17 December, 2009

Christmas Treats

I've had a fairly crafty, creative fall so far and thought I'd share a few recipes and photos of the fun!

The non-profit I work for owns and operates a Cranberry Bog here on Nantucket...which means I was flush with with cranberries all season. Cranberry this and that - whatever could be made with a cranberry, was! But here's the best thing...

Courtesy of Cooking Light magazine: Nantucket Cranberry Liqueur!

2 Cups Sugar
1 Cup Water
12 ounces of fresh cranberries
3 Cups Vodka (the cheap stuff works well!)

1) Cook sugar and water in a medium saucepan over medium heat for 5 minutes or until sugar dissolves - stir constantly. Remove from heat and cool.
2) Chop cranberries finely in a food processor (about 2 minutes). Combine sugar mixture and cranberries in a large bowl. Stir in Vodka.
3) Pour mixture into clean jars (I just used clean canning jars and twisted the lids on tightly) Let stand for 3 weeks in a cool dark place, shaking every other day
4) Strain the cranberry mixture through cheesecloth and bottle!

This will last for a year. And man, isn't it pretty!!!!

So...to continue the sinful theme... Truffles!!! And so so easy to make!

I made a couple kinds - plain chocolate, plain chocolate dipped in white chocolate (which did not work so well! White chocolate does not melt well!!!)

And the best one - raspberry flavored dipped in dark chocolate - should have made more of these!!!

Here's the simple recipe (anyone can do this! I'm surprised I never tried before!)

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened.
3 cups confectioners sugar
3 cups semisweet chocolate chips, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1) In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Beat in confectioners sugar until smooth. Stir in melted chocolate and vanilla. Place in the fridge for about an hour.

2) Remove and shape into truffle balls. This is the step to start dipping although, make sure the truffles are warmed up to room temp first! Roll in your melted dipping chocolate (you can melt chips or blocks or bars - whatever) and place on parchment paper to dry.

3) To make flavored truffles, replace the vanilla with a different extract, like raspberry.

Enjoy!!! What's the Christmas season without a little indulgence - hey this is what I run for!!!!

02 July, 2009

Wild Weather

Nantucket has been having the rainiest, dreariest, coolest spring/summer I've seen in awhile, and I lived in the UP! On the plus side, my garden looks fantastic - as green as I've ever seen one of my gardens:

A week ago, I missed a wonderful Nor'easter storm (I was off island) that corresponded with one of the highest tide cycles of the year. 6 boats sunk in the harbor (some not so accidentally?) As a result, Nantucketers are on the lookout for strange and wild weather patterns.

Yesterday definitely qualified as wild and wooly weather. At the end of the day, everyone was talking about the sausage cloud that rolled over head around noon:

This first picture is outside my work

This second one was taken out at one of our field sites by Kelly Omand.

According to wikipedia this roll form of the arcus cloud is fairly rare. Regardless it caused quite a stir and nothing much happened from it!

People relaxed, went about their work and then around 4:30pm everything went dark and the Nothing (remember your "Neverending Story"?) come in bringing heavy rains and fantastic cloud movement.

These clouds were literally boiling. And one poor dog was so keyed up she even wanted to going out in the rain!

05 April, 2009

Springing Alive

Spring may have happened in the calendar year a few weeks ago but today it really felt like spring! The weekend forecast was rainy/windy/overcast yet this morning (Sunday) we got up to bright sunshine and warm warm weather. Noah and I were already determined to take a walk today out at Squam Swamp/Farm - a property that NCF manages out on the east end of the island and the sunny warm weather made our trip all the much better!

Squam swamp is just lovely, low areas full of Nyssa sylvatica (Black gum) and uplands (for Nantucket) with lovely large and spreading beach trees. Dotted through out the walking trails maintained on this property are both ephemeral and permanent wetlands adding all sorts of visual, botanical and topographical variation, which on a mostly flat, forest-less island, is a necessity for the soul!

Check out the lovely large holly tree - these things are everywhere on the island! Green all winter long! We were of course hoping to see some spring ephemerals on our walk but we were too optimistic. Now is the time to mention though, that even though the walk was lovely, we had ulterior motives for heading out to Squam - ulterior movies in the form of tiny bleating baby sheep! Eeek - that's right, baby sheep. Anyone that knows me well knows how obsessed I am with sheep - the most adorable thing in the world. Now I'm lucky enough to work for an organization that actually owns a herd of sheep and breeds them. And, as everyone knows, spring is lambing season and man are our sheep lambing! 11 little lambs so far and 9 more ewes to give birth! I though I'd please all my readers with some pictures of lovely little baby lambs - the ones outside running around are a few days old but the ones in the sheds were only born last night. We even had a set of triplet lamps - that ewe is thinking she was insane!

05 March, 2009

I'm a slacker

It's official and I admit it - I'm a complete slacker when it comes to writing this blog! It's been over a month - that's just not right. And if I don't write something now - before I go away for two weeks on vacation, my mother will hurt me :)

I know what my problem is with writing this blog - it's that I spend too darn much time in front of a computer. We're well into the winter months and if you're an ecologist like me you know what winter means - hours spent in front of a computer. In contrast the summer season means hours spent outside in the field. It usually has a nice symmetry - by the time winter roles around I need a break from constant field work and by the time summer roles around it's time to get outside: this really prevents boredom because a life spent in front of a computer is not the life for me! So now I'm getting to the point where the computer is driving me crazy and the thought of going home and sitting down in front of the computer to write a simple and witty blog for you all to read is enough to make me run for the hills, if Nantucket had any hills.

