Friday, March 31, 2017

Foodie Fridays: Kale and Farro Stew

I recently bought a bag of farro (a newly popular grain similar to barley that I had been seeing in recipes lately), but have not had a chance to try it until last week, when I made a Kale and Farro Stew from a recipe I found at our local Publix.  This vegetarian dish was tastier than I thought it would be, thanks largely to the lemon zest and juice, which brighten and heighten the flavors in the stew.  I thought it was delicious, but if you are not vegetarian, try adding some chicken, ham, or sausage to the pot for even more flavor.  I have more farro left, so I will be making this stew again!

Kale and Farro Stew

1 T. oil
2 carrots, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 C. vegetable broth (I used unsalted)
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes (I used unsalted)
1 C. farro
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 bag (5 oz.) baby kale (about 4 C.)
1 can (15 oz.) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 C. minced fresh parsley
1/4 C. crumbled feta cheese

Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat.  Add the carrots, onion, and celery and cook for five minutes.  Add the garlic and cook one minute longer.  Stir in the next five ingredients and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.

Stir in the kale and beans and simmer a few minutes longer until the kale is wilted.  Add the lemon zest and juice, salt, and parsley.  If you would like to thin the stew, add a little more broth (or water).  Ladle the stew into bowls and top each serving with about two tsp. of the crumbled feta cheese.  Serves 6.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

This 'n That Thursdays: Even More 2017 Garden Plant Picks of the Year

AAS display garden in Meredith, NH (from Pinterest).

This week I return to listing more 2017 garden plant picks of the year, and there are still so many to cover!  I will focus on plants chosen by All-America Selections, a North American non-profit plant-trialing organization which annually selects the best new flower and vegetable varieties to try both regionally and nationally.  Today's list includes the AAS national picks for flowering plants.  Without further ado, here is the list:

1) Celosia 'Asian Garden' - this pollinator-friendly annual with spiky rose-colored flower stalks keeps blooming all summer long.

2) Dianthus 'Interspecific Supra Pink F1' - a compact, bushy annual with mottled pink flowers that resist heat and drought, and require no deadheading!

3) Geranium 'Calliope Medium Dark Red' - this mounding annual with deep red velvety flowers is especially attractive in containers.

4) Verbena 'Endurascape Pink Bicolor' - a sturdy spreading annual with pink bicolored flowers, this verbena is the first to tolerate heat and drought as well as survive temperatures down into the low teens!

5) Vinca 'Mega Bloom Orchid Halo F1' - one of two AAS national award-winning vincas for 2017, this disease-resistant and early-blooming annual has huge purple flowers with white centers.

6) Vinca 'Mega Bloom Pink Halo F1' - this second award-winning vinca has all the same characteristics of the first one, but its large flowers are pink with white centers rather than purple.

7) Zinnia 'Profusion Red' - 'Profusion' zinnias are one of my favorite annuals, and now it finally comes in red, my favorite color!  The plants are compact and disease-resistant, and the flowers, a fade-resistant, vibrant true red, start early and bloom all summer long.


Be sure to check here for 2017 AAS regional winners as well (you can sort by your region to find plants that grow especially well in your area).  Next week we will take a look at the AAS national winners for vegetables, and not a moment too soon as it won't be long before the danger of frost has passed and those seeds or seedlings will need to get into the ground!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Wish List Wednesdays: Chocolate Bunnies Jacquard Sweater

Are you fond of bunnies, spring, pastel pink, and chocolate?  If so, then you will love the Chocolate Bunnies Jacquard Sweater ($49.95-$54.95) from Catalog Favorites.  The soft viscose/nylon scoop neck sweater would be perfect for Easter if the day is chilly (or the air conditioning is set too high!), and could make a cute gift in someone's Easter basket, right next to the real chocolate bunny!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Seasonal Style: Spring Blush Pink and Faded Denim

From jennysglimrandeliv.

My spring seasonal style post is a bit late, but better late than never, right?  Blush pink seems to be a very popular color this spring.  I happen to like it paired with the casual look of a faded denim blue.  This color combination works beautifully for home interiors as well, as shown so strikingly in this living room:

From Amanda Barnes Interior Design.

The pastel palette is perfect for spring, and and the furnishings look comfortable as well as stylish.  Even though pale colors are not my preference, I think I could be happy with this look in both my closet and my home.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Current Events: What Do These Photos Have in Common, or What's Wrong with These Images?

