It’s a Hoot

The Great Horned Owl

I thought we here in Glen Ellen must be pretty special because Great Horned Owls seem to be hanging out in our ‘hood – and hooting up a storm each night. Then I did a little research and realized they’re everywhere in the U.S. Alas, Glen Ellen isn’t so special after all.

Just a bit of info about these gorgeous creatures – which, admittedly, I’ve never seen in person: The Great Horned Owl doesn’t have horns – those are tufts of feathers. They usually weigh around 3 pounds and are about 20″ tall; their wing span is around 40″. Their flight is so silent that their prey likely never hear their approach. And – these owls have been known to fly away with small dogs!

While I’ve been busy learning about our neighborhood owls, Andy – in today’s Andy’s Corner – has been busy researching a “family” owl – and remembering another predator he was familiar with as a child.

This National Geographic video is fascinating and short – but not for the squeamish!

According to the Audubon Society, these Great Horned Owls take rats, mice, rabbits, squirrels, opossums, and skunks. They eat some birds up to size of geese, ducks, hawks, and smaller owls. They also eat snakes, lizards, frogs, insects, scorpions, but rarely fish. I’ve also read that they’re also known to eat chickens, which causes big issues.

There are times we could really use these Great Horned Owls in action, rather than sitting in a tree hooting. Our tomato patch has been decimated this year for the first time ever by some unknown creatures. A long discussion on our local NextDoor would indicate it’s rats – or possibly squirrels – doing the damage. I might feel kind of bad to see one of our pesky squirrels fly away in the talons of the owl, but I’d likely cheer if our local rats became a part of the diet of a Great Horned Owl.

Damage done to our tomatoes by…a squirrel? a rat? a raccoon?

In deciding upon today’s owl-based recipe, I couldn’t possibly go for squirrel (though we were offered squirrel gumbo at a party in Baton Rouge when we first arrived there. Needless to say, we had a We’re-Not-in-Colorado-Any-More moment). And we’re clearly not into rat meat (why we don’t eat rats may be a good topic for a blog one day) – so the next thing that came to mind was rabbit. Do you remember the dish Welsh Rabbit – later changed to Welsh Rarebit, so that diners weren’t confused about whether they were eating meat – or not?

A Welsh vegetarian Rabbit dish is clearly the perfect recipe to celebrate Wynn, our new little Welsh Corgi – who BTW has been instructed to watch out for Great Horned Owls. And we don’t give a hoot whether you think that Welsh Rabbit name is weird or not. AND we’re pretty sure our Great Horned Owls can’t be tricked into eating Welsh Rabbit, even if they should be considering a more meat-free diet.

FYI: one source says the name Welsh Rabbit came about because Welsh peasants couldn’t afford meat, so the name was some kind of attempt to appease them. A 16th-century tale about the dish is even wilder: Apparently “toasted cheese” in Welsh translates as “caws pobi.” The story goes that God asked St Peter to get rid of the Welsh from heaven, as they kept causing a ruckus.  St Peter marched outside the Pearly Gates and shouted “caws pobi!”. All of the Welsh men and women excitedly ran out of the gates to get their cheese and toast – and the gates were slammed behind them (since I have a lot of Welsh in me, I feel it’s PC for me to tell this tale). 🙂

One final note: should you be in Fort Collins, Colorado, in the near future, check out the Welsh Rabbit Bistro and Cheese Shop. It’s in the fun part of FoCo – Old Town.

Welsh Rabbit – or top with a fried egg and you’ve got a “Buck Rabbit!” Yum.

Welsh Rabbit

If you top this with a crispy fried egg, you’ve created a “Buck Rabbit” – which we love for breakfast.  This is classic pub food, so think casual when you serve it.  Quick lunch?  A snack?  LIght dinner?  Drink any remaining stout along with it 🙂

  • 2 T butter
  • 2 T flour
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1-2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp Diamond kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 c porter beer or stout (we use Guinness Stout)
  • 1/4 c cream
  • 1 1/2 c –  shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 2 drops hot sauce
  • 4 slices toasted rye bread or thin slices of a baquette (buttered, if you like)
  • minced chives for garnish (optional)
  • paprika sprinkled on top for garnish (optional)
  • crispy fried bacon as a topping (optional)
  • crispy fried egg for topping (optional)

In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt the butter and whisk in the flour. Cook, whisking constantly for 2 to 3 minutes, being careful not to brown the flour. Whisk in mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper until smooth. Add beer and whisk to combine. Pour in cream and whisk until well combined and smooth. Gradually add cheese, stirring constantly, until cheese melts and sauce is smooth; this will take 4 to 5 minutes. Add hot sauce.

