Friday, December 30, 2022

2022 iNat in Review

Species observed by me in 2022
Orange: insects
Green: Plants
This is ironic; see below.

2022: I see I only interact with Jody, Amelia, and once with Charlie (a Vermont biologist)
Neylon is a syrphid specialist, beeboy is Vermont bee specialist, johnascher is internationally known for his bees

The irony: my most commented observation was a goldenrod gall.
That's because others and myself love the insects in them.

It was a better year for me on iNaturalist than the past three years. I hope to do more this coming season. I have also been slowly adding observations that I never posted in years past. The data on my 2022 year end review tells me a lot about myself. There is nothing new about what I see: I stay to myself and don't reach out much. I doubt that will change. There are so many memories of bug hunts and taking photos with Amelia and Jody . . . so many stories. 


Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Wordless Wednesday: Conservation Status

Philadelphia Vireo (Vireo philadelphicus)
Vermont Status S1B
Imminent danger of extinction or extirpation

Wordless Wednesday at
Comedy Plus


Snowflake Bentley

2022 Bentley Snowflake

Yesterday when Amelia came, my Christmas decorations were put up. She has been sick and could not come for over a week. That was no problem for me. I'm still having major problems with Christmas, especially with the day itself. And Amy works too hard and needed the rest.

The snowflake ornament is the 2022 Vermont Snowflake. It is made of Vermont pewter. Every year there is a different one. It is a replica of an actual photograph that Wilson Bentley took in Jericho, Vermont over one hundred years ago. My gift to my children this year was a 2022 snowflake for each. I will continue in the future.

Bentley's original photograph

Quoted from the informational gift card in the box of the snowflake:

Snowflake Bentley Ornament

This official 2022 Snowflake Bentley pewter ornament was designed from an original Wilson A. Bentley photomicrograph from the archives of the Jericho Historical Society, who exclusively authorized its production. It is handcrafted and cast in fine pewter by Vermont's own Danforth Pewter, exclusively for Vermont Snowflakes.

The original Bentley snowflake is a stellar plate crystal with intricate extensions and central plate. The beautiful starburst at the center gives way to the overall lacy appearance of this snow crystal. 

From the Snowflake Bentley (Jericho museum) site:

Wilson A. Bentley


Wilson Bentley was born on February 9, 1865 in the town of Jericho, Vermont,  A farmer by trade, he attracted world attention with his pioneering work in the area of photomicrography.  Most notable in his life long work with rain, dew and frost, was his extensive work with snowflakes.  

On January 15, 1885 he became the first person to photograph a single snow crystal.  He would go on to photograph well over 5000 snow crystals (never finding two the same), and his documentation of this work advanced the study of meteorology in his time.  His photomicrographs were acquired by institutes of higher learning all over the world and his writings on these subjects were published in many journals and magazines including Scientific American, National Geographic and The National Weather Service Research Journal.  

In November of 1931, his book Snow Crystals was published by McGraw/Hill and is still in print today.  Shortly after, on December 23, 1931, Wilson Bentley died at the family farmhouse in Jericho where he lived his entire life.  Because of his wonderful work with snow crystals, he became affectionately know as “Snowflake” Bentley. 

We read Snowflake Bentley every year in school. I have a digital copy of Snow Crystals so that I can cast his original photos to classes. He's a fascinating character with a fabulous life dedicated to his obsession with snow.  

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

These books are both worth buying forever for the information, history, mathematics and science.


Monday, December 26, 2022

The Bread

Le Creuset recipe
Extremely crusty and good. The bread itself? Nothing special.

I bake bread regularly. Lately, though, I've been doing American sandwich loaves and seem to have lost my rhythm with the artisan loaves that I love. I have spent two days making four loaves of two recipes of bread for the bread ovens I have.  There have been a lot of errors!

Le Creuset embossed on bottom crust.

Day 1 errors: I thought I had mis-mixed the dough without fat. It rose well, though, and felt great. But it wasn't the recipe (I thought), so I tossed it. Then I checked the recipe. It was correct! Oh, I was so upset with myself!

I then made two separate batches because the amount of dough almost overwhelmed my Kitchenaid. Therefore, the doughs were different, and one was more hydrated than the other. Upset, again!

Scoring the tops of the loaves before baking was another sudden challenge. I could not find my bread lamé, so I used a serrated knife. I disliked what I did.

I had also used bannetons and bread stencils. I didn't flour the bannetons well so the pattern was not clear. I over-oiled the stencils so that their impressions never were defined at all. I have some ideas on which recipes the stencils would work best with though. This recipe may have been too wet.

I couldn't compare the two finished loaves because the doughs had been so different. But the Le Creuset loaf seemed to have more oven lift than the Lodge. I was not impressed with the taste of the bread. The crust was fantastic. The crust sang for several minutes out of the oven, longer than I have ever heard. It was as flaky as the best pastry would be. 

The Le Creuset oven is less than half of the weight of the Lodge, and that is most helpful when you are disabled. I did not mind the branding on the bottom at all. Several reviewers were indignant about it. It reminded me of old pie tins way way back in time that we used to use. 

