Category Archives: Guest blogger

Guest Post: Raising Readers

Like a lot of modern moms, I began reading to Son No. 1 in utero. I wanted to give him every possible advantage on his life’s journey—a head start of sorts—so I read little board books aloud to him as he floated in his temporary home of embryonic goo and poked his elbows into my ribs. I imagined his brain absorbing those words and ideas, his heart calmed by the steady measure of my voice.

When Son No. 1 was eighteen months old, he would refuse to lie down for a nap until I’d read one of his little books. By that time, I was awaiting the arrival of Son No. 2 and was absolutely exhausted more often than not. Sometimes I’d turn two pages instead of one or pretend the story was finished when it wasn’t, and he’d usually catch me and complain vociferously. All that mattered was the book.

While his second-place status meant he rarely had my full attention, Son No. 2 did get to hear me read to Son No. 1 every single day from his crib or from his bouncy seat perched on the kitchen table or from his blanket on the living room floor next to the dog. And he tagged along on wobbly legs as we visited the library week after week, listening to stories read aloud by the librarians and then picking out our own jewels to take home.

Does having that all-important head start make kids joyful, enthusiastic readers, lovers of books great and small? You bet it does, as least in our case! Son No. 1 still loves to read. He loves to read so much, in fact, that he’ll continue to read when he should be getting ready for school or making his way to the dinner table or going to bed. I sometimes have to surreptitiously insert a bookmark and close a book with his nose still in it to make him stop reading.

I’m at home wherever there are books, and I’m the type of mom who thinks hanging out at the library on a Saturday afternoon is fun. And while my boys may hem and haw at the idea of having to set foot inside an actual library during summer vacation, they immediately zoom off in different directions as soon as the door opens before them, Son No. 1 to find the latest Percy Jackson or Heroes of Olympus installment, Son No. 2 to the comics section, searching in vain for a Calvin and Hobbes collection he hasn’t yet devoured.

So what do you do if your son or daughter isn’t a born reader? Every kid has an interest, and every interest, no matter how obscure, has had a book or magazine devoted to it. Is your son begging for a hermit crab, guinea pig, or gerbil? Say OK but only if he first reads up on how to care for said pet. Does your daughter want to learn to water-ski in Sarasota Bay? There’s a magazine for that called—you guessed it—Water Ski.

A Land Remembered Student EditionAnd—oh, yeah—read with and to your kids, no matter how old they are. Last year, Son No. 2’s teacher read the student version of Patrick Smith’s A Land Remembered aloud to the class. Every student loved it. Even those kids who weren’t avid readers enjoyed listening to a simply worded, action-packed historical novel read slowly and purposefully by a teacher who understood the power of a well-placed pause. They could identify with Zech MacIvey, a boy their own age, even though Zech’s story takes place 150-plus years before their own. And they could identify with their patient teacher, who obviously loved the book as much as they did.

Kris Rowland is a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader whose clients include Pineapple Press.

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BEAUFORT FOOD AND WINE FESTIVAL, guest post by Terrance Zepke

Into food and wine? Then you need to make plans to attend this fun event. The Eighth Annual Beaufort Wine & Food Weekend will be held April 25 – 29 in Beaufort, North Carolina. There are lots of special events to choose from, but a few are already sold out. Ticket cost depends on the event, ranging from free to $95 for gourmet wine dinners. It is one of the largest outdoor wine festivals in the state, but winemakers come from as far as Sonoma, California. And this years promises to be spectacular with an A-list of chefs participating.

One of the chefs participating this year is Chef/Owner Scott Howell of Nana’s in Durham. Nana’s is ranked as one of the top twenty best organic restaurants in America and  has won Wine Spectator’s “Award of Excellence” for its wine menu. But I’m especially excited about Chef Nathan Thurston. He is the top chef at one of my favorite restaurants, Ocean Room at The Sanctuary Resort on Kiawah Island. I know firsthand why he’s won numerous American Culinary Federation competitions.

There will be lots of special events, such as wine and cheese tastings with live music, seminars, wine dinners, a contest for the best bartender concoction, and cooking demonstrations. If you’d rather have a cold beer than a glass of Riesling, then plan to attend on Saturday, April 28. There will be barbeque from a couple of top pit masters and some great beer breweries, such as Sierra Nevada and Natty Greene Brewing Company, will be featured.

