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Enjoying the Climate Roller Coaster!

This is kinda crazy weather for February in the Midwest. In my experience, when Mother Nature teases us with a week like this in the middle of winter… She will generally rain down a hellion’s dose of rag-ass on us during April – May. I know. Just try to schedule outdoor construction for a living!=-O
Granted, things have started early and hung on to transition right into summer. It was as recent as 2012, when I had lilacs blooming on April 13, instead of the average time of late May.

I hope that we have another 2012, I’m ready for it =-)

Squirrel McDonald’s 

It’s another dreary day here in the Midwest. The clear, bright, new windows we had installed don’t make it look any more friendly outside. It’s February… In Illinois… what do I expect?

Although the day is dreary, I do enjoy watching the gray squirrels taking care of business in the front yard. There are many spruce and large trees in my area, which allows for a large population of these furry, funny entertainers.

February is an exciting time in a gray squirrel’s life… It’s MATING SEASON! Woo hoo! Time to frolic, play, tease, fight, love, share, chase, eat and all other forms of craziness!! You can easily identify the sexes without seeing their undercarriages during this time. The female is in the lead, with a dominate male directly behind here, if there are any other following in line, they are young, subordinate males… waiting for their chance.

Males will fight for dominance when there are no females around to chase. You’ll hear the “Chu-chu-chu” noise or see the squirrel stomping its feet and swishing its tail as a form of war dance! To adorable.

**Click here to learn how smart squirrels are**

If you’ve been following me for awhile, you know I have many bird feeders and perch areas to feed the wildlife at work. At my home, not so much. I do have a suet holder and otherwise, I only toss ‘left overs’ out to the wildlife I share my space with. Left overs can vary from bread to nuts to fruit to seeds, nothing I think is dangerous to the wildlife, nor anything I want out there that attracts unwanted wildlife, like skunks or ‘possoms. All approved items get thrown on the front lawn at dawn. The front lawn is devoid of crazy Border Collies and if thrown out at dawn, all trace of food will be gone by mid-day, thus won’t be attracting any nightlife creatures of the stinky variety.

As I know I might catch some flack from feeding the wildlife anything but proper foods… I did consult the ALL KNOWING INTERNET to back or deflate my decision to give my furries bread. Seems there are as many pro’s as con’s out there for feeding any type of wildlife (ducks, birds, squirrels…) bread. In my opinion, and how I try to live my life (mostly)… It’s all about moderation. Going to McDonald’s twice a year isn’t going to kill you, in the same as giving wildlife bread will kill them. I don’t share it that often and they seem to enjoy their Squirrel McDonald’s!

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

 

Juvenile Male Cardinal ~ Cardinalis cardinalis

Happy Valentines Day!

I though today would be a great day to write about cardinals.

Cardinals are monogamous birds whose relationships with their spouses are harmonious, romantic and musical. The male and female sing duets, calling similar songs to each other. Native American lore says if a cardinal crosses your path or attracts your attention, and you’re single, there may be a romantic relationship in your near future. If you’re already in a relationship, you may experience renewed romance and courtship. If you or your partner have been unfaithful, monogamy is the cardinal’s message

     

Cardinals make a distinct ‘chirp’, that my ears pick-up quickly. I was home writing posts, when I heard the call. This little guy was under the suet puck I have hanging from a shepherd’s hook. Mr. Squirrel was up on the puck, gobbling and dropping a lot of crumbs. Perfect situation for Mr. Cardinal! I crept up to the window and looked down, hoping not to spook him. The cardinals at work are very skittish. Any movement at all has them flying off. This guy here had no fear. As long as the crumbs rain down on him, he was happy and not worried about who looked at him.

Cardinalis cardinalis is what’s called a tautonym: zoological names of species consisting of two identical words (the generic name and the specific name have the same spelling). Such names are allowed in zoology, however not in botany. Clearly, like I’ve said before, botanist’s are EVIL!!! Click here to see the long list of tautonyms available from the Wiki. Some of my favorites: Bison bison, Chinchilla chinchilla, Iguana iguana, Gorilla gorilla. 😉

My gift to you on Valentine’s day; a romantic Native American legend.

