Monday, January 19, 2015

WHAT's in the corner? CAPTURED ON FILM!

Since 2008, I've done several interviews and many people have asked me where I get my inspiration for my books and for writing. When I answer that question, I say "LIFE".  I know that may sound strange ... but it is really true. I am fascinated at the things going on around me. There are days I have a hard time focusing because of all the things happening around me. I tell children my books are Realistic Fiction ... because the things in which I write about really happen ... but they aren't Non-Fiction.

I wasn't planning on writing a book about going to get Muffin ... it just happened. When we brought her home and she was so tiny and fragile, she'd lay on my lap and I started singing ... "I went to the store to buy a donut, but I came home with a Muffin".  Every time I said her name, she'd look at me and I swear she was smiling!

I thought it would be fun to write a series of Muffin books, but knew that that would be tough ... there are so many books about dogs and puppies ... but Muffin gave me another wonderful idea.  When she was teeny tiny she'd run to the corner of our backyard and bark at a tree that is in the neighbors backyard ... but she'd look up and bark ... for months we had no idea what she was barking at! One day, the mystery was solved!  And today ... just moments ago, I was able to capture it on film ....

I wasn't planning on a blog post this morning .... but then this happened!!!!

What's In the Corner? What Is That???
Muffin checking out that elusive character in What's In the Corner?

OKAY .... I'll move a little closer and devil them some more!!!!!

 Muffin teaching Shadow about the whole What's In the Corner thing ....
 A stare down!!!!! 
 Muffin HOWLING at her ....
Oh my goodness ... it's the BIG BRAVE CAT!!!!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Staples Education Site

For the past couple of years I have put in queries to HARO ... it is a cool way for an author to write snip-its for different publications - mostly on-line these days. I never had one chosen for publication!! At times I thought I should give up ... but every once in a while a query would grab my interest and I'd write away. When sending in your submission, it goes to a blind email -- you never know who will be reading it or who may be possibly publishing the piece! Recently, two of my submissions were accepted. Coincidentally, they were both for the same web-site ... here are the links to my portion of the work.  They are now up on the Staples Education Site .

The contributing writers pick and choose which parts of your work they will use!  I never knew Staples had an Education site, it's another great source for Teachers and Parents to check out!  Click on the links below to be taken to the site!

It is a beautiful, sunny day here in Texas ... and I wanted to share with you some exciting things happening in the greenhouse! I love digging in the dirt and the seeds, roots, & sprouts all amaze me!
I cut a piece of the poverty plant near school (the one where the Monarchs rested back in October!). The cut has growth and a good root system .... it is now repotted!
I can't believe how much growth it has ... I'm hoping that the greenhouse will help it flourish so that I can plant it in the corner of the backyard this spring ....  
SPROUTS!!!!!! Japanese Cherry Blossom, Tomato, Jalapeno and Saffron
 Repotted the Japanese Cherry Blossom!

 Jalapenos .... YUM!!!!!!

Basil, Tomatos, and Francisco's resting place!
The stepping stone was made by one of my students last year!!!

Repotted two of the tomato plants ....
Spending an hour in the greenhouse is so relaxing ...
I'm running out of dried basil from 2 years ago .... I hope the basil in the greenhouse makes it!


Friday, January 16, 2015


I truly enjoy being and author and my day job is thoroughly rewarding! Being a Kindergarten teacher I see amazing changes and growth through the school year. Some children go from not knowing all their letters and sounds of letters to writing sentences and reading! It is really amazing!

We have been studying water and I hope some of you saw the movie of our water filtration systems.

To begin our lessons on the Water Cycle and a quick review of Water Filtration we completed a two day project. We watched The Magic School Bus - We All Over. If you are not familiar with it -- Ms. Frizzle transports her students into raindrops ... they evaporate, become clouds, move across the globe, fall as rain in an ocean, repeat the cycle, fall as rain into a puddle, repeat the cycle and then fall into a filtration system near their school where they are filter into clean water!

After the movie we discussed the Water Cycle and discussed our water filters again. Then the children said "it'd be cool if we could make something and be inside a raindrop!"  They talked about using butcher paper, construction paper, tape, pins .... it was fun listening to their ideas.  Finally it hit me ... I was planning on making waxed paper and corn syrup raindrop (the kids paint corn syrup on a waxed paper shaped raindrop) the corn syrup beads up and you place a 2nd raindrop on top and it sticks together and looks like water on the inside ... I said to the kids "what if I take your picture and put you inside this?"  They were very excited!  So today, Friday, January 16, I took their pictures in cool poses looking like characters from The Magic School Bus.  I printed the pictures, cut them out and laminated them.

On Fridays, the children do a FUN write in their writing journals.  Today I had them use the following prompt "If I was in a raindrop ... "

The children painted their corn syrup raindrop, I added their picture and TADA ... they were inside the raindrops!  I made a storm cloud, a lake and put everything up in the hallway ...

A really fun way to introduce the Water Cycle and really get the children INTO the project!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

RED Goes To Kindergarten

2015 will soon be upon us and I'm very excited to be releasing a new book this year! This book has been in my head, in my journal, and in my being for about 6 years, so it is near and dear to my heart.

RED should not make any of my fans cry (like BUD and A SIMPLER TIME) nor will it need to be sung (like the MUFFIN series); but, there is a new twist at the end of this book that I think teachers, parents and Kindergarteners will love and it will also come with a special gift!

I'm honored to have two very special people agree to write the foreword for the book -- Carol McCarthy who is a wonderful Reading teacher in Massachusetts and someone who I admire! Also, my principal at The Manara Academy, Michele Alkhatib, who truly supports and believes in me as a writer and teacher, and I'm truly grateful for that support!

