Sunday, February 28, 2010

Have an idea? Forget it!

Have you ever written to a company to tell them how much you like or dislike their product, or even to make a suggestion? With the Internet, this has never been so easy. Before you had to actually write the letter on paper, address the envelope, pay for a stamp, and mail it. Now things like this are available to us at the click of a finger.

A few years ago I wrote to Kellogg's. My family, especially Rick and the boys, all love Pop Tarts. However, they only like a handful of flavors. I don't care for them much, but every once and awhile I'll crave a chocolate one. Anyway, since we buy so many of the darn things, I thought I'd email the company with a flavor suggestion. I thought good flavors would be orange creme (like a Creamsicle) and lemon. Rather than email me back and say thanks for your suggestion, they sent me a snotty reply saying they had professionals who made these decisions. They even went as far as saying they don't accept suggestions from customers. I was like -- WTF? No response would have been nicer than that. All I was saying was that my family enjoys their product and I listed a few flavors I would like. Then I get that kind of reply back? So, I got ticked off and boycotted their product for awhile, which didn't last long because my kids really like them. It really just rubbed me the wrong way, you know?

Since that snotty email to me, I've kept my eye on what flavors these so-called professionals have come up with. A few have been Banana Split, Blueberry Muffin, Chocolate-Vanilla, Strawberry Milkshake, Vanilla Milkshake, and their newest -- Grape. Grape? Gross! And tell me, why come out with Blueberry Muffin when they already have a blueberry flavor? Do yourself a favor and eat a blueberry muffin instead. It's much better for you. So, as you can see, they left me feeling kind of bitter. It's not like I was forcing them to make the flavors I suggested and I certainly wasn't going to sue them if they did, wanting to be reimbursed. Who knows. Maybe that's why they don't take suggestions. But their response to me was so rude, when all they could have said was, "Thanks for your suggestion; we'll keep it in mind." How hard would that have been? I was reminded of this whole thing they other day when I saw the new grape flavored Pop Tarts at the store. That sounds about as gross as Strawberry Milkshake Pop Tarts. No thanks -- I'd rather make a real strawberry shake with fresh berries.

Have you ever written to a company with compliments and/or suggestions? If so, did you get a good reply? Everytime I think about this, I get mad. I would have rather not gotten anything from them, rather than be put down and told that professionals know what they're doing more than the customers who buy their stupid product. What a bunch of idiots.

Saturday, February 27, 2010


I love this picture of Neil. Right before we moved from California, we spent one last weekend camping at Gaviota State Beach. It was a lot of fun. Rick, the boys, and Nicole all fished off the pier. Nicole even caught a small perch! I got some great pictures from this trip, but this is one of my favorites. The wave rolled in and just whooshed his feet up into the air!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Got Lemurs?

I took this picture last summer when I was down in California and visited the San Diego Zoo. It's a little fuzzy because it's cropped hard, but I love the expression on this lemur's face. At the time, my picture book Lemur Troops & Critter Groups wasn't out yet, but I could have stood and watched these animals all day. Not only are they cute, but they're fun to watch.

Although my book has the word lemur in the title, it's not just about lemurs. There are 21 different animal groups featured. However, Nikki Shoemaker's illustrations on the lemur page is probably one of my favorites. In the book, which features rhymes of animal congregations, all the lemurs have broken femurs. Nikki drew them with casts on their legs and one is scratching it with a straightened out coat hanger. The expression on his face is priceless! Here are some facts about lemurs ...
  • Lemurs are native to the islands of Madagascar and Comoros
  • Their name comes from the Latin word ghost
  • There are 5 families of lemurs and over 30 species
  • An extinct lemur weighed as much as 400 pounds
  • On average, lemurs weigh from an ounce to 15 pounds
  • Lemurs are arboreal, meaning they live in trees
  • Only the ring-tailed lemur spends more time on the ground
  • Most lemurs are diurnal, awake in day and asleep at night
  • Lemurs have nails, not claws, as well as opposable thumbs
  • Females are dominant and one usually leads the group
  • Lemurs eat fruit, leaves, edible plants, and insects
  • Unlike monkeys, lemurs cannot hang from their tails
  • Lemurs have a good sense of smell and vision
  • Lemurs do not make good pets -- they spray to mark territory
  • Most lemurs are on the endangered or threatened list

So, there you have it. Probably way more than you ever wanted to know about lemurs. However, if you want to see some super cute ones, check out my book because Nikki has done such an incredible job drawing them!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Happy 101 Award

Jonathon gave me the Happy 101 award on his blog, Jon's Life way back on February 1st. Like the slug I am, I missed it. I truly apologize for that. As I said, I've been a slacker with blogs lately, but I really hope to catch up soon. It's amazing how writing one story can get you so wrapped up that you neglect everything else. For this award, I'm supposed to list 10 things that make me happy and then pass it along to 10 people. However, I like Jonathon's idea of passing it along to one individual, so I'm going to be a copy-cat and do that. Thank you so much for picking me, Jonathon, and especially for all the nice things you said in your post!

