Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Animal Paintings

I don't mean paintings of beautiful animals -- I mean paintings painted by beautiful animals. Would you buy one? Earlier this month there was an article in the news about paintings by animals being auctioned to earn money for zoo conservation efforts. Click here to read the article on Yahoo. Apparently, a painting by a lion named Cha Cha went for $550 and Pinto the pig's painting sold for $250.

So, I ask you again -- would you bid on one of these pictures? If I had some extra cash to spend and it was within reason, I might. It would have to be on an animal I really liked though. I buy pictures of tigers and other big cats, so I think it would be cool to have a painting done by one. My bedroom has a tiger theme with tigers I've collected for years. A painting by a real tiger would be cool to have. A snow leopard named Hannah did the painting pictured here. Of course, there are more important things I could spend with that money, but I'm talking hypothetically.

I wonder if anyone would buy a painting by my cat? Here kitty, kitty ...

Monday, September 29, 2008

Happy Birthday Stan!

I looked online to see if anything interesting happened on September 29th when I noticed it was Stan Berenstain's birthday. Sadly, Stan passed away in 2005, at the age of 82. However, his books will live on in the hearts of children forever. Stan met his wife, Jan when they both started art school together in 1941. The rest is history and their books are loved by children around the world. My children love the Berenstain Bears books. My girls used to read them when they were younger, and now my boys read them. Reading a Berenstain Bears book to my boys is part of their nighttime routine. It's just not the same without one of these fun stories before bed. What I love about them is their readability -- the words flow extremely well. Every now and then I read a story to the boys and I struggle and stammer over the words. That never happens with Berenstain Bears. My boys absolutely love them, and fortunately, I love reading them too. I can totally relate to Mama Bear, especially when she's all ticked off and yelling. Even though Stan is no longer with us, Jan continues to write and illustrate stories with her son, Mike. Just the other day we added 4 new books to our collection. If you'd like to learn more about Stan Berenstain, click here. Stan Berenstain was a true blessing to children's literature.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Another photo published!

Yesterday I received a check and some contributor copies of the October 2008 issue of Rural Montana Magazine. They published a photo I took of a tiger swallowtail butterfly. This isn't a huge magazine, but it's sent out to over 250,000 customers who belong to this electric company. They don't have this issue up online yet, so I can't show you the picture itself. That's also due to the fact that our external hard drive that stores our photos is being serviced right now. And yes -- Rick & I are freaking out over that! However, the magazine has other issues that feature my photographs, if you want to take a look ...

The swallowtail butterfly picture makes 7 photographs I've had published in this magazine. They only pay $10 each time they print one, but there have been times they've paid me more. As I said, it's not a huge publication, but it's a start and it's always fun to see my pictures in the magazine. This upcoming year they're offering $100 for cover photographs, so I'm really going to start working on that. It's a contest and they said they will choose more than one winner throughout the year. Wish me luck!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Greedy for Tweety


OMG -- My friend Nancy found it -- Thank you so much Nancy!

Click here to watch Greedy For Tweety!

I spent a long time last night online doing something silly -- looking for the name of a cartoon! I even had a friend and my husband helping. It's my all-time favourite Looney Tunes cartoon and it hasn't been released on any of the DVD sets yet. Each time one comes out, I buy it in hopes of getting this particular cartoon. No such luck yet. The picture above is tiny and not good quality, but it's the only one I could find. The name of the cartoon is "Greedy for Tweety". It came out in 1957. That title doesn't really go with the cartoon, which is probably why I had such a hard time finding it. Do you know this cartoon?

It starts off with Sylvester, Tweety and Hector the bulldog all chasing each other in the street. You hear horns honking and brakes screeching. Next thing you know, Granny has all 3 of them in the hospital with broken legs. While she's out of the room, they continue at each other. Sylvester tries to get Tweety and the dog tries to protect him. At one point, Sylvester eats Tweety and Granny rushes him to x-ray. Then she rushes him to surgery and he comes back to the room with stitches in his tummy. Tweety sits on his bed with a scowl saying, "Bad puddy tat!" The best part of the cartoon is when the dog is pounding on Sylvester and Granny hears him yelling. She runs in thinking he's in terrible pain, so she drugs him up. Sylvester tries to stay awake, but his eyes keep closing. You get Sylvester's view here and the dog comes closer and closer. Granny eventually gets their x-rays done, which show their legs weren't really broken in the first place. She releases them and they go back into the street chasing each other. It starts all over.

This is such a funny cartoon. Everytime Warner Brothers releases a new Looney Tunes DVD set, I rush out to buy it in hopes of this one being on it. Out of the 10 sets they have, it still hasn't been released. After searching, I found it's on an old VHS called "Tweety Tweet & Lovely", which is still available. I have no idea when and if Warner Brothers will put this cartoon on a DVD set. I will continue to buy them all, in hopes they do, just for that one 6-minute cartoon. I guess I'll never grow out of this stuff.

Friday, September 26, 2008

When you were little ...

