Friday, April 28, 2017

Cultural Crafts

 One of the crafts taught during cultural heritage week is mask making.  Students start with a block of wood on which they draw the pattern.  They fashion the block into a mask and paint it. 

One way to remove the extra wood is to carve or file away the parts not needed before sanding it smooth.  The picture you see to the left is one of the young men who is working on smoothing and removing excess wood.

 The picture to the right shows a mask further along in the process.  The face is carved out and the mask has more shape to it but he still has to hallow out the inside.  Eventually, he'll finish it by painting it so it has personality.

The young man, next to the one showing his mask is carving out the inside of the mask so it looks like a real mask. These types of masks are made to hang on the wall. 

Many students finish their masks in the three days but others have to take it home to finish.  Fortunately, many have parents or relatives who help them finish.

 The two photos above show students working on creating their fishing hooks.  The photo on the left shows the young man wrapping the hook with string to keep the three individual barbs together to form the hook.  The photo on the left shows a young person who is still smoothing out and bending the wire into one of the three hooks. 

These are the local native hooks.  They are bigger with more barbs than the normal ones.  People attach these to a fishing line which is tied to a thick stick.  They don't use regular fishing poles and they do not cast.  They just drop it into the water, jiggle a bit, until they snag a fish or two.

I'm hoping to share dance videos on Monday from earlier this week.  Hope you've enjoyed this.  Let me know what you think.

Thursday, April 27, 2017


 Welcome to today's sharing of our local culture.  This one long word is posted in one of the rooms.  I am not sure how many letters is in the word but it means "Don't you want to fly?" 

The language actually has base words with adjectives, etc to make these long words.  I've always loved seeing the word. 

I can read enough to follow along in the church hymnal but not enough to carry on a long conversation.

One of the events during cultural heritage week is when students have the opportunity to build black fish traps.  The picture on the right is of an older black fish trap. It was made of strips woven together.  Inside the cone, is a much smaller cone made out of the same material. 

The idea behind the trap is sort of like a funnel.  The fish swim in it before being funneled into the bottom end where they are trapped at the end.  Black fish are on average about 6 inches long.

The picture to the left, shows the modern version of the trap. It is made of wire sewn into a circle and a small cone also made out of wire sits inside the sewn lip.  The fish are pushed into the interior cone by the current and they stay there until someone checks the trap.

The idea is the fish are trapped until freed.  I do not know the actual biological name for the black fish because all I've ever heard is the local name. 

I'll have more to share tomorrow.  We danced last night for about two hours.  There will be more dancing tonight.  I'll post some pictures tomorrow so you can see local dancing.  I even have some video I'll share.

Have a great day.  Enjoy and I'll have more for you over the next couple of days.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

It's That Time Of Year.

People, Portrait Man, Elder, Person  Every spring, our school spends three days celebrating the culture and today was the first day.  

The mornings are spent listening to six different speakers, two per day, while the afternoons are spent learning traditional crafts.

The speakers are people who have knowledge to share.  For instance, two women talk about the whole concept of family which is more than just relationships.  Its more like the whole seasonal look at family life.  The environmental department sends people in to discuss proper disposal of batteries and used oil.  They also have students work on braiding plastic bags together to be used for other things.

We had someone talk about learning western ways while preserving the culture.  Knowing the western ways tend to run things yet knowing how to use it for your advantage.  The city sends representatives in to discuss the importance of an education for taking over from current leaders.  I always enjoy listening to the various talks.

In the afternoon, students can choose to bead which means there are specific beading patterns learned for bracelets which everyone loves to make and wear.  I know the pattern but haven't learned to do it with the smaller beads.  I will one day.  There are chances for students to carve and decorate wooden masks.  I've seen some beautiful ones made by students.

In addition, they can learn to make steel hooks to fish with.  The hooks have three steel barbs on them and are used regularly by everyone in the village for fishing.  Of course, one can learn to make black fish nets out of wire and wood or learn to fix nets.  There is also Quspuk (traditional top) making, and other types of sewing.

Students choose one activity and spend three days learning and working to complete their project.  Most teachers choose one but I usually either guard a door to make sure students stay in the proper wing or I help with Quspuk making.

Tonight and Thursday, the students perform for the community.  Each grade, beginning with third grade, will dance a specific dance.  By the time they graduate, they will have learned nine different dances.  Dances which are regularly performed at the big dance gatherings.

I should have pictures for you tomorrow.  I'll post a few here and there over the next two days.  Have a good day.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

More SkateBoarding.

Man in Grey Shirt and Blue Denim Jeans Playing Skateboard  I teach a physics class which is looking at skateboarding right now.  I have a couple of students who are finding the whole thing exciting.  Yes, there is a place to use a skateboard but its not much more than a boardwalk.

I'm checking with the principal to see if she'll let us do something with them in the school but I'm don't know.  A few people do have skateboards in the village but none of the kids spend hours doing it.

