Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 in pictures ...

I thought it would be fun to make a slide show of photos from 2008 and pick one from each month of the year. Summertime got a little tough because I had so many to choose from. I hope you enjoy seeing some of the things we saw and did over 2008. Best wishes to you and yours for the New Year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Angeline Jellybean

There's a new picture book out called Angeline Jellybean, written by Crystalee Calderwood, illustrated by Stephen Macquignon and published by 4RV Publishing. It's a delightful story about a little girl who loves jellybeans. Angeline loves jellybeans so much that she wants to eat them all the time. When people try to convince her to try new foods, she replies, "Blah!" My boys laughed every time Angeline said that. For her birthday, Angeline gets a big bag of jellybeans and eats them until she feels sick. Boy, can I relate to that! This is a cute book for younger children that will hopefully encourage them to try new foods without being preachy. The story is full of charming rhymes, color references and vivid illustrations of favorite holidays and special events that kids love so much.

Angeline Jellybean is currently being featured in a book blog tour. To read some fun, interesting facts about jellybeans, click on Ransom's blog. To read an interview from the author and illustrator, click on Vivian's blog. If you'd like to follow along with the rest of the blog tour, click here for the full schedule. I was thrilled to add Angeline Jellybean to our book collection, especially being the candy lover I am. Not only is this a cute story, but it's illustrated by the same man who will be doing my own book, The Marshmallow Man. If you'd like to order a copy of Angeline Jellybean, click here for more information. I wish both Crystalee and Stephen much success with their new book! Hmmm, now I'm craving jellybeans ...

Monday, December 29, 2008


This gives whole new meaning to the songs, "Baby, It's Cold Outside" and "Frosty the Snowman". G.I. Joe was so excited to build a snowman that he forgot to put pants on. But of course, I can't help but think of the song "Snow Hey Oh" by the famous band, the Red Hot Chilly Peckers --

The more I see, the less I know,
The more I like to let it go -- hey oh, whoa ...
Deep beneath the cover of another perfect wonder
Where it's so white as snow.

Oh wait, that's the Red Hot Chili Peppers -- or something like that. G.I. Joe still had a frosty good time building his snowman. We have about 2 feet of snow and Rick and the boys had a pretty good snowball fight yesterday. It got pretty brutal at times. Even the little one wasn't spared ...

But not to worry, Nathan got him back good ...

And finally, if you're just dying to know what special holiday today is, click here for my other blog over on my Multiply site.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Take me to your leader ...

My cat Belle is mean, but cute. She has a tiny nose with a little streak of orange running up it. She also has orange fur on her feet. All of her brothers and sisters were orange tabby cats. Belle was the oddball of the litter. Unlike her siblings, she just got a splattering of orange here and there. She's fun to photograph because she's cute, but as with any cat, taking pictures of her with a flash is difficult. Her eyes always glow and she looks like she has laser eyes. Why do cats eyes glow, but human eyes turn red?


Cats, dogs and other nocturnal animals have a special reflective layer in their eyes called tapetum lucidum. It works like a mirror to reflect light back out through the eyes so the animal can see better at night. The eyes are more dilated at night, so you see more of this layer when it's reflected off light. People don't have this special layer in their eyes. When the light of a flash camera hits a human eye, the light travels back and reflects off the retina, which is rich in blood, causing the eyes to look red. If your camera has a red-eye reducing feature, it uses two quick flashes instead of one, causing the eyes to constrict and let in less light. It seems simple enough. However, I do find it interesting how cats look like aliens and people look like demons. Shouldn't it be the other way around?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

A White Christmas!

For Christmas we got SNOW, SNOW and more SNOW! There was no shortage of snow on Christmas Day. In fact, our deck had only been halfway shoveled off and the snow on the other side was getting too thick. Rick & I went outside and shoveled nearly 20 inches off, all the while several more inches took its place. This picture shows our 6 mini trees out front, or what's left of them. These trees are 2 feet tall. It is snowing really good right now too and the forecast doesn't show any signs of letting up soon. From what I can see, a lot of places are being pounded with snow right now. It's a good thing Santa brought us snowshoes for Christmas. We tried them out on Christmas Day and stomped around the yard a bit. Without them, you sink up to your knees. I even got out my XC skis yesterday and slide around the yard a bit. That was fun. The snow is still too powdery to make snowmen, but the boys have had fun sledding. I hope everyone is staying warm -- and dry! One of the best gifts we've ever gotten was 2 years ago when my SIL sent us a boot dryer. That thing has been running nonstop lately. Merry Christmas everyone and I wish you all the absolute best for 2009!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sugar Cookies!

One of my family's annual Christmas traditions is to bake and decorate sugar cookies. Back in the mid-90s when my girls went to a private school, we made up a school cookbook one year. In that book there is a wonderful recipe for sugar cookies by a lady named Kathy Hart. Sometimes we make the glaze and other times we just use regular icing from tubes, which is easier for the kids. This picture is of my girls taken sometime in the 90s. I had to take a picture of the picture because my other computer is running a virus scan right now. Hopefully, you can see the picture okay and that you enjoy the recipe. It's a good one and it's adaptable for any holiday. This year the girls baked cookies with the boys, which I thought was really sweet!

  • 1 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1-1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2-1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Thoroughly mix butter and sugar. Blend in egg and vanilla and combine until fluffy. Stir together flour, soda and cream of tartar. Add to butter mixture. Cover and chill one hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough until approximately 1/4 inch thick on lightly floured board. Cut out desired shapes. Place on baking sheet and bake approximately 6 minutes or until edges are just beginning to brown. Remove and coll on racks. Makes about 4-dozen cookies.


