Nov 30, 2015

Nature Advent Calendar: Read 24 Picture Books about Nature

One of my favorite blogs is This Picture Book Life written by Danielle Davis. As you can guess from the blog's title, Danielle writes about picture books. She often includes a craft or recipe with each book review. Recently, she created a picture book advent calendar with a printable template. The calendar in this case is a cup of paper flags attached to candy canes; each flag is printed with the title of a seasonal picture book and a related activity (ex: Day 6: Read The Great Paper Caper by Oliver Jeffers and Fold a paper airplane). I was so taken with Danielle's advent calendar that I thought I'd create one for this blog.

I've chosen picture books that are fairly popular. If you don't have a title in your home library, you can probably find it at your local library. Each title has a corresponding activity. Print the advent calendar and cut out each book + activity slip. Place all 24 slips in a container of your choice. Pick a slip each day. Enjoy! Optional: Fill the bottom half of the container with a seasonal object to make it festive. I used acorns, nuts, and seeds.

Actual Size by Steve Jenkins + draw your hand or foot and transform it into a plant or animal

A Lion in Paris by Beatrice Alemagna + look for a statue of an animal in your community

And Then It's Spring by Julie Fogliano + draw your dream garden

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett + make a meal with the entire family

Flashlight by Lizi Boyd + go on an evening/night walk

Flotsam by David Wiesner + draw or paint an underwater adventure (via HMH Books)

Green Eggs & Ham by Dr. Seuss + eat a "new" fruit or vegetable

Ladybug Girl by David Soman and Jacky Davis + invent and draw a nature superheroine/hero

Night Song by Ari Berk + sing/listen to "animal songs" 

Outside Your Window by Nicola Davies + observe life outside your window for 5 - 15 minutes

Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me by Eric Carle + draw the shape of the moon on the day you read this book

Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett + dig a hole

Some Bugs by Andrea DiTerlizzi + draw your favorite bug (or look for bugs outdoors on a 45 degree Fahrenheit day)

Stone Soup (any version) + do something nice for/say something nice to someone

Tap Tap Boom Boom by Elizabeth Bluemle + make a rain stick (PBS DIY video)

The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak + write all the nature words you know on a sheet of paper

The Carrot Seed + go on a scavenger hunt in your grocery store to find carrots & other root vegetables (how many can you find?)

The Clever Stick by John Lechner + find a stick and use it make or do something

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss + volunteer in your community

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats + make footprints in the snow, sand, or mud (via This Picture Book Life)

The Water Hole by Graeme Base + visit your nearest body of water

There Was a Tree by Rachel Isadora + take a tree walk (how many different trees can you find on your block?)

Up in the Garden, Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner + explore a local garden (it could be your own!)

Where Does Kitty Go in the Rain by Harriet Ziefert + jump in rain (or muddy) puddles

You can view all the books on the Nature Advent Calendar board on Pinterest.

If you can't commit to a book a day, how about a book a week? On the same day each week for four weeks, pick a slip and read the book and complete the activity. Here are 4 favorites:

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett + make a meal with the entire family

Ladybug Girl by David Soman + invent a nature superheroine/hero

Tap Tap Boom Boom by Elizabeth Bluemle + make a rain stick (PBS DIY video)

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats + make footprints in the snow, sand, or mud (via This Picture Book Life)

Plus one more!

Flashlight by Lizi Boyd + go on an evening/night walk

P.S. Let us know if you plan to read all 24 or 4 or some number of books in between.

Nov 25, 2015

Up and Over the Washington (Square) Arch with NYC Parks

(Video source)

On Monday, November 23, NYC Parks hosted a tour of the Washington Arch in Washington Square Park on Periscope TV. Did you know that there are 102 steps and a "secret room" within the arch?! The view from the top of the arch is 360 degrees and stunning. Don't skip through the video. Also, here are several tweet highlights from the tour.

P.S. Check out session notes of the tour by Untapped Cities.

Nov 19, 2015

Container Gardening: Do You Have a Favorite Method?

I have been fortunate to have access to outdoor space for gardening in many of the places I have lived. The one place I have not had a place to garden outside is in New York. When we moved there I submitted an application for a plot in a local community garden. As far as I know, I am still in the waitlist. That was six years ago! I'm in Virginia this year. We live in a house that has a generous yard. In the back yard there are two raised beds. Sadly I have not planted anything in either of them though I harvested the last of the tomatoes left from the previous tenants. I had hoped to sow a winter ground cover and possibly plant spring bulbs before the first frost. There's still time. Yesterday there was a high of 70 degrees F in Arlington!

