Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Ladies, (and Gentlemen, if you are out there, but I don't think you are...) I present to you, the best way to kick Seasonal Affective Disorder's butt this winter. Grow marigolds.

Not sunflowers, not corn or green beans or even delphiniums (which are lovely, by the way...just not what we are looking for right now).

It has to be marigolds and here is why.

Marigolds are easy to grow. They sprout quickly. I planted these darlings 4 days ago and look at them now! That's a quick return on your time investment. If you include the kiddos in your marigold growing endeavors, they will appreciate not having to wait to long to see some seed action.

Marigolds are hardy. It doesn't hurt to treat marigolds with a little TLC, but they aren't going to complain if you don't. Sure, you need to give them water and sunlight, but if you put them outside before they are ready, they have an uncanny way of pulling through.

Marigolds are pretty. Yellow, orange, red blooms the colors of sunshine and warmth and heat. You won't see the blooms (or the sun if you live here in the Pacific Northwest) for a while, but you will know they are there (just like the sun) waiting to come out and make everything bright and beautiful.

Marigolds from seed will save you money. Do you plant annuals around your home each year? It's easy to get carried away spending too much moolah on sprucing up the yard with flowers. I bought a flat of 72 little peat pellets and 2 packages of seeds and in a few months will have 72 sweet marigold plants to brighten up my yard...all for around $16.

Let me sum up...
1. quick and easy life, springing up before your eyes
2. happy little plants that won't let you down
3. flowers the colors of warmth
4. a nice little reminder about sunnier days, time spent outdoors, and did I mention warmth?
5. a bounty of flowers for left over for pedicure

See? Seasonal Affective Disorder gone.

You're welcome!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sunday Scribblings: Phantom & Shadows

This is a memory that has become somewhat of a "phantom" to me. I remember some of the details, but others are becoming less clear over time. So, while this story is mostly true, I've added little bits here and there to fill in the blanks.

“What’s a hydroseeder?” Melissa asked.

“It’s like a truck that plants grass.” I tried to sound authoritative, but all I really knew about the hydroseeder parked in front of our house was what I learned from my dad’s appearance when he came home from a hydroseeding job covered, head to toe in green mulch. Green furry mulch in his eyebrows and sideburns, the back of his shirt covered so I could barely read the Ferry Morris logo anymore.

My mom made him get undressed on the back patio by the sliding glass door so he wouldn’t track the green stuff all through the house. I wondered why she didn’t just brush him off with the stiff bristled broom like she did to us kids when we had been playing in the sandbox all afternoon. Everything came in to be washed eventually, but the green-covered shoes stayed and waited just outside the sliding glass door for the next time my dad went hydroseeding.

Dad had brought the hydroseeder home after work last night and this morning was filling it up with water. Two hoses, screwed together reached all the way down the driveway and into the massive tank on the back of the truck. Filling up the tank would take all morning and part of the afternoon.

“My dad’s going to squirt us with the hose this afternoon, so if you want to come, wear your bathing suit. It will be super fun,” I promised Melissa. We were having a heat wave which was quite clear to me because of the vaporous curtains of heat waving up off the asphalt on Almond Road.

I spent the rest of the morning alerting all the other neighbors about the squirting that would take place later that afternoon and tried to distract myself from the boredom of waiting.

How I wanted to climb up that little ladder on the side of the tank and peek in at the water level. My dad had made it clear however, that the little ladder was the path to certain danger and maybe even dismemberment. His threats were not idle either; a man who’d been working with him once fell into the tank while the big motor was stirring up the mulch and water and seeds. He ended up in the hospital for days.

No, I would not climb the ladder.

Finally, my dad came out, turned off the hose and announced it was time.

Friends started gathering and my dad climbed up on the truck bed, and then very bravely climbed that dangerous little ladder like a pro.

First, there was a loud noise as what I guessed was the water pump started up. Then came the water, shooting out of the hose in a beautiful arc.

Kids continued to gather around the hydroseeder like little shreds of metal sucked into a magnet’s pull.

I inched my way closer and closer to the hydroseeder until the water from the hose stung my skin and I had to back away. Kids were laughing and shouting and running in and out of the spray, elusive as the rainbows that formed and disappeared as the water changed direction.

We must have stayed outside all afternoon, playing in the water that shot from the hydroseeder’s big hose. Or, maybe it was only 30 minutes.

When the tank finally ran out of water, or my dad or us kids tired out, we rolled out our towels on the driveway and let the sun dry us off.

“Will you bring the hydroseeder home next Saturday Dad?” I asked.

“We’ll see.” He said, smiling.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


I've always wanted to make homemade soft pretzels.

Also, I have recently realized the need to try some "food storage" recipes so we can use and rotate our food storage and not be shocked and disgusted when we finally have to eat from it.

We have a spiffy food storage cookbook. It tells how to make all kinds of things like cheese and saltines crackers and charcoal briquettes. But for some reason I didn't think my family was ready for a meal like "Basic Boston-Baked Bulgur. (OK, it's me...I wasn't ready for Basic Boston-Baked Bulgur.)

Then I saw the recipe for soft pretzels and this afternoon I was able to kill two birds with one wheat grinder!

Yes, that is right. First I ground up whole wheat and used it to make the dough. The dough was about 50% whole wheat and 50% AP white.

The dough went through several risings, then I got to roll out the dough, cut strips and twist them into pretzel shapes and let them rise again.

After another 40 minutes, I had to submerge them in salted boiling water for about 2 seconds each, place them on the baking sheets, brush with beaten egg white and sprinkle with Kosher salt.

This whole process took me all afternoon. I will probably not be trying it again.

The pretzels were really good, but the effort required to produce them was enough so that dinner was a pretzel with cup of milk, a little fresh pineapple and vanilla ice cream.

Still, I made pretzels! And now the boys are playing "Pretzel man" and threatening each other with "The Pretzel of Death."

I love Sundays.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


I made these jammies just for me: extra long with floor-sweeping luxury. At 5 feet, 10 inches, most anything I buy from the store that is meant for legs sits right at "flood stage" on me. So not cool.

Luckily PJ bottoms are nice and easy to sew (trust me, or I wouldn't even attempt them) and a cinch to alter, length-wise.

I used a funky lime green cherry printed flannel and accented with a hot pink satin at the bottom. They are so cozy, if I didn't have a strict rule about not wearing PJ's to the grocery store, I'd be wearing these babies 24/7.

Anyone else craving a cherry-lime ricky from Sonic? Anyone, anyone?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Books I Could Not Buy

I was off to Borders this morning, gift certificates in hand, ready to buy. I was surprised at the books I didn't find.

No Penderwicks (had the second but not first in series)
No Elegance of the Hedgehog (based on library waiting list, a popular book)
No Diary of A Wimpy Kid, The Last Straw (we already have it, but someone else was trying to find it and couldn't.)
No Airborn or Skybreaker (well, they did have a mass market copy of Airborn, but I want a book that can be read over and over, not a cheap little paperback.)

I have a little money at Barnes and Noble, so I'll check there for the books I didn't get. Then it's on to for the rest.

Here are the books I could buy:

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
Howl's Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones
The Sea of Trolls, by Nancy Farmer
The Warrior Heir, by Cinda Chima Williams
The Wizard Heir, by Cinda Chima Willimas

I feel a trip to Powell's coming on too! Woo hoo!


The hair looks too "washed" to me.
But the way he's got his thumbs casually hooked in his front pockets is

Only $139.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Sunday Scribblings: Pilgrimage

“I think I’ve got an in.” Angela said. “My boss has a friend who is a member and can get us on the guest list.”

I couldn’t believe one of my life goals was this close to being fulfilled. Along with all the responsible goals about a career and money and education, I had, long ago, made several “vanity” goals: goals that had no real purpose other than to sit on the horizon of “someday before I die.”

I didn’t work to make progress towards accomplishing these goals, mostly because they were so completely out of reach financially.

My goal to fly on the Concorde from New York to London materialized after my dad told me about staying in a hotel near Heathrow airport in London and hearing the legendary planes taking off and landing. To be honest, his tales of their speed and adjustable nose cone meant very little to me at the time, but once I realized what it really meant to fly across the Atlantic at Mach 2 I knew I wanted to experience it.

My Concorde dreams were crushed when the fleet of planes was permanently grounded in 2000, but I still had other vanity goals to cling to. Club 33 was one of them.

Club 33 is the ultra exclusive Disneyland club created by Walt Disney himself. Membership is expensive and the waiting list can be up to 10 years long. Members gain access through the nondescript door in New Orleans Square with a key card. The second level lobby is filled with antique furniture collected by Lillian Disney and used in movies like Mary Poppins.

Members can invite guests to enter the club and dine from a menu of fancy food at astronomical prices, but the experience of sitting in such an exclusive part of Disneyland would, of course make it all worth whatever price was required.

When we decided to take the kids to Disneyland, I told my sister my goal of eating at Club 33 and she made it her personal mission to make it a reality. And now she had a contact. Someone who knew someone. Club 33 was in my sites.

“Now, you know you will pay a lot for lunch.” Angela reminded me. “Be prepared to spend around $300 for your family.”

