Monday, November 30, 2009

Dilly & His Xmas Pickle

If your kids are looking for a simple craft to do, they can make Dilly & His Christmas Pickle! I got the idea originally from Family Fun Magazine. Years ago the girls and I made their little Merry Mice, using candy canes as the tails. Since then, I've seen this project all over, so it must be a popular craft. This year I thought it would be fun to alter it a bit and turn it into Dilly. I took this picture the other day before we had our decorations out, but Dilly is now hanging happily on our Christmas tree. If you click on the link above, it will take you to a PDF with instructions, which is posted on my website. It's a really easy craft that even younger kids can do.

Also, don't forget that my second picture book, Lemur Troops & Critter Groups is available for pre-order right now. I don't know an exact release date, but I believe the book should be ready for Christmas. It's a fun book that teaches children all about animal congregations, or groups, using silly rhymes. Nikki Shoemaker did an awesome job illustrating it. 4RV Publishing, LLC is having a Christmas special between November 30th through December 20th where you can get a 15% discount on books, so check them out. Books make great Christmas presents! In addition, they're printed right here in the USA, so that's a plus these days. Not to mention I have kids to put through college. Okay, I'll stop begging ...

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Banana Nut Bread

For some reason, this time of year has always reminded me of quick breads. Maybe my mom made them more during the Holidays, or maybe we got more of them through all her parties and events at her work. Banana, cranberry, pumpkin, zucchini -- they're all good. I like baking a loaf of quick bread on Christmas morning. No one wants to eat right away, so it's nice to have something hot after the presents are opened. I usually use boxed mixes to save time. This year, however, I might make some from scratch ahead of time. I baked a loaf of Banana Nut bread on Thanksgiving, so I thought I'd share the recipe here. It came from a cookbook from a school my girls used to go to when they were little. It's an easy recipe, and unlike some others I have, this one just makes one loaf, which is perfect for us.


3/4 cup sugar
1-1/2 cups mashed banana (about 3 large)
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease loaf pan. Mix sugar, bananas, oil, and eggs in a large bowl with a wooden spoon. Stir in remaining ingredients; pour into pan. Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 60-70 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes, then remove from pan. Cool completely before slicing.

So -- what's your favorite type of quick bread?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday

Today is Black Friday and I'm sure many of you are waiting in long lines as I type. Traditionally, this is the biggest shopping day of the year. I've only gone shopping on Black Friday a few times. Once Nichelle and I got up early and gave it a whirl just for fun. For us, it wasn't so much about the deals, but to watch the people. It was crazy. In one store, the toy aisle was so crowded that I couldn't even get in there. I remember one lady pushing a cart with about ten dolls in it, all the same kind. Either she had a big family who have no individual personality, or she was planning on selling them for a lot more. I figured the latter was the case. We just didn't understand how some people would stand in line for so long to get a free Hot Wheels car -- weird.

The original term Black Friday dates back to a big stock market crash in 1869. It later became the big shopping day after the start of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1924. However, it wasn't actually called Black Friday until 1966. That term was first used in Philadelphia to refer to the heavy traffic that day. Recently, merchants have used the term Black Friday to refer to being in the red and taking a loss, to going over to the black and making a profit. Electronics and toys are the most common sales items.

Last year was crazy when one Walmart employee was stampeded to death as he tried to open the door. Two other people got into an argument at Toys R Us and were fatally shot. Other people have waited in lines for hours, gotten pushed around, and in fights. Maybe I'm just a scrooge, but that doesn't sound like fun to me. I know people get some good deals and that's great. One year I went shopping on Black Friday in the evening after the crowds went home. Ironically, I saw a lot of things that were still available for the same price. I guess it's just not my thing. I would prefer to spend a few dollars more or take my time finding someone a perfect gift that's suited just for them, rather than buy them a hand mixer because it was five bucks.

Black Friday has definitely become a media event and it will be all over the news today. They'll report how big or small the crowds are, what was on sale, and what crazy things people end up doing. If you ever wanted to be on television, you might have a chance today. One thing that has always cracked me up are the pictures and video footage of people and what they've bought. So much for surprises if that's your family member being shown with Mr. Potato Head! It will be interesting to see how many people are out shopping and actually buying stuff, especially in this economy with so many people out of jobs. I, for one, won't be daring the stores today. I'd rather sit here in my warm bed next to my kitty, sipping my Pumpkin Spice coffee, while listening to the rain hit the deck. If you're brave enough to face the crowds today, I hope you find lots of great bargains. Happy shopping!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend. Ours is extra special, having Nichelle home from Indonesia. It's too bad Nicole isn't here, but we'll be seeing her soon when she comes home for Christmas vacation. We're having a really simple Thanksgiving dinner today, so it's a pretty low key day for us. We'll have a bigger one for Christmas when Nicole gets here. We're also trying to get my ILs up from California to spend Christmas with us. I'm not sure if that's going to happen, but we're working on it. My FIL really wants to see Montana in the winter.

