Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A Second Look--July 27, 2016

We continue to have hot and humid weather here with no rain. Even the promise of a thunderstorm has not materialized. And I'm getting tired of it. I generally try to be positive here, so I'm positive I am tired of the heat for many reasons, not the least of which I've had a migraine for about a week now. The heat is either causing my malady or most certainly aggravating it.

Okay, I think I'm done complaining.
Here are few things I saw this week 
during a Second Look.

While many of the day lily are turning brown, there are a few still blooming.

The house finches continue to dominate the feeders.

But other birds do show up like this mourning dove.

The blanket flowers bloomed for the first time this week. These are volunteers from last year.

I think these are the same kind of mushrooms that grew quite large a couple of weeks ago. I'm going to watch them carefully to see what they do.


These are four different groundhog holes in the back of the yard. They all have been enlarged recently.


The tiger lilies are in full bloom now.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Thankful Sunday--July 24, 2016

I am thankful for my iron skillet.

I grew up cooking in iron skillets. In fact, I didn't know they made any other kind. We crisped our bacon, fried our potatoes, and cooked our pancakes in them. We browned our hamburger, wilted our lettuce, and creamed our sausage gravy in those iron skillets. And every morning, we fried our eggs over-easy, and when the leaves started to turn, we fried our green tomatoes in them. too. Because they were well seasoned from years of use, nothing ever stuck.

A couple of years ago, I got one of my mother's iron skillets and I use it all the time. For this piece of family history, and very useful skillet, I am thankful. 

Note: The skillet belonged to my grandmother before my mother.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Good Morning

The dawn is breaking. It's early morn. I say good morning to Ward, then quietly get up so he can go back to sleep. Downstairs the cats are howling loudly to get feed and be released from the basement where they are banished at night. I feed the cats and then go to check my email and blog. The cats soon join me to see what views the morning has to offer. The birds and the squirrels do not disappoint.

What to do next? The day is full of limitless possibilities but must be considered carefully because the afternoon is going to be sweltering. Definitely time for indoor activities once the sun is high in the sky. The chores for the day seem unappealing. Clean the kitchen that was left in a mess after last night's dinner when we picked blueberries instead of washing dishes. Wash some clothes from the pile in our bedroom. Paperwork is also calling. I've tried to muffle its calls by piling more on top of it, but it's not working. I'm also thinking that I'd like to go on the county's farm tour this afternoon if I can figure out how to beat the heat.

Where to start? I think I'll take a walk and think about that as I see how the rest of neighborhood is waking up. See you later.

How did you start your day?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A Second Look--July 20, 2016

This was another typical summer week with  hot and humid weather without much rain. Without that rain, the ground is starting to get parched and some of the plants look stressed. However, two new flowers made their appearances--tiger lilies and black-eyed susans.

Because of the heat, I'm not spending much time outside, so I have some very impressive weeds. (No pictures, maybe next week.) It's amazing how big some of them can get despite the fact that the weather is hostile to many other plants.

Here are a few things I saw this week 
during a Second Look.

Black-eyed Susan, BTW, this is Maryland's state flower.

The squirrels continue to amuse and frustrate us at the same time.

 Amazingly, we still have a couple pansies blooming. A rare thing this time of year with the heat.

Balloon flowers (Platycodon)

I'm not sure what this bird is, but my best guess is a juvenile sparrow of some sort.

Tiger lily

Swallowtail butterfly


Young rabbit

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Thankful Sunday--July 17, 2016

Decision making, can be a balancing act.

I am thankful for new ideas. 

Yesterday, I was talking with Theo who was having a problem moving forward from something he was working on. We talked a bit to understand the problem and how it might be solved. Then I told him about something I learned when I was his age.

I was working in my first real job for a large corporation and at the time, the company had one its most successful presidents ever. I read an interview with the president about his managing strategies and one point of the interview struck me more than all the others. He said the most important thing was to make a decision. Any decision. Even if it's wrong, it moves moves things forward. You hope it's a good one, but if it's not, you learn from it and move on.

In my inexperienced, idealist mind, that was a new and somewhat outlandish idea for me. I thought you always had to make the right decision. And if you weren't sure, you had to study the issue more until you were convinced you were right. (Or as right as you could be in an imperfect world.) Of course, that meant that sometimes, I didn't do anything and nothing progressed. So this idea of just making a decision was very profound to me.

Now, it seems so obvious. I will never know every variable to make a perfect decision. I just have to do the best I can and move on.  If I'm perfectly honest, I still struggle with making most decisions, but I move forward much faster than I used to. And as the years go by, it gets easier and easier.

So for the idea I learned from my company's president and all the others along the way, I am thankful.

(So did this story help Theo? Well, he's thinking about it. Time will tell.)

