Thursday, December 31, 2009

Blue Moon

Today is New Year's Eve and tonight there will be a rare occurrence of a blue moon. This is a full moon that is not timed to a regular monthly pattern. Most years have 12 full moons that occur once a month. However, there are excess days in the solar calendar year, so every 2 to 3 years we get an extra full moon that we call a blue moon. That's where the metaphor saying "once in a blue moon" comes from, which is used to describe something that's rare or happens only occasionally. Not all blue moons actually look blue. A moon that looks blue is caused by dust or smoke particles in the atmosphere. The next blue moon isn't expected until August 31, 2012.

The picture above is not of a blue moon or even a full moon, but I thought I'd post it anyway. I took this one in Yellowstone National Park this summer. We had stopped so Rick could do some fly fishing in one of the rivers. It was getting late and right before we left, I snapped this picture. It's been cropped, of course, but I was surprised how well it turned out. I love pictures that show the craters on the moon like this.

When I think of the term blue moon, the song of the same name comes to mind. There are so many different versions of this song. Just off the top of my head I can think of versions by Elvis Presley, The Platters, Ella Fitzgerald, Chris Isaak, Sha-Na-Na, The Sacred Hearts, and more. They are all great versions. However, my all-time favorite is by The Marcels because it's just a little faster than most others. It goes like this ...

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Lemur Troops & Critter Groups

A few people have received Lemur Troops & Critter Troops already. I'm expecting some copies to arrive any day. I can't wait to see this book! There are a couple of reviews on Amazon already and I have to admit, I was blown away by them. As I read them, all I could think was, "Wow! They're talking about my book!" Click here to read them for yourself.

As I have said before, Nikki Shoemaker has done an incredible job illustrating this book. It's not so much a story as it is a collection of rhymes. And like the first reviewer said, "The pictures turn the one sentence on the page into a more detailed story about those animals." She hit the nail on the head with that one. As much as I'd love to take credit for some amazing writing here, Nikki's illustrations totally make this book.

For those who have ordered the book and have not received it yet, you should get your copy soon. My publisher was stranded from her home during the recent blizzard. Not only that, but UPS sent her first shipment to the wrong address, so that delayed things more. She's getting the books shipped now, so they should arrive soon. I am so excited to see this book in print. My cats, Belle & Kitty make their debut in it along with Nikki's cat. Look for the kitty cops! We're hoping the fame doesn't go to their fluffy little heads. Nikki and I will be doing a book blog tour soon as well as some give-aways. We hope you will join us for that.

If you haven't ordered the book and would like to, click on the cover on the right of my blog or visit my website. Both will link you to 4RV Publishing, LLC. Lemur Troops & Critter Groups is also available through Amazon. You can get it through any local bookseller also by bringing in the ISBN numbers and they can order it. I hope you enjoy Book 1 of the series!

ISBN-10 0984070893
ISBN-13 978-0984070893

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Got leftovers?

What is your traditional Christmas meal? Is it turkey, ham, prime rib, or something else? As a kid, we always had turkey for Thanksgiving and ham for Christmas. Rick's family, however, had turkey for both. He tells me ham is for Easter. Funny how his mom called on Christmas Day saying how she'd bought a Honeybaked ham for dinner. Hmpfh! Regardless, Rick cooked a big turkey for Christmas dinner and it turned out wonderful.

I remember one Christmas as a kid that was just a disaster. Someone left the ham on the counter while we went to church. When we got home, we discovered our dogs had fought over it and had dragged it throughout the house. Ham grease and carpet don't mix, by the way. Not to mention a couple of dogs with belly aches. It was an absolute mess. I'm reminded of that every time we watch A Christmas Story and the Bumpkin dogs come into Ralphie's house and attack their turkey that is on the counter.

Last night was the first night since Christmas that we didn't eat leftovers. That was a nice change. As much as we like leftovers, it doesn't take long before we're tired of them. I'm not much into turkey sandwiches, so I've been using it in salads. Add some pineapple chunks, chopped pepperoncinis, croutons, a little bit of cheese, and that's good enough for me. Top it off with a no-calorie salad dressing (which I actually like) and I'm all set. With as much chocolate as I've been eating, a salad certainly won't hurt. If you do a big meal over the holidays, what do you do with your leftovers?

Monday, December 28, 2009

YNP in winter ...

I've been going through some of my photos and saw this one. I laughed when I saw I had titled it Yellowstone in Winter. This was actually taken in October 2007, so technically, winter was still a ways off. Yellowstone in the winter is inaccessible unless you travel by snow coach or snow machines. Even as early as October, blankets of snow cover this amazing place.