Pictured above are two decorations I put out every year. Every Thanksgiving we write what we're thankful for on the table runner. It's pretty cool to look back on it and see what was important to us over the years. The other is a flower centerpiece I made three years ago. I painted a terra-cotta pot black and added a cardstock rim to make it a pilgrim hat. Each year I ask Rick to bring home some fresh flowers for it. Well, as you know, those are expensive and a big autumn bouquet can run as much as $25. This year I found these artificial flowers on clearance at Walmart for $2.50. I figured that would be a better deal and I can use them every year. I took the picture right after I set them up, and looking at it now, I need to fluff them up and bend them around some more. But still, $2.50 is way better than $25.00!

Whether you're having a huge feast with lots of family, or spending a quiet day alone, I hope you have a great holiday. I'm thankful for every one who stops by and reads my blog. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Paper Plate Turkeys

Yesterday I posted this as my status on Facebook -- Rena Jones figures the turkeys are probably dry now. Time to staple their little butts shut and glue on googly eyes! That got a lot of funny replies, from people being shocked to others saying they wouldn't want to eat Thanksgiving with me. Such a funny group over there ... har, har, har!

The boys and I made turkeys from paper plates yesterday. They are pictured above. Neil got a little impatient painting and left a lot of white spots on his plates. Now that I think about it, turkeys do have white stripes on their tail feathers, so Neil was right on. We used staples, sequins, stickers, glitter, googly eyes -- they were a lot of fun and really easy to make.

I got the idea from Danielle's Place of Crafts and Activities. It's a great site, but I'm not a member, so I don't get the full instructions. One of these days I'll join because they have some really fun ideas. Today we're making turkey napkin holders, where a cloth napkin will be fan-folded to be the turkey's tail. I hope everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Coloring Contest!

Mandy Hedrick, an illustrator working with 4RV Publishing, is having a contest for her newest picture book, Troy Truck Explores Maui. Children ages 3 to 8 years can enter a coloring contest to win a FREE first edition signed copy Troy Truck Explores Maui. Troy Truck is a solar-powered, eco-friendly monster truck who explores the Hawaiian island of Maui.

Eligibility --
Contest is open to children 3 to 8 years.

Guidelines --
1. Contestants must color their own entry, without assistance from others.
2. The picture may be decorated with crayons, markers, paint, pencils, etc ...
3. Entries must be returned to by December 18, 2009.
4. No purchase is necessary in order to enter.

Prizes --
Two contest winners ages 3-5 and 6-8 will be awarded each a signed copy of Troy Truck Explores Maui, written by Julyn Watkins, illustrated by Mandy Hedrick, published by TJW Books, mailed at the expense of Mandy Hedrick.

Click HERE for the coloring sheet and send to --
Coloring Contest @

Be sure to include your name, home address, phone number, email address, and age as indicated above. This information is confidential and will be used for distribution of prizes. The name and address portions must be completed correctly to receive the winning copy of the books. Both of the winners will be announced and posted on and also on and on December 21, 2009. Winners will also be emailed. If you have any questions, please email Mandy @ Good luck to everyone who enters!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Moses Supposes!

Rick and I watched Singing in the Rain last night. I'd been wanting to get it on DVD for awhile, so I was thrilled when I found it for $9 at Costco. I know I've seen a lot of this movie, but I couldn't remember the whole thing, so it was fun to watch again. What a classic film it is. Gene Kelly is simply amazing. I could watch him dance for hours. I've posted the famous rain scene on my blog before, so I wanted to put this one up today. If you get a chance to watch this, do so. It is absolutely brilliant!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

She's HOME!

She arrived in Kalispell at 1pm today. We got snow this morning, so we were worried they might not let them land. When Nichelle arrived, she told us they announced they might not be able to land in Kalispell and would land in Great Falls. That would have been a 5-6 hour drive. Yikes! Turns out, the snow let up and they were able to land here. Thank God! She's resting now and said she doesn't quite know what to do with herself, but is glad she's home. We all are! The poor thing had to walk in the snow from the airport to the car wearing her little flip-flops. At least we had brought her coat with us. She's looking forward to a long, hot bath!

Thanks to ALL OF YOU who kept Nichelle and her team in your thoughts, prayers, and well wishes. It means so much to my family!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Da da da dum ...

We're going to a wedding this afternoon. That should be fun. It will be the boy's first time at a wedding, so they're curious to see what it's about. I noticed Nathan had written "Kissy Kissy Day" on his calendar, which made me laugh. It's for one of Rick's co-workers and is also the same lady that let the girls ride horses on the ranch she was caring for awhile back. It's a shame the girls won't be here, especially with Nichelle missing it by one day. I haven't been to a lot of weddings myself, probably around seven. There were some I've been invited to, but couldn't attend because they were too far away. Of the seven I can think of, four of them are still married. The picture above is of my mom and dad coming out of their wedding. I think they had a pretty simple ceremony, but I love the gown my mom is wearing. I love the scalloped hemline. My dad couldn't look happier -- as always.

