Friday, January 27, 2012

Creative Writing Month of January: Blog 4- Letters from Mom & Mimi

Hi Ellie Bean!

To refresh our crazy month of January theme… this month, your Mimi and I are writing you a story with specific weekly guidelines.  I will write a piece, then your Mimi has to finish it and we will do this every week for the four parts.  The only things your Mimi and I agreed on were the characters- Ellie and a magic teapot.  Anything is fair game- except we have to continue the same story, no starting over.  However, we are giving ourselves a time limit (because we know otherwise we will fall in love with this creative writing project and get nothing else done)- 45 minutes total (so whether that means 3 sentences or 3 pages, that’s what the other person has to work with).  And we each have an additional 30 minutes every week to figure out an illustration to go with our part.  Our goal Ellie is to have a beloved bedtime tale for you and future generations. 

We wanted to also stick to our goal of including two recipes each month for you to have so we asked a well-known chef (who happens to be your cousin), Craig Russell, to contribute two of his own crafted recipes (and they sound amazing and delicious, we can’t wait to try them).  We had so much fun writing this story and having our cousin help us out too… I definitely think Ellie and the Magic Teapot will need another adventure soon! .  So alas, here is the 4th and final installment (your Mimi’s part will be in italics and mine will be in regular font):

Ellie and The Magic Teapot: Part 3

            The map showed the castle to be one giant maze.  Even with the map, the group found themselves in three dead ends because of the intricacy and detailed pattern that spanned five floors of the castle at least.  Baby was scared and started whimpering again.  Ellie realized very quickly that someone could be lost in this maze forever.  It was Great-Gram who made them take a deep breath, put the map on the floor near a lantern, and take their time to understand where they should go to not waste anymore time.  Following the map more closely, the group took eight more right turns, went down a few steps, took six more left turns, and then they consulted the map again.  Seemingly they should come upon one of the towers around the next bend and head upstairs.  Ellie got the goose bumps anticipating what was at the top of those stairs…
            But when they reached the top, they saw a stonewall that blocked them to go any further.  “Another dead end?” asked a defeated Mine-Mine.
            “Not according to the map,” Mimi said as she scrutinized the paper once more.  Great-Gram peered over her shoulder and noticed something different from the real setting and the one that was drawn.  “Look here,” she pointed at the map. “Do you see how this lantern is in a different position than the one in front of us?  Maybe this isn’t a real lantern but a lever to open a secret door, “ she said as she gave it a tug. 
            Within seconds the wall opened like a door and they could hear someone singing.  “I am Sir Jelephant, the Greatest Elephant.  I am scary but not too hairy.  Don’t cross me or I will sting you like a bee…” and he ended his tune with a threatening hum, “Hee ho ho hee,” then a bang on what sounded like a wooden table.
            The group gulped.  “Baby, can you put Jelephant to sleep so we can free Blanket?” Mimi whispered.
            He was shivering out of fear but shook his head in agreement.  And then with complete bravery, he started singing his own song and walking closer to where Sir Jelephant sat.  He was singing a lullaby.  “Go to sleep, Baby Elephant.  Go to sleep, go to sleep.  Fall into a deep sleep Big Boy!”  With Baby out of sight now, the group held their breath until they heard a faint snoring sound.  Mine-Mine flew ahead to check on Baby and he came back with both feathers up. 
The group rushed in and saw Blanket nestled in a corner of the dining room.  Sir Jelephant sat at the head of the table sound asleep.   Baby crept over to wear Blanket was and snatched him.  Blanket smiled gratefully.  The group tiptoed out of the room and then started to run towards the stairs.  Ellie was the last one in line and as she started down the tower steps, she could hear someone crying.  It was very faint and soft at first but then gasping loud sobs soon followed.  Ellie couldn’t help but turn around to see who was so sad.  “Ellie,” Mimi yelled frantically, “what are you doing?  We don’t have much time before Sir Jelephant wakes up!” 
“I think he already is awake,” Ellie responded back curiously.  She walked courageously back into the dining room as big tears poured out of Sir Jelephant’s eyes.  Ellie took a tissue out from her pocket and patted Sir Jelephant’s trunk.  “Is this another trick?” Ellie asked him skeptically.  With that, the elephant started sobbing all over again.  He hiccupped before he said, “No.  I’m so lonely.  Being mean makes people pay attention to me.  I thought if I borrowed blanket, I would have a friend.”
“You can’t force someone to be your friend,” Ellie said with her hand on her hip.  But then she felt some compassion as he started crying again so she put her hand around his enormous shoulder.
“Will you be my friend?” he said as his eyes met hers.
“Being a friend means getting to know each other freely.  And you have to be kind and polite.  And I think you owe Blanket an apology,” Ellie told him matter-of-factly.
“I never had a friend before.  Maybe you could all stay for dinner and we could get to know each other.  I am an excellent cook.”
“Hmmmmm… well, we have had a long day and my friends and I have not even had a snack this whole adventure,” she said as she thought hungrily about her only tootsie roll, which she had given to the salamander.  Her stomach grumbled just then, which pretty much was the yes answer Sir Jelephant was looking for.
Ellie told Sir Jelephant to start cooking and she would find the group.  Sir Jelephant’s eyes stopped tearing up and a glimmer of excitement replaced the sadness as Ellie walked out of the dining room.
“What?  You did what?” Mine-Mine squeaked as he heard that Ellie agreed to stay for dinner at the castle.
“I promise, you will like him.  He’s no different than you or I.  He just needs a friend and he needs to learn how to be a friend.  And what a better way then to show him by example?  Look how well our friendship helped us to work together to find Blanket,” Ellie explained.
            “Ellie, I’m proud of you,” Mimi and Great-Gram said at the exact same time.  “Let’s go have some dinner and give Jelephant a chance.”
            “Sir Jelephant actually was really sweet.  He made me all kinds of yummy desserts since I’ve been here and he tells silly stories,” Blanket said, “I think we should stay for dinner.”
            As they walked into the dining room, they noticed it had magically been transformed.  Light was gleaming in from all the windows through beautiful stained glass.  The colors that reflected were every color of the rainbow.  A beautiful white lace tablecloth had been put down on the wooden table with plates, silverware, and cups atop it.  Already seated at the table were a few of the Moat Goats (who were no longer the Not-So-Nice-mice) but very pretty goats who were breathing out bubbles!  Ellie then noticed the salamander seated at one end of the table and she waved to him.
 The group sat down and couldn’t wait to eat.  And as if on command, Sir Jelephant walked through with a tray of food that could have fed an army.  The dinner party feasted on Baby Backed Ribs for the main course and Strawberry Shortcake for dessert over hours of endless conversation and much laughter.  Sir Jelephant was actually quite the comedian too!
“I must have your recipe,” said a very full Great-Gram as she sat back in her chair. 
“My cousin Craig the Hyrax works as a chef at a very famous restaurant in the city,” Sir Jelephant said proudly, “Let me write down his recipes for you.  This is what he gave to Great-Gram:

Craig's Famous Baby Back Ribs (serves 2-4)
1 bottle of generic brand bbq sauce (whichever kind you prefer)
1 liter of ginger ale
1 1/2 cups of strawberry jam/jelly
1-2 full racks of pork baby back ribs
2 cups of water
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Season ribs with salt and pepper
2. Roast ribs in oven at 350 degrees for 15 minutes
3. Mix bbq sauce, ginger ale and strawberry jam/jelly in a pot and bring to a simmer
4. Put ribs in glass (Pyrex) dish and pour sauce over top
5. Put back in oven at 250 degrees and roast for 4-6 hours
6. Check ribs and baste every 20 minutes (with sauce) and add water if sauce becomes too thick and ribs are not tender yet
7. Ribs should fall off the bone when finished and sauce should be thick and sticky

Strawberry Shortcake (serves approx 10)
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp butter (cold, cubed)
3/4 cup milk

1. Mix flour, salt, sugar and baking powder until combined
2. In a food processor, mix flour and butter until incorporated (little balls form)
3. Gradually add milk until mixed thoroughly
4. Roll dough out to 1-inch thickness
5. Cut into desired shape
6. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes

         "Why thank you Sir Jelephant!" Great-Gram kindly commented.  "I can't wait to share these recipes with my family!”
         As happy as Sir Jelephant was with Great Gram's comment, he was equally as sad with the realization that the evening was coming to an end and he would be alone again.
         Blanket noticed Sir Jelephant's smile slowly fade, so he quickly crawled up onto his lap.  Baby saw what Blanket saw and walked swiftly over to Sir Jelephant's right side.  Mine-Mine saw what Blanket and Baby saw, so he flew overhead eyeing the upper corner of Sir Jelephant's ear to perch on.  Mickey Mouse saw what Blanket, Baby and Mine-Mine saw, so he moseyed on over to stand on Sir Jelephant's left side.  Ellie saw what Blanket, Baby, Mine-Mine and Mickey Mouse saw and teared up when she realized just how caring all of her friends became.  So she too walked towards Sir Jelephant stopping directly in front of him.  Great-Gram and Mimi smiled as they slid in behind her.
         Ellie took Sir Jelephant's hand into her own when she spoke.  "Sir Jelephant... while you were busily traveling back and forth with deliciously filled platters from the kitchen to the dining room, my friends and I gathered together and chatted about what a wonderful host you are and how entertaining your story-telling has been.  We are all in agreement that you should turn one of the castle towers into a restaurant!"  
"Yes, yes!" squawked Mine-Mine.  Mickey Mouse added, "You could call it Friendly Jely Cafe!"  Baby cooed in, "Oooooooooo, and maybe have a Story Reading during a breakfast, lunch and dinner hour!"
         A couple of Moat Goats ba-a-a-bbled in unison, "We would be ha-a-a-a-ppy to help you Sir Jelephant.  It would be fun to see lots of pe-e-e-e-e-eople visit the castle again!"  "Wha-a-a-a-a-a-t do you think?"
         Sir Jelephant had never thought about such an endeavor before.  And the more he thought about it, the more he liked the idea and his frown started to turn right side up again!  "Ellie... you and your friends have made me realize that no one likes a bully and to have a friend, you need to be a friend.  I think I would like to have lots and lots of friends and your idea may be the perfect way to start.  How can I ever thank you?" he asked in his friendliest tone.
         "I know how,” squealed Blanket with excitement.  "Send us all an invitation to your Grand Opening so that we can celebrate with you!"
         "It's a deal!"  Sir Jelephant trumpeted.
         "Alright," smiled Mimi.  "I think it is time we say goodbye to our new friends.  This has been a very long day and everyone needs to be getting home now."
         So smiles, hugs and kisses were given to everyone in the room.  Great Gram Mundy set off for the kitchen and quickly returned with a tray holding seven teacups and a teapot filled with a delicious aroma of steaming tea!  Upon seeing her, Mimi gathered the group and had each of them take a teacup.  When Great Gram was given a nod to start pouring the tea, they waved a final good-bye to Sir Jelephant just as the ABC song musically filled the air and the sparkles swirled around the tea group whisking them away!
