Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Barred Owl visits for Sunday brunch and has the early bird special.

On Sunday we had drama at the bird feeder. It had already been "found" by a beautiful, rose-breasted grosbeak and, we later discovered, his less-colourful mate. We then added a suet-holder, filled with peanut butter-flavoured suet, which I had read on a bird photographer's blog page was attractive to a number of birds, including Baltimore Orioles. By Sunday, then, we were host to a pair of Baltimore orioles and what could have been a pair or a family of catbirds all feeding avidly on the suet holder. I was taking a few pictures through the side window which looks onto the feeder pole and was more than a little shocked to see a huge barred owl less than 20 feet from the house and only about 12 feet from the feeders. He or she was magnificent and just sat, very still, watching the small birds feed and presumably deciding which one was going to become an early lunch.
I did not manage to photograph the owl seizing his or her prey but I think that the victim was one of the catbirds - probably a young one - caught unawares and carried off onto another branch to be quickly devoured. All the while that this was going on the other birds carried on as though nothing had happened and I took these shots of Mrs and Mr Grosbeak, Mr Oriole and a surviving catbird.
The owl flew onto another branch, a little further away from the feeder and sat there for about a quarter of an hour before flying up into the trees, perhaps to make another kill or maybe just to head for home.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Odd Car Ads

Two recent ads, both for cars, have struck me as being odd. The first begins with a group of bank robbers with pink ski masks discovering that their getaway car has been stolen or towed. One of them says that they should have left someone to mind the car...they run away from the bank...another says that they aren't going to take a cab...they then steal a red Prius, well not exactly steal because they leave a bag containing some of the stolen money with a thankyou note attached....last we see them driving out of town with police in pursuit but also with crowds of people apparently cheering them on.

What is the message here? It's OK to rob banks? Priuses are great getaway cars? Priuses are easy to steal? Fashionable bank robbers wear pink ski masks? If you want to be seen as a Robin Hood-type character then steal a Prius for your getaway car?

The second ad is really sentimental, right down to country music in the background. It depicts a sympathetic-looking bearded character with a 14 year-old dog (we know the dog is 14 because his owner has bought him a birthday cake with 14 on it) going through a bucket-list for the dog which includes some kind of game involving lots of tennis balls, hanging out together, tracking down the dog's old girlfriend and going to the beach, to name but a few. All very soft and squishy and set to country song about best friends and being there till the end.

So, what are the takeaways and what on earth does it have to do with Subarus? Has the dog just been diagnosed as being terminally ill? Does he have an appointment to go to the vet's to be put down? Why else the rush to complete the bucket list? Why the Subaru? Are we saying that the owner has to have a reliable car to complete the bucket list? Is it implied that Subarus last longer than dogs? Every time I see a Subaru now I am wondering if the owner is embarked on a bucket-list treasure hunt or perhaps taking time off from working on the bucket list. I pity the poor dog whose owner comes home with a brand new Subaru - "Oh no, not the bucket-list!"

This is all very different from another current Subaru ad which shows a (female?) lab driving around at night with her puppy in a child-seat in the back, presumably being rocked to sleep by the movement of the car. It kind of makes you wonder that if Subarus can be driven by dogs perhaps the old guy (dog) should be doing his own bucket list or at least some of it but that wouldn't quite have the same emotional "pull" as the whole master/dog thing.

And for something completely different? Here's are pictures of a cute tufted titmouse and a pine warbler - both on a bird feeder here in Tillson, New York.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Some recent culinary adventures....

These are not in any particular order....just posting a few dishes, recipe links and photos. The first is a recent dinner party dish Thai pork tenderloin salad which worked out very well. Because the marinade was so rich and flavourful I cooked it and served it on the side to add to the meat or salad.
As an additional vegetable I served cauliflower, roasted with anchovies, capers and drizzled with olive oil, a delicious side-dish. Surprisingly (for me) none of my three dinner party guests had ever eaten clotted cream and so, to rectify this, I had decided to try my hand at making scones (a first for me) and serve them with a small jar of Devon clotted cream and a mixed berry jam, both purchased from Adams at Kingston. My scones were a little crumbly but everyone liked them. Following this baking success a couple of days later I decided to try savoury scones, reducing sugar, substituting yoghurt for fresh cream, adding cheese and swapping chopped sun-dried tomatoes for raisins. As a further experiment I made two of them with capers as well as the sun-dried tomatoes. The mix was a little 'sticky' and hard to work with and the scones themselves came out quite crumbly but they tasted good. The first picture is of the ones with just sun-dried tomatoes, the two in the other picture have capers also: From late 2015 here are two of my creations: the first, a quiche with bacon, cheese, red onions and yoghurt - Last, not least, is a 'light' Italian cheesecake made with Ricotta cheese which was on (very) special at Shoprite for just $2.99 for a 32 oz tub. It is topped with fresh raspberries and pomegranate seeds:

Friday, January 15, 2016

Making Kombucha in Tillson

I'm a lifelong lover of fizzy drinks - from Vimto, a blackcurrant/berry soda, in my British childhood days to Asti Spumante and then Bollinger champagne and whiskey and dry ginger in my drinking days and most recently seltzers and diet sodas. I was therefore intrigued by a new (to me) drink which I discovered in Mother Earth in Kingston which is one of our favourite shops for the staples of Sue's anti-cancer organic diet. They have a small display with four or five spigots, rather like mini beer taps, and tiny white paper cups so that one can try "classic", "ginger", "blueberry" "pumpkin spice" and other flavours and self-serve larger quantities. Sue explained to me that this drink was Kombucha which she described as a Korean concoction made with live cultures which it is claimed has all kinds of health-giving properties.

I couldn't resist trying it and loved the effervescence and light, sophisticated, dry taste. A sampling of Kombucha became a regular highlight of our visits to Mother Earth though it seemed like an extravagance to buy at around $4 for a 16 oz bottle, barely a couple of mouthfuls to an avid fizzy-drinker like me. However my curiousity was not going to be placated that easily and I began doing online research about Kombucha and its properties and how it is made and it became clear that it is not that difficult to make at home. So it was that a week ago I found myself in Bed Bath and Beyond buying a 1 1/2 gallon glass jar with a spigot and then going on to Mother Earth to buy a 16 oz jar of "Classic", unflavoured, Kombucha with which to start making my first SCOBY which means “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts”.

This is what it looked like after a few days: