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This blog is for kids and parents who love to read. Any topic relating to the themes of the author's book, The Travel Adventures of Lilly P Badilly: Costa Rica will be covered here. This includes books, reading, travel, Costa Rica, plants and animals, conservation and more.
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This entire week is dedicated to Teacher Appreciation, and today is National Teacher Day! As an author who has met so many teachers, I have often thought about how much I appreciate all they do. The responsibility of a teacher is far far greater than the recognition or pay. If you think about how much teachers can influence their students, thus helping them shape their futures, it really is remarkable. I’m not saying that all teachers are outstanding, but I do believe that the vast majority care about what they do and set out every day to make a difference in children’s lives.
So go out and thank a teacher today!
There are 37 days left of my Lilly Badilly Literacy Project. Let’s make it happen!
I am very excited about my interview with paper engineer extraordinaire, Bruce Foster. Read the interview here. If you love pop-up books like I do, you will be in awe of the painstaking process it takes to make a book like America’s National Parks: A Pop-Up Book.
© Bruce Fosster
Bruce Foster with a pop-up of Grand Canyon National Park
Our IndieGogo campaign is up to 220 free books for kids! Thank you for your generous support! Please like our Facebook page.
We’ve raised over $1,000 on the IndieGogo campaign! Also, my article was posted about the Lilly Badilly Literacy Project on Wandering Educators. You can read it here.
If you want to learn more about literacy rates in your state and county, visit the National Center for Education Statistics website.
This is an exciting day – the first day of the Lilly Badilly Literacy Project!
Our goal is to raise money to cover the cost of printing 3,000 books and CDs so we can give them to students who cannot afford to buy them. Please check out our IndieGogo campaign and help us spread the word on Facebook, Twitter and by emailing your friends and family.I promise our video will make you laugh!
Thank you for your support!
Today is Earth Day, and I wanted to share with you some links to some amazing children’s books I’ve reviewed that celebrate our great earth and science.
Stronger than Steel – Today I reviewed a book for gifted readers about transgenics that is fascinating. It explains how scientists are experimenting to create orb spider silk, a substance that is stronger than steel and more flexible than nylon.
America’s National Parks: A Pop Up Book – You’ve never seen a pop-up book like this one! It’s the most sophisticated and beautiful 3D book I’ve ever seen, and it celebrates our country’s greatest natural treasures – our National Parks.
Friends of the Earth: A History of American Environmentalism – This outstanding book highlights 11 key people who made notable contributions to America’s environmental movement.
This is the best year I’ve ever had for my tomatoes, and I’ve been growing them for at least ten years. The photo you see above is a sampling of the tomatoes I just picked from my third and last harvest. The plant themselves look warn, yet there are still quite a few tomatoes ripening, and it appears as though I’ll get at least 100 more before I pull the plants for the summer.
I credit my success this season to the fabric growing bags I used, that breathe and drain better than any clay or plastic pot can. I used organic fertilizer, alternating every week with epsom salts, which are rich in magnesium.
It never ceases to amaze me how nature takes its course. It appeared as though some of the plants stopped producing tomatoes, yet tiny buds of deep green leaves began to emerge, followed by yellow flowers and fruits. I’ve never had a season such as this where the last harvested tomatoes tasted as delicious as the first. Each harvest yields fewer and smaller tomatoes, yet this year the tomatoes of the last harvest also tasted as delicious as the first. In a few weeks I’ll pull out the plants and dump the soil into flower beds as I wait for September 1 – the date I plant my seeds for next season. I just received my seeds in the mail, so I’ll be ready to get started by then.
The challenges of nurturing and growing delicious healthy tomatoes can be compared to many other challenges we face in life – such as raising our children, building a business or taking care of our health. It all boils down to research, patience, experimenting and a whole lotta work and love.
I’ll sure miss eating my homegrown tomatoes this summer, but I’m actually looking forward to a gardening break. You can bet I’ll be itching to get started come September though. Every year brings new gardening experiences with new varieties and new discoveries.
I went to Philly this weekend and ran the Rocky Steps. The weather was perfect, and it was such a pleasure to run in cool temps with no humidity! I ran up and down 65 steps, 30 times.
