Thursday, January 27, 2011

Pinkie & Blue Boy

Pictured above are two of my all-time favorite paintings. These are just photos of the paintings my in-laws have in their dining room. Between the light and my flash, they're not very good images. However, I've always loved them both. When I first started dating Rick in 1981, I was thrilled to see them hanging up in his house. I'm hoping my in-laws will let me have them someday, maybe if they ever decide to downsize. Perhaps that's just wishful thinking on my account, but I can hope.

If you go to The Huntington Library in San Marino, California, you'll find Pinkie and Blue Boy are hanging opposite from each other. That's just how my in-laws have them in their dining room. Many people think they were painted by the same artist, but they weren't. Pinkie was painted by Sir Thomas Lawrence and Blue Boy by Thomas Gainsborough. Not only were they painted by different artists, but they were done 25 years apart. The dress styles were over 150 years apart from each other. However, they're such a perfect match that the two paintings are so often paired together.

And ... what a perfect pair they are! I can't imagine Pinkie being alone without her beloved Blue Boy watching over her.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Are you a swinger?

Okay, so I know that's a funny title, but you should expect that from me by now. I was scanning some old pictures yesterday when I realized I had a bunch of me on swings as a kid. I guess I loved swinging more than I remember. My grandparents had a great swingset (the red & white one pictured here) and I couldn't wait to get on it whenever we visited their house. I think the picture below of me and my sister might have been taken at our Oak View house, so I'm guessing we had a swingset there, too. We didn't have one at our Ojai house, though I did have one of those disk-swings that hung from an eucalyptus tree. I loved swinging and spinning on that thing. I was trying to remember the last time I was on a swing and it was probably in 2006 when we moved from California to Montana. I know we stopped at a few RV parks that had swings. I'm thinking that was the last time. Guess it's time to find another one -- afterall, do you ever grow out of swinging?

So, how about you -- when's the last time you swung on a swing?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

We're going to WDW!

As it looks, we're going to Disneyworld in May. Rick's parents will be flying in from California and we should be landing about the same time. This is kind of my in-law's thing because they love everything Disney. Rick's mom was at Disneyland on opening day in 1955, so the parks have special meaning to her. She's been trying to get me to Disneyworld for years. Rick went with the boys and Nichelle in 2008 and they had a great time. This time it will be Rick, myself, the boys, and my in-laws. The girls are staying home to work and Nichelle might be flying out to a friend's wedding around the same time.

I grew up two hours from Disneyland, so I went there often. I pretty much know Disneyland and California Adventure like the back of my hand. Disneyworld will be a whole other story. I've never even been to Florida. I've always said when I did go there it wouldn't be for WDW, but for Everglades NP. I guess I was wrong about that because we're all booked and ready to go. It's funny how things work out. We're staying 11 nights at the Wilderness Lodge, so that will be nice. The hotel is modeled after the northwest national park lodges, so I guess I'll feel right at home! The hotel even has a geyser. Okay, so it's not real, but I'm promising to behave myself and not make any snarky comments about it.

Having been around such a Disney loving family, I've always been surrounded by books and brochures about Walt Disney World. This is the first time I've really looked at them though. I have to admit, it's daunting and overwhelming. The parks look huge, so I'm trying to read as much as I can before we go. I think we're going to try to spend two days in each park, plus one day at each of the waterparks. I'm looking forward to the Animal Kingdom the most, obviously, and I hope to get some good pictures. The one thing I'm dreading is the Florida humidity. I can do dry heat okay, but humid is another story. I hate that sticky feeling, but I'll have to suck it up and sweat it out like everyone else.

This picture above was taken in the early 1990s. Weren't the girls adorable? We used to take them to Disneyland almost weekly back then. My ILs gave us annual passes for Christmas every year, so we took advantage of the off-season to go to the park before they started school. I think I was my goal weight in this picture -- meaning, what I'm working to get back to now. I've lost 41 pounds since October 1st. So, if I can keep this up, I should be there by May. I really have to get to my goal because I won't have anything to wear if I don't. Talk about incentive -- lose weight or go naked!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Are you easily hooked?

Right now I'm reading a book by Gail Carson Levine called Writing Magic. It's my daughter's book and is written for kids ages ten and up. It's pretty basic, which I like because I can read it while my boys are working on their school work.

Chapter 12 talks about beginnings and she tells you to pull five of your favorite books off your shelves and read the first page of each one. It's an exercise to help you see how each author hooks you into their story. This is nothing new for you writers, I know, but I thought it would be fun to talk about today. I decided to pick 6 books that I loved as a kid because I wanted to show different stages of my childhood ...

