148.2 Spokane Christian Songwriter Doug McCleary

We are blessed at Valley View Baptist Church of Spokane in that Christian guitarist, singer, and songwriter Doug McCleary has joined us. Doug played and sang two of his original songs at service this morning and last Sunday morning. He says he has written about a dozen original Christian songs. Here is the video I took of him playing today at Valley View Baptist Church of Spokane, WA.

I spoke with Doug briefly after the service, and here is what I found out:

He won't take any money for playing guitar or singing his songs, but he wants the chance to play and sing as often as people will offer it. He will come sing at any Christian function people invite him to: Bible studies, Sunday worship services, weddings, funerals, you name it. He can cover other artists songs, too, but he will only play or sing songs that glorify God. He can be reached at 509-536-0627. He lives in Spokane, and will play in this area and just over the border in Idaho.

Mostly self-taught, Doug cannot read music. He plays by ear, so a few weeks ahead of when you want him to play, make him a tape of the songs you would like him to play.

Doug had a few ukulele lessons when he was 7 and his family was stationed on Oahu, Hawaii. His dad came home with a guitar, and made Doug and his sisters listen as their dad tried to play the thing. Being a kid, Doug told his dad the truth when asked how it sounded, "Well, I think you need to practice a little more, Dad." Heartbroken, his dad handed over the guitar to Doug, who has been playing it ever since. He is 56 now.

I lost 3.4 pounds yesterday, so it must have been mostly water weight from eating too much salt. There is no way I could have lost 3.4 pounds of fat in one day, I don't think. I did need to lose at least 1.7 pounds because at 151.6 I was over my goal weight of 145 to 149.9. I walked my 1.3 miles. Here is what I ate:

Special K and organic soy milk
Hamburger patty with 1 tablespoon BBQ sauce and steamed broccoli
Salmon patty with Robert Rothschild Farm Roasted Pineapple Habanero Sauce and raw baby carrots

151.6 Washing Well Wisdom

My favorite improv ever at California's  Renaissance Pleasure Faire was when I borrowed Wrong Way's black scholar hat and raised my chin at the puritans.

"Look who's educated now!" they said.

"Where is the university who would admit you? In deepest Africa?"

"Is it in Bulgaria?"


"Yes! Yes! Yes!" I said, to all their meant-to-be-insulting guesses. "Yes, it is in deepest Africa. Yes, it is in Bulgaria. Yes, it is in China."

"What university could be in all those places?" they sneered at me (the puritans were the villains at Faire).

"It is the university of the washing well! It is in every country and every town throughout the world, and it is educating women!" I told them proudly.

The puritan men proceeded to quiz against my worldly knowledge (of which my 16th century peasant character had little), but the puritan women actors had all been washerwomen before they auditioned to be puritans.

"Those aren't questions; those are quizes," they said in my defense. "A real question would be 'What gets blood stains out of your Sunday best dress?'" (Cold water.)

I loved this improv for two reasons:

1) We emphasized women's "washing well wisdom." Up until 200 years ago or so, women simply were not sent to formal places of education. We were not stupid, we simply were uneducated. It always bothered me when I was young and adults implied I was dimwitted because I didn't remember when Eisenhower was President. As a teacher, I try to always remember the difference between knowledge and intelligence. My students might be ignorant of facts, but they are not stupid.

2)  Gerald Zepeda prepared the puritans and Julie St Germaine prepared the washerwomen excellently for encounters such as this. No one said, "No." Instead, we all said, "Yes, and..." That is the number one rule of improvisational acting, and it is so much fun when everyone follows it! Thank you, Gerald and Julie, for some of the best years of my life.
I blew my diet big time yesterday and gained 2 pounds. I substitute taught English and was on my feet all day. I also walked Oreo 1.3 miles after I got home. Here is what I ate:

Special K and organic soy milk
Iced coffee with more organic soy milk
2 helpings of instant oatmeal
Chili Dip
1/2 cup peanut M&Ms
1 slice of Costco combo pizza
Scoop of mint chip ice cream

149.6 Love Halloween Costumes as Much as I Do?

Does anyone love Halloween as much as I do? It isn't the scary part I love, it's the costumes! This photo is just one of many I have made to show off all the costume ideas I have written up over the years. Some movies and TV shows just beg you to turn their characters into costumes. Some like the Priest movie of 2011 make really easy costumes. Others, like V, give you simple and subtle costume ideas that are actually challenging to bring to life.

My favorite Halloween costume ever was when I used hair paint to paint my face blue and worked a whole shift as a cashier at Sears dressed as a celt in woad. My next favorite was the year we made nylon jeans with fake plastic seams and polyester T shirts with velcro vents and went as under cover space aliens. We didn't even know about the TV show V when we did this, but if you have watched this show, then you have a good idea of the concept.

