Kiddo is turning 5 this month and my best friend won’t be here the day of, so Mommy, Tia, and the Nugget did a birthday Girls Night Out a tad bit early.
We started with reservations at Bucco di Beppo, at the kitchen table. I thought the kiddo would be riveted by the concept of hanging out in the kitchen and watching food get made and processed through the expo line. In the future, she informed me, she wants to sit in the real restaurant. She ate pepperoni pizza, toured the whole restaurant, and inspected the restrooms, with no idea that this adventure was not the main event of the evening.
We took an after dinner stroll through Party City where she declined a new Tinker Bell costume because she was fully satisfied with her old one. Practical and not-as-indulgent-as-I-thought kid I’ve got.
Finally, in the parking lot of Peter Pan 360 – the plan was revealed.
“So, because I’m not going to be here for your birthday, I wanted to give you your present early? Do you want it.” (I’m definitely paraphrasing my best friend. This quote should not hold up in court.
She nodded profusely, despite the fact that she had been insisting to me all morning that birthday surprises could NOT happen on a day that was not her birthday. “YOU HAVE TO DO SURPRISES FOR ME ON MY BIRTHDAY IF IT’S FOR MY BIRTHDAY.” That is a direct quote, screaming caps and all, from my daughter just hours before. And should hold up in court. It also included some foot stomping. I’ve never seen someone so upset at the very idea of getting a present too early.
“Do you want to wear your Tinker Bell costume?” One of us asked.
She shook her head no, but as it dawned on her that I had packed it in the bag that was sitting in the car to her left she quickly changed her mind.
I do not have pictures of my adorable child donned in a bright green fairy costume as we attended Peter Pan because she was too cool for school and uninterested in photography last night. But I’m ok with that, we actually managed to be the people who were completely IN the moment all night, and I love that.
So what’s this magical Peter Pan performance surprise we took her to?
[T]he theater is the world’s first fully 360-degree projected backdrop for a live, theatrical performance with the largest surround CGI (computer-generated imagery) venue in the world. There are 12 projectors that deliver 10 million pixels on 15,000 square feet. 400 square miles of virtual London were rendered and it took 100 computers four weeks to create the Hi Resolution images. If a single computer had been used, it would have taken 8 years to render the images. – http://www.theblondeblogger.com
And it’s in a circus style pop-up tent!
My precocious darling spent the first 15 minutes of the show asking me how they got the pictures on the ceiling. I tried to explain the concept of a projector but – thankfully – the show was too loud for us to communicate effectively (which also meant we weren’t disturbing the rest of the audience). I was able to pull up videos online when we got home and tell her about it then.
Once understanding the mechanics of the show was put off for later, she really got into the magic of it all. Her great critique is that Tinker Bell wears pink instead of green and this bothered her. She insisted they needed her to play Tink and asked to go on stage – a lot – because, after all, Peter Pan needed her. (I thought the performing Tink was pretty darn cool.)
There’s a 20 minute intermission about an hour into the show. Popcorn and drinks were purchased, restrooms were visited (I was pleased to discover the portable restrooms were real flushies and a thousand times cleaner than I anticipated. A little disappointed that they ran out of coffee.
After the show, there was a line for a meet and greet with a few of the actors, but being that little girl is still not quite five and it was getting late, we skipped that bit of fun.
Should it come to town again, we would do a repeat adventure in a heartbeat.
I love a good interview.
Originally posted on WordMothers:
Interview by Nicole Melanson ~
Gwendolyn Zepeda has published three critically acclaimed novels through Hachette, four award-winning children’s books through Arte Publico Press, a short-story collection, and two books of poems.
She was born in Houston, Texas and attended the University of Texas at Austin. She was the first Latina blogger and began her writing career on the web in 1997 as one of the founding writers of entertainment site Television Without Pity.
She was also Houston’s very first poet laureate, serving a two-year term from 2013 to 2015.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?
