I’m re-posting this photo of an American Toad in the yard. It was just hiding in the grass and didn’t mind that I took a photo of it. This is the dark green color phase, the other color phase is dark brown.
Book Review: Audubon Eastern Birds
National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds: Eastern Region by John Bull and John Farrand Jr., is a really nice field guide for getting an overview of the kinds of birds you are seeing in your backyard or at parks. There is an explanation of the range maps and types of birds at the beginning, and there are beautiful color pictures of the birds in a special section, organized by type of bird and color. I especially liked the section on owls. They also show both male and female birds when they have different coloring. The next section is a section of bird descriptions and range maps that correspond to the bird photos. There is also a description of their calls, but sometimes it can be a little hard to transcribe bird songs. You just have to make sure that you keep the page numbers straight, because the number of the “plates”, (photos of the birds), are different from the page numbers of the bird descriptions, and you just need to make sure you have the right number, or you’ll turn to the wrong page. All in all, I think this is an excellent book, but I would like it if the descriptions of the birds were more detailed. There is also an Audubon Western Birds book as well.
Tea Review: Choice Organic Green Tea
Choice Organic Classic Green Tea and Organic Decaffeinated Green Tea are both fair trade certified, and have a lovely flavor. They both have slightly different flavors, since Classic Green uses tea from India and the decaffeinated variety uses tea from both India and China. Classic Green has a lighter, smooth flavor, while Decaffeinated Green has a more robust flavor. It is kind of interesting, because usually I have found it to be the other way around.
Ingredients: Organic Green Tea.
This is a spring and winter view of the same lake in Michigan. This time of year the lake is starting to thaw, and the different types of birds will soon be back. The little specks in the distance in the top photo are actually ducks.
I am re-posting this as a belated Groundhog Day post:
Groundhogs, Woodchucks, and Marmots
Woodchucks, otherwise known as Groundhogs, are actually a type of Marmot. Woodchucks and Marmots are classified as rodents, in the same family as squirrels, and actually look rather like large, roly-poly squirrels. The Woodchuck is a solitary animal that lives mainly in the eastern and central states, Canada, and part of Alaska. They can weigh from 4.5 – 14 pounds. Marmots are generally more sociable and some of them live in colonies and/or hibernate together. They live mainly in the mountainous western U.S., Canada, and Alaska, and can weigh from 5 – 20 pounds. There are many different kinds of Marmots, such as the Yellow-bellied Marmot, the Hoary Marmot, and the Olympic Marmot. Woodchucks and Marmots eat different types of grass, green plants, and fruit. Because of their special diet, they are not able to find food in the winter, as they do not store food like squirrels and do not eat twigs and buds like rabbits do. Instead they hibernate for many months at a time, up to half the year, depending on location. Even though some people do not like the holes in the ground that Woodchucks make, their digging activities can actually be beneficial to farmers, because it aerates the soil.
The fact that the Woodchuck is not found in the West, as well as the fact that the winters there are usually warmer, are probably at least part of the reason why Groundhog Day is more popular in the East. Groundhog Day (February 2nd) is roughly halfway between winter and spring. Legend has it that the Groundhog will emerge from its burrow on this day and if it sees its shadow (sunny weather), the Groundhog will become scared and run back in its burrow, therefore predicting six more weeks of winter. However, if it does not see its shadow (cloudy weather), it will stay outside and there will be an early spring. There are many regional weather-predicting Groundhogs across the U.S. and Canada. For instance, every year Woody the Woodchuck gives her annual prediction at the Howell Nature Center in Howell, Michigan. The problem is, they are only accurate about half the time or less, since it is hard to see how the weather on Feb 2 would really impact a weather pattern six weeks in the future. Another issue is that in much of their range, they are still hibernating and would not be coming out of their burrows until March or April, on account of their being nothing for them to eat. However, it does not stop people from having a lot of fun on Groundhog Day. One of the best things is it gives some publicity to a rather shy animal that not a whole lot of people see, since Woodchucks and Marmots usually run to their burrows at the first sign of disturbance.
Here are some websites to visit:
For more information on Woodchucks:
For more information on the history of Groundhog Day, as well as a list of weather-predicting Groundhogs throughout the U.S. and Canada:
For more information on the Yellow-bellied Marmot:
For more information on Woody the Woodchuck:
John O. Whitaker, Jr., National Audubon Society Guide to North American Mammals (New York: Chanticleer Press, 1996).
I am re-posting some scenes of an ice covered lake in Michigan.
I am re-posting some photos from the last couple of years. This is lake in northern Michigan. In the first photo, the ice formed early, trapping the fall leaves. In the second photo, the ice is just starting to cover the lake.