Ten Things That Make Rena Happy ...
  1. Coffee first thing in the morning
  2. Kittens
  3. Having all my music at my fingertips (aka iPod)
  4. Long, spur-of-the-moment road trips
  5. Seeing bears in the wild
  6. Spending the day on a secluded beach at the lake
  7. Huckleberry taffy
  8. Watching the snow fall
  9. Playing Elvis slots in Vegas (winning = more happy)
  10. Classic movies, including cheesy ones with singing & dancing

The blogger I'm nominating is -- Susan Casamento. Her blog, The Question of the Day is always a fun one to visit because it features just what it says, which is a new question of the day. I always look forward to seeing what questions she comes up with. In addition, she's a fellow Californian, so she keeps me up to date on what's happening there. Check her blog out!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Six Lies & One Truth

The Six Lies --

I broke my arm falling off a balance beam -- false.
Although I took gymnastics for years and fell off the balance beam many times, I never broke my arm. In fact, the only bone I've ever broken was my collar bone and that was when I was screwing off at the table and flipped off my chair while eating dinner.

I was born two months premature -- false.
I'm pretty sure I was born at the regular time. My husband was actually born three months premature. He had the Rh Factor going on with his mom, had a full blood transfusion, and even had last rights given at birth. As for my birth, it was pretty uneventful.

I fell out of a car when I was six -- false.
I have never fallen out of a car, but my sister has. She was leaning on a car door when it opened and she tumbled onto the road. This was back in the 1970s when seatbelts weren't used as much. I believe she still has some tiny rocks embedded in her knee under the skin.

I rode in an elevator with Elvis Presley -- false.
I could only wish I had. I did, however, see Elvis get out of his helicopter on the lawns of the International Hilton hotel. No one else was around me at the time and when I told my family I had seen him, none of them believed me.

I have met all of the members of The Who -- false.
The only member of The Who I haven't met was Keith Moon. He died in 1978, which was just about the time I was really getting into the band. However, unlike Elvis, I DID ride in an elevator with Pete Townshend, John Entwistle, and Kenney Jones. I later met Roger Daltrey at his home in England (twice, actually).

I put ketchup on my scrambled eggs -- false.
I come from a family of ketchup freaks. We're one of those households that has to have a back-up ketchup in the cupboard at all times. I like ketchup, but only on French fries, hot dogs, and burgers, which I don't eat often.

The One Truth --

I got my driver's license when I was 23 -- true.
I came from a single parent home and my mom worked all the time. So, when all my friends were getting their licenses at 16, I didn't rush to it because I had nothing to drive. Plus, I met Rick around the same time and he drove me wherever I needed to go. I finally got my license after we bought a brand new turbo-engined Mercury Cougar. You can say I was lazy, or, you can say I just wanted to wait and do it in style.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sing! Play! Create!

I found this book at our local drug store, of all places, recently. Sing! Play! Create! was on sale for $6.99 and being a freak for kid's craft books, I couldn't pass it up. Even though it says it's for kids ages 3-7 years, there are a lot of projects in it that my boys will love doing. Most of the crafts use simple things like paper plates or bags, so you don't need anything fancy.

My boys are a little old for the rhymes and finger plays and such, but the crafts are still fun for them. There's a lot of puppets and the boys love making those. The book features crafts, poems, songs, finger plays, even children's book suggestions to go along with the themes. It's broken up into themes of the pond, the garden, the zoo, and the farm. Anyway, your mouth would probably fall open if you saw how many kid's craft books I have. After homeschooling 12+ years, it's easy to see how my collection has grown. If you have little ones, and especially if you homeschool or teach, this is a good one to have.

And for those of you who tried to guess my "six lies and one truth" in the post below, thank you for playing along. I'll post the answer probably in another day or so.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Creative Writer Blogger Award

Yesterday I received the Creative Writer Blogger Award from both Vivian Zabel and Katie L. Carroll. Thanks, ladies. Here are the rules ...

1. Thank the person who gave you the award and link them.
2. Add the award to your blog.
3. Tell six outrageous lies about yourself and one truth.
4. Nominate six creative liars ... I mean, writers and link them.
5. Let your nominees know they've been nominated.

I'm really not good at lying, to be honest, but I'll give it a shot ...

  1. I broke my arm falling off a balance beam.
  2. I was born two months premature.
  3. I fell out of a car when I was six.
  4. I rode in an elevator with Elvis Presley.
  5. I got my driver's license when I was 23.
  6. I have met all of the members of The Who.
  7. I put ketchup on my scrambled eggs.
So, now it's your turn to take a guess -- which is the one truth? And here are the six creative liar/writers I'm nominating ...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

GNP today ...

Rick & I went up to Glacier NP this afternoon. The road isn't open very far, so we could only go up to the lodge at Lake McDonald. However, there wasn't a cloud in the sky and it was absolutely beautiful. It was cold -- probably in the 20s, but beautiful!

