Saturday, February 28, 2009

We're home!


We made it home safe. We had to spend most of yesterday in the airport. It's crazy how they have you check in two and a half hours early for a domestic flight. At least our shuttle ride from the Stratosphere to the airport was interesting. The driver drove about 500mph, cut everyone off and even gave us a little tour. He was older and kept saying, "This is where such-n-such hotel used to be" and things like that. That was pretty funny. It's amazing how much Las Vegas has changed in just the time I saw it last. There are a lot of skyrise apartments on the Strip now and some of those can be a half million dollars and up. I guess I'm just not a city person. I don't think I'd ever want to live in Las Vegas, more or less right on the Strip like that.

I really miss old Las Vegas. I've been visiting the city since the 70s when I was little and I've seen a lot of changes. It's always been Sin City and there has always been adult images everywhere you go, but it was different back then. It wasn't so much in your face like it is now. When I was little, I remember seeing adult stuff, but they were a lot more modest than they are now. It used to be that you'd see things that were sexy or provocative, but it's more like porn now. I'm not trying to sound like a prude. After all, I know it's Vegas. I'm just saying it's different. I know they tried to do the family atmosphere a few years back and that failed. It's just a shame they've let go of the themes of some hotels. I went to the Luxor when it first opened and it was really cool because you could look up and see the inside of the pyramid. There was also a boat ride down the Nile right in the hotel. Now they have the whole thing boarded off and you wouldn't even know it was an Egyptian theme. Caesar's Palace has kept their theme and so have Paris and the Venetian. We've always loved the Venetian Hotel and have stayed there a few times. I'd like to stay at the Hilton again, just for nostalgia sake.

The Aladdin is no more and now it's Planet Hollywood, or PH. There's no theme either. All we saw were a bunch of dancing girls riding up & down the escalator. There's a place in the casino called the Pleasure Pit and apparently these girls dance while people gamble. We must have been there on escalator practice night. All they did was ride down and say "whoo-hoo" a few times. Then they got scolded that they weren't enthusiastic enough, so they rode back up and did it again. It was kind of annoying and the whole place was stupid. Isn't Planet Hollywood supposed to have a Hollywood theme? I didn't see anything. The Planet Hollywood restaurant at Caesar's Palace had more of a theme to it than their own hotel. And I'm just sentimental too because I liked the Aladdin Hotel because that's where Elvis & Priscilla were married. Granted, they were married at the old Aladdin and not the newer building, which is now PH. And then there's TI, or the old Treasure Island. They could do so much with that theme, but they don't. They just have the pirate show, which is now a bunch of ladies capturing some guy. I know I sound like a prude -- I guess I am, but I'm fine with that.

And you know how people stand on the street passing out business cards for escorts? They've been in Vegas for years and they can be really annoying. I've had a few people try to hand them to me before. Most of the time, they're not too pushy and just offer it really quick and move on. That's no big deal to me, other than all the trash of the cards on the ground. But now they wear light-up signs on their backs. Yes, right on their backs! As if handing out the cards wasn't enough and now they have to be walking billboards. They do that on trucks too. Before it used to be on the sides of buses or backs of cabs. Now they have trucks driving around advertising escorts or strip clubs. It's amazing. And they have the gall to tell the tourists that they should ride the bus or Monorail to help eliminate traffic -- wth? Rumor has it that the city might legalize prositution soon -- great.

I know I'm complaining, but we really did have a good time. Rick & I are just old, I guess. It was fun talking to cab drivers who remembered old Vegas the way we do. One guy had moved there when he was 16 in 1978, so he just missed the Elvis era. He remembered Vegas World and all the other stuff though. Rick & I were talking how cool it would be to make a huge resort with an old Vegas theme. I think there would be a huge market for that. Not everyone who goes to Vegas is in the bachelor party mood. Regardless of us being old, cranky prudes, we did have fun. I would be happy skipping the shows and just sitting on the Strip for hours watching the weirdos go by. We saw one crazy guy walking along yelling at the flowers, saying how the aliens were jealous of us and then he went off to yell at people for eating sushi, saying it wasn't real fish. Gotta love the weirdos -- from a distance anyway. Our last night Rick won $400 on the Elvis slots, so that was cool. We used to go to Vegas a few times a year when we lived in California. Now that we're in Montana, we probably won't be going again for awhile, so it was a fun trip for us. Thanks to everyone who has left comments for the pictures I posted. I didn't get to type much because the internet connection came and went. I don't usually bring my camera to Vegas, but wanted to this time to post pictures for everyone to see. I hope you enjoyed them. We came home to 6-inches of new snow and it sure is good to be home, snow and all! But do I want to go back? Oh, hell yeah -- ;)

Friday, February 27, 2009

Few more pics --






Here are just a few more pictures I took yesterday. I don't usually carry a camera around Vegas at all, but I wanted to this time to share pics on my blog for my kids to see (everyone else too) and also because we probably won't be getting down this way again anytime soon. The first picture is a horse in the lobby of the Bellagio Hotel. Then there is the Effiel Tower at Paris. Unfortunately, the one I took at night all lit up was a little blurry. The next is some kind of duck at the Flamingo Hotel. He was really cute. The last two are from the shops at Caesar's Palace. I never liked Caesar's that much, but that's mostly because I can't afford to shop at the stores there. We did get some awesome cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory. But I have to admit, it's nice to see Caesar's Palace staying true to their theme, whereas a lot of the other hotels have strayed away from their original theme. Treasure Island could be such a fun place if they'd get back to pirate stuff. The same goes for the Luxor and the Egyptian theme. Oh well. It's a good thing I'm not running this town or else it would probably go bankrupt. We talked to a cab driver last night and he said the city is really struggling. We have a late check-out today, so we're probably going to grab some breakfast and then catch our shuttle back to the airport. Unfortunately, we have to sit there for a few hours. Then we should be arriving home sometime around 7:30pm. The girls told me it was snowing pretty good yesterday, so I'm just hoping we can get our van up our road to make it to the house. The weather here in Vegas has been really nice. It's been in the 60s, which is way better than how it is in the summer when it reaches 115 or so. Anyway, it's been fun, but it's time to start packing up. I hope everyone is well and I'm looking forward to catching up on everyone's news when I get settled back home. Nichelle, Nicole, Nathan & Neil -- love you all and we'll be home soon!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Faces of Vegas --







Just a few pictures from today. From butlers made of wax, to pink flamingoes, to Yoda and Caesar himself. You just never know who you will see in Las Vegas! We've been having fun. Rick just won $400 on the Elvis slots at our hotel, so that was really cool. We're heading home tomorrow. It's a good thing because it's really getting crowded for the weekend, especially with the big NASCAR race coming up. Talk to you all soon!

