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Another calm, quiet, sweet morning in Paradise. 16.9 degrees. Small snow flurries occasionally pass by my view outside the cottage windows.

It was a delightful weekend - Valentine's Day weekend. Saturday started with a beautiful hoar frost - just on the lower branches and shrubs. It must have been drier or warmer up from the pond and creek as the upper trees did not show any signs of  hoar frost. I hope you like the photo.

Saturday night  was delicious and engaging. Michael took me - again! - to Chef Amaury's fine restaurant. Do I dare share with you what was on the Five Course Menu? Dear Reader, I hope you're not hungry right now!

For the first course, we had a tropical fruit salad. It consisted of frozen pineapple, papaya and mango served with fresh slices of fruit with Passion fruit vinaigrette, fresh greens, cashews and Rogue River blue cheese. (The Rogue River is a wild, wonderful river in Oregon.) The second course was Lobster Bisque, with seared giant sea scallop. (So much for eating locally and in season.) The main course was braised "Painted Hill" boneless shortribs with goat cheese potatoes (to die for!) and green beans (all three of them). Dessert was Marjolaine cake which consisted of layers of hazelnut, almond merinque and layers of vanilla, praline and chocolate creme. Served with a glazed strawberry.

Of course we had a full bottle of the most sparkling of champagnes (I am so easily led down the path of least resistance...!). All in all, it was a night to remember. Michael is the epitomy of a good host, and such a gentleman. I'm so glad we're family - and dear friends to boot!

I stayed over in Aurora, and arrived home about 9:30 yesterday morning. (Sunday, Valentine's Day) My gates were open - and yes! Smitty and Chris were here fishing. It was good to see their little blue hut on the ice.

Dave arrived later and ... off we went to the top of the hill! It IS such a good setting for my new home-to-be. The views are so lovely up there, and the feeling is exhilarating. We cut up a small,very dead mulberry. This one was not on the actual house site, but nearby. It needed to be taken down - and right now it is warming me by burning brightly in my woodstove. How cozy it is in here!

Yesterday was particularly nice as this was the third - count them! - third day of sunshine out here on the Ponderosa! We were almost giddy!

It never fails. Once you loan a book to someone, that's when you need it. Dave left me his root cellar book yesterday afternoon because I loaned mine to Chris and Norm on German Road. I thought I would spend a quiet evening reading it last night, but alas! I spent the rest of the day pruning, and then trudging through the snow along my entire east boundary (east of  Willow Creek), checking out the fence. (Yep! It needs lots of attention, especially across from Gary's hanger where the branches have really piled up on the fence!) By the time I trudged all the way to Beemerville Road and then back again, I was quite spent! So I only had time to glance at the root cellar book before I fell asleep. My dreams were of a neatly-built root cellar full of bins of potatoes, squash, apples, etc. Ahhhhh.....

I hate to break up this wonderful reverie with hard realism, but I must continue to share my concerns with you about earthquakes in Illinois. The Chicago Tribune on Friday featured Susan Hough, a seismologist witht he U.S. Geological Survey, who wrote a commentary entitled, "Yes, earthquakes will hit Illinois." (The title, alone, is foreboding!) In the article, Ms. Hough talks about the big earthquake in 1811-1812 (7.7 magnitude on the New Madrid fault line), and how scientists look at the earthquake we all experienced last Wednesday. Here is part of what she said:

"Scientists have struggled to understand why large quakes have struck this region...A compelling theory to explain mid-continent earthquakes is that the Earth's crust is continuing to bounce back following the removal of huge ice sheets that covered northern North America during the last Ice Age - the same thing that happens, much faster, if you push down on a sofa cushion and then take your hand away. Sophisticated computer modeling shows that 'rebound' will generate stress in the crust that can, in turn, generate large earthquakes. The thing is, earthquakes caused by this process will generally not be concentrated in any one place. ... All of which is to say that there are most likely other active source zones out there that haven't yet called attention to themselves."

It is incredible to think that the earth's crust still may be springing back -- from the Ice Age!

Ms. Hough goes on to say: (and this is the important part)

"Earthquakes anywhere in the mid-continent are far less likely than in places like California or the Caribbean. But they are possible. Seismologists would be a little surprised, but not shocked, by a damaging temblor under Chicago, New York City or Boston. When big quakes strike in places not widely recognized as active earthquake zones, people invariably ask, 'Why didn't anyone tell us this could happen?'

OK, residents of the heartland, listen up: We are telling you now."

Okay, dear Reader, I am telling you now by passing this along. And I will repeat that I am quite upset anyone would build a nuclear power plant near, or on, a major fault.

But I can't leave you fretting. We can spend some time planning and  trying to minimize damage an earthquake could cause us, and then ...we must go on enjoying life. I, for one, am dreaming of spring time, gardens, root cellars, and a beautiful house-on-the-hill. (See "before" and "after" photos of the house site, below.)

I hope you will spend some time dreaming your dreams today. And may they all come true!
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