Friday, December 30, 2011

New toy ...

This is the newest addition to our family room, which by the looks of it, is soon to become a home gym. I'm seriously thinking of charging admission or membership fees. Between this, the recumbent bike, the TreadClimber, and all the hand weights, it's starting to look like the YMCA. Or, at the very least, someone else's house! God knows I've never been into exercising much, except for when I was a kid and in gymnastics.

The Total Gym is kind of Rick and my Christmas present. We're just hoping we can keep up with the monthly payments. Maybe we can stop eating for awhile. It got here on Wednesday, but when Rick went to try it out, something wasn't working right. He pretty much flipped out and spent the night tossing and turning -- keeping me awake in the process. By morning, he had contacted them and they said they'd ship a new one, but it wouldn't be for 2-3 more weeks because they were swamped with orders. The lady suggested we try to use it in the meantime, if possible.

Well, you know how Rick is, and he couldn't let it rest until he figured out what was wrong. Turns out they installed something wrong and he was able to fix it himself. He came upstairs last night, all proud of himself, begging me to look at what the problem was. It bummed him out when I didn't want to actually see all the details in what was wrong and how he fixed it. As long as it was fixed -- that was good enough for me.

We both went through the basic work-out last night. It wasn't as bad as I thought. I only had a hard time with pull-up type things where I had to lie on my back and pull my arms down. Those were tough because I don't have good upper body strength. I never have, which was one thing that made gymnastics hard for me. I managed through them all okay, but those were the toughest. I'm not too sore either. I mostly only feel it in my triceps, which is one area all my other exercising hasn't reached. So hopefully, this will be a nice addition to what I've already been doing.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

What's on your reading list?

My stack of books to-read is getting bigger and bigger. I got a few new ones for Christmas. Neil gave me The Story of Brutus by Casey Anderson. I've seen Brutus the bear at his sanctuary near Bozeman, but have yet to meet Casey in person, other than talking to him via Facebook. Rick gave me The Snow Angel by Glenn Beck. I know a lot of people despise him, but I enjoy listening to what he has to say. His other book, The Christmas Sweater was really, really good, so I'm hoping this one is also. Neither of those books are political, by the way, but fiction. Montana Women Homesteaders was given to me by Denny. He's such a cool cat and knows exactly what I like.

The other books I'm either reading or want to start reading soon. I found Thyroid Power at a Borders store when they were closing down. I have hypothyroidism, so I hope this book helps me learn a little more about that. A History of Pirates I got at a used bookstore the other day. I had exchanged some books for store credit, so that was one of the free ones I got back. I started it last night and I think it's going to be pretty interesting. Pirates were so brutal, and it's fascinating to see all of the politics involved regarding the different countries. I bought Do Not Feed The Bears when we went to Yellowstone awhile back, but sadly, I haven't made time to start it yet. Speaking Ill of the Dead is Nicole's book, but I'm slowly reading it.

It's a crazy pile of books for me. I just need to pick ONE and concentrate on finishing it. It seems I'm doing more writing than reading these days, which really isn't a bad thing when I stop to think about it.

So, how about you -- what's in your to-read pile?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Faint Cake?

I hope everyone had a nice Christmas. Ours was quiet, but nice. I still have all the decorations up, and I'm not sure when I'll feel up to taking everything down. It seems a lot of people have already done that, but I guess I'm in no rush. It feels like we just got everything set up. Where did December go?

This is a picture of our cake we had for Christmas dinner. Neil asked if I could bake a cake instead of doing the usual pie for dessert. Neil never asks for anything specific to eat, so I really wanted to make it for him. He asked for chocolate cake with white frosting, tinted green. He loves M&Ms, so I figured those would be perfect for ornaments. Neil is my pickiest eater, by the way, so I wanted to make something special for him.

As I was decorating it, I became really light-headed, so I stopped and pulled up a chair. A few minutes later, I knew I was going down. I got up and went to my room and barely made it to my bed before collapsing. Everything went dark for a second. A few minutes later, I felt fine. Nichelle came in and asked if I was okay and said I looked kind of pale. I have no idea what happened. Maybe not enough sleep? It was really weird. Anyway, Nichelle saved the day and finished Neil's Christmas cake -- yay for Nichelle!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Christmas Cheapies

My girls and I went shopping yesterday and stopped at the Salvation Army on our way home. I found a couple of Little Golden Books and the second book in the Indian in the Cupboard series. On our way to the register, I saw this Nativity. It's about 7-8 inches tall, so it's pretty good sized. The tag said $2.50 and I figured that was decent, so I grabbed it for my collection. What I didn't realize was that all Christmas items were 75% off. So, this Nativity cost me a whopping 62 cents! It's kind of tacky, but that's what I like about it.

The girls and I also went to a used bookstore. I had a bag of old curriculum books and a few books that I had duplicates of, so I turned those in for store credit. The owner gave me $15 credit, so between the girls and I, we managed to walk out with another bag filled with books without having to pay anything. That was pretty cool. I found more Little Golden Books, one of the Eat This, Not That books, and a book on the history of pirates. Nichelle and Nicole both got books also, and it didn't cost us a cent.

Now that's Christmas shopping at its finest!

Friday, December 23, 2011

To market, to market ...

