Saturday Surprise — Birds, Birds, Birds

Hey friends!!!  It’s finally the weekend and I bet you all have some really fun things planned, yes?  Me?  Oh, who knows … I just rather go along with whatever the girls decide on for the most part … as long as it includes a meal and a trip to either the library or the bookstore, I’m happy.

I get daily emails from a site called ThoughtCo.com, and each day is something new, fun and different.  I usually give them a quick scan, then delete, but sometimes one warrants a closer look.  This particular one definitely deserved a closer look, and I thought it would be perfect to share with you for our Saturday Surprise!  Now, I admit I felt a bit cheated, for there were supposed to be 10 … the subject line of the email read “The 10 Most Adorable Birds You’ve Ever Seen”, but when I opened the article, there were only 8!!!  What happened to the other two?  Did they become extinct between the time they sent me the email and the time I opened it a day later?  Still, it’s fun and I wanted to share it with you.

The people at ThoughtCo ranked these guys in a slightly different order than I would have, but I will stick with the order in which they presented them, and you can pick your own favourite.

#1 – Eurasian WrenEurasian wrenAt the top of our cute bird list is the Eurasian wren (Troglodytes troglodytes), a charismatic “little brown bird” that can fit in a teacup. Eurasian wrens are found throughout Europe and North America as well as in parts of Asia. Their cuteness is in no small part due to their slight stature and their plump body shape, which is further emphasized when they fluff up their feathers. Eurasian wrens are light brown and have a delicate, dark brown pattern of bars on their wings, tail, and body. Eurasian wrens weigh a mere one-quarter to one-half an ounce and full-grown birds are just 3 to 5 inches long, from bill to tail.

Personally, I thought this one was a bit ‘average’ looking, but perhaps their cuteness lies in their tiny size.

#2 – Atlantic PuffinAtlantic PuffinNext up on our list of cute birds is the Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica), a charming seabird that nests in large, gregarious colonies along the rocky coastlines of the North Atlantic. Outside the breeding season, Atlantic puffins spend their time at sea, hunting for fish over open water. The Atlantic puffin owes its cuteness to its small, rotund stature and distinct coloration. It has black plumage on its back, wings and tail, and bright white plumage on its belly and face. Its bill, its signature feature, is large and triangular in shape. It is a bright orange-yellow color with a blue base and groves at the base.

Now this one I really adore … reminds me a bit of a junior penguin!

#3 – Black-Capped ChickadeeBlack-capped ChickadeeThe black-capped chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) is the next species on our list of cute birds. No such list is complete without this little charmer. Black-capped chickadees are often regulars at backyard feeders throughout North America. They are hardy little birds that remain residents throughout their range, even during the coldest winters. To cope with the extreme cold they often must endure, black-capped chickadees lower their body temperature at night, entering a state of regulated hypothermia and saving lots of energy in the process. As their name implies, black capped chickadees have a black cap, bib, and white cheeks. Their body plumage is more subtly colored, with a greenish-gray back, buff colored sides, and dark gray wings and tail.

Definitely pretty … but I’m not sure about ‘cute’ so much.

#4 – Northern Saw-Whet OwlSaw-Whet OwlNo list of cute birds is complete without an owl. And northern saw-whet owls (Aegolius acadicus) are arguably among the cutest of all owl species. Northern saw-whet owls are small owls that have a round facial disk and large golden eyes. Like many owls, northern saw-whet owls are secretive, nocturnal birds that hunt small mammals such as deer mice and white-footed mice. Northern saw-whet owls occupy a range that stretches from coast to coast in North America. They breed in the boreal forests and northern hardwood forests of Alaska, British Columbia, the Pacific Northwest, and the Rocky Mountain states.

Now THIS little guy has my vote for #1!!!  Isn’t he just adorable?  Look at the intelligence in that cute little face!

#5 – Adelie PenguinAdelie PenguinFor the next bird on our cute bird list, we travel to the world’s southernmost latitudes, where we find the Adelie penguin, a species that like the black-capped chickadee, pairs its cuteness with toughness. Adelie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) inhabit a circumpolar region along the coastline of Antarctica. Adelie penguins are the classic penguins, with black plumage on their back, head, and the topside of their wings and white plumage on their belly and the underside of their wings.

I adore penguins, but their cuteness comes from seeing them walk … er, waddle … so I am including a short video clip … watch the little guy – what a little bully!!!

#6 – Costa’s HummingbirdCostas HummingbirdAny list of cute birds is lacking something if it does not include a hummingbird. Here, we include the Costa’s hummingbird (Calypte costae), a small hummingbird that lives in the deserts of southwestern United States and Mexico. Costa’s hummingbirds are nearly as light as a postage stamp, with an average mass of just over one-tenth of an ounce. Costa’s hummingbirds feed on the nectar from flowers such as those of the desert honeysuckle and the saguaro cactus.

Cute, but I like seeing the in action best … hovering in front of a flower while they devour the nectar.

#7 – Blue-Footed BoobyBlue-Footed BoobyThe blue-footed booby (Sula nebouxii) is equal parts cute and awkward -looking. Their most notable feature is their turquoise webbed feet. Like many seabirds, blue-footed are rather clumsy when moving on land, but they are graceful when flying over open water. The blue-footed booby belongs to the same group of birds that includes pelicans, cormorants, and tropicbirds. Blue-footed boobies are found along the western coast of Central America and South America and various coastal islands in that region, including the Galapagos Islands.

Now what’s not to love?  I adore those eyes, the expressions … they almost look like a toy or a drawing!

