Saturday Surprise — Minis & Critters

Good Saturday morning and welcome to, at long last …weekend


I came across something the other night so amazing I just had to share it with you!  I’d like to introduce you to Chris Toledo …Chris-ToledoChris has three things that I don’t have:  unlimited patience, artistic talent, and lots of time.  Chris has had a love of art and architecture ever since childhood, and he has combined the two to do some amazing miniatures.  Says Chris …

“Each model I create starts with extensive research of the era and time period I’m trying to recreate. Over the years I’ve collected home plans and building guides from the early 20th century to make sure my pieces are 100% accurate representations of the past.  The process for building my pieces is much like building an actual house or room. I start with simple layout drawings to make sure everything flows cohesively and harmoniously.

From there, I create a more detailed blueprint which I eventually construct on a 3D computer modeling program. This helps me visualize each project and allows me to make any changes before I begin construction of the actual piece.

I remember going to Disneyland as a child and being totally fascinated with the miniature buildings along the Storybook Canal Ride. About that same time, I discovered the world of dollhouse miniatures and I loved the idea of being able to build these tiny creations myself. I began with kits that I would find at local hobby stores and eventually moved onto creating my own designs,”

Take a look at some of his work …art-1art-2art-3art-4art-5art-6art-7art-8art-9art-10art-11art-12

Isn’t that just amazing?

I checked, but could not find what his pieces sell for, nor where he sells them, though he has a presence on both Pinterest and Etsy.  I’m sure it’s far out of my price range, whatever the price!  But isn’t this man super-talented?


So many tragic, heartbreaking stories of loss of wildlife have come out of Australia in recent months, but every now and then there is one with a happy ending.  Such is the tale of seven wallaby babies who lost their moms in the fires and are now in the tender, loving care of a non-profit organization, Agile Project, whose efforts are to rescue and care for wallabies.

According to project manager, Shai Ager …

“They’ve pretty much ‘bunny hopped’ from carer to carer up the coastline because we put a call out saying we’re here to help and take on joeys if needed.  When they first arrived in our care, they were very stressed as they’d all experienced some type of trauma. A few of them had some minor injuries but considering what they had been through, they were still in high spirits.”

wallabies-1As the joeys settled in and made themselves comfortable, their rescuers decided to give them all names — and wanted those names to pay tribute to all the people who have done so much to help Australia during this crisis.wallabies-2The two boy joeys were named Andrew and Geoffrey, after two firefighters who lost their lives. The five girls were named after Chris Hemsworth, Ash Barty, Margot Robbie, Celeste Barber and Rebel Wilson, to acknowledge the celebrities who have helped during this time of great need. Everyone at the Agile Project hoped the gesture would show how grateful they are for the support and showcase exactly who all that support is helping.wallabies-3The seven babies have since been placed with different carers through the Agile Project and are getting the help and healing they need. They’ll be released back into the wild once they’re around 14 months old, in an area that’s safe from the destruction of the fires. In the meantime, they’ll have lots of space to relax and tons of blankets to keep them cozy.


And speaking of those Australian bushfires …

Magpies are Australian birds who, rather like parrots, are known for mimicking songs and sounds that they hear in their environment.  Take a look at what this magpie has learned …

It’s sad that the bird has heard so many sirens of late that he’s got that act down pat.


And … I cannot end a Saturday Surprise without a cute animal video, now can I?  This one is actually a short compilation from back in 2016, but cute nonetheless.


Now … go enjoy the heck out of your weekend, for Monday will be here all too soon!

Saturday Surprise – There Be Dragons!

Good morning, friends, and welcome to the weekend!  Thursday, as you know if you saw my music post that day, was ‘Appreciate A Dragon Day’, or AADD.  I hadn’t thought much about it at the time, other than playing PP&M’s Puff the Magic Dragon, but then Ellen piqued my curiosity in her comment, telling me about … well, you’ll see in a few minutes.  But first …

I want to wish a special 🎈Happy Birthday! 🎈 to our special friend, David Prosser.  Now, I’m not about to tell you how old David is, but I’ll give you a little hint.  If he had started counting his years backward in 1986, today he would be celebrating his 1st birthday!  And, today’s theme fits in with his birthday (sort of), for David is a Welshman and is rather fond of the iconic Welsh dragon!welsh-dragon

Penblwydd hapus


And now about those pocket dragons …

According to our friend Ellen, Real Musgrave met Muff (a nickname derived from a childhood moniker spun from Little Miss Muffet) whilst both were in college in Texas, he an art student drawing life size dragons at the time.real-muff-1

They married in 1968 and at some point, he began drawing small dragon pictures based on poses of their dog “Flower”, that fit into the pocket of his tweed coat, hence the name “pocket dragons”. The spirit of this little creature was, as Real said, as if the world was viewed from the view point of their little dog, Flower, and how Flower would respond to or interpret situations. The dragons took on aspects of Flowers persona from gesture to the floppy ears.

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The flat artwork eventually led to figurines that Real sculpted and the first set of 27 figurines went on sale in mid-1989 after being produced in Stoke-on-Kent in England.

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Real and Muff retained almost complete creative control over the growing line clear up to their retiring in 2005 to their home at Flower Mound, Texas and the retirement of the Pocket Dragon collection that became effective on December 31, 2006.

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Dragons had provided a significant monetary income that allowed them to travel all over the world as they promoted their creations. As of 2006, thousands upon thousands of the over 400 different Pocket Dragons had been released and found loving homes around the world, as well as games, books and hundreds of other products.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed the pocket dragons today, and many thanks to Ellen for leading us down this fun path!  I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Saturday Surprise — Big Things!

I am rather an idiot.  I had more than half of a snarky post written for this morning when to my dismay I realized it was Friday night.  And, if it was Friday night, than I should be writing Saturday Surprise, not snark, right?  So, I considered making my apologies and skipping Saturday Surprise, for that was written into the contract when I first started the feature, but … it’s been a hellish week and I figure we are all ready for something more fun.

Australia has been plagued by massive bushfires for the past several weeks … remember, it’s summer down under.  So, when I came across the ‘Big Things’ of Australia, I thought it was the perfect thing for this week’s Saturday Surprise!  So, what are the ‘Big Things’?

Australia’s ‘Big Things’ are a roadside symbol, an obsession that turned into a tradition and now a popular tourist attraction. These are sculptures of everyday items that have been recreated in gigantic dimensions and littered across the country. It has been estimated that there are over 150 such objects around the country.

It started back in 1964 when a local banana grower John Landl decided that a visible gimmick would help him sell more fruit. So he built an 11 meter long, 5 meter high fibre glass banana, based on the precise measurements of the winner from the recent agricultural show.bananaThe Big Banana, one of the first big things, is a walkthrough banana in the city of Coffs Harbour, New South Wales. Banana-related products are shown or sold, and the grounds of the building are a banana plantation, a souvenir shop and restaurant.pineappleThe Big Pineapple is located on the Sunshine Coast in South East Queensland, Australia. It is 52 feet high and was originally opened on the 15 of August 1971. Inside the fruit are two rides: one on a Nut Mobile, the other on a small train that takes passengers on a tour of the plantation and lets them optionally disembark at a small zoo situated on the property.guitarThe Big Golden Guitar is located in Tamworth, New South Wales, in front of the famous Longyard Hotel on the Sydney Road. It was unveiled in 1988 by Australia’s most popular country music artist, Slim Dusty. The monument is one of the best-known points of interest in New South Wales and is also a major attraction during the Tamworth Country Music Festival.beer.jpgThe Big Beer Can is located above the entrance to the Grand Hotel in Cobar, New South Wales. It stands about five meters tall and is two-and-a-half meters across. Built in 1990, it entered the Guinness world record for the largest beer can anywhere in the world.koala.jpgThe Giant Koala is situated midway between the Victorian towns of Stawell and Horsham at a small town called Dadswells Bridge. The Giant Koala was erected in 1989. It’s 46 feet high and weighs just over 13 tons, set on a steel frame and a paste of fiberglass and bronze was used to create the exterior. Inside is a restaurant and souvenir shop.crocodile.jpgThe Big Boxing Crocodile is located outside the United fuel station (formerly known as the Bush Shop) on the Arnhem Highway, in a town called Humpty Doo. This humorous attraction is a reference to the large crocodile population in the area.  Humpty Doo … don’t you just love that name!antA bull ant sculpture designed by artist Pro Hart, which was erected in 1980 and originally stood at the Stephens Creek Hotel. It was moved to its current location, next to the Tourist Information Centre in Broken Hill, after being donated to the city in 1990.spiderThe Big Funnel Web Spider was built at Jamberoo Action Park located 20 minutes south of Wollongong and is a steel, fiberglass and concrete structure 420 times larger than a female Sydney funnel-web spider. It was awarded a Guinness World Record as the Largest Spider Sculpture in August 2015.scotsmanThe Big Scotsman, affectionately known as ‘Scotty’, was erected in 1963 and thus predated the Big Banana by a year. Located at Scotty’s Motel on the corner of Main North Road and Nottage Terrace in the inner-city suburb of Medindie, the Big Scotsman was designed by Paul Kelly, who later went on to build the Big Lobster.
wineLocated in the Hunter Valley which is home to some of Australia’s best vineyards stands the Big Wine Bottle. Thousands of tourists flock ever year to sample some of the best wine in the region. It was built in 1998 and the neck forms a chimney for an open fire contained within.crabLocated at the Shell petrol station and roadhouse on the corner of Dougall Street and Roe Street (Bruce Highway). Created by proprietor Lex Milner, who owned the service station at the time and wanted to promote his tasty mud crab sandwiches. Mud crab sammies?  I’ll pass on that one.  mangoThe Big Mango stands at the tourist information centre in Bowen. In February 2014, the Mango was temporarily “stolen” by restaurant chain Nando’s as a publicity stunt.melonIn 2018, the town of Chinchilla won a national competition run by Wotif to create a Next Big Thing as a tourist attraction. The melon was installed next to the town’s information center in November 2018.

Obviously, I cannot cover all 150 of the Big Things, but if you’re interested, Wikipedia has a fairly comprehensive section listing most of them.  This video had some interesting information on a few of them, too.

As I mentioned in the beginning, much of Australia is afire, so let us hope the winds die down and they get some much-needed rain … soon!  To our friends in Australia … keep safe!!!

Okay, folks, that’s a wrap … now go enjoy your weekend!

weekend

Saturday Surprise — A New Year!

Good Saturday morning, my friends, and welcome to theweekendSince the new year is right around the corner, I thought we should have a little bit of fun with it. new-year-costume

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new-year-costume-3Here in the U.S., the big televised celebration takes place in New York City’s Times Square, where an estimated one million people, many wearing funny hats ‘n glasses, pack themselves into the square to watch a big ball drop over a 60-second period, reaching the ground at exactly midnight EST.  Now, I found a bit of interesting trivia about the ball drop.  The Times Square ball drop dates back to 1907 when the ball weighed 700 pounds and had a diameter of 5 feet. It was constructed out of wood and iron and had one hundred light bulbs on it. new-year-ball-1907This year, the ball is a geodesic (whatever the heck that means) sphere, 12 feet in diameter, weighing 11,875 pounds, and covered with a total of 2,688 Waterford Crystal triangles that vary in size, and range in length from 4 ¾ inches to 5 ¾ inches per side. It will have some 32,000 LED lights.  Personally, I think the 1907 ball was just fine … no, I wasn’t around then, but I just like simplicity, and all those lights and Waterford Crystal seem like overkill to me.new-year-ball-2020The celebration at Times Square drops over 2,000 pounds of confetti on a million people each year. Needless to say, these people make quite a mess … such a mess that it takes 200 people to haul away the 50 tons of trash, rendering the square spotless again by 8:00 AM the next morning.

So, we know that people in the U.S. celebrate mainly by drinking too much, making lots of noise in whatever manner they can, whether it’s fireworks of banging pots ‘n pans.  But, how do people in other countries celebrate the new year?

  • New Year’s Eve in Greece has many traditions. During the day, children sing the New Year’s carols to be given money or treats. Then, it is time to have family lunch or dinner. In the evening, people cook a pie named “King’s pie” or Vassilopita, which is actually a cake flavored with almonds. Following tradition, they put a coin wrapped in aluminum foil inside the pie. During the family dinner, the hostess puts some of her jewelry in a plate and serves it in the side of the table, as a symbol of the coming year’s prosperity. After the dinner is over, the dish is not washed until the next day. The reason for that is that Saint Vassilis (Greek Santa Claus) is awaited during the New Year’s Eve and it is considered common courtesy to leave some food for the traveler who visits the house to bring the presents during the night. When midnight arrives, the families count down and then they turn off all the lights and reopen their eyes to “enter the year with a new light”.  After the fireworks show, they cut the Vassilopita and serve it. The person that gets the wrapped coin is the lucky person of the day and he is also blessed for the rest of the year. Gifts exchanges may follow.

  • In Italy, New Year’s Eve (Vigilia di Capodanno or Notte di San Silvestro) is celebrated by the observation of traditional rituals, such as wearing red underwear. An ancient tradition in southern regions (rarely followed today) was disposing of old or unused items by dropping them from the window (I rather like that idea!). Dinner is traditionally eaten with relatives and friends. It often includes zampone or cotechino (a meal made with pig’s feet or entrails), and lentils. At 8:30 pm, the President reads a television message of greetings to Italians. At midnight, fireworks are displayed all across the country. Rarely followed today is the tradition that consist in eating lentil stew when bell tolls midnight, one spoonful per bell. This is supposed to bring good fortune; the round lentils represent coins.

  • In Portugal the New Year celebration is taken very seriously. The tradition is to drink champagne and eat twelve raisins – one for each month of the year, making a wish for each. Another Portuguese tradition is a special cake called Bolo-Rei (literally: King Cake). Bolo-Rei is a round cake with a large hole in the center, resembling a crown covered with crystallized and dried fruit. It is baked from a soft, white dough, with raisins, various nuts and crystallized fruit. Inside is hidden the characteristic fava bean. Tradition dictates that whoever finds the fava has to pay for the Bolo-Rei next year. Initially, a small prize (usually a small metal toy) was also included within the cake. However, the inclusion of the prize was forbidden by the European Union for safety reasons. The Portuguese brought the recipe of the Gateau des Rois from France in the second half of the 19th century. To this day, this recipe is a very well-kept secret.

Although many people make resolutions for the new year, rarely are they kept past the second day of January.  I haven’t made a new year’s resolution in probably 40 years, for I learned early on that resolving to do something is the surest way to ensure it won’t get done.  If you want to do something to improve yourself or your life … just do it.  There’s no need to talk about it or write it down … just do it.  That said, I thought these were humorous …

  • My New Year’s resolution is to be more optimistic by keeping my cup half-full … with either rum, vodka, or whiskey.
  • My resolution was to read more … so I put the subtitles on my TV.
  • I was going to quit all my bad habits for the new year … but then I remembered that nobody likes a quitter.
  • At the beginning of this year I made a New Year’s resolution to lose 10 pounds … only 15 more to go!
  • My New Year’s resolution is to break my New Year’s resolutions. That way I succeed at something!

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Not all of the New Year jokes are about resolutions …

A New Year’s Wish

On New Year’s Eve, Marilyn stood up in the local pub and said that it was time to get ready. At the stroke of midnight, she wanted every husband to be standing next to the one person who made his life worth living. Well it was kind of embarrassing.  As the clock struck – the bartender was almost crushed to death.

