Thursday, December 30, 2010

Grimm's Fairy Tales

Did you get any books for Christmas? I gave a lot of books as gifts this year. I like giving books as gifts because they're easy to wrap. One book I got from Rick was Grimm's Complete Fairy Tales from the Canterbury Classics series. Recently, I had borrowed a Grimm's book from my daughter, but it didn't have the entire collection in it. I was surprised there were so many -- over 200 stories, plus 10 children's legends. I love fairy tales, especially with their twisted endings that are so often so politically incorrect. I'm looking forward to reading the entire book as well as some of the lesser known stories. Before I started my current MG novel, I had been working on another story that featured many fairy tales. Perhaps after reading this book, I'll be inspired to start that up again.

What are you reading right now?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Dinner Date for Dilly -- cover

I am pleased to share with you the cover for A Dinner Date for Dilly. This will be the third book in the Dilly series. Lisa Oakman has done a wonderful job illustrating all three books. I love how she has him all snazzied up with his dress shirt and little bowtie. Is snazzied a word? If not, it should be because that's exactly how Dilly looks here. I've seen the illustrations for the third book and they're adorable.

However -- for now, the next big thing for Dilly is finding himself a friend. A New Friend for Dilly should be released by 4RV Publishing, LLC early in 2011. In A New Job for Dilly, he searched from A to Z to find the perfect job. In A New Friend for Dilly, he searches from A to Z for the perfect friend. There are 26 different animals featured in the book. Dilly is sure to find the perfect friend with that many choices. And then it only makes sense that once he has a friend, he has to go on a dinner date, right?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Today in Glacier ...

Rick and I just got home from Glacier NP a little while ago. We went up to do some snowshoeing. I'm not sure what was going on with me, but I was having a heck of a time. I was super hot in my coat and out of breath a lot. Maybe it's my high blood pressure meds or maybe it's because I'm still trying to get rid of that cold. Or maybe it was because I had already walked a mile and a half on my TreadClimber even before leaving the house -- doh! All I know was that I felt a lot better walking downhill than I did going up.

It was pretty and there weren't a ton of people up there, which is always nice. On our way to the park we saw about 8 bald eagles. That was pretty cool to see so many all at the same time. There must have been a deer carcass near the side of the road. I counted 5 in the sky and Rick said he saw about 3 more on the ground. I'm hoping we can go snowshoeing more this winter because we didn't seem to do it that much last year.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The day after ...

I hope everyone who celebrated had a nice Christmas. Our holiday was very nice. My living room is scattered with toys, chocolate kisses wrappers, furry mice, and bits of other unknown items. We spent the holiday at home with just our family. Christmas Eve we were working on a jigsaw puzzle and just kind of hanging out in the living room. Neil says, "It's nice to have the whole family together like this." I thought that was very sweet, especially coming from an eight-year-old. I mean, we're all home at the same time a lot, but it's not often we're just hanging out in the same room like that. It was cute of him to notice and speak up about it.

Santa brought me a box of goodies, which is pictured here. It was a sampler pack of all sorts of low-carb and low-sugar foods. These are foods I can't normally eat on my diet, more or less find them in the local stores. I was really excited about the instant cereal, but it was awful. Today, however, I had 5 huge pancakes with syrup. I've been on this low-carb diet since October 1st and I can't even remember the last time I ate pancakes. I was in heaven and loved every bite! They had a lot of egg in them and tasted more like French toast than pancakes, but that was okay. They were still yummy! And, after eating a big turkey dinner last night, I was happy to see I hadn't gained any weight. I did watch my carbs yesterday, which helped. I can't wait to try the muffins and the chocolate pudding -- marshmallows, too!

I had to laugh at Denny, though -- look what the little fatty did to the top of the box. He loves boxes, but he just smashed this one down flat. He's so funny. He got lots of new toys along with a tube that makes a crinkle noise. He loves it. He's already broken the pull-string off his little chipmunk toy and eaten the tail off one of his mousies. He's such a typical boy! We got up at 6:30am Christmas morning and found him right in the middle of the boys playing with these little electronic bug-things. I think they're called Hexbugs or something. He loves being in the middle of all the action.

Anyway, I hope everyone is having a nice holiday weekend.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Cup-O-Christmas Tea!

I'm normally a coffee drinker, but I've always loved tea, too. For me it's coffee in the morning and tea at night. Lately, I've been drinking a lot of tea. I'm trying to lose weight and I've found that some teas taste amazing with whipped cream. Most whipped cream is carb-free, so it's something I can have on my diet. Don't buy the low-fat or fat-free kind because that has more carbs to make up for the loss of flavor. A cup of tea with whipped cream is almost as good as a dessert -- at least it is to me.

My newest love is Stash's Pumpkin Spice tea. This is incredible with whipped cream. I swear, it takes exactly like pumpkin pie. We're having pumpkin pie for Christmas this year, but I'll probably skip it and have mine in a mug instead. I don't mind. I like being able to wear my old pants more than the taste of a piece of pie -- ha!

A few weeks ago I saw some Celestial Seasonings teas in holiday flavors. I think I saw teas in gingerbread, sugar cookies, and sugar plums. I know I saw an eggnog one, too, but don't know if that was the same brand. At the time, I thought they sounded a little creepy, but that was before I started adding whipped cream to my tea. Now I'm thinking I'd really like them. The calories are so high in the Starbucks holiday drinks, so this is a good alternative. I hope I can still find them. Am I brave enough to tackle a store on Christmas Eve?

How about you -- are you a tea drinker?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

To: Santa c/o North Pole

When you were a kid, did you ever send Santa a present? If so, what did you send? I remember sending Santa a gift one time, although I can't remember what year it was. I do remember what I sent, though. It was a Santa candle that I had bought at a local department store called TG&Y. Now, why I ever thought Santa would want a candle of himself is beyond me! It's the thought that counts, right?

This picture I found online and isn't the exact candle I sent, but it was kind of like it. I didn't even put it in a box. Instead, I wrapped it in brown paper, probably from a grocery bag. On the wrapping I wrote: To: Santa c/o North Pole. To be honest, I can't remember if I even put postage on it. I stuck it in the mailbox and the next day it was gone. I wonder if that would happen today if a child didn't put postage on something addressed to Santa. What do you think?

Monday, December 20, 2010

One year ago today ...

