Monday, December 11, 2017

The Other Owl

Here is the second owl I've seen this season, this one spotted on a lamp post as I searched with my friend Mommy Goose.  Beautiful, even on an overcast day.

Holiday Party

It's always a great night.  This year, the food was even better.

Vegetarian meatball with polenta and pesto
Meatball with marinara had noodles and zucchini noodles
Hanger steak on stick
Fried Mac on stick with cheese sauce
Chicken taco with queso fresco
Shrimp taco
Spam fried rice
Poke bowl
Bacon bao
Cincinnati hot dog
Banh mi hot dog
Tijuana hot dog
Ham and grilled cheese with aioli
Grilled cheese with guac
Chicken parmesan ball
Cheeseburger ball
Chicken nuggets
Kettle chips
Ranch popcorn
Cheddar popcorn
Apple crisp popcorn
Sweet butter popcorn
Glitter doughnuts
Chocolate unicorn pudding
White chocolate unicorn pudding
Cake pop
Cookie pop
Eclair with candy strip
Caramel eclair with popcorn
Unicorn toast (like glitter frosting on toast)
Jungle juice

Advent Update

We're definitely making headway.
  1. Make wreath with boxwood branches.
  2. Put up Christmas tree--Done.  And it looks lovely.
  3. Church cookie cafe--Done.  Our favorites are hazelnut shortbread, cherry cookies, jam thumbprints.
  4. Put up lawn decorations--Done.  There is a new Snowy Owl figure for this year.  And they look great in the snow.
  5. Send Christmas cards.
  6. Holiday horse picture photo shoot for Sis--Done.  Oh, how cute the pictures are!
  7. See new Star Wars.
  8. Attend holiday strings concert at school--Done.  Saw the first concert at the other school on Thursday (they needed extra cello and violin players); will see the concert at their school tonight.
  9. Participate in Girl Scout holiday service field trip--Yep, made cards with and sang to the seniors.
  10. Go to office holiday party--Done.  The food, oh, the food.  
  11. Celebrate my birthday.
  12. Read A Christmas Carol.
  13. Watch Little Women.
  14. Attend Bud's Piano recital--Done.  He played "Midwinter Memories," very nice.
  15. OSV Candlelight tour.
  16. Deliver gifts to vet, etc.
  17. Keep looking for Snowy Owls--DONE!  We've seen two.  Best. Year. Ever.
  18. Go to church vespers service.
  19. Have holiday game night.
  20. Celebrate Solstice
  21. Put up Christmas Lego Village on table--Done.  There are a lot of horses and penguins in it this year.
  22. Make gingerbread houses
  23. Bake Christmas cookies
  24. Choose a family charity for Advent of Gratitude

Saturday, December 9, 2017


My hospice patient died this morning, after several weeks of decline.  I'd been visiting her once a week for about 20 months, talking about her family, her career, her travels.  She loved to eat and I was usually there for lunch; lobster, black olives, pistachio ice cream were her favorites.  And we listened to Harry Belafonte songs every time, singing and swaying along.  I will always remember her when I hear his music, which I'm listening to now in memoriam.  I will miss her, but I am glad she is free from suffering.  My thoughts and prayers are with her wonderful family.

Monday, December 4, 2017


Leaving church yesterday, I asked Sis to check my email to see if there were any updates from my bird listserv.  "There are owls at the beach," she said.

"Owls plural?" I asked incredulously.

Yes.  Two owls.

We were 30 minutes away from the beach and I worried we wouldn't get there in time.

But we did.  Oh, yes, we did.

Well, one of the owls had already departed, but the other was comfortable on a jetty, ignoring the pack of photographers about 30 yards away.

Most of the photos here were taken with a zoom; the first photo is with my cell phone and gives a better indication of how far away we actually were.  It is very important not to get too close to a Snowy--do not try to flush the bird for a flight shot or take a close-up without a zoom lens.  This can stress the bird--which is indicated by the owl staring at you, moving its feet, standing up--and lead to the owl's death.  We've already lost a few owls here in CT, perhaps in part due to human stressors.  It's best to stay a few dozen yards (20-30 yards) at least.  If you see an owl thin or in distress, contact one of these organizations.

But seeing these birds in person is truly magical.  The real Hedwig!  They are not nocturnal so you can go owling during the day.  They like to be near water and marshland, where the voles, mice, etc. that they eat are.  So look around rocks or logs near beaches or tidal areas.  Better yet, look for a clump of photographers!  It's best to have some binoculars and you'll need a zoom lens, if a great photo is your goal.  I just like to see them; the photos below were by Mama and Bud, who both liked trying to capture the experience with a good camera.  

You should have plenty of chances this year to see a Snowy.  Audubon indicates it's an irruption year, which means more owls than usual will make their way down from the Arctic in search of food.  Many of them will be juveniles making the trip for the first time and inexperienced with humans, hence the high mortality rate.   Here in Connecticut, we'll probably be seeing them through March or so, depending on the weather.  

Last note:  black flecks indicate a juvenile or female; the all-white owls are usually adult males.

Happy owling!  This is just the beginning.

Friday, December 1, 2017

The New Advent Activities

With twin tweens in the house, I have a feeling our Advent Activities will be a little different this year.  Already, Sis has said she doesn't want to host the cookie-decorating party that we've had for years.  It was always a chaotic, messy, fun evening.  Bittersweet to say goodbye to it.  And I imagine that's the way some of our activities will go.  In fact, this is more "my" list than "ours" now.

