Visalia Taste of the Arts: How to Create a Veggie Masterpiece

Day 24 Ultimate Blog Challenge #blogboost #oddballphotochallenge

Cee's OddBall

Visalia Taste of the Arts has grown to ten times the number of vendors it had three years ago from 10 to 100 under my friend’s daughter, Carolyn Koontz’s administration. She now moves to a new job at Tulare County Office of Education. Congratulations, Carolyn!

Here are some of the more interesting Taste of the Arts.

Veggie Critter
Cuke, the Veggie Critter

Anyone could participate. Kids dug out holes for eye placement, attached all types of hair, legs, and other body parts. Interesting that most shapes ended up being some kind of “animal.”


Green teeth – no problem. They’re bound to fall out anyway.


This gives all new meaning to “We’re having octopus for dinner!”


“Who’s coming for dinner?”


Steps to a Masterpiece

  1. Grab a big veggie.
  2. Grab a carving or poking tool.
  3. Stick veggies on sticks.
  4. Poke sticks into veggies.
  5. Carve holes.
  6. Attach little veggies to bigger ones with a toothpick or by stuffing into holes.
  7. Display your artwork at the front table when finished.
  8. Take pictures.

For more oddball pictures, click here.

How Pierre Du Pont Turned a “Bad Investment” Into a Landmark

#Delaware trip Longwood Gardens #3

Brief History of the Pierce Home in Longwood Gardens

William Penn sold George Pierce the land in 1700. Pierce built his home there in 1730.To save Pierce’s Park or Pierce’s Woods, scheduled for eradication at the local lumber mill, du Pont purchased the Pierce home and surrounding acreage. Longwood Gardens became the weekend home of Pierre Samuel du Pont in 1906.

Du Pont, one of 11 children, helped raise his siblings when his father died, and he married late in life. He devoted his life to running the family business, but also managed General Motors in the mid 20th century.

Under his management, GM enjoyed some of its most prosperous years. However, he did not consider real estate a good investment. He was not married when he purchased the nearly 200-year-old home in 1906. It became his pet project after he decided that he could do a better job of designing gardens than his designer.

When he married, he and his wife enjoyed expanding the many features of the home where they could entertain many people. John Phillip Sousa was one of the many that came to the du Pont home in Kennett Square, PA.

Hal did not think this simple home seemed like the home of a multi-millionaire. It was a weekend home that reflects the simplicity of life in 1730. Du Pont felt at the time that he probably made an investment mistake. His motives were philanthropic and environmental. The video you can watch on the du Pont side of the reflecting home connects the pieces of the story.

Pierre du Pont stood tall after his father passed away, leaving him as head of household. How many people do you know would take that responsibility seriously, and finish their education? He graduated from MIT at the age of twenty.

I have a couple of other videos you can watch on YouTube. They need some work. The videographer is not only shaky but talking to herself more than you. It put me to sleep listening.

I hope you enjoyed this short tour of the George Pierce/ Pierre du Pont home.

How to Travel Like a Pro

Since when did travel get odd?

  1. Don’t forget essentials. Your bed, an extra blanket, and a couple of toys.

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2. Double check to make sure that your humans did not forget anything important.

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“Your food is already in the car, Puppy Girl. Don’t worry.”

Rrrrrr, rarrrf?

“Yes, your water is there, too.


“You just can’t see it. Your leash is in your bed. Now go get in the car.”


What are your travel hints?

Cee's OddBall

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This post has all the clickable links to get back to Cee and see other odd pictures or enter for yourself.

In case you missed them, click here.

When You’re Hot, You’re Hot

When you’re hot, you’re cool! Stretching it, warming up. You’re hot!


When You're Hot

Really hot stuff! You know? Yeah, you can feel it!

When You're Hot3

But maybe you’re not hot yet, you stretch, and warm up.

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“Arms, really? We’re working our legs here, bro.”

Some folks are just too hot. They don’t do anything. They’re just hot.

“You got that? Are you with me, bra?”


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Not everyone sees it the same way, though.

“You’re kidding me, right?”


When You're Hot4

Get ready for Kiwanis of Woodlake’s April Run for Hunger event. This helps stock the Woodlake Food Pantry.

CFFC runs weekly challenge starting every Tuesday.
CFFC runs weekly challenge starting every Tuesday.

Here are the next few challenges. To enter, Click Here.

  • Things that are Cold
  • Things that are Smooth
  • Things that are Rough
  • Things that are Wet

The Next Series 

  • Locks, Keys, Knobs and Handles
  • Indoor Seating
  • Outdoor Seating
  • Alleys, Driveways, Parking Lots, Dirt Roads
  • Freeways, Expressway, Highways

Pragmatically Optimistic About Life

“Things are going to get better. Be optimistic.”