A crumb that I like. 

Day 2: fewer errors. I used a British cob (English for boule) recipe that John always loved. It whips up in a minute and you can raise it in the house or in the fridge for fermentation. It also has a lot of butter in it, which is probably why people love the recipe so much. The dough is heavy, so it is easier to shape and slash the loaves before baking. 

Cob dough rising.

Cob dough is doubled now.

I didn't use any bannetons with these loaves. I knew from years of experience that the dough does well without it. I may use one next time for the texturing. Below is one loaf in the Le Creuset oven.

Cob in the Le Creuset oven.

Lodge oven on the left, Le Creuset on the right.
Both loaded with rising cob dough.

I texted Amelia about my missing lamé and she knew where it was. Unfortunately, the razor was dull and I had no others, so I used a serrated knife plus the dull blade and mangled the slashes. Another big upset!

Baked cobs with mangled slashes.

I prefer the taste of these cobs. The crust is entirely different than the large boules from the day before. That has to be a consequence of the added butter. The crust does sing when out of the oven. The crumb is soft like I prefer lately. It's a wonderful toast and sandwich bread. I did not like the oven lift from the Lodge oven.

When Amelia comes today, she'll be taking three loaves of bread home! That will make room for me to make more. Bread is my therapy and helped me move through Christmas. Now I can make more for the community.


Nathan Michaud Sings Christmas


Sunday, December 25, 2022

Annual Holiday Portraits

Woken from her nap.

At the breakfast table.

Happy all the time.

I am exhausted after corralling them and editing the photos for the holidays. I have no decorations in the house so after I cropped, I took the images to, the best background remover I've seen. It is used by entomologists for their insect photos. They also have backgrounds that I like, both photos and colors with a custom color selector. Christmas is still very difficult for me. I made more bread and I'm glad it's almost over.

Sunday Selfies at
The Cat on My Head


Saturday, December 24, 2022

Christmas Eve

Lucy said, "No thanks. I can hold it."

It was a tense day yesterday with this storm, but it all ended well. There was pouring rain all day, and the temperature reached 41°F (5°C). The state told us all to stay off of the roads after 4PM because a flash freeze was coming. I guess we all did. Businesses closed and no traffic came down my road at all. Amelia reported a heavy snow squall about 7 PM in Orleans. It got here soon after and was a whiteout. We never lost power. Currently, at 10:30 AM, it is 7°F (-14°C) with a windchill of -7°F (-22°C). It feels normal again.

Dough for two loaves

Lodge Combo Cooker (bread oven)

Le Creuset Bread Oven

I have bread rising. My children jointly gave me an early Christmas gift of a Le Creuset bread oven. I will bake one loaf in that and one in my Lodge Combo Cooker. The Lodge is also advertised as a bread oven and reviewers say the bread results are identical but that the Le Creuset oven is a work of art, which it is. It is one of the loveliest things I have ever owned.  I also plan to do at least one pie and a meatloaf. Those will depend on my knees, but so far so good. 

The cats and Lucy are quietly napping as the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols streams from St. Michael's College on Vermont Public Radio's classical station.

As for church tonight? There is an accommodation for us who cannot get out at night—we can Zoom in. I give thanks every day for computer technology.

Grandkitty Remy relaxes on Christmas Eve
at home in Washington, DC
Since Remy takes down every tree ever put up,
Andrew now just has a wreath on the wall.


Lucy and Dori iPhone Video


The iPhone dropped this two days ago. They are such rascals!


Friday, December 23, 2022

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, 1948

where you can read the history of this video.

Merry Christmas

Snow Day iPhone Video


My phone dropped a lot of video on me this week. This is my favorite one. We are so warm today that it is raining but there will be a flash freeze, then snow, tomorrow. I won't be able to go to Christmas Eve service tomorrow!

 🎄 😞🎄

Please note that in this video, if there is mud or bare ground, it is spring or autumn. The blowing snow was from last winter. The music was chosen by iPhone.

Happy Holidays!


Skywatch Friday: Seymour Lake

Seymour Lake, Morgan, Vermont

This was the view at the Morgan Store Wednesday morning when I stopped for breakfast. The lake still isn't frozen because of the warm winter, so heavy mists rise each morning. Wednesday was a half-day of school and we are now on winter break.

Happy Holidays to all!
Be safe!

Skywatch Friday

Mother Cat

Mother Cat

Bob is a friend who is a mechanic with his own auto body garage and tractor trailer towing business. I seldom ask him to help with my car because he always insists on free (except parts). Bob was Barton's Selectboard chair for years, many of which when I was Selectboard clerk. Jody was also on the Selectboard for part of that time, which is where we met. We are all friends now in private life.

This is Mother Cat. She's never been a mother, though. She is 18 years old! She is a bit stiff in the legs and is completely deaf. She lives in the shop. There was another cat, Brother Cat, but he had a heart attack and died at 16 years old last year.

