Monday, August 31, 2020


This week's recipe came from Build Your Bite hosted by Joy.  Her posts are a very enjoyable read, her photos are great, and I recommend you take a look if you would like to see more tips and details than I have in this post.

Ramen Noodle Stir Fry 

Servings: 5 
Calories per serving: 588

3-4 blocks of ramen noodles (flavor packets discarded) 
5 oz golden oak shitake mushrooms
8 oz sugar snap peas
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 1/2 cups carrots, sliced into strips (around 3 - 4 medium carrots)
1 small bunch of green onions, diced
1/8 cup fresh ginger, finely diced or minced
1/4 cup fresh garlic, finely diced or minced
One batch of 3 ingredient stir-fry sauce (recipe below this one)

Heat 2 tablespoons of sesame oil in a large nonstick skillet and heat to medium high.  Add mushrooms, bell pepper, carrots, green onion, ginger, and garlic.  Cook 20 to 25 minutes, or until vegetables are done to the way you like them.

Add more sesame oil if necessary to avoid sticking (I added an additional tablespoon half way through cooking)

Boil the water for the ramen noodles

In the last five minutes, add in the sugar snap peas

Once the sugar snap peas are added, add the ramen noodles to the boiling water. Follow package instructions to cook.  Follow instructions on the packet but mine says 3 minutes.

Mix together a batch of the stir-fry sauce (recipe below). 

When ramen noodles are cooked, drain them and add to the cooked vegetables.  

Next mix in the stir-fry sauce, and cook 1 to 3 minutes until everything is mixed in.

Serve and enjoy!

Stir-Fry Sauce

This was the link provided by Joy on her ramen noodle recipe to make her stir fry sauce.  Only three ingredients.  Very simple and delicious!

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce (or tamari)
1/4 cup sesame oil
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Add all ingredients to a mason jar.

Screw on the lid and shake to combine

Once your stir fry is mostly cooked, add sauce and heat an additional 3 - 5 minutes, or until sauce thickens. Serve immediately

Joy's tip is to use this sauce in a stir fry with fresh minced garlic and fresh minced ginger, along with the cooked vegetables and what ever protein you are using, if any.  Over the years whenever I didn't have either available, I used both ginger and garlic powders and didn't think much of it.  Using them will make this recipe very bland she says.  I have to admit at noticing the difference in taste when I started using fresh, but I still have the other on hand if needed and there isn't anything else.

Another of Joy's notes: this is intended to cover 6-8 servings of stir fry, served over unsalted rice or noodles.  Otherwise it will be too salty.  It is a highly concentrated sauce, a little goes a long way. 

My notes: we had three packets of ramen noodles in the pantry, along with a can of button mushrooms, a small can of chopped chiles, and a can of sliced lotus roots marinated with chiles and it was time they were used. Today was the day I put everything into this stir fry, as it was a 'let's throw everything into the mix' kind of a day.  Not much thought to it, just throw it in.  Wouldn't mind those lotus roots again as they were a great addition and had a bit of heat.  

Looking in the fridge there were carrots, ginger and garlic but no sugar snap peas, green onions, shitake mushrooms or green bell pepper.  Instead we used a sweet onion, celery and zucchini. I also added a cup of frozen peas.

You can also add your favorite protein.  

This recipe turned out great, and there are leftovers. A no cook-day will be very nice. 

Thanks for stopping by.  Have a great week!

Thursday, August 27, 2020


From an original post in November 2011 (old blog that is no longer available).   Certain info may have changed since then.

This is the only other bird I took photos of from my photographic session with the Raptor Conservancy of Virginia.  I have not mentioned it before but it was being held at the George Mason University Campus in Manassas, on the grounds of the Hylton Theater for the Arts.

