Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies are quick, easy and delicious.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients

1/3 cup stick butter, softened
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup Equal® Spoonful* (you can use sugar)
1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or mini chocolate chips

Preparation

Beat butter with electric mixer until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla until blended. Mix in Equal® and brown sugar until combined.

Mix combined flour, baking soda and salt. Stir into butter mixture until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips.

Drop dough by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased baking sheet. Bake in preheated 350° F oven 8 to 10 minutes or until light golden color. Remove from baking sheet and cool completely on wire rack.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature.


Monday, November 29, 2010

Hero Saves Abducted Child

Although we’re more often than not bombarded with gloom and doom news stories, every now and then you run across an incident that rekindles your faith in humanity, particularly when it’s a story about a hero that saves a child.

Like this one:

On October 4, 2010 in Fresno, California, 8-year-old Elisa Cardenas was playing with some friends outside her home when Gregorio Gonzalez, a 24-year-old known gang member who was on felony probation, tried to lure the children into his truck. They tried to flee, but Gonzalez grabbed Elisa just as her mother ran out to try and save her. A statewide Amber Alert was issued after the abduction, police released surveillance video of Gonzalez’s truck to the media, and a search was launched for the missing child.

At about 6:45 the next morning, Victor Perez, father of two boys, was speaking with his cousin outside his home when he spotted a vehicle matching the description of the suspect’s pickup truck that he’d seen on the news the night before. He decided to pursue the vehicle while his cousin dialed 911.

When he caught up with Gonzalez, because he wasn’t sure if in fact he was following the kidnapper or not, Perez simply rolled down his window and waved to him, as though asking for directions. “I need to talk to you”, he told Gonzalez, but Gonzalez said “No. My truck is messing up. I need to leave.” Then he sped away. Perez followed and the second time he caught up with him, the little girl’s head popped up over the dashboard as Gonzalez lifted his hands in anger. Until then, Victor Perez hadn’t seen the child; the kidnapper had been hiding her, pushing her down.

"I made eye contact with her. And that's when I wasn't scared anymore," Perez said. "I won't kid you, until then I'd thought 'Does this guy have a gun?' But once I met her eyes, I just thought 'I've got to get that little girl out of there.'"

Perez chased after Gonzalez and attempted to try and cut him off, hoping to get him off the road. When he finally drove his truck directly in the suspect’s path, blocking his path, Gonzalez pushed the young girl out the passenger door and fled. Perez stayed with the girl and called 911. About 40 minutes later, Gregorio Gonzalez was spotted and taken into custody. Since then he’s been arraigned in Fresno County Superior Court on eight felony charges. If he’s convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of life without the possibility of parole. Let’s hope that’s what happens.

This story really warmed my soul. Victor Perez is a reminder that underneath all the gloom and doom news broadcasts, there are truly good people out there making this world a better place. Thank goodness for his courageous actions; without him, that little girl may have been another tragic statistic. 40% of children abducted in similar situations are killed before police are even alerted. And within 24 hours after they go missing, 90% of them are murdered.

If the world had more Victor Perezes, we’d have less Gregorio Gonzalezes. And that’s a good thing.

Watch the story on this ABC New Video:
Hero Victor Perez Saves Abducted 8-Year-Old Elisa - ABC News

I wish nothing but good things for this heroic man.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Single Photograph

This photo was taken in September outside the library near our home:

I just love the brilliant red next to the silver on these pretty annuals.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Saturday Silliness

This week I’m sharing a couple of random jokes that I hope you’ll enjoy as much as I did!

THE BEST ‘DEAR JOHN’ LETTER EVER

A Marine stationed in Afghanistan recently received a "Dear John" letter from his girlfriend back home. It read as follows:

Dear Ricky,

I can no longer continue our relationship. The distance between us is just too great. I must admit that I have cheated on you twice, since you've been gone, and it's not fair to either of us. I'm sorry. Please return the picture of me that I sent to you.

Love, Becky


The Marine, with hurt feelings, asked his fellow Marines for any snapshots they could spare of their girlfriends, sisters, ex-girlfriends, aunts, cousins etc. In addition to the picture of Becky, Ricky included all the other pictures of the pretty girls he had collected from his buddies.

There were 57 photos in that envelope....along with this note:

Dear Becky,

I'm so sorry, but I can't quite remember who you are. Please take your picture from the pile, and send the rest back to me.

Take Care, Ricky


IN-Flight Humour

Occasionally, airline attendants make an effort to make the "in-flight safety lecture" and their other announcements a bit more entertaining. Here are some real examples that have been heard or reported:

1. From a southwest airlines employee: "there may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but there are only four ways out of this airplane."

2. Pilot: "folks, we have reached our cruising altitude now, so I am going to switch the seat belt sign off. Feel free to move about as you wish, but please stay inside the plane till we land. It's a bit cold outside, and if you walk on the wings it affects the flight pattern."

3. After landing: "thank you for flying delta business express. We hope you enjoyed giving us the business as much as we enjoyed taking you for a ride."

4. As the plane landed and was coming to a stop at Washington National, a lone voice came over the loudspeaker: "whoa, big fella. Whoa!"

5. After a particularly rough landing during thunderstorms in Memphis, a flight attendant on a northwest flight announced: "please take care when opening the overhead compartments because, after a landing like that, sure as hell everything has shifted."

6. From a southwest airlines employee: "welcome aboard southwest flight xxx to yyy. To operate your seatbelt, insert the metal tab into the buckle and pull tight. It works just like every other seatbelt and if you don't know how to operate one, you probably shouldn't be out in public unsupervised. In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will descend from the ceiling. Stop screaming, grab the mask, and pull it over your face. If you have a small child traveling with you, secure your mask before assisting with theirs. If you are traveling with two small children, decide now which one you love more."

7. "weather at our destination is 50 degrees with some broken clouds, but they'll try to have them fixed before we arrive. Thank you, and, remember, nobody loves you or your money more than Southwest airlines."

8. "your seat cushions can be used for flotation. In the event of an emergency water landing, please take them with our compliments."

9. "As you exit the plane, please make sure to gather all of your belongings. Anything left behind will be distributed evenly among the flight attendants. But please do not leave children or spouses."

10. "last one off the plane must clean it."

11. From the pilot during his welcome message: "we are pleased to have some of the best flight attendants in the industry. Unfortunately, none of them are on this flight."

12. This was overheard on an American Airlines flight into Amarillo, Texas, on a particularly windy and bumpy day. During the final approach, the captain was really having to fight it. After an extremely hard landing, the flight attendant came on the pa and announced, "ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Amarillo. Please remain in your seats with your seatbelts fastened while the captain taxis what's left of our airplane to the gate!"

13. Another flight attendant's comment on a less-than-perfect landing: "we ask you to please remain seated as Captain Kangaroo bounces us to the terminal."

14. An airline pilot wrote that on this particular flight he had hammered his ship into the runway really hard. The airline had a policy which required the first officer to stand at the door while the passengers exited, smile, and give them a, "thanks for flying xyz airline." he said that in light of the bad landing, he had a hard time looking the passengers in the eye, thinking that someone would have a smart comment. Finally, everyone had gotten off except for this little old lady walking with a cane. She said, "sonny, did we land or were we shot down?"

15. After a real crusher of a landing in phoenix, the flight attendant got on the pa and said, "ladies and gentlemen, please remain in your seats until Captain Crash and the crew have brought the aircraft to a screeching halt up against the gate. And, once the tire smoke has cleared and the warning bells are silenced, we'll open the door and you can pick your way through the wreckage to the terminal."

16. Part of a flight attendant's arrival announcement: "we'd like to thank you folks for flying with us today. And, the next time you get the insane urge to go blasting through the skies in a pressurized metal tube, we hope you'll think of us here at US Airways."

