Saturday, January 31, 2009

Inspire Your Heart With Art


Today is Inspire Your Heart With Art Day. Look at a piece of art. Does it say something to you? How does it make you feel? What emotions does it bring? I'm not very good at studying art. Some people that read my blog are awesome artists, like Flor, Adrienne and sruble. I wish I could be more artistic. Maybe I'd understand things better. The only paintings I've ever done are paint-by-number. I did one of The Last Supper and another of Jesus with some children. I have both framed and hanging in my hall. Ironically, when my mom was younger, she painted the same exact paint-by-number of The Last Supper as I did. I wish I had her copy too.

If I had to look around my house for one piece of art, it would be this picture above. It's a framed print and it's pretty big. You can't see it here, but it's in a beautiful blue frame. It's really heavy and was really expensive. Rick gave it to me years ago for Mother's Day. I have this little nook area as you come into my front door and that's where this picture is hanging. I love it. It speaks to me, it brings about a feeling of peace, and it reminds me who is in charge. If you're not a Christian, it probably won't mean much to you like it does to me. I've always thought it was important to stop and smell the roses or jump in a rain puddle just because it's there. I guess today is a good day to look at a piece of art and see if it inspires your heart in some way.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Pillow talk ...


Have you ever been in a pillow fight? I'm about ready to have a fight with mine. I want to rip it to shreds. I hate pillows. I can't find a good one. I'll find one I think I like, only for a few months and I'm miserable again. That's where I'm at now -- miserable. I'm in so much pain right now that I can barely see straight. My head hurts, my neck aches and my shoulders are sore. I'm pretty sure my pillow is to blame. Awhile back I tried a down-alternative one from Target. I loved it for the first few months. Then it lost its shape, so I figured I'd get another one. I'm back to square one again. It has no shape, no support and I hurt. Pillows are either too hard or too soft. I just can't handle the thought of buying one of those really expensive ones, only to be hurting again a few months later. I'm open to suggestions here, so if you have any, feel free to let me know.

I've read that you should replace your pillow every few years. Another source said to replace it every few months. Pillows go all the way back to Ancient Egypt where they were found in tombs. They were used mainly by the rich. There are three main types of pillows -- bed pillows, orthopedic pillows and decorative pillows. In the US, there are four sizes of bed pillows, which include standard, queen, king and body. Orthopedic pillows include neck pillows, U-shaped travel pillows to hold the head up, lumbar pillows for the back, and donut pillows for sitting on. Decorative pillows refer to cushions, throw pillows, floor pillows and novelty pillows. There are even husband pillows, which feature two arms. I don't know if you'd call those bed pillows, orthopedic pillows, decorative pillows, or stupid pillows. Right now I think all pillows are stupid. I'd like to throw mine out in the snow, or hack it up with a knife. I'm about ready to wad up the cat in a ball and see how she works. She doesn't look too happy about that. Where's the Tylenol?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Raven

On this day, exactly 164 years ago, Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" was published by the New York Evening Mirror. It remains to be one of the most famous poems ever written. I have read the poem and remember having to study it when I was younger. The poem is about a man who has lost his love and is confronted by a raven that can talk. Instead of offering comfort, the raven distresses the man by ending everything with "nevermore", causing the man more torment as he drifts into madness. Narrative poems tell a story and often show the poet's thoughts and feelings. They can be long or short, simple or complex. Narrative poetry is believed to be the oldest form of poetry there is. Other examples of narrative poetry are "The Canterbury Tales" and "Odyssey". Like "The Raven" these poems were best read aloud or performed, rather than simply read. I know very little about poetry, but I do know I enjoy listening to it more than I do reading it. Perhaps it would be better if I read it out loud.

I can relate to the man in "The Raven" in a way. I've already told you how I was tormented by a crow named Amos when I was little. Ravens aren't much better. They're beautiful birds, but they're thieves and scavengers. When we first moved to Montana, a huge raven landed in the tree outside my dining room. Being the photo-nut I am, I ran to get my camera. Just as I had it focused on him, I stopped and my mouth fell open. He had just plucked a baby robin from its nest and gobbled it down whole. Before I could shut my mouth, he yanked out another one and flew it down to the ground, where he finished his little feast. The sad thing was, everyone in my family was watching this. We were traumatized. When the mother robin came back to her nest, the look on her face was heartbreaking. Ever since that day I've had a love/hate thing about ravens. The circle of life can get pretty ugly. However, ravens are far from ugly and they can be as different from each other as you are from me ...

There is the strong, youthful raven ...

The old, frail raven ...

The punk rock raven ...

And finally, there is the Angelina Jolie raven ...

Yeah, I know, you'll never look at a raven the same way again. ;)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Do dolphins wear shorts?

Do you remember Dolphin shorts? They were really popular in the 80s. This picture is of me & Rick taken at Six Flags Magic Mountain sometime around 1982 or 1983. It was back in the day when we couldn't take our eyes off each other, when we hung around in petting zoos at amusement parks, and when we weren't afraid of being laughed at for wearing the same t-shirt. We got those shirts at the Alliance for Survival concert in Los Angeles. What stands out to me most are my Dolphin shorts. Rick said the first thing he noticed about me were my shorts when we met in high school back in 1981. I was wearing purple shorts and he remembers that like it was yesterday -- dork. Dolphin was the brand name and they had a little dolphin image on one side. The only place you see shorts like these now is Hooters. Not that I've ever been there, but I've seen pictures. I guess they were a pretty big deal back in the 80s, especially to guys like Rick.

Are there any fads that stick out in your mind? Or something you see in your old pictures that make you go, "What in the world was I thinking?" I have a few photographs like that myself.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Handle With Care

Did you make clay handprints in kindergarten? I still have mine. It’s hanging on the wall in our classroom next to my children’s handprints. I remember my teacher using a coffee can to cut the clay. Have you thought about your hands lately? When I was younger, my mom used to rave about my hands. She said I should have been a hand model. I never gave it a try, but I guess they were nice in their day. I remember going on a field trip in elementary school to see the Queen Mary. There was a tide pool display and children were encouraged to stick their hands in the water and pick up sea creatures. I didn’t want to. I can’t remember if it was the teacher, an aide or an employee of the ship, but one of them grabbed me by the wrist, plunged my hand in the icy water and forced me to pick up a starfish. I was mortified.

Hands are fascinating. They separate us from animals. One of the first things we do as babies is wrap our hand around our mother’s finger. Our parents hold our hands to keep us safe. Children in Sunday school use their hands to sing songs like “This little light of mine” and “He’s got the whole world in His hands”. Without hands, the Itsy Bitsy Spider would have never climbed up the water spout. Imagine a world without paddy cakes. We speak with our hands. We use them to wave hello and say goodbye. You can say the alphabet with your hands. As children, we’re taught to be creative by using our fingers to paint with or our hands to mold clay into shapes. We clap our hands when we’re pleased. We use our hands for friendly gestures. We use them for unfriendly gestures too. We’re taught to handle animals with care. Some people offer helping hands, while others prefer a handout. Life gives us hands-on experience with nearly everything we do. Handbooks give us information. Our hands are used to pray and worship with. As a kid I was given hand-me-downs from my sister and we often shopped at second-hand stores. We were told not to ride on the handlebars of a bike and to always hold the handrail while going down stairs. We played handball in school and were asked to raise our hand before speaking. Have you ever gotten caught with your hand in the cookie jar? We get on our hands and knees to beg for forgiveness. Sometimes we get a hand swat on the behind. You should never bite the hand that feeds you. Handheld gadgets keep the world close in hand with cell phones, iPods and blackberries.

