Love, Laughter, and Life

Adventures With a Book Lover


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Book Review: Nibbles, A Green Tale (RE: A Green Way to Get Rid of Dandelions)

Nibbles, A Green Tale

Written and illustrated by Charlotte Middleton

Marshall Cavendish Children, 2009

I have so many wonderful memories of the guinea pigs we loved during my years of teaching preschool. Our mama gave us hours of delight as we watched her lead her trail of babies around the room. Rustling plastic bags brought squeals demanding whichever “greens” we had brought. Both preschoolers and my family members loved snuggling and playing with these cuties.

Imagine my delight when I saw Nibbles, A Green Tale at the library! Nibbles is obviously a guinea pig, one who loves dandelions. With our current pasture-wide crop of dandelions, I couldn’t wait to read this picture book. If only I could borrow a city of dandelion-loving guinea pigs and let them camp out in the pasture for a week or two. That would take care of the clouds of white seeds.

Why I LOVE this book:

~ guinea pigs! Wheet, wheet!

~ guinea pigs who eat dandelions

~ guinea pigs wearing clothes!

~ a fun story of how one guinea pig rescued dandelions from becoming extinct

~ a green strategy to solve dandelion problems (though the sheer number of them needed to clear a pasture…)

~ adorable illustrations

~ wonderful story and characters

There is a sequel to this book, Nibbles: Another Green Tale. I can’t wait to track down a copy.


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Haiku Moment: letters

a b c . . . y z

combine letters, spell words, give –

love letters to me

letters by Angie Quantrell

letters from Gage (5 1/2, kindergarten)


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Throwback Thursday: Can You Name the Year of the Carpet? #TBT

Can you name the year of this good old days photo?

At the bottom of the heap, we see Taylor (4), our oldest, who is happily ensconced on the shag carpet, ready to suck his thumb while perusing the pages of the ever-popular Sears Yard and Lawn catalog. We had a collection of Sears catalogs: lawn mowers, chain saws, yard equipment, vacuums, ceiling fans-actually any and all types of mechanized machines. Every trip to the mall required a stop at Sears so we could pick up the latest and greatest catalog.

On top, ready to torment her brother (nothing much has changed), Chelsie (2), our baby, gathers her energy for playing King of the Mountain. Or tickling her brother. Or just sitting on him because he was there. That’s what 2s do, right? There was no interest in the catalog, mowers, or engines of any sort. There was a brother on the floor, perfect for perching.

Taylor is not unhappy. In fact, he appears to be pleased with his piggy back sister. Chelsie looks gleeful and somewhat loving (I might point out that her arms are nearly around his neck, so this is debatable) while spending quality torment time with her big brother. You’ll notice the pile of ignored wooden blocks, a mainstay for any family with preschoolers. We still have the blocks, which have been loved and abused by many grands, nieces, nephews, preschool and kindergarten students, and a variety of Sunday school classes filled with sweeties.

Ahh. The good old days.

Did you figure out the year? I’ll give you credit for the correct decade. Go ahead, play along. Make a guess, then scroll down to the first comment to see the year this photo was taken.

(She laughs to herself. Ugh. The carpet . . . it’s embarrassing.)


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Rubber Stamping Requires Assistants

Many of you know I love stamping. For those who are not familiar with the term “stamping,” stamping = making rubber stamped cards using (but not limited to) rubber stamps, ink pads, decorative paper, fancy tapes, cardstock, and bits and bobs of fascinating leftover craft supplies.

Pip has decided it is time he helped make cards. You will notice the excellent placement of his body right in the center of my work pad. This of course is very helpful and what is expected of a good assistant.

One of my college roommates (waves at Alyson) and I have been getting together for decades. Yes, I guess I can say at least decades. We are a bit fuzzy on exactly when the rubber stamping bug caught us, but it has been around for a long time.

Spring break is usually one of the times we get together to stamp. We missed out on many of our usual stamping retreats last year (and we all know why). So this spring break was extra special because it had been sooooo long since we really stamped.

Pip is not moving, and is quite unhappy about sharing the limelight with his cat-mom, Alyson. I think he might be giving her the subliminal brush off, or at least the “talk to my back” posture.

The assistants were unusually helpful this year.

Daisy did not help as much this year at the rubber stamping table. She was however, an excellent neck and face warmer. Early morning wake-up calls required much purring, loving, and fur up my nostrils. Barely room to squeeze the phone between my chin and her face, but we managed. As far as bed warmers, Daisy is quite a wonderful assistant, always up for good lap snuggles or sleeping on top of me.
How long can one cat be? Notice the helpful tail, which is used to swish items off the table or capture different open ink pads for a “painted cat” look.
A ribbon! MY ribbon…

So. My spring break was fun, entertaining, and productive. How about you? Did you do anything different this spring break? Do you have special assistants for those fun projects?


