Monday, February 27, 2017

Timeless - a special anniversary. . . . . . . . . . . .

On this day, ten long years, ago I sat down at my computer and penned a little blog
 post, my first ever. It became the beginning of a new and exciting part of my life.
 My first blog I named Across The Pond, a title I liked as I believed it would resonate
 with any readers who might somehow discover me. Having come across that wide
 Atlantic Ocean many years before, and making a new life here in America, I was
 hoping to share not only my life here as an expat, but now and then throw in a
 few stories of my life growing up in England. . . . . . . and of my visits back and
 forth over what is now fifty plus years. 

After three years nurturing that first blog (still available HERE - see how bad
 my photos were back then!) I was forced to start another thanks to problems with
 the Google/Blogger gremlins! 
So, since 2010, A Breath of Fresh Air has been my window to the world, and my
link to kindred spirits. What an astounding world it is.

I especially have enjoyed meeting several of my blog friends in person, both here in
 North America, and across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in several countries.
 Those of you who follow me, whether you leave generous comments or just
 read and run, I appreciate you all so very much. I know blogging takes time and
 we're all busy. There are now numerous fabulous blogs to follow out there
 compared to when many of us started years ago.

For me, this blog is my personal creative outlet, a way for me to share my
 photos (a now favorite hobby which, by the way, has been impacted greatly by
 blogging), especially those taken on my travels to places near and far on all
seven continents.

But, even more special, is the fact that my blog has brought me to
your blog, some for many of the past ten years, others more recently. I do so 
enjoy reading of the lives of others in their special corner of the world.

Some of us mention now and again that we are considering giving up blogging 
for one reason or another. It does take time, especially if you like to write 
a wordy post, prepare your photos, and do that several times a week, perhaps
 even daily. I admit to having had thoughts of quitting. Just think of all the other
 things I could be doing, such as making lampshades like the one above, yes I used
 to do that when my eyesight was better and sewing was a big part of my life.
 But now I really enjoy getting out with a camera, and coming up with something
 to write about which I hope you will read and enjoy.
Yes, blogging and I are planning to keep going a while longer. . . . . .  as long as
 I am able to fit it in along with all the other things life has a way throwing at us.
 I will be traveling internationally again this Spring - to a few new to me
 beautiful places - more on that later!

So here's to this day next year when hopefully we can celebrate yet another
 anniversary together. . . . . . . . .many thanks again for stopping by and
 sharing your time and your words with me here. You are certainly a very 
special group of great friends, and I'm thankful for each and every one of you.
Big hugs.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Warming HOT POTS. . . . . . . . .

Despite the very warm days we've had this past week and all 
through the weekend, and the bright spots in the garden where the
 spring blooms are already out, there's still a nip in the air early 
morning and the nights turn quite cold.

Cooking in winter is always a favorite time for me.
I make several different soups during the week, always a great choice for
 lunch or dinner, and often one of these warmers. . . . . . . . a veggie hot pot,
 basically a more chunky, thick version of soup more like a stew, and it means
 no additional entree is required - this is a filling bowl of healthy ingredients.

I'm sharing the recipe below - I do tweak it a bit by using canned beans which are 
fine and take much less time. I used butternut squash this time, any winter squash
is good, but I always add the rutabaga which I love. I did jalapeño pepper - one was 
plenty as it was large, and although I had to buy a bunch of cilantro, fortunately I
was able to clip fresh mint from the garden. 

I shared this healthy meal with you HERE a couple of years ago. As I made it 
this weekend I'm posting it again with new photos!
Sunday supper by the fire, perhaps while watching a movie or your favorite
 TV show. . . . . . . warming thoughts with a bowl of goodness in hand.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Blue skies. . . . . . . .

Yesterday the skies were so pretty and
Carolina Blue was just that, really brilliant blue.
The clouds were white with shadow moments of grey,
 puffy, billowing, but slow sailing. . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . .and in the early evening they were 
tinged with gold as the sun dropped down to the west.
Branches are still mostly bare up there, reaching
for the heavens, a still and silent canopy above. 

Today, close to 80F expected again.
Birds think it's spring, they are full of songs and 
seem to be property hunting in the shrubbery.
This morning I've filled the feeders and suet holders,
 and topped up the bird baths. . . . . . .a robin was bathing,
 first I've seen in a while.
 The garden is lively and starting to get little pockets of
 color from daffodils, pansies, camellias and periwinkle.

Have a fine weekend everyone.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Saucer magnolia, early garden splendor. . . . .

