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Showing posts from November, 2011

Hallelujah! I Won!!

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Yes!  Despite a trip from Georgia to Florida for an entire week, I finished my novel for National Novel Writing Month last night.  More importantly, I am just a smidgen away from finishing the entire story for the first time through.  Then, it's goodbye "Crazy" and hello "Pizzeria on Mars", my next writing project.

Wordless Wednesday - Another Turtle in Our Backyard

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Wordless Wednesday - Sea World Show

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A few weeks ago, PETA sued Sea World claimed that the killer whales were "slaves" under our Bill of Rights.  While I fully believe in the ethical treatment of animals, PETA is their own worst enemy when they do stunts like this.

New Thanksgivings Tradition

A few years ago our school board wisely chose to give the kids a week off for Thanksgiving.  We visited my parents during the week long break, and discovered that November is the perfect time to go to Florida!  The weather is nicer, the beaches have room on them, and overall it was one of the most relaxing vacations ever.

After that wonderful vacation, my parents have extended us a standing invitation to visit them in Florida for the Thanksgiving break.  Over the years, we have added events to the schedule, such as an annual visit to the beach.  This year, though, we're starting a new Thanksgiving tradition:  cooking!!

Okay, okay, I know that most people cook on Thanksgiving.  But this year everyone will be contributing at least one dish to the dinner table.  My son will be making mashed potatoes.  My daughter signed up to make a pumpkin pie.  My husband is contributing a loaf of that wonderful zucchini bread for dinner and Hungarian coffee cake for breakfast.  My dad is even get…

Recipe: Inez's Zucchini Bread

Inez Patterson is my husband's Mom.  She was a character, from all accounts, who worked hard at being both a good person and a great mother.  Inez cooked dinners at home virtually every day, and my dear husband introduces us to various dishes from his childhood from time to time.  Last Saturday, he went to the kitchen with our daughter and whipped up a favorite of his - zucchini bread.  I was at the writing conference, and I came home to a wonderfully smelling house with even more wonderfully tasting bread.  I loved it so much, I decided to share the recipe.  I hope you enjoy this as much as we do.



 Inez's Zucchini Bread Recipe 

Ingredients: 2 c. Flour2 tsp. Baking powder1 tsp. Salt1/4 tsp. Baking Soda3 tsp. Cinnamon3 Eggs1 c. Vegetable Oil2/3 c. Sugar2 c. Grated zucchini (from 2 medium-sized zucchinis)2 tsp. Vanilla1 c. Raisins1 c. Chopped Walnuts
Directions: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, Fahrenheit.Grease a 13"x9"x2" dish or a loaf pan.Mix together the dry ingre…

"Home Security" by Steve Frenkel

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Steve Frenkel is a local artist here in Georgia.  I met him years ago, and I immediately fell in love with his art.  I love the colors that Steve uses, as well as the manner in which he presents ideas.  This particular painting is my all-time favorite one.  I love how a person is so overcome with fear that they install ludicrous defense mechanisms around their house, from a dinosaur to an airplane.  If you want to see more of Steve's work, go to his stream at Flickr.

Mystery Symphony from the Mystery Guitar Man

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A while ago, I watched a video in which the Mystery Guitar Man (MGM) asked his fans to send in videos of them playing various instruments.  He asked that you play one note at a time, with a short break between notes. He said that he would create a video of a well known song, but MGM refused to let us know what song was in advance.  Over 1,400 people responded, and MGM created this - the Mystery Symphony!!

Enjoy!

Occupy Wall Street: How the Government Keeps Failing

Just when I thought that the government cannot make this situation any worse, I discover that I'm wrong.

This past week, government officials around the country began to "evict" Occupy protester from their protesting sites.  Now, if I assume that there is a valid reason for these eviction, then I would expect that the various government officials would evict these people by the light of day, allowing the press to record the proceedings.  I would expect the protesters would be given enough time and warning to remove their possessions in an orderly fashion.  And unless the protesters began to violently react, I would also expect close to no arrests.

Did any of this happen?

No!

