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How to Visit the Crazy Horse Monument in SD

The Crazy Horse Monument: Right Down the Road From Mt. Rushmore

In a cross-country family drive, you can’t miss Mount Rushmore. But did you know 17 miles down the road is another must-see sculpture carved out of a mountain? We stopped by to see the Crazy Horse Memorial, and found it more impressive than Rushmore. Started in 1948, the Crazy Horse sculpture is still in progress and when completed, it will be the world’s largest sculpture. I’m a little torn about carving up a sacred mountain, but I gotta admit the site–which includes a museum and lots of history about the sculpture–is fascinating.

At the top is Crazy Horse’s head. The white markings are where the head of his horse will be. Scroll down to see pics of the models.

The sculpture’s final dimensions are planned to be 641 feet (195 m) wide and 563 feet (172 m) high. The head of Crazy Horse will be 87 feet (27 m) high; by comparison, the heads of the four U.S. Presidents at Mt. Rushmore each 60 feet (18 m) high.

What we found to be most impressive was not just the size of the undertaking, but the fact that is has all been done with sheer tenacity in both the carving (by blasting) and in fundraising. Unlike Mt. Rushmore, which received tax dollars, this project receives no federal or state support.


The project began when Polish American sculptor Korczak Ziółkowski, who had worked on Mount Rushmore received a letter from Chief Henry Standing Bear, which stated in part “My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know that the red man has great heroes, too.”  The project became a lifelong work for Ziółkowski, who died in 1982. In fact, his whole family, including his wife, Ruth, and their ten children worked on the Crazy Horse Project.

The site includes models the artist made so you can see what it will look like. It also includes a film about the project and a museum with lots of history so you can see how a mountain can be blasted with enough precision to make a sculpture. The museum also focuses on the sculptor and his family and includes a Native American Cultural Center with lots of artifacts and art.

crazy horse white carving

crazy horse bronze model
Model of the sculpture in the museum with the mountain in background.

crazy horse bronze model 2

The museum includes lots of info about the sculptor and his family.
The museum includes lots of info about the sculptor and his family.

If you are planning to see Mt. Rushmore, schedule half a day to also visit the Crazy Horse Memorial. Well worth the cost of admission. Bring camera. If you want more info, visit the Crazy Horse Memorial’s site.

crazy horse monument view from window

Related post:

Mount Rushmore: Half-Finished Project

Bryce Hike in Hoodoo Heaven



Best Book Series for Boys

LEGO Brand Retail, Inc.

Recommended Books for Boys in Middle School

Best Books For Boys: A List on Amazon

Everyone knows about the Harry Potter book series, which appealed to boys, girls, and adults, too.  But did you know there are several other excellent book series for tween boys out there? Here’s a list of some great books for middle school boys. If you like the first book in the series, you will probably like the rest. Click on the name of the series to read a review.

Just like Harry Potter, each of these book series has a movie either out or in the works. Also, all of them have boxed sets available for great deals on Amazon.

Percy Jackson & the Olympians series review

Rick Riordan has written five books in the Percy Jackson series
The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1)

The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 2)

The Titan’s Curse (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 3)

The Battle of the Labyrinth (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 4)

The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson & the Olympians, Book 5)

Ranger’s Apprentice series review

John Flanagan has written 10 books in the series. Seven have been released in the U.S. so far.

The Ruins of Gorlan (The Ranger’s Apprentice, Book 1)

The Burning Bridge (The Ranger’s Apprentice, Book 2)

The Icebound Land: Book Three (Ranger’s Apprentice)

The Battle for Skandia: Book Four (Ranger’s Apprentice)

The Sorcerer of the North: Book Five (Ranger’s Apprentice)

Ranger’s Apprentice: The Siege of Macindaw: Book 6

Erak’s Ransom (Ranger’s Apprentice Book 7)

Ranger’s Apprentice: The Kings of Clonmel: Book 8

Halt’s Peril (Ranger’s Apprentice, Book 9)

The Emperor of Nihon-Jin This book is not available on Amazon yet.

Note that the books come out in Australia first. The last one to come out in the U.S. is book 7, Erak’s Ransom, which came out in January, 2010. The later books have not been released in the U.S., although you may be able to get them from sellers who import them and re-sell them. Check the links above to order through Amazon.

Artemis Fowl series review

Eoin Colfer has written seven books in the Artemis Fowl series.

