Tuesday, July 29, 2008

One Man's Trash is Another Man's... Trash

I used to lead a writer's workshop at a local bookstore. I know, you aren't surprised because of my dazzling writing skillz... actually I'm not a fantastic writer, but I AM a pretty good writing cheerleader, and a really good editor. I guess being around books so much and dealing with publishers and being former editor of my high school and college newspapers made me OK at it.

Anyhoo, so I had this group of writers and we met once a month and had critique sessions (scary) and writing exercises (fun) and readings (scary-fun). It was my job to organize the meetings, plan the itinerary, communicate with the members, and facilitate the meetings. I loved finding fun writing exercises to do and this one was my favorite.

BookMamma's junk drawer
BookMamma's Junk Drawer. Er... one of many.

Look into your junk drawer and list 10 things that are in it:
1. birthday candles from Finn's 2 year birthday
2. an ice scraper for the car's windshield
3. a bronze colored key to God knows what
4. friend's wedding invitation from last Fall
5. a baby chick Pez dispenser from Easter
6. a used-up iTunes gift card
7. a pack of multi-colored Sharpies
8. a pumpkin spice scented tea candle
9. bottle of Purell hand sanitizer, 1/4 full
10. two mini-cans of Play-Dough

Now - we were usually in a round-table type setting, so then everyone would pass their list two places over and each writer would then create a character sketch about who the drawer belongs to.

I loved stuff like this because I am a nerd (Sindarin Elvish, anyone?) and I have pages and pages of "would-be-book-maybe-some-day-when-I'm-not-so-busy" writing material.

Maybe in another life I could be a writer, but not this one. My writer's discipline stinks

Saturday, July 26, 2008

"By the Power of Grayskull... I Have the POWER!"

I love our public library. The children's librarians are super cool and have totally retro movie selection on the shelves, like this Sesame Street "Old School" DVD:

I actually remember watching this one as a kid...

They also have the original Transformers and Finn & Eli's current obsession... HE-MAN, MASTER OF THE UNIVERSE!!

I had a crush on He-Man as a girl.
Yeah, he has a stupid page-boy haircut, and when he's Prince Adam (He-Man's equivalent of Clark Kent) his voice sounds like Buddy from "Charles In Charge". How none of his friends ever figure out that Prince Adam is He-Man is beyond me. They look exactly the same except He-Man wears this sexy animal shag speedo. I had a She-Ra costume when I was seven... who everybody knows is He-Man's twin sister.

The thing I didn't expect when we checked the DVD out was how the morals of each episode are really good. They certainly clobber you over the head with them, but they are thoughtful and timely, even twenty-something years later. Stuff like the old great power = great responsibility argument, and how compassion and respect are not easily practiced (or rewarded) but always the Right Thing To Do.

I have zero problem letting the boys watch it... even if all the women are at least double D's and have short skimpy skirts perched on top of mile-high legs. Most, if not all, of the women depicted are strong and warrior-like - none of that "damsel in distress" baloney.

They did a live-action version in 1987 but it wasn't good. I think it's time to dust He-Man off, give it another go, and cast this guy as the lead:

He can be the Master of MY Universe....

Note to Hotwheels Hubs: I KID, I KID. This person is nothing to me, and I am not the slightest bit attracted to him. I only use his image to make my bloggy friends think I'm trendy and cool. That is all. I don't even know his real name!
(Jason Lewis)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Etsy is Exquisite... OR - the Tomato Post

I have just discovered Etsy and oh... I'm in love.


Is that not the coolest thing ever?? It's a book purse!
(Somebody tell my husband because I'm not spoiled enough yet.)

I think I need it as a reward for canning over 42 quarts of tomatoes with my mom today. And 8 quarts of herbed vinegar. If I did the math it would even out, right?

Canning Goddess!

Let's see here...

Quart jars = $16
Tomatoes, 1 bushel = $32
Homegrown peppers = about $3 worth
Cider vinegar = $7.50
Home grown herbs = about $15 worth
Garlic = $2
My time = $45.85 (@ minimum wage)
$121.35 = cost to can tomatoes

$30 = amount to buy same amount of tomatoes at Costco

$91.35 in the RED.
Hm. Well. That didn't quite work out.

Oh yeah.. then there's this:
Learning how to can tomatoes from my mom and getting some early Christmas presents done in July = PRICELESS.

