Monthly Archives: December 2016

Weekly Puzzler Answer #142

Hello friends! Happy holidays. Isn’t it amazing the month of December is nearly over and another year is about to begin? I wish you and your family a happy and healthy New Year filled with all things that make you smile and bring joy to your heart.

rnsnake-3580Did you know the snake in last week’s puzzler? It is a ringneck snake, also known as a ring-necked snake or Diadophis punctatus. Of course when you see the whole snake you can understand how perfect this name is for it as it has a ring around its neck and a gorgeous yellow/ yellowish-orange belly. There is a northern and a southern ringneck snake, differentiated by a row of black in the middle of the yellow underside in the southern species. Northern ringneck snakes lack this row of black. These snakes are found throughout the eastern two-thirds of the United States and into Canada.


It is a little snake, growing only 10-15 inches long. It is my favorite snake because it is so easy to handle and my experience with them is that they are very gentle–so perfect for letting kids touch them–and proving once and for all SNAKES AREN’T SLIMY! Salamanders are slimy. Snakes are smooth and dry.

The best place to find them is under logs or fallen trees. Have you ever seen or handled one?

Ringneck snakes lay eggs–2-7, in early summer. 6-8 weeks later the babies hatch out, crawling off in search of food. Ringneck snakes eat slugs, salamanders, earthworms, baby snakes, insects and other invertebrates. Want to learn more about snakes? Check out some past posts about them, including cool things you may not know about snakes, are you afraid of snakes? or 10 things you may not know about rattlesnakes and lastly, what do you know about copperheads.

Perfect for holding!

Perfect for holding!

So on another note, I have, as you may have noticed, been writing less often these days. Since early November and the election, I have been in a pretty dismal state, lacking the energy and enthusiasm to do even the simplest of things. I feel that it’s my place to be inspiring and positive but these days I lack hope. Thus, I have decided to take some time off from my blog posts, perhaps a couple of months during which time I will do some traveling as well as some soul-searching and will hope to return when I have something worth sharing.


…until then, my fondest wishes to you and yours for a joyful and safe holiday. Happy winter…see you next year.


Weekly Puzzler #142: Yellow Belly

Since we’ve been talking about reptiles for the last two weeks, I thought I would continue the trend and do one more–this time a snake instead of a turtle. Do you recognize this snake?turtle2-3575

It is my favorite snake! And I will tell you why next week…

If you know the answer, use the comment box below to give your guess. As always, all correct answers will be entered in a drawing to win a quarterly prize.

…Have a fabulous day! Did you get snow where you live? Do you have any fun plans for the weekend? It’s the middle of December! Amazing how this month flies by. Enjoy your weekend and I will see you again soon.

Weekly Puzzler Answer #141

turtle-5558The scute and shell in last week’s puzzler is from a common snapping turtle–Chelydra serpentine. Did you recognize it? One of my readers guessed snapping turtle but wondered if the shape of the shell was right. She may have been thinking of the other kind of snapping turtle–an Alligator snapping turtle, which has a shell with three distinct spiky ridges on top rather than the smooth shell of the common snapping turtle.

You often only see the head of the turtle--the rest is underwater!

You often only see the head of the turtle–the rest is underwater!

Common snapping turtles are found throughout North America east of the Rocky Mountains and evolved 40 million years ago! Wow, they have been on earth for a long time! Males are larger than females, weighing in the wild up to 45 pounds. Captive turtles can weigh up to 75 pounds, an incredible amount for an animal that is only 19 inches long. Common snapping turtles are omnivores, feeding on pretty much anything they can find and catch, including, insects, fish, birds, small mammals, amphibians, dead animals and a surprisingly large amount of aquatic plants. Snapping turtles will also eat other turtles.


A snapping turtle buried in the mud.

