Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Here are my boys as they were dressed up tonight. Neil is the werewolf and Nathan is the skeleton. Last year they were both skeletons, but Neil wanted to try something new. Also last year was the first time the boys ever dressed up as something scary. They have a bittersweet love/hate relationship with Halloween. They like dressing up and getting candy, but that's about it. They're not into scary stuff at all. Nathan is probably more interested in the skeletal system than he cares about scary skeletons. The same goes for his fascination with mummies. He's really into the whole ancient Egypt thing, but not so much the scary mummy stuff that is related to Halloween. Give him a book on bones or body parts and he's a happy kid!

I'm not sure about Neil's fascination with werewolves right now, but he loves wolves. Last year he really wanted to be a werewolf for Halloween, but the mask we found was a little too freakish for him. He didn't like that the mouth was open. This year we were looking at werewolf images online when a website came up for a paper mask. That's what Neil used for his costume. We printed it up on cardstock and then my daughter Nichelle assembled it. I was really surprised it lasted through trick-or-treating, but it did. He got a lot of comments on it. And for the cost of 5 pieces of cardstock -- it was a bargain. He decided to wear a pair of my gloves and I got the idea of using some press-on nails for claws. I remembered I had a box of them in my drawer, so I cut them into a point and stuck them on. No one could tell he was a werewolf with a French manicure. Werewolf Fancy Fingers -- hee!

I hope everyone has a Happy and safe Halloween!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Garnet -- A Ghost Town

Rick had the day off work today, so we decided to take a field trip to an old ghost town in Garnet, Montana. Nichelle came with us, so that made it even more fun. Normally, you can go into the visitor center and into more of the buildings, but they just shut those down for the season. We were still able to see quite a lot. I was surprised there were so many people there today. By "so many" I mean we saw about 7 or 8 other people. Considering how far out this little town is, I was surprised to see anyone there on a Friday afternoon.

Above photo: Kelly's Saloon. The boom town of Garnet had one school, but sported thirteen saloons that offered "male-orientated" entertainment. Miners sure had their priorities. Perhaps the school was an "after thought" or a "necessity" from all that entertainment.

Above photo: JK Wells Hotel, which was built in the winter of 1897. In its heyday, the entry featured beautifully carved doors with stained glass windows and was the most impressive building in Garnet.

Above photo: Neil sitting in the outhouse of the JK Wells Hotel. I don't know anything about outhouses, so I thought it was odd how this one was actually a double with two separate rooms next to each other. Each room had two "seats" as well. I wonder why that was? Did people get lonely out there and needed company? One of my biggest pet peeves are people who use public restrooms and talk on their cell phones in stalls next to me. I guess back in the 1800s all they needed to do was turn their head to chat!

Above photo: Neil standing in the blacksmith's shop. He loved the huge bellows and thought it was cool how the ceiling was all charred.

Above photo: Neil and Nathan in one of the miner's cabins. Looks drafty!

Above photo: The stove in the "Honeymoon Cabin". This cabin was originally built by a miner living in Garnet, who later moved. The cabin was then used for honeymooners to live in rent-free. They could live there until another couple got married and needed a place to stay.

Above photo: The bed frame in the "Honeymoon Cabin". I found it very interesting how most of the miner's cabins not only had the stoves left inside, but the bed frames as well. Some just had the head and foot boards, but others had the springs as well. I guess when everyone left, things like stoves and bed frames were too heavy to take with them.

Above photo: Nathan, Neil, and Nichelle inside what was originally a nice cabin built between 1896 and 1900. It was later turned into a livery shed and was home to a stage coach.

Above photo: Just some weeds that were blowing all over the place. I thought they looked pretty. I'm not sure what they are, but you know me and know I'll be trying to find out their name soon.

Above photo: Neil and Nathan looking at one of the gold mines that was barred off for safety. I like this picture. I need bars like this at home.

Above photo: More of the unidentified weeds. I loved how fluffy they were. Fortunately, I didn't get any in my eyes this time.

