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Monday, December 21, 2009

Book Excerpt from PHOTO, SNAP, SHOT

Book Excerpt from
Photo, Snap, Shot:
A Kiki Lowenstein Scrap-N-Craft Mystery

By Joanna Campbell Slan

Photo, Snap, Shot
is now available for pre-ordering at Release date is May 2010, so why not order it now and surprise yourself?

It’s the 3rd book in the Kiki Lowenstein Mystery Series. Paper, Scissors, Death is the 1st and Cut, Crop & Die is the 2nd.

Chapter 1

“Anya is all right now,” said my daughter’s advisor, “but you need to come pick her up…please. Immediately.”

Three phrases guaranteed to panic any mother: 1.) The babysitter called and there’s a problem. 2.) There’s something on the back of your skirt. 3.) Your child is all right now.
If Anya was all right now, what on earth had happened earlier?
“Whoa. What’s up? Is Anya okay?” I spoke as I waved my keys at my boss, Dodie Goldfader, who owns Time in a Bottle, St. Louis’s premier scrapbook store.
“Ye—es.” The advisor hesitated. “Anya’s okay. But…she found a body.”
My world came to a skidding halt. I froze in the middle of the store and yelled, “She found a WHAT?”
“A body. A corpse. Uh, someone died. Was killed. In the balcony of the Delacroix Theatre here at school. Could you come get her?”
I smacked my cell phone closed and ran, sprinted really, through our stockroom, doing high hurdle jumps over boxes of scrapbook supplies. My co-worker Bama followed me with her eyes.
I heard Dodie calling behind me, “Do you need me to drive?”
Bama yelled, “Kiki? You all right?”
Gracie, my harlequin Great Dane, jumped to her feet and yodeled as I ran past.
But I didn’t pause for a second.
My daughter needed me. Twelve-year-old girls should not be stumbling over dead bodies.