Artemis Fowl (book 1)

Artemis Fowl: Arctic Incident, (book 2)

Artemis Fowl: Eternity Code, (book3)

Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception (book 4)

Artemis Fowl: Lost Colony, (book 5)

Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox (book 6)

Artemis Fowl: The Atlantis Complex (book 7)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Jeff Kinney has written five books in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw

Diary of a Wimpy: The Ugly Truth

Star Wars: Jedi Apprentice Book Series by Jude Watson

Lego Stars Wars The Visual Dictionary Book Review

Just Out: A Must-Have Book for Every Star Wars Lego Fan!

This book is sure to become a collector’s item . . . and it comes with a special mini-figure!

Just out in time for the holidays is a new visual dictionary of Star Wars Lego. My son’s room is filled with Star Wars Legos sets, and he is going to love this book when he unwraps it.  The book has lush photos of all the Star Wars sets and mini-figures.

I got mine at the Lego Store the day it came out and was very impressed. The store had promotional games and even people dressed up in top-notch clone trooper costumes. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a Lego Store nearby, but it also at bookstores, and Amazon. If you know a kid who loves Star Wars Legos, get this book and get your holiday shopping done early. The book is reasonably priced as well.

The book comes with a cool mini figure. The mini figure and the book itself are bound to become collector’s items.

Product Description
In true DK style, LEGO® Star Wars ™: The Visual Dictionary elucidates, illuminates, and
excites even the most discerning LEGO Group, Star Wars™, and minifigure fans around the
world.. Darth Vader, Boba Fett, Yoda, Luke Skywalker, and more are brought to life with
dozens of little-known facts and hundreds of photos, as are accessories, vehicles, weapons,
and even the Death Star! Learn about the history, manufacture, and construction of the
minifigures of the Star Wars galaxy, and come away a LEGO® Jedi Master.

Product Details

* Reading level: Ages 4-8
* Hardcover: 96 pages
* Publisher: DK Publishing (October 5, 2009)
* Language: English
* ISBN-10: 0756655293
* ISBN-13: 978-0756655297
* Product Dimensions: 11.9 x 10 x 0.9 inches

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning book, Love it!, October 7, 2009
Very nice hardback book with lots of stunning pictures of what else? Star Wars Legos!

We are big fans of Legos in general and this book did not disappoint. It came with a bonus Luke Skywalker mini-figure. As with all DK books, you get great pictures, thorough descriptions, and just a generally enjoyable book to collect or read.

I bought 2 copies of this book, one to read, and one to collect.

The only thing that bothered me a (very tiny) little bit was how the Luke Skywalker mini-fig was packaged. At first glance it looks like a much thicker book, but about half of the thickness is a spacer placed inside the book to make room for the mini-fig, so it lays flush with the front cover. I posted some pictures on the main item page if you want to see what I mean. Nothing that I would knock a star off for though.

Overall, we are VERY happy with this book. Great price for a quality book that will not disappoint young and old!

4.0 out of 5 stars Great for Lego Star Wars Fans and Collectors, October 7, 2009
By Wendy Woudstra “” (Ontario, Canada) –
My son adores Lego, and the Star Wars sets in particular. When this book arrived in our mailbox, he was gone for hours, hiding in his room poring over all the sets he has, the sets he wants, the sets he missed out on, the evolution of the various mini-figures, everything else included in this volume. While this book would NOT be appreciated by someone who isn’t a die-hard fan of the LEGO series, for those who collect, play with, and love the sets, it’s a great book at a great price.

The only problem with the book is that it will be out of date as soon as next season’s Lego Star Wars sets are announced.

On a final note, I didn’t realize when I ordered that it also came with a unique minifig, which is already selling on Ebay for more than the discounted price of the book.

Related post: Darth Maul Picking His Nose

Volleyball Designs at Zazzle

Creativezazz opened a Zazzle shop with tons of volleyball designs on gifts such as t-shirts, water bottles, coffe mugs and more. I now have shops at Printfection, Cafepress and Zazzle.  The designs are the same, but each store offers a range of merchandize, and each has its own specials.  So now you can shop to get exactly what you want at the best deal.

buy unique gifts at Zazzle

Check Zazzle twitter for latest coupon codes.

Related posts:

Best gifts for a volleyball coach

Volleyball shirt with numbers on the back

Best names for a volleyball team

Volleyball t-shirts and more (Printfection)

Volleyball t-shirts, water bottles and more (Cafepress)

Surf’s Up

Learning How to Surf at a Surf School Near San Diego

Catching a wave at San Elijo State Beach
Catching a wave at San Elijo State Beach

I always hated the sand dripping from my brother’s wet suit in the shower growing up in Huntington Beach. He never cleaned out the tub. I adored the smell of the surf wax on his board though. I spent about a decade living at the beach, but I never tried surfing. I regret it now, not only because I missed out on the thrill of catching a wave, but because now I cannot teach my kids how to surf.

