Aug 312008
 

cassie-was-here.jpgWhat’s on my nightstand? Cassie Was Here, by Caroline Hickey.

Here is another book that just feels real. These seem so rare nowadays, when every little thing from books and stories to sports and bottled water is jacked up on hype and extreme-isms. I find real refreshing.

Cassie was there, but it’s 11-year-old Bree’s story about how she’s strangely attracted to an older friend (Cassie) who may be cunning, mean, and manipulative, but who might also be kind and generous. It’s hard to tell.

I love how Cassie is drawn. Very authentic. I knew a Cassie. She was my friend, too, and she sometimes did things I didn’t like. Sometimes I stood up to her (and got in trouble when she cried to our gym teacher, Mrs. Scroggins), and sometimes I followed her lead and regretted it (that be-mean-to-Sherri day was just plain stupid, and I deserved Sherri’s response). Still, at other times, she was a good friend.

Bree’s responses to Cassie felt very real and very familiar.

maximum-ride-1.jpgWhat’s on my mp3 player? Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment, by James Patterson.

Critique partner, Dale, recommended this. She’s big on fantasy. I’m not. But I enjoyed the first book of this series very much. First of all, the fantasy part is that the kids are genetically re-engineered. I guess that might make these science fiction, not fantasy, but whatever. What can I say? Genetics interests me. I enjoy imagining strange genetic combinations.

But what I like best about this book is Max’s voice. She’s obviously contemporary, but not so hip that she seems alien to me. She sounds totally real, even in the face of what is clearly fantasy.

Now, I am listening to this, so maybe more credit should go to the reader than the author, but my gut says they are both deserving. Whether or not I like the rest of the books in the series remains to be seen, but I enjoyed this first one.

Aug 302008
 

With the school year about to begin, I am once again visiting Mrs. Laguna’s Web site at Milford Middle School.

Mrs. Laguna, a.k.a. Cathy, is my friend and beloved college roommate. She’s one of those highly energetic, creative, and smart teachers that we hope our kids get every year. I enjoy checking out what she and her students are doing.

She’s updated her pages for this year, so they’re empty, but I found her Wikispace from last year. On it is a map in the lower left corner that logs where site visitors come from. Check it out.

She’s got people from all over the world visiting her classroom pages. If you click on the map, you’ll see there’s even a dot showing a visitor from Alaska. Gee, I wonder who that could be.

I think I need a ClustrMap here on this blog.

devils-marbles.jpgPossibly my all-time favorite rock pic. Devils Marbles, in the hot, red, fly-infested center of Australia. Don’t get me wrong. I love Australia. But I could do without the flies.

Aug 292008
 

Are you sure this isn’t a food blog? What does this have to do with Needlework, Reading, Writing, or Life in Alaska?

Hmmm…good point. Let me think about that, and I’ll get back to you.

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The hummus demanded bread. So I made Whole Wheat French Bread with Beer. Whole Wheat Sourdough French Bread is better, but I don’t currently have a sourdough pot, so beer it was.

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Now, most of my bread recipes are for two loaves, and that’s just too much. I have learned to divide and freeze the dough after the first rising, baking four Bitty Baguettes at separate times. It’s great–fresh bread more often and no pressure to overdose on carbs in order to finish the loaves before they mold.

bread-book.jpgI enjoy making bread by hand. My first efforts at bread were fairly dismal. The word “brick” comes to mind. And then my sister-in-law got us this book: Garden Way Publishing’s Bread Book, by Ellen Johnson. Reading the how-to intro of this book was like waving a magic wand over my dough: it was transformed. While there are many variables that keep results surprising, for the most part, my bread is consistently good these days.

And the recipes in this book are mmmmm! North African Coriander Bread…Wedding Bread from Crete…Sourdough English Muffins…Lacy Corn Cakes…boy, do I love this cookbook. It’s out of print, but there’s a used one for sale on Amazon…for $50.00! (Nope, mine’s not for sale, not even for $50.00.)

Ellen Johnson has a more recent bread book, though, that may be similar.

