Blooming Joshuas~

If you’re not one of the thousands of Cindy’s followers yet, I highly recommend you follow her blog. It is stunning and such a respite for weary eyes and souls from the daily grind.

This is the first time I have ever seen Joshua Trees in bloom!

These trees were recently designated an endangered species by The California Fish & Game Commission.

They are vulnerable because they exist in a limited area in The Southwestern US and Baja California. Their range is mostly contained by the boundaries of the Mojave Desert. This habitat is under pressure from development and climate change.

Joshua Trees are pollinated by Yucca Moths. Desert habitat is sensitive and species are interdependent.

Interestingly, in the distant past, Joshua’s were pollinated by Giant Sloths!

Humans have lived in The Mojave Desert for about 12,000 years.

Petroglyphs, cryptic messages from the past, can be found throughout this region.

Cheers to you from the fascinating Mojave~

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#AAPIHeritageMonth

May is apparently Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. I’ve been showcasing some AAPI creators over in my author Instagram account. And for this blog post, I want to share an interesting book I read recently.

While interesting, it’s heavy on the entertainment side. I don’t think I saw anything about scientists, sadly.

But it’s written with tons of humor and in a variety of styles…infographics, interviews, etc.

This spread of a “typical” asian home is hilarious. If you can’t see item number 1, it says “Shoes removed by the door, because we’re not barbarians.” And that’s pretty much us in a nutshell. LOL!

I want to share one more spread because it’s an interview of 2 of my favorite asian comics creators, Greg Pak and Gene Luen Yang. As a fan of comic books, I’d like to see more Asian representation there.

If you like to learn about all the super talented AAPI thespians, athletes, and others in the arts arena, then this book is for you! Me, I like to learn more about scientists and doctors. Maybe they’ll do a book focused on that segment of the population next.

Happy weekend!

The joy of missing out

I’m reading a pretty interesting book right now called Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman. Like most books of this type, it can probably be summarized in a 1,000-word, or fewer, essay. But, I’m still getting some decent advice and outlook from it.

One of the things that’s sticking out for me is the idea of the joy of missing out instead of the fear of missing out. “it is the thrilling recognition that you wouldn’t even really want to be able to do everything, since if you didn’t have to decide on what to miss out on, your choices couldn’t truly mean anything.”

I see my author friends making appearances or going to conferences and retreats, and my first thought often is, “why isn’t that me?” But I don’t understand why I have that reaction because, at heart, I’m an extreme introvert. I don’t even want to be a speaker or schmoozing, so why am I envious of those who’re doing it? I have to change my mindset.

Another thing is, as The Spousal Unit is fond of telling me, that I want to do too much on my own, too: I want to weave in addition to knitting and crocheting; I want to sew like I used to; I want to make soaps and other body products; I want to bake all the things, too. Something’s gotta give though. I love my sleep and leisure time, too.

Here’s one more quote from the book to mull on for the weekend, for me, for you: “…the core challenge of managing our limited time isn’t about how to get everything done–that’s never going to happen–but how to decide most wisely what not to do, and how to feel at peace about not doing it.”

Best books for small amounts of yarn

Remember the project I was working on? It’s now completed and I have to wait for cold weather to wear it.

So, I’m on to the next project (which is for Kid1).

The great thing about this cowl is that it looks terrific from either side, unlike most projects that only look good on the right side.

This was a pattern I bought from KnitPicks, but the previous cowl was in from one of Storey Publishing‘s wonderful One Skein Wonders books. They are perfect for using up single balls or small amounts of leftover yarn. If you’re like me and impulse-buy a ball or two of beautiful yarn just to try them out, then these books are for you. I don’t know how many they’ve published, but I have 5 of them and highly recommend them.

Do you knit or crochet? What are your some of your favorite books and stores?

Try a new hobby for Earth Day

There are, supposedly, about 45 million birders in North America. Are you one of them? If not, you might want to consider becoming one on Earth Day this year.

