Wednesday, April 28, 2010

For the Planet : Reusable Dryer Sheets

Natura Static-Free Reusable Dryer Sheets - Chemical Free

I recently discovered this wonderful product. Although I am still in the trial stages, I think it's great. It's a simple way to reduce trash and spending. Static Eliminator Reusable Dryer Sheets, as seen on, come in packs of 2 for 15$. They are hypoallergenic, reduce cling, soften fabrics, and last for hundreds of loads.

Let's say you do 2 loads of laundry a week. Over a year, that comes up to 104 loads a year. You will use the same amount of dryer sheets if not more depending on whether or not you believe in double sheeting big loads and/or use them for other purposes. I can't remember how much dryer sheets cost right now but online the cheapest I found (on the one site I looked at by sheer laziness) they were $6.80 for 80 sheets (which seems a bit expensive but anyway). Taking these numbers, you will spend at least $9 a year on dryer sheets which you throw away after one use. Not to mention these sheets are accused by many to coat your clothes with chemicals and to be dangerous to children and pets. So why not spend 15$ (7.50$/year), reduce your trash and the amount of potentially dangerous chemicals in your house.  

You can visit their website by clicking here. This company is endorsed by David Suzuki as they blatantly announce on their website (then again, so would I if it were the case).

Do you use this product? What do you think?
Would you consider using this product?

Take care!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Trivial Tuesdays - The Snow Drenched Episode

Welcome one and all to the third installment of Trivial Tuesdays, a weekly post dedicated to the science questions of Trivial Pursuit - the Genius Edition. Last week, we looked at planetary rotations and finger nail growth - click here to find out why they go together.

After a couple weeks of consistently warm and wonderfully sunny days, Mother Nature - in her infinite wisdom - decided to remind Montreal of our geographic / climatic location by drowning us in an unexpected snow storm. I say drowning because she's sending down buckets of huge wet sticky snowflakes coating everything in slush. Just last week I wrote a post about spring flowers, birds chirping happily in the trees, and toad mating calls. INSANITY!  Just goes to show that the French saying I've been told and repeated since youth : "En Avril on ne se découvre pas d'un fil" literally translated as "In April, we do not remove a thread" meaning beware of warm weather its not here to last - keep you hats, scarves and especially boots handy. 

Thankfully this meteorological mayhem doesn't affect this week's Trivial Tuesdays. I will start by thanking Elaine for participating in this exciting game of online Trivial Pursuit, I truly appreciate the interaction.

What sense is most closely linked to memory?

          Aristotle defined the five basic senses a long time ago as Taste, Hearing, Sight, Smell and Touch. However, since then, neuroscientists are constantly arguing about the exact number and have in fact added at least 5 or 6 more senses to our list. Your senses are defined as physiological methods of perception - basically they are how we perceive and interpret the world around us. Considering only the 5 basic senses we learn about very early in life, the answer is unanimous. Smell is intrinsically linked to memory. We can all name smells that instantly reminds us of people or events in our lives.

         What Elaine was referring to in her comment is how one learns and I agree it depends on the person. I have to do more research about this topic, it's fascinating.

Make sure to tune in next week when we'll be answering the question : What's the smallest bird in the world?

Any guesses?
Take care!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Another Reason I LOVE Octopuses

Watch this adorable video!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day!


Today was such a wonderful day (after the initial shock of waking up way to early in the morning to get to work). Both free newspapers I get handed in the morning ran a ton of earth-friendly articles - from fashion to politics including cooking, cleaning, and traveling. I've selected a few to discuss over the next couple of weeks.

To highlight this year's Earth Day, I wore a blue t-shirt under a green blazer embellished with a thrifted vintage rose broach. I told everybody I could about this international day and ate a trashless lunch. My absolutely favorite part of the day was walking through the Alpine Garden and seeing all the spring flowers in bloom, the Japanese Alpine Cherry (Prunus nipponica) especially.

[ I couldn't just put one!]