There. That looks better. Etsy, here I come!!!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Gargantula Tarantula!

So you heard about the ginrmous spider that we saw at the beach...

Big thanks to fairybookmother for the lolcat!



Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Big Read's Most Wanted List

I saw this over at Simply Shannon's place, and I found it pretty interesting. According to The Big Read the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books on this list. Methinks some English teachers have been waaayyy down on the job...

Books have always been a big part of my life and I'm intrigued - how many have you read?

Look at the list.

Bold those you have read.

Italicize those you intend to read.

Underline the books you LOVE.

Ready? Set.... GO!

1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien

3. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte

4. Harry Potter Series - JK Rowling

5. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

6. The Bible (at least parts of it)

7. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte

8. 1984 - George Orwell

9. His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman

10. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens

11. Little Women - Louisa M Alcott

12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy

13. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller

14. Complete Works of Shakespeare - covered most of it...

15. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier

16. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien

17. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks

18. Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger

19. The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger

20. Middlemarch - George Eliot

21. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchel

22. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald

23. Bleak House - Charles Dickens

24. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy

25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams

26. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh

27. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck

29. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll

30. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame

31. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy

32. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens

33.Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis

34. Emma - Jane Austen

35. Persuasion - Jane Austen

36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis

37. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres

39. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden

40. Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne

41. Animal Farm - George Orwell

42. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown

43. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving

45. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins

46. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery

47. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy

48. The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood

49. Lord of the Flies - William Golding

50. Atonement - Ian McEwan

51. Life of Pi - Yann Martel

52. Dune - Frank Herbert

53. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons

54. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen

55. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth

56. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

57. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens

58. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon

60. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

61. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck

62. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov

63. The Secret History - Donna Tartt

64. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold

65. Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas

66. On The Road - Jack Kerouac

67. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy

68. Bridget Jones’ Diary - Helen Fielding

69. Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie

70. Moby Dick - Herman Melville

71. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens

72. Dracula - Bram Stoker

73. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett

74. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson

75. Ulysses - James Joyce

76. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath

77. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome

78. Germinal - Emile Zola

79. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray

80. Possession - AS Byatt

81. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens

82. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell

83. The Color Purple - Alice Walker

84. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro

85. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert

86. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry

87. Charlotte’s Web - EB White

88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom

89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90. The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton

91. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad

92. The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks

94. Watership Down - Richard Adams

95. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole

96. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute

97. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas

98. Hamlet - William Shakespeare -
Ummm. isn't this included in #14?

99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl

100. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

66 out of 100, not too bad!
Some of them I have no desire to read (Moby Dick) and some of them are on my To-Do list. Backpacking Dad has made it his mission to get through the doorstop that is War and Peace by Labor Day. (Fitting end-date, no?) He is MUCH braver than I. I think I would try Joyce's Ulysses before W&P.

So - what's your favorite on this list? Which is the WORST title you see here that you've read?
My Favorite (from the list) - Time Traveler's Wife
My Worst (again, list) - Catch-2
What kind of name is Yossarian anyway?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Boy Briefs, Weekend Edition

Random weekend nuggets of fun from the Hotwheel Hacienda...

Finn's Top 10
Finn has discovered the iPod and loves to walk around listening. This is unfortunate because I like my iPod and want to use it for cleaning and working out and in the car. But I'm making Finn a playlist, since some of my songs aren't really (ahem) age-appropriate for my son, and this is what I'm including.

- "Hot Stuff" by Donna Summer

- "Airplane" by Red Hot Chili Peppers

- "Coconut" by Harry Nilssen

A lovely Kermit the Frog version for your viewing pleasure...

- "24 Robbers" by Apostle of Hustle, from the See You On the Moon album

- "Money for Nothing" by Dire Straits

- "Get Rhythym" by Johnny Cash

- anything by Dan Zanes

- "The Christmas Song" by The Chipmunks (I know, GROAN!!)

- "The Distance" by Cake

- "Beat It" by Michael Jackson

A Misunderstanding
At breakfast Finn was talkingtalkingtalking as usual, and our ears perked up when we heard a snippet of conversation...
Finn: "Dat boy was stinky..."

Us: "Huh? What boy?"

Finn: "Dat boy. He was STINKY."

Us: "......."

Finn: "STIN. KY."

Me: "Do you mean... mistaken?"

