Saturday, January 29, 2011

Our Elusive Barn Owl

If this is your image, please let me know immediately so I can credit you. It's awesome.

I saw it! I finally saw it!

via National Wildlife Federation

And just in time for Valentine's Day, with it's beautiful heart-shaped face.

Barn Owl
by Brian Scott via Flickr

I have been hearing this gorgeous bird's eerie shriek off and on since before Christmas, usually in the pre-dawn hours when I first awake, about 4:30am.

(Make sure your volume is not up too loud)

I know, freaky, right? Now you know why it caught my attention.

via Barn Owl Trust

I thought it was an owl of some sort so I visited The Owl Pages to learn more about my freaky mysterious midnight shrieker. You can go to their page specifically about barn owls by clicking here.

via Major Wildlife Photography
 The only other time I've seen a barn owl was several years ago when my husband and I were driving home one evening from his parent's farm. Our headlights flashed over this huge magnificent creature perched just off the road and we both looked at each other to check our sanity. "Did you see that?" we asked at the same time.

by Annie Marie Mussleman via

This morning I was up at my usual 4:30am but didn't hear our bird until just as they sky was getting light. He was shrieking down at the edge of the yard so I very carefully stepped out onto the porch. Barn owls have incredible hearing and locate their prey more by sound than sight so I knew extreme quiet was necessary. I heard him shriek a couple more times and then, just as I turned my head in his direction, he came flying up the hill, maybe 4 feet off the ground, across the yard, and over into the field. Thrilling hardly describes it.

Diffrent Point of View
by Picture Taker 2 via Flickr

Not a sound. He flapped his (upwards of 43") wings a couple of times but still, not a sound. I've learned that barn owls fly so silently because their wings do not have oils and because they rely so heavily on their hearing to locate prey, the flapping sound of their wings does not interfere with their hunting. Pretty cool, huh?

by midlander1231 via Flickr

Though barn owls are fairly wide spread, being found on every continent except for Antarctica, they are not overly common in our area. We live on the edge of one of those mysterious blank spots on their range map. Neither do they tend to migrate. However, they are vulnerable to extremely cold winters, which we have been experiencing in our neck of the woods. I would guess that our barn owl is on the move hoping to find a bit warm weather. It's a theory and maybe if one of you knows better I would love for you to share with us.

Random Oldies - Barn Owl
by me'nthedogs via Flickr

I have another owl story to share with you sometime but I hope you've enjoyed a peak at our barn owl today. He's a big magestic creature and I hope he stays around.

See ya next time.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Tortellini Spinach Casserole- Mmmm

OK- I'll just let you think that this is the sensibly sized serving of Tortellini Spinach Casserole that I usually eat. Oh baby is this casserole a little slice (or big helping) of heaven.

No, I do not remember where I originally got this recipe but a quick Internet search brought me to Taste of Home and the exact same recipe. So we'll give them the credit and you can click here to go check it out. I haven't changed the ingredients any but I do work the process just a bit differently to cut out one of the bowls that would otherwise need to be washed.

You will need:

2 10-ounce bags of frozen cheese tortellini
1 pound of fresh mushrooms
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup butter, divided
1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
1 8-ounce block of brick cheese, cubed
3 10-ounce packages frozen, chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
2 cups (8 ounces) part-skim mozzarella cheese shredded

OK- let me make a comment. I have in the past, and actually prefer, to use a couple cloves of garlic (minced or chopped) and some finely chopped onion (1/4 cup-ish) in place of the powder stuff. If you do this add some salt to taste.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cook the tortellini and drain it well. You can leave it in the colander.

While the tortellini is cooking, slice up your 'shroomies ...

... and saute them in a very large pan with the garlic, onion and pepper in half of the butter. When they are soft, remove from the heat to a bowl.

In the pan you used to saute the 'shrooms...

... combine the milk and remaining butter. Bring to a gentle boil; stir in the cheese. Cook and stir until it is smooth. Mmmm, creamy.

