Second Snake Sighting and Top Ten Cool Rattlesnake Facts

Eastern Garden Snake found in front of my house.

Another Snake Sighting!

I’ve seen many different animals while living in New Jersey, especially since my house abuts the South Mountain Reservation. Want to know what I’ve spotted? Check out Animal Kingdom in the Suburbs. But, I’ve never seen skunks despite smelling them, and I’ve never seen a snake…until last week.

While walking Lucy, my neighbors (shout out to Jeanne and Jim) said there was a snake on the road ahead. I kept an eye out, but it must have moved on. I returned home to see our cat Midnight batting what looked like a small branch. It wasn’t a branch? It was a small snake! I figured it was a harmless garter snake so, you guessed it hon, I picked it up! So cool! It was smooth and surprisingly warm. Another neighbor (shout out to Heather) was walking her bear–umm, I mean giant, black, fluffy dog Gracie–when she said, “What have you got there?” She thought the snake was cool, too.

You know who wasn’t that interested in this exciting finding? Lucy and Gracie! They were all like sniff, sniff, done. But Midnight stayed half hidden in his “jungle” (the garden in front of my house), watching. Why? Because he wanted to finish the job he started! That poor, little snake had an injury–a wound on its underside with a spot of blood. Midnight wasn’t just playing with it. 😦

I nestled the little snake in dense brush. I hope its’ wound heals and returns to doing whatever it is Eastern Garden Snakes do.

How strange that I go for years without seeing a wild snake, and in the span of a month, there are two in my path? Hmmm, is it a sign or coincidence?

The other snake I came upon was, you may remember, coiled and rattling in New Mexico. Hon, of course I wanted to know more about rattlesnakes! Wouldn’t you?

Top Ten Cool Rattlesnake Facts:

  1. “Rattles are segments of keratin that fit loosely inside one another at the end of the snake’s tail. These segments knock against each other to produce a buzzing sound when the snake holds its tail vertically and vibrates the rattle. Each time a rattlesnake sheds its skin it adds another segment to the rattle.”(Source: Madison, Wisconsin herpotologist Sara Viernum.)
  2. In addition to rattling, rattlesnakes warn by hissing.
  3. Snakes do not communicate with each other by hissing since they’re deaf to airborne sounds. Their hiss is a warning for animals that can hear.
  4. There are 32 different species of rattlesnakes.
  5. The snakes can are found everywhere from sea level to a high elevation of 11,000 feet (3,353 m).
  6. Several generations of rattlesnakes will use the same dens.
  7. “Mothers can store sperm for months before fertilizing the eggs, and then they carry babies for about three months.”
  8. “Rattlesnakes are ovoviviparous, which means that eggs incubate inside the mother’s body. Babies are born live, encased in a thin membrane that they puncture after being born.”
  9. “The digestive process can take several days, and rattlesnakes become sluggish and hide during this time. Adult rattlers eat about every two weeks.”
  10. Rattlesnakes most distinctive features are their triangular heads and vertical pupils.

Sources: Rattlesnake facts: Live Science and Reptiles Magazine; Photo of Western Tanager: South Dakota Birds and Birding

Sayings at Meow Wolf, Santa Fe

Sayings and stories abound at Meow Wolf!

Some of the written-word art at Santa Fe’s Meow Wolf, “The House of Eternal Return,” makes you laugh, some makes you think, and all of it enhances the interactive, exploratory art exhibit that allows your imagination to think of time and space as non-linear. So fun!

Las Vegas hosts a second permanent Meow Wolf installation, “Mega Mart.” [“Participants explore an extraordinary supermarket that bursts into surreal worlds and unexpected landscapes.”]

The third Meow Wolf installation opens in Denver this September and is called “Convergence Station.” [“Discover immersive psychedelic, mind-bending art and an underlying rich narrative as you take a journey of discovery into a surreal, science-fictional epic.”]

Hon, have you been to Meow Wolf? What did you think?

Girls weekend with Laura and Cindy.

Mindbending Art at Meow Wolf, Santa Fe

Black and white kitchen with an invitation to open cabinets and drawers.

“Mind-bending, explorable art experience for people of all ages in Santa Fe, New Mexico.”