Finn: "Yah. Stinky. Dat what I said."

I say "so and so was just mistaken" all the time. I never knew he was listening.
Somehow I don't think that one will translate very well at school.

Birthday Boy
Saturday we pawned the kids off to the grandparents and celebrated Caleb's birthday in local style. We got a room at the new four star hotel in town, made reservations at Dolce, and went to see Batman.

I loved the movie, but I'm a geeky fangirl who taught herself how to speak a little Sindarin Elvish back in the day, so I might be kind of biased for the comics/fantasy/sci-fi stuff. (I know, I know... it's hard to believe that I - uber-cool and sophisticated young professional who all aspire to emulate - could be a recovering dork, but it's true.) I liked the noir-ish feel to the movie and thought it was even better than the first Dark Knight. I thought I would be sad to watch Heath Ledger in his "iconic role", but he did it so well and made himself so removed, I barely registed it was him as Joker.

So Happy Birthday Caleb!

You're the love of my life, the Sonny to my Cher, the Gomez to my Morticia, the Bobby to my Whitney. You're the best decision I ever made.

Headed now to make a summer veggie dinner for the Fam...

"Elen silla lumen omentielvo..."
May the stars shine upon the hour of our next meeting!

-- The Geektastic BookMamma

Thursday, July 17, 2008

My Primal Scream

Earlier this week the whole family went to the botanical gardens for the farewell to the dinosaurs. This summer our BG was raided by the most wonderful dinosaur exhibit in the midst of gorgeous flower beds and sprawling green lawns. We spent a lot of time there. I knew Finn would want to go to the Extinction Party when it was finally time for the reptiles to wreak havoc elsewhere.

It was great - not too crowded as big events there tend to be, yummy burgers, huge wedges of watermelon - the works. After dinner the boys joined a group of kids on one of the lawns to play off the food. Hotwheel Hubs and I were hanging out at the picnic tables watching the kids play.

We were about 20 yards away, and happy to see the boys initiating play with other kids. Finn is such a social guy - he has picked up somewhere on the power of an introduction: "Hi, my name is Finn, and this is my little brother Eli, and this is my Mommy and this is my Daddy. Wanna play wid me?" He knows no stranger.

"The Intro" had just been given to a pair of boys that looked to be around six years old. Finn is tall - he doesn't look his age of three at all - most people assume he's five. The trio of boys played pretty good... for about two minutes. We watched as the play became rapidly aggressive, with the older two teaming up on Finn, and Finn not even noticing. He thought it was some sort of Chase game.

One of the boys grabbed Finn and pinned his arms behind his back. The other boy started poking him, jabbing at him with something in his hand. Finn tried to pull away, but Boy #2 held him fast. His face changed from blissfully happy to suddenly frightened. The Poking Boy's face turned hard and cold.

My face?

Words can't describe the rage that washed over my entire body. Caleb felt it too. Pure, unfiltered biology reared its head. I saw how the two Big Boys fed off Finn's fear, and how that made them feel powerful. Even then I hesitated for a fraction of a second - these were somebody's boys too, and they were only a few years older. They didn't deserve to die... paralysis would do, though.

In that fraction, Caleb was on his feet, violently clearing his throat to get the Poker's attention. The Captor was released, and running toward his Mommy.

"Dose guys were mad at me..." Finn is confused and not sure what he did wrong. This makes me even madder - those little shits made me see my baby vulnerable and laid bare like a victim. Now they have somehow made him think it was HIS fault.

And yet...

I know I can't swoop in every. single. time. Someday, I won't be there to see Finn's arms pinned behind his back, and in the meantime, it is up to us to teach him how to handle himself in those situations.

Not only that, it's up to us to teach him how to help the kid at recess who gets cornered and the teacher is nowhere around. The nerd. The dork. The kid in the class who is a little bit... different.
In the spaces where there's nobody looking.

Somebody tell me how to teach that.

As Seen on TV...

At the beach the grownups were able to work a few "date nights" in, and we leisurely strolled along the shops of Pier Park. One of the stores was a place that sold nothing but products from those wacky "ONLY-ON-TV-SO-YOU-BETTER-BUY-IT-NOW-OR-LIE-AWAKE-WONDERING-WHY-YOU-DIDN'T" commercials.

They had the Ped Egg.
(The commercials make me want to vomit and I'm glad I'm not the only one.)

They had the dorky looking Buxton Bag.

