James Dean and Pete the Kitty

James Dean, artist and creator of the Pete the Cat series.

 One cool cat!

Guess who stopped by Words Bookstore in Maplewood, NJ? James Dean who, along with his wife Kimberly, writes and illustrates the Pete the Cat series! He enthralled a whole lot of children (and adults) with his blue Cat in the Hat hat and down-to-earth personality. Dean read from his new picture book, Pete the Kitty and the Groovy Playdate, sang the song from Pete the Cat, I Love My White Shoes, and drew Pete and Grumpy Toad. Fun!

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Pete the Kitty is super excited to visit his friend Grumpy Toad’s house for a playdate! Grumpy Toad has all the best toys: a truck, building blocks, and a superhero cape. Far out! It’s going to be cat-tastic!

But when Grumpy Toad refuses to share any of his cool toys with Pete, neither of them are having any fun. Will Grumpy Toad ever share his toys with his friend Pete?

In this easy-to-read and engaging picture book, little readers will learn all about sharingwith their favorite blue kitten!  Goodreads

A bunch of years ago, when visiting Cheekwood Botanical Garden in Nashville, TN, I came across a not-so-scary scarecrow of the famous blue cat. Meow!

Pete the Cat scarecrow.

The One and Only Ivan, Book Review

When you read a story, how does it make you feel? 

THE ONE and ONLY IVAN, a middle grade novel written by Katherine Applegate, illustrated by Patricia Castelao, and named the 2013 winner of the Newbery Medal made me curious (Will Ivan and his friends ever live a different life?), chagrined (“I was born in a place humans call central Africa, in a dense rain forest so beautiful, no crayons could ever do it justice.”), and introspective (“Humans waste words. They toss them like banana peels and leave them to rot. Everyone knows the peels are the best part.”). The story is layered and poignant. I cried.

“The One and Only Ivan is a work of fiction, but the inspiration for this imagined tale lies with a true story. Ivan, a real gorilla, lived at Zoo Atlanta, but on the way to that happy ending, he spent almost three decades without seeing another of his own kind before being moved to Zoo Atlanta in 1994.” (from The One And Only Ivan website.)

Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan’s unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope.   Goodreads.

Have you read this book? How did it make you feel?

Honoring Memorial Day and My Son, Deployed

Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.
Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.
Lincoln Memorial
Lincoln Memorial

Progression of Time and Career

I am re-posting this Memorial Day post with an addition–an amazing photo! It’s my 1st Lieutenant son’s United States Army Infantry platoon. They are deployed to the Middle East, and we are anxious to find out when they will return.


In 2005, my brother took my almost twelve-year old son to Washington D.C.  I came across these photos of their day together and thought they were a fitting send-off to my son who is in the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) for the United Stated Army while he studies at a university.

He’s leaving today for mountaineering training in a country very far from home.  I could say how anxious I am about this trip, how world events and politics are sad and disheartening, how I get nauseous thinking about his future, and how much I love him and want him safe and happy.  Instead I’ll  leave you with these photographs.

the Capital
United States Capitol
Washington Monument
Washington Monument
Vietnam Veterans Memorial Statue
Vietnam Veterans Memorial Statue
military helicopter
Military helicopter
Almost twelve-years old.
Almost twelve-years old
high altitude rescue training
High altitude rescue training
My son with proud dad and sister.
Proud dad and sister at an Army function.

And now, for the amazing photo…

United States Army Infantry Platoon.

Coon Mama Jama

Raccoon Mommy For a Day!

The strangest thing happened to me last week. After running an errand and returning to my car, a couple of people flagged me down. They implored me to look on top of my car where they had spotted what they thought was a dead animal. They’d written a note, but were anxiously awaiting my return so they could point the animal out. What the now small group of onlookers and I found was a badly injured baby…something. An opossum? A raccoon? What else?

I wrapped the tiny animal in a towel, hurried home, tended to its wounds–it had a big gash on its side, cuts on its back, and a broken tail, filled a box with rags, swaddled it, and got on the internet.

The baby–now I knew what it was–raccoon was so young, its eyes weren’t open yet. I rushed to a pet store where I picked up a teeny, tiny bottle and KMR, special formula to feed orphaned kittens, but the raccoon wouldn’t eat. It needed help, but who to call? My vet? Doubtful. The local zoo? Nope. The site for NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife  lists people who rescue animals and, about ten calls later, I reached Suzanne at Woodlands Wildlife Refuge in Pittstown, NJ. She had room for the little guy. Bingo!

The mission of Woodlands Wildlife Refuge is the care and release of orphanedand injured native wildlifeback to their natural habitat. We also provide educational programs about the habits and habitats of our local wildlife. Woodlands is a NJ state licensed wildlife rehabilitation facility and is a non-profit 501(C)(3) charitable corporation. Woodlands receives no state or federal funding.

