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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Papa Gallo's Cucina near Pittsburgh

I am in Pittsburgh for the Military Writers Society of America conference. We are having breakfast at Papa Gallo's Cucina in Collier Township near Pittsburgh. This small restaurant, owned and operated by Chef Len Spampinato, offers fresh and original menu items for breakfast and lunch. The Italian word "gallo" means "rooster" and that is the restaurant's motif.

Whatever you order, you can expect a high-quality meal with that "cooked-just-right" taste. I haven't tasted his chili, but he just won the Fairview Heights Chili Cook-off.

We're sharing and brainstorming plots & characters - & discussing our dogs!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Luke Talks with Ophelia Avery

I'm Ophelia

1.      Describe yourself.

 I am a White Great Dane/Lab Mix.  I have great eyesight and a keen sense of smell because I am deaf.  My name is Ophelia but am called snorty, sneezy, yawnsey or goofy on occasion.

2.  What is your favorite activity?

 Sniffing, Snorting, Sneezing.  Anything involving my nose.

3.      What is your favorite inside smell?

 Bacon cooking or my food bowl being filled.

4.      What is your favorite outdoor smell?

 Other dogs.

5.      Do you have to do any silly tricks to please your humans?

 If so, what are they?  Laying down and rolling over--not necessarily in that order.  I also put up with my Dad who is constantly taking pictures of me.

6.      What kind of treats do you like?

 Milk bones.

7.      Do your humans share their food with you?

 Absolutely not. Although sometimes I get bacon leftovers in my bowl.  My humans are on a diet and have to watch their portions.

8.      What are your favorite toys?

 Any Bones and I do not like to share.

9.      What is your pet peeve? (Now where did that comefrom?)

 I am not allowed on the couch, but guest dogs are allowed because they are spoiled.

10.  Do you like other dogs?

 I am the "Will Rogers" of dogs.  Never met a dog I did not like.

11.  Do you like cats?

 Yes, but they do not understand that.

12.  Do you listen when your humans tell you to dosomething?

 No, because I am deaf, but I watch their goofy gestures.  I realize I have to play their game to get what I want.

13.  Do you have bad-hair days?

 Never had one.

14.  Tell me about your family members.

 I have two humans.  They think I am adorable but they have a lot of rules.  No furniture, Lay down before mealtime, and sitting before I enter or leave the house.

15.  Is there anything else you’d like to share?

 I am smarter than my humans--that is for sure.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Luke says Vince Mathers is cool!

Hi, I'm Vince
 I'm so happy it's Friday again - Friday is a tail-waggin' good day! Today I interview Vince Mathers and he sounds way too cool! I know he could squash me into mush but I think he'd be fun to play with.

1.        Describe yourself.

I’m Vince and I’m 4 months old. I weigh about 50 pounds now, and mom says I’m still growing and full of the business, whatever that means.

      2.     What is your favorite activity?

I really like to chase my sister Greta, she gets mad at me, and tries to run away, but I can catch her. I didn’t used to be able to, but I can now. I also really like to go to work with mom. She works with old people, but says I’m not suppose to call them old, I should say elderly or seniors, but whatever.  They give me lots of treats and hugs, and always say I am really smart and cute. I try to be good while I am there, but someday I am going to sneak in their kitchen. It smells so good in there, but they won’t let me go in there, because I might drop a hair or a germ or something. Someday though, when no one is looking, I’m gonna sneak in there and grab a BBQ chicken leg or maybe a hamburger.

3.      What is your favorite inside smell?

BBQ chicken and hamburgers, and my mom. In the morning, she smells like fresh flowers and cupcakes, but later in the day she smells like a dog. And I love dog smell.

4.      What is your favorite outdoor smell?

Birds. I love birds. I like to watch them land in my yard, and then chase them. In the morning, I can always tell that some bird has been in my yard, I can smell ‘em. They have no business in my yard. Dang birds.

 5.       Do you have to do any silly tricks to please your humans? If so, what are they?

 Well, mom says because I’m still a baby I only have to do what she tells me to, and she just makes me do the usual for now. You know, sit, come when called, lay down.  But I have one thing that makes her laugh and I learned it all by myself. When mom throws the ball for Greta, Greta runs to the end of the yard and brings it back. But if I catch Greta just before she gets to mom, I can take the ball away from Greta and get it to mom, and then I get all the praise because I was the one who returned it to her. Greta is so dumb, she lets me take the ball and get the praise, hehehe.

6.       What kind of treats do you like?

I guess I like dehydrated yams. Mom’s a vegetarian.

