Friday, June 28, 2013

In My Backyard - #12 - Oh, You're Bats!

One of the first things that attracted my parents to the house we now have lived in for the last 16 years was the in-ground swimming pool out back. Many summers were spent enjoying it with friends and family but, as any pool owner knows, there were "others" who enjoyed it as well. Have you ever heard of a skimmer? This is the drain located a few feet from the pool where the water gets continually pumped through in order to reach the filter, initially clarifying it and returning it to the pool via jets. In the skimmer there is a basket to catch large debris and keep it from getting in the filter, and it must be periodically emptied in order to keep the water flowing. This is an exciting job because you never know what you might find. We've had a plethora of frogs, some toads even, many species of insects, large grass spiders carrying thousands of babies on their backs, and last, but not least, water snakes that sneak in from the ponds behind our house.

One time, we found an extremely long, black water snake curled up in the basket. In the process of trying to get it out we ended up chasing it back into the pool where we eventually scooped it out with our net and released it back into a pond.

Now before you cry, "I object, this story has no relevance", I might add that we had other visitors, ones that come out at night. Today, we don't use the pool like we used to and end up leaving the cover on it all year round. Its more of a net material so that water still gets through making it a bird bath, welcome to birds, dragonflies, and even squirrels. But at night, our visitors are bats. No, not bats as in crazy, but bats, the mammals. They come out when the sun has slipped below the horizon, and flit through the sky, feeding on insects and attracted by the water from the pool. I've sat outside watching them many times before as they zoom and swoop in the air, and one time I had one fly past only inches from my head. Close call.


Some say bats are cute, some say they are creepy. But most people, at one point or another, associate them with horror stories about vampires. If you've read any of my posts you'll know where I stand.

One time, years ago, we were visiting some caves where there were many species of bats. I looked at the pictures of the bat species represented and simply exclaimed that they looked cute. An older woman looked surprised and said, "Do you really think they look cute?" I, who have never turned down a single animal, thought, "Is this lady for real?" But said instead, "Yes ma-am, I do."

Despite peoples opinions on their physical appearance, there are a lot about bats that are unknown to the average person.

There are two suborders of bat species: the largely fruit-eating megabats, also referred to as flying foxes because they look like a fox with wings, and the echolocating microbats. Echolocation is the same idea as sonar and is used by many species of animal, but most heard of through the study of dolphins. It is the ability to send off sounds that will bounce back if coming in contact with something. This is how the microbats detect and catch prey.

Fruit Bats, Picture Courtesy of Wikipedia

Another difference between microbats and megabats is not their size as you might suspect, since some microbats are larger than some megabats, but their diet. Megabats feed on fruit, pollen, and seeds, while microbats are majorly insectivores. We can thank bats for their usefulness in pollination and distributing seeds, among other things.

In many languages, the bat has a name relating it with the mouse. Names such as bald-mouse in French, blind mouse in Spanish, and flying mouse in Russian.

Newborn bat, Picture Courtesy of Wikipedia

Bats are the only mammal that can fly. You might say, "But what about the flying squirrels and other similar species"? Notice, these species only glide while the bat can fly. Their flight is more involved than the birds up and down motion of the wings. Bats use their elastic-like wings and bones to give them a more delicate flying technique. Watching them fly you'll quickly notice there is a difference in their flying and a birds. They flit and swoop and turn much faster, and more sporadic, than most, if not all, birds.

If what I have said so far hasn't convinced you how cute bats really are, watch this video and THEN tell me what you think.


This post is a mile marker for me. I have been posting these monthly for a year now. Unfortunately, they don't seem popular, as I noted already in my previous post: Some More Spice! - Post Ideas. So this will probably be my last. In its place, I am going to start a water oriented post. I'm not sure of the specifics, but it will cover man's history on the water, under the water, and all the above. Very loosely, it will be about water. So come back next month to check out the new series.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Culinary Chronicles - Taco Tostadas

I am always ready to try some new recipe and it only pleases me more when it calls for fresh vegetables and herbs. There is absolutely nothing that beats fresh. That's why when we first visited the International Farmer's Market in town, we were completely delighted with the wide variety of fresh produce. And we are seriously considering rearranging our schedule so that we might make it to some of the local farmer's markets closer by. The thought of being able to select fresh and un-waxed vegetables for our cooking really excites me.

I'm the type of cook that makes things totally from scratch and with the freshest of ingredients possible. I suppose that's just how I've been raised, to appreciate and embrace the most healthy way of cooking.

Is going grain free a viable option?