So for the moment, until I get things squared away for that, we will find out how skateboards are actually made.  We will also look at what you need to know to buy one.  I  did learn you do not really want one from any of the regular stores like Target or Walmart because they are not as durable as the ones you buy from a specialty shop.

I downloaded a video to show and the guy on the video stated he bought one from a regular store and it broke the first time he used it.  It makes sense because if you want a bicycle, it is recommended you go to a bike shop to get a good one. There is no place to buy a skateboard locally so they'd have to do it in Anchorage when there.  This way, they know what to look for.

In addition, I've got a video to show them that discusses making your own board.  In many cases, this is taking a blank deck and creating the artwork for it.  While checking things out, I saw some really cool.  This leads me to the conclusion the artwork on a skateboard can be a good as you see in neighborhoods with graffiti or in the galleries.

 Green and Yellow SkateboardFree stock photo of glass, architecture, leaves, inside  these are just a couple showing they don't have to be plane.

I am so glad I decided to teach this unit.  I've come away with a better appreciation of skateboards and the sport of skateboarding. No I do not plan to learn to ride one only because I've got bad eyes and if I ever fell wrong, it would be bad.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Last Friday

Free stock photo of melting, snow, thawing, winter  It is that time of year when the temperatures have finally risen to something resembling warm (above zero) and the snow is melting so we see the mud/dirt/brown grass.

Contrary to popular opinion, this is the time of year when most Alaskans get cabin fever.  We have to be at work but the outdoors calls our name to go play.

I hear the wind calling my name but I'm stuck indoors working when I'd rather be out walking across the tundra, enjoying the sun light.

In a couple weeks, the early greens will start poking their heads out of the ground and everyone goes out to enjoy these beautiful reminders of spring.  The birds are returning so instead of the usual motorized sounds of ATV's and Snowmachines, one can hear the hello chirpings of the returning birds.

It is a huge celebration when birds return.  I love walking up the road to the old airport with the wind gently tickling my ears while I listen to the birds singing in joy at returning home.  In the distance, some of the lakes are still frozen and ringed with snow but more have melted.  Its almost to the point where the men can pull their boats out and put them on the river.

Every spring, the local school celebrates spring by having three days devoted to the local culture.  Usually, trips are arranged to take students out to ice fish but this year, everything has melted so much, they can't do that.  I think the trips will actually be walks out on the tundra with the elders giving students lessons.

This is the time of year I love best.  In addition, the school hosts dancing two to three nights so children can dance for their parents showing what they've learned during the year.  The first night they dance alone, the second night the parents and other family members join in.  It is a joy to see.

Usually, Friday night would signal the beginning of Winterfest, a celebration where dancers come from other villages but this year it was held back in March so there will be no added dancers this year.

I'll be taking photos of activities and dancing to share with everyone.  Have a good day.

Thursday, April 20, 2017


Skateboarding, Skateboarder, Skateboard  Over the past few days, I've been checking out skateboarding.  I actually teach one physics class so I decided to spend some time looking at the physics involved in skateboarding.  I realize many readers are not into skateboarding but many children are.

Its amazing because so many kids and adults will spend hours practicing on their skateboards at shopping malls, parks, anywhere with a flat surface.

They are not wasting time. They are actually learning so many skills which are applicable to real life.  The skills included but not limited to are:

1.  Perseverance. They try again and again until they succeed in learning a trick.  It doesn't matter how many times they fall down, they pick themselves up and try again.  Even when they've learned a trick, they still fall due to a slight miscalculation.

2.  Physics.  Each trick they learn requires an acquired knowledge of physics.  They may not always know the exact terms but they know what they have to do to do the trick.  I've been watching videos which explain the physics behind certain tricks and its amazing how much physics is involved.

3.  If they become good enough, they could become a professional skateboarder.  The top of the top earn between $500,000 and a million dollars per year.  Those who are mid - level, only make $50,000 to $100,000 per year.  Not bad for just riding a skateboard.

4.  With a bit of college education, skateboarders can go into designing parks, the ones which are considered the best for these athletes.  Parks can range in size from very small to covering a whole block.  I've seen a park tucked in behind the city library. I've also seen other parks which covered a whole block with walkways and curved skateboarding areas intertwined to challenge the skateboarder.

The problem with where I live?  There are no paved streets or flat areas.  There are a couple new boardwalks which can be used by skaters but the boardwalks are inclined.  Remember, these kids are developing great skills.  Keep that in mind the next time your kid heads off to spend time outdoors.

Let me know what you think.

Best Clothing To Wear In The Summer.

White Male, 3D Model, Isolated, 3D  Summer is approaching and its time to look at the best clothing to wear when the temperatures increase.  As you know, you should not be wearing items which expose most or all of your skin, especially if you do not want to get skin cancer later in life.

You should look for clothing out of cotton because cotton acts like a towel and pulls moisture away from your skin, thus discouraging the growth of bacteria and yeast.

