Family Photo Friday!

Family Photo Friday

Today’s photograph is of Emily after she and the others had finished their Thanksgiving Day feast of baked sweet potatoes and pomegranate poms. In the background, Gracie is taking care of an itch.

We started with dessert, the pomegranate, because since it was a holiday, “dessert first” was fine. Emily is more ladylike with this treat, and so I usually hand feed this to them. She doesn’t like to get the juice from the poms on her face. The others just shake it off, and so they are more likely to grab too hard and splatter juice in all directions. Emily, above all, is a proper lady.

I had not expected Emily to let me take her photos and especially this closely. She is normally shy, but I think their Thanksgiving Day menu put her in a good mood, or at least good enough to not be so shy with the camera.

Emily had a very rough late fall molt and lost all of her neck and head feathers except for a few that hung down in back like a pony tail. (Can you really call it a “pony tail” if it is on a chicken?) But her feathers have come back enough to keep her neck warm, though they still have a bit more to go before they are at their fullest and most iridescent.

I appreciate that she allowed me to use her photo for today’s post even though she is still not at her “feathery best.” You can see the tiny cream-colored feathers covering her ears. It looks as if she may be waiting to hear me say, “I almost forgot. I have one more Thanksgiving Day treat for you!” Chickens are always hopeful.

In the photo below you can see how shy Emily really is while Amelia’s boldness is undeniable. This photo was taken several weeks before Emily’s late fall molt began.

We are truly thankful for all we have and for you, our readers. We hope that all of your days, holidays or not, are filled with many wonderful things, including the small things in life like sweet potatoes and pomegranates or anything else that you particularly enjoy.

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated. Some strange mix-up happened with this post earlier today. Hopefully it is okay now. Thanks!

Bessie’s Best Ever Sweet Onion And Walnut Mini Muffins

Bessie’s Best Ever Sweet Onion and Walnut Mini Muffins

Bessie was very eager to get this recipe out to you before the holiday season officially starts. We both agreed this is one of our favorite “good any time” recipes, especially when you need to dress up leftovers.

This is also an especially easy recipe for anyone who is new to baking, and that includes children and chickens. Her step-by-step illustration makes it especially easy too.

Onion and walnut may seem like an unusual combination, but as Bessie reminded me, “Julia Child said a great chef needs to be inventive.” I’m sticking with Bessie and Julia, and I hope you will too!

Bessie’s Best Ever Sweet Onion and Walnut Mini Muffins

Small Bowl Ingredients

1 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 eggs

Large Bowl Ingredients
1 and 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 and 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F and lightly butter three mini muffin pans.

Part A

Chop finely 1 onion, enough to make 1 cup, and put in small bowl. Melt butter on low heat, and pour over onion. Mix with spatula. Make sure butter has cooled before adding two eggs. (This is so you don’t have scrambled eggs!) Mix with spatula.

Part B

In large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Mix with spatula.

Add wet mixture in small bowl to the dry mixture in the large bowl. Mix with spatula until everything is nice and moist. Fold in the walnuts. The muffin batter will be thicker than most muffin batters, but that is okay.

Part C

With a spoon, scoop The muffin batter into the buttered mini muffin baking pans. Fill each one about 3/4 full. The batter will rise some, but not as much as a regular muffin. This is because of all the chopped onion and walnuts. Yummy!

Bake at 400° for 10 to 12 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.

Additional Information Bessie is also considering adding some sprigs of fresh thyme to the butter as it melts to add a little more savory taste and maybe even some other herbs like chopped chives. She has a feeling this basic recipe has endless possibilities, and she may be right!

These are great warm and great cool. You can make them early in the morning and they will still be moist and tasty in the evening…or even the next day if there are any left! They are great by themselves or with most hearty wintertime roasts, stews, or soups. (And that includes soup made from all of that leftover turkey!)