I want to thank Bob for repairing my soft tire (for free). It was important on these roads and with studs on an all-wheel Subaru. You can't replace one tire: you have to replace them all. I don't want to get all new winter tires at this time of the season. He saved me.

Merry Christmas, Mother Cat!


Feline Friday at
Comedy Plus


Thursday, December 22, 2022

Poppy's iPhone Video


A Major Announcement

My little funny face.

When I adopted Betsy she was three years old and had lived with the same people her entire life. I re-named her Betsy. Betsy never learned to respond to her new name. There was a broken bridge between us that I couldn't find a way to mend. She is sweet, playful and responsive; but there has always been a distance that I didn't understand. She knows the routines of the house and races me up to bed every night but never stayed. 

I have always cracked up with her funny faces that change literally from second to second.
These two photos were actually one second apart. 

Four nights ago I spent some time with Betsy and, messing with her, called her Poppy — her first given name — and 


She became alert, gave me eye contact, relaxed and opened up. I continued to talk to her with that name, and everything has changed. She takes no guff from Nell anymore (who can be a bully occasionally) and even inspects Lucy for smells from the outside and for doggie dirt on her face; just like Nell does. She comes to me when I call her by name; and comes quickly!

I have a new cat living with me.

When she came to bed that night, she slept closer to me and stayed longer. She now stays the night. She reaches for my hand for rubs and pets. She purrs more. She has chirped at me!

I swear that she felt invisible before and now feels seen. Can this even be true? Have any of you had this experience?

So Betsy is now officially Poppy. Again. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Review: Arthur & George

Arthur & George Arthur & George by Julian Barnes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This novel enthralled me (and has begun another compulsion to learn as much about Arthur Conan Doyle as possible). The writing is clear and riveting. The history cited is accurate as far as I can determine in my quick Google and Wikipedia searches for information and images. The setting is the Edwardian era, one of the fascinating eras in Great Britain. Barnes kept me thoroughly engaged in the lives of Doyle and Edalji. He carefully scripted the irony of Doyle's case in defense of Edalji, and showed how Edalji was more logical and methodical than Doyle (and Holmes?). But Doyle is passionate and honest. I admire both men greatly.

I began reading this book because we began to watch Arthur and George on Amazon Prime. As soon as I learned that this was a well-reviewed novel, I borrowed it from the online Vermont library, stopped watching the videos, and read the book. I made an excellent decision and I look forward now to seeing the videos.

I see my folly of giving five stars to just about any book I read from beginning to end. I had thought that if I finish a book and not put it away in boredom, then it was worth five stars. By that standard, I would give this book ten stars. Or more.

A curious note: Doyle may have been the person who introduced skiing to Vermont when he brought skis when he visited Rudyard Kipling at Kipling's Vermont home.

I read this book a few years back, so why publish my review now?

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Review: The Real Sherlock

The Real Sherlock The Real Sherlock by Lucinda Hawksley
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Another disappointment! Doyle is such a fascinating figure with connections to other famous figures of his time, but this book was like the Cliff Notes of his life. It was a very sparse "this happened then that happened and then the other happened" type of book. Thank goodness it was free. 

Besides the lack of depth of information, the background music must have been composed by the same composer of the Great British Baking Show. That interfered with my listening because once I actually thought the narrator was going to bust out with recipes (OK, it was early in the morning so I was a bit slow). 

There were several segments where the narrator visited the keepsakes of Doyle's life, such as his pen, the nightshirt in which he died, and other things. Museum curators describe the articles but an audiobook is not where you have segments like this. They belong in a video. 

Finally, the author continued to ask actors who had played Holmes or Watson their ideas of Doyle. They mostly talked of themselves. Give me some facts and new information; some new insights!

There was one new piece of information: Doyle had all of his teeth pulled at an early age to avoid toothache and lived with dentures the rest of his life. That was it for me for the entire two plus hours of this Audible Original.

Move on and read Arthur & George by Julian Barnes, a brilliant book and wonderful series that I saw on PBS.

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
But while people click the links, nobody is buying.
Therefore, Amazon told me they are dropping me soon.


Sunday, December 18, 2022



While writing about our cat walks in the past, I remembered a hike we took with the cats up Barton Mountain behind the house. We explored the boulders and caves at the top and the cats had a wonderful time. Here, Oliver squeezed through a crevasse under a glacial erratic to try to ambush Oscar, whose legs can barely be seen on the right in the middle. Those two cats won't ever be forgotten and are sorely missed.

Photo Sunday at
Noah Clark


Sunday Selfies Personalities

Sweet Betsy

Grumpy Nell

Night after night, I watch these three do their thing. The routine barely changes. Betsy is always happy, Nell is always grumpy, and Lucy loves to watch TV.

I am going to legally change Nell's name from Little Nell to Grumpy Nell. She's actually happy and purrs and wants scritches, but always looks the grump. 

But they are all friends and race me to the bedroom at night. That's what counts.

Lucy ignores cat drama and watches
TV with her Lamb Chop

Sunday Selfies at
The Cat on My Head