Yesterday Rick, the boys, and I took a drive down to Safeway to pick up a few things before Christmas. I had my little Olympus camera with me and had fun snapping some pictures while we were driving. Normally, we do most of our shopping in Kalispell, which is about 20 miles north of where we live. This particular time we went south to the town of Polson. We drove along Flathead Lake, which is a little over 30 miles in length.

The sunset was gorgeous over the lake last night, so we stopped at Yellow Bay State Park to take a few pictures. The picture of the crawdad was taken there, but sadly, the poor thing was dead. I had to laugh when I looked at my pictures. It's just not something most people see on their everyday, average trip to the grocery store, especially not where I originally came from.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

SF Chocolate Peppermints

It's that time of year -- time for cookies, cakes, pies, candies, and all that good stuff that makes us want to start a diet on New Year's Day. I decided to try something new and came up with these sugar-free chocolate candies. They are only about 55 calories each and have 0.7 net carbs per serving. That's not too bad, considering I eat low-carb.


4 squares unsweetened baking chocolate
3/4 cup Xylitol
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
sugar-free candy cane, crushed

Place sugar-free candy cane (or sugar-free Starlight mints) into a plastic baggie, and crush with a rolling pin or wooden spoon. In a double boiler, melt chocolate over medium heat until smooth. Stir in Xylitol and mix well. Add heavy whipping cream, and stir until chocolate is smooth. Remove from heat. Add peppermint extract to the mixture. Drop by teaspoon into mini baking cups. Top with crushed candy cane. Refrigerate two hours or until set. Keep refrigerated for best results. Makes about 22-24 candies.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Edit, edit, edit ... grrr, grrr, grrr!

If I don't dream about this bear tonight, I will be very surprised. I've been working on editing one of my middle grade novels pretty much non-stop since Friday evening. It's taken up nearly all of my time. I think my eyeballs are going to fall out. Line edits are tough. It's amazing how you can read something over and over and over, and yet, still not see an obvious error. It doesn't even have to be a spelling error. Sometimes it's something as simple as a space, a comma, or have a quotation mark go the wrong way. It makes me want to pull my hair out. I think I'm almost done ... I think, I think!

The reason I posted this picture is because this is my bear story. It's titled ENCROACHED and it is about a bear encounter. I've been playing around with the idea of self-publishing a copy of the book on Lulu. Has anyone used them before? I haven't decided if I'm going to actually self-publish the book yet. Right now I just want to get it to a certain stage and then have one copy printed up. I think seeing it will help me decide. My other two middle grade stories are both under contract, but I'm not sure when they'll be released. ENCROACHED is my newest one. I haven't submitted it much. I've been playing around with the idea of getting a copy for myself to see how it looks. Maybe by seeing it, I can get a better feel if it's a route I want to take. The picture is what I have planned for the cover. Creepy, huh?

While I've been at it, I've also looked at other books that are for sale on Lulu. Some are decent looking, but others are absolutely horrible. I couldn't believe a few of the samples of some picture books I saw. It really made me realize how much I've learned since I started writing. I wrote my first picture book eight years ago, but I've only really been involved in it seriously for about six years. Even so, some of the samples of self-published books I've looked at are horrible. I couldn't believe people had them up for sale. It also made me realize just how hard of a job editors, publishers, and agents have. I can't imagine doing what they do and having to deal with extremely poor work. I'm not saying all the books I saw were bad. There's lots of good stuff up there, too. If anything, it makes me appreciate what they do a whole lot more!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

ARRRR you nuts?

In addition to Nativity scenes, I also collect nutcrackers. However, like my Nativities, I don't collect super fancy or expensive ones. Stuff like that wouldn't fit in at my house anyway, so it's just as well. I've been collecting nutcrackers for ten years now, but I only add one new one each year.

The one pictured above is the newest. Rick and the boys gave it to me the other day. They know how much I love pirates. Well, I don't really love pirates in that sense of the word, although Johnny Depp doesn't make it easy. It's more of a fascination, especially the Golden Age of Piracy.

Below is a picture of the nutcrackers we have so far. Every Christmas we put them on top of a shelf that holds CDs and DVDs. It's getting crowded now, so I might have to find a new place next year. As you can see, we now have two pirate nutcrackers. The fourth one from the right is more of a Captain Jack Sparrow one. The one on the right of him is a Hawaiian one. That was the year Nichelle did her missionary work and spent some time in Maui.

Nutcrackers have been around since the 15th century. Originally, they were made strong enough to crack open nuts, unlike the ones we find today that are for decorative purposes only. Of course, the ones I have are the cheap type you find at Target for $10 or so. Maybe one of these days I'll be able to collect a Steinbach nutcracker ... or two ... or three.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Vacation Begins!

Well, our last day of school was Friday, so we're officially on our Christmas vacation now. I think it really sunk in this morning for the boys, rather than over the weekend. Neil came into my bedroom this morning all smiles and said, "No school today!" Anyway, this picture is of a figure I keep with my Nativities. Santa and the Christ Child is a pretty famous story and figure, but mine is pretty small, not to mention inexpensive. I was mostly playing around with the lights on the tree and trying to see if they'd show up. That was hard because they were blinking.

