Thursday, February 29, 2024


(A photo from my archives, taken when on holiday in Florida several years ago. You can read all about this plant here if you would like to know more.)

Wednesday, February 28, 2024


It was lovely seeing flowers blooming around the garden. Crocus, for instance, was putting on a lovely show. These are Woodland crocus, other names Tommasini's crocus, Tommies and Early crocus. Its botanical name is Crocus tommasinianus. Woodland crocus should always be planted in the fall. You will see its blooms from late winter to the spring. If you go to this link it will tell you how to grow and take care of them.

Next are the snowdrops. They are quite sturdy and are one of the only flowers that thrive in winter. You will often see them poking through when the snow melts. They make a lovely sight don't they?  I am always interested in other names for all flowers, including the botanical ID, which is Galanthus nivalis for the snowdrop. Those other names are Common snowdrop, Fair maids of February, Little sister of the snows, Purification flower, Candlemas bells, Candlemas lily and Common bells.

Longfield Gardens has a page which gives information on planting and taking care of them.  You can access that here. Snowdrops are very old. A Greek botanist and philosopher wrote about them in the 4th century, but at that time they were called white violets. Because snowdrops have been in the UK for centuries, many believed it was native to Britain. However, they were actually discovered in Europe and the Middle East, and it was the Romans who actually brought them to the UK.

One of the things I was fascinated on this visit, was the lichen growing on the trees, and even an old bench, one of the few I didn't sit on but did take photos.

According to my trusty plant app, this particular fungi is called Parmeliaceae. That is also its botanical name and it is a large family of lichen-forming fungi. Nearly all fungi within the Parmeliaceae family, has a symbiotic association with green Algie.  It comes in a very wide variety of shapes, and insects either eat or nest in these lichens. 

It gets its nutrients through photosynthesis, and if like me you need a refresher on what that is, here is the description I found online: "Photosynthesis is the process by which green plants and some other organisms use sunlight to synthesize foods from carbon dioxide and water.  Photosynthesis in plants generally involves the green pigment chlorophyll and generates oxygen as a byproduct."

This family of lichen can grow and flourish just about anywhere, from tree canopies to in-between rocks. They thrive in a multitude of climates as well, ranging from the Arctic to the rainforest. It is a massive family with more than 2700 different species within it.

I always look forward to our next trip to the garden.  It will be interesting to see what replaces the sign. The green reed-like plant is actually wild garlic, but I'll let that go for now.

Just some odds and bods I photographed. The flying pig bottom left of the collage, with a larger snapshot below that, has been at the garden for years. He is placed in the fairy garden. All the fairies have disappeared. I am hopeful we will see them again during the warmer months and the weather isn't quite so harsh. They haven't taken the fairy garden sign down.

The ID marker stuck next to these branches, said it was the Golden Curls Willow. You can find information here. The ID actually identified it as the Golden Curls Corkscrew Willow. I'm pretty sure it is correct as my photo and the one on the website look identical.  One of the first times I checked with my plant app and it didn't have any information about this particular tree.

That's all for this post.  I have a few that I took inside the visitor center, photos of a few art pieces, and will share those another time.

Thanks for stopping by and I hope your day is full of sunshine.  

Tuesday, February 27, 2024


Many, many welcomes,

February fair-maid!

Ever as of old time,

Solitary firstling,

Coming in the cold time,

Prophet of the gay time,

Prophet of the May time,

Prophet of the roses,

Many, many welcomes,

February fair-maid!

The Snowdrop 

Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson FRS (6 August 1809 – 6 October 1892) was an English poet. He was the Poet Laureate during much of Queen Victoria's reign. In 1829, Tennyson was awarded the Chancellor's Gold Medal at Cambridge for one of his first pieces, "Timbuktu". He published his first solo collection of poems, Poems, Chiefly Lyrical, in 1830. "Claribel" and "Mariana", which remain some of Tennyson's most celebrated poems, were included in this volume. Although described by some critics as overly sentimental, his verse soon proved popular and brought Tennyson to the attention of well-known writers of the day, including Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Tennyson's early poetry, with its medievalism and powerful visual imagery, was a major influence on the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

More information can be read here.