When our hands are dirty, we give them a good hand washing with hand soap. If that’s not available, we use hand sanitizer. If our hands are dry and cracked, hand lotion is just the thing. Without hands, we couldn’t wear mittens or gloves. Our watches would fall off. We’d have no fingernails to paint or to chew off or to scratch on chalkboards. We wouldn’t wear rings, like wedding rings to show our love for another. We couldn’t hold hands with the one we loved or run our fingers through their hair. We use our hands to check for fever in our kids, or to hold them back when we stop suddenly in a car. Most women would be lost without their handbags.

Doctors use their hands to perform life saving operations. Dentists use their hands to get into the tiniest of places. Policemen use their hands to direct traffic and rely on handguns and handcuffs to do their job safely. A cop wouldn’t be the same if he didn’t yell, “Put your hands in the air!” Carpenters use their hands to build homes, using hand tools like handsaws. Kids enjoy Handy Manny and his talking tools. Farmers have ranch hands and cow hands. We even measure horses with our hands. Writers use their best handwriting to write down wonderful stories. Artists create beautiful handicrafts and handmade items. Soldiers use their hands to salute each other. We put our hand over our heart when we say “The Pledge of Allegiance” to our flag. A priest uses his hands to bless with. A gymnast uses their hands for handstands, handsprings and to keep a tight handgrip on the bars. Without talented hands, we would have never had such great works such as Mozart, Beethoven, or even Handel’s “Messiah”. The Walk of Fame in Hollywood wouldn’t be as fun without seeing all the famous handprints. We might never have heard Eric Clapton’s “Slow Hand” album, or listened to the Beatles sing “I wanna hold your hand” or even James Taylor’s “Handyman” song. I’d be lost without my favorite band, Powderfinger. Johnny Depp might not have gotten the lead in “Edward Scissorhands”. That would have been a shame for such a handsome man. Where would the Addams Family be without Thing? The world would be a less scary place without films like Oliver Stone’s “The Hand” and “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle”. Children wouldn’t be able to “point their fingers and do the twist” with The Wiggles or even wave to Wags the Dog.

Hands down, hands are pretty handy. Therefore, I leave you now, in good hands of course, as it is time for me to offer my hand in school. I hope you have a wonderful day, and whatever you do, be thankful for your hands.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Working for peanuts?


You could be today because it's National Peanut Brittle Day! I know, you're excited, right? I love peanut brittle, but that's probably no surprise. My husband makes really good homemade peanut brittle. Do you know what brittle is? It's a confection, usually very hard and brittle, made of caramel or near-caramel sugar syrup, and nuts such as peanuts, pecans, and almonds. Fascinating. There are lots of recipes for recipes, including some microwave ones. I hope to talk Rick into making a batch later today. That is, once he shells all these peanuts in this bowl. If he does make some, maybe I'll change the picture to the final product. ETA -- it turned out yummy!

PEANUT BRITTLE
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2-1/2 cups raw peanuts
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Butter two baking sheets and butter the sides of a 3-qt saucepan. In the pan combine sugar, corn syrup, water, and butter. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until boiling. Clip candy thermometer to side of pan. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue boil at a steady rate, stirring occasionally,until thermometer says 275 degrees (soft-crack stage, about 30 minutes). Stir in nuts and continue cooking over medium-low heat, stirring frequently until thermometer registers 295 degrees (hard-crack stage, 15-20 minutes). Remove from heat and remove thermometer. Sprinkle baking soda quickly over the mixture while stirring. Immediately pour onto buttered baking sheets. Use two forks to lift and pull the mixture as it cools. Let cool completely before breaking into pieces. Store in a tightly covered container. Makes 2-1/4 pounds of peanut brittle, about 72 pieces.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Do swans look in windows?

We're reading EB White's Trumpet of the Swan for school right now. I haven't read this story since I was young, but I remember absolutely loving it. I've been wanting to read it to the boys for awhile. I had totally forgotten that the main character, Sam Beaver was from Montana and much of the story takes place here. Small world, I guess. The other day we were reading from chapter 4 where the cob begins one of his long, drawn-out babbling speeches. In this one he's talking about fatherhood ...

"Here I glide, swanlike," he said, "while earth is bathed in wonder and beauty. Now, slowly, the light of day comes into our sky. A mist hangs low over the pond. The mist rises slowly, like steam from a kettle, while I glide, swanlike, while eggs hatch, while young swans come into existence. I glide and glide, swanlike. Birds sing their early song. Frogs that have croaked in the night stop croaking and are silent. Still I glide, ceaselessly, like a swan."

I stop to reflect on what I just read. There's something odd about that paragraph. I ask the boys, "How would a swan know what a kettle is?" They both look at me and Nathan replies, "Maybe he looks in windows when he's flying." Oh dear. That struck me funny and I cracked up laughing. Hmmm, maybe they do. Come to think of it, I've had turkeys looking in my windows. I've had bears press their nose up on my glass doors. I know the squirrels have seen me and a few times I've been chuffed at through the window by deer outside. I can't say I've seen any swans watching me fire up the tea kettle, but hey, anything is possible, especially in Montana!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Dilly is covered!

Thanks to the wonderful illustrator, Lisa Oakman, my story A New Job for Dilly has a cover and is coming to life. I've already posted it a few places, but had to put it here too. I'm hearing a lot of nice comments, especially how Lisa put our names as part of the illustrations. Very creative! I'm really pleased with the cover and I can't wait to see the rest of the book. I'll probably need smelling salts when I see the final thing. The boys were thrilled when they saw the cover yesterday. They've seen sketches before, but this was the first colored one they saw. Neil goes, "Dilly's eyes are blue? Cool!" As soon as he saw it, he begged me to print up a copy of another Dilly sketch Lisa did so he could run downstairs and color his eyes blue. Too cute! I don't know if Lisa has ever read my blog, but if she does I just want to say -- Thank you, Lisa! It's perfect!

On another note, today is the first day of the boy's swimming lessons. It's a good thing the pool is inside because it's about 12 degrees outside right now. We figured we better get them in lessons, especially with how we drag them across lakes & rivers in our kayaks. They always have PFDs on, but they should improve their swimming skills just in case they ever need to rescue Rick or me. Anyway, they're both excited and nervous about it, so I hope they have a good time. I'll let you know how it goes.

Friday, January 23, 2009

National Pie Day


Today is National Pie Day. Well, it's probably not an official holiday because I'm pretty sure you have to go through Congress to get that status. But it's an unofficial holiday, all the same. I'm not a huge pie person, but there are a few I love like chocolate cream, banana cream and peanut butter cup pie. However, my all-time favorite pie is boysenberry. There is only one place you can get good boysenberry pie -- Knott's Berry Farm.

