Happy Birthday National Parks!

August 25, 2016 marks the 100th birthday of the NATIONAL PARK SERVICE.  As film maker Ken Burns said…it was one of America’s “best Ideas”.  Some of the most beautiful and breathtaking views are preserved for us and future generations thanks to the system that set aside land in all 50 states for public enjoyment.  http://www.nps.gov

How many National Parks have you visited?  Which one is your favorite?  Here is a view from ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK in Colorado.  2014-09-17 01.39.11

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Parks feature some of the most amazing sights and opportunities to view wildlife.  On a recent hike in Rocky Mountain National Park  I spotted these wonders.

2014-09-17 01.33.312014-09-16 04.43.552014-09-16 04.44.44HERE ARE SOME FUN FACTS:

Can you name the National Park that is home to mountain goats and bighorn sheep?  (Glacier National Park)

Which park’s mountain range grows 1/2 inch each year?   (Grand Teton National Park)

Which park features more than 300 geysers?  (Yellowstone National Park)

For more FUN FACTS about the 10 most visited national parks in the US visit: http://www.Parade.com/bestparks

For a round up of some of the best National Parks in all 50 states visit: http://www.familycircle.com/nationalparks

Why not celebrate the Centennial of our National Parks by visiting one soon.  You’ll be amazed.

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April Chu: On Illustration, Art, and Picture Book Success.

I had the pleasure of meeting picture book illustrator APRIL CHU at the 2015 American Library Association Convention in San Fransisco (ALA).  We shared a table and signed books for our publisher CRESTON BOOKS. Since then, April’s books have been earning recognition for the beauty and distinct quality of her illustrations.  Here she is to talk about her process and how the books came to be.

  1. Tell us a bit about your background and art training.

I studied architecture at UC Berkeley and worked as an architect for over ten years before I decided I wanted to be a children’s book illustrator. I never had any formal art training, but I don’t think I went a day in my life without doing some sort of doodling.

2. What brought you to illustration?

I’ve always loved drawing but I didn’t know how to channel that into something I can do professionally. Then in 2009 I took a children’s book illustration course at the UC Berkeley Extension and I fell in love with the whole book making process. A few years later, I decided to pursue illustration seriously.

3. Two recent books you’ve illustrated – A VILLAGE BY THE SEA, and ADA BYRON LOVELACE AND THE THINKING MACHINE –  are with CRESTON BOOKS, which happens to be my publisher as well.  How did you end up working for Creston?

I met Marissa Moss at a book party that she was hosting. She had just started up her press, Creston Books. I brought along my portfolio and she thought I’d be a good fit for a manuscript she had just acquired called IN A VILLAGE BY THE SEA (Muon Van, author).   Village Cover (1)

I read the story and knew instantly that that was the project for me! After completing the artwork, Marissa offered me another book. This time it was an intriguing biography about the world’s first computer programmer, Ada Byron Lovelace. Working with Marissa and Creston Books has been such an amazing collaborative effort. I hope there are many more collaborations to come!

 

  1. The books mentioned have been earning a lot of praise and well-deserved starred reviews. How has that changed things for your career?

It has been great! I am usually working on my artwork alone and I only really get feedback from my editor and my husband. So once the book is released into the world, it’s such a relief and wonderful feeling when it’s welcomed with such warmth and positive attention. As an illustrator, the reviews and feedback definitely help me stay in the business.

5. I adore your illustration. They are so richly textured and three dimensional.  I feel like I can touch the drawings and everything will come to life.   Tell us a bit about your process.

Thank you! Before I begin sketching, I will read a manuscript many times so that I can do some initial brainstorming. For nonfiction stories like ADA BYRON LOVELACE AND THE THINKING MACHINE (Laurie Wallmark, author) there is usually some extensive research involved.    Ada Cover

After brainstorming and researching, I begin working on the thumbnail sketches, then the book dummy, and then the final sketch. This process can be quite lengthy with lots of revisions along the way. To create the final art, I scan the final pencil sketch into the computer and color the image digitally.

 

  1. What’s a typical work day? 

I usually wake up whenever my 6 month old wakes up, which is usually pretty early. I take care of her and then have a cup of coffee and something healthy for breakfast. I try to sneak work in while she naps which can be half an hour at a time or a few hours at time.

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My husband helps out when he’s home so I can get some extra work done, but usually I am pretty exhausted by then. Basically my work day currently revolves around my daughter! I am still getting used to the new mommy routine and I don’t really have a typical work day anymore.

 

  1. Any words of advice for would-be illustrators?

My advice would be to have a good website with a solid portfolio. And try to get your work out there and don’t be afraid to network! You never know who you are going to meet. It could lead to your next job.

8. What’s next?

I am working on my next picture book about America’s first female detective, Kate Warne. The story is written by Marissa Moss and the book will be published by Creston Books and released Spring 2017. Then afterwards I am illustrating a sweet story about a boy going on a fly fishing trip with his grandfather. This book will be published by Abrams and released Spring 2018. When I am not illustrating, I enjoy traveling and spending time with my family.

April Chu Headshot (2)Website: www.aprilchu.com

Twitter: @AprilChuART

Bake it Forward: Make Some Treats and Help Feed the Hungry.

Help the Food Network and No Kid Hungry serve 1 Million Meals to children in need this holiday season.   Sign on to the Bake it Forward Promotion.
http://bakeitforward.teamdigital.com/?.html

$1 donation will be made per post per unique author on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Post must be posted with proper hashtag during promo window.  #bakeitforward 

Maximum donation of $100,000. Promotion runs 11/1/15 12:01 am ET – 12/31/15 11:59 pm ET. Void where prohibited.

To get you inspired, here’s my recipe for OATMEAL FRUIT BARS

OATMEAL FRUIT BARS
Filling: I C. of dried fruit. (I used dates. You can also use cherries, apricots or raisins.)
½ C. granulated sugar. 1 C. water. 1-1/2 tsp grated lemon peel.
Crust: 1 ½ C. flour ( I used whole wheat and regular)
2/3 C dark brown sugar. 1 ½ C. old fashioned or quick cook oatmeal (not instant).
½ C. chopped walnuts. 2 sticks melted butter ( or you can use 1 stick butter and ½ C canola oil)

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8 x 8 inch pan with foil. Grease or spray foil with non-stick spray.
2. Filling: Place diced fruit, sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat (NOTE: parents should assist children with this step). Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cook for 12-15 minutes, until thick. Watch carefully toward the end; mixture may bubble and splash! Stir in lemon peel. Cool to lukewarm.

2014-10-24 03.25.49
3. Crust: Mix the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Stir in melted butter until well blended.
4. Remove one C. of crust mixture for later. Press the remaining amount evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Spread the fruit mixture over this. Then Sprinkle the reserved crumb topping evenly. Press gently into an even layer.       2014-10-24 03.38.59

 

 

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5. Bake 40-45 minutes or until bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Cool on a rack 45 minutes, then cover and cool in refrigerator at least 4 hours.
6. Turn onto a cutting board. Peel off foil. Cut into bars with a sharp knife. These bars can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for a couple weeks.

2014-10-24 20.00.09   Why not join the Food Network and No Kid Hungry and make something delicious to share this holiday season.  Happy Thanksgiving to all!

SNOWY WHITE INVASION by Shiela Fuller

We’ve had a cold winter in southern New Jersey. Those who live here have learned to acclimate or move elsewhere. Have you ever thought about the animals or birds that live in the cold, snowy climate and thrive there? Do they ever move elsewhere’?
The snowy owl , also known as the Arctic owl or great white owl spends most of its time living and nesting in the Arctic tundra of Alaska, Canada and Eurasia. Comparable in size to NJ’s great horned owl, it has much more body fat that keeps it warm and allows it to live in the coldest regions on earth.

In a very good year of hunting, a snowy owl will eat three to five lemmings, rabbits, mice or birds a day. Most owls hunt at night making them nocturnal but the snowy owl is diurnal which means it hunts during the day. When there is a good supply of food , the owl will lay more eggs and produce more young. So the size of the clutch of eggs is totally dependent on the abundance of food.         

Author's photo of the Snowy Owl.

Author’s photo of the Snowy Owl taken at Island Beach State Park, January 2105.

“Irruptions” are when larger than usual numbers of snowy owls venture beyond their normal Arctic habitats. Scientists suspect that the larger population of juvenile snowy owls traveling further south is also a result of an increased number of young born and fledged and then the ensuing competition for food.
During the winter of 2013/14, the snowy owl migrated south and many stopped in NJ much to the delight of bird watchers. “It’s a natural spectacle, like a meteor shower, something you should see,” said Pete Dunne, New Jersey Audubon’s director of communications.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/12/10/snowy-owl-influx-a-hoot-for-bird-watchers/3978577/

This December and January, sightings of the snowy owl were once again being observed at the the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge http://www.fws.gov/refuge/edwin_b_forsythe/ and at Island Beach State Park http://www.islandbeachnj.org/   Both locations are along the New Jersey coast.

Photo courtesy of Holly Rotella, taken at Edwin B Forsythe Wildlife Preserve, 2014

Photo courtesy of Holly Rotella, taken at Edwin B Forsythe Wildlife Refuge, 2014

Perhaps you can make a trek to see the Arctic visitor in south Jersey. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/12/10/snowy-owl-influx-a-hoot-for-bird-watchers/3978577/
owl.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snowy_owl
http://articles.philly.com/2015-02-27/news/59547634_1_snowy-owls-project-snowstorm-winter-vacation

http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/snowy-owl/
http://www.defenders.org/snowy-owl/what-you-can-do

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.

Wildlife in Winter: What’s Out There, Anyway?

Wildlife in Winter by Shiela Fuller

It’s cold outside and there is snow on the ground. Have you ever wondered what happens to wildlife in winter?

Wild creatures have been preparing for winter long before it arrives. During the summer and fall some animals are getting ready for hibernation.

Hibernation occurs because food becomes difficult to find when the air outside gets cold. It is a sleep-like state when the animal’s body temperature will lower, their breathing will slow down and body functions like urinating and defecating will cease. The black bear hibernates. In late summer or fall, the black bear will locate a suitable den and then prepare it for winter sleeping by filling it with leaves and debris for bedding. Chipmunks and brown bats hibernate, too. Chipmunks prepare for hibernation by filling their cheeks until they are bursting with seeds. Then they will store them in their burrows for winter.  Brown bats will huddle in clusters with a lot of other bats to keep warm during the coldest months.

Reptiles like garter snakes and box turtles bruminate. When the temperatures turn cold, the reptiles will protect themselves by burrowing below the freeze line in the soil. The reptile’s body functions will slow down just like the mammals that hibernate. The reptiles stay awake but are sluggish.

Not all animals hibernate or bruminate. For the animals that don’t, winter can be hard on them. Food can be difficult to find under a layer of snow. This will prompt some animals to venture to locations outside of their normal range leaving tracks as they go. Tracking animals can be fun on your first snow day.      

possum prints in the first snow of December 2014.

possum prints in the first snow of December 2014.

Before you head outside in the snow for your track walk, look up what kinds of animals are found in your region of the country and draw simple pictures of their tracks. A reference book like Mammal Tracks & Sign: A Guide to North American Species by Mark Elbroch may be helpful. When you go outside, take your drawings and you will have your own track identification guide. Take pictures of the tracks, too.

The first tracks you see might be your own. Notice that you leave a trail as you walk. What kind of shape do your boots make in the snow? Are your tracks close together or far apart? Step in the tracks of another person. Make running tracks, if the snow is not too deep.

Search for animal tracks. Do you have a dog? Take your dog along for the winter walk. Check out your dog’s tracks in the snow. Compare your tracks to your dog’s.
Look for bird tracks under a bird feeder. Are they all the same or different? Follow the birds’ tracks. Why do they end?    Here’s a link to some tracks:

http://cottagecountrypestcontrol.blogspot.com/2012/11/animal-tracks.html  

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.

  

Welcome the Birds With Make-Your-Own Suet Cakes.

With days getting shorter and cooler, we often lament the coming of winter. When we move indoors it seems like we miss out on some of the creatures in the natural world.  But, you can have birds in your yard all winter long by spreading out seeds and suet to attract them.  Here’s Shiela Fuller’s recipe for HOMEMADE SUET:

HOMEMADE SUET for bird feeding

Feeding winter birds is a rewarding winter activity for adults and children. The general agreement is if you provide winter foods, you should also provide a water source and hiding places for protection from predators. This means, place your feeder near trees or bushes that give quick cover.
There are many different varieties of bird species to see right outside your window. Common seed eating varieties are the blue jay, tufted titmouse, and black capped chickadee. If you are lucky you might catch a glimpse of an Eastern towhee or yellow-rumped warbler passing through on migration. The insect eating winter birds such as the downy woodpecker, the red-bellied woodpecker, and the nuthatch especially enjoy suet.
Making your own healthy version of bird suet is so easy to do.

Gather the ingredients:
1. bacon fat (the leftover liquid fat after you’ve cooked it)-throughout the year collect the leftover fat in a jar and keep in your fridge.
2. rolled oats
3. peanut butter
4. dried fruits , nuts, and/or seeds
5. commercial bird seed
Process:
Combine one part bacon fat and peanut butter and melt in a saucepan. Add the additional ingredients to make a thick concoction.
Cool and pour into an empty box that give will your suet shape. A half gallon milk or juice carton is perfect for this.  Place in freezer.    suet photoWhen solid, peel back the carton and slice the cake into ONE INCH THICK pieces that you can insert into your suet feeder or hang from a wire basket.

Keep the remaining suet in the freezer until needed. Since this has no artificial preservatives, recommended use is at 38* F or colder.

It won’t be long before the birds will make your backyard their home.

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.

Caring For Baby Birds.

It’s summer!
If you’ve maintained a wild bird backyard habitat throughout winter, you can continue through summer with added benefits. Providing food, water and shelter encourages birds to build a home and raise young when resources are plentiful. Fill a suet feeder with nesting supplies such as yarn threads, strands of hair, and broom bristles. Keep a part of your yard “natural” with a pile of leaves and pine needles, to offer a variety of supplies for birds to choose from. Keep your eyes out the window and take note to which birds make use of your materials.

Many birds will make their nest in close proximity to humans. Robins and mourning doves are known for making nests in shrubs, trees or on wooden ledges under decks. Swallows will build a nest from mud and attach it to the side of the house. Wrens love small bird houses and especially those that can safely swing in the breeze. Be on the lookout for neighborhood cats who like to lunch on unsuspecting baby birds. Snakes can also end the enjoyment of raising baby birds in your yard. I don’t recommend killing snakes as they also provide an important service in the ecosystem, but it’s never a good day, when a snake is found inside a nest box full of black-capped chickadees.     bird 1

In addition to prey, another hazard for baby birds is falling from the nest. If a baby bird found is very small and most likely dead, it has been pushed out by more aggressive siblings or from nest over load. If you find a baby bird that has feathers and can hop but cannot fly, it is most likely a fledgling, just learning to fly. Contrary to popular belief it is OK to pick up and replace the baby to its nest. Or, if it looks like the parents are attentive, leave it alone. If you cannot find the nest, place the bird in a tissue lined box in the same location in which it was found. Watch to see if the parents return to feed. Many do. If after a few hours you can’t be sure the parents are around, your best option is to take the baby to a local wildlife center. The people there will nurture the baby until it can survive on its own and usually return the bird to its original locale.           bird 2

Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge is in southern New Jersey and takes in wildlife of all varieties.
6 Sawmill Rd, Medford, NJ 08055
(856) 983-3329
http://www.cedarrun.org

Another note of caution, be careful of tree cutting in the spring and summer. Many nests have been dislocated when unsuspecting tree cutters take down a bird’s summer home.

Taking care of our feathered friends can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience for young and old alike. Why not invite some birds into your backyard this summer?

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.