It was exactly one year ago today on December 20th that I took some pictures of Belle sitting in front of our Christmas tree. Sadly, we had to put her to sleep in March -- just one day after her 17th birthday. It's been a sad year without her. We talk about her a lot, especially how she hated everything. I just know she's in Kitty Heaven hating everyone and everything. That's what we loved about her. That and the little orange streak up her nose. This is one of my favorite pictures of her.

A few weeks ago I took the one below of Denny. Kind of ironic, don't you think? I think Belle and Denny would have gotten along well. She would have hated him just like she did everything else. I miss her.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Christmas Carol Birthday

One hundred and sixty-seven years ago today the 1843 novella, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens was published. I love this story -- in almost all shapes and forms. I've read the book to the boys and we have a variety of different film versions. According to Wikipedia, it only took Dickens six weeks to write the story. It is said that Dickens also refused a lump sum of money for the story and published it at his own expense. Despite disappointing profits, the book was considered a huge artist success from the very beginning.

My favorite movie is the 1957 version with Alastair Sim. Another is The Muppets' Christmas Carol. That's a must-see for us every Christmas. We also have one with Mickey Mouse and all the Disney characters, which is cute, too. The boys have All Dog's Christmas Carol, but I haven't watched that one. I'm thinking I might have the George C. Scott version as well, but I'm not sure. I know I've seen it. I need to go downstairs and see if we have the DVD. Then my MIL recently sent us the new animated version with Jim Carrey. I didn't know if I'd like that one, but I did. In fact, I liked it a lot. It's kind of scary for little ones, especially with some sudden jump-in-your-face moments, but it's still good.

To be 167 years old and still be a part of so many people's lives every single Christmas -- now that's a true classic!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Handmade Gifts

Do you make handmade gifts? I wish I were more crafty. I mean, I do stuff with the boys all the time, but that usually involves construction paper, google eyes, and glue sticks. I've been saying it for years, but I really wish I knew how to knit or crochet. My mom used to knit and I'd watch her for hours. She would let me pick out a yarn and then would knit me sweaters. As as kid, I would usually pick out some wild color like hot pink.

Rick brought home these dishtowels the other day. One of his co-worker's wife makes them and brings a bunch into the office for people. How sweet is that! The golden/olive one we got last year and then this year Rick brought home three of the burgundy/grapes ones, which match the colors in our house perfectly.

I wish I could do stuff like this. Maybe 2011 will be the year I decide to buy a book or a kit and teach myself how to knit. My little Mattel Knit Magic machine from the 70s is fun, but just doesn't quite cut it. I'd love to be able to make a gift like these towels that people would like to have and use.

How about you -- are you making any gifts this Christmas?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Follow that yonder star ...

Well, we made it! Today was our last day of school before Christmas vacation. I am really looking forward to some time out of the classroom. It's not that I don't love school -- I do. I'm just really ready for a few weeks off. Yesterday Nathan was reading his science book to me. It was all about mold, mildew, and fungi. Between that and his ratio/proportions math, I am more than ready for a break. I know the boys are ready, too.

We did our last Three Kings craft today. That's it in the picture. I had scheduled them to make ornaments, but when I went to look at the link I had saved, I realized I didn't have all of the materials we needed. So -- we compromised! We made this ornament with popsicle sticks, mini clothespins, yarn, and bits of stuff we found. The little crowns and gifts were made from balloon shaped confetti pieces. I tell you -- it pays to save stuff. Well, at least it does for me.

As much as I am looking forward to some time off to relax, I just realized I have to go grocery shopping tomorrow. Hahaha -- shopping on a Saturday before Christmas. Now there's a thought. I am sure that will be anything but relaxing! I hope you all have a great weekend!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

We Three Kings

All this week the boys are doing Three Kings crafts. I know Three Kings Day is in January, but since we do more crafts right before Christmas, now seemed like the time to do these. This particular project was in Kathy Ross' Crafts for Christmas book. I adore Kathy Ross' crafts! Her books don't usually show actual pictures of the crafts, but drawings instead. Even so, I've found her projects turn out exactly how they're illustrated. And, they're easy, too, which is always a big plus for my boys!

We made ours a little more fancy by adding the fringe at the bottom and the rope cord up top. Even though the instructions didn't have them, I debated about adding gifts at the bottom. Then I decided not to because it would be too cluttered. And of course, now that I look at it some more, I should have glued them on the opposite way and put a star up top. Isn't it funny how you think of these things AFTER you've glued everything down? But oh well ... we still had fun putting it together. And besides, if the star was behind them, they wouldn't be following it, right? I'll stick with that -- ha!

We three kings of Orient are,
Bearing gifts we traverse afar.
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

We Three Kings of ... ha ha ha ha!

Now I will say one thing -- these are the funniest looking Three Kings you might ever see. However, the boys and I had a blast making them today. I came up with the idea after we did Amanda's Paper Bag Scarecrows last month. I thought the bags would make fun heads for the Three Kings, tucking them into bodies made from recycled aluminum cans. The result ...

Three Silly Big-headed Kings!

I couldn't stop laughing at the one I made. It's in the center. Doesn't he look just like Saddam Hussein? Nathan's is on the left and his looks like King David. So much for our kings coming in from the East. At least Neil's guy on the right is happy! We sure made a mess out of the classroom, but we had fun, which is all that really matters.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

More recycled beads ...

The other day I got some wild hair to make paper beads out of recycled magazines. I didn't think they'd be addicting, but they are. Since I wear a lot of black & white clothes, I thought it would be fun to make one that went with that. I tore out pages with white backgrounds and black printing and used those for the beads. I found recipe and prescription pages were perfect because the fonts are all really tiny and there isn't much color. Then I strung the beads up with some mini black pony beads. The picture above is a close up of the strand I made. They kind of crack me up because they look like teeny cigarettes or joints.

Again, I made this necklace pretty long because I like to wear them different ways. Below is a goofy picture of me with the necklace on and as you can see I have it triple stranded. The only thing I don't like about it is that I strung it on elastic cord. I might redo it on something that's not as stretchy. My boys don't have the patience for this sort of craft, but it would make a fun project for a child to make as an inexpensive gift. Or even if an adult made the beads and let the child string them on however they like.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Gift Boxes

I may never buy a gift bag or box again. I saw these Gift Baxes in the December issue of Family Fun magazine and just had to make a couple. They're made from cereal boxes and are super easy to put together. I love the idea! The only problem is finding a place to store them so I can use them again next year. I've only made two so far, but might make a few more.

Even so, these would make great gift boxes for birthdays and other occasions, too. All you do is cut the tabs off an empty cereal box and wrap it up like you would a present, tucking the top ends down and securing them with tape. Poke a few holes, add some ribbon, and it's done! What a great idea for those odd-shaped presents that are hard to wrap.

