Thursday, December 31, 2020


May we face the coming year with the steady serenity of a tree, that supreme lover of light, always reaching both higher and deeper, rooted in a network of kinship and ringed by a more patient view of time.

~Mary Popova~

Happy New Year Everyone!
Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020


Back on line and thank you Sandra at Madsnapper who told me about the blogging app for my iPhone.   It came in useful for letting you know that I was having trouble, but I am very happy with my laptop back in action again.  It is an old one but keeps on ticking, touch wood!  I also have my old Paint Shop Pro on there and haven’t found anything I like better.  It is probably because I am used to it and fits me like a comfortable old shoe.  I don’t take to change very well and that’s a secret I probably should keep to myself but what the hey!  Is blogger taking notes?  I am still getting used to that change!

Anyhow I do hope your special time over the holiday season was a good one considering.   Ours was very quiet this year but we ended up enjoying ourselves and making the most of keeping in touch with everyone through this wonderful technology at our fingertips.  Demons it may have but I am not sure I want to do without it any more, and it keeps us all connected.  

I am starting off with an old post, as seems to be the way it is these days.  Quite a while ago we went shopping and came back with bird seed and dried corn cobs.  With neighborhood bear safely tucked up for the winter months, it was decided the birds and squirrels needed to be taken care of, as is our norm at this time of the year.  

Yes I love squirrels and have found them very entertaining all these years.  A man who saw me at a garden taking photos once, asked why was I taking photos of those nasty little tree rats!  I can’t actually remember what I replied, but I defended them vehemently.  How dare he insult my dear little tree rats...errrr, squirrels.   Yes they are a rodent but even so...

A few facts about them, did you know a squirrel's front teeth never stop growing?  This is a common characteristic of other rodents also.  The word 'rodent' actually derives from the Latin "rodere", which means to gnaw.
Squirrels can find food buried beneath a foot of snow.  Food is important during the cold winter months for squirrels.  It makes sense, therefore, that some species are able to smell food under a foot of snow.  The squirrel will then dig a tunnel under the snow, following the scent to their (or another squirrel's) food supply.
Squirrels may lose 25 percent of their buried food to thieves.  And that's just from members of their own species.  Scatter hoarders (squirrels with multiple caches of food) have a difficult time keeping an eye on all of their hidden food. Fellow squirrels or birds often take advantage of this for a free meal. 
Squirrels may pretend to bury a nut to throw off potential thieves.  They have been observed engaging in 'deceptive caching’.  This is where a squirrel digs a hole and vigorously covers it up again, but without depositing the nut.  It seems this is done to throw off potential food thieves.
Squirrels don't dig up all of their buried nuts, which results in more trees!  They have accidentally contributed countless trees to our nation's forests.  That alone should make us appreciate squirrels a little more tree rat man!  
A newborn squirrel is about an inch long.  
When squirrels feel threatened, they run away in a zigzag pattern.  This is an incredibly useful strategy to escape hawks and other predators.  
They get bulky to stay warm during the winter, and putting on some extra weight is one strategy they use to stay warm during the cold winter months.
In Greek the word 'squirrel' means 'shadow tail'.
Squirrels can jump a distance of up to 20 feet.  They have long, muscular hind legs and short front legs that work together to aid in leaping.
The hind legs of squirrels are double-jointed, which gives them the ability to run up and down trees very quickly.  
Squirrels have 4 toes on their front feet, which are extremely sharp and used for gripping tree bark whilst climbing.  They also have 5 toes on their back feet.
Now that we are back on line it will be good catching up with you all over the next few days.  As I mentioned previously, it was due to a faulty modem.  Our cable company sent us a brand new one and it arrived in the mail yesterday.  Fast service, very helpful and patient help desk and much appreciated.  

A continued shout-out and a big thank you to all of you out there who are front line and essential workers.  I will never take any of you for granted.  We owe you a debt we will never be able to repay.  

Things are so dire for so many people here and around the world.  I am hoping 2021 will be the light at the end of your tunnel. 