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

(Bessie and I followed Emily’s smart advice and made individual cutout pictures for each part. This lets us move them around until they are just right, and Bessie won’t need to draw them all over again for each new recipe. Thanks, Emily!)

Family Photo Friday!

Family Photo Friday

Today’s photograph is of Gracie. I have realized I don’t often share photos of her, even though this website is titled “My Life With Gracie.” Usually she is so busy with her leadership duties I’m only able to catch a photo of her tail feathers! So when I had a chance, I took this photo.

Earlier this week, I shared with you how my chickens now have bales of hay around their coop and run area to serve as wind blocks. This photo shows Gracie on top of a hay bale inside their run area. This has become her favorite morning lookout spot as I leave for work.

You may remember a recent “Family Photo Friday!” post of Amelia which showed her right eye rather close up as she was examining the camera. She was using her right eye because it is better for viewing things closeup. In today’s photo, Gracie is using her left eye which is better for viewing things far away. She is not going to let any predators sneak up on them from a distance.

What a good guardian she is for my little flock! She is not being distracted by the camera while keeping watch over her friends with her farsighted left eyes.

Below is a photo showing Gracie a bit perplexed by why I am still taking her photo rather than getting their “Daddy-is-going-off-to-work” mealworm treats. At this moment, my priorities are obviously not the same as hers. (Safe home and happy tummies for all!)

For today, I hope we will all see just as Gracie sees: motivated by love with farsighted bravery. I also hope life will provide you with your favorite most enjoyable treats. (I am quite sure that will not include mealworms! And that just means more for the chickens!)

Family Photo Friday

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

“Pearl, My Little Girl, You Sure Have Changed!”

Today’s post is my current best version of Pearl as she will likely appear in “How To Explain Christmas To Chickens.” The background is a scrap of old gift wrap which fits the story’s two main characters: Pearl and The Bottle Cap Lady.

And so she began studying the lights which she hoped would be new friends to take the place of the fireflies and Blanche.

Over the next evenings, more of these lights appeared up and down our street. Some blinked. Others did not. Some had colors which Pearl had never seen before. The more she studied them, the more she wondered if they were truly fireflies. She had to find out. She would need to sneak beyond the boundaries of our safe yard.

Pearl moved quickly from one front yard to another, hiding behind the shrubbery. She would lay very low and then wait to see if anyone or anything had noticed her. She listened for dogs. She watched for silent cats.

When she got as close as she dared to the yard that had the most lights, she was amazed at what she saw. There were strings of lights just like there had been when she did her comedy show in our backyard, but there were more of them and with many more colors than she could have ever imagined.

Her heart beat faster. What a wondrous sight! Perhaps this was where Blanche was. It was certainly a beautiful place. Blanche belonged in a beautiful place.

There were lights and decorations everywhere, just as the wrens and songbirds had described. Some looked shiny and new, but most had the worn look of some of the things Pearl had collected after they had fallen out of the garbage truck. Still the strings of Christmas lights made everything appear beautiful against the darkness of the night.

Pearl wandered slowly through the decorations. They seemed to be set out in groupings to tell stories, and she studied them to figure out what those stories might be. In some places there would just be an assortment of odds and ends. Those didn’t feel like they had come from the pages of a story book like the others did, but they were still beautiful.

Blanche had to be somewhere close by.

Just as Pearl was ready to call out for Blanche, the front door opened. A dark shadowy lump of a figure stepped out onto the porch and sat down in a rocking chair. Pearl squinted her eyes to see more clearly.

From “How To Explain Christmas To Chickens”

If you have followed my posts for a while, you know the illustration style for this book has really been a struggle for me. No matter what, I always seem to come back to this particular colorful cartoon-like style, and so I guess it’s what is best for my chickens and for me!

The app that I have been using up to now, Tayasui Sketches, has been fine until a recent update has made it difficult to use on my iPad due to the size of my files. The “new Pearl” above was drawn using Affinity Designer.

