Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Hallo-Weiner

I know I said today's blog would be of the Caption Contest of my elk picture. I'm planning on posting that later on today or tonight possibly. In the meantime, I wanted to mention another fun book the boys and I read yesterday. The Hallo-Weiner is written and illustrated by Dav Pilkey and published by Blue Sky/Scholastic. It came out in 1995, I believe, but I just recently found it at a thriftstore. It's amazing to think I spent a whole DIME on this book! Now, I'm all for authors making money, but it's nice to find a really good book for such a bargain, especially in today's economy.

The Hallo-Weiner is a picture book about a little dachshund named Oscar. The other dogs always pick on him, which really bothers him. However, today is Halloween and that's all Oscar can think of. He's so excited about coming up with a costume, only to find his mom has made one for him. He doesn't want to hurt her feelings, so he ventures out dressed as a giant hotdog. Oscar is mortified -- but will he save the day? Read it and find out!

My boys love Dav Pilkey's books. Nathan can pick them out by the illustrations alone, well before he even sees Dav's name. He's an awesome illustrator. One of my favorite parts was seeing Oscar's mailbox by his house. It reads -- Meyers. Of course, that went right by my boys and they didn't get the joke. I'll have to show them the Oscar Mayer clip I put on my blog awhile back for them to understand. I think Pilkey spelled it with an "e", so it's probably a play on words for Michael Meyers of Halloween and the other company. Like I said, we're big Dav Pilkey fans at our house and have quite a few of his books. This is a great book for Halloween! Have a fun Halloween, everyone, and stay safe! Look for the contest results soon!

Friday, October 30, 2009

That's so corny!

It's hard to believe that 365 days have gone by and we're celebrating the most wonderful day of the year again. Yes, it's true. Today is National Candy Corn Day! Well, you might not celebrate it, but I do. I'm addicted to the stuff. I think this day should become an official holiday. In order for that to happen, Congress has to approve it. With the way they've been working lately, this wouldn't be a stretch. I blogged about candy corn last year and you can click here if you want to read that old post. This year I thought it would be fun to list different ways to use this colorful treat ...

10 Things To Do With Candy Corn

8. Create a Candy Corn Pin

So, there you have it -- candy corn projects for kids of all ages! Another thing I like to do with candy corn is bake pumpkin shaped sugar cookies. I frost them with an orange glaze and use candy corn for the eyes and nose. They look really cute. Also, don't forget about my photo Caption Contest. You still have time to enter if you haven't already. All you have to do is leave a caption comment for the elk picture. Everyone who enters will have their names put into a pot and one winner will be chosen. The prize is a really neat book featuring beautiful photographs of Yellowstone National Park, as well as a dark chocolate huckleberry truffle bar. The contest ends tomorrow and I'll be posting the winner as well as all of the replies. I usually blog in the mornings, but I'll do this one later in the day. Good luck!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Send in the clowns ...

I was thinking about Halloween costumes and all the pictures of the kids we've taken over the past 20 years. I am pretty sure we have pictures of every Halloween since Nichelle was a baby. Some were taken by traditional 35mm cameras before we went to digital. We have a lot of Halloween pictures, from the kid's costumes, to their pumpkins and craft projects.

It made me realize that I don't have any Halloween pictures of myself as a child. I know I dressed up, often as a black cat, a nurse, or sometimes even a vampire. For whatever reason, out of all the pictures I've collected over the years, I only have the one above. There might have been others, but I don't have them. My mom got into photography as I entered my teen years, so maybe that had something to do with it.

This picture is of me and a friend named Mary Sue. That year we both decided to be clowns. This was taken at a nursing home my mom worked at. I remember going there and walking around to say hello to the patients before we went trick-or-treating. I can't even tell you how old we were -- 12, 13, maybe? I do remember that I made this clown outfit. I sewed the entire thing myself and even made the pom-poms. That would explain why the sleeves are so long. I think Mary Sue's mom sewed her outfit and I remember being jealous of it. She had a stay-at-home mom and I was always envious of her because my mom worked 40+ hours each week. She had the type of mom that had warm, fresh baked cookies waiting for her after school.

Anyway, I remember being satisfied, in some silly way, that I had made the outfit myself. Things were simple back in the 1970s. Of course, there is no way a pre-teen would wear a costume like this today, more or less make it by hand. I looked up clown costumes and they're a lot different these days. Click here to see what I mean. Ummm, yeah, I don't think my mom would have wanted me to walk around the nursing home like that. Fortunately for us, my boys don't mind wearing old costumes if they still fit. This year Nathan is going to be OB1 and Neil is going to be Indiana Jones -- again.

What are your kids dressing up as, if anything?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Burbs

The other night Rick and I watched The Burbs. Remember that old movie from 1989? It starred Tom Hanks, Carrie Fisher, and a slew of other famous actors. This is a must-see movie for us every year around Halloween. It's not a Halloween movie, but it's creepy, so we always watch it. For some crazy reason, no matter how many times we see it, we laugh like it's the first time around. Rick and I don't watch scary or horror movies, so this is as close as it gets for us. It's a great movie, all the way from the all-star cast, to the script and dialogue. This movie has some funny quotes, such as ...

