Thursday, August 31, 2006

New Honey

Here is a picture of "New Honey".

She is a Barred Rock pullet; approximately 6 months old. I bought her in the spring to add to our backyard poultry menagerie. She's a good little girl and when alone always singing. However, Lucy and Ethel (pictured below) do not like her and will not leave her alone. They are constantly after her to the point that she can not get any rest. When they are out together, she spends the entire time on her roost. It's gotten to the point now that we either put her out for a few hours before the others, or she goes to bed earlier - this way she has time to eat, drink, scratch and dig before she's driven to roost.

We got our first egg from her the other day, but because of the situation we've yet to receive more.

Actually, now that I think of it Lucy and Ethel are a couple O tough nuts. They let Emilie know in the spring who was boss - one of them chased her and peck the back of her leg. As you can imagine Emilie is not fearful of them. They have also taken a similar approach with JoAnne, which blows my mind because JoAnne tends to them most of the time. JoAnne's not as fearful of them as Emie and will try to give them a "what for" when they come at her but she needs to pay attention none-the-less.

Lucy and Ethel, the enforcers

The Barred Rock is one of the all time popular favorites and was developed in New England in the early 1800's by crossing Dominique's and Black Java's. Prolific layers of brown eggs, the hens are not discouraged by cold weather. Their solid plumpness and yellow skin make a beautiful heavy roasting fowl. The narrow, clean barring is desirable in appearance. Their bodies are long, broad, and deep with bred-in strength and vitality. These chickens are often called Plymouth Rocks, but this title correctly belongs to the entire breed, not just the barred variety. Whatever you call them, you can't beat them for steady, reliable chickens. Baby chicks are dark gray to black with some white patches on head and body.

Plant Identification Assistance Needed...

Hello All -

I need your assistance in identifying this plant! This plant was in the landscaping when we bought our house and we've been unable to figure out just what it is. We live in Massachusetts.

It grows similar to a tree - each plant on its own stem and gets approximately 6 feet tall. It seems to spread and create new plants from it's root system. The flowers are a violet and white with a very pleasant aroma. Each leaf is attached directly to the stem and get quite large.

This is an offshoot from where the majority of these plants reside - about 10 feet away, and on the smaller side, as compared to some of the older ones. The flowers on this plant have yet to open.

*** UPDATE, Wednesday September 6, 2006: Well, this plant has FINALLY been identified!! Many thanks to Roberta at UMass Extension. Not only did she identify this plant but her quick and prompt response was refreshing. Within less than 30 minutes of the email I sent her this morning I received her response and answer - amazing.

Too bad this type of response - common courtsey, isn't found more often. Paul Parent you SUCK!

It took me over seven years to identify this plant, so don't expect me to give you the answer here. Do some research, be resourceful, "be the ball" and if after all that you can't figure it out, let me know.

Mr. Grey Tree Frog

Well, not to be out done by the visiting Spring Peeper just the day before, this handsome fellow made an appearance last night. This is a Grey Tree Frog and I came across him hiding perfectly on my garden hose. The hose is grey and green, and so is the frog - camouflaged perfectly. Had I not seen him, he surely would have gotten hurt, even 'croaked', as I was in the process of unwinding the hose.

Emilie ran and got her critter bucket and as usual we brought him in the house. We caught him several bugs incase he got hungry and enjoyed watching him climb all over the sides of the critter bucket. These guys are similar to the Spring Peeper in that they both have large toe pads for gripping when climbing.

Growing up I don't recall ever seeing or catching Grey Tree frogs but I've come across them more and more lately. Last year we found a fairly large one hiding in the hole of a stockade fence post just beside our pool. We didn't bother him and he stayed there for days on end - I guess the eat'n was good there, after all we're always finding all types of insects floating in the pool.

The chameleon of the frog world.

That's how some people describe the gray tree frog, Hyla versicolor – a name that implies this animal is always the same color, and ignores its ability to adapt to backgrounds ranging from gray to green. But, certainly, this amphibian's most curious feature is its ability to change colors much like the more-famous lizard with the same trait, the chameleon.

