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Last article, we learned that those squishy, pink earthworms that we adore in our gardens are invasive and capable of dramatic changes in our natural habitats. We also learned what can be done to help the situation. This started a series of upcoming articles designed to inform our readers about opportunities to be good stewards of the environment.

1. LOOKING BACK – Over the 300 months ending 2/28/13 (i.e., the last 25 years), the S&P 500 has been up 64% of the months and down the other 36% of the months.  The period includes the 2000-02 bear market (down 49%) and the 2007-09 bear market (down 57%).  The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index of 500 widely held stocks that is generally considered representative of the US stock market (source: BTN Research).

 

2. NOT LINEAR – $1 invested in the S&P 500 stock index on 5/31/95 in a tax-deferred account would have nearly quadrupled in value to $3.95 on a total return basis by 2/28/13 or after 17 years, 9 months.  However the original $1 doubled in value to $1.94 by 1/31/98 (i.e., after just 2 years, 8 months) and then it took another 15 years and 1 month for the total to double again to $3.95.  This mathematical calculation ignores the ultimate impact of taxes on the account which are due upon withdrawal, is for illustrative purposes only and is not intended to reflect any specific investment.  Actual results will fluctuate with market conditions and will vary (source: BTN Research).

 

3. RECESSIONS AND BEARS – Of the 11 recessions that have occurred in the last 65 years, 8 have occurred in tandem with stock bear markets (i.e., at least a 20% decline in the S&P 500), including the last 4 recessions (source: National Bureau of Economic Research).

 

4. NO TUMBLE – As of 3/18/13 (today), the S&P 500 has gone 531 days (calendar days, not trading days) without experiencing a 10% correction, the 6th longest streak in the last 50 years (source: BTN Research).

 

5. OUT vs. IN – In spite of the fact that the USA had a $540 billion trade deficit in 2012 (imports in excess of exports), we were able to offset that outflow of dollars by attracting $520 billion of foreign capital into our stocks and bonds.  Thus, for every $10 that left the USA because of excessive buying of foreign imports, $9.63 came into the USA as foreigners bought American financial assets (source: Commerce Department, Treasury Department).

 

6. NOT QUITE FREE TRADE – The United States exported more goods and services in 2012 to the countries of Japan and the Netherlands ($110.7 billion of exports to the 2 countries combined) than we exported to China ($110.6 billion).  The population of China (1.32 billion people) is 9 times the size of the combined 145 million person population of Japan and the Netherlands (source: Department of Commerce).

 

7. GETTING OLDER – Life expectancy at birth of Americans has increased by 10.5 years in the last 60 years (i.e., 1950-2010), reaching 78.7 years today.  Thus since 1950, life expectancy at birth has increased by 2 months every year (source: Center for Disease Control).

 

8. GET YOUR OWN – Only 1 in 7 Americans seniors (14%) age 72 and older believe that they owe their children or grandchildren an inheritance (source: Allianz).

 

9. AND BORROW WE DO - The yield on the 10-year Treasury note was 1.76% on 12/31/12.  The yield on the 10-year Treasury note was 3.82% on 12/31/02.  Thus for the same annual cost of money, our government can borrow +117% more money today than we did 10 years ago (source: BTN Research).

 

10. SMALL AMOUNT – An estimated 3,780 decedents in calendar year 2013 (out of 2.4 million projected deaths this year) will generate $14.2 billion of federal estate tax receipts for the US government, just ½ of 1% of our estimated annual tax revenue (source: Tax Policy Center).

 

11. TAX DOLLARS – Tax receipts collected by the US government through 5 months of fiscal year 2013 (through 2/28/13) are up +$117 billion (+13.1%) vs. the same 5 months in fiscal year 2012 (source: Treasury Department).

 

12. A CENTURY AGO – The 16th Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified on 2/03/1913 (i.e., 100 years ago last month), giving Congress the right to impose individual income taxes on American citizens.  The top marginal tax rate was 7% in 1913 vs. 39.6% in 2013 (source: Internal Revenue Service).

 

13. OVERSPENDING – Our nation’s outstanding debt, $16.433 trillion on 12/31/12, rose to $16.687 trillion as of 2/28/13, an increase of $4.3 billion a day for the first 2 months of 2013 (source: Treasury Department).

