Saturday, May 31, 2008
Why is it, when you ask for a Chocolate Blast™ at Baskin Robbins, then after discovering it has coffee in it, a chocolate milkshake, does the Baskin Robbins employee ask if you want chocolate ice cream in it?
What other kind of ice cream would I want in a cold, frothy, mixed chocolate drink?
Isn't it the chocolate ice cream that makes a chocolate milkshake or Chocolate Blast™?
Friday, May 30, 2008
Christmas Eve? No way.
The night before the start of a new school year? Getting close!
The answer: The night of the Father and Son Camp-out. And, that's tonight.
This is my second Father and Son camp-out and I have to say, I could get used to this. Here's what I've done so far and what I have planned for the rest my precious hours:
Dinner with a friend - CHECK! Went to a nice little Indian place with I-Shüan, brought home left-overs for lunch tomorrow. Yum!
Rent a great chick flick - CHECK! I've got the box of Kleenex and I'm read to watch "P.S. I Love You."
Shopping - CHECK! Found 3 books at Barnes and Noble. No, I didn't go there just to see if they had the New Edition of Eclipse out with the first chapter of Breaking Dawn in the back. OK, yes I did. However, ended up with "Raising Cain," "The City of Ember" (a surprise for Ethan, shhhh!) and "Shop Girl" because it was $4.98 and I was thinking of Betsy.
Vacuum the floor and enjoy how the vacuum lines stay in the carpet for more than 30 minutes.
Find some kind of appropriate 80's costume for 80's themed Bunco tomorrow. (This is really stressing me out. I've racked my brain to come up with something and I've been to Goodwill and Ross and I can't find anything except a hot pink polo shirt and some penny loafers. If any of my Bunco friends are reading, this is exactly why I hate dressing up in costumes.)
Read until I fall asleep, even if that is 3am.
Sleep in, especially if I stayed up reading until 3am.
Back to Barnes and Noble to, you know, check in on things. And, if everything seems to be in order, I'll find a comfy chair, grab that special Eclipse edition, and read the first chapter of Breaking Dawn.
I'm pretty sure my group will be home before lunch, so that may be all I can squeeze in, but it's enough.
Ta, ta for now!
Thursday, May 29, 2008
I should have said, "I was named after the 1960 BYU Homecoming Queen."
Then there would have been the BYU connection and we would be just one step closer to best friend status.
The only thing to do now is to travel thousands of miles to the next book signing, try and obtain a ticket to the sold out event, stand in line for a few hours, get in, stand in front of her again and hope she says the same exact thing about my name.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
But it was not to be. Tonight Larissa lost after a big risk on a daily double in the category "Dutch Royalty." I thought for sure she would know the answer was The Hague and not Amsterdam. Larissa!!!
So, tonight, instead of telling you all to tune in to see Larissa on Jeopardy, I'm writing in mourning. However, she doesn't leave Jeopardy with out making a few records: Larissa was the first woman to win more than 5 consecutive games AND her total winnings were almost a quarter of a million dollars making her the 3rd highest money winner in Jeopardy's history. (She could afford a really nice backyard landscape with that kind of money!)
Tune in for the Tournament of Champions to see Larissa in action again. When the Tournament of Champions is is anyone's guess.
(On second thought, maybe my hope that Larissa would be the next Ken Jennings was not as realistic as I'd thought. This guy seems to have had it all worked out.)
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
I just finished reading Trouble and I loved it. This author has a knack for letting his characters shine under the worst circumstances while not making them seem implausible or preachy. My favorite example of this is in "Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy", but "Trouble" certainly has it's share of beautiful, pivotal moments.
I do wish he had a blog or website though because other than a Wikipedia entry, his bio on his publisher's web site, and a fun info pack for educators, there really isn't much out there about Gary D. Schmidt.
I held off reading Stephenie Meyer's "The Host" because I was pretty sure I was going to be disappointed. I hate to say it, but I didn't think she could pull it off and I didn't want Stephenie to come down from that little pedestal I'd put her on back when I read about her in BYU Magazine in February of 2007. It's a little pedestal, but I like her there.