For years, Rick has wanted to visit Yellowstone in winter. He wants to see the park by snow machine, especially before the special interest groups get it banned all together. As it is now, the areas you can see are limited and you're only allowed to travel on groomed roads. Not all the roads are even open yet, due to lack of snow this year. I believe they're due for more soon and it's -15 right now. It's definitely a place you HAVE to come prepared for or you won't survive. I would love to see the park in wintertime as well, but I'm thinking warm snow coach over cold, windy snow machines. I was just looking at the Old Faithful Webcam and there is quite a group of people showing up. The geyser is probably just getting ready to go off. It looks like a beautiful day there today. Who knows -- maybe someday we can see Yellowstone in its magical, winter wonderland glory!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

What a cutie!

This is a picture of Nathan when he was younger. It was taken in Grand Teton National Park, probably around 2001 or 2002. Rick took the picture and it's one of my favorites because of the angle, the flowers, and Nathan's little dimples. The only thing that would have made it better would be fewer clouds. Ironically, this picture is also one that was taken on a film camera and the prints got put aside in a box. You know those boxes -- we all have them. Boxes stuffed with pictures, newspaper clippings, and other treasures you plan to organize someday. I seriously need to do that this year.

In fact, I got a gift card for Christmas from my in-laws and I think I'm going to buy one of those giant picture frames that have all the little spaces for pictures. I have a wall in the boy's playroom that it would go nice in. Not only that, but it's the first wall you see as you come down the stairs. Perfect place for a picture collage of my kids. Last year I had some photo resolutions and blogged about them here. If you click on this link, you'll see the type of picture frame I want to get. These things are huge. They're the size of movie posters. It would be just the thing for all these unorganized pictures to finally have a home -- after I scan them, of course.

Oh, and by the way, my in-laws loved the digital scrapbook I made for them for Christmas. I spoke with my mother-in-law on the phone Christmas Day and she raved about it. She said she had already looked at the entire thing twice. These were the photos I took while we were vacationing with my in-laws this summer. My mother-in-law took pictures as well, but she usually uses one of those disposable cameras, so her results aren't that great. It was a fun way to share mine with her. She's one of those people who doesn't get the whole computer/online thing, so she loves stuff she can hold and look at. I was happy to hear she enjoyed the book so much.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Carnage ...

Of course, it's not as bad now -- it's worse. We've picked up most of the wrapping, but now the living room floor looks like a toy bomb exploded. When do you usually take down your tree or decorations? We've done it as early as the day after Christmas (dry tree = fire hazard) and as late as after New Year's Day. This year we set up our decorations around Thanksgiving. I don't know about you, but the month flew by. I am in no rush to take my decorations down yet. I'm sure they'll stay up until New Year's. Even if I wanted to, my outside nativity is frozen in the ground. Sometimes we have to wait a long time to get that put up. I hope everyone had a nice Christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Nativities by Nichelle #2

Here's another nativity my daughter made for me one year. I love this one. I am amazed she could take something as simple as a rock from the yard and turn it into something so special for me. I have nativities by Jim Shore, Fontanini, Jeff Fleming, and others. However, my favorites are the ones with the most meaning to me, like this one Nichelle painted on a rock. It gives a whole new meaning to the Charlie Brown expression, "I got a rock."

The word nativity means birth, especially the place, conditions, or circumstances of being born. St. Francis of Assisi is believed to be the first person to set up a nativity scene. Well, besides the first one, of course. There had been paintings and drawings, but it was in 1223 when St. Francis set up a nativity using people and live animals in Greccio, near Assisi.

Anyway, whether you celebrate Christmas in a religious way, or not at all, I hope you have a wonderful weekend and rest of the year.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Nichelle's Bell

I thought I'd share one of my favorite Christmas tree ornaments today. No, it's not a Lenox or a Sarabella ornament, but it's worth just as much to me. Nichelle made this little silver bell at school when she was 4 years old. That must have been around 1993. It's made from a section of egg carton, some tin foil, a pipe cleaner, and a small bell. It's absolutely perfect.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Belle!

I've been playing around with my smaller camera lately. It has all kinds of cool settings, like taking pictures underwater, behind glass, in candlelight, during fireworks, and so forth. Apparently, it even has a setting that snaps a picture when someone smiles. Fun stuff. Anyway, yesterday I was taking pictures of our tree using the available light setting and the candle setting to see how the lights would show up. Guess who shows up instead? Miss Belle! So, the little Christmas Kitty sat there in front of the tree for me. She sat perfectly still, but managed to move her head back and forth just enough to annoy me. I got a few cute pictures of her though, including this one.

On totally different news, my book Lemur Troops & Critter Groups is now officially listed on Amazon. It's still cheaper when you buy it directly from 4RV Publishing, but at least there are other options. You can order this book through any bookstore with the ISBN numbers. Those are ISBN-10 0984070893 and ISBN-13 978-0984070893. So, if you don't order online, bring those numbers to any bookseller and they'll be able to get it for you. I ordered some books for myself recently, since I have family & friends who don't order online and I wanted to have some for them. I cannot wait to see this book. Nikki Shoemaker is an amazing illustrator and has done an incredible job with this book. Like I said, I can't wait to see it for myself!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Nicole is home!

