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July 16, 2014 / Leslie

Wordless Wednesday: Black Swallowtail Butterfly

Black Swallowtail Butterfly

Almost wordless: This looks like the male. Females have a wider band of blue spots. Last week I spotted a swallowtail caterpillar in my parsley.

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July 14, 2014 / Leslie

Mailbox Monday ~ July 14th

hummingbird mailboxWelcome 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.


 
Here’s what arrived last week:

Print Books

BooksJul14

Stone Mattress: Nine Tales by Margaret Atwood from Doubleday.
Margaret Atwood turns to short fiction for the first time since her 2006 collection, “Moral Disorder,” with nine tales of acute psychological insight and turbulent relationships.

The Clairvoyant of Calle Ocho by Anjanette Delgado from Kensington Books.
With warmth, wit, and insight, award-winning author Anjanette Delgado explores one woman s flawed but heartfelt attempt to live and love well, transporting listeners to the center of contemporary Little Havana and a community of uniquely human, unforgettable characters.

Audio Downloads

Good GirlLife Drawing

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica from Blackstone Audio through AudioBook JukeBox.
An addictively suspenseful and tautly written thriller, The Good Girl is a compulsive debut that reveals how even in the perfect family, nothing is as it seems.

Life Drawing by Robin Black from Random House Audio.
In “Life Drawing”, her gorgeously written first novel, Robin Black unfolds a fierce, honest, and moving portrait of a woman, and of a couple’s life – the betrayals and intimacies, the needs and regrets, the secrets that sustain love and the ones that threaten to destroy it.

How was your week?

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July 13, 2014 / Leslie

Sunday in the Garden: Overwintering Annuals

Backyard

I have a medium size yard with lots of garden areas and a variety of plants. I created the one in
the photo above about five years ago. Many of the plants are perennials that return on their own each spring; some are annuals that self-seed and others are tender annuals, plants native to warmer climates that will not survive a hard freeze or return after the winter.

Planning Ahead

I know it’s only July, but now is the time to begin planning to save some of the annuals over the winter. When the weather channel predicts a frost, it’s too late. I learned how to do this by trial and error. I can vividly remember hauling plants into the cold, dark garage on late autumn nights with a flashlight in one hand, a pot in the other, trying to save them. Other times I dragged them into the laundry room only to be invaded by bugs several days later. Yup, the warmth woke up the bugs hiding in the dirt!

Now I plan ahead, decide what I’m going to save, when to re-pot it, where it will go in my house, etc. I often rely on my memory, look in my notes, search the web or refer to one of my garden books when I need information.

Book Spotlight ~ Saving Container Plants

SavingContainerPlantsOverwintering Techniques for Keeping Tender Plants Alive Year after Year

by Brian McGowan, Alice McGowan
A Storey Basics® Title
Publisher: Storey Publishing, LLC
Publish Date: July 1, 2014
Format: Paperback | 128 pages | Color Illustrations

Publisher’s Synopsis:
Enjoy your favorite container plants year after year! From geraniums to fuschia and beyond, many container plants can be overwintered and enjoyed again the next season. This Storey Basics guide offers simple techniques for overwintering a variety of common tender perennial plants, based on what kind of dormancy the plants go through in their native environment. You can easily overwinter most plants with few to no pest problems, simply by giving them the dormancy conditions they need. Includes a plant-by-plant guide for quick reference.

You don’t need a ‘green thumb’ to overwinter plants

Saving Container Plants is a how-to guide for saving those beautiful annuals that require a moderate climate year-round, and won’t survive a cold winter outdoors. It explains how to overwinter these plants and presents the information in a clear and easy to understand format. This is a basic guide, perfect for gardeners new to the overwintering process. It is filled with detailed information and how-to guides that will save the novice from making some avoidable mistakes. Like bringing bugs in the laundry room.

No two plants are the same, nor do they require exactly the same indoor preparation and growing conditions. There is a handy reference guide at the end of the book with quick tips for a large variety of common plants, something even experienced gardeners will find useful.

Replacing annuals every year by purchasing new ones at the garden center can get expensive. If you’re tired of losing favorite plants to the cold weather, and then having to spend money every year to replace them, try overwintering a few of them.

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Source: Review copy provided as an eGalley by Storey Publishing.
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July 12, 2014 / Leslie

Weekend Birding: Juvenile House Wrens

I have four small nestboxes in my yard, and usually the wrens will choose one of them for their brood. This year the House Sparrows are overly abundant and have been chasing the wrens away. The wrens moved to the yard next door and my neighbor confirmed there were nestlings in her bird house.

Female House Wren

Female House Wren

A few days ago I heard chattering in the back of my yard and found momma wren and three little ones. The little guys were sitting on the fence, presumably wanting to be fed. Mom was chattering, as female wrens often do. The male was perched on top of the garage, singing.

Juvenile House Wren

Juvenile House Wren

The young wrens looked like they had been out of the nest for a few days. They were almost full-sized and their tail feathers are growing in, but they still look like babies. Their first set of feathers have a scruffy look and their beaks are not yet fully developed. The gape, which allows them to open their mouths wide when fed in the nest, is still visible. It disappears in adults.

Juvenile House Wren

It looked like mom was trying to teach them to feed themselves. There are lots of yummy insects in the wood chips along the fence – if only they would go down there and get them. I don’t think this little one was interested – a few seconds later he closed his eyes as if to take a short snooze.

Fledgling House Wren

Fledgling House Wren

Several years ago wrens nested in my yard. I was able to get a few photos from a distance as they emerged from the box. Notice the very short stubby tail and tiny wings compared to the juveniles in the photos above.