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See? Now it’s a book-y post. So there.

Aug 282008
 

The garden channel is turned to Snow Peas. I’m giving blanching and freezing a whirl. We’ll see if they turn out to be mush when re-heated.

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I took Jane’s advice last week and made a dip for my raw veggies, primarily the turnips. I made hummus. The verdict: I like raw turnips as a vehicle for hummus. A lot! Thanks, Jane. Making a dip may seem like a no-brainer, but I assure you, the idea was nowhere in my brain until Jane suggested it.

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If there were a beauty pageant for vegetables, I would enter this one as Miss Alaska. I think she could win.

Aug 272008
 

The TNNA fall NeedleArts Market is coming right up. It’s a wholesale trade show, so it’s open only to wholesale buyers. It will be my first hotel show. I’m in room 713.

To date, all the trade shows I’ve attended have been in convention centers where booths are partitioned off by curtains on metal frames. Hotel shows are in–yeah–hotels. Generally hotels with suites. Exhibitors live in the bedroom part of the suite and set up their wares in the sitting room.

Convention shows can accommodate a greater number of vendors because space is more or less unlimited. Hotel shows, on the other hand, must limit the number of vendors to the number of available suites. That really bothers me. I cringe at the idea of exclusivity. I can’t stand the idea of a would-be participant being turned away. I want to welcome Everyone.

helmet-rock.jpgThis may be the beginning of a rock kick. Remarkable Rocks, Kangaroo Island, South Australia.

Anywho, I’m going to this one, and I’m contemplating fun things to do in my room; i.e., games to play with customers. (Of course I’ll have games–du-uh.)

I’ve got a magnetic dart board that I may take along–a throw-a-dart-win-a-design kind of thing.

Or maybe I could take an autumn leaf jigsaw puzzle–not that anyone has time to put a puzzle together. If I had an easy kids’ puzzle, I could write prizes on the backs of the pieces and buyers could choose a puzzle piece and see what they’ve won. Kind of like those ducks-on-the-pond games at carnivals.

I have a first-lines-from-famous-books display I could turn into a game.

Or we could make super-simple bookmarks.

What do you think? Let’s brainstorm.

Aug 262008
 

If my parents had thought to make eating lima beans a challenge or a contest, I’d probably be a lima bean fan today. Sadly, they did not. Sadly, I am not.

But here are a Challenge and a Contest that are way-yonder more appealing than lima beans.

To celebrate National Sewing Month in September, Lazy Girl Designs is hosting a Make 2/Give 2 Challenge. Here’s the idea, right from Joan’s keyboard:

The Challenge: Make2/Give2
– Make two ‘With Love Totes’ (free pattern from Lazy Girl Designs), wrap them like the gifts that they are, and give them to one non-sewing (or new-sewing) friend.
– One tote is for your friend to keep, one is for your friend to give to a friend. By doing so, your friend will experience for themselves the sewy-good feeling of this kind act and perhaps give sewing a try.

Sweeten the Challenge with this idea:

Maybe your friend will join you for a sewing adventure by planning a project, shopping, or helping you cut and sew. Make a date of it.

Joan’s goal is to have members of her Lazy Yahoo Group make and give 500 totes. How’s that for ambition?

Sounds like fun, eh? Makes you want to embroider a panel for the tote, or embroider on the tote, or make one to take to the library and fill with books, or find booky fabric for the tote, or…

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Laura Salas is hosting a poetry contest on her blog, Writing the World for Kids.

The instructions:

Write a poem that serves as a summary or an introduction to your book (published or forthcoming or wip). Poems should be 24 lines or less. Any form is fine, or free verse works, too!

Okay, Laura’s readers are mostly writers, but don’t let that stop you. If you don’t have a published book, forthcoming book, or work-in-progress, I propose you build a poem summarizing some other book. Even if that disqualifies you, which I doubt because Laura appreciates all poetic efforts, it’s a fun challenge, no? I think I’ll write one for Clueless in Alaska.

Check out the details here.

Both challenges run through the month of September.