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National Poetry Month: Toasting Marshmallows, Camping Poems by Kristine O’Connell George

Toasting Marshmallows, Camping Poems

written by Kristine O’Connell George

illustrated by Kate Kiesler

Clarion Books, 2001

Happy April National Poetry Month! My interest in poetry (reading and writing) has increased over the past several years. Loving the outdoors and camping as much as I do, I was delighted to find Kristine O’Connell George’s poetry book about camping at my local library. Now I really want my own copy.

What I LOVE about this book:

  • the language is rich and perfect for camping and nature
  • I feel like I am camping as I read the poems
  • the poems are written from the viewpoint of a child and the experiences she had while on a family camping trip
  • the perfectly chosen words bring me right into the camping adventures and remind me of the fun I’ve had camping and spending time in the mountains
  • the illustrations are wonderful

When I was a young child, my family of six (plus assorted pets) often went exploring and camping in the Arizona wilderness. Back then, much of the state was untouched desert. Or at least it seemed so to me. We had a camper that Dad put on the back of the truck and off we went. My sister and I were the lucky ones, getting to sleep in the bed over the top of the cab. Mom and dad got the table bed. I’m guessing my older brother slept on the floor and the baby slept with Mom and Dad. So many fun adventures!

How about you? Are you a camping nut? Or like my cousin when asked if she likes to camp, “Why??? Why Patrick? Why would I do that???” Which means no. Hahahah. What was your favorite camping experience?


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42 Years Ago Today He Asked Me to Be His Steady Girlfriend

Back in the day…I think I look suitably impressed with the cutie next to me.

Yes. You read that right. 42 years ago today, at a birthday party for my dad and my grandma, we wandered off for some privacy, as teens are wont to do. I know I don’t look like I’m old enough to know my guy that long (hahahahaha) but we were high school sweethearts.

My brother and the dirt bike.

It went down like this. First, he came to my house to hang out with my brother. And ride dirt bikes on ditch banks. With my brother.

That pretty soon turned into, “Hey, do you wanna go for a ride?” Ditch bank + dirt bike. How is that romantic? Tiny seat, two bodies, dirt and gravel roads along irrigation ditches? The dude ditched my brother for me! Sorry brother.

And yes, my arms wrapped tight around his waist, hanging on for dear life, wary of pot holes and bumps that would toss me off, riding a dirt bike with a cute guy was romantic! Thinking back, I have no idea how we both fit on that little seat. And survived. Without helmets.

Of course we saw each other in more than just the dirt bike situation. Church, high school, family get-togethers. We lived on one dirt road, my grandparents lived two dirt roads over, and his house was on the dirt road between both of us. I could literally spy on his house from my bedroom window. Not that I did. But I could have if I wanted to.

Fast forward (or is that backwards, since I’m talking about the past?) to the birthday party night. This cute, curly-haired guy asked me to be his steady girlfriend. He remembers better than I do, but apparently there was no hesitation. I immediately said yes.

And here we are. 42 years of best friends. We waited 7 years to get married (because, as I told him, if we could survive me going away to college, then we could survive anything). Got married, had two children, cats, dogs, guinea pigs, a house (houses), gardens, motorcycles, cars, an RV life . . . and plenty of fights, make-ups, adventures, disasters, learning opportunities, triumphs, and tragedies. But always, we had LOVE.

For us, it goes without saying that the Lord blessed us along the way and kept us in His care. Without His guidance and love, I doubt we would have make it this far. We are truly blessed.

I love you, boyfriend of 42 years. Hoping for many more adventures with my best friend.


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Happy Book Birthday Interview with Paddy Donnelly, Author-Illustrator of The Vanishing Lake! Plus a Giveaway!

Happy Book Birthday to The Vanishing Lake!

Hello, dear readers! Welcome to a very important blog post featuring a special book birthday for The Vanishing Lake by Paddy Donnelly!

Be sure to read to the bottom to learn how you can get your name in the hat to win a free copy of The Vanishing Lake, compliments of Yeehoo Press (US only). Thank you, Yeehoo Press and Helen Wu, for this opportunity!

Let’s get right to it.

