Stress, Lists and a Barbie Binge! :) (And Corrie C.-You WON!)

 

So here’s how it went down a couple of weeks ago:

You may, or may not know, that my newest book, Midnight Masquerade, is…well, let’s just put it out there and say it…LATE!!! 🙁  Without going into great, over-verbose and heinously boring detail…let’s just say that a couple of weeks ago, I hit my “dealing-with-stress” outer limit!  Do you know what I mean?  As I said, however, I’m not going to whine and have a melt down HERE…I’m just going to tell you how I muddled through it!  Ha ha!

First of all, don’t you love that sometimes the things that end up calming you the most, are just the little things?  Anyway, remember a while back when I asked you for blogging ideas?  Well, ALL of the ones sent to me were FABULOUS!  AND I’ve kept a list of them for future use.  Ironically, the fact that I sad down and put those ideas into a “list” is…well…ironic!  Ha ha!  All of the ideas inspired me, but the one that kept popping out at me was the one Corrie C. suggested that included these questions:  “I’m thinking lists. Aren’t you a list maker?”

Ahhhhh ha ha!  Am I a LIST MAKER?!?!?!  Corrie!  Are you even kidding?  List making has been a ‘thing’ of mine ever since I was a kid!  Now, I never make daily or productive lists (other than my Christmas list, which is meticulous), but I LOVE making lists!   List-making has always, always soothed me!  You know, just random lists…lists of CDs I own or wish to own, lists of children’s books I own or wish to own…lists of memories I want to journal about one day, lists of things I used to cook when my kids were little.  I could go on and on and on about the healing powers of list-making!  Seriously!

Well, as Corrie’s questions began to nest in my mind…that stressful day hit, and I thought, “Hmm.  I’ll just make a list of Barbies I already own, and then make a Wish List of Barbies I want to  own.”  (See…people are always asking me what I want for Christmas, my birthday, etc. and though I always have Barbies, children’s books, etc. at the top of the list, only my kids seem to realize that I’m TOTALLY serious!  Ha ha!)

Naturally, before I could really make a serious list, I had to sit down and go through my “open” Barbies…you know…the ones I’ve ‘removed from the box’ and keep around for when my niece, Aubree, comes to visit and stuff.  However, I began to realize, that I keep my “open” Barbies around for ME!  Not just for Aubree!  And as I began to sort through them, I felt my stress begin to wane a little.  Just looking at their pretty faces, feeling that familiar hard plastic of their limbs and stuff (a WAY throw-back sensation to childhood, right?  Like sniffing Crayola Crayons!)…smoothing their hair back into place.  All of those ‘fee/touch’ sensations began to calm me down a bit…and I hadn’t even gotten to the list-making part!

My niece had been here just a week or so before that, and she, me and my daughter Sandy had been playing with the “open” Barbies…so their clothes and stuff needed some straightening out before I tucked them away for another rainy day as I planned to.  (I have to veer off here a minute, and tell you that I have this weird obsession with dolls being closed up in boxes!  For years, my mom stored her childhood baby doll…her only doll (a composite doll made in the late 1930s or early 1940s) in a trunk out in our garage/storage area!  It FREAKED me out!  Knowing that that little baby doll was out there in a trunk and maybe couldn’t breathe, really haunted me!  In fact, tit was so bad, that I finally talked my mom into letting me at least go out there and lay the doll down comfortably and make sure the trunk lid was open just a titch so she could breath!  Add to that the fact that when my sister was really little, one of her FAVORITE books in all the world was this ghastly story about these dolls that were stored in a trunk and would sneak out of the trunk and live it up around their owner’s house when the people were gone…and you had the stuff of nightmares!  I mean, Mom read that book aloud to my sister night after night after night…with me lying wide awake in my bed in the same room!  Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!  The Muffletumps!  I mean, seriously!  Look at the front page in the book!  Freaky illustrations, right?  Well, at least when you were a fifteen year old girl with a weird obsession with dolls NOT being trapped in trunks!) ANYWAY…I was settling my “open” Barbies in their plastic tote boxes…you know, making sure every girl was with her propper boyfriend or husband…did I mention that I also insist that EVERY “open” Barbie, has a handsome boyfriend or husband?  Ken will do in a pinch…but I really prefer the Ken Dolls names like Ryan, Steven, etc…OR the ultimate Barbie mate ever made…the Alan doll from the 1990s!  He’s handsome and way buff!  Anyway (AGAIN), I was straightening out my “open” Barbies, realizing how soothing a project it was, and that I really needed to get all my Barbie clothes in order…and that how wonderful it would be if I could talk my son-in-law into building me a Barbie Bridal Boutique for all my bridal and formal gowns…and I’m not kidding…I really began to feel a ton better!!!

I’ve sorted things before to chill out…sorting does settle my nerves.  I like to sort coins and look for wheat pennies, Bi-Centennial quarters, etc. (one time my son Trent and I spent six ours sorting Lego pieces when he was stressed out, too, and I LOVED that!)…but sorting my “open” Barbies was even different that all my other soothing-sorting.  While sorting my “open” Barbies, I was reminded of how much I LOVED my Barbies as a kid…what an escape to fantasy and fun they were for me…how I just loved them more than any toy EVER!!!!  It was like a miracle elixir!  I just really started feeling better and like all would (eventually) be well.

Sorting my “open” Barbies…well, you know how the song/saying goes, “One thing leads to another,”…and pretty soon I had come up with my idea for Aubree’s Christmas gift!!!  Barbie outfits!  I mean, they do NOT make Barbie clothes the way they use to!  Ugh!  It’s amazing  how different they are!  Plus…the new Barbie clothes, don’t fit any Barbies made before 1997 …because even though these Monster Bratzillaz and Monster High dolls are out…back in 1997 everyone decided that Barbie’s long legs, small waist, and big bosoms were giving little girls unrealistic body image expectations…though I’m not sure how that’s worse than the skimpy Barbie clothes of today, or the Monster High dolls.  I mean, really?  I mean, let’s look at the evidence:  Below you have a Monster High Doll, a current Barbie Doll (you know, the one that supposed to help little girls have better body images) and a Barbie doll with the original physique.  Take a minute and look these over while I go eat my oatmeal (to try and get my cholesterol in line 🙁 ) and I’ll be back to discuss this further.

Oh yeah! My body image would be MUCH better after owning a Monster Doll (big head…skinny, skinny body)! 🙂 P.S. I DO own the Fashionistas Barbie shown above…because I LOVE Barbies!  (Except for the ones that come in just their bathing suits because they have these big, wide, weird flat feet that won’t fit in Barbie shoes 🙁 )Even the new ones-even though their heads are disproportionate to their bodies…and wouldn’t that encourage a girl to try and be too skinny?!

But I’ve digressed to my Barbie’s Shape Change/The Destruction of Femininity soapbox.  Sorry.  🙁  (Clears throat.)

Back to Aubree’s Christmas gift.  You see, Aubree is a TRUE Barbie enthusiast like I was/am.  She is the funnest little girl I’ve ever played Barbie’s with!  She knows how to treat them, how to play with them, change their outfits, and share a fabulous conversation while doing so!  She’ll be nine in a couple of weeks, and of all the little girls I’ve known in my adult life, only my daughter Sandy and Aubree have been at the level of Barbie devotee’s that I was/am.  (My daughter-in-law loves Barbies, too…but I never was able to witness her playing Barbies when she was little, so I don’t now how she played.)  Therefore, I decided that for Aubree’s Christmas gift I would do this:  I’ve purchased a LOVELY little round suitcase (very vintage-looking) that has “Paris” embroidered on the front, and I’m slowly filling it with Barbie outfits, shoes and accessories!  I mean, GORGEOUS outfits…and the kind that fit any Barbie body!  Need an example?  Okay…here’s one!  Lovely, right?

Naturally, sending all the outfits in their original boxes would be too bulky.  So when I find one, I bring it home and carefully remove it from the box…then nicely fold it and place the outfit (including accessories) in a pretty organza bag, gently pull the ribbon drawstrings closed and plop it into the little round “Paris” suitcase.  That way I only have to wrap and ship the suitcase…and when Aubree opens it on Christmas morning…hopefully she’ll be pleased! 🙂

Now in comparison, here’s a new Barbie dress.  In truth, I LOVE the new Barbie shoes…because they’re glamorous and stay on!  But I still prefer the more elegant dresses, and colorful pants and shirts of the Fashion Avenue era!  Not that I don’t like the flashy, sparkly material they make Barbie clothes out of now!  I do!  But I just love the old-school clothes…and they often come with fancy panty-hose and stuff, too!  LOVE the little details, you know!?