She landed around 7:15pm last night. We were worried there for awhile, especially with the storms back east and flights being cancelled. Some of Nicole's college-mates had their flights cancelled and were waiting in the airport on standby. Fortunately, Nicole was able to get on her flight and made it home safely. She's looking forward to her 5-week break, though I'm sure it will go by too fast. We are all happy to have both Nichelle and Nicole home again. I hope everyone has a great Sunday!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Run, run, run ...

I had a dentist appointment yesterday, so I left Nichelle in charge of helping the boys with their school. One of the projects for their Bible program we're doing this month was to bake gingerbread boys. My boys are so darn picky when it comes to food, but surprisingly, they love gingerbread cookies. Two years ago we did a week long study of The Gingerbread Man. We read a different version each day, did crafts, and then at the end of the week we baked gingerbread cookies. It was that project that inspired my story The Marshmallow Man, which is a retelling of the classic gingerbread story. However, we always try to bake gingerbread men during Christmas and I'm thankful Nichelle was able to help the boys do that yesterday.

I'm a ginger fanatic -- I love everything ginger! It can be gingerbread cookies, gingerbread cake, ginger ale, chocolate covered ginger pieces, gingersnaps, ginger beer, ginger tea, ginger Altoids ... I even cook a chicken dish using lots of ginger. It seems to be one of those ingredients that people either love or hate -- I love the stuff! I've never gotten into baking elaborate gingerbread houses. We did one from a kit once, which the kids enjoyed. Mostly, we bake gingerbread men and an occasional gingerbread cake. Gingerbread has been around for a long time. Click here to read more about the history of gingerbread. Ginger has been used for centuries as a medicine for colds, flues, headaches, sore throats, even to cure fatigue. In addition, here are some things other countries use ginger for ...

  • India -- uses ginger in lentil curry dishes.
  • South India -- uses ginger to make candy.
  • Bangladesh -- uses ginger in chicken and meat dishes.
  • Burma -- uses ginger in medicine.
  • Indonesia -- uses ginger in beverages.
  • Vietnam -- uses ginger leaves in soup.
  • China -- uses ginger as candy and in teas.
  • Japan -- pickles ginger to put on noodles.
  • Korea -- uses ginger in kimchi paste.
  • France -- uses ginger in an alcohol called Canton.
  • UK -- uses ginger to make wine.
  • Caribbean -- uses ginger in a Christmas drink called Sorrel.
  • Jamaica -- uses ginger to make beer.
  • Greece -- also uses ginger to make beer.
  • MidEast -- uses ginger in coffee.
  • Africa -- uses ground ginger in a juice called Nyamanku.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Robble, robble ...

Robble, robble? Yeah ... robble, robble! No, I haven't lost it, not yet. Does anyone remember this guy? I don't mean the Hamburgler in general, but this specific doll. I came across this guy the other night while looking at vintage dolls on eBay. I remember begging my mom for this doll when he came out during a McDonald's promotion. I'm not sure why, but I loved this silly thing. Just seeing the picture here brings back memories of me asking for him and pulling him out of the plastic bag he was in. McDonald's had the other characters as well, but I only remember getting the Hamburgler. I know my MIL has Ronald in her playroom, but I've never seen this one. Had I seen him, he'd be with me now! I might have to ask her though, just to be sure ...

Some of you might be too young to remember McDonaldland. There was a slew of characters that were used to promote McDonald's. They also used the characters as part of the playgrounds at various restuarants. The clown, Ronald McDonald is probably the best known, but there was also the Grimace, the Fry Kids, Mayor McCheese, Officer Big Mac, Birdie the Early Bird, and the Hamburgler. Later, in the 1980s, there was a series called the McNugget Buddies. We actually have some things left over from the McNugget Buddies, including some holiday plates and Halloween toys.

However, the Hamburgler was always my favorite as a kid. He ran around stealing hamburgers saying, "Robble, robble." I don't remember the show The Wacky Adventures of Ronald McDonald, which started in live action and then went into animation, but I do remember the live action commercials. Hamburgler was my favorite. The whole McDonaldland thing ended after a lawsuit in 1977 by Sid & Marty Krofft, in which McD's had to pay a million dollars. Regardless of all that, I really loved this stuffed Hamburgler as a kid. I'm not sure why, but I did. Maybe one of these days I can buy one on eBay to add to my childhood memories shelf downstairs. That would be really cool. Or as the Hamburgler would say ... robble, robble!

