The boys and I have a favorite book. A book that challenges them and even myself to think outside of the box. To reach deep down into our imaginations in the hopes of creating something new and exciting.

It’s called

The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg

If Chris Van Allsburg sounds familiar it’s because he has written such inventive stories as The Garden of Abdul Gasazi, Probuditi, Jumanji, The Polar Express and Zathura. Out of that list Jumanji and The Polar Express both received Caldecott Medals. Needless to say the man’s talented.

The Mysteries of Harris Burdick is an intriguing book of 14 inspired drawings.  In the introduction is where the book takes a perplexing turn. Supplying you with a few small facts about Harris Burdick’s identity and the story behind how his drawings were published. As you browse through the pages you’re teased with only a title and a short sentence for each picture…that’s all, really.

You’re encouraged to run with the prompts and create your own fanciful story. Some well-known writers have also been inspired by these clever mysteries. Such as M2’s favorite drawing The House on Maple Street, that Stephen King penned into a short story found in Nightmares and Dreamscapes



It was a perfect lift-off.

The concept of this book has given me an idea for the kazillion random photos that I seem to have accumulated. I have been wracking my brain trying to figure out how best to share some of my favorites with you all.  So from time to time I’ll post a photo with a title and a sentence. Then you my creative, brilliant friends get to come up with anything that pops into your mind. Be it a  short story, paragraph, poem, haiku or even your own title. You name it, just be creative and surprise me. I only have one rule. Please keep it clean since the monkeys like to read the comments from time to time.

Seeing as how this is the first time we are giving this a try, you can choose between The House on Maple Street or my creation below.



He knew the possibilities.

Have fun. I can’t wait to see what y’all come up with!

Love ya,

Tickled Red

By the way Chris Van Allburg’s website has a fun interactive area for kids of various ages, as well as a place where they can submit their own stories drawn from the mysterious 14 pictures. My guys had a blast with it tonight and are on a mission to submit one of their own stories.


Do y’all remember those Sunday suppers at your grandmother’s when you were growing up? I do. All of my aunts, uncles and cousins packed into the house laughing or possibly squabbling. A table so full that we actually had to eat somewhere other than the dining room. Usually supper ended up becoming a musical chair symphony but the food and family made it all worthwhile. I have to tell you those memories find me often and fill me full of warmth.

Pam Anderson and her family know all about time well spent in the kitchen.  Creating not only their own long-lasting memories full of joy but also some ingenious recipes that have evolved from their lively gatherings. Fortunately Pam, along with her incredible daughters Maggy and Sharon, share some of their culinary creations with us on their blog Three Many Cooks. Pam has also been tempting our taste buds with her sensational cookbooks for some time now. Her latest book Perfect One Dish Dinners (which is her second book to hit the NY Times best sellers list) has now become a weekly resource for my family inspiring some exquisite, yet deceptively easy meals. Especially for some of our Sundays gatherings.

Pam brilliantly planned the recipes ahead of time for you in Perfect One Dish Dinners. She grouped them into meals consisting of an entrée, an appetizer and a desert. She even went so far as to give you helpful alternatives and recommend the perfect beverage to accompany each dinner. The beauty of her new book is that you can also mix and match the recipes as you please.

Just to give you all a little taste of what awaits you in her new book here’s what we had this Sunday. The guys and I spent a wonderful afternoon with my dad, step mom and sister enjoying what is a staple dish here on the coast. We made a Low Country Boil or as Pam calls it, Frogmore Stew. It’s a  spectacular blend of shrimp, kielbasa and vegetables infused with garlic and spices.

We paired it with Pam’s  absolutely delicious salad of Greens with Apples, Dried Cherries and Roasted Pumpkin Seeds. Now you are probably saying to yourselves, “Where are the pumpkin seeds”? Funny story about that. It involves three guys and you’ll just have to wait for it. We replaced the missing pumpkins seeds with pecans, which worked out just as well.

I also made this. Oh yeah, read it and weep y’all.

Better yet look and weep. Can I just say drool buckets! I couldn’t help myself, I’ve a passion for cheesecake.

Here is what you will need to make this beauty straight from Pam herself.

Rum-Raisin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust

Serves 12 to 16

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 tablespoons plus 1 1/4 cups sugar, divided

24 gingersnaps, preferably Nabisco

2 pounds cream cheese (regular or light Neufchatel), softened

4 large eggs

1/3 cup dark rum

1 cup dark raisins

4 teaspoons all-purpose flour


Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Bring 1 quart water to a boil for a water bath.