What did you want to be when you grew up? Despite this picture when I was five, I never wanted to be a cowgirl when I was little. I remember this day. Someone knocked on our door and when we looked out, there stood a man with a black & white pony. The pony's name was Popcorn. Somewhere in my albums I have a picture where you can actually see Popcorn. The man was going door-to-door taking portraits of children. My mom said it would be okay. The next thing I know, there I am, sitting on Popcorn while this goofy man tried to get me to smile. Things were more relaxed in the 70s. I don't know if I'd let my kids get on some strange horse for a picture today. It turned out okay and I got some cool Cowgirl Rena pictures.

When I was little I really wanted to be a veterinarian. I loved animals and I had all sorts of pets as a kid. One of our neighbors was a vet and I thought it would be a great job. As time went by, I lost interest in it. In high school, I got so into The Who that I didn't care about anything else. As soon as I graduated, I worked in local hospitals in housekeeping and laundry, so I could earn money to travel to England. I had friends who were into The Who and we were planning a big trip there. I met Rick in 1981, though we didn't get married until 1988. After I met him, I lost interest of getting some big career. He was going to pre-med school to be a doctor, so I figured why worry about going to college myself. I still joke about him telling me he was going to be a doctor only to become a cop for 20+ years. I still complain it was false advertising, but in reality, it was probably best for us. Right before I got married I worked in a pet emergency clinic as a vet assistant and loved it. Working with animals was awesome, but it made me realize how hard it was for vets. They work literally all the time, have huge overhead and liability and they rarely get time off. The time I worked there was great and probably one of the best jobs I ever had. Eventually, I got married and had children. I pretty much went into mommy-mode from then on. It wasn't until maybe five years ago that I decided to write my first children's book. I never set out to be an author. I simply had an idea for a story and went with it.

I had other jobs too, but nothing spectacular. Just the usual ones like a store cashier, deli worker, hospital receptionist and a brief stint as a full-charge bookkeeper. I did not like that job. People don't react too kindly when you make a mistake on their paycheck, for some odd reason. And most of the time the mistake was their fault, not mine. That job sucked. My very first job ever was laughable. I went in not knowing what the job was, only to have some moron sit me down in front of a telephone. No training, no explanation, no nothing. No way was I going to be a telemarketer! I got up and walked out the door, not saying a word. Now of course, I'm trying to balance being a wife, mom, home educator and a writer at the same time. Some days it's great and other days it's crazy. I'm in my 40s now and still don't know what I want to be when I grow up. Well, with the exception of maybe Jessica Rabbit. That dame has everything ...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Flicks!

Do you remember Flicks? I guess you would have to be old like me, to remember this stuff. I was born in the mid-60s and candy was big in the 70s. I'm pretty sure if you spelled my name backwards it would read -- Candy Freak. I don't know what the attraction was with Flicks. Maybe it was because they were packaged in what looked like toilet paper tubes covered in foil, but I remember eating them -- lots of them. Candy and I go back a long way. One of my earliest memories revolve around candy. We were getting ready to move from our house in Santa Barbara right after my father died. He died in 1966, so I couldn't even have been 2 yet. I remember opening up the cabinet under the sink and finding one of those orange circus peanuts. Of course, I started eating it, despite everyone flipping out and eventually taking it away from me. God knows how long that peanut had been under there. And thus, the Candy Freak was born.

It's an illness. For fun I sometimes visit sites like Candy You Ate As A Kid just for nostalgia sake. I dare you to check it out and see if there isn't something that rings a bell for you. Bubblegum cigars, BB Bats, Bottlecaps, Bubble Yum -- and that's just page one! Candy lipsticks, candy cigarettes, chocolate babies! My grandparents used to live by a little corner market and they'd take me down there to buy candy. They'd give me 25-50 cents and I could buy gobs of candy. I remember picking things out so carefully, making sure I got the most for my money. Chocolate babies had a terrible name back then, which wouldn't be accepted today. I ordered some a few years ago and they tasted the same as I remembered.

I'm still into candy as much as I was when I was a kid. My tastes have changed a little. I no longer stuff two pieces of Bubble Yum in my mouth trying to win a bubblegum blowing contest. Nor do I walk around the house wearing wax lips or pull my molars out with a Sugar Daddy. I'm more into dark chocolate now. There's an 88% chocolate bar by Endangered Species that I love. But for me, the year is still divided into seasons. Right now we're in the middle of Candy Corn Season. Come winter it will be Peppermint Patty Season, which is graciously shared with King Leo's Peppermint Stick Season. February is the month of love that brings Candy Heart Season, followed by spring and Cadbury Egg Season. After that, it starts all over again. Oh yeah -- life is sweet!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Kat Kong & Dogzilla

Kat Kong -- the story of Doctor Varmint and Rosie Rodent who stumble upon a giant island kitty cat. My favorite part is when Rosie Rodent says, "No, it would be wrong to take this creature away from its natural habitat just to satisfy our scientific curiosity." To which Doctor Varmint replies, "Forget science, think of the money we could make!" Absolute classic reading right here, folks!

Dogzilla -- when Dogzilla invades Mousopolis and threatens to chew it to pieces, the rodent inhabitants must come up with a plan to rid the city of this creature. Can they do it -- and how? Without warning, Dogzilla unleashes his monstrous mutt breath onto the unsuspecting mice. "Doggy breath!" screamed the soldiers. "Run for your lives!"