#8 – DunlinDunlinThe dunlin (Calidris alpina) is a widespread species of sandpiper that inhabits a circumpolar region in the Arctic and Subarctic. Dunlins breed along the coastlines of Alaska and northern Canada and over-winters in more southern coastal regions around the world. The species is quite diverse, with some 10 recognized subspecies. Dunlins feed on clams, worms, and other invertebrates. During the breeding season, dunlins have a distinct black patch on their belly, but outside of the breeding season their belly is white.

I’m still not sure what happened to #9 & #10, but that’s okay, for it’s getting late and I know you’re eager to start your weekend!  So, which bird was your favourite?  I hope you enjoyed the birds and maybe even learned something new!  Have a lovely weekend, my friends!

Saturday Surprise — Let’s Travel!!!

adorable puppyWelcome to the end of a long and frustrating week, my friends!  I really think we need to give our minds a weekend off from thinking about the detritus of the past 5 days, and so, I’m taking you on a little trip, and when we come back, I have a treat for you!

This summer has been miserably hot and humid in most of the world, I think.  My UK friends tell me that, while the temps may not be quite as high there, air-conditioning is not standard equipment in homes as it is here, so they may have it even worse than us, and it has been hot enough here!  So today, to start off our weekend, we are going someplace cooler. We are going to … Switzerland!!!  Buckle up …

cable carWe will be taking a cable car from Lauterbrunnen up to the most awesome restaurant, the Schilthorn Piz Gloria.  While Piz Gloria claims to be the world’s first revolving restaurant—a dubious title given that the Seattle Space Needle opened in 1962 during the World’s Fair—its real claim to fame is its James Bond connection and unparalleled views.

outside restaurant

Feeling cooler already, aren’t you?

Piz Gloria is named after the 1963 James Bond novel and subsequent film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, in which a mountain-top hideout conceals Bond’s nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Today, Piz Gloria taps into its James Bond past by offering visitors a 007 Walk of Fame and interactive exhibit aptly named Bond World.inside restaurantThe restaurant, which is truly the main draw for travelers, rotates slowly offering diners a view of 200 mountain peaks during the course of their meal. While the food of Piz Gloria has been reviewed as lackluster and overpriced—a classic pitfall of many tourist attraction restaurants—the view more than compensates for what’s on the plate.schilthorn-eiger-mönch-jungfrau

Since we are in the neighborhood anyway, I thought we might as well pop over to Zurich to see this machine I’ve been told about.  Jean Tinguely was a Swiss sculptor famous for building things that served no purpose!  The one we are going to see today is called “Heureka,” Ancient Greek for “I’ve got it!” This is meant to be ironic. The sculpture, created in 1964, is an allegory of consumerism in advanced industrial societies. The machine churns and churns but with no purpose, just absurdity.  Hey – I know some people like that!!!Heureka-1The Heureka sculpture is made from everyday objects like scrap metal and junk; it’s comprised of various tubes, wheels, iron bars, metal pipes, and electric motors assembled together to create an intricate machine when turned on — or rather, the illusion of one.

Heureka-3Tinguely meant there to be humor in the creation, a poetic recycling of the industrial world. He was a follower of the French Nouveau Réalisme art movement, a 1960s avant-garde style that incorporated elements of the real world and everyday life into artworks, creating a new way to perceive reality.

Heureka-2Part of the movement’s ideology was responding to the new consumerism in Western society. Tinguely was inspired by Dadaism, which I never did understand any better than I understand this strange machine!  Okay … let’s move along …

One last stop before we leave Switzerland and head home.  We are going to Ennetbürgen to … ride an elevator!!!  No, I haven’t lost my bloomin’ mind … come on … this will be fun!

elevator-1

Have I mentioned my deadly fear of heights???

The Hammetschwand Lift was put into place to carry visitors over 3,700 foot above sea level to the beautiful vistas of Lake Lucerne. Created in 1905 by a popular hotel destination nearby, the elevator has survived both world wars, the elements, and a wood-to-steel conversion to remain a world-record holding attraction.

elevator-2Originally the precarious elevator compartment was made of nothing more than wood and sheet metal which would be drawn up the 500-foot shaft, which was constructed of equally questionable materials. At the time, the ride took up to three minutes to complete. Today, after multiple overhauls, the elevator is made of expertly engineered metal and glass, yet somehow looks nonetheless rickety. In addition to the hair-raising heights that the glass-walled elevator reaches, the speed of the lift has also been increased and riders are now shot to the top of the shaft in less than a minute. The station at the top exits unto a bridge that leads to the mountaintop.

elevator-3WHEW!!!  That was some ride, wasn’t it?  I think my stomach is somewhere down near the base of the mountain!  But just look at that view … takes your breath away, doesn’t it?

Well, folks, time to go back home so that you guys can go spend some time with your families and do some fun weekend things!  Daughter Chris is at yet another band competition for the weekend, so Goose and I are planning a wild party involving fish sticks, salad, and a game of Mario Kart!  Do we know how to party, or what?

Oh … I promised you a treat, didn’t I?  I have stumbled across a couple of videos that are absolutely 100% guaranteed to put a smile on your face.  The first one is fascinating … I love watching glassblowers, but this one is truly amazing …

And you know you cannot get away from here on a Saturday without a cute animal video … these pandas will melt even the coldest heart … not that any of you have cold hearts, but … well just watch the video …

And on that note, I want you all to go out there and have a safe and happy weekend!

Saturday Surprise — Who Knew?

