True story

Time stopped today

I have a bird feeder in the back yard and it’s not unusual to see birds flitting on and off of it, cardinals and chickadees. The chickadees rarely stay on it longer than the few seconds it takes to grab a seed and it’s not unusual to see a cardinal poking around in the grass below it for dropped seeds. The birds are all very active and never seem to stop moving.
Today, a little before 3:30, I looked out and saw a chickadee on the feeder and a female cardinal on the ground. As soon as I spotted them though, they froze. Stopped moving completely. I watched, they did not move. I watched longer, not a feather moved. I moved from the door to the kitchen window…no movement from either bird. I was starting to think I was in a science fiction movie. I looked for other things moving…yes, here a blade of grass moved in a breeze, the wind chime chimed. The clock was ticking. Then it struck the half hour.
I stood there for a good five minutes and the chickadee did not move AT ALL. The female cardinal moved her head a tiny bit a few times.
I was wondering what on this Earth was happening that would cause two wild birds to stop moving during daylight hours. For more than five minutes.
I checked the water in the fountain basin for signs of an earthquake. The water was still except for a tiny ripple caused by the breeze.

Then I started feeling like I had to break their trance somehow.
I stepped nearer the door so they could see me and the cardinal flew off. The chickadee was still frozen though. I watched another minute, and no movement.
I opened the door and walked out toward the feeder. It wasn’t until I was halfway to the feeder that the chickadee suddenly saw me, turned it’s head and then flew off, scolding me with every breath.
I halfway expect to turn on the news tonight and see we’ve had another massive earthquake and tsunami somewhere or some other disaster of equal or greater magnitude.

I’m still a little creeped out.

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Tasty Tuesday, January 27

This week, we have a basic of Southern cooking, cornbread. The secret to perfect cornbread is an heirloom cast iron skillet. I have one that belonged to my Granny. Cast iron, properly seasoned is the original non stick cookware.
I have cooked this recipe so many times, I have it memorized.
Start off by taking a napkin or paper towel and rub a light coating of Crisco on the inside of the skillet. Preheat the oven with the skillet in it to 425 degrees.
In a bowl, combine:
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbl baking powder
1-2 Tbl sugar (depends on how sweet you like your cornbread, I usually use a slightly heaping tablespoon)
1/4 tsp salt

In a 2 cup measuring cup:
1 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
Beat until blended, then stir into dry mix.
Stir with a fork until mostly blended, there will still be a few lumps and it’s ok, over stirring will make for tough cornbread.

When the oven is heated, take the skillet out and pour in the mix. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until a wooden pick inserted into the middle comes out clean…after a few times, you’ll figure out how your oven cooks and can just put in the time. Mine’s more toward 25 minutes.

All kinds of things can be added…I have used chopped jalapenos, the flavor spreads more evenly if you add them to the wet mix. Same goes for New Mexico chilis. I have used Southwest seasoning, added to the dry mix. Blue corn meal instead of the yellow adds a nuttier flavor but still cooks to a golden brown on top and is blue inside. A handful of shredded cheese can go in the dry mix. Cilantro is an interesting addition, the soapy flavor mostly cooks out of it and leaves a sweet, herbal flavor.

The basic recipe is the one on the Aunt Jemima Yellow Corn Meal bag.
If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, I’m sorry. Oddly enough, they seem to be found in Army/Navy stores. Or you can use a heavy aluminum skillet 10 inches wide with an oven-proof handle.
Be sure and Google how to season cast iron and never, ever scour it clean. It will rust.