Saturday, April 30, 2011

Stretch Yourself

Rough Sketch from "Turtles Can't Race"

I'm working on a new book called, "Turtles Can't Race."

And as happens with all my projects, I'm being reminded of valuable life lessons.

Ted wants to race. All the members of his family tell him that he can't. They have various reasons, some just mean, some out of caring, and some about facing facts.

Ted holds onto his dream. He continues to do his stretches everyday, eats right, drinks plenty of water and eventually does enter a race.

It's easy to let go of dreams for all the 'right' reasons. They can't logically come true. Maybe we aren't talented enough. Maybe we'll get hurt.

But usually dreams won't let go of us. Maybe we shouldn't fight them. Aren't we hurt just as bad when we work hard to ignore our dreams? Why not do our stretches everyday? Why not gently push away all the reasons people give us to not try?

Why not agree to do our stretches everyday, drink plenty of water, eat food that nourishes us, and live a life that is a journey toward a dream?

My experience is that living a life believing in a dream much better than the alternative.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Life Changing Book - About Spiders

I was never afraid of spiders. However, I didn't understand their true value or really want them around until I read, "Be Nice to Spiders" by Margaret Bloy Graham.

After discovering this book, I actually felt a fondness for them.

"Be Nice to Spiders" is a sweet book about Helen, a little spider, who greatly improves the lives of all the animals at the zoo.

Helen helped me realize what a mess we'd be in if there were no spiders to keep flies and insects under control.

I love to read this book. Kids like to hear it over and over too.

Who doesn't want to make peace with the idea of spiders?

Click here to solve a Spider Puzzle.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Homemade Chicken Pot Pie

"Our Own Chicken Pot Pie" - picture by Bill
 Chicken Pot Pie - the ultimate comfort food.

Bill (my partner) has been wanting chicken pot pie for quite awhile now. Rather than buy a frozen one, I opted to pull together the ingredients and make one ourselves.

First, I downloaded a recipe to use as a guide from I made sure to read all the helpful suggestions by previous cooks of the, 'bake the bottom crust for 6 minutes before adding the center ingredients.'

Then I revised the recipe to remove the ingredients I didn't peas...and add the ones I do like... potatoes, mushrooms, fresh corn, broccoli, and lots of extra onions.

Bill cut up most of the vegetables, while I got everything started.

We didn't make a homemade pie crust. I bought the Whole Foods brand pie crust. Oh my goodness! It is the most delicious pie crust I ever had. It's really not like pie crust. It's more like pastry. So, if you don't like a touch of sweet with your savory pie, then it wouldn't be the right crust for you. However, it was perfect for my taste buds.

Our chicken pot pie was a MAJOR cooking success. Hurrah! We have some leftover for tonight.

Tomorrow, I'm planning to make the German Chocolate Cake from my Magnolia Bakery Cookbook.


What's baking at your house?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Cookie of the Week

This week's cookie is delicious!

I thought of it when a friend suggested I look for a good gingersnap and I realized I already had a recipe for the very best.

I found this Gingersnap recipe years ago in the Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book, 1951 edition. (Just so you know, it was a well used cook book when I bought it at a Used Book Store in Kansas.)

Every time I share these cookies, everyone wants the recipe. They are mouth-wateringly delicious. A combination of soft and crunchy.

Extra bonus: if you keep them in a tin, they will last for weeks. I'm not kidding. They really last and still taste GREAT.

If you were to bake your own cookies this week, what recipe would you choose?

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Brilliant Book

I remember when I found "There's No Such Thing as A Dragon" by Jack Kent at Woolworths, many, many, many years ago.

I love the illustrations, they are what drew me in. What kept me was the brilliant story.

A little boy wakes up one morning to find a tiny dragon sitting on the edge of his bed. Everyone tells him, "There's no such thing as a dragon."

So, he and everyone else ignores the little dragon and it gets bigger and bigger and bigger, until at last they have no choice but to give it some attention.

This book is a fun and remarkable telling of something most of us experience: avoiding a problem until it's so big we have no choice but to deal with it.

For me, "There's No Such Thing As A Dragon," is reminder to deal with my problems while they are still small and manageable. Usually I'm successful with that.  : )  Hope you are too.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Update on the Branch

This week, I woke up, looked up, and there were flower buds on the tree branch at the head of my bed.

I can't wait to see what flowers are going to pop out.

This whole branch saga has been quite an experience. I drug the branch home from the park several weeks ago, so I could enjoy the lines that the branches make.

I stuck it in water to keep the branch supple...then buds popped forth, then leaves, and now, flowers!


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Fill Your Page!

Yesterday, I was back in the classroom working with students on illustration through Behind the Book.

The students and I discussed some of the important points of illustration, drawing multiple ideas before choosing one, how to draw the interest of a potential reader, how to enhance the written story or to even create a second story that only appears in the pictures.

Shown here is one of the student illustrations.  When I saw it, I thought of how wonderfully she had filled the page.

Then I started thinking of life. How we should fill our life in good ways, with people, activities, and experiences that we love. Filling your life isn't about being busy, it's about being filled with satisfaction.

One of of my satisfying activities is going into schools. Reinforcing for children that they are smart and creative and that's half of how they will accomplish their goals. The other half is work. Success isn't usually a first day activity. It happens with work and time. Something these students start to understand as they write and illustrate their stories over several weeks.

The playing field is far from even. However, we all have the ability to work toward something we truly want. To persevere through disappointment. To work on improving our skills. Sometimes just working toward something we want makes our life far better than if we never tried.

Here's to trying every day, and for filling our life with satisfying moments.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cookie of the Week

In keeping with my pledge to recommend a new cookie each week, this week, I tried three new cookies. As a result, my clothes are fitting just a little tighter. ; )

These three cookies choices are very different from each other.

The "Butter Crisps" are sweet and crunchy. They would probably be good with a little ice cream. The serving size says "3 cookies," but I found 2 enough most times...because they were a little sweeter than I like.

Next, "Ginger Spice," a dry cookie that isn't too sweet. Good in combination with a cup of tea. This is a cookie for people that like very dry snickerdoodles.

Third, "French Butter Cookies Coated in Dark Chocolate." Okay, the title alone makes this seem like a winner. They are super rich, which makes them a two or three cookie at a time serving. They are very thin and crispy.

Because none of these cookies were 'just right' for me. They have all lasted more than one evening.

Sad that I didn't love love love any of them, but good because I didn't eat eat eat all of them at once.

Now, I begin my search for next week's winner. Send in your recommendations.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Branch Continues to Blossom with Leaves

The Branch Continues to Blossom
 I'm fascinated with the fact that the branch continues to blossom with leaves. More and more little green leaves are popping out and growing bigger and bigger.

Now, I'm curious to see if it will go the entire circle of having full sized leaves, a bird coming to nest, and then the leaves changing color and falling.

It would interesting to wake up with autumn leaves falling on me. However, as much as I would like a little bird to build a nest in my home, I wouldn't want it to do so over my sleeping head. For reasons I'm sure you can imagine.  ; )

Nature is magic.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Mouse Agility

A friend, who is also a Mouse Biologist, told me of this mouse several years ago. I remembered it today. I am still busy with my taxes and needed a light-hearted distraction. No, my taxes aren't that hard, well, trying to figure out NY State taxes one ever gets them right...sigh.

Anyway, I love watching what 'Brain Storm' can do. And, when I think of the patience this woman must have to train mice, it gives me the encouragement I need to focus on and finish my taxes. Yippee!

Enjoy this video and her site: Mouse Agility.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

It's Chickie Time

Chickies are one of my favorite childhood memories.

Every spring, we would either hatch our own chicks under setting hens in our playhouse turned chicken house. Or, we would order a box full of chickies from the feed store. Either way, we would have a surplus of little fluffy chicks. They were super cute and funny to watch.

I live in the city now. No chickies for me this spring. I do have an old chickie watering dish. I'm saving it for that one day in the distant future when I live on my dream farm. There I'll have chickens, nice horses, a small cow, a few barn cats, and some really great collies. Until that day, I'll be content using my fantasy farm as a setting for some of my stories. : )
If you're planning to get some chicks of your own, click here to learn "How to Care for Your Spring Chicks".


Friday, April 8, 2011

In School with Behind the Book

Reading "Not Afraid of Dogs"
 Today, I had the pleasure and honor of visiting an incredible class of first graders in Brooklyn.

Wow! They were so full of great ideas, stories, and drawings. So much positive energy and enthusiasm. It was brilliant.

A wonderful part of my life is being an author / illustrator in schools through Behind the Book.