Good morning and welcome to the weekend!!!  Finally, eh?  Been one of those weeks that I just wanted to crawl under a rock more than once.  But here it is, Saturday morning, and the whole weekend lies ahead.  What adventures do you guys have planned for the weekend?  I was initially planning to take you all on a fun journey today, but unfortunately, my Tiny Timely Travel machine is on the fritz and I think I am going to have to take it to the shop.  When I asked it to take me to Italy yesterday, I ended up in Sri Lanka, and when I was trying to go to Hawaii for a bit of r&r, I found myself in Calcutta.  So, instead I found some really cool things that I didn’t know about my favourite topic — animals!!!  I think you’ll find these fun and interesting, I guarantee you’ll learn something new!


reindeerWho knew that reindeer are the only deer species where both males and females grow antlers? The males shed theirs the beginning of December, the females shed theirs in the spring.  Now think about this one for a minute, folks.  Reindeer pull Santa’s sleigh on Christmas Eve, toward the end of December.  The reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh always have antlers, yet male reindeer shed their antlers the beginning of December.  Perhaps all those male names like Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen need to be changed to Susie, Clara, Angela, Cassandra, etc!


elephantWho knew that elephants are one of only a handful of animals that can pass the mirror test — in other words, they can recognize their own reflection (and not think it’s another animal, as dogs and cats usually do)? They tested this by placing a chalk mark on an elephant’s forehead and then showing it a mirror. The elephant investigated the mark on its own forehead, indicating it knew that it was looking at itself. Now, I might argue that part about dogs and cats, for one of our Sig-Seven, Pandora, spends a good part of her day sitting on the vanity in the bathroom and looking at herself in the mirror.  She doesn’t attack her reflection, nor does she try to snuggle with it, she just stares at it.  But then, all of our Sig-Seven are strange, weird critters.


flamingoWho knew that while we have always thought flamingo’s knees bent backward, those are really their ankles?  Their knees are actually up by their body, and it bends the same way ours does.  Okaaaaaay … I guess I can see it.  So I wonder where they keep their hips?


pumaWho knew that big cats are classified as being either roaring or purring cats?  Lions and tigers are, obviously, of the roaring variety, while bobcats and lynxes are purrers.  The largest of the purring sort is the puma, also known as the mountain lion.  Its purr is quite loud and is said to sound much like an idling motorcycle.


polar bear.jpgWho knew that polar bears’ fur is not white?  Yep, you heard me right … their fur is actually transparent and only appears white because it reflects visible light.  Now, can you guess what the colour of their skin underneath that transparent fur is?  Black!  Sometimes you’ll notice a yellowish or greenish tint to their fur.  The yellow is a sign of aging, or sometimes dirt, while the green is from the algae that can grow on polar bear fur in unnaturally warm and humid environments such as are found in zoos.baby polar bearWhile the biggest polar bear ever recorded weighed a whopping 2,209 pounds, when they are born they weigh barely one pound!


kangaroo-3Who knew that Kangaroos cannot move their legs independently of each other, they have to move them in sync, but only when they’re on land? When they’re swimming, they can move them separately. Hopping is their most efficient way to move — a walking kangaroo is extremely awkward. They swing both legs forward using their tail as a third leg to prop up while their legs swing.


Who knew that although adult Langur monkeys are silvery-grey in colour, their babies are bright orange? Their fur begins to change to grey starting with its head so that for a short period of time it looks quite strange with only its body a bright orange.

langur-monkey-4

There are three main theories as to why the babies are born such a bright orange:

  • The babies are orange so mothers do not lose them when they explore the forest
  • Their bright colour helps them blend into their surroundings as predators are often colour blind and mistake orange for green
  • The orange colouring of infants makes it obvious there are babies in the troop so other adults should start to share the care for them

I think the first one seems the most likely.


And because I just cannot get enough of adorable polar bear babies …


Okay, friends, that’s all I’ve got for today.  I hope you learned something fun today, and that you have an absolutely wonderful weekend, whatever you do!

Saturday Surprise — A Trip to Hong Kong!

YAY!!!  It’s the weekend again!!!  Some might ask what difference it makes to me, since I am retired and every day is pretty much the weekend.  Well, yes and no.  Every day I get to waken on my own with no alarm clock, and I set my own schedule, but I have to tell you … I work harder now than I ever did when I was an accountant working 12-14 hour days!  I am busy from the minute my feet hit the floor in the morning until usually 3:00 a.m. or so, when I tumble into bed to read for an hour or so.  Weekends, however, are special because unless she is at a band thingy somewhere, daughter Chris is home, she and Miss Goose do the house chores, and we have family day on Saturdays whereby we go out to eat and usually for a trip to my favourite place, Barnes & Noble.  So I do still look forward to weekends!

A ‘feel-good’ story crossed my path today, and it led me on a journey.  I came back to get you all and take you with me on a journey to … Hong Kong!!!  We are going to Hong Kong to see the Dragon Boat races and to meet one very special team of racers who I think will really impress you!  Don’t worry, you’ll be back in time for whatever is on your Saturday docket.dragon-boat-carnivaldragon-boat-carnival-2.jpgThe Dragon Boat Festival takes place every year on the 5th day of the 5th Lunar month, normally in May or June in our calendar.  This year it was on June 18th. The festival is best known for its colourful Dragon Boat races where teams of paddlers race the long narrow boats accompanied by the beat of the drum down to the finish line.  The drumbeat is to keep members of the team in time.dragon-boat-1.jpgAccording to one popular legend, the Dragon Boat Festival has its origins in the old man Qu Yuan, an official that was so disillusioned with his country’s government that he drowned himself in protest by jumping in the river. The locals rushed to the site, paddling on their boats and banging drums, gongs and everything they could find to scare away anything that might harm Qu Yuan in hopes to find and rescue him but they were not successful. They also brought offerings of rice to calm the old man’s spirit. The pilgrimage with the long boats, the drumming and the rice evolved into massive and colorful events and the dragon boat races and competitions that characterize the festival of today.dragon-boat-2The races last for three days, and every year, thousands compete.  This year, though, was special for there was a new team on the block called the Darkness Fighters. Their mantra is “Challenge the impossible.”  You see, this team is special for they are all blind and most are well beyond retirement age!  For some, it is their first time competing in any organized sport. Darkness Fighters-1.jpg“I’m really happy to be here today because I didn’t think I would be able to do things like this,” said Tsang Jau Rung, 72, who began losing her sight 16 years ago and joined the Fighters this year.

