Tuesday 31 July 2012

Tips for the Perfect Title

A few weeks ago, I blogged about making a dummy book for my picture book "I'm Just a Home Child" (see "Cutting and Pasting") to imagine what the finished product might look like.  Now, I have started passing my book around to my daughter and her friends to read (my target audience is ages 6 to 9).  So far, they have been polite and said they liked it.  However, I did receive one piece of constructive criticism from one girl who said she didn't like the title. 

I had already been considering changing the existing title to something with the name "Daisy" since she is my main character.  So far, I've had the following suggestions:

1.  I'm Daisy
2.  Daisy's World
3.  Daisy the Home Child
4.  Daisy's Life
5.  The Diary of Daisy

I like these alternatives.  I decided to google "How to Choose a Title for Your Story" and here are the suggestions I found:


1.  Google It.  Check the internet to see if your title is original.

2.  Maximize your Choices.  Make a list of at least 5 titles before choosing one.  Ask family and friends for their input.

3.  Don't Forget Voice and Point of View.  If your story is written in the third person a title like "My Summer Vacation" would be inappropriate.

4.  Use Precise Nouns and Active Verbs.  Fors instance, "Desire Under the Elms" works much better than "Love Under the Trees".

5.  Craft Two Meanings.  When you read a book, the reader derives a second, hidden meaning from the title.  Examploes of this are Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" and John Cheever's "The Swimmer".

6.  Avoid Sabotaging the Plot.  Your title should not give away the plot.

7.  Title and Story Must Match.  You may start writing your story with one title but realize afterwards that it no longer fits.

8.  Your First Opportunity to Stand Out in the Slush Pile.  Make it distinctive but not distracting so that the potential editor wants to read the manuscript or the potential reader says:  "What a fantastic title!  Why didn't I think of that?"

Source:  www.writersdigest.com.

Monday 30 July 2012

A Penguin a Week

Today is National Paperback Day in honour of the first Penguin paperback to be published in 1935 titled Ariel by Andre Maurois.  Although paperbacks had been introduced by the Germans in the 1800's, the concept never really took off until Penguin debuted their own version.  I googled the title and discovered a blog called "A Penguin a Week" by Karyn Reeves.  Remember how Julie Powell blogged about cooking every one of Julia Child's recipes in her cookbook within the space of a year (see the movie Julie & Julia)?  Well, Karyn Reeves, a PhD Statistics student, intends on purchasing and reading all 3000 vintage Penguin paperbacks.  So far, Karyn owns 1600 titles and has blogged about many of them.  Here are 10 titles and/or authors that I recognized from the list:

1.  The Postman Always Rings Twice (James M. Cain) 

This 1934 book, adapted into a movie in 1946, is based on a married woman and a drifter who fall in love, plot the murder of her husband and then live with the consequences.

2.  The Birdcage (John Bowen)

This 1964 book is based on two successful career oriented people who live together but never marry and after nine years their relationship fizzles out.

3.  The Flying Dutchman (Anthony Fokker)

Here is the 1931 biography of a World War I aviation pioneer who designed planes. 

4.  The War of the Worlds (H.G. Wells)

This 1898 science fiction novel pits earthlings versus Martians.  Wells read excerpts from the story on the radio in the 1930's and caused a national fervor.

5.  As I Lay Dying (William Faulkner)

This 1930 book is based on a fictional family from Mississippi and the loss of a loved one.  Faulkner uses the stream of consciousness technique.

6.  Cancer Ward (Alexander Soltzhenitsyn)

This 1967 book, banned in the Soviet Union, takes place in a cancer ward in Central Asia.

7.  Crime & Punsihment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)

This 1951 novel grapples with the question:  "Does the means justify the ends?"

8.  Under Western Eyes (Joseph Conrad)

This 1911 publication is a response to Dostoyevsky's themes in Crime & Punishment.

9.  Tender is the Night (F. Scott Fitzgerald)

This 1934 novel is based on the rise and fall of a psychoanalyst and his wife, one of his patients.  Fitzgerald's wife had been hospitalized for schizophrenia in 1932.

10.  Whistle for Willie (Ezra Jack Keats)

This 1964 book is about a child in the city on a blistering hot day.

For further reading, check out Karyn Reeve's A Penguin a Week blog at:

Image courtesy www.lynn-munroe-books.com.

Sunday 29 July 2012

A Gymnast with a Wooden Leg, A Gold Medal made of Silver & An Art Student with a Golf Club

Ten Things You Didn't Know About the Summer Olympics

1.  Figure skating was originally a part of the Summer Olympics until the winter Olympics debuted in 1924.

2.  Olympic champions last received solid gold medals in 1912.  Today, medals are 93% silver, 6% copper and contain 6 grams of gold.

3.  Summer Olympics used to span months from the Spring until the Fall.  The 1908 London Games lasted 188 days.

4.  The First Olympian to be disqualified for a banned substance was the Swedish pentathlete Gunnar Liljenwall who drank two beers to calm his nerves before the pistol shoot portion of his event.

Photo courtesy http://legendsrevealed.com.

5.  Basketball debuted at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.  The final match between Canada and the United States was marred by a deluge which turned the outdoor tennis turned basketball court into a muddy mess.  The Americans won 19 to 8.

Photo courtesy http://london2012.fiba.com.

6.  The 1912 Stockholm Games saw the introduction of art and culture medals in the following categories:  opainting, sculpture, architecture, literature and music.  The first literature gold medalist was Pierre de Coubertin, the founding father of the Olympics.  In 1948, it was decided that the art events would be discontinued since the artists were considered professionals rather than amateurs.

