Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Hello, caterpillars!

Hi readers,

The other day, the Bachsters and I went to Blacklick Woods Metro Park here in Columbus.  One of our first stops (after dropping off recyclables at their recycling bin) is usually the Nature Center.  They have large windows for viewing birds (and squirrels and other woodland critters), a couple of turtles, a milk snake and some fish that the kids always love to observe.  On this visit, they also had a huge Polyphemus moth.  Which got us to chatting with one of the naturalists about our love of moths and bugs in general.  She shared with us that the team of naturalists just got back from walking the nearby trail to check out a Spice Bush Swallowtail caterpillar that one of their team members had spotted earlier in the day.  A cool caterpillar?  We're there!

But, we couldn't find him.  Then Little Guy had to go to the potty (we're trying the potty training thing right now).  Which was a stroke of luck, because look what we found scooting across the concrete floor by the restrooms:

This is not the original caterpillar we set out to find, but it's a tent caterpillar (or at least that's the one that was closest in the naturalist's field guide on caterpillars).  We explained to her that we couldn't find the original caterpillar, so she offered to take us there!  So, the park naturalist, the Bachsters, the tent caterpillar and myself all set out to find the rare & elusive Spice Bush Swallowtail caterpillar!

And find him we did!  Hello there......

Apparently, these caterpillars hang out in a folded leaf of the spice bush.  If you didn't know what you were looking for, you'd never see him!  He was a very cool caterpillar.  The naturalist also shared some info with us about the spice bush - if you rub a leaf between your palms, you can smell the spicy fragrance on your hands.  And we all tried it - it smelled wonderful.  In fact, she told us that the spice bush is used to make Old Spice cologne!  She also pointed out a "touch-me-not" wild flower & a medicinal wild flower in the nearby area.  We were so lucky to get our very own tour of the trail - thank you, Jennifer, if you're reading this!

We tried to find a third caterpillar just for fun, but no such luck.  Which was fine with us - we were thrilled with the ones we had found.  Maybe we'll find a Polyphemus caterpillar.  Or maybe in the Fall, we'll luck out & find a wooly bear!  We'll be on the lookout!

Have a nice evening!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

More yarn for the stash

Hi readers,

Yesterday, the Bachsters and I went to Yarnmarket to get more yarn for the stash!  I have 2 projects going right now: the surprise birthday toy for my 5 year old (sadly, I am still working on it, a month after her birthday) and my big "umbrella" project that I have already mentioned and shared a picture of my ripped-out attempt.  I promise that once these projects are all done, I'll share the pictures.  But until then, I'll just have to show you the yarns as a teaser!

So, we purchased Muench's Touch Me yarn for the birthday project.  It's so incredibly soft and perfectly monikered.  I only need a tiny bit, so I'll have to think of another project to use up about 75% of one ball.  A teeny-tiny scarf perhaps?

The other purchase we made was Berroco's Pure Merino.  I really like this yarn a lot.  It's soft, thick and I imagine would be very warm.  And I'll have some leftovers to work with on this one, too.  Hmmm....maybe another scarf?  Our scarf box is already starting to overflow!

Here's a pic of the yarn, just raring to go!

Now, the only problem is to find the time to knit!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Book Nook - Rachel Carson

Hi readers,

I probably shouldn't admit this, but up until recently, I really didn't know who Rachel Carson was.  I'd heard her name from time to time, read a quote of hers every now & had a vague idea that she was a writer, but didn't know about her.  I'd seen one too many reference about her when I finally went out & got a biography about her from the library.  And then I read one of her books.  And now, all I have to say is - Rachel Carson, where have you been all my life?!

The biography I read is titled Up Close: Rachel Carson, by Ellen Levine.  I believe it's technically a juvenile book - but all I was looking for was a quickie, who-is-Rachel-Carson kind of book & this one fits the bill nicely.  It's not super long and in depth, but gives the reader a nice general look at her life.  And of course, since I knew nothing about Rachel Carson to begin with, I learned a great deal from this book.

