Whales

Whales

Every creature on earth makes a contribution to its habitat. Whales are no different. Did you know that the movement of a whale rising from the depths of the ocean creates a phenomenon called a ‘whale pump’? This activity helps to create a healthier environment for other organisms, like plankton. For a more detailed, scientific explanation, go here. Beyond this fascinating discovery, whales are an amazing mammal. They live their lives in the sea, including the females giving birth and suckling their young. One more interesting fact: The blue whale is the largest animal to have ever lived on earth.

Kyoto

Kyoto

Vintage Japan…Kyoto. Earlier this year, I did a blog on Tokyo and I have to admit the size of the city and the population at 40 million overwhelmed me. Where was the land that intrigues the rest of the world with its history of Geisha, paper lanterns, Shinto shrines and exquisite gardens? Ah, you’ll find it here in ancient Kyoto. For a thousand years, Kyoto was the capital of Japan until it was moved to Tokyo in the mid-1800s. With so much history, so many extraordinary monuments and beautiful gardens, Kyoto is one of Japan’s most visited cities.

Garlic

Garlic

Have you ever had one of those moments where the light goes on, or in some cases starts flashing? The latter happened to me recently when I watched a video for the preparation of Italian Bruschetta, which includes, among other ingredients, garlic and olive oil. I decided to toast a slice of my favorite gluten free bread (alas, I have to avoid most gluten-ish foods), barely heat a few thin slices of garlic in a tablespoon of olive oil then drizzle the concoction on the toast. I added a bit of salt and thought I’d died and gone to heaven. I didn’t know until then how much I loved garlic. Every day, life can hold something new. 

Bears Garlic

Bears Garlic

What a pretty woodland wildflower and it’s edible; bulb, stem, leaves and all. Bears garlic is native to Eurasia. It both smells and tastes like garlic. Caution: This plant resembles other wild plants, like Lily of the Valley, which are poisonous. So care must be taken to identify bears garlic correctly. This video, which is the first one below, takes pains to show the differences. As the name would suggest, the brown bear does enjoy this plant and will dig up the bulb for a special treat.

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.