Thursday, July 9, 2015

ALASKA - The Last Frontier

Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area and the least densely populated of the fifty states in the union. Approximately half of Alaska's 736,732 residents live within the Anchorage metropolitan area. Alaska's economy is dominated by oil, natural gas, fishing industries--resources which it has in abundance. Tourism is also a significant part of the economy. It is often referred to at the "The Last Frontier," because of it's rich virgin forests, beautiful huge mountains, and many waterways that entice hunters, fisherman, hikers, campers, and outdoor sportsmen from all over the world.







Wednesday, June 10, 2015

"Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose."


Roses are the signature flower of June, and one of my very favorite flowers. This year has been an exceptional year for some roses I transplanted from early homestead cellars and foundations found on my parent’s farm in Susquehanna County, PA, and dating from the early 1800s.
These are unique roses with multiple petals, but with a short life spam. Their scent is light and fragrant, and their petal composition reminds you of the well-known “rag rose” fashioned by crafters.

Roses are a woody perennial, coming up year after year and have been symbols of love, beauty, war and politics. Rose plants range in size from compact, miniature roses, to climbers that can reach seven meters in height. Flowers vary in size and shape and are usually large and showy, in colors ranging from white through yellows and reds. More recently, hybrids have been created with the colors of blue, light purple, black, and variations of red or pink with yellow.

The history of roses is quite a unique one, and according to fossil evidence, the rose is 35 million years old. Here is information from the website, “Our Rose Garden,” by the University of Illinois Extension. http://extension.illinois.edu/roses/history.cfm.

"In nature, the genus Rosa has some 150 species spread throughout the Northern Hemisphere, from Alaska to Mexico and including northern Africa. Garden cultivation of roses began some 5,000 years ago, probably in China. During the Roman period, roses were grown extensively in the Middle East. They were used as confetti at celebrations, for medicinal purposes, and as a source of perfume. Roman nobility established large public rose gardens in the south of Rome. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the popularity of roses seemed to rise and fall depending on gardening trends of the time.

Roses were in such high demand during the seventeenth century that royalty considered roses or rose water as legal tender, and they were often used as barter and for payments. Napoleon's wife Josephine established an extensive collection of roses at Chateau de Malmaison, an estate seven miles west of Paris in the 1800s. This garden became the setting for Pierre Joseph Redoute's work as a botanical illustrator. In 1824, he completed his watercolor collection "Les Rose," which is still considered one of the finest records of botanical illustration.

It wasn't until the late eighteenth century that cultivated roses were introduced into Europe from China. Most modern-day roses can be traced back to this ancestry.”

**By the way, the phrase, “"Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose." was written by Gertrude Stein as part of the 1913 poem, Sacred Emily.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

BON APPETITE - A WEEKEND TREAT: Cole Slaw with Pineapple

It's officially the start of summer. It's a time of barbecues, good food, and lots of get togethers with friends. One of my favorite salads during the warm months is “Cole Slaw with Pineapple.” Why? Because the pineapple gives the slaw a slightly sweet and different zip to its taste. Here’s an easy recipe, especially if you use cabbage already shredded from the salad department of your favorite grocery store.

Cole Slaw with Pineapple
 
4 cups shredded cabbage
1 small carrot shredded (optional)
¾ cup pineapple tidbits drained
¾ cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp cider vinegar
2 Tbsp sugar
1 to 2 Tbsp milk

Combine the mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar and milk. Place cabbage, carrot, and pineapple in a large bowl. Add dressing and toss. Chill.
 
Prep Time: Less than 15 minutes
Makes: 8 servings

NOTE: If desired, you can use a combination of red and green cabbage.


Friday, May 15, 2015

WIN A $25 GIFT CERTIFICATE - UNDER STARRY SKIES - ON BLOG TOUR

Here is a list of sites for my May Blog Tour!
                      Please stop by, comment, and register 
                          to win a $25 Gift Certificate!


Friday, April 24, 2015

THE FIDDLEHEADS ARE HERE!

The fiddleheads are popping through the sping earth, and you can almost see them growing before your eyes.  I admit it, I’m a fan of ferns. There is something delicate and eye-catching about these ornamental plants.  Every year we watch them materialize from the flowerbeds around our patio; and every year I purchase four pots of ferns to hang from hooks around the perimeter of it. Ferns are a native plant of Pennsylvania which means they occurred in this region before settlement by Europeans.
 
Why are ferns unique? They are part of a group of species of vascular plants which reproduce via spores and have neither seeds nor flowers. However, they have stems and leaves. The fiddleheads which first emerge expand into the delicate fronds we all know and recognize.


