“Illusions of Fate” Giveaway WINNER!


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This is to announce the winner of the giveaway for the author signed copy of Illusions of Fate, by Kiersten White.

You can read more about this awesome book here.

Illusions of Fate cover


And the winner is…

 ~ Drum roll ~



Tosses copious mounts of confetti!

I’ll email you to get an address where I can mail the book.

Author signed title page of Illusions of Fate, by Kiersten White

“Illusions of Fate” by Kiersten White ~ Author Signed Copy GIVEAWAY!


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Rich in imagination & deep in character…

IllusionsOfFate-coverThe people of Albion are different from anyone Jessamin has ever known: harsh, upright, and obsessed with wealth and rank. Jessamin knew as much when she left her sun-drenched island home to attend school in their gray, dreary country. 

But she had no idea how different they truly were.

She never thought she would discover a house with door that open onto a hundred corners of the city or a book that spends its days as a bird. She certainly never expected to become a pawn in a political and magical power struggle between the sinister Lord Downpike and the handsome, charming Finn Ackerly. And she never so much as imagined she’d win Finn’s affections—or that one day his shadow would follow her every step. 

Fortunately for Jessamin, fate has other ideas… (jacketflap)

If I had stayed on the thoroughfare that day, not taken the alley, I would never have met him. … I sit, defeated, and shuffle the cards for the hundredth time. I cut the deck, close my eyes, and draw a card at random. FATE. I always draw fate.


Magic, romance, intrigue, and a dash of steampunkery…

Jessamin swept me into her fictional 19th century world and immediately won me over with her sharp wit and strength of character. At the age of sixteen she left her tropical island home for a distant country, so she could better herself with an education she helped earn working as a servant in a hotel.

Jessamin’s meager finances put her at the bottom of Albion’s high-society caste. To make matters worse, her darker skin label her as a foreigner, making her even more of an outcast. Jessamin works hard to be the best in her classes,and getting little recognition. Still, she’s proud of holding her own. That is, until the fateful day Albion’s magical forces catch her up in their vicious snare. Strong spirited Jessamin fights back, battling her wits against evil magic, proving her island moxie is something to be reckoned with.

Why this book rocks…

ILLUSIONS OF FATE is flat-out fun–Witty dialog and scenes crafted with style and polished prose. I highly recommend this beguiling story to any young adult, or adult who is young at heart.

Here’s a few reasons why this book is so awesome:

  • Jessamin’s wit and fortitude gave me a  heroine I could laugh with, root for, and admire.
  • Jessamin is ordinary, not ‘the chose one’, so it’s easy to empathize with her.
  • Even though she has meager funds on which survive, Jessamin isn’t swayed by money and power. She knows her mind and sticks to her morals.
  • Lord Ackerly is wealthy, powerful, and of high social standing. He’s adept in casual social situations, but nervous when it comes to personal relationships of depth. His flaws make him vulnerable, and I couldn’t help hoping Jessamin would give him a chance.
  • The 19th century fantasy world has a steampunk patina that gives the setting depth, and brings the world to life.
  • Quirky secondary characters, such as Sir Bird and Eleanor, add humor and give depth to Jessamin’s character.
  • I don’t want to ruin it for you, but I didn’t see the ending coming. Better still, after the last twist was revealed, I was satisfied with the outcome because it was more than earned.

To win an author signed copy…

NOTE: The FREE giveaway of an author copy of this book is open to residents of the United Kiersten White holding a signed copy of Illusions of FateStates only, due to shipping costs. My sincere apologies.

Here’s how to enter to win:

  1. Leave a comment on this blog–explaining WHY you’d love to read this book– by midnight, November 20th (1 entry).
  2. Tweet about this giveaway, using #IOFGiveaway in your tweet (1 entry).
  3. I’ll put all *entries* in a hat and pick a winner blindfolded.

I’ll announce the winner on this blog Saturday, November 22nd.

Author signed title page of Illusions of Fate, by Kiersten White

May Fate be with you!