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A Second Look--July 13, 2016

There haven't been any huge changes in my outdoor world this past week. Day lilies still dominate the blooms and hot and muggy days out number the cooler ones. To make it really feel like summer, the warm afternoons are now filled with gnats. Really annoying, but beats the black flies my sister deals with in Maine.

Here a few things I saw this week 
during a second look.

Skipper butterfly on a cone flower. If you look closely, you can see its proboscis extended into the flower. No matter how often I see an insect collecting nectar, I am still excited every time I see it. This time was no exception.

Marigold. All of the marigolds we have this year were reseeded from last years flowers.

Some giant mushrooms/fungus showed up in the yard this week. Notice the 12"  (30 cm) ruler for scale.

Close by there was another set of yellow ones. Once again, notice the 12" ruler for scale.

Queen Anne's Lace with black spot. I studied the spot or lack there of a couple of years ago. If you're interested in the results, you can read here.

Day lilies

The wren's nest finally has eggs in it. I suspect that there will be more.

There have been a lot of rabbits around this year.

Zinnias and marigolds. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Popeye's Spinach

The other day Ward was reading something and called out, "Hey, listen to this. You know how Popeye eats spinach and gets really strong because of the iron in it? Well that portrayal happened because of a simple mistake." He proceeded to tell me that when the nutritional value for spinach was first published in the 1870's, there was a problem with a decimal point. That ended up with the belief that spinach had 10 times more iron in it than it really had. The mistake wasn't figured out until much later.

I thought that was pretty interesting and I would share it with you here on my blog. And that's where the problems began. I did a little googling and found the same story in many places. In fact, it's such a great story that it has been repeated for decades. But no one seems to have ever seen the original paper where this mistake was made. Mike Sutton published extensive research he did on the story in Best Thinking Science. After a lot of investigation, he could find no evidence that the misplaced decimal ever happened.

What about Popeye? Did the misplaced decimal story mislead him into eating spinach for strength? Well, it turns out that when he first ate it, he touted its Vitamin A properties instead of iron content.

Nevertheless, his love of spinach made it the third favorite food among children at one point and consumption of spinach went up in the 1940's when Popeye was in his heyday.

So how much iron does spinach actually have in it and is it any better than other foods as a source of iron? One cup of raw spinach (30 grams) contains 5% of the RDA for iron (which by the way is the same amount of iron in Peppermint Pattie.)  Of course, if you are eating it cooked you are likely to eat more. However, spinach also contains oxalates which bind to the iron and make it hard for the body to absorb. So generally, animal sources of iron are easier for the body to use. However like all leafy greens, spinach good for you for a lot of reasons.

So what conclusion can we draw from all of this? Once again, you can't believe everything you read.

Note: I did reading on this about a week before I wrote it. When I tried to relocate sources for some of the things I had written down, I couldn't find them all again. Therefore, I tried to summarize the topic without too many specifics when I couldn't find the sources. Come to think of it, this might be how some internet rumors get started :)

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Thankful Sunday--July 10, 2016

Fireworks from Mayfield Days
I am thankful for community events.

While I live in a town, I really live very much in suburbia. You know how it works--spreading population around cities makes individual towns part of their sprawl. That's how it is here. However, there was a time when this area was out in the country and many remember the trips they took to here to eat at a famous ice cream stand. Luckily, the community tries hard to maintain its identity and small town feel. Some of those efforts include the local FFA farmers market, an old fashioned fair in the fall, and  Mayfield Days in the summer . We celebrated Mayfield Days this past weekend.

They started with a parade and fireworks on Friday evening. Followed by all kinds of events sponsored by various businesses and organizations on Saturday.  Even though it was very hot, a good time was had by all. For these events and the people who organize them I am thankful.
(Because you can take the girl out of the small town, but you can't take the small town out of the girl.)  :)

A few pictures from Mayfield* Days.

The library staff marches in the parade every year. Here we were at our line up spot with some of the signs we later carried in the parade. Even though the parade was in the evening, the temperatures were still above 90.
I got pretty hot.

The next day, among other things, there was a car show. While I'm not much into cars, I did find this exhibit interesting. This is part of a tree that grew up through a truck. After 36 years the tree had totally grown into the truck and they had to cut both the truck and tree to clear the area. This shows some the parts the tree grew around and into. Ward wants you to notice the truck's transmission and truck frame in this picture.

In conjunction with an exhibit at the local museum, the library sponsored a version of the Antique's Road Show. I took these two Civil War cannon balls for appraisal. While the appraiser didn't have any ideas about these, I had a good time seeing the others things people were bringing in. The best was hearing the stories about where they got their items.  

*Not the real name of the town, but keeping in line with Leave it to Beaver aliases.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Simple Kindness

You hear it all the time. Be kind to others. You never know the impact you might have. You might make the day of someone who is having a hard time. I think most of us do try to be kind with a thank you here and smile there. Recently, I've gotten feedback to know that some very simple gestures really did make a difference.