Oh, one more thing -- I forgot to mention yesterday that I got my MRA results back and it's good news. The suspected bulge hasn't gotten any larger. They can still see it, but now they are thinking it might not be an actual aneurysm after all. This isn't news to me because it was in question the first time I had the scan in 2004. But the good news is that it's not getting any bigger. My doctor still suggests I get it checked out every couple of years, just to make sure it doesn't turn into something else. So, that's good! The other good news is that Nicole comes home tomorrow. She's so excited about coming home, and we're really looking forward to having her here for her 5-week break. Well, I'm off to get ready for a dentist appointment. I have an old crown that needs to be replaced. Oh joy, lucky me ...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Euphorbia pulcherrima ...

Also known as the -- poinsettia!

I wanted to blog about poinsettias this year, but realized I missed National Poinsettia Day, which was on December 12th. Oh well, better late than never. The poinsettia is a flower indigenous to Mexico. It was named after Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first US Minister to Mexico (this was before we had Ambassadors). It is said he liked the flower so much that he brought it back to the US to cultivate it and give it as gifts for Christmas. The Legend of the Poinsettia is a story about a poor little girl who was sad that she had no gift to give at Christmas Eve service. She picked a bouquet of weeds and presented them at the nativity scene. The legend goes onto to say the weeds burst into the bright red flowers of the poinsettia because the little girl gave them with all her heart. Here are some interesting facts ...
  • There are over 100 varieties of poinsettias.
  • 74% of Americans prefer red poinsettias.
  • 8% prefer white poinsettias.
  • 6% prefer pink poinsettias.
  • The Aztecs used the plants to make red dye.
  • Poinsettias are grown all over the world.
  • They need 50F+ nighttime temps to survive.
  • They don't grow well if the temp is over 70F.
  • Poinsettias are NOT highly toxic, as most believe.
The boys and I were reading about poinsettias the other day in their Christmas Bible program. There was a simple craft (above pic) to make flowers using red construction paper. Since this was a Bible program, they were referring to the star shape of the poinsettia to remind people about the star of Bethlehem. Instead of using yellow paper dots for the center, we used gold stars on both sides of the flowers. They look neat hanging on the window of our classroom door, especially with the snow behind them. I don't usually buy real poinsettias. I was always under the impression that they were highly poisonous. I didn't realize they were not. I see them all over the place, so I assume they do okay in people's homes in Montana. For now though, I'll settle with the bunch of artificial ones I have -- they stay pretty year after year! Do you buy real poinsettias for Christmas?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Nativities by Nichelle #1

I wanted to share with you a gift my daughter, Nichelle made me a few years ago. She knows I collect nativities and has made me some awesome ones using simple materials. This particular one is a set of 4 small wooden ornaments. I have a 3' tree downstairs that I keep all my nativity ornaments on. Nichelle painted figures on the front and then sayings on the back. How she can take a piece of wood and turn it into something so spectacular, I'll never know. All I know is that Nichelle is awesome!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Coffee-Mate Snowmen ...

Here's another easy craft you can do with your kids. This one uses empty Coffee-Mate creamer containers. I found this idea online someplace, but I'm not sure exactly what site it was. Click here for another site I found for this project. The boys made these either last year or the year before that. In our family room, I have a big display of various Christmas crafts the kids have made over the years. Mixed in are some other decorations that have been collected or given to me over time. It's kind of a snow scene, even though nothing actually goes together. It's cool because it's such an eclectic mix, and these Coffee-Mate Snowmen fit in perfectly with the rest of the clan.

These are fun for little kids to do because all it really requires is adding details with glue. I think these would be a fun craft for adults to make as well. I'm thinking of making a few more myself. Instead of felt and pom-poms, you could glue plastic holly sprigs onto the hat or add a fancier scarf. The snowmen on the link are sitting on a base of snow made from cotton balls. The ones the boys made stand alone, but I like the snow idea too. They used real buttons instead of pom-poms, and added pipe cleaner arms. They also used orange felt for noses, but the boys twisted up an orange pipe cleaner for theirs. The empty creamer jars are perfect and the red tops look just like little caps. Not only do they make a fun craft, but you're recycling too, which is always a good thing. Best part is -- these snowmen won't melt!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Ho Ho Ho!

I'm getting a late start with school today, but that's okay. Rick just left to take Neil to a dentist appointment, so that throws me off a bit. He'll catch up when he gets home. This is the week for dentist appointments though. Neil goes today, Rick tomorrow, Nichelle on Wednesday, and I go on Friday. Talk about cRaZy! What's worse is that our dentist is all the way up in Whitefish, so that's an hour drive each way. Oh well ... what can you do?

It's still fairly early and I haven't heard from my doctor about my scan last Friday. I hope to hear something this week, though I don't know if it will be today. A few people have asked me what an MRA is -- it stands for Magnetic Resonance Angiogram. It's similar to an MRI, and it's used to take pictures of blood vessels in the body. Click on the link for info, if you like. I joined an aneurysm site on Facebook yesterday and then started to freak out reading about everyone's experiences. Thanks again for keeping me in your thoughts and prayers. I'll let you know when I hear something.