I’d been writing since I was a teenager. It the late nineties, I started blogging (called “online journaling” back then) and that really helped me find my voice and indicated there were readers who’d like my work. People hired me to write for other websites…
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September, when you’re a stay at home mom, is an easy going month. It’s when the weather cools to the point that you spend every waking moment outdoors soaking up sunshine in a relaxed state. It’s when you read and collect your thoughts and make plans for your “school year” while all the other moms are scrambling. It’s always my favorite part.
But I’m not a stay at home mom for September this year. So I’m scrambling with the rest of y’all. Instead of basking in the stay at home mom/professional writer glory that I’ve enjoyed (don’t get me wrong, it’s work, but it’s my favorite kind of work… so I’m saving that discussion for another post), I’m back in the store full time AND keeping up my professional writer work AND homeschooling my kiddo. But at least homeschooling a preschooler involves mountainous amounts of play time and audio books. So while she buries herself in legos, I’m taking advantage of one last chance to make our family debt free and figure out our lives…
Of course, that simply means I’ve been posting less, not that I haven’t been reading. So here’s to September, all in one post.
It’s About Time – Liz Evers
This is a fun history of clocks and time keeping. I enjoyed it quite a bit, after checking it out from the library, and read it fairly quickly. It’s a good one to add to the homeschooling reference books for a middle grade student, I think. Evers writes on the level of Dava Sobel in both content and vocabulary. Worth owning if you have kids.
The Secrets of Droon – Abbott
Between what we can find in audio at the library and me filling in with my vocal performances where the library is lacking, we have been binge reading The Secrets of Droon. It’s fun adventure like the Magic Tree House series without the educational twist. Me? I’m partial to the educational twist. Kiddo? She’s digging reading a fantasy story where someone isn’t sneaking a lesson in on her. I think magic carpet rides void of research material on Mummies is refreshing after all the information she gets plugged with. As much as we moms love to douse our kids with education, it’s good to remember that sometimes they just want some brain candy, and that’s ok.
This is not my typical reading cup of tea. But I read it because it had tea cups on the front cover. Ha! The marketing gives you a sense that the book will be a cozy one about friends partaking of scones and quiche while they solve their problems over southern tea – but the reality is that it’s about some pretty real and raw struggles of single moms in the ghetto of Dallas who can’t take time for tea if their life depended on it. Despite the conflict between the marketing and the story, I had a hard time putting the book down. Zepeda nailed my old neighborhood (which I didn’t know I’d be reading about until a chapter or so in, it was not included on the back jacket and had no bearing on me picking up the book in the first place). Oak Cliff, when I lived there, was exactly how she described it – and she did a lovely job of describing it by describing the people rather than the streets and buildings. Although I’m on the fence as to whether I should keep this book or donate it to the library, I am not on the fence about whether or not to read more of the author’s work in the future – I’d definitely read something by her again.
This is a short novel that I read in a series of lunch breaks at work. It’s one of those pieces you’re not sure whether it’s meant to be for teens or grown ups until you read the first chapter and then you’re sure – it’s for people. I will always house Gunn in the adult literature section, if I have a say, but I would certainly hand her work to high school students as well. She reminds me of Frascoise Sagan in the Bonjour Tristesse sense, except there’s far more true sadness in Rain than Sagan ever touched on.
I’ve officially begun a kick. I want to write at least one western under the name of one of my characters from my Bookshop Hotel series, but to do that I decided I must actually read a few. I grew up watching westerns with my dad, most of which were based on books, but I hadn’t actually picked up a western to read until I read The Quick and the Dead last month. I have to say, I’m kind of in love and hope to read at least one western a month till the day I die. They’re so calming and quick, and I find the men that star in them familiar and pleasant to be around.
Anyone who loves Louisa May Alcott or the transcendentalist movement, will find this an interesting read. It was originally published in 1873 as a bit of satire to illustrate Bronson Alcott’s utopian dream commune (that quickly failed). I can’t help but snicker at descriptions like the one for Miss Jane Gage who “was a stout lady of mature years, sentimental, amiable, and lazy. She wrote verses copiously, and had vague yearnings and grasping after the unknown, which led her to believe herself fitted for a higher sphere than any she had yet adorned.” How many times have you found yourself face to face with a Jane Gage in your life? Daily! Haha. Daily.
