Sunday, June 29, 2008

Kids Are Expensive

A very frightening little cost calculator over at confirms that kids are expensive. It estimates that Jonah alone, will cost Robert and I nearly $450,000 by the time he’s 18.

Holy crow that’s a lot of money.

Do you think this total includes the cost of repainting your car or is that going to cost me extra?

Ethan scratched his name into the car about 5 years ago. I believe Jonah added the extra scratches before adding his own name just a few days ago. (See below.)

Both Jonah and Ethan's names are about 5-6 inches long.
Notice the wheel well for a little perspective on the amount of car "real estate" Isaac's name took up. Right now he really only knows how to write his I's and A's.
The question now is, do we take the money out of their college funds or deny them food for a few weeks to cover the cost of repainting? Ooh! We could make them get jobs at the coal mine! They should have the paint job paid off in two or three summers!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Making Lemonade

Classic summertime fun continued today when the boys ran their own lemonade stand. This picture was snapped just after the first pitcher of home made strawberry lemonade was overturned after an unfortunate accident involving the sun umbrella.

I'd left the boys to tend their stand (after spending 20 minutes getting everything set up just right) and two bites into my raisin bran the boys all came in, some crying, all lamenting that the lemonade stand was ruined, RUINED!

I left my cereal to turn to mush and helped the boys reestablish their business. Luckily the home made old fashioned buttermilk brownies (chocolate mint and chocolate chocolate) were spared, as was the pitcher of regular lemonade. The table cloth and sign advertising home made strawberry lemonade, however, were soaked with spilled fluid.

After going over the ground rules (no hounding customers, man your stations at all times and people do not like to buy lemonade from boys who pick their noses) the boys were eager to start collecting money.

When the first 50 cents hit the money box, Isaac decided he was going to buy a toy from the garage sale. It took a lot of convincing, and a lot of reminding thereafter that there would be no spending money until AFTER the lemonade sale was over.

When it was finally over, the boys got to split about $30 after paying me back for supplies. (Don't worry, I was really generous with them.)

Isaac bought a plastic wallet (25 cents) from the garage sale to keep all his money in. I've urged him to keep it at home in a drawer, but he insists on carrying it around, just like dad.

Ethan bought a pair of roller blades ($2) and a video game that plugs into the TV (also $2).

Thankfully, Jonah was talked out of the $10 TV set and decided to save his money for Pokemon cards. Then when I wasn't looking he bought a tiny little clock that you get free when you sign up for Children's Book of the Month Club so he could learn how to tell time. ($1)

I can tell the boys worked hard because I'm exhausted. After I got everything cleaned up and put away, they all asked me to pour them a glass of lemonade.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Summer Craft #2

I'm taking a break from digging ditches to report on our second summer craft.

Yesterday we tie dyed t-shirts. The kids were super excited and wanted to check out their shirts right away. Directions on the box, however, said we needed to wait 24 hours. So we did.

I figured that dying the shirts in the kitchen would result in not only groovy shirts, but a hippy dippy kitchen make-over too. Luckily, about 99% of the dye stayed right where it was supposed to: on the t-shirts or on my plastic covered work space. We just have a couple of blue dots on the floor which match nicely with a few other stains and spots.

I'm currently taking suggestions for Summer Craft #3. Not that my kids appreciate the work I'm doing to provide an enriching summer for them. Mostly I'm doing this so that on that day, late in August, when the kids complain about what a boring summer they've had, I will be able to make up pie charts, bar graphs and venn diagrams and force them to sit through a boring presentation of just how great summer has really been. Then I will have a line graph which will show how the quality of my desserts is directly related to their attitudes.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Pure Eeevil!

I was beginning to question my gardening abilities. I'd tried blaming the weather, the dirt, the kids, even the seeds! Deep down, though, I knew that none of these things were the real reason my beans were not growing.

The only thing left to blame was myself.

I had planted and re-planted my bean seeds and finally, when I saw the little bean shoots starting to emerge, I got very excited. I checked on my babies repeatedly through out the day.