There is one thing I want to try as a family--an Advent of Gratitude exercise that I saw on FB.  I think it's a thought-provoking activity in this time of abundance.  When we're done, we'll have to think of a charity to which to donate it.

Our New Advent Activities List
  1. Make wreath with boxwood branches.
  2. Put up Christmas tree.
  3. Church cookie cafe.
  4. Put up lawn decorations.
  5. Send Christmas cards.
  6. Holiday horse picture photo shoot for Sis.
  7. See new Star Wars.
  8. Attend holiday strings concert at school.
  9. Participate in Girl Scout holiday service field trip.
  10. Go to office holiday party.
  11. Celebrate my birthday.
  12. Read A Christmas Carol.
  13. Watch Little Women.
  14. Attend Bud's Pianp recital.
  15. OSV Candlelight tour.
  16. Deliver gifts to vet, etc.
  17. Keep looking for Snowy Owls.
  18. Go to church vespers service.
  19. Have holiday game night.
  20. Celebrate Solstice
  21. Put up Christmas Lego Village on table.
  22. Make gingerbread houses
  23. Bake Christmas cookies
  24. Choose a family charity for Advent of Gratitude

(For comparison:  20092010201120122013, 2014, 2015, 2016.) 

Thursday, November 30, 2017


I've been accepted to the Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) program for the spring!!!!  Yay!  I'm very excited, though I'm also a bit apprehensive about juggling 400 hours in five months, plus parenting.  But the kids are older and I have their support and Mama's.  I really can't wait.  I've even started my "things to do before CPE" list.  Yay!!!

Belated Thanksgiving

What a wonderfully odd Thanksgiving we had!  I didn't cook the meal, for the first time in something like 20 years.  My BIL Goo cooked.  On Saturday.

And it was marvelous.

He mainly cooked my recipes, but he did a few of his owns.  Lots of appetizers, most of them cheese.  He had a cheese platter, a bake brie, a traditional caprese platter, crackers with salmon and cheese and dill, dates stuffed with goat cheese and pecans.  Plus the Chex Mix I brought.  It's a good thing the turkey took extra long so that we could eat a lot of them all!

For the main dinner, we had turkey, dressing, green bean casserole, yams, and cranberry sauce, plus roasted beets with goat cheese and also this amazing roasted squash and kale salad with spiced nuts, cranberries, and maple viniagrette.  I loved the spiced nuts all on their own, but they were especially good on the salad.  Sis ate the squash all alone.  The green bean casserole was made with French cut beans, which cooked more easily.  

And it really was delightful not to cook, not to host.  I helped, of course, as did we all.  Sis really enjoyed being in the kitchen with Goo.  She made the gravy all by herself and helped with the yams and pumpkin pasties.  Bud helped with the beets.  Goo is really good about teaching and guiding the kids, and worked with them on knife skills ("open stance," how to hold the knife, proper ettiquette.)  And we all chatted all the while.  Goo's kitchen is open to the living room, so that he wasn't cut off from the socializing like we can be at my house.  And, unlike when I cook, he didn't quite clean as he went!  But then he is a bachelor.  And an amazing cook.

I wish it wasn't quite so late when we were done--it was after 9 pm when we finished eating dinner--so that we skipped dessert together and didn't have much time to chat together.  I think we were all tired.  But I'd do it again in a heartbeat.  Maybe he can do Thanksgiving and I can do Christmas.  It would be nice to share.  As Sis noted, I wasn't as grumpy or stressful about cooking.  And that makes the holiday better for all of us.

(Except maybe Goo, who more than once acknowledged that it was a lot of work and he didn't know how I'd done it all those years.  With a lot of help, I'd say, and not as much good grace.)

Roasted Squash and Kale Salad with Spiced Nuts, Cranberries, and Maple Viniagrette from Serious Eats

  • 2 1/2 pounds (1 kilogram, about 1 large or 2 medium) butternut squash, peeled, seeded, quartered, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large bunch (about 8 ounces; 250 grams) lacinato or curly kale
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups (about 8 ounces; 250 grams) pecans
  • 1 small shallot, finely minced (about 2 tablespoons; 20 grams)
  • 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon (10 grams) whole grain mustard
  • 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) sherry vinegar
  • 1 cup (about 6 ounces; 200 grams) dried cranberries or cherries

  1. 1.
    Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 400°F. Toss squash pieces with 2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake until squash is tender throughout and well browned around the edges, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before attempting to remove from foil. Carefully remove squash from foil using a thin metal spatula and transfer to a large bowl. Set aside.
  2. 2.
    Meanwhile, pick leaves off of kale stems into a large bowl and roughly tear with hands; discard stems. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and massage until well-coated in oil. Transfer to a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet and bake until wilted and crisp in some spots, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer to bowl with squash.
  3. 3.
    Combine cinnamon, paprika, nutmeg, cloves, cayenne pepper, and brown sugar in a large bowl. Add nuts and 1 tablespoon olive oil (15 ml), season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and bake until toasted, about 5 minutes. Remove from oven, allow to cool slightly, then add to bowl with squash and kale.
  4. 4.
    In a medium bowl, whisk together shallot, maple syrup, mustard, and vinegar. Whisking constantly, drizzle in remaining 1/4 cup (60 ml) olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. 5.
    Add cranberries to bowl with squash, kale, and nuts. Toss with half of dressing, taste, and add more dressing as desired. The dressed salad can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Let it come to room temperature or briefly microwave until warm before serving.