It wasn't until the beginning of this month did we really venture to go grain free. We weren't becoming vegan, paleo, or vegetarian, but we did want something better than what we had. After hearing for a good while the pros and cons of grain, Mum finally came to the decision that going as grain free and sugar free as we could go was in our best interest. This was hard at first. Our breakfast consisted of muffins, usually sweet, or some other grain, while we ate grain for lunch and supper most of the time. Then we would often have a dessert. Mum tried to keep from having desserts every night but it didn't help when I was constantly making something new. Plus friday night was ice cream and movie night. Sugar overload. To some people this is not much, but looking at it from my point of view as we are today, it was over the top. So out went the ice cream and other desserts, to most of my family's dismay, and most of the grain we ate. This presented a problem though: what did we replace it with?

The months have passed and though I still can't say we have it all figured out, and I don't think we ever will, we have made some much needed changes and adapted very well, if I don't mind saying so myself. At first I was at a total loss since my whole responsibility in the kitchen was baking. I had to fill it with something. So I started taking over more of the dinner preparations. Then I found KFoodAddict.com and a boatload of healthy, vegetable laden dishes from Korea. Trying some of those recipes has really spiced up our Asian dish selections. But I've already talked about this. One note though, having heard that soybeans are not healthy we use an alternative to soy sauce called liquid aminos by Braggs. I can't say I now the amount ratio because I have never used soy sauce but I can say that I just go with what I feel.

So, as part of our new diet going grain free and sugar free, we've found a good deal of guiltless dishes and here is one of my very own. I wasn't sure what to call it because its origin depends on the seasonings you choose. But I'll mention this more in a minute.

Taco Tostadas





Ingredients
serves 8
  • 2 lbs of ground beef, preferably grass fed and free range
  • 1 medium sweet potato, diced
  • 4 large, or 8 small, carrots, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 garlic bunch (probably about 10 cloves)
  • 2 (generous) handfuls of fresh spinach
  • salt and pepper
  • your choice of seasonings (see note below)
  • a dozen eggs

Instructions

Cook ground beef in a large cast iron skillet until all the pink is gone. Add all vegetables and stir to mix. Cook until vegetables are done. Then add spinach and mix to wilt the leaves.

When the meat and vegetables are almost done, heat a second skillet, medium to small in size, on a low heat with a small spoonful of coconut oil. Bust a single egg in a bowl and add a smidgen of salt. Scramble the egg and pour into skillet. Once the sides look like they are cooking, flip the egg to cook on the other side. Remove when satisfied the egg is done. Continue cooking the eggs in this form, remembering to keep the cooked ones warm. Cold eggs often turn people off, as do spongy, overcooked eggs.

To eat, spoon some of the meat and vegetable mixture on egg tostada and top with your choice of toppings. Enjoy!

Seasoning Options
  • Mexican: add chili and cumin powder to skillet dish as well as the salt and pepper. Top with sour cream and cheese, and maybe even some home-made salsa or pico de gallo.
  • Asian: omit salt and pour a fourth a cup or so of Braggs liquid aminos over meat and vegetables. Add a few tablespoons of sesame seeds and sesame oil, if you so desire. Top with your choice of Asian sauces. You might try Annie Chuns Sweet and Sour sauce.
  • Italian: add your choice of Italian seasonings along with salt and pepper. Top with cheese and/or spaghetti sauce.
As I said, I tried the Mexican style, the others are simply ideas. Have fun experimenting and don't forget to tell me what you think!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Some More Spice! - Post Ideas

For almost a year now I have been posting a monthly series called In My Backyard, where I pick out a creature or organism that I have had an encounter with during the past month and write about them. Its great for me because I have something scheduled whereas most of my other posts are not restricted to a certain time. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem as though the series has been very popular, whether its my writing or just the topic, I have no idea. My next one might just be my last. I haven't decided yet.

But I do have other ideas for periodical posts, some I hope that will be more popular. You might note that I have a drive to be "periodical" about things and the only explanation I can give is its in my nature. I like schedule and consistency. I will admit though that it can be a bit of a hazard for me since I tend to be too scheduled, a theme that reoccurs quite often in my posts.

Anyway, on with the post ideas.

Do you like water?


