Giant Leopard Moth ~ Hypercompe scribonia

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This little guy is in his ‘Don’t eat me!’ a posture that protects his underside and flashes the orange stripes, which usually mean this meal is unpalatable.

The Giant Leopard Moth or Eyed Tiger Moth (Hypercompe scribonia) various forests having host plants on which the caterpillars forage extensively. Gardens, farmlands, woodlands and public areas can be frequented by them.

Females emit pheromones that are caught by the antenna of the males that successfully locates the female for mating. When mating is over, the female gets on with the process of laying eggs.

Giant Leopard Moth

Adults fly from April to September

After the eggs are laid, the larvae come out of them which start feeding on the leaves where they emerge out of the eggs. As caterpillars, they assume the wooly bear appearance and go into hibernation for some time during the winters. But it might as well wake up for light foraging on milder days in the temperate regions. After sleeping over winter, it weaves cocoon from its body. It becomes the pupa after molting in the wake of spring. In the next few weeks, it transforms into an adult moth.

Host plants for larvae: cherries, plantains, violets, honeysuckles, magnolia, cabbage, sunflower, lilac, dandelion, pokeweed, willow, maples and other broad-leaved plants.

The dorsal aspect of the abdomen is iridescent, blue-black with orange lateral spots or occasionally orange with large blue-black spots. The legs also have iridescent, blue-black setae.

When threatened, adults ‘play possum’ and curl their abdomen to display their bright orange stripes. They also secrete a droplet of yellow, acrid fluid from the thoracic glands that is bitter tasting.

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

40 Days and 40 Nights Without Amazon.com

imageI’ve never really ‘given-up’ anything for Lent. I was raised Lutheran/Christian, which doesn’t require you to sacrifice any sweets, T.V. or other bad habits. I call Lent, “New Year’s Light”, as you’re not abstaining from something forever (Resolution), you’re only giving it up for 40 days… Not including Sundays. Hmm. I smell a loop-hole! Does that mean you can cheat on Sundays*?

I’ve also recently decided that Christianity wasn’t a good fit for me and have recently decided that Druidism fits my vibe. Druids don’t do Lent.

There is a good use for Lent though. Testing your willpower. I have become pretty dependent on Amazon.com… I’m even a Prime Member! Amazon contains a plethora of things to make me happy =-) There are very few things that I can’t find on Amazon, however I’m not afraid of eBay, Etsy or even Walmart has an app now. Why should I waste my time driving to a store, dealing with wacky people and possibly getting sick when I can have it delivered to my door after hitting a few buttons? Duh. (coughDemophobiacough)

The UPS and USPS delivery folks bring packages to my home at least 3 times a week. I basically buy everything online, aside from my groceries. I think the only other store I go to regularly is a hardware store.

Then, why have I decided to not order from Amazon for the next 40 days? Because I feel like I need to see if I can. It isn’t a monetary thing, my Amazon credit card has a limit of $500. They keep trying to raise my limit, but I keep telling them no. My sacrifice is strictly to see if I can pull this off. Wish me luck!

Is anyone else observing Lent or just testing their willpower?

*So for realsies… Can I cheat on Sundays???

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Bathroom Renovations Part 2 – Construction

imageSo, I left you, my dear readers, with me still using the freezing basement pooper, mad because I had to buy another can of paint, apply said paint and was running a bit late in the scheduling department. ( Part 1 ) Thank goodness I did not build in a time frame into my contract. I guess as long as it was done before March, I was golden. ;-)

By now, my vanity had arrived. I am not afraid to order from Amazon.com, you just need to be a bit open-minded sometimes. Color is the worst thing to deal with. I have had shit luck buying formal dresses, however other clothes have been fine. It arrived well packaged and looked great for the price. These sinks usually go for 3X what I paid (due to the labor) and this one has it’s quirks, hence the lesser price. We’re happy with it, though!

Back on the color matching issue, until the vanity was delivered, I couldn’t shop for any shelves or accessories until I saw the vanity color in person. I knew my hubby could match anything in color via stain, so I was safe buying anything ‘raw’ for him to stain. I had already ordered the raw shelf that would eventually go above the tile. Now for a mirror. We had to go to the Big Depot to buy some grout and ended up finding a matching mirror and medicine cabinet for good prices! Couldn’t pass ’em up and off they went home with us.

