Stories set in unusual times and remarkable places

18 April 2016

Stuff in my yard: The Monarch butterfly

I set my alarm for 5:45 am so that I would not miss the emergence of the Monarch from its chrysalis.

I missed it. 

It was already out and hanging from a stick. It was still dark outside, so I didn't even try to get a picture. 

I went back to bed but was too excited to sleep. So I showered and dressed, and by then it was light enough to photograph.

First shot of butterfly. Note the empty chrysalis hanging from a stick at upper left.


Butterfly is ready for life and tries to escape its box.

Facts: Butterflies can be handled when young; I look awful in the mornings.

The black dots on the lower wings close to the torso identifies it as a male.

Butterfly rests on a finger.

Butterfly's face

Butterfly rests on butterfly bush (Buddleja sp.) in butterfly garden. 
Still resting

Empty chrysalis
I planted milkweed (Asclepius sp.) in two of our xeriscaped bird and butterfly gardens. I have been checking them every other day or so but have not yet found any more caterpillars. I'll keep looking. We had a lot of fun with this caterpillar.

17 April 2016

Tomorrow our Monarch butterfly emerges

Our Monarch caterpillar turned into a chrysalis April 5, and today the chrysalis finally turned dark. If you look carefully, you can see the orange and black wings through the chrysalis, which is becoming transparent.

05 April 2016

Stuff in my yard: My caterpillar transforms

In my last blog post (http://www.shaunaroberts.com/2016/03/stuff-in-my-yard.html), I had a photo of a Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) caterpillar, fifth instar, on a milkweed plant in my yard. I brought it inside, put it in a lettuce container with some sticks, and fed it milkweed every day. 

Yesterday, it stopped eating and roamed its enclosure in apparent distress. About 8:30 pm when we checked it, it was hanging in a J shape, the sign that it is preparing to shed its last skin and reveal a chrysalis:

Monarch caterpillar in J shape

(Please excuse the poor picture you see if you blow it up. The light was bad, and I had forgotten we had a tiny, usually useless tripod. This was taken at about 1/20 s.)

This morning, I checked the caterpillar several times, and at about 10 am, it was wiggling around. After the first shot, I set up the camera on the tripod. Over the next few minutes, the caterpillar's skin peeled off:








Then it did what one book calls the "chrysalis dance" to get completely rid of its skin:

beginning of chrysalis dance






You can see above that at first, the previous stripes were still visible. Two hours later, it looked like this:

The chrysalis is fully formed but still has dead skin attached and light striping. 

Once the old skin drops off, I'll be able to discover whether it's female or male.

Now to wait. According to my caterpillar book, it will turn into goo inside and slowly reconstitute itself as a butterfly. It should emerge from the chrysalis in one to two weeks. I'll photograph its emergence for you if I'm lucky enough to see it.

Meanwhile, I'll continue to check my milkweed plant for eggs and more caterpillars.


31 March 2016

Stuff in my yard


In creating my first waterwise garden, I included a milkweed plant. Yes, one single milkweed plant in a garden full of plants that attract butterflies.

Then I learned how much milkweed Monarch caterpillars eat.

I planted another milkweed in the first garden and eight in the second garden.

In the fall, Monarchs were hanging out by the plants, and I think they laid some eggs, but the plants also had lots of aphids. No caterpillars, though.

Today I went out and checked all the milkweed plants again and found a caterpillar! I put it—with the milkweed stem it was on, another milkweed stem, and several sticks of various diameters—into a large plastic spinach box in which I had poked a lot of holes.

The caterpillar has climbed onto the thickest, tallest stick and is sitting there. I hope we'll wake up to a beautiful chrysalis soon and then in a few days a butterfly.

I'll keep you updated.

28 March 2016

See me live on Blab Wednesday night!


Brittlebush, a local desert plant now blooming
Wednesday night, March 23, I'll be on the interview show "Elena and Kitty Blabbing about Books" from 7 pm to 8 pm Pacific time.

You can watch me live (or watch the taped video anytime afterward) at https://blab.im/elenadillon-elena-and-kitty-blabbing-about-books-with-fantasy-author-shauna-roberts

You may have to sign up with Blab first to view the interview, but I've done that myself recently, and it was easy.

Elena and Kitty tell me they'll be asking about my background, what I'm reading, and, of course, my writing and books. If you watch live, you can make comments and ask questions in the right column labeled "Live Chat." 

Hope to see you Wednesday night!

05 March 2016

Appearances and other news


The Measure of a Man

My horror novelette "The Measure of a Man" is getting a new cover soon. It will continue to be available at http://smile.amazon.com/Measure-Man-Shauna-Roberts-ebook/dp/B00MD7NW1W/.

In addition, the audiobook should be out within a month, read by Justin James in his gorgeous voice.

Online interview

Michelle Knowlden interviewed me about writing in general and the genesis of Ice Magic, Fire Magic on her blog yesterday here.