Anyway, I’ve babbled on and on (as usual) and gotten totally of track…which was to tell you that Corrie C. inspired me to blog about making lists!  Ha ha!  But I HAVE started my Barbie Lists and typing them up soothes me, relaxes my mind and distracts me from my stress!  🙂  Unfortunately, my list of Barbies on my Wish List, is FAR too vast!  And I still haven’t finished my list of the ones I own!  Though I did finish the “Halloween Own and Wish” lists!

Which reminds me, I need to start saving up my allowance!  Because, even though I LOVE LOVE LOVE all Halloween Barbies (old, new…normal heads or big heads), there the one at the TOP of my Wish List is soooooooooooo expensive!  She’s the Holiday Hostess  Halloween Haunt Barbie!  She’s a Silkstone one…which I usually don’t lean toward…but isn’t she a toooooo FABULOUS!?!?!  Don’t worry…when I was five or six I saved up my pennies until I had $10 or $15 and could buy my first Barbie RV…so I figure I’ll get enough pennies saved up in my penny jar to eventually feel like I can drop $100+ on the Halloween Haunt Barbie!  (Don’t know how I missed her when she was new and cheaper!)

(P.S. In case you were still freaking out about it the way I tend to do…don’t worry about my mom’s baby doll!  🙂  Mom gave her to me years and years ago, and she now sits comfortably in a little Victorian sleigh in my entry room!  She can breathe fine, and she’s nice and warm in her little furry white cape and matching furry white muff! 🙂

So, yes, Corrie C…I DO like to make lists!  Thank you for reminding me, so that I started my Barbie lists and settled myself down that day when the stress hit me so hard!  You’ve won the Candle and DVD!!!  E-mail me at marcialmcclure@cs.com and let me know where to send it!  Okay?  I’ll get it in the mail right away!

Meanwhile, for this week’s contest…I think I’ll go with two of my favorite children’s books again!  As you know, Andrew Henry’s Meadow rules as the book I loved most as a child, and Over in the Meadow was one of my favorite poems when I was little.  So, whether or not you have children, these will be a nice, relaxing escape for you!  Just leave a comment about something you loved as a kid, and I’ll pick a winner the next time I blog!

Thanks for letting me babble, thus purging my stress a little more!  And thank you, again, for all the FABULOUS blog ideas!  P.S. Corrie C…here’s the Halloween section of my “Barbie List” for your approval! 🙂

 

Halloween Barbies

Have:
Enchanted Halloween Barbie AA (Black dress with orange sparkles)
Enchanted Halloween Barbie Blonde (Black dress with orange sparkles)
Halloween Fortune Barbie (Gypsy Outfit)
Halloween Fun Barbie and Kelly (Orange and Black kitty outfits, auburn haired Kelly)
Halloween Party Barbie (Jack o Lantern’s in background, Big Head)
Halloween Princess Barbie (Purple with Orange Sparkly Spider Web Dress)
Halloween Star Barbie (Kitten Whiskers and Black/Pink Outfit)
Halloween Treat Barbie (Pumpkin Outfit-Big Head)
Halloween Wishes Barbie (Purple Overdress, lace up boots-Big Head)
Happy Halloween Barbie (Pink Plastic hat, Pink empress waist dress-Big Head)
Maskerade Party Barbie (Orange spotted Kitten outfit)
Perrr-fectly Halloween Barbie (Pink and Black Leopard Outfit)
Pink Halloween Barbie (Black dress with silver spiderwebs-Big Head)

Need: (Any and All African American, as well!)
Halloween Haunt (Holiday Hostess) Barbie (2011-Pricey!)
Trick or Chic Barbie (Standing w/Orange Brimmed Hat)
Halloween Glow Barbie (2002)
Boo-tiful Barbie
Halloween Enchantress Barbie (Spanish on Front?)
Halloween Charm Barbie (2006)
Halloween Hip Barbie
Halloween Star Barbie (Estrella de Halloween-Black and Gold Bodice/Black Hat)
Trick or Chic Barbie on Broom!
Halloween Haunt Barbie (Multi-colored dress, holding broom-2011)
Halloween Party Barbie (Orange skirt, pink and black striped shirt)
Fashion Spell Barbie (Pink hat and skirt, black top)
Halloween Treat Barbie (Purple midriff, long orange skirt, 2008)
Happy Halloween Barbie and Kelly (Jack o Lantern sweatshirts)
Halloween Party Barbie and Ken (Pirates-1998)

Posted in Marcia's Blog | 11 Comments

Inspire Me! Please!!!!

Holy cow!  Look how long it has been since I blogged!!!!  FAIL!!!! 🙁  Not that I write these wonderful, entertaining, uplifting or even informative blogs at all…but it does help me clear my head, and escape from work a bit while I’m at the computer.   You know?

However, I’m the first one to admit that my blogs are NOT what I would like them to be.  Therefore, I was wondering if I could beg you for some help.

I need some inspirations for blogging.  Believe it or not, I get kind of bogged down where thinking is concerned a lot of the time.  Stress, fatigue, too much sugar…it all adds up to rotten blogging.  🙁  So, I was wondering if you’d be willing to do this for me:  Over the next few days, post some ideas for me either here as a comment, on Facebook, Goodreads, or via e-mail.  Ideas I could use for blogging that might entertain me as well as you (hopefully 🙁 )  Or at least help to get our minds off all the demands weighing us down, you know?

Personally, I don’t have ANY ideas…at all!  So I’m up for tons of suggestions!  And what I’ll do is this:  Whichever idea strikes me first and gets me going on a blog (interesting or not)…well, the idea submitter person will win my Blog contest of the week…i.e. a WoodWick Pumpkin Butter Candle AND a DVD copy of Nim’s Island!  The candle and DVD aren’t as random as they may sound, by the way.  🙂  For over a year now, any time I’m writing a book, I burn a WoodWick Pumpkin Butter candle on my desk!  AND I LOVE the movie, Nim’s Island…because, as odd as it may sound…I can often relate to Jodi Foster’s character, Alex Rover!  No kidding!  I do!

So if you can find a minute and are willing, please post a comment somewhere or drop me an e-mail with blogging ideas for me, okay?

AND I didn’t forget about the winner of my last Blog contest!  The comment name I just pulled out of my hat as the winner of the Pumpkin Patch photo and the children’s book is, Samantha Gwilliam!  Samantha…please e-mail your snail mail address to me at marcialmcclure@cs.com and I’ll get your winnings in the mail to you asap!  AND thank you so much for commenting!

Now let’s see if anyone has any blogging ideas for me…because I sure don’t! 🙁

 

Posted in Marcia's Blog | 16 Comments

A Photo Fanatic and An Edwardian Wedding! :)

You probably already know that one of my greatest joys, hobbies, interests, obsessions…is photographs! I just LOVE photographs! I’ve loved them for as long as I can remember! They’ve always held such wonder to me…such mesmerizing fascination! Whether their old or new I love them!

Recently I found out that a friend of mine has a common interest in old photos. Her name is, Katie. And though I don’t know if she’s as unbalanced as I am when it comes to old photos, she has her own quirky little obsession about them. Furthermore, it was Katie who lent me the book Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children which is WILDLY intriguing to me because of the premise! Though I haven’t read it yet, I’m starting this weekend and I’m stoked about it!

However, being that I was impatient to read this book and needed to wait until I was a little less stressed so that I could enjoy it…I ordered a book by the same author entitled, Talking Pictures: Images and Messages Rescued From the Past. I was hoping it would be something I could share with Katie…and parts of it are. However, there were a few photos and captions included that kind of took the zing out of it for me, enough that I decided not to buy it for her. BUT the author’s Introduction and Afterward are PROFOUND! I definitely will share those with Katie…and I’d like to begin sharing them with you!

Just as Katie found Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, read it, loved it and then remarked, “Darn it! Someone else ran away with my idea before I could do it!”…I flipped through Talking Pictures: Images and Messages Rescued From the Past and had a similar reaction. I suddenly began wishing I could catalog my antique photo collection somehow…turn it into a book, including my thoughts about each one or something. And though I don’t plan on doing that, I would like to share a few of my favorites here and there, you know?

