‘Tis the Season For: Pumpkin Picking Tips.

  • One of the most abundant and popular items seen everywhere this time of year is the PUMPKIN.  It comes in lots of sizes and shapes and is used to flavor everything from desserts, to coffee, and even soup.  Here are some FUN FACTS about this seasonal favorite as well as tips on how to choose a good pumpkin:
  • Pumpkins originated in Central America.

  • Pumpkins are really squash… members of the squash family.

  • A pumpkin is a fruit. Most people think of it as a vegetable.

  • Pumpkins are 90% water. 

  • The largest pumpkin ever grown is 2,323.7 pounds.   You can see it here:  http://www.pumpkinnook.com/giants/giantpumpkins.htm

For more fun PUMPKIN facts visit: http://gardenersnet.com/fun/pumpkintrivia.htm

How to Select Perfect Pumpkins:

Select pumpkins that are completely orange. A partially green pumpkin might not ripen any further.  Be sure it is not too heavy to carry safely.  You might want to bring along a wagon to carry your pumpkin(s).

Use medium pumpkins for carving into a Jack O Lantern. Small pumpkins are better for cooking and baking.   

A ripe pumpkin has a hard shell that does not dent easily when pressing on it with a thumbnail.  Examine the entire pumpkin carefully for soft spots. If you find even one soft spot, try another pumpkin.

If you don’t plan on cutting your pumpkin into a Jack-O-Lantern, it will last well into Thanksgiving and beyond.   

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More Ways to Be Green.

Last month I shared ten simple ways to reduce our footprint on Mother Earth.  Today I will share ten more.

  • Collect rainwater and use it for landscaping. If you’re worried about mosquitoes, put a cover on it after it rains.
  • Bring your own mug or refillable cup to your favorite coffee spot.
  • Buy Fair Trade products.
  • Carpool as much as possible. And, combine errands so you drive more efficiently.
  • Choose reusable rather than disposable products. (razors, pens, cups, cloth napkins, diapers, etc)
  • Buy in bulk to avoid excess packaging.
  • Donate old cell phones and help save the African gorilla. http://www.eco-cell.org
  • Don’t charge your cell phone overnight.
  • Reuse Ziploc bags when you can.
  • Purify indoor spaces with plants instead of artificial room fresheners.

Here’s one of my favorite ways to re-purpose something:

car planter

Got any more good ideas? We can all make a difference in many small ways.

 

Going Green? Ten Easy Ways to Make a Difference.

With the recent news about efforts to haul away the mammoth pile of floating garbage in the Pacific Ocean, some of us may wonder how we can possibly make a difference and help keep our earth and environment healthy. So many things we might do seem feeble and often futile.

I’m here to say that EVERYONE can do something – no matter how small – to reduce the impact we have on planet earth. Today I begin a series of SIMPLE STEPS you can incorporate into your life to help keep our earth home healthy.

  • Bring your own bags to the grocery store and reduce use of disposable plastic bags.
  • Buy local to reduce consumption of fossil fuels.
  • Turn off the lights when you leave a room.
  • Install low-flow shower heads and take shorter showers.
  •  Use a water filter pitcher or install one on your sink to refill water bottles.
  • Instead of driving, ride a bike for short distances. or take a train or bus to work.
  • Don’t let the sink faucet run when you wash dishes or brush your teeth.
  • Unplug electronics when you’re not using them.
  • Wash clothes in cold water. Today’s detergents clean just as well in cold water.
  • Line dry clothes if and when possible.

There are MANY more ways to go green.  I’ll share them in coming weeks. Got any favorite earth-friendly tips of your own you’d like to share?

 

Picture Book Author Robin Newman Presents: Squawking with Jim, the Peacock + Book Give-away.

Today it is my pleasure to be a stop on the blog tour for PB author Robin Newman’s newest book NO PEACOCKS which is illustrated by CHRIS EWALD (Sky Pony Press). I’ve got the inside scoop from none other than Jim, resident peacock.

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Every day Phil, Jim, and Harry are fed sunflower seeds by the staff who care
 for them at The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. But one day, they decide they’re sick of seeds. They make a break for the New York City streets in search of pizza or Chinese takeout. But everywhere they go, they’re told “No peacocks!”

So, they try to get an ooey, gooey, delicious meal closer to home. But 
how are they going to sneak into The Cathedral School’s dining hall and get their wings on the school’s world-famous mac ’n cheese? A little plotting, some stolen disguises, and help from the students, and the mission is a go!

Will the peacocks get their mac n cheese? Or will their cover be blown, forcing them to fly the coop? This fictional feathered tale was inspired by the real-life beloved celebrity birds living on the grounds of The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine.

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DBJ: Jim, you are the first peacock I’ve ever interviewed.

Jim: It’s funny but you’re not the first person to say that to me.

DBJ: Just a bit of background for my blog readers. You and your brothers, Phil and Harry, live on the grounds of The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine on 112th St. and Amsterdam Avenue in New York.

Jim: That’s right! Harry and I have been around since about 2002. Phil came later.

DBJ: I couldn’t help but notice that you and Harry are the traditional blue-green peacocks while Phil has white feathers.

Jim: Phil is a leucistic white peafowl. Everyone seems to think it’s a big deal (especially Phil!) and tourists are always trying to snap his picture but personally I don’t see the appeal.

DBJ: Is there a way to tell you and Harry apart?

Jim: Ask any of the children. Each one seems to have a foolproof system for telling us apart. Say, are you going to eat those almonds?  All I had for breakfast were some sunflower seeds. And those pesky neighborhood pigeons kept pecking at my food.

DBJ: You poor bird. Please take the entire bag.

Jim: Thanks!

