Sunday, November 26, 2017

Tess of The Road - a review

Let's return to the kingdom of Goredd and the Dombegh family - both created by the author Rachel Hartman.

Once upon a time, there was a little girl. She was always curious, always rebellious.  Meanwhile, her twin (not identical, of course) was always good.

And so starts the story of Tess, Seraphina Dombegh's half sister, and the twin of beautiful, virginal Jeanne.

We meet her when she is just 7 or so, investigating how babies happen by insisting that her young uncle and her twin kiss in a bed.  Tess gets a beating for that.

8 or 9 years later we meet Tess again.  She is deep in negotiations to insure that her sister will make a splendid marriage to a man who loves her.  She is also in deep disgrace with her bitter, angry mother.  Their father - whose first wife was Seraphina's dragon mother - is in disgrace with the court as well.  He married a dragon, after all.  All Tess wants is to marry Jeanne off safely and happily.  Then, Tess will be free.

Oh, Tess.  Did you really think it would be so easy?  The wedding is just the beginning of Tess's troubles and her adventures.

And what adventures they are!  It takes some unraveling to find out what young Tess did to anger her mother so very much.  Her headstrong ways endanger her at every turn but they also give her the courage to do what is right.  She rekindles her friendship with her best childhood friend, a quigutl, - a creature that is looked down on by both humans and dragons; -  and with him/her, she discovers ancient powers under the soil.

The ending feels more like a beginning.  I'd like to read more about Tess.   But this ending has a happy-ever-after feel to it, without the Prince, or the wedding or even romance.  You will be proud of how much Tess has grown.  Read Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Mindful Thanksgiving

Take a deep breath.  You CAN get through this day serenely.  There is no need to respond to provocateurs at dinner today.  Smile.  Pass the gravy.  Pace yourself and practice mindfulness.

Abrams Books gives tips for staying grounded today and throughout the holiday season here.  (Okay, it's an ad but the tips are very useful.)

7 Things I Am Thankful Today:

Speaker phone capability.  I can roll out pie dough and discuss stuff at the same time!


Heat and hot water.  We ran out of oil last night.

Emergency workmen.  Eric, an oil/furnace man, came out at 9 pm to restart our furnace.

Pies.  I like baking pies.

Stories.  Entertaining, thought provoking, and enlightening.

All of you.  'Nuff said.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Lovely November Day

We all have those chores - you know the ones.  These are jobs we put off for so many reasons. It will take too long and I don't want to start until I can finish.  It's raining (for outside chores).  It's too nice out (for indoor chores).  It's too messy and then I'll have to put everything away.  No one can see it anyway.  But those chores sit in the backseat of our brains and kick the front seat, over and over and over.

The chore I have been avoiding is emptying the compost barrel.  I have one of those old compost barrels that you turn upside down on an axle to mix the compost.  This year it reached critical mass.  It was sooo heavy I had trouble turning it.  Most years, I go in with my trusty trowel or spade and scoop about half of my "veggie poo" into buckets and carry that stuff to my garden bed.  This year, I decided I had to empty the whole thing and rinse the barrel out.

But it was so hard, my head whined.  It took so long to just scoop out a few buckets.  So, I shoved it into the backseat and did other things.

In the backseat, the chore kicked and kicked and I had to find a way to quiet it down.  I came up with a plan.  Instead of scooping the compost out, I'd dump it on a tarp.  Hope!  And then it rained, and rained again.

TODAY, I substituted a sheet of cardboard for the tarp and I emptied that enormous barrel in 15 MINUTES!!!  I kid you not.  And God bless my youngest brother, he came over to talk and dug all that stuff into the garden beds.  What a blessing.

As he dug - and we talked - I sat in the sun and made a sage wreath - my very first - from wreath forms made of my blackberry canes and my home grown sage and rosemary.  I must find a hook so I can hang it in my kitchen to dry.  Then I will use it over the winter.  And my youngest sister called from far away!  What could be better?

Just a lovely, lovely November day.

Saturday, November 18, 2017


Tellabration!(tm) is the International Day of Storytelling and it is TODAY, November 18th.  The Saturday before Thanksgiving, every year, storytellers around the world share tales, reminiscences, and history with audiences of all kinds.

Join the Lehigh Valley Storytelling Guild tonight, at Trinity Episcopal Church in downtown Bethlehem, PA, as we go classy!  Five tellers will share elegant stories, memories and even an historical character.  Join us for drinks and snacks at 6 pm.  The stories begin at 7 pm.  Donations are gratefully accepted.  Leave the children home.  These stories require adult sensibilities.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Are Unicorns REAL?

Brightly offers "storytimes".  Miss Lisa reads a book and the words are highlighted as she goes.  Here is their latest effort, Uni the Unicorn by Amy Krouse Rosenthal.  Visit Brightly's website to find more read-alouds.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Concert - The Final Report - LONG!!!!