Even though I had my very own signed copy of "The Host" I hesitated. But finally, after getting some pretty great feedback from trusted friends and fellow readers, I dove in. I have to say, the first few chapters were hard for me to get into, just because I was having to adjust to the future world where aliens have invaded and almost overtaken the human race.
By chapter three, however, I was securely hooked into the 600+ page story. I rolled over in bed Monday morning and picked up the book and started reading. I read and read, barely stopping until 5pm that afternoon when I kind of had to make dinner, since I felt bad about letting the kids forage for food during breakfast and lunch.
Long story short, I loved the book. While Stephenie may not be a master of prose like some, she has a talent for creating engaging, vivid characters. I become invested in them, sucked into their world and desperate to find out what happens to them. I love it.
I read M.T. Anderson's "Feed" which I heard about at the SCBWI conference a couple weeks ago from Kirby Larson. This book portrays a high tech, disturbing, but somehow believable future world where everyone (well, almost everyone) gets an information feed chip placed in their brain at birth. Music, TV, advertising, communication is all tailored specifically to each individual and is broadcast to them continuously. Trends change hourly. The most popular reality show is "Oh, Wow, Thing!"
It was kind of creepy to see how our current society might be just steps away from the world of "Feed." Tonight I found myself wishing that I could ping my boys at the playground to tell them to come home instead of going out into the backyard and hollering for them.
Not just a comment on a sensory overloaded society, but the way that overload alters our relationships with others, Feed reminded me slightly of Scott Westerfeld's "Extras" and maybe even Conor Kostick's "Epic."
As a warning, Feed has a massive amount of swearing, and not to sound like I'm rationalizing, but it was clearly used to illustrate the downfall of verbal communication.
Well, at the library today I finally got "A Sweet Far Thing" by Libba Bray, the 3rd and final (I think) book in the Gemma Doyle story. Also in the bag is a book from one of the Longstockings authors: "The Thing About Georgie" by Lisa Graff. I'm not sure where I heard about "Blue Like Friday" by Siobhan Parkinson, but it looks good, and I'm guessing I heard about "Savvy", by Ingrid Law, from Fuse #8.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
By Friday we had 2 replies expressing interest.
By Saturday, our yard looked like this:
Friday, May 23, 2008
- Your hair always looks so great. (OK, obviously this person was lying, but I DON'T CARE! New best friend!)
- Has my editor called you yet?
- The other night at Cheesecake Factory everyone was talking about how great you are.
- I can't believe you wrote a book, you are amazing.
Don't worry, I won't let the praise go to my head. Very much.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Bath and Body Works - I ran out of those fancy hand soaps and had to go stock up. The last time I stocked up was during a Black Friday sale in 2006. Hand soaps were 3 for $10 and I took the bait and snatched up $30 worth. As I went to check out, the perky sales associate handed me a little post card to remind me about their Summer Clearance Sale in 11 days. Hand soap will then go for five for $15 or seven for $20. I'll be back. Sales Tactic: SUCCESSFUL
See's Candies - Jonah wanted mint patties and Isaac wanted a butterscotch lollipop. It's their reward for being really good boys in the mall. And they are the BEST boys in the mall. See's Candies hands out free samples. Guess what our free sample was today? Mint patties. So, essentially I could have just bought the lollipop for 55 cents and been done, but I felt guilted into spending a little more money since I got the free sample, so I treated myself to a couple truffles. Sales tactic: SUCCESSFUL
Janie and Jack - Maybe it's because I never had a baby girl that I feel the need to buy the cutest girl clothes I can find when ever I have to buy a special baby gift. And the cutest baby girl clothes are most definitely found at Janie and Jack. Yes, they are overpriced, but I usually stick to the sale stuff in the back which is slightly less over priced. (Still not falling for the $20 pair of size 0 baby shoes, even though they are the cutest little espadrilles ever.)
The sales associate was pleasant, even though she could tell I was cheap. I didn't even slow down on my way to the racks in the back. I mentioned that I'd prefer to buy a 3-6 month size and the sales gal says, "Our clothes are really generous. Even though it says 0-3 months, it will fit well beyond that age."
