Saturday, May 30, 2020

Exploring Bellingham: Northern Flicker

An American Flicker sitting on a dead tree in Bellingham.
We chose our condo because of the view from our bedroom and living room windows out to the protected riparian zone along a small creek.

We're on the north side of downtown Bellingham. While it's a busy area (in normal times) next to Bellis Fair Mall, there are many parks, protected areas and large undeveloped lots nearby.

The riparian zone is home to many types of birds. I've already introduced you to the Pileated Woodpecker. Another is the Northern Flicker.

Northern Flickers are also in the woodpecker family. They are large brown birds with distinctive markings like a dark bib around the neck. I believe this is a female because she is missing red whiskers. Unlike the Pileated Woodpecker who drills for food, Flickers feed along the ground looking for ants, beetles and grubs. They'll also eat fruits and berries foraged from branches.

Flickers like to frequent the dead trees in the natural area behind our condo.

They drill to communicate and make a nest hole if an empty one isn't available. Here's a story about an encounter Wayne and I had with a Northern Flicker up the lake at our float cabin.

Flicker nesting deterrents and lots of yelling finally worked.
Several years ago, a Flicker started drilling a nest hole in our cabin's wall. John’s mother, Helen, suggested painting large yellow and black owl eyes. It had worked during a woodpecker invasion at our friend John's Cabin #1.

Two aluminum pans and paints created scary owls. Wayne nailed boards over the hole and installed the guard owls. It took several days to chase the Flicker away to choose another nest site, hopefully not someone else's cabin.

What kinds of birds frequent your corner of the world? Do you have any funny (or scary) stories to tell about them? -- Margy

References: The Cornell Lab: All About Birds and The Audubon Field Guide (online)

Posting to Friday Favorites at Condo Blues.

Stop by and take a look at a meme called All Seasons.

I'm also linking up with Camera Critters and Saturday's Critters. Check them out for more great animal pictures.

And a Wednesday linkup My Corner of the World at Photographing New Zealand. -- Margy

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Quarantine Cuisine: Apple and Berry Crisp with Oat Topping

Adding apples to my berry for a big crisp.
My cooking right now includes desserts to finish our meals with a sweet touch.

My weekly grocery pickup from Fred Meyer always includes berries. If needed, freeze any uneaten ones before shopping again. Today I thawed my stash to make a crisp.

I wanted to refresh my memory about oatmeal topping. I chose Apple Crisp with Oat Topping by realnakedchef on Allrecipes.

Apple and Berry Crisp 
with Oat Topping

Fruits mixed right in the baking dish.
My Fruit Ingredients:

6 scant of cups berries (I had strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and leftover cranberry sauce)
3 medium peeled and sliced apples
4 tablespoons white sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Lots of tasty topping!
Oat Topping Ingredients:
This is a half recipe for my 9" X 9" baking dish.

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup quick minute oats (I like extra oats)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sliced pecans (optional)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup room temperature butter or margarine


Coat a medium-sized baking dish with vegetable spray. To make it easy, use the baking dish as a mixing bowl. Mix together the berries and sliced apples. Sprinkle white sugar, flour (to thicken the juices while baking) and cinnamon over the top and stir until well blended.

Use a bowl to mix the brown sugar, oats, flour, sliced pecans and cinnamon for the topping. Use a pastry cutter or whisk (my choice) to cut the butter into the oats mixture until it resembles pea-sized crumbs.

Double duty in the oven warming frozen lasagna from last week for dinner.

Spread the topping over the fruit. Pat it gently until even.  Bake at 350 degrees F for about 40 minutes or until it's golden brown and the sides are bubbling. If you used apples, it may take a little longer for them to soften.

A scoop of rich vanilla ice cream made our sweet treat hit the spot!

If you have lots of berries, you can cut down on the apples or eliminate them altogether. Fresh or thawed berries work equally well.  Crisps are very versatile.

What's cooking in your kitchen right now? -- Margy

Hop on over to the Simple Life Mom for Homestead Blog Hop and see some great ideas for homesteading and simple living.

Want more ideas? Try The Green Acre Homestead's Our Simple Homestead Blog Hop.

Head over to Blogghetti for Tasty Tuesday to see more recipes, crafts and DIY projects.

Posting to Friday Favorites at Condo Blues.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Exploring Bellingham: Cottonwood Trees

Tall bare Cottonwood trees in late winter.
This spring I've had the chance to follow the development of plants from their winter bare to their spring bloom. It's been a nice diversion during our isolated life.

Behind our Bellingham condo there are a variety of trees. The largest is the Cottonwood. In fact, the neighbourhood is full of them.

Cottonwoods are a type of poplar, with the same quivering leaves. They grow in moist areas, so the wetlands behind us is a prime spot.

Female catkins on high branches.
Our variety in the Pacific Northwest is the Black Cottonwood.