In other news ... it feels like winter has skipped northwestern Montana for now. We've had some snow here and there, but not nearly as much as we usually have this time of year. I see snow in our yard, but it's all melted off the deck, which is weird. There is snow on the forecast, but it doesn't look like much. And, it looks like a lot of it will come after Christmas. I'm curious if we'll have our first Non-White Christmas this year. That will be really odd.

The past few days I've been editing one of my middle grade novels, so that's taken up most of my time since we let out of school. The story is called ENCROACHED. It's about two young girls who venture out alone to camp in the Montana wilderness. I've read the story so many times that my eyes are acting all funky. It's amazing how you can read something over and over, and still find a typo or error somewhere down the line.

I hope everyone has a great week!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Nutty Little Elves

All this week the boys have been doing Santa & Elf crafts for school. They've made some pretty cute things like a Santa magnet made from a wooden spoon and some elves made from wooden beads. Yesterday their project was called Nutty Little Elves. I saw it on Family Fun and thought they looked cute and pretty easy to make. The directions are on the link.

The idea was to make them like the one up top -- just a simple, little elf made from a peanut with pipecleaner limbs. The elf pictured above is one I made. I sometimes make crafts along with them just to make sure they're going to work or to help them if we come across any problems. Anyway, the project was to make one little elf. As you can see from the bottom picture, things got a little crazy. Nathan made these three elves and then designed a snow scene for them to stand on. The little dude on the left is slipping in the snow.

Neil went nuts -- literally -- and made about four or five different characters, including one dog. I can't post a picture of his because I think he put them in his room. He really enjoyed it and wants me to buy more peanuts so he can make even more characters. He said when he grows up that he's going to make a whole world of peanut people. Well ... at least he has a goal.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Candy Cane Cookies

I finally got some Candy Cane Cookies baked. These are always fun to do. I couldn't believe it though because when I went to get the peppermint extract, I had half of what I needed for the recipe. I added a few drops of water and shook that around in the bottle to make up for the difference. It worked though and they are way pepperminty enough. Seriously -- who runs out of peppermint extract? Sheesh. So, I guess MY batch of sugar-flour-free ones will have to wait until I get more extract. Oh well ... sigh.

The recipe is from Family Fun Magazine, which you can find here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Little Christmas Elf

If you're interested in adding a new picture book to your collection this year, check out The Little Christmas Elf. Written by Nikki Shannon Smith and illustrated by Susan Mitchell, this Little Golden Book is a delightful story. Nina, the smallest elf in Santa's workshop, doesn't finish the teddy bear she's been making in time to be loaded onto Santa's sleigh. He encourages her to not give up, so she works late into the night to finish it, even after Santa has left to deliver presents. Finally, her teddy bear is complete, just in time for Santa to return in need of one more present. It's an adorable story and a must have for any LGB fan or collector.

Nikki is a friend of mine via Facebook and she's just as sweet as her book. I was surprised to learn that The Little Christmas Elf was her first published work. Getting in with Little Golden Books isn't easy and she explained that she had been at a writer's convention over a year ago where she had her manuscript critiqued. She had almost given up on it when she received an email from an editor at LGB asking if it was still available.

Success stories like Nikki's are encouraging to me as a writer of picture books. In addition, I'm also a huge fan of Little Golden Books. When I found out Nikki's book was going to be published by LGBs, I knew I'd have to add it to my collection. For me, having a book published by them would be a dream come true, just as it is for Nikki. Dreaming wildly for a moment -- I could totally see my first story, Manny the Mountain Goat as a Little Golden Book. Who knows -- maybe that dream might come true sometime. You can find The Little Christmas Elf at any bookstore. I found mine at Walmart.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Holiday Baking

What are some of your favorite holiday goodies that you like to bake? We recently made gingerbread men as a school project. It's always fun for the kids, but the cookies usually come out pretty non-traditional looking, as you can see. We had skeleton gingerbread men, several Harry Potter ones, even one with cat ears. Not your run of the mill gingerbread men, in other words. Everyone eats them though, so they never stick around too long.

We also make sugar cookies this time of year, but we'll probably be doing that later next week as it gets closer to Christmas. After the gingerbread man fiasco, I need to stock back up on ingredients. I'm thinking of making some Candy Cane Cookies today. The kids like those. And if I'm feeling really adventurous, I might try to make some sugar-free ones for myself using soy flour instead of regular flour to help cut down on some of the carbs. Last night Rick made a batch of peanut brittle, which turned out really good. My all-time favorite Christmas treat is Divinity, but I haven't figured out how to make a low-carb, sugar-free version of that yet. 

How about you -- do you do much baking this time of year?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Critters of Montana Calendar

Critters of Montana 2012 Calendar calendar
Critters of Montana 2012 Calendar by RenaJean

Yesterday I received an order I placed from Zazzle. I designed two different calendars for family members for Christmas. I was really surprised how well they turned out. I don't know why because everything I've gotten from Zazzle has been very high quality. I hope my family members enjoy the calendars. I ordered the largest size with the photo and month on the same page. They turned out really nice.

The calendar pictured here is one I have for sale in my Zazzle store, although it's different than the ones I made for my family. This one features photographs of animals I've taken since moving to Montana. The animals included are bears, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, owls, moose, squirrels, deer, chipmunks, pronghorn antelope, and elk. It's designed for 2012, but I have the customize option left open if anyone wants to make changes.