I have made a costumes Pinterest board where not only do I pin up my costume ideas, but now my friends are pinning up their costume ideas, too! These are costume ideas for all ages, from babies to grannies. Some of these require sewing, but many you can throw together from things you have around the house. One of my favorites of other people's ideas posted on my costumes Pinterest board is a candy corn costume for a baby. It is so cute!


I lost .8 pounds yesterday. It was probably water weight from the salty pizza I ate Tuesday and Wednesday. I didn't really take it that easy yesterday. I walked my 1.3 miles, and I substitute taught, which means I was on my feet most of the day yesterday and half the day Tuesday. I will be today, too. Here is what I ate yesterday:

Special K and organic soy milk
2 servings of brown sugar cinnamon instant Oatmeal
Ritz cheese and crackers snack
Chili Dip
1/4 cup peanut M&Ms

150.4 Substitute Teaching English Today and Tomorrow

I substituted in social studies half day yesterday, and I am substitute teaching today and tomorrow for the same teacher, in English. Yesterday's kids took a quiz. I don't know yet what today's lesson plan looks like. I will find out when I get to the school at 7:15.

As much as I love staying home and writing or editing, I do get bored and lonely doing that all the time. It is really nice to get out once in awhile and interact with people for a change. One of the reasons I prefer substitute teaching is I can pick and choose which days I stay home and which days I go out.

This is what I am wearing today. Yep, it is already really fall here in Spokane, with the long sleeves.

I gained .6 pounds yesterday, and it is time to cut back and get within my goal weight of 145 to 149.9 pounds. I walked my 1.3 miles yesterday. Here is what I ate:

Special K and organic soy milk
2 slices of Costco combo pizza
1/4 cup peanut M&Ms
Steamed broccoli and 1/2 can Amy's organic lentil soup
1/4 cup peanut M&Ms twice


Guide to Thousands of Unlisted Job Openings in the US!

Do you know anyone who is over 40 and has a college degree, but no job? I wrote this book for them. Tell them about it, or better yet, buy them a copy. Turnover is high in these jobs, so there are almost always openings. With this guide, a substitute can do the job so well they actually like it. I do.

I hope you will at least "look inside" the high school substitute teacher's guide I wrote. The free book sample you get by "looking inside" tells you not only how to get a job as a substitute teacher, but also my qualifications to write the book: my education and detailed substitute teaching work history (since 1989).

This book is available in paperback, in Kindle format at Amazon, in Nook format at Barnes and Noble, and in any other format you could possibly need through Smashwords.

149.8 Surplus Sale

Scott and I got a 19-inch flat-screen monitor yesterday for $40 at the surplus sale our local community college holds every 3 months. He found out about the sale through his work as a security guard. We got there at 6:30 in the morning to get in line. We were numbers 15 and 16 out of 100, so we got a pretty good pick of the things. Number 1 said he had been there since 3. The sale started at 9.

Apparently, most state-run entities sell off the stuff they don't want, at really cheap prices. It reminded me of years ago when we paid my former employer $1 for the metal desk I am still using.

We also bought ten duffel bags in various sizes, for $1 each, and 25 brand-new cassette tapes for $ .75. They had large folding tables for $10, office chairs for $3, book cases for $20, large cabinet cupboards for $25... If we had extra cash right now I would seriously consider buying them out next time and then selling it all for twice as much at a garage sale (which is probably illegal, so not really).

They had a bunch of computers for sale, too, but without hard drives. They had pulled the hard drives to protect state financial info or something, so you would have to buy a hard drive and an operating system and all the software, in addition to paying $40 - $150 for the computers they were selling. They sold every last Apple computer they had for sale, even so. They only sold half of their other computers. Hardly any laptops sold.

I forgot to weigh in yesterday. I am up .6 pounds since Monday morning. Monday we washed the car by hand. I hadn't done that in at least 10 years. Yesterday I shopped at Costco, in addition to shopping this surplus sale. I walked my usual 1.3 miles with the dog both days. Here is what I ate yesterday:

Special K and organic soy milk
Hot chocolate while waiting in the line before dawn
Ritz cheese and crackers snack
El Monterey beef burrito and salsa
3 slices of Costco combo pizza
1/4 cup peanut M&Ms

148.8 Derek Prior Trainer and Author

My friend Derek Prior is a personal trainer who is also the author of Foundations for a Better Physique: The Six Key Exercises & Nutrition for a Balanced Physique, Nutritional Journal: Fitness Instruction for Strength & Health's Guide to Diet Success, The SHADER series and the Chronicles of the Nameless Dwarf. He says he is getting too old to be really ripped anymore, but I think he is being too modest! Here is his advice on binge eating, re-posted with permission from his Thursday 8 February 2007 post on his blog: DEREK PRIOR Personal Training:
 Some of my clients train extremely effectively, working hard and diligently. They follow personalized nutritional plans and train consistently. However, every now and again they go "off the rails". Often this is the result of binge eating and the resulting negative spiral.

