Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The National Zoological Park

The National Zoological Park in Washington DC is part of the Smithsonian. It is an amazing maze of natural habitats and buildings housing hundreds of animals. It is a fantastic “free” day in DC with the kids. Why do I say “free”. Well like all of the Smithsonian buildings there is no entrance fee BUT if you drive you will most likely have to pay for parking. Metro does have day passes and can be much less. Then there is lunch. You may pack in a lunch but on the day we went packing lunches PLUS rain gear, snacks, and refillable water bottles seemed like a bit much for me to carry. If you plan ahead you can control the cost and have a fantastic day out with the family.

We had a late start and found parking in the last lot at the bottom of the hill. This did mean we worked our way up the hill and had gravity helping us at then end of the day make our way to the car. We wound our way from the ‘farm’ with alpacas, cows, pigs, goats, and donkeys to the Amazon jungle. Unfortunately part of the building was closed for cleaning so we only got to see the first few rooms with tanks of fish, sting rays, snakes, and frogs. The kids loved it. Then we went to the other side of the building where they have their public lab/educational area. There were more tanks of colorful frogs along with interactive stations to watch movies, touch bones, research books, view bugs in microscopes and much more. The kids loved checking out the bugs under the microscopes.

Some how in the 7 hours we were there we managed to visit the farm, Amazon jungle, wolves, beavers, big cats, reptile house, great ape house, the elephant house, cheetahs, backyard, the panda house and so much more. We were very lucky we got to the panda house as it was closing and they let us and another family in. The kids were thrilled to have their 7 minutes with those beautiful creatures. Their other high light was getting to see the baby girl gorilla. She was a cuttie. Even with all we saw there is so much more to see. The kids wanted to go back the next day but we’ll have to plan a return trip on another day.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Dressing Nake Mole Rats

On a recent trip to the zoo I decided to test my ability to say “no” and took the kids to the gift shop at the National Zoo. I did let them each pick one toy to commemorate Selena’s first time (William’s second). I picked up some zoo stickers and a wonderful new book for them. They had told me they didn’t want to get a book since books were “boring” but a I suspected they loved the one I got and asked me to read it twice the first night and the night after too.

Now you are probably wondering what book would get that kind of attention from 2 preschoolers. Well it is a very well written book about naked mole rats. The book is the “Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed” written and illustrated by Mo Willems. This cute book is about a naked mole rat who likes clothes. The kids think it is great and now they REALLY want to get back to the zoo to see the naked mole rats which were one of the many animals we didn’t see this past trip

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Dinning in Seattle

I did a quick search on my PDA and found there are at least 20 gluten-free restaurants in the Seattle area. Unfortunately none of them are close to the convention center. The schedule I had for all of the convention events didn’t allow me to wonder to any of them this trip. Hopefully I’ll be able to next trip.

Dinning in Seattle was much easier they I had expected. I went prepared with my note explaining I was allergic to wheat but I never needed it. Every place I stopped from a quick diner at the market to very nice restaurant to the convention center they were very well educated about wheat and gluten intolerant. Each was very helpful helping me choose something from their menu I could safely enjoy or more then willing to leave off the bread, without any reminders.

Queen City Grill


I only ate out a few meals but this had to be the best one. I sent an message to a friend asking ifI could go back to Seattle just to have dinner here again. The waiter was wonderful in helping me choose a meal. I had a hard time deciding between the beef and the salmon but decided to go with the salmon in the end. Poached salmon on a bed of Heritage beans- black eye, pink kidney, etc topped with crisp apple and fennel was to die for. Each bite was a treat.

For desert he recommended fresh berries and Coconut sorbet (Grand Marnier, black pepper and balsamic) which was very good. I loved the coconut sorbet. The sauce was a bit strong for me but letting the excess drip off before taking the next nibble did the trick.

Coldwater at Westin, Downtown Seattle


Often the hotel restaurant is good but not worth writing home about. I told the waitress that I had a wheat allergy and was trying to decide between two dishes. I asked if she could ask the chief if either had wheat. One did but, she came back with a strong recommendation for their poached halibut in olive oil on a bed of heritage tomatoes. It was wonderful. Each tender morsel was divine. After savoring each bite she recommended their creambule with fresh blue berries for desert. It was also very good.