My session started at 10.00 a.m. I had driven two miles - thank goodness it wasn't any longer - when I looked on the passenger seat where I had placed my purse and my camera, and realized I had forgotten the tickets. So I turned around and drove back home. I thought I had been so organized as I had gotten everything else ready, right down to my choice of clothing, the night before, and I had left the tickets on the kitchen table ready to pick up that morning. Mental note: put any future tickets in my purse or actually on the seat of the car before I go to bed.  (Not a morning person!)
Even though I had given myself lots of time, my unexpected turnaround put me behind schedule, and when I got there I found that I still had to go inside the theater to show that I had turned up.  I just thought it was a matter of following the signs to the bird demo.  This was not made very clear on the online program, but the friendly chap at the door said, "You have to join everybody over there." "But I already have my tickets" I answered hopefully. He smiled patiently and said "That's great but have you paid your main entrance fee?" I did not know there was a main entrance fee. To add to the joy of beginning the day he also said, "I hope you're not in the line for A to H."  When I looked at my line, yes that was where I had to go. It was about three times as long as the others and there was a lot of grumbling around me as I joined the queue, and the hall was jampacked with  people jostling shoulder to shoulder.  There were other events also. People who had already been waiting a while were not happy. I was wishing my name had started with V, W, X, Y or Z. There was no one waiting there.

My line wasn't going anywhere very fast, and I found out why I was in the longest one. When it was finally my turn they did not have any record of my name.  Not to worry, I was told, a lot of people have had the same problem. Apparently it was not our lucky day if your name started from A to H.  When I finally reached the table I was told that all was well but then was sent to the RCV table 'over there' to pick up my name badge, so that those outside could see that I had paid for my ticket.  I was not given a table plan at the door as they had run out. 

'Over there' meant weaving through a couple of dozen or so tables to find the one I needed, and none of the other vendors knew where their table was, and people like me looked like they were doing the same thing.  It was a bit chaotic to say the least and I felt the crush of the very large crowded hall.  There was no easy way of going back to the entrance to ask. Access was blocked by too many people, several complaining about the same thing I had encountered.  I felt sorry for the people working there.  I normally have loads of patience but found myself getting a little out of sorts, a bit stressed thinking about missing precious time with those lovely birds. 

I finally found the table I was looking for on the second level, and by this time I was running late by about 20 minutes. I had a chat with the young lady who said you must be Denise.   I was taken aback for a few seconds and at my look of surprise she explained that I was the only person who hadn't signed on the dotted line yet.  Oh joy, last one to the party!  I said the other attendees names must all have started with V, W, X, Y or Z.  She didn't get it by her puzzled look, and I wasn't hanging around to explain, so I smiled my thanks as I asked her where I had to go.  She gave me good directions from there.

Ten minutes later I was with my group......30 minutes late.....not so bad really......BUT online somewhere I had read that we would be about six feet from the birds and would not need a zoom lens. Thinking about carrying the extra weight I left it in the boot of the car and so I attached my regular lens. Looking at all the others with their long lenses, I  realized that I needed that zoom and I was mentally kicking myself for not being more prepared on so many levels. This was not a good start, nothing seemed to be running smoothly.  I heard a few people complaining to the ladies giving the demonstration, and I wasn't going to join in.  If I did anything like this again, I would get there two hours ahead of time instead of that one hour I had given myself.  Knowing that I would regret it if I didn't, as fast as I could I half-ran, did not walk, back to the car, quickly attached the zoom and half-ran, did not walk, back to my little owl, all done without falling flat on my face. I don't have the greatest reputation for staying on my feet when I rush through life, so I have been trying to slow down and smell the roses, and I certainly could not do this now if I tried.  But...
all of a sudden there he was. This little guy made it all worthwhile. I soon forgot about what had gone on before and returned to my Zen state.  There is nothing like wildlife and nature to calm one's soul.  Meeting "Fire", who didn't seem to mind me being so tardy, put my day back in kilter. It wasn't long before I was smelling the roses and smiling from ear to ear.  Most of the birds I met that day had sustained some kind of injury and sadly none of them would be able to return to the wild.  Fire, if I identified him correctly from the Raptor Conservancy website, came to them in late 2003 after he had been hit by a car. It was determined that he could not be released again because of severe loss of vision in both eyes, poor wee little thing.

