Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Stinkin' Stinkhorns

There are many benefits to living on a lot with many shade trees.  Privacy, cooler temperatures, and beauty are a few.  However, there are a few disadvantages as well.  Too many falling leaves in autumn, limited flower/vegetable planting options, and mushrooms.  Not the cute little mushrooms gnomes live in.  Penis mushrooms!  Even a summer with drought conditions didn't prevent those little buggers from showing up.  This year the phallic looking monstrosities showed up in the backyard, the sunnier side of the yard.  And they showed up in abundance.  For the first time I decided to Google 'penis mushroom' and discovered that they are really called Stinkhorn mushrooms.  That's a fitting name because they STINK.  I learned that they crop up in wooded or mulched areas where the mulch is decomposing.  They aren't harmful and there isn't much you can do to prevent or get rid of them. 

The first stage of it's life cycle is an 'egg' stage; they emerge from the mulch like some sort of space oddity.  After a day or two the egg sprouts an 'eye' and grows into it's phallic form.  The tip of the 'shroom becomes dark colored and produces a sweet slime that insects are attracted to.  This is how the spores are dispersed.  After a day or two the mushroom turns into a gelatinous mess and rots.  At some point in this cycle you will notice the stench.  In previous years we had just a few; nothing to notice much of a smell.  This year, there were enough that I could smell them about ten feet from the garden.  It was bad enough that I had to take matters into my own hands and pull them out before even more started decomposing.  It was a nasty task, let me tell you!  I have made a mental note not to dump out the bird bath in the same place every day; especially in an area that is quite shaded.

So, that's your lesson on fungi.  They aren't always such fun guys. Bwahahaha!

The eggs


Mushroom emerging

Decaying mushroom with mulch stuck on it's sticky parts

The bucket o' 'shrooms I gathered

See the 'eyeball' on that egg?  Caught that one before it became trouble!

What a stinkin' mess!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Project MCP - August

Soon after August’s Project MCP themes were announced I had the first two themes completed!  However, I spent the next three weeks contemplating the third theme, Essence of America.  That’s a hard idea to capture in a photo!  I was never able to think of anything and did not submit a photo for that theme.  No biggie.  I’m not getting graded or anything!  You may notice that all of this month’s themes revolved around the Olympics somehow.  Here are the three photos I did submit:

Project MCP / August / Repetition

August Week 1 - Repeition 
The Olympic rings are five repetitive circles.  We happened to have our ladder ball game out so I took this photo of the balls hanging from the ladder.
Project MCP / August / Sports
August Week 2 - Sports 
Once again ladder ball was used!  It’s a sport, right?
Project MCP / August / Gold
August Week 4 - Gold 
I thought this would be super easy but I slacked off with my picture taking this month and had to quickly find something interesting and gold.  I love photographing these particular flowers in our deck flower box.  The yellow stamens are interesting and the petals of the flowers always look shiny and glittery.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Favorite Things: Jimmy John’s, 1990’s alternative rock, and Pandora

I love Jimmy John’s.  I think their subs are delicious and I enjoy reading the humorous signs posted throughout the store.  (Free smells!)  I really like that they are so quick.  More often than not, my sub is ready before I’ve even finished paying.  But, those aren’t the only reasons I love Jimmy John’s.  I love my particular neighborhood Jimmy John’s because of the XM/Sirius radio station they listen to; 1990’s alternative rock.  On every visit, I’m brought back to my days in high school and early college, hearing songs I haven’t heard in ages.  On my last visit I heard the Butthole Surfers.  Who wouldn’t like to hear a little music by a band with that name?  Hearing such tunes prompted me to search for a similar station on Pandora.  I listened to it for hours one Saturday and couldn’t believe how many songs I remembered…song names, artists, and lyrics.  I was even naming that tune in less than ten notes!  It made me realize that I have a lot of useless information clogging up my brain!  So, because of Jimmy John’s I have found a way to transport myself back to simpler times when I had very little to worry about.  It’s too bad Jimmy John’s is so freaky fast because there isn’t much time to listen to a full song during my visits.  Thank goodness for Pandora!  And Jimmy John's #12 Beach Club.

