Thursday, July 3, 2014

Grandma's Gift: Belle, 55 lbs of Muscle and Slobber

If you’ve ever read Marley and Me or A Dog Year you know that life with a dog is an adventure, especially if that dog is energetic and smart.  My new dog happens to be both.  

My grandmother passed away, leaving my family with many things, including a five-year-old boxer.  Her name is Belle and she’s gorgeous, all muscle with a golden coat and white socks.  Belle has massive jowls, which help her create quite a mess.  We’ve owned a Belgian Malinois and an Australian shepherd and we’ve never had to deal with huge amounts of slobber.  Belle is a slobberifying machine.  She puts her head in my lap, on clothes, anywhere she can, and leaves behind a glob of drool.  When Belle drinks, the water drips from her jowls as she wanders the house; when she eats, her jowls catch the food and it’s left in the middle of the kitchen floor.

That’s another responsibility that comes with being a dog owner; taking care of your dog.  Through all her faults, Belle is great to have around.  She learns easily; stay, sit, and down are commands she responds to.  She may not play fetch (we still have some training to do), but Belle does not chew anything.  Shoes and other items are safe from dog jaws, unlike our last dog, who would rip to shreds anything he could get his mouth on.  Note to basketballs: You are safe now!  

When we first brought Belle home, we introduced her to Millie (our 14 year-old Australian Shepherd).  Millie has been alive for almost as long as I have.  Belle came over to say hi and Millie’s lips curled up and back and she began to growl.  Millie was proclaiming herself queen of the castle.  For the rest of the day, Millie stood guard over her water and the mud room, and if Belle came near, Millie made sure Belle knew who was boss.  

My Mom and I went out for a run, bringing Belle along with us on the leash.  At first, Belle did not understand that if she tried to run ahead she would be choked.  Halfway Belle had matched my pace and was running alongside me with slack in the leash.  Who says only puppies can learn new tricks?

Belle is smart, a quick learner.  Not all dogs are.  Consider the dogs from Marley and me and A Dog Year.  If you love dogs and would enjoy a laugh; read these books.  Both had scenes where I was rolling around laughing.  And it reminded me of my puppy Kaiser and all the trouble he got into.  

Belle came into our lives and filled the hole which had been left Kaiser’s death, our old Belgian Malinois with his puppy heart.  When I walked in the house today, Belle came and greeted me with her ears perked up and eyes wide, and shoved her nose and slobber all over my legs.  It was gross.  But it also left me smiling, since that was what Kaiser used to do, minus the slobber part.  We thank our grandmother for this last gift. 

Welcome, Belle.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

School’s Out! Drop the Books and Make a Bracelet

This is an easy-made bracelet, perfect for summers.  Made of hemp, it completes the summertime beach look.  


  • One 60 inch strand of hemp (or any type of string/yarn)
  • One 24 inch strand of hemp (or any type of string/yarn)
  • Clipboard
  • Glue (optional)

Step 1

Take both strands of hemp and fold them in half.  Tie a loop at the midpoints, so that the loop has four strands coming out of it.

Step 2

Put the loop under the clipboard to keep it in place.  Set up the strands so the two short ones are in the middle, with a long strand on either side.

Step 3

Take the long strand on the right, and put it loosely over the top of the two middle strands, so it looks like a backwards 4.

Step 4

Leaving the strand on the right in place, take the long strand on the left and loop it over the end of the backwards 4, under the two middle strands, and up through the loop of the backwards 4.

Step 5

Pull gently on the end of both long strands, until the knot reaches the top of the bracelet  and becomes tight.

Step 6

Now we do the same thing, except for in reverse.

Take the strand on the left, and put it loosely over the two middle strands so it creates the figure of a 4.

Step 7

Leave that strand in place, and take the strand on the right, looping it over the other long strand in the end of the 4, under the two middle strands, and up through the loop of the 4.

