Gracie And Friends…Scratch And Peck Card Game!

Scratch And Peck! Card Game

Happy Saturday, everyone! We are so happy to be able to share this new game with you. My chickens and I tested this card game out for weeks and weeks! It’s great to finally be able to share it with you!

In our new “Scratch And Peck!” card game, two chickens are scratching and pecking to collect the most points for Wiggly Worms, Big Weird Bugs, and Grumpy Grubs. The winner is the one with the most points. Just like in a real backyard garden, choosing where to scratch and what to peck is very important. Along the way, they will find lots of things which they will not want to eat at all. They will also want to avoid Rusty Nails which are very dangerous and keep them from collecting anything!

This is our most ambitious game so far, and the game booklet has seventeen pages! This is not a complicated game, but because it is different from any other card game you have probably ever played, we have included plenty of illustrations to help explain some of the rules, particularly those about Rusty Nails! (Rusty Nails are not good for chickens or people!)

Even though the game booklet has a lot of pages, only the three with cards to cut out truly need to be printed. (There is an extra page that can serve as a playing board, but that is optional for printing. For my chickens, the playing board just helps to keep things sort of organized. They do get very excited and cards can get mixed up unintentionally!)

Hopefully you will find that “Scratch And Peck!” has just the right mix of strategy and luck to make it interesting and fun for anyone!

So moms, dads, kids, teachers, good dogs, good cats, and all chickens, we hope you will print, read, play, and have fun!

Click Here To Visit “Gracie And Friends” Where You Can Download Your Own Copy Of Our New “Scratch and Peck!” Card Game

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

Please feel free to share with others, particularly those with children…or chickens! Maybe “Gracie And Friends” can help some people through COVID-19 by providing things to do and a big dose of happiness.

We are currently working on a new card game that we will probably call “Uncle Eddie’s Worm Farm!” Watch for it!

Family Photo Friday…My Bold Brave Amelia!

Family Photo Friday

Today’s photo is of my Amelia who is beginning to molt. You can tell by the pair of longest tail feathers that are still left and sticking straight up like an awkward flag to say, “It’s me, your bold brave Amelia!”

She has come a long way in her comfort level with molting. Her first time was extremely embarrassing. She didn’t want anyone to see her. This may have partly been because she didn’t want anyone pecking at her bare places, but it may also been she didn’t want me to see them. She knows how much I enjoy admiring her black and white patterned feathers.

I was reminded of a story and illustration I had shared the first time Amelia molted. It is titled “Feeling Vulnerable” and you can click the title to go to that page if you’d like. The lesson Amelia and I both learned that first molting season was this: “When we are feeling vulnerable, it’s probably because we are growing to meet new challenges.”

That was almost two years ago. Back then, I was trying my best to post at least three stories and illustrations a week. But as you can tell, I’ve slowed down a bit since then. Along with “Feeling Vulnerable,” there was also “While We Sleep” and “About Becoming.”

I read those three stories again this morning because they feel quite appropriate for this current year and season. Many of us are feeling vulnerable right now. There is a lot going on and a lot to process in our hearts and minds. That processing takes time. It is uncertain what we are becoming, but like Amelia, I am hopeful for what we shall become.

Amelia is no longer embarrassed by molting and change, as you can see from her photo today. (She actually posed for this.) When I get home from work this evening, those last two big tail feathers will likely be gone, but she will be eager for her new tail feathers to begin growing. They will help her fly to unimaginable places, and that is something to be excited about.

Thank you, Amelia. Let’s all be hopeful for what we shall become.

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

Family Photo Friday…Unexpected Discoveries

Family Photo Friday

You may need to look a bit closer than usual, but Gracie and Bessie really are in this photo. Well, not all of them, just their feathers!

This bird nest, perhaps a robin’s nest, was on the ground after a recent day of strong wind. When I picked it up and examined it, I was surprised to see soft feathers from Gracie and Bessie woven into the nest.