I had to laugh at Family Fun's directions, though. It says this project requires 2-3 hours. Well, maybe if you're making 50 boxes. Otherwise, it only takes a few minutes. What a great way to recycle cereal boxes AND your favorite wrapping paper.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Paper Beads

I'm not sure what got into me yesterday, but I had this strange desire to make beads out of recycled magazines. It's not something the boys have the patience to do, so I thought I'd make some since they were both taking a sick day from school. I've seen this project in a lot of my craft books and online. I originally saw this link at Family Fun magazine and was going to try to make a simple bracelet. However, once I got started making the beads, it was kind of hard to stop. I made a bunch of them.

So, I decided to string all the beads onto some cord and make a long strand necklace. It's pretty long, actually, and can be worn as a double, triple, or even four-strand necklace. I separated the paper beads with tiny, clear pony beads. The boys think I'm some sort of genius and went, "Wow, cool! You should make those as gifts for people!" LOL -- they're so funny. I still like the bracelet, and since I have some beads left, I might make one of those as well. ETA -- made another long necklace with them!

Awhile back, Rick got a free subscription to Better Homes & Gardens magazine after buying one of their cookbooks. I saved all those magazines for school projects, since I never know when we might want to cut out pictures. Since that magazine is filled with pictures of gardens, flowers, and produce images, that's what I used. Most of my beads turned out to be either a green or pink shade, which I thought was a good combination. Anyway, I'm not sure how often I'll wear it, but it was fun to make and a good way to recycle some of those old magazines.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


I got THE BOX out of the closet last night. Actually, Rick got it out for me and had to use the dolly to get it upstairs because it was so heavy. This box has been in the very back of my storage closet since we first moved into this house. I packed it in October 2006 and it's never been opened. Well, not until last night!

There's nothing special in this box. It's just a bunch of old clothes that I couldn't fit into after my last two pregnancies. I couldn't bear to part with them, so I packed them all up inside this large moving box. Mind you, Nathan is 11 and Neil is 8, so we're talking a long time for some of these things. I hoped someday I could wear them again. I'm happy to say that someday is getting closer! I know most of the pants still won't fit, but I might be able to wear some of the tops or dresses now. I plan to find what I can fit into now and add them back to my closet. The rest will serve as a goal to work towards. I've lost 27 pounds so far. It's not nearly as impressive as the 40 pounds Rick has lost, but at least I'm going in the right direction.

I'm pretty tired today. The boys got us up at 3am with a stomach virus and fever, so Rick and I have both been up since then. Poor Nathan has been sick to his stomach all day, but Neil was only sick once. Both are still running fevers. So, I'm sitting here trying to force myself to get on my TreadClimber and walk for a bit before crashing for the night. I want to walk, but I'm just so tired. Then again, I have this crazy box sitting here making me feel guilty if I don't. It's amazing how intimidating a stupid box can be!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Santa Mouse

Santa Mouse is one of my favorite Christmas books as a child. It's hard to believe this book was first published in 1966. I was only a year old when it came out. I'm not sure when I got my first copy, but I remember it from a long time back. Since writing this blog initially, I've read the book again and there's a simplicity about it that makes it special along with the amazing illustrations. I was reading one review earlier where a reader said it was too politically correct because it showed girl mice drinking tea and boy mice playing cowboys & Indians. I had to laugh about that when I read it. I mean, really ... how could she tell if they were girl or boy mice? One of these days I'll have to get the sequel. My kids enjoy this story as much as I do.

Do you have a favorite Christmas book from your childhood that you've passed on to your kids or someone one?

Sunday, December 5, 2010


If you're on Facebook, you might see that a lot of people have changed their profile pictures to cartoon characters. The actual status I first saw said: Change your profile picture to a cartoon of your childhood. The goal? To bring attention to the horrors of child abuse by not seeing a human face on FB until December 6th. Join the fight against child abuse. Copy and paste this in your status and ask your friends to do the same. A lot of my friends have done this and I see hundreds of cartoon characters on my wall. However ...

I've been called a sheep. People have said I've succumbed to peer pressure. Not me directly, but I'm using myself as an example. I've seen many posts and discussions saying this can't possibly help child abuse. I've seen people say things like, "I don't need to change my picture for people to know how much I care about children." I've even seen people say they're worried about the mass copyright infringements. Good grief, what's wrong with these people? What is this hurting? It's simply for awareness. Does anyone know what that word even means? Awareness: having knowledge of, being aware of a difference, being diligent or watchful. If seeing everyone's profile pics makes one person more inclined to help a charity when asked, then it's made a difference. If it makes one person think twice about raising a hand to a child, then it's made a difference. All you have to do is Google this and articles from all over the world appear. Will it help child abuse victims? I don't know, but it certainly isn't hurting them.

I had a crappy childhood. I have very few happy memories. I changed my profile pic not only to do the awareness thing, but also for ME. Seeing all the cartoon characters from my past brings back one of the few happy memories I have. I grew up in the 70s and cartoons were an escape for me. They still are and I still watch them, especially the old ones. In addition to the profile pictures, people have been posting clips from favorite cartoons. It's brought back some good memories for me. And believe me, I don't have many. So call me a sheep if you want. Say I'm a follower and a sucker of peer pressure. I don't care. Child abuse makes me sick. Just seeing the vast number of people who feel the same gives me hope in this dismal world.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

It's Reindeer Week!

All this week we're doing reindeer crafts for school. Today we made the little photo frame ornaments pictured above. We decided to put our cats in them. Yesterday we did ones pictured below using clothespins. Nathan dunked his in brown paint, saying his reindeer eats too much chocolate. Neil is my lazy one and decided not to paint his. I realized too late that I glued my nose too high, but oh well. He can be Rudolph the Snob-Nosed Reindeer.

The ones below were made from stiff cardboard. Neil, for some unknown reason, decided to make his wearing glasses. He said it was a Harry Potter Reindeer -- sigh. Tomorrow we're going to attempt making them out of pipecleaners. Well, that is, if I remember to call Rick and ask him to bring home some brown ones. I have two shoeboxes filled with pipecleaners, but no brown. Go figure.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Bear

I have this picture in a frame downstairs in my family room. I took it a few years back at the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, MT. If you click on the link, you just might see this particular bear in some of the pictures. This is a really interesting place to see grizzlies and wolves right on the outskirts of Yellowstone National Park. The animals here cannot be released back into the wild and it's a great place to see them up close. We usually go to the center when we're visiting the park. There's an interactive area indoors, a really cool gift shop, and then you go outside to see the live animals. We usually stay at an RV park just down the road, so at night we can hear the wolves howling. West Yellowstone is a cool little town with lots of great shops and things to do.

