Pages & Paws

Writing, Reading, and Rural Life With a Border Collie

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5 Ways to Leap Into an Un-Holiday (and Give ‘Feb’ The Heave-Ho)

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So, February’s finally winding down. Nothing personal, Feb. But What took ya so long?

Of course, this year we have one more day of February, the 29th.

Oh, joy.

Well. Let’s see the glass half-full instead of half-empty, shall we? Like. How can we celebrate Leap Day?

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Shelf Awareness & ‘The Last Woman in the Forest’

The Last Woman in the Forest

Penguin Random House, 2019

By Diane Les Becquets

I almost gave up on this book. It seemed to take forever to get rolling. But once it did, it picked up speed fast. Like a locomotive on the dTheownhill.

The hair-rising Prologue starts with murder “Victim #1.” There are four victims in all. Four young women. All with an independent streak. All with trusting natures. All dead in or near the Stillwater Forest, apparently by the same psycho serial killer.

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‘Without Complete Understanding’: Why ‘Wartime Sisters’ Runs Through It

In his novel, A River Runs Through It, author Norman Maclean struggles to make sense of what happened to his family in the early 20th century and why. Set in rural Montana, this hauntingly evocative novel was made into a major motion picture in 1992. It’s directed by Robert Redford.

Lynda Cohen Loigman’s The Wartime Sisters echoes themes from A River Runs Through It. Especially the final scene featuring Tom Skerritt as Norman’s pastor father. The last message we hear Rev. Maclean deliver is called We Can Love Completely:

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10 Ways to ROCK Read Across America Day!

Someone has finally come up with an idea I can sink my teeth into! Mom calls it Read Across America Day! Mom is so excited! So I! Am! Excited! Too!

Mom says this special day is a nationwide observance. We’re giving you a little head start. Cuz it coincides with the March 2 birthday of Dr Seuss. You know. That “hat cat” and Grinch guy. (Nobody’s perfect.)

Anyway, Read Across America Day is our kinda day! Yeah, Lassie! One whole day to focus on my favorite two things in the world: reading and books. (Well, okay. Maybe a nice, thick New York steak, too.) So, here are…

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Diary of a Writing Storm 



Ever notice how blogging can be like whistling in the wind? Swirling around in a raging storm? Just about the time you think you have a handle on your topic or audience, a huge cloudburst of doubt or writer’s block rolls in. Soaks you to the skin. And you’re not sure which end is up.


LOTS of It

That’s kind of what rural life on the Olympic Peninsula is like. Yep, it’s green. Outdoor opportunities abound. But the lush landscape, soaring evergreens, and feral beauty of western Washington come with a price: Rain.  Lots of it.


In fact,  in the largest temperate rain forest in the world, we measure rain in feet, not inches. Locals joke that the four seasons are:


  •  Raining
  •  Almost Raining
  •  Just Finished Raining
  •  Construction


Only tourists argue with that. Because by this time of year we’re starting to feel like Noah. Sunshine seems like a distant memory.


What’s a blogger and writer to do besides sprout gills and webbed feet, especially when hitting a writer’s block wall? Well, I dive in to an old favorite: Under the Tuscan Sun.



Under the Tuscan Sun seems incongruous. But a favorite is a favorite, regardless of weather:


  • Two hundred and eighty pages redolent with France Mayes’ delicious descriptions of her restoration of an abandoned villa in the spectacular Tuscan countryside.
  • Incandescent, the text drips with the beauty and simplicity of life in Italy.


Because Under the Tuscan Sun is the kind of tome you tuck into a summer picnic basket. Or wrap yourself around during one of the wettest PNW winters on record.



Meanwhile, Back on the Peninsula

Diving into Tuscan Sun, I’m soon adrift in a sea of Italian terra cotta, palazzi, gelato, and padrones. Sun-soaked vineyards and Chianti.



What’s The Hurry?

I envy Frances Mayes and her villa’s fireplace, large enough to sit in. “I think most Italians have a longer sense of time than we do,” she writes. “What’s the hurry? Once up, a building will stand a long, long time, perhaps a thousand years. Two weeks, two months, big deal.”


A severe storm? Two hours, two days, two weeks, big deal.


I can’t quite wrap my head around that.


The wind howls like a banshee. Frogg-Toggged, I take Kimber the pup out, snatching a few minutes from the elements.  Frances and Ed Mayes try to decide on what to renovate/upgrade first – the leaky roof or central heating.



By nightfall passing cars have switched their windshield wipers off. Somber prognostications of Stormaggedon seem far-fetched. Even if the wind is tossing buckets of rain from gray-cement skies.


Kick Writer’s Block to the Curb

Does your keyboard ever look like gray-cement? Is dredging up new blogging inspiration like trying to recover the Titanic?