 When we were little we had a fascination with old swashbuckler movies. The sword-fighting, sailing ships, and all around adventurous plots got us everytime. Against All Flags (1952), The Spanish Main (1945), and The Crimson Pirate (1952) were among our favorites, and I guess I might as well say they still are. This diet of adventures fueled a love for maritime in me that still burns today. I started my own study of ships and their stories in highschool and have collected quite a few. I've read a good many of the nautical stories I could find at our public library and have wished I could find time to read the rest. I chose maritime archaeology for a science also in highschool and wrote some papers because of it. The initial theme of this blog was intended to be nautical until I decided over time to touch on something a little more earthy. And though I don't spend as much time reading and breathing maritime history as I used to I still love it. That and marine biology which I also chose as a science. In light of my watery-infatuation, I've decided to start a series of posts that will range from stories of the amazing sailing ships, modern archaeology's discoveries, and the overall history of life on the sea, to the creatures that live in the sea and all the things humans love to do in, on, and under it. I plan to delve into known and unknown facts of marine and maritime subjects. Sound interesting? Well, whether the series is liked or not, I'll still have to try my hand at it. After all, it is my blog.

Movie Night, anyone?


Less intellectual, maybe, my second idea is to review some of my favorite movies from the past. Those I choose will range from early 40's to late 60's, most likely, and eventually maybe some more modern ones, who knows. Reviewing movies is something that will come easy to me since I already have a definite opinion where they are concerned so in a way this will be a breeze but I have a feeling it will be more noticed and attractive than my other ideas. I haven't decided when to post them and how often. If you have read any of my posts from last year, you will see that I did this during the Christmas season with my favorite Christmas movies (see here for the whole list). I plan to stretch this series out a little more. And for those of you who kept up with the Christmas reviews I still plan to do one on It's a Wonderful Life this Christmas. So stay tuned.

To give you an idea of some of my favorites, here is a short list:
  • Wallflower (1948), with Joyce Reynolds, Robert Hutton, Janis Page, and Edward Arnold. 
Joyce Reynolds
  • Government Girl (1943), with Olivia de Havilland and Sonny Tufts.

  • Billy Rose's Jumbo (1962), with Doris Day, Stephen Boyd, and Jimmy Durante.

I hope you're interested. Stick with me to see how it turns out. Until then...

Monday, June 17, 2013

Banner Updates

For a little while now I have been wanting to personalize my blog more, you know? Kind of spice it up a little. I want it to reflect me in all my "crafty"-peculiarities. The only problem is trying to figure out just what I wanted. It takes me forever to settle on something at times. I want it to be perfect, something that I will enjoy for a long while. I want to be completely satisfied. Its not impossible, its just not likely to happen fast. For further proof check out this list I compiled each time I had an idea for my blog:

  • What I want: Retro - Vintage - Antique colors but with enough color to be me -  Unique, but simple - 
  • Pictures: Vintage things, typewriter, newspaper but more glamour, follow loosely to site design and color (?) 

  • Or: Vintage clean - creams and peaches - White cracked walls, yellow boots, blue scarf, green shirt - The cute coffee shop down the street - typewriter (red) -

  • Earthy background - vintage photos of things - vintage overlay - think archaeology 

  • Tan lines on a cream background

As I said, I compiled this over a good amount of time. Notice how my ideas changed. But the very last one is closest to what I think I'll be happiest with. One thing that remained true is the keyword "Vintage". I'm a vintage sort of girl, but then again so is some of my family.

I still hadn't found out the answers to all my HTML questions relating to my blog template (see post: What I am Doing and My Plans) but I did some looking through the themes already set up and found this one. The yellow, cream and green is really close to what I wanted anyway, especially the lines, and the lemons just looked too cute to pass up. So I settled with it and turned my attention to a banner.

I've never given much thought to having a banner because, in truth, I've never had a good idea for it. Another list I compiled was all the categories I wanted my banner to cover. You know what they say about first impressions, well I wanted my banner to be a sample of what people will find on my blog. I won't bore you with the details. But my plans were to take my own pictures and load them into Gimp and see what I could do.

That is until I saw this:


Isn't it cute?! I found it on Pinterest and pinned it on my "Mushrooms and Hedgehogs" board. I reasoned, "There's just something earthy about mushrooms", and I've collected hedgehog stuffies for as long as I can remember. I adore them! So... I began to get an idea... hedgehogs and mushrooms... earthy... hmm.

I pulled out my tablet, drawing pencils and colored pencils and set to work. Unfortunately, I procrastinated on doing it a little because I wasn't sure I was ready to create just what I wanted but I have been pleased with some of the results. I won't give out the secret, you'll have to wait for the grand revealing. Right now I am still looking for the best font to write Over the Horizon in so it might be a little while. Like I said, I want it to be perfect. Bear with me.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Ever Loving Trenchcoat

When you talk about Mission: Impossible these days people think "Tom Cruise". The action/spy franchise is on its 5th film and people are still raving about them. But what most people don't know is that it didn't start with Tom Cruise.

