Sunday, August 31, 2008

In Just 6 Weeks!

I can't believe it will be here so soon! I have waited for October 5, 2008 for 98 weeks. Of course you're wondering why, so let's have some guesses! Is it the day I can stop wearing mourning clothes for my husband, like Scarlett O'Hara? Nope, never had a husband! Is it my wedding day, a long drawn out engagement? Wrong again! Maybe I've been waiting to smuggle a rare white tiger into the country and will keep him at my country estate? Of course not, you sillies!
October 5, 2008 is my 2-year "birthday"! Yes, I may appear to be a 40 year old woman, but I will actually be turning 2! On October 5, 2006 at approximately 9 PM I was "born" as bone marrow/stem cells from an anonymous donor dripped for about 45 minutes of "labor". I have posted about my cancer in the past, and I've alluded to the side effects of medication, which I am currently enduring, but I try not to define myself around my disease. Unfortunately, according to my doctor, my "profession" right now is cancer patient, although I am in remission. This will be my longest remission to date, as my cancer has reoccurred twice in the five years since I was first diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease in June 2003.

I am telling you about this 6 weeks in advance to gear you up for my birthday week giveaways! I thought this would be a great opportunity to bring awareness about bone marrow donation to my friends in the blog world. My plan was to give away a beautiful retired Longaberger desk organizer basket that I would fill with all sorts of things a person might need in an office, as well as an adorable snowman tote/purse that I would fill with winter items, giving me two winners. I am a huge collector of both Longaberger and snowmen, so I thought this was a good theme. A crafty friend offered to carve an adorable snowman pin to put in my tote, and then I got an even BETTER idea.
I am putting out a call to all of my artistic, crafty blog friends, as well as those of you who perhaps have some kind of an online store. If you would like to donate an item for my Birthday Week Giveaway, that would be awesome! You can contact me via email on my profile. Your item doesn't have to relate to winter or the desk basket, of course!
Participants so far include Jennifer from
Me & My Sister, Holly from MommyHolly, Heidi from Foxgloves, Fabric, & Folly, Karla & Kerri at The Summer Kitchen and Lisa the Apron Queen. In honor of August 31 being the 4th Annual Blog Day, I encourage you to visit their blogs and learn about them, and then visit their Etsy stores and look around! I have also received donations from local artisans who do not have online stores, so their talents will not be seen until I get some pictures of those items!
Blog Day 2008
Over the next six weeks I will share updates about our giveaway donors, as well as tidbits of information about my personal cancer story and bone marrow donation in general. On October 5 I will announce the guidelines for entering the giveaway contest and receiving one of these items chock-full of nifty stuff!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Kickin' It!

The blog awards poured in the windows here yesterday! Carolyn from Harbor Hon has bestowed two awards on me! The first is the Diamond Award. Personally, I would call myself more of a diamond in the rough! I was just thinking of something else funny to write about diamonds, and then I realized that I sure don't want to be a pearl, which is essentially a tumor!
The second award from Carolyn is the Kick @$$ Blogger Award, and I do think I kick it sometimes, so I'm thrilled to be acknowledged with this one! Interestingly, yesterday I was wearing a t-shirt with dancing cowboy boots that says "Kickin' It!" Is that creepy, or intriguing? This award is actually a little club, with a Mr. Linky to the almost 500 people who have received it. Go check them out!
Carolyn is a very interesting blogger, writing about life in Baltimore, interesting stories she's heard, and funny incidents in her workplace. As a person who has never worked in the corporate world, I really love these work stories, and as a geography teacher I love reading about Baltimore culture! Give her a visit!
Justine took some time this week to create her own award. The Rainbow Award is for blogs that make her smile. In explaining her creative rationale, Justine writes, "One of the very best things that has come out of blogging has been getting to know so many beautiful and funny people that have touched my life in one way or another. All of you are so different and that's part of the charm. Every morning I wake up and get to read your latest stories of life where you live. I get to learn what's most important to you, what makes you feel good, and sometimes even what makes you feel bad. When one of you goes on vacation, I get to experience it through your blog and pictures. When one of you is hurting I take a moment to pray for you and then think of you often until your storm has passed."
I think she expressed the thoughts of many of us so beautifully. Visit Justine to read more about her feelings about the blog world, her family, and her beauty secrets such as facial peels! She is also a great cook and is a finalist in the SITS Best Recipe Contest. The voting closes tomorrow, Saturday, so get on over and read her recipe and vote!
I want to remind everyone that this Sunday, 8/31, is the 4th Annual Blog Day. With this being a busy weekend, even if you can't visit on Sunday, take time next week once the kids are in school, to explore! BlogDay was created with the belief that bloggers should have one day dedicated to getting to know other bloggers from other countries and areas of interest. On that day Bloggers will recommend other blogs to their blog visitors. With the goal in mind, on this day every blogger will post a recommendation of 5 new blogs. This way, all blog readers will find themselves leaping around and discovering new, previously unknown blogs.
Blog Day 2008
Back to the Kickin' Blogger Award. There are many different criteria that can be used to pass this award on. I have a few people I'd like to acknowledge with it and for you to get to know, although I bet you know some of them already! I am only picking a few, all whom I've never given awards to in the past; they all Kick a$$!
Becky's Book Reviews is a place I visit daily. Becky maintains several book blogs and updates all of them almost daily! She gives away great books, and I have never been steered wrong by one of her reviews! She kicks it with her amazing range of readings, and easy to read reviews. If you're looking for something to read, check her out! She just had her 2 year blogoversary.
Nikki created her Blah, Blah, Blah, blog only a couple of months ago. The thing about her blog that stands out to me is the quality of her writing and her creativity. She shares daily life, decorating ideas, and funny stories about her family and dogs.
Gollum, from Designs by Gollum has brought gallons of home decorating joy to so many of us fleeing RMS! Her writing is informative, the themes are interesting, and she gets so many people involved by sharing their rooms!
Back to Justine! She is awesome, as I wrote above, so of course she needs this award too!

