Sweetness on Earth Day (recipe included)

A heart-shaped glimpse of blue sky this afternoon.

A heart-shaped glimpse of blue sky this afternoon.

Today was Earth Day and while it started out overcast and rainy, it was still beautiful. I added my own touch of sweetness to the day by baking a fresh batch of chocolate chip orange bread and that made the house smell amazing! I’ve included the recipe at the end of this post.

Chocolate chip orange bread, yum!

Chocolate chip orange bread, yum!

When I completed my freelance work for the day, I happily sat down at my craft desk and finished up the pair of earrings I started working on yesterday evening.

Pink and burgundy glass pearl earrings.

Pink and burgundy glass pearl earrings.

I then started working on a new earring design and as I did, the sun started to break through the clouds. I took that as Mama Nature’s approval of what I was doing and I smiled as I continued to fiddle with beads, findings and wires. Time flew rather quickly and it was soon time to head to the school to pick up my daughters. Jordan was staying late to practice for choral solo fest and was going to meet her sister Jaycie and I in the gym.

When I arrived at the school and snatched a nice close spot, I stepped out of my car and was overjoyed to see more breaks in the clouds and glimpses of blue sky. One of these blue sky breaks reminded me of a heart and I took it as Mama Nature’s way of saying that when you love Mother Earth, she loves you back. Along with the blue sky, I also saw see numerous signs of spring. The cherry trees were on the verge of opening blossoms and several clumps of daffodils by the front entrance of the school were budding or already blooming.

Daffodils soon to open.

Daffodils soon to open.

Blooming daffodils

Blooming daffodils

My daughters and I headed back home and the sky turned gray once more but that’s okay. Rain is necessary for reviving the earth and restoring life to grass, trees, flowers and all living things. We must pay attention to, honor, help, preserve and protect this planet every day, not just on Earth Day because it’s the only planet we have. I hope that my daughters and all future generations get to experience the amazing sweetness of nature and life.

*****

Orange Bread with Chocolate Chips

Modified from the recipe for Fresh Orange Muffins found on Food.com. I removed the butter and replaced it with yogurt and applesauce. I also reduced the sugar because the orange and orange juice are already quite sweet.

Ingredients:

  • 1 orange, unpeeled, quartered, seeds removed
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup vanilla or plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup applesauce (I use Motts Natural applesauce or homemade)
  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/8 cup sugar (I use Sugar in the Raw)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup to 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees, spray an 8×8 cake/brownie pan with non-stick spray, set aside
  • Put orange quarters in food processor with orange juice and process until pureed
  • Add egg, yogurt and applesauce into processor and blend until combined. Pour into large bowl.
  • In separate bowl, combine dry ingredients then add to orange mixture.
  • Stir to combine. Add chocolate chips if desired and mix them in.
  • Pour batter into prepared pan.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes until top is just turning brown. Let stand until cool enough to eat. (I always eat one piece warm from the oven)
  • Place orange bread in fridge and enjoy cold or heat for a few seconds in microwave. Enjoy!

 

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Not Fit for Queen Nor Puppers

I was trying to keep Jazz's ears warm. She was not impressed...

I was trying to keep Jazz’s ears warm. She was not impressed…

There is a phrase that goes something like “It’s not fit for man nor beast” but as I am not a man and Jazzmin is not a beast, I’m modifying it. This weather lately has been so cold that stepping out the door is just not fit for this queen or her puppers. Alas since Jazz doesn’t know how to use the toilet (nor will I really ever encourage her to) we have to go outside several times a day.

Every time we go outside in the biter cold and wind, Jazz looks at me in dismay as if wondering why I haven’t personally done something to make it warmer out. If it were within my power to do that, I would’ve by now! I bundle her up in her cardigan and I wear my winter jacket and heavy gloves but even then, the wind seems to cut right through us.

Inside the house, we stay warm by wearing layers, covering in blankets, cranking space heaters, exercising and playing games of lobster fetch. By the time it’s nice enough to go outside for more than just our daily walk, Jazz will be a pro at lobster fetch! Thankfully it’s supposed to get above the teens tomorrow and the 40s by the weekend and I’m going to enjoy the “warmth” while it lasts because Mama Nature is having serious moodswings and I’m sure the cold will return…

Nature’s Artwork

I am imperfect. Everyone is. Yet every day I see commercials advertising beauty products and fitness programs to help men and women achieve perfection. Chasing dreams is one thing, striving for the impossible is ridiculous.

I have a great appreciation for nature. Nature is beautiful without even trying. The blazing sunrise, the changing leaves, the churning clouds, the glow of sunset. Beautiful without trying to be perfect. Nature just is what it is and if you don’t stop to see that, you’re missing out.

This past Monday morning started out beautiful with a pink cast to the clouds as the sun made its journey to rise over the hills. The sun shone ever so briefly before the dark clouds of the rapidly approaching cold front blocked it out. That contrast of darkness and light was stunning to behold. Nature wasn’t trying to impress me by puffing up its chest or slathering on makeup for a perfect complexion. Nature was just doing what it does.

I managed to take Jazzmin on a short walk as the front blew in and dropped the mild morning temperatures down 10 degrees. We walked into a field and to the top of the hill to get a better view of the dark clouds. I snapped a picture of Jazz with the turbulent sky as the backdrop and to my amazement, my camera phone captured the colors perfectly.