Generally, a binge once in a while has little or no effect on training goals. It may even help occasionally. The problem is the related negative cognitive spiral that often accompanies binging and the duration of the binge cycle.

Ideally, if a client binges, even if the binge is prolonged, my advice is to forget about it, continue to train, and return to the usual nutritional plan, which generally involves eating six to seven meals a day at roughly three hourly intervals. Under no circumstances should they skip meals or try to juggle calories to balance out a binge episode.

The problem with the negative cognition is that it is usually a response to certain eating rules: some foods are identified as bad, and if I eat those foods I may consider myself "fat", "lazy", "useless", "a failure". What follows next is a "what the hell" attitude and further bouts of binging.

In a desperate bid to take control the individual will often resort to a strict diet and will set themselves dietary rules which are virtually impossible to maintain. Once the rules are broken (and they will be) the negative cognition kicks in and the binging starts again. Another factor here is the hunger caused by the semi-starvation diet which physiologically primes us for the next binge.

There are some self help approaches that may be of benefit for those who do not have a Cognitive Behavior Therapist (preferably one trained in the CBT-Enhanced method for eating disorders).

The first principal is to increase meta-cognitive awareness, which basically means "thinking about thinking". Over time, through discussion with others, reflection, or better, recording what is eaten, when, and what the accompanying mood and thoughts are, we can start to recognize the characteristic automatic negative thoughts.

A useful analogy is that of the DVD player. In various situations we relate to others and our environment on a virtually automatic basis. For each of this situations (and our relationship with food is one of them) it is as if we have inserted a particular DVD. The thoughts are not ourselves - many of us identify with our thoughts and feelings, both of which have a large degree of autonomy. Once we recognize that the "eating disorder" DVD is running we can take steps to eject it (for example: challenging negative thoughts and offering more realistic alternatives; diversion - exercise, socializing, cinema etc- or working on some of the structures that hold this negative thinking pattern in place - low mood, anxiety, low self-esteem, boredom etc.

This kind of work is ongoing and reaps benefits in accordance with the commitment put into the self-help techniques.

Statistically, however, the most effective approach for reducing binge eating is to regulate eating, to eat small meals at roughly three hourly intervals and to avoid skipping meals. Once this approach is combined with your training goals (i.e. high protein, low GI, adequate nutrition) you have a highly effective defense against binging, and if you do binge you have an immediate strategy: just get on with the eating plan you were following with no self-recrimination.

There is no need to commence "driven" exercise regimens or to increase the frequency and duration of your workouts. Just keep on as normal, train hard and effectively, eat at regular intervals, and don't worry about slipping up: just think of the extra stored glycogen you can draw upon for your next training session!
---------------end quote----------------------------------

I gained .2 pounds yesterday, but at 148.8 pounds, I am still well within my goal weight of 145 pounds to 149.9 pounds. For exercise, I walked my dog the usual route of 1.3 miles through the park and did my usual 30 minutes of housework. Here is what I ate:

Special K and organic soy milk
El Monterey beef and bean burrito with salsa
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
2 slices of wheat bread and 2 slices of Kirkland Signature extra lean ham lunch meat
8 ounce Banquet Sweet and Sour Chicken and rice frozen dinner
1 scoop of mint chip ice cream
2 Nature Valley Sweet and Salty Nut bars

148.6 Lost .4 Pounds Yesterday

I lost .4 pounds yesterday, but I think it was all blood. Sorry to be so gross, but that is the reality of my heavy periods these days. I even humored a craving I had for a ham sandwich before bed, with bread and everything (but no mayo). I was sure that would put me over 150, but nope, 148.6 on the scale this morning, down .4 from 149.0 yesterday. Still, guys, you probably don't wish you bled every month.

Yes, Mom, I am drinking lots of water. I've had a gallon so far today, and it is only 3:30 in the afternoon.

I went on my walk yesterday as usual, and yes, walking does still help my period cramps. I used to pray for my periods to end, but I just found out by asking around that the hot flashes continue even after we finish menopause and no longer menstruate. How is that fair? At least the cramps stop, I guess.

