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Giraffes

Today’s Learning Topic: Giraffes!

  1.  These adorable little (gigantic?) creatures are the tallest living land creatures on Earth!  They grow to about 19 feet tall.
  2. Giraffes have short horns on their head called ossicones. Both the males and females have horns. Ossicones are made of ossified cartilage (cartilage that has became bone).Female giraffes have little poofs of hair at the top of their ossicones but the males generally don’t have the hair because it is worn away during combat with other males
  3.  There are white giraffes but these giraffes are not albino.
  4. Giraffes are herbivores and eat young leaves from the tops of trees.
  5. Giraffes live on the African continent.
  6. Adults weigh 2000-3000 lbs!
  7. Giraffes hearts have adapted to be able to pump blood up the long neck to the giraffes brain.
  8.  The gestation period for a giraffe is 15 months! (and we thought 9 months of carrying a child was a long time!)
  9.  Baby giraffes are about 6 feet tall at birth!
  10. In Africa, the giraffe has been revered as a religious symbol, kept as a pet and traded as a diplomatic offering of goodwill.

 

Biddy’s Beads Giraffe Necklace $28

Love Giraffes? Check out these handmade giraffe items on Artfire! Just click the image to go to the collection.

Falafel

This past weekend, my husband and I went on a short bike adventure because rain was in the forecast so a long adventure was risky. Our little adventure took us downtown to the King Tut’s Mediterranean Grill.  

We had something there that I absolutely loved. I got the vegetarian platter and there were this little morsels of heaven on it! They were crispy and just delicious! So I did a little research to find out what they are and how they are made. Today’s learning topic is falafel.

Falafel is a middle eastern food. It’s a deep fried ball of ground chickpeas and/or fava beans. It’s served with pita bread. Falafel is believed to have orginated in Eygpt but is now eaten throughout the Middle East. It is a national food of Israel. Falafel has became a popular food choice for vegetarians and vegans throughout the world and is now served in health stores in a prepackaged mix. The beans used for falafel are not cooked prior to use. Instead they are soaked with baking soda and ground together with spices and deep fried. Falafel can also be baked instead of fried to reduce the fat content but this changes the texture of the dish somewhat.

This weekend I will attempt to make falafel. Check out this nice recipe over on blogspot.

http://falafel-recipes.blogspot.com/2011/06/falafel-recipe.html

I’ll let ya know how it goes. 🙂

The Praying Mantis

Apparently this week is about bugs for me. Yesterday I found a giant spider while pulling weeds in the backyard. Scared me half to death. Then last night I dreamed about bugs (probably due to the spider incident!). Then today I walk outside to my truck and there’s a praying mantis on the window of my driver side door! I just left him on there, got in and drove away. Eventually I looked over and he was gone. So today I decided to learn a little about the praying mantis since I didn’t even know whether to be scared of him or not!

 

 

Obviously the praying mantis is named for its little praying front legs. It’s kinda cute, don’t you think? They can turn their heads nearly 180 degrees so they can see all the way around their body! Also they have two large eyes and then another 3 small eyes! Creepy! They snatch up their pray with their front legs. Sometimes the female will also eat the male after mating. Praying mantises usually eat crickets and grasshoppers but have also been known to eat small rodents, birds, lizards and frogs.

Organic farms sometimes use mantises to replace pesticides. The mantises will eat the other pests without disturbing the fruit or vegetable crop. However, mantises also pray on beneficial insects too.

The movement and speed of the preying mantis as inspired many myths, stories, and superstitions.  For centuries, praying mantises have been a staple of some styles of martial arts that mimic their quick and fluid movements.

It appears a praying mantis can bite a human but the the creatures have no venom. So it might hurt but won’t make you super sick unless it gets infected or something. Many people actually keep these little guys as pets. So I’m glad I left the little praying mantis alone this morning. 🙂

As many of you know, I love handmade items…so I’m going to start sharing some cute finds with you related to my learning sessions. Like praying mantises? Here’s a adorable little handmade coffee mug by Hummingbird Studio Pottery on Artfire. Check it out! 🙂 Just click on the picture to go to their studio! 🙂

Just what is curry?

Growing up in southwest Virginia, foods were traditionally Appalachian foods. My  mother is an excellent cook (in fact, I lost about 15 lbs when I went away to college!). There was lots of delicious potatoes, gravies, cornbread, stews, and desserts. mmmm…desserts!

Over the years I’m slowly trying new foods. Most of the foods I grew up with did not have a lot of spices in them. So as an adult, I’m exploring different spices on my own. I’ve found many that I like and of course, lots that I don’t.

Today’s learning topic is curry. I’ve decided to try a curry dish in my crockpot (see below) tomorrow and so today I wanted to learn a little bit about curry.

This recipe is from the book “The Busy Mom’s Slow Cooker Cookbook”. I highly recommend this book for healthy slow cooker meals!

Here’s the ingredient list and recipe:

  

Just what is curry?

(By the way, I got this curry powder in the Indian food section at Meijer…it was much cheaper packaged this way than it was over in the spice section in the

little bottle. This whole bag was about $2.50 versus a small jar for $3!)

Curry is the English-ized word for the Tamil word kari. (Tamil is a dialect spoken in India). Curry is a blend of spices commonly used in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Thailand. Several spices may be in curry powder. The most common spices in curry powder are tumeric, coriander (also known as cilantro), and cumin. This blend of spices was developed by the British to mimic the tastes of India.

Curry powder became popular in the 19th and 20th centuries as it was exported throughout Europe and into North and South America. At this time, there was no specific blend of spices in curry. But in the 1960s and 1970s Indian-based food consumption increased  internationally and Indian restaurants began to open throughout the world.  It was at this time that the spices in curry powder became standardized outside India.

The spices in curry powder have been shown to have several health benefits including prevention of certain cancers and prevention of  Alzheimer’s disease. [1, 2]  Tumeric has been shown to reduce inflammation. [3]

References:

1. Ravindran et al. Curcumin and Cancer Cells: How Many Ways Can Curry Kill Tumor Cells Selectively? AAPS J. 2009 Sep;11(3):495-510. Epub 2009 Jul 10.

2. Lim et al. The curry spice curcumin reduces oxidative damage and amyloid pathology in an Alzheimer transgenic mouse. J Neurosci. 2001 Nov 1;21(21):8370-7.

3. Jacob et al. Mechanism of the Anti-inflammatory Effect of Curcumin: PPAR-equation M1Activation. PPAR Res. 2007; 2007: 89369.

Kiwano Melon

As I was cruising the aisle at Meijer today, this monster-looking little fruit caught my eye and I just had to make it today’s learning topic. This is a Kiwano melon.

As much as this spikey little thing creeped me out, I just had to try it! So I got one and brought it home. Then I had to look up how to eat it because really I didn’t even know what the thing was!

Good ole wikihow.com had an article on how to eat it: http://www.wikihow.com/Eat-a-Kiwano-%28Horned-Melon%29 You basically cut in in half and the squeeze the fruit out. It’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen. There’s a million seeds in there! Thank goodness you can eat the seeds, huh? Turns out this melon is actually a member of the cucumber family.

So what the heck is this thing?

Kiwano melon is native to southern and central Africa and is commonly known as an African horned melon, however, these melons are also grown in California (this particular  one was grown in the USA). Ripe fruits have orange skin with spikes. The flavor of the pulp is a little sweet with a flavor mix of bananas, lime and cucumber. I found them to have very little taste..mostly just a slimy texture with a hint of taste.  These fruit grow like cucumbers. They are hard to harvest because you have to be careful not to stab neighboring fruits with the spines when picking a kiwano melon.

These melons have lots of good-for-you nutrients including:  vitamin C, iron and potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, calcium, copper and sodium. The seeds contain linoleic and oleic acid. Linoleic acid is an omega fatty acid which is required for human health while oleic acid is thought to help lower of blood pressure.

So…would I try this again? Probably not. Though it was a fun little adventure, I didn’t find the melon to taste very good and it’s sliminess kinda grosses me out.  But it would be a nice slimey food to serve for a Halloween party of something when you need something that looks gross! 😉

Calico Cats

Calico is not a breed of cat but a color pattern. Calico cats must have some of 3 different colors: black, white, and orange.

Do you know that most calico cats are female? In cats, coat color is a sex-linked trait! Who knew! Only about 1 in 3000 calico cats are male and these males usually have an extra X chromosome (XXY instead of XY) making them sterile (unable to reproduce). This is similar to a condition in humans called Klinefelter’s syndrome, or XXY Syndrome.

Women and the Marathon

The marathon is a 26.2 mile running event. The race is named “marathon” because of the legend of Pheidippides, a Greek messenger. The legend states that he was sent from the battlefield of Marathon to Athens to announce that the Persians had been defeated in the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC. He ran the entire distance without stopping and burst into the assembly, exclaiming “Νενικήκαμεν” (Nenikékamen, ‘We have won.’) before collapsing and dying.

A little over a hundred years ago, one of the items on many “bucket lists” would have been unachievable for a woman not because a woman can’t do it but because men thought women couldn’t do it. In 2009, I trained for 4 months and completed the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon. Of course, I didn’t run it to be competitive. I ran it simply to see if I could do it. The next year, I completed the Kentucky Derby Marathon.

 

Is running/jogging/dragging yourself 26.2 miles a challenge? Definitely! But it’s amazing to me that women weren’t even allowed to try to run the marathon 100 years ago and weren’t really welcome (even though allowed to run) at races just 40 years ago. In the races I ran, it seemed that there were just as many women were running as there were men running.

In 1896, a Greek woman asked to participate in the marathon in the Olympics and was rejected. After repeated petitioning, women were allowed to participate in 5 field events in the 1928 Olympics. In 1960, the 800 meter run (the longest distance women were allowed to run at that time) for women was dropped from the Olympics because the women were exhausted after running the race. In the 1960s, women began running distance races as bandit runners (runners who aren’t officially registered). In 1966, Roberta Gibb hid behind a shrub at the start of the Boston Marathon, sneaking into the field and finishing the race in an unofficial time of 3:21:25.

Roberta Gibb

In 1970, the first women’s marathon events are held. In 1971, the best marathon time for women is dropped 4 times from 2:55:22 to 2:49:40. In 1971, the Boston Marathon officially opened to women. Women were also allowed to run the New York City Marathon but the race was separate from the men’s race.Today, women are allowed to run pretty much any marathon race.

 The marathon is competitve for many people but for many of us, it is/was just something we wanted to do to see if we could do it. Many people run just to finish. In 2005, the average marathon time in the U.S. was 4 hours 32 minutes 8 seconds for men, 5 hours 6 minutes 8 seconds for women.