Top image from The New Arab; bottom image from CNN.

If you have been paying attention to the news, you may know the answer to both title questions.  Take a good look at both images, and you will notice that no women are present at either meeting.  So what is wrong with that?  Both meetings were held to discuss topics of vital concern to women!  The first photo was taken at the inaugural meeting of the Qassim Girls Council in Saudi Arabia, where 13 men were seated onstage while participation by women was limited to a video link to an unknown number of women in a separate room, including Princess Abir bint Salman, the chair of the council.  In my opinion it would have made more sense for the women to be seated onstage while the men participated via video-link!

The second, more recent photo shows a White House meeting between President Trump and members of the House Freedom Caucus to discuss stripping the requirement that health insurance plans cover certain benefits, including maternity, newborn, and pediatric services, from the now defunct American Health Care Act.  Surely these issues are just as important, if not more so, to women, so why were no women present at this meeting?  Perhaps there are no female members of the House Freedom Caucus, but are there no women in Trump's administration important enough to attend?  Even the presence of Trump's daughter Ivanka, who is after all a mother herself, would have made some sense, unlike her presence at other presidential meetings.  And not surprisingly, in the following image of President Trump signing an order banning federal funding for international organizations that even mention abortion services as an option, he is surrounded by only men:

There are indeed women who oppose abortion, so why were they not invited
to this photo opportunity?  Is Ms. Conway sitting on the couch again?
(From Scary Mommy)

Even more embarrassing was a rather thoughtless comment by Kansas Senator Pat Roberts in reference to mammograms, suggesting that men should not have to contribute to health insurance coverage for these tests.  Not only do mammograms save a significant number of lives, they are also necessary for some men, because men do also get breast cancer.  I would hope that men would like to see insurance coverage for prostate screening, as it is the second most common cancer in men and is easily treatable if detected early.  As a woman I have no problem with the thought of helping to cover the cost of this test even though I personally would never need it, so I do not understand how mammograms could be an issue at this point, even in jest.

Okay, I will get off of my soapbox now, but I really do have a problem with the idea that around the world issues important to women are being discussed without direct input from women.  Maybe if enough of us are willing to point this out then the situation will at least change in our nation.  Or maybe I am being overly optimistic?  I hope that is not the case!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Weekend Wardrobe: Bright Colors Spring/ Summer 4x4 Wardrobe

Looxent V-Neck Top with 3/4-Length Sleeves in Multicoloured

I know I promised to move on from the Peter Hahn website, but then I found the colorful striped top shown above, and I just had to do another post using it as the inspiration for a spring/summer 4x4 wardrobe.  The abundance of bold, bright-colored stripes appeals to me.  Choosing the dominant colors for this collection was hard because there are so many options from the shirt, but I thought I would try limiting my neutrals to just white.  I then picked three of the many bold colors in the shirt - cobalt blue, bright red, and dark green - for the other dominant colors:

I decided to pick clothing items that are casual but tailored.  Even though three of the bottoms are jeans, they have a slightly more sophisticated look that would suit a relaxed indoor workplace environment.

I started the first set of four with the striped top, plus a red top, white jeans and a simple white linen blazer:

Clockwise from top left: Looxent V-Neck Top with 3/4-Sleeves; Peter Hahn Blazer with 3/4-Length Sleeves in White; Peter Hahn Round Neck Top with Short Sleeves in Red; KJBrand Jeans - Design by Betty CS in White.

The next set of four introduces the cobalt blue in jeans and a skirt, and adds two blouses, one in white and the other with a fun multicolored print dominated by the color blue:

Clockwise from top left: LaCoste Shirt-Style Blouse in White; Habsburg Blouse in Multicoloured; NYDJ 7/8-Length Jeans - Clarissa Ankle in Teal; Peter Hahn Skirt in Gentian Blue.

The color red is emphasized in the third set of four, with solid red capris and jacket plus one striped and one floral print top:

Clockwise from top left: Peter Hahn Shirt-Style Blouse in Red/White; Peter Hahn Blouse Jacket in Red; Riani  Blouse with 3/4-Length Sleeves in Ecru Multicoloured (currently out of stock); Lisette L. Shaping Capri Trousers in Red.

