Friday, July 31, 2009

Visit with my mom ...


We drove to Barstow to visit my mom at her nursing home yesterday. That's a 3 hour drive from where we lived in Ojai. The last time we saw her was on our way to move to Montana in 2006. I pretty much thought that would be the last time I saw her, so I'm grateful to have been given one last chance. We left the boys with their other grandparents here at the house. They've met my mom and know she's really sick, but I didn't want them to see her like that again. They're just too young to understand and it would have been hard for them to sit with nothing to do for a few hours.

For those of you who don't know -- my mom suffered several bad strokes about 5 years ago. They left her paralyzed, unable to speak and unable to eat. She's been really alert all this time, but has been unable to communicate. That's starting to fade now and she's not as responsive as she used to be. However, she did manage to stay awake while we were there and she smiled a few times as well. She was more alert than I thought she'd be, from what my brother said, so that was nice. I gave her a copy of my Dilly book and she smiled when she saw my Elvis purse. It was still awkward for me and hard to see her like that. My brother, Mike lives nearby and sees her everyday. He's amazing that he has the strength to do that. It's just a sad situation all the way around because her quality of life is next to nothing. It was one of those situations where she could go at anytime or linger miserably for years. Sadly, the latter has been the case for her. It's also ironic she's in a nursing home because my mom was a nurse and spent her entire career working in geriatrics. Now she's the patient, which has to be hard.

The picture above is her cat, Toby. He's adorable and he hangs out at the nursing home most days. In fact, my brother said if he doesn't bring him, Toby acts up and gets into trouble. Mike will say, "Let's get your clothes on," and Toby is all happy. His clothes means his collar, which he associates as getting to go bye-bye. He hangs out on top of the closet in my mom's hospital room. From my mom's bed, she has a great view of him sitting up there, so it's a perfect spot. All the patients and staff adore him. A few years ago Toby got a cancerous tumor on one of his back legs and had to have it amputated. My brother knew how much Toby meant to my mom, so he worked hard to pay for the surgery. So now Toby is a 3-legged cat, but that doesn't slow him down at all. He's such a sweet cat and cute as can be. Edited to change the cat's name -- his name is Toby. I knew I had it wrong. Sorry, Toby!

It's weird -- knowing that it will more than likely be the last time I see her. I don't know how to take that and my emotions are a little jacked up right now. No one ever wants to see a parent suffer, especially for so many years, which has been her situation. But I am thankful I was given the opportunity to go out there and see her again. Mike was surprised how alert and awake she was, so maybe she gave it her all so she could see Rick & I. On our way home we stopped in California City to visit another friend of ours. Bruce is working out in the desert at Edwards AFB and I've known him just as long as I've known Rick. It was nice to catch up with what he's been up to, have dinner, and reminisce over old times. Hopefully, he can make it up our way sometime soon. Today we're just bumming around the house for awhile. Rick's helping his parents by changing some faucets outside. Later tonight we're going to another friend's house to visit some of Rick's old co-workers. It's pretty much non-stop go-go-go here. I'm looking forward to relaxing when I get home -- this vacation stuff is hard work!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Today's pictures ...

Neil, waiting for our burritos on our way to Toys R Us.

Nathan and what he thinks of burritos ...

Rick ordering lunch -- Johnny's has the BEST beef burritos in the world!

The house I grew up in -- it's totally been redone and remodeled.

My old elementary school in Ojai, California -- San Antonio School.

My in-law's cat, Dusty -- but I call him Pretty Boy.

Some treasures I've found on our stay -- haven't seen a Big Cherry in years!

Tomorrow we're driving to Barstow to visit my mom at the nursing home. She's not doing too well and my brother says she's not responsive as much as when we left. She wasn't able to talk 3 years ago, but she was more alert than she is now. It will be hard to see her like that. After we visit my mom and brother, we're going to visit another friend we haven't seen in years before making the 3-hour drive back home. Should be a long day ...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

California Squirrels


Well east coast squirrels are hip
I really dig those styles they wear
And the southern squirrels with the way they talk
They knock me out when I'm down there
The mid-west farmer's squirrels really make you feel alright
And the northern squirrels with the way they kiss
They keep their boyfriends warm at night

I wish they all could be California ...
I wish they all could be California ...
I wish they all could be California squirrels

The west coast has the sunshine
And the squirrels all get so tanned
I dig a french bikini on Hawaii island
Squirrels by a palm tree in the sand
I've been all around this great big world
And I've seen all kinds of squirrels
Yeah, but I couldn't wait to get back in the states
Back to the cutest squirrels in the world

I wish they all could be California ...
I wish they all could be California ...
I wish they all could be California squirrels

Monday, July 27, 2009

Sunsets, fish and TJs!


