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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: vacation, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 264
1. The Front of the Parade

I dislike parades. Not a little, a lot!

I don’t care about the pageantry or the spectacle. I just get bored. A.D.D.? Maybe. Every time I’m stuck watching them, I can’t find an ounce of enjoyment – I just think about two dozen other things I could be doing. This couldn’t be truer than when I’m at Disneyworld.

My kids, on the other hand, love parades. So when people start lining the streets, they want to stop riding roller coasters and wait. UGH…

Wait for what? Floats. No thank you! If a float doesn’t contain root beer and ice cream, I don’t want it.

I figure with half of the eligible riders standing along the parade route, the lines to the cool things are shorter. Not my family. We wait – and not for the good stuff.

A funny thing happened on our trip last week. We were headed to a ride at the back of the park while people were lining up for the parade. No one with me suggested we stop to watch (miracle), so I powered into the street. We must have been the last ones let out before they closed the rope because we found ourselves about 20 paces in front of the parade with all of its flags and music.

Maybe it was the fact that I was pushing my daughter’s wheelchair, or possibly because I looked so stately and official, but it became apparent that the spectators thought we were supposed to be the ones leading the parade. We all realized it at the same time as they clapped and waved at us.

My kids became confused.

They grouped together.

“Should we pull off and get out of the way?” they wondered.

The oldest asked, “What do we do?”

Of course they looked to me, the leader, the head honcho, the alpha male for direction and what did they find me doing?

Waving

With a dopey grin on my face, I waved back at all of my adoring fans.

When life puts you at the front of the parade, smile and wave!

parade

The kids laughed at me, but it caught on. All of us began waving to the crowd.

You know what? Everyone waved back. The people didn’t think we looked out of place – they just waved at us. I wonder what they thought when the real parade came and they realized we didn’t belong. Oh well, we were gone by then. We walked over half of the parade route unencumbered by the bustling crowd until we got near the ride we wanted. Then we simply ducked into the masses and became one of them – anonymous once more.

I still hate parades… But for a moment, I was the grand marshal.


Filed under: It Made Me Laugh

6 Comments on The Front of the Parade, last added: 12/10/2014
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2. Pete the Cat in the Big Easy

I just spent a week in New Orleans, a place I’ve wanted to visit since first reading Interview with the Vampire as a teen. The week held plenty of sights and experiences I’d been highly anticipating (a ghost tour, the Garden District, blues and jazz clubs, and — of course — beignets) and some I hadn’t expected (Mardi Gras beads hanging in many trees; the informative but emotionally intense National WWII Museum, which Cindy also visited last year; lots and lots and lots of rain).

litwin pete the cat i love my white shoes Pete the Cat in the Big EasyOne pleasant surprise during my trip to NOLA was an encounter with Pete the Cat, star of the series of picture books and early readers written by Eric Litwin and illustrated by James Dean. During a leisurely stroll in the French Quarter, I spotted Pete’s familiar face in the window of Gallery Rinard. My parents are huge Pete fans (and I’m an unrepentant cat lady), so I dragged my boyfriend into the gallery to take a look at Dean’s original art.

While the gallery offered lots of original canvases, prints, and even puppets of the cartoony Pete his picture-book readers will know and love, many of Dean’s paintings are geared towards adults in content and humor (such as this “Most Interesting Man in the World” Dos Equis commercial parody). A series of re-creations of well-known photos and paintings — including The Mona Lisa, Klimt’s The Kiss, and Munch’s The Scream — features cameos by Pete.

And much of Dean’s work portrays his feline friend in a softer, more realistic manner, revealing the artist’s deep affection for the real-life Pete. After quite a bit of deliberation, I eventually chose one of these as a souvenir for my parents:

 Pete the Cat in the Big Easy

“Pete the Cat: Weather or Not” by James Dean

Like Cindy encountering a Dahl book at the WWII Museum, I didn’t expect for my kidlit life to come out to play while I was on vacation — but I’m glad it did!

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The post Pete the Cat in the Big Easy appeared first on The Horn Book.

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3. Good for the Brain

Want to help your students focus better during independent writing time? A recent NY Times piece by Daniel J. Levitin may hold the key to making this happen in your classroom.

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4. The Great American Road Trip

Partially packed, but ready to go.

Partially packed, but ready to go.

This month my family and I returned from our LONGEST ROAD TRIP EVER. Longest in duration (one month), if not in miles (3,033).

