Monthly Archives: June 2009

Stoned Wallabies Make Crop Circles in Tasmania

Tasmania produces about 40 percent of the world's medicinal opium poppies, under strict regulation.

Tasmania produces about half of the world's medicinal opium poppies, under strict regulation. But they can't keep the wallabies out.

My friend Anita, who lives in Canberra,  emailed me this story.  We traveled together in Tasmania in January of this year and saw these poppy fields, and we saw wallabies lounging in rutabaga fields, but we didn’t get to see this!

Stoned wallabies make crop circles
Thu Jun 25, 2009 1:30pm EDT
SYDNEY (Reuters) – The mystery of crop circles in poppy fields in Australia’s southern island state of Tasmania has been solved — stoned wallabies are eating the poppy heads and hopping around in circles.
“We have a problem with wallabies entering poppy fields, getting as high as a kite and going around in circles,” the state’s top lawmaker Lara Giddings told local media on Thursday.
“Then they crash. We see crop circles in the poppy industry from wallabies that are high,” she said.
Many people believe crop circles that mysteriously appear in fields around the world are created by aliens.
Poppy producer Tasmanian Alkaloids said livestock which ate the poppies were known to “act weird” — including deer and sheep in the state’s highlands.
“There have been many stories about sheep that have eaten some of the poppies after harvesting and they all walk around in circles,” said field operations manager Rick Rockliff.
Australia produces about 50 percent of the world’s raw material for morphine and related opiates.

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Filed under Animals, Australia, Biology, Life, Nature, Personal, Travel

Do Re Mi

The Sound of Music in Antwerp Train Station

I always loved this song!

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Filed under Entertainment, Life, Movies, Music

Life and Death in the Garden

 
A crab spider grabs a honeybee that has visited a common milkweed flower.
A crab spider grabbed a honey bee that visited a common milkweed flower.
This honey bee was lucky it didn't encounter any crab spiders hiding in the milkweed flowers.

This honey bee was lucky it didn't encounter any crab spiders hiding in the milkweed flowers.

In the Midwest, Master Gardener J. G. has planted a complete banquet for pollinating insects, such as bees and butterflies.   There are plants for all stages in an insect’s life.  One section of her garden is devoted to native prairie plants, such as the common milkweed, which has a wonderful fragrance and beautiful flowers.  Monarch caterpillars are dependent on milkweed leaves and flowers for food, and other insects drink the nectar.  The garden is a certified Monarch Watch monarch butterfly waystation that provides milkweed, nectar sources and shelter for monarchs as they migrate through North America.

Monarch Butterfly Waystation.

J. G.'s garden is a certified Monarch Butterfly Waystation that provides plants for nectar, milkweed and shelter for migrating Monarch butterflies.

Honey bees were busy getting nectar and pollen in the milkweed flowers when we toured J.G.’s garden.  One honey bee wasn’t so lucky.   A crab spider grabbed it and paralyzed it for its own dinner.  Crab spiders don’t spin webs but hide on plants, waiting for prey to visit.

It was a hot, humid day, and few butterflies appeared.  J.G. called out the names of the few that passed through — fritillary, painted lady, skipper.  I recognized a Monarch butterfly that flitted over the milkweed, settling just for a moment, before leaving.

To learn more about butterflies in the Kansas City area click on this links and do a search on butterflies: Johnson County Extension Office.    Other useful links: Monarch Watch and look for Bug Girl’s Blog, Anna’s Bee World and Pollinator Partnership in  my blog roll. If you’re buying from Amazon.com, use the Monarch Watch portal on my blogroll.  I’ll be posting more about J.G’s garden, including her leaf cutter bee boxes.

A honey bee visits a rose blossom.  You can see how closely these wild roses resemble apple blossoms, members of the same family.

A honey bee visits a rose blossom. You can see how closely these wild-looking roses resemble apple blossoms, members of the same family.

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Filed under Biology, Butterflies, Conservation, Education, Entomology, Environment, Gardening, Insects, Kansas, Life, Natural History, Nature, Personal, Photography, Science, University of Kansas

Father’s Day

My father holding me at Mount Vernon, George Washington's estate.

My father holding me at Mount Vernon, George Washington's estate.

Happy Father’s Day in honor of all fathers everywhere.   I lost my father in 1995, so Father’s Day will now always be a bittersweet day.  I treasure his memory and miss him so much. 
Below is an article about the rocking horses my father made for his grandchildren. Later, when he heard he had ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — Lou Gehrig’s Disease), he hurried to complete the horses he was working on.  If you magnify the article on your screen, it is readable — if barely.
Rocking Horse Story.

Rocking Horse Story.