Thanks for looking and enjoy the rest of your week.  

Tuesday, December 29, 2020


Thanks to Sandra at Madsnapper who told me about the blogger app for my iPhone, I am letting you know that I am without the Internet right now.  We are waiting for a new modem which is being mailed to us.  Thankfully I have had this post in draft form for a long time, an old blog post that I decided to reintroduce.   

From a visit into Washington DC on December 28th, 2009.

Back when the weather was a little warmer our family went into Washington DC to look around The Smithsonian Museum of American History. Our main objective (okay us girls as the guys elected to wait outside) was to visit the The First Ladies exhibition where their gowns are on display. The last time we couldn't even get in there without having to wait in line for a very long time and my legs were already tired from walking all over the city. This time it was a little better but still crowded. Mostly women and one or two men. I would have enjoyed taking more photographs, as many were too blurry. These came out okay. I didn't feel like I could monopolize my space and kept moving towards the end of the display, fortunately snapping off several shots along the way. Some snaps did not make it but I was happy with what I got. 

The exhibit only had 14 dresses on display. From the information I gleaned, this was because way back they did not realize how even the slightest light did so much damage to these historical dresses, so now they rotate them to prevent even more deterioration. At the time we visited we were allowed to take photographs but we could not use any flash for obvious reasons. The following is what I got on line:

"Why aren’t all of the gowns on exhibit?

Light, climate, and gravity are all harmful to fabric. Over time, they have damaged the gowns. There are some gowns that can no longer be exhibited because they were too badly damaged by their years on display. Other dresses are rotated on and off display in order to keep them in good condition."

It is hard to comprehend that this is Martha Washington's gown from the 1780's and is the oldest gown in the exhibit. It is made of salmon pink faille and is hand painted with flowers, butterflies and other insects. The collar and cuffs are reproductions.

This is Frances Cleveland's evening gown. She wore it with a fur-edged hem and a black satin and jet trim during her husband's second administration, and was made by Baltimore dressmaker, Lottie Barton.
I am not sure whose items are these, a guess might be Jane Findlay but I can't be 100 percent sure. Her portrait below shows her wearing a lace bonnet very similar to this one.

Oil portrait of Jane Findlay in about 1840 by an unknown artist. She was a Harrison family friend who came to Washington to assist with the first lady’s duties. Her gown was included in the original 1914 exhibition to represent the administration of William Henry Harrison.

This is Helen Taft’s 1909 Inaugural ball gown and is made of white silk chiffon. It is appliquéd with floral embroideries and trimmed in metallic thread, rhinestones and beads and was made by the Frances Smith Company. Her gown was the first one to be donated in 1912 so we have Mrs. Taft to thank for this wonderful exhibit.

The fabric and embroidery have become discolored and most part of the skirt was replaced as part of a 1940’s conservation effort.
Everyone who passed by this gown was in awe. It was just beautiful.
Portrait of Julia Tyler, second wife of John Tyler in about 1840.
Next is Grace Coolidge's flapper style evening dress. It is made of velvet trimmed, black and gold metallic lace over a gold lamé underdress.
Unfortunately I did not get whose dress this belonged to but there was a portrait of Pat Nixon nearby. My search online for the last hour didn't yield any results.
Various adornments worn by the first ladies.
This is Mamie Eisenhower's evening gown. It is a rose-colored silk damask ball gown for a 1957 state dinner at the British Embassy. Nettie Rosenstein designed the ensemble, which included a matching purse and shoes.
Jacqueline Kennedy wore this yellow silk evening gown, designed by Oleg Cassini, with an overlay of crepe chiffon in 1961 for the Kennedy administration's first state dinner, for Tunisian president Habib Bourguiba.
Finally this is Laura  Bush's gown. Made of red Chantilly lace and silk satin with crystal beading, it was created by Dallas designer Michael Faircloth.
It can take up to two years for a dress to go on display. A letter is sent from the Secretary of the Smithsonian asking if the First Lady would donate something that would represent herself in the collection. The gown will be on view immediately after donation. 
All were beautiful gowns, but my favorites were the vintage ones. Since I was very young I have always had a fascination for clothing going back to medieval times. My dream job would have been in a costume department either at a museum or on a stage set.  I still have a great interest in costumes and traditional clothing. 
Thanks for stopping by and enjoy the day. I am looking forward to catching up with you all eventually. 