Another good fabric for the summer is linen.  It is more often produced with a loose weave and breathes well.  I have some light weight linen I made a cover out of so I can wear my tank tops, yet stay cool.

Do not choose clothing made of synthetic fibers because the material that does not breath causing the moisture to stick to you rather than providing the desired cooling effect.  In addition, the lack of wicking can cause people to break out in a rash.

In addition, make sure the fabric feels light.  If you hold it up to the light and can see through it a little, that is perfect.   Although it is recommended a person choose lighter colors such as white, tan, or pale yellow because they reflect light rather than absorb it, there is some research out there that indicates in certain conditions dark loosely woven materials are better.

Choose loose fitting clothing because your blood vessels dilate in the summer, causing your body to release heat through the skin. The loose clothing allows your blood to circulate better while tight fitting clothing can slow down the cooling effect.

The ideal clothing consists of long sleeves, long pants or long skirts so your skin is covered. The summer heat makes us want to wear tank tops and shorts but exposure to UV rays can cause sunburns and the heat can cause your skin to dry out making it more prone to wrinkles and aging skin.

So if you plan to spend time outdoors this summer, be sure to dress appropriately so you avoid sunburn and aging.  Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

10 Ideas for Cooking With Kale

Plant, Mangel, Kale, Food, Healthy  Kale is one of the weird greens you see at the Farmers Market but may not buy because you aren't sure what to do with it or you've had bad experiences in the past.

Kale is a member of the cabbage family but is considered a super food because its filled with vitamins, etc.  Its actually classified as one of the most nutrient dense foods out there.

Kale can have crinkly or smooth leaves, can be green, purple, or green with red leaves.  The most common is the Scots Kale which is green.  

A cup of raw kale contains these percentages of each vitamin in terms of the recommended daily allowance.  Vitamin A - 206%, Vitamin K - 684%, Vitamin C - 134%, Vitamin B6 - 9%, Manganese - 26%, Calcium - 9%, Copper - 10%, Potassium - 9%, and Magnesium - 6%.  The cup has 33 calories and contains omega-3 fatty acid along with 3 grams of protein.

In addition, kale has antioxidants and contains substances that can help lower cholesterol, help your eyes, and is high in Beta-Carotone.

So how do you fix it to enjoy.  I read if you are using the larger kale leaves, you should cut out the middle stem which can be stringy and harder to eat. So prepare your leaves and try the following.

1.  Make kale chips by drizzling oil on the leaves, salt, and bake till dried.

2.  Finely chop the kale leaves, add a couple of eggs so the egg just coats the leaves, top with graded cheese and bake at 350 till done.  I bake it in a flat plan and add finely chopped mushrooms.

3. Add chopped up kale to soups for extra nutrition.  Think about a green gazpacho.

4. Use it in your stir fry's with cabbage and brocolli.

5. Throw it in your freshly made juice or in your morning smoothy.

6. Add kale cooked with onions and garlic till soft, then spread on pizza dough.  Top with cheese, chopped tomatoes, olives, and other toppings.  Bake till done.

7. Create an omelet with kale, onions, garlic, and cheese.  Top with a bit of salsa.

8.  Tear pieces to add to your salad with the spinach, lettuce, and chard.

9. I cook up kale,  onions, garlic, and beans with enchilada sauce for either an enchilada stuffing in stacked enchiladas or I use it as stuffing for tamales.

10. Roast some winter squash.  In a separate pan, cook up kale torn up into pieces, sage, allspice, salt, red pepper flakes, and 1/4 cup dried cranberries in a bit of oil and water till tender. Stir the roasted squash in and serve.

I adore cooking with kale due to its taste.  I hope you find a couple things you want to try.  Let me know what you think.

Monday, April 17, 2017

10 of the Best Places To Visit In the Summer.

Lake Tahoe, California, Mountain, Forest

Have you started planning your summer?  I have although most of my traveling is related to either teaching or to the latest in science but educational topics in general.  I do spend a couple extra days so I can out the sites when visiting new places if its a place I've never been.

There are places best visited at certain times of the year depending on what its famous for.  If you want to visit Alaska to see the Aurora, go in October or March when the viewing is good but it has not yet reached the way below zero temperatures.  If you want to go fishing when its warm, you are not going to go to Wisconsin in the  middle of winter.

Here are some spots you might want to check out if you love to travel.

1.  Botswana in our summer is great for a boating safari in the Okavango Delta.  The area is teaming with wildlife and the river is at its highest.  Take a camera and come back with beautiful photographs.

2. California's coast near Carmel is great in the summer due to beaches, hiking trails, and vineyards in the area.

3. Go Bengal tiger watching in Nepal.  If you are not one to rough it, there is now a Safari Lodge where you can stay in luxury.

4. Check out Maui where the currents are better for swimmers. Maui offers people the chance to snorkel alongside five different types of turtles.