Not too long ago, I wrote an article for Money-Fax.com that featured this paragraph:
Hermit crabs are fantastic little creatures. You might even have fond memories of fishing them out of the ocean yourself or keeping them in your elementary school classroom. Hermit crabs are popular, and with good reason. They are just about the least expensive terrarium dweller you can hold.
A small plastic container, a fish bowl, or an old tank you find at a garage sale – almost anything can serve as a hermit crab habitat. Fill the bottom with sand and rocks and place a tray of water and a few extra shells larger than the one the crab currently inhabits in the tank. Again, only $10 spent at your local Wal-Mart or pet store can set you up for life of the crab.
The crab itself will cost anywhere from $5 – $15 and their food will cost about $3 per can. While that may sound like a lot for a hermit crab, these cans last quite awhile. All in all, you could easily have a hermit crab join your family for an initial cost of $20 – $40, depending on what you choose to purchase. – http://money-fax.com/4-inexpensive-family-pet-ideas/
A few weeks ago, however, we went to the beach and caught ourselves a few hermit crabs with our four year old. Remembering my own article, I thought, we should keep these – it would be a fun starter pet and kiddo has already been begging for a new pet. (We have two dogs, but you know kids, they want tiny creatures to pester and nurture.)
So I headed up to the gift shop and bought a hermit crab kit. $25. It came with a free crab, but I told the lady at the counter that we had two downstairs under the dock.
“Oh, those are saltwater. They’ll die if you take them home and don’t have a saltwater aquarium. You should probably take the free one anyway and let those ones go. These are freshwater brought from Florida.”
Then, she informed me that it’s best to buy an extra one. They are community creatures.
“Sure, let’s do it. We’ll let the other two go and take these two home.”
So, I took the little plastic container downstairs, full of gravel, a shell, a sponge, and food – plus two tiny crabs.
We explained to kiddo that the others needed to be free and she had no problem with that, after all, we were taking these fun ones home and she understood that the others had come from the ocean and these two from a shop. She asked about extra shells, because we’ve read Eric Carle’s Hermit Crab book a thousand times.
We set the crabs up in the house when we got home from the beach that day and made plans to do some research and visit the pet store within the week. We knew the plastic container was too small for our comfort – but we thought we were just being those people who spoil their pets. I had no idea. No. Idea.
Nerd that I am, naturally, I bought a book. I was a little disappointed that it was a “for dummies” title, because I’m a book snob and they seem so over marketed and written – well – for dummies. BUT, they are actually great starting points for any kind of research on anything. They are simplistic, concise, and give you the terms you need to dive deeper. Terms you wouldn’t know to look up otherwise. Like wikipedia, but more reliable, except the links aren’t necessarily up to date.
So it turns out, hermit crabs ARE community creatures. In the wild they live with hundreds of other crabs. It also turns out that the smallest container you want for these guys is a ten gallon tank for two small crabs. Cheap guru that I am, I could have gotten one from a garage sale, but I didn’t. I gave my sister our unused 20 gallon tank when we moved and my niece’s and nephews now have a tiny pet turtle. I went the lazy route and bought a brand new ten gallon at PetsMart. $30. (If you’re keeping track – remember my article peaked at a $40 expense to keep a crab alive. So far in this story we’re at $55 pre-tax.)
EVOLUTION OF A CRABITAT
I bought more gravel to cover the bottom of the tank. $10. I bought a crab shack because they need a place to hide. $8. A fake plant my daughter loved to make “it all so beautiful.” $4 (Actually, she paid for that one.) I was feeling pretty good about this terrarium. Really good.
Then, I served pinterest. I know. Pinterest!
It led me to a lot of websites, blogs, and hermit crab advocates. I discovered that I wasn‘t supposed to have gravel in the tank. They don’t like gravel. They like soil substrate. They like to bury themselves. Not just like, they NEED. Hermit crabs molt and to do so, you need 6 inches of soil for them to dive into. Also, they’re climbers. They want tree limbs. Also, each crab needs its own hiding place, so one crab shack won’t cut it. They want to live together but need their own bedrooms. Who knew?