If you don't have in-the-ground garden space, you can reliable garden in containers. Rooftop Roots has installed several varieties on the a container garden on the rear plaza of the Arlington Public Library Central Branch. Which one would work best for you?

P.S. You might like the Window Box Garden series:

Window Box Garden: Leslie Kuo of Urban Plant Research
Window Box Garden: Kelly Brenner of The Metropolitan Field Guide
Window Box Garden: Jared Braiterman of Tokyo Green Space
Window Box Garden: Melissa Harrison
Window Box Gardens in Munich, Seattle, Tokyo, and London

Nov 17, 2015

Replanting Coast Live Oaks in Oakland

Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia), Oakland City Hall Plaza (This tree was planted in 1917.)

A few weeks ago I received an alumni fund letter from the College of Environmental Design (CED) at UC Berkeley. Included in the letter was a well-designed leaflet about the re-oaking Oakland project undertaken by ProfessorsWalter Hood and Ron Rael and their design students. I enjoyed reading about this community and academic effort and was happy that the school was sharing this work with its alumni. The story has gone beyond CED in the form of a New York Times article by Patricia Leigh Brown, who mostly writes features about California issues and landscapes. Read the Times article, Tree Project Aims to Put the Oak Back in Oakland.

David Nowak 1993 research article in the Journal of Arboriculture (source)

The coast live oak was one of the dominant tree species of Oakland's historic urban forest canopy. Many factors led to the species' population decline as well as that of the city's overall canopy cover. David Nowak's 1993 research article in the Journal of Arboriculture provides a fascinating historical and statistical account of Oakland's changing canopy. The coast live oak is one of several native oaks of the East Bay. Watch a video about The Oaks of Oakland. I you own or manage a California oak woodland, the University of California has published a management guide to Living Among The Oaks. View images of the dramatic coast live oak here.

Nov 12, 2015

Lyon Park Walkabout

Image: Screenshot of Walkabout Neighborhood Maps from (source)

Walking is a good way to get to know a place, don't you think? It's free, easy on your joints, and you can easily adjust your route. (There are exceptions to this latter point. A recent example is a walking tour of Tyson's Corner led by a UVA urban planning professor where sidewalks abruptly ended.) Walking is how I get accustomed to new neighborhoods I live in or to explore new (and old) places I visit. I am learning about Arlington, especially my neighborhood and the ones surrounding it by walking. (I also bike in Arlington, and drive too.)

Image: Screenshot of Lyon Park Walkabout from (source)

Now I cannot remember how I learned about the Walkabouts brochures but I emailed the organization and was sent a hard copy. There's something about paper maps! There are 25 self-guided walkabout routes in the brochure. (Arlington County has 58 neighborhoods; no towns.) The first route I walked, and share here, is Lyon Park which is 2.3 miles. I only walked the western half of the route. My pace was akin to a stroll with many stops and starts along to way to take photographs.

The first stop on my version of the Lyon Park tour is the Cape Cod style house on Highland at 2nd Rd. N.

From there I walked to the Christ Church of Arlington on Pershing Drive. The church founded the annual Arlington Turkey Trot.

My next stop was another church. This one is Claredon United Methodist Church on Irving St at 6th Street. Across from the church is Irving Apartment Building of garden apartments constructed in 1926. Across from the apartment building on 6th St. N. is an American Foursquare style house. I failed to photograph it.

If you can believe it, the house pictured above is Sears-Roebuck catalog house built in the Dutch-Colonial style in 1926. If you are in Arlington, it's on Garfield Street near Lyon Park.

I walked early in October but Halloween decorations were up. A spooky yard at this Tudor style house. on 1st Rd. N.

I have walked, biked, driven in other parts of Arlington but not using the the Walkabouts guide. It's doubtful I will complete all 25 routes but I'll share my next purposeful stroll here. In the meantime, here's a short list of books about walking.

P.S. Please recommend my next walkabout (Arlingtonians) and your favorite books about walking (everybody)!

Nov 9, 2015

Vaults, Tombstones, Culverted Creek, (one of the) Oldest Trees in NYC, and Red-tailed Hawks: A History of Washington Square Park

We are reprinting here the November 2015 e-newsletter of WSP Eco Projects.

