It’s Easter!

i've always loved this. by tabby7cat

Easter was a big deal when I was a little kid. Grandpa would prepare in advance of the holiday by making the traditional pink horseradish. This is the Polish version of the Paschal bitter herbs and it’s called ćwikła, and even though Grandma made him grate the horseradish in the basement, the fumes would still linger in the house for a whole day. I guess if we had lived somewhere more temperate, he could have done it outside but this was Chicago in April where the crocuses hadn’t even bloomed yet so a dirt-floored basement had to stand in. Grandma would have prepared by picking up sausage from Norbie at Avondale Sausage and a challah and lamb-shaped butter from Augusta Bakery.
We made colored eggs, the Easter Bunny (my parents) hid them at our house and then I’d find those before we drove to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. I would check the snowy porch to see if the Easter bunny had come because he always left a chunk of carrot and a few droppings (raisinets) in the snow on the porch. Once we got to Grandma’s, an Easter basket was always waiting for me on the coffee table. The 60’s Easter basket was different than today’s, less mass-produced and brand oriented and simpler and more ephemeral. I think Grandma got them at the bakery. It had Excelsior rather than plastic grass, a sugar egg diorama with either a village or religious scene in it, things like paper cut-out sheep and lambs, or a small puzzle or game, a packet of cross buns, and of course, a chocolate bunny, preferably solid, not a hollow one. Grandma was proficient at finding chocolate bunnies with cute faces.
I was never good with chocolate bunnies. I’d put ribbons around their necks, take the Excelsior and pose them on it on the coffee table with the paper sheep but I couldn’t bite them. All through Easter brunch, I’d be in a panic wondering how I was going to protect my bunny once everyone settled in for whatever old movie was on Family Classics and the conversation turned to “ears or tail.” They’d tease, I’d protest, and finally, when she couldn’t stand it anymore, Mom would sneak it away to the kitchen to be chopped up and distributed.
Did your family celebrate Easter? How did you celebrate?

Recipe for Polish Horseradish (Chrzan)


Spring Equinox 2017

March 20th is the Vernal Equinox this year:

Spring is the dawn of the new zodiacal year in the Northern Hemisphere. Don’t you just love the word “equinox?” I have to decide each time whether to say it with a short or long “e”. The equinoxes are the two times during the year when the dark of night and the light of day are in balance or equal. Another name for the Vernal Equinox is Ostara, from the name of a German Goddess of fertility, Oestarae.

She is the deific equivalent of the Greco-Roman goddess, Aurora, the personification of the sunrise. Consider that the Sun rises in the East and her name is where East and Easter both come from. The Christian Easter date was decided by the Council of Nicaea to fall the first Sunday after the first full Moon occurring on or after the March Equinox. This effectively removed its observance from conflicts with either Ostara or Passover.

There are many holidays and customs associated with March besides Easter. Click here to browse a few.

Signs of Spring:

Aries (Mar 20-Apr 19), Taurus (Apr 20-May 19), & Gemini (May 20- Jun 19)

Symbols of Spring:

Baby animals, rabbits, lambs, colored Easter eggs, robins, crocus and tulips

Foods of Spring:

Asparagus, artichokes, strawberries, apricots and fresh greens

Colors of Spring:

The pale green of young leaves, white of apple and pear blossoms, pink of camellia, azalea and cherry, yellow of witch hazel and forsythia, and all the colors of tulips.

Stones of Spring:

Ruby, diamond and red jasper are the traditional stones for Aries.  Amethyst. aventurine and rose quartz are traditional for Taurus, agate, moonstone and tiger eye for Gemini.

Activities of Autumn:

Walk in the arboretum under the cherry blossoms, go to the garden show and purchase plants and seeds for next year, make camping reservations for Summer!

Ostara’s place in the The Wheel of the Year.

Click these links to learn more about Spring and Equinoxes:  Rites of Spring or March Equinox Explained.