I'm very proud to announce that I heard, spotted, and identified a beautiful male American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis).
You can find this picture and loads of information about this bird and many others by visiting Right Bird, an online bird identification tool. (Click Here)

I also had the wonderful opportunity to hear the high-pitched trill of the American Toad (Bufo americanus) testifying the early beginning of their mating season. (Click here to hear a recording) When they sing, their throat inflates like a balloon. If you've seen The Princess and the Frog, you'll know what I mean. I even caught two of them in the act. A smaller male grabbing a larger female with its forelegs in what is referred to as amplexus.
Bufo americanus mating - Amplexus

Unlike this beautiful picture by Betsie Rothermel, no eggs were visible at the time. They are about 2 weeks early this year, like most things in the Gardens. They usually start calling in May since April tends to still be covered in snow and doused with cold showers.

With flowers, birds, and toads in mind, I'm off to bed.
Take care!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Trivial Tuesdays

Click here to read last weeks Trivial Tuesday Question.

Q. 2
What planet has the longest day?



Venus is the second planet nearest to the sun. It is sometimes referred to as Earth sister planet because their similar size and gravity. According to Professor Seligman and what I believe to have understood about rotation and day length, Mercury rotates faster and has a longer day length or Synodic Period (~176 Earth days; Venus ~116). So Trivial Pursuit is wrong.

However, it takes Venus -243 days (negative because it rotates in the opposite direction of Earth) to complete a rotation on itself, meanwhile Mercury completes its rotation in ~ 59 days. As a reference, it takes Earth 23 hr 56 min 4.1 sec (it's Synodic Period is 24h). So the error can be understandable. Oh and by these terms,  Wikipedia is also wrong. Have I revolutionized the web? Maybe you guys should read my sources and see what you can make out of this astronomical gibberish. (Click here)
In conclusion, I like plants and things that live on the planet because they are easier to understand. As a bonus, here is an easier question.

Where will you find the 20 moons that grace the human body?

The base of the nail

Are you impressed I managed to stick with a planetary (or in this case satellite) themed question? I have no merit, I randomly pulled it out of the box.

The moon or lunula, is the whitish arc at the base of your finger and toe nails. It is part of the nail matrix - where the nail is produced.

We generally have ten fingers, ten toes hence the 20 moons.  

If you can't see them, no worries, the lunula is actually located under the nail and not everyone can see it through their nail. 

Now wasn't that simpler?

I'll leave you with next week's question: What sense is most closely linked to memory?

Please, take a guess!
Take care!

Monday, April 19, 2010

April 22nd 2010 - Earth Day

Just a little reminder for all those, like myself, that have a hard time with dates. This upcoming Thursday (April 22nd) is  EARTH DAY!

I thought I would spread the love by sharing some of my favorite Earth Day pictures I found on the web. (You can find the original source by clicking on the picture.) If you want more information, visit

Remember, April 22nd!

Take Care!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Random Fact:

Picture by Cyril Ruoso

 Kangaroo babies are called joeys.

Although a fascinating fact, I was expecting something better from a candy wrapper fortune. Then again, it was printed on the inside of a candy wrapper. Sigh. 

Have a Great Weekend!

Take care! 

 [picture credit: Animal Planet]

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Of Red Maples and Magnolias

As promised, here is a short but oh so sweet post about Red Maples and Magnolias in honour of their Spring flowers.

 Red Maple (Acer rubrum)

 A common Eastern North American tree recognized by its characteristic red flowers, petioles, twigs, and seeds.  Its widespread distribution is possible thanks to the Red Maple's adaptability. It grows just as well in poorly drained to very dry soils. Its attractive red fall foliage led to the Red Maple being a popular choice for landscaping projects - which also helped it spread across the continent.

It is possible to make maple syrup from its sap but to a lesser extent than the Sugar Maple (Acer Saccarhum). AND, FYI, it is the state tree of Rhode Island. Now for some pictures.

The next species has very different flowers. Compared to the Red Maple (and most other trees), they are very showy. I think they look like tissue paper, in a good way.