Preheat the broiler and position a rack 4 inches from the heat. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, and arrange the toasts on top. Spoon the cheddar mixture over the toasts, and broil until bubbling and browned around the edges.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

You Win Some and You Lose Some

I won this one. Or maybe to win is to lose. Or to lose is to win. It remains to be seen. But WynnSome, a 10-week-old brindle and white Cardigan Welsh Corgi, arrived at our home on August 31st. And she is indeed winsome.

WynnSome D

Suddenly Senior says 70 is a good age to adopt a pup (we’ll let you run the numbers to figure out why). Let’s just say we overshot that by a bit, but we were seizing the “Wynn-dow” of opportunity.

It’s been almost 2 years since Ancho Antwerp Walden Hill was to arrive at SFO – bound for our Sonoma home. A red merle Australian Shepherd puppy, with much the same bloodlines as our beloved Oakley Devine. But Fortuna intervened and she went to Maine instead of Glen Ellen. So we’ve had two years of “should we?” “could we?” “maybe yes?’ “maybe no?” There’s been many talks around our dinner table….about puppies.

Even after 54 years of marital bliss (if you believe that, I’ll tell you another funny story), Andy and I still manage to have some pretty tense exchanges. And getting a new pet is certifiably guaranteed to cause a little huff and puff and drama with us both. Our cat ChocoLatte’s entrance into our family is a case in point. After we had put him – a scrawny 8-week-old kitten – back into his cage at Sonoma’s Pets Lifeline, having decided he wasn’t something we were meant to have, we turned and walked, slowly and sadly and sans new kitty, back to our car. And then I burst into tears. And then we went back and got Choco.

ChocoLatte – at our home and no longer a kitten

Of course you know that there are two kinds of Welsh Corgis – the Cardigan and the Pembroke. And, of course you know that Queen Elizabeth is famous for her Pembroke Corgis. And Queen Elizabeth was WAY over 70 when she got her two most recent Corgi puppies. Guess you could say we’re just living like royalty!

2016: Queen Elizabeth II at 90 years young
1936: Queen Elizabeth at 10 years of age; kind of fascinating to note the difference in appearance between the 1936 Corgis and the 2016 Corgis.

WynnSome is a Cardigan Welsh Corgi, unlike the Queen’s. These little Welsh herding dogs, who always have a tail, date back centuries and are descended from the Dachshund family. What a surprise! We’re already impressed with Wynn’s intelligence, speed, and determination – and her love of good (or even bad) food! She’ll clearly fit in well to this foodie family.

As for her name, read today’s Andy’s Corner. It reveals the complexity of animal-name-choosing in our family. The fact that “Wynn” is an old Welsh female name – which some sources say means “joy” or “friend” – certainly influenced our decision-making.

from the AKC: Cardigan above, Pembroke below

As we enter into this new phase of our life, with fingers crossed, I want to dedicate this “Cat” Stevens song not to our cats but to Andy (and to WynnSome). Here’s hoping “I love my dog as much as I love you.” You’ll have to listen to the next line of the lyrics to fully appreciate the message. 🙂

Our recipe choice is an obvious one – in many ways. We’re SO looking forward to traveling again, and New York is our favorite destination – followed closely by Mexico, but we’ve done lots of Mexican recipes. And New York adoptable dogs are being seriously looked at by our New York kiddos. May their next dog be a winner – not a wiener. (OMG – save me from the corn – but keep the corn dogs!)

Our New York Dog
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Pluck and Luck and Cluck (and Andy is doing F***)

Franz Kafka may not be classified as a philosopher, but he was hugely more philosophical in his writing and thinking than I am. When our friend Lynne started discussing Kafka with Andy and me at lunch the other day (and she made another great sandwich for us – not an Italian Sub this time but a pastrami…more on that below.), I had to admit that I neither knew nor understood anything about his writings. (My ability to discuss philosophy is not dissimilar to my ability to describe wines. I know “big” and “fruity” – and that’s about it, which is pretty embarrassing for someone who lives and drinks in Sonoma.) When Andy and Lynne zeroed in on Kafka’s puzzling depiction of a man’s metamorphosis into a cockroach, I started to get brain fog.

Nonetheless, I like to contemplate life and how one manages it, especially given today’s environment. Maybe that’s why I was recently so pleased with myself. Andy and I were talking about our 85-year-old gardening friend who came for brunch (Andy made his famous Sour Dough Belgian Waffles). In describing why I found her so impressive, I mentioned that she had a lot of “pluck.” But then I went deeper. – and more philosophical. I realized it wasn’t all just “pluck.” Some of it had to be “luck.” And there you have it: the metamorphosis of today’s blog.