I usually start off my visit by reading, "Not Afraid of Dogs." Then I answer questions from the students like: "Are you bothered by the paparazzi?" and "Where did you get the idea for 'Not Afraid of Dogs'?"

After that, we write a story together. This is so much fun! It gets our brains supercharged.

Writing a Story Together..."Not Afraid of Werewolves"
 Today's story was a surprise...well, not the fact that the class' chosen main character was a vampire. Vampires are pretty popular these days. The surprise for me was that the class kept wanting her to eat someone. lol

Luckily, we were able to steer the character away from eating anyone to being satisfied with fake blood in bottles. ; )

And, we successfully wrote an entire story together - beginning, middle, and end. Our main character, Draculaura, (isn't that an incredible name?) overcame her fear of werewolves.  She even became a friend to one.

Writing a story as a team is so much fun. You come up with things that you never would have imagined on your own.

After our group story was finished, I went around the room to each student to see the stories they are writing and illustrating. Every story has a main character overcoming a fear. It's great to see the creative characters students came up with and the unique ways they found to resolve that character's fear.

Next week when I go back for a visit, we're going to work on illustrating our stories. I can't wait!!

To read more about Behind the Book, Visit:

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Sweet Wish Granted!

This week one of my wishes was granted. My dear friends, Leigh, Aqua, and Honor, gave me "The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook." What a great surprise!

As you might know, I love the Magnolia Bakery. I'm a regular patron of their 68th and Columbus NYC location.

My favorite...a slice of their German Chocolate Cake.
The good news: The recipe for that cake is in this cookbook!

Every time I see the cookbook in my house, I feel happy. I love looking at the recipes. Thinking about the bakery. Thinking about cake and desert. Thinking about my wonderful friends who gave it to me.

I'm grateful when I look back over my history and remember how many times I've been surprised by something I really wanted showing up at my door.

If you think back over your history, I'm sure you can remember things that came to you. Things you had thought about, wished for, or prayed on. They showed up, maybe a gift from a friend, maybe a find by the side of the road, or a phone call offering you something you wanted or needed.

We can't predict when these things will arrive. We can only appreciate their appearance.

Right now, I'm really appreciating my new cookbook. Delicious!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Bittersweet Branch Story Continues

My Branch on its First Day in the Home - Sunday

Several days ago, I posted that I had salvaged a small tree from a wood pile in the park. I brought it home and anchored it to the head of my bed.

When I was anchoring the tree that first day, I thought of Christmas trees and how you need to keep them in water so they don't dry out.  I decided to do the same with my little felled tree.

I took a bread knife, my limited muscles, and sawed the end off of the truck. Then stuck the tree in a large can of water before anchoring it to the head of my bed.

The Same Branch Today - Wednesday

Sleeping under the tree has been magical. I love the knowledge that it's there when I go to sleep in the dark...and it's equally wonderful waking up and seeing the branches overhead.

This morning, I noticed that the buds were opening up. On further examination, I saw that little green leaves are springing forth.

Here's the bittersweet part. I am thrilled that leaves are blossoming onto this little tree. At the same time, it makes me sad. It reminds me that this little tree with all its great potential was cut down. It's technically dead.

I know this is the way with gardening. You have to weed out plants so that what's left can grow big and strong. Still, it's not what you want to happen. Especially if you're sensitive to the feelings of others.

I believe in creating win-win situations. But in nature is that possible? I don't see how. How can the mouse win, if the cat is hungry?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Cookie of the Week!

Choco Dream - Fair Trade Chocolate Cookies

Oh my goodness! These cookies are delicious. They have all the things I love. A crispy cookie topped with rich dark chocolate, and not too sweet. I highly recommend them.

My only qualm is with whoever created the label. It says that two cookies make a serving. I found that to be incorrect. I think about 8 cookies make a serving. ; ) They lasted me two days. 8 cookies the first night and 4 the second night.

Choco Dreams are perfect with a cup of mint tea.
If you're having guests, I recommend that you buy more than one box.

As I gear up for selecting next week's cookie, I welcome your recommendations for sampling.

Have a sweet week!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Trees Growing in Impossible Places

The Tree Outside My Window
  After yesterday's blog post, I kept thinking of the last line..."trees growing in impossible places."

New York City is full of them. Trees growing in small squares of ground amidst cement and tall buildings.