I am reposting a couple of photos from last year. The first one is a photo of a Red Squirrel, and the second one is an Eastern Chipmunk. We get these animals a lot where I live. The Red Squirrel prefers pinecones while the chipmunk prefers acorns.
Book Review: 400 Knitting Stitches, editors at Potter Craft
This is a book I have been using for a few years to help me come up with ideas for stitch patterns. It is really good for knitting scarves or coasters, because you can just choose the stitch pattern or patterns that you like, combining them however you like, and then you will be able to design your scarf. The book is organized according to different categories, such as Knit Purl stitches, Crossed stitches and Cables, Slipped stitches, Lacy stitches, Double stitches, Twisted stitches, Cast-off stitches, and Fancy stitches. One of the things I like about this book is it has the instructions both written out and in a chart. I don’t read charts quite as well as written instructions, but it doesn’t matter because there is a handy guide to all the symbols in the back of the book. There is also a basic guide to knitting in the front, but if you are new to knitting you might want to get something more in-depth. There are actually a lot of challenging stitches in here, but there are many that are fairly easy as well. The pictures are very clear and the examples are knitted with cream color yarn that looks sport weight. The only thing is I often use chunky yarn, so it would be interesting to see how these patterns would look in different yarn weights, but then maybe the book would be too long. The only real drawback to the book is that it doesn’t really have a lay flat binding. Also the cable section is really long, at almost a hundred pages. But maybe if you are really into doing cables, this would be a good thing. One interesting thing about this book is that it was originally published in France.
CD Review: Madeleine Peyroux, Careless Love, 2004
Careless Love is an album of jazz songs, mainly ballads. Madeleine has a soft and rather unique sounding voice, and also plays acoustic guitar on this album. There are a lot of different musicians on here, playing piano, organ, guitar, celeste, and trumpet, among others. Even though there is only one song sung in French (“J’ai Deux Amours”, which I believe means “I have two loves”), the album still has a French feel for me, somehow. There is a kind of wistful and sometimes hopeful sound to a lot of the songs that I really like. Some of my favorite songs are “Don’t Cry Baby”, “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go”, “No More”, “Lonesome Road”, “J’ai Deux Amours”, “I’ll Look Around”, and “This Is Heaven To Me”. On the inside liner notes it says: “Dedicated to poets, writers of these songs, memorable people of memorable times such as these, wherever you are…”
CD Review: Springtime in Paris
Springtime in Paris is a CD put out by Hallmark and Somerset Entertainment. It is a CD of French songs, but no singing. The sounds of accordion and violin are quite prominent on this CD. The other instruments include guitar, bass, and piano. This collection includes well-known songs like “Moulin Rouge” and “La Vie en Rose”, but also includes lesser known songs such as “Aubade d’oiseaux”( “aubade” has to do with a daybreak song, and “d’oiseaux” means “of the birds”, so taken together it probably means something like “Daybreak Birdsong”), and “Sous le Ciel de Paris”(literally, “Under the Sky of Paris”, or “Under the Paris Sky”). This music is really relaxing, and I wound up liking the accordion more than I thought I would. I studied French for a few years when I was younger, so I was glad I could find this collection. The only thing is, I would like it if there was singing on at least a few of the songs, with lyrics printed in both English and French.
I took this photo of a Painted Turtle several years ago in Traverse City. It is the state reptile of Michigan. A lot of people don’t know that in addition to a state bird, there is also a state reptile. This is one of the most common turtles throughout Michigan. This photo was taken near a small pond, as turtles need to spend time around water.
This is a picture I took a few years ago of a Leopard Frog on Big Bear Lake in Michigan. This is only the second time I have seen this frog. It was just sunning itself by the lake as I was walking by, and I just happened to see it. It is quite a striking frog, but I think the spots probably work well as camouflage.
by Sandra Noll Hammond
National Dance Week is April 22 – May 1
Ballet Basics was the book that was used for my college ballet class. It is similar to Jump into Jazz, the book I just reviewed, in terms of how it is organized. I have the fifth edition (2004), but there is probably something more recent by now.
Chapter 1: The Ballet Class – This chapter goes into all the different things a beginner would need to know, such as attire, music, posture, shoes, and the structure of the class.
Chapter 2: Ballet Technique: Barre Work – Barre exercises for the beginner are explained, with illustrations.
Chapter 3: Ballet Technique: Center Work – Ballet exercises away from the barre, (in the center of the room) are explained, including port de bras (carriage of the arms), arabesque (balancing poses where the leg is extended behind), connecting movements, and pirouettes and other turns.
