Saturday, October 31, 2015

Another Crazy Bird Card

This one was fun! My friend, Linda, came over and did a Crazy Bird day. This is the one I made:

Here is the one she made: 

Christmas Cards - Tim Holtz Crazy Birds

Been having fun with a new stamp and die called Crazy Birds. Here is a Christmas card that I made using the Crazy Things dies and Jellybean Holly Berry Borcht paper pack. I love the Crazy Things which add the 3-D elements and fun hat!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Review of "A Crow of His Own"

I recently received a review copy of A Crow of His Own, written by Megan Dowd Lambert and illustrated by David Hyde Costello. Love this book! 

Scrawny Clyde is brought in to take the place of Larry, the prized rooster who took off for new opportunities. The question is: Can Clyde live up to Larry’s reputation?

Clyde tries his hardest to live up to Larry’s reputation using every trick in his book, but he soon finds himself inadequate for the task. In the end, however, Clyde saves the day by "crowing a crow of his own."

Colorful illustrations, a subtle lesson to “be yourself,” and a happy ending make this a book any child would enjoy.

Teachers: “A Crow of His Own” is a great choice for a mentor text in the composition classroom. First, it contains some amusing alliteration. For example: “He had a crick in his comb, his right wing was all wrong, and his wattle? Well, his wattle was a wobbly wreck.”

And, second, the use of complex words such as “disapproving,” “humiliated,” and “inquired” demonstrate how word choice can enhance a story and make it fun to read, even for the youngest reader. 

I thoroughly enjoyed A Crow of His Own and recommend it to children, parents, and teachers, alike.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Dirty Rats!

Do you have a student who's working on a science report and needs fun, interesting information? Or, do you have a child who doesn’t like to read? If so, Dirty Rats? by Darrin Lunde and illustrated by Adam Gustavson might be the answer! Here’s why:

First: the illustrations are awesome – they are fun, colorful, and eye-catching. Between the mousetrap covered with mouse-shaped blood, the dark-creepy tunnel, and the vicious dog chasing a rat, these illustrations will keep even your pickiest reader turning the pages.

Second: the text. The text is simple, yet chock full of interesting facts. For instance, did you know that there is a rat that can hop six feet at a time?  You probably know that rats are used in labs for scientific research, but did you know there's special type of rat that is used to locate explosives in minefields? There's even a rat that is poisonous to touch! This book includes many interesting details that can be integrating into a school report.

This is a perfect gift book for picky readers or a great addition to any library. Personally, I recommend it for ages 5 and up. I think that even adults will enjoy it. I did!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

High Tide for Horseshoe Crabs - Book Review

This book review is for all my East Coast friends and for those of you who enjoy going to or reading about the ocean: High Tide for Horseshoe Crabs by Lisa Kahn Schnell and illustrated by Alan Marks. Schnell and Marks have created a unique picture book that tells the story of the annual spawning of the horse shoe crab on the Delaware beaches. I remember this scene from my childhood in Delaware, so the book brings back wonderful memories for me.

The story is easy to read, but provides just enough facts to keep both youngsters and adults interested. The reader follows along as the first crab comes ashore and ends with the baby crabs returning to the ocean. As I read the story and looked at the pictures, I could almost smell the salt in the ocean. I could imagine the waves breaking against my toes, and I'm quite sure I heard sea gulls diving for crab eggs.

Inside the front cover, Marks uses drawings to present additional facts about the horseshoe crabs. For instance, did you know that horse shoe crabs do not have teeth or jaws? They have to push their food in with bristles at the base of their legs.

This is a book that anyone with young children should have in their library. It can be used to help your child write a school report. It can also be used as a mentor text on the use of sensory images in your writing. Or, it can be read just for the sheer joy of it. This one is a keeper for my library!

Note: I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review. Those of you who know me, know that I will tell you if I don't like something. I like this book! 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Teaching Composition

I wanted to pass on a resource I am using in my Composition class at Cornerstone Tutorial Center. It's called Writing to Texts by Newmark Learning. Here's what I like about it:

Writing to Texts
1. It covers both expository writing and persuasive writing.

2. It provides the articles to use. You don't have to find your own.

3. It teaches the students to understand a writing prompt and how to answer it effectively. This is a skill that is needed.

4. It provides a choice of prompts with each lesson. Some are better than others, but there is at least one that you will like.