More Vegas pictures --





Here are a few more pictures from Las Vegas. The first is the huge golden lion from the MGM Hotel. The next is of M&M World, which was packed with people. After that is the Statue of Liberty from the New York, New York Hotel. And finally, there's a picture of Elvis in a gold lame suit riding in a double-decker bus. You never know what you'll see in Las Vegas. We went into a bunch of the old themed hotels yesterday like Excaliber and Luxor. They've totally removed the theme from inside, so it's hard to even know what hotel you're in anymore. It's too bad because some of these hotels used to be really cool. I remember when the Luxor first opened and everything was an Egyptian theme. There was even a boat ride down the Nile River. Now you can't even look up and see the pyramid from the inside because they have it all blocked off. It's too bad. Last night we went up the Effiel Tower at the Paris Hotel. We'd never done that, so that was cool. We were up there just in time to watch the Bellagio fountains go off. Anyway, internet connection here stinks and I keep getting bumped off, so I better try to post this. We're headed out to see Caesar's Palace and the Bellagio now. Talk to you soon. Hugs to Nichelle, Nicole, Nathan & Neil.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Jersey Boys


WOW -- that sums up the show. We caught the later show at 9:30pm last night and it was awesome. First of all, we paid for the cheap seats, which were cool because even though they were high up, they were right in the center. We sat there for less than 5 minutes and they moved us down a lot farther into the more expensive seats. You can't beat that. The show was great and I'm really glad we saw it. When The Jersey Boys began touring in 2006, we were getting ready to move, so I figured I'd never see them.

For those who don't know, the Jersey Boys show is the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. They did all their great songs like "Sherry", "Big Girls Don't Cry", "Walk Like A Man", "My Eyes Adored You", "Can't Take My Eyes Off You", "Working My Way Back to You", "Fallen Angel", and more. I didn't know that Bob Gaudio, who joined the Four Seasons last, wrote most of their songs, including previous songs like "Short Shorts". The show was neat because it wasn't just about their music. It was how they went from the streets of Jersey into the music industry. It showed how certain songs were created because of what was going on around them at the time. Good stuff -- definitely worth seeing.
Rick won $250 on a Wheel-of-Fortune slot at our hotel last night, so that was pretty cool. I think today we're headed back up the Strip, so hopefully I can catch you up later. Right now I'm fighting with my internet connection, so I better end this for now. Hugs to Nichelle, Nicole, Nathan & Neil!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Vegas Pics --

We're staying at the Stratosphere Hotel. This is the tower, but the rooms are in another building. We didn't make it up to the top today -- tomorrow.

We went to the Mirage and saw the white lions & tigers. This is one of the tigers. There was also a black panther, snow leopard and a baby leopard in a nursery. It's hard to get good pictures through chainlink fence.

There were a bunch of Alpacas at the Mirage too, along with some Trumpeter swans. This guy was the most coooperative posing.

We saw some of the dolphins at the Mirage too. They had to do a rectal exam on one of them, but I didn't take any pictures of that. I'm sure you appreciate that. The look on people's faces was priceless.


These ladies acted as water fountain type statues at the Venetian Hotel. They moved really slow and had water spraying out from their hands. It was kind of fascinating and kind of creepy at the same time. After their show, they came off their platform and rode the escalator upstairs. Can you imagine what that lady from Montana would have thought if she saw that?

I had a little crisis today. I only brought several different types of boots, and since we're without a car, we're doing a lot more walking than normal. I was pretty much hating life earlier until we caught a taxi and had him drive us to Ross. I'm such a tightwad and didn't want to buy any from the designer shops in the hotels. I cannot even begin to tell you how GOOD cheap tennis shoes feel! Anyway, we're going to grab some dinner soon and then head back out to see The Jersey Boys tonight. I don't think they allow pictures during the show. Until next time ... Viva Las Vegas!

Hello from Vegas!


We arrived late last night and so far we haven't done much other than spend the last hour trying to get the internet connected at our hotel. This is the only picture I've taken -- it's the view from our room at the Stratosphere Hotel. I wanted to take some pictures on the shuttle ride from the airport last night, but the driver was going about 300 mph and they wouldn't have turned out. He did get us here in good time though. This is actually our second room. The first one had a view of the parking structure and was a handicapped access room. They moved us up to a nicer room on the 23rd floor. We'd have a good view of the Strip, except all these huge timeshare hotels have sprouted up blocking everything else.

For those of you who don't know, Rick & I are spending a few days in Las Vegas to celebrate our 21st wedding anniversary, which was on Valentine's Day. It's been years since we did anything for our anniversary. We got a really good rate, so we decided to take a little trip. I brought my laptop so I could post on my blog for my kids to see. I'm hoping to get some fun pictures for them. Last night we were walking through the airport and as we got onto the escalator, we heard a lady freaking out behind us. She had been on our flight from Montana and had never been on an escalator before. It was kind of funny, but sad in a way because she was truly scared. It didn't help that her husband told her the escalator will snag her toes at the end if she wasn't careful. Her eyes got all big and he started laughing. Then she began scolding him for making fun of her. I forget how small cities like Kalispell are sometimes. If that was her reaction to the escalator, imagine what she did when she got out on the Strip. Poor thing.

I'm not sure what our plans will be for today. I think we might try to see The Jersey Boys show sometime while we're here. Other than that, I don't know what else we'll do. This is the first time we've ever been in Vegas without a car, so that could be a pain. We're hoping to walk down the road a bit and catch the Monorail that runs along the Strip. I'll try to add more to this as I can. The internet was acting kind of goofy this morning, so hopefully it won't continue to be a problem. Anyway, I think we're going to head up to the top of the Stratosphere Tower and check that out soon. What do you think my chances are of getting Rick on this?