They live wherever they find small ponds, roadside ditches and other pools of standing water. The best habitat is shallow water located close to mixed stands of willows, oaks and pines. The frogs also prefer lots of overhead vegetation, and fallen branches or extensive vegetation along the water’s edge. They often congregate in areas with an abundance of shrubs and vines.
During the day, gray tree frogs hide on or beneath rough tree bark, in hollow trees and on leaves. They tolerate high temperatures quite well, and they're most active during the summer, when humidity is high.

Their remarkable ability to climb or rest on vertical surfaces is the result of a mucous layer produced by toe pad cells. This mucous creates a sticky bond with the vertical surface that’s strong enough to support the frog’s weight.

This frog’s breeding season lasts from early April through July. Males begin calling at breeding sites when night air temperatures reach around 60 degrees. Their calls resemble musical, birdlike or buzzing trills, and the chorus attracts females to the site. The frogs then breed in water.

Afterwards, each female may produce between 700 and 3,800 eggs, and biologists have documented individual frogs producing multiple clutches in a single season. Eggs are light brown, and they measure barely 1/25-inch in diameter. After they are deposited, the eggs attach to floating vegetation in clumps of 30 to 40 eggs. They hatch in only four or five days, and the tadpoles completely metamorphose within two months. Young frogs typically stay near the breeding site for the remainder of summer.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Mr. Spring Peeper

Here are a couple pictures of a visitor we had last night just before dark. He’s perched on a Taro plant leaf of ours. The color contrast doesn’t do too much to help camouflage him but it makes for a good picture. Truth is I placed him there. I found him on the grass, where I almost stepped on him, so I picked him up and moved him to a safer place and had him strike a pose…

Click here to hear the males voices and click the 'Listen' button:

One of the first true signs of spring in New England and nearby areas is the evening calling of the Spring Peepers

Spring Peepers, Pseudacris crucifer are small frogs that grow less than an inch and a half long. They can be tan or gray or dark brown, but they all have a dark "X" on their backs. Spring Peepers also have large toe pads for gripping plants when they climb.Spring Peepers are rarely seen, but are often heard in early spring. They breed from March to June, and in early March you can hear male Spring Peepers calling for mates. Many people think they are crickets, but you only hear crickets in late summer and early fall.

Spring Peepers live in wooded areas where there is water. Usually they are near marshes, ponds, streams, or vernal pools. Spring Peepers need the water to lay eggs. This is also where they mate. Spring Peepers are nocturnal, so they are most active at night.

Male peepers call the females at night in the spring. Each call is a high-pitched whistle, but many peepers’ together sounds like jingling bells. Females come to the calling males, and after mating, they lay eggs on underwater sticks and plants. Eggs hatch into tadpoles in about twelve days. Tadpoles will eat algae and tiny organisms in the water.

Tadpoles will change to adult Spring Peepers in a few weeks. Adults spend the rest of the year in the woods, coming out at night to look for food. Spring Peepers eat mostly small insects, such as beetles, ants, and flies, as well as spiders. They look for food on the forest floor or by climbing low shrubs. In the winter, Spring Peepers hibernate under logs or loose bark on trees. These small frogs can survive having most of their body frozen.

Spring Peepers have many predators. As eggs and tadpoles, they are eaten by fish, aquatic insects, turtles, and other creatures. As adults, they are preyed upon by snakes, Bullfrogs, birds, and a few mammals.

Friday, August 25, 2006


Ah, to be a kid again.
No worries.
No problems.
No responsibilities.
Plenty O time to sit and peel the wrappers from your crayons!
I love you Emilie!

Orb Weaver

The black and yellow argiope is also called banana spider, yellow garden spider, zipper spider, golden orb weaver and writing spider.

Orb weaver (Encyclopædia Britannica):
Any spider of the family Araneidae (Argiopidae or Epeiridae) of the order Araneida, a large and widely distributed group noted for their orb-shaped webs. More than 2,500 species are known.

In the eastern Unites States, Argiope species, especially A. aurantia, are more commonly known as writing spiders, due to the unique patterns that they build in their webs. In years past, it was sometimes called the "McKinley spider" because in the period before the election that brought McKinley to office someone claimed that the stabilimentum of one spider's web spelled out "McKinley."