Birdwatching is a (mostly) relaxing and joyous affair. I say “mostly relaxing” because if you want to spot warblers, it’s a great lesson in frustration. The only thing that rivals the frustration is trying to photograph said warblers.

Here are some in my area that are my favorites…

The Chipping Sparrow is a tiny, spunky thing, like the Chihuahua of the bird world.
Common Grackles have stark yellow eyes and an iridescence that’s mesmerizing…or scary, depending on your mindset.
House Finches are common and ubiquitous but they have a certain charm, especially when you catch them in a pensive pose.
The Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker is an unusual Woodpecker in that it tends to ground feed (but it’s not a bottom feeder because it’s not a politician).
White-crowned Sparrow are one of the more easily recognized sparrows, even I can ID them easily. Of course, newer (or drunk) birders could sometimes still confuse them
for White-throated Sparrows

If you’re really lucky, you’ll spot the majestic Pileated Woodpecker. And if you’re really, really lucky, it’ll actually show up at your suet feeder and make short work of your supply.

Ms. Pileated getting her fill, and then some.

Or, maybe a pair of identical, stunning Red-headed Woodpeckers will visit, too. I can never get enough of their stark coloration and strong personalities.

“Yo, lady! If you keep staring at us, we’re gonna have to charge you for it.”

If you’re a birder already, what are some of your favorite local birds? Tell me!

Book Giveaway: TOGETHER WE RIDE by Valerie Bolling

Hop on over to Kathy Temean’s blog for a chance to win Valerie Bolling’s lovely new picture book!

Writing and Illustrating

Valerie Bolling has a new picture book, TOGETHER WE RIDE, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita and published by Chronicle Books. It hits bookstores on April 26th. Sleeping Bear Press has agreed to send a copy to the one lucky winner in the US.

All you have to do to get in the running is leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know other things you do to share the good news, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Sharing on Facebook, Twitter or reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. So, thanks for helping Valerie and Kayla.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and…

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Public Service Announcement

Someone on Facebook (yeah, I’m still unsuccessfully trying to extricate myself from that place) shared a post about dog that died in a tragic and preventable death.

Apparently, the OP had finished cleaning her windows with Windex and a paper towel, and tossed the paper towel in the trash where her dog got a hold of it and ate it. According to the post, Windex contains an ingredient that’s like antifreeze and the dog died after ingesting the paper towel tainted with the ingredient.

I’ve not verified how much of an amount of antifreeze is enough to kill a dog and I don’t know what size that dog was. But if it was, indeed, what killed it, and a seemingly small amount of it can kill a dog, shouldn’t the bigger question be: why are people using this product?

It’s understandable to care only if one’s beloved pet dies, but it’s also a very narrow focus. What a citizen of the planet should be wondering is: why would I want to throw out paper stained or soaked with antifreeze-like chemicals that, if ingested, can kill all kinds of other animals roaming a landfill?

And there is such an easy and inexpensive solution. Don’t buy Windex. Distilled white vinegar does just as good a job cleaning windows (and mirrors; I can attest to that). Pour some in a spray bottle, and voilà! Some people recommend using newsprint paper as a wipe, I use a regular cotton or microfiber cloth that I wash and reuse. It’s seriously cheap…and it doesn’t kill dogs that I know of.

Distilled white vinegar is unbelievably inexpensive.

Why not make a change for the better and stop buying that toxic stuff?

In memory of…

I doubt anyone noticed but I didn’t get a blog post out last Friday. I was busy at the beginning of the week anyway, having to give a talk at the Indiana University’s School of Education on Tuesday. But a couple of days before that, we found out that one of our favorite uncles on my husband’s side passed away.

Uncle Joe was the third youngest of my father-in-law’s 8 siblings, and was a high school principle for decades. Many people looked up to him, but he looked up to my FIL (who was the oldest in the family). We live about a 10-hour’s drive from where Uncle Joe lived in Western Maryland, but he and his sister, one of our favorite aunts, came out to visit us in Indiana a couple of times after my FIL moved here from Delaware to be closer to us when he got too old to live in the house he and my MIL built back in the late 1950s. It was a sad time for my FIL to have to leave his longtime home, but he wanted to be closer to us to make it easier on everyone if he needed help with anything.