With no rooster around, they would never be using their own warm downy feathers to protect and comfort baby chicks. Yet they were still able to help another bird’s family.

Giving. It’s just what they do, including feathers for wild birds to use when they are building their nests.

Do any of us really know how far the gifts we give may travel or whose lives will be touched?

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

My Life With Gracie…So What Do You Do?


So what do you do when your “Best Girl Ever” and your “Bravest Girl Ever” turn three years old? Well, after you have given them all of their favorite treats including freshly-dug worms, you come up with a way for them to celebrate even more by doing what they love to do…giving gifts!

On their Hatchday last weekend, we very quietly started a new website titled “Gracie And Friends.”

For them, it will be an opportunity to share more free stuff with you, particularly games with a higher “ready-to-publish” quality. Along with Gracie and Bessie, I want to give my best too.

For me, it will be a chance to make more happy and colorful drawings of everyone when they were just little chicks. That was before the boys started crowing and had to move out into the country and before the girls started laying eggs. That was when they were all at their cutest and loved exploring all of the goodness the world has to give.

Right now we could all use some happiness and some goodness, don’t you think?

Just because you follow “My Life With Gracie” doesn’t mean you will want to follow “Gracie And Friends.” And the other way around is true too. While “My Life With Gracie” is more about my journey as a writer and illustrator, “Gracie And Friends” will have much shorter posts and focus on items to download and enjoy.

Just like in real life, Gracie and all of her friends give. Eggs. Stories. Drawings. Soft downy feathers for wild birds to use when they are building their nests. Games for other chickens and children to play for entertainment and to pass the time.

Giving is what we do. We don’t expect anything in return. Sometimes we may receive a gift and sometimes we may not. Either way, we are still happy. That’s just the way it is for Gracie and her friends, including me.

So moms, dads, kids, teachers, good dogs, good cats, and all chickens, we hope you will print, read, play, and have fun!

Click Here To Visit “Gracie And Friends” Where You Can Download A New Version Of “Worms And Hay Bales!”


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

I really did enjoy putting together “Gracie And Friends” along with a more polished version of “Worms And Hay Bales!” and hope you will enjoy them too.

Please feel free to share with others, particularly those with young children…or chickens! Maybe “Gracie And Friends” can help some people through COVID-19 by providing things to do and a big dose of happiness.

I’m also looking forward to including my boy, Lefty, on “Gracie And Friends.” He will give some balance, and I will be able to draw power tools and hammers which always fascinated him. (So not everything will have flowers, but of course, there will still be plenty of worms!)

We are currently working on a new card game that we will probably call “Scratch And Peck!” Watch for it!

Family Photo Friday…First Month Hatchday Celebration!

Family Photo Friday

I apologize for the low quality of this photo. When it was taken, I never imagined I would be sharing any of these “baby” photos with the whole world! But it looks like Gracie had some idea. That’s her in the lower left corner. She is smiling shyly for the camera while everyone else is enjoying some homegrown sprouts. Bessie is the one in the upper right. She is standing on the sprouts and trying to get the best ones before anyone else.

This photo was taken close to the one-month Hatchday celebration for Gracie and Bessie and their other hatchmates. They had definitely grown a great deal in only one month, and those fresh sprouts helped them grow even more.

Tomorrow we will celebrate their Third Hatchday with lots and lots of worms and other special treats. Three is a big number. Three is an important number. Three is all of the toes they can see and count on one foot, and for them, it’s a really BIG deal!

They will also be giving you a gift of their “Worms And Hay Bales!” board game. It’s a great game to play at home with your own chickens…or children if you are not fortunate enough to have any chickens of your own.

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

Family Photo Friday

Family Photo Friday

For some time now “My Life With Gracie” has had as our slogan “Free Eggs (if you are close by) And Free Stories (even if you aren’t)!” It’s just sort of what we do.

Earlier this week on Tuesday, we were fortunate enough to give a half-carton of eggs to Carol, one of our very good friends at work. Then on Wednesday, we found out that she was retiring.