The Red Bird

A Choctaw Legend

Once, when time was not quite old enough to be counted, there lived a beautiful Indian maiden. This was a special maiden. She could do all the work that needed to be done to keep her lodge in order and to satisfy her mate. But this maiden did not have what she longed for — her mate. As she sat under the large tree one day, she heard the Red Bird.

“Red Bird, is it so strange for me to wish to have someone to care for, who will care for me?” asked the maiden. “If it is not so strange, why have I not found that one meant for me?”

The Red Bird had no answer for the Indian maiden, but he sat and listened to her because he could hear the lonely in her voice. Every morning for the passing of seven suns, the Red Bird came and listened to the maiden’s story. As each day passed, the loneliness felt by the maiden began to fill the Red Bird.

One day in the Red Bird’s far travels, he came to a handsome Indian brave. The brave saw the Red Bird and called him to him. As he began to talk, the Red Bird felt the loneliness in his voice that the maiden had shown. Soon the Red Bird began to see that these two lonely people had the same wish, to find another who would love and care for them as they would care for their mate.

On the fifth day of listening to the brave, the Red Bird became as a bird that is sick. The brave became concerned, for the Red Bird had become his friend. As the brave walked toward him, the Red Bird began hopping, leading the brave to the lodge of the Indian maiden. Because the brave was wanting to see if the Red Bird was alright, he did not notice that he was going from his home. The Red Bird saw the Indian maiden sitting outside of her lodge and when he came very close to where he knew the brave would then see the Indian maiden, he flew away. The brave saw the Indian maiden and realized that he had wandered far from his home. He went to the Indian maiden to ask where he was.

The Red Bird sat in the tree and watched the brave and the maiden. At first the brave was shy and the maiden would not talk, but they soon were talking and laughing like old friends.

Red Bird saw this and thought it was good. He had done as he could and now it would be up to the brave and the maiden. As Red Bird flew to his home he thought of how Great Spirit had known that someday the two would find each other. Now it was good, thought Red Bird, that maiden had someone who would see for her and brave had someone that would hear for him and that they finally had someone who would care.

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Re-potting Houseplants

imageIt had been about 5 years since I took in these two orphans from work. They had been hanging under a pergola for one season and the clients didn’t want them anymore. Their loss is my gain! I re-potted them into these cool cornucopia looking bamboo baskets and they have lived happily in my south window since. 

I started to notice the soil around the outside edge started to feel a bit ‘crunchy’ for lack of a better term. These hang high, and I can’t see into them without removing them from the hooks, so I had to go on other signs they wanted new soil for their feet. Crunchy soil and the fact it took less time for me to hear the water flowing into the drip pan, meaning there were fissures in the soil that allowed the water to flow through the soil without any uptake of water into the soil. I finally decided it was time for a re-pot.

Many plants do actually prefer to be rootbound. My ficus and other philodendron plants have been in the same pots for decades. Other plants need the freedom to spread their roots…. These had gotten a bit thin on top, so along with the re-pot, I was going to transplant many of the runners to the pot to return it to it’s afro past.

  • First, I pruned off all the runners. I wanted the plant to put all of its energy into making new roots and leaves on the existing plant, not want to ‘Seek out new life and civilizations” ;-).
  • Then, I had to remove part of the old pot, as it had grown roots all through the bottom. The new pots weren’t that much larger than the old, however these do like to be root bound and I didn’t want to have them swimming in a ‘too large’ pot. I also had size restrictions on the hangers.
  • I took off about and inch of roots from the bottom. I wanted to encourage them to grow down into the new soil I placed on the bottom of the new pot. I also took off a bit of soil on the sides where there were no roots, so new, nutrient-filled soil will go.

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  • I placed about 2 inches of potting soil in the bottom of the new pot. The pot was only about an inch larger around, but just enough to plant some newbies in there.
  • These are very easy to propagate. Prune them at a node (where there looks to be roots growing) and pop it in the new soil.
  • Be sure to keep these new babies watered. They aren’t getting the supplemental nutrients from Mom anymore, and will need some extra help.