"Hey, Ricky, get this lame-o out of your yard." -- Mark Rumsfield
"You were up at the crack of dawn watching a dog poop." -- Carol Peterson
"Nobody knocks off an old man in my neighborhood and gets away with it." -- Ray Peterson
"Ray isn't coming out of his room until he resembles the man I married." -- Carol Peterson
"Carol, we don't have that kind of time." -- Art Weingartner
"Hey ... Pinocchio! Where are you going?" -- Mark Rumsfield

If you think about it, it's funny because most streets have one house that sticks out from the rest. I see that all the time. I'll drive by these beautiful homes and right in the middle is one that's a mess -- The Clampetts, or as in this movie, The Klopeks. We had our share of Clampetts and Klopeks near our house in California. We're pretty lucky where we live now because everyone keeps their property looking nice. And no one here does crazy things in their basement with a furnace that heats up to 5000 degrees. At least, I don't think so ...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Halloween Doodles

Recently I blogged about two books I bought this month -- Boris and Bella and Cinderella Skeleton. The same day I bought those, Neil picked out the one above called Halloween Doodles by Emma Parrish. These are fun books, if you haven't seen them before. Nathan has one called The Boy's Doodle Book that his sister gave him for Christmas. Halloween Doodles is filled with spooky illustrations for kids to complete, such as ...

Finish bandaging the mummy.
Give the werewolf claws.
What are the witches brewing?
Fill the room with webs and spiders.
What is under the bed?
Fill the graveyard with tombstones.

The book features 48 pages of fun illustrations for your child to complete. Neil has been having a blast drawing in the book, adding his own illustrations to the pictures. There are other books in the series, including a Christmas doodle book. Halloween Doodles is for kids ages 4-8, but I think older kids would enjoy it just as much. I loved doing stuff like this when I was a kid. What's cool about these books is that your child can be as simple or as elaborate as they like. The book we got was orange, unlike the black one pictured here, so keep that in mind if you go looking for it. We found ours at Borders. Lots of spooky fun for Halloween!

Don't forget my Caption Contest below -- it's going through Saturday and everyone who leaves a caption comment will be entered in the drawing. The prize is a cool picture book of Yellowstone National Park along with a dark chocolate huckleberry truffle bar. A book with chocolate -- doesn't get any better than that! I've been loving the entries, so please keep them coming ...

Monday, October 26, 2009

128 years ago today ...

It was on this date, October 26, 1881, when the famous shoot-out at the O.K. Corral took place in Tombstone, Arizona. In an age where we're buried in politics, it's hard to believe this event was highly political, with the Democrats verses the Republicans. At each other's throats even way back then -- now there's a surprise. There's so much interesting information about this event, as well as the people and town, that I couldn't begin to cover it all. Check out the O.K. Corral website if you want to learn more.

We visited Tombstone, Arizona during one of our vacations. A lot of people don't like those tourist-trap places, but I thought it was cool. There's so much history surrounding this one little town. We spoke with someone in one of the stores and they had the movie Tombstone playing on a small television. Many people believe this is the most accurate telling of what happened. It's one of my favorite movies and Val Kilmer's role as Doc Holliday totally makes the film. I found a clip of some of him online ...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

I miss my baby ...

Today is a sad day for me. Fourteen years ago I had to put my cat CJ to sleep. He was in the final stages of renal failure and near death when I had to make that terrible decision. To this day, that was one of the worst days of my life. Pets like CJ don't come around often. At least they haven't for me. I've had other cats since, and they've all had their good and bad points, but none of them have ever come close to CJ.

I remember what clothes I had on that terrible day. I remember holding him on my lap as Rick drove us to the vet office. I remember playing a CD on repeat all that morning. I haven't played that CD since that day. I don't think I ever will. It's odd because I couldn't tell you what day my father was born or died on. I couldn't tell you what years my grandparents passed away. They were all very important to me, but I simply can't remember unless I look them up. CJ was what I call a once-in-a-lifetime pet and I remember details about him vividly. He was absolutely the coolest cat in the world.

I blogged about him last year on this day. If you'd like to read that and see more photographs of him, click on In loving memory for more. I really miss this little guy. He meant so much to Rick and I. Not a day goes by where I don't think about him. I have his pictures everywhere, including in my bathroom and in my car. He was more than a pet and more than a member of our family -- he was my best friend. The year 2009 marks 14 years of living without him. Ironically, he was part of my life for 14 years before that. Twenty-eight years and he still means so much. That says something ...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Caption Contest!

A few weeks back, we spent the weekend in Yellowstone and I thought it would be fun to try to get a funny picture of an animal for a caption contest on my blog. As it turned out, there was a fire in the park, so we were limited to where we could visit. We spent most of our time in the Old Faithful area, which was awesome, but we didn't see as many animals as if we would have in other parts of the park. I had already bought a prize for the contest before we knew the road was closed. I still wanted to do run the contest, so I decided to pick a picture from another trip. The only condition was that it had to be taken at Yellowstone and no where else.

I narrowed it down to 4 pictures, and with the help of my boys, the one we choose is above. I'm going to let the contest go for about a week and will announce the winner next Saturday. All you have to do to enter is leave a caption of the elk picture above. And to make it fair to everyone, I'm going to put the names of everyone who leaves a caption comment into a pot and pick the winner that way. The only rule is you have to try to come up with a caption. Even if you think it's no good, you still have a chance of being picked for the prize. So, what's the prize? The prize is ......

That's a dark chocolate huckleberry truffle bar, in case you can't read the label. And the book is full of great pictures of Yellowstone National Park. Click on the elk pic to see her up close. Also, I had to laugh this morning when I got up and saw my driveway. Remember the picture I posted yesterday? It looks nothing like that now. There must be 3x as many leaves, if not more. It rained all day yesterday and now it's windy, so it's solid leaves out there now. Wet leaves, at that. Anyway, next Saturday I'll post the winner, as well as repost the picture with all of the captions -- good luck!

