Make Rainbow Cookies for Your Next Picnic.

I recently attended my niece Gabby’s 11th birthday party where one of the desserts were some gorgeous sugar cookies she made.  Though dazzling to the eye, the recipe is simple to make and should be a definite crowd pleaser at your next picnic, barbeque or party.

GABBY’S RAINBOW SUGAR COOKIES:              
The cookie’s are simple. Just use your favorite sugar cookie recipe – we even used a box mix. Then:

Divide the dough into 4 even portions and place in four separate bowls.
Choose 4 food coloring colors
Dye the dough to your desired color by adding the food color a few drops at a time to each portion.
Mix the food coloring into the dough (use a spoon to mix unless you wish for stained hands) and add more if you wish for a more vibrant color (remember you can always add more but you can’t take it away so be careful.)
Then take teaspoon-sized portions of the colored dough from each of the four bowls.
Set the four balls tightly next to each other in a 2X2 square configuration.
Then, begin to roll the four balls together pulling gently outward to make a long hotdog shape.
Coil the hot dog shaped dough around itself and bake as directed in the recipe.
Enjoy your creation!  It makes great ice cream sandwiches with a scoop of your favorite flavor ice cream sandwiched between two cookies.
gabby and cookies 2

Using Darlene Beck-Jacobson’s Debut Novel WHEELS OF CHANGE in the Classroom

darlenebeckjacobson:

Thanks to Roseanne Kurstedt for the Interview on her blog!

Originally posted on Rosanne L. Kurstedt's :

I’m so excited to welcome Darlene Beck-Jacobson today in celebration of the launch (September 22) of Wheels of Change, her debut middle-grade historical novel.  I met Darlene at a NJSCBWI conference a couple years ago and was totally intrigued by the process Darlene and her idea went through. You see, she originally wrote Wheels of Change as a picture book. But after some urging from an editor she went back to the drawing board (or writing board in this case), did more research and turned her 1500 word manuscript that she envisioned as a picture book into a wonderful middle grade novel, rich with historical setting and multi-layered characters.  Since writing and education are my passions, I asked Darlene some questions about how teachers might use Wheels of Change in their classrooms, and if she could provide insights about her research process.

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  1. Tell us a little about how Wheels of Change came…

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The Good and the Bad: Garden Pests and Beneficial Insects.

Today’s post comes through the courtesy and expertise of Shiela Fuller.

If you started a backyard garden in May, odds are you’ve encountered a few insects in your plot by August. Some are peskier than others. The good bugs arrive right along with the bad, so it is helpful to know the difference.
Before you head off to your local garden supply to buy your pest eradicator, it’s best to identify your pest so you know exactly what you are annihilating. Then before you go, take another moment to research homemade, nontoxic pest controls. They are cheap to make, safer for you to apply, and a healthier choice for the environment. Some commercial products will also kill the good bugs as well as the bad.

What have you planted in your garden and what are the most common pests?
• TOMATOES.
Backyard tomato plants attract a wide variety of bad pests. Most you can pick off by hand and eliminate the need for any spray. The tomato hornworm is a common pest. They start out small and may go unnoticed until you see large areas of plant chewed away. Or you see the telltale peppercorn – like droppings they deposit on the plant leaves. They are green with lighter green shaped “v” markings and a single “horn” poking off the end of its body. Occasionally, you will find white rice shaped eggs attached to the hornworms body. They are the parasitic eggs of a good pest. The eggs suck nutrients out of the hornworm. It dies and the braconid wasp lives on.