Calendars make great gifts for Christmas. I hope I can make others for more of my family members next year. The quick service and quality of Zazzle has impressed me every single time.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Christmas Bokeh

I'm on a homeschool message board and one of the forums there is for photography lovers. Each week there's a fun assignment -- like photograph a favorite Christmas ornament, show an example of unusual lighting, seasonal pictures, and so forth. Well, right now the assignment is Christmas Bokeh. I've never really played around with bokeh shots much. In all honesty, I'm a point-n-shoot type photographer. Heck, most of the time I take my wildlife pictures from INSIDE my house!

However, I thought it would be fun to see if I could get any bokeh shots with my simple, little camera. If you don't know what bokeh is, click here. Bokeh is Japanese for blur or haze. Basically, from what I can tell, it's when you photograph something and there's a blurred effect in the out of focus area of the picture. At least that's what I think it is. The link is from Wiki, but it gives you a better idea than how I could explain it.

I've been playing around with my camera and came up with a few images. It's not too hard with Christmas lights strung all over the place, so I imagine it would be more challenging without them. If anything, it will give me something to work on. I'd like to give it a try with Rick's camera and lenses. So, as you can see, I've been playing around with some pictures. Nothing says Christmas than a Captain Jack Sparrow nutcracker, huh? Or how about Obi Wan with presents stuck on his light sabre? At least it's festive, and hey, I even managed to get some blurred effects in there, too.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Freebies are nice!

I got this in the mail yesterday. I used to eat LUNA bars a lot before I went low-carb. I still get their emails and newsletters. Every now and then they offer free samples if you're willing to take the time to fill out a simple form. I've gotten quite a few from them so far -- one even included a free tote bag. This time it was just for a Chocolate Peppermint Stick bar. I don't eat them anymore, but my girls might, so I went ahead and filled out the form. Imagine my surprise to get the lip balm in the same flavor -- now that I can use!

How about you -- do you get any interesting freebies?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Frustrating ...

For the past few hours, I've been wondering if I should even write this post. Sometimes it's better to just let things be, but sometimes it's hard. No one likes having salt rubbed into their wounds. But, having said that ...

I lost a friend on Facebook today over a sarcastic status I wrote. It was tongue-in-cheek and I didn't mean for it to be taken the wrong way. I simply said, "Is it bad that I snicker at the thought of the USPS having lay-offs?" The first person who responded laughed and said yes, so I quickly added more to explain that I have family who works for the postal service. In other words -- it was a JOKE -- not that I was wishing it on any person.

My snide remark was about the ladies who work for the post office where I live. Now, they've always been nice to me, so I've never had a problem. However, every single time my husband or daughters go in, those ladies are mean to them. If you knew my girls, you'd know how quiet and polite they are, so they don't do anything to instigate this. We have never figured out why they treat them so poorly. By that, I mean they are rude, short-tempered, condescending  and often try to belittle them for doing something wrong. It's gotten so bad that they despise having to mail a package. Rick would rather I cut off his arm than make him go in. It's not just my family either. I've witnessed them acting this way with other customers as well.

So, I made a sarcastic comment. Some laughed, some said they have the same experience, and others said their post office is great. One person, however, said I was being mean, especially in this economy. Just as I was getting ready to reply to her directly, I noticed she had unfriended me. Seriously? Over something like that? I guess I'm too sensitive, so I sent her an email apologizing that I offended her. She never replied back.

Mind you, she wasn't a close friend. Actually, I didn't know her all that well. However, she is a writer and like many others, I like supporting their writing efforts just as they support mine. Obviously, she was upset and wanted nothing more to do with me. Now, I've unfriended people too, and probably more just recently. When I do, it's usually because they're posting something very hateful -- like hatred over the police. I know not everyone likes the cops, but I come from a law enforcement family.

I consider myself pretty tolerant when it comes to most things. Many of my online friends use Facebook as a political soapbox, which is fine. Nine times out of ten I probably don't agree with what's posted, but again, that's fine. If something is especially offensive, I have the option of not reading it, or even hiding it if I want. But if something is truly upsetting me -- like a lot of these anti-police videos and stories going around -- I might go to the extreme of unfriending someone. But that's a big might. Friends can still disagree.

I know I'm way too sensitive. I deleted the thread because I didn't want to upset anyone else. I wasn't saying I wished the lay-offs would happen. It was just a snarky comment in light of the mean ladies my family has to deal with. I don't think it was worth losing a friend over, but she obviously felt so. If I unfriended everyone who posted something I didn't like -- I'd be in the negative! People post pictures of abused animals, domestic violence victims, profanity, crude humor, erotic materials. I try to let most of those slide, and if I don't like them, I hide them. When it comes to hate -- like a video pleading with wives and children of law enforcement officers to take their weapons away so they can't beat up on the OWS people -- that's not my cup of tea. I don't hate anyone, but maybe I'm just not as tolerate of people like that. Unless you're in law enforcement, it's really hard to understand.

You know, I don't know why I let this bother me. This particular person has posted a lot of anti-police articles and I didn't flip out over them. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I guess what it boils down to is that my friendship to her wasn't worth that one catty remark. And if you think about it, that's really kind of sad.