So, I’m armed with most of my bathroom ingredients, all staged to go in my garage. It should (did) all flow well now. It was time to tackle the third coat of paint… Since the second can of paint could have been +/-3% off in color from the first, I decided to save some time and tape the ceiling off & not hit it with the third coat. It was white originally and two coats looked great.

I was now ready to apply my faux painting. I have done many faux finishes before: ragging, sponging, linen effect, and faux Venetian plaster. I’m not afraid to try things! Since the Venetian plaster was out, I just perused the paint store for ideas. They had opalescent paint that could be colored in any color I wanted. Perfect. Since there is no window in there, I guessed the opalescence would give the illusion the room is lighter than it is. I picked a color called ‘Cool Avocado’ and bought scrap T-shirt material to apply it, called ‘ragging’. In short, I soaked the rag in the paint and smooshed it on the walls with different angles and pressures. If you really want to know the details, go to You Tube!

wp-1454296245058.jpg The opalescent paint is so beautiful, IMO. I love how it moves in the light. It seems to disappear in places the light hits, giving the illusion that I missed a huge spot on the wall! However, if you shift positions, you can see the shimmery green return to the area. This worked great for my application, however I don’t think this would look good as a stand alone, solid color.

I was able to finish the faux in about 6 hours on a Friday. This was perfect timing, as it dries very fast and we could at least get the toilet set before sundown. Whew! Indoor plumbing ;-)

So this is how it all fell together, start to finish, Cliff’s Notes Style!

  • Remove old vanity.
  • Add matching tile where missing under vanity.
  • Unset toilet and remove everything from walls.
  • Center off-center electrical box for vanity light.
  • Drywall, fix holes and sand, and sand, and sand…..
  • Paint 3 coats of expensive, moisture resistant bathroom paint.
  • Faux ‘ragging’ paint in opalescent green.
  • Toilet set.
  • Hang & grout the green glass tile for our ‘back splash’.
  • Hang both the fan light and the vanity light.
  • Install the vanity, sink and faucet. Ah, it’s good to know a plumber!
  • Hang the mirror – we chose to use two screws, not liquid nail to hang our mirror (gesh, overkill!)
  • Hang medicine cabinet, shelf, hooks, towel rod, TP holder, and shower curtain.
  • Lay cute stone cobble rug.
  • Cue dogs for photo bomb of finished product!
  • Done? To Be Continued….

Here’s a picture gallery of the progress:

Yes, the 1970’s called, they want their bathroom back! Not entirely horrible, real oak vanity, large med cabinet… The shower curtain was an experiment. It looked like a Jarabe Tapatío (Mexican Hat Dance) dress! Yes, that was cut from the re-deux.

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First to go was the vanity. We had electrical, dry-walling and painting to do. There were at least 6 coats of paint to deal with around he vanity and old medicine cabinet. Along with the damage where the mirror was glued to the wall. I felt like Karate Kid… SAND THE FENCE! Well, really SAND THE FLOOR, as it was circular motions.

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After all the dry-walling and sanding, it was time to paint. My husband hates painting, however helped cut in the corners. I did write a love note to my husband on the wall behind the vanity. Like a time capsule!

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I painted the whole room. All 5 of the subsequent paint jobs, after the first one (while being built) never painted behind the toilet. If someone really wants to change these fixtures, they could potentially keep this paint job.

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Coming right along! The cute picture in the middle is of my husband’s and Breck’s plumber butt!

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And we’re done!! I’m sure I’ll add some trinkets and perhaps a shelf for junk in the future though.

So, when it came down to schedule, I was about a week over or 1/3 over the originally projected time frame. Eh, that’s pretty par for the course.

And now the big question… How did I do on my budget. Well, as I said in Part 1, a 20% – 30% additional is about right. I have not added these up yet until now, writing this post & after the project was complete. I don’t have enough OCD to know to the dollar what I spent, but let’s see where I ended-up, roughly:

Budget was for $1,700.00 + 30% ($510.00) Gives me $2,310.00 for realsies. I’m not counting labor here.

  • Vanity & associated products – $845.00
  • Mirror – $57.00
  • Faucet – $36.00
  • Medicine cabinet  – $37.00
  • Wood Shelf & stain – $30.00
  • Floor tile & associated products – $80.00
  • Drywall & associated products – $70.00
  • Glass wall tile & associated products -$85.00
  • Paint & associated products – $190.00
  • New vanity light, wall plates + rewiring – $75.00
  • Hooks, towel rack & TP holder – $80.00
  • Shower curtain & rod – $70.00
  • Rug – $25.00
  • Dye for towels – $3.00 (saved me $150 in towels!!)