Then...THEN, I discovered that my tender little plants were under attack when they were most vulnerable. Just when the shoots put out their first leaves, some creature was sneaking up and decapitating them, leaving a tiny little stem stub behind. Plant by plant, my baby beans were dying.

I thought it might be slugs and considered putting out crushed sea shells around the growing area to discourage those slimy gastropods. But I couldn't see any evidence of slugs and sometimes the planticide was happening in broad daylight when slugs are supposedly asleep.

Then I turned over a clod of dirt and discovered pill bugs devouring an emerging bean plant. Unfortunately for that bean, I'd discovered those little twerps too late. But I thought it might not be too late to save the others.

I googled and found many gardeners had the same exact problem. However, I found very few realistic solutions. "Get a toad," was one. Others said to provide the bugs with other organic matter and that maybe they would choose that over your tender little plants. Then there was a big disagreement about whether or not pill bugs were beneficial for the garden or simply a blight to be wiped out.

I was really looking for a soultion I could whip up with household items that would dissolve every last one of my pill bug invaders from the inside out!

I will make a trip to the nursery tomorrow to find out if they have a product I can use to kill--yes, that's right, KILL--those little buggers. Until then, I've sprinkled the area with sand because supposedly that will dry out the pill bugs and kill them. I don't believe it. I need to see results now! My beans are at stake (literally!).

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Birthday Party Anxiety

Birthday parties stress me out. I do not know why this is. From the time we decide on a day and send out the invites, I do not relax until the party is over.

This year I thought I would save myself the weeks of anxiety by scheduling a party with one of those places like Pump it Up or Party Zone that does all the work for you.

We settled on Chuck E. Cheese. I thought that by having the party at a place other than my house and by having plenty of games and activities to keep the kids busy, and by having a stranger in a rat costume interact with the party guests that my stress would be alleviated.

Not so much.

I'm worried that no one will be able to come because it's summer and everyone I know is on vacation. I'm worried that we will have to pay for kids who don't show up. I'm worried that Jonah will not be a good host and that kids will get their feelings hurt. I'm worried that there will be a fire at Chuck E. Cheese the night before the party and we will have to cancel.

OK, I'm not really worried about a fire.

Luckily we've made the family rule that kids get "friend" birthday parties every other year. That is still too often in my opinion, but I suppose I'll just have to learn to live with it.

I should probably take the advice of this sage, rollerblading woman in Kevin Henkes's "Wemberly Worried."

Friday, June 20, 2008

Playing With Matches

I recently checked out about 5 books from the library by Vicki Cobb. Vicki is a author of non-fiction science books for kids. Some of the titles include:

Science Experiments You Can Eat
You Gotta Try This: Absolutely Irresistible Science
Chemically Active! Experiments You Can Do at Home
Whirlers and Twirlers: Science Fun with Spinning
Bet You Can't: Science Impossibilities To Fool You
We Dare You: Hundreds of Fun Science Bets, Challenges and Experiments You Can Do at Home

Ethan has been having a lot of fun with "Bet You Can't." Specifically, he's located every experiment in the book where using a match is required. He's tried "Bet You Can't Keep A Match Burning Over a Glass of Soda", and "Bet You Can't Make a Flame Pass Through a Strainer" as well as several others.

Each little experiment has an explanation of the scientific principles behind the trick and I am pretty sure that Ethan is more excited about lighting the next match than he is figuring out why he can't burn a hole through the bottom of a paper cup full of water.

However, one burning question Ethan did have was how matches worked.

I quickly googled the question and came up with a 10 minute podcast that had the answer. Ethan spent the whole 10 minutes listening and absorbing the information. Later he told me about white and red phosphorus and the different properties of each.

It was almost as if we were having an educational moment.

If you are interested in having an educational moment with your kids this summer, check out Vicki Cobb's newest book, "We Dare You." The author is compiling video clips of real kids doing these quick experiements. You can simply watch the video clips with your kids, OR, you can submit your own videos of your kids doing the experiments.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

How To Be A Boy: Eating Popcorn

For boys, eating popcorn is much more than the simple enjoyment of a light snack. Eating popcorn is a study in chaos theory, social behavior and the limits of maternal sanity. If you want to eat popcorn like a boy make sure you master the following techniques:

1. Use your hand to grab as much popcorn you can from the popcorn bowl. It helps if your hand is dirty from digging for worms or trying to catch tadpoles in the pond.