An interesting feature of many orb webs is the central white design created by the spider, called a stabilimentum (referring to the idea that it helps stabilize the web). With argiopes, this area is almost round and filled in with many zigzags of silk when the spider is young, but as it grows, the design changes to be more of a single vertical zigzag.

Although big enough to deliver a bite, these spiders are not poisonous or aggressive. Like many spiders, argiopes live only one year, expending all their energy into producing eggs (females) or sperm (males). They die once winter arrives.

Another spider habit that has never been fully explained is that of hanging upside down in the web. Almost all spiders do this - a definitive explanation has yet to emerge.

The picture above is of a female orb spider that JoAnne and Emilie caught while visiting in Wareham, MA. Like so many of the critters we catch we bring them to our home, enjoy them for a short time and them release them in the yard. Hopefully when this lady is released she'll build an impressive web for us to see and photograph and call it home till winter arrives and her duty is fulfilled. This spider also brings back memories of when I was growing up. I recall occasionally seeing these critters around the neighborhood when I was a 'ute'.

*** Quiz Time - again same quiz *** - The term 'Utes" comes from what movie? Come on now! Do we need a hint? Oh, alright then here's a clue, a name or two and that's all I'm gonna give you...'Vincent LaGuardia Gambini' and his fiancée 'Mona Lisa Vito'.

*** UPDATE - Monday 8/28, 2006: We still have this lady in the house. We were planning on letting her go this past weekend but the weather was lousy, yard work to do and I guess I was just plain lazy. However, she has built a web in the terrarium we have her in. It's not the prettiest one I've ever seen but I will blame that on where she is. Saturday night we left the back spot light on and after dark went out and caught her several tasty critters (I think, for I have not tasted one or any, which also means that I have not been on Fear Factor...yet, but if after you've read my "Vlad's Suggestions" postings you don't think I qualify I'd like to hear from you!) that had come to enjoy the night light but unexpectedly became dinner.

The first victim was a Japanese beetle and as soon as this dude hit the web, the spider was ALL over it. It was amazing to watch how the spider twirled the beetle round and round and round while encasing it in a web ball. Once she had the beetle secured she moved back to the center of her web, with the beetle, and began to eat it or actually suck it dry.

We did this several times with different insects and each time she did the exact same thing - pretty amazing to watch.

*** Update August 31, 2006 - We let this little lady go last night in our flower bed of Cone flowers and Black-eyed Susan's. I was hoping to get some pictures but she wasn't too accomodating. When I tried to reposition her on top of a flower, she quickly lowered herself to the ground and scurried up under the plants - apparently she was taking any chances of being put back in the cage. Hopefully she'll like the area we placed her and decide to build a web and hang out there for a while. I will be watching for her, with my camera ready.

Friday, August 18, 2006


Common Garter snake

Once again on our walk the other day we came across yet another critter commonly found in Massachusetts. This is a Common Garter Snake and a unique one at that, which is why I chose to catch her. Garter sizes range up to 26" with some reaching 48" - this gal was about 14". I wanted to point out the uniqueness of this snake to Emilie. If you look closely at the picture you just might be able to see why this one is unique too - No, it's not the fantastic manicure of mine but thanks for noticing... I'll give you a clue; look at her eyes.

Her eyes are a bluish-white. This is an indication that this snake has begun the shedding process (Ecdysis). Shedding is the process by which snakes periodically discard the outer portion of their skin. This activity is under hormonal control and associated with growth. Most snakes shed their skin 4-8 times per year. When this occurs the snake's vision is impaired - she can't see, which causes them to be rather unpredictable and sometimes aggressive and this girl was just that! She wanted a piece of me and gave it the ole college try but I watch Austin Stevens the Snakemaster on Animal Plant, so she had no chance. However, most individuals secrete a foul-smelling fluid from anal glands when alarmed and this gal did just that, YUK. I realized this and was careful just the same but inevitably when you handle a garter snake you're gonna get this 'stuff' on you, there's just almost no way around it.

Garter snakes occupy a variety of habitats including pond and stream edges, wetlands, forests, fields, rocky hillsides and residential areas. They are often observed as they bask on rocks, wood piles, stone walls, hedges and swimming pool decks. Although they feed on a variety of small animals, garter snakes' primary prey are earthworms and amphibians. Their saliva appears to be toxic to amphibians and other small animals and a bite may produce swelling or a burning rash in some people.