Have you heard of Meow Wolf? I hadn’t either until my recent trip to Santa Fe. Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return “takes participants on a macrocosmic adventure of seemingly endless possibilities.” It’s art, music, a mystery, a story, and an experience. You walk into a house and discover endless pathways to seemingly other dimensions. Walk into the fridge, slide inside the dryer, duck into the fireplace, climb layers of a tree-house, interact with on-site actors, and explore materials and mediums in ways you’ve never thought of–all of it opening up your mind and sense of wonder.

303 Magazine’s Corinne Anderson describes the one-of-a-kind art installation “by breaking down the main themes that tie the psychedelic smorgasbord of Meow Wolf together.”

It Encourages Curiosity

Using your imagination is almost unnecessary if you just wander throughout The House of Eternal Return because the wildly fantastic environments easily transport you to unearthly dimensions. But within these dimensions there are countless ways to interact and immerse yourself which take at least a little inquisitiveness to uncover.

If wandering around with no purpose doesn’t suit you, then you can try to puzzle out the mystery that was written by five different Meow Wolf writers about the event that pushed this regular house into an irregular rift between space and time. With this addition, Meow Wolf has invented an escape room and fantasy funhouse hybrid that tickles every single one of our senses, no matter our age.

Interaction With the Art is Key

Almost everything is handleable, and if it’s not, it’s clearly marked. Find a piano? Play it. Walk through a fabric corridor? Rub your hands along the walls and see what happens. Encouraging discovery and interaction is essential to Meow Wolf, which gives the installation an unusual spot in the art world. 

You Will Question Time and Space

Without giving away too much of the mystery, it is important to understand that the house and its inhabitants have been affected by a fracture in the space-time continuum. The House of Eternal Return is in fact, a house. But a better way to imagine it is as a portal. The portal serves as a kind of transport station to other dimensions. These dimensions seem to have no order, no relation to one another because they exist as memories and feelings of the members of the household.

Meow Wolf has created a completely new style of experiencing art and it’s exciting to feel that as a visitor you are a part of that experience, rather than an onlooker.

303Magazine

Rattlesnake Sighting!

Unexpected Adventure

There me and my childhood friends were, on our Girls Weekend in New Mexico, walking along a path in Bandelier National Monument, discussing the pretty bird we’d seen (Western Tanager), crossing over water (Rio Grande), and wondering why the trees looked burnt (prescribed burns), when we turned a slight bend in the path and came across a rattlesnake!

My first thought was COOL! I wanted to stop and look, but a) more hikers were coming up behind us and b) Cindy hurried us along saying rattlesnakes can strike far. According to North Dakota Game and Fish, “Rattlesnakes can, at best, strike a distance of two-thirds their total body length. For example, a three foot long snake may be able to strike a distance of two feet.” The snake did look big. COOL!

We were on the opposite side of the path, approximately 6 feet from the rattling rattlesnake. (I’d rattle, too, if a group of giants stopped to gawk at me.) I took some quick pics and we moved on. A second later, we were wondering where Laura was. We looked back and saw her dragging a huge branch that looked like half a tree towards the snake!

“Ha! I get ‘yelled’ at for not walking quickly enough, and she’s approaching a rattlesnake with an enormous branch?!” I said.

“What in the heck are you doing?” Cindy called to Laura.

Talk about provoking an unhappy rattlesnake that was innocently cooling itself off in the shade before being discovered by a group of giants AND scraping the ground with branches and leaves!!

While Laura called back that she and another hiker were attempting to block the path as a warning to other hikers, I wondered if you can die from a rattlesnake bite (I wasn’t worried, just curious.), if you have to cut a bite out (My mini-Swiss Army Knife was confiscated years ago at the Statue of Liberty), or if you can suck out the poison (is that real)?

The Mayo Clinic: First Aid says,

Most snakes aren’t dangerous to humans. Only about 15% worldwide and 20% in the United States are venomous. In North America, these include the rattlesnake, coral snake, water moccasin and copperhead. Their bites can cause severe injuries and sometimes death.

If a venomous snake bites you, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately, especially if the bitten area changes color, begins to swell or is painful. Many emergency rooms stock antivenom drugs, which may help you.

If possible, take these steps while waiting for medical help:

  • Move beyond the snake’s striking distance.
  • Remain still and calm to help slow the spread of venom.
  • Remove jewelry and tight clothing before you start to swell.
  • Position yourself, if possible, so that the bite is at or below the level of your heart.
  • Clean the wound with soap and water. Cover it with a clean, dry dressing.

Caution:

  • Don’t use a tourniquet or apply ice.
  • Don’t cut the wound or attempt to remove the venom.
  • Don’t drink caffeine or alcohol, which could speed your body’s absorption of venom.
  • Don’t try to capture the snake. Try to remember its color and shape so that you can describe it, which will help in your treatment. If you have a smartphone with you and it won’t delay your getting help, take a picture of the snake from a safe distance to help with identification.

Who knew? If you are unfortunate enough to get bitten by a venomous snake, DO NOT drink a cup of caffeinated coffee or soda!

As soon as we returned to the Visitor’s Center, Cindy and Laura alerted the park staff.

Their reaction? YAWN.

Top Ten Places to Travel Virtually

Stonehenge

Hon, hope you had a nice July 4th weekend!

This year, though our friends’ holiday bbq was nixed, we still got together, socially distancing of course. Since our school district doesn’t let out until late June, July 4th feels like the official start of summer. But what does this summer hold? Will I return to work or not? Will Elegant Lifestyles publish a September issue? Is it safe to visit family in different states? Will one of my daughters have to quarantine when she returns home after four months away? Will my younger daughter’s college hold classes? The questions go on and on. One thing we can do is travel…virtually. This is a list of places I’d love to go one day. Where would you like to go?

Top Ten Places to Travel Virtually

1. Great Barrier Reef, Australia

David Attenborough leads you on an interactive tour underwater to explore the Great Barrier Reef. Through interactive time-lapses, videos, and weather maps, the tour shows you the Earth’s most bio-diverse ecosystem.

All the while, a tracker notes miles traveled, total sailing time, and the effects of climate change during your “exhibition,” making this a great educational tour for adults and kids alike!

2. The Great Wall of China

China’s most famous attraction offers virtual tours of some of the most visited sections of the wall, 3,000 miles of which are walkable. With much of the country under quarantine measures, the virtual tour offers a reprieve from the crowds who normally come from all over the world to see the 2,000-year-old marvel.

3. Iceland

Welcome to Iceland 360 VR!Select one of hundreds of locations around Iceland in the search field, panorama location list or location map or try out our location basedand themed virtual tours!

4. Taj Mahal, India

Our online virtual tour enables visitors to interactively explore the “UNESCO World Heritage Site”, the Taj Mahal at Agra in India. Visitors may tour 22 different areas of the monument and gardens through 360° panoramas, maps, narrated mini-movies, music and text.

5. Alaska

Experience virtual tours and in-depth educational videos of Kenai Fjords National Park. Journey into the beautiful landscape of Alaska to discover the wonders of the glaciers, local wildlife, geology and so much more!

6. Ireland–25 Virtual Tours

In an attempt to bring those of you that want to be here a little closer to Ireland, we’ve created a guide that’s packed with virtual tours (and 360 photos) for some of Ireland’s best-known attractions.

7. Scotland

“Immerse yourself in the amazing history, cities and landscapes of Scotland from the comfort of your own home…virtual tours of Scotland, including fascinating documentaries and Scottish museums that offer online tours. So sit back, relax, and enjoy your virtual journey through Scotland.

8. Safaris, Africa

Get up close with some of the world’s most amazing animals from the safety of your sofa.

9. Israel

Coronavirus messing up your plans? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Join us for a virtual tour of the most beautiful places in Israel with our popular series, Postcards from Israel.

10. Redwoods, California

Join an interpretive ranger in series of VR episodes about some of the natural and cultural history of the park. Move your mouse, handheld device, or wear VR glasses to experience this in 360 degrees.

 

 

Fabulous Flooring, Published in Elegant Lifestyles Magazine

How are flooring and a throat on fire related?