 

14. BORROWING – Total consumer credit nationwide (i.e., consumer debts excluding home mortgages and home equity loans) increased by $153 billion over the 12 months ending 1/31/13, equal to $1,333 of debt increase for each of the 114.8 million households in the country (source: Federal Reserve).

 

15. LOTS OF K’s – Sandy Koufax struck out 311 more batters than he walked during the 1965 season for the Los Angeles Dodgers, going 26-8 with a 2.04 ERA.  Justin Verlander of the Tigers led the majors with 239 strikeouts during the 2012 season (source: Major League Baseball).

 

Since the inception of Nearby Nature, we have discussed many subjects relating to natural history, geology, plant and animal identification, places to experience nature, and many others. Like huge puzzle pieces so to speak, we have tried to create an awareness of how everything “fits together” and works in harmony creating sights and experiences we enjoy every day. Beginning with the last article we will focus on becoming good stewards of nature. What we can do as mere mortals to combat invasive species, make others more aware of destructive pest and environmental practices, educate ourselves regarding environmental issues and become citizen scientists? By no means are we advocating getting on a soap box in the middle of town square or becoming an eco-terrorist. But what can we do to help the environment in our little corner of the world? That being said, let’s turn our attention to a subject that few people would imagine as being one of the biggest threats to the forests of Ohio and surrounding Great Lakes Region including all of the New England States: Earthworms.

1. TWO MONTHS – The S&P 500 gained +6.6% (total return) during the first 2 months of 2013, 67% of the average annual total return achieved over the last 50 calendar years.  The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index of 500 widely held stocks that is generally considered representative of the US stock market (source: BTN Research).

2. ANOTHER YEAR – 7 of the last 10 bull markets for the S&P 500 stock index have reached at least 3 years in length and 5 of the 10 lasted at least 5 years.  The current bull market is the 11th bull for the S&P 500 since 1950 and it will reach 4 years in length as of Saturday 3/09/13 (source: BTN Research).  

I know many of you are sick and tired of seeing the snow, the gray clouds and having to deal with the colder temperatures. But as I mentioned in last week’s column there are some sure signs that Spring is around the corner.

First, aside from it being pancake breakfast season it is also Girl Scout Cookie Season! As the Girl Scout Troop Leader for the 3rd graders at James A. Garfield Elementary this is an exciting time for the girls – taking inventory, learning to manage cookie booths and, of course, raising money for a goal! But with this responsibility comes a lot of cookies which is what makes this next event so special!

Well, going to an auction is often an adventure.  This last one, though, was more than I had bargained for.

First of all, it was being held at what must, surely, have been the last–or nearly the last–farm in Aurora.  I saw a sign –kind of faded–that seemed to indicate that this was once the location of a working sugarbush .  There was at least one good-sized barn and a TON of cars and trucks of all sorts and sizes parked all along Townline Rd., stretching nearly to the horizon where the pavement went up and over a hill.  Vehicles were parked all along the west side of the road; there were signs on the other side directing attendees NOT to park there.  Any utility driveway or flat space was being used as a parking area and there was a driveway heading off through a field with a warning sign saying “4-wheel drive only”…an omen if I ever saw one.

Amanda speaks thoughtfully and softly. She is very wise for one so young. She has been through more than her share of heartache, with mental illness in her family and recently a cousin completed suicide.

She’s strong in her knowledge about how to help her family and she’s sharing that education as a teacher for the Portage County Family-to-Family Education Class that starts Saturday, March 16, at The Church in Aurora.

What is the sign of a good decision?®

It’s managing health care costs and your retirement outlook.

Health care costs rank as one of retirees’ biggest financial concerns. But the sooner you plan for this cost, the better you’ll feel about your retirement security. Keep in mind, too, that the chances of those costs being offset by retiree health care insurance grow slimmer each year – as fewer and fewer employers extend health care benefits to retirees.

As the moon goes to bed, the sun comes up

And here we meet a sleepy pup,

Who was walking through G-ville one bright sunny day,

Then saw The Villager and decided to stay.

