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Category Archives: Other Stuff

Book-Themed Birthday

Momswhothink.com says, “Birthday party themes can take a lot of work out of planning a birthday party. Choosing a theme makes decorating, games, and even the food much easier to pull together.”

I agree. And if the theme is special to the birthday boy or girl, it makes it even more fun! Just ask Mister.

So, where to start? Well, I look at what Mister likes. Right now it’s eating, playing outside, listening to music, playing games, doing art, reading books, learning how and why things work and watching his favorite monkey on TV. Based on that, I come up with a list of choices. This year it was an art party, a camping themed party (because we call him Bear), a science themed party, and a Curious George Party. Now that I’ve done a party with a book (okay, okay, and it’s a TV show too) theme, there will be a lot more book titles in my future ideas lists.

It seems book-themed parties are pretty popular for baby showers right now, but books are great inspiration for party ideas when our little ones can celebrate with us, too! The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Dr. Seuss already have a lot of ideas out there. Here are some other book ideas:

The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds, Press Here (and/or Mix It Up) by Herve Tullet:

Color(s): red, yellow, blue, orange, green, purple in lots of dots

Activities: painting on a canvas, dot scavenger hunt

Food: cupcakes on a palette with different colors of icing and toppings

Favors: watercolor set, Dots candy

Splat the Cat:

Color(s): black, white, pink

Activities: pin the tail on Splat, decorate your own duck (Splat books always have lots of ducks in the illustrations), find Seymour scavenger hunt

Food: cupcakes decorated with candy or icing fish bones

Favors: Swedish Fish or Goldfish

Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle:

Color(s): blue

Activities: Don’t get stuck in the mud musical chairs, find the animals scavenger hunt

Favors: Little, blue trucks, big, green toads

Curious George by Margaret and H.A. Rey:

Color(s): red, yellow, light blue

Activities: Pin the banana on George, Monkey See, Monkey Doodle craft, character scavenger hunt

Food: Chef Pisghetti’s pizza pie, Jumpy Squirrel’s mixed nuts, The Quint’s fish crackers, Renkins’ farm fresh veggies

What I like most about choosing a book for a children’s party theme is that you can really go bananas with the little details that make a party special. And go bananas we did. Here are some pictures from Mister’s big day:

IMG_20141101_145842230[1]IMG_20141101_145657601[1]IMG_20141101_173710136[1]IMG_20141101_145811536[1] IMG_20141101_145747096[1]IMG_20141101_145818982[1] IMG_20141101_145830750[1]   IMG_20141101_145732945[2]

It would be the ultimate joy to have childrens’ birthday parties planned around one of my books. Maybe some day…

Helpful Links:

Choosing a Party Theme

http://www.momswhothink.com/birthday-party-themes/birthday-party-themes.html

http://www.scjohnson.com/en/family/family-economics/post.aspx?date=13-10-03&title=Choosing-Your-Child-s-Birthday-Party-Theme

My Party Ideas Pinterest Board

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Posted by on November 7, 2014 in Other Stuff

 

The Question

“One for the money,” I pulled back on Mister’s swing and held him in the air. “Two for the show. Three to get ready,” I lifted him higher, “and four to go!”

Now that I had him swinging, it was time to ask the question I’d been waiting to ask for days.

“So, Buddy, I was thinking…” I start. I’m already a little afraid of his answer. “I mean, I was wondering…if you know what you’d like for your birthday party this year.”

I’m a planner. I plan my plots, my meals, my days, and especially my son’s birthday parties. Although his birthday was months away, I was itching to start planning. Right away.

“We could do a bear party since we call you ‘Bear.'” I suggested. No answer. “We could do an art party.” Nothing. “We could do a party based on one of your favorite books. Like Curious George.”

“Yeah!” he says. “Curious George! I want a Curious George birthday party!”

I sighed with relief. Last year’s Mister-chosen theme of “a star party” was vague, and, while it was fun to plan with such freedom, I was hoping for something a little easier this year. Curious George gave me characters to use, a color palette to stick to, activities for the kids, and, of course, at least one food item: bananas.

“Okay. A Curious George party sounds great,” I say. “We’ll go bananas.”

“Ha, get it?” Mister says. “Go bananas. ‘Cause he’s a monkey.”

“Yeah, buddy, I get it,” I laugh. “I can’t wait.”

The question for this week is to get your creativity flowing as you think about books. What book-themed party can you think of? What would be the colors, activities, foods, etc?

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2014 in Other Stuff

 

Rebuild

On the wagon. In the saddle. Off the bench. Whatever idiom you choose to use, I’m back.

On the wagon. In the saddle. Off the bench. Whatever idiom you choose to use, I’m back. But it has been a month of Sundays since I wrote a new post. I’m a little rusty. But there are some good reasons:

1. I’ve reached another crossroad in my writing. As I talked about here, I’ve been working with the Plot Planner mapped out in the book The Plot Whisperer. It has made a huge difference in my middle grade manuscript. I’m finally starting to feel like I’m almost done with this book. And just in time. I have about a month left to submit to recent conference contacts.

