Monday, August 14, 2017

Sphinx moth larva

tomato horn worm, larger than my thumb. This one will not be allowed to pupate to a sphinx moth

Josh and family

As I was looking for ripe vegetables, at first I thought it was just some unripe okra but no, it was the dreaded tomato worm. Judging on how few leaves are left, he either was very busy or has friends though I haven't found any more. But they do look cool once they turn into the sphinx hummingbird moth! I only seen them once, back at the old house just after dark, a bunch of them came to feed on my flowers. I didn't know they came from tomato worms. I do have a huge unripe spaghetti squash, larger than a football but still green. Lots of tomatoes, summer squash, chard, kale and tomatillos though.

When I was researching my horn worm, their handy hint to find them is to wait until dark, use a black light. The tomato leaves will fluoresce dark red and the worms will be bright yellow. If only I had a black light..... 

I am now within a pound of my skinny husband.

Yesterday was a perfect day for a long bike ride though I eagerly am waiting for the bridge I use to return. At night, a friend and I sipped wine as the sun went down and the fire flies came out. Finally I was able to get the cauliflower crust pizza. It quickly sells out. There were fire flies on the west coast too (of Michigan, no fireflies west of the Rockies presumably) but they were so much brighter.

Summer is going by way too fast. summer don't leave

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Dilly pupates, blueberry fields and mermaids

Dilly turned into this the night before I left. How long until a butterfly? Variable: 2-6 weeks.
they collect kites at the lovely house that I stayed at
and woodwork
green zinnias downtown Holland
Shanna and family suspended umpteen stories high over Chicago
This was uncovered recently in Downtown Detroit. It is where my mom worked when she was 16 serving bumpy cakes and hot fudge puffs. Wouldn't eat chocolate again until she had Alzheimer's and forgot she hated it
my first cousins twice removed or my cousin's grandkids. It was the one on the right's birthday. I met up with my aunt (96!!!!!) and my cousin's family in Holland after I visited my friend. The younger girl here is a few weeks older than Allie but is half the size. Allie is about the same size as the 6 year old.

I am back from my short adventure on the West coast, Holland Michigan. I stayed with a former colleague and her husband just outside of the city. The area has many bike paths, which we rode together on and I ran on the next morning. Very flat. They cut through acres and acres of blueberry farms. My friend has a very extensive vegetable garden which was very lush due to her care and the fact that they get much more rain than we do on that side of the state. She likes to grow unusual varieties so we picked long. thin twisty eggplants with a Japanese name, round bright yellow prickly lemon cucumbers and a unusual type of summer squash to roast on the grill along with romaine and salmon for dinner. Very tasty. She also raises chickens.

We ate lunch on the pretty shore of Lake Macatawa  before our bike ride followed by paddling around in my water hammocks in her pool, a very nice way to spend a summer afternoon.

After the wonderful grilled dinner, we drank wine and talked well into the night. Holland had sidewalk sales which we visited the next morning. I bought some cute wraps for not much. Where am I going to wear all these dressy things?

On to my relatives. My cousin and aunt live about 30 miles north where I love to visit but they thought it would be more convenient for me if we would meet at her son's in Holland as I was already there (to get there, I took a road which changed names every half mile it seemed). One of the little granddaughters was having a birthday. Fortunately she loved my present and both of the girls spent much of the time playing with it. Later she was going to have a mermaid and pirate party with her friends. I think my handy cousin sewed the mermaid costumes.

My aunt must be the healthiest, best looking 96 year old there is. She is very sharp, reads a lot, travels still. She has some macular degeneration that makes focusing difficult and a very mild tremor. Otherwise, one might guess she is years younger. She also looks very much like my mother (her younger sister) and has the same voice so that's always a bit disconcerting. I was glad to see her. She has many photos of her and her siblings though mainly of the older ones (my mom was a younger one) that will go to me at some point. My other aunt is now in Michigan too but on my side of the state. I will try to get them together.

My cousin's daughter-in-law was a chemistry professor from the North of England so she has a very interesting accent. She said in school they never discussed short and long vowels as I guess everything is pronounced as if it has a long vowel. According to her, her husband mispronounces his own name. Here in the Midwest bury, berry and Barry are pronounced the same as is merry, Mary and marry.

My cousin's husband, the beer lover, brought some of his collection so that was tasty thought I couldn't sample much due to the long drive I had. With two expressways out that I would have usually taken, I had more time to go through the small towns of Western Michigan.

I tried to make up for the relative slack in exercise and finally ran at a more respectable pace early this morning followed by a 21 mile bike ride and lifting of weights.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

From XL to XS

Maya went up to the Upper Peninsula with her father last weekend
orange sweetheart rose
hardy hibiscus finally in bloom
stopped by graffiti alley yesterday

I thought I had a brand new bird but after much searching, it is a juvenile red wing black bird
stopped by the fancier resale shop to get even smaller clothes. Found this hand made glass pin

I feel sometimes a bit like Alice in Alice in Wonderland: Big, small, big, small.  I am slowly introducing the forbidden foods to my diet (in small doses) but I still seem to be losing weight albeit much more slowly. Clothes purchased more than a month ago are now too baggy.

Dilly the caterpillar seems like he is ready to pupate. Or maybe he is dead. He was eating non-stop until yesterday. Now he is clinging to a stem immobile. Presumably his caterpillar phase was to last 10 days and I had him for 6. How long until he turns into a butterfly? That is real variable as it turns out. It takes Monarchs 14 days but it could take much longer.

Naomi's car has this strange transmission: an automatic standard transmission. It will even roll backwards when stopped on a hill. A silly concept and one the company has had problems with. Last week it started acting like a bad stick shift driver was driving it with jerking, stalling, switching into the wrong gears all by itself. It acts like it has a bad clutch. Sounds expensive but it is part of the 'drive train' that has an extended warranty. Bad news, only to 60, 000 miles. But with some sleuthing, I found out (Ford has not sent me this letter), they extended the warranty to 100,000 miles. Naomi is just 240 miles shy of that. Do not drive!!!!! Hopefully the dealer will fix the problem for free next week. Until then, she has our other car and I am leaving tomorrow with the remaining car.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

My pet caterpillar

We went to the beach yesterday. As usual, the pet cranes were there. People would approach them with cameras in hand. The cranes, thinking they were getting a treat, would go towards the person scaring the person most of the time

Now 7 months old. I had (HAD) thighs like that
Allie is smiling here but the day before she spent in the ER with a nasty gash in the back of her head that needed staples to close it. She was swinging from bar to bar but the rain had made them slippery. She fell backwards against a ladder
baby okra
Have to figure out when these are ripe. You can see the shadow of the 'fruit' inside the shell. I think it needs to be at least cherry sized
half grown spaghetti squash
orange cosmos

Friday afternoon, you would see a crazy lady digging up Queen Anne's lace from a nearby field and then transplanting it into her own property. Didn't she just pull up and discard these weeds? Ah, but that was before she decided to feed her pet caterpillar.

In less than 24 hours, a horde of swallowtail larvae had systematically climbed up 12 full grown healthy dill plants and ate everything green leaving only the stalks. I found 5 caterpillars clinging to the stalks with nothing left to eat. They aren't as fussy as monarch larvae who only feed on milkweed which gives the larvae that not so yummy oxalic acid taste which will cause the bird feeding on them to vomit. Swallowtails will feed on anything in the fennel, dill, carrot, parsley or Queen Anne's lace aka wild carrot family. I assume I probably had more than 5 larvae at one point. I do have lots of birds to gobble them up assuming the birds don't object to dill tasting food. I transferred the 5 larvae to the Queen Anne's lace plant that had escaped my weeding attempts. By the next morning, only 2 were left. By the afternoon, only one had escaped being bird food. I brought it inside and it now lives in a mason jar with a dill stick and fresh queen Anne's lace foliage and flowers. It is a voracious eater. It should pupate soon as it is the right size.

Yep this is how I spend my days.

Since my bike came home from the shop with a brand new puncture resistant tire, I have been bicycling a lot. Since the bridge I need to complete my favorite loop is still out, I biked to downtown Whitmore Lake and back. Fortunately it is cloudy so I won't become road kill due to the east sun blinding the drivers. As it was dark and cloudy when I took off, I put my new blinking light on my left foot. Recently there was a study on bicyclist visibility. Orange versus black jerseys made no difference but a moving light on a leg did.

Yesterday before we left for the beach, my friend and I rode a loop in the country on dirt roads. Bumpier but absolutely no traffic so we could talk while riding. Recently at the resale shop, I bought these pool loungers that are mainly mesh but have an inflatable rim and pillow and fold up to a very small space so I could take them biking. They also fully inflate with less than a minute of huffing and puffing. They were perfect for lying out in the water which we did for some time until my old nemesis sea sickness hit me. After laying in the sun for a while watching kids interact with the cranes, we went back to my house to make a dinner out of all my garden veggies.

On Friday evening, despite the cool wind that finally chased the oppressive heat away, I spent a very nice evening with another friend.