Friday, October 23, 2009

This is my driveway ...

If I'm not mistaken, I'd say ... fall has fallen! It's funny, but it didn't look like that yesterday. I guess they all decided to fall at once. Our western larch trees are finally starting to turn yellow too. I blogged about those last year. These are pine trees that have needles that turn yellow before falling off for the winter. They're also known as Tamaracks. The forests look really pretty when they turn bright yellow. However, the needles get tracked in everywhere, so they're pretty messy. Looks like Rick might have to get out the rake this weekend. The lawn is just as bad ...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fantasy jobs ...

Well, I never did find my stripper shoes, but they were the talk of the night. Rick mentioned them more than once. Pssssst -- I don't have any stripper shoes, just so you know. My 20 year old tiger slippers were the extent of my glamour last night. It was funny though because Rick saw my blog and said he totally expected to find me with blond hair when he got home. The really funny thing is that yesterday morning I cut about 5 inches off my hair and I don't think he noticed. He must have been busy looking for the shoes ...

It was really interesting to see myself with blond hair and blue eyes. The make-up wasn't any big deal because I wear that all the time. In fact, the only thing I changed was the eye shadow and lipstick. That program allows you do change foundation, blush, eyeliner, lashes, and so forth. But for me, the radical part was the hair. The comments I got both here and on my Facebook page were hilarious. People said I looked like a blond Elvira, a vampire queen, to a female version of Joe Elliot from Def Leppard. The comments cracked me up. It had to be the hair because it's definitely rockstar type hair.

Which brings me to a question -- If you could pick any job, what would you choose? I'm not talking about something you're good at. I'm talking like a fantasy job. What's something you've always wanted to do, but never did? For me, I think a fantasy job would be singing in a rock and roll band. I'd love to be able to read/write music, play instruments, as well as sing. I've never been good at singing. I'm the type who avoids going to church because the worship session is too long and I feel stupid standing there. Do I sing out loud and sound like an idiot, or do I just pretend and lipsync? I usually end up fiddling around, shifting my feet, and feeling stupid. I envy people who can sing. Who knows -- maybe someday I'll learn to sing and play in a band. Maybe Joe Elliot and Elvira can give me some pointers!

So, how about you -- what's something you wish you could do?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Come ...... here!

Today is Bela Lugosi's birthday. He was born in 1882 and died in 1956. So, technically speaking, today marks his 127th birthday. Can you imagine what his cake would look like with all those candles?

I'm a huge fan of Bela's film, Dracula. To me, he will always be the best vampire in the movie industry. I don't like scary movies, so that is about all I can handle. Despite Bela's many, many film performances, the only one I'm familiar with is Dracula. I watch it every year around Halloween. I love old movies like that -- the ones where you know the actors are acting. They're so dramatic and took their roles so seriously. "Come here. Come ... here!" is one of my favorite lines from that movie. Movies today are so realistic -- too realistic. Maybe that's why I like the old stuff so much.

Bela Lugosi died from a heart attack on August 16, 1956 at the age of 73. He was buried wearing one of his Dracula stage costumes at the request of his son and fourth wife. To me, he was the ultimate vampire and the one and only Dracula. Below is a clip with the famous "Come ... here!" line ...

Monday, October 19, 2009

Gray Jay

I was born in California and the most common bird I saw were western scrub jays. Like all jays, they are extremely noisy birds. I had forgotten how noisy scrub jays were until we went back to Ojai this summer. Good Lord -- shut the window! When we started traveling north to visit national parks and other forested areas, I finally got to see birds I'd only see in magazines. Those would include blue jays, Steller's jays, eagles, and so on. I never even knew a gray jay existed until Nathan pointed them out to me.

I took this picture when we went to Yellowstone recently. Like the other jays, this bird wasn't afraid of people. As soon as he realized we were having a picnic, he came right up to the tree next to us. Actually, there were two of them, but this is the best picture. In fact, this particular species has been known to eat food from people's hands and is nicknamed the camp robber. Some interesting facts about gray jays are ...

Gray jays are one of the smallest jays in the world.
They only weigh about 2 to 2.5 ounces.
Gray jays store food by wedging it into crevices of trees.
They eat insects, spiders, berries, and mushrooms.
Gray jays cannot open pine cones.
They might even eat mice, toads, and carrion.
Gray jays live in pairs, sometimes with a third juvenile.
Their territory covers 250 acres.
Gray jays breed and build their nest early, in February or March.

Pretty birds, that's for sure. Oh, and just in case you're wondering, I still have the prize for a caption contest. I'll post that soon. I had initially wanted to do a caption contest for a picture I took in Yellowstone recently, but we were limited where we could go in the park because of a fire. I didn't get many pictures that time. I'd still like to do the contest though, so I'm going to feature it with another photograph. It's still a picture from Yellowstone -- just taken on a different trip. I'll try to put that up for you soon ...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Dilly Finger Puppet Craft

The other day the boys asked if we could do a Dilly Week for school sometime. This past week we did Ghost Week and before that, Skeleton Week. Perhaps after the Holidays, we can do one for Dilly. In the meantime, I came up with a little Dilly craft project. Actually, I got the idea here, but I changed just about everything. Instead of paper, I used foam, and I put it together differently than they do on the website. One thing I changed was attaching the whiskers to the tail and sticking it through the cone, which secured them better than glue alone. I also used blue googly eyes, which really makes him stand out as Dilly. All he needs now is a PICKLE!

