Thursday, October 30, 2008

Got corn?

Today is National Candy Corn Day! This probably isn't as exciting to you as it is me. Most people I know either love the stuff obsessively, or hate it passionately. I'm one of those first people. I've been eating candy corn for longer than I can remember. One year when I was in high school a friend of mine drove me home and I noticed she had a bag of candy corn in her car. Turns out she always had candy corn in her car. It was like a staple for her and I knew we would be friends forever. I'm picky about my candy corn because I don't like Brachs. I like other things by Brachs, just not their candy corn. It has a funny taste to me and the white tips always break off. I'll chose any brand over Brachs, even store brand names. I did try the Brachs Caramel Apple Candy Corn this year. It was okay, but I prefer the original. Here are some facts about candy corn --

  1. Candy corn has been around for over 100 years.
  2. It was invented by George Renninger.
  3. A serving of candy corn has about 140 calories.
  4. Over 35 million pounds of candy corn is produced each year.
  5. That's over 9 billion pieces of candy corn.
  6. The variety with brown ends is called Indian Corn.

So, what is your stand on candy corn? Do you love it or do you hate it? I was on a lady's blog the other day and she posted how she hated candy corn and used it as punishment to hand out to kids who were too old to trick-or-treat. Candy corn hater! I wonder what she'd do if I showed up at her door every night? For me, it's a year-round obsession, but I mostly buy it at Halloween. Here today is National Candy Corn Day and I don't have any in the house. Perhaps I'll stop on the way home from my dentist appointment and pick some up -- heh heh.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Which witch?

When you hear the word witch, what's the first thing to come to mind? Is it an image, the Halloween holiday, a movie character? There are so many witches from television, movies and cartoons and I'm sure I come up with a long list of famous ones. When I was little, I often dressed up as a witch for Halloween. I was never into witches much, other than dressing up a few times. I do however, have a few favorites. One is the witch from Looney Tunes. She cracks me up with her cackle, how she falls in love with Bugs Bunny and how her hairpins fly out everytime she runs away. My favorite animated Disney film has always been "Sleeping Beauty". Malificient is more of an evil sorceress than a witch, but that's close enough. One movie my family watches each Halloween is Hocus Pocus. It has so many classic lines like Penny Marshall saying, "Aren't you broads a little old for trick or treating?" as well as Sarah Jessica Parker bouncing up and down saying, "Amuck! Amuck! Amuck!" It's one of those must-see movies for my family each Halloween. So many famous witches are coming to my mind right now. How about you -- do you have any favorites?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Today is ...

National Chocolate Day! Not to be confused with National Chocolate Covered Cherry Day, which is in Janaury, or with Chocolate Mint Day, which is in February. Remember not to confuse today with National Chocolate Caramel Day or National Chocolate-Covered Raisin Day, which both land in March. Be careful not to mix up today with April's National Chocolate-Covered Cashew Day or May's National Chocolate Chip Day. It's especially important not to confuse today with National Milk Chocolate Day because everyone knows that comes in July. If you're not from the US, you probably know that International Chocolate Day is in September, which also includes National White Chocolate Day. Whatever you do, don't think today is National Bittersweet Chocolate With Almonds Day because that's not until November. And if by now you're really confused, just wait until December 16th because that's National Chocolate Covered Anything Day and you won't have to worry about it. And finally, if you have a headache from reading all this, do yourself a favor and go eat some chocolate. It is National Chocolate Day, silly!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Big, Bigger ... BLAM!

A few days ago, Christy posted a newspaper clipping from when she was in the 6th grade. She challenged people to do the same. I haven't been in the newspaper nearly as much as my husband, but he worked as a cop for 20+ years so he was always in the paper. I do, however, have a few and wanted to share one from when I was 11 years old. This paper was from 1976, so it's yellowing and falling apart, but I managed to get the pictures scanned. Considering the newspaper is 32 years old, I'm surprised it's still in one piece. This was for an afterschool program at a local park. One time they had a bubblegum blowing contest and my friend & I entered. I don't remember if we won anything, but I do remember getting gum stuck in my hair. Check out the Mickey Mouse earrings -- was I cool or what? Don't answer that ...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Home Sweet Home

It might seem silly to celebrate, but today is the 2-year anniversary of the day we moved into our new house. As I posted before, we moved from California to Montana in 2006. Our house in California was only 2000 square feet. This house is twice that size. It's almost like 2 homes in one, since the downstairs has a large family room, mini kitchen and walk-out basement. We got to Montana a few days before we could move in, so we had to camp out in our travel trailer. We moved into it on October 26, 2006 and our truck still hadn't gotten here with our stuff. I remember the day we had new sofas delivered. It was like striking gold because we finally had something to sit on. It wasn't until Halloween day that the truck came. Up until then, I was sweating bullets because I had packed the boy's new Halloween costumes in the truck. They arrived just in time for the boys to go trick-or-treating. After about an hour, they were ready to come back home. They wanted to unpack their toys! A lot of our belongings had been in storage for about a year while we tried to sell our CA house. As much as the boys love Halloween, it was more like Christmas that day.

I started thinking about all the homes I've lived in. I know some people who have lived in the same home all their life. I know others who have moved more times than they can remember. As for me, I've lived in 9 different places, including apartments. They've all been in the same general area, with the exception of the house I'm in now. How about you -- how many homes have you lived in?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

In loving memory ...