But seriously, this picture creeps me out. As you know, I dream a lot about bears and I'm sure having this picture hanging up doesn't help. If you click on it, you can see it larger. Can you believe how small the eyes are on this grizzly? How can something so massive have such tiny eyes? Grizzly bears can reach up to 1000 pounds in some cases. With eyes this small, I guess it helps to have a 500-1000 pound body and 4-inch long claws!

Rick and I watched The Bear recently. I'd never seen it, but someone on Facebook mentioned it, so I got a copy from Netflix. It's definitely worth seeing. It's about a grizzly cub who becomes orphaned and is adopted by a male grizzly who has been injured by hunters. Apparently, this has happened before where a male has befriended a cub, but it's not common. Most of the time male grizzlies are the biggest threats to cubs. The story takes place in the 19th century and to be honest, it's not a feel-good movie. The bears are being stalked by the hunters and their dogs. The cub gets captured and tormented. And then there's a stupid scene where the male mates with a female while the cub has silly hallucinations from eating mushrooms. They could have totally left that out and made it a better film, not to mention more family friendly. We fast-forwarded through that, but the rest of the movie is awesome and the photography and scenery is spectacular. I enjoyed the special features on how they made it more than the film itself. Regardless, it has a happy ending, which was nice.

My newest middle grade novel features grizzly bears. When I was researching for my story, I listened to a lot of bear sounds online. I tell you, grizzly bears sound scary as hell! All the sounds in The Bear were made by actual animals and I had a few flashbacks listening to them. As much as I love seeing bears in the wild, even grizzlies, I hope I never hear those sounds up close.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Mark the Snowman

It's warmed up to 33 degrees today, so it's perfect weather for making a snowman. Rick and Neil just made this one above. Neil named him Mark. He's the brother of Rex, who was another snowman they made last year. I don't know how they keep track of all their names, but they do.

We got our tree set up last night, so now the house is scattered with clutter and boxes. Today we put up my nativities. I collect them, so it takes a few hours to put them all up. I line all my windows with them. Nichelle and the boys helped, so it went pretty quick today. We still have downstairs to decorate, but at least it's coming along. The ground is too frozen to put our little lighted trees on our walkway, so those might have to wait.

How are you spending your weekend?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Grateful ...

As some of you know, I've been on a low-carb/low-sugar diet since the first of October. I was happy to see that I didn't gain any weight after Thanksgiving dinner last night. In fact, I lost two-tenths of a pound. I know that's not much, but it's better than gaining. I was good though and stuck to my diet even on Thanksgiving. I substituted mashed cauliflower for mashed potatoes. Of course, I was the only one who ate the faux potatoes, but that's okay. I love them and now have leftovers for tonight. I skipped the stuffing, cranberry sauce, rolls, and pumpkin pie. That might sound sad, but believe me, I had a plateful of food and was plenty satisfied. The only thing I really missed were sweet potatoes. This is the first time in probably all my life that I didn't have them for Thanksgiving dinner. I'm the only one who likes them though, so it was pointless to make them this year. Maybe next year -- when I'm at my goal weight.

A couple of weeks ago I went through my closet. I've had a stack of jeans and pants sitting on the floor for nearly 2 years. Some of them I've never even worn. I must have bought a bunch of clothes when I was at this weight, but then I put more weight on. I was pleasantly surprised when I tried those pants on and I could get them ALL on! Some fit better than others, mind you, but I could at least get them all on. Today I'm wearing one of those pairs of jeans and I have to keep pulling them up. If I keep up with this program and continue to lose more weight, this stack of new pants will be too big. That's just a chance I'm willing to take -- ha! The other day I was doing school with the boys and we were talking about how much weight Rick has lost. So far, he's lost about 33 pounds. Neil looks at me and says, "You look like you've lost a lot of weight, too." That made me feel really good, considering it came from an eight-year-old boy. I can totally change the color of my hair and sometimes they don't notice for weeks. So, for him to notice I've lost weight made me feel good. I've lost 23 pounds, so it's not as much as Rick, but that's okay. He started off with more -- snort!

I know weight-loss is a pretty vain thing to be grateful for, but this is a big deal for me. After having four kids, losing weight has been really difficult. I got down past my high school weight after having the girls, but then I put it all back on after having the boys. It's just crept up and up since then. I'm on high blood pressure medicine, which I'm sure was from my weight. I hate taking the medicine because it makes me light-headed and dizzy quite often, especially if I stand up too fast. So, one of my goals is to get down to a healthier weight to get off this stupid medicine. Having a big stack of jeans I can fit into is a nice bonus, too!

I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday -- from our family, as well as GI Joe's family, to yours!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Pumpkins

Remember back in October when the boys did Pumpkin Week in school? One of their projects was to make paper mache pumpkins. We decided to make them plain pumpkins and not turn them into jack-o-lanterns. I thought it would be a nice addition to our Thanksgiving decorations. The boys agreed, which surprised me because they love making jack-o-lanterns. So anyway, here is a picture of the final project. We used old wine corks (yeah, I save everything!) for the stems and twisted a green pipe cleaner for the vine. I thought they turned out well and look great with our other decorations -- almost of which are crafts the kids have made.

Do you decorate for Thanksgiving? Our decorations are limited to the dining room and they're only up a short time. And like I said, most everything are crafts the kids have made. We have a few exceptions, like everyone's favorite -- the gravy bowl shaped like a turkey. It's pretty much an annual Thanksgiving tradition to make the turkey barf gravy at dinnertime. And yes, sound effects ARE included! Most everything else are crafts, which is how I like it. The decorations usually get put away the day after Thanksgiving. We seem to be setting up our Christmas stuff earlier, so I try to enjoy the Thanksgiving stuff while it's out. Yesterday the boys made turkey windsocks and today we're making turkeys from bells.

I could devote an entire post to all the things I'm thankful for and the many ways I've been blessed. However, Thanksgiving always makes me sad because of our troops overseas. I wish they were all home. When I think of all the men and women who will not be with their families this Thanksgiving, it really puts things into perspective for me. I have no room to whine about anything. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend, however you decide to spend it.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Crabby Pilgrims

Good grief ... how funny are these? We were finishing up school today and were trying to get through a craft project. The boys, for some reason, were really crabby and picking on each other. This is unlike them, so I figured they were tired and wanted to call it a day. So, in between bickering with each other, we managed to get these Finger Puppet Pilgrims created. When the time came for the faces, they both drew these hideous, crabby expressions. I started laughing hysterically, which seemed to lighten up their moods a bit.

