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Monday, March 30, 2009

A Crocus Chorus

Another sign that spring has finally sprung here in New England are the appearances of Crocus flowers.

Prized by gardeners as one of the earliest bloomers, these easily propagated plants multiply year-after-year by spreading their stems (also known as corms) that grow underground.

The late winter/early spring variety of crocus is known as Crocus vernus subsp. vernus and like all crocuses is a member of the iris family - Iridaceae.

Once the initial bulbs are planted in the fall (about 2 - 4 inches deep and 2 - 4 inches apart), they return each year, spreading and naturalizing their colors.

There are approximately 80 species of crocus but only 30 are actually cultivated.

The flowers range in varying hues of purple, lavender, mauve, yellow and white and are either solid in color or gently striped with contrasting veins.

After they push their way through the thawing earth, they patiently wait for the first sunny day to share their brief splendor.

First Crocus
by Christine Klocek-Lim

This morning, flowers cracked open
the earth’s brown shell. Spring
leaves spilled everywhere
though winter’s stern hand
could come down again at any moment
to break the delicate yolk
of a new bloom.

The crocus don’t see this as they chatter
beneath a cheerful petal of spring sky.
They ignore the air’s brisk arm
as they peer at their fresh stems, step
on the leftover fragments
of old leaves.

When the night wind twists them to pieces,
they will die like this: laughing,
tossing their brilliant heads
in the bitter air.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Frog Song

The calendar may have shown the vernal equinox arriving on March 20, 2009, but by my clock (based on central Massachusetts time), it actually arrived yesterday evening when a loud and raucous chorus of frogs announced their awakening to the wonders of spring.

When our family lived on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, it was always the sound of the Spring Peeper, also affectionately called by islanders, the “Pinkletink” that declared the harbinger of better days to come.

This diminutive (thumb sized) amphibian’s entire future and that of successive generations, rests solely on the quality of sound that they make – the better the call – the better the score.

Their punctuated high-pitched peeping, are the mating calls of only the males.

Ecologist and author Adrian Forsyth once said, ““If we can discover the meaning in the trilling of a frog, perhaps we may understand why it is for us not merely noise but a song of poetry and emotion.”

So glad you’re back guys – even if you are noisy. The world truly needs a promising song! Good luck fellows and happy spring!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Life is a Challenge

What do you enjoy doing for relaxation?

Some folks prefer the physicality of puttering around the garden or woodworking, while others immerse themselves in music, reading or mental pastimes like crosswords and sudoku ( . Still others enjoy gaming or the hand/eye and brain coordination required for solving a Rubik’s Cube ( . But, what about those individuals who cast aside time and solve jigsaw puzzles by punctiliously (I love that word and don't get to use it often) piecing together intricate and absorbing pictures – everything from a bowl of mixed nuts to the stripes on a tiger? If you’re one of those latter souls there is finally the ultimate challenge for you- The World’s Largest Jigsaw Puzzle! No joke!

This mammoth puzzle contains over 24,000 interlocking pieces (heaven forbid your kitty cat decides to play hockey practice or your two-year-old absconds with one piece) and measures a staggering 14 feet, by 5 feet 1.8 inches. Bottom line, you better have the room to assemble and showcase your finished treasure as even a standard tennis table will not accommodate the effort of piecing together the artwork of painter, Royce B. McClure.

The photograph, at the beginning of this post, is but a microcosm of the entire landscape of life that McClure had painstakingly assembled over many years of painting.

The first persons to completely assemble the puzzle, appropriately titled “Life is a Challenge,” were Scott and P.J.Slater, who received helping hands from their daughters, Whitney and Sydney. The Slater family began assembling the puzzle on May 13, 2007 and completed it in an incredible 34 days – talk about focus and dedication!

"LIFE - The Great Challenge" has now been officially registered as the world's largest commercial jigsaw puzzle in the Guinness World Records. AWESOME!

Now where did that fish fin go?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

I Don’t Think I Need to Comment – but you do!

Sometimes a picture is definitely worth a thousand words and this is one of those times!

This leaves me speechless!

Would you all like to weigh in on this?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Do Your Ears Hang Low?

I’m a big Star Trek fan. I particularly love the original series before all its various reincarnations.

I find the character of “Spock” to be, shall I say, “fascinating.”

In particular, Spock’s ears were (IMHO) a work of cosmetic genius. They had the same all-too-human tendency to grow ever so slightly – sometimes they were a little more pointy and at other times and in other seasons or films they appeared to be lower, thicker and broader.

Was the changing-of-the-ears an intentional mimic of his part human DNA or was it an oversight by some continuity person?

Either way, his ears continued to grow just as ours do throughtout our entire lives – about 0.22 millimeter per year, at least that’s according to a study performed by the Royal College of General Practitioners in Great Britain. Might I add that it is only the flesh portion of the ear that continues to grow and not the ear canal, which is composed of cartilege and bone.

