Ever Set a Pumpkin on Fire? In Your Kitchen?

My reptiles like hard squash, so I cook pumpkin, butternut and acorn squash until they are soft and squishy. The easiest way to cook them is whole in the microwave. I don’t bother to cut off the stem. I rinse off the outside, plop it in, and cook until it is soft.

Photo of Rhino Iguana standing on a tortoise
My pumpkin flambe, please?

I was cooking the third of the ‘Buy 3-for-$5’ pumpkins while writing at the kitchen table. Good thing, because I smelled smoke. Not the flavorful aroma of cooking vegetables but the odor of burning wood.  With the number of heat lamps in my house, I do worry about the wooden enclosures catching fire from a misplaced heat lamp. I immediately began sniffing for the direction the odor, which led my eyes to the microwave, where I saw that the pumpkin stem was in flames! (Inside the microwave, mind you.)

I ran over and unplugged the microwave, grabbed the pumpkin and poured water on the stem in the sink. The inside of the oven was scorched but had not been engulfed in flames, for which I was very thankful. Fortuitously, the pumpkin was cooked to perfect squishiness, so I would be able to feed the reptiles. The stem, however, was ash.

After all the squash I had cooked in microwaves, why did this one catch fire?

Microwaves produce an electric field that does the cooking. If small amounts of metals or minerals are present, they can enhance the electric field, sort of like a lightning rod. Pumpkins contain minerals; after all they are very nutritious. It is possible that the minerals in the stem, a conductive material, along with the extended stem, created a stronger electric field than the air around it. The dry stem was definitely flammable.

Poof! Kind of like a Pumpkin Flambe happened in my microwave.

Apparently, flames can be produced by many fruits and vegetables, but my advice is, “Don’t try this at home!”

Then, it was back to writing. Books, blog posts, newsletters–I am a busy writer, especially if you add in the mystery novels I’m working on. I hope you’ll check out my fun children’s science books on the My Books page. My publisher sells activity sheets and workbooks to accompany them, at Lyric Power Publishing LLC. They are jam-packed with lots of fun and interesting supplemental science education activities.

 

Umm . . . Ever Wanted to Lick a Toad’s Back?

Toad image courtesy of ockienot88 from Pixabay

Are you familiar with the word entheogen? I wasn’t either until I heard it mentioned in a talk about the Sonoran Desert toad, also known as the Colorado River toad, Incilius alvarius.

You may have heard of this toad without knowing much else: It’s the toad made famous by claims that if you licked its back, you would experience a hallucinogenic effect, due to entheogen. Entheogen is a psychoactive substance that produces alterations in perception, mood, cognition or behavior for the purpose of enhancing spiritual development. The compound found specifically in this species of toad that causes this effect is 5-MeO-DMT (5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine).

The toad only produces these toxins for defensive purposes, not for human use as an entheogen. You must harass the toad to get it to secrete its toxins and, for the record, harassing animals is just wrong. By the way, licking the toad will not get you high, or closer to your deity. And, if your dog tries to eat one of these toads, it could be fatal. Native predators have learned to avoid the toad’s back, grabbing its prey by the feet and eating the underbelly.

Sonoran Desert toads also produce the related toxin bufotenin (5-HO-DMT). These toxins are exudates from the parotoid gland behind the toad’s eyes.

Now you know what “entheogen” means. Try to include it your next conversation. I love the challenge of new words and try to inject them as often as I can. I guess that means I am a writer. Well, you can kind of tell that on My Books page, too. Still, to think a tiny curly-tail lizard could inspire me to write his story and that THAT would lead to all these science books that I’ve written to be FUN is really something! We just never know where life is going to take us.

Enjoy the quest!

A collage of book covers indicating the categories of books at elaineapowers.com
My Books By Category

 

 

One Thousand Pounds of the Unexpected!

One year ago today my life changed significantly.

Growing up, and as an adult, I’ve had only reptiles as companion animals. I never wanted a mammal. Okay, I did think about getting a hedgehog at one point, but they are nocturnal and I’m definitely a diurnal type of person. After I retired from my work as a biologist, I began horseback riding lessons so I’d be more comfortable with the stirrups on commercial trail rides.