Above photo: Neil and I looking goofy. We were on the one-mile walk through the mine area when we stopped to take this. Neil and I take a lot of pictures, so we get left behind a lot. While I was taking a picture of a dead squirrel, Neil was video taping it lying in the road. We make a good team!

Above photo: The road back down the mountain. The Tamarack trees have turned yellow finally, which is always an amazing thing to see. Before moving to Montana, I never knew there was a pine tree that actually changed color in the fall. These do and they look really pretty.

It was a fun trip and pretty educational for a field trip. Not only did the boys learn a little about Montana history, but also about what a "boom town" was, a little about gold mining, seeing all the old buildings, looking down the mines, and more. There's a lot of history in this little town, but I'm too tired to go into all of the details tonight. If you'd like to learn more, check out Garnet Ghost Town. I hear there are a lot of these places in Montana, so hopefully we can visit more of them sometime.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Who's Your Mummy?

Nathan and Neil love reading about mummies, so this time of year is perfect to do some mummy crafts in school. We actually started Mummy Week last week, but things got a little off schedule when Nathan got sick on Monday and Neil came down with something Thursday and Friday. So, I decided to roll Mummy Week over onto this week to catch up with our crafts.

One project was to make a life-sized mummy. As you can see from the picture, we only got it to be about the size of a second grader, but that's okay. He still turned out pretty cool. If you're on my Facebook page, you've probably already seen Mr. Mummy looking out our classroom window. He's made from newpaper and then wrapped in toilet paper -- very high class crafting here. Our cat, Denny was scared of the mummy at first. As you can see from this picture, he doesn't seem to mind him now. In fact, a few minutes ago Denny walked up to Mr. Mummy and curled his tail around him, probably hoping for a back rub.

Today we're making Mummy Lollipops, so that should be fun. Maybe I'll post a picture of those if they turn out. Last week we made Mummy Magnets. We wrapped craft sticks with off-white colored yarn and added google eyes and a little bit of self-adhesive magnet to them. They were super simple, which is one things my boys really love, and turned out really cute. Here's a picture of them ...

Friday, October 21, 2011

They're here!

I was so happy to receive my copies of A New Friend for Dilly yesterday. Due to money issues, I wasn't able to get a lot of copies, but I at least wanted some for all of my kids and my in-laws. I am so happy with how this book turned out. As some of you know, we had to change illustrators for this second book in the series. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn't. I am thrilled to say it works for A New Friend for Dilly!

Ginger Nielson has done an incredible job with the book. Not only did she keep Dilly looking like his original illustrator designed (Lisa Oakman), but she gave him the most incredible facial expressions, not to mention a cool, little hat! I'm so fortunate Ginger was able and willing to take this project on, especially because she had also agreed to illustrate the third book in my Critter series, Pony Strings & Critter Things, the next one to come out.

A New Job for Dilly, the first book in the series, featured Dilly searching through the alphabet to find the perfect job for himself. A New Friend for Dilly does the same thing with him searching A to Z to find the perfect friend. Just as the first book introduced 26 different jobs, the second one features 26 different animals. Can Dilly find the perfect friend for himself? You'll have to read the book to find out.

It is now available directly through my publisher at 4RV Publishing, LLC. Or, you can order it through any bookstore. Books make a great gift and with Christmas coming, now is a good time to start thinking about that. I will be adding more Dilly crafts and activities to my website soon, as well as to Dilly's own personal website -- DILLYLAND.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Tish ...

Rick and I were watching a couple episodes of The Addams Family tonight. We have series one on DVD and haven't watched them in awhile. I always loved that show as a kid, along with The Munsters. I remember watching them back-to-back after school when I was younger. I always thought Morticia was such a classy lady, not to mention stunningly beautiful. She has the most amazing eyes. It's funny too because she has a name close to my mother-in-law -- Carolyn Jones. My MIL is Caroline Jones, which is close enough. I was reading about Carolyn Jones on Wiki tonight, just out of curiosity because I really didn't know much about her. I was surprised to see pictures of her with Elvis. I didn't realize she was in King Creole with him. Here's a picture of her with Elvis ... lucky lady.