We started from our home base in Rockford, IL and drove through eight states: Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, N. Carolina, S. Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, stopping in various towns along the way. What were some of the biggest differences between all these states? Well the gas price for one thing: varying by 60 cents, and the temperature: a high of 104 ° F in Georgia and a low 48 ° F in Illinois. Our journey looked like this:

The long and winding road.

The long and winding road.

Did I mention there are five of us? By the time we were done, as you can imagine, we pretty much had had enough “family time”. There is a phenomenon known as too much vacation. When we finally got home we didn’t even unpack. Instead we separated to our individual rooms.

madcatAlthough we were glad our trip was over, we did accumulate some great memories along the way. Like when we went to the Driftwood Beach at Jekyl Island. Very hot day, very cool views.

Driftwood Beach, Jekyl Island, GA

Driftwood Beach, Jekyl Island, GA

And walking the beach while the sun set over the Gulf of Mexico. Phenomenal. I’d honestly never seen sand turn pink before.

Sunset at the beach, St. Petersburg, FL

Sunset at the beach, St. Petersburg, FL

And of course a trip to Florida is never complete without a jump over to Orlando. For . . . you know . . . Harry.

Hogwarts castle, World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios, Orlando, FL

Hogwarts castle, World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios, Orlando, FL

My enthusiasm at World of Harry Potter easily trumped my kids’. One of my favorite memories was having a woman’s portrait in the Hall of Portraits blink when I took her photograph using my flash.

Hall of Portraits, Hogwarts Castle, World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios, Orlando, FL

Hall of Portraits, Hogwarts Castle, World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios, Orlando, FL

On the other hand, one of my youngest daughter’s favorite recollections wasn’t eating at great local restaurants, swimming in dozens of different swimming pools, or exploring southern architecture. Nope. It was rescuing someone’s Barbie from a perilous fate.

Tortured Barbie left at the beach, owner unknown

Tortured Barbie left at the beach, owner unknown

She (Barbie) is currently in quarantine.

Mad cat photo © Nikolai Nikonov, text added; all other photos © Karin Blaski; route map © mapquest

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5. The Sunday Post and Stacking the Shelves–Busy, Busy, Busy!

 

The Sunday Post is hosted by Kimba of The Caffeinated Book Reviewer.  This is a weekly meme where we can share news of the week and highlight new books received.

I’ve had a busy week!  Last weekend, Dean and I took a mini-vacation.  We went to Columbus to visit the zoo, the Olentangy Caverns, and one of the Metro Parks, where we saw real, live, wild Bald Eagles.  We also stopped at Coon’s Candy, which I drive by every time I go to a horse show in Columbus, but I have never had the time to stop before.  We had a really good time.  I tried to embed the “story” of the trip that Google+ built from pictures I took with my phone, but the service is so worthless I can’t find the embed link option.  Sigh.

Tuesday night I had to take Poppy to the vet. I discovered to my dismay that she had developed an ear infection the night before we were leaving on our trip.  A frantic call to the vet yielded an ointment to squeeze into her beet-red ear, which the kennel staff kindly took care of in our absence.  Her ear was still very red Tuesday night, so we went home with a medication for pain and inflammation, as well as instructions to continue with the ointment for another 10 days.  We have a recheck next weekend – hopefully the infection will cleared up by then, because it’s upsetting seeing how uncomfortable she has been.

Wednesday night after work there was a local open horse show, and I decided to take Pixie.  I have been a little nervous to take her to an outside show because she can be so jumpy, but she was really good!  Just a few bobbles, and I’m pleased with how well she did.  We had a 2nd, 4th, and 5th place in fairly large classes.  The bugs were bothering her by the last class, but overall, we both had a good time.  I am looking forward to more of these smaller shows next summer.

And that’s my week!  I was exhausted Thursday because I was out way past my bedtime because of the horse show, so I have just been lounging around this weekend.  I guess I’m due a break after the busy week.

How was your 4th of July weekend?  Did you do anything special?

Check out my current contests!  See the Contest Widget on the Sidebar to enter!

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews to share new additions to our library.  Click here to learn more about it.

New Arrivals at the Café:

This is two weeks of books


Poison Promise  (This is a finished copy – I will be giving it away in a few weeks)

The Game and the Governess

The Return of the Discontinued Man

The Pearl That Broke its Shell (1.99 for the Kindle – this looked different, so I bit at the price)

The Honeymoon Trap (.99 for the Kindle, and since I love Kelly Hunter’s writing, I snapped it up)

I Adored a Lord

Falling for Max

Across the Line

Dangerous Calling

When I Fall

Taking it All (I’ll have a copy of this to give away, so check back next weekend!)

