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Friday, August 30, 2013

More Extreme Cuteness (of the Wee Library Variety)

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Have you guys seen any mini libraries in your neighborhood?  A new one just popped up down the block from me!  Voila:

*If you click the image to enlarge, you'll see one of my books that I exchanged for Barbara Kingsolver's Small Wonders.*

Are these not adorable?!

The concept is this: You make a tiny, waterproof house and stick it in your front yard with a sign encouraging neighbors to borrow and donate books.

Here's the website of the Little Free Library movement, with instructions on how to build our own (and officially register it if you wish). And here is the mission:
  • To promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide.
  • To build a sense of community as we share skills, creativity and wisdom across generations.

I'm hooked!  I want to do this with Ian and Little Dude sometime soon.  Maybe we could retrofit a large birdhouse or something... hmmm... I'll keep you posted.  In the meantime, happy reading to all...


Friday, August 23, 2013

Cute as an Exploding Cupcake

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May I introduce you to the newest member of our family... 

Princess Wilma the Beagle!

About a month ago, I marched into the local shelter-- Animal House-- and said, "Give me your gentlest, sweetest, most kid-friendly dog. Small but not too small. Playful but not pushy.  Cuddly but not slobbery...."  My demands went on for a while, and at the end of my little monologue, the woman at the desk said, 

"Wilma's the dog for you!"

And she is! She's perfect.  
(Well, we did discover a few minor imperfections, like wanting to be near us all the time, 
but we discovered those after falling in love with her.)

She's a rescue dog, about three years old, and we don't know much about her background except that she came from Arkansas.

Nope, those aren't real angel wings or fairy wings.... 
I was trying out her outfit for the Tour de Fat coming up in Ft Collins-- 
awesome, giant, zany-costume-filled bike parade that passes right by our house.

My Lil Dude is enamored of Wilma, utterly and completely.  He waxes poetic about her.
"Mommy!  Wilma's as cute as an exploding cupcake!"

(She is indeed as sweet as a cupcake... the exploding part comes with 6-year-old boy
 territory-- you know, explosions are just.... the bomb... for them, hehehe.  
The icing on the cake.  Anything is better with an explosion...

Hope these back-to-school days are treating you well!


P.S.  Boulder friends-- I'll be at the Boulder Bookstore on what's sure to be a lively panel with author buddies Jeannie Mobley, Melanie Crowder, and Jenny Goebel on THURS OCT 3, 2013 at 6:30. Come hang out with us!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Oh, Serendipity, I love you!

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 Canvas Bowtop wagon, photo credit: Charlie Cox of The Irish Rose Farm

So, a couple weeks ago, we got a sweet little 3-year-old beagle named Wilma from the shelter (photos of Wilma to come in another post soon!)  Lil Dude and I brought her to the Farmer's Market last Saturday. You know how dogs almost magically introduce you to all kinds of interesting people?

Well, Charlie Cox was one of these people!  At his farm stand, he struck up conversation with me about Wilma and beagles... and one topic led to another... and next thing I know, he's showing me photos of his AUTHENTIC GYPSY WAGONS on his cell phone!

It just so happens that all summer, I've been researching all things Gypsy/Roma/Romany/Rom for a new book! Don't you love serendipity?!


I've got piles of books and CD's and DVD's about the Romany-- which are great and all, but I always crave real-life, in-person stuff when I'm doing research.  I like talking to people, going places, interacting, getting a completely multi-sensory experience so that I can make scenes come alive for readers.

Anyway, Charlie very kindly invited me out to his farm/ranch in north Fort Collins-- the Irish Rose Farm-- just a twenty minute drive from my house. He and his wife breed, show, train, and sell Irish Cobs, including "Gypsy horses," which led them to an interest in Gypsy wagons.

I drove out to his farm (so peaceful and beautiful) and discovered that this man is a sparkling treasure trove of knowledge about the Romany-- I felt like I'd just won the lottery, in terms of book research.  I love talking with passionate experts, listening to their stories, scribbling notes wildly in a little notebook.  Major research adrenalin rush.

Charlie has two Romany vardo (wagons), which he acquired in Ireland and had shipped here to the foothills of the Rockies.  (One of the deals was sealed by spitting into palms and shaking hands, Romany style.)

This one is called a Canvas Bowtop, built in the early1900's (1930's, I think). Charlie and his wife, Jan, take this to festivals in the region, showing how it's pulled by one of their Gypsy horses.

photo credit: Charlie Cox, Irish Rose Farm

Inside of the Bowtop, repainted in the 1980s.

 this is the front of the wagon-- driver perches on that little ledge

Detail-- this artist, Tom Stephenson, used a fruit motif

pretty scrollwork in classic Irish Romany colors

In the far back is the sleeping area-- a slide-out bed; the cast iron stove is for heating tea and giving warmth.

Charlie's other vardo is under renovation now.  It's a Burton Wagon, aka a Showman's wagon, built in 1914. The14 layers of paint were in bad shape, so he's stripping it and repainting it in Romany style.

Fascinating, no?!  I was captivated.  (For links to more pics, you can go to Charlie's website-- Irish Rose Farm.)  Thanks for swinging by!  Hope you enjoyed this little glimpse of my research-in-progress...