When my daughter wanted to try surfing during a camping trip to San Elijo a few years back, a friend took her out on his 10-foot surfboard, and she loved it. The next year we gave her a certificate for a surf lesson for a Christmas gift. When summer came we went back to San Elijo, which is in northern San Diego County, and she got her lesson at the Billabong Eli Howard Surf School located right in the campground. This summer she went back to the same surf school and her younger brother took a lesson there, too. See my review of this surf school below.

The surf instructor taking my kids out to the next wave.
The surf instructor taking my kids out to the next wave.

If you’ve never surfed, but you want to help your kids want to try it, here’s some tips.

Follow basic safety precautions:

Make sure they are strong swimmers.

Make sure they have experience swimming in an ocean, not just a pool.

Make sure they know what a rip tide is, and how to swim perpendicular to the shore to get out of one.

The next step is to pick your beach and your instructor:

Pick a beach with one- two-foot waves that come in slow sets and a beach that does not have dangerous rocks. The season and time of day make a difference.

Pick an instructor who is patient and enjoys kids. A friend who surfs may work fine (and do it for free). But you might want to try a surf school for the very first time. These instructors have been trained in water safety. They also have experience in explaining a sport that is a bit hard to explain. Most important, they know how to help “launch” a beginning surfer. You will not have to buy or borrow a surfboard if you use a school as they usually have long foam boards. These board are easy to learn on and softer if they hit you in the water. Surf schools usually offer wetsuits during the lesson as well.

To find a surfing school, just Google the words “surf school” or “surf camp.”

My son's first surf lesson.
My son's first surf lesson.

The school at San Elijo was professional. It offers private lessons, semi-private, or group. They also have surf camps for summer.

A great feature of this surf school is location. You can take camping gear and make a trip out of it. Surfing lessons are not inexpensive, but if you camp instead of staying at a fancy hotel, you can save in lodging. 

The waves at his beach are perfect for beginners. The water is pretty warm . . . in late summer you do not even need a wetsuit.  The vibe is good for families. And there are great restaurants nearby if you want to camp and fall asleep to the sound of the ocean, but do not want to do your own cooking.

If you are looking for a great gift idea for Christmas, a birthday, a graduation or another special occasion, a surf lesson may be a great idea.

Pics of our surf trip are up in the gallery.

Let me know if you have other suggestions for non-surfing parents who want to help their kids learn to surf.

If you are going to be out in the sun for long, use plenty of sun block and try Zinka the kind the hard core surfers use. They sell it at the camp store at San Elijo and you can get it at Amazon.

Also, be sure to take a camera so you can capture an experience they will want to remember.

Dropping In print
Dropping In by TinkerM
Browse the prints and posters at Zazzle

Tips for Visiting San Diego Zoo

We just got back from a great trip to the San Diego Zoo.  We went with my brother who lives in San Diego.

Some tips:

Discount Tickets and Deals

Never pay full price. Be sure to do an search for online discounts and deals at San Diego ZooAAA has a coupon out now that gives you $9 off.  You have to print out the coupon plus show your membership card.  Usually the membership card gives you 10 percent off, but this is even better.  You can also check discounts at Costco.

The Gorillas are one of the best exhibits.

Also, Mimi’s Cafe has some voucher you can get if you stop by.  It allows you to buy an adult deluxe admission at the San Diego Zoo and get a free child admission.

You can also try eBay for discount tickets if you plan ahead.

If you plan to ride the little bus at the zoo (and you will if you want to see it all) then get the deluxe admission.  In fact, it is kinda hard not to get the deluxe admission cause I don’t think they even list the regular admission at the gate.  You have to ask for it.  So if you are sure you do not want the bus then ask.

If you ride the bus, get in line early.  My brother gave us a tip to sit on the right hand side of the bus.  Both sides are Ok, but the right is the best.  Also, sit on the top deck of the bus.  You see more.  Unless it is super hot.

Bring a camera with a zoom lens if you have one.

Panda at the San Diego zoo. See the pandas early to avoid the line.
Panda at the San Diego zoo. See the pandas early to avoid the line. This is one of just a few zoos that has pandas.

There is sometimes a line at the panda exhbit so try to do that early. A panda cub was recently born so the mom and cub are off display.  But there is another panda (pictured) you can still see live.  you can see mom and cub online via a live panda web cam.

The koala exhbit is chock full of cuteness.

Do not miss the gorillas or the koalas.