Even though I enjoyed my lessons with my trainer, Tali, I wasn’t interested in leasing a horse and, of course, I had absolutely no interest in owning a horse. For my lessons, I alternated between Lady, an easygoing horse, and Button, who was stubborn and outspoken about her fears.

Despite Button being a challenge, I sought out every opportunity to ride her. As the saying goes, “calm seas do not a skilled sailor make.” Button provided me with the opportunity to improve my riding ability. Having spent many years wrestling large iguanas like Rango pictured below, I could be stubborn myself. If I was paying to ride Button, we were going to do what I wanted to, whether she agreed or not.

elaine a powers with rhino iguana rango
Here I am with Rhino Iguana Rango. Isn’t she a beauty? We’re both pretty good wrestlers.

Somewhere along the way, Button grew to like me. Well–she claimed me as hers. It is a very special feeling when another being wants you around. One night, completely unexpectedly, I decided that if for some reason Button ever needed a new home, I’d be willing to take her. The next morning Tali asked me if I was interested in owning Button!

A couple of months later, I moved Button to a stable near my house. Now every day, just like I do with my house reptiles, I spend time with this very special horse. We work on our skills and take trail rides in the wash.

It’s been an eventful year. I’ve learned a lot about horses, about Button and about myself. I have found an unexpected peace when I am with her. Maybe it’s because you have to be focused when hanging out with a thousand-pound, independently-minded creature.

photo of the back of a horse's head
My favorite view!

Happy Anniversary to my quite large mammalian buddy, Button!

Selfie of Elaine Powers with her horse Button
Have you ever tried to take a ‘selfie’ with a horse?

Note: Though I’ve yet to write a tale about horses (sorry, Button!), I’ve weaved science into adventure tales, hoping to make science education fun, which kids seem to really enjoy. (Why not make science fun?)

children's book cover about Curtis Curly-tail lizard and a hurricane in the Bahamas
In this fourth story of the series, Curtis joins Allison Andros Iguana to warn the iguanas of Beach Cay about the impending hurricane. Low lying areas are particularly vulnerable to the storm surges, high rainfall and powerful winds of hurricanes. Small islands or cays here in the Bahamas can be completely washed over. Beach Cay, the setting of Curtis Curly-tail is Blown Away, has entire populations of endemic animals, such as the iguanas like Allison. One powerful hurricane could wipe out her entire species.

Please see the Curtis Curly-tail Adventure Series here and the Lime Lizard Lads’ Adventures here.

book covers lime lizard lads

Gene and Bony, the Lime Lizard Lads, love exploring their island home! Come along on their adventures today!

Workbooks and activity sheets to supplement science education like the one below are also available at Lyric Power Publishing LLC/Workbooks.


image of a book cover, My Book About Bats and Rats

47 pages of captivating activities that kids from kindergarten through 3rd grade are certain to enjoy! Includes spelling pages, two Venn-Diagram activities: bats vs. parrots, and bats vs. rats; math pages, reading comprehension pages for both bats and rats; a teacher-driven felt board activity; rhyming words, less than-greater than coloring sheet; two word searches, and MORE! Students will gain a deeper understanding of the Caribbean Fruit Bat and the rats that live on Cayman Brac and how they affect the ecology.

The Sea Wrote to Me!

As part of my writing business, I travel to numerous places, not only for inspiration but also for the marketing of my books. Most of the places I visit involve oceans and often islands, such as The Bahamas and the Cayman Islands. I don’t get to spend much time on the beaches since I’m working but, whenever I can, I seize the chance to walk barefoot in the sand as waves lap on my feet.

Of course, due to the pandemic, I haven’t traveled anywhere this year. Fortunately, I enjoy living in the Sonoran Desert. However, the one thing the desert doesn’t have is a beach with ocean waves. In addition, the desert sand is made from rocks and I miss the sand made from seashells, which has a different texture.

Knowing I was missing the salty bodies of water, my friend, Pam, created a beautiful card for me. She said the sea called to her on my behalf. The card is from the seashells and sand grains on the beach! It brought me much joy.