For those of you who aren't familiar with that place, it's a theme park in Southern California, fairly close to Disneyland. It started out as a berry farm, selling berries from a roadside stand. Walter Knott learned that Rudolph Boysen had developed a new berry using a combination of blackberries, raspberries and loganberries. However, he had given up on the project and sold his farm. Knott got together with George Darrow and scrounged up some of the dying berry vines from Boysen's old farm. Walter Knott began growing them and called them boysenberries.

Times were hard in the 1930s, so Mrs. Knott started selling chicken dinners to attract more costumes. She served the dinners on her wedding china and for dessert she offered boysenberry pie. It became so popular that the lines for the restaurant were several hours long. To entertain people while they waited, Walter built a ghost town to represent the Old West. He added a train and a panning for gold area. Pretty soon the place grew and became the very first amusement park in America.

To this day, Knott's Berry Farm still has the best boysenberry pie I've ever tasted. It's absolute heaven when you get a fresh warm slice. And they still have lines going out the door for their world famous chicken dinners. I found a recipe online for Knott's Berry Farm's famous boysenberry pie. Click here if you'd like to try it. However, if you're ever in Buena Park, you really should stop and get yourself a slice of pie. You can go to the restaurant without having to enter the park. This pie is so worth it. So whether you like cream pies, fruit pies or meat pies -- today is the day to enjoy them!

Also, for those who are following CPSIA of 2008, there is a new article by the American Library Association. Click here to read it. As it is now, this law still goes into effect February 10th. I urge everyone to write to your representatives to encourage them to rewrite this absurd law. Check out Elysabeth's blog too, as she has some good information as well.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

GI Joe's Christmas

Below is a video from You Tube called The GI Joe's Christmas. My daughter Nichelle made this movie over Christmas break with the help of her two little brothers, Nathan & Neil. The boys helped write the script and did all the speaking parts. There's even a bloopers section at the end. Look for our cats Belle & Kitty there. I hope you have fun watching it!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Meet Kitty ...


This is our other cat, Kitty. She's more of my girl's cat, as she doesn't have much to do with the rest of us. She's a little skittish. Kitty had a rough start at life. She was born outside our old house in California. She started coming around when she was pretty young. My girls would leave food out and she'd devour it in seconds. She'd eat anything they gave her. She was a good hunter, but times must have been hard -- she was skin and bones. She wouldn't let anyone near her at first. Eventually, she'd let the girls pet her a little, but then she'd run away. Finally, they were able to pick her up, which of course, led to bringing her inside. When we found out we'd be moving out of state, we didn't know what to do with her. The buyers of our house would be moving in with two dogs, one was a huge rottweiler. Kitty wouldn't survive. The girls started keeping her in more, hoping to get her used to being inside. Right before we left, she got bit by something (we think it was a snake) and had a huge abscess on her neck. We took her to the vet and I went on about how wild she was to prepare the doctor. "She's totally wild," I said. "She might freak out." Kitty came strutting out of her carrier, sniffed around the place, purred and let the vet handle her without incident. Typical. The girls took care of her and Kitty made the move to Montana. She's done great being an inside-only cat. She's still skittish, but she's come a long way from being wild and unapproachable. Kitty & Belle don't get along too good, but they tolerate each other. I've seen them on a few occasions try to play, but most of the time they just do their own thing. Belle likes to eat out of Kitty's bowl and Kitty likes to chase Belle down the hall. Kitty is really sleek and skinny, but she's no longer skin and bones like she was. She's funny because when she gets mad, she throws herself down and kicks her feet really hard. I've never seen a cat have a tantrum like that.

On another note -- is anyone having problems with Blogger today? When I went to my dashboard, it says I'm not currently following any blogs. I still see my avatar on other people's blogs, so I don't know what's going on with that. Has anyone else had this happen today? I love the follow feature to help me keep up with who's posted a new blog. Mine just seemed to vanish overnight -- what happened?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Story by Nathan --


When Jar Jar Goes To Bed

By Nathan Jones, age 9

Jar Jar and his wife, Dear Dear tucked their kids in bed. "Good night," said Dear Dear. "Can I have a drink of water?" asked Bar Bar. "Not the kind the monster fish drink out of." Jar Jar sighed and gave them drinks of water. "Now you go to sleep," said Jar Jar as he closed the door. The door creaked, bushes rubbed on the window, and a skeleton pterodactyl came. "AAAAHHHH!" screamed the Gunguinlings. They ran upstairs and banged on the door. "Daddy, Mommy! Help us!" they screamed. Jar Jar opened the door and said, "Yousa go away!" The monster ran away.

The End

Nathan brought me this story today and I knew it was something I had to share on my blog. I don't know where he gets it. I've always read to my kids and lately my boys have been listening to me reading my manuscripts. I guess some of that has rubbed off on Nathan. He's quite a character.

Monday, January 19, 2009

State of Wilderness


Today I'm honored to host Elysabeth Eldering's book blog tour. I've been looking forward to this for a long time. Elysabeth is the author of the Junior Geography Detective Squad, 50-state, mystery, trivia series.

Elysabeth -- Thanks for having me here with you today, Rena. I must say you really made me put on my thinking cap.

Rena -- What was your inspiration for writing State of Wilderness?

Elysabeth -- The first story I wrote, Train of Clues, and entered in a contest in 2005 was the inspiration for the series. I had never really written anything before and when I received a shared second place win, I felt that the story had potential to do more.

Rena -- Did you see it as a series when you started or a single book idea?

Elysabeth -- After winning the shared second place mentioned above, I saw this as a series. I wanted to do something on the lines of the first story, Train of Clues, by giving clues for each state. First, I sent the story to an editor with the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) and asked for her opinion on how to expand the story out as a series. She sent me some great advice. After receiving her advice and the directions she suggested I could go, I started doing research to find info that could be used for the "clues." I found some clues on the Educational World ® website and then I found a website, quite by accident, that had some trivia type of information for landmarks in every state. I gathered my information and let the idea brew, trying to figure out the best format for the series, that the reader's wouldn't get tired of and that would really be what I wanted from the series.

Rena -- How often will new books in the series come out?
Elysabeth -- According to my publisher, Vivian from 4RV Publishing, one book every three months. But we've had a few setbacks recently and so it looks like books 2, 3, 4 and 5 might be pushed back a bit further than they already are.

Rena -- About how long does it take you to write one of the books?

Elysabeth -- Once I decide what info to use as the clues and sit down and concentrate on the writing process, I probably can write the story in a couple of days. Unfortunately, I don't work that way. But, no worries, the books will be done on my part as they should be.

Rena -- What gave you the idea to make the stories like a game?