Have a wonderful Labor Day Weekend, folks! Don't forget Sunday is Blog Day, and I will also be making a special announcement that day!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

VTT: Finally, Some Aprons!

Welcome to Vintage Thingies Thursday, where we share photos and information about vintage and antique items. This fun meme is sponsored by Lisa, the Apron Queen. Stop by her site to see the list of all the other participants and visit them, too! Maybe you've got something to share with us next week.
My mother recently brought me a big bag of aprons that she has had in a kitchen drawer since I was a kid. In the last 10 years she doesn't wear an apron unless she is doing a big baking, or making sauce, or something like that, so I asked her for whatever she was willing to give me, just to share with you folks! My niece is modeling them for me, and nope, I didn't iron them!

This first big cover-up apron is a "family heirloom" because it is one of only 5 the family still has from my grandfather's pie shop, which he sold in the early 1960s to Table Talk. It was a huge bakery that provided pies to restaurants, hotels, hospitals, etc. My mother has never made a pie at home in her life, because she can only make 10 at a time, she claims.Growing up, they always had birthday pie instead of cake! The aprons were found in a box in my grandparents' basement when the house was cleaned out about 15 years ago. It is a really thick golden canvas with three big pockets, so it's a great apron for daily use. Because it was used so much, the canvas is really soft and pliable.

This is my favorite of all the aprons she brought me, because of it's great coverage, big pocket, the fact that it will fit anyone, and I LOVE the fabric. It is little white giraffes, in a very mid-1960s graphic style. Red is also one of my favorite colors.

I couldn't share my aprons without showing some with RICK RACK, of course! These were too small for my 10 year-old niece to model properly. They are mine from when I was very small, made by my great-aunt Gertie, she of the house where so many of my vintage items have been scavenged, including the apothecary bottles and the cool, flip-open toaster. Gertie's husband died soon after returning from WWI, they had only been married right before he left. She stayed a widow the rest of her life in the family home, and supported her pension with a tailoring and dressmaking business. Other than the bakery and giraffe aprons, all of my mom's aprons were made by Gertie. I will be sharing the others soon!

Me? Creative?

I don't know how creative I've been lately, but Sal from Smiling Sally has seen fit to honor me with the Arte y Pico Award. It's a beautiful award, featuring an angel standing humbly inside of a curling golden feather. The button was created by Esaya @ Arte y Pico, and has some guidelines for being distributed.
1. Select up to 5 blogs that you consider deserving of this award for their creativity, design, or interesting material, and which also contribute to the blogging community, no matter what language.
2. Each award has to have the name of the author and a link to his/her blog so that it can be visited by everyone.
3. Each recipient has to show the award and put the name and link of the blog that presented him/her the award.
4. The recipient and the one who has given the prize have to show the link to Arte y Pico so everyone will know the origin of the award.
So many of my closest blogging friends already have the Arte y Pico award, so I'd rather give it to those who have not yet had the pleasure, even if they don't know me as well. Some of these bloggers may not even know I exist, but I lurk around their sites often. There, I said it, I"m not such a great commenter after all!
The blogs on which I bestow this honor are:
Handmade Holidays! I have been visiting this blog since they started up in early summer. They have great ideas for holiday crafts, as well as organizational tips for the holidays.
Calamity Kim! She is very creative and funny!
Debbie, who has created Blog Around the World, a site dedicated to members sharing information about their home state or country. This blog is not only beautiful and well-organized, but a TON of work!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Silly Games & Memes