Friday, November 26, 2010

Hedera Helix

Many years ago, when my children were a lot younger, I offered to place a couple of plants in their rooms. Of their choosing. Kind of. I say kind of because when we did finally walk through a garden center together and I told them to go ahead and choose whatever they want, every time they pointed to a plant that interested them, I added my (what finally turned out to be very annoying) two cents: “Your room is too dark for this plant”; “Your room is too dry for this plant”; “This plant is too difficult”; “This plant is too big”; “This plant is short-lived”; “This plant...”; “This plant...”; “This plant...”. And on and on and on I went, until my kids finally said “This plant thing is too hard. Can I get a goldfish instead?”

“Or a dvd?”

“Or a pack of gum?”

“Or some new underwear?”

“Anything but a plant...”

It turned out that I have a difficult time curbing my plant nurturing habits. My kids just wanted one or two plants for their rooms; anything would do. I wanted one or two appropriate plants for their rooms; not anything would do. For instance, how can you (with a clear botanical conscience) place an Adenium obesum (Desert Rose) – that needs full sun - in a room that offers very little light from its north-facing window? How do you suppose this succulent will fare in that spot? Not too good. And what about a Maranta leuconeura (Prayer Plant)? Do you honestly think it would appreciate having its leaves scorched by the summer’s hot, midday sun in the southern location you’ve imposed upon it? Mm…let me see. Not!

Anyway, so I was a little bit of a pain in the neck - until my kids lost interest in the plant-adding project that was supposed to be, above all else, fun. Which it wasn’t. I felt a little guilty about not being somewhat flexible with the plant choices, so I tried negotiating with them.

Me: “Okay. The size of the plant isn’t a big deal; you can get a large one as long as it’s reasonably priced. And if it’s a little difficult to grow...meh, so what...you’ll just have to make more of an effort to keep it healthy. Light can’t be compromised, but maybe we can increase the humidity somehow. That’s all I’m imposing. Whaddya say?”

Younger daughter: “I want the goldfish plant.”

Me: “Now that’s a good match for your southwest-facing room; your plant will love it there!”

Older daughter, pointing at an English Ivy: “I like this one”

Me [Staring in horror]: “But...it’s...it’s a spider mite magnet.”

Older daughter with squinted eyes: “You didn’t say anything about bugs”

Me: “But...spider mites...”

Older daughter pointing at younger daughter: “How come she always gets her way?”

[Insert guilt here]

Me, swallowing hard. Very hard. “Okay...”

And that’s how a Hedera helix came into our lives. Spider mites and all.

Caring For A Hedera Helix - a.k.a Spider Mite Magnet

Yes, yes. I know many of you are going to disagree with me but I’m going to say it again: Hedera helix, commonly referred to as English Ivy, is a spider mite magnet. And it’s also a difficult plant to maintain indoors, I don’t care what anyone says. Sure it can be easy (any plant can be) but only if you offer it the absolute ideal environment, which will deter spider mites, and keep the plants healthy.

So what do you need to do?

Provide ample humidity.

I can’t stress enough how important this is, especially if you live in a home with central heating. Dry air is very detrimental to the health of a Hedera helix, and an invitation for mites to move right in. And believe me they will move right in if the humidity is not above average. They may move in anyway even if humidity is reasonable enough (spider mites seem to favour this plant and will do whatever it takes to get to it) but they won’t multiply as quickly, therefore they’ll be easier to deal with. No, I’m not being an alarmist or trying to deter you from getting this plant (although I would never - ever - recommend adding this plant to a home with central heating), I’m simply advising (warning) you of what to expect.

Make sure the temperature is cool.

The ideal location is cool but frost free. Do not grow a Hedera helix in a room that is very warm; this plant likes it cool. Temperatures should not exceed 16°C (60°F) and night temperatures should be even lower. If a Hedera helix is grown in temperatures that are too high its leaf edges will brown and dry. In addition, stems will be bare and spindly.

Water carefully.

This plant will die from rot if you over-water it, so don’t. Yes it’s easier said than done, but a Hedera helix, unfortunately, is part of the water juggling association. Basically, if you water too much, you’ll kill it. And if you don’t water enough, the leaves will dry to a crisp, the plant will become unsightly and the spider mites will move in. It’s obviously important to learn how to properly handle the water jug with this plant. Here’s what to do: use a fast-draining, airy soil to help prevent rot and keep it moist at all times during the summer by watering regularly. In the winter, water sparingly but never allow the soil to dry out completely. Other things you can do to prevent over or under-watering include: a) growing this plant in hydroculture, which it’s a great candidate for or b) growing it directly in water.

Give it plenty of light but not too much sun.

Despite what you may have been told, Hedera helix does not appreciate being grown in poorly-lit areas because it’s not a low light plant. This spider magnet (okay Water Roots lady, we get it) prefers a location that offers bright, indirect light or filtered sun. Protect the plant from the direct rays of the summer sun but don’t be afraid to place it where it can receive a little early morning eastern sunshine.

Feed it.

If your plant is in an ideal location and growing well, feed once a month at full strength or once every two weeks at half strength during the active growing season. Do not feed at all during the fall and winter or if the plant is in poor health (because it’s infested with spider mites).


That’s all there is to it folks. You would think that a plant with so few care requirements would be easy to grow. And that logic would work just fine with most other plants with similar needs. But not with the Hedera helix. Nope. The Hedera helix is in a league all its own. So, if you’re looking for a challenge, grow a Hedera helix. It will definitely give you a run for your botanical money.

Ferrety Questions And Answers

This week is a list of ferrety questions and answers. I’ll be including more of them in future posts.

Let’s start with these basic ones:

1) How much do ferrets cost?

It all depends on where you get them from. Typically, you’ll find descented, vaccinated and spayed/neutered ferrets at pet stores for about $200, give or take a few bucks. You’ll probably pay less if you get one directly from a breeder, but the ferret you take home from there won’t be fixed, so you’ll have to factor in spaying/neutering costs, descenting and all the rest. If you have a ferret shelter in your area, you might want to take a look there, too. The price will be much lower than a pet store, and the ferrets will be fixed, vaccinated and most likely descented. You’ll also get one that has a clean bill of health, or information about any health issues.

2) Where can I get a ferret?

Check your local pet stores or visit a ferret shelter if there’s one in your area. You can also get one from a ferret breeder if there’s one close by.

For more info: Ferrety Friday - Where To Get A Ferret

3) What do I look for when buying a ferret?

If you’re planning on getting a ferret, you’ll want to select a healthy one. To do that, you need to know what to look for. Here’s how: Ferrety Friday - Selecting A Healthy Ferret

4) How can you tell a male ferret from a female ferret?

If you look on the belly of a ferret, halfway between the tail and the bottom of the rib cage, and you notice what looks like an ‘outie’ belly button, it’s a male (and that’s not a belly button). If there’s no sign of a belly button, it’s a female. It’s that simple.

To learn more about the differences between male and female ferrets, visit: Ferrety Friday - Differences Between Male And Female Ferrets.

5) What is the typical weight and size of a ferret?

Although there are exceptions to this rule, males are slightly larger, growing between 17 to 24 inches in length and weighing anywhere from 3 to 5 pounds. Females, on the other hand, will be about 12 to 16 inches long and weigh between 1 to 3 pounds. In summary, a domesticated ferret will have an average length of 20 inches and weigh about 2 to 4 pounds.

6) Do ferrets make good pets?

Yes and no. If they are properly cared for, are given enough time out of a cage to exercise and socialize, and are trained properly, then yes, they make wonderful pets. If not, then no. Just like any other pet, ferrets are as good as their owners make them.

7) Is a ferret a good pet for a child?

I would never recommend a ferret for a child of any age. I explain why here: Ferrety Friday – Ferrets And Kids

8) I’ve heard that ferrets smell bad. Is this true?

Ferrets have a very distinct smell that many people find offensive. But that smell is not as bad – or as consistent - as you’ve been led to believe. And you can make it practically non-existent. Here’s how: Ferrety Friday – How Bad Does A Ferret Smell?

9) Are ferrets rodents?

No. Ferrets are not rodents in any way, shape or form, and they are in no way related to rodents. They are small, carnivorous mammals belonging to the Mustelidae family, which includes weasels, polecats, ferrets, minks, fishers, otters, badgers, wolverines, stoats, martens, tayras and grisons (most of which I have no clue what they are). And for your information, ferrets eat rodents.

Learn more about them here: Ferrety Friday - What In The World Is A Ferret?

10) How long does a domestic ferret live?

A domestic ferret typically lives anywhere from 6 – 10 years, so you’re looking at quite a long-term commitment.

11) What kind of food do ferrets eat?

Ferrets are obligate carnivores (strict meat eaters) and  should not be fed foods that are high in fiber or carbohydrates. Instead, their diet should consist mainly of meat and animal products that are high in protein and fat.

Learn more here: Ferrety Friday - Feeding A Ferret

12) How much should you feed a ferret?

Because ferrets have a high metabolism and a short digestive system they need to eat frequently; usually every 3 – 4 hours. Therefore, you cannot put them on a feeding schedule as you would a dog or cat, for instance. Give them access to food and fresh water at all times; this will allow them to eat whenever they need to.

13) Can a ferret be litter-trained?

Yes, but unlike a cat that goes regularly without a problem, litter training a ferret is an ongoing process that can be quite trying. And even when your ferret finally understands where he’s supposed to go, he won’t always comply. Expect to clean up the occasional accident; at best your fuzzy will have a 90 – 95 percent hit rate.

14) What kind of litter can you use for a ferret?

Choose one that is relatively-dust free. And do not use wood shavings or a litter that clumps.

15) How do you get a ferret to use the litter tray?

You can find information about that here: Ferrety Friday – Litter Box Training

16) Should I bathe my ferret?

Ferrets do not need to be bathed regularly. And not only do they not need to be bathed regularly; they shouldn’t be. Washing them too often will strip oils from their body, which will dry out the skin; this will make your ferret itchy and uncomfortable. In addition, bathing a ferret too often will make it smell more. The body will increase the production of oils (that’s what causes the musky odor) to compensate for the oils that the bath removed. Therefore, your pet will smell worse for awhile after you’ve washed him. I wouldn’t recommend bathing your ferret more than once every three months; preferably only twice a year.

17) My ferret got really dirty and I have no choice but to bathe him. How do I do that?

Read all about it here: Ferrety Friday - Bathing A Ferret

18) How do ferrets communicate?

They have many forms of communication. Learn about them here: Ferrety Friday – How Fuzzies Communicate

That’s it for this week! I'll be back on another day with more ferrety questions and answers.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Today's Trivia - Inventions (Timeline)

I ran across a page that listed when certain things we enjoy, and have been enjoying for awhile, were invented. I found it quite interesting and decided to share it with all of you.


1900-1910
---------


1900: The Zeppelin is designed; a rigid dirigible airship.
1901: Gillette invents the safety razor.
1901: Radio telegraph service is instituted for the first time in
Hawaii.
1902: Neon lights invented.
1903: The Wright Brothers first successful, powered, piloted flight in history.
1904: Holt's first treaded tractor.
1905: Einstein's Theory of Relativity published.
1906: Will Kellogg introduces cornflakes.
1907: The Lumiere brothers invent color photography.
1908: Gyrocompass invented by Sperry.
1909: Instant coffee invented.


1910-1920
---------


1910: Edison shows the 1st talking motion picture.
1911: Kettering invents the 1st automotive ignition system.
1912: LifeSavers candy introduced.
1913: The modern brassiere and crossword puzzle are invented.
1914: Gas mask invented in time for WWI.
1915: Pyrex invented.
1916: Model T Ford prices fall to $360 - half the 1911 price.
1916: Stainless steel invented.
1917: Modern zipper invented.
1918: Armstrong's core design for super heterodyne radio circuit, which eventually becomes universal.
1919: Short-wave radio invented.


1920-1930
---------


1920: Band-Aid invented.
1921: 1st robot designed.
1922: Insulin invented.
1923: Garrett Morgan granted patent for the traffic signal.
1923: Clarence Birdseye introduces frozen food.
1924: Spiral-bound notebooks first appear.
1925: Baird's mechanical TV demonstrated.
1926: Robert Goddard's first liquid fueled rockets tested in Auburn,
MA.
1927: Farnsworth's electronic TV demonstrated.
1928: Fleming discovers penicillin; Schick patents the electric shaver.
1929: Zenith Radio starts year as lowest priced stock on NYSE – ends year as highest priced stock due to demand for its radios; Paul Galvin (later president of Motorola) invents the car radio.


1930-1940
---------


1930: Scotch tape invented at 3M; first jet engine designs.
1931: Electron microscope invented.
1932: Good year for photography: Land invents the Polaroid process; zoom lens and light meter are also invented.
1933: Stereo records developed.
1934: First magnetic tape recorders for broadcasting.
1935: Dupont invents nylon; radar first developed; and beer is canned for the first time.
1936: Colt's revolver patented.
1937: Photocopier invented.
1938: Ballpoint pen and Teflon invented.
1939: Sikorsky's first helicopter flown.


1940-1950
---------


1940: Jeep designed.
1941: Aerosol spray cans developed.
1942: Turboprop engines designed.
1943: Synthetic rubber invented, along with the Slinky and Silly
Putty; Cousteau co-develops the aqualung.
1944: Synthetic cortisone developed.
1945: Atomic bomb developed and used.
1946: Microwave oven invented by Percy Spencer after he melts chocolate bar in his pocket.
1947: Schockley-Brattain-Bardeen invent the transistor.
1948: Velcro and the jukebox invented.
1949: Prepared cake mixes introduced.


1950-1960
---------


1950: Diner's Club introduces first credit card.
1951: Super Glue invented; so is first video tape recorder.
1952: First bar code patent issued; first diet soft drink developed.
1953: Transistor radio invented at Texas Instruments (TI); radial tire developed.
1954: Oral contraceptives invented; Ray Kroc starts franchising
McDonald's
1955: Tetracycline & optical fiber invented.
1956: First use of computer hard disk.
1957: FORTRAN developed.
1958: Noyce (at Fairchild Semiconductor) and Kilby (at TI) both submit patents for integrated circuits.
1959: The Barbie Doll is introduced.


1960-1970
---------


1960: Halogen lamp invented.
1961: Valium invented.
1962: Audio cassettes developed.
1963: Pop-top cans.
1964: BASIC computer language; permanent-press materials.
1965: Astroturf; Kevlar; soft contact lenses.
1966: Electronic fuel injection developed for cars.
1967: First handheld calculator.
1968: Douglas Englebert invents the computer mouse.
1969: ATM machine invented; Arpanet also appears and bar code scanners developed.


1970-1980
---------


1970: Alan Shugart (chairman of hard drive supplier Seagate) invents the floppy disk.
1971: Intel's 4004 is first microprocessor design; dot-matrix printer,
VCR and LCD displays also invented.
1972: First video game -- Pong – invented.
1973: Gene splicing invented; Ethernet networking invented at Xerox;
BIC develops disposable lighter; Black-Scholes pricing model developed for options.
1974: Post-it Notes and liposuction invented.
1975: Laser printer developed.
1976: Ink jet printing invented.
1977: Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) invented.
1978: VisiCalc spreadsheet introduced for PCs; first PC models appear from Heathkit, Apple, Radio Shack.
1979: Walkman invented by Sony; roller blades developed; Seymour Cray designs the supercomputer.


1980-1990
---------


1980: Vaccine for hepatitis-B invented.
1981: IBM introduces the PC and MS-DOS appears for the first time.
1982: Human growth hormones genetically engineered.
1983: Soft bifocal contact lenses introduced.
1984: Apple Macintosh popularizes the graphical interface; CD-ROMs invented.
1985: Microsoft brings out Windows 1.0.
1986: Microsoft's initial public offering (IPO); first disposable camera introduced.
1987: Disposable contact lenses invented.
1988: Doppler radar invented; first patent issued for genetically-engineered animal issued.
1989: First HDTV broadcasts in Japan.