Not to worry! I won’t overwhelm you at all! Ha ha! And believe me I could! I just thought it would be fun to share a few…just because. I’ll start simply, with something that I discovered just last autumn. These photos aren’t vintage. They’re not beautiful, and they don’t tell a wonderful, sweet or romantic story. But they crack me up!!!! (Keep in mind that, after sharing these with you, I do hop to a vintage photo as part of my blog contest this week. 🙂 )

I know you’ve seen them, too. They were all over the Internet last year…and even though I feel bad for everyone caught in one of these photos, they just made giggles start burbling out of my mouth and lifted my heart with each and every viewing! They’re photos taken by the automatic camera set up in some haunted house (which I’ve forgotten the name of! 🙁 ) I’ll include just a couple of my favorites:

I call this one:  “Freaked Out Boy Band”58

The guy furthest to the right just kills me!  AND I love how they’re all hanging on to each other for dear life!  Seriously, I don’t really go to haunted houses anymore, because I’m afraid I’ll literally have a heart attack!  But these guys are classic!  Young, brave and obviously able to handle the sudden scares!  Yikes!  Do you love it?  Ha ha!  It’s a favorite of mine!

 

 

Another one that I like from last year is:  “Hang Onto Your Flip Flops, Maynard!”112

Just LOVE the guy holding his flip flops!  Like it’s not bad enough you have to walk through a haunted house…you’re going to go through bare foot, too!?  Yikes!  No way!  The girl at the back of the line is great!  I just love this one!  You’ve GOT to love people, right?  How can we all ever have any contention with one another when these kinds of photos and experiences together exist, you know?  Love these haunted house shots!  I wish I could have a drawer full of them!  And, I’m sorry…but I HAVE to share this one!  Seriously, it kills me and is one of my very favorites!

I call it:  “Happy Halloween, Shawties!”  5

Good times. 🙂  Good times. 🙂  I hope there are more this fall!  Let me know if you see them and I miss them, okay?

Speaking of Halloween:  Well that brings me to my next little story…and yes…it’s totally random.

However, as you also may or may not know, some of my favorite, favorite in the world photos, are old Wedding Photos.  My daughter, Sandy, and my daughter-in-law, Mallory, share this passion of mine.  Nevertheless, I’m the psycho in the bunch.  And here’s proof.

Whenever I’m in an antique store, I search through every box of photographs I have time to.  To be honest, if a photo is too faded or silvered, I have to find the strength to pass it up, because I already have more wedding photos than one person would ever need.  But last fall, I kept coming across one particular wedding photo that began to sort of call to me.  It wasn’t very expensive, and it wasn’t the best quality in that it had some soiling and some silvering.

131Yet, I found myself returning to look at it over and over and over.  Something in my heart just wanted to purchase it so badly.  And I think it might have been merely for the fact that…well…(and I’m not meaning to sound mean, I’m just being honest about my thoughts)…the reason I kept passing it up was…well, the poor little bride just was a bit odd looking.  I kept imaging that she was exactly what Edward Rochester’s poor insane wife-in-the-attic looked like, you know?  I know it sounds so mean…but it’s just what I kept thinking!  And furthermore, every time I looked at the groom…I would think, that even though he’s a fairly handsome guy (probably considered a REAL catch back in the day), I would also think that he kind of looked like Prince Frank Stein in one of my favorite children’s books, The Witch Who Wanted to Be a Princess.  I mean, he’s a good looking guy…and she’s really a sweet and obviously blue-eyed girl…but I just kept pausing in purchasing.

130And then one glorious, crisp autumn day last October, I finally caved!  I bought the wedding photo of Frank and Bella (named for the hero and heroine in the romantic The Witch Who Wanted to Be a Princess)…and I have never regretted it for a moment!  The photo of Frank and Bella is still one of my favorites in my collection…and it’s not even in good condition!  But I just LOVE that wild-eyed Bella lured tall, dark and edwardianly handsome, Frank into falling in love with her!

I have a lot of custom framed antique wedding photos clustered throughout my house…and as soon as I find just the right place, Frank and Bella will be framed and join the ranks of my eternal favorites!  I’m so so sooooooo glad I purchased this tattered little photo!  (Katie…you HAVE to go get that one you wanted at that antique store!)  It’s so dear to my little heart.  Don’t you just adore them?  Don’t they just look so in love and happy?  I mean, this photo is from the era when people didn’t DARE smile in photographs…and to me the fact that they look so resplendent, is just further proof of how in love they were!  How romantic, right? 🙂

Now, I know I’ve bored you long enough…so how about we get on to this week’s contest, huh? 🙂

First of all, the winner of last week’s contest and the 2 Pamela Duncan Edwards books is…Amy Koster!  Send me your snail mail address, Amy…at marcialmcclure@cs.com and I’ll get your books in the mail!

the witch who wanted to beAs for this week’s contest…hmmm…how about this…leave a comment in any of the various venues (i.e. Here, Facebook, Goodreads, etc.) and the name I pull out of my hat next week will win a paperback copy of The Witch Who Wanted to be A Princess, AND an 8×10 professional copy (photo only) of a “kissing in the pumpkin patch” photo that hangs in my office!  What do you think?  Fun, huh?129

Yep!  I just love photos!  It’s why I changed my Facebook cover photo every day!  It’s why I have so many boxes and boxes and notebooks and notebooks filled with new and old photographs!  I’m going to leave you with a quote from that book by Ransom Riggs, Talking Pictures:

“We are no longer leaving behind a tangible, enduring photographic record of ourselves.  Future generations will be far less likely to find our creased snapshots in dresser drawers and attic trunks, as we did those of our ancestors.  Which is to say: old photos may seem numberless now, but they are being lost and tossed and an alarming rate, and we’re not making new ones.  (He’s referring to the fact that we all store our photos digitally, and digital devices are much more easily destroyed than printed photos.)  It us my hope that someday soon the act of collecting and saving old snapshots will be more than just the unusual hobby of a few, and that we’ll stop dismissing them as just “other people’s pictures.” 

 

Posted in Marcia's Blog | 8 Comments

The Windswept Flame-A Tenderly Small World :)

One of the greatest joys afforded me as a result of writing my books and having others share them with me is the way that they bless me with an occasional, tender reminder of how connected we really are to one another.  One of these wonderful moments was gifted to me last March 22nd…a very ironic time of the year, as you’ll soon see.

Now, if you’ve read The Windswept Flame, you may or may not remember the way Flora was forever and always nagging Cedar about taking a coat with her when she went out, even if the weather seemed fine.  Remember?  And if you remember that, you may or may not remember the little tidbit in my Author’s Note about the way my mom always made me take a coat everywhere I went from September 1st through May…always reminding me of the terrible tragedy that occurred in Colorado in the the 1930s, when a busload of school children were caught in an unexpected, spring blizzard…many of them losing their lives.

If you haven’t read the last tidbit in that Author’s Note, take a second to read it before moving on in this blog, if you have the time.  If you have read it, then you’ll instantly understand how incredibly touched, how deeply moved and humbled I was by this e-mail I received last March:

From: Cindy
To: marcialmcclure Sent: Thu, Mar 22, 2012 2:37 pm
Subject: The Windswept Flame

Dear Marcia,
Not too long ago I came across your book A Crimson Frost.  I thoroughly enjoyed it!  I then found myself downloading several more of your books onto my Kindle…The stories you write are so sweet, and they allow me a little time to escape as life can get a little hectic sometimes.  I started reading The Windswept Flame yesterday, and I was surprised to come across the parts in the story about children wearing their coats and jackets because you never know when a storm or blizzard could come.  I immediately thought back to the stories my grandmother told me from her childhood.  My grandmother was Blanche Stonebraker Widger.  She was ten years old when she nearly froze to death during the Towner-Holly Bus tragedy on March 27th, 1931.  Her sister Louise, who would have been fourteen years old a few days later, died during this tragedy.  She had only worn her sweater to school that day.  Her mother insisted she wear something warmer, but Louise had just gotten that sweater as a gift for her birthday, so it was special to her.  My grandmother passed away a few years ago, but I still share this story with my children.  My grandmother was the strongest woman I have ever known.  She suffered hardship but always persevered.  Her example to me has helped shape who I am today.  I appreciate you weaving real life experiences into your stories.  It makes them even more heartfelt and sweet.  Thank you!!
Sincerely,
Cindy

After having read this wonderful, thoughtful and incredibly affecting e-mail, I was totally bawling!  How incredible!  I couldn’t believe that The Windswept Flame had managed to find its way into the hands of someone that I was so connected to through the story of the Holly bus tragedy!  I truly can’t explain the emotions I was feeling at that moment…I can’t explain how it made me feel so reconnected to my grandparents, parents, etc.  It was an incredible gift and as soon as I recovered a bit, I sent an e-mail to Cindy in response.

