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August 15, 2015 / Leslie

Weekend Birding: The Nesting Shelf

The Robin’s Nest

A few weeks ago on Wordless Wednesday, I posted a photo of an American Robin sitting on a nest she had built on a “nesting shelf” on the side of my garage. I put this up years ago and until this summer, the birds ignored it.

Female Robin on nesting shelf

Several species of birds will use a shelf including Doves, Blue Jays, and Phoebes to name a few. The plans to build a shelf are free and available at 50Birds.

A Successful Nest

I kept watch on the nest from a distance and avoided going on that side of the garage so I wouldn’t scare them away or alert predators to the presence of a nest. After a few weeks, I noticed the parents were delivering food and could just barely see a few tiny beaks popping up. There were at least three, possibly four nestlings.

Robin on nest

After about 14 days the nestlings are ready to fledge. This is the last one. The parents are still feeding him and here he accepts a delivery of a large green insect. He kept standing on the nest and flapping his wings. You can see his little feet gripping the edge of the nest. I knew it wouldn’t be long before he tried to fly out.

Leaving the Nest

Fledgling Robin

In the time it took me to walk around the house to the other side of the garage, the baby had flown a short distance to a cable wire. Flying isn’t so easy though, especially when you don’t have much of a tail. His next attempt to fly landed him on ground.

FledglingRobin

The parents were always nearby, still feeding and watching over him and the other fledglings who had wandered into the safety of the backyard. They will spend the next week or so teaching the youngsters how find food and water and avoid danger.

The fledglings are very trusting and vulnerable for the first few days and often look like a bird in need of assistance. But if you hide and watch carefully, you will see the parents come back and tend to them.

 


Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Melinda of West Metro Mommy. Visit her blog to see more great photos.

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August 14, 2015 / Leslie

Tiny Little Thing by Beatriz Williams

A Rapid ReviewTinyLittleThing

Publisher: Penguin Audio | June 2015
Format: Audio Download | 11½ hours | Rating: 3 stars
Audio Listening Level: Easy – Intermediate

In the summer of 1966, Christina Hardcastle—“Tiny” to her illustrious family—stands on the brink of a breathtaking future. Of the three Schuyler sisters, she’s the one raised to marry a man destined for leadership, and with her elegance and impeccable style, she presents a perfect camera-ready image in the dawning age of television politics. Together she and her husband, Frank, make the ultimate power couple. It seems nothing can stop Frank from rising to national office, and he’s got his sights set on a senate seat in November. But as the season gets underway at the family estate on Cape Cod, three unwelcome visitors appear in Tiny’s perfect life.

Tiny’s world is filled with family secrets and personal agendas reminiscent of the Kennedy clan. Even though Tiny’s character was not one that I could relate to or found very believable, the 60s setting and stereotypical characters that could have walked straight out of Mad Men made an interesting group. For those who have read the previous novel, The Secret Life of Violet Grant, Tiny is one of the three Schuyler sisters.

While the story has a historical setting, it’s a little too light on historical detail to be more than Chick-lit. And this wasn’t as substantive a story as Violet’s, in the previous book, but there was a nice twist – not entirely expected – at the end, which gave Tiny some redemption. Overall, it was enjoyable and good escape reading, especially for those that like a soap-opera-ish plot.

Audio production:
As in previous novels, the audio production was performed by Kathleen McInerney. With even pacing and smooth, pleasant tones, she kept the story moving, making the audio easy to listen to. [Audio Sample on SoundCloud.]

An Under My Apple Tree Rapid Review
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Source: Review copy provided by PRH Audio.
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August 12, 2015 / Leslie

Wordless Wednesday: Burst of Begonia

Begonia

Almost wordless: With all the rain we had this spring, the flower boxes on my deck grew lush and colorful.

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August 10, 2015 / Leslie

Mailbox Monday ~ August 10th

Butterfly-PinkFlower_Mailbox56392Welcome to Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia of To Be Continued, a place where readers share the books that came in their mailbox during the last week.

After several years of being on tour with different blogs as the monthly host, the Mailbox Monday Blog is now the permanent home for the meme.


 
I was planning on relaxing and reading on the deck Saturday but couldn’t resist the urge to do “just a little” gardening, which turned into a couple of hours of shrub trimming and tidying up the flower beds. Sometimes I just can’t help myself! But I did get to listen to a few more hours of the latest Stephen King novel, Finders Keepers, while I worked.

Sunday I decided to reinstall Windows in a desperate attempt to fix an intermittent freeze-up problem on my laptop. That seems to have fixed it, but now there is a problem with the network adapter and wireless connection. This thing is only a month old – I think it’s cursed! Reading on the deck would have been a wiser choice.

A few new books arrived last week . . .

Print Books

BooksAug10_132947

The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin from Little, Brown.
After her best friend dies in a drowning accident, Suzy is convinced that the true cause of the tragedy was a rare jellyfish sting. Retreating into a silent world of imagination, she crafts a plan to prove her theory–even if it means traveling the globe, alone. Suzy’s achingly heartfelt journey explores life, death, the astonishing wonder of the universe…and the potential for love and hope right next door.

