About darlenebeckjacobson

I am a freelance writer and the author of WHEELS OF CHANGE (2014) and WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY (2020). I've also worked in the field of education for over thirty years.

Become a Naturalist

Ah Summer! There is so much about this time of year that brings out poetry, curiosity and a sense that anything is possible. When the kids get restless and itchy, take a break from video games and household routines and explore the natural world. To make it a more interesting adventure, become Naturalists and record the days observations and sightings. You can do this and still be faithful to social distancing and keeping one another safe. All you need is the following, all of which will fit in a backpack:

1. A pair of binoculars for zooming in on birds or other elusive wildlife. A magnifying glass for closeups of insects and plant life.

2. A Field Guide of insects and birds of North America.  There are many excellent ones you can borrow from a local library or download onto your Kindle or iphone. You can track and input what birds you see on Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology.   http://www.birds.cornell.edu  or by downloading the eBird app. 

3. A journal or notebook will help you record sights, sounds, names of animals and plants you discover, and details to use in writing a story or drawing a picture when you get back home.

4. A camera.

5. Comfortable shoes, water, snacks.

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Try an outing at different times of day. What is awake in the early morning hours may be totally different from what is active mid day or at sunset. If you’re having difficulty finding “critters”, be still and listen to the sounds of nature. This stillness often leads to amazing discoveries. It will definitely bring you peace and calm your stress. If you’re near water, turn over some rocks at the water’s edge. There are many hatching insects under them to marvel at.

And, like every good naturalist, remember to leave only footprints, and take only pictures and memories, and bring back any trash left behind by the human animal, so we can enjoy the natural world for years to come. footprints

Give Your Backyard Critters, and the Earth’s Creatures Some TLC.

We are ALL interconnected and part of the chain that feeds and sustains life on earth. Wondering how you can help protect the most vulnerable critters on our planet? There are FIVE simple things all of us can do to help make a difference for the creatures who share the earth with us. 

1. Bee populations are disappearing, which effects food crops around the world. Help LOCAL HIVES by adding a “bee bath” to your backyard. Fill a shallow dish or birdbath with water and pebbles or marbles to welcome these pollinators into your garden.

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2. You can help protect CORAL REEFS by replacing your regular sunscreen for one that does not contain OXYBENZONE. This ingredient damages the delicate reefs.

3. I’ve mentioned this one on numerous posts: FEED MONARCH BUTTERFLIES by planting MILKWEED in your garden. This is the only plant these endangered creatures lay their eggs on and the caterpillars eat. You can get get milkweed seeds in your local National Wildlife Federation office.  http://www.nationalwildlifefederation.org

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Milkweed from my garden. Bonus: it also attracts bees.

4. Eat seafood that is sustainably caught and protect whales and dolphins from getting trapped in fishing nets. Download the Seafood Watch app to identify businesses that serve and sell sustainably sourced seafood.

5. Help the endangered Sumatran tiger from losing its habitat to coffee growers. Make sure your brew is Rainforest Alliance certified. This means the beans are grown  and harvested in a sustainable, animal-friendly way.

Summer Fun: Crafts For Kids of All Ages.

Summer vacation is here!  While your children enjoy a break from school, you still want to make sure they are active and spending time in constructive pursuits instead of vegging out in front of the TV or computer.  Trips to parks and playgrounds, lakes and beaches, are a great way to enjoy the outdoors.  For days when it is too hot to go outside, or for times when quiet activity is preferred, there are some great sites for summer crafts.

The Long Thread offers 50 Summer Crafts for kids of all ages including Stone Dolls, Recycled Crayons, and Fairy Wings.

http://thelongthread.com/?p=4054

Try the awesome crafts for kids of all ages and abilities on the HAPPINESS IS HOMEMADE  site. No special skills or tools are required.

https://www.happinessishomemade.net/easy-summer-kids-crafts-that-anyone-can-make/

Finally,  check out the RED TED site for videos on some amazing crafts that will keep your children entertained all summer long.  http://www.redtedart.com

Happy Summer!

What Rhymes With Rhubarb?

I haven’t been able to find a word that rhymes with RHUBARB. But, I have found some interesting facts about this unique vegetable (no, it isn’t a fruit). And I have also found something that goes really well with rhubarb…strawberries.

rhubarb

Today, June 9, 2022 is NATIONAL RHUBARB PIE DAY. To celebrate this tasty and often overlooked wonder of the vegetable world, I am sharing a favorite recipe for STRAWBERRY RHUBARB CRISP.