Tucked cozily in his blanket, the warm fabric wrapped extra tightly around his toes, Doodle Dog peered out the window to the town streets where the fluffy snow was falling again. Spring would be here soon, at least that’s what he heard from the neighborhood groundhog, but for now the sidewalks were still covered in white flecks and the townspeople continued to hurry along about their business all bundled up in thick coats and fuzzy scarves. As much fun as it usually was to watch the world bustling about, the floppy-eared puppy was getting just a bit bored with being inside. His recent trip to the park was indeed very exciting, but Doodle Dog wasn’t about to go back out in that chilly air or the even chillier icy cold water. His toes were finally warming up again, thankyouverymuch!

Glancing around the office for something to entertain him, Doodle Dog saw his favorite bookcase with all the pretty drawings on the covers. The office was empty of humans, nice and quiet which would be perfect for reading, but it also meant there was no one to read Doodle Dog a story. He could go to the library and find a little boy or girl to read to him, but that would mean going outside. Brrrrr! Doodle Dog shivered just thinking about it. No… he would have to figure out something else.

As he looked at the painted images decorating each cover, Doodle Dog thought about the beautiful princess walking through the forest on the green book sitting on the top shelf and about the knight in his shining armor riding his horse down a dirt path on the cover of the blue book nestled right in the middle of the bookcase. Would their paths ever meet? What problems would try to stand in their way? The floppy-eared puppy didn’t have to open the book to figure out what happened – he decided he could make up his own tale!

Curling up even deeper in his blanket, Doodle Dog closed his eyes and imagined what it would be like to walk down the forest path next to the princess, her long dress the color of daffodils in sunshine floating in the gentle wind that blew through the trees. He could almost feel the soft grass and dirt under his paws as he padded along and hear the woodland creatures scurrying about from their lush hollows. Together the floppy-eared puppy and the princess greeted the friendly animals who lived among the vines and brush, and they had made their way nearly to the edge of the forest where the sunlight broke through the leafy canopy overhead, when a very loud rumble startled Doodle Dog and made him jump behind the princess’s skirt. Being brave was sometimes overrated. The princess didn’t look too worried, but she stopped walking and peered around the last tree bordering the forest. Doodle Dog decided it was safe enough to peer around the princess as she peered around the tree, and as he tried to figure out what was making such a noise, he heard it again! This time there was no mistaking it – the thundering sound was coming from a nearby cave just to the left of the forest’s path. Not only that, but coming from the entrance of the cave with the thunder were billowing clouds. No, not clouds… smoke!

After a few moments, the princess slowly unwrapped herself from the tree and, once the floppy-eared puppy unwrapped himself from her ankles, she began to cautiously approach the cave. Doodle Dog swallowed his fear and followed her brave example to find out what was causing the noise and the smoke. Inside the cave, among the puffs of cloudy smoke, the floppy-eared puppy saw a shining pile of brilliantly-colored jewels and other treasures. Pretty! And right behind the giant mound of shimmering objects was… NOT one of the friendly woodland creatures: a very large, very scaly, very grumpy dragon! The mean old dragon thrashed its tail, knocking a layer of jewels in an avalanche to the floor.

But why do dragons have to be so mean? Doodle Dog wondered. The floppy-eared puppy remembered this is HIS story and he didn’t want the dragon to be mean. So he thought of what might happen to make the dragon be not so mean and before he knew it, the princess marched right up to the large, scaly, grumpy dragon and wrapped her arms around it and gave it a big, squishy, friendly hug, sort of like she’d hugged the tree in the forest. As Doodle Dog watched, the cave stopped echoing thunder and spewing smoke that looked like clouds, and the large, scaly, not-so-grumpy dragon reached down to one of the jewels that had tumbled to the floor and nudged it toward the princess. The sunlight from outside the cave glinted off the heavy jewel and the dragon ducked its head into the sunlight itself, spread its wings and flew out of the cave and up over the trees. The princess and the floppy-eared puppy stepped outside to wave at the dragon and at that moment the sunlight glinted off a knight in his shining armor who was riding his horse down the dirt path. The knight took off his helmet and the princess could see he was a prince in disguise!