Rick & I went out to dinner tonight -- no place fancy -- we went to Andria's Seafood Restaurant in Ventura. I've been craving their deep-fried halibut for 3 years. It was SO good! We have a fish place where we live, but it's nothing like this one. Rick even bought an Andria's tee shirt, so now I'll crave it each time he wears it. The halibut is so good! After dinner we got an ice cream cone and walked around Ventura Harbor for a bit when we noticed this amazing sunset. I got some cool pictures -- some with birds and some with boats. I can't decide which one to post, so maybe I'll put up a couple of them. Besides Andria's, we also went to Trader Joe's today, so I was a happy camper. We walked in and Rick asked me what I needed. I just looked around and said, "Nothing, I just want to be here." I ended up buying some mini peanut butter cups, black licorice, chicken chow mein and some facial moisturizer. I even got a recycled TJs bag for 99-cents, so now I can stare at that and dream about Trader Joe's even more. I really do love Montana -- I think I just missed Andria's and TJs the most!

We picked up a rental car today, so now we have a way to get around without my MIL having to drive us everywhere. We also went to the Navy base to get groceries. My ILs haven't been home for a week, so they needed to get some things. My sister-in-law, Kathy is visiting from back east, along with her new husband, Rich. It's kind of crazy because my FIL is named Richard and then we also have a Rick and a Rich. Tomorrow Rick & I are going to Lake Casitas for lunch to meet some of Rick's co-workers from the sheriff's department. That should be fun. Rick has really missed his friends since leaving. One of them doesn't know we're coming, so we're trying really hard to make it a surprise for her. On Thursday, Rick & I are driving to visit my mom in Barstow, which is about 3 hours away. My brother said she will know we're there, but is way less responsive than she was the last time we saw her. It will be hard seeing her like that. On our way home we'll stop to visit another friend before coming back to Ojai. I have so many people I'd love to meet up with, so I'm hoping I can make that happen.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Back in Ojai ...


We arrived in Ojai today and are staying at my in-law's house. It's weird being here after being gone for almost 3 years. What is even more weird is being next door to our old house and not having it be our house anymore. Rick is hoping to meet up with some friends on Tuesday and we'll also be taking a drive to Barstow to visit my mom sometime. For now, we're just home relaxing after the long drive today. Tomorrow we're driving down to get a rental car and do some shopping since my ILs haven't been home for almost a week. I heard some crows and scrub jays earlier. That's a sound I haven't heard in a long time. I also got poked by an oak leaf -- grrrr.

I lived in Ojai for over 41 years, so it's familiar to me. For the boys, it's a different story. Neil was only 4 when we moved away in 2006, so I'm sure he sees things differently. It feels funny though. I know I am technically home, but at the same time, it doesn't feel like home to me anymore. In the movie The Lion King, Pumba says, "Home is where your rump rests." I don't know about that. To me, home is where my stuff is. I miss Nicole and our two cats, Belle and Kitty. Not to mention Nichelle, who's been in Hawaii since June 4th. Hopefully, we'll have a nice visit in Ojai and will be able to meet up with some friends and such. Nathan and Neil are in heaven -- their grandparents have so many toys and the boys don't know what to play with first. One thing that is really funny is that the population of Ventura County, where Ojai is located, is the same as the entire state of Montana. Considering Montana is the 4th largest state in the US, that says a lot. So, how about you -- does where you live now feel like home to you, or does where you grew up feel more like home? I feel a little out of place here ...

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Wild Animal Park


We went to the San Diego Wild Animal Park today. It was much warmer than the zoo, but we still had a great time. I took over 320 pictures and even used up all the space on my digital camera card. I don't think I've ever done that before. We couldn't remember the last time we were here, but it's been ages. It's changed a lot from what little I remember. There are a lot more animals and way more trees and plants. We took the tram ride around the park and did a lot of walking. Rick talked me into going up into a tethered balloon that went 400 feet in the air. I don't know what I was thinking. I was okay at about 200 feet, but the rest was just too high. Not only that, but it stayed up there forever, or so it felt. I survived -- barely, but don't think I'll be doing that again anytime soon. We saw all sorts of animals and birds. My favorite were the baby cheetahs. They were behind bars and sleeping, but they were so cute. Nathan got to feed the Lorikeets, so he was in heaven. Out of the 320 pictures, I managed to get a few worth sharing here. Keep in mind I haven't edited any of them yet. I took some lemur pictures for Nikki -- they were really cute! We're spending one more night in San Diego and then making the 4-hour drive to Ojai tomorrow. I hope you like the pictures.

Friday, July 24, 2009

San Diego Zoo


We had a great time at the San Diego Zoo today. This was definitely more my thing. I guess after living in California all my life and going to Disneyland countless times, the novelty has worn off. The boys had fun, so that's all that matters. But for me, the Zoo was great -- no lines to wait in, cooler temperatures, and lots of animals to photograph. I realized how spoiled I've become when I got a little frustrated with the bars and things. I'm really fortunate to be able to take pictures of wildlife in their natural surroundings up in Montana. It's hard to remember that when you're in a zoo and trying to deal with fences, bars, and wires. Plus, I really wish I had Rick's camera with that 400mm zoom, but it was just too big and heavy for the plane. However, I did manage to get a few good pictures, so I've put some of them on Slide for you to see. I hope you enjoy them!