Nichelle, Nicole, Nathan & Neil -- we miss you and we'll talk to you soon.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Elephant Seals


This probably isn't a good beach to sunbathe on -- it's too crowded. However, if you're an elephant seal, it's the perfect place for doing just that. I came across this picture the other day when I was adding an old CD of images onto my computer. I took this one on our way up to Big Sur on a camping trip. This is a section of beach along Pacific Coast Highway near San Simeon, fairly close to Hearst Castle. There are two kinds of elephant seals. Northern Elephant Seals live on the Pacific coast of the US, Canada and Mexico. Southern Elephant Seals are found in the southern hemisphere in places like New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina. The ones pictured here are Northern. They are fascinating to watch, but they're loud and smelly. Fights between the males can be brutal. We've seen baby seals nearly get crushed to death as males fought on the beach. Some interesting facts about elephant seals are --
  • They spend 80% of their lives in the ocean.
  • They can hold their breath over 120 minutes.
  • They eat squid, octopus, eels, and small sharks.
  • They can live as long as 23 years.
  • They weigh about 6000 pounds.

Males are called bulls and the largest known bull elephant seal weighed a whopping 11,000 pounds. You wouldn't want to get in his way! They get their name from the long snout the bulls have that resembles an elephant's trunk. They are protected from cold with blubber, but at times their skin goes through a molt and they need to go on land to stay warm. This picture was taken on one of their regular haul-outs where they rest during this time. The name elephant seal got me thinking about other creatures that have another animal as part of their name. A few that I came across were --

  • tiger sharks
  • leopard sharks
  • kangaroo rat
  • catfish
  • grasshopper mouse
  • seal salamander
  • fox squirrel
  • antelope squirrel
  • horsefly
  • dragonfly
  • elephant shrew
  • chicken turtle
  • chicken hawk
  • fish crow
  • fish eagle
  • sheep frog
  • sheep dog
  • pig frog
  • zebra finch
  • bull snake
  • bull frog

Can you think of any others?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Kindergarten


Kindergarten -- what exactly does that mean? The word kindergarten means "children's garden" in German. The very first kindergarten opened on June 28, 1840 by Friedrich Frobel in Germany. The first kindergarten in the US opened in 1856 by Margaret Meyer Schurz in Waterton, Wisconsin. Kindergarten was created to help young children make the transition from home to more formal schooling. Kids learn to communicate, play, and interact. For some, kindergarten helps them adjust to being apart from their parents. Kindergarten varies from country to country ...

CANADA -- there are 2 forms of kindergarten, junior and senior.
CHINA -- children begin kindergarten when they are 2 years old.
FRANCE -- not compulsory, but nearly 100% of children attend.
GERMANY -- kindergarten is not actually part of the school system.
HONG KONG -- children begin their education as early as 8 months.
MEXICO -- kindergarten goes for 3 years before elementary school.
UK -- kindergarten is called nursery schools or playgroups.

What do you remember about kindergarten? I'm 44, so kindergarten was a long time ago. I remember being dropped off my first day and feeling butterflies in my stomach. The only other thing I remember is making my handprint out of clay. I remember the room, how the teacher rolled the clay out and used a big coffee can to cut it into a circle. I also remember her pushing my hand down into the clay to get the imprint. I don't remember anything else. Oddly, I have one memory of preschool and that was having to lay down on the floor with a blanket for quiet time. We had to move mid-year and I never got my blanket back -- how sad.

Both of my girls went to kindergarten at a private school. It was a great school and we have many fond memories. By the time our boys came, we were homeschooling, so their kindergarten was different. They're good kids and are turning out just fine, so I'm not worried about that. It's just interesting to me how much you remember. Like I said, kindergarten was a long time ago for me and I really don't remember much about it. I'm wondering if my kids will remember more than me, especially the boys since we've homeschooled them and a lot of their memories have been documented in photos and saved in binders. I don't have any of my kindergarten work, just my handprint and my kindergarten picture.

Which brings me to the picture! Awhile back, there were some photo challenges to post things like senior pics, wedding pics and newspaper clippings. I thought it would be fun to have another -- kindergarten pictures! I challenge you to post your kindergarten picture on your blog. As you can see, I had no front teeth. And again, what was it with my mom and the plaid? Not only is this a plaid jumper, but it was a tweed plaid -- ugh.

So -- are you brave enough to post your kindergarten picture?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

M&Ms and button eyes!


I saw this on Sharon's blog the other day -- Become an M&M. Seriously, who wouldn't want to be an M&M? I had to try it and this is what I came up with. Pretty silly, but hey, it's definitely me, even down to the blue cowboy boots. My life is complete -- I'm a blue M&M! Fun stuff, if you ask me. Click on Sharon's blog to see how she looks as an M&M. She's so pretty in yellow! Then give it a try. You know you want to ...

I got an email from Photojojo today and found another fun photo project. How would you like to be a character from the new Coraline movie? Click here to button your eyes. Pretty creepy stuff, don't you think? Okay, so my picture was creepy before the buttons, but it's still fun. I haven't seen the movie yet, but I want to. My daughter Nichelle wants to see it with me. I definitely want to get the soundtrack. I love that kind of stuff.

Also, thank you to those who read my daughter's blog, In My Own World recently. Nichelle has been adding a bunch of posts and photos from her missionary trip to Albania last summer. She has some really interesting stuff in there if you want to check it out again. Have a great weekend!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Sisters


Today is my sister's birthday. I won't tell you her age, but I will say Sharon is 4 years older than I am. I haven't seen her in over 2 years. The last time I saw her was when we were leaving California to move to Montana. Sharon now lives in Texas with her new husband, whom I've never met. Because we had a 4 year age gap, Sharon was into different things than I was while growing up. She hated it when I tried to hang around her friends, but I did it anyway. Thanks to them I started drinking coffee at a ripe old age of nine. She and her friends would ditch school to go out for coffee at Carrows or the local bowling alley. I don't know why I hung out with them because I had nothing in common with them. I have fond memories of driving to the beach in Sharon's old VW bug. She had an 8-track player and we'd listen to The Who's "Who's Next" album the whole way. We'd lay on the beach all day, hoping the weirdos would leave us alone. Sharon was really into the Beatles when we were growing up, including Paul McCartney & Wings. She played them constantly. I can't hear the music now without thinking of my sister. She was a tad jealous in 1985 after I told her I ran into Paul McCartney at a London train station. When I was in the 4th grade, Sharon got in big trouble with my mom. She got put in Catholic school, hoping it would help turn her around. Like the dork I was, I said, "I wanna go too!" Little did I know how much I would hate it there. I only lasted a year before I finally went back to my old school. After Sharon had her first baby, we'd go shopping often. I'd push Tyler in the cart so Sharon could look around. As I walked through the aisles, Tyler would grab onto a rack and jolt me to a stop. Either that or he'd yell, "Mama! Mama! Mama!" as loud as he could. Kids change everything, even sisters. I remember when we'd sleep at my grandparent's house and we'd lay in our room in fits of giggles listening to our grandparents yawn. Neither one could yawn normally. They always said, "Huh huh huh!" as they yawned. I don't know why, but we thought that was hilarious. It's funny the things that stick out in your mind.

I thought of the word sister and a bunch of things came to mind --

Sister -- as in the twisted nuns at my Catholic school
Sister -- a sorority member
Sister -- the character from Berenstain Bears
Sister -- a senior female nurse

There are a lot of other things that use the word sister in them, such as --

Sister, Sister -- 90s TV show
Sister Disco -- song by The Who
Twisted Sister -- 80s metal rock band
Sister -- CD from Sonic Youth
Sister Act -- 1992 movie with Whoopie Goldberg
Little Sister -- 1961 song from Elvis
Sisters of Mercy -- a rock band and a ministry
Sister Psychic -- song by Smash Mouth
The Pointer Sisters -- musical group
The Andrew Sisters -- another musical group
Sister of the Moon -- Fleetwood Mac song by Stevie Nicks
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants -- famous books & films
My Sister Eileen -- 1955 Blake Edwards comedy

Then there are famous sisters, though only a handful of Hollywood ones come to mind. I'm sure there are millions of others throughout history --

Mary Kate & Ashley Olsen
Jessica & Ashlee Simpson
Britney & Jamie Spears
Paris & Nikki Hilton
Hilary & Haylie Duff
The 3 sisters in the country group, SheDAISY

Anyway, that's probably more about sisters than you cared to know about. My sister reads my blog every now and then, so if she's reading today -- Happy Birthday, Sharon!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Joshua Tree NP


If you're ever in Southern California and get the chance, visit Joshua Tree National Park. It's a really cool place. We went there in January 2003, so Neil wasn't even a year old yet. I remember taking a hike on the Hidden Valley Trail. At the time, Nathan was really into The Land Before Time animated dinosaur movies. He rode in a baby backpack on Rick's back for this hike and I remember him stopping everyone we passed telling them how we were searching for the Great Valley, just like the dinosaurs did in the movies. Joshua Tree is a fun park to visit, especially in the winter when it's cooler. The big attraction are the Joshua trees, of course.

Joshua trees are members of the giant lily family. They look like something out of a Dr. Seuss book with their spiky, twisted branches going off in all directions. Native American Indians used the trees to make sandals, baskets and also as a source of food. It's believed that the Mormons named the trees after Joshua in the Bible. Ranchers homesteaded the area and used the branches of Joshua trees for fencing and corrals. Miners used the trees as a source of fuel for the steam engines they used to process ore. The tallest tree in the park is about 40 feet high and estimated to be around 300 years old. Joshua trees provide homes and shelter for all sorts of birds, mammals, insects, and lizards. It's a fun place to visit, and just like Death Valley NP, it's like being on a different planet at times. There are a lot of large rock formations there, and when it gets too cold for rock climbers in Yosemite, they come to Joshua Tree to climb.

On a completely different note -- I was featured in a blog interview yesterday over at Susan's Thoughts and Ramblings. It's a short interview, but I was honored that Susan contacted me to do it. Please check it out and leave a comment if you can. She has some other fun Quickie Interviews on her blog as well as lots of helpful tips for writers. Thank you Susan!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Prairie Dog Cowboy



Buddy wanted to be a Cowboy, one that rode a horse, not herd cows by foot. When the neighboring rancher, Caleb Hyman, told the boy he would be hired once he could lasso prairie dogs, Buddy worked and practiced for years to be able to catch one. The day he finally roped one of the quick rodents, two of his older brother's friends watched from the road and ridiculed Buddy, calling him a prairie dog cowboy. Facing the hard life of homesteading in the late 1890s and early 1900s, Buddy didn't have an easy life, made worse by a mother who didn't love him or accept him. However, with the help of the Hymans, he developed into a strong, decent person who struggled to find his place in his world.

And so ... this is the story of Prairie Dog Cowboy, a historical fiction novel for young teens by V. Gilbert Zabel -- also known as Vivian -- my wonderful publisher at 4RV Publishing. I'm pleased to introduce this book and recently I asked Vivian a few questions about Prairie Dog Cowboy ...


Rena -- What is the basis of Prairie Dog Cowboy?
Vivian -- Buddy dreamed of being a cowboy as he herded his family's few cows, and sometimes calves, in the pasture. He wanted to be a cowboy who rode a horse, not ran after cattle on foot. A neighboring rancher befriended him and promised to hire the boy once he could lasso a prairie dog. Buddy grew up during a difficult time, made harder for him because of a dysfunctional family. He was his mother's "whipping boy," but he kept trying to please her and earn her love. His struggle to survive the frontier life and become a man is the basis of the novel.

Rena -- What inspired you to write this story?
Vivian -- My husband worked his family's farm, cowboyed for local ranchers, and broke horses. His stories made me want to find a way to include his experiences.

Rena -- Who is this book geared toward and for what age?
Vivian -- Technically, Prairie Dog Cowboy is written for young teens, especially reluctant readers, but I've had elementary students, older teens, and adults read and enjoy the book.

Rena -- Are there any illustrations in the book?
Vivian -- The book contains pen and ink drawings, created by artist Jordan M. Vinyard. As I stated, I wrote so that reluctant readers could enjoy the book. Long pages of nothing but words actually scare some people. Breaking up the vast array of words with an occasional illustration helps.

Rena -- Why did you choose prairie dogs as part of the story?
Vivian -- I wanted a goal for Buddy, something that he could attain by the time he was old enough to work on a ranch. Prairie dogs are a bane in the Oklahoma Panhandle. What could make a better challenge for a young boy that to learn to rope one of the quick, easily found animals?

I'm pleased to share this book with you today. You can order Prairie Dog Cowboy at 4RV Publishing as well as Amazon. As a special treat for this blog tour, Vivian is having a drawing for a free tote bag. Simply leave a valid email with your comment and you'll be eligible for the drawing. Also, I have a second entry on my Multiply blog, which is different than this one. Click here to read it. To see what's in store for Buddy next and to follow the rest of the tour, click here. And finally, please join me in wishing Vivian and her husband Robert a happy anniversary. Today is their 47th wedding anniversary -- now that's something to to be proud of. Congratulations!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Stomp, stomp, stomp ...

We went to Glacier National Park yesterday and went snowshoeing. It was a lot of fun. We started out on the Going-To-The-Sun Road and then cut down to Lake McDonald. From there we walked along the shoreline for awhile. This was our first time snowshoeing, other than stomping around in our yard. We took the boys with us and they had a semi-good time. Neil kept asking where we were going. He likes having a destination and doesn't seem to understand the concept of walking just for the sake of walking. He did good, but got tired near the end. He asked me to hold his hand and said, "I'm just not made for this." Funny kid. Nathan was a little more radical and flopped all over the place. It's a good thing snowshoes come with spikes on the bottoms, especially with the way Nathan bounces around. I need to get that kid in snowboarding lessons. But overall, it was a fun trip and I can see myself really getting into this. It's easier than XC skiing and I can take pictures without worrying about falling on my camera. I'd also like to take my XC skis up there sometime too. Lake McDonald is so pretty!

Please check back with my blog tomorrow because I will be featuring a book tour for Prairie Dog Cowboy by Vivian Zabel. This is a historical fiction novel written for young teens. Everyone who leaves a comment with a valid email address is eligible to be in a drawing to win a canvas tote bag. Vivian Zabel is my publisher with 4RV Publishing LLC and tomorrow is also her 47th wedding anniversary. Please stop by to wish her well and check out her newest book. I hope to see you here!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Did You Know ... ???


I love fun facts. I especially love funny or unique facts that most people wouldn't know. When I used to publish a pen pal newsletter for pet lovers, I often included a Did You Know ...??? section in each issue. I love that kind of stuff. The other day we were at Borders so the boys could use up their giftcards they got for Christmas. Nathan was having a hard time deciding. I picked up this Uncle John's Did You Know ... ??? book and showed it to him. He flipped through the pages quickly, put it down and continued his search. About 10 minutes later he had this same book as his choice. He began reading it when he got home and hasn't put it down hardly at all. I can't go anywhere in the house without him following me to read from it. He's totally into this kind of stuff and he's like a giant sponge soaking it all in. This is a bathroom reader for kids. For example, did you know ...
  • Slugs have four noses?
  • Lightning strikes 8 million times a day?
  • A sneeze travels at 100 mph?
  • Lions are the only cats with a tuft on their tails?
  • Women pass gas 3x more than men?
  • A single ant can't survive by itself?
  • The Statue of Liberty wears an 879 size sandal?
  • Corn syrup prevents lollipops from dripping?

I could go on and on and on -- but I won't. You'll just have to pick up the book for yourself. Uncle John has a website here and he has a lot of these books. Nathan's playing right now, but I'm sure in awhile he'll be up here reading more interesting facts to me. As soon as I can, I'm going to snag the book from him and read it myself.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Mmm ... meatloaf!


A few people have asked for this recipe, so I thought I'd put it on my blog. The sun-dried tomatoes give it a little tang and it always turns out really good. It goes great with mashed potatoes and some sort of fresh veggie.

SUN-DRIED TOMATO MEATLOAF
  • 1.5-2 pounds ground beef, extra lean
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 3/4 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a skillet heat up 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add onions and garlic. Saute until onions are translucent. In a large bowl, mix together ground beef, bread crumbs, tomatoes, egg, oregano, basil, salt and pepper. Add onions and garlic and mix well. Grease loaf pan with olive oil and press mixture into pan. Cover lightly with aluminum foil. Bake 60-70 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before slicing.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

21 years ago today ...


After dating for 7 years, Rick & I were finally married on Valentine's Day 1988. It's hard to believe it's been 21 years already, plus 7. We haven't done much today, other than take the boys to swimming class, do some shopping and struggle getting computer files transferred over. This photo is from our wedding album, but I haven't had a chance to crop it. Sorry about that -- I need to get PhotoShop reinstalled. In about a week we'll be celebrating our anniversary in Las Vegas for a few days, so that will be fun. Just doing our part to get the economy rolling again ...

For those of you who have blogs I follow, I hope to read and comment on them soon. We're trying to switch all my files from the old laptop to the new one, but the old one isn't cooperating too well. Remember how we ordered a new keyboard for it? It arrived yesterday and the box had been smashed. The stupid thing was broken in half and the keys were shattered. Now we're going to have to battle it out between the company and Fed Ex -- lovely. Anyway, I hope to be online again and get to everyone's blogs, my message boards, answer emails, Facebook and all those other things I think I have to do each day. Computers suck sometimes.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Computers -- UGH!


Can't live with them -- can't live without them!

Oh man, isn't that the truth? We have so many computers in this house that I've lost count. I still haven't gotten used to our main one downstairs, so I don't use it much. My laptop is ancient and locks up, so I switched to Rick's laptop. It was working great. Then recently, it began having problems with the letter "o". If I typed anything with an "e" in it, it was followed by an "o". We figured the o-key was stuck, so Rick took it apart and cleaned it. It continued to do it and then it would just type "ooooooo" nonstop all on its own. It was like it was possessed. I was getting around the problem by attaching a separate keyboard, but then it started up again. As it is now, we're expecting a new keyboard to come today and hopefully it will fix the problem. If so, Rick gets his laptop back because I'm using a new one right now. Yeah, yeah, I know -- spoiled brat I am. Happy Anniversary to me ...

How much do you rely on your computer? Isn't that a scary thought when you think about it? We use them for our bills, banking, photographs, music, shopping, keeping up with friends, reading the news, emails, etc. That doesn't include my writing, which not only includes the actual manuscripts, but the cover letters, queries, address labels, replies from editors, etc. It's unbelievable how much we rely on computers. It's almost like we can't live without them. And, when we want to see something online, we want to see it NOW, regardless if it has to travel all the way across the world. My MIL has a computer, but she's scared to use it. She hears one weird story and thinks all computers are evil. I guess she figures gremlins will come in through her PC and steal her identity and max out her credit cards. She tried to get into computers, but didn't understand them. I used to think she was silly, but sometimes I think she's smarter than the rest of us. Yesterday I had 2 laptops running at the same time and both were having major issues. The frustration was so much that I wanted to toss them both through the window.

Then of course, there's the buying of a new computer, which is enough to send anyone to the nuthouse. You can't buy a new system and have things "the way they used to be" either. The operating systems change too fast and favorite programs no longer are supported. I do a lot of desktop publishing work and used Adobe PageMaker for years. When our main PC died, we had to upgrade from XP to Vista. Well, my version of PageMaker was so old that it can't be added to the new computer. We got In-Design, which is the new version of PageMaker and it's on the main computer. It's more complicated and I haven't had time to learn it. All my work I've been doing on the old laptops using my old PageMaker program. Getting a new computer might sound cool, but now I can't use PageMaker at all. The good thing is that it will force me to learn In-Design. The bad thing is that I will have to make time for it. Not only that, but learning new programs is frustrating, especially if you can use the old versions with your eyes closed. I don't do change very well with some things. I think back and remember the days of typing on a typewriter. The biggest worry was getting the keys stuck or figuring out how to replace the ribbon. It was a thrill to go from that to my word processor where I could actually edit and save things. Now of course, everything is computerized and life is a lot more complicated ...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Just trollin' around ...


Did you ever play with trolls? I was digging through my closet the other day and found two of my old trolls. I had them packed up because the last time I left them out, the boys got a hold of them and took them in the bathtub. That's how the yellow-headed one lost his hair. It really bummed me out. I can't remember the yellow-haired one's name, but I used to call the pink-haired one Charlie. I played with trolls all the time. I even had some of the plastic carrying cases that were designed like little houses. Those were fun. My best friend in grade school loved trolls too and we'd play with them for our entire lunch break. Fun memories playing with them on the dirt hill.

Troll dolls first became popular in the mid-60s, but were originally invented in 1949 by a Danish woodcutter named Thomas Dam. It is said he couldn't afford a Christmas present for his young daughter, so he carved her this doll. It became such a hit that he started making more and selling them. Trolls became popular again in the 70s, which is when I used to play with them. I remember finding them at thrift stores and it was always a thrill to find a really old one. It was like striking gold. If you go to ebay and look for trolls from the 60s, you'll probably see a lot of bids and high prices. Some people seriously collect them. I just have these two right now. My girls had a bunch from the 80s, but I'm not sure if we still have them. The newer trolls came with fancy outfits, but the ones I used to get were always naked.

According to Wiki, a troll is a fierce member of a race of creatures from Nordic mythology, similar to the ogres of England. Trolls have been featured in fables, books, movies, even television. I remember loving the story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff when I was little, which featured a troll living under a bridge. There is a troll in Toy Story too, but it didn't talk or have a big role due to issues with who owned the rights to it. My sister-in-law married a man from Norway and acquired some very interesting trolls living there. In their heyday, trolls were considered a source of good luck and many people carried the dolls while they traveled. I wish I had kept my old trolls, but I'm glad I have these, despite the hair-loss. Do they make Rogaine for trolls?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I'm not lion ...


Lions are cool and one of my favorite animals. They're the second largest of the big cats, with tigers being the largest. Lions live in Africa and Asia, but only in certain places because they've been driven out. It is believed that lions were once the most widespread land mammal at one time. Lions are currently in a vulnerable, threatened status, not yet endangered.

White lions are even more rare and have never been common in the wild. There are not many white lions left and they are currently an endangered species. White lions aren't albinos, as many people think. The white color comes from a recessive, color-inhibiting gene. White lions only come from parents who both have this gene. White lions were first recorded in 1928, but didn't get a lot of attention until the 1970s when Chris McBride wrote The White Lions of Timbavati. I have always loved lions. I have a small collection of lion figurines. I've only seen white lions at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas. Siegfried & Roy had a white lion with their collection of tigers. I don't know if it's still there, but it was absolutely beautiful.

If you're close to my age, you might remember a famous white lion named Kimba. No, not Simba -- that's The Lion King. Kimba the White Lion was an animated television show from the 60s. I probably watched most of it in the 70s and I loved this show. It was the first animated television series made in Japan. I used to watch this show all the time. I think it came on right before Speed Racer, which I also loved. Kimba the White Lion was a great show. It was about animals and people living together peacefully. I have two DVDs of this show that I found in the $5 bin at Walmart. They don't make shows like this anymore. Thanks to You Tube, we can take a small trip back ...


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Happy Birthday Neil!


My youngest celebrates his 7th birthday today. I'm sure he'll be up bright and early asking when we're going to have his party. We're just doing a family thing at home tonight after Rick gets off work. We're having a Wall-E party, which is one of Neil's favorite movies. He has no idea of the theme, so he'll be surprised. He's looking forward to his pizza, his cake, and most of all, his presents! I can't believe he is 7 years old already. He's a little ladies' man too. They grow up too darn quick. Happy Birthday to Neil!

I also want to say thanks to everyone who took the time to check out my website as well as add me as a friend on Facebook. I'm still trying to learn my way around over there. The hardest part for me is figuring out who is who. Most of my friends are from the message boards I visit, so I'm trying to put everyone's faces and names with their user names on the boards. I'll figure it out sooner or later. There's a lot to look at over there. Rick even joined!

