Learn More about Author Billy Lindsay

A film that brings tears to your eyes . . .
Phantom of the Opera

Describe your first kiss.

Behind the school in winter, cold, fast, and tense, soft and confirmation of my masculinity.

Your favorite children’s book, and why . . .
Green Eggs and Ham

A cause that’s closest to your heart, and why . . .

Care for animals-love pets and animals because they depend on us
If you could be a character in any novel, who would you be?
Captain Nemo

Explain the worst job that you’ve held.
loading turkeys

A quote that motivates you . . .
We are all actors in our own theater of life.

The title of the one song you could take with you to that deserted island . . .
Eye of the Tiger

Three Wishes
ideal mate
financial freedom
more time

Favorite game you played as a child . . .
army with neighbor kids

Billy Lindsay

Tatty Ratty "Baby" Book Club

     By being participants in the 2011 International Postcard Exchange, our United Kingdom pen pals, Sam, Rebekah, Jeremy, George, and Daniel recommended the picture book Tatty Ratty by Helen Cooper to us.  So, we immediately placed our order online and anxiously awaited an e-mail from our local library, Glen Carbon Centennial Library, stating our book was in.
     The image of a bunny eating a doughnut while taking a ride in the evening sky piqued our interest.  What follows is an imaginative tale of the whereabouts of a lost bunny enhanced by the reference of familiar characters from other children’s storybooks.  Thus, not only is a new tale being told, but the backstories of other famous literary figures are introduced within Tatty Ratty.  As a parent, I found the story useful as parenting advice if ever in the unfortunate predicament of a child missing a favorite toy.  As a teacher, I appreciated the introduction of allusions in this literary work.
     As a means of experiencing Tatty Ratty, the squirts dug into their own collection of stuffed animals and found their own “Tatty Ratty.”  Opting to create an adventure exclusive to our Tatty Ratty, we took turns placing Tatty Ratty in various circumstances throughout the house and then using our imaginations to explain how she arrived at each location.

Tatty Ratty taking a joy ride on the Plasma Car.

Working off some of that porridge on the treadmill.

Cleaning up after a full day’s worth of adventure.

Fresh from our Farm to Table field trips, we made a trip to the local produce stand, Norma’s Produce and Greenhouses, and selected items which a bunny would most likely enjoy.  Returning home with our bounty in tow, the squirts cleaned their (few) selected vegetables and (numerous) fruits and prepared them with minimal assistance (“I can do it!” was heard often during preparation) into a child-friendly salad.

Helen Cooper

Smokin’ Seventeen Book Club

     Having finished mourning over my one-night read of Janet Evanovich’s Smokin’ Seventeen, I feel I am ready to offer book club ideas.  A near obsessive fan of the Stephanie Plum series, I have read this series three times due to the fact I truly miss the plethora of characters (okay, specifically Morelli and Ranger . . .  ooh la la!) when I am not engaged in the series.  So, when a fellow author groupie and friend notifies me of the latest release date, sleepless nights ensue until I am able to download the book to my phone.  Thus, promptly at midnight June 20st, my phone declares “download complete.”  Thrilled with the girth of this novel, 39 chapters, I take the plunge. 
     Without having to attach “spoiler alert” to this blog, I can say with all certainty that “Smokin'” is an apt description for this book’s contents.  The two main male characters (my two sweeties), Morelli and Ranger, definitely make their presence known in the novel as well as in Stephanie’s life.  What I do feel is lacking is the more protective side  of Morelli, more consistent with previous novels in the series.  In addition, a quote spoken by Ranger explaining his interest in Stephanie as entertainment read as near verbatim from a passage in a previous book.  However, I do admit that I have most of Ranger’s quotes memorized (ask my hub who now sports a black RANGEMAN t-shirt), so others may not even think twice when reading these lines.  Perhaps foreshadowing hinting at a change in their relationship in Explosive Eighteen?  November, the month of the next  book release, will tell.  In the meantime, yes, other characters do exist in Smokin’ Seventeen, and the plot takes on a familiar, yet unique spin of twists and turns.  An entertaining, engaging read which I am sure will be reread at least once before 18’s release.
     As for book club, dressing as characters from the novel would be an ideal way to set the mood.  Think Grandma Mazur, Stephanie, Connie, Morelli, Ranger, Vinnie, Lula, Mooner, Alpha, and Dave.  Since Dave offers some mouthwatering dishes in the novel, book club can take his cue and together prepare a meal of salad, scalloped potatoes, and lamb chops (see chapter 29).  Lemon meringue pie for dessert would be the feasting finale along with an assortment of doughnuts in honor of Steph and Lula.
     If hosting the book club for Smokin’ Seventeen and wish to dispense party favors, a grab bag of assorted granny panties from which members may choose would be a memorable giveaway.  Or, asking each guest to bring a pair of granny panties of his/her choice for a White Elephant gift exchange and/or competition to guess who brought what may add to the festive nature.