Louise_restoration_2x3_sepiaCindy and I corresponded back and forth several times over the next few days.  And in one of her e-mails, Cindy included this faded, weathered, sweet, sweet photo of her grandmother’s sister, Louise, who had succumbed to the cold that day in March so long ago.  I’ve included it here (with Cindy’s permission, of course).

As you can well image, Louise’s photo haunted me.  After a lifetime of hearing the story of the children and their bus driver tragically caught in the unexpected blizzard, I was able to gaze upon the sweet, smiling face of one of the young victims.  Cindy and her story, and her gift of Louise’s photo, pierced me to my very soul!  I admit to losing a couple of night’s sleep over just mourning Louise and the other children.  I couldn’t quit thinking about how terrible their tragedy was…how frightened and cold all the kids must’ve been…how desperate the poor bus diver was when he finally decided he had to leave them to go in search of help.

Cindy had referred to a couple of books she knew of that had been written about the bus tragedy.  I did a little research and found them both…but the book Children of the Storm, written by authors who were focusing on the fact that the media blitz over the incident had exploited the survivors, seemed (by all review accounts) to be the most accurate.  This book also included quite a few photos of the incident…of the bus, the blizzard, the survivors, etc.

Two excerpts really stuck with me…in my mind, of course…but mostly in my heart.  One was concerning Louise.  I’ll share it here, though I warn you, it’s really sad! 🙁

Carl Miller (the bus driver) gazed around at the haggard children who were doing their best to pretend their situation was not as drastic as it was.  He would not give up.  It was time to start exercising again, he ordered.  “Stand up!  Move!”  His daughter Mary, dragged herself to a standing position.  Louise Stonebraker sat listlessly in her birthday sweater against the snowbank at the back of the bus.

Miller contemplated his next action.  Now that morning had arrived with no rescue and Louise Stonebraker had faded to the point of danger, he knew what must be done.  He MUST go for help.  He murmered to Clara his fear that if he were not to seek help, he could be prosecuted.  He asked Bryan to return his coat, then announced in a voice that conveyed more hope than he felt, that he would leave now, and when he returned with rescuers whey would all eat a heart pancake breakfast.  “Keep exercising,” he told them.  He looked especially hard at the older children, emphasizing to them the importance of keeping up the exercising and the spirits of the younger children.  Clara knew the dreadful hopelessness out there because she had tried to fight through the vicious wind in search of a fence line the previous day.  She felt that Miller would never return.  Eunice Frost heard him add that the youngsters should pray:  “Pray that I find help or that someone finds you here.”…Miller took one final look around at the mass of children, jumping up and down in what now seemed like slow motion, then plunged into the blizzard.  The door slammed behind him and the whiteness enclosed him.  He was gone.

Eunice Frost glanced past the children, who, no longer giggling, were moving oh so slowly in the frozen aisle.  Louise Stonebraker…she in the light sweater–was still seated on the bench where she had been all night.  Eunice gasped sharply, quickly.  “Louise!” she shouted.  Louise’s eyes had stopped blinking, frozen into a straight stare.  Someone shoved her–hard–but Louise only stared.  Alice Huffaker leaned toward Blanche and told her that her older sister was dead.

This was the last thing Blanche would remember of this day–a day when, one by one, the children of the Pleasant Hill school bus would begin freezing to death.

Four other children would die before it was all over.  As for the bus driver, Carl Miller…the book is written:  Near the crest, about half a mile from the road, a dark object caught Lucius’s eye.  He got out of his car and walked closer.  It was the body of a man on its back, frozen solid.  It’s head was bare and it’s suitcoat unbottoned.  Lucius gazed at the pitiably outstretched arms and swollen face.  Carl Miller had continued to grasp the barbed-wire fence even after his hands had lost sensation.  His gloves still covered his fingers, but the palms of his hands were left exposed where the sharp wire had torn through.  His flesh was raw and blood had dried in the gashes.  Lucius turned to alert the others that the final victim of the Pleasant Hill death bus had been located.

Pleasant Hill bus 1931.jpgI’ve included this photo of the bus so that you can see how truly “at the mercy of the elements” the children and driver were.  Of course, this was taken long after the blizzard was over and the snow had melted. How awful 🙁

Now I am not blogging about this to cause everyone to drop into the depths of despair.  I just wanted to share Cindy’s great aunt’s story with you because it was such a profound experience for me.  It brought what had already been a part of my entire life, to the forefront of my thinking and sensitivities.  It gave me an even greater appreciation for my mother’s routine ‘reminding’ of reminding me to always have a jacket…of her mother having always reminded her…of my dad’s mother of having always reminded him…and of my always having reminded my children.  I can still see my two little boys, getting out of the car at the drop off curb of their elementary school, sauntering off in their little matching black hoodies with their last names printed across the back, and thinking, “Well, if the temperature drops unexpectedly today, they have their hoodies with them.”

I think it’s interesting that Cindy’s e-mail was written to me on March 22nd, 2012…5 days before the 81st anniversary of the bus tragedy that affected her life and mine…us being 3rd generations of the shared, “Don’t you leave the house without at last a sweater.  When my mom was a girl there was an unexpected spring blizzard and if those children would’ve had coats…”  It makes me wonder if deep in mine and Cindy’s memories, something subconscious keeps track of the specific date of that terrible tragedy so long ago.  Or maybe it was just coincidence…but I don’t believe in coincidence. 🙂

You might be wondering why I decided to share such a sad, sad story with you.  Well, as I said in the beginning…my books have brought to the forefront of my mind, and amazement where the “Six Degrees to Kevin Bacon” and “It’s a Small World” theories are concerned.  It makes me feel somehow of worth, hopeful, connected…and it reassures me that not everyone sweeps history under the rug and forgets about it.  🙂  Thanks for that, too, Cindy!

Now, I do feel the need to lighten things a bit.  I can’t just leave you with memories of just this terrible tragedy in your day.  So even though this is a bit of a solemn blog, I’ve chosen to end it on a happy, fun note!  I hope that’s okay!

First, let’s see who won the Hobby Lobby gift card, shall we?  Ready…here I go…Melody Barlow!  Melody left her comment on Goodreads…and I LOVED it, too!  But, yep…just pulled Melody’s name out of my hat!  E-mail me at marcialmcclure@cs.com, Melody and I’ll get your Hobby Lobby gift card in the mail to you asap!

theworrywartsAs for this week’s contest…hmm…let’s see…Oh!  I know!  Okay, one of my favorite Children’s Book authors is, Pamela Duncan Edwards!  Tara J. introduced me to her quite by accident years and years ago with a book written alliteratively titled, Clara Caterpillar.  However, it was Dinorella and The Worrywarts that REALLY grabbed me!  You KNOW how much I love alliteration!  LOVE it!  And The Worrywarts is FABULOUS!!!!  But Pamela writes other children’s books as well, and I found The Old House a while back!  LOVE it!  So me…so sweet!  (Not saying that I’m sweet…I mean the book is sweet!)  It makes me feel good and happy and The Worrywarts is so fun to read!  So whether or not your a kid, an adult, have children or don’t have children, you will love these books!

theoldhouseSo, this week’s contest is for a paperback copy (Currently they’re not available in hardback 🙁 ) of each:  The Worrywarts and The Old House.  Just leave a comment in one of the usual places and you’re entered!  Yay!  Something fun to read!

 

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The Comfort of an Old Friend…

We met when was just 7 years old.  (Actually, I wasn’t really 7 yet…I was six, almost seven…and I went snooping in my mom and dad’s closet, looking for my would-be Birthday gift…and found it…it was HIM!)  I don’t know what it was about him, exactly…it’s hard to put those ‘love at first sight’ moments into words.  But I can tell you that the instant our eyes met (being that he was hardly concealed at all up there in the top of my mom’s closet), I knew he would be special to me and that I’d treasure him forever!

