Monday, December 31, 2012
Friday, December 28, 2012
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
My husband has had to visit the dump courtesy his job on several occasions lately. He has seen Bald Eagles there many times so we decided it would be the best place to go.
We saw three of the magnificent creatures. Skittish as they are we still managed to get a few photos.
It was a wonderful Christmas present.
Monday, December 24, 2012
I am so grateful that I've learned to make gluten free pizza crusts. I've tried several versions of them over the past few years and for the most part they've worked well.
The above was our dinner last night. I made the crust ahead of time, par-baked it on the solid pizza pan and froze it. This maneuver allowed me to--after thawing--top it and then bake it on a perforated pan for a crispier crust.
If you're wondering, the gluten-free crusts tend to be very cake batteresque. There may be exceptions, but I haven't found any yet.
This version of a crust was made from rice, sorghum, and almond flours with psyllium husks as a gluten substitute. It made for a light yet filling crust.
The toppings were caramelized onion and mushroom, tomato sauce (paprika, garlic, thyme, and a wee bit of cane syrup) fresh onion in rings, green pepper, smoked Farmer's Sausage, a type of sheep cheese whose name I don't recall, Bulgarian sheep cheese, and soya mozzarella.
I am grateful for the crust and for the toppings that worked out very well.
Happy Christmas Eve to all, and to all a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful 2013.
Friday, December 21, 2012
Mike and me in Australia in 1999.
We were on the Great Ocean Road on the way to the Twelve Apostles formations.
Our friends Russell and Steve in Melbourne did the driving. It's one of my best memories of the trip.
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
The Wild Goose
"Be kind to all," said the goose mother to her youngest goose child, "for it will serve you in the end."
"Yes, mother," said the little gosling, who always minded his mother even though he didn't want to. He knew it was for the best so he did, knowing once all his down was gone he'd be his own bird.
"Do what you'll do anyway," said the sow in the pen as her piglets suckled. "My children will know their own minds no matter what I say."
"So be yours," said the goose mother. "Most of my goslings are in their feathers now, but this one, he is best. He minds me and knows I am right always."
"Yes, mother," said the little goose.
"The farmer has his eye on you, little one," cautioned the sow. "It would be well for you to not be so kind. A goose who does not get along is not long for the farm, but one such as you is ready to catch and fatten."
"What does fatten mean, mama?"
"It means the farmer puts you in your own pen and feeds you all the best foods until you're big and strong."
"Oooohh," said the little goose. "I'd like to be fattened."
"You'll stay with me always if the farmer likes you," said his mother. "Your brothers will be sold for bedding. But you are lucky and will stay with me."
And so it came to be the little goose grew and was set in his own goose pen and fed special food.
"You're getting good and fat, goose" said the farmer's young son as he put the special mash in the food trough.
The young goose honked in delight at the attention. He knew he was a special goose because he got to stay on the farm while his brothers were gone. He did not expect to see them again. His mother came by the pen every day and told him how much the farmer loved him to lavish all this attention on him.
"Be kind to everyone," she reminded him. "It will keep you fed and housed."
"Yes, mother," he said, for he knew better than to argue with her. But his down was long gone and he was in full feather. The pen was small to him. He liked the food and loved the attention, but he noticed it was getting more difficult to get around.
The dirt and grass in his pen slowed his walking and his legs ached when he walked too much.
"Surely this is due to the cold weather," he said, and he shivered as a north wind bit through him.
He asked the other animals who wandered by his pen if they felt the cold in their legs.
A few of the older animals agreed the weather hurt them, but they didn't care and went back to their own pens or pastures.
One day a wild grey goose who'd been separated from his flock and was tired from flying alone landed in the pen with the young goose.
"What are you?" asked the young goose.
"What do you mean? What do I look like? I'm a goose."
"Why aren't you in your pen?"
"Pen? Why would I be in a pen. I'm a wild goose. I'm on my way to my winter quarters where it's warm and the waters flow."
"You have two farmers?" marvelled the young goose.
"I have the fields and the ponds and the woods," said the grey goose. "I don't know anything about farmers."
"My farmer brings me special mash every day, and I have this pen to myself."