7.  George Eyser, an American gymnast with a wooden leg, won 6 medals at the 1904 St. Louis Games.  South African double amputee Oscar Pistorius will compete in the 400 metres event in London.

Photo of George Eyser (centre with pants) courtesy www.history.com.

8.  In 1900, American art student of Rodin, Margaret Abbott saw an ad for a golf tournament, entered, shot a 47 and took home a porcelain bowl.  Later she found out it was an Olympic gold medal from the Paris Games, which had been poorly organized.

Photo courtesy http://i.cndn.turner.com.

9.  American Ralph Rose refused to dip the stars and stripes when he passed the royal box at the 1908 London Games since the British had failed to put a U.S. flag in the Olympics stadium alongside the other nations' flags.  Americans have continued the tradition since 1921 not even dipping the flag to President Ronald Reagan in 1984.

10.  Equestrian events in the 1956 Melbourne Games were held in Stockholm Sweden five months early due to the strict quarnatine rules in Australia.

Source:  www.history.com.

Saturday 28 July 2012

Bomber Flies into Empire State Building

Decades before 9/11, long before the Twin Towers were built, a plane crashed into the Empire State Building.  No, it was not the work of terrorists.  It was simply pilot error on a foggy day.  It was not a jumbo jet, but rather a World War II bomber.  It did not collapse the tower but instead incurred minor damages. 

Lieutenant Colonel William Franklin Smith Jr., Staff Sergeant Christopher Domitrovich and Albert Perna were on board.  The pilot lost his sense of direction in the fog, and despite being denied clearance to land tried to do so anyway.  The B-25 bomber crashed into the Empire State Building between the 78th and 80th floor.  Miraculously, the Fire Department was able to contain the fire which the crash sparked.  Rescue workers were able to save an elevator operator who was put on the elevator to be evacuated and it plunged 75 stories, but she survived.  Sadly, eleven people died in the crash including the three crew members and eight people in the building. 

Many floors were still open for business the following Monday despite the damage from the crash.

Photo courtesy http://en.wikipedia.org.

Friday 27 July 2012

London's Olympic Park Built Over Old Victorian Street

The River Lea meanders through it, wildflowers lining its banks, ducks floating along its waters.  You could close your eyes and imagine you were in the countryside.  However, you are in Olympic Park in London's East End, only five kilometres from downtown.  The Olympic Park stands on 2.5 kilometres of reclaimed land which has been completely renovated.  In 2007, Olympic workers began excavating the area:  they tore down 52 power towers, 200 buildings and removed tonnes of garbage which had been accumulating since the start of the Industrial Revolution. 

At 30 feet down, they found a Victorian street.  It’s almost like Pompeii all over again.  Although they did not find any bodies, I’m sure they found some interesting artefacts.  It would be interesting to imagine what that neighbourhood looked like in 1948 during the last London Olympics.  Who walked its rubble ridden post-Blitz streets?  War veterans?  Businessmen?  Shoppers?  Who lived in its houses?  Who worked in its businesses?  Who rode its busses?  How many homeless people walked its streets?  Or what did it look like during the London Olympics of 1908?  Who walked the banks of the River Lea?  Who fed the ducks as they swam by?  Who lived in its tenements?  Who worked in its factories?  Who operated its trolley busses?  Who lit its streetlamps?  How much coal smoke hung in the air?  How many “street arabs” roamed its alleyways?  

The London of 2012 is coming alive today with the opening ceremonies of the Olympics.  The Olympic Stadium, home to 8 venues, will be filled with 80,000 spectators.  The Olympic Village will house 17,000 athletes.  Adjacent to it will be acres of green space.  For a fortnight, London will be host to hundreds of nations.  And once the closing ceremonies take place, and the athletes go home, they will dismantle Olympic Park (some not all).  The lower tier of the stadium will remain as a community centre.  Half of the Olympic Village units will be converted to social housing.  A new generation of Londoners will occupy the East End.  The Games have breathed new life into a dying neighbourhood. 

Thursday 26 July 2012


“It was June 23, 1943.  Somewhere on the endless expanse of the Pacific Ocean, Army Air Forces bombardier and Olympic runner Louie Zamperini lay across a small raft, drifting westward…A month earlier, twenty-six-year-old Zamperini had been one of the greatest runners in the world, expected by many to be the first to break the four-minute-mile…Now his Olympian’s body had wasted to less than one hundred pounds and his famous legs could no longer lift him.  Almost everyone outside of his family had given him up for dead.” (Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand, pages xvii-xviii)

A New York Times #1 bestseller, Unbroken tells the story of Louie Zamperini, an Italian-American who was a restless child, often getting into trouble for stealing, but who channelled that energy into running when he reached his teens.  He earned the nickname the “Torrance Tornado” as he beat rival after rival. 

In 1936, Louie sat in the Olympic Stadium in Berlin watching the Hindenburg float by during the opening ceremonies.  During his stay, he met fellow American Olympian Jesse Owens.  Competing in the 5000 metres, he just missed 7th place, and ran his final lap in 56 seconds.  After the race, Hitler shook his hand and commented in German:  “Ah, you’re the boy with the fast finish.”

Back in America, Louie planned on training for the 1940 Olympics.  However, World War II intervened.  Louie enlisted in the Army Air Corps and trained as a bombardier.  His first plane, the Green Hornet, endured a rough landing in which one crew member died and the plane was scrapped.  Louie’s second plane, the Green Hornet, was composed of a new crew. 