 

First, here are a few tidbits about this amazing vegetable. Facts are taken from the website: https://laidbackgardener.blog/2021/05/19/17-fun-facts-about-rhubarb/

Did you know:

  • Unlike most vegetables, rhubarb does not need to be planted every year from seeds. It is an perennial that sprouts from the garden as soon as the soil begins to thaw in early spring. (Like asparagus). Plants live as long as 60 years!
  • Rhubarb originated in China over 2,000 years ago where it was used as a medicinal plant. It wasn’t until the 19th century – when sugar became more readily available –  that its medicinal properties were abandoned and it became an edible food.
  • Rhubarb leaves are not as poisonous as often thought. The oxalic acid in the leaves would be harmful if ingested in huge quantities. For instance, a 145 pound human would need to ingest 9-10 pounds of the leaves to reach toxic levels. They’re not worth eating anyway. It’s the stalks that have the amazing tart and tangy flavor.
  • A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of cooked rhubarb provides 26% of the DV for vitamin K1. It’s also a good source of fiber. Otherwise, it’s not a significant source of essential nutrients, but when you cook it with STRAWBERRIES, you add sweetness, Vitamin C and another layer of deliciousness.

strawberries

If you’ve never tasted rhubarb, a good way to try it is mixed with another fruit such as the strawberries in this recipe. I prefer my rhubarb on the tart side, so I only add a tablespoon or two of sugar to the fruit mix.

 

STRAWBERRY RHUBARB CRISP

 

recipe

SERVED WITH A SCOOP OF VANILLA ICE CREAM OR GREEK YOGURT, THIS IS A TREAT FOR THE TASTE BUDS.

What’s your favorite rhubarb recipe? I’d love to hear it…always on the lookout for more ways to enjoy this garden delight.

Happy Eating!rhubarb crisp

May Book Giveaway Winners…

It gives me great pleasure to announce the winners of this month’s kidlit book giveaways.

The winner of a signed copy of SHADOW GRAVE  by Marina Cohen goes to Jennifer Mary Grollmund

shadow grave picA copy of LET’S PLAY AN INSTRUMENT by Rachelle Burk goes to Ellen Ramsey.

20220511_111027CONGRATULATIONS to the winners!

Please email me with your address so I can let the author’s know. Thanks to all who entered this month’s giveaways. Remember, one of the best ways to show an author how much you love a book is to leave a review on Amazon, B&N, or Goodreads.

Happy Reading!

Got Burgers? Celebrate National Hamburger Day with Marilyn Ostermiller.

Firing up the grill for the first burgers of the season is a time-honored Memorial Day Weekend tradition. This year, National Hamburger Day, May 28, falls on the first day of the holiday weekend.

Americans devour nearly 50 billion burgers each year, according to food industry sources. The origin of modern hamburgers can be traced to 19th century Germany where beef from Hamburg cows was minced. combined with garlic, salt and pepper and formed into patties. Buns were introduced later, when hamburgers became a popular food cart offering in the streets of New York and Chicago.

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A major factor in their popularity is that burgers are inexpensive. It helps that they also are easy to prepare. Grab about a quarter pound of ground beef, shape it into a ball, flatten it and fry it quickly in a skillet on the stove, broil or grill it.

For the most flavorful burgers, Food Network Chef Bobby Flay recommends 80/20 ground chuck, seasoned with salt and pepper and cooked in a cast iron skillet with a splash of canola oil.

Looking for a leaner burger?  A four-ounce cooked sirloin burger has  about 225 calories, 12 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat and 27 grams of protein. Nutritionally speaking, it’s an excellent source of niacin, vitamin B 12, zinc and selenium. It’s also a good source of vitamin B 6. Iron and phosphorus.

burgers

Turkey burgers are an option for people who want to avoid beef, or want a flavor change. A four-ounce cooked turkey burger, made from a combination of dark and light meat, has about 200 calories, but is leaner than beef. Suggested seasonings include a tablespoon of dried bread crumbs, grated onion, salt and pepper, a tablespoon of olive oil and a teaspoon of white wine vinegar. Cook to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Whether burgers are made at home or eaten on the go, they also appeal because the meat is easy to chew, according to http://www.epicurious.com.