Actually, almost every living thing in the City seems to be growing in an impossible space. From the hawks building their nests on tall Upper West Side buildings, to the parrots who set up a colony in Brooklyn, and the pine tree I saw today that had broken through cement at the bottom step to a basement and was winding its way up toward the sun.

It's the same for people. Our most pronounced growth seems to happen in impossible places during seemingly impossible times. I think because in those times we have little choice. When we feel trapped and forsaken, if we're lucky, some spark inside of us says, "I'm breaking out. I deserve better than this. I'm going to thrive and reach the sun."

As I look out my back window, I see the tree pictured. Several years ago, I watched it sprout from the ground one spring. Cement and tall buildings surround it. No one took care it. It pushed upward on its own reaching for the sun.

Now, this lovely tree is tall enough to shade my 4th story windows during the hot summer. It provides perches and food for the little birds that like to look in my window. This tree has improved my world in indescribable ways...most importantly as a symbol of persistence, endurance, and hope.

What are your symbols for hope?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Drinking in Spring!

Spring is such a wonderful season. Full of potential. Everything, from flowers to bugs, preparing to burst forward into a variety of lovely colors.

Today, I planted pansies and violas with the adorable names of Penny Citrus Mix and Lemon Fizzyberry.

Before that, I took my dogs, Sofie and Daisy to the park. There park workers had trimmed tree branches and left them in a pile. I picked out two especially nice branches, one about 9-feet tall, probably a small tree, and the other a 4-foot branch.

Because I miss a backyard and sleeping outside, I've been collecting branches and strategically placing them around my tiny home. I position the branches so they look like they're growing out of places, like the floor, the ceiling, the wall.

I anchored the small-tree-size branch to the head of my bed. It looks like it's growing from the floor over the bed. I practiced lying under it and looking up. The lines of branches are so amazing. I can't wait to sleep under the tree tonight. Makes me wish I was having a slumber party. Friends under a tree, looking up at imaginary stars, telling secrets, jokes, and dreams for the future.

Here's wishing you good friends and a life filled with magic...which for me includes: trees growing from impossible places.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Spring is in the Air

What a wonderful day in New York City!

The sun was shining, birds were singing, daffodils blooming.

I cleaned out my fire escape garden. Got rid of all the dried brush, took out the old planters, and got all the containers freshly aligned for this year's planting.

After I finished, a little bird came and stood on the fire escape railing, surveying my work. I wish I could leave out seed for the birds. But food of any kind left out attracts rats. As much as I have nothing against rats, I don't want one right outside, or for that matter, inside my window.

It was bad enough the year a squirrel kept trying to get in the house. What could he have been thinking? Two dogs live in here. Crazy squirrel.

Tomorrow, I will plant some pansies. Ahhh Spring!

Friday, April 1, 2011

There's a Spider on Your Shoe!

I woke up this morning to find snow piled so high that it reached my 4th story apartment. The pressure of all that snow cracked the window to my bedroom allowing a tree to branch its way through the crack and wrap itself around the radiator for warmth. I didn't push it back out. Living things should be kind to each other.

After tunneling my way through the snow, I tripped over a baby stroller and tumbled down the stairs into the subway station. It was dark and quiet down there. I guess everyone else had decided to stay home. An emergency light flickered on and there it was ... a HUGE New York City - Subway-Dwelling Alligator.

Happy April Fool's Day!

Oh yeah, you might want to get that spider off your shoe.

Read the Labels

It crossed my mind that with all my talk about cookies, I should let everyone know, especially the young people, that even though I eat dessert with almost every meal, I am VERY picky about that dessert.

You won't find me at a vending machine or the candy counter of your local store. My stomach is sensitive. Processed sugary snacks filled with fat, additives, and dyes, make me feel terrible. Which is a good thing. It keeps me from eating them. I don't drink sodas either, for the same reason.

The desserts for me are fresh baked, by me or a quality bakery. If I do eat cookies from a box, I make sure the ingredients are all recognizable items that I would use in my own baking at home.

My grandmother, Bertha Mae, used to say, "I'd rather spend my money at the grocery store than the doctor."

I agree. Spend the extra money to buy the best food for you. This includes all your food...even dessert.

The better you feel, the better your life will be.

For Fun and Education, Watch: "The Food Label and You" by US Food and Drug Administration