Doing a little research I found that the Eastern Screech Owl (Megascops asio) is the most common owl in the woodlands of eastern North America and is nocturnal. It often nests in tree cavities and nest boxes in close proximity to people. They grow to an average length of about nine inches, though the male of the species is roughly an inch shorter. The female has an average wingspan of 22 inches versus the male at 21 inches. The normal weight of the female is 7.3 ounces with the male near 7 ounces.
There are two color morphs of the Eastern Screech Owl, a gray phase and like "Fire", a rufous (reddish-brown) phase. It can be difficult to distinguish the Eastern from the Western species but the color of the bill will decide. Eastern Screech Owls have gray-green bills while Western Screech Owls gray to black bills. Their call can also separate the two species. The call of the Eastern male includes a long trill or a whinny during courtship, while the females may hoot or bark while defending the nest.  You can hear the Eastern Screech Owl at this link.  The Western Screech Owl can be heard here.  
Breeding season will normally begin around mid April but can start as early as mid March, and continue into May depending on the geographical location and temperatures.  They nest almost exclusively in enlarged natural tree cavities, but they will also use old Pileated Woodpecker and Northern Flicker cavities.  They readily use owl and wood duck boxes.  
The female will lay between two and eight eggs.  The period of incubation is normally 26 days following with the young fledgling at 31 days.  The adult owl will remain in their home territory year-round, whereas the young will disperse in the Fall.  An interesting fact about the Screech Owl is that pairs are almost certainly monogamous and remain together for life.  Some males, however, will mate with two different females.  The second female may evict the first female, lay her eggs in the nest and incubate both clutches.
I hope you have enjoyed meeting Fire.  I certainly did, as well as his friends who followed him.  I had bought two tickets, one for the owls at 10.00 a.m. and another for the hawks at 11.00 a.m., which I have already shared.  Apparently I have been working back to front.  I followed no particular order when sharing these posts.

I returned home via my favorite coffee shop.  The shot of caffeine did not alter my tranquil state and for the rest of the day I went through the dozens and dozens of photographs I had taken, organizing and resizing all of them.  I am thankful, after a few hiccups at the start of the day, it ended up on a wonderfully even keel.

This is my last of the series and I hope you have enjoyed them.  If you have missed any you will see all by clicking on The Raptor Conservancy of Virginia among the labels under this post.  

I am having a bit of a break until Monday to see if I can catch up on reading comments and visiting blogs.

Thanks for following along.  I wish you a happy day, as well as a great weekend.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020


Break Free
Frank Asch

I just want to be
where the earth breaks free
of concrete and plastic and gas,
where sun is king
and water is queen,
where cactus grow tall 
and the air is clean.
I just want to be
where the earth breaks free
of fences and alleys and walls,
of factories and traffic and malls,
where owls sleep
in the heart of day
waiting for sunset
to hunt their prey,
where mountains rise
in seas of sand 
and coyotes roam
across the land.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020


When I took these photos, I could not remember what kind of owl it was, so I searched for images on Google.  The White-faced Scops Owl was the closest I came. To be 100 percent sure, I wrote to the Raptor Conservancy and they confirmed my identification. Here is what they wrote:

"The owl is a 1-year old male, white-faced Scops owl. He was hatched and raised in New York State but is a native to South Africa. There is an amazing amount of personality packed into the little guy; he is very aware of what is going on around him."

My thanks to the Conservancy for their quick reply.

If you go to the end of my post and click on The Raptor Conservancy of Virginia label, you will be able to see all of them.
So, although this little bird had not been injured physically, I learned a long time ago that those birds kept in captivity or raised as a pet, are so imprinted with humans that it would be impossible for them to fend for themselves if released, as happens with any wildlife of course. I am still not sure if that is the case with this little fellow however as I don't know his full story.

