Monday, October 28, 2013

Milkweed butterfly

My daughter, Jennifer, introduced me to the wonderful world of the
Monarch butterfly
a few years ago, when she pointed out 
monarch caterpillars
devouring milkweed leaves in her garden.

Unlike Eric Carle's, The Very Hungry Caterpillar,
who eats a variety of foods,
the monarch larvae's sole food source is
milkweed leaves.

I soon added scarlet milkweed to my own garden, 
and started to watch
(to the amusement of my neighbors, I'm sure), 
for caterpillars.  I have not been disappointed.
Scelepias curvassica 'Butterfly Weed' Silky Formula Mix
Four different generations of butterflies each go through
4 stages during one year.
The four stages are
larvae (caterpillar)
pupa (chrysalis)
adult butterfly.

The first generation of eggs are laid on milkweed plants 
in February - March.
The second generation cycle begins 
in May - June.
The third generation hatches in
July - August.
And the fourth generation starts in
September - October.
The adult monarchs from the first three generations
only live for 2 to 6 weeks.
the lucky fourth generation butterflies
live for 6 - 8 months until the 4 cycle year 
begins once again.

I started out with 2 gallon-size milkweed plants in July, 2011.
I now have 50 plants of various size.
When a caterpillar hatches and begins eating the leaves,
soon all that's left is the stem, with a fat caterpillar hanging on it.

The poisonous chemicals in milkweed plants build up
inside the larvae and the adults, creating a defense against their predators.

The plants readily reseed.

It took a year of vigilance, but I have been rewarded with seeing
most of the stages of both the monarch and the milkweed.

Just this past September, this chrysalis was found.

I was thrilled to see this beautiful pupa, as
the caterpillars seem to just disappear once they are fat.
(At least, I haven't been able to find them.)
This one attached itself to a carpet sample, which had been used as a trunk protector.

The caterpillar is in the chrysalis for 10 days,
but I had no way of knowing how long ago this caterpillar became a chrysalis.
I missed the actual coming out,
but did see the adult fly away.

I'm still looking for unhatched eggs, and look forward to seeing a caterpillar
become a chrysalis and then see the emerging from the chrysalis.

Once a monarch butterfly is an adult, it can eat nectar from any flower or fruit.
Having milkweed plants and a butterfly bush in your garden brings a lot of 
nature to your yard.

I would be happy to share my newly sprouted milkweed plants with anyone who is 
interested in starting them in their garden.  Just let me know, if you would like a plant, and
I'll do my best to get one to you.

t.t.f.n. ~ Carol

Saturday, October 26, 2013

family friendly fondue

posted by jennifer

every friday night (for about the past 3 years) in our home is family night.  this means we take turns choosing what we eat for dinner and dessert, and what activity we do together.
the kids love it, and sometimes start planning for their next family night weeks in advance.

i figure not only is it fun, but it is a good tool for life skills.  meal planning and all. plus, i feel
it is a good boost to their confidence.

so every five weeks my family night rolls around.  and sometimes it is a bit of a challenge for
this mama to get super excited.  because really, don't i do this 5 nights out of the week already? 

but this week, i was inspired.  i decided i wanted to introduce the kids to fondue.  and it had been years since ken and i had broken out the fondue sticks.

as i thought about it though, i knew i had to make some changes to make this culinary adventure a bit more family friendly.   i decided the best way to do that was to have all of our vegetables and chicken cooked already.  that way, all we would have to do is to spear the dipper and cheese it up.

i roasted the veg, because that is my favorite way to cook vegetables.  easy and so, so good.
i used:  yellow potatoes
all i do to roast vegetables is to cut them into bite size pieces.   put them into a roasting pan.
drizzle them with olive oil (which reminds me: "why does snoop dog carry an umbrella?  for the drizzle")  sprinkle with a bit of salt and gently toss.
i roasted the potatoes, carrots, and cauliflower at 425 for about 50 minutes.  the asparagus and mushrooms at 425 for about 30 minutes.

i also cut up a baguette and some green apples.

i made two types of cheese fondue.  a milder one  thinking of the young ones, and one i knew my husband and i would love. 

here's what i did for the first fondue:

  2 cups grated cheddar
  4 oz cream cheese
  1/4 c. white wine
  1/4 c. sliced green onions
   1 t. dry mustard
   1 t. garlic powder
  1/4 c. milk
  1/4 c. chopped spinach
  2 T. flour

mix all in the fondue pot.  simmer over low heat until melted. 

for the second:  swiss, garlic, and smoked porter fondue

   1 1/2 c. grated emmental swiss cheese
   1 1/2 c. grated sharp cheddar
   about 10 oz. good beer  (i went dark with a smoked porter)
   2 heads roasted garlic *see below
   2 T. flour
   1/2 t. salt
   1/2 t. pepper
   4 oz cream cheese

mix all in the fondue pot. simmer over low heat until melted.