  • 1-1/2 to 2 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 2 tablespoons white Karo syrup
  • 2 tablespoons hot water
  • colored sugars (optional)

Combine all ingredients together until lumps disappear. You may tint glaze with a drop or two of food coloring. Dip tops of cooled cookies into glaze and wipe off excess. Sprinkle with colored sugars, if desired. This glaze dries fairly hard, so cookies are easy to wrap or stack.

If you like Rum Balls, check out Sharon's blog by clicking here. Yum!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Outside lights ...

Here are some pictures of our outside Christmas lights. These were taken before we got a bunch of snow. The little trees are almost all covered up now and we can barely see the lights on the rails.

This last one is a little blurry, but it was below zero when I took it, so I didn't feel like spending a whole lot of time out there fiddling with my camera. But this is how the house looks at night.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Elysabeth just gave me the “Your Blog is Fabulous” Award. I'm told the rules of the award are simple: Write about 5 addictions you have and then pass the award on to the 5 blogs that you think are fabulous. Here are my 5 addictions, and funny enough, they all begin with the letter C!
  1. Coffee -- I only drink 1-2 cups a day, but crave it.
  2. Chocolate -- especially super dark chocolate.
  3. Computers -- I rely on them too much.
  4. Crock-pots -- if I can crock it, I can cook it.
  5. Collections -- I collect way too much crud.

I need to pass this award onto 5 people that I feel have fabulous blogs. I think a lot of people have fabulous blogs, but I can only include 5 of them. I would like to give this award to --

  1. Hillary
  2. Nikki
  3. Stephen
  4. Brenda @ sixhotpeppers
  5. Chris

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Sweet Smell of Christmas

As a kid, my favorite holiday book was The Sweet Smell of Christmas written by Patricia M. Scarry and illustrated by JP Miller. It was originally published in 1970 by Golden Books, so I would have been 5-years-old then. For me, this book had it all -- fun story, cute illustrations and little stickers to scratch-and-sniff. I read-and-scratched this book until the stickers were ripped-and-worn from being scratched-and-sniffed so much. It was a fun book. When I got older, way after I had outgrown the book, I bought two more copies. I knew this would be a book I wanted to share with my kids. We still have those two copies.

Christmas is almost here! Little Bear knows it's coming -- he can smell it. The story follows Little Bear around as he enjoys the wonderful smells of the season. There are pine trees, apple pie, gingerbread cookies, candy canes, hot chocolate, and oranges. It's a charming story and truly a classic holiday book for kids of all ages. For my family, reading this book to my kids has become a favorite holiday tradition. Give it a scratch-and-sniff!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Bananas don't dance.

"My mind is going blank! I'll never remember!
Why do they have to spoil Christmas by making us be in plays?"

That's what Peppermint Patty says when she's forced to be a sheep in her school Christmas play. If you haven't seen "It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown", I recommend it. It's really funny. And dang, I can really relate to Peppermint Patty. My elementary school did a big play every Christmas. I loved making the props and helping with the costumes, but I didn't like being onstage. The whole thing caused me stress. One year I was forced to be a Russian dancer in "The Nutcracker". I remember making the outfit out of crepe paper and the hat out of construction paper. We also had to do some funny dance. I don't remember the performance itself. The terror must have blanked it from my memory.

Now, I'm no actress. I never enjoyed that kind of attention. When I was in school, just reading aloud from my text book made me queasy. The words got all blurry and if you heard me, you probably thought I couldn't read well. If I was assigned to do an oral report, I stressed over it so much that I got physically ill. My teachers thought I made it up and insisted it was "good for me" to do these things. I remember one time where I did an oral report in front of my class. I was so stressed out and I fretted over it for weeks. I finally got up enough courage to do the report, only for the teacher to let the kids critique me. One girl raised her hand and pointed out how many times I said "ummm" in my report. What a great way to get kids interested in public speaking. Is it any wonder why I disliked school so much?

Sixth grade was the worst when it came to the Christmas play. They decided to do a play about a dancing banana. Yeah, you read that right -- a dancing banana. I don't remember the story, nor do I know if this was a common play for the time. For all I know, it might have been the brain child of one of the lunatic teachers. Seriously, a dancing banana? That sure brings the true meaning of Christmas to a person. It wasn't like the kids had any choice in this. So, guess who they made the dancing banana? Yep -- me. As if reading out loud wasn't stressful enough, now they're going make me be a dancing banana. The teacher assumed I'd be perfect because it was a non-speaking part. I have to give her credit for that, but not much. The only thing worse than a speaking part was a dancing part. And if dancing wasn't bad enough, it was the major character in the stupid play. And to top it off, I was going to have to wear a full-sized paper mache banana suit -- WTH? I don't remember the story, but I remember the dancing banana had to spin around in circles on stage while all the kids stood around singing. It couldn't have been any stupider. So, when Peppermint Patty has her little rant over having to be a sheep, I can totally relate. I was a wreck the week before the play. The stress caused me to feel sick and I ended up staying home most of the week. When I showed up at school on Friday, they informed me I'd been replaced as the dancing banana. They gave the part to my best friend. I was still in the play, but I was a shopper in the store. All I had to do was hold some bags and walk around. I could do that. Had they just let me do that from the very beginning, everything would have been fine. But no, they had to cause all that stress. It's been over 30 years and I'm still haunted by it. It might have spoiled Christmas that year, but at least it didn't spoil my love for bananas. That would have sucked.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Can you knit?

