Sunday, September 27, 2015

Monday, September 21, 2015

Dragons and Kings in Our Midst: On Other Migrants

Politics is making me grumby lately.  So I'm not going to write about immigration in the US or the migrant crisis in Europe or . . .  many other things.  That many people I care about are unwell is also making me very grumbly.  While we are at it I could grumble about some of my students, some of my colleagues and some of the young people living in my house.  But I won't.

The monarchs are flying through.  A few pairs of lost looking kites are hanging around, and for about ten minutes on Friday evening, Sept. 18 we were under a cloud of dragonflies heading south.

Anyone know anything about dragonfly migration?

Sunday, September 13, 2015

On Kites and Kites and Splurges

The Mississippi Kites are gone.  Their departure is not as dramatic as their arrival.  They were super-active and very loud Friday afternoon August 28 and I felt certain they were discussing their imminent departure (and perhaps they were discussing it), but at least a few were still around two weeks later, and then I saw none today at the park where they swarm.  (More about my tracking of Mississippi Kites can be found here).

August 19, 2015
3 1/2 weeks and ages and ages ago
Before school started (three and a half weeks and ages ago) the boys were flying a kite Dianthus received for his birthday and several Mississippi Kites circled by to investigate.  At $30, the kite, an, "Easy-Flier" from Into the Wind in Boulder, Colorado, cost many times what previous kites the boys have owned have.  And it is so worth it.  The Mississippi Kites came by because the dragon delta was calmly soaring.  It went up easily,  It stayed up.  It is pretty incredible (almost, but not quite, to the point of being boring to fly).

While flying the kite and marveling that such a wonder could be found for $30, complete with full service (annotated instruction book, long discussion about appropriate wind speeds, swivel), I started thinking about skimping and splurging, and listing luxuries worth the extra money and splurges I wouldn't do again.

Immediately it became clear that I am willing to splurge on condiments.  Mustard from the mustard museum is worth it.  Good jam is worth it.  Greek yogurt is worth it (but I can only justify plain in the 32 oz. size.  I can't feel good about expensive individual yogurts if I am not on vacation or at my parents' house).  Real maple syrup, real vanilla extract, and good dark chocolate are worth it.

I pay asking price for farmers' market eggs (which are a steal at $3.50 per dozen in my town), farmers' market produce and good peaches shipped in from Colorado.

As I am writing I am realizing that this list is not really revealing to anyone (Sparkling Squirrel is willing to pay $8 for mustard?  I'm shocked!)

I've been surprised at how much I have loved having new cars, considering how much I loved my used cars (for 13 and 11 years, respectively), but our new cars have hardly been marketed as luxury vehicles.  When my mother pointed out that other mini-vans have magically gliding doors, I had to add how many other uses I could find for the $10,000 difference.  Another friend commented on what a steal it was to upgrade the seats in hers, and I could only find myself musing at how much I would rather have another vacation than leather seats.

Speaking of vacations, I have found it well worth it to pay for location when dealing with lodging, but the few times we have paid extra for luxurious accommodations, I  have not thought it money particularly well spent.

I'm not sure how much I think "good seats" are worth it.  "Seats" at performances and sporting events are almost always worth it.  "Good seats"?  I don't know.

Back when I was thinking these things and flying a kite, I was partially trying to justify the amount I had spent on make-up while glowing at Nordstrom with my friend L, and having a hard time doing it.  I kept thinking about how much I was willing to spend for a facial (which I had not deemed worth it based on two in my life, but had been thinking of doing again as part of glow year) and adding it to the amount I was willing to blow on an afternoon of frivolity with L, plus the amount necessary for new foundation, and I kept falling short of the total on my new Nordstrom card.

August 24, 2015
Prairie Turnips in Background
Then my school started.  I didn't have any new outfits,  I felt I had limited, less-than-flattering wardrobe options (limited by my current size, by teaching labs all the time, and by walking to work in the heat), but I had my make-up.  With the magic of foundation that cost more than my mother-in-law has spent on a pair of shoes*, tips from the wonderful full-service beauty stylist at Nordstrom and the four brushes that I only pretended I would use a few weeks before, I popped the middle of my eye lids, I contour chiseled my cheeks with bronzer, and I glowed radiantly.  Wearing the red shoes that, three years later still make me immensely happy, so must be worth it, I rocked the first day of school.  And, horrible allergy days aside, I have been pulling out the brushes every morning since, combining $2 eye shadow with $30 bronzer, and feeling great.  Definitely worth it.

What's "worth it" for you?  What's not?

*For the record, my mother-in-law is just a great shoe shopper, the foundation didn't cost that much.  I mean, it cost far more than the $13 I budget for foundation, but much less than the red shoes that I have never felt particularly guilty about, for instance

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


Pasque Flower, Pulsatilla, Rocky Mountain National Park
West Side, June 1
Not all of my hairy plant photography was focused on leaves this summer.  I also photographed some pubescent* flowers-- both hairy and on the verge of sexual maturity.

Thimbleweed? Anemone, Yellowstone, June
Anemone, Banff or Jasper, June

Calochortus (Mariposa or Sego Lily),
 Rocky Mountain National Park Fall River Valley, July

Monday, August 24, 2015

Fuzzy Margins

Plant science is full of great words. This summer I expanded from fruit and flowers to photographically examine (and record for future classes) the surfaces of leaves.
Among my favorite words are the plant words for hairiness.  Plant surfaces can be hirsute, or pubescent or canescent.  They can be pilose, strigose, tomentose, or villous, or they velutinous when they are velvety.
How would you describe these?

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

4 and 6: Growing and Glowing

Aster and Dianthus turned 4 and 6 recently.

They were lucky enough to celebrate with both sets of grandparents. Dianthus helped bake Aster's chocolate strawberry cake in Colorado, Aster helped with Dianthus's baked Alaska and then on Dianthus's birthday we drove to Kansas and ate more cake.   Here's some of the glowing and its aftermath.  Temperamentally, four is the new three, by the way.

That's a big baked Alaska.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Glowing Update

Glowing year hasn't quite sparked friends to action the way that other themes have.  Perhaps that is the nature of "glow".  I do, however, have some glowing things to report at this midpoint.

Glowing Creatures (resolution #2): The luminous jellyfish at the Vancouver Aquarium didn't transfix Dianthus quite the way the jellyfish at the National Aquarium in Baltimore had five years prior, but they were still pretty cool.

Rings of Saturn: We were camping in Rocky Mountain National Park (one of three visits planned during the park's centennial festivities) during the Night Sky Festival taking place the weekend of the new moon.  We tromped out into a field at the end of a dead-end road, watched the slowly fade, and impatiently waited for darkness to arrive.  While convincing the boys that it was too dark to work on their Junior Rangers Night Explorer patches but not yet dark enough to see stars, we looked through telescopes at Saturn.  Members of the Defenders of Darkness had all brought out their giant personal telescopes, several requiring step ladders, and during the late twilight, every one of them looked toward Saturn.  It was amazing.  It was the first time I'd seen the rings of  Saturn and they looked exactly like they were supposed to, except more glow-y.  It look like someone had a Saturn-shaped cut-out and shined a light through it, poking little holes for Titan and four other moons of Saturn.  Later we looked at several double stars and weird star systems, but Saturn was my favorite of the night.
Saturn looked just like this, (but smaller and with five moons).
(Image from Risa Horowitz's "Imaging Saturn" webpage.)

Books:  I've read a lot that I would like to write about.  Hopefully within the next week.

Women who glow (resolution #12): Flush with the excitement of watching the games and the US win at the Women's World Cup, my mother is starting to talk about excitedly about France 2019.  Join us?

Glow myself into shape (resolution #13): An utter failure so far.  I am re-prioritizing this, and did start out the day with a sweaty turn around the neighborhood this morning.

Glowing with beauty (resolution #6): I have had assistance in this realm.  My Brother and MSiL sent me "luminous lavender" products for my birthday.  If I haven't exfoliated enough cells to reveal my inner glow, then at least I smell great.
Two weeks ago (although it feels like much longer) I sought professional assistance (with my dear friend L) in the form of a consultation with the beauty stylist at Nordstrom's.  It was a pleasant and slightly surreal experience, as I pretended to be someone who might use multiple make-up brushes in the morning.  I purchased some new foundation and L is helping me to up my glow is the form of bronzer and concealer (I hope it is the "luminizer"), or would be if only I could convince myself to use them (I am not wearing Trish McEvoy products to do laundry and plan lessons!)

Blue Moon: Once in a blue moon, I go out for fancy drinks with my friend SalSis in Lawrence for our birthdays. Our birthdays are in March and May, but that didn't stop us from trying a (sadly disappointing) watermelon cilantro margarita during the blue moon last Friday.  It was a great way to recognize our lunar friend glowing big twice in July.