tomato hornworm

tomato hornworm

PEPPERS.
Pesticide spray is rarely needed for the pepper plant.
GREENS.
If you see tiny holes in the leaves of your lovely greens, the flea beetle is most likely the culprit. They won’t usually destroy your plant and you will probably have sufficient supply, even if you have shared your greens with a beetle. Just wash and eat.
POTATOES.
We love our potatoes and so does the Colorado potato beetle. The peskiest of the pests. If you decide to grow your own potatoes, you will become an expert inspector. It will be imperative that your plants are inspected twice a day. The potato beetle is prolific and the larvae, numerous. Begin by checking for the yellow eggs laid underneath the plant leaf. Remove the eggs. Dispose of them. Unfortunately, you will miss eggs and they will hatch. Numerous little specks of brown will begin to demolish your plant. Find and remove them. If you miss them they will quickly grow into reddish, slug like creatures. Pick them off. At every stage, they will eat your plant down till all that is left is a twig. Remain diligent in your search for potato beetle eggs and larva. Homegrown potatoes are worth it.

HERBS.
Most herbs are bad pest free. In fact, many are planted to do just the opposite, ward off the bad. However, important to note is that dill and parsley, attract the black swallowtail butterfly. It may be difficult to find the tiny pearlized eggs, but you may find the droppings or the black, prickled larvae eating your precious herbs. They are capable of devouring the entire plant, so always plant enough for all to enjoy.

swallowtail caterpillar courtesy of Mary Braccilli

swallowtail caterpillar courtesy of Mary Braccilli

How Do You Attract the Good Insects?

Food, shelter, and water are necessary to encourage and keep the good insects in your garden.
LADYBUGS
Plant herbs like chives or cilantro, and cosmos flowers to attract the ladybugs.
PRAYING MANTIS
Raspberry, yarrow and fennel attract praying mantis.
SPIDERS
The argiope is a large, harmless spider we should be thankful to see in our garden. With its spectacular coloring and circled web with zig zag stitching, it is a treasure to behold.
Food for good insects comes in the form of the bad insects that arrive in your garden. Provide daytime shelter for the good insects; low lying thyme or oregano offer good hiding places. Offer them a shallow tin of water and encourage them to make your garden their home.

garden spider

garden spider

Refrain from using insecticides/pesticides in your home garden. These products will actually keep the good bugs away from your garden. They are not good for the health of the insect. Or yours.

Shiela Fuller has been a Cornell University Project Feeder Watch participant for many years and an avid birder since 1988. Currently, she enjoys writing picture books, yoga, chicken raising, wildlife photography, and is the legacy keeper for her family.

 

What’s all This Buzz-ness About Bees?

Jersey Farm Scribe here, and I’m so excited to do a post here on Darlene’s website.

It’s exciting for me to get a chance to talk about something farm-related, since I’m usually posting on writing on Kathy’s website Writing and Illustrating or Children.  http://www.kathytemean.wordpress.com

I thought about what I should write about. I could write about the animals that I have here on The Farm. I could write about the lifestyle, being more in touch with the world around us, agriculture and fresh food. I could write about one of the many projects that are always going on… and never quite finished.

In the end, I decided to write about something close to my heart that I HAVEN’T gotten fully involved in. What a great motivator for me to finally jump in!!! Plus, then perhaps I can do another post in a few months and update everyone on any progress that has been made.

So here we go… they’re cute… they’re amazing,

honey bee

honey bee

and they’re SUPER sweet. I had the amazing opportunity to visit an active BEE hive with my brother’s family, including their bee-guru boys. We went to Dan Price’s Farm, the founder of Sweet Virginia Foundation  http://sweetvirginia.com, a Honey Bee Conservation and Education Organization. Here we all are at their farm. The three little ones are three of my four amazing nephews. I’m the odd-ball in the green suit.

group shot (2)

There were some high school kids doing a project. The high schoolers were very leery of the bees, (understandably), and a bit skittish about going up to the hive.

My nephews, 12, 11 and 7, had absolutely no problems. They were informing the older kids of where to stand that was safe. (bees create a main highway where they travel in and out of the hive, and as long as you keep that area clear, you’re perfectly fine!) They operated the smoke puffer (definitely NOT it’s technical name) and answered all the questions the hive experts had like it was NOTHING.

