How not to spend a holiday weekend

This past Friday, I ended up in ER (my first time in the hospital as a patient in 25 years!). They kept me for observations overnight but couldn’t find anything wrong with me aside from a urinary tract infection. Since then, in talking with friends and looking it it, it would appear that UTIs cause a lot of weird problems as you get older.

Anyway, I’ve been taking it easy this past week trying to get my resting heart rate back up to the mid 60s (it had plummeted from that to the mid-50s in the span of a less than a month…apparently, my UTI began over a month ago). The antibiotic seems to be doing its job and I’m feeling slightly better than I was earlier in the week.

I did take videos of our beautiful garden last Tuesday before my ER episode. If you want to them them out, go to my Instagram account.

Have a wonderful weekend! I will try not to spend it in the ER again.

Birds of different feathers

Wildflowers and garden seedlings aren’t the only things that brighten our spring. All the birds that return to our area to breed bring us great joy, too. Here are just a few of them.

Baltimore Orioles are sunsets with wings.
Gray Catbirds are far bolder than they would seem likely to be at first glance.
If paintings came alive, they would be Indigo Buntings.
Every year, the Eastern Phoebes build a nest above our back door light and poop all over it.
Their “FEE-bee” calls are distinctive as are their markings and tail-wagging.
I would be more annoyed at their poopy messes if they weren’t so darned cute.

But it’s not just the fancy out-of-towners; some of the locals are pretty cool, too.

Some people don’t like Common Grackles but we think they’re fascinating with mesmerizing eyes.
One of our favorites is the Eastern Towhee. With their adorable “drink your teeeeeea” call and their chicken-scratching moves, they are always fun to watch. Last year, we had a Spotted Towhee on our property and people swarmed from all over to see it.

What are some of your spring favorites?

3 Vegetables that We Grow Well

It seems like everyone has certain plants that they grow well. What thrives in our garden is not necessarily what do well in other people’s. It depends on the condition of the soil, the prevalence of pests, and, at times, total random chance.

Three of the vegetables we’re able to grow well are peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes. The Spousal Unit grows a variety of peppers, from banana to bell to jalapeño to poblanos. For eggplants, we prefer the sleek and delicate Japanese variety over the rotund and seedy Italian type.

Look! They’re flowering already.

Look at how gorgeous the eggplant blossoms are! Why spend money on annual flowers that don’t feed you when eggplants provide food for both the eyes and stomach? Same with okra. They have flowers that are absolute show stoppers. It’s not like it’s super easy to grow eggplants; we have to wage a constant battle on flea beetles. But they are fairly easy to start and SO has discovered an excellent way to preserve them, so we’re still enjoying last year’s crop.

Ah, and the happiness-inducing green of the tomato seedling! I’m not looking forward to 200 hours of canning and dehydrating later in the summer but for now, I will admire their youthful loveliness.

We’ve saved the plastic pots of seedlings that we bought over the years and SO starts his veggies in them until they disintegrate.

Do you have a garden? What veggies do well for you?

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, 2023

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and, every year, I like to give a special shout-out to Dr. Wu Chien Shiung, the amazing woman whom I wrote about in the picture book biography, Queen of Physics. This book actually won the Asian Pacific American Librarians Association 2019/2020 Picture Book Award!

Over at the Shepherd site, some authors whom I admire name it as one of their favorite books.

Shepherd is a new site, but their mission statement is really great, so be sure to check them out if you’re a bibliophile!

I also talked a bit about Wu and Queen of Physics over at Dr. Diane’s Adventures In Learning blog and podcast. It was a blast to chat about my writing journey with her!

Author Teresa Robeson Presents: WHO IS TIBET’S EXILED LEADER: The 14th Dalai Lama + a chance to win a copy

Thanks to Darlene for featuring my latest book on her blog!

Darlene Beck-Jacobson

Today it is my great pleasure to feature the latest book from award-winning author TERESA ROBESON. WHO IS TIBET’S EXILED LEADER: The 14th Dalai Lama is a slight departure from Teresa’s previous picture books since it is a graphic novel that tells the story of Tibet’s exiled leader the 14th Dalai Lama.

Here is my review for the book:

This graphic novel tells the important historical account of the leader of TIBET, THE 14TH Dalai Lama, who was forced into exile in 1959 by the People’s Liberation Army of China. Tibet’s “Precious Protector’s” harrowing escape is easy to read and understand thanks to the graphic format and the periodic history and cultural lessons sprinkled throughout the story. The book provides a summary of Tibet’s ongoing fight for freedom and autonomy. A perfect addition to a multicultural library.

dalai lama Here is my interview with Teresa and her exciting new book.


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It takes a village to promote a book

Marsha Diane Arnold, an author friend of mine, has a new book coming out on May 9th…yes, in 4 days! Here are a few of her other delightful books.

Well in advance of the release, she asked a group of us to be a part of her launch team. It’s a tactic authors are encouraged to perform in order to give a book a great reach. These days, it’s hard to have a career in publishing if you’re not actively out there promoting your book. No longer can one be a reclusive author, like Harper Lee, and still sell a bazillion books.