Then they had this:
Finn LOVES this ad. When he sees it he gets all excited and says "MMMMmmmmm.... Mom? Mommy? Mom. Can we get one of dose? Yum-yum-yummy!! I love dose... MMmmmm!"
I was tempted, but I refrained. something tells me my puffs wouldn't turn out... right.

I got all excited when I saw these:
dust mopslippers.jpg
Imagine! Now you can track all the dust and crumbs from your kitchen to the living room! From the living room to the bedroom! From the bedroom to the stairs!

But the TRUE and rare find of the evening wasn't so much the product, but the packaging of these:
Tell me you won't add that adjective to your daily vocabulary.
That's almost as good as 'damntastic'.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Time Keeps on Slippin', or, The Three-Week-Old Beach Post

Now that our house has become THE Death Valley for laptops everywhere, it has taken me some time to post about our beach trip we took three whole weeks ago. It feels like it was three whole YEARS ago, and that might work in your favor...

Fresh off the beach I would have been tempted to post a thousand photos and wax ecstatic about every detail of the trip. Now I can sum it up more concisely, in a few highlights.

The Pirate Cruise

Best recreational money I ever spent on a vacation. A two hour cruise on a replica pirate ship where the WHOLE time the crew stays in character, the kids are kept busy, and the parents get margaritas. If you ever go to PCB with little ones (2-8 years old) you must do this.
Pirate-y activities include a water gun attack on an innocent tour boat, swabbing the deck, face painting, pirate limbo & chicken dance, treasure hunting with REAL treasure submerged in the ocean, a great & entertaining pirate crew, stories from the captain, sword fighting, and downtime for moms & dads. Click here for the awesomeness.

Great Friends

Steph & Amy

Pirate Pals find their loot. We buried a plastic container and filled it with beads and lollipops and garish fake plastic jewelry. Marked it with an 'X' and somehow stumbled upon it with shovels.

The Big Boys plan mutiny...

Great Beach Time

The weather was cloudy and that cooled it down enough to go the beach every single day. No sunburns! No heat stroke! The sand was clean and our part of the beach was very private and not crowded at all. Plus, there was some really great...


I have never in my life seen a sea turtle just out in the wild. This one was as big as a basketball and leisurely swam along the shoreline. We walked alongside her for as long as we could!

This was truly horrifying.
Hubs and I were headed for a night walk on the beach when his flashlight pinpointed this humongous wolf spider on the porch. It was the size of a baby tarantula, and we got everybody outside to look at it. When Tyler tried to shoo it off the porch, a BAZILLION BABY SPIDERS scattered all over the place and we all went completely ballistic.
Let me say that again... a BAZILLION BABY SPIDERS.
A BAZILLION. It still haunts my dreams. I have never seen anything like it outside of horror movies.

A few days were full of jellies, and some kids beside us on the beach were netting them and putting them in a bucket. It was cool. And creepy.

"Cwabs!!! Snap-snap! Cwab cwab cwab! It SNAP YOU!"

Lots more pictures in our Flickr albums - link's on the sidebar over there to the right...

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Zucchini Explosion

So Hubs got one of the laptops up and running again, just in time for me to post this fantastic recipe.

In our neck of the woods, we're getting ready for the annual Zucchini Explosion at the Farmer's Market. I was looking around trying to be all Jessica-Seinfield-ish and find new ways to use all the zucchini that will be invading when I found this recipe over at Pinch My Salt.

It's super easy and 100% homemade so you can take all the credit for a pretty simple breakfast/dessert.

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins

1/4 C. sugar (or Splenda!)
3 T. vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 C. applesauce
2 C. all-purpose flour
2 T. unsweetened cocoa
1 1/4 t. baking soda
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. salt
1 1/2 C. finely shredded zucchini (about 1 medium)
1/2 C. semisweet chocolate chips
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place first 3 ingredients in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at low speed until well blended. Stir in applesauce.
Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 4 ingredients, stirring well with a whisk. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture, beating just until moist. Stir in zucchini and chocolate chips. Spoon batter into muffin cup pan coated with cooking spray.
Bake at 350 degrees for 17 - 20 minutes or until wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack, then remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

Yield: 16 muffins
Nutrition info (per slice): Calories: 161; Fat 5.1 grams; Protein: 2.9 grams; Carb: 27.3 grams; Fiber: 1.4 g; Chol: 27 mg; Sodium: 145 mg

