Friday, December 31, 2010

SkyWatch Friday, Song Sparrow, and New Year's Eve

We had snow flurries on Wednesday that quickly faded, but yesterday morning we awoke to freezing temperature and about an inch of snow in elevations 500 feet and above.

For beautiful skies from around the world,

At our feeders, we currently have the Black-capped Chickadee, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Dark-eyed Juncos, and Spotted Towhee; additionally a resident Song Sparrow comes and eats and eats and then just hangs out... totally undeterred by any of the other birds who arrive to eat.

As the Juncos chase one another away, interesting is to watch the sparrow who does not budge, and when he decides to move over to the suet feeder, not one bird will disturb him or nibble at the same table.

This is the best I could do with the elusive Red-shouldered Hawk in our area. I have tried repeatedly to get a photo, but he stays hundreds of feet away and perched high atop the tallest trees. As soon as he sees me... off he goes. Little does he know how patient I am. (wink)

Thanks to all of you for a wonderful 2010. It would not have been the same without you. Happy New Year's Eve, stay safe, and I guess we will see you next year.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

This is the photo we used this year for our Christmas card.
(A similar one was posted here.)

"Coming Home"

When we think of the many blessings in our life, our thoughts are of you.
We pray the holiday season and the coming New Year be joyful and blessed.
Merry Christmas

with love, Diana and Pete


And to each of you around the world, we wish the same.
You have touched our lives, and for that we are most grateful.

To the SkyWatch team and SkyWatch Friday,
thank you for a memorable year of beautiful skies from around the world.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Total Lunar Eclipse Winter Solstice PNW

We were offered reprieve from the rain yesterday afternoon here in the Pacific Northwest, but as we ventured toward evening the clouds once again began to bank along the coastal range. Would that cover allow at least an occasional view of this phenomenal occurrence? I had to stay awake and find out.

9:32 pm PST

9:34 pm PST

10:49 pm PST

10:53 pm PST

11:33 pm PST
(enlarge and you can see the coppery red)

11:35 pm PST

I went out again at 11:45, but the final total eclipse was not to be seen as the moon had been veiled behind the clouds. I am hopeful that some of you had a better advantage and may have photos to share.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Winter Solstice Total Lunar Eclipse

Pictured above is the eclipse on 3 March 2007 as seen in Brighton.
Photograph: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Not since 1638, 372 years ago, has the Winter Solstice and the total lunar eclipse occurred simultaneously. A Solstice Lunar Eclipse is expected on December 20 to 21, 2010 as the sun, earth and moon are almost exactly aligned.

It is to begin on Tuesday morning, Dec. 21st, at 1:33 am EST (Monday, Dec. 20th, at 10:33 pm PST). At that time, Earth's shadow will appear as a dark-red bite at the edge of the lunar disk. It takes about an hour for the "bite" to expand and swallow the entire Moon. Totality commences at 02:41 am EST (11:41 pm PST) and lasts for 72 minutes.

From first to last bite, the eclipse favors observers in North America.
The entire event can be seen from all points on the continent.

Credit: F. Espenak, NASA/GSFC.

Ursids meteor shower is supposed to follow, the peak being December 22 to 23.

Currently our Pacific northwest skies hold a bit of promise as the rain subsided several hours ago, but I see clouds once again forming. Hopefully, some of you may get to see it. And just think: following this, the days begin to lengthen.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

SkyWatch and Family Affairs

In order to get to this evenings beautiful sunset, we first had to venture through quite a variety the past ten days: gray and overcast to heavy rainfall and mid-40 temperatures; a delightful surprise with several days of 62 degrees, sunshine, and an opportunity to work in the garden; wind, rain, and cooler temperatures once again, and plans to travel to see family; 2 inches of precipitation over a three-day period, hydroplaning while traveling north as geese fought the elements flying south...

... our granddaughter's basketball game (Megan scored four for the team!);

dinner with family, and birthday celebrations. (honey I won't tell them how old you are... wink)

Dinners with friends; and this morning we awoke to a freezing 30 degrees F.

But tonight as we come in from the garden, we are granted this.

For beautiful skies from around the world
Thank you Klaus, Sandy, Wren, and Sylvia for hosting this

PS: I can only imagine that you are busy as we this month of December,
and hope you are all doing well

Friday, December 3, 2010

SkyWatch, Friday Morn

For beautiful skies from around the world
Thank you Klaus, Sandy, Wren, and Sylvia for hosting this

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Turkey Soup

What's not to enjoy about turkey... leftovers the following day in the form of a cold turkey sandwich and of course turkey soup?

Our turkey this year was again roasted as in previous years, except for the decision to brine the bird for the first time. The brine consisted of water, salt, brown sugar/honey, cider vinegar, and fresh herbs (sage, thyme and rosemary) from the garden. An aromatic was used for the belly of the beast: apples, onions, cinnamon stick... and throughout the hours of roasting our home was filled with a sense of divine.

The result was as intended, juicy and tender, but unless you like your turkey to taste like herbs rather than a turkey, think again about adding them to a brine for 24 hours. Only several tablespoons were used, but it was overpowering, at least according to our simple palates. I believe herbs and spices should complement not eclipse. But be advised, the aromatic will definitely be used again for poultry.

Following our meal and while the turkey is still somewhat warm, what better time to make some preparation?