The young goose tried not to sound like he was bragging, but it was difficult. He was proud of his station in life.
"Would you like to try some of it? You look cold and hungry, and I have plenty."
The grey goose ate his fill.
"Thank you. Would you mind if I rested here for the night? I am very tired, and I have a long flight ahead of me."
The young goose was happy to share his pen for the night. The grey goose went to a corner of the pen and tucked his head under his wing.
Soon he heard voices. The farmer and his son were feeding the livestock nearby and talking about the coming Christmas.
"The young goose is getting fat. He'll make a fine meal for us, son. See that you keep him filled with the mash."
"Yes, papa. I can hardly wait for roasted goose."
The next morning the as the young goose's food was replenished the son remarked, "Empty. There's a good goose, eating all you're given. You're getting rounder by the day."
The boy tipped the bucket of mash over the goose's trough and went on his way.
"Would you share with me my food?" asked the young goose as the wild grey goose came to inspect the trough.
"Friend," said the grey goose after he'd eaten. "How far can you fly?"
"Fly? What's that?"
"When you flap your wings and leave the ground," said his guest. "Haven't you ever soared through the air?"
"Oh, mercy, no," said the young goose, horrified. "I have no reason to fly. My mama said if I was kind to all then I'd be fed and sheltered. It would be rude to leave."
"Why don't you try?"
The young goose could not think of a reason, and decided it would not be kind to refuse such a reasonable request. He spread his wings and flapped, but nothing happened.
"Try taking a run at it," said the grey goose.
He tried. Nothing.
"Oh, I'm afraid my wings are too weak to carry me. I'm sorry."
"Young one, perhaps you should work them every day to make them stronger. Then you can fly. I'd like a companion and it is so much easier than flying alone."
"But I don't want to leave," cried the young goose. "I am fed and sheltered here. What more is there?
The grey goose told his young friend about his adventures in the north in the summer and the south for the winter. He said how he found ponds to swim in and fields to eat from and every day brought something new or interesting. He said how there were plenty of other geese and birds to talk to, and animals, too.
"It sounds like a great deal of work finding one's own food," said the young goose. "I like stability. I know what each day will bring, and I am happy."
"You won't always be," warned the wild goose. He told the young goose what the farmer and his son said.
"I'm to be their special Christmas guest," said the young goose, and he jumped and flapped his wings for the sheer wonder of being so special.
"No. No. No." said his friend. "You aren't their guest for dinner. You are their dinner."
A choking honk escaped from the young goose's throat. He took a few steps back from his friend.
"That can't be," he said. "Mother said if I was kind to all it would serve me in the end."
"Friend, your kindness to others means you'll end by being served. Come with me to my winter quarters. You'll be free there."
The young one flapped his wings, but he couldn't leave the ground. He ran and then tried and got as far as the end of the pen.
"It's no use. My wings are too weak.
"You've flown a bit already. I know you can do it. If you eat less of your mash and practice every day, then you'll be able to fly."
So the young goose gave most of his food to the grey goose. He flapped his wings and ran around the pen. Soon he could rise high as the barn roof and he could fly around.
"It's almost time. We'll go tomorrow at first light," said the wild goose.
That evening the goose mother came by. The young goose told her of their plans, and what the wild goose had heard.
"Many a goose has gone to be a Christmas guest and have never returned to the pen. I think he's filled you with wild ideas, son, but you must do what is in your heart."
The next morning at first light the young goose flapped his wings. He rose higher and higher in the air and circled, waiting for the grey goose to join him.
The grey goose waited until the young goose was airborne and then spread his wings.
He ran toward the end of the pen and tried again. He still couldn't get off the ground.
He looked into the water trough at his reflection. He was fatter than he'd ever seen himself. All the mash his friend had given him made him too big for his wings.
The young goose called down to him to hurry up.
The grey goose looked at his reflection and knew he wouldn't be joining his young friend.
"Fly. Find a flock to join. I'll catch up with you."
The young goose circled a few more times, but the grey goose stayed on the ground. He didn't think it was right to leave without him, but he'd been told to, and it was kindness to follow another's requests.