I learned enough researching finishes for “Fabulous Flooring, Timeless and Trending,” published in the December issue of Elegant Lifestyles Magazine, that when Hubby and I were in London, I could tell the type of distressing done on our hotel’s wide wood plank floors. I highly recommend the St. Ermin’s Hotel, which is in walking distance to Westminster Abbey, not just for the wood floors and stylish rooms, but for the service.

When I woke up in the middle of the night with my throat on fire, I knew I had strep throat. We were supposed to be touring the city that day and taking an overnight ferry to France the next, so I needed to see a doctor asap! What to do? 

The concierge was as helpful as could be! He called doctor’s offices, found one nearby, and scheduled an appointment. I was in and out with an antibiotic in hand. Amazing!

Hon, have you ever gotten sick on vacation? What did you do?

 

A Fat Cat and a Big Ego

Midnight, my petite cat.

Oliver, my sister’s oversized cat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did you hear about the 22-pound cat who was smuggled onto a flight? 

Not all news is bad news. Some of it is downright funny. Take, for instance, the story involving a man, a plan, a cat, and a rat (the man himself). On 11/13/19 in The New York Times,  wrote: His 22-Pound Cat Was Too Fat to Fly. So He Called In an Understudy.

The funniest line in the article…
“Mr. Putin said that the Kremlin did not comment about cats.” Ha!

A man who tricked his way into getting his overweight cat into the passenger cabin of a plane has been penalized by a Russian airline.

Aeroflot stripped the passenger, Mikhail Galin, of his air miles and removed him from their frequent-flier program after he bragged on social media about sneaking his hefty pet onboard by switching him for a lighter cat during check-in.

When airline employees told Mr. Galin that his 22-pound cat, Viktor, was simply too heavy to fly in the passenger cabin on a flight to Vladivostok, in eastern Russia, he devised a plan to ensure his kitty did not wind up in the cargo hold.

Mr. Galin said in a post on Facebook that he delayed his flight and used air miles to secure a business class seat for himself and Viktor. After asking friends for help, he then sourced a 15-pound feline called Fibi, describing her as an “understudy cat.”

When he presented the slimmer pet at check-in, she came under the airline’s limit of eight kilograms, or about 17 pounds, for animals flying in the passenger cabin. Mr. Galin and Fibi were approved for takeoff.

But unknown to Aeroflot and its staff, Mr. Galin swapped Fibi for his real pet, Viktor, before boarding the plane.

Mr. Galin, unable to resist the temptation to capture the moment, took photographs and posted them on Facebook and Instagram.

Viktor, a brown cat with black stripes and long white whiskers, was snapped in a pet carrier in front of a glass of what appears to be sparkling wine.

He was also shown being held up to the plane window by Mr. Galin, with Aeroflot’s branding clearly visible on the headrest.

Those images eventually played a role in his downfall.

The airline told Agence France-Presse that it opened an investigation after Mr. Galin’s post caught their attention, and that it eventually found video surveillance footage of the cat swap at check-in.

“Aeroflot has taken the decision to take this passenger out of its frequent flier program,” Aeroflot told the agency. “All of the miles collected during his time in the program will be annulled.” According to news reports, Mr. Galin had nearly 400,000 miles on his account.

Aeroflot did not respond to requests for comment. In a message, Mr. Galin confirmed that his frequent flier account had been blocked, and said he found out about the penalty through news reports.

The story of the cat swap became so widespread in Russia that it was even mentioned on Wednesday in a daily call between President Vladimir V. Putin and Russian journalists.

Mr. Putin said that the Kremlin did not comment about cats.

Mr. Galin justified his actions in his social media posts, saying that Viktor had become ill on the first leg of his trip, from Riga, Latvia, to Moscow.

Two days later, before the second flight, from Moscow to Vladivostok, a fastidious employee weighed Viktor and declared him too tubby to continue to fly in the cabin. Mr. Galin was then offered the chance to check the cat into the hold.

He said he had engineered the swap because he feared Viktor would be traumatized by such an experience and might not survive the eight-hour flight.

Last year, a French bulldog named Kokito died after a flight attendant placed the animal in an overhead compartment on a United Airlines flight.

