Friday, April 30, 2010

Happy May Day!

I remember May Day from when I lived in Germany, but I think it was just a holiday and maybe there was a Volksmarch thrown in for good measure. What do I know? I was a teenager. [rolls eyes] I was mostly concerned with the things of me.

Today I pay more attention to the world around me and I've noticed that here in Iowa, lots of friendly Midwestern people celebrate May Day with May baskets like the one I found on my desk when I got back from lunch.

These baskets are small and usually filled with flowers or treats and left at someone's doorstep. The basket giver rings the doorbell and runs away or hides around the corner of the house. You're supposed to try to catch the person who is hiding. If you do, you can have a kiss.

My co-worker Heidi left it as you can see, but until this year, she had her children make the baskets for neighbors and do the whole hiding in the bushes routine. It’s just a fun thing. But I bet the boys did a good job of hiding so they wouldn't have to kiss anyone! As a matter of fact I think I recall her saying that maybe one year her oldest thought a neighbor girl was pretty...

Wikipedia makes us all experts, so here is what I now know about May Day:

May Day is related to the Celtic festival of Beltane and the Germanic festival of Walpurgis Night. May Day marks the end of the uncomfortable winter half of the year in the Northern hemisphere, and it has traditionally been an occasion for popular and often raucous celebrations.

Beltane or Beltaine is the anglicised spelling of Bealtaine or Bealltainn, the Gaelic names for either the month of May or the festival that takes place on the first day of May. In Irish Gaelic, the month of May is known as Mí Bhealtaine or Bealtaine, and the festival as Lá Bealtaine ('day of Bealtaine' or 'May Day').

As an ancient Gaelic festival, Bealtaine was celebrated in Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man, though there were similar festivals held at the same time in the other Celtic countries of Wales, Cornovii areas of England, Brittany and Cornwall. Bealtaine and Samhain were the leading terminal dates of the civil year in Ireland though the latter festival was the more important.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

news alerts

I went to the gym after work and got home much later than usual.

Our neighborhood has a community kitty. I call it question-mark kitty because its tail is always curved like a question mark. I have never seen it straight. It has never been pregnant, so I assume it is a boy. He is well-fed and has lived several years already. I realize there is a good chance he is someone's outdoor cat.

I pulled into the driveway and there he was sitting in the front yard up by the house, but he was hurt. He is not using his front left leg at all. He is holding it up all the way to his body so that when I first saw him - and at second, third and fourth look I thought he had lost a leg. So many thoughts went through my head: HOLY BUCKETS! OH MY GOSH! He can't have just lost it, so maybe he had surgery or someone helped him.

I went inside and grabbed some food. When he turned around to look at me, I realized he didn't really lose the leg after all. He only ate a little bit, but I went in the garage and got the live trap. I didn't really know how to use it, but I got it set up. By the time I got out, he was gone. It is now outside the downstairs window to be monitored. Obviously we can't leave that out all night without meeting an angry possum in the morning.

And NO THANK YOU to that.

We are expecting thunderstorms that are in parts of Iowa already producing ping pong ball sized (I think that should be hyphenated) hail. That's pretty big and potentially damaging hail.

Have I said how much I love my Hamilton Beach stick blender? Love it! I mixed fresh pineapple, strawberries and plain yogurt. It ate up that pineapple like no one's business. Then I ate it up like no one else's business.

We're all business here this evening.

The Mozart Effect

Have you heard of the Mozart Effect? It is a term coined by Alfred A. Tomatis for the alleged increase in brain development that occurs in children under age 3.

I have a theory.

The Mozart Effect on Me keeps me from running hysterically through the office and equally from crawling under my desk with my decorative office throw pillow, a blankie from the towel dispensing machine in the kitchen and the bottle of Crown Royal that everyone knows is in someone's desk.

I'm just telling you.

I listened to Mozart all afternoon and am at work currently (1800 hours or 6:00 pm). I was hunched over my keyboard and on my phone this entire day and when I finally lifted my head, I discovered it was completely drained of intelligent thought.

