Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Happy Frigid Wednesday, Critter Readers!

It seems winter has many stages, and I think this week we've officially reached "pissed off"! But the weekend looks better. Maybe we'd feel warmer if we had the cold weather superpowers of this little guy:

Knut the polar bear, in his younger days.

Soon we will learn more about polar bears and other members of their family!

In Not Minnesota news, my cousin TubaMan recently traveled to Mexico! He wrote a critter-filled and photographically beautiful post over here! Thanks for the shoutouts, TubaMan!

Animals in the news:

Minnesota may restrict elephant rides.

Our local Como Park Zoo polar bears need a place to crash for a while!

A mystery disease is killing bats out East! My bat Creature Feature is here.

The largest rodent ever?!!!

Horseshoe crabs are even older than scientists once believed!

Coming soon: Another Critter Corner milestone!

Hugs and



Thursday, January 24, 2008

Morning Moon.

Happy Friday, all!

I hope you've had a good week and that the cold weather hasn't caused any disasters in your lives. Thankfully our vehicles have been behaving.

One day a week I teach a few music lessons at a suburban high school. The parking lot of this establishment is horrifying; students running around without looking where they are going, driving around without looking where they're going. The day after I taught at the high school, I noticed a pretty big dent in the rear passenger door of the Road Toad. Doh! Obviously someone was parking (or reversing) too quickly near my car. At least the door opens and the paint isn't scratched, but what a bummer.

In Random Vending Machine Food news, this week I tried a new item from the student lounge at my school. Spicy Honey Mustard Kettlecorn. I know, what? I had to try it. I am a popcorn addict and this popcorn really punches you in the eye with the spicy mustard taste. But then the flavor mellows out and you can detect a delicate kettle corn taste. I bought a bag for R to try.

Side Note to CH originally from Indiana: Have you heard of a town called Popcorn, Indiana? (I guess it's near Bloomington.)

There was a full moon this week. Around 7 am on Wednesday morning the moon was "shining" in the northwestern sky outside our kitchen window. Even better, I noticed a murder of crows flying by.


It was cool to hear them cawing in the relative quiet of the morning. In this picture the crows are sitting in the tree in the far right of the photograph.

The colored lights you see in the center of the picture are on the western, or Minneapolis, side of the Mississippi.

Hopefully more critters will emerge this weekend as the temperatures rise!


Sunday, January 20, 2008


Happy Sunday, Critter readers!

Currently the Patriots and Chargers are playing; soon the Packers/Giants game will commence! As my Motherland is Wisconsin, obviously I must root for the Green and Gold!

This weekend has been B family oriented as we babysat Baby B last night. It must be cool to be eight months old like our nephew; yesterday he learned how to clap his hands. I mean, that's a pretty big accomplishment!

From Christmas:

The critters have all been in hiding because of the cold weather! We've been busy; I helped PG celebrate her birthday on Friday night, while R had a boy's night at his former abode. Yesterday we had a delightful brunch, hosted by the H family and joined by the S family. Delicious! I zoomed to the Met Regional auditions, but missed mezzo AA's performance. Today we had a B family brunch, because JB and her fiance JF were in town from Colorado.

Because of the lack of critters, today I've decided to focus on another of my hobbies: Thrift Store Shopping. If you're not squeamish about buying used garments, I highly recommend shopping at Goodwills, Salvation Armies and the like. Also, it's a great idea to look at the resale shops of rural areas and smaller towns, as there might be more vintage items there. Here are a few of my favorite thrift store finds!

The skirt and jacket are from the Methodist Church thrift shop in my hometown; I just got the raspberry sweater (Ann Taylor Loft) from a Unique Thrift store last weekend with my mother-in-law. (A wonderful adventure!)


This skirt is brown, if you can't tell. It is the Elevenses brand from Anthropologie, purchased at a local Goodwill. The textured shirt, from Goodwill too, I think, is originally from Talbot's.

Look at the layers in the skirt!