Tomorrow we're spending the day at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. It's a little north of the Zoo and more inland, so it's usually quite a bit warmer there. Plus, it's a lot of walking. We're looking forward to it and hopefully I'll have more pictures to share with you. I promise to catch up on everyone's blogs when I get settled at my in-law's house in Ojai. I miss reading what everyone has been up to, but it's been a little hard with getting into the hotel rooms late at night. I hope everyone is well and thank you all for your comments. Rick & I both enjoy reading them. I'll try to catch up soon!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Disneyland in July ...

We spent most of today in Disneyland and I had a better day than Tuesday. I didn't fall down, so that's always a good thing. It's still hot, crowded, and crazy -- but at least I didn't break any bones or kill anyone. In fact, I made some new friends ...
We bought a pickle for Dilly ...

Neil had a battle with Darth Vader ...

Chip hugged the stuffing out of the boys ...

And probably my favorite picture from Disneyland so far ...


We leave tomorrow for San Diego -- the Zoo on Friday and the Wild Animal Park on Saturday. I hear we're in for a real scorcher weekend. Lucky me.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Dizzyland ...


The Happiest Place On Earth!

Let's just say -- yeahrightsureuhhuhwhatever. I've heard more people crying and throwing tantrums in the past 12 hours than I have in the past 12 months. Let's just say Disneyland is a fun place to visit, but I'm I wouldn't want to live here. I'm really appreciating where I live -- a lot! Let's just say ...

There's No Place Like Home!

Dorothy had that right. It's nothing against California or Californians. I think it's just that tourist-attitude. The sweltering heat doesn't help, nor do the hoards of people, or the fact that you have to move along like cattle when people are waiting for parades and fireworks. And then there's the Crackberries. If you want to fiddle with your phone while in line, then fine. But I can't tell you how many people walk while texting. If you want to do that, fine, but get the hell out of the way! It's not just a few people -- it's every other person. And it's entire families! Nothing like spending quality family time with everyone having their BlackBerry in their hand talking to someone else. Still, that's fine, but get the hell out of the way!

Can you tell I'm having fun? Sorry, I don't mean to be a drag. We've been to Disneyland so often that I can't even tell you how many times it's been. We very rarely went in July. In fact, we avoided July like the plague. So, that's the price we have to pay. In addition, I tripped over a chain link fence and fell really hard. Okay, so it was more like -- really, really, really hard. I'm lucky I didn't break my leg. It still might be fractured, by the way it hurts, so I'm just waiting for the bone to come ripping out of my shin. I'm bruised pretty bad in 4 different places. So, to put it mildly, it's not been too fun.

There's no place like home,
There's no place like home,
There's no place like home,
Click, click, click ...
Click, click, click ...
Click, click, click?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Lollipop, lollipop ...


Today is National Hug Your Kid Day. However, considering we ran out of sunscreen at the lake yesterday and Nathan was the last to get sprayed, he probably won't want too many hugs today. So, thank goodness today is also National Lollipop Day! I'll have to buy him a lollipop when we get down to Missoula later on -- that might feel better than a hug on his poor sunburned arms. Cherry is his favorite -- it'll match his arms.

I was looking on You Tube last night for a video of the "Lollipop" song by The Chordettes. I found one that showed the ladies themselves, but the sound was off and the video wasn't very good. For another version, click here, to watch the song being played on an old record player. It's a fun song and I'm sure everyone will recognize it. I was surprised by something when I read the lyrics last night. The song goes ...

Sweeter than candy on a stick,
Huckleberry, cherry, or lime,
He'd be your pick,
But lollipop is mine, oh ...
Lollipop, lollipop,
Oh lolli, lolli, lolli ...

That struck me funny to see huckleberry in the song. I don't remember hearing that before, but it's been there all along. Huckleberries are a northwestern berry, so I'd love to find out more on who wrote the song and why huckleberries were chosen, out of all the fruits they could have picked. The song reached #2 in 1958, so it was a little before my time, but I still remember hearing it throughout my childhood. The Chordettes also sang the song "Mr. Sandman", which most people know as well. Neil just heard the song and said, "Hey, Runt sings that in Chicken Little!" So, there you have it -- even today's little ones know this famous song. How cool is that!

What is your favorite type of lollipop? As a kid, I used to love getting those big, swirled ones whenever we went to an amusement park. Disneyland always has some fun designs. Everyone in my family likes Tootsie Pops the most, but I've always loved Charms Blow-Pops with the bubblegum inside. I love the sour apple ones. So, in honor of today's holidays, give your kid a hug and a lollipop! I'll hug Nathan tomorrow, once his sunburn lets up.



Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Marshmallow Man


Last night I got to see the cover for my next picture book, The Marshmallow Man for the very first time. Neil was standing next to me when I opened the file, and we both pretty much squealed with delight. The book is illustrated by Stephen Macquignon, published by 4RV Publishing LLC, and due out around December. I absolutely love the cover and can't wait to see what Stephen has created with the story. I feel blessed to be working with such talented people like Stephen, Lisa Oakman, Nikki Shoemaker, and Vivian Zabel. The Marshmallow Man is a retelling of the classic Gingerbread Man story, but with all new characters and a fun, new twisted ending.