The event is a fundraiser for the Beaufort Historical Association and the NC Maritime Museum at Beaufort. So, be sure to drink and eat lots in the name of charity!

For more information, visit http://beaufortwineandfood.com

Terrance Zepke, Guest Blogger
Author of Coastal North Carolina and Ghosts & Legends of the Carolina Coasts

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Guest Post: Oldest and Largest North Carolina Festival

The Azalea Festival held on April 11 – 15 in Wilmington is the oldest and largest festival in the Old North State. This year marks the 65th year that it has been held and promises to be one of its best years.

The event kicks off on Wednesday morning with the arrival of Queen Azalea, which will be Erika Dunlap, Miss America 2004. The traditional garden party will be held at Airlie Gardens on Friday and a wonderful two-hour parade will kick off Saturday’s events. The parade will include floats, marching bands, circus animals, clowns, and celebrities. Following the parade will be an all-day street fair on Saturday and Sunday. Participants will be rewarded with live musical and dance performances, a kids’ area, food vendors, dance contests, special exhibits, visiting ships, and lots of arts and crafts. There will be a concert and fireworks on Saturday night.

Some of the spectacular festival-sponsored events that will also be held during this time is the Azalea Garden Tour and Azalea Home Tour. This is your chance to see private homes and gardens that are not normally open to the public. For more information, go to www.azaleagardentour.org and www.historicwilmington.org. For a schedule of other fun events, such as a traveling tent circus, coin show, and boxing tournament, check out
www.ncazaleafestival.org/schedule.asp

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the magnificant azaleas! You won’t want to miss the beautiful, blossoming azaleas that can be found all over greater Wilmington. For more information on the festival, visit www.ncazaleafestival.org

Terrance Zepke, Guest Blogger
Author of Coastal North Carolina: Its Enchanting Islands, Towns and Communities www.terrancezepke.com

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Coming in March: Extraterrestrial Abductions Day & A Big Ghost Show by author Terrance Zepke

March not only brings the beginnings of spring, but also some fun national holidays (although I wouldn’t expect your employer to recognize them!) Here are my five favorites:

3/8 was Be Nasty Day (Be snippy all day, you’re allowed!)

3/14 National Potato Chip Day (FYI: potato chips were invented on August 24, 1853 by New York Chef George Crum. Thank you, George!)

3/17 St. Patrick’s Day (FYI: In honor of the Patron Saint of Ireland, this day recognizes and celebrates Irish traditions, customs, ancestry, and history). Best places to get in the spirit: Boston, Mass; Chicago, IL; New York City; Savannah, GA; and Dublin, Ohio.

3/20 Extraterrestrial Abductions Day (Go home, ET!)

3/22 National Goof Off Day (Good luck explaining that one to your boss!)

PLUS: This month is The Texas Society of Paranormal Investigators “Texas Ghost Show.” The big event will be in Beaumont, Texas on March 18 & 19. There will be so many great speakers, vendors, and more. For example, one of the vendors will be the Museum of the Weird, which is exhibiting some really weird stuff, and among the many special guests will be Aron Houdini, the last of the living Houdinis and a world class escape artist (of course!) and Chris Walden from Shadow Hour.
For more information, visit www.thetexasghostshow.com

Terrance Zepke, Guest Blogger
Author of Ghosts and Legends of the Carolina Coasts, The Best Ghost Tales of North Carolina, and Ghosts of the Carolinas for Kids

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An Update on ORVs on Outer Banks Beaches by Terrance Zepke

UPDATE! A few days ago I wrote a post about a new NPS regulation requiring permits for all ORVs to access Outer Banks beaches (see below). Soon thereafter, The Cape Hatteras Access Preservation Alliance filed a lawsuit against the new regulation. The NPS says it was done to protect turtles, shorebirds, and other wildlife. The alliance says there is no proof that off-road vehicles on the beach does any damage to wildlife. Environmental groups have already begun denouncing the lawsuit.

