IMG_0814The definition of a collection is pretty general in any dictionary.  Simply put, a collection is the action or process of gathering items of like kind.  I’ve read that having three or more of any similar object is considered a collection.  At any rate, collecting is one more way families can enjoy time together.  Pick an item of interest to all and start collecting.


Postage stamp collecting is one of the best known hobbies.  Did you know it began at the same time stamps were first issued, and by 1860 thousands of collectors and stamp dealers were appearing around the world.  Stamp collecting is a less popular hobby today but it is still estimated that about 25 million people enjoy the hobby in the United States and 200 million worldwide.  Whew, that’s a lot of people not to mention stamps.

Some people collect memories in the form of matchbooks and napkins from favorite places, ticket stubs to concerts or movies, and most importantly photographs of family and friends.

I once did a bug collection for extra credit in biology.  Poor Mr. Yoder, I think he was sorry he ever suggested it.  His office was hidden in an obscure part of the school (probably to hide from students like me) where I would pop around the corner and stick my head in to see if he was there.   My sudden appearance startled him many times which hopefully was the reason for the look of disdain on his face, which equaled my feeling about the subjects of my collection and the process of mounting them.

Summer is the perfect time to start collecting…bugs, rocks, butterflies, fossils, and in the case of little boys just about anything that wiggles, hops or squirms. What mother of a boy hasn’t put her hand in a pocket on wash day to find something she would have rather not.



Plan ahead for a leaf collection by identifying and preserving leaves this summer for school in the fall.  Start teaching your children to cook and make a notebook or special box for their favorite recipes.  The possibilities are limitless!



Whatever you decide to collect, make it fun!


Copy and paste the link below into your browser to see my new video for Emerson’s Attic, The Blue Velvet.!31325&authkey=!ADgGKEu8XzRN0xA&ithint=video%2cwmv


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Kids in the Kitchen

I don’t know about you, but I change my recipes for the seasons like I change the clothes in my closet.  Summer is just around the corner and it’s time to think about easy, fun recipes.
Thinking about this reminded me of the time our daughters, then in junior high school, made Peanut Butter Tandy Cake.  Call it what you will Tastycakes, Tandy Kake or Kandy Kake…my recipe calls it Peanut Butter Tandy Cake.   Yes, they are just like the ones you buy at the store.  I didn’t know there was a controversy over the name, to me, they always were and always will be Tandy Cakes (see the tweet below explaining the name change).


At any rate, when I got home…from wherever…the girls were upset because they had done something wrong and the end product was not like it was when I made the recipe.  It only took one look at the baking sheet to realize they had forgotten to add the baking powder.  However, in my opinion, they made it better.  Their Tandy Cake was EXACTLY like the original except cut into squares instead of the traditional round shape.  Without the baking powder the cake layer stayed low like the Tandy Cakes we all know and love.

tandy kakeThis picture shows the recipe with the baking powder.

Without the baking powder they are about half this high.

Peanut Butter Tandy Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease or use baking spray to coat the bottom of a 10 x 15-inch jelly roll pan (pan must have sides).

Cake Ingredients

2 c flour

2 c sugar

1/2 c oil

1 c milk

4 slightly beaten eggs

2 t melted butter

2 t baking powder

1 t vanilla

Mix ingredients together and pour on the well-greased 10 x 15-inch jelly roll pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.  DO NOT OVER BAKE.

Peanut Butter Topping

While cake is baking, mix together:

3/4 c smooth peanut butter

1/2 stick melted butter

3/4 to 1 c powdered sugar

When cake tests done, remove from oven and immediately spread peanut butter topping

over the entire top of the cake while it is still hot.

Place in refrigerator or freezer until the peanut butter has hardened.

Chocolate Icing

When cake is cold, melt two 8-ounce Hershey bars in a double boiler on top of the stove.

Spread the melted chocolate over the peanut butter layer and return cake to the refrigerator until chocolate is set.

Before serving bring the cake to room temperature and cut into 2-inch square.

Enjoy, with or without the baking powder!

Is It a Tandy Kake or a Kandy Kake?


That’s Tandy Kake to you, sir

We knew there was a reason we were following Tastykake’s Twitter feed! Today they’ve revealed the answer to a mystery that’s been nagging us for YEARS. Why did they change the name of our beloved chocolate-covered peanut butter mini-cakes from Tandy Kakes to Kandy Kakes? Honestly, we’ve had arguments with people about this very subject, people who refused to believe they were ever called Tandy Kakes. People who made us question the validity of our own childhood lunchbox memories! Today, Tasty Baking Company solved the mystery in 140 characters (or less).

Via Twitter:

“Tandy Kakes were changed to “Kandy Kakes” to avoid confusion with the Tandy Candy Co. during the 1970s.”

Thank you, Tastyake, for making us feel whole again! We don’t know who this Tandy Candy Company is (or was, since we can’t find them via a google search), but we are going back to calling them Tandy Kakes, just because we can.

If anyone else has any burning Krimpet or Koffee Kake questions, they will be answering them via Twitter: @TastyBakingCo.




Don’t forget your summer reading list!

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Build Your Own Library


I first learned about roadside libraries from a cousin who sent me a few pictures and hooked my curiosity.  What a wonderful example of being neighborly!  The premise is simple, build or buy a weather-proof box, erect it close to the sidewalk or road in front of your home, and fill it with books.  TA-DA…you now have your own free library.  Post a sign telling passersby to take a book and leave a book.  Don’t fret if a few books go missing without replacements, just remember you made someone’s day a little better.library2Since the first one in Hudson, Wisconsin, the simple, yet profound idea of sharing books via these little structures has spread across the U.S., Mexico, Canada,and Europe.  The Little Free Library goal is to build more libraries than Andrew Carnegie, who built 2,510.  That goal shouldn’t be hard to reach considering how many of us love to read and love to share.


This truly is the perfect project for the entire family.  Now’s the time to plan and build your library so that it’s ready for summer.  How big, what color, where to put it?  Fancy smancy or plain Jane, it doesn’t matter.  Let everyone help.  Go wild and crazy with your design and be sure to let the kids help.

phone box library

This old British phone booth has to be the ultimate roadside library.

These pictures evoke memories of warm summer days under a shady tree reading, talking to neighbors over the back fence and

riding a bike aimlessly along a country road.

blog photos

Wouldn’t it be fun to mark each book with it’s original location?




How thoughtful to add a chair for a weary traveler.







Be sure to check with your municipality or zoning board to be sure you’re allowed to erect such a structure.

Here are a couple sites you might like to check out: and

Send me pictures ( of your library and I’ll post them on my blog and FaceBook.

Happy Reading!

Bedtime Stories

The best time of the day for me has always been bedtime.  Snuggling up with a child to read a bedtime story is my idea of fun. Whether you like the old classics or a new contemporary story, there is no limit of books to choose from as the sun goes down and the child settles in your lap for a story.

IMG_0803On one of his nightly reads, our grandson introduced me to the 5 Minute Stories by Marvel.  Super heroes are new to me, but a 5-minute story sounded like a great way to get through a topic I’m not particularly fond of.  However, children are not stupid…it takes three 5-minute reads to equal the regular 15-minute read.  You know what that means, two more stories about super heroes.  No problem, I don’t read super heroes that often and IMG_0800it’s worth it to spend more time with a little boy who would rather have “Pap” reading to him.






One down, one to go.  Goodie, a princess story next.  Wrong, she wants super heroes too.  What am I missing here?  When do we go into the princess phase?  Not soon enough for me.  Oh well, what are grandmother’s for?

I love the concept of the 5-minute read so I wanted to introduce them to you.  However, when I went to take pictures of the books, I found myself on the bedroom floor surrounded by piles of books that I love.  Wait, there are too many wonderful books!  I can’t just talk about two.  An hour later, I had finally narrowed my selection down to a few favorites and felt bad about the larger pile that didn’t make the cut.   Note to self:  Blog on bedtime stories more often.

The little bedroom library runs the gamut of topics, silly, funny, scary, and serious.  Did you notice, there is no “pretty” mentioned…hmm.

A Mama for Owen is one of our favorites because of it’s sweet story and beautiful art.  Truly a lovely story and the kids love the animals.IMG_0807

Another favorite is The Pout Pout Fish with it’s tongue-twisting rhythm that gives me practice for reading in public.

If I can get through The Pout Pout Fish without a stumble, then I’m in good form.IMG_0808


Maybe A Bear Ate It! and Interrupting Chicken are great fun.  Interrupting Chicken is the perfect read if you have a little person who is constantly in need of your attention when you’re trying to carry on a conversation with another adult.  Check it out, it could be one of the best purchases you ever made.


For me, you can’t beat The Velveteen Rabbit.  This well-worn and well-loved classic will never go out of style.

Find it and cherish it.

Finally, come the books that I believe mean more to grandparents than to kids, the recordable books.   Hallmark hit it out of the park with these.  We bought every one available for Christmas and birthday gifts so that our grandchildren would hear our voices after we’re gone.  These books are true keepsakes.  When our daughter told me she could hear our voices coming from other rooms when the 2-year-old opened a recordable books, it brought tears to my eyes.  The best gift a grandparent can receive is knowing their grandchild knew enough to open a book to hear their voice.


In my heart, I hope Emerson’s Attic hits a favorite list somewhere out there.

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Once Upon A time

When I think of fairy tales I think…once upon a time…however, this one started with “Tucked in a lush valley between two snow-capped mountains was the village of The Tales.”  I love fairy tales but never did I think I would meet the author of one.  In reading The Weaver by Kai Strand, iKai - windowt only took a few pages to realize I was being pulled into a real, live, fairy tale.  Kai’s writing is truly reminiscent of the greats.  Her style flows easily, the characters are likable and there’s a valuable message for finding one’s destiny.  The Weaver is a delightful story containing all the elements of a good fairy tale; a sweet little girl trying to achieve what she feels is an unreachable goal, a clever little blue creature, and mother as magical as any fairy Godmother.

Weaver Tale Cover - Copy





The first thing that caught my eye about Kai was her first name.  I guessed wrong, it does not mean sea in this case.  Here’s how she explained the meaning to me.  “My name has a funny story behind it. It’s my middle name. Pronounced like the letter, K. My mom wanted to spell it Kai saying that was the Swedish way (her heritage.) My dad said that was weird. So she spelled it Kae (really, not much LESS weird, but whatever.) I’ve always spelled it Kai because I liked the weirdness. So when I was rooting around for a pen name, I thought, “Oh, duh!” So I googled Kai Strand and got a lot of Swedish men. <–Maybe my mom would have known that if Google existed when I was born. Oh well, again, I like the weirdness of being the only female Swedish (decent) Kai Strand, too.

Kai’s volume of work is daunting.  She didn’t stop with children’s books, but kept moving up the years to young adult.  Follow along with me as I get to know Kai better.

Q:  Tell us a little about yourself.

A:  Thanks for having me, Kathleen. First and foremost, I’m a wife and the mother of four. I’ve been telling stories my entire life, but I’ve been a published author for just over four years. I write middle grade and young adult and just had my tenth title published. Publication day is still as thrilling as the first time around! Personally, I’m addicted to pizza and—thank goodness—I’m a compulsive walker (allows me to load up on the pizza). Handling raw meat and running into a scorpion gives me the willies. I’m a Mozart fangirl and have been caught wandering the aisles in the grocery store singing his Requiem. In Latin. Aloud.

Q:  When did you start writing and why?

A:  It was between the release of books 4 & 5 in the Harry Potter series. My daughter and I had plowed through the first four books during the summer. When the kids went back to school, I was left alone with my Hogwarts withdrawals. It was then I decided to entertain myself by creating a world of my very own. That book, though not my first published book, later became Beware of the White.

Q:  Where’s your favorite place to write?

A:  It varies depending on the kind of atmosphere I need. I mostly write at home in the quiet while my children are at school, but sometimes I need noise or activity around me so I go to a coffee shop or the library. Then other times I just need to be out of the house, so I’ll go to a park and write next to the river or staring at the Cascade Mountains.

Q:  When I read The Weaver I felt a definite classic fairy tale quality to your work. What made you decide to write in this style?

A:  I’m so glad you did. Not all of my books have that feel, but all The Weaver Tales do. The Weaver came about when I was poking around my head for a writing idea. I was staring at the website for my critique group and thought to myself, I’m so glad we don’t all live in the same town. I’d feel completely inferior if I lived with all these talented storytellers. Oh, my – there’s an idea for a book. Since I’d decided to set the story in a village of storytellers, it felt natural to add the old world, fairy tale feel.

Q:  You successfully write for the middle-grade readers and young adult readers, which came first and do you have a preference?

A:  Writing for middle grade came first. I added young adult simply because an idea that was better suited to teenaged characters struck me. I think my preference is whatever I’m writing at the time. I love writing for tweens because it’s such a formative time of life. Kids are truly discovering who they are and books can help shape them, teach them, open their minds to new possibilities, let them know they aren’t alone. Writing for young adults is fun because there is no limit on what subject, content, even the language I use. Though I don’t like to write inappropriate behavior or speech, I like that I can if the story requires it. Plus people who read YA are very passionate about their books and become truly invested in the characters.

Q:  What are your goals in writing?

A:  Writing is my profession, so my goals are mostly attached to my livelihood. Be able to earn enough to assist with mortgage and utilities, buy an occasional mocha and attend a movie now and again. In five years maybe even have more disposable income to go on a ‘research’ trip. Otherwise, I hope my writing impacts readers intellectually by making them stop and think, and/or emotionally with a character’s journey living within them on some level.

Q:  What is your favorite thing about writing? What do you like the least?

A:  Any and all contact with readers is the most rewarding thing for me. I love classroom visits where I have good conversations with students about books. I love signing events where I get to meet my readers. I love reader email and when they stop by my Facebook page to say how much they enjoyed a book or how excited they are for an upcoming release.

Least of all…editing. Ugh! Especially between the second draft and when I get to work with a critique partner or editor. Those passes when I’m alone in the story again and again is never as exciting as the first draft (LOVE the creation phase), it is all very tedious for me.

Q:  Who are your favorite authors and why?

A:  Maggie Stiefvater – for her beautiful use of the English language.

Jonathan Stroud – for his humor.

Cassandra Clare – for her compelling story lines.

Q:  Describe an average day for Kai Strand?

A:  It’s frightfully boring. Promotion, exercise, writing, cooking, reading or television. Nothing glamorous.

Q:  What do you like to do in your spare time?

A:  That’s a little more fun! Central Oregon is a beautiful place and we have tons of BLM lands and great trail systems, rivers, and lakes to enjoy the beauty from. So I spend a lot of time outside.

Q:  Where do you go from here?

A:  My next book is a young adult speculative fiction and the final book in my Super Villain Academy series. It’s scheduled for release in June. I’m really excited for that series to be complete. Unlike the Weaver Tales, which are each stand alone stories set in the same fictional village of The Tales, SVA is a trilogy with an over arcing storyline that you have to read in order and comes to an exciting conclusion in Super Bad (SVA#3).


SVA series


Kai’s books are available on

Drop by Kai’s blog at Strand of Thought to learn more.  Very clever use of your last name Kai!

Please leave comments by clicking on “comment” under the date upper left of the blog.

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Visit me at

I’m late, I’m late…

whiterabbit“I’m late, I’m late…for a very important date!”  I’m right up there with the White Rabbit from Alice In Wonderland.  We’re both late; he for a very important date, and me for my blog.  How did it get to be Easter already?  Something happened…the calendar moves faster than I do.  I think it got away from me because there’s still snow on the ground and it’s freezing outside.  No excuses, Easter is just around the corner even if there is no sign of spring.


Oh gosh, what fun thinking of Easters past.  Palm Sunday kicked off the festivities when my older brother and I would anxiously accept our palm fronds at church and then whip each other with them on the way home from church…on bare legs those babies hurt!  I know, not the intended purpose.  You’ll be happy to know we did eventually make little crosses tied with string out of pieces of frond, and hung them above our beds until they dried and turned yellow.



Not my family but so close it’s scary!

Mom always went overboard dressing four kids, stem-to-stern, in Easter finery.  She didn’t go to the same church and there was no way her kids were going to embarrass her.  The boys got new sport coats, shirts, trousers, and clip-on bow ties that never stayed straight.  The sport coats were outgrown before the second wearing and the bow ties would surface years later in some obscure place.  We girls got pretty dresses, patent leather shoes with little matching purses, pristine white socks that stretched out around the ankle, white gloves that made my hands hot, and the dreaded “Easter bonnet.”  If mom was especially energetic she would give me a “Toni” home permanent that she always said made me beautiful, she only said that to stop the tears.  The only good thing about the “Easter bonnet” was it helped hid the corkscrews of my damaged hair.  Did you ever hear of a duster? That’s what Mom called the light-weight coat that topped the Easter ensemble when the weather was not cooperating…like this year.  Dressing us up made Mom happy.  Getting us out of church without a mishap made Dad happy. Coloring eggs and Easter baskets filled with candy made us kids happy.  What was the Easter Bunny thinking giving four kids that much candy?  We were jumping beans on steroids!

easter baby

The really big deal at Easter was colored chicks.  Yup, I’m from the age when this was very popular along with buying baby bunnies.  I don’t recommend either of these practices today, but it was exciting then.


I don’t remember our chicks ever being this brightly colored.

Whoa…fluorescent chicks!

It was a yearly challenge among the neighborhood kids to see whose colored chicks would live the longest.  I’m pretty sure my brother won because he always made a chicken brooder from a cardboard box with light bulbs and lined with newspaper for sanitary purposes.  Jar lids were used for chicken feed and water through which the chicks insisted on walking and doing unmentionable things.  Each year the brooder got bigger, more elaborate and finally evolving into a scientific masterpiece of metal and Plexiglas.  We’d carefully lower the baby chicks into the box and hope for the best.  Did you ever smell a heated box with a dozen baby chicks after a few days?   I can still smell it!  Even our best attempts usually didn’t work.  However, one year we succeeded, and Roy (named after Roy Rogers of course) grew to maturity. The surprise was that “Roy” developed into a black hen and not a rooster.  Who knew?  We sure didn’t know how to tell the difference between male and female chicks…still don’t.  I was disappointed that Roy lost her artificial color and turned black.  We would hear Roy squawking excitedly and race to his miniature chicken coop (converted dog house with chicken wire around it) at the end of the yard just in time to scare away some unknown predator.  You guessed it, one of those curious critters finally did-in old Roy.  Roy actually laid a few eggs for us before his final race around the coop.

Times certainly have changed,

but certain traditions such as coloring eggs will live forever.

easter eggs

I wish you and your family a joyous Easter with or without chicks!

easter blessing

Share your Easter memories by clicking on “Leave a comment,” top left, under the date.

Treat a child to a hours of enjoyment with a book.

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Available at or ordered from your local book store.

Bette Stevens – A Woman For All Seasons

It hasn’t taken long for me to realize the best part of being an author is meeting other authors and building friendships.  This is extremely easy when you meet people like Bette Stevens.  Did you ever meet someone with whom you feel you have been friends for years?  That’s how I feel about Bette.

I like to think of Bette as a woman for all seasons because of her talent and experience.  She has been there and done it all, from business to education and now artist and author.  Bette mixes all of her skills and shares them with us in her children’s and young adult books.  In Amazing Matilda , Bette successfully educates children about Monarch butterflies while entertaining them with a fun story with clever characters.  This is a perfect story for introducing children to the beauty and incredible life of butterflies.  Share the experience with your children by helping them find cocoons and watching the magic of “Matilda” evolve.

Not only can Bette write and illustrate for children, she has the ability to touch the hearts of older readers as well.  In Pure Trash and Dog Bone Soup, baby-boomers will reminisce about the 50’s and 60’s while younger readers will be drawn in by the story of a young man who wants more out of life than he has experienced in his rural community.  Dog Bone Soup is entertaining yet teaches compassion and understanding by exposing bullying, intolerance, and plain old meanness.

Let me introduce my friend Bette Stevens so you can get to know her better.Bette Crop 2015

Hi Bette,

Q:  Why did you decide to become a writer?

A:  Writing came naturally for me, Kathleen. Putting words on paper to create a story of sorts was something that I’ve always enjoyed. I worked in the business world, for two decades, before venturing out to the world of kids in the classroom with my teaching degree. I was always writing something; business letters, speeches for executives, and interviewing out in the field for our company’s twelve-page newsletter of which I was editor, designer and desktop publisher. When it came to the classroom, writing with the kids was an adventure.

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

A:  My goal has always been to write or record anecdotes for readers—whether family, friends, business associates or children—to enjoy. I’ve been writing poetry since the 1970s and am frequently inspired to jot down word nuggets from nature when I’m outdoors walking or gardening. At this point in my life, my goal is to write for my children and grandchildren, so that they’ll have something tangible to remember me by, something that’s part of me.

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

A:  I call my office my Writer’s Nook. It’s an open alcove at the front entry of our home where I tend the wood fire in the winter—a place where I like to read and write no matter the season. It’s a spot where I can have my own space, yet still be connected to whatever is going on around me. I love it, because I never feel isolated or shut off from family.

Q:  How many hours a day do you write?

A:  That depends on what my plans are for a given day. I do spend a lot of time at the computer, but it’s not all writing time. Most days I write for two or three hours. However, if I’m on a mission like writing a book, it might be eight hours or more.

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

A:  That’s how I spend most of my time. Marketing generally takes up a solid four hours, three times a week. I keep trying to pare it down, but making connections with other writers and readers is an important part of the process and it sure does take time. There are so many new things to learn and share. So many new friends to meet.

Q:  Tell us a little about your books.  Do you have a favorite?

A:  The Tangram Zoo and Word Puzzles Too! published in 1997 by a regional press and self-published in 2012 as a second edition; it’s a great resource for the classroom and home-schoolers, but it’s also great fun for families and kids. Now I’m pleased to call myself an Indie Author.  Both of my children’s books are written and illustrated by yours truly.

AMAZING MATILDA— the inspirational tale of a monarch butterfly—has won two awards for Excellence in Children’s Literature for picture books.

PURE TRASH was written not only as a prequel to my first novel, it is a thought-provoking short story targeted at middle-grade through college students to invoke discussions about poverty, bullying and treating people with respect.

DOG BONE SOUP, my first novel, is a coming of age story set in the 1950s and 60s in rural New England in which Shawn Daniels overcomes the challenges of a life of poverty and abuse through sheer grit and determination with the encouragement a few of the people in his life who believe in him.

I don’t really have a favorite. Each book has a unique purpose and audience, although any of my books can be enjoyed by children and adults alike.

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

A:  Read, write, review, edit and make friends. Do these things over and over again. Don’t get discouraged. Join writers’ groups and book clubs, both online and in the real world. Help other writers. Here’s a little poem I wrote to remind myself to keep plugging along…

writers-write-postage-stamp POEM

I wrote it after I finished the fourth draft of my novel.  So now I can remind myself—Never give up!

Q:  When you started writing did you have a mentor?

A:  My first mentors were professors from University of Maine—Sylvester Poulet and Kathryn Olmstead. However, I’ve always been mentored by the writers that I read and the writers that I meet. Mentoring is an ongoing process, much like writing. It’s also something that you become since we’re always learning from one another and teaching one another. So I keep writing, keep reading and keep making friends.

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

A:  Being a Boomer, much of what I see in the media today is not what I want my grandchildren to be exposed to on a regular basis. But, I have no doubt that my grandmother probably felt the same way when I was growing up. However, as a writer I feel obligated to write what I would want to read or have my family read. That is a powerful thing. As writers, I belive it is our responsibility to get wholesome character-building literature into the hands of today’s youth.

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

A:  “Hey, look at this awesome book—let’s read it!”

Thank you Bette.  As always, I love our conversations.

Bette’s books are available on

BAS Books INSPIRED 2015 (2)

Please visit Bette’s blog:


Emerson and I are always there for you at

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