Pluck and luck. Unfortunately, a little googling shows that my descriptors – pluck and luck – are not that creative or novel.

Maybe you’re familiar with the Japanese manga series JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, which was introduced in 1987 (not surprisingly, I had never heard of it until last week). A main character’s sword, originally named “Luck” ultimately has a “P” added to it to become “Pluck.” Most likely that idea came from a 1898 “dime” novel series entitled Pluck and Luck: Complete Stories of Adventure. Jack Wright, the main character in Pluck and Luck, embarks on adventures which range from engaging the “Bushmen of Australia,” confronting ghosts, fighting fires, searching the bottom of the sea for gold, and even dealing with Wall Street! All in all 1,605 issues were published, ending in 1929.

Circa 1924. Clingy woman. Aggressive White man. Threatened Indian. Lots to philosophically contemplate here. And, yes, there’s that title!

Pluck: courage and resolve in the face of difficulties

Luck: the force that causes things to happen to you by chance and not as the result of your own efforts or abilities

Cluck: the low interrupted noise a chicken makes

And how did “cluck” and “f***” get pulled into this intensely-philosophical blog? Since neither Kafka nor the adventure series inspired me with food ideas or suggestions for Andy’s Corner (we haven’t ventured into eating cockroaches…yet), I had to resort to a more simplistic approach: continue with the rhyme. Pluck…luck. I don’t eat “duck,” so that was not an option. And we do have a favorite new egg recipe to share. Cluck, cluck, cluck.

As for Andy’s Corner, well, he couldn’t resist the wild and crazy opportunity to write about F***!

And as for Lynne’s d-lish Pastrami sandwich, the key is this Russian Dressing from Epicurious.com. To make it, butter one side of a good Jewish rye bread; with the buttered side down, add a layer of Swiss cheese, coat the cheese with the Russian dressing, add the pastrami and RAW sauerkraut (looking for probiotics here), then top with another buttered slice of bread, this time with the buttered side facing up. Toast on a griddle, turning once. Oh my. (An aside: Kafka was Jewish but not Russian – so this sandwich ties into the blog…existentially…maybe).

And now for the baked egg!

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Hydroponic (wink wink) Gardening

Help me out here. I grew up before “weed” was everywhere and (well…almost) universally accepted. The only weed I knew was what I was instructed by my mother to pull out of our big Colorado vegetable garden.

My kind of weed: spotted spurge (BTW it’s a euphorbia and its sap can irritate your skin)

Well, that’s not quite true. It may have taken me a while, but I did figure out at some point that John Denver may have been singing about more than just happiness or getting high on booze when he croons “friends around the campfire and everybody’s high.” It’s not surprising that LoDo in Denver has a dispensary called Rocky Mountain High. How apropos. And what a way to remember John Denver! (Fact Checker: John reportedly denied that he referenced pot-smoking in his lyrics.)

Andy, who despises garden weeding, is focusing on weed in today’s Andy’s Corner. He wants this to be a “joint” effort.

My problem is this: I’m kind of intrigued with hydroponic gardening, but when I search for information about it, I wonder if the search results refer (wink wink) to growing marijuana. How can I learn more about hydroponic gardening and be sure I’m learning about something that’s intended for plants like tomatoes and cucumbers – and not weed?

For example, couldn’t a naive researcher (like me) mistake GreenEntrepreneur.com, WayofLeaf.com, HighTimes.com, PotGuide.com, GrowersSupply.com, or TheWeedScene.com for references to the thrill and challenges of gardening? 🙂

My interest in this all was piqued by an article in the NYTimes (we’ve downloaded it here for you, in case you can’t see it at the website) – “No Soil. No Growing Seasons. Just Add Water and Technology.” It’s a look at hydroponic gardening and all of the benefits it may have, as climate-change becomes reality. It’s definitely worth a read.

Hydroponic tomato-growing

What especially caught my attention were these two sentences in the Times’ article: the CEO of Bowery, the largest hydroponic company in the U.S., said “his farms are 100 times as productive as traditional ones and use 95 percent less water. Other companies claim they can grow as much food on a single acre as a traditional farm can grow on 390.”

No chemicals, pesticides, or GMOs; vine-ripened, Appalachia grown. Sounds good? That’s from App Harvest’s web page about their vegetables raised by large-scale hydroponic “gardening.”
AppHarvest’s enormous plant – in Appalachia. One of the appeals is that hydroponically-grown produce can be produced anywhere and so does not have to travel long distances to the market.

