Thursday, December 30, 2010

Grimm's Fairy Tales


Did you get any books for Christmas? I gave a lot of books as gifts this year. I like giving books as gifts because they're easy to wrap. One book I got from Rick was Grimm's Complete Fairy Tales from the Canterbury Classics series. Recently, I had borrowed a Grimm's book from my daughter, but it didn't have the entire collection in it. I was surprised there were so many -- over 200 stories, plus 10 children's legends. I love fairy tales, especially with their twisted endings that are so often so politically incorrect. I'm looking forward to reading the entire book as well as some of the lesser known stories. Before I started my current MG novel, I had been working on another story that featured many fairy tales. Perhaps after reading this book, I'll be inspired to start that up again.

What are you reading right now?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Dinner Date for Dilly -- cover


I am pleased to share with you the cover for A Dinner Date for Dilly. This will be the third book in the Dilly series. Lisa Oakman has done a wonderful job illustrating all three books. I love how she has him all snazzied up with his dress shirt and little bowtie. Is snazzied a word? If not, it should be because that's exactly how Dilly looks here. I've seen the illustrations for the third book and they're adorable.

However -- for now, the next big thing for Dilly is finding himself a friend. A New Friend for Dilly should be released by 4RV Publishing, LLC early in 2011. In A New Job for Dilly, he searched from A to Z to find the perfect job. In A New Friend for Dilly, he searches from A to Z for the perfect friend. There are 26 different animals featured in the book. Dilly is sure to find the perfect friend with that many choices. And then it only makes sense that once he has a friend, he has to go on a dinner date, right?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Today in Glacier ...


Rick and I just got home from Glacier NP a little while ago. We went up to do some snowshoeing. I'm not sure what was going on with me, but I was having a heck of a time. I was super hot in my coat and out of breath a lot. Maybe it's my high blood pressure meds or maybe it's because I'm still trying to get rid of that cold. Or maybe it was because I had already walked a mile and a half on my TreadClimber even before leaving the house -- doh! All I know was that I felt a lot better walking downhill than I did going up.

It was pretty and there weren't a ton of people up there, which is always nice. On our way to the park we saw about 8 bald eagles. That was pretty cool to see so many all at the same time. There must have been a deer carcass near the side of the road. I counted 5 in the sky and Rick said he saw about 3 more on the ground. I'm hoping we can go snowshoeing more this winter because we didn't seem to do it that much last year.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The day after ...


I hope everyone who celebrated had a nice Christmas. Our holiday was very nice. My living room is scattered with toys, chocolate kisses wrappers, furry mice, and bits of other unknown items. We spent the holiday at home with just our family. Christmas Eve we were working on a jigsaw puzzle and just kind of hanging out in the living room. Neil says, "It's nice to have the whole family together like this." I thought that was very sweet, especially coming from an eight-year-old. I mean, we're all home at the same time a lot, but it's not often we're just hanging out in the same room like that. It was cute of him to notice and speak up about it.

Santa brought me a box of goodies, which is pictured here. It was a sampler pack of all sorts of low-carb and low-sugar foods. These are foods I can't normally eat on my diet, more or less find them in the local stores. I was really excited about the instant cereal, but it was awful. Today, however, I had 5 huge pancakes with syrup. I've been on this low-carb diet since October 1st and I can't even remember the last time I ate pancakes. I was in heaven and loved every bite! They had a lot of egg in them and tasted more like French toast than pancakes, but that was okay. They were still yummy! And, after eating a big turkey dinner last night, I was happy to see I hadn't gained any weight. I did watch my carbs yesterday, which helped. I can't wait to try the muffins and the chocolate pudding -- marshmallows, too!

I had to laugh at Denny, though -- look what the little fatty did to the top of the box. He loves boxes, but he just smashed this one down flat. He's so funny. He got lots of new toys along with a tube that makes a crinkle noise. He loves it. He's already broken the pull-string off his little chipmunk toy and eaten the tail off one of his mousies. He's such a typical boy! We got up at 6:30am Christmas morning and found him right in the middle of the boys playing with these little electronic bug-things. I think they're called Hexbugs or something. He loves being in the middle of all the action.