2. Shove the popcorn into your mouth. Your goal should be to get about 40% of the popcorn from your hand into your mouth. While it's fine to load up your mouth so that chewing becomes almost impossible, you will need to save at least half of each handful for step #3.

3. Allow excess popcorn to fall wherever it may. Try not to think too much about where your popcorn is falling. If you need to go to the bathroom, eat popcorn on the way and leave a popcorn trail on the carpet. If you are eating on the couch, make sure you shift positions every once in a while so popcorn has a better chance of falling between the cushions. If you are eating outside, a 5 foot radius of popcorn spillage is a good popcorn eating result.

4. If your mother has told you that under no circumstances should you ever play in the car, consider getting in the parked car to eat and spill your popcorn.

5. If chewing popcorn becomes tiresome, consider spitting chewed-up popcorn onto your mom's parked car. Just make sure you make it worth your while and cover as much of the car as you can with chewed-up, spit-out popcorn.

6. When you are finished eating popcorn, dumping the "duds" out onto the carpet or ground adds a nice finishing touch.

7. When you are done, do not concern yourself with the massive popcorn mess you have just created. Think nothing of it. Clear your mind as if it never happened and does not exist. Move on to your next activity with gusto and a clear conscience.

8. When your mother comes out and asks "Who is responsible for this mess?" you must act completely flummoxed. When she clarifies by adding, "this popcorn mess," it is acceptable to pretend that you might just possibly understand what she is talking about, if only she could give you another hint.

When she yells, "Here!! In the garage!" go ahead and acknowledge the popcorn scattered all over the garage floor. Do not tell her that it doesn't look like a mess to you. And please don't point out that the masticated popcorn drying on the side of the car will probably come off the next time it rains.

Go ahead and sweep the spilled popcorn into a little pile on the driveway, but don't throw the pile out. Ask any 10 year old boy and he will tell you: the popcorn fairy will come along soon and take care of everything, don't you know!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Summer Craft #1

I was just thinking that some warm chocolate chip cookies and a book would really hit the spot. The book, I have; the cookies, not so much. Fortunately my chocolate chip cookie making skills are such that I can whip up a batch, start to finish with dishes and counters cleaned, in 30 minutes.

It wasn't until I'd creamed the butter and sugar, however, that I realized I didn't have chocolate chips. How could this be? I buy chocolate chips 5 and 10 packages at a time. I always have chocolate chips. It's just the worst to commit yourself to a project, to get to the point of no return (that would be the creamed butter and sugar, don't you know) and then find you are missing a major component to your project.

This same thing happened earlier today. In an effort to have a "good attitude" about summer vacation, I thought it would be fun to have a craft for the boys to do. My idea was that we could do the craft a few weeks into summer vacation when the kids were "bored" of all the regular summer vacation stuff like sleeping in and avoiding all responsibility.

However, the boys begged to make these concrete garden stepping stones NOW! Well, actually, they wanted to make them on Saturday, but I told them they had to wait until summer vacation officially started.

This is how smart I am. I didn't purchase $20 stepping stone kits from Michael's. I bought a bag of concrete for $2.50 and some plastic saucers for .75 cents each and an assortment of funky doodads from the Dollar Tree. Instead of one $20 stepping stone, we were going to have 4 stepping stones for under $10. (I told you I was smart.)

Before we got started, I had to mix up the concrete and let it sit in the forms for 30 minutes to an hour. I wasn't quite sure about the proportions, but I think I got the first batch just right. I filled up two forms and went to work on the second batch of concrete. Unfortunately, I added too much water to the second batch. To compensate for this, I added more concrete, and more concrete, and still, more concrete.

After adding and stirring for about 20 minutes, I had about the right consistency. I also had enough concrete for 4 more forms instead of 2.