[Photo of Kiersten White taken at Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park, CA by moi]

No Tricks, All Treats ~ Movies That Put the “Happy!” in Halloween


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If you’re a die-hard (pun intended) fan of dark-and-scary, you might want to skip this post. I’ve seen my share of white-knuckle horror films, but I’m a happy-haunts kind of gal. Which is why I’m putting a light-hearted spin on a haunting holiday with the following movies…


ParaNorman_posterThis hilarious stop-motion marvel is about a small town that comes under siege by zombies. The only person who has a ghost of a chance at saving the town, is a misunderstood boy named Norman. Norman isn’t the usual stuff heroes are made of. His only qualification for the hero job is that he can see and speak with the dead.

Unfortunately, zombies aren’t the only supernatural riffraff that Norman’s thrown up against. He also has to take on ghosts, witches and, worst of all… moronic grown-ups, to thwart a centuries-old curse. 

A la Joss Whedon, ParaNorman gets dark, scary, and then throws in the humor. At its core, ParaNorman is a heartfelt zombie comedy (ZomCom) with an added dash of macabre for spice. You can watch the trailer here.

Corpse Bride

Corpse Bride movie poster

Tim Burton’s quirky stop-motion tale about one wedding … two brides … and a grave misunderstanding.

Meet Victor, our accidental hero, who lives in a small European village in the 19th century. He’ been pledged to Victoria in a marriage arranged by his parents, and meets his bride-to-be for the first time the day before the wedding. Understandably nervous, Victor botches the wedding rehearsal on a nerdastic scale.

In hopes of improving his performance on his wedding day, Victor goes for a walk in the woods, practicing his vows along the way—not that it helps. When he reaches the part of ceremony where they exchange rings, Victor slips Victoria’s wedding band on what appears to be a tree branch, sealing his fate. You see, Victor unwittingly put the ring on the skeletal finger of the enchanted Corpse Bride, binding himself in matrimony to her for eternity.

To Victor’s shock and dismay, his new bride whisks him off to her dark and mysterious netherworld–the land of the dead. Terrified, Victor’s predicament goes from bad to wickedly worse as he realizes he actually loves the real-live fiancée he left behind. Victor’s desperate to return to the world of the living to be with his true love, but sinister forces stop at nothing to block his escape. 

This dark comedy comes full circle, delivering a well deserved happy ending that glows with compassion and redemption. You can watch the trailer here.

Practical Magic

“What’s Halloween without witches,” you ask?Practical Magic movie poster My point exactly for picking this classic tale of merry magic and spells gone deadly wrong.

The wry, romantic comedy follows the Owens sisters, Sally and Gillian, as they struggle to use their innate mystical gifts to overcome the obstacles in finding and keeping true love.

The Owens sisters always knew they were different. After their parents’ deaths, they went to live with their two eccentric aunts who gave them chocolate cake for breakfast and taught them how to use their magical skills for practical purposes.

Not everything about their magic was good, however. The Owens’ mystical birthright came with a price—some called it a curse:

Any man an Owens woman falls in love with is doomed to an untimely death.

The sisters learned how real the curse is when Sally loses her husband and Gillian her lover. The sisters efforts to reverse the curse result in supernatural forces retaliating and threatening their lives. The quiet Sally and the fiery Gillian must use all of their wits and dig deep into their powers to ward off the evil bent on destroying them all.

This movie gets a little dark, but never scary. And there’s plenty of fun to swing the scale into delightful. For one, these witches know how to rock a happy haunt. Sneak a peak at their midnight margaritas dance party, if you don’t believe me…

Have a Happy Halloween everyone!

Sandra Bullock & Nicole Kidman, Practical Magic

What are your favorite Halloween movies (scary or not)?

Joshua Bell ~ Incognito Busker to Subway Station Superstar


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Even if you’re not into classical music, you’ve probably heard of Joshua Bell. Meg Cabot mentions him in her Princess Diaries series and Vanished series. Or maybe you heard about that guy—the famous musician who played in a train station and no one noticed him. That Guy, was Joshua Bell.

The Urban Legend That Isn’t a Legend

In 2007, Joshua Bell posed as a common busker in a Washington D.C. metro station bell.joshua2012(during morning rush hour) as part of an experiment initiated by Gene Weingarten of The Washington Post. Only seven people, out of thousands, stopped to listen to him. Only one person recognized him. ONE. You can read the full story here.

