Friday, December 24, 2010

Nutcracker Reverie

I took my two girls to the ballet. Just as my mother took me most years of my adolescence. It was entrancing. No words, but storytelling in abundance. Not much plot, but who cares? It's The Nutcracker! I was seven-years-old and lived with my family in Portland, Oregon the first time I saw this production. My mother said that I turned to her at intermission with huge, star-struck eyes, whispering, "This is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen in my whole life!"

Every time I watch Nutcracker, I'm seven again and still filled with wonder at the kind of beauty that life doesn't usually provide. I am drawn in from the first musical note to the last curtain call.

As you can tell, I'm a sentimental creature of tradition. For as long as I can remember, we've had a dinner of waffles with sliced strawberries and fresh whipped cream on Christmas Eve. This year will be the same. After a family program, we'll give the children one gift. A new pair of pajamas. Come rain, sleet, shine or tornados, we always have new pajamas on Christmas Eve.

After presents tomorrow morning, we'll eat banana and pineapple soup, breakfast casserole, and croissants filled with chocolate. For dinner? Fresh-from-the-Oregon-coast crab salad, yorkshire pudding, and prime rib. I know, it sounds like a lot, and it is. But this celebration is only once a year, right? (Plus, I now have a gym membership!)

Traditions. They really aren't about repeating the same activities over and over. They're about creating happy ties with the people you love. And memories that last longer than time and change.

Happy twenty-forth! What are your favorite holiday traditions?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Gift Recommendation

Snuggling up with your child and reading them a lovely picture book is one of the sweet payoffs of being a parent. I'm always on the lookout for new material to share with my little guy. I found this wonderful book at Target. It's so good that it made me cry as I read it there in the book section. Public tears are always embarrassing, people. I don't cry pretty. The book that brought out my inner child and outer emotions?

Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You by Nancy Tillman.

Excerpt . . .

"And if someday you’re lonely,
or someday you’re sad,
or you strike out at baseball,
or think you’ve been bad...

just lift up your face, feel the wind in your hair.
That’s me, my sweet baby, my love is right there.

In the green of the grass... in the smell of
the sea... in the clouds floating by...
at the top of a tree... in the sound
crickets make at the end of the day...

“You are loved. You are loved. You are
loved,” they all say.

Everyone should buy this book. All children, young or old, should have these words spoken to them.

Merry 23rd, dear readers. Have you made any great gift discoveries?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Be Jolly By Golly Blogfest

December 20th is finally here.

Huzzah! Let the holiday celebration begin! Even better, let it be hosted by those two, cool-yule girls . . . Jen at Unedited and Melissa from Through the Looking Glass. These ladies know how to throw a party. So drop by, take a look at your fellow bloggers finery, get a new recipe or two, and have a visit.

Be Jolly By Golly!

Welcome to my home, friends. It looks like a Christmas card outside with fat, lacy snowflakes swirling in the air. Let me take your coat. And may I offer you a macaron and a cup of cocoa? Eggnog anyone? Let's check out the nativity scene on our way to my office.

Rest your feet after braving the elements, the traffic, and the shoppers. Have a seat in this comfy reading chair. Just scoot the new year's bear out of the way. He doesn't mind a bit. So, what do you want for Christmas?
What's that noise? It's the children, of course! Come downstairs and meet a couple of them. They love new people. See their tree? This is where the kids put their gifts to each other.
Now, the family tree. The kids decorate it, too. I hold the extension ladder, listen to Christmas music, and watch them go crazy. Want to guess what's in the presents? Go ahead, pick them up and shake them. Anticipation is the best part of getting gifts!
Ahh, the stockings. I love Christmas morning surprises, don't you?
We trim everything from chandeliers to bathroom towel racks. Are we going too far? Maybe, just a little.
This is the white tree. Or as I call it, the obsessive compulsive disorder enhancer. I fiddle with the crystals on this thing about twenty times a day. Every time I walk by it, I have to adjust something . . . Hmmm. Excuse me for a moment. I need to move that silver ball a quarter of an inch to the right.

Well, that's it. Thanks for dropping by. Can I top off your cocoa? Would you like to play a board game? Monopoly, Life, or Catan? What's your favorite thing to play?

Have a wonderful, happy day, readers. Come back, anytime.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Translating Word Verification

I'm seeing a definite trend with Word Verification these days. In the past, we had a good relationship, but now WV is sounding snippy and superior. As though it has tested my blogging skills and found me lacking. I'll let you be the judge. These are actual Word Verification offerings.

(Let me translate what we read, and what WV really means.)

1. aZZiff: code for "You think that's a good comment? As if!"

2. clonkR: similar to definition #1. "Don't write this. It's a clonker."

3. VIrtus: Word Verification is now testing our Latin. And sometimes our Cantonese, German, and Lithuaninan. All at the same time.

4. cYss: this is WV's acronym for "check your spelling silly!" (I like to think it means silly instead of something more harsh like stupid.)

