Tuesday, April 30, 2013



I’m a big fan of zebras.  I just love seeing the contrast between the white skin and the black stripes, and thinking about how the patterns on zebras are as individual to them as fingerprints are to us.  I love to see the alternating stripes of black and white in the hair of their manes.   While very striking to look at, I will admit that zebras are a little boring to stitch.  I’m working on a very large needlepoint canvas over 5 feet tall—it is a zebra standing in tall grasses, looking at you from over her shoulder, with a brightly colored bird perched on her back.  It’s taking me a long time to make my way up those long black and white legs, only to be followed by a big expanse of black and white rump!  Stitching the colorful bird will be my reward for getting that far up the canvas.

But I digress.  Baby zebras or foals are born with brown and white stripes which turn to black and white as they mature.  There are three species of zebras in Africa, and the striping patterns vary somewhat among the species, particularly the width and length of the stripes.  All species have a triangular shape to the stripes on their forequarters. 

 The form of camouflage created by the black and white stripes is called “disruptive coloration” and breaks up the outline of the body.  This serves to make them look less distinct during times of low light when their predators are most active.  The stripes also serve to dissipate heat and help the zebras handle the intense solar radiation of their environments.

I find the origin and role of a zebra’s stripes interesting to think about, but mostly I just love to take in their beauty.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Y'all Come Back Now

Y’all Come Back Now

As the 2013 A-Z Blog Challenge draws to a close, I want to thank all of you who visited my blog.  Back at letter “A” I was ambivalent about doing the Challenge but ultimately chose to do it, and promised to do my best to make my posts worth reading.  I hope I did not disappoint.

It was through your visits and comments that I met many of you, which continues to be the highlight of my participation in the Challenge.  Oh, how I have enjoyed reading your blogs!  Wonderful pictures, beautiful crafts, unwavering faith, incredible travel destinations, lots of nostalgia, and interesting history lessons—just to name a few of the things I experienced through you.  I plan to return to your blogs between now and the 2014 A-Z Blog Challenge.

I’m going to make every effort to blog more regularly in between the Challenges than I did last year.  I know it won’t be a daily blog, but surely monthly, and perhaps weekly.  We’ll see where it takes me.  At this point I am planning to take on the 2014 Challenge and sure hope y’all are planning to do so too!

Thanks again for the encouragement and do come back and visit!

Saturday, April 27, 2013



X-stitch is another way of communicating “cross stitch”.  This is a particular embroidery stitch involving the creation of a simple cross.  X-stitch is often assumed to be synonymous with “counted cross stitch”, in which counting fiber threads helps guide the placement of the cross stitches within your design.  Good technique demands that the cross stitch is created the same way for all your crosses.  My stitching style is to stitch the bottom arm of the cross first, going from lower left corner to upper right corner, followed by stitching the top arm of the cross going from the lower right corner to the upper left corner. 

Counted cross stitch involves transferring the pattern chart onto your fabric by counting and placing the individual stitches.  On the pattern chart, each different color of thread is indicated by a different symbol.  Stitchers often find it helpful to use a highlighter on the pattern chart to indicate which stitches have been completed, because it’s very easy to lose your place as your eyes move back and forth between pattern and fabric.  I like to have my design centered on the piece of fabric I’m working with, so I start from the center of the design and work out to the edges as I stitch.  Other stitchers like to start at the upper left hand corner and stitch across and down the design.

The detail of design one can achieve with counted cross stitch is remarkable.  Some x-stitch projects use 40+ colors for the whole design, and those subtle shifts in shades lead to a picture that can have amazing depth and detail.  The size of the fabric and how many threads of fabric you cover with each cross stitch can also enhance the detail of the final design.

Many stitchers find X-stitch more affordable than other embroidery techniques.  Charted patterns are not as expensive as handpainted needlepoint canvases.  You can keep the cost of a cross stitch project down by using regular cotton floss which comes in a vast array of colors, though I will admit I like the look and feel of stitching with silks or overdyed fibers which cost more than cotton floss.