5. What about Santorini Greece where you can enjoy the pristine waters, climb ancient steps up to a historic city, or have a great view of a caldera.

6.  Fiji is a great place to visit during our summer because its the off season for the southern hemisphere, thus hotel rooms and bungalow can be less expensive.   I enjoyed my short visit there many years ago and would love to go back.

7. Cape Cod just an hour outside of Boston is known for its beaches, seafood, and clear nights. It has a National Seashore covering 40 miles of sea shore and trails including one stopping at a 150 plus year old light house.

8. Chicago has the free Lincoln Park Zoo with 230 different animals, Sears Tower which is so tall you can see into surrounding states on a clear day, and over 7000 acres of parkland.

9. Check out the Grand Canyon in the northwest corner of Arizona.  The canyon itself is one mile deep and 277 miles long.  Use the Bright Angel Trail when hiking the canyon because it has shade, water, and toilets.  If you want to stay at the Canyon, plan on booking at least a year in advance but cheaper lodging can be found just outside the canyon.  Last time I was there, I got some great shots of nature.

10. Think about visiting San Francisco with the infamous Alcatraz island, go down Lombardi street which carries the reputation for being the crookedest street in the world and other great tourist places.  I love visiting San Francisco due to the food found everywhere.

These are a few places to think about.  Later on, I'll talk about staying home and checking out your own town.  Have a good time and let me know where you recommend.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Easter Breads From Around the World.

Hefekranz, Plait, Wreath, Wreath Bread  Its almost Easter, a time when many cultures celebrate with special breads.  When I lived in Australia, we always bought hot cross buns from the local store because that was their bread.

I think hot cross buns are the best known bread.  It is one I've always heard associated with Easter, even before I lived in Australia. If you've never had them, they are good.

1.Hot Cross Buns are spiced buns filled with raisins or currants. There is a cross on top filled with icings.

2. Armenian Choereg is a braided loaf flavored with a spice derived from sour cherry seeds and sprinkled with sesame seeds.

3.  Bulgarian Kozunak is an egg rich bread with raisins, nuts, and lemon zest.  Sometimes its braided or shaped into a loaf or studded with eggs.

4. Croatian Pinca is a lovely sweet bread flavored with citrus zest.

5. Dutch Paasbrood is another sweet bread filled with a sweetened almond paste, raisins, and candied citrus.

6. Greek Tsouriki is a sweet braided bread flavored with the spice from sour cherry seeds, anise and citrus peels. Each loaf contains one red colored egg which represents Christs blood.

7. Ukranian Babka is a sweet bread filled with raisins and baked in a coffee tin.

8. Spanish Hornazo is slightly different from most other Easter Breads in that it is a savory bread stuffed with eggs and sausage.

9. Russian Kulich is a cylindrical sweet bread flavored with  saffron, cardamon raisins, candied citrus, and nuts, covered in icing and served with a special cheese.

10. Italian Pene di Pasqua is a a braided bread with an egg in the center.

There are other breads eaten on Easter but these made me drool all over my keyboard.  If any look good, check them out.  Have a good weekend.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Recycling Easter Eggs

Easter, Egg, Colorful, Hare  Its that time of year again when we stock up on baskets, eggs, dyes, and candies to create treats for children.  We take time to dye the eggs in a rainbow of colors.  We find time to pack plastic grass filled baskets with treats so children wake up to an amazing site.  Sometimes we even spend time setting up an Easter egg hunt but what happens when its all done?  Where does everything go?

I have a friend who is an elementary school teacher.  One year she purchased a bunch of those plastic eggs which separate in half to expose a treat.  She filled them with small toys, candies, or bits of cheap jewelry.  After hiding them in the school library, she opened it up so her students and parents could come in for an Easter egg hunt.

Earlier in the week, she had students weave their own baskets out of construction paper.  The grass was made out of shredded waste paper.  Its true, the paper was mostly black/white/gray but the kids didn't mind.  They are used to it being white or white with brown spots peeking through.  They never see green grass till May or June.

She'd spend Saturday filling the eggs with various treats.  She had a great time buying small candies and trinkets for the eggs.  Later in the evening, she hid the eggs and other treats such as those marshmallow eggs that are too big for the eggs.  She got creative.

Sunday, just after noon, she'd open the library so her students and their younger siblings could come in to hunt eggs.  The kids wandered through, finding everything.  On their way out the door, they'd stop to remove the treats before depositing the eggs in a box.  At the end of the event, she would match up halves to make sure she had most or all of the eggs.

You may wonder why she used plastic eggs rather than real eggs but at over $4.00 a dozen, the plastic eggs are a much better price than real eggs.  In addition, she'd reuse the eggs so the cost per year decreased the longer she used them and it cut down on the amount of trash added to the dump.

Let me know what you think?  Have a good day.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Additional Ways To Prevent Sunburn.

