The Hottest Little Festival in Texas

Amazingly, the winner James can still speak even after eating a ghost pepper, which is rated at over one million Scoville units in heat.

Amazingly, the winner James can still speak even after eating a ghost pepper, which is rated at over one million Scoville units in heat.

 

There are a lot of festivals in east Texas, celebrating everything from roses, peanuts, yams, trains, pecans, mushrooms, pipe organs, chili making, stew making, duclimers, dogwoods and even feral hogs.

The Hot Pepper Eating Contest trophy with some of the hot peppers in the contest.

The Hot Pepper Eating Contest trophy with some of the hot peppers in the contest.

Palestine, Texas, boasts that it hosts the Hottest Little Festival in Texas every October. My family and I arrived in historic downtown Palestine in time for the hot pepper eating contest on Saturday, October 22, 2016.  Six brave people entered the contest. (Another two were turned away because they weren’t eighteen.)

The master of ceremonies of the Hot Pepper Eating Contest, which was sponsored by Brookshire Grocery Company.

The master of ceremonies of the Hot Pepper Eating Contest, which was sponsored by Brookshire Grocery Company.

Contestants were given a series of peppers in order of heat, beginning with green peppers with a Scovill rating of zero. Next was the banana pepper, the jalapeno, the serrano, the seven-pot and then the ghost pepper. The scorpion and the Carolina reaper were next, but all of the contestants except two had already dropped out when the ghost pepper was presented.  The runner-up declined the ghost pepper, so after James ate the ghost pepper, he was spared any further torture. The Carolina reaper is currently the hottest pepper in the world.

The master of ceremony told each contestant that they had to chew the pepper for a while and not swallow it until he told them to. I would have stopped after the banana pepper. James, the winner, received $150 and a trophy in the shape of a red hot pepper. The two runners up received a cake.  Each contestant got a glass of milk to drink to neutralize the heat.

According to Wikipedia, Palestine is a relatively small town located in the Piney Woods area of Texas,  equidistant from the major airport cities of Dallas, Houston and Shreveport.  It celebrates its natural beauty characterized by a magnificent dogwood floral blooming season with an annual Dogwood Trails festival in April. It’s a small town of about 20,000 people, but it’s big on history, with 1,800 historical sites on the National Register of Historic Places.  It’s the western terminus of the Texas State Railroad, a steam and diesel railroad museum operating between Palestine and Rusk.

All six of the entrants were able to eat the banana peppers.

All six of the entrants were able to eat the banana peppers.

Contest participants prepare to eat their jalapenos.

Contest participants prepare to eat their jalapenos.

The winner James, holding his trophy, drinks milk to neutralize the burning sensation. James has won the contest several times previously.

The winner James, holding his trophy, drinks milk to neutralize the burning sensation. James has won the contest several times.

James, the hot pepper eating contest winner, shows off his $150 check.

James, the hot pepper eating contest winner, shows off his $150 check.

Click on a thumbnail to start the slideshow:

The Scoville Scale measurement of the pungency and heat of chili peppers.

Hot Pepper Festival Facebook Page

5 Comments

Filed under Entertainment, Photography, Travel

Bountiful Butterfly Garden

A male monarch butterfly sips from a tropical milkweed flower in my neighborhood butterfly garden. Just a few weeks ago, almost two dozen Monarch butterfly caterpillars were feasting on these milkweeds. Is this an adult returning to his nursery before heading off to begin the journey to a winter in Mexico?

A male monarch butterfly sips from a tropical milkweed flower in my neighborhood butterfly garden. Just a few weeks ago, almost two dozen Monarch butterfly caterpillars were feasting on these milkweeds. Is this an adult returning to his nursery before heading off to begin the journey to a winter in Mexico?