Anyway, I hope everyone is having a nice holiday weekend.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Cup-O-Christmas Tea!


I'm normally a coffee drinker, but I've always loved tea, too. For me it's coffee in the morning and tea at night. Lately, I've been drinking a lot of tea. I'm trying to lose weight and I've found that some teas taste amazing with whipped cream. Most whipped cream is carb-free, so it's something I can have on my diet. Don't buy the low-fat or fat-free kind because that has more carbs to make up for the loss of flavor. A cup of tea with whipped cream is almost as good as a dessert -- at least it is to me.

My newest love is Stash's Pumpkin Spice tea. This is incredible with whipped cream. I swear, it takes exactly like pumpkin pie. We're having pumpkin pie for Christmas this year, but I'll probably skip it and have mine in a mug instead. I don't mind. I like being able to wear my old pants more than the taste of a piece of pie -- ha!

A few weeks ago I saw some Celestial Seasonings teas in holiday flavors. I think I saw teas in gingerbread, sugar cookies, and sugar plums. I know I saw an eggnog one, too, but don't know if that was the same brand. At the time, I thought they sounded a little creepy, but that was before I started adding whipped cream to my tea. Now I'm thinking I'd really like them. The calories are so high in the Starbucks holiday drinks, so this is a good alternative. I hope I can still find them. Am I brave enough to tackle a store on Christmas Eve?

How about you -- are you a tea drinker?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

To: Santa c/o North Pole


When you were a kid, did you ever send Santa a present? If so, what did you send? I remember sending Santa a gift one time, although I can't remember what year it was. I do remember what I sent, though. It was a Santa candle that I had bought at a local department store called TG&Y. Now, why I ever thought Santa would want a candle of himself is beyond me! It's the thought that counts, right?

This picture I found online and isn't the exact candle I sent, but it was kind of like it. I didn't even put it in a box. Instead, I wrapped it in brown paper, probably from a grocery bag. On the wrapping I wrote: To: Santa c/o North Pole. To be honest, I can't remember if I even put postage on it. I stuck it in the mailbox and the next day it was gone. I wonder if that would happen today if a child didn't put postage on something addressed to Santa. What do you think?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Just an old pic ...


It's kind of sad, but this is the oldest picture I have of myself at Christmas. I'm not even sure what year it was, but I would guess sometime around 1968-69. This is me with my grandmother, Roberta. Her friends called her Bobbi, which I always thought was cute. In fact, I named my main character in my newest story after her. She was a sweet lady. I don't even know what house this picture was taken in. Like I said, it's sad, but at least I have this one.

My brother and sister have some old family albums, so maybe there are others of me. I don't know. I had scanned a bunch of old photos a few years ago, but then we had some computer issues and I lost most of those files. I'm not sure if there were any Christmas ones on there or not.

The only thing I recognize in this picture -- apart from my grandmother and myself -- is the nativity on the table. We had that nativity in our house for years. Last time I saw it, my sister had it. It was really old and tattered. I'm not sure if she still has it now. In away, I wish I did because I collect nativities, even thought it was pretty beat up. I remember all the pieces were glued down and you just pulled down the front cardboard section to open it. I loved looking at it when I was little.

Anyway, there's no rhyme or reason to this blog post, nor do I have anything important to say. I guess Christmas just brings out the nostalgia in me. I just wanted to share this picture with you. I can't even force myself to crop it. Even though it's not a good picture, all that junk on the table was a part of my life -- somehow. I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Warning: Amazon Rant!


I collect Little Golden Books. I don't have a huge collection, but I have enough to take up a full shelf. So, when I saw the book pictured above on Amazon, I knew I had to get it. I had it when I was a kid and I really wanted to add it to my collection. The package arrived today and when I opened it, I was surprised to find a completely different book inside. Oh sure, it was The Night Before Christmas, but it wasn't the book I ordered.

I've contacted the seller and hopefully he can straighten this out for me. I realize there are thousands of versions of The Night Before Christmas and maybe it was just an oversight. I really hope so because if not, that would make me mad. Maybe they had the wrong picture up. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt until I hear from them. But regardless, it was not the book I wanted, as I specifically ordered this one for the illustrator and illustrations. I have many copies of The Night Before Christmas, so it wasn't like any old copy would do.