 

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And were back to lookin’ tropical 😉

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Boxed Dinners ~ Activities for Foodie Couples

imageIf you haven’t heard about these blessings in a box, they are called Meal Delivery Services, and they are being shipped to most locations worldwide. I think they are an awesome idea for folks wanting to learn how to cook, learn new meals, save money and time, stuck in a ‘food rut’ (us), along with dieting or even just eating better!  We’ve batted this idea around for a bit… Having fresh ingredients arrive at our door to make meals for a few nights a week. I wasn’t sure if it was going to be a savings or an expense. My husband really took a hold of this idea and ran with it. He compared many of the Dinner Box companies that deliver in our area. He decide Blue Apron was the best fit for us. They source the food as local as possible to me. I love supporting my community.

When he told me about the future box coming, he had sparkles in his eyes. He was genuinely excited to cook these meals! He then tells me the most mushy, lovey-dovey thing… “I can’t wait to spend time with you in the kitchen cooking these meals.” Awe! What a Sweety-Pie!!! I love you, honey.

Our first three meals arrived on a Friday. We picked Friday, so we would have more time to cook the meals over the weekend. The part I really like is that the amounts are per-determined, and there is no waste or leftovers. I feel like we waste too much food here. Another huge pro for going with this arrangement.

There are also beautifully done recipe cards with photos for most of the steps in the recipe. If there is something missing on the card, you can always go to their website to learn how to reproduce the technique they are asking you to do. There are many how-to videos, other recipes and comments from other Blue Apron clients.

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Lemon Caper Catfish, Chicken Paillard and Bucatini Pasta Bolognese, were our weeks choices. In plain English: Lemon catfish w/kale, Chicken & potatoes & Spaghetti w/meat sauce. There are generally 3 meat meals and 3 vegetarian meals, for a total of 6 meals to choose from for a week. Blue Apron only offers 3 meals a week, whereas other companies do offer 2 -7 meals a week. As I am a carnivore, the veggie meals are somewhat wasted on me. Yes, roasted cauliflower sounds yummy, but that is a side dish, not the centerpiece of the meal.

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The Chicken Paillard was to die for! I have never roasted a fennel before and I have been missing out! If you’ve never done it, buy one in the next grocery run. They are amazing roasted. We figured even if we didn’t like some part of the meal, it would introduce us to other types of food and how to cook it. A con was the size of the potato. It was smaller than my fist, and we had to split it. I get it. It’s called PORTION CONTROL 😉 Fatty-Fat-Fat!

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Sometimes we had to read the directions 10X to wrap our minds around something. The directions for the Bucatini Pasta Bolognese had us cooking veggies and sauce before we cooked the meat in the veggies. Huh? I’ve generally always cooked the meat first, then added other ingredients. This recipe also had us adding chopped brussels sprouts near the end of the process. In the end, it was a super yummy meal. I still like my spaghetti sauce better (I use pork shoulder), however I will now add carrot, celery and chopped brussels sprouts to mine!

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Here is the Lemon Caper Catfish. The catfish was great. It was on a bed of lentils and kale. I like many veggies, but you lost me at both lentils and kale. Blech! I can say that the lentils were not the same kind my Mom used for soup. These were called the ‘caviar of lentils’ and even resembled it. They were actually pretty good. Not the texture of dirt, like my Ma’s. The kale was kale. There was no helping it. In the end, I would just do this recipe with spinach and call it a day.

My hubby and I are very pleased with our choices, the turnout and the amount of fun we’ve been having in the kitchen. I’d really have to wait for more data, however the total amount of groceries and the Blue Apron box were even last week, thus it is a wash, budget wise. YEAH!! I would highly suggest trying one of these services out! Even if it’s just for a week here and there. I love that we don’t have to argue about ‘what’s for dinner?’ or spend time making a list or being pissed that we forgot something at the store!! I feel like this may take a lot of stress away from us, which makes it worth its weight in gold.
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I can’t wait for our next box and our next foodie adventure!!

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

My Mom’s Favorite Thing…

imageI’ve been doing a lot of de-cluttering. I have had some stuff since I don’t know when. Time to cut some ties. If I ever intend on becoming a full-time RV-er, the load must be lightened.

I did come across some things I totally forgot I had. Yup. The problems of a hoarder 😉

I did find one of my Mothers favorite things.

This it a ‘Round Tuit’. These are worth their weight in gold, and then some. These can move mountains, end wars or make a child clean their room…

Just in case it was only your first cup of coffee this morning, ‘Round Tuit’ is a play on words, re-interpreting the idiom to get around to it as get a round tuit. First used at the 1964 World’s Fair which was held in Queens (Flushing).