I can't knit to save my life. I don't even own a pair of knitting needles. My mom used to knit and she'd let me pick out yarn to make me sweaters. I usually picked out some wild color, like the hottest pink I could find. They probably saw my sweaters from space. I loved watching my mom knit -- it looked relaxing. Christmas of 1974, all I wanted was a Knit Magic machine by Mattel. They had just came out and were all the rage. I was 9 and my wish was granted that year. In an old photo, I can see the very corner of the machine. It was the same year I got a giant Barbie head. That was a fun Christmas. According to the booklet you could make all sorts of things, from stuffed animals to Barbie dresses. I was so excited to get it. I remember playing around with it for hours. I remember getting frustrated when I messed up. I don't recall anything I made with it in particular. Over the years, it either got pushed aside, broken or tossed out and then it was only a fond childhood memory. Then came Ebay ...

Several years ago I looked for Knit Magic machines on Ebay and ordered one. It had to be an original one from 1974 just like the one I had. I don't know why I felt the need to have it again, but I did. It was right about the time that long, skinny scarves were popular. Since all I could ever make with it was a tube, I figured I'd give that a try. The funny thing is -- the darn thing worked! I've made a bunch of scarves with this silly little toy. Of course, nowadays long, skinny scarves aren't in as much, but I still like making them. Last year I made my daughter one for Christmas using a camouflage colored yarn. I've made over 10 of these scarves. Another thing I've made are draft stoppers for our doors. I knitted really long tubes and then took an old pair of pantyhose and filled it with rice. I put the pantyhose/rice in the knitted tube and stick them by all the doors in the winter to keep out the cold air. Works like a charm. Some of my scarves are pictured below.

However, it's a silly sight to see a grown woman playing with her 1974 knitting toy. I get razzed about it all the time. I've seen newer knitting machine toys, but I still like my old one. I don't think they were meant to be worked so hard, so it probably won't last forever. I'll have to decide to replace it with another original or go for a newer model. The other day I found this really cool yarn at Walmart. It was red, pink and white. It reminded me of a candy cane, so I got some to make a scarf. Turns out, the skein wasn't long enough so I had to go back for more. I wasn't sure if I could tie the ends together, but I gave it a try. It didn't like going over the knot very well, but it worked. I got the whole scarf done and sat it down on the floor in my room. All I had left to do was remove it from the machine and tie up the ends. A few hours later I come up to do it and noticed it was all jacked up. Someone had turned the crank backwards. Rick tried to blame it on the cat, but it turns out it was Nathan. He apologized after the discovery was made, but I don't know if he was going to tell me on his own. So, I had to rip the whole thing out and start it all over again. I think he knows not to play with MY toys now. I would still love to learn how to knit for real someday. In the meantime, I'll have to settle for my ridiculous little toy.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Yo fruitcake!

What's the deal with fruitcake? Most people I know hate fruitcake. It's become a source of jokes at Christmas, but why? What's so horrible about it? It had been years since I tasted fruitcake. I think the last time I did, I was a little girl at one of my mom's hospital Christmas parties. I didn't like it. It was sticky, chunky and weird. That was a long time ago. Afterall, I'm older now and my tastes have changed. Cake made with nuts and candied fruits doesn't sound that bad. Could fruitcake really be that horrible? My curiosity got the best of me and I wanted to try it again.

I've seen little fruitcakes at Walmart. Scary. They're on the lowest shelf in the Christmas aisles. Tossed down so low that I'm sure every kid who comes by takes a poke at them. I didn't want one of those. And besides, I didn't want a whole fruitcake. What if I don't like it? There's a store here that sells individual slices of fruitcake, so I had my husband pick one up on his way home from work last night. Of course, the lady at the register had to say something. "Oh, I see someone likes fruitcake." Rest assured, he told her it wasn't him and how he hoped I didn't make him taste it. I had to try it again to see what the fuss was about. Was it really that bad? So, I'm sitting on the bed talking to Rick when I decide to try it. My cat goes bonkers. She wants what's in that little plastic container and she's not going to stop until I give her a bite. The crazy thing is -- she liked it! I looked at the cake. It certainly was colorful with red and green candied cherries. There are some other fruits I didn't recognize, but certainly nothing that scared me. I took a bite, I chewed, I swallowed, I was still alive. Hey, this stuff isn't that bad. It's actually kind of good, like a heavy nutbread with gooey, sticky things on top. I couldn't eat the entire piece, so I put the rest in the fridge for later. In my investigation, I learned 3 things about fruitcake --
  1. Fruitcake isn't as horrible as people say it is.
  2. Fruitcake is expensive. My single slice cost $7.49.
  3. My cat likes fruitcake -- who knew?
So why the fuss over fruitcake? Other than some people not liking it, why has it become a source of holiday ridicule? Fruitcake dates back to ancient Rome where it was made with pomegranate seeds, raisins and pine nuts. Later alcohol was used and the cakes were soaked in brandy, which preserved them. Did you know fruitcakes can take over a month to make? After baking, they're brushed with brandy once or twice a week. It's a long process to make a good one. The cake I tried last night didn't have alcohol, but I think the one I tried as a kid did. I was probably around 10 years old and it sounds like something my mom would let me do. No wonder I didn't like it. She nearly scared me off fruitcake for life. Johnny Carson joked that there was only one fruitcake in the world and it was constantly passed from family to family each Christmas. I'm sure that didn't help the poor fruitcake's reputation. Fruitcake is like eggnog -- you love it or hate it. There is no in between. I'd like to try a good brandy soaked fruitcake with a glass of spiced rum eggnog. I can honestly say I've finally turned into my mother.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Honest Scrap!

