Category Archives: Tumbleweeds Tumbling

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Moody Gardens Aquarium Pyramid

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After we finished viewing the Moody Gardens Rain Forest Pyramid we again took advantage of the Senior on Tuesday special where you can get into a pyramid for $10 and we took in the aquarium. Unfortunately for us, the aquarium is undergoing a major renovation so about half the displays were shut down. This was disappointing but we still had a great time because the big aquarium, the shark tank, the seal tank and the penguin habitat were open. The penguins are absolutely delightful to watch and they seem as curious about the visitors we we were watching them. They had several different species many of whom were swimming about and more than once they would swim right up to the class to look at us.

I noticed many of the fish in the aquarium were doing the same thing. About half of them just went about their business ignoring us but about one quarter actively approached the glass and interacted with us as if we were entertainment. The angelfish in particular seemed to find us fascinating. The last one quarter of the fish were very shy and could be startled if we moved quickly so we didn’t. They stayed well away from the glass. The aquarium is beautifully designed with many glass insets so you can get right up and almost into the tank.

The seals were also fun to watch. They are so fast and graceful. The seals are rescues who have lost an eye or two and are deemed unfit to return to the wild. How did that blind seal manage to move around so quickly and so easily without bashing into the glass?

The last display was the shark tank. It is a big tunnel the same as the tunnel at Assiniboine Park where you can see polar bears swimming above you. Here is a great white shark about four feet long. Frankly the polar bears put on a better display. The shark just did this random swim looking ominous.

If you are in Galvaston and you qualify as a senior (and then let you decide, they don’t check ID), be sure to check out Moody Gardens on a Tuesday. $5 per pyramid and well worth the wonder. Allow at least two hours per pyramid. There is a lot to to see. And wear proper shoes because it is also a lot of walking although if you need assistance the facility is fully accessible.

Moody Garden Rainforest Pyramid

Another great Galveston deal is that they have a special price for seniors at Moody Gardens. For $5 you can walk any of the big pyramid displays. We decided to do two of them, the Rain Forest pavilion and the aquarium. Now I should start with a caveat here, that being I normally avoid places wild animals are on display for profit. However I heard some good things about the Moody Gardens and I am glad I went.

One thing I really appreciated was that their reptile displays also had separate explanations about why reptiles make very poor pets and how damaging the reptile pet trade is to these gorgeous but vulnerable creatures. We got to see many reptiles and amphibians from teeny tiny little frogs in magnificent colours to huge Komodo dragons and monitor lizards. And there were many matching explanations on how they don’t make good pets. They had a few stunningly beautiful large Amazon parrots and again I was pleased to note big displays about why these long lived birds do not make good pets and how devastating the pet trade is on the wild population especially how many birds die to get one to a pet shop. They included a display on what kind of birds you can have as pets and they recommended only captive bred finches, pigeons and one other domesticated bird.

We also got to some totally new creatures, fresh water rays. We are very familiar with rays from Gulf Specimen Marine Lab but I had no idea there were lovely and beautifully patterned fresh water rays in the Amazon. I love finding out completely new things. We got there for feeding time and I also learned they have a vigorous breeding program. All the animals on display are females. Males are kept in the research areas and used for spawning. This ensures there is no cross breeding between the brightly patterned species types. As is so often the case, the guy doing the feeding knew an enormous amount about the creatures he cares for even if he was not one of the resident scientists.

The rain forest pyramid is set up so that you enter at the top of the canopy and spiral around and down to finally reach the forest floor. At each section there is something special featured. One section had lovely bright orange birds who are very tame and happily pose to the camera. There was section full of butterflies, insects raised right here at Moody Gardens. We saw a pair of monkeys and I got to see a tropical rain forest bat almost as big as my house cat. We have bats at home but they are tiny little mouse sized brown bats so it was fascinating to see these really big ones.

Near ground level they had a lot of pools and streams and waterfalls with fish and turtles in the tanks. The water seemed to be really clear and high quality and the animals looked very well cared for. We even saw some axolotls in sparkling good health. And so I am glad I went. it was well worth the mere $10 we were charged.

Taking a break with the frog.

Galveston Historical Section Walk

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This is the dog sculpture. The tree had grown around the fence but the hurricane took it down. The paws of the dog replicate the way the tree had once grown over the fence. Many of the sculptures also had whimsical holiday additions.