I’m taking these homemade desserts to the neighbor’s house for dinner tonight.
Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Mousse Filling!
Meyer Lemon Cheesecake!
To celebrate this great milestone, Maria and I went to Jaxson’s Ice Cream Parlour and ordered the biggest sundaes we could find
Monday marked my One Year Anniversary of Running Stairs. I have been doing aerobic workouts for more than 17 years, but a year ago I started running up and down the courthouse steps with my neighbor, Maria. She and I had been walking our dogs together for a while and decided to try running the stairs after my husband told me he tried it while on a midnight run.
There are 28 steps. We call it an “inning” when we run up and down once (56 steps). The first time I ran, I strained to do 13 innings. Stepping of this sort is one of the most strenuous exercises. Over the course of this past year, I ran more than 1,000,000 steps, up and down, that’s more than 17,850 innings! The most innings I ran at one time during that year were 100, or 5,600 steps. It took about an hour. On a regular basis (5 X per week), I ran 60 and sometimes 80 innings, 40 at the least. We ran in the rain, extreme heat and some cold (for FL) weather.
Some tips if you want to try this: Bring a towel for sweat and plenty of water. Buy a cheap stopwatch to time yourself so you can mark your improvements. Stretch your calves on the steps before you run. Have a cell phone in case of emergency. Take 60-90 second walking breaks between innings. We break after 20 or 25 innings. Don’t stop moving when you take a break or when you have just finished! We walk 1/2 mile to and from the courthouse, so it is a great warm up and cool down. Make sure you stretch when you’re done or your calves and quads will get very tight. I run barefoot due to plantaar fascitis. When I wear any type of shoes it causes heal pain and even knee pain. No shoes = no pain for me.
Let’s see how many steps I can run in the next 12 months and hopefully I can accomplish some other milestones unrelated to working out.
Five mornings per week for the past year, I run the steps at the regional county courthouse (about 40 minutes per visit). The design of the building includes two extremely wide flights of stairs (28) that lead to a large platform and many doors that happen to be locked at all times. After September 11, the courthouse changed the entrance to a ground level door armed by a security guard and a metal detector. There are signs outside the courthouse telling visitors that there is “No Entrance at the Top of the Stairs.” The problem is that at least half of the courthouse patrons do not see the sign and begin their ascent up those 28 steps.
During my year at the steps, most of the workers acknowledge me as they walk into the building, as I’ve become a “regular.” I have stopped hundreds of people from wasting their time and energy hiking those stairs in the heat only to discover they cannot enter the building that way. I’ve stopped a pregnant woman who appeared to be ready to give birth, wearing spiked heals from walking up the stairs, a morbidly obese man who had a hacking cough, a very old lady with a cane, a woman with several tiny children, people who cannot speak English and whose language I cannot speak either. And the list goes on. Most of these people are so grateful for not having wasted their energy that they thank me profusely. I also answer countless questions while running:
- Q.What time is the courthouse open? A. 8:00 am.
- Q. What room do I go to for a new passport? A. 2nd floor. Turn left.
- Q. Is the courthouse open on President’s Day? A. Nope.
- Q. Where do I vote? A. Not here. Go east down this boulevard (as I point in that direction) one and a half miles and turn into the library parking lot on the left.
- Q. Why on earth do you run up and down these steps? A. It seems as though I like to punish myself.
And the list goes on.
Today when I saw the security guard there, I told him that I thought it would be appropriate for the county to pay me for my work, since I have assisted so many visitors. Well that generated a big laugh from him. And then it made me think about all the times I’m not running stairs and visitors are unnecessarily climbing up and down those steps and have questions but there’s no one there to help out. Somehow these people survive without my assistance.
For the man who refused to stop blowing smoke up my nose while hovering around the steps I was running, despite my kind request, I somehow neglected to tell him there was no entrance up there.
I’ve never been a big fan of white layer cake, because it is usually dry and boring. But when I got my Christmas 2012 issue of Southern Living Magazine and saw the award winning white cake on the cover, I had to try it.