Jazzmin and the sky

Jazzmin and the sky

Later that evening after the rain had come and gone, I went out into the yard with my daughters to enjoy the last of the day. While we were outside I saw a monarch fly by and was surprised when he landed in one of my back pine trees. I’ve never seen a monarch do that before. He stayed on one branch for a long time and Jordan was nice enough to fetch my camera for me. I took several pictures of him and he stayed still until the very last one when I turned the flash on. He opened his wings just as the picture snapped and then flew higher into the tree and out of sight.

Monarch up in my pine tree

Monarch up in my pine tree

As I write this the sky is ablaze with orange, red, pink and blue. Another breathtaking autumn sunset in what has been a true season to treasure. There is just a sliver of the moon in the sky and brush strokes of clouds. Nothing compares to nature’s artwork and she always pulls it off effortlessly.

The Lore of Thunderstorms

I enjoy thunderstorms. I’m not exactly thrilled when they knock out my power, but I enjoy watching them roll in across the sky. I was afraid of thunderstorms when I was a child. My parents would comfort me during them by saying the thunder and lightning were spirits bowling up in the clouds. That seemed reasonable to me and it made listening to storms more fun as I waited for the sounds of strikes and gutter balls.  Nowadays I like to imagine my father bowling up among the clouds and the loudest booms resemble the jaw-dropping force of his strikes. I tell my daughters the bowling analogy and Jordan has a way of adding on to that by talking about the rain being the leaking water bottles of the athletes. I prefer that idea over the rain being their sweat…

I am fascinated by the sight of lightning flashing among dark clouds in the distance. Watching the visible line of hard rain approach has mesmerized me to the point of forgetting I need to go inside before I become drenched. I have even washed my hair in an overflowing downspout. It wasn’t as alluring as those shampoo commercials but it was very refreshing!

I have been told that I am less than sane to go running out into the openness of my back yard to watch a thunderstorm approach. But there is something so empowering and energizing about the force of wind and billowing darkness of the clouds. Feeling the earth tremble beneath my bare feet as thunder rolls is a vivid reminder of the unbridled strength of Mother Nature.

Being awakened from a peaceful slumber by the loud booming of thunderstorms makes my heart race but I’m not afraid of it any longer. I open my curtains to watch the lightning flash or remain laying in bed as the light strobes through the fabric and illuminates my room. Mother Nature is unpredictable and uncontrollable and she and I don’t always see eye to eye. But I will give her credit where credit is due and continue to appreciate the humbling strength and beauty of thunderstorms.

thunderstorm1

Touching Spring

One of my lilac bushes overflowing with buds!

One of my lilac bushes overflowing with buds!

This past winter was rough. Never ending snow and cold and misery. I looked hopefully forward to spring and warmth and when it finally seemed to arrive I was ecstatic! Alas then the cold returned and just this past Saturday it snowed. I had a lot of writing work to do this weekend so staying inside was fine but I didn’t enjoy seeing flakes blowing past my windows the third week of April. I know there have been winter storms in May before where I live and I remember them less than fondly. I have no desire or energy for that.

When it has warmed up periodically this “spring” I’ve rejoiced in the golden sunshine and bright blue skies. All the trees are budded out eager to release leaves and my beloved lilacs will have a bumper crop this year! If only it would warm up and say warm!

Lilacs are my favorite flower. I grew up with an entire row of them growing behind my childhood home. Their sweet fragrance in the spring still evokes happy memories and I could lay beneath their lavender and white blossoms for hours contentedly. Last year almost all of my beautiful blooms wilted and expired because the weather warmed up way too early in March and then got so cold the night-time frost damaged the flowers beyond recovery. So this year I am hoping for redemption! I want to be able to hold bushels of lovely lilacs in my hands and bury my nose in them until I’m intoxicated by their natural perfume.

For now I must wait because Mama Nature is grumpy after the winter and is less than forthcoming with consistent warmth. I’ve joked with my friends that someone needs to get Mama Nature some chocolate or a fun spring fling to alleviate her hormonal mood swings. I am just as eager to bloom and soak up the sunshine as the flowers and trees around here. I want to do more than just touch a hint of spring here and there, I long to be completely caressed and encompassed in its renewal and beauty.

Frozen Moments, Flooding Memories

ice needles stream flood

It appears that it’s going to be one of those Springs where Mother Nature has intensely fluctuating mood swings. Warm one day, cold the next. Rain, snow, sun, wind and the other day, a mini ice storm. It’s hard to know how to dress and what coat to grab when even the weather apps I use can’t seem to keep up from moment to moment. The forecasters keep optimistically forecasting warm sun and when it doesn’t come I wonder if they fear for their lives.

This random and erratic spring weather coalesced into something rather inspiring to me during the thankfully short-lived ice storm. As I was driving home I passed by several streams that were overflowing from all the rain. These same streams were surrounded by bare-branched trees that were coated with frozen droplets or rain. All the buds on the trees looked frozen in time while the water continued to flow rapidly past them and it created a stunning contrast in my mind.

I have experienced moments that feel frozen in time. Some of these moments are amazingly wonderful and others are heartbreakingly painful. When those moments were

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