Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloweeeeen!

Happy Pumpkin-Carving-Trick-Or-Treating-Stay-Warm-Out-There Halloweeen!

We had the wind and rain but none of the snow, so Halloween (and school) are going on as previously scheduled. I know a lot of people around the state have no school today because of power outages and downed wires - and some towns have even - Horrors! - Postponed Halloween!

Not here. We'll be out collecting our loot - even the 15 1/2 year old who starts driver's ed classes this week wants to go out trick-or-treating after soccer practice... maybe I'll dress up too. What are you going to be for Halloween? And are you headed out or staying home?

Whatever you do, have fun!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

What are You being for Halloween?

Happy Night Before Halloween!!!

This year, my kids have all picked "characters" - from books, from movies, and from the news.

My youngest has recently discovered Heather Brewer's fun Vladimir Todd series, and even though she's a girl, she wants to be Vlad. We even used fabric paint to recreate the shirt on the cover of Eighth Grade Bites (above) and spent hours at the mall trying to find a plain black hoodie - you'd think it would've been easy? Nooooooo.... but finally found something suitable at Marshalls, in the young men's section. Apparently, everything for girls is required to have lots of bling. oh well...

My middle child is dressing as Christian Bale's character from 3:10 to Yuma, although I don't think he'll be peg-legging around school all day ;-)

My oldest wanted something easy, and went through the costume box of past costumes that were too much work to throw away... and he chose a white long-sleeved shirt covered with bloodstains... the source of which is a white tiger with big fangs biting onto the throat.... can anyone guess what real-life character he's going to be? I'm not sure many of hisfriends will get the reference, but it's a cool looking costume even without knowing the story of Siegreid and Roy...

I'm still working on Puppy's costume, and whether Puppy gets to come with us this year. She hurt her shoulder last week at the dog park, running through the woods with another dog and has been on restriction. Driving me crazy, let me tell you.

So what are the plans at your house? Or are you still recovering from a weekend of Halloween parties?

Whatever you do, have FUN!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Dogs and Girl Scouts and Volunteering, Revisited

Bright and early on a beautiful fall Saturday, the Girl Scouts and I headed to the Brewster Animal Shelter, where we sorted through 25 large bags of donations.... folding and sorting and tossing what was inappropriate. Like sheer curtains. And raggedy dish towels...

What was good we sorted into large laundry hampers, labeled them and stacked them in the storage garage for easier access by the shelter volunteers.

In three hours, the girls sorted and folded:
- 5 bins of pillowcases
- 9 bins of hand towels
- 3 bins of washcloths
- 1 bin of full towels and sheets (2 separate piles)
- 1 very large rubbermaid full of blankets

The sad part of it all is that the shelter doesn't have adequate laundry facilities and must dispose of the towels once they become too soiled. So even though it seems like a lot - and trust me, it seemed like a LOT - they'll go through it all and still need more. Especially more blankets, once winter rolls around.

Next week we start the next phase of this project, and place our collection boxes around town to get more donations for this shelter. Most of you probably don't live close enough to donate to our cause, but if you're cleaning out a closet or cedar chest, or find a pile of old sheets on a shelf, think about dropping them off at your local animal shelter. The items will get a second life, and you'll be helping animals in need stay warm this winter.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Dogs and Girl Scouts and Volunteering...

When I asked the girls in my Cadette troop (yes, I've resigned to the fact that I'm a Girl Scout leader again this year) what they wanted to do for their community service, the unanimous answer was "Work with the Animal Rescue League."

Unfortunately, there are pesky rules about how old you have to be to volunteer at the animal shelter. As in, you need to be 16 and these girls are only 11.

Luckily, the woman who runs the shelter was gracious enough to allow us to come for a visit and talk to the girls about other ways in which they could help the animals. The girls latched onto her suggestion to hold a blanket and towel drive, to provide clean bedding and warm places for the animals to curl up in for the coming winter.

And then we got to visit the kitten enclosure, and play with the little cuties that are there for adoption. And no, we didn't bring any home.

We also visited with the dogs, but through the cages. Like I mentioned, there are rules and age limits, so although the girls had thought they could walk the dogs or play with them to help out, all they could do was say hello through the wire.
Now for the real work.

The first part of the project is to help organize the donations that the shelter already has in storage. I'll be picking up the other girls and headed to the shelter bright and early Saturday - oops, I mean tomorrow! - to sort, organize, and label storage bins.

The girls have already asked for and receive permission from our local community center and public library to put collection boxes in their lobbies for the month of November. We talked about what makes a good, eye-catching poster and started making some, and got an offer from the local cable channel that if we write up some copy, they will air our public service announcement about the collection. The girls are also going to design flyers to put on community bulletin boards around town... but judging from the posters, I think we'd be better off creating the flyers on the computer. But that's up to them. This is their project.

But still, I wonder if there is more that I could suggest or encourage. Who else has done a similar service project, and what has worked for you? Maybe I could encourage them to also write copy for the local newspaper? Any ideas and suggestions are welcome... And much appreciated by this (semi-reluctant) Girl Scout leader!

