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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

My Sweet Lil Fifties Rig is Undergoing Surgery...

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Happy Halloween, dear readers!

People often inquire about my writing studio camper (which you can get a photo tour of here).  Well, sadly it got some water damage (all my fault for not keeping it properly sealed), and now it's going to undergo some minor surgery.  My poor, sweet lil fifties rig...

For a while I was trying desperately to find someone who had experience repairing vintage trailers... and I heard of a lady named April-- a vintage camper expert right here in Fort Collins.


I looked and looked and googled and googled couldn't get any contact info for her.  I was just googling her one day (unsuccessfully, again), when I got dejected and hungry and brought Lil Dude to a pizza place a few blocks away to pick up some pizza.  As I was at the counter, I noticed a business card lying there...

and it had a picture of an adorable vintage camper on it!!!

My heart started pounding, and I said to the lady next to me, "Excuse me, but is this your business card?"

Her: "Yup."

Me (heart really pounding now): "By any chance do you repair vintage trailers?"

Her: "Yup."

Me (heart really, really pounding now):  "Um, by any chance is your name April?"

Her (a little freaked out, maybe): "Yup."

Me:  "Oh my gosh!  Oh my gosh!  I've been looking for you for months!  I was just googling you!  Oh my gosh!"

So yes, my heart was about to explode with serendipity and joy...

and once she realized that despite appearances, I wasn't actually crazy, she agreed to look at my camper.  And she did (she's so delightful and smart and knowledgeable... my lil rig is in such good hands with her.)  She's going to start working on her (my trailer being feminine, she informed me) soon, and I'm so excited!

I've been scouring Pinterest for inspiration for redoing my camper, finding all kinds of cool ideas.  Since we had a renovation done in our house, and I now have an actual writing studio inside, I decided to repurpose my trailer to be a technology-free creative space where I can read, make art, write, dream, drink tea, and sometimes, maybe, doze a bit among plentiful pillows.  And if my Lil Dude promises to be mellow (ie, no ninja moves inside), I'll invite him to join me for a spot of tea or some water-coloring or a good picture book.

Speaking of ninjas, that's what Lil Dude will be for Halloween-- a Red Cobra Ninja-- and now I must make dinner so we can eat and then carve our pumpkin.  May you have a super-spooky, HAPPY Halloween!


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

One Book One Unionville: The Queen of Water!

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The Queen of Water inspired art by student Terner Thompson

Hey, guys!

Just got back from an author visit to Unionville, Pennsylvania for their One Book, One Unionville program.  I was honored that they chose The Queen of Water for their first year!  The program was initiated by teachers at the high school, and they did a great job of getting the entire school and community excited about the book. 

I gave two assembly presentations for students, giving a behind-the-scenes look at the book, and then did a third presentation in the evening for community members.  I loved everyone's enthusiasm and insightful comments and questions... such a treat for me!

The goal of the program was to "promote student success by instituting a new academic tradition, creating a sense of belonging through shared experiences, providing opportunities for school and community interactions, and encouraging students to further reflect on citizenship and engagement."

The high school students and faculty read the book over the summer, and then had discussions and projects related to the book.  I also did two Skype visits with community members at the local public library.  The program was well-publicized through the town's newspaper, and a number of book clubs chose to read and discuss the book. My visit was the culmination of months of reading and discussing the book.

I was thrilled and a little nervous that Queen would be the first book of the new program-- I really wanted it to be successful so that the community would continue with this program for years to come.  Thankfully, the feedback was really positive about the book selection and my presentations... I'm excited to see what book they choose for next year!

One of the coolest parts for me was to talk with readers and see how they connected with the book.  

Student Terner Thompson did this amazing illustration, inspired by the end of the book. He wants to be an animator.  I think he'd make an incredible one, judging by this masterpiece. 

In the school library with wonderful administrators and the talented Terner

with the delightful librarian Diane (who styled her hair and chose her pretty water-themed blouse just for my visit!) She presented me with this gorgeous book on Longwoods Gardens.

Awesome student projects were hung around the library... I always love seeing interesting activities that teachers come up with and the creative ways students approach them.

Zoom in on the above pic, and you'll see this great scene with Cheetah the goat fending off angry dogs! Love this!

And another close-up-- such a beautiful drawing. My interpretation is that it's young Virginia curled up on the sheepskin rug that she imagines is Cheetah. That's the night when she first comes to the Doctorita's house and is feeling lonely and scared.

I have to admit, I get a little thrill when I see the words "The Queen of Water: The Movie."  This student cast Salma Hayek as the Doctorita-- she's a great actress, so I think she'd be able to pull it off.  Ah, maybe one day....

Here's a close-up of part of a project-- I thought it was so cute-- Virginia on the forbidden red sofa watching the forbidden MacGyver, hahaha!

This newspaper activity looked fun... there's an article about the winner of the Queen competition, as well as a review of the Hotel Otavalo, MacGyver gossip, and new classes at the Republica de Ecuador school.  

Thank you, Unionville, for your warm welcome!  I was so impressed with your great energy, and wish you lots of luck with future One Book One Unionville programs!


P.S. I wasn't sure who to credit for the above student projects and artwork, but if you see yours, let me know, and I'll credit you in the caption!  ;-)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Making Tortillas with my Lil Dude

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Hi guys,

Happy fall to you!  

I want to share with you one of my 6-year-old's all-time favorite books, which inspired our recent tortilla-making:

written by Pat Mora and illustrated by Rafael Lopez

It's a gorgeous, colorful book of haiku poetry about foods native to the Americas.  My Lil Dude knows many of the poems by heart now.  It's interesting how he often *thinks* he likes the Ninjago, Star Wars, Hotwheels, etc books best, but he doesn't actually enjoy them (and they're really painful for me to read-- there's not even an author-- it's like they're one big commercial-- unfortunately, he brings them home from school.)

This book, Yum! Mmmm!  Que Rico!, on the other hand, feels warm and happy and delicious, and has been a bonding night-time read over the years.  The other day, Lil Dude said he wanted to make tortillas.  (He has such a beautiful Spanish accent, it gives me shivers.) 

So I got some mazeca (corn flour with the mineral lime) from Safeway and followed the directions on the box (basically adding a little water.)  Instead of a tortilla press, we just used two smallish wooden cutting boards.  We used cut-out circles from plastic Safeway bags so the maza (dough) wouldn't stick.  Then we cooked them, without oil, on a cast iron skillet, and within minutes, we had tortillas!

For me, the whole process was a delicious flashback to my years in Oaxaca, helping make tortillas in smoky kitchens in Mixtec and Mazatec villages.  And it was so, so easy-- and so much fun for my son-- I can't believe we don't do this more often!

Our tortillas turned out small, like the ones we had in Guatemala on our visits as part of the adoption process. We brought our son home when he was 9 months old, and I'm sure he had bits of home made tortillas for those last couple months in Guatemala... I wonder if he has some vague taste-memory of them.

Speaking of my Lil Dude, he wants me to watch Alvin and the Chipmunks with him for the twentieth time now... and unbelievably, somehow those piercing, nasal voices are growing on me...