Watching the little hummingbirds come to sit and sip at the feeder I put out among the flowers has given me no small amount of pleasure during this past summer. I love their tiny size and the intensity of their color. I love the way their wings move in a blur of speed. I love their dainty long beaks made especially for sipping nectar. I even felt like their protector at times, such as the day I caught the praying mantis sitting as still as death on the feeder, waiting for one of my pretties to come by to be his next meal.

The weather has been getting noticeably cooler here and leaves have started to change color. With the changing seasons, I knew it was time for the hummingbirds to migrate south. Since this is the last week of September I knew they would been packing their bags for their southward journey most any day. Because of the cooler weather, when I saw the feeder was empty on Friday I thought little of it.

Saturday morning as I leisurely sipped my coffee and scanned Pinterest at the kitchen counter, I heard a tap, tap, tapping at the window. Turning to see who or what needed my attention outside, I was amazed to see one of my elusive friends tapping on the window. Because this had never happened before, I can only assume the little bird wanted to let me know the feeder just outside the window was empty. Maybe these birds aren't so shy after all, maybe being speedy is just their nature, or perhaps they have always flown away from me quickly because they don't like being photographed.

I immediately went out and filled the feeder and the hummingbirds came for a sweet treat. Could be they were needing breakfast before they started on their long journey. Or maybe they just wanted to say goodbye after a wonderful summer.


A Little Help From My Friends

Earlier this month Arkansas Women Bloggers converged at Ferncliff Camp in Little Rock for AWBU 2013 Conference. I was preregistered and totally excited to be going, after all, the keynote speaker was Sophie Hudson, alias Boo Mama, author of A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet.

But, darn it, things don't always go as planned. Just before the big day I got a strange ailment that caused my right foot to swell up and feel like it was broken. But x-rays didn't show any broken bones, so the doctor decided to treat me for the good old-fashioned gout. My ailing foot continued to be too tender to drive the three hours to the conference, and quite frankly I was a little embarrassed to go anyway sporting such an unattractive limp. I put my puffy foot up on the ottoman and poutingly stayed home, missing out on all the fun.

There's one thing I didn't miss out on though, thanks to some special friends - my conference T-shirt. A dear blogging friend, Amanda Jane Brown, went above and beyond to be sure I got my T-shirt. I've only met Amanda one time, last year at a band concert in Little Rock, but I have known her through the blogging world for the past two years. Amanda previously lived in Little Rock, but now is a Mississippi blogger. She was attending the AWBU conference, and I emailed her to see if she might be able to snag my T-shirt while she was there. I wasn't sure exactly how I would get it from her, but I knew we had some common acquaintances. Amanda not only grabbed my shirt for me, she then delivered it to a mutual friend, Joely, in Little Rock before she left town, who passed it on to my daughter to hang on to for me. Long story, but last weekend I was able to pick up my AWBU 2013 T-shirt thanks to Amanda.

I know it was a busy weekend for Amanda, but she was willing to go the extra mile, and it helped to ease my disappointment of not being able to attend the conference I had looked forward to for months. The T-shirt was passed from Amanda to Joely to Angela to me, but I also feel that a special bloggy friendship was passed along with it. My gimpy foot has improved considerably, and I think you could even say I'm "back in the saddle" and looking forward to next year's conference.


Cherry-Wheat Germ Muffins

I'm in love with the taste of these muffins with the pairing of dried cherries and toasted wheat germ.  These wonderful muffins will get your day off to a good start.

Recipe Source: Cooking Light May 2011

Cherry-Wheat Germ Muffins

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup dried cherries, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/4 cup canola oil
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare a 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners, then coat the liners with cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine flour, wheat germ, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and allspice together with a whisk. Stir the dried cherries into the flour mixture. Combine the buttermilk, oil, and egg in a bowl, stirring well. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Bake for 15 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes in pan on a wire rack.

These muffins are great for breakfast and are a sneaky, but tasty way to get some fruit in your family's diet.


Saving My Hummingbirds

I had heard that a praying mantis was a ruthless predator, but it still surprised me when I found one sitting in an ambush mode on my hummingbird feeder this week. Would he really attack a prey that much larger than himself? I had to Google it and find out. I found several online videos of praying mantis attacks on hummingbirds, and some are so vicious they should be preceded with a warning of impending violence. I learned the praying mantis will actually eat the hummingbird over several days.

I didn't want to hurt the praying mantis because he is a friendly garden predator who will devour aphids, fruit flies, spiders, moths and other pests, but I had to protect my pretty hummingbirds. I got a stick and coaxed him to grab onto it, then transported him to a distant part of my garden. Hopefully he will find other nourishment and will not make his way back to the hummingbirds. I'll keep an eye out for him just in case. He is permanently assigned to the relocation program.


Caramel Coconut Pie

I was hooked the first time I had a taste of this pie. My sweet Aunt Dot made me one for a milestone birthday I didn't want to acknowledge (it was the big 5 - 0), and this pie really did make the birthday better and easier to face. She gave me the recipe, and it is super simple, so if you know someone who needs a distraction from a birthday downer this is the pie to do it!

Caramel Coconut Pie

2 deep dish pie crusts baked according to package directions and cooled

1/2 cup butter
1 (7 ounce) package flaked coconut
1/2 cup pecans, chopped

Melt butter in a heavy skillet, add coconut and pecans. Toast until light golden brown, stirring frequently. Set aside to cool.

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (16 ounce) carton whipped topping, thawed
1 (12 ounce) jar caramel ice cream topping

Optional: Additional whole or chopped pecans for garnish

Combine cream cheese and condensed milk with mixer until smooth. Fold in whipped topping. Fill pie shells in layers beginning with cream cheese mixture, then toasted coconut mixture, then caramel topping, then finish with cream cheese mixture on top. Top of pie may be garnished with whole or chopped pecans. Freeze until ready to serve. Makes 2 pies.

Every time I make this pie now I think of the day my Aunt Dot surprised me at my office with one of these Caramel Coconut Pies for the birthday I tried to forget. A happy memory makes everything better.


Chicken and Dumplings Casserole

Here's one of those dinners I make when I don't have anything planned and need to throw a tasty meal together. I first started making a similar recipe a couple of years ago, but now I'm using this easier version that relies on just pantry staples I always have on hand. This adapted version is easier for me to put together because I start with canned chicken then basically throw the ingredients together and bake.

Chicken and Dumplings Casserole

4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 (13 ounce) cans chicken, drained and broken apart in small pieces
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 (10 3/4 ounce) can cream of chicken soup
1 (14.5 ounce) can chicken broth

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Melt the butter in the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Place chicken on top of the melted butter. In a small bowl, mix together the flour, milk, salt, and pepper. Pour the mixture over the chicken. Then mix the soup and chicken broth together and pour over the flour mixture. Do not mix the casserole layers. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned.

Everyone who has tried this dish at my house has loved it, so I hope you will too.