The recipe is simple, and it is crazy good! I made one and served it for my husband’s birthday in January. My aunt and uncle, who ate it with us, asked me to make another one 3 weeks later. As my aunt said, “I lay in bed at night and think about eating that cake!” You’ve got to make one to see what it’s all about.
Here’s a link to the recipe for Mrs. Billet’s White Cake with Buttercream Frosting. Ignore the reviews from the people who said the cake was disappointing. They simply did not follow the directions properly or don’t know how to bake. I made it twice and loved it both times, and it is not complicated.
Some tips if you make it:
- Make sure your egg whites are at room temperature before beating them or they will not fluff up properly.
- Beat egg whites in a stand up mixer before you start any other part of the recipe. That way you can take them out after beaten and set them aside and will not have to wash the mixing bowl before making the rest of the cake. If you make the batter first, then you’ll have to wash the mixing bowl to beat the egg whites.
- Substitute half and half (half milk/half cream) for the milk.
- Don’t over bake the cake layers. They bake quickly. They are done when the top is slightly brown and a knife comes out clean. If the cakes are dark brown, you’ve over baked them and they will be dry. If you have a convection oven, they will bake really quickly and in much less time than the recipe says.
- Let the layers cool on a baking rack completely before frosting them.
- Use only real vanilla – NOT imitation vanilla extract!
- Use only real butter – NOT margarine!
While most of the east coast is snowed under today, I spent a glorious day with my husband hiking in the Everglades. Check out these photos!
All photos © copyrighted by Debbie Glade. Photos may not be copied or used without permission.
Today I reviewed an incredible book for Good Reads with Ronna called, Women of the Frontier. Wow, it sure was eye-opening. After reading about how our forefathers lived and traveled via covered wagon, I felt guilty about the complaining I do about most everything. The hardships women endured during that era are astounding. Despite their challenges, many persevered against all odds. I highly recommend you read this book and buy it for your children (ages 12 and up).
I had surgery last Friday – my gallbladder removed. It’s not all that serious of a procedure, but it does immobilize you for several days and is uncomfortable and painful. Today is day 5 and I’m ever so grateful for the progress I made. I was basically on the couch, horizontal for the first 4 days, which in a weird way was good. It gave me time to think, regroup and plan. It inspired me to catch up on reading, toss old emails, delete unresponsive friends on Facebook and set some new business goals. But most importantly, it made me grateful for the times when I am feeling terrific, running the stairs, doing yoga, walking the dog, laughing and enjoying life. I was even grateful for being able to carry a laundry basket and put the clothing away, water my tomatoes and dust the living room.
It also made me realize that small setbacks are often just what we need to slow down and recharge ourselves. What are you grateful for?
Image in the Public Domain
I noticed a recurring theme in the whirlwind of holiday cards and newsletters I received this year. It’s travel. Naturally people focus on the highlights of their year, and to most that includes the special trips they took. It just feels good to get away, whether that may be a once in a lifetime adventure to an exotic destination or a trip back to your hometown to see family and friends.
My closest friend’s daughter and her husband, newlyweds, scrimped and pinched to save up cash for a couple of years so they could travel around the world. That’s a dream so many of us have, yet never act upon for one reason or another. These young travelers are living life to the fullest, hopping from continent to continent with no fears and no preconceived notions. What I admire most is their ability to plan such extensive travel with a small budget. They know how to travel light and make a dollar last.
Their worldwide excursion inspired me to make a list of places I’d go, if I took a trip like that. Among the top destinations I picked were New Zealand, Fiji, Finland, China and the Russian Far East. The thought of organizing a multi-stop journey led me to various websites to play around at various travel-booking websites, which is where I discovered Flights24.com. This site offers some of the best cheap fares, special deals, last minute tickets and even complete vacation packages. Their database includes over 750 different airlines, and they let you compare prices easily. I’m going to use this site for my next trip to Philly to see my daughter and every trip after that.
As for New Zealand, Fiji, Finland, China and the Russian Far East, that’s a plan in the making.
My organic tomato garden has been prolific this year – the best I’ve ever had. And I have vowed NOT to waste one tomato. When they come off the vines by the basket load every day for a month, I have to work hard to eat them, can them and share them with friends. Giving canned sauce is always a pleasure. I’m often asked how I make my sauce, so here is the recipe.
