Lucy versus Groundhogs

'I'll go wherever you go, Mommy."

“I’ll go wherever you go, Mommy.”

"You never know what scents you'll pick up in the wind."

“I love to stick my nose out of the window.”

"I'm on the lookout for intruders and wild animals!"

“I’m on the lookout for intruders and wild animals!”

What is it about groundhogs?

Despite living in a New Jersey suburb of Manhattan, frequent visitors to our backyard include wild turkeys, deer, raccoons, rabbits, opossums, foxes, chipmunks, squirrels and mice.  I call our neighborhood, which backs up to a nature reserve, the South Mountain Reservation “Animal Kingdom.” Lucy, our 4 year-old Labra-Collie rescue, is fascinated by all the animals, but morphs from Interested Observer to Psycho Doggie when groundhogs appear.

A few weeks ago Lucy was languishing in the heat, when she jumped up and made a bee-line down our hill.  She chomped down on something furry. I don’t know if she intended to shake the small animal–dare I say?–to death, or if she meant to scare the wits out of it.  Either way, it didn’t look good for the baby groundhog.

I raced down the hill, screeching, “Drop it!  Drop it!  Lucy, STOP IT!”  (Yes, I know that rhymes. I write picture books, hon. But, I digress.)

Did Lucy listen?  Noooo!

Instead, she proceeded to whip the baby groundhog back and forth like a stuffed toy while the groundhog struggled to free itself and while I chased her around the yard.  As I tried to catch Lucy, my youngest daughter watched from the sidelines.

“GET THE LEASH!”  I hollered.

In the meantime, I managed to grab Lucy and press on the outsides of her jaw until she dropped the groundhog.  My daughter arrived with the leash and dragged her inside.

I approached the poor little rodent, apologizing profusely. Guess what?  There were no bite marks or blood!  Lucy’s Labrador Retriever “soft mouth” clutch didn’t break any skin.  The groundhog, surely in shock, looked at me as if to say, “Thank you for saving my life.”

Despite its probable concussion, I figured it would get the word out to stay away from our yard.  Apparently, it didn’t.

Earlier this week, I heard Lucy barking with a high-pitched voice I hadn’t heard before.  I ran outside to find her nose-to-nose with an adult groundhog.  Again, I did the “Catch-a-Psycho-Doggie” dance.  Again, amused bystanders watched from the sidelines. This time, it was my son and hubby laughing as I screamed, “GET THE LEASH!”

After quite a bit of chasing (us chasing Lucy, Lucy chasing the adult groundhog), we caught Lucy and dragged her inside.

Would you believe me if I told you Lucy really is the sweetest little angel, a sponge for affection?  Don’t answer that question if you’re a groundhog or a… mailman…truck driver…repairman…motocycle driver…

 Related Post:  Top Ten Reasons Why Lucy Is My Inspiration Puppy

Roasted Cauliflower

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Brown cut-up cauliflower in olive oil over medium .heat

Brown cut-up cauliflower in olive oil over medium heat.

Mix browned cauliflower with spices.

Mix browned cauliflower with spices.

 

 

 

 

 

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Spread cauliflower on a greased baking pan.

Spread cauliflower on a greased baking pan. 

Bake at 400 degrees F, uncovered, for approx. 20 minutes, until top is golden. Serve.

Bake at 400 degrees F, uncovered, for approx. 20 minutes, until top is golden. Serve.

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Roasted Cauliflower–Easy, Delicious and Healthy.

I used the recipe from David Tanis’ City Kitchen column* as guidance, and then altered the spices. Tanis baked his cauliflower with pre-cooked rigatoni and added cheese for a main dish. Click Rigatoni and Cauliflower Al Forno to see the his recipe. I’ll definitely be making this side dish again.

Happy cooking, hon.

Ingredients:

–1 cauliflower

–olive oil

–1 or 2 garlic cloves, minced

–salt, pepper, thyme, about 1 to 2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro or any spices you think will go well with cauliflower

Directions:

  1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Cut cauliflower in half from top to bottom, cut out tough core, stem and extraneous leaves. Lay cauliflower flat side down and cut crosswise into rough 1/4-inch slices.
  3. Put 3 Tablespoons olive oil in skillet over high heat. Brown cauliflower for about 2 minutes, then turn pieces over to brown other side. Cook for about 2 minutes, or until cauliflower is easily pierced with a fork. Some pieces won’t be brown.  Season with salt and pepper and stir to coat.’
  4. Put cauliflower in a mixing bowl. Add cilantro, garlic and thyme.
  5. Spray a foil-lined baking sheet.
  6. Spread cauliflower evenly on the baking sheet.
  7. Bake, uncovered, for approximately 20 -30 minutes, until top is crisp and golden.