Thirteen years ago I had to say goodbye to my best friend. CJ may have only been a cat, but he was a once-in-a-lifetime cat. I've had four cats since and if you added them all together, they'd never come close to what CJ was. He was truly special. Rick & I came home from school one day in 1981. As we were getting out of the car I heard a faint mew sound. I followed the noise up to a brick wall in my yard and there sat this little ball of fluff. He was the cutest thing I'd ever seen. He was way too young to have wandered off by himself. He wasn't even weaned from his mother. We're pretty sure someone had gone around dumping kittens off at various homes in the neighborhood. Rick & I took the kitten inside and tried to get him to eat. He wouldn't eat much, but then went off to sleep in my arms for hours.

He was a playful little guy, so I named him CJ, which was short for claws & jaws. He didn't have a mean bone in his body, but he liked to rough house, so the name fit. At the time, my brother and his wife were living with us and they had a cat named Mosh. The cats got along great. At that time, I let CJ come and go as he pleased. He was able to go outside through the dog door whenever he wanted. When he was just about a year old, I heard people outside yelling for me. CJ had gotten hit by a car right in front of my house. The driver didn't stop. I ran outside in horror and saw him by the side of the road. When we picked him up, a stream of blood rushed out from his behind. I knew he was hurt bad. This was in the evening and our vet office was closed, so we had to drive CJ to a pet emergency clinic in another town 30 minutes away. He was examined by the vet and given a "grave prognosis". The vet told us CJ had a broken hip, a concussion and a femur was broken in 3 places. He also had internal bleeding and there could be other things going on. The vet said his chances didn't look good. I had the option of putting him to sleep or going with surgery, which would be very expensive. In addition, surgery had no guarantees. I decided on surgery. It was a long process and the vet bills were outrageous.

CJ did very well with the surgery. It took a lot of time to heal. He wasn't able to move around, so Rick built him the cage you see in the picture above. The top lifted off so we could get to him easily. We put his cage in our living room so he could look out the window. He used to rub his head on the chicken wire and I remember being grossed out when he'd rub where his concussion scab was. He had a favorite blanket too. We had to keep clean blankets in his cage and since he couldn't use a litter box, we'd set him on unfolded disposable diapers. When the day came to wash his blue blanket, he wasn't happy. We'd put others in, but he'd push them aside. He loved his blue blanket. Eventually, his wounds healed and he was back to normal. He became an indoor cat from then on, which he didn't seem to mind.

Eventually, I moved from home and CJ went with me. He was our first baby. He was with me when I got married, he was with me during my first 2 pregnancies. He was the type of cat that would announce his appearance whenever he walked into a room. If I was sad, he was right with me. He used to lay on my chest and put his paws around my neck. He'd knead for hours like that until my hair was a teased mess. I could sit in one position for hours, just so I didn't disturb CJ. In 1990 he got a job as an editor of my newsletter, PET PALS! It was a pen pal newsletter for people who loved their pets. CJ was the editor and the whole thing was written in his voice. It was a lot of fun. CJ was even published book called Uncommon Cats, where he was featured in a chapter about working cats.

Over time, the effects of his accident took a toll on him. He had arthritis built up in his hips where they had been broken. He also developed renal failure, which he lived with for a long time. When he was 14 years old, it started getting the best of him. We were in the process of building our house and we were living next door at my ILs, all crammed into one big room. We finally moved into our new house, but by this point, CJ's health was deteriorating rapidly. As soon as we moved in, he started hiding from me. I knew his days were coming to an end. After 14 years, I had to make the decision to say goodbye. It was the worst thing I've ever had to do. I have 2 main regrets. The first is that I never got a picture of him in the new house. By that point, he was so sick and didn't look like himself. The second is that I had to take him to the vet at lunchtime and the office was closed. They took him in, but said they couldn't put him down until the staff came back. I couldn't stay because I had to pick my girls up from school. CJ perked up at that very last moment, as if he was saying goodbye. I regret not being with him, but in hindsight, it might have been for the best. I remember that day like it was yesterday. I remember a CD I had playing all that day, which I haven't been able to listen to since. I remember what clothes I had on as we drove him to the vet. It was an awful, awful day and I continued to cry for months.

Not a day goes by that I don't think about CJ. It's hard not to because I have his pictures everywhere. I have 2 on my bed stand, another on my dresser and one in my bathroom. In my living room there is a framed poster of CJ and he's on a digital photo frame that changes images. I have photo magnets of him on my fridge, he's in picture frames in the boy's playroom, the basement and in our office. I have a picture of CJ in my wallet and even in a little sunglasses holder in my Jeep. We buried his ashes at our home in California. When we made the decision to move to Montana, I couldn't leave him. I had Rick dig up his ash tin for me. I have it with me and I won't bury it again. Cats like CJ don't come around often. I've considered writing a story about his life. However, I'm not sure if anyone would find it interesting enough to publish, but who knows. Today is a hard day for me and I'm amazed how 13 years ago can feel like it was just yesterday. If you've read this entire post, I thank you. I realize it's very long, but CJ was just that special to me. I miss him terribly.