Bob Dole
     Sixteen year old Golda could have bemoaned her life of trying to live down the stigma of her father’s constant trouble making.  Drunken stupors, fights, and now much worse. As good as her mother was, and as hard as she tried to make a good home, Golda could never bring friends to her house, and even hated to admit who she was.
Fred, Martha, & Golda
     Nearing the end of her junior year of high school, Fred Birchfield was going to jail again, this time in Indianapolis, fifty miles away, for killing a man. Maybe it was self-defense. Maybe the guy he killed was no good, and the police were secretly glad to get rid of the man, but her dad would do hard time. Of course, her mother would move to be near him. Golda envisioned another, more optimistic, life for herself.
Golda 8c
     Golda Harriette perched on the branch steadied by her best friend Lavona. The damp summer air that encased her body in secure warmth, plastered her limp bangs to her head. She loved smell of Crawfordsville, Indiana, the cloying smell of roses climbing the sides of tiny white frame houses, and the subtle clean smell of gladioli. She could watch the showy flowers swaying in the gentle breeze, gleaming along the back fence the morning sun like women in their colorful finery bunched together for an early morning church photo.The mix of the summer’s blooms in the Lavona’s back yard overpowered Golda’s senses, making her dizzy with the joy of life. Taking a deep breath, Golda leaned back her head and grinned at God. Filled to the brim with the happiness she leaned forward and touched Lavona’s shoulder with her cheek sharing her euphoria with her friend.
     She could go to Indianapolis with her mother, and maybe she should. but Golda did not see an optimistic future in that. She had taken pains while attending school in her small conservative town to keep her reputation spotless.  When Lavona’s mother said she could stay with them until she graduated, Golda hopes took root.
     Focusing her thoughts on happy times, Golda considered the many family conversations about Lavona’s handsome older brother, his U.S. Army service picture proudly placed in the center of the mantle.  She wasn’t proud of any man in her family. She didn’t remember her grandfather very well, and she didn’t have a brother, younger or older.
      Golda had not met Jesse, but Lavona told her how shy he was with girls. Over the months of secret-telling and giggles in Lavona’s bedroom, Golda felt intrigued. Jesse sent presents to his mom from Hawaii, a beautiful hope chest, a manly trunk, and dishes. Golda made plans. When he came back from Hawaii, she would talk to him, be his friend, and draw him out of his shell. He could be her big brother, too, or maybe something more. How could she hope to meet him if she moved to Indianapolis? Golda also dreamed about Frank Gifford in her high school class. She wondered if he would be the one to win her heart completely. She wanted to meet Jesse first.
     Martha Birchfield had a confectious belly laugh that made the walls of their tiny home shake. Golda believed her mother’s optimism could belie even national catastrophes, but she also believed that being pragmatic improved optimism. Before she married she planned to go to Normal School and become a teacher. She would be able to provide handsomely for herself until she married.
Martha and Golda
     Although she loved her mother dearly, and knew Martha Birchfield would do almost anything for her, Golda did not want to be like her mother, who got married instead of attending high school, and had her when she was fifteen. Martha’s three older sisters from her grandmother’s first marriage had married, so at age fourteen,  Martha  Nina Earl optimistically thought she could do the same, and she did. Golda rationalized that her mother’s optimism, though infectious, was often misplaced and impractical. That was not the life she wanted, nor was a man as unstable as Fred Birchfield in her sites. She optimistically thought she could do better.
     Golda’s young life did not reflect either the elegance or ennui in the upper class society of the great Gatsby’s acquaintance.  Nor did she look or feel destitute. Instinctively and by observing her mother, she knew how to elude poverty by working and saving.
     Optimism had crept into the nation’s political and economic fabric.  With Sears  opening its first store in Chicago in 1925, and its first free-standing store in Evansville, Indiana, the free market system started to blossom. If politics changed and threatened this new exciting lifestyle, Golda could vote, a freedom her mother did not have. This Crawfordsville damsel believed optimistically that  growth and wealth would continue into the future.

Golda 2 crop     Jesse Clark came home from World War I where he was stationed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii to find a cheerful teenager named Golda living with his family. As shy as he was, he could not escape the charming mental images she painted for the future. The flamboyant roaring twenties promised nothing but good times forever.Golda 3c     My grandparents married during these optimistic times. Surrounded by friends and family, they married when the 1920s roared their loudest, July 3, 1925, the year Charles Scribner & Sons published F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book, The Great Gatsby. They could have attend the first performance at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville in 1925, driving the luxurious  the Chrysler Six, Walter Chrysler’s first design.Grandma, Grandpa & Grandma B.     As first child born in the family since Golda’s only daughter, I spent most of my preschool years being chauffeured between my grandmother’s and great-grandmother’s homes. They spoiled me silly. They infected affected me by encouraging me to think I could do anything I wanted to do, in spite of having a double harelip.