Chapter 2

Okay, I said to myself, calm down. Anya is fine now, I repeated under my breath. I flipped on the radio to hear the dulcet tones of the local NPR broadcaster announcing the next program. If they weren’t breaking in with a news bulletin, it couldn’t be a crisis. Or could it?
I had this sneaking suspicion something was rotten at CALA, Charles and Anne Lindbergh Academy, the hoity-toity private school my mother-in-law Sheila shells out big bucks for my daughter to attend. CALA is the educational stomping ground of the veddy, veddy rich here in St. Louis. I bet there was no news about a death at the school because the “powers that be” had decided to keep this quiet. You can do that—at least for a short time--when you occupy the top rung of the food chain.
Taking a corner with my ancient red BMW, I thanked the good lord for its superior handling ability. The car was too old to have Blue Book value, which was exactly why I’d hung onto it after my husband met his untimely demise and I’d been plunged into poverty. I did a couple more two-wheel screeching turns, ran a couple of orange lights (that’s when yellow turns red on you), slipped between two parked police cars, and slid into a parking spot near the portico that marked the Upper School Office of the school.
On my way in, I stepped on the school seal.
I was supposed to bend down and kiss it.
Uh, no.
My Keds gripped the marble of the hallowed halls as I barreled past the dean’s office. A tight knot of crime scene investigators carried cameras and miniature yellow cones with numbers on them. And yeah, I heard them yell at me to stop, but what did I care? I needed to find my daughter. So I ran through the open double doors of the balcony and didn’t give one moment’s thought to the crowd on my heels. Nor did I stop when I saw the yellow crime tape. Instead, I did a hurdler’s jump right over the top of the plastic barrier. Out of the corner of my eyes I noticed the expression on the nearest cop’s face. He was impressed.
As well he should be. I’d cleared the tape in one and not broken stride. I’m not naturally athletic, but because I was concerned about my child, I was super-charged. So, I came down on the other side of the barrier and didn’t miss a step. I took two long strides into the balcony and nearly stumbled over the medical examiner and an assistant. (I recognized the M.E. from pictures in the paper.) They were carefully flipping a corpse onto its back.
The expression on Sissy Gilchrist’s face was one of pure surprise. I probably looked pretty shocked myself. The difference was I’d get over it, and Sissy wouldn’t, seeing as how she was dead.
“Who are you?” The M.E. glared at me. “This is a crime scene. Get her out of here.” She gestured angrily to a cop who now had me by the forearm. His grip hurt.
“My daughter…” I sputtered. “My child found…her.” And I pointed to the dead woman on the white sheet. “The school called. I’m Kiki Lowenstein. Anya’s mother.”
The cop pulled me away. “Your daughter’s fine. We have her in an office.”
But before I turned away, I got a good look at Sissy…or her remains. The back of her head was a pulpy, bloody mess. Atop her long blonde hair sat a crown of carmine. Moving her body had created an uneven streak of red which bore a strong resemblance to Picasso paint stroke.
The cop led me toward the hallway. “Ma’am, you need to come with me.”
“Right,” I murmured. A wave of dizziness hit me suddenly, and I felt a little sick. Then came a thought: “Someone killed my husband last year. And he’s still on the loose. Are you sure my daughter’s okay?”
“She’s fine.” A familiar voice answered. I stepped away from the cop who was towing me along and stared up into the eyes of Detective Chad Detweiler.
He sighed and rubbed his chin. His Heineken bottle green eyes with their gold flecks regarded me sadly. “I got here immediately after they called. I’ve been talking with her. She’s shook up, but she’s okay.”
I nodded. Detweiler and I stood there. Motionless. Silent. Industry continued around us, with investigators marking spots, taking photos, making notes. We were two rocks in a creek, dividing the flowing water.
I hadn’t seen him in months. In fact, I’d purposely avoided him. I’d dodged his phone calls and torn up his letters. I’d fallen in love with him after he investigated my husband’s murder. He’d been a frequent visitor to my home, a friend to Anya, and very nearly something more to me. But when I discovered he was married, that was it. The end. C’est fini. Cut!
But here’s the truth: I was glad, really glad, that he’d come to my daughter’s rescue. There was no one else on earth who could have handled this situation better than he. Of that I was sure.
Now I was certain Anya was safe. At least temporarily.
“Where’s Anya?”
“She’s in the middle school nurse’s office.”
“What happened?” I asked.
He took my elbow and guided me down the halls. “Two girls—Anya and Matilda Earhart--were in the hall on their way to class. Coming back from a session in the library. They are working on a project together. They heard a scream. They ran into the balcony area and found the nurse, Thelma Selsner, bent over the deceased.”
“Sissy Gilchrist.”
“You know her?”
I gave a so-so wiggle-waggle of my hand. My fingers shook a little.
“The girls immediately went for help.”
“Why was Nurse Selsner in the balcony? Did she hear or see something?” As I spoke, my stomach flipped over. I had a delayed response to seeing a body. “Uh, excuse me,” I said and did a fast trot down the hall and around the corner to a ladies room, all the while praying I’d make it in time. Which I did.
When I returned, Detweiler acted like nothing happened. He handed me a Diet Coke. “They were out of Diet Dr Pepper.”
He’d remembered!
I sipped the spicy blend gratefully and tugged at my blouse self-consciously. Over the summer, I’d embarked on an ambitious plan to forget Detweiler. I called it my “eat my way to nirvana” scheme. The plan including eating everything and anything that wasn’t nailed down. (I did draw the line at dog yummies. Gracie, my Great Dane, had kept a worried eye on me.) I wasn’t a “Rats, I ate an entire carton of ice cream” type of girl. I was more of a “Gee, I started at the top shelf of the refrigerator and ate my way through to the chiller drawer” sort of snarfing fool.
Twice I’d made myself physically sick by overeating. Once I’d had food poisoning. But those were minor inconveniences. Mainly, I just kept chewing and swallowing. And now all my clothes were too tight. I bet I looked like a sausage ready to split its casing.
“Mrs. Selsner heard voices from the theatre. She’s the Upper School Nurse. Her office is kitty-corner from the balcony. She wondered what was up and decided to check things out.” Detweiler sighed. He wiped his face. A crease was forming between his eyes. It would be one of many.
“When the nurse screamed, the girls had just left the restroom and were in the hallway right outside the theatre. The kids ran in to see what was happening.”
That was all the police had. No one had seen Sissy go into the balcony. It was supposed to stay locked unless there was a program.
No one had seen anyone leave the balcony. There were no bloody footprints to follow—and none on the carpet. At least, not prints obvious to the naked eye. Now the crime scene folks would be busy charting, gridding, photographing and examining the area, but unlike forensic teams on television, the fruits of their work would take weeks, even months.
“The girls didn’t see much. Just Mrs. Selsner screaming and bent over someone.” Detweiler had read my mind. “Maybe some blood spatter on the carpet.”
Thank heavens for small favors.
No one suspicious had been reported by the teachers. Or the janitorial staff. Or the administration. The murderer had somehow blended into our tight St. John’s Knits community.
What would happen next? How would the school respond? What would CALA do?
“How did she die?”
He shrugged. “Too early to tell.”
I reached past him for the handle of the Middle School Nurse’s Office. “It was murder, wasn’t it?
And the killer is running loose, right?”
He nodded.
Through some superhuman effort, I managed to keep myself from falling into his arms and sobbing.
Oh, but I wanted to.
I did not need this. Anya and I had been through so much with the murder of her father, the burglarizing of our home, and the ongoing threats from the person who had master-minded my husband’s death. We’d recently moved. It had taken us all summer to “normalize.” And we’d turned our backs on Detweiler after I’d discovered he was married—a “small” fact he’d neglected to mention although he’d been a frequent visitor to our home and my fantasies.
Okay, it was good that he’d been here for Anya. But it was bad for ME that he’d shown up. I wasn’t about to let down my guard. Not when it had taken me all summer to put him out of my mind.
Right. Who was I fooling?


