Thursday, October 23, 2008

What Would You Do With Two Burros?

New York Times posted a story of a Columbian elementary school teacher that packs up his two burros with books every weekend, and treks to a distant village in order to bring a little literacy and education to his area of the world. Brings new meaning to the BookMobile, or as he calls it, "BiblioBurro." Check it out. He's truly inspirational.

What would you do with two burros?
Assuming I had room to house two burros, I could use them to mow my lawn, or plow my road in the winter. My husband could ride one to work. That would save on gas and be better for the environment. They could be fun to sketch, but who am I kidding, I don't even sketch my cat.

My fantasy burros would be Greek (of course!) wearing worry beads around they're necks. I'd have to plant olive and lemon trees for them to munch on. They'd take long naps in the afternoon and Greek dance around the yard till the wee hours of the morning. Oh, wait! I already live with three Greek burros!

What would you do with two burros?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

See Our TV Splash

My apologies—the technilogical aspects of posting this last weekend didn't work out, especially when your sweet husband forgets to pack the wireless card! Ah, well.

We made it to Taunton, MA safely this year (last year was the road trip from hell) and arrived around 5 am on Thursday, Aug. 21st. It was still dark out. Our crew consisted of myself, hubby, college boy and middle school boy. Around 5:30 a group of carowners arrived as scheduled at the boat ramp on Lake Sabbatia for our debut on Good Morning, America.

The satellite truck and crew were already there. The lake was gor-jush that morning, just as smooth as silk. Here's the pontoon boat that the cameraman would later film from.

It was great fun to watch the TV crew set-up. I'm not sure why they wanted us there at 5:30 when they didn't air until 7 am, but it was entertaining none-the-less. Sam Champion showed up a little later. I hadn't watched GMA since Spencer Christian was the weatherman (yes, I know that was eons ago), so I had no idea what Sam Champion looked like. But I knew the second I saw him; he had the hair!

Watching him prepare for the broadcast was interesting. He had his little earpiece in, and stood there studying some papers, probably weather reports from around the nation. Then, out of the blue, he would start laughing or say some random comment, like, "Strawberrry Rice Krispies," and nod. I wanted to hear the other side of that conversation!

As it became lighter out, people stopped, attracted by the satellite truck and armada of amphicars. I heard several comments, "I'm going to be late for work," and "I was suppose to be there an hour ago."

A minute before air time, the producer, Darcy, would holler out for everyone to be quiet on the set and we all held our breath. And held our breath. And held our breath. Apparently we were waiting for the news to be read, then Sam jumped in with a ten second forecast. I was amazed at the amount of information he could rattle of in so little time. And that he could remember it all! There may have been a tele-prompter there, but I didn't see one. Even if there was, he didn't have time to look at it.

After the 7:30 report, we lined our cars up—12 in all—to get ready for our splash-in at 8 am.

During that time, Darcy had us surround one car and practice our group wave. Dorky, but fun. You can see a quick clip of that here.

I don't have a photo of the splash-in because I was obviously in the car. If I had one, you would see a large spray of water in front of the car, and water sloshing over the back onto my lap. This is not what other back seat passengers endured, only me!

After we splashed in, we drove around for a bit. Here's a great shot showing all four of the original colors the amphicars were sold in—mint green in the back, ivory, lagoon blue, and red.

Here's our boy Sam taking Ron Green's (International Amphicar Owners Club President) navy car for a test drive. He did okay, but really, he just went in circles.

After the shoot was over, we all drove around for a bit longer. Here were two of the best passengers of the day. Not the adults sitting up in front, but the two dogs sitting in the back seat. They were so good, you'd swear they were statues.

Then the real fun began!

Unfortunately, Lake Sabbatia has some type of weed growing in its waters. They wind around the props and make it hard to turn. Sometimes we drive out and the front bumper looks like a mustache, there are so many. We definitely remove those before we head north to New Hampshire. We don't want those growing around here.

By 9:30, we were on the road looking for some breakfast. Stopped at McDonald's and some people there recognized us from the show!

Have you read this far? Here's a clip from Good Morning America. Right after you hear Sam say, "They really do look like little cars out there," you will see us in our car. I am in the back seat (you can miss the white hair), middle school boy is next to me. Hubby is driving and college boy is co-captain. I'm sorry, I couldn't figure out how to imbed it the blog post. (Anyone?)

You can see more videos on my son's website, Amphicar Ventures, or on YouTube. I'll post more later about the rest of the trip.

But I'm a fan of Sam's now. The perfect hair and teeth belie the fact that he is warm and generous. Was it worth getting up at 1:30 am to drive there? You bet.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

TV or Bust?

We're taking the family on the road and leaving tonight (tomorrow morning actually) for Taunton, MA for the 2nd annual Taunton Swim-In. What is a Swim-In you ask? It's where Amphicar lovers converge on an unsuspecting lakeside community and invade their waters with our bobbing cars. Great fun!

And this year, Good Morning America promises to be filming during the weather reports tomorrow (Thursday) morning. If you keep a sharp eye out, you may see my husband's car splashing in. It's baby blue (lagoon blue to amphicar aficionados) but there may be other baby blue cars so . . . .

If hope to blog all weekend, technology willing. Other activities will include a spin to Cape Cod, a car show, a pig roast and spectacular fireworks over the lake. If you want more amphi-information, go to my son's website at

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

New at the Gallery

We had a rotation recently at the gallery so my work has moved to a new location. As usual, I have original framed art, notecards, prints, and books available.

The Parrot is an image new to the gallery. It measures approximately 30" x 22" x 4".

These woven flower baskets are new too. So many people that enter the gallery are looking for something inexpensive to take home and these fit the bill. They measure about 4" and cost $15.95.

Monday, July 14, 2008

On Writing Difficult Scenes

For the record, I have been keeping up everyday with WFMAD, Laurie Halse Anderson's writing challenge for the month of July. Some days I only write 100 words but that's okay. I've added over 5,000 words so far and that's 5,000 more than I would have had without WFMAD.

Here's a trick that helps me to want to write the next day—leave off in a place where you know what's going to happen next. That way you're not facing a blank page hoping your muse will show up.

So the other day I was writing a particularly difficult scene. By that I mean it was difficult for the main character, not for me as the writer because I was sitting someplace cushy, probably munching on something yummy. And yet it was difficult for me to put my character through that. It physically affected my body—I was tense and literally felt ill to my stomach. As a writer or an illustrator, these are the emotions I'm hoping to get across in my work. Whether I succeed or not is something for you to judge.

I'm one of those writers that finds it difficult to put my character in harm's way, but I'm working on it. I heard Bruce Coville speak at a NESCBWI conference and he is the master of this. From the way he spoke, I would venture to say that he relishes getting his characters in trouble. So I try to remember his glee when I need to do something bad to my MC.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

My Day at the Farm Museum

Yesterday I had a reading and signing at the NH Farm Museum, which was great fun. It was part of their Children's Day and the weather was beautiful. I had tons of people show up for the reading in the barn and we had to get more chairs. A good problem, no?

I didn't take the time for the whole museum tour (mostly because my family went boating for the day without me and I was missing them) but what I saw was great. They had buttermaking, cheesemaking, basket making, a blacksmith, and many interactive things for kids to play with—a cornmeal grinder, and old-fashioned washing machine (snicker), a tool sharpener, weaving loom, etc.

My favorite things there were the chickens running around everywhere and the mules pulling the hay ride. Also watching the sack race, and the kids trying to get those wooden hoops to roll. Hilarious! A great place to bring the kiddos!

Hey, Elm Street School!
I want to give a shout out to the students at Elm Street School. I visited them just before the end of the year, and I have to say, they were the greatest group of kids I have had the pleasure of presenting to. They were great fun and full of good questions. Actually, I am partial to the fourth graders there as I had presented to them the week before at the Belknap Mill Hosiery Mill program. Here I am showing them the original jacket art from Carrot in My Pocket.
Here I am showing them the cover. (Note to self: don't wear beigey clothes if you want good pictures.)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Events This Summer

I'll be appearing/speaking/reading/signing at three events this summer.

The first is this Saturday, July 12th at the New Hampshire Farm Museum in Milton, NH. At 11:30 I'll be reading my book, The Legend of the Old Man of the Mountain and signing copies of all my books. This is part of their Children's Day on the Farm Weekend, July 12-13 from 10-4, and will include farm games, hayrides and more. Call 652-7840 for more information and directions. Sounds like fun!

Next, I'll be at Toadstool Bookshop, located in the Colony Mill Marketplace in Keene, NH, on Saturday, July 19th at 2:00 pm. I'll be demonstrating my paper sculpture technique and answering any questions you may have. I'll also have one or two piece of finished art on display, so come around for visit if you're in the area. Oh, and books will be for sale (duh! it's a bookstore!)

Lastly, I'll be demonstrating and signing at the Artistic Roots Art Gallery & Teaching Center on August 2nd for their 4th Anniversary Celebration. I'll be demonstrating from 12-2 and signing books just prior to that. My original art is on display there year round. Call 726-7101 for more information.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Thinking of you, Pépère!

My post yesterday about the Belknap Mill started me thinking of my grandfather or, as we of Franco-American heritage call our grandfathers, Pépère. His name was Alcide Cormier and he went on to start his own hosiery mill, Cormier Hosiery Mill in Laconia, NH.

This photo was taken in 1914 when he was about 17 years old. He's standing in front of a row of knitting machines but this was typically girl's work (yes, they were very sexist in those days.) He was probably a turner boy, which were young boys that turned the socks inside or right side out, depending on what was needed. At 17, Pépère's job would not have been one of great skill or importance, but knowing him, he was taking it all in. The row of ladies near the window were probably mending or finishing the socks.

I'm not exactly sure which mill this was taken in, maybe the Busiel mill, or one of the many other mills that lined the river, but I'm pretty sure it was not the Belknap Mill.

I am currently researching my grandfather and his mills, so if you knew him or ever worked for him, I would love to hear from you.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Where Do You Live? Day 7

This is my favorite historic building in town. Not because of its looks (the library and train depot are more my taste in architecture) but because of its rich cultural history and my family's connection to it. This is the Historic Belknap Mill, a former hosiery mill, built in 1823.

My family is French-Canadian, and when times were tough in Québec, they headed south to work in the mills. My mother's family settled in Laconia and worked at the many mills that lined the river. My Dad's family settled in Manchester, NH and worked at the great Amoskeag Mills, at one time, the largest textile mill in the world.
This is a picture of the Busiel Mill next door. It currently houses offices. And beyond that is city hall.
The Belknap and Busiel Mills are one of New Hampshire's most prized landmarks. They are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Every spring the mill runs a program for school kids called "My First Day of Work in a Mill". From the Belknap Mill's website: "We take the children back to 1918, when production was at its peak, and the Belknap Mill was shipping socks overseas to soldiers fighting in the trenches. Children take on the identities of people who worked in this mill and learn the different jobs to make the socks. In addition to taking pride in their heritage and practicing good management and teamwork, they also learn business applications they can use for the rest of their lives."

I love this program and I've been volunteering there for three years now. I've graduated from a tour guide to a role player. I have a BLAST with those kids! I love chatting them up with what little French I know and see their little faces scrunch up, "huh?"

This pathway runs between the buildings. I wonder where it goes? Let's go see.
It leads to this bridge that crosses the Winnipesaukee river. In the back is Avery Dam. Across the river is Avery Hill, also known as French hill because that's where the French-Canadians settled. Every morning the mill would ring its bell, typically at sunrise, to let workers know it was time to report to work. They would walk down the hill and return at sunset.
Turning your head in the opposite direction, you would see another old mill, still being used by various manufacturing concerns. The grassy area next it it is now called Stewart Park, but was the site of Cormier Hosiery Mill, started by my grandfather, Alcide Cormier in 1939. He started out as a turner boy working in one of the other mills and learned the trade through years of hard work.
Here's the Gazebo built behind the mill where they have summer concerts. Inside the mill is an art gallery, concert hall and the only industrial knitting museum in the United States.

If you take a walk between city hall and the Busiel mill you will find these odd contraptions. They are sluice gates that used to let water through canals that ran under the mills to the turbines that would power them.

Here's a close up of the area behind the sluice gates. It's hard to make out, but if you look carefully to the right of the door, you will see bricks that form an archway. It used to be open below that and the water would run under the building there. When the Busiel mill was through with the water, it kept going onto the Belknap Mill and through their turbine. If you visit, the Belknap Mill still has their turbine set up.

The aerial shot was taken by Bill Hemmell of Lakes Region Aerial Photo. The building at the top is city hall, in the middle is the Busiel Mill, then the Belknap Mill at the bottom. You can see the pedestrian bridge and Avery dam above it. At the bottom center, you can barely see the gazebo.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Where Do You Live? Day 6

Here's the beautiful Laconia Passenger Station. It was built in 1892 and home to the Boston & Maine Railroad (Laconia station) until the 1960s. New York architect Bradford Lee Gilbert designed the building in the Romanesque Revival style. It's situated in the same square where the library is located. It currently houses a couple of restaurants and a bank branch. Check out this website which has a pretty extensive history of the building. Be sure to click on all the tabs at the top.

This amazing aerial shot was taken by Bill Hemmel of Lakes Region Aerial Photo.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Where Do You Live? Day 5

Here's is the old Laconia Car Company factory turned into office and restaurant space. It was founded by Charles Ranlet in 1848 and became the largest manufacturer in the area. They manufactured freight and passenger cars for trains, and later electric streetcars and trolleys. There are still a few examples being used or in existance today. Check this website for a more detailed history and some photos of the cars.
This is what it looked like in its heyday. From The Illustrated Laconian: History and Industries of Laconia, N.H and Google Book Search, published in 1899. Some of these buildings are still standing and have been repurposed. Another image can be seen at this website from 1892, a more expanded view.
On Another Note . . .
I am happy to report that I've been keeping up my commitment of writing 15 minutes each day (WFMAD) and my WIP is 1100 words the better for it. But hey . . . it's only been 3 days.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Where Do You Live? Day 4

One of my favorite places is the Laconia Public Library. Shouldn't everyone's library look like this? I think so. The children's librarian, Gail Drucker, is the president of the Denise Ortakales Fan Club. Of course, she's the ONLY member but . . . hey . . . say hi to her if you visit.