We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh from LibraryThing.
Vanessa Diffenbaugh blends gorgeous prose with compelling themes of motherhood, undocumented immigration, and the American Dream in a powerful and prescient story about family.

Early One Morning by Virginia Baily
Chiara Ravello is about to flee occupied Rome when she locks eyes with a woman being herded on to a truck with her family. Claiming the woman’s son, Daniele, as her own nephew, Chiara demands his return; only as the trucks depart does she realize what she has done. She is twenty-seven, with a sister who needs her constant care, a hazardous journey ahead, and now a child in her charge.

Exposure by Chauntelle Tibbals from Greenleaf Book Group.
Chauntelle Tibbals exposes readers to one of the most mysterious businesses and significant subcultures shaping our modern world – porn. Adult entertainment is a part of us – it’s a hugely influential component of our culture. Like it or not, it partially shapes who we are as a society.

How was your week?

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August 8, 2015 / Leslie

August 8th is National Zucchini Day

As much as I love fresh zucchini, I would rather eat the flowers. Yes, the blossoms are not only edible, but they are delicious. Today I’m reposting my favorite recipe for Fried Zucchini Blossoms. Any large squash blossoms will work, but the zucchini flowers are the tastiest and least fragile.

Freshly Picked Squash Blossoms

SquashBlossoms

When my garden is at peak production, it’s not unusual to find a dozen flowers on the zucchini and squash plants every morning. They are best picked early in the day, before the flowers close, and cook them that same day. I find they will last a few days in the crisper if stored in a vented plastic bag.

When picking the flowers, watch out for bees, they will often get drunk on the nectar and fall asleep in the flowers. And only pick the male flowers, unless you don’t want more squash. Seriously, there are male and female flowers. The male flower sits on a long, slender stem. Most flowers are male. The female flower will be attached to a tiny squash plant and have a large pistil in the center of the flower.

Farmer’s markets often carry the blossoms, but get there early because they usually go fast, and they are pricey.

Recipe: Fried Squash Blossoms

Ingredients

FriedBlossoms-Prep

• 2 dozen squash flowers
• 1½ cups all-purpose flour
• A handful of chopped parsley
• Course salt and ground pepper
• 2 or 3 eggs
• Vegetable oil or light olive oil
• Approx one cup of water

Preparation

FriedBlossoms_IMG_1434Rinse the flowers and remove the pollen stem from the inside. Gently pat dry.

Mix together the flour, parsley, a few pinches of salt and a dash of pepper in a small bowl. In a separate bowl. Lightly beat the two eggs. Add the cup of water and the eggs to the flour mix and whisk until all lumps are gone.

Add about one inches of oil to a skillet and heat.

Dip the flowers one at a time in the batter and cook in batches on medium-high heat for about a minute on each side, or until crisp. Remove and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and serve immediately.

Fried Squash Blossoms

Fried Squash Blossoms

There are many variations of this recipe, and I have posted others that I like, but today I’m making one of the simpler versions using a basic egg, flour and water batter. The last time I made them, I substituted beer for the water and left out the eggs. The flowers can also be stuffed with ricotta cheese and then fried.

They can be served hot or at room temperature, as an appetizer or as part of a meal.
 


wkendcookingThis post is linked to Weekend Cooking, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.
Participation is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs.


© 2015 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.
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August 7, 2015 / Leslie

Review – Beach Town by Mary Kay Andrews

A Rapid Review

Beach Town by Mary Kay AndrewsPublisher: St. Martin’s Press | May 2015
Format: Hardcover | 448 Pages
Genre: Women’s Fiction Rating: 4 stars

Greer Hennessy needs palm trees. As a movie location scout, picture-perfect is the name of the game. But her last project literally went up in flames, and her career is on the verge of flaming out. Greer has been given one more chance, if she can find the perfect undiscovered beach hideaway for a big-budget movie. She zeroes in on a sleepy Florida panhandle town called Cypress Key. There’s one motel, a marina, a long stretch of pristine beach and an old fishing pier with a community casino-which will be perfect for the film’s explosive climax. There’s just one problem. Eben Thibadeaux, the town mayor, completely objects to Greer’s plan.

I liked Greer, whose backstory turns out to be much more involved that it appeared on the surface. As we learn about her family, her friends, her relationship with her divorced parents, and disastrous ex-boyfriend, her complex personality evolves. Add in a varied cast of lively characters in Cypress Key plus a movie crew, and it makes for a fun time as crisis after crisis occurs and is resolved.

This was a nice, leisurely read for summer afternoons and evenings. Perfect for when I wanted to pick up a book for a few minutes and relax, joining the crew in Cypress Key. The pacing was good, the story was fun, I learned a bit about the movie industry, and the romance wasn’t overdone. And— not really a spoiler here—a happy ending for most of the characters.

An Under My Apple Tree Rapid Review
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Source: Review copy provided by Tandem Literary.
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August 5, 2015 / Leslie

Wordless Wednesday: Bunny Invasion

Bunny_20150804_082149

Almost wordless: Many, many bunnies in my yard this summer. Cute, friendly, and destructive! Step away from that squash blossom, young bunny.

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