Monday, December 28, 2009

Watch Pocket Puppies

~~And they're off! Into the back of the house, standing at the low solarium windows, two puppies watch for the intruders. Barks ring out and we cover our ears. Is it a walker out exercising in the parking lot next door? Or a random squirrel or stray cat? The ever popular errant leaf? This time it's Daddy working in the yard. It certainly doesn't matter to our watch pocket puppies. They are always on patrol. ; )

~~As John said the other day--we thought having two puppies would be good for them, company for each other during long afternoons. They are. But they're also far more than twice the noise and activity of one puppy. All I can say is--Bark On!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Welcome to Christmas Dinner

~~It's almost here. The wait is over. Or the rush if you like to wait till the last minute. Me, I like to have it done so I can rest a little before the end. So, I thought as a Christmas wish, I'd welcome you all to the table. The bow and bell are over the door to the dining room. The buffet is decorated with Christmas mugs and other gifts John and I have received from students over the years. The serving table is decked with poinsettias and crystal as is the dining table. Come Christmas Day, there will be eleven Steadhams around it and we will feast. John's sister-in-law, Rhonda, and I do the bulk of the cooking.
~~The menu this year is country ham, corn casserole, butter pea, sweet potato souffle, cherry salad, fruit salad, rice stir fry, carrot casserole, deviled eggs, and macaroni and cheese. We will dessert on chocolate chess pie and coconut cake.
~~Where ever you are, I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. ; )

Friday, December 18, 2009

Puppy Mystery Solved

~~For the last two months or so, we have had a mystery on our hands. Max has been coming in from outside and dancing about, stiff-legged. He would scrub his feet over the carpet for about a minute each time we went out. We wracked our brains. Just what was he doing--wiping his feet?
~~Well, the mystery was solved today. John had led the two boys in from a wet, soggy walk. As I stood on the mat just outside the door wiping my feet, Max began his dance. He stared me straight in the eyes and I gasped. All this time, Max has been following momma and daddy's example. He has been wiping his feet. Just like we do! ; ) How's that for a fine solution to a funny habit?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

It's Official!

~~It's official! The first printing of An Easter Walk has sold out--in 35 days! How's that for a brisk selling title? John and I are thrilled and amazed. I have already placed the order for the next printing and expect the new copies to be here Christmas week. If you didn't get your copy yet, there will be more soon. I've got several plans to sell the next order. Who knows? Maybe I'll learn to "think big" like my Uncle Ralph admonished today at the family party in Rock Springs. Of course, the family bought the every last copy I had. ; )
~~To order a copy when the next shipment comes in, email me at

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Cothes Make the Puppy

~~How cute is this? The boys are all decked out in their new sweaters. It's definitely sweater weather around here early in the mornings. Low thirties and frost means newly clipped Casey and Max are a little on the shivering side. Of course, a treat is always welcome. ; )

~~And speaking of clothes--the boys got into a little mischief this morning during the laundry. While I had my back turned to fold a load, they were raiding the dirty clothes pile for a few choice pieces to make a bed in the sunshine of the solarium. I had to laugh. I'll be more careful next week. ; )

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Tag Team Fetch

~~You didn't know fetch was a tag-team event, did you? It is with Casey and Max. When we throw any of the favorite toys--carrot, bone, or floppy--both puppies go running. It doesn't matter which boy gets there first, the other will meet him coming back. Then a wrestling match breaks out that usually results in both puppies with a month full of toy and they bring it back together. Not your usual game of fetch to say the least.

~~It's very hard to get a good photo of the fast moving pups, but we finally did. They are bringing back bone, one of Casey's favorite toys, but it looks like Max has just as good a grip. ; ) There's never a dull moment here with two wonderful puppies like Casey and Max.

Monday, October 12, 2009

You HAVE to Read This Book!

~~I mean it. With over three and a half million words in print and seventeen million copies sold (and growing), you can't go wrong if Diana Gabaldon's name is on the cover. Diana's latest book, An Echo in the Bone, debuted at number two on the New York Times bestseller list. Echo went on sale September 22 and it has been selling fast ever since. And there's good reason for the number of books sold. Full of historical fiction and military history, time-travel, wonderful, realistic characters, intricate plots, accurate research used in creative ways, and layered, beautiful detail that draws the reader in, Diana Gabaldon shows what great writing can be. As the winner of the Quill and Corinne International prizes for her last book, A Breath of Snow and Ashes, many know how good a read her books are.