DBJ: Speaking of food, I hear that there’s a new book about the three of you focused on food.

Jim: No Peacocks! A Feathered Tale of Three Mischievous Foodies, by Robin Newman and illustrated by Chris Ewald. It flies onto bookshelves September 4th.

DBJ: Can you tell us a little bit about the book?

Jim: It’s about pizza and baked goods.

DBJ: Anything else?

Jim: Our quest to try the world’s best mac ‘n cheese.

DBJ: And?

Jim: I don’t want to spoil the plot (or your appetite). You’ll have to read the book.

DBJ: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Jim: If you read the book, and like the book, please leave a review. Also, please come by and say hello. You can even check out our fancy new coop. The New York Times wrote an article about it.   You can see the article at the end of this post.

 DBJ: Thanks, Jim!

Jim: Wait! I forgot to mention. Harry is stopping by Patricia Tilton’s blog, Children’s Books Heal, on September 7.  https://childrensbooksheal.com

Oh, and we’ll be looking for you at our BOOK SIGNING tonight! Be sure to stop by, we’ll be serving our favorite food (hint…it’s cheese)

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Robin Newman was a practicing attorney and legal editor, but she now prefers to write about witches, mice, pigs, and peacocks. She is the author of the Wilcox & Griswold Mystery Series, The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake and The Case of the Poached Egg, as well the picture book, Hildie Bitterpickles Needs Her Sleep, illustrated by Chris Ewald. She lives in New York with her husband, son, goldfish, and two spoiled English Cocker Spaniels, who are extremely fond of Phil, Jim and Harry.

Website: www.robinnewmanbooks.com

Twitter: @robinnewmanbook

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/RobinNewmanBooks/339179099505049

Robin is giving away a signed copy of her book to a random person who leaves a comment on this post.  If you share the post on social media, I’ll put your name in the hat twice. The winner will be announced on WEDNESDAY 9-19 on this blog.

PB Author/Illustrator Barbara DiLorenzo Presents – QUINCY:The Chameleon Who Couldn’t Blend In.

I recently had the pleasure of reading a new PB by one of my favorite author/illustrators Barbara DiLorenzo, QUINCY:The Chameleon Who Couldn’t Blend In.

Here’s my review of this delightful story that makes a perfect read aloud for young children worrying about how they’ll do on their first day of school:

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QUINCY THE CHAMELEON WHO COULDN’T BLEND IN by Barbara DiLorenzo (Little Bee Books 2018) is a sweet and delightful picture book about a chameleon who wants to like school and tries hard to blend in.  But, unlike other chameleons, Quincy can’t hide his thoughts or feelings. Everything he thinks about or gets excited about shows up on his skin.  It isn’t until he discovers art class, where self-expression is expected, that he realizes he can be happy just being himself.

The illustrations add whimsy and humor to a story that readers of all ages will find themselves reading over and over again. Quincy is destined to become a new classroom favorite.

     Barbara DiLorenzo is the author/illustrator of RENATO AND THE LION (2017) and QUINCY THE CHAMELEON WHO COULDN’T BLEND IN (2018).  She is an art teacher at the Arts Council in Princeton, NJ and lives in New Jersey with her family and her active imagination.

RENATO AND THE LION (Viking Children’s Books)
QUINCY: The Chameleon Who Couldn’t Blend In (Little Bee Books)

Represented by Rachel Orr of the Prospect Agency 
Co-President of the Children’s Book Illustrators Group (CBIG)
Instructor & Outreach Program Coordinator for the Arts Council of Princeton
Co-Assistant Regional Manager for New Jersey SCBWI

Barn Swallows: On the Fly by Shiela Fuller

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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

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

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

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“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/

 

 

 

 


 

 

Let’s Go Camping!

Summer is a time of year where we usually enjoy spending more time outdoors. Hiking in parks and forests, visiting wildlife sanctuaries, swimming in lakes and beaches…so many great things to do on lazy summer days.  If the idea of CAMPING in the great outdoors sends a cold shiver down your spine, maybe you just haven’t found the right way to enjoy the camping experience.  Camping is WAY MORE than using port-o-potties, giving up showers and running water, and sleeping in a muggy, bug-infested tent in the middle of nowhere.

RV parks and campgrounds offer lots of amenities and are a budget friendly way for families to experience the natural world. Here are a few to consider when planning a family camping trip:

HERSHEY PARK CAMPING RESORT, HUMMELSTOWN, PA: Offers 300 campsites for RV hookups, log cabin rentals, pools, movie nights, and discounted admission to Hershey Park.  http://www.hersheyparkcampingresort.com

NORMANDY FARMS FAMILY CAMPING RESORT, FOXBORO, MA: If you don’t have your own RV, you can rent a YURT, pop-up trailer, or safari tent. Located between Boston and Cape Cod, this resort offers yoga classes, mountain bike tours, and a dog park.  http://www.normandyfarms.com

LAKESHORE RV RESORT & CAMPGROUND, OELWEIN, IA:  Located on the shores of Lake Oelwein, this resort offers swimming, canoeing, Frisbee golf, beach volleyball, and a day trip to the FIELD OF DREAMS movie site.  Every year some baseball legend emerges from the corn fields to have a game with fans.  http://www.lakeshoreiowa.com

AMERICAN HERITAGE RV PARK, WILLIAMSBURG, VA: For history fans you might want to try this resort where you can stay in a cabin or cottage as you enjoy nature trails, pool, volleyball and basketball courts and discounted tickets to COLONIAL WILLIAMSBURG: http://www.americanheritagervpark.com

Be sure to check out state parks and campgrounds in your state for more opportunities to enjoy the camping experience this summer.