And… Since you know how I love this kind of thing, are some more dates from Wikipedia:

The Babylonian calendar began with the first full moon after the vernal equinox, the day after the Sumerian goddess Inanna‘s return from the underworld (later known as Ishtar), in the Akitu ceremony, with parades through the Ishtar Gate to the Eanna temple, and the ritual re-enactment of the marriage to Tammuz, or Sumerian Dummuzi.

The Persian calendar begins each year at the northward equinox, observationally determined at Tehran.[5]

The Indian national calendar starts the year on the day next to the vernal equinox on 22 March (21 March in leap years) with a 30-day month (31 days in leap years), then has 5 months of 31 days followed by 6 months of 30 days.[5]



Love birds?

kittycamDo you love birds? Do you have cats?

Have you ever wondered how many animals cats actually kill?

That exact question was the topic of the Kittycams UGA study by the University of Georgia, and the results have been published by the National Geographic Society.

Karin sent me an infographic explaining and summarizing the results of the study, click the link below to see it:



A New Look!

Theme template: Baskerville 2

 Is this exciting, or what?

I think this is the first theme change in about twelve years. I decided to try a new theme, new colors, the whole thing! The picture above is the one I chose, in case you are interested. The hard part was getting the sidebar to load correctly since this theme assumes you won’t want one. Mine is on every page but the first page.

The other challenge was to get the pages in the menu at the top to display in only one line, yes, I am picky that way and I don’t like multi-line menus.

What made me keep the old theme so long is that 1. It loaded lightning-fast, and 2. It was easy to read. So far this is even easier to read because of the way it makes more posts available without scrolling while still allowing me to retain a font/reading-pane background color I like.

Call me old-fashioned but I prefer black type on white or cream paper, and the graphics-design types don’t see that as a priority. Now as far as page loading speeds go, we’ll see. What do you think?

Hummingbird feeders in Winter

The Anna's hummingbird has an iridescent pink head and throat/Photo Courtesy of Alan Vernon
Anna’s hummingbird, photo credit

I noticed the Anna’s hummingbird buzzing around the camellia a couple of days ago but the only flowers we have to offer this early are the crocuses that came up this week. The camellia doesn’t usually bloom for a while yet and the poor thing must be tired of eating gnats, spiders and whatever else he can find in the Winter.

Hummingbirds in the Winter? Yes, the Anna’s hummers stay here all year and usually in the Summer I have at least three, two males and a less flashy female, all buzzing around the roses and heliotrope near the front porch. They keep the Rufous hummingbirds away from the front garden and they hassle the bees and dragonflies. They used to like it when I had the little fountain out there but the raccoons broke the fountain so many times that I put the heliotrope in the spot instead.  I’ve never put hummingbird feeders out before but apparently they are asking for food now.

I picked this feeder from my local Wild Bird store because it looked easy to fill, hang up and clean. I have some hooks on the porch from wind chimes and a lantern and the birds are used to things there. The proprietor said it might take a while before they noticed it but I hung the feeder up at 11:00 and at 3:00 I opened the front door to take out some recycling and startled a hummingbird. Only one at a time is ever in the feeder but I think I have seen a brighter male and a duller female at different times, it is hard to compare when they are so tiny and I am seeing them only one at a time against the dark green of the camellia leaves. One even came at dusk to drink by the light of the porch light.

The feeding instructions are really clear: 1/4 cup of sugar to 1 cup of water, mix well and replace every 4-5 days. Studies show that 1:4 sugar to water most closely mimics the sucrose they get from flowers and provides the water they need so don’t be tempted to add more sugar or honey or anything else or you can cause them problems.

Here are some links:

Hummingbirds and how to Attract Them

Anna’s Hummer Fact Sheet

Wild Bird’s Unlimited Shops

How Hummingbirds Drink Nectar

Plants that attract Hummingbirds

Here is an article (it starts on page 7) about a study determining exactly how much nectar actual flowers contain: Newsletter of the Louisiana Ornithological Society







I saw this today on Julia Cameron’s Facebook page, and it made me realize how often I don’t really give my self permission to enjoy my leisure time.