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Paying it Forward Blogfest is Here!

So it's finally here - the Pay it Forward Blogfest! Big thanks to Matthew MacNish and Alex Cavanaugh for organizing the bloghop... and now on to the "cool blogs" that I'm going to point out to the rest of you...

1. The first one I want to give a shout out to is Helen Ginger's Straight from Hel blog. She has interesting posts about writing and great authors who visit her - and a newsletter you can sign up for that delivers tips and links right to your inbox. Plus, I really love the blog's title ;-)

But most of all, I like Helen's blog because when I get her emailed newsletter in amongst the notices from the schools and my kids' coaches, it reminds me that I am a writer.

2. While it's already a popular blog, I have to list Adventures in YA & Children's Publishing as my second shout out. Marissa, Martina, Clara and Lisa do an excellent job, posting interviews with authors, giving craft advice, and helping newbies like myself navigate the ever changing seas of YA.

And, of course, I'm grateful that I was chosen to be in their current "First 5 Pages" workshop ;-) I'm getting tons of great advice that's helping spark new ideas...

3. The third blog I'm going to point you to belongs to Lisa Ricard Claro, over at Writing in the Buff. I met her during the A to Z blogfest last April, and she wrote a wonderful article for the Summer issue of CapeWomenOnline magazine (my place of work) You can read her story about growing up spending summers on Cape Cod HERE.

BONUS BLOG #4. Okay, this one isn't about followers, but it is about paying it forward...

Have you all heard of Annie Leonard and her Story of Stuff project? She produces short films - and has published a book - examining various elements of our lifestyle choices. I discovered her website and blog when I was researching an article about Bottled Water that I wrote for CapeWomenOnline magazine. Her video about the Story of Bottled Water helped me truly understand the absurdity of the bottled water industry, and she was kind enough to give me permission to link to it in my article. I made my young daughter watch her Story of Stuff video, and realize why she didn't need EVERY product she saw advertised on t.v.

Annie's latest project is the Story of Broke, inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement sweeping the country. It'll be available online in early November. If you haven't watched any of her videos, go to her blog now and check them out. Or bookmark the site to watch later. And if you have young children like mine, The Story of Stuff really helps cut down on the whining ;-)

Okay, those are my suggestions. Now I'm off to hop around the blogosphere and see what other blogs my friends are recommending.

Have fun!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Paying it Forward

Tomorrow is the "Pay It Forward" Blogfest, organized by Matthew MacNish over at the Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment. I'm kinda late to the party on this one, but excited to check it all out.

In his explanation of the fest, Matthew wrote:

Here is how the blogfest will actually work: The idea is to introduce everyone to everyone else. We want this to be an easy post that allows you to meet and follow as many other bloggers as you can. In your post, we would like you to please list, describe, and link to three blogs that you enjoy reading, but that you suspect may fly under the radar of a lot of other bloggers. Or they can be famous blogs, as long as they're awesome.

But don't stop there! Certainly visit and follow all the blogs that are featured in people's posts the day of the blogfest, but those don't have to be the only blogs you visit. You can visit everyone who enters in on the fun, and signs up on the linky list. In the interest of time you don't even have to leave comment. You can just follow, and come back another time. After all, we all know we don't have time to visit every blog we enjoy every single day.

The list of participants is up to 175 at the moment (I think that's me, the 175th...) and Matthew is hoping to reach 200 if you still want to sign up. C'mon. It'll be fun.

See you tomorrow for the blog hop ;-)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Puppy Meets her New Cousin

My sister visited for the weekend, with her 9-week old puppy, an American White Shepherd, named Neva Louise, or "Louie" for short.

Puppy hasn't seen a puppy this small in a lo-o-o-ng time.

At first, the little one was nervous, especially with Puppy. Puppy's paws are as big as Louie's entire head. But Louie was definitely excited to meet her cousins and be part of a larger pack. By the end of the first day, she was coated in dog spittle, as the Big Dog and Puppy both poked and licked and prodded their little cousin.

Then we all went to the beach for a walk. It was Louie's first time seeing the ocean and walking on sand. She watched the larger dogs like a hawk, seeing what they did and how they did it. She wanted to do everything her cousins did.

Except go in the water. Louie preferred to watch from a safe distance as the other dogs swam.

Then we took just Louie to a few of the famous Cape Cod beaches... down on Nauset Light Beach, she looked - and felt - very small.
On Coastguard Beach, the waves were rough so we didn't even leave the boardwalk area. And on First Encounter Beach,she enjoyed laying in the smelly oyster flats and crossing through the flowing tide pools.

When we returned to the house and saw her cousins again, she was overjoyed - and quite emboldened. She started leaping up to grab Puppy by the ears and wrestling with the larger dogs like she was one of them. Puppy and Big Dog played tug-of-war and wrestled gently with their little cousin, making for a great floor show for the rest of us...