1990-2000
---------


1990: Tim Berners-Lee develops protocol for both World-wide web (WWW) and the Hypertext Markup Language (HTML).
1991: First digital answering machine.
1992: Smart pill invented.
1993: Intel introduces Pentium family of 32-bit microprocessors.
1994: First Internet audio broadcast from Interop.
1995: DVD invented; Java language launched by Sun Microsystems;
RealAudio broadcasting introduced.
1996: WebTV introduced.
1997: Gas-powered fuel cells developed.
1998: Viagra developed.
1999: Google.com is formed and the search engine goes into beta test publicly.
2000: Mapping of human DNA completed.

Seems like a lot of things happened in the 1900s!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Oh, How I Miss My Lovely Rudbeckia

Below are photos of my Rudbeckia hirta ‘Marmalade’ when it was in its glory.




Isn’t it just the loveliest thing? Oh, how I miss those days...sigh...

This rudbeckia is one of the wonderful things to look forward to in the spring. Can’t wait to see all those lovely blooms again!

Words Of Wisdom


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Apple Coffee Cake

One word describes this cake: awe-some. Give it a try; you’ll love it!

Apple Coffee Cake

Ingredients

1/3 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (8 ounces) reduced-fat sour cream

Topping

1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 medium tart apples, peeled and thinly sliced

Directions

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until crumbly, about 2 minutes.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Combine flour and baking soda; add to creamed mixture alternately with sour cream, beating well after each addition (batter will be sticky). In a small bowl, combine the walnuts, sugars and cinnamon.

Spread half of the batter into an 11-in. x 7-in. baking dish coated with cooking spray. Top with apples; sprinkle with half of the topping. Gently top with remaining batter and topping. Bake at 350° for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Yield: 12 servings.

Enjoy!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Amazon.com Meets Public Outrage

On November 10, 2010, Amazon.com Inc., America’s largest online retailer, generated controversy over its sale of an e-book titled “The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure: a Child-lover's Code of Conduct”, a self-published book that defends and offers advice to pedophiles, including advice on how to get around the law. Needless to say that when the public found out that the giant retailer was selling an instruction manual aimed at teaching pedophiles how to commit crimes against children – and get away with it – they went livid.

Initially, despite the angry objections, Amazon refused to pull the pro-pedophilia e-book from its product line. Instead, it issued a statement that read: "Amazon believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable. Amazon does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts, however, we do support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions."

It was clear that the company was not budging on their decision to keep selling the e-book but that didn’t stop the public. Within a few hours Facebook pages, blog posts and news articles had spread across the internet criticizing the retail giant for endorsing and profiting off a book that incites sexual crimes against children. The rage spread like wildfire and headlines such as the ones below popped up:

Why is Amazon promoting sexual abuse of children?

Is Amazon Peddling Pedophilia?

Profiting off Pedophilia on Amazon.com‎

Book defending pedophilia for sale on Amazon

Amazon Sells Guide For Pedophiles

And after a furious, global protest and threats of boycott, Amazon changed its mind and removed the e-book. The decision was obviously based on potential loss of profits, and damage to the company’s image, not on social and moral responsibility, which many hoped for. If the public hadn’t reacted as heatedly as it did, the book would still be offered for sale.

So that’s the story. Now, I’d like to add my own thoughts on this...

The company’s policies state that “Amazon.com reserves the right to make judgments about whether or not content is appropriate” and that those policies prohibit certain content, including “offensive material” and products that may lead to an “illegal activity”, statements that no doubt left some people with the conclusion that Amazon approved of a book that taught pedophiles how to sexually violate children, an illegal activity. And that a manual on how to molest children just wasn’t offensive enough to apply these policies to. This was a definite strike against them.

As I read more and more about this story, I discovered that many of the individuals that supported the sale of this book stated that the author’s First Amendment rights would be violated if Amazon.com removed/banned/censored the book from its product line. This seemed a little farfetched to me considering Amazon is a private business. But since I don’t live in the United States, I’m not entirely familiar with the Constitution; therefore I had to search for information to try to understand what, if any, role it played in this situation.

One of the more interesting things I ran across was what CNN’s legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin had to say about this e-book and the author’s right to freedom of expression. Apparently, because the work is in its form as a written piece, it is protected under the First Amendment right to free speech. Furthermore, child pornography is illegal when it’s in image form, but text, on the other hand, is considered a work of advocacy, which has won protection in the court under the First Amendment. So, yes, legally the author has a right to write, publish and sell this book. And if the government had ordered Amazon to remove it that would violate the Constitution.

But.

Amazon.com is not the government; it is a privately-owned business that can generally set its own limits and impose any rules it chooses, including the refusal to sell whatever it considers offensive, inappropriate or objectionable, or whatever it feels may damage its image or reduce its profits or anger its shareholders. As a result, Amazon is free to reject a guidebook for pedophiles as part of its product line, and this decision does not, in any way, violate the First Amendment; it is a business decision, not a constitutional attack. Yes, people have a right to write whatever they want, no matter how objectionable, but at the same time, publishers are not obligated to print it, bookstores are not obligated to sell it and consumers are not obligated to buy it. And don’t forget, Amazon has already made it clear that they can – and will – exercise this right as they deem fit in their statement “Amazon.com reserves the right to make judgments about whether or not content is appropriate

People defending this book also kept applying the word ‘freedom’ to their arguments; how important it is to preserve ‘freedom of speech’ above all else. And that we shouldn’t compromise that ‘freedom’ because of an irrational and hysterical protest. And that if Amazon removed this book, it would be violating the author’s ‘freedom of speech’.

How so?

Just like an author has the right (freedom) to put together a book, the public has the right (freedom) to protest its availability - and to boycott a business that sells it. And just like an author has the right (freedom) to request that the book he’s written be added to a company’s product line, a private business has the right (freedom) to refuse. It seems to me that everyone, all around, is exercising their ‘freedom’. And it also seems to me that those that cry out ‘freedom’ the loudest are the first to condemn those that exercise their right to 'freedom' with a different opinion and perspective. The 'freedom’ to express views and opinions freely is afforded to everyone, not just to those whose opinions align with your own.

And finally, some questions...

1) If Amazon’s terms of service prohibit “titles which may lead to illegal activity”, how could a how-to manual for pedophiles not fall under this regulation? Isn’t it possible that this book, which many consider an incitement to sexual crimes against children, may lead to illegal activity?

And...

2) Since the company’s terms of service didn’t apply to a book that caused this much outrage, not to mention bad publicity, then what does it take to get a book rejected by Amazon.com without delay or controversy? And without the threat of boycott?

And...

3) Despite the company stating that it “believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable", it has, in the past, removed products from its website. Isn’t the company contradicting itself? And adding more fuel to the fire?

In any case, I think we’ve all learned that if a private enterprise decides to carry (and defend) a publication that society deems morally and socially unacceptable, it can expect the public to rise up and protest. And that no company is too big for society to bring down with its deafening rage. Not even Amazon.

Personally, I’m very pleased that the book is no longer available, and I’d like to write a little more about my opinion about it, about Amazon’s handling of the situation and how I feel about pedophilia. I’d even like to address some of the comments made by Phillip R. Greaves II, author of the self-published book, especially the one where he said to CNN in a phone interview “True pedophiles love children and would never hurt them”. (Try to wrap your head around that warped statement.)

But I won’t be writing about any of that today. I’ll save it for a future post.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear your opinion on this matter.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Single Photograph

There’s nothing quite as enchanting in the garden as a flower preparing to unfurl. Like this one:

This flower was one of many blooms on my Delphinium grandiflorum 'Summer Blues', a compact delphinium that grows to a height and spread of 10 to 12 inches.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Saturday Silliness

If you have daughters, you will really like this week’s silliness!

Application for Permission to Date my Daughter

NOTE: This application will be incomplete and rejected unless accompanied by a complete financial statement, job history, lineage, and current medical report from your doctor.