   *to roast garlic.  cut top off of the garlic head.  pour olive oil over top.  roast in oven at 425 
     for about 30 minutes.  once it cools a bit, you can squeeze the cloves right out of their
     paper skins.

for dessert, we had chocolate fondue of course. 
   to be dipped were: strawberries
                                      angel food cake cubes
                                      green apples

for the fondue:
   2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
   1/2 c. half and half
   2 T. butter
   1 t. vanilla

mix all in a fondue pot.  simmer over low heat until melted.

my family night was a success.  everyone loved the experience.  the kids especially liked the chocolate fondue.  go figure.  

i did have to change plans on our activity.  i had planned on us doing a play together.  earlier in the day i had even planned out the parts.   but getting our dinner on the table took all of the remaining energy i had left.  so i decided to scrap it.  next time. 

 i took the easy route. a movie instead.

and let's face it. being flexible and ready to change plans is really the only way to have family friendly fondue fun.

                                                          vegetables ready to roast

                                                                garlic ready be roasted

                                                  the "good" fondue.  swiss and smoked porter

                                                     cheers for mommy's family night

                                                             ready to be speared


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Grand Adventures Await You in A Little Book...

This piece was created for a very special event.   

“More than 150 professional artists donate hand-crafted miniature masterpieces. The All the Arts for All the Kids Foundation throws one of the community's most well known parties which is attended by over 500 supporters - people who believe passionately in arts education. They bid on and take home these tiny treasures and all proceeds generated help provide teacher arts grants and lessons in “All the Arts for All the Kids." 
It is this organization’s passionate belief that the arts are the birthright of every child, and as such, the Foundation champions the arts in the Fullerton School District. We enthusiastically raise funds which are used exclusively to supplement the District’s ongoing arts programs.
This grass roots community effort is staffed solely by volunteers, so that all proceeds go directly to the children in every school in the District.” -

Pictured is my contribution for the 20th annual Pin Auction  titled Little Book. It was made from a small blank book, book pages, gold thread, a wooden box lid, sticks, and paint. I am honored to be part of the event.  

A whale, A lizard (who started out as a dragon), A girl with an umbrella, a man with a top hat, 6 stars, a puffy cloud, a crescent moon, a hummingbird, a song bird, a dragonfly, 2 musical notes, a butterfly, a fish and an octopus.  All materializing out of this little book.

                                        XO, April            

Monday, October 21, 2013

Safely transporting liquids

  The out-of-state family I most often visit live
near wine producing regions.
How fortunate for me!
When I travel, my favorite souvenir to bring home is a bottle or 2 of wine.    
(e.g., when I visit my sister, I always bring home a cabernet sauvignon that is sold ONLY in Texas.)

Years ago, I would board the tin can that flies me home,
with my wine purchase in my carry-on bag.
Sadly, those days are gone.
Now my souvenir cab has to be stowed among my favorite
jeans and t-shirts.

Packing bottles of wine in my checked-in luggage causes
a broken bottle would ruin a lot of clothes.

While wine tasting in Paso Robles earlier this year, I
 I saw a bag specifically made for safely
transporting wine.  I squealed with delight.

(Fortunately, my husband and I were the only people in the tasting room,
other than the vintner.
I figured he had heard a whole lot of whooping in his line of work,
probably not over a zip lock bag, lined with absorbent paper.)
(10-22-13 edit: my computer security system shows this web site may be harmful.)

This "Jet Bag" is capable of absorbing 750 ml of liquid.
"It protects your bottles and your garments while traveling."
Simply, put your liquid filled bottle in the bag, bottom first, seal
completely, and place it in your luggage.

Nice man that he was, the wine maker pointed out to me that I could
pack wine bottles with the same effectiveness using
disposable diapers and a large zip lock bag.

Still I bought the real deal.

I have used my "Jet Bag" twice 
happily, I haven't had to test how well it absorbs.