Rick and I got married on Valentine's Day in 1988, so we'll be celebrating our 22nd anniversary in a few more months. If you're married, did anything strange happen at your wedding? I've heard some crazy stories about people's weddings, like guests fighting or someone stealing the bride's bouquet. We were lucky and everything went pretty well. We didn't have any America's Funniest Home Video moments. One thing that went wrong was that my sister and I had a hard time tacking up my dress train right before we walked into the reception hall. That took forever, even though we had practiced it before. The only other thing was that we specifically told the DJ not to play "We've Only Just Begun" by the Carpenters. So, after struggling with my train and making our guests wait, Rick and I finally walk into the reception. The DJ introduces us, followed by blasting "We've Only Just Begun" -- idiot. Other than those two things, everything else went well.

How about you -- any bizarre or unique wedding incidents?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Lots of good news ...

Good News #1 -- Nichelle graduates from YWAM today. They're going out on a boat for their ceremony, so I hope she has a great time. Of course, I'd love to be there with her. Who wouldn't want to be out on a boat in Maui?

Good News #2 -- Tomorrow Nichelle gets on a plane to begin her trip home. It's been a long six months and I'm sure she'll be happy to get home. What an amazing experience she's had. I can't wait to hear her stories. She's seen so much. I'm sure that has given her a new perspective on things, especially in relation to how much we have in America and how much we take it for granted. We can't wait to see her -- Kitty too!

Good News #3 -- My second picture book, Lemur Troops & Critter Groups is now available to pre-order! It's being printed as we speak, so copies will be available soon. To order a copy, please visit 4RV Publishing, LLC or click on the cover on the right. This would make a great Christmas gift.

Good News #4 -- A friend of ours is getting married tomorrow. Weddings are always good news. This will be the first wedding the boys have attended, so they're excited about it.

Good News #5 -- Nicole will be coming home for Christmas. I think her flight arrives here on December 19th. She's been attending college in Florida and doing really well with that. She's super excited about coming home and seeing her family and friends again.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Have they lost their marbles?

Do you know what an idiom is? An idiom is a phrase, word, or expression that has a figurative meaning. Like taking candy from a baby is an idiom, which refers to something being very easy to do. Face the music is an idiom that means to accept the consequences of your actions. A bad egg is someone who can't be trusted. One of my favorite idioms is -- lost your marbles. To lose your marbles basically means to go crazy, or mad.

I woke up this morning, got myself a cup of coffee, and then came back to bed. I have the same routine every morning -- turn my laptop on, check for earthquakes where Nichelle is, make sure there are no hurricanes are where Nicole is, read my email, check Facebook, and then read the news. Today the news is extra stupid -- people have lost their marbles.

They're trying to ban flat screen TVs in California, saying they use too much energy. Television is important to people and they're not stupid. They'll buy them in other states. I have this image of families sitting in dark rooms, with their curtains pulled tightly closed, watching their flat screen TVs in fear. If that's not stupid enough, in Pennsylvania there is a story about a lady getting complaints about hanging her clothes outside to dry. The neighbors don't want to look at her unmentionables. Here's a tip -- don't look. So, they don't want people using too much energy watching TV and they don't want people saving energy by not using their dryers. Huh? And, if that's not stupid enough, now the USPS is stopping their letters to Santa program. Apparently, one loon back east was a sex offender and they caught him before he could send letters to children. So because of one person, they're stopping the entire thing. I swear, the USPS is becoming an absolute joke. The people at our local, small town office are rude as hell. No wonder people go postal -- err, I mean, lose their marbles!

So, forget about your kids getting a letter from Santa, don't get caught watching TV in your basement, and don't even think about hanging your underwear out to dry! Common sense is being thrown out the window and everyone is going mad. Now, where did I leave my marbles ...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Homemade Bread Day

I blogged about this last year -- Homemade Bread Day. I think I posted a recipe for bread using a crock-pot. Click here if you want to see it. That's a weird recipe because you cook the bread right in the crock-pot, not in a pan in the crock-pot. It turned out really good, which surprised me.

But alas, it's Homemade Bread Day once more! What are some of your favorite types of breads? As a kid, my mom always bought white bread, so that's what I grew up on. As I got a little older, she switched to wheat, which is what I prefer now. In fact, I can barely even eat white bread. The boys eat a whole-grain white bread by Franz, which they like a lot. Rick's the big bread eater in the family. He loves sourdough, French, Hawaiian Sweet bread, and more. Give me a really grainy whole-wheat and I'm happy.