The last set of four introduces the dark green color in a polo shirt plus jeans, and adds a basic white tee shirt as well as a simple red dress:

Clockwise from top left: Peter Hahn Round Neck Top in White; LaCoste Polo Shirt with Long 1/2-Length Sleeves in Dark Green/White; Brax Feel Good "Feminine Fit" Jeans in Moss Green; Peter Hahn Jersey Dress in Red.

Finally, here are all four sets in the 4x4 wardrobe configuration:

I really like the fresh colors for this spring-to-summer wardrobe, and the dark green could even be used as a transition color for fall.  While a square-necked dress would not work for me (square necks overemphasize my square jawline), it became a popular neckline style last year and looks great on others.  I have to say I am really tempted by the blue print shirt!  If you look at it up close you can see that the print features flowers and animals, including dogs, and I do love a good animal print:

Next week I will choose accessories for this colorful wardrobe, and I may have to focus on a flower and animal theme!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Foodie Fridays: Turmeric Roasted Cauliflower Soup

Not surprisingly, I have another soup recipe for you this week (obviously my soup obsession continues!).  If you like creamy vegetable soups, then try this one as an alternative to tomato soup.  Served with a sandwich or a salad, it makes a great lunch or light dinner option.  Our weather is starting to warm up again and my head cold is pretty much gone, so I have a feeling that my soup days may be numbered, but until it is too hot for soups around here I am going to make and enjoy them while I can!

Turmeric Roasted Cauliflower Soup

6 heaping C. 1-inch cauliflower florets (from 1 1/2-lb. head)*
1 medium onion, diced
2 1/2 T. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
4 C. chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 C. half 'n half (or full fat canned coconut milk, well shaken)
2 T. minced fresh parsley or cilantro

Toss the cauliflower, onion, and 2 T. oil together in a large baking pan.  Bake at 450 degrees until browned and tender, about 25-30 minutes, turning the florets halfway through cooking time.

In a small bowl, combine the turmeric, cumin, and salt.  Sprinkle evenly over the cauliflower mixture, tossing well to coat.

Heat 1/2 T. oil in a medium-sized pot over medium heat.  Add the garlic and cook for one minute.  Pour the broth into the pot.  Add the cauliflower mixture and bring to a boil.  Cook, covered, on low heat for 15 minutes.

Using an immersion blender, process the soup until smooth.  Add more salt to taste if needed.  Stir in the half 'n half or coconut milk, and serve topped with the minced parsley or cilantro.  Serves 4.

*Or use 3 bags (10 oz. each) microwaveable prepackaged cauliflower florets.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

This 'n That Thursdays: The Happiest Place in the World!

From Taringa!

Did you know that Norway was just declared the happiest place in the world?  According to the annual World Happiness Report, Norway beat out last year's first place winner Denmark for the 2017 designation as the world's happiest nation (155 nations were included in the survey).  I found it interesting that, of the top ten happiest countries, seven are European, including all three Scandinavian nations (i.e., Norway, Denmark, and Sweden).

2017 World Happiness Report Top Ten Happiest Nations (see complete list here)

1) Norway
2) Denmark
3) Iceland
4) Switzerland
5) Finland
6) The Netherlands
7) Canada
8) New Zealand
9a) Australia*
9b) Sweden*

*these two nations were tied for ninth place

Actually, for the five years in which the survey has been conducted (for some reason there was no report for 2014), the top ten happiest countries have remained pretty consistent (although Austria beat out New Zealand for a top ten spot in 2013). Only one New World nation, Canada, shows up in the top ten.  In fact, the United States actually slipped from 13th to 14th place this year, and was below Costa Rica, which came in at 12th place.

So what makes Norway the happiest nation, and why does the United States fail to reach a top ten ranking?  According to one article, while economic well-being is important, emotional health promoted by a strong sense of community may be even more critical.  Another article states that the Nordic countries have generous social safety nets, reflecting their strong sense of community.  Norway has a robust economy, but even though this declined slightly for 2017 due to a drop in oil prices, the nation's emotional and physical well-being put it at the top of the happiness list.  Unfortunately, those of us in the United States do not seem to experience this same sense of community safety, which is reflected in our lower ranking.