All birds have a second eyelid that cleans and protects their eyes. It is called the nictitating membrane. Owls actually have three eyelids. They have a normal upper and lower eyelid, the upper closing when the owl blinks, and the lower closing up when the Owl is asleep. The third eyelid is the nictitating membrane, and is a thin layer of tissue that closes diagonally across the eye, from the inside to the outside. This cleans and protects the surface of the eye. Owls and hawks have large eyes that protrude and need constant cleaning. Any debris or dust blowing by will stick to the moist surface of the eye.

If you enlarge the collage of three photos above, you can see this membrane in a couple of them. 
Of all an Owl's features, perhaps the most striking is its eyes. Large and forward facing, they may account for one to five percent of the Owl's body weight, depending on the species. The forward facing aspect of the eyes that give an Owl its 'wise' appearance, also give it a wide range of 'binocular' vision (seeing an object with both eyes at the same time). This means the owl can see objects in three dimensions (height, width, and depth), and can judge distances in a similar way to humans. The field of view for an owl is about 110 degrees, with about 70 degrees being 'binocular' vision. By comparison, humans have a field of view that covers 180 degrees, with 140 degrees being 'binocular'.
He was very cute. It was a little awkward getting to him because he had been placed on a branch not as easily accessible as the Screech Owl before him (next post). Not a problem for most, only a few more feet into the trees but lots of fallen branches and wet leaves covering hidden, broken off ankle twisters and as I was still recovering from my last bad sprain, I was a bit nervous of uneven ground. But as I usually am when I see something I really want to take a photo of, I'll go pretty much anywhere.  (Since I wrote this post I have learned to be even more cautious.  Growing older seems to have cured me).  
The nice thing about the shoot was that the two ladies wanted us to have as natural a background for our photographs as possible, which I was very grateful for. I have never actually seen an owl in their natural habitat (I have only seen one since, on a holiday high up in the trees in Florida).
I had been ankle deep in wet leaves, lots of overhanging vines and branches, and when one of the other group members came up behind me and said, "Excuse me but you have a spider on the back of your coat, may I remove it?" I answered calmly, "Oh please do!" After thanking the gentleman I looked at his hand and on it was the biggest daddy-long-legs I had ever seen. No it didn't phase me, 20 years ago it might have. However, here we are 20 years ahead of the scared little namby-pamby and this thought crossed my mind, I wished I had my macro lens.  But that was also in the boot of the car and I wasn't going back again to retrieve it.  Besides, my Scops Owl was taking all my attention.  I was riveted!
Attention span diverted momentarily, I was instantly back to my little owl. I might have mentioned this before, that I can turn into a laser and become extremely focused and he was most definitely what I was focused on.  I wended my way carefully towards him, not really caring what landed on me from overhanging tree limbs or bushes.  After 20 minutes or so I came away hoping that I had at least a few decent photos to show for my trouble.
This is the generalized anatomy of the owl. I found it online.

Monday, August 24, 2020


I saw this recipe at For The Love of Cooking hosted by Pam.  Thank you Pam, this has become a favorite.  I discovered this particular recipe several years ago and have made it many times since.  You can click on the red lettering above to view the original.  You can also click here to see more of Pam's delicious recipes.
Mashed Sweet Potatoes - 6 servings

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time:      15 to 20 minutes

3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into pieces
1/4 cup milk (I use 2%)
1 to 2 tablespoons butter, or to taste
Sea salt and freshly cracked ground pepper, to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste

Put the sweet potatoes in a large pot, and add just enough cold water to cover them.

Bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 15 minutes.

Place milk, butter, sea salt, freshly cracked pepper and nutmeg in a glass bowl.  Put in the microwave for 30 seconds, or until warmed.