Friday, December 2, 2011

We have a winner!

Actually, we have TWO winners! I decided to choose two since I made everyone wait an extra day. I apologize for not announcing the winner yesterday like I said I would. I ended up spending most of the day out of the house and couldn't get to doing my blog. So, I decided to pick TWO names instead of just one. The boys drew names from a bowl and the winners are ...

C.R. Evers and Angie Townsend

Congratulations! Please email me a mailing address so I can get your books to you. Also, if you would like it signed, please let me know and to whom you want the book addressed to. Thanks so much to everyone who entered. I really enjoyed reading about your favorite books as a child.

My favorite childhood book was The Sheep of the Lal Bagh. It was written by David Mark in 1967. It was one of the first books I got from a summer book club my mom signed me up for one year. I loved it and years later, I wanted to find it again, but couldn't remember the name. I finally did and bought an old copy online. Ironically, a few months back I was at the Salvation Army and found another copy for a quarter. Can't beat that, huh? Anyway, thanks again to everyone who took the time to enter and congratulations to Christy and Angela.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


I saw this picture online today and it reminded me of a pair of clogs I got in the 1970s. Mine were a lot like these, but were more of a wine or burgundy color. I begged my mom to buy them because clogs were all the rage at the time. I bought them from a shop in the city of Solvang, California. That's a little danish town, just north of Santa Barbara. The store sold mostly imported clogs. I always loved seeing the gigantic, red clog they had sitting outside the shop. It's probably still there, too.

Of course, back in the 1970s, I had real issues with my feet and the clogs hurt them so bad. I could hardly ever wear them. I eventually had surgery on my feet, but by that point, I longer had the clogs. They can still be found today and in my different types of styles. The only clog-like shoes I have right now are Crocs. I know a lot of people hate those shoes, but when you have trouble with your feet, you wear what you can. However, I miss my old wooden clogs. I'd like to get another pair sometime. Clogs have a fascinating history behind them. Even Wiki has a lot on them -- click here.

So, how about you -- did you ever wear clogs or do you still?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells ...

Just for fun, the boys are doing Bell Week for school right now. It's nothing fancy and I just have five simple bell crafts lined up for them to make. Today they made these with mini-pony beads, a pipe cleaner, and a little jingle bell. The picture shows Nathan's, which is long and straight. Neil made his curvy and it looks like something Dr. Seuss would have created.

My boys love simple crafts -- the more simple, the better. That's especially true for Neil. He loves doing crafts, but doesn't do as well if there are a lot of steps or if it involves a lot of cutting, gluing, painting, and waiting for things to dry. He likes instant crafts. Hot glue is his friend. Sticking a jingle bell and a few pony beads onto a pipe cleaner is his idea of Craft Heaven.

We just got our Christmas tree set up last night, so now the house is in that horrible state of disarray with boxes scattered from one end to the other. So far, only the tree is up, so my next project will be the Nativities. I collect them and it usually takes me hours to set them all up. I've lost count how many I have. Maybe I'll count them this year.

I also collect Carol of the Bells songs, which I know is kind of a weird thing to collect, but I do. I have over 30 versions of the song and they're all very different from each other. Because there are thousands of versions of this song, I try to make sure the ones I add to my playlist are unique. If there is a new way to perform the song, I'm all over it. I have flutes, pianos, harps, bells, guitars, cellos, fiddles, orchestras, even dogs barking and babies babbling out the tune. It's always been my favorite Christmas song and considering it's Bell Week, it seems appropriate to start up my playlist.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Look at me ... I'm a Pilgrim!

You might remember this little guy from one of my picture books. Yes, this is The Marshmallow Man. He was originally made on May 25, 2010 and currently lives in my wine rack. Considering he's a year and a half old, he's still looking pretty good. Oh sure, he has a few wrinkles, but don't we all. His skin might not be as soft as it used to be, but hey, no one's perfect. Despite his old age, he's still pretty much intact, except for a small crack in his bowtie. I guess they just don't make fruit rolls like they used to.

On Thanksgiving, the boys and I made Marshmallow Pilgrim Hats. I saw them in Family Fun and they looked super easy, so I thought they'd be fun to make for the holiday. All you do is melt some chocolate chips, dip a marshmallow into it, and then stick it on top of a chocolate shortbread cookie. After they've hardened up in the fridge, you simply add a buckle with yellow icing. The hats were a big hit at my house and they're going fast. We only have a handful left, which is why The Marshmallow Man wanted to get in on the fun. He's currently in the kitchen pretending to be a Pilgrim. The last I saw of him, he was digging through the container of leftover turkey. I don't have the heart to tell him Thanksgiving is over and I'm about to dig out the Christmas decorations. You never know -- maybe I'll come across some Christmasy-marshmallow project for him to enjoy next month.

If you don't have The Marshmallow Man and would like to get it, just click on his name. That takes you to my website, which then takes you to my publisher where you can order the book directly. It's also available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million. Or, you can order it through any local bookstore. Just bring in the ISBN number and any bookseller will be able to order it. Also, check out my website because there are lots of activities for kids to do once they've read the book -- including making their very own Marshmallow Man! 