If you visit my website, there is a Links page. On that page I have a place to click for a PDF of activities kids can do after they read A New Job for Dilly. Feel free to print them up. There's a little Q&A worksheet, a page for kids to write the entire alphabet, a coloring page, a page that talks about what trash collectors do, and now this finger puppet craft. I hope to add more items, or possibly make new sets as each book comes out. The first book dealt with Dilly trying to find a job, so it's all about different types of work. The second book, A New Friend for Dilly is about him finding a friend, so will feature an animal theme. I can't wait to see how Lisa Oakman illustrates the next book!

I thought it would be fun to add the Dilly Finger Puppet craft project. I used an X-Acto knife to cut little slits to stick the ears in. If your child wants to do the entire thing alone, the ears could easily be attached with glue. That would be even easier if you used construction paper or cardstock, rather than craft foam. Anyway, I hope you have fun with this if you or your kids decide to give it a try. I would love to include more Dilly crafts in the future.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Cinderella Skeleton

The other day I posted about getting some new Halloween books to add to my picture book collection. I never realized I had a collection, to be honest. Getting rid of books is nearly impossible for me. I have a hard time tossing out my outdated AAA travel books. So, I guess technically, I collect books. Lately, I've been attracted to darker picture books, along the lines of Tim Burton or Neil Gaiman. The other book I got was Cinderella Skeleton by Robert S. San Souci and illustrated by David Catrow. It is also published by Voyager Books, through Harcourt, Inc. It came out in the year 2000, so it's been around awhile. This is what the book says on the back ...

Poor Cinderella! She has no one to help her hang the cobwebs and arrange dead flowers -- certainly not her evil stepsisters.
But the Halloween Ball is just around the corner ...
Will Cinderella find happiness at last?

I haven't read this one to the boys yet, but I will soon. It's written in verse and it's difficult to get into it reading it silently. I'm sure it will be different reading it aloud. It has all the basics of the traditional Cinderella story, but with a ghoulish cast of characters. The illustrations are dark and creepy, but at the same time -- amazing. My favorite picture shows Cinderella all dressed up to go to the ball wearing a gown of lace, complete with a dandelion weed on her head. You can see that on the cover above as well -- so purdy.

I've always been skeptical about remakes, especially when it came to movies, television shows, and songs. With books, it's different for me. I like reading the original first and then finding as many different versions as I can. The boys and I usually do themed weeks in school where we take one basic story (like Cinderella) and find different versions to study and compare. We really have a lot of fun with that. In fact, it was a week-long study of The Gingerbread Man that inspired me to write one of my own retellings, The Marshmallow Man. I can't wait to share that with you soon. But anyway, if you like these darker picture books, you'll probably love Cinderella Skeleton. The illustrations alone make it worth the cost of the book.

Friday, October 16, 2009

National Mammography Day

Today is National Mammography Day. This day was set for the third Friday of each October by former President Bill Clinton in 1993. Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer that affects women. According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 40,000 women will die from breast cancer in 2009. That's a huge number, especially since it can be treated if caught early enough. Women over 40 should have a mammogram done every year. The ACS site has detailed information on what a mammogram is and how it's done. For more information on breast cancer in general, click here. These links have lots of information.

Thank you to my friend, Anita for bringing this day to my attention. I'm due for a mammogram myself. I was really nervous when I had it done for the first time, but it wasn't as bad as I expected. The photograph above courtesy of Free Stock Photos.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Boris and Bella

I bought a couple of Halloween books the other day and thought it would be fun to blog about them between now and October 31st. The first one is called Boris and Bella and is written by Carolyn Crimi and illustrated by Gris Grimly. Do you think those are their real names? What attracted me to this book were the creepy illustrations. If you like Tim Burton or Neil Gaiman, this book is along the same sort. It's for kids ages 4-8 years and published by Voyager Books, a division of Harcourt, Inc. I'm planning on reading it to the boys today during school. Here's what this book is about ...

Bella Legrossi is the messiest monster in all of Booville.
Her slime is the slimiest and her grime is the grimiest.
Boris Kleanitoff is the tidiest.
He vacuums his vampire bats and dusts his cobwebs.
Boris and Bella are neighbors.
They do not get along.
What could ever bring these two together?

I love the play of names -- Bella Legrossi is obviously named after Bela Lugosi, who played the original Dracula. Boris Keanitoff is obviously named after Boris Karloff, of Frankenstein fame. There are other cute names in the book, such as Frank Stein, Harry Beasty, Cy Clops, and Baggo Bones. Despite it's creepy look and mention of maggot muffins, it's a fun book for this time of year. I can't wait to read it to the boys this afternoon.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Back again ...

Last night wasn't a good one. I was watching TV around 8pm when I coughed and noticed my chest felt funny, sort of tight. I didn't think too much of it, but when I got into bed, it started bothering me again. I thought maybe I was getting sick. After about a half hour, I knew exactly what was wrong -- my back was spazzing again. I know from past experiences that this will not get better or go away by itself. It only gets worse and worse.

The last time I had this happen was in March. It got so bad that I ended up in the ER. They gave me several injections to stop the muscle spasms. They sent me home with Valium and Vicodin. I never needed them because the shots I got at the hospital helped. I'm so glad they sent me home with those because I really needed them last night. Had I not had those prescriptions, I probably would have ended up in the ER again. That's never a good thing. I took one of each pill and then went to the couch for awhile. Being able to lie with my back pressed up on the couch helped a little, at least until the meds kicked in. Once they did, I was able to come to bed and sleep.

