Monday, October 9, 2017

World Space Week: Make A Solar System Model

Want to build a solar system small enough to fit on your table?

Apparently, October 4-10th is World Space Week. I’ve never heard of it, but I found out this year thanks to an ever-helpful search engine home page. We’ve been on a bit of a space binge this year anyway, so this solar system was a big hit for my family.

To start, I used the link here ( to calculate the sizes of the various planets. I set the sun’s size to 17 inches, about the size of a basketball. Here’s what you’ll need to translate those sizes into a 3D solar system:

·      Basketball
·      Sesame seed
·      Two pea seeds
·      Peppercorn
·      Tennis ball
·      Hackeysack
·      Two small marbles
·      Even more sesame seeds, if you want to mark out moons for the various planets, or even the asteroid belt in between Mars and Jupiter

Once we laid out our solar system inside, we compared it with photos of the real planets. Did you know that the earth is about half the size of Jupiter’s red spot?

Then we gathered up our sun and headed outside to mark off the distances between the sun and the planets. Using the basketball/sun, though, even the closest planets were dozens of feet away. Uranus and Neptune would be thousands of feet away.

So, for our model, once we measure Mercury, Venus, and Earth according to the original scale, we shrank the sun’s size down to a one-inch ball and started over.

Guess what? Even if the sun were only an inch wide, Mercury would still be three feet away, while Neptune would be about 269 feet from the sun. Pluto? Well, Pluto would be 354 feet away and about the size of a grain of sand.

Do you have any favorite solar system projects?

(Credit also to Size Matters Science, for its image of a model solar system using several of the items I suggested above:

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The animals in our back yard

Animals in the back yard?

Make that the front yard too.

A long time ago, I grew up in a small town. We told people, though, that we pretended to live in the country. We had an acre on the edge of town; we had a large garden; we had fruit trees, blackberries, and a lot that was mostly big, open grass field. No animals, though, beyond a couple of rabbits and a dog.

Except for the wild animals, of course. We occasionally had trouble with the raccoons showing up in the middle of the night to steal dog food. We had deer trek through our garden a couple times each summer. We had the occasional mouse in the pantry.  We even had the rare (and rather implausible) cougar scare. It felt like the country, at least to us city slickers.

I now live in a fairly large city. Our neighborhood definitely isn’t high rises, but it’s a fairly busy urban/metro area. I really didn’t expect to see a lot of wildlife here when we moved in.

Two weeks after settling in, though, I spotted a rabbit in the front yard, happily nibbling grass stems. No, it wasn’t an escapee. No floppy ears, fluffy white coat, or bright spots for this rabbit. It was a small, brown, wild rabbit.

 We did have a lot of overgrown vines for it to hang out in, so I probably shouldn’t have been surprised?

A couple months later, we spotted our first deer wandering down the driveway for a neighborly visit.

That fall, we had almost a dozen deer wandering across our yard, the neighbors’ yards, the road out front…basically everywhere we could see. The buck apparently liked to rub up against one of the trees in our front yard, because we found a few spots where he had shredded the bark off.

We’ve seen the deer a few times this year too, both when they are just passing through and when they stop to eat my rose bushes or tomatoes.

This year’s highlight, though, was walking into my living room one early afternoon to spot a large raccoon on my back porch. He was glaring at me through the sliding door. I think he was unhappy about the lack of tomatoes on the plant I had left back there, but he sauntered off fairly quickly once I showed up.

Of course, that was the main highlight until last week. That’s when we got to watch a wood rat playing on our front steps—at noon, no less.

We had talked about getting the kids a couple of chickens for pets. Now I’m not so sure that would be a good idea.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Summertime Updates

I've had a lot of things going on recently.

Blogging hasn't been one of them.

A test print for my new book.


So far in the last couple of months, we've flown once. We've seen lots of people, and we've made a few dozen library trips. I've also started working on a new book project.

Background: we tend to talk about rockets a lot in my family.