GENERAL INFORMATION:

NAME___________________________________
DATE OF BIRTH_____________

HEIGHT___________
WEIGHT___________
IQ________________
GPA_______________

SOCIAL SECURITY #________________
DRIVERS LICENSE #________________

BOY SCOUT RANK AND BADGES_______________

HOME ADDRESS_______________________
CITY/STATE___________ ZIP______

Do you have parents? ___Yes ___No

Number of years they have been married ______

If less than your age, explain:

__________________________________________

__________________________________________


ACCESSORIES SECTION:

A. Do you own or have access to a van? __Yes __No

B. A truck with oversized tires? __Yes __No

C. A waterbed? __Yes __No

D. A pickup with a mattress in the back? __Yes __No

E. A tattoo? __Yes __No

F. Do you have an earring, nose ring, pierced tongue, pierced cheek or a belly button ring? __Yes __No

(IF YOU ANSWERED ‘YES’ TO ANY OF THE ABOVE, DISCONTINUE APPLICATION AND LEAVE PREMISES IMMEDIATELY. I SUGGEST RUNNING.)

ESSAY SECTION:

In 50 words or less, what does ‘LATE’ mean to you?

_________________________________________

In 50 words or less, what does ‘DON’T TOUCH MY DAUGHTER’ mean to you?

__________________________________________

In 50 words or less, what does ‘ABSTINENCE’ mean to you?

__________________________________________

REFERENCES SECTION:

Church you attend ___________________________
How often you attend _________________________

When would be the best time to interview your:

Father? _____________

Mother? _____________

Pastor? _____________

SHORT-ANSWER SECTION:

Answer by filling in the blank. Please answer freely, all answers are confidential.

A. If I were shot, the last place I would want shot would be:

________________________________________________

B. If I were beaten, the last bone I would want broken is my:

________________________________________________

C. A woman’s place is in the:

________________________________________________

D. The one thing I hope this application does not ask me about is:

________________________________________________

E. What do you want to do IF you grow up?

________________________________________________

F. When I meet a girl, the thing I always notice about her first is:

________________________________________________

G. What is the current going rate of a hotel room? _____________

I SWEAR THAT ALL INFORMATION SUPPLIED ABOVE IS TRUE AND CORRECT TO THE BEST OF MY KNOWLEDGE UNDER PENALTY OF DEATH, DISMEMBERMENT, NATIVE AMERICAN ANT TORTURE, CRUCIFIXION, ELECTROCUTION, CHINESE WATER TORTURE, RED HOT POKERS, AND HILLARY CLINTON KISS TORTURE.

___________________________________________________
Applicant’s Signature (that means sign your name, moron!)

___________________________________________________
Mother’s Signature

___________________________________________________
Father’s Signature

___________________________________________________
Pastor/Priest/Rabbi State Representative/Congressman

In the area below, please provide Finger Prints, inked in your own blood for Homeland Security Identity Checking and DNA sampling:



Thank you for your interest, and it had better be genuine and non-sexual.

Please allow four to six years for processing.

You will be contacted in writing if you are approved. Please do not try to call or write (since you probably can’t, and it would cause you injury). If your application is rejected, you will be notified by two gentleman wearing white ties carrying violin cases.

To prepare yourself, should you, by some ice cube’s chance in HELL, be even remotely considered, start studying Daddy’s Rules for Dating, which is attached to this Application.

Daddy’s Rules for Dating

Rule One:
If you pull into my driveway and honk, you’d better be delivering a package, because you’re sure not picking anything up.

Rule Two:
You do not touch my daughter in front of me. You may glance at her, so long as you do not peer at anything below her neck. If you cannot keep your eyes or hands off of my daughter’s body, I will remove them.

Rule Three:
I am aware that it is considered fashionable for boys of your age to wear their trousers so loosely that they appear to be falling off their hips. Please don’t take this as an insult, but you and all of your friends are complete idiots. Still, I want to be fair and open-minded about this issue, so I propose this compromise: You may come to the door with your underwear showing and your pants ten sizes too big, and I will not object. However, in order to ensure that your clothes do not, in fact come off during the course of your date with my daughter, I will take my electric nail gun and fasten your trousers securely in place to your waist.

Rule Four:
I’m sure you’ve been told that in today’s world, sex without utilizing a ‘Barrier method’ of some kind can kill you. Let me elaborate, when it comes to sex, I am the barrier, and I will kill you.

Rule Five:
It is usually understood that in order for us to get to know each other, we should talk about sports, politics, and other issues of the day. Please do not do this. The only information I require from you is an indication of when you expect to have my daughter safely back at my house, and the only word I need from you on this subject is: ‘early.’

Rule Six:
I have no doubt you are a popular fellow with many opportunities to date other girls. This is fine with me as long as it is okay with my daughter. Otherwise, once you have gone out with my little girl, you will continue to date no one but her until she is finished with you. If you make her cry, I will make you cry.

Rule Seven:
As you stand in my front hallway, waiting for my daughter to appear, and more than an hour goes by, do not sigh and fidget. If you want to be on time for the movie, you should not be dating. My daughter is putting on her makeup, a process than can take longer than painting the Golden Gate Bridge. Instead of just standing there, why don’t you do something useful, like changing the oil in my car?

Rule Eight:
The following places are not appropriate for a date with my daughter:

- Places where there are beds, sofas, or anything softer than a wooden stool.

- Places where there is darkness.

- Places where there is dancing, holding hands, or happiness.

- Places where the ambient temperature is warm enough to induce my daughter to wear shorts, tank tops, midriff T-shirts, or anything other than overalls, a sweater, and a goose down parka – zipped up to her throat.

- Movies with strong romantic or sexual themes are to be avoided; movies which feature chain saws are okay.

- Hockey games are okay. Old folks’ homes are better.

Rule Nine:
Do not lie to me. I may appear to be a slow, potbellied, balding, middle-aged, dimwitted has-been. But on issues relating to my daughter, I am the all-knowing, merciless god of your universe. If I ask you where you are going and with whom, you have one chance to tell me the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I have a shotgun, a shovel, and five acres behind the house. Do not trifle with me.

Rule Ten:
Be afraid. Be very afraid. It takes very little for me to mistake the sound of your car in the driveway for a chopper coming in over a rice paddy near Hanoi. When my Agent Orange starts acting up, the voices in my head frequently tell me to clean the guns as I wait for you to bring my daughter home. As soon as you pull into the driveway, you should exit the car with both hands in plain sight. Speak the perimeter password, announce in a clear voice that you have brought my daughter home safely and early, then return to your car – there is no need for you to come inside. The camouflaged face at the window is mine.

Have a great weekend!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Croton

Crotons are often referred to as easy-to-grow, perfect-for-beginners, undemanding plants. And they can be – if you equip yourself with some care information specific to their needs. If you don’t, they can be quite difficult. And they certainly won’t look their best, even if you manage to keep them alive with slapdash care. And although I personally recommend these plants to individuals with considerably more experience with indoor plants, even beginners can manage to grow one decently, if they take the time to learn and understand what’s required in growing a Croton.

Native to tropical areas such as Malaysia, Southern Asia and the Pacific Islands, these gorgeous plants boast multicoloured foliage in shades of yellow, green, red, orange, brown and even pink. The ornamental leaves are also available in a variety of shapes and patterns. Crotons, if grown in ideal conditions, are fast-growing, capable of reaching heights of 3 to 5 feet within a couple of years.

One of the basic requirements for a healthy Croton is plenty of light. Although these plants will endure dimmer areas – for awhile – they do best in very bright ones. In the winter, try to place your plant in the sunniest spot available. A location that offers a few hours of direct or semi-direct (through a sheer curtain) light or a location that offers some early morning or late afternoon sun will suffice. If exposure to sunshine is not possible, choose a spot right in front of a window that is very bright. In the summer, caution is advised. Although a southern exposure will offer the adequate light that this plant prefers, the temperature may be too hot. Watch your plant for signs of stress and move it to another location if necessary. Always offer protection against the strong rays of the summer’s midday sun. Do not deprive this plant of the high levels of light that it needs. If you do, the leaves will lose their remarkable leaf coloration and revert to various shades of green. Crotons need plenty of light to maintain their multihued foliage.