A few days ago, I was very excited to see that Sheila from Note Songs was back from her trip to Vegas, because I've been holding on to some Bathroom Beauty Snapper shots. This is a group of ladies I am very excited to join! They carry their cameras everywhere, and take pictures of themselves in the mirrors of public restrooms. Sounds strange, huh? It's a lot harder than you think to take a picture of yourself in a poorly-lit public ladies' room and still be able to see your face, let me tell you!
Because I am pretty much house-bound, I rarely get the "opportunity" to use public restrooms. If I am close enough to home, I just wait until I get there. Any time I use a restroom that others use, I have to do a whole wipe-down with antibacterial wipes, and wear my rubber gloves, so it's a real pain in the butt. On my vacation to Maine last week, I took pictures of myself in the hotel room mirror, and in the restroom of the indoor pool. I hope these "count" with Sheila! My family thinks I'm nuts, not that they didn't know that already![Edit: I was out of the house all day and took this picture in a public RR. I am getting pretty good at taking these pictures! Please note my delicate lady-like hands holding the camera, and my toile bag that matches my toile shirt. A lady walked in just as I took this picture and hit me with the door!]While checking in with Sheila today, I saw a button on her sidebar for Tablescape Tuesdays. This is a new weekly meme organized by Susan at Between Naps on the Porch. So many things caught my eye here, from the name of her blog, to the gorgeous summer/beach tablescape she shared with us. If you are looking for ideas for setting a gorgeous table, definitely go and check it out! I do my best with these things, but I only have 1 set of dishes and flatware, so I have to accessorize around them if I am going to do a theme of some kind. Susan also can recommend books on the subject of tablescapes. I didn't even know books like that existed!
Another interesting and new Tuesday meme is
The Revival of Common Courtesy, hosted by Tamy from Three Sides of Crazy. Each week Tamy selects a topic such as writing thank you notes, hosting overnight guests, funerals, babies, etc. Participants share what they do in these situations, and link to Tamy.
Currently, I participate in 3 memes,
The Simple Woman's Daybook, on Monday, Vintage Thingies Thursday, and the Sunday Salon. They are spaced out enough that I can write about other things on the 4 other days of the week, and if I can't think of anything to say, I usually have a draft of one of these memes ready to go with just a few touch-ups! I don't want my blog to become all about the memes, they're just for fun and to connect with people with similar interests, so I'll rotate where I'll spend my time based on how I'm feeling on any particular day.

What memes do you like? Do you prefer tags? If you don't enjoy tags, like me, you may want to post this funny button. Don't forget to follow the link to its creator!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Simple Woman-August 25

I am participating in the Simple Woman's Daybook, sponsored by Peggy at The Simple Woman. It is a great way to start off the week! Stop by Peggy's blog to see who else is participating and read their entries, then think about joining us next week!
I wasn't here for the last 2 weeks. The first I was on vacation with my family in Maine, and last week I was on a big "downer" moping about not returning to school/work, and all the complications of my medications. This week I am all chipper again!
August 25, 2008
Outside my window I am thrilled that the overgrown bushes have been removed from in front of the picture window! The condo association is allowing me to choose the new shrubs. I definitely want holly, and I know I'll need a male and female. Any suggestions for shrubs that will stay fairly small, do well with shade, and possibly flower? I am in zone 6.
I am thinking about trying to get back to some of my "old" crafts like cross-stitch and crewel work. I've been reading quite a bit online about "chicken scratch" stitching on gingham, and it really interests me.
I am wondering if it is time to finally cut my hair. October will be 2 years since it fell out (for the 3rd time!), and it started growing again in January. I love the way it feels, because it is soft like a new-born baby! When it is cut for the first time it won't be soft again. But it is so curly and gets all tangled!
I am creating a little Halloween item for the Very Vintage Halloween Swap.
I hope to receive responses from some artists I have contacted about donating items for a giveaway for my 100th post!
I am going to my classroom this week to get some of my personal items and bring them home to store.
I am thankful that the weather has been so fresh here, lately with very little humidity. This means I can go outside, and it also is so much better for my labored breathing.
One of my favorite things is decorating for the seasons. I am starting to think about autumn, but I am going to wait until mid-September this year.
I am reading What She Wants by Irish author Cathy Kelly. It's about 4 women of different ages all at crossroads in their lives. I'm really enjoying it; her style and the story remind me of Maeve Binchy.
In the kitchen I am thinking about baking this week, if the weather stays cool.

Here is my picture thought for you.
I made this at http://wordle.net/ Then I took a screen shot of the image, put it into PhotoDeluxe and cropped everything else out.