Also, don't forget I'm having a drawing for a free copy of A New Job for Dilly. To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment (two blog posts down from this one) and tell me what your favorite book was as a child and why you liked it. I'll pick a name randomly from a hat (or jar or whatever) and announce the winner on December 1st. Please feel free to enter even if you already have the book. You can give it as a gift or donate it to someone who might enjoy it. Thanks to all who've entered. If you haven't, there's still time!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Wrote a book ... knitted a scarf ... busy day.

Earlier today on Facebook I said I wanted to accomplish three things -- write a picture book, knit a scarf, and exercise. Here it is, almost 8pm, and I've finally finished two of those things. I spent most of the day working on the story, which was a rhyming picture book about farm animals. It follows along two other stories I've written, so it was just a matter of coming up with the rhymes, not the concept. The scarf, which a few on Facebook said I wouldn't be able to do in a day, took me about half an hour. Yep -- if that even. To be totally honest, I CANNOT knit to save my life. Here's my secret ...

When I was a little girl in 1974, my mom got me a Mattel Knit Magic Machine for Christmas. I loved it, but never really made much with it. A few years back I saw one on eBay that was exactly the same as what I had as a kid and I just had to buy it. Even the copyright date is the same on the box. So, the little toy isn't the original one I owned as a kid, but it came from the same time period. I've knitted a bunch of skinny scarves on this silly little thing.

So -- there you have it. I'm not as talented as I want everyone to think I am. ;)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Want a FREE book?

I have an extra copy of A NEW JOB FOR DILLY that I would like to give away. For those who don't know, Dilly is a little rat who loves sour pickles. He enjoys going through the alphabet when he's looking for something, which in this case, is a job so he can get pickles without stealing. However, Dilly is a little absent minded and tends to forget a letter every now and then.

I thought it would be fun to have a contest for a free copy. To be entered in the drawing, all you have to do is leave me a comment here on my blog between now and November 30th. Simply list one of your favorite books as a child and why you liked it. That's all you have to do. I'll pick a winner and post it on December 1st in order to get the book to you in time.

Please feel free to enter if you have the book already. It would make a perfect present for a child on your list this Christmas. You can't beat the price -- free. Don't forget that A NEW FRIEND FOR DILLY is also available now. 4RV Publishing, LLC is having a Christmas sale through December 5th and all of the books are available for a reduced price. Please check them out!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Another Turkey Craft

Many years ago the girls made these little turkey cups for each member of our family. They are from Family Fun magazine and you can find the directions here. They have them listed as Turkey Nut Holders, but we usually fill them with small candies, like Hershey's Kisses or candy corn.

As you can see, the originals had real feathers, but we used colored leaves. These are the same leaves the boys and I recently used for our Pinecone Turkeys. It's amazing how long a bag of fabric leaves can last. In our case, we've had this bag of leaves for close to ten years now.

Come to think of it, these would make great favors for a birthday party, especially if you were to paint the birds blue and glue on something to look like peacock feathers. Hmmm, something to keep in mind!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thanksgiving Traditions

I'm pretty sure I've posted this picture before. If I didn't put it on my blog, I probably put it on Facebook. This was our Thanksgiving table last year. I've been going through photos and was surprised that the only ones I took last Thanksgiving were of the crafts the boys made. I hope to get more taken this year, especially because Nicole is coming home from college.

Do you decorate much for Thanksgiving, or do you get right into Christmas? I'm going to get my Thanksgiving decorations out today and get our table set up. As you can see, almost everything we have are crafts the kids have made over the years. I love it. I do have nice china and stemware, but I never use it for Thanksgiving. Instead, I splurge a few bucks on paper plates with turkeys on them because, quite frankly, those go perfect with all the fun crafts the kids have made. We usually start decorating for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving, so this stuff doesn't stay out too long.

Do you have any unique Thanksgiving traditions? On our table you can see a runner in the middle. Every year we take a permanent marker and write what we're thankful for and date it. It's getting pretty filled up and eventually we might have to start writing on the other side. I can't remember where I got the idea, but knowing me, it was probably from Family Fun magazine. They always have fantastic ideas for stuff like this. If you don't have any fun family traditions, you might want to check them out online. So, the table runner is one of our Thanksgiving traditions. It's fun to read it and see what everyone was thankful for over the years.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Pinecone Turkeys

Here are some little pinecone turkeys the boys and I made today. Mind you, they look nothing like the ones we saw online, which were cute also. We had to improvise with what we had, but I think they turned out pretty good. Fortunately, I found some little pieces of wood to attach them to and then we used fabric leaves rather than feathers. Neil decided to make his standing upright, so that's his in the middle. Nathan's is on the right. I liked how they turned out and they'll be a fun addition to our Thanksgiving table, which is mostly kid's crafts.

I did, however, get a nasty burn from the hot glue gun today. I got a tiny bit of glue stuck to my left index finger and couldn't get it off very well. When I did, it blistered right up and now it's killing me. It's right where I type, so that's a pain. I'm usually really careful about the glue gun, so I don't know what happened today. And to make things worse, I have a story to edit, so I need to be typing. I'll live, but hopefully it will stop hurting soon.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Girls & Half Dome

I've been going through some photos and found this one of my girls taken in Yosemite National Park many years ago. I'm not sure of the actual year, but both girls are in their twenties now, if that gives you an idea. Have you ever been to Yosemite? It's absolutely beautiful there. When you go up high and look down over the valley, it just takes your breath away. Not many places do that for me -- the Grand Canyon is one and Yosemite is another. Grand Teton has the opposite effect on me. When I look up and see that mountain range for the first time -- gosh, it's simply breathtaking.