Next in line of importance is humidity, which Crotons need plenty of. Keep the levels high by placing the plant on a pebble tray filled with water or by adding a humidifier nearby. You’ll likely run across many sources that recommend misting as a way of raising humidity. And although it does combat dry air, it’s temporary. You’d have to mist all day long for this method to be significantly effective. Because high levels of humidity are so vital to the overall wellbeing of this plant, practice methods that provide lasting relief. In addition to keeping a Croton healthy, higher levels of humidity help to deter spider mites, which this lovely plant is susceptible to.

The secret to watering a Croton properly is mastering the ‘not too much and not too little’ water juggling act. If the plant is constantly kept too wet, it will rot. On the other hand, the plant will drop leaves if it’s constantly kept too dry it. During the active growing season, always keep the soil evenly moist and never allow it to dry out completely. A Croton’s leaves will droop miserably if the medium is allowed to become bone-dry. Although the plant will bounce back after a generous watering, if you take too long showing up with the watering can, it might be inclined to decorate your floor with some of its healthy leaves. During the winter season, allow the soil to dry out a little more but never entirely. Always use an airy, fast-draining medium that will provide excellent drainage and help prevent rot.

Temperature fluctuations and cold drafts are something to be avoided, both of which can cause leaf drop. Choose a location that is warm but not too hot; average room temperatures are generally sufficient. Providing suitable temperatures is important; if a Croton is grown in a room that is too cold, it may drop many of its leaves, possibly all of them.

And finally, keep an eye out for Spider Mites. As mentioned above, Crotons are very prone to attacks by these persistent plant pests. This information is not meant to discourage you from growing one of these charming plants; it’s meant to alert you to a problem that can be avoided with preventive measures. Avoid infestations by inspecting this plant regularly and cleaning its leaves, over and under, as often as possible. Make sure there is adequate ventilation to discourage stagnant air, which creates a haven for pests. Keep the air fresh and in constant motion by running floor or ceiling fans, and by opening up windows regularly. Keep humidity high, water properly and avoid rooms that are too hot, which invite spider mites, or too cold, which stress and weaken the plant.

Keeping your plant in tiptop shape is the best deterrent against infestations because (I know I’ve said this many times before, but I’m going to say it again): “A healthy plant utilizes its own resources to defend itself against infestations while a plant under stress is much more vulnerable to them.”

Transplanting To Hydroculture

Crotons are wonderful candidates for the hydroculture way of growing houseplants that replaces soil with clay pellets. And a growing method that eliminates soil completely also eliminates the water juggling act associated with it. When transplanting, make sure you eliminate all traces of soil from the roots to avoid rot.

Conversion is fairly quick (water roots will emerge within a month) but the plant will begin to show signs of stress within a few short days after it’s been removed from soil (and it realizes what’s going on). Two of the most probable reactions are wilting and minimal leaf dropping. But whether your Croton sheds a couple of leaves or hangs over its pot miserably, do not give up on it. The dramatic display is temporary and the plant will bounce back as soon as it forms water roots. In the meantime, make sure you provide plenty of humidity to aid in the process.

When the basic needs of this plant are met - ample light, high humidity, suitable temperatures and careful watering – it can be grown successfully. And a well-grown Croton - with a stem full of vividly-coloured foliage - is one of the most eye-catching plants you’ll ever introduce inside your home.

Ferrets And Neutering

Because most ferrets come from large scale breeders, the majority of them are spayed or neutered before they arrive at pet stores. But should you happen upon a ferret that hasn’t been spayed or neutered, make sure you do it between the ages of 4 – 6 months.

Because.

Female ferrets need to be spayed to sustain their health (and protect their lives), which I mentioned on last Friday’s ferrety post. Male ferrets, on the other hand, need to be neutered for behavioural reasons.

When you neuter a male female, it will reduce his odor, prevent him from marking his territory (like a male cat does) with a foul-smelling slime and make him less aggressive. An intact male ferret can become extremely hostile and very aggressive, so much so that he may kill another ferret, male or female.

So if you have an intact male (not neutered), make sure to get him fixed as soon as he’s ready. He’ll be happier, and you’ll be happier. Win-win.

Right, Bailey?

Okay, buddy, let’s just leave it at that...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Introducing Bailey’s New Pal...

...Spaz:
Born at the beginning of August, this young furball is friendly, playful and bursting with energy. Whenever we let him out to play, he races around the room, tackles everything and everyone (pets and people included) in sight and basically becomes, well, spastic...

Thus, the name Spaz...

He and Bailey have become very good friends, and I’m awfully pleased about that. I hope that both these young ferrets are with us for a long time. I’d hate to lose another one the way we recently lost Clair any time soon.

We’ve had Spaz for awhile now, and I wanted to introduce him for quite some time. But I haven’t been able to snap many decent photos of him because he just won’t sit still long enough for the camera to do its magic. He gets, well, spastic, our Spaz. These photos are the best I can do for now.

Anyway, as cute and sweet as he is, I still haven’t become very attached to him. There’s no doubt he’ll grow on me the way Bailey has, and the way Clair did, but it’ll take a little time.

In the meantime, I know that Bailey is not lonely anymore, and that makes me happy. We all need friends.

Today's Trivia - Trees

This week it’s all about fun facts about trees...

- Trees keep our air supply fresh by absorbing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen.

- In one year, an acre of trees can absorb as much carbon as is produced by a car driven up to 8700 miles.

- Trees are the longest living organisms on earth.

- Trees lower air temperature by evaporating water in their leaves.

- The average tree in metropolitan area survives only about 8 years!

- A tree does not reach its most productive stage of carbon storage for about 10 years.

- Tree roots stabilize the soil and prevent erosion.

- Trees provide protection from downward fall of rain, sleet, and hail as well as reduce storm run-off and the possibility of flooding.

- Trees located along streets act as a glare and reflection control.

- One of the tallest soft wood trees is the General Sherman, a giant redwood sequoia of California. General Sherman is about 275 ft or 84 m high with a girth of 25 ft or 8 m.

- The 236 ft or 72 m high Ada Tree of Australia has a 50 ft or 15.4 m girth and a root system that takes up more than an acre.

- The world's tallest tree is a coast redwood in California, measuring more than 360 ft or 110 m.

- The bristlecone pine is the oldest living tree -- one specimen is 4,600 years old!

- Trees provide shade and shelter, reducing yearly heating and cooling costs by 2.1 billion dollars.

- Trees cut down noise pollution by acting as sound barriers.

- Trees provide food and shelter for wildlife.

- The death of one 70-year old tree would return over three tons of carbon to the atmosphere.

- Trees renew our air supply by absorbing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen.

- The amount of oxygen produced by an acre of trees per year equals the amount consumed by 18 people annually. One tree produces nearly 260 pounds of oxygen each year.

- One acre of trees removes up to 2.6 tons of carbon dioxide each year.

- Shade trees can make buildings up to 20 degrees cooler in the summer.

- The cottonwood tree seed is the seed that stays in flight the longest. The tiny seed is surrounded by ultra-light, white fluff hairs that can carry it on the air for several days.

- Native Americans used the western redcedar tree to make totem poles and canoes. They also wove its bark into baskets, fishing nets, and fabric!

- Trees, like people, have a natural life cycle and a finite life span. Trees grow up, grow old, and eventually die. The lifespan of a tree is influenced by a variety of natural events, including the availability of water, sun, the presence or absence of wind, fires, insects, and diseases.

- The Pacific Yew tree, which grows in northern Idaho, produces a cancer-fighting agent called "taxol." Doctors use taxol to control ovarian and other types of cancer.

- Since European settlement, Australia's forest cover has been reduced from 69 million hectares to 41 million hectares.

- Trees first appeared on Earth long before the dinosaurs did - about 400 million years ago.

- Trees are the largest of all living things - some species can grow 100 metres tall and weigh 600 tonnes.

- Trees combat the greenhouse effect and slow the effects of global warming. They soak up carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen for us to breath.

- Trees help prevent soil erosion and landslides.