Step 8

Pull the two ends of the long strands until the knot becomes tight at the top.  Your bracelet so far should look something like this:

Step 9

Repeat steps 3-8, until the bracelet is long enough.

Step 10 (optional)

Tie off the bracelet in a big knot, small enough that it can fit through the loop, but big enough that it wont fall out easily.  Put a bit of glue on the loose end of the knot.  After the glue dries, cut off the loose ends close to the knot.

Tada! Your perfect summer bracelet is complete!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Alliance - Mark Frost

After his mishap with Lyle Ogilvy, Will West is confused; the more he found out about the Paladin Prophecy and the Knights of Charlemagne the less he understood.  He and his roommates had figured out that they were all test-tube babies, and the scientists performing the operations altered their genetics to give them different powers and abilities.  Then at the end of their sophomore year of high school at the Center, the five roommates are once again plunged into the mystery of how the Knights of Charlemagne, the Center, the  Paladin Prophecy, and Will’s father fit into the puzzle.  They are sent on a quest a mile underground, where the teens figure out the truth about the horrible genetic mutations occurring.  All along, Will, Elise, Ajay, Brooke, and Nick discover more about their own abilities and their past.

In many series, the first book is the best; but I liked Alliance more than the Paladin Prophecy.  I was submerged in the world of Will West, living out his story as if it were my own.  I felt what he was feeling, pictured what he was seeing.  At times, my pulse started racing, as if I was stuck in the cavern a mile underground, attempting to escape while fighting off demons.  I was not just a reader, I became part of the story.  When I finished I had to stand up, shake my head, and tell myself, “Will West does not actually exist.” There is no evil scientist out there to mutilate the next generation.  While reading this book, I was convinced that somewhere in the middle of nowhere, everything Frost described was happening.  Or perhaps it was just wishful thinking that maybe there was a group of superhuman teenagers protecting mankind.  

Read more at Goodreads: The Alliance.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Kid Zillionaire Business Fair

Last year, my sister’s friend came up with the idea of setting aside a day where kids ages five to fourteen could market their businesses and sell their wares.  She and her mom decided to call this the Kid Zillionaire Business Fair.  I participated last year, excited about selling hand-painted converse, which I called TGIF shoes (Toes Go In First).  I had my own table to set up my merchandise, signs, and posters and TGIF Shoes received the award for the most business potential.  

Instead of participating this year, I volunteered and judged the businesses in two categories, the most creative and the best presented.  Among baked goods, rainbow looms, dog treats, and hairbands, there was a table with little on it and a table with a lot on it.  On the first was a 3D printer and a small sign, with a well dressed boy standing behind his MacBook, explaining his designs and how the printer worked.  He sold out of the red printed dice he designed.  

On the other there were numerous signs, a huge one suspended on two poles advertising their logo, Crafts for Cancer.  This table was full of potted plants, home-made magnets, and wood pencil holders.  When I approached this table, a small girl came up to me and launched into an explanation of her business, what she was selling, and where the idea came from.  She looked about eleven years old.  The other judge and I decided that Crafts for Cancer had the best presentation, and that the 3D printer table was the most creative.

The 3D Printer Table
In addition to providing a market place for crafts, the Kid Zillionaire Business Fair teaches kids the advantages of advertising and marketing.  They learn that not everyone who shows interest will buy something.  The kids experience the effort that goes into running a business; they found that if they were not paying attention and enthusiastic, they may miss customers.  The Kid Zillionaire Business Fair prepares the entrepreneurs of the next generation.

Learn more about 3D printing on another post, A Bit on 3D Printing.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Every Day - By Mark Frost

Ever heard of a person who wakes up in a different body every day, who does not know how they got to be that way or why?  That’s the life that A lives in Frost’s book, Every Day. But how can one really call that a life? A realizes what he/she is missing when he/she meets Rhiannon.  Inhabiting the body of Rhiannon’s neglecting crack-headed boyfriend, A gets to know her, and falls in love.  But is it possible?  A must find out his/her destiny, whether there are others with the same power and why.  That’s A’s journey.  To find the answer to the ultimate question.  Why?

