Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Periodic Spoilers

How wonderful it is to have my element cards for the Periodic Table finished! Here they are:

The Phosphorus card was painted with Glow in the Dark screenprinting ink first. It seemed fitting since the ink has real Phosphorus in it.
Here is what the card looks like in the dark (I used a blacklight for the photo since the phosphorescence fades so quickly):

Fermium was named after Enrico Fermi, and so was the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in nearby Batavia. Fermi Labs is also known for their conservation efforts, which seems rather paradoxical considering the types of materials that they work with. They have restored Prairie Grasslands on their property and herds of Bison that you can go see. Since I couldn't figure out how to carve a stamp of an atomic particle accelerator, I carved the Bison and Fermi's logo instead. Do you think they'll let me plant them in a letterbox at the Lab? Ha! I did consider carving headphones on the Bison since the atomic abbreviation and number is the same as a local classical radio station, but discarded that idea.

Strontium is a common element with many uses; some good, some evil. It is even more plentiful in the sun, so I went that direction with the trading card. Hidden between two layers of vellum is a multicolored stamp of the sun, which you can see when you hold the card to the light. The top layer of vellum is a red-orange with a shimmery sheen on it, which I chose because of Strontium's sparkly property in certain applications--like synthetic diamonds! This card isn't very photogenic though.

It's really hard to take of picture against the light, but here is what the inside of the card looks like--sort of.

With the exception of the lettering, all of the stamps on these cards will be planted in one form or another after this project is completed. Can't wait to see the rest of the cards!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Day of Irony

On a daily basis, I use tools with names like "gouge", "lino cutter" and "#1 blade" to perform various carving and cutting tasks. In fact, I have an entire hard plastic case devoted to storing a plethora of sharp, pointy objects to prevent injury. Since I have not so much as chipped a fingernail while carving, I'm going to assume that my method works.

Yet somehow, I ended up in Urgent Care today to get glued back together after a failed attempt at Guacamole. I find that ironic.

ER Doc: "We'll just put this Dermabond on here, give you a Tetanus shot and you'll be on your way."
A naughty Nitrocat: "I wasn't aware that Avocados carried Tetanus. Do I have to? The knife was clean."
ER Doc: "Well, I feel better, but you're still getting the shot."

The other thing that I find ironic is that today, of all days, I had a huge list of house cleaning chores that I was going to tackle. It just goes to show that being a Slacker is better for your health.

2 Avocado, peeled and chopped
6 large drops of blood, opt.
1 tomato, chopped
1/4 c. chopped green onions
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro
1 T. lime juice
5 canned chilies, seeded and chopped
Mash it all together and serve with chips or veggies. Hint: If you save one of the pits, and put it in the bowl when you store the guac, it will help prevent browning.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Spiders, Anyone?

Here are some of our eight legged local personalities:
This is Araneus Diadematus
or the Cross Garden spider, a very shy orb weaver. She remakes her web every evening and is a very good insect control. If you'd like one, I could send one-we have lots!

Here is her handiwork:

This is Micrathena gracilis (no common name). Have you ever seen anything weirder? We see these all over the nearby parks. They are just about a half inch long and spin these fantastic webs over three feet wide sometimes-and usually right across the trails!


A Thousand Words

South Bend Chocolate Company Tour

More Butterflies!

A Pearl Crescent, with a bee riding piggyback

The Question Mark Butterfly is often confused with the Comma, but the Question Mark has an extra black spot on the forewing. This is a Question Mark.

A Silver Spotted Skipper

The Cabbage White is beautiful as a butterfly, but they are Evil as caterpillars!

A female Clouded Sulfur--See! Even in nature the girls wear Pink!

The size of this Eastern Tailed Blue is deceiving in this picture. It's wingspan is less than an inch!

Tennis Hopefuls--these Eastern Tailed Blues are "puddling" on this wet tennis ball.

Although it's not orange, this is an Orange Sulfur.

Here are a couple of great sites for identifying butterflies and other insects:

Bug Guide

What's That Bug?


Here is a recipe for something incredible:

Start with some Milkweed, wild or cultivated. The cultivated forms can be called Asclepias, Butterfly Weed, Joe Pye Weed...
Add a few Monarch caterpillars...
Feed them through several molt stages until the Chrysallis emerges... (the one hanging is almost ready to molt into the pupa, or chrysallis stage)
Wait 10 days...
and you get to release beautiful Monarch butterflies!
Did you know that every 4th generation migrates south for the winter?

