Sunday, March 29, 2009

Not so lucky

Last summer when one of the baby bunnies in our back yard narrowly avoided being hit by the weedwhacker, my daughter christened him/her Lucky.

Yesterday, DH discovered lots of fur on the grass in the back yard.

Not easy to see until you look a little closer, given that the grass is not so green this time of year. We easily could have missed it.

Bunny fur
DD assumed it was from the mother rabbit pulling out her fur to line a nest again. When she realized that it was more likely evidence that one of 'our' rabbits had been prey for the bobcat, she asked:
"Do you think it was Lucky?"
"No dear, I don't think it was lucky!"
Fortunately, she seemed happy with that answer! I just hope we don't start finding bones in the yard . . . Do bobcats eat the bones? Maybe it was a hawk that got the rabbit and that explains the lack of other remains. I DO hope they're off in the woods somewhere and not elsewhere in our yard!

Friday, March 27, 2009

A sign of spring

No daffodils yet, though I saw some this morning on my way to work that looked as though the flowers will be out within the next few days. The sign below at a local school is a different sign of spring.

There are vernal pools nearby with salamanders in them - who apparently tend to commit mass suicide by crossing the nearest roads. I have to admit I've never actually seen any salamanders crossing the road. Perhaps I've unknowingly driven over them? I'm not sure what to do if I see any - turn around and take a different route, or wait for them to cross the road? Clearly, they are not large creatures so the chances are that if I stop to let them cross the person in the car behind me won't see any obvious reason why I've stopped and will try to pass me - possibly killing the salamanders anyway :-(

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

They say time flies . . .

. . . when you're having fun. So I must be having lots of fun then! It is really hard to believe that I've been in the United States for almost 23 years now. TWENTY THREE YEARS? When did that happen?!!

I came here planning on spending 2 years here and then returning to the UK. Then I discovered that unless I paid out of my own pocket to take summer classes somewhere, there was no way I could graduate in less than 5 semesters. (This despite the fact that one semester I overloaded on credits and took far more classes than was recommended. Hah! I passed them all!) So I took some extra classes just because I wanted to (beginning Spanish, skiing, aerobics), and took 6 semesters (3 years) to finish my degree. That 6th semester I met someone who helped me find a job, with work permission, for the following fall. I deliberately turned all the paperwork for graduation in late so that I couldn't graduate in the spring, which meant that officially I was still a student and was able to work on campus over the summer. (Sneaky huh?! I had a good foreign student advisor, though of course his advice about delaying graduation was strictly off the record!) The short-term job I'd found finished in March, and I returned to the UK. I spent several months fruitlessly job-hunting, but then got two job offers back in the US and came back here.

It wasn't until I'd been here for ten years, and already had my green card, that I met DH. Since then, time has just flown by! Last weekend was our twelfth wedding anniversary. I cannot imagine my life now without him or my children. But I'm having a hard time believing I've been married twelve years already! When did that happen?!! Not only have I now lived in the US for longer than I've lived anywhere else, but I've spent more of my time in the US married to DH than not. And yet I'm still only almost American . . .

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Tourism gets in the way

When I came to the United States, it was to do a Master's degree. I could have done that in the UK, though quite frankly at the time it would have been harder to find the funding to do it there. One of the main reasons I chose to do it here was because it gave me the chance to live in the United States for a while. Having spent a year living and studying in France, I realized that being a tourist and living somewhere were very different experiences. My family had never gone on package tours when we travelled to France. We went camping and shopped locally. We had more of an 'authentic' experience than many tourists. But it still wasn't the same as actually being immersed in the language and culture.

Rick Steves, an American travel writer, is the antithesis of ethnocentric and his mission is to encourage people to travel and learn that the way they live is not the only way to live. He writes guidebooks and has a travel show on TV encouraging people to travel independently, off the beaten path, and get to know the place they are visiting. (As a savvy business man, however, he does offer guided tours to Europe whilst touting how different they are from 'regular' tours!)