I find it troubling that our nation is feeling unhappier than ever.  And this information comes on the heels of the finding that life expectancy in the United States has declined for the first time since 1993.  Perhaps if we focus more on the future and how we can work together to help ourselves as a nation rather than individually we will all be the better, and the happier, for it.  After all, happy people tend to live longer and more satisfying lives, and there is nothing wrong with that!


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Wish List Wednesdays: Bunnies Galore at the Pier 1 Store!

A recent trip to Pier 1 revealed an abundance of bunnies in the aisles, a few of which I simply could not resist!  Here is a just a sampling of the rabbit-themed items available right now for your spring celebrations:

1) White Rabbit Mantel Scarf ($39.95) - I love the pastel-colored panels and the white bunnies with their cute pompom tails!

2) Lilly the Bunny with Backpack Dinnerware ($6.98-$9.95) - this lovely porcelain dinnerware featuring a floral border and darling Lilly the bunny with a basket backpack is one of several rabbit-themed dinnerware collections available from Pier 1 (check out the others here).

3) Garden Bunny Cabbage Teapot ($24.95) - this adorable cabbage-shaped teapot with the white bunny-topped lid is part of Pier 1's Cabbage Dinnerware collection.

4) Printed Carrot Napkin ($4.95) - even though the napkin has no bunnies, the fun print on these cotton napkins depicting a bunny's favorite food is the perfect complement to the rabbit-themed dinnerware.

5) Lilly the Bunny with Carrot Salad Plate ($8.95) - only available online, this porcelain salad plate features Lilly the bunny again, this time sporting a bow with flowers and holding a carrot.  I think I am going to have to order a few of these plates, as they would pair perfectly with the salad plates from the other Lilly the Bunny collection:


With all of these bunny options from Pier 1, I will have no problem setting the perfect spring/Easter table this year!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Weekend Wardrobe: Paisley Print Tops Weekend Getaway Travel Wardrobe

Top left: Schneiders Salzburg Round Neck Top with Short Sleeves; Right: Brax Feel Good Polo Shirt; Bottom left: Peter Hahn Round Neck Top.

This week's travel wardrobe features several paisley print tops from the Peter Hahn website, because I am partial to paisley!  I chose a color scheme of peachy orange and shades of tan, which are warm colors that work well for a spring wardrobe.  Accents of ivory plus shades of blue in the tops are also featured.

This very casual collection would be perfect for a quick informal getaway just about anywhere.  Here is the outfit to wear while in transit:

Clockwise from top left: Peter Hahn Round Neck Top; Emilia Lay Necklace in Beige; Peter Hahn Round Neck Cardigan in Ecru; Uta Raasch Nappa Leather Belt in Sand; L. Credi Handbag in Beige; Paul Green Ankle-High Sneakers in Natural/Pale Pink; Brax Feel Good "Feminine Fit" Jeans - Design Nicola in Melba.

And now for the rest of the wardrobe to pack:

Clockwise from top left: Schneiders Salzburg Round Neck Top with Short Sleeves; Peter Hahn Sweat Jacket in Apricot; Brax Feel Good Polo Shirt; Zaida Top in Mandarin; Scarpio Loafers in Beige; Basler Jeans "Super Stretch Skinny" in Sand.


This is a very minimal wardrobe.  You actually pack less than you wear, and I even considered leaving out the second pair of shoes!  Even so, there are more than enough combinations to easily get you through a casual weekend trip.

After featuring so many travel wardrobes lately, I'm hoping I will completely get over my nasty cold soon so that I can reschedule the trip I had to cancel earlier this month.  I am so ready to travel!

Friday, March 17, 2017

On the Homefront: "The Wearing of the Green" St. Patrick's Day Table

Lucky the leprechaun Dalmatian is ready to share his pot of gold
(gold foil-covered chocolate nuggets, that is!) with all who celebrate
St. Patrick's Day (his favorite holiday), including the little sheep family
and the shamrock bunnies!

St. Patrick's Day comes 'round again;
Please join in the fun if you can!
The green does abound
And great food can be found
If you are a St. Paddy fan!

