!, or Exclamation of Amazement

The Sunshine Blog Award

Yowza! Marcie Colleen at The Write Routine, you must be crazy to award me – I only just set up my blog 17 days ago!!! As Michaleen Flynn says about Mary Kate Danaher in the Quiet Man: “That red head is no lie!” Thank you!

According to the award, or to receive the gold, I must fulfill all that Rumpelstiltskin requires, in his words:

  • Include the award’s logo in a post or on your blog
  • Answer 10 questions about yourself
  • Nominate 10-12 other fabulous bloggers
  • Link your nominees to the post and comment on their blogs, letting them know they have been nominated
  • Share the love and link the person who nominated you.

1. Favorite color:  I like color combinations: like pink and orange tulips

2. Favorite animal: fox

3. Favorite number: 9, because of the uncanny way you can remember its multiples

4. Favorite non-alcoholic drink: Orange Whip (OJ and milk): drink fast before it curdles!

5. Facebook or Twitter: Facebook; I like real tweets a lot though: cheeri-up!

6. My passion: (other than PBs) adult nonfiction, humor, old movies (particularly British), gardening, Hefeweizen – wait, how many was I allowed?!

7. Prefer giving or getting presents: Both! It is also a gift to have some one to give to, and I am happy to oblige!

8. Favorite pattern: plaid

9. Favorite day of the week: all the mornings where I have stuff to pack lunches and don’t have to scramble!

10. Favorite flower: Anemone (see my fb timeline cover)

“Without further eloquence”…(also from The Quiet Man)…. I now announce my Sunshine Award Winners: 10 bloggers that refresh me like the rain does the dry ground! (Can you tell I live in the semi-dessert!)

1)  Kirsten Larsen
2)  Jennifer Young
3)  Rena Traxel
4)  Jodi Sousek
5)  Susanna L. Hill
6)  Catherine M. Johnson
7)  Nicky Johnston
8)  Diane Tulloch
9)  Eric VanRaepenbusch
10)  Juliet Clare Bell

All ten must take some of the Colorado Gold (sun) off of our hands – please!

Big Little Brother: Perfect Picture Book Fridays

Title: Big Little Brother
Author: Kevin Kling
Illustrator: Chris Monroe
Publication Info: Borealis Press, 2011
Intended audience: 3-8
Genre: fiction, picture book (40 pages)
Themes/topics: sibling rivalry, daycare, bullies
Opening and synopsis: “It’s my own fault. I wanted a little brother. When I finally got one I had BIG plans. ‘And when you are older you will do whatever I tell you to do.'”
Being an older brother isn’t going as well as expected. Especially when his little brother grows to be…bigger! And he touches everything with his sticky hands! But a surprise can come in a bigger package when big little brother saves him from the clutches of a daycare bully.
What I have to add: Clever, amusing and sweet! Simple yet detailed illustrations add greatly to the quirky nature of the story.

Check out other Perfect Picture Books on Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog.

Minimal Effort or Permant Press

One comment leads to a follow-up post. Unnecessary? Possibly. But my weirdness is multifaceted, so I’m going with it!

As a little girl I wanted to learn to iron so badly! Once I could  see over the board Mom and Sis were willing teachers. Spoiler alert – the fascination didn’t last. Even during my brief stint in the fashion industry I did not become a fan. The final discouraging blow came when my mother-in-law was taken aback (gasp!) when she heard I was not ironing for my husband (future in-laws beware!). Lucky for us all (we had kids) my own mother is a genius at housework and efficiency, and taught me things about wrinkle-reduction that will leave your iron cold. And now I will share this wisdom with you:

  • Purchasing a shirt made from 100% cotton, look at the nature of its construction: wrinkle-ridden or a keeper?
  • Avoid full immersion when all that is necessary is spot washing.
  • Sort your piles correctly to avoid lint buildup and discoloration.
  • Forgot to check pockets for tissues? Use the dryer.
  • Stick around till the machine is done. Shake out each item immediately.
  • I hang wash out year round, and if hung well (hee hee) it will dry well.
  • Gravity is your friend: ex. trousers are folded with pleats and hung by the pant leg bottoms.
  • Freezing temperatures: a short stint in the dryer (20min.) pulls out enough wrinkles for me to hang them out.
  • No need to tell me, there are exceptions!

If I have assisted one person in some small way, I will know I wrote the right thing. By the way, I know that’s not my female self in the drawing, but like him I enjoy a cold one as much as a cold iron.

Organization and the Sock Drawer

Time to let my secret out: I keep a highly organized sock drawer. Those who have ever ventured in to my abode will scarcely believe it, but it’s true. It remains my last bastion of personal control. My son and husband have much larger feet and my daughter has enough of her own (you’d never guess by the scattered straggler’s), so no need to open and  borrow . It is the one place in our house where only I reign supreme! And I do: sorted by color, folded not rolled, arranged even by fabric content!

Some might say I am ‘a little crazy’, or “Too time consuming.” “Who cares? Just toss ’em in the drawer!”

But a sense of organization, no matter the scale, is helpful. I write hints of stories and sketch ideas on bits of paper that can easily get lost. But that warm feeling I get when I open and admire the sock drawer reminds me: gather those scraps, type them up, file by title, place with others written that month, arrange with ‘Ideas’, store in ‘Picture Books’, organize with ‘Work’, and find under ‘Julie’s Folder’.