Pam is an incredibly talented artist. I have several of her paper paintings in my home and have given her permission to share a few here.

paper painting called Tree of Life
Tree of Life by Pam Bickell

She is also a skilled editor and a fabulous web mistress. And most importantly, she is a special friend.

 

 

~NOTE: Thanks, Elaine! I appreciate you very much. Pam~

paper painting Grenhem
Grenhem by Pam Bickell
paper painting The Seer
The Seer by Pam Bickell

September 4 is National Wildlife Day

This guy, Roadrunner Geococcyx californianus, and his species inspired my book, Don’t Make Me Fly!

September 4 is National Wildlife Day.  As a biologist, I love wildlife, whether it is in my backyard or at some distant exotic location. Wildlife Day was established to remind us about endangered animals, locally and around the world.

This is also the day to recognize the work being done on behalf of these animals, both in preservation and education about them. I do my part for conservation through my volunteering as a citizen scientist, talks I give, the books I write about animals, and supplemental, educational workbooks that teach about animals in a fun way.

photo Regal Horned Lizard Phrynosoma solare
Regal Horned Lizard Phrynosoma solare

I love to talk about and share my reptiles with people and I hope my tales that weave science into animal escapades and picture books educate children and adults alike. Sometimes my message is subtle, such as in stories featuring curly-tail lizards and their environments and plights, and sometimes it’s more direct, such as in Silent Rocks about the disappearing rock iguanas on Cayman Brac.

photo Desert Cottontail Sylvilagus audubonii
Desert Cottontail Sylvilagus audubonii

While you are contemplating how you can help the endangered animals of the world, get outside and enjoy the wildlife in your neighborhood. With habitat loss and climate change, some may be more endangered than you realize.

photograph of tarantula
Tarantula, Aphonpelma chalcodes
photo Cooper's Hawk Accipiter cooperii
Cooper’s Hawk Accipiter cooperii

I hope you enjoy these pictures of some of my neighbors.

photo of two Great Horned Owl Bubo virginainus
A mating pair of Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginainus
photo Gopher Snake Pituophis melanoleucus
Gopher Snake Pituophis melanoleucus

If you want to read more about these Sonoran Desert critters, I suggest How Not to Photograph a Hummingbird, which is a fun story about the desert conspiring against a photographer—I just can’t help myself—I am, at heart, a murder-mystery writer. (It was a curly-tail lizard who started my career as a children’s science book writer.) I am still working on those murder-mysteries, however!

illustration of a hummingbird on a cactus
A Humorous Tale Introducing the Plants
and Animals of the Sonoran Desert
“I’ll have a long-term memory of this visit.
Maybe a permanent one.”
For All Ages
Reading Level Age 8+
26 pages
Glossary of Minerals, Flora and Fauna
Illustrated by Anderson Atlas
A bumbling visitor to Southern Arizona is repeatedly injured when trying to photograph a mischievous hummingbird, as the Sonoran Desert conspires against him.
Have a laugh while enjoying learning about the plants and animals of Southern Arizona.

There’s a glossary in the back of How Not to Photograph a Hummingbird with the scientific details about the mischievous conspirators. I love making science education fun!

Aug 26th is National Webmistress Day!

I have been very fortunate to have very talented webmistresses to create and maintain my websites. Yes, I could have worked on my websites myself, but I would rather be writing books. More importantly, they are much more visually creative and attentive to the many details. Like I said, I’d rather be writing my books.

graphic illustration of Lyric Power website

Nora Miller, editor extraordinaire, developed my original author website here at ElaineAPowers.com. I was so thankful to be able to send her material and see it on the website, as if by magic. Pamela Bickell came along to add some color to my book publishing website, Lyric Power Publishing LLC, and when I needed to add my books to my author website, Pam redesigned my author site. She also adds my blog posts to the sites and Facebook.

As an author, I love writing books but, like many others, I enjoy the marketing of them less. I need my webmistresses. Not only are they knowledgeable about the inner workings of websites, they are both talented writers and editors. This is important, since my work might need tweaking now and then.