Before Doodle Dog’s imagination could get away from him again, the floppy-eared puppy decided he better give the prince and princess a happy ending and one for the curious guard puppy too! Safe at home in the office, he nuzzled his nose in his blankets and finished his story before anything else had a chance to slither out of the cave…

 

It’s the season of flowers, fancy dinners and, of course, lots of hearts. Although if your Valentine’s Day is anything like ours the night is filled with homework, a quick dinner and running out the door to the next sports practice or dance lesson. While Valentine’s Day has never been a major event – even in college my husband would take me to the nearest card section, pick out a card, let me read it, say, “Happy Valentine’s Day” then place the card back on the shelf – it still deserves a little something special!

Remember Fred Flintstone, he was always blaming poor Wilma for all the stupid situations he and Barney had gotten themselves into. Well, unfortunately Fred can’t blame the Ice Age on Wilma this time.  As we discussed in Part One of the geology of Ohio, the concept of geologic time was explained as well as the “Periods” that led to the formation of what we call Ohio today. However, there is one more critical event, which like a sculptor chiseling away at a marble block to create a beautiful statue, reshaped the Ohio landscape for eternity…or for now, anyway. 

Since the school deaths in Connecticut, our nation has seen more school and community violence, as well as the ramping up of the debate over guns and, just as importantly, over mental health services. Portage has an array of mental health treatment services for children, teens and families supported through funding by the Mental Health & Recovery Board. The board also funds the county’s 24-hour crisis services that help residents who may be threatening to hurt themselves or others and also serve as round the clock  information and referral sources.

Even though January brings in our “winter hours” (Friday and Saturdays from 3pm – 9pm) we are quite busy working behind the scenes at the winery. Besides the usual work in the cellar (checking the wine from harvest, monitoring the juice to make sure it stays at a stable temperature, cleaning up the bottling line to get ready for our next bottling session and completing our year end inventory) we are also planning for some exciting events at the winery. 

How do I get on these lists?

Bad enough that I get pleas from every animal rescue organization on the planet–puppies, kittens, polar bears, horses, donkeys, whales, big cats, farm animals, exotic animals (I tend to hope that abusers, traffickers and slaughterers will all fry in hell), you name ‘em.  I also get tree-hugger stuff–parks, water, trees, natural resources, pollution control, environmental damage restoration.  Then there are the health issues–Susan J. Komen for the Cure, March of Dimes, American Heart, NAMI, diabetes, cancer, kidneys, blindness, University Hospitals, Summa Health, disease-of-the-month–I get them all.

Recently, fixed mortgages were near their lowest rates in almost 30 years. And if you are one of the many people who took out mortgages in the few years prior to that, you may be wondering if you should look into refinancing.

If your mortgage was taken out within the past five years, it may be worthwhile to refinance if you can get financing that is at least one to two points lower than your current interest rate. You should plan on staying in the house long enough to pay off the loan transaction charges (points, title insurance, attorney’s fees, etc.).

Well, I just hate it when electrical things get weird and I have to do something about the situation without having a CLUE as to how to approach the problem.

So, I go to start writing another of my pieces of deathless prose for inclusion in The Weekly Villager ( This is something that I do on a regular basis , generally at the very last minute when The Muse–whichever of the nine was on the schedule for that day–shows up to inspire some really fast typing) and –CURSES–the computer had died!  Nothing could induce it to even turn on…not plugging and unplugging, not wiggling plugs, not looking for signs that some cat had loosened–quite unintentionally, surely–some vital connection…zip, zero, nada.  The contraption was as dead as a doornail.

In many of our articles we hope to give our readers a new set of eyes so as they can discover “nature” as they have never seen it before.  Most of our readers have been to Nelson Ledges State Park and are struck be amazing rock formations, but who would have thought that if you stand in the parking lot you could straddle the divide between the Lake Erie and Ohio River watershed? But you can. As you straddle the divide facing east, water on your left side would travel toward Lake Erie down to Lake Ontario; go over Niagara Falls and down the St. Lawrence River to the North Atlantic. Water on your right side would make its way to Eagle Creek, the Mahoning and Ohio Rivers, flow into the Mississippi and end up in the Gulf of Mexico.  This is an example of having “new” eyes, seeing things from a different perspective.