The only thing I didn't like about YNP were the crowds of people. Because it's so central in California, it gets a lot of visitors in the summer. The few times we were there it was jammed packed. I remember trying to get some pictures of the Upper & Lower Falls, but there were hundreds of people in the shot. I mean, they were literally everywhere, including scattered all over the rocks and such. Anyway, it's a great park and definitely in my top ten favorites of the NPs.

I love this picture of the girls. Even more so, I wish we still had those soft, plush Shamu hip packs. We got them at Sea World. I am pretty sure I had one as well, but for some stupid reason, I got rid of it. I don't think the girls still have theirs either. Sadly, I looked for them online recently, but came up empty. They were really cute, so I have no idea why we got rid of them. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Missy and her Kittens

For the past three days I've been going through my photographs. You know how much I love taking pictures, so you can imagine what a chore this is. I have photos all over, including on two different computers, under different user names, as well as in albums and loose. I've had a box of loose pictures under my desk for the longest time, so I've been trying to sort those out.

I came across this picture above, but I'm not sure if I've posted it before. This was my cat, Missy. She was the first pet of my very own. I got her for my 5th birthday, if I'm remembering correctly. She was a great cat. This picture is of her first litter -- first of many, I might add. However, this particular litter was the most unique. I remember sitting with her when she was giving birth. Everytime I tried to go somewhere, she'd jump out of her box and follow me, so I ended up staying with her while she had her kittens.

The first was a male and was born with a tiny stub of a tail. He had a chubby face, so we named him Fat Face. He was my brother's favorite. The second kitten was born with a tail just slightly longer than the first, kind of half the length of a regular tail. She was my sister's favorite kitten and she named her Quail. The third was born with a full length tail and was obviously my favorite because the other two were taken. I named her Princess. Although they were all tabbies, they all had different length tails. It was the strangest litter and the only one like it that Missy had. I suppose because Missy was my very first pet of my own, she's the reason for my fascination and love of tabby cats. Many more followed, including CJ, Belle, and Denny.

How about you -- do you remember your first pet?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Got my glasses ...

You can laugh -- I sure am because I think I look like an absolute dork. I've never worn glasses before. At least not on a regular basis. I've had some old reading glasses that I didn't wear as much as I should, but have found myself pulling them out more lately. This is going to be a huge change. I didn't realize just how bad my long distance vision is. It is really bad. It's just such a funny look for me. I'm not sure if I picked out the right frames. Originally, I had some little black ones picked out, but then the doctor talked me into these. They're more of a maroon color and he said they looked less harsh with my skin tone. Ugh. I don't know. I feel weird. Both boys go, "You look like a teacher now!" And what did I look like before?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Happy Birthday, Nathan!

It's hard to believe my little pirate is twelve today. He doesn't know it yet, but we have a Pirates of the Caribbean theme for his party tonight. His cake is supposed to be a pirate ship and according to the baker, she's been looking forward to making it for awhile. I'll post a picture tomorrow if it turns out. Nathan is excited that it's his birthday, but I think Neil is even more excited. Birthdays mean presents to Neil, so it's especially fun when it's his brother's and he can share all his new toys. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A few pictures ...

We had to do some shopping in town today -- by that I mean Kalispell, which is about 20 miles away from where I live. I had my camera and on the way home I was in one of my take-pictures-while-we're-moving moods. Here are a couple that I got through my dirty window going about 70mph. If you look hard at the top picture of the field, there's a flock of geese flying by. The picture below was taken from a bridge and is of the Flathead River, which empties into Flathead Lake. I live about two miles from the lake. The sun looked pretty coming through the clouds, but these don't do it justice.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Check these out ...

The other day my husband told me his mom had mailed us a package. He said she sent a bunch of old Highlights for Children magazines from the 1980s. He was in high school then, but his mom is a teacher and has received the magazine for years. At first I was a little irked because we already get the magazine and now I'd have to find a place to keep all these old issues. Rick goes, "Just let the boys read them and then toss them out when they're done." I didn't think much of it and walked by the stack of magazines for several days without even looking at them. But then ...

The other night I was flipping through the stack and saw one from 1969. Hello! There were three others from 1970, 1972, and 1973. Wow! Talk about getting my attention! So, I pulled those aside and took this picture of them. It's amazing how much is the same in these old issues, like the Timbertoes. These old issues have some great stuff in them, including sheet music.

