Saturday, December 27, 2008

Musings from my drafting table

With all the snow that has fallen across the midwest, the birds have come a callin'. The pond offers open water, so throughout the day, they hunker down in the honeysuckle, waiting their turn for a drink. They fly down to the stones ringing the pond, drink, then hurry back to the safety of the hedge. A redbud offers a perch for those waiting to swoop in to snatch safflower seeds from the platform feeder. From early morning until late afternoon, the cardinals, juncos, and chickadees stay on task, staging a show of bravado and submission.

Audubon's Masterpieces-
150 prints from the Birds of America

John James Audubon, born in 1785 to a Creole woman and a French naval officer, followed his passionate love of birds and set out to capture the splendor of the birds of North America.

When we moved into our home on Friley Road, I frequented local garbage sales in search of old botanical prints to decorate the walls of our new dining room. It was in this search that I discovered the Audubon bird prints that graced The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company calendars given to loyal customers in the late 4o's and 50's. Over the years I had been collecting and repairing ornate, plaster of paris frames, so I married the prints with these frames, then lined the walls of my dining room with these beautiful old bird prints.

I remember the NPR news story that broke one afternoon reporting the siting of the ivory-billed woodpecker, long thought to be extinct. I had that Audubon print hanging on the wall. The Iowa state bird, the American goldfinch, also hangs there, along with the great blue heron, the warblers, the robins, and the towhees. A favorite bird in my garden is the catbird, with its soft mewing in the early evening. It, too, hangs in the dining room.

Daddy Redbirds, a name bestowed on the cardinals by my then 3-year-old son, are nervously flitting from hedge to pond, from redbud to feeder, then hedge to sandbox for grit. The snow-blanketed garden is dotted red with bright crimson puffs of feathers. What a beautiful show on this snowy December afternoon.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Soup's on!

Tess spotted the sun dogs right away this morning as we set off to deliver her papers. Oh baby, it's cold outside. Minus seven degrees with a hefty northwest wind that took our breaths away as we turned the corner onto Cessna. Rosy cheeks weather for sure! It was cold, but still a very clear, crisp, beautiful morning. Picture perfect weather for the Christmas Holidays.
The papers were delivered in record time this morning. We trotted back home, but I wasn't ready to go inside just yet. The garden wore such a beautiful, crystalline veil and the pond was covered with a most intricate, feathery frost.
The snow is piling up on Friley Road. The greens in my window boxes are frosted with a good six inches and the perennial beds are now asleep under the deep blanket of diamond-encrusted snow. I broke out the snowshoes yesterday morning and tromped to the market. As Dewey and I headed off cross country, snow started to fall. It was magical.

Today is a good day for Great grandma Cora's Dutch potato soup. I remember my mother waiting until the last minute to make this for supper. She would pull out the pressure cooker to blast the potatoes, and every time, a celery seed would catch in the pressure nozzle. The pressure would build and blow potato soup onto the ceiling. So my two sisters and I would peel more potatoes! A good day for a steaming bowl of soup.

Aardappelsoep - Dutch Potato Soup

6-8 diced potatoes
1 chopped onion
2 minced cloves garlic
1 diced stalk of celery
2-3 tsp. celery seed
1 cube chicken or vegetable bouillon
3 T. butter
2 c. homemade chicken broth
1 c. heavy cream
1 c. skim milk
salt and pepper

In a large soup pot, boil potatoes in chicken broth until tender. Do not drain. In saucepan, melt 2 T. butter and saute onion, garlic, celery, and celery seed until tender. Add this to potatoes in soup pot. Add bouillon, cream and milk. Add 3rd pat of butter. Simmer for 30 minutes. With a potato masher, mash this mixture a few times in the pot to thicken the soup. Season with S&P and serve with crusty bread.