Aren't they just the happiest couple you've ever seen? I'm definitely saving these. Most of our Thanksgiving decorations are kid's crafts. The Crabby Pilgrims will receive a place of honor with our other items -- a reminder of that crabby, Friday afternoon in November 2010.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Kidlit Critterpalooza!

For over a year now, CRITTER, the creation of artist Ian Sands, has been travelling the world, meeting talented writers and authors and exploring where they live. At each stop he learns more and more about KIDLIT and the importance of literacy and creativity. This journey was the brainchild of Christy Evers, who got her hands on Critter after an interactive art project of Ian’s, where 500 Critters were hidden all over her city for people to find.

Critter has visited PJ Hoover (and the Texas Sweethearts!) in Texas, Beth Revis in North Carolina, Christina Farley in Korea, New England with Nandini Bajpai, Illinois with Kelly Polark, MG Higgins in California, Rena Jones in Montana, Cynthia Leitich Smith in Texas, Bish Denham in the Virgin Islands, Jacqui Robbins in Michigan, Tina Ferraro in California, Cynthia Chapman Willis in New Jersey, Jill S. Alexander in Texas, Ellen Oh in Virginia and is now in Alberta, Canada with Angela Ackerman.

Critter has been to college, rock concerts, national landmarks, a palace, attended his first SCBWI conference, walked among giant redwoods, and met the world famous artist, Robert Bateman. Now that his journey is coming to a close, it’s CRITTER’S hope that you will help him celebrate over at The Bookshelf Muse. His new hosts, together with old hosts, have teamed up to create the Kidlit-inspired event, Critterpalooza! and you’re invited.

There are many AMAZING prizes to be won, all in the spirit of helping Critter celebrate the wonderful creativity & support within out KIDLIT community, and to also raise awareness for his charity, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

If you would like to donate a few dollars to Critter’s charity, just click on the button! Children’s lives are saved every day thanks to the support of people like you.
Link to “I love St Jude” donation button:
Link to donation form:

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Five years ago today ...

Rick and I flew into Helena, Montana to check out possible homes to buy. Helena is the capital of Montana and that was originally where we planned on relocating. We even had a bid on a home, but after an escrow on our house fell through, we lost it. It was a beautiful home. The front hallway had tiles on the floor with images of northwestern wildlife imprinted on them. We were really sad to lose it. We made two flights to Helena to look, but each time something went wrong with the sale of our house and we weren't able to purchase a home. We finally changed realtors and that helped things tremendously. However, it wasn't until September 2006 that we began looking seriously again. This time we looked further north in the Flathead Valley. That's how we settled upon our house in Bigfork.

We've only lived here 4 years, but I often wonder how our lives would be different if we had moved to Helena. One big issue was that Helena is the state capital and more job opportunities would have been available for Rick. It is also much closer to the Yellowstone and Grand Teton parks, so I'm sure we'd be spending more time at those places. However, Helena is a lot flatter and pretty windy. The weather is also milder, from what I've heard, and I like our dramatic seasons. Helena doesn't have the beautiful mountain ranges like the Flathead, such as the Mission Mountains and the Swan Range. I often forget how flat Montana is because I'm surrounded by beautiful mountains. It's another story as soon I drive somewhere and realize how much of Montana is prairie land. We're less than an hour from Glacier National Park, so we're able to experience the park at all times of the year, even in the winter when we've gone snowshoeing around Lake McDonald. To us, "a day in the park" means spending the day in a national park. This is still surreal to me, having come from California where the closest national park to us meant a 6-hour drive.

I was looking through some of the photographs we took on that trip to Helena in 2005. Some of the homes were amazing. I'm sure we would have been happy living in any of them. It just wasn't meant to be, I suppose. I also found this picture above of a painted bear. These bears were all over Helena, but I think this is the only one I got a picture of. This particular one looks like it was painted by children. I can't seem to find a link of them all, but each one was painted different. West Yellowstone, Montana had a similar thing with painted bison, but I believe they were supposed to be auctioned off. We saw some last time we were there, so maybe some were bought by local businesses. I've posted a few of those pictures before. I guess they call them buffalo now. Not sure when everyone changed back to that, but to me they'll always be bison. Cheyenne, Wyoming had giant, painted cowboy boots, though I am not sure if they're still up as well. I hope so. Anyway, it was strange to think that it was exactly 5 years ago today that we started this entire process of moving from California to Montana. It was a huge change for us -- a good change.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Crafts for Kids

I'm a sucker for kid's craft books. Seriously, it is like a disease with me. This picture is one of my shelves with craft books on it. I have others scattered around in various places. Today I was doing the boy's schedule for school next week. Normally, I can whip up the schedule in 15 minutes or so. After doing it so many years, it's not hard to get it done. The crafts, however, are what take up my time. I do themed weeks, especially this time of year with all of the holidays, and finding new crafts is the real time killer.

I find myself looking online and that makes me totally frustrated. A lot of times the directions don't make sense, or the projects are too hard or easy for the boys, or there are no pictures. What's up with that? Craft projects NEED pictures to go with them. Some of my books have drawings instead of pictures of the actual project. I hate that. I like photographs. It's a pain in the butt to have to go to the computer during our art time, find the link, and print out the directions. It wouldn't be bad if just the craft project printed, but that never happens. You get 3 pages of ads and blank papers with only a few words on it. It's a waste of paper and a waste of time. This is why I love real books that I can set in front of us while we're working.

I've often thought about making my own craft books using themes like we do for school. Then after awhile, I start thinking about the gazillion crafts featured online and I start telling myself there probably is no market for another kid's craft book. That just depresses me. But then later, I'll do the schedule and start that time consuming search online for new ideas and the frustration comes right back. If I like craft books then other people have to like them, right? I don't know. I don't know if there is a market still, and if so, how hard it is to get something like that published. However, I do have some ideas that I don't see in my books and online. Maybe someday ...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Paper Bag Scarecrows

Yesterday the boys made these Paper Bag Scarecrows, which I thought turned out really cute. I first saw them last year when Amanda posted them on her blog. Click here to see Crafts by Amanda. She has some great stuff! She's been working with Disney's Kaboose for quite awhile, coming up with great craft products for both kids and adults. She's also on Facebook. If cooking is more your thing, check out her other blog, Amanda's Cooking. She posts some fantastic recipes, too.