On May 27, 1943, the crew took off on a rescue mission to Palmyra.  However, they suffered engine damage in the air and crash landed into the Pacific Ocean.  All eleven crew members perished instantly except Louie, the pilot Russell Allen Phillips (Phil) and the tail gunner Francis MacNamara (Mac).  For the next several days, the trio floated on two rafts on the Pacific, fighting the blazing sun, the man-eating sharks, dehydration and starvation.  Their limited chocolate supply was depleted when Mac stole a chunk of it and ate it.  They tried desperately to catch fish, but without success.  One day Louie caught an albatross, broke its neck and they ate it (even though it gave off a putrid odour). 

On the 27th day, the trio was thrilled to hear the engine of a small plane approaching.  They fired a flare to signal the pilot of their presence but the plane passed by; later it returned, firing on the rafts.  The men saw the red circle painted on the plane’s bottom and realized it was a Japanese bomber.  For the next several minutes, the refugees desperately tried to escape the hail of bullets; Louie jumped into the ocean where he ended up fighting the sharks.  Although none of the men was injured by the bullets, their rafts were:  one raft was totally destroyed and they lost their precious supplies on it; the other raft was so riddled with bullets that they spent the next several hours bailing water out of it and patching its holes. 

By the 40th day, Louie heard a choir of 21 members singing a beautiful hymn; however, Phil had heard and seen nothing, making Louie realize he was hallucinating.  Sometime after that Mac, so weak he could not sit up, passed away.

     Just when they thought they could take no more, Louie and Phil spotted an island in the distance which grew closer and closer.  It had been 46 days since they had ditched the Green Hornet.  They would finally find civilization again!  However, approaching the “island” they realized it was a ship.  Sadly, it was not an American ship but a Japanese one.  Once aboard, the men were given food for a few days and then sent to a POW camp. 

     It was not just any POW camp but a camp where they were interrogated for enemy secrets.  Louie and Phil refused to reveal anything.  They were held captive for over 2 years in which time they were dehumanized in every way by the guards.  When care packages arrived for the emaciated prisoners via the Red Cross, the Japanese guards would tear them open and gorge themselves on their contents.  The prisoners gave nicknames to each guard, calling a particularly vicious one “The Bird”.  At one point, Louie and other enlisted men were working on a barge when it was discovered someone had stolen fish from the galley.  As punishment, the Bird made each of the 100 workers punch each other in the face 220 times.  Battling starvation was a constant struggle as well as enduring the belittlement of the guards. 

     Through it all, Louie remained “unbroken”; he refused to break to the will of “The Bird”.  He never gave up and finally, on September 9, 1945, Louie’s mother cried tears of joy as she learned her boy was alive and was coming home!  September 9 became her new Mother’s Day. 

     Back home, Louie intended on training for the 1948 London Olympics but he re-injured his heel (a POW injury) and he was forced to bow out.  However, he did meet a beautiful woman named Cynthia Applewhite whom he married and had a little girl with.  It was not happily ever after for Louie and Cynthia though as he battled regular nightmares starring “The Bird”.  Louie lashed out at those around him and turned to the bottle for solace.  Eventually Cynthia could not take his outbursts anymore and she left with the baby.  However, she did return after a few months to pack up her belongings.  

A funny thin happened, though.  A young man visiting Los Angeles (near Torrance where Louie grew up) had pitched a large tent and invited everyone to come and hear him speak.  Part of a religious revival, he was drawing crowds by the thousands.  His name was Billy Graham.  Louie and his wife’s neighbours in their apartment building had heard him speak and they were going for a second night, hoping that the Zamperini’s would accompany them.  While Louie was not interested, Cynthia agreed to go.  After one night she was hooked and she told Louie that she no longer wanted to divorce him.  She urged him to come with her to hear the young evangelist.  At first Louie refused, but eventually he gave in.  After one meeting he was curious; after two, he was hooked. 

No longer was he trapped by “The Bird”; he let of his anger and he forgave him.  He let go of the bottle.  He started living again.  Billy Graham had brought him to Christ.     

Image courtesy http://4.bp.blogspot.com.

Wednesday 25 July 2012

The Rainy Day

Sullen clouds are gathering fast over the black fringe of the
O child, do not go out!
The palm trees in a row by the lake are smiting their heads
against the dismal sky; the crows with their dragged wings are
silent on the tamarind branches, and the eastern bank of the river
is haunted by a deepening gloom.
Our cow is lowing loud, ties at the fence.
O child, wait here till I bring her into the stall.
Men have crowded into the flooded field to catch the fishes
as they escape from the overflowing ponds; the rain-water is
running in rills through the narrow lanes like a laughing boy who
has run away from his mother to tease her.
Listen, someone is shouting for the boatman at the ford.
O child, the daylight is dim, and the crossing at the ferry
is closed.
The sky seems to ride fast upon the madly rushing rain; the
water in the river is loud and impatient; women have hastened home
early from the Ganges with their filled pitchers.
The evening lamps must be made ready.
O child, do not go out!
The road to the market is desolate, the lane to the river is
slippery. The wind is roaring and struggling among the bamboo
branches like a wild beast tangled in a net.
Rabindranath Tagore


Tuesday 24 July 2012

The Hindenburg Disaster

The Hindenburg, a German airship, crashed at Lakehurst, New Jersey on July 2, 1937.  Here are nine facts about the dirigible.