The government officials crept through the night like bandits and thieves, like mafia enforcers who wish to avoid the eye of the public.  Police men showed up in riot gear, despite the fact that all of the violence so far was initialed by the police.  Tear gas and rubber bullets flew, creating war on…

Wordless Wednesday - White Tiger

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Writing Advice From the Red Clay Conference

This past Saturday, I attended the Red Clay Writing Conference, sponsored by the Georgia Writers Association (GWA).  I admit that I only joined the GWA this year, but so far I have been impressed with their events.

The Red Clay Writing Conference provided once again that GWA is a great organization for Georgia writers.  I listened to the keynote speaker, Wendy Wax, author of "10 Beach Road", before attending three panel discussions.  I learned something in every setting, and I am here to share with you.


Keynote Speaker:  Wendy Wax presented the keynote address this year, as she discussed how she went from a retired journalist and stay at home mom to a successfully published author with nine books out there.  Personally, I like Wendy Wax because she is just plain nice.  She came out to the conference while facing a publishing deadline to pass on hope.  From Wendy, I learned:Even published authors have days when everything that comes out is "suckalicious".  It is pos…

Excerpt From "Crazy", my NaNoWriMo Novel

I am not exactly known for my happy and cheerful stories.  This year is no different.  My novel begins with a harried divorcee, Donna Carroll, sitting in a diner.  She's back in her small home town, trying to recover from a public, humiliating divorce.  Suddenly, a man stabs a waitress for bringing him too much ice.  In the aftermath, Donna learns that this is not a one-of-a-kind incident - people have slowly been acting just bonkers.  Donna learns about a woman, Matilda, who burned her house down with her husband in it.  The following excerpt is from the site of the burned down house.  Donna just showed up to investigate:
Donna got out of her car and walked around the yard.  She saw tire tracks from the fire trucks, next to an old, beat up station wagon.  She peered into the car, but only saw trash from too many trips to McDonald’s drive thru,  a dirty picnic blanket, and a water bottle filled with dirty water.  A noxious  smell emanated from the car and Donn…

Accidental Autumnal Chicken Sald

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One of my family's favorite foods is homemade chicken salad.  When I don't have the time, I'll just use canned chicken.  But most of the time, I get pieces of chicken - preferable boneless, skinless thighs - and bake them in the oven.  After the chicken cools off, I cut it into chunks, add carrot, grapes or raisins, sometimes I'll cut up an apple, and then walnuts or pecans.  Toss with mayonnaise and viĆ³la!  Homemade chicken salad!

Well, last week I decided I'd grate fresh carrots instead of cutting baby carrots up into chunks.  This was all fine and dandy, right until I added the mayonnaise.  Suddenly, the mayonnaise turned orange!  It took me a minute to figure out what was happening, but then I realized the grated carrot, which stained my hands orange, was now turning the entire chicken salad orange!

Without meaning to, I created autumnal chicken salad!

Picture: A Turtle From Our Yard

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How Congress Created Occupy Wall Street

I know lots of people who ask, “How can so many people participate in Occupy Wall Street (or Occupy Portland or Occupy Atlanta...)?  Don’t these people have lives?” The short answer is no, they do not have lives.  And that’s the point.

The Occupy Wall Street protesters don’t have lives.  They don’t have jobs, money, security, or a way in the foreseeable future to obtain any of these intangibles.  Some even have families that depend on them, but with no income, how can they raise the next generation to be productive members of society?  

What most people fail to see is that these protesters don’t have much to lose, and that’s why they are protesting.  On top of wanting the American Dream, they really don’t have anything substantial to lose, but everything to gain if change occurs.

The American government, by allowing the “elite few” to run business and corporations without oversight, created these protesters.  By having multi-millionaires run Congress (and therefore give tax breaks to eve…

Wordless Wednesday - How Did the Rock Get in There?

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The Lost Art of Gift Giving

As we approach the holiday season, I wonder how many people will be doing true gift giving.  I’m not talking about buying the latest toy or the coolest electronic gadget available.  What I am talking about is something more along the like of the story “The Gift of the Magi”.

What are you willing to sacrifice in order to obtain the perfect gift for someone else?

Our family has a tradition of events and activities as gifts, instead of merely physical possessions.  We have taken our children to see three different Cirque du Soleil shows, the Blue Man Group locally and in Nashvile, TN, and three different  Jonathan Coulton shows (two of them with Paul and Storm!).  Over the years, we have gone on the Christmas train on the Blue Ridge Railroad and given the kids monthly pony rides for a year.  One year, my husband spent umpteen evenings recording an audio book for the children to listen to as we take trips. He sacrificed his free time in the evenings for that gift.