Then I say, "Well, this dress in 0-3 is darling, but I can only find the matching onesie in 3-6."
Without missing a beat, the sales gal says, "It's always good to buy those onesies a little big. I'd even go as high as 6-9 for the onesie."
So, let me get this right: I should buy the dress too small and the onesie too big?
Sales tactic UNSUCCESSFUL, and I selected a sun dress that didn't require a onesie, the matching hat, but not the $20 shoes.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Stephenie answered questions for about 20 minutes, not long enough in my opinion. Many were about "The Host" which I hadn't read and didn't want to be spoiled, so I tried not to listen, but did hear that someone in the book is NOT lying, so I hope that doesn't screw things up for me.
There were a few questions about her "Twilight" series books and a few about writing and editing. Surprisingly, there were no questions about Twilight the movie, which was filmed in Portland.
The only possible revelation from the question and answer session was that Stephenie has an outline for a sequel to The Host, but is not committed to writing it.
Next came the book signing. There were 600 hundred people in the sold out theater, each with at least 3 books. (I saw many with more). So Stephenie, at the very least, had to sign her name 1,800 times; a fact for which I felt the slightest twinge of sympathy for Ms. Meyer.
They called us up to stand in line 60 at a time, based on a number we received when we entered the theater. Here were the rules for the signing:
1. No taking pictures of Stephenie
2. Open all books to the signature page
3. Stack all books so they are open on top of each other
4. Put "The Host" on the top
5. When you get to the guy with the sticky notes, tell him your name so he can write it down and stick it in your book.
6. While holding your stack of books, retrieve your ticket to prove you are standing in line at the right time.
7. Don't drop your books. (OK, this wasn't so much a rule as an interesting challenge.)
And finally, we approach the table where Stephenie sits signing books. She is signing at the speed of light, almost. Yet somehow she is still smiling and saying "hi" to each person, like she doesn't mind the possibility that her hand will cramp up in protest and refuse to work for 3 and a half weeks.
And here's where having a unique name finally pays off!! As my copy of "The Host" is slid in front of Stephenie by two lovely assistants, acting with machine-like precision, with the little sticky note right there, Stephenie looks up at me and says, "Afton?"
Then I reply with something brilliant like, "yep."
Stephenie then says, "What a great name." And she smiles really big like she just might possibly mean it.
It's 8:30. Too early to go home. Our husbands, after all, don't expect us until later. So, we head over to NW Portland to Papa Haydn for dessert. Only 40 desserts to choose from, half with words like "torte" or "truffle" in the name, I chose a chocolate cherry brownie with whipped cream and chocolate sauce. Yum!
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
This is how slow it is: I am not even opening all my e-mail because after I click on it, I have a good minute or more before the text actually pops up. (Not your e-mail of course...I open all of your e-mail.) Heaven forbid I might want to reply to an e-mail. Click that little button and I'm looking at another minute before the screen comes up for me to type in my reply.
Then, there are these little hiccups (sorry to keep using all this technical mumbo jumbo) where the computer freezes up for 5-20 seconds. I can't type, I can't click, I can't do anything. It's annoying.
The computer is ominously slow. I just know something is going to happen. And while being forced to purchase a new computer with fancy, schmancy stuff that was invented post-2004, (or maybe even a Mac!) would be swell, we were hoping to use our small wad of cash to landscape the back yard.
In fact, we are kind of committed to landscaping the back yard now. The wheels are in motion, as they say. We've killed the grass to prepare for regrading the slope. We've been approved through the homeowners association. We have bids! (OK, one bid).
You see, even though a shiny new computer would be lovely, I just need this one to hang in there another year. Please!
So, if I don't have a post up tomorrow telling you all about my evening with Stephenie Meyer, with pictures of us becoming best friends, etc, etc, it will be the computer's fault.
Monday, May 19, 2008
Here's what I mean:
We started off by hearing keynote speaker Wendy McClure who is an editor for Albert Whitman in Chicago. I originally discovered Wendy through her blog, which I loved for it's frankness. Wendy is pretty funny and I loved her talk on how to promote yourself online and other tips for getting noticed by an editor.
