Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Novel Idea Beyond the Farthest Star

We have our answer!

Last Friday my writing group The Inklings hosted a Novel Idea party to celebrate the release of Dee Dee Chumley's young adult novel Beyond the Farthest Star.

"There are times a girl needs a guardian angel."

Once again, the Marottas opened their lovely home to a bunch of rowdy writers.

The Inklings

The Marottas
In keeping with the book, angel hair pasta was served...
Lisa and Dee Dee, the guest of honor well as angel food cupcakes with fondant angels and stars.
A taste sensation creation from Gigi's Cupcakes
We showered Dee Dee with gifts, good times,

...and sentimental moments.

The table was decorated with blue tulle, candles, flowers, Willow Tree angels, and a cloth printed with silver stars. Little glass (plastic?) stars were sprinkled around the table for depth. The table matched the invitation and party favor bags beautifully.

My mom and I contributed party favors and invitations.  Party favors were Ding Dongs (read the book and you'll know why), star earrings, and coasters.  So many restaurants were mentioned in the novel, I thought it would be cute to have coasters representing them.  Well...Dee Dee received a stack of individualized coasters, but everyone else received one with a constellation.

I love the planning and idea stage of things, but it's always hard for me to say something is finished. That's where my mom excels. I'm pretty sure she was finished long before I was! If it weren't for her, the coasters would have been tacky to the touch and in appearance.

Some of the swag from Beyond the Farthest Star Novel Idea party
 We are so proud for our Dee Dee. Congratulations!

These shindigs inspire us all to speed the process on our current works in progress. Who will be our next guest of honor?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Living a Pinteresting Life

I didn't know just how often I used Pinterest until I realized that in one day I'd used five things from the virtual board.

Since Pinterest entered my life, my son often looks at me in amazement and speaks in a little, awestruck voice. "I didn't know that." 

Here are two things that make bath time more fun.

Rockabye Butterfly: Add glow sticks to the bath. Afterward, my little man stuck them on his windowsill, and they made a fun and fabulous nightlight. A pack of 10 or so from the Dollar Tree--ONE DOLLAR--provided thrilling bath times for my son. I could have put them all in at once, but a few did the trick.


Mommysavers: Make ice with food coloring. Pop it in the bath. Your child will squeal as he or she chases the cubes until they melt--which is rather quickly--and change the color of the bathwater. I liked this option less than the glowstick one because of the dye that transferred to my hands and the tub. However, it is friendlier to the environment.

Go ahead. Live a Pinteresting life.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday Favorite: Gigi's Cupcakes is pure ecstasy

I first experienced Gigi's Cupcakes in Norman, OK, when our friend brought them to us one weekend. They were so beautifully decorated and tasted so delicious I knew I would have them every chance I could.

Last weekend,we were in Norman for work and then stayed with some friends.  I declared we must pick up a dozen cupcakes to take as a hostess gift and to honor their son's first birthday.  (It's still a gift when you get to enjoy it, too, right?) They were delicious! Although, I'm not a fan of the Canadian Maple, which had bacon in it, I can't deny it was tasty. My mouth waters just thinking of the Pumpkin Cream, Wedding Cake, and Grasshopper.

Right before my family returned home, we chopped up the remaining cupcakes so we could have a bite of each. 

I've not been that indulgent in a long time, and it was divine.

The news gets's a chain!  Maybe there is one near you.   If so, go there now.

What are you waiting for? Go now.

Few sure things exist in life. This is one of them. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mommy Monday: I'm going to hold my breath until you stop throwing tantrums!


Tantrums. When a person throws a fit due to inability to otherwise express the jumble of emotions.

Before I had children, I didn’t realize how often adults threw tantrums. Jamming a pen into the carpet. Slamming the steering wheel. Grunting loudly. Shaking a newspaper. Kicking the dirt. Yelling profanities.

It's no surprise children throw tantrums when adults have difficulty controlling themselves.

National Association of School Psychologists provides a list of prevention and intervention tips. One of my favorites is "Before you manage your child, you must manage your own behavior."

National Public Radio had an informative article in December 2011 about a recent study on tantrums. The aha! moment for me in this article was that they discovered anger combined with sadness during a child's tantrum.  It's not fun to be out of control.  Our children don't want to misbehave and get in trouble.  After reading this article, I watched my son as he threw a tantrum and then I dove in between peaks of anger--when I knew he was dipping into sadness.  I sat down on the floor, pulled him into my lap, and held him. He sobbed in my arms until he felt better.  And then you know what he did? He thanked me.

Love and Logic is magic. I truly believe it.  It worked in my high school classroom and it works on toddlers.  This one little link doesn't give the entire concept, but it's worth checking out. When it is applied as instructed, the techniques work.  Each time, I'm left a little baffled at the ease--and fun--of discipline. 

If you're dealing with tantrums in your home, these articles are worth your time.  They've certainly helped me.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Construction Party for Kids who Love Bob the Builder, Handy Manny, and...Dirt

Bob the Builder is quite the star at our house. My son identified different types of machinery for months and can tell me how to build a parking garage.  He informed us repeatedly of how he's going to drive this or that when he gets bigger.