On September 17, 1966, the first episode of Mission: Impossible aired and it ran for 7 seasons. It astounded audiences who found the world of spies and impending war come only too close to home. In short, the Impossible Missions Force, a team of well-skilled, super clever American spies, were sent into tight situations, always in hostile environments, to retrieve secret plans, root out spies, prevent fourth reichs, and including but not limited to rerouting nuclear warheads. They were cool, calm, and always on top of things. Rarely caught in a trap, when they were they always managed to create a way out. Truly impossible.

Now why am I going on like this? A few years ago I saw my first episode and have been obsessed with the shows ever since. They were right up my ally. I love spies, and gadgets, and suspenseful charades, and this show was full of it. It also just so happens that I love the costumes as well. That is where today's post comes in. Whilst watching the episode called The Traitor from Season One, I saw Dan Briggs trenchcoat and loved it. 

As was typical, Dan and Cinnamon (another IMF agent) were masquerading as Mr. and Mrs. "Briggs" in order to catch a traitor to America. On a side note, Cinnamon has some amazing clothes. I've wanted to write some posts on her styles before but until now I haven't been able to get pictures with good quality.

Here is Dan in the coat:


In my limited knowledge I would say the coat is a cotton form. It doesn't have the heavy wool look that overcoats and especially greatcoats exhibit. If it were a little lighter I would say it was a raincoat (and I don't mean the cheesy plastic ones).

Notice the peaked lapel. I love it because its broad and gives the coat a more firm appearance. Sharp lines and straight cuts make this coat.



But the first thing I noticed is that it is double-breasted. There is just something about a double-breasted coat that lends a distinguished air to the wearer. Plus epaulets at the shoulders. I read that they were created so that the military could add embellishments without damaging the coat. 

Its hard to tell in this picture (above) but I think you can also see that it has a storm flap over the right side. This is to keep water from leaking in when you raise your arm. Fascinating, huh?


Here's a picture from the back. Unlike most trenchcoats, this one does not have a vent on the back. I can't say that its a bad thing because I have never cared much for the vent in the back but it does have a useful purpose.

Another thing I never liked was cuff straps. When tightened they corrupt the straight lines of the coat sleeves. But in Dan's case they are loose enough so as not to distract the coats angles.

And then there is the belt. Unlike the popular look in the forties to tie the belt straps, this one is neatly secured with a ring and hardly noticeable. It pulls in the waist and gives a more fitted look. Very snazzy!

Any comments? What do you think about Dan's coat? Is it really what I say it is? Just so you know, this is not the writings of a fashion expert but a fashion expert wanna-be. I don't claim to know what I'm talking about. I just think I do.

One thing before I sign off. I couldn't talk about Mission: Impossible and not include a picture of Cinnamon.


I could go on forever about her style. The colors alone are so appealing to me, but the cut and fit are usually enough to catch my attention. I also use her for 60's makeup references. Maybe I'll post more on that subject sometime.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Accessorize with Crochet!

I do a lot of talking about my dreams and things I plan to do on here, and sometimes it depresses me when I read back over it later and realize I haven't done any of them. But I comfort myself with the idea that at least I am organizing my plans when I write about them and giving myself a bit of an encouraging nudge toward doing them.

So I am going to talk about my plans for accessoriz-ing our room with crochet. Strangely, in the past I never considered filling our room with crocheted happiness but suddenly its come to me as a wonderful and creative idea. Plus, having a bit of an income now encourages my creative progress.

Our home is a small 70's model that we have "cursed" for many different reasons. Though I'm no carpenter, I have come to see many very important things a house should have that ours does not. I am not complaining. I live in this house and am used to it. I am grateful that God has given us a roof over our heads. But one thing that my siblings and I have is some experience in knowing just what a well-built house should look like. Or at least, I think we do. Our bedroom (my two sisters and mine) is what some would call rather small for three girls but one must do what one must do. It has taught us a great deal, for sure. But both my sisters agree that its time we gave life to our little space. I will outline some of our ideas.

First of all, we want to rip out our carpet and lay tile. Big job. But I want tiles so that the crocheted rugs will belong. Like this one:


You can find more details by clicking here.

Second, or more like first since its the first thing I plan on tackling, is crocheted curtains. Our closet used to have folding doors but they got too annoying and we eventually took them off. I thought how fun it would be to crochet our own and we've decided on a few designs already. Now I just have to figure out the rest like yarn and size.