Grabbed the camera yesterday to take some photos of this lovely flowering
 magnolia liliiflora in the garden. I planted it ten years ago when quite tiny, 
just 18" in its garden center pot, and it's now about 15 feet tall. A moderately
 fast grower until about 20 years of age, it should top out around 20 feet with
 15 feet spread. One of the earliest multi-stemmed flowering trees in the USA,
 it blooms from late winter and is a beautiful first indicator of spring, with flowers
 opening before the grey-green leaves appear. . . . . . .I think you will agree
 it's very lovely.

With the temperature continuing very warm again here today and tomorrow - perhaps
 hitting 80F - we're enjoying the many blooming trees, shrubs and plants. However we
 are concerned that it will no doubt cool off with possible frost damage in the remaining
 weeks of winter. . . . . . . . a winter which never really arrived around here!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Tweaking a French classic. . . . . . . . .

Today my kitchen was bursting with the fragrance of fresh vegetables, garlic, thyme
 and the best olive oil. Sizzling in two baking dishes in the oven, and bubbling
 from a skillet on the burner, music was created! Who knew a plump eggplant,
 two zucchini, two onions, and an orange and yellow pepper could taste so good
when blanketed with your own homemade thick tomato sauce, it's so easy.

 If you've spent time in the South of France, especially in picturesque Provençe, 
surrounded by lavender and sunflower fields, when dining in either a restaurant
 or a French home, you most likely have been served ratatouille
Also known as ratatouille niçoise, this colorful unctuous vegetable
 stew which originated in the city of Nice, is a French classic and so easy to
 make at home.

Purists may still choose the traditional French way of preparation where each
 vegetable is cooked separately atop the stove, a longer more messy process,
 then combined and cooked together slowly until they reach a creamy consistency.
 I used to make mine that way. The new way is much easier and to me tastes even
 more fantastic. . . . . .actually this version we will have for supper tonight is really
 the best I've ever tasted, honestly!

The word ratatouille derives from the Occitan ratatolha and is related to the French
ratatouiller and tatouiller, expressive forms of the verb touiller meaning 'to stir up'. 
From the late 18th century, in French, it indicated a coarse stew, and the actual 
ratatouille recipe didn't appear in print until around 1930.

Always serve ratatouille warm or at room temperature.
If you have refrigerated leftovers remove from the fridge allowing at least
 half an hour prior to serving.

There are dozens of recipes available online for ratatouille or, if you have a
 collection of French or vegetable cookbooks, you are certain to find 
 one to try. I used the simplified recipe from my awesome British cookbook
VEG by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall of River Cottage in Dorset, not far from
 my English home. It was a gift from my granddaughter Jasmin who always
 knows what I love, or will grow to love. . . . and I'm definitely loving
this cookbook.

Off now to eat and enjoy.
Bon appetit.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The perks of Southern living . . . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . often begin with the weather.

We are so fortunate right now having what everyone is calling 'an early Spring'.
This February weather is fantastic - not saying it will last as there can be really
harsh weather here even in March, but we are certainly enjoying these mild days
 and embracing the sunshine and brilliant blue skies.

Yesterday we did some garden chores and it was actually hot outside.
I was able to gather these pretty blooms to bring into the cottage. . . . . . 
I love cutting my own flowers, even just a few can bring color and smiles
for several days.

Happy Sunday. . . . . . . . . I'm sending these blooms north to all my friends
 who won't see their daffodils until later. Do take care moving all that snow!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Closer to wild, a shared adventure. . . . . . . . . .

If you love animals, especially viewing them in their natural habitats,
I hope you will enjoy this post. These are all photos from Kenya which I've
not shown previously - it's rather long and all the information is 
at the end.

This will probably be the final post on my safari trip to Kenya last Autumn.
These links below will take you directly to view my earlier posts of very exciting
 moments of that memorable trip --------------

As usual, I took a lot (close to 2,000) photos, of people, places, and of
 course the amazing animals. I used the lightweight Canon Power Shot SX530HS
point and shoot, not a hefty complicated DSLR, and am happy with my photos.
This visit, we were in Kenya the entire time. All these beautiful creatures,
 large and small, were seen on the magnificent Masaai Mara National Reserve
 which is contiguous with the Serengeti National Park of Tanzania. 
I've included some shots which show you the stunning landscapes as well as
 close ups of the animals.

As mentioned, these are photos I've not shown in previous posts. They are more
 I really like and want to share with you before moving all the Africa photos
 to a portable drive to free up storage space here on my MacBook. 

If possible, never pass up a chance to visit the captivating
 continent of Africa. . . . . . and definitely go on a wildlife safari.
For more information on planning a wonderful customized safari trip,
I suggest you contact Kili McGowan here at NEXT ADVENTURE
Kili and her staff will make sure your experience will be unforgettable 
as mine have always been.