Since then, Joshua Bell became known as “that guy” who played in a train station. Some people actually told him the story about that guy, not realizing he was that guy. He commented on Twitter that he felt he was in danger of being best known (in his career) as that-guy-who-played-in-the-train-station, and his tombstone would read: “Here he is, underground again.”

The Encore that Packed the Train Station

Union Station Washington DCA cavernous train station is not the usual venue for a classical music superstar. Joshua Bell has played in all the major concert halls around the world. So why would he want to go back to a train station where he was blatantly ignored in 2007?

You can let a situation define you, or you change the situation to reinvent the definition.

That’s just what Joshua Bell did. On September 30, 2014, Joshua Bell turned the tables on DC’s Union Station and created a the ultimate public experience for classical music. This time, his performance at DC’s Union Station was highly publicized and people came out in droves. People who knew the story, but may not have known anything about classical music, packed the gigantic space, pressed shoulder to shoulder, 1500 strong. [image: morguefile.com]

Joshua Bell Encore Concert at Union Station Washington DC Sept 30, 2014

Joshua Bell played the same music he did as an incognito busker (2007), except this time he held a capacity crowd spellbound. You can listen to the entire concert on YouTube Here.

The sheer size of the crowd that greeted him, and the warmth of their reception, made this encore a fitting compliment to his first train station experience. More important, he and the young artists who accompanied him brought beautiful music to the masses. I can’t think of a better ending to the story.

Honesty Hour: I feel compelled to write about Joshua Bell’s encore performance, because I’ve referenced his 2007 busking stint in two other blog posts. I never referred to him as That Guy. Not once. Honest.

PBS NewsHour Interview with Joshua Bell

The following PBS NewsHour video shows footage from Joshua Bell’s first busking experience and clips from his recent encore performance. In the personal interview that follows, Joshua Bell talks about the fate of classical music and the importance of keeping music in schools.


Encouraging and Instructing Young Artists

Joshua Bell puts action behind his words, contributing time and energy to the Education Through Music (ETM) program, among other philanthropic endeavors.

Most recently, he taught a Young Arts Master Class—some of his students accompanied him in his Union Station encore performance—which was the basis for a HBO documentary. See the following trailer for details.

Crazy Colloquialisms: More expressions that make you go, “Huh?”


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Anyone who learns English as a second language is a hero in my book. Seriously. There are so many rules that only apply half the time. And then there are the wacky phrases that get tossed about at whim, that have little or nothing to do with what is actually meant. I was confused by these colloquialism when I was young, and English is my first language.

So here’s a few more translations for idiotic idioms…

The Cat’s Pajamas ~ wonderful, remarkable

Cat in pajamas snuggling a teddy bearThe Cat’s Pajamas is one of the sillier colloquial conundrums. I first heard this expression when I was in grade school, while watching a black-and-white movie from the 1930’s. It’s disturbed me ever since.

The cat’s pajamas describes someone or something that is wonderful or remarkable. The American cartoonist, Thomas Aloysius “Tad” Dorgan, is credited with creating this whimsical phrase. The hipsters in the 1920’s used this expression to describe a person who is the best at what they do, or a person who was fun to be with. More recently it was popularized by the movie The School of Rock, starring Jack Black.

The cat’s pajamas is one of a handful of slang animal-centric expressions that came out of the 1920s. Others include the Bee’s knees, the canary’s tusks, and the flea’s eyebrows. Don’t worry. I won’t go there. (c) Can Stock Photo

Come Hell or High Water ~ a great difficulty or obstacle

Anyone determined to accomplish a task no matter what, will do it “come hell or high water”. It doesn’t matter how hard the task, or the odds against their success. They will get it done. Stubborn to the point of stupidity, but always in their favor.

This is an American expression, yet no one has discovered a clear derivation. Some think it may be an outgrowth of “the devil and the deep blue sea”. But that seems like a stretch, if you ask me.