Quick breads were always a big deal at my house when I was a kid during the Holidays. My mom was a nurse and they always had Christmas parties at the hospitals she worked at. I remember quick breads being really popular at those. Some of my favorites are banana nut, pumpkin, cranberry, and zucchini. Gingerbread is good this time of year too. Since today is Homemade Bread Day, I wanted to make something, but I'm not sure what. I'm making homemade chili next week, so I'll wait and make cornbread with that. I'll have to see what I can come up with once we're done with school for the day. I might do the crock-pot one, now that I think about it. So anyway, what are your favorite types of breads? Do you make them by scratch? From a box? In the oven? In a bread machine? Or buy them at the store?

Bread is a popular word, if you think about it. I thought it would be fun to list bread terms. Not so much types of bread, but things that relate to the word bread itself. If you think of any others, please feel free post them in the comments. And whatever you do -- have a Happy Homemade Bread Day!

Bread Box
Bread Winner
Bread Maker
Bread Dough
Bread & Butter
Bread Basket
Bread Pudding
Bread Machine
Bread Pan
Flat Bread
Nut Bread
Sweet Bread
Artesian Bread
Wonder Bread
Monkey Bread
Our Daily Bread
Bread Sticks
Bread Crust
Sliced Bread
Bread -- the 70s rock band

Monday, November 16, 2009

Home(made) for the Holidays

I was going to post something yesterday on Facebook about homemade Christmas presents. Then I did a search and found there was a page made for that, but it didn't have much information. So, I thought I'd post about it here and see if anyone has any ideas. I think Christmas will be difficult on a lot of people this year, especially with so many people being out of work. We took a huge pay decrease moving here and Rick doesn't get to work overtime like he used to. I've been looking around for things I can make. I've come up with a few ideas, but wanted to see if anyone else had any as well.

How about you -- will you be making any holiday gifts this Christmas?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I Love To Write Day

Today is the 8th annual I Love To Write Day. Check out their website for more information on who they are and how they got started. According to their site, I Love To Write Day is an opportunity for people of all ages to write something, such as a poem, an essay, a letter to an editor, a short story, start a novel, finish a novel, etc. The possibilities are endless.

Last year the organization signed up over 20,000 schools to participate. We homeschool, so writing is a big part of our day. Getting Neil to write his weekly spelling words is like pulling teeth sometimes, but writing short stories is a piece of cake for him. All four of my kids love to write. Give them a blank notebook and they'll turn it into a book. In fact, Nathan is working on a story right now called Wild, Wild Freaks. He has quite an imagination and comes up with really good story ideas.

As I blogged about recently, my main love are picture books. I love writing them and reading them. I grew up in the 70s and picture books were a lot longer than they are today. Back then, an average picture book could be 1000-1500 words, maybe more. Now the average is 500, sometimes even less. My Dilly books range from 400-600 words. What I read as a child are often referred to today as picture story books because they were so much longer. The current trend is to publish shorter picture books because parents are rushed on time, but still want to read to their children. In addition, some books are shorter to keep the child's interest. I suppose I'm just old-fashioned, because I still love those longer picture books.

Anyway, today is I Love To Write Day, so I think I'm going to work on a story idea that I've had for awhile. It's about an ostrich and a vulture, so it's an interesting combo. I hope everyone else can also make time to write something today, whether it be a poem, story, novel, a journal, a blog entry, or even a simple email to a friend. Have a happy I Love To Write Day!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

C is for Cookie ...

Two nights ago I decided to bake a batch of cookies. I posted this on Facebook and got a lot of comments, so I thought I'd post the recipe here today. The recipe I have calls these Cinnamon Sugar Butter Cookies, but they're also referred to as Snickerdoodles. Whenever Rick calls them that, my teeth clench. For some dumb reason, the word Snickerdoodle bugs me. So, I call them Cinnamon Sugar Butter Cookies, which I think sounds better. Regardless, they've always been Rick's favorite cookie, and now it looks like the boys are fans too. They are super easy to make and the best part is that you usually have all the ingredients on hand.

Cinnamon Sugar Butter Cookies

3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2-1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup sugar
2 sticks butter, softened
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a small bowl, combine the 3 tablespoons sugar with the cinnamon. Set aside. In a medium bowl, combine flour, soda, and salt. Mix well and set aside. In a large bowl, blend sugars with an electric mixer on medium speed. Add butter to make a grainy paste. Add eggs and vanilla and mix at medium speed until fluffy. Add the flour mixture gradually to the sugar/butter mixture on low speed until combined. Shape dough into 1-inch balls and roll each ball in cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place on ungreased cookie sheets and bake for 18-20 minutes. Makes about 3-1/2 dozen cookies.

NOTE: I've made these using margarine before and they turned out okay, but the dough is sticky. I've had to drop spoonfuls of dough into the cinnamon sugar mixture and roll it around with a spoon to coat it. They turn out okay, but the dough is easier to work with when you use real butter. These are really good cookies -- simple and easy to make.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Leapin' Lemurs!