Monday, February 26, 2024


As I had a few overripe bananas, and wanting a change from banana bread, I found this recipe at Savory Experiments hosted by Jessica. You will find the original recipe at this link. I would encourage taking a look at her photos, and also read all the great tips. Mine turned out a bit darker but they were excellent. Gregg felt he was eating a mini banana bread. I had added cinnamon following the ingredients list.  They were a delicious addition and not overpowering!

Easy Banana Cookie Recipe

Preparation time:  10 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Chilling time: 2 hours

Total time: 2 hours 20 minutes 

Servings: 36 cookies 

Cookie Dough Recipe:

3-3/4 cups flour

1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1 cup ripe banana, mashed (approximately 2 to 3 bananas)

1 large egg, room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Sugar Cookie Topping:

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, sugar and light brown sugar. When blended until light and creamy, add the egg, vanilla and mashed banana.

Gradually add the flour/baking powder mixture into to the egg/banana mixture and combine well.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours.

After the dough has chilled, preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a small bowl, stir together the sugar and cinnamon.

With clean hands, roll the dough into 1-1/2 inch balls. Dough might be sticky and not roll well. This is okay.  Once rolled, coat thoroughly into the cinnamon/sugar mixture. 

Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or use a silicone mat cookie sheet and place uncooked cookies 2 inches apart.

Bake for 13-15 minutes or until cookie tops start to crack. Do not wait until cookies brown, they will be overdone.

Allow the cookies to cool on cookie sheet for at least 5 minutes before carefully transferring to a cooling rack using a spatula.

What did we think?

Excellent! I ending up cooking only 4 cookies in 1 batch, two each as we didn’t want to overdo it.  The other already rolled cookies I flash froze (before baking) placed them in a sealed container.  They are in the freezer.  

I used regular butter instead of the unsalted, and kosher salt instead of the fine sea salt.

I meant to cook these after the two hours, but with one thing and another taking up my time, I left them in the fridge until the next day, and they were fine.

While they were still frozen I heated the oven to 405 degrees F., placing them on the cookie sheet and set the timer for 20 minutes. My oven always runs on the cooler side for most recipes, that's why I turned it up higher, plus the fact the cookies were frozen. You will have to be the judge for your own oven as these temperatures and timing are just a guide. It's a bit of an experiment and it might take me a couple of tries to get it to the way I think it should be. It is so nice only taking a few out at a time whenever you feel like a sweet treat. Also great for unexpected company.

If you prefer, you can thaw overnight in the fridge, and follow Jessica's instructions, maybe adding a few minutes to the cooking time if needed. I think she gives some tips on freezing.

If you prefer to copy and paste rather than use the link above, here is the full address.

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Friday, February 23, 2024


These are old photos from a vacation in England in 2015. We spent a few days in London and had a great time exploring Saint James Park. It became a favorite place to go as it was a short walk from our hotel. There were many different kinds of feathered friends. Here are a few and I have provided links with more information on each name, including a map of the park here.
I rarely get to see a Graylag Goose. This may have been the last time.

The next two photos show the Ross' Goose. I went here to identify. If any of my ID's are wrong, I would be happy for the correction. I am no expert, always learning.
This goose is slightly larger than a mallard and smaller than a Canada Goose.

Next is the Great-crested Grebe.  

  I had never seen any before my holiday. 
There are more facts at this website.

Sometime I will share more birds from the park.

Thursday, February 22, 2024



"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"to talk of many things, of shoes and ships
and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings,
and why the sea is boiling hot,
And whether pigs have wings."

(If interested you can read the rest of this poem here.)

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (27 January 1832 – 14 January 1898)), better known by his pen name Lewis Carroll, was an English author, poet, mathematician and photographer. His most notable works are Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass (1871). He was noted for his facility with word play, logic, and fantasy. His poems Jabberwocky (1871) and The Hunting of the Snark (1876) are classified in the genre of literary nonsense.

More information can be found if you click on his name below the poem.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024


 I have been exploring the world of AI recently.  I thought I would share an occasional picture I ask for, and maybe a memory it reminds me of. No set schedule, just when I think about it.  The app I downloaded onto my iPad is called AI Art Generator. My request was “black wolf/white wolf family in the mountains with flowers”.  I sort through several, most are really nice, occasionally one might look a little odd, but then you get very pretty ones and a favorite.  This is mine. 