Mobey's at Washington State Convention and Trade Center, downtown Seattle http://www.mobysseattle.com/

While I was in Seattle for a conference I had this FANTASTIC dressing on a wonderful salad. The day I dropped in they were having a lunch special of poached arctic clam, avocado, red onion, tomato, on mixed greens with wasabi dressing. Okay I thought the clams were a bit 'fishy'. I think I would prefer our New England little clams then these big slices that were more reminiscent of sushi. But did I tell you the salad and dressing was wonderful! I asked if they sold the dressing. They don't but they shared their list of secret ingredients. The atmosphere was warm and friendly with a touch of old world charm. The staff was pleasant and welcoming. They were very responsive to my wheat-allergy concerns. If you are at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center you should stop by the Moby's restaurant.

Wasabi Dressing
(Amounts by volume desired and taste)
powdered wasabi mixed w/ boiling water
Add whole or brown sugar, stir until dissolved
Add lemon or lime & vinegar to taste
Whisk in olive oil

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Poo-Pooing Poop

How do you get a 5-year-old to stop saying “poo”?

His dad had tried to ban the word but that just seemed to make it more fun to say and more irritating for his dad.

I decided I would give him permission and see if that would take away the fun. At least that was the idea when I came across the “Who Pooped in the Park? Scat and Tracks for Kids” book while I was traveling in Seattle. This very well written and illustrated book takes the reader through a walk in Olympic National Park. The reader learns to identify what animals live in the park by identifying the poo (aka scat) and tracks the animals leave behind.

When I presented the book to the kids I hid it behind my back and told them they were not allowed to say the ‘word’ on the cover over and over again. Their curiosity peaked. I pulled the book out and they couldn’t wait to hear it for their bedtime story. Their father took it rolling his eyes at me. I could hear the thoughts – YOU bought them a poo book! By the time he finished the book the kids were still excited and wanted to hear it a second time and he proclaimed it was really educational and well done.

I have since rarely heard the word “poo” or “poop” out my son. If we find scat in the yard he wants to figure out who left it there. So hopefully we have taken a 5-year-old’s fascination with a ‘dirty word’ and changed it into a fascination with science and nature.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Thriving Backyard Wildlife

A while back I bought a few pocket guides to for the kids and myself. I wanted to show them how to look up the names of the birds that come to our feeders and our yard. I put out black oil sunflower seeds, suit blocks, and treated thistle seeds to attack various birds.

Using the guides, I decided to make a list of ALL the critters I've seen in my little yard and the streets it is on. I decided the street in front of my house is close enough to my lot since I don't think the rabbit or red tail hawk understand property lines. Then I thought I should extend to the neighborhood which would be about a mile in each direction. So the list below has "Y" for critters in my yard and "N" for the neighborhood.


· Eastern Cottontail (rabbit) (Y)
· Virginia Opossum (N – roadkill)
· Deer Mouse (Y – Err, actually they got into the house)
· Eastern Chipmunk
· Eastern Gray Squirrel (Y)
· Black Squirrels (N)
· Red Squirrels (N)
· Wood Chuck (N – roadkill)
· Striped Skunk (N – roadkill)
· Common Raccoon
Red Fox (Y )
· White-tailed Deer (Y – hoof prints & eaten plants; N)

· Canada Goose (N)
· Mallard duck (N)
· Little Blue Heron (N)
· Great Blue Heron (N)
· Laughing Gull (N)
· Herring Gull (N)
· Common Tern (N)
· Rock Dove/Pigeon (N)
· Morning Dove (Y)
· Red-bellied Wood pecker (Y)
· Pileated Woodpecker (Y)
· Red-headed Woodpecker (Y)
· Hairy Woodpecker (Y)
· Downy Woodpecker (Y)
· Northern Flicker (Y)
· Red-tailed Hawk (Y)
· Black-capped Chickadee (Y)
· Carolina Chickadee (Y)
· Tufted Titmouse (Y)
· Blue Jay (Y)
· White-breasted Nuthatch (Y)
· Red-winged Blackbird (N)
· Common Grackle (Y)
· Brown-headed Cowbird (Y)
· Cedar Waxwing (Y)
· American Robin (Y)
· Northern Mocking Bird (Y)
· Song Sparrow (Y)
· Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Y)
· Dark-eyed Junco (Y)
· House Finch (Y)
· American Goldfinch (Y)
· Northern Cardinal (Y)


· Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Y)
· Pipevine Swallowtail (Y)
· Cabbage White (Y)
· Monarch (Y)
· Pearl Crescent (Y)
· Red Admiral (Y)
· Spring Azure (Y)


· Lo Moth (Y)

The booklets I used were both written by Kavanagh/Leung and published by Waterford Press.