Lecture Tour with A Difference

On New Year’s Eve, Daniel was in no shape to drive, so he sensibly left his van in the car park and walked home.  As he was wobbling along, he was stopped by a policeman.  ‘What are you doing out here at four o’clock in the morning?’ asked the police officer.’I’m on my way to a lecture,’ answered Roger.’And who on earth, in their right mind, is going to give a lecture at this time on New Year’s Eve?’ enquired the constable sarcastically. ‘My wife,’ slurred Daniel grimly.

How to Quit Smoking

Peter, at a New Year’s party, turns to his friend, Ken, and asks for a cigarette. ‘I thought you made a New Year’s resolution to quit smoking,’ Ken responds. ‘I’m in the process of quitting,’ replies Peter with a grin. ‘Right now, I am in the middle of phase one. ”Phase one?’ wonders Ken. ‘Yeah,’ laughs Peter, ‘I’ve quit buying.’

A Bad Dream?

Jemima was taking an afternoon nap on New Year’s Eve before the festivities. After she woke up, she confided to Max, her husband, ‘I just dreamed that you gave me a diamond ring for a New Year’s present. What do you think it all means? ”Aha, you’ll know tonight,’ answered Max smiling broadly. At midnight, as the New Year was chiming, Max approached Jemima and handed her small package.  Delighted and excited she opened it quickly. There in her hand rested a book entitled: ‘The meaning of dreams’.

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And that wraps up today’s Saturday Surprise!  I hope you found something to bring a smile to your face, and now … get out there and enjoy the last few days of 2019!!!

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Saturday Surprise — Holiday Humour — Redux

I confess right up front that I am cheating a bit today by re-playing last year’s Christmas Saturday Surprise.  I have many things calling my name tonight — some are holiday-related chores such as wrapping presents, and others are simply things I’m behind on because … well, because it’s been a lousy week and I seem to be dysfunctional.  Still, I don’t feel too badly, for last year’s was a fun post, and I’ve forgotten most all of it, so hopefully you have to, and it will seem as new to you!


snowball-eeyoreSnowball
~ Shel Silverstein

I made myself a snowball,
As perfect as could be,
I thought I’d keep it as a pet,
And let it sleep with me.

I made it some pajamas,
And a pillow for its head,
Then last night it ran away,
But first – it wet the bed!


Xmas-toon-1


snowmanOnce There Was a Snowman
~ Anonymous

Once there was a snowman,
Who stood outside the door,
He wished that he could come inside,
And run about the floor.
He wished that he could warm himself,
Beside the fire, so red,
He wished that he could climb
Upon the big white bed.

So he called to the North Wind,
“Come and help me, pray,
For I’m completely frozen,
Standing here all day.”
So the North Wind came along,
And blew him in the door,
And now there nothing left,
But a puddle on the floor!


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Xmas-toon-8And my very favourite one of all …

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Saturday Surprise — Mojito and Skywalker!

Good Saturday morning and welcome to the …

weekend

I have something for you today that is guaranteed to melt your heart!  My friend Herb sent me this a few days ago, as he knows of my love for critters …

Meet Skywalker, a tiny polydactyl kitten with an extra digit resembling a thumb.  Skywalker was taken to the veterinary hospital when he was just three weeks old and weighed less than a pound.Kim Dowie, whose husband used to work at the vet center, got the kitten home and their pet dog – Mojito, a Golden Retriever started giving him all the love.kitten with thumbs found love in giant dog

He would shower kisses on Skywalker and they would cuddle for a long time! Mojito doubled up as the mother of the kitten, cleaning him, snuggling with him and ensuring that we would never be alone at any point of time.

When Bird TV covered the wonderful relation between Skywalker and Mojito, it went viral!kitten with thumbs found love in giant dog

Before they met, Mojito bonded with another cat named Vader. She would follow the kitty around the house until Vader caved in and let her bathe and love him.

Now Mojito is thrilled to have Skywalker to be her new constant cuddly friend.

kitten with thumbs found love in giant dog

kitten with thumbs found love in giant dog

kitten with thumbs found love in giant dogThe love they share is similar to a child and a mother, as Mojito protects it all the time. With time, their relation only grew stronger and Mojito is a wonderful dog that showers love on everybody!kitten with thumbs found love in giant dog

kitten with thumbs found love in giant dog

kitten with thumbs found love in giant dog

kitten with thumbs found love in giant dog

kitten with thumbs found love in giant dog

kitten with thumbs found love in giant dog

Note to readers:  Something seems to have gone amiss with the pictures on this post, and it is the pictures that make the post!  Here is a link to the original article from which I got the pictures, so if you aren’t able to see the pics, please try this! 

I hope you enjoyed seeing Mojito and Skywalker!  Now, have a wonderful weekend, and don’t forget … only 11 days left ’til Christmas.  shaking_head_in_disgust_anim_md_wm

Saturday Surprise — Saving Bees!

bees-toonI almost didn’t do a Saturday Surprise again this week, for as I mentioned earlier, I’ve been unable to corral my mind and it just wasn’t working.  But then, I was going through some notes I had of saved topics and realized I could do Saturday Surprise on a topic I’ve been wanting to do for a while, just never found time … BEES!  Don’t worry … I promise you won’t get stung!

Now, we all know that the bee population in the U.S. and globally has been declining for years.  Most of the reasons are attributable to humans … loss of habitat and bee-killing pesticides being two of the main causes.  And, all living creatures depend on bees for food … one-third of all our food depends on bee pollination, so those little guys are pretty important!