Mainly, I learned what a cool person Rachel Carson was.  She was observant, tenacious, giving, eloquent......I would have loved to have known her.  I admire her for pursuing her dreams during a time when women were expected to work in the home, let alone a career in sciences.  I admire her for giving up so much for her family and being the breadwinner for basically all of them all her life.  I admire her for her environmental defense and for writing a book that made the world come to its senses.

In a very small side note, there is a little scenario from the book that has stuck with me in the month or so since I've read it that I wanted to bring up.  Rachel recalled when she was a child her mother taking bugs that had gotten in the house back outside, instead of squashing them.  I think it's small acts like these that make a big impact on our children.  I'm glad Maria Carson taught her daughter to love & appreciate nature by being kind to bugs and letting Rachel explore in fields as a child - it was the foundation of lifetime appreciation for nature.  I feel a kinship to Maria Carson, as I am also trying to impart these lessons on my kiddos - I hope that I can do it as well as she did with Rachel.

As I read the biography and read all about how Rachel worked on her books and the impact they had on readers, I couldn't help but want to read them.  So, off to the library I went to get Silent Spring, Rachel Carson's best-known work, published in 1962.

This link is actually to the paperback, but I read the book-on-CD.  Interestingly, it was in perfect condition.  Usually, the books on CD from the library are all scratched up from lots of use, but sadly not this one.  I couldn't help but wonder when was the last time anyone had checked this out of the library?  Even though it is a bit outdated, at the same time it's very relevant.

To summarize the book, it's basically an attack on the pesticide industry and how the pesticides used at the time (mainly DDT) were hurting animals and people and the environment, while not doing much damage to the insects they were targeted for.  Rachel Carson is nothing if not thorough.  Reading between the lines, you can tell she is trying to provide irrefutable evidence on why the pesticide practices of the day were a really, really bad idea.  And indeed, her argument could not be debated - the "other side" ended up attacking her personally (calling her a spinster, etc.) because they could not argue with her data.  If you read the book, you'll know how thorough her case is, and after about 3 chapters, you might be thinking, as I was, Rachel Carson, you had me at hello!

This book is at once depressing and uplifting.  Depressing because the author gives so much information about the horrible effects these chemicals had.  Effects like birds having spasms and dying a painful death due to the chemicals.  Facts such as traces of the chemicals lingering in cells generation after generation.  It's also uplifting because you can't help but be grateful that someone is doing something to stop it.  We are all indebted to Rachel Carson: her book led the way to the halt on DDT use.

As I mentioned, the book was published in 1962 and since it is a cry of alarm to stop DDT and other pesticides of the day, it is a little outdated today.  But there is really a lot of information here that is also very pertinent to today:  Carson addresses issues such as chemicals in our environment & their effect on our health, multiple chemicals and the complexity of their assault when combined, people's relaxed attitude about spraying and not reading the fine print on the package, etc.  I can't help but wonder about pesticide residue on the food we eat, or preservatives in packaged food.  What about chemicals in things like sunscreens or lotions?  If you think about it, we really take for granted the amount of chemicals we encounter every day & assume to be safe for us.  I think a benefit to reading this book today is that you start to question all chemicals.  After all, people didn't think much about DDT back then, right?

After reading her biography, and then her most well-known work, I am interested in reading more from her, maybe The Edge of the Sea next.  I think she would be happy to know that almost 50 years after her last book was published, she is still touching lives.

Cheryl (Team Rachel) 


Friday, July 23, 2010

At the farm

Hi readers,

Today, the Bachsters and I went to Slate Run Living Historical Farm, located in Canal Winchester, Ohio.  Everything at the farm re-creates life in the 1880's.  All the animals and types of food grown on the farm are kinds that they had during that time period.  Workers wear period costumes and do chores as they were done in the 1880s (men work with the draft horses, women work in the summer kitchen).  It's really a fascinating place & we always love to visit.  Here is the link to Columbus Metro Park's website & info about the farm, if you're interested.

