Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wednesday Word: Nefarious

Part of Speech:

flagrantly wicked or impious; evil; vicious
(Do you recognize the first word—flagrantly? If not, see the post from Sept. 22, 2010.)

Victoria’s nefarious plan to harm Bella was thwarted by Edward and Jacob.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pumpkin Seeds

Okay, help me out on this one. Each year when my family carves pumpkins, the kids ask to make roasted pumpkin seeds. To which I usually respond, “We’ll see.” {It’s my catch-all phrase. I try not to talk in absolutes to my kids because they have this thing about holding me to perceived promises!} However, this year, I decided that I would try to roast pumpkin seeds for the first time.

For now, I’m attributing this momentary lapse in judgment to: 1) mother’s guilt, and 2) the incessant squeaking of an incredibly tight budget. In my pinched brain, I envisioned that this would provide an inexpensive snack for the kids and that I would appear the big hero for finally roasting some stinking pumpkin seeds.

We carved pumpkins on Sunday afternoon. The kids scooped and scraped, and then I stood at the kitchen sink {for what seemed like forever} rinsing pumpkin guts and hoping to eek out at least two cups of slippery seeds. Then, I let them dry on waxed paper {for what seemed like forever}. This morning, in my haste to make some banana, chocolate chip bread—in order to avoid throwing away some past-their-prime bananas—I nearly forgot that I had left the pumpkin seeds in the oven to dry! Luckily, I rescued them before they suffered a pre-heating disaster.

I poured a tablespoon of EVOO on them and added a very liberal sprinkling of cinnamon sugar. I baked them in a pie tin for about 45 minutes, taking them out every 15 minutes to stir and add more cinnamon sugar. I let them cool in anticipation of glorious praise from my three adoring children. I was sure they’d be excited over this surprise after-school snack.

Not so much.

Could someone please explain to me the allure of roasted pumpkin seeds? Is it just that they’re a pumpkin by-product, so they seem like they should be good? Is it a fear of throwing something away, like my need to use those soggy bananas? Has our need to repurpose just gone too far, or is there some redeeming quality to pumpkins seeds of which I am unaware? They were time-consuming and tasted a bit like cinnamon sugar coated hay.

I know that I am probably in the minority on this, so let’s hear your comments. Did I do something wrong, or am I just not that into pumpkin seeds? {By the way, I have a sneaking suspicion that I—the only one in the house—will continue eating them until they’re gone, because I can’t just throw them away!}

Monday, October 25, 2010

Dr. Seuss & Dopey Pete

It was recently reported that an unpublished manuscript by Dr. Seuss called “All Sorts of Sports” was sold at auction for more than $34,000. Along with the manuscript was a letter from Seuss to his assistant indicating that he was unhappy with the story. Apparently, Seuss was displeased with the main character Pete who attempts all sorts of sports. It seems Seuss felt that Pete would not appeal to readers and that some might even view him as a “dope.”

I am a huge fan of Seuss. (In fact, I often credit Green Eggs and Ham for turning my oldest daughter into an adventurous eater at an early age.) However, as a new writer it’s comforting to find out that one of the greats even had, on occasion, doubts about his own work.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wednesday Word: Tenacious

Part of Speech:

persistent in seeking or maintaining something desired

As a result of her tenacious study habits, the student earned a good grade in the class.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Recently Overheard Advice

Do you know what to do when you see a ghost?


If that doesn’t work, then throw something at it!

- Jack, 4th Grade

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wednesday Word: Aplomb

Part of Speech:

poise, composure

The reporter showed aplomb as she continued the newscast despite the heavy rain and gusty wind.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010



Stubborn are the words
that refuse to fall from my head
like gilded lilies
over the water’s edge
they float and shine
then with a crushing blow
are forced beneath the surface
and sink below.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Decline of Picture Books?

Julie Bosman reported in The New York Times yesterday (October 7, 2010) that sales of picture books have been steadily declining. Bosman cites at least two possible causes: the economic downturn and parental pressure for children to excel.

When many families are finding it difficult to afford the essentials right now, it’s hard to justify spending money on a new picture book. Consequently, bookstores are putting new pictures books on the shelf only to find them sitting there until the bookstore finally sends them back to the publishing house.

In addition, parents are ever-mindful of the rigors of standardized testing and an expectation that children need to do whatever they can to stay ahead of the curve. This includes pressure from parents for their children to read above their level. Picture books are considered too babyish, and children are encouraged to read chapter books instead.

Obviously, from a writer’s perspective this is disconcerting. {sigh} However, putting a writer’s wallet aside, what is this doing to our children?

Picture books introduce children to deductive reasoning and critical thinking skills. When we force them into chapter books, we skip this essential step and deprive them of an opportunity to use visual cues along with text in order to understand and comprehend complex concepts. It’s like asking a child to listen to a broadcast of their favorite movie without the picture. Not only is it not as fun, but it forces children to make bigger leaps in their cognitive processing—leaps they may not yet be ready to make.

