~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Years

Wishing you the best New Years ever.We're grateful for your support.

May you get your heart’s desire and more.

Go and conquer 2013!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Merry Post-Christmas!

Hi all!

I had a wave of adorableness overtake me, and I felt I had to post these little penguins playing Jingle Bells. It's a few days past Christmas, but we can still be merry and bright, right?



Happy Holidays, and the Best New Year!


Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays

We just wanted to wish you a beautiful holiday season.

Thank you for reading our blog and commenting on our posts. You brighten our days.

We're so grateful for you!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

My ridiculous family party

The holiday season is filled with twinkling lights, food galore and presents. Not to mention uncles who drink beer and pray to Santa, aunts who are hyped up on substances and a grandmother that will stop at nothing to embarrass you.

I love the holiday season but the family interaction is enough to drive us mad. Yesterday was my family Christmas party. My Auntie is coming off of heroin and boy, is she a treat. She's trying so hard to stay away from substances that she's popping antihistamine’s left and right. So much that she drops one on the floor and my dog nearly ingests it.

Seriously, Auntie get a grip. A four pound dog hyped up on allergy tabs is the last thing we need over the holidays. Can only imagine what a pill would do to a little dog? She'd be pacing the floor, her head wouldn't stop moving and her eyes would be dilated.

Thank heavens my grandma saved the day. She swooped my dog up into her arms and yelled, "That's what she said."

If you're baffled, well then, so was I.

The room went quiet as we all tried to figure out why my grandma yelled, "That's what she said."

It then dawns on me that she has NO idea what that phrase means or how to use it. So the rest of the night my grandma wouldyell repeatedly, "That's what she said."

And how do you tell your grandma what the phrase means? You don't. You let the moment pass because she will forget what she's saying in less than an hour.

Seriously, when will the family parties end? On a brighter note, this holiday season has been filled with reconciliations, hope and joy. The holiday season can be stressful but it can also bring unexpected surprises that heal your heart.






Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas Food! Overnight Caramel French Toast and Spiced Nuts


Merry Christmas! Please don't get up. Just sit there and read this lovely recipe that makes a perfect Christmas morning breakfast. Since you make it the night before, it's all ready to pop into the oven at 4:00 a.m. when the little people around your house wake you up Christmas Day.

The second recipe is for unbelievably more-ish spiced nuts--a wonderful recipe that will give your local Spiced-Nuts-in-a-Christmas-Kiosk-at-the-Mall a run for their money. I even managed to get a few pictures. Not so for the fabu French Toast. Ah well. It's good anyway.
And now, Voilá! Caramel French Toast:

Wicked-Good Overnight Caramel French Toast
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
12-ish slices French bread, crusts trimmed (Actually any heavy white bread works fine. Leave crusts on if soft)
1 1/2 cups whole milk
6 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
Ground cinnamon

-Combine sugar, butter, and corn syrup in pan. Stir over medium/low heat until butter melts and sugar dissolves. Do not boil. (If you accidentally do, invest in a good jack hammer.)
-Pour into 13x9x2-inch glass dish (I'm serious with this. It's a nightmare to get out of a metal dish. Night. Mare.) Tilt to coat the bottom.
-Arrange 6 slices (or whatever will fit) of bread on caramel mixture.
-Whisk milk, eggs, vanilla, and salt. Pour half over bread in pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon, to taste.
-Layer remaining slices of bread on, to cover. Pour remaining egg-mixture on top. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
-Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, or several hours.
-Bake uncovered at 350 degrees until bread is puffy and golden-brown. 40-50 minutes. A knife inserted will come out clean.
-Eat entire thing yourself. Unless you live with judgmental people. Then you'll probably have to share. Also, please, for the love of a calm psyche, don't pour syrup on this. It contains enough sugar to get you to the top of Everest if you need to. And it's moist. Trust me.

And now, TA-DAAAA! One of my Christmas favs:

Spiced Nuts
3/4 cup sugar
3 T. water
1 egg white, beaten slightly
1 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
2 cups pecan halves
1 1/2 cups whole almonds 

-Place first eight ingredients in a bowl and mix.
-Stir to coat.
-Spread evenly in a greased or parchment lined baking sheet (Parchment please. Much easier cleanup. Tried waxed paper--nightmare. It disappeared into the pan and had to soak for quite a while before it could be coaxed out again. Baking parchment is our friend.)
-Bake at 250-degrees for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes

(The time will vary depending on altitude and relative humidity. Also on whether or not you doubled the recipe, which I always do because we can't stop eating these. The coating just needs to be mostly dry and clinging to the nuts when you take it out of the oven. Any minor moisture will harden. Be sure to stir thoroughly each time. Last time I made this at sea-level I baked it at 275, and that helped the time.)


Pictures! But just a few because I was so into making these I forgot to take them. But you have wonderful imaginations don't you? Just imagine mixing the sauce ingredients together. You can do it. I have faith in you.


Nuts with coating. Don't they look luscious? No idea why my lighting makes everything look yellow. We'll call it 'antique lighting.' Yeah, I like that.  Incidentally, I was out of pecans and there was no way in hinkypunk I was going out into Christmas traffic to buy more, so I used macadamia nuts. Yum-ola. Not even kidding.

Stirring the nuts. Stirring the nuts. Stirring the nuts.

All done. Note how the coating has cooked into the nuts except for a crispy bit on the outside? Note how we originally baked these for neighbors but selfishly decided to eat them ourselves? I'm sorry! I didn't mean to! Except, I did.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Horrifyingly Amazing O Holy Night

Dudes. I'm hijacking Maegan's day because I simply must share this video with you. It is inspiring, filled with sincerity, and a whole lot of what looks like emotion-based seizures. This dude is brilliant. Perhaps you've heard the terrible-horrible-no-good-very-bad version of O Holy Night, and it has made you a better person, as it has me. But I'll bet you haven't seen an awesome lip-syncing dude of awesomeness tripping along it like this:




Yeah *weep*. I know. I'm all verkelmpt-y and Chrismas spirit-y and stuff now too.  Peace and joy, babies.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Some holiday goodies to share with you


This is the time of holiday cheer and we have many reasons to celebrate.

One of our blogging friends has signed with an agent. Major congrats to Sara B. Larson on her incredible achievement. We're so excited for you and rooting you on all the way. Sara has taught me that determination, grit and perseverance can help you achieve your dream.http://sarablarson.blogspot.com/2012/11/traditional-picture.html

This holiday season is one filled baking. For a great baking book try our dear friend, Loraine Scott's recipes. http://www.amazon.com/Time-Bake-Cookies-Bars-ebook/dp/B007Z59I24/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1354572438&sr=1-4&keywords=loraine+scott

If you are into baking bread here is another option written by our very own writing group members, Caleb Warnock and Melissa Richardson. http://www.amazon.com/Art-Baking-Natural-Yeast-Pancakes/dp/1462110487/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1354572299&sr=1-1&keywords=caleb+warnock

This is one of my fave reads this year-ZOMBIES! If you need to decompress from the holiday stress, check out this novel by Candace Gleave. Warning, you will get hooked. http://www.amazon.com/Big-Game-Hunting-Zombie-Short/dp/1470098318/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1354572469&sr=1-3&keywords=candace+gleave

Friday, November 30, 2012

Peace On Earth Starts Here

It's been very cricket-y around here lately. I don't mean that a bunch of British guys in cream colored dockers and argyle sweaters have been running back and forth between the top and bottom of this blog smacking a ball with something that looks like a canoe oar. I mean it's been quiet. Cricket-chirp quiet.

Russo is up to her perfectly coiffed and hair-pieced head in final exams. Maegan has been fairly awash (see what I did there? See how I alluded to the fairies in Maegan's book with the word "fairly"? Umhmm. You wish you were so clever) in animal ailments as an itinerate vet's assistant, and I--well, I've actually been here on this blog, because my life is so very gob-smacked with children that I've gotta have someplace to come chillax and talk with adults and get my brain stretched on topics other than whether or not my environmentally safe laundry detergent is really getting the ketchup and cupcake and grass stains out of my kids' clothes.

See, for me this blog--and all of my other little writing nooks--is a place of peace. It's a place where I can turn my brain inside out, dump out the contents, see what's been rolling around in there for the last week, chuck the drek, expand on the good stuff, and save the questionable for another day. After that, it's like I've been swimming in a vat of Smart Water. I can live again.

Creativity in life is absolutely essential--even if you don't think you're a creative person. It takes creativity to enjoy a sunset, or even to figure out your menu for the day. You grab onto those juices to decorate for the holidays, shop for gifts, write a story, tell a joke, or find a way to compliment someone you love even though you really should tell them that in fact, yes, those pants do make them look fat.

Creativity is all over our lives, and once we've used it all up through the stress of life, we have to find a way to recharge it. Writing does that for me. As do singing, cooking and baking for my family, dancing, drawing, and above all, laughing. What does it for you? Do you have a place to go to recharge? Even just a mental place? Because you are allowed to do that. To find those peaceful, happy  things and embrace them in your life. In fact, the people closest to you in your life should encourage you to find those places. Their life will be easier if yours is. As yours will be if theirs is. I'm sure all y'all love each other enough to help each other with that. (If not, find a new posse, dude.) (Just kidding. Pretty much.)

Here are some of my recommendations for a bit of creative recharge, and good ol' escapism:

Books:
Good Omens  by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Beauty by Robin McKinley
The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone

Movies:
The Decoy Bride



Without a Clue


Got any good recommendations to add to the "Peace and Joy" list?



Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thank you for your support

It's Thanksgiving time which means I've made a mess out of my kitchen. This weekend I did a trial run of cooking a turkey. Yeah, that didn't work. The turkey caught on fire. I don't even know how that happens but it happens with me.

Let's just say, I have some free time on my hands after being kicked out of the kitchen. So, I started to think of all that I'm grateful for in this world. One of the things that I kept thinking of is YOU!

Thank you so much to every single person who reads this blog. Thank you for taking time out of your day to read our writings. You support us and we're so grateful.

Thank you for commenting on our posts. Your comments make us smile.

All of our blogging friends are incredibly talented. We're grateful to have your support.

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Don't give up on your dream

I have learned a valuable lesson-no matter what happens you cannot give up on your dream. Yes, this lesson seems obvious. It's even something that I blabber on and on about but sometimes stress makes you think stupid stuff.

This past week I had to take my yearly blood test. And just like every year before it's an afternoon filled with drama. Last year, the phlebotomist had a hard time finding a vein in my arm. Instead of waiting patiently like every other person I did something ridiculous. I took the needle from the medical professional and found my own vein. Yep, a bad girl past does have its advantages.

I must've caused quite a controversy because this year I saw a sign in the lab that read, "Under no circumstances are patients allowed to draw their own blood."

I couldn't stop giggling. Yep, guess I left my mark at the lab.