Monday, December 28, 2020


Thai Peanut Dressing - Closet Cooking

As you may know by now if you have been following this blog, we have been fans of Thai Cuisine ever since we moved to Virginia over 30 years ago.  However, we have only started making these dishes ourselves for about five of those years.  Before that and through a work colleague of Gregg, we were introduced to a restaurant in Arlington shortly after we moved to our present home.  It was the greatest place and we could not have chosen a better one to introduce us to Thai Cuisine.    The owners and staff were wonderful, and treated us like family every time we walked through the door.  After several years and much to everyone’s great loss, the restaurant was finally closed. 

Two years went by and we were delighted when a Thai restaurant opened up in one of the shopping complexes we used to frequent.  This became another favorite and we loved their food also, and the people who owned that one were as warm and friendly.   Once again, after being regulars for another dozen years, it also closed.  

The time seemed to be right to try and create our favorite dishes, and we began the experiment,  could we make Thai dishes that we knew and loved in our own kitchen.  They may not have been up to the expertise of the places we knew and loved, but they were darned close and we haven’t looked back.  

The recipe I am sharing today is a simple yet delicious peanut sauce.   There is no picture, but you can see photos if you click on the link above.  There are also several dishes that use this sauce.  

Described as “a quick and easy, pantry, Thai style peanut dressing that is so irresistibly delicious”, we can highly recommend this recipe if you are a fan of Thai Cuisine.  I also highly recommend you read the original recipe.  


Thai Peanut Dressing

Preparation time: 10 minutes 

Total Time: 10 minutes 

Servings: 16 (1 cup or 16 1 tablespoon servings)

A quick and easy, pantry, Thai style peanut dressing that is so irresistibly delicious!


1/4 cup peanut butter

1/2+ cup water (or coconut milk)

2 tablespoons soy sauce (or fish sauce)

2 tablespoons rice vinegar (or cider vinegar or lime juice)

2 tablespoons brown sugar (or honey or palm sugar)

1 tablespoon chili sauce (or to taste)

2 teaspoons garlic, grated

2 teaspoons ginger, grated

2 tablespoons peanuts roasted and chopped

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil (optional)

1 tablespoon cilantro (optional)


Puree everything in a blender or food processor.

Option: Replace the chili sauce with birds eye chilies.

Note: Add enough water (or coconut milk) to get the consistency to that of a pourable dressing.

Nutrition Facts: Calories 39, Fat 2g (Saturated 0.5g, Trans 0), Cholesterol 0, Sodium 125mg, Carbs 2g (Fiber 0.4g, Sugars 1g), Protein 1g

We used this sauce in a simple vegetable stir-fry using what we had in the fridge, and mixed with Ramen noodles cooked to the package directions first.  We tweaked it a little to suit our own taste, not much. We added more chile sauce for a little extra heat, and a smidgen of water as we chose the option of coconut milk.  You can do this to your own taste, and a little at a time would be recommended.  

We are also going to try it with Jasmine Rice next time  

Thanks for looking and have a great week.

Thursday, December 24, 2020




I won't be posting tomorrow but will return on Monday.  

A Merry Christmas / Happy Holidays
A Very Happy and Healthy New Year 
for all of us!

Wednesday, December 23, 2020


 It is fun to go back on our old road trips, especially now as we get towards the end of 2020.  Just to add that information I mention could be out of date by now. Many of you may remember this from a previous blog post on my old blog which went back to April 2008 (no longer available) but if you have, I hope you will once again indulge me as I go armchair traveling.  It has a more detailed account of what I mentioned in my other post here.  

And now to continue with one of my daily journal entries that I write while on holiday.