*Source:  City Kitchen column in The New York Times

Playing With Fire, Raku 2015

Ceramic vase and tea box.

Ceramic vase and tea box.

Playing With Clay

This summer, I took a Raku class taught by master ceramicist, excellent teacher, and all-around wonderful guy, Peter SyakNot only did the hours fly by, the women I took the class with were great company. I was inspired by them, and by the talented students I take ceramics class with year-round. We learn from each other.

Pottery has given me a way to turn off stress, even if it’s just for a few hours a week.  And I don’t mind getting my hands dirty.

Since I took this class last summer and know how beautiful the glazes are, this spring I threw a bunch of clay pots with Raku clay at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey.

Do you know what we potters call ourselves? ADDICTED!  I’m pretty sure someone in our class wears a T-shirt that reads, “I’m a POT-head.”

To find out more about the Raku process, click on these links:

Red Hot Raku (Part 1)

Raku Reaction (Part 2)

Cool Results From Hot Pots (Part 3)

Hon, what do you do to turn off stress?

Raku Kiln. Our pieces were fired at about 1,750 degrees F.

Raku Kiln. Our pieces were fired at about 1,750 degrees F.

Lace-patterned ceramic vase.

Lace-patterned ceramic vase.

Shallow bowl and darted dish.

Shallow bowl and darted dish.

 

 

 

 

 

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Small wiggle-wire dishes.

Wiggle-wire dishes.

Small bowls with appliques and a tea light vessel.

Small bowls with appliques and a tea light vessel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Three different pots.

Three different pots.

Easy DIY Summer Treasure Jars and Highlights Article

Decorated Mason Jars.

Decorated Mason Jars.

DIY Summer Treasure Jars

Camp visiting days are an opportunity for kids to show and tell. They’re also a great source of craft ideas. This year, I was particularly excited about the Treasure Jars so I included them in my Highlights article, 12 Ways to Reboot Your Summer. My daughter said the camp provided glow-in-the-dark paint. Turn out the lights and let summer memories shine!

Supplies:

–mason or mayonnaise jar

–any combination of stickers, pom-poms, paint, paint markers, permanent markers, colored tape and feathers

–craft glue that adheres to glass

Directions:

–Decorate jars.

–Add summer keepsakes such as seashells, souvenirs, movie stubs, show stubs, cards, letters, etc.

–For a personalized touch, label with name and year.

Party Favors or Take Home Party Activity:

How fun would these DIY Treasure Jars be as a take-home party activity for ages 8 and up? Or, decorate smaller jars, fill with candy, and hand out as party favors. Come to think of it, that’s just what I did a few months ago. Check out Quick and Easy Candy Jars to see how I carried the middle school musical, Little Shop of Horrors, theme through the candy jars. Hon, you know I love a theme!

Colorful tape, stickers, paint markers, paint, pom poms and thread were used to decorate these jars.

Colorful tape, stickers, paint markers, paint, pom poms and feathers were used to decorate these jars.

 

Determined Like a Turtle

Box Turtle found in my garden.

Box Turtle found in my garden.

What do a turtle and writing have in common?

When it comes to writing, I’d rather be compared to a bunch of other animals. I’d rather soar, roar and wag my tail. But, alas, progress in the world of children’s books crawls along like a turtle. 

Speaking of turtles, look at the colorful Box Turtle who showed up in our garden. She had bright orange legs and was quite brave. Just like the courage it takes to submit manuscripts, this little lady didn’t shy away from potential danger. Just like my determination to bring my characters to life, she plodded ahead with purpose when I set her down next to a river.  (How do I know she was a she? Her irises were yellowish-brown, rather than red.)

One of the things I do to improve my writing is participate in a Critique Group. I recently wrote an article about writing groups for the Children’s Writer’s Guild called the Critique Group Sandwich. Not only did the CWG publish my post, they included me in their list of contributors.  Yay!

Hon, maybe I’m crawling in the right direction.

Turtle kiss.

Turtle kiss.

Ready to re-locate.

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Box Turtle Source: Smithsonian National Zoological Park

Related Posts:  Stories and CeramicsQuotes and Notes (from the NJSCBWI14 Conference), My Writing Process (Bunny Hop) Blog Hop

 

Dale Chihuly in Denver, Pink and Purple Color Comparison

Dale Chihuly, Blown Glass Spheres

Dale Chihuly, Blown Glass Spheres, 2014.