Photo, Snap, Shot (release May 2010) is now available for pre-ordering from Amazon. Go to:

Photo, Snap, Shot: A Kiki Lowenstein Scrap-N-Craft Mystery
by Joanna Campbell Slan © 2009. Midnight Ink, an imprint of Llewellyn Publications, 2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125. Used with permission and the best wishes of the publisher.

Gooey Butter Cake

Dawn Blankenship shares her Grandmother Ormsby's recipe for Gooey Butter Cake, a St. Louis specialty:

Set oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 13x9 inch pan.

Combine: 1 stick melted butter or oleo
1 egg
1 box yellow cake mix

Press this mixture in the pan until it covers the bottom and sides well.

Combine: 1 lb. powdered sugar
1 8 oz cream cheese (no light)
2 eggs

Beat this mixture well then pour on the first mixture in the pan.

Bake for 30-40 minutes. It should be light brown. It may be served while warm or cold. It may be baked and stored in the freezer for use later.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Why the Women Are All Strong...What's the Alternative?

My friend Victoria sent this to me:

I get emails from "Prairie Home Companion" regularly and it's some of my favorite reading and listening. This is an email response to a reader's question about the closing of the Lake Woebegon story each week. I thought his response was so insightful.


Post to the Host Two Weeks In A Row!

Your Lake Wobegon ending is "where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average." Do you think it is more important for a woman to be strong or good-looking?

Lena H.
Anniston, AL



Women are not decorative objects, my sweet, they are living, talking, thinking action figures who are on missions, some of them secret, driven by powerful inner forces, just as we men are. Because they are so crucial to the human endeavor, it's more important for them to be strong. The breakdown of a woman is a terrible thing. Families may be broken, lives skid into the ditch, when the mother falls apart. Men are not so crucial and that is why they earn more and are more prominent and successful and gaudy and write songs and novels and travel around giving speeches — their children don't need them so much. They need to be strong sometimes but they also need to be attractive, funny, kind, charming, sweet-tempered, and most of us fall short. I don't find grumpiness in men attractive or admirable.

The quote, though, is descriptive of the Wobegonians, not a prescription for you or me, and that's all. The name Lena is a great name, strong and lyrical at the same time. And rare. Up here in Minnesota, we tell Ole & Lena jokes and that's why we wouldn't name a girl Lena, but it's a wonderful name nonetheless.


Joanna's Comments:

While I'm not sure I like the part about how men "write songs and novels and travel around giving speeches," I will admit that I often wonder if my most of my male colleagues also do the holiday shopping, make the stupid meatloaf, buy the Hanukkah candles, write the yearly brag letter, change the sheets, buy new towels and detergent, wash dishes, suffer visits from in-laws, and take the dogs to the vet, etc. I notice that about the time my husband goes to bed, I start cleaning the kitchen, putting in that last load of laundry, fold the clothes, and so on. Which is not to say my husband doesn't do a lot. He does, but he also certainly knows how to relax and how to stop work. And I clearly don't.

