Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tiny Dancers (A Yarn About Bugs)

I was delighted to wake up to the sound of thunder this morning. We've had unusually hot and humid weather this month. The humidity level has hovered above 90% for days, and daily we get flashes of heat lightning and a few desperate drops of rain. These quick dashes lack teeth and don't provide the desired relief from the heat, though. Studying this week's 94 degree forecast, I realized that I would, if I wished, have ample opportunity to fry the proverbial egg on our sidewalk.

These Midwestern heat waves are great for the garden, but necessitate the use of our central air, which I would rather not use. I like fresh air in the house, and not even a whole box of scented candles can mask the musty, stuffy air that comes when I close up the windows.

So this rain is welcomed, and all windows are now open to let the fresh air drift in.

I didn't need to go into the garden this week to see a little wild life. Closer inspection of a houseplant showed it to be teeming with life...an aphid infestation. With the help of my new macro lens, I was able to observe them closely, gleefully sucking the moist pulp of a wild clover plant. They were absolutely delighted with their discovery. Many of them, in their blissful state, had relinquished their grip on the stem. Anchored only by their mouths, they slowly rotated their bodies through the air...an aphid's rendition of an overjoyed cartwheel, I'd imagine. Their jauntiness was a redeeming quality, but after their photo shoot they were promptly disposed of.

The aphids aren't the only dancers of the insect world. These Japanese beetles (popillia japonica) look like graceful ballerinas with their daintily poised legs and iridescent shells. However, they are actually quite clumsy, and terribly destructive. They can reduce a leaf to ribbons in no time.

This cabbage butterfly (pieris rapae) rests beneath a spray of goldenrod. It is well-named, for it delights in laying its eggs on the leaves of lettuce, cabbage, and other vegetables. The resulting caterpillar can be a menace to gardeners.

I was certain I'd discovered a new, dangerous beetle which I dug around in the leaf buds of my hydrangeas, but alas! It's just the common earwig (forficula auricularia), so named (shudder!) because of its supposed proclivity for the human ear, where, as the rumor goes, it loves to burrow and nest. A little research proved this to be, thankfully, an urban legend. I discerned the sex of this earwig - male - by his curved pincer (females have straight pincers). They are used to capture prey, and what a beautiful color! To me, they look like they've been carved from amber.

Here's a mystery beauty...

A nice weekend! My sister came over for Sunday brunch, which consisted of flaky croissants, savory sourdough pancakes with crushed frozen blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries folded into the batter, and fluffy cheese and bacon omelets.

I also made a quick trip to my local yarn store. I don't usually splurge, but I couldn't resist taking advantage of a good sale.

This Misti Alpaca handpainted fingering weight yarn will make delightfully cheerful socks for someone...

I rarely knit for myself, but I bought this fingering weight Cherry Tree Hill Merino wool to work into a shawl for cool days this fall. I love the color, which reminds me of wheat.

I love the rich reds of this Misti Alpaca worsted weight wool. It's 100% baby alpaca and unbelievably soft. I'm already planning a hat and matching gloves for a lucky recipient!

Finally, my first lace project with a much-coveted yarn...another Misti Alpaca handpainted hank, 100% baby alpaca and sinfully soft. I adore the earth-tone colors here, which remind me of many good things.

Due in part to the heat and my still-stiff leg, I've done little cooking over the past week. It's easier to make a quick sandwich! So, when I volunteered to bring dessert to a gathering of friends, I immediately knew the criteria for my chosen dish: quick, easy, and tasty. A quick scan of my cookbooks and I had it...cinnamon cookies! They're absolutely delicious and most people have the ingredients to make them on hand in the kitchen. A delightfully soft center surrounded by a crispy rim that produces a satisfying crunch...it's the best of both worlds.

Cinnamon Cookies
Makes about 20 cookies


1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Cream together the sugar and butter, then mix in the egg and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, cloves, baking powder, and salt. Add to the creamed mixture and blend well.

At this point, you can refrigerate the dough for 2 hours to firm it up. I never do, and I don't have difficulties with the next steps.

Shape dough into 3/4 inch balls and flatten slightly. Set cookies an inch apart on a greased cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes, or just until edges are barely brown. Remove from cookie sheet immediately, but be careful! The cookies will be quite soft, but they harden a bit as they cool.

Perfect for a picnic. Enjoy!


  1. Found your blog through the Ravelry RAK group, just saying hi and letting you know that the Cinnamon Cookie recipe was amazing (I am enjoying my first batch now.)

  2. I'm glad you like them! They're nearly my favorite cookie!