Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Grape Leaves

We haven't had an opportunity to go grocery shopping on a big trip in quite some time, so I've been eking out meals from the random sundries in the pantry. I have beans, rice, flour, but I've run out of pasta and bread so you see, the cupboard is not entirely bare, but it's on the way. When thinking about what I might still be able to make, I realized we also have grapevines growing along our back fence, and some type of wild mint mingling with our bushes. (AKA ingredients for vegetarian grape leaves!) So, armed with this knowledge I went in search of recipes. I didn't find one that sounded right so I just added what I thought would make sense. First I harvested the goods from outside.
 Can you see the mint hiding in the middle there?

Next I brought them in and cleaned the leaves off.

After washing the leaves and mint, I boiled some water, removed the pot from the heat and soaked the grape leaves in the hot water to soften. While the leaves soaked, I made some rice (about 2 c. cooked), and selected the healthy (unmolested by bugs or beasties) leaves from the stem and chopped them.
I pressed three cloves of garlic, added some olive oil, parsley, dill, vinegar, lemon juice, a small onion, some sea salt, fresh ground pepper and a dash of paprika to the rice.
And, I wound up with this:
I removed the grape leaves from the now fairly cool water using the stem, clipped each stem off and placed the leaf vein side up. I put a bit of the mixture onto each leaf and rolled it tight. I placed the finished grape leaves in a pan oiled with olive oil.

I added a little water, a little more olive oil, and squeezed a little more lemon over them. I cooked for about 1/2 hour at 300 degrees. I've packaged them away after drizzling them with a bit more olive oil for use within the next week.
 I had enough of the rice mixture left over to eat for dinner. It was surprised by how delicious it was. It tasted buttery, but there was not a stitch of butter in it, and hardly any oil either since most of it was added to the pan and finished grape leaves. The mint, onion, garlic, dill, parsley sure did their jobs. And then, halfway through my meal, and even though I've used the mint in my lemonade before, and checked before,  I freaked myself out and needed to make sure there was no poisonous mint that grows in Michigan. I couldn't find any reference to any mint being poisonous to humans, and I learned something. Did you know that mint stems are square?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Rednesday in Rimini

For our honeymoon, my beloved and I visited Italy, the land of lovers. We chose to bide our time slowly, to relax, to appreciate, rather than to rush, rush, rush (which is our normal modus operandi). Thus we ventured to a resort town named Rimini which is off the traditional beaten path for a non-Italian tourist. It was a fun city, that's for sure. This town is but 20 or so kilometers from San Marino, on the coast of the Adriatic Sea, and is the birthplace of Fellini. We had a wonderful time at the beach, at the pubs, the clubs, at the sidewalk diners, and walking through the park that bisects the city. While in the park, not only did we see an arch from 27 a.d., built in honor of Agustus, but also a war memorial for Canada. Yep, Canada-we were surprised too. I'm posting this as a part of the It's a Very Cherry World's red themed event Rednesday.

How we wish we could return soon.

Outdoor Wednesday in the Boonies

My youngest sister moved to a country town in southern Michigan several years ago. The place she lives is much like the village we grew up in; however, the village we grew up in has gotten much more suburban since those days. Her town still rotates around the high school football team, farming, and raising children. It can sometimes be a little close minded, but I wouldn't mind living there none-the-less. Here's a couple photos of the lovely view she can see from her home after a storm.

Quite a lot of green, wouldn't you say? Also, in addition to the "meadow" across the street from her home, there is a marshy area behind it. That leads to quite a few visitors including sandhill cranes, blue herons, and tons of red-winged blackbirds, among others. The same day as the post-storm photos above were taken, I caught this guy trying to cross the street to return to the marsh.

This post was inspired by A Southern Daydreamer's Outdoor Wednesday theme. Visit her page to see other inspiring outdoor photos.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Thunderstorms and trees

We've all known the comfort that shade brings on a hot summer day. Personally I appreciate the large pines surrounding our property. They provide shade in the summer and protect from winter drafts during the coldest months. But, I'm always scared one of these will fall on our home during a storm. They are probably almost 40' tall of varying diameters. A tree from my property is shown below (middle right).