I don’t think I’ll be growing my tomatoes hydroponically next summer. Until I have the opportunity to taste and compare hydroponically-grown produce with “earth-grown” produce, I’ll remain skeptical. Chef Dan Barber of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, the chichi restaurant and farm in New York’s Hudson Valley, states that “truly delicious food can only come from the earth.” That may be true, but what if? What if hydroponics is our only viable choice?

I’ve learned to be accepting of weed. Now maybe I need to be accepting of hydroponics.

Produce from our earthy Glen Ellen garden

No matter where your tomatoes are coming from – your backyard or the farmers’ market – here are links to some of our favorite recipes for those tomatoes. For our most favorite lunch ever – try the bacon and tomato taco. It’s SO good! Or use your fresh, earth-grown tomatoes in soups, on toast, in a puff pastry tart, on a burger, and, of course, in salads. Enjoy them while you can.

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Is 82″ Big Enough?

For $2600 Andy and I can get a Samsung 82″ TV at Best Buy. For $200 to $400 – and possibly much more – we can buy 2 tickets for a Broadway musical. For $25 – or less- we can get 2 tickets to our favorite movie theater (The Summerfield Cinemas in Santa Rosa, CA).

What do you think? An ad for the 82″ Samsung

Why the dilemma? We’re deep into watching past and present musicals and wondering if our 40″ TV will provide the proper experience.

Why musicals? Perhaps it was the TV/movie theater release of In the Heights. Maybe it was the release of the new musical/comedy TV series, Schmigadoon – a parody, obviously, on the 1947 Broadway musical Brigadoon. Or was it that having just watched Daveed Diggs in the movie Blindspotting, we were reminded of his role as Thomas Jefferson in the musical Hamilton? More than likely it’s because we’re looking forward to a return visit to Brooklyn in the very near future and wondering what NYC musical we’ll be able to see (and afford).

As part of this research, we decided the other night to watch Brigadoon on our 40″ Samsung TV (which recently replaced our old 26″ Samsung TV). The movie was released in 1954, so Andy and I were 11 and 10 years old – and I’m sure we must have seen it then. I would have gone to the Aggie Theater in Fort Collins, CO, and I’m guessing it was pretty awesome to see such a romantic (if schmaltzy) musical.

Fort Collins, Colorado’s College Avenue and the Aggie Movie Theater, circa 1950’s. Attack, the movie then showing, was released in 1956.

Brigadoon, Schmigadoon.In the Heights, and then ???? Will there be a parody of In the Heights released around 2090? And what might it be called? A fun thought-game for your next free moment.

After an aborted attempt to get HBO Max just to watch the Lin-Manuel Miranda production – and an unenthusiastic response on our part to the TV trailers for In the Heights, and after I fell asleep in the middle of Brigadoon, I’m convinced that musicals – to be enjoyed to their fullest – must be on the big screen or best of all, live, in a theater. Better yet – on Broadway or in London!

Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse in Brigadoon. I stayed awake through this scene.

When I was talking to Andy about seeing musicals in person, he quickly reminded me about the time we saw the anti-Vietnam musical Hair in San Francisco; it was a logical jump from that to today’s Andy’s Corner…about a very funny/sad Vietnam experience Andy had.

And – looking forward instead of back – what can we look forward to in New York this year? How about Girl from the North Country with vintage songs from Bob Dylan? It’s re-opening in October after being forced to close the Broadway production a month after opening because of COVID. It’s almost eerie to read what Ben Brantley wrote in his glowing NYTimes review of the production in March of 2020 – that most ominous month:

A nation is broken. Life savings have vanished overnight. Home as a place you thought you would live forever no longer exists. People don’t so much connect as collide, even members of the same family. And it seems like winter is never going to end.

Sounds like the perfect uplifting and upbeat pray-that-it’s-post-Covid musical! But how can we resist Bob Dylan? And, when you read more of Brantley’s review, you may be standing in line at the box office with me!

Yet while this singular production, which opened on Thursday night at the Belasco Theater under McPherson’s luminous direction, evokes the Great Depression with uncompromising bleakness, it is ultimately the opposite of depressing. That’s because McPherson hears America singing in the dark. And those voices light up the night with the radiance of divine grace.

And now back to food. The purported subject of this blog. In honor of the amazing Lin-Manuel Miranda, whose Hamilton AND In the Heights Andy and I were both fortunate enough to see on Broadway, we have two Puerto-Rico inspired recipes – Ropa Vieja and Natillas. When I find some unique and d-lish recipes from “The North Country” – Dylan’s home state of Minnesota – I’ll include them. 🙂

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