Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve

Oh my, it's New year's Eve already. And the weather outside is nasty. We're having snow showers/ sleet/ ice storm/ rain. So, why not stay indoors and work on puzzles at Jigzone?

Or, better yet -- work on this one. Jigzone says that we can embed a puzzle into our blog sooooo, here goes.

Click to Mix and Solve

Sorry about that. I've tried all the formats, even those where it says it will Overlay Blogger's narrow width and all it does is hide under Blogger's borders. So you'll have to click on the picture of the puzzle and the link will take you to jigzone.
Have fun!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Nonfiction Monday -- Spot the Plot

Spot the Plot -- a Riddle Book of Book Riddles by J. Patrick Lewis. Illustrated by Lynn Munsinger. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books, 2009. Available now.

Let's end the year with some fun!
What the heck is a riddle book of book riddles?
Just what it says -- each riddle describes the plot of a book you should know.

The words give clues.
The illustrations give clues.
(warning -- the boy and girl and dog in the illustrations have nothing to do with the book being described.)
But where are the answers? (just in case you are not sure about which story is being described.)

The answers are listed in the back of the book -- as titles on the spines of books piled high.

Not all of these titles are books that early elementary students can read. But surely they've at least heard of them. (Charlotte's web, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and The Adventures of Pinocchio are the longest ones mentioned. The rest are stories every child should know by the time they are in second grade.)

Fun for kids.
Useful for teachers and parents.

The Nonfiction Monday roundup is located at Practically Paradise today.
-wendie old

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Ummmm, A Cooking Blog for the Holidays

Here's a link to my friend Mary Ann Dames' blog. She's a marvelous cook, a professional dietitian, and a fun person. Enjoy her holiday, kid-friendly foods plus food activities. (holly leaves from green and red peppers?)


Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Day

Peace on Earth
Good will to everyone!


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wood stove warmth on the night before Christmas

Warm, warm, loverly warmth!

We've been trying to keep the house warm with electric heat -- which works well enough when the outside temperature is 40 degrees. But as soon as it goes below freezing, and stays there, we have to start using the wood stove to keep warm.

But first -- the chimney has to be cleaned.
Normally we get this done sometime in the fall, but this year December suddenly came upon us and we realized that it had not been done. Can't begin wood stove heating season with a dirty chimney.
(unless you want a chimney fire.)
(we've had several of those. It's embarrassing to have those handsome, young, good-looking firefighters tramping through our cluttered house, directing their detectors toward the chimney wall on all three floors to detect how far up the chimney the fire has progressed.)

Dangerous? Not really. This stone house has been sitting here since 1740.
What's to burn? The walls are 2 to 3 foot thick stone walls. And the shingles on the roof are fire resistant.

My husband cleaned the chimney a day or so ago and lit a fire in the wood stove last night.
Ummmmm. Warmth!
This house was built to be heated with wood -- every room has a fireplace.

So, we're not worried about Santa attempting to come down the wood stove's chimney tonight. He can take his pick of any of the others. (The 10-year-old is rooting for the man in red to choose the chimney in her room. )

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


The week before Christmas isn't kind to writing projects. It's best to just accept that your mind is on other things and 'go with the flow.'

Do you have presents for everyone? Does Uncle whatshisface need another present? (I spent some time looking for an orange peeler for him -- simply because I think mine is such a neat food tool and would like him to enjoy using one, too.)

Does the kid have too many presents? (only children have that problem. When I grew up, in a family of four children, you knew you'd get either one large present or four smaller presents. Being the oldest, I ended up just sitting there with a smile pasted on my face while the younger kids went wild with their presents.)

Do we have enough cookies? pies? Should I get the roast beast today or tomorrow? (I got it today and it's sitting in the refrig as I type.) What else do we need for the 25th? Making a list and checking it twice.

Fun, fun, fun.

