Thursday, August 31, 2017

THE CHOCOLATE CAFE IN WINCHESTER, VA - PART 1



A couple of weekends before last we had an all-ladies stay-over at our house.  Gregg is a good sport about it and doesn't mind tucking himself away upstairs when he wants to retreat from all our chatter.  He is content going off to whatever place he enjoys for some alone-time, enjoyed a nice long bike-ride among other things, and in the evening watches baseball and other shows in our bedroom. Our bedroom turns into his retreat at such times, when he is outnumbered by us females.  All joking aside he enjoys my friends and having a chat with them, but a lot of the time he is in his, what do they call it these days, his "man-cave"?


I didn't take many photos of our time together, just this one before Gregg's bike ride.  All the flowers I am sharing came from a friend's garden when we dropped her back home a couple of days later.  She has a magic touch.



The weekend was over all too soon but the one friend mentioned above stayed a day longer, the friend who has a magic touch in her garden.  Before we dropped her off at her home, she treated us to lunch at a place in Winchester called The Chocolate Cafe.  (I like to mention that I am not getting anything for this free advertising, but if I find a place we truly enjoy, I like to mention them on my blog.  We will be going back.)




When we walked in I looked around and knew we had come to a neat place.  I asked the manager if I could take photos, and she very kindly gave me the okay.



We ordered our sandwiches and I forgot to take photos of those, but we all enjoyed them.  I had a pastrami on rye and it was the best sandwich I had had in a very long time.  If I don't take a photo I can't remember what anyone else had, but they all agreed their choices were excellent, which included a small side dish of orzo pasta salad which was my choice.








As you can see from the photo below there is a definite connection to furry friends.  The tip jar contents go to their local rescue shelter.











There is even an adoption wall.




Hopefully you can enlarge all the photos and have a better look.  In the sign below it says the walls are covered with photos of rescue animals from a no-kill shelter that they support.  This cafe definitely has a big heart.



Attached to the cafe is a place that sells all kinds of chocolates, and I will share photos from there in another post, but here is a 'taste' of what to expect.
















Wednesday, August 30, 2017

I DON'T OFTEN GET ON MY SPEAKING BOX BUT...

The Gulf Coast of Texas in the Spring of 2017

I wanted to say that our family, friends, in fact everyone I know, are thinking of all those in Texas who are dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, and we are keeping you very much in our thoughts and prayers.  

I have also watched the many heroes who are appearing.  It does the heart good after all the negative stories lately, to see all the goodness when these disasters happen.  As Mrs. Rogers mentioned to her son, look for the helpers, there will always be the helpers.  In my humble opinion, this is a large part of what this country is all about, helping each other in their greatest time of need, which also extends to our four legged friends and other critters too. 

There have been countless numbers of people who don't look at a person to see what ethnicity they are, religion, orientation, anyone who is judged by their differences, they just see a person who needs help.  And when you look around the world and see other terrible things happening, you'll also find the helpers.  Mr. Rogers' mom was a smart, sweet lady who brought comfort to her child.  Yes there is a lot of bad stuff going on, but there is also a whole lot of love out there, we have to remember that.  

Please forgive me if this is not what I usually write about. I try to keep this place a happy one for people to visit, but I woke up this morning feeling the need to say something.  I will be reading this in the years ahead, and I'll want to be reminded of the goodness in the world, instead of what everyone else is telling us.  Yes, I know a lot of bad stuff can happen too, I don't have my head in the sand. Pollyanna that I am, I will always be living in hope and looking to the helpers and there are many, many, many.  Blessings to all our Texas friends.  



A POEM



The shadow by my finger cast 
Divides the future from the past.
Before it, sleeps the unborn hour
In darkness, and beyond thy power.
Behind its unreturning line,
The vanished hour, no longer thine:
One hour alone is in thy hands,
The NOW on which the shadow stands

~Henry Van Dyke~


Photos taken at Green Spring Garden
Alexandria, Virginia

Monday, August 28, 2017

MUSHROOMS



A few days ago we were coming back from our son and daughter-in-law's place, when we spotted these.  I asked Gregg if he would stop the car so that I could take a few photos, and get a closer look.  



They were fascinating but mosquitoes were everywhere, tucked away in a damp, wooded area as they were. Thankfully I only brought one friend back into the car, and he already had a meal before I managed to open the window and let him out.  Yes I tried to swat the thing but he was too fast.  They have always loved me and completely ignore Gregg, and I am often itchy for days. 



But there was one time he had a problem - see here for that post.  It was eye-opening to me.  After being married for many years this was the first time I saw the tables turned.



Neither of us have ever seen anything like these mushrooms.  The largest of the clumps were at least two feet across and a foot high.  On doing a search on line I am pretty positive that they are Jack O'Lantern Mushrooms.  Please correct me if you think I am incorrect, as I am a novice at such things and always welcome an ID from the more experienced.  