Long story short, I drove to Home Depot to purchase two more plastic saucers and got home before the concrete had set and turned my bucket into a huge but effective door stop. Whew!
The boys spent about 20 minutes working on their stones. So for about 2 hours of prep time, including my shopping, I got a 20 minute activity. (deep breath...)

It's going to be a long summer.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Berry Time

Well, it's about time. A cold spring forced the strawberries to make a late appearance, but the wait was worth it.

These are delectable, juicy Shuksan strawberries. We came right home and made smoothies and I've got a crust cooling which will soon transform into strawberry pie.

Once we got picking, we couldn't bring ourselves to stop. The result: about 15 pounds of berries to consume over the next few days. I'll probably freeze a few for smoothies, but these berries are best eaten fresh.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Perfectly Normal, Right?

It’s perfectly normal to have internal conversations with one’s self, isn’t it? This is a conversation I had with myself this morning at 6am:

Hey, the sun is shining. I should get up and go for a walk

Yes, definitely. This morning would be a great morning for a walk.

You should get up right now and get out there. You could be back by 6:30. Think of how much you’d get done this morning.


You could get up now, right now. Throw on your clothes. You could be out the door in 2 minutes. I bet you’d be back before Robert woke up.


Come on. At least get up to pee for crying out loud.


Good, now just put on your exercise clothes.

Yeah see, I don’t think I need to prove anything by walking at 6am. 6:30 will be just fine. Who am I trying to impress anyway? I can still get plenty done this morning. I’ll be back by 7. The kids aren’t even awake before 7.

You better not fall back asleep.

Of course not. I’m just going to lay here for like, 20 minutes, tops!

You know, I bet when you do get out of bed to go for a walk, you could get away with wearing your Capri sweatpants. It seems really nice outside.

Oh, definitely.

And I bet your hair is finally long enough that it will all fit in a pony tail. I bet it will look really cute.


You will feel so good. You know how you always feel good after a brisk morning walk and a nice stretch.

Uh huh.

Ooh, you will get to hear your new playlist on your iPod. That will be nice.

Yes, Go-Go’s! I love the Go-Go’s.

You are so old.

Shut up. I’ve got other cool songs on there too.

I know, you are very cool.

Thank you.

Hey, it’s 6:15. If you get up now, you could be out the door by 6:20.

And your point is…

Come on, it’s a beautiful day. You have no excuse. This is exactly the kind of day you have been waiting for. Morning exercise just really sets the tone for your day. I bet it is gorgeous outside. You can breathe in fresh air, think big thoughts, listen to a bit of music, and get your heart rate going.


Just swing your legs out of bed…swing, suh-WING!

Fine, I’m going.

Good job!

I’m not going to jog though.

Of course you’re not. No one expects you to jog.

Not even to that Eric Clapton song.

No, not that song.

But it’s got kazoos, I can’t NOT jog to kazoos

Sure you can, people do it all the time.

It’s downhill. I’ll just jog downhill.

Listen, I didn’t get you out of bed to have you over-exert yourself like this. You are never going to want to get up early and go for a walk again.

Jogging is not over-exerting myself. And I said, I’m just jogging the downhill part. Then it’s straight to speed walking, I promise. Kazoos!

Your knees are going to hurt. You should have taken Advil before you left.

Leave me alone, I’ll be fine…and I’ll take some Advil when I get home.

Wow, would you look at that! You’ve only been out for 15 minutes and you’re over half way home. Maybe you should take a longer route back.


What about this way?

(I visualize an alternative route) Hey, that could work. That was pretty cool. It’s like my own GPS system.

More like On-Star, wouldn’t you say?

Yes! On-Star. Wow, I have my own On-Star. Angela is going to be out of a job.

Well, you’ve been having a conversation with yourself all morning. I don’t think Angela will be out of a job any time soon.


Thursday, June 12, 2008


Here we have a lovely picture of our back patio and the surrounding area as it is prepped for additional patio square footage. This is phase 3 or 4 in our 38 step backyard transformation process.