And finally, please check out my oldest daughter's blogs. Nichelle has some really cool stuff on them. I just noticed she blogged about her missionary trip to Albania last year on her In My Own World blog. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience she will never forget. She's going to be posting more about this trip, so I'm looking forward to reading it. On her Desktop Stables blog you'll find some of her horses and horse tack she's made. Nichelle makes the most incredible miniature horse things, including saddles and bridles. It's absolutely amazing. I think she's going to start selling custom made items too. Please feel free to check it out and leave her a comment. She'd love to hear from you. Nichelle is 19 and if you have or know of any teens who love horses, send them her way. She also made the heading pictures on both blogs. Cool stuff! You might even recognize Kitty there!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Rub-A-Dub-Dub!

Well, here's a holiday for me -- Read In The Bathtub Day! Sounds good to me. I love long baths and reading in the tub is even better. I'll have to remember this tonight, since I have 3 books I want to read. One of my favorite kid's books is Five Minutes Peace by Jill Murphy. This is such a cute book with adorable illustrations. Mrs. Large, an elephant, wants a little time to herself. Her family has other ideas. She makes herself breakfast, grabs the newspaper and tries to sneak upstairs into the bathroom. She fills the tub with hot water and bubbles. Just as she's finally starting to relax, one of her kids comes in and wants to play her a song, which he proceeeds to play three times. Then her daughter comes in and wants to read Mrs. Large a page from her book. She reads more than 4 pages. Pretty soon the little one comes in and flings all his bathtoys into the tub. All heck breaks loose and soon the kids are eating her breakfast, in the tub, and splashing water everywhere. Mrs. Large gets out and goes downstairs where she has a total of 3 minutes and 45 seconds of peace before all the kids join her again. Ever have one of those days? My advice -- lock the door!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

4th in the 4th

I was tagged by Kim to go to my 4th photo album on my computer and post the 4th picture that comes up. Today is my 44th birthday -- how weird is that! It just so happens that I LOVE the 4th picture in my 4th photo album. It's of my daughter Nicole, taken on her 14th birthday in 2005. This is one my favorite pictures of her.

Other news is that my website is now live! Click here to check it out. It's also been added to the sidebar here on my blog. Of course, it will be changing as my books are published, but at least I have something up for the time being. It's funny how I've been working on this site for weeks and weeks. I finally get it up online, only to look at it with a different perspective and see all these things I'd like to change or add. Oh well. I guess that's one advantage of designing the website, since I can make those changes myself. I have also joined Facebook, since so many of my friends have been inviting me and I was starting to feel pretty guilty about blowing them off. I'm listed under "Rena Jones" on the site. There's only about 4 pages of Rena Jones, so you shouldn't have any problem finding me. 8-}

My husband was a sweetheart and brought me breakfast in bed this morning. I guess birthdays have their advantages. Rick does this for me a lot though, so I'm pretty spoiled. I feel bad for him because last night I woke him up out of a sound sleep and told him someone was in our house. I'd never seen him move so fast. He searched the house, only to discover I had been having a nightmare. Poor guy. But dang, it was weird. Isn't it amazing how dreams can feel so real sometimes? Oh, I almost forgot! I need to tag 4 others for the 4th in the 4th, so I tag --

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Beware, beware, beware ...

Talk about a blast from the past -- does anyone remember this?
I remember watching it all the time when I was a kid. How funny. We've gone from Johnny and Sigmund the Sea Monster to Johnny and the Cracken. Oh, how times have changed ...

Friday, February 6, 2009

POP! SMACK! BLAM!


Today is National Bubblegum Day! This is the one day kids can chew gum in school to earn money for the charity of their choice. I don't know how long this has been going on and I don't remember my school doing this. Sounds like fun though, so I hope some schools are participating today. I've always loved bubblegum. I remember when Bubble Yum first came out. After years of chomping down on hard bubblegum like Bazooka, the softness of Bubble Yum was a real treat. I can almost hear Tracy's husband screaming right now. He's a dentist -- bless his heart.

Bubblegum was invented in 1906 by Frank Fleer, but it didn't work very good. It wasn't until 1928 that a successful gum was produced. It was called Blow Gum at first and later became known as Blo Bubble. Fleer's company kept working and created the gum known as Double Bubble, which is still available today. It's commonly believed that bubblegum is pink because that's the only color the inventor had at the time. Bubble blowing has become a big deal and there are competitions every year to see who can blow the biggest bubble. Click here to see what I mean. The largest bubble is 23 inches, blown by Susan Montgomery Williams in 1994. With the invention of gums like Bubble Yum, Bubblicious and Hubba Bubba, even a novice can blow a humongous bubble. Check out my blog here where I entered a bubblegum contest. Things got messy, not to mention hairy.

This picture here is of my girls, Nicole & Nichelle, taken in 2001. That year we had gotten a bubblegum making kit and the girls were attempting to blow bubbles with what they made. The kit worked, but the gum didn't make very good bubbles. So, if you can get your hands on some bubblegum, today is the day to do it. Click here to see another website that has a lot of fun facts on Bubblegum Day, including some kid's books featuring bubblegum. Have fun and try not to get those sticky bubbles in your hair!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Awarded!


I've been given an award by April on her Ugly Rabbit blog. She's a wonderful artist in Ireland, so check out her blog if you can. This is an art blog award and I'm not sure how artistic mine is, but I would like to thank April for thinking of me. I've never kept to one theme for this blog and it's always been a little of this and a little of that. If random craziness is an art form, then I guess my blog fits. In order to accept this award I'm to list 7 things I love and nominate 7 other bloggers. The last time I listed 7 things I loved, I picked 7 national parks. I wanted to do something different, so I decided to pick 7 artists and one piece of their work I particularly love. Nothing like making things complicated, huh? A lot of these we've studied in school and that's been a lot of fun. Here are my 7 artists --
  1. Leonardo da Vinci -- The Last Supper
  2. Henri Matisse -- Woman with a Hat
  3. Vincent Van Gogh -- The Starry Night
  4. Pierre Auguste Renoir -- Girl with a Hoop
  5. Raphael -- Transfiguration
  6. Claude Monet -- The Cliffs at Etretat
  7. Edgar Degas -- The Dance Class

Now I pick 7 bloggers to receive this award and they are --

  1. Paris
  2. Hilary
  3. Adrienne
  4. Doda
  5. Stephanie
  6. Kate
  7. Stephen

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Musical cereal --


Ever have one of those moments where something hits you totally out of the blue and you don't have a clue why? That happened to me yesterday. I was on my bed, sniffing and trying to breathe from this dumb cold, when all of a sudden I thought about records on cereal boxes. Yeah, records on cereal boxes. Some of you might be too young to remember these. When I was growing up in the 70s, cereal for kids was a big deal. We didn't pick the cereal for the cereal. We picked our cereals for the free toy that was being offered in the box. I guess kids still do that today, but it seemed like it was a bigger deal back then. Maybe it was just to me.