Since this is a Saturday Surprise post, one of the rules is ‘no politics’, so I won’t mention what some governments are doing to exacerbate the decline of the bee population, but instead will focus on some of the good things people are doing to try to save the bees!  Rather a hybrid of Saturday Surprise and Good People!


Let’s start with a trip to the Netherlands, the city of Utrecht, to be specific.  This city has transformed all 316 of its bus stops into bee sanctuaries.  The Netherlands is home to 358 different bee species but more than half of them are already endangered and have been placed on the Dutch Red List of threatened species.utrechtThese bee sanctuaries or rather ‘bee stops’ are essentially standard bus stops with grass and wildflowers planted on the roofs to encourage pollination. Not only do bee stops support the city’s biodiversity by attracting honey bees and bumblebees, they also help capture fine dust and store rainwater.

Bee stops are tended to by workers who drive around the city in electric vehicles. But the scheme requires little maintenance because the roofs are mainly composed of sedum plants, which are a favourite among pollinators and require very little water to survive. To improve facilities for the human visitors, the bus stops have also been fitted with energy-efficient LED lights and bamboo benches.utrecht-2This is just one of the many measures Utrecht has introduced to improve urban biodiversity. It also runs a similar scheme which allows residents to apply for funding to transform their own roofs into bee sanctuaries. And as part of its clean transport goals, the aim is to introduce 55 new electric buses by the end of the year and to have “completely clean public transport” by 2028. The electricity used to power these buses will come from one of the Netherland’s most iconic attractions: windmills.

Now THAT’S what I call an environmentally conscious city!  And one of the most bee-friendly I know of.


You all know actor Morgan Freeman from such movies as Driving Miss Daisy, The Shawshank Redemption and others, but I bet you didn’t know that he owns a 124-acre ranch in Mississippi that he has turned into a bee sanctuary! morgan-freemanFreeman’s foray into beekeeping began in 2014, where he discussed his new hobby with Jimmy Fallon during The Tonight Show. Freeman had taken up beekeeping just a couple of weeks before appearing on the show and talked about his experience keeping bees and the need to preserve and save wild bees for healthy environments.

Freeman imported 26 bee hives from Arkansas to his ranch in Mississippi. There, Freeman works to feed the bees sugar and water and has help planting bee-friendly magnolia trees, lavender, clover, etc.

“There is a concerted effort for bringing bees back onto the planet…We do not realize that they are the foundation, I think, of the growth of the planet, the vegetation…”

bee-thumbs-upTwo thumbs up to Morgan Freeman … and a sincere ‘thank you’ from all of us who care about the future of life on this planet.


Ever hear of the National Pollinator Garden Network?   Neither had I until a few hours ago.  What is it?

The National Pollinator Garden Network (NPGN) is a partnership between conservation organizations, gardening groups, volunteer civic associations and participating federal agencies to inspire people and organizations to create more pollinator habitats. The nine founding organizations launched NPGN in June 2015.

The focus of the NPGN is: to inspire individuals and community groups, institutions and the garden industry to create more pollinator habitat through sustainable gardening practices, habitat conservation and provide these groups the tools to be successful.

The organization launched an initiative called the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, in hopes of getting one million organizations and individuals to plant and maintain ‘pollinator gardens’, consisting of pollinator-friendly plants and wild grasses that are both native and non-invasive species. Well, they now have more than met their goal with 1,040,000 as of last February.

Since the campaign launched, many gardening centers have also contributed to the challenge by offering more pollinator-friendly plants, services, and education.

Increasing the number of pollinator-friendly gardens and landscapes will help revive the health of bees, butterflies, birds, bats and other pollinators across the country.

cute-beeBe sure to check out their website … if you have a garden and can take part, this is certainly a worthy venture to join!  We plant bee-friendly flowers in our tiny 2’ x 4’ postage-stamp ‘garden’ and have for years, but I haven’t got quite enough space to make much of a difference.


It’s encouraging to know that people are becoming more aware of just how crucial the bee population is to life … all life … on earth and are doing something about it, don’t you think?  And now, since I always try to end Saturday Surprise with a cute animal video, I thought this one would be appropriate today!

Have a bee-ootiful weekend, my friends!

Saturday Surprise — Let’s Have An Adventure!

Good Saturday morning, friends!  No, no … don’t take your coats off, for we are going on an adventure today!  It’s been ages since we went exploring new places, and Jolly has the Filomobile all warmed up and ready to go!  Don’t worry … we’ll have you back in plenty of time for you do go do some Christmas shopping with the family.

Filomobile


First stop on our agenda today is Honolulu, Hawaii … let’s hope it’s warmer there than it is here, eh?  You may be surprised that we are going all the way to Hawaii to visit … a candy shoppe!  It’s one of the oldest Japanese candy stores in the United States, and I’m told they have quite a unique selection, so I thought it would be fun to start our adventure with a bit of something sweet to give us energy.  Well, here we are …Nisshodo-outsideI know it doesn’t look like much on the outside, but let’s go in and see what they’ve got to offer.  Oh look at all that! Nisshodo-4Doesn’t it all look yummy?  Welcome, friends, to Nisshodo Mochiya where the sweets are made in the Japanese-Hawaiian culinary tradition that stretches back to the mid-19th century, when the first Japanese immigrants came to Hawaii as indentured laborers on sugar plantations.