Our philosophy is that the …

Recipe: One Skillet Pasta

Have you ever come into your kitchen, dreading not the actual cooking of dinner, but instead the cleaning up afterwards? Have you ever moaned about how many pots and pans get dirtied just trying to make a simple pasta dish?

I have.  So when I found a recipe that dirtied one and only one skillet, but gets me a fabulous pasta dinner, I copied it into my homemade cook book faster than Speedy Gonzalez.  I use this as a meal anytime I want a break from doing a huge load of dishes.  I also began to teach my son how to make this, because it's that easy.

One Skillet Pasta

Ingredients:
1 lb. of ground beef
2 c. of hot water
26 oz. of spaghetti sauce
3 c. of  some other small pasta, uncooked
1 c. of ricotta cheese
1 c. of mozzarella cheese

Directions:

Cook the ground beef in a skillet.  Drain out any excess fat.Add the water and spaghetti sauce to the beef, mix together, and heat until boiling.Add the pasta, turn the heat down to a simmer, and cover.  Cook for 15 - 20 minutes, until the past…

New Writing: "The Monsters Bedtime Book"

This weekend, when I sat down to create another idea for a picture book, what came out was the entire picture book.  Or at least the words for an entire picture book.  Now, of course, I need to create the pictures for it.  But I love the words so much, I decided to share them.

So without further ado, here is "The Monsters Bedtime Book".

The sun is up.  It’s getting late. So please, little monsters, don’t hesitate. It’s time to go to bed.
Brush out your fur. Wipe down your scales. Sharpen your talons.  Cover your tails. It’s time to go to bed.
Do one big stretch.  Do one stretch more. Then scurry behind the closet door. It’s time to go to bed.
Mommies and Daddies everywhere Will give you a kiss and your teddy bear. It’s time to go to bed.
The sun is up.  It’s getting late. Please, please, little monsters, don’t hesitate. It’s time to go to bed.

Recipe: Basic Cheese Sauce

I don't know about anyone else, but  I really like macaroni and cheese.  Yes, the blue box used to be a staple around here, especially when the kids were younger.  But the more I cook, the more I want to learn how to make things I love.  So after the success with the noodles, I yearned for homemade cheese sauce.

In my quest, I researched homemade cheese sauce.  And by "research" I mean I read several recipes on the Internet, watched videos of people making cheese sauce, and I even read through a few cookbooks.  In the end, I discovered that making a good cheese sauce it amazingly easy.

First, you make a roux (pronounced "roo") in a skillet on the stove.  When I heard about a roux, I felt very ignorant.  It took a few minutes before I learned that a roux is a mixed of equal parts melted butter and flour.  That's it.  You melt butter in a skillet, then add the same amount of flour and stir.

Seriously, why couldn't they come up with a name that sounds mor…

On Writing Book Reviews

I read.  I'm not the most prolific reader I know (and yes, I'm looking at you, Julie), but I do read quite a bit.  Partly because as writer, reading is part of the gig.  But I learned to love reading as a small child, and I work hard to maintain the habit.

When I started this blog, I wanted to share some of the book I read with everyone. I wanted people to learn about good books, bad books, funny books, and books that make me cry.  So I started writing book reviews, and I learned something very important.

Writing useful book reviews is hard.

How do I get across that an author included some fantastic plot twist, made even better because it was subtly foreshadowed, without ruining the plot twist for the rest of the world?  Even mentioning that there is a plot twist can alter how someone reads a book.  All the wonderful action, characters, surprises,...  I want to share it all, but I know that saying too much will spoil the book.

So I end up treating books as if I am still in a …

Announcement: Blue Butterfly's Reviews

Hello!  This is just a quick announcement.  My 9-year-old daughter just started her own blog yesterday, where she reviews books, movies, and video games.  She also will post her opinion on current events and such.

If you are interested, you can find the blog at http://bluebutterfly.wegrok.net.

Thank you.

The Fall of the American Empire

I have a secret.

I see patterns.