1.  The survivors far outnumbered the victims.  Sixty two of the ninety seven passengers survived.

2.  The USS Akron airship suffered a more deadly fate with 73 dead and only 3 survivors.

3.  The accident was not broadcast live on the radio, although there was a reporter there to broadcast its arrival.

4.  U.S. law prevented use of helium; the airship was filled with hydrogen instead.

5.  The Hindenburg had a smoker's lounge on board.  However, passengers were only allowed to light up in a special hydrogen-free room.

6.  A lightweight piano, weighing less than 400 pounds, was used during the first year of the zeppelin's operation.

7.  The Hindenburg's first mission was a March 1936 trip around Germany spreading Nazi propaganda leaflets and Swastika flags to rally support for occupation of the Rhineland.  The dirigible also flew over the Olympic Stadium in Berlin that summer during opening ceremonies.

8.  Of 17000 pieces of mail on board the airship, 176 were still delivered to their addressees.  They were still legible, although some were charred.

9.  Goebbels wanted to name the airship after Adolph Hitler, but Eckner was not a fan and chose Paul von Hindenburg, the late German President, as its namesake.  

Source:  www.history.com.

Sunday 22 July 2012

Sour Cream Blueberry Coffee Cake


In honour of National Blueberries Month, here is a recipe with blueberries.


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons cold butter


  • In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda. In another bowl, combine the egg, sour cream, applesauce, oil and vanilla. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in blueberries. Pour into a 9 inch square pan coated with cooking spray.
  • For topping, in a bowl, combine the brown sugar, oats and cinnamon; cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over the batter. Bake at 350° for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Yield: 12 servings.

Saturday 21 July 2012

Pitching a Perfect Query

Today I typed my query letter to an editor pitching my picture book idea.  I'm Just a Home Child is the name of my book.  It is a 1900 word picture book for ages 6 to 9.  People seem to be interested in the Home Children.  I have read and/or seen several adult books or children's chapter books about them ex. Little Immigrants (Kenneth Bagnall), Orphan at my Door (Jean Little).  However, I have yet to see a picture book about the Home Children.  I am trying to fill that gap.

I tried to compose the perfect query letter:  concise and yet giving enough details to entice the reader.  I pray that the editor notices the British Home Child stamp that I used to post the letter.  I pray that it sparks the editor's interest rather than just becoming another piece of paper to be recycled. I pray that she requests a copy of my actual manuscript, which I have diligently been editing over the past several months.  I pray that she sees potential in my work.  I pray that she says "YES!" 

I pray that I'm Just a Home Child doesn't end up in the slush pile, but on the bookshelf of a bookstore or a library or a school.  I'll keep you up to date.

Cartoon courtesy http://farm1.staticflickr.com.

Friday 20 July 2012

Prayer in a Garden

Today the world seemed cruel, but evening hours
Were filled with perfume from forgotten flowers.
I saw again familiar filigree
Of moonlight through my lacy Lilac tree;
I heard the robins stirring in their nest;
And saw the path that fairy feet had pressed;
Reflected stars were in my garden pool;
On my warm face the breeze was kind and cool.
The silence seemed to speak, my head was bowed,
Then ramblers that had grown into a cloud
Lifted my eyes that, tear-washed, now could see
The beauty that today was lost to me.
Dear God, who is so near to flowers, and birds,
Be nearer still, as I shall search for words
To thank Thee for the blessings night revealed,
Which through the day discouragement concealed.
Eva Sparks Taylor

Photo courtesy http://1.bp.blogspot.com.

Thursday 19 July 2012

One Small Step for Man, One Giant Leap for Mankind

"Ten Things You Didn't Know About the Apollo 11 Moon Landing"
(by Craig Nelson)

1. The Apollo’s Saturn rockets were packed with enough fuel to throw 100-pound shrapnel three miles, and NASA couldn’t rule out the possibility that they might explode on takeoff. NASA seated its VIP spectators three and a half miles from the launchpad.

2. The Apollo computers had less processing power than a cellphone.

3. Drinking water was a fuel-cell by-product, but Apollo 11’s hydrogen-gas filters didn’t work, making every drink bubbly. Urinating and defecating in zero gravity, meanwhile, had not been figured out; the latter was so troublesome that at least one astronaut spent his entire mission on an anti-diarrhea drug to avoid it.

4. When Apollo 11’s lunar lander, the Eagle, separated from the orbiter, the cabin wasn’t fully depressurized, resulting in a burst of gas equivalent to popping a champagne cork. It threw the module’s landing four miles off-target.

5. Pilot Neil Armstrong nearly ran out of fuel landing the Eagle, and many at mission control worried he might crash. Apollo engineer Milton Silveira, however, was relieved: His tests had shown that there was a small chance the exhaust could shoot back into the rocket as it landed and ignite the remaining propellant.

6. The "one small step for man" wasn’t actually that small. Armstrong set the ship down so gently that its shock absorbers didn’t compress. He had to hop 3.5 feet from the Eagle’s ladder to the surface.

7. When Buzz Aldrin joined Armstrong on the surface, he had to make sure not to lock the Eagle's door because there was no outer handle.

8. The toughest moonwalk task? Planting the flag. NASA’s studies suggested that the lunar soil was soft, but Armstrong and Aldrin found the surface to be a thin wisp of dust over hard rock. They managed to drive the flagpole a few inches into the ground and film it for broadcast, and then took care not to accidentally knock it over.

