Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas Music Countdown

'Tis the season
for my current
Top 5 Christmas Songs:

5) Let it Snow  (Because I miss the possibility of li'l white flurries falling from the sky and blanketing the earth below for a glistening white Christmas.)

4) Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer (It's my favorite Christmas movie too!)

3) Silent Night  (Was taught this one in sign language at church when I was just a girl and have always loved it.)

2)  White Christmas (Sang this one to my first kidlet when he was a newborn, even though it wasn't Christmas time because Girl Scout & Christmas songs were the only songs, in that severe sleep deprived state that I could remember the words to!)

1) The Little Drummer Boy  (Currently, the kidlets and I are absolutely hooked on Pentatonix rendition of this Christmas classic. Nothing like a li'l beatboxing to modernize a traditional favorite. Have a look & listen!)


If you listen to Christmas music, what is your current fav?  Song?  Album?

In addition to more Christmas tracks than I can count (heavily laced with Christmas music from Glee), we're also enjoying Kelly Clarkson's newest album, Wrapped In Red, and more from Pentatonix  (which is new to us this year)
Mama’s Losin’ It
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Monday, December 16, 2013

From Left to Write: Arriving at Downton Abbey

Just a li'l chat between hubs and I about a year ago, before season 3 came out here, in the States.  He was driven to make me fall down the Downton Abbey rabbit hole.

Downton Abbey.  Have you seen it?


Have you seen it?


You have to see it.

You think?

No, really, you have to see it.

I'm getting that.

You know, if you're looking for something to stream, you ought to try Downton Abbey.

You really want me to watch, don't you?

Well, yeah.  I think you'd like it.  It's so good.

I get that it's totally you.  British.  Historically based.  PBS.  But, will I like it?

Watch it.


No.  You need to watch this.

We'll see.

So, you're going to watch it, right?

{Head. Desk. Ouch.}  Okay, okay, okay.  I give.

While there was oodles of hoopla surrounding the show post season two, I wasn't convinced it would be something I would like.  But, clearly, unless I wanted to keep having the quite cyclical conversation, I caved and hit PBS online to catch the first season.

It didn't take long at all to get completely hooked on the show and rapidly found myself signing up at Hulu + to see the second season.  I was thoroughly taken in by the smallest period details of the show.  And what caught me most significantly, was the subtlety in which the most poignant and powerful life moments were conveyed.

A fantastic period piece, whether via a visual medium in a show or movie, or through the words of a fictional book, will inevitably send me in the direction of the nearest source for the real story behind the scenes, the real story of that time period, the real story of the location, the real story of the people.

Do you do that?  Do you like to uncover the next layer of the story?  To move from the fictional tale to the histories that inspired the fiction?

This post was inspired by Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey by The Countess of Carnarvon.  Learn more about the family who lived in Highclere Castle, where the popular British series, Downton Abbey is filmed.  Join From Left to Write on December 17, as we discuss Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey.  As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

She Came, She Wrote, She Won!

My sweet girl was itching to write for NaNoWriMo again this year with their Young Writers Program, after trying it for the first time last year.  Even when her Mama didn't write along with her (yes, I bailed...but, I worked diligently on my cheer leading skills!), she kept whipping her words into shape.

Last year, she worked with a special purple mechanical pencil and her Hello Kitty notebook, marking her words down by hand.  This year, she put the computer keyboarding skills she's learning in school to use and typed her NaNo.  As touch typing is a new skill still being honed, it was a little slower going.  But, she is one determined kidlet and didn't let a challenge stop her.

Today, she passed her word count goal and verified on the site, making her a WINNER!!!

We are so proud she kicks her goals' backside and is already talking about jumping back into NaNo next year!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

From Left to Write: The Cartographer of No Man's Land

I'm not sure when it happened.

It could have possibly happened when I lived on the west coast, just one state south of the border, in Washington, as a young child.

It could have happened when I lived on the east coast, just one state south of the border, in New York, as a kid.

It could have happened when I dove into Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables, landing on a farm on Prince Edward Island.

I'm not quite sure exactly when it happened.

But, at some point it did.

I fell in love with our neighbors to the north.  I fell in love with Canada.

Was there any love lost for my home country?  As a child, absolutely not.  However, I vividly remember my Canada curiosity.