5. kisSle: I'm not exactly sure what kissle means. (I don't think I want to know.)

Is Word Verification treating you well, bloggers? Maybe I'm being fanciful and endowing this "spam reduction mechanism" with traits it doesn't have.

(Either way, I need to lay off the Diet Coke with lime. A little too much caffeine this morning, I think)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Chevalier Appreciation Day

Finally! A modern person has been chosen for Author Appreciation Day. If I could be any writer today, it would be Tracy Chevalier. With very few words, Ms. Chevalier seamlessly weaves fact and historical fiction together. Here is a glimpse at just three of her works.

Girl With a Pearl Earring

Setting: Delft, South Holland, in the 1600's
This scene shows the first meeting between 16-year-old maid Griet and the Dutch painter Vermeer.
"The man was watching me, his eyes grey like the sea. He had a long, angular face, and his expression was steady, in contrast to his wife's, which flickered like a candle. He had no beard or moustache, and I was glad, for it gave him a clean appearance. He wore a black cloak over his shoulders, a white shirt, and a fine lace collar. His hat pressed into hair the color of brick washed by rain.

"What have you been doing here, Griet?" he asked.

I was surprised by the question but knew enough to hide it. "Chopping vegetables, sir. For the soup."

"And why have you laid them out thus?" He tapped his finger on the table.

I always laid vegetables out in a circle, each with its own section like a slice of pie. There were five slices: red cabbage, onions, leeks, carrots and turnips. I had used a knife edge to shape each slice, and placed a carrot disk in the center.
The man tapped his finger on the table. "Are they laid out in the order in which they will go into the soup?" he suggested, studying the circle.

"No, sir." I hesitated. I could not say why I had laid out the vegetables as I did. I simply set them as I felt they should be, but I was too frightened to say so to a gentleman.

"I see you have separated the whites," he said, indicating the turnips and onions. "And then the orange and the purple, they do not sit together. Why is that?" He picked up a shred of cabbage and a piece of carrot and shook them like dice in his hand.

I looked at my mother, who nodded slightly.

"The colors fight when they are side by side, sir."
This story depicts the intense relationship between Vermeer and Griet and how the painting Girl With a Pearl Earring might have come about. Chevalier is brilliant. I identified with the heroine immediately and was fascinated by her harsh yet beautiful world.

The Virgin Blue setting: Present day and 16th-century France
After moving to Lisle-Sur-Tarn, American Ella Turner has strange dreams with flashes of deep indigo and fragments of ancient-dialect French.
She is soon driven to uncover the history of her ancestress Isabelle du Moulin.
I am still haunted by the fate of secretly Catholic Isabelle at the hands of her intolerant Huguenot family. A tragic and unforgettable story.

Burning Bright setting: London in the 18oo's
The Tiger by William Blake
"Tiger, tiger burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?"
The title of this book comes from the above poem. Chevalier always chooses compelling subject matter. I've been interested in William Blake since my youth. My English-major brother would tell me tales of Blake's life and quote from his writing, and it never failed to give me a thrill.
In Burning Bright, we see life through the eyes of London waif Maggie Butterfield and former country boy, now City dweller, Jem Kellaway. Their coming-of-age story is realistic and not entirely happy, and they are never the same after befriending each other. And their neighbor William Blake.

Thank you all for stopping by today. I hope you have a wonderful weekend, and if you're searching for an interesting read, give Tracy Chevalier a try.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Brilliant Talli

Just a small moment of tribute for Talli. She's a lovely, cheerful person, and a wonderful writer. Her blog is one of my favorites, and now her debut novel The Hating Game is out. Brilliant, Talli. Just brilliant!

Help Talli Roland's debut novel THE HATING GAME hit the Kindle bestseller list at and by spreading the word today. Even a few sales in a short period of time on Amazon helps push the book up the rankings, making it more visible to other readers.

No Kindle? Download a free app at Amazon for Mac, iPhone, PC, Android and more.

Coming soon in paperback. Keep up with the latest


When man-eater Mattie Johns agrees to star on a dating game show to save her ailing recruitment business, she's confident she'll sail through to the end without letting down the perma-guard she's perfected from years of her love 'em and leave 'em dating strategy. After all, what can go wrong with dating a few losers and hanging out long enough to pick up a juicy £2000,000 prize? Plenty, Mattie discovers, when it's revealed that the contestants are four of her very unhappy exes. Can Mattie confront her past to get the prize money she so desperately needs, or will her exes finally wreak their long-awaited revenge? And what about the ambitious TV producer whose career depends on stopping her from making it to the end?

Help debut author Talli Roland Take On Amazon today!

Reviews & Tags

If you do buy The Hating Game and you like it, a review on Amazon would be greatly appreciated! If you don't have an Amazon account, you can also post reviews on Goodreads. Thank you!
If you are on Amazon and in a clicking sort of mood, it would be fantastic if you could click on a few tags ('Tags Customers Associate with this Product' - located underneath the Product Description). Cheers!