Friday, October 24, 2008

I'll never learn ...

This used to be a really cute bird feeder -- it looked like a little chapel. My MIL bought it for me this summer when she was here visiting. This past spring we had a lot of visits from bears and I lost quite a few feeders. Things calmed down in the summer once the berry supply was plentiful. I knew it was time to start taking the feeder in at night again. I've been telling everyone that, but did I listen to myself? Nope. Now look at it. At our house in California, we had a variety of wildlife come through. There was a raccoon family that used to drink from our pool. They would leave the funniest looking little muddy pawprints on the edge of the pool. We also had opossums nearly every night, which is something that's not native to Montana. There was the occasional coyote, mostly in the river bottom behind our house, and other critters. We even had a few bears roam by, though I never saw them personally. At our house in Montana, the critters don't always sneak by late at night. Sometimes they wander around in broad daylight. We've seen bears, deer, moose, and we've heard there's even a mountain lion that lives in the area, but I have yet to see him. I'm not sure when this particular feeder was destroyed, but I did hear the neighbor's dog barking the other morning when I was getting dressed. I know better, but for whatever reason, I didn't go check it out like usual. So now I have a busted up bird feeder and a couple of hungry squirrels who aren't going to be happy if I don't replace it soon. What type of wildlife do you get?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

My house is on fire!

While digging for my senior picture, I came across some others I wanted to share. This was what my house looked like in 1994. If you look carefully, you'll notice the firemen all standing around. No, our house didn't catch on fire accidentally -- we burned it down on purpose. We were in the process of having a manufactured home built. In order to do that we had to demolish the existing home. Turns out demolishing a house is really expensive. Since my husband knew so many firemen, we had them burn it down. They got a training exercise and we got our house taken down. This caused a lot of excitement on our road. People stopped to watch, TV and newspaper people came by and of course, there were a few people who took the time to complain to me. One man told me the wood should be recycled. He wasn't the one living in a house with a roof that leaked. That particular winter we had water coming out the light sockets when it rained. Another told me it was a shame how we cut some trees down a few months prior. He wasn't the one living under oak trees that were constantly falling down around his children. I think the icing on the cake was a phone call we got the day of the burn. The house lay smoldering in rubble and we get a call from our bank saying our loan didn't go through. Nice. We didn't need to hear that, especially now that we were homeless. Eventually, we got the loan and the new house was built. There's a picture of it a few posts below. We have a video tape of our house burning down as well as the segment that made the nightly news. It was an interesting day.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Class of '83

Eeek, ack -- who the heck is that? There is a challenge going around the writer's blogs to post your senior high school picture. I've seen it on a few blogs, most recently on Suzanne Young's, but I think it originated elsewhere. So, here is mine. I couldn't have looked more ticked off if I tried. I was in the class of '83, so this picture had to be taken in the summer of '82 when I was 17. I have never been comfortable with having my picture taken and I remember this session because the photographer had all these crazy poses. Looking at it, there is no denying this was the 80s with the feathered bangs and faded out perm. Finding this picture wasn't an easy task. I nearly tore up the entire house. The only place I knew it was for sure was in one of those collage picture frames. I really didn't want to dismantle that either. After sorting through some old photo albums, digging through a cupboard, emptying out my desk drawer, going through both nightstands, checking wallets and looking in our dresser, I finally went to bed without the picture. And typical, as soon as I was in bed, I remembered there was one in a photo album I hadn't checked. I got out of bed and finally found it. Whew! So, I will pass the challenge onto anyone who reads my blog to post their senior picture. Hopefully, it won't be as hard for you to find as mine was ...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Two fun books!

Awhile back, the boys & I read two really fun books by Marianne Mitchell. Gullywasher Gulch is published by Boyds Mills Press and illustrated by Normand Chartier. Joe Cinders is published by Henry Holt & Company and illustrated by Bryan Langdo. Both are picture books written for children ages 4-8 years. Marianne Mitchell is a wonderful woman, who's been an incredible help to me and my efforts as a writer for children.
Ebenezer Overall lives on the outskirts of Gullywash Gulch. He's the town packrat and people always ask him when he will get rid of all his junk. "I'm savin' it for a rainy day," Eb replies. That rainy day finally comes and boy, it's a doozy! The storm washes Eb's house and all his junk right into the middle of the busted up town. The people wonder how they will ever rebuild, until they realize everything they need was right there from Eb's shack. Will he let them use his stuff? The boys & I loved this story. The illustrations are amazing -- the action jumps right off each page!
Another fun book by Marianne is Joe Cinders. It's set in the classic tone of Cinderella, only with a southwestern flare. Joe is a poor cowboy who's only importance are doing chores while his lazy stepbrothers sit around counting buzzards. A fiesta and a fairy godfather change everything and Joe finds himself with his stepbrothers trying to win the heart of Miss Rosalinda. The boys & I loved this book also. Every year in school we do weeks where we read several retellings of famous stories and compare the differences. Joe Cinders is one we will add this year. It's cute, it's funny, it's different and it has a great ending. Both stories are fun and wonderful additions to your children's book collection. Visit Marianne Mitchell's website here.