Also, I finally bit the bullet and joined Facebook. Now how can I get my blog to show up there as well as here?
Fan page? What's a Fan page?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Nonfiction Monday -- Snowflake Bentley

Well, if you've been following this blog, you know that we've had quite a snowstorm here in Maryland. My house had about 20 inches and it looks like my library has had about a foot. (The library is near the bay, so it gets less snow.)

Strangely enough, I like snow. (Except when we're told to report to work and get to sit in a neighboring parking lot because the library's lot and sidewalks hadn't been cleared yet.)

One of the things I like about snow is its variety. Check out various websites that show the many different words describing snow by people who live near the Arctic circle. Inuit/ Lapland/ and others. (I was going to link to one, but he says the language is Eskimo, which is NOT their proper name.)

For this nonfiction Monday, I'd like you to check the Caldecott winner of 1999 -- Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, Illustrated by Mary Azarian. (She's the one who got the medal) Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co. Available in your library, or any bookstore will order it for you.

Once there was a boy who loved snow. (like me) When he was 17 years old, his parents bought him a camera. Since he lived in the late 1800s, it was a huge camera that used glass negatives. He figured out how to photograph snowflakes and discovered that no two snowflakes are alike! The book of his snowflake photographs, Snow Crystals, is still available and would be a wonderful secondary source to share with the child who reads Bentley's biography.

Although the 'story' part of the biography uses simplified sentences and is quite short, there are sidenotes on all the pages giving more facts.
Enjoy the snow.
Enjoy reading about snowflakes.

The Nonfiction Monday roundup is at SimplyScience today.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Snow 2

Well, the total snowfall in our area of Maryland (as computed by the snow piled on top of the trash cans by our house) was about 20 inches. The sun is out now, temperatures are hovering around freezing (up from 22 degrees last night), and the snow is compacting.

My husband is outside doing a final snowplowing of our 200 yard long brick walkway and our much, much longer driveway. We know from experience that, if we can expose the bricks to sunlight, even in below freezing weather, the trace of snow left after plowing will disappear and we will have a dry, ice-free walkway out to our cars. And an ice-free driveway up the hill to the road.

Now, contesting with the county snowplow will be the problem. County snowplow throws a three foot embankment of snow and ice across the opening to our driveway. We clear enough away to get our cars out and another snowplow blocks it up again. grrrr.

Sooo, how was YOUR weekend?
I'm a-thinkin' I'll be doing more online shopping instead of going to the mall this year. I feel sorry for the stores with no customers, but if I can't get there (or to the post office to mail packages), what else can I do?

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Well, the East Coast has been hit with a NorEaster of a snowstorm. Think back to the blizzards you used to know. Yup. That's what is happening right now -- here. They're predicting about two feet before it's all over.

I spent all day yesterday at work complaining (off and on) that the Saturday staff had it lucky -- they would be able to do Christmas shopping and mailing of packages on Friday AND have a day off on Saturday with the libraries (etc.) closed. Whereas -- we had to work Friday and would not be able to finish our shopping and mailing -- all things that I had planned to do on Saturday.

Yes, we were hit with people who needed books and DVDs to keep them busy indoors during the storm, so at least we had rushes of business at the library. But most people were probably hitting the malls and grocery stores. We closed the branch by turning off many of the electrical things, preparing for a long closure. (We've been told that, if we turned off every computer in every branch at the surge protector, we'd save enough money to pay for another staff member. Good to know in this time of economic crunch.)

When I drove home, the Baltimore beltway was a traffic jam -- almost completely stopped in places with people trying to get home from work plus the holiday shopping crowd. (We're in the middle of Hanukkah, too.)

The 10-year-old and I added to the grocery store mob scene. We stopped there to get milk -- and supplies for making cookies. I figured that we could do the major grocery shopping for the house on Sunday when the storm is supposed to be over. But from the looks of things outside right now, I'm not sure just when grocery schools, libraries, and schools will re-open. It's possible things will be closed on Monday as well, while parking lots are bulldozed out.

My husband stayed up late putting extra wheels and the snowplow on our Gravely mower. He usually plows several times during storms like this.