Maybe it's just the holiday stress and the snow getting to me...but Keillor has a point. We women have to stay strong, and sometimes it's a bit much. Of course, what's the alternative? I remember when my dear friend O's husband was dying of cancer. I remarked how strong she was, and O said, "And my choices are?"

I know that I'm caught between wanting to be more selfish and being grateful that the women I know aren't selfish, that we give, give, give. But like I said, I do wonder...when do we claim time for ourselves? When do we get permission to let things slide? Maybe that's what I really need for Christmas: A Permission Slip!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Kirkus to Close?

This just in at the PW website:

As part of the sale of its business to business publications, Nielsen Business Media has announced that it is closing its book review publication Kirkus Reviews as well as Editor & Publisher. No details on the closing have been released yet. Nielsen is selling its major publications, including The Hollywood Reporter and Adweek to e5 Global Media Holdings.

Wow. I wonder what that means?

Who will be the reviewers of tomorrow?

Or will it matter?

I was talking with a major non-fiction author the other day, who is also a journalist by trade. He said, "I decided I would never write a book review until I myself had a published book. I didn't think it fair to comment until I had gone through the process."

Interesting. Very interesting.

I know that my readers seem to really appreciate Amazon reviews. The reviewers are readers just like they are, so the reviews seem to be more in line with their own personal tastes.

What a watershed moment this is in the publishing industry.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Rain, Rain Go Away

When you move to a new place, you don't know what to expect. I had looked up DC weather before we came, and I thought, "Gee, this is pretty much what I'm accustomed to here in St. Louis."

Now I've discovered they are calling Fall 2009, "A season of soakers." Yes, it's evidentally the 15th wettest October on record. Downpours continued and made this the wettest November since 2004. And December is 2 inches ahead of last year. I'm not sure if that takes into account the snow we've had and the snow that's predicted.

What gives?

I walked the dogs an hour ago and stared at the heavy clouds.


Our yard is so wet that I'm thinking, "This would be a great place to try water lilies."

The dogs' paws get so muddy, that I keep washing them off in the laundry sink, and the pups are even getting used to this Marine bath situation. (By the way, what is a Marine bath? My mom used to call quick slooshes in the sink by that name.)

It's a good time for writing. I mean...I have to force myself to get up and get out, but it's also a hard time for writing because the incessant drum-drum-drumming of rain on the roof at night keeps me awake.


I hope it dries up soon.

Monday, December 7, 2009

What's New in My Life?

It's certainly been a year to remember. In May, Paper, Scissors, Death was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel. The list of novelists over the years who have been nominated include Mary Higgins Clarke, Jan Burke, and Janet Evanovich. I mean, really, how could you be in better company?

Cut, Crop & Die was released in June 2009, but the release was quickly overshadowed by word that my mother had terminal cancer.
My mom died in July. She was in a coma for eight days, but my sisters and I were there to care for her. I've never admired anyone as much as I admire Jane and Margaret. Our dear Aunt Shirley was with us, and Mom, until the end, too. It was a horrible time, and our friend at hospice Sally Lippert said she's seen thousands of deaths, but that Mom's suffering was unique. The morphine didn't help her pain. Afterwards, we learned that was probably because liquid morphine is absorbed through the saliva glands, and Mom's had been compromised by radiation when she had cancer of the larynx. Who knew? I thank God for hospice, and I highly recommend the service to you.

In August, we moved our son to college for his sophomore year. I signed a contract for Books #3 and #4 in the Kiki Lowenstein Mystery Series. Number 3 will be called Photo, Snap, Shot and the release date is May 1, 2010. I'm at 66,000 words of an 85,000 word Book #4. I'm calling it Make & Take, Murder, but that's always subject to change by the publisher! I'm still futzing around with the punctuation on it. Tell me. Do you like "Make & Take, Murder" or "Make, Take, Murder" or "Make and Take Murder" best?

