In A Nutshell

Good things come in small packages…that couldn’t be more true than with “nutshell” books.  Whether you get just one or splurge for a whole set in a neat little library box, they are unique and great for building memories.  IMG_0701

I only remember having one nutshell book as a child.  My mother gave it to me and instilled in me the love of that special little book.  I feel bad because I don’t remember what the book was about, even worse I don’t have it any more.  The best thing about a nutshell book is seeing the joy on a child’s face when they hold one in their sweet hands.  Even if they can’t read, they love having a book just their size.

I always thought nutshells were just for fairy tales or poetry until a friend tucked one in with a Christmas gift.  That book called Christmas Gifts and Wrappings is pictured above.  I don’t remember what the gift was (yikes, another memory lapse), but as long as I have that little book I will never forget my thoughtful friend.

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Children learn to love the sound of language before they notice the existence of words on a page, especially when it’s a parent’s voice saying the words.  Reading aloud to children stimulates their imagination and expands their understanding of the world. It’s never too early to start reading to your child.  You don’t want to miss those special times with your child or grandchild nestled in your lap resting his or her head on your shoulder as you read.

When I think about nutshell books, I think about nuts which leads me to thinking about squirrels.  IMG_0736IMG_0735

This is crazy Bob who has become an expert at stealing bird food.

Bob is out of control!

I like to imagine squirrels live in houses like those below.  What do you think?

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Plan a special outing and take the little person in your life to the bookstore for a nutshell book.

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Silver Threads Among The Gold

There’s a sweet, old, love song called Silver Threads Among The Gold, that talks about growing old.  I prefer to think of these lyrics as new friends are silver threads and old friends are the gold threads.  This month I had the pleasure of meeting a fellow author, Kathryn Elizabeth Jones, whom I like to consider as one of my “new” silver threads.

Kathryn has an extensive repertoire of work including short stories, novels, and a very helpful book for authors titled Marketing Your Book on a Budget.  Kathryn researched and compiled extremely useful information which she shares with other authors.  I wish I had found this book before I had bought four others.  

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I read two of Kathryn’s other books, Conquering Your Goliaths and The Feast and thoroughly enjoyed both books.  These are what I call comfortable reads.  You can settle into a cozy chair and take your time enjoying thought-provoking stories that can be shared with your family without fear of obscenities and violence.  Kudos Kathryn!   I’m very anxious to read Scrambled and A River of Stones!

 

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I’m always curious about other authors and Kathryn was kind enough to answer some questions for me.  Read below to find out what makes Kathryn tick.

 

Why did you decide to become a writer?

Truthfully? Okay, here goes. I was pregnant with my first daughter and had morning, afternoon, and evening sickness. I thought to myself, “What can I do?” And it occurred to me that I could sit and write and maybe take my mind off things.

I have always loved to read and so I’m sure that played a factor in me becoming a writer and the fact that in elementary school I wrote some pretty creative stuff 🙂 but it was really the ‘sickness’ while pregnant that got me going.

 

What was your goal when you started writing and what is it now?

Early on I just wanted something, anything, to get published. After eight years of dedication, I published my first piece of non-fiction in a family magazine. Today, it’s to publish at least two books a year and to get my publishing company, Idea Creations Press, where I want it. Right now I’m spending full-time hours on writing and the business and making part-time profits. One day I dream of hiring creative people (other than my husband) to work for me.

 

Do you have a home office? Please describe it or tell us where you like to write.

Yes, I have a home office. And right now it is in the process of remodeling. We stripped the carpeting in here; now all we have is a cement floor with rugs scattered on it. So you can imagine how cold it gets in here. I always have to wear socks, and often have to use the portable heater, which I have to remember to turn off when I leave the room (I don’t want a fire!) I have a desk that is falling apart, but I have told myself that getting a new one will just have to wait until after the painting and new floor gets put in 🙂

 

How many hours a day do you write?

Let’s see, it depends on the day, but I usually write for part of the day, and market for the other half. Or, if I have a client coming over to work on their book, I do that and then either do writing or marketing for the other part of the day. And of course I have my own blog and I try to write blog posts for other sites and do interviews like this one. Whew! But I manage to fit it all in.

 

How many hours a day do you spend on other work related to writing, i.e., research, marketing, etc.

I guess I got ahead of myself 🙂 Research is one of those necessary ‘evils’ as well. Today I did about a half an hour or so of research for another site’s post, and there are days when I spend a bit of time researching for my books.

 

Kathryn, which is your favorite book and why?

Conquering Your Goliaths: A Parable of the Five Stones, hands down. I think it’s because I have always wanted to write a fictional story and at the same time lend some inspiration. My favorite author is C.S. Lewis, and if you’ve read him before, you quickly notice that he writes fiction with spiritual undertones (The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe) as well as books like, Mere Christianity, which are strictly non-fiction.

