Friday, April 30, 2010

Snailerinas and Wet Mushrooms

So we found a home for three snails. A friend with an aquarium took them. So that's approximately 17% less snail in the aquarium. That means 17% less snail poo and maybe the water will be 17% less cloudy now. Hmmm. I'm not going to hold my breath. Now I only need to find homes for about 75% more of them. Snail anyone?

But they *are* cute. It's fun to watch them. You'd think a snail would be boring.

S l i d i n g     o h     s o     s l o w l y     a c r o s s     t h e     b o t t o m     o f     t h e     t a n k .

Doing nothing all day but sucking algae off the glass and slowly waving its tentacles in the water. But you'd be wrong. Oh sure, they do

s l i d e     o h     s o     s l o w l y     a c r o s s     t h e     b o t t o m     o f     t h e     t a n k .

But they also slide a little quicker sometimes. Up the coral. Up and down the sides of the tank. All over each other. On their algae wafers.

And not only that, sometimes they do ballet! Yes, you read that right! They do ballet. Snail ballet. Snailerinas. Just the other day I was watching the little critters and one launched herself up into the air. (I'm assuming it was a girl because it was doing ballet, but it could have been a boy. I didn't check. A little Mikhail Snailyshnikov perhaps?) Snails have a lung that they fill with air from the top of the tank. This one apparently had a full lung. She must have been clutching the floor with her foot, then POP! let go. And she floated up to the top and bobbed on the surface for a minute. Then, she began to twirl. Maybe it was just the slight current from the filter, but I don't think so. I think she did it on purpose. She twirled her little slimy snaily body in circles, pirouetting around the surface of the water like she was in a ballet - Swan Lake perhaps. Even snails dream of fame and fortune, right? The ugly duckling, er snailing, had turned into a beautiful swan. It was downright beautiful.

But seriously, they do that occasionally and it's fun to watch. The bobbing and twirling, the sliding and crawling. And the falling too. Once in a while they just let go of the edge and fall gently down to the bottom, occasionally grabbing onto a (plastic) leaf on the way.

And get this. This was just so cute! One of them, I don't know his name, climbed up to the very top of the coral. The tippetty toppiest part and raised his little siphon (the tube they use to suck in surface air). The surface was still an inch or so away, so he stretched and stretched and stretched his little siphon as far as it would stretch and he still wasn't quite there. So then he stood on his tippy toe. His foot edges gripped tight and he rose up in the middle just a little higher.

And then he seemed to lose his balance. (You didn't know snails even had balance, did you?) And he   e v e r     s o     s l o w l y     tipped down over the edge of the coral. And then he climbed down. It was the cutest thing. He never did quite reach the surface. He had to take the long way - down the coral, across the gravel, to the glass, and all the way up the glass side until finally! Air! Fresh air! And he gulped it in.

And you should see the acrobatics. Toss in an algae wafer, and within minutes you have a teetering tottering pyramid of snails. One stacked atop the other with the bottom one balanced on the algae wafer. It's pretty amazing.

Oh oh and you should see them when it's just one with an algae wafer. I've actually seen them roll over onto their backs (ok, their shells), clutching their algae wafer in their foot. They play with it that way for a while. And you can't tell me they just tipped over while eating! Because their mouths are no where near the wafer. They are playing I tell you!

So, see. Snails are not the boring, slow-moving, dull lumps that you think they are. They have personalities and are very active.

That said, I still have way way too many for my tank. And the thought of escargot isn't sounding any better. Really, how can anyone even think of eating those things. They are slimy. And rubbery. Like wet mushrooms. *shudder* They are cute to watch, but eating? No!


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Nature Walks and Haikus

We went on a nature walk the other day. We decided to go on the 3 mile 'lake loop'. Yes, 3 miles with a 6 year old, 8 year old and 10 year old. But it turned out OK. They were all up for it, they even requested the lake loop. Doodlebug complained a bit and Sweet Pea gave him a piggy back ride for a little while when he was feeling tired.

We saw a white tailed deer munching happily on some leaves, very unconcerned about our presence 20 feet away, some ducks, a red tailed squirrel (which we all love - we have the gray ones in the neighborhood so it's always fun to see the frisky little red ones), chipmunks, birds, fish and bugs. and of the latter, there were very few. A nature walk is no fun if you spend the entire time slapping at bugs and running from buzzing things. Overall it was very fun.