Fiddleheads are the young, tightly-coiled leaves of the ostrich fern. Although all types of ferns technically have fiddleheads, only those from the ostrich fern are safe for consumption. They are considered a delicacy in areas where the ostrich fern grows natively and are identified by the papery brown scales that cover their coils. Only those who can properly identify the ostrich fern should consider cooking them for consumption.

It’s believed the first ferns appeared in fossil records 360 million years ago in the Devonian period, but many of the current species didn’t appear until roughly 145 million years ago in the early Cretaceous period, after flowering plants came to dominate many environments. Throughout history, ferns have been popular in medicine, art, mythology, landscaping, flower design and more.

With over 900 members, The American Fern Society is one of the largest international fern clubs in the world. It was established in 1893 with the objective of fostering interest in ferns and fern allies.

Monday, April 6, 2015

SPRINGTIME IN PENNSYLVANIA

There is something magical about springtime in Pennsylvania. Like a curious intruder, the season tiptoes into the chilly state, taking time to look around and become familiar with its surroundings. As the axis of the Earth increases its tilt relative to the sun, the days get longer and the nights get shorter.
The gentle, warm sunshine starts the musical, but familiar melody of drip, drip, plop from the gutters and roofs as ice and snow melt. Water races down driveways, streets, and hills and vales, swelling streams and rivers which have a merry song of their own. 

Along those frozen riverbanks, the skunk cabbage is one of the first plants to thrive along with the red buds which take on a flaming glow against the drab gray arms of leafless deciduous scrubs and trees. In yards and flowerbeds, crocus peeps through a blanket of white, and on the south side of buildings, daffodils and grape hyacinths poke through icy flowerbeds and unfurl their yellow and purple blossom. And everywhere the air is clean and crisp, smelling of new growth and rich loamy earth.


Spring is the time when some mammals are starting to mate. If you listen carefully at night, you might hear a fox barking from the woods, coyotes calling to each other, rabbits squealing in the bushes, or the haunting hoots of the barn and horned owls. And every Pennsylvanian recognizes the familiar and welcome sounds of the peepers in the wetlands just before nightfall.

The actual migrating “snow birds” are back in the state along with the locals. The chatter of the resident black-capped chickadees, winter sparrows, and cardinals in the bushes becomes more insistent as they call to their mates and hunt for the perfect place to build a nest while warning others to stay out of their territories. Canada geese wing northward, and soon the wrens and goldfinch will follow. Somewhere up in the pines the first lean robins arrive to shiver and force out a tune while they search the thawing yards for bare spots to find nourishment.

Spring is a kaleidoscope of vibrant colors. Winter brown lawns fade into hypnotic greens and maples sprout lime-colored new leaves. Forsythia bushes spill out showers of sunny-colored flowers along the roadways. High above, bright blue skies tower over everything—except for the few minutes when glorious sunrises and even more spectacular sunsets paint the sky in ruby reds, golds and plum colors. 

Spring is noisy, colorful, and magical in Pennsylvania. It’s a long-awaited season which lifts and warms the heart and soul upon its arrival—especially after a long, cold, and dreary winter. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

BON APPETITE - A WEEKEND TREAT: Shrimp and Sausage Jambayala

One of my favorite places to visit is New Orleans, and one of my favorite dishes to eat there is jambalaya. There are three different versions of jambalaya: city Creole jambalaya, rural creole jambalaya, and Cajun jambalaya. All of them have slightly different ingredients and different approaches to making them. Some of them do not use tomatoes; many of them use combinations of meat such as shrimp, sausage, ham, or chicken. My favorite is shrimp and andouille sausage.
                   
                 JAMBALAYA

2 (4 ½ ounce) cans deveined small shrimp                                       
1 cup sliced andouille sausage (or diced ham)
2 Tbsp butter
½ cup peeled and chopped onions
1 cup finely cut green peppers
2 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed
1 ½ cups canned tomatoes
1 ½ cups shrimp liquid and water
1 cup uncooked rice
¼ tsp salt                                                                                            

1 bay leaf
½ tsp thyme
1/8 tsp cayenne
¼ cup finely cut parsley
             
[Optional: 1 cup okra]

Drain shrimp and save liquid. Cook sausage in butter in deep heavy skillet and removed. Cool slightly and cut into slice. Return it to the pan and add onions, green peppers, and garlic. Cook until onions and peppers are tender. Remove garlic and discard. Add tomatoes, shrimp liquid and water, rice and seasonings. Cover skillet. Cook slowly 25 to 30 minutes or until rice is tender. Stir occasionally. Add parsley and shrimp. Heat, but do not boil. Serve at once on toast or with biscuit if desired.

Makes six servings. Enjoy!