Sunset, Evening, Romantic, Sun

When I was a teenager, I was out enjoying myself on a cloudy day.  The next day, I woke up with  a sunburn. I honestly thought you couldn't get a sunburn if the sun was not out.  What a way to learn I was wrong. 

When the longer days hit, I often have trouble finding my hat I prefer wearing during the summer.  Unfortunately, sunscreens often cause my eyes to sting when I use them on my face so I try to wear a hat.  It is recommended you wear a wide brimmed hat rather than a baseball hat because it provides protection for your ears and neck in addition to your face. 

It is also suggested you wear long sleeved shirts and pants to keep your body from burning.  I have trouble with wearing clothing in the summer after wearing it all winter.  I love feeling the warmth but I do know there is clothing out there that is designed to protect you from the sun while providing the coolness you want. 

One of the most important things to wear in the summer are a good pair of sunglasses.  I know you are saying, you can't get sun burned eyes but that is not quite right. The sunglasses need to provide UV protection because if your eyes are exposed to too much UV, you could end up with cataracts.  I've heard eye doctors commenting that younger and younger people are ending up with cataracts.

Don't think sun glasses, hats, and long sleeves are only for adults.  Children need them more because they experience more exposure to the sun.  Did you know children's eyes are more susceptible to sun damage than an adults because their eyes are clearer? 

Children tend to spend more time outside than most adults which leads to the fact that most adults receive between 20 and 25 percent of their lifetime exposure to sun before the age of 21. This figure seems to be the latest and disagrees with earlier studies which claimed 80 percent.

So if you want the best protection against sunburn remember to wear sunscreen, wide brimmed hats, clothing to cover your body, and sun glasses.  Don't forget to protect your children, no matter how young.  You don't want to end up looking like a wrinkly prune at the age of 30.  Be smart.

Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Finding The Best Sunscreens.

Sun Protection, Lotion, Spf, Sun Although it is spring and just warming up for some of us, it is not too early to think about sunscreen.  When I was young, no one really used it because it was the thing to be nice and tan.  Tan equated to being healthier.  As a teenager, I never gave any thought to the future.

Yes, as a teenager, I ended up with several bad burns.  Bad enough the skin peeled but to us, that was completely normal.  Now, however, it is recommended you do not get super tanned or get burned.

It is strongly recommended people wear a good sunscreen but if you've ever shopped for some, you know how many choices there are on the shelf.  Someone told me, I should buy a brand new bottle every single year but I hate doing it when I have a half used bottle at home.  According to Mayo Clinic, sunscreen is designed to remain at full strength for three years so its best to check the expiration date on the bottle.

If the expiration date has passed, throw it out and get a new bottle.  If there is no expiration date on the bottle, write it in with permanent black ink so you know when it is expired.  As for application, it is recommended you use at least one ounce or 30 ml every time you apply it.  This means a four ounce bottle should last for 4 applications.

Sunscreen should be reapplied every 2 hours.  If you are swimming or perspiring, apply it more frequently.  Be sure to use a sunscreen of at least SPF 15.   So what do you look for when you buy sunscreen.  Are there things to look for?  Yes, so on to how to read the label to find the sunscreen which is best for you.

1. You want a broad spectrum sunscreen since it will protect you from both UVA (Ultraviolet A) and UVB (Ultraviolet B). The UVA waves are responsible for wrinkles, sagging and other signs of aging while UVB is responsible for sunburns.  Both can cause skin cancer.

2. SPF or Sun Protection Factor.  This number tells you how long you can stay in the sun before your skin starts burning. If you burn in 20 minutes, an SPF of 15 means you should be able to stay out in the sun 15 times longer.  In reality, most SPF numbers are determined in the lab so it is recommended you reapply your sunscreen every two hours.  Any SPF over 50 is not worth it.  You really don't need anything over SPF 15 for general use and SPF if you are outdoors for an extended period of time.

3. The term water resistant simply means it stays on longer when swimming or sweating.  The FDA prohibits the use of the terms waterproof or sweat proof since no sunscreen can be either waterproof or sweat proof.

4.  Look for the skin cancer foundation seal of approval.  If it has a daily use approval, the sunscreen is good for limited daily exposure.  If it has the active seal, it is approved for extended use outside.

5. Active ingredients.  There are two types of active ingredients found in sunscreen are chemical and physical ingredients.  Active ingredients include avobenzone and benzophenone which absorb the ultraviolet rays.  Physical ingredients include zinc oxide or titanium oxide which stay on top of the skin to deflect rays.

So next time you shop for sunscreen, keep these five things in mind as you shop for your next bottle.

Let me know what you think.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Is Spring Here?

Meadow, Snow, Snow Melt, Winter  Spring is definitely coming to this part of Alaska.  There is still a fair bit of snow on the ground but we are seeing patches of dirt peeking through.

We seldom see flowers peeking up through the snow.  When we see flowers, its usually outside of town on the tundra when the berries bloom in preparation for producing fruit.