I suppose I shouldn't let this make me mad, but it does. I just hope it was either an oversight or maybe even that they had the wrong picture up. Because if they figured any old copy of The Night Before Christmas was what I ordered, then they are way, way wrong. Grrr, grrr, rant, rant ...

Monday, December 20, 2010

One year ago today ...


It was exactly one year ago today on December 20th that I took some pictures of Belle sitting in front of our Christmas tree. Sadly, we had to put her to sleep in March -- just one day after her 17th birthday. It's been a sad year without her. We talk about her a lot, especially how she hated everything. I just know she's in Kitty Heaven hating everyone and everything. That's what we loved about her. That and the little orange streak up her nose. This is one of my favorite pictures of her.

A few weeks ago I took the one below of Denny. Kind of ironic, don't you think? I think Belle and Denny would have gotten along well. She would have hated him just like she did everything else. I miss her.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Christmas Carol Birthday


One hundred and sixty-seven years ago today the 1843 novella, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens was published. I love this story -- in almost all shapes and forms. I've read the book to the boys and we have a variety of different film versions. According to Wikipedia, it only took Dickens six weeks to write the story. It is said that Dickens also refused a lump sum of money for the story and published it at his own expense. Despite disappointing profits, the book was considered a huge artist success from the very beginning.

My favorite movie is the 1957 version with Alastair Sim. Another is The Muppets' Christmas Carol. That's a must-see for us every Christmas. We also have one with Mickey Mouse and all the Disney characters, which is cute, too. The boys have All Dog's Christmas Carol, but I haven't watched that one. I'm thinking I might have the George C. Scott version as well, but I'm not sure. I know I've seen it. I need to go downstairs and see if we have the DVD. Then my MIL recently sent us the new animated version with Jim Carrey. I didn't know if I'd like that one, but I did. In fact, I liked it a lot. It's kind of scary for little ones, especially with some sudden jump-in-your-face moments, but it's still good.

To be 167 years old and still be a part of so many people's lives every single Christmas -- now that's a true classic!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Handmade Gifts


Do you make handmade gifts? I wish I were more crafty. I mean, I do stuff with the boys all the time, but that usually involves construction paper, google eyes, and glue sticks. I've been saying it for years, but I really wish I knew how to knit or crochet. My mom used to knit and I'd watch her for hours. She would let me pick out a yarn and then would knit me sweaters. As as kid, I would usually pick out some wild color like hot pink.

Rick brought home these dishtowels the other day. One of his co-worker's wife makes them and brings a bunch into the office for people. How sweet is that! The golden/olive one we got last year and then this year Rick brought home three of the burgundy/grapes ones, which match the colors in our house perfectly.

I wish I could do stuff like this. Maybe 2011 will be the year I decide to buy a book or a kit and teach myself how to knit. My little Mattel Knit Magic machine from the 70s is fun, but just doesn't quite cut it. I'd love to be able to make a gift like these towels that people would like to have and use.

How about you -- are you making any gifts this Christmas?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Follow that yonder star ...


Well, we made it! Today was our last day of school before Christmas vacation. I am really looking forward to some time out of the classroom. It's not that I don't love school -- I do. I'm just really ready for a few weeks off. Yesterday Nathan was reading his science book to me. It was all about mold, mildew, and fungi. Between that and his ratio/proportions math, I am more than ready for a break. I know the boys are ready, too.

We did our last Three Kings craft today. That's it in the picture. I had scheduled them to make ornaments, but when I went to look at the link I had saved, I realized I didn't have all of the materials we needed. So -- we compromised! We made this ornament with popsicle sticks, mini clothespins, yarn, and bits of stuff we found. The little crowns and gifts were made from balloon shaped confetti pieces. I tell you -- it pays to save stuff. Well, at least it does for me.

