Tag Archives: Life

Leawood Arti Gras Annual Art Show


Art, music and lively conversation  transformed the space into “Arti Gras” in the community room of Leawood City Hall, where I’ve taken yoga classes.

In the slideshow below are photographs from the  opening night gala on Feb. 21, 2014.   It was Leawood’s third Juried Art Show.  The opening night art show featured a Mardi Gras theme in decor and food.  The Dixieland Jazz Band “12th Street Revue” and magician Barry Nelson entertained the crowd. Another gallery featured children’s art. The Leawood Foundation presented the show, with the support of the Leawood Arts Council.

I went with my friend Lynn, a talented photographer.  There were many great artworks in the show I didn’t include in the slide show, partly because of reflections on the glass, but you can see all of the artworks if you click on the link under the slideshow.

Next year, plan to to attend so you can  enjoy the work in person. I’m thinking of entering some of my photographs for the 2015 show.  Watch this space to see whether I follow through with my plan…Lynn will give me a nudge or three, as will Sharon, a photographer friend who was at the show, too. I hope they also enter!

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To see the artworks in the 2015 show, click on Arti Gras 2015 Art Gallery.

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

Of Elephants and Alcohol

Is this elephant dreaming of the delicious marula fruit as she eats grass at a game reserve in South Africa?

Is this elephant dreaming of the delicious marula fruit as she eats grass at a game reserve in South Africa?

I love fruit, but I’d never heard of marula fruit until a friend (Thanks, Anita!) introduced me to Amarula, a creamy liqueur made in Africa from fermented marula fruit.

Elephants like to eat the marula fruit, which when fermented makes a delicious drink when mixed with cream for humans, called Amarula.  Elephants will eat the fermented fruit, but it's a myth that they'll get drunk.  They couldn't eat enough to get inebriated.  The Amarula Trust promotes Africa elephant protection and social development in Africa.  This elephant sculpture is on display at the O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Fermented marula fruit makes a delicious drink when mixed with cream for humans in a liqueur called Amarula. Elephants will eat the fermented fruit, but it’s a myth that they’ll get drunk. They couldn’t eat enough to get inebriated. The Amarula Trust promotes Africa elephant protection and social development in Africa. This elephant sculpture is on display at the O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Elephants like to eat marula fruit and are Amarula’s symbol. Folklore through the ages told of elephants getting drunk on fermented marula fruit, but that tall tale has been debunked.  I don’t want to be a party pooper, but elephants couldn’t eat enough fermented fruit to get bombed.  According to a 2006 scientific study cited in Smithsonian Magazine, “Elephants do have a taste for alcohol, but when scientists sat down to look at the claim, they found several problems. First, the elephants don’t eat the rotten fruit off the ground. They eat the fresh fruit right off the tree. Second, the fresh fruit doesn’t spend enough time in the elephant to ferment and produce alcohol there. And, third, even if the elephant did eat the rotten fruit, the animal would have to eat 1,400 pieces of exceptionally fermented fruit to get drunk.”
Smithsonian Magazine: The Alcoholics of the Animal World.

Elephants like to eat marula fruit, but much of what elephants eat is not fully digested.  Here, some marula fruits have passed through an elephant.  The surviving marula fruits might be eaten by other animals or germinate into new trees.

Elephants like to eat marula fruit, but much of what elephants eat is not fully digested. Here, some marula nuts have passed through an elephant. The surviving marula fruits might be eaten by other animals or germinate into new trees.

While the elephants don’t get soused from fermented fruits, elephants are among the many species that enjoy the versatile marula fruit for its flesh and its nut, which is full of protein. The marula fruit and its nut have been important source of nutrition in Africa for eons. The fruit has eight times the Vitamin C of an orange, too. Among the animals that eat the marula fruit and nut are antelopes, including impalas, kudus and nyalas. Baboons, warthogs, zebras, porcupines, vervet monkeys, small mammals and even millipedes also feed on the marula, which belongs to the same plant family Anacardiaceae as the mango, cashew, pistachio and sumac. Browsing animals eat the leaves. Marula nut oil is also supposed to have rejuvenating effect on your skin, so the marula can give you a glow both inside and out. About the Marula Tree and Fruit. About Marula Oil for Your Skin.

While reading this post I recommend an Amarula cocktail, which has a mild creamy citrus flavor. If you can’t find Amarula, you can sip Bailey’s Irish Cream or Kahlua. Drink responsibly, of course!

Amarula.

Amarula.