The picture above is of my cat, CJ. He was such a ham. This is one of my favorite Christmas pictures of him. I remember making that little Santa hat for him one year. I still have it and bring it out every Christmas. I really miss that little guy. Okay, I suppose I better get some work done around here now. I was up past midnight working on that digital scrapbook for my in-law's, so I'm tired and sore from that. I need to give my wrists a break. I hope everyone has a great week. My daughter, Nicole comes home from college on Saturday, so we're really looking forward to seeing her again.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A winter's morn ...

We woke up to a beautiful blanket of snow this morning. Well, I guess I should say we woke up to even more snow than we already had. It's still coming down. I was listening to my weather radio a few minutes ago and Bigfork is under a winter storm warning. They said it's 5 degrees with a windchill of -14. However, it's not windy here at the moment, as I watch the snowflakes fall peacefully. I just took this picture above, but through my dirty window. It warmed up into the 20s yesterday, so the boys were finally able to play in the snow. Nichelle went out too, so they were in heaven.

I didn't grow up where it snowed; I grew up in sunny California. We had snow in our local mountains and it took about 20-30 minutes to drive to it. On the other side, we had a 15-20 minute drive to the beach. One would think that's the best of both worlds. We got snow in the mountains quite a bit, but I didn't go up often. I remember one time my mom told me to get dressed to play in the snow. Living where was, I had no need of snow clothes, so I had to make due with what I had. I grabbed a pair of rubber rain boots and put those on. I'll never forget my feet getting stuck in the snow and my mom having to pull me out. My boots stayed in the snow and there I was in my bare feet. Hey, what can I say -- I'm a Californian! Not exactly a fun experience for me. I sat with my icy feet thawing under the heater all the way home. When you're prepared for it, snow can be lots of fun, as you will see in the video below. These are my goofy boys -- Nathan & Neil. Nichelle did a great job putting this video together ...

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Christmas Movies

What are some of your favorite Christmas movies? I love Christmas movies. I keep most of them packed away with our decorations, so it's fun to get them out and watch them this time of year. I remember being a kid and waiting for them to show Christmas specials on TV. This was before DVR, before DVDs, even before VHS. If you missed it, you had to wait an entire year. Some of my favorites are Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story, A Christmas Carol, It's A Wonderful Life, The Grinch, Charlie Brown Christmas, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Santa and the Three Bears, A Wish for Wings That Work, A Garfield Christmas, Home Alone, The Nativity Story, and so forth. I have way more cartoons than movies -- no surprise.

Last night Rick and I watched Elf. I saw this movie in stores for a long time before we decided to buy it out of curiosity. I didn't think I'd like it, but I do. It has some really funny parts. The part from the picture above cracks me up when he tries to give the raccoon a hug. What's interesting to me is that Buddy's father plays the part of a children's book editor. I love how this movie ends. I won't give away the ending, in case you haven't seen it. However, if you like writing children's books, you'll appreciate the ending. Another one of my favorite movies isn't a Christmas movie, but does feature a fairly large Christmas scene towards the end. That would be Funny Farm with Chevy Chase. Andy Farmer, played by Chase, leaves his big job in the city to move to the country to write a book. If you haven't seen this, you really should. It's hilarious and has so many classic lines. I think I'm going to watch it tonight. This is one movie I never get tired of. Here's a clip ...

Friday, December 11, 2009

Nuts ...

Or shall I say ... nutcrackers? Like my nativities, I never spend much on nutcrackers. I've only been collecting them since 2002. I know there are a lot of great expensive nutcrackers, but I'm not into those right now. For the time being, the cheapies from Target will do. This year we got the Hawaiian one, in celebration of Nichelle living in Maui for 3 months. I don't know why, but the boys love these things. They call them yah-yahs, because that's the sound the boys make every time they make the nutcrackers' mouths open and close. So, I guess my biggest Christmas collections are nativities and nutcrackers. How about you -- do you collect anything specific?

Thanks to everyone who kept me in their thoughts and prayers. I went for the MRA today and that went well. I didn't need the injection, so I was glad about that. It's amazing how noisy those machines are. I've never been claustrophobic before, but I can see how frightening it would be for someone who was. Every time I opened my eyes, I felt a little weird, so I tried to keep them shut. I can't imagine what claustrophobics must go through. They told me the radiologist would read the results and send them to my doctor within 24 hours. Since it's Friday though, I'm not expecting to hear anything until next week sometime. Nothing like going in for something so major, only to have to wait so long! My BP was 159/85 just awhile ago, so it's a little lower, but still on the high side. I'll let you know when I hear my results and thanks again for thinking of me.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What a week ...

