Always Follow Your Dreams!

Food For Thought From The Jungle!

I am a mom, a wife, an author and have an office job.  Sometimes I feel the need to share my thoughts!  Have a look at my blog to see if there is anything that may interest you.

Feel free to contact me with anything you'd like my thoughts on!
'50 Great Writers' award press release!

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ode to the birch tree

Alone or in a grove

You are a wonder to behold

 

Standing tall and brave

Bending only to the wind, never willing to cave

 

Iridescent bark

Curling playfully revealing a light spark

 

Leaves waving on high

Changing peacefully as the seasons pass by

 

Looking fresh and bright is the mystery

Inside filled with such a rich history

 

Beautiful and proud

Standing out from the crowd

 

Unique, unbiased and balanced

Qualities any species would find a talent

 

One of Mother Nature’s beauties that few can compare for me

To The Birch Tree

Craft Project - Paper Plate Keeno & Ernest Masks

It's always fun to bring the characters out of books so your children can reenact the stories.  Of course you need costumes for this.  No need to spend loads, just follow the link below for a fun, inexpensive craft to do with your kids.  


Create Keeno (monkey) and Ernest (elephant) masks out of paper plates!


Have fun! And stay tuned for more crafting ideas!  If you have one of your own, please send it to me...I'd love to try it out

Storytelling isn't just for campfires!

“I’m bored!”


“Are we there yet?” 


“How much longer is this going to take?”


Sound familiar?  As a mother of two active boys, it does to me!  Whether we are on a car trip or sitting in the doctor’s office, it doesn’t take long for one of my lads to chime in with one of these phrases.


Today, it is too easy…and tempting to find an electronic babysitter, be it the TV, DS, i-everythings, Wii, etc, wherever you are.  Our family tries very hard to do as directed and “limit the amount of on screen time.”  We are not always successful.  Now confession time - as I write this, my kids are playing a video game!


That being said, there are some great “old fashioned” ways to keep the young ones busy, having fun and maybe even learning something at the same time. 


Before becoming an author, I was a storyteller.  And it’s still one my favorite things to do.  By definition, storytelling is the conveying of events in words, images and sounds, using improvisation or embellishment.  Stories have been shared in every culture for centuries.  They are used as a means of entertainment, education, cultural preservation and to instill moral values.  Storytelling isn’t just for campfires.  On the contrary, it is a wonderful way to engage your children and get them to use their imagination.  The added bonus is that kids secretly learn along the way too!!


It all started when I was a little girl.  My father was an amazing raconteur and loved to introduce me to his characters, transporting me to the exotic locations of his stories.  I found myself dreaming of faraway places and reenacting the stories.  Convinced there were “little people” living in our heat vents, I talked to them and brought them useful tools (spools of thread, dental floss, whatever) to use in their “little homes.”  My Barbies even traveled to the places my dad would talk about.  I almost couldn’t wait for car trips in the old Buick Rivera!


When my first son arrived, I told stories from the very beginning.  As he grew up and his little brother came along, the stories where adapted to incorporate their interests.  I still make up stories today and they can’t get enough.


Here are some of my tips for storytelling

 

  • Have your children be the main characters. 
  • Give them funny names that incorporate your child’s name.
  • Keep them short or tell in “chapters” so you can continue on at another time (the return trip perhaps).
  • Convey your stories in different accents! Si, you heard me correctly… don your best Spanish accent and tell your daughter the story of Betty the Burro that comes to your back yard for a visit!
  • Get your kids involved in making up the story by telling the story sentence-for-sentence or paragraph-for-paragraph.  You start out and then have them come up with the next sentence or paragraph.
  • Use stuffed animals to do the talking!  (My nine year old still asks me to do this almost every night!)

 

Having trouble coming up with ideas?  Stories are everywhere, I promise!  Take some to time to look, listen, smell and taste what’s around you.  There are characters waiting for a story at every corner! 


Make up stories about what your kids are doing or interested in at the moment.  For example, my boys are both really into Tech Decks (the little finger skateboards) right now.  So, I made up a story about my kids shrinking down in size so they could actually ride their boards and go into the skate parks they’ve built.