All in all a great visit with the new cousin. We can't wait for her next visit. Let's hope she's dreaming of digging in oyster beds and tugging on Puppy's floppy jowls.What did you do for Columbus Day Weekend?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

"Dogs Leave Pawprints on our Hearts"

Gracie was a 16-year-old shepherd/collie mix. She wasn't my dog, but belonged to another Cape Cod writer, and syndicated columnist, Saralee Perel.

I've worked with Saralee for several months at CapeWomenOnline magazine, but our interactions are all online. I haven't yet had the pleasure of meeting her in person, nor did I get to meet Gracie. I've just read the humorous and sometimes serious stories that Saralee writes about her animals, especially Gracie.

She called Gracie her "4-footed coach." Eight years ago, Saralee suffered a spinal cord injury, and when she returned from the hospital, Gracie appointed herself caregiver-in-chief. Unlike many human caregivers, Gracie never tired of her position and never left her post. Until this week.

Gracie passed away on Monday, leaving pawprints on many hearts.

You can read one of Saralee's stories about Gracie in the Fall issue of CapeWomenOnline magazine.

You can also visit Gracie's FaceBook page to read all the moving tributes people are posting on her wall.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Cooking with Kids: Apple Crisp

I'm not "technically" (see the finger quotes wagging) a Girl Scout leader this year. My daughter and her two friends are the only Cadette-aged girls who've signed up and you need at least 5 to form a troop. So I'm "technically" (wag wag) a volunteer advisor helping three girls who are going it on their own. Together.

One of the things they all said they'd like to do more of is cooking, so this week we learned how to make apple crisp. A neighbor had dropped off a large bag of apples, leftover from the pies she'd made last week. They haven't been popular in the lunchboxes ("boomerang" apples, cuz they kept coming home), so I thought we'd just get "rid" of them.

The girls are all 11 years old. Old enough to know how to handle a paring knife in the kitchen, but it took longer to show them how to cut, core and peel an apple than I had anticipated. Some things seem so basic in the kitchen, and yet you forget that kids have to learn it somewhere. And only my daughter knew what a pastry cutter was. Is it that obsolete?

Before we started we talked about kitchen safety and cleanliness. Basically, no fooling around and lots of hand washing. And instead of making the one big apple crisp that the recipe calls for, we divided it into individual pans so the girls could take them home to share with their families for dessert. The rest went into a larger pie plate that my family had for dessert (hey, the boys have to get something out of this Girl Scout deal.)
While the apples were baking, the girls sat down and learned how to copy a recipe onto a recipe card, and about various abbreviations you find in cookbooks. The recipe we used - and that they now have for their families - is a traditional Vermont apple crisp, a favorite at the Grey Bonnet Inn in Killington. It's easy to make and tastes delicious - even when the girls mangle the apples in he peeling and cutting. Just don't think about the calories ;-)

bag of apples 
2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup light brown sugar
juice of half a lemon
1/2 tsp nutmeg

Mix these ingredients and place in buttered pan.

Topping Ingredients:
2 sticks of butter
2 1/2 cups flour
2 cups white sugar

Lightly blend ingredients. Use pastry cutter if you have one. Sprinkle dry mixture on top of apples.

Bake at 375 degrees for about an hour, until browned and bubbly. Best served warm with vanilla ice cream.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Fall Has Arrived at CapeWomenOnline magazine


The mere word brings thoughts of change and transition. CapeWomenOnline magazine's new Fall issue is brimming with stories of transition and resiliency, from Cape Cod artists following their dreams to the Irish poet dreaming of fall in New England.

Great stories. Great ideas. Great issue!

Check it out at

What are you doing to celebrate fall?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Contests and Writing

This is how small Puppy was the first time I thought I was finished with my MG manuscript. There she is, asleep under my writing desk. I don't think her head even fits in that spot anymore, let alone her whole body!

Many rejections and revisions and rewrites later, the Puppy weighs almost 150 pounds and I think my MG manuscript is finished. Again. For real this time. Maybe.

Anyway, I entered it into the First Five Pages Contest over at Adventures in Children's Publishing, and got chosen to be one of the authors whose pages will be critiqued online.


I'm hoping not to be totally embarrassed or way out of my league compared to the other competitors... but I guess we'll see! If you have time, stop by and visit.

What are you doing to challenge yourself this week? Do you ever enter Contests?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Some Poetry for Sunday

Angela Felsted, one of my blogger friends, has her first book of poetry coming out in January. She made this trailer of one of the poems from the book, entitled "The Swan." It's short an sweet, and perfect for a Sunday morning, so pour your coffee and pull up a chair. And if you enjoy it, check out her blog at
She has a spot on her blog where you can preorder the book, or get more information. She also posts lots of her poetry online as well, like scorn from last week. Beautiful.

What are you reading this Sunday?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Looking for something to read?

I found this link to Orion Magazine on agent Janet Reid's blog, under the title "Read this."

I did. I'm glad I did.

Beautiful, thought-provoking writing. Be prepared to sit down and read a spell.

"Growing up Hard" by Joe Wilkins