For some folks, the toppings make the burger. Nearly three out of four people surveyed said they typically use cheese as a burger topping. Other popular enhancements include ketchup, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles, and mustard. At least, one in five surveyed say they also like bacon, mayo or aioli, mushrooms and fries on their burgers.

The best burger buns are soft and slightly sweet, but strong enough to soak up the juices.

How do you like your burgers?

Cookbooks for kids can help children discover their role in the kitchen.

Kid Chef: The Foodie Kids Cookbook written by Melina Hammer, is designed to introduce 5- to 11-year olds to the mysteries of cooking. It includes 75 recipes with simple directions.  kid chef book

The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs: 100+ Recipes that You’ll Love to Cook and Eat, produced by America’s Test Kitchen Kids, is geared for 8-11 year olds. Alongside the recipes are lots of basic cooking information. kid cook book

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Marilyn Ostermiller is long-time journalist who also writes stories for children.

Book Review and Giveaway: LET’S PLAY AN INSTRUMENT: A Music Book For Kids by Rachelle Burk (Illustrated by Junissa Bianda)

I was recently approached by a publisher to provide an endorsement for a new non-fiction book for young children written by author Rachelle Burk. What a pleasure it was to read and review LET’S PLAY AN INSTRUMENT.

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Here’s my review:

A simple, lyrical, and kid-friendly introduction to the wonder and variety of musical instruments. Burk and Bianda take young readers on a colorful and engaging trip through the world of musical instruments and the ways they are played. It’s a perfect introduction that is sure to get kids excited about making their own music. Recommended for ages 3-5.

I am giving away a copy of this charming book to one lucky reader chosen at random. To enter, please leave a comment on this post. If you share on social media, you will have an extra chance to win.

Author Annette Whipple Presents: RIBBIT: THE TRUTH ABOUT FROGS.

Ribbit Cover

Did you know there are more than 7,000 kinds of frogs worldwide? Ever wonder why frogs blink their eyes so much? Blinking helps them swallow. The eyes help push food down into the stomach. Unique and interesting details like this have become a trademark for Annette Whipple’s books in THE TRUTH ABOUT series.

This newest entry, RIBBIT: THE TRUTH ABOUT FROGS (Reycraft Publishing) follows the Q & A format of previous books (WOOF: THE TRUTH ABOUT DOGS, SCURRY: THE TRUTH ABOUT SPIDERS) and provides many fascinating and kid-friendly facts about these amazing amphibians.

Ribbit p 6-7

The book also includes a craft, glossary, and numerous photographs to complement the text. It is  a welcome addition to a classroom library and science resources.

You can order this awesome book here: https://www.amazon.com/Ribbit-Truth-About-Annette-Whipple/dp/1478875879/

About MeAnnette Whipple celebrates curiosity, especially through her informational books for children.
Annette Whipple
Ribbit! The Truth About Frogs (Reycraft Books, 2022)
Scurry! The Truth About Spiders (Reycraft Books, 2021) 
Woof! The Truth About Dogs (Reycraft Books, 2021)
Whooo Knew? The Truth About Owls (Reycraft Books, 2020)
The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide (Chicago Review Press, 2020) 
The Story of the Wright Brothers (Rockridge Press, 2020)

SHADOW GRAVE: An Interview With MG Horror Author Marina Cohen + A chance to win a copy

There are many of us out there who love the spine-tingly feeling we get from reading a good horror story.  I’m not talking about the grisly, slasher fare that leaves little to the imagination. I’m referring to the well-written story that takes us to a scary place with a setting too irresistible to pass up, and keeps us turning pages even when we fear what might be around the corner.

Marina Cohen (THE INN BETWEEN, A DOLL’S EYES) has written that kind of story for the middle grade audience with her new book SHADOW GRAVE.

shadow grave picHere’s the blurb:

Tuck Everlasting meets The Village in this delightfully eerie middle grade novel about a boy trapped in a strange town where secrets turn deadly and the unnatural lurks in the night.

Twelve-year-old Arlo is afraid of fire, creepy TV shows, and even his own shadow―but most of all, he’s afraid of losing his mother to the disease that nearly claimed her life a year ago.

During a Thanksgiving road trip, a sudden collision with a strange beast in the middle of the road totals the family’s car, and Arlo, his mom, and his sister end up stranded in a small town.