Hive Manager: Does anyone know how many different types of honeybees there are?
7 yr-old-nephew (looks at her as if to say, um, who doesn’t??: Three. The queen. The worker bees, which are girls, and the drones, which are boys.

Hive Manager: That’s right. And the bees that we see flying around sometimes, which are they?

11-yr-old: Worker bees.

Hive Manager: And why’s that?

12-yr-old AND 7-yr old: Because they are the only ones that leave the hive. All the drones do is mate with the queen and all the queen does is lay eggs.

Eventually, the hive manager realized she was going to have to think of harder questions.
Then Marcus and Ethan, the 11 and 7-yr olds picked up a BEE COVERED slat from the hive, (without any gloves on!) and with absolutely no fear:

holding bees (3 part 1)     holding bees (3 part 2)

 

 

 

And here is Jared, (12) even letting a bee crawl on his hand!

bee in hand (4) I was unbelievably impressed, to say the least. (as were the high school kids who they completely showed up!)

I learned a lot. I won’t get into the dorky-science details here. (I’m a total science nerd at heart). But here’s a fun one:   Bees communicate with DANCE!

Seriously… how cool is that?

PBS has a great video on The Waggle Dance:  http://video.pbs.org/video/2300846183/

They use it to communicate where the good hive or flower is located. It’s pretty unbelievable.

I think most people know at this point that there are concerns for the honeybee’s health around the world, which would be devastating to our food sources. It’s more than just not having beautiful flowers. Fruits and vegetables pollinate and grow because of bees. And the animals that we raise for food eat these fruits and vegetables as well!

But luckily there is something really simple you can do that can make a BIG difference! You know those signs you see?       local honey sign (5)

Those are people who either run their own hive, or have someone come in and run a hive for them. This is GREAT for the honeybee population. You can help out your local farmer, and help the honeybees at the same time.

Honey is such a great natural sugar substitution. Try substituting it for sugar in recipes, to give an extra yummy flavor, and a much healthier sweetness. Sugar is sweeter than sugar, so you would about ½ to ¾ cup of honey for every cup of sugar.

I do a combination:

For every cup of sugar a recipe calls for I use:
¼ cup sugar
½ cup honey

This is amazing in almost ALL baking, cakes, muffins, cookies, breads, the works.

Honey has some pretty amazing healing powers as well. It’s been used as a natural antibacterial agent for years!

Feeling like you have a cold coming on, or just can’t kick one? Try this:

Hot water
Raw Honey – (natural antibacterial agent and throat coater)
REAL ginger – (natural anti-inflammatory)
REAL garlic – (natural antibiotic)
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (with the mother) (balances the acidity level – excellent for chest cold)

Okay…. so I’m not gonna lie, this is not a delicious drink. But I can from personal experience it can really help to kick those sniffles!

Allergies? Try local honey. A full T every single day. The closer the hive is to your home, the better.

The idea is that you’re introducing a small amount of the pollen into your system via the honey, making your body more use to it (similar to how allergy shots work). This method of course depends on what you are actually allergic to, and there is actually not a lot of actual pollen in honey, but there is some.

I am lucky and don’t suffer from allergies myself, but I have a few friends I’ve suggested this to that swear it helped them. Plus, this one IS delicious!

(I am obviously NOT a doctor, these are just personal home-remedies I’ve always used)

Kids definitely like finding out where their food comes from. And there are also some GREAT Kid-Friendly Honey Recipes:   Bite-size Honey Popcorn Balls  http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/bite-size-hiney-popcorn-balls-10000001661174  honey popcorn (6)

 Honey Glazed Carrots http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/honey-glazed-carrots 

glazed carrots (7) And of course, a great dipper for apples, carrots, fruit, bread, chicken, you name it!!!!

So next time you see a local sign for…

honey sign (9) … take a quick stop and find out where their hives are located. You may end up in a more interesting conversation that you’d expect!!

As for me? I plan on trying to get a hive on my property by 2015.

