Tuesday, November 30, 2010

{Pearls of Wisdom} When Buying Orchids

This new series of posts will consist of bite-size pieces of knowledge I have gleamed throughout my life. When I was younger I use to carry around a large notebook that I had dubbed "The Big Red Book of Irrelevant Thingies". In which I would jot down interesting facts, random pieces of wisdom or common knowledge that I had not pick up on. I'm a bit older now but I still keep this book preciously in the book shelf and, well, ok, the notebook just doesn't fit into my handbag and I can't be carrying a backpack all the time, right? So I've opted for a smaller version which I carry around everywhere with me. You should see the random things that end up in there. Regardless, I will try to provide these tidbits with tangible references when it's possible.

When Buying Orchids

Orchids are fickle things. Increase your chances with this easy test : when selecting an orchid jiggle it in the pot (with moderation). The orchid should sit firmly in the pot. By jiggling the pot, you make sure the orchid is well anchored.

Take care!

ConsumerReports, Quick and Easy Shopping Guide, 2010.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Roasted Pear-Squash Soup with Crumbled Blue Cheese

or the successful Thanksgiving Soup

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and a stress free Black Friday. For our part, we relaxed, watched the NYC Thanksgiving Parade (and official arrival of Santa Claus) from the safety of Grandma's house before heading out to the food coma inducing, turkey carving, sweet tooth paradise and  family gathering meal.
What made this year's different and slightly more stressful than the last few chaotic gatherings is Wolfman and I were expected to bring some kind of contribution to the meal. We, I thought long and hard about this and because of cooking skills are, well, average on my best day, I went with something I new: SQUASH SOUP.
I love squash soup, it's the best thing to eat at this time of year. However, my ever so kind husband pointed out that my soups, although always delicious and his absolute favorite thing, may be considered a bit bland by the rest of humanity. BLAND! How dare he. (Obviously he is right, I haven't the faintest idea of what to do with spices but I'll never admit, to him at least.) After getting over my husband's betrayal, I set out in search for a recipe.
Being the Last Minute Queen, I found the recipe in the free "Eat Healthy Your Way" magazine produced for the Commissary, the military grocery store. You can access lots of great recipe's online at Eathealthyyourway.net. I found it while flipping through it searching for addition discounts while waiting at the deli counter. Boy was I happy! Not only did it sound good, but I could pick up the ingredients as I went along.

What you need: 2 ripe pears, peeled, quartered and cored
2 lbs butternut or acorn squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 2" chuncks
2 medium tomatoes, quartered
1 large leek, pale green and white parts only
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
Pepper to taste
4 cups of vegetable broth
2/3 cup crumbed blue cheese
1 tbsp sliced fresh chives
1 hand held blender
1 large rimmed baking sheet
1 large cooking pot
Chopping knives and preferred tools for stirring soup ( I like wooden spoons)

How to: The key to roasting your vegetables is to cut them into equal-sized pieces. This allows them to cook at the same rate so you don't end up with a mix of burnt and undercooked pieces. (You live and you learn, sigh.) I started by chopping up the squash, I used a butternut and an acorn squash because I had two small ones at home. Once that is done, preheat your oven to 400F. Why wait? Cutting squash is a long process and the oven doesn't take that long to heat. So, while the oven is heating, quickly cut up pears, tomatoes,  leek, garlic and combine them with the squash. Toss around in a large bowl with oil, 1/4tsp of salt and pepper. Spread your good looking mix onto a baking sheet and pop into the oven for about 45 minutes.

A word of advice: If you don't already own one, buy a cooking timer. I recently purchased one and it had significantly reduced the burnt supper syndrome that plagues our house.

Once the timer rings, let it cool while you prepare your vegetable broth. This process usually required you to boil water, add a broth cube and stir until it dissolves.  Combine half the vegetables with 2 cups of broth and blend. Add the rest of the veggies and another 2 cups of broth and blend. The recipe suggests using a blender but I don't have one. The hand held worked just fine. Add the remaining 1/4 tsp of salt (which I totally forgot and nobody seemed to notice) and cook for about 10 minutes. Divide into bowls and garnish with cheese and scallions.

VoilĂ ! An easy to prepare, great tasting Thanksgiving Soup.
It was a hit with the whole family. Let me know what you think and what personal spin you gave to the recipe.

To sum it up:
1- Peel, seed and cut squash into 2 inch chunks
2- Preheat oven to 400F
3- Combine pears, squash, tomatoes, leek, garlic, oil, 1/4tsp salt and pepper in a large bowl and toss to coat.
4- Spread on baking sheet and roast for about 45 minutes.
5- Combine the roasted vegetables and broth in a large pot and blend.
6- Cook for 10 minutes.
7- Divide into bowls and garnish with cheese and scallions.

Before you go, how do you serve spaghetti squash? You've never tried? Tune in next week to find out!