Janet Evanovich

Farm to Table Field Trips Part 2-Day Tours Rock!*

Coming from an entertaining, educational child-friendly cooking class centered on the farm to table ideal, I was eager to participate in the adult farm to table field trip authored by Paula Creech, Recreation Specialist for Adult Programs at the Renaud Spirit Center.  I convinced a buddy of mine, a registered nurse and dietitian, to join me who I knew had a passion for organic foods, so we registered in anticipation of learning as well as having some time to ourselves minus the squirts.  We knew we were visiting two farms and a winery, but that was the extent of our knowledge due to my misplacement of the information (I am sure the information is hidden in the stacks on my countertop somewhere).  To be honest, we really did not care what we did or where we did it;  we were just thrilled with the idea of going somewhere.  Of course, I loaded my purse with book, camera, water, cellphone, and snacks while my buddy came prepared with a backpack.  She wore sensible athletic shoes while I opted for the flip-flops (“Wrong shoes,” my father-in-law warned me as I dropped the squirts at his house the morning of the trip).  Kisses, hugs, and promises of seeing them soon, we left the squirts in route for the bus.

We’re going on a bus trip . . .

At promptly 9:00 a.m., we loaded ourselves and our gear onto the air-conditioned motor coach.  We opted for a seat in the back and yapped the entire way.  Before we knew it, we were at our first stop, Vesterbrook Farm, a Certified Naturally Grown producer of vegetables, hay, tree and bramble fruit.  In addition, Vesterbrook Farm raises free-range eggs, heritage breed turkeys, and lamb.  Not quite sure what to expect, we watched as one of the most passionate (we soon came to learn) men I have ever seen wearing bib overalls approached our group- enter Mike Brabo.

Passionate Organic Farmer, Mike Brabo

He and his wife, Carol, along with their two children run this farm along with employees who earn living wages.

After offering an intriguing history of Vesterbrook Farm as well as a geology lesson of the area, which even I could follow, we were directed to the plastic bags.

Ready, Set, Grab a Bag

Not knowing until this minute we were going to participate in the farm to table process, I definitely knew I had the “wrong shoes,” but didn’t care.  Thus, we harvested such bounty as onions, garlic, turnips, purple carrots, lettuce, chioggia beets, and edible weeds.   Using the grass as a cleanser, Mike cut into the various vegetables with his pocket knife and allowed us to savor the crisp, earthy onion, the spicy garlic, and the sweet candy-cane-like beets.  Fierce competition ensued when Mike promised a pound of lamb to the one who picked the largest beet.

The Largest Beet Winner
The Chioggia Beet

Embarrassed to admit, this was the first beet ever to touch my palate, and now will certainly not be the last.  I was even able to persuade my girls to try the candy-looking slices which I brought home in my plastic bag, and they were sold.  Nearly two hours passed in a flash, and I could have listened and learned more.  Although Vesterbrook Farms’ Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is full for 2011, there is always next year or a Saturday visit to the O’Fallon Farmers and Artists Market.
Next stop on the bus tour, Overlook Farm, where we ate from their bounty at the Clarksville Station Restaurant.  A single piece of paper, titled Summer 2011 Menu was presented with seven or eight mouthwatering choices.  My buddy ordered the bleu cheese angus burger while I ordered the Hilty grilled chicken sandwich smothered in cheese.  Freshly-squeezed lemonade along with homemade potato chips with not too much salt and just the right amount of crunch accompanied our meals.  Since we shared sandwiches, I can say with absolute certainty (according to the buds in my mouth), both meals were juicy and straight-from-the-garden fresh.  We ate inside, but a beautiful lavender-colored courtyard complete with lilac-colored Adirondack chairs and light purple wisteria vines adjacent to the restaurant called to us for a return visit in the near future.