On September 9, 2012, a crotchety, absolutely ancient looking 1928 Studebaker Dictator made the first trip under its own power in at least 49 years to the Classic Car Show at Sunny Lake in Aurora.  Likely it’s been sleeping a good bit longer than that, because  sometime prior to 1963, it had been towed to a Studebaker Dealer in that disabled condition and traded for…  We will never know what!.  What meager information that could be garnered at the time indicated that the dealer had plans to restore it and place it in his showroom as an advertising ploy.   ….BUT….  In 1963 the Studebaker Corporation was in its death throes and its dealers were on the verge of bankruptcy day by day. It is likely that the old Studebaker was purchased by the dealer a few years earlier, say in 1959 or1960, when the then- newly-introduced compact Studebaker Lark buoyed spirits and provided a welcome bit of optimism to the Studebaker conglomerate by dramatically spiking their sales curve. By  1963 though, sales had taken a nosedive thanks to competition from Corvairs, Falcons and Valiants (new compacts offered by the Big Three car makers).  There was now no money for such luxuries as old car restorations.  So in those last days before the Studebaker empire came crashing down this old Dictator got towed to the back of the lot along with the other junkers to be sold for scrap.  Enter a then 21-year-old John Biggs who, at that time, could probably be accurately described as something of a dreamer, someone who saw value in things that mainstream society had used up and moved on from. This is a disease that some of us inveterate old car buffs seem to be afflicted with from early on in life. 

Snowflakes landed one by one outside the office window, each one adding to the smooth blanket of white covering the town like a new cozy comforter keeping the grass warm. But the weather was anything but warm as the snow continued to drift down, some icy flecks floating lazily on a gentle wind before landing on a small pile, while other more menacing tufts sped straight to the ground with a very purposeful thud. Well, with as much “thud” as a soft little snowflake could do, even if it was a tough, menacing one.

Happy 2013! Tis the season for making new promises and new goals for the new year. Along with my regular New Year’s resolutions (losing weight, winning the lottery, etc) I am also adding a new resolution this year – broaden my horizons on wine. I like this resolution because it is a great excuse to try some wines that I normally would not go buy.

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I understand that breakfast is the most important part of the day. I agree with the theory that a healthy and productive day starts by fueling your body, which kick-starts your metabolism, giving your body the energy it needs to face the day. This idea really has merit, so I feel validated sharing it with my kids each morning. “Kids have growing bodies that need fuel,” I tell them. “You’re brain is hungry, even if your tummy isn’t.” Eventually, if the scientific approach fails me, I resort to bribery.

Since mushrooms have been in the news of late, we thought we would try to enlighten our readers about one of the most unusual and extremely important organisms in nature. Ominous sounding names like Destroying Angel, Deadly Galerina, and Poision Pie, are obviously poisonous; but Sulfer Tuft,  Jack O’Lantern, and Fly Agaric are equally as dangerous. However Morels, Meadow Mushrooms, and White Matsutake are a culinary delight. 

Last week I gave you 5 of my favorite wine gifts for this year. And while I could probably have this list go on until next Christmas, I will just keep it to the final five! Items four and five can be found at Bed, Bath and Beyond or I’ve even seen them at Kohls! While items one, two and three are great local finds at your local wineries or wine shops

Well, yes, it IS that season of the year when all sorts of disparate groups have their annual Christmas parties.  The barrage has begun already.

Hiram College hosted a seasonal soiree last week for Friends (That’s Friends, with a capital F), faculty types and festive individuals of all stripes, featuring a number of  tours de force by AVI, their supplier of campus food services.  Those folks can whip up a  mean truffle or two…or three or four or five, for that matter–nice selection; they do hand-carved beef or turkey sliders as well, and little savories worth looking for on the circulating trays offered by students working their way through the academic world (Full disclosure : I skipped the opportunity to get better acquainted with the possibilities of Brussels sprouts…saving room for the truffles and cheesecake.)  The jazz combo kept things lively and it’s a high-class affair indeed when the piano player has a Ph.D.(and no tip jar).

“I’m trying to remember the name of a drug store chain from the 1950s, 1960s.  There was one near where I lived in Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C., and I remember there was also one in Youngstown.  The one in Washington was replaced by Gray Drugs. Can you find the name of the store for me?”  Questions such as this one are always intriguing, requiring extra thought as to how to approach finding something which has since been replaced by something else.