The newest exhibit is Elephant Odyssey, which showcases the link between fossils and ancient species and the current animals, especially those of the California.  While the exhibit is very well done, I still find it hard to watch elephants at the zoo.  Even if the enclosre is large and well furnished, it’s hard to think these guys are happy. The exhibit is educational, however, and would be great for kids learning about evolution or fossils.

I sorta hate to see the cats (jaguar and tiger etc) pacing at the zoo as well.  San Diego has nice enclosures, but any zoo still seems a jail in a way for some of the animals.

Overall, San Diego is one of the better zoos.  We like the LA zoo as well, but this was great for a change.

Check out the pics of my trip in the gallery.

For more info on the San Digo Zoo, visit the official zoo site.

The zoo has a great gift shop for souvenirs . . . but it is a little pricey. Visit it at the end of your trip so you do not have to carry purchases around. Or better yet, shop after you are home from Amazon (see links above for some great ideas).

Michael Jackson Memorial

Saying Goodbye to MJ

When we got the email congratulating us on winning one of the coveted tickets to Michael Jackson memorial, we had only nine minutes left to reply or lose the tickets!

In a rush we completed the transaction and got instructions to go to Dodger Stadium in person to get gold wristbands by 5 pm. Then came the emotional discussion of who should get to go. We had won two spots, but we have 4 family members.

Our 11-year-old daughter won out over our 9-year-old son, who was getting over what was probably swine flu.

My daughter and I jumped in the car and drove into LA before rush hour. Dozens of police greeted us as we approached Dodger Stadium parking lot.  But everything went smoothly.  We went to sleep that night with gold wristbands securely attached and tickets safely tucked into my wallet. We set the alarm early so we could use public transportation to get to Staples in plenty of time.

Tons of hype had surrounded this event with reports that thousands would be trying to get into Staples Center. But almost everyone we saw had the gold wristband like we had. A few vendors hawked Michael Jackson t-shirts or hastily-made programs. A small band of right-wing nuts carried hateful placards: “Michael will Burn in Hell!”  Oh, and tons of cops. LA used about 3,000, way too many  for this event.  No wonder it cost several million.

Some in the city suggested after the fact that Michael’s family or promoter should pay the millions spent on the cops. But in the end the mayor said a city that bills itself as an entertainment capitol should be willing to pay.

Seeing the casket draped in red roses while a parade of singers and other celebrities talked about Michael Jackson was a surreal experience. You weren’t sure what to make of it all.  Was the deceased “the greatest entertainer ever” as one speaker put it?  Was he a freak who had taken advantage of children? Or just a child himself, who had been abused by his own family?

The crowd was a mix that reflected LA, but the speakers extolling him were predominantly African-American. A bit of a paradox as at the zenith of his popularity, most of his fans were white.

An inside page of the Michael Jackson Memorial program. Click to view larger image.

Smokey and Berry Gordy talked nostalgically about the good old Motown days when young Michael was a phenom. But would Michael himself recall his childhood with such a glow? In interviews he had said his father would punish him physically and emotionally if he made mistakes while practicing.  Perhaps Motown and even Michael’s father should get some credit for his meteoric career.  But I could not help wondering if all this gushing about his childhood was a revisionist history of child exploitation.  Even if Joe’s strict discipline led to Michael’s success, was it worth it?

And speaking of Joe Jackson.  Michael said he was so abusive he physically wanted to throw up when he saw him.  Would he really have wanted this guy sitting in the front row with the rest of the family?  Joe, wearing gold bling, was eager to try to jump up and get in on handshakes and hugs as speakers greeted the family.  Would Michael have wanted him anywhere near his kids?

Performances by stars such as Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Mariah Carey, Jennifer Hudson, Usher, and John Mayer caused some of us to shed a tear. The one that touched me the most was Michael’s big brother Jermaine singing “Smile.” The voice sounded a lot like Michael’s. So much emotion went into Jermaine’s performance. You could not help but wonder about the complex relationships that family must have had with all those talented kids growing up in the shadow of Michael’s career.

The big brothers served as pallbearers, and they all wore dark suits with a gold tie and red rose in the lapel. They all had on a single sequined glove. Seen live, these gloves really sparkled. Perhaps only these brothers had any real glimpse what Michael went through as a child star in the Jackson household.

Here’s where you can get a replica of the white sequined glove

Brooke Shields said many thought she and Michael made an odd pair.  And I recall thinking that when they started hanging out as teenagers. But as a child star, she too had an inkling of the stress of being in the spotlight so young.  As did Elizabeth Taylor.