My boys love these books. Nathan reads them with such emotion and drama. We didn't realize how many of Dav Pilkey's books we had up until recently. We have the classic Dumb Bunnies books, When Cats Dream, a few of the Dragon books, and of course everyone's favorite, Captain Underpants. If you want to check out more of Dav Pilkey's work, click here. Definitely fun stuff!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Remember these?

Do you remember Space Fidgits? They were 3-inch disks that were filled with non-toxic fluid. When you touched them from the front or the back, the fluid inside would wiggle and squish around, making different shapes and colors. I used to play with these things for hours. Tell me, why were they so fascinating? I loved these silly things!

Does anyone remember Lemon Twists? You stuck the loop around one foot and swung the thing around while you jumped over the lemon with your other foot. I remember taking this to school and I was an immediate hit of the playground. Everyone loved it. I looked online and found that the other toy Skip-It didn't come out until the late 80s. I could have sworn those came out the same time as the Lemon Twist of the 70s.

We bought our kids a new game the other day for Playstation 2. That thing cost $50! Sure, it's fancy and high-tech, but it got me thinking about the toys I played with when I was a kid. Toys were so simple in the 70s, and even more simple in the 50s and 60s. Perhaps I'll post later about some other bizarre, long-forgotten-about toy you may or may not remember. Until next time -- don't forget to stop and play every once in awhile!

Monday, September 22, 2008

How many licks?

Ever since 1970, we've all been wondering the same thing -- how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop? Tootsie Pops were invented in 1931. Chocolate was the original flavor. Other flavors to come along were cherry, orange, grape and raspberry, along with newer flavors like blue raspberry, watermelon, strawberry and pomegranate. In 2003, twenty million Tootsie Pops were produced everyday. If you would like to vote for your favorite flavor and suggest a brand new flavor, click here. I found some Tootsie Pop Drops recently. I didn't even know they still made those things. They're Tootsie Pops without the stick.

So I ask again -- how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop? Will the world ever know? Or will Mr. Owl snork down another one in 3 licks? How does $50,000 sound to find out? Click here if you'd like to enter the How Many Licks Sweepstakes by Tootsie Roll. $50,000 sounds like an awful sweet treat to me! And for nostalgia sake, if you'd like to relive some of the old commercials, click here. Sweet!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

IGOR

Rick and I watched IGOR last night. We left with mixed feelings -- did we like this or not? One thing we agreed on was that our boys probably wouldn't. First of all, my two youngest don't like going to the movie theater. They think it's too loud, which is silly because they're way louder when they play at home. But they don't enjoy going, so we don't make them. Another reason are the previews. Why do the theaters do previews for movies like Twilight when they have an audience of kids inside? I think that's why my boys don't like going. My poor husband. We don't go to the movies very often. I'd say we go maybe a few times a year. This past year I've had Rick take me to see Speed Racer, The Clone Wars and now IGOR -- all animated films. As for IGOR, it's getting really bad reviews. I don't think it's something my kids would like that much and it definitely has some interesting factors -- a rabbit with suicidal tendencies, one character who pops pills to keep herself beautiful who also wears baby seal slippers. Just stuff like that which might make some people flip out. There are also a few times where the characters tell the monster she's ugly and hideous. It's a little cruel in that respect. So for that, I don't think it's a good movie for little kids. It has a PG-rating, so people should consider that. The animation was good and IGOR does have some interesting characters. IGOR himself is quite likable as are his two friends, Scamper and Brain. Even the monster, Eva is sweet and you immediately like her. But in all honesty, I wouldn't take young kids to it. It's not that scary, but it is dark and has some dark themes that parents might find objectionable. I however, like these dark animated films, being a fan of Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride. I was hoping IGOR would stand up to those, but frankly, it didn't. NBC and Corpse Bride revolve so much around music. IGOR had music in it, but it wasn't that spectacular. All the same, it has some funny parts and I still enjoyed it. It's definitely an animated movie for older kids and adults.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Shades of Day

Shades of Day are an awesome band from Southern California. You can check out their website by clicking on their name. Their debut CD is called Mayday! and it can be ordered online and through iTunes. This is a really cool band. And what's my relationship to them, you ask? I used to live next door to Micah, who is pictured on the right above. I've been listening to these guys play in their garage since they were kids. Their studio was directly by my old house in California. Awesome group of guys and their music is fantastic, so I wanted to give them a little plug here. I believe they will be releasing a second CD in the near future. I can't wait to hear it. I really miss hearing them rehearse and jam from my old house in the evenings.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Talk Like A Pirate Day


Aye, me hearties, it be Talk Like A Pirate Day and ye best not forget. Okay, so I don't make a very good pirate, but I like pirates. I don't think they're cool or heroic. They were brutal, ruthless people. However, pirates fascinate me and I love reading about them. I love pirate movies and pirate music. Captain Bogg & Salty be one rockin' pirate band. As ye know, me book comes out in spring called A New Job for Dilly. He's no pie-rat, but he likes pie, especially with pickles. So what's me point? A New Job for Dilly be an ABC book, and in honor of today, I be doing PIRATES A to Z ...