The courtyard framed by the windows at Clarksville Station Restaurant is calling for our return.

With bellies full, we loaded the bus and headed for the Crown Valley Port House.  Here we were offered a warm Clarksville welcome by Mayor Jo Anne Smiley and introduced to our bubbly tour guide who ushered us inside The Port House located on the private resort Tievoli Hills (“I love it” spelled backwards).

Crown Valley Port House
Crown Valley Port House Storage

After a brief oral background on the Crown Valley Port House’s history, we watched a short movie in a cool and comfortable viewing room which further told The Port House’s story.  After this restful portion of the tour, wine tasting commenced upstairs.  Given a wine glass with five tokens (to yield five tastings), we studied the wine list and socialized with trip companions.  Our section of the tasting bar unanimously praised Crown Valley’s Viognier perhaps due to Dionysus’ influence, and, fortunately received 10% off the purchase price.
Ready for naptime, our tour was not over yet.  On our return home, we stopped in downtown Clarksville for some perusal of handcrafted work by local Missouri artists.  We sniffed and tested various body spray and lotion combinations at the factory and retail shop Bee Naturals, tried on the beautiful glass jewelry crafted at Clarksville Glassworks, and fondled handmade leather purses and rings at The Bent Tree Gallery.

A picture at The Bent Tree Gallery after our homemade button bracelet purchase.

If you have never tried a group day trip, try.  If you tried, register for another one.  This happened to be my second day trip, and I am looking forward to number three.  Being able to learn and experience with others without the hassle of driving allows one to truly savor the moment as well as reduce our carbon footprints.

*This blog is dedicated to Cory, the Guard Donkey, a permanent member of the Vesterbrook Farm family once exiled from his previous place of residence for being quite the “ladies’ man.”

Cory, the Guard Donkey

Farm to Table Field Trips Part 1- Happy Dairy Month!

     The term “author” may be defined in terms of written pieces, but also “the maker of anything;  creator;  originator”  (dictionary.com).  Although I tend to focus on the written word when blogging, I found an opportunity to discover farm to table authorship, so to speak.  Thus, the squirts and I enrolled in a cooking class at Eckert’s under the guidance of guest teacher, Rebecca Collier, Nutrition Educator for the St. Louis District Dairy Council.  Of course, the squirts were looking forward to shopping with squirt-sized grocery carts (as promised) after class courtesy of Eckert’s Market,

but I was eagerly anticipating the actual cooking class with my girls.
     In approximately 90 minutes, the girls completed four nutritious and aesthetically pleasing snacks:  Tuna Cheese Sailboat Sandwiches, Ring around the Rainbow Parfait, Vegetable and Cheese Kabobs, and Strawberry Milk Blender Special.  Besides the focus in each of the recipes as having dairy as a main ingredient, the farm to table ideal was also brought forth with fruit for the parfaits and smoothies being freshly picked that day.   Being introduced to the baker who baked the rolls bright and early from the adjacent kitchen for our sandwiches allowed us to literally visualize where our food originated or was authored.  Thus, if an ingredient was not produced from farm to table by Eckert’s, local products were implemented for use in the recipes.

Mixing the Strawberry Milk Blender Special
Tasting the Strawberry Milk Blender Special

      The girls worked at their own stations with much intensity and determination.  My three-year-old sawed diligently through tomatoes with her plastic knife while my (picky-eater) five-year-old ate every last bite of the cantaloupe parfait she had created.  Although neither squirt dived into the tuna sandwiches (convinced they do not like tuna, but don’t realize I hide it in the marinara sauce), their pride with their handiwork was evident when they demanded we take the sailboat-shaped sandwiches home for Daddy to enjoy.

Molly’s Magic Pencil: The Blue Genie

     Peter Davies’ second book, The Blue Genie,  in the Molly’s Magic Pencil series is an ideal picture book to use for dramatization.  With only four prominent characters in the story, our family of four had no problem in dealing with lack of participation.  Having short jumpers the squirts consider “genie” outfits, I figured the two girls would be taking turns playing the Blue Genie.  Instead, they both chose to play the protagonist’s part, Molly.
      So, we dug in closets for red (okay, hot pink) outfits to mimic Molly’s red jumper.  Then, backpacks were filled with paper and the crucial Magic Pencil.  By default, the hub played Blue Genie since he was wearing a blue shirt and blue jeans, and I was inevitably Mrs. Jones, the tearful geriatric lady (I’m being typecast already, yet still a month away from 40) whose cat, Tiddles (played by our stuffed black cat), is stranded high on a tree limb.

Tiddles stranded in the tree.

     Since each squirt wanted the spotlight to herself, we rehearsed the scene several times (more than I had planned) in our backyard (luckily, the neighbors already know we’re nutty) each time alternating the actress who portrayed Molly.                           

Take 1:  Molly #1 searching in her backpack for the Magic Pencil.


Take 1:  Molly #1 drawing a teapot.
Take 21:  Molly #2 searching in her backpack for the Magic Pencil.
Take 21:  Molly #2 drawing a teapot.
The Blue Genie saves Tiddles.

      When every blank space on the paper had been filled with a drawing of a teapot,  we brought the dramatization to a close by singing the first verse of, “I’m a Little Teapot.”  Bedtime was accomplished only with a sincere promise, “Yes, we will act out The Blue Genie again tomorrow.”

Peter Davies

Harry Potter Meets the Girl Scouts*

     One knows he/she has a friend for life when one can simply sign the friend up for an activity/duty/donation, and tell him/her about it later.  The friend in question does not pop a blood vessel when hearing of the news, but instead simply replies with, “Okay, how much do I need to bring? . . .  What time is the coach’s meeting? . . . [or]  How long do I have to prepare?”  Thus, it was inevitable my friend and I determined leading a Girl Scout Troop (technically Daisy Troop) was the logical next step in the progression of our relationship.  Having already completed PreK VBS leadership together, pee-wee soccer coaching, as well as starting a few book clubs, we knew our relationship was built on a solid foundation (Dr. Phil would be proud!).  With the decision having been made, we decided to sign our soon-to-be-kindergartners up for Camp Muggles, Magic, and Mayhem, a Harry Potter-themed evening camp hosted by Service Unit 110.
     The official description for the camp reads as follows:
Join us at the Highland Hogwart’s Academy for the “wizarding” world of Girl Scouts.  Have you ever wanted to participate in a Quidditch match?  Well, jump on your broomstick and head on down for some Harry Potter excitement.  Girls will have Quidditch lessons with Madame Hooch, scavenger hunts to locate the 7 horcruxes hidden around camp, experiment  with Science & Potions with Professor Snape, create SWAPS in Diagon Alley and learn astronomy with Professor Sinistra.  We will enjoy refreshments like Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans and more as well as some twilight star gazing.
     Recruiting more friends, another soon-to-be kindergartner and her mother, we all piled in the car

We’re going on a Girl Scout Camp hunt . . .

and headed to our first official Girl Scout Camp in heat advisory weather.  The timing of the camp, 5:15- 9:00 p.m., was ideal considering the 90 degree plus temperature, and as an added bonus, encouraged “students” to sleep late the mornings following camp.
     Safety first, a multi-layer security plan was put in place in order to check campers in and out which put parents and guardians at ease, a reassuring start.  Without further ado, though, I think the joy on the girls’ faces below as well as the authentic adult participation speaks volumes.  Looking forward to Girl Scout Camp in Highland next year . . .  Scout’s Honor!

Campers run through a wall to arrive at Platform 9 3/4 where they eventually meet Albus Dumbledore, the Headmaster of Hogwarts.
The sorting hat ceremony determines which house each “student” belongs.  Professor Trelawny looks on.
The Fat Lady, a portrait who guards Gryffindor Tower at Hogwarts Castle, assists “students” with the scavenger hunt. 
Snack Time at The Leaky Cauldron


 *A special thank you to my partner-in-crime, Sarah, whom is my Harry Potter expert.