Fresh, homegrown organic tomatoes have way more flavor than tomatoes you can buy at most stores. Believe it or not, even canned crushed tomatoes taste better than regular store-bought tomatoes, so I have given you the option of using canned tomatoes should you not have good fresh tomatoes available.
Making tomato sauce requires just a few basic ingredients.
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 5 lbs. fresh tomatoes, the more varieties, sizes and colors the better. Or substitute 2 28 oz. cans of crushed tomatoes.
- 2 6 oz. cans tomato paste
- 3 small yellow onions
- 25 cloves peeled garlic
- 3 Tbsp. shredded carrots
- 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- 2 heaping tsp dried oregano
- 2 heaping tsp garlic powder
- 2 heaping Tbsp of basil pesto (I make my own with basil, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon juice and pine nuts, but you can buy it prepared)
- Pinch cayenne
Peel and core your tomatoes. I use a tomato peeler, but you can cut an X in your tomato skins with a sharp knife and blanch them in boiling water for 1 minute to peel skins off. Cherry tomatoes do not need to be peeled.
Tough skins and cores down the drain.
Heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a large heavy duty sauce pan. Peel and remove tough ends, then chop onions in a food processor by pulsing. Do not over process or the onions will be watery.
Start to saute onions on medium heat. Add pinch of salt. Keep stirring. You do not want to brown the onions. Saute until translucent, 8-10 minutes.
While the onions are cooking, pulse the garlic in the food processor until finely diced.
Add more olive oil to the pan, lower the heat and mix the garlic with the onions. Keep stirring for 2 minutes and be careful not to let the garlic burn.
Add the balsamic vinegar and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.
Add the tomatoes to the pot, stir well and simmer.
The tomatoes will cook down and naturally break apart quickly as they are mostly water.
After the sauce has cooked for about 15 or 20 minutes, and the tomatoes have cooked down, add the 2 cans of tomato paste, garlic powder, oregano, cayenne, salt and pepper to taste.
Cook sauce by simmering for 2 hours on low heat. Stir every 10 or 15 minutes so it doesn’t burn on the bottom.
After sauce is done cooking, turn off the heat, stir in the pesto and then your sauce is REALLY done.
I can my sauce using a home canner, but if you do not know how to can, you can wait for your sauce to cool and freeze it in portions perfect for your family.
Sauce can be used over pasta. You can add meat, make meatballs, use it in soups, stews and more.
I reviewed A Kid’s Guide to Arab American History for Good Reads with Ronna, and it really opened my eyes to the fact that I have fallen victim to stereotyping so often. I pride myself on being well-read, worldly and am fascinated by different places and people and their ways of life. But reading this book made me come to terms with the fact that I too have unfortunately allowed stereotyping to shape my opinions about various people throughout my life.
I’ve decided the best way to work through this is to think about all the ways others may stereotype me, and how much I’d dislike that. After all, we all can be stereotyped unjustly, discriminated against and otherwise labeled. If you’re with me on this, go ahead and make a list of the stereotypes people may place upon you based upon your sex, race, culture, way of life, religion, etc. Then bring to mind those you place on others who are of different backgrounds than you. One of the best ways to challenge yourself is to consider what it would be like to put stereotyping labels on very young children. It just seems so unfair, so uneducated and utterly ridiculous.
The academic world refers to accepting others as “teaching tolerance.” That is a term that really misses the mark. “Tolerating” is not what we should strive for, rather it should be “accepting.” Don’t you agree?
I am going to work on paying closer attention to the labels I place upon others and do my best to remove them. Perhaps someone out there will do the same for me.
Look what I pulled out of my garden today. What a wild looking tomato! It’s got a nose! All it needs now is a set of eyes and a mouth.
I’m overwhelmed with delicious ripe, organic tomatoes. Tomorrow I will be canning most and reserving the best for eating with feta cheese.
Ben Franklin Image in the Public Domain
It’s an important day – Inauguration Day and Martin Luther King Day. These events bring to mind the many great people who have contributed to America and the entire world. It took me a while, but I came up with my wish list of the Top Three Historical Figures (no longer living) that I would love to interview today (if I could bring them back to life, of course). And if I could interview them, what 10 questions would I ask each of them? No question would be off limits.