  • A is for Ahoy! -- not to be confused with chocolate chip cookies.
  • B is for Bilgerats -- which ye all are, ye filthy vermin.
  • C is for Cackle fruit -- also known as the incredible, edible egg.
  • D is for Davy Jones locker -- minus the monkees.
  • E is for Execution dock -- not a happy place.
  • F is for Fishmonger -- a very friendly woman.
  • G is for Gibbet cage -- best views, views, views in the harbor.
  • H is for Hardtack -- biscuits and bugs, yum yum.
  • I is for Irons -- these garters won't hold up yer stockings.
  • J is for Jolly Roger -- the dreaded black flag.
  • K is for Keel-haul -- waterskiing, underwater-style.
  • L is for Landlubber -- ye all be clumsy fools.
  • M is for Monkey pump -- a must-have to suck the monkey.
  • N is for Nippers -- knot what you think they are.
  • O is for Oakum -- used to stop leaks. Titanic forgot the oakum.
  • P is for Pieces of eight -- American $ sign came from these coins.
  • Q is for Quartermaster -- to keep Cap'n Crunch in line.
  • R is for Rum -- Sir Henry would be so proud.
  • S is for Scurvy -- Got teeth?
  • T is for Tortuga -- even the name sounds fun.
  • U is for Upwind -- the opposite of downwind.
  • V is for Vinegar-pisser -- a very cranky pirate.
  • W is for Whip the cat -- chillin' with Sir Henry too much.
  • X is for X marks the spot -- yeahrightsure.
  • Y is for Yo ho ho -- and a bottle of rum.
  • Z is for Zee-Rovers -- the Dutch just had to be different.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Bugs on my table?

Okay, so they're not real bugs. They're actually cute bugs. Don't ask me why I'm showing you my coffee table. I'm weird. But now that you've seen it, isn't it cool? This table was a school project when my oldest daughter, Nichelle was in 2nd grade. Each child painted a bug on a tile. One of the parents turned it into this table. At the annual school fundraiser, the table went to auction. My mother-in-law bid and won the table. I have no idea what the bid got up to, but I was very surprised when she gave it to us. There are 22 other families who would have loved to have this table with their child's painting on it. Nichelle's tile is the ladybug on the bottom with the polka dots around it. Too cute. At the same school fundraiser, my other daughter's kindergarten class made a quilt. And yes, my mother-in-law bid and won that too. I have it hanging on my wall. I'll save the picture of that for another post. So now I have two questions for you --

  1. What's on YOUR coffee table?
  2. Do you have something that's one-of-a-kind that you cherish?

And finally, there is a children's book blog tour going on now for Holly Jahangiri's adorable story, Trockle. You can follow along the tour by visiting here. I will be posting a review of the book myself, as soon as my copy gets to me. It's about a little monster who lives under a bed and it's beautifully illustrated by Jordan Vinyard. My boys & I are anxious to read it. Check it out if you can!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Two great books!

A delightful picture book, Lion in the Living Room is written by Caelaach (pronounced Kelly) McKinna and colorfully illustrated by A.R. Stone. From the lions in the living room to the hippo in the sink, this charming rhyme will delight animal lovers of all ages. As more critters appear, the house becomes quite the zoo and children will want to hear this story over and over. The punk-rock cows are hilarious. You can purchase this adorable book by contacting 4RV Publishing LLC.

Not Afraid of Dogs is written by Susanna Pitzer and beautifully illustrated by Larry Day. Daniel is the bravest boy of all. He's not afraid of spiders. He's not afraid of thunderstorms. He's not afraid of dogs -- he just doesn't like them. Daniel has quite the challenge when his mom decides to watch his aunt's dog. This is a story about fear, courage and friendship. Daniel conquers them all. As a mom to two boys who are scared of dogs, this was a wonderful book for our family. Neil found it in the library and immediately related to Daniel. The illustrations are totally him. This is a wonderful picture book for children who are nervous around dogs.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Happy Birthday Nichelle!

It's hard to believe that my daughter, Nichelle Rose celebrates her 19th birthday today. It seems like just yesterday she was running around with her little curly hair bouncing all over the place. Now she's almost as tall as me. She's had an amazing year. This summer she went on a missionary trip to Albania, which was a once-in-a-lifetime experience she will never forget. I can't believe it's been 19 years since Rick & I brought her home from the hospital. Our cat, CJ meowed at her and Rick & I looked at each other and said, "Now what do we do?" Children grow up so fast.