I dunno about you but I hate getting my blood drawn. Do you ever have something that no matter what effort you put in you cannot win? The dream seems hopeless and you want to quit.

For me the thing I haven't been able to succeed at is my blood work. For the past six years, I fail the test. My family has history of heart disease. I refuse to die of heart disease so I take drastic measures to pass my test. No matter what I do, I fail my blood test.

This year, I almost gave up. The night before the test I told Jameses, "I quit, I refuse to fast. Why even bother when I'm going to fail anyway."

He convinced me try just one more time.

Guess what-I passed my blood work. My heart and veins are heart disease free.

I had no idea that I was 12 hours away from passing one of the hardest challenges of my life.

Is there something that you want to give up on? You have a dream that no matter what you do it seems hopeless? My friends, try just one more time.

Who knows, you could be one step away from achieving your dream.


Friday, November 9, 2012

Music on a Funky Dunky Dubby Fall Day

Good day, my friends. It's early morning and I'm looking out my window at heavy, full-bellied clouds scudding up against our mountains, and a lovely little storm front scattering the remaining leaves all around my front yard. I love this time of year. It's supposed to snow this afternoon. A totally cool day to spend indoors listening to music as you work. Or stare out the window. Either one works.

Since I am your friend, I'd hate for you to go music-less on a day like today (assuming the weather is anything like moody where you are), so I want to share with you a clip of the amazing Ben Lapps. Because everyone should start their day listening to a 15 year-old slap/finger guitar prodigy. I want to hire this kid to serenade my mornings:



Pay no attention to the skimpily-clad flowing-haired young woman behind Ben. Yeah. The one flipping her hair around and acting like she doesn't know she's on camera. No. Pay attention to Ben. Because this boy not only has great skills, he has a great vibe. Cool. Calm. Unaffected. And full of joy. I hope he stays that way.

Next is a clip of a young woman playing three instruments at once: a violin, a piano, and a stringed instrument of Asian origin whose name I have no knowledge of. It's a short little clip. Which matches her short little shorts. Seriously. Let this serve as the Surgeon General's warning: Gazing Too Long At This Musician-ette's Babydoll Shirt and Shorty Shorts May Be Hazardous To Your Health And Relationships. BUT THAT'S NOT WHAT'S IMPORTANT HERE. No. it's the music. This is clever. And the young woman shows enough proficiency that I'd like to find out her name and hear her full-on rocking-out on the violin. Or piano. Or Asian stringed-thingy.



And finally, this may not be your thing, but anytime I hear about dub-stepped violin music, I pretty much have to listen to it. And okay, this isn't really dub-step. It's kind of a dub-steppy bass line. But it's fun and the scenery is awesome. This is Lindsey Sterling--a terrific violinist/dancer/whackjob, wearing a fabu sleeveless-sweater-hoody-vest that I'd like to own. She's flitting around in an ice-covered-tree forest. Check it:


Yeah. Cool. Kind of want to go there.
*sigh*

Happy Fall Day, dear people. Hope it is crisp, innovative, and glowing.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

What are you fighting for?

Before I forget, our writing friend Scott is launching a new writing class. Here are the details if you're interested. http://www.sleye1stories.com/2012/10/new-weekly-writing-class-coming-to.html He also offers an online writing class which I'm a part of and love.

With that said, this week I've had to realize that there are some circumstances you cannot control in life. Someone very dear to me is losing his eyesight. He's not even thirty yet. I don't write this for sympathy, I'm just trying to understand it. This guy is tough; he was two belts away from a black belt. Yet, his retina is detaching. He had to give up his karate dream to fight for his eyesight.

All the while, I sit here and think about our own dreams. My friends, there are something’s that are out of our control. The only way through the trial is to keep moving and embrace a positive attitude.

We all have faced something freaky. I guess the trick is to learn from the freaky. Our struggles make us a fighter and this is something to be treasured.

Friday, November 2, 2012

What About Bob?

PRE-POST ANNOUNCEMENT! Before I begin today, I'd like to announce something we're REALLY excited about here on Gnomes. You've all heard of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) wherein participants write an entire novel in a month--generally the month of November. Well it started last night at midnight. And we have decided that we want to participate. Woot! But we're doing it our way, and we're calling it: LoGnoBloWriNoMo (Local Gnomes Bloggers Write a Novel in a Month). And  we are taking this SERIOUSLY people! You can tell by all the caps I used when I wrote SERIOUSLY. But it's also low stress: write what you want, when you want, how much you want. Or not. We totally respect all those people who cram out entire novels with plots and everything in a mere 30-ish days, and who don't cheat and come up with it all beforehand, and who all get published and as famous as JK Rowling and stuff. But you know, who likes stress? Sooo. There will be a little tracker over there (see? over there ->) to the right, showing you our progress. We even have a theme. Which is: "Paranormal Love-Triangle. Or possibly Love-Square. And It Could Include Paranormal Turnips and Things Like That." Yep. That's the theme. Cross your fingers for us! Unless you are participating in NaNoWriMo. That would just make it hard for you to type.

On to today's post!

A little while back my youngest dude asked me if he could write something for one of my blogs. This is a very creative and non-linear child, and if you've ever met him or know anything about him (he is regular fodder for my Facebook status updates) you know this is an opportunity not to be passed up. So I said yes, and then waited for the staggering work of heartbreaking genius that would emerge from his little cerebral cortex.

