Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Scribblings in Maine: The War Zone

I wrote a lot of posts while we were in Maine this summer, but I couldn't publish them to my blog due to sketchy internet availability. I thought I'd publish them as a series (which seems a bit presumptuous; a "series," indeed) so you can read about what I was thinking and doing during that time. I'm much more thoughtful when my life is not crazed and chaotic.

Here's the first:

I'm living in the middle of a war zone, and this time my daughters are not the combatants. As I write this, I'm sitting on the deck of our cabin with a lovely view of the lake where the girls are swimming. I am filled with a quiet joy.

Out of nowhere, a thrumming buzz behind me interrupts my peace. A few mouse-like squeaks and then something swoops perilously close to the top of my head with another something hot on its tail. "Tail" is an appropriate word choice.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds on the warpath.

Small in size but huge in spirit, ruby-throated hummers are aggressive, fiercely guarding "their" territory and feeders, of which I have two. I have seen a hummer take a few sips and then dart up into a nearby tree to watch the feeder. Should an unwary interloper arrive -- and they always do -- the first hummer zips down commando-style to chase away the enemy.

Photo courtesy Wikipedia

I attributed this feeder-aggression to a need for constant nourishment to fuel their extremely high activity level. While this is important, I recently learned that aggression levels tend to peak in late summer and early fall, when ruby-throats are gearing up for migration, which includes a 500-mile trip across the Gulf of Mexico. Makes perfect sense.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Summer's End

The weather has turned cooler here in Maine this week, and a maple tree in our yard is flaunting orangey-red leaves. Fall is in the air.

We are packing up to begin the journey back home. It's always a bit sad for me, the end of our summer life. I will miss the unstructured days, the relaxed visits with friends, the boat. I love "messing about in boats," as Rat says in The Wind in the Willows.

But there are things waiting for us at home, some new adventures in the wings. A new year of learning. And that newness, the fresh sense of discovery and rediscovery of things and people we love, brightens my outlook. There's always something new waiting to be sampled and enjoyed.

And I have in the fridge the makings for one last pitcher of Skip and Go Nakeds. That's something!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Cooking by Serendipity

I, the admitted and confirmed mediocre cook, made wonderful French toast (ahem -- "eggy bread" to my Brit friends) earlier this week. No one was more delighted than I. Here's how it happened:

I had made decent French toast last weekend and still had left over 1/3 of a loaf of extra-thick French toast bread. I also had left over a bowlful of lightly sweetened homemade whipped cream that had started to liquefy. Inspiration struck.

Mixing three eggs, a touch of vanilla, and a generous amount of the liquidy whipped cream produced a lovely, foamy soaking bath for the bread. I sauteed -- which sounds SO much better than fried -- the soaked bread triangles in a lightly oiled skillet until glden brown on both sides. The resulting French toast was remarkably velvety and scrumptious, especially with real maple syrup. It was also prettier than my normal French toast, which was a niuce bonus.

Now. Will I go to the trouble of whipping cream three days before I make French toast again? I doubt it. But when I happen to have leftover whipped cream, I know what's for breakfast very, very soon....

Friday, August 5, 2011

Summer Afternoon, Summer Afternoon...

Summer afternoon, summer afternoon. . . the two most beautiful words in the English language.
-- Henry James

To which I say, Amen!

Himself arrived last night to spend a few days with us at the lake. After a bit of dreariness, the sun is shining today, and the expected high is 78 degrees. Tomorrow, friends arrive to spend the day. We are looking forward to lots of boating, bright blue skies, lobsters, and a high of 82.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Close Encounters of the Owl Kind

Two weeks ago, Tiny Girl and I were headed to her riding lesson when she cried out, “An owl!” I hit the brakes and reversed the car. There, in a tree just a few yards away, perched a rather large owl, staring at us while we stared back. I only had my phone with me, so I took a couple of (sadly unsatisfactory) photos before it soared away. After some rsearch at the library, I identified our owl as a barred owl. Here are some Wikipedia photos that put mine to shame. Note the dark eyes and yellow beak. We could clearly see those in our close encounter.
It was a nifty sighting, but a few summers ago, Himself and I had an even closer encounter with another owl. For several daysthat summer, we'd been hearing this strange whistling, hissing call and had no idea what it could be. A neighbor’s dad, who was visiting, identified it as an owl. And here I was thinking owls only said, “Who?”

A few nights later, at about 10:30, Himself and I were engaged in a highly competitive game of Scrabble when we heard that same call. “Let’s go look for it!” Himself suggested. Grabbing a flashlight, we headed outside.

Himself waved the flashlight at the tops of the trees. The eerie hissing whistle continued, tantalizingly close, but the owl remained hidden. A few moments later, we heard a whoosh of air and a big rustle of leaves on the ground to our right. We swung the flashlight beam that way. And there it was: a large barn owl, not five feet away. We stared at each other for a few seconds before it lifted off, silently, back up into the treetops. Here are some photos of barn owls, so you can see the difference.

We haven't heard any barn owls for at least two summers. I miss that hissing whistle.