Here is what I ate and lost .4 pounds:

Special K and organic soy milk
Nature Valley Sweet and Salty Nut Bar
2 El Monterey beef and bean burritos with fresh Roma tomato slices
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
Full can of Amy's organic low fat minestrone soup
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
Ham sandwich (2 slices of wheat bread and 2 thin slices of ham lunch meat)

149.0 Mmmmm! Home Grown Roma Tomatoes!

Scott's coworker gave him a bag-full of home grown Roma tomatoes the other day. Yum! Roma tomatoes are my favorite type, and home grown are usually fresher than store-bought, so they taste better. These taste great! I put them on top of my chili dip yesterday, and served them as a side dish sliced, next to Scott's Qdoba burrito.

Alas, I have a black thumb, or I would grow my own food. Seriously, I cannot grow anything. We were going to have a garden here and grow vegetables, but Scott was going to do it all. I cannot be relied upon to water plants. I never notice they are dying until it is too late. I can only care for things that remind me they need food and water. I am too wrapped up inside my head to care for plants.

I had a perfect "no gain, no loss" day yesterday, and exactly maintained my weight at 149.0. I walked my mile, actually 1.3 miles, and did my usual 30 minutes of housework. Here is what I ate:

Corn dog and mustard for breakfast (Yeah, that is weird, huh?)
Chili Dip with fresh sliced home grown Roma tomatoes on top
2 Nature Valley Sweet and Salty Nut Bars
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
Qdoba steak taco salad in the crispy tortilla shell, but with just a dash of the salty Ranch dressing, not the five or six dashes they usually put on it
2 more  Nature Valley Sweet and Salty Nut Bars

149.0 Amazon Monopoly Because Search Works at Amazon

I have had it up to here with all the news stories lately about how Sony, Kobo, Apple, and Barnes and Noble plan to compete with Amazon by slashing prices. Really? You fools just lost a lawsuit over your attempts to make Amazon quit slashing prices, and now you want to get in on that action? And you think it will get you some of Amazon's market share? You can't see the forrest for the trees!

Amazon gets my business because I can find the books I want to buy on Amazon, not because of its tactics in price wars.

Yes, I can find what I am looking for at Amazon! When I enter search terms at Amazon, I find books about those search terms. That does not reliably happen at any other current online book retailer, and that is what is giving Amazon all the market share. I know people who buy their content from Barnes and Noble or the iBookstore because they have Nooks or iPads. Guess what? They go to Amazon first to search for the topics that interest them and note the titles they want to purchase.

When a friend recommends a book to me, I know I can go to Amazon and find that book in less than 5 seconds flat. But wait, there's more. Not only will I find that book, Amazon will recommend other books their customers bought when they bought that book. This is marketing magic, folks.

By contrast, how long does it take me to even find what I am looking for at Sony, Kobo, Apple, and Barnes and Noble's online bookstores? Sometimes, forever. In some cases where I know a book is on sale at their site because I know the author, I cannot even find the book there if I search for it by title and author name. Fail. Epic fail.

No one wants Amazon to be a monopoly. 

That hurts me as a customer just as much as it hurts you as a competitor. It hurts me as an author, too. I do not want Amazon controlling all my sales. I want to sell in multiple online bookstores, not exclusively through Amazon. However, messing around with prices is not going to do diddly until you make it so people can find the books they want to buy!

Please, I am begging in case you can't tell: Sony! Kobo! Apple! Barnes and Noble! Fix the search and book discovering functions in your online bookstores. If you want to have any hope of competing with Amazon, the first thing you need to do is make it so customers can go to your site instead of Amazon to find the books they want to buy.

Hello Reader! You can help. Write to Sony, Kobo, Apple, or Barnes and Noble and ask them to please fix the search function in their online bookstore so that you can find the books you want to buy on their site instead of going to Amazon:

Barnes and Noble
Andy Milevoj, Vice President, Investor Relations
telephone: (212) 633-3489
e-mail: amilevoj@bn.com

TODD HUMPHREY, EVP, Business Development
135 Liberty St. Suite 101
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
M6K 1A7

Eddy Cue, Senior Vice President, Internet Software and Services
1 Infinite Loop
Cupertino, CA 95014

Tadashi Saito, Executive Vice President, Chief Strategy Officer
1-7-1 Konan,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0075,

I gained .2 pounds yesterday. At 149.0 pounds, I am still within my weight-loss goal of 145 pounds to 149.9 pounds. I walked 2 miles. Here is what I ate:

Special K and organic soy milk
Nature Valley Sweet and Salty Nut Bar
El Monterey beef and green chili burrito with salsa
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
Chili Dip
2 Nature Valley Sweet and Salty Nut Bars

Unlisted College Degree Job Openings Book

Most US public school districts accept any bachelor's degree, for being a substitute teacher. These jobs are not advertised, and there are frequent openings.