Monday, October 20, 2008

October 20, 2006

Exactly 2 years ago today, we said goodbye to everything we ever knew. That included our families, our friends, our home and the small community we spent most of our lives in. We had decided to take the plunge and move from sunny southern California to northwestern Montana. For me and the kids, the move was simple. For Rick, it was much harder leaving all his friends from work and a well paying job of 20+ years. We wanted a change and wanted to live in a place we felt would be better for our children. Montana was where we vacationed and it just felt like the right place to be.

This was our home we left behind. It was a modest sized manufactured home on an acre with lots of oak trees. We had the house built there in 1995, so it had always been our home exclusively. Letting someone else move in was hard, but we got lucky. It turned out our buyers went to school with Rick. We couldn't have been happier having a nice family move in, especially since Rick's parents lived next door. We left behind a 33 foot above ground pool, a trampoline and a swingset. The little girl that moved in couldn't have been happier. We were so lucky to sell our house in this market.

We packed everything up and were on our way to a new adventure. We packed up the kids and the cats. Kitty & Belle were not too happy. They took turns screaming in the car for the next 3 days as we made our way north. They did fine and eventually got used to riding in the car and stopping each day in the RV. We didn't move into our new house until October 26, 2006, so we had to camp out in our trailer for a few days.

Rick and I took one last drive through Ojai, pictured above. Down the road on the left is the Arcade, which is a shopping center. The post office tower is on the right, which is a common site if you've seen pictures of Ojai. To the right is the Ojai Playhouse. It's a small movie theater. I saw JAWS for the first time there, in the front row. Directly on the left is The Oaks, which is a famous health spa that people come to from all over. This is Ojai Avenue and if you were to keep driving straight down this road, you'd end up in the area where I grew up. These pictures were taken on October 20, 2006. I haven't been back to Ojai since. Rick has because he had to return to finish up work for 6 weeks. There are a few things I miss like my family, friends and a few silly places like Andria's fish restaurant and Trader Joe's. The move has been positive for us. It was a big decision, but I'm glad we made it.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A day in the park ...

Rick, myself and our 2 boys went to Glacier National Park yesterday. We live less than an hour away from the west entrance, so we go there a lot. Our family is big on national parks and being this close so cool for us. There is just something about national parks I love. I have a 30+ mile long lake that's less than 2 miles from my house, but I'd much rather drive an hour to be in the park. I am most comfortable in a national park than anywhere, for some strange reason. Glacier is famous for the Going-To-The-Sun Road that goes through the middle of the park. It's one of those doozies where you either love it or hate it. I'm in the middle here because I love being up there, but I hate that road. Going down is okay because I'm on the side of the road next to the hill. Going up stresses me out because it's sheer cliffs to the right of me. Let's just say the treetops of these enormous pines look like ants. It's one of those type of roads. But once I'm at the summit, I love it. That's where we see the mountain goats. Anyway, today (Sunday) is the last day you can get up to the summit before they close the road. Over the next few weeks they'll make the roadblock go further and further down due to snow.

We decided to head to the park one last time this year so we could see the summit and look at the fall foliage. It was rainy and cloudy most of the time, but it was still fun to see. I loved seeing the fall colors. But what really surprised me were all the animals we saw. We saw a mule deer, a lone bighorn sheep, a herd of mountain goats, a golden eagle, a black bear and a grizzly bear. Everything but the deer were all far away, but it's still cool when you see them. The bears were funny because the black bear was on one mountainside. Directly across the road on the other mountain was the grizzly. That doesn't happen too often, trust me. A lot of times we go to the park and don't see any wildlife, so we got lucky. We took lots of pictures, but with little sun, they weren't anything spectacular. I did get some berry pictures. I'm not sure what type of berries these are. They could be Buffaloberries, which are edible, or they could be Baneberries, which are poisonous. I'm not sure if they're Baneberries because the leaves look different. And we think the bears were eating these. They also go with the description of Nightshade Fruit, which is also poisonous. I guess I'll have to look at another berry book the next time I'm at the bookstore. The summit part of the Sun Road will have 30+ feet of snow on it soon, which is why we won't be going on it again until spring. It was a fun day in the park for us -- I really love it up there, except for that scary, scary road!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Inspired to write --

For all you writers out there -- what was your inspiration? Who or what got you interested in becoming a writer? I'm always impressed when I hear people talking about this. Some give credit to a teacher they had. Some say a famous writer inspired them. Some people were born to be writers. Others were inspired by someone or something. What was yours?

See this little mountain goat picture? That was my inspiration. I didn't spend all my life dreaming about being an author. The idea hit me one day out of the blue. We were camping in Glacier National Park here in Montana. The big thing at Glacier are the mountain goats. People come from all over the world to see them. Mountain goats aren't commonly seen and only live in certain parts of North America. The babies are adorable.

While driving home, a story came to me and I wrote it down. I researched the writing process. I did everything wrong. I submitted to a lot of publishers. Looking back, I submitted before it was ready. These are common mistakes. My first story was called Manny the Mountain Goat. It has since been revised from the original. It has also been separated into two stories, fiction and nonfiction. The fiction one is titled Manny's Big Adventure. I am thinking of doing some revisions on the nonfiction one. That particular one is photo-illustrated and I've heard those are hard to sell because they cost more to print. You would think it would be the opposite because they don't have to pay an illustrator, but I guess that isn't the case.