And a note to Kelly -- I took Cotton Candy with us and got some pictures of her standing in front of Lake McDonald and the Glacier NP sign. She even got to go through the carwash in our Jeep, so she had a fun day!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Love Your Pet Day

February 20th is Love Your Pet Day. It's a day set aside to pamper your pets and spend extra time with them. I'm not sure where this unofficial holiday originated, but that's okay. I've always been a big pet lover. I got my first cat as a birthday present when I was 5 years old. Her name was Missy. Since then, I don't think there's been a time in my life that I've been without a pet. We currently have two cats -- Belle & Kitty. Both of our cats are featured in my newest picture book, Lemur Troops & Critter Groups, illustrated by Nikki Shoemaker. They're the kitty cops, with Nikki's cat, Allie.

Belle is getting up there in age and will turn 17 next month. Up until just recently, she's always seemed like a kitten that never grew up. However, just this past week or so, she seems to be slowing down. We're not sure if she's sick or if her age is catching up to her. It's sad to see her getting skinny and acting a little off, but I have to remember how old she is. CJ was old at 14, and Belle is nearly 17, so I try to keep that in mind. Right now she's sitting next to me in my laundry basket. She's been in there most of the week and I don't have the heart to put the clothes away. Poor little old lady. She's the cat in the picture above.

Kitty is my girl's cat. She was pretty much a feral cat when we first discovered her at our house in California. She was skin and bones. The girls tried to approach her, but she'd always run away. They started leaving food out for her and eventually she began trusting them. Right before we planned our move to Montana, the girls started keeping her inside so she'd get used to that. Now of course, she's an indoor-only housecat. She took the move really well and has no interest in going outside anymore. I tried to fatten her up when the girls were gone because all she did was hang out with me. Now that Nichelle is back, Kitty is back in her room where she belongs. She's kind of skittish, but has a funny personality. She's pictured below.

So, if you have a pet -- Happy Love Your Pet Day!

Friday, February 19, 2010

I'm so dizzy ...

As some of you know, I found out I had high blood pressure recently. My doctor put me on Lisinopril, but it wasn't doing much to lower it. Now I'm on a higher dose as well as taking something for hypothyroidism. I thought I'd feel better by now, but I don't. I get really winded walking up the stairs. And when I stand up fast, I get really dizzy. I've told my doctor (two of them, actually) about this and they both said the same thing. They said, "Try to stand up a little slower." Ummm, really? Now logically, it makes sense. Realistically, who thinks of that when they stand up? I know I don't.

And since I don't have anything better to blog about today, I just thought I would whine about being dizzy. Not sure if I should try some other meds, or just keep going with this and see if it goes away on by itself. However, I'm reminded of a song by Tommy Roe called Dizzy. I have this song on my iPod, but I don't think I've ever watched a video. Check this one out. If those balloons don't make you dizzy, nothing will. It's not the best sound quality, but you get the general idea anyway ...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Critters of the Sea

Remember that picture book I mentioned yesterday? Well, I spent most of the afternoon working on the first draft. It's a short one, less than 250 words. I have another one similar that's out as an exclusive submission. I've submitted the first one before, but a long time ago. Anyway, I thought it would be fun do do another, so I did that yesterday. It's about sea animals and in the process of my brief research, I found some pretty interesting stuff. Here are some things that stood out ...

Octopuses have 3 hearts. They're also highly intelligent and can distinguish shapes and patterns. They don't live very long, averaging 6 months to 5 years. The males die a few months after mating and the females die after their eggs are hatched.

The average seahorse has 100-200 babies, but some larger ones can have up to 1500. Less than 5 out of every 1000 survive to become adults. And as most know, the males carry their young in their pouch, not the females.

Both male and female walruses have tusks and they can be over 3 feet long. Besides, their tusks, they have few other teeth. Walruses have no external ears and the whiskers on their face is called vibrissae. They have 400-700 vibrissae that can reach up to 12 inches in length. Walruses only have 2 predators -- the orca and polar bear.

Sea otters are able to live their entire lives without ever leaving the water. They have the most dense fur of any animal. There are nearly a million strands of hair for every square inch on their body. They are also one of the few mammals to use tools, such as rocks, to open shellfish.

A few other interesting ones -- Electric eels are not true eels, but fish. King crabs are not true crabs. A clam has no head or eyes, but has a heart, kidneys, and a mouth. Jellyfish and starfish don't have brains. I guess that's why they made Patrick so dumb on SpongeBob.

Anyway, some of these things were pretty interesting, so I thought I'd share. You might have heard them all before. At least the first draft of my book is done, so that's one good thing. Now maybe I can get the first book published and this could follow it. I can hope anyway!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Never enough time ...

I'm sure everyone feels like this picture (from at some point. I'm not nursing any babies at the moment and I gave up ironing and walking beagles a long time ago. But I still feel like I have a ton of things I need to do, verses all the stuff I want to do. Do you ever feel pulled in all directions?