Back to the boy's scarecrows -- they had a lot of fun making these. The only thing we didn't have was two paint stir sticks. We only had one, so we used one of those stiff tubes from an empty roll of aluminum foil. It worked just as well, if not better. It also goes to show you that it pays to save and recycle your trash! Amanda's scarecrows featured a foam flower on the hat, and even though we have lots of foam pieces, the boys wanted to skip that. Instead, Nathan made a layered flower out of construction paper. Both boys wanted to stick a black crow feather into the hats for drama. It was a pretty easy craft for them and the end product turned out really cute. So, if you're kids have a long weekend for Veteran's Day, they might want to try this. If you don't have any wiggly eyes on hand, they can easily be drawn on or made with paper. Have fun!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Inspiration ...

This is a picture of my grandmother's Bible. It was given to her on Christmas by my parents and my brother in 1960. That makes it 50 years old. The copyright says 1942, so technically it's even older. I'm not sure how I got ahold of it, but I'm glad I did because I don't have anything else to remember my grandmother by, other than a couple of photos. She underlined a few Scriptures over the years, so it's interesting to read those and see what was important to her.

I have a whole shelf filled with Bibles. Some are basic Bibles in different versions like the KJV, NIV, etc. Others are speciality ones like the one I have geared towards moms, or the life application one, or the one where you can read the entire Bible in one year. I never set out to collect Bibles, but looking at my shelf you would think that's what I do. Even so, when I go to look something up, it's always my grandma's tattered, old Bible I turn to. It's odd because I can find things in this one way easier than some of the more detailed, fancy ones.

I was showing it to my boys today and they noticed the address label my grandmother had stuck in it. She used her husband's name on her labels, so it reads: Mrs. Lonnie E. Allen. I explained to the boys that my grandfather's name was Lonnie and my grandmother's name was Roberta. Then I said all my grandmother's friends called her Bobbi. Nathan's eyes lit up. "Hey! That's the name of the girl in your new story!" Bobbi Allen is the name of my main character in my newest middle grade novel, ENCROACHED.

Yep ... you just never know who or what might inspire you.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Got Crows?

The boys are doing Scarecrow Week for school right now. We made these little guys yesterday. It was nothing fancy -- just a craft stick for the body, a popsicle stick for the arms, a little wooden shape for the head, and then some scraps of felt, buttons, and straw. I didn't have any straw or raffia, so I shredded up some cornhusks. Neil, being the cat lover he is, couldn't resist the leopard print felt when he saw it. Nathan, of course, had to make some fancy 3-D hat. Mine is just the dorky one in the middle. I don't always make crafts with them because I usually like to read to the boys while they're working on theirs, but I made one yesterday. Today we're making scarecrows out of paper towel tubes. Speaking of scarecrows ...

Did you know the first recorded scarecrows came from Egypt? They were built of wood along the Nile River. Farmers would place nets on the wooden frames and then would scare the quail into the net, which they then brought home to eat.

Early Japanese scarecrows were often set on fire. Farmers would hang old rags, meat, or fish bones on bamboo and light it on fire. The stench kept the birds away from the rice fields.

During the Middle Ages, farmers often placed animal skulls on top of poles to keep birds away from their crops. They believed scarecrows had special powers and would protect their crops from diseases.

In Medieval Britain, children were used as human scarecrows. They were called bird scarers and patrolled the fields with a bag of stones to throw at the birds. After the plague, farmers couldn't find enough bird scarers, so they stuffed sacks with straw and carved faces in gourds to make scarecrows that stood up on poles.

Native American Indians also used bird scarers, but they were often adult men. They would sit on a raised wooden platform and would shout or howl if birds or animals came near their crops. Seneca Indians would soak their corn seeds in a poisonous herb mixture that made the crows fly around crazy, scaring away all the other birds.

Farmers still use scarecrows today. In India and some other nations, they still use humans as bird scarers. Many farmers use contraptions like whirligigs that spin around the air like windmills. Some farmers use a shiny ribbon that shimmers in the sun. Others use automatic noise guns to scare away the birds.

How about you -- have you ever made a scarecrow?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Happy Birthday, Nathan!

Today is my son's 11th birthday. We're doing a simple party at home tonight after his sisters get off work. Nothing fancy, but he'll have fun. I talk about my kids a lot, especially my boys, but today I thought I'd tell you some specific things about Nathan ...

Nathan is an avid bird enthusiast. He has two bookshelves filled with bird books. They aren't books for kids, but field guides, books about individual species, books on birds from all over the world, even coffee table books. Nathan's been known to throw members of the Audubon Society off with a question. He once asked one of the members what the little dangly thing was called on top of a California quail's head. She didn't know. We later found out it's simply called a topknot or plume. Another time he was on one of the rides at Disney's Animal Kingdom. All the people were looking at the elephants and other big mammals when Nathan excitedly points out, "That's a Victoria Crowned Pigeon! It's the biggest pigeon in the world." Rick ended up asking one of the bird experts in the aviary and he said the same thing. Amazing. He also collects those stuffed Audubon birds that make realistic sounds. His collection is huge.

Nathan loves to write stories. I've posted a few of these on my blog before. He comes up with some really good plot ideas, too. I'm always encouraging him to write them down while he still remembers them. He literally has stacks of spiral binders filled with stories, illustrations, and other ideas. His new interest is Word though, so now I find him typing away on the computer. He likes formatting his stories and leaving blank spaces so he can come back and illustrate them.

One of Nathan's favorite things to eat are Little Debbie Cosmic Brownies. Seriously, we can't keep them in the house. I wish I could buy them in bulk at Costco. He has been a pretty picky eater up until recently. Lately, he's been trying new foods, like shrimp and halibut. Considering how many brownies he puts away, I still have hope for him.

Nathan is a Lego fanatic and can put even the largest sets together in record time. He sits at the table with the instruction book and doesn't stop until he's done. Some of his favorite Legos are from Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and soon ... Harry Potter. He's getting some of those today for his birthday -- shhhh! Other toys he likes are Hot Wheels, G.I. Joe, Go-Gos Crazy Bones, and remote control cars. He's also really into video games -- both PC and PlayStation. Hell, I can't even figure out how to turn the TV on!