~~The main Outlander series introduces readers to the amazing lives of Jamie Frazer, a Scottish Highlander, and his wife, Claire Randall, a nurse from WWII. Yes, it's possible. ; ) The order of the main series is:


*Dragonfly in Amber


*Drums of Autumn

*The Fiery Cross

*A Breath of Snow and Ashes

* An Echo in the Bone

In addition, Diana has written an offshoot series about the interesting character, Lord John Grey. Lord John is an important character in the main series and to understand his importance, the reader should read his series as well. The Lord John books are:

*Lord John and the Hand of Devils

*Lord John and the Private Matter

* Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade

The first is an anthology of three novellas. The correct chronological order of the stories are "The Hellfire Club", then The Private Matter, "Lord John and the Succubus", Brotherhood of the Blade, and "Lord John and the Haunted Soldier." Diana is working on a new Lord John book, Lord John and the Scottish Prisoner.

~~The most wonderful thing about Diana Gabaldon is her generosity. She is an important part of the CompuServe Books and Writers Forum where she offers advice and craft lessons for all writers. I highly recommend joining the forum to learn more about writing from Diana and the many writers who regularly post there.

~~Another example of Diana's generosity is the time she spends with her fans at book signings and festivals. I had the great pleasure to hear her and have some books signed at this year's Decatur Book Festival on September 5. After sharing insight into Echo and her upcoming graphic novel set in the Outlander storyline, she signed books for the hundreds of fans. Then went to another event and did it all again. The photo is of Diana signing books for me at Decatur.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Woe September!

~~I'm not happy with September. I haven't had a good one. Among the woes, there's a prolonged illness that caused me to lose seven pounds in three weeks. I just wouldn't recommend the weight-loss method to anyone. : ( Add to that the back problems that have made sitting at the computer or anywhere hard and John's mother's broken hip setback and you get the picture.
~~Helen's bones are not healing well and we had to stop therapy. She is now at home with twenty-four hour care and using a transfer board. It takes two and John has been helping the help since Monday. He's worn out.
~~The puppies agree that this week didn't start too well. They were neutered on Tuesday. All's well though and the active little boys are at their antics again. Cow hoof, anyone?
~~On a positive note, I did get to the Decatur Book Festival on September 5 and met my favorite author, Diana Gabaldon. : ) I'll tell you more next week when her newest Jamie and Claire book is published and in my hot little hands.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

My, How Big You've Grown!

~~The boys are getting big! Well, by their record, at least. When they were eleven weeks old, Casey weighed four pounds four ounces and Max was three pounds two ounces. Now at twenty-four weeks old, they weigh seven pounds eight ounces and five pounds four ounces. What a difference!
~~They're growing up in other ways, too. We are actually getting some good pack walks without too much pulling. Of course, when the boys pull, Max goes one way and Casey the other. There's nothing like a tug-of-war between two toy poodles when you are the rope! ; )
~~Here's a few photos to show how big they are getting. Compare their first week home with now. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

But Why TWO Puppies?

~~Good question! Some days, we question our sanity. It is harder to house train with two--much harder. Casey has it down. Max--not so much. And the fusses! What a racket! Sometimes the wrestling is so intense, we fear someone is going to get hurt.

~~So, why did we get two puppies at once? We wanted them to have company when we are not home and playmates when we are. And for all the raucous noise, there are moments that say it all and I thought I'd share a few. ; )

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

It's Great to Crate!

~~That's right. We finally broke down and did it, and we agree, we should have done it sooner. After the worst day ever on Saturday, we consulted dog-lovers Tina and Trey. They added the last note to the mighty chorus of advisers. "Use the crate!" Casey is taking it easy in the photo above, but Max is not as sure in the one below. ; )

~~Saturday was the clincher. We had started trying puppy pee pads because clean up is so easy. The boys had another idea. When we came back from getting Mother Helen's lunch, a blizzard had hit the back bathroom. No two fibers were still next to their original neighbor and there was not piece of backing larger than two by two inches. Clean up took over half an hour.
~~So, crates here we come. Sunday we crated for forty-five minutes. Each boy had his favorite cow hoof to chew. It wasn't so bad that they wouldn't go back in. In fact, after a nap on the sofa was interrupted, Casey crawled back in his crate to finish sleeping! On Monday, we used it twice during the day--about thirty minutes and nearly three hours when we had to be gone. Guess what? They survived without accident. Afterward, they ripped, romped and played with abandon.

