The energy of the sun

(Black-eyed Susans at sunset.)

You sit here for days saying, ‘This is strange business.’  You’re the strange business.  You have the energy of the sun in you, but you keep knotting it up at the base of your spine.  You’re some weird kind of gold that wants to stay melted in the furnace, so you won’t have to become coins.

~ Rumi


Smoke and fire

We’ve had some interesting weather this week.  No tornadoes or bad storms in our area.  Just interesting.  I’m not sure it shows up well (you can see it better if you click on it for the larger version) but the photo above was taken during a heavy rain when the sun decided to peek out from behind the clouds.  There was probably a rainbow somewhere but I was busy watching the rain and sun, and didn’t get round to the front of the house to check for the rainbow.

The result of the heat, the rain, and the sun colliding with the somewhat cool water of the pond was a thick fog that didn’t last long.  It wrapped around the swimming platform for the time it was here.  (Side note:  On my ever-increasing list of things to learn is how to photograph fog.  If you have some ideas, suggestions, or pointers, please feel free to leave them in the comments section.  I can use all the help I can get.)

The sunsets have continued to be interesting as well.  The fog and the fiery sunsets have brought this song to mind.  It’s become an earworm, digging in and not letting go.

(Dust and sunlight on the pond.)

Prior to the rain that brought the fog, the pond was looking a little dusty on top, creating rainbow colors at sunset.

(Sunlight and dust on the water)

Tuesday’s sunset was by far the best of the lot.  I’ll spare you the week-in-review and just give you the cream of the crop.

My weekend is going to be packed with fun and adventure.  I don’t know if I’ll have time for blogging or not.

(Reflection of the fire in the sky.)

If not, have a wonder-filled weekend.  I’ll see you again on Monday.  8)


Spicy Chipotle Shrimp Salad: Adventures in Cooking #4

(Grilled shrimp with some of the makings of the chipotle sauce)

Thank you to CookingLight for this week’s adventures in cooking.  The July 2010 issue of CookingLight magazine has loads of great summery recipes so it was difficult to choose one.  I happened to have a bag of shrimp in the freezer so it made sense to pick a recipe which called for shrimp.  The Spicy Chipotle Shrimp Salad had me almost drooling just looking at the photos and reading the recipe.

Someday I will take the time to properly photograph food so it looks as yummy and colorful as it does in the foodie magazines.  The main problem is that I’m usually so busy with the cooking (and then eating) process that I don’t have the time to set everything up with the right lighting.

(Mango and pineapple)

I didn’t follow the recipe exactly, but came pretty close.  M fired up the grill and we grilled the shrimp and fruit out there.  Rather than slice the fruit, I decided on large cubes so I could string it on the kebob thingy (it’s likely it has some other name but we call it the kebob thingy).  We also decided to have some grilled red potatoes with the salad.  The potatoes are simple.  Wash, quarter, toss with some olive oil and whatever spices you prefer.  I used Slap Ya Mama Cajun seasoning last night (the salt-free version as I prefer to add salt on my own if I want it or the dish seems to need it).  M has a veggie basket for the grill that he uses for the potatoes (and other cubed veggies that are not on a kebob thingy).

(Pre-grilled potatoes)

Other than that, I think I pretty much stuck with what the recipe called for.  It was a fantastic dinner.  The shrimp with the chipotle had a nice degree of spiciness without being overwhelming.  The fruit added sweetness and a cooling factor to the meal.

My finished dish doesn’t look nearly as pretty as the picture on CookingLight.com, but I suspect they either left out the mayo in the chipotle sauce or they grilled the shrimp with the sauce on.  Either way, their photo is missing the creamy pinkish tinge that results from mixing mayonnaise with chiptoles and adobo sauce.  My lack of lighting doesn’t help.

It should also be noted that I am heavy-handed with the cilantro.  I heart cilantro and always add plenty of it to any dish in which the recipe calls for it (or I think is suitable for it).


Lessons

The universe is constantly talking to you and showing you things.  When something happens, stop, watch, and remember.  Ask yourself, ‘What does this mean?’  The fact that you are coincidentally there at that precise moment in eternity to witness what’s happening means that it’s yours.  It’s the external world talking to you.  It is showing you things about yourself.

The seeming external world is, in fact, internal — and it’s talking to you.  It loves you in its detached way.

~ Stuart Wilde

The photo above doesn’t look much like a photo anymore.  It is (obviously) heavily Photoshopped.  While in Kent on Saturday I took a photo of some small flowers that I thought were quite beautiful.  The colors are what struck me most.  The photo turned out to be blurry.  I was reluctant to delete it, to let it go, because I still liked the colors.  I played with it for a while and came up with something a little more abstract than the original.  The colors are not as dramatic, but they are still there, in memory if not in photo.