As you walk down the lane to get to the farm, the first thing you come across are the chickens.  My kids always get such a kick out of watching them run around & hearing them cluck.  We also visited a little coop where they had all the baby chicks.  Here is a pic of a rooster on the farm - I was really interested in his red eyes:

I think every time we've visited the farm, they have laundry up drying.  I really need these farm ladies to come to my house & lend me a hand:

See that little building past the clothes line?  That's the root cellar & as we walked up to it, I saw a snake head in the doorway!  The snake was not moving at all & I had flashbacks to Harry Potter & the Movolo family in book 6!  I was studying this snake so long, yet I didn't even think to take a picture (which is rare for me, I'm snap-happy).  Finally, it slithered back into its little hole right above the doorway.  Later, I asked one of the volunteers about it & she said that it is a black rat snake & he lives above the ceiling of the root cellar & occasionally pops out.  It was so strange & unexpected to see this wild snake, just right there!

One of the highlights of our day on the farm were the sheep.  They were right at one of the gates & the kids had a blast petting them & feeding them grass & crown veg (which later we learned is a no-no on the farm - no feeding the animals!).

Here is a picture of the barn, taken from the sheep-petting, illegal-feeding vicinity:

I don't think I've ever mentioned it, but one of my absolute favorite subjects to photograph (besides the Bachsters) are dragonflies.  This isn't a particularly great shot, but it's a neat dragonfly, I think it's a female Eastern Pondhawk:

If you do go to Slate Run, also check out the rest of the park.  They have a beautiful little lake/big pond (not sure which it is, honestly), which is perfect for aforementioned dragonfly photography & general bug-spotting.  It's called Buzzard's Roost.  Also, by Buzzard's Roost is a nice playground which our kids love.  There's also Slate Run Wetlands, also great for photography & enjoying nature.  There's also a covered bridge at the park.  I know I sound like an ad, but I think it's one of the best metro parks in Columbus.  Oh, they also have an annual Fall Festival that we've been to, which is a lot of fun.  OK, I'll stop plugging Slate Run (for now)!

Have a nice weekend!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Hi readers,

Well, it was bound to happen sometime I suppose - the Bach Girls both have pink eye!  I can't believe in the 6 years that we've had kiddos no one in the Bach Family has been afflicted with it yet.  So, we've been just staying home & chilling out, so that we don't infect other kids.

The best thing about being quarantined: lots of knitting time!

Have a nice afternoon!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Book Nook - 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth

Hi readers,

I'd like to start this Book Nook entry with a disclosure: I had a bowl of ice cream before bed last night (OK, really it was like 2 small bowls).  And I had a piece of pie at the family cookout yesterday.  So I am certainly not Ms. Perfect when it comes to diet.  But I believe that if a person has the right information about food - why certain foods are good for you, why to avoid the bad stuff, how food is so related to our personal health, etc. - they will be more likely to make better choices.  So I guess I'd better keep reading & re-reading!

Being well informed about the foods that are good for you is what The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth by Jonny Bowden is all about.  It is divided into chapters based on food type - vegetables, fruits, dairy, etc.  Then, on each page in each chapter, the author discusses all the health benefits of that food.  So, the chapter on beverages, for example, has entries such as acai berry juice, coffee, cranberry juice, fresh vegetable & fruit juice, red wine, and so on.  In the entry on cranberry juice, we learn about all the antioxidants, phytonutrients & compounds called proanthocyanidins that are in cranberry juice & why it's all so great for your body.  The book is very readable and the author does a great job explaining everything is layman's terms.  And the best part is, after you're done reading all about cranberry juice, you're going to be very inspired to go out and chug a bunch of it!  The same goes for all the other healthy foods that are in the book.