Black Dog

Zomburbia (I couldn’t resist – zombies!)

Generation 18

Falling for the Pirate

Heart of Dread: Frozen

Maplecroft

Ringworld Graphic Novel

Winning Ruby Heart (A sports scandal – I couldn’t resist this one, either)

The Texas Twins (I think the cover is so cute!)

Maverick for Hire

Captured by the Sheikh

Breaking All Her Rules  (Maisey Yates is one of my favorite HQN authors)

Marine for Hire

A great big thanks to the publishers for their continued support!

What did you get? Please leave links and share!

 Subscribe in a reader

The post The Sunday Post and Stacking the Shelves–Busy, Busy, Busy! appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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6. Two Writing Teachers Summer Vacation

The six of us will be recharging our batteries, planning and brainstorming, coming up with even more great ideas to share with our lovely community of teachers and writers. But don't worry, we've got lots to keep you going in the meantime!

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7. Summer Institutes Here We Come!

Whether it's an institute put on by your own district, or an expert is coming to town, or if you'll be traveling many miles to take part, I hope that you are as excited about attending your institutes as I am about teaching them.

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8. Comic: Writers On Vacation

0 Comments on Comic: Writers On Vacation as of 5/25/2014 7:40:00 PM
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9. April Vacation

Here in Vermont, winter is white and sparkly, all jingle bells and sleigh rides. Summer is green and luscious, with blue skies and sunshine. Fall is golden and red and drop dead gorgeous.… Continue reading

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10. Lulu's Mysterious Mission - a booktalk

I'm still working my way through all the books I picked up at the ALA Midwinter Meeting.  Lulu's Mysterious Mission is the third installment in this illustrated, chapter book series.  I don't know why I never got around to reading the first two, but I'm making it up with a booktalk and a book trailer.  Enjoy!

Viorst, Judith. 2014. Lulu's Mysterious Mission. New York: Atheneum.
(Advance Reader Copy supplied by publisher - artwork not final)



Lulu's Mysterious Mission - a booktalk

Lulu's parents are going away on vacation, and they're doing the heretofore unthinkable, they're going without Lulu! When she meets her babysitter, the militant, Ms. Sonia Sofia Solinsky, and eats her first bean-and-beet omelet (a "taste" of things to come), Lulu begins to hatch some desperate plans.

Eeny meeny miney mo,
That babysitter’s got to go.
Sooner, not later,
Fast, not slow.
That babysitter's got to go.

Funny with frequent asides by the author, Lulu's Mysterious Mission will appeal to humor fans, ages 6-10. Oh, and, yes, there may be a mysterious mission.

On a bookshelf near you, beginning April, 2014.

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11. Winter Break

We're taking off from blogging so we can spend the holidays with family and friends. We'll be back on Jan. 6th, 2014. However, the Tuesday Slice of Life Story Challenge will still go on!

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12. Cultural Travels in Korea

by Stacy Whitman, Publisher of Tu Books

I had two Korean roommates in college. Ever since then, I’ve said, “Someday I will learn Korean and visit Hyun Mi in Korea.” Last year, when I made new Korean friends here in New York City, I decided that “someday” needed to finally be today. I started to learn Korean from a book and a podcast, got addicted to Korean dramas, and this May, finally made that trip to Korea I’ve been meaning to make for over a decade.

On my way to Korea, I had a 7-hour layover in London, another place I’ve never seen in person before. I got to meet Cat Girl’s Day Off author Kimberly Pauley, who showed me 221B Baker St. and the whole area around Parliament—Big Ben, the London Eye, and Westminster Cathedral, for example (the outside—no time for the inside), and then we finished off our whirlwind tour with a full English breakfast.

Stacy Whitman in London

(center) Kimberly Pauley and Stacy Whitman at Paddington Station with Paddington Bear; other sights in London

Busan subway

A subway entrance in Busan, South Korea

I didn’t get to visit my old roommate, but I did visit my new friend from New York, who had moved back to Seoul. I stayed with her and her family in Mokdong, a suburb of Seoul, which I loved not only because I was visiting my friend, but also because I got to experience Korean culture from a closer point of view, not as a tourist in a hotel but as a guest. I got to do normal everyday things with my friend, like going to the grocery store and post office, to the bookstore and to the repair booth on the corner run by the ajussi who might know how to fix my purse (sadly, he didn’t have a good solution). I was greatly impressed with the public transportation system, which got me everywhere I needed to be, and often had malls in the stations!