I have no idea how many days we've been on the road, but I have decided to share today because it was a very special one.   
11.27 a.m. and Gregg is filling up the car with gas, and buying a can of bear spray from their store.  He had heard their advertisement this morning.  It is recommended at all the Visitor Centers in bear country.  As we have been listening to what we should take on our walks, this was one we were told we should purchase. 
Bear attacks may be rare but we have heard how one couple was recently charged at another park up north, and they said their bear spray saved them from serious injury.  I read that 80 percent of attacks are from bears who are protecting cubs, something that all mothers across the species can understand.  
The further north we go we thought we ought to have some with us just in case.  
11.40 p.m. we stopped by a pretty river setting.   We watched as a fisherman tossed his line out several times, and then we left him in peace. We also said goodbye to our grasshopper who has been traveling with us for two days.  Darned if we could find him even with all the racket he was making, but he finally jumped out the door when we left them open at the river, so that it would do just that.  We were near desperate to get rid of him, even if we found it amusing.  Thankfully a dozen others didn't fly in to join him.  Then we would have been desperate to get rid of all of them.  I am wondering if these were actually grasshoppers, they seem to fly rather than jump.  They sure looked like grasshoppers, and made a similar noise. 

12.32 p.m. Sitting on a log near another beautiful river setting....
and giving the camera a well deserved rest.  Gregg and I have been giving her quite a work-out.
1.41 p.m. Just stopped at Canyon Village.  We shared a trout dinner with a salad.  I met two ladies in the bathroom, one from Nebraska, the other from South Carolina.  Yes there are even friendly people who even talk to you in the ladies loo, and I seem to be writing everything down!  No recollection of the conversation but it was something to do with places we should see.
Not far from Canyon Village we stopped at the north rim of the Grand Canyon overlook at the top of the hill.  Walking on the trail to one of the overlooks I spotted this little chipmunk.  Really cute!  There was also an osprey nest sign but before I saw the sign a lady came up to me and said she had noticed the long lens of my camera and would I mind looking at this nest on top of the pinnacle to try and identify the bird for her.
She heard the birds before she saw the nest but wasn't able to make out what was making the noise.  I was very grateful as I had no idea there was a nest there and would probably have missed it.  I took several photos and loaned her my camera to take a look.  I asked her if she would like me to send her a copy if my photos came out okay.  She said yes and we exchanged e-mails.   They are a bit fuzzy but yes they are ospreys.
The sign I saw later said: "Ospreys sometimes build nests in the cliffs opposite this overlook.  Though the nests may be five feet in diameter, they are difficult to spot against the vast cliff-scape.  Watch for osprey riding updrafts throughout the canyon from May to September."
We enjoyed taking our photos near here.
This is one of the tour vehicles from Yellowstone Lodge.

The river below was of the brightest blue color which doesn't really show in the photos.

A reasonably comfortable bench carved out of the rock where we sat for a few minutes.
Dark clouds were moving in and we saw some lightning strikes in the distance.
It started to sprinkle but by this time we were in the car and ready to move on.  We have been very lucky with the weather.  There have been showers but we seem to move through those dark clouds quickly.
So, we have stopped  at Grand View and later Inspiration Point, all beautiful places. We are stopping a lot today and getting out to stretch more often.  
2.58 p.m. We just saw the biggest bull elk we have ever seen.  We watched as it ambled along in the woods until it eventually made its way into a clearing.  We heard its bellow, a surreal sound, first at high pitch and then in deep, gutteral low tones.  We had seen its mate also in the wood, a fleeting glimpse. And that's why I love Yellowstone, you just never know what the day will bring.  
We have a fellow traveler and his family to thank for this wondrous experience.  If we hadn't seen their car pulled off the road not too far in front of us, we would probably have driven by.  I rolled my window down and asked what they were all looking at.  They pointed into the trees and told us they had spotted a bull elk, a really big one.  We pulled in just ahead of them and strained our eyes.  There was definitely a big animal in there but the trees were thick and it was hard to see. 