Nathan isn't very athletic, but that's more my fault for not getting him into stuff. He's taken swimming lessons and loves riding his bike, but he's never really been into group sports. He and Neil are just getting into golf. We bought them some used golf clubs and Rick has dug holes in our lawn (sigh) for them to putt around with. He's expressed an interest in taking lessons, so maybe that's something he can do in the spring. He also loves hiking, kayaking (he's getting pretty good at paddling now), camping, sledding, and snowshoeing. He can play a mean game of air hockey, too.

Nathan seems to have an uncanny ability to save money. He has more than me, anyway. He says he's saving for a car. Unlike Neil, who spends it as fast as he gets it, Nathan puts his away. Yesterday he received a birthday card from his aunt & uncle with $25 cash in it. Neil's been spending his money left and right, so Nathan wanted to give some of it to him. Being the mean mom I am, I made him keep it himself. In addition to saving his money, he's also generous. Whatever he decides to buy, I know he'll share it with Neil.

Nathan is pretty smart and I don't think this has much to do with my homeschooling abilities. The other day he was working on his history lesson and one of the questions was to locate a certain capital in one of Canada's providences. We had the globes out and were searching for it, but we couldn't find it. He gets up and goes to the computer and the next thing I know, he's found it on Google Earth. HA! And there I sat like a dummy, squinting my eyes, still trying to locate it on the dumb globe. He never ceases to amaze me.

So, all in all ... he's a pretty cool kid! Happy Birthday, Nathan!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Got water? No problem ...

I love my little waterproof camera. Rick and the kids gave it to me a few years ago for Mother's Day. It's not a fancy one, but it's fun to take out in the kayaks and not have to worry about it too much. It's a little, blue Olympus Stylus 1050 SW. I'm not sure if they even make it anymore.

Rick took these pictures of the boys swimming last month when they went to California to visit. I can't remember which pool this was, but I'm kind of thinking it might be at California Adventure. I've taken a few underwater pictures before and it's a weird feeling to submerge a camera. It doesn't feel right, but that's what this one is designed for.

I finally got around to uploading all the pictures Rick took from the trip last month. If you want to see some more, check out my Facebook page. I've also posted a couple of videos there. One is of Rick and Nathan going down the big flume at Splash Mountain. Because the camera is waterproof, he could keep it out for the big splash at the bottom. It's a fun little camera to have on hand for that sort of thing.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Whoooooo me?

Here are some corny, but cute owls the boys and I made yesterday. We're doing Owl Week for our crafts in school right now. These were pretty simple, as you can see. It's amazing what you can make with pinecones. The best part for me is they're FREE! We have them all over here. One year we were studying snowy owls and we stuffed cotton in the pinecones. Today we're making owls out of foam. Considering I have a big shoebox filled with foam pieces, I'll be glad to put some of it to use.

Great horned owls are my favorite owls -- do you have a favorite?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Nathan's Book

Almost two weeks ago I blogged about a book I found at a thrift store called How To Create Picture Books. It's an old workbook for children to learn how to write and create picture books. Click here if you want to read my original post on it. Anyway, to my surprise, both Nathan and Neil have been reading this book quite often. The other day Nathan came up to me with a book he had made and said he followed the directions in the workbook. He came up with the title, story, made a cover, even printed up his text. Then he cut everything out and arranged it into a book. His little book is called If Men Were Mermaids. He never ceases to amaze me!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Treasures ...

As some of you know, I love picture books, especially older ones. You also might know that I like to scrounge through thrift stores and yard sales for books. Seriously, how can anyone pass up a book for a dime? That's how much softcovers cost at our local Salvation Army. Hardcovers are a quarter. Every now and then I come across a real treasure ... at least to me.

These 3 books are such treasures. I found It Was A Short Summer, Charlie Brown and He's Your Dog, Charlie Brown at the Salvation Army for a quarter each. You're In Love, Charlie Brown I found at a yard sale before we moved. Of course, they're pretty ragged and tattered, but I don't mind. All are hardcover and were printed between 1968-1970. I had all 3 of these books when I was a kid, but they were lost over the years. Because of that, I don't mind that these have ragged corners, are stained, have slight tears, and so forth. It's a thrill for me to find a 40-42 year old treasure like this.

How about you -- find any treasures lately?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

I hope everyone has a safe, fun-filled Halloween. We're taking the boys trick-or-treating tonight, so they're pretty excited. Neil's already walking around with his candy bucket in hand. Both boys are dressing up as skeletons this year. This is the first time they've picked slightly scary costumes. They're really excited.

This picture is of our pumpkins. Nichelle did Voldemort, Neil did a werewolf, and Nathan did a scary face. Nicole started to carve out Harry Potter, but the pattern was so elaborate that her pumpkin broke in a vital place. She made a simple Harry instead. I think they turned out really good. Of course, last night we had to light the candles and turn off all the lights so we could all say, "Oooooh!" at the same time. That's a tradition at our house. Afterwards, we all watched Hocus Pocus, which is another Halloween tradition. Have a great Halloween!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Frightful's Mountain

Tomorrow the boys and I will start reading Jean Craighead George's book, Frightful's Mountain. We've read the first two books already, which are My Side of the Mountain and On The Far Side of the Mountain. After the boys enjoyed those two so much, I knew I'd have to get the third book. I didn't realize, however, that Frightful's Mountain was written a good 40 years after the first book. Jean wrote it only after being asked by a young girl what happened to Sam Gribley's peregrine falcon, Frightful. At the end of the second book, Sam has set his falcon free. I was just reading about the last book and saw that it's written entirely from Frightful's point of view. Knowing how much my boys love birds, I'm sure they'll enjoy this.

The picture above is of a peregrine falcon just like Frightful. I took this picture when we were at the San Diego Wild Animal Park in California last year. The bird was tethered and some man was standing around talking about it. When he asked the crowd if they knew what type of bird it was several adults yelled out things like, "It's a hawk" and other stuff. Nathan was kind of in the back and said, "It's a peregrine falcon". The man didn't hear him, but everyone around us did. Smart kid really knows his birds! They're beautiful creatures. We saw some peregrines nesting on the cliffs when we went to Point Reyes National Seashore in 2006. They make an incredible sound and are so fascinating to watch.