~~Monday night was neither quiet not easy and Max had an accident. Tuesday night was better with no accidents. So we are sure crating will work and the mornings are the reward. No poo or torn, soggy paper to clean up and, best of all, no fluffy pee pad snow!

~~We had been told how well crates work, but seeing is believing. After all, hindsight is 20/20. ; )

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Don't Fence Us In!

~~Too late! The boys' play yard is complete and, let's be honest, they love it. Romping around is dear to their puppy hearts. Not to mention, John and I are breathing easier. Being able to potty off leash should help with leash and house training. The two rowdy little boys can run after each other to their hearts' content.

~~We worked the better part of four days and the fence looks marvelous! John quipped that someone would ask us who we hired. I responded, "A-1 Fencing." As in, Alpha (John) and his #1 assistant (me). ; ) It helps when you have an experienced surgical assistant with construction and tool experience. The job isn't so hard that way. We do know a thing or two about pressure treated wood, concrete, and tools.

~~We are now the proud owners of a fenced play yard that keeps the boys safe. Except for our escape artist--Max found the one spot that he could get through--between the post and the foundation. We plugged the hole and even Little Max has been contained. ; )

~~So wish us luck on house training and all that. The boys are growing and we hope all will resolve itself soon.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A Cappella Thunderstorm--A Must See

~~How does a choir make a thunderstorm? With hands, feet, and an amazing precision that will put you in awe. The clip is of Perpetuum Jazzile, a Slovenian a cappella jazz choir. Their rendition of Toto's Africa will astound you. Take the time to check it out.

~~There's nothing like a sudden shower to take the sizzle out of a hot summer day. It's as good the shade under a tree. So, take a listen and feel the heat recede! This choir adds another way to provide a cooling break. ; )

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Casey and Max Grow Up!

~~Well, a little bit. ; ) They got their third round of shots a week ago on Wednesday and Casey weighed 4.4 pounds, Max weighed 3.2 pounds. Yesterday they got their first clipping. Such a difference! They now weigh 4.6 and 3.6 (in only a week!), but look like they have lost weight. They also look twice as tall. Their hair had grown to three inches and now they are only 5/8 of an inch. It lies in flat waves. We kept their silky ears, some on their heads, and pompom tails. Our fluffy pups are now long, lean, aristocratic poodles.

~~Less hair has to be better outside in the 95 degrees and they aren't parking on the air vent as much. Their energy level is up as if it needed any increase. They have found their tails. Nothing like watching two puppies somersault across the floor or turning like tops. John has upped his estimate of the work two puppies takes compared to one to quadruple. There is no doubt that they are both all boy. ; )

~~The biggest change of all is Max's lovely apricot was changing into a light cream. You can still see his apricot ears. What's really funny is that both boys have a small patch of alternately colored hair high on their left hip. It's like each pup needs a bit of his brother's color to mark that they are siblings.

~~Enjoy our boy's photos. They grow up so fast!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Music--Old and New

~~What is the world's oldest musical instrument? Would you believe a 35,000 year old flute? It's true! How cool is that? It sure warms my heart. I played flute for eight years in school, but that was nearly as long ago as this new find is old. ; )

~~The artifact was found in a southwestern German cave and is eight and a half inches long. With its five finger holes, it produces harmonic notes comparable to modern flutes. The cave was also the site of a rich find of carvings and two other flute fragments. Early man called this cave home. It's not the only old dwelling that boasts flutes. Three other flutes have been found in another German cave. All the flutes are made out of ivory or bone. Finding so many examples of early musical instruments means that music is common to the culture of man all the way back to the beginnings.

~~I don't know about you, but this new discovery just confirms something I've always known, music enriches our lives and makes us happy. The next time I sing in choir, I'll be thrilled to know that my joy has been around a long, long time. So enjoy the music, any music, in the shade of the cherry tree. ; )

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Down? See UP

~~If you haven't seen Pixar's latest movie, UP, you need to. It's the perfect animated movie--beautiful visual images, wonderful story, and lovable characters. UP is the best I've ever seen and though I really liked last year's WALL*E, I found UP to be much sweeter and multifaceted. Finally the promise of computer generated animation has been achieved. UP combines the color saturation of the old glass plates with the intense detail of computer animation. Some of the best visuals range from stained-glass colorful to the effective use of gray tones. Check out the rainbow light that glows through the balloons that float the house on its long journey to South American or the equally detailed grays of the old news reel that inspired the trip. It would be worth the price of admission just to see these images, but add one of the best, most nuanced stories you'll ever see, and you have the best animated movie ever.