Add the mushroom mixture, the tortellini, and the spinach. It is helpful to make sure you have pulled apart the spinach after you have squeezed the daylights out of it so that it isn't a big ball of spinach and will stir up easier.

Transfer everything to a greased 3-quart baking dish and top with the mozzarella.

Cover and bake for 15 minutes then bake uncovered for another 10-15 minutes or so until your casserole is all warm and bubbly.

Mmm - cheesy and full of pasta and iron.

Mmm. I can't help it-- mmm.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Colonel Mustard On The Chest With A Poultice

My husband has been is heaven the past couple of days. I've been a coughing maniac and have lost 100% of my voice. I mean absolutely 100% - not one croak left in my throat. It just doesn't have the same effect to stand there mouthing up a storm with only an occasional squeal to get Big Un's attention. Takes the joy right out of a good nagging. Kidding, I try not to do that though I suppose some nagginess slips out by accident at times. I have noticed, funny enough, that everyone I talk to starts to whisper.

Three days of cough syrup is really just enough. I've had to use the non-drowsy formula, which everyone knows isn't nearly as effective, because, well, it's hard to get anything done when I'm passed out at my desk. And that taste-- it's OK for a day but beginning the second day it's just sickening.

Солволан // Solvolan
by kaladan via Flickr

So today, since I'm home alone, I whipped up a good old-fashioned mustard poultice. My hubby's grandmother swore by them and was so happy when I first tried one out.

You need two basic ingredients (plus a little water):
Mustard and flour

Mustard, of course, is the active ingredient and has been used for centuries as a spice but also as a medicine. References to mustard have been found as far back as 5,000 BC. It's healing uses include not just for cough, chest congestion, bronchitis, and other respiratory troubles but also in treating asthma, snake and scorpion bites, lowering blood pressure, relieving sleep distrubances in menopausal women, and in the treatment of arthitis, rheumatism, and muscle soreness. At one time, surgeons used a mustard paste to disinfect their hands. It also has anti-fungal properties and works to cure athlete's foot. It was even thought, at one time, to be an aphrodisiac and was used in love potions.

Mustard Flowers
by philipbouchard via Flickr

Not bad for a weedy little flower.

What we will make to day is technically a mustard plaster since it will be wrapped up in cloth. A poultice is a concoction that you mix up and spread directly on the skin.

But you have to be careful with mustard because part of it's appeal, besides that sinus-clearing rush you get when you add too much to your food, is that it heats up and can cause blisters. So I go with the wrap and call it a poultice because that's what Great-Grandma called it.

There are scads of recipes and formulas for mustard poultice. Here's mine, based upon a little experience and an unpleasant Poultice Fail.

For a single batch to use on my chest for chesty ailments, I use:

2 tablespoons of flour
1 teaspoon of dry yellow mustard

I know, not much mustard but hang in there with me- it works.

Yellow mustard is the mildest type of mustard, then brown, then black, the preferred mustard for a poultice. I've never seen dry brown mustard (maybe never looked) and have never seen black mustard in any form. I know it's out there but since yellow mustard will do, let's go with it.

The flour is basically a carrier for the mustard- it doesn't actually do anything. Maybe tones down the mustard because straight mustard might just burn through to your sternum, now that I think about it.

You don't have to use flour. Oatmeal, bread, starch, even mud, will all work.

I add 3 to 4 teaspoons of warm water, just until it makes a nice paste. You'll start to smell it as you mix. Mild but present.

You'll need something to wrap the poultice plaster. An old bandana works well as would a piece of light-weight flannel. Wet a corner of the bandana with some fairly warm water...


... and spread your mustard paste out in a nice even layer on the wet fabric.

Fold the bottom of dry cloth up over the paste, then the right side over it again to make a square, then fold the bottom up one more time. This makes a nice manageable size and the extra layers of dry cloth will help keep the heat in.

Find a nice comfy chair to lean back in for the next 30 minutes. Place the wet side of your little bundle face down on your chest (you want the wet side touching your skin).