Chapter 4: Ballet Technique: Allegro – Allegro is an Italian word that means fast and lively. In ballet, it applies to both quick little jumps (petite allegro) or larger jumps (grand allegro) that may look fairly simple but can be quite challenging to do well.
Chapter 5: The Ballet Body – Information on different types of exercise that complement ballet, injury prevention, and nutrition.
Chapter 6: The Ballet Profession – Information on performance, and opportunities for a career in dance.
Chapter 7: Ballet History – This is a very detailed chapter that traces the roots of ballet from the middle ages to the present time. I used this chapter as a basis for a research paper I wrote for my college dance appreciation class.
There are illustrations throughout of both male and female dancers, and the book is specifically designed for adult students
Jump into Jazz
by Minda Goodman Kraines
and Esther Pryor
National Dance Week is April 22-May 1
Jump into Jazz is the jazz dance textbook that I had in college. It is appropriate for beginner through intermediate. I have the fourth edition which is copyright 2001. I’m sure they have something more recent now. This book is divided into twelve chapters that cover pretty much anything that you would want to know.
Chapter 1: Basic attire, shoes, types of jazz dance, how to have a successful class.
Chapter 2: Basic body alignment
Chapter 3: Ballet exercises for jazz dancers. Although it’s not required at the recreational level, a lot of jazz dancers take an additional ballet class, as it’s very good for body alignment and can also be relaxing and promote awareness of different muscle groups. A lot of the time a jazz dance teacher will incorporate ballet exercises into the class, but they may practice them in parallel position instead of turned out.
Chapter 4, 5,6: Basic positions, warm-ups, basic jazz steps.
Chapter 7: More advanced steps.
Chapter 8: Information on musicality, staging, performing.
Chapter 9, 10: Fitness, injury prevention, and nutrition.
Chapter 11: Different jobs in the dance field.
Chapter 12: One of the most interesting chapters, a history of jazz dance.
All in all, this is a really well thought out book, one that you can keep for years. It has nice illustrations of both male and female dancers, and some photos of dancers performing as well.
National Dance Week
I’ve been involved in dance (at the recreational level) for most of my life, so I was interested to find out about National Dance Week. National Dance week is April 22-May 1 (nationaldanceweek.org). The National Dance Week Foundation is a non-profit organization that promotes dance through various programs and events. One of the things they do is promote dance mobs during dance week by providing choreography (in the form of a video) on their website. A dance mob is where people get out and perform a group dance routine somewhere in public, like a shopping mall. This year the song to perform to is “Better When I’m Dancing” Megan Trainor. The online video also includes a breakdown of the choreography, and you can also buy an official NDS t-shirt online, great for all the members of your dance mob.
Book Review: Field Guide to Tracking Animals in Snow
by Louise R. Forrest, illustrations by Denise Casey
This is a little late in the season, but we just got a bunch of snow last week, so it is still relevant. This is a nicely laid out book that contains information about all of the mammals in North America, and also their track patterns. It could also be used as a way to track animals in sand or mud as well. The text is accompanied by beautiful drawings, and there is an introduction at the beginning of every section that covers information on that family of animals. Also at the beginning is a very detailed introduction on the different track patterns that are formed in the snow.
Reference: Field Guide to Tracking Animals in Snow, Louise R. Forrest, Stackpole Books: Mechanicsburg, PA, 1988
Spring Wildlife Sightings
Recently four female deer walked through our yard and into the woods. It was nice to see them after the winter. I also have been seeing a group of about fifteen wild turkeys. Even when it was snowing, they were there walking through the snow. Also, there was a male wild turkey in the woods that was making the gobble, gobble noise at dawn and dusk, like a rooster. I think that it was doing this to mark its territory. We have recently gotten several inches of snow, so it does not quite look like spring yet.
This is a photo I took some years ago of a lake in Michigan. It was a beautiful sunny day, with just a few clouds in the sky. There is a small campground by the lake, and there are often ducks and geese as well.
Knits of Tomorrow: Toys and Accessories For Your Future Needs
by Sue Culligan
Knits of Tomorrow is an unusual collection of patterns to knit with a science fiction theme. Since I like to knit and I have always been interested in science fiction, I decided to check this book out from the library. The knit designs are a bit advanced for me, for the most part, but I enjoyed looking through the book anyway. Some of the more interesting projects are a desk tidy that looks like a rocket ship, a flying saucer paperweight, a music player cover that is designed to look like a cassette tape, a laptop cover with a Sputnik space satellite image, and many others. Many of the patterns use intarsia or fair isle knitting, or involve three-dimensional shapes. There are also some easier items as well. Even if you don’t think you have the skill level to knit these items, you may want to give it a look just because the pictures are so interesting.