My day started as a roaring culimination of an extremely long month. What I discovered this morning is that this month has been difficult simply in terms of getting it all done and I am officially exhausted.

I toyed with the idea of taking tomorrow off, but predicted all-day thunderstorms would prevent me from doing things I would like to do to relax, namely mess around in the yard and garden and walk outdoors.

Also? I still have a pile of work to do with more job orders coming in every day. So I already have tomorrow's resumes lined up like a NASCAR starting line. O! and all the other stuff of life that normally piles up.

Only this month, have you noticed? Maybe you haven't noticed [sniffles] I haven't blogged very much. I have tried not to whine to you all. Actually, it's been sort of a really busy year so far.

For instance, I want to write about the crazy neighbor. I really do. I have taken several photos of the crazy voodoo doll she has facing my house - I even took one on my phone one morning this.very.week and sent it to my work address. It never happened.

And when I went to log in to Blogger just now I noticed it had fallen off my handy Google quick menu of most frequently visited web sites.

All that is there now is Salesforce, Dice, Careerbuilder, Monster (I hate Monster), and the Weather Channel.

So my friends, this is my lament. Let's call it April's Lament and hope that May is much more relaxed. How am I kicking off May? I'm leaving town.


Nature Notes - The Irish Frog

Visit Michelle at the informative Nature Notes Thursday to learn something new.

Today we're going to learn about Irish frogs. The Irish have deep roots in American history, so today is a cross-cultural, Nature Notes, natural world, biology bonanza!

Let's get started: There are three types of amphibians in Ireland. The Amphibians are divided into three groups: the Urodela (newts and salamanders), the Apoda (worm-like caecilians), and the Anura (frogs and toads). The Anura (meaning tail-less) are the largest and most widely distributed amphibian group with over 3,500 species worldwide.

There are three species of amphibian found in Ireland - the Natterjack Toad (Bufo calamita), the Smooth Newt (Triturus vulgaris) and the Common Frog (Rana temporaria).

The Irish word for frog is frog. Try it out and see how it sounds at TalkIrish.

The Common Frog, Rana temporaria Loscán, is the only frog in Ireland and it is protected because the population of frogs in Europe is declining, much like the frog populations elsewhere. Frog problems are a worldwide issue, not just a problem in the United States.

The Irish frog spends most of its adult life in water and spawns in shallow water using ponds for breeding and living in damp woodland farmland or peatland. They are widespread over the country, not spending more time in one location more than another.

Their cousin the Natterjack Toad is different. They live in Kerry and Wexford and don't get around much. Kerry is in the southwest end of Ireland and Wexford is on the coast on the eastern coast of southern Ireland across the water from Wales.

Anyway, the common frog in Ireland mates in January and later lays 4,000 eggs at a time which are then fertilized externally by the male. They are 60-80 mm long, which is almost 2.5 inches to barely over 3 inches. Lastly, the Irish frog has a diet of flying insects, beetles, slugs & snails.

Here is a special note about Irish frogs: they are genetically Irish and different from their British friends. Here is some information about their lineage from a press release on recent research. This was released in March 2009.

Irish frogs are Irish
Recent evidence has shown that Ireland's frogs differ from those of mainland Britain, shedding new light onto where frogs disappeared to when the Ice Age hit Europe over 10,000 years ago.

Research by scientists at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Queen Mary, University of London suggests that some of the ancestors of Ireland's frogs survived the Ice Age, whereas those in the rest of the British mainland retreated, later to be re-populated by frogs from mainland Europe once the Ice Age was over.

Ice free refuge in Ireland
The paper, in the journal Heredity, suggests that a small ice-free refuge may have existed in Ireland during the Ice Age, and here amphibians may have been able to see out the worst of the cold and ice. Scientists found genetic differences between Common Frogs (Rana temporaria) in mainland Britain and those of mainland Ireland while undertaking research into amphibian disease.