One of these immigrants was Asataro Hirao. He was already living in Honolulu when, in the 1910s, he decided to return to his home city of Hiroshima for a visit. That’s where he learned to make Japanese confections. When he returned to Honolulu, Nisshodo Mochiya was born.  Hirao tweaked traditional recipes, adapting them to local Hawaiian ingredients, and his descendants continue to make sweets based on his creations to this day. The shop is so rooted in tradition, Hirao’s successors were using his original vertical mixer until just a few years ago. And the whole family continues to come together around the holidays, making mochi to fill the rush of  New Year’s orders from customers who have been returning to the shop for decades.Nisshodo-2Everyone has their favorites, but the pink-and-white chichi dango, wrapped in translucent white paper and powdery with starch, is Nisshodo’s best-selling item. “We sell out of chichi dango pretty much every day,” says Mike Hirao, the shop’s third-generation owner.Nisshodo-3Looks like we got here in time!  The thing that Nisshodo is most famous for is Mochi, a sweet, chewy glutinous rice cake (which also happens to be gluten free, for those of you who care).  Every Asian culture has its own style of mochi, but the Hawaiian style is soft, sweet, and not quite as chewy as Japanese mochi.  Grab a sample, then we’ll be moving on …mochi-1mochi-2mochi-3


Next on the agenda, we are going to Australia to visit … bees!!!  Yes, Joe, I know you’re allergic, but you’re not going to get stung … these bees are ‘stingless’ bees!

The sugarbag bee or bush bee is particularly notable for the beautiful hives they make.  They tend to be smaller in size compared to other stingless bees. They are predominantly black and their bodies are covered in microscopic hairs.sugarbag-beeThe sugarbag bee builds hives in a distinctive spiral pattern unique to the species. The hives are broad and flat but each spiral rises in height as they turn, giving the hive a flattened conical shape.bees-hive.jpgA fully developed nest may consist as many as twenty spirals.  The hives have only one entrance, which is heavily protected by guard bees and coated with a mixture of beeswax and resins. Antibacterial properties from the resin clean any pathogens from the bees as they enter the hive. The substance also keeps out predators such as ants and beetles.bees-hive-2I find it fascinating that those tiny critters can build such an intricate structure!  And without bulldozers, cranes, bricks ‘n mortar!


One last stop, and then we’ll need to get home, for I know you all have other things to do besides flit about the planet with me ‘n Jolly!  I have a treat for you … we have been invited to visit the Los Angeles home of the famous singer, Mr. Rod Stewart!  No, no … we’re not going to hear him sing, but to take a look in his attic!  You see, he has built the most awesome model railroad … more of an entire city, actually, in his attic.

Rod-StewartHey, Rod … thanks for inviting us!  We’re dying to see your model trains!

Rod has been working on this project for the past 26 years!

railway-1.jpgThe model spans 1,500 square feet (it occurs to me that my entire house, two-stories, is a mere 1,190 square feet!) and is based on the cities of New York and Chicago as they were during the 1940s.  He started building the model in 1993 and continued working on it in between tours and making music. Often, Stewart would work on his models even when he was away in another country performing.railway-2.jpgStewart’s love for model railways started in his childhood when he lived on Archway Road in north London, near to the London Transport Highgate Depot and the Wellington Sidings coal yard. While on a holiday with his parents in Bognor Regis at the age of around eight or nine, Stewart saw a railway layout in a model railway shop window, and he thought—”if only I could get paid to build a model railway like that.”

“The only thing I wasn’t very good at and still am not is the electricals, so I had someone else do that.”

Isn’t this simply amazing?railway-3railway-4railway-5railway-6Thanks again, Rod!


Well, folks, we better get back to our home turf.  I’ve got some birthday shopping to do for Miss Goose today, then I need to spend some time planning for Thursday … ‘tis Thanksgiving here in the U.S., y’know, and I will be cooking for a crowd … best to have a plan.  I hope you all enjoyed our little adventure, and that you have a wonderful weekend!

Saturday Surprise — Wildlife and … Crocodile Hunter Junior!

Good Saturday morn, and welcome to the …weekendI have two fun things planned for today.  First, this may come as a big surprise to you, but Filosofa is a big lover of critters!  Shocked, aren’t you?

Wildlife Photographer of the Year is the largest wildlife photography competition in the world. It is an annual international wildlife photography competition owned by the Natural History Museum.  The first competition was held in 1964, with three categories and around 600 entries. By 2008, the competition had grown to over 32,000 entries from 3100 photographers in 82 countries!

There are far too many for me to post here, so I have picked only a few of my favourites this year, but your can see more of the winners at Bored Panda, if you’re interested.

This first one is the #1 winner, titled “The Moment”, and taken by Yongqing Bao of China. 

"The Moment" By Yongqing Bao, China, Behaviour: Mammals, Grand Title Winner

This Himalayan marmot was not long out of hibernation when it was surprised by a mother Tibetan fox with three hungry cubs to feed. With lightning-fast reactions, Yongqing captured the attack – the power of the predator baring her teeth, the terror of her prey, the intensity of life and death written on their faces.

“Bee Line” by Frank Deschandol of France

"Bee Line" By Frank Deschandol, France, Behaviour: Invertebrates, Highly Commended 2019

Bees buzzed in the long grass around the lake as evening fell. To Frank’s delight, they were settling down in little rows along the stems. These were solitary bees, probably males, gathering for the night in suitable resting places, while the females occupied nests they had built nearby.

