Saturday, September 24, 2011

Portland Swift Watch 2011

I joined my daughter, Polly, on the lawn at Chapman School for a picnic and to witness the spectacular display of Vaux’s Swifts as they gather to roost in the school’s chimney. Volunteers from Portland Audubon were there present information about the swift.
Chapman School
Swifts are insect eating birds that migrate south each fall.  At sunset during migration they choose a place where dozens to thousands of birds can roost.  Since the late 1980’s the Chapman chimney has been one of these roosting sites.
Vaux's Swift

Coming to view the swifts as they prepare to roost – has become a very popular activity at the Chapman School site in recent years.

 Most evenings in September there are in excess of 2000 people gathered on the school lawn and neighboring Wallace Park grounds to watch and listen as the swifts gather overhead before entering the chimney.

While they wait, children take advantage of the dry grass on the slope to "sled" down on cardboard brought from home.
 Most people bring a picnic and it is fun to make new friends with the folks on the next blanket.
Polly walks over from her flat to watch, several evenings a week. It is such a unique thing -  one of the many great things about living in Portland.
 As we watched the Swifts circle, a hawk came from a nearby fir tree to see what was on the menu for his dinner. The crowds cheered and clapped as he chased swifts and they, in turn, chased him. He finally got his dinner.

In the fall swifts congregate in large groups as they prepare for their migration southward to Central America and Venezuela. During September large groups of swifts pass through the Portland-Vancouver Metropolitan region. It is not uncommon for these migrating swifts to use chimneys to roost in during the night and once a population of swifts locates an appropriate chimney they are likely to return year after year. Groups of roosting swifts can range in size from just a few individuals to as many as 35,000 in some larger smokestacks. Chapman School in Northwest Portland houses the larges known roost of migrating swifts in the world! Typically the swifts will only stay a couple of weeks before continuing their migratory journey.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Plum Delicious (and a recipe)

One of the best thing about Autumn is the day my friend Mary from The Thrill of the Hunt, calls to tell me that her three Italian prune plums are ripe! This year there was a real "bumper crop". I brought home 20 pounds. I freeze them to enjoy all year. My favorite way to use them is in a plum tart. I rarely use recipes when I cook, and I really don't have a recipe for this tart, but I'll show you how I make it.

 Plum Tart
Preheat the oven to 425

 Measure 2¼ cups of all purpose flour into a bowl.
Add 1 teaspoon salt.

Measure ¾ cup of salad oil. ( I like sunflower or canola)
Fill the cup to the 1cup mark with water.

Stir with a fork until emulsified.

Pour into flour and stir until it comes together.

Next roll out between two sheets of waded paper - no substitutes will do.

Place dough in your baking pan, Crimp edges, patching as needed. It looks pretty in a round tart pan, too.

Pre-bake for about 5 minutes.

Assembly of the tart
Remove tart from the oven and dust the bottom with powdered sugar. If your plums are ripe and sweet, adjust the amount of sugar to suit your taste.
Now dust the sugar with cardamom to taste.

Arrange the halved, pitted plums in an attractive way, overlapping.

Sprinkle with more powdered sugar and more cardamom.

Melt about a ¼ cup of butter and drizzle over the tart.

Lower the oven to 375〫and bake for about an hour. Let the tart cool to room temperature.

...And here is the finished tart. It is going to a party this afternoon. Mary's having a birthday party for several members of her family- all September babies!

Happy Birthday Everybody!

Common Ground

Boogieboard Cottage

Smiling Sally

Monday, September 12, 2011

Air Kissed Apples

If you don't know Lara's blog, Air Kiss, you are in for a treat. 

She graciously allowed me to share her post from today:

Weekend Apple Picking at the Orchard, Apple & Fennel Salad

Our autumn weekends are always a whirlwind of outdoor activities. There is just so much to see and do. It has already started up. I am munching on a delicious, fresh apple and fennel salad with the apples we picked on Saturday afternoon. You can use granny smith apples, if you prefer a tart and sweet bite. But there were barely any granny smith apples to be found, so I used various red varieties. Recipe below.

photos taken at Knutson's apple orchard, Illinois

The apple orchard has a pretty "willow tree island" that the kids had fun hanging out at after picking apples and gathering that oh-so-interesting-to-young-children milkweed. My kids are 15 months apart - I love having them so close in age!

It is warm and beautiful out today & I am just getting things back in order around here after a busy weekend. We went to two flea markets, an old time car show, a conservatory, and grocery shopping. My husband is home sick from work today. I have been in the kitchen, making chili and slicing up apples.

I'll be back soon to share the goods - I flea market'ed my heart out last weekend! :-)

Apple & Fennel Salad
from Michael Smith/Chef at Home

For the Vinaigrette:
2 granny smith apples, quartered and cored.
1 cup of cider vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 heaping tbsp of Dijon mustard
1 cup of olive oil
Salt and pepper

For the Salad:
1 bulb of fresh fennel, sliced thinly and fronds reserved
1 granny smith apple, sliced thinly

To make the vinaigrette - place 2 granny smith apples, cider vinegar, brown sugar and mustard in a small saucepan and cook until soft. Puree with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Put the sliced fennel, fennel fronds and sliced granny smith apple in a large salad bowl and toss with a few spoonfuls of the warm apple vinaigrette.

I made this for dinner  this evening. It was delicious.  

It's milk in first for me

With Autumn in the air, this morning, my thoughts turn to deliciously cool, lazy mornings with a pot of tea and catching up with all my blogger friends.

In England, the order one puts milk in the tea is a class thing. Personally I like milk in first. I can never know how much room to leave for milk. I warm my milk, in the jug, while the tea is brewing. I use a "Mrs. Tea" to make my morning and afternoon tea. The Mr. Coffee company discontinued it some years ago, but I have two of them put away for future use, should this one should one quit. It makes such a great pot of tea, and so easy. I just wouldn't want to go back to the old way of boiling water, heating the pot, etc.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Prayer for Our Country

Prayer For Our Country
(Book of Common Prayer, 1928)
ALMIGHTY God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage; We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favour and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honourable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogancy, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Bangers and Mash

Actually sausage, eggs, and beans, but made with balloons. I thought this was so cute! I love English sausages (bangers). We had an award winning butcher in our village, who's sausages were famous. We ate them quite regularly, grilled, fried, barbequed, with mash or chips, and in sausage rolls. Oh, do I miss them. Just can't get a good one here. Oh, they say they are "British Bangers", but they just don't taste right.


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