Friday, August 31, 2012

Summer In Retrospect

As sad as it is for me to write this, this weekend marks the end of summer. Which means it's time to reflect on the Summer of 12, taking comfort in the fact that another summer awaits us, Lord willing. So here is a pictorial reflection on our summer, with commentary.

Summer 2012 was a time for...

Hanging out as a family. My oldest daughter graduated from high school in June and the only thing that kept me from falling apart over the summer was the fact that she decided to stay home this year and not go away to school just yet. She's taking classes at our local community college and deciding what to do with her life. I think she made a wise decision. She's got the rest of her life to be "out there" in the wide wide world. I'm so glad to have more time with her.
Fourth of July. We spent the Fourth of July at our neighborhood pool then came home and had an All American dinner, did sparklers in the driveway and went back up to the pool at dark to watch the men of the neighborhood put on a very impressive fireworks display over our lake. It was truly one of the most perfect Fourths our family has ever had.
Winning. Here are my four champion swimmers from our swim team proudly displaying their trophy after the team banquet. I was able to capture the moment when the team found out they won the league trophy on video. I will admit to watching it more than once. It was such a fun, happy moment. They were undefeated this year in regular season. I will add that they also went on to win the All Star meet. Just sayin.
Swimming. You might get the feeling from this post that we spend a lot of time at our neighborhood pool. You would be right. This picture was snapped of all my men at the Fourth of July party.
Being silly. When you're really bored, it's fun to dress up the dog. The dog, thankfully, is a good sport about wearing tutus. If you can't see, he has a scarf around his neck, a tank top and a tutu. Poor thing.
More being silly. A napkin at a restaurant becomes a beard...
Or a mustache.
Signing books. I had more than a few book signings this summer, promoting my new novel, The Guest Book. If you haven't read it yet, it's good to read even when it's not summer. I was extremely grateful to all the people who bought a book, came to my signings, or even just acted interested in what I was doing. I am so blessed that I can do something like this and call it "work."
And now we move onto fall. I'm consoling myself that summer is over by pinning lots of great decorating, food and craft ideas onto my "Fall" Pinterest board. I linked it if you want to stop by and take a look.
What will you miss about summer? What are you looking forward to about fall?

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Creativity For Kids Party: Birthday Edition

I got the opportunity to review Creativity For Kids products via a "party in a box" kit the company sent me. In the box were several different kits to use with multiple girls. I already knew what I was going to use the kits for-- my youngest's seventh birthday party! This child won the art award at her school last year so anything creative and crafty was sure to win her heart. And it did!

The girls opened presents, had cupcakes and ice cream and all the other birthday type stuff you'd expect.
But they also got plenty of opportunities to make crafts they could take home with them afterwards. In the photo above you will see the adorable totes they decorated that held all their finished craft items. The moms simply could not believe all that they made and were able to take home and enjoy. Creativity For Kids even threw in a little ring making kit for them to use later.
One thing I will have to say about the party that definitely made all the difference were my three helpers: my 12 yo daughter and two of her friends. These girls came over an hour before the party, organized the kits, read the instructions and mapped out a plan of action as to how they were going to instruct and help the girls. I hate to think of what I would have done without them. Thanks girls!
If you're looking for a great way to throw a birthday party that doesn't 1) cost a ton or 2) require a lot of prep work, I would recommend checking out the products that Creativity For Kids offers. Their kits come ready to use with enough for at least 10 children. And everything you will need is right in the box! (I loved that aspect of it.) The girls made headbands, bracelets and necklaces, plus decorated their tote bags. It kept them plenty busy with just enough time to eat and unwrap gifts at the end. Plus they were all proud of their creations and anxious to show their moms. These girls were 6 and 7 years old. I think maybe the 8-10 age range would've been a bit easier. They did need quite a bit of help. (Hence my mention of having the helpers there.)
All in all, it was a memorable birthday and a great way to celebrate that I'm sure my birthday girl will always remember. Thanks Creativity For Kids!
(If you'd like to read some other reviews of Creativity For Kids parties with much better pictures of the products, click on the links below. I was so consumed by managing the chaos that I didn't do the best job with taking pictures!