My first workshop was by Kirby Larson, author of Newbery Award winning, "Hattie Big Sky" which I, personally loved. I felt like a fan girl sitting in the front row, scribbling just about every word she said. Her class was all about the importance of "voice" in storytelling. She had a little exercise where we used a few techniques she'd demonstrated to improve a boring sentence, "Dad's dinner was horrible." She asked for people to share what they'd come up with and to my shock and surprise, I raised my hand. Of course I'd waited until the very end when more and more people were gaining confidence and she was only able to take one more sentence and I didn't get chosen. Sigh. But I totally raised my hand!
Second workshop was an editing class taught by Ruth Musgrave, who writes non-fiction for children in National Geographic for Kids. Even though I'm focused more on fiction writing, her gig didn't sound too bad: regular contract work that pays the bills. She had some great editing tips.
After lunch I went to another class on revision/editing by Lisa Schroeder, author of a great YA book called, "I Heart You, You Haunt Me." It's written in verse, which may sound off-putting to some, but trust me, it works.
Lisa had some great revision tips. Many, many tips. I'm glad she had a handout. The tip that really stuck out to me though, was that in dialogue, you should really just stick to "he said," and "she said." This was surprising to me and I know that in my novel I will be looking at this closely because I distinctly remember trying to come up with lots of different ways to tag dialogue: He remarked, she exclaimed, he pointed out. Ouch.
I was very curious about Christina Katz's "Write Short and Get Published" workshop in which I basically learned that I'd sold my soul to Associated Content for $5 an article. Actually, I was able to talk to Christina after the workshop and she had some great suggestions for turning some of the more popular articles into something that will actually pay. And of course writing for Associated Content was great practice and I learned a lot.
Back to the ballroom for two final, amazing speakers. Lisa Graff, editor, author and blogger (and blogger) had a highly entertaining presentation on how to "Write Like and Author, Revise Like an Editor." She most definitely has a new fan. I've already requested her two books from the library, "The Thing About Georgie" and "The Life and Crimes of Bernetta Wallflower."
The last speaker was Harold Underdown, a freelance editorial consultant. He covered trends and not trends. The pirate trend has passed, but there is a YA boom, although the expectations for high quality have gone up too.
Overall, a great experience, very motivating and inspiring.
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Today while I attended an all day SCBWI conference, Robert purchased a chainsaw and took out some shrubbery in our yard. He was never fond of the tall thing on the side of our house (a juniper maybe?) and when a wind storm 2 Decembers ago pushed it slightly off kilter, we both agreed that something had to be done.
I kind of liked the bush and thought it added a bit of structure to the front yard. Robert still didn't like it, but tried last summer to straighten it with a piece of rope anchored to the post on our porch. The effect was definitely clothesline-like. I was not happy.
We'd discussed what to do with the bush and brought up the possibility of replacing it with a smaller, similar bush from the backyard, but I didn't think we were "chainsaw" serious.
Robert, by the way, is really, really (like Tim the Tool Man Taylor) pleased with his new chainsaw. It seems that 3o minutes spent dismantling a leaning shrub was not sufficient power tool time for Robert, so he also took out a very tiny, dead shrub in the back yard too. (I think the boys could have taken it out by whacking on it for 15 minutes with their toy light sabers.)
So to finish the title of this post, while the cat's away, the "mouse" will buy power tools and dramatically alter the landscaping.
Friday, May 16, 2008
Fred Meyer had 4 inch pots of tomatoes on sale for just over a dollar each. I had already planned to get 6 plants even though the last time I got 6 tomato plants my September kitchen ended up looking like this:
I got so burned out on canning that I couldn't even can apples or pears or anything else that year.
But I'm low on canned tomatoes, out of home made canned salsa and I think I just used my last tomato sauce last night, so it's time for six tomato plants again. I'm really excited about the varieties.
Siletz - a medium early, medium sized tomato (oooh! Exciting!)