I have the rest of the school day to get through today, but I also want to start working on a synopsis for my MG story. I kind of have a small blurb going, so at least I'm working on that. I also have two manuscripts out on submission -- ones that I wrote a long time ago. Then I have six photographs submitted to a local magazine. I'm still trying to get on the cover so I can get $100. That would be nice.

And if that's not enough, I have a crazy idea for two more picture books! They both follow along with one I have submitted out right now. I know it's crazy to come up with a series before the first one has been accepted, but it's one of my favorites. I was told by an editor about a year ago that it was really good, but didn't fit in their book line at the time. So, we'll see ...

Then there's more school stuff I need to do, house cleaning, laundry, and all that fun stuff. I have two baskets of clean clothes that need to be folded, but my silly cat has decided it's her home now. The baskets are stacked on each other and Belle is sleeping in the top one all the time. She's getting pretty old, so I don't have the heart to kick her out and put the clothes away. How sad that I can be manipulated by a cat so easily. Most people in the work force take coffee breaks and here I am taking a whining break. I guess I better shut myself up and get back to work now.

So -- what's been keeping you extra busy lately?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The nose knows!

I took this picture years ago in Grand Teton National Park. If you ever want to see moose, Teton is the park to visit. They're all over the place. This picture cracks me up because it really shows how long their noses are. Moose are the funniest looking creatures. We've seen moose at our house, but not too often. Here are some fun facts about moose ...

Moose is both singular and plural.
Moose are herbivores and eat over 9,000 calories a day.
Males lose their antlers to conserve energy in the winter.
Antlers take 3-5 months to develop fully.
Males can weigh up to 1600 pounds.
Moose are the second largest animal in America.
They can run up to 35 mph.
Males are called bulls and females are cows.
Enemies include bears, wolves, and man.
The flap under their chin is called a dewlap or bell.

Grand Teton always reminds me of moose because that's where we see them most often. When I think of the word moose, I also think of Moosehead, my favorite beer from Canada. However, I always think of Bullwinkle when I think about moose too. I used to watch Rocky & Bullwinkle all the time ...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Elvis has left Bigfork ...

Yesterday was our 22nd wedding anniversary. Rick & I dated for 7 years before we got married, so we've actually been together 29 years altogether. Wow -- 29 years. Anyway, last night we celebrated by seeing an Elvis impersonator. I live in Bigfork and it's a really small town in NW Montana. Not much happens here in the winter. In fact, many of the stores in town close up for the season. So, having a concert on Valentine's night was a big deal. The show sold out so fast that they added a 2pm show. We went to the 8pm show and there wasn't an empty seat in the entire playhouse.

Now I'm really skeptical when it comes to Elvis impersonators. I've seen a few before and have never been too impressed. I know that's because I've seen the real Elvis in concert. It's hard to see a fake, if you know what I mean. And a lot of times, impersonators make fun of the performer, over-exaggerating things. However, Ryan Pelton wasn't like that. He was good. If you've ever seen that music video of Celine Dion and Elvis, you've seen Ryan. He has an incredible side profile that looks just like Elvis. He has Elvis' songs, moves, and sense of humor down really well. I was impressed.

Unlike other impersonators, Ryan covered way more of Elvis' career. He came out as a 50s Elvis with a pink sports coat and black trousers. Then he changed into his Army uniform and sang some of songs from GI Blues. Later he came out in just swim trucks and a Hawaiian shirt and did some songs from Blue Hawaii. After that it was the black leather from the '68 Comeback Special, followed by of course, the white jumpsuit from the 70s. And of course, he tossed out stuff during the show. During the Army segment, he tossed out a few tee shirts and some teddy bears. At one point, he had this toy gun that shot teddy bears way out into the crowd. During the Hawaii segment it was leis. And during the 70s segment it was scarves.

Of all the concerts I've seen, no one comes anywhere close to Elvis. I've also seen how people act at concerts, especially women. The excitement at his shows is indescribable. I've never seen anything like it. But for whatever reason -- even an impersonator can bring out something strange in people. At one point, Ryan jumped offstage and walked around the theater greeting the audience. People rushed from their seats and stood in the aisles to shake his hand. Others wanted hugs and kisses when he gave them leis and scarves. It was the weirdest thing. I guess for some people, Elvis has become so incredibly huge that even an impersonator can bring out a thrill for them. I think I said "Hi Ryan" when he walked by and shook my hand. Not that I wasn't impressed with his talent -- it just felt different for me.

A single lady sat down next to Rick and she must have been in her 20s. Before the show started she turned to us and said, "I got to see him last night. Want to see?" Then she whipped out her cell and showed us a bunch of pictures she had taken. I don't think it was at a show. I think she just saw him in town. However, she went on and on about him and said how she thought he was even better looking than the real Elvis. Umm, no he's not. Ryan is a handsome man, but when you look at him face on, you can see the difference. I didn't argue with the lady though and just smiled a lot.