Paper, Scissors, Death and Cut, Crop & Die are both out in large print versions and Paper, Scissors, Death is now available on Kindle.
On September 1, we moved to the metro Washington DC area so my husband David could become the official Steinway piano dealer for DC and surrounds.

Later in September, the house we built, the one where we raised our son, sold. I know it's a blessing to sell a house in this economy. We had great help. Kristi and her son J.T. Monschien made it happen. They were super. But sometimes I still miss my old home and my neighbors Kathy and John.
Last month I signed with a new agent. That's exciting. In today's market, I think it's important to have someone who is in New York most of the time. The publishing world is at a cross-roads, and every choice is difficult. Having a representative who rubs elbows with editors all the time is a huge advantage.

I've been offered the chance to write Book #5 in the Kiki Lowenstein series. I love Kiki. Her world is an escape for me. Tell me...what would you like to see in an upcoming Kiki book? You know I really do listen to you. Some of the stray comments I've heard at signings come back to me as I write. Knowing what you like helps me make better decisions!

David's new job is opening all sorts of doors for us. We were privileged to attend the National Christmas Tree Lighting (that's the photo above) and the Opening Gala for the National Symphony Orchestra. Stay tuned! I'll try to share all the excitement with you!

So now it's nearly Christmas. It's going to be a difficult one for my family. My sister Margaret came up with a crackerjack idea. We're going to Disney World for Christmas. It was a bit unexpected, but you know, it is the happiest place on earth. And anywhere my family is...well...that's a very good place to be.
May God Bless and Keep All of You and Yours in the Coming Year.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Empty Chairs

In every life, at every holiday, there are empty chairs, reserved for the people we love who are no longer with us.
This year I will look for my mother. I will expect to see her smiling over the funny trinkets in the aisles at Walmart. I will expect to hear her laugh when that stuffed snowman at the plastic piano sings, "Have a holly, jolly Christmas." I will go on thinking how I need to get a gift for her, and then I will remember, she has everything she needs.
A couple nights ago, I walked the dogs in the mist, in the long shadows of bare tree limbs, and the falling temps. The moon was full, and the last of the crickets sang a dirge to the fall. It has long been my custom to stare up at the moon and say, "I see the moon and the moon sees me," and to remember that everyone I love is exactly where they should be, and just as close and as constant as the moon.
But that rhyme rings hollow these days.
My mother's chair is empty.

Cranberry Squares

These should come with a warning. We nearly had a fight at the Thanksgiving table because everyone wanted to gobble all these down. Even my husband, aka The Original Picky Eater, loved them. In fact, he's talked me into making a batch for the people at his store. That's such a shocker, I still get faint thinking about it.

Read it again: He wants me to cook for other people? People he likes?

Seriously, these are some sort of miracle chow.

CRANBERRY SQUARES (as per Camille Minichino's cousin)

2 eggs
1 C. sugar
1 C. flour
1/3 C. melted butter
1 1/4 C. fresh whole cranberries (pick out the soft, yucky ones and toss 'em)
1/2 C. chopped walnuts

Mix everything together. Batter will be sticky. Spread in greased baking dish of 8 or 9 inches. (Do a good job with the greasing 'cause this likes to stay stuck and you won't want to wrestle the dish from people.) Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until golden brown. Tester should come out clean.

Weight Watchers Points--4 per serving if you cut into 9 squares.

No Money, No Time--No Problem! Last Minute Gifts

Here are three thrifty and simple last minute gift ideas.
1. A Holiday Recipe Book-- I used a cute holiday card from the $1 section of Michaels for this. I added the words "Recipes for a" to the front of the card. I slipped the card into a one quart sized plastic ziplock bag. I trimmed the back of the back and taped it shut (envelope style) with a sticker on the reverse side. I punched holes in the left side of the card. I added pages of cardstock with holes punched in them. Slice through 2 plastic curtain rings (Buy them in packages at Walmart. They are really cheap!) with a craft knife. Slip the card and pages onto the ring.
2. Candy Jar-- I saved this jelly jar from the recycling bin. I glued a ribbon around the top and tied on a sprig of ivy (silk plant from Michaels) and a sprig of berries (same source). Isn't it cute?
3. Personalized Gift Tags--If you are like me, you give gifts to the same people every year. Why not take a few minutes to make beautiful personalized gift tags? Or make a set for someone special?