When asked in a recent interview , "
What's the most important thing people can learn from traveling?" he responded:
A broader perspective. They can see themselves as part of a family of humankind. It's just quite an adjustment to find out that the people who sit on toilets on this planet are the odd ones. Most people squat. You're raised thinking this is the civilized way to go to the bathroom. But it's not. It's the Western way to go to the bathroom. But it's not more civilized than somebody who squats. A man in Afghanistan once told me that a third of this planet eats with spoons and forks, and a third of the planet eats with chopsticks, and a third eats with their fingers. And they're all just as civilized as one another.
In the same interview, he commented:
A lot of Americans comfort themselves thinking, "Well, everybody wants to be in America because we're the best." But you find that's not true in countries like Norway, Belgium or Bulgaria. I remember a long time ago, I was impressed that my friends in Bulgaria, who lived a bleak existence, wanted to stay there. They wanted their life to be better but they didn't want to abandon their country. That's a very powerful Eureka! moment when you're traveling: to realize that people don't have the American dream. They've got their own dream. And that's not a bad thing. That's a good thing.
And that's why I call myself 'Almost American' - because so many of the Americans I've met have never travelled and simply cannot understand why everyone wouldn't want to be American. (Yet, at the same time they are angry at the number of people who want so badly to be here that they enter the country illegally!) Rick Steves wants Americans to
get over themselves. He wants us to please shed our geographic ego. "Everybody should travel before they vote," he has written.
It's unrealistic of course, but wouldn't that be nice?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Trying to get blood from a stone

In the "Unclear on the concept" category:

No, it's not a trash can/rubbish bin - it's a sap bucket!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Mud season

(Image from At Home in the Upper Valley.)

When it's mud season and you're visiting friends who live at the end of a long dirt driveway, given the choice of a) a fairly low-slung front wheel drive vehicle and b) an all-wheel drive SUV, make the smart choice and take vehicle b! (Actually, it probably wouldn't have made much difference as all the vehicles seemed to be getting stuck to some degree except for the ones that made for the nice dry spot in front of the garage.)

I do wish I'd had my camera with me!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Maple syrup - it's not just for pancakes!

It is sugaring season again here. Last week on my commute I saw the first sapbuckets out - a real sign that spring is on its way. We'll probably go out for breakfast at one of the sugar houses next weekend. (We were planning to go this weekend, but just didn't manage to haul ourselves out of bed on time, what with the change in the clocks and a late night for all at a party on Saturday!)

Maple syrup is NOT just for pancakes though. At our local sugar house they sell jugs of syrup of course, but they sell other maple products too. You can buy maple candies, and maple cream. (Think creamed honey, but maple flavoured.) You can buy candy floss (cotton candy) made from maple sugar. They sell 'sugar-on-snow' too, which is a cooked down version of maple syrup poured over a tray of snow so that it cools to a consistency where you can pick it up with fingers or a fork and eat it like candy. You can even do this at home (unlike making maple syrup!) Traditionally it's followed by a pickle to kill the sweetness.

One of my favourite chicken recipes calls for honey, but I replaced it with maple syrup once because I had no honey and it was delicious. There are more recipes using maple syrup here, here and here.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup sliced mushrooms

Marinade ingredients:
1 tsp olive oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp honey or maple syrup (but not the fake maple syrup rubbish!)
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp white vinegar
1/2 tsp allspice (didn't have any of this the first few times I made this recipe and it was still good)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper (I tend not to bother with this, preferring simply to add pepper to taste once the chicken is cooked.)
Mix all the marinade ingredients and pour over the chicken. The honey or maple syrup is easier to measure if you pour it into the same spoon you used for the olive oil - the remaining film of oil on the spoon helps the sticky sweet stuff slide right off! Refrigerate for about an hour. It's definitely better if you marinate it, rather than just pouring the sauce over the chicken and cooking it right away - which of course I do on occasion when I haven't planned ahead! You can marinade it for longer than an hour and it doesn't seem to harm it.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, and bake the chicken until cooked.

Slice the mushrooms thinly and add to the sauce surrounding the chicken for the last few minutes of cooking time. I've sometimes added sun-dried tomatoes to the sauce at the beginning of the cooking time too.

Serve with rice or couscous.
I posted about maple sugaring last year, here, here and here. If you're in the north-eastern United States and looking for information about sugar houses that you can visit, try these sites:

Monday, March 02, 2009

Ooh - thanks Kat!

Expat Kat at The Pea Green Boat just gave me this award:
According to the authors of this award, this blog invests and believes in the PROXIMITY - nearness in space, time and relationships! These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers! Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award."

So thanks Kat! I pass this on to Da Goof at Another Redesign of the Wheel, Laura of Are we Nearly There Yet Mummy?, Limey at Brits n' Bobs, Expat 21 at Expat Abroad, Maximus of Home and Other Thoughts From Abroad, Canoez at Paddling Upstream, Nicola of Some Mothers Do 'av Em, and Tasha at WAHM-BAM. If you haven't visited any of these blogs before - do take a look!
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