"The Wearing of the Green" is a rather sad Irish street ballad about the suppression of supporters of the Irish Rebellion in 1798 (you can listen to the song on YouTube at the bottom of this post).  The song mentions the wearing of the green for St. Patrick's Day, so I decided to run with that idea for my table this year.  I brought out as much green tableware as possible for the settings, including my new Cabbage Green Bordallo Pinheiro Bowls found recently at HomeGoods.  Here is my very green holiday table:

Fringed green placemat (from Target ages ago); spotted dinner plate (made in Portugal; from HomeGoods last year); dark green dessert plate (under bowl; from Target ages ago); Cabbage Green Bordallo Pinheiro bowl (from Homegoods recently); Pioneer Woman Cowgirl Lace Pearlized Handle Flatware in Green (from Walmart last year); fringed natural cotton napkin; pale green goblet.

Even my plant-filled aquarium in the background adds green to the scene!

The simple centerpiece is a false shamrock plant (Oxalis triangularis),
sold everywhere at this time of year.

Tea will of course be served, and the obvious choice is
Twinings Irish Breakfast Tea!

For my St. Patrick's Day menu this year, I decided to feature dishes that would work for a typical high tea.  Despite the elegant-sounding name, high tea is actually more of an early dinner, historically favored by day laborers who rose and retired early because of their work schedule.  High tea is comprised of simple but hearty fare, all washed down with cups of tea.  In a cooler month like March, I felt that warming comfort foods would suit this menu, so I chose soup, bread, and a strata plus a simple dessert.  Serve the bread with Irish butter, if possible (Kerrygold butter is usually easy to find right now).

St. Patrick's Day Menu:

Colcannon Soup*
Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread Rolls/Irish Butter
Irish Cheddar and Leek Strata**
Irish Lemon Pudding***

4 T. butter
2 C. shredded cabbage
1 1/2 lbs. potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes (I used Melissa's Baby Dutch Yellow Potatoes)
1 lb. leeks, rinsed well and chopped
5 C. chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste
1 pinch nutmeg
1 1/4 C. half 'n half (see Note)
3 T. minced fresh parsley or scallions for garnish

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Stir in the vegetables.  Cover and cook until barely tender, about 10 minutes.  Add the stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, covered, until the vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes.  Season with the salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

Using an immersion blender, process the soup until smooth.  Whisk in the half 'n half and heat for a few minutes.  Spoon into bowls and garnish with the parsley or scallions.  Serves 6.

Note: If you are using Russet potatoes, peel them before cubing.  Since I already had buttermilk and low fat milk for the rolls, I used 1/2 C. buttermilk plus 3/4 C. low fat milk instead of the half 'n half.  This soup can be made ahead up to the point of adding the half 'n half (or milks).  Reheat and stir in the half 'n half (or milks) when ready to serve.

4 eggs
1 C. milk
1/4 C. Irish stout (or any dark beer)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
pepper to taste
5 slices potato bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 5 C.)
1 medium leek, rinsed and chopped
1 bag (5 oz.) baby kale, slightly steamed and coarsely chopped
3/4 C. shredded Gruyere cheese
3/4 C. shredded Irish cheddar

Whisk the first four ingredients plus salt and pepper together in a large bowl until well blended.  Scatter half of the bread cubes on the bottom of a greased 9-inch square pan.  Sprinkle with half of the leeks and half of the kale.  Top the kale with half of the Gruyere and half of the cheddar.  Repeat the layers one more time.  Carefully pour the egg mixture evenly over the top, pressing down lightly on the bread to make sure that it is submerged.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for four hours or overnight.

Bake the uncovered strata at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until the center is set.  Remove from the oven and allow to stand for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.  Serves 6.

Note: I steamed the baby kale in the microwave on HIGH for one minute.  The original recipe called for roasted red bell peppers and challah bread, but I replaced these with baby kale and potato bread, which seemed a little more Irish to me.

***Irish Lemon Pudding

2 T. butter
1/4 C. sugar
2 eggs, separated
1/2 C. flour
2 lemons, zested and juiced
1 1/4 C. milk

Cream the butter with the sugar in a large bowl.  Beat in the egg yolks one at a time, and then add the flour.  Stir in the lemon juice and zest, followed by the milk, and mix well.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff.  Fold the beaten egg whites gently into the lemon mixture just until incorporated.  Pour the mixture into a greased 8- or 9-inch pie or cake pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes, or until very lightly browned and set.  Sprinkle the top with powdered sugar if desired and serve warm with whipped cream.  Serves 6.

Note: My lemons were large and juicy, so I reduced the milk to 1 C.


May your blessings outnumber
The shamrocks that grow,
And may trouble avoid you wherever you go!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!