These items are from two different Unique Thrift stores. I love the skirt, which I think will be a good addition to my summer skirt collection, which mostly consists of one ratty denim skirt I wear every day! It's Nine West Sport or something like that. The sweater was from Benetton and still had the tags on it.

I found this New York and Co skirt at a Goodwill this summer; the t shirt is from Old Navy and is from TurnStyle, a name-brand consignment shop.

One of the favorite things I own must be my coat collection! About 80% comes from resale shops, including these two treasures from the Burnsville Unique Thrift store:

This was in the vintage section; it's a real heavy wool knit. I think it cost $5.99, but I did dry clean it and purchased the buttons you see in the picture, and paid a tailor to sew them on. The buttons cost more than the coat!

This is Calvin Klein...possibly $5.99 as well?

A fall coat, from either Portage or Ripon WI, which I think my little sister K especially hates!

This week I joined my sisters AB and KB for my first clothing swap. I packed up a grocery bag of sweaters and random stuff I haven't worn in over a year. Usually I make a Goodwill drop off of unwanted items every spring and fall, at least, so I didn't have too much to give away. It didn't seem that anyone picked up any of my garments! But it was a chance to meet some new folks, AND someone put THIS in the purse pile.



Yay, a new Coach bag for FREE! It's bigger than my other two, which I purchased for around $50 each at a resale shop and on Ebay.

You'll notice that there are no pants in my thrift hoard. I've had bad luck with finding pants that fit me, and usually have to pay full price for them. But, at the Goodwill in Burnsville, I did find this pair of REI brand men's zip-off pants:

I think they retail about $50 in the REI store. I have another pair of these I bought from that retailers "Scratch and Dent" sale; they had a broken zipper. I just put a paper clip on there and they work fine! These pants are perfect for camping and I couldn't pass them up for just $4.99.

I hope this post encourages you to go shopping at your local thrift store! It's a great way to fill your need for retail therapy without breaking the bank. Pick a day when you aren't in a hurry and feel like digging, and you could find some great new clothes!

My ultimate thrifting goals include finding a pair of Danskos in my size, finding cowboy boots, or some other kind of kick-ass boot, and of course scoring some flattering pants or jeans. But tomorrow AB and I are heading to Woodbury to check a new-to-me thrift store! I'll keep you posted about what we find!

What treasures have you found at the Goodwill?


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Entry repost: Wendell's Greatest Enemy

Howdy, critter fans!

I hope you're all doing well! If you're in my neck of the woods, it's going to be a chilly-ass weekend!

In baby fish news, Babykin the fry has not been spotted for several days! But, several tinier fish are in residence. R tried to comfort me, saying, "we've found some fry, and now more and more babies will be born." Our aquarium has many good hiding spots; hopefully the babies will hide and not be eaten!

Since I can't think of anything to write about, and y'all need some entertainment for the weekend, I'm doing my first repost. This is one of my favorite entries from my old blog, originally posted on 2/19/2005. If you haven't already read it, enjoy! Or perhaps you've...forgotten. Hopefully some of these insects don't decide to come and snuggle with you in the frigid temperatures!

Faint of heart, beware! For this writeup on the Critter Corner page is indeed the most horrifying of all creatures for Wendell: The Centipede!

Just Google the word centipede and terrible photographs of this insect will pop up, inspiring yelps of fear and spine tinglies!

See, here is a picture now!


I will not classify the centipede in the "Bad-Ass Animal" category...although people in the tropics might!

Ok, the way to get past fear is through education. (Incidentally, centipedes are some of the least-studied arthropods. Probably because the constant yelps of fear from centipede researchers distracted the other scientists.)

The super-class Myriopoda also includes millipedes (which are more worm-like to me and less scary; also I haven't seen them in my house), indoor and outdoor centipedes. There are about 3,000 species of class Chilopoda (centipedes) throughout the world, most commonly found in moist, warm areas. Most centipedes dwell outdoors under rocks and logs, and are fairly small.