Well, it looks like Lemur Troops & Critter Groups is going to be my second official published picture book. It just went to the printer and should be available for purchase before the end of the year. My publisher, Vivian Zabel, hopes to have pre-orders available by next week. The book will be available through 4RV Publishing, LLC and other online sites.

Nikki Shoemaker has done an amazing job illustrating this book. Please click on her name to go to her blog because she's posted several examples from the book. Her illustrations are adorable and I know she's going to go far as an illustrator. The series introduces children to animal congregations through humorous rhymes. Nikki has taken it to a whole new level by putting the animals in humanistic scenarios that will delight both young and old. Most people know that a group of lions is called a pride, but how many people know what a group of snails is called? Or a group of turtles?

When I wrote this originally, there were 66 animal congregations. That would have made for one very long picture book, so we turned it into a series of three books with 22 rhymes each. Lemur Troops & Critter Groups is the first book, which will be followed by Stork Musters & Critter Clusters and then Pony Strings & Critter Things. If you're on Facebook, please join us on our fanpage called Critter Series. The page will be used to keep everyone updated on the series. We hope to see you there. And don't forget, Christmas will be here soon and books make great gifts for kids. In addition, to Lemur Troops & Critter Groups, Dilly would love to spend Christmas Eve wrapped up under your tree!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Damn, what a night.

Ever have one of those nights with one crazy dream after another? I had a dream about a man wearing a ridiculous looking dinosaur costume and then I woke up laughing. A bit later I dreamt about the same man wearing a Jack Skeleton outfit, who was passing out Nightmare Before Christmas Halloween treats. Then I woke myself up whimpering because I was dreaming about a baby in a carseat that I couldn't reach who was either sick or sad. But it wasn't really a baby. It was an egg. An egg in a carseat. With a sad face. Rick's alarm went off at 6am and instead of shutting it off right away, he let it go. He has a CD player alarm and gets woken up by the Red Hot Chili Peppers singing "Snow (Hey Oh)" every morning. I LOVE this song, and it always bums me out when he hits snooze and shuts it off. This morning, however, he must have been super tired and let the song play almost all the way through. So, I get up around 7am and get a cup of coffee and come back to bed. I drink the whole cup and fall asleep again. What do you think I dreamt of then? Chicken! Rick and I were at a KFC and he was being a total ass to the guy behind the counter. He was ragging on the worker about wanting a politically correct piece of chicken and telling him how and where to cut it. He was being a real jerk. Sad thing was that the guy behind the counter was totally taking him serious and trying to be as nice as he could. When it was my turn to order my meal, I asked if they had halibut, but he said no, so I got plain fish. Yeah, fish at KFC!

Okaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay ... so what does this mean?

Actually, there is a logical explanation for most of this, I think. We watched Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs last night with the boys. In the movie there were dinosaurs (the man in the costume), there were dino skeletons (Jack), there were baby eggs with faces (just like the one in the carseat), there was snow (Red Hot Chili Peppers), and there was a chicken that the big T-Rex tried to get her babies to eat (KFC). The politically correct comments are probably from me reading the news lately. But damn, what a weird group of dreams! Maybe it was those green olives stuffed with jalapenos that I ate while watching the movie. The movie is hilarious, by the way. If you get a chance to watch it, do so, because it's just as funny as the first two films. I was going to post a clip, but they've all been disabled on You Tube, so you have to go there to watch them. As with the other films, Scrat the squirrel is a highlight of the movie. Click here to see what I mean.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Belle's Gotta Have Her Os!

Most cats go crazy for a bit of tuna or slice of chicken. And then there's my cat, Belle. She loves Cheerios. She goes nuts when you have a bowl of them. She'll get right in your face until you give her some. It's the weirdest thing. She only likes plain Cheerios and doesn't like them if they're soggy from milk. Give Belle some crunchy Cheerios and she's a happy cat! Belle and her love for Cheerios reminds me of a Madonna song. Which one, you ask?

Cause we are living in a Cheerio world
And I am a Cheerio girl
You know that we are living in a Cheerio world
And I am a Cheerio girl

She also likes rice cakes, but that's another story. Have you ever had a pet who ate something unusual?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Who needs expensive toys?

Especially when there are boxes to play with! This picture is of Nathan, taken on his birthday this past Saturday. He's such a goon. Don't get me wrong -- the laser remote control Battle Machines are a big hit, but the box was fun for awhile too. I swear, my kids have so much fun with empty boxes. We recently bought a Bowflex TreadClimber and you should have seen the boxes that thing came in. They were huge. The boys were bummed we got rid of them, but geez, they took up the entire family room.

