Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Hope springs eternal

What the mailbox looks like today:

What the mailman brought today:

Looking back

I love the annual task of tossing out the old date book and starting a brand new BLANK one.

It's always kind of weird to look back at some of the stuff I had to do.

Some of the thing I listed for the week of July 14:

Tape Project Runway
Finish book order form
Asparagus/sesame oil
Call Babs [my agent]
Driving range
Call Samoset [that's the place where we go for Thanksgiving buffet. See how I plan ahead? Hey, that place gets booked early....]
Key - garage? [I have no idea what that means]
Lesson with Norman [golf]

The only one I apparently did not do is: Iowa seating.
That means the airline seating for my trip to Iowa City.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Favorite Books

My favorite middle grade books* read (not necessarily published) in 2008.

Some of these are all about the writing.
Some of them are all about the story.
And some of them are all about both.

Alvin Ho Allergic to Girls, School and Other Scary Things
by Lenore Look

The Broken Bike Boy and the Queen of 33rd Street
by Sharon Flake

by Laurie Halse Anderson

The Goose Girl
by Shannon Hale

Jessie's Mountain
by Kerry Madden

Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Writing Thank-You Notes
by Peggy Gifford

There's a Boy in the Girls' Bathroom
by Louis Sachar

The Underneath
by Kathi Appelt

*I actually consider Chains to be YA, but I think the rest of the world considers it middle gradish? I'd rather see it win the Printz than the Newbery. But that's just me.

Monday, December 29, 2008

One Year in Two Minutes

Recipe for making a slightly blurry slideshow entitled: One Year in Two Minutes (okay, okay...One Year in Two Minutes and Seven Seconds)

1 part snowstorm
2 parts procrastination
1 part geek
2 heaping helpings of iMovie tutorials
1 handful of random photos taken throughout the year
1 large dose of iTunes
3 failed attempts to upload to YouTube
1 hour reading fascinating live blogging by New School students who had taken over a school building in protest and seeing a video that had been uploaded using Blogger (and therefore rethinking the YouTube strategy)
1 part Blogger Help
15 minutes waiting on seemingly-eternally long upload
1 dash of wondering why some of the photos are so blurry but then saying "oh, well"

Combine all.
Curse a little bit.
Stir, cook and enjoy.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Stopped the world

I love Christmas Day.

I love the stop-the-world-I'm-getting-off feeling.

My family and I just hunkered down.

My son was home, which always makes me happy.

His dog got some lovin':

We made waffles:

My husband and I gave each other bookends. How weird is that?
I gave him the monkeys and he gave me the books:

Once again, Phoebe confiscated both Christmas toys:

We got great Spode coffee mugs with dogs. I love them:

My husband and son got their "traditional" stupid remote control helicopter, which they proceeded to fly wildly around the kitchen:

What Santa brought....(don't ask):

The highlight of the day - Christmas dinner:

....and then opening our stockings after dinner...wasting money on lottery tickets (our tradition):

Alligator claw in my husband's stocking (don't ask):

And now....the world is spinning again.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Mindless pleasures

I love jigsaw puzzles. I pull this one out once a year.

I love the beginning phase, when you turn over all the pieces and start sorting them.

Then you separate all the edge pieces. (Love that part!)

And then you separate them by color and pattern.

It's just all so....mindless.

And with that, I'm signing out for a few days to enjoy the season.

Happy Holidays to All!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Writing Tip Tuesday

So, what's the point of writing tips, anyway?

To answer that question, I turn to the brilliant Twyla Tharp:

Skill gives you the wherewithal to execute whatever occurs to you. Without it, you are just a font of unfulfilled ideas.

Skill is how you close the gap between what you can see in your mind's eye and what you can produce; the more skill you have, the more sophisticated and accomplished your ideas can be.

With absolute skill comes absolute confidence, allowing you to dare to be simple.

And this last tidbit from Twyla is going in bold because it is so important:

You're only kidding yourself if you put creativity before craft.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Blogger question

I'm having a problem occasionally when I post images to Blogger. When I choose "large", it sometimes cuts off the right-hand side of the image.

Anybody know what's up with that?

Back by popular demand

....well, okay, one person - but, hey, she's very popular (Hey, Maria!)

My grandmother's fabulous Red Velvet Cake.

It is really good - very moist and so beautiful. I used to make it in a heart-shaped cake pan for Valentine's Day. It's really pretty for Christmas, too.