Three. Hundred. Dollars.

“Are you there?” Angela said.


“You know it will be worth it. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

“Yeah, um….”

Lifetime vanity goal or food budget for the entire 3 day vacation? I didn’t have to think about it too long. Besides, if I skipped Club 33 this time, I could still keep it as a goal, something so amazingly unattainable for which I still held out reason to hope.

Then it became clear: the idea of the impossible journey…the flight on the Concorde, the lunch at Club 33, or a vacation at a private villa on Lake Como was what I treasured. The idea was something I could have always, something I could ponder and imagine. And in those blissful moments of solitude, take a pilgrimage of the mind.

My son standing at the door of Club 33

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Too Much Work

TV hasn't been the same since we got rid of our satellite TV service and our digital video recorder.

I have to order my life around the TV schedule, to be sitting right in front of it when the show I want to watch comes on. And if the phone rings or the kids come in and start talking during the program...forget it.

There is no "pause" and no going back.

I suppose I could record a TV show using our VCR and regain the powers of "pause" and "fast forward", but that would require us to set the clock on the VCR, which just seems like too much work. Plus, who KNOWS where the VCR manual is.

I have watched one show on line, which was fine, but there was only a spinning office chair to sit in and no ottoman or soft pillows and cushions.

Not so comfy.

So, sorry TV. You are just too much work for me. And what I find most interesting is that I don't think I'll miss it at all.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Book Review: Impossible by Nancy Werlin

Things that might make me partial to Impossible by Nancy Werlin:

1. Nancy Werlin herself took time to comment on my last post even though she is clearly a busy writer, with an average of one published book every two years for the last 14 years and a few really nice honors to boot.

2. According to the acknowledgment section at the end of the book, Ms. Werlin wrote most of it while sitting in Panera. Not only does this sound incredibly fun and relaxing, but also delicious? After spending 12 carb-free days, the idea that this book was composed near a warm hunk of bread slathered in butter with a creamy soup on the side made my mouth water.

3. Robert got this book for me for Christmas and if you know Robert, you know he does his research. The thought of the time and effort he spent to get me Impossible for Christmas made me love it even before I started it.

Things that made Impossible by Nancy Werlin great:

1. I love great characters and this book is full of them. There is compassion and love and devotion. Then there is evil. The bad guy. The "impossible" to defeat threat who seems to be in total control. I like a bad guy that makes me worry a little, and the Elfen Knight really stressed me out.

2. There are some tense moments in Impossible that could have been written in a more graphic way but were not. Lack of description in these instances does not result in a murky story. In fact, Werlin is able to make it perfectly clear what is happening, creating all the right emotions, without having, how should I say it...TMI. One of my favorite scenes in the book is when Lucy, the main character, is having a heart to heart with her best friend. There is a sweet moment, again, not overburdened with all the details, where her friend offers some much needed advice at an important time. Sometimes it's nice to not have everything spelled leave room for imagination.

3. Impossible's surprise message, for me, was that no matter how strong and capable you are, sometimes you need the help of friends and family to overcome your challenges. I don't want to give away too much of the story, which I do recommend you read, but the evil Elfen Knight's biggest strategy in keeping Lucy's ancestors from completing their "impossible" tasks and breaking the curse was to isolate them. They were isolated in birth and in life. They were isolated socially and mentally and even sometimes physically.

After reading a lot of "girl power" books, where girls can do anything and everything with out any help (and I don't mind that kind of book at all) Impossible was a refreshing change.

4. The story is completely engaging. I read the book straight through on Saturday. I couldn't wait to find out how everything ended. And the ending is perfect.

Friday, January 9, 2009

And the Winner is...

Thank you so much for your feedback on my "first line" survey. After tabulating your votes (including one on Facebook) the winner with 3 votes is Impossible (YA) by Nancy Werlin. (Quote #1) I am excited to read this book for several reasons.

First, Nancy Werlin is a National Book Award Finalist for her book "Rules of Survival," which means that her writing is highly acclaimed.

Second, Robert got me this book for Christmas after lots of research and investigation. However, part of his investigation included writing down books I had requested from the library. At the time he made note of the title, I was pretty far back on the waiting list. By Christmas, I was #1 on the waiting list. So Robert told me I could read the library copy and take this one back and choose something else.

Third, it combines suspense, fantasy and romance for an intensely page-turning and masterful tale.

I have to give a little credit to the two books which tied for 2nd place with 2 votes each.

Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book (YA) has been widely anticipated in the kid lit world. (Quote #4) I've had it on my list for months even though I really didn't care for the other Neil Gaiman books I've read. The Ananzi Boys did not float my boat, and Coraline was fine in a creepy kind of way.