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Filed under ALS, Family, Health, Life, Personal, Presidents

Fancy Foods Word Quiz — How much do you know?

Crab Cakes in Tasmania.25 FANCY FOOD WORDS USED ON ‘TOP CHEF’ (Do You Know What They Mean?)
See how many of these food words you can correctly match with their definitions. 

1. Ganache (GAHN-ahsh)

2. Ceviche (seh-VEE-chay)

3. Risotto (rih-SO-toh)

4. Carpaccio (kahr-PAH-chee-oh)

5. Hamachi (hah-MAH-chee)

6. Rémoulade (ray-muh-LAHD)

7. Chiffonade (shihf-uh-NAHD)

8. Panna cotta (PAHN-nah KOH-tah)

9. Hearts of palm

10. Geoduck (GOO-ee duhk)

11. Aioli (ay-OH-lee)

12. Pain perdu (pahn pehr-DOO)

13. Frisee (free-ZAY)

14. Tostones (tohs-TOH-nays)

15. Roulade (roo-LAHD)

16. Pancetta (pan-CHEH-tuh)

17. Paella (pi-AY-yuh)

18. Pommes dauphin (pom doh-FEEN)

19. Halloumi (hah-LOO-me)

20. Fleur de sel (flur-duh-SELL)

21. Cavolo nero (KAH-voh-loh NEH-roh)

22. Amuse-bouche (ah-mewz-BOOSH)

23. Radicchio (rah-DEE-kee-oh)Octopus Salad in Sydney.

24. Sweetbreads

25. Sashimi (sah-SHEE-mee)

B. A mayonnaise flavored with garlic or other ingredients

C. Short-grained arborio rice cooked in meat or seafood stock, then seasoned (with Parmesan, saffron, etc.)

D. Tender inner portion of a palm tree; eaten as a vegetable or used as a garnish for salads

E. A large edible clam typically weighing 2 to 3 pounds

F. French toast

G. Fried plantains, smashed and served with garlic sauce

H. Deep-fried crispy potato puffs

I. Unsmoked Italian bacon

J. Thinly sliced raw meat or fish served with a sauce

K. Traditional Greek cheese from Cyprus made with sheep’s milk, or goat’s milk

L. Delicate and fluffy hand-harvested French sea salt

M. A sweet, creamy chocolate mixture, typically used as a filling or a frosting

N. A saffron-flavored dish containing rice, meat, seafood and vegetables

O. A thin slice of meat rolled around a filling

P. Yellowtail fish, often used for sushi

Q. A strong flavored cabbage with dark green leaves

R. Pungent sauce or dressing resembling mayonnaise

U. Shredded or finely cut vegetables or herbs, sometimes used as a garnish

V. The edible glands of an animal, often thymus glands of veal, young beef, lamb and pork

W. Very thinly sliced raw fish

X. Raw fish marinated (or “cooked”) in lime or lemon juice, often with oil, onion, peppers and seasonings and served as an appetizer

 

QUIZ ANSWERS —  1 M , 2 X, 3 C, 4 J, 5 P, 6 R, 7 U, 8 A, 9 D, 10 E, 11 B, 12 F, 13 Y, 14 G, 15 O, 16 I, 17 N, 18 H, 19 K, 20 L, 21 Q, 22 S, 23 T, 24V, 25 W.Shrimp Salad in Roeland Park.

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Filed under Diet, Entertainment, Food, Language, Life, Personal

Garage Sales

Cleaning out our closets we foudn a lot of great stuff.  Maybe I should give the jeans another chance.

Cleaning out our closets we found a lot of great stuff. Maybe I should try on some of these jeans -- after I haven't eaten for a week.

It’s garage sale season in our part of the world. No matter where you live, I highly recommend going through your closets and basement and setting up shop with what you find. You’ll learn a lot. 

About every five years, my friend Joy and I combine our sale items in her garage or mine. We recycle a lot of great stuff for low, low prices, including toys our kids thought they couldn’t live without like a barely used Xbox game. We never make much money but we have a good time. I’m not a big schmoozer, but I really enjoy the people who shop in my garage. I love to listen to their new uses for my treasures. We hear stories of why they are buying or who will get the items — college dorm, a son’s new home, daughter’s dining room, games to occupy visiting grandchildren, clothes for work and play.

This year my daughter was a big help.  She was motivated to prune her possessions as she prepares to move to California. One of the sad things was seeing all of her no-longer-wanted stuffed animals.  Where did those all come from? And where did my little girl go?

