Kingfishers

Kingfishers

Of the 114 species in the kingfisher family, most are very colorful. The rather amazing pied kingfisher, however, and which dives for its prey from a considerable height, is black and white with pretty spots and stripes. A territorial bird, the kingfishers that eat primarily fish will defend a preferred fishing spot. All kingfishers nest in cavities, some that are found, like holes in trees or in termite nests, but most are dug out of hillsides and mud-banks with tunnels ending in a slightly larger hole. The longest recorded tunnel was 28 feet long. Kookaburras are kingfishers. Nature is continually fascinating.

Lake Maggiore

Lake Maggiore, Italy

As a desert dweller, I’m fond of water in any form. Which means of course I was drawn to Lake Maggiore in northern Italy. This beautiful, forty-mile-long lake has a mild, Mediterranean climate even though the northernmost end has a view of the Alps. The lake also has a number of islands and islets, several extensive, well-known botanical gardens, and of course gorgeous, Italian cuisine. 

Spaghetti

Spaghetti

Did you grow up on spaghetti? It was a mainstay in our house when I was a child. My mother would fill her skillet with the sauce ingredients and she would simmer all this goodness for a good hour. One of my favorite things was to go into the kitchen and sample that sauce while it was cooking. Because there were six of us in the family, there was much more pasta than sauce to help make ends meet. When I grew up and made my own pasta, I couldn’t resist reversing the proportions. I wanted my pasta swimming in sauce and still do to this day. How do you like your spaghetti?

Squash

Squash

What do butternut, zucchini, pumpkins and gourds all have in common? They’re all members of the squash family. Pumpkins are perhaps the most famous especially here in the States. The bright orange pumpkins we collect for our fall displays, or to carve for Halloween, or to help create a festive atmosphere during the U.S.’s Thanksgiving Day celebration were cultivated specifically for their color. These beauties are rejected at the door of the canning factory, however, because of a distinct lack of pumpkin flavor. The variety of shapes, sizes and textures found in the squash family is quite amazing.

Ibis

Ibis

With a goofy-looking bill, ibis or ibises, are a strong species of wetland bird. Their long legs allow them to probe the muddy banks of shallow lakes, marshes and riverbanks for crustaceans. But they will also poke around in grassy areas in search of insects. Their flocks are much appreciated in agricultural areas to help control harmful insect populations. They are a friendly bird and can adapt to urban life if their favored wetland habitats disappear or become polluted. 

Sweden

Sweden

Surprisingly, the climate of Sweden is much milder than expected even though it has a northerly latitude. Sweden, like all Scandinavian countries, is located on the western coast of the continent of Eurasia. Western coasts around the world are usually warmer than their eastern counterparts. This is due to the earth’s rotation and in Sweden’s case the warming effects of the Gulf Stream. Of course, this isn’t true for the entire country since 15% of Sweden is location above the Arctic Circle. With half its landmass covered in forests, Sweden is a country of great natural beauty. To see some of its beauty, be sure to check out all three videos below.

Spinach

Spinach

Every once in a while I come across a food that has so much goodness going for it, that it’s astonishing. Spinach is one of those foods. It has iron, potassium, magnesium, vitamin K, vitamin A, folic acid, B vitamins, and lutein for eye-health. But on the negative side, spinach has an ingredient that can lead to kidney stones. So, if you’re prone to these, you might want to avoid spinach or to make sure you have it in combination with other foods, vitamins or minerals to make sure it doesn’t do harm. Check out what this doctor has to say about the pluses and minuses of spinach. Information is power.

Lilacs

Lilacs

These tree-shrubs are a one-season bloomer and will provide a wonderful show in mid-spring. After that, the flowers die off and you have a nice, green plant for the garden. Lilacs don’t provide fall color, either. But when they bloom, they are magnificent. With the right cultivar, they are wonderfully fragrant so long as the season isn’t too damp or cold. There are some cultivars that have no fragrance at all, so if you’re after the traditional lilac scent, make sure you purchase the right plant. 

Moose

Moose

After having researched Elk the week prior, I wanted to follow up with their cousins, the moose. Both elk and moose belong to the deer family and in Eurasia, some elk are called ‘moose’. But each is a distinct species with moose being the largest of the deer family. A bull moose can weigh 1700 pounds or more. They are a majestic animal that is generally slow-moving. But moose can be dangerous if startled and will charge when provoked. Moose are often found in lakes and rivers because as part of their diet they feed on aquatic vegetation. And of course, who can forget Rocky and Bullwinkle.

Shanghai

Shanghai

With twenty-four million people, Shanghai is the largest city in China by population. It is a major financial hub and has the busiest container port in the world. Shanghai is located on the east coast of mainland China. Many Jewish and Russian immigrants came to Shanghai in the early 1900s. Today, Shanghai has about 150,000 registered foreigners. For centuries, Shanghai has been a center of International trade.