I'm not sure what causes this back pain, but I think it has something to do with using the computer. Ironically, I wasn't on my computer much yesterday. I do remember feeling the tightness in my chest while watching TV and then coughing hard. I thought that was odd because I didn't think I was sick or getting sick. I've had this happen to me three times so far and it usually happens at night. The first time Rick was out of town and I barely got through the night. I think I fell asleep around 6am that time. The second time I went to the ER, and then last night I was able to relieve it with the meds. It's a strange pain that's located in my upper back. It's muscle spasms that sort of feel like pregnancy contractions. No position relieves it. It gets so bad that it makes me nauseous and breathing becomes difficult. I'm groggy now, but my back isn't hurting as much. We'll get school done, but I might be a zombie for the rest of the day.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Mine! Mine! Mine!

Growing up in Southern California and living less than 20 minutes from the ocean, seagulls are no strangers to me. I remember watching seagulls at the beach, as they ran around the sand looking for food. Whenever someone would feed them, all hell broke loose and dozens more appeared out of nowhere. The last time I was at the beach was this summer and I saw a seagull fly up to a little girl who was eating a hamburger. It scared her to death, but it was just another day at the beach for the bird. Every time I hear a seagull, I think of the Finding Nemo movie -- Mine, mine, mine!

The other day we did some shopping in town. Rick ran in to Best Buy and I stayed in the car with the boys. They were finishing up some of their lunch from McDonalds when we noticed some gulls flying around the parking lot. I never encourage the boys to feed wildlife, but I let them toss out a few French fry pieces this time. The only reason I did was because I had my camera and wanted to get some pictures. A photo of a seagull in a parking lot isn't quite as nice as some of the ones I've taken of them on the sand or on piers. However, I managed to get a few close-ups, so I was happy. Unlike others I've seen, this bird wasn't overly aggressive and took off pretty quick.

I believe this is a ring-billed gull. It was funny seeing gulls when we moved here because like many people, I thought they only lived near the oceans. As it turns out, many gulls live inland and never even see a beach in their lifetime. We have a lot of lakes here and we see many different species of gulls. They spend the summers here, but I believe they migrate south for the winter. Here are some other facts about ring-billed gulls ...

Most return to the same nesting site as the year before.
They eat fish, insects, earthworms, rodents, and garbage.
They nest on the ground and nest in colonies.
They lay 1-4 eggs at a time.
Eggs are light olive colored with brown speckles.
Chicks may leave the nest at one day old.
Their wingspan can be 41 to 46 inches in length.
In the 1800s, they were almost eliminated by hunting.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Brenda's Stew --

I made Brenda's Pork n' Pineapple Stew last night and it turned out really good. If you haven't checked out Brenda's blog, Hazel's Crock Pot Kitchen, you should. She posts some really delicious crock-pot recipes, and this one here is just as good. I'm going to retype the recipe just as Brenda posted it. But under that, I'm going to tell you how I made a little differently.

Pork n' Pineapple Stew

4 boneless pork chops/lions, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 carrots, cubed
1/2 cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons teriyaki sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 can (8-ounces) pineapple chunks, drained and juice reserved
1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces

Mix first four ingredients in crock-pot, cover and cook on LOW 6-8 hours. Mix cornstarch and reserved pineapple juice together. Pour into stew and stir. Put pineapple and bell pepper into crock-pot and turn to HIGH. Cook for 15-30 minutes or until thickened.

Now -- since I have the memory the size of an ant, I messed up when I went shopping for ingredients. What's even more sad is that I had the recipe printed up with me, but I forgot it in the car. Even when I got to the car, I forgot to check it. Yep, folks, always make a list and take it with you! I had bought 2 carrots, not 4 like the recipe calls for. However, mine were really big carrots, so it worked out okay. And for some dumb reason, I had grabbed a 20-ounce can of pineapple, not an 8-ounce can. So, I just used what I had -- a little less carrots and a lot more pineapple -- and the stew was yummy! I cooked mine in a 4-quart crock-pot for about 4.5 hours before adding the other ingredients. The pork was completely cooked and tender. I've noticed a lot of crock-pot recipes have really long cooking times, but I have learned to adjust them for how my pots cook. Since it was just Rick & I eating the stew, we have some leftovers. We had some garlic sourdough toast to go with it. It turned out really good and was a perfect dish on a cold evening. It's very autumn-looking too, so it would be a good thing to take to a Harvest festival or potluck. Thanks for sharing the recipe, Brenda!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Freaky Eaters

Do you have any odd or weird eating habits? The other day a friend of mine posted on Facebook how her son had bit off all the white tips of the candy corn and left the chewed on stubs in the bowl. Being the candy corn freak I am, I had to laugh at this because I too, have been known to eat candy corn section by section. However, it got me thinking of other weird eating habits I have, as well as my family.

I grew up in the 1970s and cereal was a big deal. I used to eat all the cereal bits out of my Lucky Charms and save the marshmallows for last. When I ate Fruit Loops, I slowly picked out the loops by color. As a kid, I'd sometimes sprinkle dry Nestle Quik over my Cheerios. One of my friends and I used to love smashing up nacho cheese Doritos into little pieces and eating the crumbs. Weird, I know. M&Ms, Skittles, and jellybeans were sorted by color. Jelly Bellies have to be eaten by color, unless you mix them just right. Ever toss a handful of those in your mouth at once? Ick -- some flavors don't mix. Also, when I was growing up, my mom's best friend used to eat her meals one course at a time. She'd eat her vegetable first, followed by the meat, or whatever was being served. She couldn't take a bite of one thing and then a bite of another.