Male and female flowers are in separate catkins (long, slim clusters) that appear before the leaves each spring.

The female catkin produces the cottony seeds that are blown long distances. It's these fluffy white masses that give the tree its name.

Day one of the seed "explosion."
For weeks now the large green leaves and catkins have been maturing.  A unique fact is that Cottonwood trees are dioecious. This means the male and female flowers develop on separate trees. Growing in large groves increases the chance of fertilization.

Sorry, my closeups aren't the best. I left my camera in the RV in Arizona. We'd planned to return by late March, but that never happened. All I have now is my iPhone's camera.

A grove of Cottonwood trees in an undeveloped area near the Bellis Fair Mall.

For a week now in Bellingham, there have been puffy white seeds floating everywhere from the Cottonwood trees. Here's a short video showing how they fly through the air creating a plant version of a snow storm.

A tall Cottonwood on our walking route.
The seeds are very small (1X4 mm) which is remarkable considering they can grow into one of the largest trees in North America, up to 100 feet (30+ metres) high.

Not only are Cottonwoods large, but fast growing, reaching maturity in 10-30 years. Young trees can add an amazing six feet per year.

Historically, their trunks were used by Native Americans to make dugout canoes. As a commercial product, their course wood is best suited for making pulpwood in the paper industry, pallets and shipping crates.

As summer changes to fall, the leaves turn bright yellow and orange, making a warm contrast to the cooling blue skies.

Here's a look at my Cottonwood trees through the seasons.

Cottonwood trees through the seasons: winter, spring, summer and fall.

What kinds of trees are common where you live? -- Margy

Visit Letting Go of the Bay Leaf for more Mosaic Monday.

Posting to Sky Watch Friday. Go to the Sky Watch Friday website and you'll see sky photos from all over the world!

Stop by and take a look at a blog share called All Seasons.

And a Wednesday linkup My Corner of the World at Photographing New Zealand.

Thanks for visiting part of my world this week. For more great posts from Our World Tuesday, click here.

Also blog shares called Through My Lens by Mersad and Wordless Wednesday by Natasha.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Quarantine Cuisine: Crockpot Magic Meatloaf

My well loved cookbook.
Making so many meals at home right now, a crockpot comes in handy.  My Rival was a wedding present in 1971. I used it a lot while teaching in Bellflower. It's followed me through the years and now serves me well in our Powell River condo. It's such a classic that one is on exhibit in the Smithsonian.

The next Christmas I bought one for Mom. Now it's here in the Bellingham condo that used to be hers. With it I can continue to make some of my favourite recipes.

We love meatloaf and the crockpot makes it an easy meal to prepare. And it brings back wonderful memories of cooking here in the condo with Mom.

"( . . . it cooks while you loaf!)"
(Page 26 of the 1971 Rival Crockpot Cookbook)

Mom always added a touch of love.
Ingredients from the Cookbook:

1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 egg beaten
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 slices bread crumbed
1/2 small onion chopped
2 tablespoons green pepper chopped
2 tablespoons celery chopped
Ketchup topping

Mix the ingredients.
Changes I Made:

I omitted the green pepper
I used 1 stalk of celery with leaves chopped
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
Garlic powder to taste
Ground black pepper to taste

To have leftovers for another meal, and a meal in the freezer, I doubled the recipe.

In the crockpot ready to cook.

Coat the crockpot with vegetable oil spray.

Let bread dry overnight or in a warm oven. Break it up by hand into small crumbs. Stir in the chopped vegetables and seasonings.

Beat the egg and milk and pour over the bread crumb mixture to moisten.

Combine with the ground beef. This step is best done with clean, well washed hands.
Form the meat into a rounded loaf and place it in the bottom of the crockpot. Bake on high for one hour and then reduce to low for 6-8 hours. Top with ketchup if desired during the last hour. Check with a meat thermometer until the center reaches 155-160 degrees F.

Resting before slicing.

To complete my meal, I baked two potatoes and cook carrots with broccoli in the microwave. How are handling having more meals at home? Do you have some recipes to share? -- Margy

Hop on over to the Simple Life Mom for Homestead Blog Hop and see some great ideas for homesteading and simple living.

Want more ideas? Try The Green Acre Homestead's Our Simple Homestead Blog Hop.

Posting to Friday Favorites at Condo Blues.

Head over to Blogghetti for Tasty Tuesday to see more recipes, crafts and DIY projects.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Exploring Bellingham: Pileated Woodpecker

Dead trees provide homes, nesting places and food for birds.
We're "staying home" at our condo in the States. Mom moved here from California in 2005 to be closer to us. Now it's ours. While it isn't as close to nature as our cabin, we have the creek behind our building with trees and bushes for birds. 