Foodie Fridays: Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread Rolls

Lately I have been obsessed with soups, and with our recent bout of frigid weather as well as my lingering head cold this obsession continues.  However, today's post will instead focus on a St. Patrick's Day bread to accompany soups.  These Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread Rolls from Eating Well look like a yeast bread, but thanks to the baking soda and buttermilk are much quicker and easier to make.

The original recipe calls for minced fresh thyme, but I substituted an equal amount of caraway seeds instead.  You can leave them out or add whatever seasoning(s) you prefer.  Serve these rolls warm with butter and a comforting bowl of soup.  Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone!

Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread Rolls

1 C. plus 2 T. whole wheat flour
1 C plus 2 T. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4-1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. caraway seeds
1/2 C. buttermilk
1/2 C. milk (plus 1 T.)
2 tsp. honey
2 T. old-fashioned rolled oats

In a large bowl, thoroughly combine the first five ingredients.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the next three ingredients except for the 1 T. milk.  Add to the dry ingredients and stir just until the dough comes together (I had to add an additional tablespoonful of milk, as my dough was a bit dry at first).

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface.  Gently knead with lightly floured hands a few times until smooth.  Divide the dough into six equal pieces and shape each into a 2-inch round about 1 inch thick.  Place on a Silpat- or parchment paper-lined baking sheet about 1/2-inch apart. Brush the rolls with the remaining 1 T. milk and sprinkle with the oats, pressing on them lightly to make them stick.

Bake the rolls at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown on the bottom and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Makes 6 rolls.

Note: It takes a bit of practice to decide if your dough is too wet or dry.  When the ingredients are stirred together the dough should be smooth and elastic.  It should hold together but not be sticky.  Add more liquid, one tablespoonful at a time, if too dry and more flour, also a spoonful at a time, if too wet.  The important thing to remember is not to overwork your dough, or it will become tough.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

This 'n That Thursdays: Ticks Versus Mice, or Recruiting One Type of Vermin to Control Another!

What big eyes and ears you have!
 (from Animal Behavior)

As this seems to be my week to complain, let me say that I loathe and despise ticks.  And a recent article suggests that tick-borne diseases are on the rise, some of which can be fatal to humans.  In the past 50 years, scientists have identified at least a dozen previously unknown diseases transmitted by these unpleasant arthropods.

Ticks need a blood meal to reproduce, and one of their most abundant hosts in the United States is the ubiquitous deer mouse (Peromyscus spp.).  In the Northeast, these mice are a favorite of the blacklegged or deer tick (Ixodes scapularis), which can carry a number of diseases, such as Lyme disease and the potentially deadly new Powassan virus.  Ticks can harbor at least four different diseases at once, so one tick bite could possibly lead to infection with multiple diseases!  Unlike many other species, deer mice do not bother to remove and kill ticks by grooming, and they have been known to carry as many as one hundred ticks at once.  The very idea is extremely gross, and I am sorry for that, but it is important, I promise.

A couple of researchers named Felicia Keesing and Rick Ostfeld who study deer mice came up with the intriguing idea of using the heavy tick loads on the mice as a way to control tick populations.  Since mice like dark, enclosed spaces, they are usually caught in traps with narrow openings.  The scientists devised the clever addition of a small brush to the top of the opening that would swipe a tick-killing insecticide (similar to that used on pets) onto the backs of mice.  Just like it does for dogs, the insecticide will kill any tick that comes into contact with the skin of treated mice for weeks.  Since these mice carry so many ticks, this method could potentially put a significant dent in the tick population and thus reduce tick-borne disease transmission as well.

The two scientists have recently begun a study to determine how effective this method of tick control could be.  They do stress that, for this type of control to work, it must be a community effort and not just restricted to isolated residences.  However, if their results are encouraging and tick-borne disease infection in humans continues to rise, there could be enough motivation for many communities to get behind this relatively easy-to-implement control method.

While I am not especially fond of mice, at least they have a modicum of cuteness (see image at the top of page) and they are not bloodsuckers like ticks.  I will still be doing all that I can to keep both mice and ticks from overpopulating our property, but I am a realist.  I doubt that we humans will ever be able to eliminate either mice or tick populations completely, so if forced to make a choice I think I would have to go with the tick-assassinating mice for now!

There is just nothing cute about a tick (from Inside Climate News).