As summer draws to a close, our neighborhood butterfly garden is now a flowering paradise finally crowded with bugs and animals. During June, July and August, the garden reminded me of a dinner party where few of the guests showed up, despite the mass of plants that bloomed all summer. We did get a lot of rabbits, who found the young plants very tasty and ate them almost to the dirt.  Joan, one of the hardest working neighborhood gardeners, built cages around the tender coneflowers and tropical milkweed plants so that they’d have a chance to provide food for other animals, and of course to be beautiful for our enjoyment.

A Monarch butterfly sipping nectar from a tropical milkweed flower in the neighborhood butterfly garden.

A Monarch butterfly sipping nectar from a tropical milkweed flower in the neighborhood butterfly garden.

I’ve seen many types of butterflies in the garden this week.  The two species I plant specifically for are the Monarch Butterfly and the Black Swallowtail Butterfly.  We plant food plants for the caterpillars and lots of flowering plants that butterflies and other pollinating insects prefer for nectar. For Black Swallowtail caterpillars, we plant bronze fennel and parsley. Monarch Butterfly caterpillars will only eat milkweed, and they sometimes are picky about which kind of milkweed.  Tropical milkweed is the most popular milkweed in our Kansas City area garden, and it has lovely scarlet and yellow flowers, too. Unfortunately, it’s an annual in our climate so it has to be re-planted every spring. I buy my plants from Monarch Watch on the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence, Kansas, at their plant sale in May. Monarch Watch sells a lot of plants for butterflies and other pollinators.  Their butterfly garden is worth visiting.  They also have an open house in September every year.

Protecting and fostering pollinators is good for the environment and for our food supply. A large percentage of our food plants must be pollinated to produce a crop. On a recent visit to the garden, a ruby-throated hummingbird whizzed by me. Ruby-throated hummingbirds, which are also pollinators, also visit the feeder at my house.

The Monarch butterfly population is in serious decline, so I would encourage everyone with a yard to plan a butterfly garden.  To find out more click on this link: Monarch Watch.

In the upper left is a Red-spotted Purple butterfly. The lower left is a Painted Lady butterfly. Can anyone tell me in the comments what the other two butterflies are? Can you see the insect lurking or resting under the petals of the coneflower?

In the upper left is a Red-spotted Purple butterfly. The lower left is a Painted Lady butterfly. Can anyone tell me in the comments what the other two butterflies are? Can you see the insect lurking or resting under the petals of the coneflower?

In the top left photo, a Black Swallowtail caterpillar eating fennel. In the lower left photo, a crowd of Black Swallowtail caterpillars eat parsley. In the upper right photo, two Monarch butterfly caterpillars thrash around as their antennae meet. In the center right photo, a Monarch butterfly caterpillar eats Tropical Milkweed. In the bottom right photo, Black Swallowtail butterfly eggs glisten on the narrow leaves of a bronze fennel.

In the top left photo, a Black Swallowtail caterpillar eating fennel. In the lower left photo, a crowd of Black Swallowtail caterpillars eat parsley. In the upper right photo, two Monarch butterfly caterpillars thrash around as their antennae meet. In the center right photo, a Monarch butterfly caterpillar eats Tropical Milkweed. In the bottom right photo, Black Swallowtail butterfly eggs glisten on the narrow leaves of a bronze fennel.

Here is a collage of photos from the founding days of the neighborhood butterfly garden. The top photo is from 2012, a hot summer in which I had to bring gallons of water from my house to water the new plants, because the sprinkler system didn't provide enough water. The bottom three photos are from 2013.

Here is a collage of photos from the founding days of the neighborhood butterfly garden. The top photo is from 2012, a hot summer in which I had to bring gallons of water from my house to water the new plants, because the sprinkler system didn’t provide enough water. The bottom three photos are from 2013.

An empty Monarch butterfly chrysalis hangs from a butterfly bush.

An empty Monarch butterfly chrysalis hangs from a butterfly bush.

15 Comments

Filed under Butterflies, Entomology, Environment, Gardening, Kansas City, Life, Natural History, Nature, Photography

Glass Labyrinth

Visitors to the Donald J. Hall Sculpture Park make their way slowly through the Glass Labyrinth. The labyrinth is one of the many sculptures and art pieces on the grounds of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri.