My kids have their own weird eating habits. The other day Nathan said he was going to make himself lunch. I asked what he made and he said, "A waffle sandwich." Turns out, a waffle sandwich is 3 Eggo waffles -- 2 on the outside and 1 in the middle to make the sandwich. Okay, so now I'm thinking maybe my chocolate milk Cheerios wasn't so weird. When we were in CA, we lived close to a Wendy's restaurant. Nicole loved dipping French fries into her chocolate frosty. Neil is a very picky eater and reluctant to try anything new right now, so I really can't think of any weird habits he has. One thing he does is smell food, which reminds me of Hawkeye in M*A*S*H. Nichelle doesn't seem to do anything freaky either. However, if we have Skittles in the house, I do notice the red, purple, and orange ones disappear faster than the others. Eventually, there's just a bowl of yellow and green. Someone is trying to pull a fast one on me!

Rick has his own odd eating habits. He's Mr. Ketchup and puts it on everything. God help us if we don't have a Back-Up Ketchup in the cupboard! I think we might have 2 back-ups right now, so maybe he's preparing for winter. He also puts Fritos and potato chips on sandwiches, and then says I don't know what I'm missing when I make fun of him. Even my cat eats weird -- Belle will take one or two bites of food and then walk away from her bowl. Five minutes later she comes back and does it again. I guess that's good. My in-law's cats just sit at their bowls and eat like pigs. I guess we all have our own weird little food quirks. I always thought I was weird for liking baked potatoes plain (cold, with nothing on them), but after seeing everyone else eat around here, I guess I'm in good company.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Blue Moon

I took this picture of the moon the other night. It's not very good and I didn't get any others that were any better. There are two reasons for this. One, I don't know how to work Rick's camera very well, especially the night settings. Two, it was dark on the deck and I was more concerned about a bear jumping up than standing there fiddling with it too long. By some stroke of luck, this particular picture focused on a branch in front of the moon, so that's kind of cool.

What do you think of the recent moon bombing? Do you think $79 million dollars is worth the effort to find out if there's water or ice on it? I just read an article that said NASA didn't get the photo results they hoped for. The pictures just show gray fuzz. One person said she was thrilled with them and others seemed disappointed. The article mentioned kids watching the event and one ten-year-old sounded disappointed when he said, "I wanted to see the debris flying out."

I don't know -- I obviously don't get it. One blogger posted that people opposed to this are basically idiots because they don't understand human expansion beyond Earth is inevitable. I guess I'll go stand in the idiot line because I don't have any plans to move to the moon. Another blogger posted that 50% of Americans want to leave the country, so we need to explore other places to live. If it costs $79 million to poke a hole in the moon, then how much would it cost for one person to live there?

Like I said -- I just don't get it. Here we are living in times where they want to tax us for our carbon footprints, encourage us to go green, have less children, drive smaller cars and so on to protect the earth. But at the same time they're causing destruction to our moon for research. I always believed the moon's purpose was for light, not life. According to an online poll, 64% think it wasn't worth the money, 34% think it was, and 2% are undecided. Again, I don't get it and that's my problem because I don't know much about it. It just seems like an awful lot of money. What do you think?

Friday, October 9, 2009

No Bones About It!

I do a lot of themed weeks for school each year and right now we're doing Skeleton Week. My boys aren't into super scary stuff, but like me, they like the basic stuff for Halloween. We have done a some crafts this week that they've enjoyed. I thought I'd share a few with you as well as the links where to find them. The best part is that they both use materials you probably have in the house. The first is a Q-Tip Skeleton and the boys had a blast with this. This is such an easy craft that really young kids can do. As you can see, Neil made his holding a coffee cup saying, "I hate mornings!" Nathan's skeleton has a ballcap on, which is sort of 3D with the rim sticking out. For some weird reason he wrote, "I'm on vacation with National Lampoon!" on his. I try to let them be creative on their own, but they throw me sometimes. Mine is in the middle and I tried to make it like the one on the link. Gluing the Q-Tips was really easy. I just put a glob of glue on a scrap of paper and let the boys dip the ends into it. After we finished, I thought it would be fun to make a Jack Skelleton or even a pirate skeleton.

The next one is a Packing Peanut Skeleton. This one was fun because there's a video to go with it and the kids can watch a crazy lady dressed like a devil make her skeleton first. We did this one yesterday, only to realize we had the wrong kind of packing peanuts -- oops! The project used the flatter, 8-shaped foam peanuts. I only had the curly, Styrofoam ones, so I cut them in half so they wouldn't stick up as much. It worked fine and we liked the results. Again, mine is in the middle and I tried to do what they did on the link, but it looks more like General Grievous than a skeleton. I don't always do the crafts with the boys, but these were fun. And like I said, both of these projects are simple enough for little ones. Today we're making Mr. Bottle Bones from Family Fun Magazine. The girls made this one years ago, but he eventually fell apart. The boys and I have been saving milk containers for weeks to make another one. We've also made skeletons from paper plates and pipe cleaners, so it's been an interesting week.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Hey, Chip!

Do you think he could get anymore seeds in his mouth? I love watching chipmunks. We had lots of squirrels at our house in California, but no chipmunks. They're tiny little critters and totally cute. The news is saying we might get 1-3 inches of snow tonight and it might get down to 8 degrees. I'll believe that when I see it. However, if the animals are any clue, the news might be right. The animals in our yard have been going bonkers. Between me chasing turkeys off my deck and the squirrels carrying on, it's never a dull moment. We saw this little chipmunk stuffing his pouches yesterday and I took a few pictures. There are many species of chipmunks and Montana is home to three chipmunk species -- the yellow-pined, the least, and the red-tailed. This particular one is a least chipmunk, the smallest of all. Here are some fun facts about least chipmunks ...