Today, Josh and his girls come. Naomi returns late at night. She sent me a video of her biking along the beach in Santa Barbara. Lucky her.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The invasion of the Swallowtails

I went out to pick fresh dill for my matzoh ball soup this afternoon. Yesterday, I had lots as I was showing my friend my herb garden. Today, just bare green sticks with these caterpillars on it. I transferred them to some Queen Anne's lace. They feed only on dill, fennel, carrots and Queen Anne's lace. I will find more Queen Anne's lace for them to eat tomorrow as I am sure they will eat it all overnight
Maya helped pick these though I wish she left the green ones alone
lots of tomatillo
okra has interesting blossoms
Hannah last night
the boys playing scientiist
Shanna took the kids to the park
and the Dairy-go-round

my newest folk doll though Tessa thinks it's creepy

What those caterpillars will turn into. Swallowtails. Note to self: don't plant dill next to a butterfly bush

This has been the week that it has rained everywhere except here though right now I hear thunder. It has been the week of grandbabies. Shanna's kids on the weekend and Maya most of the week while her mom is away in CA though now all the kids are gone. Quiet. Maya did spend the night at Tessa's and last night we took her to play with Allie. Still she is hard to entertain, so full of energy.

I did get my bike back though I haven't had time to ride it. I have been running instead despite the heat and humidity. Next week, a trip to the West Coast (of Michigan)

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Rocky Raccoon Redux

I opened the blinds this morning to this. Even though I was only a few feet away, I could not get him to move so I went outside to confront him after I took this photo. He finally dropped down into the hydrangeas. This explains how fast my suet cakes go even though the piggish blackbirds have moved on. New job: bringing this in at night. He is cute. As he is not full sized, I guess he is a teenager
this is what I missed up north. I would have had to be up at 2 am. Mackinaw City is about 120 miles north but some northern lights were seen south of us around Ludington
I had Shanna's kids last night. They love their tablets

She is so sweet. The easiest grandbaby by far.
Inside a Taiwanese Buddhist temple. My niece has been taking great photos
Josh's family had a photoshoot. These are the sneak previews
I took my buddy out for his birthday a couple days before. Usually the Amtrak comes rumbling by at least twice. A cheap thrill

Yesterday morning would have been a perfect day for a bike ride (as would today but now, no bike). I was starting on the flats with a wind on my back. I should be easily going 16, 17 mph but it is an effort to go 12 mph. Why am I suddenly so weak? Squishy tire. I go back 2 miles to pump it up. It seems to inflate just fine so maybe just a slow leak. I warn Steve I might be calling if it goes completely flat far from home though I manage a route that is never much more than 6 miles away, the most I could stand walking if need be. I got at least 20 miles in of nicely inflated tires but had to struggle to do the last 4-5 miles.  Back to the bike store which I go to far too often. Not only did I need another intertube, the rear tire is quite worn and they didn't have the one I want in stock so I will have to retrieve the bike in a few days.

All this promised rain evaporated before hitting our house though my friend and I had to abandon our nice patio seating due to rain the other day. Dry as a bone back at the ranch 6 miles away. Hopefully this will slow the grass growing. The lawn mower died in the middle of Steve cutting it the other day. This thing is a bear to push. A neighbor took pity and came over to help push. Fortunately it didn't die in the back acre. The lawn mower guy suggested jumping the battery with the car. Steve too nervous to do it without Josh's help. The lawn mower guy came, jumped it and it caught on fire!

Several new parts later, it came back yesterday. Hopefully it works. We did get the dryer fixed. Now if we only got the disposal and some electrical issues worked out... Wish at least one of us were handy.

We had the Mom's group out in the country surrounded by flowers, a garden party. Fun as usual though due to time constraints, I was not too creative with my dessert. Got several flavors of ice cream, some dulce de leche and some macerated strawberries in chestnut liqueur for sundaes. Good for a garden party.

Shanna and Ramy went to a wedding far away so we had the kids for most of the day and night. Should have let them use the hot tub. It was a nice evening for a picnic outside. Daniel and Tessa sat with me for a long time in the cabana while I sipped my tangerine beer. What does Tessa want to do when she grows up? She wants to be a face painter.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Winner, winner, chicken dinner

Maya is in behavioral therapy for her ADHD. A lot of time is spent teaching the mom strategies while I watch Maya
glass temple in Taiwan. My niece is visiting her mother's relatives
flowers here

shrimp plant

finally can ride a 2 wheeler

For two days on the ride, I got an annoying number of phone calls from an unfamiliar number. Unless the number is identified, I don't answer as it usually is some scam to tell me I won a trip around the world, all I need to do is send them.....
But I noticed messages were left and opened one.. with the winner, winner, chicken dinner message.
I had won some drawing on the ride for a bicycle themed key chain as it turned out.

I am gradually getting back to my routine. Bought some heavier weights so that I may more effectively tone those arms. Needed some smaller pants (size 6, woo-hoo!). I put away all of my camping supply (ha, I never did last year). Spent much time with Maya as her mom did this and that (you don't have much to do). I now have burnt orange shiny nails.


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