Early Spring

The warm weather has triggered an early spring display here in Maryland. Early daffodils and the star magnolia are in bloom. Recently sighted fauna include:

  • 2/25: Cabbage White butterfly
  • 2/26: House Finch ; also a carpenter bee seemingly stunned by the afternoon temperature drop;
  • 2/27: Robin

Dinner on the doorstep

We tend to ignore coupons that come in the mail, but back in December we decided to experiment with a $30 coupon for Blue Apron, a food delivery service we had just barely heard of. Life had been frazzled, and the notion of fun food with easy directions landing once a week on our doorstep was appealing. We opted for the vegetarian menu, and waited for our first box to show up.

Our first meal was a spicy lentil stew with sweet and sour cauliflower, basically Indian in character. We loved it! The idea of adding coconut milk to the lentils was new to us and delicious.The overall quality of ingredients was good, but we were less enthusiastic about the other 2 meals. This first delivery established what we now see as a pattern in the weekly trio of vegetarian meals: something novel, a pasta dish, and something (Asian, or perhaps a warm salad) with a fried or soft boiled egg. We hate runny egg yolks, and some meals, especially the pasta, seem terribly low in protein, but we’ve continued, skipping a week occasionally, for the convenience and novelty. When we both came down with the flu, having a box of groceries land on the front step was a treat. The more novel meals have been interesting, and we’re pretty good at finding alternative uses for some of the ingredients. We’ve added protein where inclined–canned beans of various kinds to the pasta, broiled firm tofu to the Asian dishes, and sometimes Field Roast vegan sausage. We’ve substituted quinoa for pasta at times. And we find other uses for the eggs.

Here are some things we’ve learned so far:

  • Almost any vegetable can be roasted in a fairly short time. For this reason, many recipes begin “Heat the over to 450 (or 475) degrees”.
  • Roasted cabbage enchiladas are good!
  • Garnishes are worth the fuss
  • The microplane zester that seemed like a bit of a splurge a couple of years ago is a fabulous tool.
  • We don’t much like gnocchi.
  • Almost any pasta dish needs more vegetables.
  • Just a little mascarpone can make a difference.
  • One good can of tomatoes can make a sauce.
  • Sometimes creatively combining 2 recipes can result in a tasty cook once, eat twice opportunity.

Spring in Maryland

We’ve had the usual up and down Spring temperatures. The first wave of daffodils–yellow trumpets–is starting to fade as the second wave gets underway. The forsythia is in full bloom. The cherry blossoms are out. And yesterday’s warmth brought out the first bumblebees I’ve seen this year, as well as a cabbage white butterfly. The cardinal couple were observed engaged in mate feeding more than a week ago–a tender moment with each bird holding one end of a sunflower seed–so I’m looking forward to more cardinals.

Confirmed sightings

Having submitted sighting reports for my September sightings of a Variegated Fritillary, Monarch, Pearl Crescent, Red-spotted Admiral, and Common Buckeye to the Butterflies and Moths of North America site, I was delighted to learn that all five identifications have been confirmed. They don’t represent a very high degree of difficulty, but I was a little doubtful as to the Variegated Fritillary and the Pearl Crescent. It’s nice to feel that I’ve made a tiny contribution to the recorded sightings.

Other recent sightings

We’ve had a cardinal family dropping by every morning. The male is very bold, coming close to the house and waiting for me to toss out some sunflower seeds. Then the female and the young male join him. I’m glad to see them raising an actual cardinal for their second round; they started the summer by raising a cowbird.

The other day I was home in the middle of the day and was surprised to see an adult rabbit in the yard. This was the first rabbit we’ve seen all year.

From time to time the female hummingbird has come back to visit the butterfly bush. I’m realizing we don’t have very many suitable flowers for her right now. I’ll try to do better next year.

Earlier this week I spotted two Northern Flickers facing each other in the middle of the lawn. From time to time they moved their heads from side to side and pointed their beaks upward. I gather this is called a “fencing duel” (Cornell’s All About Birds site has a good description) but this seems to be the wrong time of year.