They are only 3 to 4 inches in length.
Least chipmunks weigh between 1 to 2 ounces.
They have 3 dark stripes on their faces.
They have 5 dark stripes on their backs.
Least chipmunks hibernate in winter, but only lightly.
They store food in their dens for winter.
They often steal from other animal's food supplies.
Least chipmunks eat seeds, berries, and insects.
Their predators include hawks, weasels, and cats.

Another fun fact is that a least chipmunk can stuff each of his pouches to be the same size of his head. If you think about that, it would be like seeing a 3-headed chipmunk! This little guy is getting close to looking like that. He fills up both pouches, runs back to his den, and then comes back for more. Every now and then he stops to nibble, but most of the time he's working. The squirrels don't do that. They just sit and pig out. The combo sort of reminds me of the ant and the grasshopper story, where the ant works hard all summer and the grasshopper is lazy. I guess the squirrels know I'll keep the feeders out when the snow comes. The chipmunks are smarter and will enjoy their seeds from their warm, cozy den. I can't say I blame them!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

My Boys!

I took some pictures of the boys yesterday. Very handsome guys, but I'm biased being their mom. Nathan looks a lot like Rick when he was that age. Rick mentioned that last night and said he never really noticed it before. I guess moms see things differently because I saw Rick on Nathan's face when he was only a day old. Anyway, these are just two pictures I took. I'm not sure which ones I'll put in their school yearbooks because there are some other good ones. I haven't cropped them yet either. Oh, and by the way, Nathan is 9, but will be 10 in November. He's in 5th grade. Neil is 7 years old and in 2nd grade. I hope you enjoy seeing the pictures.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

All Of The Dreamers ...

My favorite band has a new CD coming out. Powderfinger just put up this video on their blog and I wanted to share it with you. This is an amazing band out of Australia. You wouldn't believe how I first heard about these guys -- The Wiggles! My boys were really into The Wiggles and I became a regular on their message board for years. As it turns out, Murray Cook, who is the red Wiggle, is a big fan of Powderfinger. Apparently, one of the guys in the band has children who also like The Wiggles. So, that's how I came to hear about Powderfinger. They've quickly become one of my favorite bands of all time. I can't get enough of them -- just ask my family who is forced to listen to their CDs in my car over and over. Okay, so it's a little more like over and over and over and over and over! Check out the Powderfinger website, or visit their blog here. This is a really cool video -- All Of The Dreamers!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Dilly in the Bear Caves!

I just had to share this photograph with you. This is Kaitlyn as she visited the Bear Caves in Allegany State Park. As you see, she took A New Job for Dilly with her! I can only imagine how thrilled Dilly was to check out the caves with Kaitlyn. I'm sure Dilly appreciated Kaitlyn holding him close, as those caves can be a little scary, even for a rat as brave as Dilly.

I am SO blessed -- I have the greatest friends! I saw this picture when I got home from Yellowstone last week and I was so tickled that my friend had posted it on Dilly's fanpage on Facebook. Stuff like this makes writing children's books worthwhile. Thank you, Tricia -- this picture of Dilly & Kaitlyn totally made my day! Please give her a big hug for me!

It's kind of funny because, as we were driving to Yellowstone last week Nathan said, "Sometime we should print up a Dilly and bring him with us, like we did with Flat Stanley." By the time he said it, we were already on the road and it was too late. It was ironic Nathan said that because at the same time Tricia and her family were taking Dilly on a trip of their own.

I would love to see more photographs of your kids with Dilly. Kelly Polark posted on one her blog recently when she gave the book to her son for his birthday. It would be cool to not only see Dilly with kids who enjoy his story, but also photos like Kaitlyn's where Dilly is out and about with them. So, if you like, please send me photos of your kids (or you!) with Dilly. Let me know if it would be okay to post them online, here on my blog and maybe Facebook. I'd love to see the places Dilly has been, as well as his little fans!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Earthquake Lake

There was another earthquake this morning in the Philippines. It was a 6.6 quake, but I haven't heard anything reported on it yet. The area is still recovering from two typhoons with more on the way. Not sure when or if the new earthquake will even make the news. I've been keeping my computer open to the USGS site, mainly on the Australia Region, since that's where Nichelle is on the island of Borneo. There are earthquakes all the time, especially in this area, so it's not uncommon. It is, however, uncommon to have so many large ones. Even today's 6.6 is nothing to sneeze at. If you remember the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake near San Francisco, that registered as a 6.9 quake. We felt that quake good, as we were on the Santa Barbara Pier at the time. Nichelle was a month old and we had driven our car out onto the pier that day. We'd done that dozens of times before, but something inside me said not to go that day, but we did anyway. Weird.

So anyway, I'm keeping myself stressed out by watching the USGS site, hoping I don't see anything happening in Borneo. As of now, it's happening all around them, so that's playing havoc with my nerves. I'm not new to this website though, as I've had it saved on my computer for years. I guess being born and raised in California where earthquakes are common has something to do with that. I've been in many quakes, though never in a direct epicenter. The quakes I've been in have been unnerving, but it's the aftershocks that really bother you because by that point, you're walking on eggshells waiting for them. Most initial earthquakes happen and everyone looks at each other and goes, "What was that?" Of course, it's an entirely different story when you're near an epicenter. I'm a news-junkie too, so I miss all the special reports Cal-Tech puts out when there are a lot of earthquakes going on around the world.