Here is the original, uncensored version:

It reminds of what things look like without my glasses.  All blur and color, light and shadows and shapes, distinguishable in what they are but not in the details of what makes them what they are.


What’s new?

(Gladiola and sunlight in the dining room.)

I was finally able to get out and about yesterday to see what’s happening around the pond and property.  I took short breaks outside during the Great Bean Processing Project, but didn’t have a chance to do much more than admire some of the flowers near the house.  One of those is pictured above, having been brought inside with a handful of other flowers by M.  I don’t know how he manages to slip past me when he picks flowers.  One minute the table will be empty and the next a bouquet of flowers turns up to surprise me.

(Sunbeam and butterfly wings.)

While out on one my quick trips to catch a breath of fresh air and some vitamin D, I met up with this swallowtail butterfly who was patient enough to let me snap a photo or two.  I like the way a shaft of sunlight hit the top of its wings.  (Click on the photos to see the larger versions.)

(Two purple coneflowers in the wildflower meadow.)

July has been a relatively dry month with just enough rain to keep things blooming.  We’ve helped out a little with the hose and sprinkler when needed, mostly up in the garden area as everything else seems to bounce back well enough from short periods of drought.

As is frequently the case when it comes to my vegetable garden, the weeds are showing off their beautiful and colorful blossoms.  I think it is their way of trying to survive, knowing full well that if they are pretty enough, I will have a hard time yanking them out of the ground.  Fortunately for me and for some of the weeds, they are growing in a spot I’m not using this year.  They can go ahead and bloom ’til their heart’s content.

(The inner rays of a purple coneflower.)

(A baby purple coneflower.)

The Queen Anne’s Lace is doing well in and out of the garden.  I love it out of the garden.  I don’t care much for it IN the garden.  It’s a difficult plant to pull with its long, carrot-like root.

(Trying to touch the sky.)

The Queen Anne’s Lace pictured above has grown very tall.  It is taller than I am which allowed me to photograph it from underneath without the usual squatting, kneeling, or lying on the ground.  I shot towards the sun to catch the light.  I played around with the Orton Effect in Photoshop.

The daylilies are still blooming in a variety of colors.  A pink tiger lily showed up in the front garden:

It’s a little blurry from the wind.  Breezy Acres has been living up to its name lately, making it challenging to take flower and macro shots.  I was wearing a white tank top when I went out to take this photo.  I sat down near the tiger lilies to make their acquaintance.  The breeze kept the flowers nodding and swaying so I waited patiently for things to settle down.  What I didn’t realize until I came back inside is that the wind and the flowers had conspired to pollinate me.  I had saffron colored streaks all over the right side of my shirt.  Hopefully it will come out in the wash.  If not, I’ll start a new fashion trend and call my line of clothing Pollinated or Touched by a Flower.


A Saturday

Last week I blogged about supporting the economy by buying local and supporting your local businesses.  My lovely daughter-in-law stopped by with a comment and a link about The 3/50 Project.  I had not heard of it.  Thank you, Merdi, for the info and the link.  If you have not heard of it, or you have but you’ve forgotten about it, please take a moment or two to check it out.  Even better, participate if you can.  It’s a wonderful idea.

As you know, my weekend was filled with beans and the processing of beans.  But it’s not all work and no play around here.  Sometimes it’s a combination of the two.

The car was due for its 30,000-mile check-up/tune-up.  M scheduled it for Saturday morning.  I decided to go along to keep him company and because he enticed me with a walk in Kent and breakfast at Wild Goats Café.  It beats sitting around in the waiting room at the car dealership (even if they do have coffee and donuts, a large screen television, and plenty of periodicals to read).

The walk from the dealership to Wild Goats Café is exactly one mile.  It was a nice little walk mostly on Main Street heading into Kent.  The morning was sunny, hazy, and very warm but there are plenty of trees to provide some shade and there are actual sidewalks to walk upon (something we don’t have out here in the country).  By noon it was feeling more hot than warm and we appreciated the shady spots even more than when we started out.

After a delicious breakfast (with plenty of iced tea) at Wild Goats, we walked over to the Franklin Mills Riveredge Park which is only about a block away from the café.  The park follows the course of the Cuyahoga River through Kent and is named after the original settlement along the river.  You may have heard of the Cuyahoga River.  It’s famous for having caught on fire in the late 1960’s.  It was at one time known as one of the most polluted rivers in the U.S.