The Domino Effect

A List of Things Broken in My House:

- my Mac, used for BLOGGING, photos, iTunes, recreation

- Hotwheel Hubs' PC, used for both our jobs, finances, serious stuff

- my work VPN connection, but the PC is down so it doesn't matter

- my iPod, won't sync right... I think it's related to the Mac problems

- dishwasher door, won't shut

- ice maker, won't work

- water dispenser, takes exactly 3.5 minutes before water comes out (I timed it)

- all the toilets in our house, run after flushing

- THREE coffeemakers, the usual AND the backup, plus the beloved Senseo

- both lamps in the boys' room

A List of Things Currently Working in My House But If They Break I Will Be Forced to Slit My Wrists:

- the Dyson

- the camera

- the steam mop

- the fridge

- the beer fridge

- the AC

- the TV/Wii/DVR

So until we get this laptop problem fixed I am forced to write posts at home, email them to my work account, and post from work. Stinks. And that means I'm strangely disconnected from bloggy friends for another week.

The upside? I'm reading more! Just finished Stephenie Meyer's The Host (loved it, even more than Twilight series..).

The downside? I miss reading what everyone's up to and replying to comments. I promise to catch up soon!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

In Which Eli is Two

Dear Eli,

A few days ago on Saturday, at 8:27 AM, you turned Two. Eleven hours before, you spent the first night in your new "big boy" room, in a bed your Papa had as a little boy. It wasn't your first time to sleep out of your crib, but I worried just the same about you tumbling out. Needlessly, of course. You don't ever move from one spot once you fall asleep.

The Nutshell Version of the Story of Your Birth:
Two years ago we were celebrating the 4th of July at Nana & Papa's house and I thought the tightening cramps I was having were just more of the same maddening false labor. Truthfully, I didn't think much of it. I had more I needed to do before your debut, and I wasn't quite ready to say good-bye to our convenient little family of three just yet. But the contractions never let up, even into the night, and I knew I needed to wake your Dad when they started getting fast and furious around 3:00 AM.

But I had no idea just HOW fast they would get. I was warned the second time is quicker, and they weren't kidding. Grandmother was called and made it to our house to watch Finn in about 45 minutes, but by then I was having contractions two minutes apart and lasting just as long. And they hurt MUCH worse this time. The drive to the hospital seemed to take forever but we made it just in time. No messing around for me when we arrived to Admitting - I was in a room and a gown five minutes later.

Then my water broke. And it wasn't quite... right.

Dr. T was on his way, and the nice guy with the fabulous drugs came in and did his thing while we waited for him. This all took about 20 minutes.

Upon inspection, it turned out that you, my Dear Second-Born Son, were perfectly happy being upright, and had no intention of flipping upside down to do things the easy way. You couldn't be bothered... it was warm and you were comfortable - why leave? So they had to take your freaked-out Mamma into surgery for the first time in her life to get your breech-ass out.

Thankfully, it happened so fast, I couldn't get too scared. The next thing I knew, I was so numb I couldn't feel myself breathing and thought I was suffocating. And then there you were. With your dark curly hair and your fat baby cheeks (where DID you get those huge chubby cheeks?) and your blue eyes that proved how strong your Grandaddy's genes are. And you were so perfect and unblemished - not a single mark on your body for making your way into this world.

Nanna gets a whiff of the brand-new baby cheeks.

You were ravenous, and have been a good eater since Day One. You still are. Just tonight you dove into plate of rotini with tomato sauce and inhaled it in about six minutes, carefully selecting the broccoli spears for deposit underneath the dinner table. I had to turn my head to keep you from seeing me laugh.

Daddy's first look.

Happy Birthday, My Little Man. At the moment your favorite word is "NYO!" and you are fond of pulling your brother's hair when he aggravates you. But you are just as likely to stomp up to me and ask to be held, squeezing my neck and patting my shoulder with your fat little hand. I am preparing myself for the tough months ahead, but look forward to the spaces between the power struggle, when your wonder and sweetness are fierce and frequent.

Dudes, this was exactly five weeks from birth. You can't tell me that's gas...

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Where's BookMamma?

So I've been longer getting back to the blog than I thought.

I'll be back next week and look forward to hearing what you've all been up to! Thanks for being patient with me - I'm playing an intense game of catch-up AND planning a Two Year Birthday Party... 'nuff said.
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