For those who follow me on Facebook, you'll know I've been whining all week about my blood pressure being high, feeling winded, and having headaches. I found out about my BP at a dentist appointment on Monday. It was something like 157/103 and the assistant was a little concerned. I blew it off thinking it might be because I hadn't eaten all day and had only drank some coffee. However, I continued to monitor it at home for another day and I was still getting those high numbers, even getting out of bed.

I went to my doctor yesterday to have it checked and it was still high. She put me on some meds to try to get it down. One concern is that I have a very small brain aneurysm that was discovered in 2004. It was found through an MRA at USC back when I was trying to figure out what was causing my headaches. Turns out the aneurysm wasn't related to the headaches. It was also very small, so it wasn't a huge concern. However, I was supposed to get it checked every 3 years or so. I was due for that in 2007, but never had it done because we had moved. But now with the HBP and my family history of stroke/heart attack, I need to have it checked again. I go in for an MRA tomorrow morning. Let's just hope the stupid thing hasn't gotten any bigger.

So, what does the above nativity have to do with this? I saw it at the drug store when I went to pick up my meds yesterday. I don't go into this store all that often, but every year at Christmas since moving here, I've found a cool nativity. None of them are all that fancy, and usually under $10, like this one was. It's about 6-inches tall and lights up. This picture was taken without a flash, so you can see how there is a little light at the top. I collect nativities and have over 60 of them, not including ornaments and such. With so many to set up each year, I'm really starting to appreciate the one-piece sets like this. So anyway, I figured if I was going to get medication for high blood pressure, then I was going to get this too. Hopefully, Rick won't read my blog today and say, "Huh?" I don't think he's seen it yet ...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Rudolph, the red-nosed ...

Candy Cane ... had a very shiny ... pom pom?

Okay, so we all know I'm not exactly politically correct. This is a super easy craft for kids. My boys like super easy crafts. The other day Nathan attempted to cut out and sew together a shirt for his GI Joe. I kept saying, "Nathan, sewing is hard. There's a lot more to it than stitching fabric together." He worked on it for about 15 minutes and finally said, "You're right, it is hard." So, when it comes to crafts with boys, I've found the easier, the better!

We've seen Candy Cane Reindeer in most of our craft books and online, so they're nothing new. This particular one was featured in a Bible Christmas curriculum we're doing this month. It features the symbols of Christmas and talked about candy canes yesterday. So, we made the little reindeer pictured here. It's not the best picture, but you get the idea. The boys had gone to bed, so I had to hold them up while I took the picture. It's super simple though, so this is something little kids can do.

All you need is a candy cane, a pipe cleaner, 2 googly eyes, small pom-pom, and a ribbon. We added bells on ours, but you don't have to. We also used Tacky glue, but you can use a hot glue gun if you want faster results. As you can see, the boys and I made each of ours different. We used different sized noses, eyes, and even did our antlers in different ways. Whatever you want to do works for this one. It's a really simple craft and kids love this one. The best part is that you can rip it apart after Christmas, eat the candy cane, and recycle the craft materials for next year!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Mud, Pigs and Lemurs ... oh my!

The wonderful and talented illustrator, Nikki Shoemaker is offering her first picture book at a 25% discount from December 7th through December 18th. What's Wrong With Mud? is a delightful book that any child will love. We got this book awhile back and my boys love it. I had it set up in the classroom for a few weeks, but the boys took it into their room and have it proudly displayed on their dresser. Not only do they love the book, but they love the fact that it's by the same lady who is illustrating my Critter Series books. If you email Nikki @ she will be happy to autograph a copy of What's Wrong With Mud? for you.

Nikki has a few other specials going on right now. If you pre-order Lemur Troops & Critter Groups, she will send you a signed bookplate. This is my book too, so I'm obviously really excited about this. It should be available soon and can be ordered through 4RV Publishing. Don't forget, 4RV is running a 15% discount through December 20th, so now is a great time to order. Also, if you post about the What's Wrong With Mud? discount and Lemur Troops pre-order on your Facebook page or blog, Nikki will enter you into a drawing to win a framed print of one of the Lemur Troops illustrations. I've seen Nikki's work and this is definitely worth entering! For more information on Nikki's specials, click here. Thanks and good luck!

Monday, December 7, 2009

That's so trashy!

As the famous saying goes -- one man's trash is another man's treasure ... The other day Rick and I were at the dump site dropping off some trash. As we were driving away, Rick mentioned a little sleigh sitting on the side of one of the trash bins. I said, "Huh?" Apparently, he had tried to point it out to me a few minutes earlier, but I didn't hear him because I was too busy being grossed out by a huge deer that had been gutted and tossed into one of the bins. Anyway, I made him back up to retrieve the little sleigh. It was in perfect condition, but just a little dirty because it had been used as a planter.