10. The inner bladder of the space suits—the airtight liner that keeps the astronaut’s body under Earth-like pressure—and the ship’s computer’s ROM chips were handmade by teams of “little old ladies.”

Craig Nelson uncovered these facts in various NASA archives while researching his new book, Rocket Men (Viking; $28).

Source:  www.popsci.com.

Photo courtesy www.popsci.com.

Wednesday 18 July 2012

Watercolours: From Audubon to Zornes

My sister Lisa was painting a watercolour scene today.  I thought that I should learn a thing or two about watercolours.  I googled famous water colour painters and came up with a lengthy list, but I only recognized two names, Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Cezanne (I recognized the name John Audubon, but as a someone who loved to study birds, not to paint).  Here are ten watercolours, or "aquarelles" as the French say, painted by famous artists:

1.  Vincent Van Gogh's "Fishing Boats on the Beach", 1888

Image courtesy http://3.bp.blogspot.com.

2.  Maurice Prendergast's "Little Bridge, Venice", 1912

3.  Tom Lynch's "Autumn Flight"

Image courtesy www.watercolorpainting.com.

4.  Tom Hill's "In a Mexican Market"

Image courtesy www.watercolorpainting.com.

5.  Charles Demuth's "Still Life With Apples in a Green Glass", 1925

Image courtesy www.museumsyndicate.com.

6.  John Sell Cotman's "Greta Bridge", 1897

Image courtesy http://upload.wikimedia.org.

7.  Mario Cooper's "San Trovaso", 1974

Image courtesy www.watercolorpainting.com.

8.  John Audubon's "Snowy Owl", 1829

Image courtesy http://24.media.tumblr.com.

9.  Ted Kautzky's "Village Scene"

Image courtesy www.watercolorpainting.com.

10.  Milford Zomes' "Beach Party"

Image courtesy www.watercolorpainting.com.

Tuesday 17 July 2012

Heat, Hunger & High Heels

Back in the 1930's and 1940's, Walt Disney would take his two daughters to amusement parks and dream of the day that he made his own park, a park that would not just amuse the children, but educate them, a park that would not just interest the children but also their parents, a park that would be unforgettable.  He planned on building his amusement park on an 8-acre strip of land next to his Burbank Studio.  However, World War II intervened and stalled his plan temporarily.

    After V-E Day, Walt set to work making sketches of his Magic Kingdom which would include five different lands:  Main Street USA, Adventureland, Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Frontierland.  The entrepreneur soon realized that 8 acres of land was insufficient for his park and he decided instead on a 100-acre orange grove near Anaheim (25 miles southeast of Los Angeles).  Building started in July of 1954.  With the park almost complete, Walt invited his family and friends to come and celebrate his 25th wedding anniversary.

     Invitations for the opening day at Disneyland were mailed out to 6,000 people.  On July 17, 1955, however, 28,000 people showed up at Disneyland, many with counterfeited tickets.  A series of mishaps followed:  the staff ran out of food; most of the fountains did not work on a day where the thermometre hit 110 degrees Fahrenheit; a lady got her high-heeled show stuck in the freshly poured asphalt on Main Street USA; and the Mark Twain steamboat almost capsized due to overloading. 

     Even so, people continued to come through the gates of Disneyland everyday and enjoyed the many attractions including:  the Sleeping Beauty Castle, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride; Snow Whites' Adventures, Space Station X-1, Jungle Cruise, Tea Cup Ride, Stage Coach Ride and the scenic railway.  Walt Disney's $17,000,000 amusement park would see 50 million visitors by the end of its first decade.  What a feat for a cartoonist who was once fired from a newspaper job due to lack of creativity!

Photo courtesy http://12.yimg.com.

Monday 16 July 2012

Fishing on the Susquehanna in July

I have never been fishing on the Susquehanna
or on any river for that matter
to be perfectly honest.

Not in July or any month
have I had the pleasure — if it is a pleasure —
of fishing on the Susquehanna.

I am more likely to be found
in a quiet room like this one —
a painting of a woman on the wall,

a bowl of tangerines on the table —
trying to manufacture the sensation
of fishing on the Susquehanna.

There is little doubt
that others have been fishing
on the Susquehanna,

rowing upstream in a wooden boat,
sliding the oars under the water
then raising them to drip in the light.

But the nearest I have ever come to
fishing on the Susquehanna
was one afternoon in a museum in Philadelphia,

when I balanced a little egg of time
in front of a painting
in which that river curled around a bend

under a blue cloud-ruffled sky,
dense trees along the banks,
and a fellow with a red bandana

sitting in a small green
flat-bottom boat
holding the thin whip of a pole.

That is something I am unlikely
ever to do, I remember
saying to myself and the person next to me.

Then I blinked and moved on
to other American scenes
of haystacks, water whitening over rocks,

even one of a brown hare
who seemed so wired with alertness
I imagined him springing right out of the frame.

Billy Collins

Image of the Susquehanna courtesy www.delivery.superstock.com.

Sunday 15 July 2012

Cutting & Pasting

Today I felt like I was back in the Primary Grades of elementary school.  I got to cut and paste until my heart was content.  The task at hand was to make a "dummy book" of the picture book I have written, something that children's author Ann Whitford Paul recommends to all writers.