That moment we met…that instant that he became so instantaneously a part of my life…was forty years ago, my young padawans!  Forty!  I can’t even believe I can remember forty years ago!  (I’m going to quit italicizing the word, “forty”…it’s freaking me out!)  But I do, and seeing him up there on my mom’s closet shelf is as clear an image in my mind as if it had happened yesterday!

057   Yep!  My good ol’, loyal, true and fast friend…my Cookie Monster Bank!  Ah the coins we collected over the years…the coins we continued to collect once I was married…the coins my children collected with him…sweet are those memories…and vivid is that beloved smell of 70s hard plastic!  I’m not kidding!  I LOVED the smell of my Cookie Monster Bank!  Of course, one had to remove his plastic white cork in order to get a good whiff of his innards.  Removing the cork wasn’t as easy as you might think either!  It required either a butter knife and a bit of leverage to pop that thing out.  But the second the cork went flying across the room from the force of the levered butter knife…Ahhhhhh!  The familiar, soothing scent of that 061blue 70s plastic would fill the air like simmering apple cider wassail on Christmas Eve!

Ah yes…dear, dear, dearest Cookie Monster Bank.  I can’t quite remember for certain, but I think he actually helped me save up the pennies I used to buy my orange and very hip Barbie Camper even!  I have a vivid memory of taking my rolled pennies into the store and purchasing the camper, but I cannot vividly remember if Cookie was there, too…because I’m just not sure whether I was six or seven when I bought my camper.  Still, I’m thinking Cookie was involved…but don’t quote me on that.  I mean, Cookie was involved in EVERY big purchase I ever made through my childhood years, and well into my teens!  I even kept paper money in him (though that was a LOT harder to retrieve when he was uncorked…even if I had folded the bills into very small rectangles).

As I said before, Cookie Monster Bank went with me when Kevin and I were married.  Kevin fed Cookie his change for years and years as well, as we saved up our pennies, nickles, dimes and quarters for various moments of, “We need a few bucks to get us through until payday,) type scenarios.  And then, Cookie continued to serve our little family in the Coin Savings Department for many, many years.  We ALL love Cookie Monster Bank so so soooooo much!

However, as I said, Cookie is forty years old and has been through a lot.  And sadly, during one of our moves years back, he sustained a very serious cranial injury that eventually forced him into retiring from the coin collecting business he’d enjoyed for so long.

*WARNING:  The following image may be too graphic for young children.  Parental Guidance is advised.

059As you can see, Cookie’s cranial injuries are far too severe for him to have continued on active duty.  The photo doesn’t even do it justice, but you can get the idea.

And so, Cookie Monster Bank was forced into retirement and our family started depositing our coins into various jars (pickle, applesauce, apple butter, etc.) until I was able to acquire a large, vintage water cooler jar a year or so ago.

But even though he has retired, he’s not forgotten or lonesome at all!  He sits quietly on the shelf of the bedroom in our house that has been converted into The Pumpkin Patch/my office…smiling out at anyone who happens open the closet door to say, “Hello!” to him, or to retrieve a roll of wrapping paper, etc.  So fear not…my Cookie Monster Bank is as safe as ever…and as loved!  He might not be the most handsome guy on the block, but he’s a hero all the same!

058Once in a while, I take a sniff through the coin hole in head, or pop out his mangled plastic cork and inhale deeply.  I think his cranial fracture has lessened his ability to maintain that powerful 70s plastic bouquet he once boasted, but there’s still a faint hint of it there.  Some things worm their way into your heart…linger there forever…and Cookie Monster Bank is one of those things for me!  🙂  Thanks, Cookie!

And now…onto last week’s contest winner and this week’s new contest!

Last week’s winner of the Seven Brides for Seven Brothers 2 Disk Special Edition DVD is…Lynette Dyer!  Just pulled your name out of the hat, Lynette!  E-mail your snail mail address to me at marcialmcclure@cs.com and I’ll see that it ships to you asap!  Fun!

Now…for this week’s contest.  Hmmm…let’s see.  I’ve had Bon Jovi’s song, Make a Memory, stuck in my head all morning long.  So let’s say…this week’s blog contest is for something to help you ‘make a memory,’ okay?  How about a $15.00 Hobby Lobby Gift Card?  Yep!  That’s it!  So just leave a comment here, on Facebook, Goodreads or e-mail me and you’re entered to win, of course!  I’ll draw a name out of my hat on Monday (I know I was late this week…sorry. 🙁 )  Okay!  Meanwhile, here’s a clip of my favorite, “narrated by Cookie Monster” moment!  Ha ha!  Love it!

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Bless Your Beautiful Hide!…Because I have the flu :(

Yep…it’s true.  I’m down and out with the flu!  Therefore my fuzzy brain has decided that this weeks blog will simply be a contest to win the Seven Brides of Seven Brothers Two Disk DVD!

7bridesdvdYesterday on my Facebook, I posted a photo from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and who knew so many of us still love this wonderful movie?!  Therefore, just leave a comment here or on Facebook, Goodreads, etc., letting me know why YOU like the movie and you’re entered!  As usual, I’ll draw a name out of my hat next Monday to see who wins.

Meanwhile, the name I pulled out of my hat as the winner of last week’s contest for the DVD version of Flipped is…Lisa Hanson!  (Who misses riding her bike down hill “hands free!”)  Lisa, just e-mail your address to me at marcialmcclure@cs.com and I’ll get your DVD in the mail to you!

And next week, I promise the contest will include something other than a movie!  I just realized that I need to branch out where contest items are concerned! Ha ha!

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Reminiscing…

I’ve managed to jot down a few memories here and there.  I thought I’d share a few with you today.  (Reason to be revealed later.)

Here are three I jotted down as just quick memories, and they took place when I was between the ages of 3-5 and lived in Grace, Idaho on a dairy farm.  They reveal a lot about me however, including that fact that I’ve always been and adventurer, romantic to the core, and inspired in my writing by my own past.  (Me and my Uncle Russell, below!)

014(The Adventurer in Me Revealed)
There was my red tricycle. In being quite the little tomboy, I can remember intentionally crashing my tricycle down the hill that was across the street from the house. It was great fun! It was during one of these daredevil stunts that I first tasted dirt. I decided that I really liked it! It had a good flavor and crunched very nicely. I don’t think I really made it a habit to eat dirt very often—just one in a while when I felt like chewing something nice and gritty.

(Romantic to the Core)
I also possessed a red wagon and a little red wheelbarrow. What romantic adventures and fun I would have with these items! The wagon made an ideal princess bed and the wheelbarrow was just the right shape and size to serve as the cradling arms of my beloved. Whether I was being rescued and carried to safety in the arms of a knight, a prince, or my darling Huckleberry Finn, on any given day the wheelbarrow served nicely, and I would lie in the arms of my champion and let him kiss me as much as he wanted. (Heavy sigh!)

(Inspired by My Own Past)
There was an immense lilac bush/tree in our front yard at the Lago house and if one, who was between the ages of 3 and 6, would crouch down, one could enter into the cavity behind and under the lilac tree and play in a hollow—the stuff of fairy tales! It was oh, so heavenly a fragrance to inhale ‘neath the lilac tree as I was playing. And when I was in a more adventurous frame of mind, I could slide down the tin roof of a building (garage I think) that was off to one side of the house, and land softly in a bed of cattails that grew in and around a small creek there. I still adore cattails to this very day. I consider them to also be the stuff of dreams and fairy tales.

Just three little ditties…and by no means life altering (I was being sarcastic before)…but kind of fun all the same.  🙂

DSC_0748Now, as you know, I TOTALLY love to read through things my mother has written!  She has such a way with painting a picture, an ambiance, etc. with words!  Here are some little ditties from her personal history that I love, love, love!  (My mom at age fourteen to the left!)

(Autumn)
In the fall, the winds are quieter, the air is mellow, the angle at which the sun hits the earth causes the rays to be less harsh, the air appears to have a golden glow instead of the glaring white of summer, there are smells of warm grapes, apple cider, dill pickles, grape juice in the making, and apple, plum, and peach butter cooking, and the smell of burning apple wood and leaves in the air. Maybe not now, but all these aromas were in the fall air when I was young. Also waiting on the gentler breezes would be the smell of homemade bread again. One didn’t bake bread too often in the summer unless absolutely necessary and then only in the early morning. It was too hot to fire up the stove.

