Monday, February 27, 2012

Inspiration for our nest

I love bird nests. They are such beautiful works of art, with each one so unique, and each one woven with different found objects from nature. I started a small collection of nests when I lived in Maine. When I was packing up to return west, I gave my collection to my dear neighbor, who had a collection of her own. 

My husband Mike comes across a lot of abandoned nests when he's in the field for work. All of these nests are ones he has brought home to me over the years, which I tucked away for safe keeping. 

They are all so distinct, equally rugged yet graceful. Each fragment of their construction is so fragile on their own, yet woven together they collectively become strong.

This wirey nest is woven together with a mix of fine thread-like branches, what looks to be horse hair, with a little fishing twine thrown in for good measure. I found the robin's egg on one of our walks. On its back is a sweet little hole from which the robin chick popped out. 

This nest is an intricately woven wheat vessel.

 I love the wheat flower tucked in along the rim. 

Plastered with dry dense mud on its exterior, this clay nest is sturdy and strong. Feathery golden grass blankets the interior.

The plastered exterior. 

When Mike brought me this moss nest, it was almost electric green. Even now, several years later, it still smells like the damp lush Pacific Northwest woods. 

The downy moss. 

This is a Maine nest. It was the very first that I collected, and it is the only one I brought with me when I moved back west. She is one of my most sentimental momentos from Maine, reminding me of the many hours I spent in the Maine woods. 

This nest also reminds me of my dear neighbor in Maine. When I gave her my collection of nests, she shared with me a story about her mother who had recently passed away. Her mother loved birds, and made it her practice to always set the hair from her brush outside for the birds to use in their nests.

Her mother had been ill for several months and finally passed away in summer. By fall, my neighbor was closing her mother's estate and while walking in the garden, noticed a bird's nest visible through the barren autumn trees. When she looked closer at the nest tucked safely between the cradling branches, she saw that the sweet little nest was woven with beautiful white shimmering strands of her mother's hair. 

I'll never forget that story, especially when I see a nest and recognize all of the beautiful unique items used to create it. 

As someone who is passionate about the warmth and coziness of our home, I admire and respect the birds loving devotion to creating a warm and safe place to cradle their young. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Flowering Quince

The quince branches are blossoming. 

I love their sweet pink blossoms. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Spring Flowers and Some Visitors

Against the dull grey skies of winter, the azalea is luminous in spring color. I couldn't resist bringing this one home from our local grocery store the other day. Wrapped with bright red cellophane, I think it was left over from Valentine's Day. I removed the wrapping and gave it a new home in this 
wicker and tin planter. 

The other morning we also had some visitors who refreshed our perspective, even though they were here for just a few moments. In the early morning light we caught a glimpse of our local elk herd migrating along the edge of our field. About seventy strong, these majestic creatures gave us an intimate glimpse into, and a reminder of, the larger world of wonder outside our door.

I was able to get a quick photo, although the fallen branches from our winter ice storm several weeks ago obscured the herd. These elk have migrated through our property since long, long before we arrived. They reminded us that, in a sense, we are the real visitors on this land. 

It was one day in a whole year. And within that day, it happened for just a few brief minutes.  We were  lucky and just happened to be looking out the window when the seventy or so elk streamed through, ever so quietly. It was a beautiful thing to witness, and makes us so very humble to be a part of this great glorious world filled with so many majestic and amazing creatures. 

Friday, February 10, 2012


In the spirit of Valentine's Day (but mostly due to my enduring fondness for baked goods), I made chocolate muffins. These are gluten free and although we are not a gluten free household, we do enjoy varying our diet as often as possible. 

The recipe comes from the book,"Gluten Free Baking Classics" by Annalise Roberts, which I've posted about before. 

Chocolate Ricotta Muffins 

1 1/4 cups Brown Rice Flour Mix 
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 large egg
1/2 cup ricotta cheese 
2/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons canola oil 
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farhenheit. 
Whisk flour through salt in large mixing bowl. 
Whisk egg through vanilla in smaller mixing bowl. 
Pour egg mixture into flour mixture and combine until well blended. Don't over beat. 
Spoon batter into greased muffin pan and place in center of oven. 
Bake 18 - 20 minutes. 
Or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. 
Cool on wire rack. 

The only unique ingredients for this recipe are the brown rice flour mix (which you can find in the gluten free section of your grocery store) and the xanthan gum. All the rest of the ingredients are pretty standard. 

Happy Valentine's Day

Monday, February 6, 2012

A Taste of Summer

A bouquet of fresh basil has an especially summery fragrance during the winter months.
We bought this bouquet, which was grown in a hothouse on an organic farm here in the Pacific Northwest, to enjoy as a mid-winter treat. 

And a jar of garden tomatoes (our last jar canned from this past summer's crop!) possesses an especially sweet summer taste as the cold outdoors whisper nothing but quiet in the still sleep of winter dormancy. 

One of our favorite meals to make with fresh basil and summer tomatoes is Pizza Margherita. 

For the sauce, we simmer tomatoes down to preferred thickness. 
As the tomatoes are simmering, we add salt and pepper and Italian seasonings. 

Pizza dough recipe (makes two crusts): 

1 package yeast
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup wrist temperature water
2 1/2 cups or so of flour (we use a combination of all-purpose and spelt)
olive oil to drizzle on top

Combine yeast, honey, and water in a large bowl. Once the yeast has activated, add salt. Then add flour in 1/2 cup increments and knead until dough is very slightly moist on the surface. Place dough in large bowl, drizzle with oil, and place in warm spot to rise for an hour or more.

Roll out the crust onto floured pizza pan and bake at 425 until just slightly golden. 

Remove from oven and drizzle olive oil over crust and top with fresh tomato sauce. 

Add fresh basil. 

Top with shredded Italian cheeses. 

Bake at 425 until done. 

After reading recent articles such as this one in the Huffington Post, we've held off on buying food packaged in cans. I stopped buying tomato products packaged in cans several months ago but just recently learned that all canned goods may be in danger of absorbing the BPA lining. 
See New York Times article here

I thought I'd pass the information along to anyone who may be interested. 
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