The people amazed me though. A few little girls came up to stage and that sent a rush of emotion to me, thinking how I was the same age when I saw the real Elvis. If only I knew then what I know now! But what cracked me up were the women who came up and nearly pushed the girls aside to get a scarf or some other item that probably cost the crew 15 cents from Oriental Trading. Amazing! There was one particular lady dressed in sparkly gold lame. She had already won the raffle prize of a signed poster, but she came up to the stage and made sure she got a lei before a little girl could get one. After Ryan was about to leave the stage at the end, she was there again. There were 2 scarves still on the table on the stage and the gold lame lady snagged one. Another lady did the same seconds later. I don't know. Maybe they're huge Elvis fans and a cheap scarf is as close as they'll ever get. Or, maybe they're big fans of Ryan. I just think it's funny how an impersonator can bring out that much of a star-struck feeling in some people.

Regardless, Ryan puts on a good show. He's going to be in Polson this Thursday, which is only a half hour from here. Plus, he's all over this part of Montana all this week. I think later in the tour he heads up to Canada. It was funny hearing him joke about Bigfork. He travels in a tour bus and if you've even been to Bigfork, you know how tiny the little village is. He joked how it took them 5 hours to get from Polson to Bigfork because they passed it 5 times. That was funny because it's totally possible to miss the village if you're not paying attention. I took a little video and have one of those up on my Facebook page, along with more pictures. But anyway, even though I'm very skeptical of Elvis impersonators, Ryan Pelton IS worth seeing. His show is fun and he has a great band. But the best thing for me was how respectful he was of Elvis. I think Elvis would be honored by Ryan's performance. If you get a chance to see him, I recommend it -- fun show!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The End

I suppose these could be two words many writers look forward to writing the most. I got to write them last night when I finished a middle grade novel I've been working on. I started it January 29th, so that was about two weeks ago. I've worked on it off and on and according to the document info, I've revised it eight times. Of course, it's still a rough draft and I'm sure it will see many more revisions. For the most part, it's done.

I've only written one other MG story, which is still unpublished. That one is short at 11,070-words and geared towards kids who are starting to get into chapter books. The one I finished last night ended at 30,430-words. That's 17,000 more words than I originally set my goal on. I'm inexperienced at writing novels, but one thing is for sure, there's a feeling you get when you finish one. It's a funny feeling of accomplishment or a sense of closure. It's hard to explain. I felt it with my first MG too. I don't feel it when I write picture books, even though they end the same way as any other story.

Just like every writer, I have a few concerns. One is the use of brand names. I searched on Verla Kay's message board and the impression I got was to go ahead and use the names and let the publisher decide. Another concern is the time period the story takes place. It's one of those things where I don't know if it would be considered too outdated for today's readers, or more on a more positive note, fun for them to revisit history. I'm not trying to knock the story down before it even gets a chance, but they are still concerns.

Now comes the hard part -- the synopsis and blurb. I did a synopsis for my first novel without much struggle. The blurb is harder for me. The synopsis basically tells what the book is about from start to finish. The blurb just gives a short summary, using only a few sentences. That's the part I struggle with the most, even with picture books. I'm at that point now because if someone were to ask me what the story was about, I'd stutter and stammer trying to explain it. I need a blurb! However, I do have a title finally and ironically, it's nothing close to what I originally had in mind. The title is going to be -- Bananas Don't Dance. Anyway, the majority of the story is finished, even though I still have lots of work to do. Regardless, it's a good feeling when you write those two little words at the end.

Happy Valentine's Day, also. Today is our 22nd wedding anniversary. Rick and I were married in 1988. Later tonight we're going into our little town of Bigfork to the playhouse and watch an Elvis impersonator. His name is Ryan Pelton and you can visit his website here. It should be a fun way to spend our anniversary. I've seen the real Elvis in concert though, so I'm always way too skeptical when it comes to watching impersonators. I'll probably post about his show tomorrow and let you know what I think. I hope you all have a wonderful Valentine's Day!

Saturday, February 13, 2010


One of my biggest pet peeves is finding a product I really like, only to have it discontinued soon after. Why do companies do that? Logic says it has to do with sales. But on my end, when I go to the store and the item I want is often sold out, that tells me people are buying the product. For whatever reason, some companies think they always have to reinvent the wheel and make something new & improved. It makes me crazy. Even Dominoes changed their pizza recently to make it better. It's one of the few pizzas my boys even like and then they go messing with it. Are they stupid?

I love make-up. I've been wearing it since I was in my early teens. But when it comes to make-up, I won't spend a lot of money on something I wash down the sink every night. You will never find me in a department store near a plastic-faced lady in a white trench coat trying to con me into buying an entire skincare regime. Nope, that won't happen. You will find me in Target or Walmart or even the grocery store looking at CoverGirl products.