Because of this change, Pearl is no longer a “Raster Girl.” She is now a “Vector Girl.” (Unless you work with graphics, these terms may not mean much, and really, it’s the results that count. But for some reason, “Raster Girl” and “Vector Girl” make me imagine Pearl wearing a motorcycle jacket and singing “Born To Be Wild.” But that is another drawing for another story!) Anyway, there was a huge learning curve for me to make this transition, but the results were worth it.

You may notice a few differences in how Pearl is drawn. This is especially true of the outlining which does not use the standard blueish-gray that has been in all of my other chicken drawings. Instead the outline colors vary based on the portion of Pearl they are outlining.

Moving back in time, below is an illustration of Pearl in the same pose (without a hat) from “Seasons Of Friendship.” Some subtle changes were made for improved printing quality.

Moving even further back in time, below is the original post illustration of Pearl and The Bottle Cap Lady. It was made when their story was just a two-part post. At the time, I had no idea of ever developing their transformations into a 32,000 word novel or even of ever trying to publish a book.

You will notice how an irregular crayon drawing tool was used for outlining which did not do well in print. Because of that, I changed to the smoother outlining you see in the illustrations for “Seasons Of Friendship” directly above.

After comparing the illustration below with the one at the very top, hopefully you will agree with me when I say, “Pearl, my little girl, you sure have changed!”

My Life With Gracie...How To Explain Christmas To Chickens (Part 2)

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

“The Scoop From The Coop!” For November 2019

The Scoop From The Coop!

The last few weeks have been very busy ones for my chickens and for me as well. (This has been our busiest season at work.) It has been difficult to complete any new stories or drawings to share with you, but we have still tried to stay up with our reading here on WordPress. Here is what has been happening lately. It’s what you might call “The Scoop From The Coop!”

Bessie has been eager to get back into the kitchen. Partly because with the colder temperatures it is the perfect season for baking. She hopes to have some recipes to share with everyone very soon. It has been wet and dreary here for quite a few days, and that is not the best for her when it comes to making the illustrations for her recipes.

Straw bales have been purchased and placed around the run area to serve as wind blocks. Everyone enjoys getting on top of them and surveying from this higher perspective or making a nice dustbath in a protected corner. They are convinced there are millions of bugs hiding inside the bales of straw too! So Gracie and the others have something new to provide protection from the cold and amusement as well. As for me, I think they are perfect for sitting.

Our search for an old and inexpensive manual typewriter continues. Emily and Amelia have been very patient, though they are just as eager as ever to be writers. For now, Amelia’s words are kept safely in her heart, a perfect place for them.

“How To Explain Christmas To Chickens” is going well. It just may not be available through Barnes and Noble for this year’s Christmas season. There is much more work involved with a novel than I had imagined. Right now my extra time is spent editing and illustrating. My goal now is to at least be able to share a free draft copy with our regular readers here sometime in December. It may likely not have illustrations at that time. This is not such a bad thing because the story truly should be able to stand on its own, and I believe it does. More to follow soon.

Pomegranate season is here! One of our local grocery stores has some very large pomegranates at a very good price, and so I’ve stocked up for the holiday season. My chickens love these special treats, and they even have worked their way into playing a key role in one chapter of “How To Explain Christmas To Chickens.” I will be sitting on one of those straw bales I told you about earlier and hand-feeding pomegranate pips to my chickens beginning next week on Thanksgiving Day. The hard part will be making them last!

Most important of all: We have a continued appreciation for YOU, our readers! Thank you so much for reading and being a part of this creative journey with us. You make the gray dreary days and the cold windy nights much brighter and warmer for us!

Your friends,

John, Gracie, Bessie, Pearl, Emily, and Amelia

 

 

My Life With Gracie…A Chicken’s Life Is Not So Bad!

A Chicken’s Life

This post is the conclusion to a short series which began last week. You can begin at the beginning by reading here if you’d like.