Mostly I enjoy counted cross stitch because the rhythm of making the crosses relaxes me.  I work counted cross stitch projects in hand rather than on stretcher bars or frames, which allows for greater portability.  I almost always have a project tucked away in my purse in case I find myself faced with a waiting period of some kind.  Large, complicated X-stitch designs can take a while to complete, so every bit of progress helps me get to the goal of the completed project.  This Long Dog sampler took me 9 months to complete.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Where's George?

Where’s George?

‘Where’s George?’ is a United States Currency Tracking Program.  I first became aware of this program when I noticed some red printing on a dollar bill I’d received as change for a purchase.  The printing read:  Track this bill at www.wheresgeorge.com

So I went to the website.  You create your account and enter the bill’s serial number and denomination into the tracking system.  You can add a few comments such as the condition of the bill and/or where you received it.  Once entered, go ahead and put the bill back into circulation.

If the bill you entered was already in the tracking database you’ll see the history of its travel, at least as documented by previous entries.  Most of the bills I’ve entered travelled up and down California; the $10 bill was at one time in Las Vegas.  You’ll see the distance it has travelled and how much time it took to get there based on the previous entry (a bill can travel around quite a bit before a new entry is made that grounds a location for the bill in the tracking system).  You can also sign up for email notification any time a bill you’ve entered gets a subsequent entry made into the system.

A currency tracking program provides some interesting data to look at, but it does depend on everyone circulating the bills.  Check your wallet; if you have any marked bills enter them in the system and then go spend them on something fun!

Thursday, April 25, 2013



Wikipedia defines vice as “a practice or a behavior generally considered immoral, depraved, or degrading in the associated society”.  In more minor usage, vice can refer to a fault, a negative character trait, a defect, or a bad or unhealthy habit. 

The poet Dante Alighieri identified these as the seven deadly vices:

Ø  Pride/vanity
Ø  Envy/jealousy
Ø  Wrath/anger
Ø  Sloth/laziness
Ø  Avarice (I had to look this one up—it means “greed” or a desire to possess more than one has need or use for)
Ø  Gluttony
Ø  Lust

There’s been some newer thinking about what constitutes a vice.  Those identified above are character traits expressed by actions.  The newer definition of vices looks at emotions that are felt and gives examples of hate, greed, vanity, envy and cruelty (you can see the overlap).  The notion is that these emotional vices are overcome not by suppressing them but rather by feeling and cultivating the opposite virtue.

I’m surprised that none of these examples of vices include criminality.  Maybe that’s because different “associated societies” have different definitions of what constitutes criminal behaviors.  I think people also use the term “vice” in a more casual fashion, such as when they describe their enjoyment of chocolate, or coffee, or even stitching.  I certainly wouldn’t call any of those depraved or immoral!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013



I am not a fan of unemployment.  It tears at your self-esteem as well as your wallet.  Sometimes, life circumstances throw obstacles in your way—things like over qualification, transportation issues, or medical limitations.  Despite daily searches, the right job doesn’t reveal itself.

That daily let-down feeds into pessimism, which adds to the frustration of the job search.  You write off potential jobs without applying for them, convinced you won’t be compensated commensurate with your experience, or your pay check will bounce, or some other negativity will manifest itself.  The cycle feeds on itself, taking you farther down the spiral.

Unemployment can suck the soul out of you.  I wish that everyone who wants or needs a job could find one that provides a decent living.  I sure hope the folks who have jobs—in whatever form it may be—are grateful that they have that.  Mostly, I hope that the job seekers don’t give up hope in their search or lose the passion of their dream while they seek gainful employment.  I hope.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013



There is no dearth of quotes about “today”—a Google search brought up numerous motivational and/or inspirational websites.  Here are a few that jumped out to me: 

“Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” –Charles Dederich

“Never let yesterday use up too much of today.”  --Will Rogers

“This is the day the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.”  --Psalms 118:24

However, it was this quote, attributed to Dale Carnegie, which was my favorite of the ones I read this morning: 

“Today is life—the only life you are sure of.  Make the most of today.  Get interested in something.  Shake yourself awake.  Develop a hobby.  Let the winds of enthusiasm sweep through you.  Live today with gusto.”

I like this quote.  Too often, I allow my “to-do” list to drive how I experience my day, rather than my desires.  While I can’t just ignore the responsibilities of daily life, I could find ways to better weave more enjoyment into my individual days by spending time each day pursuing the things that give me passion.