 

What is the best advice you can give a new writer?

Don’t expect to be published the first year you start, but keep writing when others give you negative feedback. Take the suggestions in, even if you have to put your work aside for a month or two and then go back to it. Don’t quit because you don’t feel you have enough time to write, or you feel as if you’ll never be good enough anyway. Just write. And learn all you can about writing by checking out good books at the library about writing and attending classes and getting critiques from other writers. Even after all of these years I still get negative feedback and it has helped me to become a better writer.

 

When you started writing did you have a mentor?

No, I didn’t have a mentor, but I would recommend it. It may not have taken me eight years to get that first piece published. What I did was read loads of books! I wrote every day as if my life depended on it; and it actually did 🙂 I don’t know where I’d be today if I hadn’t written down many of my feelings, i.e., free therapy.

 

How do you feel about the books, TV, and movies that are the most popular with young people today?

Great question. I don’t like what I see when it comes to books for teens becoming more adult. I liked it when I could pick up a teen book and I didn’t have to worry about bad language or inappropriate scenes. There are very few books for adults that I dare read. Right now I’m reading The Covenant, by Beverly Lewis, and feel pretty safe; Amish life.

As for TV and movies, I’m pretty careful about what I watch, and I think, in many instances, teens are too adult. I like the Harry Potter movies and a few others like Tuck Everlasting, but most of them are a problem for me.

Later on, after I get to book four of my adult mystery series, I’m going to use one of the teen characters from this series and begin a ‘clean’ mystery series for teens.

 

If you could say one thing to encourage children to read, what would it be?

Just start. I’ve heard it said that the Harry Potter series got many children reading that hadn’t been reading before.

 

Kathryn’s books are available at amazon.com

Please visit Kathryn’s beautiful blog at idea-creations.blogspot.com

 

The Gift

I was given a gift today.

This morning I made a hasty decision to run some errands.  This is not unusual for most people but for me it is because it’s 50 minutes one-way to do what I needed to do and frankly, I don’t enjoy the drive unless I have a book on tape to listen to.

 

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We live in a remote area with few full-time residents, no pay phones and no cell service.  As I approached the gate to exit our development I noticed a little boy standing alone in the parking area on the other side of the road.  I quickly glanced at the clock which read 10:20 and the thought flashed through my head that it was far too late for him to be waiting for a school bus. Our forecasted high for today is 14 degrees and it could not have been above 10 degrees that early in the morning.  Red flags of concern were waving violently in my brain.   I rolled down my window and asked the little boy if he was waiting for his mommy.  I was approximately 15 feet from the boy and couldn’t hear what he was saying so I turned into the parking area.  He had on an orange winter parka with the hood pulled up loosely over his head but no hat and no gloves.  A heavy backpack hung from his shoulders and there were two plastic grocery bags on the ground near his feet. The one bag appeared to have bags of snack foods and through the plastic of the other bag I could see two, white, gift bags with red valentine hearts on them.

I asked again if he was waiting for someone.  He was visibly upset and chattered quickly trying to explain.  Unfortunately, the child had a speech impediment which made it hard to understand him.  I did get that he had missed his bus, today was the Valentine’s Day Party at school, and that he thought he had been waiting for about half an hour.  Our conversation was rather disjointed and tears were welling in his eyes.  I asked if I could take him to school.  He quickly agreed but I could not understand his answer as to which school he attended.  Becoming impatient with me he started to gesture with his hands which didn’t help.   By now I was more concerned about him being cold and me wasting time, so I got out of the car and helped him into the passenger seat.  Thankfully the car was warm.  Not wanting to upset him further I calmly asked his name, of which I only got his first name John which he had to spell for this silly woman.   He did not know were his mother had gone or her telephone number.  The tears were very close to brimming over as he explained there was a 2-hour school delay.  Ah ha, that explained why he was at the bus stop so late.  I asked if there were other children who usually waited at the same stop and he said only one other boy and he didn’t know where he was.  I could tell he was annoyed with my questions and inability to understand him.  When I asked if he could direct me to his school he snapped he had told me the name of the school and that I had not heard him.  God love him, I got it this time!  He was upset because this was the first time he had ever been late and he even told me it had never happened at two other schools he had attended.  I told him I hated to be late too and when I had missed my bus it always upset me.  Sharing his fear helped, he started to relax and the tears dried up.

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More red flags waving in my face!  Of course, you’re wondering the same thing I was thinking at the time.  This child had not hesitated to get into a car with a stranger.  My emotions were starting to rise and my heart was beating faster.  Single digit temperature, no hat, no gloves, you drop a child and don’t wait to see them get on the bus, he doesn’t know a telephone number, and he has gotten into a car with a stranger.  I took a deep breath and decided I would walk him to his classroom and have a talk with his teacher.

The school was only about a mile away and as we approached we saw buses pulling in which meant we were not really late.  If my calculations were right, John had probably come pretty close to his estimate of standing alone in the cold for 20-30 minutes. Never having driven onto the school grounds I must have been going too slow because John was directing me with excited anticipation.  There were buses everywhere and of course no where to park so I pulled into a no parking zone.  I said I would walk him to his room but John was over me by then.  When I used the excuse that I wanted to help him with his bags he assured me he was fine and he pointed to the woman directing children and buses and told me she had a badge.  I wasn’t sure if he meant he was safe because she was there or she would arrest me.  Of course, if you know me, you know I don’t take orders from anyone and especially second graders.  In a flash I was around the car helping John with his backpack but he beat me to the crosswalk and dashed into the building.  I walked to the crossing guard and asked if she knew John.  She nodded and gave some noncommittal answer.  I explained what had happened and asked if she would please ask his teacher to tell the mother what had happened in the hope it would never happen again.

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As I drove slowly off the school property tears filled my eyes as I thought, what if?  What if I had not stopped to talk to the UPS driver delivering a package to our house?  What if I had not back-tracked to make sure I had closed the garage door…yeah, do this all the time.  Did these things time it perfectly for me to meet John?  What if it had not been me who stopped to talk to John and had been one of the three perverts on Megan’s list who live in the area?  What if it had been some other pervert?  What if no one had stopped at all?  What if John tried to walk and got lost?

So you ask, where is the gift?  The gift is that God entrusted me with the care of this child and for that I will be eternally grateful.

WARNING:  If you have children and are thin-skinned read no further!

I know parenting is a hard job.  I know that snow days and starting time delays are an inconvenience.  I know what it’s like to be exhausted from everything it takes to maintain a home and family.  However, I also know, there is nothing, absolutely nothing more important than a child’s safety.  If you have children, you have the responsibility of doing the very best you can for your children until they are grown up and even then you will still worry about them.  There is no excuse for allowing your child to stand alone at a bus stop and especially in cold weather.  If your employer doesn’t understand why you were late to work then you need to find a new employer because your children must always come first.

Take your child to the bus stop and wait until you see them safely on the bus.  If you drive or walk them to school, make sure there is an adult to escort them into the building before you leave.  If you take your child shopping, to a park or for ice cream, never take your eyes off them.  Never let your child go to a home where you do not know and trust the people who live there. Drill your children on your telephone number and home address.  Teach your children a password or phrase that they must hear from anyone who would pick them up from school or activities.  No password…then teach them to run as fast as they can to a safe place.  Be suspicious of EVERYONE.  If you see someone acting strangely around children call the police.  It’s better to have to apologize than to see a child’s face on a missing poster.  And those teenagers…whew, God Bless You!  What they say and what they do are very often two completely different things.

In closing, I pass my gift to you.  You have been entrusted with the most important gift in the world, a child.  Don’t abuse this privilege.  Don’t ignore this gift because it will be gone sooner than you can imagine.  Most importantly, do not give anyone the opportunity to harm your gift or take it from you.

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 Have I scared you?  Good.  Keep this fear close, it may save a child.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day

Many, many years ago when I was in elementary school we didn’t have teacher’s aides or traveling teachers who taught music, art, and physical education.  What we did have were teachers who did it all and still found time to give us parties, Christmas programs, and really fun projects.  It was those special things that we looked forward to.  One of my favorites was making a valentine box.  I distinctly remember looking at a plain shoe box and having no idea where to begin.

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I can’t throw away an oatmeal container without feeling guilty that some child needs it!

 

In those days, we had only the basics materials with which to work; colored paper, glue, and if you were lucky a paper doily and crepe paper.  Mommy Note: Crepe paper color runs when it gets wet and using glue makes for sticky, colored fingers.  I felt inferior because the other kids’ boxes were more beautiful than mine.  Happily, I have gotten over that with no psychological damage.  Surprisingly, the boys really got into this project and came up with very inventive designs.  There was one little girl who always out-did everyone else with everything she made.  To this day, I’m pretty sure her mother hired an artist for her projects because I’ve yet to see third grade work that equals hers. I didn’t know until I Googled valentine boxes that the tradition has continued.  If I was amazed at the boxes in my elementary school, I was speechless at the pictures of boxes made by children today.  They’re valentine boxes on steroids!  And, I must say, more creative than ever.

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The best part of the Valentine’s Day tradition was giving and receiving valentines.  Poor Dad had to make a special trip to the store so that we could pick our valentines to give friends.  They were inexpensive and not fancy, but I loved the little envelopes.  Again, that little girl who always had the best valentine box had the expensive valentines, urrrrr…okay maybe I’m not over it!  Before signing my name, every valentine was carefully chosen for a particular friend by the cute little animal or in the case of boys, the least romantic message on the card.  Separating the valentines in this manner made for a large pile of questionable valentines that eventually had to go to someone or I would not have enough!

 

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I swear I remember these exact valentines.

The teacher would give everyone a list of the names of all the children in the class to make sure no child was forgotten.  On one hand I wanted a valentine from someone special, and on the other hand I knew if a boy wrote anything other than his name on the valentine my brother would never let me forget it.  Thankfully, the boys had no interest in doing any such thing; well, maybe one or two.  There were two boys named “Jimmy” in our class which made for a bit of confusion at times like this.  Yes, you know the feeling…which one was it…the one you wanted it to be or the other?  Most exciting were the special items tucked inside the envelope; heart candies with messages like “Be Mine,” or if you were really lucky a stick of gum which you were not allowed to chew in school.  If you got one of those heart shaped candies that said anything close to being “mushy,” you had several options.  You could quickly shove the little heart into your mouth and destroy the evidence or you could reveal it only to your very best friend and hope she kept her mouth shut about it.  I usually chose the former.

When my children brought home valentines with minuscule heart confetti, that I picked up for weeks, I found that less than clever.  Whoever came up with that idea obviously didn’t have children or had a cleaning lady. Those little hearts rank right up there with Easter grass and Christmas tree needles!

Going back even further than my childhood, as hard as that is to believe, the Victorians had beautiful, romantic, over-the-top valentines.  These were very typical of the Victorian saying, “too much is not enough.”

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 Look closely, they too used paper doilies!

 A Little History On Victorian Valentines

In the language of St. Valentine’s Day, a red heart symbolizes a holiday of love and romance.

Lacy valentines of the Victorian era reached their peak in the years 1840-1860. On delicate lace paper hand-painted motifs such as; cupids, birds, flowers, hearts, and darts may be enhanced with chiffon, silk, satin, tulle, or lace. Novelty valentines might feature a tiny mirror, an envelope, a puzzle purse, or a slot to hold a lock of hair. There were valentine checks drawn against the Bank of Love, and valentines printed to look like paper money. One of these looked too much like a real five-pound note and was quickly recalled.  Some valentines were decorated in watercolor or in delicate pen and ink. Often the handwriting was a thing of beauty as fine penmanship was considered a form of art.

I found the puzzle purse valentine very unique.  Following are the instructions for you to make one at home.  Using your very best handwriting, write a message or a poem and/or draw pictures of your favorite things.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to make one for Mom and Grandma.

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Google Valentine’s Day projects for more ideas.

Happy Valentine’s Day

 Don’t forget International Book Giving Day also on February 14th.

When life gives you lemons…

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. The October 1927, Reader’s Digest, attributes this idiom to Elbert Hubbard who said,   “A genius is a man who takes the lemons that Fate hands him and starts a lemonade stand with them.”

That being said, I would like to offer my own timely thought, “When nature gives you snow, make more.”  Crazy right?  The truth of the matter is, it’s winter here in the Northeast and you can either complain or you can find ways to enjoy it.  If you’re not the outdoors type, which is too bad because there’s nothing like breathing the pollen-free, crisp air from a mountain top or a frozen lake, then get creative.IMG_0529

There is no better time to read and play games with your family.  Dig out the old Monopoly game and have a Monopoly Marathon.  Teach a child to cook or bake.  Have fun with crafts and puzzles.   OR…MAKE SNOW!

Yes, you really can, and for children who have never seen snow this is as close as they might ever get without living in snow country.

Ingredients For Making Snow

500 g (approximately 2 cups) of bicarbonate soda

1 can of shaving cream

silver or blue glitter (optional)

Cover your kitchen table with an old plastic tablecloth.

Pour the bicarbonate soda and glitter into a very large, clean bowl.

Add most of the can of shaving cream and mix well.

This is not an exact science, measurements are approximate.

Mix and add shaving cream until

you get to a snow consistency that can be molded into a ball.

That’s it.  Dig in and make a snow man!

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If that’s not enough to keep the little people busy on a snow day try this:

Snow Ice Cream

1 gallon CLEAN snow

1 cup white sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 cups milk

The directions say when it starts to snow place a large, clean bowl outside to collect the flakes.  Hmmm….it would have to be a massive snow storm to collect a gallon of snow that way.  I would suggest scoping up as much fresh snow as possible.

I bet the jokes are flying about yellow snow about now.

Please, avoid yellow snow at all costs.

When you have your gallon of snow stir in sugar and vanilla to taste, then stir in just enough milk for the desired consistency.  Serve at once.

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And there you have it, a few ideas to help you get through snow days!

Have fun!

Don’t forget International Book Day coming up on February 14, 2015.

Give a child a book and you give them the world.

Visit me at http://www.kathleenandrewsdavis.com/

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