Elysabeth -- It was an accidental finding. I had thought of writing the stories for a 5-minute mystery site and I played around with different ideas. I originally was going to do the series like a journal, where the kids would be in a year-round school and would have to keep track on a weekly basis of all in the info given to them to figure out which state was being described. When I saw a posting asking for submissions for the 5-Minute Mystery, I thought maybe my stories would work out for that. I tried to make it as the state being the character and giving each state a personality to give the trivia info to the kids, but that didn't work. I tried making it like a game host asking the questions - kind of a Jeopardy!® type game, but that wasn't turning out the way I wanted. And, then the produces of the 5-Minute Mystery site wanted the stories to be more "geographical" in the story and I was having to either give up story or plot or characters or something and so we weren't meeting in the middle.

When I put it aside for a couple of months or so and after speaking with my illustrator Aidana Willowraven online for a bit, the idea came to me on how to get it across without preaching to the readers. I wanted to make something fun and that the readers would want more of. I have teenagers and figured I could tap into the market that they can relate to, so the Junior Geography Detective Squad game came about.

Rena -- Do you ever tell people not to peek at the end to guess the state?

Elysabeth -- All the time. The first book has a map quiz and flag info and thereby giving the state away immediately. Books 2 through 50 will not have that info, but will have some discussion questions to get the readers thinking caps on and provide more information about the state and clues. I hope the readers will like the information and further their learning by doing the research.

Rena -- How long have you been writing and what inspired you to start?

Elysabeth -- I've been writing about five years, give or take a few months. It all started with a dare on a forum that I frequented. One of my friends dared me to write something and post it for everyone to read and vote on the story. I received some pretty good comments, so wrote a few more stories and posted them. Then, I went off the forums for a while and didn't really write until a friend challenged me to enter the Armchair Interviews fan mystery contest for "Silence of the Loons". Thus, Train of Clues was born.

Rena -- What is your favorite part of the writing process?

Elysabeth -- The end. (laughing) When I put the finishing touches on the story and send it to my friends to edit is the favorite part.

Rena -- How do you market your books?

Elysabeth -- This is tough. I really have just been getting out there and making folks aware of the first book, State of Wilderness, and the series. Everyone who has kids in the age group I'm targeting I try to make sure they are aware. I have JGDS blog and the Junior Geography Detective Squad, so hopefully folks will keep following both and stay interested in the series for the duration.

Rena -- What were some of your favorite books as a child?

Elysabeth -- The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, mysteries or just about anything I was given as a gift to read. My godmother was a firm believer in giving us gifts that would last a lifetime, which meant books for me.

Rena -- I just want to say I've read State of Wilderness. I'm 43 years old and I learned a lot. I was pretty surprised how many clues I had to read before I figured out the state. The clues are tricky and get you thinking of other places. If I can learn so much from this book, kids will certainly benefit from it. Elysabeth, I thank you for joining us here today and I wish you lots of success with your book series.
Elysabeth -- Thanks for having me, Rena. It's been fun.

To follow Elysabeth's blog tour, click here for the full schedule. State of Wilderness can be ordered through Amazon or 4RV Publishing, LLC. The second book, State of Quarries will be released soon. As part of this book tour, Elysabeth is giving away USA map puzzles and a few state related items. The rules are --

1. Each person who leaves a comment and a valid email address in the comment will go into the drawing.

2. Only one entry per stop. If you leave several comments on the same stop, your name will only go in once.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Kreativ Blogger -- me?


I am pleasantly surprised that Hilary has awarded my blog with the Kreativ Blogger Award. Everyone loves getting an award. I'm mostly amazed people even take time to read mine. It's a mix-match of this & that. For this award I have to list 7 things I love. I thought about picking 7 random things, but I've done that already. So I thought, "What do I love most?" Obviously, my family is number one, but they all read my blog and probably don't want to hear about themselves. Well, Belle might. So I thought of where I love being most and there was only one answer -- national parks! It's hard to pick just 7, believe it or not, because they're all awesome. I've never been disappointed with any of them. But for this award, I've narrowed it down to these --
  1. GRAND TETON -- This has to be one of the most beautiful places in the world. Sadly, most people drive by it, barely seeing the park, as they rush into Yellowstone. It's a great place to see moose and bears. The mountain range speaks for itself and is probably one of the most photographed ranges of all time. Ansel Adams knew a good thing.

  2. YELLOWSTONE -- If you like wildlife watching, this is just the place to be. The place is swarming with bison, elk, eagles, bears, etc. The thermal features are amazing. You never know what you'll see here. We've seen elk giving birth, baby bison walking across the road that couldn't be more than minutes old, bald eagles fighting with osprey, even a grizzly and her 2 cups taking down an elk. It's a wild place!

  3. YOSEMITE -- This park is absolutely gorgeous. The waterfalls and rock formations are something you just have to see. It's amazing to look up at Half Dome or El Capitan and see the rock climbers. You can see their lanterns at night when they're sleeping. Looking down at Yosemite Valley is breathtaking.

  4. GLACIER -- This is my playground now. We are less than an hour away from this park, so we go here often to kayak, hike, camp or look for animals. The Going-To-The-Sun Road is an absolute trip. In the winter, this road shuts down due to 30 feet of snow. The highlight of the park are the mountain goats, which is also what inspired me to write children's books.

  5. GRAND CANYON -- I love this place simply because of how it takes my breath away every time I walk up to the rim. It's so big, so rugged and so complex. The North Rim is less visited than the South Rim and it's definitely worth visiting. On average, most people only spend 4 hours here or less. The last time we were there we spent 4 days. There's just so much to see here.

  6. ZION -- Whenever we would travel north to places like Yellowstone and Teton, we always stopped for a few nights in Zion. The canyon is stunning with the Virgin River running through it. We saw our first porcupine here, sleeping up in a treetop.

  7. DEATH VALLEY -- Some people simply have to visit this park in the summer just to experience the fury of the place. We went in January. This is the most unusual place. It's like being on the moon. Within minutes of driving through the park, you go through several different ecosystems. We spent an hour looking for any sign of life, even a bug. The sand dunes are amazing here. On our way out of the park we finally saw some wildlife. We saw a roadrunner, and right after that, a coyote. Imagine -- just like Looney Tunes.

So, that's 7 national parks I love. Of course, there are tons more I'd like to list, but I can only put up 7 of them. Below is a short slide show with a picture from each park.



I also have to nominate 7 people to receive the Kreativ Blogger Award --

  1. Adrienne
  2. Kim
  3. Doda
  4. Elliah
  5. Brenda
  6. Samantha
  7. Christy

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Bald is beautiful!


January 17-18, 2009 are listed as Bald Eagle Appreciation Days. Have you appreciated a bald eagle today? If I had to pick one bird, I would say the bald eagle is my favorite. Before we moved from California, the only time we saw bald eagles was when we traveled north to places like Yellowstone and Grand Teton. Now it's common for us to see them driving into town just to go to the grocery store or drop off the trash. The thrill is still there and I never get tired of seeing them. Photographing them is challenging, but fun.

Bald eagles are majestic birds. They're elegant and graceful in flight. It's no wonder they were chosen as the national bird and emblem for the United States. Benjamin Franklin wanted the wild turkey to be our national bird because of the eagle's bad reputation. It's amazing to watch a bald eagle swoop from the sky and pull a fish out of a lake or river. They are scavengers and are often are seen stealing food from other animals. One of the biggest cause of death to bald eagles where I live is being hit by cars, as the eagles eat from deer carcasses on the side of the road. Bald eagles are huge birds with wingspans of 6 feet. They're nests are huge too. A nest is typically 5 feet in diameter, but can grow over the years as the returning eagles build onto it. Some nests can get up to 10 feet and weigh 2000 pounds. They can fly at 10,000 feet and reach speeds of 35mph at level flight.