As much as I am looking forward to some time off to relax, I just realized I have to go grocery shopping tomorrow. Hahaha -- shopping on a Saturday before Christmas. Now there's a thought. I am sure that will be anything but relaxing! I hope you all have a great weekend!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

We Three Kings


All this week the boys are doing Three Kings crafts. I know Three Kings Day is in January, but since we do more crafts right before Christmas, now seemed like the time to do these. This particular project was in Kathy Ross' Crafts for Christmas book. I adore Kathy Ross' crafts! Her books don't usually show actual pictures of the crafts, but drawings instead. Even so, I've found her projects turn out exactly how they're illustrated. And, they're easy, too, which is always a big plus for my boys!

We made ours a little more fancy by adding the fringe at the bottom and the rope cord up top. Even though the instructions didn't have them, I debated about adding gifts at the bottom. Then I decided not to because it would be too cluttered. And of course, now that I look at it some more, I should have glued them on the opposite way and put a star up top. Isn't it funny how you think of these things AFTER you've glued everything down? But oh well ... we still had fun putting it together. And besides, if the star was behind them, they wouldn't be following it, right? I'll stick with that -- ha!

We three kings of Orient are,
Bearing gifts we traverse afar.
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Stamp Flashback!


I had a weird thought the other day -- stamps. It wasn't about just any stamps, though. I was thinking about Christmas and how I used to buy presents for my family when I was a little girl. My mom would give me her Blue Chip Stamps and S&H Stamps. Does anyone remember those? These were trading stamps that ran from the 1930s to the 1980s.

We would receive the stamps as a reward at grocery stores, gas stations, and other places. The more we bought, the more stamps we got in return. Then we stuck the stamps into booklets and could cash them in for merchandise. I can still picture the stores we had in Ventura, California for both stamp companies. They were big showrooms and I remember taking my booklets of stamps in and redeeming them for products.

I was thinking about how I managed to pay for some gifts as a kid and these stamps came to mind. One year I got my mom a kitchen clock that resembled a bottle of wine, some cheese, and grapes. I can't remember anything else I got with the stamps, but I remember having a lot of fun saving and sticking them into books. Talk about a blast from the past, huh?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

We Three Kings of ... ha ha ha ha!


Now I will say one thing -- these are the funniest looking Three Kings you might ever see. However, the boys and I had a blast making them today. I came up with the idea after we did Amanda's Paper Bag Scarecrows last month. I thought the bags would make fun heads for the Three Kings, tucking them into bodies made from recycled aluminum cans. The result ...

Three Silly Big-headed Kings!

I couldn't stop laughing at the one I made. It's in the center. Doesn't he look just like Saddam Hussein? Nathan's is on the left and his looks like King David. So much for our kings coming in from the East. At least Neil's guy on the right is happy! We sure made a mess out of the classroom, but we had fun, which is all that really matters.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

More recycled beads ...


The other day I got some wild hair to make paper beads out of recycled magazines. I didn't think they'd be addicting, but they are. Since I wear a lot of black & white clothes, I thought it would be fun to make one that went with that. I tore out pages with white backgrounds and black printing and used those for the beads. I found recipe and prescription pages were perfect because the fonts are all really tiny and there isn't much color. Then I strung the beads up with some mini black pony beads. The picture above is a close up of the strand I made. They kind of crack me up because they look like teeny cigarettes or joints.

Again, I made this necklace pretty long because I like to wear them different ways. Below is a goofy picture of me with the necklace on and as you can see I have it triple stranded. The only thing I don't like about it is that I strung it on elastic cord. I might redo it on something that's not as stretchy. My boys don't have the patience for this sort of craft, but it would make a fun project for a child to make as an inexpensive gift. Or even if an adult made the beads and let the child string them on however they like.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Gift Boxes


I may never buy a gift bag or box again. I saw these Gift Baxes in the December issue of Family Fun magazine and just had to make a couple. They're made from cereal boxes and are super easy to put together. I love the idea! The only problem is finding a place to store them so I can use them again next year. I've only made two so far, but might make a few more.

Even so, these would make great gift boxes for birthdays and other occasions, too. All you do is cut the tabs off an empty cereal box and wrap it up like you would a present, tucking the top ends down and securing them with tape. Poke a few holes, add some ribbon, and it's done! What a great idea for those odd-shaped presents that are hard to wrap.