This is another plan:



Isn't is wonderful?! Even though we already have neat bedspreads, I'd love to make us each one with differing colours. I've really become captivated by just how creative you can get with a granny square. I like greens and yellows, and earthy colours, while my sisters go for blues, pinks, and purples. By picking colours in the same tone we plan on satisfying each of our likes.

Next I'd like to add some life to our waist-high bookcase. We have a Lava lamp already, yellow-green and blue, along with other nick-nacks, of course, and I'd love to add one of these babies.


I'm thinking a sport yarn might make it more doily-like, or maybe even thread. I'll have to experiment. It might be my next Crochet Spot pattern, who knows. One thing for sure, I love the colours. I don't want our room to be loud, but since the walls are a bland sort of wood paneling (evidentally popular in the 70's) I think bright accessories would balance it.

This is another idea I like.


We don't have a lamp in our room, unfortunately, but if we did, it would not be left out. :)


The finishing touches. Our pencil holder is in definite need of a reformation like this. Isn't it lovely? When shopping the other day, I saw a pencil holder, quite plain really, with a grate-like texture. Hmm, how do I describe this? Like an old waste basket, you know? I thought it would be awesome to weave different colors of yarn in and out and give it some spice. Too bad I can't show you what I mean instead of just describing it. I guess I should have bought it. Maybe I will.

This sums up our ideas so far. I'm sure more will come but doing them is the big deal. I just have to keep in mind the size of our room. :)

Curtains, bedspreads and rugs are longer and more intense projects. I don't expect to get them done anytime soon. But, cross your fingers, I don't plan on forgetting them. (Forgive my occasional cynicism.)

So tell me, what are your ideas? Have you ever considered crochet-bombing your room before? Doesn't the idea just excite you? (I get really happy with yarn, okay.)

Saturday, June 1, 2013

What have I been doing?

Creativity abounds! Or at least the idea of it. Since today is one of those "not busy-- lets do something crafty" days, I decided I'd give my next crochet idea a try. I bought some Aunt Lydia's Fashion thread a little while back for just this project. Earrings! Three tiny circles with a glass bead attached to the bottom. I hoped it would work but there's no way to know until you try.

Well, I tried. What do you think?


I am so happy with how they have turned out. Delicate and glamorous. Offhand, I found the beads at a little jewellry store on the square and just had to get a few. I usually buy all my jewellry equipment and things at Hobby Lobby but this worked out great. These were made with the colour Coral; I'm going to do another pair in Candy Pink for my mother.

If you'd like the pattern you'll have to wait a few weeks. You'll find it at Crochet Spot. I've actually done another earring pattern for Crochet Spot, my first on Crochet Spot actually.


The second pair is my first design that gave way to the double flower design.

I was trying to do something really outgoing for my first pattern. The only trouble was, I felt like I had to best myself with the next project. Thankfully, I realized I didn't have to go so extreme and have since toned myself down.

Here are some of my more admirable projects you can find at Crochet Spot:

Daisy Coasters

Mimosa Scarf

Three Strand Hook Case

Watery Ripples Dishcloth
Starburst Motif

I know I've been talking about this for a while, but before long I will have my Etsy shop up and going and all my best projects up to buy. I plan on including some of these, especially the earrings.

But that is not the only creativity I've come in contact with today. I have actually been incredibly inspired by a site my sister found while on Pinterest. I have not explored the site yet and so will not mention the URL just yet, but its full of movie costumes made by the woman herself. So inspiring!

I really want to get into sewing more, especially vintage dresses (from the forties) and costume. I have a great love of costume and have recently discovered, or shall I say my sister has once again discovered, a site call Clothes on Film. Its fascinating! I like fantasy costume and period costume. Its fun to be able to get behind the scenes and hear the costume designers story. I must say, its my favorite think to find in the behind the scenes.

The one thing keeping me from going head first into sewing is our sewing machine. We had a really old one that did an awesome job but it bit the dust, so we had to buy a new one. I must tell you, I have lost a lot of hair over that one. A simple straight seam and it takes me forever because the thread gets caught or the presser foot comes loose or who knows what else. I don't want to complain, but if it is stressing to work with on small projects, I'd hate to have to work with in on a big project.

So until we can get a better sewing machine I'm afraid my sewing days are nonexistent. Sad. I really need to research and find the best kind. Any suggestions?

One day you might come back to visit me on my site and find that I've made it to seamstress status. I hope. For now, I'm still crocheting!