People-watching is another great place to start.  Let’s say you see a person riding a bike.  Create a story about a purple alligator named Ally, who is riding a pokka-dotta bike that can go on water, land and through the air…now, where is she going?   Use your imagination and you’ll be amazed at where you and your kids end up!  


Honestly, there are times when the creative juices aren’t flowing.  Here are some of the things I keep in the reserve “bag of tricks”:

1.     Have them make up a story for you. 

2.     Take a favorite book of your child and have them act it out…perhaps in full costume!

3.     Turn on the music and have a “dance off!”  You’re the judge!

4.     Remember Mad Libs?  Well they are still around and still as funny as ever.

5.     Have your kids make a comic strip with illustrations.

6.     Story-time at the library is always a sure winner for kids of all ages.  Our local library has loads of great events for the older kids too (Lego night, book club, etc).  You might even squeeze in a minute or two of browsing for your own book!

 

Storytelling is a fun, creative and inexpensive way to keep you children occupied…at least for a little while!  So even if there is no campfire, keep the flames of imagination burning and tell a story!

It's all about the kids!

Writing a children's book for me is, as cliche as it may sound, all about the kids! I love the reactions that I get from children of all ages. It truly makes my heart sing. Here's an example of an email I received from a mom about her daughter's new game:

"Do you realize we now "play" Keeno and Ernest. I am Ernest and I need to save Keeno from the river. Daddy is sometimes Toucan Tom. Keeno (their daughter) is very naughty in our reinactments and jumps on the bed wildly yelling "EEEERNEST, where are you??!!"

I love this!

Great Recipe for Banana Cream Pies

Keeno, Ernest and Tucan Tom all like banana cream pies and so do I!  This is a great recipe found at the baker chic website, and I wanted to share it with you.


Mini Banana Cream Pies
Crust (makes just enough for 12 single muffin-sized crusts.)
Ingredients
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/4 sticks (18 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
4 to 6 tablespoons ice water, plus more if needed

Filling:
5 egg yolks
1/4 cup cornstarch

3 cups half-and-half
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla
3 Bananas

Topping:
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons of powdered sugar
Banana slices to garnish (optional)

Directions
Pulse flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor to combine. Add butter, and process until mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds. With machine running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream through the feed tube until dough just holds together (no longer than 30 seconds).
Divide dough in half, and shape into disks. Wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour (or up to 2 days).

While dough is chilling make the Pudding.
Whisk together the egg yolks, cornstarch, and 1 cup of the half and half in a medium bowl. Place the remaining 2 cups of half and half and the sugar in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Slowly whisk about 1/2 cup of the hot half and half mixture into the egg yolks and then whisk the egg yolks and half and half into the hot half and half. Cook over medium high heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture just comes to a boil. Continue to cook whisking constantly for 1 minute or until thickened. Add the vanilla and the whisk until smooth. Strain the custatrd through a fine meshed sieve into a medium bowl. Place the bowl of custard into the ice water and stir occaionally until cool. Refridgerate until thoroughly chilled.

When the dough is chilled roll on a lightly floured surface until it is about 1/4 inch thick. Using a 4-5 inch round cutter, cut circles of dough and transfer them to the muffin tins. Smooth the rounds into each tin and crimp the edges with your fingers or the back of a knife. (See picture above.) Trim excess dough if needed. 

Chill the dough to set for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile pre-heat oven to 375. Bake Mini-pie shells for 15-20 minutes or golden brown. (Note: this crust would normally require the use of pie weights. It seemed silly to do that for each small pie, but the crust did puff up a bit. If you don't want to use weights,  just flatten the dough a bit after baking.)

When the pudding is almost ready, Put your mixing bowl and beaters in the freezer for about 5/10 minutes or until very cold. Then, whip together the heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract until peaks form, about 5 minutes at the most. 

When crusts are cooled, remove them from tins. (Mine came out very easily.) Fill with a few thin slices of banana, a spoonful of the chilled pudding, another layer of banana and then a final dollop of pudding. Spoon or pipe whipped cream on each pie and top with a banana slice. Chill for an hour before serving. Enjoy!

Juggling Act

I recently did an interview about juggling mom-hood, being a writer and part-time ski instructor for a company called TAPP.  You can check it out at http://www.tapponline.net/blog/entry/part-time-ski-instructor-by-day-childrens-book-author-by-night.

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