I Love Mangoes and Avocados

We’ve got two mango trees in our yard in West Palm Beach. Some years we have had so many that I had to dig holes to bury over-ripe ones that fall.

That makes it very painful to pay a buck or more for small ones in the Cape grocery stores. Fortunately, when I went on my Fourth of July strawberry soda quest, I found mangoes and avocados on sale for close to a reasonable price.

I didn’t realize I was going photograph this for a blog post, so I made the mistake of cutting the prettiest mango first.

How do I peel a mango?

Unfortunately, it has been do long since I’ve peeled a mango that I couldn’t quite remember the most efficient way of doing it.

Fortunately, Wife Lila is an expert, and she explained exactly how to get to the good part of the mango without cutting yourself or taking a bath in the juice.

Click on the photo to be taken to her blog where she’ll explain everything in simple enough terms that even I did a passable job on my first try.

Asian Aliens Invade

Asian Lady Beetle 11-07-2015I don’t think the Asian lady beetle invasion is as bad as it was several years ago, but there were plenty of them out and about on Saturday. (Click on the photos to make them larger.)

Various extension service websites say the insects, which resemble our home-grown lady bugs, were imported as early as 1916 to eat aphids and other soft-bodied insects. It’s only been in the last 30 years that they have established themselves pretty much all over the country.

Wife Lila bought 1,500 native lady bugs to control pests in her raised vegetable gardens. Her brightly colored bugs weren’t nearly so prolific as the foreigners (although you can see them giving it a go to increase their numbers in an R-rated video on Wife Lila’s gardening blog).

They’re looking for somewhere to spend the winter

Asian Lady Beetle 11-07-2015In their native Japan, the bugs spend the winter en masse in rocky outcrops on the sides of mountains. In the U.S., though, they are attracted to light-colored buildings and human houses, where they enter through cracks, crevices and small openings.

The University of Florida reported that 15-20 thousand of the beetles will invade a single house. A large infestation can be heard moving around inside the walls as they look for a cool place to spend the winter. In Florida, they may not be happy with the warm temperatures inside the walls, so they’ll find an opening that will take them into the air-conditioned interior.

Do they bite or sting?

Asian Lady Beetle 11-07-2015Most sites say that their only defense is to emit a yellowish, acrid secretion that can stain surfaces.  A Kentucky entomologist writes that when there is a large infestation, some of the insects may land on (and, trust me, UNDER) clothing. Lady beetles, being insect-eaters, have chewing mouthparts, and can bite or “pinch.” The bite, he says, feels like a pinprick and is seldom serious.

If they get into your house in large quantities, one way to get rid of them is to chase them down with a vacuum cleaner. It is suggested to create a “trap” inside the cleaner’s hose to “bag” them instead of collecting inside the machine, where their acrid secretion can give your vacuum bad breath for a long time.




Crazy Food Cravings

Craving foods 01-23-2014A Facebook friend who goes by the moniker Sherry Senile Camper Swanson posted a photo of a can of Hormel Tamales on her timeline: “For my gourmet dinner friends…here is my post of my lovely lunch of canned tamales…which I LOVE. Be jealous. Hee he.

Wife Lila chimed in, “Ken Steinhoff loves those things. Our grocer here quit carrying them, and I was charged with finding some… NOW! About six weeks later, I found them at another store and bought enough to keep him from going into a fetal position.”

That launched into a long discussion about those foods people keep in the back of their pantries for emergencies (in our case, hurricane supplies) or for the once or twice-a-year cravings. (If you can’t get them locally, here’s an Amazon link for Hormel Beef in Chili Sauce Tamales.)

It was interesting how many Cape Girardeans admitted to tamale urges. It must be a Bootheel thing, one said.

Smoked clams and oysters

Craving foods 01-23-2014

When nothing else hits the craving spot, I’ll reach into the hurricane supplies to pick up a can of smoked baby clams or oysters. I like them scooped up on Ritz Garden Vegetable crackers. I didn’t see the brand we buy listed on Amazon, but I haven’t been able to tell much difference in brands. For as seldom as I eat a can, cheapest is best.

All things being equal, I think I belch smoked clams for a shorter period of time than smoked oysters. Now, THAT’S a food review you don’t see on Friend Jan’s food blog.