Well, a few days passed and the dudester came to me and said, "I have the post for your blog." Awesome! I asked him for it and he told me he'd email it to me, because he's all techno-savvy, being a a nearly eleven year-old boy.

And this is what he sent:



Eeeyeah. 

So I asked the boy if he was sure this was what he wanted me to post ("yes"), what it represented ("art. duh."), and what he wanted me to do with it. 

"Post it on your blog! Have people write stories about him. His name is Bob."

Oh.Kayyy.

Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Bob. He has no life story. No biography. No curriculum vitae, if you will. My son wants him to have one. Please, please, won't you donate your brain cells to this worthy cause and provide Bob with a life? It can be short, since he clearly is. You may record your epic writing in the comments section of this post. Little Dude is waiting with 'baited breath and chocolate covered oreos.

Give Bob a life! Think of it as your own personal mini NaNoWriMo!

Bless you.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

My adventure into the world of gymnastics

When I was young I wanted to be a gymnast but that task is hard to achieve when you're 6'2. This weekend I got my wish. I went with my niece to her Halloween festival at the gym.

I could've been like every other adult who refused to jump on the trampoline but where's the fun in that?

My goal was simple; show my niece I was into her gymnastic dream. Everything she did, I followed suit. If she walked across the balance beam than I did the same. I might’ve been nervous but I’d have to summon the courage. She wanted me to be a full participant and I wouldn't disappoint.

As a result, I bonked my head on the balance beam. Seriously, who invented the balance beam? Because I wanna smack 'em. On top of that, I banged into the wall after trying the vault Plus, I got stuck in the foam filled pit.

The highlight of the night though was when I simply walked onto the floor exercise pad. I had no idea the floor was so bouncy. The minute I hopped on the floor I fell right off. I know I'm klutzy but couldn't even walk on the padding.

My niece couldn't stop laughing and I couldn't either because I had finally experienced a day in the life of a gymnast. Man, its hard stuff. Sure, I got to do a flip on the trampoline but I also had bruises galore.

 The whole night made me think about our dreams. No matter how many times we fall off or hurt ourselves we have to get up. On top of that, we have to enjoy life. Forget about looking like an idiot just go for your dream.


HAPPY HAUNTING HALLOWEEN from YOUR GNOMIES!

BOOOOOO!



AAAAAAAAAAAH NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!




Friday, October 26, 2012

The Titleless Post Without a Title.



You know what I wish I'd named this post? "Maegan Langer and the Butt Crack of Doom."

Yep. I think that pretty much wins the POST TITLE OF THE YEAR award. Along with all of Russo's that begin with: "I Embarrassed Myself..."

There is, I have discovered, an art to titling things. "Butt Crack of Doom" is far more interesting and evocative than, say, "My Friend And I totally Screamed at a Haunted House." Or "Going Through Big Spongey Things That Remind Me Of Unmentionable Body Parts that My Mom Would Be Horrified If She Knew I Said Them On My Blog. Wait. That's Janiel's Mom. My Mom Would Think It Was Funny. Never Mind."

Yeah. Much better.

And frankly, anything with the words "Panic Attack," "Hair Extensions," "Vomit," or "Ex-Boyfriend" in the title is an automatic viral post. Because who doesn't want to read about those things? Happening to someone else? Like Russo?

You've definitely got to think about marketing, brand appeal, and shock value when you name something, otherwise people will simply not be hooked, and won't come back for more. It's something Maegan and Russo do brilliantly, and that I am desperate for.

Which is why I've done exhaustive research. And have managed, through said research, to accurately predict, within a margin of about .03xy, the titles of my two pals' most successful future blog posts. I have done so using an algorithm based upon the anatomy of their past post titles. And since you're all my best friend, I'm going to share it with you:

The Algorithm of Maegan And Russo's Past Post Titles:
Z over 5, where Z represents Maegs' and Russe's least boring titles and 5 represents...er...5, multiplied by the number of modifiers they've dangled, divided by the number of letters in their names, and squared to the power of frozen yogurt. With mochi.

Using this modicum of mathematical magic I have discovered not only the titles my gnomies will use in the future, but those which will be wildly successful and lead to major book deals with minor publishers. And because I'm nice this way, I'm going to share them with you. Who knows? Maybe you can use them to get a publishing deal yourself.

Voilá, The List of Future Blockbuster Titles. Copy at will:
  • In Which The Welsh Date a Girl Who Guides Cats
  • Prometheus: On Mars Nobody Can Hear Your Daddy
  • My Hair Extensions Kicked Ballet In A Burger Joint
  • A Gigantic Branch In a Skunk Frazzled by Judy Garland
  • Ylddffyffdyd Sllrpprpdyy Fwy llr Bob.
  • Emma Frost's Devil Raven Posterity
  • Katie Laurie Perry Anne Maria Gibson Sharipova Vomit
  • Ugg Roadblock Alert

And there you have it. I'm exhausted.

Sigh.

I kind of feel like I deserve a Pulitzer.

Or at least a title.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Don't listen to the naysayers- chase your dream

There are going to be a lot of variables when chasing your dream. One minute you're flying high from a victory and the next you experience the blow of failure. To seize your dream you're going to have to find your way through the devastating moments. You can't give up and you can't give in, so what do you do?

You flip the script. Granted, this is a sports term but it still has meaning in your life. Maybe you have been told that you're not smart enough, dedicated enough or you just don't have the chops to chase your dream. Don't listen to the naysayers, instead flip the script.

Work your toukus off so that the naysayers can be left in the dust. Keep going, keep moving.