1. Welcome, Paddy! Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a picture book illustrator and author, originally from Ireland and now living in Belgium. I’ve had seven picture books published so far, with my debut author illustrated one, The Vanishing Lake, being my 8th. I also illustrate covers for middle grade novels, as well as a bunch of other things. My background is in web design and I did that for a number of years following university, then I transitioned into doing kids’ apps for the iPhone. That introduced me to illustrating for kids and I really enjoyed it. For the last two or three years I’ve been focusing on children’s publishing and I really love it.

You have had a very a fascinating career path!

2. Congratulations on your new book! What was your inspiration for The Vanishing Lake?

Thank you! Well, it’s actually based on a real vanishing lake close to my hometown! It’s called Loughareema and it actually does disappear and reappear every few days. While my book contains a few more magical elements like mermaids, giants and narwhals, Ireland is a place full of mythical stories, so I was always surrounded by that growing up. When I was coming up with a few picture book stories a couple of years ago, the real vanishing lake from back home popped into my head and I thought it’d be an interesting premise for a picture book.

It certainly is interesting! I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Vanishing Lake! It’s such a fun, imaginative story!

3. What was the writing and illustrating journey you took as you wrote this book? As both author-illustrator, how did that impact your creative process?

I started first with the basic idea – a lake that would mysteriously vanish and reappear and vanish and reappear. Then I needed a main character – a child for the reader to identify with. I wanted the character to be searching for the reason for the mystery and ended up with a Grandad character who would tell fantastic stories. Having the main character, Meara, refuse to believe the stories allowed me to keep pushing them to be bigger and more unbelievable. That was the premise and then I started sketching out the roughs, knowing that I had a certain number of pages to work with and that I wanted a few different beats to happen through the book – the lake gone, then flip the page and it was back, then gone again, and then a double page spread for each story, and conclusion. Once I had all of that lined out, I started to write the actual words. Then it was a real back and forth process, with the words informing the illustration and vice versa. This is certainly different to the usual process when I’m illustrating someone else’s story, and I really loved the creative freedom it gave me to have full control over both aspects.

I’m fascinated by the process you used for The Vanishing Lake. How fun to be able to switch back and forth between writing and illustrating, and to have total control over the whole project.

4. Everything is different right now with COVID-19, but how will you celebrate the book birthday of The Vanishing Lake on April 20?

I actually have a few virtual events lined up with bookshops in the book’s birthday week, so that’s going to be lots of fun! I guess one of the silver linings of the pandemic is the emergence of virtual author events, so I’m looking forward to doing a few storytimes, drawalongs and Q&A sessions with bookshops and their customers. I would of course absolutely love to be doing something in-person in a bookshop, so hopefully when the world goes back to normal I’ll get the opportunity to do that for a future book. I have been trying to take the time to celebrate the good moments more and more this past year though, so I may have to raise a glass at home on publication day.

Sounds like the perfect combination of events to make the week very special! We have learned some new tricks and skills in the days of the pandemic, haven’t we?

5. I love the joyful imagination that is such a huge part of The Vanishing Lake. How do imagination and your childhood experiences impact your creativity?

I definitely had (and still do I think) a vivid imagination as a child and used to draw my own stories so much. Growing up with natural wonders like Loughareema and the Giant’s Causeway on my doorstep maybe made me take them for granted, but I think I’ve now got a renewed appreciation for them now. And definitely the rugged cliffs, mountains and magical greens of the Irish landscape have an influence on my illustration style. As imagination is the centre of this story, it allowed me to keep pushing to come up with more extravagant stories for Grandad to tell.

Ooh, perhaps there will be a future picture book about the Giant’s Causeway! 😉 One of my bucket list items is visiting Ireland.

6. What are you working on now?

I’m working on a lot of picture books at the moment. I’ve got a few more coming out later this year and next year. And I’ve got a few middle grade covers on the go too. Lots of different projects happening at once, but that’s the way I like it. I like to hop between projects as it helps keep my imagination going and I don’t get too bogged down in one set of illustrations for months on end. I think I need that variation for my creativity.

So, you also work as a professional project juggler? LOL. I like to juggle writing projects as well. Like you said, it helps keep my imagination and creativity fresh.

7. Surprise us! What else would you like to share?

Perhaps the most exciting project I’m working on is my second author illustrated picture book, Dodos Aren’t Extinct, which I’m illustrating right now. That’ll be coming out in Spring 2022. Very exciting!

Congratulations! That is exciting! It sounds like another captivating story!

Thanks so much for stopping by to visit, Paddy! Best wishes on The Vanishing Lake and all of your other projects.

Readers, you can purchase your own copy of The Vanishing Lake by clicking the following links.

The Vanishing Lake links:

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-vanishing-lake-paddy-donnelly/1137974866

Bookshop: https://bookshop.org/books/the-vanishing-lake/9781953458032

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1953458033/

Paddy’s social links: 

Instagram: https://instagram.com/paddy

Twitter: https://twitter.com/paddydonnelly

Website: http://lefft.com

— Paddy

http://lefft.com / https://www.instagram.com/paddy/

Here are 3 ways to get your name in the hat to win a copy of The Vanishing Lake (US only). A winner will be randomly chosen in one week on Tuesday, April 27.

1. Like and comment on this blog post. Please make sure I have your email address so I can notify you if you win.

2. Follow this blog and tell me how you follow. Please make sure I have your email address so I can notify you if you win.

3. Visit my Twitter page @AngieQuantrell for more chances to win a copy of The Vanishing Lake.

CONGRATULATIONS TO Janet Frenck Sheets! You won a copy of The Vanishing Lake!


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Haiku Moment: ice soldiers

armed guards in a row

glittering, fierce, and prepared

beware! ice soldiers

ice soldiers by Angie Quantrell

photos by Angie Quantrell, Yakima Valley


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RV Living: Day (approximately) 1,594

What it looks like when I dig out my craft supplies.

We are just getting ready to tuck into bed at the close of our approximate 1,594th day of RV living. $1,594 dollars does not seem like much. 1,594 days seems like much much more.

This was not the plan. But. 2020. Plus housing market. Plus bidding wars. Plus zoning laws. Plus all sorts of things.

We are happy to have a tiny home on wheels, though an RV is not exactly the same thing. We have tiny and we have wheels. We feel blessed to have shelter near our loved ones.

We are still talking to each other, the cat keeps us free from pasture mice and voles, and the electronics and utilities work.

Just in case you are considering long-term RV life, think about this.

Storage is minimal. Even utilizing the boot (under bed/outside access storage at the front of the RV), we stack items on empty window casings, counters, and floors. And still I go the store more often and buy less.

The shower is tiny. I have no idea how my 6′ 1″ husband does it. I bang elbows and knees when I shower and I’m only 5′ 1″.

The fridge is tiny. The freezer even more so. Without an extra fridge/freezer out in the shop you can kiss Costco good-bye.

The stove is tiny. No more large turkeys. As long as I purchase a small turkey breast, cooking in the RV oven is doable. If I want a full turkey, I have to use my turkey roaster.

The bed is small. Queen? Methinks not a true queen. It gets a bit crowded with both of us and the cat, who loves sleeping crosswise between our pillows.

There. Is. No. Closet. Wrinkles are our wardrobe accessories.

Humidity is an issue in the winter. Perhaps we should purchase stock in the companies that produce dehumidifiers.

This meal could have been mixed together, but I was practicing. Works great!

On the other hand . . .

We enjoy our cozy space. COZY.

It doesn’t take much to heat such a small space. Or cool it. Though you will catch me whining when the temps are in the 90-100s.

Low utility costs, at least during spring and fall.

I have become quite tricksy at RV cooking. We regularly utilize the RV oven, stove top, and outdoor BBQ grill, depending on the season, temperature, and meal plan.

We are used to short showers.

I’ve figured out the way to work around only one stove rack. I make a foil dam and cook multiple foods at the same time! Casseroles are another way to work around the one rack.

I don’t have to clean much. We live in a pasture, so there is always dust.

We have and use what we truly need. There is no space for extras. We are working on this for my creative and work space.

We spend plenty of time outside, since that’s where the fresh air and clean living space is found in abundance. Nature is pretty wonderful. Not mice and vole heads, thank you Monet, but alive sorts of nature like hawks and bunnies and finches.

My honey is fabulous at upkeep for our tenement on wheels. At this rate, it should be good for another decade. Please.

Here’s to day 1,595 . . .

Monet, the office assistant.


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Author Interview: Jonesy Flux and the Gray Legion by James Pray (Sterling Children’s Books)

Jonesy Flux and the Gray Legion

by James Pray

Sterling Children’s Books, 2020

I first heard about Jonesy Flux and the Gray Legion on Kathy Temean’s blog Writing and Illustrating. Thanks to that post, I won a copy of this romping good story by James Pray. You can read Kathy’s author post at: https://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2020/12/17/book-giveaway-jonesy-flux-and-the-gray-legion-by-james-pray/

Once I received my copy in the mail, I couldn’t put it down. Until I was finished. I loved Jonesy and the many adventures and disasters she encountered in this fast-paced sci-fi tale. I thought it would be fun to reach out to James and invite him to stop by for a visit. Thank you, James!