Visitors to the Donald J. Hall Sculpture Park make their way slowly through the Glass Labyrinth. The labyrinth is one of the many sculptures and art pieces on the grounds of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri.

Glass Labyrinth Instructions, History and Details.

Glass Labyrinth Instructions, History and Details.

It was a beautiful day, the first day of September (humid, but you can’t escape that in Kansas City), perfect to explore the 22-acre Donald Hall J. Sculpture Park at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri. One of the art installations on the museum’s vast lawn is the Glass Labyrinth, designed by Kansas City native Robert Morris. Installed in 2013, the labyrinth is a 7-foot-tall triangular sculpture consisting of one-inch thick glass plate walls topped with bronze.

Neither of us had ever explored it before. We watched another person seemingly lost inside trying to make her way out. We stood at the entrance a while, deciding whether we wanted to be trapped inside, too.

Pat enters the Glass Labyrinth.

Pat entered first. I documented her trek with my camera. Would she ever return? Then I followed in her footsteps.  She was hurrying ahead to help the trapped woman. I could see them both, but couldn’t reach them.

I love to read everything but instructions, so I entered the glass labyrinth without knowing that you are to make your way to the center of the labyrinth and then retrace your steps to the entrance, which is also the exit. I did read that you need to move slowly, because it’s very easy to bump into a wall when you think it’s an opening. The glass is amazingly clean and clear. It helps to hold out your hand ahead of you. It was very warm inside the labyrinth, and it doesn’t take much to give you a feeling of panic at being trapped. After I reached what seemed to be the middle, I continued on (since I hadn’t fully read the instructions), finding dead ends. I turned around and walked back the way I came, thinking I had cheated by giving up, when I had actually taken the only path to get out. There was the entrance/exit! I was out!  Soon afterward, Pat led out the trapped woman. Freedom! I confess I felt a little dizzy.

Kansas City native Robert Morris designed this Glass Labyrinth, which is in the Donald J. Hall Sculpture Park at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri.

Kansas City native Robert Morris designed this Glass Labyrinth, which is in the Donald J. Hall Sculpture Park at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri.

I'm in the center of the Glass Labyrinth at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri. You can see a bit of my reflection.

I’m in the center of the Glass Labyrinth at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri. You can see a bit of my reflection.

Robert Morris Visits His Glass Labyrinth for the First Time: A Slideshow and Article.

Click here to read about the Sculpture Park.

Donald J. Hall Sculpture Park

12 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Happy Birthday From Google

Happy birthday to me from Google. This was the Google Doodle on my Google Chrome homepage on my birthday. Thank you, Google. (I think...)

Happy birthday to me from Google. This was the Google Doodle on my Google Chrome homepage on my birthday. Thank you, Google. (I think…)

The Google Doodle changes every day.  Yesterday, when I opened my Google Chrome home page I saw that the Google Doodle was composed of birthday cakes. I thought “Well, isn’t that a coincidence, today’s my birthday.”  Well, there are no coincidences with Google. When my mouse passed over the Doodle, I got a birthday greeting.

Of course, Google knows my birthday. And pretty much everything else about me. Yikes!  I can’t complain, because I’ve willingly given Google my information so that I can use its services.  I haven’t told Google my cell phone number, yet. I’m sure Google knows that, too, though.

I checked my husband’s Google home page yesterday, and his Google Doodle was different from mine, the one for the ordinary non-birthday people.

Usually, I don’t pay that much attention to the Doodle except when there’s a fuss over the Doodle subject. Google sometimes features obscure and controversial figures rather than major events and holidays. I guess that’s a way to keep things interesting. It got my attention!

Next year, when I’m expecting a birthday greeting from Google, Google may ignore me!

To learn more about Google Doodles, check out this blog post from my friend Planetjan.

About Google Doodles from Planetjan.

9 Comments

Filed under Commerce, Communication, Humor, Internet, Life, Technology

Melvin

Melvin, 14-year-old cat.