One Template Makes Lots of Cool Layouts

People often tell me they aren't crafty or creative. "I just can't come up with ideas!" they'll moan. Here's the truth: Every craft idea is built upon another idea you glean from somewhere else. My favorite crafting these days is to take one layout, one design, and recycle the stuffing out of it.

For example, I posted this original page design from Spotted Canary back in September:

And here are all the "variations" I've created on that same theme, using the template they provided. (By the way, I've loaded that template onto so you can download it and use it, too. Many thanks to everyone at Spotted Canary for their generosity!)

#1. Cheer

The bird is obviously a cardinal, and I did slightly modify his tail to be larger. I also used the beak as a pattern to add the black crest. The eye is a jewel pasted onto a flower. The snowflakes are pre-made embellishments that I added to the page with pearl dressmaker pins. I also thinned out the branch a bit for a better proportion. The snow is a fabric textured paper from Paper Adventures. (I've held onto EVERY scrap of that paper now for years!) I covered the chipboard letters shown on the original page with paper--I even added a black rubber-stamped pattern to the letter "R." The red flower is multiple punched layers stacked on each other.

#2. Never More

The moon is a circle cut by using a mug as a pattern. I covered it with duct tape. (You should see how silvery and cool it is!) The background of the caption is bits of newspaper stuck together, as is the word "NEVER." (I cut letters from a headline.) I flipped over the black velvet paper to create the underside of the raven's wing. The silver circle embellishment is a common washer from a hardware store with a shiny brad stuck through the center.

#3. Boo

Clouds made from self-adhesive vellum add to the spooky theme. The bats are punched with an ultra-cool border punch from the Paper Shapers family of flat punches from EK Success. The witch is a punch. The branch was cut from a cardboard box. I drew and hand-colored the owl with markers.

#4. Who Loves You?

I explained how I created this owl from various punches a month or so ago. The lettering is from the K & Company set of Die-Cut Cardstock pieces by Carolyn Gavin. There are 284 pieces in that set, and it's just entirely too cool for words.

Before Christmas I hope to do one more variation. I want to make a partridge in a pear tree!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Shake Your Booty--NOT

Every day I open my copy of the Washington Post to another story about Michaele and Taraq Salahi, the couple who famously (or infamously, depending on your view of these things) crashed the Obamas' first state dinner. Taraq seems to be getting his fair share of the drubbing, but his Barbie-doll wife, Michaele(aka Missy Holt) seems to be generating anger at approximately the same level as a nuclear meltdown.

I don't know what the world is coming to, but in the case of the Salahi couple, I can safely say the gravy train has left the station...without them. In fact, I'm pretty sure their Diner's Card has been derailed.

Here's the deal: You can mess with a lot of people and get away with it, but one day your chickens will come home to roost. And if you've irritated an entire flock, you're going to get a heaping helping of bird poop raining down on you. So the next time you decide to feather your nest at someone else's expense, better chicken out before someone calls, "Fowl," and serves you up on a platter with cranberry sauce.

I must admit, all this endless stream of problems makes for amazing reading. I can barely wait to grab my paper each morning, sip on my latte, and see what happens next.

My favorite story, so far, has been about Michaele passing herself off as a Washington Redkins cheerleader during a Sept. 18 rehearsal. (Full disclosure: I once was a Griffith High School Pantherette, so I feel a special kinship with girls who prance about the stadium at half-time. It might seem glamorous and oh-so-much fun from the sidelines, but to shake your booty in the right place at the right time, you have to put in a lot of practice.)

But of course, earning one's way into the spotlight was not part of the Salahi gameplan. Not ever. And gee, how hard could all that faffing about be? Um, harder than it looks. Michaela first tipped her hand when she couldn't perform one of the group's most basic cheers. (Who knew any memorization was required? Drat, drat, double-drat.)

Of course, there were other big red flags on the field. Michaele was the only cheerleader who brought her own film crew when she crashed the pompom party. And of course, the crew was mainly interested in getting photos of her good side. (Which is ... where?)

In fact the camera crew actually asked to have the other team members to shuffled off to Buffalo so they could get a better view of Michaele. Fortunately, the team choreographer put her foot down. (That's what's known as a stomp, kids.)