Welcome, James! Tell us a little about yourself. Hi! I’m a writer and engineer from Michigan. I like long walks on the beach and filling my pockets with fossils along the way, but mostly I write a lot. Outside of that and my day job, most of my time concerns the corgi and pair of high-octane children that have been systematically destroying our house for the last few years.

Oh dear, the dreaded disasters of helpful children and cute dogs! Well done for being able to squeeze in time for writing!

What was your inspiration for Jonesy Flux and the Gray Legion? It’s hard to narrow this down too much. There’s a real sense, for me, that I “had” Jonesy’s story long before I knew about it. Her character came from a one- or two-page sketch about her and some other kids marooned on a space station that I shelved sometime in grad school. Her world came somewhat from that of my very earliest shots at writing a novel in middle school. The concept of Fluxing was what ended up gelling it all together. That’s one item whose inspiration I can point to; although I think I made it mine in the end, I’d be a big fat liarface to deny Fluxing’s roots in a trio of anime series I followed at one point and another. I figure they won’t mean much to most people and the remainder won’t have too tough a time figuring it out, so I’ll leave guessing which as an exercise for the reader (with the hint that one is French). Either way, it all snapped together out of nowhere-or-everywhere at a time when I was really longing to write something fun, colorful, and preferably well-stocked with spaceships. It’s probably no coincidence that this happened when my wife was pregnant with our first child — I think there was a huge element of me just needing to process Kids and Parenting and Identity and Growing Up as I put it all together.

Hahaha. Liarface. In picture book writing, we call those influential books “mentor texts.” ;0 I can hear your writing voice even in these answers, which is a huge part of why I loved reading Jonesy Flux.

What was the writing journey you took as you wrote this book? Writing it was a whirlwind. I’ve never taken anything from idea to completed draft as quickly as I did with Jonesy’s story — something like ten weeks! Even if Fluxing was what kicked off the story, Jonesy’s character stole the show for me immediately. Maybe it was because I was a little tired of all the Middle-Grade protagonists who get praised for their virtue and heroism but can’t give an adult a straight answer until the closing scene, but I had a ton of fun exploring the story from the perspective of a “pure-hearted” character who gets in trouble mostly from sticking to her convictions and having high expectations for the hapless adults who cross her path with Grown-Up notions of Compromise and Shades Of Gray. The rest of it was the usual-ish process of editing, waiting a couple of years while my agent moved countries, getting ambushed with a sale to a super-awesome editor, frantically editing some more with the blinds drawn against the lockdownpocalypse, and so on.

That’s amazing! This story was meant to be.

Everything is different right now with COVID-19, but how did you celebrate the book birthday (release) of Jonesy Flux and the Gray Legion? I had plans to celebrate my debut publication day with my last two cans of Vault Soda, but those expired in 2012, so . . . I left them in the fridge. (I made those plans a long time ago. I’m still on the fence about trying one anyway.) We had dinner and cake at my mom’s house instead. It was nice!

Maybe go back to your mom’s for dinner instead (avoid Vault Soda . . . ). But, if you like to live on the edge, please do let us know how it goes and if you get food poisoning.

What’s your next writing project? Will we see Jonesy again? In no particular order, “Yes!” and “Another Jonesy story!” Assuming all goes to plan, her full journey will take a more-than-trilogy sort of series to complete, partly because I am nothing if not overambitious, but mainly because I want to see her shake things up at the grandest possible scale before she boosts off into the stars for the last time.

Yay! Keep me (I mean us) in the loop. I love long drawn out epic tales that are not over too soon and explore all of what can and usually does happen for both good and evil.

Surprise us! What else would you like to share? Oh noes, an open-ended question? Well, I’m (on absolutely no schedule at all) posting bonus content for Jonesy at my website (jamespray.com), including something like 40 pages’ worth of glossary to fill out the backdrop. And I’ll mention that Twitter (@jamespray) is a great place to chat with me for those who might care to, even if it’s really not a great place in pretty much any other respect. Otherwise, I hope everybody has a good day, and maybe takes the chance to help somebody else have a good day. Like, maybe share a video of cute cats instead of that one article that makes you feel like the world is sliding facefirst into an incinerator? Or something. Oh, and a big, big thanks to Angie for helping get the word out about Jonesy!

You are most welcome! Friends, there is indeed a HUGE glossary at https://www.jamespray.com/bonus plus plenty of other fun information. Perhaps if I had realized this, I could have referred to it as I read Jonesy Flux. My engineering/spaceship/technology lingo is a bit behind the times. But NOW I know. Heh-heh.

Thank you, James, for stopping by today! Best wishes as you write future editions about the adventures of Jonesy Flux!