“It is a group effort,” said Annie Wing Chee Lo, 60, who steadily lost her sight over the past 10 years. “It requires our utmost focus and perseverance for us to do well.”Darkness Fighters-2.jpgFor the blind paddlers the race has its own sensory delights: the thrum of the drum, the spray of the water, the crowd’s cheers. By the end of the race, they are sopping wet, exhausted and beaming with pride. They placed fifth out of eight teams.

“We were all on point with our rhythms and didn’t mess one another up,” Mr. Lau said. “That alone is a win for us.”

Now wasn’t that a fun journey with which to start the weekend?  I hope you all enjoyed the trip to the Dragon Boat Festival and enjoyed meeting the Darkness Fighters!  Have a safe and wonderful weekend!dragon-boat-3

Saturday Surprise — This ‘n That

Hello Friends!  Once again we embark on aweekendWhat better way to start the weekend than with something fun, eh?  Well I’ve got just the thing …


All the world is a canvas …

I was bobbing along on Bored Panda yesterday (I love Bored Panda … always something to love!) when I came across a unique form of artwork.  Russian illustrator Nikita Golubev lives in Moscow and scours the city in search of … dirty cars & trucks!  And what he does with them is … at least in my opinion … really amazing!  I’ve picked out a few to share with you, but you can see more on Bored Panda.

Niki-art-1Niki-art-2Niki-art-3Niki-art-4Niki-art-5Niki-art-6Niki-art-7Niki-art-8

Isn’t that cool?  If someone did that on my car, I would immediately have a coat of clear-coat applied so I could keep it forever!  You can watch a short (41 seconds) clip of him doing his art


There goes the price of a Hershey bar …Hershey-barOn Wednesday, a semitrailer carrying chocolate from Hershey, Pennsylvania, caught fire along Interstate 80 near Dexter in west-central Iowa.  The Iowa State Patrol said the truck was headed westbound and had problems with its brakes, which eventually caught fire. The driver pulled off of the interstate onto a grassy area. The driver was able to unhook the cab from the trailer before the trailer went up in flames. There were no injuries. But the trailer — and all of its chocolate — were destroyed.

Can you imagine how much chocolate was likely in that trailer???  Sigh.


Death by beard???

It happened one night in 1567 in the town of Braunau am Inn on the Austrian-German border.  A fire broke out in the town, and of course this was before the days when you could just whip out your cell phone, call the fire department, and wait for them to arrive with a fleet of hook-and-ladder and pumper trucks.  Everybody was pitching in to help.beard-1The burgomeister (mayor), Hans Steininger, was on the scene.  Now, the mayor sported a beard that was long … very long … 4.5 feet (1.4 m) long, in fact.  Well, the mayor usually rolled the excess of his beard and carried it in his pocket, but when the fire broke out, he didn’t take time for that precaution, and in the midst of the chaos, he managed to step on his own beard, sending him tumbling down a flight of stairs and breaking his neck. Killed by his own beard.  I’m thinking the mayor must not have been very tall, if he tripped over his beard that was just 4.5 feet long.

The beard has been preserved for posterity and is on display at the District Museum Herzogsburg in Branau.beard-2


Lost keys or lost memory?

I came across this, and while it isn’t about me … I can see me doing something similar!

After a meeting several days ago, I couldn’t find my keys. I quickly gave myself a personal “TSA Pat Down.”

They weren’t in my pockets. Suddenly I realized I must have left them in the car. Frantically, I headed for the parking lot. My husband has scolded me many times for leaving my keys in the car’s ignition. He’s afraid that the car could be stolen. As I looked around the parking lot, I realized he was right. The parking lot was empty. I immediately called the police. I gave them my location, confessed that I had left my keys in the car, and that it had been stolen.

Then I made the most difficult call of all to my husband: “I left my keys in the car and it’s been stolen.”

There was a moment of silence. I thought the call had been disconnected, but then I heard his voice. “Are you kidding me?” he barked, “I dropped you off!”

Now it was my turn to be silent. Embarrassed, I said, “Well, can you come and get me?”

He retorted, “I will, as soon as I convince this cop that I didn’t steal your car!”

Welcome to the golden years…


And last, what would a Saturday Surprise be without at least one or two funny animals?  So here, for young and old alike, two short clips …


Now, my friends, it is time for you to go enjoy your weekend!  For my friend Emily who today begins 5 whole weeks of vacation …wine glasses beachHave a great weekend, and if you are, like I am, in an area that is experiencing a heat wave for the next 10 days or so, keep cool, keep safe, and have fun!