There are a lot of things to do and to see in Galveston. One I can highly recommend is the historical homes walk. I got the idea from my absolute favourite RV blogger Ingrid at Live Love Laugh who posted about it in one of her blogs. There are many ways to do the walk. There is a company with a lovely open bus with padded seats where you can sit and you are driven around to see every site. We chose the cheap one, the self guided walking tour. The full distance of the walk is five miles. We started at the Galveston visitors centre, a move I highly recommend, and left with two pamphlets. One is a map of all the historical points of interest and one is a map of special tree sculptures.

The tree sculptures have a special history. In 2008 Galveston was flooded and damaged by hurricane Ike which landed as a category 2, near to category 3. Many homeowners lost beloved giant trees. Some of the homeowners arranged to have artists come in and carve the stumps and denuded skeletons in beautiful wood carved memorials.

Each historical house also has a sign explaining who built the house, why it is considered historical and information on the style of the building. One of the things that makes Galveston architecture so interesting is new European immigrants brought their home building styles with them and so you end up with Italian and German and English houses beside each other.

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The homeowners in the historical area take their responsibility very seriously and the majority of the homes were beautifully maintained and had gorgeous yards. A large part of the pleasure of the walk is enjoying the gardens. And many of the homeowners were out and they were all friendly and happy to chat with the tourists.

The walk took us about two and half hours because we took in so much and we quit halfway through. If you enjoy such things I recommend doing it in two sections. Best of all, it’s free!

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How I got rid of an ugly facial mark with apple cider vinegar.

I am sharing this story with a bit of trepidation because I am probably violating some law about practicing medicine without a license and maybe putting people at risk for missing a melanoma or something, so think carefully on this one, and really read what I wrote, before you try it yourself. Especially follow the part about getting a doctor to check things out first! I decided to describe what i did because, well I think most people are smart enough so that they can make their own informed decisions given the information.

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Typical mole I occasionally sprout. They start out itching and burning, take about 3-6 months to grow and then stop and just sit there.

This is a closeup of a mole on my shoulder. It is about 3mm long and 2mm wide and raised about 1.5 mm, slightly higher on one side. It’s dark brown and symmetrical if you were to put a line across the long part. I have several of them. This one appeared on my shoulder about eight years ago as an itchy spot that then proceeded to itch and fuss and then when it got to this size it stopped growing and itching and settled down and stayed the same. This is typical for them. I think they are a family trait because most of the people in my family have them. I recall my grandmother regularly going to have hers removed. She would get ten or twelve removed from her back every few years. The removal sessions left her back a bloody mess. In spite of this, not one member of my extended family has ever had any form of skin cancer. My complexion is also dark olive and I tan to a dark bronze if I let the sun get to my skin, which I normally don’t. I’m not sure this whole thing would be a good idea for someone very fair or with red hair or with a family history of skin cancer.

Because of all the concerned about changing moles being cancerous and especially the fear of melanoma, people tend to react with cautious horror to the appearance of a brand new mole. Thus, I have three times gone running off to the doctor about older versions of such moles and had them removed. The results have not been pretty.

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Mess left after removing one of these mole ruling out cancer.

This is the scar left by removing one of these stupid moles, this one in my inner arm. In all three cases the stitches split open, white unpigmented scar tissue was left as a circle 5mm across in the middle and I got ugly brown pigmented splotches that still grew out around the white circle as it healed. In all three cases the pathology came back as a nonspecific nonmalignant benign dysplasia, i.e. NOT cancer. And the wound was exceptionally painful and took weeks to heal. The results of the removing the mole are far worse that the mole itself for me. So the one on my shoulder is one I just had a doctor look at and we both agreed it was better left alone and not removed. She took a couple of pictures so she could check it for changes whenever I have my yearly check up. It’s been quiet, sitting there, ugly and unchanging, for about seven years now.

I have always had a tiny cluster of two small dark brown freckles and one bright red “stork bite” type spot on my face near my nose. I was born with this threesome. They are part of me. Well in November I developed the now familiar itch and to my dismay I began sprouting yet another one of these blasted moles right next to the upper freckle of the threesome. And true to form it grew and grew, itching and fussing as it did, until it was the same size as the one on my arm (about 3mm long and 2mm wide and raised about 1.5 mm) and it covered both the cute little red spot and one of the brown freckles entirely, and half over the other brown freckle, all with one nasty raised ugly brown blotch. It was UGLY. I HATED it.

I had my doctor look at it and again we decided it was probably benign. Removing it was likely to leave yet another ugly scar unless I paid a lot of money to go to one of those dermatology clinics that remove them with lasers and such which are not covered by our healthcare program. I decided to do an on line search and see if there was an easy way to do it. I came across many articles about removing a mole with apple cider vinegar.