I separated my story, "I'm Just a Home Child", into 14 scenes.  Then I printed out the text of my picture book (2000 words). I took 16 sheets of computer paper, three hole punched them and stuck them in a duotang.  I numbered each page. Then I cutted and pasted each scene on to the pages of the duotang, leaving space for illustrations.  I added an Epilogue to explain what happened to the main character, my great-grandma, as an adult.  I added a Facts Sheet about the British Home Children along with my great-grandma's butter tart recipe.  Next, I used clip art to make illustrations for my book since I'm not an artist (the real illustrations will be done by a hand selected illustrator picked by the publisher).  I added some copies of photographs of my great-grandma to give the book more authencity and to give it a scrapbook effect. 

Then I gave it to my daughter Jacqueline, my guinea pig, to read.  She read it quite quickly and said that she liked it (of course, she's my daughter!).  The dummy book is not to give to a publisher, but rather a way for the author to envision what the actual book will look like.  It does make me feel like I'm a step closer to publication, though.  What's the next step?  Writing a query letter to the editor of a publishing company.  Wish me luck!

Resource:  Writing Picture Books:  A Hands-On Guide From Story Creation to Publication (Ann Whitford Paul).

Saturday 14 July 2012

Ten Things You Didn't Know About Washington DC

My son Thomas headed to Washington DC early this morning with our church's Youth Group on a week long mission trip.  I pray that they have a safe and successful trip!  Here are ten things you may not know about the American capital.

1.  Washington, District of Columbia is named after George Washington and Christopher Columbus.

2.  The city's population sat at 601,723 as of 2010.

3.  Washington DC is composed of the following groups:
     Black 50.7%
     White 38.5%
     Hispanic 9.1%
     Asian 3.5%
     Native Hawaiian 1%
     Native Indian 0.3%

4.  The city has 610 Protestant Churches and 132 Roman Catholic Churches.  Thomas and the other Youth Group members will be staying at a church in Fairfax, Virginia just outside of the capital.

5.  Washington DC accumulates 39 inches of rain per year.

6.  The Library of Congress contains 565 miles of bookshelves.  Its reference library alone contains 45,000 books.

7.  The White House was originally called the "President's Palace" or "President's House".  However, a Baltimore reporter referred to it as the White House and Teddy Roosevelt made it official in 1901.

8.  George Washington never actually lived in the White House as it was being built when he was President.

9.  The National Art Gallery contains the only Leonardo Da Vinci painting in the Western Hemisphere, called Ginevra de Benci.

10.  Washington DC has no skyskrapers.  Some say this is because no building was supposed to be taller than the Capitol.  However, in reality it was due to the fire department's equipment not being sufficient to fight a blaze in a building higher than 110 feet.  However, a Cairo apartment building is 165 feet high since it was built before the regulations were put in place.  The Washington Monument is by far the highest structure standing 555 1/8 feet high.

Photo of the Washington Monument courtesy http://1.bp.blogspot.com.

Friday 13 July 2012

"Frites" for Sale on the Paris Streets

Happy National French Fries Day, Americans!  Here are some facts about French Fries that you may not know.

1.  The Spanish forces, stationed in Columbia, South America in the 1500's, acquired their first potatoes and introduced them to the European continent.

2.  A French famine in 1785 led to wide-spread growth of potatoes and the popularity of the vegetable amongst "les pauvres".  Later either a Frenchman or a Belgian started preparing potatoes in long "tubes" and deep frying them in oil.  Sold on the streets of Paris, these "frites" became very popular.

3.  Thomas Jefferson ordered "potatoes served in the french manner" for an 1802 dinner party.

4.  Belgians eat more French Fries than any other Europeans.

5.  Europeans eat their French Fries with a fork while Americans consume them with their fingers.

6.  Once reviled and eaten only by the "masses" in Europe, now French Fries are consumed worldwide.  Eleven million tons were made in factories in 2005.

7.  French Fries contain more vitamins if the skin is left on.

8.  Americans eat 2 tons of French Fries per year (16 pounds per person).

9.  McDonald's sells more than 1/3 of the French Fries sold in U.S. restaurants.

10.  To burn off the calories of a medium serving of McDonald's fries, you must do either:
       -58 minutes of cycling
       -90 minutes of bowling
       -47 minutes of high intensity aerobics

11.  North Americans like French Fries served with ketchup, vinegar or salt.  However, some Europeans like their fries with mayonnaise.

12.  Canada's Quebecois make a dish called "poutine" which is French Fries served with cheese curds and gravy.

Sources:  www.simplyfrenchfries.com

Photo crinkle-cut French Fries courtesy CanStock.

Thursday 12 July 2012

Happy Birthday, Jacqueline!

