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One of may favorite Quad-City traditions is coming up Thursday when supporters of Black Hawk State Historic Site in Rock Island invite people to the park for a Valentine's Day moonlight walk with music and fresh doughnuts.

The free event will be held 6:30-8:30 p.m., beginning at the Watch Tower Lodge, 1510 46th Ave.

You can take a leisurely stroll outside on a luminary-lit path under a nearly full moon. And you can stand inside the beautiful stone lodge with its soaring ceiling and wood-burning fireplaces that smell so good, enjoying freshly-made doughnuts and juice/cider or hot cocoa. Music will be provided by Just4Fun, with Drew Nagle calling the contra-dancing.

This event is for everybody, singles, couples and families. It is sponsored by Citizens to Preserve Black Hawk Park and Black Hawk State Historic Site.

And, save the date: the park's annual Stroll through Springtime wildflower walk and bird-watching event will be Saturday, April 27. Yes, springtime.

LIFE IS STIRRING: Hanging in my room at home is an Iowa Phenology Calendar, researched and published by Leland Searles, owner of an ecological consulting business who knows a WHOLE lot about nature.

The definition of "phenology" is the study of plant and animal life cycles and how they are influenced by by climate and habitat. If you observe the natural world — such as when your lilacs bloom or when the hummingbirds leave your feeders — you already study phenology, even without the fancy word.

On Searles' calendar, he notes that opossums begin the first of two Midwest breeding seasons around Feb. 11 and that bobcats and raccoons begin denning around the 12th, for example.

I love thinking about how all the while we humans are buzzing about our important business of going to work, making meals, paying bills, all according to a clock, little animals all around us also are going about their business, quietly and usually unseen, responding to the rhythms of the natural world.

WHAT GOES AROUND: In reporting on what to expect at this weekend's Home Show, Robert Meyer, of Grand Appliances, mentioned the return of brass handles.

Shiny brass was all the rage in the 1980s, a time I associate with wallpaper borders and the colors hunter green and burgundy.

Now it seems to be coming back, although the look is more brushed and satin than shiny.

ABOUT EATING FLOUR: In regard to my question last week about why bags of flour carry a warning label advising people not to eat raw flour, I received an answer from the AnswerLine of Iowa State University, Ames.

The warning refers to eating dough containing raw flour, not necessarily the flour all by itself.

And the reason you're not supposed to eat dough with raw flour is that it may contain salmonella bacteria that can make you sick. Raw eggs can also contain salmonella bacteria. The bottom line: it's not safe to eat raw dough.

AnswerLine, by the way, is a free, 40-plus year university extension service, answering questions about — in alphabetical order — cleaning; consumer management; food preparation, preservation and safety; home environment, household equipment; laundry nutrition, and textiles.

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If you have a question on any of those those subjects, call 800-262-3804 from 9 a.m. to noon and 1-4 p.m. Monday-Friday. The folks on the other end love to help. Or, send an email to

LICENSE PLATE LOVE: I haven't shared my vanity plate observations for awhile, so I know you're wondering. Here are six I've been saving:







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