Drain and return the potatoes to the pot and place on the stove with the burner turned on low, which will dry up any excess water.  

Add the warmed milk mixture and mash with a hand mixer or beater until smooth.  Taste and add more salt or nutmeg if needed.  

Serve immediately and enjoy.

It is a keeper. I am the only one who likes sweet potatoes and usually have several servings left when I make it.  If you have been following my recipe posts, you will know I love to use my freezer.  I froze any leftovers in 1 cup portions. 


Friday, August 21, 2020


I remember the awe I felt when I saw this incredible sky, and so glad I looked up when I did. So glad for cell phones.   

Happy Weekend Everyone!   May you all have a reason to smile this weekend, and may you all pass that smile on. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2020


I am running behind in answering comments and visiting blogs right now.  I will be catching up soon.  Thanks so much for all the comments you have been leaving.
Another post from a demonstration put on by The Raptor Conservancy of Virginia.  Please note that this post was written several years ago, and information may have changed.  All the birds seen were injured and unable to be released to the wild.  They are looked after and shared in their educational program.

This is a Broad-winged Hawk. You can hear what it sounds like if you click here
It is described as a small, stocky bird with a body size from 13 to 17 inches (34 to 44 centimetres) in length, and weighing anywhere from 9.3 to 20 ozs. (265 to 560 grams). As with most raptors, females are slightly larger than males. Broad-winged Hawks have relatively short and broad wings, pointed at the end, which have a tapered appearance unique to the species. It can grow a wingspan of 32 to 39 inches (81 to 100 centimetres).
Adult bodies are a dark brown with a white belly and chest containing horizontal barring. While their tail can be a dark grey-black with white lines along the middle, base and tip. The young hawks have a slightly different coloring with more white and longitudinal barring instead of horizontal barring.
There are two types of coloration, a dark morph with fewer white areas and a light morph that is more pale overall. The light morph of this bird is most likely to be confused with the Red-shouldered Hawk, but they have a longer, more heavily barred tail and wings, with a solid rufous color in the adult which are usually distinctive. Rare dark morphs are a darker brown on both upperparts. Drk-morph Short-tailed Hawks are similar but are whitish under the tail, with a single subterminal band.
The Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus) is a small hawk of the genus Buteo. During the summer some subspecies are distributed over eastern North America, as far west as British Columbia and Texas. They then migrate south to winter in the neotropics from Mexico down to southern Brazil. Other subspecies are all-year residents on Caribbean islands.
Although the Broad-winged Hawk's numbers are relatively stable, populations are declining in some parts of its breeding range because of forest fragmentation.  They will have only one mate during the breeding season, possibly because the male also helps a small amount with the upbringing of the chicks. They will breed anywhere between April and August starting when they are two years old. To attract and court females the males will do a flight display including cartwheels, dives and other aerial acrobatics. The birds meet in the air hooked together by their talons and spiral down together. They will also compete and fight with other males for the chance to mate with a female. If one of the males is successful, the mating pair will have only one brood per season consisting of one to four eggs.

Both the male and female will build the nest out of sticks and twigs in a deciduous tree before the eggs are to be laid. Once they are though, the brown-spotted eggs are usually 1.9 x 1.5 inches (49 by 39 millimetres) and weigh about 1.5 oz. (42 grams). The female will then develop a brood patch and incubate the eggs for 28 days or longer before they hatch. The hatchlings will appear semi-altricial; incapable of any complex coordination but have open eyes and are covered with down feathers. (Altricial means 'requiring nourishment' and refers to a pattern of growth and development in organisms which are incapable of moving around on their own soon after hatching or being born. The word is derived from the Latin root alere meaning 'to nurse, to rear, or to nourish', and refers to the need for young to be fed and taken care of for a long duration.)
Chicks will have rapid body growth until they are almost at adult body size, at which time they are capable of walking, flying and eating without parental help. While in the nest the female gives most of the parental care, protecting and taking care of the chicks. It is not unusual to have the male provide some food for the female and offspring, but his visits are short lived. Once a prey item is obtained for the nest, the female will tear off pieces and will feed the chicks till they are able to rip meat off on their own. Often the chicks will fight for possession of the offered morsel, the younger ones usually losing and not getting enough. Broad-winged Hawks will protect their nests in a show of agression (i.e. diving and chasing) towards any suspected threat, but they generally will not make physical contact. Predators of eggs and nestlings includes raccoons, crows, porcupines and American Black Bears, and adults have been known to fall to Great Horned Owls and Bald Eagles. It will take the hatchlings five to six weeks before they are able to leave the nest. Some young even after that time will remain in the area of the nest for several weeks more

