Well, yes. It is spring, and birds and bees are very busy laying eggs and pollinating flowers and generally doing what birds and bees do this time of year. I’ve been busy, too, enjoying a marvelous, if a bit hectic, weekend, which had everything to do with animals and nature, my two most favorite subjects.
|Volunteer Ranger training|
lasted all day Saturday
Saturday was so frenetic that I counted six wardrobe changes from the time I rose until the time my head hit the pillow at the end of a very long day. Early in the morning I assembled supplies for an all-natural egg-dyeing program I would be conducting Sunday in my role as a volunteer ranger for the Maryland Park Service. By 10:00 a.m. Saturday I was in uniform, attending a day-long training seminar required annually of all park rangers. The class took place in the Visitor Center auditorium of Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area, a federally designated wildland just down the road from my home in Baltimore County, Maryland (http://home.comcast.net/~soldiersdelight/). Since the location of the forum was the same place I would be conducting my egg-dyeing program the next day, I took a change of clothes with me and did a quick switch into exercise gear the moment the conference concluded.
|I won this adorable centerpiece|
made of chrysanthemums
by Flowers and Fancies of
Owings Mills, Maryland
After a couple of hours spent rearranging tables and chairs in the auditorium and setting up the decorations and supplies I would need for my program, I rushed home with only minutes to spare before my attendance was expected at a lavish charity ball, that being the Black Tie & Tails gala to benefit the Baltimore Humane Society, on which my dear friends, Jan and Harry (from whom I bought my horse, Chubby, nine years ago) serve as board members (http://bmorehumane.org).
You might imagine that I was quite excited to be attending a ball, since there are no less than four vintage gowns in my closet left over from the 1990s when my employer hosted swanky holiday parties every December. I had spent some time the previous week trying on each gown. They all fit, so how on earth would I choose? Should I wear the figure-hugging fishtail number covered all over in copper sequins? Or the organza jumpsuit with a black velvet halter top? I opted for an elegant cowl-necked, full-length gown by Dave & Johnny with sparkling rhinestone buckles at the base of each spaghetti strap, which I paired with a bracelet and earrings of freshwater pearls and crystals by Fire & Ice Jewelers of Baltimore (www.fireandice.com), a mixed-metal necklace I bought in Ireland last summer, and my most comfortable platform pumps by Call it Spring. Snatching a tiny gold clutch from my purse collection, a gift last year from my best friend’s mother, Joyce, in Spokane, I pulled on rhinestone-studded fingerless gloves, grabbed my dressiest coat and headed out the door.
|Harry and Jan with Coco, a cute Papillion|
dressed in a purple tutu for the ball
The ball was fabulous. Besides men in dapper tuxedos and women in gorgeous haute couture, there were dogs!! Dozens of canines, dressed in their own versions of tuxedos and tutus, meandered through the lobby of the extravagantly beautiful Masonic Grand Lodge in Hunt Valley, Maryland, led by their masters and mistresses who sipped cocktails and munched a variety of appetizers while perusing a long table of silent auction items. When it was time to sit down for dinner in the grand ballroom, the leashed pets took their places beneath chairs or on laps as their owners dined on chicken Marsala and herbed tilapia.
|Author Luis Montalvan|
and his service dog,
During the meal we were treated to a moving presentation by retired army veteran Captain Luis Montalvan, author of the best-selling book Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him, as his faithful service dog, Tuesday, stood by. To see a video of Captain Montalvan, click this link: Montalvan on Letterman.
After dinner, a lively band lured two-legged and four-legged guests to the dance floor to swivel and shake to funky tunes. I had never seen anything like it, dogs and humans partying together at a fancy ball. What an amazing evening!
My Sunday dawned early, as I put the finishing touches on more than two dozen eggs I’d been dyeing all week in a variety of natural food-safe dyes, including coffee grounds, onion skins, beets, blueberries, red cabbage and spices such as paprika and turmeric. In my park ranger uniform once again, I returned to the Soldiers Delight auditorium to conduct my egg-dyeing program, attended by a record-breaking 40 participants. Families with children, as well as adult crafters, approached me afterward to tell me how much they enjoyed my presentation. That was so gratifying! I will be putting together a web album of the event which will be posted here in short order, so stay tuned for that.
Once my egg-dyeing affair was history and everything was cleaned up and put away at the Visitor Center and at home, I slipped into my pajamas and fully expected to spend the balance of my Sunday afternoon working on this blog before lapsing into a catatonic state. But suddenly the cooking bug bit me, and I couldn’t resist the urge to use some of my leftover eggs to make an extraordinary caramelized onion soufflé, accompanied by a zesty raw beet and arugula slaw (had to use up those beets, after all).
|I achieved some dramatic colors using|
all-natural ingredients for dyes
|Vidalia onion soufflé made a luscious|
treat at the end of a busy weekend
I’ve done a classic cheese soufflé in the past and I’ve done a fancy chocolate soufflé drizzled with sauce made from fresh lavender blossoms, but I’d never even heard of an onion soufflé! Courtesy of the November 2012 issue of Food & Wine magazine, however, New York’s City Grit chef Sarah Simmons’ easy-to-follow recipe turned out one of the best soufflés I’ve ever made (www.citygritnyc.com).
My immensely satisfying Sunday supper was a mellow and delicious end to a feverishly intense weekend, albeit one in which I reveled more than once, just as an industrious bee might do, in the sheer delight of being alive.
"A bee is never as busy as it seems; it’s just that it can’t buzz any slower"