I loved seeing all the little drawings kids sent in and was scanning to see if Rick or I had anything in there. I couldn't remember for sure sending anything in when I was a kid, but I did stuff like that a lot. I thought it would be fun to check out some of the names of the kids and see if I could locate them through Facebook or something. I mean, if I had a drawing published in a 1969 issue of Highlights, I would love for someone to show it to me if they came across it. Not sure if I'll go to the trouble yet, but it's a thought. Anyway, finding these super old issues in the stack was really a treat.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Nathan's Digital Drawings

Here are a few of Nathan's drawings for the month of October. He did these on the program called Paint, so they're digital drawings. Click on them to see them in better detail. He loves drawing by hand, but seems to enjoy doing it on the computer just as much. Every since he first learned to draw, he's always had really great facial expressions on his characters. He's really good and I'd love to see him continue with this interest.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Here are my boys as they were dressed up tonight. Neil is the werewolf and Nathan is the skeleton. Last year they were both skeletons, but Neil wanted to try something new. Also last year was the first time the boys ever dressed up as something scary. They have a bittersweet love/hate relationship with Halloween. They like dressing up and getting candy, but that's about it. They're not into scary stuff at all. Nathan is probably more interested in the skeletal system than he cares about scary skeletons. The same goes for his fascination with mummies. He's really into the whole ancient Egypt thing, but not so much the scary mummy stuff that is related to Halloween. Give him a book on bones or body parts and he's a happy kid!

I'm not sure about Neil's fascination with werewolves right now, but he loves wolves. Last year he really wanted to be a werewolf for Halloween, but the mask we found was a little too freakish for him. He didn't like that the mouth was open. This year we were looking at werewolf images online when a website came up for a paper mask. That's what Neil used for his costume. We printed it up on cardstock and then my daughter Nichelle assembled it. I was really surprised it lasted through trick-or-treating, but it did. He got a lot of comments on it. And for the cost of 5 pieces of cardstock -- it was a bargain. He decided to wear a pair of my gloves and I got the idea of using some press-on nails for claws. I remembered I had a box of them in my drawer, so I cut them into a point and stuck them on. No one could tell he was a werewolf with a French manicure. Werewolf Fancy Fingers -- hee!

I hope everyone has a Happy and safe Halloween!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Garnet -- A Ghost Town

Rick had the day off work today, so we decided to take a field trip to an old ghost town in Garnet, Montana. Nichelle came with us, so that made it even more fun. Normally, you can go into the visitor center and into more of the buildings, but they just shut those down for the season. We were still able to see quite a lot. I was surprised there were so many people there today. By "so many" I mean we saw about 7 or 8 other people. Considering how far out this little town is, I was surprised to see anyone there on a Friday afternoon.

Above photo: Kelly's Saloon. The boom town of Garnet had one school, but sported thirteen saloons that offered "male-orientated" entertainment. Miners sure had their priorities. Perhaps the school was an "after thought" or a "necessity" from all that entertainment.

Above photo: JK Wells Hotel, which was built in the winter of 1897. In its heyday, the entry featured beautifully carved doors with stained glass windows and was the most impressive building in Garnet.

Above photo: Neil sitting in the outhouse of the JK Wells Hotel. I don't know anything about outhouses, so I thought it was odd how this one was actually a double with two separate rooms next to each other. Each room had two "seats" as well. I wonder why that was? Did people get lonely out there and needed company? One of my biggest pet peeves are people who use public restrooms and talk on their cell phones in stalls next to me. I guess back in the 1800s all they needed to do was turn their head to chat!

Above photo: Neil standing in the blacksmith's shop. He loved the huge bellows and thought it was cool how the ceiling was all charred.

Above photo: Neil and Nathan in one of the miner's cabins. Looks drafty!

Above photo: The stove in the "Honeymoon Cabin". This cabin was originally built by a miner living in Garnet, who later moved. The cabin was then used for honeymooners to live in rent-free. They could live there until another couple got married and needed a place to stay.

Above photo: The bed frame in the "Honeymoon Cabin". I found it very interesting how most of the miner's cabins not only had the stoves left inside, but the bed frames as well. Some just had the head and foot boards, but others had the springs as well. I guess when everyone left, things like stoves and bed frames were too heavy to take with them.

Above photo: Nathan, Neil, and Nichelle inside what was originally a nice cabin built between 1896 and 1900. It was later turned into a livery shed and was home to a stage coach.

Above photo: Just some weeds that were blowing all over the place. I thought they looked pretty. I'm not sure what they are, but you know me and know I'll be trying to find out their name soon.

Above photo: Neil and Nathan looking at one of the gold mines that was barred off for safety. I like this picture. I need bars like this at home.

Above photo: More of the unidentified weeds. I loved how fluffy they were. Fortunately, I didn't get any in my eyes this time.

Above photo: Neil and I looking goofy. We were on the one-mile walk through the mine area when we stopped to take this. Neil and I take a lot of pictures, so we get left behind a lot. While I was taking a picture of a dead squirrel, Neil was video taping it lying in the road. We make a good team!

Above photo: The road back down the mountain. The Tamarack trees have turned yellow finally, which is always an amazing thing to see. Before moving to Montana, I never knew there was a pine tree that actually changed color in the fall. These do and they look really pretty.

It was a fun trip and pretty educational for a field trip. Not only did the boys learn a little about Montana history, but also about what a "boom town" was, a little about gold mining, seeing all the old buildings, looking down the mines, and more. There's a lot of history in this little town, but I'm too tired to go into all of the details tonight. If you'd like to learn more, check out Garnet Ghost Town. I hear there are a lot of these places in Montana, so hopefully we can visit more of them sometime.