Not only was Michaele too tall to be in the front row, according to the team spokeswoman, "She can't dance."

Yeah, that really does matter. Trust me, it does.

Another cheerleader put it this way: "I'm so resentful... For her to get out there and think she can just shake her pompoms is upsetting."

Hear that, Michaele? Siss, boo, bah!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Photos from the National Christmas Tree Ceremony 2009

Our seats were directly between the White House and the Washington Monument. From that vantage point, we could see the motorcade leave the front of the White House. At that moment, a cheer went up from the crowd.

I can't imagine a bigger thrill than hearing "Hail to the Chief," and seeing our 44th President walk onto the stage. His children were darling. He introduced his wife, the girls, and his mother-in-law, whom he called "Mamma Robinson." Michelle read "The Night Before Christmas." He was thoughtful of those who serve our country, and he said that this season has come to transcendent all religions as being a time when we join together to hope for peace.
From the left is Mamma Robinson, Our First Lady Michelle Obama, Malia Obama, The President, Sasha Obama, Common, Jordin Sparks and Randy Jackson (behind Randy is an unnamed musician).

Jordin Sparks was warmth and adorable, Randy Jackson personable--and he kept the production moving along. Sheryl Crow, was, well--she's Sheryl Crow and she's fabulous.

The President admitted that he is technically challenged, so he asked all of us to count along to help him push the button. The girls helped, which officially made it a family tree!

Here's my sweet husband and me in front of our National Christmas Tree. Our noses were nipped with the cold, and our toes were numb, but we were also pinching ourselves with our good fortune to be in attendance!

I'll Be Attending the National Tree Lighting Ceremony Tonight

I have to admit, I'm having a blast living here in DC. Tonight I'll be in the reserved seats at the lighting of the National Christmas Tree. I'll wear a red cap and scarf, so maybe you can spot me on tv!

Hint: Look for the blonde curls, a black coat with a twin poinsettia pin on the upper left shoulder. The "pin" is actually two enamel earrings from my Grandmother Marge, who passed away years ago. I'm wearing the "pin" so that my recently deceased mother and grandmother can attend "in spirit." There will be only 2,500+ of us in the reserved seating area. After the recent gate-crashing, I'm anticipating heavy security.

I'm proud that our National's Capital agrees that as the centerpiece of our country, no other piano besides a STEINWAY will do! That'll be our Steinway on the stage. It won't be the first time we've provided a piano for Sheryl Crow, nor is it likely to be the last!

Here's the lowdown on the ceremony:

Enjoy the sounds of the holiday season against the backdrop of the National Christmas Tree
and the smaller trees representing all fifty states, the District of Columbia and the
five U.S. Territories, model trains as well as the warmth of the yule log.

For 85 years, the American tradition of lighting a national Christmas Tree has continued, interrupted only briefly in its history during moments of great national travail.

In 1923, President Calvin Coolidge lit a “Community Christmas Tree” on behalf of “all Americans.” A Senator from Vermont, Coolidge’s home state,arranged for a cut fir tree from
Middlebury College to be erected in President’s Park (The Ellipse) for lighting. President Coolidge declined to speak at the ceremony, but he did push a button switch to light a 60-foot tree. Later that evening, the Marine Band performed in concert near the tree.

Sir Winston Churchill appeared on the South Porch with President Roosevelt for the lighting ceremony in 1941. Both men delivered Christmas messages to the gathered throng before sharing the official lighting duties. By the next year, Washington was under a war-imposed blackout. Lights were placed on the tree in 1942 but never lit, and the tree remained ‘dark’ from 1942 through 1944. In 1954, the lighting ceremony was named “The Christmas Pageant of Peace,” and a “Pathway of Peace” was established featuring smaller, decorated trees – one for each state and territory.

In 1963, the tree was not lit until December 22, after a service at the Lincoln Memorial, concluding a 30-day period of national mourning that followedthe assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

The beautiful Colorado blue spruce that serves as the current National Christmas Tree was planted on the Ellipse in the fall of 1978. Brought to Washington, DC by the National Park Service from a York, Pennsylvania farm, this 40-foot tree has proven to be a hardy specimen. In 2003, the tree celebrated a quarter century of service as the National Christmas Tree.