Monthly Archives: December 2009

Cardinal on Christmas Morning

Cardinal in a Snowstorm print
Cardinal in a Snowstorm by catherinesherman
This male cardinal waited for his chance at our bird feeder on Christmas morning.  Eight inches of snow covered the ground, making food difficult to find, so there was a lot of bird traffic in line for a meal.  Below is a high resolution version of this photo.

High resolution photo of Cardinal in a Snowstorm.

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Filed under Birds, Kansas, Life, Nature, Photography

Emergency Chocolate Relief Act

Need some chocolate relief? Mix this cookie dough, form into cookies, freeze and then pop into the oven whenever you have a chocolate emergency.

Our annual book club Christmas party was on Monday night.  We exchange small, but wonderful gifts.  We bring a gift for each person, so we go home with a lot of loot. 

This year, Chris brought a recipe for “Emergency Chocolate Relief Act” plus the actual raw cookies in a plastic bag to put in our freezers.  The raw cookies were ready to pop in the oven whenever we were feeling faint and in need of chocolate. She even gave us a small cookie tray, which will fit into a toaster oven.  It was all wrapped in a festive tea towel.  Her mother, Judy, also a member of book club, gave us a small spatula to complete the ensemble. You can see it all above with the cookies hot from the oven. 

The recipe:

Take off all jewelry. Wash hands. Combine one roll of Nestle refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough with a roll of another brand (such as Pillsbury) in the same amount.  Add substantial amounts of pecans and chocolate chips or pieces of candy bars.  Squish all together into balls. Slightly flatten and put in freezer bags.  Freeze. When you need a cookie or two or three, break out of the bag.  Put on baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.  Cool slightly.  Eat!  You’ll feel instant relief!

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Filed under Food, Friendship, Homemaking, Howto, Humor, Life, Personal, Recipes

May Your Holidays Be Bright!

Geese fly in their famous v-formation against the backdrop of a full moon and the cheerful lights of the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri.

In this season, partly dedicated to consumerism, I’m posting this photograph I took this past January of the Country Club Plaza Shopping Center, one of Kansas City’s notable areas.  

The Country Club Plaza was the first shopping center in the world designed to accommodate shoppers arriving by automobile.  J.C. Nichols, a residential developer of nearby upscale homes, designed the shopping center after European styles, especially those of Seville, Spain.  More than thirty statues, murals, and tile mosaics adorn the Plaza, as well as major architectural reproductions, such as a half-sized Giralda Tower of Seville (the tallest building in the Plaza).

Even though the Country Club Plaza was designed for automobiles, once you arrive you really need to park your car in one of the garages and walk from store to store.  Pedestrians rule on the Plaza.  Thousands of people live in condominiums and apartments nearby, and the Plaza is always teeming with activity.  I drive by a lot, because my mother-in-law lives nearby, and it’s also on the way to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.  I’m not a shopper, though, so I seldom join the throngs, except to go to some of the great restaurants.  A quaint restaurant on the Plaza with fantastic vegetarian food is Eden Alley, which is in the lower level of the Unity Temple. It also has a great people-watching patio outside.

The trend in Kansas City now and elsewhere is to look toward another European design, and that’s mixed use –Situating housing areas, restaurants and stores in the same area, so that you can easily walk to a store or restaurant from your home.  

For more information about the Plaza — Country Club Plaza Shopping Center.   Eden Alley Website.

Kansas City Plaza Christmas Lights Under Full Moon print
Kansas City Plaza Christmas Lights Under Full Moon by catherinesherman

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Filed under Art, Kansas City, Life, Personal, Photography, Shopping

Monarch Butterflies in Space

KU Professor to help send monarchs into space

By RON SYLVESTER

The Wichita Eagle

(published in Kansas City Star on Nov. 16, 2009)

LAWRENCE, Kan. – (By Ron Sylvester) Chip Taylor is used to people giving him strange looks.

As director of Monarch Watch and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Kansas, Taylor has placed radio tags on butterflies and tracked them across pastures and plains.

Sending monarchs to space is not that far-out an idea to him.

Three of Taylor’s monarch caterpillars are set to blast off to the International Space Station on Monday aboard the space shuttle Atlantis.

Why send butterflies to space?

To study the effects of gravity.

And yes, the thought of sending butterflies to space has drawn some quizzical looks.

But Taylor is used to that in his field.

“We got strange looks last summer when I was working with National Geographic and we radio tagged a butterfly,” Taylor said. “We have to go knock on somebody’s door and say ‘Can we go look for our radio-tagged butterfly? We think it landed in your pasture.’ I mean, you talk about having strange looks.”

Studying insects helps us learn how the world around us works, Taylor said, and how it affects our lives.

“The nature of what we do is to find out what life is all about,” Taylor said. “When you’re doing that sort of thing you’re up close and personal with all these insects, and that’s something people aren’t comfortable with.”

About 600 individuals and schools will be able to watch the caterpillars develop as they orbit in the space station, about 220 miles outside the earth’s atmosphere.

The schools will receive their own caterpillars in a small rearing station similar to that in the space station.

Students will watch those in their classrooms develop and compare them to how the caterpillars grow in space. Researchers hope they’ll turn into butterflies sometime after Thanksgiving.

The object, Taylor said, is to see how gravity, or the near-zero gravity in the space station, affects the insects. These will be the first of their species to travel in space.

“It is so gravity oriented,” Taylor said. “None of the insects they’ve taken up into space have had a particularly strong gravity orientation. The monarchs do. They’re going to be in a nearly weightless environment. It could pose all sorts of different problems for them.”

That will tell scientists more about movement and how life functions, said Steve Hawley, Kansas professor of physics and astronomy and an astronaut on five shuttle missions.

“The more we learn about how physiology works in space whether it’s human physiology or insect physiology or plant physiology the more we’ll be able to use that information on the ground to understand fundamentally how biological systems work,” Hawley said in a statement from the university.

Monarch Watch is working on the project with the BioServe Space Technologies program at the University of Colorado.

Stefanie Countryman, business development manager with BioServe, said their program created habitat and stringent requirements for the butterflies in space.

But they had no food.

Taylor and his Kansas program developed an artificial food for the caterpillars. That’s how they’ll eat in space.

Since April, Taylor has been perfecting the artificial diet.

“That’s what’s making this all possible,” Taylor said.

A study guide being sent to the schools explains that monarch caterpillars walk with 16 legs and spin silk to attach themselves to surfaces.

“What will happen when they lose their grip?” the guide asks, referring to the force of gravity on liftoff or the weightlessness of space.

How the caterpillars are able to react could teach astronauts how to move better in space, the study guide says.

“You win if they succeed, you win if they fail, because you learn something,” Taylor said. “You learn what their limitations are when they fail. You learn how they adjust if they succeed.”

People will be able to follow the experiment through photos, videos and other information at the program’s Web site: http://www.monarchwatch.org/space.

Information from: The Wichita Eagle, http://www.kansas.com

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Filed under Biology, Butterflies, Entomology, Insects, Life, Natural History, Nature, Science, Technology, University of Kansas

United Breaks Guitars

United Breaks Guitars

In this busy travel season, enjoy!  As one who’s had to ship musical instruments, I can identify.  A couple of follow-up videos hinted of a possible happy ending.

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Filed under Humor, Music, Travel