I like it because it reminds me that today is indeed the fabric of life I have to work with.  Yesterday has passed and tomorrow, though promised, is never guaranteed.   I like it because it challenges me to be involved, be engaged, and keep active—intellectually as well as physically. And I believe the reward of living today with enthusiasm and passion is the joy that is returned to you.

Have a great day!

Monday, April 22, 2013



I’m a fan of staycations.  I like enjoying the comforts of my home while benefiting from the down time from work.  I can choose to catch up on sleep, enjoy a good recreational read while sitting poolside, or visit the zoos and museums that I don’t have the chance to visit while putting in 50 hours a week at the office.

I’m fortunate to live in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Within reasonable driving distances, I can find myself on a beach or in the mountains, enjoying whatever weather or scenery might strike my fancy on a given day of vacation.  I can explore a world-class city or enjoy the serenity of nature preserves.  There is no shortage of fabulous food to eat, music to listen to, or culture to absorb.

As part of my last two week staycation I decided to go explore the (relatively) local brick and mortar stitching stores, visiting a different one each day.   This resulted in many day trips for all of us to enjoy.  I am blessed with a husband who supports my stitching habit and doesn’t mind going along when I want to go visit a needlework store, so we piled the dogs into the car, armed with the Garmin to steer us towards our various destinations.

We saw beautiful scenery on the drive to the stores.  We walked the dogs at various parks we discovered along the way.  We tried new restaurants.  And of course, there was the bliss of being in a needlework store, enjoying the threads hanging on the wall, organized according to the hues of the color wheel.  Gorgeous hand-painted canvases sparked my creative juices as I imagined what stitches and fibers I might use to embellish the canvases.  I chatted with the proprietor and customers about the projects they were currently stitching.  Often times, my husband would take the dogs for a walk while I would sit and stitch at the table in the store.

And like any vacation, you can’t leave without finding a memento to bring home!  I delighted in selecting a project that would remind me of our wonderful day trip while I was stitching away on it.  No wonder I have so many works in progress! 

Don’t get me wrong, I also enjoy traveling and visiting new cities and seeing other parts of the country and beyond.  It’s just that there is so much to see and experience right here at home, and staycations can be an affordable and enjoyable alternative.   Give one a try!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Rushing To Get Ready

Rushing To Get Ready

I’m up early on my day off because I have a lot to do before I’m ready to head out for my stitching retreat.  This always seems to happen.  Despite plenty of planning, it often comes down to the final hours before departure before I pull together all the things I want to take.

Clothes:  I had to wait for the latest weather report to decide what clothes to bring.  It sounds like we’re going to have fabulously warm and sunny days with cool and probably foggy evenings and mornings.  So suddenly, I need to dig out a tank top and pair of shorts for their first use of the year, while remembering to pack the long sleeve shirt and warm sweater.  Not unusual for the San Francisco Bay Area, the best clothing strategy is to layer, layer, layer.

Downsizing my purse:  I don’t need to take along all the stuff I usually carry in my purse so I have to dump out the contents and think about what to include in the re-pack.  A small flashlight (it’s going to be dark out there at night); a tube of sunscreen; lotion to counterattack the drying effects of country water.  I can’t believe I almost forgot to pack the camera!  And while I’m thinking of it, I should dig out the small binoculars.  With a lake, a creek, and miles of hiking trails on the retreat property I expect to see plenty of wildlife.

Stitching project:  this has been the most difficult of decisions to make.  I have plenty of WIPs (works in progress) so deciding which one(s) to bring along has been surprisingly hard.  I also want to learn the technique of Hardanger so I’m pulling together the fabric, thread, needles, sharp scissors, and tweezers I will need.  Oh yes, don’t forget the small light and magnifiers!

Last but not least, prep for the A-Z letters that will come up while I’m gone.  I’ll be unplugged for a few days—no cell phone service or online access.  So there’s still a couple of blogs to write and schedule for release.   I’m looking forward to immersing myself into nature and stitching, and getting away from the noise and bustle of urban life. 

But first I have to finish getting ready to go!  I’ll catch back up with you in a few days!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Quizzical Looks

Quizzical Looks

One of the most endearing quizzical looks I’ve seen is the head tilt of a dog.  This seems to be quite prevalent in the German Shepherd Dog, though certainly not unique to the breed.

