Mr. Anole's New Skin

Yesterday afternoon I was out trying to make another dent in the endless yardwork. Our plumbago bushes died in the freezes this winter, so I pulled out the clippers and started cutting them away. It took me a minute to realize what I was looking at when I saw this green anole shedding his skin - he blended in so perfectly! I was pretty excited to see him, because they usually move so fast during the day that I don't see them at all. We typically see them in the evening, when they climb onto the exterior walls and turn pale pink/white. I've seen one turn from brown to bright green and back right in front of my eyes when it crawled through a gap in the window screen and didn't know how to get out. Apparently, molting renders them more still, because I had plenty of time to run and get my camera and take photos. He was about 4 - 5 inches total length. I love the little discoveries that yard work can bring!


Tea Tuesday

Very belatedly, I am sharing a little Chinese New Year goodie-box that a sweet friend gave to me this Tea Tuesday. Chinese New Year was six weeks ago! One of the packets contains green tea, but they're all so cute, colorful, and unique that I haven't been able to bring myself to open any of the candy or tea yet. I'm just enjoying looking at it! The little coins have symbols embossed on them that stand for various New Year's greetings: good luck, prosperity, etc. We'd gone to lunch that day at a Chinese restaurant with crunchy egg rolls flavored with sesame oil (one of my favorites), jasmine tea, and a delicious chicken and noodle dish. I love that tea is very much a multi-cultural affair, one that crosses boundaries easily from one country to the next.

Thanks to bleubeard and elizabeth for mentioning my blog today - she has quite a fun blog herself!

As an Orthodox Christian, this week is the high point of the year: Holy Week, leading to the feast of feasts, or Pascha. I am looking forward to attending services this week and then staying up all night Saturday as we celebrate with a midnight Liturgy! A blessed Easter/Pascha to all of you!


New Article

I'm thrilled to share that I have a 3-page article in the latest issue of Somerset Memories of one of my travel journals! Page 118 if you want to take a peek next time you're at the bookstore.


Spring 2010

I'm once again sipping jasmine vanilla as I think about this week's Tea Tuesday theme - what spring looks like in my corner of the world. Our lovely red bud tree is just past its peak of pink blossoms (seen above); the pink haze is lovely to see as we pull into our neighborhood. The Bradford pears still have a few white blossoms on them, but most of their leaves are out and a strong wind last weekend blew many petals down - it was snowing white flower petals! My daffodils are long bloomed and gone. Our cold winter and rare freeze have meant that my garden is getting off to a slow start this year - in 2009 this time I already had lots of blossoms and growth out there. But I have many salvias in my garden and they are sturdy plants, so I know they will bounce back. Even the azaleas in our neighborhood haven't bloomed yet, which is rare. I am eager for their appearance - a lovely bit of magic in the Houston area. We try to make a trip to the Japanese Garden in Houston proper this time of year to see the blooms there as well, and the massive azaleas sprawling around the Rice campus. Spring in Houston does mean tons of oak pollen and other allergens, so although the mornings are very lovely, I try to stay inside. But I couldn't resist last Saturday morning, because I had several new plants to put into the beds: ferns under the pear tree's shade, a few ornamental grasses, and more. Spring in Houston is quite nice.


Young Again...

You don't have to be a kid to appreciate the newly expanded and renovated Houston Children's Museum. We spent several hours there recently with our young visitors. It was a blast, and I would have been totally agog if I were a child. The water play area was especially entrancing for all of us - several stations to manipulate water, including a giant contraption with mechanized buckets, a spillway, and lock-and-dam system. 'Kidopolis' was also fantastic - an entire area of the museum designed as a little town with stores, a bank, a grocery, police station, ambulance, restaurant, and vet clinic with toys and play money where kids could live out their play fantasies. It even had a photo booth to pose for silly shots. The kids hated to leave, and I could definitely understand why. Being there brought me back to the magical world of make-believe and pretend - I still have my collection of plastic horses and gear saved out in the garage from that own period of my life. Do you have a favorite childhood memory or activity?