         Kerplunk!  They found themselves sitting once more at Great-Grandmom Mundy's kitchen table.  Not meaning to rush them off, Great-Gram had no choice as her cookie supply was very low and she needed to begin baking again.  So she set the tea in motion sending them off with a kiss good-bye and the last plateful of her delicious chocolate chip cookies.
         Kerplunk!  Now they found themselves at Mimi's kitchen table.  She too did not want to hurry them away, but Poppy was on his way home from work and would be quite hungry when he arrived.  Mimi wanted to surprise him with Craig the Hyrax' Baby Back Ribs dish and she knew there was a lot of prep work to be done.  So she set the tea to boil and placed fresh teacups around the table.  Then she excused herself for a moment and disappeared down the hallway.  Mimi re-emerged with a small delicately carved wooden jewelry box in her hands.  She sat down with everyone at the table and gently opened its lid.  Inside were beautiful and exquisitely crafted pins.  Mimi knew exactly what she was looking for as she reached in and lifted out a tiny gold butterfly with wings patterned in purple and turquoise.  Its eyes gleamed with tiny diamond chips.  
         "Ellie," Mimi said quietly... "Before you go I want you to have this.  This butterfly pin has been in our family for many, many years and has been passed down from generation to generation.  I think it is time that I pass it on to you for it will keep you safe and always remind you of who you are and where you have come from.  Promise me you will wear it," Mimi said with urgency.
         " Oh Mim's... it is beautiful!  I will wear it close to my heart!" she beamed.
         "Alright then, off with you all.... And don't forget me when planning your next tea party!" Mimi giggled as she poured the tea.  In a blink, the group disappeared into a mist of beautiful rainbow colored sparkles!
         Kerplunk!  Ellie and her friends found themselves sitting at her little table and chairs in the living room of her home once again.  "Wow!" Ellie said aloud.  Looking at her little tea friends and speaking to no one in particular, she dreamily commented, "That was some tea party!"
         Just then, Ellie's Mommy walked over to her and said "Ellie, it is getting late and I think it is time you clean up your little kitchen area.  You played quite nicely today and if you would like, I will help you."
         "Thanks Mom," Ellie said, relieved for the help.
         As her mom started to remove the teacups from the little table, she noticed a plate of homemade chocolate chips cookies in the tables center.  Quizzically she looked at Ellie and mumbled, "Hmmmm.... that's strange.  I don't remember putting those there.  If I didn't know better, I would say my late grandmother who lived in Philadelphia many years ago made them.  She made the best cookies around!  Ellie, what do you know about......."
         "Yes Mom?" Ellie innocently answered.
         "Hummmmmm.”  “And that pin you are wearing...  Where did you find that?  If I didn't know better I would say that it looks just like your Mimi's favorite pin.  But I'm pretty sure she hasn't been ready to pass it on to us yet.  She lives so far, far away... could she have mailed it...?" Ellie’s Mommy said confusingly to herself,  "It has been a long day and I must be imagining things!" she tiredly confessed, "Come on, let's get you ready for bed!  Grab your little friends and your blanket and let's go upstairs." she yawned.
         With a quick wink to her friends, Ellie scooped them up into her arms and headed for the steps.  Once upstairs she skipped to her room and laid each of them in their usual spot on her bed.  Ellie's Mom helped her into her pajamas, combed her hair and had her brush her teeth.  Before tucking her into bed she tried to make a bit more room for Ellie by repositioning some of the stuffed animals and her blanket.  But just like every other night, Ellie moved them right back to their original spots.   "Oh Ellie Spaghetti... how ever do you sleep?"   And with that her Mommy kissed her goodnight singing, "Sweet dreams Ellie girl!"  Ellie bent her head down low and whispered to her little friends quietly, "Thank you for coming to my tea party adventure.  Let's have another one soon!  Ok?" she questioned.  And just after her Mommy turned off the light, Ellie thought she heard them all whisper back, "Yes Ellie... we'd love to come to another one of your tea party adventures!  But for now, Goodnight!"

Love you Ellie Girl!
Mom & Mimi

Friday, January 20, 2012

Creative Writing Month of January: Blog 3- Letters from Mom & Mimi

Hi Ellie Spaghetti!