The National Park Service is initiating an ORV (off-road vehicle) plan for Outer Banks beaches. This new regulation will go into effect on February 15, 2012. Some things you need to know before you go:

  • Every vehicle must have its own ORV permit. No piggybacking off someone else’s permit.
  • You must not exceed the speed limit, which is 15mph, unless otherwise posted.
  • There are two types of permits: ($50) weekly and ($120) annually. Note: No day rate but there is limited access on Hatteras and Ocracoke beaches.
  • The permits may be obtained at NPS offices during normal business hours, seven days a week, at: Bodie Island at the north end of the Coquina Beach parking lot (8101 NC 12 Highway, Nags Head, NC); Hatteras Island by the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Visitor Center (46368 Lighthouse Road, Buxton, NC); Ocracoke Island by the NPS visitor center (40 Irvin Garrish Highway, Ocracoke, NC).
  • You must have a valid driver’s license and vehicle registration. You will be required to fill out a form, pay the fee, and watch a brief educational video.
  • The permit must be prominently displayed on your vehicle while engaging in off-road driving. Maps are available that show designated ORV areas at the permit offices and OB visitor centers, as well as on their website, www.nps.gov/caha

For more information, call 252-473-2111 or visit the park website.

Guest Blogger, Terrance Zepke
Author of Coastal North Carolina and Ghosts and Legends of the Carolina Coasts

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What’s going on in the Carolinas?

Charleston Wine and Food Festival will be held March 4 – 12 in Charleston, SC. Some of the best chefs in America can be found in the Lowcountry, so this is a great opportunity to sample their cuisine. www.charlestonwineandfood.com

Or check out the Wilmington Wine and Chocolate Festival (February 3-5) at the Coast Line Event Center in the historic district of Wilmington, NC. www.wilmingtonwineandchocolatefestival.com

IronMan 3 will be filmed in Wilmington, NC starting this summer and throughout 2012. The movie will come out in 2013.

The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher will unveil a new outdoor “Adventure Reef” in late spring that features a climbable reef with a moray eel slide, giant octopus, and more. In late 2012, a new whale and dolphin exhibit will be added. www.ncaquariums.com/fort-fisher

The 65th Annual Azalea Festival will take place April 11-15. It is one of the biggest annual events along the North Carolina coast. www.ncazaleafestival.org

A contract was awarded to a Colorado company to design a new cruise ship terminal for Charleston, SC. This will make Charleston much more competitive with Norfolk and Fort Lauderdale.

Guest blogger Terrance Zepke
Author of Coastal North Carolina and Coastal South Carolina: Welcome to the Lowcountry
www.terrancezepke.com

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SOMALI PIRATES CAPTURED!, a guest post by author Terrance Zepke

Six weeks ago, an Iranian fishing vessel, Al Mulahi, was seized by Somali pirates. Thanks to a quick-thinking captain and crew, the men
aided in their own rescue by dumping fuel and requesting help over the ship’s radio. The captain spoke in a language that the pirates did not understand, so they did not know that he was summoning help! Despite their suspicions of piracy, the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service was not able to intervene until this week when the captain officially asked for aid. Otherwise, they might have sparked an international incident given our relations with Iran and the fact that the U.S. has been warned not to return to the region by senior Iranian defense officials. It was a coup for the international piracy task force given that fifteen Somali pirates were captured, along with their floating base and weapons cache.  The best news is that none of the thirteen hostages were harmed. The war on piracy continues…

Guest blogger Terrance Zepke
Author of Pirates of the Carolinas and Pirates of the Carolinas for Kids
www.terrancezepke.com

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Wildlife Rescuers—Responding to Human Impacts

A guest blog by Bonnie Nickel, author of Those Mischievous Monkeys.

There are wildlife rescue groups throughout the state of Florida and beyond, including our own Wildlife Center of Venice, started in 2004. Ours, like many, operates solely on donations from the community, receives no government funding, and is staffed almost entirely by dedicated volunteers.

The facility sits just outside of town and on my research trip, all was quiet with the exception of the rustling wings of a flock of opportunistic vultures looking for a free handout. By mid-day, breakfast had been served and the sick had been tended to. When I arrived, one of the founders and licensed rehabilitators, Linda, was feeding the newest drop-off, a young southern flying squirrel, mauled by a domestic cat.