I bet you’ll put it on your Christmas list now, huh?!?

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

If Its Gray, It Stays…

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My grays hide when my hair is pulled back...

When I mention the amount of gray hairs my head is producing, my slightly, balding husband always responds, “If its gray, it stays.” I tried searching the internet to find out if this was actually true, however couldn’t find any research saying it’s true. I could, however find many debunked myths about how someone gets gray hair such as:

  • Pluck one, get 10 in return
  • Wash your hair daily to rid them
  • Trauma causes them
  • Low vitamin B12 levels
  • Sun damage
  • Smoking

I did find some research as to how gray hair does happen. Researchers at the University of Bradford in the United Kingdom believe that when hydrogen peroxide builds up in our bodies, we go gray. Hydrogen peroxide is produced naturally in the human body and interferes with melanin, the pigment that colors our hair and skin. The body also produces the enzyme catalase, which breaks down hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen. As we age, catalase production diminishes, leaving nothing to transform the hydrogen peroxide into chemicals the body can release. Thus turning your colored locks into a sea of white.

Gray hair starting

There they are!! I am blessed with opalescent white hair.

Although you don’t need to be old to enjoy the look… Seems gray is the new blonde! Young stars such as Rihanna, Adam Lambert, Zayn Malik, and Kelly Osbourne are all sporting silver manes.

I’ve been a slave to the bottle since I was 16. Yes, there was hair dye in the early 1800’s 😉 I’ve been every color in the book and then some….. A few of my high school friends went into cosmetology school and I was their hair model. Luckily, I didn’t have to wear any hats after their assignments!!

I’m now 40 something and dying my hair every 5 weeks is getting old. Out of all the colors I’ve been, gray was not one of them, so I’ve decided to give it a shot. I’m not running off to buy a bottle of bleach… I don’t want to destroy my hair. Another reason that I want to stop dying it is that I’d like to grow it as long as possible. Everyone has a feature that is taken for granted, however everyone else would kill for. My hair is one of those features. I’ve been threatened to be scalped … even with my Eddie Munster hairline!

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Rouge from XMen

Here’s my plan:

Dye my hair back to its ‘pre-gray’ color, which is a dark reddish brown (Level 4). (Black=10 / Blonde=1).

Let hair grow in at least 2 inches (about 3 months) to see just how gray I am…. I think I’m70%.

Go with gray highlights of some sort, or a balayage look of just doing the hair framing my face? How about going Rouge?

See my PINTREST page here for other gray styles I love!

 

What are your thoughts? Are you going to go gray naturally or die dying??

 

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Happy Friday the 13th!!

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Happy Friday the 13th!! Do you have Paraskevidekatriaphobia or just the run of the mill Triskaidekaphobia?

It’s been estimated that $800 or $900 million is lost in business on this day because people will not fly or do business they would normally do. .. You could always stay home and cuddle-up with your internet device and read Midwestern Plants all day!! =-)

Traditionally in numerology, 12 is considered the number of completeness: the 12 signs of the zodiac, the 12 Apostles, 12 hours of the clock, the 12 tribes of Israel, the 12 days of Christmas – the list goes on. The number 13 is considered a transgression, or going beyond completeness.

There are many historical tales as to why either Friday or the number 13 are bad news:

  • Frigga (Frigg) The Norse love goddess and wife of Odin, was worshiped on the sixth day of the week. Christians though of Frigga as a witch, thus considered Friday to be the witches’ day.
  • Another Norse legend tells of one fine day in Valhalla, home to the 12 Norse gods, a party was taking place.  Loki (the trickster) crashed the party (13th guest) and arranged for Hoder (the blind god of darkness) to kill Baldr (the beautiful god of light) with a mistletoe-tipped arrow, his only way to die. After Baldr’s death, the world got dark and mourned the death of the god. Since then, the number 13 has been associated with gloom and doom.
  • Jesus was crucified on Good Friday and The Last Supper was believed to be attended by thirteen people. The thirteenth being Judas. (That story sounds familiar?)
  • Eve’s offering the apple to Adam in the Garden of Eden, supposedly happened on a Friday.
  • Chaucer even alluded to Friday as a day on which bad things seemed to happen in the Canterbury Tales as far back as the late 14th century (“And on a Friday fell all this mischance”), but references to Friday as a day connected with ill luck generally start to show up in Western literature around the mid-17th century: “Now Friday came, you old wives say, Of all the week’s the unluckiest day.”   (1656)