I am fortunate to be able to view these amazing birds year round where I live. It's cool to walk outside my house and hear the shriek of a bald eagle flying overhead. If you'd like to learn more about them, check out the American Bald Eagle Information website. It's packed full of interesting information. The bald eagle represents freedom and I can't think of a better bird to appreciate, especially in the times we're living today.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Got Lava Balls?


Have you ever tried Gimbals Lava Balls? Cripes -- I haven't eaten any in 2 days and my mouth is still recovering. I ate a bunch the other day and I swear, they burned my mouth raw. I've had them before and this didn't happen last time. I don't know -- maybe I just ate too many at once. The inside of my mouth feels like it's been scrubbed with sandpaper. But dang, these things are SO GOOD! I get them at Costco in big 4-pound jars. The Candy Direct website describes them as "the hottest candy on planet Earth" and I'd say that was about right. I love cinnamon flavored things. I've always said one of my favorite candies were Super Hot Tamales, which go by the name of Fire now. I was never fond of Atomic Fireballs because the hot cinnamon flavor only lasted a short time and it was sweet in the center. You don't have that problem with Lava Balls. They're hotter on the inside and like the ad says, the heat explodes all over your mouth. No wonder why my mouth is so raw.

I'm a big fan of hot, spicy foods. One of my favorite pizzas is called a Hot Hawaiian. It has ham, pineapple, bell peppers and jalapenos. You can't eat it without your lips burning. I also love green olives stuffed with habeneros. Eating those is like a form of self-indulged torture. They're hot as hell, but I keep eating them. When I go to Subway, I usually get a veggie sandwich with lots of banana peppers and jalapenos. I love that stuff. Tonight I'm cooking chicken in my crock-pot. I'll mix a can of cream of chicken soup with a jar of Trader Joe's Habenero Salsa and pour it over the chicken. It turns out really good. Rick can't eat spicy food as much because of his acid reflux and hiatal hernia. Hot foods bother him, but he can tolerate the chicken. I, on the other hand, can't get enough of the hot stuff. My mouth is just about all better and I'm wondering how long it will be before I crack open that jar of Lava Balls again. I'm a glutton for punishment, I guess.

How about you -- can you tolerate hot, spicy foods?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

State of Wilderness Tour


You might remember me reviewing the book State of Wilderness by Elysabeth Eldering here. I just want to let everyone know that she's having a Book Blog Tour starting this Saturday. The first stop will be here. Then on Monday, January 19th, the tour will be right here on MY blog. There will be prizes on each stop. People who leave a comment will be entered. I hope you'll join me for my interview with Elysabeth this Monday.

Please help -- CPSIA

Voting ends tonight. Please help save our small businesses. I'm not sure if you've heard, but there's a movement of citizens inspired by the presidential campaign who are deciding the top 10 ideas for how they think the Obama administration should change America. It's called "Ideas for Change in America" and it's being run by Change.org. One idea is titled -- Save Small Business From the CPSIA. I thought you might be interested in getting involved and recommend you check it out. You can read more and vote for the idea by clicking the following link --
The top 10 ideas are going to be presented to the Obama administration at an event at the National Press Club in Washington, DC next week and will be supported by a national lobbying campaign run by Change.org in partnership with leading nonprofits after the Presidential Inauguration. So each idea has a real chance at becoming policy. If this new law isn't changed, many small businesses will be forced out of business. That includes book publishers. As it is now, my own books have been pushed back a month and there's a chance they may never see the light of day now. Small businesses simply can't afford what this law asks them to do. This won't just affect small book publishers. It will affect large publishing houses also, in addition to toy makers, clothing companies, crafters, etc. We all want safe products for our children, but this law is poorly written and will put many people out of business who already make safe products. If you think this doesn't affect you as a writer, illustrator, crafter or parent, you're wrong. Please click on the link and cast your vote today before the polls end. With the state of the economy today, we simply cannot afford to let these small businesses close. Please cast your vote -- thank you.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sea Kittens?


Meow? Yesterday Nancy sent me an article about PETA attempting to make fish more adorable by calling them Sea Kittens. Hello. You can read the article here. The idea is for people to think twice about fishing. You'd never dream of hurting a little kitten, would you? Apparently, the PETA website (which I refuse to go on) has a section aimed at kids where they can design their own Sea Kittens and learn how intelligent fish are. Uh huh. Now don't get me wrong. I don't have anything against vegetarians. A lot of my friends are vegetarians. PETA is another story. I think they're too extreme. This Sea Kittens thing is almost as ridiculous as them trying to talk Ben & Jerry's into using human breast milk in their ice cream. They're over the top, out there, cuckoo, loony tuney! I've seen cute fish -- Nemo! I've also seen some really ugly fish, like the one pictured here. I took this photo at Sea World in 2006. Such a cute little thing, isn't he? Kind of makes you want to hug and squeeze him and give him a little scratch behind his ears, doesn't it? Honestly, it's hard to tell if a fish was cute or ugly in its previous life when it's covered in deep fried batter, laying next to French fries. I like fish. It's good for your heart. Jesus liked fish. If it was good enough for Him, it's good enough for me. However, the next time I bite into a piece of halibut, I might have to control myself from meowing. Thanks PETA! Maybe next time they think of cute little Sea Kittens, they should take a look at this!

On a completely different note -- I've been revising an old picture book I wrote several months ago. It's true that it's helpful to put something away for awhile and then look at with fresh eyes later. I've found that makes a big difference. I've been revising my story and I think it's just about ready to start submitting. When I read it to my boys, they both started giggling and Neil ran up to look for pictures to go with the story. I think that's a good sign, especially if it's something he can imagine visually. I don't know what's the better feeling -- having my boys giggle at the funny parts, or listening to my youngest read the story aloud with me. I taught him how to read, so the fact he's reading something I wrote is pretty darn cool. And no, it's not about Sea Kittens. However, that would be one funny book!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Blast from the past ...


Does anyone remember Fabian? Most people probably don't know who he is. He was a pop idol in the late 1950s. Judging from the picture above, it's not hard to see why he became famous with young girls so quickly. He was way before my time, but I do have some of his music. I love music from the 1950s. It's been said he was discovered while crying on his front porch after his father had been taken to the hospital. Someone noticed how handsome he was and stopped to see if he wanted to be a singer. Since his family was struggling and needed money, Fabian ran with the opportunity. He quickly became a teenage heartthrob and had success with songs like "Turn Me Loose", "Hound Dog Man" and "Tiger". I have all those and they're fun songs. It has been said that his musical career ended when they found out his records had been altered to make his voice sound better. He went into film soon after, and I believe he's still active in movie-making today. You can visit his official site here. I'm not positive, but I think he still tours too.