Today there was quite a lightening storm and one strike seemed fairly close, although the blinds were drawn, I saw the flick of lightening, the cable went out momentarily and the thunder started immediately. About an hour later, when the storm was over, I let my pup out. I was quite suprised when I saw one of our neighbors trees had gone down. For all that it looks like, it seems that there was minimal damage.

Thank goodness nobody was hurt.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Of Red Yesterdays

I grew up on property with a barn, and many of my neighbors had barns on their property as well. There is nothing quite so iconic to rural American life than a barn and a silo. I miss the days of fields and farms for miles on end. The town I grew up in is much different these days, as is much of the surrounding area. I am sharing this red barn in memory of days past as a part of Rednesday over at It's A Very Cherry World.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

This week, as part of my Mosaic Monday post, I chose to highlight the textural quality of the summertime. When the sun shines bright, the bark and leaves of trees are shown in their full glory. A pebbled path and a decrepit window frame are visually interesting as well. See beautiful mosaics over at the Little Red House blog.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Mosaic Monday: June 14, 2010

This is a Mosaic Monday post (see more over at the Little Red House Blog).

I love house finches. They are very beautiful and illustrate the attentiveness of good parents. I was very excited when they returned to my porch this year to raise a batch of babies.

Their first nest was blown asunder when a big thunderstorm whipped through the area, but as they are diligent birds, they quickly rebuilt. The nest wasn't far from our front door, and at night we would often scare mama bird from her perch where she was keeping the eggs warm, which wasn't ideal by any means.  We tried to do as little disturbing as possible.

After about a week, I stood on a chair and took pictures to understand how many eggs were in the nest. The pictures were too blurry to post here, but showed something I didn't like. To my dismay, I found five beautiful blue house finch eggs and one speckled brown egg. Evidently a brown headed cowbird played a dirty trick and did what has earned it categorization as a brood parasite - it laid an egg in the house finches' nest.

Through research, I found that the cowbird baby would most likely hatch first, then potentially kill the other birds by destroying their eggs prior to their hatching or by out begging the parent birds. However, there was information stating that a cowbird cannot exist on a house finch diet and would most likely die anyways, but that both species are protected enough that you are not suppose to mess with their nests. These were from forums and blogs, so I am not sure how reliable the information was. I will have to figure out what is allowed in Michigan for the next time I run into this problem.

Knowing that I wanted the house finches to live, but not wanting to kill the other bird, I decided in this case to let nature do what nature does. I snapped pictures after one bird hatched. I believe this was the cowbird. A couple days later, I found a broken blue egg on the ground. A day or two later, I found a baby bird corpse on the ground. I think this was the cowbird baby. I checked the nest and it was empty. The parent birds haven't been seen since.

I think the whole nest perished because I didn't make a choice which would have saved at least one bird. I was at a moral crossroads though because although it is not believed that cowbirds can survive on a diet of seeds only, it is not an absolute and I didn't feel good about either decision. So, I let nature take over. I don't like the results though.

What would you have done in this situation?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Common Mullein

Just found out the "lamb's ear" I've been letting grow is a Verbascum thapsus (Common Mullein) plant. Not really knowing what a lamb's ear was, I kept thinking I had one growing at the edge of my flower garden.  And, literally, it was growing at the edge of my flower garden, essentially just inside the flower garden at the front of my house. And, since it wasn't hurting anything, I let it grow. I see the first hints of yellow, as it is preparing to bloom, and I'm excited.

When I was little, these plants would grow in and around the pastures where we kept our cows. The cows wouldn't touch them, and so they would grow tall and proud. When I found this one, I just thought back to those memories. My husband thinks it looks horrible. But then again, he thinks cottage gardens look messy and overgrown, and I think they look gorgeous. This may be a little out of place, but I'm kind of into letting things be if they aren't hurting anything. He grew up in the suburbs, and I grew up on a dirt road with wild phlox, tiger lilies, Queen Anne's lace and mayapple plants growing abundantly at the side of the road.

What I am most excited about, are the medicinal uses I've learned about since looking into this plant. The sites I've been looking at suggest it is a good for lung ailments, infections, and headaches among others. Next time I have a mild asthma attack, I think I might make myself a little tea, sit back and evaluate the outcome.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Mosaic Monday

Taking part in Mosaic Monday to highlight blooming beauties of summer. See other Mosaic Monday gems at the Little Red House Blog.