You're talented beyond measure, my friends and you deserve your dream. I'm rooting you on all the way.

Friday, October 19, 2012

A Moment of Peace

Please Press the Play Button


(Okay, this is Irish music and this post is all about Canada. We all have ancestors from everywhere, right? Just let it flow through you, babes. Its internationalness will speak to your soul.)



Now Gaze:
(Peggy's Cove Lighthouse - Nova Scotia)

(Peggy's Cover proper - Nova Scotia)
(Population 35-42. Sometimes.)


Lust After:
(Halifaxian Boots That I Could Not Afford. Weep!)


Salivate:
(Wicked delicious fare at The Bicycle Thief restaurant, Halifax, N.S. Yep. That's pistachio salmon and pretty potatoes. There were shawls on the chairs in case the wind from the bay froze your toes. I heart that.)


Now Sigh:


This moment of peace brought to you by the Gnome-Butt-Kicking Gnomeslayer, Janiel (and her equally Tush-Tromping Huz, Bruce.) Yeah. It's all about the Atlantic off the coast of Nova Scotia. You want peace? That's where you go. It's where we go'ed, the huz and I. In August. We each needed to remember what the other looked like, so I used some miles to join my boy on a business trip. And it was heaven. 

Can you tell?

Where do you go for peace?


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

An embarrassing run in with my ex-boyfriend

This weekend I've been dealing with some major dental surgery. As a result, I was drugged out of my mind on Lortab. I also happened to bump into my ex at the grocery story. Sadly, the Lortab is gone but the humiliation of what transpired next is still there.

Seriously, who wants to see their former flame while hyped up on Lortab? So, I did what any drugged person in pain would do-I went into hide mode.

I grabbed my friend Jameses and ducked into the Halloween section. I nabbed a pink wig ala Lady Gaga and ducked and turned around every corner. My ex went to the meat department. I ducked into the produce section. All the while my friend, Jameses kept shopping.

He nabbed some bananas and I did my best to stay out of sight, which is pretty hard when you're 6'2. Of course, I'm in spaz-mode so I didn't realize what Jameses is doing. I accidently barrel into my friend while he's holding some bananas. At that moment, I'm covered with smashed bananas. Not to mention, I'm wearing a pig wig.

Yep, nothing says I've gotten over you like a pink wig and smeared banana on your shirt.

To make matters worse, he sees me. We share in this awkward moment of the past colliding with the present. I haven't seen this guy for a decade and this is the moment we happen to meet again. I tell you what, life is tricky but it's also a rush, isn't it?


Friday, October 12, 2012

A Lesson in Gnome Slaying

Look. What we've been trying to say for the past two years is this: When you've got a particularly troublesome gnome bothering you---the gnome of fear, the gnome of despair, the gnome of bad karma, whatever it may be---if you want to get rid of it, nay, to slay it, you must first identify it:



Then determine a course of action and mode of attack:



Then bite it's freaggin' head off.


Problem solved.

Questions?
You're welcome.

(Gnome cookies courtesy of Food For Thought)
(And they were delish.)


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

I pranked my sister- I'm gonna be a Princess at Disneyland

I have sister that is super anal. She plans for the Holidays a year in advance. Me? I try to take things as they come. I plan but I'm not anal. This week my sister, my niece and I went out for some sushi. My second grader niece loves sushi. Me? I'd rather have a burger but whatever.

Sushi seems like a normal thing but not with my sister. She combines all of her rolls of sushi in a ball and eats it. I'm mesmerized by how she can eat eel and tuna together.

Anyways, mid bite of her tennis ball sized sushi she asked me about my New Year’s resolution. It's only October. Seriously, are you really thinking of New Years right now? So, I did what any sister would do, I gave her crap.

I took a bite of my cream cheese avocado roll and said with all seriousness, "In January I'm quitting writing and I'm going to be a Princess at Disneyland."

My sister doesn't move. She stares at me so long I think that she's gone into a coma.

I start to ramble on and on about my options. I tell her my sister that I have dark hair like Belle and like to read, so that could be a perfect fit.

My niece is utterly rapt with this conversation but my sister is stunned.

So, I continue on with my prank. I take a sip of my lemon water and say, "Alice in Wonderland is out because I'd probably get so fed up with the Mad Hatter that I'd punch him. If all else fails, I have the assets to be Ariel but the sea shells might give me hives. I dunno what do you think?"

My sister hasn't touched her food in five minutes. She can't speak.

However, my niece is so into this conversation. She adjusts her sparkly headband and says with all seriousness, "Aunt Russo, Disneyland can't hire Princesses that are 8 feet tall."

"I'm not 8 feet tall, I'm 6'2," I said, with surprise.

Well, now I'm flabbergasted. I want to prank my sister and my niece has out smarted me.

I don't know what to say to my niece. The prank has died.

My niece continues to outsmart me. She chomps down on her lavender ice cream and says, "If you want you could be Goofy."

My sister starts laughing hysterically at the comment. I just sit there thinking, what age do we let our childhood die? My niece is in the second grade and already she knows that Disney has a height requirement for their costumes. Granted, she probably knows this because my sister is the ultimate buzz kill but c'mon.

My friends, I know there are some things that cannot happen. I would never be a Disney Princess because I haven't the patience for it. Even so, we cannot stop believing in the possibilities of life.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Feeling Blue? DON'T GO TO THE E.R.

