Barn Swallows: On the Fly by Shiela Fuller

Featured

Every May, the barn swallows return to my farm.  While I do have a barn, I have about ten nests attached to my house.  These mud constructed homes for baby birds are found on top of ceiling fan blades, light fixtures, built in to the corners where walls meet, and in one location, attached to the siding. These active, cheerful birds call my house, home.

Chattering and darting every which way through the summer air, barn swallows are identified by their blue metallic back feathers, their cream to reddish underbelly, and their most striking field mark is their forked tail.  Barn swallows catch and eat insects on the fly. They also drink on the fly while skimming low over a marsh or pond.  They typically eat moths, flies, dragonflies, and other flying insects. Swallows are found throughout the world, but barn swallows are most common.  They are usually found in open habitats, farm fields, beaches, and over water.

Barn swallows are migratory birds leaving my property in late September and returning in April. To me, they indicate that spring weather is close to follow.

It is the male barn swallow that typically arrives at the previous year’s breeding location. The swallows build cup shaped nests using mud as the glue while attaching feathers, horsehair, grass, and other found materials.  Reusing nests year after year, the swallows apply a new mud covering. Both male and females are stern defenders of their nest and will “mob” intruders like cats, hawks, or people.

In North America, it has been observed that barn swallows will sometimes build nests on structures underneath an osprey nest.  The swallows receive protection from the fish-eating osprey (they don’t eat swallows) and the swallows protect the osprey nest from intruders with their warning chirps.

Barn swallows are very often found in backyards but do not eat at backyard bird feeders.  It may be possible to attract them by putting up manmade nest cups long before the birds’ migration north.  A supply of mud is also helpful.  It is nice to have a healthy colony of swallows living nearby as they help in keeping the insect population down.  Anything that eats mosquitoes is a win on my farm.

Photo 1: This is the barn swallow collecting nest building or rebuilding supplies

barnswallow 1

Photo 2: you can see the mud constructed nest with babies and the nest placement on a fan blade.

barnswallow 2

Photo 3: In this photo, you can see the babies being fed by a parent thanks to the clearly identifiable forked tail.

swallow 3

“All of the photos were taken from a respectable distance, some from inside my home, with a high zoom lens.”

To learn more about these fascinating birds visit:

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Barn_Swallow/lifehistory

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barn_swallow

https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/barn-swallow

http://www.biokids.umich.edu/critters/Hirundo_rustica/

 

 

 

 


 

 

Advertisements

November is Peanut Butter Lovers Month!

I have to admit I was surprised to learn November is Peanut Butter Lover’s month. Pumpkin lovers? Certainly. Cranberry lovers, or even apple lovers? Sure. Who knew peanut butter was something to celebrate this time of year.

In honor of the easy, versatile and kid-friendly food, here is a simple dip that you can proudly serve for the Thanksgiving holiday and beyond. Makes a perfect appetizer to keep kids of all ages from asking “When do we eat?”. It’s easy for kids to make as well.

PEANUT BUTTER DIP:1/4 C creamy peanut butter, 3 oz. low fat cream cheese, 1-2 T. apple or orange juice, 1/2 t. cinnamon, 1/8 to 1/4 C unsweetened applesauce.

1. Combine the PB, cream cheese, juice and cinnamon in a food processor or blender until smooth.  Add applesauce, a little at a time, until it is the right consistency for a dip. Chill before serving with the following:

sliced bananas, carrots, celery sticks, broccoli florets, apple slices, graham cracker sticks, pretzel rods, or any assortment of fruits and veggies you choose.  It’s amazing how many things taste great with peanut butter. 

Feel free to try it with non-traditional dippers such as pickles, pepper slices, sausage pieces or whatever. Refrigerated, it will be good for 2-3 days.  If you have allergies to peanuts, try substituting another butter in the recipe.

peanut-butter

Anyone out there adventurous enough to try a peanut butter and turkey sandwich? Who knows, it may be a new way to enjoy all those leftovers.

Three Worthy Causes to Sponsor on Veteran’s Day and Beyond.

Even though the holiday season is fast approaching, and thoughts of outdoor activities turn indoors, you can still show your support to two worthwhile causes throughout the year.

1. How can you honor Veteran’s on this Veteran’s Day?  Pick up a box of Band-Aids Our Veteran Heroes design bandages. With each purchase, the company makes a donation to TEAM RED, WHITE & BLUE, an organization that helps and supports veterans.  You can find them at Drugstores nationwide.

2.  Saturday, November 15 is AMERICA RECYCLES DAY.  Sort your cans, bottles,  and paper and help keep America beautiful.  visit: http://www.americarecyclesday.org

3. Feed the hungry one grain of rice at a time while also building your vocabulary. for every word you correctly define, grains of rice will be set aside and donated to those in need. Visit  http://www.freerice.org

Author/Illustrator Mary Zisk Presents: The Art Behind THE ART OF BEING REMMY.