To refresh our crazy month of January theme… this month, your Mimi and I are writing you a story with specific weekly guidelines.  I will write a piece, then your Mimi has to finish it and we will do this every week for the four parts.  The only things your Mimi and I agreed on were the characters- Ellie and a magic teapot.  Anything is fair game- except we have to continue the same story, no starting over.  However, we are giving ourselves a time limit (because we know otherwise we will fall in love with this creative writing project and get nothing else done)- 45 minutes total (so whether that means 3 sentences or 3 pages, that’s what the other person has to work with).  And we each have an additional 30 minutes every week to figure out an illustration to go with our part.  Our goal Ellie is to have a beloved bedtime tale for you and future generations.  So alas, here is the 3rd installment (your Mimi’s part will be in italics and mine will be in regular font):

Ellie and The Magic Teapot: Part 3

Ellie, Mimi, Great-Gram, Baby, Mickey, and Mine-Mine were dropped with a thump in a wooded area.  It seemed like it was the middle of the night as it was very dark.  If it weren’t for all the branches and leaves making a ceiling over the dense forest, Ellie knew she would be able to see the Big Dipper. 
“Hmmmm… now wait a moment,” Great Gram said observing her surroundings, “I thought we were going to the sand castle!”
“I think we are at the sand castle… it’s just the sand castle is no longer at the beach,” Ellie gulped as she pushed away a few brambles to spot a grainy brown castle off in the distance.  Now that they were out of the light of day, the castle seemed a lot scarier.  Baby started to cry.
“Baby, you have to be brave for Blanket,” Great-Gram said soothingly as she scooped Baby up into her arms. 
“El, can you see the Moat Goats?” Mimi whispered to Ellie who was craning her neck to get the best view of the castle without being spotted.  She knew Blanket’s rescue depended on keeping their visit secret.  The surprise element would give them a better chance.
Ellie heard loud bellows in the distance along with splashes of water.  “I can’t see them but I can hear them.  They must be drinking out of the moat,” she said.  And just as she wondered how many there were, Mine-Mine flew up as quietly as she ever heard him before.  He returned, “Looks like there are about fifty.  Half are asleep and the other half are slurping the moat water,” he whispered in his squawking tone.
Ellie was nervous but she knew she had the best “weapon” of all, “Mickey, make sure you know the spell.  You and I will go take care of the Moat Goats.  The rest of you stay here until you get the “all-clear” signal.  Mine-Mine, you watch from the top of the forest and when I give you the two thumbs up, tell the others it’s time to meet us at the gate.”
Mimi took Ellie by the hands and told her to be careful.  With a kiss on the top of her head, Mickey and Ellie started off.  They tiptoed from tree to tree until there were no more trees to hide behind.  Then, they crouched down and crawled until they were so close to the sleeping goats that Ellie could reach out and pet their coarse hair if she wanted to… but she definitely didn’t want to.  These goats were nothing like the ones at the petting zoo that her Mom took her to see.  Moat Goats breathed out smoke.  One of the goats stopped drinking and settled in to snooze with some of the others and Ellie could see that it had red eyes with orange specks.  Ellie shuddered, it reminded her of fire.
Mickey whispered, “I need to hold a salamander when I say my spell for the spell to work… do you see any around?”  Ellie gulped.  She did see one but it was right in front of a sleeping and snoring moat goat.  The salamander must be keeping warm when the goat breathed out the smoke, she thought.  As she stood up to coax it over, her ankle cracked.  One of the sleeping goats startled at the sound but didn’t wake.  She tiptoed over and could now feel the warmth of the goat’s breath.  The salamander looked at her lazily and shook his head no.  Ellie realized that this wasn’t going to be easy.  But then she remembered that she had a Tootsie Roll in her pocket- who doesn’t love Tootsie Rolls?  She quietly peeled the wrapper and held it to the salamander, which perked right up at the chocolate smell.  He started to come towards her.  She backed up to lead the salamander back to Mickey.
“Hello Fella,” Mickey whispered to the salamander as he gently cupped him in his hands, “I won’t hurt you.  I just need to hold you for a second.  You can even munch on that Tootsie Roll while I say my spell.”
“Ok, do your thing Mickey,” Ellie pleaded.
            “Well, I need one more thing,” he gulped and pointed, “My feet have to be in water when I say the spell.”  Ellie realized that he needed to be in the moat but that’s where a lot of the goats were still drinking.  She noticed how green and dirty the moat water was.  She could smell the stench of the mold that was growing on the sides of the waterway. 
            “Okay, I’ll divert attention and as soon as I lead the moat goats away, jump into the water.  Make sure you hold onto the salamander though.  He might not be able to swim,” she directed as she blew her hair out of her eyes.
            Ellie stood up and began to skip as she loudly sang “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”  The goats stirred in annoyance of being disturbed.  Those that were sleeping were almost trampled by the goats that stopped drinking to chase Ellie.  At that point, Ellie started to run but she still sang.  Singing always calmed her nerves.
            “No one is allowed near the castle,” bellowed one goat.  “You get over here and face the consequences,” bullied another goat.  At that moment, Mickey jumped into the water protecting the salamander that was happily eating the Tootsie Roll still.  Mickey sucked in a deep breath and began, “To To Go Go Be Be Ba Ba Bah Bah Bah Ba Ba Bo Bo De De La La taaljojoaoglljatogwelj Boo.”  Glitter spilled from Mickey’s fingertips as the salamander turned into a rainbow colored unicorn and the entire herd of moat goats turned into...