A common backyard bird

The House Wren is a common bird across the Americas. North American birds will migrate to the southern US and Mexico for the winter, and return to the Northern US and southern Canada for the summer breeding season. They are common in backyards and readily use nest boxes along with flower pots, old cans or boxes, pieces of gutter, shoes – they are very flexible.

You can usually hear wrens before you see them. The male has a loud, cheerful song and will often sing from sun up to sundown.

To attract wrens to your yard, put up several small nest boxes or gourds with an entry hole 1⅛ to 1¼ inches. Anything larger than that will be taken over by House Sparrows. Also, add a small brush pile or leave an area ‘natural’ for cover and foraging for food.

 


Saturday Snapshot was originated by Alyce at At Home With Books. It is now hosted by Melinda of West Metro Mommy. Visit her blog to see more great photos or add your own.

© 2014 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.
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July 10, 2014 / Leslie

Review – Audiobook: Love Life by Rob Lowe

A Rapid Review

Love LifeLove Life by Rob Lowe

Publisher: Simon & Schuster | April 2014
Format: Audio CD | 7½ hours | Rating: 4 stars
Audio Listening Level: Easy

When Rob Lowe’s first book was published in 2011, he received the kind of rapturous reviews that writers dream of and rocketed to the top of the bestseller list. Now, in Love Life, he expands his scope, using stories and observations from his life in a poignant and humorous series of true tales about men and women, art and commerce, fathers and sons, addiction and recovery, and sex and love.

This was an enjoyable and entertaining collection of stories from Rob Lowe. Witty and insightful, he touches on a little bit of everything – TV, movies, his family, friends, and even a little on his time in rehab and on why he decided to take acting lessons after he was already a successful actor.

One of the funniest stories was about The Lyon’s Den, a short-lived TV series I never heard of – possibly because it was canceled after six episodes, but they filmed all thirteen. Rob gives a hilarious and snarky account of the revolving door of writers and actors, pulls no punches and even names names. Some of the more touching moments in the book were when he wrote about his family – how he met his wife, their longtime marriage and raising his sons.

Audio production:
The author narrates the book, bringing the stories to life. With few exceptions, I’m not a fan of authors reading their own work, but in the case of a memoir, it adds authenticity, especially for a celebrity whose voice we are already familiar with. And Rob did a fine job. This was an easy listen and one I would recommend to everyone, even those who don’t usually listen to audio.
An Under My Apple Tree Rapid Review
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Source: Review copy provided by the publisher.
© 2014 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.
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July 9, 2014 / Leslie

Wordless Wednesday: Black Swallowtail Caterpillar

Black Swallowtail Caterpillar

Almost wordless: While watering the parsley, I noticed a caterpillar munching away. Eventually, he will transform into a Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterfly. I always plant a little extra parsley for them.

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July 8, 2014 / Leslie

Review – Audiobook: Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian

Close Your Eyes, Hold HandsClose Your Eyes, Hold Hands
by Chris Bohjalian
Narrated by Grace Blewer

Genre: Dystopian / YA
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publish Date: July 8, 2014
Format: Audio, 8 hours | 15 minutes
Audio Listening Level: Easy
Rating: 5 of 5

From the Publisher:

A heartbreaking, wildly inventive, and moving novel narrated by a teenage runaway, from the bestselling author of Midwives and The Sandcastle Girls.

A story of loss, adventure, and the search for friendship in the wake of catastrophe, Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands is one of The Bohjalian’s finest novels to date—breathtaking, wise, and utterly transporting.

Synopis:

In the near future, in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, Emily Shepard is on the run. The area where she lived was evacuated when the power plant melted down. Her parents were missing and presumed dead. Her father worked at the power plant and was being blamed for the accident; all the news reports speculated it was his fault. Emily didn’t wait around to find out what would happen to her. She took off on her own for Burlington, surviving any way she could. But Emily can’t run forever.

Thoughts:

The book was written entirely in the first person, from Emily’s perspective. The author did a fantastic job portraying life on the street through the eyes of a teen-aged girl: her thoughts, her fears, her emotions as she made her way through the gritty new reality that she was living in.

I liked Emily and worried about her when trouble loomed. While she tries to stay true to herself and not succumb to the harshness of being homeless, there are times when she gives in and sells herself to get money for food or a place to stay the night. She helps other young children who are also on the run, and grieves for her dog that she could not go back home and rescue. Raw and uncomfortable at times, the tone was realistic and true.

I absolutely loved this book. It was easy to get involved in, and right from the beginning I was hooked. The story flowed and the characters felt real. I worried about Emily when trouble was brewing and wanted her to survive. How could I not like a character who took solace in the poetry of Emily Dickinson, and sang her poems to the tune of the Gilligan’s Island theme song, a TV show from the 1960s that she used to watch in rerun.

When I first began reading this book, the title didn’t make much sense but I didn’t give it a lot of thought. Towards the end of the book, the meaning becomes clear and makes a powerful statement. And now looking back, I realize I should have known what it referred to.

This is not just another young adult dystopian book in a fantasy world. It’s believable, and such an event could happen. Life on the street and the resulting consequences are portrayed in a realistic manner and one that is happening to homeless teenagers today.

Audio Production:

The book was narrated by Grace Blewer, the author’s daughter. She was a perfect choice for Emily’s voice, performed with the emotional impact needed to make her personality come alive. She even sang the Emily Dickinson poem! This was an easy listen and the 8 hours of audio flew past. Highly recommended and a good choice for those new to audio.

Audio Sample:

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Source: Review copy provided by Random House Audio.
© 2014 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.
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