I remember cereal companies printed records on the back of the boxes. For those of you who are totally lost, records played music. Before there were CDs, there were cassettes. Before there were cassettes, there were 8-track tapes. Before there were 8-track tapes, there were records. Records came in two sizes -- 33s and 45s. The 45s were the small ones, like you'd see in old jukeboxes, but the records on cereal boxes were usually 33s. Anyway, just out of the blue yesterday, these old records popped into my mind. I asked Rick if he remembered records on cereal boxes and he said he did. That made me feel better because, for awhile, I thought I was having some kind of senior moment. Cereal companies really did print records on their boxes. The funny thing is -- they worked! I can't remember any specific ones I had, but I looked online and found some samples here. I'm pretty sure I had The Sugar Bears one that's shown there.

Wow -- talk about a blast from the past!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

What's in a name?


Have you ever googled your name to see what comes up? I did once and found a musician who plays all sorts of instruments, including my favorite, the cello. You can visit Rena's website here. She has some interesting music. It's really mellow and fun to listen to at night before bed. I always get a little freaked out seeing my own name on my iPod. When I visited England in 1984 and 1985, I laughed when I saw the Rena Hotel. One day we finally got a picture of me standing by it. It was in a cheesy side of town and we stayed at a hotel fairly close to it. It's not everyday you see a hotel with your name on it. I've also driven by the Rena Theater in Kellogg, Idaho. You don't see or hear the name Rena everyday (well, I do) so it's funny to see it somewhere.

My father named me Rena, after a little old Irish lady he worked with in his realtor office. I don't know much else about how he choose it, or if my mom had much say in it. His name was Richard Gene and he also gave me my middle name, Jean. I had friends who hated their names, but I always liked mine. I knew I was in big trouble when my mom took the time to say both of my names together. "Rena Jean!" usually meant I was busted for something. I never heard my name much when I was little. I do recall seeing it on the credits for the Sonny & Cher Show. There was a Rena who worked as Cher's clothing designer. Also, if you google just the name Rena you come up with an entire line of fish aquarium products. Check it out here. Who would have thought? And if you go to Renausa you find a whole slew of mailing products. In both Norway and Spain, you will find towns called Rena. There's even a 1938 Polish movie by my name. All sorts of people, products and places come up for my name. I know from having to make usernames that Rena is a lot more common than I thought.

What about your name? Is it common, or are you like me and freak out a little when you see it someplace else? And for those of you who write stories, how do you pick names for your characters? Do you go for uncommon names or more common ones?

Monday, February 2, 2009

And the winner is ...

This was, by far, the BEST commercial played on Super Bowl Sunday. I saw it during the Puppy Bowl, but it was shown during the game as well. Every time I see it, I laugh and I laugh and I laugh. It doesn't take much to amuse me, especially when animals are involved.


The Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head was a cute one. Other than that, Super Bowl Sunday commercials just aren't as good as they used to be, especially when you consider how much money they spend on those silly things. But this Pedigree one takes the cake! "Bruno, come back here! Bruno, you bad, bad bird!" Flippin' hysterical!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

GI Joe Day!


According to one website with unique and silly holidays, today is officially GI Joe Day. I couldn't find anything else about it online though. GI Joe action figures have been sold since 1964. It wasn't until 1982 that they introduced the newest version of GI Joe, "The Real American Hero" figures. If you look at their website here, you'll see the changes GI Joe has gone through over the years. I never had a GI Joe when I was little, though I had more Barbies than I could count. I remember feeling envious because GI Joes could move so much better than Barbie. All Barbie could do was raise her arms and snap her knees back and forth. GI Joes moved in all sorts of directions. My husband had GI Joes and he and his brother used to have pretty serious wars in the backyard, which included real fire bombs and other things they'd come up with. I'm surprised they didn't burn the house down with their antics. I still don't think their parents know what went on.

Nathan and Neil have quite a few GI Joes. They're always cruising through the house in their Jeep or having battles somewhere. One thing the boys like to do is take a GI Joe when we go kayaking. We have tandem kayaks, so I usually have one boy in my boat and Rick has the other in his. The boys love bringing GI Joe along. I bet you didn't know GI Joe screams like a little girl when he gets dragged through the icy waters. Yep, he does. Last summer we were kayaking in Swan Lake. We paddled all the way across the lake and spent some time in a secluded little spot. The boys had fun playing with their GI Joes in the lake ...


The picture below is of Nathan and his GI Joe named Eddie. Eddie didn't seem to mind being naked, or getting dirty, especially when there were trees to climb and mud to crawl through. He did have his gloves on, afterall ...


However, this was sadly GI Joe Eddie's last day with us. As we were kayaking back across the lake, Eddie was acting really stupid. He was pretending to be a dolphin and was bouncing off the waves, screaming like a little girl the entire time. One wave was just too much for him and he slipped from Nathan's grip. I turned that kayak around as fast as I could, but Eddie was gone. Who knew GI Joes sunk that fast. So, our beloved Eddie now rests at the bottom of Swan Lake. It was a pretty traumatic day, but at least he had his gloves on. GI Joe now travels in the kayak with bungee cords wrapped around his waist. Live & learn! The boys want to take scuba diving lessons and go look for Eddie. Rest in peace, Eddie. You are missed.

And finally, if you haven't checked out my kid's GI Joe's Christmas video, please do. I laugh my head off every time I watch the silly thing. Who needs the Super Bowl when you have GI Joe. Happy GI Joe Day!