Friday, August 22, 2008

YA-Starting Over

Welcome to my Sunday Salon, a day of reading and discussing books and authors. Be sure to visit some of the other participants and see what they are reading.
I had intended to share about these 2 books during the week, but time got away from me, as it often does! I recently went through a Young Adult sweep and read several good novels, including Big Fat Manifesto, which I shared with you last week. I read Jordan Sonnenblick's first book, Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie a few months ago, and really enjoyed it, as did my 13-year-old nephews. Mr. Sonnenblick is a middle school teacher, giving him some insight into the interests, fears, and crazy minds of adolescents. He is also a former student of Frank McCourt, author of Angela's Ashes, Teacher Man, and many other books, of which I'm sure you already are aware!
Sonnenblick's third novel, Zen & the Art of Faking It, is a look into the life of a young man trying to re-invent himself in a new town. I brought it on vacation and read it very quickly because I was so interested to find out how San, the main character, was going to pull all of his deceptions and lies together. Whenever there are lies to friends and different lies to parents and teachers, the reader knows we're in for a big collision of the main character's two worlds, or realities.
San has moved frequently in his 13 years, and in each new city and school he tries to fit in and not be noticed, on the advice of his dad. This last move will probably be the last, because his father has recently been convicted of confidence schemes in several states. San decides that maybe his father's advice isn't the best, and maybe he should try and stand out, instead of blending in. An opportunity arises in his World Geography class, where they are studying religions, a topic San already studied at his last school. Accidentally answering too many questions and having a dialogue with the teacher gives him the idea that his new personal should be that of a spiritual, Zen Buddhist boy/master. Being Asian helps with this deception, although San is careful that no one meet his adoptive Caucasian mother! San makes several friends, including Woody, a musical, independent girl, who finds San interesting and obviously likes him. While San spends afternoons at the library doing all he can to learn more about Zen Buddhism, his new learnings that he shares with others make positive changes in many other people's lives. It is only when San realizes that his Zen knowledge is relevant, as his two worlds collide, that he starts to believe the words he spouts.
The characters in this novel are believable, which is not always true in YA novels. Of course there is the independent rocker girl, the angry jock boy, the wimpy smart boy, the overworked single mom, but each of them is seen in different lights and situations, showing different angles of their lives and personalities. The storyline of the con-man father is told slowly through different comments by San, and small events. As an adult reading the book, I pretty much was able to realize immediately what had happened with San's father, but a young person reading this would probably not figure it out until it is told to the reader flat-out about half way through the book. As far as the plot, the father storyline is really not relevant, except as a catalyst for the move to a new state and for San's reinvention of himself.
The Year My Sister Got Lucky by Aimee Friedman is also about an adolescent moving to a new environment. Freshman Katie Wilder and her sister, Senior Michaela are New York City girls through and through. They are best friends and travel the city together to school and to the prestigious Ana Pavlova dance studio, where Michaela is the star student. Katie's family considers her to be very sensitive, and often keep her out of family decisions and keep information from her. When Katie discovers that her family is moving to the small town of Fir Lake in upstate NY, she is horrified and frightened at the prospect, and can't understand why Michaela is taking it all in stride.
Arriving in Fir Lake, there are many incidents which I found funny, including the family's encounters with bugs, dogs, mud, and home improvement projects. Michaela and the Wilder parents quickly become acclimated to their new environment, wearing clothes suitable for the outdoors, taking up new interests, and making friends. Katie on the other hand, continues to wear her fashionable city clothes, whether they are ruined walking through the mud and fields, aren't warm enough for the colder weather, or are unsuitable for hiking, like her soft sneakers. She also avoids making friends and gives many students silent nicknames that she considers insulting, such as calling a girl named Autumn "Flannel" because that is the fabric she usually wears. Eventually Katie begins to accept the overtures of the students of Fir Lake, makes some friends and even goes on her first date. This is mostly due to the fact that her "best friend" sister has become the most popular girl in school, is dating and going out for pizza with the other Seniors all the time. Katie can't understand this and misses her sister as her best friend.
The story is the classic fish out of water tale, of course, but it is also the story of a girl realizing that things in life can change and still be good. Michaela will always be her sister, but there are some things she need friends her own age to share.
The adult characters in this book are almost non-existent as real people. The strongest adult influence is Katie's mother, a Russian immigrant and professor of Russian literature. Everything Katie and Michaela have done prior to moving to Fir Lake has been to please their mother, who does not understand, and doesn't want to understand, American customs such as Homecoming, Thanksgiving, or hanging out at the pizza parlor. Their father is briefly described, and appears in scenes where a father would be such as meals, but is presented with little depth or importance to the story. A great adult character, Claire the neighbor, is never developed either, and her friendship with Katie, which could have been a great influence and interesting to readers, is almost irrelevant to the plot.
So these are two of my Young Adult books from my sweep of the last two weeks. I am currently reading What She Wants by Cathy Kelly, an Irish author. Between the title and the cover art, one would think it would be typical chick-lit, but it's not! I am about 1/3 of the way through it, and it is very "Maeve Binchy" to me. The story of life in a small Irish village, and four women at different crossroads in their lives. I look forward to finding out how they face their challenges and sharing this book with you next week!