(Added note: at this time, and one never knows if this will change in the future, the app is free,)

I think I have mentioned this before, but it is an all-time favorite memory, so here goes.  It happened on one of our road trips several years ago. I hope you won't mind me repeating myself if you remember it from last time.

We were at a lodge in the Grand Tetons, and had arrived the day before having traveled three or four hundred miles. That first morning I was coming out of a deep sleep when I awakened before daybreak, to what I thought were dogs howling. It was a beautiful, most unearthly and surreal sound.

Lying there trying to focus on what I was hearing, I eventually realized that no, I wasn’t dreaming. Understandably, considering the early hour, Gregg wanted to continue sleeping, so I brewed a quick cup of coffee, put on my coat, grabbed a blanket and stepped onto the lanai.  I still have this vivid memory of sitting down with that hot coffee cupped in my hands and intently listening. It was almost the end of October and very chilly. 

As the first light appeared, the outline of the mountains came into focus. It was an incredible morning with pockets of mist everywhere. I listened for half an hour to what I confirmed later, were wolves howling in the distance. Something I had never heard with my own ears before, nor heard since. 

As far back as I can remember, I have always been drawn to the mountains.  It certainly was a great gift to be there that day.

I found a website at this link with lots of information about wolves.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024


 I am starting off today with a photo of Lena Lake.  We walked down the hill and made our way along the adjacent path. The garden holds its own beauty at this time of the year.  
Next to the tree is a Panicle Hydrangea, in its dried form. Also known as Peegee hydrangea, with its botanical name Hydrangea paniculata. The first link will give you more information and show you its blooms during the warmer months. I also have a few photos on a previous post taken at the Williamsburg Botanical Garden in September 2019, where I share the same information. You can see them if you scroll down the page. There are three photos with them in bloom.

It is a native to Japan and China. This small tree can grow between 3 to 16 feet, with a maximum diameter of 8 feet. Its leaves contain cyanide and need I say? It should not be ingested. The hydrangea bloom colors come from the soil's pH.  If the soil is more acidic, the bloom will be more of a blue color. However, if the soil is more alkaline, the flowers will be pink. At this time of the year it is dried and would look very pretty in botanical arrangements I'm thinking.  

These leaves nearby are from the Common foxglove. I didn't recognize it as such. It has many names and I will pick a few; Lady's glove, Fairy's glove, Dragon's Mouth, Fairy Bells, Fairy's Petticoat and Gloves of Mary. Its botanical name is Digitalis purpurea. Native to Europe, Western Asia, and northwestern Africa, you can see its blooms at this link. Unfortunately, it is severely toxic so best to keep it away from children and pets. It loves acidic soils in woods, heaths and mountain grasslands. The name comes from the medieval English, fox-glove, and was first known by the Anglo-Saxon name Foxes glofa. There is a very interesting article here on Wikipedia that I enjoyed reading.
Here it is again, this time next to two clumps of Carnations, minus blooms. Also called Clove pink, Border carnation and Mini carnation, its botanical name Dianthus caryophyllus.  An interesting story I read was that some scholars believe that the name "carnation" comes from "coronation" or "corone", which refers to the flower garlands, as it was one of the flowers used in Greek ceremonial crowns. Others think the name stems from the latin "caro" or "carnis" which refers to the original color of the flower.  
The carnation was imported to the USA from France in 1852 via a French shipment to Long Island. No one is 100 percent sure from where they originated, but old publications strongly indicate that its native home may have extended from Greece through Asia Minor to Persia. Theophrastus referred to carnations as Dios Anthos (the flower of the gods) which became known, in later usage, as the divine flower. I love these journeys I take online, one link leads to another and here I am reading about a man born in c 371 BC, who was a friend of Aristotle. So, a skip along several steppingstones, from the Carnation to an ancient Greek named Theophrastus, whose friend and teacher was Aristotle, isn't that something?
This is the back of the visitor center. They always have a lovely display, and it is completely covered in flowers in the warmer weather. I think they did a nice job at this time of the year also. The tree looked real at first, and then you look closer and see that it is a fake one. The flowers on the branches are lights. It must look beautiful when the lights are turned on as the sun goes down. 
I have a few more photos from the garden but I will share them another time.