             A pack of “Not-So-Nice” Mice who were somewhat confused and frightened!  Those now Not-So-Nice Mice who were guarding the drawbridge on land quickly scurried to join those already in the water huddling together under the bridge!  Ellie ran back giving the gang two thumbs up. 
“Let’s go!” she yelled in her loudest whisper as she was unsure how long Mickey’s spell would last.  So they quickly tiptoed across the wooden bridge lying atop the moat and the Not-So-Nice Mice and through the gate into Sir Jelephant’s Kingdom.  Once they were all safely inside, Ellie told Mine-Mine to fly on ahead and try his hardest to locate the map while they waited in the courtyard. 
Mine-Mine knew Blanket’s rescue now depended on him and he was determined more than ever to find that map.  But which way should he go?  It seemed like one big maze!  So he closed his eyes tightly and turned slowly in a circular pattern squawking out, “Eenie-meenie mine-mine moe, to find the map which way should I go?”  On the last word he stopped dead in his tracks and opened his eyes.  There in front of him was the longest and darkest of all the passageways.  A chill crept over him leaving goose bumps on his feathers.  But bravely Mine-Mine set off, flying high at first only to find nothing.  So he tried again flying much lower this time.  The passageway was eerily quiet.  He was just about to give up on this one, turn around and find another when all of a sudden he heard a snort, snort, whistle…. snort, snort, whistling sound. Peering down towards the dead end, he caught a glimmer of light coming from the stonewalls lower corner.  To his astonishment was an opening no taller and no wider than three foot either way with a metal grate protecting it.  Mine-Mine landed without a sound just before the opening and peeked in.  His excitement was soon overcome with fear for in the middle of the tiny room was a glass box displaying the map that would lead the gang to Blanket who was locked in the tippy-top room of the farthest tower in Sir Jelephant’s castle!  However, guarding the glass box was a very fat sleeping black cat that every time it snored, its very sharp teeth glimmered brightly!  Mine-Mine quickly flew back to the gang to report what he saw. 
“Oh my, oh my!  I found the map!  It is in a tiny room at the end of the longest hall, but there is a problem! A toothy, black, furry, scary problem!” screeched Mine-Mine.  “There is no way to retrieve the map with that monster guarding it!”
All the friends looked at Ellie questioningly, but she was at a loss for an answer.
Thankfully Mimi spoke out.  “Silly little ones, the answer to this problem hides not far from us.”
“Huh?” they questioned.  “Where?”
“Mimi, what are you talking about?” inquired Mickey Mouse.
“Mickey, you are a great Mouse that all admire.  Do you think that you could convince the Not-So-Nice Mice to redeem themselves and help us get the map?” Mimi asked.
 It only took a minute before Mickey smiled and said, “Ahhhhhhhhh, the Cat and Mouse game!”  “Of course Mimi!”  “I will go and fetch a handful of Not-So-Nice Mice and return in a moment.”  And he did.
 Then they all followed Mine-Mine, tiptoeing down the long, dark passageway. At the opening, Mickey strategically positioned the Not-So-Nice Mice at equal distances across the metal gate.  “Now on the count of three, you will awaken the scary black cat by squeaking three times.  Once he opens his eyes, each of you are to confuse him by scurrying around in circles. “  Mickey commanded.  “As the scary black cat darts from one Not-So-Nice Mice to the others, it is up to you Baby, who is the smallest of us all, to crawl between the bars of the metal grate over to the glass box, lift its lid, and snatch the map.” Mickey said with just a bit of apprehension. 
“Me?” Baby whimpered.
“Yup,… You!” Mickey said sternly but then changed is voice to a soother tone as he added, “Then quickly crawl back to us where you will be safe!”
“All right.  For Blanket I can do this!” cried Baby.
“OK… Let’s do it!” sang out Ellie.  “One, Two, Three!”
And with that the Not-So-Nice Mice scampered here there and everywhere helping Baby to successfully retrieve the map before the confused scary black cat realized he had been fooled!  Once the mission was accomplished and they too were safe, the Not-So-Nice Mice pleadingly looked at Mickey and begged him to return them to their original selves, the Moat Goats.  Mickey agreed on one condition.  They were never to be nasty bullies ever again.  The Not-So-Nice Mice promised but Mickey was a bit hesitant.  So he told them that once Blanket was rescued and he and all his friends were safely far, far away from Sir Jelephant’s Castle, then and only then would he lift the spell.  What he did not tell them though was that there would be a slight tweak in its reversal of the magical words…. The Moat Goats would no longer breath out smoke but rather smiley bubbles, and their eyes would no longer be the color of orange fire but a sky blue with a speck of sunshine in their center.  Satisfied with his idea, Mickey smiled, but not for long.   As the gang hovered over the map while Great-Gram read its contents, a spine chilling fear enveloped them.  The reality of coming face to face with Sir Jelephant was almost upon them.  Ellie reached for Mimi’s hand gripping it tightly. 
Mimi looked down at her lovingly and said, “Come on Ellie-bean… it’s time.   Let’s go get Blanket.”  Timidly the others followed………..