This year, it was so chilly and wet in early May when we had our sale that we almost cancelled. Even the blob in the lava lamp (for sale — only three dollars!) barely bubbled after a couple of hours of warm-up. Traffic was slow at first. We seriously thought of closing down, but we persevered. Joy jammed a new sale sign — bright green neon — in the wet earth on the corner. That brought a flood of customers.

Sandy, a great friend, brought a great, rich cinnamon cake, which lifted our spirits….The hungry teenaged sons of one of our shoppers wanted to buy some of the cake, but Joy offered slices to them for free. Their embarrassed mother added a dollar to the money she paid for her purchases. We tried to give it back.  Really, after a while it seemed ridiculous to charge for stuff we didn’t want any more.  Here, just take this stuff.  Enjoy!  But giving away stuff isn’t easy, as we found out.  People don’t like free, they want to pay at least a dime.

It may be tarnished, but this heart touched my heart when a customer told a touching story.

It may be tarnished, but this heart touched my heart when a customer told a touching story.

We learned:

•Ten cents is more attractive than free. When no one would take a free push broom, Joy put ten cents on it. The next person bought it. Maybe people think free means worthless, but I think people want to pay something.

•People can show you the value of your own discards. A woman holding my small heart box (only a dollar!) told us how a friend had given her a heart box full of heart-warming sayings that she could use whenever she needed one. Of course, I couldn’t sell our heart box after she told me that!

•People will buy items they don’t have any use for if the price is low enough. We sold a marble clock that told the time around the world.

“I don’t know what I need this for,” the buyer laughed. “I never leave Kansas City.”

I warned him that the batteries only lasted about a month. He didn’t care.

•Some people insist on paying full price. Others want a discount no matter how cheap the item is. Still, everyone was gracious and polite, even the hagglers.

•Most importantly, we learned how lucky we are. Near the end of the sale, a woman was looking through a rack of clothing, mostly my daughter’s. She held a pair of jeans to her hips and laughed.

“I know these aren’t my size,” she said in an accent I couldn’t quite place. “They are for my sister. She’s skinnier.”

She brought her choices to the card table, our command post.

“You’re so nice to buy for your sister,” Joy said.

Going, going, gone!  Don't look too closely. You mgiht see some cat hairs.

Going, going, gone! Don't look too closely. You might see some cat hairs.

“She’s lives in Ukraine. It’s hard there. I can’t buy from a store, but I can buy here,” she said. “Now I have five minutes to get back to work!”

I’m glad we stayed open. Sure, we like getting a little money for our decorating detritus, fashion faux pas and bikes ridden only a few times. But what we learned — or re-learned — was priceless.

Lately, a lot of people have been grumbling in our local newspaper about how cheap people are who shop at garage sales, but Joy and I have learned how generous they are — and how grateful we are for what we have.  I know that in the real world of everyday retail, there are a lot of grumpy and whiney people, but luckily so far they haven’t shown up in my garage.

A shorter version of this post was published in the Kansas City Star on May 27, 2009. 

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Filed under Friendship, Kansas City, Life, Personal, Shopping

The Elders and Beautiful Furniture

Ian Byrne, center on the drum,  of the Irish-American band The Elders gives an enthusiastic performance, as always.

Ian Byrne, center on the drum, of the Irish-American band The Elders gives an enthusiastic performance, as always.

Twenty years ago my husband handed me a flyer he’d found on a bulletin board in a Martin City, Missouri,  barbecue joint.

“Maybe this guy can make some tables for us,” he said.  We’d wanted a couple of oak tables to match a pair we already owned.

“Sure,” I said.  “Call him.” 

And that’s how we met Ian Byrne, furniture maker extraordinaire but even now more widely known as the lead singer of  the contemporary Irish-American band “The Elders”.   It’s been fun ever since.

Kathy Quinn brings a young man on stage to introduce the band The Elders.  Lead singer Ian Burne and Kathy's husband) is at the left.

Kathy Quinn brings a young man on stage to introduce the band The Elders. Lead singer Ian Burne and Kathy's husband) is at the left.

Long ago, when we handed Ian our plan for some oak end tables, Ian worked in a small shop (I think it was someone’s garage) in Martin City, a Kansas City suburb with a rural feel.  He was slowly acquiring wood-working equipment and told us we were some of his first customers.  

When we met Ian, he’d only been in the United States for a couple of years, coming to live in his wife’s hometown of Kansas City.   Native to County Wicklow, Ireland, Ian had met  his wife Kathy Quinn when her family regularly vacationed there.  They were each other’s first and only sweethearts, they are happy to say.  Kathy is an award-winning disc jockey and newscaster for local Kansas City television and radio stations, and Ian would tune in her radio program while he worked.  She dedicated a song to us once while we visited Ian’s shop.  They are both such warm, happy, inclusive, delightful people that you can’t resist them.