     At the time, I guess that being born with a harelip was considered quite a handicap. I didn’t learn until I was an adult that the Nazis threw out babies with harelips as though they were trash, and I was born just six years after they lost control of the world. The dreams and optimism that drove my life forward stemmed from a lineage of both heredity and training from three optimistic women.

4 generations of optimism
L to R Marsha, Martha, Golda, and Peggy

Optimism is child’s play coupled with determined hard work.

     Speaking of hard work, I have started a blog specifically for writing and blogging tips. If you love this blog, or know people who want to be part of the writing experience, please follow my new blog for writers called Just Write or follow my professional writer’s Facebook page, TC History Gal Productions .  Thanks so much!

     Hope you enjoyed a trip back in the history of my mother’s family. For additional optimistic entries, click here or on the WP camera.

I participate in WordPress' Weekly Photo Challenge 2016
I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2016






Looking Down From the Roof Cleaning Solar Panels

With electric bills soaring to over $700 a month in the hot San Joaquin Valley summer, we switched to solar several years ago. Dust deposits cut back on their efficiency by about 13% according to my husband who watches the bill carefully. So early in the morning about every six weeks he climbs up on the roof.Looking DownHe scrubs the solar panels down with a long brush, the hose and a long squeegee. Up on High001Our bill was about $20 the first YEAR and about $115 lastYEAR, and you know the rates did not go down.Up on High002I want to give a shout up to him for taking such good care of things at our home. Thanks VP. You earned some well deserved R & R.Up on High003What would you like to do? Up on High005I know.  Pick up another long stick, and play in the water.

For more views of this weekly photo challenge,  look down, click here.


Oops- We Waited One Day Too Long to Trade in Our Car: Eulogy to a Prius

We named her Pris. She was my baby for nine years, and we went everywhere together. She is my subject for this week’s WP Photo Challenge, Oops.

See how glazed over her eyes are?

When her heart ruptured, I rushed her to the hospital and she underwent expensive heart replacement (hybrid battery) surgery, and we brought her home. Within just a few months she had another major attack, this time of her central nervous system (touch screen computer system). We took her back to the hospital, and the surgeons told us it would be $1,800 to put her back together correctly. I told Pris that was too much. She was not happy with me.

Her circulatory system was most affected by her central nerve damage. If she was cold we could press on the top of the screen to turn on the front and rear defroster even though the touchscreen buttons were on the bottom of the screen. If she had a hot flash, we could turn down the temperature of the air conditioner on the steering wheel, but her fan automatically came on full blast. (A real oops!) If we got tired of listening to her fan, we could turn it down by turning up the temperature on the steering wheel. That is not a problem in the winter, but when the outside temperature is 110 and her internal temperature is 130… (oops again)

We looked at cars for several weeks while Pris continued to limp along.  She tried to tell us the end was near. She dropped her rear view mirror and left it dangling by its cord. Vince stuck it back on. She complained because it was loose and it rubbed her windshield every time I hit a bump, but I ignored her complaining. She got in a little accident when someone backed into her at a stop sign – or she snuck up to kiss the car. We weren’t sure which, but she had to have plastic surgery. Even with insurance her face lift cost us $500. She showed wear around the door where her insulation started to sag. I told Vince I wasn’t paying for any more plastic surgery. One minute Vince could live with her for a few more months. At other times I could. Both of us should have known better.

Meanwhile Pris got sicker and sicker. One day she turned on her red triangle with the flashing exclamation point. She had leaked out all her oil in 1,000 miles. She was on a 3,000-mile checkup instead of 5,000 miles after her heart surgery. Vince filled her with expensive oil, and she felt better. She turned off her red triangle. He took her to have her oil changed about 500 miles later. Friday, she told us she would not go one mile farther, and she turned on her red triangle again. A sign appeared on her touchscreen to put her into park.

Vince and I finally HAD to agree on a car to replace Pris.  You can read about that in  a earlier post. I could afford something at the Corolla level.  I can’t tell you what he said about the Corolla because his son is proud of his. Vince told me I should get a Cruze when Pris started with her second episode. I could afford that without any help from him. Although I had drug my feet, I finally decided that a Chevy Cruze would work. We bought it after the shortest test drive in history. Vince wouldn’t even go along. He wanted to get on the way to go our Audi appointment, but  almost any car he liked and some he didn’t – an Audi, , ATS, Fusion, or Volt would need his financial help.  He wanted a Porsche, and that required all my contribution and then some. So he quickly agreed to the Cruze.

no name Chevy Cruze

We brought Pris’s replacement home Friday, No name Chevy Cruze. Pris looked forlorn, but if Friday was sad, Saturday was worse. The dealer gave us $700 in trade for Pris – dead or alive.  Vince drove her onto the tow truck. I couldn’t watch, but he took these pictures.