The Magnolia (Magnolia sp.)
Family : Magnoliaceae

Unfortunately, I forgot to get the species name today so I'll get it for you tomorrow. I'll just give you some  general information about the genus. 

The genus Magnolia contains 210 species varying in size, colour, and shape. They were named in honour of French Botanist Pierre Magnol. He is known for inventing of the concept of plant families, a natural classification, based on combinations of morphological characters in 1689 (this is before Linnaeus came up with the binomial classification we use today). 

It is a very old genus, its flowers show the distinctive primitive characteristic of undifferentiated petals and sepals. 
Magnolia flowers are adapted to pollination by beetles. This can be seen in their tough carpels (reproductive parts, stigma and stamens) which reduce damage from crawling and eating insects. 

I really like Magnolia flowers. I love the contrast of the huge flowers and naked branches. Here are some more pics.

These were particularly hard to photograph because of the wind. I was told we also had a yellow Magnolia. I'll try and find it. I'll also be looking for the Tulip Tree - another absolutely beautiful tree with amazing flowers.

Take care!


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Springtime in the City : Tulip Watch - week 4

Oh boy oh boy oh boy!
Our patience will soon be paid off and by the looks of it we won't be disappointed.
Just in case you randomly tuned, this is the forth consecutive week that I take pictures of a specific patch of tulips growing in the front gardens of Montreal's Botanical Gardens. I'm basically monitoring their growth. I've also added some manifestations of Spring's arrival in Montreal and you are in for a treat this week! You can see the previous posts by clicking on the following links:

Although it was nice and sunny today, it was terribly windy which made taking pictures just that much harder. I'm no photographer so it took longer than usual, but then again, I also got to take pictures of some new spring players. Before we get there, let's look at our tulips.

They are growing nicely and showing signs of fabulous flowers to come. Besides the obvious upcoming flowers, a pattern of maturation caught my eye. I noticed, that the tulips with the most advance flowers grew near the edge of the patch. This correlates with these areas being the first to be freed of snow, so they got a head start. What was even more interesting is that the number of plants showing signs of imminent flowering varied significantly from patch to patch. To better understand, you need visual support. Here is what the front gardens look like.

For Spring, each garden from the front gate all the way up to the main building are filled to the brim with tulips - many different varieties. Our tulips are located in the garden surrounding the black lamp post you see in the distance on the right. 

So, as I was saying, the gardens have different growth speeds, there is a measurable (or at the very least visible) gradation between the furthest from the main building and the nearest.
The gardens furthest away from the main building are about the size of our tulips last week, the gardens just before ours has considerably less visible flower buds, and the tulips nearest to the building are flowering.

I love how amongst all the pink tulips, there is this random pink edges peach one. I thought it really stood out against the others, that is, until I turned the corner and saw this :

A bright red, floppy petaled tulip. Now that is something different. I was quite entertaining to watch the bright coloured petals flop around in the wind.

With our tulips popping out, I think it's time I tell you more about tulips. I'll save it for next week though as I have still more pictures to share with you today. I'll try and get a hold of the person responsible for the tulips at the gardens and ask loads of questions.

Up next are two trees that produce very different spring flowers.

The Red Maple and the Magnolia.

Seeing as it is getting late, I'll save a more elaborate description of these fabulous trees for tomorrow. I've also saved some pretty pictures for you as well so tune in tomorrow. 

Take care!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Trivial Tuesdays

Welcome the first installment of Trivial Tuesdays, a weekly post dedicated to the Science & Nature trivia questions found in the 1981 Trivial Pursuit Genius Edition. Be prepared to be stunned, awed, and geniusified. 

How many queen bees reign in a hive?




So, did you get it right? Isn't the artwork adorable? I found it on a sibling gift idea store called My goodness duds (click here), the broccoli siblings are too cute for words, but I digress. 