 I either: 1. procrastinate it because I don’t “deserve” a break.

 2. multitask it, like combining going out for a coffee plus catching up on some study-reading I need to do.

3. waste it, I just don’t give my self permission so I don’t take the time, even though I could, and I waste time doing something less enjoyable than what I might have chosen to do if I had chosen something.  

Permission is a big deal. I’m pretty sure I am not the only one with this issue. Have you thought about it? 

Julia’s Page:

Doggy Bark 2


Ecco doggy bark. Yes, I know, it’s not particularly appetizing looking, but the dogs love it. I made this batch with sweetened carob chips because I couldn’t find unsweetened. I made sure to check that they didn’t contain xylitol which is ok for humans but toxic for dogs, according to VetMedicine. This is a forgiving recipe, we had some extra peanut butter so I added more than 1/2 cup, it still worked. If the mixture gets difficult to stir, put it back in the microwave for another 30 seconds. Robert and Gracie haven’t had any yet because they have to wait while theirs chill but I have. 🙂

Doggy bark

be468ef8-2c19-4054-8a3e-f79789f36306The link to the recipe for doggy peanut butter carob bark that I make for Rob is dead and I can’t find a recipe I like on Pinterest or Google. Some include honey, some coconut oil, salt and other stuff my dogs and yours don’t need in their peanut butter cookies so I decided to write mine up. It’s so simple.


1 bag of carob chips (2 cups) unsweetened
1/2 cup peanut butter, (plain, just peanuts, smooth mixes more easily than chunky)
1/2 cup peanuts


Melt carob chip chips in a class mixing bowl in the microwave 30 seconds at a time. When carob is mostly melted stir in the peanut butter until smooth, then stir in peanuts. Drop in teaspoonfuls (make appropriate size for your dog) onto tinfoil or waxed paper and let sit until hard in fridge. When they are chilled, pop them off the paper or foil into a ziploc bag and keep in fridge. You can smear it out into bark and break pieces off as you go but the cookies are less messy to serve.


It’s going to be a long winter
Alpine marmots near the Grossglockner High Alpine Road, Austria,

Today was the first bright, clear Groundhog day I can remember seeing in years. Usually it is overcast here and I feel like I can look forward to crocuses a little sooner than March 21st but it is a silly game isn’t it?

Here is a bit about Groundhog day to refresh your memory about the rhyme and what it means.

February 2nd, Groundhog day

It was also known as Candlemas or Imbolc in the old European Calendar. This is the day that Christmas or Yule decorations must officially come down. Here is the full poem for the day from the old Almanack:

If Candlemas day be fair and bright,

Winter will have another flight.

If Candlemas day be clouds and rain,

Winter is gone, and will not come again.

~ E. Holden

The US tradition honors the groundhog, or marmot, as the local weather prognosticator. Other regions honored the fox, the robin and a host of other animals. The animal chosen is not important, nor is the forecast supposed to relate to a whole country, but is said to describe a local microclimate phenomenon. So don’t look at the News, look out your window.

Here is a historical tradition,

In France, February 2nd is known as National Crepe Day—a lot of crepes are consumed, and people try their luck at guessing their fortunes while they cook them. As they hold the crepe pan in one hand and a coin in the other, they flip the crepe to see if they can catch it in the pan. A successful catch means prosperity for the year!

That one came straight from my Zojirushi newsletter, breakfast edition.

Some fun links:

The American Ground Hog: Click here to visit Punxatawney Phil’s official site.

For some of the science behind the tradition, yes, there is a wee bit of science, see the Farmer’s Almanac article.

Most importantly, watch Groundhog Day again. I love this movie.

Powered by

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: