Return of the Robin, or not?

Tags

, ,

Will Spring EVER get here?! And exactly how do we know it’s actually arrived?

For most of us, stepping out the door waiting for that warmer blast of air to grace our face, or listening to weather reports promising warmer weather don’t often work for us. It’s not always reliable. Most of us here in the southern Ontario region, however, say that the return of spring is only when we notice that the Robins have returned.

But actually, the Robins never really left. They just change their behavior in the winter so we don’t notice them as much.image robin

Robins eat worms, but they also eat lots of other things, too like insects, grubs, and even snails. We tend to notice them around our gardens because they hunt for these things on the ground. But they also eat fruit, which they search for in trees and shrubs, which is not where we’re used to seeing them.

When winter comes, the worms and insects aren’t as available to them, so during the cold months their diet consists mostly of fruit.

You may not see them in your garden, so you think they’ve gone away, but they are year round residents in our area. During the winter months Robins gather together into huge flocks, sometimes numbering hundreds or even thousands of birds.

And they fly around in these flocks in search of fruit. When they find it, the whole flock will descend and strip every berry from the trees and shrubs that they find, often in a single afternoon.

Plan now to add fruiting and berrying native shrubs and trees to your garden so you can welcome the Robin to your winter home next year.

Good choices include: American Holly (Ilex opaca), Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana), Cranberry Viburnum (Viburnum trilobum), and Winterberry (Ilex verticillata).

Source courtesy of Birds and Blooms

Advertisements

The Best Stove Top Popcorn

Tags

, ,

I love popcorn. Just ask my family, who has the same affliction as I do. Nothing, I mean nothing, can satisfy a craving better than hot popped corn in a big bowl and then gulping it down, handfuls at a time.

It started innocently enough. When we were young my parents would pile us kids into the back seat of the car along with big bags of popped popcorn, and away we’d go to the drive in movie theatre. We were happy there, three kids in the back seat watching movie after movie, eating our popcorn and gulping our pop (a treat for those nights). It couldn’t get any better than that. When we got older, there was Saturday Hockey Night in Canada and while watching the game, there we’d all be with big bowls of hot buttery popcorn and cheering on our team – it was family night, it was hockey and popcorn.

popcornready

So I’m sharing what I think to be the best way to make popcorn. Popping kernels on the stove top might not be new, but it might be new to those who grew up with the microwave popcorn. Sure, I made the microwave popcorn for more years than I care to admit to. But I finally remembered how my parents made it, and rediscovered the stove top method.

This is amazingly the best. The wonderful smell, the sound of the kernels in the pan, the spattering of oil … hmm.  For the purist moments, I leave it plain. Other times I might lather it with seasoning, add some sugar in the pot for a kettle version or drizzle it with delicious honey butter. I’ve discovered recipes that are so good, that when you drizzle white melted chocolate and add some sprinkles, it takes on a whole new world of flavour and taste. Who knew chocolate and popcorn could work together! Since rediscovering this way of making popcorn, I’ve vowed to never go back to the microwave stuff again.

This version is easy, takes only 3 ingredients, I can make as much as I like, costs me pennies and if that’s not enough to entice you, the smell alone will drive you crazy!

Stove Top Popcorn
(courtesy of PastryAffair.com)

Yields about 2-3 servings

3 tablespoons coconut oil */**
1/3 cup popcorn kernels
1/2 teaspoon popcorn salt, more or less to taste

In a large 8-quart pot, melt the coconut oil over medium-high heat. Add 3-4 popcorn kernels, cover, and continue heating until they have popped. This is how you know the oil is hot enough to begin the popping process. Add the rest of the popcorn kernels, cover, and remove from heat. Swirl the pot around to evenly distribute the oil around the kernels. During this wait period, all of the popcorn kernels reach the same temperature, which allows them to pop at more or less the same time.

In approximately 30 seconds, return the pot to the heat. Cover to avoid spattering oil, but keep the lid slightly askew to allow the steam to escape; this will result in crisper popcorn. Soon after, the kernels should begin popping. Every so often, completely cover the pot and shake it lightly to prevent the kernels from burning. In 2-3 minutes, the popcorn should be completely popped.

Immediately transfer to a serving bowl. Sprinkle on the salt, toss, and serve hot.

*Any oil with a high smoking point will do, such as peanut, grapeseed, or vegetable oil. Use whatever you have in the cupboard.

And the dog says …

Tags

,

Dog Paw PrintYou’d think by now I would have come up with a list of dog quotes, given the fact that over my lifetime I’ve had eight dogs as pets. Two were part of my family when I was growing up and the other six signed up for fun after I was married. They’ve included a mutt, german sheppard, yellow lab, westie and a cairn terrier. I love cats too. Our family had cats when I was growing up, and when Klem and I were first married we brought two home. They were wonderful pets, but when they passed away (around 15 years old), we decided to bring a dog into the mix. My sister-in-law surprised Klem with a Yellow Labrador puppy, and it was love at first sight. Years have gone by, dogs have come and sadly gone, but we’ll never be without a dog in our family.

So I scoured around and it was hard to choose but I think that these quotes are right on money about the love and frustrations of owning a dog (or do they own you?). They’re here to make you smile, even if you are a cat lover!

dogs

“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.” — Groucho Marx, The Essential Groucho: Writings For By And About Groucho Marx

“Happiness is a warm puppy.” ― Charles M. Schulz

If you are a dog and your owner suggests that you wear a sweater. . . suggest that he wear a tail.” – Fran Lebowitz

“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.” – Will Rogers (actor)

“If you think dogs can’t count, try putting three dog biscuits in your pocket and then give him only two of them.” – Phil Pastoret (author)

“In times of joy, all of us wished we possessed a tail we could wag.” – W.H. Auden

“Yesterday I was a dog. Today I’m a dog. Tomorrow I’ll probably still be a dog. Sigh! There’s so little hope for advancement” -Snoopy

“The greatest fear dogs know is the fear that you will not come back when you go out the door without them.”  – Stanley Coren

“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.” – Josh Billings (a.k.a. Henry Wheeler Shaw; humorist and lecturer)

“No one appreciates the very special genius of your conversation as the dog does.”
—Christopher Morley (author, Kitty Foyle)

“The reason a dog has so many friends is that he wags his tail instead of his tongue” -Anonymous

“A dog is one of the remaining reasons why some people can be persuaded to go for a walk.” -O. A.

“There is only one smartest dog in the world, and every boy has it.” -Anonymous

“You can always trust a dog that likes peanut butter.” – Kate DiCamillo, Because of Winn-Dixie

“I sometimes look into the face of my dog Stan and see a wistful sadness and existential angst, when all he is actually doing is slowly scanning the ceiling for flies.”
― Merrill Markoe

“A dog teaches a boy fidelity, perseverance, and to turn around three times before lying down.” -Robert Benchley (humorist and actor)

Who Will You Remember?

Tags

, ,

Remembrance Day is Tuesday, November 11. It began as a visceral response to the terrible death toll of the First World War, but for Canadians, Remembrance Day has evolved into a tribute to all military dead and a celebration of the Canadian Forces in general. It’s a day when we honour the courage, commitment and sacrifice of veterans of World War I and II, wars in Korea, the Gulf and Afghanistan, as well as other conflicts and peacekeeping missions around the world.

This November 11th marks the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI and the 75th anniversary of the beginning of WWII.

poppyThe red poppy, the ubiquitous symbol of remembrance which blossoms on Canadian lapels every November, was forever linked to the First World War and its casualties through John McCrae’s poem, In Flanders Fields.

But its use was first championed by an American woman, Moina Michael who was entranced by McCrae’s poem and led a successful campaign to have the American Legion adopt the poppy as an official symbol of remembrance in 1920. It soon spread to France and by the following year it had also been adopted in Canada, Britain and Australia.

After its formation in 1925, the Canadian Legion, which became the Royal Canadian Legion in 1959, ran the annual poppy campaign.

In Flanders Fields

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae of Guelph, Ontario was inspired to write his famous poem in May of 1915 after presiding over the funeral of a friend and fellow soldier in the Flanders region of Belgium.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

No-Bake Dark Chocolate Bites

Tags

, , ,

I found this recipe on one of my go-to sites, Mel’s Kitchen Cafe, and after the first time I made them, I knew I’d be making them again… and again.  No bake, just a few ingredients, it’s all easy peasy.

granolabites

What’s not to like? These bits are packed with oats, coconut, almonds, cocoa nibs (if that’s your thing) and a creamy mixture of honey, extra-virgin coconut oil, peanut butter, cocoa and a few chocolate chips. I make double batches and freeze one batch for later. They’re just the right size to help through the afternoons at work when I need a ‘bit-o-chocolate’. These are so simple that I’ll bet your kids would like to help mix and scoop these babies onto the pans and then ask for more once they’ve had a taste of them! Other granola bites just don’t do the trick for me anymore, these are what I go to for that bit of chocolate and sweet treat.

granola-bites2

Mel’s also has another recipe for granola bites, here’s that recipe, or visit her website.

No-Bake Dark Chocolate Granola Bites

YIELD: MAKES 2-3 DOZEN GRANOLA BITES

If using whole almonds, be sure they are chopped into fairly small pieces. I’ve made the mistake of leaving the almonds a tad bit too chunky and it makes the granola mixture more difficult to form into balls that stick together. I haven’t used regular old-fashioned oats. If you do so, consider pulsing them in a blender or food processor very lightly so they break down just a bit. If you aren’t familiar with cacao nibs, they are basically raw pieces of chocolate that haven’t been ground and sweetened yet (they are slightly bitter like cocoa powder). They add a yummy depth of flavor and a crunchy texture to these granola bites but you can definitely leave them out if that is your preference.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups quick oats
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut, sweetened or unsweetened
  • 1 cup sliced or chopped almonds
  • 3 tablespoons cacao nibs (optional)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup natural unsweetened or Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the oats and salt.
  2. In a 10 or 12-inch skillet over medium heat, add the coconut, almonds and cacao nibs, if using. Toast the ingredients, stirring often to prevent burning, for 5-6 minutes until the aroma is nutty and the coconut and nuts are turning slightly golden. Toss the mixture with the oats.
  3. In a medium saucepan, combine the honey, coconut oil, peanut butter, vanilla, cocoa powder and chocolate chips. Heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is melted and smooth.
  4. Pour the chocolate mixture over the dry ingredients and stir until well combined.
  5. Using a cookie scoop or two spoons, scoop the mixture into tablespoon-sized mounds onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Let the little mounds sit for 10 minutes or so until they have cooled and are less sticky.
  6. Roll the mounds into balls using firm pressure with the palms of your hands.
  7. Refrigerate the granola bites for 1-2 hours to set up. They can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks (or freeze for several months). They taste great out of the refrigerator but are even better if left to sit at room temperature for just a few minutes before eating.