Don't let the sunshine throw you off. Yes, this is still our Portland backyard, now with our bigger, better patio. The finished patio product will look just like our original square of exposed aggregate. Later today, the cement guys will come back and do something to expose the aggregate.

If it looks like this guy is squirting a 2 liter bottle of Coke on our patio, well, he is. No, this isn't some kind of cement celebration the workers participate in when they finish a job. This is actually how they prepare the aggregate to be exposed.

Evidently, the acid in Coke eats away and the cement, exposing the little pebbles in the patio. I think the cement guys will simply hose off the patio and the disintegrated cement and left over high fructose corn syrup will rinse away giving us the exposed aggregate look.

I like typing "exposed aggregate".

Any comments on Coke acid eating through cement in a matter of hours? Anyone?

(OK, I totally made up that part about Coke acid eating through cement, but they really are spraying Coke on the patio and it's to help expose...well, you know. I thought the story about Coke eating through cement was a pretty interesting story, and it could be true. You are still welcome to comment on it.)

I just checked with the guy and he said it's the sugar in the Coke that disrupts the setting up of the top layer of concrete. Fascinating, but acid still makes a better story.
Acid always makes a better story.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


I loved this quote by JK Rowling in her commencement speech at Harvard University:

"You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default. "

You can read the full speech here, which I suppose is not too long, definitely inspiring, AND it has a sprinkling of witty Potter jokes. Never too late to commence, I've always said. (OK, I'm saying it now, alright?)

To find the speech you will need to scroll past the article about the many Harvard grads who thought a mere children's book author was a little beneath their dignity and just beyond the part where the 12 year old Potter fan who skipped school, dressed up like Harry himself, and traveled from New York to hear Rowling speak calls those stuffy Harvard Grads "muggles" and follows up with a harsh "phooey on them".

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Things On My Mind

Picky Eaters
I just bought a giant box of 36 organic toaster pastries. This morning Ethan opened a pack, (two pastries) ate one and decided they were gross. Jonah spied the uneaten toaster pastry, took one bite and said he didn't like it. So now I have 34 organic toaster pastries that my kids won't eat. Maybe next time I can buy a small box from the grocery store first and try out a new food item before committing to a giant box from Costco.

I think I have SAD or "Seasonal Affective Disorder." When it's cold, dark and rainy, all I want to do is stay in bed all day. Of course I don't stay in bed all day, but it seems like it would be really nice and cozy. During the day, I don't really want to leave the house, even if we are out of milk and I have to eat my Raisin Bran dry. All I can bring myself to do is snuggle under a blanket, read books and doze off every 45 minutes or so.

If this is SAD, then I have to say, I don't really mind it all that much. In fact, I almost look forward to the rainy, cold days just so I have an excuse to curl up with a book and nap all day. However, I suppose it would be nice to see the sun eventually.

Question: Can I have S.A.D. with out actually being "sad"?

Summer Break
This is the last week of school. To be honest, I'm in a bit of denial. I've sort of been ignoring those e-mails about donating items and money for the teacher gift and end-of-year class parties. I haven't signed anyone up for basketball, swimming or bug camp. I have even given up on creating summer bingo, which I could never get to work just right anyway.

Eventually I'm going to sign up for My Reward Board and get the kids to hopefully help around the house a bit (more reading time for me!) and work on some summer goals. I've got a few ideas for crafts that we might work on, and of course we will visit the library once a week.

Gas Prices
Robert started riding his bike to work this week and I think I'll start walking to the library and store a bit more often. We live 1 mile from a library/shopping center that has everything I could possibly need. I might get one of those little carts to drag home groceries in. Of course I'll need to wait for the weather to warm up a bit and for the rain to stop.

To be honest, seeing the number "4" up there next to "regular unleaded" makes me sick. And it will probably be a "5" before too long.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Plate-Licking Good

I offered to bring dessert to last night's "crop" at my friend Jill's house. I needed something good because I'd had a couple of dessert failures and wanted to make up for them. Some would argue about whether or not my desserts were actually failures. After all, when I brought brownies and had forgotten to add flour, Jill's teenage son could not get enough of them.