It has always been my opinion that the shortest, easiest, and least expensive communication with the invaluable back country would be to let the courses and the distances be taken to the mouth of the Muskingum and up that river to the carrying place to the Cuyahoga, down the Cuyahoga to Lake Erie.

~ George Washington

Cuyahoga River on a sunny Saturday in July

The name Cuyahoga means “crooked river” in the language of the Iroquois.  It is indeed a crooked river, as you can see from this map.  The water quality has improved over the years thanks to a lot of hard work from a lot of hard-working people and, as far as I know, the river has not caught on fire since the 1960’s.  (For those interested in such things, Great Lakes Brewing Company has a beer which I think was named for the Cuyahoga River:  Burning River Pale Ale.  It’s an excellent and wonderfully hopped ale.)  Areas that were once devoid of fish now support 22 species.

(Kent Main Street bridge over the river.)

The park has seen a lot of improvements since we moved to this area ten years ago, including the bypassing of the Kent dam (something that was not without controversy).  One of the problems with the water quality in recent years has more to do with stagnation due to the dams along the river than it does with pollution (although I should point out that pollution continues with urban runoff and sewer overflows being two of the main sources).  If interested, you can read more about the Kent dam project here.

It’s a nice little park.  The dam, constructed in 1836 and having some historical significance (I read somewhere but can’t find it now that the dam is one of the oldest in Ohio), was left intact.  The waterfall was reestablished by pumping recirculating river water through a trough around the lip of the dam.

We enjoyed our walk.  There were other people out and about, enjoying the park.  Some were playing in the river, cooling off.

We saw several turtles sunning themselves near the dam area.  The water around the dam seems to suffer from some of the same problems we are having in our pond this year (pond weed and algae, oh my!).  In a way, that was reassuring.  It means our pond weed and algae problems are not unique to our pond and therefore not a result of something we did or did not do.

After exploring “Heritage Park” (the lower area that was “created” around the dam area when the dam was bypassed) and reading some of the interpretive signs highlighting some of the history of the dam and river, we climbed the stairs to the observation platforms and walkways.

I’m not sure how much more there was to explore as we didn’t stay too long or go too far.  One of the things missing in that area of the park is a public restroom.  I don’t know about you but if I drink lots of iced tea with my breakfast, I’m going to be in need of a loo at some point in time.  So we made our way back to the dealership (where they have restrooms for their waiting customers — a good thing to have if you’re serving unlimited free cups of coffee).

You can tell where the dealership is located by looking up for the giant flag.  I tried a search to find out why car dealerships fly giant flags but was unable to come up with a good answer other than what appear to be guesses such as to catch the eye of the customer in order to lure them in and to show their patriotism (which may be good guesses for all I know).  I wonder if they started flying those behemoths around the time “buy American” became a popular theme in car advertisements?

We picked up the car, went to Hartville Market to see what the farmers had for sale, and then it was back home and back to work.  M did some Project Patio work and I took on the rest of the beans.

(At the Hartville Market)

I think I would rather have been doing this:

(Summer scene:  Playing in the Cuyahoga.)

But then, the beans wouldn’t have gotten processed and we wouldn’t have had that gorgeous stir-fry for dinner.  It’s all connected in one way or another, isn’t it?

(Saturday’s sunset.)


Beaned

I am happy to report that after 2-1/2 days of kitchen duty, I now have 20 quarts of yellow beans tucked away in the freezer.  I may have to give some away.  I don’t know what I was thinking when I decided to buy a bushel of the yellow (wax) beans.  Next year I think I’ll get a peck of each type of bean they grow at Hilgert’s.  There are three varieties of green beans to be found at Hilgert’s (this year, at least):  Kentucky Wonders, Bluelake, and Italian.  A peck of each plus a peck of the yellow will give me 20 quarts of a variety of beans.

I did blanch and freeze some of the green beans (the Kentucky Wonders and the Italian).  I have 8 quarts of those.  All in all, that’s a lot of beans!  (Does all this counting of quarts of beans make me a bean counter??)

The food is so pretty this time of year.

Everything is so colorful and delicious.

All you need to do is add a few grains and you have the beginnings of a great meal.

In other food adventure news…

Today I  finally got back to my cookbook adventures.  I may have to rename that as I made something that a friend suggested.  I did not follow a recipe, just (some of) her suggestions.  I stir-fried some of the fresh yellow beans that I put aside just for that purpose, having picked out nice, slender, tender beans.  I added some other veggies I picked up at the Hartville Market yesterday (peppers, candy hybrid onions, carrots, green onions, and zucchini) and then flavored it all with black bean sauce and some chili garlic sauce for heat.

We had it over rice noodles.  Delicious, nutritious, and quite satisfying for our “big” Sunday afternoon meal.