(Winter)
Winter was beautiful with snow, ice, and frost. Clear, crisp nights when, as the sun set, the sky would go through every shade of blue from pale blue to blue green to sky blue to royal blue to dark blue to black blue with the last rays of the sun at the sky blue and royal blue stages turning the clouds from white to gold to light pink to darker pink to gray. The stars would appear one by one—silvery, crisp, and distinct. The Milky Way could be seen stretching across the heavens, and then a crescent or full moon would appear to light up the frost forming in the air and settling on the ground or the frost diamonds resting on the snow of a few days before.

Darkness would have set in before I got off the bus at night. I sometimes would walk from the bus stop to home on the snowplowed road with the moonlight glistening on the snow on both sides. Before I reached the driveway, I would smell fresh baked bread, the cinnamon of fresh baked sweet rolls, and pinto beans cooking. Ahh! There’s not a person on earth who ever ate so well on a cold wintry night. For my after-school snack, Mom would let me have a small bowl of beans with lots of black pepper and a glass of good, cold, uncooked (unpasteurized) whole milk. Christmas is in the air. New Year’s Day comes and goes. Soon spring is in the air again.

(Spring)
Spring was hyper with winds blowing, machinery roaring, plants growing, birds chattering, twittering, singing, fighting, and frantically building nests, some getting intense. Don’t get me wrong. I love birds and do miss their chirping, twittering, and songs as they quiet down in late summer to raise their families, feed, and prepare to migrate. But, there was just a lot of activity and noise in the spring along with the birds.

Another treasure to me, is a manuscript my mom transcribed, of a conversation she had with her mother before she died.  You know my mom’s mother…my maternal grandmother, Opal Edith Switzler States (on the right in the photo below).  She was my inspiration for the heroine Cherry Ray in my book Sweet Cherry Ray!  The discussion these few little excerpts were transcribed from was done shortly before my grandma passed away.  I LOVE them!  They’re so insightful to the life she lived as a child!

(Trains and Bulls)
Juanita and I before coming to Colorado Ages 13-10 Juanita and Opal Switlzer - CopyAfter Daddy died, we still had Cousin Wren’s big ole Guernsey bull. Dad had a big padlock on the gate; I don’t know who unlocked the pen. I don’t know whether it was Palmer that called Mom and told her the ole bull was on the railroad track. He tried to get him off and cou1dn’t. When the train come along, he just ran at it sideways and cut his head off. Wren didn’t want Mom to keep a bull after Dad died anyhow. When Mom called Wren and told him, he said, “Well,” he said a’, “I’m glad it happened. I was scared to death you or one of the kids was going to get hurt out there.

(Chasing a Rattler)
Coming back down through there one day, a rattlesnake went and jumped at ole Tony’s (her horse) belly, and ah, I got off the horse and started chasing that thing. It crawled in a hole, and, like a dummy, I got down there and peeked at him. I could see that ole thing, so I stuck a rock in there, and went to the house and got a shovel and came back and dug him out and killed him. Boy! I tell you, that was awful!

So now you may be silently asking yourself, “And what’s the point to all this reminiscing?”

Well…I don’t really have one…Journals (i.e. personal histories) are absolutely one of the most precious things on earth!  If you’ve ever been given the opportunity to read an ancestor’s journal, then you know what I mean. Not only do they tell your story for your posterity, but they help you to remember it yourself.  They are a treasure…absolutely invaluable, and I regret that I never kept one.

I was just missing my grandma today, I guess. 🙁  Furthermore, I’ve set Monday as my official “Day to Blog” and it’s Monday!  Plus, I pulled a name out of my hat for the Princess Diaries DVD and need to let you know what the contest is THIS week on my blog, right?  🙂

Okay, last week’s winner is April Turner (who commented on my Facebook post about the blog)!  Congratulations, April!

As for this week’s contest…hmmm…let’s see.  How about this:  Since I’m feeling very nostalgic tonight, have you ever seen a cute little, romantic, great-life-lesson movie entitled, flippedFlipped?  If you haven’t, you must!!!  This week my contest is for a DVD copy of Flipped!  Just leave a comment…something YOU feel nostalgic about in your own life, here, on Facebook, Goodreads, etc. and you’re entered to win!  It’s a great movie!

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Chris Pine’s Doppelganger! I LOVE old photos!

Holy Moley!  (How do you spell ‘Moley’ anyway?  I know it’s not Molly…that’s a name…but I’m never sure how to spell it.  Oh well.)  I got so wrapped up in thinking about Cake while I was blogging yesterday, that I forgot something else I wanted to tell you, AND to post the contest for my Blog this week!

So, as you may or may not know, I LOVE old photographs…especially old wedding photos, right?  Now, I tend to collect the ones that are 1920s and before (my daughter-in-law, Mallory and I both like that era of photos), and my daughter, Sandy, prefers the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.  Therefore, I usually give the ones from the 30s-50s that I come across to Sandy.  But when I found this one (and it’s just an old wedding announcement), I just HAD 001to keep it!  Wanna guess why?

Well, I get really intrigued when I find an old photo that resembles someone I know in this day and age.  I mean, some of the ones I’ve come across are totally uncanny!  But I’m telling you, when I saw this one, I was certain I was looking at actor, Chris Pine’s Doppelganger!  Seriously!

In fact, the whole reason I picked up this photo and eventually bought it, is because it was one of those uncanny likenesses that I LOVE to find in old photos!  Seriously…check them out side-by-side…002

ChrisPine

Are you as impressed as I am?  I mean, I know the one of Chris Pine is a way better photo (as far as photography is concerned…light/shadows etc.)…but seriously!  Couldn’t the soldier just be Chris Pine dressed up for a movie role?  Fun, huh!

Well, being that this post is about Chris Pine’s Doppelganger, I thought, “Hey, why not have this week’s contest incorporate another Chris Pine Doppelganger?”  Okay, I know that it princessdiariesreally is Chris Pine in The Princess Diaries 2…but he looks so different in it than he does now, that I just thought we’d call it the “Chris Pine’s Doppelganger Contest,” you know?  Just leave a comment on one of Chris Pine’s Dobbelgangers here, on Facebook, etc. and I’ll pick a winner on Monday to receive The Princess Diaries 2 DVD!  Okay?   Doppelgangers…weird, huh?

 

 

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Oh sweet memories of my favorite birthday cake! :)

So the other night, I woke up thinking about this “House” cake my mom made for my birthday when I was little. I’m sure that the “House” cake was brought to the forefront of my memory because my daughter, Sandy, was planning on making a “Car” cake for my grandson’s birthday last weekend.

Now, I’m sure so many of you had groovy birthday cakes that were the bomb when you were little, right? I mean, whether they were ordered and then picked up from the grocery store bakery, made from a mix, or (as mine always were thanks to my mom) made from scratch and utterly DEE-Double-icious, I’m sure everyone has birthday cake stories. But my favorite birthday cake story is the one about my “House” cake.

I have to begin by confessing something…I am a cake-aholic! I LOVE cake! It’s my favorite dessert and always my first choice for a treat. Seriously…I LOVE cake! And I don’t care how pretty or not-pretty a cake is, I’ll love it! AND what’s with these sheet cakes at wedding receptions? They serve each person like a 1 inch by 1 inch square piece of cake! Ha! That’s hardly enough for a good sniff, right?

Needless to say, with my kids all grown up and gone from everyday life at home, I don’t bake cakes anymore. Know why? Because I will eat them! And I mean I will eat the whole thing! Not giant piece by giant piece, but by just cutting off a sliver here and there every time I walk through the kitchen. Yep, my cake-baking days have dwindled to just special occasions—when I know it will be mostly eaten before everyone leaves the party, or that I can at least send part of it home with someone.

087But the fact of the matter still remains that I have been a cake-aholic since birth. Look at my excitement here on my 1st birthday.

And then again on my 2nd birthday. Obviously I couldn’t even wait for a piece to be cut for me! Had to have it NOW!088

 

089

 

 

 

Now back to my mom, who was an incredible cake-baker…especially where taste was concerned! Oh her cakes didn’t always come out of the oven perfectly perfect-looking like a mix cake usually does…but MMmmmmm! Did they ever taste divine! (I think I’ll share a couple of her cake recipes here at the end for you—they are THAT good!)