Another nice thing about this book is that the author asked a small group of nutrition experts what their "Top 10" healthiest foods are.  So, interspersed throughout the book are lots of expert opinions.  It's interesting to compare all of them and especially to see which items made it on almost every list (hello blueberries)!

The only thing I wish this book had was some recipes.  After you read the book on vegetables, say, you are probably going to want to eat a bunch of veggies, and if you're like me, you might like to have some recipes.  I can always get out some of my favorite cookbooks to get them, but I'd be interested to have some created by such a food expert.  In some entries, Bowden makes suggestions on the best preparation method for a food (one example of this is carrots, which he says are better cooked, with a little fat).  These recommendations are sort of spotty, so on the foods that he doesn't discuss it, you can't help but wonder, is this best raw or cooked?  But these are small concerns & the wealth of information the book provides far exceeds these nit-picks.

I hope if you read this book you will feel as inspired as I am to eat healthy foods.  Having the information about healthy foods is what it takes to trade that bowl of ice cream in for a bowl of blueberries (or rather, 2 small bowls)!


Friday, July 16, 2010

Hocking Hills

Hi readers,

As I mentioned in my last post, we just got back from our little trip to Hocking Hills.  We had a great time hiking, boating and chilling out.  I wanted to share a few pictures with everyone.

This is a picture of Little Dude playing in the sand at Ash Cave.  I wish I had a better picture of the cave to show you, but it was so enormous, that I just couldn't get a good shot of everything.  Next time I'm there, I'll have a tripod & a wide angle lens!

We also visited Cedar Falls, which was spectacular:

There was this little yellow butterfly fluttering around when we were at Cedar Falls, but I didn't get a good shot of him because I don't think he landed at all.  In fact, we saw lots of butterflies when we were at Hocking.  Once, we drove through a patch of several of them.  This butterfly shot was taken outside of our cabin, in a little bunch of wild flowers:

We rented a pontoon boat one day & sailed around Lake Logan, which was so fun.  The breeze was cool, the water was calm & we saw lots of herons (and even a couple of peacocks, strange enough).  Here is a shot of a heron from the boat:

I think it had just caught a fish.  We got to watch many herons fishing in action.  I guess Lake Logan is known for its abundance of fish. 

Our cabin had a hot tub on the back deck - almost all of the cottages/cabins in Hocking do.  I didn't think the kids would like it, but we turned the temp down & they used it like a mini-pool.  Whenever we were at the cabin, they were swimming away:

On our last day there, we went hiking at Conkle's Hollow, which I think was my favorite hike from the trip.  It was a beautiful hike along the forest floor & the scenery was 200 ft. cliffs surrounding the gorge.  At the end of the trail, there was a plunge pool with a tiny cascade of water (I wouldn't call it a waterfall) and when you looked up, this is what you saw:

We were all so tired from our trip, but it was a happy tired.  Here is my 5 year old on the car ride home, completely wrapped up in her blankie, asleep, probably dreaming of ferns and butterflies and moss and caterpillars and hot tubs:

If you ever get the opportunity to go to Hocking Hills, it is worth the drive.  It's so beautiful there, and a great vacation spot for families.  I hope we can go back again soon.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Back from the hills

Hi readers,

The Bachs just got back from spending a few days in the beautiful Hocking Hills region in Ohio.  We had a great time!  My sister-in-law joined us, and we went hiking almost every day, rented a pontoon boat & cruised Lake Logan, the kids swam in the hot tub (or in our case, we made it a "warm tub") and had so much fun.  I will put my pics up tomorrow when I have a little more time, but for now, here's a little teaser:

We saw these signs everywhere!  The roads are really curvy because it's in a hilly part of Ohio.  My DH told us that the folks at Car & Driver come down from Michigan to test all the cars because the roads are so fun.

I promise to put up more pics & details of our little trip tomorrow!