I love chapter books as much as the next person, but please don’t deprive your children of all that picture books have to offer—a world of color, and fun, and whimsy, and wonder. It’s about making connections that may be hard for them to process by words alone.

Do you have a favorite picture book? One that someone read to you (over and over) as a child until you could read it yourself? Leave a comment and tell me about it . . .

Visit The New York Times to read Bosman’s article.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Dirty Dishes, Exercise, and a Free Newsletter

This morning, I was feeling unmotivated. I didn’t clean up the breakfast dishes, I didn’t work out, and I encountered some writer’s block. I didn’t have ideas ready for today’s post, so I kept putting it off.

Tonight, I finally did the dishes and walked almost two miles with my husband. Then, I visited the Writer’s Digest Web Site. How can I not be motivated by all of the wonderful resources there?

Money is an almost daily discussion in our household anymore. You feel me, right?

But I found a sweet motivational (and free) gem—the Writer’s Digest Free E-Newsletter. Did I mention that it’s free? And by the way, I also received a free gift for subscribing—the 12th Annual 101 Best Websites for Writers download. Jackpot!

Writer’s block, schmiter’s block . . . you can’t catch me!

The next time you’re feeling unmotivated, distract yourself with some dirty dishes, exercise, and a free newsletter. Jeez, what more do you need?

Inspiration is out there! Just keep writing!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wednesday Word: Erudite

Part of Speech:

educated, knowledgeable, learned, scholarly

The erudite professor held three degrees in English literature.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

What Are You Doing for Snapshot Day?

If you read my post yesterday, you already know that the California Library Association (CLA) is encouraging people to visit their local libraries this week. “Snapshot: A Day in the Life of Your Library” was initiated by the American Library Association (ALA) in order to capture “what happens in libraries across the country in a single day.”

My family visits the library regularly. We love that they have books for each of us, and we look forward to the hours of enjoyment we get inside those pages. In addition, our library offers children’s activities, teen programs, adult literacy development, foreign language learning opportunities, seminars, workshops, and so much more!

Our city’s public library is celebrating Snapshot Day today. Lately the library has asked for more children’s books, so today we’ll be donating more than 20 gently-used children’s books. These will most likely be offered for sale to library patrons. The money generated from used book sales helps support many of the programs I mentioned. It may not seem like much but every donation helps.

Yesterday when I first told you about Snapshot Day I challenged you to find a way to support your local library. Have you checked it out yet?

For more information or to find a participating library near you, visit the California Library Association (CLA).

Please leave me a comment to tell me what you are doing! I can’t wait to hear from you!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Visit Your Library for Snapshot Day!

During the week of October 4, 2010, Californians are encouraged to visit their local libraries in support of Snapshot Day: A Day in the Life of Your Library.

The American Library Association (ALA) hopes to capture “what happens in libraries across the country in a single day.” By documenting the many types of activities that occur on a daily basis—reading, researching, learning, career building, job hunting, etc.—the ALA will be even better armed with proof of the value and importance of local libraries.

My tween’s English assignment this month is to read a mystery or scary novel. This past weekend, my family visited our local library. One of the librarians assisting in the children’s section is an avid reader of young adult literature. She dropped what she was doing to help us and was able to suggest at least half a dozen books to my daughter. After speaking with my daughter more and honing in on her interests—she likes historical fiction—the librarian was able to suggest several more books that piqued her curiosity. My daughter checked out three books to take to her English teacher for review and approval. We may not have found these books without the librarian’s skilled assistance.

Please help advocate for local libraries, which are often overlooked and undervalued resources. Find out what is happening in your community. Visit your local library and support Snapshot activities this week!

For more information or to find a participating library near you, visit the California Library Association (CLA).

Friday, October 1, 2010

“Miss Fiona’s Stupendous Pumpkin Pies” Written by Mark Kimball Moulton & Illustrated by Karen Hillard Crouch

I’ve had the itch to decorate for fall, so that’s what I’ll be doing this weekend (between the kids’ soccer and volleyball of course).

I went to the bookshelf today to pull out one of my favorites: Miss Fiona’s Stupendous Pumpkin Pies written by Mark Kimball Moulton. This picture book is about Miss Fiona who looks a lot like a witch and lives in a run-down house. However, looks can be deceiving, for she bakes stupendous pumpkin pies which she offers to trick-or-treaters and their families on Halloween. One lucky child gets to help her serve while everyone enjoys pie, cider, and spooky stories. It has a nice rhyming rhythm, so read it aloud or leave it out on the coffee table for older ones to enjoy—I’m pretty sure I’ll catch my tween and teen reading it too! The cute and muted illustrations by Karen Hillard Crouch make the story warm instead of scary.

I hope you’ll share this sweet book with your own little ghouls and goblins.

Use these links to learn more about Mark Kimball Moulton and Karen Hillard Crouch.