Young squirrels, rabbits, and birds are frequent patients of the center. When asked, center volunteers said that keeping domestic cats indoors would prevent many injuries they treat. Birds in particular are well-represented at the center. A variety of injuries, from golf ball strikes and fishing line entanglements, to a direct and deliberate strike by a kayak paddle (no kidding), land birds at the center. Over half the birds recover and can be released to the wild. The scores of orphaned squirrels, raccoons, and other mammals have a higher release rate and are often released in the groups in which they have been raised. Occasionally, a rehabilitated but unreleasable bird or animal will be sent to another facility to provide companionship for another unreleasable critter of the same species.

On the day I visited, the center housed herons, anhingas, pelicans (including the unreleasable blind pelican hit by a paddle), eagles, a hawk, a northern gannet, a frigate bird, an owl or two, a purple gallinule, a sandhill crane, 30+ raccoons, an equal number of squirrels, and a tortoise. Since the objective is to return wildlife to its habitat, encounters with humans are minimized and the center is only open to those dropping off injured wildlife.

After years of work, the infrastructure of the center is really taking shape. Donated metal shelters for raccoons replace older wire and wooden enclosures. Eagle scouts have constructed several individual structures for squirrels and large birds. Plans are being hatched for a new hospital structure and a 100-foot flyway for rehabilitating larger bird species. The latter project is next on the to-do list and will be accomplished with help from the Sarasota Bay Parrot Head Club—they are hosting a Casino Night fundraiser on January 20, 2012 with donations going to the Center.

Any wildlife center is, by necessity, a community effort. Besides frequent fundraisers, and dozens of volunteers, our center relies on professionals in the community for veterinary care, and local businesses for food and services. The center participates in a program with the local community college allowing students to earn course credit while volunteering at the center.  This is an excellent opportunity to develop the next generation of wildlife rescuers and enthusiasts.

The center counts 20 volunteers among it wildlife rescuers—those that actually trap or capture injured wildlife. Some of the most effective rescuers are former hunters. They have the skills required to trap an injured bird or animal and a mindset now focused on conservation. The thrill of the chase still exists but the stakes are higher. For the bird with the fishing line wrapped around its beak, or the fledgling eagle that has lost its parents, the rescue can be a matter of life or death. And the rescuers are persistent. One rescuer responded over 15 times before conditions were just right to trap an injured bird. The great blue heron required a foot amputation because of ever-tightening fishing line around its leg. So far, it is responding well and will likely be released.

One of the center’s few paid employees (funds donated by a local foundation) fields 30-60 calls per day. Not all are rescue requests. Some callers seek information about wildlife in their yard giving the center an opportunity to educate residents about local fauna. The staff and volunteers view community education as one of their critical missions. A little curiosity about our natural surroundings, along with the knowledge imparted by wildlife enthusiasts, can go a long way toward adjusting our actions in ways that will prevent many of the injuries seen at the center. Small actions like properly disposing of fishing line, keeping domestic cats indoors, and refraining from feeding wildlife are simple and effective. Oh yeah, and don’t hit birds with your paddle.

At the center, there are always animals to feed, laundry and dishes to be washed, buildings to maintain, wildlife to capture and transport, events to plan, presentations to give, articles to write, the list goes on. No skill goes unused. Hands-on help, donations of supplies, monetary donations, or attendance at fundraisers like the Casino Night are all helpful. Check the website of the center nearest you to see how you can help.

This is critical work, but in the end, are we just tinkering around the margins by rescuing individual birds and mammals? Maybe, but until there’s a sea change in how we treat nature, wildlife centers help maintain endangered, threatened, and keystone species that may otherwise disappear from the planet. The individuals who engage in this noble work deserve our deepest thanks and whatever support we can afford.

Good news on the global conservation front has been scant lately. I ask myself, is it worth itemizing the good news when it’s vastly outnumbered by the bad? I think so. It’s that little thing called hope—focusing on the good bits while we work on ways to negate the bad. Fortunately there’s been some good news around the world lately about reassessing human priorities. Success in this area may translate into good news for the natural world. In the meantime, here are some glimmers of hope:

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Guest Post: In Search of Good News by Bonnie Nickel

Bad news is easy to find. Whether it’s the economy, the environment, politics, or general societal gloom and doom, you don’t need to search far—it’s right there, in your face.