Hurry! Ending Soon!

Since it is International Comment Leaving Week, I thought it might be a nice idea to give visitors some fun opportunities for giveaways. I couldn't sleep tonight, and as we all do, instead of cleaning, folding laundry, or reading, here I am fiddling on the Internet, finding interesting, new to me blogs, and entering contests and giveaways!

ENDING TONIGHT, Friday, 8/22, is a great fall package from Country Pleasures. Hurry, Hurry, Hurry!

Purty Girl Primitives is celebrating her birthday by giving away this adorable, 13" rag doll. Ends Sunday, August 24.

On the Dot Creations! Julie is a digital designer celebrating 6 months of blogging. She has more than 20 giveaways going on right now from a variety of Etsy artists. There's something for everyone! The last ones end on Monday, August 25, so hurry on over.
Ending on Thursday, August 28 is Calamity Jane's gorgeous Halloween tote bag giveaway for August. For some reason I couldn't get the picture to download, so go see how beautiful it is! She has a giveaway every month!

Quilting With Debi has a book about quilting and 2 Moda Charm Packs to celebrate her 200th post. She will be having her drawing on September 1.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

VTT: Spools! Glorious Spools!

Welcome to Vintage Thingies Thursday, sponsored by Lisa, the Apron Queen Each week people sign up with Lisa to be listed as VTT participants and show off all sorts of keen vintage items like books, jewelry, pottery, toys, and clothing. After you look at my nifty offerings for this week, be sure to go see what everyone else has; it really brings back great memories!
This is my small collection of antique industrial spools. Yes, most of them are from my dad's basement! We think they were in the family because someone at one point worked in the textile mill of Windsor Locks, CT, which manufactured underwear. A lot of our vintage items were found in the family's Windsor Locks home. I have 3 different styles and sizes, some with new thread that has been put on them for decoration. Currently, I have them displayed on the bottom shelf of a small table in my entry.
Since I only had this one picture to share with you, and not a lot of information about them, I did some research, which I know some of you like to read. One thing I learned was that although yarn has been wound on spools for thousands of years (Don't forget Sleeping Beauty pricking her finger!) there were no major changes in their construction until the Industrial Revolution, and it was mostly women working in the industrial mills who drove the design changes.
Many people today use these old spools in their home decor. I have seen the wider ones used as candle sticks, and smaller ones displayed in big bowls. I've even seen regular wooden thread spools with thread still on them in a large clear apothecary jar, which looked really beautiful! The texture of the wooden spools with the manufacturer's writing on them, and the varied colors of the threads made a great display. These on the right have been wired to be nightlights, and make a really cute grouping.
The spools below were once used to wind commercial yarn. The steam would come up through the center hole of each spool & then shoot out the multiple holes in each. As the yarn wound around the spool, the steam would stretch it out so that it could be wound tightly on the spool therefore producing longer yardage per spool.
I found this article from a 1940 newspaper about a man repurposing spools to make cameras!The Industrial Revolution (1790s-1860s) brought about huge changes in the labor and textile industries, as well as society. Many historians credit the birth of the Revolution in the United States to Frances Cabot Lowell, who, in 1814, built a textile mill next to the Charles River in Waltham, Massachusetts. The Waltham mill was the first integrated mill in the United States, transforming raw cotton into cotton cloth in one building. Lowell died three years later, and in 1826 his partners named their new mill town "Lowell" in his honor. In less than 20 years, a small collection of family farms was transformed into the industrial city of Lowell, Massachusetts, which is now a National Historic Site. In that time, ten textile corporations opened 32 mills in the city.Young women, usually from large New England farm families, orphans, or immigrants, were "collected" or recruited by men telling tales of high wages available to "all classes of people." In 1840, the factories employed almost 8,000 workers – mostly women between the ages of 16—35. On average these women worked a 72-hour week with few breaks. Historically, these young women have been dubbed "The Lowell Mill Girls" and much research has been conducted on their daily lives.The mills were a dangerous place to work with shuttles flying off looms, and a constant, humid, 100-degree climate. Bobbins and the machinery they ran on were some of the greatest inventions of the Victorian Era. Developed as a way to manage heaps of thread, bobbins revolutionized textile manufacturing during the Industrial Revolution. Many textile mills had their own machine shops and their own favorite shape of bobbin which accounts for their varied designs. Traditional wooden bobbins have been retired from most current day manufacturing because of the large amount of hand work involved in making them, as well as the fact that they are not suited to synthetic fibers or high-speed machinery.Do you or any of your friends have spools, either on display or hidden away in some box? Did you ever study the Industrial Revolution in school? Did you already know about the Mill Girls? Let me know in the comments!
Now go and visit some of the other VTT posters!