Pris 3 cr

Then she drove away for the last time. The mailbox looks like her cross.  She still looks good for her age – 9.5 years. Bye bye Pris. You were a good girl, and I love you. RIP

Pris 2 cr

For more mistakes aka “WP Photo Challenge – Oops” click here.

Discussions About Answers to Hard Questions Like Race and Politics

     It’s 2:27 a.m. here in Delaware. I’ve been visiting my mom’s 90-year-old cousin, Hal. We talk a lot, so I’m going to publish a post unlike what I usually publish – philosophy and opinions.  Fair warning.
     Hal is an ordinary brilliant chemical engineer who is trying to build relationships with people since his wife died. He has made some amazing friends among international students, mostly Chinese, who are here going to the University of Delaware for post-graduate degrees. I joined him tonight in an hour of one-on-one conversation with one student, a Chinese math professor aged 45. Being with these students makes both of us feel hopeful and positive. They are fun, engaging and excited to learn and talk about many topics with us as they practice their English skills.
     I needed a good shot of enthusiastic hope for the future, not hatred and lying that I see in politics and between people in general. Hal and I  had lunch with one of my pretend daughters today in MD. We discussed the dangerous situation in black communities near her. She said that a town close to her, comprised mostly  of African-Americans, was burned by militants. An off-duty firemen friend visiting another friend in that city was shot because he was a firemen. Fear prevails. Accomplishment for the solving the racism problem – 0! I feel like I should have had some words of wisdom at my age for her.
     Hal and I discussed how we thought an abused race of people might fight destructive racism. We both agree that both now and historically the black race has been severely mistreated, particularly by the whites.  But what can they do to make it stop?  For the race as a whole, neither trying to be good, even better than good, nor violence seems to have helped them get very far in the war against racism.  Violence against themselves, their own businesses, makes no sense to me at all as a fight against racial discrimination. Does it to you? And if so, why?
     Neither of us can imagine doing other than what we now do as white people, trust in God, and try to maximize our personal opportunities by working hard and doing the best jobs we can do to provide for ourselves and help others.  We both hoped that our lives would make a dent in the problem. But will that work? Has it worked to solve discrimination?
     In politics especially, it seems that people are getting less and less willing to compromise and work together. Teresa suggested that it might be nice to just wipe the slate clean and start over with all new politicians. It’s a great thought, but wow, that sounds immense. Hal suggested that a benevolent dictator might solve the problem. Ouch!  Who in this world is going to please and do the best for everyone?
     When I look around me at all the problems in the world, and how people are trying to solve them, the fewer answers I have. I feel discouraged and things feel overwhelming to me. I don’t like that feeling of losing optimism. It is not me.
     So there’s my rant for the night. so I probably should sign off and go to bed.  Hope you feel more enlightened about what actions we should take than I do!!!!  :) Tell me what you think.

Want A Beautiful 1.25 Acres in the Country?

A few years ago Vince and I purchased five acres of beautiful property, and subdivided it into four parcels. Three have sold. Two have beautiful homes, and my favorite remains.  We thought it had sold to one of my former fourth grade students, but financing fell through. I was so sad – instant grandchildren came with that sale. But maybe there is someone else just as lovely that wants to build a home there.

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Two days ago the weather was so perfect, I had to do a photo shoot there. It’s on a cul-de-sac and has a pad already cleared for building. This is the house across the private road.

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It was about 4:00 pm. The full moon peeped out of the clouds in broad daylight. I see a rabbit. What do you see?

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The lot has five or six oak trees that are probably between 50 and 100 years old. They are indigenous to this area, but are not protected like the Visalia Oak. The cute little house across the street is ours.  It is small, but very I think very adorable. He’s getting ready to redo our master bathroom. His son is coming to help him today, and I’m going out of town. (Whew!)

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The trees have many birds, mostly owls, woodpeckers and vultures. They are camera-shy. I waste so much time trying to capture them with my camera.

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I almost missed this one, and it’s not clear. I’m probably spinning as I follow it. I shot using my telephoto lens, which gets really close, but it sticks out so far, I can’t hold it steady. You are looking at the underbelly of a woodpecker. They love telephone poles. Every pole stores thousands of acorns. They like to put them in our gutters as well, up under the edge of the roof.

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This is probably a vulture in the top center of the maze of limbs.

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He doesn’t want to even land.

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To the east beyond the foothills, you see the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range on a clear day.


There is a vacant lot right across the street next to our house. Vince has always wanted to plant a vineyard, but there are many regulations, and neither of us knows what we are doing, so it sits fallow.

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You can see that the trees will bloom any day now.

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The young couple that planned to buy the property asked about snakes. Mama Kitty ate one the other day. I think it was a garter snake. She made the funniest screaming noise while she was playing with it. After munching it down, she later gave it back, but  was no worse for the wear.

2015 BV March115We have seen about 2 tiny rattle snakes in the 15 years we have lived there, so they are there. We had Kalev rattle snake trained, so she is alert. The cats just eat them. They also catch gophers. The squirrels are too much for them, so we have help catching them and the raccoons. Scardy Kitty got stuck in the trap one morning. He was quite irritated as he waited patiently for me to figure out how to open it.

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Country life doesn’t appeal to everyone, but city slickers, Vince and Marsha wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.



Notes on Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life – funniest book ever.  I can hardly get through this.  I’m 17% done.  I have written something since I was old enough to write.  No pressure to publish, just love to write.  Can’t help myself really.  It just flows out. Anne Lamott can tell you exactly what happens.

What should I write today? the autobiography of my childhood, or a book about the history of – oh say – women?


“You sit down to write… what you have in mind is…a history of-oh say- say women. …Then your mental illnesses arrive at the desk like your sickest, most secretive relatives.  … After a moment I may notice that I’m trying to decide whether or not I am too old for orthodontia, and whether right now would be a good time to make a few calls, and then I start to think about learning to use makeup and how maybe I could find some boyfriend who is not a total and complete fixer upper, and then my life would be totally great… Then I think about all the people I should have called back before I sat down to work and how I should probably at least check in with my agent and tell him this great idea I have and see if he thinks it’s a good idea, and see if he thinks I need orthodontia-if that is what he is actually thinking whenever we have lunch together…”

Maybe you will be better at finishing this book than I am so far.  As soon as I start reading, I have to write the same thing that happened to me only in a different way.

So I’m trying to get through at least one more chapter without stopping to write any more of her funniness.

HOWEVER, I’ve been on a writing roll since 12-27, but husband told me yesterday.  I thought he meant 12:27, but that’s another argument. (minor, minor one folks)

The other day after rewriting Girls on Fire for at least four hours, I took a break to take the dog outside.  The good news is that I had dressed.  Many days I don’t change out of pajamas until I know I have to go somewhere, and now I hate to leave the house for any reason.  But that day, I did throw on some jeans and a t-shirt I’d been wearing for a day or two.

Retirement MMP & K

My hair was still rumpled in a way only women with hot flashes understand.  The straight bangs that used to be thin and straight are now fluffy in all directions.  The back of my hair sticks out about an inch from my head then falls limply leaving a huge part the size of my  hand in the back.

bing car

So I walked out on the front porch and waited for the dog, who I’ve ignored all morning, and who drives up but the Bing car.  Maybe you’ve never seen the Bing car.  It’s white with a black sign on the side that says Bing.  On the top is a 5 or 6 foot pole, and on top of the pole is a camera(s).  The Bing car drives down your road at about 30 miles an hour shooting pictures from all angles from the camera(s) perched on top of the car.  The result will be pictures you can zoom down to see your street at any angle.  I’ve always worried that one of these cars will shoot through the fence in the backyard when I’m skinny dipping at midnight so no one will see me.  So far, until last week I’ve been safe, but last week the Bing car drove down my street.

Road Trip
Road Trip Yes, it took plenty of gas.  

I wouldn’t worry as much, but the picture that is up on Google has been there since we had our GMC motor home, which was about 6 years ago.  So I’m obsessing that this horrible series of shots of my bad hair day will be up there for everyone to see for the next 6-7 years. What if I become famous?  Will newspapers pick this up and publish it?

Now do you see why I’ve only read 17% of this wonderful book?  You’d better read it yourself instead of waiting for a book review from me.

How are you today?

Weekly Travel Themes: Noise

Vince and I come to Avila Beach in Central California to escape the quiet tranquility of our country home in the hot Central Valley.


At the Friday night street fair this band attracts a crowd.  Nobody could resist  “Sweet Home Alabama,” no matter what their age.

Street Fair2

People moved out of the way to let this couple dance.

Street fair6They didn’t inhibit others from doing something different.

Street fair4

Vince noticed the mature gypsy queen.  I tried to get close to her, but people kept crowding in between us as they danced their way across the street.

Street fair7

First one and then another, and my camera has a bit of a delay.  So I would get her all lined up , snap the picture, someone walked in front of me, and click, the shutter opened.   The results were interesting at times.

Street fair8

Sometimes they were downright laughable, but it was so noisy that you couldn’t hear yourself laugh.

Street fair5

I can’t hear her, can you?  I hope you enjoyed the music we heard at the Avila Street Fair last Friday night.  Tomorrow’s Friday.  Want to go?

To see more entries about noise or to see other themes visit Where’s my backpack?

WP Weekly Photo Challenge: Dialogue

Talkative Marsha struggling with dialogue?  In this case what I think the creator of this challenge wanted us to catch is a bit of fashion designing with our pictures rather than strict dialogue – odd things that sort of go together because of color or texture similarities or differences.  They just work.  I like fashion and decorating, so I wanted to pursue that angle.

First, I started with dialogue in a more literal sense.  Puppy Girl dialogued very clearly with Vince.  He worked on the computer, when clearly he could have chosen to pet her tummy.  So she grabs his hand and pulls.

PG and Pie

It’s endearing, but altogether annoying to him when he has an offer to submit.  Generally she wins.


Next I considered animals dialoguing with each other, and establishing their pecking order.  The queen here stands alone not deigning to even look at her lowly subject.  No worries, the subject, like the jester, simply enjoys the ride, laughs at the queen behind her back, and moves on, untroubled by the queen’s weighty problems.

Mike and statue

When I took this next picture, I looked at the sculpture, then Mike walked up.  Back and forth I looked at one then the other until dizziness made me shout, “Stop Mike!  Is that statue YOU?  Let me photograph the two of you together.”   Mike obliged.   I think it was the cheeks that spoke, but maybe it was the mustache. What do you think?

Then I thought about art work I had seen in which many pictures placed together made a collage that spoke as one picture.  When I see them, I think, that would be easy.  How can you call that art?  But since I can’t draw very well, my pictures kept their mouths closed, uncommunicatively.  Then I remembered the grapes leaves I photographed last fall.  As I moused through them, they started speaking.  All at the same time, “Pick me, pick me. I want to go in the picture.” So I created a collage.


Then another.


Finally I remembered the Woodlake Botanical Gardens.  I missed the show this year, but last year I happened to walk around Bravo Lake on the day that all the roses decided to bloom their brightest blooms.  One of them said, “I am the beautiful one, take my picture.”  So I did.  Another  group of roses playing and giggling together attracted me.  The last rose said nothing.  She turned her face to the sun and spoke to God asking nothing more than to be a blessing to others. I thought she was the prettiest of all.


If you enjoyed these take a gander at how other bloggers interpreted the challenge of dialogue.wordpress-20141

Wordless Wednesday: Woodlake Kiwanis Hunger Run/Walk

2013 Woodlake K Hunger Run034

What Kind of Animal Are You?

People love animals.  Popular picture book writers use this adoration. Children and adults alike identify with real and stuffed animals.  One of my writing groups asked the question, “If you were an animal, what kind would you be? Why?”

PG Prancing 1r

I love dogs, cats, and guinea pigs because they have been my favorite pets.

Piggles eating copy 1t

This prompt reminded me of teaching strategy called Four Corners we practiced in a teacher training seminar.  Each corner had a white piece of poster paper with the name of the animal written at the top.  Participants went to the corner that represented the animal with which they most closely identified:  gorilla/monkey, lion, snake or rabbit.

I chose rabbit because none of the others appealed to me.  As we defended our choices with other participants who had chosen the same animal, I developed an affinity with the rabbit.

Bunny 1crt

First we listed characteristics of the animal we chose, real, stuffed and pictures. Here are my random thoughts today.


  • reproduce prolifically, so it is doubtful they will be endangered.
  • are soft and fuzzy
  • are cute
  • usually make good pets (I hated mine.  He was “wrascally.”)
  • make good stuffed animals
  • make good stories – The Velveteen Rabbit as an example
  • kick hard
  • Bugs Bunny
  • have good luck feet
  • are not dangerous to humans compared to a venomous snake, gorilla, or lion
  • have their own year  I was born in the year of the rabbit.
  • are in the moon
  • are sensitive to the underworld, to vibrations and sensations humans can not detect
  • don’t need light to guide their way
  • are symbols of the earth, and are close to it
  • easily camouflaged, and therefore safe
  • are “wrascally,” and therefore intelligent.
  • travel in complicated zigzag patterns  Don’t try to catch one!
  • always know an escape route
  • defend their territory against other pets
  • are tucked in and self-composed

In the next part of this exercise we determined which of the other three animals would be OUR most fearsome enemy and why. Our group determined that lions were probably most dangerous to the rabbits since they are avid carnivores.