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Isn’t it funny how a smell can instantly take you back to a time and a place where you first experienced it? For me, when I smell crayons, I’m six years old, and back-to-school supply shopping. My mom would take me and my platoon of siblings to Kmart, long before the invention of the world’s largest retailer. There we’d be, each clutching a supply list, getting everything we’d need to tackle the exciting new school year.

I can still vividly remember the first time I saw a coyote; it was at the gravel pit where I worked during the summer behind the Red Fox housing development in Shalersville. The game protector informed the plant manager that a coyote had been killing young calves on a neighbors beef farm. He gave us permission to kill the animal if we saw it roaming through the area. Later in the day, the animal was laying across the tailgate of a truck.  It was the size of a very large German Sheppard. That was 35 years ago!  Recently Aurora, Hudson and Frohring Meadows in the Geauga Metro Parks have had “coyote experiences”.  On many nights I can hear the eerie howling as they communicate with each other in the woods where I live.  This highly adaptable canine has expanded its range to most of North America and into Mexico and Panama. This is due in large part because the other predators such as mountain lions, bears, lynx, wolverines and bobcats who normally keep coyote populations in check have been pushed out by urban sprawl, upsetting the delicate balance of nature.  Coyotes are found in all 88 counties of Ohio. Coyote populations often increase as the turkey population’s increase in an area. Seldom do they attack a healthy deer, mainly feeding on the weak or sickly. 

Omnishambles.

That, declares the Oxford English Dictionary–OED, to friends and family–is the word of the year, 2012, presumably, though it seems to have got its start in 2009 on a British political satire TV show.  I’m sure you’ve used it countless times since then, right?  It did manage to gain some currency in Europe after Mitt Romney’s goof-prone visit there but was transmogrified ( Isn’t THAT a great word?) into “Romneyshambles”.  

By now you probably have had your share of turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberries and desserts! But if your family is like mine you also have enough leftovers from dinner to have a second Thanksgiving dinner. Whether you are serving turkey sandwiches, turkey chili, turkey soup, turkey frittatas or just plain turkey there are so many ways you can incorporate any leftover wine.

My usually good natured husband was looking troubled when I returned from my shopping trip several Sundays ago. How could he have guessed about the new pair of shoes I just had to have? The shoes were far from the problem I learned as he shared this story.

Soon after I had left for an afternoon of retail consumption, a woman came to the front door. My husband didn’t recognize her but thought it might be an acquaintance ofmine. It turned out to be a relative. She lives with her family far from our home. Her visit was a surprise but a welcome one. 

Has this fall been more vibrant than others? The leaves have been changing colors since the last week of September and for the past three weeks have created the backdrop for truly breathtaking views of our surrounding landscape. We are blessed to live in Northeast Ohio this time of year and have our climate and biome to thank for the fall spectacle. Leaves are putting on their annual fall show throughout the northeastern US and southeastern Canada. Ohio is just part of the Temperate Deciduous Forest biome that blankets this section of North America with green each summer and reds, oranges and yellows each fall. Temperate means that this biome experiences 4 distinct seasons. Deciduous describes trees that lose their leaves in the fall. The Temperature Deciduous Forest biome extends essentially from the Mississippi River eastward and from parts of southern states (Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi) into Quebec and Ontario, Canada.

I’ve mentioned a couple of times how I love the local food trucks… from Hodge Podge (who helped put the Cleveland Food Trucks on the map in Food Network’s “The Great Food Truck Race) to Sweet! The Mobile Cupcakery (yes, they only sell some of the greatest cupcakes) to Cracked Mobile that specializes in breakfast.

As you hear the echoes of whirling winds throwing leaves and while changes in weather chills your bones, October is a month rich in tradition of ghostly tales and old folklore. Whether it’s idle curiosity, a sense to hear scary stories, or suspenseful intrigue, Portage County District Library has an enormous collection to satisfy any appetite. Here is just a small portion of what’s awaiting for you on the library bookshelves:

Here comes the Crocodile!
In my role as drama critic for the Weekly Villager (No rest for the wicked, as my father used to say), I recently took in the Baldwin Wallace University Department of Theatre and Dance’s production of J. M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan”.  Quite an evening!
One of the motivating factors for this drama excursion was, of course, the appearance onstage of a “local boy made good”, the inimitable Luke Brett, as Captain Hook.  