Jasmine Vanilla

Tea Tuesday again today, and the theme is 'where we live.' This idea could be explored on so many different levels - my disorganized house with the big kitchen that I adore, the suburb I'm in, the metro area I'm a part of, Texas pride (which still entertains me), or even the place that I consider to be my real home, the Black Hills, even if I don't currently reside there. On a ledge in my kitchen, I sometimes place flowers from my yard or bargains such as these daffodils.
I could also mention other areas I've lived, such as Bakersfield, CA, home of Sweet Surrender, a bakery with the most amazing chocolate cake I've ever had. I would enjoy the cake with friends and with a cup of looseleaf jasmine vanilla tea, sold in the canisters seen above for $12.00! Once again, Staple & Spice in Rapid City came to the rescue, where I could buy looseleaf jasmine and vanilla in bulk at a much cheaper rate and mix them together for the same effect. This blend lives in a jar in my kitchen and is one of my favorites.
The Black Hills have been mentioned a lot on this blog, but I've also mentioned Texas often. I live near Houston and have shared a few links below that provide images of some of my favorite parts of living in Texas. And there's so much more to enjoy about this region: tons of art museums and cultural activities, great and varied restaurants, our church, lots of houseguests coming our way, the Gulf Coast. On the flip side, I don't handle the heat, traffic, allergies, and crowds that are a part of living here very well, and am preparing to hunker down soon in my house for the long summer season. What are some of your favorite parts of where you live?

Where I'm From


Jordan Pond

I don't think I ever posted any photos of our time in Maine, or if I did, I can't find them in my archives. Today is Tea Tuesday again. Jordan Pond is a lovely little lake in Acadia National Park with the Bubbles peaks behind it, featured in Martha Stewart Living last summer. The restaurant there is famous for its popovers and tea, which we enjoyed on a chilly afternoon during our week there in October. Earlier that week, we'd hiked around Jordan Pond, much of it on a little boardwalk constructed over the mossy shoreline. The fall colors were near their peak and it was a beautiful time. Jordan Pond Tea is a blend of black and green that produces a refreshing flavor. I find I really enjoy blends of tea, such as Tazo's Joy, which is a blend of black, green, and oolong. Next time I visit Staple & Spice in Rapid City, I will need to buy some looseleaf black and green and blend them together!


9 Days Up North

As previously mentioned, I was blessed to spend nine days up north in South Dakota a few weeks ago to meet my new nephew, play with his brother, and try to help my sister and her hubby out. It was a time of cooking, staying indoors (even the cats quickly returned despite their pleas to go out), playing, admiring the new baby, and time with family. The weather wasn't terribly cold, but I relished sleeping once again in my sister's most comfy guest bed under a down duvet - so cozy. We visited a few favorite local restaurants, threw a baby shower, and watched the Olympics on dvr. Nothing terribly exciting, perhaps, but it was refreshing and good for my soul to be home again.
My sister asked me to make our mom's beef vegetable soup along with fried bread, very much a favorite when we were children. I hadn't made fried bread in many years and remembered it being a challenge, but it sounded so good that we decided to go for it. Using frozen bread dough, thawed per instructions, it was much easier than I recalled. My almost-three nephew absolutely loved it, so we were happy to see the family tradition continue. Basically, all you do once the dough has thawed and raised, is to break pieces off, flatten them on a floured counter, and then fry them in an inch or two of oil over medium-high heat. We used an electric skillet. Heavily salt immediately after removing from the skillet, and place on paper towel-lined plate. Serve with hot soup, if you don't eat it all before dinnertime!


Tea Surprises

I'm a day late for Tea Tuesday, but still wanted to share. Martha included this Inuit cloudberry tea in a recent ATC swap we did. I was surprised and delighted to know that even after all the tea I've drank, there are still flavors I didn't know existed. I'd never even heard of cloudberries, but what a dreamy name they have! The tea had a delicious, unique aroma and taste - all enjoyed in the 50-cent tea cup I brought back from a thrift shop during my recent trip to SoDak. What surprises have you had lately?

We were also just blessed with a 6-day visit from our friend and little godchildren from Pennsylvania - always a fun, riotous time.