"Turn Me Loose" is on my 1950s playlist and last night I looked to see if I could find a video clip of the song. Watching the kids clapping in the audience is hilarious, especially when you see how robot-like they are. Almost all of them are chewing gum too. But what's kind of cool is seeing Fabian himself, especially when you remember he was only 16 years old at the time and tossed into the business simply because he was cute. That would be hard for anyone to live up to. The video clip is really fun to watch and check out Dick Clark! It's definitely a blast from the past ...



Monday, January 12, 2009

Point Reyes NS


A few years ago my family visited Point Reyes National Seashore, just 30 miles north of San Francisco. It's a beautiful place with an amazing lighthouse. This is a wonderful day trip if you happen to be in the area. It's believed that Sir Frances Drake was the first European to land here in 1579. Point Reyes is one of the most windy spots on the West coast. You can find over 490 birds here. We saw several Peregrine falcons nesting while we were there along with many other animals, including elephant seals and dolphins.

One animal that really stood out was the Fallow deer, which is pictured here. I'd never seen a deer like this before. I got a few pictures, including some bucks with antlers, but this was the best one. They are really unique looking. They're not native to Point Reyes NS and I believe they're considered harmful to the area. The native elk have to compete with the deer for food. It's been said that they were introduced by a farmer who had gotten the deer from the San Francisco Zoo and later released them. The population of deer is growing and they have a deer management program in place. Regardless, they're beautiful animals, so I wanted to share this picture with you here. Below is a slide show of some of the other pictures I took on this visit to Point Reyes National Seashore. If you're ever in the area, stop by and check the place out.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Talking trash ...


I was sitting here wondering, "What can I bore people with today on my blog?" as I looked through some old pictures. I know, the dump! I know you're excited. You're probably thinking, "Oh goodie, Rena's going to talk about trash, be still my beating heart." This picture is the residential trash area. There's a real dump in the town of Kalispell. When we first moved here, we found out there was no trash service at our house. This threw us for a loop for and we weren't sure if we'd like that. We always had trash service in California. We had a trash bin, recycle bin and a green bin for things like brush or grass clippings. Every Monday we had to put the bins out. It's different here. Instead, we keep our trash in our garage and when our bins are full, we take them to this site in the picture. I thought it would be a pain, but it hasn't been. In fact, it's worked out better. For one, there are several of these dumpsites, so we can drop off the trash regardless of which way we're traveling. Two, it's free and there's no limit of trash you can get rid of. That was especially nice when we first moved here and had all those boxes and things. It's great at Christmas and birthdays when we have more garbage than normal. So, it's been kind of nice and not an inconvenience at all. There are bins for trash, others for cardboard and a place for large items to be removed. Some people here have regular trash service, so it just depends on where you live. After not being able to get up our own road last night because of the ice, I understand why they do it this way.

One thing that's sad is how some people go digging around the bins. We've had people dig through our trash even before we've driven away. Some people are just looking for junk, maybe to sell or fix up, but others are really so poor that this is how they survive. I'll never forget a story Rick told me about seeing a family digging through the trash. As the parents poked through the garbage, their 2 young girls were inside the trash bins digging around. One of them stood up straight and held a grubby little tee shirt over her chest to see if it would fit her. Rick said it was heartbreaking. We give stuff to the local Salvation Army quite a bit, but sometimes I'll leave things at the dumpsite instead. I'll just put them next to the bins. I've done that with clothes, shoes, old toys, etc. It's not like everyone here is dirt poor. That's certainly not the case, especially in the town I live in, which is on a huge lake surrounded by million dollar homes. But there are some people struggling, and if I can help in that simple way, I will. I recently left 2 perfectly good booster seats at the dumpsite. For one, thrift stores can't accept them and we don't have a place locally that recycles them. Ours were in perfect condition, so rather than toss them in the bins, I left them next to them. Hopefully, someone was able to use them, especially someone who might have been tempted not to put their child in one after they grew out of their baby seat. The other day I saw a nice looking couple digging through the trash. In just the few minutes I was there, the lady had pulled out a box of Christmas ornaments, a beautiful wreath and a few other holiday things. One person's trash is another person's treasure! I have never dug through the trash myself, but I have found books in boxes next to the bin. And yeah, I did pick a few of those up. I hate to see books thrown away.

I've been doing research on dumps and garbage men for my book, A New Job for Dilly. I'm trying to come up with some fun projects that kids can do after reading the story. There's some interesting stuff out there. Did you know garbage men can make $30,000 to $80,000 per year depending on where they work? Did you know the very first garbage men of England were called "rakers" because once a week they'd go through the streets and rake up the trash? I guess it's interesting to me because my book has a connection to it. But anyway, having to take our trash to the dumpsite isn't as bad as I thought it would be. I've seen some bizarre stuff there -- from people digging through the trash, to the legs of deer sticking out of bins, to watching bald eagles fly overhead. You never know what to expect.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Lost and Running

I wanted to share one of my favorite songs of present. Powderfinger is a band from Australia and they're one of my top favorites. I've been listening to their newest CD almost non-stop in my car for about a year. It might be because my kids moved my CD case to the back and I can't reach it. Or it could be that I just can't get enough of this song. "Lost and Running" is my favorite on this CD. It's funny because I don't like watching the video as much as I like listening to the song. Either I'm getting old in that respect, or I've just heard the song so many times before I saw the video. Regardless, it's a great song and I wanted to share it. They have some really cool music and most is available in the USA now. Check them out if you like!

On another note, we went shopping today and barely made it home. As we were driving up our road, the tires on our van started spinning. We weren't going anywhere and when Rick had to stop, the van started sliding backwards down the hill. A car was coming up behind us too, so it was pretty freaky for awhile. We have a big diesel van and it usually does good on our road with the studded tires we put on in winter. This one spot was just too icy, so we had to stop and get the chains on. Those were giving Rick a hard time and it took us awhile just to get home. Once the chains were on, the van did okay. We're expecting snow tonight, so I hope they add gravel to the road if they come by to plow in the morning. They're usually pretty good about that, but this one section was solid ice. I couldn't even walk across the road because it was too slippery. I was walking in the snowbank, holding onto the roof of the van, hoping it wouldn't take off down the hill. We finally made it home -- whew!

Friday, January 9, 2009

I'm so blessed.


I'm fortunate because I have some awesome friends. Some I've never even met in person, only online. My friend Nancy, who lives in Wyoming, sent me this gorgeous Nativity set for Christmas. She ordered it ages ago and had problems with it being shipped late and sent all over the country. I think it was supposed to get to me the week before Christmas, but it arrived yesterday. I know Nancy's been fretting and was really upset with the company. She felt her surprise was ruined because it was taking so long. Well, she was wrong. Nancy -- I LOVE IT! I was totally surprised and had no idea what it was until I opened it. It's absolutely beautiful! Nancy & I were looking at Nativity sets online while talking via IM right before Christmas. She knows I collect them and how much I love unique ones. This is very unique because the figures look like wood and tree bark. Just out of the blue and out of total kindness, Nancy ordered this and had it shipped to me. It was a wonderful surprise. Frankly, I don't mind it being late. I already have my Nativity collection packed away, but this one is going to stay up for the year on a shelf near my front door. So, a special note to Nancy -- thank you from the bottom of my heart. You're a wonderful friend.