Back from Vacation

I'm back from my little vacation to Ogunquit, ME. My family has been going to Ogunquit for about 12 years, sometimes renting houses, sometimes staying at an inn, depending on how long we plan to stay and what our needs are that particular year. This year we stayed at the Juniper Hill Inn, which is basically a very nice motel. It is perfect for our group because it has both indoor and 2 outdoor pools, free breakfast, and rooms that open right out to the parking lot, so our handicapped people (Dad & me) can get in and out very easily. It's also right on the trolley line, so those who want to can take the trolley when they go places.
We were only there for 4 1/2 days, and for 2 of them it POURED. For me, that was no problem; I was just there for a change of scenery from my own house, so I read a lot and took a lot of naps. The kids and Grandma were at the indoor pool most of the time, and my sister and niece did a little shopping. Then it was the beach for the last day and 1/2. I had never seen it so crowded! Then I heard some of the bike police saying they hadn't seen it so crowded all summer. That made me glad, because one of the great things about Ogunquit is that it is not commercial and is usually not super-crowded like some of the other New England area beaches. Due to the instability of walking on the sand and down the very steep ramps, I didn't go down to the actual beach, but stayed up in the pavilion with all of the older people. It's actually pretty nice up there! It was much cooler than being down on the sand, and there are plenty of nice benches if you don't have your own chair. The pavilion is on level ground with the parking lot, so I was also able to go off on my own and take a ride around the full loop of town on the trolley. It was the perfect time of day because there were very few people aboard, and the driver went fairly slowly because of traffic, so I was able to get some pictures of things I see every year, but have never bothered to capture in a photograph. Here are some of the more interesting or picturesque.
This is a cute B&B that sits right on the road down to the main beach. What a great porch!
I thought the birdhouses on the shelf above the windows were so cute on this colonial home. It is a private home right on Route 1. Outside the upper windows are big peanut butter/oil jugs to hold flowers.
Brewster's Micro Mall cracks me up! It is an extremely tiny shed that sells everything from soda and motor oil to postcards and boogie boards! Their gas is a rip-off, though!
The Nellie Littlefield House on Shore Road is a beautiful Victorian B&B. They have their own direct beach access path, which is a big plus. It's for sale, if anyone is interested!Ogunquit is known year-round as an artists community, with several museums and a plethora of galleries. This Cape Cod style home is an art gallery. All of the local businesses have gorgeous flowers and decorations outside. Some even have benches, like this one, or tables for visitors to just sit and enjoy people watching.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Your Comments Will Get You in Trouble Some Day!

That's what I always heard from my parents while growing up! In church, at a movie or live stage show, in a restaurant, I always saw or heard something to comment about, and it often wasn't nice. It still isn't nice, a lot of the time! If you've read my profile of an Evil Overlord, you've seen that my personality is 84% Judging! I just can't help it; even if I don't say anything, I'm thinking something judgemental, either positive or negative.
I bring up this topic because I think that comments are what drive the blogging world, and I may have found my niche! At the beginning of the month I wrote a post about blog awards, how they can be a great boost to a blogger, knowing people are reading and enjoying their blog. At the time, I had just received the Brillante award, and within days I received Super Commenter from Jewelgirl at Sandwiched Mom.
I appreciated this more than she or others might know, because I really do make a strong effort every day to comment positively on several blogs.
I visit any from my blogroll that have been updated that day, and I try to always leave a comment. I've also joined the Secret Is in The Sauce, a great blog that brings people together each day, and has wonderful giveaways at the same time. SITS features a different member each day, and asks us to visit 3 of their posts and comment. They also ask members to leave comments if they stumble upon a site displaying the SITS button.
Comments are great not only because they validate what we are writing in our blogs, but because they increase traffic and friendships. When a new name appears in my comments, I visit that blog and read several posts. I may not get to it for a few days, but I always want to know who is hanging out or checking on me. Following links from these commenters has also brought me to other interesting blogs, as I'm sure it has for many of you, also.
IComLeavWe was started by Melissa from Stirrup Queens and Sperm Palace Jesters, with some of her bloggy friends. Each month bloggers can enroll to participate and then follow the guidelines for checking out new blogs and leaving comments.
In the spirit of building friendships and validating our friends in the blogging world, I would like to give the Super Commenter Award to several people, also. Please grab the button at the beginning of this post and link back to me when you share it. I don't know who created the original award.
Carolyn (sea mystery) from Harbor Hon always has something great to say in her comments and is super-funny in her blog!
When Bridget from My Silly Blog hits town with her comments, you may get messages on 4 or 5 posts! She's a really fun and positive person!
You know her, you love her, Justine @ Justine's Froggy Bloggy always remembers her commenters, as well as leaving helpful comments, telling it like it is!
Jewelgirl, from Sandwiched Mom, is also a great commenter. She checks in every week with all of the Vintage Thingies Thursdays gals and always has something great to say. She is a real expert on vintage jewelry, too!
Patty @ Pip Stitch is a wonderful commenter, asking great questions and really starting dialogues!
Rue from Rue's Peanut Butter & Jelly Life is a caring mom and wife, and fabulous decorator!
Beth Ann @ Team Thornhill News is a new blogger who does a great job visiting blogs and leaving bloggy love!
So is Nikki from the Blah, Blah, Blah Blog! She is a fabulous decorator, too. Go see some of her rooms!
I hope you will stop by and visit these ladies if you have never checked out their blogs before!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sunday Salon: YA Fiction