~~UP is the story of elderly widower, Carl Fredrickson, who is trying desperately to cling to his memories of his beloved wife, Ellie, the home they built, and the dream of their long-planned trip to South America. Into Carl's life come developers who want his land and house and Russell, a Wilderness Explorer Scout. Russell helps Carl find both new purpose and love in life. Along the way, Carl shows Russell the meaning of true love and fathering. UP's greatest strength is the multiple themes that subtly reinforces and reflect each other. they include:
*Don't give up on your dreams.
*You're never too old for adventure.
*Keep your promises.
*Help others.
*You don't have to be a parent to take care of a child.
*Friends come in all shapes, sizes, and ages.

~~Dog lovers take note--you will be thrilled with the helpful and endearing Dug. Enjoy the many "doggie-isms" that play out--from the distraction of "squirrel" and "ball" to loyalty and sheer doggedness. Play fetch with a lovable pooch and you will find out just how sloppery a tennis ball can get. ; )

~~Pixar and Disney have offered us a wonderful gift in UP, but didn't stop there. the main feature is bracketed by a wonderful short feature that answers the follow-up question children are sure to ask after being told that storks bring babies--"But where do the storks get the babies from?" You'll never look at clouds the same way again. ; ) And don't neglect the credits either. Each of the usual categories--production, sound, music--is illustrated to perfection. Sit tight and enjoy.

~~All in all, UP is a wonderful way to spend a summer afternoon or evening. There's a story line or theme for everyone. So take the time and allow UP to give you a lift. And enjoy the shade while you do.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

It's a boy--and a boy!

~~When is a Cassie really a Casey? When he is so dark brown that it's hard to tell if he is a boy or a girl. That is until his people observe closely when he is outside doing his business. So our little girl is a little boy and we couldn't care less. I remembered the breeder saying we have a girl and a boy, but John has always been sure we have two boys. Guess who's correct? ; )

~~So we are the proud "parents" of two little boy puppies who are growing fast. The boys are nine weeks old in the photo. Casey is bigger than Max. If you wonder why the smaller of the two is named Max, we weren't too sure at first either. But the longer we observed him, the clearer it became that Max always gives his maximum effort no matter what he's doing--running, wrestling, chewing, or sleeping. Both of the boys are learning two new words--come and sit. Treats are a must, but at least they are starting to get the point.

~~I am still laughing about my being outnumbered by the three males in the house. This big laugh is a great example of the joy we can find everyday in the shade of the cherry tree. ; )

Monday, June 8, 2009

Cassie and Max Come Home

~They're here! Our toy poodle puppies came home today and, boy, are they cute. Born April 7, Cassie and Max are fluffy, bright-eyed, and waggly-tailed. Cassie is a lovely chocolate and the larger of the two. Max is apricot and darker on his head than his body.

~The breeder assures us that they will be house trained in two weeks if we are vigilant. So, we are on watch. Including watching their first three and a half hours at home--asleep. Yep, that's right. Two adults watching two puppies sleep. We are fascinated--and in love! ; )

~Here's hoping the prediction isn't too good to be true. Wish us luck!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Welcome to the Shade!

~What a red-letter day! My darling husband, John, retired after twenty-five years of teaching and I couldn’t be more thrilled. We are excited about another anticipated event—new puppies arrive at our home on June 8. Do you know what has to be done to “puppy proof” a house? Or how many cute puppy toys there are? Hundreds—and we have looked at every single one! At least twice. ; )

~These are only two of the wonderful things that can give us comfort, joy, and solace. Like fresh ripe cherries and rich chocolate fudge, butterflies and hummingbirds, colorful flowers and deep shade on a hot, humid summer day. That’s what In the Shade of the Cherry Tree is all about—the small and delightful things that cushion the hurts and heal the wounds of everyday life. So welcome to the shade! I hope to share some of the loveliness and delights that come my way.