If you look hard enough though, it is possible to find good news.  It may not top the news stories, and you may need to turn over a few more rocks, but it’s out there. So that’s the challenge I’ve set for myself (and you, if you’re willing)—to find good news in bad times. And since I spend some of my time working on animal conservation issues I’m going to start there.

Tuesdays at dawn you’ll find me on the beach in search of sea turtle tracks, big and small. Early in the season it’s all about tracking the mama turtles to find the nests. Later in the summer we’re thrilled by the sight of tiny hatchling tracks winding their way to the water’s edge. I volunteer with the Coastal Wildlife Club (more about them in a later post) and the good news is that nesting numbers are up this year! Well, yes, there’s a caveat. They’re higher than last year, but lower than 10-15 years ago. But it’s still good news.

My small contribution pales in comparison to the work of others. Some turtle patrollers are out there 2, 4, even 7 days a week! That is good news.

There was good news for one sea turtle in another part of Florida last week. Andre the green sea turtle was given a second chance at life in the wild. You can hear the story here.

In this part of Florida we also have a fabulous wildlife rehabilitation center. The volunteers are amazing in their dedication and tireless in their work. We also have a hard-working group protecting shorebirds on our local beaches.  I’ll share more about both groups in a future blog.

And beyond Florida the good news just keeps coming…a Mexican bird park is re-establishing endangered species; Happy Feet, the wayward emperor penguin that washed up on the shores of New Zealand has 120,000 internet followers; researchers have a new tool to help document animals in their natural habitat (more details of this photo study can be found here);  and finally, new species of monkeys are being discovered—from titis in the Amazon, to snub-nosed monkeys in Myanmar.

There are people working tirelessly to protect and conserve species all across the globe. Yes it’s true that we’re the reason these animals struggle to survive. Whether it’s habitat destruction, air and water pollution, or repercussions from a warming planet, we are the problem. The bad news sneaks in anyway but I see it as another reason for each of us to participate in the solutions.

I’ll be spotlighting some of our local (and not so local) conservation groups in future blogs. In the meantime, take a look around your town. There are definitely people hard at work there too. We’d love more good news, so tell us what’s happening in your area. Maybe you’ll pique someone’s interest and we’ll create another champion for wildlife. It’s worth a try, don’t you think?

Bonnie is the author of Those Mischievous Monkeys (coming January 2011). She teaches people about conservation and sustainability—how to use less water, electricity, fuel, and other stuff—so that humans, animals (including monkeys!), trees, and plants can all share the planet and pass it along to the next generation. Originally from Canada, Bonnie now lives in Florida with her husband Jim and their two mischievous dogs, Cooper and Joie.

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Looking for Pirates in the Carolinas? A Guest Post by author Terrance Zepke

Look no further, you brave soul. They’re all over the Carolinas. Here are a few suggestions:

There’s a new Blackbeard exhibit at the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort, North Carolina. It has artifacts from the famous pirate’s shipwreck, Queen Anne’s Revenge. While the exhibit is permanent, the artifacts will change periodically. www.ncmaritimemuseums.com/beaufort.html

Check out the pirate museum inside Teach’s Hole on Ocracoke Island, North Carolina. The gift shop, which opened in 1992, claims to have more than 1,000 pirate-theme items for sale, as well as a small pirate museum. www.teachshole.com

The Pirate Voyage is an extravagant dinner show that opened in June 2011 at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina that includes a huge pirate battle. www.piratesvoyage.com

Pirate Invasion is a big, annual festival that takes place in Beaufort, North Carolina every August. Participants will enjoy a pirate attack, treasure hunt, face painting, music, special tours, and much more. www.beaufortpirateinvasion.com

Charleston was a big hangout for pirates during the era of Blackbeard. Take a guided tour to learn more about the Golden Age of Piracy and to see where some of them were hanged! The guide wears a pirate costume complete with a colorful macaw perched on his shoulder. www.charlestonpiratetour.com

Terrance Zepke
www.terrancezepke.com
Author of Pirates of the Carolinas and Pirates of the Carolinas for Kids

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