“Land Of The Eagle” By Audun Rikardsen of Norway

"Land Of The Eagle" By Audun Rikardsen, Norway, Behaviour: Birds, Winner 2019

Audun carefully positioned this tree branch, hoping it would make a perfect lookout for a golden eagle. He set up a camera trap and occasionally left road-kill carrion nearby. Very gradually, over the next three years, this eagle started to use the branch to survey its coastal realm. Audun captured its power as it came in to land, talons outstretched.

“Lucky Break” By Jason Bantle of Canada

"Lucky Break" By Jason Bantle, Canada, Urban Wildlife, Highly Commended 2019

A raccoon poked her head out of an abandoned car and paused to assess her surroundings, allowing Jason just enough time to use a long exposure in the twilight. The back seat was an ideal den for the raccoon and her five cubs as the only entrance – through a blunt-edged hole in the glass – was large enough for her but too small for predators such as coyotes.

“Portrait Of A Mother” By Ingo Arndt, of Germany

"Portrait Of A Mother" By Ingo Arndt, Germany, Animal Portraits, Highly Commended 2019

When you are eye to eye with a wild puma,’ says Ingo, ‘excitement is guaranteed.’ Tracking these elusive cats on foot meant lugging heavy gear long distances, often in freezing temperatures and unrelenting winds. Mutual respect gradually earned him the trust of a female and her cubs, allowing him to capture this intimate family portrait.

“Cool Drink” By Diana Rebman of the U.S.

"Cool Drink" By Diana Rebman, USA, Behaviour: Birds, Highly Commended 2019

Despite the bitterly cold temperature of minus 20 degrees Celsius, Diana spent hours mesmerised by what she described as the ‘well-choreographed dance’ of a group of long-tailed tits taking turns to peck at an icicle. With the fast movement of the birds and her fingers feeling like blocks of ice, capturing their behaviour was no easy task.

“If Penguins Could Fly” By Eduardo Del Álamo of Spain

"If Penguins Could Fly" By Eduardo Del Álamo, Spain, Behaviour: Mammals, Highly Commended 2019

A gentoo penguin flees for its life as a leopard seal bursts out of the water. Eduardo was expecting it. He had noticed the penguin resting on a fragment of broken ice and watched the seal swim back and forth. ‘Moments later, the seal flew out of the water, mouth open,’ he says.

“The Huddle” By Stefan Christmann of Germany

"The Huddle" By Stefan Christmann, Germany, Wildlife Photographer Portfolio Award, Winner 2019

More than 5,000 male emperor penguins huddle on the sea ice, backs to the wind, heads down, sharing body heat. ‘It was a calm day,’ says Stefan, ‘but when I took off my gloves to focus the lens, the cold felt like needles piercing my fingertips.’ Antarctic winters are fierce, with temperatures below minus 40 degrees Celsius.

“Big Cat And Dog Spat” By Peter Haygarth of the United Kingdom

"Big Cat And Dog Spat" By Peter Haygarth, UK, Behaviour: Mammals, Highly Commended 2019

In a rare encounter, a lone male cheetah is set upon by a pack of African wild dogs. At first the dogs were wary, but as the rest of their 12-strong pack arrived their confidence grew. They began to encircle and probe the big cat, chirping with excitement. It was all over a few minutes later, when the cheetah fled.

“Night Glow” By Cruz Erdmann of New Zealand (in the age 11-14 category)

"Night Glow" By Cruz Erdmann, New Zealand, 11-14 Years Old, Grand Title Winner

Cruz was on a night dive with his dad when he saw a pair of bigfin reef squid in the shallow water. One swam off but Cruz quickly adjusted his camera and strobe settings, knowing that the opportunity was too good to miss. He shot four frames of the remaining squid before it too disappeared into the inky blackness.

“Face Of Deception” By Ripan Biswas of India

"Face Of Deception" By Ripan Biswas, India, Animal Portraits, Winner 2019

Ripan was photographing a red weaver ant colony when he spotted this slightly strange individual. It may have the face of an ant but its eight legs give it away – on closer inspection Ripan discovered that it was an ant-mimicking crab spider. By reverse mounting his lens, Ripan converted it to a macro capable of taking extreme close-ups.

Some pretty awesome shots there, don’t you think?


And my second surprise … you all remember Steve Irwin, aka the Crocodile Hunter?  He hosted a television series that aired on Animal Planet, becoming the network’s highest-rated series at the time (1997-2004). 

Steve tragically died in Batt Reef, Australia, in 2006 when a stingray’s barb pierced his heart.  But, his children, Bindi and Robert, are both lovers of wildlife and conservationists. steve-irwin-kidsBindi is an Australian television personality and conservationist. When she was 9, she hosted Bindi the Jungle Girl, a children’s wildlife documentary TV series.  Son Robert is an Australian television personality and wildlife photographer. He hosts Robert’s Real Life Adventures, a program on his family’s zoo’s internal TV network. He co-hosted the Discovery Kids Channel TV series Wild But True and co-created the book series Robert Irwin: Dinosaur Hunter, and currently stars on the Animal Planet series Crikey! It’s the Irwins with his mother, Terri, and sister, Bindi.