Martin Luther King
- Where did you get your courage to stand up for what you believed in?
- Looking back on your life, is there anything significant you wish you would had done differently?
- What are your thoughts on the riots that ensued following your assassination, since you so often spoke about the importance of peace?
- What do you think of the state of racism and equality today as compared to the 1960s?
- Are you surprised that we first elected an African American US President in 2008?
- How would you rate the progress of America as it compares to your “I Have a Dream” speech?
- Did you ever imagine that your speech would be so eternally regarded and a national holiday would be established in your name?
- Were you faithful to your wife?
- If you were alive today, what would you be doing?
- What advice do you have for those out there who are trying to muster up the courage to stand up for what they believe in?
- What of your many accomplishments are you most proud?
- What is your opinion of the amendments that have been made to the US Constitution since you signed it?
- Who in your opinion is the best US President in history and why?
- Who was the mother of your illegitimate son, William?
- When you discovered electricity, did you realize how much your findings would change the world?
- What invention that has taken place since your death do you most respect?
- How does your list of Thirteen Virtues hold up in the world today, and would change that list in any way now?
- How do you feel about the current state of education at the highly regarded University of Pennsylvania, the school you founded it in the 1700s and the challenges students face today getting into the top universities?
- What was your reaction when you learned of the digital age and e-publishing?
- If you were alive today, what would you be doing?
- What happened to your daughter, Leiserl?
- Did you know at the time of your theories that you would change the world of science as you did?
- Can you explain your theories of relativity in layman’s terms?
- What of your many accomplishments are you most proud?
- What is your opinion about how the science of physics has progressed (or not progressed) since your death?
- If you could change anything you did in your life what would it be and why would you change it?
- What most surprises you about the changes in technology in the world since your death and how could that help you with your work?
- Why do you suppose there is such a shortage of scientists in America and the world as a whole these days?
- What do you have to say about how your brain was taken without permission from your family after your death to be studied?
- If you were alive, what would you be doing today?
Those are my top three choices for interviews with historical figures. If I could expand my list, I’d add:
- George Washington
- Thomas Jefferson
- Abe Lincoln
- King Henry VIII
- Alfred Hitchcock
- Vincent Van Gogh
- Frederick Douglas
- Freddy Mercury
- Rod Serling
- Ayn Rand
- William Shakespeare
- Grace Kelly
Who would you interview if you could, and what would you ask?
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Ask anyone who has created something original – written a song, penned a book, acted out a part, designed a new product – and they will all tell you just how much they’ve been critiqued, criticized and essentially torn apart by one person or another. This holds true for everyone, from the most successful people to the least.
I’ve experienced criticism in many ways as a children’s book author, blogger and writer. Most of it has been positive, but some of it has been downright cruel, almost comical in a sense.I wrote and illustrated a book, recorded it on CD, have spoken to thousands of children and even sewed my own costumes.
Once, a miserable old schoolmarm actually took the time to write and mail me a nasty letter disputing something in my book. Another woman critiqued my awesome librarian writing contest, that attracted tens of thousands of views because in one of the winning entries, there was an overlooked typo. There were 43 long essays, and one typo that was created during the layout and posting process. The email from this reader stated, “I thought I would thoroughly enjoy reading what my fellow librarians wrote, but as soon as I saw that typo, I was completely turned off and would never read any of those unprofessional essays from a publisher like you who posts errors.” This was my response to her:
“Thank you for pointing out the typo. There’s really no excuse for our error. While we strive for perfection here, we have yet to figure out how to achieve it each and every day. It is a shame you are choosing not to read these exceptional essays. The entrants really took a risk by putting themselves out there, expressing their feelings and taking the time to write and rewrite, knowing they’d be evaluated by judges and readers. Where is your essay?”
The cliche, “No risk. No return” surely holds true for whatever you do. It takes courage and confidence to live through criticism and process it in ways that are constructive rather than destructive. So if you are thinking about creating something original, and you should, work on your resilience to take criticism. You’re going to need it.