Obviously, a construction themed third birthday party seemed perfect. But I didn't want to do a party-in-a-box, so I searched some great blogs and found inspiration.

If you have a little one who is interested in construction, Handy Manny, or Bob the Builder check out these blogs for ideas.

Click here to see our party.

From Juicy Bits: Renting a construction vehicle and offering rides is better than Disney World at this age. The sandbox stations capture most kids' desire to "dig in."

The Smiths:  From the extension cord wreath to the pool house transformation into a work trailer, this party is punctuated with little sparks of personality.  Maybe it's having a three-year-old and appreciating potty humor, but the the Port a Potty cracked me up, too.

Pure Joy Events: How cool is this box tractor?

Cake (formerly Birthday girl):   This blogger's inspiration boards are imagination candy for sure!

My Insanity:   Brownies are my favorite food, and I love how they were incorporated in this party. Also, I ADORE the lunch boxes, but wouldn't spray paint anything due to the pregnancy, and I couldn't find it in myself to pester my hubby to do it for me.

The Hip Hostess:   Check out the Home Depot tool belts! I couldn't believe how friendly the store was when I went in and tried to buy some kid-sized tool belts.  They gave them to me.  That night, my son told me it was his "faaaaaaaavorite" part. The next morning he wanted to wear it again.

Oriental Trading:  Look at these great hard hats.  If your little construction worker prefers pink apparel to yellow, no problem!

Birthday Party Ideas 101:     Find lots of game and activity suggestions.

Party Kaboose:   More game and activity and decorating ideas are located here.

Wasn't that a fun virtual party? Go ahead and throw one of your own.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Construction Party 3rd Birthday

My son's allergies peak near his birthday. I feared he would get ill like he did last year and we'd have to postpone his party.

Thankfully, he stayed this side of healthy and we had a great time!

The weather cooperated as well. It kindly dropped just below 100 degrees so being outside didn't remind us of Old Testament fire and brimstone.

Although I had several other ideas for parties, Max's lullaby request most of the summer was the Bob the Builder theme song.  So... since it was his birthday, I rolled up my sleeves and "dug" in. The theme focused on the construction theme rather than the cartoon. However, Max spotted a balloon at the grocery store the day before. Eyes wide and smile big, he told me all about it. Garrett went the next day and bought it. We tied it to a saw horse and placed them in the garden to greet guests.

On Friday, I'll share links to inspiration parties for our construction theme. For now, here are a few shots of my little guy's party:

He spent the night at my parents' and was surprised when we greeted him and told him we were about to have his party. Since our daughter was born one week after his birthday, it was a huge help to prepare and decorate as just adults.  Plus, Max was  surprised and impressed with the transformation.
I can't say enough nice things about Home Depot's generosity.  The boys loved the aprons!
Come on in and grab a work apron and a hard hat.

Dig in! I loved using his toys as props and was amazed at how many uses caution tape has.
Is there anything yummier than "dirt" brownies and worms in a truck? Yum. Yeah, it would have been prettier if I'd removed the foil, but I felt I couldn't get that truck clean enough after suspecting some of the things it had hauled!
Gummy worms are big hits with little boys.

Hard hats are, too.
They worked and worked!
Max told us he couldn't eat anything because he had a house to build.
We enticed him with cupcakes.
So he enjoyed a meal icing.
 I had a couple of activities. Only one was successful. When the boys arrived, I had a table filled with foam door hangers with foam stickers of construction equipment to put on them.  None of the boys seemed especially interested. However, they loved the outside activity.

The sign says, "Dig in" and each work site was staked out.

Armed with sandbox tools, the boys dug and dug to find three (Dollar Store) finds each.

It was so fun to watch them!  This idea would also be great for a pirate party and treasure hunt.

I didn't work them the entire time!

They took a few union required breaks...

 ...lounged around...

 ...swung in the swings...

...saw the sites...

...continued the team work...

 ...played with some toys...

 ...ran with balloons...
...had a mini fight club meeting...

The party was a hit with my little worker. Five months later, he still talks about it.


  A happy birthday boy? That's success.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Attention Parents: Suicide Awareness

Babies grow up. Our girl is eating solid foods and standing on her own two feet. Our preschooler is coping with tantrums as he learns to control his emotions.  As I celebrate their triumphs and ache from their struggles, I comprehend that they will always, always be my babies.

What if something goes horribly wrong and they leave the world before I do? I pray this doesn’t happen.

Unfortunately, three families of teens in the town where I once lived had to deal with this reality within two weeks of each other. Even worse, the deaths were suicides. Parents across the nation deal with such tragedies.

Suicide is not something that goes away. It is a dark shadow with long fingers reaching across generations and social circles.

My friend Dr. Lisa Marotta has outlined some warning signs.Please go to her blog and read about them. What you learn might help save a life. You'll never know if it does.