Here are some pictures from our day along with some haiku:

Hourglass figure
Standing tall in the forest
Beaver's been around

 Shelves up the tree-side
Clinging tightly to the bark
Seats for the fairies

 Tree on an island
Its trunk curved in silent strength
Shield of solitude

 Great green guardians
Towering above the land
Watching, surveying

 Hairy ropey arms
Winding twining up around
Encircling the trunk

 Curled twisted corkscrew
Winding through the undergrowth
A spring coiled up tight


I won't mention the fact that these are kids. And that kids have small bladders. And that Doodlebug downed a full 12-14 ounces of liquid before leaving the house. 'Nuff said.


Monday, April 26, 2010

Calvin & Hobbes Cookies - I Didn't Forget!

Finally, as promised I've made some more Calvin and Hobbes cookies. Unfortunately, not an entire scene, just a few cookies. You see, with spring having sprung I'm having trouble coming up with time to work on them. There's gardening to be done, outdoors play to be done, fresh air to enjoy, not to mention the usual slew of 'stuff'. I just can't seem to get motivated by baking right now. Not with all the chirping going on outside, and all the sprouting and the warm breezes beckoning and the whir of bike tires and the lure of the picnic basket. It's been fun, and I'm not calling it quits altogether, just taking a break.

So, for your enjoyment here is Spaceman Spiff, ready to explore and ready to encounter some aliens:

And here's Miss Wormwood, hauling Calvin off to the principal after some mischief or other:

And finally, Calvin and Hobbes off to explore the jungle together:

The quality on these isn't quite what I'd like but I kept looking out the window, distracted by the warmth and the growing things and couldn't quite get my mind around them. It was fun to finally get to work with some more colors, but boy! Let me tell you! These cookies are 100 times more difficult than the snowmen! A lot more free-hand piping went into these and there were several botched cookies as I tried to get a few of them at least, to come out half-way presentable!

Once the weather changes back to cold, snowy, sleety, slushy, frozen-ness and I'm looking for some indoor work to keep me busy I'll pick it up again. I still have several I'd like to see cookie-fied and this is a fun project. I'll pick up my Calvin & Hobbes books occasionally through the spring and summer to find some that will cookify easily for when I'm ready to get back into it.

On a related note, a couple of months back I was contacted by Joel Schroeder, the Director of a film in the works called Dear Mr. Watterson. It's a film about the impact of Bill Watterson and his comic told from the perspective of fans and readers. So this weekend the hubster shot some footage of me talking about the cookies and about Calvin and Hobbes. That was quite an experience! I am most assuredly not the type of person who is comfortable in front of a camera. But, after much giggling, some stuttering and a lot of 'what should I say now?' we got something put together and it's on it's way back. I wonder if any of it will make it into the film? I guess I just have to wait and see. In the meantime, check out the project here.


Friday, April 23, 2010

Kittens and Cheetos, Doggies and Doritos

Doodlebug's 6th birthday is this weekend. Last year, he wanted to celebrate with a theme featuring two of his favorite things - Cheetos and Kittens. So, I got out my colored pencils and whipped up an invitation with a kitten and a bag of Cheetos.

We had Cheeto chains hung around the kitchen, kitten foot prints on the table and floor, lots of bowls of Cheetos around and plenty of orange balloons.

This year, he decided on a similar theme - Doggies and Doritos. So, once again, I whipped up an invitation, this time with my paint pencils. It came out pretty good except that when I scanned it into the computer I somehow ended up with the word 'Doritos' backwards and never noticed until they were all printed and ready to go! Oh well. Close enough, right?

No Dorito chains this year - Cheetos were OK to string with needle and thread, but I think Doritos would just crack and crumble, but I'll come up with an alternative. Maybe I'll just throw handfuls of Doritos on the guests as they arrive.

Doodlebug's and my birthday are only 3 days apart, so as we celebrate for Doodlebug, we are also celebrating my birthday - and this year I'm turning the big 4-0! And since Doodlebug doesn't like cake anyway, I got to have my pick of cake. Of course, I have to make it, but at least I got the pick the kind I like. I decided on an icecream cake. Chocolate and vanilla with a layer of Oreo crumbs between. Decorated as a doggie with a Dorito in his mouth of course. It should be yummy!