“So what do you think about all of the treats you collected?” I asked. “You almost filled your bag, and it was a big bag too.”

They looked at each other, unsure of what to say and who should say it. I waited.

At last, Gracie spoke up and said, “Honestly, we felt really sad, especially for the other kids.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, we got corn. But it was hard. Not like what we get at home. And when we tried the little pieces of it, they tasted terrible.”

“Emily had to spit hers out,” added Bessie.

“I see. Was that all?”

“The worms,” said Gracie. “We got plenty of worms, but they were covered with white sand. They were hard and rubbery too. And sour. We don’t like sour worms.”

“They wiggled like real worms when we shook them, but they weren’t real worms,” said Amelia. “They must have been some kind of trick worms for trick-or-treating.”

“We got tricked,” said Bessie. “And that was no fun.”

They all nodded in agreement.

“I would have been disappointed too if I was you. Is there anything else?”

“There was one more thing,” said Amelia. “We didn’t like being called ‘the funny kids with the homemade costumes’ by the other trick-or-treaters.”

“That was not right or fair,” added Bessie.

“Yes, I heard that too. But you were right not to say anything back to them. That might have only made things worse. Their costumes did look like they came from a store. But the stores don’t sell chicken-sized costumes.”

“Why not?” asked Bessie. “Chickens have rights too.”

“I think it might have something to do with the fire code.”

“Oh,” they all said, and nodded knowingly. Chickens do not like fire even though they don’t know what a fire code is. (This answer has helped me out of a good number of tough conversations. Hopefully they will never ask what a fire code is.)

“Why would they make fun of us like that?” asked Emily. Her feelings seem to have been hurt the most. “They were loving all of their treats. They thought everything was really tasty. They were getting exactly what they wanted, but we weren’t. And then they had to make fun of us too.”

“But you did enjoy making your costumes and wearing them. Didn’t you? And you did enjoy doing all of this together. Didn’t you?”

“Yes.”

I leaned in and lowered my voice as if I was about to tell them the biggest secret in the entire universe. “Can I tell you something?”

“Okay,” they whispered back to me.

“In a few years, those kids, even The Big Boy At The End Of The Street, will have forgotten all about their store-bought costumes. They will have forgotten about how tasty all of those treats were for them. But you will still remember how much fun you had making your costumes together and all the times like this that you spent together.”

They thought this over carefully. Chickens do have very good memories.

“What’s more…You have real friends all over the world, and if you had shown up on any one of their front doorsteps, your real friends would have given you the best chicken-loving kind of corn and the best chicken-loving kind of worms you could ever imagine. Even without the scary Halloween costumes. Just because you are you.”

“Really!?!”

“You are my little flock. And that will never change. Even when you go out looking for better treats than what we have right here in our own backyard, you will always have this place and each other. This will always be your home, and this will always be your family.”

They looked around their back yard and at each other. Their eyes brightened.

“What if I take these treats and give them to some kids who might not have been able to go trick-or-treating?” I asked.

“Then we can do a little work together in the yard and garden. I need to do some raking, and I’ll bet there are crickets hiding in the leaves. What do you say?”

“We say we are your flock of chickens, and we would like that very much.”

“So you aren’t ‘the other kids’ any more?”

“We are what we are,” they said with one voice. “And we are very happy with what we are.”

“And next year,” Gracie added, “Maybe our costumes will even let us flap our wings and dance ballet.”

Then because she could not hold it in any longer, Pearl put her foot up in the air and sang out, “Trick Or Treat! Smell My Feet!”

And all was right once again in the world of our little backyard garden.

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

Poll Results for “Scariest Halloween Costume Contest!”

👻 BOTH!!! 👻……33%

👻 “Finger Lickin’ Ghoul” 👻……33%

👻 “Eat More Chikin” 👻……22%

Other……13% “The chicken in the pumpkin” and “Both! AND Pearl in the Pumpkin too! Peek-a-Booo!”