The term queen bee is used to refer to the mated female bees that lays all the eggs in the hive. They have the longest lifespan of all the bees in the hive, ranging from 2-7years compared to the few months of a worker bee.
Queen bees are selected from birth. They are layed in a special egg chambers called queen cups and they are fed royal jelly to promote their growth.
The old queen will begin laying virgin females when the climate is good for swarming (mating) or if she needs to be replaced. Once a virgin queen has emerged from her queen cell, her main objective is to seek out and destroy other virgin queens since they are her direct rivals to the throne. During this period, the old queen is allowed to live and keep on producing worker bees. 
The victorious virgin queen will fly out of the hive and seek out a swarm or "drone congregation" and mate with as many as 15 drones (male bees). She will only mate once in her life. She stores the accumulated sperm in a spermatheca. The virgin queen may go out and mate multiple days until she has stored enough sperm.
The no-longer virgin queen returns to the hive and the old queen must either disappear and form a new hive, duel to the death with the new queen or be killed by the hive. Intruders and old queens are killed by "balling" a.k.a cuddle death. The workers cluster tightly around the victim and cause death by overheating.

Interesting fact, queen bees do not have barbed stingers which means that unlike the worker bees, they can sting as much as they please.

See you next week!
Take care!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Spring Time in the City : Tulip Watch - week 3

A lot can change in a week and a day.
Last week (click here) our little tulips were about 2 inches high, this week, after a glorious Easter weekend, they have doubled in size. Some tulips planted near the building are even flowering, our tulips are next, you can see the flower bud in the middle. It's coming! Maybe next week we'll discover was colour they'll be. How exciting!

In my last post I mentioned that I would post some pictures of spring flowers I took in Quebec City over the Easter Holidays, so here they are.

I love seeing all these colours after the gray wetness of the end of winter. I haven't identified these species yet, so if you know them, pass on the knowledge.

In other news, next Tuesday will be the beginning of Trivial Tuesdays, a series of posts based on the science questions found within the board game Trivial Pursuit. Should be lots of fun, I'm learning so many random facts of life, I felt compelled to pass them on to you.

Take care!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Start your seedlings

Post-Easter greetings to all, I hope you had a wonderful weekend. 
The weather was absolutely glorious in Quebec for Easter and I can't wait to see how our little tulips are doing. I should be posting the pictures on Thursday this week. I've also got some pictures of crocuses and other unidentified spring flowers that I took while visiting my grand-parents in Quebec city. I Can't wait. 

Until then, I wanted to share this wonderful I idea with you. My aunt, a school teacher, told me of this project on Friday and now, one of my all time favorite blog Storage & Glee, has posted the perfect picture. 

  Eggshell seed starters  - not only and adorable and affordable way to start your seedlings, but it's also environmentally friendly and really efficient.  You see, since you are starting them in eggshells, once they are ready to be transplanted, you can simply put the whole thing in a larger pot or directly in your garden. It reduces the stress of transplanting and also provides calcium to your little plant as it grows and the eggshell decomposes. Not to mention it's a great way to reuse all those carefully coloured eggshell you decorated for easter and may not have thrown out yet.
Why start your seeds inside? If you live in Canada and other northern areas of the globe,  you must have noticed how short our summers are compared to the winters. During the winter months, plants stop growing, they are either dead, or dormant. When the temperature increases andt he days are longer, plants can then grow and produce roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruits, and seeds, this is the growing season. Certain plants need a longer growing season than our climate can offer to ensure a good crop yield. This is where Seed Starting (les semis in french) comes into play. It also allows you to have two harvests of a particular crop. 

When I worked for the Youth Garden's at The Montreal Botanical Gardens, we invited the kids to come on certain Saturdays at the end of March and beginning of April to help us start the tomatoes,  beetroots, various herbs,  green onions, leeks, peppers, and lettuce. Later on, they would plant these vegetables in their gardens, which they tended all summer with the help of their camp counselors and gardening team. This activity has been going on since the late 1930s, it was started by Brother Marie-Victorin, founder of Montreal's Botanical Gardens, as a means to keep city kids in contact with nature. For more information, you can visit the website by clicking here. I must warn you though, it's all in French.

Happy Planting!

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