I am thrilled to have children’s book author and illustrator Mary Zisk to talk about her debut middle grade novel THE ART OF BEING REMMY. I had the pleasure of reading this delightful time travel adventure back to 1965 and will share my review at the end of this post.

Mary will talk about the art she created for the book and her inspiration for writing it.  Here’s Mary:

The Art Behind The Art of Being Remmy

Mary-Oliver-Remmy-web

The most exciting event of my junior high life inspired my new middle grade novel, The Art of Being Remmy. When I was 13, I won a Draw-the-Beatles contest and tickets to a Beatles concert. The BEATLES! My best friend and I could barely hear the Fab Four singing with all the screaming, but the event was electric and so memorable.

The Art of Being Remmy

When I decided to write my novel, I used the pride and thrill I had felt from winning the contest to mold my main character, Remmy Rinaldi—a twelve-year-old girl who dreams of being an artist in spite of the objections from her father, the rivalry with a knucklehead boy, and the possibility of losing her best friend to a rat fink. I also reconnected with the remembrance that there were unwritten rules keeping girls in their place in the mid-sixties—sports are for boys, limited career options with the preferred being homemaker, dress codes, etc.

During draft number six, I came to a realization: how can I write a novel called The Art of Being Remmy and not have any art in it? I first drew an illustration that helped me define the premise of the book and create a possible visual direction.

Remmy_overview

As I continued rewriting drafts, I drew more cartoons—Remmy’s Wow Wall, best friend Debbie’s bedroom with matching canopy twin beds, and Suzanne The Rat Fink.

The Art of Being Remmy

But as my text drafts got deeper into Remmy’s emotions, I put myself in her place and felt that any artwork in the novel would be most meaningful and impactful if Remmy did all the illustrations from her point of view in her Super Secret Sketchbook—like illustrating in first person, instead of third person.

Layout 1

But what if readers of illustrated or graphic novels expected to see Remmy and all the characters acting out the narrative in scenes? I could be taking a big risk. As an experiment, I illustrated Remmy’s dream of the Beatles in NYC, influenced by her favorite painting, The Starry Night, by Vincent Van Gogh. Creating that illustration felt so right and natural to Remmy’s inner feelings and to my artistic process, I knew that was the direction I had to take.

The Art of Being Remmy

I continued by doing a full-page illustration for each of the 35 chapters of the book (plus a small spot illustration for each chapter opening).

The Art of Being Remmy

The Art of Being Remmy

The Art of Being Remmy

It has taken nine years to bring Remmy out into the world. I hope her story will now entertain middle grade girls as well as give them inspiration and feelings of empowerment as they create their own life journeys. Follow your Spark!

Mary Zisk is a graphic designer (mostly of magazines), an author/illustrator, and an artist with a passion for capturing foreign destinations in watercolor. She is the author and illustrator of the picture book, The Best Single Mom in the World: How I Was Adopted, and the illustrated middle grade novel, The Art of Being Remmy. Mary lives in New Jersey with her daughter and four white fluffy rescue mutts.

To learn more about Mary (and Remmy), please visit www.MaryZisk.com. She blogs about her many eclectic collections at www.TheClutterChronicles.com.

The Art of Being Remmy is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

As promised, here is my (Darlene’s) review for THE ART OF BEING REMMY:

The Art Of Being Remmy by Mary Zisk is a delightful time travel trip back to 1965 when the Beatles reigned supreme. Remmy Rinaldi and her best friend Debbie ADORE all things Beatles and make a plan to one day meet their idols. Remmy also loves art and has a second secret plan to develop her Spark as an artist, even though it means going against her father’s wishes. Girls in the 1960’s need to know their place and follow the path men have set for them. A path that includes being housewives, mothers, maybe teachers, nurses , secretaries or stewardesses. But artists? NEVER!

Remmy is determined to prove her father and everyone else – including her once friend Bill – that she can be a great artist. Good enough to win a contest. She keeps her drawings in Super Secret Sketchbooks and earns her own money to take painting lessons so she can enter the Art Awards Contest.

Lots of challenges get in the way of Remmy’s plan, including problems with her best friend and a devious French Rat Fink. Along the bumpy road of 7th grade, Remmy learns that some rules are worth challenging and fairness for girls in all aspects of life is one of them.

This illustrated middle grade book is a funny and charming peek into the days when the Beatles took the world by storm and the force of female protest was at their heels. An entertaining read that celebrates creativity and girl power.

 

 

Celebrate National Author’s Day.

As an author, a reader, and a lover of books, it’s wonderful to have an opportunity to send a “shout out” to my favorite authors, especially today.  Today, November 1, 2018, is NATIONAL AUTHOR’S DAY. How can you show some “LOVE” to your favorite authors?

Buy a book and give one to a friend.

Leave a positive review on Amazon or Goodreads.