At the end of the day Thursday, she came to say “Good bye” to each of us still left in the office and not working from home due to Covid-19. She let me know that her husband was preparing a special dinner for them to celebrate her retirement, and that I would never guess what he was preparing.

Do you have any ideas? Well, I didn’t. I guessed a nice steak dinner or something extravagant like that. But I was wrong. He was going to prepare a “breakfast for dinner” meal featuring eggs from my girls along with sausages and fried potatoes with onions and all of their other breakfast favorites.

My girls were so excited to hear this when I got home yesterday evening. They never imagined their best gifts would be used to celebrate such a wonderful and happy occasion.

And so I was reminded again how my chickens always give their very best, even though it may seem modest and even humble to them. When I think about Carol and all of the years she has spent helping people in the healthcare field, what really stands out is how she has always given her very best, just the same as my girls. So I guess it just seems fitting in a way.

I have a great deal of gratitude today for everyone out there who always gives their very best, no matter how humble or insignificant that best may seem. We all have a part in making the world a better place, even if it’s just one egg at a time!

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

My Life With Gracie…Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day

You may have noticed for the past few weeks Emily and Bessie have been doing the artwork for our posts. This has given me extra time to work on the illustrations for our next book.

Emily shared this drawing with me as soon as I got home from work on the evening before Valentine’s Day. While her beak and comb looked calm, I could tell by her twitchy tail feathers she was eager to give me her latest drawing. Who would have ever imagined that a slightly faded sheet of red construction paper could end up being so beautiful?

“Emily, that’s very pretty, and I like it tremendously. Do you need help adding some words like maybe ‘Happy Valentine’s Day’? I can spell the words for you.”

She shrugged her shoulders as if she was unsure what more needed to be said.

“It’s not really about Valentine’s Day,” Emily confessed. “I know you wanted a picture to share with everyone for Valentine’s Day. I’m sorry for letting you down. I don’t have a Valentine’s Day drawing for you.”

“What do you mean? There are valentine hearts all over it.”

“I know. But they are what you would call an artistic afterthought. They just fill the empty spaces between the chickens.”

“I see.”

“The drawing really isn’t about all of those valentine hearts. The most important part is all of the chickens who are dancing ballet. That’s what the picture is really about. I was hoping you would like that part the best and not worry about Valentine’s Day.”

“Why is that?”

“Because you’ve told us how you often think about us dancing ballet at night when you are trying to go to sleep.”

“That’s true. I always seem to sleep better when I imagine dancing ballerina chickens.”

“So this picture is really to wish you sweet dreams and a happy tomorrow. And it’s not for just one day, it’s for all days.”

“I think it’s the most wonderful picture you have ever made, and it’s much better than a picture for only Valentine’s Day.”

We smiled together.

“I am so lucky to have you in my life, Emily. This drawing has you all over it.”

“I don’t understand. None of those dancing chickens are me. They are all Gracie. She is the best dancer.”

“When I look at this picture you’ve drawn just for me, I can’t help but see you. But I don’t see you on the paper. I see you in my heart.”

Her comb blushed a bit redder and she hurried off to put away her art supplies for another day.

I thought about placing her drawing by the lamp near my bed. It would be the last thing I would see before turning out the light and the first thing I would see in the morning. But for that Valentine’s Day Eve, I just sat and enjoyed the pure beauty of who Emily is.

My Life With Gracie (and especially Emily) taught me love, real love, isn’t just for one day. It is for all days, and for sweet dreams, and for a happy tomorrow.

We have also included a sheet of “Art By Emily” Valentine’s Day cards you can download, print, and share. There are no words on the front or inside. When you print, cut, and fold them, you can add your own words if you’d like. I think they might also look nice framed…maybe on a bedside table?

Here’s wishing you, our readers, sweet dreams and a happy tomorrow!