Other films she starred in were Road to Bali, House of Wax, The Big Heat, East of Eden, The Seven Year Itch, The Tender Trap, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Man Who Knew Too Much, How The West Was Won, several Batman episodes, Roots, and a lot more. I had no idea she had done so many films. If you were to ask me, I would have only been able to name her work with The Addams Family, but she really only did that from 1964 to 1966. She was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in The Bachelor Party in 1957. She also received a Golden Globe nomination for one of the most promising actresses of 1959. Apparently, her career started to slow down after her work on The Addams Family, although she still continued to act. She was married four times. Sadly, she was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1981 and died in 1983 at the age of fifty-three.

But still ... she had amazing eyes ... like Betty Davis' eyes. Since I wasn't familiar with her work outside of The Addams Family, I went searching for a color picture of her. Her eyes were a pretty shade of blue.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Holy Flypaper, Batman!

Yep ... it's Bat Week at our house! As you can see, the gang's all here. We have vampire bats, goofy bats, kissy lip bats, you name it. These are actually a special species of the unique flying mammals -- the elusive Construction Paper Clothespin Bats. They're very rare. These bats are not insectivores or frugivores like most other bats you might have heard about. These are Elmersgluvores -- a very sticky bat. It's a tacky job, but someone's gotta do it. Regardless, bats are interesting creatures. For example ...

There are two kinds of bats -- megabats & microbats.
Megabats eat mostly fruit.
Microbats eat mostly insects.
Although bats don't have good eyesight, they aren't totally blind.
Bats use echolocation to navigate and forage.
A bat's wing is much thinner than a bird's wing.
Bat poop is also known as guano.
Most bats drink water.
There are three types of vampire bats that drink blood.
A group of bats is called a colony.
Some colonies can have over a million bats in it.
Bats rarely fly in the rain because it messes their echolocation.
Three states have a state bat -- Texas, Oklahoma, and Virginia.

So, there you have it. Today it was Clothespin Bats and yesterday it was Thumbprint Bats, which were a lot of fun. I can't remember what tomorrow will bring, but I'm sure it will be batty. And if you think I made up the "Holy Flypaper, Batman!" saying, click here.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

More cool book finds ...

Yesterday Rick and I had some errands to do in town which included dropping some blankets off at the Salvation Army. As most of you know, I love digging through the children's books there, so I couldn't resist checking them out even though I had just been there a week ago. I ended up buying 28 children's books for about $6 -- not too shabby, huh? Eighteen of those were Little Golden Books and I even managed to come across a 1968 edition of Winnie-The-Pooh and Tigger. I also found a couple of early readers, two Franklin books, a book on Johnny Appleseed, and a book about how apples grow. Pretty cool for six bucks!

One book I found that I didn't have was Blueberries for Sal. I've seen it for as long as I can remember, but can you believe I've never read it? I stared at it in amazement wondering why I didn't have it in my collection or even had read it before. If I had read it, I don't remember. The book was written in 1948 by Robert McCloskey. It's a Caldecott Honor book and pretty much a classic when it comes to picture books. The edition I found was printed in 1976, so it's pretty old as well. I still can't believe I had never read it. Imagine that. A child picking blueberries with his mother who meet up with a bear eating blueberries with her cub. Geez, that's what my nightmares are made of.

Another book I found was this one picture above called The Fat Cat, A Danish Folktale. To be honest, I didn't even skim through the book before paying for it. I just tossed it in my pile thinking that Neil would like it because he loves cat books. OMG! Has anyone read this story? It's morbid, but hilarious! The cat goes around eating everyone he comes in contact with until he's as huge as pictured on the cover. He finally comes to a woodsman, who refuses to be eaten and hacks the cat open to free all the townsfolk. The last page shows the cat back to his original size, but with a big bandage on his belly. Funny! I'd never read this story before either, so I was surprised when I went to Amazon to look it up. New copies start at $69.95 and used start at $14.41. I paid a DIME for this 1971 edition -- I think I got a good deal.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Deaf, Dumb, Blind ...