Additionally, I just finished a book by a different author that had a Neil Gaiman "blurb" on the back (something about how the book was perfect and gripping and the best thing ever) and I really didn't care for that book.

I'm starting to think that Mr. Gaiman and I just have different tastes.

The reason I want to read this book is simply peer pressure. Everyone is raving, there is a high demand on the library's waiting list, so therefore, I must have it. Shallow, I know, but there you have it.

The other 2 vote book was If You're Reading This, It's Too Late by Pseudonymous Bosch (Middle Grade) (Quote #9). This is a sequel to Bosch first book, The Name of This Book is Secret.

Personally, I think he's laying on the reverse psychology a little thick.

I mildly enjoyed the first book and when the second book came out I thought, "sure, why not."

Do NOT click here to go to his blog and learn more about the series.

One final note to Betsy: It's not referring to food.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

First Lines

Writers understand that very first line of every story they write is absolutely critical. It is the first sentence that will give readers motivation to read sentence number two and maybe (if the second sentence was any good) the rest of the book.

I have nine library books I want to read, but am not sure which one I should choose. I know I will get to at least eight of them eventually, so this is far from a major dilemma.

I wondered though, if I had to choose which book to read based on the first line alone, which would I choose? Which would you choose?

Time for a survey!! Please tell me in the comment section, which book you would choose based on first lines. Also, if you recognize any of these first lines and would like to put a plug in for the rest of the book, that would be super duper.

1. "On the evening of Lucy Scarborough's seventh birthday, after the biggest party the neighborhood had seen since, well, Lucy's sixth birthday, Lucy got one last unexpected gift."

2. "The island of Gont, a single mountain that lifts its peak a mile above the storm-racked Northeast Sea, is a land famous for wizards.

3. "There was no possibility of taking a walk that day."

4. "There was a hand in the darkness and it held a knife."

5. "The rain had been coming down for hours, yet every flash of lightning still made Tallulah jump."

6. "There are plenty would call her a slut for it."

7. "You must go back with me to the Autumn of 1827"

8. "In all those lessons for which I was made to memorize chants and prayers I never used, couldn't our temple priestesses have taught one--just one!--lesson on what to do with a boy who is too smart for his own good."

9. "The flashlight pierced the darkness
The flashlight slashed through the darkness
The flashlight beam sliced through the darkness like a sword
The flashlight beam darted - yes! - across the dark hall, illuminating a wondrous collection of antique curiosities."

OK, that's it. What do you think? Please comment. This will not only help me figure out which book to read, but also help me learn what makes a good first line.


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Mom's Cleaning Service


Date: 7 January 2009

To: All kids who don't do chores

From: Mom

Subject: Mom's Cleaning Service

Effective immediately, the Nelson household will be offering a cleaning service for your convenience. To request the cleaning service simply fail to perform, in a timely manner, your previously agreed-upon chores. The cleaning service (Mom) will do them for you. Just like that.

Price List

Make Bed - 25 cents

Clean Hamster Cage - $1.00

Pick up Clothes - 10 cents per item

Clean Room - 50 cents

At this time, Mom's Cleaning Service is only able to offer a limited number of specific cleaning specialties. However over time, and as you grow in responsibility, more fantastically simple chores may be assigned for you to shirk, at which time, Mom will charge you for doing those too.

Payment due at the time services are performed.

I love you.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Great Book Alert

The book I am about to recommend is a young adult fiction that I believe could have as wide appeal as the Harry Potter books.

I am not saying I think the book will go super-sonic and sell billions of copies world wide and that there will be a release party at Barnes and Noble this fall when the third book comes out. (Unless we plan one! Anyone? Anyone?)

What I AM saying is that this book is exciting almost from the start. The main character is a young boy who is as endearing and lovable as Harry Potter, but he is definitely NOT Harry Potter.

I guess what I really want to get across is that if you find yourself shunning young adult or juvenile fiction because you are older than 20 and beyond childish things, think again. You could love this book the same way billions worldwide have loved Harry Potter.

The book.... (drum roll please)

...Airborn by Kenneth Oppel and it's follow up book, Skybreaker.

I just finished Skybreaker last night and think it was even better than Airborn. In fact, I had a horrible night's sleep due to the fact that I couldn't stop dreaming about the adventure and the characters and it was very disturbing because my dreams were a little tense.

Matt Cruse is a cabin boy on board a luxury airship in a world much like our own, but different. He is thoroughly at home in the air, has no fear of heights or of falling. In fact, he almost believes that if he fell, he just might be able to fly.