Ramona The Pest -- Beverly Cleary

"I am not a pest, Ramona Quimby told her big sister Beezus."

I love this one. Not only does it show me right away that Ramona is the youngest of the two sisters, but I get a pretty good idea that she really is a pest if she has to say otherwise. Now I want to know why she felt the need to tell Beezus she wasn't a pest.

Little House in the Big Woods -- Laura Ingalls Wilder

"Once upon a time, sixty years ago, a little girl lived in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, in a little gray house made of logs."

Maybe it's just me being older, but I love once upon a time beginnings. This opening tells me so much in one sentence -- the story takes place a long time ago, sixty years to be exact, and it's about a little girl who lives in the woods inside a gray, log house.

The Trumpet of the Swan -- EB White

"Walking back to camp through the swamp, Sam wondered whether to tell his father what he had seen."

This opening line is awesome because it makes me think. What type of camp was Sam walking to? Is it a campground or is he at another type of camp? Why would Sam wonder if he should tell his father what he had seen? What exactly had he seen? This is a great hook that makes me want to keep reading to answer all my questions.

Charlotte's Web -- EB White

"Where's Papa going with that ax?" said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast."

When it comes to opening lines, this is my favorite. Just like Fern, I too, want to know where Papa is going with an ax. What does he need an ax for before breakfast? Is it for firewood or something else? Just the fact that this happens before breakfast makes me a little concerned. What a perfect way to start a story!

My Side of the Mountain -- Jean Craighead George

"I am on my mountain in a tree home that people have passed without ever knowing that I am here."

Again, this opening line brings up lots of questions for me. Who is speaking? How can anyone have their own mountain? What kind of home is in a tree? Is it a treehouse? What kind of tree is it? How come people haven't seen this person? This line gives me a lot of reasons to make me want to keep reading.

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret -- Judy Blume

"Are you there God? It's me, Margaret. We're moving today. I'm so scared God."

This one is a little different and I decided to list the first few sentences, rather than just one. It's obvious to me right away that a young girl is praying to God. These short sentences make me want to know why she is moving and why she is scared.

So, how about you? Are you easily hooked? What are some of your favorite opening lines and what in particular grabbed your attention?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Friends for Dilly

My fourth picture book, A New Friend for Dilly will be out soon. In this one Dilly searches from A to Z to find the perfect friend. Lisa Oakman has illustrated the second book just as wonderful as she did the first. Dilly not only picks out a perfect friend for himself, but gets to meet 26 adorable animal friends. But seriously ... are 26 friends really enough?

I don't think so.

Neither does Dilly, which is why we're asking if YOU would like to be his friend. Most people know about the Flat Stanley Project where a flat version of a book character is mailed around. That's what I'd like to do with Dilly. If you're interested in hosting Dilly, please email me your mailing address at and I'll start making a list. I'll send Dilly to the first person and will then contact whoever has Dilly as to where to send him next.

Feel free to keep Dilly as long as you like. He'd love to meet your family, your pets, your home, and see things unique to where you live. You can take pictures, keep a journal, or do whatever you like. I'd love to make a slide show of his adventures when we're done. I'll have a spot on the back of Dilly for you to sign name and city to keep track of where he's visited. As you can see from the picture above, he's already traveled to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. He had a great time and loved seeing the moose there. So, if you'd like to host Dilly, please let us know. He'd love to visit you!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A New Friend for Dilly -- trailer

My fourth picture book, A New Friend for Dilly, should be out within the next month. This is the second book in the Dilly Series. In this book, Dilly searches from A to Z to find the perfect friend. Illustrator Lisa Oakman has done a fantastic job creating 26 adorable animal friends for Dilly to meet. Even though it's not out yet, I've made a trailer for the book. It's not very long and you can watch it here ...

Friday, January 14, 2011

Life is a rose ...

Sometimes I feel blessed to live among such perfect people. Every single day I'm reminded how perfect people are, or at the very least, how perfect they think they are. I'm sure you know them -- people who aren't afraid to speak their mind and express their every thought and opinion, no matter who's feelings they stomp on in the process. I think we have the Internet to thank for this. In the olden days, we had to actually talk to people using our mouths. Imagine that. Now it's just a click-click here and a click-click there and we can tell the whole wide world exactly how we feel ... no-holds-barred.

I try not to discuss religion or politics with people, except for my family and closest friends. Those are things I feel strongly about and it's not my desire to tick anyone off with what I believe in just because they might have differing views. That's just me, but I certainly don't categorize myself perfect in any way, shape, or form. I'm the farthest thing from perfect and would be the first to tell you that. But sometimes when I read what people write on the Internet or listen to them on the news, I have to wonder how it's so easy for some people to toss out their 2-cents so freely. I suppose it's a weakness for me because I'm just not that bold.