But in all honesty, I can say it was a little white mountain goat that inspired me to write. Manny won't be my first book published, but it will always be special because it's the one that got me interested in writing. I don't want to give up on Manny. I plan to revise both stories until someone thinks they are worthy of being published. It's like your first love -- even if it didn't work out, you don't want to let go. It's kind of funny. I was inspired to write by a mountain goat named Manny. My first published book is about a little rat named Dilly. I live in one very strange world!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Captain Bogg & Salty

As some of you know, I'm a big music lover. I'm also really into children's music and I love pirates. The past few years I've been listening to this children's group called Captain Bogg & Salty out of Portland, Oregon. Click on their name to go to their website. They're a pirate rock band that appeal to both kids and adults. You can learn a lot about pirates from their songs. I've been a fan for a few years and they just released a new CD called Emphatical Piratical. As soon as it became available, I ordered it online because I knew there was no way I'd find it around here. I got it yesterday and I absolutely love it. All 12 songs are awesome and I know my boys will enjoy them as much as I do. I have other CDs by them that I got from iTunes, so you can go there to take a listen if you want. One of my other favorites is Prelude To Mutany, which is absolutely brilliant. The new CD holds its own and I love every song. The songs are --
  1. Emphatical Piratical
  2. Don't Drink Sea Water
  3. Port Side
  4. Treading the Seas for Pirate Gold
  5. Bunnyjacks
  6. Frogg Island
  7. Purple Tiki
  8. The Plank Walker
  9. Sea Monster II
  10. Never Smile at a Crocodile
  11. Waltz on the Waves
  12. Who's at Captain's Table?

I'd recommend this CD to anyone who likes pirates, both young and old. The songs are catchy and fun. My favorite is Port Side which tells you what the parts of a ship are called. Captain Bogg & Salty have ties to other pirate rock bands called Pirate Jenny and Hucklescary Finn. Both of those bands can be found on iTunes as well. This be one rockin' CD, mate!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

National Boss Day

I find it amazing how many unofficial holidays there are. It's hard to keep up with all the traditional ones, more or less some of these crazy ones. But some are fun, like National Play-Doh Day and National Pizza Party Day. Some things you just don't want to miss, like National Nutty Fudge Day. October 16th is National Boss Day. Do you have a boss? Do you feel he or she is deserving of a special day? I am a stay-at-home-mom and I homeschool my kids, so I guess I'm my own boss. Maybe I should send myself flowers, or better yet, give myself a raise. Now wouldn't that be nice. If you want to learn about other crazy holidays, click here for a fun website. I hope if you are the boss that you get some special appreciation today -- you deserve it!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Halloween Fun ...

Yes, it's that time of year again -- time to sit on the computer and waste the hours away playing silly games. Click on the Pumpkin Simulator to practice your pumpkin carving skills online. My boys love this one and ask for me to find it every year. Now if bowling is more your thing, click Cat Bowling. My friend Nancy puts up the link to this game each Halloween. It's pretty addicting -- even Rick was playing it last night. Between me, Rick and the boys, I'm surprised we get anything done. Have fun!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Bead for Life

Do you need a unique gift for someone this Christmas? About a year ago, my sister-in-law gave me a very pretty blue necklace from the Bead For Life organization. The jewelry is made by women in Africa, many suffering from AIDS and other problems. By creating and selling the beads, these women are able to earn money for food, medicine, schools and help them get out of poverty. I had never heard of the group before I received the necklace. Click here to visit the store. The necklace I have is the triple swirl in dark blue. It's absolutely beautiful and I'm amazed every time I wear it because I can't believe the beads are made of paper. Since the beads are made from paper from magazines, old calendars and cereal boxes, each necklace is unique in color and design. Mine is a dark blue, not the lighter blue you see in the store. Check out the website for more information if you're interested. Not only can you purchase jewelry directly from them, but there are other ways you can help support them with hosting bead parties, donations and more. This summer my daughters went to a large Christian music festival in Washington and they both came home with Bead for Life bracelets. Those were just as pretty as the necklace I have. I'd like to get the long necklace next. These would make great gifts for the Holidays -- very unique.

Monday, October 13, 2008

I love autumn!

I was born and raised in southern California and spent over 40 years in the same area. Ojai (pronounced oh-hi) is a small community about an hour north of Los Angeles. It's a nice little area and nothing like the bigger cities in California. Ojai didn't get much of a seasonal change. The colors of fall are usually caused by brushfires, and sadly southern California is in the midst of brushfire season right now. There weren't many trees that changed colors in the fall. We mostly had oak trees and they stayed green all year. Ours were Live Oaks, with the tiny green leaves with the sharp, prickly edges. I would have loved to have White Oak or Black Oak trees, but most of the trees in the area were Live Oaks. Even though fall was still pretty warm in Ojai, it has always been my favorite season.