There are two methods. One is to scratch and poke the mole with a needle and apply apple cider vinegar. There are also multiple official websites from doctors that plead with people to NOT use this method because it can make things worse including infection, scarring, masking a melanoma and all kinds of bad consequences. I personally can’t imagine a nastier way to mess up your skin than to stick it with needles and abrade it with sandpaper and such and then apply vinegar. No wonder people get scaring and infections! I DO NOT recommend this method.

The simpler gentler method is to apply the apple cider vinegar just to the mole either with a soaked bandaid left on overnight or by dabbing some on directly. Since apple cider vinegar is a mild acid the idea is to slowly remove layers of cells from the top down until the mole is gone. This will only work if the mole is superficial. Cancerous cells go deep, so this method would not work for a cancer. It seemed to me that slowly removing the mole with a mild acid would be about like shaving it off with a laser. So I decided to give it a try.

How I did it:

I put a small container of vinegar next to my computer and every time I thought of it I dipped my finger in the bottle and lightly dabbed just the mole and nothing else. If I got too much drip and the area under the mole got wet, I dried the area and I did it again. I was probably dabbing about twenty times a day. I also checked carefully twice a day in a mirror with a flashlight and as soon as I saw any sign of redness or irritation or got any burning sensation I stopped for the rest of that day.

I was also persistent. I saw absolutely nothing happening for about two weeks. I set a date by which I would stop trying at six weeks after I started and if I had not done that I suspect I would have given up too soon. Every time I was ready to give up I checked the calendar and kept at it instead. However, in the third week I began to see results. Slowly but surely the mole began to slough off very thin layers of skin as it dried up. After four weeks the area was so smooth I could no longer feel anything where the mole had been. My previous freckle and red spot reappeared, like old friends coming back. In the final stages I did have some redness and irritation so I had to back off the application of the vinegar. Instead I switched to a good moisturizer until all the redness was gone.

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This is what it looked like when I decided to stop. I stopped because of mild redness and irritation.

The final result is as you see. Two normal freckles I have always had and one teeny red stork bite spot I have also always had and only a very slight discolouration where the skin got irritated at the lower boundary of where the big ugly mole used to be. I have been carefully monitoring the area and so far, one month later, I can find no sign of the mole coming back or any other changes. I also made a picture of where the boundary of the mole was before I started. As you can see the improvement is considerable. (I apologize for not taking a good before picture but it was just too ugly to contemplate.)

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This is the closest I have to a good before picture because it bugged so much I was ducking cameras.

So I can recommend the apple cider vinegar method with some cautionary notes.

  1. I did get it checked by a doctor first to make sure it wasn’t likely any kind of skin cancer although my doctor certainly did not give me any encouragement to try the vinegar part on it. She recommended laser treatment.
  2. I did do it slowly over many weeks using the dab method and I DID NOT poke the mole with a pin or use sandpaper or any other harsh method I have read about.
  3. I did monitor carefully for irritation and reddening and pain and I stopped and let things heal when I got noticed any.
  4. I was very very patient because it is a very slow way to do things. It takes weeks. I have already decided not to bother trying to get the one on my shoulder off. It’s just not worth the effort given that it isn’t looking at me in the mirror every day.

I am very happy with the result. I like having my tiny red spot and the old familiar twin freckles back. Vanity thy name is woman, and this woman is happy. I will try to update if anything else happens, like if I die of melanoma or something or the mole decides to grow back. I am not expecting anything like that though. And again talk to your doctor BEFORE you try anything like this.

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Swallow Fledging Day!

Today was a very big day at our house. We had a pair of swallows start a late season, likely second brood of babies in a nook of our house. I can’t say I am all that thrilled about our new guests because they have made a big mess. However, I love birds, especially such pretty and useful ones, and the mama was so determined to nest right there. I decided to let it slide for this year. I have been rewarded by endless acrobatics and swooping and diving and a few hair rufflings. Today was obviously some kind of special day though because even for swallows, the amount of calling, swooping and acrobatics was noticeably increased. I walked by and saw all four babies sitting on the edge of the nest looking out. I decided it was a great time to finally take a picture. I came outside to find two babies airborne with Mom and Dad and two left, hesitating on the edge of a great big wide open world. The expression on the little guy on the roof reminds me of the look on my grandson’s face the day he was born. Wow. As soon as they leave I’ll break out the hose and wash down this nook and all the crap underneath and I’ll see what I can do about discouraging them next year. For today, I’ll just derive some vicarious joy from their big fledging day.

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Does Anyone Remember “In Season”? On making relish.