Common snapping turtles live up to 30 years. Most of their time is spent underwater, in a freshwater pond, or lake. They prefer bodies of water with muddy bottoms and lots of vegetation. They are known to burrow into the mud with only their eyes and nostrils visible. This is a good tactic for staying hidden and grabbing some unsuspecting prey when it comes along.

Snapping turtles venture out of water to lay their eggs. (Here’s what to do if you find a turtle crossing the road) Females lay a single clutch in sandy soil, with 25-45 eggs. These look just like ping pong balls! turtle2-0009But are soft with a slightly rough surface. The female will lay the eggs, then leave them and return to water. Eggs are often eaten by animals–especially raccoons. Baby turtles hatch out 75-95 days later. And guess how the sex is determined? By temperature. That is, eggs that are incubated in soil/sand that is cooler will be males and in warmer soil will be females. This does make one wonder what will happen with global warming–will it be too warm eventually to produce any male turtles?

Check out the next puzzler here–it’s another reptile… do you recognize it?

Weekly Puzzler #141: Can You Identify this Turtle?

So here’s another photo of a turtle scute for you. You can see that this one not as colorful or as regularly shaped as the one from last week’s puzzler.


I was going to just give you this for the puzzler but then decided that was a bit challenging. Thus, here is the entire carapace of this mystery turtle.


Can you identify it? If so, use the comment box below to give your guess. I’ve already awarded the prize for the first day of winter, though it is still a few weeks away, but I will start collecting names for the next giveaway–far, far, away on the first day of SPRING!

As a hint, let me just say that this turtle can get BIG! Weighing in at 75 pounds, it is quite a fierce-some predator. It lives in freshwater and is common throughout much of the United States, especially the eastern US and north into Canada.

As always, check back next week to see if your guess was correct.

Have a wonderful day!

Weekly Puzzler Answer #140

First off, happy weekend to you all! And congratulations to Arden whose name was drawn for the free puzzler prize giveaway. I will be doing another contest again in the near future.

pu-5561So did you know that the ridged-rectangle in last week’s puzzler was from a scute from an Eastern Box Turtle? Have you ever looked closely at the shell of a box turtle? The top, curved part of the shell is called the carapace. The bottom is called the plastron. Both are covered with scutes– bony plates that are made of beta-keratin, the same substance that is in bird feathers and beaks, reptile claws, porcupine quills and human finger nails.

Eastern box turtle scutes can be incredibly attractive, as one of my subscribers noticed, saying she would like to use it for a piece of jewelry. The color varies according to each individual, but all are attractive with their yellow and black design.

The top of the shell is called the carapace

The top of the shell is called the carapace


The bottom part of the turtle’s shell is called the plastron.

If you look closely at one you will notice it most likely has ridges on it–a bunch of lines that radiate out from the center, around the entire scute. These are a bit like the rings of a tree–each year it adds a new one. However, in the case of the turtles, this isn’t necessarily an accurate assessment of age, since turtles can live for MANY years. An average Eastern Box Turtle lives 50 years! And some can live over 100 years! So as you can imagine, fitting 50 or 75+ rings on that small scute is not going to be easy. Box turtles have 38 scutes on the carapaces and 12-16 on the plastrons.

So both Tennessee and North Carolina have designated the Eastern Box Turtle as their state reptile. Do you know if your state has an official state reptile?

Know how to tell the sex of a box turtle? I did this as a puzzler way back at week #9. Wow, that was a long time ago! I suspect very few of my subscribers have been with me since then. If you have, I’d love to know it! Use the comment box below to drop me a line! Also, want to test your knowledge about box turtles? Then check out this post featuring 10 things you may not know.

Click here to check out the next puzzler–another one about turtles.

See you again soon!

4 Things to Remember this Holiday Season

Several years ago I wrote a post in December called 5 things to remember this holiday season. If you’ve been reading my blog for long, you may remember this post. It was one that I really liked and wanted to reshare, especially with my new subscribers who may not have been reading then. (By the way, my favorite from that list is number 2; what is yours?)