I usually put a wash cloth between the bandana and my clothes to keep my clothes from getting wet and to keep more heat in the bandana.

Within 10 minutes you'll begin to feel warmth as well as to smell the mustard, which clears your sinuses nicely. Take the poulice off if it begins to get uncomfortable and don't leave it on for more than 30 minutes. If you think you'll fall asleep or might get caught up in a good book, set a timer. Thirty minutes.

This is how my chest looked today after 30 minutes- warm and red. Sorry about the boobage. The redness will start to fade immediately.

Now, let me tell you about my Poultice Fail. The first time I made a poultice, after consulting with my husband who has fond memories of his grandmother slapping one on him when he was a kid, I left it on too long. Like for well over an hour. I was skeptical because what's one teaspoon of mustard going to hurt and it was just another thing Grandma talked me in to trying.  Unfortunately, I had a healthy blister on my chest for over a week.


Do not use a mustard poultice on children, the frail elderly or anyone in a seriously debillitated state.

So I'm glad Great-Grandma talked me into trying a mustard poulitce. She knew I was good for an experiment. Once she and I tried eating a weed known in these parts as "Red Root" (maybe you call it pig weed) because one of her Korean friends told her they ate it as a vegetable when she was growing up.

Great Grandma was a frugal gal, even when it wasn't hip to be frugal, and having brought up a family during the depression she knew what it meant to waste not want not. The thought that she had been pulling Red Root from her garden all of those years and throwing it away when it was something you could eat almost had her in tears. So we tried it.

The best part about steamed Red Root with soy sauce is the soy sauce. But we had a good giggle over it anyway. What a great gal, my hubby's grandma. She never did get me to eat ground hog, though.

So that's it for Mustard Poultice. You should try it out and remember to drink plenty of fluids and get some sleep. It's that time of year.

Stay well.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Oh Look- A Strandbeest

I have decided that Engineers are really cool people. Dream it up, figure it out, and make it- even if it's outrageous. When you throw in a good helping of creativity and a wild imagination, iced with the sweet frosting of passion, well, you get Theo Jansen...

Theo Jansen and a Strandbeest
by JulianBleecker via Flickr

... and his Strandbeests.

Animaris Umerus - Part 2 from Alexander Schlichter on Vimeo.

Must. Watch. Video.

The skeletons of these animals, as Mr. Jansen considers them, are made of plastic pipe and tubing. They are wind-powered and are even able to store wind-energy in the plastic bottles you see along their spine. When the pressure, which is built up by the fins, or feathers, reaches that magical number, it is released from the bottles and pumped out into the "body" of the beast and generates movement. Well, that's my simplistic understanding of it anyway.



You want one, don't you? We want one! Hop over to Instructables by clicking here where you can find directions to build a small motor-powered K'nex.

OK, that's it today- just wanted to share this with you.
Now my kid and I are off to gather the parts.

Have a great Saturday!

Monday, January 10, 2011


It's just an eraser. Right? I mean, what can you do with an eraser? Well, you can erase things of course. And ..... um....., you can... um...

Well, if you're a rather creative Tween with a good imagination, strong engineering skills, and patience for little diddling work, you can ...

Franken-Raser !

Beginning in Kindergarten, Zippy used to regularly bring home erasers that were mangled in one way or another: holes drilled through the middle, broken in half and then stitched back together with staple-stitches, covered with ink drawings, encircled with rubber bands, spiked with thumb tacks, or all of the above.

And then one day a couple of years ago...

... a Ninja.

He has a headband of wire, push pin legs/feet, paperclip arms dressed in tape, a samurai sword, eyes made from tiny scrapbook brads (notice the two-colored David Bowie eyes), and what for all the world looks to be a Japanese Obi.

Almost every day we were introduced to a new character in Zippy's world of do-gooders who were armed to the teeth and ready to right the wrongs of the world.