I do have greater peace of mind 
about packing wine now,
I can concentrate my concerns on other things,
the improbability of an airplane staying up in the sky.


t.t.f.n. ~ Carol

Friday, October 18, 2013

a wonderful crazy ride... in a wine barrel

posted by jennifer

so, as i find myself hurtling down these wonderfully crazy rolling hills of life...(i am envisioning myself  in a barrel... a wine barrel! yeah, that's the ticket).  i am trying to remember that sometimes the waters aren't as intense as niagra falls. sometimes they are peaceful and slow moving... like the kaweah river. 

i am trying to remember the calm waters as i buckle on my chin strap for the waterfall ahead.  oh, and
don't forget when you are bouncing along the wild waters, look up.  do you see it?

the spray off the waterfall is creating beautiful rainbows.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A serendipitous walk

I love to go on walks
do so about 350 days a year.

The trail I most often
briskly tread is near our house,
this last week found me walking in
the hill country of Texas,
while visiting my sister and her husband.

 As I started off along the rural road,
that first morning,
I was surprised to see wildflowers blooming,
not just one or two,
sporadically hanging on,
but a roadside garland of great variety.
It is, after all, October and not spring time,
when such beauty might be expected.

Along the 3 mile loop of country roads,
that circle my sister's home, I spied,
with my little eye,
18 different species of wildflowers.

Here are some of the jewels.

 Mexican hat 

 Maximilian sunflower

Summer Gayfeather

 Black foot daisy

Buffalo bur 


 One beauty that I saw on that first walk, (when I 
didn't carry my camera and that I couldn't find again
to photograph), was the clue to why all those flowers
were blooming in October.

It was a Rainlily.

Central Texas had had a lot of rain
six weeks prior to my trip.

In addition to the wildflowers, on that one walk, I found
a large feather,
and a 5 dollar bill on the road.
A very fortuitous walk, indeed.

Who says exercise is monotonous?
Go for a walk
and see what surprises you!

t.t.f.n. ~ Carol

Friday, October 11, 2013

major mechanical

posted by jennifer

so, i was going through an old pee-chee folder recently... given that it was a pee-chee is,  i am guessing an indicator of it's age... or do they still sell pee-chee's?  well regardless, mine was full of things from the late 80's and early 90's.  mostly stories and articles from my sassy magazines.  there were also a few high school english papers.

one of the papers was an assignment on the crucible.  we were to choose a character  from the crucible, and write an evaluation in the character's own words/voice.  i chose to write in Elizabeth's voice. 

the teacher, mrs. daly, and i had to actually check my yearbook to make sure i was right, that the name matched her face... i remembered her face, and was not positive about her name. i don't have the memory for these kinds of details... in fact, i have only a few stand out memories from high school english.  two of them are:

  a. a teacher talking about symbolism in stories.  he used rain as an example.  he wanted to
       know what rain usually signified in stories... he was going for something ominous, and
       i knew this.  but being me, i made some kind of comment about how much i loved the
       rain, and how it was a good and positive thing... not dark and forbidding.  this was
       probably my dad coming out.  ahem.  anyway, i don't think my teacher was amused.


   b. a kid, who was a jehovah's witness. he was going off on how christmas and easter were
       pagan holidays.  i was clueless to what a pagan even was.  and i, being all raised a
       good catholic girl was all "um no, they are not...... and how dare you" kind of response.
       now, being an older,  freethinking, and well pagan kind of girl, if my current self was
       in the same conversation today, i would be more like "i know!  can you believe the way
       the churches have hijacked these great seasonal celebrations!"

but anyway.  back to my english paper.  the teacher had commented and i quote:  "This is excellent.  You have a really good sense of Elizabeth's voice.  I'd like a copy.  Nicely detailed.
Only one problem (major mechanical)  sentence sense- too many comma splices.  You have to learn how to put in semi-colons and periods."

obviously, i still suffer in the area of major mechanical... and honestly, it isn't something i really even care about.  as long as i am getting my feelings across, in my mind i have been successful.  also, i fear it has become something rebellious.  see,  when i handwrite, i use
capitals, because it is innate, but when i type, i just don't see the need to shift or use proper punctuation for that matter.  but this is the part that worries me.  my old dell laptop is so old that it doesn't have an auto correct program, so it doesn't care how i write.  but some programs insist on trying to change how i blogger.... so, i have to retype some words to convince the computer that i want them lower case... so they can be in my style.  hmmm.  it is frankly getting tiresome. i may have to give up. 

but i really don't like a computer telling me how to do things.  how it should be done. they are trying to cramp my writing style, and that my friends is a major mechanical problem.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

59 Books and a lot of LOVE

I love libraries.  I love books. Reading a good book aloud to a child is one of my favorite things. I love stories and I love art and a children’s book is quite often rich in both. A trip to our local library means 2 huge book bags full overflowing. I often get comments or funny looks from other patrons when I’m checking out or heaving 2 overfull bags to my car while towing 2 children.  I love that I can let my children choose any books that catch their eye. I love that I can choose any books that catch my eye... Or my heart. And we read them. All. The good ones a few times. Right now we have 59 books checked out. That is a lot for us but we usually average about 30. We also have many books in our own home library. Here are a handful of my favorites this week…    

*Anything by Elisa Kleven is a favorite of mine. The artwork inspires me every time I read one of her books.

