Friday, February 21, 2014

Breaking the Ice

Another week on the Chesapeake, and yet another "wintry mix." But then again, it wouldn't be February around here without a few snow and ice storms, so at least this year we haven't been blanketed with too much ice.

It's hard to think warm thoughts and look for signs of spring with about a foot of snow on the ground, so Bill and I decided to take a time out to play in the snow and build a snow man.

Yep, even Frosty is taller than me!

Most of that snow has melted as we have a brief warm up, and it seems we aren't the only people that are getting antsy for spring. Despite the fact that most of the creek was frozen solid, imagine our surprise yesterday to see this tug boat making it's way up the creek.

Never seen this type of bucket "ice breaker" before...

The bucket swept back and forth in front of the barge to break the ice

Looks like the ice was about 4-5 inches thick!
The tug did a great job clearing the creek and today about half of the ice is gone. We're supposed to have 60 degree weather this weekend so we may be able to get some boat work done before another "polar vortex" arrives next week... BBRRRRRR!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

From the Galley: Hearty and Healthy Banana Nut Muffins

Despite the silly superstition that bananas are bad luck on a boat, we almost always have bananas aboard Phoenix. Not only do they taste great, but bananas are a tremendous source of potassium -- an electrolyte that every sailor needs, especially if you drink R/O water that's been stripped of all trace minerals.

True, bananas ripen quickly in a warm boat and can easily get bruised even if stowed in a hammock. When this happens, we peel each banana, freeze them individually, and then transfer them all to a gallon-sized Ziploc bag. Whenever I'm ready to make a batch of muffins I pull three or four out of the freezer and thaw them out in my mixing bowl before adding the eggs.

We love this recipe for a few reasons: it's extremely easy to make, contains no added fat, and yields dense, moist and delicious muffins. The recipe was originally designed to be made as a bread loaf, which would take about an hour to bake. To minimize bake time and the heat down below, I spoon the batter into a muffin tin, which reduces the bake time to 25 minutes. They store well in the refrigerator, and Bill cuts them in half, grills them for a few minutes, then serves them with a small pat of butter.

Banana Nut Muffins

3 medium (or 4 small) ripe bananas (over-ripe is even better!)
2 eggs
3/4 cups sugar (can reduce to 2/3 if using 4 bananas, as desired)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups flour (we use unbleached)
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Thaw your frozen bananas in your mixing bowl, if necessary. Add eggs and beat until well blended. Add sugar, salt and baking soda, and continue mixing. Mix in the flour, then the walnuts. Spoon the batter into a lightly greased muffin tin (yields 12 muffins).

Bake muffins for 25 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes before serving, or cool completely to store until breakfast


Sunday, February 2, 2014

Groundhog Day: Searching for Signs of Spring

Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this morning, and I'm sure that no one living on the East Coast was surprised that we've got another six weeks of spring ahead. But then again, if you pull out your calendar, you'll see that spring is, in fact, about six weeks away. Any way you slice it, winter is here to stay for a bit longer.

Unlike Phil, Pasadena Pete, our local groundhog, is MIA these days and is probably snug in his burrow, most likely under our deck.
"Pasadena Pete" hanging out on our patio last Fall -- he's probably safe and sound in his burrow right about now!
With the creek frozen, we've been able to see river otter tracks through the snow and ice around Phoenix, and Bill even saw two swimming and fishing near the rudder of Phoenix the other night. They were too shy for a photo op, but hopefully we'll get another chance soon.

Critters aside, Bill and I always celebrate Groundhog Day -- it's the turning point of winter and spring is just around the corner. Bill started a tradition with his old work buddies almost 20 years ago of preparing a corned beef and cabbage feast and we get a leg up on our Spring house cleaning while we celebrate the fact that winter is waning. We also take the opportunity to go on a "nature walk", checking out our surroundings and looking for even the smallest signs of spring. Luckily the weather cooperated today and we have temperatures in the low 50s -- a warm spell we haven't seen since we returned from Mexico!

With the unseasonably cold winter we've had thus far we didn't see as many signs as usual, but we'll take what we can get at this point!

Only a few of our daffodils and spring bulbs are beginning to show, but the ice on the creek is showing signs of thawing (at least for now). We've found between 20-30 Praying mantis egg sacks in plants throughout the yard, which will definitely help our gardens flourish this year!

Daffodils peeking out from under the snow

Hyacinth just breaking through the surface

One of many Praying Mantis egg sacks we found, this one on a Japanese Maple

Bill's corned beef and cabbage -- absolutely delicious!!!
Our creek is still frozen, but the ice is thinner!

Baby it's cold outside...
They're calling for between 3-5 inches of snow again tomorrow, so we won't get much done on the boat other than shoveling snow off the decks yet again. So until the weather breaks we'll focus on updating the boats electronics, any wood projects Bill can do in the basement, and painting the house's interior.

After tonight's Superbowl and Bill's signature spicy wings, that is...