I loved empty boxes as a kid too. I used to make homes for my Barbies, pet houses, forts, and other stuff. It's not something I grew out of right away either. When Rick and I got our first apartment in 1987, I took a big box and made a saloon for my cat CJ. I called it Whiskey Lips and decorated it with windows, signs, even swinging doors. He loved it and went in it all the time. However, something weird happens to my kids when they see an empty box. You know those long soda boxes that hold 12-packs? Those are suddenly transformed into moon shoes. Even empty plastic tubs are eyeballed for possible GI Joe scuba diving tanks. Yep, the possibilities are endless when it comes to an empty box or container!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Happy Birthday, Nathan!

Today is Nathan's 10th birthday. It's hard to believe it's been that long already. He's grown up so fast. He's my little brainiac of the family. If you have a question about any kind of bird in the world, he can probably answer. If he can't, he has all the books to find the answer. He knows the names of more actors and producers than I do. He's the one who will sit looking through his world history book for an hour after his lesson is over. He certainly didn't get his smarts from me!

Nathan had a rough start in life and was hospitalized for 6 days after he was born. There was meconium present at his birth and the doctors believed he had inhaled some into his lungs. He was on oxygen, under the lights, got poked with needles day in and day out. It was awful. I was officially discharged, but decided to stay with him. Turned out, I came down with a high fever and infection, so I was readmitted. It was a crazy time for us both.

We're having a simple party for Nathan tonight. He's a little disappointed that Nichelle and Nicole won't be here, but he understands. He's looking forward to them coming home soon. I'm sure I'll take some pictures, so maybe I'll post some of him with his gifts later on.

Happy 10th Birthday, Nathan!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Bead for Life

I am pretty sure I blogged about this last year, but it's worth repeating. Bead for Life is a great organization that helps poverty stricken regions of Africa. The organization not only gives people jobs, but the money earned helps to pay for food, medicine, and education. I discovered this group through my sister-in-law three years ago when she gave me a necklace for Christmas. She gave me the blue three-strand one pictured above. Last year my daughter gave me the purple long, single-strand one for Christmas. It's not the best picture because I just tossed them onto a pillow, but the website has lots of pictures of the different colors and styles. However, if you click on my picture, it enlarges and you can see the detail in the beads.

If you're looking for a unique gift for someone this year, consider these. They have necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and even loose beads for you to create your own. They even have gift bags for $1, which is what Nichelle gave me last year. They also offer the chance to host your own bead parties. The prices are so reasonable too, so these make great Christmas presents. What's really cool about these beads is that they're made from recycled magazines, calendars, cereal boxes, and pamphlets. They have a new line called Katoga that uses different colored beads in a variety of shapes and sizes. You can visit their store here, or click on the link above to read more about who they are and what they do. Christmas is going to be tight for a lot of people this year, so I wanted to mention these again because they make great gifts that not only help other people, but are also affordable. In addition, they're really pretty and unique. Each one will be different.

I had to laugh when I got my necklaces out this morning to snap a quick picture. All twisted up in my blue necklace were my black hoop earrings. I've been looking for these for months! I thought I lost them when I was out of town. I had them all along, and in a drawer I open quite often. Talk about a "d'oh moment" for me! Also, thanks to everyone who wished me well yesterday. My neck is still really sore, but I slept better last night. No bear dreams, thank goodness. I did wake up to it being rainy and really windy, so there's my answer more than likely. My head usually starts up right before the winds, so I should have known. I took a Dong Quai last night and that seemed to help a little. Thanks again ...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Busy as a ...

That pretty much sums up how November is going to be, not to mention December as well. Things are usually pretty busy for us this time of year, especially with school because the boys love doing all sorts of holiday related crafts. That goes non-stop from Halloween all through Christmas. However, it's going to be even more busy this month. Nathan will celebrate his 10th birthday on Saturday. We're having a small party at home for him. He's excited about his birthday, but sad his sisters aren't here. Then on November 21st we're going to a wedding. This will be the boys' first wedding, so they're excited about that. The next day, November 22nd is when Nichelle comes home. She's been gone since June, so we're all anxious to see her. I just got off IM with her and she's looking forward to coming home. A few days after that is Thanksgiving. Then we get into the whole Christmas mode. Nicole will be coming home sometime in December for the Holidays. So, in the middle of all this, I have about a gazillion things to do.