We love you Ellie Bean!
Mom & Mimi

Friday, January 13, 2012

Creative Writing Month of January: Blog 2- Letters from Mom & Mimi

Hi Ellie Spaghetti!

To refresh our crazy month of January theme… this month, your Mimi and I are writing you a story with specific weekly guidelines.  I will write a piece, then your Mimi has to finish it and we will do this every week for the four parts.  The only things your Mimi and I agreed on were the characters- Ellie and a magic teapot.  Anything is fair game- except we have to continue the same story, no starting over.  However, we are giving ourselves a time limit (because we know otherwise we will fall in love with this creative writing project and get nothing else done)- 45 minutes total (so whether that means 3 sentences or 3 pages, that’s what the other person has to work with).  And we each have an additional 30 minutes every week to figure out an illustration to go with our part.  Our goal Ellie is to have a beloved bedtime tale for you and future generations.  So alas, here is the 2nd installment (your Mimi’s part will be in italics and mine will be in regular font):

Ellie and The Magic Teapot: Part 2

"Don't cry Baby," Mine-Mine tweeted, "I know where we can find him!"  All eyes were on Mine-Mine now... could he really know???  "The BEACH!" he happily squawked.
"How do you know that?" asked Ellie skeptically.
"Silly Ellie-Belly, everyone loves the beach and everyone needs a beach BLANKET when they are at the beach... it only makes sense," he said all-knowingly, "I fly over the beach all the time and there are a million blankets there.  What blanket wouldn't want to be on a tropical coast?"
"Please, let's check," cried a now frantic Baby.
"Great-Gram, get the teapot ready... we're heading to the beach," yelled Ellie, she wanted Baby to feel better and stop crying and knew this was the way to do it.  As she poured the now-full teapot into the cups, and the music and sparkles started spinning around her, she wondered if they would really find Blanket there.  It's true; she had been to the beach a few times. And each time she was there, she did need a blanket to keep her food, drinks, and toys away from the sand.  She remembered how Blanket also protected her from the sand when she napped on the beach after she played so hard that she simply couldn't keep her eyes open any longer.  Gosh, she missed Blanket.  Maybe, Mine-Mine was right she thought as she was whirled through the air and landed softly on the fine-grained white sand.
"Oh, I see the ocean!" Mickey yelled with an excited giggle.  Just ahead a few yards, the crystal water shimmered in the sunshine.  A few fish jumped out and waved their fins at the new visitors.
"I'm so hot," whined Baby, "and I don't like how sticky this stuff is!" she said as he tried to brush the sand from his legs and arms. 
"Mine-Mine, please fly up high and circle the beach to see if you see Blanket anywhere," said Ellie rationally, "It would take less time than all of us walking for miles in different directions."
"You got it!" Mine-Mine answered as he soared up.
Mimi already sat down and started digging, "Well, while we wait, I'm going to build a sand castle," she murmured to herself before she started whistling.
Great-Gram had fashioned her scarf as a hood to protect her from the sun as she walked toward the glimmering ocean.  "I think I'll dip my feet in the water," she said to no one in particular.  Mickey and Baby heard her and chased after, "Wait for us!  We want to play in the water too!"           
Ellie felt a bit hopeless and after a while of wandering the beach and calling for Blanket, she came back to help her Mimi dig as she waited for Mine-Mine to come back.  When she reached Mimi's castle, she realized just how skilled her Mimi was with her hands... 2 enormous towers were already built and she was now erecting the drawbridge. 
"Go ahead and start on two more towers over there Ellie-Bean," she directed as she pointed to the unfinished side, "Remember, you need to pack the sand down hard for it to stay," she said carving out the rectangular stone shapes with her fingernails on the castle side wall.  Ellie wasn't sure her edging would match Mimi's but she knew Mimi wouldn't care as long as she tried her best.  Her Mimi seemed to love anything Ellie did.
An hour past when Mine-Mine finally flew in for a landing out of breath.  Great-Gram caught site of his descent and came running holding Mickey and Baby's hands on either side of her.  Baby was all wet having gone in for a swim with Great-Gram.  She loved the water so much... Great-Gram even let her go under a few times.  But now she was sad again, "I wish Blanket were here... he would make me dry," she wailed shivering slightly.
"I didn't see anything in any direction I flew. We're the only ones here.  I yelled his name a million times but nothing," he squawked exasperated and slightly panicked. 
At that moment, Mimi had just put the final touches on the sand castle.  She had dug a moat around its perimeter.  "I think I know where Blanket is," she whispered just as a dark cloud covered the warm sun.  Ellie then noticed what Mimi was looking at... a light from one of the windows Mimi had etched with her fingernail at the top of the back tower. 
"Shall I fill the teapot with ocean water then?" asked Great-Gram ready for the next adventure as everyone's eyes were glued to that tower window.  Ellie could feel the hair on arms rise because she knew where they had to go next...