I was impressed as well by Al Sharpton as he spoke eloquently off the cuff.  But not so much by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, who blathered on incoherently so long that I noticed the teleprompter read “PLEASE CONCLUDE YOUR REMARKS” for half her speech.

Right on the ticket it said “no cameras.” So I did not bring mine.  But plenty of people did and were flashing away during the ceremony.  Seemed a bit disrespectful.  As did the people who came in raggedy or slinky clothes. But hey, it’s LA.

The cover of the program handed out at the Michael Jackson memorial.
The cover of the program handed out at the Michael Jackson memorial. Click to view larger.
A photo of the Jackson 5 when they first started out was on the back cover of the memorial program.
A photo of the Jackson 5 when they first started out was on the back cover of the memorial program.

My daughter and I will not forget the day.  We are keeping our gold wristbands and tickets as well as the memorial program they handed us as we entered Staples Center.   Michael’s songs flooded the airwaves after his death, and they still play in my mind. I ponder his legacy. I wonder if he had lived if the big comeback tour would have been a hit . . . or if the critics would have panned him.  Seems like more and more kids go into entertainment so young.  Few of them can sustain popularity into adulthood.  Many end up messed up.  Maybe those in the entertainment industry should do more to ensure that parents and the industry itself doesn’t take advantage of these kids so their talented lives do not turn into train wrecks.

I scanned the covers and an inside page of the program, but if you want to see the whole thing, I found it at scribd.

Growing up, I  took Michael Jackson for granted as he had always been there.  Now that I take the time to listen and reflect, I appreciate his music more. If you are looking for Michael Jackson music, Amazon has a whole store devoted to him at the following link:

Michael Jackson Store

When I first heard Michael had died, I immediately thought he must have committed suicide.  Then I wondered if it was a drug overdose. He was too young and healthy to just drop dead. As the LAPD investigate possible misuse of drugs he may have used as a sleeping aid, I think about how hard it must have been for him to come to peace with his life each night, especially during the tough time of his trial. To think that he had overcome his darkest hour and was coming back . . . .

As for me, my favorite song of Michael’s will always be “Never Can Say Goodbye,” a song he sang so sweetly when he was just 12. It was 1971. One of my best friends had moved the year before, and it seemed to reflect how I felt. Now it has an added meaning.

Mrs. Merrill’s End-of-Year Party

End-of-Year Party

Mrs. Merrill’s third graders celebrated the end of the school year. Photos are up in a private gallery.  This album requires a user name and password.  Parents, if you need this information, please email me

Related posts:

Information on volleyball this summer near Claremont

Information on ice skating near Claremont

Best Place to Register a Domain Name

I did a lot of research before I launched

how to pick a good domain name
the best place to register a domain name
the best web hosting

I registered my domain name though 1+1. If you do decide to go through 1+1, please go through my link Great Domain Name Specials at 1&1

I picked 1+1 because numerous people had recommended it and it had a great price. Although my host (Hostgator) also offered domain name registration, I heeded advice to register my domain name with a different company. That way if I ever want to change my host, or have a dispute with my host, it cannot hold my domain name hostage. 1+1 also has some great tools for picking a good name.

Check out different site names.

Check out names at 1+1!

Let me know if you have comments about 1+1. I found my experience signing up easy and so far I have no problems with them.

Best Web Hosting

How to Pick a Great Web Host . . . Choose Hostgator!

Before I launched I did extensive research on web hosting. I ended up choosing Hostgator because they had the most good reviews (and no nightmare reviews, like several other places had), and they had a reasonable price. They also had all the features that I wanted.

This site is my first one, and I found the set up with Hostgator pretty easy. When I did have a question, they had a great forum. I have never had to call for help, but I have heard to is pretty easy to get a live person.

If you do go through Hostgator, check for coupon codes and specials, which they frequently have. Also, do not be afraid to pick one plan over another, because they will let you switch plans if you find you want a different one.

You can also register your domain name through Hostgator. I chose to register through a different company just because my research suggested this was a wise thing to do.

If you do choose Hostgator, please consider going through my link. Thanks.

Hostgator has good reviews, that’s why I chose it. It is also reasonable.

I welcome your feedback about Hostgator. So far, my experience has been good!

By the way, you can find free hosting sites. This might be a good option if you are starting a brand new website for the first time. Then once you know more what you want you can switch to Hostgator or another host. Free sites do not have all the features you will eventually want. They may not let you put up your own ads and in fact may put up their own ads. But it might be a an option just to let you get your feet wet for free. You will need to transfer all your info to the new host, however, so it might be easier in the long run just to try a low-end plan from a paid site from the start.