October Challenge: Fear Factor

Maegs, Russe, and I were eating lunch at a little bake shop last weekend when we discovered a common fear: Bugs. Insects. Spiders. Creepy crawly things. A fear based on sad experience with creatures too disgusting to be allowed. We are not alone. Most women--and my youngest son--would fall right in line with us.

For me the deal was sealed years ago when I walked barefoot into my bedroom after a date. I was just about to plant my foot across the threshold when something told me to STOP. That something was very commanding. So I stopped. Then I reached out, flipped on the light, and looked under my foot where it was just poised to smash to the ground. Right beneath it was a sickeningly GINORMOID brown and hairy wolf spider the size of my palm. GAAAAAAH! I spent an hour and a half trying to vacuum the thing up. It jumped every time I got near it. I screamed. It probably crawled right back out of our Hoover later that night.

Yeah. I have good reason to fear spiders and their ilk.
However, there IS something worse than spiders for me. Worse than snakes. Worse than bats. Worse even than liver. And that thing is: mysterious inexplicable bodily events.

I HATE it when my physical self does some whacked-out medical thing and no one can figure out why. It gives me the gollywobbles. For instance, my eyes will randomly swell shut. No reason at all. A general allergy to the state where I live, apparently. And it takes a week to go away. During that time I feel and look like an alien. Ask my Gnomies. They've been with me for the Attack of the Alien Eyelids on several occasions.

Also, my blood vessels will randomly burst in my fingers and toes. This is probably not good. But no one knows why it happens. Once I was in dress rehearsals for Footloose, dancing away on stage, and the bottom of my foot totally exploded. Had to limp through the rest of the choreography and make it look like that's just how Ren's mom danced.

And childbirth? Baby, don't even get me started (no puns intended.) SO many funky bodily things happen in the course pregnancy and delivery, it ain't remotely funny. Like with my first kid I had to eat a plate of green pimento-stuffed olives every day. Every. Day. I hate green pimento-stuffed olives.

The real problem here is this: unexplained physical things freak me out. And my imagination runs wild and I assume body parts are going to start dropping off and dying from whatever is going on.

Kind of like two days ago. I've been dealing with an elbow injury for the past three weeks. Smashed the living shortcake out of my left funny-bone nerve (which has a name, but not one I know.) I hit that little canal between the radius and ulna so hard that electrical fire blasted down my forearm and out my fingertips for twenty solid minutes. It hasn't been the same since.

So today I see a specialist. But Wednesday night? After my kid's '80's-themed A- Capella concert? I got home and my whole left hand was blue. BLUE. Unmistakably. Freakishly. Thing was clearly not getting oxygen. And I couldn't figure out why. But the nerve in my arm was sending zings down to my hand and pain across my wrist, so I figured something dire was happening.

Long story short, it was 9:00 at night and my doctor's after hours clinic wouldn't see me because I am a new patient. So they told me to go to the Emergency Room. I did not want to go to the E.R. Too expensive. And what were they going to do? Tell me my hand was blue? I can do that. But I went. And they booked me in, hooked me up, and checked me out. Well, my hand anyway.

But they couldn't find anything wrong. Nothing. I learned more about my elbow injury but nothing about my blue hand. They even called my doctor at home. He had nada to say about it either. So the E.R. sent me home telling me I'd live and probably not lose the hand until after I'd seen my doctor today.

Well, I was panicking inside. What the heck could it be? Was my arm going to fall off? Was I going to be paralyzed? Was I going to die from Gangrene? Or rather, Ganblue?

My friends. I finally found the answer. I will not die. And I will, perhaps, work on not freaking out so much in the future. For at some point after my kidlets were in bed I looked down fondly at the new jeans I was wearing. New unwashed jeans. Jeans upon which my sweaty little pre-menopausal hands had been resting for an hour and a half during my son's A Capella concert.

Um.
Oh.

I went to the kitchen sink. I applied soap and water. Five seconds later my skin was nice and pink again. The sink was blue. But my hand was back to normal.

Yeah.

If any of you tell anyone about this, our friendship is over.

Friday, September 28, 2012

JK Rowling's CASUAL VACANCY Meets Pollyanna

Photo from Steven J. Hill via Creative Commons
JK Rowling's The Casual Vacancy released yesterday. And after reading reviews of the novel I've decided that I exist in a time warp. I could introduce myself on a daily basis as "Janiel Laura Ingalls Wilder Miller." or "Janiel Anne (with an "E") Shirley Miller." In short, I was born in the wrong time period. I'm waaaaaay too conventional and old fashioned and naive and, well, delicate, for the times we live in. 

Or I might just be getting old.

According to most reviews, Rowling's new book is fine. It shows sparks of brilliance and her trademark humor. But it's also apparently rife with shallow people (read: Vernon and Petunia-wannabes, but without the So-Moronic-They're-Hilarious-ness that characterized them deliciously in the Potter series)---as well as (brace yourself) rape, drugs, abuse, and the general drek-ness of humanity's underbelly. Then it reportedly ends darkly and without any of the softened edges we came to expect from our favorite wizard's stories. And finally, assuming these reports are accurate, there's a description of a used condom that my wimpy-self could have lived without (NY Times article here. And do expect the review to be a bit on the chipped-shoulder-Hey-This-Isn't-My-Beloved-Harry-Potter side of things.)