Happy Birthday Nichelle!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sick as a Dog

If there was ever an appropriate time to use the term -- sick as a dog -- it was last night. I don't know what the heck happened, but I had an absolute miserable night. Around 9pm I began having muscle spasms in my back. I figured it was from sitting too long with my laptop in the chair in the living room. By 10pm, I was hit with nausea on top of it. To make matters worse, I still had the school schedule to do. What normally takes me 30 minutes, took me over an hour and a half to get done. I finally got to bed close to midnight, but that didn't help. The spasms were getting worse and the muscle relaxer I took wasn't helping. I was up all night long rushing to the bathroom with nausea. I was hoping I would just throw up and feel better, but that didn't happen. Up and down, all night long. And when I was down in bed, the spasms were horrible. I finally fell asleep at 7:30am after I heard my daughter leave for work. The boys were up at 7:45am and by 8:15am, I had to answer a wrong number on the phone. It was literally a night from hell. My husband is out of town, but had he been here, I'm 100% sure I would have asked him to drive me to an urgent care center. I was in that much discomfort.

I finally managed to get going today and now we're taking a short break from school for lunch. I decided to look up the term, sick as a dog, to find the origin. From what I found, the oldest record of that saying goes all the way back to 1705 to show a strong statement of physical unhappiness. It was attached to the word dog because dogs seem to have been linked to things considered unpleasant or undesirable, such as dog tired, go to the dogs and so forth. Yep, that pretty much explains how I felt last night. And finally, I had to put up my Ugly Dog picture. This is Maggie, a beagle we had a few years back. She was actually really cute, but I caught this picture mid-yawn and it's become a little joke at our house, calling her Ugly Dog. It was definitely a sick-as-an-ugly-dog night for me last night -- blecky.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

For the love of Jack ...

I'm a big fan of Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas. I love the movie and the soundtrack. It's a fun movie that lasts from Halloween all the way through Christmas. Disneyland is fun this time of year because they transform the entire Haunted House into NBC. I have lots of stuff with Jack Skellington. If Jack is on it -- I probably have it. I have t-shirts, belt buckles, sweatshirts, purses, wallets, backpacks, earrings, necklaces and coffee mugs, even my iPod holder has Jack on it. Despite my hair looking jet black in this picture, it's really dark brown. I am not into the goth-look at all. But it's funny for me because I often get stopped by teens into that sort of thing, who tell me they like my bag or my sweatshirt or something because it has Jack on it. For me, the attraction is more than the story or the music. There's something about Jack I love. Maybe it's his desire to be part of something new, something bigger. He's an awesome character. On that note, I'm just as big of a fan of Tim Burton's Corpse Bride movie and soundtrack. And just like the goth-scene, I'm not into all the new vampire movies or books. The only vampire movie I like is the 1931 version of Dracula with Bela Lugosi. That's about as scary as I will go. For the others, it's all about the cartoons. I love cartoons. Since I'm such a fan of NBC and Corpse Bride, I'm also looking forward to the new film, Igor that's coming out this week. It's not a Tim Burton movie (though I wish it were), but it still looks great. I just watched the trailer and it looks like something I'd like. When I was little, I saw scary movies that I was no way old enough to watch. It's funny that how now, as adult, I'm more drawn to the ones for children.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

State of Wilderness

I read a really cool book last night called State of Wilderness, written by Elysabeth Eldering and illustrated by Aidana WillowRaven. It's written for kids ages 9-12 years, but as an adult, I got a lot out of it. It's part of a series and there are going to be 50 books in the entire set. The books are really cool because they're based on characters who play a hand held geography game. You follow along as the game gives them clues about the state. The clues start off hard and get easier as they go along. By the end of the game, you have to guess what state the book is about. Even though the book is for kids, I really enjoyed it and learned a lot about the state it was about. I love trivia books, so this was right up my alley. In fact, one of the last books I bought was called Yellowstone Trivia with all sorts of fun facts about the park. Elysabeth's book is like that, but written as a story, making it fun for younger kids. If you and your kids love learning fun facts about the states, this is a great book. You can buy the book directly from the publisher by clicking here. I think the series would be an excellent choice for schools and homeschools. I'm looking forward to the second book.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Childhood Toys

While other blogs are discussing global warming and elections, I decided to post about something near and dear to my heart -- toys. Not just any toys, but toys from my childhood. In this picture are a few things from my childhood. The stuffed teddy bear is my original childhood bear. His name is Ted-Ted. You can tell from the looks of him, I've had him a long, long time. The little white bear holding a watermelon has a very special meaning to me. It was a gift from my father, who brought it to the hospital the day I was born. My dad died before my 2nd birthday, so obviously this old squeaky toy means a lot to me. I remember playing with it and even setting up a spot at the dinner table for it. I don't think he ever had a name, to be honest. You might recognize Mrs. Beasley from the old "Family Affair" show. I remember getting Mrs. Beasley one Christmas. Right after opening her up, I ran into my bedroom, found a marker and then drew great big eyelashes on her. I have no idea why I did that, but I remember doing it clear as day. Obviously, the above doll isn't my original. My mother-in-law bought me this one. Chrissy, the doll in the green dress, is also a replacement. I remember getting her for Christmas one year and was totally fascinated how her hair got longer and shorter. The books pictured are replacements too, but they were both favorites of mine as a child.