The season is changing because this is a Fall mushroom, and before I go any further it is poisonous and will make you very sick if you eat them.  Apparently people have mistaken them for Chanterelles.  



One of the things that caught my attention on this web page where I found a lot of interesting information, its host said that these mushrooms glow in the dark. This particular author of the article seems skepticle, but the gills are supposed to be luminescent, and it is mentioned that he has found stories of our 19th-century pioneers finding their way back to their cabins in the dark, following the glowing Jack O'Lanterns.  Skepticism aside, I like the story and I hope it is true.



At this site you will find the Cornell University Mushroom Blog, which seems to have a picture of the glowing mushrooms, and I leave smiling.  The pioneer story could very well be true, and that suits me just fine. 





MONDAY RECIPE POST - BARRAMUNDI AND GARLIC MASHED POTATOES WITH CORN AND TARTAR SAUCE



Barramundi and Garlic Mashed Potatoes, with Corn and Tartar Sauce

This week's Blue Apron recipe can be found here.  Two thumb's up from both of us.

Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 2
Calories per serving: 690 calories

2 Skin-On Barramundi Fillets
2 cloves Garlic
1 ear of Corn
1/4 lb. Yukon Gold Potatoes
1 bunch Dill
2 tablespoons Butter
2 tablespoons Mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Sweet Pick Relish
1-1/2 tablespoons Capers
1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
1 tablespoon White Wine Vinegar
1 Red Onion

Prepare the ingredients:

Heat a small pot of salted water to boiling on high.  
Wash and dry the fresh produce.

Large dice the potatoes.

Peel the garlic; using the flat side of your knife, smash each clove to flatten.  

Peel and thinly slice the onion.

Remove and discard the corn husks and silks.  Cut the corn kernels off the cob; discard the cob.

Roughly chop the dill.

Make the Garlic Mashed Potatoes:

Add the potatoes and garlic to the pot of boiling water.  Cook 14 to 16 minutes, or until tender when pierced witha  fork.  Turn off the heat.  Drain thoroughly and return to the pot.  Add the butter and drizzle of olive oil; season with salt and pepper.  Using a form, mash to your desired consistency.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside in a warm place.

Make the tartar sauce:

While the potatoes cook, in a bowl, combine the mayonnaise, mustard, capers, pickle relish and half the vinegar; season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cook the vegetables:

While the potatoes continue to cook, in a medium pan (nonstick if you have one), heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium-high until hot.  Add the onion and corn; season with salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally 3 to 4 minutes, or until slightly softened.  Turn off the heat.  Stir in the remaining vinegar and half the dill; season with salt and pepper to taste.  Transfer to a bowl.  Wipe out the pan.

Cook the barramundi:

While the potatoes continue to cook, pat the barramundi fillets dry with paper towels; season with salt and pepper on both sides.  In the same pan, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium-high until hot.  Add the seasoned fillets, skin side down, and cook 3 to 5 minutes on the first side, or until the skin is lightly browned and crispy.  Flip and cook 2 to 3 minutes, or until lightly browned and cooked through.  Transfer to a plate.

Plate your dish:

Divide the cooked barramundi fillets, garlic mashed potatoes, and cooked vegetables between 2 dishes.  Garnish with the remaining dill.  Serve with the tartar sauce on the side.

Enjoy!



We both enjoyed this meal very much.  At first when we were cooking the fish, we thought that it smelled a little 'fishy', but once it was cooked and on the plate, with the added sauces, it was delicious.  We thought the fishiness may have been because it had been frozen.  However, I read that barramundi can be fishy because it eats a lot of shellfish?  We are certainly putting a lot more seafood into our diet, and we like that.

The corn and red onion side dish was yummy, but the garlic mashed potatoes were great.  Yukon Gold is now our favorite type of potato.

We have never used a lot of dill before but we will from now on, and the tartar sauce was a very nice accompaniment.

This was a fast to prepare and a fast to cook meal.



Saturday, August 26, 2017

A SEAL GOES FISHING

A few days ago I came across an unexpected gift.  I discovered a camera card stored away with several unseen photos from our road trip last Spring.  These were taken of the seals near a pier in California, I can't remember which one now.  


We saw a seal slowly being surrounded by gulls.  The seal had been fishing.




He had a companion for a while, you can see the other's nose touching his.


Those gulls really wanted that fish.





All the hovering overhead did not entice the seal to give away his catch.




Go away!


He almost looked like a big old puppy dog to me.






And then he was joined by his companion and off they went.



If you would like to see more photos of the seals I took on this trip, you can click on the tag below this post titled, "Seals".




Tuesday, August 22, 2017

THE BEE




How doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour,
And gather honey all the day
From each and every flower

Poet and Hymn Writer



Monday, August 21, 2017

MONDAY RECIPE POST - SWEET AND SPICY BEEF WITH JASMINE RICE AND CRISPY SHALLOT


One of the three meals delivered this week included the recipe below.  Though we enjoyed the others this was our favorite.  You can check out Blue Apron here.  The actual recipe was on this page.