· A Pocket Naturalist™ Guide: Eastern Backyard Birds - An introduction to Familiar Urban Species
· A Pocket Naturalist™ Guide: Virginia Wildlife - An introduction to Familiar Species

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Creators vs Pirates

Why are the hours of writing and experimenting reduced to “worthless” when the out come is works of art such as books, music, paintings, etc? But if they form a bottle, television, or computer it is priceless? How can a book be priced by the number of pages not the hours of writing, editing, illustrating, printing, marketing, and distribution? Why does the value decrease even more when it is available online?

I hear stealing a VCR is stealing something “real”. Does that mean only the weight of the plastic and metal make it real and valuable? Does only that deem its price? A lump of plastic can represent a sale and carry a price tag but it is only a sale when it is purchased. If it is stolen, destroyed, or discarded it is not a sale. It is a waste of resources. There is no money to pay the shop keeper, truck driver, manufacture, nor the designer who figured out how plastic and metal could play music or show a movie.

Stealing the copyrights – shoplifting CDs; illegal movie, music or book downloads; using music without permission; etc – dose the same. If the writers, creators, experimenters don’t get paid to have a roof over their heads, food on their tables, clothes on their backs and the tools they need, how can they continue to create the things we use everyday or the things that make each day more enjoyable? Illegal downloads, counterfeiters, pirates, p2p (pier to pier), and others steal from the people we need and pays the leaches of the world who would rather steal then contribute to the world. It is wrong when the pirates our taking island vacations and the most of the world’s writers, artist and inventors are working hard at one or more jobs to pay their bills.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Copyright Education

Before the digital age only authors, creators and the print shops needed to know about the rules surrounding copyrights. Now when we all have the ability to get and use information and images through physical and electronic forms we ALL need to know about copyrights.

When anyone writes, composes, or creates they are making a work that can be copyrighted and THEY own the rights to that work. The creator or owner of the work may allow someone else to use their work for a set purpose or unlimited use for free or for a fee. It is their work and their right to determine how it is used. They are the ones that toiled to create their work from nothing and they are the ones that need to pay for the roof over their heads and food on their plates. Now they may work with someone like a royalty collection group or an agency to represent, market, and collect fees on their behalf. How much of their rights they give to these groups and how much they collect is up to the creator and their ‘partners’. The money they earn supports them, their family and their ability to create more works.

Intellectual property laws have been developed to protect these creative people, their works, and to allow new creations to continue to flow for our enjoyment and to improve our lives. It was intellectual creativity that figured out how to changes metal into the Statue of Liberty, plastic and metal into computers, rock into The Thinker, paint and canvas into the Mona Lisa, note into the Twelfth Overture, and so much more. It was once side that you can bang a broken pipe but you pay a plumber to know where to bang it. Yes you might be able to paint, sculpt, write or design but you should value those who have the touch to create something new and wonderful. The laws have been set up so those people can provide for themselves and their families.

Many how have created some of the most beautiful music, art, and literature find it is amazing that there are people out there who feel it is not stealing to just take their work without permission to redistribute or to use. These are the same people who would not think of stealing from a store. The person who wrote the book still spent hours, days, weeks, or years writing, editing, marketing and trying to sell their work. When you buy counterfeits or get illegal downloads you are stealing from the very person how you should be thanking and reimbursing for all of their work for your enjoyment. It is heart breaking to learn that many of the people responsible for the things we enjoy will never see a royalty check for their work.

As a granddaughter of an artist (Ben Wolf of Philadelphia), I want to see his work used as he wanted it to be and for it to live on to influence generations to come.

As a blogger I use only MY photos. If I use anyone else's I will ask permission first. I hope anyone who wants to use mine will ask me for permission. I only post my own writing (typos and all). I try to link to official sites for products and services I mention. They know how they want to present their stuff and legalize far better then I do. The images I use I created, commissioned and/or have permission to use.