It's also time for my recharge, my yearly vacation to break up the monotony of winter weather. Noah and I are winging our way down to our favorite little Mexican Island next week (Cozumel) for almost 2 weeks of relaxation bliss - no cell phones, no computers, no internet, no TV and plenty of sand, beach, sun, exploration, and margaritas - my idea of paradise! I promise to post many many pictures to make you all jealous when I get back.

Until then, here are some delightful Nantucket pictures. I particularly love the seal. He popped out of the water while Noah and I and our visiting friend Linda were taking a sunset beach walk and he proceeded to wave goodbye to us - seals are one of the dearest pleasures of Nantucket life!

01 February, 2009

When the Light is Right ... Treasure is found!

One of my favorite things so far about Nantucket in the winter time is the light here. If you're a photographer and see everything framed in light and texture - this is the place for you. We may not have much elevation or large variations in texture but the contrast of moor and blue sky and lower horizon light lends itself to some amazing pictures! Here is a sample of some of my favorite from the past few weeks concluding with the excavation of a treasure found out at Eel Point - the northwestern most portion of the island!

When the tide is high, freezes, and then recedes, this lovely pattern of shattered ice suspended in grass appears!

Full-speed dog racing through a rare snowy day.

The wind is always blowing on the Tucket - kicking up loosely packed snow.

And now - the adventure of the horseshoe crab. Noah and I have been scouting out extraordinary horseshoe crabs and have accumulated findings of very small and, we thought fairly large crab shells. Until we found this monster frozen in the snow and proceeded to very very carefully extract it without breaking it!

Noah intent on excavation

A crab encased in snow.

And it's extracted in all its beauty!

05 January, 2009

Savage Nature

This past weekend Nantucket was coated in ice and snow. Now, living in the UP we would have said that this past weekends storm of just a few inches of snow with gusting wind was nothing - no big deal what so ever! But here, out in the Atlantic where it hardly snows - this was a big deal! And it stayed cold, with the thin layer of snow sticking around (I've been informed that this is unusual). So this weekend when the sun came out and the snow was sparkly, we decided it was time for an adventure!

Sierra led off the adventure, romping like a giddy baby puppy in the cool weather (she's still a snow dog at heart!)

So we load up in the tank and head off to Windswept cranberry bog to see what we can see and let the dog enjoy her romp. THe bogs stay flooded a bit over winter and we were greeted with lovely ice-encased little wetlands.

Occasionally a few of these abandoned, leftover cranberries were found, lovely red against the frozen earth.

And then - the dram began. Sierra took off as she does - running after some scent or sound, crashing recklessly through the underbrush. We call and call and get fed up and then up she runs, happy as can be - but what in the world?

A bloody doggie!!! Of course, we instantly thought she'd killed a deer 'cause that was a lot of blood! But no, we realize that every time she shakes her head - out comes a droplet of blood. Poor doggie had about a centimeter tear right through the tip of her ear and she'd bled all over her head - that's right - all that blood was hers!

Don't worry - she didn't appear to be in any pain or to care about the wound. It was the only spot she was hurt - what caused this? At first I wondered if she'd ran out on the ice and fallen through but no evidence! And then we saw it - the likely culprit. Doggie has not yet gotten used to the thick underbrush of the 'Tucket where Smilax's thick thorns are always waiting - she most likely got a thorn through her ear and pulled through it instead of pulling it out!

Once we realized she was fine - the real question was how to get her home with out getting blood all over the tank!

Poor Sierra! Isn't she just pitiful! Don't worry - she's fine now, just not quite as pretty. And I'm fairly certain she's learned nothing from this 'adventure' and will be charging right through the next patch of Smilax she sees as long as there's some interesting smell or sound on the other side!

04 January, 2009

Ringing in the New Year

Welcome to 2009! I know a lot of people are say - thank goodness 2008 is over but not me - I had a great year and I'm hoping that 2009 and will be just as fantastic.

So it's a New Year and the time for the traditional wiping clean of the slate and making of non-lasting resolutions. I've certainly participated in this craziness myself many times and it always ends the same way - "what resolution?", "Did I fail again?". Really, who needs all the negativity and disappointment! So this year I have a different plan. I'm starting the new year off by acknowledging what I did accomplish in 2008 regardless of whether is was a resolution or not. And then I've decided on some workable goals, foci, things about which I can feel accomplished next year.

The things I'm proud of this year:

1) Obviously - the fact that I finished the dissertation! Officially Dr. Jen!
2) Learning alternate exercise routines when I stopped being able to run - I didn't give up, I just changed my methods!
3) Starting a new and challenging job - doing EXACTLY what I want, not what my advisor/academia thought I should be doing.
4) Moving cross country - by myself (Noah came around much later!)

Of course there are things I"m not proud of but why dwell!

Things I'm planning of being proud of next year!

1) Fitness related - I'm already working towards these - a) doing 2 full, unassisted pull ups and b) doing 10 big boy pushups.
2) Fixing my plantar fasciitis so I can start running again and train for a 1/2 marathon (it's been a goal for a long time!)
3) Giving back - through money and volunteer work

Hmmm - I'm sure there will be more things that come up - who knows what the year will bring! But I"m ready and excited for it. Here's to fresh starts.