And am I worried about turning 40? About getting older? Nah! I'm the oldest in my house - older than hubby by 5 months, but I'm still the youngest of all my siblings (nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah :-) ) and I'm fortunate to have good health, a good job and a wonderful family. I only feel about 23. 40 is just a number. And I'm not just saying that because I'm turning 40. I really think that you're only as old as you feel. (Of course, when I was actually 23 I may not have felt that way. Who can remember back that far?)


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

We're All Yella-Bellies

The entire family is in karate lessons. We signed up a couple of months ago. My husband and I both firmly believe that activity is very important for the kids (and for us), especially in this day and age of TVs, DVDs, computers and the abundance of indoor sedentary activities. So, we signed the kids up. All of them were interested and as a bonus, once you pay for three, additional family members were at no charge so we all signed up. We are all really enjoying it! Sore muscles and all! I was into karate years ago and always loved it. It's really nice to be back. It's a different, but somewhat similar style which makes some things challenging, but fun nonetheless.

And this weekend, the entire fam-damily earned our yellow belts. We're all pretty excited about it. And wow! It was quite a workout! The workout was for all belt-levels - there were people testing from white belt through black. We just happen to be the lowest level right now and had to keep up as best as we could. But we all did well and had fun.

And, while it's exciting to be up to yellow belt, it's also somewhat bittersweet. While we really like this karate school - there are a lot of great people and it's a lot of fun, we were just informed that to continue, we have to join a 'club' and the costs are more than double to continue on after our current contract expires at the end of the summer. We could just about manage the costs as they were. Doubling them is just not do-able. So, come mid-summer we'll be looking for a new dojo. Something with more reasonable costs, but hopefully something fairly close by and something we will enjoy as much. It will mean starting over from scratch again as white belts. :-( But I'm sure we can find something.

And to finish the post off with a picture, last week there was a fundraiser at the dojo for the Make-a-Wish Foundation - a bake sale. Right up my alley! So I whipped up a batch of gi cookies. Very cute and very tasty.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

If You Want Something Done Right . . .

OK. I screwed up last week, and had two blog posts on the same day. But hubby caught it early and over the phone we walked through fixing it. We scheduled the second of the two for Monday. Unfortunately, it looks like the same post was scheduled two days in a row. But the titles were right, that's something, isn't it? The one that came out yesterday (Monday) was supposed be about a spring walk I went on recently. Oh well. Crap happens. Here is the post that should have been posted yesterday:

We recently had some days with beautiful summer-like weather. The perfect sort of day for a walk. The kids and I did some exploring in the neighborhood and this is what we found:

Spring weeds (not quite a 'real' dandelion, but close):

A snail migration (not apple snails, but cute nonetheless). They were scattered all over a dirt path, soaking up the sun and (ick) crunching underfoot. (once we realized what the crunch was we were slightly more careful):

Some tall weeds, waving at a beautiful clear blue sky:

It's so nice to be able to go outside again without having our shoes fill with slush, without having snow filter down the back of our necks and without feeling the sting of sleet needling our cheeks.


Friday, April 16, 2010

Spring Has Sprung

You can tell it's spring again. The daffodils are in full bloom.

The forsythia bushes are shouting in pure yellow.

The willows are spewing pollen all over (much to hubbies regret).

The birds are in full chirp mode. The neighborhood cat has been lolling around the deck in the sun as he laments his winter fat. And, as happens every year, the spiders are on the move again.

Winter can suck in a major way. You really get sick of the snow and cold towards the end, but there are distinct advantages. For about 5 months there is nary a bug to be found in the house other than a few year-round basement spiders that keep to dark corners. But once spring has sprung, the spiders start to move. So far, nothing too big, nothing too brazen (I had one visit me in the shower one day last year. I saw him on the ceiling and thought he would stay on the ceiling, but mid-shower he showed up right next to my head, dangling on his little silver spider thread, checking me out. Pervert! Needless to say, he ended up in the drain.)

But back to the original topic, we've seen some little ceiling spiders in the last few weeks. This particular one was rather cute from afar. Not very big - spider toe to spider toe about nickle size. Up close he looks a little creepier - you can see his leg stripes. Ick. Let's hope this is as big as they get.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Petsmart? Not So Much!