US Copyright Office http://www.copyright.gov/ (not very user friendly)

Copyright Clearance Center about copyrights http://www.copyright.com/ccc/viewPage.do?pageCode=cr10-n (very user friendly)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The No Cookie Cookie

The No Cookie Cookie from The No Bakery


Vegan, wheat-free

No Dairy, no egg, no refined sugar

Quick take a picture before it is gone… These cookies are sooo good. These are not gluten-free, but they are wheat-free. This barley cookie is a fantastic tasting soft cookie. I especially like their chocolate chip, ginger, and oatmeal raisin cookies.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Naked Watermelon

On a hot afternoon running errands with the kids and I toss out a bribe to them. One more store and you can get a drink while we are there. They had no idea that I was heading to one of the My Organic Market, commonly known as MOM's. My daughter announces she wants watermelon juice. Watermelon juice? Who knows what is going to come out of the imagination or mouth of babes? Well we were going to a health food store so there might be watermelon juice but just in case I suggested we might get a watermelon instead. We did pick up a cute little seedless melon when we first arrived. We walked around picking up the things I needed. This is one of my regular gluten-free shopping stop. The kids searched through the chilled drinks for something that they wanted. Low and behold they found and picked the new Naked Bare Breeze Watermelon Chill juice. They loved it and both bottles were dry by the time we got home. They raved so much about how good it was I might need to get one for myself next trip to MOM's.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Airplane Food

The airlines now nickel and dime you for everything from leg room that would not pass any animal cruelty laws, to luggage of any kind, to you formally complementary bag of 14 nuts. Then the airports are now stocked with $3 bottles of water and food prices to rival the expensive professional ball parks. But what can you possibly get through the ever changing rules of the USA TSA and even worse the airport by airport decisions as to what to enforce. Okay it is obvious that metal silverware of any kind could cause problems. But a Beatle spoon in its travel case is completely non threatening and easy to tuck in your carry on. The existing 3 ounce fluid rule is probably here to stay. Therefore anything you pack shouldn't be fluid bases. These folks are not known for having a sense of humor, don't push your luck. My last trip I packed packs of pre-cooked rice dishes. The two I packed from Trader Joe's 90 second pre-cooked rice dishes for under $3 each. One was Indian Biryani rice and the other was a Vegetable Jambalaya. Both are gluten-free and come in an easy to open pouch. Both pouches and my spoon made it easily through security. I had the Indian rice on one flight. It was quite tasty straight out the pouch and filing. Much better than any of the things they were offering for $6-9.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Roadside America

We recently stopped by Roadside America (http://www.roadsideamericainc.com ). Considering all of the places I have been to in the south east and south center of Pennsylvania, I had never been to this roadside stop before. It was definately an enjoyable and amazing place for a short visit. The one room interactive museum of model trains, houses and much more could keep you busy for an hour or two.

It definitely has that 1960’s cold war feeling. They run a “God Bless America” show every 30 minutes definitely shows the era it was made. The painted walls and detailed models are fascinating. There are several buttons for the kids to push to make some of the trains and other parts of the display move. The kids had blast.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Pennsylvania's Cabela's Outdoor Sore

I recently went to the Pennsylvania Cabela's outdoor store (http://www.cabelas.com) for the first time. I've done some mail order through them but this was the first time I actually went to one of their stores. Cabela’s store has an incredible display of stuffed wildlife and large fish tanks of regional fresh water fish. The kids loved it. They got very excited watching all the fish in the tanks and trying to find all of the catfish including an albino one. They couldn’t get enough of the taxidermy critters displayed through the store. There was a very well done display of numerous African animals. It looked like an action snap shot made into a 3-D presentation. There is also a mountain in the middle of store with animals from 2 climates displayed up and down its sides. Lastly there was a room full of different kinds of deer, typical and atypical. I have to say I have seen smaller zoos and museum than what was on display at this commercial retail store.

While we were there I picked up 2 adult cots for the kids. They are out growing their toddler travel beds. Selena might have another year or so but William is already too big for his. I wanted ones that we could slide duffel bags and suitcases under so we have SOME floor space in the hotel rooms and the tent.

Monday, June 1, 2009

New England Baked Beans (Vegetarian)

I was recently visiting with my parents and they cooked up a wonderful batch of New England Bake Beans. They modified a friends recipe by just removing the traditional pork. It was very good and worth sharing.

New England Baked Beans (vegetarian)

To serve 10

1 1/2 lbs dry Navy beans (3c)

1 whole med onion chopped

1 c ketchup

1 c brown sugar

1 c water from cooking beans

2 tsp dry mustard

3 Tbl dark molasses

1 Tbl salt

1 tsp balmsamic vinegar

2 whole cloves of garlic

1/2 tsp liquid smoke

Simmer beans in 3-4 time their volume of unsalted water until tender.

Drain and place in crock post add all remaining ingredients and mix well.

Cover and cook on low for 10-12 hours or high for 4-6 hours, stirring occasionally.

(Beans must be soft before mixing with sugar or molasses.)