We started calling her creations Franken-rasers because they were cobbled together- lovingly- from whatever spare parts she found in her desk. Or my desk. Or the sewing room, or in the garage, or on the floor in the science lab at school.

So that year for Christmas we got her what has to be the second oddest Christmas present ever...

.. a tool box full of a variety of erasers, colored tape and wire, brads, rubber bands, paperclips, markers, pushpins, washers, wire snipers, needle-nose pliers, and who can remember what all else. To be honest, it was really fun shopping Lowes and Michaels for all that stuff. We also included cute little compartmented boxes to organize and store all of her supplies.

So much for the idea that it would all be neat and tidy. This should give you a pretty good idea of how her room looks most of the time, but I digress.

Zippy sometimes spends hours in her room working on her creations, humming quietly to herself, before she either throws the latest Franker-raser into the tool box, never to be seen again, or rips it apart and starts on the next. Sometimes a new Franker-raser will magically appear on the end table or the bathroom vanity, waving his sword at us in the most swashbuckling manner. And they almost all have swords. Do-gooders need swords to vanquish evil. That's my Zippy.

Let's take a look at some of the inhabitants of Franken-World.

This one-eyed fella looks vaguely like Plankton on Sponge-Bob.

If Plankton were as well-armed as this, complete with squid whip, he would most definitely get the secret recipe for Krabby Patties

 Serious mask on this guy.

And he is rockin' one awesome mohawk. Very Mad Max-ish.

The Zip made this gal especially for me. She has a cute button nose and looks like she is puckered up to give a big ol' wet smooch to someone. I asked Zip what this gal was doing and she replied, "Nothing, she's just sitting there lookin' pretty." That's what my husband tells me when I ask what I can do to help when we're working on our latest project- "Just sit there and look pretty" he'll say. To which I reply, "Why do you always give me the hard job!"

 Anyway, this pretty little gal has some astounding 1980's shoulder pad action happening. That's kind of how it felt to wear those things.

Here we have a fully equipped warrior with nunchucks and keys on his belt as well as a variety of other secret fighting-warrior-type equipment, plus a canteen for water, and a nice blue shield. And so as not to be hindered by calls from mom in the height of battle-

--- a Blackberry for his ear.


Because you can't do battle, drive, and talk on the phone. It wouldn't be safe.

Some Fanken-rasers are just cute. This cutie has his bow slung around his back but seems to be missing his quiver of arrows. Maybe he used them all up already.

Some just are who they are and sort of defy explanation.

There are Franken-Doggies too because a doggie is a good companion to have after a long day of fighting nefarious characters. His head is made from a clothespin spring.

Life isn't all sword fighting and swashbuckling. On the weekends, our Franken-rasers like to knock off and go to the drag races. Yes- that's the big parachute flying out the back, which you need because when the dragsters are equipped with an array of mini-brads for wheels, they fly across the table. Not kidding- these guys really haul.

After the races our gang likes to put on their matching "E" jerseys, hop in the dune buggy, and head to the beach.

There is definitely a Franken-Heaven because there are ---

--- Franken-Angels.

Even one-eyed angels that are armed for battle. It's true that some folk's guardian angels have to work harder than other folk's angels.

Some Franken-rasers can't be explained or even identified. They are just explorations in object manipulation, exercises in "The Possible".

I've encouraged Zippy to be neater, maybe not so "complex" in her creations (read that as "not so messy looking") but she has apparently been strongly influenced by Outsider Art. She's free-form. Zippy-form. As I was taking these pictures and digging through her Eraser Kit (carefully, so as not to be stabbed by pushpins), thinking about how my kid is, I couldn't help but feel it.

Franken-Love for my Zippy.

(Yes, as a matter of fact, that is how my hair looks.)

Go grab some cheap erasers from the Dollar Store, dig around in your junk drawer, round up the kids, and turn your imagination loose on an unsuspecting world. It's great fun.

So what was the first oddest present we've ever given our Zipster? Another tool box, this one full of big chains and ropes and clips and hooks. She loved it!

But that's another story...