Wednesday, December 7, 2011

... WOW! We did it!!

Thank you to all who ordered books and supported our project ... we doubled our quoted donation amount for Make-A-Wish!! The girls raised a smidgen over $2,000.00! How fantastic!!! This experience has been an incredible ride - thank you for donating and making our dreams and goals attainable.

We could never have accomplished this feat without the support of all of you ... thank you from the bottom of our hearts ...

The girls' interview with a local reporter!

... Scenes from the "Book-Signing-Weekend-Extravaganza!" at The Canvas! God Bless our favorite gallery owner, Marce Urbanski! She is a generous and kind-hearted soul, and we are blessed to know her!

I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.

- G.K. Chesterton

Monday, October 31, 2011

Book Club Project!!

Hi, All! For those of you who are familiar with my little summer workshop, Friends in the Park Book Club, you know that our members, 13 girls in 7th grade, share their summers with me by discussing their summer reads and learning various forms of art, as well as incorpoating their projects into a community service project.

This summer, the girls wrote & illustrated their very own children's stories, which we have compiled into an anthology for publication. Please note ... ALL PROCEEDS FROM THE SALES OF THIS BOOK WILL BE DONATED TO Make-A-Wish Foundation. In order to self-publish their works, the girls created hand-strung stone bracelets that were sold at our town's September by the River Festival. Because of the support of our community, friends & family ... this endeavor was a success!

I am thrilled to announce that the book is now in the process of being published and a book release/signing event has been scheduled! In addition to the book sale & signing, the girls will be presenting Storytime readings from their collective book during this special weekend. The have also been formally invited to participate in Make-A-Wish's Light Up A Child's Life campaign, whereby they will be interviewed about their efforts.

To make this project as successful as possible, we have decided to host a Pre-Sale Book Order and offer a savings of $5 per book! That's 13 stories for just $10!!

To place your order, kindly hit the "Buy Now" button on the sidebar to make your purchase through PayPal.

The books will be available for mailing on December 2nd ... plenty of time for gift giving!!!

I assure you that this book will bring you comfort & joy by knowing that your purchase has helped in the efforts of making a child's wish come true. It also would make a wonderful Christmas present to share! Please consider helping us by placing an order and sharing in the gift of giving.

We would be grateful if you would pass this message & offer along ... thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

Autumn about town ...

Well .... I've almost missed this season all together! Not only, here on my blog, but here at home, too. I know that it has been some time since my last post, but it has been a whirlwind of sickness, surgery, recovery and sickness again - - all of it, experienced by my dear daughter. She's still not up to par, but in school again today ... so, fingers crossed - I'm sending my prayers up that she's turned the corner and will be back to her lovely self soon :) Poor thing has missed SOOO much school, cheer season, girl scout outings, Halloween parade, and recently the Halloween dance ... it makes my heart ache. However, there are always blessings in the mix to be so very thankful - - and I count them everyday!

With most of September and October taking care of my girl, we have missed so much of this beautiful season. So, I decided to grab my camera this morning and take a walk through our local town. I bundled up in layers of sweaters, a hat, and a scarf and drove into town. I used to do this much more often when the kids were younger ... I would be strolling or pulling them through town, taking in the sites and decor, and finding the wonder that I always do with this place. Perhaps, it is because I've lived here for most of my life. I don't know. But, I like to look for the special nooks that one might not notice when driving by ... or the interesting details that make our little world here unique.

So, here is what captured my heart this morning ...

scarecrows greeting passersby at every corner in town ...

One of my favorite homes in town ... artistic, eclectic and sooo whimsical!

... makes me want to curl up with an old quilt and a good book :)

I loved this tree with its beautiful, reddish leaves draping over the welcome walk and scattering its hues about ...

Although this photo is not particularly artistic, I had to captue it! This pumpkin has been lit in front of this house since I was a small child, and perhaps even earlier than that!

It makes my heart smile with remembrance ...

One of the last, golden beauties on one of my favorite streets ...

... another fall marvel gracing the yard of our historical homes.

... when I see this home ... I am transported into a storybook. Wish this one would go on sale!!

These pics above are of a home that is a ritual part of our town walks ... mostly because of the magic found in the backyard ...

... how about that when I took these photos, I didn't event see the ducks!!

look at that gorgeous chicken!!

the "barn" in the back - - how sweet!

... A special treat from our newest art gallery, The Canvas.