It was 9 years ago today that I was pregnant and woke up early in the morning with what felt like a little tug in my back, but it was so slight that I turned over and went back to sleep.  When I fully woke up once the sun rose, I discovered I had spotted slightly.  Still two or three weeks shy of my due date, I asked Rob to take me to the hospital just in case, given that my pregnancy was considered a high risk one.  We left Thomas with our niece Amanda and headed to Hamilton.  At McMaster, they hooked me up to a monitor and listened to my baby's heartbeat.  Three hours later, they told me that I had just had a false alarm and was free to go home.  I asked them if I could still go out of town the next day for the Tufts Family Picnic and they said yes.  Back in Brantford, I packed for the trip and then laid down for a couple of hours, hoping that would do the trick.  However, when I woke up at supper time, my water broke.  Back to the hospital we went for a second time (luckily Amanda was still at home to babysit Thomas).  This time, I had labour pains on the way to the hospital.  Sure enough, the doctor said that the baby was on its way.  I arrived at 8 pm, they prepped me for a C-section by 9 pm and Jacqueline Lee was born at 9:41 pm.  She weighed 6 pounds and 1 ounce and was 17 inches long.  She had tufts of black hair and dark blue eyes.  Her fingers were long as were her eye lashes.  I remember how holding a baby girl felt different than holding a baby boy even though they both had the same needs.  Baby Jonasson was the loudest baby in the nursery:  the nurses kept bringing her to me saying that she was hungry and I would say:  "I just fed her half an hour ago."  I remember feeling such relief that she had arrived safe and sound.  I also remember feeling so fatigued; I would fall asleep with Jacqueline on my chest after I fed her.  I remember feeling envious of my roommates, both of whom got a good night's sleep because their babies were being cared for fulltine by the nurses in the ICU (a crazy thought since I should have been happy that my baby didn't have to go to ICU).  I remember Rob making a trip to the gift shop downstairs to purchase Jacqueline's first of many stuffies, a pink Teddy bear.  I remember Jacqueline's first photograph, taken with her eyes closed and her arms in a hula dancer pose.  I remember Thomas arriving wearing his t-shirt that announced "I'm the big brother" and holding his baby sister in his arms with a proud and yet impish grin on his face.  I remember it all like it was yesterday.  And yet our "baby" is nine years old today.  Thank you, Jacqueline, for being our daughter.  We love you!  Happy Birthday!

Baby girl photo courtesy www.littlies.co.nz.

Wednesday 11 July 2012

Happy 20th Anniversary, Rob!

It was 20 years ago today that I sat in my sister's Stoney Creek bungalow putting on my white satin wedding dress.  It was 20 years ago today that I climbed into a long white limousine with five other girls and a little girl wearing a miniature version of my dress, a bouquet of flowers in her hands.  It was 20 years ago today that we pulled up at Olivet United Church and climbed out of that limou one at a time as Mr. Lopez took our photo.  It was 20 years ago today that Rob waited anxiously for me at the altar while my wedding party assembled in the parlour.  It was 20 years ago today that my bridesmaids and I walked down the isle one by one (although our 3 year old flower girl, Amanda, ran).  It was 20 years ago today that Rob and I recited our vows, which we had memorized:  "I, Linda, take you Robert to be my husband, to have and hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, in sickness and in health, in joy and in sorrow, to love and to cherish, and to be faithful to you alone, as long as we both shall live." (I still remember them.) 

The funny thing is that I didn't get nervous about reciting my vows, but I did get nervous when I had to take my elbow length gloves off so Rob could put the ring on my finger!  Rob got nervous when he mistakenly blew out the candle we had just lit; he managed to get it relit, though.  Tears welled up in our eyes when my bridesmaid Michelle sang the Bette Midler song "Give Me the Gift of Love".  Memories of our courting year in Windsor came flooding back to us. 

"I now present to you Mr. and Mrs. Robert Jonasson" announced the minister.  We floated down the aisle; it felt so right.  In the archway of Olivet, Mr. Lopez snapped our photo.  We hopped into the limousine and he took another shot of us poking our heads out of the sunroof. 

Our chauffeur drove us across the Hamilton Mountain to Dundas, cars honking behind us as we went.  Up the escarpment we went and at about the three quarter way mark we pulled into a long lane with the sign "Dundas Golf & Curling Club".  We posed for pictures on the golf course, the wind slightly blowing our hair (although I had a whole can of hairspray on mine), the sun beaming down on us.  Little Amanda chased a golf ball around the green.  Mr. Lopez shouted "LEENDA" over and over again trying to get my attention.  After what seemed like the 1000th photo, we were dismissed.  Freedom! 

My sister in law Ingrid took Amanda for some much needed refreshments:  they "butted" everyone in line and got a large glass of orange juice which my niece downed in one gulp.  We stood in a receiving line and greeted our guests.

Then we sat down at the head table, with a wall of windows in the background, the greens visible through the windows.  We dined on salad, soup, chicken cordon bleu, potatoes, vegetables and chocolate mousse for dessert.  We listened to some heartfelt speeches.  We cut the three-tiered chocolate and vanilla cake with the Precious Moments bride and groom on top, although we didn't get a chance to eat any of it (thankfully the top layer was left over and we froze it until our one month anniversary when we indulged). 

And then we danced the night away!  Even my Dad, who only likes jazz music, waltzed around the room to the strains of Journey's "Faithfully".  Later, I think he was caught in a train.  Much later, Rob's best man, Bill Arnold, danced with me a la Dancing with the Stars (just without the star).  He was ahead of his time. 

The two families, the Tufts and the Jonasson's, mixed beautifully.  Everyone had a good time.  If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't change a thing.  Thank you, Rob, for 20 great years!!! 

Precious Moments Bride & Groom courtesy www.aboutfigurines.com.

Tuesday 10 July 2012

London's Long Queues

V-E Day (May 8, 1945) in London, England courtesy http://farm3static.flickr.com.

Anthropologist Tom Harrison returned from the South Pacific after observing the habits of cannibals there and discovered that people were just as interesting in his native country of Britain.  So  he organized a Mass Observation Project which included 1000 participants who wrote 1 million pages over the space of two and a half decades. 