Two years ago we moved to northwestern Montana, to the small community of Bigfork. In some ways, it's a lot like Ojai is, with it's art galleries, small cafes and tourists. Even my neighbor across from me has an aunt who lives in Ojai. The only thing missing here are oak trees. Instead, we have all sorts of pine trees, birch, aspen and cottonwoods. The picture of Nathan playing in the leaves here was taken right when we got to Montana. We had about 4 days before we could move into our house, so we stayed in our travel trailer for awhile. It was our kid's first experience playing in autumn leaves. Watching them was like seeing something out of a movie for me. It was one of those surreal moments, seeing something that other kids got to do each year. Now of course, we have plenty of leaves to rake up and play in. One of my favorite trees are the Western Larches. They're pine trees, but oddly their needles turn bright yellow in the fall and eventually fall off. With our cooler temps, they're just starting to turn a little yellow. Soon, we'll have yellow pine needles everywhere. Beautiful trees, but messy!

Where I live, everyone is required to dispose of brush by burning on designated days. Most homes here have slash piles where they burn their brush. I don't know why, but it's fun standing outside on a cool, crisp autumn day by a huge bonfire. A lot of our fallen branches gets put into bins that I use in my wood stove, but most of the rotten stuff gets put in the slash pile. Our backyard goes up a hill and it's all forest, so we always have fallen branches and trees. Firewood really isn't a problem for us. It's a matter of having the time and strength to get the wood down the hill and get it cut up. In the spring and summer, the hill is so green and overgrown that it's impossible to get to anything. Right now is the only time we can get up there and collect the wood before everything is covered in snow. I spend most of my time outdoors in the fall, collecting sticks for my bins and burning stuff we can't use inside. It's odd, but it's a fun time of year for me.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Choco Taco

There is a Berenstain Bears book called Too Many Commercials where Brother Bear and Sister Bear are awestruck by the commercials they see on TV. Each week they want the newest toy or cereal that has been advertised. They nag Mama Bear until she finally gives in. Finally, she makes a plan that they can get the next thing they see on a commercial as long as they don't ask for anything else until its gone or has been played with for an entire month. Turns out the toys weren't as great as the commercial made them sound and the cereal wasn't as good as it looked on TV. It's a cute book. I can relate to Brother and Sister. I used to get up early every Saturday morning to watch cartoons and especially to see the commercials. I don't watch TV hardly at all now. But if I happen to sit down while Rick has something like Unwrapped on, I'll start craving whatever they're talking about. I remember them doing a special on the history of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. After watching that for a few minutes, I found myself in the kitchen making one. The last craving I had was after watching them make Fat Boy ice cream sandwiches. I'd never had one before, but after watching the show, I couldn't rest until I tried one. And like the bear cubs discovered, sometimes things aren't as great as they seem on TV.

Rencently, I posted a review for a children's picture book by Holly Jahangiri called Trockle. In the story, Trockle finds a wrapper from a Choco Taco under the bed. It's only a brief mention, but the power of advertising works for me. Since reading that book, I've been craving a Choco Taco. I hadn't had one of those in years. In fact, I didn't think they were still made. When I mentioned it to my husband he told me Taco John's restaurant sells them. I couldn't believe it. So, of course, the other day we were driving home and I saw Taco John's and had to stop. Sure enough, they sold them and I was able to satisfy my craving. Then Rick tells me he doesn't know what the big deal is because he sees them in stores all the time. I honestly can't recall seeing them, but he said he sees them. And of course, the store we went to yesterday didn't have them. I guess I'll have to keep looking. But what's so funny is that I got this craving from a picture book. It was so powerful that we made a special stop to buy one. And if that wasn't bad enough, last night I had a dream I was at a store looking for them. Of course, I couldn't find them at first, so I was chewing Rick out about it. Then after he walked away, I found some boxes in this huge walk in freezer, but I was getting frustrated because they weren't the right flavor. So, as you might guess, now it's a quest to find Choco Tacos in the stores.

Do things like this happen to other people -- or am I the only weirdo?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Do you want duck feet?

Thursday night before bed, I read my boys the book, I Wish That I Had Duck Feet. It used to be one of my favorite books as a kid. When I see the illustrations, they bring back memories of reading this book over and over. This was just one of those stories I couldn't get enough of. In the book, a boy wishes for things like duck feet, deer antlers, an elephant nose, a long tail, a whale spout and so forth. There are pros and cons for each one. In the end, he's happy being himself -- are you?

Is there something you wish you had? Would you like great big ears so you could hear what people were saying? Would you want wings to fly around so you didn't have to sit in traffic? If you could pick just ONE thing, what would it be? Wings to fly would be the obvious choice for me, but if I had to pick something else, I'd pick one of those light-up dingle-hopper things on fish. You know the really ugly fish that live at the very bottom of the ocean? I think it would be cool to go down there and check things out. I'd just want it for a day because I imagine being an ugly fish wouldn't be much fun.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


This is our cat Belle. She's about 15 years old and was given to us by my sister. One day she came over with this tiny fluff ball and said she had to give us this kitten because she looked so much like my other cat. She was right and Belle does look a lot like CJ, another cat I had. When we got Belle, my girls were around 4 and 2 years old. Nichelle was really into Beauty and the Beast, so she named the cat Belle. It's such a sweet name for such a wicked cat. Belle definitely has a mean streak. She's also called Lucifer, Evil Belle, the wicked witch, and a few others I won't mention. My nickname for her is Gracie. It drives my family nuts because her name is Belle, not Gracie. Sometimes I call her Gracie Ann. I suppose I get it from George Burns saying, "Say goodnight, Gracie." Not that it really matters what anyone calls her -- she won't come when you call her anyway. It's funny because all the kittens in her litter were bright orange. Belle was the only tabby cat. The only orange she has is on the pads of her feet and a little orange streak running down her nose. She was the oddball, I guess.