Irish lineage
Lead author Dr Amber Teacher, from ZSL, said: "It appears that some frogs may have survived through the glaciations in this ice-free part of Ireland, as there is a distinct genetic lineage found in the South of Ireland that is not found elsewhere in Europe."

"So within Ireland, we can find frogs that originate from this small part of southern Ireland, mixed with the frogs that came from Western Europe to repopulate the British Isles after the ice age retreated."

The work was undertaken with the help of the Irish Peatlands Conservation Council and Froglife, a UK wildlife charity for amphibians and reptiles.

"This study has given us a unique and fascinating window into the history of frogs in the UK." said Lucy Benyon, Froglife's Wildlife Information Officer.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Cats and birds and catbirds

It is seven-thirty o'clock on a Sunday evening and there is still light outside.
There is a drizzling, steady rain that sounds lovely on the roof over the deck.
I! have! lilacs!

Did you know Super Target doesn't have mackerel? I'm trying to get nasty antibiotic into a cat and I have tried yogurt, sour cream, pumpkin and tuna fish. Nothing has worked. The vet said, and is obviously correct, that this pill won't go down without a fight. The message was don't bother to pill the cat. Find food to mask it.

I thought of what else could be nastier than tuna if I can't find mackerel and I decided to buy some canned cat food. These days, there can be no mistake that canned cat food is marketed to humans.

Yellow Fin Tuna, Chicken Florentine, Seared Ahi, some sort of Salmon dish all of which is made to sound as if it came right off a menu. I suppose there's no point in being really honest: Ground up Whatever We Had Left Over Mixed Grill or Swept Off The Floor Delight or Whole Mice Select.

Honestly, I just sort of thought maybe they threw left over mackerel into all of it.

So I grabbed what was on sale thinking OBVIOUSLY the cheaper the smellier and ground up 1/4 of a pill, smearing it into some chicken and liver grossness. She ate it!

She ate the liver-ish brown stuff and the liver-colored liquid, but she left the chunks of "chicken" behind. Stubborn beast.

So what did I do? I got overenthusiastic and tried to get her to take the rest of the pill. There it sits, uneaten.
Speaking of cats, let me tell you about my recent attempts to feed birds. I'm such a novice. But how was I know there is a trick to this stuff? I put seed into bird feeders and everyone is happy.

Then I branched out.

I got a plate thingy to put seed in for the mourning doves. Someone discovered it and ate all the seed. I put out more seed and then the rains came. Looking out the dining room window, I see the seeds submerged in water.

What happened? Maybe some of you know. Oh, I know what happened! I'm asking what do I do about it? I know Michelle from Rambling Woods will know, because she is my friend and an expert on these things, but she is feeling out of sorts and mousing and typing isn't easy. Send good vibes her way because you all know her since she's the person from the internets that I refer to all the time now. I toss her name into chit chat like this, "My friend Michelle told me that the hummingbirds are almost two weeks early this year."

Also, my attempt at softened raisins? Not so much, I think. I can't be sure. Someone is eating them. I've never seen robins eating them, though.

Any bird feeding or cat pilling advice?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

You mean it's only Tuesday?

I posted my Nature Notes because I was all ready to go and because so many people do it on Wednesday that I feel behind the curve on Thursday when I get around to it. So now I have a bonus post.

Guess who's so happy that Bewitched is on television again?

When I was a kid I had a doll with long blonde hair and I named her Elizabeth Montgomery. She had a first name and a last name and I had to call her by both names. I didn't call her Liz, Libby, Lizzy, Bet, Betty, get the picture.

I found out just a couple days ago on Wikipedia that all the witches except Samantha's nanny (Elspeth) had names that ended in an "ah" or soft "a" sound. Samantha, Endora, Tabitha, Titchiba, Hagatha, Enchantra, Bertha, Clara, Serena, Esmeralda. Am I missing any you can think of?

I love knowing trivia like that and so of course I figured you all would be fascinated.

So I share.

Have a good day.