Woodlands Wildlife Refuge cares for over 1,000 animals annually. As our communities continue to grow, and loss of habitat continues, the number of human/wildlife encounters increase. We are dedicated to keeping up with the needs of our communities and our wild neighbors. Woodlands cares for hundreds of animals a year, and enjoys a high success rate of release. Some of the animals Woodlands provides care for include raccoons, skunks, opossums, rabbits, woodchucks, foxes, squirrels, coyotes, bats, otters, porcupines, bears, venomous snakes, and even the occasional bobcat.

Woodlands has a staff of highly trained volunteers who care for the animals until their release. The doctors and staff at the Animal Hospital of Clinton-Perryville and Voorhees Corner Veterinary Clinic generously treat animals needing more extensive care such as X-rays, fracture repair or surgery. All animals are maintained until they are healthy enough to survive in the wild.

While I drove to Pittstown, the swaddled newborn took a couple of naps when it nestled its nose close to my skin. I’ve called to check up, but it was touch and go since the little guy wasn’t eating on his own. I’ll call again in a few days and let you know what happens. 😦

Sad update: The little guy didn’t make it. At least, he was in good hands figuratively and literally. 

Sources: Woodlands Wildlife Refuge, The ARC-Animal Rehabilitation Center

Flappy Butterfly, Toddler Craft


Once the caterpillars turned into butterflies, we watched them up close and talked about how they’d be set free just as soon as it stopped raining. Of course, a butterfly craft was in order. Our two-year olds decorated their butterfly cutouts with markers. Dot markers or paint could be used on thicker paper or tagboard, but then the butterflies wouldn’t be as flappy. The kids were proud of their creations and flew their butterflies around the classroom.

Best quote of the day: Upon seeing a butterfly open and close its wings,  one of the girls said, “The butterfly is clapping!” How cute is that?!

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  • paper
  • scissors
  • markers
  • craft sticks
  • pipe cleaners
  • masking tape


  1. Cut out butterfly shape.
  2. Decorate butterfly with markers.
  3. Tape craft stick and two pipe cleaners to back of butterfly, leaving top of craft stick showing–about one inch–above paper butterfly. Curl ends of pipe cleaner antennae.
  4. Create butterfly’s face by adding eyes and mouth to part of craft stick showing.

Related Post: Cutie Patootie Caterpillars, Toddler Craft

Cutie Patootie Caterpillars, Toddler Craft

Got Toddlers?

An empty egg carton stared at me and said, “Please give me a second  life!” So, I cut up the egg carton and showed the two year-olds in my pre-school class how to paint their caterpillars. They dipped, dripped and dabbed. Fun!

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  • egg carton
  • scissors
  • paint and paint brush
  • large pom-poms
  • googly eyes
  • craft glue
  • newspaper


  1. Spread newspaper over work surface. Cut egg carton into sections. I made each caterpillar body two egg sections.
  2. Paint “body.” Let dry.
  3. Glue large pom-pom to one end of egg carton. Press to set glue.
  4. Glue googly eyes on the pom-pom.
  5. Let dry before handling.

Book: Guess which book we read when our caterpillars were finished…Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar, of course. Click here to watch an animated version of the book.

Bonus: Shout out to the fabulous pre-school director and Transitional Two’s head teacher who brought in something extra special to show the children—live caterpillars! Every year, the pre-school orders butterfly kits which include cups of caterpillars, habitats, and food. The kids watch as the caterpillars eat, form chrysalises, and transform into butterflies. Then they set them free.

Delicious and Easy Flourless Chocolate Cake

Last week, I got it in my head that I must try this recipe. Ever since my college friend had served this flourless chocolate cake, I couldn’t stop thinking about it (shout out to Kim!) It was so rich, I only needed a small slice to satisfy my chocolate craving. When my youngest daughter took a bite, she said, “It tastes like what you’d get at a restaurant.” I’ll take that as a compliment, hon.

Flourless Chocolate Cake


8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1/2 pound unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups sugar (I used about a cup.)

6 large eggs

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus additional for dusting


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Butter a 10-inch springform pan, line bottom with a round of parchment or wax paper, and butter paper.
  3. Melt chocolate with butter in a medium metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring until smooth.
  4. Remove bowl from heat and whisk in sugar.
  5. Add eggs one at a time, whisking well after each addition.
  6. Sift cocoa powder over chocolate and whisk until just combined.
  7. Pour batter into pan.
  8. Bake until top has formed a thin crust and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out with moist crumbs adhering, 35-40 minutes.
  9. Cool cake in pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then remove side of pan.
  10. Invert cake onto a plate and reinvert onto rack to cool completely.
  11. Dust cake with cocoa powder before serving. (or dust with confectioner’s sugar)

Serves: 10-12

Tips: serve with berries and whipped cream, add espresso powder for a mocha taste, freeze some slices for a future chocolate craving

Source: Genius Kitchen

Related Posts: Flourless Chocolate Torte, Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies, Gluten Free Pie Crust, Gluten Free Spinach Tomato Cheddar Quiche