I am sad I didn't keep all my original childhood toys. Some broke, some wore down, some I simply grew out of and got rid of. As an adult, I've wanted to get a little of my childhood back. With places like eBay, I can. It's not really that important I have these things. I don't play with them, nor do my kids. They just sit there on my little shelf, but they make me happy. Not pictured is my Mattel Knit Magic machine from the 70s, which I bought on eBay and is exactly like the one I had as a kid. I actually use that and make long, skinny knitted scarves with it. As I wade through my boy's playroom, I often wonder what will be special to them as they get older. Sometimes they say we can get rid of things they don't play with, but I usually hold off. I know better. I know that someday down the road, those toys might have a special place for them -- even if it's only on a shelf somewhere collecting dust.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11 ...

A day to remember -- a day never to forget.
God bless America and keep her safe.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

We survived Day One!

Here's a picture I took of Nathan today. There were no sleepy, puffy morning eyes -- just as cute as ever. Hardly seems fair. Our first day of school went well. I got to bed around 1:20am and woke up with a horrible sore throat. Not a fun way to start the year off, but we managed. Neil had rough start too and came into my room telling me how school was dumb and that it was still the middle of summer. Poor kid. I hope the year goes smoothly. Neil is in 1st grade, Nathan is in 4th grade and Nicole is in 12th grade. Nathan's curriculum took a big jump from last year to this year, so he'll have to get used to that. He already asked, "Can we skip these problems?" when he saw some 5-digit addition math problems. LOL -- no, not today, not on day one. Nicole's physics might be another story.

Every year I keep track of the kid's reading a different way. Last year I made a huge gumball machine on poster board. Each time the kids read a book, they wrote the title on a little round sticker. I made the machine too big, but by the end of the year we had a good amount of gumballs in our machine. It was mostly Nathan & Neil's books, so there would have been more if Nicole had added all the stuff she read. This year I made a giant pickle jar and I have a cut-out of Dilly next to it. For each book the kids read, they'll write the book title on a little green pickle and stick it in the jar. Hopefully, we can get that jar filled up. I'll post a picture of it sometime when I have the okay to show Dilly. He's happy -- he already has a pickle in his jar! We started reading How To Eat Fried Worms today. I think the boys will really enjoy that story. I loved it when I was a kid, even with my aversion to worms. Anyway, I'm just glad we made it through the first day -- whew!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

First Days of School

This 3rd grade picture is proof my mom hated me. Red plaid, fluffy yellow ribbons, crooked bangs -- wth? Nah, I'm just kidding. My mom loved red plaid and I'm sure she picked this dress out because she loved me too. In all fairness, I liked plaid at that time. I even had a red plaid tin lunchbox with matching Thermos. Plaid was big in the 1970s, along with paisley and avocado green kitchen appliances. I haven't worn plaid in years, not since my stint at Catholic school. I'd probably give people the wrong impressions if I put on a little plaid jumper and knee-socks now, especially my husband. One thing I did hate were school pictures. Those were the worst. They always took them in the morning when my eyes weren't really awake. In almost all my school pictures I have those sleepy, puffy, morning eyes. My kids haven't been in the school system for 10 years, so I don't know how they take them now. Are they digital? Do they give you second chances if you mess up? When I was a kid, you got one chance. If you made a stupid face and closed your eyes, that was it and you had to look at it forever.

We homeschool and this is our 11th year now. We will be starting up school tomorrow, which is late for us. I had originally hoped to start on Monday, but my Jeep had to be worked on and it's a 40-minute drive each way. Then today my seventeen-year-old daughter starts a creative writing class at a Christian school, which is another 40-minute drive. Starting school for the boys today just wouldn't work, so we're going to the library while Nicole is at her writing class. It's not school, but hey, it's the library and that counts for something. Tomorrow is our first real day. And am I ready? Of course not. That's what I get to do tonight. Panic and stay up until 1am trying to make everything perfect. I'll get it all done. I always do. And as I do every year, I'll take pictures of my kids on their first day of school -- first thing in the morning, with their sleepy, puffy, morning eyes.

Monday, September 8, 2008

For the love of pickles!

I love pickles. Dill pickles, sweet pickles, bread & butter pickles, wholes, spears, chips, even pickle relish -- I love it all. I'd say Vlasic is my favorite brand, but I couldn't find a good picture, so I settled with Claussen. Pickles have been around forever. I believe pickles are even mentioned in the Bible. Julius Caesar, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Napoleon all liked pickles. Pretty big names for the pickle business. Here are some interesting facts about pickles --
  • Pickles are low-calorie and low in fat
  • Dill pickles only have 5 calories
  • Pickles are high in vitamin C
  • Pickles help you absorb iron better
  • Americans eat about 26 billion pickles per year
  • Pickles were on Columbus' three ships to prevent scurvy
  • Lays and Pringles both have dill pickle flavored potato chips
In late spring 2009, my first children's book will be out. It's called A New Job for Dilly. It's a story about a little rat who loves dill pickles, but doesn't like stealing them. He decides to look for a job so he can get his favorite snack easier. Dilly's love for pickles is what keeps him going. I've written two other stories about Dilly, both featuring pickles, but I'm not sure if they will materialize into books yet. If they do, I could have a trilogy of stories about a little pickle loving rat named Dilly.

So now I ask -- do you like pickles and if so, what are your favorite kinds?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Alien or Bug?