Book signing

If you're in Southern California, I'll be selling and signing Claimed by the Enemy and Ice Magic, Fire Magic at The Lab anti-mall (whatever that is) in Costa Mesa on Saturday, March 26. The Orange County Writers Book Fair will last from 11 am to 4 pm and feature two dozen authors. Find out more about the fair at http://ocwriters.org/book-fair/.

I get Blabbed

On March 30 at 7 pm Pacific time, I'll be interviewed as part of a Blab. I don't quite know what a Blab is yet, but I do know you'll be able to watch it live on your computer or later from the archives. I'll put up more info later.

Romance Writers of America

If you're coming to San Diego in July for the Romance Writers of America's annual meeting, keep an eye out for me! I'll be there and hope to see many friends. For more information and to sign up, go to https://www.rwa.org/p/cm/ld/fid=538.

17 February 2016

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans


Government publications are not subject to copyright, so I am happy (and within the law!) to share the newest government guidelines for staying healthy. I hope you find them useful in your life.

To read the article at its original site and have access to all the links there to more information, go here.

Also, there's still a day left to enter my Goodreads contest to win a free copy of my new fantasy novel, Ice Magic, Fire Magic. Click on "Enter giveaway" in the Goodreads box at top right.

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Top 10 Things You Need to Know About the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans


The Dietary Guidelines provides a clear path to help Americans eat healthfully, informed by a critical, and transparent review of the scientific evidence on nutrition.
  1. A lifetime of healthy eating helps to prevent chronic diseases like obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and Type 2 diabetes.
  2. Healthy eating is one of the most powerful tools we have to reduce the onset of disease. The Dietary Guidelines recommendations can help you make informed choices about eating for you and your family.
  3. The path to improving health through nutrition is to follow a healthy eating pattern that’s right for you. Eating patterns are the combination of foods and drinks you eat over time. A healthy eating pattern is adaptable to a person’s taste preferences, traditions, culture and budget.
  4. A healthy eating pattern includes:
    • A variety of vegetables: dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), starchy and other vegetables
    • Fruits, especially whole fruit
    • Grains, at least half of which are whole grain
    • Fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese, and/or fortified soy beverages
    • A variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), soy products, and nuts and seeds
    • Oils, including those from plants: canola, corn, olive, peanut, safflower, soybean, and sunflower. Oils also are naturally present in nuts, seeds, seafood, olives, and avocados.
  5. Healthy eating patterns limit added sugars. Less than 10% of your daily calories should come from added sugars. ChooseMyPlate.gov provides more information about added sugars, which are sugars and syrups that are added to foods or beverages when they are processed or prepared. This does not include naturally occurring sugars such as those consumed as part of milk and fruits. 
    MyPlate has replaced earlier representations of good diets such as the Food Pyramid and the Four Food Groups.
  6. Healthy eating patterns limit saturated and trans fats. Less than 10% of your daily calories should come from saturated fats. Foods that are high in saturated fat include butter, whole milk, meats that are not labeled as lean, and tropical oils such as coconut and palm oil. Saturated fats should be replaced with unsaturated fats, such as canola or olive oil
  7. Healthy eating patterns limit sodium. Adults and children ages 14 years and over should limit sodium to less than 2,300 mg per day, and children younger than 14 years should consume even less. Use the Nutrition Facts label to check for sodium, especially in processed foods like pizza, pasta dishes, sauces, and soups.
  8. Most Americans can benefit from making small shifts in their daily eating habits to improve their health over the long run. Small shifts in food choices—over the course of a week, a day, or even a meal—can make a difference in working toward a healthy eating pattern that works for you.
  9. Remember physical activity! Regular physical activity is one of the most important things individuals can do to improve their health. According to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity each week and should perform muscle-strengthening exercises on two or more days each week. Children ages 6 to 17 years need at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day, including aerobic, muscle-strengthening, and bone-strengthening activities.
  10. Everyone has a role– at home, schools, workplaces, communities, and food retail outlets – in encouraging easy, accessible, and affordable ways to support healthy choices.
    • At home, you and your family can try out small changes to find what works for you like adding more veggies to favorite dishes, planning meals and cooking at home, and incorporating physical activity into time with family or friends.
    • Schools can improve the selection of healthy food choices in cafeterias and vending machines, provide nutrition education programs and school gardens, increase school-based physical activity, and encourage parents and caregivers to promote healthy changes at home.
    • Workplaces can encourage walking or activity breaks; offer healthy food options in the cafeteria, vending machines, and at staff meetings or functions; and provide health and wellness programs and nutrition counseling.
    • Communities can increase access to affordable, healthy food choices through community gardens, farmers’ markets, shelters, and food banks and create walkable communities by maintaining safe public spaces.
    • Food retail outlets can inform consumers about making healthy changes and provide healthy food choices.