Translation: we aren't rabid aeronautics enthusiasts, but we do watch every SpaceX launch, most of them live. We've also watched that Top Gear episode where some guys try to turn a car into a rocket...and it crashes. We talk about that particular rocket almost every bedtime. The toddler's script goes approximately thus: "Today was a good day. :deep sigh: Sometimes rockets crash."

As a result, I'm now working on a book about a rocket that goes to Mars (with a space-age twist on the nursery rhyme 'The House that Jack Built'). If all goes well, I'll have all of the artwork done in another month and be able to assemble the book thereafter.

Technically, when I set up this blog back in March, I meant to start a series of posts about art projects for toddlers. I've still got some ideas for that series, but I'm lucky to get an hour or two in the evenings right now. So, my big dilemma is deciding whether to think about more random kid things or to work on another picture for my new book.

The book tends to win.

Still, I did read a couple of books about preschool projects recently : Playful Learning: An Alternate Approach to Preschool by Anne Engelhardt and Cheryl Sullivan, and Get Ready, Set, Grow! A Preplanned Calendar of Preschool Activities by Eileen Morris and Stephanie Pereau Crilly.

One was recommended to me, while the other was a library find. They both have a variety of really fun ideas which I'm planning to try out soon. I'll let you know how that goes.

Meanwhile, I'm off to work on another picture!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Book Launch & Giveaway Results

And the winners are:

Sarah G., Amy L., and Emily H.!

I have emailed them and will be sending off their books shortly. Congratulations!

And a huge thank you to everyone else who was downloaded my book over the past few days!

Fun fact: at one point, the English version was first and the Spanish third in their Amazon category [Free Kindle Books > Childrens > Nonfiction > Animals]. According to the Amazon stats, I also had two copies of the Spanish ebook downloaded in...Japan?
screen shot from Amazon
Screen shot from February 25th.

Second fun fact: I found that the hardcover version of "Who Laid the Egg?" is also available on Barnes & Noble. For that version, I'm actually using a POD company that happens to be one of the major book distributors, and that makes it easier for companies like Barnes & Noble to list my book. Let me know if you spot it anywhere else!

Over the next week or two, I'll have a couple other updates to add, and I'll be working on a couple other small projects, so check back soon!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Book Launch and Giveaway!

And it's out!

For the next couple of days, you can get the ebook for free on Amazon. I'd love for you to check it out and leave a review telling me what you think (both of which get you an extra entry in the giveaway below).

Who Laid the Egg?
¿QuiĆ©n Puso el Huevo?

As far as I know, Amazon is the only store carrying the books currently, but I'm hoping the hardcover will get listed with a few of the larger booksellers soon. You can also contact me directly about ordering either of the print versions.

book poster

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, February 20, 2017

About "Who"

Somewhere back in November, I decided to write a children's picture book...because a picture book would be easy, right?

This book happened from an idea I had while making breakfast one morning. My toddler has been very fascinated by all things kitchen, so that morning he was sitting on the counter, 'counting' the eggs in the carton as he handed them to me.

Toddlers--if you don't already know it--generally like to talk, to talk a lot, and to talk repetitively.

That morning, we started talking about who had laid the eggs in the carton. That led to talking about other animals who laid eggs, and that led in turn to my book idea.

working on a picture
Working on one set of pictures.
After years of procrastinating on half-a-dozen stories, I didn't need one more idea to stall midway through from yet another case of writer's block. I needed a project that was relatively short, easy, and doable.

This one worked.

For "Who," the final word count runs just under two hundred. The pictures took me about a month to create (though that meant a number of late nights at the time). And the idea was simple--and yet so fun to work with.

cover ideas
A few options I played with for the book cover.
Turning the idea into a book was fairly basic. Getting it ready for publication has been a much bigger challenge, of course. I went from drawing the pictures (with soft pastels), to photographing them, to photo editing, to multiple iterations of rearranging two or three words in the text, to even more iterations of tweaking the images and the book layout.

I'm actually still finishing up a few little details, but I've got the main files finished, and I'm waiting for my second proof copy (the hardcover this time).

It should all be done by Saturday, though.

In fact, this weekend, I'm going to run a small giveaway/launch promotion to celebrate.


See you back on Saturday for the launch!