... another gem - - The Red Rover. A great little find for gift basket giving :)

... one of our treasures - Simple Gatherings, filled with unique & seasonal treats for your home!

love this door & lanterns
... light posts make my heart happy :)

I'm glad that I fought off the urge to just stay home in my pjs and get to work, but instead took the time this morning to savor the last bits of fall (you know, we had our first snow this weekend!). I encourage you to take the time ... seek out the wonderment of the day ... and savor the beauty and blessings in your life. Days go by too quickly ...

The one red leaf, the last of its clan,

That dances as often as dance it can,

Hanging so light, and hanging so high,

On the topmost twig, that looks up to the sky!

- Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Book club days ...

Thursday was our third meeting.

I know ... where have my posts been? I call it "Momma Brain Fizzle" - a diagnosis of this common ailment covers all areas of forgetfulness, tardiness and plum craziness :)

Here's a little catch-up:

We kicked off our first meeting with a trip to our city's Annual Arts Festival where we took in the inspiring sights, yummy food and amazing talent. Unfortunately, storms were brewing for the day and I left my camera at home with the fear that we would get caught in a downpour ... and guess what? .... we didn't. Doesn't it always seem to work out that way? :)

One of the highlights of the event was meeting Wildlife Photographer Mark Thomas. His work is incredible ... he travels the globe, above sea and below, to capture the most amazing photos. Truly, his gallery is stunning and quite educational. Stop by his spot on the web to view some breathtaking shots. My son picked a beautiful print to give my husband for father's day ...

... magnificent, isn't it? This will soon be displayed after my hubby reclaims the playroom as his own (but, really, it will be the family room - but, shhhh... don't tell him that!)

The festival offered such a wide variety of artists from potters and painters to photographers and jewelry designers coming from all parts of the country. The girls seemed to enjoy the different artistic media and I'd venture to they might have even been a bit inspired from it all. One of our members purchased an ornament from which she is incorporating into her summer project :)

If I haven't mentioned before (and forgive me if I have ...) the girls are dipping their pens into the ink wells this summer and writing their very own children books, topped with illustrations to boot! I am beyond excited by this new venture and have very high hopes that they will create some magic for children with their creative efforts. We are working with a printer to combine their works into an anthology. A very exciting twist to this endeavor is that our local Borders bookstore has offered to view the collection when printed with the possibility of hosting a Book Release/Signing Party for the group. I .... KNOW!! TOO EXCITING FOR WORDS!!

With that said, we have been taking a step-by-step approach with our meetings ... the first was a creative kick-off :) ... the second meeting was a children's book reading & review.

The girls shared their favorite childhood books with each other by reading them aloud. We followed each story with discussion of the character traits, the conflicts of the story, as well as identifying the differences in illustration style. Through 7 titles, they truly gave their attention to one another, lifted each book in a positive light and even found new favorites in the mix.

Our book discussion that day reviewed their summer read of ...

Eggs, by Jerry Spinelli.

It was an intriguing tale of an unlikely friendship between a 9-year old boy who lost his mother a year earlier and is now living with his grandmother and a teenage girl who never knew her father and lives with her eccentric mother. Colorful characters mixed with complex relationships creates this heartfelt story of acceptance and understanding of those people most important in life - - family and friends. The girls really seemed to enjoy this book and gave it an average rating of 4 out of 5 stars. Good read!!

Now ... this week's meeting was to get their wheel's turning and ideas flowing. I presented the girls with memory journals ...... with the hopes that they will use them as tools to capture funny occurrences or endearing happenings that has been special and meaningful to them. The goal is to drum up original ideas for their storybooks, and I thought that writing entries of memories may help them along with this process - - we'll see. LOL One of our members has completely jumped into this project with gusto and has written her tale and is already working on some sketches - - love that enthusiasm!

This week's book discussion over lunch was the alarming title of ...

I'd Tell You I Love You But Then I'd Have to Kill You, by Ally Carter

I know. Not exactly a book that just jumps off the shelf to parents as a must read -- now the girls? - OH, it made it on almost ALL their lists!! But truth be known ... never judge a book by its cover (or title in this case). It is rated with top marks by parents and YA readers alike. A spy novel featuring Cammie as strong, smart girl who learns to be her own true self through a series of events - including a crush. The girls all enjoyed the book and gave it top ratings. :)

Then, we reviewed the variety of sketching pencils - 6H - 6B (ie, hard to soft) and practiced sketching storybook ideas ...
These are the moments that I love to walk around and see creativity blooming in my very own backyard. It thrills me to be able to guide the girls when needed, or just simply offer encouragement in their work.
These girls have been reading together through summers since second grade ... I feel blessed to have been able to be a part of it. Come fall, they will be entering the halls of the Jr. High ... the same halls that my great-grandmother attended for High School. Yes, that means its old - rumored to be haunted - and no air conditioning ... but it means so much more to me. As tradition and history hold such a dear place in my heart, my cup overfloweth with remembrance as my daughter marks the 5th generation of our family to attend school there. It might be considered silly to some ... but I find it meaningful.