I hope you have enjoyed another post from when I attended this very interesting demonstration, several years ago now.  

Tuesday, August 18, 2020


This is a continuation from last week's post.  I dived into my archives and found a series of photos of raptors.  They were shown at a demonstration given by The Raptor Conservancy of Virginia.  My photos and information are several years old, and there may have been changes since written.

I had an amazing opportunity to photograph birds used in their education program. You can see my other posts from this day here and here.  This post is about an American Kestrel named "Little Guy".

It was the first time I had ever been this close to an American Kestrel, having only ever seen them on nature shows on TV, and from photographs in my collection of nature books.  

Little Guy's story was that he hit a window of the U.S. Capitol at high speed. Sadly he permanently damaged his wing and both eyes, but he was receiving a lot of love and attention at the Conservancy, and had adapted to his new role of avian ambassador. Before I became interested in birds, I had no idea that each one had a personality. Little Guy showed his beautifully. He was very entertaining and very cooperative as we were told all about his kind.

In the photo below you can see where he fluffed his feathers out suddenly. He also had a habit of bobbing his head up and down, which we were told was a sign of pure contentment.

The American Kestrel (Falco sparverius), is sometimes known as the Sparrow Hawk, is the most common falcon in North America, and is found in a wide variety of habitats. It is a small falcon and the only kestrel found in the Americas

It is the smallest falcon in North America and is about 7 to 8 inches long (19-21 centimeters). It is about the size of a large thrush. The male weighs 3.6-4.2 oz. (103-120 grams) and the female 4.4-5.9 oz. (126-166 grams). Males have blue-grey wings with black spots and white undersides with black barring. The back is rufous with barring on the lower half. The belly and flanks are white with black spotting, and the tail is also rufous with a white or rufous tip and black subterminal band.

The back and wings of the female American Kestrel are rufous with dark brown barring, and the undersides are creamy to buff with heavy brown streaking. The tail is noticeably different from the male, being rufous in color, with numerous narrow, dark black bars.

Juveniles exhibit coloration patterns similar to the adults.

In both sexes the head is white with a bluish-grey top. There are also two narrow, vertical black facial markings on each side of the head, while other falcons have one. Two black spots (ocelli) can be found on each side of the white or orangish nape. The function of these spots is debated, but the most commonly accepted theory is that they act as 'false eyes', and help to protect the bird from potential attackers. The wings are moderately long, fairly narrow and taper to a point. While the kestrel is perched, the wingtips are noticeably shorter than the tail tip.

The American Kestrel hunts by hovering in the air with rapid wing beats or perching and scanning the ground for prey. Its diet typically consists of grasshoppers, lizards, mice and other small birds.

It nests in cavities in trees, cliffs, buildings and other structures.

The female lays three to seven eggs which both sexes help to incubate. Its breeding range extends from central and western Alaska across northern Canada to Nova Scotia, and south throughout North America, into central Mexico and the Caribbean.

It is a local breeder in Central America and is widely distributed throughout South America. Most birds breeding in Canada and northern United States migrate south in the winter, and it is an occasional visitor to western Europe.

It was a great pleasure being with this lovely little bird for a short time.  

Thanks for looking and I hope your week is a great one.