Thursday, December 29, 2011

Someone`s Biological Clock is Wound Too Tightly

Morning all! I`m just pouring a fresh cuppa, so why don`t you join me? It`ll keep the frost from settling on your nose!

I just had to pass along this little surprise Miss Yodeling discovered yesterday afternoon. It seems that one of our broad-breasted hens, Bertha (She is indeed named after Bertha Butt from the song 'Troglodyte' by the Jimmy Castor Bunch. You all remember that song, don`t you?) has decided that the end of December is the perfect time to lay eggs!

Why Bertha has chosen the middle of winter to make a nest is FAR beyond me! Usually, turkeys are seasonal layers, starting when the amount of daylight is increasing nicely, like say, April. I can`t imagine that our BB tom, Andre, is fertile. I know that drakes and ganders don`t become potent until late spring, again directly related to the amount of light. She has been working on her little nest for awhile, since most hens lay an egg every other day and she had nine in her nest. One got broken, which is why most BB hens aren`t very successful brooders. A bird that weighs over thirty pounds is rough on eggs!

Of course, Mister`s eyes widened in glee when he saw the bounty! Now, the remaining eight eggs are in an incubator. We`ll candle them in a couple weeks and see if anything is growing. I have serious doubts but, hey, you never know, right?

I also wanted to give a warm yodel of welcome to Ann Thomas and drmomi! Howdy and welcome to the hillside farm, where the critters are nearly as goofy as the goatherders!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Radio Ga-Ga

Yes, I stole that line from the awesomely fantastic group Queen, but it really fits this post. Come on in gang, drop down and I`ll pour you a fresh cuppa!

First, before I get going on the radio story, I hope everyone in blog-land had a great holiday season! Christmas on the hillside farm was a grand one. Seems we all must have been exceptionally good this year. Me in particular, but I`m always good so that`s no surprise. *Whistles innocently* Santa brought me a new range! Now I won`t have to lie on the floor to light the pilot for the stove anymore! That floor gets lower and lower every year for some odd reason. I also cleaned up in the Grecian department, with a new calendar all about ancient Greece and the movie ‘The Eagle’ which I saw in the theater and adored. Can a woman have too much Greek in her life? I think not.

Okay, so now, let`s get to the drama of my morning. Today was another physical therapy day for my mother-in-law, so down I go around 8:30 this morning to fix her coal stove and gather her up. I hadn`t warmed up my truck since I didn`t realize how cold it was. Yeah, I had been out to do chores earlier but that don`t count. I was still warmed internally by java juice.

We head down the road, chatting away about this and that, when I realize that my beloved classic rock radio station isn`t on. GASP! Has someone dared to touch the knob?! I couldn`t imagine it, since turning the radio knob is a crime punishable by several hours of harping. Not meaning to be rude, but now beginning to get twitchy, I reached over and cranked the volume up in the middle of what my mother-in-law was saying. I smiled at her and mumbled something about music. Nothing came from the speakers but static. I began to perspire.

“Oh, this is bad.” I said and fiddled with the knob, fine-tuning desperately. “The Met is off the air!”

“Guess you`ll have to listen to hillbilly music,” my mother-in-law commented.

My eyes widened. The truck weaved just slightly as I kept fiddling. Now don`t get me wrong country music fans, I sort-of enjoy country tunes if they`re the old performers. Conway Twitty, George Jones, Johnny Cash, Freddy Fender, you know? The stuff my mother listened to while I was growing up and trying to drown out her music with KISS and YES. It`s just, to me, all these new country singers sound the same. I`m sure folks that aren`t into rock or metal say the same thing about those genres too, though.

“Uhm,” I brilliantly replied and began searching for a rock station with desperation. “There`s got to be another classic rock station somewhere.”

Well, sadly, it seems there isn`t in this neck of the woods. There are a hundred and fifty-three country stations, one classical music station, and several stations that play rap/pop/dance or whatever the Sam Hill kids call their tunes nowadays. I flew past someone who sounded like that Beiber kid as if Satan himself was the disc jockey. As the panic set in I landed on a station that was playing something that sounded like a woman singing while mixing a cake with the blender set on warp nine. I think it might have been some new club song. Either that or she had her booby caught in that warp nine blender. I began to have mild palpitations and my mouth felt dry.

“Zeppelin,” I coughed weakly. “Must………..find……..Zeppelin.”