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Monday, August 27, 2012

Completing The Sentence

I am...

able to watch Field of Dreams over and over.

learning to read ebooks, but still prefer print ones.

a huge fan of David Gray. Just yesterday I heard him doing a cover of this Bruce Springsteen song-- DG and the Boss, united in song. Swoon. Curt and I get to see him in concert in September. Double swoon!

completely crazy about my family. My kids overwhelm me with the scope of who they are; my husband astonishes me with the depth of his character and wisdom.

still glad every day that I have Sirius radio in my car. It's a veritable dance party every time I drive. If you must spend time in the car then it should be as fun as possible.

trying to do a better job with blogging. I'm not really back in the swing of things yet, I will confess. A bit of summer lingers in my rebellious blood.

enjoying the book Story by Steven James. Get this book. Read a chapter a day. It'll inspire you and make you think about God's story and your own story and how the two are woven together. As a storyteller, this book has been good for me. I have a hunch it'll be good for you, too.

trying to work up to running a 10K. I can't believe I just said that publicly. I might not ever do it in a formal race; I just want to know I can.

both dreading and looking forward to September and October. Both are shaping up to be busy months with a good many writing and book-related events. I will enjoy every single one of them, but I'm also a HUGE homebody, so it will stretch me.

endeavoring to actually cook the many recipes I have pinned on Pinterest. So far I've cooked about five of them. It helped to use my Pinterest boards as I was planning meals.

finding my iPad indispensable. Twitter, Facebook, email, Sirius, Netflix, Pinterest, Kindle... it's all there in one convenient, portable package. I just wish it had a longer battery life.

Ok, so that's about all for me. I enjoyed this little format as a way to dump a lot of random stuff into one post. Hope you did too!
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Friday, August 24, 2012

Come Monday

So my kids are in school now. If you follow me on Twitter, or check the feed here in the sidebar, you saw I tweeted a pic of them all ready for their first day. I was not ready. I wanted more summer, lamenting how fast it went by. But alas, there is no slowing time and no denying that the date on the calendar says it's time to go back. Back to routine. Back to schedules. Back to outside demands intruding on my desire to do nothing.

In other words, back to reality. I guess that's why I love summer so much. It's a bit of suspended reality. That's where fiction writers like to live anyway.

But before I go (not so) gently into that good night, I'm staging one last siege on summer. My oldest daughter (who is going to community college this year and therefore still at home) and I are going to our pool today on this last weekday it is open. We are spending several hours getting our tans on. Reading books. Listening to the country music they blast over the loudspeakers. Talking about everything and nothing. Debating whether they had mirrors where that girl bought her bathing suit. Because surely they must not have or she would've seen how very little that suit covers.

Come Monday I'm making myself get back on track. I've got my to-do list already started. I've got a new routine to get into. One that involves getting up and getting going. One that involves taking care of those edits that just showed up in my inbox, writing those blog posts I need to write, returning those emails I need to return, tackling those projects I promised I'd get to "after the kids were in school."

Come Monday I'll embrace the reality that is upon me, and make the best of it. But not today. Today I'm going to wring out the last drop of summer. Care to join me?

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Monday, August 20, 2012

Dinner: A Love Story

It seems I jumpstarted my return to blogging. I thought I was ready to recommit to regular posts, but alas I was a bit overzealous with my kids still home, one child starting community college, one leaving to go back to college, three needing uniforms and school supplies, two having birthdays, some scattered book events... you get the drift.
But I did want to say I'm trying to come back on a more regular basis. I see light on the horizon in the form of next week when the birthdays will be over and the kids safely tucked away in school on a daily basis.