Flooding street of a old West town, Universal Studios, CA

The earliest reference of “come hell or high water” was in the Iowa newspaper, The Burlington Weekly Hawk Eye, on May 1882. This seems fitting, as the saying rings with hardy Midwestern spirit.

The phrase became popular in movies in the early twentieth century, especially in Westerns. Cattle drives often involved crossing rivers and the large expanses of dry dusty plains. [Photo by moi: Western movie set, Universal Studios (CA) backlot]

Get Down to Brass Tacks ~ hard facts

BrassTacksThis phrase dates back to the turn of the nineteenth century, with its first appearance in January 1863 in a Texas newspaper. Other early occurrences are also from Texas, so it’s assumed that’s its place of origin. There are a couple of possible derivations for the phrase, and both refer to actual brass tacks.

The first theorizes that the brass tacks are the ones used in upholstery. Brass tacks have long been used in making furniture, due to their aesthetic appeal and ability to withstand rust. But that’s as far as the explanation for that theory goes. There’s no logical explanation that relates the meaning of the phrase to the brass tacks used in upholstering.

The most reasonable theory is about the brass tacks used as a measuring device for selling lengths of material in the old haberdashery trade. Measuring fabric by arm length wasn’t very exact. So to be more accurate, shopkeepers inserted brass tacks along the edge of their counters. When a customer purchased fabric, the cloth was measured along the counter using the distance between the brass tacks to determine the price. Hence the phrase, getting down to brass tacks.  (c) Can Stock Photo

Dead as a Doornail ~ devoid of life, unusable

This expression always bothered me. Of all things to compare death to, why a doornail? It made no sense. If it had to be a nail, why not a coffin nail?

Amazingly enough, the first reference of this phrase dates back to 1350. It appears in both the The Vision of Piers Plowman, and a translation by William Langland of the French poem Guillaume de Palerne. By the 16th century, the expression had become popular in England thanks to the lines Shakespeare gave the rebel leader Jack Cade in King Henry VI. Dickens kept the popularity growing by using the phrase in A Christmas Carol.

You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

close up of an old wooden door with a knocker

Doornails are large-headed studs that, in much earlier times, were used for strength instead of decoration. The practice was to hammer the nail through, and then bend the protruding end over to secure it. This process is called clenching, and is probably why a doornail can be considered dead. After a doornail is clenched it can’t be used again. Sounds true to me. How about you?  (c) Can Stock Photo

11 Year-Old Busking Violinist ~ Fifth Avenue’s Newest Star


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Pint-Size Prodigy Surprised by His Idol on National TV

There’s a new star on New York’s Fifth—Dylan Hamme, an 11 year-old busking violinist. But Dylan isn’t just any ol’ busker. No. He’s a child prodigy on the fast-track to becoming a concert violinist. He’s busking to raise money for conservatory training.

But wait. It gets  better.

Dylan has a sign propped up in his open violin case for passerby donations that states he’s following in the footsteps of his idol, Joshua Bell.

So far it’s true…

11 year-old Dylan Hamme playing his violin on 5th Ave NYC

Joshua Bell started playing the violin at the age of three, the same age Dylan picked up the instrument. Joshua Bell went on to become a world-renowned violin soloist. So far, Dylan is heading in that direction as well. His expert musicianship (along with his sign), caught the attention of NBC News, and they featured him on the Today Show, complete with a surprise visit from his idol. If you don’t cry watching the video clip below, I don’t want to hear about it.

Going out of his way to encourage a young musician is not uncommon for Joshua Bell. He regularly supports projects that teach and encourage young musicians around the world. Most recently, his work with the National YoungArts Foundation was the cover story in October Strings.


Joshua Bell’s Busking Experiment

While Joshua Bell is at home in a concert hall, he’s no stranger to playing on the street. Or a metro station to be exact. In 2007, Joshua Bell posed as a common busker in a Washington D.C. metro station (during morning rush hour) as part of an experiment initiated by Gene Weingarten of The Washington Post. The purpose of the experiment was to see how many commuters would stop and listen to one of the nation’s greatest violinist in an everyday setting. Sadly, not many. Only one person recognized him. ONE. You can watch the time-lapse video below, and read the full story here.