When this happens – and it always does, sooner or later – take a blogging vacation. If you can’t swing a change in scenery physically, take a mental vacation. Stop trying so hard. Take a break from writing and disconnect:


  • Go for a walk
  • Play with your kids.
  • Eat a banana split
  • Take up line-dancing, a watercolor class, or wood carving.
  • Find a new author
  • Make a new friend
  • Change the oil in your car. Quit stressing about your next blog post or series. There’s something therapeutic and bracing about shifting gears, trying something novel, exploring new territory
  • Whatever it takes to replenish the well.

Rest to Recharge

A “rested” mind is a more creative mind. Some of my best ideas and creative bursts arrive after I’ve turned off the computer and gone “on vacation.”


How long should your writing vacation last? That’s up to you. But running on fumes isn’t doing you or your readers any favors. When you start feeling like writing is fun rather than a chore, or something to check off your To Do List, you’re on the right track.



Suddenly it’s Monday.  The storm has passed, subsiding to a soggy threat.



Kimber chomps her breakfast. The Etruscan wall necklacing Frances’ villa is rebuilt. The weed-choked cistern cleaned. The roof fixed. Aging interior polished to its former patina and newly planted herb gardens blooming, Frances’ restored villa gleams in the Tuscan sun.


Blue and gray, overhead skies here clash like troops at Gettysburg. But the worst, it seems, is over. The sun is elbowing flannel-gray clouds out of the way. Wait! Is that a patch of blue?


Well. I’ll be ‘et fer a tater if I don’t sense some writing inspiration on this rise…



How do to kick writer’s block to the curb?

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What Do Spartacus and 5 Dragonets Have in Common?

Wings of Fire: The Dragonet Prophecy

By Tui T. Sutherland


You know that “We who are about to die salute you” gladiator scene in Spartacus? Where Kirk Douglas is forced to duke it out to the death with another gladiator?  Add some scales, talons, and wings. Stir in five dragonets who are the only hope for peace between endlessly warring dragon tribes. And you’ve got the gist of Tui T. Sutherland’s Wings of Fire: The Dragonet Prophecy. It’s Book 1 of a 12-book fantasy novel series set in the mythical land of Pyrrhia.


Plot Summary

A war has been raging between the dragon tribes of Pyrrhia for years. MudWing dragonet Clay and four other dragonets have lived their entire lives – six years – under a mountain. Purloined from their homes as eggs, the quintet has been hidden from the rest of the world until they’re ready to fulfill their destiny. According to a mysterious Prophecy, five dragonets will end the bloodshed and choose a new queen.


Or will they?


When Clay and his spunky buddy, Tsunami, make a daring escape and return to rescue the others from their subterranean existence, everything kind of goes sideways. Inches from freedom, plucky Clay and his friend are captured by the deadly SkyWing dragon queen, Scarlet. She forces her prisoners into to-the-death gladiator battles reminiscent of Spartacus. (See? I told you so.)


Queen Scarlet’s champion is an undefeated SkyWing named Peril. She responds to Clay’s kindness. But is Peril friend or foe? And who will become queen?


Wit and Humor

A rapier wit and subtle humor enliven this delicious fantasy tale. Sutherland’s world-building is also first-rate. You can almost hear fire sizzle, smell the musty earth and feel the waves of an icy river and waterfall lap at the pages.


The plot picks up speed quickly as “huge, handsome idiot” Clay and his pals battle to escape Queen Scarlet’s evil clutches and search for their own families while trying to unravel their intertwined destinies. A fun read for older elementary or middle schoolers or anyone who enjoys exploring fantasy worlds, dry humor and traipsing in and out of dragon lairs.


Don’t Eat the Block Rocks

Along the way we learn that old scrolls and dusty lectures can come in handy. Eating black rocks from the Diamond Sky River turns out not to be such a great idea. Peril and the Champion Shield uncover a secret.


You should also know that there’s more than one kind of dragon in Pyrrhia. The different dragon tribes are: SandWings, MudWings, IceWings, RainWings, and NightWings. And not every dragon breathes fire.


One other thing: Mud isn’t just for squishing in.


Keep An Eye Out

One other, other thing. And this is kind of important. Not every dragon wants the Great War to end. Like Burn. And what’s up with Morrowseer? I’d also keep an eye on Blister, ‘fize you.


But I’m getting ahead of myself.


Is this unlikely band of rag-tag dragonets really destined to fulfill a mighty Prophecy, or are they just being lured out into the open where evil stalks their every move and treachery awaits…?


Oh, the dragonets are coming

They’re coming to save the day…




For more on our rating system, click here.