We have apple snails in our aquarium. Lots of them.

Several months ago we got a new aquarium, some guppies, some ghost shrimp and two apple snails. Apparently most snails are asexual. It only takes one to make baby snails. But not apple snails. With apple snails, you need two - a male and a female. It soon became apparent that we had just that - a male and a female. The females lay their eggs above the waterline. Frisky did so. Many times.

At one point while I was in the Petsmart fish department I mentioned to the young man working there that my snails had laid eggs. He assured me that their snails didn't lay eggs. OK. Whatever, he was young, probably inexperienced. I wasn't going to argue. I knew that I had snail eggs. I saw her laying them, they looked exactly as described online. There was no question. Not about the eggs, but maybe about the knowledge of the people in the fish department.

So, I'm pretty smart, right? I know what happens with eggs. They hatch. And baby snails come out. Yep. I also know that keeping the population under control is easy with apple snails,  you can just scrape the eggs out and don't let them hatch. But what a science lesson! Let the kids see what happens, right? Well, of course you know what happened. A couple of weeks later they began to hatch. They were the tiniest cutest little things you've ever seen.

Well, now they aren't so cute. They are bigger. We have way too many in that tank!

So, even though I knew it was probably futile, I called Petsmart. Maybe they would take some of the extras off my hands. I spoke to a woman this time. I told her my dilemma and she proceeded to go on at length about how snails are asexual and how even if there is only one, you end up with lots and lots of snails and she always warns people before they buy them that they can become a problem and they are asexual so it only takes one and they can fill your tank right up and on and on and on the same thing over and over and over. I politely thanked her and hung up.

Apparently, they have no idea what they are selling in the fish department (at least as far as snails go) and what the properties of these creatures are. A little frustrating and very annoying!

So, I got online again. Did you know that apple snails are edible? You eat only the foot part (fully cooked of course). There are even directions and recipes online. Hmmmmm.


Monday, April 12, 2010


I know that squirrels can be a real nuisance, but I think they are so so so cute! Years ago, in mine and hubbies first apartment, we had some squirrel friends. They would drop by to visit and we gave them snacks (I know, I know. They only visited for the snacks! But I can pretend they liked me, right?) They were very very curious and not afraid of us in the least. One of them even climbed hubby's leg as if it were a tree.

Well, once we moved out of the apartment and into a house we stopped the squirrel feeding. It's one thing to feed the little guys as they visit our apartment door, and quite another to invite them up onto the deck and into the house that we have to pay to own and maintain! As a compromise, I don't complain at all when they empty the bird feeder, or molest our sunflowers for seeds.

And speaking of squirrels. These little guys are friends of Strawberry Squirrel.


Friday, April 9, 2010

I Don't Believe in Bluebirds

I believe in Santa Claus. I believe in the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. But I do not believe in bluebirds. There, I said it. I do not believe in bluebirds.

The bluebird is the state bird of New York. But has anyone actually seen one of these mythical creatures?

Apparently, the American robin was initially selected as the state bird of New York. (I think that would have been a great choice. Robins are everywhere! I love robins! They are my favorite bird.) But then a Mrs. Charles Cyrus Marshall, President of the New York Federated Women's Clubs in the late 1920's decided that the bluebird was more popular. Forty years later, on May 18, 1970, Governor Nelson Rockefeller, signed the papers and the bluebird was officially adopted as the state bird of New York.

So, apparently it was a popularity contest. The poor robin - ubiquitous, beautiful, but common, shoved to second place by a flashy blue and red bird that as far as I can tell doesn't even exist. At least not in places where I frequent.

I've read that eastern bluebirds don't like deep woods, or residential areas. They like to live between the two in open fields, meadows, orchards and farms. I've been to those kinds of places. I've seen plenty of open fields and meadows, orchards and farms. But I've never seen a bluebird there.

I say we make a change and give it back to the robin. The robin deserves it.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Rainbow 'Nilla Wafers for a Little Visual Zing

I decided to make a cheesecake for Easter dessert. I have an awesome recipe in my red and white checked Better Homes and Gardens cookbook that always comes out delicious. So I pulled out the cookbook, got out a mixing bowl and went to work. The first thing to do is to make the graham cracker crust. I went to the pantry. The graham crackers were gone. Probably eaten ages ago. (We don't generally eat a lot of graham crackers, but I like to have a box on hand for when the urge strikes so there is usually a box in the back of the pantry. It's often stale, but it's usually there. Not this time!)