Vienna Sausages

Broccoli, Vienna Sausages and KLSI was doing OK with this food talk until Ms. Swanson brought up Vienna sausages. I don’t think I’ve cracked a can of those things in 30 years, but I decided I should pick up a couple cans (they were on sale) when I went to the grocery store this afternoon. When I got home, Wife Lila was getting ready to make greens out of the broccoli leaves from her backyard garden.

She took one look at my cans and said, “You know how you have to leave the room when I drink buttermilk, well, I’m going to have to leave the room if you eat those.”

They DO look nasty

Broccoli, Vienna Sausages and KLSMs. Swanson rhapsodized about her VS experience: “I still have a can that I carried all the way across the US on my bike adventure. I was always afraid I’d end up in some podunk place with nothing to eat. I ate in a lot of gas stations on that trip…and the can of VS made it to the Atlantic Ocean and back here to Missouri.

When I cracked my can, I wish I had carried it unopened from one coast to the other.

Reading the ingredients didn’t make me feel any better: “Sausage: Mechanically separated chicken, water, salt, corn syrup. Contains less than 2% or less of beef, pork, Dextrose, natural flavors, sodium nitrate, garlic powder. Broth: chicken broth.”

Still, I had 50 cents invested in this adventure, so I had to go through with it.

I now know what “bilious” means

Broccoli, Vienna Sausages and KLS

Wife Lila didn’t run screaming from the room after all. She consented to photograph my experiment. She kept saying, “That one didn’t look exactly right. You’d better eat another one while I shoot it from a slightly different angle. Oh, there’s a bad shadow on that one.” [Editor’s note: For the record, Proofreader Lila doesn’t remember the photo shoot that way. I think she is suffering from sausage-induced amnesia.]

I had a horrible, guilty flashback. We had a feature columnist who did lots of what he thought were “funny” stories requiring personal deeds of (not) so daring feats. We photographers resented the space devoted to him that we thought could be better used by serious stories, so we didn’t cut him much slack.

One shoot involved a test of a laundry detergent to see if the stains really would come out after [name removed] had been dragged through a mud puddle by a motorcycle. One of the most reliable photographers on the staff had the darnedest time that afternoon. They light was wrong, the timing was off, his film slipped on the reel… Poor [name removed] and his clothing were certainly muddy after about half a dozen takes, but, to his credit, he didn’t gripe about the misfortunes the photographer had.

I now sympathize with [name removed] and feel a little guilty.

After I finished the seven “sausages” in the can, I looked inside and saw a gelatinous goo left behind that wouldn’t even pour out.

A word floated into my mind; a word that I hadn’t used in so long that I had to look it up to make sure it was the right one. Yep, “bilious” was the right term: “Bilious fever was a medical diagnosis often used for any fever that exhibited the symptom of nausea or vomiting in addition to an increase in internal body temperature and strong diarrhea. “Bilious” means the condition was thought to arise from disorders of bile, the two types of which were two of the Four Humours of traditional Galenic medicine. The term is obsolete and no longer used, but was commonly used by medical practitioners in the 18th and 19th centuries, often cited as a cause on death certificates.

 Topics for future exploration

When I get over my bilious condition, we can explore those other foods of Swampeast Missouri like tongue with horseradish, pickled pig’s feet and brains and eggs.


Photo Accidents Happen

Flowers 01-08-2013Wife Lila took over what had been a gardening blog from Son Matt. She does a really good job with her Canon point-‘n’-shoot camera and her cellphone camera, but today she came in to say she couldn’t quite get the photo she wanted of some poinsettias growing in the corner of our yard.

I handed her my Nikon D3100 camera with a Hoya polarizing filter on it and explained how to rotate the filter to kill the reflections on the leaves to make the colors more vivid. I also showed her where to adjust the exposure, explaining that most of my photos are usually underexposed anywhere from 1/3 stop to as much as 3 or 4 f/stops from what the camera wants to set automatically.

She came back saying that the pictures still weren’t right.

I forgot to change the color balance

She was correct about that. I usually leave the white balance set on AUTO, but I had been shooting under tungsten light and had moved it. That gave the photo a blue cast in sunlight.

On second glance, though I LIKED this shot. I played a little with the levels and contrast to produce a photo that isn’t the literal representation she wanted, but is still striking. It really didn’t take much tweaking. That’s pretty much how it looked coming out of the camera. Click on it to make it larger.

You’ll have to wait until she gets around to writing about her poinsettias to see the real thing.