The body of the centipede consists of 15 to 177 segments, each having a pair of legs. Apparently legs that are cut off can regenerate. The first pair of legs are modified into pincers, from which venom is expelled. Centipedes breathe through holes called spiracles, positioned along the body.

Centipedes are carnivores, using poison to kill their prey. For dinner, centipedes prefer other insects, earthworms, slugs and spiders. In Trinidad they also kill mice and small lizards!

Thankfully North American centipedes are small enough only to inflict a painful bite. Attacks of "Scolopendra gigantea" have resulted in one reported death in the Phillippines. Scolopendra species can get as large as 26 cm! (And to think JB lived in that country for the last year and a half!)


Centipedes can live up to six years! (That's a lot of time to hold a grudge against, say, me!) The life cycle starts as (60 or so) eggs which are fertilized inside the female. She then digs a hole and lays the eggs there. Some species stay and guard the eggs/young. The growth stage is extended, with larvae that molt their skin, gradually grow and develop more and more legs.

Enemies of the centipede include Wendell, shrews, birds and toads. "Ew, gross!" tidbit: some people eat centipedes?!

Two other tidbits: centipedes actually are helpful when indoors? (Because they eat other insects) and, there is a species of glow-in-the-dark ones! (Geophilus electricus) I think they live in western Europe?

The common house centipede (Scutigera forceps) has been an enemy of mine since childhood. My family lives in a house with an unfinished basement, which is good because we burn wood for heat. Hence there are great stacks of wood, loose bark and dirt down there. (Which of course gets cleaned up.) As kids we'd have to throw in the wood, and worse, stack it. So that was always scary because centipedes were down there. And your Kleenex (tm) would be filled with brown snot afterwards.

But the centipedes would mostly hang out in the bathroom. Upon seeing one, my sisters and I would flee, screaming. Then my Dad would go in and invariably come out with a tissue, with which he would lunge at us or pretend to throw at us! "Come see the big centipede," he would laugh! (Ah, happy memories.)

The fun continued in college when I received a note from my Dad. (He is a great Dad but not the best correspondent.) guessed it, (or maybe not?) it contained a dead centipede taped to a hand-written note that read, "Thinking of you, Love D."
No money, just a dead arthropod.

Here in MN centipedes would attack in my upstairs apartment. One website I just went to claimed that centipedes do not travel in sink drains. I better dispel that lie PRONTO! Once I was sitting on the toilet during a spring rainstorm, when not one but TWO centipedes came RUNNING out of the f*cking bathtub drain! It was a bad night.

Now that I've moved from squishing centipedes with random household objects to the more sophisticated chemical warfare, things have gotten better. In fact, I recently used my giant can of "Raid" to spray a small centipede on my apartment stairwell wall. It was late at night, and I thought, well, I could let this guy live. But then I thought about the half-inch gap under my apartment's back door and I realized D [2008 note: my roommate at the time] and I could be easy targets for the beast-in-training! Hence I killed it.

There are centipedes in R's basement as well. [2008 Note: R was my boyf at the time and had a basement/media room at his house.] He doesn't seem as concerned about them as myself. In fact, one of his techniques, and a non-recommended way to kill a centipede, is by trying to burn it with a lighter while it is on the wall. Thankfully no arson occurred, but even worse, the centipede ran off!

No doubt to stew and plan revenge for up to six years!


I might have centipede nightmares tonight,

Friday, January 11, 2008

Not Minnesota/Mexican Jumping Beans

Hello everyone! Happy Friday!

How are you?

Life lesson of the day: Do not lock your keys, purse, cell phone and extra set of keys inside of your car that happens to be running. I did this yesterday, and afterward stood outside of the vehicle for a moment, like, "damn." I was locked out of my apartment AND my car. I am SO thankful for the auto shop down the street, which has been exceedingly honest with us about repairs and has taken a look at our car on a moments notice. Thankfully it's just a few blocks away, so I walked down there and explained to Dave the situation. He drove me back up the hill, and after informing me that his old school methods did not point to a misspent youth, proceeded to open the car door with a screwdriver and a wire hanger! They charged me $30. I gotta bake him some cookies.