I had to laugh at Family Fun's directions, though. It says this project requires 2-3 hours. Well, maybe if you're making 50 boxes. Otherwise, it only takes a few minutes. What a great way to recycle cereal boxes AND your favorite wrapping paper.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Paper Beads


I'm not sure what got into me yesterday, but I had this strange desire to make beads out of recycled magazines. It's not something the boys have the patience to do, so I thought I'd make some since they were both taking a sick day from school. I've seen this project in a lot of my craft books and online. I originally saw this link at Family Fun magazine and was going to try to make a simple bracelet. However, once I got started making the beads, it was kind of hard to stop. I made a bunch of them.

So, I decided to string all the beads onto some cord and make a long strand necklace. It's pretty long, actually, and can be worn as a double, triple, or even four-strand necklace. I separated the paper beads with tiny, clear pony beads. The boys think I'm some sort of genius and went, "Wow, cool! You should make those as gifts for people!" LOL -- they're so funny. I still like the bracelet, and since I have some beads left, I might make one of those as well. ETA -- made another long necklace with them!

Awhile back, Rick got a free subscription to Better Homes & Gardens magazine after buying one of their cookbooks. I saved all those magazines for school projects, since I never know when we might want to cut out pictures. Since that magazine is filled with pictures of gardens, flowers, and produce images, that's what I used. Most of my beads turned out to be either a green or pink shade, which I thought was a good combination. Anyway, I'm not sure how often I'll wear it, but it was fun to make and a good way to recycle some of those old magazines.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

THE BOX!


I got THE BOX out of the closet last night. Actually, Rick got it out for me and had to use the dolly to get it upstairs because it was so heavy. This box has been in the very back of my storage closet since we first moved into this house. I packed it in October 2006 and it's never been opened. Well, not until last night!

There's nothing special in this box. It's just a bunch of old clothes that I couldn't fit into after my last two pregnancies. I couldn't bear to part with them, so I packed them all up inside this large moving box. Mind you, Nathan is 11 and Neil is 8, so we're talking a long time for some of these things. I hoped someday I could wear them again. I'm happy to say that someday is getting closer! I know most of the pants still won't fit, but I might be able to wear some of the tops or dresses now. I plan to find what I can fit into now and add them back to my closet. The rest will serve as a goal to work towards. I've lost 27 pounds so far. It's not nearly as impressive as the 40 pounds Rick has lost, but at least I'm going in the right direction.

I'm pretty tired today. The boys got us up at 3am with a stomach virus and fever, so Rick and I have both been up since then. Poor Nathan has been sick to his stomach all day, but Neil was only sick once. Both are still running fevers. So, I'm sitting here trying to force myself to get on my TreadClimber and walk for a bit before crashing for the night. I want to walk, but I'm just so tired. Then again, I have this crazy box sitting here making me feel guilty if I don't. It's amazing how intimidating a stupid box can be!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Santa Mouse


Santa Mouse is one of my favorite Christmas books as a child. It's hard to believe this book was first published in 1966. I was only a year old when it came out. I'm not sure when I got my first copy, but I remember it from a long time back. Since writing this blog initially, I've read the book again and there's a simplicity about it that makes it special along with the amazing illustrations. I was reading one review earlier where a reader said it was too politically correct because it showed girl mice drinking tea and boy mice playing cowboys & Indians. I had to laugh about that when I read it. I mean, really ... how could she tell if they were girl or boy mice? One of these days I'll have to get the sequel. My kids enjoy this story as much as I do.

Do you have a favorite Christmas book from your childhood that you've passed on to your kids or someone one?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Righty-O


If you're on Facebook, you might see that a lot of people have changed their profile pictures to cartoon characters. The actual status I first saw said: Change your profile picture to a cartoon of your childhood. The goal? To bring attention to the horrors of child abuse by not seeing a human face on FB until December 6th. Join the fight against child abuse. Copy and paste this in your status and ask your friends to do the same. A lot of my friends have done this and I see hundreds of cartoon characters on my wall. However ...