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When I was a little girl I recall wanting to have a fresh peach so badly the craving had me near tears. It was February and peaches were simply not to be had in Canada. I just had to do without. Peaches were only available in the late summer and early fall when big trucks came labeled with BC Fruits. The closest you could get to a fresh peach outside of their appointed season was to eat peaches in a can.

There is a Jewish tradition of each Sabbath and holiday finding something that is a treat to eat that has just come into season and to say a special blessing as you eat it for the first time in the year. I have noticed that it has become increasingly difficult to find something like that because with our globalized world there is very little that is no longer  available all year. I can always find peaches in the grocery store because peaches come from South America and cold storage has extended the harvest year. I don’t eat canned peaches anymore because I don’t want the sugar in the syrup they are canned in. Yet I find I don’t eat peaches very often anymore either.

Now that I am gardening again, the cycle of the gardening season is back in my life. I planted snow peas, edible pod peas and mid season peas which require shucking. The snow peas were ready first and we had three glorious meals of snow peas before they were all gone. The edible pod peas came next and we feasted on those and they were so delightful we didn’t miss snow peas. The midseason peas arrived and were so delicious we found ourselves eating them straight from the pod. It just didn’t seem worth cooking them. The midseason peas are nearly done but it doesn’t matter because the garden has begun producing green and yellow beans. The corn I planted has just sent up the pollination stems so I expect by the time the beans are finished, we will have fresh corn. And so, through the garden cycle we have a succession of wonderful food to eat but each one is only there a little time to enjoy and then it is done. It is a lot easier to find something for the Sabbath blessing when you have your own garden.

Have we lost or gained by the factory food that is available year round? I suppose in some ways it is always nice to be able to have a peach anytime you want. And yet this has made peaches common place and there is no longer the wonder of a fresh peach in season. And so I am left to wonder, is it that we are accustomed to having peaches all the time that has made them ho hum? Or is it that the factory farm methods that allow mass produced peaches year round have robbed us of taste? Are our palettes dulled or is the fruit itself dull? I suspect the latter. On our trip to BC in fall a few years ago, I happened to drive through a place selling peaches right off the tree. Eating a fresh peach in season directly from the orchard, makes you realize how bland and plain the store bought peaches, readily available year around, actually are. I just don’t like those peaches very much.

In the old days, everything was seasonal and there was always the long winter to fear when no airplane and ships could bring bounty from the southern hemisphere. Those long dark times of potential ever present hunger meant our forebears never took for granted anything grown in summer. You had to put food by for winter and no one would ever waste food by allowing it to rot. Mothers encouraged children to eat more than they should because that layer of fat acquired just before winter might mean making it through the winter when times were lean. If you had an excess of something you put it by anyway because you could always trade it or sell it to someone less fortunate in winter.

Relish is one of those foods invented to avoid wasting food and provide food in winter when food was otherwise scarce. There are at least as many forms of relish as there people who make it and I think perhaps even more because no two relishes made from your own garden produce are ever exactly the same. A traditional relish is put together with vinegar and sugar and salt to preserve it until winter. It is cooked to sterilize it when it is put by so moulds and bacteria don’t eat it in the meantime. A short boiling water bath fixes the seal. Very little else is constant about relish. I hate relish myself but my husband loves it.

Relish is designed to be made from the excess of the garden so it doesn’t go to waste. Too many cucumbers to eat now? Some green tomatoes the slugs munched on that will rot not ripen? Not a problem because these are the staple ingredients of a good relish. And why not throw in the leftover raw store bought corn from three cobs left in the fridge after the big feast, some zucchini tops from zucchinis where blossom rot has ruined the ends, onions accidentally pulled too soon while weeding can be chopped and added, raw cabbage from the end of the head, a bit of horseradish root the neighbour dropped off, and a few hot peppers just starting in the garden but knocked off while hunting peas. Some judicious cutting and soon the pot is full enough to make relish even if there is not enough of any one thing to do anything else.

My husband likes his relish spicey so I used a hot dog relish recipe that called for spice and included turmeric and red pepper and mustard. He tasted it while it bubbled in the pot and pronounced it perfect. And now what was potential garden waste is six jars of very fine hot dog relish. My husband laughed and said for him it is a two year supply. But that’s all right. At some point this winter he will open a jar of hot dog relish and memories of summer will come with the taste and smell and it will all be worth it. And because I made it exactly the way he likes it, instead of the way some large company designed it aimed at the lowest common denominator, chances are it will not last two years. I can’t help but think my great grandmother would be proud of me for growing my own food and using up garden snips and bits instead of just purchasing a jar of relish from the store.