Thursday, November 30, 2006

Does Anyone...
have a guess what the most popular post on my blog has been?
(I'm really milking this for all it's worth, aren't I?)
A Great Collaboration
It is so wonderful to have such a great partnership and friendship with Carol Baicker-McKee, the wonderful illustrator of Cheep! Cheep! Just this morning, we muddled our way together through all the intricacies of the future, conditional, modal tenses of the verbs will, would, can, and could--and all of that for a 400 word children's picture book about a kitten. So, don't be fooled that writers for children pay no heed to usage, grammar, and the Chicago Manual of Style, cuz we do.
Don't Think I've Forgotten...
My most popular blog post ever is coming tomorrow (or maybe Saturday)!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Question of the Day
Why is it that police tires do not have hubcaps? I have always wondered that.
The Kitchen and I are not getting along
So I had this idea that I'd post about the lovely white chili I made this week with turkey leftovers, but the men in my life weren't too excited about white chili.

Instead, today I made everything for tacos. In the process, I set off the smoke alarm twice. I think that's a world's record even for me--to set the smoke alarm off twice while making dinner. That is pretty pathetic. Thankfully, no one was injured. Sigh...
Coming Soon!
At the end of the week, I will unveil my most popular blog post EVER! And so many of you who have requested it will be very happy.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

You know you're in Indiana when...
you pass a sign along the road on the way to your son's basketball game which reads:


Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Cool Thing about Diet Coke and Mentos
Okay, so do you all know about how mentos candy make diet Coke bottles erupt? It's really cool. I learned this about a year ago, and I tried it. It really works. You just buy some mentos and some diet Coke and then open up the bottle and plop the mentos in. I think if you put many mentos in at once, there is a bigger eruption. But just last week, when Jacob and I tried this in the backyard with a two-liter bottle of diet Coke and only one or two mentos, it "erupted" almost the entire bottle of diet Coke.

So, check out this video for diet Coke and mentos fun!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Why I Love Books
When I was a teenager, I discovered the joy of reading. Many of my writer-friends were voracious readers as children, but it wasn't until high school and even my college years that I began to truly love literature. My husband and I were talking at dinner tonight about people who have a hard time reading fiction because it's not true. But I find much truth about the human condition in a work of fiction. As a teen, I went through the normal teenage angst of wanting to fit in, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, etc. And somehow I found I learned more about myself and the people around me by reading works of fiction.

Take for example Hamlet. Hamlet's indecisiveness gets him into heaps of trouble. This is not good. It leads to murder, chaos and a pretty stinky situation by the end of the play. (I love, by the way, the Kenneth Branaugh version of the movie.) Shakespeare shows in this work of fiction that indecisiveness has disastrous results.

The thing I remember about reading when I was younger is that I found people who were like me in books. A teenager's worst fear is being the weirdo, and I found that I wasn't the weirdo simply by reading because there were others like me who had the same thoughts, the same motivations, whatever.

I am now reading Margaret Wise Brown: Awakened by the Moon by Leonard S. Marcus. (Thanks to mom for recommending it.) Margaret Wise Brown wrote Goodnight Moon and Runaway Bunny and many other children's classics. In some respects, she invented the children's picture book. Her writing is poetic and sparce and lyrical and she totally understands children. That's why I love her books. She was able to speak to children and understand their fears, needs, and desires. She helps the child reader know that someone understands them.

Leonard Marcus points out: "In The Little Fir Tree, a Christmas story, Margaret gave comforting substance to the fearfully intangible feelings of loneliness that all small children know: 'Always the little fir tree looked over at the big fir trees in the great dark forest. He wished he were part of the forest of part of something, instead of growing all alone out there, a little fir tree in a big empty world'" (20).

I think it's one of those small miracles when a writer can capture in words those vague feelings we all have. And somehow it makes me feel better that someone else understood enough to bother putting it into words.

And that's--at least in part--why I love books.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

I Am Wishing for a Fireplace and a Big Leather Chair
...and hot chocolate and a good book. This rainy damp gloomy weather is the pits. Oh, I know, I know I should look on the bright side (what bright side when it's only cloudy all the time?): the grass is green, we are not in a drought, blah blah blah. But I'm having trouble getting focused this afternoon on my writing when all I want to do is curl up and read a good book.

On an unrelated note, last Saturday I learned how to make a coil basket. Basically, it's just winding yarn around a bigger piece of cord or jute and coiling the whole thing up. It's kind of cool and extremely easy. I couldn't find a very good picture of it online, but here is one that's okay. I haven't done any needlework for a long time, but it's been fun to work on this project in my spare time. Thanks to Sarah Nordling for teaching the class. It was fun.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Escape Reading
My mom told me about an author I've enjoyed over the last few months. His name is Lee Child. He writes thriller-type mystery books. The main character is Jack Reacher, who is this former military cop who has no home, no ties to anyone, just rambles all around the country helping people who get in these impossible situations. Making him have no ties and no relationships other than with the immediate characters in each story is a great writing device. He doesn't have to be an "armchair detective" because he doesn't have a life he goes back to after solving his mysteries and getting rid of bad guys. He simply vanishes. So the author can create new scenarios each time, in completely different settings.

But it makes me think about society and people living in community and what a family is and does for its members. Could someone really live like this? With no personal ties? No consideration for how his mother is doing? No wondering about his wife's birthday? The only thing he carries with him is a toothbrush. He buys new clothes every couple of days and ditches the old ones. Of course, there is the question of money. How does he support himself? I don't know. The author has never made that clear.

But the stories are intriguing and a fun escapist-type read. Right now, I'm reading Echo Burning.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Some exciting news!
I heard yesterday from our lovely editor, Melanie Cecka, at Bloomsbury USA, that Cheep! Cheep! has been nominated for a Kate Greenaway Award. This is a British award, similar to the Caldecott in America, which is awarded to a children's picture book for illustrations. I am so pleased and so proud of Carol Baicker-McKee, the illustrator of Cheep! Cheep!, and my dear friend. Her little chicks are so incredibly adorable. She completely deserves many awards for her three-dimensional fabric art.

We also found out yesterday (as if that weren't enough great news) that Cheep! Cheep! has been named one of Parenting magazine's best books of the year, which is just so darn exciting. Here's a link to last year's best books. The '06 best books will be in the new Parenting magazine by mid-November.

Friday, November 03, 2006

The place you call 'home'
Last weekend my son and I made the drive back to the rolling green hills of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where we stayed for the weekend.

Yet again, I sensed the change in the scenery as we left the flatlands of Indiana with its pockets of trees here and there to the endless tree-covered hills of Pennsylvania. Our coming back showed me that while much stays the same, things also have changed. We moved at the height of summer; but the leaves have fallen off the trees in my absence. Little things have changed--a new yellow line painted on the street, a business now closed. So where do we call "home"? Is home only the place where you lay your head on your pillow? Where you "hang your hat"? What defines home?

I've also been thinking about the physical space we call our own. We live in these four walls. Here my family eats together, prays together, reads together. This is where we are a family. And yet the family endures beyond these four walls.

That's why I love having the wonderful simple house blessing whenever we move. It's not to chase out the ghosties so much as praying for the inhabitants of this place to love one another, to help each other, to welcome visitors, etc.

Anyway, those are just my random ramblings this afternoon.