Monday, July 12, 2010

Book Nook - Fantastic Mr. Fox

Hi readers,

When I was a kid, one of my favorite books was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl.  I thought I'd revisit that story recently to see if I liked it just as much now as I did then.  I listened to the Roald Dahl collection on CD, read by the author, and it had not only Charlie, but also James & the Giant Peach, a few short stories and one of my new favorites.... Fantastic Mr. Fox.

The book version, shown here, is great, too - it's illustrated by Quentin Blake in a very whimsical way that suits the story well.  And the story, in a nutshell, is that Mr. Fox loves to get chickens and turkeys and ducks from three local farmers for the daily Fox family meals.  The farmers, the mean Boggis, Bunce & Bean, know that Mr. Fox is stealing from them and they decide to do something about it.  Mr. Fox & his family are on the run from the farmers' guns and shovels and tractors and backhoes.  But Mr. Fox is truly fantastic & comes up with a plan that outsmarts the farmers once and for all!

I don't think I ever read this story as a child, and I wish I had because I'd like to see it through a child's eyes & imagination.  I think I might have been a little scared by the farmers - there is much discussion on all the violent things they want to do with Mr. Fox's tail, body, his head, etc.  Because of that, I won't yet be reading it to my own kids, but when they are a bit older, I think it'll be appropriate.

However, reading it for the first time as an adult had its advantages.  I can appreciate the pickle the Fox family was in & can empathize with the parents.  Food, shelter, safety are all things that we have to ensure for our children.  You can also appreciate Mr. Fox's long term plan - use a little restraint now & the goods will be there for the taking long term.  I think kids will understand these things, too - but it's just a different perspective when you read it as an adult.

One side note, I just love the interactions between Mr. Fox & Badger.  Badger calls him Foxy and even tells him he loves him (page 60 of my version).  Their friendship is very sweet & charming - the original bromance!

Even though the story is short, we really get to know this great character, Mr. Fox.  He's confident, smart, caring, charismatic & a real leader.  George Clooney was definitely the perfect choice to voice the character in the recent movie (which I thought was great, too - very quirky & fun).

You might be wondering, did I still enjoy Charlie & the Chocolate Factory after all these years?  Yes I did.  But I am also thrilled to have found a new favorite which is indeed fantastic!


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Franklin Park Conservatory

Hi readers,

Today, the Bachs went to the Franklin Park Conservatory here in Columbus, Ohio for the opening day of their carnivorous plant exhibit.  Our oldest has really been into this book called Plants Bite Back!  (DK Readers: Plants Bite Back! (Level 3: Reading Alone) so we decided to take the Bachsters there to see these plants in real life that we've been reading about.

Because it was the opening day, the FPC had a few extra activities planned, one being the Bugman.  He had all sorts of neat insects, like giant hissing cockroaches and a big praying mantis.  He also had quite a collection of tarantulas and black widow spiders.  And the best part was, the kids could hold most of the bugs (well, not the black widows, obviously)!  Here are a couple of pics of the Bachsters with bugs:

Our 6 year old daughter held the tarantula several times, actually - she just kept getting back in line.  Little Guy, who is almost 3, held a tarantula too!  And my DH held one!  But our 5 year old daughter did her mom!  By the way, here is the link to the Bugman's website - he was great personality & I hope we can attend more of his presentations.

We saw all sorts of great carnivorous plants at the exhibit - Venus flytraps, pitcher plants and sundew plants especially.  Here are a few pictures of the "Savage Gardens:"

The Conservatory (link to their website is here) is also known for their Dale Chihuly glass sculptures and their butterfly exhibit.  Here are a few pics of those:

We just had such a great time while we were there!  I hope you & your family were able to have some family fun this weekend, too!