And a big thank you to Darlene and all of you, because you all are part of what has motivated me to pursue it!!

bio picErika Wassall, The Jersey Farm Scribe is a writer, a farmer and a liver of life. Check out her posts on Writing and Illustrating for Children every other week, and follow her on Twitter @NJFarmScribe.

Blog Tour For WHEELS OF CHANGE

Tomorrow I begin the blog tour to help promote the release of my first book, a MG historical titled WHEELS OF CHANGE. I’m excited to be sharing the journey with all of you and hope you will visit some of the stops on the tour to learn about how the book came to be.  Here’s the schedule, and please send me your comments about your favorite post; I’d love to hear from you.  There will also be two opportunities to win a free autographed copy of WHEELS OF CHANGE at two stops on the tour.

8-19- Marriah Nissen:  http://www.divinesecretsofthewritingsisterhood.blogspot.com   and   http://www.therandombookreview.blogspot.com    Interview and Book review.

8-22- Yvonne Ventresca:  http://www.YvonneVentresca.com/blog.html    5 Things about the cover.

8-26- Roseanne Kurstedt   http://www.rlkurstedt.wordpress.com    How teachers might use the book.

8-29-  Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen  http://www.nerdychicksrule.com    Character and author Interview

9-2-  Gail Terp   http://www.gailterp.com      Q & A regarding literacy

9-8- Kathy Temean   http://www.writingandillustratingforchildren.wordpress.com  Fun facts about author and main character + book give-away.

9-9- Tricia Springstub  http://www.fromthemixedupfiles.com   Book give-away

9-12-  Deb Marshall   http://www.readwritetell.com      Setting in historical fiction.

9-16-  Robin Newman   http://www.robinnewmanbooks.com     Author Interview

9-19-  Tara Lazar    http://www.taralazar.com   Popular toys and candies of the era.

9-22-  Tamera Wissinger   http://www.tamerawillwissinger.com    Essay post on authenticity in historical fiction.  (This is my actual Launch Party Day!)

9-23-  Holly Schindler    http://www.hollyschindler.blogspot.com    Sneak peek excerpt

9-26-  Natalie Zaman   http://www.nataliezaman.blogspot.com     WOC Acrostic poem

9-29-  Charlotte Bennardo    http://www.charlotteebennardo.blogspot.com/http://kidlitresiurces.wordpress.com/

10-3-  Jennifer Bardsley     http://www.teachingmybabytoread.com     Interview

10-6-  Irene Latham    http://www.irenelatham.blogspot.com   The delicious, the difficult, the unexpected.

10-7-  Kim McDougall     http://blog.castlelane.com      Character Interview

10-12-  Theresa Wallace-Pregent   http://www.booksalmagundi.wordpress.com     Questions

10-13-  Tamera Wissinger    http://smack-dab-in-the-middle.blogspot.com   Interview

10-17-  Bianca Schultz    http://www.thechildrensbookreview.com  Featured in My Writing and Reading Life Monthly Column

10-26-  Theresa Wallace Pregent   http://www.tmwallace.com     Interview post.   Final stop on the tour.

Hope you enjoy the tour!

 

 

 

Float Your Boat…20 Different Ways.

One of my favorite summer activities is being out on the water in a boat, enjoying the afternoon sunshine as the boat – any boat – glides through the water.  Even if you can’t take a ride in a people-sized boat, you and your kids can make an amazing flotilla of boats using all kinds of recycled materials.  And, best of all, they all float!  So save your egg cartons, margarine tubs, seashells, and sponges and get ready to have a boat race in your pool or even in the bathtub.  Don’t forget to take a video of the event and who knows, it may become an annual tradition.

Check out the model boats at: http://www.redtedart/2013/06/08/boat-craft-ideas-for-summer

Many of the boats have video instructions and cost little in terms of materials. Happy sailing!             origami boats 4

Interview With Award Winning Author Joanne Rocklin.