Our two cars turned into a dozen, and it wasn't long before we were joined by many, and we were totally blocked in as people had stopped in the road.  You could say that parked cars at Yellowstone are like a siren song.  A car drove up alongside us and as I had my camera taking photos, I was patiently waiting for him to move so that I could resume taking my photos.  By this time we could not move backwards or forwards but in the end, on this narrow one-way road, with woods on either side, we saw a huge elk approach the clearing.  Those cars actually did us a big favor by blocking us in, as when they moved to get away from the oncoming animal, we had front row seats to nature at its best.  
I was in complete and total awe of this magnificent bull.  Impatient to get a better view around the car that had parked at the side of us, before the driver decided it would be wise to get the heck out of there, I was halfway out of the passenger side wanting to get that better look.  At the time the elk seemed a very long and safe distance away.  But all of a sudden that car suddenly got out of there and we saw why.  That beautiful beast was heading straight towards us at a fast trot that turned into a gallop.  I was shocked at how fast he covered the distance in such a short space of time, and quickly jumped back into the car, slamming the door.  Many others were running across the street  back to their cars.  We were still blocked from moving forward or back.
When that car had the sense to get away, it gave us a full view of the elk heading our way, and he was next to us in moments.
As Gregg was taking his own photos, he suddenly realized how fast the elk was coming.....

and literally thought he was going to stick his head in the window, which he wound up fast but the back window was still open. I had been trying to get a better look by straining my neck trying to see beyond the car previously blocking our view, and I kept saying, "Back window's still open, back window's still open!"  When good sense returned I realized a sheet of glass would not have been much protection, but brain was not engaged at the time and there lies the rub.  I thought that elk was going to stick his head right in.....
antlers and all.
At one point the elk's head was so close that I couldn't see anything beyond him, but thankfully he suddenly veered to our left as though turning on a dime, and went behind our car, filling up the whole rear window with his bulk.  He actually brushed up against our rear bumper.  
Other people who had stopped to get out of their cars for a better look, scattered in all directions as the bull approached.  Gregg handed me the camera to take pictures from my side, but by that time he was retreating into the woods and the camera's memory started flashing "full"!!!   Ah well, I am used to the retreat of animal derrières on this trip, and at least Gregg got these great photos of him coming towards us, but no, not one photo of his retreating behind.  It was an amazing experience.   When those big guys want to cross the road they are going to cross the road.   You can stay 100, 200, 300 yards away and we found with this experience, that doesn't make one wit of difference if that animal wants to get where he wants to go.

We wondered afterwards what we might have done differently as the situation was precarious.  We stayed in our car which is always recommended, apart from that one foot on the ground moment, and we were at the recommended distance from the animal but it came towards us at a full gallop, we didn't go towards him.  

I'm glad we didn't see any bears today, that would have been too much excitement.  This was enough of a close encounter, and one we never expected.  You just never know what is going to happen in Yellowstone.  It's always best to be aware that the unexpected can happen, and try to follow those advised guidelines, and think beyond them if you can.

Heart-stopping excitement over with, we happily chatted about what had just happened until we stopped at Virginia Cascades.  Again, real pretty down by the water.
Not too far from where we exit the park we came across another elk standing in the middle of the river.  If you see a line of cars with people pointing cameras, it's a sure bet that there is another treat in store, but there weren't too many cars in line this time. The elk was a younger one but he was giving everyone a show, turning his head around to scratch an itch on its back , but also being very aware of the people staring back at him.  
He looked very comfortable in the water, and kept company with several Canada Geese who were swimming nearby.
Today we got to look at a waterfall, a river, a glacial rock, the Yellowstone Canyon, ospreys on a nest, a tiny chipmunk and a huge bull elk, and another smaller one cooling itself in a river.

This is our last night in West Yellowstone.  We are heading for the Grand Tetons tomorrow.
And that was the end of my post.  We have been to Yellowstone three times, and hope to go for a forth when things settle down. 

I hope you have enjoyed this account of our day at one of my most all time favorite National Parks.  Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.