Brandywine - 1885 heirloom Amish variety with large, rose-pink fruits
Sweet Million - a cherry tomato with good flavor
Sun Gold - very sweet fruit has a tropical taste and is used for salads and snacks
Beefmaster - a Beefsteak type
Health Kick - small fruit contain large amounts of antioxidant lycopene
Today I'm excited about the tomatoes, the first, mouthwatering bite, the first batch of salsa fresca, the sandwiches and salads. However, check back with me in September and I might be wishing I'd bought four tomato plants instead of six.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
The owners are the Shippeys. Yes, that's right, the Mr. and Mrs. Shippey own the UPS Store.
Every time I go in to ship a package, all I can concentrate on is every little funny thing I could possibly say about the Shippey's owning a shipping store. I can barely hear what they are saying to me. (What? Next day air? OK)
I'm guessing that the Shippeys have probably already heard all the name related jokes in existence and they are probably sick of them, but this doesn't stop my mind of reeling over the irony.
It's like if Mr. and Mrs. Scoopy owned a Baskin Robbins or Mr. Drivey worked at a car dealership.
The urge to say something is almost overwhelming, but I just can't come up with something clever enough, and even then, I really, REALLY doubt I'd have the guts to say it.
It kind of reminds me of this episode of Friends where Chandler has a job interview.... (OK, it's a stretch, but it's a mind racing, lack of focus thing.)
Monday, May 12, 2008
1. Frogs make organic matter. (Duh! But for some reason I didn't really think about that fact.)
2. Frogs raised in the frog habitat can not be released into the wild.
3. Frogs live for up to 5 years.
4. Frogs eat live crickets and/or potato bugs.
5. Frogs have to be fed live insects every 2 to 3 days.
Today we received two live tadpoles in the mail . Currently the tadpoles are getting acclimated to their new home. They seem to be in shock, but the directions assure us that even if they float upside down, we should give them 24 hours to perk up. Our tadpoles are not floating upside down, but they are laying low for a while. I'm sure they are perfectly happy, or they will be as soon as we can start feeding them the tadpole pellets they came with. (We have to wait 12 hours.)
Too much food will increase the "organic matter" which we are supposed to clean out of the habitat with a turkey baster or large eye dropper. Doesn't this sound like fun?
I should probably download some kind of age appropriate home school unit on life cycles so I can get the biggest bang for my 5 years of frog misery. Jonah may as well learn something while we are sharing our house with a couple of amphibians.
Here's hoping for a 1 year life cycle.
Friday, May 9, 2008
The first strike against Starcross is actually not the book's fault; it's mine. I was under the false impression that Starcross was the first book in a series of two and it turns out, it's second. I really should have stopped as soon as I realized this. Problem was, while I suspected it might not be the first book for the first 50-75 pages or so, when it finally became clear, I was 30,000 feet in the air on my way to Salt Lake City and, some of you may know, I have a fear of flying bookless. So I kept reading.
The second problem I came across while reading Starcross again, doesn't have a thing to do with the quality of the book. Traveling and sharing a small hotel room with two other family members does not lend itself to solitary activities like reading. Even though everyone knows a nose in a book is the universal sign for "leave me alone" my traveling companions insisted on doing things like talking to me and watching TV. Consequently I only got a page or two read before I lost concentration or had to discuss something with a real person. Reading a book two pages at a time doesn't make for excellent story fluidity.
Another issue (we'll call it problem #3) I have with this book, and the first which refers to the book itself, is the way the author simply cops out, in my very humble opinion, at very exciting times in the story by saying something like, "well, I can't go into all the details here, but we won the fight" or "somehow everything was resolved while we were away." Well, he doesn't actually say that second thing, but somehow a VERY MAJOR thing is resolved while the protagonist is off fighting the evil Moobs. The main character returns to Starcross, expecting a fight, having taken much time to come up with a plan of attack (a pretty weak plan, actually) and the excitement builds and builds and...oh, nevermind, all is well and we are drinking tea. Why don't you join us?
And the final problem is that every time I open this book to read I start to fall asleep. I can barely keep my eyes open after just a few pages.