Folks offer all kinds of explanations for why their dog tilts their head.  Many attribute it to a state of semi-confusion—that the dog is really trying to understand what you are saying to or about them.  An unusual noise such as whistling can often elicit the head tilt.  Another explanation is that the dog is changing the angle of his or her hearing in order to be sure they aren’t missing some important sensory information. 

Something everyone agrees upon is that it’s adorable and You Tube is filled with video clips of dogs doing head tilts.  Check it out!

Thursday, April 18, 2013



Wikipedia defines patience as “level of endurance one can take before negativity”.   Hoo boy, ain’t that the truth?!

A key component of this definition is the absence of negativity during the wait.  Patience is not solely about the ability to wait or delay gratification, but the ability to maintain a good attitude while waiting.  In this age of ever increasing internet speeds, we are all moving towards an expectation of instant gratification, and become annoyed or frustrated when that gratification is delayed.

From a scientific perspective all animals, including humans, are inclined to choose small rewards in the short term over larger rewards in the long term.  However, if you can wait for that longer term delivery, the rewards will be greater.

I believe patience is a trait that can be cultivated.  When non-stitchers look at my needlework a common comment is “I’d never have the patience to do that!”  From my perspective, though, stitching teaches me patience.  It takes a long time to stitch up a large or complex cross stitch project, and if I weren’t patient with the process I’d never reach the goal of a completed and beautiful work of art.

Another way in which I cultivate patience is to couple it with anticipation.  Every quarter, I like to have something on my calendar to look forward to.  It might be a weekend trip to visit a place I’ve wanted to go.  I know it’s out there, and I savor the anticipation of planning and preparing for the event.

That’s not to say that I’m always a patient person (see my blog for the letter “I”—Impatience), but I do find it less stressful to relax and go with the flow of things than to get all worked up about something I can’t control or influence.  Even the trick of counting to ten before reacting to something that provokes you gives you a little edge on developing patience….and the long term rewards may well be worth the effort.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013



I am an owl fan.  One of my favorite books as a child was Owls in the Family by Farley Mowat, a Canadian author, sent as a Christmas gift from Canadian friends.  It was the story of two horned owls named Wol and Weeps who experience some adversity along the way, but the story does end with the owls enjoying a happy life.  I read that book over and over as a kid, and it remains on my bookshelf to this date.

Part of the enjoyment from the book was looking at the illustrations of the owls.  Horned owls in particular have very expressive faces, kind of like they’re always mad, and the illustrator in the book managed to capture that expression on every page.  With a little imagination, those “horns”—they’re really just tufts of feathers—also look like incredibly bushy eyebrows, which usually bring a smile to my face.  I am also impressed with the owl’s ability to rotate its head 270 degrees.  The owl does this because its eyes are immobile in its eye sockets, but it looks totally cool to watch them do this!

I don’t get many opportunities to see a live owl, so I have to be content with images.  Lucky are the folks who see owls on a regular basis!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013



For me, needlework would have to be my topic for the letter “N”!  I’ve done a variety of types of needlework ever since I was a little girl, and today it is indeed the therapy that helps me relax after a hectic day and helps to satisfy the desire to create something artistic.

Like many, I learned needlework from my mom.  Throughout my childhood, she created incredible clothing for my Barbie and other dolls, as well as amazing sweaters and clothing for me.  She shared with me her talent for needlework, beginning with stamped designs on aprons, pillow cases, and dresser doilies, teaching me the basic embroidering stitches of cross stitch, lazy daisies (great for flower petals), and stem stitch.  Next she taught me machine and hand sewing, knitting, and crocheting.  As a young teenager, she supported my venture into needlepoint where I learned to experiment with different stitches and techniques on detailed hand painted canvases.  I am eternally grateful to her for showing me the world of needlework.