“Mimi… i-i-i-is that the evil c-c-c-castle of Sir J-J-J-Jelephant the Elephant?” stuttered Baby.
“Yes, I am afraid so sweetheart.  From what little I can see inside the tower window, it looks like Sir Jelephant has Blanket with him,” quipped Mimi.
“Well what are we waiting for?  Let’s go rescue him now!” squawked Mine-Mine.
“Not so fast Mine-Mine,” cautioned Mickey Mouse, "I think we need to make a plan on how we will rescue Blanket.  Sir Jelephant is very old and grumpy.  And it is said that he is meaner than mean!  He’s not going to let Blanket come home with us freely, that is for sure!  And are you forgetting about the nasty Moat Goats who protect his castle’s drawbridge?”
“Oh no…. not the Moat Goats!” cried Baby.  “I heard they are the nastiest bullies around!”
“Calm down everyone,” Mimi hushed.  “Mickey Mouse is right.  Before we go, we need to figure out a way of getting past the Moat Goats and slipping into Sir Jelephant’s Castle quietly.  Once we are in, we need to locate the secret map that will lead us to the tower room where Blanket is.  Once we lift Blanket from Sir Jelephant, we need to sneak away without anyone noticing.  So, does anyone have any ideas?” questioned Mimi.
            “Yes, I do,” spoke Ellie with great confidence as Mimi encouraged her with a special wink.
            And with those words the little group of friends talked, they chatted, they argued, they agreed,… they wrote, they erased, and they wrote some more.  Finally they had what they thought was a foolproof rescue plan.
            “All right, it is time to go over the list.  Ellie-bean, take charge!” Mimi commanded.
 “Aye-aye Mimi!“ bellowed Ellie.   “Mickey Mouse, you are in charge of casting a spell on the nasty Moat Goats so that the rest of us can enter the castle,” she ordered.
            “Check!” he yelled out.
            “Mine-Mine, you are in charge of being the look-out bird.  You are to peer inside every nook and cranny to find that map.  Once you spot it, snatch it and report back to me.  Got it?”  Ellie implored.
            “Check!” he screeched.
            “Baby, you have the most difficult job of all.  You are to find a way to put Sir Jelephant to sleep so that Mimi can sneak Blanket away.  Do you understand?” questioned Ellie.
            “Y-y-y-yes.” whimpered Baby.
            “And Great Gram, you need to be ready with those yummy chocolate chip cookies of yours when I give the signal.”
            “My pleasure!” she smiled.
“All right then.  Let’s do it!” Ellie sang out.
At that moment, Great Gram Mundy was summoned to walk the teapot down to the seashore’s edge and fill it with the crystal blue ocean water while everyone gathered in a circle around Mimi’s sand castle.  All eyes were on the tower window and the tiny shadows that darted about within its walls.  Once Great Gram returned, everyone held hands while the teapot water flowed easily into the moat almost overflowing its brown silty sand banks. Within moments a rainbow of sparkles and musical sing-a-longs swirled through the air taking Ellie and all her friends down, down, down and plopping them not far from the Moat Goats!

We will continue the story next week, Ellie!
We love you!
Mom & Mimi

Friday, January 6, 2012

Creative Writing Month of January: Blog 1- Letters from Mom & Mimi

Happy New Year Angel (and happy birthday to your Poppy on Sunday)!

This month, your Mimi and I are going to try something new… we are going to write you a story.  But there are some guidelines.  I will write a piece, then your Mimi has to finish it and we will do this every week for the four parts.  The only things your Mimi and I agreed on were the characters- Ellie and a magic teapot.  Anything is fair game- except we have to continue the same story, no starting over.  However, we are giving ourselves a time limit (because we know otherwise we will fall in love with this creative writing project and get nothing else done)- 45 minutes total (so whether that means 3 sentences or 3 pages, that’s what the other person has to work with).  And we each have an additional 30 minutes every week to figure out an illustration to go with our part (your Mimi had some extra time this first week as she also designed the title picture of the teapot).  Our goal Ellie is to have a beloved bedtime tale for you and future generations.  So alas, here we go (your Mimi’s part will be in italics and mine will be in regular font):