We checked her out then put her back where we found her and wished her well. Perhaps we'll see her again on another one of our walks only this time she'll have grown and be bigger. Until then we wish her well.

Foie Gras Ban

Boy did I time this one jut right or what?!


I consider myself fortunate that I have not taken a fancy to this delicacy. For if I had, I wouldn't be able to travel to Chicago ever again...

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Yodeling Baloney

This is just too funny. This comic nails my dads attitude and approach to cleaning his fridge, or the lack there of - naturally my dad is Garfield.

I not so sure now if it's an inability, or the pack-rat in him, or his lack of smell or his new fond love of science! Yeah, that's it, it's gotta be his new fond love of science, especially after what I've seen in there, YIKES!

In any event this Garfield cartoon says it all, and to boot our names were on it too - can you believe it? how odd. Apparently Jim Davis has caught wind of this too...

WebMD: Do Food Expiration Dates Really Matter?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Tettix or Tzitzi

This is a picture of a cicada we caught the other night when we were out for a walk - please pay no attention to my dirty fingers. Man did he make a lot of racket trying to get out of the brush he was hiding in. I think I startled him as much as he startled me.

These critters are not the quickest nor the most graceful of bugs and as a result he wasn't able to get out of the brush he was in and get away. Rather he got stuck and fell to the ground, where I grabbed him. We took a few pictures and checked him out - not the most attractive bug either, then let him go. It took a few seconds for him to get his wings and get going and once he did off he went buzzing away.

The word Cicada derives directly from the Latin "Cicada", in Greek they are called "Tettix" or "Tzitzi".

Cicadas are notorious singers. The song is a mating call produced by the males only. Male cicadas (and only males) have loud noisemakers called "tymbals". Each species has its own distinctive call and only attracts females of its own kind even though rather similar species may co-exist.

Cicadas are related to leafhoppers and spittlebugs, here are a just a few example links:

Scarlet & Blue Leafhopper
Potato Leafhopper
Two-lined Spittlebug
Spittlebug froth mass

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

aka "Uncle Tommy"

My farmer friend Tim provide us with a very interesting and fun tip regarding a flower called Queen Anne's Lace -

He told us that if you take clippings of these flowers and put them in a vase with water and add food coloring to the water, that this flower will change colors to that of the food coloring you added. As you can see from the two pictures below; a before and after, we gave this a try and IT WORKS!! All we had in the house was green food coloring but we plan on buying more and trying this with other colors too.

This plant is also known as Wild Carrot, which is a biennial and a member of the Parsley family, and normally grows three to four feet tall, but can grow almost five feet in the right conditions. Its flowers are white and sometimes pink. Being related to the carrot, it has a carrot-like root that even smells like a carrot.

There is a tiny purplish-black floweret in the center of the otherwise white flower? The black floweret is sterile and will not produce seed. It is not known why nature put it there, perhaps to attract pollinators.

In memory of JoAnne's uncle, we now refer to this flower as "Uncle Tommy". When visiting us one day Tommy had mentioned that he really liked this flower and that's all it took to have it named after him - at least in our little corner of the world. Just ask Emilie what this flower is called and she'll tell you, "Uncle Tommy"! He is certainly missed by all...

Monday, August 14, 2006

Prophet or Seer (Fortune Teller)

The summer has been an exciting one with all the critters I've encountered. Some are typical and I see them from year to year but many have been some that I have not seen in quite some time. A perfect example would be the lovely lady perched on the gorgeous Dinner Plate Dahlia in the picture above - a Praying Mantis or praying mantid. By the way, that's one of many Dahlia plants that we have planted in our yard this year - many different colors and styles too.

***Note: The word mantis derives from the Greek word Mantes for prophet or fortune teller

Actually, I just lied. I now recall finding a Praying Mantis floating in my pool last year but that doesn't count. This one I found outside a local hockey rink on a Milkweed plant, where my son was practicing. I was looking for another Monarch caterpillar - swing and a miss on that search but I was lucky enough to have found something just as interesting!