Image: screenshot of WSP Eco Projects's Instagram feed (

WSP Eco Projects
Celebrating the visible & hidden nature of Washington Square Park

November 2015

Thanks to everyone who has used the Eco Map! We will continue to make improvements. You can share feedback with us via email at or via social media @wspecoprojects.

The Park has been in the news lately for the discovery of two 19th century burial vaults. These vaults were uncovered on University Place during excavation related to the City's water main connection project on the streets surrounding the park and on West 4th between the park and Broadway.

The construction zone is now partly an archaeological dig and cultural artifact site. In light of the historic nature of the findings, we'd like to share some park history with you.

Before Washington Square Park became a public park in 1827, it was a marsh fed by Minetta Brook, a potter's field (burial site for unidentified and poor individuals) during various outbreaks of yellow fever and other epidemics, and the Washington Military Parade Ground. Much of these events occurred on the eastern two-thirds of the site. The portion west of the present Washington Arch was acquired between 1825 and 1828. Between 1819 and 1892, Minetta Brook was first drained and then fully culverted to the Hudson River. There were major redesigns of the park between 1924 and 1938 and again in the 1990s and 2000s.

For a deeper dive, here are some links, starting with the recently uncovered vaults: first reported the story about a burial Vault found beneath Washington Square Park. In an update, we learned the two Vaults at Washington Square Park belong to One of Two Churches.

The NYC Dept. of Design & Construction "Reconstruction Newsletter" detailing the water main connection project.

In 2009, a tombstone dating from 1799 was unearthed in Washington Square Park during Phase II of the 2007 reconstruction project.

A Brief History of the Minetta Waters in Washington Square park, 1797-1828. Untapped Cities wrote about a tour of Minetta Brook led by Steve Duncan. Steve provided the brook layer for the WSP Eco Map.

Curious about the trees in the park? Here is a list of species growing in Washington Square Park. Although fall color in the park has reportedly peaked it's still a beautiful place. Use this guide to fall foliage in Washington Square Park (now)!

Fabulous photographs and stories of the Washington Square Park red-tailed hawks can be found at the Roger Paw blog.

Thank you for your support of Washington Square Park and WSP Eco Projects. Please feel free to share this newsletter with family and friends.

P.S. In addition to the water main project, the sidewalks around Washington Square Park will be replaced.

* This item was not included in the original newsletter.

Nov 6, 2015

Book Review: Natural Wonders and Flying Wonders Coloring Book Series

We spend a lot of time making art and crafting at home so when Skyhorse Publishing reached out me to try their new series of coloring books for grown-ups, I didn't hesitate to say yes. I even bought my own set of colored pencils. This was unnecessary. I had forgotten about Fiver's set of Prismacolor pencils. These pencils are smooth and soft which makes it easier to color larger sections of white space, but because they are soft, these pencils are not the most effective for detail work. The richness of the colors makes up for this shortcoming. I have ordered Sharpie fine point markers to use for image details.

I selected Natural Wonders and Flying Wonders because the titles fit the content of this blog. There are many wonderful images to color. I've been working on a highly stylized ostrich feather in Natural Wonders and a songbird, which might be a chickadee, in Flying Wonders. Not all the patterns directly relate to the book titles. For example, tea cups, rabbits, garden tools, and frogs are pictured in Flying Wonders. By virtue of the its title Natural Wonders has a broader scope but it too has images that are not thematic (unicorns).

The coloring books are well designed. They look like artists' sketchpads. Each one is hard cover. The color of the spine matches the color of the end papers. You can almost lay the book flat. It doesn't seem like you can break the spine but a spiral/coil/wire binding would make it easier to use and to travel with the book. The books' introduction give creative license to the colorist negating the common refrain from school days: "There is no need to color within the lines if you don't want to." I would have liked to read a different introduction to each book. The introduction could be more tailored to the theme of each book. The act of coloring has been enjoyable. It is physically relaxing and mentally refreshing to choose an image with lots of detail or minimal detail; to select the palette of colors; to start at the beginning of the book, or closer to the end.

Do you color on your own? Try one of the Skyhorse Publishing coloring books for adults. You can download a free page! Skyhorse Publishing has generously provided four coloring pages, two each from Flying Wonders and Natural Wonders. Download and enjoy: Flying Wonders 16Flying Wonders 18; Natural Wonders 7, Natural Wonders 19.

Coloring books c/o Skyhorse Publishing.

P.S. Check out the Tinkersketch daily sketchbook challengeTinkerlab offers a new challenge every month.
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