7.      Do your humans share their food with you?

Sometimes.  Mom is very careful about what we get to have. She says no onions, no raisins or grapes, and no chocolate. But we do get carrots and I love carrots. Oh and apples. Specially the apples that fall off the neighbor’s tree. Yum Yum. My brother Chance will bark at the tree and that makes the apples fall off so we all get some. Chance is very smart.

8.       What are your favorite toys?

Greta wrecked all my toys. I used to have some really cool stuffed toys and she tore them apart to get the squeakers out; see how dumb she is. She thought there was a bird in there or something. She doesn’t like birds either.

9.       What is your pet peeve? (Now where did that come from?)

 I’m too young to know what that means. But if it means things I hate, well I have been keeping a list. I hate it when other dogs get tied up outside, I feel bad because I know how much I like being with my family and I know they would like that too. I also hate it when on the news I hear another animal was hurt by a human. That just makes me so mad. No one has a right to harm another living being; even that I know and I am only 4 months old. 

10.   Do you like other dogs?

 I love ‘em, I mean what’s not to love about dogs. They are smarter than humans, usually cuter than humans, smell better, and are more fun. Dogs are always ready to go for a walk, or a swim or do whatever. They are sensitive and helpful and make great friends. You can always trust a dog. 

 11.   Do you like cats?

 Oh yes. Cats are so cool. When I grow up I want to be just like a cat. They get whatever they want and don’t have to do any stupid tricks. 

12.   Do you listen when your humans tell you to do something?

 Of course. Well most of the time. Ok sometimes. But this is my childhood and mom says I am only a puppy once so I can get away with it for a little while. But I think I better start listening better, mom isn’t looking too pleased when I chase in the other direction when she calls. I have to go to puppy class to learn some manners and how to be a good dog. But that’s all part of being part of the family, right?

13.   Do you have bad-hair days?

      Never. My hair is just perfect. I am black and white, and have a big black spot on my side shaped like the perfect heart. Mom used to have another dog whose name was Charlotte who was just like me but she got cancer and died. Mom says this heart is a sign from Charlotte sending her love. I think it’s because I love the Green Bay Packers. Did I tell you I am named after Vince Lombardi? Yep, me, Vince.

14.   Tell me about your family members.

 Ok, there is mom, who I just love and she loves me too.  I can tell because she always smiles at me and tells me I am going to be President someday. And there is dumb Greta. Mom says Greta is really very smart, but I don’t see it. Chance also lives with us. I think he is mom’s favorite, because he has been here the longest. She calls him her little Chancey Pants. Whatever that means. Chance doesn’t like me too much, he growls at me and never wants to play and he absolutely will never share his toys, his treats or even his bed with me. I don’t know what his problem is. Mom say Chance is the best dog in the world, so I better watch him and learn what it takes to get that status. Best dog in the world, just wait till I get bigger, I will be the best dog in the world.

 15.  Is there anything else you’d like to share?
 Yes. I would like to get serious for a minute. Mom says that too many animals are abused every year by the humans who promised to love and care for them. We animals can’t speak but if we could we would say “Please, please stop doing that! We are only here to make your lives better, so please stop hurting us.” Oh and one more thing, always remember, if there ever comes a time, Vote for Vince!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Missouri Outdoor Writers Conference at Bennett Spring State Park

I spent the weekend at the Missouri Outdoor Communicators’ annual conference at Bennett Spring State Park. With close-to-perfect weather, a nature lover’s paradise and a group of fascinating writers, the event charmed and inspired me.

Bennett Spring State Park is a perfect getaway in the Missouri Ozarks. Located about ten miles west of Lebanon on Hwy 64, the tree-studded park offers multiple opportunities for the nature lover.

Long known for its excellent trout fishing, the park also boasts its own nature center, hiking trails, campgrounds, motel or cabin accommodations, picnic facilities, canoeing and swimming.
Bennett Spring is the state’s most visited park. It is home to the third largest spring in Missouri which pumps 100 million gallons of fresh cold water each day. It is one of the state’s eight largest springs and its water flows into the Niangua River. The spring and river offer a sensory overload to amateur photographers like me. Not only is the spring water fresh and cold, it also flaunts a myriad of blues and greens to tantalize our senses.
This fun-filled event will take several blog posts to give you a taste of the park and nearby city of Lebanon. We started Thursday evening with a picnic on the banks of the Niangua at One-Eyed Willy’s. This idyllic spot of shoreline captured my imagination with its crystal-clear water, tree-lined bank dotted with sunflowers and river rock glistening along the water’s edge. Several canoes, still wet from an afternoon float trip, gave a sense of adventure along the quiet sandbar.
Barb Ostmann & Everett
After dinner, we indulged in ‘Smores. Brian, the owner of One-Eyed Willys, introduced us to a couple of his bulldogs; JB and Willy who enthusiastically welcomed each of our group.
Brian with Willy (L) & JB (R)
One-Eyed Willy’s off-the-beaten-path location will delight those seeking their own little corner of the Ozarks and the Niangua. Visit his website, for information and more photos of his bulldogs.