Anyway, every year Mom made my birthday special! She always stayed up way too late laboring over my cakes (which makes me feel so so soooooooo badly, in truth—but maybe that’s why I was/and am always so appreciative of my mother’s cakes). AND she didn’t have fancy mold pans, or instructions on how to decorate cakes…she was a farm-girl, and she’d grown up during the last years of the great depression. So my mom was frugal and incredibly inventive. (Those of you who have parents now in their late 70s, 80s and beyond, know what I mean.) Yet whether it was a fancy kitty-cat cake for my 5th birthday…084

or a plain, but delicious, two layer cake for my 7th birthday…

086

 

Mom always made me some sort of wonderful birthday cake! I loved every one of the cakes Mom made for me over the years…but it’s the “House” cake that really stands out in my mind as a wonderful memory.

Sadly, I don’t have a photo of my “House” cake. I guess for some reason Mom didn’t feel it was worth taking a photo of or something…though I can’t imagine why. 😉

Anyway, that year for my birthday (I think it was my 6th birthday) the guests were all over to help me celebrate. There we were, in our little family room in our house in Grace, Idaho (you know…right there on Lago Rd.). Everyone was sitting around anticipating the diving into of one of Mom’s delicious cakes.

Well, when Mom walked in carrying this AWESOME 3D “House” cake, I was elated! Wow! It was incredible! It had four walls and a pitched roof…WOW! It was truly beautiful! It also seemed to defy every principle of physics. Like I said, Mom didn’t have a house cake mold or anything…she just flew by the seat of her pants with stuff.

I remember her setting the cake down on a TV tray and getting to serve it. I was salivating like a hungry lion who had just taken down a big, fat gazelle! Oooo! It was scrumptious looking! Just slathered with colored frosting and standing probably a good 12 inches high. Everyone in the room felt their eyes bug out with hungry yearning! Every mouth was watering, every hand was outstretched, waiting to receive a piece of Moms magnificent “House” cake. And me…well, not only was I drooling impatience, I was so proud! What a cake! Everyone was impressed, and Mom had made it just for me!

And then Mom lifted the cake knife and said, “Okay, be careful. I had to use toothpicks and masking tape to hold this together.”

Yep, it’s true. As we all sat in the family room on various pieces of furniture–as we carefully cut into our individual pieces of cake with our forks or spoons, no one cared that here and there you had to peel off a piece of masking tape. We simply just peeled it off, licked Mom’s delicious, home-made frosting off the top and watched the piece of tape curl up on the side of our plates as we discarded them.

Naturally the toothpicks were a bit more of a challenge. Hidden hither and thither throughout the cake (Mom had used toothpicks to hold the roof to the walls so the cake would stand up) were various lengths of toothpick pieces. Sometimes one would encounter an entire toothpick, feeling like one had found hidden treasure. But mostly it was just a piece of a toothpick you had to pick out of your mouth after you’d taken a bite of cake and felt the odd prick of a toothpick tip in the roof of your mouth.

Yep, the “House” birthday cake my mom made for me that year still stands in my memory as my favorite birthday cake ever! Of course, that’s mostly because of the memory of how wonderful the cake looked and the way everyone just ate around the masking tape and toothpicks and enjoyed Mom’s cake. But it’s also because that physics-defying “House” cake tasted just as good (or better) than any other cake Mom had made…or would ever make! Mmmm!

Here are a couple of my Mom’s yummiest cake recipes. I will admit that you’ll need to adjust for your altitude a bit. Mom perfected these recipes at somewhere around 3000 feet I think…so higher altitude add about 1/4 cup of flour. And if they fall (which mine often do for some reason) they still taste like Heaven! (I would recommend buying one of those cake molds if you’d like to make a “House” cake using these recipes, however. 😉 )

Cinnamon Spice Cake
(This was my Grandma’s recipe originally, but this is my Mom’s improved Version. 🙂 )

Ingredients:
2 cups Sugar
2 cups Flour
1 cube Butter
4 tablespoons Cocoa
¼ cup Oil
1 cup Water
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Vanilla
½ cup Buttermilk*
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
2 Eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix sugar and flour in bowl and set aside.

In saucepan combine butter, cocoa, oil and water. Bring to rapid boil. Remove from heat and add soda, vanilla, buttermilk, eggs and cinnamon. Mix well (beat for 2 minutes with an electric mixer.)

Bake in greased and floured 9×13 pan at 350 for 30-40 minutes.

Let the cake cool for a time, but frost with chocolate frosting while the cake is still a little warm.

*In place of buttermilk, I use 1 tablespoon vinegar and milk to equal ½ cup.

Note: This was my grandma’s (Opal Edith Switzler States’) recipe. Although I don’t remember eating this specific cake at my Grandma States’s house, I do remember Mom making it a lot—and I loved it! Still do!

Carnival Cake
(This one is to DIE for! But I have a really hard time keeping it from falling.)

Note: This was one of my favorite cakes growing up! My mom used to make it a few times a year and I always savored it. The original recipe appears below, with my mom’s original high altitude notes in parenthesis. I’m remembering that you do have to play with the flour and liquids a bit at a low altitude.

Ingredients:
2 ¼ c. Flour
(plus 2 T.)
1 ½ c. Sugar
2 ½ t. Baking Powder
1 t. Salt
¾ c. Shortening
½ c. Milk
(plus ¼ c.)
1 t. Orange Extract
½ t. Almond Extract
3 Medium Eggs
¼ c. Milk
(plus ¼ c.)

Combine dry ingredients, shortening, 1st measuring of milk, extracts and 1 egg. Beat 2 minutes. Add remaining milk and eggs and beat for 2 more minutes. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes. Frost with Easy Penuche Icing.

Easy Penuche Icing
(You HAVE to use this frosting on this cake! It’s sooooooo yummy!)

Ingredients:
½ c. Butter
1 c. Brown Sugar
1 ¾ to 2 c. Powdered Sugar

Melt butter in saucepan. Add brown sugar. Bring to boil over low heat and boil 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Cool to luke warm. Gradually add sifted powdered sugar. Beat until thick enough to spread. If too stiff, add a little hot water.

Note: This recipe, as well as the one for Carnival Cake, was my mother’s—but I really do think she got it from her mom (Opal Edith Switzler States.) I loved this cake! However, I never made Carnival Cake and Punuche Icing very often, because it is very rich and this does take a little more work than regular icing. LOVE it, though! LOVE it!

*Ooops!  Forgot to announce the winner of last week’s Blog contest for the Timothy Dalton version of Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights!  It’s Goodreads commenter, Jessica!  I sent you a message on Goodreads Jessica!  Just e-mail your address to me!  Yay!

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Never Judge a Book’s Author by Her Cover Design Stress :) (Yikes!)

And so, as of 6 a.m. tomorrow morning, my neck is stretched out on the chopping block once again. 🙁  Yikes!

Let’s go back (way back) the year 2001. Heck! Let’s go further back, shall we? Let’s say…1995-ish—back when book covers were so easy and stress-free for me. Back when all a girl had to do was Xerox a drawing of her handsome hubby, slap it on top of a manuscript, three-whole punch it, stick it in a three ring binder and Voila!…a book to give as a gift to a friend for a birthday or Christmas. Ahhh those were the days—when everyone was totally satisfied with simply having their own Xeroxed copy of a drawing of Kevin on a manuscript cover. 🙂

Back then, every book had the same cover—or at least nearly the same. Every manuscript/book I gifted or sold had this simple Xeroxed copy of a drawing of Kevin, accompanied by the title and my name (the title being the only difference between books). Whether it was Indebted Deliverance, The Heavenly Surrender or Dusty Britches—the cover image was the same. I mean, how easy is that? I think it lent a sort of mystery to it all, too—kind of like opening a present. Since the cover of every book looked the same, the story and its setting was always a surprise to the reader. Kevin hated having his ‘likeness’ on the covers, of course—but oh well, right? 🙂

And then 2001 arrived, and the publication of my first officially published book, The Heavenly Surrender. This was the first time I’d ever had to really think hard about a cover. At the time, and in the genre in which I write (i.e. “Tasteful Romance”), book covers featuring landscapes were really in! Also watercolor type covers—picket fences with flowering vines on them, etc.