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

Bessie’s Best Ever Brown Sugar Pound Cake

Bessie’s Best Ever Brown Sugar Pound Cake

Bessie has been eager to make this cake again. She likes it because there are a lot of bowls an a lot of mixing, but I just like it because it’s seriously delicious with a cup of coffee.

I asked her why she drew herself five times in her recipe illustration. “That’s because it took that many pictures of me to show how excited I am about this recipe,” she said in her most matter-of-fact way.

We will make it again this weekend which will be the start of Shelter Week at St. John’s Church. That’s when we open our doors to feed and provide a nighttime home for our guests who have no home. While visiting, they will also receive gifts of personal items and brand new cold weather gear including items like boots and long johns. We always strive to give our best, and each night a different group provides the evening meal. My girls and I are in charge of the cakes for our group Sunday night because our cakes are the best. And if you haven’t figured it out yet, our cakes are the best because we use only the very best eggs!

Bessie likes to call this a “One Big Bowl” recipe because everything ends up in “One Big Bowl” before it goes into the cake pan. She was sorry she ran out of space and wasn’t able to fit everything into just one picture. Even so, her drawing should help you get everything set up correctly before the last bit of mixing, and then pouring, and finally baking.

Ingredients for Bowl One

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Ingredients for Bowl Two

1 bag toffee bits (8 ounces)
1 cup chopped pecans

Ingredient for Measuring Cup

1 cup whole milk

Ingredients for the One Big Bowl

1 and 1/2 cups butter, softened (3 sticks)
2 cups brown sugar, packed
1 cup white sugar
3 eggs

Directions For The First Part In The Picture

Preheat oven to 325°. Butter and lightly flour the inside of your 12-Cup Tube Cake Pan and set aside. Be sure to “bang out” the loose flour that doesn’t stick to the butter. Bessie likes this part even though it is a little noisy because it means we are going to bake a cake!

Bowl One Add flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix with spatula. Set aside.

Measuring Cup Add milk. Set aside.

Bowl Two Add toffee chips and pecan pieces. Mix with spatula. Set aside. (We use Heath’s English Toffee Bits in the 8 oz. bag.)

One Big Bowl Beat butter until creamy. Add brown sugar and white sugar, beating until fluffy. Stop and admire your work! What a beautiful color, right? This is called “creaming butter and sugar.” Bessie has a natural talent for this. If you have never creamed butter and sugar before there are excellent videos online that will help you. Now it’s time to add your “secret ingredients.” Add first egg. Beat until blended. Add second egg. Beat until blended. Add third egg. Beat until blended. Bessie insists that these must be done one at a time and not all together, and I trust her on this. She is much more of an egg expert than I am!

Now that you have Bowl One, Bowl Two, Measuring Cup, and One Big Bowl prepared using Bessie’s picture, you’re ready! You can finally put it all together into what may be the most amazingly delicious cake you have ever tasted! It’s practically guaranteed if you are using the very best eggs from well-loved chickens, of course!

The Last Mixing, And Then Pouring, and Finally Baking!

Begin beating your ingredients in your One Big Bowl again but this time on a low speed and gradually add about 1/3 of flour mixture in Bowl One to the butter and sugar mixture in your One Big Bowl.

Continue beating on a low speed and add 1/2 of milk from the Measuring Cup.

Continue beating on a low speed and gradually add about another 1/3 of flour mixture from Bowl One.

Continue beating on a low speed and add the last 1/2 of milk from the Measuring Cup.

Continue beating on a low speed and add the last 1/3 of flour mixture from Bowl One. Beat until just combined.

Use a spatula to fold in toffee bits and pecans from Bowl Two. Try not to get distracted by why it is called “folding.” This totally confused Bessie the first time she made this cake and it almost did not get into the oven. I can still remember her exact words. “How can you fold it if it is not paper? This makes no sense at all.” Just remember, sometimes “why” questions are best saved for after the cake is baked…because they are often forgotten by then!

Directions For Getting Your Cake In The Oven

Spoon batter into prepared tube pan. Bang it firmly on your countertop a time or two to release any bubbles. Bessie also likes this part because it’s the last thing to do before putting it in the preheated oven!