Monday, February 19, 2024


A very tasty dish found at  Kitchen Sanctuary hosted by Nicky.  Thanks Nicky, this was a delicious recipe.  The original recipe can be found here.  A lot of good tips at her website, and more great recipes I will be trying.

Beef Chow Mein 

Serves 4

470 calories per serving

From prep to table in approximately 30 minutes

150 g (5.3 oz) dried chow mein noodles - or dried fine egg noodles

3 tbsp sunflower oil

300 g (10.5 oz) thin sirloin, skirt or flank steak - sliced thinly, against the grain 

¼ tsp garlic salt

½ tsp black pepper

1 small onion - peeled and sliced

2 cloves garlic - peeled and minced

1 carrot - peeled and sliced into matchsticks

½ green bell pepper - deseeded and sliced

¼ cabbage - thinly sliced

100 g (3.5 oz) beansprouts

Chow Mein Sauce:

1 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch)

2 tbsp dark soy sauce

1 tbsp Chinese rice wine

2 tbsp kecap manis (sweet soy sauce)

2 tbsp hoisin sauce

90 ml (⅓ cup) beef stock

1 tbsp sesame oil

¼ tsp white pepper

To Serve:

chopped spring onions (scallions)

sesame seeds

chilli flakes

Cook the chow mein noodles, in boiling water, as per the pack instructions, then drain and run under cold water to stop them sticking together.

While the noodles are cooking, make the chow mein sauce. In a small bowl, mix together the cornflour, soy sauce, and Chinese rice wine, until the cornflour is fully incorporated.

Add kecap manis, hoisin sauce, beef stock, sesame oil, and white pepper. Mix together to combine and put to one side.

Heat two tablespoons of the oil in a wok over a high heat.

Season the steak strips in the garlic salt and pepper, then add to the wok and fry for 2-3 minutes, turning once or twice, until the steak is just cooked.

Remove the steak from the pan with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl.

Add the remaining one tablespoon of oil to the wok

Add the onion, garlic, and carrot, and fry for 3 minutes, regularly tossing everything together with a spatula.

Add the green pepper, cabbage, and beansprouts and fry again for 2 minutes, keeping everything moving in the wok with your spatula.

Now add the steak strips back to the wok, along with the noodles. Pour the chow mein sauce over the top.

Stir fry everything together for 2-3 minutes, tossing regularly with a set of tongs, until the noodles are hot.

Serve topped with spring onions, sesame seeds, and chilli flakes.

Nicky's Notes: 

Freeze the Steak - just a little

Place the steak in the freezer for 30-40 minutes before slicing. This will make the meat firmer and easier to slice thinly.

Can I make it ahead and/or freeze?

Nicky does not recommend making this dish ahead, it tastes much better when eaten right away.

Ingredient swaps

Swap out the steak for chicken or prawns. Add different vegetables - mushrooms, bamboo shoots, red peppers and mange tout all work great!

Full address below if you would rather copy and paste to get to Nicky's website.

Our changes and what did we think?

It was a delicious combination of food and flavors. We thought it was an excellent dish.  As we most often do, we changed some ingredients with what we had in our supplies.

For the beef we bought an already marinated uncooked container of sliced beef from our local Asian grocery. We have bought it several times and have used it on its own or in stirfrys. This no doubt changed the flavor of our version but everything tasted great and we were very happy with the result.

Instead of using the dried or fine egg noodles, we used dried Ramen Noodles, removing the season packet before cooking while following the directions on the packet.

We didn't have any sweet bell pepper and used a packet of sliced mushrooms. We also had Bok Choy in the fridge and used that instead of the cabbage.

We added extra beansprouts on top of our meal at the table, along with toasted sesame seeds.

We had enough left for another meal the next day   It tasted even better.

Additional note: blogging friend Ann mentioned in her comment that she didn’t have a wok. I forgot to add originally that we don’t have one either and used a frying pan big enough for the ingredients.  

A great dish, wonderful flavors.