In B family news, one of our long held hopes has finally been realized! A baby fish was born in our aquarium!

Um, you can't see the guppy fry in that photo. This is what she looks like; we named her Babykin.

In Not Minnesota news, here are some of R's photos from his trip to Palm Springs, California, including a picture of a hawk.



It was windy:

R's hotel, whose room service apparently served him the grossest and saltiest philly cheese steak sandwich EVER:


One of their business dinners was held at an aeronautics museum:

Gotta love a pin-up girl!

R also brought me back a living present! Mexican Jumping Beans!

Did you have some of these as a kid?! I did; I think I tried to sleep with them under my pillow, which didn't work out too well.

Called brincadores in Spanish, jumping beans are inhabited by moth larvae; this moth, Cydia deshaisiana:

cydia moth.jpg

The moth inserts her egg into a young seed pod of a brushy bush in the Sebastiana genus, native to the Sonoran region of Mexico:

If there is enough moisture, the egg hatches into a larva, which spins a web like a spider. In order to avoid drying out, the larva pulls its filaments to move the bean! Apparently we're supposed to immerse our beans several times monthly in order to allow the larvae to move into the next, pupal stage. Before spinning the cocoon, the larvae will eat a small hole through the seed, which he will then close off with filament. This is because the adult moths don't have jaws! The adults will then break forth in the spring to breed and start the jumping bean cycle once more!

Side Note: Alamos, Sonora is the Jumping Bean Capital of the World!


Have a great weekend!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Pheasants and Quail

Greetings everyone!

I hope you're all doing well and feeling great! Damn, is that too cheery?

Currently I am feeling a burning in my left nostril. It is the after affect of making my inaugural vinagre, which is a Puerto Rican homemade hot sauce (I think) or flavoring. I found the recipe at the blog of Daisy Martinez, here. Even though I used gloves to handle the chilis, somehow my nostril must have been contaminated. We'll see if I can utilize this condiment; my version made a lot more than the quart indicated in the recipe.

The last few days have been interesting as I have been HOME ALONE! R traveled to Palm Springs, California for work on Thursday, and returns tonight. I was very mad that he got to go to Cali, especially while I'm otherwise free. But the plane ticket for me to join him was $1,000 or something stupid.

In my research of Palm Springs, I discovered that the state bird of California is the California quail. This tied in nicely with the pheasants we saw over Christmas in Wisconsin. We were on our way to A and T-Dogg's house when I took a wrong turn on a country road. Thankfully it was a beautiful sunny day, and we spotted a group of pheasants spanning a farm side road. One of the pheasants had lost a race with another car, however! But the rest moved out of the way as we turned around and went in the right direction.

So, today we will learn about pheasants and quail!

The California quail, Callipepla california:

Isn't he cute?!

More familiar to you may be this species; the bobwhite quail native to the Upper Midwest, Colinus virginianus:

(Obviously appearance in California is more important than in the Midwest!)

Bobwhites, as bobwhite quail are otherwise known, are given that name because of their distinctive call. These birds range from Ontario to Central America. They are about six to seven inches tall and weigh around six ounces. Males are larger and more distinctively marked with black and white, like the photo above, while females are more drab in color.

Quail especially like areas that are freshly burned for foraging. They need some type of brushy or forest cover. Along with seeds, nuts, fruits and plants, bobwhites eat a lot of insects.

Quail usually travel in a covey of five to 30 birds, which disperse into pairs during the mating season in April. The quail pair off into a territory of their own and build a nest within dry plant matter, where 12 to 14 white eggs are laid. It seems more than one female may lay eggs in any particular nest. Males assist with the incubation, and the chicks leave the nest 24 hours after they are hatched. In fact, chicks are independent after two weeks. About half of quail chicks survive their first year.