Finally we decided which animal would make the best ally.  I can’t remember which we chose, but personally I would prefer an alliance with a monkey or gorilla and not a snake.  Snakes can travel on and under the ground as well as hang from trees.  If I am enjoying my underground home, I don’t want a snake slithering in on me in the middle of my private family moments.  I’m not sure that I would trust a large hungry snake not to mistake me for a mouse, and try to eat me for dinner.

I hate to admit it, but I am prejudiced against reptiles because they don’t have fur.  Mammals are more my type.  I identify better with critters with feet, since mine are so lucky.

A monkey, however, is crafty and smart, like me, but has the agility of swinging from trees.  The monkey could help me watch out for dangers from above, while I protect him or her from things on the ground.

As a girl with a harelip, I couldn’t help but choose the rabbit group.  As a child, I never felt ugly because of my mouth unless some rude stranger pointed it out.  I had far more serious physical failings that caused me great pain as a young teen.  I wore a triple A padded bra.  :)  I didn’t need my harelip to feel insecure.

So if you too have had physical failings, I’ll leave you with a famous quote from the Velveteen Rabbit, that I find heartening.

“Once you are real, you can’t be ugly except to people who don’t understand.”

Margery Williams

Which animal would you be, or would you choose a different one altogether?

Introducing the Three Guinea Pigs

I’ve been working on this story for years.  Since I started the Australian Writer’s Centre class on picture books, I’ve rewritten it 5 times and gone from 1700 words to 686.  This is my 5th draft. See what you think.

BJ and Piggles

Three guinea pigs, Piggles, Tedlet and Buster, loved their human, Sandi.  Every day she fed them carrot curls and lettuce on a paper plate in the back lawn.  They chortled and squeaked gleefully when they heard her walk outside.

One day when she brought treats, a puppy, named Bud, lumbered out of the house.  After Sandi went inside, Bud raced around the corner of the house, ate their treats and went in the house.  The guineas ate grass near the bushes.

They hid under the bushes and squealed their high-pitched guinea pig squeal.   The grass around the bushes was getting brown. Sandi heard them and came out to check.  Their food had disappeared.

“You’re hungry, poor babies.  I’ll bring you more food.”

Sandi set a fresh plate of lettuce and carrot curls near the bushes.  Buster, Piggles and Tedlet began pulling the plate into the bushes.  Bud sneaked around the corner and grabbed the plate.

Three guinea pigs tugged against Bud.  The plate ripped.  Lettuce flew one way and the carrot curls flew another.  Bud ate the carrot curls.  Piggles ate one lettuce leaf.  Tedlet ate one lettuce leaf.  Buster ate three lettuce leaves.  Bud ate the rest of the lettuce after he finished the carrot curls, and went in the house.

The guineas ate the grass a little farther from the bushes.  They hid under the bushes and squealed their high-pitched guinea pig squeal.   Sandi heard them and came out to check.  The food had disappeared.  The grass farther from the bushes looked like Sandi had mowed it extra short.

“You’re hungry, poor babies.  I’ll bring you more food.”

Sandi set a fresh plate of lettuce and carrot curls near the bushes.  Bud appeared around the corner.

“Brrrr,” rumbled Piggles.

“Drrrrr,” rumbled Tedlet.

“CH CH CH CH,” chattered Buster rubbing his teeth together side to side.

Bud ignored them and ate their treats.  He rolled over and over in the grass, and fell asleep.

The guineas waddled over Bud.  They nibbled grass by his feet.  Bud didn’t wake.  They nibbled grass by his stomach.  Bud didn’t wake.  They nibbled grass by his nose.  Bud snorted, and rolled over.  The guineas hurried back to their bushes and hid.  Bud slept a long time, and awoke hot.  He wanted some water.

He tried to find his bowl.  It wasn’t on the porch, or the grass, or under the lawn chair.

Bud was thirsty after his nap.

“Rarrf,” said Bud at the door.

Sandi opened the door.

Your tongue is hanging out, Bud.  Where’s your water bowl?”

“Rarrf,” said Bud.

“Let’s look.”

Sandi looked on the patio.  The bowl was gone.

She looked in the grass.  She found an outline of Bud.

“This is odd.  How did this outline of you get on the grass, Bud?”

“Grrrr,” said Bud.  He walked over to the bushes.

Sandi walked to the bushes, too.   Bud stuck his nose under the bushes.

“Brrrr,” rumbled Piggles.

“Drrrrr,” rumbled Tedlet.

“CH CH CH CH,” chattered Buster rubbing his teeth together side to side, and bit Bud on the nose.

“Raaaaaaaaarf!  Raaaaaaaarf!” cried Bud.

Sandi laughed, gathering Bud’s upside down bowl from under the bushes.

“Buster, did you take Bud’s bowl?  Piggles, did you guineas eat the grass around Bud?