I'm not pointing fingers. I'm talking about people in general. I think about my grandparents and how they lived in a time where there were certain things you simply didn't say or talk about. Some things need to be talked about, I realize, but sometimes it wouldn't hurt to keep our mouths shut. If someone asks for my advice, I'll give it to them, but will make an effort not to insult them in the process. A long time ago some Jewish guy said, "He who is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone." Regardless of anyone's religious beliefs or even non-beliefs, it's still good advice today.

I don't know why I'm posting this. Maybe I'm tired. Or maybe I'm at a stage in my life where I'm feeling small and humble in this world. Life is precious. We take it for granted and it can be taken away in the blink of an eye. I don't know about you, but for me it gets old listening to people spew their opinions about others they don't even know. I've always said, "There are three sides to every story -- his, hers, and the truth." We've become a society that finds it all too easy to express our opinions without having to walk in another person's shoes. The Internet allows us to hide like cowards in anonymity. Keep in mind that I'm not lecturing anyone. I'm simply trying to remind myself to think before I speak. Even a simple rose bud has thorns before it blooms. Words hurt. I need to choose mine more carefully.

Monday, January 10, 2011

With Much Sadness ...

I apologize for not being around much or reading all of your great blogs these past few days. Saturday night we received a phone call informing us that a very dear friend had died in a skiing accident. It was so unexpected. Scott was only 29-years-old. He worked with Rick as a probation officer for the state of Montana. I didn't know Scott as well as Rick and his co-workers, but I could tell he was an incredible young man. He was the type of guy you'd want your daughter to marry or even make you wish you were 20 years younger and single. There couldn't have been a sweeter, more handsome guy anywhere.

Scott was snowboarding with his friends on Saturday. They were finishing up their day around 1:30-2pm and agreed to meet at one of the bars at the bottom of the hill. Scott didn't come down with his two friends, but they didn't think much of it for awhile. Scott was an excellent snowboarder who knew literally everyone, so they just figured he was out having fun and would show up later. After some time passed, they got worried and started calling around to see if maybe he had left the resort and went home. No one had seen him and it was getting dark, so they called search & rescue. They began searching around 5pm, but it wasn't until 7:45pm that they found his body. He had fallen in a tree well and suffocated. Up until Saturday night, I didn't even know what a tree well was. Apparently, it's an area filled with very powdery snow at the base of a tree trunk. They've conducted tests and 90% of the people tested could not get out on their own. The survival rate of falling in a tree well is very, very low. When they found him, all they saw was his boots and board. Scott was 6'5" tall, so these wells can be very deep.

Rick is devastated. He and Scott were very good friends. Considering we're still fairly new in the area, I'd even say he was one of his best friends here. I've listened to him talk and always got the impression that Scott looked up to Rick almost like a father figure. When Rick decided to design a new program for the parole/probation academy, Scott was the one he asked to help him. Today was hard. I had a dentist appointment in Whitefish and had to look at the ski resort runs for the entire drive up. Then we stopped at Costco and I nearly choked up when I stood in the same aisle that I saw Scott last. That was right before Christmas. He was talking to my boys about snowboarding and encouraged them to keep practicing. On our way home, we stopped at Little Caesars to pick up a pizza for the kids. Rick said the last time he was there, he ran into Scott who said, "Great minds think alike."

Even though I wasn't as close to Scott as everyone else, the world seems a little darker. Scott had so much to offer. He's been a cop, a school teacher, a probation officer, and was currently thinking about law school to become a lawyer. He loved history and reading and was the type of person who would do everything he could to make the world a better place. Scott didn't work on Fridays, so Thursday after the bosses had gone home, he got on the PA system and announced a staff meeting. They all just sat around and BS'd for the last hour of work. That was the last time Rick saw him. Ironically, Scott had never done that before, which makes you wonder what inspired him to do it. I can see it now was a blessing they got to spend that hour with him.

Please, if you ski or snowboard or even snowshoe, please read this link -- Tree Well & Deep Snow Safety. Like I said, I didn't even know what a tree well was. I don't ski deep powder, but I have cut across it with snowshoes, not knowing I could be putting myself or my family at risk. If you or anyone you know is into outdoor winter activities, please have them read this link.