Many people find substitute teaching difficult. For this reason, turnover is high in the substitute-teacher pool. If there are no openings in your school district right now, there probably will be soon. Check back in about a month.

The trick to keeping this job is to do it so well that you find it fun and rewarding. That has been the case for me, and I hope that by reading this book and going in prepared, it will be the case for you as well.

There are many books about substitute teaching at the elementary school level. I prefer high school. I also prefer substitute teaching over being a regular classroom teacher. Yes, I have done both. This book contains all the advice I've gathered doing this job since 1989.

Even if you don't meet all the qualifications listed on the school district's website, you still have a chance of getting hired as a substitute teacher.

In most states, school districts can get emergency teaching credentials for potential substitute teachers, if their need for substitutes is dire enough. It usually is dire enough. Most school districts require substitute teachers to have a bachelor's degree (in any subject), and this is the one criterion they are strict about. Not all school districts require substitutes to have a bachelor's degree, though, so look at each district's website closely.

On your application to be a high school substitute teacher, list any and all experience you have working with teens: your own teenage children and their friends, your friends' teenage children, church youth groups, retail jobs where you worked alongside teens, coaching, tutoring, teens who babysit for you, and so on.

High School Substitute Teacher's Guide: YOU CAN DO THIS! by Cherise Kelley
Paperback: Amazon | Barnes and Noble Online | Powell's | Walmart Online
eBook: iTunes  | Kindle | Nook | Kobo
Audio: Amazon | iTunes

About a week after you apply online, call the school district after 9:30 but before noon.

I have substituted for nine different school districts now, and I had to follow up with every last one. I never would have been hired as a substitute teacher if I had just waited for them to call me after applying online. If you apply in summer, wait until school starts before you call.

When you call, ask to speak with the substitute coordinator. Her typical work day is 4 till noon. However, from 4 until 9:30 she is busy making sure all the day's absences are covered, so don't bother her before 9:30 except as she has directed.

Ask the substitute coordinator if she needs any teacher substitutes right now, and if your application arrived in her in-box. If the substitute coordinator tells you she has enough substitute teachers right now, then wait about a month and try again, especially as it gets closer to Christmas or May. Those are the times of year when the most regular teachers are absent.

In a public school district, the substitute coordinator is the one who makes the hiring decision. The elected school board formalizes her decision at their next monthly meeting. When you go in to see the substitute coordinator, it might seem like she is just a clerk in the office. She starts work at 4, remember, so by the time you see her at 10, she might look a little haggard. She is on the computer and on the phone all morning. She might wear her hair in a ponytail and dress in jeans. Make no mistake: the substitute coordinator has the power to accept you or reject you. Impress her.

It may take several meetings with the substitute coordinator before you are hired on as a substitute teacher.

Get whatever documentation the substitute coordinator requests. Take CPR if necessary, and get TB clearance if she says you need to. Go pay a doctor cash for a routine physical exam, if needed. Go to the police department and get fingerprinted. All of this has been required at various school districts I have subbed for. She is not pulling your leg on these requirements.

You might be scheduled for a formal job interview. If you are, this is a good sign they are going to hire you. Remember, there are many substitute teachers in the school district, not just one, so they hire a lot of people to put on the list. Handle this as you would any job interview: dress well, get a lot of sleep the night before, and prepare answers to interview questions they are likely to ask. If you carefully and thoughtfully read this book, then you will be prepared for their questions.

High School Substitute Teacher's Guide: YOU CAN DO THIS! by Cherise Kelley
Paperback: Amazon | Barnes and Noble Online | Powell's | Walmart Online
eBook: iTunes  | Kindle | Nook | Kobo
Audio: Amazon | iTunes

150.0 Mom and I Have the Same Smile!

Sneaking in another photo of Mom and I in Coeur D'Alene last month. She sent me this recently and said, "Look, we have the same smile!" Hehe! Yes, Mom, we do! We're looking pretty good for 49 and 72, eh?

I gained .8 pounds yesterday, even though I walked two miles. It was the rice I ate, along with the orange chicken, but mmmmmm it was good! Here is everything I ate yesterday:

2 corndogs with mustard
Sliced Gala apple candied with 2 tablespoons chunky peanut butter and 36 dark chocolate chips
El Monterey bean and cheese burrito with salsa
1 cup Orange Chicken with one cup white rice (Yum!)
Handful of dark chocolate chips

Come to think of it, the cornbread on those corn dogs couldn't have helped matters any!

149.2 Dorritos Taco Bell Not as Good as Regular

We both love Dorritos nacho cheese flavor tortilla chips, which are what Taco Bell's new special taco shells are made of. We tried the new Dorritos Locos tacos yesterday, though, and we both independently said we prefer Taco Bell's regular taco shells! We were surprised.

