Thursday, March 29, 2012

Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado

I had a chance to visit Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, years ago.  You can drive through the park or you can pull over and look around and do some hiking.  I remember the blue jays were very large and blue compared to blue jays in Illinois.  It also seemed that there was a lot of the color yellow in the landscape.

By Rita Jean Moran (

Niagra Falls

You can visit Niagra Falls in Canada and America.  The falls were created by glaciation about 10,000 years ago.  I visited on the Canadian side.  Many Native Americans in the area have stories regarding the falls.   Many Americans also have stories of trying to find a way to go over the falls in a barrel or other device and survive.   Today it is used as a way to generate energy.

In 1881, under the leadership of Jacob Schoellkopf, Niagara River's first hydroelectric generating station was built. The water fell 86 feet (26 m) and generated direct current electricity, which ran the machinery of local mills and lit up some of the village streets.
During tourist season, water usage by the power plant is limited by a treaty signed by the U.S. and Canada in 1950 to preserve this natural attraction. On average the Niagara river delivers 1,500,000 U.S. gallons (5,700 m3) of water per second, half of which must flow over the falls during daylight hours from April through October. During other times the power plant may use up to three fourths of the total available water. During winter the Power Authority of New York works with Ontario Power Generation, to prevent ice on the Niagara River from interfering with power production or causing flooding of shoreline property. One of their joint efforts is an 8,800-foot (2,700 m)–long ice boom, which prevents the buildup of ice, yet allows water to continue flowing downstream.

By Rita Jean Moran (

Amish Acres

The Amish are a unique group of people that live in America.  They don't believe in advancing "with the times" so to speak.  They keep their lifestyle simple and maintain their lifestyle of farming and simple clothing.  Many Amish try to make money selling food items, hand-made furniture and household items such as quilts.  They still have to pay taxes and buy a few things.   You can visit a place in Nappanee, Indiana called Amish Acres where many Amish live to get a flavor of how the Amish live, but they don't like you taking photographs of them, so please be respectful.

Amish Bus

Amish Horse and Buggy

Root Cellar

Livestock and Feed

You can visit the Amish in many places in Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois and many other states.

By Rita Jean Moran (

New York, New York

I've been to New York a couple of times.  Once in 1997 and once in 2008.  The pictures below are from 1997 (when the WTC towers were still standing).   I visited Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty and Times Square.

Times Square

Statue of Liberty

Inside Ellis Island


Ellis Island was a very interesting place with a very good audio tour.  You can just imagine what it must of felt like for new immigrants hoping to be allowed into America.  They wore their finest clothes and hoped to pass the exams they were put through.  In book #5 of The Library Kids series (Princess of Tara) the subject of Ellis Island is explored.  Ellis island was the gateway for millions of immigrants to America from 1892 to 1954.

Video from the Library of Congress showing immigrants in 1906 at Ellis Island.

By Rita Jean Moran (

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The White Buffalo and Three Pieces of Corn

There was a white buffalo named Miracle that was born in Janesville, Wisconsin in 1994.  This white buffalo was believed to fulfill the promise to Native Americans that the White Buffalo Calf Woman was coming back.   The Lakota tribes had a mysterious woman they called White Buffalo Calf Woman come and visit their tribe long ago to give them "ways to live by" since their tribe was starving and fighting.  She gave them sacred ceremonies and told them the duties of the men and women were equally important.  She told them at the end of the age, she would return.

When I went and visited the white buffalo in Janesville, she had fulfilled the prophecy by changing colors four times (white, black, red, and brownish-yellow).   She was brownish-yellow when I went to see her.  I stared at her for a bit and she hopped up on the feed box with her front legs and stared at me from behind the electric fence as she ate.

There was a Native American there who noticed that she was staring at me.  I was in a squatting position thinking about her and wondering what all of this prophecy was about.  The Native American man came up to me and my friend and told us more about White Buffalo Woman's prophecy and gave each of us three pieces of corn/maize.  He asked me to pass out the corn to three people and tell them about White Buffalo Woman and that the corn was a reminder of her.

After the visit, I tried to tell people about the white buffalo named Miracle and the story about White Buffalo Woman, but to my surprise, no one wanted to take the corn.  Some listened to the story, but no one wanted the corn.  Some even thought it might have a curse with it (very silly).  I still have the corn.

It actually kind of hurt my feelings that no one wanted to listen about White Buffalo Calf Woman or that they were afraid to take the corn home to think about her.  Well, I did listen to the Native American story and wrote about White Buffalo Calf Woman in my first book, The Library Kids Mystery of the Blue Mounds.