Monday, July 5, 2010

Book Nook - Einstein

Hi readers,

Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson is a well-researched, well-written look into Albert Einstein's life.  I can't help but feel rather intimidated to "review" such a tome on such an iconic genius, so I shall be offering the CliffsNotes version instead.  So, here goes:

-Einstein never failed math, as the rumor goes ("I never failed in mathematics....before I was fifteen I had mastered differential and integral calculus" page 16).  He did, however, drop out of high school, promising his parents that he would continue his studies & try to get into the Zurich Polytechnic (page 24).

Do you like all the quotes & page references?  I'm feeling quite scholarly!  Anyway, continuing on:

-Einstein loved to play the violin & in the many times it's mentioned in the book, it sounds like he excelled at it.  According to Einstein, "Mozart's music is so pure and beautiful that I see it as a reflection of the inner beauty of the universe itself" (page14).

-Einstein and his first wife, Mileva Maric, had a daughter, Lieserl, before they were married.  Worried that this would damage Einstein's budding career, they kept the baby a secret.  Lieserl was raised by a friend of Maric's and historians suspect she died of scarlet fever in 1903.  Einstein never saw her, nor told any of his friends or family about her.

-Einstein developed many of his theories by doing thought experiments.  In his most famous thought experiment, which he used for the Theory of Relativity, he imagined "if a person could run after a light wave with the same speed as light, you would have a wave arrangement which could be completely independent of time" (page26). There is much to be said for taking it easy & letting your brain just think!

-Einstein's 2nd son, Eduard, was institutionalized for schizophrenia for much of his adult life.  Einstein had a poor relationship with him and their visits were tense.

-Einstein's 2nd wife was Elsa Einstein, who happened to be his first cousin.  They didn't have any children together, but Einstein loved her 2 daughters from her first marriage very much.

-When Einstein started to become a celebrity, Elsa "began charging a fee to photograph him, and she donated the money to charities that fed hungry children in Vienna and elsewhere" (page 269).

-Einstein's early successes came "in part from his rebelliousness.  There was a link between his creativity and his willingness to defy authority.  He had no sentimental attachment to the old order, thus was energized by upending it" (page 317).

-Time travel can only be to the future, not to the past.  I couldn't find where this is in the book, but I remember reading it & thinking it was interesting.  I googled this & found a good quote by Stephen Hawking that basically states, if we could travel back to the past, where are all the time tourists from the future?

-Einstein had a lot of lifelong friends, too many to list.  They were both scientific colleagues and good friends.

-After his early successes, Einstein spent the latter part of his career searching for a unified field theory, which he never finished.  In fact, he was writing equations on his deathbed.

-The pathologist performing the autopsy took Einstein's brain without his family's permission and had various research done on it.

These little sound bites just scratch the surface of this biography.  If you ever want an in-depth look at Einstein's life, I highly recommend this book!

In closing, I leave you with a good quote about Einstein's famous Theory of Relativity.  Chaim Weizmann sailed across the Atlantic with the Einsteins in 1921 and said "during the crossing, Einstein explained his theory to me every day, and by the time we arrived I was fully convinced that he really understands it" (page 292).

Unfortunately, after reading the book, I still need CliffsNotes on the theory that made Einstein famous and contributed to modern conveniences and knowledge of the universe.  However, I thoroughly enjoyed (and understood!) the personal side of Einstein and have that much more respect for this great figure of history.


Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy 4th of July

"You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness.  You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.
-Erma Bombeck

Hi readers,

I hope everyone had a nice 4th of July today.  The Bachs certainly did!  We went to a cookout with family and stayed there for 9 hours!!!  I don't think I have ever feted that long before!  Here are some pics from our fun-filled day: 

Have a nice evening!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Baby carrots

Hi readers,

A few days ago, my 5 year old asked me if the carrots were ready to pick out of our garden.  I am no gardener, so I had no idea - you can see if the tomatoes & the cucumbers & the green beans are ready, but how do you know with the carrots?  So I let her pick a couple.  Er, they weren't ready!  But we took a little nibble anyway - they tasted very carroty!

Anyone can you tell when carrots are ready to pick?