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The list goes on and on. Opposed to dwelling on the past, what can be done to avoid the curse of Friday the Thirteenth? Maybe try starting out your Friday with one of these folklore curse remedies*:

  • Climb to the top of a mountain or skyscraper and burn all the socks you own that have holes in them
  • Stand on your head and eat a piece of gristle
  • Greeks think sponge baths cure you of curses
  • Spitting on the person or thing causing the curse will rid it
  • Place a black candle into the black bowl, fix the candle to the bowl using the wax
    drippings from the candle so that it stands alone.
    Fill the bowl to the rim with fresh water, without wetting the wick.

    Breathe deeply and meditate for a few minutes.
    When your mind is clear, light the candle.
    Visualize the power the spell cast against you as living within the candles flame.
    As the candle burns down, it will sputter and go out as it touches the water.
    As it is extinguished by the water, the curse is broken.
    Finally, dig a hole into the ground, pour the water into it, then bury the candle.
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Dr. Donald Dossey, author of “Holiday Folklore, Phobias and Fun: Mythical Origins, Scientific Treatments,” thinks he’s found the cure. Once a sufferer learns how to pronounce “paraskavedekatriaphobia,” he said in an interview with NPR, they’re magically cured.
Maybe The Cure is the Cure?
*These were researched answers I found on the internet. Thus, since I found these on the internet, they surely must be true and factual.
 =-) Ilex Farrell

Shut the F-ing Door! Were You Born in a Barn?!?

“Were you born in a barn?” I can still hear my Mother’s voice uttering this phrase…. After us kids were old enough to sass her with, “I don’t know. I was just being born. Where did you decide to birth me?” She changed her response to an open door with, “I didn’t marry the electric man!” or “Don’t let all the bought air out!”

Those nagging comments make their point. Shut the F-ing door! How hard is it to do? You’re forgiven for the few times your arms are full, however unless that is the reason… Shut the front door! Or back, side, garage or even the car door.

My Mother ran a tight ship that had us three children (my brother, me and the eldest child, my father) kept in line, for the most part. She grew up during the depression and was frugal. I also get the concept from a frugality standpoint… I don’t want to pay to cool/heat the world. Let alone the fact of all the critters that can get access to your domain; stink bugs, skeeters, mice, moths, wasps.. Oh My!

My boys, Breck and Oreo aren’t genius dogs, but they have their moments. Breck is smart when he wants to be, and the outcome will benefit him. Oreo tries so hard to understand what we want of him, tiny smoke rings blow out his ears. So cute. Once he does ‘get’ something, he doesn’t forget it tho.

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The kitchen door in the photo goes out to our garage, where there is a doggy door that exits to the yard. This is perfect, as if muddy paws or any other nastiness needs to be dealt with, it happens in the garage. This would also mean that the dogs would need to stay in the garage until a human has time to deal with them…. Not come in when they wanted, full of god knows what!!!

When we chose to change the locks, my husband thought this type of handle would be easier to use when your hands were full. Who knew that it also is easier for Breck to open the door also! Breck understands doors that open by swinging out, however not doors that swing in. He knows the knobs are crucial to how it works, but in his 9 years hasn’t coordinated pulling and twisting a knob together, only pushing and twisting. Click here to see his attempt to open the basement door.

Thank goodness the little one has not learned his brothers tricks. Oreo sits quietly on the step, waiting for us or his brother to be let in.

Since this has been happening, I have been trying to teach both of them, “SHUT THE DOOR” to no avail. Has anyone out there taught their dogs how? I’d love to know your secret! Until then, I will enjoy the fact that after 10 years of my Mother not being on the same plane as me, I can still hear her voice.

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Relaaaaax

via Daily Prompt: Relax

I don’t celebrate Christmas, however I love, love Christmas lights! This regular sized bulb was located in the normal bulb shelves, not by the decorations*, and for only $5. Score! I do tend to zone out looking at it. Relaaaax 😎

*So that means I can keep it lit all year?!?

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl