Archive for April, 2016

Hoary Winter, Omega Spring!

April 29, 2016

I took a bunch of photos this past winter, it being so cold, snowy, and, well, hoary. For several weeks through mid-January into February, southeast Idaho experienced a persistent weather phenomenon known in meteorology as a “temperature inversion.” Colder air gets trapped over the valleys under a cap of warmer air, which settles over the higher elevations. For a while, it was warmer in West Yellowstone than here. We’d wake up in a cold fog, which froze like baklava in layers over tree branches.

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Magnificent hoar frost! Also known as ‘rime.’

I’d step outside as if through a wardrobe, into Narnia.

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I had to admit, it was beautiful.

It seemed we were always shoveling. We don’t own a snowblower, but most of our neighbors do.

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I developed a severe case of snowblower envy, watching our neighbor through our dining room window, whizzing through snow drifts, blowing the snow sky high in great arches that settled into huge crusty ridges along his walks and driveway. He’d be backing his truck out at full speed before we could fully contemplate our own laborious snow removal plan.

Who's going to shovel?

Who’s going to shovel?

Simple. David shoveled. Or in our case, scooped.

First the front walks and driveway:

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Then the back deck:

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While I … took photos.

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But then a few hours later we (myself, eventually, out of guilt) would be out there shoveling again. Three inches of fresh snow at a time was about the max either one of us cared to deal with.

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We shoveled paths in the snow for Rudy to navigate so he could take care of business –

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“Rudy, go potty!”

Don't pussy-foot around with David

Don’t pussy-foot around with David

Alas, like the meltdown in Narnia, the inversion lifted, warmer temps settled in and the snow melted away.

March 3. 2016

March 3. 2016

Check out the back yard. Hey – look! Pine cones?

Those aren't pine cones

Those aren’t pine cones

NO! DOG TURDS! EWWWW! You’d think at least some of them would have dissolved in the snow pack. But Noooo. Every single turd dropped over the past 4 months is perfectly intact. I plucked them out of the grass one by one.

Rudy, you messy dog!! You must have left us 600 “twerds” to pick up in the back yard! (‘Turd’ with a French accent since he’s a poodle.)

Making a mess in the house too

Making a mess in the house too

Oh boy, now you’re destuffing Lambchop.

March winter squalls … Not so welcome. We want to put the shovels away!

March 9

March 9

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Several spring storms blow through – bringing hail, snow, and sleet, sometimes simultaneously…

March 14

March 14

But then, bird nest sightings!

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Robins appear. Some are fat with eggs

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My photo is pretty lame, but let me tell you, that was one fat robin I spotted from our kitchen window.

Then, in April, we experienced another extended weather phenomenon known to meteorologists as an “Omega weather pattern.” We were shown a Satellite/radar visual of it about every night on our local news – I finally took a picture of the ‘Omega Pattern.’ Here you can see:

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A giant ‘high’ settled square over Idaho and the west, which locked in a persistent ‘low’ over, uh, the mid west and Texas. The Omega pattern hung over us for 8 days or something, bringing sunny temps 10-15 degrees above normal, while Texas and other areas east of the Omega rim got pelted, soaked, deluged and flooded out. (Sorry, Houston.) I think it is still raining there. The Omega pattern shifted slightly east, then flipped upside down or something, still locking Texas and the lower mid west in a low.

So…spring popped! All of a sudden everything is in bloom. You want to see those same snowy shots of our front yard I took in January? Can you picture my neighbor with his snowblower?

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That’s a giant May tree. Here you see the blossoms up close

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Remember Narnia?

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Our big ‘ol giant Maple is about out

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Flowering crab and plums adorn about every street

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Then there’s the tulips! Bunches of perky yellow tulips bloomed on the west side of the house:

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In our back center garden:

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They just started blooming this week in front of our house, facing north

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Turn on the sprinklers!!

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Oh joy. Never fails. A busted sprinkler head.

David has already mowed once. Dig out the dandelions! Pull weeds! What flowers to plant this year?? …

“Uh, Where’s Rudy?”

WUh?

WUh?

“You stay out of the gardens!!”

‘Hello Kitty’ goes Gluten-Free

April 16, 2016

Recently I was in line at a music and video store to check out some movies. Of course your eyes wander to all the literal ‘eye candy’ and stuff you would buy on impulse… at adult eye level you see batteries, lighters, playing cards, gossip celebrity news and other rag mags. On the lower shelves, boxes of small toys for kids that they can grab even before you’ve secured your position in line. And of course, candy.

A particular bag of candy, hanging at shoulder level, caught my eye while waiting in line, Hello Kitty gummies! Now, I’m not a Hello Kitty fan, but I could just picture myself in line with my 5-8 year-old daughter, granddaughter, niece, or any female friend of theirs, who might love anything and everything Hello Kitty. They might have a ‘Hello Kitty’ themed bedroom. I wondered how long the ‘Hello Kitty’ brand had been around, so I did a little research – here’s a Google link with her biography.

Hello Kitty was born in London in 1974 ‘for the pre-teen girl in every girl’ – invented by the designer Ikuko Shimizu by the Japanese company Sanrio. The original idea was to create a new character that could be decorated on a plastic coin purse.

‘Hello Kitty’ turned 30 in 2004. She has been around for over 40 years! More research on Hello Kitty revealed how ubiquitous the brand really is. Sephora sells Hello Kitty makeup. Someone in an online chat mentioned you can even take a ‘Hello Kitty’ themed flight. Could this be true? Yes. Boeing 777 Planes are now flying the Hello Kitty skies. Check out this link! for photos of the Hello Kitty flight experience. Houston is now the seventh North American destination for EVA, joining Los Angeles, New York JFK, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto and Vancouver.

I also read comments such as, “I know a 50-year-old woman with Hello Kitty stuff. She is my Pinterest friend. I had to block her Hello Kitty page on Pinterest, it was driving me crazy.” Another comment read, “Judging by the girls on my son’s (high school) math team, Hello Kitty is plenty popular at that age.’ – also, “In Japan newborn and up, definitely girls into their 20’s, even older.” Another: “My 48-year-old friend has a Hello Kitty toaster.” There appears to be no age (or product?) limit on ‘Hello Kitty.’

By the way, according to her bio, Hello Kitty’s favorite things include ‘candy, stars and goldfish.’

Back to the ‘Hello Kitty’ candy beckoning the shopper in the check-out line, here, I took a photo:

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Hmmm. They have the candy down to a science! Uh, the marketing of the candy that is. Your daughter spots the candy, looks at you longingly, “Oh, buy it, Mom, please!” It’s not enough that so many pre-teen girls in every girl already love anything and everything Hello Kitty. Lets let it be known scientifically, it’s a healthy food choice!

99% Fat Free! Gluten Free! Vegetarian! Vegetarian? Seriously? Here’s the ingredients listed on the back…

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The first four ingredients are wheat syrup, sugar, maltodextrin, and corn syrup. (Sugar, sugar, artificial sugar, sugar). How can wheat syrup be gluten free? Well, as another form of high fructose syrup, it is so highly processed and purified so as to eliminate any trace of gluten. Maltodextrin is an artificial sugar, also known as a polysaccharide.

Oh, but the candy also contains potato protein and hydrolysed pea protein! (Guess that’s the ‘vegetarian’ part?)

So how to explain the proliferation and enduring popularity of “Hello Kitty?’ It’s a very, very well-marketed brand.

Other brands are in tune and up-to-date with their health conscious marketing strategies. Later that same day we were eating at a local bar/restaurant when I spotted this sign:

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And I cheered and my heart jumped out of my chest! I can finally get a drink with gluten free vodka! Come on!!! Is there a vodka out there that isn’t gluten-free? I Googled it to make sure and confirmed, “all distilled spirits are gluten-free unless it is added after distillation.” (Yeah, let’s add gluten to this vodka just to mess with celiac sufferers!)

Check out this article about vodka marketed as gluten free, from Scientific American. It states:

“After a 2012 Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) interim ruling, gluten-free labeled vodkas hit the market this year, including National Basketball Association legend Shaquille O’Neal’s gluten-free “Luv Shaq.”

“But that guarantee is not necessary,” according to Steve Taylor, one of the country’s leading gluten testers. Taylor calls gluten-free vodka a “silly thing. … All vodka is gluten-free unless there is some flavored vodka out there where someone adds a gluten-containing ingredient. I know that many celiac sufferers are extra-cautious. That is their privilege. But their [vodka] concerns are usually not science-based.”

In other (my) words, vodka is a pure healthy choice, all by itself, even if you adhere to a gluten-free diet.

“… It’s not just alcohol, of course. The new FDA label guidelines allow bottled water, vegetables and fruits to be labeled gluten-free even though these products do not naturally contain gluten.”

“The new labeling has created a marketing frenzy that may become a $6.2-billion gluten-free product industry by 2018…”

Yeah, I’ll be growing some gluten free tomatoes in my garden this summer. But we’re passing on those Hello Kitty gummies or whatever that ‘food’ is. Of course, there’s no urges at our house to pacify a pre-teen girl (inside of us or otherwise) with any and all things ‘Hello Kitty.’