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The Hedgehogs of the Sonoran Desert

A hedgehog peeks up, only their face and ears are visible.

Before the dog days of 2023, the only mammal I wanted as a pet was a hedgehog. However, every time I got the urge to purchase a captive-bred hedgie, I’d remember that they were nocturnal. Sellers say you can interact with your hedgehog as they awake at dinnertime for some fun before bed. I prefer […]

Observations at a Street Fair

Crowds of people navigate the stalls set up along a street.

From March 22-24, 2024, I had a booth at the 55th annual 4th Avenue Street Fair. This exciting event brings over 300,000 people to shop for an incredible variety of arts and goods and enjoy diverse and delicious food. I have several art pieces from my visits to previous fairs in my home. Joining in […]

The Science of… Oatmeal?

Someone mixing liquids in beakers.

Do you ever think about the physics in action within your breakfast? Sometimes, I do, especially after a spectacular failure, like when I attempted to microwave oatmeal. The day before, I boiled some oatmeal for my dog. He was taking antibiotics, and I could tell they were bothering his stomach. I thought maybe oatmeal might […]

A Pennaraptorans for Your Thoughts

A realistic illustration of dinosaurs roaming a valley.

I recently learned about Penneropterans. They are not people who like to eat penne pasta! Maybe ‘opt’ refers to optics? Nope, they are not people who want to look at penne pasta, either! No, Penneropterans is a misspelling of Pennaraptora.  What’s a Pennaraptora? The Pennaraptora clade refers to the group of dinosaurs who developed feathers. […]

That’s a Pile of Horse Poo!

A family of wild mustangs play and eat.

A friend and I rode in the Sitgreaves National Forest near Overgaard, AZ. Located in the southern parts of Navajo, Coconino, and Apache counties, it has an area of 818,749 acres. The trails we were riding were known for their abundance of wildlife, including mustangs or wild horses that lived there. It is also a […]

Vampire…Tortoise?!

Book cover for Vampire...Tortoise?! with an illustrated desert tortoise with what appears to be blood dripping from its mouth.

What do you think of when you hear or read the word ‘vampire’? Does your mind go to the human Count Dracula, or perhaps it’s to bats? Members of the Desmodontinae bat subfamily feed on the blood of other animals. Consuming blood is called hematophagy. But not just bats are vampires. There are the candiru […]

Adventures of a Bully 

Bully the bull looks through the bars of his stall.

Recently, I boarded my horse at an interesting barn in Overgaard. My horse enjoyed his stay, I’m happy to say. But what made it particularly interesting was the presence of a full-grown bull across the aisle. Unfortunately, the bull had damaged his usual stall and now resides in a horse stall. Fortunately, my horse didn’t […]

How to Make a Monsoon

Gray clouds converging over the desert.

Here in the Sonoran Desert, changes in the weather occur before the monsoons arrive. Humidity and dew points increase. Replacing our comfortable dry heat – when sweat evaporates immediately. After all, in 100+ degree weather, the body needs to sweat. But sweat remained on my skin when I lived in the South, beading up and […]

Tortoise Emergency? Max to the Rescue!

Turk and Caicos the tortoises, wondering together in Elaine's back yard.

When a friend needed help with her dog, I offered to foster him as long as he got along with my reptiles. I was very pleased when Max and my free-roaming tortoises easily accepted each other. Good thing since it’s looking like Max, a Chihuahua mix, is going to be a permanent member of my […]

Love is in the… Cactus?

Ah, the heart! ❤️ The symbol of romantic love. An appropriate topic for February 14th is Valentine’s Day. It was in the fifteenth century that today’s typical heart symbol was developed. With the establishment of Valentine’s Day, the use of the symbol exploded. Its popularity reached the ultimate pinnacle when the ❤️ became a verb! […]

Hare, There, Everywhere!

A wild hare, sits in a field.

Hares! Here, there and everywhere. I seem to be finding hares everywhere. I live in the Sonoran Desert with the very large rabbits known as desert hares. The actual common name is Antelope Jackrabbit with the scientific name of Lepus alleni. I’ve tried many times to get a photo of a jackrabbit with its long, […]

What Strange Food is This?

A hand balances a plate with a cloche hiding the food beneath.

I recently wrote a blog about popcorn for National Popcorn Day. Microwave popcorn is very popular these days. Microwave ovens often have a designated popcorn button built into them. In addition, various foods have been produced specifically for cooking in microwave ovens. I understand the need for speed when preparing meals. Most people need to […]

The Tale of an Old Time Term

An antique analog radio sitting on a chest.

One of my favorite pastimes is listening to Old Time Radio (OTR) shows as I drive around. The other day while captivated by a comedy show, I heard an unusual word. I thought it was perhaps a slip of the tongue or a word created for comic effect. But then I heard it a few […]

This Blog is Popping!

Bags of popcorn lined up in rows.

What food do you put down when a survey asks for your favorite food? I always put down popcorn! I love popcorn. I love the flavor, the crunchiness, and the childhood memories it brings. My father’s favorite snack was popcorn cooked with bacon grease. Many years later, I read a survey of popcorn produced in […]

No Ordinary Button

A pile of pearly white buttons.