Run, run, run, fast as you can ...
You can't catch me ... I'm the marshmallow man!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

ABCs of Summer


Thursday, July 16, 2009

California, here we come ...


We're taking a trip to California soon. Our flight leaves early Tuesday morning, out of Missoula, which is 2.5 hours away. Rather than leave the house at 2am and be zombies all day, we're going down on Monday to spend the night. This will be the first time the boys and I have gone back to California since we moved away in 2006. Rick's sister, Kathy will also be coming from back east, so this will be the first time we'll meet her new husband, Rich. We haven't seen Kathy in years.

We're flying into LAX and then my ILs will pick us up and take us to the Disneyland Hotel. We'll stay there for 3 nights. The boys are really excited about that. From there, we'll go to San Diego and spend 2 more nights. I think we're going to the Wild Animal Park and the Zoo, so that should be fun. On July 26th, we'll drive from SD up to Ojai, which is where my ILs live and where I'm originally from. Ojai Avenue is pictured above. It's going to be weird because my IL's house is right next to our old house. The people that bought our house are really nice, but it's still going to be weird to look out the window over there and see someone living in our old house.

Rick is looking forward to seeing his co-workers from the sheriff's department, so I'm sure he'll be meeting up with some of them. We're also planning on taking a drive to Barstow, 3 hours away, to visit my mom in the nursing home. I've heard she's not responsive now, so it will be really awkward, but something I have to do. I'll probably leave the boys with their grandparents, since they won't understand what's going on with her. They met her when she was alert and I'd like them to remember that, not how she is now. We don't know what else we'll do for that second week, other than visit friends and maybe a beach trip. I do want to go to a fish restaurant I've really missed, as well as some stores we don't have here in Montana.

On Dilly's fanpage on Facebook, I've told everyone that I'll have my remaining copies of the book with me. If anyone from Southern California wants to meet up and get a copy, just email me and we can work something out. I know my ILs are going to buy a few more and I already have one lady interested in meeting up while I'm there. Dilly is excited about going to California. He found out there are huge pickles at Disneyland, so there's no controlling him now. Anyway, we'll be gone for 2 weeks and it should be fun. Nicole is staying home to take care of the cats and house, as well as work at her new job. I'd love for her to go, but she really wants to earn as much money as she can before she leaves for college in the fall.

On another note -- my oldest daughter, Nichelle is doing great in Hawaii. She's doing the discipleship training course with Youth With A Mission. She only has a few more weeks in Maui before they leave for their outreach program. She found out she's going to Thailand first thing and then to Borneo/Indonesia. She's really excited about it. She said they'll be traveling through jungles. This will be good for her. Nichelle is very shy and quiet, so I'm sure this experience will help her with all of that. I talk to her on the phone every now and then and also through instant messaging. She seems to be really enjoying herself and is keeping very busy.

I have the boys almost all packed and am slowly starting my own bag. The last thing I want to do is spend the weekend doing laundry, so I'm trying to get it done now. We're supposed to have a beautiful weekend here, in the high 80s, so I'd love to get to a lake and do some kayaking before we leave. Not sure if we can swing that, but I am going to try. I'll have my laptop with me, so I hope I can post some fun pictures and stuff while we're gone. I plan to be the ultimate tourist and take pictures of everything!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I show u!


I love this picture. Hell, I must, because I just searched for it for over an hour. I was even on the website it's from, but nothing came up. Then I remembered one of the blogs I followed had it, so I went searching for that. It was on Beth Revis' Writing It Out blog -- thanks, Beth.

Normally, I don't like the way these pictures are done with the stupid spelling. Stuff like that drives me crazy, but this one is different. I think most of us feel this way at some point in our life. As you know, I write mostly picture books. Awhile back I wrote a middle grade novel, but I haven't submitted it much. Recently, I had an idea for another MG novel, but I never followed through with it. Just out of the blue, I woke up at 5:30am today with that idea in my head. Why does that happen? I'm not complaining -- I just think it's strange. The subconscious mind is a powerful thing.

So anyway -- I'z gonna show u all by righting a book!

Hopefully, it will be a great book -- a best seller. You will all want to buy it. You will all beg for an autographed copy. You will want to buy it for your children, and your children's children. It will win all sorts of awards. Yeah, yeah ... how's that for subconscious thinking?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bottled water vs tap ...


What comes to mind when you think of bottled water? Do you think it tastes better? Do you think it's healthier for you? Do you worry about landfills and pollutants in the bottles? I'm sure it's different for everyone. I'm not a big water drinker. I have to really force myself to drink it. That doesn't mean I prefer bottle water over tap because both are difficult for me to drink. I prefer flavored waters, especially the low-calories ones. Or I drink it in iced tea, coffee, or something like Crystal Light. I know it's not as good as plain water, but it's better than nothing. I have really mixed feelings about bottled water. When I buy it for my family, it's not because I think it's better for them, or even that it tastes better. It's simply out of convenience. And since my boys don't drink soda, it's an easy option. But as an effort to save the environment, the water bottles are being made thinner. I've dropped them and had them shatter, so I don't know if the companies are doing more harm than good with their packaging efforts.

