Friday, March 28, 2014

Dash Away, Dash Away, Dash Away Home

Our desert gets a lot of winter visitors, both human and animal, who tuck their tails under and head for cooler climes before the summer heat settles in. Snow birds, we call the humans. Here are some of the real birds who winter here, and will soon be departing for summer vacations in the cooler north.

A white-crowned sparrow.He's going to summer vacation in Alaska and northwestern Canada.

A sage thrasher. They're not terribly rare down here, but one in the city is pretty unusual, and this one turned up in the park near my office. I love urban birding.

 See his streaked breast? Or can you? It's a terrible photo, I know. This little guy spent one day playing hide-and-seek with me, so I had to settle for what I could get. He's going to summer in the Rockies, lucky bird.

Ah, but this beauty will not desert me. He'll stick with us here in the brown desert, through the hot, hot summer, and through the cold winter, with its occasional hard freezes and burst water pipes. 

I just can't help but smile when I see a vermilion flycatcher. The burst of color in the drab desert winter--a brief moment of joy, just joy, at Mother Nature's gifts.

Wait? What kind of bird is this? A Harris' antelope squirrel, practicing acrobatics.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Phone Photos

I've finally joined the 21st century, a decade and a half (nearly) into it, and have a smartphone. Yes, it may be smarter than me. But I'm trying to get comfortable using the camera, and so here are a few examples of photos taken on a recent walk along the river park with this newfangled thingamabob. Not bad.

Virga over the mountains to the west

Anna's hummingbird

Anna's hummingbird

Anna's hummingbird




Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Graduation from Class No. 7

...and she still pulls on leash.  Le sigh grande....

First year check up today, and everyone at the vet hospital mentioned how happy they were that she's survived last summer and how she was worth all that debt. She is, but that doesn't mean I don't get cranky that she still pulls on leash.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Cooking Without Photos

This week's Cooking Light recipes have been the chicken with mushroom sauce from the Jan. 2011 issue, the zucchini galette from the July 2012 issue, and the cucumber and feta cheese bites from the Jan. 2014 issue. It was impossible to get a photo of the chicken breast, which I modified by using a red onion instead of shallots; every photos is either blurry (dang you, camera!) or the onions and mushrooms look green and gelatinous. It was delicious; but then, how can anything with mushrooms and onions be otherwise?

I think I went a little too heavy on the garlic in the zucchini galette. And I didn't have time to make the crust so substituted a store-bought pie crust, which is never as good, but made this a very fast dinner.

And the cucumber bites were also very good. I was out of Greek yogurt, so used the plain nonfat yogurt I had on hand, which meant my filling was runnier than it should have been. I also didn't have any walnuts to sprinkle on top, but we all know I'm not slave to a recipe.

I'll try to post a photo of the galette, but it's on my Instagram account (account to right) in case you're interested. There are some breakfasts I want to try next, when I have a free weekend morning to savor the goodness.

Friday, March 7, 2014

What's for dinner?

I've been craving meat lately, so decided to buy a cut of meat I've never made before, which meat I had to go recipe hunting to decide how to prepare it. Cooking Light (Dec. 2002) to the rescue--boneless sirloin tip with horseradish-mustard sauce. The meat was perfect--rubbed with garlic, salt and pepper, cooked to 140 degrees (medium-rare). The homemade horseradish and mustard sauce is delicious and very strong--no sinus problems here this week, LOL. Meat needs potatoes, so a tried and true scalloped potatoes recipe from Better Home and Garden's cookbook accompanied them, although I tweaked the recipe and added mushrooms for some extra umph.

Monday, March 3, 2014


I admit it. I was a wimp as a child. Still am. Hate scary, gory movies. Won't read Dracula because--creatures sucking human blood! Will never read a Stephen King novel. Can't even watch all those crime shows on television because they all seem to be trying to out-do each other in terms of sickening, twisted ways to kill people.

But I've always been fascinated by the ancient catacombs in Rome. I know, completely irrational, right? We learned about them in religion classes in Catholic school. There were these mysterious underground cemeteries where masses were held in the midst of these open shelves of decaying bodies. Gross, but cool. I never really got past the first half of that sentence.

I've read a cosy mystery where part of the action takes place in an ancient catacomb. I was disappointed when a coworker admitted the during her three-week Rome vacation, she had not visited a single catacomb. Not one.

PBS' NOVA program broadcast a fascinating new documentary on a mass grave found amidst the catacombs that dates from the 1st to 3rd centuries A.D. a few weeks ago. The archaeologists are using some cutting edge technology, including DNA analysis and GPS mapping, to uncover who was buried in these tombs, and why. Contrast the use of these methods with the old-fashioned technique of lying for hours on your stomach, slowly cleaning the dirt off a skeleton. (Do they really still use dental picks over there? Bamboo and wood picks only here.) Roman Catacomb Mystery is still available on the PBS website for viewing, and I recommend you do so if your local station is not re-broadcasting this episode. Fantastic, engrossing, amazing.  They may not have been able to identify a specific individual, which is nearly impossible to do with archaeological data, but they come darn close.

Coliseum? Who cares? I want to know--what's beneath the street?