I won’t repeat those 5 things, but I will add 4 more, in honor of THIS December and THIS moment in time.

So here then, 4 things to remember this holiday season:

1 Don’t compare yourself with others.   This is a hard one because we see examples of “perfection” everywhere we look–on Hallmark cards, friends’ Facebook posts, TV commercials, photo cards sent to us from family members. Remind yourself that this represents a few seconds in time. No one’s life is perfect; no one is immune from struggle, from challenges, from day-to-day stresses. Appearances aren’t everything–just because someone looks happy, doesn’t mean they are. Family and friends and people around you may be thinner, taller, shorter, smarter, richer, more attractive, more fit, more busy, less busy, more ambitious, may have a “better job,” or “better house,” or “better situation,”, etc, but that doesn’t make them BETTER THAN YOU. Stop comparing yourself to others and you will be so much happier.

2. Joy comes from within.  We sometime think, and are led to believe by tv commercials, billboards and other media differently but this is TRUE. We all have the power to be happy or not be happy. It is whatever we decide. The poorest people in the world are not the saddest, nor are the richest people the happiest. Having money and things does not equal happiness. Instead, happiness comes from being grateful, from being able to focus on our blessings rather than our wants, and from being at peace with who we are and on what road we’re on in life. If you are not happy, try doing something nice for someone else –because making others happy often makes ourselves happy.

3 Make time for YOURSELF. If you are a giving person, it is so easy to get caught up in all of those lists and commitments. You rush from one thing to the next with barely any time to breathe. Slow down and remember that YOU ARE IMPORTANT TOO! Give yourself some pleasure this holiday season by making time for things that bring a smile to your face and a feeling of contentment in your soul. It could be a walk in the woods, lunch with a special friend, a trip to the salon… whatever it is don’t let it slip away–YOU deserve to be on your Christmas list too!

jen-09934. Keep making new memories.  All of us have collections of memories, of fond times that we have stored away in the corners of our brain that we can bring up, close our eyes and relive. But maybe we need to think of those memories as having a shelf life. Just like that can of corn or that jar of pasta sauce needs to be replaced when the expiration date comes, so too we need to think of replacing our old memories with new ones. And you don’t usually make very many memories sitting on your butt on the couch! So get out and DO SOMETHING! Go sledding, go hiking, go backpacking, go bowling, go to a new country, play with your kids, go visit your friends, invite friends over for some fun games, sign up for a new class… the list is endless. Maybe instead of a New Year’s Resolution we should make some lists of all the things we can do and learn in this coming year. We must remember to KEEP MAKING MEMORIES!  

Want to know one way to do this? Have you heard of a Bucket List? Well how about instead of–or in addition to–making a LIFE Bucket list, why not make a monthly bucket list? At the beginning of every month, sit down with your spouse/family and write a bucket list for that month. What are some things you’d like to do? Write them down and post them on your calendar–this will help remind and hopefully, motivate you!


Good luck and do let me know how it goes and if you have any things you’d like to add. I always appreciate hearing from you!

Happy day! See you again soon. Oh, and here’s a post about some meaningful gifts that won’t break the bank or one about some gifts for Mother Nature that make a giant difference.

Weekly Puzzler #140: Ridged-Rectangle

Happy December!!

As I mentioned in the last puzzler, this is your LAST CHANCE to be entered in the quarterly drawing. If you want to qualify, use the comment box below to add your guess.

What is this in the photo below?

pu-5561If you can identify it, your name will be entered in the drawing and you could win my holiday DVD (If you happen to already own this, I will choose something else!)

You can see the size of this… it is yellow and black and feels a bit like plastic, though it is not plastic. It is natural and from something that can be found in the eastern United States. This is only a PART of the whole–like a porcupine quill is part of a porcupine.

Hint: What if I said that that 26 states have designated a state __?___ and that two of them have chosen the animal this represents?


Have a wonderful day. I will see you again soon.