Maybe the idea behind a launch team is for viral spreading via chain communication like that 1980s Faberge shampoo commercial? I honestly don’t know if it works but I’m willing to help.

So, a very happy upcoming book birthday to ONE SMALL THING! You can buy it at your favorite bookstore.

Wild about wildflowers

A couple of weeks ago, we had a garlic mustard eradication party that our neighbor organized. While out and about trying to save our corner of the valley from that nasty invasive (it’s pretty futile unless more people participate), I got to take photo of a few more spring ephemerals as a follow up to the Spring Beauties post.

These funky cuties are Dutchman’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria). You can just picture the wee faeries pulling on these “pants.”
More wild blue phlox (Phlox divaricata). I shared some in the last post but while looking at these, the volunteer (a retired botanist) who was teaching us garlic mustard eradication methods mentioned that our valley is the only place she knows off in our county where there are cleft phloxes (Phlox bifida). I feel pretty special! 😉
Star chickweed (Stellaria pubera) are adorable and tasty.
If golden ragwort (Packera aurea) doesn’t bring a smile to your face, you have a heart of stone.
The volunteer guide said that wild geranium (Geranium maculatum) was her favorite because no where else has she seen a purple of that particular hue.
Remember how I mentioned how we get a range of wild violet colors? Well, here’s one of the white ones…a cream violet (Viola striata). Sorry for the slightly blurry photo.

There are so many more wildflowers out there! I’m grateful to have both my iPhone and iNaturalist help me ID them. But we also have a whole bunch of book guides, from Audubon to Newcomb’s. What do you use?

Start your gardening engines!

Even before the Purple Finches and Dark-eyed Juncos have migrated north, the Spousal Unit feels spring in his bones and starts plants indoors. He has a fairly simple set up of heat mats and regular fluorescent lights. And when the seedlings have grown to a certain size, he toughens them up with a slight breeze from a small fan.

Shortly after sprouting on February 26th.
Less than a month later.
Kids…they grow up so fast. *sniffle*
This year, he decided to increase the growing space by getting a new mat and lights for another set-up in the utility room.

When the weather warms a bit more, like it has recently, if only for a few days, SU takes them out to acclimatize them.

Those onions have gotten into their rebellious long-haired teen years.

You might wonder what we grow? As I like to tell people, it’d be easier to tell you what we don’t grow because that list would be a lot shorter.

How about you? What does your garden grow?

A New STEM Picture Book From Author Laurie Wallmark + A Chance to Win a Copy

Having been an amateur astronomer since 1980, I’m always delighted to see books about astronomers and astrophysicists! Pop by Darlene’s blog to win a copy of Laurie’s newest book.

Darlene Beck-Jacobson

maria mitchell cover

Today I am happy to feature the latest STEM biography from author LAURIE WALLMARK.

HER EYES ON THE STARS: Maria Mitchell, Astronomer

(Illustrated by Liz Wong)

Here is the blurb for the book:

Maria Mitchell’s curiosity about the night sky led her to spend hours studying the stars. She discovered a comet as a young woman, winning an award from the King of Denmark for being the first person to discover a new comet using a telescope.

Now famous as “the lady astronomer,” Maria went on to become a professional astronomer, an unheard of achievement for a woman in the 19th century. She was the first woman to get any kind of government job when she was hired by the United States Naval Observatory. Then as the first woman astronomy professor in the world, Maria used her position at Vassar College to teach young women to set their sights on…

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Spring beauties

One of the best things about spring, besides the allergies (KIDDING), are the wild flowers and other plants. Let me share a few of my favorites with you!

Cutleaf Toothwort (Cardamine concatenata)

The leaves of this plant are as cute as the flowers, even if the name leaves (no pun intended!) something to be desired.

Cutleaf Toothwort (Cardamine concatenata)
Cleft Phlox (pretty sure it’s Phlox bifida)
Trout Lily (Erythronium albidum)
Trillium (looks like Trillium cuneatum)

Many moons ago, the Spousal Unit dug up some of these babies (below) somewhere and put them around our house. Since them, they’ve spread a lot, bringing their ethereal blue to brighten our springs.

Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica)
Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica)

I don’t know why some people have such a vendetta against violets but I think they’re beautiful (and edible). We get ones on our property that range from deep purple to white.

Wild Violets (Viola papilionacea)

And speaking of edible, we bought a bunch of ramps, a native wild onion, from the farmer’s market years back and planted them in the woods next to our house. They’ve taken their sweet time to spread and there is still not enough to make a meal of while leaving enough behind to keep growing. Dang it.

Ramps (Allium tricoccum)
See how sparse they are still after over 10 years?

Since my post is titled “spring beauties,” I would be remiss if I didn’t actually shared a Spring Beauty. Here she is, peering out shyly.

Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica)

Do you go wildflower hunting (with your eyes only; bag no trophies) or grow your own native edibles?