A few years ago Christie Brinkley made her big CoverGirl comeback introducing the Advanced Radiance Age-Defying line. Now I'm 45, so I wasn't opposed to trying something with a name like that. As it turned out, I loved the compact foundation. A few months ago I saw it on clearance, so I knew they were going to discontinue it. I bought extras even though I wasn't out. And sure enough, now it's gone for good. I looked online hoping to find it, but didn't. Then I checked the CoverGirl website and they had the gall to say, "If you wore Advanced Radiance Age-Defying compact foundation, you'll just love our Simply Ageless foundation." WTH? I mean, what was wrong with trying to defy age? Now they think it's better to be ageless? And if that's not insulting enough, they also had the nerve to put "find replacements for those dearly-discontinued products" on their site. If they were so flipping DEAR, why did they replace them?

So recently, I've bought two other foundations and hate them both. They don't give the coverage I got from the one I used before. I saw the Simply Ageless foundation at the store the other day and it was over $15. So, is that how companies work? They discontinue a product they know people like only to replace it with something that costs over twice as much? Who knows. Maybe I'll like the new one. But then again, maybe I'll never know since it costs so much and I'm too cheap to pay that much.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Crazy hair ...

I took this picture of Nathan last night when he came up after his bath. Both he and Neil are in desperate need of hair cuts right now. It's been a few months since their last one and I've had to trim their bangs a few times just to see their eyes. I really need to get them up this weekend. However, when Nathan came up last night, he looked so darn cute that I wanted to take his picture. I can't put my finger on it, but he reminds me of someone when his hair is like this. I'm thinking it's an old actor, but I just can't figure out who. I thought maybe Warren Beatty from his old Shampoo days, but after looking at pics online I'm not sure if that's it.

Anyway, I thought he looked cute last night, even with his smiley face Halloween PJs. I noticed his first button undone -- heartthrob-in-training?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Happy Birthday, Neil!

Today is Neil's 8th birthday. He's the youngest of my four kids. He's been so excited about his birthday coming up. My birthday was Monday and we had a DQ ice cream cake. It was so funny because when Rick got the cake out, Neil ran to the kitchen saying, "Okay, now we need forty-five candles!" What made it so cute was how serious he was. Then after I blew out my five candles (HA!), he asked to have one so he could practice for his birthday. I love how birthdays are such a big deal to kids -- almost like Christmas.

Of course, we have to get through school today and then wait for Rick to get off work before we can have his party. We're just doing a family thing at home tonight, minus Nicole, who is away at college. Even so, he'll have a good time. We're doing a G-Force theme for his party, so he's really excited about that because he's all into that movie right now. Plus, he's getting some really cool gifts, so it will be worth the wait for him. But now, we have to get through the rest of the day without too much anticipation -- yeahrightsure.

Happy 8th Birthday, Neil!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Got shoes?

Just out of curiosity -- what are your favorite types of shoes? I have some friends who are really into shoes. I mean, they live for shoes. As for me, I've always hated shoes. It's not that I don't like wearing shoes. It's just that I had problem feet as a kid with really painful bunions. Shoes and I didn't get along. When Birkenstocks came out, I didn't necessarily like how they looked, but they were probably the best thing I could have done for my feet. Dr. Scholl's sandals became all the rage when I was either in junior high or high school. Those were supposed to be good for your feet too. However, in order for them to stay on when you walked, you had to grip your toes a certain way. With my messed up feet, that was hard. I remember buying a pair of imported clogs when I was in junior high. Those were popular too. I loved them, but man, they hurt my stupid feet so bad! Since then, I've had surgery on both feet, so it's not as bad as it used to be. But still -- shoes aren't my thing. Shoe shopping with me is not a fun experience.

However ... boots are another story. I love boots and wear them year round. It doesn't matter what type they are -- cowboy, hiking, snow, whatever. I know people who hate UGGs with a passion, but they're still very popular where I live. And when you have trouble feet like mine, they're a blessing. This time of year I wear snow boots more than anything. It's too snowy or muddy for much else, and the snow boots keep you from slipping. It cracks me up to see women trying to tiptoe through slushy parking lots in high heels. I understand people have to dress professionally for work, but it's still not worth taking the chance of slipping. You'd think they'd wear sturdy shoes until they got to their office. But no, I see them prancing around in the muck, and then getting upset that their shoes are messed up. I'm one of those moms who sees a puddle in the parking lot, and providing the kids and I have proper footwear, I drag them over so we can stomp in it.

I remember a time when I was little and my family went up to the snow one day. We lived in the Ojai Valley and when it was cold enough, there would be snow in the local mountains. My mom didn't pay much attention to helping me get ready, so I did the best I could. I found a pair of my rubber rainboots. Remember the kind you slipped on that fastened with the elastic around a little button? That's all I had. It didn't snow in Ojai, so it wasn't like we were stocked up with snow gear as kids. I put those on and we went up to the mountains. I didn't even have socks. After a few minutes of running around in the snow (very exciting to a kid who rarely saw it), my boot got stuck in a snow drift. I started screaming because I couldn't get it out. When my mom pulled on me, my boot stayed put, but my foot came right out. There I was, barefoot in the snow. I spent the rest of the trip sitting in the car with the heater blasting on my feet. Not exactly a fun snow day for me.