One of the passengers aboard the ship happens to be a bold, determined and slightly impetuous young girl. Kate DeVries soon compels Matt to help her on her quest to validate the observations and scientific research of her late grandfather.

Enter air pirates, a shipwreck and ferocious wild animals and I could not put this book down.

Like I said, I loved Skybreaker even more than Airborn and can not wait for book three, Starclimber.

Reserve these books at your library or go and buy them now!

Seriously, stop reading this. Go!

p.s. I would love to see this series become a movie as long as they could hire someone competent enough to make it utterly amazing.

p.p.s. Check out this website for info on the trilogy.

Monday, January 5, 2009

It Snowed Again

Yep, that's right. Last night around 6pm it started snowing and piling up. Slowly piling, but piling none the less.

I started to wonder if I was going to have to make good on my threat to buy my own plow and ruin our budget for the next 10 years. Luckily I-Shuan said she'd go in on it with me.

Good news though. We can both keep our moola because the snow turned to rain and this morning...clear roads! Yipee!

Now I sit here with a messy house and no TV. Robert has not even hooked up the rabbit ears yet, so I'm relying on our skimpy collection of VHS tapes and DVDs to entertain Isaac while I tackle 3 weeks of boyed-up bathroom and a bunch of other stuff.

Time to get to work and I'm perfectly happy, thank you very much.

Friday, January 2, 2009

What? No!!!!!

It snowed last night.


I remember reading in bed and then falling asleep to the amazing sound of pounding rain. I love it when rain fully commits to raining and just goes for it.

This is what happened all day yesterday. I could hear it coming down on the roof, the windows and even the street. It was that loud. Wonderful.

I remember waking up sometime during the night and realizing the rain had stopped and feeling a bit sad. Of course the reason I couldn't hear rain anymore was because it was snowing. Ugh.

If snow keeps these kids from going back to school on Monday I will buy a snow plow* and personally plow every street on the bus route myself.

Now, for a bit of book news.

The Cybils are awards given by children's and young adult literary bloggers each year. The finalists for 2008 have just been announced which is good news for you.


Because, if you enjoy reading kid lit, or know a kid who needs a few good book recommendations, then the Cybils list of finalists is a dragon's hoard of good book suggestions.

Categories include:

Easy Readers
Fantasy and Science Fiction
Fiction Picture Books
Graphic Novels
Middle Grade Fiction
Non-Fiction MG and YA
Non-Fiction Picture Books
Young Adult Fiction

I found a few books to add to my library request list. I'll have to wait a few weeks to make the requests until I work through the tall pile I have on my nightstand.

*Yes, I realize this would totally blow my New Year's goal to save money.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Good Morning 2009!

I love New Year! It's like I'm looking at this fresh start, full of potential spread out in front of me. Fabulous!

This year I want to be more healthy.

This year I want to increase my spirituality.

This year I want to save money.

This year I want to take the next step on my path to becoming a professional writer.

Those are my goals, out in the open, for all to see. That makes me a bit nervous. Now you will all know if I fail. But you will also know if I succeed. The pressure!

Health - With the abundance of super yummy food during the holiday season and in the candy aisle at Walgreens combined with the irritating reality that my dryer is certainly shrinking my jeans a little more each week, I've decided to spend 2 weeks on South Beach's phase one diet.

I've completed South Beach phase one before with great success. First, my cravings for sweet snacks dramatically reduced. Second, I lost weight. That gave me the motivation to keep going and continue making healthy eating choices.

In addition to my food make-over, I'm going to start walking at an indoor track 3 times a week.

Spirituality - I love any chance to multi-task so during my indoor track walks, I'll be listening to a downloaded General Conference talk, or some other kind of spiritually uplifting fare on my iPod.

Money - Warning: Our crazy strategies for saving money might shock you, so read on with caution. We. Are. Getting. Rid. Of. TV. Ahhhh!

OK, we are keeping the television set. How else would we play our new Wii? We are canceling our Dish service and will not have cable or anything. We will get "free" TV via the good old fashioned rabbit ears until February. Then we will get one of those new-fangled converter boxes.

Another money saving strategy: No eating out. This includes happy meals (yes, we've told the kids) and burrito supremes as well as sit down, order-from-a-menu joints. The good news is this will probably help with my "health" goal a little bit.

Writing - I haven't really come up with a concrete way I'm going to take my writing to the next level in 2009. I'd certainly like to get published in Vancouver Family Magazine on a regular basis, and possibly another magazine with maybe a bigger readership. I've always wanted to get published in "The Friend." I'll figure something out and let you know...or not.

Happy 2009 everyone!