Ok.  Maybe not FINAL final report, but the concert happened.  Dan and I rocked!  Totally! As did everyone else...and we had a lot of fun up there in the sanctuary of Trinity Episcopal church (or the transept or wherever...)  And we raised over $1200!  I KNOW!!!!!!

So pretty!
Here is the whole unexpurgated story of the BIG day.  Dan and I practiced in the morning at my house.  And it's a good thing we did because Dan found the very last piece of the 1000 piece puzzle that Hub and I just finished that morning.  (I had to take my mind off the concert details somehow.  Also, looking for a missing puzzle piece means forgotten corners were swept.  Win-win.)

Then off we went to Trinity Episcopal Church where bedlam was slowly percolating.  Two Lehigh Valley Storytelling Guild tellers, Ingrid Bohn and Judy England-McCarthy, were already there and ready to take over the kitchen!!  Dave Howell, another LVSG member and Trinity Episcopal Church member, was resplendent in his chef's toque.  He was ready to make his wildly popular tomato soup for the after-concert party.  Marcie Lightwood, Trinity Episcopal Church member and my CO-CONSPIRATOR and PLANNER handled the influx of food for the potluck.   Jolene Kiernan and her amazing husband, Charles Kiernan (LVSG member), were there ready to help out.

I ran around - this is the only way to describe what I did - I ran - checking with every single person - except the sound and video folks because I know nothing about sound and video.  Dan consulted with Bruce Marold (LVSG and Trinity Episcopal Church member) on matters electronic.   Tom and Betty Druckenmiller arrived at about the same time that we did.

Around 12:45, other performers started to arrive.  I had hoped that ALL the performers would be there but traffic and family and finding parking and other stuff often intervenes.

In the church people, plugged things in, said "testing, testing" over and over again.

In the Parish Hall, Marcie and I went over EventBrite ticketing in case people wanted to use credit cards.

Then, Denise McCormack arrived. I showed her how to do EventBrite ticketing because, just like me, Marcie was running around- I felt that her mode of perambulation was somehow more serene, and elegant, than mine - and had kitchen stuff to check on and etc.

As normally happens when I plan events, people found themselves talking to air as I left - like the Roadrunner - in a puff of dust to attend to something else.  I know it's irritating but, hey, I was a tad anxious.

More performers arrived with MORE sound equipment, so there was MORE plugging and feedback and "testing, testing" and 2 pm rolled around.

One act was not at the church.  One act was fussing with their equipment.  Five acts were sitting quietly on the sidelines waiting .  The audience, full of friends and family and church members and generous people, waited.  The MC, Rick Weaver, of Piper's Request, smiled benignly in an attempt to calm me down.

FINALLY, about 25 minutes late, we started.  Rick sang a wonderful song.  What a lovely voice he has!!   YAY!  Today, We Fight with Peace arrived!

Then Dan and I, in our Chiles' Play personas, took the stage.  We did very well.  And we were well-received.

Judy England-McCarthy was next with an animated and masterful telling of how Anansi, the spider, got his come-uppance!  It was a great example of reverse psychology.  A little info on arachnids and insects set the stage.

Today, We Fight with Peace's leader and her dad.
Today, We Fight with Peace got up to sing and play after a short technical check-in (testing, testing?).  They were awesome and have such a nice onstage rapport.  That girl has a lovely clear singing voice.  There was a balance problem with the instruments drowning out Annabellie's voice at times.  Still, a wonderful performance by all, Father, daughter and Uncle/brother. My favorite? - The Hungry Song but Awkward Teenager was a close second.  I love the way they play with words in that one.

Ingrid Bohn came next.  Her story, The King's Drum, was about working together and carrying your part of the burden AND about guilt.   Anansi made an appearance in her story but as a wise counselor, not a trickster.  Ingrid prowled the front of the church and into the pews like the lion in her story.  Wow!

I can't find the words for the music of Tom and Betty Druckenmiller.  I love their old time sound, the history of the songs they sing, a genre of music that is heart warming and heartening, (see what I did there?).
This wasn't taken at the church but here they are.

However, I wanted to get a total of the money we brought in so I left the church for a few minutes and, what??? We brought in that much?  Over $600 in cash and with the checks people wrote, we had over $800 in the cash box.

I got back in time to hear Tom and Betty sing one of my favorites, "You've Been that Friend to Me" and two songs I had never heard before.

Up next was Charles Kiernan with a story about loss and reclamation, curiosity and faithfulness, from Spain, A Sprig of Rosemary.  Charles is always in control of his story, his presence and his audience.  The story featured the wind as helping character, unlike the winds that destroyed much of Puerto Rico.

Rick Weaver introduced each act, interjected facts about the events in Puerto Rico and the conditions there and kept things moving.

