Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halloween Pumpkin Cake

Tonight my cake went from plain old bundt cake...

... to a Halloween Pumpkin Cake!

I don't usually consider myself much of a "theme cake" baker, but I saw this online the other day and couldn't resist. I like to bake from scratch as much as I can, so I didn't use a box mix cake like the recipe recommends. Instead I tried something special... it's a "secret ingredient" cake! Click here for the cake recipe to find out what the secret ingredient is (recipe will open in a new window). (Dave, if you're reading this before the breakfast gets started, don't spoil it!)

I know there are going to be plenty of other delicious treats at our potluck breakfast. I can't wait.

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Struggling to get in a groove

Since our return from the Red River Gorge last weekend, I find that I'm having a hard time getting back into a groove. It's been difficult to stay focused at work, and blogging hasn't been so appealing, either. I guess I got too used to not being in front of a computer screen for the days that we were gone, and that was a really nice change of pace that I'm not quite ready to part with.

Plus, I've been distracted by baking projects that I have floating around in my head. We have a potluck breakfast at my office every year for Halloween, and this evening I baked a cake for that. My birthday is coming up next week, and I'm going to make myself an awesome vanilla and lime flan that I saw on an episode of Planet Food a few weeks ago. Then there's the holidays.... I automatically go into high gear this time of year when it comes to baking.

Halloween cake, ready for the oven.

Showing off my new Kitchen Aid Artisan-series stand mixer. I love this thing. I've had it for about a month, and I've already used it a LOT.

I got this mixer for such a good price, and there was a rebate on top of that... it was a deal too good to pass up!

Just to prove I'm not totally obsessed with baking right now, here are a few photos of the great outdoors taken recently.

Beech trees on our property

Cool mushroom in the yard

Milkweed seeds bursting from their pod

Stay tuned for more baking obsessions...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Rare parrot caught shagging UK photographer

For those of you who peruse Cute Overload on a regular basis, you may have already seen this, but this is some amazing (and amusing) rare bird footage that any bird and/or nature lover MUST see!

The bird in the video is a Kakapo, and you can learn more about him over at the BBC's Last Chance to See site.

Carry on with your day. That was completely normal, right? Right, I thought so.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The last of the Michigan flower pictures

This is the final installment of flower photos from our trip to northern Michigan this summer.

Thanks to all of you who commented on previous posts. We've actually been away on a trip to the Red River Gorge area of Kentucky (in the Daniel Boone National Forest), so I haven't had a chance to respond to all your comments. This means, of course, that I'm behind on all my blog reading as well, but I'll get caught up with you all soon.

In the meantime, please enjoy these (mostly) artistic renderings of Queen Anne's Lace, Black-eyed Susan and Oxeye Daisy. I will share some photos from our trip to Kentucky soon!

Oh, and tune in on Monday for a funny bird video.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Berries from northern Michigan

The last 2 posts of flowers from northern Michigan included plants that I was able to identify. Not so in this post (with one exception). When we were there in July there were several plant species that were putting out fruit. Here's one that I don't recognize.

If I had to guess, I would say Elderberry, but their berries are very dark, aren't they? If anyone has any suggestions on the ID of this plant, I'd be happy to hear them.

Here's another one I don't know. These berries turn a lovely shade of blue come September, but they're pale green in July.

Again, any suggestions as to the ID would be appreciated. This is definitely a plant that likes shady locations, if that's of any help.

This one I was able to identify, but if I had just the berries to go off of alone, I never would have figured it out.

Aha! Berries and flowers right on the same plant. Looks like we've got some Bittersweet Nightshade here.

Like the Wild Peas from a few posts ago, this plant was observed in multiple stages of development. Some of the flowers were still just forming and hadn't even bloomed.

Here's a nice blossom. For some reason, I have the hardest time remembering the name of this plant. When I see it, I know I know it, but I can't remember the name! I have the same problem with Sweetgum trees. Don't know why. I guess I need to work on some kind of mnemonic device to help jog my memory.

I'm just about ready to wrap up my showcase of flowers from northern Michigan so we can get to more seasonally relevant posts. I hope you have enjoyed these posts.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

More Michigan flowers

Continuing on with flower photos from northern Michigan, I present 2 more lovelies: Bladder Campion and Deptford Pink.

I've yet to encounter Bladder Campion in Ohio, even though it does grow here. Most of the Bladder Campions up in Michigan were past their prime while we were there, but there were a few select specimens still blooming nicely.

Bladder Campion and Wild Pea

This is a special favorite of mine, Deptford Pink. One reason I like it is because it is dainty and diminutive, and its color really packs a punch for its size. Before the flower opens fully, it looks like this. At this stage, it reminds me of a tiny paint brush.

Sorry this one is a little blurry, but at least you can get an idea of the intense color.

Stay tuned, there are still more flowers to come!

Monday, October 19, 2009

New property bird

I'm very excited to announce that we've been having visits from Golden-crowned Kinglets on our property - a first for our woods! I have been hearing their characteristic high-pitched "tsee tsee tsee" call for a few days, but haven't been able to pin one down by sight until recently. I was delighted to finally get a good sighting through the binoculars and to see that gold crown. It was gleaning bugs from the leaves of a maple tree when I tracked it down.

As you can see from the range map (provided by the Cornell Lab's All About Birds website), these birds winter in Ohio. That's our first official, sighted wintering bird of the season. The juncos can't be too far behind. I have heard White-throated Sparrows in the field across the road, but haven't heard (or seen) them on our property yet.

Unfortunately no photos to share, but I did at least want to share the news. Happy birding to you all!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Beauty of the Wild Pea

It occurred to me the other day that I still have tons of photos from our trip to Michigan earlier this year that I have not yet shared. Time to work on fixing that, wouldn't you say?

Here, we will enjoy the simplicity and beauty of the Wild Pea. We will wander our way through from baby flower to pea pod, with some tendrils of vine mixed in. Enjoy.

Friday, October 16, 2009

On the wings of summer

While birds and flowers are my first loves when it comes to nature observation, over the last year I have added butterflies, moths and dragonflies to an ever-growing list of subjects that pique my interest. While I have not yet spent much time learning about the intricacies of these creatures, and still have a long way to go in my identification skills, their beauty does not fail to impress me. Here are some interesting finds I made in early August of this year. (If anyone finds fault with my IDs, please let me know!)

Little Wood Satyr

Zabulon Skipper (male)

Clouded (?) Sulphur

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth, the star of the show that day. This moth happily nectared on this large patch of Bee Balm for a long time.

While perusing the Butterflies and Moths of North America website, I noticed that they showed no record of the Hummingbird Clearwing for Athens County, so I submitted a couple of photos to the regional coordinator for consideration. I just love citizen science! Earlier this year I put Athens County on the map with my record of the Polyphemus Moth. If you are at least mildly interested in butterflies or moths, you really should check this site out.