"Thank you for rescuing me," he called and then flapped his wings and headed south.
The wild goose watched the young goose fly away and then waddled over to the mash trough just as the boy tipped the bucket.
"Oh, ho! What's this? A fine wild goose come to join us." The boy called his father over to the goose pen.
"He's too fat to fly, I think," said the boy.
"I believe you're right, son. And he's eaten in the fields and the wild. He'll make a fine Christmas meal."
The grey goose swallowed hard. He swore off the mash and tried to fly again and again, but to no avail.
The next day the farmer came. He caught the grey goose and no one in the farmyard ever saw him again.
As for the young goose, he flew until he was tired. He landed in a field where other geese were feeding. He asked to join them and was told if he took his turn at the front of the formation he was welcome.
Monday, December 17, 2012
Friday, December 14, 2012
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Thindelina, or The Three Swans
It was once there were three sisters. The youngest was Thindelina and she bore the brunt of her sisters' cruelty and bad temper.
She was a lovely girl with a most pleasant disposition. She got along with everyone. This upset her sisters, especially the oldest one, greatly.
The oldest sister, Wrenda, thought it a great joke to scare Thindelina and make her cry. She did it almost every day.
"Thindy! Thindy! Carried off by the windy! Never seen again-dy!" And she laughed and laughed at the thought of the young girl being carried away forever.
The middle sister liked to get along with everyone, but found it trying. Because it was important to get along with Wrenda most of all, she joined in the cruelty and tormented her baby sister for fun.
One day Thindelina ran way to cry by herself underneath a great oak tree in the centre of forest. She sat down between its great gnarled roots and leaned back against the thick rough bark of the venerable tree's trunk.
An elf, disturbed by her crying, popped out of hole at the oak's base.
"Stop making that infernal racket," the elf demanded. "Can't you see I need my sleep?"
The girl sniffed hard and rubbed her eyes. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to harm your sleep."
"Never mind. Never mind." said the elf hopping about on one foot. "At least my foot's still sleeping."
He stopped hopping and began stomping. "Wake up. Wake up you silly thing." And he stomped and stomped until he wore a path in the moss.
"Now see what I've done. What I'd done do you see? A path in the moss from disturbing my sleep."
Thindelina rubbed her eyes some more and sniffed a few more times.
"Well, what've you got to say for yourself? Say anything for yourself, have you?"
"No." She didn't know what else to say. She'd already apologized. She'd learned if you had nothing to say you should get about not saying it.
"Not surprising. Not at all. Dull as a child we say," he glared up fixing his gaze on her eyes.
He threw himself on the ground in front of her. "Why do you come to my tree? Do you want something from me?"
The girl told the elf why she was at his tree and apologized once again for good measure.
"That's good. That's good. You've got some manners for a child, and a human one at that. You've awakened most of me from a sound sleep and I'd like to get back to it. What do you need to leave?"
She didn't understand what the little green fellow meant and said so.
He picked up an acorn shell and balanced it on his head.
"What do you mean what do I mean? Are you silly as well as dull? Put an acorn on your head. Then you'll understand."
She did as the elf said, but the small shell got lost in her thick blond curls.
"What to do with you? The girl can't wear an acorn shell without losing it. There's no reasoning with you. None at all. Do you need me to give you a present so you'll leave?"
Thindelina felt more lost with the conversation that she'd ever felt at the cruel hands of her sisters. She decided to not think about the question. It was too confusing. Instead she said, "Yes."
"Now we're going somewhere. Going somewhere finally," said the elf.
He jumped up on one of the oak roots and shook a finger at her.
"If you want to be happy this is what you'll do. You want to be happy do you?"
"Oh, yes, cried the girl.
"Thank you, said the elf. "If you are happy, then you won't be crying at my oak. I won't have that again. Not again. Not again. I won't have you crying here again."
"Three swans swim on a pond. Each has black feet but only one has a black beak. Get the shortest tail feather from the swan and put it in your hair. When a poor boy says hello you must give it to him."
The girl had an awful time with the directive.
She found many ponds with swans. One pond had too many, yet another too few, and the third pond had the right number but their beaks were black and only one had black feet.
"This is impossible," cried the girl.