When I went to college and became self-sufficient, I moved on to counted cross stitch as the patterns and materials were more affordable than hand painted canvases and special fibers.  It was with counted cross stitch that I truly appreciated the therapeutic value of repeating the rhythm of poking the fabric and pulling the thread with the needle while I decompressed from my ever increasingly complicated life.  I spent years stitching counted cross stitch patterns, experimenting with the gauge of the fabric and a variety of fibers to enhance details of the design.  I remember the pieces that I worked on as I worked through a divorce, the death of my parents, the loss of many animal companions, and other life traumas.  Needlework would help me work through my issues and feelings as I stitched away most evenings.

Within the last decade I’ve expanded my needlework skills by learning beading, ethnic embroidery styles, and canvas embellishment techniques.  There is still so much to learn!  This weekend I’m headed to a needlework retreat—48 hours of unstructured stitching time with 31 other like-minded women who are more than willing to share their knowledge and love of needlework.  I’m going to learn how to stitch Hardanger and enjoy being immersed in the celebration of needlework, in a rustic retreat environment.  I can’t wait!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Monterey Bay Aquarium

We recently spent a long weekend in Monterey, California celebrating my 25th anniversary with the company for which I work.  One of the highlights of the trip was our visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

I hadn’t visited for a few years, so there were a few exhibits I was looking forward to seeing.  The Jellies Experience was a lot of fun, as the curators played on the similarities of jellyfish movement and the lava lamps of the 60s and 70s, and the exhibit definitely had a psychedelic feel to it.  These invertebrates were mesmerizing in form and motion.

The Secret Lives of Seahorses was another fascinating exhibit.  What amazing creatures these are, with their prehensile tails wrapping around the vegetation in their niches.  Did you know it’s the males of the species that give birth and raise the young?  Pictured below is the leafy seahorse, well camouflaged by its anatomy.

Alas, no sightings of my favorite seabird, the pelican, however we enjoyed the sights and sounds of plenty of other seabirds, including a seagull who came and perched itself on the balcony railing while we sat watching the sun set over the Monterey Bay.  All in all, a wonderful time in a wonderful place!

Saturday, April 13, 2013



I know, nobody wants to talk about lice, but I’m going to blog about lice anyway.  Pediculosis, or head lice infestation, is a significant public health issue, and the best way to deal with it is to talk about it.

Would it surprise you to know that lice infestations increase dramatically after spring break?  Anecdotal reports from salons tell us their appointments for lice removal jump to as many as 20 per day in the weeks after spring break.

That’s because lice infestations are not about hygiene, they’re about proximity.  When kids and young adults get together for sleepovers and camps and sports and any other variety of rough and tumble togetherness, the environment is prime for lice transfer and spread.

Eliminating an infestation is not a fun process which is partly why folks don’t want to talk about it.  But the combing and shampooing are important, and there are lots of resources available to illustrate what’s needed.

So please keep checking your kids’ scalps and hair….

Friday, April 12, 2013



Kumihimo is a form of Japanese braiding.  With the aid of a hand held disc or a table top stand, strands are interlaced amongst each other, creating a cord that can be used for a variety of purposes.  The threads are managed by wrapping them onto bobbins, and tension of the cord is kept even by attaching a small weight to the bottom of the cord. 

You can vary the look of the resulting braid by varying the number, color, and/or weights of the threads.   Depending on how you set up the threads on the disc, you can create cords with spirals, arrowheads, or blocks of color and texture.  You can string beads onto the threads prior to braiding and work them into your patterns, too.  You quickly fall into the rhythm of braiding, and can create a long piece in a short amount of time.  It’s been fun experimenting with this technique.

Below is my first effort at kumihimo—a friendship bracelet using needlework thread.  If you look hard enough you can see the dog hair that got braided in, LOL!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Jellybeans as Art

Jellybeans as Art

Have you heard of Jelly Belly® jellybeans?  They’re those gourmet jellybeans which gained notoriety during the Reagan presidencies.  The Jelly Belly factory is located right outside Sacramento, California and is a fun place to stop en route to Northern California destinations.  There’s a tour where you can watch the working factory in motion, making up the jellybeans.  Not to be missed is the Jelly Belly Candy Store where you can purchase large bags of Belly Flops—misshapen jellybeans which don’t meet the aesthetic quality control standard, but are every bit as flavorful as the perfectly shaped jellybeans (and at a reduced price!).

Best part of the tour, however, is being able to see the large murals hanging on the factory walls.  Colorful and detailed, these works of art are entirely made up from jellybeans.  It is mosaic art with jelly beans as the medium.  There are portraits of famous people, most notably Ronald Reagan; and reproductions of famous paintings and iconic images.  Given the wide color palette of Jelly Bellys, the shading in the murals is subtle, enhancing the realism of the images.  Definitely worth a visit if you’re traveling through Northern California!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013



I’ve been sitting in this waiting area for over an hour now, and I’m starting to get impatient.  When is my name going to be called?  The sign on the wall says “patients may not be called in order of registration”—a warning to not complain when the person in line behind you gets their name called before yours.  How long must I wait before mentioning it to someone on the staff?

I usually have a stitching project in my bag to help pass waiting time, but for some reason today I do not.  That annoys me; if I had my stitching in hand I wouldn’t have given the length of the wait a second thought!  But it isn’t to be, so I work on two letters for the A-Z Challenge instead (at least I made productive use of my waiting time!).

That’s it.  I get into line and wait my turn to its front.  Finally I’m there, ready to say—nicely—that I’d been waiting over an hour and when would my name be called?  And wouldn’t you know, that’s when I hear my name getting called.   Finally!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013



H is for Haiku, poetry written in 5-7-5 syllable meter.  Here are a few I thought of in certain situations.  Please comment on your favorite, perhaps phrased as a haiku?

Composed during a stitching workshop:

Dang!  Thread knots again.
Untangling messes with
my tranquility.

Composed while sitting in a radiology waiting room:

A knobby knuckle;
My doctor diagnoses
with radiation.

Composed while stuck in a traffic jam:

Sirens, flashing lights.
An accident lies ahead,
waiting time unknown.

Monday, April 8, 2013



Every morning I thank God that I was able to get up and be able to see, smell, taste, hear, and feel.  I take a few moments to acknowledge examples of each of those sensations.  These are the ones I noticed this morning:

See:  the dawning light coming through the shutters; the information feed streaming across the bottom of the television screen during the morning news; and with the aid of eyeglasses, everything in front of my face.

Smell:  the aroma of coffee brewing; the pomegranate-mango body wash as I shower; and just a hint of dog funk emanating from an excited dog.

Taste:  the cool, refreshing water as I quench my thirst; the coffee as I wake up; and the flavors of smoked salmon and tangerines as I eat my breakfast.

Hear:  the chatter of the morning news broadcast; the purr of DJ as he greets me after a night’s slumber; and music as I drive in to work.

Feel:  the soft fur of DJ; the warm water as I shower; and the arms wrapped around me when we hug goodbye for the day.

I am grateful that my senses work as well as they do and I hope to never take them for granted. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Food Poisoning

Food Poisoning

(Disclosure:  This is a public health themed post, repeated from the 2012 A-Z Challenge.  It’s as relevant today as it was a year ago, and so I believe it warrants a re-run.)

 It’s a special event and you and your spouse head to a favorite restaurant to celebrate.  You get a great booth next to the window with the scenic view.  The menu is filled with tantalizing items---you each order an entrée and the salad bar.

When you’re at the salad bar, you’re impressed with all the choices available---from cut vegetables and fruits, to nuts and toppings, and several different salad dressing choices.  You load up your plate and head back to your table to enjoy your meal. 

And you do enjoy your meal.  The food tastes good; there’s lots of laughter and good feelings going on around the table and you both enjoy the celebration.

However, later that evening, your spouse starts complaining about a stomach ache.  You’re not feeling too well yourself.  And within the hour, you’re both experiencing projectile vomiting and worse and your evening is now ruined. 

You were just poisoned by the food in your favorite restaurant.  Not intentionally, of course, but from this point forward, you’re never going to feel quite the same about the place. 

Does it surprise you to hear that the biggest food safety problem we consumers face is at the salad bar?  Even though the food supply in the United States is one of the safest in the world, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that each year, 76 million people get sick, more than 325,000 are hospitalized, and 5,000 Americans die from foodborne illness. Preventing foodborne illness and death remains a major public health challenge. 

The culprit in most foodborne illnesses is bacteria.  Bacteria are everywhere and they grow on food, doubling every 20 minutes!  They do particularly well in foods that are high in protein such as milk, meat, fish, or eggs and food with high water content such as fruit and melons.  Freezing, refrigerating, and drying foods do not kill the bacteria—it just keeps them in a dormant state.  When you thaw the food or remove it from the refrigerator, the bacteria continue to grow and reproduce.

Cooking food products to their required temperatures will kill the bacteria and render it harmless.  However, when the bacteria grow, they produce toxins and you cannot inactivate the toxins with heat or cold.  That means that any food that smells off or feels slimy cannot be fixed under any circumstance and needs to be thrown out!  If in doubt, throw it out. 

Safe food handling practices, cooking temperatures, proper refrigeration, and proper hygiene are all key to avoiding foodborne illness.  The website http://www.foodsafety.gov  is a good resource for consumer advice on food safety.   

Friday, April 5, 2013

Embracing Dog Hair

Embracing Dog Hair

Continuing with yesterday’s theme, dog hair is part of life with a dog, particularly breeds with double coats.  If you can’t deal a with a little dog hair, perhaps a dog isn’t the animal companion for you.
I’ve found that dealing with dog hair just basically requires an attitude adjustment.  Dog hair is a given, so deal with it.  Sure, the black hair clings to my light-colored pants, and the tan hair clings to the black pants, and I’m fine with the notion that no outfit is complete without a few dog hairs.  In fact, some people have actually MADE garments from their dog's hair, having collected the shedded hair, cleaned it, spun it into yarn and knit it up into leg warmers, scarves, and even sweaters!  I admit to having toyed with this idea but abandoned it after trying to find a place to store the third trash bag of hair.

From my perspective, dogs are worth every single hair that falls off their bodies.  Who greets you as enthusiastically as your dog when you return home?  Who loves you completely and unconditionally when you do something wrong or stupid?  Who is there by your side when you are sad or lonely or scared?  For many folks, the answer is their dog.

My attitude:  don’t hate the dog hair, figure out how to embrace it.  This is just not a fight you’re going to win, so figure out how to live with it.  Love your dog with all your heart and don’t sweat the small stuff.   Learn to enjoy vacuuming, and appreciate the workout you get pushing that machine around your floors every day.  It’s the best investment you’ll make.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Dog Hair

Dog Hair

I am a dog fan.   The unconditional love, loyalty, and friendship that come with dog companionship are hard to beat.  Along with that, though, comes dog hair which is going to fall out.  After all, shedding is a natural process that allows the new coat to come in. 

The German Shedder---er, Shepherd Dog is known for shedding LOTS of hair, second only to Malamutes.   German Shepherds have a double coat—the outer layer sheds all year round while the under coat molts twice a year.  The volume of hair that comes out during the molting periods is really quite impressive! 

There are three stages of hair growth and shedding:  Anagen (when the follicle is producing new hair), Catagen (hair growth is in a transitional phase), and Telogan (the hair is in its final position and stops growing).  Dog hair goes through these stages constantly, so you can expect continuous shedding.

Regular grooming and vacuuming can help keep the dog hair under control.  Some folks vacuum their dogs as well as their carpets and floors, but do so with caution as some vacuums, particularly Dyson models, have pretty powerful suction.  Dog hair is a fact of life with dogs, and you can either brush or comb it out and toss it in the trash, or you can let it fall out naturally all over your house.  Your choice!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Cat Purrs

Cat Purrs

I am a cat fan.  Except for a few short periods, there’s always been a cat in my life, oftentimes several.  Each of them has had their distinct, delightful personality.  I love the cat’s independent spirit and the softness of their fur, however, the most wonderful attribute a cat possesses is its purr. 

The purr.  What an incredible sound, unique to the feline. Both domesticated and wild cats purr, yet no other animals create such a sound. It can be loud and rumbling or soft and barely perceptible.  A purr most often communicates contentment but has also been documented when the cat is hungry, sick, or, inexplicably, about to die.

The origin of the purr within a cat’s body has been widely debated, and I’m not convinced the answer has been found.  Current thinking among researchers is that purring is actually caused by rapid vibrations in the muscles of the larynx and the diaphragm working in sequence.  First the larynx muscle vibrates and once it finishes, the diaphragm muscle vibrates.  Back and forth they go, at the rate of 30 times per second.  The result of these vibrations is air turbulence which is the sound you hear.  The muscle vibrations are what you feel when your hand is on your cat while it is purring. 

Maybe, maybe not.  I’m not sure I want to have the mystery of the cat’s purr resolved.  I just love feeling the wonderment of this amazing, unique sound as it lulls me to sleep at night.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013



I’m not really a bee fan, I must admit. My encounters with them have been largely unpleasant and the few times I’ve been stung, the physiological reaction has been more intense with each subsequent sting.  While I’m probably not totally allergic to bee venom, I’m certainly sensitive to it.

So for a while there it was war between me and the bees.  Didn’t matter if they were honeybees, wasps, hornets, or bumble bees, I used whatever means available to remove individual bees permanently from my immediate environment.

A few years ago I learned that honeybees were experiencing a die-off, with pesticides at the source of the problem. The culprits are seemingly the neonicotinoids that act on the bee’s central nervous system.  The pesticides accumulate in soil and plants and bees get exposed through residues in nectar and pollen or contaminated soil.  Suddenly all the adult honeybees in a colony disappear or die.

This colony collapse disorder impacts the nation’s biggest pollination event—that of California’s almond orchards. California grows ~80% of the world’s almond supply and it takes an ever increasing number of honeybees to do that job.  Each February, approximately 1.5 million bee hives are trucked to California from the Mid-West—where the neonicotinoids are used widely.  Several European countries have banned or limited the use of these chemicals in an effort to protect honeybees; this has not yet happened in the United States.

So I am changing my personal war on bees.  I carefully remove the honeybees that land in the pool so they can resume their flight when their wings dry.  I shoo those that fly into the house back out instead of grabbing the fly swatter.  I distract my dog when I see she is chasing after bees.  Small efforts to be sure, though I feel I must do my personal part while the federal regulators and courts wrangle over the pesticide issues.   

Monday, April 1, 2013

Arlee Bird—Founder of the A-Z Blogging Challenge

What better way to start off the 2013 A-Z Blogging Challenge than to say “hooray and thanks!” to Arlee Bird.  2012 was my first year doing the Challenge and I’m returning, after addressing some ambivalent feelings (see below).  What a great idea he conceived, and judging from the many hundreds of people who participate, I’m clearly not alone with that notion.  Thank you, Arlee!


Webster’s dictionary defines ambivalence as “simultaneous and contradictory attitudes or feelings”.

That’s certainly what I felt as the 2013 A-Z Challenge sign-up window drew near.  I participated in the 2012 A-Z Challenge—successfully—but it was indeed challenging at times to post a blog worth reading every day, and I did fall behind at work because of the time I instead invested on the Challenge.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to put myself through that again.

This year won’t be much different—the Challenge competes with another conference; I haven’t yet identified topics for each letter, let alone pre-write many of them.  For a couple of days in April, I won’t even have an internet connection.

Then I thought about what was great from last year’s Challenge.  I did it!—and met a goal I’d set for myself.  I did it with the unwavering support of my sister—love you, Lanie!  (http://www.spontaneoussputterings.blogspot.com)   And I connected with a handful of people, many of whom will do the 2013 A-Z Challenge, whose blogs I bookmarked and followed in the interim.  I found stitchers, dog lovers, and IT technicians— interesting people with interesting things to say.  I find myself looking forward to catching back up with them.

I faced my ambivalence and made a choice among those contradictory feelings.   I will give the 2013 Challenge my best effort. 

Thank you for visiting and please come back!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A to Z Challenge [2013]

 Getting Back Into the Swing of Blogging

I’ve decided to accept the A-Z Challenge again for 2013.  It’s been a good 10 months since I last posted a blog, so this is a test blog to refresh my memory about composition and posting details, and to confirm that I’ve turned off the word verification feature from the comment section.

At this point I have not selected a theme for my blog.  As with last year’s challenge, I expect to tap into my interests for content including nature, needlework, music, public health, science, and the antics of my animal family.  I will do my best to make your visit to my blog worthwhile.

Thank you for visiting…if you’re a 2013 A to Z Challenge participant, all the best to you!  And if you’re not, consider joining the fun!

2012 Challenge Survivor Badge