Mix butter and 2 tablespoons sugar until well mixed. Coat a 9 inch springform pan with vegetable-oil cooking spray.

Place a single layer of gingersnaps, flat side down, on pan bottom (there will be spaces between them), and generously brush with butter mixture. Brush flat sides of remaining gingersnaps with remaining butter mixture, and place them, rounded side out and slightly tilted toward the outer edge, around pan sides. Bake until sugar on cookies bubbles, about 7 minutes. Remove from oven and reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.

Meanwhile beat cream cheese in a large bowl with an electric mixture until fluffy. Gradually add remaining 1 1/4 cups sugar and beat on medium speed until sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just incorporated and scraping down sides after each addition. Beat in rum, or as Pam and her girls would say…” Perfume the cream cheese”. Toss raisins with flour and stir into batter. Cover exterior of springform pan with a double sheet of heavy-duty foil to ensure that no water can seep in; set in roasting pan. Pour batter into springform pan.

Set roasting pan on oven rack and pour in enough hot water to come about halfway up the side of the springform pan. Bake until perimeter of cake is set but center jiggles when pan is tapped, 55 to 60 minutes. Remove pan from oven and let stand in water bath for 30 minutes. Remove springform pan from water bath and set on a wire rack; cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours. Slice and serve.

Light and creamy with a hint of rum, sweet plump raisins and a crunchy spicy crust. What else can I say but that everyone loved it.

It was so yummy that my surfer was busted by M2 sneaking seconds. “Dad!!”“What?!? I don’t have anything!”

This cheesecake  is just too bloody brilliant for words. Look at all that rum soaked creamy goodness. Now that makes any Sunday mo bettah!

I’m not the only one who has found Pam’s new book, well excuse the pun, perfect. Today you will find quite a few people posting some recipes from Pam’s Perfect One Dish Dinners. I have listed the ones that I know of below, have fun checking them out. I just wanted to say thank you so much to Pam, Maggy and Sharon for passing along the gift of this lovely cook book when I was at their Big Summer Potluck. It has a few spots on the pages now and flour in the crevices but then again it’s loved.

Love ya,

Tickled Red

*This post is simply a tip on how my monkeys and I stay connected-keep up our nightly routine, whenever I am traveling without them*

As you guys may or may not know I adore books. I usually have two or three that I enjoy at a time, it keeps me sane. To my great delight my monkeys are avid readers as well. Even though my guys are growing up, especially Monkey One, I still enjoy reading an exciting tale to them in the evening. It is our time together sharing an adventure. I have always been of the opinion that people enjoy being read to no matter how old they are.

How many times have you watched a movie where the man is reading to the woman and you sigh, “Wouldn’t that be lovely if someone would read to me”. We crave that experience of  absorbing the story through someones voice, varied inflections of tone and facial expressions. Storytelling…it is age old for a reason. Just my opinion but even though your child may be 12,13, 14… don’t stop reading to them until they are actually begging you to.

Ya’ll are probably wondering why I am going on and on about reading aloud this evening. I have a point I promise. I am taking a trip soon, a really short  one but I will still be away from my monkeys. They have become accustomed to me and as ya’ll know, my darlin’ surfer being away from home from time to time. It has been a while though since I have been the one away from the nest.  When I do go on trips without them, two of the most important items that I pack along for the trip are books. One for my reading pleasure and one for the monkeys.


Four years ago I used to travel approx. 4- 6 weeks during the year. The monkeys were eight and four years old at the time. I began to notice when I came home from my second or third long trip, subtle clues as to how my being away from home was disrupting their routine. Nothing to big, a minor drop in M1’s weekly spelling test grade, M2’s concentration during preschool but enough for me to pay attention and be concerned. You see we try really hard to keep their lives running as smooth as possible when it comes to their education and I didn’t want my work schedule to become a burden for them.

I believe that children crave consistency and even though my darlin’ was doing a bang up job while I was traveling, it’s just not the same when a parent is away and routines are disrupted. One evening before their bedtime I sat there going over all of the possibilities, what could I do to help my boys? Were my hands as tied as they felt?

When it came time for them to go to bed we followed the usual routine of course. A five minute heads up so there wouldn’t be any melt downs, pj’s on, teeth brushed and mom waiting patiently to read a chapter from which ever book we happened to be enjoying at the moment. That is when I had my light bulb moment. Reading a bedtime story!! It was the one aspect of their daily routine that solely and completely belonged to me… US. My surfer doesn’t read the stories in the evening, never has.