This reminds me of when Mom and I put chocolate chips in banana bread once. We both love chocolate, and we both love banana bread, so it should have been Heavenly, right? Nope. Chocolate and banana bread don't compliment each other. They compete for your taste buds.

It is the same with these Dorritos taco shells. Taco Bell tacos in the original taco shells are delicious taste combinations. The meat and cheese and lettuce and tomato all combine in flavor with the corn tortilla to bring you a taste masterpiece. Throwing in the Dorritos nacho cheese flavor on top of that is overkill, and it kills the flavor combo of the rest of the meal. All I taste is the Dorritos nacho cheese flavoring. It overpowers everything.

I prefer regular Taco Bell tacos over their Dorritos Locos tacos. Your mileage may vary.

I gained .8 pounds yesterday, but am still within my weight-loss goal of 145 pounds to 149.9 pounds at 149.2 pounds. I walked the dogs two miles yesterday, and did my usual 30 minutes of housework, for exercise. Here is what I ate:

Two Corn Dogs with mustard
1/4 cup peanut M&Ms
Two Dorritos Locos tacos supreme from Taco Bell
1/4 cup peanut M&Ms
El Monterey bean and cheese burrito with salsa
Sliced Gala apple candied with 2 tablespoons peanut butter and 36 dark chocolate chips
Handful of dark chocolate chips

148.4 Sun Warmed Backpacking Shower by Basic Designs

We love our sun warmed backpacking shower. It doesn't weigh much at all, rolls up when empty to about the size of tent poles, and holds five gallons of water. It says right on the thing not to use it for drinking water, but it is great not only for showers, but also for water to wash dishes. We are pretty sure that if dishes are washed with soap and then dry completely in the sun, they are not contaminated with giardia or any of the other water-born bacteria backpackers worry about.

But there is nothing more luxurious than a warm shower out in the wilderness! We just fill this up from a river, lake, or stream and then set it out in the sun for a day. It does not get hot, but it does get comfortably warm so that washing one's hair is a pleasure and not the cold terror most of us dread when we wash in a plastic cloth bucket. We both washed our hair on the third day of our trip and felt like newly reborn, happy campers.

Unfortunately, Basic Designs of Sausalito appears to no longer be in business. I found some of their backpacking foam mattresses still on sale used, but other than that they do not seem to be around any longer. Searching around, I did find a few other companies that still make solar heated showers for backpackers.


I lost .4 pounds yesterday. For exercise I did my usual: about 30 minutes of random housework and 30 minutes of brisk walking with a dog that likes to pull and needs to be reined in. Here is what I ate:

Special K and organic soy milk
1/4 cup peanut M&Ms
2 slices of Costco combo pizza
1/4 cup peanut M&Ms
El Monterey bean and cheese burrito with salsa
1/4 cup peanut M&Ms
Corn Dog with mustard
1/4 cup peanut M&Ms

148.8 Raffle Guarding Our Campsite

Raffle dug himself a bed where he could guard the main entrance to our campsite. This nice firepit was already built, including a grill we could put our pot on. We set the pot in the dirt to cool after boiling the water, and then poured the water into plastic canteens such as the one in the photo.

We decided that next time we camp in this area we are choosing a different campsite, though. We were near water, but we had to hike up this hill in the middle of the night to get far enough away from the water to relieve ourselves. We think it would be more convenient to sleep away from the water. Only a third of the hill made it into this photo. It's a nasty hill, especially in the dark.

I lost 1.2 pounds yesterday, and am back inside my weight-loss goal of 145 to 149.9 pounds. For exercise, we walked the dogs our 1.3 mile circuit down to the local park, around three times, and back. I also did random housework for my usual 30 minutes daily. Here is what I ate yesterday and managed to lose 1.2 pounds:

Special K and organic soy milk

2 slices Costco combo pizza
1/4 cup peanut M&Ms
El Monterey bean and cheese burrito with salsa
1/4 cup peanut M&Ms

150.0 Vintage Holubar Backpack Photo

I think this Holubar backpack might be older than I am. I got it at a garage sale in 1999 when I was preparing to hike Grand Canyon, so I don't really know how old it is. Holubar was rolled into The North Face in the middle of the 1980s, so this backpack is at least 30 years old.

I love the old thing! It is lightweight, sturdy, and still all-intact. It has a hard aluminum exoframe on the back, which makes it easy for me to lift and put on. It has enough external pockets, but not too many so that I lose stuff in it, like my husband's backpack. It is water proof. The interior lining is rubbing away at the bottom of the main interior cavity, but other than that the thing is intact.