Most of the ground in town is either dirt, well mud once the snow melts or brown grass which went dormant over the winter.

Although it takes several weeks for the whole process to happen, it feels as if its almost over night.  I think that is because the sun rises around 7 AM and sets around 11 PM right now and we are so busy enjoying the longer warmer days that we don't pay as much attention as we should.

Yesterday, I noticed the area around the airport runway showed more dirt than snow. The airport runway is elevated so when the wind blows, the snow is blown away from it.  In addition, the runway is usually plowed whenever there is a snow fall.

In fact, we have not gotten as much snow as in the past. When I first moved here, we usually got enough snow that it was up to the top of the handrail of my porch.  The past year or so, its never gotten that tall.  I remember one year where we had so much snow, people had to dig entry ways through the snow to their saunas.

There was one year, we had blizzard after blizzard hit the village.  One of the guys headed home and had problems finding his house.  He realized he was on top of a neighbors house.  Apparently,  he climbed up the snow bank to the top of the apartment without knowing it.

On my way around town, I noticed the snow had changed from light, fluffy, which glistened as if filled with diamonds to the crystalline chunky stuff, neither of which is good for snow balls. I suspect the snow is just going to melt and be gone by May first.

Will I miss the snow?  Sort of.  When the snow goes, the lake will thaw changing into water and the shortcut to the post office disappears.  I'll have to go all the way around.  I'll no longer be able to use my sled when I have to pick up boxes at the post office or at the airlines place.  I won't even be able to cut straight across.  I will miss the snow, when I have to clump through the oily, sticky, mud.

I will not miss it because I prefer the warmer temperatures and the longer days.  I like the warmer part of the year.  It is spring out and I'm glad.

Let me know what you think.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Making Your Own Perfume.

Flower, Plant, Plants Flowering, Summer I am one of those people who seldom wears perfume because I do not like most scents.  They usually smell off.  I prefer the ones that have a light floral scent because it reminds me of standing outside smelling flowers.

I also live in a place where the scents worn most often include motor oil, gas, and various oils.  Its hard to buy perfume out here and I do not order it without smelling it first.

So that leaves making my own.  This way, I get the exact mixture I want.  Have you ever thought of making your own?  Its actually going to be more of a scented oil but that doesn't bother me.

A good perfume is going to have three levels or notes of scents.  The top level or note is the one you smell first.  They also tend to disappear within 10 to 15 minutes allowing the middle notes to take over letting everyone know what family such as woody, floral, citrus, or other it belongs too.  The base notes accentuate the middle notes and usually last 4 to 5 hours.

Top notes include citrus, mint, basil, rosemary, neroli, or lavender while middle notes are spicier such as black pepper, cardamon, cinnamon, clove, rosewood, roses, ylang ylang and similar scents.  The base notes are more like ginger, cypress, pine, cedar, patchouli, vanilla, or sandalwood.  The usual ratio is 30% top notes, 50% middle notes, and 20% base notes.

To make your own, start with a good carrier oil such as jojoba, sweet almond, or grape.  Start with a small clean bottle to mix your perfume in. You'll need about 2 tbsp of the carrier oil placed in the bottle.  To that add 30 drops of three different notes to create the perfect blend.  Remember to keep in mind the ratio while making sure none of your choices overwhelm the balance.   Once you have the balance just right, add 6 tbsp of 100 to 190 proof alcohol such as vodka or Ever Clear. Place the lid on the bottle.

Let this set 48 hours at least but you can leave it up to six weeks to allow the scent to fully develop.  Add 2.5 tbsp distilled not tap water. Shake the mixture then strain through a coffee filter to remove any impurities.  Strain the mixture into a small, clean, dark bottle or a fancy bottle.

If you'd prefer to make the scent from real flowers or herbs, you begin with scented dried plant matter.  Place the materials in a container and bruise them so as to release more of the scent. Place carrier oil in a container with a lid before adding the bruised plant material.

Cover and let set in a dark location for one to two weeks to allow the scented oil to develop.  At this point, open the container and strain the material out of the oil.  If it has not developed a strong enough scent, add more plant material to the oil and let set one to two weeks.  Once you have the desired scent, add one or two drops of Vitamin E or grapefruit seed extract to extend its life. This can be used instead of the essential oils for the layers.

If you prefer a solid perfume, simply add melted beeswax to the perfume, pour in a container and let harden.  I hope you have fun experimenting and making your own.  Let me know what you think.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The History of Perfume.

Attar, Perfume, Oil, Dark, Heritage  When I was growing up, I kept hearing perfumes were used to hide body odors in the past but I never wondered if it was true?  We all know things are spread around with no basis.

Egyptians are credited with the creation of perfumes which were used in everything from religious ceremonies to burial preparations to every day wear.