I look forward to moving from editing to illustrations very soon and can't wait to share with you the process of producing a children's book and sharing with you some sneak peeks at illustrations ... which is always a LOT of fun!

Left--editing, my high school English Teacher Miss McCampbell would love to see that! Right--edited and forwarded to my publisher, it always feels GREAT to hit that SEND button!
If you're interested in pre-ordering a copy of
Red Goes To Kindergarten, and receiving a copy from the first printing,
comment below or email me at
NOTE--no payment will be due until books have been printed

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve

Tho the weather outside is not frightful, the Fort Worth Nature Center was so delightful. The weather was absolutely perfect for a hike through the FWNC ... enjoy the Nature Center through my eyes. I love the FWNC, it's peaceful and beautiful and a great place to just go and clear your head ....

OMG -- a huge wasp nest down by the marsh!
As we walked along the trail ... these guys swam the whole way with us!

Animal TRACKS! Above ... raccoon???
Below -- definitely a deer! Muffin and Shadow alerted us to a deer on the
trail -- but he was too far away to get a picture!

I just love these leaves! The camera doesn't capture how beautiful they catch the light.
I love seeing mistletoe in the treetops!
Just stunning ... I saw this tree from FAR away!
With a dusting of snow this tree would truly be picture perfect!
Me and my buds on the trail ...
Steven with Muffin and Shadow ...
I now know they were distracted by the deer that was
along the trail!
If you live in the Dallas / Fort Worth area ... the Fort Worth Nature Center has beautiful
trails that are very pet friendly ...
Visit the FWNC 's website -- they will be open on New Year's Day
and there are two Bison Feeding Hayrides that day!

Monday, December 15, 2014

R e s o l u t i o n ....


At this time of the year, we are inundated with articles about setting a New Year's Resolution. When I was younger, I had a hard time picking something and then sticking to it for the whole year. I always tried to have one that had a PURPOSE but nothing ever really seemed like I was making a difference. Giving up stuff also seemed not very meaningful to me -- I don't drink or smoke ... so I don't need to stop those. I could lose a few pounds ... but that doesn't seem like something I need to vow to do for the whole year.

A couple years ago, I began something a bit different. I sit back, read through some of my journal entries and decide what my purpose was for the next year. I do not call it my resolution any longer ... I am trying to figure out what is my purpose in life. I also decided that I have to check-in each month and see how I'm doing. As I reflect at the end of each month I'm able to adjust my "purpose", change direction if need be, and decide if what I'm working on is really working. I find that checking in on my "purpose" each month makes me more accountable. Am I smiling at people who look like they're having a tough day? Am I paying it forward?  Am I showing random acts of kindness?

Santa with the Toys for Tots gifts for 2015
Small tree on the bench in the breakfast nook.
As I looked through my journal this year, I noticed that there was a recurring theme: some children have LOTS of things, but there are still many children who will go without during the holidays and all through the year. Many of their parents are out of work, many are single parent families, some families are just down on their luck. I feel that I am very fortunate for all that I have and so I decided to attempt a year long "purpose" for 2015, and also work on some smaller, more personal, month long reflections.  I'm excited to say that my year long "purpose" will be collecting toys for the 2015 TOYS FOR TOTS program. Each week when I go shopping, I will pick up a toy or two that I will donate in 2015! I'm excited to finally have found a "purpose" that will fill my heart with joy each week when I go shopping!

I started my quest in the last week and already have two toys in my arsenal. I'm hoping to have between 70 - 100 items by the next holiday season.

Following are a few pictures of some of my holiday decorations this year ... I used to put up a LOT of decorations. I have uncomplicated my life for the holidays and just put up some of my favorite things and have gone smaller scale ...

Our front porch ... our squirrel is in honor of the squirrels that used to come to our porch in Massachusetts. One-Eye and White Ears were fixtures for years at our Marsden Street house.
We now have this little guy and a small tree.

Ashley made the snowman and I made the wreath!

Our small corner tree. I love this tree! Takes about 10 minutes to set up!

The two decorations on the left, Ashley made in grade school.
Another small lighted tree -- these decorations are on the alcove above the front door.
I love Christmas trees, so I think having many small ones around the house make me smile!


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Greenhouse ...

A few months ago we finished building my brand new GREENHOUSE! I am so excited because it has an automatic vent that opens with the warmth of the sun -- it has a double door so the top of the door can be opened to let fresh air in. It also has gutters so I will buy a rain barrel in a few months so that when the Spring rains begin, I can save some water for use inside of the greenhouse. We added a WIFI thermometer so I can monitor the temperature in the greenhouse from inside the house -- it is currently 82 degrees inside of the greenhouse!  Here are some pictures of the greenhouse right after it was built.

An empty greenhouse -- still too HOT in Texas to put any plants inside.

A view from inside of the greenhouse.
It was about 120 degrees inside and about 95 outside!
This was back in September.
By the end of October,
I added shelves, indoor/outdoor carpet, a heater and of course PLANTS!

Japanese Cherry Blossom seeds ... we will see what happens!
Basil sprouts! I planted these as seeds the week of Thanksgiving.
I'm looking forward to giving friends and family fresh and dried basil next year!
Strawberry plants -- I got about 7 strawberries last June, hoping to get at least a dozen next summer!
Other plants in the greenhouse!

A prickly pear cutting ... if pieces fall off, I plant them in dirt and
they are pretty resilient and will root -- but need to be in a pot for about
a season before they are put into the ground ... I LOVE PRICKLY PEAR CACTUS!

Steven taking pictures of me taking pictures of plants in the greenhouse ...
As you all know -- I love nature and I hope you also enjoy seeing pictures of the wonders of life in my greenhouse!