Saturday Surprise — Beauty, Humour and Furry Critters

Well, well, well … we have all survived yet another week and here it is, the first official weekend of summer!  So, does everyone have happy plans for the weekend?  Me?  No, no … Chris is at yet another band competition this weekend, this one in Dublin (Ohio, not Ireland), so Goose and I are just chillin’.  I don’t know about you all, but I think my U.S. friends will know what I mean when I say it’s been a tough week, and personally, I’m in the mood for some beauty, some humour, and some cute furry critters.  But first, a funny-sad story about a member of the Sig-7 (short for Significant Seven):

A few nights ago, I was sitting with my laptop perched half on my right leg, half on the arm of my chair, two kitties curled up sleeping peacefully on my lap, when suddenly the quiet was pierced by a ultra-sonic, high-pitched shriek!  A glance across the room, and there is Boo jumping no less than four feet into the air, turning in circles mid-air, and screaming, shaking his front paw.  Imagine me trying to get the laptop safely on the desk, the kitties safely off my lap and go to the rescue or poor Boo … somehow in this process I whacked my knuckle on something and cracked or chipped the bone.  As I began to approach this jumping, shrieking kitty, something flew at my face, then landed at my feet.  A bumblebee.  Boo had been stung by a bumblebee!  I managed to get the bumblebee outdoors on a piece of paper, but sadly, later that evening he was found belly-up and cross-eyed. Boo is not kind to bugs.  Believe it or not, I cried over that darned bee — for two days!  Boo is fine – since Chris was at band and Miss Goose was out, I was very thankful that he wasn’t allergic to bee venom.  He limped for an hour or so, more for sympathy than out of pain, I think.  The next morning I found another dead bee, this time a wasp, on the kitchen floor.  Sigh.  Gonna be a long summer.


And now for a little beauty …MosqueThis is the Nasir al-Mulk Mosque in Shiraz, Iran.  The Mosque was constructed between 1876 and 1888, during the Qajar dynasty, which ruled Iran from 1785 to 1925. It has been dubbed the “Pink Mosque” due to the plethora of pink-colored tiles blanketing the ceiling. The best time to visit the mosque is in the early morning, when the sun reflects the stained glass patterns onto the floor.

The designers were Mohammad Hasan-e-Memār, an Iranian architect, and Mohammad Rezā Kāshi-Sāz-e-Širāzi. Restoration, protection, and maintenance of this monument is being continued by the Endowment Foundation of Nasir ol Molk. The colourful windows and doors are handcrafted by carpenter master Hajj Mirza Ayat.

Isn’t it beautiful?  I would love to visit there someday.Mosque-outside


Now, I promised some humour, but I am finding my sense of humour is a little off these days.  In fact, before I put anything on my Jolly Monday posts, I run it by either Chris or Miss Goose first, for I was informed when I was about to use a story about a lady who was run down by a car … I don’t remember the details, but I found it funny, and Chris happened to be reading over my shoulder and said “GRANNIE … NO … You cannot use that for Jolly Monday!!!”  And so, I now have two content editors who tie my hands just a bit, in addition to my literary editor who only gnashes his teeth when I misuse the comma or apostrophe.  Or misspell a word.  Or make a sentence too long.


You can always count on kids for a bit of humour, yes?  I came across this a few days ago … snippets from children who were asked for their instructions on life. I put my favourites in blue … what are yours?

  • Never trust a dog to watch your food. — Patrick, Age 10
  • When you want something expensive, ask your grandparents. — Matthew, Age 12
  • Never smart off to a teacher whose eyes and ears are twitching. — Andrew, Age 9
  • Wear a hat when feeding seagulls. — Rocky, Age 9
  • Sleep in your clothes so you’ll be dressed in the morning. — Stephanie, Age 8
  • Never try to hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk. — Rosemary, Age 7
  • Don’t flush the john when your dad’s in the shower. — Lamar, Age 10
  • Never ask for anything that costs more than five dollars when your parents are doing taxes. — Carrol, Age 9
  • Never bug a pregnant mom. — Nicholas, Age 11
  • Don’t ever be too full for dessert. — Kelly, Age 10
  • When your dad is mad and asks you, “Do I look stupid?” don’t answer him. — Heather, Age 16
  • Never tell your mom her diet’s not working. — Michael, Age 14
  • Don’t pick on your sister when she’s holding a baseball bat. — Joel, Age 12
  • When you get a bad grade in school, show it to your mom when she’s on the phone. — Alyesha, Age 13

And then there’s this …joke


Which brings us to my favourite part of the day … funny animal videos!!!  Today, I dedicate this segment to my youngest friends, Benjamin, Reuben & Amelie …

And one more — just an 18 second clip — watch the baby panda …

Well, my friends, I should let you go so you can get started on those special weekend plans.  Anybody having a grill-out this weekend?  Save me a burger, if you don’t mind.  Have a safe and wonderful weekend!

Saturday Surprise — Potato Chips!!!

Happy Saturday, Friends!!!  I hope you all have plans to get outside and do something fun this weekend.  It is gorgeous here, with temps in the 80s, though I hear they are supposed to start climbing later today.  Hugh … did your mountain of snow finally melt?  Daughter Chris is in Chicago this weekend for a Pipes & Drums band competition, so it’s just me and Miss Goose.  We lead a very quiet life when the chatterbox is gone!  Goose works on her art, I work on my writing, and we set our phones for an alarm every two hours so we remember to have a brief conversation – it usually consists of “Hi … I love you … are you hungry yet?”  “Hi … I love you back … no, but are you?”  “Nope … talk to you again in a couple of hours.” And then we return to what we were doing.  This weekend, though, we have promised ourselves that we will watch Wreck It Ralph with a big bowl of popcorn.  This idea came thanks to Roger, who told me he was chuffed to find that Wreck It Ralph II will be out in November.  And if you don’t know what Wreck It Ralph is … Google it!wreck-it-ralph


Every now and then, odd and random bits ‘n pieces of things pass through my email.  Most I just toss, but sometimes the subject line catches my eye and I dig a little deeper.  One such tidbit came about this week and as soon as I saw it, I thought it might be a fun bit of trivia to share with you for Saturday Surprise!  It has a bit of mystery, a bit of history, and a bit of controversy … all surrounding, of all things, the origins of the potato chip (or potato crisp as they call them across the pond).