Well, the first thing I did when trying to think of what I’d like on The Heavenly Surrender cover, was go to the local Barnes and Noble and start pulling books off the shelves in the Romance section. Guess what I discovered—a lot of naked people. Oh, not nearly as naked as they are now on Romance book covers, but naked people all the same. Most main-stream romance at the time involved either naked people on the cover, or landscapes or watercolors (but the naked people covers won over the majority…not that I have anything against naked people…we’re born naked, you know? But you know what I mean when I refer to a romance novel having only naked people on the front, right?)

I knew it was going to be a challenge to find a decent cover that the publisher would be willing to pay for the artwork for. It had to be tasteful, yet different—and yet not SO different that it turned people away. Stock Photography was way on the rise and more accessible than ever, thanks to the Internet. But it was REALLY expensive! None of this easy accessible and a lot of choices that we authors and publishers enjoy now—it was REALLY expensive back then, and required royalty fees, etc. Furthermore, for The Heavenly Surrender, I couldn’t find anything I liked anyway. So…I just grabbed my camera and hit the rural roads of Ferndale, Washington—took my own photographs for the cover.

Thus, the first cover of The Heavenly Surrender was created by a graphics artist using photographs I had taken (and one a friend had given me). I told the graphics lady what I wanted, emphasizing ‘pink sunset,’ and that first ‘pink’ cover of The Heavenly Surrender first edition was born! I wasn’t totally happy with it, but it was different than anything else that was out at the time, AND the readers seemed to love it!

Therefore, when The Visions of Ransom Lake was up for publication the next year, I did the same thing—grabbed my camera and hit the Ferndale roads, including the cemetery just outside and north of Bellingham, Washington. Yep! For those of you who don’t already know, that main image on the first edition of The Visions of Ransom Lake, is a combination of a cemetery and a pumpkin patch in that Ferndale area (only the cover artist ‘removed’ the tombstones from the cemetery one).

When Shackles of Honor was up for publication later in 2002, however, I had no idea where I was going to find a cover! The weather was bad in Ferndale that time of year. Plus, there weren’t any good cliffs around close…and I certainly wanted cliffs. Thus, that cliff photo on Shackles of Honor’s first ‘blue’ cover was indeed a stock photo. Yep—the publisher dropped a wad on that one—and also on a stock photo for the cover of Dusty Britches one year later. The first cover for The Fragrance of Her Name was my concept as well—and created from photos I had taken.

But then something happened—I agreed (much to my great misery for years to come) to let another publisher publish a few of my novellas and a couple of novels. Desert Fire (and you know THAT story, right—the one of how it became Desert Fire when it was published, instead of The Foundling, right?), To Echo the Past, An Old-Fashioned Romance, Divine Deception and Daydreams were all published as part of a series called, “Love Notes.” And though the watercolor art was done by a sweet, sweet and very talented lady that worked for that publisher at the time, the covers were not what I would’ve have liked to have seen. Then when The Touch of Sage was finally published, I cried my eyes out when I saw that first cover. I was so disappointed, in fact, that the publisher did allow me to work with their artist for the cover of the first edition of The Highwayman of Tanglewood—and I was okay with that one.

Life went forward and I never allowed any publisher but Distractions Ink to publish my books again—for a myriad of reasons that I won’t go into because this blog is already too boring.

But let’s fast-forward a bit now—from 2001 to 2010. E-Books were exploding onto the scene! Book covers featuring landscapes were all but vanishing, in favor of images that were more eye-catching when presented as thumbnail images. Landscapes are harder to see on a thumbnail image, and my books like The Heavenly Surrender, The Visions of Ransom Lake—those first 5 books that were ever published, not only needed a facelift by 2019 for their own self-esteem, they needed something that looked great as just a teeny, tiny thumbnail image.

Now, as you may or may not also know, until 2010 I had completely steered away from using any kind of “human face” element on my book covers (with the exception of the original manuscript type featuring Kevin). I preferred that my readers be able to open a book without any preconceived images in their minds. I mean, after all…let’s be perfectly honest…no matter what we look like, every one of us girls imagines ourselves in the role of the heroine, right? Therefore, it wasn’t so much female images I was worried about, but the men ones. We all have our own notion of what the hero in a book looks like, too—either our husband, our boyfriend, or Hugh Jackman, Zack Efron, Chris Hemsworth…whoever, right? So it was more the male images I was worried about.

However, I began to notice that with the onslaught of e-book popularity, and the changing times, the “human element” was becoming the new thing for book covers. Therefore, in 2010, I nervously tested the waters with a silhouetted image of a cowboy holding a saddle on the cover of Weathered Too Young. I had tripled the length of the novella version of that book in preparation for print book release, and when I saw that image (the cowboy silhouetted against that beautiful blue sunset) I knew—I knew that my own book cover preferences were changing right along with the changing face of the book business.

I was very cautious at first, nonetheless—to the point that I think I made some really big mistakes—The Touch of Sage being one (I LOVE it now, however!  Thanks, Nate and Andrea!). When I finally managed to get the publishing rights back on that particular book, and it went into republication, I chickened out—I went scenic. Oh it was a beautiful scene—but it didn’t do the book any more justice than that first (in my mind) awful cover had. 🙁

I did the same thing with several other books that I retrieved the publishing rights for, too—Daydreams being one. I chickened out on books I already still held the publishing rights to. In fact, it wasn’t until the 10th Anniversary Edition of The Heavenly Surrender was on the docket, that I finally found the courage to do what I’d wanted to do for a long, long time—add a human element to my book covers.

Now, believe it or not, I have taken some criticism for the direction I’ve chosen to take with my book covers. Not too much—but two or three letters/e-mails that really upset me. ? Still, I it’s the nature of the game, you know—criticism. I try to be tough and re-read the kind, encouraging e-mails I get about my book covers—but you know how it is—800 compliments may come your way, but it’s the one ‘dis’ that sticks in your mind and heart, right?

Still, it hasn’t deterred me. I mean, after all, what I think is still true—all of us girls imagine ourselves as the heroine, so it doesn’t really matter if the GORGEOUS woman on the cover of the new edition of The Fragrance of Her Name looks just like what we each individually imagine Lauren to look or not. She’s just there to let us know that Lauren is beautiful! Everyone knows that Lauren looks exactly like she looks in my mind—and in yours! ?

The same goes for the guys—we imagine them the way we imagine them—no matter who is on the cover. Although, oddly enough, I’ve never received a scathing e-mail about any of the covers with guys on the front—not one. That’s weird, now that I think of it.

After all this nonsensical rambling (which is really just my innermost fears and worries over my book covers and whether or not you’ll like them) you’re probably wondering why I even brought it up, right? Well, here’s: Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh! Midnight Masquerade goes up for pre-sale tomorrow morning and I’m freaking out!!!!

I absolutely LOVE this book! I love it so so so much! For me it’s right up there with A Crimson Frost, Shackles of Honor, The Visions of Ransom Lake and others of my personal favorites! And I want you to love it, too! The ambiance in the book—delicious! The smooching—WOW!!! And I just love the story! So I’m nervous—because even though Midnight Masquerade is only in the pre-order stage—I want everyone to LOVE the cover—even before they love the book!

I could’ve really wasted a lot of your time with more stories about, and history of, my book covers, but I know you don’t want that! I hope, however, that this little blog thingy gave you a bit of insight into how very seriously I take my books and their covers. It’s why I work so hard to keep control of my book content and covers. I know authors where publishers have forced them to delete entire characters from the content of their books before publishing it! I know authors who have no say, whatsoever on what their cover will look like! And I’m so very thankful that I can choose what my ‘babies’ (i.e. books and stories) “wear” you know?

Thank you so much for wading through this miserable nonsense of my nerves! It happens every time a new book comes out, or an old book re-releases with a new cover! I’m a crazy person! I’ve been eating Peanut Butter Crunch by the mixing bowl-full for days! In fact, as I leave you with a little sample of the cover for Midnight Masquerade, I think I’ll run downstairs and have another bowl of Peanut Butter Crunch before hitting the hay! (And then I wonder why I’m chubby, right :))

PS…The name of the heroine (that we all look like) in Midnight Masquerade is Evony Elorietta! Don’t you LOVE it!?

Posted in Marcia's Blog | 12 Comments