My blog has been awarded the Honest Scrap Award by Vivian. Scrap means left over, fragments, discarded material. Many times truth and honesty are discarded material, considered fragments and left over. People like us need to tell it like it is, and let the scraps fall where they will. There are 2 guidelines for receiving this award. One, you are to list 10 honest things about yourself. Make them interesting, even if you have to dig deep. Two, present the award to 7 other bloggers. I've listed things like this before, so I'm really going to have to dig deep here. Ten honest things about me are --
  1. I am very honest and don't like lying.
  2. I feel guilty if I accidently cut someone off in my car.
  3. I failed my driving test the first time.
  4. I got a ticket for speeding once.
  5. I am conservative and very old-fashioned.
  6. I read Ann Coulter's books.
  7. I was with a girl who shoplifted and we got caught.
  8. I don't like having my picture taken.
  9. I don't like crude humor in kid's movies.
  10. I know how painful it is to lose a pet.

The following list are those I feel are deserving of this award. They're people who aren't afraid to say it how they see it, those who tell the Honest Scrap. I know a lot of people who deserve this, but I can only list 7 of them --

  1. Sharon
  2. Dee
  3. Bish
  4. Carrie
  5. Renata
  6. Jacqui
  7. Sunshine

You can use the Honest Scrap Award logo on your blog, providing you follow the guidelines and list 10 honest things about yourself and nominate 7 other bloggers. Have fun, be honest and keep telling it like it is!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Carol of the Bells

As some of you know, "Carol of the Bells" is my all-time favorite Christmas song. I love it so much that I actually collect this song. I have over 30 versions of it on a playlist on my iPod. Each one is totally different and I have it done with bells, piano, jazz, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, harp, violin, fiddle, harmonica, kids, surf, rap, babies, even cats and dogs! I've heard some of Straight No Chaser before, but recently my friend Nancy showed me this video clip. I knew I had to have it and add it to my collection. Isn't it awesome? Rick bought the entire CD from iTunes and all of their songs are amazing. Check them out, if you haven't already. "Carol of the Bells" is a beautiful song and it has been done in so many interesting ways. If you ever hear any good ones, please keep me in mind because I'm always looking to add to my collection. Thanks!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Three Nativities --

I wanted to share 3 pictures today. This first one I used for our Christmas cards last year. My son Nathan drew it. He loves birds and knew how much I loved nativities, so he combined the two. I thought it was really cute. It's a little hard to see, but the Baby Jesus eagle only has his 2 little feet sticking out of the egg. The angels and the Mary eagles all have their eyes closed like they're praying. Too cute. The pictures below are of an ornament my oldest daughter Nichelle made for me last Christmas. One side has the Holy Family and the other side has the Wise Men. I was really stunned by her artwork on this one. I know I'm biased, but my kids are awesome.

It's -7 degrees right now and I think our high for the day is going to be -2. I guess it will be a good day to stay home, fire up the woodstove and throw something in the crock-pot. We had to go into town yesterday and it was 3 degrees at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. Just walking from Target to the car was an experience. As you know, all this is new to me, so I had fun being out for a short time. People are telling us we haven't had an extreme winter here since 1997, so I'm curious when the next big one will be. Anyway, I think today is a good day to stay inside, drink some coffee and maybe get some things done around here. I might even knit a scarf -- kinda, sorta, maybe.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


I guess today isn't a good day to sit on the deck for coffee & donuts. I know other parts of the country have been pounded with snow and ice storms, but in Montana it's been below normal. We finally got some good snowfall last night. I was listening to the weather radio this morning and they are saying Glacier National Park is expecting over 8 inches before 5pm with winds up to 35mph. They're saying the low will be -40 to -50 degrees. We're about an hour south of the park, so it won't get that cold here. If I wasn't afraid of the car breaking down and us all dying, I'd love to go up there to experience it. I'm talking about getting out of the warm car, saying "Brrr!" and then getting back in the warm car. I've never felt it that cold before. They're saying for our area to expect temps in the -20s though, so I guess that will be close enough. I think we're due for more snow today as well as all of next week. I spent 40+ years in sunny Southern California, so all this snow & cold stuff is still fun for me.

Oh, and since I've been posting about some of the crafts the kids have made, I thought I'd put up a picture of what they did yesterday. We traced their hands on black foam and then they glued cotton balls on them to make little lamb ornaments. We added a loop of ribbon and they look really cute hanging on the Christmas tree. It's a good thing we have a 9 foot tall Christmas tree to fit all these ornaments. If we keep at it, I might have to start looking around for a taller one. We have about another foot we can go in the corner of the room. If we were to put the tree in the center of our great room, we could probably fit a 15 foot tall tree at least. I made 4 more angels out of recycled Christmas cards last night, so I just might have to find a taller tree!

Friday, December 12, 2008

More crafts ...