The last act, Closer (pronounced like "getting nearer", not like "closing the deal", although they truly did) performed classic rock and country-rock songs and they were sooooooo very good.  SO GOOD!  They don't have an online presence, alas, or I would link you to them.

Then, PARTY TIME.  We all made our way to the Parish Hall where we ate soup and hummus and cheese and sausages and crackers and fruit and drank coffee and tea and chatted and visited and just had fun.

This is just the story of the BIG DAY!  All the planning, emails, FB boosts, website building, PR, graphic design, networking, - that will be chronicled elsewhere.

BTW, we have most of the day's events recorded.  I might post video here.

You can still donate here.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Let's Not Forget - Pat Hutchins, RIP

Pat Hutchins died this week.  Her death is a HUGE loss to the picture book world.

Rosie's WalkWho remembers the filmstrip - or the Weston Woods film?  Hutchins' artwork was perfect for the simple animation that Weston Woods used.

Changes, Changes was one of my all time favorite wordless picture books.  Still is.  The block family reacts quickly and cleverly to a number of disasters. This picture book would be useful during community helpers week.

 Pat Hutchins' books encompass so much.  Think of Changes, Changes.  In there we find the concepts of colors, shapes, sequencing, events and their consequences, action and reaction.  There are SO MANY ways to view each book Hutchins wrote and illustrated.

In The Doorbell Rang, children meet the concept of division as two children must share their cookies with more and more friends.  The welcome kitchen, the tension as the number of cookies shrink on the children's plates and the repetitive refrain set the reader up for the big ending.  

Hutchins' illustrations give clues to what might happen next and give pre-readers so much to search for and find.

I COULD spend the rest of the post naming each of her books and how I might use them with a young listener or in storytime.  But I don't need to.  Go to the library and borrow her books.  Read them; share them.  You will find a character or a story that pleases you - whether you like monsters, parties, toys, farms or families.

The very saddest thing when a great artist or writer dies is that we will never know what comes next.  Pat Hutchins left us with a treasure chest of reading fun.  We will miss her but we should never forget her.

Here is Pat Hutchins' obituary from Publisher's Weekly.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Benefit Concert!!!

I dream about it.  I worry about it.  It's the Under One Sun: Benefit Concert for Puerto Rico!

November 12th from 2 to 4 pm
Trinity Episcopal Church
44 East Market Street
Bethlehem, PA 18018


I really wanted to download the ad that will be in tomorrow's paper but I, alas, don't have permission to do that.  So here is the postcard we've been handing out.

And here is the list or performers...
AND here's the link to the website that will tell you everything you need to know.

I hope to see you there.

Thanks to the Lehigh Valley Storytelling Guild and WDIY-FM for sponsoring this event.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Trick or Treat with a Bunny

Little Blue Bunny, what character!  Here, I just want to show you his costume attempts.
I honestly don't know what he's supposed to be while he climbs on the BTP. (Big Tin Pumpkin)  But, it is certainly an eye catching costume.

This is his jogger costume.  Headband and fitness calculator.  The pumpkin behind him is seasonal decoration.
Ride 'em, cowbunny!

The common thread in all these costumes is the orangesicle designed snap bracelet watch, known as the Ninja Watch!  It is endlessly versatile and you can order YOURS today by dialing 555-555-5555 - ext. 5!  (Not really.  That's a family inside joke.  That watch has headed off many a toddler meltdown in the past and still gets a giggle from the girl - who is six years old, today.)

How was your Halloween?  We had a sleepover and:
1.  Little Blue Bunny snuck on a bus headed for Sam's Club without paying his fare.  The driver dropped him off with the security guard at Sam's.  Alas, no one was home to pick him up so D, his "cousin", put him back on the bus with her and her new BFF, Buttercup, the cat.  They roared off to New Jersey to find D's mom and to give LBB a good talking to.
2.  Halloween costume making - some of the results are above.  Nutty Romomlia was a ladybug.  Felina Fairyfox was a witch.
3.  Trick or Treating - Did you know that toy candy looks like Legos?  It does!  (Human trick or treat was the night before.)
4.  Haunted House Under the Table - with the Big Tin Pumpkin, the color changing ghost lantern, a ghost made out of a napkin, and a vibrating bug thing that makes a racket inside the BTP.
5.  The requisite glow stick song and dance show.  (OMG, I need to proof read better!  It's SONG and dance show.)
More impressive in person.
6.  10 books.
7.  a very boring story that "never gets old" according to D.
Sleep.  Breakfast.  Home.

BTW.  Tickets are still available for Under One Sun: Benefit Concert for Puerto Rico.  Please check out the website, Facebook page and/or FB Event page.  Here's the website, from whence you can visit the other sites;

Thanks.  Book stuff in the next post.