So anyway, here it is in this picture. I knew it would be perfect for my little stuffed reindeer that I got from Burger King back in the 1980s. The tricky part would be keeping GI Joe from stealing it. He tried, but I snagged it back. I tossed some elves in it last night, but I'd like to make some sort of sack for Santa's toys to put back there. And maybe add some snow underneath. Reins would be nice too. After all, whoever saw a reindeer without reins. Yep, the day has finally come. I've been in Montana a long time now. Long enough to start bringing home treasures from the dump -- sigh.

The picture below is probably pretty common. Most people have plastic bags accumulating in their house somewhere. One thing I've been doing with mine is using them as packing material. Last year I used bags to pack up all my Christmas decorations. They work just as good as newspaper and they don't leave your hands all messy from the ink. When I set up my decorations, I use the bags to pack up other stuff that I temporarily put away for the holidays. You can also use bags to fill in empty spots in packages you're planning on mailing out. Just something to think about ...

Sunday, December 6, 2009

To be or not to be ...

CROOKED ... that is the question! I was going through some old photos the other night. Both Nathan and Neil were born right about the time we switched from film cameras to digital. I found this one that Rick took of Neil in Grand Teton National Park in 2003. I remember Rick saying he was going to crop it so it wasn't lopsided like this, so I started to do that on PhotoShop. I did it several times and it just didn't look right. Well, it looked right in the sense that it was straight, but it looks better crooked. At least it does to me, but maybe that's because I'm used to seeing it like this. It's a weird shot because Neil looks straight, but the scenery is crooked. So anyway, I decided to leave it alone. It's one of my favorite pictures of Neil when he was little. He had this beautiful blond hair and I used to let it grow pretty long at times. He was such a cute little baby.

I stayed up until 1:30am working on my computer, so I'm sitting here sipping a cup of coffee and trying to wake up. I finally figured out what to give my in-laws for Christmas. I have a few small gifts for them, but I wanted to give them something else, so I decided to make them something. I'm not all that crafty, to be honest. I can do stuff with the kids, but when it comes to grown-up crafts, I'm not that talented. So, I decided to do what I was good at -- desktop publishing. Every year I make my kids a yearbook for school that is pretty much like a digital scrapbook. I decided to do something similar for our vacation this summer when we visited my in-laws in California. I'm organizing all the best pictures, cropping them, adding graphics and notes, and then I'll use my binding machine to turn it into a nice book for them. It's a lot of work, but this is my thing, I suppose. I love doing this stuff, and hopefully, they'll enjoy the keepsake. And the bonus is that I get one too!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Christmas Lights Week

All this week we've done Christmas Lights crafts in school. We have never done this before, so it was fun just because it was new. I posted the little lights we made out of wooden spoons here if you want to see them. Yesterday we made Christmas Light Plushies, which I found online. You should have seen the boys' faces light up when they saw my sewing machine. They've seen it before, but I don't have it out much, so their little imaginations went crazy. Neil said, "Mommy, the only thing I want from you for Christmas is a Santa suit for GI Joe!" Ummm, I can stitch two pieces of felt together and maybe a few other simple things, but I don't think I can deck GI Joe out in full holiday garb.

Regardless, the Plushies were a big hit and I couldn't believe how excited the boys were over something so simple. They wanted to make two each. We did one exactly like the instructions said, but for the others we took silver and gold metallic pipe cleaners and wrapped them tightly around the end to make the base. Then we glued on eyes and mouths. Super simple, but the boys thought they were the coolest things. During the week we also made the Lightbulb Reindeers pictured below. This is an old craft I've seen around for years. In fact, the girls made these when they were in private school back in the early 90s. We still have theirs on our tree. This is a really easy craft for little kids and it's pretty cheap to make. We found a 4-pack of bulbs at Walmart for a little over a dollar. All you do is add pipe cleaners for antlers, glue on some googly eyes, and a pom pom nose. If you want to be fancy, add a Christmas ribbon or maybe a small jingle bell. Fun stuff!

Friday, December 4, 2009

MIL of excess ...

Ugh -- can you believe this picture? This is what I found when I opened a package from my MIL yesterday. I've come to the conclusion that she's one of two things. One, she's evil, or two, she has a heart of gold. I think it's a little of both, to be honest. She found out this summer that I liked Big Cherry candy bars and couldn't find them in Montana. So, now she goes out of her way to find them for me. She doesn't just buy one or two, but a whole case! She does the same for Rick with Red Vines. He also made the mistake once of bringing up rice candy that his dad used to bring him home from Japan when he was in the Navy. Because of that one comment, she sends boxes to him all the time. And yes, that is 2 boxes of See's Candies in that bunch.