In the words of Steve Urkel ... "I've fallen and I can't get up!" I decided to put this picture up just to gross everyone out. I'd like to say he was struggling to get up, but he wasn't. He was good and dead. I saw this thing as we were walking out of our house for the last time in California the day we left to move to Montana. There he was, in all his gravely glory, sunbathing on the rocks next to the pool. Ick, ick, ick. You know me and how I always have my camera. I couldn't resist -- "Smile and say cheese!"

I have always known these things as potato bugs, but they're actually called Jerusalem crickets. That's funny in itself because they're not really crickets nor are they true bugs and they don't eat potatoes. They're found in the western US, along the Pacific coast and down into Mexico. I'm not quite sure where the name Jerusalem fits in. If you do a search on them, most pictures will show views from their back. This picture is bizarre because he's belly up. He looks like either an alien or a really ugly little bald man. I'm not real fond of bugs. It's worms that give me the real willies. But there he was, posing so peacefully. It was hard to not take his picture. Oh, and by the way, I left him there so the new owners could enjoy him as well.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Got seeds?

This picture says two things to me. One, birdfeeders shaped like cute little bears make great snack bowls. And two, I really need to clean my windows! Actually, this was a common sight at my house this spring. It didn't happen everyday, but it happened. I lost quite a few feeders. It got to a point where I had to bring them in at night. Since summer, bears haven't been coming into the yard as much, though they are still seen in the neighborhood. Now that berry season is ending, I'm sure they'll be looking for those last good meals before winter, so I'll have to be more careful. And just so you know, I was sitting less than 3 feet away when this bear was here. I was typing on my laptop and didn't even hear her come up behind me.

Today, however, is a completely different sight out there. My husband just stood up from the couch and when he looked outside he said, "Oh my God!" I swear, there had to be over 100 finch birds out there. And maybe 100 is a low count. They are everywhere! We have a fountain out back, next to a birdfeeder, and the birds are going absolutely nuts. I have never seen so many birds in one place. The sad thing is that our house has a funny shape to it and has a great room with 8 big windows and 3 door panels made of glass. You got it -- thunk, thunk, thunk! I can't even count how many have crashed into the window today, but it's a daily problem. Sometimes they fly right off, but other times they sit on the deck stunned for a long time. Sometimes they hit so hard and don't survive. It was like this in early spring, but the number of birds mellowed out in summer. Now it's absolutely crazy again. It must be their migration time. Either that or they just love my house. "She bought the good seeds this time!"

We drive around for hours in national parks looking for wildlife. Our main goal is to find something rare or unique, aside from the commonly seen elk, bison or deer. We're usually looking for bears, wolves or something we never see like mountain lions, badgers or porcupines. It's kind of funny though because even with all that driving around, all we really have to do is look out our living room windows. Bears aren't a problem in our neighborhood and we haven't had any real issues. Most of our neighbors love seeing them too, which is why they moved here. This picture is of a mama bear and she has two yearling cubs. I've gotten some amazing pictures of them right here in my own yard. I've never gotten as good of bear pictures in all the national parks we've visited. This, of course, isn't one of the better ones, but it's pretty spectacular in itself.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Goodbye Summer ...

When I was a kid, summer felt like it lasted forever. I remember summers filled with things to do and others where I did nothing at all. As I've gotten older, time feels like it goes by quicker. It's not just summer either. An entire year can zoom by before I realize it's gone. Here were are 5 days into September. We're just starting to see some color change. Pretty soon the western larch trees will change and I'll be sweeping up little yellow pine needles. And after that -- snow. I'm not complaining. I love the seasons and love how quickly they change. This summer is coming to an end, but I'm not ready to let go just yet. The picture of Neil above was taken less than 2 weeks ago at Hungry Horse. We went kayaking, swimming, hiking, and we even picked huckleberries.

What did I accomplish this summer? Not enough. I'm always hard on myself. It's easy to think of things I didn't do. I haven't finished the school yearbook for last year. I have a good excuse because our computer died and I'm having to learn a new operating system and design program. I haven't finished Nathan's 3rd grade portfolio, though I did finish four others. I haven't gotten my classroom organized. I haven't gotten the schedule set up for school to start next week. I haven't done this, I haven't done that, I need to do this, I need to do that. It goes on and on -- kind of like laundry.

But seriously, what did I accomplish this summer? I got a book contract! My first picture book, A New Job for Dilly is coming out sometime around late spring 2009 by 4RV Publishing LLC. That's big news. I also wrote several other picture books and a middle grade novel. We had a wonderful visit with my ILs this summer when they drove up from California. We went to Yellowstone recently and we made many trips to Glacier NP. We went kayaking a lot, took some hikes, picked berries, sent our daughter off to Albania on a missionary trip and worried until she was safe and sound back home. So here I sit -- fall staring me right in the face. I only hope I'm able to accomplish all my summer chores by the time autumn drifts into winter.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Meeting Celebrities

Have you ever met a celebrity? If so, did they live up to your expectations of them? It's funny how people think so high of celebrities, only to meet them and find they aren't what they expect. I haven't met many celebrities, but I have met a few. Some friends & I saw Paul McCartney in a train station in London once. We stopped to say hi and he seemed nice enough. Then one of my friends asked for his autograph and he turned her down. Good thing I wasn't a big fan of his or I would have been crushed. He said he didn't want to cause a scene, but geez, it was London, not Los Angeles. I've heard Johnny Depp is the most willing and friendly when it comes to doing autographs. Good for him, though I'm not real big on autographs.