But --
Once he did this and pushed the snowplow out of its storage place -- it refused to start.
Oh no!
This means that we will have to shovel snow. All two feet of it. It's going to take us all day Sunday to shovel out.
(added later) He tried again to start it this morning and it worked fine. However, all his nice plowing of the 6 inches of snow is now covered up with 3 or 4 more inches.)

Think of us as you enjoy your (comparatively) 'warm' day.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Nonfiction Monday -- Guess Again

Guess Again, by Mac Barnett. Illustrated by Adam Rex. New York: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2009. Available now.

Guess again!
You gotta guess again,
because your first guess will be WRONG.

I have no idea why this is classified as poetry. It's more like a crazy riddle book. In fact, the riddle section of the library has books of poetry similar to this one, where every line makes sense and the (turn the page) answer to the riddle rhymes with one of the ending words in the 'poem.'

This book seems to be the same thing. A poem which looks like it's made up of two couplets. The first two rhyme, leading you to think the answer to the riddle -- the last word of the fourth phrase -- will rhyme, as well.

Turn the page.
It's so wrong that it makes no sense.
Just why would the pirate's mother be on his shoulder -- when the sentence before ends in "share it," leading you to believe the answer will be Parrot? When the illustration also leads you to believe that there is a parrot on his shoulder.
Gnashing of teeth.
many groans.
Not funny, McGee.

I wonder why this book is classified in the poetry area (where it will get lost, overlooked, ignored) and not in the riddle area where it properly belongs? Your guess is as good as mine.

Even the title page will have librarians guessing, because the Verso material isn't on the Verso. It's facing the Title page.

And what does the robot pictured on the end papers have to do with this book?

If you check the reviews on, you'll find people with an opposite view of this book. One thing I did notice -- all of the favorable reviews there were by parents with boy children. The parents of girls complained that it wasn't funny and their child didn't like it. In-ter-est-ing.

Meet the author and illustrator and get activities at Simon and Schuster's webpage.

The other books being reviewed for Nonfiction Monday are being collected at In Need of Chocolate today.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

If it's Saturday, it must be Santa

Today was our annual Brunch with Santa at the library. I was all set to use the theme of "The Night Before Christmas," when it occurred to me that my new picture book would fit one of my alternate themes.

So, I put the Night Before Christmas books back on the Christmas book display and gathered up others. Then I threw in the new Jingle Bells pop-up book and gave the children all jingle bell bracelets to shake while singing the song with the book. This plus my new manuscript, and showing off some of the other new Holiday books rounded out the program.

This year's Santa was a semi-retired store Santa, with a REAL white beard. He was wonderful with the children. Much thanks to the Joppatowne Woman's Club for holding this event every year at our library for the past 30 years.

Wow. I just did a search of this blog and disccovered that I have talked about this program every year. So, if you are interested in the variety of themes I always use, click here and here. -wendieO

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Writer's Retreat Weekend

If you need to get away, taking a writer's retreat is a nice way to get your writer's juices flowing.
This past weekend I attended one on the Eastern Shore of Delaware. Like the view? Well, remember, I saw none of this because it rained all Saturday.

I had intended to work on my Lance (the dog) stories. And maybe fiddle with one or two other things. However, you may have noticed that my Vermont College Advisor, Julie Larios, challenged me to turn a November Blog into a picture book. So that became the first order of the day.

My first attempt, not so good. I simply re-wrote the blog from the viewpoint of a child. hmmmmm.

My second attempt was better. But I realized that I would need the names of many more pies than just pumpkin pie -- delicious as pumpkin pie is. So I ran out of the "quiet" writer's room into the noisy one. Help! Help!

I wrote my plea for pie-help on the whiteboard. (In an attempt not to disturb those intent on their computers) But when I turned around, about seven writers had left their own writing and had crowded around the board. (Any excuse for a break from writing, right?) This pie. That pie. It wasn't but a few minutes until I had enough pies -- many of which I had not thought of before. Yea! I LOVE when the group mind goes to work.