Visit Michelle at the informative Nature Notes Thursday to learn something new.

When I walk and even drive through my neighborhood, I can smell the blooming trees. It's like perfume wafting on the breeze. When I walk I sometimes hit a path so fragrant I stop and take a few deep sniffs. I took this photo last night at twilight. I think this tree is beautiful. It's in the crazy neighbor's backyard and it looks like an explosion of pink flowers.

I really wish we had smell-o-vision so you could scratch your computer screen and smell my neighborhood.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Keeping me humble since 1976

When I was a little girl, I had smooth and wavy blonde hair. And then puberty hit and all of a sudden my hair went kinky. The kinks have worked out and left a spiral sort of curl behind.

Anyone who has frizzy curly hair will know that it takes a long time to adjust. I do finally like my hair just fine and sort of make the best of it every day...or put up with the worst of it. (I have recently seen photos of my hair from behind and ... wow ...)

I put this photo up on Facebook as my profile photo last week. It was a hit with a few people generating some nice comments either about looking smashing or how long my hair has gotten. Then about a day later, I got a comment about my grey hair:

Nice, huh? I don't really mind, but I thought it was sort of funny when a couple days later I was talking to a friend who gets her hair colored regularly. She is always encouraging me to color my hair and set the world to right again.

I always remind her that 1. I'm awfully lazy about coloring it and 2. at the current length and porosity it will require at least two boxes to get the color through from root to end.

Then she surprised me and said that I have more courage than she does. She isn't ready to go grey. That made me feel better, you see? I always thought she was just trying to tell me I look like heck.

Now I know she thinks I look like heck AND she thinks I'm courageous!

But then I was at Target a couple days later and the universe itself got involved. I minded my own business and bought zero haircare products, but no matter! The machine spit out this coupon:

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Save the honeybees! They're disappearing.

A plea from a bee keeper.. Bees collect nectar and pollen from plants for food. They make honey from the nectar. Pollen is their sole protein source (honey bees are vegetarians) and they use it to make food for their young. Most of the important bee plants in the northeast are wildflowers. Of these, probably the single most valuable early spring wildflower is the dandelion. If a bee hive survives the winter, beekeepers know the bees will be safe from starvation if they can stay alive until dandelions bloom.

Dandelion pollen is moderately nutritious and the nectar is abundant. It doesn’t normally produce what we call a ‘surplus’, i.e. enough nectar to produce honey above and beyond what the bees will use for themselves, so you won’t generally see dandelion honey for sale, but it gives the bees a huge boost and adds to the health and wellbeing of the hive.

So a very simple, easy way to help honey bees is to refrain from killing the dandelions in your lawn. They’re actually quite pretty. And next time you see a bare patch, think about planting Dutch clover instead of grass. The bees thrive on various weeds in lawns, including clover and plantain (from which they collect pollen).

Sunday, April 11, 2010

I'll keep walking until I get there.

It's twenty five miles from home
Girl, my feet are hurting mighty bad
Now I've been walking a three day, two lonely nights
You know that I'm mighty mad
But I got a woman waiting for me
That's gonna make this trip worthwhile
You see she's got the kind of lovin' and a kissing
A make a man go stone wild

If it were only 25 miles, I'd be there by now.

I walked Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday this week for a total of 24.5 miles. It's about time!

Most shoes come off at the door although that's not a hard and fast rule. I sat down at the table and took off my shoes this afternoon, then hurried back out the door.

When I got back, I walked into the kitchen and spotted my brand new walking shoes (Nike Moto 6) sitting there looking smug.

I saw them.
I smiled.
I grabbed my camera.

It was a long winter, but it's time to get crack a'lackin.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The songs

Juice stopped by to ask what songs give me the ugly cry without fail.

She wrote: You MUST tell which songs give you the ugly cry. And if one of them is butterfly kisses I will totally mock you."

I hate disappointing people, but butterfly kisses is not one of them. Thank goodness.