Here are some great Butterfly websites:
Order your own butterflies and supplies here or here!


Butterflies are an easy distraction for me and a great way to avoid laundry, or any kind of housework for that matter. We have been working for several years to create a bird and butterfly sanctuary in our yard. While the trees still have a long way to go, the flowers are coming along nicely and we have seen a fair selection of butterflies. The next few posts will be dedicated to showing them off.

An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, newly emerged from it's chrysallis

The black form of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (female)

A western tiger swallowtail, in my bro's CA garden

A Black Swallowtail

Black Swallowtail

A Giant Swallowtail, seen while letterboxing

Black Swallowtail larva

Black Swallowtail larva

My tribute, in LTC form!


I was weeding through some old posts on another blog and found this from July 19, 2006:

Yesterday we discovered a very cool thing: Letterboxing!!
And I'm not talking about watching movies in a widescreen format.
Letterboxing is a national and global "scavenger hunt" that costs nothing and anyone can participate. This is how it works:
  1. There are "letterboxes" hidden all over the U.S. and other countries (it started in the 19th century in Dartmoor, England)-over 22,000 in the U.S.
  2. You get clues on the internet ( to help you find boxes.
  3. In each box is a rubber stamp, usually handcrafted and pertaining to the location or title of the box, that you use to stamp your journal with as proof that you did find the box.
  4. The box also has a logbook that you stamp with your own personal stamp, usually handcrafted to reflect something about yourself, to give the "placer" a record of who has been there.
  5. Each box is hidden but not buried on public property, hopefully in a scenic or interesting place.
  6. You are encouraged to "Leave No Trace" by replacing the box and leaving surrounding wildlife undisturbed.
  7. Some of the clues may require a little knowledge in navigation and using a compass, but many are very simple.

We just learned about this yesterday and we went on our first outing today and found three boxes in our area! I am already totally addicted and M is close behind me. What a great, fun way to teach history/geography/map skills/ navigation/etc all at once!
I can't wait to go out again!

How funny! Notice that I hadn't discovered AQ yet. And there is probably at least twice the amount of boxes in the US than what I wrote. It's fun to see my perspective as a "newbie". A few things remain unchanged: I'm still addicted, M is close behind me, and I can't wait to go out again!

Friday, April 4, 2008

The Cure for the UnCommon Insomniac

Sleep is an elusive thing for me. I'm going to skip the whys and hows and whozits, but my brain avoids sleep quite adeptly. As a last resort, I have developed a sleep aid that does work for me on a pretty consistent basis. In the hopes that it might help someone else, I'd like to share it here.

Apparently every component of this method is important and cannot be altered. So here goes:
  • No caffine, chocolate or anything else that tends to speed you up after 12:00 noon. (for me, this includes most otc medication)
  • This must be the very last thing you do before bed. The kids are sleeping. The kitchen has been tucked away. Every last task is done save the actual falling in bed part. The reasoning for this will become obvious later.
  • Fill your tub as full as you can without risking overflow. The water should be about 2 degrees shy of a lobster boil.
  • Add 50 drops of lavendar essential oil as the tub fills (you might want to cut that back for smaller tubs, but only a little). The idea is to aromatherapy yourself into a coma.
  • Do not do anything or use any products that will confuse your brain. Dim the lights. Any candles used should be lavendar (real, not fake) or unscented. Don't use "happy" or "awake" smelling facial cleansers or soaps. Brush your teeth beforehand and rinse out as much of the mint as possible.
  • Relax in aforementioned tub. If you are fortunate enough to have a whirlpool tub, use the jets.
  • You will know you are finished when either you have lost control of motor function in your legs or the fog is so thick you can't see the bathroom door. At this point your brain should also be a quivering gelatinous mass, incapable of keeping you awake with random bits of songs, memories, ideas, images or other nonsense.
  • Go to bed. If you did it right, you should have no other choice.

This method shouldn't be used without careful consideration of your tolerances, or when you are alone, or if you're pregnant, or....

You get the picture. Be careful and if you have any doubts, don't do it unless you consult with your doctor.