The story comes courtesy of Tuan Nguyen, writing for ThoughtCo.com

George Crum

George Crum (born George Speck; July 15, 1824 – July 22, 1914) was a renowned chef who worked at Moon’s Lake House in Saratoga Springs, New York during the mid-1800s. According to culinary legend, Crum invented the potato chip during his work at the restaurant.

The Potato Chip Legend

George Speck was born to parents Abraham Speck and Diana Tull on July 15, 1824. He grew up in upstate New York and was hired at Moon’s Lake House in the 1850s.

Moon’s Lake House was a high-end restaurant that catered to wealthy Manhattan families when Speck was hired. A regular patron of the restaurant, Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, frequently forgot Speck’s given surname. Vanderbilt often asked waiters to relay various requests to “Crum,” thus giving Speck the name he is now known by.

According to popular legend, the potato chip was invented when a picky customer (Vanderbilt himself, according to some reports) repeatedly sent back an order of French fries, complaining that they were too thick. Frustrated with the customer’s demands, Crum sought revenge by slicing a batch of potatoes paper-thin, frying them to a crisp, and seasoning them with lots of salt. Surprisingly, the customer loved them. Soon enough, Crum and Moon’s Lake House became well-known for their special “Saratoga chips.”

Disputing the Legend

A number of notable accounts have disputed the story of Crum’s culinary innovation.

Recipes for frying thin potato slices had already been published in cookbooks by the early 1800s. Several reports on Crum himself, including a commissioned biography of the chef published in 1893 and his own obituary, were curiously missing any mention of potato chips whatsoever.

Crum’s sister, Kate Wicks, claimed to be the real inventor of the potato chip.

Wick’s obituary, published in The Saratogian in 1924, read, “A sister of George Crum, Mrs. Catherine Wicks, died at the age of 102, and was the cook at Moon’s Lake House. She first invented and fried the famous Saratoga Chips.” This statement is supported by Wicks’ own recollections of the tale, which was published in several periodicals during her lifetime. Wicks explained that she had sliced off a sliver of potato that inadvertently fell into a hot frying pan. She let Crum taste it and his enthusiastic approval led to decision to serve the chips.

Crum’s Legacy

Visitors came far and wide to Moon’s Lake House for a taste of the famous Saratoga chips, sometimes even taking a 10-mile trip around the lake just to get to the restaurant. Cary Moon, the owner of Moon’s Lake House, later tried to claim credit for the invention and began producing and distributing potato chips in boxes. Once Crum opened his own restaurant in the 1860s, called Crum’s, he provided every table with a basket of chips.

Crum’s chips remained a local delicacy until the 1920s, when a salesman and entrepreneur named Herman Lay began traveling throughout the south and introducing potato chips to different communities throughout the country.

At that point, Crum’s legacy was overtaken by the mass production and distribution of potato chips on a national scale.

I don’t imagine Mr. Crum ever anticipated the wide variety of (mostly bad) flavours we see on the grocery shelves today! chips-1chips-2chips-2chips-3

Now that you are craving potato chips, why not fire up the grill and make some burgers to go with those chips?  Whatever you do this weekend, keep safe and enjoy life!  And to send you on your way, how about a little song … one of my old favourites that can bring a smile to faces young and old!

Saturday Surprise — Return of the Gnomes!!!

Welcome to the weekend dear friends!  Do you have big plans for the weekend?  I am housebound this weekend, but that’s okay, for it is a bit too hot & humid to suit me anyway.  Most of you probably hadn’t stumbled upon my blog yet back in March 2016, and even those who were with me then may have forgotten about the gnomes.  Allow me to briefly summarize.

It all started in Little Buffalo State Park, in Pennsylvania, with a kind, retired gentleman, Steve Hoke, who noticed that a group of gnomes had made the park their home.  Being somewhat of a handyman, Mr. Hoke built several little homes for the gnomes – 38 to be precise.  The gnome homes were a huge hit with the gnomes, as well as with visitors to the park.  It was soon determined that more than 100 gnomes were living in the park! Children of all ages set aside their video games and came to the park to delight in seeing the little homes and occasionally even catching a glimpse of a gnome (gnomes, you know, are very shy).

Well, it wasn’t long before the park manager, Jason Baker, decided that the gnomes and their homes had to go, for he claimed the extra visitors were … wait for it … “packing down the dirt in the park” and disturbing the wildlife.  Mr. Baker, by the way, is a descendant of Ebenezer Scrooge.  So, the gnomes were evicted and Mr. Hoke retrieved the tiny little homes.  gnome1But then the following month I received an email from Mr. Hoke, who had seen my original piece, and he informed me that he had managed to re-home the gnomes in local community parks where they were living quite happily.  If you’re interested, here are the links to the original story:

Part I – The Gnomes Have Lost Their Homes

Part II – Update:  The Gnomes Have New Homes!!!

Well, I have never forgotten Mr. Hoke and the gnomes, and then today I came across a story about an entire gnome village in California!  The village is located on the campus of California State University in Carson, California, and was the brainchild of Peter Chance, one of the campus groundsmen.

It all came about back in 2014 when the university found that during periods of heavy rain, runoff and erosion on a small hillock near the health center were clogging up the drainpipes with silt.  No solution had been found yet when Mr. Chance related that for a long time he had been working on an idea, rather a dream.

“I remember walking down here one day and thinking it would be awesome to put a miniature village or fairy garden or FernGully. I’ve seen it in the back of my mind for years. I just would stand here and imagine: a house could go here, that could go here, and I started seeing some of the little nooks.”

The university gave the green light, and Chance, along with his fellow groundsmen Fernando Goncalves and Chris Evans, began transforming the hillside into a tiny village, using materials found at the university’s Physical Plant.The principal gnome building was created using a broken concrete electrical box; another gnome house was built using a tree stump and a plant-pot saucer topped with moss. They used small pieces of redwood to build stairways, doors and bridges, and leftover infield clay from the baseball diamond for the tiny roads and pathways. They then decorated the village with miniature plants, a spattering of bonsai trees (Chance is a bonsai specialist), and some large mushrooms, providing plenty of shade for the gnomes.All this creativity, of course, would have been for naught if the erosion continued. And no self-respecting gnome would live in a village with a landslide problem. So the team used baby’s tears (Soleirolia soleirolii, a plant with a moss-like appearance) as the main ground covering, which would help improve water retention and prevent silt from reaching the drains. Then, at the bottom of the village, they built a simulated dry riverbed filled with dead plant material, which would help hold back the silt while allowing water to filter through.

Not only did the village solve the erosion problem, it also added plenty of charm to the university campus. Today, the gnome village continues to thrive and grow, and Peter Chance and his team are always thinking of more details to add to the miniature hillside settlement.

No word on how many gnomes are living in the village – gnomes are hard to count, for they dart in and out, especially when humans with cameras are around.  But they certainly have wonderful little village, don’t they?

Have a wonderful weekend, my friends!

Saturday Surprise — The Week in Pictures

When I first came up with the idea for the Saturday Surprise feature last August, I asked for suggestions from my readers.  One of those suggestions was interesting pictures from the week before, and today, being of somewhat diminished energy and creative juices, I went in search of some of the week’s best pictures.  The volcanic eruptions in Hawaii provided some really great shots, and so did … well, you’ll see.


Italy Bosco VerticaleOfficially opened in October 2014, Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest) is a pair of award-winning residential towers in the Porta Nuova district of Milan, Italy.  The towers have heights of 110 metres (360 ft) and 76 metres (249 ft) respectively and host 900 trees (each measuring 3, 6 or 9 meters or 10-30 ft) and over 2,000 plants from a wide range of shrubs and floral plants distributed in relation to the façade’s position towards the sun.  Now guess what an apartment in these buildings costs?  Prices range from $845,000 to $2.6 million!!!  Guess I won’t be moving any time soon.Bosca Verticale-2


polish landfill fire.pngThis fire at a landfill site in the town of Zgierz, central Poland, has been burning for over three days, and at least 250 firefighters have been battling the blaze.  Poland has had a rash of fires at illegal waste dumps in recent weeks, and officials believe the fires were intentionally set.


Canterbury church

In England, an installation at Canterbury Cathedral of 100 baubles for a new exhibition, Under an Equal Sky, that will hang from the nave ceiling. The exhibition reflects on themes of war and remembrance, migration and refugees and marks 100 years since the end of the first world war.


plane on Downing St

Now here’s something you don’t see every day … a plane outside 10 Downing Street!  It is a Royal Air Force red arrow jet and is there to mark the RAF’s centenary.  I do hope they didn’t actually land it right there.


bird on deer

A bird rests on the head of a white-tailed deer roaming free in San Jose Villanueva.


India Elections

A supporter of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party dances to celebrate early leads for the party in the Karnataka state elections in Bangalore, India.


TOPSHOT-SKOREA-RELIGION-BUDDHA-LANTERN

A reveler dances beneath lanterns at the Jogye Buddhist temple following a lantern parade as part of the “Lotus Lantern Festival” celebrating the upcoming Buddha’s birthday, in Seoul, South Korea.


Rare Pink Flamingo Appears On Haulover Beach In Miami

A lone pink flamingo walks along Haulover Beach on May 17, 2018, in Miami Beach, Florida. Lifeguards on the beach said that the flamingo showed up on Saturday and has been hanging around since.


Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano has been erupting explosively since May 3, causing widespread evacuations and devastation across Big Island.  Molten lava flows have blocked highways and damaged dozens of buildings, with no sign of the activity slowing down.  Evacuation orders are in effect in certain areas, and police are arresting those who refuse to leave.  It is frightening and tragic … unimaginable and unthinkable.  Here are some pictures of nature at it’s most devastating …

volcano-1volcano-2volcano-3volcano-4

volcano-5volcano-6Hawaii Volcanovolcano-8


Last, but not least, I have a special video clip for my two special little guys … you know who you are … I thought you would find this ninja squirrel to your liking!

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!!!  Ullswater lake in England

 

Saturday Surprise — Kangas & Ice Cream Trucks

Hello friends and welcome to the weekend!  For most of my readers on both sides of the pond, I believe it is a three-day weekend.  Here in the U.S., there is Memorial Day on Monday, which has pretty much turned into just an excuse for picnics, beer, and a day off work.  Across the pond, I understand it is a bank holiday.  So, wherever you are, I hope you get an extra day to spend with family and doing something fun!  This picture has absolutely nothing to do with today’s theme, but I came across it and just couldn’t resist …kittyI have picked up a couple of new readers … very young ones, both 4 -years-old, and they happen to really like animal videos.  So in honour of the two young men who fell in love with the wingless bee last week, I hope you will enjoy these kangaroos!


The sounds of summer began here in da hood this week.

school-out-1Wednesday was the last day of school, so we have heard the sounds of young voices laughing gleefully, the sound of balls hitting our back window, skateboards rolling down the street, and parents screeching.  But one sound in particular is welcomed by all and is nearly an institution:  the ice cream truck!  Even though it is rare that I can eat ice cream, the sound of “Turkey in the Straw” rolling down the street always makes me smile.  And seeing the kids lined up at the window, credit cards in hand.  Guess what, folks … it is no longer a dime like it was when we were kids.  Now it is more like $2.  Inflation, y’know.  Our ice cream truck is driven by a retired couple and they are perfect for the job … always have a smile and unlimited patience with the little ones.  Anyway … the ice cream truck got me to thinking and wondering a couple of things, like when did the first ice cream truck hit the streets and where, and why the heck did they pick “Pop Goes the Weasel” and “Turkey in the Straw” for them all to play?  And so, as you know, when Filosofa wonders, Filosofa goes in search of answers.

ice cream truck-1

The history of ice cream street vendors dates back to the nineteenth century and is shaped by advances in technology, and fortunately, sanitation. While much has changed since peddlers first sold dishes of ice cream from carts cooled with ice blocks. ice cream truck-6In the U.S, the ice cream cart began as an urban phenomenon in which working class laborers bought a small dish of ice cream that he or she licked clean. The dish was then returned to the vendor, wiped down, and loaded with a fresh scoop for a new customer.  Blech. Customers with more money—or a healthy fear of infectious diseases—opted for ice cream sandwiches.ice cream truck-3Milk was not pasteurized in the U.S. until the 1890s, which meant any dairy product was potentially laced with the bacteria that caused scarlet fever, diphtheria, and bovine tuberculosis. Ice cream poisonings were a common event and were regularly reported in the news. Newspapers described ice cream poisoning epidemics in which dozens of fair-goers, picnic attendees, and party guests were stricken or killed. Public health officials, however, initially overlooked dairy contaminates and blamed ice cream poisoning on artificial flavors, specifically vanilla.ice cream truck-5By the turn of the century, ice cream hygiene improved dramatically and fairgoers were no longer afraid to order a cold treat. At the 1904 World Fair in St. Louis, a convenient take-away premiered— the ice cream cone. The thin, crispy waffle had long been a dessert favorite, and rolling the waffle into a cone wasn’t a new idea. The novel idea was to scoop ice cream into the cone, and several men who sold concessions at the famed fair fought for recognition as to who was the true creator.ice cream truck-4In the early 1920s, advances in refrigeration meant electric coolers replaced ice deliveries. Electric coolers were far more portable, and made it possible for a chilled ice-box to be placed on a motor car. At the same time, the early 1920s also saw the start of Prohibition and the end of easy access to the daily delight of wine, beer, or spirits. For many Americans, the comfort of fast food and sweets replaced the indulgence lost with banned spirits. The popularity of ice cream parlors and trucks soared during this era.

The first ice cream truck was credited to Harry Burt of Youngstown, Ohio, who was the creator of the Good Humor brand. Burt was already delivering ice cream from a motorized vehicle when he had the idea to place chocolate covered ice cream bars on a stick. His new Good Humor ice cream “sucker” was easy and clean to eat, which gave him the idea to sell it directly from his truck to consumers on the street.

Ice cream sold in parlors or stores became a luxury item during the Depression. But ice cream trucks such as Burt’s Good Humor brand where able to survive the Depression due to the product’s low-cost. Many consumers couldn’t afford big ticket items, but they could afford a nickel for an ice cream treat. During this time, vendors began offering economical items such as twin popsicles that parents broke in half and shared with two children.ice cream truck-7Post-war ice cream production boomed and so did the competition. Mister Softee was founded in Philadelphia in 1956 by two brothers who created a soft serve ice cream machine built specifically for a truck.

Although Good Humor sold its fleet in the 1970s to focus on grocery store sales, Mister Softee trucks are still on the streets, not to mention a host of competitors who sell original treats as well as pre-packaged favorites to a new generation of kids listening to hear the familiar jingle on a hot summer day.

I still have no idea why they choose ‘Turkey in the Straw’ and ‘Pop Goes the Weasel’ for the songs to play, and I’m too tired tonight to dig any deeper, but I did find a site titled “a brief history of ice cream truck music”, so can do your own digging on that one! But here’s a tidbit for you.  In this, the world of bluetooth, GPS and a host of other apps to allow you to do nearly anything without leaving the ease of your recliner, there’s an app for the ice cream truck also.  You can track the truck by GPS in order to know precisely when he will be on your street, so that your kids don’t have to leave their video games to go outside and listen for him. 🙄  But also … ALSO … you can even place your order ahead so that you don’t have to be troubled with telling the ice cream man what your heart desires.  🙄  If that is not the epitome of laziness, I don’t know what is.  And it seems to me that it takes all the fun out of it.  Might just as well buy your ice cream at the grocery and keep it in the freezer until needed if you’re gonna do that!

ice cream truck-8So, now that I’ve made you crave an ice cream bar … get outside and enjoy the weekend — plant some flowers, lie in the hammock and read a book, wash some windows — and be sure to listen for the sounds of ♫ ♪ ♫ Pop Goes the Weasel ♪ ♫ ♪

Enjoy your weekend!!!ice cream truck-9