This then begs the question: Why do ears continue to grow as we get older? Could it be the simple response of gravity pulling our ears downward or is it nature’s way of providing a natural “ear horn” to assist diminished hearing!

Whatever the reason it is indeed fascinating!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

“Going Commando”

Many of yesterday’s revels included marching bands and men in kilts, which led me to the age-old burning female question – what do men wear under those tartan skirts: boxers, briefs or ???

If you take a scientific poll you will get a variety of answers – everything from “Nothing is worn under the kilt, it’s all in perfect working order” or “The future of bonnie Scotland” or even simply, “Shoes and socks.”

The term for buff behavior under the kilt is often referred to as “going regimental” or “going commando.” Apparently, in the military, where the custom began, and is upheld to this day (except at public events in windy weather) “military practice” is the norm.

However, there is a raging debate that has recently been taken up, particularly by kilt makers who rent their tartan skirts for formal functions. One of the industry’s largest kilt clothiers, Slanj, ( is requesting that men wear undergarments when wearing their rentals, primarily for hygenic reasons, even though the kilts are dry cleaned after each rental.

Slanj has come up with a friendly little ditty that is posted in all their stores, which reads,."Though Scots like to prance, about in their kilts wearing nae pants, fir the next punter make it fair, dinnae firgit to wear a pair."

Something to consider the next time you see a man in a kilt.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

It’s so Easy Being Green…

Today, everybody’s Irish as we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and the wearing-o-the-green.

Even our President and First Lady (the O’Bamas) marked the day with White House festivities and made sure the fountain at the nation’s mansion was playfully spouting emerald green spray.

And, everywhere else pomp, circumstance and parties abounded from Dublin (where thousands of people gathered together along a 2.5 km route to celebrate with a two hour parade consisting of almost 3000 performers) to crowds of onlookers lining the banks of the Chicago River, which since 1962, has been dyed a brilliant green to honor the man, who as legend has it, drove all the snakes from Ireland.

Historically speaking, that tale may be a metaphorical interpretation for the spiritual legacy of St Patrick, whose missionary works are credited for converting Ireland’s early pagan population to Christianity. Well before the time of computers and PowerPoint, it is said Patrick went chieftain-to-chieftain spreading the story of the Holy Trinity and establishing over 300 churches using the three-leafed clover as its symbol.

In honor of today’s special fete, the History Channel offered a plethora of facts in a number of video clips that are not only entertaining but enlightening.
History of St. Patrick's Day

After viewing the various videos, why not try your hand at whipping up some authentic Irish Brown Bread - it’s a wonderful accompaniment to the traditional corned beef, cabbage and potato meal and it’s inexpensive to make.

The following recipe was gently pried from the loving hands of my dearest childhood friend and absolutely fabulous gourmet cook, Kathleen O’Rourke-Fahey.

Irish Brown Bread

Preheat oven to 350 degrees convection or 375 regular

1 1/2 cups bread or all-purpose flour
2 rounded tablespoons sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp butter or margarine & optional 1 or 2 more melted for brushing
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup quick cooking oats- not instant
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Scoop and level flour into mixing bowl; add ingredients through salt; whisk to combine. Use fingers to rub butter into flour until you have course crumbs; stir in wheat flour and oats. Make a deep well in the center; add buttermilk; stir lightly until all flour is moistened. Turn out onto lightly floured board; knead 5 or 6 times; gather into ball. Don't over knead! Place on greased baking sheet or line with non-stick foil. Pat into 7 " circle. Flour a sharp knife; cut a cross edge to edge and about 1/4" deep.

Bake at 350 degrees convection or 375 regular for about 40 minutes. It should be browned, and will sound hollow when tapped on underside. If desired brush with optional butter. Place on rack to cool. When completely cooled wrap in foil or pop into a baggie.

Now while your bread is baking and your beef is boiling, and perhaps you are tippling a bit of brew, I also want to share with you with this beautiful Irish blessing that was a gift to our family, many years ago, from another beloved friend, who is an Irish scholar and a Master’s graduate from University College Galway. The translated words are simple and heartfelt, and they have been spoken at our family’s most important life passages.

May God bless you
From Halloween to February 1st
From February 1st to May Day
From May Day to August 1st
And from August 1st to Halloween

The blessing of good fortune to you
The blessing of sons and daughters to you
The blessing of sea and land to you

May love bless you
May faithfulness bless you
May heaven bless you

The bounty of the sea to you
The bounty of the land to you
The bounty of Paradise to you

May your every day be happy
May no day be bad
May you have honor and respect
And everybody’s love

Happy St. Patrick’s Day and may the luck of the Irish be with you! I think this year we all could use the blessings of the Irish.