I have a lot of reading news for the Salon this week! First of all, I finished all 3 of my YA novels that I took on vacation, so I am feeling pretty good about myself in the reading world again! I'll tell you about them a little further down.
Secondly, I discovered a book blog that is new to me, My Friend Amy. Amy writes about a lot of mainstream/popular books, and she is sponsoring a blog carnival in a few weeks for all book bloggers! She is calling it Book Bloggers Appreciation Week. She'd like participants to register so she can maintain a list. There will be prizes and giveaways, The Oscars of Books!
Amy is a LOST fanatic, just like me! Actually, I think she is worse because she attends conventions and reads all the blogs about LOST. Anyhoo...She is running a LOST books challenge. If you are unfamiliar with this TV show, there are many references to a variety of books: classics, children's lit, obscure older books, etc. Some are actual books that characters are reading, others are names of characters taken from books, all different literary allusions. (I hope I used that fancy word properly!)
The challenge is to select 5 books from the series and read them by December 31. I have never done a book challenge, so I thought I'd give it a try. These are the ones I have chosen.
After All These Years by Susan Isaacs
Bad Twin by Gary Troup
Dirty Work by Stuart Woods
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
(Can you believe I've never read this?)
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (Or this? What a heathen!)
On to some YA Fiction!
Big Fat Manifesto by Susan Vaught is the story of Jamie, a high school senior who loves journalism and is writing a weekly column for her school newspaper about being Fat Girl. The story is told through the columns, as well as Jamie's first person narrative. I discovered this book through Becky's Book Reviews. Becky always seems to hit it right on the money for me, whether she likes or dislikes a book.
Jamie is a wonderful writer, as is Susan Vaught, the author of the entire book, which is important, because she needs to win the National Feature Award to pay the college tuition that her working class parents just can't afford. She wants to attend Northwestern University as a journalism major. Besides being a writer, Jamie is an actress and has had key, but not starring, roles in all the school musicals. Her boyfriend Burke is a member of the football team, and her two best girl friends are NoNo, a sensitive, vegetarian activist, and Freddie, a fashionable, African-American lesbian. I did not love the friends as characters, and I especially wanted to slap NoNo and tell her to get over herself. I thought they were somewhat one-dimensional, which often happens in YA books. However, in a crisis, everyone was always mature and understanding of each other, which often doesn't happen in real life.
Jamie's column is the focus of the book, and it soon takes on a life of its own. First local media are interested in her story, then national. Some want to know if she considers herself a role model or an advocate for the obese. Obese, by the way, is a word Jamie strongly dislikes. She is FAT. Deal with it. Some say she is the poster child for what is wrong with the health of the young people in our country. Throughout it all, Jamie stays strong for one so young, but these questions make her start to question why she is writing on particular topic, should she consider bariatric surgery, and will she always be Fat Girl.
I really enjoyed the information Jamie shares about how daily life as a Fat Girl is different than for a Skinny Girl. For example, she goes to the doctor and can't wear the jonny, as well as other problems with the exam room. She tells the readers about the difficulty of buying clothes, being taken seriously, being served in stores. Something else Jamie does is only eat in her own home. Because of this, when she gets home after school, newspaper, and play practice, she is starving, and scarfs down entire pots of stew, pints of ice cream, etc. However, never does she see this as a problem, it's just the way her life is. She comes from a family with fat genes, so deal with it is her motto.
Overall, Big Fat Manifesto is a great read. I liked that the ending didn't wrap everything up in a pretty bow. Jamie is still conflicted about her weight and her "role model" status and readers don't know if she will get into Northwestern or win the National Feature Award.
I will save my other YA novels for another post, as this one is getting very long! Be sure to stop by the Sunday Salon and see what others are enjoying!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Counters & Playlists & Widgets! Oh My!