I brought her home for Emilie to see and enjoy and experience. We caught her some moths that night and she wasted no time in catching and devouring them. This alone is worth the price of admission - it's amazing, the entire process of watching her catch her meal to how she holds it to how she eats it. Here is an excerpt I came across detailing their eating style:

"They wait unmoving and are almost invisible on a leaf or a stem, ready to catch any insect that passes. When potential prey comes close enough, the mantis thrusts its pincher-like forelegs forward to catch it. The prey probably won't escape because the forelegs are so strong and armed with overlapping spines. The mantid bites the neck of its prey to paralyze it and begins to devour it. The mantis almost always starts eating the insect while it's still alive, and almost always starts eating from the insect's neck. This way, the mantis makes sure that the insect's struggle stops quickly."

We kept and enjoyed her for a few days. Yesterday was release day, so we took her to one of our many flower gardens and placed her on the Dahlia - Ok, Ok so you busted me. Yes, we staged the picture. We wanted a nice picture and thought the contrasting colors would be ideal and I must admit we hit this one outta the park! We went back down a few hours later and she was still there, although she'd moved off the flower and was camouflaged perfectly, just waiting for a meal to cross her path!

Additional Information

Friday, August 11, 2006

Oink, Oink

We took a drive today to go visit a friend of mine. We don't get to see him too often as he lives over an hours drive from where we live. It's a drive that has no direct route and usually has traffic somewhere along the way. It was a beautiful day and had been close to two months since we've seen him last so off we went JoAnne, Emilie and I.

Tim's his name and farming's his game. He lives on over 80 acres, raises animals, and grows flowers and vegetables in his greenhouse year around to make ends meet. He an old timer of sorts and lives as such. He doesn't have too much but will give you the shirt off his back and an incredible wealth of knowledge. His managerie today consists of; goats, pigs, cows, chickens, ducks, geese and rabbits - not too many of each but just enough to keep him busy full time.

Interesting enough, we met over 25 years ago when he responded to an ad I place in The WantAd - a local, weekly black and white, newspaper type magazine that lists pretty much anything you can think of from animals to furniture to autos and more... but I digress. Anyway, he responded to an ad I placed for a pygmy cross goat I was selling. Back then I was still a 'ute' and living at home with my folks and we've been very good friends ever since. I consider myself extremely lucky, fortunate to have come to know him and consider myself a better person because of him.

*** Quiz Time *** - The term 'Utes" comes from what movie? Come on now! Do we need a hint? Oh, alright then here's a clue, a name and that's all I'm gonna give you...'Vincent Gambini'

It's always exciting to visit, the time usually passes by too fast and before you know it it's time to head home. There is always something new and exciting that he's picked up and this trip was no different. As alway Emilie is thrilled by all the critters and usually bonds with one of them. On this visit she took a fancy to a potbellied pig. She's usually roams free with others potbellies but today she was caged, as she's pregnant and expecting soon. Emilie was having a ball feeding here grass, weeds and bread - she definetly made another friend - see her picture above.

The surprise this visit was an Eastern Box Turtle that he'd recused crossing the road. Now I've lived in New England all my live and I have NEVER found a box turtle in these parts, darn it! Anyway, she was a beautiful girl and actually the biggest one I've ever seen. We took a bunch of pictures, some will be used to catalog her, as the markings on Box Turtle shells are like finger prints, each indivdual and unique. In essence she's been cataloged and will now be released back in the area she was found.

Here is a picture of her and a URL, which is loaded with great information and links about Box Turtles:

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Who Goes There?

Last year I installed an old metal farm gate onto a pair of nice big heavy posts. I installed it so the gate could be opened but it remains closed and is more for aesthetics, as a back drop to one of our flower gardens.

Once the gate was installed I hung a 3-holed bird house on one of the posts in the hope of attracting an exotic type of bird in the spring. Well as luck would have, and out of all the possible bird species in our area, we got a pair of your basic, run of the mill, House Sparrows. They moved into the top nest - the penthouse to boot.

This pair raised two separate broods of eggs/chicks this spring. The picture above shows 2 of the chicks, from the second brood, peering out and investigating. These little guys were extremely noisy and got even louder when the parents would return with a tasty morsel. The chicks would peek out like in the picture but when you approached them they'd pull back inside - similar to a coo-coo clock.

They're gone now, all grown up - literally flown the coop. The vacancy signs have been hung, so we'll just have to wait and see who moves in next spring.

The story behind how we acquired this gate is pretty comical in an of itself and one of these day's I just might tell it here...Ooh I bet the suspense is killing you!

Monarch Butterfly Metamorphosis - UPDATE

08/10/2006 @ 9:ooAM:

Ok folks, the time is drawing near...

The chrysalis has been slowly getting darker over the last couple of days. This morning it was clear and you could see the Monarch butterfly inside - see attached picture. At this point it's a waiting game.

With no visible signs to signal the emergence of the butterfly from its chrysalis, the chrysalis will suddenly crack open and out will come the monarch butterfly. Its wings will be tiny, crumpled, and wet. The butterfly will cling to its empty chrysalis shell as hemolymph, the blood-like substance of insects, is pumped through its body. As the hemolymph fills the monarch's body and wings, they enlarge. At this point the monarch is extremely vulnerable to predators because it is not yet able to fly.

About one hour after emerging from its chrysalis, the monarch's wings are full-sized, dry, and ready for flying. Here a newly emerged monarch uses it straw-like tongue, called a proboscis, to sip nectar from Hardy Ageratum (Eupatorium coelestinum). Four to six days after emerging from its chrysalis, a monarch butterfly is old enough to mate.....and so begins the life cycle of of the next generation.

*** UPDATE 08/10/2006 @ 1:30PM - This just in...I just received a call from my 4 year old daughter Emilie and man-o-man is she excited!! She call me yelling and screaming that the chrysalis has hatched!!! They were out doing errands and when they returned home found a beautiful Monarch butterfly hanging from the empty chrysalis.

*** Alyssa, We're sorry we couldn't delay this lady's hatch - it was time. We'll send you some pictures.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Vlad's Suggestions - UPDATE

Although I've been updating the original posting titled 'Vlad's Suggestions', I felt it was time to create another, separate posting containing those previous updates, as well as the recent ones. After all I don't want people to miss all that I've accomplished, especially this past weekend (8/5 & 8/6, see below) alone.

**** Items highlighted in green have been tried, completed, read etc

*** Update, June 9, 2006 - This just in...Vlad has refused to provide additional recommendations UNTIL I have acted upon, at least, one of his suggestions below. I was simply asking him for a nice wine recommendation and WHAM he hits me with this ultimatum. Arguably I agreed with him, so off to the book store I go to pick up "The Name of the Rose", afterall I refuse to eat Duck Liver Pate..

*** Update, June 13, 2006 - Well I made it to the book store Friday night and picked up two books - "The Loved One" and "The Name of the Rose". I hope to begin reading The Loved One soon.

*** Update, June 23, 2006 - Tried Gazpacho at lunch today - it's not too bad. I am not a big fan of vegatables in general, therefore since Gazpacho is made from fresh vegetables I didn't enjoy completely. However, the juice was tasty and reminded me of what my mother would call "butta butta", which I believe is Greek for dipping.

*** Update, June 24, 2006 - When Vlad and I made our WholeFood run on Friday to pickup the Gazpacho, I also picked up two Iggy's bagels - one plain and one multigrain. I had the multigrain one this morning toasted with butter - very, very good and tasty bagel! Typically bagels with toping almost alway loose their toping in the process of slicing toasting and buttering but this bagel held onto the majority of it topings.

*** Update, June 25, 2006 - Purchased a six-pack of "Old Speckled Hen" ale today and gave one a try - I enjoyed it, However, very expensive, as I paid $8.50ish for a six-pack...

*** Update, July 3, 2006 - At Vlad's request the "Cîroc® Vodka" needs to be removed from his list of recommendations below. Although this vodka came highly rated by Vlad origionally it has tumbled and it no longer a favorite. Too fruity a taste, which is too overwhelming when consuming this vodka in the quantities that Vlad drinks.

*** Update, July 20, 2006 - Today I tried Salmon caviar. It was meticulously prepared by Vlad himself on a piece of dark bread with plenty of butter. However, there's a bit of a discrepency with this 'tasting'. Apparently, Vlad doesn't believe it was a true tasting because there was "not enough quantity"...go figure.

*** Update, July 31, 2006 - JoAnne purchased, from eBay, "Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex But Were Afraid To Ask". We just have to find the time to watch's on the 'list'!

*** Update, August 5 - 6, 2006 - Ok, this weekend I experienced several old (from original list) and some new (just added) of 'Vlad' recommendations:

(1) A fresh brewed cup of hot tea - we're not talking the Lipton or Tetley tea bag method here. I'm talking about Ceylon Vithanakande FBOPF. Tea that I can't even pronounce but tasty just the same - An extremely complex tea of medium body with fruity, biscuity and honey-chocolate notes, this tea has much to offer!

(2) Potatoes and Herring w/sour cream - All in all this was a good meal, although I found the Herring to be too salty but the combination of the three were tasty none-the-less.

(3) Balvenie Scotch Whiskey - as luck would have it Vlad had opened his bottle of 15 year old scotch Friday night. Well here it was Saturday afternoon, perfect timing, and about time for me to give this beverage a try and Vlad was kind enough to offer. Mind you now I am NOT a Scotch drinker and never played one on TV either and up until this point I can only remember tasting whisky once before; Dewar's I think. Perhaps because I 'shot' it down too fast, or I was too young to appreciate it but the end result was nasty, besides the fact that my throat was on fire - Ok, so I'm a weenie. Ah, but here we are 15 years later and with a bottle of 15 year old Scotch and maybe just maybe I've matured a little... I give it two thumbs up! Of course I have nothing to compare it to and realize that drinking Scotch is an acquired taste, which I will now work on (don't tell JoAnne) but I enjoyed it just the same. Unfortunately, trying and liking this Scotch doesn't make me any less of a weenie...

Footnote: Sylvester is a weenie too! He's a Scotch drinker who didn't care too much for this particular scotch. Perhaps if he put the bottle in a brown paper bag it would taste better to him (hehehe)

(4) Foie Gras [FWAH GRAH] (Duck Liver Pate) with Truffle - Giddy up!! Yes sir, I gave this dish a whirl!! Actually and much to my surprise it was quite tasty and delicious...I kid you not. It was prepared on a nice fresh piece of French bread and perhaps because it was in a spread form, palatable. I could taste the truffle, which enhanced the taste and allowed me to pretend I was eating some creamy chocolate candy. Now trying this DOES make me less of a weenie - others might not agree but in my book it does!

(5) I found 15 minutes on Sunday morning to read one of Charles Bukowski's short stories - "Six Inches". All I will say is if the rest of his stories are as 'unique' as this one, I'll continue reading them.

(6) Last but not least Vlad had one more surprise in store. Out of the fridge came this science project looking arrangement. It was a Tupperware bowl half filled, with a saucer turned upside down on top and a mason jar filled with water sitting on the saucer all stuffed in a plastic bag. In the bowl were wild mushrooms (Russule) soaking in a water type marinade - freshly picked mushrooms, by Vlad and his wife, from somewhere (it's a secret) in Western Massachusetts. Faced with pier pressure once again, I caved and tried one and yet again I was pleasantly surprised by the taste and actually liked it, WOW! At this pace I won't be a weenie too much longer...giter dun!

*** Update, August 13, 2006 - We finally found some time to watch 'Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex but Were Afraid to Ask'. However, and maybe because it was on the later side, but we only got through the first three skits. JoAnne fell asleep early on and I eventually followed suit. JoAnne's rates this as unwatchable. I will reserve my feedback until after I give it one try.

*** Update, August 31, 2006 - Sylvester reported in today on the Satsabeli / Georgian Sauce. He and his wife give it two thumbs up. Vlad will be visiting his favorite Russian store this weekend and has agreed to pick me up a bottle - I can't wait.

**** Movies ****
  • "Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex But Were Afraid To Ask" - starring: Woody Allen, Tony Randall, Lynn Redgrave, Gene Wilder & Burt Reynolds
  • Black Cat White Cat (1999) - starring: Bajram Severdzan and Srdjan Todo

**** Foods ****
  • Iggy's Bagel - "Iggy's Bread of the World" is at 130 Fawcett St., Cambridge, 617-491-7600. Iggy's bagels are sold at many Whole Foods Markets
  • Foie Gras [FWAH GRAH] (Duck Liver Pate) with Truffles...I'll be passing on this one, YUK!
  • Avocado - Cut in half, add salt, use spoon to scoop and eat.
  • Gazpacho - A Spanish-style soup that resembles a sort of chunky liquid salad, with lots of fresh, uncooked vegetables suspended in a broth of pureed tomatoes or tomato juice and chicken stock.
  • Pelmini - Are a national Eastern European (mainly Russian) dish - usually made with minced meat filling, wrapped in thin dough (made out of flour and eggs, sometimes with milk or water added). Pork, lamb, beef or any other kind of meat can be used as a filling and mixing several kinds is popular. Pelmeni belong to the family of dumplings.
  • Caviar (Salmon) - Caviar
  • Potatoes and Herring - Boiled potatoes, Herring and Sour Cream
  • Satsabeli / Georgian Sauce

**** Wine/Beer/Liquor/Beverage ****

  • Old Speckled Hen - A most gratifying Ale.
  • Matua Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc - A distinctive and aromatic Marlborough sauvignon blanc, delivering bright and lively gooseberry and passionfruit characters with a hint of lime. Produced by Matua Valley Wines in West Auckland, New Zealand.
  • Ceylon Vithanakande FBOPF Tea - Specialteas

**** Books/Readings/Author's ****

  • Haiku
  • Evelyn Waugh - "The Loved One", "A Handful of Dust", "Put Our More Flags"
  • Umberto Eco - "Granita", "Misreadings", "The Name of The Rose"
  • Vladimir Nabokov - "Lolita
  • Gabriel García Márquez - "One Hundred Years of Solitude"
  • Paulo Coelho's
  • His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta SwamiPrabhupada - "Bhagavad Gita"
  • Charles Bukowski - "The Most Beautiful Woman in Town and other short stories" - (Six Inches, The ? Machine)
  • Dr. Lawerence J. Peters - The Peter Principle.

**** Miscellaneous ****

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Monarch Butterfly Metamorphosis

Finally! I finally found a Monarch caterpillar!

On my way home the other evening I passed by a field that was loaded with Milkweed plants - the only plant Monarch caterpillars can eat, so I stopped. I spent 15 minutes walking in the tall grass, circling the milkweed and inspecting each plant in the hopes of finding one of these little guys. I was hopeful as I began my search but was becoming worried as time passed and there were non to be found. Now if I was looking for other insects, i.e. Ladybugs, Milkweed Bugs, Red Milkweed Beetle, Milkweed Aphids (see links below), I would have been in good shape, as there were plenty.

Reluctantly I conceded and decided to head out. When to my surprise I spotted the little guy, chowing on literally the last Milkweed plant I passed, honest! This caterpillar was approximately 2 inches long, which is just about full size and time to pass into the next phase of metamorphosis - Pupa or Chrysalis phase.

I gently picked him up and then pulled the Milkweed plant from the ground - a doggie bag of sorts and headed home. Once home we placed him in a small terrarium we have, added several pieces of the Milkweed plant, sat back and watched. That little guy went to town eating - actually it was pretty amazing. I was very surprised at just how fast he ate - very similar as to how I eat corn on the cob; like a typewriter of sorts.

The timing was perfect, as the following afternoon (yesterday) this guy made his way to the top of the terrarium where he made a silk-like mat and attached himself to it with his last pair of legs - a Monarch caterpillar has 8 pairs of legs. Here he'll hang, in a J-shape for about a full day before shedding his skin for the last time as it passes from the larval stage to the pupa.

Sure enough this morning we were presented with a beautiful jade green casing (chrysalis). Now we just 9 to 14 days the transformation from caterpillar to butterfly will be complete. As the 'hatch' time draws near the chrysalis becomes transparent and we'll be able to see the orange and black wings of the Monarch Butterfly.

This brings back some fond memories and brings me back to my childhood. I am happy and proud that I am able to share this, as well as other experiences, with my kids. I hope this will form a last impression on them too; one that someday they will reflect upon.

Stay tuned...