Even so, I didn't want to mess this dessert up. The smart thing to do would have been to make a tried and trusted recipe that I've whipped up a million times. I decided, however, to try a new recipe and take a chance that I would make it correctly and that it would be delicious.

Enter Angela! I presented my problem, asked for her help, and even though she was getting ready to run out the door, she came up with a winning dessert recipe while she was drying her hair. (Multi-tasking!)

This is called Heavenly Lemon Angel food Cake. It's easy peasy, but looks complicated and elegant. If you want to become super popular for your tasty desserts, this recipe is a sure thing.

1 box of angel food cake mix
2 lemons
2 cups powdered sugar
whipped cream
frozen raspberries in syrup, thawed

Make the angel food cake according to directions on the box. Bake in a 9 x 13 pan for 35-40 minutes or until the top of the cake is golden brown and delicious. Invert cake to cool.

When the cake has cooled, use a large fork to poke 1 1/2 inch deep holes all over the cake. Mix 2 cups of powdered sugar, 1/4 cup lemon juice and 1 TB lemon zest together in a small bowl. Pour over the top of the cake, spreading evenly so it soaks into the holes.

Let the cake sit for at least 30 minute before serving. Slice the cake and top with a dollop of whipped cream and a spoonful of raspberries in syrup.

Hint: If you don't have raspberries in syrup, you can use plain frozen raspberries. Just add a couple tablespoons of granulated sugar to the berries and stir to create a syrupy mix.

And, yes...people were licking their plates and yes, I was one of them, thank you very much.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Who Will It Be???

This is John Green, author of several books, including"Looking for Alaska." He blogs and vlogs, and does a bunch of other stuff. These are his top 10 Vice Pres pics for Barak Obama. I think the 7-fingered guy from Montana sounds very promising.

If you are interested in hearing what John Green has to say about Edward Cullen and Jacob Black (among other things) you can click here.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

If I Had a Million Dollars

I chatted with a friend last night about journal writing. I was a big fan of journal writing back in my college days. I probably wrote at least every day, sometimes more. I assured my friend that while I was prolific, I doubted anything I wrote would have value to anyone but myself. It was pretty self centered "life is great" or "woe is me" kind of stuff. Funny now, but nothing that would inspire posterity.

I took several creative writing classes in college from Louise Plummer and one of the things she taught to inspire creativity was list making. I'll never forget the list Louise shared with us of items she'd once found under her bed. Whenever I wonder if I'm too messy, I think of that list. Sorry Louise (as if she actually might read this blog!)

My journal, because of this exercise, has many lists. This one came to mind last night as I chatted journals with my friend and I thought it would be fun to share it. So, here you go....

(And just as a reminder, I was in college; money was scarce.)

6 October 1992

If I had a million dollars I would...

1. buy an ironing board
2. get my car tuned up and then cleaned at Supersonic (the car wash where you have to get out of your car and they wash it for you)
3. fill my car up with gas
4. buy stamps
5. buy new carpet for this house
6. buy an answering machine
7. buy a blender
8. throw a party (with a band!)
9. buy a new CD
10. go to a dermatologist and get acutane
11. put more gas in my car
12. buy some microwave popcorn
13. buy an Audi 80
14. get some new pants
15. buy a shirt
16. pay my $50 registration
17. buy some 9 volt batteries for the smoke detectors
18. take my friends to Disneyland for Thanksgiving (we would fly first class)
19. go to Los Hermanos for fajitas and virgin margaritas
20. buy time

A few pages over I found another list of "Reasons I'm Mad." I won't list everything out here, but I had to laugh at this one: (Apologies to my former roommate Beatty.)

Reasons I'm Mad
"Beatty made me stop to give a homeless person some of her money, but when she checked her wallet, she had no money and so I had to give him my last dollar."

I highly recommend the "list" method for journal writing. If it doesn't inspire anything else, it will probably make for good blog-fodder a few years down the road.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

I Feel The Need to Read

Some of you may know that I kind of like to read. "Kind of" meaning: holy cow if I don't have a book to read I'm going to go insane. I get questions about my reading habits. Questions like: When are you going to stop reading and start writing? How many books have you read this week? Mommy, can you stop reading and make me lunch?