Author Simon Garfield studied the Mass Observation diaries and zeroed in on the postwar period.  The result is the book Hidden Lives:  The Everyday Diaries of a Forgotten Britain 1945-1948.  We have all heard about how vicious the London Blitz was.  And we have all heard about V-E Day where Londoners danced in the street to celebrate the end of the Second World War.  However, the victorious British did not feel like the victors in the postwar years.  The country went out of the frying pan into the fire:  unemployment skyrocketed; food rationing remained in effect; long queues formed to buy basic items; German POWS walked the streets looking for work; the threat of a third world war loomed; and air pollutioin was worse than ever, especially due to coal furnaces. 

This is the world that the following five real-life characters inhabit:  B. Charles, a snobbish, anti-Semitic antiques dealer; Maggie Joy Blunt, a 30-something freelance writer; George Taylor, a prim and proper accountant; Herbert Brush, a retired electrical engineer who creosotes his garden; and Edie Rutherford, a housewife.  These Britons write about everything from the Nuremburg Trials to the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Phillip Mountbatten to the assassination of Indian leader Mahatma Ghandi.  On the other hand, they discuss such mundane issues as treating a nasty boil or lining up to buy tripe or redecorating a living room. 

It is a fascinating book about a neglected period in Britain's history.  If you would like to learn more about the Mass Observation Project, visit www.massobs.org.uk.

Photo of London's long queues circa 1945 courtesy http://downloads.bbc.co.uk.

Monday 9 July 2012

The Best Rolled Sugar Cookies

In honour of National Sugar Cookie Day, I thought I'd post this recipe.  Enjoy!

  • 1 1/2 cups butter, softened
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  1. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cover, and chill dough for at least one hour (or overnight).
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Roll out dough on floured surface 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut into shapes with any cookie cutter. Place cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
  3. Bake 6 to 8 minutes in preheated oven. Cool completely. 

Photo courtesy www.cookiepots.com.


Sunday 8 July 2012

Ten Things You Didn't Know About Rome

When I turned 30, I discovered classic films including one starring Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn called "Roman Holiday" (1953) which is an excellent movie.  Here are ten things you may not know about Italy's capital.

1.  Rome, the Eternal City, is almost 3000 years old.

2.  The Capuchin Crypt consists of five chapels and a 60 metre long corridor.  It is decorated with the bones of 4000 deceased monks.  The word "cappuccino" comes from "cappucio" which were the hoods of the habits worn by these monks.

3.  Rome's million-plus population was unmatched in Europe until London overtook it in the late 19th century.

4.  The word "decimate" is derived from the Latin verb "decimare" which refers to the practice of killing every 10th Roman soldier if there was a mutiny.

5.  On the day the Colosseum opened 5000 animals killed.  During its history, 500,000 people and over a million animals were killed within its circular walls.

6.  By the 4th Century, Romans had built a network of roads the length of 53,000 miles (each mile measured 1000 paces or 4800 feet).

7.  Romans were highly superstitious, especially concerning the left (the Latin word was "sinister", a word that the English language has borrowed).  A left-handed person was called "sinistra" and was forced to write with his or her right hand. 

8.  Crimes like treason or desertion were punished by a beheading.  Only "criminals" without Roman citizenship, like Jesus, were crucified, since this punishment was so slow and painful.

9.  After Rome fell, Latin continued as a dialect, developping into the Romance languages of Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese and Romanian.

10.  "The Mouth of Truth", a landmark featured in "Roman Holiday", was likely an ancient manhole.  It is considered to be a lie detector by Romans:  if you put your hand in it and tell a lie, it supposedly chops your hand off.  Other landmarks featured in the 1953 movie are the Spanish Steps (138 of them), the widest staircase in Europe, and the Trevi Fountain, the largest fountain in the Eternal City, which tourists throw coins in to guarantee them a return trip to Rome.

So here is some food for thought if you are planning your own Roman Holiday.  "Buon Viaggio!"

Photo of the Spanish Steps courtesy www.andrea-schroeder.com.

Saturday 7 July 2012

Priceless Fisher-Price Toys

When my husband Rob was growing up, he and his sister Ingrid would spend hours playing with their Fisher-Price toys.  They enjoyed the castle with the trap door, accompanied by a chevalier, a king, a queen and other figurines.  They also played with the garage, rolling the green, blue, red and yellow cars down the ramp.  Rob and Ingrid also had an airport complete with an airplane, a helicopter and baggage carts.  They played with a two-storey blue house with white stripes and a yellow roof, and flower boxes under each window.  The brother and sister also had a red brick schoolhouse complete with a tower and bell.  Lastly, they also spent hours on their toy houseboat.

Rob's parents kept the toys until we married and bought our own house.  Then Rob inherited the house, castle, garage and airport.  Ingrid has the school and houseboat.  When my nieces Amanda and Cassandra used to sleep over at our house in the early to mid 1990's, they spent hours playing with the Fisher-Price Toys.  One day, Rob noticed that one or two of the figurines were missing. 

A few years later, our son Thomas was born and Amanda and Cassandra gave him some of their old toys.  In one of the boxes, were the missing figurines.  It was Thomas' turn to play with the house, castle, garage and airport.  Four and a half years later, Jacqueline came along.  Like Rob and Ingrid, Thomas and Jacqueline spent hours playing with the decades-old toys. 

Tonight, we had a birthday party for Jacqueline and our nephews, Bo and Mason, were visiting.  Bo asked Jacqueline to get out the castle.  Baby Mason came crawling into the rec room.  He grabbed one of the figurines and dropped it down the trap door of the castle.  Another generation of children is hooked on the Fisher-Price toys!

Fisher Price Castle courtesy http://jauntydame.com.