It’s fortunate Dylan Hamme got more recognition busking than did his idol. Joshua Bell is happy about Dylan’s popularity on the street too.

Dining with Giraffes… Are you game?


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The world’s only giraffe hotel rests in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro. Yes, giraffe hotel.

Officially called Giraffe Manor, the estate is located near Nairobi, Kenya. Every morning the resident giraffes stroll up to the house, poking their heads through the windows in search of treats.

Giraffe Manor, exterior with giraffes poking their heads through windows

Can you think of anything more amazing than waking up to giraffes poking their heads through your bedroom window, and then having giraffes join you for breakfast? Seriously. Sign me up!

Breakfast with giraffes at Giraffe manor

The Makings of a Very Tall Tale

The original mansion was built in 1932 for a wealthy British family. But it wasn’t until 1974, when the property was purchased by Betty Leslie-Melville and her husband Jock, that the idea for a sanctuary dedicated to endangered Rothschild giraffes blossomed.

The first giraffe the Leslie-Melville’s took in was an 8-foot-tall (2.4 m), 450-pound baby they named Daisy, about whom Betty subsequently wrote the book Raising Daisy Rothschild that was later made into the film The Last Giraffe. So started the journey to protection for the endangered Rothschild giraffes. Giraffe Manor has been home to as many as 12 Rothschild giraffes at one time; currently there are eight in residence. The following image shows Betty Leslie-Melville having a quiet moment with Daisy Rothschild. [image: flicker.com]

Betty Leslie-Melville and Daisy Rothschild

In 1983, Betty’s son opened the Manor as a boutique hotel where guests could feed the giraffes from their breakfast table, through the front door, and from their bedroom windows. The Carr-Hartley family purchased Giraffe Manor in 1984 to continue the tradition of offering guests the rare opportunity to hang out with these gentle giants.

The hotel luxuriously caters to the resident giraffes and warthogs, as well the human guests who come from all over the world. A magical stay at Giraffe Manor is not cheap, but the one in a lifetime experience is priceless.

The proceeds generated by the hotel help to support a great cause: the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife (AFEW). Not only is Giraffe Manor a sanctuary for an endangered species, but they also participate in a breeding program which introduces breeding pairs back into the wild.

The Tallest Living Mammals

The giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) is native to Africa, and is the tallest living terrestrial animal.

Fully grown giraffes are approximately 16–20 ft tall, with an average weight of 2,628 lb) for an adult male and 1,825 lb) for an adult female. Giraffes have a lifespan of  up to 25 years in the wild. Because of their size, eyesight and powerful kicks, adult giraffes don’t have any predators, with the exception of man and lions.

Giraffes at Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

There are nine subspecies of giraffe, each with variations in markings that make them distinctly unique. Rothschild giraffes (that live at Giraffe Manor), named for Walter Rothschild, are also known as the Baringo or Ugandan giraffe. This subspecies’ natural habitat range includes parts of Uganda and Kenya. Fewer than 700 are believed to remain in the wild. Their endangered status makes the work done at Giraffe Manor for their protection all the more important. [image: Wikipedia, Rothschild’s giraffes at Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya]

A Sneak Peak at Giraffe Manor

A real-life sneak peek…

What’s your wildest dream adventure?

What goes around, comes around ~ Stories that come back again & again…


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Girl sitting on the grass reading a bookSome things are destined to return: the seasons, fashion trends, and certain types of stories.

As a race, we have an inherent need for stories. They come from a deep place in our psyche, and shape our lives.

Science is now able to prove that stories affect our psychological make up. The New York Times article, Your Brain on Fiction, by Annie Murphy Paul, shows how reading fiction affects the way we react in social encounters in real life. The ability to internalize the emotions and actions of fictional characters, actually helps us cope with our own world in a more positive way. [image: morguefile.com]

Reading … enlarges and improves us as human beings. Brain science shows this claim is truer than we imagined.

Joseph Campbell’s interviews with Bill Moyers on The Power of the Myth discussed the universality of stories (myths), and the similarities in the types of stories told from cultures around the world.