Tweet your praise on Twitter. Let your favorite author know how much a book meant to you. Use the hashtag #NationalAuthorsDay.

If an author has inspired your own writing, take some time to honor your “inner author” and put your own words onto paper.

Reach out to your favorite author/s because writing is a lonely business. With so much negativity in the world, a good book brings a lot of pleasure. Thank your favorite authors today.  They deserve it.

Thank you Katherine Applegate, Kate DiCamillo, Marina Cohen, Beth Ferry, Laura Sassi, Annie Silvestro, Ransom Riggs, Laurie Wallmark, Janet Fox, Jennifer Donnelly, Sharon Creech, Joanne Rocklin, Robin Newman, Alan Bradley, Marissa Moss…..we may be here all day.

 

Author Colleen Kosinski Presents Her New MG: A Promise Stitched In Time.

When brainstorming for a new book idea I like to scour the Internet for interesting stories. Many days dawn turns to dusk as I plunge down the rabbit hole of article after article. One day, I came across a snippet from a book called Nazi Chic that mentioned two girls who were imprisoned in the attic of Hedwig Hoess (the wife of the Commandant of Auschwitz) and forced to make clothing for her and her family using fabric from the very clothing that had been stolen from the prisoners of the camp! Nobody knows the girls’ names or what became of them.

With that story in the back of my mind, I was perusing a thrift shop looking for cool vintage clothes. As I examined the garments I started thinking about the clothing’s backstory. Were these once prized possessions of the former owners? Had somebody scrimped and saved to buy this silk dress? Was this retro coat a beloved anniversary gift?

It was then that the two ideas began to merge and that is how the story of A Promise Stitched In Time (Schiffer Publishing 2018) began.

912EbeHM7QL_thumbnailHere is the blurb from the book:

Promises can be hard to keep, but Maggie McConnell is determined to keep the promise she made to her father before he died. She must win a scholarship to a prestigious art program, but her grief gets in the way as she struggles to find her artistic vision. When Maggie purchases an old tweed coat as inspiration, she never guesses this fur-collared coat will forever change the way she views life and her place in it. The coat awakens her muse, but also awakens something else: Maggie believes its previous owner haunts the coat. Dreams and visions give way to clues from the past, and then a Holocaust victim’s tattoo appears on her arm. With the help of a steampunk-dressing school outcast named Taj, Maggie must decipher what the ghost wants her to discover, and in the process find herself.

Darlene asked me to think of five things a reader should know about my main character.

My main character is Maggie McConnell, an Irish Catholic girl from New Jersey.

She has a sister Patty who is ten months older. Some people call this an “Irish twin.” While her sister is outgoing and popular (and a bit bossy), Maggie is quiet and more of an introvert.

Maggie and Patty’s father has been dead for three years, and the story shows how each of the sisters deals with their grief in different ways.

Maggie is a visual artist and throughout the story the reader sees how Maggie relates to the world through “artist’s” eyes.

Maggie grows more confident as the story progresses. She befriends the school outcast, must solve the mystery of the identity of the ghost who haunts her vintage coat, and she even gets her first kiss.

While the themes in this story may be heavy, I try to keep a balance of lightness and some humor for my middle grade audience. What I would like the reader to take away after reading this book is to consider how we treat others and be active in helping those who are being treated unkindly. This is something we all need to remember in these days and times.    

Attention Teachers: a free 42 page downloadable teacher’s guide is available for A Promise Stitched In Time on Colleen’s website!

AuthorPortrait   A Promise Stitched in Time
https://colleenrowankosinski.com/my-books/a-promise-stitched-in-time

Monsters and Villains in Literature.

Thinking about the season of Halloween  took me on a trip to my childhood and the scary books I read. The books that have stayed with me because of the hero of the quest, but also because of the villain the hero had to encounter. In the days before Harry Potter and Voldemort, there were still plenty of scary characters in the pages of books.

My favorite monster was, and still is, Frankenstein.  Not only because he was scary to look at, but also because he was so much less a monster than the man who created him and the people who misunderstood him.  A classic tale that makes us consider the monster hidden in all of us.

As far a villains go, there are a few that sent delicious shivers down my spine as a kid. The Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland with her gleeful willingness to chop the heads off little girls.

 

 

Another memorable rogue was Fagin from Oliver Twist.  An opportunist who found a way to exploit children under the guise of caring for them. He housed and fed them while society ignored them. If they had to pick pockets and become thieves, oh well, it was all part of life in Victorian London.

o t While frightening to my childhood soul, these villains paled in comparison to the quintessential villain of all time: The Wicked Witch of the West in L Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz. Scary enough to shake the slippers off of any young girl, this character came to life in all her green-faced glory in the form of Margaret Hamilton in the classic movie.  Scary to look at, to listen to, and to be in the same room with.  

There’s a villain to remember!     

Who are your favorite monsters and villains from children’s literature?