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12 Most Memorable TV Commercials Of All Time

In case you’ve been in a cave or a coma lately, the Super Bowl is just around the corner. But some of us (who shall remain nameless) don’t watch the Super Bowl for football. We tune in for the commercials.

Indeed, Super Bowl broadcasts have showcased some of the most memorable television commercials of all time. So with Game Day waiting in the wings, we got to thinking about memorable TV commercials.

Now, “memorable” is highly subjective. A commercial doesn’t necessarily have to be any good to be “memorable.” It may be silly. Hokey. Or just plain ridiculous. It could be so bad, you can’t get it out of your head. It may also be so poignant and powerful, you can’t forget it.

So Kimber and I put our heads together the other day and came up with our own highly subjective, 100% unscientific list of the 12 Most Memorable TV Commercials Ever.

Not all of these commercials aired during a Super Bowl game. But can you name the ones that did? In no particular order:

1. The 9//11 Tribute (Budweiser, 2011)

When it comes to memorable ads, Budweiser is in a class by itselff.

The 9/11 tribute ad only aired once, during the 2011 Super Bowl. But once was enough.

Ten years after the tragedy, this ad features the famous Budweiser Clydesdales clip-clopping across the Brooklyn Bridge, past the Statue of Liberty, then bowing before the New York cityscape. Then “We’ll never forget” appears across the screen.

The ad airs without a single word of dialogue. It doesn’t need any.

One of the most poignant, powerful commercials ever.

2. I Can’t Believe I Ate That Whole Thing (Alka Seltzer, 1972)

In this ad, Ralph is seated on the edge of his bed, moaning about an upset stomach after over-eating. He doesn’t get much sympathy from his wife, who tells him to take some Alka-Seltzer.

The ad won a Clio Award (the television commercial equivalent of an Oscar) in 1972. The line, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing,” was selected by Newsweek magazine as one of the ten best quotes of the decade.

3. The Mayhem Guy – St. Bernard Puppy (Allstate, 2019)

In this commercial, a 70-pound St. Bernard puppy with a “lack of impulse control” meets its match in Tina Fey. “Get Allstate. Where good drivers save 40% for avoiding mayhem – like me.”

The Mayhem Guy has made a career out of these commercials. Which is your favorite?

4. Aqua Velva Man featuring Pete Rose – (Aqua Velva, 1976)

Pete Rose sings in this cheesy Aqua Velva commercial from 1976. Because there’s just something about an Aqua Velva man.

5. The Most Interesting Man in the World (Dos Equis, 2010)

His mother has a tattoo that reads “Son.” I don’t always drink beer. But when I do, I prefer Dos Equis. Stay thirsty, my friends.

Wait. Did I say the Pete Rose ad was cheesy?

6. 241 Years of Battles Won (U.S. Marine Corps, 2017)

For a place. For a people. For an idea…. It’s what we do. It’s who we are….

This may be the best recruiting commercial ever.

  1. Are You Grown Up Enough For Granny Goose? (Granny Goose Potato Chips, early 1960s)

Interesting. Well-seasoned. Provocative. The only question is: Are you grown up enough for Granny Goose?

Love it or hate it, this was one memorable ad. Totally un-PC.

  1. Mean Joe Green (Coca Cola, 1979)

One of the most famous Coca Cola commercials ever. Have a Coke and a smile.

9. Times of Your Life Christmas commercial featuring Paul Anka (Kodak, 1976)

Remember Paul Anka?

Good morning, yesterday. You wake up and time has slipped away. Do you remember? The laughter and the tears? The shadow of misty yester-years? (Bet you can’t stop humming that…)

Nostalgia meets Kodak in this beautiful holiday commercial.

Kodak film. For the times of your life. They nailed it!

10.I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (Coca Cola, 1971)

Who can forget this one? “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)” is a pop song which originated as an advertising jingle. It’s sung by the Hillside Singers in this 1971 TV commercial.

It’s the real thing…

11.Another Angel Gets Its Wings (Target, 1993)

Scenes from the Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life intersplice this music video from the 1993 Christmas song, Another Angel Gets Its Wings. By Vince Gill and Trisha Yearwood.

The video appeared at the beginning of the Target Exclusive VHS copy of It’s A Wonderful Life. If customers bought a Christmas album by either Gill or Yearwood at Target, a free cassette single of this tune was included.

Remember, for each and every bell that rings, another angel gets its wings. So share you care…

Everybody sing!

12.Puppy Love (Budweiser, 2014)

An adorable puppy + a majestic Clydesdale + the bonds of friendship = best buds and a cuteness overload!

Budweiser knocks it out of the park again with this Super Bowl ad from 2014.

Will you be watching this year’s Super Bowl game for the football, the commercials, or a little bit of both?