"It's only impossible if you let it," came a voice behind her.
She turned to see a roan-coated fox lounging by the side of the path.
"We're you there all along, fox?"
"You walked right by me with out so much as a How-do-you -do," said the fox.
"I'm sorry," said the girl. As she said it she realized she's been saying she was sorry to every creature she'd met since she left home.
I must be the sorriest person ever, she thought.
"How do you do?"
"Better than you it would seem," said the fox who set about licking a paw as though he were all alone.
"What is so impossible?"
So the girl told the fox what the elf had said.
"I see," said the fox. "How does this make you happy?"
"I don't know," admitted the girl. "The elf told me. I believed him."
"Oh, my dear," said the fox in his smoothest voice. "I think the elf was trying to get rid of you. How about if I help you instead?"
"Why should you help me?" Thindelina was surprised at her tone and wanted immediately to apologize.
She was about to do just that when the fox said, "Bring me a swan for my dinner and I will grant you anything you want."
This did not seem right to the girl. A feather was one thing. A swan could get by. Granting a wish she hadn't even decided on wasn't worth it.
"No," said the girl. She was surprised by her firmness. She had never said no to anyone even her sisters when they were cruel to her.
"Suit yourself," said the fox who went back to licking his paw.
The girl continued walking through the forest until she came to a small clearing with a pond in the middle. Three swans glided over the surface of the water barely breaking a ripple.
The water was so clear she could see right to the bottom, and she could see they all had black feet.
She drew closer and closer until she was at the water's edge. The swans swam by her. Their feathers were immaculate, their necks held high in a majestic arch, and their eyes closed as though they were sleeping.
Of the three only the last swan had a black beak.
"If I can get a feather a poor boy will say 'hello,' she remembered.
She reached out as far as she could and tried to grasped a tail feather. But it was too far and she tumbled into the water.
The swans flapped their wings and chattered from the commotion. The last swan dived down toward the girl. He grabbed the arm of her dress in his beak and hauled her to shore.
She sputtered and panted and coughed.
"Are you all right, child?" asked the swan. "You've taken a terrible tumble."
"Thank you for saving me, swan."
The other two drew closer to the shore and asked her why she'd fallen into the pond.
The girl was embarrassed to admit she was trying to steal a feather. She done nothing but get into trouble since she'd run away to cry. Now she'd never get a chance to have a poor boy say hello so she could be happy.
She told her story and apologized over and over to the swan and thanked him again for saving her.
"I would give you as tail feather freely, child, but it won't do you a lick of good. The elf was lying to you to get rid of you. Poor boys will say hello to any they chose with no need of a feather to entice them. Is this what you really want?"
"No," said the girl
"What do you want?"
No one had ever asked her what she wanted, not even the elf, really. She had to think about it for a moment. But when she did her answer came right away.
"I want to be free of my sisters torment every day."
She told them about the threat of being carried away by the wind and how she feared it was true. She heard it every day. Their parents did not correct her sisters so it must be so.
The swans turn their delicate necks away from the girl to confer in privacy.
When they turned back the third swan said, "We will help you. Go home and wait for us. When your sisters torment you about the wind say this: Wind, wind, sail me away. I won't stay another day."
She made her way home. Her parents were happy to see her at first, but they were busy so left her in the charge of her older sisters.
No sooner were the parents about their work when the two older girls began their awful teasing.
Instead of crying Thumbelina stood her ground. She looked at her sisters and then at the sky and said what the swan told her to say.
The two sisters laughed at her, but soon three swans appeared above them. They glided down to where the girls were standing.
The lead swan reached out a wing. He picked Thindelina up and drew her to his side.
"You've time to say your good-byes if you like."
But the girl remained quiet.
The swans circled around once about the two girls and then flew away never to be seen again.
When the parents came in from their chores they asked their daughters about Thindelina.
"Did she run off crying again?" asked their mother.
"No," the girls said. "The wind came up and carried her off."
"Well," said the mother. "You warned her."
The swans carried Thindelina away to their favourite pond deep in the forest.
She was cared for and happy all her days.
She never saw her sisters again and never once in all her life did she fear the wind would carry her away.