Icy Art

Lucy and I never know what we’ll find on our walks.

It snowed. It rained. It froze. 

My daughter asked, “What’s something both beautiful and terrifying?” Hubby said a lion. I said a tarantula. Today, when walking Lucy very carefully, I thought ice. It’s beautiful yet, also, terrifying for many people.

So, here’s to the beauty of ice…

….and to it melting quickly!

Branches outlined in ice.
Water frozen while flowing.
A rock covered by  an Impressionistic stippling effect.
Foam frozen in a pattern.
Ice and dirt create a puppy’s face.
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Bubbly and Black Flies, a Mystery

Tuscany, Italy.
Tuscany, Italy.

It all started in Tuscany.

In August 2016 while traveling in Italy, my daughter Morgan and I took a day trip to Tuscany. We toured two vineyards and an olive oil farm, enjoying a lovely meal prepared by the owners of the smaller vineyard. Once we returned to the U.S., we excitedly awaited our shipments of wine.

Fast forward to Spring 2017. In Brooklyn, Morgan’s roommate was enjoying a quiet day when, out of nowhere,  POP! SPRAY! SPLASH! a bottle of wine exploded! It was wine shipped from Tuscany. The cork popped out and the wine sprayed all over the kitchen. How very strange!

Fast forward again, to Summer 2017.  In New Jersey, our house was plagued by black flies. Not small house flies but big, bluebottle flies. Yuck! We closed doors and windows, cleaned fastidiously, and “disposed” of as many as we could. But they kept on coming. Hubby and I couldn’t figure out where they were coming from.

One daughter who doesn’t like bugs of any kind, wore a hat in the house and hid in her room.

Another daughter who likes some bugs, practically dove into her cellphone.

Our dog Lucy caught and ate some. They wiggled in her mouth! Double yuck!!

Still, Hubby and I couldn’t figure out where they were coming from. It was a mystery!

Then, out of nowhere, they were gone.

A few months later, in preparation for Thanksgiving, Morgan was choosing wine and happened upon an empty bottle. “Who drank a bottle of wine and put it back empty?” she asked.

“Who indeed?” I wondered.

Hubby hadn’t and neither had any of my daughters. It was a mystery!

Then Hubby had an epiphany. “Remember those black flies? I bet the cork popped out of that bottle the same way it did in Morgan’s apartment. The flies must have been attracted to the wine.”

We checked the label and, sure enough, it was a bottle from the same winery as the exploding bottle in Brooklyn. Mystery solved, except for one more mystery…

Do you think the flies got tipsy from the wine?

Why would corks pop out of a bottle? Here are some possible reasons:

A cork would start to pop out of the bottle only if the wine or pressure inside the bottle started to expand, and that only happens at temperature extremes of hot or cold.

 

[Corks popping out of bottles is] more than likely caused by either: (1) not allowing the fermentation to complete all the way before bottling, or (2) adding sugar after the fermentation to sweeten the wine, but doing so without adding a wine stabilizer.

Barrels in Tuscany.
Me and Morgan in Italy, August 2016. 

Sources: Wine SpectatorECKraus, Ehrlich

Animal Kingdom in the Suburbs

Lucy loves sniffing and tracking the different animals that appear in our backyard.

Growing up in suburban Baltimore, I saw my share of squirrels,

North American Gray Squirrel

chipmunks,

Chipmunk

deer,

Whitetail Deer

moles,

Mole

and raccoons.

Raccoon

And although they weren’t seen much, skunks made their presence known.

Skunk

I had no idea that suburban New Jersey–directly west of Manhattan–would be home to all those animals and more. Recently, we received a new “visitor” to our backyard. It wasn’t this cute raccoon resting in a tree,

I spotted this raccoon high up in a tree and ran to get my camera.

or the opossum that chatters at night, 

Opossum

or the groundhog that tunnels under our yard,

Groundhog

or the wild turkey that displays its feathers for the ladies,

Wild turkey

or the Box Turtle that gave me a kiss, 

This box turtle showed up in my garden.

or the Red Fox we see at dawn and dusk, 

Red Fox

but–drumroll please–

Coyote

a COYOTE!

At first I thought it was a fox because it looked more like this, but redder.

Young coyote

I told my family, “It’s strange, I saw a Red Fox at ten in the morning.They’re usually asleep by then.”