Yesterday we finished The Indian in the Cupboard. Nathan and Neil really liked that. All their little plastic cowboys and Indians have enjoyed being played with for the first time in awhile. Last night we got the movie from Netflix and we enjoyed that. Every time I open a cupboard though, I'm surprised to find little plastic cowboys & Indians inside. That would be Neil's doing. When he gets into something -- he really gets into something!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Crafts for Special Needs Kids

I have a friend with a daughter in the second grade who is both blind and autistic. She goes to art class with the general ed kids, but they are having a hard time coming up with projects for her. She only gets to spend about 15 minutes out of the 40-minute class. I'm not really familiar with projects for children with special needs, but I spent some time thinking about what I thought she might enjoy using her other senses -- touch, smell, sound, and taste. I came up with the following projects ...

Clay or Play-Dough
In addition to molding and sculpting, she could press things into the clay. Small items like coins, buttons, paper clips, a comb, barrettes, sticks, even little figurines. She could either remove the items and feel the indentations, or leave them in. Play-Dough has a smell that you remember forever.

There are a lot of bread dough recipes online. She could roll and twist the dough, kneed it, and shape it. After it's baked, she can eat her project. The same would work for certain cookie recipes.

One project is to tape a piece of construction paper onto the bottom of a metal baking pan. Then have the child dip a marble in paint and drop it in the pan. She can gently roll the pan back and forth, causing the marble to paint on the paper. Do it again with another color to make a great picture. It's also fun to hear the sounds of the marbles rolling around in the pan. My boys did this on black paper for Halloween one year using white paint. When it was dry, we cut the paper in a web shape and glued on a plastic spider.

Tempra paints have a great feel to them, too, especially when used on large sheets of newsprint with a big, soft paintbrush. Just stroking the paper with the brush is soothing, as is the smell of tempra paints. The smell always takes me back to when I was little.

Tubes of puffy paint are fun, especially to squeeze and drizzle on paper. When it dries, she could feel the lumps in the paint.

I also thought of a paper plate painting craft my boys have done, which might be fun for someone without sight. You take a non-coated paper plate (like a Chinet) and squeeze a few drops of food coloring onto it. Then you stand out in the rain (only for few seconds) and let the raindrops hit it. The colors swirl and expand. This wouldn't be as tactile for her, but she might enjoy hearing the description of what happened to each of the drops and if they turned into any interesting shapes.

I've suggested some of these projects to my friend and she's going to pass them along to her daughter's school. I wanted to post about it here, just in case anyone has any other ideas that might be fun for her. Thanks!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Blue Pumpkin, Orange Sky

We're doing Pumpkin Week for school right now. It's nothing fancy. We're just doing a few pumpkin related crafts at the end of our school day. Yesterday we did this one called Blue Pumpkin, Orange Sky. I found it in an old craft book my MIL sent me recently. It's supposed to be an optical illusion thing. What you do is stare at the blue pumpkin for about a minute and then close your eyes. When your eyes are shut you see an orange pumpkin on a blue sky. It's pretty interesting. I'm not sure if it would work for you on the computer screen, but you can try it. Today we're making paper mache pumpkins. Wish me luck! I haven't done paper mache in years, so hopefully it will go okay and we won't make too big of a mess.

In other news -- today is our 4th anniversary of living in this house. We moved to Montana in 2006 and it was on October 26th that we spent our first night here. It's hard to believe we've been in Montana 4 years already. Time flies when you're having fun ...

Monday, October 25, 2010

15 years ...


It's hard to believe it has been 15 years since I had to put my beloved cat, CJ to sleep. He was in the final stages of renal failure back in 1995. I had him 14 years. When he was about 6 months old, he was hit by a car and was given a grave prognosis. I opted for surgery although we weren't sure was going to be successful. His femur was broken in three places, his hip was fractured, and he had a pretty bad concussion. After a long battle, we got him healthy again. Those following 13.5 years with him were worth way more than the cost of the surgery. I still miss him terribly.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Pumpkin Patch

One of our favorite things about Halloween has always been a family trip to the local pumpkin patch. When we lived in California, there was a huge one along Highway 101 in Ventura. We went there every year. We'd put the kids inside a wheelbarrow and roll them around the area looking for those perfect pumpkins. Sometimes we'd go on the hayride that went around the farm. It was pretty fun.

It's hard to believe, but there is only ONE pumpkin patch for the entire area I live in now. It's a really cool place because it has all sorts of things for kids to do -- trikes to ride, hoppity-hops to bounce on, a train ride, farm animals to pet, and so forth. It's a great place. It's also run by a family of homeschoolers and the kids take part of running the patch to learn about various things. The only drawback is that you have to pay a fee to get in. It's not much, but for a family of 4-6 people, that can add up. And, that doesn't include the cost of the pumpkins. The one year we did go, we got there too late and there were literally no good pumpkins left. We ended up buying ours at a local produce shop instead.

Times are hard right now and we couldn't afford to do that this year, so we didn't make it to the pumpkin patch. We did get four great looking pumpkins for $3.88 each at Walmart, but it's just not the same as going to a patch and searching for one. There's not too much I miss about California, but I guess I can add that big, open pumpkin patch to my list. It's just so bizarre that for this entire valley, there's only one patch. Of course, you can buy pumpkins everywhere, so it's not like there is a lack of them. It's just not the same, if you know what I mean. Perhaps in the spring, we can try to plant our own pumpkin patch. That would be fun!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

How To Create Picture Books

On our way home from shopping today, we decided to stop at the local Salvation Army. The boys needed a few more golf balls to put around with on the lawn. As usual, I headed straight for the books and I got some cool ones -- a book about Iroquois Indians, one about bats, a cat book for Neil, an Arch book to add to my collection, along with a hardcover Charlie Brown book. I have a few of those, so I guess I'm now collecting them.

Another book I bought was called How To Create Picture Books by Mike Artell. It came out in 1994 and was published by Monday Morning Books, Inc. It is actually in a workbook form and is tagged as a step-by-step guide for young authors and illustrators. It's for kids ages 7 and up. It's a guide to teach kids everything they should know about writing a book. Some of the things that are covered include ...

Getting ideas
Sure-fire plots
Picture outlines
Beginning with a bang
Improving the story
Eye-catching devices
Planning layouts
Drawing creatively
Drawing from life
Varying point of view
Using borders
Handling color
Creating a great cover
Lettering with pizzazz
Binding the pages

Basically, it's a book designed to guide kids from starting with an idea and turning it all the way into a bound book. I have only skimmed through it, but it looks pretty cool. It also talks a little about picture books in general, gives information about authors, and checklists for ideas, writing, art, and so forth. My boys are really into writing, especially Nathan and I've already found him reading it earlier. I looked on Amazon and see it is out of print, but there are quite a few used ones you can buy from sellers. I paid a dime for mine. Not too bad, huh?