My one biggest brush with a famous person was with Roger Daltrey of The Who. The picture above was taken in 1984 at Roger's house in England. I spent the whole month of May in England with some friends who loved The Who like I did. We went around seeing the English sights, as well as visiting various places The Who were famous for. We went to Hammersmith, where Roger was born and also where The Who used to play. We went to Brighton where Quadrophenia was filmed. We went to the nightclub The Who played at for the first time. We had friends in England and we made arrangements with Roger's wife Heather to meet him. So, it's not like we crashed his house unexpectedly. He was a gentlemen and showed us around his home, yard and property. I know some little known facts about Roger Daltrey that he was kind enough to share with us. He collects music boxes and used to buy them all over the world when he toured. They're gorgeous pieces with big glass domes over them. He kept them in his billiard room, which is the room behind us in the picture above. He has a small train that runs around the outskirts of his yard that's big enough to ride on. At the time, he had three small lakes that he dug himself and kept stocked with trout. He did have a very expensive car when we were there, but it was parked by his Range Rover. His wife drove a green VW Bug at the time. He was kind to show us around, as well as invite us into his home for tea. It was getting late and he even went to the trouble of driving us to the train station so we wouldn't have to walk in the dark.

I've heard Roger is a grandfather now, or soon will be. He's definitely getting up there in age, but with the recent Who tour, he doesn't seem to be slowing down much. He's also done some work with children's shows recently. I guess he's probably glad he didn't live up to the lyrics when he sang, "hope I die before I get old". I'd love to see The Who in concert one more time, but they aren't touring anywhere near me, nor can I afford the outrageous cost of their tickets. I still love the band and my Who-related trips to England in 1984 and 1985 are wonderful memories for me. Meeting Roger Daltrey as well as Pete Townshend was a fun experience. That was a long time ago and I'm not sure if I'd get as excited about meeting a celebrity now that I'm older. However, I wouldn't mind running into Roger again, just to ask him if he remembers the crazy group of girls who came by his house and had tea with him a few times. Who knows, maybe he's gotten so old he's forgotten us, which might not be such a bad thing either. ;)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Sheep of the Lal Bagh

What sparked your interest in reading? For me, it was my mom. She was an avid reader and almost always had a thick paperback in her hands. One summer when I was pretty young, she signed me up for a book club. I got to pick out a batch of books all by myself and they were delivered over the summer. These packages were the first mail I received and I still remember the excitement of them coming in with my name. One of those books is pictured above, The Sheep of the Lal Bagh. This was a picture book about a sheep named Ramesh who worked in a garden in an Indian town. He was the town's favorite attraction. Every night Ramesh would come out and mow the lawn into beautiful shapes and designs. People came from all over to see him. Then sadly, one day he was replaced by a lawn mower. Ramesh went back up to his mountain. The children were sad because they couldn't pet a lawn mower. Finally, they set out to look for Ramesh and they returned him to his rightful place in the garden. I don't know what it was about this story that I loved so much. Maybe it was the beautiful illustrations, or maybe it was the fascination of the different geometric designs Ramesh made in the lawns, or maybe it was simply because it was my own mail. All I know is that I loved this book as a kid. It's still one of my favorite picture books.

A few years ago, when I began writing stories for children, I set out to find this old book. It took me a little while because at the time, I had no idea what the title was. I finally figured it out and bought myself a copy on ebay. The book came out in 1967, but I would have only been 2 years old then, so I had to have bought a later edition in the early 70s. The book I got from ebay looks like mine did -- having seen a little wear and tear, but lots of love. I know this book can still be found online when you search for it, and it's usually a reasonable price. If you have kids, I highly recommend this book. My boys loved it. I have it sitting up on a shelf in our family room that features some other things from my childhood. The Sheep of the Lal Bagh has earned a special place on my childhood shelf for its enduring quality. That, of course, is every writer's dream and I'm sure David Mark and Lionel Kalish would be proud. Has anyone else read this book?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Yellowstone Monday





The first three pictures were taken at the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone. It's a great place to see grizzlies and wolves close up. These bears are huge and it's amazing how tiny their eyes are. They're adding onto their wolf habitat to include a river area and it's going to be awesome when it's completed. You'll be able to go into a cabin and see wolves walking around on both sides through windows. Check out the raven picture! I don't know what he picked up, but when he turned to face me, it looked like he had great big red kissy lips! The last picture was taken from the car driving on I-90 through Butte, Montana. This statue, called Our Lady of The Rockies, is up on the mountain and it's absolutely huge. Those are full grown pine trees around it if that gives you any idea how big this statue is. ETA link and note the statue is 90 feet tall -- wow!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Yellowstone Sunday





Just a few more pics before I lose my connection. Going home soon ...