Aaaaand the total is: $1,683.00!! Uh oh. UNDER budget? Let’s see here… 20, carry the 4, then add the 6… Yup. Technically, spot on budget! I could argue the fact that I still need a soap dispenser (eyeballing one @ $20.00) and I would really like a ‘bath sheet’ (another $20.00). A new bath mat would be nice also ($12.00). Lastly a trinket shelf (about $40.00). That would add $92.00 to the tab. New total – $1,775.00.

What really happened in my head when I came up with the $1,700.00 budget in the first place, was that I really wanted to only spend $1,500.00, but added the extra $200.00 for ‘uh oh’s’ that came up. I didn’t expect to have to buy a mirror, however I didn’t expect to not have to buy towels, either. I expected the vanity light rewiring to be more work and material than it was and didn’t expect to pay an extra $60.00 in the paint department. I think I was just pretty lucky this renovation!!

All in all, I am ECSTATIC about my new pooper!

Next project? The kitchen! =-O

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Boys At Play – Just a Day at Work For Me

I work with a bunch of jokesters.
Thankfully, I am fairly rarely the brunt of the joke. They have tried, however you need to wake-up pret-ty early to catch me off guard. I now just get to enjoy all the pranks they do to each other. Many times I get to be in on the joke, as you can’t do anything around my office without me knowing about it. I hear, see and smell all. Yes, I can smell when the boys are out churning the compost pile in back… peeee-you!
This is how this one played out:
My boss and his family love to hunt and the Hispanic employees love to eat most things they kill. It’s a perfect symbiotic relationship.  As my fellow blogger (Bella Remy Photography) found out recently while trying to take photos of a Bald Eagle dining on a fallen deer… landscapers love their free meat! I’ve even seen them turn around to pick-up the wild turkey they just hit trying to cross the road.
My boss was driving back to the shop and witnessed a car hit a coyote. He quickly pulled over to see if the driver was OK (they were) and if they wanted the carcass. Yes, he did!! They clearly did not want it. He tossed it into the back of his truck and brought it back to the office.
I saw him pull it out of his truck and place it near the wheel of his son’s truck.

I think the son may have peed himself a bit when he walked around the truck and saw it! =-O

My boss guessed I probably don’t get that type of humor.

I don’t get that he picked up something no one would eat.

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© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Venus Fly Trap – Dionaea muscipula

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Carnivorous plants live all over the world but the Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) is native to select boggy areas in North and South Carolina.

Early observations of the flytrap revealed that when an insect contacts a hair and within 20 seconds contacts another, the trap closes. The requirement of redundant triggering in this mechanism serves as a safeguard against wasting energy by trapping objects with no nutritional value. The trap also doesn’t close right away to allow for extremely small insects to escape, because of their low nutritional value also. Don’t want to go wasting digestive juices for nothing!

Last week, new discoveries were made when German researchers monitored Venus flytraps electrical impulses. Flytraps were manually stimulated by mimicking prey behavior, while researchers observed the plants’ responses.

The scientists found that the trigger hairs are linked to two key areas in the plant: motor tissue, which physically closes the trap and the endocrine system, which digests the prey. After two touches have sprung the trap, the insect’s struggling against the hairs prompts the release of digestive juices.

It was also observed that certain gland cells in the flytraps permitted the plants to absorb and store large amounts of sodium. Researchers are not certain how the plants use the element, however proposed that it might be stored in the stem, which may help to preserve the correct balance of water in the plant’s cells.

Taking Care of Audrey II*

Venus Flytraps are quite easy to grow, as long as they are given the proper growing conditions.

  • Flytrap should be grown in very bright light, but not in direct sun.
  • A warm, humid environment, with a constant supply of moisture is ideal. Hint: Elevate the pot by placing pebbles under it so that the base of the pot is barely in contact with the water, not submerged.
  • The potting mixture should contain of a mix of 70% peat or sphagnum moss and 30% perlite or coarse pumice.
  • Flytraps are extremely sensitive to chemicals, so you should only use distilled water or rain water. If it is absolutely necessary to use tap water, allow it to rest for 24-48 hours in an open container, to allow the chlorine and any other chemicals to dissipate. That is of course if you have city water.
  • The insects which they consume provide them with all the nutrients they need, so do not fertilize them.
  • Your Flytrap will consume 2 or 3 small insects each month. Dead flies and insects can be used, provided that they died of natural causes and not by poisons.
  • Never, ever, ever feed your Venus Flytrap any hamburger. The fat content in burger will be fatal to your plant.
  • Artificially springing the trap, i.e. poking it with your finger, drains the Flytrap’s energy. If this is done too often, the fly trap head will become less sensitive and possibly die.
  • Always keep dead leaves and heads cut off to prevent fungal infections.