So ... to end this very loooooooooong post ... I wish for you time to enjoy the simple things in life -- make the time to share with the kids ... time to reminisce with your family ... and time to capture the magic of the day.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Sweet Land of Liberty ...

Happy 4th of July to ALL!

Aunt Rosie's Pie Crust:

2 c. flour

1 c. shortening

handful of granulated sugar

dash of salt

1 glass, ice water

* 1 egg white, beaten w/ 2 T water

Cut flour into shortening with pastry cutter (or end of whisk). Add sugar & salt. Work mixture until it becomes pea-like.

Add a bit of ice water and mix in. Keep adding bits of ice water until dough becomes easy to roll. Make into two balls.

Roll dough on powdered sugar surface (I prefer this rather than flour)

Place 1st bottom dough into pie plate, molding & pricking the bottom & sides with a fork. Mixed Berry Filling:

1 c. granulated sugar

1/4 c. cornstarch

lemon zest of one lemon

1 t. vanilla extract

1/4 t. cinnamon

4 c. fresh berries (of your choosing)

Mix all ingredients together in bowl. Fold in fresh berries. Pour mixture into pie shell. Add top layer of crust.

* Beat water into egg white and brush onto top of crust. Sprinkle generously with granulated sugar.

Bake at 400 degrees for approx. 40-50 minutes.

Filling recipe courtesy of :)

Oh! By the way ... I used fresh raspberries & blackberries (Thank you, Kris Sotos!)

and fresh blueberries & strawberries (from the local market).

Where liberty dwells, there is my country.

- Benjamin Franklin

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A day for my son ...

With my daughter off on her summer getaway with her dad & step mom - my hubby and I decided to surprise our son with a day filled with all things he loves ... a sleepover at camp (might I add that he was not tickled with the idea that mom was tagging along ... "But, mom - it's a guy's place!" ... he's just dying to become a man! At age six, he's trying to chase away his childhood with macho gusto. while I am clinging to every previous moment!!) - - So, again - a sleepover at camp (complete with campfire & s'mores - and BATS! Those of which he thought would be an awesome mount - oh dear :) ... breakfast at the Farmer's Inn (okay this one was a treat for all of us ... incredible homemade french toast with farm fresh eggs & coffee that would give Starbucks a run for its money - plus, did I mention the quaintness of this place? Just take a look!... and my little guy cleaned his plate of flapjacks & bacon with a big ole' smile :)

We also stopped by for a visit at the fishing hatchery where he captured scores of rainbow trout & palominos on his DSi - - this child is enamoured with anything that would define an outdoorsman - a "mini-me" of his dad :) ... ... and - I'll venture to say his favorite spot all day - the deer ranch ...The bucks were in velvet - glad to see that all was still intact. If you have ever seen the stage of when they are rubbing that velvet off ... you know what I mean -- Icky ... and definitely not something that one would want to photograph ... I'll just leave it at that. While observing these deer and feeling the softness of their growing antlers (this one above is a "piebald," noting its coloring variation), I was struck, as I often am, by God's creative process. Even within the cycle of antlers ... the growth of the soft vascular bone beneath the velvet covering, stimulated by hormones over several months to calcify into beautiful antlers ... Truly - His handiwork and creativity never ceases to leave me awestruck.

Even though I am not a hunting & fishing gal by trade/interest, I do so enjoy being in the presence of nature and allowing the magnitude of beauty and wonderment to sweep me up in its magic. It puzzles me how anyone can question the existence of God. Look around ... just in acknowledging the complex variety of all forms of life is proof in the pudding!

My favorite were the fawns with their delicate spots and knobby knees ... It was such a special treat :)

We also had a tiny, furry friend tag along with us while we made our way through the corrals ...... my son would spot him scampering along the beams, in and out of the fences, and announce - "There's Alvin again!" :)
Campfire Treats to toast the stars + making friends with Furry Woodland Animals + Ice Cream Cones to end the day = Simple Happiness :)

One more note ... My mama-meter hit a high when we visited an artist gallery and all my son focused on was finding a special trinket for his sister ... love that thoughtful boy. It warms my heart to know that she is on his mind. I always feel her absence when she is not with us ... but I know that she is having her own adventures and creating special memories that will surely be a highlight of her summer. Until my baby girl gets home, I will continue to pray for her safe return - all the while counting my blessings and thanking the Lord for it all.

The family is one of nature's masterpieces.

- George Santayana