So, in the winter I wear snow boots pretty much non-stop. In the spring and summer, it's either flip-flops, tennis shoes, hiking boots, or my water shoes that I wear in the kayak. I have some high heels, but I don't wear them hardly. I do have a lot of UGGs and some UGG-like boots that I wear when the ground isn't too mucky. But my biggest love are cowboy boots. I have a bunch of those. The ones pictured above are my favorites. However, mine are starting to look a little grubby now after so much wear. I love these because the blue matches denim so well. Elvis might have sang about Blue Suede Shoes, but you'd probably find me wearing my Blue Suede Boots. I have green ones just like these (though the decoration is different), if that tells you how obsessed I am. They're made by Justin. I also love Ariats. I love pointy toe ones, which are probably the worst for my feet.

So, how about you -- what's your favorite type of shoe?

Monday, February 8, 2010

On this day in history ...

  • Mary, the Queen of Scots, was executed in 1587.
  • Richard Johnson became the first Vice President in 1837.
  • The Boy Scouts of America began in 1910.
  • The Stars and Stripes was first published in 1918.
  • Lana Turner was born in 1921.
  • Nevada was the first state to use the gas chamber in 1924.
  • James Dean was born in 1931.
  • Composer John Williams was born in 1932.
  • Elizabeth II became Queen in 1952.
  • Rena Jones was born in 1965.
Of course, many other things happened on February 8th, but these stood out for me. How about you? What happened on the day you were born?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Happy Birthday, Laura!

Today is Laura Ingalls Wilder's birthday. She was born in Wisconsin in the year 1867. So technically, today marks her 143rd birthday. I don't know about you, but as a child, I felt a very strong connection to Laura Ingalls. I loved her book series and I never missed the television show. It didn't help that Melissa Gilbert, who played Laura on the show, looked exactly like me. It's almost freaky when I see pictures because we could have passed as twins, all the way down to the freckles and braids.

There is a lot of controversy as to who actually wrote the Little House book series. Some say Laura did, others say her daughter did. At this point, it doesn't matter to me. The books are classics and I think every child should read them, especially American children so they can learn what life was like for the pioneers. My girls loved the books and have read them over and over. My boys haven't read them yet, and even though they're traditionally looked upon as books for girls, I know my boys would like them too.

Ironically, it's said that the first drafts of the Little House books were initially turned down by an agent because they lacked drama. I don't know about that -- there's a lot of drama in them between the animals, the Indians, the fear of freezing to death, and so forth. Because of those things, that's why I believe these stories appeal to boys just as they do to girls. One of these days I'm going to get myself over to Laura Ingalls Wilder's home in Missouri.

Laura said the reason she wrote her books was to preserve the stories of her childhood for the children of today to help them understand how much America had changed during her lifetime. Just think about how much it changed during her lifetime alone. Now think about how much things have changed since the 1800s. Today's kids look like they have cell phones surgically attached to their hands, with earbuds and iPods dangling elsewhere on their bodies. I'm always taken back when I remember in one of Laura's books how she got her very own tin cup for Christmas. Yes, a tin cup! She was so happy because she no longer had to share cups with her sister. Kids today have so much. Many have no idea what it would be like to have to do without even the simplest things -- like their own cup.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Puppy Bowl VI

Yes, folks, it's that time of year again! It's time to get out the milkbones and chewtoys! Puppy Bowl VI airs tomorrow afternoon on Animal Planet. And, if you happen to miss it -- don't worry because they replay it all day long. I watched this for the first time last year and it's really cute. Maybe a little slow at times, but it's cute, all the same. The first showing is 3pm.

The featured puppies are from animal shelters and they make a point to encourage viewers to adopt from local shelters. They play football in a little stadium and just like the big guys, they often get put in time-out (usually for piddling on the floor) and suffer penalties. Last year there was a tail-gate party just outside of the stadium, with puppy fans cheering their teams on. Of course, I'm a little partial to the half-time show where the kitties come out and play for awhile. This year the show will also feature bouncy rabbit cheerleaders and a hamster crew taking aerial shots from a blimp.

I'm cheering for Tator Tot, the beagle. Hey, I'm telling you -- YOU DON'T WANT TO MISS THIS! These are the most adorable puppies you will ever see. They make the ladies of the Lingerie Bowl look like a bunch of old dogs!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Sweet Mother of Abraham!

It's 1am and I have a terrible headache and can't sleep. I got up to check my email and figured I'd try to think of something to blog about. In my search, I found that today is Nancy Lincoln's birthday. She was born in 1784 in Virginia. You just might know her from her oh-somewhat-slightly famous son -- Abraham Lincoln. Maybe it's the headache or maybe I'm just weird, but here are some interesting facts about Nancy Lincoln ...