Fortunately, through all this gasping, wheezing and general hysteria (Ah Def Leppard, where were you when I needed you the most?) my mother-in-law was, as always, pleasant and non-judgmental. She simply watched me mumbling incoherently then smiled when I cussed out the truck driver behind me who was getting antsy as I drove and searched for some rock music. Finally, by the grace of the gods of rock and roll, I stumbled into a radio station that was playing The Monkees. Granted, that group isn`t The Who but it was much better than Justin Beiber. I sighed. Then the next song came on. It was Billy Joel. I began to weep silently and turned the damned radio off.

“We`ll just talk,” I muttered, to which, my mother-in-law smiled once more and nodded.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays!

From all of us on the hillside farm!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Mister Makes Cookies

Hey gang! Man, I`ve missed my blog and all my blogging` buddies! *Big hug*

Life here on the goat farm has just been coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs crazy over the past week. Between taking my MIL to her physical therapy appointments twice a week (She is doing great after her knee replacement surgery!), Christmas shopping, wrapping, school events, cookie making and now the last round of edits on ‘Of Gods & Goats’, I haven`t had time to wind my watch!

Speaking of cookies, we had a rather funny thing happen here the night before last. At least, I found it funny, Mister on the other hand…..

It started after dinner when Mister came back from tending to his mother`s coal stove for the night. He wanted to make cookies. Miss Yodeling had made a batch for her friends the previous night, and I guess he got in the mood for peanut butter No-Bakes. Since none came home from the high school, it was either make more or go without! So he opted to try his hand at cookie making.

I had already done the dinner dishes and informed him that I didn`t mind if he made cookies, as long as he cleaned up afterwards. I figure three sink-loads of dishes in one day is enough, right ladies? He agreed and so I tottered off and went back to play some X-Box. (That darn Skyrim is SO addictive!)

Mister turned the TV on, the hunting channel as usual. How many times can you watch a man shoot a deer before it becomes a tad repetitive? Must be a guy thing. Anydoodles, he could be heard out in the kitchen, gathering his ingredients of Quaker Minute Oats, vanilla, peanut butter, Crisco and milk. Out came the wax paper and several sheets were ripped off. After a small search for my measuring cups that I had to assist in, he was good to go!

Miss and I could hear him stirring and stirring, melting the Crisco and sugar and then adding his other ingredients. He was really enjoying himself! Those No-Bakes are a real breeze and within a couple of minutes, he had them all spooned out and cooling on his sheets of wax paper. He gave us a thumbs-up as he passed Miss and I in her room, then out he went to stoke up our wood stove for the night.

I returned to my game, and dragon killing, and Miss got back to her whatever it is she does on her laptop nightly. Chatting I`m sure. Mister came back inside and started up the hall. It was then that a bellow filled the house as he charged into the kitchen, madder than a wet hen. Two cats flew past the doorway to Miss Yodeling`s room like Lucifer himself were on their bushy tails.

I looked over at my daughter. She looked at me, and we exchanged a smile. Must be Lu-Lu and Lucius thought some peanut butter No-Bakes sounded really good too! The dogs got the cookies that the cats had nibbled on.

Hmmm, I wonder if the dogs didn`t put the cats up to it?!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Word of Mouth for Kids - It`s a Tie!

Ho-Ho-Ho! I thought about trying to wriggle down the chimney for this final book review for kids, but given that I had three series stuffed into my bag, I figured I wouldn`t fit through the flue. That`s right, three series. It was a tie for the twelve and over age range. These three authors, and their books, made it down-right impossible for me to pick one favorite over another, so I stopped trying and simply decided to run with all three since each deserves a recommendation. If you have a young adult in the house, and they`ve never had the pleasure of reading the trio of book sets coming along, do order them for your soon-to-be or already is a teen, because each series has unforgettable characters and stories that will thrill older kids as well. Okay, let`s get this literary jingle-bell hop hopping!

The Harry Potter Series

What can I possibly say about Harry and his buddies that hasn`t been said already? This is one of the best series of books that I`ve ever read, period. Ms. Rowling spins a wonderful and dramatic story centered on the young wizard, Harry Potter and his friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. The world of Hogwarts School, the inhabitants and the villains are forever etched into our world and conscious. There is everything a reader would want in the Potter books. Action, adventure, scary moments, love, loss, drama, humor, dragons, magic, Quidditch ( A game played on flying broomsticks) Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans and one of the most memorable bad guys ever to slither across the earth – Lord Voldemort. I`m not scared to say his name. And, if I recall correctly, the Potter books are accepted in the Accelerated Reader (Or AR for short) program that many schools participate in. A win – win for kids and parents alike!

The Percy Jackson Series

Ah, Percy. I do adore your series so. As does my daughter and many of her friends. I know, this may sound a little biased coming from me, but this series of books about the young demigod son of Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea, may just eek past Potter for me. And here is why, aside from my obvious love of all things Greek. This series teaches as it entertains. And the kids won`t even realize that they`re learning, but they are! Rick Riordan, who has inspired me more than I can say in my own upcoming series of Grecian-flavored books, does a tremendous job of taking those dusty old Gods we were forced to read about in high school and breathing new and hip life into them. Do they use the term hip anymore?? Well, whatever term the kids use, these books are it! Percy, Annabeth (The daughter of Athena and a mortal man) Grover the satyr and all the kids at Camp Half-Blood will take readers on a chariot ride jam-packed with gods, monsters, pens that become swords, laughter, sadness, close calls and first kisses. And just like Mister Potter, the Percy Jackson books are also in the Accelerated Reader program.

The Hunger Games Trilogy

The story of Katniss Everdeen, a sixteen year-old girl who lives in the post-apocalyptic nation of Panem, where the countries of North America once were, will move your tween - or teen - or even you to tears. Then, before your cheeks are dry, you find yourself cheering Katniss on as she steps in for her younger sister to participate in the Hunger Games, a yearly televised event where participants aged twelve to eighteen, from every district of Panem, engage in a battle where only one can survive. These three books will have you gasping, laughing, weeping and, at times, sitting in stunned silence. Written by Suzanne Collins, the trilogy moves through the story of Katniss, but also addresses the unrest that is bubbling up in the Districts that surrounds the Capitol. Katniss, Peeta, Gayle and Haymitch will become beloved friends as you race, and I do mean race, to turn the pages. The books have an incredibly compelling life-or-death plot. They are wildly entertaining and at times disturbing. I do wish to point out that the books deal with a very violent premise - teens forced to fight each other to the death to survive using whatever means are necessary. There is very little physical romance. I have seen some comments about the violence, which would probably be rated PG-13 nowadays, but I did want to mention that in case any parent may have qualms. I myself had no problem letting my daughter read them, but others may. The Hunger Games are also included in the Accelerated Readers program.

For more information on the AR program.

To find which books are on the AR list.


And that wraps up my Word of Mouth for Kids reviews. I hope they`ve helped folks find a book, or two or even three, for their children or grandchildren for the upcoming holidays. As you can tell I am an avid voice for reading to your children and encouraging a love of reading early in their lives. In this day and age of text talk and Twitter, where the attention span of kids seems to get taxed if they go over a hundred and forty characters, reading is more important than ever. So I`ll leave you with a quote from Ronald Dahl`s book ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ that you may, or may not, agree with.

“So please, oh PLEASE, we beg, we pray

Go throw your TV set away

And in its place you can install

A lovely bookshelf on the wall.”

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Genetics of Peeking, Shaking & Poking

I`ve been pondering on genetics lately. And no, not any in-depth pondering like the kind those scientists do in their sterile labs. They probably call their pondering ‘Theorizing’ but it all means the same thing, which is, someone standing around with a fresh cup of java and a blank look on their face as they meander mentally. If you live with me that airy expression is a familiar one. I drift off all the time. During dinner my husband or daughter will snap their fingers in front of me and I`ll jerk back to the meal, a sheepish smile on my face and mutter something about plotlines or dialog.

My latest drift-off from reality occurred this morning and is directly related to Alvin and the Chipmunks and new proof that present peeking is inherited. Okay, sure, it`s a leap from DNA to singing rodents, but stick with me, I`ll get things sorted out soon. What began this sojourn was a link a friend of mine posted on Facebook. It was that classic (We don`t use old in this house. Classic sounds so much more elegant, don`t you think?) Chipmunk`s tune ‘The Christmas Song’. Does anyone know if Alvin ever got his hula-hoop?

Seeing and hearing that song took me back in a flash to my childhood. I went back in time to when I was perhaps eight. All I wanted was ‘The Chipmunks’ album. For those of you who, like my fifteen year-old daughter, do not know what an album is, it is a record. A record is a round bit of hard vinyl that when the needle of a record player was placed upon it, music issued forth through some terrible speakers. Yes, the sound quality was abysmal and the records got scratched terribly and leaped about or stuck, but neither we kids nor the brontosaurus that grazed outside the windows of our cave seemed to mind.

So, there I was, the morning of Christmas. I was the only one awake and what to my wandering eyes did appear, but a package under the tree that resembled an album! I have to assume it was probably around three in the morning, or some hour equally as ghastly to adults. I crept closer, lifted the record-shaped package and peeled the paper from it as carefully as I could. There, smiling back at me were Alvin, Simon and Theodore. I was beyond delighted!

Then, I stuck the tape back down, stashed it back among the other gifts and high-tailed it back upstairs. As I waited for my mother to wake up, something weird started to happen. The high of knowing what I had gotten began to diminish. I had become a Peeker even though the name tag had stated strongly not to. I can`t recall what else I got that year, or if my mother knew I had peeked although I`m sure she did. We mom`s know all. I had learned a lesson that dark Christmas morn. I would never again allow my genetic disposition to ruin a surprise! We won`t dally discussing any other part of my disposition, but rest assured it`s always sunny.

A few years have passed since I learned my lesson about peeking, poking and prodding. I now do not want to know what I`m getting before I open the gift. I also do not want to know the ending of a movie or book ahead of time, so please friends, don`t tell me! My husband also suffers from this malady. According to my mother-in-law, he has always been this way. His skills are so advanced and honed over time that he can tell the material a garment is made out of without shaking or poking, or so he claims. Perhaps he is a mutant with an X-gene?? Since I haven`t seen any spandex stashed in our closet I have to assume not. Darn shame, that is. I could get into hanging out with Wolverine.

Now it seems my daughter has inherited this most dreaded of holiday genes. I cannot prove that she is wound up in clandestine holiday nosing around but I have some scientifically based suspicions. Last night I moseyed into her room, to play a bit of X-Box, and there on her desk was a big chocolate bar that we had bought for one of her friends. My right eyebrow rose. She had asked about it earlier in the day and at the time I was busy, so I told her I`d dig it out before bedtime, since it was in the bags that contained her and her father`s presents.

“I see you found that candy bar for Samantha,” I said with suspicion. She looked up from her Spanish worksheet and a halo popped up over her golden head. I was nearly blinded by her innocence.

“Oh yeah,” she commented nonchalantly, her eyes going from the candy bar to me then back to her Spanish homework.

“And what else did you find in the bag that was in?” I asked and folded my arms over my chest.

“Nothing,” she quickly replied. Perhaps TOO quickly I wondered? “I only looked for Sam`s gift.”

“Uh-huh,” I mumbled.

I sighed and sat down. Honestly, she was doomed from the start. Not only did she inherit poor eyesight, her grandmother`s toes, her mother`s love of pierogies and her father`s nose, it seems she also got the Peeker gene. I had been hoping it would skip a generation or at least be recessive. Oh well, it could be worse I suppose. She could have inherited my husband’s Must-Control-The-Remote gene. Or does that genome only get passed to male offspring?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Madame Poe`s Inspirational Rumble-belly

Ah the joy of owing dogs. Sometimes our canine friends can give us inspiration even when they`re being as bad as a dog can be. Case in point - our thirteen year old yellow Lab, Poe, who suffers from hip dysplasia and yet can manage to find ways to get herself in trouble as if she were still a pup! Yesterday morning our Grand Dame went outside in the wee hours to heed Mother Nature`s call, along with our other two dogs, Trinity, our black Lab, and Tinker, our beagle. It was very early, perhaps ten after four, and I had yet to get my zombie cure into me. As I sipped on coffee the dogs were out doing what dogs do, which, in this instance, is climbing onto the picnic table and dumping a large tub containing deer scraps onto the ground.

It`s deer rifle season here in Pennsylvania, and my brother-in-law had bagged a doe on Saturday. Thankfully all the entrails had been left in the woods, but all the other assorted renderings from rib cages to fat, had been tossed into a large blue barrel by my husband and my brother-in-law. The hide would be sold for a few bucks (There`s a witty pun in there somewhere) and the rest were to be taken on the mountain for the skunks, opossums and raccoons to find. There is very little for the wildlife left now.