Also, they need a fresh water pool and a salt water pool. So you need two kinds of water conditioners. And two kinds of pools. And a mister to keep their climate humid enough because they have evolved gills – they can’t breathe in dry air.
By this time, I lost track of itemizing – but one trip to PetCo later and I’d spent another $70 or so. While I was there, I also bought a wheat-germ plant that they had for sale for cats, but is actually good for crabs, which the workers didn’t know, I had just discovered this in all my internet surfing and wild book reading at the library.
I still need a heater, but I can’t afford one at the moment. We’re in Texas, so I set the tank outside if I think they’re getting too cold – but come winter, these guys are having another $50-$100 spent on them.
On the plus side: I think they’ll live. In captivity – because we con people into $25 habitats that slowly kill the crab – they live 3 months to 3 years. In the wild, they live up to 30 years. We’re shooting for a longer lifespan here. We’re also using this as an educational project… we’re building an ecosystem. Soon, we’ll add rolly pollies (they help keep the terrarium clean and co-habitate well with the hermies… again, who knew?)
(Additional notes: hermit crabs can eat from your kitchen and like a wide variety of things in their diet that include meat, vegetables, and fruits. We have begun a notebook compiling these lists. One of ours has already changed shells twice – because he’s indecisive, not because he’s growing so much – and apparently this is common so it’s good to have not just one or two shells but a wide variety of empties at their disposal.)
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty starring Ben Stiller came out a while back. I watched it. Five times. I cried. Five times. It’s a beautiful story of a man lost in his own imagination. Missing out on real life from time to time due to his passion for his work and his ironic ability to zone out – dreaming up the most extreme and exciting versions of his reality while the world around him keeps turning.
I love this story.
I had no idea that it was based on a five page short story written by James Thurber in 1939 (it first appeared in The New Yorker on March 18th) and adapted into a movie starring Danny Kaye (probably best known today for his role in White Christmas) in 1947. I discovered the short story last week at work, and while reading it on lunch this afternoon got in a conversation about its history and development with a fellow co-worker. Apparently Thurber greatly disliked that original film, but I still find myself wanting to watch it so I may do a comparison myself. His complaint on the ’47 film was that it had nothing to do with the story he wrote.
Thurber died in 1963, so we will never truly know what he thinks of the Ben Stiller version – but I’d like to think that the screenwriters did the best they could off such a smidgen of a scene presented by Thurber. Even though in Thurber’s short, Mitty is married and disappearing in his mind to avoid mundane activities his wife presents as necessary, and the 2013 film is mainly about Mitty getting the girl. The common thread is the mental escape from reality spawned from a small detail in the character’s presence, a rich imagination, a desire in Mitty to not be oppressed by the world around him and instead thrive as a hero.
As a writer, often caught lost in thought, this story – in all its versions – appeals to me.
Author: Louis Lamour
The phrase “the quick and the dead” is an old one. Ancient. Biblical. It even inspires a line in the Apostle’s Creed, made easy to memorize by an popular Rich Mullins song:
I believe in God the Father almighty
Maker of Heaven and Maker of Earth
And in Jesus Christ
His only begotten Son, our Lord
He was conceived by the Holy Spirit
Born of the virgin Mary
Suffered under Pontius Pilate
He was crucified and dead and buried
And I believe what I believe
Is what makes me what I am
I did not make it, no it is making me
It is the very truth of God and not
The invention of any man
I believe that He who suffered
Was crucified, buried, and dead
He descended into hell and
On the third day, rose again
He ascended into Heaven where
He sits at God’s mighty right hand
I believe that He’s returning to
Judge the quick and the dead
Of the sons of men
Despite my religious background, I first knew this phrase from watching the western with my dad. I think it was the Sam Elliot one, if I recall. (Not to be confused with the unrelated story starring Sharon Stone that came out in the 90’s.)