Here’s My Recipe for a Wild Elephant, which is really a White Russia, replacing the Kahlua with Amarula:
2 oz vodka
1 oz Amarula liqueur
light cream

Pour vodka and Amarula liqueur over ice cubes in an old-fashioned glass. Fill with light cream and serve.
Serves one.
For other recipes. click on Cocktail Recipes. 

In a game reserve in South Africa, baboons congregate in and under a marula tree to eat the marula fruit.  Impala antelope stand under the tree to eat the dropped fruit.

In a game reserve in South Africa, baboons congregate in and under a marula tree to eat the marula fruit. Impala antelope stand under the tree to eat the dropped fruit. Click on the photo to get a better view.

The long-time belief that elephants and other animals get drunk on fermented marula fruit was popularized in the 1974 documentary “Animals are Beautiful People.” Some smaller animals can get drunk from fermented fruit, but people have claimed that the supposedly drunkenness of the animals from fermented marula was staged in the movie, after alcohol had been added to their food.  If so, that’s animal abuse. The narration is over the top, too, but the video does show the types of animals that eat the marula fruit. It also shows elephants shaking marula trees to knock down the fruit.
Scientific American: Do Animals Like to Get Drunk?
Drunken Elephants: The Marula Fruit Myth
About “Animals are Beautiful People.”

The marula fruit on this tree is not quite ripe.  It'll turn yellow.

The marula fruit on this tree will turn yellow when ripe.

Owls don't eat marula fruits, of course, but the branches make a handy perch. And perhaps some unsuspecting creature looking for fruit may become the owl's dinner.

Owls don’t eat marula fruits, of course, but the branches make a handy perch. Perhaps some unsuspecting creature looking for fruit may become the owl’s dinner.

Marula fruit is washed along with sand over a walkway after a rainy night at the South African game reserve lodge where we stayed in January 2013.

Marula fruit is washed along with sand over a walkway after a rainy night at the game reserve lodge where we stayed in January 2013.

I’m going to be party pooper again by listing this new Study from the Boston University School of Public Health that shows links of alcohol to cancer. Darn it!

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Filed under Animals, Drink, Environment, Life, Nature

100 Years of the Kansas State Fair

Gourds form the heads of these prize-winning scarecrows at the Kansas State Fair, September 2012. The scarecrows are modeled after artist Grant Wood’s famous painting, “American Gothic.”

I’ve lived in Kansas most of my life, but this is the first year I’ve visited the Kansas State Fair, which happened to be the 100th fair. My daughter-in-law has visited with her family every year since she was a small child, and she and her family always find new things to see and do. I barely scratched the surface. As the fair motto goes: The Fair “Never Gets Old.”

Here’s fair fare — a carrot cake funnel cake on the top and a corn dog on the bottom — at the Kansas State Fair, September 2012.

According to the website, the fair’s mission is “to promote and showcase Kansas agriculture, industry and culture, to create opportunity for commercial activity, and to provide an educational and entertaining experience that is the pride of all Kansans.”

More than 350,000 people from all 105 Kansas counties and several other states visit the fair each year, which begins the Friday following Labor Day and lasts for 10 days at the Kansas State Fairgrounds in Hutchinson. Many thousands of those visitors seemed to be there the day we visited, the first Saturday. It was busy! There are more than a thousand commercial vendors, including those wonderful funnel cake and corn dog stands. There are about 30,000 entries in various competitions. There are lots of musical acts from local to national, including “Boston” and “Heart.” I didn’t see any concerts, unfortunately, but I did try some carrot cake funnel cake. Delicious!

I’ll let my photographs do the talking. The Kansas State Fair website.

Sculptor Sharon BuMann is creating a train and cars from 450 pounds of butter. The cars carry the Kansas icons of Dorothy wearing her red shoes and her dog Toto.

Check out the movie “Butter,” starring Jennifer Garner, Hugh Jackman, Alicia Silverstone and Olivia Wilde. Two women battle in their town’s annual butter carving competition. "Butter" movie.

A girl, who has already enjoyed a face painting session, plays with the grains in the wheat fountain. A volunteer warned me that my photograph might be “grainy.”

A little girl meets a dog available for adoption at the Hutchinson Animal Shelter booth at the Kansas State Fair, September 2012.

A family watches chicks at the Kansas State Fair, 2012.

Judges examine pumpkins at the Kansas state Fair, September 2012.

Holstein Cows, Kansas State Fair, September 2012.

Scarecrows, Kansas State Fair, September 2012.

The sunflower is the Kansas State Flower, so it’s only fitting that sunflower seed heads have a special category at the Kansas state Fair.