Ellie and The Magic Teapot: Part I

            “Hello Baby, Mickey, Blanket, and Mine-Mine.  Welcome to my tea party.”  Ellie says excitedly to her friends, her blue eyes sparkling.  She had neatly set five settings around the small table in her bedroom.  Blanket and Baby had to share a seat though because there weren’t enough chairs.
            “I’ve put on my best pair of knit pants for you and I tried my hardest to comb my hair,” Ellie adds as she tries to pat down the blonde tangle of knots that are sticking out of the back of her head.  Her Mom was always trying to get her to wear bows but Ellie preferred a wilder look.  She made sure that her stuffed friends looked their best too.  Baby had on a frilly dress and she had her Mom wash Blanket. 
            “Now, these silly plastic cups have holes at the bottom.  So when I pour the tea, put these butterfly stickers underneath so the water doesn’t spill all over the floor.  My Mom gets very frustrated when everything gets wet,” she tells her stuffed friends.
            She picks up the plastic kettle and wonders if the sparkles that appeared gleaming on the side were always there... she never noticed that before. She shrugged and skipped off to the bathroom sink and filled the plastic kettle with water.  Some of it splashed over the top as she carefully walked back into her bedroom and into the tea party circle on the floor.
            “Now, who would like a delicious chocolate chip cookie to dunk?” Ellie asks her friends as she passes the plate of plastic goodies around.  No one answered.  “These cookies aren’t really good at all are they?  I wish we had my Mimi’s homemade ones but she lives so far away that I would need to take a very long plane ride to get there,” she sighed as she started to fill the first teacup with water.
            Just as she noticed the butterfly stickers weren’t doing a good job of keeping the water in the cups, the sparkles on the kettle again caught her eye.  But suddenly, they started jumping off endlessly and swirling all around the circle to make a beautiful rainbow of colors.  The swirling sound began to resemble the ABC song.  Ellie thought she could hear Baby, Mine-Mine, Mickey, and Blanket singing and swaying along.
            And before she knew it, she and all of her friends were sitting at Mimi’s dining room table and moving around.  “Where are we?” Mine-Mine squeaked in a high pitch bird voice.  Ellie couldn’t answer because she was wide-eyed in disbelief.
            “Ellie, I’m so glad you and your friends could come visit me,” Ellie’s eccentric grandmother yelled out of the kitchen.  She appeared then in her neon green dress and she smiled her very beautiful and welcoming smile that Ellie loved most of all.  “But I don’t think it’s my cookies you want, let’s pour that kettle again and get you to your Great-Grandmom Mundy’s kitchen fifty years ago.  She invented the homemade recipe I inherited and I think you need to taste them warm from her oven.”
            And with that, Baby leaned over and picked up the kettle and started to pour as Blanket dabbed the wet spots that leaked over the edge.  The sparkles started jumping off again and before she knew it, Ellie was being whisked away in a beautiful rainbow of color and song…

            Thankfully she grabbed Mimi’s hand as the melody grew louder and the rainbow colors took on a circular swirl with a never-ending middle!  “Wheeeeeee!” giggled Mimi!  “Thank you for taking me with you El, I can already smell those delicious cookies!”
            And just like that, as though they had been there all along, everyone was seated around Great Grandmom Mundy’s kitchen table!  Everyone that is except for Blanket.   But no one noticed right away.
            Great Gram had sensed we were coming and already set the table for seven.  Each teacup had its own personality and somehow we were seated to the teacup that matched our own. Placed to the right of Great Gram’s seat was Ellie’s teacup.  It was very bold in color, hot pink and red being the dominant shades with a crown of gold lacing its rim.  Great-Gram Mundy exclaimed matter-of-factly, “Ellie this teacup is for you for it holds authority.  Only a strong minded and logical thinker can drink from this cup.”  Ellie smiled confidently knowing full well she was in charge!   The next teacup in line was Baby’s.  Designed like a sippy cup Baby’s was colored in soft pinks, yellows, greens and blues.  And musical notes with sporadic Zzzzzzzz’s dotted the outside.  This time Gram Mundy soothingly whispered, “Baby this cup is for you for it holds hope and only what is seen through a child’s eyes.”  In all her innocence Baby understood this statement completely.  As the table rounded the next teacup in line belonged to Mickey Mouse for around its base held tiny black mouse ears creating a path to a magical castle.  Great-Gram enchantedly sang, “Mickey Mouse this teacup is for you for it holds the secret words that will break all magical spells.”  Mickey Mouse knew that only he spoke the sorcerer’s language. Rounding the opposite corner of the table from Great-Gram’s place was Mimi’s teacup.  Her teacup was bright yellow with colorful angels, hearts, X’s and O’s and rainbows.  Gram Mundy winked and said, “Mimi this cup is for you for it can only be sipped by someone who believes in the impossible."  Mimi winked back and knew her place.  Next to Mimi and opposite Baby sat Mine-Mine’s teacup.  A beautiful ocean of pastel blue with billowing clouds and tiny lighthouses circled its parameter.   Great-Gram Mundy boldly stated, “Mine-Mine this teacup is for you for only those who can see in depth can truly understand the clues that are placed before them.”   The last teacup to complete the table’s circle was pure white for it held comfort and love… no more, no less.  Great Gram Mundy softly started to speak, “ Blanket, this cup was meant for you… Blanket???  Blanket???  Everyone looked above the table, around the table, underneath the table and then at each other.   
            Baby got up and carefully waddled from the kitchen through the dining room and into the living calling out Blanket’s name but only to receive a voice of silence to her cry.  In a panic, Mine-Mine flew up the stairs to check out the 2nd floor squawking out Blankets name over and over again also.  He too received no answer.
            Back to the kitchen they went.  With tears in her eyes Baby started babbling, “What should we do Ellie? What ever should we do?  Blanket is alone and probably frightened!”  Mine-Mine clasped his wings together like a little nervous Nelly repeating Baby’s same phrase, “ What should we do Ellie?  What ever should we do?  Blanket is alone and probably frightened! Oh my, oh my, whatever shall we do?”

We will continue the story next week, Ellie!
We love you!
Mom & Mimi