Yesterday I posted about some of the Christmas crafts we've done. Kim mentioned how she'd like to see the little angel ornaments we made this year, so that's the picture here. I found the directions online here, but we altered it a bit. All we did was cut a circle from one of last year's Christmas cards that I had saved. Then we cut the circle in half and made a cone and stapled it. We took a piece of ribbon and made a loop and then pushed it through a wooden bead. Then we glued it onto the cone, added hair and a face. With the other half of the circle, we folded it back and forth to make wings. Hot glue the whole thing and -- presto -- instant angel! I found a bunch of other Christmas cards I saved, so yesterday I went out and bought more beads to make some more. I'm thinking I might take more time with them and I might dip the bottom of the skirts in glitter and maybe add a jingle bell on the loop to make it an angel bell. I have some glittery pipe cleaners, so I might use those to make halos. I love finding crafts that use things we've recycled. Since these angels called for recycled Christmas cards, I thought they'd be fun to make. I hate throwing away Christmas cards, so it's neat to reuse them.

Here is another ornament we made in the past. These little lamb ornaments came from Family Fun Magazine. At the time, we only had white yarn, so that's what we used. I'm planning on making more and using off white yarn next time. They were really easy to make (the girls & I did these years ago) and they turn out adorable. We made a bunch and gave them out as gifts. Today the boys will be making lamb ornamnets, but theirs will be a little different. They'll trace their hand on black foam to make the lamb's body. Then they'll glue cotton balls on them to make the fluffy fur. We've never done these before, but they should be pretty cute.

Also, Kelly asked how I keep my craft stuff. Since we've homeschooled over 11 years, we've accumulated a lot of stuff. It's not uncommon for me to have stuff like wiggle eyes, curly doll hair or something odd like sequins in the shapes of little horses. I use those Rubbermaid style shoeboxes to keep things in. I label them "wooden pieces", "beads", "misc ribbons" and so forth. I have them stacked on top of my bookshelves, so that makes it really easy to find things. I also have one big pantry-like cabinet that we refer to as "the recycable closet" and it's filled with things like styrofoam balls, fabric scraps, recycled egg cartons, paper towel rolls, jars and other odds & ends. It has doors, which is nice so I don't have to look at all the clutter. I also have an old Tupperware spice rack that I keep in there. I no longer used it in the kitchen, but didn't want to get rid of it so I use it for craft items instead. The little spice containers are perfect size for things like wiggle eyes, sequins, leftover confetti -- anything you think you might be able to reuse. After doing this for so long, you find ways to save anything.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Are you crafty?

When we started homeschooling, my girls were in the 4th and 2nd grades. They loved crafts and we did tons of them. When you look at our tree, it's covered in homemade ornaments the kids have made. One of my favorites is one Nichelle did in school when she was 4 years old. It's a silver bell made out of an egg carton cup, covered in tin foil with a pipe cleaner and bell attached to it. It's so simple, but one of my favorites. The boys are in 4th and 1st grade this year. They love crafts too, but they're a little less patient than the girls were, so I keep things simple. This picture is of my boys this week, being goofy as always. We made star ornaments out of popsicle sticks and sequins. Nathan wanted to do a Star of David and Neil decided to do a traditional star. Sometimes crafts can be pretty complicated, but I cheated and used pre-colored sticks and adhesive sequins. The only thing I helped was with the hot glue gun so we wouldn't have to wait hours for them to dry. The funny thing is, because they were so simple, my boys enjoyed making them even more. The girls could sit there for hours, cutting things out, gluing stuff on, getting things just right. The boys like things fast and easy -- must be a boy thing! We made egg cup bells yesterday and on Monday we turned last year's Christmas cards into angels.

This other picture is of me taken sometime in the 70s. Even though I'm painting eggs here, I'm sure this was a Christmas project. I remember having this awesome Christmas craft book that had all sorts of fun projects. One of them was to blow out the inside of eggs and paint them into Christmas ornaments. I think that's what I'm doing here and I'd guess that was the book behind me on the couch. I've searched for that book online, but haven't been able to find it. I remember doing so many fun projects. I'd love to find an old copy of it, but I can't remember the name. I always loved doing crafts, whether it be in school or at home. I remember Christmas fondly because I kept myself busy making crafts. Today the boys are making peace doves and tomorrow they'll make handprint lambs. Then after school we're heading to the library to drop off some books and then over to Joann's Crafts. I found a handful of old Christmas cards the other day and I want to get more beads to turn them into little angel ornaments. Tis the Season to be Crafty!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Snow Pics

I made a slideshow of some of the snow pictures I've taken. Most are from Montana, but there are a few from places like Yellowstone along with some others. We only have a slight dusting of snow at our house right now, but I'm sure it's just a matter of time before more comes. It's supposed to be -2 on Sunday. Three pictures to look out for are kind of interesting. The one of the little squirrel with snow on his back and the one of the road with all the green leafy trees bent over were taken in June. We got about 6 inches of snow dumped on us this summer. The trees had their leaves again and they were snapping left and right from the weight. We couldn't even get out of our road without having to plow through broken limbs. The third picture shows what looks like a mound of snow with a car next to it. That's a motel inside Glacier National Park! The snow gets so deep there that the motel was buried. Ironically, it's in an area in the park that gets the least snow!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Do you ski?