Maybe R and I should raise baby quail chicks in our apartment this spring?

Unlike quail, which have New World (the two species above) and Old World species, pheasants are natives of Asia! Because they're adaptable and fun to hunt, pheasants were introduced all over the world, first reaching the United Kingdom in the 10th century. They died out there eventually but were reintroduced for hunting. The first pheasants arrived in the United States in 1857. They've also been carried to New Zealand, Hawaii and Chile, among other places.


Bigger than quail, pheasants are around 20 to 30 inches long, with a tail measuring 12 inches or more. They weigh between one and six pounds. Along with plant matter, pheasants eat a lot of snakes, lizards, insects and small mammals. Pheasants live in loose groups and nest in a similar way to quail, although with pheasants there is more of a harem system with one rooster and several hens.

A pheasant nest.

It seems like pheasant chicks stay in a family group until they're about full grown at five weeks.

Mama and babykins.

At night or in inclement weather, pheasants roost in trees. They're short distance fliers, usually attaining an airspeed of 27 to 38 miles per hour. But as hunters know, a fleeing pheasant can fly up to 60 mph. Often dogs are trained to flush out the birds, which make a distinctive whirring sound as they fly up out of cover.

This male pheasant looks ticked off!

This pheasant chick looks adorable!

Because of their status as game birds, both pheasants and quail are raised in farms. It seems most pheasants in England are propagated in captivity, and usually don't survive more than a year in the wild. Most pheasants in the U.S., however, are feral birds. With the decline of farmland, pheasants are becoming threatened in some areas. Most states only allow roosters to be shot. (Any hunters want to confirm this?)

Natural enemies of pheasants and quail include hawks, owls, foxes, skunks, raccoons, snakes and opossum. Eggs and chicks are especially vulnerable to attack.

I'm just picturing the covey of quail that we really should get this spring. They can roost in a basket hung on R's clothes rack, we can feed them toast crumbs and they can peck our floors clean, and then the chicks will follow us as we walk around the block!

Do you have any quail or pheasant stories?

Guard your nostrils from the chili peppers,

Wednesday, January 2, 2008



Happy Going-Back-to-Work Day! Ha ha, I don't start working until the 16th! $$$ Instead, I messed around on the computer for a few hours, had a great chat with my buddy TdB from New Jersey, went to a step class at the gym which TOTALLY DESTROYED ME (more on that later), got groceries, checked out three fun books from the library, did the dishes and now am back on the computer.

In Ryan Adams news, "Easy Tiger" was voted by listeners as album number 32 out of the "Top 89 of 2007" from our local radio station The Current. My sister AG gave me two Whiskeytown cd's for Christmas! I squealed with delight upon opening them; they are Ryan Adam's first, defunct band! The cd's are Stranger's Almanac and Pneumonia. Thanks AG!

Recently Maven mentioned the idea of wanting to try something completely new and challenging. R and I are planning on registering for a sprint triathlon, and so yesterday we took Elsie the truckster to the gym pool. While we both have experience with running and biking, swimming is another story.


Sorry Michael Phelps; I suck at swimming. Hopefully we can register for a swimming class in town, because I need help with my "stroke". I like to think the fact that I can run for a few miles without stopping means I'm somewhat in shape, but attempting to swim proves something different. Like, I'm in shape, except for the arm and leg motions required while swimming. And also I choked on some water a few times.

But it is humbling and freeing to do something at which you do not excel. R is more proficient at swimming and more buoyant than I am, but I know if I work hard I will improve and end up with a physique like Michael Phelps be able to succeed during the swim portion of the triathlon.

I AM proficient at step aerobics, but today's class hurt my entire ass-leg. Next time I will only use one block under my step instead of two.

Maybe step aerobics would be easier if I wore a get up like this:


Instead of this:

(Really I wear stretchy capris or shorts and a t shirt, and shoes.)

Returning the focus to critters, today I saw a
in the backyard and a
on a light post.

Hope you enjoyed the sunny day!

Sore Wendell