I also met up with the Talk to Me in Korean crew (from whom I’m learning Korean), who happened to have a meetup when I was in Korea. Here I am with Hyunwoo Sun, the founder of Talk to Me in Korean, and his wife, Mi Kyung. A few of us went out for a kind of fusion chicken, the name of which I’ve forgotten, and then patbingsoo—sweet red beans over shaved ice—after the meetup of over a hundred TTMIK listeners.

Talk to Me in Korean group

Meet-up with Talk to Me in Korean teachers and students

I love Korean dramas, which are often historical, so of course I wanted to see places like National Treasure #1, the Namdaemung Gate (officially known as Sungnyemun), which burned down in 2008 and was just recently restored and reopened, and Gyeongbokgung Palace in the heart of Seoul. The folk museum was fascinating, letting me see Korean history in person—for example, they had a living replica of a Korean street that brought you forward in time from the Joseon era to the 1990s.

gyeongbokgung palace

Gyeongbokgung Palace, Seoul, South Korea

gyeongbokgung tour guide in hanbok

A tour guide at Gyeongbokgung Palace wearing a hanbok, a traditional Korean dress

A children's library

Outside the National Children’s Library in Gangnam, Seoul, South Korea

I also went to the Namdaemun Market, across from the gate, and had my first real Korean market experience, and found a stylish purse. I rode a bike along the Han River (and saw cleverly disguised trash/recycling cans), discovered the national children’s library in Gangnam, watched the changing of the guards at Gyeongbokgung Palace, stopped off for a chocobanana smoothie at Starbucks for a quick wifi fix, wandered around in a park filled with fortune teller booths, got makeup samples in Myeongdong, and found bargains in an underground shopping mall at the subway entrance. What I didn’t do was stalk a Korean drama star, though that was tempting. :)

cleverly disguised recycling bins

Cleverly disguised recycling

cheonggyecheon river

Cheonggyecheon River, Seoul, South Korea

Not too far from the palace was the Cheonggyecheon River, which is a reclaimed river that has been turned into a recreational area. It was my favorite area of Seoul—I loved to walk along it and returned three times while on my way to other places. The first time I discovered it (on the recommendation of Korean American library educator and friend Sarah Park Dahlen), it was decorated for Buddha’s Birthday, a national holiday in Korea. The next day, on Buddha’s Birthday, my Korean host and I went to the local Buddhist temple to discover how the holiday was celebrated among Buddhists, which neither of us are. That night, the Cheonggyecheon was all lit up in celebration.

Buddha's birthday

Stacy Whitman at the Buddhist temple in Mokdong, South Korea

cheonggyecheon at night

Cheonggyecheon River, Seoul, South Korea

busan buddhist temple

Beomosa Temple, Busan, South Korea

I spent a total of two weeks exploring Korea, the second week of which was spent climbing a mountain on Jeju Island, discovering a Buddhist temple and a famous beach and fish market in Busan, and staying in a hanok (traditional Korean house) in Jeonju—where I also happened upon a famous Joseon picnic spot (Omokdae Terrace, famous for a king having once picnicked there), a famous royal shrine, and a Confucian school where one of my favorite dramas was filmed, and where I saw a delightful sight, a class full of toddlers in hanbok, learning about their country’s history. Jeonju also is the home of a traditional Korean paper (hanji) museum, where they have a hands-on room where I made a sheet of hanji! Later I met the driver of a truck full of garlic, who insisted I take a picture of his truck.

confucian toddlers in hanbok

Schoolkids at Jeonjuhyanggyo Confucian School in Jeonju, South Korea

garlic truck

Truck full of garlic in Jeonju, South Korea

Then I rounded out the experience with my friend’s one-year-old’s birthday party in Seoul. (The first birthday is very important in Korean culture, a momentous occasion for which my friend and her husband rented hanbok to wear for family pictures, which I took for them.) However, I didn’t get to the top of 9 km-high Hallasan, the big mountain in Jeju (though I made it 7.5 km!), as I didn’t start early enough in the morning. I’ll just have to go back. Oh darn! (I did, however, get the rare opportunity to see a native deer.)

I ate loads of delicious Korean food, most of which was homemade by my host family, but I also discovered new foods like Jeju’s famous gogiguksu, a pork noodle dish very similar to good ramen. I also had the chance to try Koreans’ interpretation of Italian food, which is very popular—and was very tasty.