As for the Mystery Icing - well, it's a mystery to me how my grandmother got hers to turn out so much better than mine. Mine is always grainy from the sugar. You might try Jennifer's suggestion about the confectioners sugar.

I hope these are legible. I could have typed up the recipe, but it's just so much more fun to see it in the original, I think.

And now, we are all waiting - spoons ready - for the Brownie You Eat With a Spoon recipe.


If you read this thru an RSS feed and a post came thru with a red velvet cake recipe - the scans got goofed up and I am having to redo it.

Stay tuned.

The old fashioned way

I always make Chex Party Mix for the holidays.

But I make it exactly the way my grandmother made it (except I cut it in half and add peanuts, per my notes at the top of the recipe below).

One of my most cherished possessions is a little black notebook filled with handwritten recipes that my grandmother gave me almost forty years ago. (In fact, during a recent family discussion about what we would grab in the event of a house fire, that little notebook was one of my items.)

Here is her recipe for Chex mix:

The pecans she used came from the pecan trees in her yard. She gathered every one of them herself and cracked them with a nutcracker which I now own and picked out the nut halves with a little nut pick that I now own.

I recently looked at the recipe on the back of the Chex box. Of course, they don't use Cheerios. And they use "bite size" pretzels instead of pretzel sticks. And they use BAGEL CHIPS (blasphemy).

But the worst thing is that they tell you to cook it IN THE MICROWAVE.

Notice that my grandmother cooks it in a very low oven for two hours.

Here is my grandmother. Her name was Ethel. Doesn't she look like an Ethel?
She always looked exactly like this. No older. No younger. Same style of dress. Same style of shoes. Same hairdo.

She lived in North Carolina her whole life.

The little notebook she gave me is mostly very Southern recipes.

Red Velvet cake. (You can see it is very much used - stained with red food coloring.):
Note: This is not the entire recipe. If anyone is actually considering making it, I'm happy to send the rest.)

Her "salads" were the old Southern standby: congealed salads.
She had many varieties.

And, of course, Sweet Potato Pie:

Friday, December 19, 2008

Remind me

You know how I've been having this problem with my memory?

I did tell you that, right?

I don't know...I can't remember.

But, anyway, I'm always on the lookout for things to help me.

I got My Lil Reminder. (Honestly....I really did!)

But the problem with it is that you can only record one thing at a time.

For instance, I record: My car is on level 4, section C.

Then if I record: Buy milk, eggs and toilet paper records over the first message.

So there I am with milk, eggs and toilet paper but I can't find my car.

So that My Lil Reminder is kind of a dud.

But now I found this cool site.

Here's what you do - you put the Reqall phone number on your cellphone (but if you put it on speed dial, you have to remember what the speed dial number is, and that's a problem. Heh... But I used the number 4 - as in 4-get. Get it?).

Then you call the number and just say whatever it is you want to remember.

Then when you get home, you'll have an email reminding you!

Or you can call the Reqall number again and it will tell you what you said.

If you say the word "buy" - it puts it into your "shopping list" on the web site (in addition to sending an email to you).

So, if I'm driving and thinking - and I think of something I want to remember or buy - I just call the Reqall number and then I can forget about it.

(Oh yeah...I would have forgotten about it anyway. Oh well....)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Santa, baby

Okay, I'm ready. Got the tree. (Um, it looks a little crooked...heh...)

Got the poinsettias.

Got things on the mantel.

Got the leg lamp in the window.

Got the leg lamp night light in the kitchen.

Come on, Santa....

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

My new office

Trying to write a book while doing school visits is challenging.
This is my new office.

Today I noticed the title changes I've made.

Porkchop Dreams was pretty good but had nothing to do with the story (heh!). Porchop dreams, by the way, is my term for those doggie dreams that dogs have when they yip and twitch in their dreams. They must be dreaming about porkchops, don't you think?

And Dear Owen is so boring - and also has nothing to do with the story.

This probably sounds weird, but in most cases, for me, the title comes before the actual story. I might have a hazy idea of the story, but not until I think of the title does it become clearer. That was the case with The Short, Sad Life of Tooley Graham.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Stop the world...

...I'm getting off.

I am officially HUNKERED DOWN with my latest manuscript.

I will remain focused.

I will not check email every three minutes.

I will not answer the phone.

I will not watch Judge Judy.