When I was younger, my mom would take me skiing. Sometimes she'd drive over 6 hours to take me to Mammoth Mountain in California. She would sit out on the deck and read while I did the slopes. Or if it was too cold, she'd sit inside by a fireplace and drink coffee. I was never a really good skier, but I had fun. Rick and I started getting into skiing and then when our girls were older we took them a few times too. We'd go to Snow Summit, which was a little over 3 hours away from home. I loved it, but my feet made it hard. I had surgeries on them and something about the ski boot hurt them, so that made it difficult and uncomfortable. When we moved to Montana, we brought our old ski equipment with us. Once we got here, we realized how outdated it was. Our skis were 15 years old. Looking at them, you would think they were cross country skis because of how skinny they were. Skis now are much wider. We took them to the Salvation Army and I'm sure they're tacked to a wall somewhere or turned into a fence by now. I highly doubt anyone skis on them. We did buy cross country skis when we moved here and we have gone a few times. I had never tried cross country up until recently. Since the equipment was so much cheaper and we have so many places we can go, we figured it would be a good investment. I am hoping we can start up with this soon so I can get a little better at it. It's different than downhill, but fun.

Rick still wants to get back into downhill skiing. We have 2 ski resorts right here, so we won't have those long drives like before. I'm a little nervous about it, mostly because of my feet. I had bunions growing up and had surgery to remove them, so now my feet are full of pins & screws. I love the sport, so maybe I'll be willing to try again. Our daughter Nicole went a few times last year and had fun. I'd love to get the boys into it. I think they would have a blast skiing or snowboarding. I was just looking at this picture and realized it's pretty old. Those are my girls, Nicole & Nichelle, who are 17 and 19 years old now. And to think about it more, the fanciest thing about my skiing is my Obermeyer hat. I can't remember how much I paid for that silly thing, but it was a lot for me to spend on a ballcap. I still have it.

Another thing I want to try is snowshoeing. In the winter, you can go into Glacier National Park and rent snowshoes to walk around. This is something I'm hoping to try. I think I could really get into this. Snowshoeing seems like it would be great for me because I could take pictures at the same time. Photography is a little hard when you're barreling down a steep mountain all out of control. One of the local sporting goods stores has snowshoes on sale right now from $69-89 and it's really tempting to buy some. I suppose it's best to rent them first, but I think this would be fun. There is one problem -- lack of snow. We're having a late season and the skiers are going crazy. It should be here soon. Think snow!

Monday, December 8, 2008


To me, it's not the Christmas season without Divinity. It's my favorite holiday candy. You know how much I like candy, so that says a lot. I absolutely love, love, love Divinity! My husband made it for me once, but he's not much into candy making or baking, so I haven't been able to get him to make it again. Disneyland has a really good Divinity. I found a decent one at Albertsons this year. Finding good Divinity is hard. It has to be a certain texture. One store here sells it, but it's too powdery. Divinity should be soft and chewy like fudge. My friend Sharon asked if I could post the recipe, so I thought I'd do it on my blog. I was looking online also and it suggested not to make Divinity if the humidity is higher than 50-60%. That's something I'd never heard of, but since we're due for some snow, I guess I'll have to hold off making it and head back to Albertsons. I absolutely love this stuff. This is the recipe Rick used last time --

  • 2-1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts)

In a 2-quart saucepan mix sugar, corn syrup and 1/2 cup water. Cook and stir over medium high heat to boiling. Clip candy thermometer to pan. Cook on medium heat without stirring to 260 degrees, hard-ball stage (about 10-15 minutes). Remove from heat and remove thermometer. In a large bowl, beat egg white with an electric mixer on medium speed until stiff peeks form and the tips stand straight up. Gradually pour hot mixture in a thin stream over whites, beating on high speed for about 3 minutes. Add vanilla and continue to beat on high just until candy starts to lose its gloss. When the beaters are lifted, mixture should fall in a ribbon onto itself. This last beating should take about 5-6 minutes. Drop a spoonful onto waxed paper. If it stays in a mound, the mixture has been beaten good enough. If it flattens out, beat for another minute and test again. When it's ready, quickly stir in the nuts to the remaining mixture. Use a spoon to drop the mixture onto waxed paper and let cool. Store in a tightly covered container. Makes about 40 pieces.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Montana Sunset

One of my favorite things to photograph are sunsets. In fact, I posted one on my Multiply blog only yesterday. The link is on the right, if you want to see. Last night Rick & I went Christmas shopping and saw the most amazing sunset. It was one of those where the entire sky was pink and purple. I managed to get a few pictures, but it was fading fast. Rick took this one. We stopped on the bridge over the Flathead River. That's tricky, considering people come flying over this bridge at 70mph. Fortunately, we had just enough time for him to get one picture before a car came. Maybe someday I'll make a slideshow of my sunset photographs.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Christmas Fun!

We made these ornaments a few years ago. I painted the boys' hands with white paint and then pressed them onto the ornaments. I think at the time, they were still pretty young to do the faces, so I did them myself. They're older now and could probably take on the entire project. I trimmed them with holiday ribbon and enclosed this poem --

These aren't just five snowmen, as anyone can see.
I made them with my hand, which is a part of me.
Now each year when you trim the tree,
You'll look back and recall, Christmas of 2005,

When my hand was this small.

Another fun thing for Christmas is the book The Three Bears' Christmas. Neil checked this one out of the library recently. When we read it the other day, we were delighted to find it was written in the style of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. It's written by Kathy Duval and illustrated by Paul Meisel and published by Holiday House. It's a cute story where Mama Bear bakes gingerbread bears for her family, but they're too hot, so they decide to go for a walk. When they return, they discover someone's been in their house, eaten their cookies, sat in their chairs and has left clothes all over the place. It's a fun twist to a classic story and a great book for the holidays. Amazon has used copies starting at 99 cents, or you can ask for it at your local bookseller or library. The boys and I love retellings like these. My upcoming book, The Marshmallow Man is a retelling of a famous story too.