Okay, I can't judge this book. We're talking about personal preferences here. There are plenty of folks who love grittier novels than I, and that's perfectly fine. It's why I love the freedom of expression and choice we enjoy in the free world. I certainly can't criticize The Casual Vacancy's content (especially since I haven't read it yet). Not to mention, I'm on year four of figuring out how to go from writing short articles to writing an entire novel. My novel has changed completely like 47 times, without it being anywhere near ready to publish, much less query for an agent. Writing any kind of book is miraculous, getting it published even more so. I have nothing but respect for Ms. Rowling and her endless imagination and work ethic.

But here's the thing: I LOVED the Harry Potter series. I mean, I never thought it was perfect. It had issues (Like, in Goblet of Fire, why didn't Crouch Junior simply turn one of Harry's pencils into a portkey and have done with it on the first day of class, instead of dragging him through the entire School Champion-thing to get him to the trophy portkey at the end?) But it was a pure and utter delight, and a departure from the mundane grit of reality. Harry's world was imagination unleashed and creative abandon, and it all ended well. For me it's a joyous break to immerse myself in such tales. Real life is tough and doesn't always end well. I prefer not to pound myself with that when I read for pleasure. I'd rather live in a pure unadulterated fantasyland for a few hours and escape the blech.

So, I guess I'm not sure I'll read The Casual Vacancy. Because as a dyed-in-the-wool Anne Shirley Pollyanna Laura Ingalls, I want to always associate magic and wonder with JK Rowling's name. Call me a wimp. (Not really. If you do I'll delete your comment. I'm in charge here. Kind of.) I'm fine with it. (Pretty much.) I like to keep the rose-colored glasses firmly on my nose. If Rowling writes more stories set in the Potterverse, or other books that line up with my personal La-La-Land, I'll be right there. And I'll still always be in awe of anyone who writes as much and for as long as she did on one series of books, and makes it that enjoyable for us as readers. 

Meantime, if YOU read Rowling's new book, feel free to comment and tell me what you think about it. Maybe someone will manage to talk me into snagging a copy from the library.

Happy reading, my friends! As for me, I'm off to restart Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Lalalalalalala!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Um. Oops.

So, I'm sitting here cruising the 'net this morning, and I pop over to our blog and I think, "Man! When is someone going to put up a post today? I mean, what is with us? We're all stressed or something this week. No one is posting." And then I go about my day, you know, cleaning up breakfast, checking on my sick kid, making sure my other kid who doesn't have school today is doing his massive history project instead of sneaking in a bit of Calvin and Hobbes. I start thinking about what I'll throw together for dinner. But first we need a bit of lunch, for Pete's sake! And then I pass my computer on the way to check one more time on sick-dude, and I pause to look in on our blog, because I can't wait to read what one of my pal's has written.

Annnnd, there's nothing posted.

Huh. How odd. So I think, "I should go send a message to my Gnomies. I mean, maybe one of them is sick, or hurt, or depressed. Maybe they need some help. MAYBE THEY NEED A GNOME-INTERVENTION! *GASP!* I SHALL SAVE YOU, MAEGAN AND RUSSO! FEAR NOT! I . . . " 

Then I looked at the calendar.

ACK!

It's Friday.

That's . . . er . . .  my day to post.

*shades of embarrassment*

Soooo anyway. What were we talking about? OH YEAH. Embarrassing moments. Russo has a lot of them. Sure glad I don't.


(I actually have steady streams of embarrassing moments. I'm just far less willing to put them up here than Russo is. Three cheers for Russo!)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Embarrassing moment alert

One of the things I need to work on is my patience. I don’t know about you but sometimes we go full speed ahead and never slow down. Sometimes that's a good and other times, not so much.

Today I went to the store and bought hair dye. What was I thinking? I tore out the gloves and got to work on dying my hair jet black. There was no patience about my process. As a result, my hair looks ridiculous. I have streaks of brown and black.

As if that wasn't enough, I tore out the gloves from the box. Doesn't seem like a big deal but when I took off the gloves I had quite a surprise- the gloves had holes in them. So now, I have ugly hair and black spots all over my hands. The dye won't come out; I have scrubbed and rubbed my hands until they were sore. Of course, my amigo Jameses is lying on the floor laughing his toukus off at my idiocy.

My friends, the one thing that will help us achieve our dream is patience. We have to slow down and take in the process of writing, painting, or whatever it is we love.





Friday, September 14, 2012

Author Interview: Jennifer Beckstrand, Author of Amish Romances "Kate's Song" and "Rebecca's Rose"


Hi all! Today I am so pleased to present an interview I did with my very talented friend Jennifer Beckstrand. She has published two of three novels in the Forever After in Apple Lake series. The books are part of an Amish Romance trilogy, and are a delight to read. (The first two are out; the third releases in Spring of 2013, and I'm sure will follow in the footsteps of the first two. I'll let you know after I close the last page and finish sighing.) 
Right! On with the interview:

1.     First of all, Jenn, I knew you in high school, and knew you were a die-hard romantic. But I had no idea you had aspirations to write romance novels. Did you? Or was this a new thing?

I didn’t even dream of writing a book until my fourth daughter was born, although I read a lot of romances and would occasionally think, “I would change this,” or “I would write the ending differently.” So the desire to write was probably always latent within me. It took insomnia to help me discover writing. After my daughter was born, I had trouble sleeping and would make up stories to help me fall asleep.

2.     We read about your journey to writing Kate’s Song and the rest of the Apple Lake series on your original guest blog post last December (found here).  So, the Amish Romance genre was new to you. Was the thought of writing for it at all intimidating? What do you think of it now that you have immersed yourself in it?

