile robin. Not moving. Or… scratch that. Moving oddly.

Hop, shuffle, hop. Shuffle, hop, shuffle. Not going anywhere fast.

It looked like a wing problem, then I realized that it could be a leg problem and the wing was extended for balance.

I conducted a bit of research via the Ottawa Valley Wild Bird Care Centre, a great place that has been helping birds in the area for decades. They took in a mourning dove that hit our back window about a week after we moved in. (Turns out that spring sun renders the living room windows effectively transparent unless you add little stickers to the panes. The Center even gave us a number so we could track the bird’s progress. You’ll be happy to know that while it had a broken wing and pelvis, after months of treatment it recovered and was released with a flock of other doves. So it wouldn’t be lonely.)

Since we’re on the topic, here’s my related story about birds and window strikes: Things I Learned Today, or, Sometimes They Fly Away

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Fledgling birds, including robins, often find themselves out of the nest and still learning to fly. That is to be expected. 

If you are unsure if a fledgling is being cared for by its parents, watch from a distance for at least two hours…

The Center was closed anyway so we waited. The bird moved a little, then a little more. The leg still looked odd, though, so we decided it might be time to try to coax it into a comfortable and well-ventilated box and go visit the doctor.

Um, no.

The bird’s wings were working just fine. It wasn’t flying very far but it was flying, and not at all interested in taking a ride to our friendly neighborhood wildlife rehabbers.

The activity was encouraging, actually. The robin flitted. It hopped. It hid under a giant bush. What to do?

Not much. Short a Wile E. Coyote-style net and lots of dramatic, stress-inducing flailing around, there weren’t a lot of alternatives. I edged a little dish of water under the bush and backed away. 

We’ll keep an eye out for the bird and try again if it appears to be in distress, but for now, nothing more.

Sometimes there aren’t many options, and while I lean toward action, sometimes the best thing to do is nothing at all.

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Photo by Landon Martin on Unsplash

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Should I have spent my day writing? Maybe.

What did I do instead? I made bread, lemon curd, braided lemon bread and baked milk. Went for a walk. Staked the Joe Pye weed. Stared at the clouds. Deadheaded the dandelions and filled up the bird bath and rooted butterfly weed. In short, good things.

Works for me.

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Photo by Meritt Thomas on Unsplash

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Wild Wallflower

A few weeks ago, I discovered a mysterious stranger in my front yard. (Wait, it wasn’t creepy!) I noticed a large plant enthusiastically outpacing the rest of the yard’s late spring residents. It was obviously Something, but what? Rather than give the plant a chance to bully its way to King of the Garden I dug it up, put it in a pot and gave it a home in the back yard. Whether that home would be temporary was to be determined. What the heck was it?

I can now answer that question. (I’m sure many people would know what it is straight off the bat but I did not. Learning, it’s a beautiful thing!)

Meet the (checks the plant ID app, which is probably right?) Treacle or Wormseed Mustard plant. This is Erysimum chieranthoides, also known as a Wallflower. And here I thought that was just a metaphor.

I am Mustard, hear me rawr!

It is weedy in looks and habits, which doesn’t typically bother me that much, but it’s also a wee bit poisonous and very bitter. Most animals avoid feed contaminated by this plant’s seed. Sounds unpleasant. I’m afraid I will have to say thanks but no thanks. 

Also, my helpful app has another poem for us. It’s not actually about this plant but what the heck. Enjoy!

And then along my picket fence

Where staring wallflowers grow–

World-wise Old Age, and Common-sense! –

Black bonnet, nodding slow.

— Henry Lawson

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This could be a different plant altogether. Mustard? Canola? Photo by Mak💛💙 on Unsplash

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My father texted the other day to say that he was making a dish from my childhood, Mrs. Chiang’s Eggplant with Chopped Meat. The name brought back memories of hot chili and flavorful meat with rice. I should make that too, I thought. Where is my wok?

Several days later I made the dish with what I had or could get. Two eggplants became one, eight scallions became two huge handfuls from my bag of pre-chopped and frozen, peanut oil became avocado and pork became turkey. Fortunately, the recipe is quite forgiving.

The chili paste stayed the same, as did the complex and satisfying taste. And the fond memories.

I still haven’t found my wok.

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Eggplant with Ground Turkey
(adapted from Mrs. Chiang’s Szechwan Cookbook)

  • ½ lb. ground turkey, pork or beef
  • 3 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. sesame oil
  • 8 scallions
  • 2 medium eggplants
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger
  • 5 Tbsp. peanut or other high-temperature oil
  • 2 Tbsp. hot chili paste
  • 1 to 1½ tsp. sugar
  • 1½ tsp. salt
  • ⅔ cup water
  1. Put the meat in a bowl and stir in the soy sauce and sesame oil.
  2. Clean and chop the scallions into small pieces. Mix half the chopped scallions into the meat. Reserve the rest for later use.
  3. Peel the eggplants and cut into ½-1 inch cubes.
  4. Smash the garlic, peel, and chop into little pieces, about the size of grains of rice.
  5. Peel the ginger and chop into pieces the size of match heads.
  6. Heat the pan on high until the oil just begins to smoke. Add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 30 seconds.
  7. Add the hot chili paste and stir-fry for another 30 seconds.
  8. Add the chopped meat mixture and cook for 2 minutes, stirring to break up any large lumps.
  9. Add the eggplant and stir-fry everything for another 4 minutes or so.
  10. Sprinkle the sugar and salt over the eggplant mixture, stir-fry for another 2 minutes. Stir stir stir stir stir.
  11. Pour in the water and add the reserved scallions. Wait until the water comes to a boil, then cover the pan without reducing the heat. Cook for another 15 minutes, until the eggplant is soft.

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Photo by Tijana Drndarski on Unsplash

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No Mow May has been a success at our house. Ratings so far:

  • Big bees, medium bees, teeny tiny bees say: 10/10+
  • Robins say: 10/10 (comment: “But water more please, it makes it easier to catch the worms”)
  • Grackles: 9/10 (relevant quote: “stupid insects have more places to hide, but there are more of them, so it’s ok I guess”)
  • Mourning Doves say: 8/10 (quotes: “The taller plants were nice but now that the sun’s out there are quieter places to nest” and “We like the backyard bird bath” and “Please put out more of that nyjer thistle seed, it was nice”)

I also spotted a new plant in the front yard, Blue-eyed Grass. Despite its name, it’s actually a member of the Iris family, and a pretty one at that. So that’s fun.

Blue-eyed grass in the meadow,

And the laden bee’s low hum,

Milkweeds all by the roadside,

To tell us summer is come.

— Mary Austin

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Photo by Maxime Doré on Unsplash

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