A Type of Eating

To celebrate the Fourth of July, my mother-in-law and her best friend, who’s also my husband’s godmother, came to our place for the day. We visited the local Hawaiian Falls water park and spend most of the afternoon at the house having a cook-in. The entire time, however, if we weren’t doing something else – going on rides, swimming, looking at pictures – we ate. A lot.

My mother-in-law’s best friend said that we keep “noshing.” You see, my husband and I tend to be quite proper in both our written and verbal communication and having never heard that word, Stephen laughed and told her that this must be a “Central Texas thing.” Both Stephen’s godmother and mom grew up in a small town outside Austin, TX and when my mother-in-law confirmed that to nosh is indeed a real expression, he jokingly assumed they had their own vocabulary.

Being the grammar/language stickler that I am, this all spurred my curiosity; so, here it is from my favorite Merriam-Webster online – nosh, intransitive verb, means “to eat a snack” and the noun’s definition is “a light meal.” The first known use of the word was in the 1930-1940s. It is said to originate from the German “naschen” meaning “to nibble” or the Yiddish “nashn.” Apparently, people in the UK use noshing as a slag term for food.

No matter how you say it, I am a 500-pound person on the inside, so I love to nosh.

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“Ladybugs all dressed in red…”

When I say “carnivore,” what’s the first image that pops into your head? In my mind, I see a roaring lion.

Now, let’s play associations:

A lion is to a zebra, as a ladybug is to a ____?

If you said grass (just as I did, 5 minutes ago), you were wrong.

I started a vegetable garden in our new home for the first time this spring and my neighbor tagged me in a pin on Pinterest about attracting ladybugs. Apparently, the small, beautiful, red insects are very much carnivores and eat aphids, or plant lice.

The 1/8-inch-long aphids come in different colors (green, brown, red) and live in colonies making them that much more destructive. They eat different types of plants, or suck the juices from the leaves, stem and roots, causing the plant to die. Aphids consume everything from trees, such as cherries and pine, to strawberries and lettuce.

While there are chemical and non-chemical substances that can be used, ladybugs are nature’s pest control against the harmful insects. Just one ladybug can eat up to 5,000 aphids in its lifetime.

So, if you want to house some ladybugs in your yard, here is an easy way to do so.

Win 2 Round Trip Tickets to Fiji!

Win Two Round-Trip Tickets to Fiji

Passport Perturbation

It’s summer, so amid vacations and home-improvement projects, blogging has taken a step back. That doesn’t mean learning does. In fact, I discovered a very important lesson right at the start of my two-week holiday.

My husband and I took our first trip to Europe together, and on a rainy April morning drove to his mom’s house to drop off our dog and have her take us to the airport. She made sure we’re all packed, looked at Stephen’s new passport and my Bulgarian one. While examining our printed ticket confirmations, she said: “You know, I don’t know if you can fly with this – your passport shows your maiden name and your ticket has your married one.”

Boy, was she right.

Two hours on the dot prior to our flight, we walked up to the check-in counter and started typing in our confirmation number. My husband got everything on the first try; we weighed his bag, put on the tags and he was ready to board. After scanning my passport twice and the system not letting us through, a nice US Airways employee came to help us, typed various things on his computer but nothing worked. He gave me the Lufthansa phone number (United just operated one of the legs of our flight) and said that when there’s a name issue with one of their tickets, they can just change it in the system. To save money, (as I believe many do) we booked online through a website agency. Because we didn’t go through the airline, the ticket could not be adjusted. So, 40 minutes before our flight, I was ticket-less, sitting on the floor balling, having not seen my family in five years and my husband checked in to visit them alone. The greatest irony of all – changing my expiring-in-May passport was the main reason for visiting Bulgaria in April. Basically, I will hold a passport with my married name on the flight back.

The most frustrating factor for me as a Lufthansa fan – I am a Lufthansa Miles & More member (a frequent flyer program) and they have copies of my marriage certificate on file because I changed my name with them as well. I will never understand why there wasn’t a way to make an exception for the outgoing flight.

Long story short, we ended up having to spend another $1,500 for a new ticket without being able to get a refund on the old one, had to get a stamped, translated document from Bulgaria stating that I am the same person with my married or maiden name and I ended up flying with two passports on the way back.

 

Now, this may not be anyone’s case ever, but note this if you are undergoing a name change – whatever ID you plan to travel with, has to list the same name as your ticket. If you go anywhere internationally, that must be your passport –  everything from my green card to my BestBuy card in my wallet has my married name on it, but I was not going to be allowed to fly if my passport didn’t match. Expensive lesson – don’t learn it on your own.

Oh Honey, Honey

Expiration dates in the U.S. have always bothered me – I don’t remember my parents ever having thrown away food that showed “expired” on the label. While I will never discard something edible because I have had it for a certain amount of time, my husband and I printed a useful sheet with general guidelines of how long food remains edible if stored on the counter, in the fridge or kept frozen.

Imagine my surprise, when next to honey the table showed an infinity symbol. Apparently, honey, in normal conditions, doesn’t spoil. Ever.

Now, if refrigerated or if the moisture level drops significantly, honey will granulate, such as in the left picture below. Both jars came from my pantry and to tell you the truth crystallized honey works great to sweeten hot tea or even to eat with butter on bread (don’t judge). The coarser texture adds a dimension and seems to slightly change the flavor profile.

Crystallized Honey (left) and Liquid Honey
Crystallized Honey and Liquid Honey

Honey, due to it’s high sugar concentration, does not allow for the collection of water. When moisture comes in contact with honey, the supersaturated hygroscopic solution absorbs it, killing all microorganism responsible for creating bacterial growth, yeast and fungal spores, causing the substance to never spoil. Now, a lot more chemistry and biology goes into making honey and its properties, but the bottom line is – honey stays edible forever. Lidded honey jars  dating back to 1800 B.C. were found in Egypt. Apparently, humans used honey more than 5,500 years ago in Georgia:

For everyone loving all-natural remedies, check this out:

Apparently, pure honey could work almost as well as the Neosporin® in your cabinet.

Polar Bear Perceptions

Do you remember this:

Well, I barely began school when the Coca-Cola Polar Bear commercials began and I loved them – the bears were so fluffy and cute and white! I even won a soft, mid-sized teddy bear from one of the Coke’s Christmas promos in Bulgaria and it became my favorite stuffed toy. So imagine my disappointment when I found out the polar bear’s fur isn’t white at all. It’s almost see-through.

Polar bear fur close-up
Polar bear fur close-up

The animal’s skin is black in order to absorb sun rays and keep the bear warm in the cold Arctic climate. The polar bear’s fur contains keratin (just as people’s nails) and looks colorless, almost transparent. Because the individual, longer top strands are hollow (inner layer isn’t), they diffuse light making the fur appear white. The hollowness, or strands containing air, acts as an insulator.

Another trivia tidbit I discovered looking for information about a polar bear’s fur – it can seem green:

The color, as the video mentioned, can form within the fur or even inside each strand due to the algae in the zoo pond waters.

Polar bears can look purple, too:

Polar Bear turned purple at the Mendoza City Zoo.
Polar Bear turned purple at the Mendoza City Zoo.

A 23-year-old bear at the Mendoza City Zoo in Argentina suffered from dermatitis and the treatment spray had the unusual side-effect of changing her fur to purple. Apparently, the color washed off in a few days.

Heart-Shaped Balloons and Chemical Reactions

Happy Valentine’s Day! I don’t particularly agree with what the holiday’s become (read my column on page 7 that I wrote my second year in college), but I learned something new today because of it.

Early this morning, my awesome coworker presented me with a heart-covered goody bag with candy, a Scooby-Doo card and pencil and a heart shaped balloon.

My Balloon!
My Balloon!

I picked up the balloon to hang it and my coworker said: “Shake it! It gets cold!” The chemistry nerd in me perked up and decided to find out why. So here it is:

Balloon Reaction

 

Now, that may look like a lot of gibberish so here is what the chemical reaction looks like in real life:

Basically, each tiny, self-inflatable balloon contains baking soda and a vinegar package, ergo the compounds in them – sodium bicarbonate and acetic acid. When you pop the packet, the acid reacts with the baking soda causing the production of carbon dioxide, which fills up the balloon, causing it to inflate. That gas is also the reason, why those balloons don’t fly or float – carbon dioxide is denser than air.

Now, going back to the cold – the balloon cools off when shaken because the chemical reaction is endothermic, meaning it takes heat in to occur, leaving the surface cold.

Maybe I like Valentine’s Day after all – it’s got chemistry!