To top it off, my neck is killing me for some reason. Maybe I slept on it wrong the night before last. I know it wasn't last night because I didn't sleep at all. I had another horrifying dream about bears last night. I laid in bed awake for the longest time worrying if the downstairs door was pushed shut all the way. I knew it was locked, but sometimes it's not secure if you don't push it hard and hear it click. So, I sat awake worrying about it for the longest time. Then the neighbor's dog started barking at 3am, which usually means some large critter is outside walking around. That got me out of bed to check the door. Then I couldn't go back to sleep so I looked around Facebook for an hour. I went to bed at 4am and it took another hour for me to fall asleep. So, then what happens? Another bad bear dream! WTH? I woke up exhausted, to say the least. And now I'm getting a late start with school because I was talking to Nichelle online. But that's a good thing, so I'm not complaining about that. I guess I better get my cranky @#$ moving ...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

John Boles

You know the old saying -- they just don't make them like this anymore? That's true with so many things, especially actors and actresses. As I've said in the past, I love older movies. I especially love the over-acting, if you want to call it that. I'm talking about the dramatic acting where you can tell they've been professionally trained or worked on Broadway. In addition to the acting, I love the singing, the costumes, and everything else that comes with older films. Movies today are too real. If I want that, I'll watch the news.

When it comes to great Hollywood actors John Boles is no exception. What an amazing man. I watched the 1931 version of Frankenstein recently and noticed he was in that film. He plays a character named Victor, who is friends with Dr. Henry Frankenstein. If you've read the original book by Mary Shelley, you'll notice the movie is based more on the theatrical play of the 1920s. In the book, Dr. Frankenstein's first name is Victor, but in the film he's called Henry and Boles plays Victor. Talk about confusing! However, you might recognize John Boles from other films such as Curly Top and The Littlest Rebel with Shirley Temple. For a list of his other films, click here.

To me, John Boles is the epitome of a classic Hollywood actor. He had it all -- acting talent, the ability to sing, and the tall, dark, and handsome look that made women swoon. He was born in 1895, so obviously he was a little before my time. He died from a stroke in 1969 at the age of 74. I was four. His parents wanted him to become a doctor, but John was more interested in acting and singing. He got married the same year he graduated from college. In WWI, he worked as a spy for the US. After the war, he moved to NYC to study music and began appearing on Broadway. He caught the eye of Hollywood producers and started his film career. Wiki claims his role as Victor Moritz in Frankenstein is his most well known because the film has been so widely available. However, if you're a Shirley Temple fan, you'll probably recognize John Boles right away.

I couldn't find any video clips from Frankenstein on You Tube that really showed John's part in the film. The trailer shows him, but not that much. He's awesome in that movie. He's totally in love with Dr. Frankenstein's fiancee, Elizabeth. Sadly, he never gets the girl, but that doesn't stop him from trying to woo her. Personally, I think Elizabeth is the crazy one, not Dr. Frankenstein. He's ugly and a loon, whereas Victor runs around tending to her every need, without a single hair out of place. Okay, so sure, his pants are a little high, but I can overlook that. It was 1931 after all. Here's a video I found of John Boles, obviously made by a fan loonier than me. That's John singing in the clip as well. It's not really my kind of music, but like his high-waisted pants, I can overlook it just with the Pretty Boy factor alone ...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

What's your genre?

Last night I was thinking about some of my favorite authors when I was growing up. I loved to read and got an incredible amount of satisfaction from finishing a chapter book. Some of my favorite authors were Laura Ingalls Wilder, E.B. White, Beverly Cleary, and Judy Blume. Those are all chapter book authors, but I loved picture books too, especially Dr. Seuss. I never sat down as a kid and thought, "I want to be a writer!" This is something I ventured into as an adult, about 6 years ago after visiting Glacier National Park. I saw the mountain goats there and they were my inspiration to write my first story.

So, if I think about it, my so-called writing genre would be picture books. I have one published book with 6 more to come out over the next year or so. Two of those books are follow-ups to my first book, A New Job for Dilly. The Critter Books became a series simply because they were too long, so we stretched them into 3 books. The Marshmallow Man is on his own -- and come to think about it, this might be my most controversial book to date. I have lots of other manuscripts, but many of those I'd like to go back and sort through and see what changes they need and which ones to scrap.

I have written one middle grade novel, but haven't seriously submitted it. I'd love to get it published, but am not sure if it has what it takes to make it in this world. I say that because the story is simple. It's a shorter novel, only 11,400 words, so it's not nearly as long as most MG books. I kept it short on purpose because I wanted it to attract reluctant readers. I remember how I felt after finishing a book as a kid, and that was what I was going for when I wrote this story. However, it's a tame story. There's no violence, no sex, no paranormal activity, no destruction. I have nothing against those types of stories, but that's just not what mine contains. That's why I wonder if it has what it takes to make it in the world.

Which brings me to a question -- as a writer, what genre do you want to be known for? For example, Tim Burton and Neil Gaiman are known for their darker, rather goth styles. Ingalls was known for her adventurous style. Seuss was known for his rhymes, unusual words, and imaginative characters. Blume was known for her controversial (at the time) topics. E.B. White was able to use something as simple as animals and take you right into his stories, making them feel as real as the pages you were turning. There are plenty of other examples, such as authors who specialize in crude stories, like Walter, the Farting Dog and The Dumb Bunnies. Those are fine and funny to read, but they're not my thing to try to write. Then there are the J.K. Rowlings and Stephanie Meyers of the world. I think all authors are amazing, whether or not I read their books. Just the fact that they sat down long enough to write the entire story is a huge feat in itself, more or less get it published. The only ones I don't have a lot of respect for are celebrities, who can write anything and get it published. That doesn't impress me.