Take care!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Fall by Peter Oelslager and Jillian Rubino

This wonderful homage to Fall in Virginia Beach comes to you courtesy of two great people: Peter Oelslager, someone I am happy to call my friend and not only because he let me post his great pictures and Jillian Rubino, Peter's girlfriend that I can't wait to meet.


 A soothing ramble through the peaceful woods
by Peter Oelslager

The Epic Battle: Summer vs Fall
by Jillian Rubino
Do you see the rabbit in the clouds?

Spanish Moss is the sun
by Peter Oelslager

The Realm of Swamp Thing
by Peter Oelslager

Go out and see what you can find around you.
Take care!

Picture Credits
Peter Oelslager
If you wish to contact Peter for prints, email me.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Leonid Meteor Shower

I just heard that this week is a great time for meteor watching. Apparently, the Leonid Meteor Shower will reach it's peak at dawn tomorrow. I am not an astronomer, far from it, but I do enjoy a good meteor shower; especially the wishing part. There is something magical about watching burning debris shooting stars fly across the night sky.  If you have the will power to pull yourself out of bed that early, God bless. I'm heading up to the roof top with a blanket, a cup of hot coco and my personal walking heating device (my husband). It's a bit cloudy tonight so I might not see anything but I'll try again tomorrow.

Let me know how many meteors you count. Scientist predict up to 20 per hour. What a show!

To learn more about this natural light show, read Lisa Grossman's article on Wired Science.

Take care!

References and Picture Credit
Grossman, Lisa. "Leonid Meteor Shower Peaks Wednesday." Wired 16 Nov. 2010. 16 Nov. 2010

Monday, November 15, 2010

One of a Kind Show and Sale - NYC

Dear precious readers,

My new and exciting job as an Assistant Designer for Twains Twines is taking up all of my time this week due to our presence at the One of a Kind Show and Sale in New York.

Since I'm an unorganized blogger, I have nothing prepared for this crazy week. I'll get back to you next week when I should have a little more breathing room.

In the mean time, you can check out my Fashion Blog: Love Garden Design where I have just posted pictures from first week of the show.

Take care!

Monday, November 8, 2010

{Book Review} Red-Tails in Love by Marie Winn

Red-Tails in Love: A Wildlife Drama in Central Park
By Marie Winn

Published in 1998 and written by a Science writer and published author, this account of 6 years birding in Central Park is a wonderful homage to the beauty and resilience of nature and a reminder of its presence even within a bustling metropolis like New York.

Filled with fascinating facts and lovingly described anecdotes, this book is a joy to read cover to cover. The writing is such that it can be enjoyed by both an experienced birder and a modest observer.
The endpapers map designed by Anne Malcolm are inviting and accurate. You can head to the boathouse, take out the book and follow the paths discovering parts of the park you would otherwise miss. You learn not only about the birds that inhabit or visit the 843 acres of green space that just happens to be smack bad in the middle of one of the largest cities in the world but also about the plants, insects, and other animals you might encounter. All 305 pages of this book hold an adventure you can recreate for yourself, all you have to do is take a walk in Central Park.

A must read for all New Yorkers and anyone planning to walk through Central Park.

Take care!

Get the book:

Friday, November 5, 2010

{NYC Encounter} The White-Footed Mouse

Look what I nearly stepped on while walking down 56th street and Columbus Ave.  

 White-footed Mouse - Peromyscus leucopus

Incredible, right? I can hear many of you asking yourself what is so incredible about seeing a mouse in New York City. Apart from the fact that for once I managed to take a picture of a Nature Sighting without it being dead or sessile by design. You see, this mouse is special, this isn't your standard city mouse, this, I dare say, is a country mouse. 
"White-footed mice live in wooded, brushy areas or open areas next to woods, such as marshes. They are active year-round, but mostly come out at night.White-footed Mice are good swimmers and excellent climbers. They often climb shrubs and trees looking for food. Their tails give them good balance. Mice build nests in burrows, stumps, brush piles, buildings, hollow trees, old birds' nests, old squirrels' nests and under logs. Nests are made with grasses, leaves, hair, feathers, milkweed silk, shredded bark, moss, and cloth. " via

The habitat description does not fit the location I saw this mouse. So how do I know that I saw a White-footed Mouse instead of a House Mouse (Mus musculus)? What struck me first was it's long tail, long white hind feet, and white belly. Not your average House Mouse. Why would I even consider this a possibility? I just read a book call Red-Tails in Love by Marie Winn. In this book, which I will review by next week, Mrs Winn finds an owl pellet in central park and brings it to the Natural History Museum to have the bones identified. (An owl pellet is what an owl regurgitates after it has swallowed its meal whole and digested the good stuff. You can find bones, hairs, exoskeletons, feathers and/or beaks depending on what it has eaten.) This particular pellet contained the skeleton of a White-footed Mouse. So they are here, you just have to look carefully. Just as you can see many different sparrows amongst the hoards of House Sparrows, rats and mice also hold their fair share of wonder.

Take care!

1. Winn, Marie. Red-tails in Love: a Wildlife Drama in Central Park. New York: Random House, 1998 

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