Judges measure the longest gourd at the Kansas State Fair, September 2012.

What a sunny face!

No visit to the Kansas State Fair is complete without a trip on the train.

Prize-winning needlework, Kansas State Fair, September 2012.

Fruits and Vegetables, Kansas State Fair, September 2012.

Children play on the giant sunflower fountain at the Kansas State Fair, September 2012.

Clothing Display, Kansas State Fair, September 2012.

What is this bird? It’s in the 4-H Poultry Exhibition at the Kansas State Fair, September 2012.

Kansas fish are displayed in the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism aquarium at the Kansas State Fair, September 2012. You can see the Sky Ride gondolas passing overhead.

Sorghum, Kansas State Fair, September 2012.

Mini Donkey Show, Kansas State Fair, September 2012.

The Tin Man and Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz greet visitors to the Kansas State Fair, September 2012.

Quilts, Kansas State Fair, September 2012.

Note the sign of the Peterson Farm Bros, who are Kansas farmers. Check out their very popular video at the bottom, “I’m Farming and I Grow It.”

That engine is hot! A Ford pick-up truck is now a barbecue pit, Kansas State Fair, September 2012.

Ferris Wheel, Kansas State Fair, September 2012.

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Filed under Kansas, Travel

Piano Man in Madison, Wisconsin

At the right, a young man plays an old piano sitting in a yard overlooking Lake Mendota in Madison, Wisconsin.

While wandering the shores of Lake Mendota in Madison, Wisconsin, this June, I heard ethereal piano music that seemed to be coming from on high. I tracked it down. On a hill above the lake shore, a young man was playing beautiful melodies on an old piano in a yard. Sadly, the piano seemed to be set out for trash removal when it still had some life in it. Not far away, an old mattress reclined against a tree, likely awaiting its final rest in a landfill. Although, the piano was missing parts and looked worn, the young man was able to produce lovely music from its keys.

The piano was manufactured by The Edmund Gram Piano Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and is probably more than a hundred years old. I have a fondness for old pianos. I learned to play a piano that had once been in a dance hall in my grandparents’ hotel in Sturgis, South Dakota. When the hotel was sold, my parents brought the piano to our house in Kansas. My playing never approached the level of the music I heard this man play, but it wasn’t my old piano’s fault! (See link about the piano company at the bottom of the post.)

A young man plays an old piano that seems to be set out for the trash in Madison, Wisconsin.

A young man serenades a neighborhood with lovely music on an old piano in early evening in Madison, Wisconsin.

The Edmund Gram Piano Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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Filed under Life, Photography, Travel

Oh, Fudge!

Children are enthralled as they watch workers make fudge in one of Murdick’s Fudge Shops on Mackinac Island, Michigan.

“The perfect candle scent for Mackinac Island would be a layer of fudge-scented wax, then a layer of lilac, then at the bottom a layer of horse manure,” joked Joe, one of our carriage drivers on our recent (and first) trip to Mackinac Island, a beautiful island in Lake Huron just between Michigan’s Upper and Lower penisulas.

Unfortunately, we just missed lilac season, but we did see plenty of fudge shops and horses, when my husband and I visited in late June.   There are more than a hundred varieties of the Common Lilac on Mackinac Island, which celebrates lilacs with a 10-day festival every mid-June, which concludes with a horse-drawn lilac parade.  I’d love to return for that event.

Even though no cars, trucks or other motorized vehicles are allowed on the island, there’s a lot of traffic with horse-drawn carriages, people on horseback as well as hundreds of bicyclists and thousands of walkers.  (The island does allow one police car, one ambulance and some electric golf carts on the golf course.)

Here are some of the fudge flavors available at Murdick’s Fudge on Mackinac Island, Michigan. Butter Pecan, Plain Chocolate, Peanut Butter and Chocolate Walnut.

Six fudge companies operate fudge shops on Mackinac Island, Michigan. Since each company seems to have at least two shops and some operate even more, that’s a lot of fudge on this small island. There are competing fudge shops next door to each other and some companies have opened fudge shops on opposite sides of the street — sort of like Starbucks Coffee. But, honestly, can you ever have enough fudge? There are as many as 15,000 tourists a day in peak season, so there is an enormous market for fudge. I bought fudge at Murdick’s Fudge. The Murdick Family opened its fudge shop in 1887, when sailmakers Henry and Rome Murdick came to Mackinac Island to make giant awnings for The Grand Hotel (the hotel was constructed in only 93 days!)