*"One night when the moon was full five little mice heard the sound of music carried by the wind..."

*A sweet story about everything going wrong and ending up perfectly.

*A fantastic way to learn about history is through a children's book. 
I cry every time I read this one.

Now, Go to the library! :)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

October tablescape

Man's end,
a mound of gleaming
a flowering and a fading.

Hamei  -  1837

t.t.f.n. ~ Carol

Friday, October 4, 2013

a breath of life into old crows

posted  by jennifer

years ago, i bought some crows from michaels (the craft store).  they found themselves perched each year come october on the arch at our front porch.   they served themselves well as they were for several seasons.   however, as i was putting them away last year, i remember  thinking that they were starting to look a bit scraggly. when i pulled them out this year, they were at the state where a complete overhaul was in order.

the first step was taking the remaining feathers off of the birds.   they had lost many over       
the past years, but there were still many more remaining.  i figured pulling the feathers          
off inanimate birds was good practice for down the road when                                                       
a. i get the guts to process a chicken or a turkey or                                                       
b. i am forced to process a chicken or turkey                                                                

after you have the majority of the feathers off soak the birds in hot soapy water to remove    
any stragglers.                                                                                                                                            

after the feathers were off. i realized the crows needed something to replace the tail feathers 
i had removed.  they were a bit off balanced.   i used some thin pieces of wood ... mine wasn't balsa, but that would work, as would cardboard.  cut your  tail feathers into a rectangular        shape.  the crows i used had a slit in the plastic where the original tail feathers had been.         just slide your new tail feather replacement in that slit.                                                                    

crows reborn by paper mache

i decided to use paper mache to cover my new crow forms.  i used tissue paper as i wanted just a bit 
of texture.  my paper mache glue of choice has always been flour and water.  for 1 cup of flour start  
by adding about 1/2 of a cup of water, and adjust until the flour water mixture resembles thin              pancake batter.                                                                                                                                                                               
i cut my tissue paper into piece approximately 1 inch wide and 6 inches long.  then dip each piece      
of tissue paper into the flour mixture and the smooth it over your base, which in this case is the crow.
continue until all the crow is covered.  i used about two or three pieces of paper overlapping each       other all over the crow to form one layer.   i stopped at one layer, but if you choose to do more than  
one, be sure to allow each layer to dry before adding the next.                                                              

after the paper mache was completely dry, i painted my crows with black acrylic paint.  they could   
easily be done at this point.  i chose to add embellishments to mine.  this included sequins, beaded   
trim, baubles, fabric, buttons, velvet leaves. have fun.  be creative.  make your crows as traditional   
or as untraditional as you like.  maybe instead of black paint, yours will be hot pink. or white.  or      
maybe instead of painting them you will decoupage them.   let you imagination take flight...get it...  
crows...birds...flight.   tee hee hee.                                                                                                          

 now smile because you just gave a breath of new life into old crows. 


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

apples for both the people and the parrots

posted by jennifer

sunday morning, my daughter maya ran into the kitchen from outside.  she wanted me to come and see the parrots in the apple tree.

we have a flock of wild parrots that frequent out neighborhood... they usually make their appearance in the fall.  it is quite an experience to wake up to the squawking from 5o green and red can almost imagine you are in some tropical rainforest, not the san diego suburbs.

so as i followed maya outside, i wasn't expecting to see anything i hadn't seen before.  we have had the parrots in our trees many times, but never as close as these two were.  they we less than 10 feet from where we were standing.  not bothered by us in the least.  they were enjoying the fall abundance, and i don't mind sharing, as long as they don't get too greedy.

but i wasn't going to take any chances on their manners, and so i made sure to harvest a basketful then, just in case.

i made a rustic apple pie.  i have made many, many apple pies in my life, but this is my first time making on free form.  it was delicious.

and the good thing is, there are plenty more apples for both the people and the parrots.