Monday, February 4, 2013


In the morning, after I eat my cereal, I go to my office/craft room.  I pay bills, plan menus and shopping lists, and answer work email.  I check to see if anyone needs a shipping quote and see what needs to be packed.  But sometimes, I confess, it's hard to keep my mind on my work.  Just outside my window, you see, are the birds.

Unless they had very distinct coloring, most birds had fallen into the category of "small, flitting, and greyish".  But Todd bought me a birding guide for Christmas, and I've been keeping it close.

Look!  Just outside my window is a bluebird.

He is half of a pair, and I suspect - but cannot prove - that they are nesting in the birdhouse he's sitting on.  Its entrance is suspiciously clawed.

Sometimes, too, I see cardinals there - a comforting reminder of home.

The side bird feeder belongs to the tufted titmouse.

He sometimes shares with the chickadees, though, and the dashing dark-eyed juncos. 

Racing up and down the tree trunks are my newest discovery, the white-breasted nuthatch.

Once I have learned him - his flashes of white under wing and tell, his odd, straight bill - perfect for digging out insects - I see him everywhere.

Most of my photos are of poor quality, but I don't mind.  I need to be able to see colors, patterns. 

Dotted wings?  A mainly tan body?  A blue band encircling the eyes?  That's a mourning dove. 

My bird book makes it easy to compare images.

Despite the cold, and despite my work, the birds draw me outside.  I notice the changes, like this greenery coming up in huge patches along the side driveway.

I thought they were daffodils, but once the flowers came up, I knew them to be Leucajum Vernum, or the snowflake flower - one of the very first flowers of spring.  The distinctive green dots on the petals give it away.

I have a deep plastic basket that I bring outside on trips like this.  I put snippets of ferns, flowers, and anything else that draws my attention.

Leucajum Vernum make fabulous, long-lasting bouquets, and so I pick several long stems, and into the basket they go.

Since they are so numerous, I pick many Helleborus flowers.

I pass by the vines at the side of the house and wonder, for the hundredth time, what they might be.  The buds are too yellow to be jasmine or honeysuckle.  Could it be trumpet vine?  I have to wait and see.

I pause by the front of the house and marvel at all the February!

I collect anything that interests me.  A leaf that glows like fire when the light hits it...

...and other leaves that, lacking this bright color, are lovely in their own right.

I gather many, many ferns for pressing later.  I glance at the empty house next door, with its row of pink-laden bushes.

I suspect they would make great bouquets, and I am right.  I would never dream of picking their flowers, but we have a few of these bushes in our yard, too.  Into the basket they go.

Satisfied, I lay out my flowers and make my bouquets.

 I have many, many small vases for the little things I find.

Now comes another bit of fun - where to put them?  I like to surprise Todd by putting a vase by his sink in the bathroom or by his light on the nightstand.  But I like to surprise myself, too, and carefully arrange vases by my computer - flowers that I know will open and be beautiful for a long time.

All in all, it's a very satisfactory distraction from my work.

I haven't put a baking item up for a while, and while I won't put a complete one up today, here's an idea for you.  On THIS blog post, I have a recipe for braided lemon bread.  But you don't need to just do a lemon filling.  This week, I sauteed some apples in sugar, vanilla, and butter, and spread them out into the bread from that recipe.

Then you just fold up the sides in a simulated braid...

...and bake until golden.

The bread can be filled with anything - jam, fruit, etc. - or consider leaving out the sugar in the bread dough recipe and fill it with savory.  Caramelized onions and mushrooms and spinach?  Pasta sauce and cheese and sausage?  You can do anything you want, and it will taste delicious and look impressive.

Give it a try!

Have a great week!

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