I was on the sofa and heard a strange sound. I saw small objects flying through the air and traced them back to a Pileated Woodpecker drilling into a dead tree. The more he pecked, the more the wood chips flew.

I knew it was a Pileated Woodpecker by its large size, black colouring and distinctive red topknot. They're common in our area, but it's the first I've seen.

The woodpecker was drilling for his dinner, not making a nest hole.

After he worked for a while, he stuck his head inside a nearby hole. He obviously was gobbling up some ants or insects he had dislodged and sent scurrying into his makeshift bowl. Yum!

Eating the "fruits" of his labour.

This was a good example of how you can find nature in your own backyard. Go see what you can find in yours. If you have children, it makes a wonderful learning experience. I have so many fond memories of exploring nature with Mom and Dad. I remember many of the things I learned to this day and it's probably why I love float cabin living so much. -- Margy

Thanks for visiting my post this week. I'm linking up with Camera Critters and Saturday's Critters. Check them out for more great animal pictures.

Stop by and take a look at Jesh Studio's All Seasons.

And shared with Your the Star at Stone Cottage Adventures.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Quarantine Cuisine: Baked Lasagna

A large lasagna gives us one fresh and three frozen meals.
Wayne and I are still in self-isolation in our Bellingham condo, dreaming about our RV and float cabin. I'm not really complaining, we are safe, healthy and comfortable.

My parents were educators. Dad was an assistant principal and Mom taught first grade. They left early and stayed late. Fixing weekday dinners from scratch was difficult. That's why they cooked on weekends and froze leftovers. I'm using their strategy now to increase variety and reduce cooking chores.

Fixing a large lasagna fit the criteria. I started by making a batch of Daddy's Special Sauce. Like Daddy taught me, I use a "dump and pour" method. Here's what I did. If you want a more trusted recipe try The Best Lasagna Recipe at Simply Recipes.

Baked Lasagna


Assembling the sauce, I like lots of extra spices.
Daddy's Special Sauce
1 24-oz jar spaghetti sauce
1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes
2 8-oz cans tomato sauce
1 6-oz can tomato paste
1 cup water (more if needed to thin)
1 package spaghetti sauce mix
2 tablespoons Italian herbs crushed
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion diced
5 cloves garlic minced
2 stalks celery chopped
1 pound mushrooms sliced
1 pound mild ground Italian sausage
1/2 pound ground beef

8 lasagna noodles boiled

Grate the mozzarella and prepare ricotta mix first.
Cheese Filling:
1 15-oz ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup canned or frozen spinach
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Italian herbs crushed

1 16-oz package mozzarella cheese grated

1 extra cup grated mozzarella for topping


Prepare the cheeses first. Grate the mozzarella and set aside. Put the ricotta, Parmesan, garlic powder, and Italian herbs in a bowl. Squeeze out liquid from spinach and chop. Add to the bowl, mix everything well and set it aside.

After the sauce is prepared, cook and add the meats.
Start the sauce by mixing spaghetti sauce, tomato sauce, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, water, spaghetti sauce mix, Italian herbs and garlic powder in a large pot and heat on low. I use water to get the last bits of tomato goodness out of the cans and add that to the sauce. As it cooks, you will probably need to add more water to thin the sauce.

In a frying pan a little at a time, saute onion, garlic, celery and mushrooms in olive oil until softened. Add to the sauce.

Crumble Italian sausage into a frying pan. Cook until done, drain and add to the sauce. Do the same with the ground beef. Let sauce simmer to blend flavours.

My assembly line on the stove.
Heat water to boiling in a large pan with a dash of salt and a dollop of oil. I used my frying pan. Boil four whole lasagna noodles until pliable.

Coat a large deep baking dish with cooking spray to reduce sticking. Put in enough sauce to cover the bottom of the dish.

Overlap the four boiled noodles on top of the sauce. Add another layer of sauce on top of the noodles.

Next add the ricotta cheese mixture followed by the grated mozzarella cheese.

Adding the cheese layers over at the sink.
Boil four more noodles until pliable.

Add another layer of sauce on top of the cheese and overlap the last four noodles on top.

Top the noodles with enough sauce to cover them to prevent drying out.

Bake at 350 degrees F for about an hour or until bubbly around the edges. Add the extra cup of mozzarella cheese on top and continue to heat until it is melted.

Remove from the over and let it sit for 15 minutes before cutting.

Finally sauce, more noodles and more sauce.
If you used my list of ingredients, you will have sauce left over.  I froze mine in meal-size containers for future spaghetti dinners.

This recipe made enough lasagna for the two of us for dinner, three frozen meals and frozen spaghetti sauce for two more meals.

The initial cost for ingredients was high, but when you stretch it out over multiple meals it's more economical. Plus, one day's work resulted in six nights with minimal preparation. Now that's the way to go if you ask me. -- Margy