Korean food

(clockwise from upper left) Korean street food in Busan, kimbap in Seoul, pizza in a cone & smoothie in Jeonju, Italian food in Jeonju

And I took a break from my vacation one day to work, because you can’t publish diverse books and travel halfway around the world and not take the opportunity to meet publishers in the country you’re so interested in. An agent at the Eric Yang Agency was happy to introduce me to several Korean publishers, who were happy to introduce me to their books and to learn about mine. Here’s a picture of the mural in their lobby, a testament to the love of reading in Korean culture and a great riff on the famous photo.

Mural in Korean publishing house

Lunch atop a Skyscraper, now with books!

It was interesting to see how similar and yet different the two country’s publishing styles were—often, we publish similar books, yet we market them completely differently because Korean parents/readers and American parents/readers are looking for different marketing messages in the books they buy. Young adult literature as a category is still relatively new in Korea, particularly in fantasy (though the age category’s storytelling is strong in dramas and manhwa, the Korean form of manga)—the emphasis in Korean children’s book sections of the bookstore is very much on educational supplements. I look forward to someday bringing Korean YA and middle grade voices to a US audience looking for diversity and new stories.

* And it was a bear trying to pare down my pictures. If you’d like to see more, follow me on Tumblr, where I will eventually be posting more pictures a few at a time.


Filed under: Dear Readers, DiYA, Musings & Ponderings, Tu Books Tagged: Buddhism, Buddhist temple, Busan, Cat Girl's Day Off, Cheonggyecheon, Cheonggyecheon River, diversity, Eric Yang Agency, Gangnam, gyungbokgung palace, hanbok, hanok, hyunwoo Sun, Jeju Island, Jeonju, kimberly pauley, Korean, Korean food, Korean history, London, Mokdong, myeongdong, namdaemung gate, namdaemung market, publishing, seoul, South Korea, stacy whitman, Talk to Me in Korean, traveling, vacation

1 Comments on Cultural Travels in Korea, last added: 9/6/2013
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13. Summers Bounty

20130707-185243.jpg

What a wonderful summer day! I spent the afternoon napping and reading a book. The clouds darkened the skies and a gentle rain ensued for the good part of about 6 minutes! I do love summer days and WEEKENDS!

Deadlines for art submissions have passed and there has come this summer season of looking for new ideas. Crunch time gives way to the relaxed season in which i can play with the wonders of my imagination.

How do I get ideas? I plow through magazines, books, stores, websites, looking for something to inspire. Color combinations, trends, shapes, textures charge me up! I am always careful NOT to steal ideas. But one idea may spawn a new one in my mind.

As far as writing ideas? They most often come to me on my walks. I have to be sure to bring paper and pen.

And so I thank you summer months! For your green leaves, spectacular flowers, fruits and veggies in the garden and warm moon lite nights. Summer bounty spills into my studio! I love it!


2 Comments on Summers Bounty, last added: 7/10/2013
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14. Best Summer Vacation or Bust

Summer is officially in swing, at least it is here in the South–and I guess it must be gearing up pretty soon in the rest of North America. Sorry Australia. As the weather warms up and my nephew collects spare change in his vacation jug, it puts me in mind of some of my best vacations. Actually it’s hard to choose a best. I’ve been pretty lucky.

Definitely one of the best vacations of my childhood would be the combined summers at Space Camp. I was technically a teenager, technically a middle-schooler, but I can be nerdy enough to admit that space absolutely turned me into an excited little kid and although it wasn’t really anything like the movie, Space Camp was an incredible adventure.

The first year was a whirl-wind. I didn’t know anyone, but it didn’t matter because everyone was a lot like me. I met Heidi right away, a girl who became a very dear, lifelong friend. Much from the two years actually blurs together now, in fact every time I think of a memory from the first year, I start to wonder if it was actually the second year. Which year did I get my head stuck between the bunkbeds? Which year did we build the rocket that was rather hideous and was named The Load Toad? Which year did we look at Jupiter in the giant telescope? Which year did we tour the training facility where astronauts practice weightless maneuvers in dive suits inside a ginormous tank?

I honestly can’t remember anymore. (My memory is terrible. Just ask D. He’s my official memory-keeper. As in, “Remind me to go to the bank. Remind me to eat dinner. Remind me what day it is.”)

What I do remember is that I had so much fun. Every moment was as thrilling as the breathless 4Gs of the Space Shot. Technically, it wasn’t Space Camp. Technically the first year was Space Academy (Level I) and the second year was Advanced Space Academy. Heidi and I were the only girls on the “pilot” track that year, but we hung tough with the boys and loved it. We trained hard and then executed 3 separate missions: We flew the shuttle, we performed experiments on the space station, and we assisted the other teams from the safety of Mission Control. I swear it was exactly like Apollo 13. Except without, you know, Gary Sinise. Or Ed Harris.