Okay, so  it’s really not as cool as seeing dead people.  But it’s my one super power (so to speak).  In elementary school, I saw patterns in numbers, and used the knowledge to ace every multiplication test on the planet.  (Did you know that there are at least 4 patterns to figuring out the 9s table?)  Later on, I used patterns to remember events in history, find results in science labs, and even write music for a humanities class.  

Outside of school, patterns are not quite as useful.  I still use patterns when writing music, and I see patterns in the plots of books.  Today, though, I want to talk about a pattern that I see in history, and how I think it relates to the current situation in the American economy.

Throughout recorded human history, civilizations have grown from small villages to huge empires, only to topple and be replaced by other empires. From Europe to China, empires rise and fall with regularity in history.  If you look closely, you real…

The Queen of Aspirational Clutter

Earlier this year, a very dear friend of mine bought me a copy of "The Happiness Project", with admonitions to read the book.  Since I'm not one to waste a good book, I began reading it right away, and feel in love with both the book and the author.  I related to her need for gold stars, her need to be in control, but mostly to her need to find more happiness in her life.

I loved the book so much I took it on a trip, packing it away carefully in a seldom used pocket of my luggage.  To my credit, the book survived just fine.  Unfortunately, because I seldom use the pocket, I never retrieved the book from my luggage.  I searched the house frantically all summer, then finally found it again after a trip to New York this August.

*Happy Dance!*

Since I had not finished the book this spring, I decided to start over.  So I turned to page 1 and began "The Happiness Project" all over again.  For those who haven't read the book, the author, Gretchen Rubin, sets out g…

Wordless Wednesday - Giant Japanese Spider Crab

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Online Resources for Students

Whether you have a kindergartner or a senior, at some point you or your child will need to go online, either to research a school project or to get extra help in a specific subject.  The question then becomes, where do you head?

The very first place I (and my kids) go is to the associated teacher’s blog.   I currently have children in Murdock Elementary School and Dodgen Middle School, and I completely love the teachers at both school!!!  On top of being knowledgeable and friendly, these teachers maintain wonderful lists on their blogs of website pertinent to either the grade or the class.  From math facts to typing to social studies and science, I find interesting links to everything.

If I need to look further, I admit that I use my Google fu to search the Internet.  I spent and continue to spend time with my children online, teaching them how to search Google for information.  By the way, the basic secret for searching on Google is to type in your question exactly like you would ask …

Picture Book Idea Month

I don't really know why I signed up for this.

November is a crazy month for most of us.  On top of elections, there's Thanksgiving, getting ready for Christmas, several birthdays in the family, and NaNoWriMo.  I mean, I already sign up to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

But this year I heard about Picture Book Idea Month, or PiBoIdMo, from Debbie Ohi.  The concept is quite simple - think up one idea for a picture book once a day for 30 days.  I don't have to create the actual picture book each day, just think of a viable idea for one.  Simple, right?

Here's what my internal dialogue sounded like last week:

     Sane Me:  Picture Book Idea Month?  That sounds too easy.      Crazy Me:  No, it really is that easy.      Sane Me:  But I already have too much going on in November to participate.      Crazy Me:  What are you talking about?  I used to tell the kids stories practically in my sleep.      Sane Me:  When they were toddlers, *years* ago,...      Crazy Me:  It'…

My Halloween Mission: Success!!!

Mission accomplished!!!

Okay, let me back up a bit.  This weekend, I discussed my Halloween mission with my dear husband, who pointed out that homemade cookies would turn into homemade cookie dust in a trick-or-treat bag.  So, I decided to give away homemade cookies to kids who wanted to eat one immediately, and give away candy for their goody bag.

This afternoon, I whipped out my Kitchen Aid stand mixer and a bag of Toll House chocolate chips.  Following the recipe on the bag, I made a double batch of cookie dough.  After the first batch of cookies expanded too much, I changed the baking method to create cookie bars.

Then, I waited.  Usually, we have a small horde of preschoolers show up between 4:00pm and 5:00pm, dressed up as ladybugs and firefighters and accompanied by their moms.  Today, no one showed.  Not one single kid knocked on our door between 4:00pm and 6:00pm.  If fact, it was almost 7:00pm before we got the very first trick-or-treaters for the night.

However, once we ha…