So I started a new tradition/routine so to speak. Whenever I happen to be on the road traveling I read them a chapter over the phone each night. We couldn’t have asked for a better way to stay connected and engaged while sticking to our traditional routine as much as possible. The monkeys were also amused with hearing the story and my silly sound effects through the phone.

Now I won’t lie, it did get tricky at times. There was the time that my flight was late and our assistant had to hold her phone over my book for light in the shuttle, while I read not only to my boys but a crowded van of stupefied passengers. Restaurants, trade shows, airports…you name the place and I have probably read to them from there.

You will need books with short chapters. They will come in handy not only for those youthful attention spans but they will also last the duration of your trip. As well as being short enough to keep those dinner meeting guests from possibly tapping their toes impatiently down in the lobby.

Here are a couple of our favorite books that we have enjoyed via cell phone in the past.

Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson (Disney) is a wonderful series that has taken a delightful twist on an classic and all time favorite of ours. We think that Peter Pan rules! The authors take a realistic view of Peter and the lost boys, how they meet Wendy, find themselves on Never Land. They have also added a plethora of suspense filled mystery. All the while maintaining the magic and allure of the original tale. This is not a book written to appeal only to boys. Wendy holds her own, well the truth be told she pretty much runs the show. The chapters are just the right size.

Whittington by Alan Armstrong (Yearling)

Is the tale of a rough around the edges cat who finds a home in Bernie’s barn full of opinionated animals and befriends Bernie’s grandson Ben. Ben is having difficulty with reading in school so Whittington regales him with tales of Dick Whittington and a cat who helped him make his fortune in the world. The storytelling allows Ben to find a safe haven along with the freedom to express his intimidated, suppressed creative side. The chapters are just the right length.

Please don’t feel like you need to run out and buy two books, one for them and one for yourself in order to do this. Check one out from the library, purchase just one at the airport, even make it a surprise. If your child is older and in middle school like Monkey One break out Kipling, Tolkien or Poe and begin an adventure into a vast new world that you can continue when you return home from your trip.

So the next time you find yourself traveling away from your babies and want something to help keep you connected or simply for kicks and giggles try a book.

Be adventuresome!

Tickled Red

* Keep in consideration that this is what has worked for me and my monkeys. If reading is not your thing keep pulling rabbits out of the hat until you find that perfect fit for you and your children*

I have to take a minute  today to talk about another blogger that I know. Colleen Kennedy aka  Souffle Bombay. She was one of the  first blogger’s to reach out with a friendly word when I started this little adventure. Not only is she funny, she is talented.  Soon she will be having a very big day. I thought that we could all show her some good old fashioned southern support…modern style.

Colleen along with three of her friends wrote this book, Picture Me Cooking.

Here in their own words, is a little synopsis of what their book is all about .

“Picture me cooking is more than just a children’s cookbook.  We like to think of it as a cookbook, an activity book, a keepsake all rolled into one.  The book is also a great conversation piece to share with family and friends.

We suggest you and the child or children in your life sit together and look over the book.  See what looks interesting and decide which recipes to make first.  We have provided a photo of each dish in the book to help your budding cooks get excited about what they want to make.

Once cooking, have your camera ready to take photos of your chefs in action. Take shots of what they are doing, who they are cooking with, their masterpieces and their disasters too!”

Now here is the big day part. Hold on to your seats…

As of now they are scheduled to be on QVC  Friday, March 5th 9am to 10am, promoting and selling their book! I know! Isn’t that great. I am so very excited for Colleen and her friends. What an amazing dream they are living right now. If there are any future schedule changes I will let you know.

In the mean time… let everyone know to drop by either of the sites or tune into QVC on March 5th to show them some support. Now you all know, that if you were going to be on camera in front of millions of people for the first time ever, that you would want a little TLC.

So good luck Colleen and ladies! I wish you the very best and from my old theater days…”Break a leg” ! 🙂

Tickled Red

Can you possibly guess as to what I have on the brain today? You guessed it BOOKS.  If you couldn’t guess, than my little clue must be horrible and I apologize. Now if you want to know something that does more than TICKLE me, I mean the axis shifts in my planetary orbit, it is reading books. Well okay, not shifts, just quakes some. Only my surfer shifts the planetary axis.

I love books in any size, shape or form. Digital, paper, papyrus you name it. Except on audio, I am still working on that. I have an issue with one voice for all parts, especially gender roles, it cracks me up. “Hello my name is Todd Smith” says the extremely high pitched, feminine (faking a baritone) southern bell voice; “Would you care to join me for a drink”. Yep, giggles galore when that comes across the speakers while I am driving. All I can picture is Jessica Simpson dressed up like George Clooney, hittin’ on someone. It is just too funny.