5. It is reproducible for use in your classroom.

As usual, I don't use the book exactly as written, but what teacher does? However, it does give me everything I need to create an effective lesson. (Shhh! A secret: I even use this in my high school classes - I just wite-out the grade level on the reproducibles!)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Cozy Mystery Progress

It's been 21 days since I started working on my cozy mystery, and I'm happy to report that I am making progress as promised!

Today, I actually wrote the first scene for the story. Up to now, I have been busy working on a plot outline, developing my characters, and creating a setting. Not all of this is finished, but I have a good working outline. So, I decided to at least start the story. I'll have to continue working on my characters and settings and plot, but I'm at a place where I can at least begin.

I am using Scrivener, which I love. I have created a cast of characters using a template I created from several books. I have mapped out my town, however, I can already see some changes that need to be made. More on this later. I have a skeleton plot. My biggest challenge at this point is my villain. I'm having a bit of trouble coming up with one I like. I have one I'm working with, but I'm not sure if he's a keeper. Lots to think about!

In the midst of all this, I am teaching at Cornerstone Tutorial Center, playing chauffeur for my husband, Bill, and packing for my move in April. It's a lot to juggle, but I'm determined to keep on keeping on. I had three days where I did not write at all; but, thanks to Ramona's Sprint, I am writing a minimum of one hour a day. It's not much, but it's all I've got right now. I feel like the turtle in The Tortoise and the Hare!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Social Media, Blogging, and Moving

In the process of preparing for our move to an independent living facility, my husband found this video which was recorded on a CD and subsequently misplaced. I thought I had lost it. 

So here's the story: Back in 2007, I went back to college and started a blog called Empty Nest Mom Goes to College. Long story short, Good Morning American and Ladies' Home Journal were looking for a subject to use in their story on adult women returning to college. They found my blog and the rest is history. Here is my 5 minute claim to fame! 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Writing Progress

So, I've been a part of the writer's sprint for 10 days now and I wrote one hour per day for all but one of those days. So, I feel pretty good about that. Still working on developing characters and basic plot. But, with only one hour a day to spend on it, I can expect it to take a long time. Perhaps after my move, I will be able to spend more time on writing.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Renew Your Writing Vows in 2015

Ramona DeFelice Long is a new online friend and mentor that I met through Sisters in Crime. She recently posted this on her blog, and I want to pass it on because it helps me continue to press on towards the goal of finishing my novel; something that I've wanted to do for years, but never made the time to do.

With Ramona's help and the help of our sprints online, I am finally seeing progress. It also helps to know that someone took three years to write a book. That gives me freedom to write one hour a day and not worry that it won't be done tomorrow. I guess it's that Tortoise and the Hare mentality: Slow and steady WILL win the race! Thanks, Ramona. I'm taking the pledge and so is Oreo!

I, Cindy Downes do solemnly swear to devote one hour each day to Sacred Writing Time. That means no one and nothing disturbs this time, including myself.
I will work at my laptop in my bedroom. When you, the undersigned, see me at this location, you will respect my Sacred Writing Time Pledge and not disturb me unless there is blood flowing from multiple places on someone’s body.
Signatures: Cindy Downes (yours) OREO? (your family’s)

Sunday, January 4, 2015


One of the problem with writing is that it is a solo occupation. This makes it very easy to "put it off until tomorrow," therefore, I've been looking for some kind of accountability.

Then, I met Ramona DeFelice Long through Sisters in Crime, and she invited me to her online Writer's Sprint every day at 7 a.m. Eastern time. The goal is to post on the board at 7, then write for one hour, and then re-post on the board after you have completed your "sprint."

This has been a wonderful inspiration for me. Every morning, I get up and write for one hour before doing anything else. Then, I post my accomplishments on Ramona's page. Just knowing that some other writer friends are doing the same thing makes it so much easier to keep that commitment. And, I'm actually making progress on my book!

I'm also looking forward to getting to know all the writer's in this group. Maybe next time I head back east, I'll be able to meet them in person.

If you can't find a group of writer's in your local area or, if you're like me and have a crazy work schedule, try to find an online group. I highly recommend it!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Mystery Writers Unite!

If any of my readers are interested in writing mysteries, I invite you to join Sisters-in-Crime.

And, for those of you like me who are really new at this, they have a subgroup called Guppies.

I've only been a member myself for a couple of weeks and already I have learned much more about writing a mystery AND I've found some online support to help motivate me to accomplish what I want to accomplish. I'm very excited I found this group. I only wish there were more in Oklahoma so that we could me face to face!