There were movies in the OmniMax and private tours of the museum. And So. Many. Dippin’ Dots. We even had our own turn in a big “weightless” metal water tank. Unfortunately I had allergies and was terrified of getting the benz (in 30 feet of water…), so I  snorkeled instead. Probably for the best because a tornado choose that moment to make an appearance, and we were unceremoniously hauled from the tank early and sent down to the safety of the basement museum, our wetsuits still dripping. I am, however, slightly haunted by my fear of scuba diving, and as I have never had a good snorkeling experience (stories to come, I’m sure), I hope some day to scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef.

One of the highlights of camp was meeting an actual astronaut, and somewhere there may still be photographic evidence. I wish I could say that Space Camp was where I learned not to lose my camera, but alas, remember what I said about my memory? If not, then perhaps your memory is worse than mine. That’s a scary thought.

I can’t speak for other programs, but my time at the Huntsville Space and Rocket Center was truly unparalleled, and I would encourage everyone to go–at least for the day. In fact, given what a good time he had at the Ren Faire, it might be time to haul the Star Wars obsessed E down to Alabama for the day.

What are some of your favorite vacation spots? Best memories? Feel free to share–I’m always looking for someplace new to go. As my dad always says, “You want to do everything.” Well maybe not everything–bungee jumping just doesn’t sound like something I should do.


Tagged: Astronauts, Being Brave, Dippin' Dots, friends, Middle School, snorkeling, Space Camp, Summer, Vacation

4 Comments on Best Summer Vacation or Bust, last added: 6/6/2013
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15. Poland: A Writer’s Vacation


2013 GradeReading.NET Summer Reading Lists

Keep your students reading all summer! The lists for 2nd, 3rd and 4th, include 10 recommended fiction titles and 10 recommended nonfiction titles. Printed double-sided, these one-page flyers are perfect to hand out to students, teachers, or parents. Great for PTA meetings, have on hand in the library, or to send home with students for the summer. FREE Pdf or infographic jpeg. See the Summer Lists Now!

I just got home from ten days in Europe and I am ready to write. Why?
Because getting out of my writing cave makes me bump up against people, against history, against emotional struggles.

Belzec Death Camp Memorial

Belzec Death Camp Memorial, Poland

One place we visited is a memorial for the Belzec (Bee AWA zhek) Death Camp in eastern Poland, the first and worst of the Nazi camps which tried to exterminate Jews, gypsies and handicapped people. Over 600,000 people died here in 1941-1943. Then, the Germans flattened the camp and planted trees, in an attempt to hide what they had done.

This is history and deep emotions rolled into one poignant visit. For example, there was only one survivor of the camp–only one!–and his stories are heartbreaking. One quote was from a young boy who had entered the gas chambers and was heard to cry out, “It’s dark, it’s dark. Mama, haven’t I been good?” His last words.

For a writer to experience a sobering memorial something like this is to plumb the emotional depths to which a character might be forced to go.


Barn Swallow Nest


One place we stayed was a horse farm in eastern Poland and one morning I walked out with my camera to see what was around. Under the eaves of the horse barns were nest after nest of barn swallows. I like trying to find the small, hidden things to photograph, because as a writer, it reminds me to pay attention to the landscape, to notice the “telling details” that could make a story come alive.


"Beware of Dog" in Polish

I snapped this photo while we were stopped for a break along a country road. Writers need to remember that there are common emotions and thoughts across all languages and cultures, they are common to humanity. Fear of dogs is one of those things.


Window in Zamosz, Poland


And you can find beauty across the world, too, beauty in the common things of life such as a window.

The trip was amazing: as a writer, the trip reminded me that stories are universal, that evoking emotions–both happy and sad–is universal, and that beauty is found in the common things of life.

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16. Vacation Week Fun

It has been a busy Spring Break week here in the Children's Room. The kids enjoyed everything from a showing of "Wreck it Ralph" to watching teen volunteers perform classic books in our Reader's Theater Storytime to the action-packed comedy show Grins and Grins to our Family Craft Morning.



 


 


Enjoy the rest of your break!
 
Posted by Amy
 

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17. Studio Move Out

Production in the studio has been slow.
That's not to mention all of the cool stuff that's happening behind the scenes! 
So let me fill you in with one biggie.

We're moving into our first house at the end of March!!

Yep, my husband and I were finally given the gift of buying our first home, and that means packing it all up. The whole month of March has been preparing and packing, and now we're at the tail end called "crunch time".