However, if I were giving out awards, Juice would get one for reminding me of a song I could have posted on the whole "worst songs" debate. I've always thought butterfly kisses was dumb.

My apologies to those of you who love the song. I know you're out there. But if we all liked the same songs, there would be no MaryAnn or Ginger / Professor or Skipper debates raging among the population, either. What fun would that be? None.

The songs are:

Come on get higher by Matt Nathanson

What might have been by Little Texas

The day of the cat food run, it was the Little Texas song with which I conducted my experiment. Ya'll want the lyrics, you're gonna have to put that into the Google machine yerselves.

Before I wrap up this post, I must tell Juice that her comment made me laugh out loud, the loud laugh that makes people look at you and think you're a nut in the frozen foods aisle.

Also, for Ryan: I'm wearing my school marm shoes with tights. I hope no one sees me and thinks I've fallen victim to fashion stupidity.

Have a good day!

Nature Notes Thursday - Rhubarb insanity?!

Visit Michelle at the relaxing Nature Notes Thursday to learn something fascinating.

I took this rhubarb photo last Thursday in preparation for today's post:

Just moments ago, I braved the elements, slippery deck steps and crunchy, frosted grass to take this photo for you, my readers.

As I pointed out many, many times last year, I have rhubarb for everyone!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Dressed up

That doesn't look like trouble, does it? She's looking at her brother and most likely she was just about to boss him. In the bag, which reader Anne should recognize because she made it for me, is her Bible and her Barbie. Barbie was also wearing pink.

Here's a wee collection of what it's like to be me lately

I’m not sure why it is necessary for the grocery store to play Led Zeppelin.

I once stood in front of a teenaged grocery store cashier named Steve Miller during a Steve Miller song over the speaker at the store. I pointed it out. He said it had happened before.

Some parents are brutal with the names, I know. But I doubt his expected “Steve Miller” to be the cause of a deep teenaged sigh and well-executed private eye roll on his first job.

I passed a woman in the cleaning & laundry products aisle and as we passed, I glanced down at her feet and thought, “Wow, those are ugly shoes.”

I was at a fancy department store on Saturday and the woman asked if I liked the dresses I tried on. I pointed out that the zipper was poorly sewn into the chiffon causing the fabric to pucker at the tailbone, which made it look as though you have a tail or you are shoplifting in your … um … well, that you had hidden something … and … well, you hadn’t hidden it very well.

I had FOUR chiffon dresses from the same label and they all did that. Annoying.

Blogger Aunt Becky asked about songs we don’t like and as hard as I could, I thought of songs I don’t like and the only one I could come up with is “Good Morning Starshine” even though I know there are songs that make me change the radio station without fail. I still can’t think of any except that dumb one about how she’s drunk and alone and she needs this guy who also starts singing and the whole thing makes me roll my eyes and she’s Lady something, which is a dead giveaway that I wasn’t going to like anything she sings anyway.

Now of course, despite having a dumb name, they will release another song and I will have to eat my words. I’ll let you know, but please can we be done with the current song?

I was the victim of an evil experiment with songs on the radio. There are two songs that make me cry. No, I’m not talking about just a sad song, or a melancholy feeling or a touching memory. I am confessing to real-deal tears and the whole ugly cry and everything. These aren’t new songs, so why do they keep popping up? But both have been on the radio lately and so this time, I sat in my car and listened to the oldest one.

I sat there in the parking lot at PetsMart listening to the song and I thought, “Well, how about that? I guess this song is good to go now.”

And then I started to cry. Doesn’t that just blow your hat in the creek?

I turned it off and went to buy cat food.

On the other hand, lest you think my life is full of thinking rude thoughts and songs, on Sunday night my grandson Oren was on my bed across the foot. He was petting the only cat that doesn't run in high terror from his little petting hands. It was a nice quiet moment. The cat was purring, Oren was smiling and proud of himself. He opened his mouth to speak and rolled right off the end of the bed.

We both laughed so hard we could barely breathe. It was awesome.

Have a nice day!