The first was when Ward was in the hospital and I was walking around outside. A crossing guard stopped the traffic and to let me cross a street. I smiled and said thank you as I crossed, and he replied, "Thank you for that and your smile. You have just made my day." I don't know if he usually doesn't get any response or he was having a bad day, but he was genuinely appreciative of that very simple gesture. (BTW, Ward's doing great. He's recovering well.)

Aldi's carts waiting for their quarter.
Next was when I was loading my car after a shopping trip in Aldi. A woman carrying a squirming toddler came up and asked if I had a quarter. (You have to "rent" the carts for a quarter.) I told her that she could have my cart after I emptied it. And then I asked her if she needed some bags. (No bagging in Aldi.) And she said yes. I gave her a couple of bags from my car. She was extremely appreciative and so was the toddler because he now got to ride in a cart. People share their carts at Aldi all the time, but today it especially made this mother's day.

The next example was when I last visited my mother. We were in the dining room waiting for lunch. My sister and I were taking a couple of pictures of my mother when we noticed another resident watching us intently. We asked her and her son, who was with her, if they would like their picture taken. He said it was alright. His mother, who was pretty much nonverbal, just smiled. So we took a few pictures of them because she seemed to be enjoying it. When I got the pictures developed, I mailed them to my mother and included one of the mother and son to be passed on. When the son got the picture, he immediately took it to his truck so he wouldn't lose it. It turns out that it was the only picture he had ever had with him and his mother. He was very touched. You see, this son is there every day to feed his mother all of her meals. He shows such dedication and he's never had a picture with her. He was truly appreciative.

These are all examples of such simple things. I didn't go out of my way to do anything special, just normal things that all of us would do. But being kind really made a difference. So I'm gonna try to be kind all of the time even when I'm in a bad mood. All I have to do is remember the look on the mother and son's face and I think I will have motivation enough.

(Wish I could show you pictures of the other people, but I have to respect their privacy.)

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

A Second Look--July 6, 2016

Here are somethings I saw this week 
during a Second Look.

Day Lilies

Female House Finch

Balloon Flowers, Notice the bud that looks like a balloon.


Cone Flowers

Day Lilies


Day Lily

Chipmunk (This one's for you, Anne. :) )

Monday, July 4, 2016

New Beginnings

Today is Independence Day, the day we celebrate the 240th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. An important event in our early history.

I have been fortunate to see many things tied to important events from the start of the US.  Among others, I've seen a real copy of the Declaration of Independence and tallies of the votes done before its acceptance. I've visited Philadelphia and seen Constitution Hall where the Declaration was adopted. I've been to Boston and seen the harbor where they had the Boston Tea party. In Baltimore, I saw the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the Star Spangled Banner. And I've visited the homes of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington, all key players in our early days.

source   Mt. Vernon, George Washington's home.

But among all of these amazing visits, there is one that stood out more than the others. Ward and I were visiting Mt. Vernon, home of George Washington. We went with Ward's parents, Leo and Syl, who lived nearby but hadn't visited in years. The weather was nice and we were enjoying the various buildings and gardens when we decided to tour the house. We went through the first part of the tour and were waiting on the wide front porch that faces the Potomac to get into the next part.

We were chatting about this and that when Syl said, "This is where I got my citizenship." (His mother was from Guatemala and came to college here where she met Ward's dad.) What? Right here? I had never heard this story and neither had Ward. She had actually stood on the porch right where we were and got sworn in as a US citizen. Leo said that Ward was little and he had him out on the lawn trying to keep him quiet and out of trouble while his mother said her oath. So as we were learning about an early part of our country's history, we also learned about early part of Ward's history. Soon after that, Ward's mother became sick and died several months later. We felt lucky that we got to share the memories of this important event with her.

So today, as I remember our forefathers and the start of our country, I think about Syl and others like her who also got a new beginning here. I am fortunate to live in a country where this is possible.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Thankful Sunday--July 3, 2016

I am thankful for family and food.

Theo has been staying with us for the last couple of weeks. Since he is self employed, he brought his work here and has been helping out as Ward is recovering from surgery. He was available for care giving in the early days while I was at work, and for heavy lifting these days when my skinny arms can't quite manage a big chore. We are very happy that he is here.

And an added bonus to all of this is that Theo has been cooking. We do a bit of planning together, but he initiates and does most of the meal prep. I act as his sous chef. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate someone else taking the lead in the kitchen. As most of you know, cooking is not an area that I'm much interested in. One day I came home from work and there was a hot lunch waiting. I was almost giddy. And the Irish hash we had last night was one of the best things I've had in a while. 

So for this time with my son and the meals he is preparing for us, I am very thankful.