This also means working in the studio towards art has been placed aside. Artist cap off, homemaker cap on. Although, picking out paint colors has rambled our design heads a bit. ;)

I'm very excited to be moving into our new home, and the new studio (eeee!!!), and I can't wait to show you! Until I can, here is the before and after of my current studio...the after being where it's at today. Just so you can get an idea.


I still have a mini work space for painting and basic office work since we're still in the apartment for two more weeks, but everything else is getting boxed up and ready to haul.

ETSY SHOP ANNOUNCEMENT
My wee shop is going on vacation Wednesday March 20th until April 15th, that's the longest time on vacation since I opened the shop 5 years ago.

Beginning April 15th thru April 19th everything in the shop will be 35% off to kick off the new studio! Mark your calenders for this sale!

More details will be on Facebook along with sneak peeks of the new studio as I get it all put together.

Want the first peek? The studio is through those doors...


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18. Bryce Moore’s Guide to Slovakia, Part I: Castles

In this guest post by Vodník author Bryce Moore, Bryce shares his favorite things to see, do, and eat when visiting Slovakia.

When I was asked to write a brief guest blog post about traveling to Slovakia, the first question that popped into my head was, “How do I keep it brief?” I’ve been to the country many times, and I absolutely adore it. There’s so much to see and do—although there are some things you have to watch out for if you’re not accompanied by a native Slovak speaker.

First off, let me say that this is just really for western Slovakia. I have yet to be over to the eastern half of the country, and I don’t know much about it. In many ways (from what I’ve been told, at least) the eastern and western sides are like two different places. Eastern Slovakia has a much bigger influence from Hungary. Western Slovakia is influenced by Austria and the Czech Republic. Surprising, in a country that’s significantly smaller than West Virginia. But then again, it’s Europe. Things work differently over there.

With that disclaimer out of the way, let me dig right into the meat of the topic: why should someone want to go to Slovakia? A better question would be why wouldn’t someone want to go to Slovakia? It’s a beautiful country, filled with mountains in the north, plains in the south, and rolling hillsides in between. It’s got dense forests, wild rivers, and some of the most awesome castles you can think of. The food is fantastic, the people are friendly, and it’s an area most Americans haven’t even heard of. (Seriously. Try writing a book that takes place in Slovakia, and see how many people ask you where that is again.)

(Oh–and one final note before I begin. A lot of these Slovak words should have diacritic marks in them to be spelled properly. I’m leaving them out for ease of typing and web browser compatibility. Click through to the links to see the proper spelling.)

First up, let’s take a look at some of the castles:

Hands down, the most elegant one is Bojnice. It’s a gorgeous, completely restored castle, inside and out. From what I was told when I toured it the first time, it was used by some of Disney’s Imagineers as part of the basis for Cinderella’s castle, and I believe it. The town also has a zoo, if you’re looking to spend the day.

Bojnice castle

Bojnice castle

Orava Castle is much more along the lines of a fortress. Towering over the Orava river, it’s built in three distinct levels, each with their own fortifications. It’s also fully restored, and was even used as the shooting site for some of Nosferatu, one of the most famous vampire movies ever made. Really impressive, although a bit of a drive to see it. Did I mention it’s rumored to be haunted?

Orava Castle

Orava Castle

Cachtice is the ruins of the old home of Elizabeth Bathory, the Countess of Blood. She was found guilty of killing local villagers (some claim hundreds) and bathing in their blood or torturing them. Real pleasant woman. And she was walled into her castle chambers as punishment for her crimes. She was the basis for some of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and the castle ruins themselves were used in some of the movie Dragonheart, with Dennis Quaid. Creepy place, but beautiful views.

Cachtice Castle

Cachtice Castle

Finally, I have to put in a huge plug for Trencin Castle, although I suppose the entirety of Vodník is really a great ad for the castle and city, too. It’s one of the best castles I’ve ever been to, and they have regular events in the evening over the summers, as well as week-long festivals in the city and up at the castle, recreating everything from medieval jousts to Roman gladiator matches. And my brother-in-law stars in a few of them! One of the advantages of having a brother-in-law who’s part of a historical reenactment group is you get to play dress up at the castle when you come to visit. Here I am in a lord’s outfit, complete with sword:

Bryce Moore

Stay tuned tomorrow for Part II of Bryce’s Guide to Slovakia where he talks about the most important part of travel – the food!


Filed under: Musings & Ponderings, Resources, Tu Books Tagged: Science Fiction/Fantasy, Slovakia, Travel, Tu Books, vacation, Vodnik

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19. I'm a Survivor!