I was incredibly intimidated at first because there are so many people out there who know a lot more about the Amish than I do—including a quarter of a million Amish people. I did a lot of research (which I dislike) and a bit of travel (which I dislike even more) and met some wonderful people. The thing that struck me the most was how normal the Amish people are. They have hopes and dreams like anybody else and are just trying to navigate this life the best they know how. I used this discovery as the basis for my books. A good love story, well told, in any setting, will always be in demand.

3.     You went and visited an Amish community, and I know you have Amish readers for authenticity in your stories. I don’t know much about the community, but feel like your books are very authentic. What do you think are some misconceptions people have about the Amish community?

There are many different Amish settlements, and just as many different ways of doing things. Some people think the Amish live in very repressive communities, but the Amish I met in Lancaster County, PA were very devout and very happy. They do their best to live their religion.

4.     Are there other categories in Amish fiction besides Romance?

The most popular genre right now is romance, with many subgenres. I recently read about an Amish vampire book. (Nope, you won’t ever see an Amish vampire story from me. Werewolves? Maybe. Go, Team Jacob!) There are other Amish books out there, many nonfiction titles written by people who left the Amish community. I am currently reading The Amish in Their Own Words, which is a bit dry, but extremely informative.

5.     Before your books I had no idea there was an entire genre devoted to Amish Romance. Why do you think there’s a demand for it now? What do you think people are looking for in it?

Amish romance fits into the Inspirational category. A lot of people read Christian fiction for an uplifting message. Many read it because they want a romantic story without all the sex. I think people read Amish specifically because they love the idea of the simple life. In a world of cell phones, computers, and cable, people like to step back to a simpler time where family and faith are most important. And, of course, everybody loves a happy ending.

6.     I have read Kate’s Song and Rebecca’s Rose. And though I don’t generally read Romance, I really enjoyed these books. I find your writing style to be lovely and peaceful. There was enough conflict to put me on the edge of my seat, and I felt immersed in the Amish community. I also really enjoyed your characters and felt they all had really distinct personalities. Did you base any of them on people you know? How did you develop your characters? Did you find them or did they find you?

Thank you! Many of the characters in my books are based on people I know. It’s so much easier to picture a person in my mind and think: What would they do in this situation? In Rebecca’s Rose, Levi is based off one of my daughter’s old boyfriends. She called me up after reading the book and said, “I totally recognized my old boyfriend in Levi.” The old boyfriend doesn’t read much Amish, so he will probably never know what an inspiration he was to me.  I also based Aaron in Kate’s Song on someone I know, but he is quite a disagreeable character so his real life identity will forever remain a mystery.

I create most of my characters from scratch and I find that whenever I suffer from crippling writer’s block, it is usually because I don’t have a good handle on my characters. Sometimes, it’s really hard to get inside their heads.

7.     I loved how the main characters from Kate’s Song had cameos in Rebecca’s Rose even though the second book wasn’t about them. I imagine that will happen again in the third book. That’s a nice way to do a trilogy—having it based on setting, and not necessarily the same story or characters. Where did that idea come from?

My agent wanted me to write a three-book series, but I am frustrated when I must read all three books in a series in order to get a satisfying ending. That’s why I didn’t read Hunger Games until all three books were out. So I populated Apple Lake with delightful people and had them pop up now and then in each book.

8.     It seemed to me that you wrote these stories very quickly, once you got started on them. What’s your writing process like?

Eek. I wish I were fast. I am still trying to come up with the ideal writing process. Right now I have a goal of 10,000 words per week. I have only actually met that goal once. Ever. It is impossible to write on Saturdays and Sundays because my family wants me to pay attention to them, but I try to write most every other day. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays I mostly write from the time the kids leave for school until the time they get home—unless the grandbaby comes over, and then I play with him. As you see, my writing process lacks structure and discipline, but I somehow manage to get books written.

(Sidebar: Um, yeah. This actually sounds very structured and disciplined to me. My current weekly goal involves a lot of not watching Downton Abbey reruns online.)

9.     Will you write more for the Amish Romance genre, or are you going to branch out?

I am currently writing another Amish series called The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill, which is loads of fun. After that, I might branch out into historical Westerns, because I love cowboys.

10. Any advice for up and coming writers, with regard to process, publishing, or promoting? Anything you’ve learned that particularly sticks out for you?

I love dispensing advice! If you are a beginning writer, the first thing I recommend is to learn your craft. Good writing will always be noticed by agents and editors. 

How do you learn your craft? Join a writers group like Romance Writers of America or find a critique partner. Attend writing conferences. Read books on writing. Write, write, write every day.


If you want honest feedback on your writing, enter a writing contest. Even if you don’t win, the judges should give you some valuable pointers on how to make your story better. 


I’ve heard that the best thing someone can do to improve her writing is to read. I wholeheartedly agree. Read good books of all genres. Even reading poorly written material can help you recognize and avoid mistakes. Volunteer to judge a writing contest. You’ll see lots of things you would do differently. 


Self-promotion can be incredibly time consuming. I use Facebook and have a website, but I don’t twitter, and I try to limit my time online.


Jenniferbeckstrand.com
Facebook: Jennifer Beckstrand Fans

Thanks Jennifer! Now all y'all go out and buy, or borrow, or, here's a thought: buy, Kate's Song and Rebecca's Rose, so you can learn all about the Amish and feel all puddle-y and romantic. And Dudes (of the male persuasion)! Fear not your inner mushyness. This is highly readable stuff. And we'll only respect you for branching out.

Cheers, dears!