2. So, when I’m not sitting down and revising or thinking about revising, chances are, I’m working on my house. I finished the fireplace project:

Fireplace BEFORE2013-10-21_12-51-39_441

And I’ve started another project in my non-writing life: the basement.

Future Family Room2013-12-03_19-30-51_0

3. As if I wasn’t busy with enough building, I got some really, really good advice about building an online platform. Stephanie Keyes, author of the Star Child books and networking extraordinaire, recommends that any online activity conducted by authors (including blogs) should follow the 9:1 rule. That means that for every 1 thing I post about myself, I need to post 9 things about someone else. After this post, I think I owe 463 posts about others.

It seems that all areas in my life are in the middle of a rebuild. I’m still trying to figure a lot out, but in the meantime, I’m back to blogging. I sure hope its like riding a bike.

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2013 in Other Stuff

 

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Super Power

Well, since I’m here to write this blog post, I obviously didn’t get whooped (though maybe I should have since I missed Friday’s post…sorry!). But I did get really embarrassed. Fortunately, I have a writing gift, kind of like a super power, that helps me through these types of situations.

I don’t know how it works. Or if it has always happened or started when I began writing, but I experience situations in two ways. Here is an example:

As soon as the word “whooped” spilled out of Mister’s mouth, there was one voice in my head saying, “This is awful. Please don’t let that lady kill me. Hurry up train! Where are you? What am I going to do with this kid?”

But there was also another voice saying, “Ah this is good stuff. You need to write embarrassed. Is your heart beating fast? Good. What about sweaty palms? Not this time? Are your cheeks on fire? Super. Why can’t you stand still? Aren’t you going to look at the lady?”

Because I’m a writer, sometimes I can experience the emotions I’m feeling and live in the moment, while still somehow taking mental notes on ways I can use that emotion in my work. And the part of me that can do that thrives on difficult situations. So that same voice that was seemingly taking notes on what my body was doing when I was feeling embarrassed was probably also rooting for me to get whooped. After all, I may need a fight scene some day.

This post will also lead to a question since I missed Friday’s post (sorry again! I was baking four dozen hydrangea-iced cupcakes…but look how neat they are!).2013-09-16_13-42-45_8

Anyway, on to the question(s):

What writing gift do you have? Does it have a downside? If so, what is it?

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2013 in Details, Other Stuff

 

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S’more Comfort Foods

In thinking about this post, I realized that I cook a lot of comfort food. I think because there’s something nurturing, not just nutritional, about eating food that feels good. And when I feel good, I’m better about making the time to write.

Luckily for my waistline, not all of my comfort foods are as unhealthy as my loaded mac n cheese. Some of my favorites are below, including appetizers, main courses, and even a couple of desserts. Some recipes are right out of a cook book. Others, again like my loaded mac n cheese, are adaptations of things I’ve seen or eaten. I hope you give some of them a try. And please share your own recipes (or even links to ones you like) in the comments!

Appetizer:

Tear-Off Cbiatta Garlic Bread

1 loaf cbiatta bread

2 tablespoons olive oil or melted butter

1 clove garlic, minced

large ball fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced

died parsley flakes

Heat the oven to 400 degrees

1. Cross cut the cbiatta bread through the middle, width-wise

2. Mix the minced garlic and oil or butter in a small bowl.

3. Place the two half-loaves on a baking sheet. Score the loaves, not all the way through, by making vertical slices.

4. Using a pastry brush or spoon, cover the inside of the loaf (not the crust) with the oil and garlic mixture. Lay the mozzarella slices on top.

Bake just until cheese is melted.

Main Courses:

Shepherd’s Pie

1 lb ground turkey

1 onion, minced

1 carrot, sliced

1 cup frozen peas

1 cup frozen corn

4 potatoes, peeled and cut

1/2 tablespoon dried rosemary

1/2 tablespoon dried thyme

pinch nutmeg

salt and pepper to taste

3/4 cup beef broth

1 tablespoon flour

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup milk

Heat oven to 400 degrees

1. Boil potatoes. Drain. Melt 1 tablespoon butter with milk in the same pot. Mix in with the potatoes and mash. Set aside.

2. Cook onion and carrot in a large skillet until softened, about 15 minutes.

3. Mix in ground turkey. Cook until browned.

4. Add flour and cook for two minutes, stirring constantly

5. Mix in rosemary, thyme, nutmeg, and beef broth. Cook for five minutes until thickened.

6. Add in peas and corn. Mix and pour into square baking dish. Spread the mashed potatoes over the top of the meat mixture. Cut the remaining tablespoon of butter into small pieces and spread out on top of the potatoes.