It amazes me how people go out of their way for me sometimes. Gale, totally out of the blue, sent me those Trader Joe's chocolate covered cherries along with some other goodies. Anita once sent me her leftover chocolate cherry Diet Dr. Pepper, simply because she knew I liked it. My friend Tania from Australia has sent me more CDs and DVDs than I could list here. It goes on and on, and a lot of these people I've never met in person. Of course, it's not presents I'm really talking about. It's friendship. It's someone doing something totally out of the blue, something unexpected. It's a good feeling to know someone has thought of you, whether they send a gift, card or email just to say hello. It means a lot to me. Rick & I were talking about friends last night. He always makes the comment that he doesn't know anyone here and how all his friends are down in California. I always remind him how many people he does know and how friendships are being formed. His friends in CA are only an email or phone call away. I also remind him that he knows a lot more people than I do. I don't work outside of the home, so he's in contact with a lot more than me. I've really come to rely on friends I've met online, whether it be from my blogs or the message boards I'm on. When you don't get out of the house much, online friends are everything. They keep you sane. They are true blessings. So, to everyone who has sent me anything, emailed me or taken the time to read and/or comment on my blogs, I thank you. I just hope I can be a blessing to you in return.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Happy Birthday Elvis!

If he were still alive, Elvis would be celebrating his 74th birthday today. On his website, you can watch a live stream celebration from Graceland today. Click here for details. If you click for more information on that link, you'll find there's a bunch of things planned for people. I think this is amazing. It's a little tacky in one respect, but it's pretty cool that the man is such an icon that they do this. I mean, think about it. He died in 1977. That was 32 years ago. His fame and popularity has only gotten bigger. To be rich & famous is one thing. To be remembered so many years after you're gone is another, especially when your fame grows larger than it was when you were alive. What a challenge for any artist, whether a singer, dancer, actor or writer!

I'm a big Elvis fan. When I started this blog back in August, I talked about about my mom taking me to see Elvis concerts. Click here if you want to read that. Seeing Elvis Presley shows were definitely highlights of my life. No one put on a show like he did, but I have some regrets. I regret I don't have any of the programs or scarves they sold at the concerts. I regret I didn't let those Japanese girls toss me onstage like they wanted to. I regret I didn't see more of his shows. Regardless, I'm grateful for being able to see him in the first place. I'll never forget the excitement in the room right before he came on stage. Or how the lights turned red while he sang "Fever" and how the women all went wild. Or how he'd give kisses to ladies who walked up to the stage, or even rings off his fingers. He was a true entertainer.

I belong to another message board that did a poll once asking if people preferred Elvis or the Beatles. Not surprising, the Beatles were more popular, but I think it had to do with the average age of the members. Most are probably 10 years younger than me. I grew up with both. My mom was a huge Elvis fan and my sister loved the Beatles. They were great in their own way, but I still think Elvis was a better performer. There are many great singers in the world, but not many of them can sing well. Elvis could sing well, even without training. He had that gift. Here's a question -- what's your favorite song by Elvis? It's hard for me to pick just one because I like all of his music, but I do have one true favorite -- MOODY BLUE. So, in honor of The King's 74th birthday today, here is my song ...


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

La Femme Nikita

Did any of you watch this TV show on the USA Network? It ran from 1997-2001. I rarely watch TV, but I was really into this when it aired. It was one of those shows I couldn't miss. La Femme Nikita was a spy drama, very similar to Alias or 24. Unlike those shows, Nikita had a smaller budget. What they couldn't do in expensive action scenes, they made up with drama, good acting and complex characters. Peta Wilson and Roy Dupuis were incredible together, as were all the other characters. The episodes either left you in suspense or sent chills down your spine. Not many shows do that for me. I was really into this one. About a year ago I bought season 1 on DVD. Just the other day I ordered season 2. I'm going to start watching them in order soon. It's one of those shows you almost have to watch in order or you'll get totally confused. Click here to read a pretty good summary on what the show was about. If you go to You Tube, you'll find lots of clips from the show. There were 5 seasons and I was really sad when it came to an end. Did anyone else watch? I hear it has a cult-like following.

On another note, a few days ago I received the payment check for the craft project I submitted to Highlights for Children magazine. It's pretty cool to get paid for doing something fun. I also started working on part of my NaNoWriMo project last night. If you remember, I wrote about my cat. Part of the project included a fictional version of his story as a picture book. I finished that last night. After not writing since November, it felt good to work on something new. Today I'm mailing out several photographs for a contest in a local magazine. That will be Photojojo's Photo Resolution #6. I'm also mailing out a recipe for the same magazine and hope they publish it as well. Lots of fun stuff -- but for now, I must get ready for school.

Monday, January 5, 2009

National Bird Day


Today is National Bird Day. I love birdwatching and photographing them. When I was little, my brother and my grandmother both had pet parakeets. My grandmother had this little plastic bathtub and I loved watching her little bird hop into it and splash around while his cage was being cleaned. As much as I love birds, they scare the daylights out of me. I had a bad experience with a crow when I was younger. My next door neighbor had one as a pet. His name was Amos and he didn't like me. If I went outside when he was out, he'd chase me down and try to land on my head. I can't remember how many times that stupid bird pecked at my head or at my feet. It sounds funny now, but to a child, it was terrifying. This was in the 70s, remember, which was the same time The Birds came out. I hated that bird with a passion and that hatred stayed with me for a long time. Then when I began working as a vet assistant, I had to work on birds a few times. That was freaky because they're so fragile and you really have to be careful. For now, my love of birds consists mostly of birdwatching and photography.

I do, however, have a nine-year-old son who is obsessed with birds. He knows so much about them that he's thrown members of the Audubon Society into a frenzy when they couldn't answer his questions. Nathan's the type of kid that goes to a bird show and when they ask if anyone knows what type of bird it is, he gives the exact name including the region it's from. He cracks me up. We call him our little Bird Nerd. While most boys his age are reading books like Captain Underpants or Nate the Great, Nathan can sit for hours reading a 1000-page bird encyclopedia by National Geographic. He's totally obsessed with birds. Both he and his little brother collect the musical stuffed Audubon birds. They have over 100 of these. I don't even want to add up how much that has cost us. On a recent trip to Disney's Animal Kingdom, everyone was engrossed in the giraffes and other African animals, while Nathan was picking out the birds. He yells out, "That's a Victorious Ground Pigeon, the largest pigeon in the world!" Rick had to ask one of the bird experts to see if Nathan was right -- he was. I hope he continues with his interest and becomes an Orithologist someday. I can't even pronounce that, more or less understand what it would involve. Nathan and his birds -- if you ever have a question -- he's the one to ask!