Also, one last thing for today -- yesterday I received a contract from Highlights for Children magazine. I had sent them two craft projects and they accepted one for purchase. It's a Halloween type craft, so I imagine it won't be featured in the magazine for awhile. It's a simple craft that any child can do and it doesn't use anything fancy to make. It's my first craft sale, and my first sale to Highlights for that matter, so I was pretty excited about it.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Splish splash!

I bet you don't know what today is! Think hard and no, it doesn't have to do with candy. I know that's shocking coming from me. Today is -- BATHTUB PARTY DAY! Check it out for yourself here just to see that I don't make this stuff up. It's a copyrighted holiday, whatever that means. Of course, now I have Bobby Darin's song "Splish Splash" stuck in my head. What a great song that is. I'm not much into parties, more or less in the tub, but I do love a hot bubble bath. Give me a nice glass of wine, some lit candles and the lights out -- that's a party enough for me. I suppose if you're more of a shower person, today would be a good day to have a bath. Or a party. Or both. Whatever you do, have a great Friday -- and think squeaky clean thoughts!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

My Mom

This is a picture of me, my daughter Nichelle and my mom, Marilyn. Nichelle is 19 now, so this picture was taken in September 1989. My mother is still living, but she lives in California and I'm up in Montana. This was the last picture that was taken of us together -- 19 years ago.

My father died when I was around 2, so my mom worked very hard to support her 3 children. She was a nurse, often working as a charge nurse or the director of nurses, so she had a very stressful job. She spent most of her career in geriatrics, so I spent most of my childhood in nursing homes waiting for her to get off work. I saw her working with the patients and she was very good at what she did. She loved the patients and it showed.

Yesterday afternoon I read this story on the news. It made me sick, it made me angry and it made me cry. You see, after giving her whole life as a nurse in a nursing home, my mom is now a patient in one. She had several bad strokes that left her nearly paralyzed, bedridden, unable to speak and unable to eat. She's been like this for over 4 years. Reading what these 6 teenage girls did to those nursing home patients broke my heart. Those patients are people. They could have been my mother. They could be your mother. Chances are, they are someones mother. The sad thing with my mom is that she is fully aware of what's going on around her, but she can't communicate. My brother comes into her room sometimes and finds the nurses have left the TV on the Food Network. That's kind of mean if you think about my mom not having food in her mouth for over 4 years. If anyone knows what goes on in nursing homes, it's my mom. However, she's completely helpless. She can't speak for herself, nor could she defend herself if she had to. What those girls did in MN was sickening. It was inhumane. It hit a nerve and upset me. I don't know how I'd react if I were in the same room with them because I am so filled with rage, anger and disgust. What they did was cruel.

I haven't seen my mom since October 2006 when we left the state to move here. The last few times I saw her were awkward. I can't talk to her on the phone because she can't speak. She will never be able to. I've come to realize that I probably won't see her again. If you know someone in a nursing home, please visit them or send them a card to tell them you're thinking about them. And if you could, please keep my mom in your thoughts. I don't know what I'd do if something like this happened to her. What those girls did was unacceptable and my heart goes out to the patients and their families. I apologize for such a depressing post, but I appreciate you reading it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Nativity Collection

I made a slideshow of my nativity collection. I have over 50 sets and that doesn't include all of my nativity ornaments. I keep my nativity ornaments on a 3' tree and I hope to get pictures of them this year. These are my other sets. Some are tiny, others are big and a few are handmade. I've been collecting nativities for years. One of my favorite ones is the blue triangle shaped one that my daughter painted on a rock for me. I don't go for the real expensive sets, which makes collecting them a lot more fun. I saw one at Ross the other day and now that I've got my sets out again, I'm thinking I might have to go back and get it. I only put them out at Christmas and since I have so many, they're everywhere. I put most of them on my windowsills. That's one good thing about having a great room with many windows.

I have also been tagged by Adrienne to answer the One Word challenge, so here are my answers to that. I'm not sure who to tag, so I'll leave it open to anyone who wants to do this on their blog as well.

  • Where is your cell phone? Purse
  • Where is your significant other? Work
  • Your hair color? Brown
  • Your mother? Convalescent
  • Your father? Deceased
  • Your favorite thing? iPod
  • Your dream last night? Deer
  • Your dream/goal? Published
  • The room you're in? Bedroom
  • Your hobby? Photography
  • Your fear? Worms
  • Where do you want to be in 6 years? Here
  • Where were you last night? Home
  • What you're not? Asleep
  • One of your wish-list items? Book
  • Where you grew up? Ojai
  • Last thing you did? Upload
  • What are you wearing? Jammies
  • Your TV? New
  • Your pet? Sleeping
  • Your computer? Sony
  • Your mood? Cranky
  • Missing someone? Yes
  • Your car? Wrangler
  • Something you're not wearing? Socks
  • Favorite store? Crowded
  • Your summer? Kayaks
  • Love someone? Yes
  • Your favorite color? Blue
  • When is the last time you laughed? Yesterday
  • Last time you cried? Writing

Monday, December 1, 2008

It's FREE?