And here's a little video for you.  I have never actually seen the video for this song until now.  Who knew that Erik Estrada from CHiPs fame starred in it?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Recipe: Cucumber Tomato Salad with Zucchini and Black Olives in Lemon Balsamic Vinaigrette

The vegetables in my garden just recently started ripening and I needed to find some recipes to use the cucumbers, tomatoes, and zucchini.  I made three separate dishes that used one, two, or all three ingredients.  All were tasty, but today I am highlighting one recipe in particular.  It was super delicious and used all three ingredients and two herbs from my garden.  To make it even better, most of the other ingredients were already in my pantry!  I found it at which has a fun function where you can search for recipes with certain ingredients that you plug in (which I just discovered a few weeks ago!).

Cucumber Tomato Salad with Zucchini and Black Olives in Lemon Balsamic Vinaigrette
  • 2 large cucumbers, diced
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 large tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cup chopped black olives
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

In a large salad bowl, mix together the cucumbers, zucchini, red onion, tomatoes, black olives, basil, and thyme. In a separate bowl, whisk together the red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, lemon zest, lemon juice, kosher salt, sugar, and pepper until thoroughly combined. Pour the olive oil slowly into the dressing mixture, whisking to combine. Pour the dressing over the salad, and serve.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Project MCP - July

Welcome to the July installment of my Project MCP participation!  July’s themes revolved a lot around Independence Day.  Some were easier than others.  Once again, I struggled to complete the assignments in as timely of a fashion as I’d like.  The last photo wasn’t submitted until the August themes were released!  But, that’s not really what the project is about and I’m just glad that I completed it (still within the month of July!).
Project MCP / July / Independence
July Week  1 – Independence
That’s a hard word to showcase in a photo.  I had to think outside of the box a little (not really my forte) and figured that one of the first forms of independence we get is getting our driver’s license/our first car.  So, I took a picture of my car.  It just so happens that our flag was hanging off of the garage and added even more independence pizazz!

Project MCP / July / Red, White, and Blue
July Week 2 – Take a photo of something red, white, and blue

I could have taken a picture of the flag but I didn’t want to make it that easy.  One day, I was drinking a diet Pepsi and noticed its red, white, and blue logo.  When I went to grab one out of the fridge to photograph I noticed the Miller Light logo was red, white, and blue as well.  My two favorite drinks!
Project MCP / July / Bokeh
July Week 3 –Bokeh

Bokeh is the photography term used to describe the blur you sometimes see in the background of a photo.  Often times, points of light will appear as many little circles.  I love this look and usually always have my camera set for this effect, especially when I photograph flowers.  So, this challenge wasn’t much of a challenge…but still fun.  You will notice that the week two photo fits this category and the category for week for as well!

Project MCP / July / Favorite Summertime Activity

July Week 4 – Favorite Summer Activity

I wasn’t really sure what my favorite activity was so I was at a loss until I was forced to think about it.  I decided that gardening was one of my favorite activities and went out to my garden with my macro ring light to get some cool close-up shots of things (something I’ve been meaning to do all summer, but it’s been too hot or I was just too lazy to go back inside to get it).  I always look at the cucumber tendrils and think those would make a cool picture.  They did, but I liked this close up of a tomato ripening on the vine better.  I like the ‘sparkles’ on the stem.
Now, on to the August challenges.  Believe it or not, I already took a few photographs for this challenge and am ahead of schedule for once!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Wisconsin State Fair Photo Competetion

Once again, I decided to enter a few photos into the Wisconsin State Fair photo competition.  I was going to try and be very particular and only enter a few photos; ones that were my best.  I narrowed down my twenty picks to eleven and Mike convinced me to just enter all eleven.  Why not?  So, a few weeks ago I went to drop off my entries.  Still surprised at how many photos others enter (boxes full!) I didn't feel so bad bringing in my eleven submissions.  I'm happy to say that two of my photos won ribbons.  I took third place in the tropical flower category and first place in the farmer's market category.  It's interesting to note that both photos were taken while on vacation (as were most of my submissions) .  Also, the flower photo was taken with a rented 400mm lens...the big daddy that I rented and dream about regularly!


First Place - Farmer's Market


Third Place - Botanical, flowers close-up, tropical flowers

I'd also like to congratulate my mother-in-law who entered photos for the first time this year.  She won a first and fourth place ribbon in the black and white museum and public art and seasonal - spring categories respectively.  I guess I have some familial competion!

If you go to the fair, check out these and the many other winning photographs in the Horticulture Building.