I gained 1.4 pounds yesterday, but I think it is because I ate dinner so late. I was so busy writing that I didn't think of having dinner until 9 pm. I usually quit eating for the day by 6 pm. For exercise we walked 1.3 miles and we shopped at Costco. Here is what I ate yesterday:

Special K and organic soy milk
Costco samples: Philly steak sandwich, sausage, pickled mushroom
2 slices of Costco combo pizza
1/4 cup peanut M&Ms
Chili Dip
1/4 cup peanut M&Ms

Here is a video of a vintage Holubar tent with a zip hole in the floor for using a stove inside the tent and a rain fly that hovers high above the tent so that water doesn't come in because of contact with the tent.

148.6 Garmin Montana GPS Photo Quality

We had so much fun taking photos with our new Garmin Montana 650T GPS! Its camera has auto-focus and is 5 megapixels. It automatically geotags your photos. The whole thing is waterproof, designed for hiking. Of course, it is a GPS, so it has pre-loaded topographical maps and does all you expect from a navigation device. Because of this, we did not expect the photos to come out this gorgeous.

Look how well it adjusted for the bright background on the photo of me in the red shirt, so that just enough light fell on my face. (I'm holding a rock that Scott thought looked like an egg.) Look how well it exposed both the far backdrop and Scott's face, on the photo he took of himself. Look how awesomely focused the closeup of the flower is!

This thing takes better photos than my (2 year old) dedicated Fujifilm JX250 digital camera does, and it is all just point and click. There are no manual adjustments to make on the Garmin Montana 650T camera. We are very pleasantly surprised to have gotten a new full-blown digital camera along with our new toy.

Yesterday I weighed in at 149.4, and had lost 2 pounds since the day before. I had walked 1.3 miles. The day before I had eaten Special K and organic soy milk, carrots and 2 tablespoons Parmesan spinach dip, a salmon patty and more raw baby carrots.

Today I weighed in at 148.6, having lost .8 pounds yesterday, when I also walked 1.3 miles for exercise. Yesterday was church potluck, so I did really well. Here is what I ate yesterday:

2 bowls of Special K and organic soy milk

Potatoes au gratin with ham chunks
Macaroni and cheese with chili spices and black beans
Rice and fruit salad
Ham and cheese wrap sandwich

Hamburger patty grilled outside on our BBQ, enjoying the last of the summer weather
Raw baby carrots
1/4 cup peanut M&Ms

151.4 Sierra Cup for Backpacking, Why?

We were out in the wilderness backpacking the last few days, and there was no signal, so I couldn't blog. I dutifully packed my sierra cup (see photo), but I am still not sure why. We were gone four days, and I never needed it. The sierra cup is a mainstay of backpackers, though. Please comment if you know why!

In those four days, we packed 60 pounds each and covered a total of five miles. We hiked down into a canyon and back up again. The dogs came along and they each had a backpack, too, with their own food and water. They each carried about ten pounds.

The dogs are not used to their backpacks, though. Ten minutes into the first day, they ran down a hill to get to some water, and then were not able to get back up with their packs on. Scott had to take his pack off and go down the steep hill on his bottom to rescue the dogs. It was an ordeal that made us glad we always pack a rope. He needed the rope to get back up, is how steep it was.

We found a great campsite with water and a fire ring someone had made and left behind, with a little grill on it that was perfect for holding the pot we used to boil the creek water so we could make our dehydrated meals and drink. We had a lot more fun once we gave up on boiling water to drink and started using the iodine tablets we had packed for purifying the water, though. The neutralizing tablets that come with the iodine tablets really work. We could not taste the iodine.

It was really clear out and only in the 40s at night. We saw a bazillion stars each night. The moon was nearly full, but it didn't come out until after midnight, so the star gazing was great. Although it was still hot midday, it got cool as soon as the sun went behind the rim of the canyon about 6 pm, so we were in our sleeping bags by 7 pm each evening, and talked until all the stars came out around 9 pm.

I was a little sore last night after the car ride home, but today I just feel strong!  I gained 1.4 pounds since my weigh-in at 149.8 on Monday. I think it is all from the huge meal I had on the drive home yesterday, which I only plan on doing on the way home from long camping trips, so I am not concerned. Today is a diet day, and in two days maximum I will be back inside my goal weight range of 145 to 149.9 pounds. Here is what I ate yesterday:

At the campfire in the morning before hiking out: three handfuls of Chex mix, one Breakfast on the Go packet (candied walnuts, dried cranberries, yogurt-covered fruit of some kind)

At the car after hiking 2 miles out, up hill: one handful of cashews, one Parmesan cheese and crackers sandwich, raw baby carrots from the cooler, two gulps of regular Pepsi