Flytraps require a period of dormancy during the winter of about three months. At this time, much (if not all), of the foliage will die back. The entire planter should be moved to an area where the temperature will remain at 45-55 F or the bulb may be removed, sprayed with fungicide, wrapped in damp, live sphagnum moss, placed in a plastic bag and moved to a cool area.

*This was the name of the plant in “The Little Shop of Horrors”

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Woodstock Willie Says It Will Be an Early Spring for 2016!

Today, February 2nd, we celebrate Groundhog Day.  Our local Groundhog “Woodstock Willie” will let us Midwesterners know if we will be enjoying an early Spring!! Oooor not. =-(

I will update this post after 7 AM when Willie let’s us know!

UPDATE for 2016!! Willie did NOT see his shadow, so we will be enjoying an early spring here in the Midwest!! BTW – Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow either, so it looks like an early spring for most of the U.S. Smiles all around!! =-D

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Photo courtesy of WoodstockILchamber.com

Groundhog day started here in the U.S. around 1840 when German immigrants in Pennsylvania introduced the tradition of weather forecasting via the hedgehog (der Igel) in Germany. Since there were no hedgehogs here, the Pennsylvania German’s adopted the native woodchuck, aka the groundhog. The town of Punxsutawney, just northeast of Pittsburgh, has played up the custom over the years and has managed to become the most famous locations for Groundhog Day celebrations. Each year, people gather to see if a groundhog named “Punxsutawney Phil” will see his shadow after he emerges from his burrow. If he does, the tradition says there will be six more weeks of winter. (Phil has a rather dismal 39% rate of accuracy for his predictions.)

A similar German tradition is connected with St. Swithin’s Day (Siebenschläfer, June 27th), for which tradition says that if it rains on that day, it will rain for the next seven weeks. However, the Siebenschläfer is a dormouse, not a hedgehog.

The movie, “Groundhog Day” 1993 staring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell is one of my favorite movies. It was not filmed in Pennsylvania, where the movie takes place, but in Woodstock, Illinois, which is right near my home.

There is a small plaque that reads “Bill Murray stepped here” on the curb where Murray continually steps into a puddle.

I would encourage everyone to snuggle up with something warm… A husband, wife, dog, cat… or even a hot toddy and watch this great movie.

2/2/2016

Dilemmas in a Dog’s Life

The boys really like their stuffing-less furry toys. Of course, after Mom takes the squeaky out of it!

These are ‘inside toys’ and thus, don’t go outside… most of the time. Mom has to remind the offender, usually Oreo, to ‘leave it inside’. This toy happened to make it as far as the garage the other night. Then, Mom didn’t realize that it had gotten past the threshold and into the great outdoors. As it has been pretty cold out these past few days, the spit-filled fur toy made quick work freezing to the cement. Mom noticed the frozen furry and couldn’t help having some fun with the little guy.

Get it Oreo! Come on Oreo!! Ha Ha Ha!!

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Previous Dilemma’s in a Dog’s Life  1 2345

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Stop the TPP!!

There are many things we don’t know about the Trans Pacific Partnership because our government is keeping the information behind closed doors. So far, what has been speculated to be included in the partnership is downright scary, in my opinion! Lifesaving drugs won’t be allowed to have a generic, less costly version, internet speeds will lessen and your internet provider will be able to track your every search. Other countries will be able to sue the United States for profits lost due to our stronger regulations. Paygrades will also go down to meet the standards of other countries in the partnership. Some Vietnamese workers make less than 65 cents an hour… And we complain about our $7.25?!? If you were for a McDonald’s worker making $10 an hour, this partnership would squash that.

There is no reason that this trade agreement should be hidden from the American public!!

Please go to any of the many websites that have petitions to sign against it, call your representative or even reblog this post ;-)

Although we only had until January 13th to speak publically about it, there are still things you can do to help stop TPP.