I've been called a sheep. People have said I've succumbed to peer pressure. Not me directly, but I'm using myself as an example. I've seen many posts and discussions saying this can't possibly help child abuse. I've seen people say things like, "I don't need to change my picture for people to know how much I care about children." I've even seen people say they're worried about the mass copyright infringements. Good grief, what's wrong with these people? What is this hurting? It's simply for awareness. Does anyone know what that word even means? Awareness: having knowledge of, being aware of a difference, being diligent or watchful. If seeing everyone's profile pics makes one person more inclined to help a charity when asked, then it's made a difference. If it makes one person think twice about raising a hand to a child, then it's made a difference. All you have to do is Google this and articles from all over the world appear. Will it help child abuse victims? I don't know, but it certainly isn't hurting them.

I had a crappy childhood. I have very few happy memories. I changed my profile pic not only to do the awareness thing, but also for ME. Seeing all the cartoon characters from my past brings back one of the few happy memories I have. I grew up in the 70s and cartoons were an escape for me. They still are and I still watch them, especially the old ones. In addition to the profile pictures, people have been posting clips from favorite cartoons. It's brought back some good memories for me. And believe me, I don't have many. So call me a sheep if you want. Say I'm a follower and a sucker of peer pressure. I don't care. Child abuse makes me sick. Just seeing the vast number of people who feel the same gives me hope in this dismal world.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

It's Reindeer Week!

All this week we're doing reindeer crafts for school. Today we made the little photo frame ornaments pictured above. We decided to put our cats in them. Yesterday we did ones pictured below using clothespins. Nathan dunked his in brown paint, saying his reindeer eats too much chocolate. Neil is my lazy one and decided not to paint his. I realized too late that I glued my nose too high, but oh well. He can be Rudolph the Snob-Nosed Reindeer.

The ones below were made from stiff cardboard. Neil, for some unknown reason, decided to make his wearing glasses. He said it was a Harry Potter Reindeer -- sigh. Tomorrow we're going to attempt making them out of pipecleaners. Well, that is, if I remember to call Rick and ask him to bring home some brown ones. I have two shoeboxes filled with pipecleaners, but no brown. Go figure.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Bear


I have this picture in a frame downstairs in my family room. I took it a few years back at the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, MT. If you click on the link, you just might see this particular bear in some of the pictures. This is a really interesting place to see grizzlies and wolves right on the outskirts of Yellowstone National Park. The animals here cannot be released back into the wild and it's a great place to see them up close. We usually go to the center when we're visiting the park. There's an interactive area indoors, a really cool gift shop, and then you go outside to see the live animals. We usually stay at an RV park just down the road, so at night we can hear the wolves howling. West Yellowstone is a cool little town with lots of great shops and things to do.

But seriously, this picture creeps me out. As you know, I dream a lot about bears and I'm sure having this picture hanging up doesn't help. If you click on it, you can see it larger. Can you believe how small the eyes are on this grizzly? How can something so massive have such tiny eyes? Grizzly bears can reach up to 1000 pounds in some cases. With eyes this small, I guess it helps to have a 500-1000 pound body and 4-inch long claws!

Rick and I watched The Bear recently. I'd never seen it, but someone on Facebook mentioned it, so I got a copy from Netflix. It's definitely worth seeing. It's about a grizzly cub who becomes orphaned and is adopted by a male grizzly who has been injured by hunters. Apparently, this has happened before where a male has befriended a cub, but it's not common. Most of the time male grizzlies are the biggest threats to cubs. The story takes place in the 19th century and to be honest, it's not a feel-good movie. The bears are being stalked by the hunters and their dogs. The cub gets captured and tormented. And then there's a stupid scene where the male mates with a female while the cub has silly hallucinations from eating mushrooms. They could have totally left that out and made it a better film, not to mention more family friendly. We fast-forwarded through that, but the rest of the movie is awesome and the photography and scenery is spectacular. I enjoyed the special features on how they made it more than the film itself. Regardless, it has a happy ending, which was nice.

My newest middle grade novel features grizzly bears. When I was researching for my story, I listened to a lot of bear sounds online. I tell you, grizzly bears sound scary as hell! All the sounds in The Bear were made by actual animals and I had a few flashbacks listening to them. As much as I love seeing bears in the wild, even grizzlies, I hope I never hear those sounds up close.