I don't know where I fit in. I write picture books -- yes, but I don't know if I have a specific writing style yet. Maybe that will be more obvious once my other books are out. I suppose, if anything, I'd like to be known for wholesome (for lack of a better word) picture books. I'm not out to scare anyone, to shock anyone, or say something completely bizarre. There's enough of that out there. I'd love to write books where kids say over and over, "Read this one again, Mommy!" I guess I'm just old-fashioned and trying to hang onto some imaginary string of my childhood where things were simple, innocent, and honest. However, that might be too ordinary or too boring (yes, that's me!) for today. We live in strange times, so this might come back to slap me in the face. I guess only time will tell ...

Monday, November 2, 2009

Dilly @ Disneyworld!

Dilly was honored to celebrate a little girl's birthday at Disneyworld awhile back. How many non-Disney rats can say that? I was thrilled to see this picture on Facebook by my friend Susi. Her little girl, Kaitlyn had her party at Disneyworld and one of her presents was my book, A New Job for Dilly.

Thank you, Susi, for sharing this picture with me. I absolutely love seeing pictures of kids with my book. In addition to Dilly, I see three princesses in this picture -- Ariel, Sleeping Beauty, and Kaitlyn. Dilly couldn't be surrounded by three more beautiful ladies, even if he tried. I'm so glad Kaitlyn had a great birthday at Disneyworld -- thanks for sharing!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Caption Contest Winner!

I apologize for not getting this posted last night like I said I would. I should have realized that when I said the contest would run for a week, it would end on Halloween. I figured I'd post it after we took the boys trick-or-treating. As it turned out, I got up at 4:30am yesterday and by 10pm I couldn't keep my eyes open. I was falling asleep while we watched Nightmare Before Christmas. That's one of my favorite movies, if that tells you how tired I was. However, I'm here now and want to say thanks to all of you who took the time to enter my contest. Some of the captions really cracked me up. So anyway, without further delay, the winner is ......


Congratulations, Kelly! Your name was the one pulled from the pot. Well, it was more like a cup, but it did the job just the same. I'm pretty sure I still have your address, so I'll get your prize to you right away. Congrats, again! I loved reading the comments everyone left. Some of them were really funny and I decided to repost them here ...

Justine said ... My mama is a llama. Wha? It's true!
Walter said ... Dilly so help me if you don't tell me where you put my horns ...!
Nancy said ... Cheeeeese!
Edward said ... I would melt if I didn't see an elk.
Gale said ... Do I have something in my teeth?
Elysabeth said ... Why can't I get a suntan on my hide?
Leanne said ... Does this look okay? Or does this smile look fake?
Brenda said ... Do you think I have a chance at winning the next California Cow Contest?
Kim said ... I am smiling.
Outdoor Mom said ... Eat your heart out boys, these babies are for real, no dentures on this mama. Single tan female, looking for meaningful relationship without the bull. Predators need not apply.
Kelly said ... Hey Rena, there better be a group of elk in your Lemur Troops & Critter Groups Book!
Gale said ... Which one of you uttered the word 'venison'? I heard that!
Adrienne said ... No, I don't know where Bambi is. I'm an elk.
Bish said ... You better not be laughing at my ears.
Tracy said ... What are you looking at? We all have bad hair days.
Angela said ... Drink it in, people. I am that hot.
Nancy said ... Oh no you dih'nit!
Tara said ... Welcome to my world. You realize there aint a decent mochaccino within 200 miles of this place?
Tara said ... Dang. That was the third rejection this week. Editor said he was sick of talking elk stories.
Tara said ... If you post this on Facebook, I'm gonna post that pic of you from junior high. You know the one I'm talking about, pizza face.
Kate said ... Beauty is in the eye of the beholder; behold my lush, warm beautiful coat; behold and admire; then leave in peace, or pieces if you prefer.
Chris said ... Oh no you di-in't.
Kim said ... Don't you wish your girlfriend looked just like me?
Angela said ... I'm too sexy for my shirt.
Susi said ... So ... you won't show me to your parents?!

A lot of these gave me a good laugh. It would have been really hard to pick one favorite, which is why I decided to do the random drawing. Thanks again for playing along and participating! In closing, I'd like to leave you with a You Tube clip that Nancy showed me the other day. It was filmed in Estes Park, Colorado, near Rocky Mountain National Park. The video is of the elk rut, which is a huge deal there. I've never seen anything like this before. The only elk ruts I've seen were in Yellowstone and Grand Teton and they were nothing like this video. It's downright crazy! Enjoy!