Don’t sock it – try it!

Perfect Picture Book Friday: NEVILLE


Title: Neville

Author: Norton Juster
Illustrator: Brian Karas
Publication Info: Schwartz & WadeBooks, 2011
Age: 4-8
Genre: fiction, picture book (32 pages)
Themes/topics: moving
Opening and synopsis: ””The big gray van pulled away from the curb, moved slowly down the street, and disappeared around the corner. Now it was quiet, and there he was, where he really didn’t want to be.”
Obviously Neville is not happy about the move and the new situation he finds himself in – having to make new friends. But with an ounce of spontaneous creativity born out of his woeful circumstances Neville, and the reader, are taken by complete surprise!
Why I like this book: Any story where  creativity leads us out of an unwanted situation, and puts us in a new frame of mind is something we all need to hear – again and again! Neville also reminds me of a few other curmudgeons I know and love! The illustrations are simple yet spot-on expressive and fun!
 Go to Susanna Leonard Hill’s site. for a list of “Perfect Picture Book Friday” reviews by bloggers, organized by topic and genre.


Goosebumps, the hair-raising you get with ‘the chills’, only occurs in mammals. You’ve seen it on a cat or dog’s back. Somewhere along the way it may have made one look larger (porcupine = raised quills) but sensing an animal feels threatened is enough of a yield sign for me!

It would seem most languages use the visual of plucked fowl to describe this:

  • German: Gänsehaut/goose skin
  • Italian: pelle d’oca/skin of goose
  • Dutch: kippevel/chicken skin
  • French: chair de poule/flesh of chicken
  • Hebrew:  duck skin/עור ברווז

But I really like the Tamil (southern India/Sri Lanka) expression: pullarippu/grass itch

A sudden unexpected case of them might also prompt yet another expression: ‘someone is walking over my grave’.

Show Me the Money!

I don’t suppose I could offer a ‘currency’ exchange without talking about money. An idiom is an expression, or a phrase that taken word for word represents something else, in essence a metaphor. There are estimated to be at least 25,000 idiomatic expressions in the English language alone. Like I said, a rich form of currency, that someone like me, writing and illustrating books for children, could use for inspiration.

Numéro trois: “L’argent ne se trouve sous le pas d’un cheval.”

Too bad.  Money isn’t found in a horse’s tracks, at least not in France. And we know money doesn’t grow on trees.

Geld liegt nicht auf der Strasse: it doesn’t lie in the street, so don’t look down for it in Germany. Or up in the sky in Italy: i soldi non piovono dal cielo. Spanish speakers aren’t looking to the heavens either!

However the Japanese are far more optimistic: Money grows on the tree of persistence.

Eek! Creativity unleashed in the classroom!

Once upon a time I taught art at a small private elementary school. The class room was essentially a large closet with no running water. So after messy lessons I would send a few kids at a time to wash their hands. On one occasion a child came back yelling about the strange red-eyed creature (was probably a boxelder bug) he’d seen in the bathroom.  As you can imagine, everyone else who went to wash hands came back with more gory details, including the girls. (Mind you there were two bathrooms, so this must have been quite the dexterous beast!)

I gave the chaotic hype a creative twist, and handed out blank paper for each child to illustrate what it was they had encountered, and further to present their pieces to the class, one by one. All hands got straight to work with vigor and focus! The screaming ceased but not the excitement! And we had a wonderful time viewing and listening to every ‘version’!

Unfortunately the directors did not share my enthusiasm. Our class was the last of the day and the excitement spilled over to the waiting parents as the bell rang. The children were so convincing that I was later reprimanded for my ‘wild idea’.

In my heart I hope a few might fondly remember what one can create from a spontaneous figment!

picture book junkie’s Perfect PB Friday Pick: Arthur’s Tractor

Arthur’s Tractora fairy tale with mechanical parts

Author: Pippa Goodhart
Illustrator: Colin Paine
Publication Info: Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2003
Age level: 4 and up
Genre: fiction, picture book

This book has rhythm: Arthur’s tractor ploughed up and down, chugga thrum, chugga thrum, chugga, chugga …. CRASH!

I love surprises in a book and this one is loaded. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll leave you with this – Poor Arthur! A farmer on his tractor, something sounds ‘off’, he figures and fixes – but Arthur is so focused on his tractor he doesn’t notice the magical story creeping up on him!

Introducing: Wednesday IDIOM Exchange

Looking for inspiration? Try another form of currency: foreign idioms. Having lived and learned in another country (Germany) I was often baffled by unfamiliar phrases, mistaking their meaning, and consequently ‘stepping into a bowl of grease’. In English I might convey such a blunder by ‘putting my foot in my mouth’.

Let’s start with a popular German saying:
Alles hat ein Ende, nur die Wurst hat zwei.
Everything has an end. Only the sausage has two.
Doesn’t really need a translation, but Shakespeare might have used “all’s well that ends well”, or “all good things must come to an end”, which Chaucer used.

Still wondering how that should inspire a story, let me give you a push: imagine a hot dog vendor at Coney Island, or in front of the Metropolitan Museum (my favorite stand back in the day), serving up words of wisdom for the downtrodden…or a delightful tip -to-tail romp with a dachshund! Would the witch have said it with a snigger to a young boy lost ion the woods with his sister? snIf an image still hasn’t formed try again next week. I’ll post a new one every Wednesday!