I first “met” Joanne Rocklin when she graciously read my manuscript for WHEELS OF CHANGE and provided a lovely blurb. As soon as I read one of her stories, I was hooked.  I couldn’t get enough of her heart-warming and delightful books. Her titles, THE FIVE LIVES OF OUR CAT ZOOK, and ONE DAY AND ONE AMAZING MORNING ON ORANGE STREET, capture the joys and sorrows of childhood with wonderful, unique characters and prose that wedges itself into your heart and takes hold. Her new book – FLEABRAIN LOVES FRANNY – (FLF) debuts this month, so I thought it would be great to feature her on this blog. First, here’s a description of FLF:

A story about a special girl, an inspiring book, and a brilliant (though unintentionally funny) flea.

From the publisher: This gem of a novel takes place in Pittsburgh in 1952. Franny Katzenback, while recovering from polio, reads and falls in love with the brand-new book Charlotte’s Web. Bored and lonely and yearning for a Charlotte of her own, Franny starts up a correspondence with an eloquent flea named Fleabrain who lives on her dog’s tail. While Franny struggles with physical therapy and feeling left out of her formerly active neighborhood life, Fleabrain is there to take her on adventures based on his extensive reading. It’s a touching, funny story set in the recent past, told with Rocklin’s signature wit and thoughtfulness.
Release Date: August, 2014
Amulet Books/Abrams ISBN 978-1-4197-1068-1    fleabrain cover

 
FIVE THINGS LEARNED WHILE WRITING MY MIDDLE GRADE NOVEL FLEABRAIN LOVES FRANNY
My novel takes place in the 1950’s in Pittsburgh, during the worst polio epidemics of that era. Franny, my main character contracts the disease and can no longer walk. During her hospital stay she is introduced to the recently published Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, and falls in love with the book, and, especially, the spider, Charlotte. She longs for a Charlotte of her own. Her wish is granted in the form of the brilliant Fleabrain, her dog’s flea.

1.
Much of what I learned while writing FLEABRAIN LOVES FRANNY were writing concepts I had to learn yet again, concepts that are integral to my own personal writing process. I usually begin with a phrase which arrives out of the blue. The phrase feels promising but doesn’t reveal much about the book I’m going to write. The phrase for this book was “you can stop seeking messages in spider webs.” This was Fleabrain’s first message to Franny, although I didn’t know it yet. I had to remember to just go with the phrase and wildly thrash about while I figure out what it means. I had to learn yet again, that for me, the rough draft is messy and chaotic but eventually leads to the story.

2.
Fleabrain provided Franny a necessary escape while she healed, as well as exciting adventures, affection, companionship and joy. He also taught her when it was time to face the real world. Fleabrain taught me, yet again, that humor will always be present in my books, no matter the seriousness of the subject matter, and that’s a good thing.

3.
Research is an ongoing process. I began reading about this particular era and began to get ideas about my character and her dilemma. I realized I had to set it in Pittsburgh because that’s where Dr. Jonas Salk did his important research on the polio vaccine, and I wanted to include a scientist in the story. But I was already deep into my story when I realized I would have to visit Pittsburgh and interview Pittsburghers who remembered that time. My research kept giving me ideas for scenes and themes for subsequent drafts.

4.
A surprising thing I learned while researching and writing this book was that many, many people knew very little about the polio epidemics. Some had never heard of an iron lung, or any of the treatment methods and medical advances associated with polio. Many were surprised to learn about the isolation and prejudice experienced by those stricken, and that most of the young people were required to attend special schools for “crippled” children. In addition, I myself learned that polio survivors were at the very forefront of the disability movement, agitating for many of the things we take for granted today (curb cuts, handicapped-accessible public places, etc.).

5.
And so, I learned yet again that the theme of my story will only become clear to me during the writing of the book itself, not before, and sometimes at the very end of the process. One of the important things that Franny learned is that it is not she who needs to be repaired by learning to walk again, but society itself, in accepting her.New picture book:

Joanne’s picture book:  I SAY SHEHECHYANU  will be out in January, 2015

Visit Joanne at: http://www.joannerocklin.com