For more information on the park, visit .

Friday, September 9, 2011

Luke interviews Lola Burke

Hi! I'm so excited this morning because I want to meet Lola. Interviewing her makes me want to take care of her. Last week I interviewed Lois Thompson, Lola's sister. I'd like to know if Lois protects Lola.

I have a sister, Peanut, and she sounds a lot like Lola. I like her but she's scared of me. She just shakes all the time and runs away.

Lola's answers are in orange.

I'm Lola

1. Describe yourself.
I'm very cautious....doorways scare me...but once I become your friend,I'm a friend for life.

2. What is your favorite activity?
Going to work with my dad every day!!

3. What is your favorite inside smell?

4. What is your favorite outdoor smell?
Bird licking, just smell

5. Do you have to do any silly tricks to please your humans? If so, what are they?
Absolutely not-I don't believe in tricks.

6. What kind of treats do you like?
Turkey-flavored bacon and peanut butter flavored biscuits

7. Do your humans share their food with you?
No. Well...maybe a little of ice cream on a hot summer day...but I'm afraid of the spoon.

8. What are your favorite toys?
Dad's socks

9. What is your pet peeve? (Now where did that come from?)

10. Do you like other dogs?
My sister

11. Do you like cats?
Not really

12. Do you listen when your humans tell you to do something?

My interview was hard work! Nighty-night!
13. Do you have bad-hair days?

14. Tell me about your family members.
They love me very much

15. Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Along the Frontier Military Scenic Byway

Today we explored a piece of Kansas history, taking us back to pre-Civil War days and the border wars between anti-slavery forces in Kansas and pro-slavery forces in Missouri.

The Marais des Cygnes Massacre near Trading Post, Kansas, is recognized as the bloodiest incident in the Kansas-Missouri border struggles.
On May 19, 1858, approximately 30 pro-slavery Missourians captured 11 Kansas Free-State men near Trading Post and marched them to a ravine where they lined them up and shot them. Five died, five were wounded and one fell to the ground escaping injury.

 John Brown, the famous Kansas abolitionist, arrived a few days later and built a two-story log fort near the ravine. He and his men occupied the fort through that summer.  Later Charles C. Hadsall, a follower of Brown, bought the property and built a stone house which still stands today.
Unlike the bloody ravine of 1858, the area today is home to tall trees and historical markers that tell the story of what took place. Picnic tables and grills line the road. For those who enjoy quiet walks, the gravel road offers, not only the massacre site, but also a trail through the fields, an old stone fence and Hadsall’s stone home.

If you’d like to know more about Kansas Territorial history and the Civil War, this historical site is located about forty minutes south of the Kansas City area on Hwy 52 between the Missouri state line and Hwy 69 in Kansas. Follow the Marais des Cygnes Massacre markers. Once you turn off the highway, the road winds a couple of miles through the country before you enter the site.
The new rest area at the junction of Hwy 69 and Hwy 52 offers a nice display of places to visit along the Frontier Military Scenic Byway.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Lois Thompson speaks out!

Lois is a teacup yorkie so I think she must be about the size of my sister, Peanut, who is a teacup poodle. She sounds friendlier though. I think I'd like to play with her. She seems to know what smells good!

Lois's answers are in orange.

1.       Describe yourself.
I'm happy...always.  My family calls me "happy time"

2.       What is your favorite activity?
Being with my mom...or my dad if mom is traveling

 3.       What is your favorite inside smell?
 Mom's lotion

4.       What is your favorite outdoor smell?
My sister's poop...but I'm good and only smell it :)

5.       Do you have to do any silly tricks to please your humans? If so, what are they?
Tricks are for kids!

6.       What kind of treats do you like?
 I like everything-it all makes me happy.

7.       Do your humans share their food with you?
 My sister and I get ice cream sometimes.  My sister is a scaredy cat so I get more...hee  hee

8.       What are your favorite toys?
 Dad has a yellow chickie at his house that I'm partial to

9.       What is your pet peeve? (Now where did that come from?)
Having my beard cleaned by my dad

10.   Do you like other dogs?
 I do

Nap time!

11.   Do you like cats?
 Not sure

12.   Do you listen when your humans tell you to do something?
I am an excellent listener

13.   Do you have bad-hair days?
 Often...but I'm so cute people overlook it

14.   Tell me about your family members.
 They rescued me and I adore them.  I think they feel the same about me.

15.   Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Did I mention that I still have a tail??