Today I honor my webmistresses and can highly recommend both of them. Should you want to contact either Nora or Pam for help, please use the contact page at either website and I will put you in touch. I am forever grateful to them. Happy Webmistress Day!

Surprise Your Employees with Some Fun–Use Zoom to Perform a Short Play!

Today is National Radio Day. Way back before TV/streaming media as we know it and before today’s audio books, there was radio. Of course, there still is, but in the early part of the twentieth century, radio was our only source for news from around the world, and it provided wonderful entertainment. Radio shows were sponsored by businesses, so the shows had set running times, leaving airtime for advertisements.

photo of old-time radio
Image Courtesy of Michael Mistler from Pixabay

Radio was available to everyone and we enjoyed being able to do other things while we were listening. There were comedic radio shows and dramatic storytelling, with sound effects, eliciting emotions. Several stories led to unfortunate circumstances, the most famous of which was Orson Welles’ broadcast of the H.G. Wells story, War of the Worlds. My mother, near the alleged site of the Martian landing, heard the broadcast and witnessed the panic.

Twenty years ago, radio shows had a renewed popularity with recreated “old-time” and modern “new-time” shows. These modern radio shows didn’t have the time constraints of earlier days. Some acting guilds today are performing what were radio shows on stage. Audio and radio theater provide listeners, whether in their homes, cars, or acted in a performance hall, a refreshing alternative to the usual standard fare of music, news and talk shows.

a book cover of an audio/radio script
Includes adaptations of three classic tales as audio theater scripts: The Spoon River Anthology has history students discovering the stories of occupants of a cemetery. A one-act version of The Ransom of Red Chief tells the tale of a kidnapping gone awry. The Ballad of The Ice-Worm Cocktail tells of false bravado revealed during the Yukon Gold Rush. Requires multiple actors. Well suited for community theaters. Performance rights included with purchase.

My first serious writing was in creating scripts for the Hunterdon Radio Theatre in New Jersey. My scripts have been performed on stage, as broadcasts, and recorded onto CDs.

Are you a performer–or a company manager? Need a break from those monotonous Zoom meetings? Why not take a look at my short audio/theater scripts, get a few co-workers together and perform a play for the wider audience? My scripts range from comedic to spooky and the purchase of a script comes with the performance rights. They can be performed by adults or children, are family appropriate, and you might even learn a little science! Break up the online-meeting monotony and have some fun today reading or acting a play! (Or two!)

book cover of audio/theater script
A collection of one-act length comedic audio theater scripts. “Joy’s Bug’s Blues” tells of an unfortunate encounter with an elephant. In “Take Your Best Shot,” a man develops allergies to political parties, but his allergist has the cure. “The Gift” is a Chanukah tale involving the rescue of an injured iguana and its impact on family members, both human and iguana. Performance rights included with purchase.

I’m Curtis Curly-tail and Have I Got a Roadrunner Video for You! (Meep-Meep)

“Hello to all! I’m Curtis Curly-tail and I am here to tell you about my latest YouTube video,  which focuses on Roadrunners in Southern Arizona. Did you know when these large birds leave tracks behind, you can’t tell what direction they came from or where they went? I wish I could do that! And roadrunners are really, really fast. That makes me a little afraid of them, too. They do love their lizard snacks!

We lizards are pretty fast, ourselves. So far, so good.

Come on over to my YouTube channel, Curtis Curly-tail Speaks, and watch my latest video about the Southwest’s iconic bird: the Roadrunner. I give lots of interesting details about this unusual bird that stays mostly on the ground.

And then, take a look at Elaine A. Powers book called Don’t Make Me Fly! The book tells all about this bird sacred to Native American peoples because of its courage and speed. The book is written in fun rhymes and vividly illustrated. Don’t Make Me Fly! is available at Amazon.com.

Thanks for stopping by to ‘catch a tail–I mean, tale!’ here at Elaine A. Powers’ author website. We both appreciate you very much! See you over at You Tube!

illustration of a desert roadrunner
Strong. Fast and Courageous, Roadrunner Doesn’t Need To Fly