When we got Belle, we had several other cats. None of them got along well. It was pure hell for the cats and for us. Belle would pick on our cat Abby, and Nica would pick on Belle and Abby. Things were really ugly for awhile. Belle used to lash out at the girls for no reason. She was the first on the list to go bye-bye because we couldn't take it anymore. We even had a home all lined up for her. I don't know what happened, but Abby and Nica got so rotten they left first. Once they were gone, Belle's personality changed drastically. She began sleeping on my bed and decided she was MY cat all of a sudden. She's still mean and the farthest thing from a sweet cat, but she's more tolerable with me than anyone else. She follows me all over the house. As soon as I sit down, she's either next to me or on me. If I try to hold her, forget it -- it's her way, or no way.

Say goodnight, Gracie!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Lions, tigers & bears ...

Do you think you could make something like this? Yes, I mean YOU! Would you believe they are made out of paper you print on your printer? Check out the Yamaha Motor site by clicking on the name. Awhile back my friend Sharon sent me this link. I was blown away by the paper crafts section. Back then they only had a few endangered animals and some motorcycles. They have added more animals, seasons and scenes. My oldest daughter made one of these awhile back. I can't remember which animal she did, but I remember it turned out really cool looking. So, if you're sitting around bored with nothing else to do, print one of these up and give it a try. See how it turns out. I think these would be awesome for older kids to do in school, possibly as part of a project about a rare or endangered animal. A fun link.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Yesterday's post about losing our beloved loveseat was just a little too emotional, so today I thought I'd make it worse and talk about my teddy bear. And no, Rick did not take my teddy to the dump or toss it in the mud. Looking at him though, you'd think he did. Ted-Ted is his name, and yes, he's quite a mess. But just like me, he's old and has been through a lot. Honestly, I don't even remember getting him. I only remember having him and calling him Ted-Ted. I have no idea where I got that silly name either. I don't recall ever dragging him around with me all the time or sleeping with him, but I do remember a time where I was really attached to him for some reason. Teddy bears are cool and I think every child should have one. All my kids have them. My girl's teddy bears are from the Vermont Teddy Bear Company. Their new presidential bears just crack me up. My boy's bears are from Build-A-Bear Workshops. I don't know where Ted-Ted came from, but I keep him on a shelf with some other childhood toys, which I've posted about before. He's pretty old, so I don't like moving him around too much. Rick doesn't have a teddy bear from his childhood, not that he remembers anyway. If there is one, it's in his parent's garage somewhere. Poor deprived child. I guess they didn't have teddy bears in Hawaii. Maybe he went to bed snuggling up to a sugarcane or a pineapple or something.

Teddy bears have a unique story behind them too, especially how they were originally named after Theodore Roosevelt. Wikipedia, though not always accurate, has some interesting information on them if you click here. Rick & I are huge fans of M*A*S*H and I always love seeing Radar's teddy bear in the shows. It looks a lot like my Ted-Ted, except Radar's bear has more of a plastic face. The other night we were watching an episode where Radar was up late writing a report and was drinking coffee to stay awake. He gives his teddy a sip of coffee and then wipes his mouth afterwards. I also love the one where Frank Burns comes in looking for Radar's tools and sees the teddy bear. Radar pats his teddy on the tummy and says, "It's okay, bad man go away now." The real tear jerker is at the end of the series when they put Radar's teddy bear in the time capsule. I hated that part and always wished they took it home and gave it to him. I read how someone found the teddy bear on the set and they started using it as Radar's. On July 29, 2005, Radar's teddy bear was sold at an auction for $11,900. Wow. Then on Sesame Street, Big Bird has a teddy bear named Radar, which is named after the character in M*A*S*H. Interesting stuff -- at least I think so.

So, do you still have your teddy bear? I'd love to hear about it ...

Monday, October 6, 2008

RIP Loveseat ...

Yesterday we said goodbye to an old friend. It was a sad, sad day. It really was. We took our beloved loveseat to the dump. I didn't think it would bother me, but it did. Rick pulled it from the van and it slammed down in the mud. He piled it on top of some other junk. I stood there looking at it and I couldn't help but feel sad. Rick & I bought this loveseat in 1986 when we moved into our very first apartment. I think we bought it at Levitz and it came with a matching sofa. Sadly, the sofa was in worse shape and we lost it a few years back. However, the loveseat was still decent, so it made the move with us from California to Montana in 2006. We put it in the boy's playroom and they got a lot of use out of it while watching movies and playing video games. As we drove away, with it's little arm splattered in mud and getting rained on, I realized how attached to things I get. It's just a loveseat, but it was special. It was one of the first things Rick & I bought as a couple. It had a good life. And after being with us for 22 years, we had to say goodbye and part ways. I would like to think it went to the Great Loveseat Heaven in the Sky, but heck, this is Montana. It's probably already found a new home and has forgotten all about how we so carelessly dumped it in the mud and abandoned it in the rain.