It seems Roger Daltrey had it right in Tommy. I need a pair of solid glasses to block out things I shouldn't see, earplugs to block out things I don't want to hear, and a big cork to keep my mouth from saying things I shouldn't say. No matter where you go these days, whether it be in person or on a social networking site, people are so opinionated. I'm no saint and I say things people don't agree with or believe it. However, I try not to throw political or religious things at people because I know it only makes them upset. 

When I first joined Facebook, it was because a lot of my friends from another message board had moved there. I wanted to stay in touch with them, so I finally joined. Soon after, I started adding writer friends, family, classmates, and so forth. Lately though, it seems the entire site is just a platform for political and religious hatred. I'm not into that. I've unfriended a few people recently because they seem so hateful. I don't mind people having an opinion or even expressing it, but when it just comes down to hate and not facts, then I have a problem. I don't want to be that way and I'd hope my friends would put me in my place if I did.

I recently had a total stranger send me a request. He was mutual friends with someone I admired and respected, so I didn't think much of it and accepted him. The ONLY time he said anything to me was to spew his hatred of Elvis when I posted a picture or something. I didn't even know this guy. I mean, if you don't like Elvis, that's fine. I could care less. It just struck me odd that his only comments were to tell me Elvis was a bum, a womanizer, a drug user, and so forth. What was his point? Why did he send me a request if the only thing he was ever going to say was how much he hated Elvis? Is it just because it's the Internet and he felt like he could say whatever he wanted? If I walked by him in a store with my Elvis purse, would he stop me and tell me how horrible he thought Elvis was? It just makes me wonder. What bothered me more was that the mutual friend we had in common was the leader of a very prestigious Christian organization. I suppose that's why I didn't think twice about accepting his friend request. Some friend, huh?

I don't know why I'm even posting this. I'm just ranting really, although I probably sound like the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. I'm no better than anyone else. I know that. I just hope if I start spewing out things like some people do so freely that one of you will tell me to shut up.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Hey, Frankie ...

The boys are doing Frankenstein Week for school right now. About a week ago I found a Great Illustrated Classics version of Frankenstein at a thrift store. I thought that might be a good version to read to the boys, since the original is a lot more complex. I never knew Mary Shelley was only nineteen when she wrote the original story in 1818. That's pretty impressive, especially for the monster to become such a universal figure. So, for the past two days, we've started that book and are really enjoying it. I love the original movie with Boris Karloff and watch it every October. I'm not sure if the boys will want to watch it with me or not after reading the book. We'll see. It always makes me sad at the end to see the monster destroyed. 

Yesterday the boys made Frankenstein monsters out of paper plates. I made one too, but edited the picture so you can't see mine. He looks silly -- more like Dracula with green skin. Anyway, after the boys painted their paper plates, I let them design their monster however they wanted. I thought it was interesting to see them come up with different ideas for the neck bolts. Neil used clothespins and Nathan used paper clips. I used foam, so the boys definitely have a lot more imagination than I do.

Today we made Frankenstein heads out of empty water bottles. We came up with our own design and when they were finished, Nathan suggested we send the idea to Highlights for Children magazine. So, I'm going to do that before posting a picture because they're kind of strict when it comes to that sort of thing. If they reject it, then I'll go ahead and post it eventually. They were super easy to make because we painted them on the inside of the bottles, so there was hardly any mess. They turned out great and hopefully I can share them sometime. Tomorrow we're making Frankenstein monsters out of cans. I can't remember what we're doing for Thursday, but Friday we're making Frankenstein monsters out of marshmallows - Franken-Mallows!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Available for pre-order!

A New Friend for Dilly is going to print and is available for pre-order now. This is the second book in the Dilly series and I'm really excited to see the final copy. We've changed illustrators from the first book to the second, and Ginger Nielson has done a remarkable job with Dilly and all his friends. In this book, Dilly searches from A to Z to find the perfect friend. A New Job for Dilly was all about different types of jobs, whereas this book is about different types of animals. Can Dilly find a perfect friend for himself? A New Friend for Dilly can be pre-ordered from 4RV Publishing, LLC and the copies should be available very soon. I hope you will want to check it out!