The other day Edna posted a video clip on her Facebook page. It's from You Tube and is from the Penn & Teller Show. It's all about bottled water and it's really interesting. I've been hearing for awhile that bottled water isn't better for you than tap water and this video goes into that more. The only part I didn't get was the hose water segment. I can tell when I'm drinking water that came from a hose. We use a special hose for our travel trailer and I can always pick up that taste. I don't know how the people in the video didn't pick that up. If we don't have a big jug of water when we're camping, I can't help but joke about Rick making hose water coffee. It's just nasty!

Right before Nichelle left to go to Maui, we bought her one of those water bottles with the filter in it. We figured she'd be okay in Hawaii, but in a few months she'll be in Indonesia and I think she might want to use the filter there, even with bottled water. I tried one of those filtered water bottles recently and I was BLOWN AWAY! We used water from a lake in Glacier National Park and I swear, it was the BEST tasting water I've ever had. True, it's a pure glacial lake. But the true test was using the filtered water bottle from the potable water spicket at the campsite. After it ran through the filter, it tasted exactly the same, even better than any bottled water I've ever had. I'm sold on those bottles now. They're expensive, but if they make lake water or hose water taste that good, they're worth every penny. Anyway, here's the video clip if you want to watch it. It's pretty funny in some parts, but remember, it is Penn & Teller so there is some bad language ...



Monday, July 13, 2009

My Books!


I got an update on possible release dates for my upcoming books, so that is really exciting news. The dates are tentative, of course, and could change depending on how things are going. Besides my current release, A New Job for Dilly, I have 6 other books under contract with 4RV Publishing LLC. Here are the approximate release dates with the illustrators in parentheses ...

December 2009 -- The Marshmallow Man (Stephen Macquignon)
January 2010 -- Lemur Troops & Critter Groups (Nikki Shoemaker)
February 2010 -- A New Friend for Dilly (Lisa Oakman)
May 2010 -- Stork Musters & Critter Clusters (Nikki Shoemaker)
June 2010 -- A Dinner Date for Dilly (Lisa Oakman)
September 2010 -- Pony Strings & Critter Things (Nikki Shoemaker)

Lisa Oakman did a fantastic job illustrating A New Job for Dilly, so I can't wait to see what she has in store for Dilly in the next 2 books. After all, a little rat can't live on pickles alone! Nikki Shoemaker has been wonderful to work and we're both really excited about the Critter Series. Nikki works in a library and hasn't seen too many books on animal congregations for very young children, so we're both hoping the series makes learning animal group names fun for kids. Stephen Macquignon said he's getting close to finishing The Marshmallow Man, so I'm really excited to see what he's come up with. The Marshmallow Man is a retelling of the classic Gingerbread Man story, but with all new characters and fun new twisted ending.

Finally, I want to say thank you to Vivian Zabel, the president and founder of 4RV Publishing, LLC. She gave me a chance at being a first time published author with Dilly. I am very thankful that she saw some potential in me as a children's writer. I am really excited about all of these books, obviously, and I will keep you posted as I get information. Thanks for reading and have a great week!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Holy moly, Batman!


Yesterday Rick opened up our patio table umbrella and this little guy flew out from under it. He didn't go far and landed on the deck railing, so I was able to snap a few photographs of him. Well, I guess it could be a she, but I wasn't about to check. We see bats here at dusk quite often, but not usually in the middle of the afternoon like this. The boys were fascinated with it, especially Nathan, who must have stood and watched it for 20 minutes or more. Neil is a little more skittish about them, so he watched from a distance.

I looked online to see if I could find out what type of bat it was and the closest I got was a Long-legged Myotis. Are there any bat experts here that might know for sure? According to everything I read, these bats prefer forested areas, which is exactly what we live in. I was able to get pretty close to take pictures and I didn't realize how hairy bats were. This one was really fuzzy, so that surprised me. Most of us see these critters at dusk when it's hard to get a good look at them. That certainly wasn't the case this time!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

LUNA Bars


Has anyone tried these? LUNA Bars are made by the same company that makes the Clif protein bars. I had never tasted a LUNA Bar up until recently. On a whim, I bought 3 boxes of them without even knowing if I'd like them. That's weird for me because I usually try a single before I go buying a box. But for whatever reason, I bought 3 boxes and it turned out that I love them!

I've always loved granola bars and protein bars. My favorite were Tiger's Milk. For awhile, Trader Joe's had a really good protein bar, but then they stopped making it. I was on a quest to find another I liked as much. I tried Zone Perfect bars, which are okay, but kind of on the hard side. I've actually bit into a Zone bar and broke a tooth before. My dentist couldn't believe it. Not an Abba Zabba, not a Sugar Daddy -- a nutrition bar -- go figure.

Anyway, now I'm hooked on LUNA Bars. They have all sorts of great flavors and and they won't crack up my teeth. So far I've tried the Caramel Nut Brownie, Chocolate Peppermint Stick, and Peanut Butter Cookie. All of them are yummy. If you look at their website, you'll see they have all kinds of flavors, including lemon and a Chai tea one. They're not intended to be eaten as a meal replacement, but if you add a nonfat yogurt and a piece of fruit, you're pretty much covered. Now I'm on a quest to try them all.