Why We Need Certain Stories

You could write an exhaustive doctorate’s thesis on this topic. You’ll be glad to know I’m not. I was thinking about the recent vampire craze, and wondered  “why” certain story types keep coming back, each time with a huge social impact.

The following is some of my reasoning, totally unsupported by any research whatsoever. Your comments on the topic are welcome and appreciated!

Paranormal: Vampires

Vampires existed in folklore for centuries, and became world-renowned in the 19th Vampirecentury. Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” (1897) was one of the first novels in the vampire craze. In recent decades, “Interview with a Vampire” by Anne Rice, “Twilight” by Stephenie Meyer, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer created by Joss Whedon, boosted the vampire pop culture phenomena.

Why the mass market fascination with blood sucking immortals? I think immortal is the operative word, with the monster factor playing a close second. [image: morguefile.com]

We are afraid of the unknown, and what happens after death is one of life’s biggest mysteries—one that makes us face our worst fear, extinction. We idolize vampires, because of their beatific immortality. They have been glamorized to such an extent that we overlook the fact that they are blood sucking monsters. In recent fiction, some vampires sparkle in sunlight and are portrayed as humanitarian—the Twilight series, for example.

In truth, vampires are at best monsters who enjoy the glamour of killing. Why do we crave stories about monsters? It’s kind of sick, if you think about it.

Or, maybe not…

I wrote an earlier blog post on this topic, titled Monsters We Love to Hate. To put it simply, we need something horrible onto which we can project our fear of the unknown—a monster that can be destroyed. The ability to vanquish monsters in a story, gives us a sense of control over our fears and conquering the unknown.

For an in-depth study of vampires in pop culture, check out “The Changing Vampire in Film and Television: A Critical Study of the Growth of a Genre” by Tim Kane.


Hunger GamesThe dystopian story—post apocalyptic, degenerated society—provides a venue for managing another type of fear. The primal fear of survival.

Survival is the crux of a dystopian story. Surviving under the worst possible conditions.

Dystopian stories are usually characterized by dehumanization (“1984” by George Orwell, and the 1980’s films Road Warrior and Blade Runner), totalitarian governments “(The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins, “Divergent” by Veronica Roth), environmental disaster (“Under the Never Sky” by Veronica Rossi), and other characteristics associated with a severe decline in society.

The hero in a dystopian tale give us courage by showing us how to survive at all costs. How they cope with and overcome the hardships in their brutal world, helps us to face and overcome our own battles for survival, both real and imagined. In essence, dystopian stories teach us how to be our own hero. Everyone needs that type of encouragement at one time or another. There’s nothing more empowering than knowing you can save yourself. [image: The Hunger Games (movie)]

What are the stories you can’t get enough of?

Confounding Colloquialisms: Expressions that make you go, “What?”


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A colloquialism is a word, phrase or other form used in informal language.

Parents can say some pretty weird things. My father grew up in Iowa, the heart of the Midwest, so some of the things he said seemed weirder than normal to us California-kids. Like the time he scolded my sister at the dinner table, saying she was “As independent as a hog on ice.”

Our reaction: “Huh?” (Could’ve been, “WTF?” but we weren’t allowed to swear.)

Hog on ice

Seriously. We’d lived in Southern California all our lives and had never seen ice or hogs in real life. We just stared. He took our stunned silence for acceptance and compliance, which was probably a good thing. For a lot of years, I assumed the hog-on-ice thing was an my dad’s own home-grown Iowanism. That is, until I started on my writing journey.

When I started writing, I started to notice all the odd informal sayings we used every day. I knew the implied meanings from the context in which they were used. But the meaning itself? Not so much.  That’s why I decided to take on a handful of these oddball sayings…

“As independent as a hog on ice” Flailing about

Strangely enough, I’m not the only one who has been confused by this saying. This phrase has been baffling people for decades. Yes, decades! Etymologists started searching for an explanation from the time it first appeared in the mid 19th century. In 1948 Charles Earle Funk titled his first book of word origins “A Hog on Ice”. His foreword contains a seven (7!) page narrative of his inconclusive quest for the roots of this phrase.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the phrase as “denoting independence, awkwardness, or insecurity.” That about sums it up for a hog that’s slip-n-sliding across the ice, much like Thumper and Bambi in the Disney animated feature. “You’re doing it your way, and making a mess of it,” was what my father meant by his independent-as-a-hog-on-ice speech.