Reading the back of this book, I was hooked.  I was curious.  Was the person a guy or a girl? Did it matter?  

I liked the beginning of this book.  It started off in a normal day in A’s life, and you learn what happened to A.  I liked reading how A coped with varied characters every day, what he did to change the individual’s life, for the better, like stopping a girl from committing suicide, or worse, like leaving Nathan stranded on the side of a road with no idea how he got there.  A let me see into and experience the lives of all different types of people.

The middle drags.  A wrote about his/her visits with Rhiannon, and they were much of the same thing, with Frost occasionally adding an interesting character.  

I cried at the end.  A’s choice left me melancholy and had me thinking of all the happy times I’ve had with loved ones, trying to remember details. Frost made me reflect on the choices I’ve made and the impact they had.

This book opened my mind and gave me a lot to think about.  I found how much one man’s life could be changed in such a short period of time.  I learned how precious the time we are given is, and the real definition of devotion and compassion through A’s journey.  And I discovered the meaning of love is not only to know you love someone, it’s doing something for them no matter how much it hurts.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Paladin Prophecy - By Mark Frost

Will West does not stand out.  Rule #3 (don’t draw attention to yourself) doesn’t allow him to.  Will lives his life by a set of rules; every decision he makes is influenced by them.  Until he accidentally slips up.  Now there are people tracking him, monsters hunting him, and an elite boarding school recruiting him.  How do these fit together? Will must figure out not only how to save his parents, but how to save the world from the Paladins, without letting the school find out what is going on.  

This book has a little bit of everything.  Frost weaves mystery, comedy, and thriller together.  His characters are entertaining.  You have Nick, the man who lightens the mood; he is always cracking jokes or pulling pranks, and you can depend on him in battle.  There’s Ajay, the short genius who builds video phones from broken down TV’s for fun.  Elise has eyes that can see into your soul, paired with a stand-off personality and a huge brain.  And then there’s Brooke, the one who makes sure all the others stay in line.  These characters made me laugh out loud when reading this, at how Nick annoyed Elise with one of his rude jokes, or how Ajay used formal language for things not formal.  

Frost hooks readers from the first, when Will finds a creepy black car on the road that seems to be following him.  As Will finds out more about himself and his stalkers, the mystery behind the secretive Paladins unfolds, creating a kick-butt book.  

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Extracted - By Tyler Jolly and Sherry Ficklin

After reading the summary of this book, I was fascinated by the authors’ idea, and looked forward to reading about time travel and the war between two bands of time travelers, who wouldn’t? I was disappointed at how the story played out.

Lex and Amber are two Rifters (time travelers) with no knowledge of each other or what their lives were like before they were pulled into the time-traveling world.  Lex is part of the Hollows, a band of scruffy Rifters whose mission is to stop the Tesla institute at all cost.  Amber is a student at the Tesla Institute, run by the famous (or infamous?) Tesla.  Their goal is to preserve the time stream, or so Tesla claims.  But as Amber and Lex embark on journeys that lead them to each other, they will learn things that will change their views forever.  Will they save time, or destroy it?

Sounds interesting, right?  And it was good, after about 200 pages.  Since it’s set in a complicated world, the authors took fifty pages to explain what is happening, where they are, and the background.  Then they introduced the problem.  The complaint I have with this book is that it’s just not captivating until the end.  As a LitPick critic, I had to read and review this book, otherwise I would have abandoned it.  The beginning is very confusing, you have no idea what is going on, who people are, how time traveling works, etc.  I like the idea, they just need to pick up the pace.  The middle was slow.  

By the end, I was into it.  The last 100 pages were packed with action.  I wanted to know how Amber was faring, and whether Lex had managed to save Stein or not.  If only the rest of the book was like that.