On another note -- do you ever have some crazy song or jingle pop into your head just totally out of the blue? If so, what was the last song that came into your mind? I have NO idea why I thought of this song this morning, but it just popped into my head for some strange reason ...



Friday, July 10, 2009

"Cougie"


Yesterday, my daughter asked if I could take her to the local Salvation Army. Nicole loves going there for books and usually comes out with armfuls of classics for very little money. When I was younger, I used to love going to thrift stores with my mom, and then later with my sister. I never knew what treasures I would find. In the 1970s, I would always look for troll dolls. Anyway, I saw this cougar picture yesterday and I had to get it. It's only a print, not a painting, but there's something about it that I really like. It's on my wall now, but I took a picture of it sitting by my china cabinet so you can see how big it is. It was only $6.50. We had the boys with us, so we all had to pile into my Jeep Wrangler with this picture. The boys nicknamed it "Cougie", so that's what it's called now. I love mountain lions.

I also found some books for the boys, pictured below. I got 16 books for a whopping $2.45. You can't beat that! Some of them I picked out myself, to use during themed weeks in school, but a few others the boys picked out themselves. I collect the Little Golden Books, so I got a few of those as well. The Noah's Ark one was marked free and I swear, it doesn't even look like it's been opened. I love buying brand new books for the boys, but sometimes they're so expensive. New picture books can be $20 or more these days. I tell you, it will be a sad day if I ever see one of my books in a thrift store bin for 10-cents, but oh well. We all love a bargain, and in this economy, we all need as many bargains as we can get. If you've been following my Facebook page, you'll know I'm all about bargains and being cheap lately. The other day I bought a pair of jeans for Nathan at Target on clearance for $1.74. I've also been joking about drinking generic soda and eating off-brand Big Stick popsicles. But hey, every little bit helps.



And finally, don't forget to check out Nikki's book tour here for her new picture book, What's Wrong With Mud? I'm really excited for her new book, as well as the 3 books she has lined up for me by 4RV Publishing. She's illustrating my Critter series -- Lemur Troops & Critter Groups, Stork Musters & Critter Clusters, and Pony Strings & Critter Things. Nikki Shoemaker is an awesome illustrator and I hope you can visit the remainder of her blog tour. The full schedule is here.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Road Trip Photography


Are you traveling this summer? If you're like most people, you'll probably have a camera with you and take some pictures along the way. I usually have my camera with me at all times. The few times I don't is always when I see something cool -- always! I use a Canon PowerShot S3IS, so it's not a huge thing to carry around. I'd rather use Rick's Canon EOS with his mega-lens, but that's a whole other story. In fact, my little camera has better pixels than his, but it's that zoom that I love. The thing must weigh 8 pounds, so it's not easy to carry in my purse.

I got an email from Photojojo this morning that has some fun ideas on taking pictures while traveling. Check out their link because they also include fun traveling games. Many people do games while traveling in their car, like searching for all 50 license plates or finding the letters A through Z on road signs. Photojojo adds a twist on these games and has you taking pictures of them instead. That certainly would take care of the age old problem of the kids fighting about whether one of them saw the letter X or Z -- with digital cameras, they now have proof! The article has some fun ideas on how to make your pictures interesting and fun. As most of you know, I'm notorious for taking silly pictures. You've seen the boy's GI Joe dolls playing in the lake or posing in Yellowstone. You've also seen the boys at the Nose Pickin' Tree and stuff like that. As much as I like trying to get that perfect photograph, it's the silly pictures that my family likes the most. Typical. In addition to the things Photojojo suggests, here are some other ideas for taking pictures while you're on the road ...

  • Take a picture of someone in the rearview mirror, like Neil above.
  • Photograph things from an unusual angel -- hold the camera crooked, upside down, or straight up in the air.
  • Take pictures of your kid's toys in famous locations -- who wouldn't want to see a stuffed Bugs Bunny enjoying Sleeping Beauty's castle in Disneyland?
  • Give your kids disposable cameras -- children often have a different perspective and you'll be surprised what they come up with.
  • Don't forget flora -- I saw a lady photographing a flower close-up at a gas station the other day. Some of my favorite flower pictures were taken at unexpected places, like Sea World or hotel parking lots.
  • Wildlife pictures are nice, but don't forget domestic animals -- I have gotten some of the cutest pictures of cats while traveling even though I have no idea who they belong to. The other day I took a picture of a lady with 4 tiny little dogs at a gas station. One had doggie hot pants on and she had to take them off so the dog could go to the bathroom. Then she had to carry that dog back to her car so the other 3 didn't jump on it. It was a hilarious sight!
  • Take pictures of all the dead bugs on your windshield, especially the big messy ones -- then when you get home, print the photo on plain paper and let your kids connect-the-dots to come up with a design.
  • If you're flying, take pictures at the airport of travelers, the planes, or something unique you see -- when I was waiting to fly out of Las Vegas, I took pictures of a little finch that landed on one of the airport vehicles. It just looked so out of place.
  • Photograph everything -- from fast food restaurants to filling up your gas tank to the inside of your hotel room. Yeah, I'm one of those annoying family members who takes pictures of everything. I've even photographed my kids holding toys in stores that I refused to buy them. Hey, we have a picture, who needs to spend the money! Another fun one are hats, if the stores will allow you to do that. Souvenirs are great, but you can't possibly buy them all, so snap a quick picture if it's allowed. Gag gifts are the best because often they're so funny, but not something you would buy. Do you really need penis sunglasses, or would a picture do? Just make sure the store doesn't have any policies about not taking pictures, because some places do.
  • And finally -- do something with your pictures you take! Make a digital slideshow for your blog or social network site, create a flipbook, make placemats for your dinner table, or print your pictures on magnetic paper and stick them on your fridge. There are so many ideas, so get snapping!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Got mud?