7. Bake 30 to 35 minutes until heated through.

Fast and Hearty Lentil Soup

1 can lentil soup (because dried lentils are a pain to clean)

2 potatoes, peeled, cut, and boiled until just softened

1 cup cooked macaroni

2 italian sausages, cooked and sliced

about 1/2 cup water

Mix lentil soup, potatoes, macaroni noodles, italian sausage, and water in a dutch oven. Cook on low until heated through. Delicious served with garlic bread.

Side Dish:

Arnstein Baked Beans

1 can baked beans

handful raisins

one medium apple, peeled, cored and sliced

1. Mix baked beans, raisins, and apple slices in a medium pot.

2. Cover and cook on low heat about 40 minutes or until apples are soft.

Desserts:

Hot Fudge Sunday Cake 

1 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons baking cocoa

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup milk

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup chopped nuts, if desired

1  cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup baking cocoa

1 3/4 cups very hot water

Ice cream, if desired

heat oven to 350 degrees

1. Mix the flour, granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons cocoa, baking powder, and salt in a square baking pan

2. Mix in milk, oil, and vanilla with a fork until smooth

3. Sprinkle brown sugar and cocoa over the batter. Pour water over everything, but do not mix.

4. Bake for 40 minutes or until the top is dry

Serve warm topped with ice cream

S’more Dip

1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 cup marshmallow creme

1 box graham cracker honey sticks

1. Mix chocolate chips and evaporated milk in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until melted. Pour in to a 9-inch pie plate

2. Drop tablespoonfuls of marshmallow creme randomly in the chocolate. Microwave for about 30 seconds or until the marshmallow is softened. Swirl with a knife until it looks marbled.

3. Serve warm with graham sticks for dipping.

Enjoy!

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2013 in Other Stuff

 

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Comfort Food

I sit down with my weekly meal plan sheet and stack of cookbooks.

“What do you want this week?” I ask Husband.

“Chicken parm and mac-n-cheese,” he says. “You know, comfort foods.”

I write “mac n cheese” on Wednesday. I could go for some comfort food too.

I’m glad I’m not alone with mac n cheese on my comfort food list. Since the idea of giving writers comfort food (not the literal kind, but the figurative kind) is what started this blog two years ago almost to the day, I’d like to spend this week sharing comfort food recipes. Here is one to get it started (I apologize in advance for being “one of those cooks” who doesn’t measure):

loaded mac n cheeseMy (almost) Famous Loaded Mac n Cheese- Serves 4

Ingredients:

4 strips bacon

1 small chicken breast, cut into small pieces

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1 1/2 cups milk

2 cups cheese of choice (I use a combination of cheddar, colby jack shreds since they melt faster)

about 3/4 of a big box of macaroni noodles

1 cup frozen spinach, cooked according to package directions

1 cup frozen peas

1 can diced tomatoes, drained

pinch nutmeg

desired seasoning for chicken (optional, but I like to use cajun seasoning mix)

salt and pepper to taste

handful breadcrumbs

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook macaroni according to package instructions. Drain. Pour into the baking dish.

3. Spray a 9×13 baking pan with cooking spray.

4. Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium high heat until slightly overdone, be careful not to burn (this helps the bacon keep some crisp during baking). Remove the bacon to a plate with paper towels.

5. Empty most of the bacon grease from the skillet. Brown the chicken in remaining grease, seasoning if desired. Pour chicken into the baking dish.

6. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the butter to the skillet and melt fully. Stir in the flour until slightly brown and bubbly. Add the milk and stir constantly until the flour is dissolved. This roux helps thicken the cheese sauce.

7. Add the cheese to the roux, stirring occasionally, until the cheese is melted and the sauce is thick but not lumpy. Season with salt, pepper, and pinch nutmeg.

8. Add the peas, spinach, and tomatoes to the baking dish with the noodles and chicken. Stir in the cheese sauce. Crumble the bacon and mix it in. Sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs

9. Bake about 25 minutes until the top is brown.

Any ingredients can be substituted for my peas, spinach, tomatoes, and bacon. I make two similar dishes, a pizza version with olives, pepperoni, and mozzarella cheese instead, and a taco version with taco meat, black beans, corn, and mexican cheeses. Have fun with it!

Please share a recipe (or recipes) for your favorite comfort food(s) in the comments. I can’t wait to see what you’re cooking!

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2013 in Other Stuff

 

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The Winners Are…

Things like the Holiday Photo Caption Challenge are great ways to keep writing fresh and creative and fun. Planning things like this for the blog reminds me to do the same when I write fiction. I think the commentors had fun with this too.

The winners are…

Oh, Santa 2“Oh no. I’m busted.” by Nancy!

Big Dog

 “Oh dear, Snuggly Dog, I think there has been a mistake.  I am not the holiday turkey; please do not eat me.” by Salsanpeeps!

family christmas

“There is no way you’re blaming that smell on me!!” by Siobhan!

Thank you all for posting such funny captions. Enjoy your fun prizes!

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2013 in Other Stuff