I bought the fudge for a gift, but I’m hoping the recipients will offer me a taste. (Yes, I managed to come home with uneaten fudge.) I’ve been known to preach (or even screech) about the dangers of sugar, but calorie counts don’t apply to any food eaten or bought on vacation, so I’ve been told. Even sugar is exempted. (Ok, even I don’t believe that.) But an occasional very small indulgence is good for the food soul. I’ll take a couple of extra laps around the neighborhood.

Mackinac Island, which is 3.8 square miles, has 80 miles of trails, if you want to walk off your fudge there. The entire island is a National Historic Landmark and 80 percent of it is Mackinac Island State Park. Initially, it was the second U.S. National Park, but the Feds later turned it over to the state of Michigan.

You can count at least three fudge shops in this photograph of a street on Mackinac Island, Michigan. You’d need four hands to count all of the fudge shops on the small island. The fudge shops are clustered conveniently close to where the tourists get off of the ferry. There are as many as 15,000 tourists a day in peak season. The fudge demand is enormous!

Here, the lovely cashier prepares my fudge purchase. I bought plain chocolate, chocolate espresso and chocolate cherry.

About Mackinac Island

Directory of Mackinac Island Fudge Shops.

History of Murdick’s Fudge.

Mackinac Island Lilac Festival.

Mackinac Island Lilacs.

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Filed under Food, Humor, Life, Photography, Travel

Kansas City Street Scene

I love this view of one section of Kansas City’s Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, juxtaposed between an unrelated mural on the left and the Denny’s sign on the right. I took this photo from my car window while stopped at a red light in June 2012. We were on our way to a wedding reception in the nearby Crossroads District of Kansas City. The Kauffman Center offers two performance venues.

The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, Missouri, is an artwork in itself. This photo only shows the west shell (wing) of the building, but the east shell looks similar. Shell seems like the right word for the wings, because the building does have a creature-like appearance. I thought of an armadillo when I first saw it. When my husband stopped at a red light as we drove near it on our way to a wedding reception in June, I quickly took the photo. Sometimes, long red lights are a good thing! My friend Jan and I had recently driven past the Center when she visited from Los Angeles, so Jan, here’s another view!

The two wings (Muriel Kauffman Theatre and Helzberg Hall) are designed for the needs of opera, dance and musical performances. The Kansas City Symphony, the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, and the Kansas City Ballet perform in the Center.

The Kauffman Center opened in September 2011, and a month later, friends invited my husband and me to a performance of “Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis” in the glorious Kauffman Center. It’s time we went back!

Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts Website.

Wikipedia on the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

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Filed under Kansas City, Photography

Bite Me!

I’ve been harvesting a small bowl of raspberries every day for more than a week. The first day, I counted four chigger bites. You’d think that would be a warning, but no! Day two, I picked up 100 chigger bites. I’ve finally wised up by wearing bug spray, changing my clothes and scrubbing my skin right after each picking session. A big price to pay, but the raspberries are delicious!

I don’t take my own advice.  Another year of berry picking, another year of chigger bites.  I don’t like to cover myself in chemicals every time I pick a few berries on my raspberry bushes and thought I could handle a few chigger bites as a result of going unprotected.  So much for that flawed plan.  Now, I’m covered in chigger bites. I’m about to go out of my mind with itching, even though I’m taking prednisone and smearing on cortisone cream. So I didn’t avoid chemicals, after all.

This is a chigger, enlarged about 1,500 times. Chiggers are red until they are engorged, when they turn yellow. They feed on our dissolved skin cells, not blood. (Photo — Dr. W. Calvin Webourn, the Ohio State Acarology Laboratory.)

My son claims he doesn’t get chigger bites, or at least he’s not allergic to their bites. The allergic reaction is what causes the welts.  I look as if I have measles! Can’t scientists find a way to make me less tasty or less allergic to chigger bites? Maybe I should have made that my life’s work.  My son is very allergic to poison ivy, though, while I seem to be immune.  Poison ivy has invaded my raspberry bushes, so at least I don’t have to worry about suffering from that scourge. (I’m stopping here to knock on wood.)

This is an earlier post I wrote about my struggle with chiggers. You’ll wonder how I could have forgotten this terrible ordeal and not protected myself.   All about Chiggers.   And being victimized by fire ants Ouch! That Hurts!

Poison ivy flourishes in the berry patch. You can see it in the lower center of the photo. I’ve sprayed it with herbicide. But the poison ivy just grows even more luxuriantly! To add insult to injury, it may even be hosting chiggers.

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Filed under Entomology, Gardening