These photographs were taken in 2005 at our old house in California. One day Rick let the boys loose with a hose in the dirt and everything turned into a muddy mess. They loved it. The picture on top is of Nathan and has always been one of my favorites of him. Neil, below, couldn't be happier pushing his truck through the mucky mud.

I blogged yesterday about Nikki Shoemaker's new book, What's Wrong With Mud? and it got me thinking about other muddy situations. Just like my boys, I loved playing in mud when I was little. Not all mud is fun though. Growing up in Southern California, I've been through my share of mudslides, often blocking off roads for weeks. My first day of high school involved an unfortunate muddy incident too. I was walking on campus when I stepped on a wooden platform that I didn't know was loose. One of my legs slipped down a hole and when I pulled it out, I had mud up to my thigh. I had to call my mom to bring me a new pair of pants. Had this happened today, I'm sure some student would sue the school or something crazy like that. All I remember is being traumatized for falling into a hole and getting my brand new cords covered in thick mud. It was not a good way to start high school.

Do you have any interesting stories relating to mud?


Don't forget to check out Nikki's tour for today -- there are two stops. One is at Crystalee Calderwood's blog and the other is at Mandy Hedrick's blog. Crytalee is a children's author and Mandy is an illustrator. Both are working with 4RV Publishing, LLC. Also, if you'd like to order a copy of What's Wrong With Mud? simply contact Nikki @ nikki.shoemaker@yahoo.com for information. She'll be happy to autograph her book for you or your child.

Monday, July 6, 2009

What's Wrong With Mud?


Today I am honored to introduce an adorable picture book -- What's Wrong With Mud? Written by Gillian Colley and illustrated by Nikki Shoemaker, today is day 2 of Nikki's virtual tour for her first published book. If her name sounds familiar, it's because Nikki is also illustrating my upcoming book, Lemur Troops & Critter Groups. Nikki is an amazing illustrator. Her animal characters are so adorable that you just want to reach out and cuddle them. What's Wrong With Mud? is no exception -- it's cuter than cute! There are splashing ducks, messy pigs, lots of gooey mud -- and fun for all!

Mud is fascinating stuff -- it can be used many ways. You can make a building out of mud. Some ceramics are made from mud. Spas use mud for facial treatments. In Haiti, mud is used for food because people are so poor and it helps quench their hunger. People wrestle in mud. Monster trucks and motorcycles race in mud. The list goes on and on. One joy of being a kid is making mud pies. I remember getting the mud so gooey and wet that it jiggled when I patted it. Just like the book title -- What's Wrong With Mud? -- everyone has their own idea of what they like or dislike about mud!

Thanks for stopping by the What’s Wrong with Mud? Virtual Book Tour. Nikki is giving away 3 themed tote bags and there are 3 ways to enter to win!

1. Copy/paste the book tour schedule onto your blog and leave a comment on Nikki’s blog to let her know that you posted on or before Saturday, July 11.

2. Create your own blog post promoting What’s Wrong with Mud? (You can contact Nikki for the Cover image and an interview to post if you want to.)
3. Stop by each blog on the Book Tour and leave a comment on each including Nikki’s blog (on or before Saturday, July 11), to let her know to enter you into the drawing.

If you enjoyed the book tour and would like a autographed copy of What’s Wrong with Mud? please email Nikki Shoemaker @
nikki.shoemaker@yahoo.com for more details.

Tour Schedule --

Sunday, July 5 -- Nikki Shoemaker announcing the book tour
Monday, July 6 --
Rena Jones
Tuesday, July 7 -- Crystalee Calderwood and Mandy Hedrick
Wednesday, July 8 -- Wendy Martin and Roberta Baird
Thursday, July 9 -- Linda B. Rodgers and Carli Moua
Friday, July 10 -- Diana Jenkins
Saturday, July 11 -- Nikki Shoemaker wrapping up book tour and announcing winners.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Yellowstone ...