It worked out well because our kids got to have one grandparent close by for a while. When we moved to Indiana, my parents lived on the West Coast while my in-laws lived on the East Coast, making it difficult to see either set often.

In this photo, taken during one of Uncle Joe’s visits, hubby is sitting on the left next to his father. Our kids are in the foreground playing with the chickens, and Uncle Joe is standing by the garden entrance in his blue windbreaker. He was likely in his 60s then but went for a long run every day.

You can also see the neighbor’s big barn in the back. Hubby has since planted many, many trees in that direction so we can’t see it anymore. Also, there’s a new neighbor there now and she doesn’t have an RV.

My FIL used to joke that he and his family are just hillbillies from the mountains. As a person-of-color, I suppose that should have been cause for worry for me, but, honestly, his family, particularly his mother and 3 of his siblings, embraced me like I was one of them. Maybe it’s because I used to write a letter to Grandma every week (seriously; she saved all my letters which Aunt Lee gave back to me when Grandma passed away).

The Spousal Unit, Grandma, and me. Please ignore my scary 80s perm and equally scary outfit.

Interestingly enough, Grandma’s sister, Aunt Mil, whom I met at what used to be the annual Robeson reunion, also took a liking to me. She lived in Ohio and used to call me every so often, out of the blue. I think my husband and his family were rather amused by that. If I recall correctly (hey, I’m pushing 60 myself, so the memory isn’t what it used to be…or maybe it never was and is now even worse), Aunt Mil was the only one of her siblings who went to college. She was smart and interesting and kind, and so I’m honored that she had thought highly enough of me to want to talk to me. Sure, she talked with my husband, her grand-nephew, too, but I seem to remember her chatting with me more. 😉

I was very lucky to have married into a family that loves me so much.

Have a happy weekend, and don’t forget to hug your loved ones!

Book Giveaway: LISTEN: How Evelyn Glennie, a Deaf Girl, Changed Percussion by Shannon Stocker

I’m so excited for my dear friend Shannon Stocker on her upcoming book about an amazing woman! Enter the giveaway to win a copy for yourself. 🙂

Writing and Illustrating

Shannon Stocker has written a new picture book, LISTEN: How Evelyn Glennie, a Deaf Girl, Changed Percussion, Illustrated by Devon Holzwarth and published by Dial Books. They have agreed to share a copy with one lucky winner living in the United States. The book hits book stores on April 12th, but is available now.

All you have to do to get in the running is leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know other things you do to share the good news, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter or reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. So, thanks for helping Sophia and Suzan.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered…

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My latest project

I found a partial, messy ball of yarn in my stash. If I recall right, I bought this to make something for my mom in the year or so before her death.

Because she had myelodysplastic syndrome, a type of leukemia, she had to received both blood transfusions and dialysis and was often feeling cold. Because it’s been 12 years since her death, I don’t remember what exactly I ended up making for her…a couple of short scarves, maybe?

Anyway, I know it’s not yarn I bought for myself since it’s a color my mom loved but it’s not my style. Still, I have this fairly large ball and I need to use it. So, I look through one of my many One Skein Wonders books, a series put out by Storey Publishing, and found this lovely pattern that calls for silk yarn.

I don’t often work with silk yarn, but, as you can imagine, it’s got an excellent feel to it. I hope I’ll do it justice! We’ll see what happens.

As with most projects, I have had to rip it out twice already after getting to about the 5th row and realizing I messed it up somehow. I feel like that’s a metaphor for life and most things that we tackle in life. I’ll share a photo of the finished project when I’m done…maybe on Instagram or Twitter. But give me about a month…I’m a slow knitter.

Happy weekend! What will you be creating?