Melvin, 14-year-old cat.

Melvin melted my heart the minute I met him at Wayside Waifs.  He certainly wasn’t beautiful in the usual sense. His ears were crinkled and bare, his fur was patchy, and he was missing his front right leg. He was probably close to being deaf. He’d had ear infections.  He could barely get up to greet me, but he tried and tried until he finally made it to the front of the kennel.  He is a very sweet and affectionate cat.

He was thought to be 14 years old when he was brought to Wayside Waifs.   Little was known about his history.  He was transferred from another shelter when it ran out of space.

I admit that my heart is easily melted, but Melvin tugged even harder at my heartstrings.  I seriously thought about bringing him home, even though my house isn’t set up for a cat that can’t get around very well. My two resident cats, who don’t get along that well with each other, were also a consideration.  Melvin worked his special cat magic on a lot of volunteers and staff members at Wayside Waifs, who called out “Hi, Melvin” whenever they passed his kennel. We were all so happy when the boyfriend of one of them recently adopted Melvin so that he can live out his final years with love and in comfort.

I’ve met a lot of wonderful cats and kittens during my six years of volunteering as a photographer at Wayside Waifs, a no-kill animal shelter in Kansas City, Missouri, but Melvin will always hold a special place in my melted heart for him.

About Wayside Waifs

8 Comments

Filed under Animals, Cats, Kansas City, Personal, Pets, Photography

Outgunned

I’m re-posting this post about photography in honor of  National Camera Day, June 29. #NationalCameraDay

Catherine Sherman

A surfer rides the waves in the ocean along Huntington Beach, California.

I love photography, I love to watch surfers catch a wave andI love photographing surfers catching a wave, so I was thrilled when I recently stumbledupon a surfing competition in Huntington Beach, California. I’d been hoping to find surfers, soa tournamentwas a bonus. My ever-patient daughter waited as I shot photo after photo.

I wasn’t the only one there with a camera. My little Nikon D40X was like a child’s toy next to the dozens of big gunsstationed along the pier.I slipped in among them, and we all watched as the surfers waited for a worthy wave.When a surfer rose up,a chorus of clicksfollowed the surfer doing all sorts of fancy moves on the waves.

In a break in the action, one photographer pointedout a pod of dolphins to me, and I hurried after her to find a…

View original post 106 more words

8 Comments

Filed under Photography, Sports, Technology, Travel

Sue, The Tyrannosaurus Rex

Sue in the Main Hall

Sue, the Tyrannosaurus rex, in the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, Illinois.

When I visit Chicago, Illinois, I like to visit my old friend Sue, the Tyrannosaurus rex. In early April, my husband and I got re-acquainted with Sue when we were in the city for a wedding.  We braved unseasonably cold weather, high wind (well, it is Chicago, the Windy City) and some snow and ice to see the old gal.  She looks pretty good for 67 million years old, although she does admit to some cosmetic help.

When I was refreshing my memory about Sue’s many attributes and history, I was thrilled to read that the T rex mural on the wall behind Sue is by John Gurche, a University of Kansas graduate. I’d met John Gurche years ago while I was at KU and am always happy to discover one of his works. I bought his dinosaur stamps, and of course I never used them on an envelope. (What would happen to the U.S. Postal Service is all of the stamp collectors suddenly used all of their stamps as postage!)  Gurche’s work is featured in museums and in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian and the Boston Globe. He was named one of the 2013-14 Distinguished Alumni of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Kansas, the highest honor from the College.

I’m not sure when I’ll see Sue again, so I will get my next fossil fix at the KU Museum of Natural History.  And one of these days I’ll post my story about a dinosaur dig I went to in Wyoming near Newcastle.

About Sue, the Tyrannosaurus rex.

 

 

Dinosaur Stamps

John Gurche’s U.S. Postage Dinosaur Stamps.

About John Gurche.

 

 

11 Comments

Filed under Biology, Natural History, Paleontology, Photography, Travel, Uncategorized