In February 2017, young Robert, then age 13, made his late-night television debut when he appeared on NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.  This clip will warm your heart, make you say “Awwwwww”, and make you laugh, all at once.  Who could ask for anything more?  And my youngest reader, Benjamin, will enjoy this, for one of his Hallowe’en costumes was the Crocodile Hunter!

And that’s all I’ve got for this morning, my friends!  Go forth and have a wonderful weekend!  Enjoy every minute … remember, Monday is lurking right ‘round the corner!

weekend

Saturday Surprise — B

Good morning, and welcome to the Weekend! You guys have big plans for the weekend?  We’re having a joint birthday party with our neighbors Maha & Ali and kids this evening, so I’ll be in the kitchen most of this day.  Daughter Chris’ birthday was last Saturday, and Maha’s was on Sunday, but we were all busy doing other things last weekend, so we’re celebrating together this weekend.  I was going to put a number of candles on the cake equal to their combined ages, but as Natasha pointed out, it would be a fire hazard, and anyway, can you imagine how long it would take me to light 93 candles???  Anyway … I had to go to Kroger for a few things yesterday … November 1st and let me tell you … Kroger did not waste a single second switching from Hallowe’en to Christmas!  Christmas nuts, Christmas candy, Christmas lunch cakes, napkins, paper plates, baking stuff … ay ay ay!!!  Could we please have a little break in between holidays … and anyway, what happened to Thanksgiving???


I had heard the term “Social media influencer” a few times recently, but paid no attention and gave it no further thought.  Until last night, that is, when while searching for something to enchant you this Saturday morning, I came across a very special little ‘influencer’, and thought I should at least figure out what was meant by the term.  Now sure, I know that an influencer would be somebody or something that has influence over another person or people, but these days, social media has a language all its own, so I did a bit of digging.

“An influencer is an individual who has the power to affect purchase decisions of others because of his/her authority, knowledge, position or relationship with his/her audience. An individual who has a following in a particular niche, which they actively engage with.”

Okay, not much different than I would have thought, and it sounds like not much more than Marketing 101.  But, today’s Surprise is a very special influencer and her marketing efforts are for a very good cause – to raise money to save the bees.  Bees are the most important living thing on Earth, due to 70% of the world’s agriculture depending on them.  Frighteningly, bees are now an endangered species, with recent studies showing a dramatic decline in the insects’ numbers; almost 90% of the bee population has disappeared in the past few years.

Enter Fondation de France, an independent administrative agency established by the government for the purpose of saving the bees.  They have set up a charity, Bee Fund, and an Instagram account for the subject of today’s Surprise, an adorable little CGI (computer-generated imagery) bee called, appropriately, B.  B has more than 122,000 followers today, and B aims to save the world by generating ad revenue via social media and then donating everything to the Bee Fund charity.  Let’s take a look at a few of B’s pictures … I think you’ll enjoy her.  Please do take just a minute to visit Bee Fund’s site … I found a lot of information about the declining bee population there, as well as the things being done to try to save the bees … it’s well worth the visit.

B-1

“Yo guys! So, name a thing you love.
Chocolate? I make it.
Ice-cream? I make it. 
Coffee? Always me.
Broccoli? Me again.
Clothes? Still me. 
We are behind most of the things you use everyday! And 24% of bees are dying every year.This is bad for us, but terrible for you as well dear humans… Are you ready for a world without chocolate?”

B-2

“I love to read and reply to your comments on my posts from my bathtube! Ask me questions in the comments: I will answer to EVERYONE! (As long as water stays warm)”

B-3

“Je vois la vie en rose. Maybe I should think about painting my hive in pink.”

B-4

“I might not be in a museum, but I’m Mother Nature’s masterpiece.”

B-5

“It is essential to save the planet… And the bees too! Both are threatened and trust me, it would be terrible to live without bees. Thanks a lot for demonstrating today, it was really nice to see you all and let’s keep up the fight!”

B-6

“Afternoon at the Sacré-Coeur! Where should I go for my next painting?”

B-7

“I spend so much time in my bathroom every morning… Ladies what is your morning routine?”

B-9

“I am so happy to work on my next partnerships and I can’t wait to share it with you!”

B-10

“On my way to the Montmartre’s 2019 grape harvest festival! Did you know that without bees there would be no wine? We pollinate plants and flowers that are essential for vineyards’ health.”

B-12

“Watering my little plants! Tips for humans: always keep flowers on your balconies, we might stop by to say hi.”

B-14

“What a better place than your bed when it is rainy outside. Even though it’s very important for nature, I’m not very much into rain because it frizzes my hair!”

B-18

“Great game with my friends today! (Haha just kidding I went there just to take pictures for my Instagram.)”

B-20

“Heading into the weekend like..”

B-22

“I’m not like Pablo, but I try to do my best…”

B-23

“Trying to get a little tan before going back to work.”

B-24

“Are you ready for the Pride, Paris?? I can’t wait to march with you.”

B-25

“Check out that side bee…”

B-26

“If you love to eat, you have to celebrate World Food Day! My sisters and I are behind most of the food you eat everyday. Are you wondering which ones?”

B-28

“Finally back home and working late today but it’s worth it.”

B-30

“Today I visited @FondationdeFrance, together we are working on my upcoming partnerships. From this flower of their balcony, I feel more than motivated and thanks to you all, we will save the bees.”