In addition, Egypt had its own god of perfumes, Nefertum, who wore a crown of water lilies. Water lilies was the most popular scent of the time .  They believed perfume was the sweat of the Sun God Ra. Perfume in these times was actually a scented oil.  The rich, both sexes, anointed themselves with scents such as lily to denote their status so none of the poor could afford it.

The Persians adopted this practice to show political status.  The Persians were so into perfume, their king was often pictured with perfume bottles. They dominated the perfume trade and it is suspected they perfected the distillation process which lead to the base of alcohol.

It was the Greeks and Romans who began to consistently produce perfume in large quantities for use by everyone.  Since they carefully documented their recipes, many have survived to the present.  In fact,  archeologists uncovered the remains of a perfume factory in Cyprus dating back to 2000 BC. In addition, a wall in the perfumer makers house in Pompeii shows the process used back then.

Perfume making secrets and recipes were brought back by the Crusaders, returning from the holy wars in the middle east. The first recorded alcohol based perfume was created in the 14th century for the Queen of Hungary and was known as Hungry Water. It was most likely made of distilled alcohol and herbs.

The perfume makers in Italy made a break through when they discovered Aqua Miribilis a liquid made of 95% alcohol base with a strong scent. This allowed people to have liquid perfume. This invention caused Italy and Venice in particular to become a perfume making center. It was Catherine De Medici who brought perfume to France.

This is short history of perfume.  Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The 10 Worst Smelling Flowers in the World.

Bud, Sun Flower, Flower, Green, PlantWhen you pick a flower, or lean over to check one out, you assume the flower will have a great fragrance but that is not always true.  If you have ever seen the television show Scorpion, there is a scene when one of the guys takes a girl to watch the rare blooming of a plant.  When the flower blossomed, it stank and she almost puked.

There are several flower which have a reputation for being among the smelliest in the world.

1.Aristolochia Gigantea also known as Brazilian Dutchman's Pipe, or Giant Pelican flower is originally from Brazil. Its red colored flowers smell like poop but insects such as bee's find it inviting.  It is not conducive to butterfly eggs and larvae so butterflies are not found on it.

2. Stapelia Gigantea or toad plant is native to south eastern Africa.  Although it produces a large 35 cm flower in reds and yellows, it emits a smell similar to rotting flesh which attracts insects, not people. It is a popular houseplant regardless of the smell.

3. Jack in the Pulpit also known as snake head, adders root, wild arum, or starch plant.  This plant is found in the woodlands of Europe and Turkey. Its fragrance resembles poop and attracts insects.

4. Dead Horse Arum Lily is considered one of the stinkiest flowers in the world. It is native to Corsica and the Balearic Islands. Its smell is said to be just like dead meat and it's speculated the flowers name comes from its appearance and smell.

5. Western Skunk Cabbage or Swamp Lantern is found in the swamps and wetlands near the Pacific Ocean. The flowers emit a nasty odor which remains even after the flower has died.

6. Dracunculus Vulgaris also known as voodoo lily, stink lily, or snake lily.  This beautiful purple flower is native to parts of Turkey and the Balkans. Its rotten smell attracts lots of insects.

7. Hydnora Africana has no chlorphyll so it grows underground except for its flower.  The parasitic plant is native to Africa. The flower produces an aroma similar to poop. The plant produces a fruit which takes 2 years to ripen.

8. Rafflesia Arnoldii is one of the largest flowers in the world and it resides in Indonesia.  Its beautiful red flower weighs in at 10 kg with a diameter of 3 feet.  It's smell resembles a dead body but the smell attracts insects.

9.  Titan Arum also known as the corpse flower is native to rain forests of Sumatra, Indonesia.  The plant produces deep red blossoms every one to ten years and the flower lasts only one day.  The smell resembles a decaying body.

10 Bulbophyllum Phalaenopsis is native to New Guinea and this plant is considered an orchid but emits the scent of dead meat.  The blossoms are white, cream, red, and purple.  Its smell attracts insects.  Even though it has a strong smell, people grow it as a house plant.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The 7 Rarest Flowers in The World.

Orchids, Flowers, Blossom, Bloom  When I had the opportunity to check out an orchid display while visiting Philadelphia a couple weeks ago, I took it.  When I visit the Big Island, I always stop at this great orchid place outside of Hilo before you get to the Volcano National Park because the flowers are so beautiful.

Just the other day, I looked at all the pictures I'd taken and wondered what are the most expensive flowers in the world.

We never seem them when we pop into the local grocery store to pick up a few flowers to brighten our dining rooms but they exist.

1. Gloriosa also known as flame lilies, fire lilies, or glory lilies cost $6 to $10 per stem.  These are said to be as beautiful as they are poisonous.

2. 17th Century Semper Agustus  sold for $10,000 (5,700) guilders per bulb. Yes this was the cost of this particular tulip back in the 17th century just before the tulip buying bubble burst.  The Semper Agustus has garnet flames streaking across the white petals.  Just to give you a reference point, a grand house could be purchased for that amount or feed a family for half a life time.