- Car owners can plant native trees to counter the greenhouse emissions of their vehicle travel. 17 native trees over their lifetime (around 30 years) can offset the carbon emissions produced by an average year of car use (for details visit the Greenfleet web site), or this same amount can be offset within one year by planting 200 native trees (for details visit the TreeSmart web site).

- Native plant habitats support a host of insects and other creatures that provide free services on which we all depend. It is estimated that one-third of our food comes from plants that rely on native pollinators!
Trees improve water quality by acting as a filter to unwanted nutrients and pesticides.

- Trees can prevent soil salination and provide soil enrichment through the action of nitrogen-fixing bacteria that are found in the tree roots.

- Trees have many commercial uses that include timber building materials, paper products, furniture, medicines such as aspirin and quinine and fuel for cooking & heating.

- Trees produce a great range of edible fruit and nuts including apples, bananas, mangos, avocados, macadamias and Brazil nuts.

- Many trees can outlive humans, and some can live more than 1000 years. Australia's oldest tree is the King Billy Pine, found in Tasmania and estimated to be over 1200 years old!

- The Wollemi Pine which is only found in Wollemi National Park near Sydney, is a "living fossil" with a heritage of over 100 million years. There are only 40 trees in the wild and they have the lowest known genetic variability of any plant species.

- Eucalyptus trees are Australia's most common tree species and can grow up to 50 metres. California, South America and India have all cultivated eucalyptus trees for paper, insect repellents, chest rubs and cough drops.

Now, wasn’t this interesting? I know I learned a few new things...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I Hope My Butterfly Gaura Returns Next Spring

There are some plants in my garden that I’m particularly fond of, and it’s those that I really hope make it through the winter. One of them is this pretty little thing:

This is a bloom on my Gaura lindheimeri 'Pink Cloud', also known as butterfly gaura; an amazing plant that grows like a weed and blooms and blooms and blooms. And blooms some more. I just love it. But I’m not sure if it’ll come back next year. Some sources of information state that it’s hardy to zone 5; others say that it can only survive as low as zone 6. So I’m not very confident that this pretty little thing will survive our Canadian winter. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see come next spring.

I really do hope that my butterfly gaura returns next year to grace my garden with its delicate flowers, but I’m not holding my breath. Hmmm... Not much of an optimist, am I?

Words Of Wisdom


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Roast Beef with Peppers, Onions and Potatoes

It’s very rare that I make roast beef, so whenever I do, I’m not very confident that it’ll turn out right. But this recipe, in addition to being easy to follow, turned out perfect results for a meal that the whole family loved.

Ingredients:

3 red bell peppers (ribs and seeds removed), cut into 1-inch-wide strips
2 yellow bell peppers (ribs and seeds removed), cut into 1-inch-wide strips
2 medium red onions, halved and cut into 1-inch wedges
3/4 pound white new potatoes, well scrubbed and cut into 1-inch chunks
5 garlic cloves, peeled (3 left whole and 2 cut into 12 slivers)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 1/2 pounds eye-of-round beef roast
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place peppers, onions, potatoes, and whole garlic cloves on a large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with half the oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat.

2. Using a paring knife, make 12 small slits in top and sides of roast; push in garlic slivers. Move vegetables to sides of sheet. Place beef in center, and coat with remaining oil; rub all over with 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and thyme.

3. Roast 40 to 50 minutes, tossing vegetables occasionally, until tender and an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of beef registers 130 degrees for medium-rare. Let meat stand 10 minutes, loosely tented with aluminum foil to keep warm. Cut half into very thin slices (reserve remaining half for leftovers). Serve with vegetables.

4. Cool remaining beef to room temperature; place in an airtight container, or wrap in plastic, and refrigerate.

Serves 4.

Original recipe can be found here.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Interspecies Adoption

I tried searching on the internet for significant and interesting information on why maternal behavior often crosses species lines, but couldn’t find anything fascinating enough to share with you all. There seem to be plenty of cases of domestic cats and dogs adopting orphaned animals, but less so of undomesticated animals. I’m not sure if this is because interspecies adoption of wild animals has been documented less frequently. Or if it doesn’t happen that often. Or if I’m not searching properly.

In any case, it doesn’t really matter. Let’s just say that once in awhile, instead of dying after they lose their mother, baby animals get adopted by another animal, and sometimes they get adopted by a different species, which is very touching and awfully cute. And it’s also very fascinating how, despite biological differences, animals belonging to different families can occasionally coexist peacefully and that their maternal instincts are often more powerful than species boundaries.

That being said, below is a video of an example of interspecies adoption that involves a domestic cat and a baby squirrel. The story goes that a baby squirrel fell out of a nest and landed in some woman’s yard. Because the woman was unable to put the little baby back in its nest, she put it in the box with her cat’s litter of kittens and hoped for the best. Well, the momma cat, whose name is Emmy, immediately accepted the baby squirrel and started feeding and taking care of it as if it was her own. Not only has the baby squirrel been thriving since then, it’s also learned to purr.

This is an awesome story. Take a look:



I love these types of stories. They always do my heart some good. I’ll have to include more of them on my blog in the future.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Single Photograph

My father-in-law who is 84 years old came to visit us for a few days last month during Thanksgiving. It was a lovely, warm weekend, so we took him downtown for a walk along Lake Ontario. I fell behind at one point to take a photo of him with my husband strolling along together:

There’s something about this photo that touches my heart. Father and son? One generation to the next? A lifetime of memories? I don’t know what it is but I love the feeling it gives me. How I wish my own father was still around so we could take strolls like this together. I do miss him so.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Saturday Silliness

Today it’s all about forms and applications, starting with this one:

Redneck Driver's License Application

Last name: ________________

First name:
(Check appropriate box)

[_] Billy-Bob [_] Bobby-Sue
[_] Billy-Joe [_] Bobby-Jo
[_] Billy-Ray [_] Bobby-Ann
[_] Billy-Sue [_] Bobby-Lee
[_] Billy-Mae [_] Bobby-Ellen
[_] Billy-Jack [_] Bobby-Beth Ann Sue

Age: ____ (if unsure, guess)

Sex: ____ M _____ F _____ Not sure

Shoe Size: ____ Left ____ Right

Occupation:
[_] Farmer [_] Mechanic
[_] Hair Dresser [_] Waitress
[_] Un-employed [_] Dirty Politician

Spouse's Name: __________________________
2nd Spouse's Name: ______________________
3rd Spouse's Name: _______________________
Lover's Name: __________________________
2nd Lover's Name: __________________________

Relationship with spouse:
[_] Sister [_] Aunt
[_] Brother [_] Uncle
[_] Mother [_] Son
[_] Father [_] Daughter
[_] Cousin [_] Pet

Number of children living in household: ___
Number of children living in shed: ___
Number of children that are yours: ___

Mother's Name: _______________________
Father's Name: _______________________(If not sure, leave blank)

Education: 1 2 3 4 (Circle highest grade completed)

Do you [_] own or [_] rent your mobile home?
(Check appropriate box)

Vehicles you own and where you keep them:
___ Total number of vehicles you own
___ Number of vehicles that still crank
___ Number of vehicles in front yard
___ Number of vehicles in back yard
___ Number of vehicles on cement blocks

Firearms you own and where you keep them:
____ truck ____ kitchen
____ bedroom ____ bathroom
____ shed

Model and year of your pickup: _____________ 194_

Do you have a gun rack?
[_] Yes [_] No; If no, please explain:

Newspapers/magazines you subscribe to:
[_] The National Enquirer [_] The Globe
[_] TV Guide [_] Soap Opera Digest
[_] Rifle and Shotgun

___ Number of times you've seen a UFO

___ Number of times you've seen Elvis

___ Number of times you've seen Elvis in a UFO

How often do you bathe:
[_] Weekly
[_] Monthly
[_] Not Applicable

How many teeth? _____

Color of teeth:
[_] Yellow [_] Brownish-Yellow
[_] Brown [_] Black
[_] N/A

Brand of chewing tobacco you prefer:
[_] Red-Man

How far is your home from a paved road?
[_] 1 mile
[_] 2 miles
[_] don't know

And ending with an actual job application that a 17 year old boy submitted to a McDonald's in Florida... and they hired him because he was so honest and funny!