One question I seem to get a lot, however, is this: How do you find all the books you read?

Well, it's a complicated process really. It involves hours of research, a mild case of sausage fingers, a little chocolate and a scanning electron microscope.

If this process doesn't sound appealing to you, today is your lucky day. I am prepared to simplify my complicated process and share with you a few of my secrets for finding great reads.

Blogs - It's no secret that I very much enjoy the book gems found over at Fuse #8. A recent Fuse #8 blog post listed a few trusted book review sites. I've added those links to my side bar under "Book Stuff" but if you'd like to hear what NYC children's librarian Betsy Bird has to say about them, you can read that here. She also has a list of about a thousand other children's lit blogs on her sidebar for you to peruse when you have a few days with nothing to do.

Fuse #8 also has, from time to time, lists of books that are being considered for awards or that should be considered for awards. I get many book suggestions from these lovely lists.

People - Yes, people, I mean you. I get many suggestions from my fellow readers at Your personal recommendations mean a lot to me and I can trust that if you loved or hated something, I have a good chance of possibly loving or hating it too!

Amazon - I utilize the "customers who read this" feature on When I read a book I can't stop thinking about, I go to Amazon and look up the book. I can find many suggestions for other books both from what Amazon generates and what I read in the comments.

Brick and Mortar Stores - When I find myself in Barnes and Noble or Powell's or Costco's book section, I check out books that look interesting. Yes, it's a lot of judging books by their covers, but I read the jacket flaps too. If a book looks good, I make a mental note, or a written note, depending on my mental state that day, and put it on my list of books to read.

Once I've got a list of books to read, I put it somewhere I will not lose it. For me this means an Excel spreadsheet. also has a feature where you can keep track of books you want to read. Sometimes, I skip the Excel spreadsheet and go right to my library's website.

If you judge best-friendiness by the amount of phone calls you get from a single source, then my library is my best friend. I don't think I will ever tire of hearing, "Our records indicate that you have items being held for you. Our records indicate that you have THREE items being held for you. Please pick these items up as soon as possible. Thank you." (Sigh...)

In case you don't know, you can log onto your library's web site, search their catalog and request items to be held. If your library doesn't have an item, edumacate yourself about inter-library loan. You should be able to lay your paws on just about any book you want.

Sometimes, when I hear about a book that is good, I immediately request it from the library. Occasionally there is a long, long waiting list, but other times there is no waiting list at all. It's good to have several books on your waiting list with various waiting times. This way you will have a nice even flow of books coming to you, and not everything all at once.

So that's it. That's how I find and acquire the books I read. Still too complicated? (I warned you!)

Well, if you want, I suppose you could just ask me for a recommendation and I will be happy to make some suggestions.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Like, Totally 80's Bunco

Web definition: Bunco (also Bunko and Bonko) is a parlour game played in teams with three dice. A winning throw in Bunco is to throw three of a kind of a specified number.

My definition: Bunco, a cheap alternative to Prozac, the one night of the month were I can enjoy the company of fabulous friends, share a great meal, stuff myself with candy, completely let loose and win prizes.

Normally, our Bunco group does not have a theme for its monthly gathering, but at this weekend's Bunco, our hostess with the mostess challenged us to step back into the 80's. (That's me in the back. I went with the New Wave/Preppy look. Too bad you can't see my $7 Goodwill suede penny loafers.)

And here we have our lovely hostess, "The Pink Punk" a.k.a. Debbie, with her amazing dessert creation, Ms. Pac Man, THE CAKE! I know, I know! Incredible isn't it? Not only does it look good, it tasted great. Of course this was just the dessert. Our dinner consisted of pork ragout over polenta, a super tasty salad and crusty french bread.

80's Bunco would not be complete with out the "Flashdance" look, the side pony tail, over sized shirts and plenty of 80's music.

The "theme" Bunco idea might just catch on. (Oh, no! Don't tell me I have to come up with another costume...please, I don't know if I can take the stress.) Anyone up for a "Vampire" Bunco in August or December?