Here is a little more information about Miracle and White Buffalo Woman:

Here is a short explanation of her story from an excerpt in wikipedia:

The traditional story is that, long ago, there was a time of famine. The chief of the Lakotas sent out two scouts to hunt for food. As the scouts travelled they saw a figure in the distance. As they approached they saw that it was a beautiful young woman in white clothing. One of the scouts was filled with desire for the woman. He approached her, telling his companion he would attempt to embrace the woman, and if he found her pleasing, he would claim her as a wife. His companion warned him that she appeared to be a sacred woman, and to do anything sacrilegious would be folly. The scout ignored his advice.
The companion watched as the scout approached and embraced the woman, during which time a white cloud enveloped the pair. After a while, the cloud disappeared and only the mysterious woman remained. The remaining scout was frightened, and began to draw his bow, but the woman beckoned him forward, telling him that no harm would come to him. As the woman was fluent in Lakota, the young man decided she was one of his tribe, and came forward. When he arrived, she pointed to a spot on the ground where the other scout's bare bones lay. She explained that the Crazy Buffalo had compelled the man to desire her, and she had annihilated him.
The scout became even more frightened and again menaced her with his bow. At this time, the woman explained that she was Wakan and his weapons could not harm her. She further explained that if he did as she instructed, no harm would befall him and that his tribe would become more prosperous. The scout promised to do what she instructed, and was told to return to his encampment, call the Council and prepare a feast for her arrival.
The woman's name was PtesanWi which translated White Buffalo Calf Woman. She taught the Lakotas many sacred rituals and gave them the chanunpa or sacred pipe which is the holiest of all worship symbols. After teaching the people and giving them her gifts, PtesanWi left them promising to return. Later, the story became attributed to the goddess Wohpe, also known as Whope, or Wope.
When Roman Catholic missionaries first came among the Lakota, their stories of the Virgin Mary and Jesus became associated with the legend of White Buffalo Calf Woman. The syncretic practice of identifying Mary with PtesanWi and Jesus with the chununpa continues among Lakota Christians to this day.
The story of PtesanWi is associated with the white buffalo.

By Rita Jean Moran (


Fossil Park

Fossil Hunting:

Another interesting mini-vacation that I've taken is one that involved fossil hunting.  There is a park out in Ohio called Fossil Park where you can dig for fossils and find various artifacts such as trilobytes or crinoids in shale.  Here is an example of what we found:

Here is the link for Fossil Park:

Fossil Park

By Rita Jean Moran (

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sedona, Arizona

Sedona, Arizona is a magical place that I have visited.  Many people believe there are invisible vortices present.  I did not see any when I was there, but I did climb the red rocks called Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock.

I also noticed that the Native Americans piled up rocks in the four directions as a prayer offering (I believe).  There were piles of rocks (in the four directions) all over Sedona.,_Arizona

Not far from Sedona, is the Grand Canyon.   There is also an ancient site called Montezuma Castle near Sedona not far from CampVerde, Az.

By Rita Jean Moran (

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Shell Collecting

Shell collecting is a very nice and easy hobby.  You can go to almost any beach and find some shells.  There will be more shells at a larger beach that might be along the ocean.  You can also go to your local dollar store and look for shells to buy there.

After collecting shells at a beach, an adult should wash the shells with the appropriate cleaner.  Shells collected at the beach that are left unwashed, can smell bad within a day.  After cleaning your shells, you can get an inexpensive display box or collectors box to keep them in.

The terms shell collector and conchologist can be regarded as two distinct categories. Not all shell collectors are conchologists; some are primarily concerned with the aesthetic value of shells instead of their scientific study. It is also true that not all conchologists are shell collectors; this type of research only requires access to private or institutional shell collections. There is some debate in the conchological community, with some people regarding all shell collectors (regardless of motivation) as conchologists.

Shells have been featured on over 5,000 postage stamps worldwide.
Shells have also been featured on many coins, including the Bahamian dollar (1974), the Cuban peso (1981), the Haitian gourde (1973), the Nepalese rupee (1989) and Philippine peso (1993).

By Rita Jean Moran (

Gem Buckets - A Great Summer Project!

Have you ever had a chance to look for precious gems in a dirt pile?  If so or if you like doing it, you can order buckets of rocks to sort through from gem mines.  I've done this with kids and it's a lot of fun.  You can spend many hours looking for that special gem from a 50 pound bucket of rock.  Here are some places you can order the buckets from, that I found online, and they will deliver:

If you have a rock tumbler or a jewelry making kit, you can take the precious gems you've found and make jewelry or keychains from them.  Or else you could get a small box and decorate it as a treasure chest and put your precious gems inside.

What a great summer project!

By Rita Jean Moran (