As I travel around the blogging world, I see all sorts of widgets that people have added to their blogs. Clocks, maps, weather reports, music, book lists, the list could go on forever! Like a woman wearing too much jewelery or make up, can a blog have too many widgets? Or is it the way they are displayed on the blog that might make them confusing to the eyes of a reader? Some widgets serve a purpose, such as a counter, while others are for fun, such as Sally, the virtual puppy in my left side bar. I can't have a dog right now, and I've always wanted to name one Sally, so I just made her for kicks!
Many bloggers use their site to bring in a little extra cash through advertisements. Sometimes even big cash! You can't get advertisers if you don't have traffic statistics to share with them.
For others bloggers, a stat counter or world map of visitors is interesting because it can be compared with the number of comments received to show the blogger how many people took the time to say something. I like using my stat counter to see how long people stay at my blog and how many pages an individual clicks on. This tells me if what I am writing is of interest to that visitor, and if one thing I wrote made them check out the archives for something else on a similar topic. Stat counters are available for free from several hosts. Three of these are BlogPatrol, StatCounter, and Site Meter. I know, I know, many of us had issues with Site Meter a few weeks ago, including me! However, I've used the free version of Site Meter on different web sites for about 8 years, and this was the first bug I ever had with it. I just deleted my counter until they fixed the issue, and then put it back up. For more detailed information on these statistic counters, I highly recommend the article, It's All in the Numbers from Blogging Basics 101.
One Plus You is a pretty irreverant site with wacked-out quizzes such as, "How Many Cannibals Could Your Body Feed?" "The Blog Cuss-o-Meter" and other potentially hysterical or traumatizing questions! They also have blog bumper stickers with crazy messages.
A place for fun widget quizzes is BlogThings. They are the home of What Kind of Pie, Flower, Cookie, etc. Are You? Something that totally freaked me out at Blogthings was the quiz, "What Should I Be When I Grow Up?" There was 1 question with 8 picture designs to choose from. Just pick the one that appeals to you most. So I did, and it hit me right on the head!
You Should Be a Teacher
You are patient, optimistic, and good at explaining things.
You work well with all types of people, and you are a good role model.
Success and positive outcomes are extremely important to you.
You are both a good leader and instructor.
People look up to and depend on you.
You do best when you: 1) Can see the results of your work, 2) Are able to teach someone a new skill. You would also be a good nurse or non-fiction writer.

At Miniclip bloggers can find games, puzzles cartoons, and goofy clips such as a dancing George W. Bush, that can be added to a website.
Sally, my little dog, comes from Widgetbox. At Widgetbox they have all sorts of fun, silly, and interesting things for your blog. They even let people who know programming create new widgets, and guide them through the process. Some of the widgets available are newsfeeds, virtual jigsaw puzzles, games that can be played on your blog, art to create and display, & so many other cool things!
Toonlet is a very specific site that allows users to create cartoons and characters for free! It is very cool, and not many blogs that I visit use it. Take the tour to check it out, but you must be a registered user to actually create things. One blog I visit has created characters for all their family members and uses Toonlet to tell funny stories about them.
I have been working on this particular post off and on for a few weeks. Blogger has just done a lot of my work for me! Do you read the articles in the Dashboard when you sign in? If so, you know that Blogger now has thousands of widgets, which they are calling "gadgets" for our sites! They are so easy to use; the hardest part is choosing! They have combined so many things I was going to write about, such as daily quotes, daily artwork, sports scores, business news, etc. If you are a Blogger user, definitely go check out some of the options. It's so great to have all of this in one place, and so easy to use!I am no Joe-Pro blogger, nor do I have the technical/programming knowledge to create an amazing design from scratch. I am new to the world of blogging and am just learning the etiquette and terminology. BUT, as a teacher, I believe the greatest skill any of us can have, especially in the 21st century, is to know WHERE to go for information. My 3 biggies for information on blog design, HTML, etiquette, and getting the most out of your blog are, in alphabetical order: Bloggerbuster, Blogging Basics 101, and ProBlogger If you have a favorite, I'd love to hear about it! Before you start exploring all of these places for funny and sometimes helpful things, ask yourself what the needs are for your individual blog. Do you need a stat counter plus a feed telling you where your readers are located, or can you find that information in 1 widget? Do you need a list of "top commenters" as well as a "recent comments" list? Instead of showing us what kind of flower, pie, dog, etc. you are all at once, why not change it out on your sidebar every few weeks? One article I read suggested making small visual changes to our blogs to hold reader interest.So come on back and let me know what interests you, and which of these sites you found fun and/or easy to use. I had problems w/ a couple of different widgets themselves, but not everything on any one site.