3. Saffron Crocus go for $1200 to $1500 per pound. These produce the deep orange  stamen used in cooking.  It takes 80,000 flowers to produce 500 grams of saffron which is about a pound.

4. Rothchild's Orchid also known as the Gold of Kinabalu orchid.  It was discovered in 1987 but was almost ravaged by orchid smugglers.  It is kept alive through the use of cultured seedlings and can only be grown in the Kinabalu National Park in Malaysia.  It is elusive and takes many years before it produces a single blossom.  Each plant goes for $5,000.

5. Shenzhen Nongke orchid was not created by nature.  This particular orchid was created in a lab by the Shenzhen Nongke group.  The flower took 8 years to develop before it was sold at auction for $202,000.

6.  Juliet Rose, a beautiful apricot hued rose, bred by David Austin cost him just about $5 million to breed.  He debuted it at the 2006 Chelsea Flower Show.  Fortunately, you can purchase the flower for much less.

7. Kadupul Flower, from Sri Lanka, cannot be purchased because the plant infrequently produces flowers which bloom in the dark and are dead by dawn.  Imagine a plant blooming maybe once a year and whose blossom lasts only a few hours.

Monday, April 3, 2017

The 10 Most Expensive Pens in The World!

Pen, Office, Fountain Pens, To WriteI usually go hunting for working pens because people take the good ones and leave behind the ones that don't work.  It seems everyone knows the ones by the phone always work.  They do but only after I sort through them looking for one I can take messages with.

I realize we have modern devices to take notes but I still love writing with a pen even though my handwriting resembles a scribble.

Before I discuss the top ten pens, I'll let you know the most expensive piece of paper in the world sells for just under $14,000 a sheet.  Its sold by a company in Germany.  The reason for its high cost is the paper was made in the 14th century and it comes fully authenticated.  So if you purchased this, you'd need an equally exquisite pen to write on it.

These pens are in no particular order.
1. The Gotica Pen by Caran d'Ache.  This pen was designed to celebrate Gothic art and architecture.  Its 6 rhodium coated solid silver sides are decorated with fleur de lis and rosettes.  In addition you'll find it encrusted with 892 diamonds, 72 emeralds, and 72 rubies.  This pen goes for around $405,000.

2. The Heaven Gold Pen by Anita Tan was designed for women using the idea of the constantly changing alignment of planets for inspiration. It contains 161 colored diamonds circling a 2 billion year old 43 carat Tsvorate gemstone.  You get all this for just over $995,000.

3. Check out the Mystery Masterpiece by Montblanc and others. It took 1.5 years to make with 30 carats of encrusted gems of your choice: rubies, sapphires or emeralds.  In addition, it has 800 diamond accents.  Unfortunately only 3 have ever been made due to the $730,000 price tag.

4. Diamante by Aurora. This pen is encrusted with more than 30 carats of diamonds on a platinum barrel.  Its topped with a large diamond and has an 18 carat gold nib.  This $1.25 million pen is so exclusive, only one is made each year.

5. La Modernista Pen was created by Caran d'Ache in 1999 to celebrate an architect who died in 1926.  The 6 sided pen is composed of a rhodium coated solid silver body, encrusted with 5072 Wesselton diamonds and 96 rubies.  This pen also has an 18 carat gold nib and goes for only $265,000.

6. Prince Rainier III Limited Edition 81 pen is made of 18 carat white gold encrusted with 996 diamonds, 96 rubies, and a 18 carat gold nib with two rubies.  Only 81 pens were ever made, each selling for $256,000.

7. The Limited Edition Boehme Papillion Pen by Montblanc.  This limited edition pen comes in white, yellow, or rose colored gold and encrusted with 1,400 diamonds and sapphires with the Montblanc diamond at the top.  All this can be bought for a measly $230,000 or so.

8. The MontBlanc Boehme Royal Pen features an 18 carat gold and platinum plated retractable nip. It is encrusted with more than 1,430 diamonds, the Montblanc star logo is composed of 18 diamonds and 18 carat white gold rings. This pen sells for $1.5 million.

9. The Pierre-Jouet Anniversary Edition Pen by Osmos is a bit more affordable. The pen is hand crafted in a green resin to represent the bottles with an 18 carat gold nib engraved with the bicentennial logo.  The side of the pen carries the Bicentennial logo which matches the Art Nouveau flowers on the Belle Epoque bottles.  This pen is only $134,000.

10.  The most expensive pen is the Fulgor Nocturnus pen by Tibaldi.  This pen was created based on the divine proportions of Phi.  The ratio between the cap and the visible portion of the barrel is exactly 1.618 when the pen is closed.  It is encrusted with 925 black diamonds and 123 rubies.  Only one was every made and it sold for $8 million at a charity auction.

These are the top pens but you could get by spending much less, say $4,000 to get a unique pen.  I'll stick to buying mine in July and August when everything is on sale.  Let me know what you think.