Sadly, however, I’d never read the book. I grew up on westerns. I’ve seen every John Wayne movie a dozen times over. A running joke growing up was when the song The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence came on and my dad would snicker and say “John Wayne, he did it.” By the way, that’s my favorite Jimmy Stewart movie… not It’s a Wonderful Life. Not Shop Around the Corner. But the western where John Wayne swoops in and delivers all his token John Wayne lines. (Maybe it’s my second favorite Jimmy Stewart movie, actually. I really love Shenandoah.)
Despite all this western movie culture that was instilled in the very fiber of my being – I’d never read a western until this week. Historical fiction, sure. But not an actual serial western. Which is even odder when you take into consideration how I enjoy taking the western paperbacks under my wing at work, running them most Saturdays until you couldn’t squeeze another title on the shelf even if you tried. I love the old men that shop there. Some are wonderfully sweet. Some are highly inappropriate and should probably never go out in public. But I love them all, and I love helping them find their Comptons and Cottons, Keltons and Grey, and above all – Louis L’amour.
The realization that I have made a point to read a title from every section in the store yearly but never tackled westerns came slow and tickled at the corners of my brain for quite awhile. I wanted to try the Sacketts first, but the first one wasn’t in stock that day. So I grabbed the first familiar title I knew.
It’s such a marvelous book. It was such a relaxing and easy read, despite the suspense of it all. I have half a mind to read the whole dang section now.
In time. I will, in time.
Until then, I think I feel a movie night coming on…
What’s your favorite western (book or movie)?
Author: Cheryl Strayed
Wild, by Cheryl Strayed. It is what it sounds like: a memoir about an out of control woman who strays. It could very easily be placed in the same category of Eat, Pray, Love, by my Christian counterparts especially, but somehow I can’t lump the two together. As a writer, Cheryl has more Bill Bryson (author of A Walk in the Woods) qualities than Elizabeth Gilbert ones.
Cheryl is lost, inappropriate, cheats on her wonderful husband, divorces, does heroine, has almost a complete disregard for herself while simultaneously worshipping her own wants. It should not make for a good read. But somehow it does.
Cheryl doesn’t relish in these moments. She doesn’t glorify them or justify them, she just tells her life how it was, and how she discovered that being comfortable in your own skin, alone, in the wilderness, can be just the provision a lost soul needs. She doesn’t abandon a marriage for a grand tour and love affair with an air of flippant disregard- instead she tells a story of how when you have a huge hole in your heart you drown yourself and everyone around you.
Though the Pacific Crest Trail is long and grueling, Cheryl’s book about her trek is not. She is down to earth, shockingly honest, clever and witty about her past ignorances, and leaves you feeling a sense of hope for not just yourself, but for everyone who struggle.
Author: John Green
Genre: Young Adult/ Teen Fiction
I loved it. It seems silly to enjoy teen fiction so much, right now, in my thirties. It feels like I should be chalking it up to a pre-mid life crisis of sorts – but I have an old soul, I already had my mid-life crisis, I think. If I didn’t, I’m screwed when the real one comes around. I’m not sure my brain can handle all that drama.
But it’s not a mid-life crisis. It’s just that despite the fact that people will roll their eyes at John Green because he seems like he’s probably that typical sappy teen coming of age crap that everyone is writing – there’s a reason he’s so popular and everyone else just isn’t.
John Green is an excellent writer.
He doesn’t just write snark – he embodies snark. He has the snark on lock-down. And though people think he only writes super confident teens that we all wish we had been, he doesn’t do that either. The main character of Paper Towns is not confident. He’s nerdy and very un-self assured. He’s in love with the self assured one, and you discover that no one is as self assured as they’d like to pretend to be.
I loved how Green pulled in Walt Whitman’s themes from Leaves of Grass. So much so, that I long to make a pile of Leaves of Grass paperbacks to display next to our piles of Paper Towns at the bookstore. But I haven’t. It’s not my job to do that anymore and I’m trying desperately to only do *my* job and not be the over achiever type A that I naturally am and work my ass off outside my pay grade. I’m not used to be a “regular” employee anymore. Between my previous management experience and writing a character who owns her own bookstore, my brain wants to run things and instead I’m just running the books. Which is definitely relaxing, until I have to keep my perfectionism in check – and then it’s stressful.
Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar makes a sneak appearance as well. I’m always down for a good book that recommends other good books. Margo, though I disagree with half her sentiments, appeals to me. I understand her. I’ve been her. I’m just not her anymore. Though, often, I feel pieces of her tugging at my personality from time to time. Ultimately, I chose to be more like Q. People probably see me more like Q. Although, at that age, I don’t think people really saw me at all.
So now I’m re-reading Leaves of Grass. I couldn’t leave it lingering in my brain that way without tackling it again. I haven’t perused it since high school and it’s long overdue.
Have you read John Green? Do you find him oddly relatable?
And finally, do you plan to or have you seen the movie? I have not, yet.
Some books are great, the kind of books that you can’t live without and can’t understand how you ever lived without them. We’ve all read them, the books that leave you forgetting to eat and avoiding the restroom – or bathing – for as long as it takes to finish the book. You simply can’t tear away. And when a moment arrives that you have to set it down, you moan, weep, you begin to go through withdrawals and ache until the moment you can pick it up again.
And then, there are books that are really good, but you don’t feel that way about them. At all. Like that dude in college you friend zoned. Like that pie you ate, because after all it IS pie, but it doesn’t taste like your Grandma’s. Like that pretty song you’ll hum, but you won’t go out of your way to learn the lyrics or play on repeat…
So here’s to the good books I’ve read recently that I genuinely thought were good, but still found far too easy to put down.
Storm Front by Jim Butcher
Fun paranormal fantasy noir fiction – however, Dresden finds every female he encounters attractive. Either this guy is the most appreciative wizard ever, or he just doesn’t get out much. Felt like I was reading a sixteen year old living in his mama’s basement dream hero, which is all well and good and entertaining, but in between readings, I wasn’t exactly itching to get back to the story. Still read the book in a few days, but it’s the genre and length of something I’d usually devour in one sitting and… I just didn’t.
A Reunion of Ghosts by Judith Claire Mitchell
I checked this out from the library. Absolutely adored the first few chapters, but set it down for some reason or another and never felt compelled to get back to it. Due date came and I turned it in. One day I’ll finish, but it doesn’t seem like a pressing matter.
Which brings me to my next review…
Title: The Pharaoh’s Cat
Author: Maria Luisa Lang
Length: 178 pages
I got this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. It’s cute. I was actually pretty excited about it. It seemed like a fun cozy for an ancient Egypt nerd like myself. But, I discovered as I read that being narrated by the Cat isn’t as cute as I thought. Instead, it’s highly distracting and I find it hard to get caught up in the story because the cat brain is awkward.
Lang’s writing is good. The setting is fun, I always enjoy a good bit of ancient Egypt; and I love that the author considers herself an amateur Egyptologist, it shows in her writing. I’d even go so far as to say that I might read The Pharaoh’s Cat again some day – with my daughter, perhaps. But I wasn’t riveted and the character of the cat didn’t move me, like it moved the Pharaoh, I did not feel the bond that was formed throughout the novel. I didn’t really laugh…
Read a more glowing review of Lang’s novel here: http://ebookreviewgal.com/review-of-the-pharaohs-cat-by-maria-luisa-lang/
One of my reviews was quoted – and this is a great interview. I’m looking forward to reading Mary Green.
Originally posted on jo lambert - writer:
This morning I would like to welcome Tara Melanie Kerr. Not only has she written a prequel to Pride and Prejudice, her life is very much involved in all things Regency. In her words..’sewing her own petticoats and dreaming of Colin Firth.’
First of all, my usual opening question – tell us a little about you
I studied linguistics, English and theatre at the University of British Columbia and law at the University of Alberta. I am a reckless lover of clotted cream, a staunch defender of the semi-colon and a fierce opponent of unpleasant music.I proudly live in Edmonton, Canada, where I raise my three babies, sew my own Regency costumes, organise Regency costume events, blog on all things old and English, endeavour to take over the world and occasionally practice law. I also write novels inspired by my love of Jane Austen.
When did you first become…
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