I hope everyone had a fun, safe 4th of July weekend. We didn't have any plans for the weekend, up until 1:30pm Friday afternoon. We decided to take a spur-of-the-moment trip down to Yellowstone National Park. It's a 6-hour drive, but took us 7 with stops. We tried something new this time and decided to take my Jeep Wrangler. In order to do that, we had to pack ultra-light, which explains why I didn't have my laptop. We managed to get clothes for myself, Rick, and the boys into one medium duffel bag. That was amazing in itself. We spent 2 nights and stayed at a hotel in West Yellowstone, Montana. It's right next to the West Entrance to Yellowstone, so it's really close. We got in around 10pm, so it was too late to do much, but we spent all of the 4th of July inside the park. Saw the geysers, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, lots of bison, elk, deer, osprey, ravens, huge cut-throat trout jumping up the river, even a dead snake.

I had hoped to miss the 4th of July hoopla by spending the day in the park. Boy, was I ever wrong about that! As we left Yellowstone yesterday and headed back to our hotel, we were locked in town by the local parade. We couldn't go anywhere, so we figured we'd get out and watch. Very small town parade, but it was cute. Nearly everyone had candy that they tossed to the kids, so the boys made out like it was Halloween. Neil realized the more he waved, the more candy he got, so pretty soon he was jumping up in the air waving his arms like a maniac. Then there was a fireworks show in town around 10pm, but we were too tired to go watch it. Rick and the boys did walk outside to see a little from the distance. But so much for missing the hoopla, as we were right in the middle of it! The funniest thing was when we had to wait behind a car to get into the park. The ranger at the booth told us that the car in front of us asked when the fireworks show was going to happen in the park. I guess he thought it would be inside Yellowstone NP.

But it was a fun trip, even though it was so quick. We had some nice weather on & off during the time we were in the park, so we took the top off the Jeep. That was really cool, especially being able to take pictures. Then this morning right before we left, we stopped at the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center. The grizzlies and the wolves pictured on my slide show below were taken from there. We had wolves walk up to us at the window (we were inside and they were outside) and they were within inches of us. Even behind glass, those animals are so intimidating. I couldn't even imagine running into one in the wild. We go to the Center every time we're in town and it's always really interesting. Of course, it's better to see the animals in the park, but these are ones that can't be reintroduced in the wild, so they're very well cared for. The slide show below has pictures from the whole trip, including Tony Hawk & GI Joe standing in front of the Fountain Paint Pots, as well as the Discovery Center, the parade in town, and the park itself.

Please check out my blog tomorrow because Nikki Shoemaker's book tour will be featured right here. What's Wrong With Mud? is an adorable picture book and you won't want to miss it. In case her name sounds familiar to you, Nikki is also illustrating my book series on animal groups. Please stop by and check out her book tour. She has a lot of fun stuff planned, including some great prizes. Hope to see you here!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Nips' babies!


If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you'll know I'm nuts about squirrels. I love feeding them, watching them, and photographing them. The first one I named Andy, after the squirrel in the movie Funny Farm. Awhile back I saw one squirrel that looked like she was pregnant and/or nursing. I nicknamed her Nips, for obvious reasons. I believe these are her children above. I've been seeing a lot of squirrels come up to my feeder lately. Squirrels don't like to share, so there's usually a fight over who gets to sit in the feeder. The other day I saw two sitting together and it dawned on me -- this wasn't Nips, but her babies. Then a day or two later I caught pictures of them playing in a tree. They were climbing on top of one another and chasing each other around. It was quite a sight. The picture below almost looks like a squirrel sitting by a mirror, but it's actually two squirrels.

I haven't come up with names for the babies yet -- got any suggestions?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Isn't she lovely?


Do you know anyone with brown eyes and red hair? It's pretty uncommon from what I've read, due to the combination of chromosomes and genes. However, pileated woodpeckers have brown eyes and red hair. Okay, so they're feathers, if you want to get technical. I took this picture a few weeks ago. Click on it to see her close-up. I heard a strange noise and when I looked outside, there she was. She was checking out the bird feeder, though she never actually jumped up into it. She seemed more interested in resting and often had her beak open as if she was hot. She sat there for a long time, just watching me and preening herself. I knew she was a female because she didn't have a red streak near her beak. Only males have red moustaches, so they're easily to tell apart. She was big too, like the size of a crow. Some interesting facts about pileated woodpeckers ...
  • They live in large nests in cavities of dead trees.
  • They usually build a new home each year.
  • Insects, fruits, berries, and nuts are their diet.
  • Their call is a wild laughing sound.
  • The inside of their wings are white.
  • Pileated woodpeckers are monogamous for life.
  • They have 1 to 6 eggs each year.
  • Both parents incubate the eggs.
  • They drum to declare their territory.
  • Predators are hawks, owls, weasels, foxes, squirrels, and snakes.
  • Woody Woodpecker was a pileated woodpecker.

This picture was taken through my window. Had I opened the door, she would have flown away because she was only a few feet from me. I often joke that I'm an indoor wildlife photographer, since a lot of my pictures are taken from the inside of the house. I'm fortunate to be able to see a lot of interesting critters where I live now. I finally broke down and had to wash my windows yesterday because they were starting to put a damper on my photographs. As I sit here this morning, I can hear a pileated woodpecker drumming a short distance away. It keeps getting drowned out by the stupid turkeys who woke me up this morning with their gobbling. In between the two, I also hear robins and chickadees carrying on, plus the squirrels chirping. I swear, this place is an absolute zoo sometimes!