I presented the resulting picture book during the evening reading session.

I'm definitely going to go to next year's writing retreat, even tho it's scheduled to be in West Virginia, which will probably be an even longer drive away.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Nonfiction Monday -- Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore by Thomas Kingsley Troupe, illustrated by Matthew Skeens. Minneapolis, Mn: Picture Window Books (Capstone Press), 2009. available now.

Usually books about our national monuments are illustrated by photographs, but not this book. However, the illustrator managed to capture the important points about the creation of this huge monument to four of our presidents. (quick -- name those four presidents)

The information in this book is bookended by a park ranger. Although the text is printed in large typeface with short sentences which makes the book accessible to first and second graders, the remainder of the book is supposed to be the talk he is giving to tourists.

Did you know that Mount Rushmore was not the first choice for carving historical statues? Mr. Doane Robinson originally planned to include heroes from the history of the American West, including various Native Americans, on some of the tall rocky peaks in the Black Hills of South Dakota called The Needles. But they were too fragile.

The final carving (done by blasting dynamite. then fine-tuned by other rock carving tools) shows four U.S. presidents instead of Western heroes.

Poor Thomas Jefferson. After 18 months of carving, his face was blasted from the mountain because the rock kept cracking. The rock was stronger on the other side of Washington, so they began carving again there. (The book does NOT mention that a portrait of a young Jefferson was carved. So young that people often think the head next to Washington is his WIFE, Martha Washington! No, that's not in this book. I discovered this information while researching my own book about Thomas Jefferson.)

Of the three books suggested "to learn more" section in the back of the book, one is produced by the Mount Rushmore History Association, which leads me to believe the information presented here is as accurate as can be.

Other backmatter includes:
More facts. Glossary. Index. On the web. And a list of all the books in the American symbols series.

Disclaimer -- This book is part of a box of books sent to me from Capstone. The remainder of those books will soon find their way to a nearby school library.

More Nonfiction Monday messages can be found at Rasco from RIF. -wendieO

Saturday, December 5, 2009

writing writing writing

I'm taking a long weekend from work to go on a writing retreat.
It's been great! Nothing but writers here.

There's one large room where writers 'who like to chat while writing' sit. Two with notepads and pen/ the rest with laptop computers. And one room where those of us who like complete silence are sitting. (Two of us writers and one artist with a computer sketchpad.)

Although we are sitting in a conference center at the mouth of the Delaware Bay, with the Atlantic Ocean within sight, the weather outside does NOT tempt us.
High winds and torrential rains!
Further inland is being hit by snow, but we just have cold windy rain.

Will we have to drive home in this?
Nope. It's supposed to be sunny tomorrow.
It's a conspiracy -- forcing us to stick to our computers and not be distracted by wanting to walk beside the water.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Qudditch anyone?

I've just discovered that there's an Intercollegiate Quidditch Association with over 200 teams! For a slide view of some of their games, click on the link.

Here's what their website says:
The IQA started in 2005 as an intramural league at Middlebury. The rules were adapted from JK Rowling's Harry Potter novels by Alexander Manshel, the first Quidditch Commissioner.

In 2006, Alex Benepe took over as the Middlebury Commissioner, and in 2007, he founded the IQA, following the first Intercollegiate Quidditch match between Middlebury College and Vassar College on November 11th, 2007.

Since then, more than 200 institutions from around the world have joined the league. The vast majority are based in the US, and are divided among five regions: The Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, Southwest, and Northwest. Other countries with teams or leagues that play by the IQA rules include Canada, Mexico, Argentina, England, Iceland, France, Israel, and Australia.

Additionally, dozens of High Schools around the world have started playing by the IQA rules as well. In an effort to standardize the rules as much as possible, the IQA will distribute its official rulebook to any team, of any age, representing any institution (clubs and community groups are allowed as well) in any country of the world. Currently the rulebook is only available in English, but that will change soon.

WOW. I think I'll go back to college. It looks like more fun than the standard football/ soccer/ whathaveyou games.