  • Nancy's maiden name was Hanks.
  • As a child, her mother took her on the famous Wilderness Road.
  • Nancy was skilled in needlework and sewing.
  • She had 3 children -- Sarah, Abraham, and Thomas.
  • Nancy died of "milk sickness" in 1818.
  • Nancy was only 34 when she died, Abraham was 9.
  • Abraham helped carve the pegs for his mother's coffin.
  • No authentic photos of Nancy Lincoln are known to exist.
  • Tom Hanks is a distant relative of Nancy Lincoln.
Another thing I found interesting is that in the movie Toy Story 2 when Jessie first meets Woody she yells out, "Sweet mother of Abraham Lincoln!" Very cool. I'll have to pay attention to that the next time I watch it.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Pinkie Bird!

The month of February is National Bird Feeding Month. Most of you know how much I love feeding the birds and squirrels. We've even been visited by bears, deer, and raccoons, who all seem to enjoy sunflower seeds just as much as the birds and squirrels. However, it's been a quiet winter here. The squirrels and deer are out everyday, but I haven't seen as many birds. I see them all over -- just not at my feeders, which seems odd. The most common ones I've seen at the house lately have been woodpeckers. I took this picture a few years ago. It's a dark-eyed junco, also known as pinkie birds by my boys because they have little pink beaks. Cute little birds. They're usually around in the winter, but again, I haven't seen any at my house this year. If you click on the link above, you'll read how and why National Bird Feeding Month came into place through an act of Congress.

I've been feeding birds for years. It's funny though, because at my old house in California, I could buy any kind of birdseed and the birds would eat it like there was no tomorrow. Here in Montana I've found the only seed the birds will eat are black-oiled sunflower seeds. I've heard it might be due to their beaks and the oiled seeds are easier to open. I don't know about that though because we had a lot of tiny birds in California who would eat anything. And, I see regular birdseed in other people's feeders around town. I think the birds at my house are just messing with me so I buy the good stuff. Regardless, right now it doesn't seem to matter because we haven't seen many birds around, but the squirrels are really enjoying themselves.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Children's Auth/Ill Week

Did you know the first week in February is Children's Authors & Illustrators Week? Yep, apparently it is according to this site. The past few weeks I've added a bunch of new authors and illustrators to my Facebook page. I'm looking forward to getting to know them better and hearing more about their work. So, what can you do to celebrate this week?

  • Visit an independent bookstore, if you have one. They often feature more local artists than the larger booksellers.
  • See if you can discover a new author or illustrator this week.
  • Have your child write a letter to one of their favorite authors or illustrators. Most have contact info on their websites.
  • Let your child pick one of their favorite books and after they've read it (or you've read it to them) have them draw their own picture. It can be something that happened in the book or they can even continue the story with their own ideas.
  • Visit a local bookstore or library during storytime, or when a featured author or illustrator is sharing their book.
  • If you have room, set up a little library in your house for your kids. Include good lighting and a comfortable chair. You'll be surprised how kids will sit down and read if they have a specific place.
  • Do a craft to go along with your child's favorite book. Many can be found online if you search the book title with the words "craft projects" or "activities". My book, A New Job for Dilly features craft pages on my website.
  • And finally, read as a family. Even older children who can read will still enjoy having a story read to them. Turn off the TV for awhile and enjoy a book together as a family.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Boris Karloff

Only this day in way, way back in 1969, Boris Karloff died at the age of eighty-one. He's probably most famous for his role in Frankenstein, but many kids might recognize his name from How The Grinch Stole Christmas. I found a few interesting facts while reading about him today ...

  • His real name was William Henry Pratt.
  • His grandmother was related to family of the royal Siam court, which was the basis of the musical The King & I.
  • Boris was bow-legged, had a lisp, and stuttered as a young boy.
  • He was very generous to children's charities.
  • Boris dressed as Santa every Christmas to give gifts to disabled kids.
  • He played Captain Hook in the theatrical play Peter Pan.
  • Boris has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
  • He won a Grammy for his spoken words in The Grinch.
  • Boris married 6 times and had only one daughter.
  • He died from pneumonia and was cremated in England.
I watch Boris every Halloween in Frankenstein. If you ever get the chance to check out the 75th anniversary edition of that film, do so because there's some great documentary footage on it. It's amazing to think that if he were still alive today, he would be 123 years old. His character will live on forever!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Happy G.I. Joe Day!

You never know where G.I. Joe will go!

According to the Brownielocks and The 3 Bears website, today is G.I. Joe Day. However, I couldn't find anything else on it online, so I don't know where it came from. Not that it matters, because everyday is G.I. Joe Day at our house. My boys, Nathan and Neil, totally love G.I. Joes. They play with them constantly. We've taken G.I. Joe to Yellowstone and had his picture taken in front of some geysers and the bubbling mud pots. He goes everywhere with us, usually with his pals, Tony Hawk and Indiana Jones.

We've even had a death in the family when one of G.I. Joe's friends lost his life in the middle of Swan Lake. Who knew Freddie couldn't swim? He was doing so good waterskiing, but dang, he went down so fast. I told the Undersheriff, who also works in Search & Rescue about our loss and if he ever finds the body, he could return it to us. It's a good thing we're friends with such important people. Regardless, there are lots of other G.I. Joes in our house to make up for the loss. After all, he is a true American Hero!