On the drive home: Deluxe cheeseburger on a bun with lettuce, tomato, onion and mayo; handmade chocolate shake (20 ounces), potato chips

Dinner at home: one can of Amy's organic minestrone soup, 10 corn tortilla chips, 1/4 cup peanut M&Ms

Dog Aliens 1 Raffle's Name by Cherise Kelley Best Cover

Dog Aliens 1 Raffle's Name will be out December 1, 2012, in time for Christmas! It's about how my dog, Raffle, is really a space alien, but how he loves us anyway, and how he got his name and came to live with us. There are sad parts and scary parts, but no humans or dogs die, I promise. It is mostly a story about the dog-human bond. I will be sending out email reminders to those who sign up here

Nathalie Hamidi made me this awesome cover. It's the one I will be using for the book. I am so blessed to have met Nathalie while she was just learning how to use the Gimp program that graphic artists use to make these book covers. She made this for me for free, as practice! I say she is a true artist. This is 100% her vision, based on me telling her what my book is about. She doesn't have a website yet, or I would link to it, but I am sure down the road she will and her graphics will be very popular!

A model Queensland Heeler is playing Raffle on the book cover. My camera just is not good enough quality to get a shot that is adequate for the needs of graphic art. I will include a picture of the real Raffle on the back cover of the paperback version of the book, though.

I ate breakfast and drank a bunch of coffee this morning before I realized I had not weighed in! Oops! I walked my 1.3 miles yesterday for exercise. Here is what I ate:

Small bowl of Special K and organic soy milk
1/4 cup peanut M&Ms
El Monterey bean and cheese burrito with salsa
1/4 cup peanut M&Ms
Chili Dip
1/4 cup peanut M&Ms

148.0 I've Kept the Weight Off for Six Months!

Raffle and Oreo have greatly helped me keep the weight off these six months, so they deserve to be featured here. Walking every day is so much more fun with them! If I try to skip the walk, they bug me until I go. Dogs make excellent exercise partners!

This is my favorite photo of Raffle. The camera is sitting on top of a cinder block wall. No one is with the camera. The dog smiled at an unmanned camera because he saw that I was smiling at an unmanned camera!

It is a very common saying that keeping the weight off is the hardest part. I used to say that, too. Now, I realize this is only true if you let your guard down and stop keeping track of what you eat and of how much you exercise. Sure, if you let yourself go, then the weight is coming back on. I refuse to let myself go every again.

I gained a pound yesterday, but that is OK. I am still well within my weight-loss goal range of 145 pounds to 149.9 pounds. We did our usual 1.3 mile walk to the local park and around it three times and back home down this alley. Here is what I ate:

Small bowl of Special K and organic soy milk
1/4 cup peanut M&Ms
El Monterey bean and cheese burrito with salsa
1/4 cup peanut M&Ms
1/2 can Amy's organic lentil soup
Raw baby carrots
1/4 cup peanut M&Ms
Ritz cheese and crackers snack pack
Custard dish of corn tortilla chip crumbs

147.0 Is Ventriloquism Real?

"Is ventriloquism real?" is the number one search result for this video. Yes, ventriloquism is real.  This is the real me, talking in my throat without opening my mouth.  There are no camera tricks involved.  I do this by voluntarily moving the way back of my tongue, the muscle you swallow with. 

The sound comes out of my nose.  Because I am just using the back of my tongue, vowels are easy but the consonants that use your lips are very difficult, such as P.  Consonants that involve clicking the tongue are difficult, too, such as K.   I simulate the lip and clicking consonants by snorting out my nose.  Consonants that are really vowels when held a long time are easy, such as M.  I can just hum to make the M sound.

I figured out I had this ability by accident, when I was about 13.  I was singing along to a song on the radio when my stepsister Cindy said, "Hey, not everyone can sing in their throat like that.  You should practice it and do ventriloquism performances!"  I did practice, but I never performed with a dummy.  I perform this mostly as a trick to keep students entertained and out of trouble, when I substitute teach.

Not everyone who performs ventriloquism does it this way.  I have noticed that an awful lot of the guys who perform with dummies talk out of the sides of their mouths.  In an article in "Teen" Magazine circa 1977, I read that approximately 1 in 100 people are born with the ability to do real ventriloquism the way I do.

I lost .4 pounds yesterday.  For exercise I walked both dogs 1.3 miles.  Here is what I ate:

Small Bowl of Special K and organic soy milk
1/4 cup peanut M&Ms
El Monterey bean and cheese burrito with salsa
1/4 cup peanut M&Ms
Whole can of Amy's organic minestrone soup
1/4 cup peanut M&Ms
Handful of corn tortilla crumbs