It seems our old, arthritic dog, the same one that needs help getting into our truck, found the fortitude to climb onto the picnic table and scatter a feast, not only for herself, but for the other dogs as well. Of course, while this was occurring, I was staring at the walls, hair askew, trying to get as much java into me as I could as quickly as I could. After realizing how long they had been gone, I started calling and finally the pack came back to the house, all licking their lips. When the sun rose, and my brain was filled with the rush of coffee, I saw the scattered offerings and sighed. I knew someone would pay the piper. When Mister got home, I showed him the carnage and he argued up and down that it must have been a bear. Poe was too old to climb up on the table as she had done many times in her younger days.

After careful crime scene investigation, the muddy dog prints on the top of the table showed my spouse inconclusively that it was a dog, and a large dog, that done did the deed!

Sure as shooting, Madame Poe has a terrible case of rumble-belly this morning. You know the sound of a gut churning and rolling over itself? It was that grumbling sound, accompanied by Madame Poe scrubbing on the hallway walls (Don`t ask, it`s something she has done for years when she wants out) that both my husband and I woke up to this morning. I have scolded the dog, myself and my husband soundly. But this morning, as I was drinking my zombie cure, I had a thought. Given the hour, I was impressed by having a thought at all, let alone a deep one! As Madame Poe`s belly gurgled and bubbled it came to me that even though the old girl had been very bad, she also has shown me something pretty important.

She has shown me that despite her age, her sore hips and arthritic joints that she is still willing to climb to reach her goals. She isn`t letting a little thing like old age stop her from getting what she wants, even if what she wants makes her suffer afterwards. This member of the silver-muzzle clan was determined not to let her age impede her. That`s a lesson I think many of us who are now over the fifty birthday candles milestone can take to heart. Just because it might take us longer to get to the top of the table then it used to doesn`t mean we shouldn`t try.

Thank you, Madame Poe, and your rumble-belly, for reminding me to never give up scaling the picnic tables of life.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Word of Mouth for Kids - Goddess Girls

I hear jingle-bells! Must be the holiday season is coming on fast and furious, so I`ll leap into another seasonal recommendation for young readers! This time I`ll pass some word of mouth about a truly delightful series for girls in the eight to twelve year range called ‘Goddess Girls’, written by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams.

This series came to my attention, as so many books do, when my dear Indie bookstore owner, Kasey, showed them to me one night at a writers group at her store, which can be found here if you wish to stop in and visit From My Shelf Books.

She placed them on the table and said “Why didn`t we think of this?” and after reading six of the books so far, I`m asking myself the same question! The series is about the Greek gods, but they`ve been made over and now are young kids, most under the age of thirteen, who attend Mount Olympus Academy.

Principal Zeus oversees the academy with his staff, which include among other mythological creatures, a Cyclops that teaches Hero-ology! There are other classes of course, like Beauty-ology, Beast-ology and Revenge-ology, since we all know how well trained Greek goddess are in revenge spells! All the Gods are there, Athena, Ares, Apollo, Hephaestus, Dionysus and the list goes on and on!

Each book is aimed at young girls and delivers a strong message. In ‘Athena the Brain’ Athena, the smartest girl at MOA, has to learn how to deal with being the new GG (Goddess Girl) in school and how to handle the meanest girl in history – Medusa. In ‘Persephone the Phony’ Persephone learns that going along just to fit in isn`t always the best way to live one’s life. ‘Aphrodite the Beauty’ finds out that sometimes the godboy who`s the cutest and strongest (Ares) isn`t always better than the godboy who is gentle, fun and kind yet uses a cane (Hephaestus). ‘Artemis the Brave’ worries about living up to being called ‘The Brave One’ even though she feels fear when facing Minotaur’s and the smelly Geryon in Beast-ology class. Of course, Artemis discovers the bravery inside her at the end, and also figures out that some godboys, Orion in this case, are just a lot of flash and starry eyes!

I cannot speak highly enough of this series! They are clever and witty, fun and filled with adventure, and are chocked right full of Greek mythos! Anytime a writer (Or in this case, writers) can find a new way to bring the Greek pantheon to life and make it appealing to kids, I am the first to leap into my chariot and ride across the sky announcing it to the mortals below. Ms. Holub and Ms. Williams add a perfect touch to each Goddess Girl, making them relatable and likeable. They each have their own problems and are trying to come to grips with having funny and odd feelings about the godboys in their class, yet, the girls are their own Goddesses, and romance doesn`t overshadow the tone of the books. Well, aside from Aphrodite, but when she and Isis get into a contest to see who the real Goddess of Love is, romance will have to win out, right?

If you have a young lady between the ages of eight and twelve, I think she will love the Goddess Girls series as much as I do!