“Brrrr,” rumbled Piggles.

“Drrrrr,” rumbled Tedlet.

“CH CH CH CH,” chattered Buster rubbing his teeth together side to side.

“I think I see the problem,” said Sandi.

Sandi fixed more lettuce and carrot curls and put them in Bud’s water bowl.  She set the bowl in the grass near the bushes.  Bud came out to eat the lettuce, but Sandi sat down on the big lawn chair.

“No Bud.”

Bud whined.

Sandi turned Bud’s bowl upside down. Lettuce and carrots dropped on the paper plate.  She filled Bud’s bowl with fresh water.

Bud drank the water, and then licked Sandi’s hand.  The guineas purred as they ate their treats.

“Apologize to the guineas, Bud.”

Bud licked each guinea pig on the head, and lay down beside them to watch them eat.  The three guineas kept eating.  They didn’t hide in the bushes.

header flower & piggles

How to Play Croquet with Kids

This was the most fun New Year’s Day I have ever had.

IMG_1293 Paula and the kids came over bringing the croquet set with them.

Setting up

Vince and Edward set it all up before lunch.


Here are the rules.

  1. If you are the youngest and littlest, you get twice as many shots as everyone else.  (Chloe won and got bored and took pictures the next time.)
  2. If you get too far behind,  move the ball a little with your feet.
  3. Never swing too hard like you are hitting a golf ball 250 yards.  Croquet mallets break when you miss the ball and hit the ground.
  4. Choose the winning color.  Yellow is the color that wins because everyone hits your ball through the hoops for you.
  5. If you hit a person, you get to hit again.  If you go through a hoop, you get to go again.  If you are little, you get to go again.  If you don’t get to go again, hit it again anyway.  You’ll catch up faster.
  6. If you get bored playing, you have to be the photographer.

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What did you do on New Year’s Day?  Or, was that day a complete dud, and you’ve had better days to discuss?

Manny Here

Dear Friends,

I am writing for Mom this morning cause she has her nose in her book all the time.

TC at work2

I’ve been making some resolutions as I sit here on my travel blanket and have all my gear around me.

Manny studies his options

  1. I want to go somewhere else.  Mom wants me to write my own blog, but that’s her resolution.  Do your parents make resolutions for you?
  2. I am going to resolve not to get so mad at her for making resolutions for me.  After all she did send me all over the world with her friends.  I can’t complain or you will all revolt instead of resolve.
  3. I’m going to have more fun in 2014 without landing on my face doing it!

M & J in Frankfurt

What are your resolutions for 2014?

M & J landed

P.S. This was Justin and I in Frankfurt.  It was a blast!  I love Mom for letting me go.  Thanks Carol and Glenn, and of course, my friend, Justin.  :)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Let There Be Light!

Light makes me bubble with joy.  Let there be light!

STL lights on icy fountain

When I was a child, we had family December light-viewing rituals.  From early in the season to a few nights before Christmas our parents drove us around different Indianapolis neighborhoods to see all the light displays.  We would stop whatever we were fighting about and pile unhappily into the car.  A family of self-appointed judges, we debated which homes were the most beautiful.  Every year we returned to one house in the country with a dizzying amount of illuminated displays, our winner’s choice.

Another special treat for me was when Mom and I dressed in our warmest boots, coats and gloves and took a bus downtown to the Circle.  The two major department stores, L.S. Ayres and Block, decorated their display windows, with new animations which competed for our viewing pleasure.  My great-grandmother walked us next door to her neighbor’s who decorated under her tree every year adding some little thing until her entire living room became the winter wonderland.  I was enthralled as only a small child could be.

Lights are musical and theatrical.  They represent putting yourself out in the open, and once you’re out there others can see and judge your performance.  The History Girls loved Wicked.


Lights represent joyousness and fun and are good year round.

SFW Santa Monica175

As I wrote this I realized that lights and judgement are interchangeable.  When we look at lights we generally make a positive judgement.  We judge the lights when they make an impression on us, and lights also make judging possible.  Artists highlight positive attributes, and dim less desirable areas, making the good seem better by contrast.  When there is too much light, we get overwhelmed and confused even if we think the lights are fabulous.  We can’t appreciate details when everything is equally bright.

SF with Mary080r

As an adult, I become that small child once again, excited when I see beautiful lights.  Just over a week ago, my social studies buddies from around the country met in St. Louis for the National Council for the Social Studies Conference.  Two friends of mine from San Diego and I had dinner, then took ourselves on a guided tour of the lit Sculpture Gardens in downtown.  Lights create magic, and make us festive and playful.

Cheryl and Marsha

I hope you enjoy your season of lights as much as I am already enjoying mine.  To see other light displays click here.