Okay, some of you might be running and screaming from my little blog right now. Thinking that I am crazy for  going on like this about books. There is a point to all of this though.

Monkey One and I joined a book club at his school for parents and their children. He loves book like his Mom and Monkey Two is well on his way to being an avid reader also.  Can I just dance for joy right now…okay sorry, back on topic. Last night was our last meeting before Christmas break. With everyone talking about what they wanted to read during the holidays and how much shopping they have not gotten done, I thought that I would list some good books. This way you will have an idea for a book to get that person you know who is a freak like me. The monkeys wanted to list their choices as well.

I don’t want to overwhelm you with to many. I am listing one that we have read and one that we want to try per category. I hope that these intrigue you and get you pumped to visit Barnes & Noble, especially right now with their free shipping and member rates for non-members 🙂 Go out and get a book during the holidays, not just for someones gift, but for your self as well.

Monkey One’ s suggestions for Young Teens

This was one of our book club selections and it surprised me. I did not believe that either of us would enjoy this book but we did immensely. Hunger Games takes place in the future where natural disasters have changed the scope of our country entirely. It is no longer the USA but a place called Panem and the controlling government requires the outlying districts to choose 24 children to compete in the Hunger Games. Including sixteen year old Katniss. Only one will survive.  I will not spoil it for you. I will just say this, we were so riveted that we have already read the second book and are awaiting installment three due out 8-2010. Being an over protective mother the only issues that I had with the book were, a slight mention of nakedness. This was done tastefully and in appropriate context or I would have pulled the plug immediately. As well as a little bit of kissing, but this gave us an opportunity for some good discussions. Great read!! Four Tickles

Stormbreaker is the first book in the Alex Rider series. The teacher hosting our book club mentioned this series as a possibility for the spring meetings. Alex Rider is about the first fourteen-year-old MI6 agent. He has to become an agent when his uncle is assassinated. Alex is forced to take over a case involving a suspicious computer baron who has donated thousands of his newest, top-secret modules to British schools. I am curious to see if this will be a topic that my monkey enjoys.

April 2010: As of today Monkey One has not read this book. It was not chosen yet for his book club. I will keep you posted.

Monkey Two’s suggestions for Ages 6-8

This Franny K. Stein series is Monkey One’s absolute favorite. He gets the biggest kick out of Franny’s sarcastic, mad scientist sense of humor and her crazy inventions. Although he especially likes her dog Igor. This is an excellent series for the budding avid reader who can grasp a wicked sense of humor. We are nearly done with the series. My monkey loves it. Four Tickles

The My Weird School series is one that my little monkey has expressed an interest in. I look forward to reading it with him and seeing what the main character gets into. Seeing as how on the first day of second grade, A.J. introduces himself to his new teacher and announces that he likes football and video games but hates school. This should really open up the lines of communication about school and how we view it 🙂

April 2010: As of today Monkey Two has read nearly every book in the series. He is loving it 🙂

My Suggestions

For the history buffs…

When King George was discussing the prospect of having to go to war with the colonies he said that it would only take ” A Few Bloody Noses”. How little he knew. This book about the revolutionary War is not what you might be imagining. It is from the British perspective. It is a comparison of our history during those times and how the events were also perceived across the pond during the war. I always believe in getting both sides. A good book, but a bit dry in places. Three Tickles

Okay, the picture speaks for itself. No I am not a horror fan, nor am I a fan of  zombies. My surfer likes all of the zombie movies, I only like the funny ones. I am intrigued by this book though. I love Pride and Prejudice, and I am curious as to how Elizabeth and Darcy can fall in love if they are battling not only themselves, but zombies as well? Especially period zombies. I am going to have to give it a try, wish me luck. I can guarantee you though that I will be rereading the original when I am done. In order to put Elizabeth and Darcy back into their proper perspective of course.

April 2010: As of today I tried to read this book. Not to say that it is not a wonderful book and that you will not love it but it was not for me. I didn’t mind the zombies so much as the liberties taken in changing the characters in the families. I guess that I am to much of a purest when it comes to Pride and Prejudice. Give it a try and let me know if you like it. I hope that you do.

Thank you for letting me babble on about my love for books. I do hope that if you or whom ever you might get them for, read any of the books listed, that you will share what you think. Including the ones we have not gotten to yet. I would even love to hear about your own book suggestions.

Good luck shopping.

Tickled Red