A Symphony of Nature

When I lived in Southern California going for a daily walk was a chore. It still is a bit, as I don’t enjoy exercise.

But since walking up here I’ve had 2 major changes and not the ones you may think.

First off I no longer walk with an electronic device plugged into my ears. In S. CA it was a must. Between the noise of traffic, sirens, lawn mowers and blowers a walk without something plugged into you head to block out the noise is a major chore. You can’t even think straight and forget about getting fresh air.

And second I can actually hear myself think.

I always thought that was part of the reason for walking, other than obvious one of getting some exercise, was to get out get some fresh air and clear your mind.

Now I can, but to such a symphony of sound, rather than noise. Let’s go for a walk shall we…

South side of the reservoir

South side of the reservoir

As I leave my house the sparrows are chirping, a few larks are flitting about letting me know I’m in their territory with their kissing sounds. A mechanical ‘bark’ is heard. No worries it’s just a pheasant. Let’s head west towards the reservoir. Now we have the Red-winged Blackbird, sentry of the marsh  announcing its territory to all present with its oak-a-tee song. The ‘wind instruments’ are increasing in crescendo as now we hear the ducks both mallard and ring necks along with the Canadian geese calling to each other to check in. A whooping sound begins as a loon begins his song. Keep listening and you’ll hear the screech of a hawk above you or perhaps an osprey. Far across the reservoir the egrets with their guttural squawks are heard.

You would think this is enough, but not only are the birds singing, but so are the frogs. Some with their mellow croaks and a few that sound like a dog barking. Now tune out the wind instruments, do you hear the string section. It’s there, below you. The crickets are chirping because it’s so warm. Along with the raspy cicadas.

But don’t worry we have the percussion group of wood peckers pecking away at the trees and the sap suckers looking for a meal. The stink bugs and black beetles are there with their incessant tapping.

In walking a little over 3 miles I have listen to the most natural musical symphony I could ask for.

Take a chance and discover new places. I did and found a beautiful forest road.

Walking Trail

So next time you go for your walk, stop and listen to natures symphony. If you can’t hear it, ride your bike or even drive to it. It’s well worth the fresh air and being able to hear your own thoughts.

The Tally of CSI Crime Scenes Continues…

Well for those playing along and keeping score we have a new critter to add to our tally. (I’d like to reiterate I don’t have a cat…she just lives here. Ok and sleeps and sometimes we feed her..ok ok we feed her everyday sheesh) Ranch Kitty’s tally thus far since Nov. 28th 2012 – 38 mice, 12 moles of assorted sizes, 3 birds and now we can add 1 squirrel. She just brought it to me and I think she slept with it in her house as it was cold and dead and she had just eaten the head. Must be a delicacy. For those with queasy stomaches stop reading….now.

You know you live in the country with ‘Ranch cat’ when you go to strap on your mud boots that you leave on the front porch and next to them are 2 regurgitated bowels. Heads and brains – Yummy! Bowels…not so much.

Mother’s Day

Many of us are so fortunate to have children. I have one daughter, she’s 23, grown and living in Sweden at the moment. I am so incredibly proud of all that she’s accomplished in her life thus far.

We always wonder what our children think of us. We know they roll their eyes and we often hear “I know mom!” Well today my daughter did a posting on what she thought. I wanted to share it with the world. (Although I think I am practically perfect in every way)

From my daughter Laura Rose Fennell

This Mother’s Day I saw many (MANY) friends of mine declaring to the world that their mother was “the best mom ever.” This being largely credited to various forms of social networking, of course. But I have always heard this specific phrase and I’ve always just had to smile at it. I’m guilty of uttering those words as well. But I’m here to make a confession:

My mom is not perfect. Perhaps even a bit far from it. A few examples of this would be my enormous sailor’s mouth (which I did not inherit from my Pops), the endless “stubborn matches” she and I have had over the last ten years (with no real end in sight), her temper (which, as Joakim has sadly discovered, I may have acquired as well), she wasn’t able to join many field trips when I was a kid, and she has the WORST eyesight (another trait which my genes chose not to forgo).

And over the years, she and I have got into some pretty bad arguments that were at an octave I deem too high to admit. Despite these momentary disagreements and copious eye rolling (perhaps on both our parts), no one has the ability to calm me down enough to actually have a conversation when all I want to do is scream (or sob).

She’s always on her toes, ready to hop in the car for a 9-hour drive up the coast or even a plane across the world to see me if I even remotely need her. She’s offered to drive me out to a field of orange groves on a school night so I could just scream and feel ALLOWED to be angry and frustrated for a minute in all my 16 years.

After a a full day of work and a full evening of culinary school in downtown Los Angeles, she would come home at 1:00 a.m., sneak into my room, sit on the edge of my bed, and pet my shoulder. Despite working, attending school, and commuting 2.5 hours every day of the week, she would stay up to make sure I was okay because she hadn’t received a response to her text messages that day. And it was in these moments that I realized she didn’t join many field trips (maybe one total?) when I was young because she had always worked full time to make sure I had absolutely everything I needed to be the student I could be.

She not only wanted me to be a committed student, but a free thinker. When I was 15-years-old, I discovered my first grade report card in her closet. I had always been a straight A (or nearly straight A) student but was miffed to find a D- on that ancient report card. I had failed Bible Class. For those of you who don’t know, I attended private school all my life because my parents wanted me to have the best education possible (in our very unsafe home city) despite their complete lack of religious affiliation. When I confronted my mom to ask why I got a D-, she said, “They required the parents to participate in the Bible homework as well. They required that I force you to memorize my favorite verses. I’m certainly not going to be forced to believe something that I just don’t, and I won’t lie to my child and let her think I believe it or she must believe it herself. I let you choose. You chose not to.”