Sugar-free, fat-free, gluten-free, carbohydrate-free, cholesterol-free and what is this, CALORIE-FREE? What? How can that be? A salad dressing that is calorie-free? No way! That can't be possible. If it is possible, it has to taste horrible, right? Nope. I recently bought the Walden Farms Creamy Bacon salad dressing and guess what? It's GOOD! It was so good that I went back and bought the bleu cheese salad dressing, the raspberry fruit spread, the chocolate syrup and the chocolate dipping sauce. I don't know if I like the dipping sauce just yet. It tasted a little weird to me, but the chocolate syrup was okay. I put it on a banana with some peanut butter. I just tried the fruit spread and it's pretty good. I'm now on a quest to find the peanut spread. Rick wouldn't let me buy the calorie-free ketchup. He said that was blasphemy. He's a huge ketchup eater and I'm not, so it doesn't matter. But if I like the peanut spread, all will be good. One of my favorite things to eat is a banana with peanut butter, drizzled with chocolate syrup. If I could eliminate the calories of the peanut butter and the syrup, that would be perfect. In a perfect world -- all food would be CALORIE-FREE!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Introducing ...


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

I'm happy to introduce my upcoming book, THE MARSHMALLOW MAN. It's a silly new twist to a classic old story. Follow the little old lady and all her hungry friends through the forest as they chase the mouth-watering man made from marshmallows. Will it end like all the others?

I was inspired to write this last year after the boys and I finished a week long study of The Gingerbread Man. Over the week we read 5 different versions of the story, including The Gingerbread Boy, The Gingerbread Baby and The Cajun Gingerbread Man. The boys compared the stories and did some fun projects to go with it. At the end of the week they made their own gingerbread men cookies. This got us talking about other versions and THE MARSHMALLOW MAN was born!

Stephen Macquignon is illustrating the story and he's given me permission to show you his first sketch of the little guy. Isn't he absolutely adorable? Stephen is a wonderful illustrator who has just recently finished another book called Angeline Jellybean, written by Crystalee Calderwood. It should be released soon, so I hope to have a review shortly. Stephen did a fantastic job illustrating it, so I was thrilled to have him bring THE MARSHMALLOW MAN to life. This book will not be out until late 2009 or 2010, but I couldn't wait to share it with you. It will be published by 4RV Publishing, LLC.

Run, run, run, as fast as you can, you can't catch him ...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Poor Neil ...

The day after Thanksgiving, my six-year-old came down with a tummy bug. Poor Neil spent the entire day on the couch and in bed. He only ate one saltine cracker and had a couple sips of water all day. It's so hard seeing your babies sick like that. Being nauseated is the absolute worst feeling in the world and it always breaks my heart when my kids feel that way. He is feeling better now and is munching on saltines and drinking apple juice. He just told me that he "grew out of being sick", so I'm hoping he's on the mend. I am also hoping no one else gets it, but you never know. We're all just kind of waiting. This picture was taken in 2004 when he was 2 years old. It was taken at the National Oregon/California Trail Center in Montpelier, Idaho. We stopped there on one of our trips to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. I love this picture, but can't believe how much Neil has grown in the past 4 years.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Day of Discovery ...

Yesterday was a day of discovery at my house. It started off in the morning as I got out our Thanksgiving decorations to set the table. I found everything but the one thing I wanted most. Last year I made a Pilgrim Hat Centerpiece from Family Fun Magazine. It looked really cool with an autumn collection of flowers in it, so I wanted to use that as our centerpiece again. Rick & I tore through the downstairs closet, but didn't find everything we were looking for. Then I tore up the upstairs closet while Rick looked in the garage. Still, no centerpiece. Going through our downstairs closet is like Christmas to my boys. They had 3 or 4 huge boxes shoved in there with various toys that were never officially unpacked or that had gotten thrown in there out of frustration. They discovered all sorts of treasures like oodles of Hot Wheels cars, race tracks, GI Joe's long lost boot, and stuffed animals they thought they couldn't live without. Who needs Christmas when you have a closet like mine? Upstairs I made a huge mess in the hall, which you now couldn't walk through. I found my latch-hook rug kit. Remember those things? I loved doing them when I was younger. I have a huge leopard rug that I started years ago, but never finished. I knew it was in there, so it wasn't that big of a discovery, but at least I got it out so I can start working on it again. Way in back was the box where the roasting pan was in, so I pulled that out. I pulled everything out, but no centerpiece. Now the house was in shambles and we were trying to get our meal started, I was getting irritated. I went back downstairs to the closet of treasures, because by this point, that was the only place it could be. Sure enough, in a huge unmarked box, there it was. I also discovered our turkey games we made last year, one of which I posted a picture of yesterday. Inside the box was also a nativity the girls & I made during school many years ago. It was so unlike me to mix my holidays like that, but I guess that was the only box I could find for those big items. Anyway, I finally found my Pilgrim Hat Centerpiece and I got my table set, so all was well. The picture above is of the centerpiece from last year, but this year's looks pretty much the same.

The other big discovery for me yesterday was NaNaWriMo. I did it! I wrote 50,000 words in less than 30 days. I even had 3 days to spare. When I first began this project, I thought there was no way I could make that word count. I have only written picture books that range from 500 to 1000 words. The only exception was my one middle grade novel, which topped at 10,600 words. I thought there would be no way I could reach 50,000 words, but I did it. I received my winners web badges and printed up my certificate from NaNaWriMo, so that was cool and gave me a sense of accomplishment. Of course, the manuscript is long and drawn out and rambles, but with time I hope to clean it up and make it presentable. Just being able to reach my goal was a big discovery for me. And finally, the day before yesterday I began working on my upcoming website. Just getting this started and learning how to use the program was a discovery in itself. I hope to have the site up soon.