Bake 1 hour and 10 to 15 minutes (depending on your oven) and test to see if a wood pick inserted near the center of your cake comes out clean. You can add a few more minutes if needed. Cover with foil to prevent extra browning if necessary.

Let your cake cool in pan for 30 minutes. Remove from pan, and let cool completely on a wire rack.

Special Note: If some of the cake looks imperfect, don’t get crazy the way Bessie did the first time she made this cake. Once the cake is cooled, we get to cover all the imperfections with a Yummy Brown Sugar Blanket! 

Warm And Yummy Brown Sugar Blanket!

1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 oz.)
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Put sweetened condensed milk and brown sugar into a sauce pan and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Lower heat and continue to boil and stir for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, whisk in butter and vanilla extract.

Drizzle over the cake while it is still warm from the pan. It will be difficult to work with once cooled. Spatulas, fingers, and even very careful chicken feet can’t spread it very well once it has cooled. (Trust me on this.) There will be plenty of it, and you may want to put the extra into the center hole of the tube cake so it will ooze out when you cut the cake. A little vanilla ice cream on the side is nice too!

Bessie and I hope you will enjoy making this cake and sharing it with those who are special to you! And even if you don’t bake this cake, please remember what Bessie has so wisely said.

“Chickens don’t need blankets, but people do. Make sure you blanket people with a love that warms every part of them. And don’t forget that love covers imperfections.”

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

Family Photo Friday!

Family Photo Friday (Christmas Edition)

Today’s photograph still has chickens, only chickens made of glass. This is our Christmas tree which is still being decorated. (Just a few ornaments are added every day to extend the anticipation.) These have been collected over the years, but the wooden tree is new this year. (No needles to vacuum up!) The smallest chicken ornaments were purchased many years ago for my first Christmas tree in this house long before I ever thought of having my own backyard chickens. (Funny how that worked out!)

The newest ornament, the one for this year, is a pair of ballet slippers. If you are a regular reader or just a recent reader, you know that all of my chickens, and especially Gracie, love the art of dance. Ballet is their favorite, and Gracie wants to be a ballerina and dance the part of “The Rose Garden Princess.”

If you read “Seasons Of Friendship” here for free before publication (or purchased the book from Barnes and Noble after publication), you know there is a pair of ballet slippers hidden in the illustrations. I enjoyed hiding them, and Gracie enjoyed finding them. Hopefully you did as well! This and other challenges may be a regular part of future books.

I’d like to take a quick moment to remind everyone “Seasons Of Friendship” is still available and all royalties through December 31, 2019 will go to Gracie’s favorite group of women at St. John’s Church in Portsmouth. The ladies do a great job of helping those in our community who need the gift of friendship, the kind of friendship that gives from the heart.

If you have been considering purchasing a copy for yourself or as a gift, please use the links below. We would like to be able to make a $100.00 donation for the year if at all possible, and we still have quite a ways to go.

(The royalties are $1.00 on the eBook and $0.62 on the paperback due to an increase in printing cost. So as you can see, my girls aren’t going to be getting a sauna or a pony anytime soon! We would just like to provide something uplifting to readers that will also be uplifting for our community.)

“Seasons Of Friendship” is now available as an eBook for $2.50 through Barnes & Noble! Go there for “Seasons Of Friendship” eBook!

“Seasons Of Friendship” is now also available as a paperback for $12.50 through Barnes & Noble! Go there for “Seasons Of Friendship” paperback!

Four Parts, Twelve Chapters, Seventeen Full Premium Color Illustrations, White 70 lb. Paper, 5.5” x 8.5” with Matte Cover.

We are truly thankful for you, our readers, and are so appreciative every day for the gift of your friendship!

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

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

Be on the lookout for upcoming information about our next book, “How To Explain Christmas To Chickens.” It will be our first novel. That’s right, a real 32,000-word, 240-page novel, not just a collection of stories!