This is the same mom who called my preschool in a blind rage because they sent me home in tears flashing those 8×11″ laminated images from the Old Testament, one including people burning and melting in hell, held high so all the 4-year-olds could revel in it. My mom might be on to something.

So when I complain about her temper, I know I could have it a lot worse–I could have a passive mom who lets me “win” to avoid conflict. My mom is passionate and stands her ground and wants me to do the same. And yeah, swearing is a side effect of that. (Dammit, Mom!)

Occasionally, my mom has been a subject of frustration in my journals over the years. But I don’t tell her enough how much I love her and how her unique, incredibly strong and beautiful being inspires me to be a better woman every day.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I sure love you.

When it all ties together…It’s Yum

I just love it when all the ingredients come together to make a wonderful dish.

Tonight I opted for a fresh pea soup instead of a salad or roasted/steamed the veggies.

Fresh Pea Soup

This soup was so incredibly fresh tasting. I used to love Anderson’s Split Pea Soup. Boy oh boy was I way off base.  I had no idea how “un-pea” like the flavor of Anderson’s was till I tasted this. Its incredibly simple ingredients make it such a wonderful dish to make. (recipe follows)

Then for the main course was grill Lamb Chops (loin chops), herbed roasted Yukon Gold potatoes and Tzatziki sauce. Grilling lamb chops is so wonderful. They get this slight caramelization on the outside that once you eat the chop I defy you to NOT pick it up and nibble on the bone to get every last tidbit.  These little steaks look like mini t-bones, but in my humble opinion back much more flavor.

To bring the herbed potatoes to the flavor profile, I used the same herbs as in the Tzatziki sauce. Perfect combination of crunch and tenderness.

Lamb Chops

Pea Soup Recipe

Olive oil
½ cup chopped shallots (2 large shallots)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
4 cups chicken stock (get low sodium or you can make your own)
2 pounds frozen peas (use a good brand)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6  slices bacon cooked till crisped and crumbled

In a deep heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Put in the shallots and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until tender and lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute (but not so long as the garlic browns. That will make the garlic bitter). Add chicken stock, frozen peas, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Purée with an immersion blender until coarsely puréed. You can also use a blender to purée the soup 1 cup at a time. Pour the soup back into the pot and season to taste. Depending on the saltiness of the stock,  add up to another teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. I found no extra salt is needed but did add a bit of extra fresh ground pepper.

Meanwhile, fry up the bacon until crisp and drain on a couple of paper towels.

Reheat the soup and serve in shallow bowls with a slice of crispy bacon on top and serve hot.

Grill Lamb (Loin) Chops

8 Lamb Loin Chops (The look like mini t-bone steaks)
2 tps Kosher Salt (About ½ Tsp Per Two Chops)
Spice Rub
4 tsp Whole Coriander Seed (or 2 slightly round tsp of ground)
2 tsp Whole Peppercorns (or 2 tsp coarsely fresh ground)
A Pinch Of Red Pepper Flakes
A Pinch Of Sugar

Directions:
1. Dry brine the chops: 2 hours before cooking, trim any excess fat from the lamb (in all honestly there shouldn’t be anything to trim on this cut), then sprinkle evenly with the salt. Grind all the spice rub ingredients until they are coarsely ground. (if they are all already ground mix them well in a small bowl)  Sprinkle the rub over the lamb chops, and press it into the chops to help it stick. Let the lamb rest at room temperature until it is time to cook.

*You can season the chops up to 24 hours ahead of time. If you do, refrigerate them, then remove them from the refrigerator two hours before cooking. The two hours at room temperature gives them enough time to take the chill off before grilling.

2. Prepare the grill: Prepare your grill for cooking on medium-high heat. Finally, just before putting the meat on the grill, I brush the grates with a folded paper towel dipped in oil or you can spray with Pam cooking spray.

3. Grilling the chops: Put the lamb chops on the hot part of the grill and cook for 5 minutes (or until well browned). Flip the chops, and cook for another 5  minutes, until well browned. The chops should have an internal temperature in the thickest part of the meat of 120*F for medium-rare. (115*F for rare, 130*F for medium). If they need more cooking time, move them to the indirect side of the grill, and cook, covered, until you get the internal temperature you are looking for. Remove from the grill, and let rest for 10 minutes before serving. With most loin chops being about 1 inch thick 5 min per side is enough.

Serve with Tazatziki Sauce

1/4 cucumber, peeled and diced
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1 cup Greek Yogurt
1/2 Shallot minced (should be about 1 Tbl) if you don’t have a shallot you could use red onion or a vidalia sweet onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp minced fresh oregano
1 tsp minced fresh dill (you can substitute mint)
zest of 1/2 a lemon
juice of 1 full lemon
Salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Salt the cucumber: Toss the diced cucumber with the ½ tsp kosher salt, and let sit in a strainer to drain for at least 15 minutes.

2. To make the sauce: Put all the ingredients except for the salt and pepper in a medium bowl, and stir until well combined. Taste for seasoning; it should be tart and highly seasoned. Add salt, pepper, herbs, or more lemon juice if not tart enough.