What a shapely leg!  Ian crafted this table leg after I showed him a photo of a similar table leg. It's one of my favorite tables.

What a shapely leg! Ian crafted this table after I showed him a photo of a similar table leg. It's one of my favorite tables.

Ian’s business continued to grow, and he moved to larger shops.  Ian made more oak furniture for us – a china cabinet, a head board, book shelves, entertainment centers, more tables. We like oak —  it’s solid, beautiful and indestructible — but Ian can work in any wood.   One of Ian’s early shops was in a forested area, and when we talked to him about a new project, he told us he’d just seen his first snake — ever.   He made some joke about St. Patrick needing to come to Missouri. 

Eventually, his business grew so large that he moved into a 16,000-square-foot area  in a large old warehouse in the West Bottoms near downtown Kansas City.  He gave us a tour after we’d visited the nearby Haunted Houses with our kids one October.  Byrne Custom Woodworking Inc.  is now in more than 30,000 square feet in an underground facility in Lenexa, Kansas.   His company makes custom furniture, exquisite cabinetry for kitchens and plantation shutters.  His clientele have  included people from here and far away, including Steven Spielberg.  Ian is out of our league now!

Danny Cox, a noted Kansas City musician, opened for The Elders. Cox is featured in the newly released documentary "Cowtown Ballroom...Sweet Jesus".

Danny Cox, a noted Kansas City musician, opened for The Elders in June in Olathe. Cox is featured in the newly released documentary "Cowtown Ballroom...Sweet Jesus!"

With his business booming, Ian was still able to find some time to return to music. The Elders were formed in 1998. (Their tag line is Arse Kicking Music from the Heartland.)  Ian told us that in Ireland he’d been in a band that traveled around playing music in the style of Supertramp — I think.  I confess that although his accent is adorable and charming, I’m not always sure quite what he is saying.

We have followed the band through the years from gigs in local pubs to parking lots in Westport to large venues.  They have a huge following of fans who can sing along.  Two years ago, my daughter worked as an intern for The Elders’ violinist Brent Hoad in his recording studio, which gave us a taste of just how busy they were, crisscrossing the country.  The band headlines at many festivals.

The Elders perform in Olathe, Kansas, on June 5, 2009.

The Elders performed in Olathe, Kansas, on June 5, 2009.

This past weekend, The Elders opened the tenth year of free concerts in Olathe, Kansas.  Ian told the crowd how great it was to play in town.

“In thirty minutes we can drive home and be in our scratchers,” he said. 

It was a perfect June night, just warm enough to be comfortable with a light breeze.  An almost full moon rose to cast its cool, pale light upon us.  There weren’t even any bugs!  Could this be Kansas?  Step dancing erupted in the crowd, and the dancers had to find places to do their complicated moves among the blankets and folding chairs. 

“I came to this country in 1987,” he told the crowd.  “This year I’m completing my papers to become a citizen.”  He said he’d been studying for the citizenship test, and then one of his band members  joked that  “I hope they grade on the curve.”  But Ian rejoined that he thought he now knew more about this country “than most of you” and was eager to become a citizen.  Many of The Elders’ songs are about tradition and family, about roots and leaving home.

Here, Ian is singing with The Elders at the St. Patrick's Day festivities in Westport area of Kansas City,  Missouri, on March 17, 2005.

Here, Ian is singing with The Elders at the St. Patrick's Day festivities in Westport area of Kansas City, Missouri, on March 17, 2005.

The Elders have recorded several CDs and are featured on two DVDs, including “The Elders: Alive and Live in Ireland” about their 2007 tour of Ireland by Kansas City documentary maker Ben Meade, who is also featured in Joe Heyen’s just released documentary “Cowtown Ballroom…Sweet Jesus!”  When my daughter was an intern with The Elders’ violinist, she and I worked the merchandise table at a special showing of The Elders movie when Meade, the band and many friends were there to celebrate its release. It was like one big happy family.  Ian and Kathy give back to the community a hundred-fold.  I’ve even seen his company’s name on a barbecue tent at the annual American Royal Barbecue Contest.  Every year, Ian’s woodworking company creates and donates a beautifully crafted wine cabinet for the Operation Breakthrough auction, and The Elders play many benefit concerts for schools and groups.

I hope you get a chance to see them if they play in your area.  Here’s their website, which includes music, merchandise and their schedule:  The Elders, Arse Kicking Music from the Heartland. They can tell their story better than I can.  Check out Ian’s woodworking company at Byrne Custom Wood.   Check out Operation Breakthrough.

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Filed under Entertainment, Friendship, Kansas City, Life, Music, Personal