The same airline faced questions in 2017 when an apparently healthy giant rabbit died in the cargo hold.

Mr. Galin said he had spent the last two years working in Latvia and was flying home to Vladivostok with Viktor.

He explained the cat’s unusual size was because of its breed, though he did not specify which one. And added that he had asked the person sitting next to him if they had any allergies.

At the end of his post, Mr. Galin rewarded the thousands of people who had followed the story with a throwback snap to when Viktor was a kitten.

“A photo of young Viktor,” he wrote. “When his weight still met the requirements of the airline.”

 

DIY Paris-Inspired Terrariums

Beautiful terrariums on a table in the Maison Astor Paris.

At our chic hotel Maison Astor Paris, a tabletop arrangement of terrariums inspired me to make my own. I bought large and medium-sized glass globes and succulents to add to the vessels and plants I already had at home. I also picked up small, white rocks, soil and moss. On a walk, I found fallen pine boughs and plan to scatter tiny pine cones around the succulents. Guess what’s doubling as Thanksgiving centerpieces?

Happy indoor gardening, hon!

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Charming and Comfortable Hotel Tardif in Bayeux, France

This gorgeous courtyard leads to the main entrance.

HĂ´tel Tardif, Noble Guesthouse in Bayeux, France

gets my vote as the most charming place I’ve ever stayed!

Hubby and I arrived in Bayeux early in the morning after crossing the English Channel on a ferry. Friends had recommended HĂ´tel Tardif (shout out to Deb and Dave) and, right away, owner Anthony Voidie welcomed us, answered our questions, and even had our room prepared earlier than anticipated. After a delicious breakfast (think crĂŞpes, croissants, and amazing coffee), we were ready to explore the town. But wait, there was so much to see in the guest house and grounds. Hubby had to convince me to leave since I was enamored of the decorating details and, hon, you know I love details! The fireplace, the fabrics, the fresh flowers…oh so lovely!

From the hotel’s website:

 Enjoy the priviledge of a stay in a  historic monument dating of the 18th century, in the heart of  medival Bayeux.

   Our guest house of charm is nestled in the former park of the botanist Moisson de Vaux, where many species like Magnolias were first acclimated in Europe. A peaceful location, between the Bayeux Tapestry museum, the cathedral, many restaurants bars and shops.

If you want more autonomy you can also opt for one of our  furnished tourism accomodation located on the street.

​  You can easily reach the famous landing beaches, Omaha Beach, Arromanches, the Caen Memorial, Honfleur, Le Mont-Saint-Michel.

     This private mansion reflects a glorious past with its wood paneling, fireplaces in marble, a remarkable staircase, some rare centuries old trees …  

 

Bayeux, France in Photos, Part 1

IMG_1139
Macarons bigger than Oreos!

Hubby and I are now in Paris and today we’re headed to Giverny!

I’ll have lots to post when we get back to the U.S., but in the meantime, here are some pics of Bayeux, France. We rode a commuter train from London to Portsmouth, England and, from there, crossed the English Channel on an overnight Brittany Ferry from Portsmouth to France.

Bayeux feels like a step back in time. We had visited Bath, England which is also historic, but Bath is filled with stores that you see everywhere which, in my opinion, takes away from the town’s authenticity. Bayeux has plenty of stores–our Normandie tour guide called it bourgeois–but they and the cafes seemed individually owned rather than international chains. The village is filled with quirky shops:  a ceramicist’s gallery that includes her studio (throwing wheel, bags of clay, and unfinished work right behind a half wall, just my kind of place!); a tiny home goods shop with beautiful, velvet bed covers and pillows; a shop just for hats; shops featuring locals artisans; a needlework store or “Broderie” that recalls the town’s famous tapestry; and a shop that sells merchandise adorned with poppies–so specific to the region.

Bayeux is a town on the Aure river in the Normandy region of northwestern France, 10 kilometers from the Channel coast. Its medieval center contains cobbled streets, half-timbered houses and the towering, Norman-Gothic CathĂŠdrale Notre-Dame. The famed 68-meter Tapisserie de Bayeux, an 11th-century tapestry depicting the 1066 Norman invasion of England, is on display in an 18th-century seminary.

 

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