The library was built in 1903 in the Romaesque Revival Style. They say that there's a ghost that lives there, a former patron that hadn't returned his library books before he died. Now he is doomed the try to return them for eternity. Bwaaa, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!

Oh, yes, I have original art work from some of my books displayed there, too! In the children's section, of course.

This amazing aerial shot was taken by Bill Hemmel of Lakes Region Aerial Photo. It shows the new addition which is in back and around the corner from the previous photo. I think the new addition looks pretty nice. Much better than the freakish 1960s box that used to be there. See that roundish thing in the back? It's the fountain where my husband and I had our photos taken the day of our wedding. Awwwww!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Two Challenges

The Pirate Code of Writing
The first challenge has been put forth by Laurie Halse Anderson. It's simple, merely write for 15 minutes a day for the month of July (or WFMAD). The whole idea is that it takes about 21 days before something becomes a habit. So our goal is to create a new, good writing habit. See more at her blog, Mad Woman in the Forest. I am happy to say that I've met my goal for today. I typically don't have a good track record for these kind of things but I keep trying.

Second Challenge
Cindy Lord has a challenge on her blog to show a picture of your city every day for a week. I know I'm two days late but I've included extra to make up for it. Here's a list of other bloggers joining in the fun. Enjoy!

Day1, Day 2 & Day 3
Here's three days rolled into one. I live in the beautiful Lakes Region of New Hampshire. If you're wondering why it's called the Lakes Region, take a look at the aerial photo on the City of Laconia's website. The land is like stepping stones across an expanse of water. It was taken by Bill Hemmel of Lakes Region Aerial Photo.

Last weekend, which happened to be motorcycle weekend, my hubby and son and I when for a ride in the amphicar. If you don't know what that is, check out my son's website about it--basically it's a car that goes in the water. I know, how cool is that!

So let's go on a tour of Paugus Bay and up through the Weirs channel. The first photo is a shot of the Naswa Resort and their cabins. They are typical of the many resorts that line the Weirs Boulevard. The other side of the lake has beautiful large homes and condos.
Here's a photo of the Marine Patrol. They turned around when they saw us and followed for a bit. Sometimes they come to have a look at the car because . . . well . . . it's interesting!
Here's a picture of the helicopter that kept buzzing us. It was giving tourists a ride over the lake, but intimidating none the less to see it swoop overhead.
Here we are as we near the channel. Look how nicely that sky matches our car! (And Cindy, do you see that rubber ducky? He comes everywhere with us.)
Here we are just about to go under the Weirs bridge. You could probably walk across the channel on the boats. Hubby tells me it's wasn't busy that day. Usually they line up and have to wait to go under.

This is what you see as you come out from under the bridge onto Lake Winnipesaukee. The monument is the oldest monument in New Hampshire. In 1652, a survey party carved their initials into a rock and that of John Endicott, Governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, to mark the headwaters of the Merrimac River. The Massachusetts border was supposed to be three miles north of this point. (Thank God that didn't stick! Though by looking at the license plates . . . I wonder.)

Right around the corner is Weirs Beach and docking for the Mount Washington. It gives lovely tour rides of the lake, if that interests you.

Here is the famous Irwin's Pier at the Weirs. When I was younger there was mini golf and arcades. When my parents were in their day, they swung to the sounds of the big bands!

As we were heading home we saw the train that was bringing people up to the Weirs.
Well, all good things must come to an end. And so does this tour. Come back the next few days for some of my favorite historic buildings downtown.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Some People Have Nothing Better to Do

Whilst googling myself the other day, I came across this post on the First Person Irregular blog, written John Ochwat. Now, John seems like an intelligent guy and he's entitle to his opinion but . . . he is clearly in need of more interesting pursuits in his life.

In his post, John opins about the evils of the author bio being longer than the text in children's books (yes, he counted them). He uses Good Morning, Garden, written by Barbara Brenner and illustrated by myself as an example. Ouch! He even shows the lovely cover (and thank you for that, if you're going to slam a book, you can at least have it look good and sell a few copies, right? But I digress.) He even complains that there are duplicate bios on the back page and on the jacket flap, making the text to author bio ratio something ridiculous like 1:2.

Here's the point, John: the text and author bios are written for two different audiences. The text is written for the kiddies, or to be read to the kiddies. The bios are written for the adults who buy and read the books to the kiddies. A few adults actually find them interesting. In a small way, it gives additional resources for the teacher using the book in the classroom. So please, take a deep breath. There must be worser evils in the world for you to cast your eye upon.