We had to take a detour on our way home from Yellowstone last Monday. We came across this really interesting lake. That's it pictured above with the trees sticking out of the water. It looked really eerie at first because trees don't usually grow out of lakes. Then we came across a lookout that had a sign so we decided to stop. The sign is pictured below. This is Earthquake Lake in southwestern Montana. It was formed after a 7.3 earthquake struck in 1959, knocking down 80 million tons of mountainside into the Madison River. The quake killed 28 people, who were camping along the river. If you look at my picture and then down at the map below, you can see where they built the visitor center on top of the landslide. We didn't stop there, but I'd like to the next time we go to Yellowstone. Check out the link for more information. Apparently, this is the largest earthquake that has ever struck Montana as well as one of the largest in US history.

What is really ironic is that we drove by this lake on Monday. I believe it was Tuesday morning when I woke up hearing the news about the earthquake in Indonesia. Since then, it's just been one after another. I feel so bad for the people of Sumatra. They're saying the death toll is at 1100 now with possibly as many as 3000 missing. And now they've changed their efforts from a rescue mission to a recovery one. I'm normally touched by these stories, but with my daughter in the area, it's touching me just a little more than I'd like. November can't come soon enough.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Email from Nichelle!


Oh man... it's so nice to be back at the YWAM base. It was so weird coming back, and a relief too. It was kind of like coming "home" which doesn't make very much sense. But after taking bucket showers two or three times a week, you can't blame me for being excited about having a bathroom with an actual showerhead, and seperate rooms for the guys and girls instead of being together inside a church sanctuary. (that was so much fun, actually... but as much as I love our boys it's nice to be able to escape behind a closed door and be silly with the other girls...:D)
We left the villages a few days early so we've had these past few days off. It's been good to just rest and process everything that went on during the past few weeks. It's definately needed! Last night we all got to watch Hook on Doug's laptop while eating candy that was brought with us from costco! I will forever appreciate M&M's now... haha!
Is it silly that I'm craving McDonalds? In Thailand we had lunch there and it was amazing and I DON'T KNOW WHY. >_<

I am doing fine and well. We heard something about storms or earthquakes while we were in the last village (every home has a TV it seems) but I never paid much attention to it. I don't recall ever feeling an earthquake, and no one was concerned about it so ... yeah. :)
Pontianak is a bit cloudy and rainy right now, and I can hear thunder. It was like that last night too and we lost power for a bit, but honestly, that doesn't surprise me anymore as everywhere in Indonesia loses power at least once a day. (minus the busier areas...)

Healthwise I'm good, and I believe it's the same for everyone else. We're all doing well and are having a great outreach... oh I can't wait to go into full detail later! I'm trying to take lots of pictures and video. :)

So yeah... a few more days here before we go to the east side, where we'll do the DTS for a week before going back into the villages.. I believe we leave Indonesia on the 28th? And from then on we'll be in Malaysia, which is very Americanized, honestly. I think that's just six weeks left.
A month and a half seems very long but I'm realizing that it's very short. I mean... I'm comparing it to how I felt in June, when I kept thinking that there were 5 months left... time has gone by very quickly and it will continue to do so. :)

My team's amazing, our contacts are amazing, and we have been really, really blessed. We haven't backpacked anywhere yet and I was honestly expecting the villages to be a lot harder then they actually were... when it comes to living conditions that is. The last village was tough because of the strong sense of apathy there... and the pastor we were staying with was a bit... odd. It's really funny, actually. :D But yeah, the food's great and it's hot but it's not unbearable. I have my moments when I want to come home but I know I'm not ready to just yet.

I'm guessing there will be internet access while we're at the other YWAM base so I'll try to contact you again then. :)

Take care and don't stress out too much...


Thank you ALL for keeping Nichelle in your thoughts and prayers. Thanks also for all your kind words and comments on my Facebook page. I'm guessing not having access to the news was a blessing for her, as she probably has no idea how bad the damage is on the neighboring island of Sumatra. I'm so relieved she's okay, but I'm sure I'll continue to monitor the USGS site and keep myself worried. That's what moms do, I guess. Thank you all again -- my family appreciates your thoughts and prayers more than you can imagine. By the way, she left a comment on the blog post below and is looking forward to pumpkin pie and potato-bacon soup!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

It's finally fall!

I want to say thank you to everyone who took the time to comment on yesterday's post, as well as send emails and post on my Facebook page. I really appreciate your thoughts, prayers, and well wishes -- way more than I can even say! I still haven't heard from Nichelle, but in my heart I know she's fine. She and her team are on the island of Borneo and the earthquake and problems are on the island of Sumatra. Even so, it's still right next to where she is, so it's hard for me not to worry. Had there been no news from the area, I still wouldn't be hearing from her because she's out in villages with no way to communicate. I hope to hear something soon. Thank you again for keeping her in your thoughts and prayers.

It's starting to look like fall here finally. We had rain yesterday and more is expected tomorrow. Our aspens and birch trees have finally turned yellow, and the larches will follow soon. Western larch trees are cool in the autumn. They're pine trees, but in the fall their needs turn a bright yellow before falling off. The picture above is of the road that leads to our house. This particular curve is my favorite in both autumn and winter. If you click on the picture, it gets bigger and you can see why I love it so much. I love this time of year. All this week the boys and I were going to do projects relating to leaves, but I've postponed that until next week. For one, I've been a little glued to my computer, checking emails and refreshing the USGS website. And second, the leaves that have fallen outside are wet from the rain right now. We're due for sunshine all next week, so it will be a better time for Leaf Week for us. I love doing leaf crafts with the kids each year.

Thank you again for your thoughts and prayers for Nichelle and her team. When I hear something, I will be sure to post it here as well Facebook.