Pinks and Purples 

I loved the glass in the garden at the Denver Botanic Gardens. Dale Chihuly created gorgeous glass sculptures that grew alongside “rooms” of blooms.  The resulting color comparisons were poetic.

Where the Sidewalk Ends

by Shel Silverstein

There is a place where the sidewalk ends
and before the street begins,
and there the grass grows soft and white,
and there the sun burns crimson bright,
and there the moon-bird rests from his flight
to cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
and the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
we shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow
and watch where the chalk-white arrows go
to the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
and we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
for the children, they mark, and the children, they know,
the place where the sidewalk ends.

Hon, I write.  I write picture books and chapter books.  In my stories, the little girl inside of me invites other children to mark the place where the sidewalk ends.

In that place and in that space,

we explore the world with open minds,

share our curiosity and wonder,

marvel at spiders and stars,

and believe in the magic of our imaginations.

Zinnia

Zinnia, Denver, CO.

Columbine

Columbine, Breckenridge, CO.

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Purple Reeds, Chihuly.

Purple Reeds, Chihuly, 2014

Flat Sea Holly.

Flat Sea Holly, Denver, CO.

Blue and Purple Boat, Dale Chihuly, Blown Glass.

Blue and Purple Boat, Dale Chihuly, Blown Glass, 2014.

“Glass itself is so much like water.  If you let it go on its own, it almost ends up looking like something that came from the sea.”  (Quote by Chihuly.)

Related Posts:

Dale Chihuly in Denver, Glass in the Garden

Dale Chihuly in Denver, Fifty Shades of Grey

Dale Chihuly in Denver, Orange Color Comparison

 

Dale Chihuly in Denver, Orange Color Comparison

Dale Chihuly, Blown-glass spheres in a boat.

Dale Chihuly, Blown-glass spheres in a boat.

Orange 

If you ever wondered–and even if you didn’t–where I came up with Bmore Energy’s tag-line, “Finding the extraordinary in the ordinary,” I’ll tell you. One day Hubby and I were taking a walk, and I pointed out some pretty yellow flowers. He said he hadn’t even noticed them. I said, “I find the ordinary extraordinary” and “That’s it! That’s the essence of my blog.” He laughed. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t in a wow-Naomi-has-an-eye-kind-of-way. My guess it was in a what-is-she-talking-about-kind-of-way. Two things are certain:  1) I’ll keep pointing out words, images, sounds, people, animals, nature and the infinite amount of things I find fascinating, and 2)Hubby will shake his head and laugh.

Last summer at the Denver Botanic Gardens, my bet is that everyone found color at the Dale Chihuly exhibit fascinating. The next series of posts will study color comparisons.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for viewing. I hope you like my photographs.

Enjoy!

Complementary Colors.

Complementary Colors.

Orange Mountain Poppy, Breckenridge, CO

Orange Mountain Poppy, Breckenridge, CO.

Glass Spires.

Glass Spires and Spheres.

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Goldfish.

Goldfish.

Koi.

Koi.

Flame-like translucence.

Flame-like translucence.

“Glassblowing is a very spontaneous, fast medium, and you have to respond very quickly.” (quote by Chihuly)

Related Posts:

Dale Chihuly in Denver, Glass in the Garden

Dale Chihuly in Denver, Fifty Shades of Grey

 

Dale Chihuly in Denver, Fifty Shades of Grey

Dale Chihuly, Perennial Fiori, Blown Glass, 2014

Perennial Fiori, Dale Chihuly, Blown Glass, 2014

Many shades of grey exist between black and white.

In my last post, Glass in the Garden, vibrant colors resemble Monet’s Impressionistic paintings. Here, black, white and grey stand in stark contrast to grass, leaves, bees and a wall of water.

Aside from contrasting colors, I am taken with the dichotomy between straight and curved lines borrowed from nature and mirrored in glass and stone at the Denver Botanic Gardens

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As stems reach for the sun, bees drink up the shine.

Nicholas Kadzungura,Chapungu Sculpture Park, Zimbabwe, Africa.

So Proud of My Children, Nicholas Kadzungura,Chapungu Sculpture Park, Zimbabwe, Africa.

This African mother may walk tall and straight , but the curve of her face, tilt of her head, and bouquet in her hand form a circle of devotion around her children.

ppppppppppp

I’m passionate about children and reading, so it’s no wonder why this sculpture spoke to me.