There’s something off about Livermore. No one has a phone or a car, and the townspeople aren’t exactly friendly. Without phone service to make a call for help, the family stays at the Samuels’ mansion, but inexplicable sightings at night set Arlo on edge. When he stumbles upon a dark secret that the town’s inhabitants will kill to keep, getting out of Livermore becomes a matter of life or death.

I asked Marina how the story came about.

  1.  I was hooked on this story from page one. Tell us where you got the idea for Shadow Graves.

Being an author yourself you know that ideas come from everywhere—snippets of conversations overheard, strange facts randomly uncovered, interesting people and places one might chance upon. In fact, everything we experience goes into the compost of our imaginations and after time breaks down and eventually comes out as something (hopefully!) fresh and new and engaging. Several things went into the compost of my imagination over the years, including Natalie Babbitt’s brilliant and memorable novel, Tuck Everlasting, Frost’s poem The Road Not Taken, an amazing tiny creature called the tardigrade, and the real-life ghost town, Livermore. All of these contributed in varying degrees to what would become the backbone of my story, Shadow Grave.

  1. The setting feels like a character in the story. How did you decide to set the story in New Hampshire?

Settings play such an important role in all novels, but in particular, horror novels. You are correct in that they almost take on the role of a character—in some novels, the setting is the antagonist! In my free time I enjoy researching real ghost towns, their histories, and what led to their demise. When I came across Livermore—especially one particularly gruesome fact that may or may not be true—I knew this was my setting. Even its name plays an important role in my plot. I’d driven through New Hampshire some time ago and had wanted to return and visit the remains of the town in the summer of 2020 before my novel went to edit, however, it seemed the world had other plans. Despite it being a real place, and though I did borrow pieces of its history, the Livermore in my novel is a fictional—almost mythical place.

3. You definitely achieved a creepy, yet realistic setting. It really drew me in from the first page. What are three things readers should know about the main character and his sister?

Arlo has had a rough year leading up to the start of this novel. His mother was diagnosed with cancer and though the outcome was positive the experience left him changed—a more muted and anxious individual. Though he follows the series Zombie Army of Darkness because all his friends do, he much prefers the Nature Channel. He’s both fearful and fierce, but his strength lies in his calm and thoughtful manner, while his sister, Lola, can be brash and bold. Arlo follows rules while Lola likes to break them.

4. They are the perfect foils for such a story. Your choice of words and metaphors paint such vivid pictures and really set the tone for this creepy story. Tell us a bit about your writing process and how you chose to tell the story.

Since the plots of my novels tend to be quite creepy it’s important for me to establish a creepy tone. Like music which uses dissonance and irregular rhythms to create an unsettled feeling, I like to paint pictures that are slightly askew, tilting the world and keeping my readers off-balance and unsure. I write as though I’m seeing my story unfold as a film before my eyes so I lean—perhaps too heavily at times—on the visual.

5. I fell in love with your language and word choices. One of my favorite passages…

“The moon hung like a silver pendant against the velvety black dress of night”

There are so many lovely descriptions like that.  What else would you like us to know about this story?

Though this novel is primarily intended to do what horror novels should—entertain while delivering chills and spine-tingling thrills—I hope this story will leave readers with some very important life questions to ponder.

6. What is next for you?

Currently I’m working on another creepy middle-grade—this one with sci-fi undertones.

Marina is giving away one signed copy of this book to a reader chosen at random. Leave a comment if you’d like to enter. If you share the post on social media, let me know so I can give you a second chance to win.

marina pic

Marina Cohen is an elementary school teacher and author of several middle grade books including The Inn Between, The Doll’s Eye, A Box of Bones, and Shadow Grave. Her novels have been nominated for several awards in both the US and Canada.

April Book Give-away Winners…

Here are the winners for the two book give-away events for the month of April.

A copy of THE WOMAN WHO SPLIT THE ATOM: THE LIFE OF LISE MEITNER by Marissa Moss goes to: Danielle Hammelhef.

TheWomanWhoSplitTheAtom(1)

A signed copy of PRUETT AND SOO by Nancy Viau goes to Kim B Love

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Please email me your addresses so I can get the books to you.

Thanks to all who entered and Happy Reading!

Remember, the best way to show authors how much you love their books is by leaving a review on Amazon, and Goodreads.