Reading Camp Rocks- Week 2

     My oldest squirt and her buddy attended Week 2 of Reading Camp offered through Saint Louis University.  We barely were able to finish the homework in time for class due to the fact my squirt was attending camp during the evenings and sleeping late throughout the mornings, and, to be honest, she felt it was “boring,” a new term she had learned and embraced wholeheartedly from some of the older girls at camp.  Anywho- workbook pages were completed, CDs were listened to, and a dramatization of a picture book completed.  Mistakenly, I had her watch with me a video intended for parents, to be fair, which was “boring.”  I loaded her into the van with her final words, “I am never going to Reading Camp again,” escaping the sliding door.  While buckling my seat belt, I assured her that one week was already down with only four more to go.  Really only three more to attend if she considered “today” as a completed Reading Camp day.  Besides, Miss Rebecca (the young, energetic teacher) would miss her . . . .
     Arriving at the high school and following last week’s route through the building, we discovered that our class was to meet in another room due to ACT testing being offered concurrently.  Thus, with both squirts leading the way by following the arrows, we made our way to the new classroom.  We decided potty breaks were needed, so all four of us hustled down towards the bathrooms so as not to miss the beginning of class.  Again, my inner immaturity (since being in a high school setting) eventually found its way out when I wet a paper towel and threw it into my friend’s stall (hey- at least I didn’t throw it up on the ceiling).  Stifling giggles, I listened closely for her reaction, but heard nothing.  When she opened her door and exited her bathroom cubby,  a mere, “Did you do that?”  She had figured her son had performed the act in question.  I suppose being out of high school for twenty plus years along with motherhood does and should mellow or mature most of us (or at least make us better examples for the youth of today . . . as my daughter watched my actions with wide-eyed amazement).
     Class started promptly on time, and questions were asked of the 4 and 5 year-old students.  Excited hands were raised, and before we knew it, it was story time with Eric Carle’s A House for Hermit Crab.

Each student was given a copy to “read along” with the teacher.  After the reading, Miss Rebecca discussed the story with the students and then wrote a short story of her own on the board and drew a house to her liking- red with green stripes.  Students then were asked to narrate his/her original story to his/her parent with the parent writing the story verbatim- taking no grammatical liberties.

  Rhyming and phonetic work ensued before class ended with a reading of Audrey Wood’s big book,  King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub, an entertaining read with beautiful illustrations where each page takes on a color scheme of its own.

Class was dismissed for the week, and we plan to have our student squirts take part in a homework session together to promote the “fun” of reading and working together.  Of course, today is Tuesday, class is Saturday, and we have yet to crack the books.  Aaaaaaah . . . the humanity!!!!!

Learn More about Author Tamara Gerlach

A film that brings tears to your eyes . . .
P.S. I Love You

Describe your first kiss.
It was at our ranch. My neighbor’s cousin was visiting from Utah, he was super cute, and a “real” cowboy…so I let him kiss me. At first it was a little weird, but I liked it, so now I try to do it as much as possible.

Your favorite children’s book, and why . . .
There’s a hair in my dirt, by Gary Larson. My kids loved the story, it made us laugh, and we got to talk about nature, and cause and effect.

A cause that’s closest to your heart, and why . . .
I support quite a few, because there are so many people doing such wonderful work in the world, but one is close to my heart, PINCC- Prevention International No Cervical Cancer. Over 300,000 women needlessly die every year because of a lack of education and treatment. I was diagnosed with cervical cancer in December 2009. Fortunately, I got the treatment I needed, and I wish that for all the women of the world.

If you could be a character in any novel, who would you be?
Joy in Way of the Peaceful Warrior, by Dan Millman. She is the essence of ease and flow, carefree and completely dedicated at the same time.

Explain the worst job that you’ve held.
Honestly, I have loved all of the jobs I have ever had. One day, when I was a teen working at Kentucky Fried Chicken, a big box showed up with a chicken suit in it. I was the first to volunteer to put it on and go out on the street to dance, wave at cars, and do one-handed gymnastics moves (I had to hold the head on with the other hand). So, I’ve been a dancing chicken…and I have no complaints.