Sweet and Spicy Beef with Jasmine Rice and Crispy Shallot

Cooking time: 35 to 45 minutes
Servings: 2
Calories per meal: 790

10 ozs. Ground Beef
1/2 cup Jasmine Rice
4 ozs. Sweet Peppers
2 cloves Garlic
2 Scallions
1 Lime
1 Summer Squash
1 bunch Cilantro and Mint
2 tablespoons Rice Flour
2 teaspoons Golden Mountain Sauce
1 Bird's Eye Chile Pepper
1 Shallot
1 tablespoon of Honey

Cooke the rice:

Remove the honey from the refrigerator to bring to room temperature.

In a small saucepan combine the rice, a big pinch of salt and 1 cup of water.  Heat to boiling on high.  Once boiling, cover and reduce the heat to low.  Cook 12 to 14 minutes, or until the water has been absorbed and the rice is tender.  Turn off the heat and fluff rice with a fork

Prepare the ingredients:

While the rice cooks, wash and dry the fresh produce.

Peel and thinly slice the shallot; place in a medium bowl.

Large dice the squash.

Cut off and discard the sweet pepper stems; halve lengthwise, then remove and discard the ribs and seds.  Thinly slice crosswise.

Cut off and discard the root ends of the scallions; thinly slice, separating the white bottoms and green tops.

Peel and roughly chop the garlic.

Quarter the lime.

Pick the cilantro and mint leaves off the stems; discard the stems.

Cut off and discard the stem ends of the chile pepper; thinly slice into rounds. Thoroughly wash your hands immediately after handling the chile pepper.

Coat and fry the shallot:

Add the flour to the bowl of shallot; season with salt and pepper.  Toss to thoroughly coat.

In a large pan (nonstick if you have one), heat a thin layer of oil on medium-high until hot.  Once the oil is hot enough that a piece of shallot sizzles immediately when added to the pan, add the coated shallot in a single layer (tapping off any excess flour before adding).  Cook, stirring frequently, 2 to 3 minutes, or until browned and crispy.  Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate; immediately season with salt and pepper.  Rinse and wipe out the pan.

Cook the vegetables:

In the same pan, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium-high until hot.  Add the squash and sweet peppers.  Cook, stirring occasionally, 3 to 4 minutes or until lightly browned.  Turn off the heat; stir in the green tops of the scallions.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Transfer to a bowl; set aside in a warm place.  Wip out the pan.

Cook the beef and make the sauce:

In the same pan heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium-high until hot.  Add the ground beef; season with salt and pepper.  Cook, frequently breaking the meat apart with a spoon, 3 to 4 minutes, or until browned.

Add the garlic, white bottoms of the scallions, honey, Golden Mountain sauce, the juice of 2 lime wedges, 2 tablespoons of water and as much of the chile pepper as you like, depending on how spicy you want the dish to be.

Cook, stirring frequently, 1 to 2 minutes, or until thorooughly combined and the beef is cooked through.  Turn off the heat.

Plate your dish:

Divide the cooked rice between 2 dishes.  Top with the cooked beef and sauce, and cooked vegetables.  Garnish with the fried shallot, cilantro and mint (tearing the mint leaves just before adding), and remaining lime wedges.

Enjoy!




We both enjoyed this dish and look forward to putting our own spin on it as we will definitely be making it again.

Our own spin being that the only change we decided would be not adding the mint, just the cilantro.  However, we would much prefer Thai Basil to go with this dish.  I'm sure that parsley would be a good substitute too.

Our package came with three of those small Bird's Eye Peppers.  We added all of them and far from it being hot and spicy, it wasn't over the top.  I only detected a little heat here and there, which I tolerated easily.  I am not sure what we would substitute for the Bird's Eye Peppers as I have never seen them by that name in our local store, not even the Asian supermarket where we buy quite a lot of our supplies.  

Friday, August 18, 2017

A BIRTHDAY, A PHOTO AND A QUOTE - 2 OF 3



It is my son's birthday today.  This is for him.
Happy Birthday My Darling Boy-Now A Man, but always our child.  That's the way life is, as parents we watched you grow into a wonderfully confident, outgoing adult, full of kindess and strength of character, but you will always be 'our sweet child'.  We are so proud of you.   


This is a photo of him with my niece who now lives in Germany.  At the time (1986) she and her family were living in Norway and we were lucky enough to visit them.  I remember taking this photo vividly, following them as we all walked down to the water's edge.  I have shared it before during my blogging years, but it is a favorite so I hope you will indulge me as I share it again.

Oh my goodness, how time flies!



Tuesday, August 15, 2017

MOUNT VERNON''S UPPER GARDEN - PART 2


I am sharing the last of the photos I took at the Upper Garden, at least until I get there another time.  No more narrative, just the photos.