My heart breaks for Scott's parents. He was an only child and was taken entirely way too soon. The world has lost a wonderful young man. Rest in peace, Scott. You will be missed by many.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Watercolor Dilly

Yesterday the boys were messing around with watercolors and Nathan painted this picture of Dilly. I thought it was cute, so I added an Art Gallery to Dilly's website, DILLYLAND. I also added another picture he drew a year ago of a Disco Dilly, which still cracks me up every time I see it. It's hard to read, but he has a shiny suit, microphone, and a big afro. Get down, Dilly!

I'd like to add more drawings to the website. If you've bought my book for your kids, please encourage them to draw a picture of Dilly for me. I'd really appreciate it. The second book should be released sometime in the very near future, so we're all really excited about that. Dilly goes searching from A to Z to find the perfect friend. I wonder who it will be!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

New logo ...

So, what do you think of the new Starbucks logo? I know what you're thinking. I'm sure you are thinking that there are way more important things to talk about than a paper coffee cup -- and you're right. However, most of those other things are either sad, infuriating, or depressing, so I'm going to talk about coffee cups and their logos. Back when I did a small, home-based desktop publishing business, I made a few logos for people so they get my attention, especially when they're changed.

Personally, I don't like the new logo. I think it looks generic and boring. The third logo has always been my favorite because it showed off the siren's hair the most and wasn't as graphic as the previous two. Yeah, I know, I can be a real prude at times. The new one just looks weird. It would be like taking all the words off a dollar bill. What's so bad about having your name on your product anyway? It sounds like Starbucks is making a lot of weird changes in the future, including being able to preorder and pay for your drinks on your phone. (((sigh))) I guess that's just the way of the times, but I still think it's weird. It's COFFEE, people -- and it used to be a dime a cup.

Oh well -- Starbucks really doesn't care what I think. And besides, all the drinks that I like are too high in sugar for my diet anyway. But, if you'd like to read something interesting about all the other versions of the Starbucks logo, click here. Interesting stuff, especially if you're into mermaids.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Updated website

I have updated my website recently, including the cover for A Dinner Date for Dilly. I've also changed my photo gallery from sunsets to birds, if you want to check those out. I still need to add a few new projects to Dilly's Crafts and I hope to get those added shortly. My three picture books can be ordered through my website, by the way, and there are links that take you to the book trailers, reviews, activities for kids, my Zazzle store, and more. I hope you will take a minute to stop by and visit sometime. Thanks!

Monday, January 3, 2011

January is ...

National Thyroid Awareness Month. Don't feel bad if you didn't know this. I didn't either. I just stumbled across it and thought I'd look it up to see what it was about. Actually, the link says 2010, but I don't think that matters. The information is the same regarding thyroid disease.

I have hypothyroidism, which means I have very low to hardly any thyroid at all. Some of the symptoms of that are weight gain, lack of energy, depression, hair loss, etc. All sorts of not-so-fun stuff can happen, in other words. I take thyroid meds everyday, which is a pain, but I don't have much choice. I can't say I feel differently one way or another, though.

Hyperthyroidism is just the opposite of hypothyroidism. Symptoms include increased heart rate and blood pressure, anxiety, panic attacks, tremors, insomnia, and a bunch of other not-so-lovely things. Either way hypo or hyper -- none of it sounds like fun. Thyroid problems can lead to more serious complications, including cancer. They say nearly 59 million Americans suffer from thyroid problems and many don't even know it. The link is worth checking out, especially if you think you might be at risk.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy 1-1-11!

Boy, that's a strange looking number, isn't it? I hope you all had a nice New Year's Eve and Day. I also hope that it was a safe one. We stayed home, which is what we usually do. I got so used to Rick working these holidays back when he did patrol that we never really got into the party scene once he started having them off. That's okay, though. I'm not much into the party scene anyway.

I was trying to come up with a New Year's Resolution recently. Since I've been dieting and exercising regularly since October, I figured those wouldn't count. I've lost 36 pounds since October 1st, so that's definitely keeping me motivated. But, I wanted to think of something to do for a resolution, so I narrowed it down to two things -- learn to crochet or play the harmonica. I know, I know -- what two very odd choices, huh?

I've decided I'm going to teach myself to crochet. Well, I'm going to at least try and make an effort to learn. Next time I'm up in town, I'll buy a how-to set and maybe a book or two. I've always wanted to learn how to knit, but I'm thinking I'm going to try crocheting first and see how that goes. So, that's basically it -- learn to crochet in 2011. It's not a huge resolution and I certainly won't freak out if I find I can't do it. I simply want to give it a try and see. It kind of fits my anti-party-scene personality, too. Yeah ... I'm old.

How about you -- did you make any resolutions?