Now that we have talked about red wine and white wine, let’s get into the topic of blushes or rosé wines. When someone mentions a blush wine (usually this wine is a lighter red to pink color) you may start to think about the sweeter taste of White Zinfandel. While this is the most popular blush wine, there are varying degrees of blush wine. 

So here I am at the BIG FANDANGO at the Longaberger Basket Outlet Store at Aurora Premium Outlets and I’m making a basket…me, Little Miss Craftperson, whose biggest venture into crafts was probably when I used to make  molds out of modeling clay and pour plaster-of-paris horse heads, later hand-painted, as gift items for favored individuals (Mom still has hers).  No, it was not last year. Anyway, there I was, and it was pretty cool.

The beautiful gazebo was quiet now as all the little fairies, imps, nymphs and sprites who had gathered there to hear the princess’s tales went on their way and lived happily ever after. The giant once-white canvas with all the paint tracks – and tail smacks! – made by the floppy-eared puppy and all the other dogs was now hung up for display, the blips and blops of colorful blobs long since dried. And all the different shades of the evening sky, swiped above the earth with nature’s widest paint brush, had made way for a new work of art brought about by the morning’s refreshing light. For having been so busy, so bustling, so filled with the animals and their humans surrounded by so much creative power not so long ago, the little park was now relatively quiet and calm. But as Doodle Dog wandered past the empty gazebo, through what had been the painting area, and around the perching rock that had the best view of the sky, he knew there was still very much a joyful energy left behind. 

We all know there are no such things as vampires. However, bloodsuckers exist and you should be alert to their presence. They can be very sneaky. Mosquitoes, three-corner flies, horse flies and many other insects want to make a meal out of you. One of the creepiest and most repulsive bloodsuckers isn’t even an insect! Instead, this organism has eight legs and can’t even fly. Ticks! They have been very abundant this summer and it helps to know something about these parasites.

Parents generally don’t have to be convinced of the value of a college education for their children. Studies show that college graduates not only earn more but are healthier, more satisfied with their jobs, and more likely to remain employed during tough economic times.1

Avast, me hearties…and a “Yankee Doodle” doo to you!

It’s Navy Week.  It’s Navy Week and it’s being observed in Boston by the first sailing of the oldest commissioned ship in the U.S. Navy, the U.S.S. Constitution–“Old Ironsides”– since 1997 (It’s been tugged to a few places but this is the first time under its own sail power since its restoration.).  This commemorates the 200th anniversary of its victory over the British warship, HMS Guerriere in the War of 1812 (The nickname came about when, supposedly, cannonballs from the British ship bounced off the oaken sides of the American vessel).

Curiouser and curiouser…as Alice said during her adventures in Wonderland….

NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)’s Mars Science Laboratory has just succeeded in landing the spacecraft Curiousity on Mars, the culmination of more than three decades of planning and building, theorizing and research, not to mention scrounging for money.

Doodle Dog scampered through the cool grass and wove in among unusual trees and out among usual trees. He let the green blades tickle the undersides of his round paws as he scampered and wandered and trotted and plodded along his way, not really paying much attention to all that scampering, wandering, trotting and plodding as he continued on because he still had the barking hum or humming bark of the canine choir barking and humming away in his head. In fact, Doodle Dog found himself scampering, wandering, trotting and plodding right along in step with the tune depending on if it was humming or barking or echoing in his mind like the different voices of the animals and their humans had echoed off the usual and unusual trees surrounding the curiously enchanted garden!

As I have mentioned in previous columns, this summer has been the best – hot temperatures, plenty of sun, lots of parties, and of course, lots of wine! As harvest season is right around the corner, I thought I would take the next couple of weeks to give you a quick discussion on white wine grapes versus red wine grapes. So grab a glass of your favorite white wine and continue to read…

Any anniversary is a milestone. Whether it is an anniversary for a happy occasion or a sad occasion, every year that passes brings so many more memories. So looking back to 8 years ago when the winery opened, I cannot believe the number of memories and milestones we have celebrated. Actually, I can’t believe that we are celebrating our 8th anniversary of the winery’s grand opening!