So, no offense to the author but, I have a around 20-30 pages to go and I just don't care anymore. I'm pretty sure that if I'd started with the first book, Larklight, and read in a less distracting environment, I could have loved Starcross. I think I'm going to return this book to the library and just move on.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Each week at Family Home Evening, we sing an opening and closing song and if I had a pair of shoes for every time "Once There Was a Snowman" was requested, I'd have to have an extra house just for footwear.
"Once There Was a Snowman" is a fine song: it gets the kids moving and they really love it. After a while, though, it does tend to wear on the nerves.
Not that my kids don't try to mix it up. Ethan has creatively altered the verses so the snowman melts in the first verse and grows in the second verse. He's a clever kid, what can I say.
On Monday we found ourselves in Deseret Book in the University Mall in Orem. Robert wanted some church music, but since we don't live in the hub of all things Mormon, we were seriously clueless about what was what. Robert ended up selecting a CD of kids songs by an a capella group called Inside Out and decided to buy it.
There is a nice assortment of variations on the Snowman Song which Robert, Ethan and I found both enjoyable AND hilarious. Most kids will not get all the musical references, but that doesn't stop them from laughing anyway.
If I did this right, you should be able to click on the title of this post (Musical Posibilities) to hear the songs for yourself. My personal favorite is "First You Were Tall." Forty points to the first person who comments with the musical reference. I'd give you a hint, but I think that would make it too easy for Betsy.
(Right now I'm only able to get one song to play by clicking the post title, but, maybe this will work...Click here to go to my box.net file with all the songs. Click on the little blue speaker and then you can open an audio file for each song. They are all very short.)
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
This poem that appeared on the back of the program (which was probably designed by grandpa) reminds me of Grandpa’s outlook on life. A note explains this poem, from the Boy Scout Handbook, had been an inspiration to Grandpa since he was 12 years old.
Figure it out yourself, my lad.
You’ve all that the greatest of men have had,
Two arms, two hands, two legs, two eyes,
And a brain to use if you would be wise.
With this equipment they all began,
So start for the top and say “I can.”
Look them over, the wise and great
They take their food from a common plate,
And similar knives and forks they use,
With similar laces they tie their shoes;
The world considers them brave and smart,
But you’ve all they had when they made their start.
You can triumph and come to skill,
You can be great if only you will,
You’re well equipped for what fight you choose.
You have legs and arms and a brain to use,
And the man who has risen great deeds to do
Began his life with no more than you.
You are the handicap you must face,
You are the one who must choose your place,
You must say where you want to go,
How much you will study the truth to know.
God has equipped you for life, but He
Lets you decide what you want to be.
Courage must come from the soul within,
The man must furnish the will to win.
So figure it out for yourself, my lad,
You were born with all that the great have had.
With your equipment they all began.
Get hold of yourself, and say “I can.”
Grandma M with Mom, Dad and Allyson
Jason, Andrew, Matt, Dan, (funeral director guy on the end), Baxter, Derek, Nate and Aaron
Sunday, May 4, 2008
Friday, May 2, 2008
Am I packed? No.
Are the kids ready to go? Well, possibly, if you pretend that the two giant suitcases they filled with toys and their pillows this morning make them ready to spend the next three days with the neighbor.
As is often the case, when there is something pressing, I am an expert at making minor issues become major time wasters. And with that intro, I present to you...The Sandals I Must Own.
Are these not the greatest sandals you've seen? I love that they are orange. They are perfect and exactly what I have been picturing as my summer sandals 2008.
Are they priced higher than I normally pay for shoes? Of course!
Am I going to let that stand in my way of owning them? Nope.
Are they available in my size in this awesome orange color? Unfortunately, no.
So, since I need to be thoroughly distracted from the task at hand, I've made it my personal mission to locate these sandals (in orange) anywhere else online. The only place that sells them in orange is Zappos but they don't have my size. And you would not beleive how many shoe websites that claim to be something other than Zappos just link you right back to Zappos.
I've found the same style at other places in pink, light blue, tan, brown and black, but I want orange. I must have them! I will have them. Even if I have to travel all the way to the Born factory in... (googling, googling, googling...) Ok, I can't find out where the company HQ is located. It's a mystery that I will probably spend way too much time trying to solve as soon as I can find my new orange sandals.