I suppose I shouldn't complain. She really goes out of her way to send us stuff. It's just funny because yesterday I decided to eat really well and cut back. Then the UPS man came and blew that all to hell. Big Cherry bars are evil. I can't have them in the house and not be thinking about them. It's like they haunt me. It's not over until they're gone. And sadly, no one likes them but me. So yeah, I have 24 of them to eat -- just shoot me now.

The good news is that she also enclosed a bunch of craft projects in the same box. My MIL is a teacher, but isn't working right now. Apparently, she had a bunch of Christmas crafts left over from school, so she sent them to us. Ironically, I was looking through my craft books yesterday trying to decide what to do next week. Then this box came -- problem solved! Most of these are snowmen, so we'll be having a Snowman Week for school. They look like Oriental Trading type crafts, so they should be pretty easy for the boys to put together. I thought it was funny how I went from searching my books for craft ideas, which sometimes takes me hours, to having a bunch of projects, complete with everything we need. Talk about good timing.

Anyway, I need to get busy with school stuff, which means I'll have to walk by Candyland again until I can put everything someplace. Those Big Cherry bars cannot stay out in the open like this. Things will get ugly! If you don't hear from me soon, that's because I've eaten them all and blown myself up ...

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Good Morning Moon ...

I got up at 7am to get a cup of coffee. It's still pitch-dark here at that time. However, on my way back to bed, I noticed the moon and I had to get my camera. I tried taking some pictures of it the other night using the tripod, but it was pretty high up. It looked like, well ... like a moon in the sky. I didn't get anything all that neat looking. By the time we see the moon at our house, it's really high up. However, it's on the other side of the house in the mornings and I got this picture. It's still not the best, but it's better than the ones I took the other night. I didn't bother with the tripod because it's too cold. It's 11 degrees outside and I was standing in my jammies with bare feet. My pants are silk-like and it's amazing how cold they get. I got this one shot though, so that was good enough. Back to bed to enjoy my coffee!

We got a light dusting of snow two nights ago. It wasn't much, maybe about a half inch, but it never warmed up for it to melt much. We're supposed to get more tomorrow night and possibly hit single digits soon. I hear WY was supposed to be down to 0 degrees, so we've been lucky we haven't seen those temps yet. Yesterday was absolutely gorgeous with the sun shining, even though it never got past the mid 30s. Technically, winter doesn't start until December 21st. I guess that's not the case for the northwestern states, but that's fine with me. I see so many people complaining about the cold, the snow, the rain, and so forth. But for me, I love it. I lived in California for 40+ years and we didn't have this kind of weather there. So, while everyone complains about the weather, I'm loving it because it's such a change from what I'm used to. So, whatever your weather is, have a great day!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Christmas Carol

Yesterday I started reading Dickens' A Christmas Carol to the boys during school. We're reading the Great Illustrated Classics book, so it's an adapted version and not the original from 1843. We have quite a few of these books and they're great introductions to classic stories. I'm sure the boys will enjoy listening to this one -- just as much as I enjoy reading it to them.

What's your favorite version of A Christmas Carol on film? If you want to see a list of them, click here. I haven't seen the older films in ages, so I've been wanting to pick one up sometime. Right now we only have Mickey's Christmas Carol and Muppets Christmas Carol on VHS. Maybe this Christmas I can buy one of the older films. I'd also like to see the newest movie starring Jim Carrey. Nichelle saw that recently and liked it, but said it was pretty dark like the book.

We've only read the first few chapters so far. However, it is hard to read them and not relate them to the Muppets. We watch Muppet Christmas Carol every year. It's one of those must-see films for us at Christmas. They did an amazing job with this one and Michael Caine is brilliant in it. We've had it on VHS for years, but it's one I'd like to replace with DVD sometime. I was just reading that they removed the 5-minute+ song, The Love Is Gone from the DVD. That alone, makes me want to buy it because we all hate that song. It's just way too long and we always fast forward through it. But anyway -- do you have a favorite film version?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Bright Idea ...

It's that time of year again -- time for Christmas crafts. We set up our tree on Sunday, and I swear, it has so many homemade ornaments on it that we can barely see the branches. Every since we've been homeschooling, we've spent the months of December making all sorts of crafts for Christmas. I've found that Nathan & Neil enjoy doing crafts just as much as Nichelle & Nicole did when they were their age. The only difference is their level of patience and it helps to keep the projects simple for the boys.

This year we're doing something we've never done before -- Christmas Lights Week. Yesterday we made little lights from wooden spoons. They were super easy, so it's a great project for little ones. All we did was cut the end off the spoon and then paint it. Once it was dry, we wrapped a pipe cleaner around the end and added a face. Nathan's is the only one showing here, but that's because he was the only one who brought his up and put it on the tree. I'll add Neil's and mine today. Neil used a black pipe cleaner and I used a silver one. The boys had fun making them. It seems the more simple the project, the more they enjoy it. I have 4 other projects scheduled for this week that relate to Christmas lights, so that should be fun.