This picture is of a rough-legged hawk. I took it here in the Flathead Valley when we were house hunting in August 2006. This guy was sitting right on a telephone wire and I got some really good shots of him. Rough-legged hawks are winter visitors here, coming down to escape the cold weather of the north. They're unique birds because they are only one of three hawks that have feathers all the way down their legs to their toes. We see them all the time in the winter, but by spring they've all headed north again. I've managed to get some pretty good pictures of birds since moving to Montana. This one is probably my favorite. For those who know me well, know I have a thing for bird feeders. That's why I've also gotten some pretty good pictures of bears, since they love birdseed too. The bears aren't a problem now, so I have 2 feeders up which are being frequented by red-breasted nuthatches and black-capped chickadees. I haven't seen many dark-eyed juncos yet, but they're another bird that hang out during the winter, so I'm sure they'll start showing up soon. Maybe I'll see one today on National Bird Day. Do you have a favorite bird? Mine is the bald eagle.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Photo Resolution #4 ...

... PUT MORE PHOTOS UP!
That's #4 on Photojojo's New Year's Photo Resolutions. Click here to read all 22 resolutions. I'm curious -- how do you display your pictures? I take so many photos that I can't possibly display them all, but that doesn't stop me from trying. Downstairs in our family room I have a lot of photos on the wall. Last summer I bought these collage-type picture frames for the kitchen area in our family room. These pictures don't show it well, but these are movie poster sized frames, so they're pretty big. These frames are fun and a great conversation starter for people because they can see so much at one time. For these particular frames I used photos of my family mostly in national parks or camping trips. As random as the photos look, there is sort of a theme to them. I'm thinking of getting another frame for my boy's playroom. They have a wall that could use some pictures and I thought it would be fun to make a theme of "silly kid pics" or something. I also have a digital picture frame that I totally love. For Christmas a few years back, we got them for my mom and Rick's parents. We loaded the disks up with our pictures for them. I'm hoping someday they come out with really large ones, like 50-inch frames, which would be awesome to display on my fireplace wall. One of my favorite photographs I've had printed onto a blanket. I have that in my hallway as a wall hanging. Click here if you want to see which picture it was. It's probably my favorite mountain goat picture I've taken so far. I think if you click on the photographs, they might enlarge, if you want to see the pictures closer (note: second one does). So, I was just curious how everyone else displays their photographs. Anyone have any new ideas?

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Chocolate Covered Cherries!


Do you like cherries? I've always loved cherries, especially fresh ones. I moved to the right place because Bigfork, Montana is famous for cherries. Most of the farms are on the east side of Flathead Lake and I live 2 miles away from the lake shore. One of those farms can be seen here. In the summer you will find all sorts of cherry booths set up around town. Not only are they delicious and low in calories, but they're really inexpensive when you buy them from local farmers. Rainier cherries are my favorite, which are the yellow ones. You can also find cherry coffees, cherry fudge, cherry jams and other goodies all year round.

It probably won't surprise you that today is National Chocolate Covered Cherry Day. This seems a little odd to me because by January 3rd, most of the stores are no longer carrying chocolate covered cherries as much as they do at Christmas. But who are we to argue, right? Normally, I buy a box (or two or three or four) of Queen Anne cordial cherries at Christmas. This year I was holding out for the peppermint ones, but before I found them, my friend Gale sent me a box of Trader Joe's Liqueur Cherries. What a great surprise! I absolutely love those cherries and we no longer live anywhere close to a TJs. Gale had remembered me talking about them and surprised me with a few other goodies from TJs. Thank you Gale! I believe Trader Joe's only sells these around Christmastime. I haven't had breakfast yet, but I have had 2 chocolate covered cherries. I had to eat them after taking this picture. The sacrifices a photographer has to make -- sigh.

The other day I said I wanted to try some of Photojojo's Photo Resolutions for the New Year. Resolution #16 is to "do something different" and to photograph things that don't come easily to you. I figured photographing the cherries would be a good place to start, with it being Chocolate Covered Cherry Day and all. It's a hard job, but someone's got to do it!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy Mew Year!


Seriously, I saw it online -- today is Happy Mew Year for Cats Day! Uh huh. You're probably starting to think I make these up, but I don't. SEE! As they say, cats are people too and need a special day of their own. If it means I can mess with my cat's picture and make her look silly, it's a good enough reason for me. I've always loved cats. Cats and I go back a long time ...

I got my first cat when I was 5 years old. Her name was Missy. She was an ordinary striped tabby cat with short fur. She was good at math. Missy multiplied to 4 cats, and those multiplied into 8 cats, and those multiplied into 12 cats. We had a lot of cats. Missy's first litter was funny. The first born was Fatface. He had this round little face and a short stub of a tail. He was my brother's favorite. Then there was Quail, which my sister pronounced with a rolling sound in her throat. Quail had a little longer tail than Fatface, but it was only half the length of a normal tail. The last was Princess, who I obviously named, being the baby of the family. Princess looked a look like Belle here, minus the moustache and top hat. Princess had a normal length tail. That was a strange litter. Oh, there were many others too. Elvis, the little grey kitten who loved to sing. Squeeze Parkay, Elvis' brother, who was kind of sickly and would leave a yellow mess on you if you held him too tight. Mosh, Nica, Abby -- the list goes on and on and on. My favorite was CJ, of course, which you've all heard about before. He was one of those once-in-a-lifetime cats. He was absolutely the best cat!

Now we just have Belle, who is sitting here with her furry rump on my keyboard as I type this, and our other cat, Kitty. Kitty was born outside near our house in California and she was as wild as can be. My girls started feeding her and she eventually became a member of our family. Maybe I'll blog about her sometime. She's cute, but kind of skittish. So anyway, if you're a cat owner, give your kitty a little hug today and maybe an extra treat or two. After all, it is Happy Mew Year for Cats Day, you know.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy 2009!


When I was younger, a year felt like it lasted forever. Nowadays, time flies so fast that I wonder what happened. When you look at the headlines, you'd think 2008 was the worst year in history. It wasn't for me. Another year passed where my family was healthy, which is most important. I taught my youngest son how to read. I received several book contracts. I was able to take my boys to see The Wiggles in Canada, which is a big deal because we've been seeing their shows for 5+ years. I wrote a 50,000+ word novel in a month. 2008 was a good year, even though it went by so quick.

I know many people don't make New Year's resolutions, but I do. As I've gotten older, I've learned to keep them realistic and obtainable. I got an email this morning from Photojojo and it suggested to pick ONE resolution and make it FUN. If you make a long list of things you don't want to do, you probably won't do them. It makes sense to pick one thing and then do it. I did that when I first moved to Montana. I made a resolution to try XC skiing. I'm still not good at it, but I kept my resolution to try. I can think of a hundred things I should do, but it's easier to think of a couple of things I want to do. However, it's just too hard for me to pick only one ...

My Resolutions for 2009 --

  1. Go on a few snowshoe hikes this winter.
  2. Improve XC skiing skills.
  3. Get back on my treadmill routine.
  4. Start submitting my MG novel.
  5. Begin outline for sequel to MG novel.
  6. Follow some of Photojojo's great ideas, here.

And finally, New Year's Day wouldn't be complete without a picture of an old man and a baby, so here's me and my grandfather. At least I think it's me and hopefully not my sister. Regardless, it's an old man and a baby, so that's close enough.


I wish you all much happiness and success in the year 2009. God bless.