OK, so I looked for the box of graham cracker crumbs. Gone! I probably used that last time I made cheesecake and never picked up a new box.

OK. Think. Now what? I most assuredly did not want to go to the store. In part because it was Easter, but even more so because I didn't want to. I just didn't feel like it. Call me lazy. Call me crazy. But I didn't wanna go.

So, what else could I use? I had a prepared crust. But it was a little small, and it was Oreo. It would probably be delicious with the cheesecake, but it's not really what I had in mind.

I rummaged around in the pantry. Maybe I could do something with cereal? Captain Crunch? Lucky Charms? Shredded Wheat? Honeycomb? Nah. How about Goldfish crackers or Cheese Nips or Poptarts? Nah. Wait! What's that? 'Nilla Wafers! I could use those! A little less graham-y, a little more vanilla-y, but I think that could work. So I crushed them up, mixed in a little butter and sugar and pressed it into my springform pan. It was very pretty! Why? They were the rainbow colored 'Nilla Wafers! Same great taste in bright beautiful colors!

Then I commenced with the rest of recipe and all went well. I baked it up and let it cool. After dinner, I cut it up and served it. "Mom, why does the crust look so funny?" So I explained and everyone was OK with it. And, best of all, it was pretty good. I still prefer a graham cracker crust, but in a pinch this was just fine, and the orange and purple crumbs added a little visual zing that would otherwise have been missing. A perfect dessert for a holiday feast!


Monday, April 5, 2010

Strawberry Squirrel

I know! I know! Where's the Calvin and Hobbes cookies I promised three weeks ago? (Was it three weeks? Or only two, I forgot.) I haven't forgotten them. They are in progress, but I've been so completely, incredibly busy lately, and then with the spectacular weather this weekend, I made no progress on them. I spent the weekend riding bikes, picnicing, gardening, walking in the sunshine, and just overall enjoying myself and my children. I needed a break! So, needless to say, no cookies. But I still have some batches planned.

In the meantime, I did find time to squeeze in a little creativity of the paint-and-paper kind recently. Here, for your viewing pleasure, is "Strawberry Squirrel".


Friday, April 2, 2010

My Car Stereo is Possessed

My car has a strange little stereo. When we first got the car, the salesman was so excited about the sound system. He kept telling us how great it was and how much enjoyment we would get out of it. He went on and on about it at length and ad nauseum.

I said, "Does it turn on? Does it play music? Good enough!"

Poor guy was very disappointed in me.

But I do like music. I often listen to the radio in the car and enjoy flipping through the stations to see what's on. And I have my 6 favorite preset stations. And when I'm not listening to the radio, I'm listening to an audio book.

But I truly think my car stereo system is possessed. Not with an evil spirit or anything, but with a mischievous, naughty little sprite that likes to mess with me. For example, one day, preset station #5 will be set to 102.5. The next day it will switch to 102.1. I listen to both stations at times so I guess it could be possible that I'm doing something weird and resetting it. But it happens regularly. Preset #6 will also randomly switch between 105.9 and 107.9. I *never* listen to 107.9. I didn't even know it existed! But presets #1 through 4 never randomly change. They stay the same, no matter what.

But, OK. I can deal with that. However, it doesn't end there. I've had to learn to write down what CD track I am on each day before getting out of the car. Because about half of the time it will forget where it was. It may start over at track 1 (which I can understand. You know, something happened and it reset itself. What I don't understand is when it randomly picks a track, say 5 tracks earlier, 7 tracks later. or sometimes it will go back to the track that it started with on the previous day. Or sometimes, I'll leave the CD player going, and the next time I start the car the radio will come on. Or it will have turned itself off altogether.

If I could find a way to release that mischievous little sprite, I bet the system would work much better. And I may even get 3 wishes out of it - like releasing a genie. Maybe I should investigate that more.

But I guess I can live with it as long as it doesn't start calling me Dave. (as in 'What are you doing Dave?' 'Don't change the radio station Dave'.)