NAME:
Greg Bulmash.

SEX:
Not yet. Still waiting for the right person.

DESIRED POSITION:
Company's President or Vice President. But seriously, whatever's available. If I was in a position to be picky, I wouldn't be applying here in the first place.

DESIRED SALARY:
$185,000 a year plus stock options and a Michael Ovitz style severance package. If that's not possible, make an offer and we can haggle.

EDUCATION:
Yes.

LAST POSITION HELD:
Target for middle management hostility.

SALARY:
Less than I'm worth.

MOST NOTABLE ACHIEVEMENT:
My incredible collection of stolen pens and post-it notes.

REASON FOR LEAVING:
It sucked.

HOURS AVAILABLE TO WORK:
Any.

PREFERRED HOURS:
1:30-3:30 p.m., Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday.

DO YOU HAVE ANY SPECIAL SKILLS?
Yes, but they're better suited to a more intimate environment.

MAY WE CONTACT YOUR CURRENT EMPLOYER?
If I had one, would I be here?

DO YOU HAVE ANY PHYSICAL CONDITIONS THAT WOULD PROHIBIT YOU FROM LIFTING UP TO 50 LBS?
Of what?

DO YOU HAVE A CAR?
I think the more appropriate question here would be "Do you have a car that runs?"

HAVE YOU RECEIVED ANY SPECIAL AWARDS OR RECOGNITION?
I may already be a winner of the Publishers Clearing house Sweepstakes.

DO YOU SMOKE?
On the job no; on my breaks, yes.

WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE DOING IN FIVE YEARS?
Living in the Bahamas with a fabulously wealthy dumb sexy blonde super model who thinks I'm the greatest thing since sliced bread. Actually, I'd like to be doing that now.

DO YOU CERTIFY THAT THE ABOVE IS TRUE AND COMPLETE TO THE BEST OF YOUR KNOWLEDGE?
Yes. Absolutely.

SIGN HERE: Aries.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Aechmea Fasciata

Many years ago, my younger daughter asked me which plant I like the best. I told her the “urn plant”, a common name for the Aechmea fasciata, the first bromeliad I ever laid eyes on over two decades ago. I used the common name because the botanical one would have been too difficult for her to pronounce; she was only five at the time. I also used it because I figured it would be easy for her to remember if she ever wanted to “buy a nice plant for mommy” on Mother’s day or my birthday or on any other special occasion.

Anyhow, my daughter never did buy me an urn plant but the name did manage to stick. Not too long ago, when we ran across a group of bromeliads, she pointed to an Aechmea fasciata and said “there’s the urn plant, your favourite”. So you see, I helped her retain the name of the plant that always makes “a very special gift for mom” (mommy is passé). And the urn plant is such a plant in my life; very special.

I don’t know what it is about this plant, the only one that has me paying a hefty amount at the greenhouse without hesitation whenever I decide I have to have one. Perhaps it’s the leathery, green foliage that is covered with grey scales and silver-grey bands. Maybe it’s the durable and striking inflorescence made up of spiky pink bracts and blue flowers that arise from the center of the vase-shaped rosette of leaves. Or simply the combination of both. Whatever it is that does it for me, one thing’s for sure about this outstanding bromeliad that is native to Brazil: I can never tire of it; it’s the king of my plant kingdom.

Aechmea fasciata is an epiphyte that goes by the common names of urn plant and silver vase. It is also one of the most popular bromeliads grown indoors because of its ability to tolerate all the shortcomings that homes have to offer. Although the exotic looks of this plant can be intimidating, making you feel that it must be too difficult to grow, it is surprisingly easy to care for.

In the wild, this plant does not grow in a container, nor does it grow in the earth. Instead, it grows on trees and other substrates that do no qualify as soil. The root system of this bromeliad is not very extensive; its primary purpose is to help anchor it to the host plant. When grown indoors, that small root system is plunged into a container, which makes sense because it’s much more practical than planting a tree in your living room for the bromeliad to attach itself to.

There are two schools of thought on how to water this plant:

1. Water it through the medium.

If you decide to subscribe to this method, bear in mind that the small root system will be extremely susceptible to rot if the medium used is not sufficiently porous and fast-draining. Proper drainage is absolutely vital. Pot up your plant in an airy medium that allows for sufficient air circulation and prevents water logging. Water the compost only when it dries out considerably and then water thoroughly until it runs out of the bottom. Never allow the pot to sit on a saucer full of water; dump the excess right away.

2. Water it through the cup.

Tank style bromeliads, such as this one, can be watered exclusively through their funnel of leaves. If you keep the central rosette (cup) filled with fresh water, you don’t need to concern yourself with the container’s medium. Flush out the cup every 1 – 2 months to remove salt buildup and prevent stagnation, and refill with fresh water.

Its epiphytic nature makes this bromeliad a prime candidate for hydroculture. Remove the plant from its pot, discard as much dirt as you can by hand and rinse the roots under tepid running water in your sink or bathtub to remove whatever traces of soil are left. Massage the root area with your hands to help with the cleaning but don’t be too rough. Once you’re done, pot up in the clay medium and add water to the cup.

The Aechmea fasciata tolerates a broad spectrum of light but prefers to be grown in a brightly lit spot. Although many books, websites and other sources of information recommend that this plant not be exposed to any sunlight, some early morning (eastern) or late afternoon (western) sun does not seem to be a problem. In a southern location, placing the plant a few feet away from the hot midday sun and providing it with filtered sunlight, or moving it out of the direct path of sun is also fine. In any case, reposition your plant to a sunnier or shadier location if it shows signs of discontentment. A low light area will be tolerated for quite some time but the plant will not be at its best and will eventually decline.

Average room temperatures between 15°C (60°F) to 24°C (75°F) are fine but temperatures of 24°C (75°F) and above may be required for the plant to bloom. Humidity levels of 40 to 60 percent are greatly appreciated but difficult to maintain in the average home, especially during periods when air conditioners or heating systems are running. Provide healthy levels of humidity by adding a humidifier near you plant or by placing it on a pebble tray. Incidentally, the plant handles dry air better than most, but do make an effort to increase the humidity, especially in the winter when it plummets.

If your plant is growing in ideal conditions, feed it about once a month with a general liquid fertilizer that is diluted to half strength or less. Do not fertilize during the winter months or if your plant is growing in poor lighting. You can add the fertilizer inside the rosette, apply it through the medium or fill a spray bottle with a very weak solution and mist the leaves lightly.

The Aechmea fasciata growing in my living room has produced three offshoots (pups), which are growing happily next to mom. With three new plants on the way (and possibly more), it’s easy to justify having paid a little extra to bring one of these lovely bromeliads home. And when those pups grow up, they’ll make their own babies, and so on, and so on...

So don’t let the higher price tag discourage you. This easy-to-grow, gorgeous specimen is worth every penny, both in the long and short term.

Ferrets And Spaying

If you bought your female ferret at a pet store, she was spayed, so you don’t have to worry about her going into heat. But if you picked her up from a breeder at a very young age, chances are she wasn’t. If that’s the case, get her spayed by the time she’s four months old.

Here’s why:

A female ferret will go into heat between the ages of 4 – 6 months during the breeding period, which generally runs from March through August. And once she goes into heat, she will stay in heat until she breeds. During this prolonged heat period, she will regularly experience bleeding from her reproductive tract. Eventually, she’ll lose enough blood for it to become life-threatening. Initially, she’ll become sick, and if not spayed promptly, she will ultimately die from the blood loss.

So pick up a spayed female ferret, or have her fixed promptly. If she goes into heat before you get a chance to get her spayed, have your vet give her a “jill jab” (an injection of hormones) to bring her out of it. Do not do this as an alternative to surgery, just as a way of bringing her temporarily out of heat as you prepare for her surgery.

If our sweet Clair was still with us, this is what she’d say if you asked her whether you should spay your ferret:

We miss you little one. I hope you're finally at peace.