A quote that motivates you . . .
“You can love other people only to the degree that you’ve come to love and accept yourself”   ~Shakti Gawain

The title of the one song you could take with you to that deserted island . . .
Granny by Dave Matthews
Three Wishes
   1. That all people realize their own magnificence, freedom, and connection to  everyone and everything. Then, take care of each other and ourselves accordingly.
   2. That no one is hungry for food or love.
   3. That we practice Forgiveness, Compassion, and Love to wash away all of the fear and delusion in the world.
Favorite game you played as a child . . .
I loved to go out into the hills with friends, or even by myself, and play “explorer.” We’d pretend that we were lost in the wilderness and had to find a “new world,” build camp, and live off of the land. It has served me well since I travel all over the world and feel comfortable in any environment because I know I can figure it out. On a trip deep into the Amazon, Ron and I stayed with an Achuar tribe and spent our days (and some nights) traipsing through the forest. When it came time to leave, I didn’t want to; I just wanted to keep playing “explorer.”
I still play my favorite game daily by exploring my heart and mind.

Experiencing Tuesdays with Morrie*

*I write a lot about experiencing the novel through crafts, snacks, field trips, dramatization, etc. This blog will discuss experiencing Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie through its dramatization which my husband and I attended June 12, 2011.  This blog, though, is written in celebration of the life of Michelle Conrady-Brown, born June 27, 1977.  Having only met Michelle a handful of times through her sister, my friend Ash, I felt as if I had known her for years due to her warmth and smile.  A loving mother to Avery and Nora, devoted wife, and tireless social worker, she is remembered forever in our hearts.
Michelle Conrady-Brown
     Having purchased my tickets for the play, Tuesdays with Morrie, I wanted to read the non-fiction work written by Mitch Albom prior to performance night.  Having downloaded this book on my phone, I intentionally learned how to use the digital highlighter thingy ma bob because of the thought-provoking aphorisms (these quotes will definitely find their way onto my chalkboard) at nearly every turn of the page.  The vivid descriptions of Morrie’s debilitating disease brought to mind memories of my own father’s gruesome death at the hands of cancer, and, thus, streams of tears from my eyes.  Yet, I do not walk away from the reading of Tuesdays with Morrie with mere sadness at the loss of Morrie, a contributing member of society, but sadness overshadowed by the motivation to do more with one’s life with the end goal of not benefiting oneself, but benefiting others.
    Thus “date night” arrived, and the hub begrudgingly agreed to accompany me to see the enactment of Tuesdays with Morrie (although X-Men: First Class would have been his choice).  This play, directed by Tom Corbett, had a one-night production at Troy United Methodist Church.  The two-man cast from the Ricks-Weil Theatre Company comprised Gary Roberts as Mitch Albom and Thom Johnson as Morrie Schwartz.  There was no changing of scenery, no intermission, and only slight costume changes.  Yet, the passing of twenty years and the suggestion of an accompanying cast through the use, for example, of an empty chair was achieved.  This play was able to portray the love between these two human beings as well as the rapid progression of ALS in a meager 90 minutes.  What impressed upon me the most was the creative usage of lighting.  At one point, Mitch’s wife, Janine (i.e. the character in the empty chair), visits Morrie.  A singer, she agrees to sing for Morrie at his request.  Morrie, in turn, closes his eyes in order to be in the moment and savor this gift of her voice (which is a recording played in the background).  After Morrie closes his eyes, the stage as well as the church’s Family Living Center, where the stage is placed, goes dark- unable to see my hand in front of my face dark.  Thus, the audience’s eyes are shut, too, in order to accompany Morrie in the present.  The play ended with roaring applause, and then there was an unusual quietness where, I guessed, people were lost in thought instigated by the play in much the same manner as the hub and I were.  The majority of the ride home was comfortable silence interrupted only with our agreeing that we both thoroughly enjoyed Tuesdays with Morrie.  I will now close with one of Morrie’s aphorisms for the road, this journey we call life, “Devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.”