Time magazine usage in 1948, “They like to think of themselves as independents … independent as a hog on ice.”

“In two shakes of a lamb’s tail” Fast, really fast

In general usage, it is easy to infer that this phrase means “a very short period of time”.LambsTail

But why a lamb’s tail, of all things, to measure time by? Seriously. A little historical sleuthing uncovered that this is phrase is a distinct Americanism that dates back to the early 1800’s.

Apparently, a lamb can shake its tail pretty darn fast, much faster than other animals. Who knew? The term crossed “the pond” during the World War I, and became popular as British army slang.

“Bite the dust” ~ To die

Tomb stoneI always associated this phrase with westerns. So I was not too surprised to discover that it was made popular by American westerns of the 1930’s. Picture a cowboy falling to the ground after being shot, and quite literally biting the dust when he lands face down. Because of its association with westerns, I was completely taken aback that the phrase actually dates  back thousands of years before, to Homer’s Iliad. The following  translation was made by American poet, William Cullen Bryant, in 1870:

His fellow warriors, many a one, fall around him to the earth and bite the dust.

Some might say that Bryant introduced the phrase in his interpretation of Homer.  But I’m not going to argue that point. It works for m.

The phrase also appeared in the mid 1700’s in Tobias Smollett’s translation of Alain-Rene Lesage’s novel “Gil Blas (1715-1745):

…we make two of them bite the dust.

Again, the accuracy of the translation could be open to debate. However, I think it’s interesting that traces of the phrase date so far back.

“Till the cows come home” ~ A very long time

If you grew up in a city with no exposure to cows or farm life, this phrase makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. That’s because the expression alludes to cows’ fondness for extended leisure time out at pasture where there is lots of green grass to munch on. The cows would only rush back to the barn when their udders hurt and needed milking.

The phrase originated back in the late 1500s to early 1600s. But again, it was the cinema of the 1930s that made the expression popular. Groucho Marx used it in Duck Soup (1933) when he said to Margaret Dumont,

I could dance with you till the cows come home. Better still, I’ll dance with the cows till you come home.

Cows in a green pasture

Images: morguefile.com

What’s your favorite confounding colloquialism?

A Very Grumpy “Cat Summer” ~ Kitty Compassion in Action


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Grumpy … for the Good of All Cat-Kind

Grumpy Cat (Tardar Sauce, herself) isn’t as grumpy as she’d like you to think she is. In fact, she’s a little sweety. Her Grumpiness recently reunited with her celebrity cat friends to make a music video for the good of all cat-kind. Friskies has promised that for each video view (click video window below) before September 1, 2014, they will donate a meal of dry cat food to cats in need—up to ONE MILLION meals!

Grumpy Cat, Tardar Sauce herself

“Cat Summe” stars  Grumpy Cat (Tardar Sauce), Nala Cat, Oskar (the Blind Cat) Klaus, and Hamilton (the Hipster Cat). All donations are made in memory of their late friend Colonel Meow.

Grumpy Cat supervising BBQ

Each Video View Feeds a Hungry Cat

The plight of homeless cats is close to my heart. I work in Silicon Valley, where many of the high-tech office parks have become dumping grounds for unwanted cats. I took on feeding a small colony of “feral cats” near where I work, along with the responsibility of trapping and getting them fixed (TNR, trap-neuter-return). I had to help these cats once I realized they were homeless because of the negligence of people.

Now you can help homeless cats by watching a video and sharing it with your friends and family. You’ll be surprised by how good that (not so) little action will make you feel. Spread the “Cat Summer” loving …

Watch and share the following video

For every video view through September 1, 2014,
Friskies is donating one meal of dry cat food to cats in need.
Up to ONE MILLION meals!
You can make a difference!

“Cat Summer” Grilling and Chilling ~ Fun in the Sun


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