Goodbye old friend -- you served us well and will be missed! :'-(

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Monkey Bread

Is this how you look and feel Sunday mornings? It's how I feel today for some reason. My husband will be leaving again today for another week of training. This makes the 5th week in a row he's been gone. He's only been coming home on weekends, which go by way too fast. Today he made Monkey Bread for breakfast, so I thought it would be fun to post the recipe for those who've never tried it. It's real good, especially with coffee -- mmm!

  • 3 cans premade biscuits
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 stick butter or margarine
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut biscuits into quarters. Combine 1 cup sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Add biscuit pieces, a few at a time, and coat thoroughly. Put coated biscuits into greased bundt pan. Melt butter and 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup brown sugar and pour mixture over biscuits. Bake for 30-40 minutes.

Please note -- This is also known as Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread, and no, it doesn't taste like monkeys. ;)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Christmas Shoeboxes

Do any of you participate in shoebox programs for needy kids? My girls just did up their boxes for our church, who donates to local children on Indian reservations here in Montana. Last year my boys did Operation Christmas Child from Samaritan's Purse. The boys really enjoyed picking out small gifts and items to put in their shoeboxes. When we took them to the drop-off location and they saw other kids doing the same thing, I think they felt really good about what they had done. I am planning on them doing it again this year. We can't afford to do a bunch of boxes, but I will let the boys do one each. The national collection week is November 17-24 and there are places all over to drop off your shoeboxes. When I showed the boys the video from the website last year, they immediately wanted to take part in this. The picture above is Nathan & Neil taken last year with their shoeboxes. They're looking forward to doing it again this year and I think it's a great program.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Waiting

On Monday, Brenda blogged about a story starter using song lyrics. Her post said to find a song that sums up what you think it means to be a writer and post the lyrics on your blog and why you've chosen it. It doesn't have to be your favourite song. It just has to express how you feel about writing and/or being a writer. It can be literal, metaphorical, about a particular form or aspect of writing -- whatever you want. It took me a few days, but I finally decided on "The Waiting" by Tom Petty. To watch the video clip of Tom Petty singing this song, click here.

This song sums up what it's like being a writer for me. Well, at least most of the lyrics. We all know how frustrating writing can be with the long waits. If it's not waiting to get your manuscript just right, then it's waiting to hear back from a publisher or agent. There is another type of waiting and that's where I am with my first picture book, A New Job for Dilly. I'm waiting for the illustrator to finish the pictures. I'm waiting for my story to be an actual book someday. I'm waiting to be able to share this story with family, friends and anyone who's willing to pick it up and look at it. There are different types of waiting and not all waiting is a bad thing. So, if I had to pick song lyrics, "The Waiting" sums up the writing process for me ...

  • The waiting is the hardest part

  • Every day you see one more card

  • You take it on faith, you take it to the heart

  • The waiting is the hardest part

Thursday, October 2, 2008


The little monster has arrived at the Jones house! My boys and I were thrilled to get this book today. We've been reading reviews for it for awhile. Nathan and Neil couldn't wait to get into bed tonight so I could read them the story of Trockle. And, what a cute story it is! Little Stephen is scared to go to sleep at night because he thinks there is a one-eyed monster under his bed. Trockle, a little monster living under Stephen's bed, is scared to go to sleep because there is a big two-eyed monster on top of his bed. It's cute how Stephen describes the monster to his parents, and at the same time, little Trockle describes the kid monster to his mother. Inspired by her son, Holly Jahangiri has done a wonderful job of creating a story that's not only fun to read, but one that many kids can relate to. The pages are beautifully illustrated by Jordan M. Vinyard, who did an outstanding job of making a one-eyed little monster actually kind of, well -- cute! My favorite illustration is a picture of Trockle gnawing on one of Stephen's toy trucks while his mother, adorned with rollers and dust bunny slippers, holds a smelly old gym sock for Trockle to sleep in. All the pictures are adorable.

Nathan, Neil and I enjoyed reading this book tonight and I know we will read it over and over again. I think most of us can relate to the fear of thinking there is a monster under our bed at some point. I had that fear when I was little. I used to imagine the most horrible things -- like hands reaching from under the bed and grabbing me. Holly and Jordon have created a wonderful story that turns a childhood fear into something that's not so scary -- not even a one-eyed monster. Trockle is published by 4RV Publishing, LLC and can be ordered here. Between October 5th and October 13th, there is a special Trockle Trick-or-Treat Tour with some great prizes. Click here for more information. This is one monster of a cute story!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Comic Strips

Do you read comics? Which ones are your favorites? If you've been reading my blog, you probably won't be surprised to hear I love comic strips. I always have. When I was little, I loved pulling the comics page from the Sunday paper. Peanuts was my favorite. I used to read the Peanuts comics books too, the really early ones. I'd devour every page. I loved them. I remember pressing Silly Putty on the comics to get the image. You can't do that anymore because they use a different ink or something. For years now, my favorite has been Garfield. I have the entire collection of Garfield comic books. There are over 40 books now. I rarely buy the newspaper anymore, so I now have to read my favorite comics online. I have Garfield, B.C., Wizard of Id and just recently added Prickly City on my Yahoo page. Reading the daily comics are nearly as important as that first cup of coffee and checking the weather report. I know, I know -- I'm a nut.

So, what about you -- do you have a favorite comic strip?