But it sure beats the alternative.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Friday Favorite: One for the Money

*************Spoiler alert**************

Popcorn in hand, my friend Ange turned to me and grinned. “Audience demographic is no surprise.”

As we climbed the light-lined stairs, I saw what she meant. Only a couple of men held seats in the packed theater. I’m pretty sure one was there under duress.

Fans who’ve read Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series over the last couple of decades are simply happy as Plum with a Tasty Cake that a movie was finally made.  I know I am.

Since the book has such a strong fan base, the task of creating a proper script and casting correctly must've required a team of people working harder than Lula’s spandex. 

I’m pleased with some choices, but less pleased with others. Oh well, you can’t have your Morelli and Ranger, too.

The script was a great translation from novel to screen.  It’s funny. At times, the delivery was a one-liner after another and seemed a little forced, but it had more to do with acting than the script.  The style of the novel is comic-quick, too, but it isn’t as forced on the page.  On the bright side, the movie is laugh-out-loud funny, which is reminiscent of the book. For time’s sake, a few parts were left out, but the heart of the series was definitely intact.

Let’s discuss casting:
Stephanie Plum: Katherine Heigl is a brave, brave woman to take on the much beloved role of the lingerie salesman turned bounty hunter.  (Daniel Radcliffe took on Harry Potter when he was too young to know what he was getting into and the series wasn’t complete.)  People have been imagining Plum for seventeen years.  When Heigl was cast, I might have thrown up a little in my mouth. With that in mind, she surprised me. I didn't love her, but I accepted her.  Maybe because I love the books so much I want it to work.  However, I actually lived in New Jersey for a year and I never heard an accent like the one she used--even on Jersey transit.  No one can be the Stephanie in my imagination, and for her to perform in a way that makes me not despise her and actually hope there’s another movie, I applaud her.
But that doesn't change the fact her eyes are the wrong color.

Ranger: (insert sigh) Daniel Sunjata has the look of Ranger, but his performance proved that men don’t get what we see in Ranger.  He’s a fantasy.  He’s an action figure.  He’s not real.  He’s supposed to be like the dark tinted windows on the cars he drives.  He sees us…I mean, Stephanie...clearly, but we can’t see anything but his sleek, sexy exterior. He’s a flat character who only begins to develop after many, many books. Sunjata made him too jovial, too soft. I never imagined Ranger flirting back with the women who fall all over him.  He’s above that. He knows he’s hot.
Morelli: When I first saw the casting, I thought, “No way!” Then I watched Jason O'Mara in action. He is a bit old to play Morelli, but I liked him.  He has the spitfire unpredictability and the spark in his eye necessary for Morelli. The chemistry between him and Plum worked...after a few rough scenes. 

Many, many of us would have liked the film made when Sandra Bullock and The Rock were age appropriate enough to play Stephanie and Ranger. O'Mara would have rounded out that cast nicely.
Vinnie and Connie
Connie: Fine. My friend thought it should have been Debbie Mazar from Entourage. I was just stuck on my misinformed vision of Connie in my brain as a blonde.

Vinnie: Patrick Fischler is right on.  Perfect weasel.
Stephanie’s parents: Fine. 
Grandma Mazur: Debbie Reynolds is iconic. However, I imagined Grandma Mazur as a feisty, spry, little ol’ geezer. I'd have cast her as Cloris Leachman, the award winning actress who plays the grandmother in Raising Hope.

Lula: Best casting of movie.  Shari Shepherd rocked this part like it was made for her. I hope a sequel is made just so I can watch Lula in action again. In fact, just make a movie about her.  If you're a fan of the book, the movie is worth watching so you can see Lula in person.

All in all, I would see it again. I'd like to get to see the characters in action and meet some that were missing--Joyce Barnhardt, anyone?

The casting was definitely this movie's weakness. Let's hope Two for the Dough gets made.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Writer's Wednesday: Challenging

Do you ever get that nugget of a story that won't let go?

For me,'s a line of dialogue.'s the characters actually talking to me.'s an image.'s an emotion--and I know the (imaginary) circumstances that cause it.'s a conviction that can only be shared through metaphor.'s procrastination so I don't have to finish the revisions of my current novel--that is so close to completion it terrifies me. The end of things makes me uneasy; whereas, the process or journey is what brings me satisfaction.

My most recent nugget came to me first as an image and then as an emotion. When I realized it was science fiction, I panicked.

I like science fiction. I respect science fiction. But I don't write it.

But that pesky "nugget of a story" refused to vacate my brain.

Staying within the comfy confines of young adult literature, I decided to try it. While I was at it, though, I challenged myself more.  Other than this blog, I don't write in first person--because it's so biased and challenging to do properly.  I prefer the comfy third person, past tense approach. So, to make the experience even fuller, I changed to present tense.

The first line went from The kiss was electric to Our kiss is electric.

Challenging myself and getting to know that other world in short story was so much fun I think I may have found the topic of my next novel.  By writing the short story, I think I've already written a chapter. Whether it's the first or last of the novel is undecided.

I'm going to complete my current novel first.

Completion. Another challenge.

Have you challenged yourself recently?