Well, I did it.

I survived my first year teaching abroad. It was a challenging year, but through God's strength, I made it. The school year is finally over.

The students' last day of school was officially June 21st, though many stopped coming before then. Unfortunately for teachers, the last day was July 12th. Why the powers that be chose to have that 3-week gap, I don't know, but it was excruciating. At least for me. Many teachers spent the last three weeks doing absolutely nothing. Well except for working out (at school), eating, reading, or chillaxing.

Not us.

Our last few weeks were spent in PDs (professional developments), preparing for the next school year, blah, blah, blah. To be honest, I mentally checked out sometime around week one. I was done working. My body was there, but my mind had already gone on vacation. It was a struggle to get up in the mornings and go to work, but nevertheless, we did. And we're finished. Thank you, JESUS! I'm seriously contemplating getting a shirt that says, "I survived teaching in Abu Dhabi." I have that Destiny's Child song in my head. "I'm a survivor. I'm not gon give up. I'm not gon stop. I'm gon work harder." Describes this year perfectly.

My brain rejects anything school-like, so enough about school.

My vacation will consist of a trip to Phuket (pronounced Poo-ket) Thailand, home (the US), and Puerto Rico. I know, awesome, right???

Tomorrow morning, my friends and I leave for Phuket for a 6-day/5-night vacation. I so can NOT wait. There is fun - and relaxation - to be had. Next week, I leave for home. I can't wait to see my family! Oh, how I miss them so. Then, it's off to San Juan, Puerto Rico with the sis for a 7-day/6-night vacation. Seven days may not be enough, I know but we'll make the best out of the time we have. I can't wait to see the gorgeous men...uh, I mean the gorgeous beaches of Puerto Rico. Heehee. I spend the rest of my vacation back in Houston with the fam before I come back to Abu Dhabi for another great year of teaching.

I'm thinking this summer may turn out to be the best one yet.

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20. Utah Trip - Museums (I)

Got to visit a number of museums whilst in Utah. First one being the BYU Museum of Art -
 The traveling star exhibit featured Islamic art...

Lots of it was samples of gorgeous lettering -


-there was also pottery, and metalwork-

(these are horse shoes!)

-mosaics, glass and wood carving.

It was impressive and exotic.

There was also Western art, sculpture, and electronic art, 

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21. Vacation

Just back from a long and long overdue vacation. I was ready for it, I was fried. But now I am ready to see where the projects take me. Its always odd to come back and look at a bunch of work recently completed when you are only a little separated from it-not working on it but still somehow attached. Like the way that you remember a conversation that you had recently and suddenly see it in a whole new light. A preview from "Following Grandfather" to come soon.


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22. Utah Trip - Museums (2)

We also spent a lovely afternoon at the Springville Art Museum -

There were a number of exhibits - from quilts to sculptures -

(I quite enjoyed this Steampunky water fountain in the courtyard)

And there was the pig sculpture that my sister found irresistible... :-)

In the Russian collection, we found this painting of my niece...

But I kind of loved the sculpture garden -



Another lovely afternoon....

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23. Utah Trip - Museums (3)

We also spent a lovely afternoon at the fabulous Museum of Ancient Life at Thanksgiving Point -
Apparently, it is the world's largest hand's-on, dinosaur exhibit in the world!

Loads of gorgeously fabulous fossils -

Lots of interactive aspects -


And so so many bones! (isn't this a darling skull?)

They have over 60 dynamic complete skeletons -


(Dire wolf skull!)

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24. Utah trip - on the road to Southern Utah

We drove several hours down to Cedar City for the Shakespeare Festival - but found things of interest on the way -
At a gas station/rest stop in the middle of no-where, we were surprised by a peacock in the parking lot.. What? Why...?

Turns out there was a petting zoo on the property (who knew?) - full of a nice selection of animals from the exotic -

(baby llamas!)

- to the domestic (baby sheeps and pygmy goats :-)


The peacock was pecking at car tires and even stalking my son. Keeps life interesting. :-)

Closer in is the Parowan Gap -

A rocky out-cropping in the middle of endless looking flat lands...

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25. Utah Trip - Shakespeare Festival!

 We spent several days down in Cedar City at the Shakespeare Festival.


 In addition to the plays, there are lectures, play-orientations, exhibits....

 ...as well as a very fun gift store.



The performances were great. Rep-theater. :-) 

 A highlight every evening before the various plays was the 'Greenshow' in the outdoor theater.

 Live performers...

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