In the meantime, I wanted to share a book that has been inspiring me, Dinner: A Love Story. I stumbled onto it via Pinterest and was late to her party it seems, as this has been a popular website for years.
I spent a day curled up with this book, reading it. And yes, I said reading. It is a cookbook, but it's also a story about two parents who committed to eating dinner as a family every night even with two kids and two jobs. Even though I already serve some sort of dinner most every night, I was inspired by this book. Not necessarily even by the recipes (though I did see a few I wanted to try), but more by the spirit of the book-- the way that it urges us (me and you, the readers) to embrace dinner and family.
I was not sent this book nor does this author know I'm writing this. I just wanted to share in case some of you, like me, find yourselves needing a shot in the arm to help re-find your passion for food preparation. The night I read this I made pot roast with carrots, potatoes and onions and green beans. (My kids said it would've been perfect if I'd made cinnamon apples and rolls too-- duly noted.) For dessert I made a hot fudge pudding cake served with vanilla ice cream. Needless to say, my family was glad I found this book!
Here's the trailer, in case you'd like to know more:

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Thursday, August 09, 2012

Make Your Own Vinaigrette

(Image courtesy of

Want to whip up a balsamic vinaigrette dressing? Here's a recipe you can do with ease!

3/4 cup evoo
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp italian herbs
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Whisk everything together except oil. Add oil last. Let stand at room temp for a few hours to allow flavors to blend.
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Tuesday, August 07, 2012

How To Get Your Novel Published

I received a question the other day from a woman who wanted to write a novel. She wanted my advice as to how she could get published. I wrote this response and then decided I should share it here, in case someone else had the desire to write a novel and wanted to know how to make it happen. Warning, my answer is not an easy one, but barring a rare miracle, it's the way to go about getting a novel published:

Butt in chair. Write the book. If it's fiction the whole book has to be submitted-- not just a few chapters like in nonfiction. It's hard to write a whole novel on spec but we all have to go through it. So take comfort in that.

Get input on the book via a critique group, a service like My Book Therapy, a writer friend-- wherever you can find help. Make changes. Edit. Tweak. Know that you've done everything you can to get the book ready to submit.

While the writing and tweaking is going on, keep an eye out for names of agents you might submit to. Build that list and, if possible, follow these people's blogs, tweets, etc. Get to know them and what they are looking for. Any more an agent is the only way to get in front of an editor.

Submit your manuscript to your list of agents with a well written query. (Google "how to write a query letter" for lots of advice on how to do that.)

Wait. Wait some more. While you're waiting, read books on craft and keep messing with that book. Get rejections and requests for partials (a few chapters). Hope that "the one" requests a full. If that doesn't happen, go back to edits. Make changes and resubmit. Ride the rollercoaster that is the writing life. Find some friends who are also writers so you have someone in your corner who understands. It's possible to find those folks online these days if they are not in your community.

With perserverance and tenacity, one day you will be published. Believe that and keep moving forward with that goal in sight and do not give up.
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Thursday, August 02, 2012

I'm Back

So I read on the calendar that it's August. But it can't be. Didn't summer just start? Shouldn't we be still diving in (pun intended) to long lazy days filled with sun and surf? I can't stand the back to school commercials and aisles filled with backpacks and glue sticks and spiral bound notebooks. Give me more summer!

But time marches on, and the calendar seems to be intent in getting us to that day lurking towards the end of this month. The day where I'll once more be tied to rising earlier than any of us likes, driving carpool, keeping up with emails and assignments, and-- shudder-- packing school lunches again. My two oldest will head to college. (Seriously? I can't have TWO in college!) My third will be the only one in high school this year. My fourth will be in the middle of middle school. My fifth will be in his last year of elementary school (how is that possible?) and my baby (sniff!) will be in the first grade. The other day I asked her if she'd please pretty please consider staying six with her two front teeth missing forever. She said sure. But alas her birthday also lurks at the end of this month. Her teeth might be missing a bit longer, but she won't stay six.

The beginning of August means I'm back from my blogging break. I'm glad that I took the break and focused on my family. I've had some memorable moments hanging out with my kids. I love talking with my older three and hearing what's going on in their lives. I love how hard they make me laugh, how much they challenge me to think, and how many things they introduce me to that I wouldn't know otherwise. I had a moment of awe this summer where I totally grasped what very cool people I have the privilege of raising and launching into the world.

Some of you probably already have kids back in school. Some of you are happy about it. Me? I could use a few more months of this suspended reality we call summer. Any time I can flee reality is a good time for me. I guess that's why I'm a fiction writer.
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