November 16th is National Button Day. What do you think of when you hear the word “button?” Do images of the many colors, diversely shaped garment fasteners come to mind? I remember selecting colors and shapes to add interest to my clothes. Then there’s the time spent searching through the massive collection that my mother […]

Mornings Are Never Long Enough

The sunrise over a thick forest trees in Florida.

Are you a night person, like the yellow-crowned night heron (Nyctanassa violacea)? Or are you a morning person, like the green heron (Butorides virescens)? Personally, I like getting up in the pre-dawn darkness and looking out at the dark world. Although sometimes with a full moon, it isn’t very dark. So what does this green […]

Celebrating HerStory Month!

Elaine working in rock iguana conservation.

March is an important month for women! Not only was March 8th International Women’s Day. But it’s also HerStory Month, otherwise known as Women’s History Month. It is important to celebrate the vital role of women in American history for the entire month of March, not just one day. Learning about HerStory Month, got me […]

A BIG Book Celebration in Tucson, AZ

A crowd of families with young children sit around a book mobile at the 2010 Tucson Festival of Books

The authors are coming! The authors are coming! Once again, we’ll be celebrating books and literacy in person in Tucson at the 2022 Tucson Festival of Books (TFOB)! Learn more about this Tucson book celebration staple and how you find me there.  A Brief TFOB History The first festival was held March 14-15, 2009 with […]

The Laws of Physics (According to Horses)

I started horseback riding after I retired. Before that, I’d never been particularly fond of horses, despite being a biologist. I preferred reptiles, crustaceans, and mollusks. However, life has a way of leading me down unexpected trails. Although no matter the trail I find myself on, I always find a little science. Even with a […]

Breakfast at the Beach (It’s not what you think!)

An ibis searching for breakfast in shallow ocean water.

For writers, it’s important we periodically refresh our minds — or our muses, as they say. And so, a few times a year I leave my Sonoran Desert home for a beach in the Gulf of Mexico. I do miss my scaly and furry family members, but long strolls on the beach do me a […]

Backstories and Barnacles

White barnacles clinging to a rock.

Recently, while on vacation in Florida, I listened to a lecture on compelling storytelling. It’s an important topic for me, and something I strive to accomplish. The speaker asserted that to attract a reader’s interest, a protagonist’s backstory is essential. After all, their actions and reactions are directly related to their past. It was an […]

Why You Should Feel Hopeful for 2022

Farewell, 2021! You’ve been an interesting year. Welcome, 2022! I’m sure the coming year will be as eventful as the last, but I have hope that it will bring more good than bad. Yes, I choose to have hope for the new year. This new year starts with difficulties, such as new variants thriving, economic […]

Give the Gift of a Picture Book!

collage of book covers related to Sonoran Desert

This is the season for gift giving. Why not give a gift that educates as it entertains, builds language skills, and can be enjoyed over and over again? Books are always a great gift for any age. Not Your Average Picture Book What makes my picture books worthwhile? Immense amounts of scientific information are included […]

Meet Calliope, the Muse of Long Poetry

A green iguana munches on fresh vegetables

Most of the iguanas in my life have been green iguanas, Iguana iguana. However, not all green iguanas are green. Through the years I’ve cared for green iguanas who were various shades of green, orange, blue, and even one that was black and white. Like any animal, they all had different personalities. Some liked to […]

A Squirrel is a Squirrel is a… Chipmunk?

Sometimes, stories are written to craft clarity from confusion. That’s certainly the case with my book Squirrels of the Sonoran Desert. I’ve lived in many places yet found myself perplexed by the local squirrels. In discussing them with other residents, it became clear that they were just as confused by the nature of these rodents. […]

Snakes (and Science) for All!

photo of New Providence Boa

Buying books online is wonderfully convenient, but for me, selling my STEM-based books in-person is special, especially when the people are children. I’m delighted when kids show interest in the science that I include in my books. And I’m especially thrilled when girls are interested in snakes! Breaking into Science As a child, I dreamt […]

Morton Salt, Campbells, and Flamingos in the Bahamas.

A group of pink flamingoes wading in shallow water.

Recently, while in Chicago I happened to see the iconic Morton Salt sign. It’s so huge you can’t miss it. While it’s called a sign, in actuality it’s a roof on the old Morton Salt factory on Elston Avenue. As a child, this sign always reminded me of the Morton Salt Girl and the drawing […]

How Not to Photograph a Bat

I wrote a book about the difficulties in photographing hummingbirds, How Not to Photograph a Hummingbird. It pits one bumbling human against the desert as he carelessly attempts to photograph an Anna’s Hummingbird. If lucky, a hummer may alight for a moment or two, allowing the photographer to get the shot she wants.  But there […]

Mushrooms in the Desert? I Have Pictures!

Podaxis pistillaris mushroom

Living in the Sonoran Desert, I don’t often see mushrooms.  Sometimes, fungus appears on the trunks of dying trees, but that’s not often. This year, Tucson has had a very wet monsoon season, which is wonderful after years of severe drought. Along with the greening of the vegetation, the abundance of rain has brought forth […]

Sharing a Fond Memory of Mexican Jumping Beans. What’s Yours?

image of mex jumping bean stages

When I was a child, my parents bought me a package of Mexican beans, frijoles saltarine. I was fascinated to learn why the beans moved. Over time I forgot about them, until recently when I was reading an article about midge larvae that can fling themselves 36 times their body length.* The article got me […]