Turkey Vegetable Soup from Diana's kitchen

Turkey carcass, parts and pieces
2 fresh bay leaves
fresh pepper

1 TB olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2-3 garlic cloves, diced
3 celery stalks, chopped
3 carrots, sliced or chopped
kosher salt, to taste
freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

4 lbs turkey, pulled/cut into bite sized pieces
1 to 2 (32oz) free range chicken (or vegetable) stock

1 cup barley (or rice)
kale (sauteed kale left over from our meal)

Remove any of the meat that will be used for another meal and/or sandwiches, and refrigerate. Place the carcass and any remaining legs, thighs or wings in a large stock pot and cover with cold water. Bring it to a boil, add bay leaves and fresh pepper, and simmer for 1 to 2 hours or until turkey begins to separate from the bone.

Remove the meat to a platter to cool. Strain the broth through a sieve into another large pot, then return the liquid soup base to the stock pot. Pull the turkey from the bones and cut or tear into bite size pieces and set aside. Discard the skin and bones.

In a heavy saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onions, garlic, celery and carrots, a touch of salt, ground pepper, cayenne, and saute about 5 to 6 minutes. Add the parsley and cook for another minute or two.

Add the sauteed vegetable mixture to the soup stock, all the turkey pieces, and any additional chicken stock for the consistency you prefer in a soup (stew). Bring it to a boil, add the barley and simmer for about 40 minutes, or until barley is nearly done (al dente). Add the remaining sauteed kale left over from dinner and any additional salt and pepper to taste.

Once cooled to room temperature, place some of the soup into plastic containers (we use re-purposed cottage cheese containers or an equivalent), label and freeze. Think about how nice it will be on a cold wintry afternoon.

Note: Remember the aromatic used inside the breast of the roasted turkey? There was the slightest hint of sweetness and an added dimension that carried into the soup. I may have a bowl for breakfast. (wink)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Waning Harvest and Blue Moon

Sunday morning: 35 degrees F and with a forecast of below freezing during the coming week, we headed to the garden to disconnect hoses and finish draining water lines. In the distance the Ginkgo biloba stands tough.

One remaining tomato plant was pulled. Does it not know that which is coming?

Shall we cut back the beautiful blossoming Piracicaba broccoli?

Produce picked: salad greens 0.5 lbs; broccoli 0.8 lbs; kale 4.8 lbs

And look what deposited its eggs upon the underside of some of the kale. I carefully scrutinized each leaf, and it appeared that those infected were at the outer edge of the raised bed. Once inside the kitchen, and just in case I overlooked some, all the leaves were soaked in a cold salt water solution to insure that everything was okay and rinsed several times.

We finished our work shortly after noon, and the rain began.

Monday continued with rain, clouds, and fog and did not allow us to see the Blue Moon in all her glory, but...

this waking morning, a cold 28 degrees, fairly clear sky and an inch of snow, brought a smile to my face. Waning yes, but the pleasure is still there.

and just a few hours ago...

Pete and I wish you and your family a happy and healthy and thankful Thanksgiving. May God be with each of you.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

SkyWatch Friday, Thursday

For some it may depress
no, beauty, so well expressed

(enlarge and experience the rain against the window)

For beautiful skies from around the world
Thank you Klaus, Sandy, Wren, Fishing guy, and Sylvia for hosting this.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Canned Green Tomato Salsa

Ever wonder what to do with all those green tomatoes left on the vine at the end of the summer?

Fifty-six (56) pints of Tomato Salsa, 28 pints using green tomatoes and 28 with a mix of green and red, and nine 8oz jars of Green Tomato Chutney, and I am done canning for the season. Yeah!

Canned Green Tomato Salsa from Diana's kitchen

3 TB Extra Virgin olive oil
11 lbs green tomatoes, chopped
3 extra large sweet onions, chopped
3 sweet red peppers, chopped
3 sweet green peppers, chopped
4 jalapeño peppers, seeds removed, finely chopped (+/- according to personal taste)
8 large garlic cloves, minced
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
2 TB sea salt
1/2 TB black pepper
1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
1 tsp Cumin
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 TB raw honey

Add olive oil to an extra large kettle and heat on medium. Add tomatoes, onions, peppers and stir. Add and combine the remainder of the ingredients. Mix well, heat slowly to simmer, and cook uncovered for 25-30 minutes or until it reaches the consistency you prefer. Stir frequently and be careful of the temperature so as not to burn the mixture.

Ladle the hot simmering salsa into hot sterilized pint jars (or quarts), and fill to within 1/2 inch from top. Wipe jar rims with a clean cloth. Place sterilized flat lid on the jar and adjust the ring. Place in a boiling water bath; water should cover the lids by about an inch. Bring the water back to boiling and process for 15-20 minutes.

When complete, carefully remove each jar from canner with a jar lifter and place onto a thick towel or mat and in a draft free area. Gently lay a hand towel over the top of the jars, and allow them to cool to room temperature. Do not touch the lids, but allow them to seal over a period of hours (overnight). In the morning check seals, label, date and store in a cool, dry, dark place. Makes 14 pints. PS: if any didn't seal, put it in the refrigerator, buy some chips and enjoy!

Important Note: If you are just starting out, first read about the basics of home canning. Here is a place to begin, a simple overview, and from the Culinary Arts College, a list of 50 websites for learning self-canning.

One of the first things I learned to can as a youngster was tomatoes, a good place to start because of the high acidity. Tools were few, and an inexpensive water bath canner was used.

By the way, we love the salsa, as did our friends who came for dinner last week. They said it was the best they had ever eaten. (wink) I'm not sure that it is the best, but that comment got them a couple jars to take home. If you like it with a bit more heat, simply add a little cayenne and that will kick it up a notch.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Week Of SkyWatch

A Week of SkyWatch

For beautiful skies from around the world
be sure to visit SkyWatch