The Boy and a Frog, Elsie Ward Hering, stone 1898

The Boy and a Frog, Elsie Ward Hering, Stone 1898

I am always amazed at how material such as stone can be chiseled to look like a person. This sculpture’s curves harmonize with the brick path and bushes.

Surprise! Instead of spires, around a corner were huge, wavy glass blooms. I wasn’t expecting these white flowers. Their clear “petals” blend with the falling water yet, at the same time, they wave upward and outward in an unnatural way. I do like the way they are both opaque and translucent.

Dale Chihuly, Perennial Fiori, Blown Glass, 2014

Persian Towers, Dale Chihuly, Blown Glass, 2014

Dale Chihuly,

“I want people to be overwhelmed with light and color in a way they have never experienced. ” (quote by Chihuly)

Hon, what do you think of the black and white glass?

Dale Chihuly in Denver, Glass in the Garden

Monet Pool Fiori, 2014, Blown Glass and Steel

Monet Pool Fiori, 2014, Blown Glass and Steel

Monet’s Garden Re-Imagined

Last summer while visiting relatives in Denver, Colorado, we saw exquisite colors, smelled fragrant blooms, and heard busy birds and insects. The Denver Botanic Gardens featured an exhibit of Dale Chihuly’s organic blown glass.  (June to November 2014.) The sculptures were vibrant, iridescent and sensual.  

In 2001, Chihuly started his Garden Cycle, exhibitions within botanical settings. Many sculptures stood on their own, while others were set amongst existing gardens.

I love color, texture and the juxtaposition of the natural and manmade, and try to capture that in my photographs.  

Enjoy this “tour” of the gardens, the first of many posts inspired by an artist.

Royal blue and turquoise glass accent the more traditional Impressionist colors.

Royal blue and turquoise glass accent the more traditional Impressionist colors.

Claude Monet is my favorite artist, and there are many whose work I love.  When I sit in front of his enormous canvases in the MOMA or MET, I find that elusive thing I search for every day…inner peace.  I am transported to Giverny, lost among the flowers, and walking in the forest forever…just for a moment.

Organic creature grows out of lily pads.

Where does the glass end?  Where do the reflections begin?

In this photograph, reflections of green swirls become Lily Pads roots.  Purple glass spikes grow out of the water and erase it.

Victoria 'Longwood Hybrid' Water Platter

Victoria ‘Longwood Hybrid’ Water Platter (from Longwood Gardens)

Glass or Creature?

Glass or Creature?

“Glass itself is so much like water. If you let it go on its own, it almost ends up looking like something that came from the sea. ” (quote by Chihuly)

Hon, have you seen Chihuly’s work before?  Where?  What did you think of it?

Me and my Plus One.

Me and my Plus One.

Flags Fly on July 4th

Flower Box Flag, Hudson River Park

Flower Box Flag, Hudson River Park, New York City

Happy July 4th!

Did you ever wonder why the American flag is nicknamed Old Glory? Here’s the story behind it.

Sea Captain William Driver (March 17, 1803-March 3, 1886) named the American flag he flew on his ship Old Glory. His flag was sewn by his mother and a group of young, female admirers from his hometown of Salem, Massachusetts.

“Driver was deeply attached to the flag, writing:  ‘”It has ever been my staunch companion and protection. Savages and heathens, lowly and oppressed, hailed and welcomed it at the far end of the wide world. Then, why should it not be called Old Glory?”‘*

Driver retired from seafaring in 1837, bringing his flag with him to Nashville, Tennessee.  When the Confederates tried to seize the flag during the Civil War, Driver saved Old Glory by sewing it into a coverlet.  It remained in hiding until 1862, when Nashville fell to Union troops.

Driver’s original flag and another one he owned were fought over by his daughter and niece.  In 1922, both became part of the collection at the Smithsonian Institution.

Hot Air Balloon Festival, NJ

Hot Air Balloon Festival, NJ

Flags along Fifth Avenue, New York City.

Flags along Fifth Avenue, New York City.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Uncle Sam in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Uncle Sam in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Statue of Liberty in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Statue of Liberty in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

American Flag Cow Statue.

Do you know which state this flag represents?  Answer at bottom of post.

Do you know which state this flag represents? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Do you know which state flag is pictured above?  Hint: the answer lies in the name of this blog.  Okay, I’ll tell you.  The yellow/black and red/white flag is the Maryland flag.

Hon, what are your plans today? I hope they include fireworks!

*Source:  Wikipedia