The next day, Hubby said, “Come quick! There’s a coyote in our backyard!”

I said, “That’s the fox I saw!”

He said, “It’s a coyote!”

“A fox!”

“A coyote!”

“A fox!”

“It’s a coyote! I know from watching Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote.”

Wile-e-Coyote and Roadrunner

Hon, do you see the resemblance? 

Knitted Cable Baby Blanket

OMG! Isn’t this the sweetest picture of big sisters with their baby brother?
Knitted Cable Baby Blanket

What to knit when a dear friend is expecting her third child and doesn’t know what she’s having?

I picked up 35 Knitted Baby Blankets for the Nursery, Stroller and Playtime by Laura Strutt at my favorite knitting store Wool & Grace, and chose a pattern for a cream blanket–the color of the crochet edge tbd (to be determined). I hadn’t cabled since college, but it came back quickly. I love how this blanket turned out. New mommy loves it also. Yay!

Darling Baby Boy with his new blanket.

Sources: 35 Knitted Baby Blankets by Laura Strutt, Wool & Grace

Heroes Proved and Patriot Dream

My son at White Sands National Monument, NM. Photo taken by his sister Morgan. Isn’t this photo is outstanding?!
Selfie: me and my son.
Me, my son, and his buddy.

Lucky me! My flexible schedule allowed me to plan a last minute trip to visit my son before he deployed. The last two stanzas of America the Beautiful bring tears to my eyes.

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness,
And every gain divine!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

 

For more info: Soledad Canyon, White Sands National Monument

Amber Waves and Mountain Majesties

Soledad Canyon in the Organ Mountains, New Mexico

On a recent trip to El Paso, Texas, my son and I drove to Las Cruces, New Mexico to hike Soledad Canyon. The canyon sits in the western foothills of the Organ Mountains, which originated about 32 million years ago in the middle of the Tertiary Period. I immediately thought of America the Beautiful.

Here are the first two stanzas of America the Beautiful.

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

If you’ve been to the Southwest, did you have a favorite place to hike?

Source: http://www.npshistory.com/publications/blm/organ-mountains-desert-peaks/geology.pdf

Top Ten Cool Facts About Plains Lubber Grasshoppers

Plains Lubber Grasshopper

In my last post, Tarantula Territory, I lamented that I didn’t see any tarantulas on a hike but, guess what I did see? A Plains Lubber Grasshopper! The approximately five-inch insect caught my attention–how could it not?–and I had to get a closer look. I looked at her and she at me. We bonded.

I can’t believe I got such a clear photo of her awesome exoskeleton, which protects her against predators and prevents dehydration. (Come to think of it, that could be a great pick-up line. “Excuse me, but you have an awesome exoskeleton.”) Plains Lubbers are native to southern and central USA and Northern Mexico.

Top Ten Cool Facts About Plains Lubber Grasshoppers

  1. A Plains Lubber can’t fly because its wings are too small.
  2. A lubber has a pod that holds approximately 20-35 eggs. After incubating in the ground during the colder months, or for as long as two years, the eggs hatch in May or June.
  3. It uses two pairs of eyes (simple and compound) to see.
  4. It uses its bluish-brown antennae to feel and smell.
  5. The tympanum, or round membrane located on either side of its body near its legs allows it to “hear” or detect sound waves.
  6. To breathe, it has spiracles, or tiny holes located all along the abdomen.
  7. A lubber is capable of jumping from several inches to several feet using its oversized hind legs.
  8. A young lubber will molt its exoskeleton five times at roughly 15-day intervals before reaching adulthood.
  9. Bright coloring and patterning on a lubber’s shell warns predators that it’s unpalatable to downright poisonous. A lubber ingests substances in the plants it eats that, although harmless to humans and the lubber itself, are toxic to many predators. These chemicals may kill smaller creatures such as birds or leave larger animals quite ill after ingesting a lubber.
  10. To protect against predators, a lubber can secrete a noxious foam while making a loud hissing sound. It can also regurgitate a dark brown liquid (commonly called tobacco spit) as a defense.

Hon, which category are you in? Cool or ewww?

For all of the ewww’s, consider the photos below as visual palette cleansers.

Peace along the path.
I “heart” hiking.

 

 

 

 

 

Reaching for the sky.

Sources: The Big Zoo, American Orchid SocietyWikipedia,