Could I have both?  Live here, love there?  And what exactly was it that I loved so much?

Truthfully, when this affinity struck, I don't believe I had ever even been north of that map line.

As a kid in New York, we once went to Niagara Falls, but I couldn't tell you what side of the Falls we were on.

While living in a number of locales across this country, I have not travelled much - I leave that to my baby brother and his wanderlust.  But, when I did finally travel the wee bit I have, I headed north to British Columbia in '95 and 2000.  And instead of a remembered childhood love of the then abstract place on a map, Canada, I looked around and breathed deep.  As much of a tourist as I was - and yes, I did indeed do the typical tourist activities - it felt more like stepping out into a favorite corner of my backyard.  It was comforting, fresh, natural, and of course, a visually stunning feast for the eyes.

It's been thirteen years since last visiting and I dream of going again.  In the meantime, I think I'll keep exploring that remembered childhood love through words woven across a printed page.
This post was inspired by The Cartographer of No Man's Land: A Novel by P.S. Duffy.  Angus enlists in the Nova Scotia WWI regiment and travels to Europe to search for his missing in action best friend and brother-in-law.  Along the way Angus discovers more than he ever wanted to know.  Join From Left to Write on November 14th as we discuss The Cartographer of No Man's Land.  As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Wanted: Missing Muse

My muse up and disappeared.  I thought she was simply escaping on a rather marvelous vacation.  I was, in fact, quite envious.  But now, I'm beginning to worry she developed a terminal illness and expired...and I'm trembling with fright at that disastrous prospect. 
November 1st is rapidly approaching, aka NaNoWriMo launch day, making that missing muse even more of a problem than it has been through the last year.
The previous two years, I click clacked my way across my keyboard for NaNoWriMo and last year, my wee girl got her NaNo on for the first time, jumping on board with great gusto.  She loved it so much, she wants to write again this year...and she wants the other half of her Mother-Daughter Team click clacking while she puts a special purple pencil to her Hello Kitty notebook.  With said muse missing, in distress, or chained face down in a river somewhere, I'm madly sending out search parties for her in hopes of joining my li'l girl for NaNo and thousands of words of my own.
The clock is counting down and at this point, I would happily accept a wayward muse or even a drunken, wandering muse who hiccups with greater enthusiasm than the hoped for whispering inspirations.
Send help.  I'm going to need it.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

From Left to Write: Afterwards

Tall black rubber rain boots, navy chino shorts, topped with a nearly too small Pok√©mon t-shirt.

Utilizing her new skill, she pulls her hair back into a low ponytail, heading for the screen door.

Metal on metal sounds as she slides the worn screen door open, calling out, “I’m coming, Dad!  Wait for me!”

Rain boots making her tiny feet look and sound bigger than they are race across the deck as her ponytail dances on her shoulders, absolutely tickled with delight to help her Dad with yard work.

An audible gasp escapes my lips, caught in one of those rare moments when life simultaneously stands still and flashes forward.

She’s a decade older, a sixteen year old girl a few feet from me, embracing life, even the simple moments.

I couldn’t tear my eyes from the little girl in front of me or from the teenager I’ll one day meet.

She’s burned into my heart now.

Looking forward to when the two girls will become one, but for now, I’ll hold on to the li’l girl and her small hands that still look for encouragement and guidance a while longer.
This post was inspired by the novel Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton. After witnessing her children's school set ablaze, Grace attempts to find the arsonist as her teenage daughter lies in a coma in Lupton's suspense thriller. Join From Left to Write on April 11 as we discuss Afterwards. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Writer's Workshop: { Seventh Grade Bookends }

Boarding the yellow school bus, the last stop on the route, was hell.

There were a lot of us waiting to climb aboard.  There were never enough seats left.  One child made the less-than-brilliant move to mark my li'l brother's neck with ballpoint pen.  It was the '80s and I'd bet my favorite Bic pens were the culprit - I preferred blue, but that day black was used.

That bus.  That bus stop.  Those kids.  I couldn't stand it.

I needed another method of transportation to the seventh grade.  Definitely.

Feet.  They worked.  Often.

On the days I needed to go faster, a bicycle worked.  Black and white ten speed.  Pedals turning.  Chain cycling.  Wheels rotating.  Faster.

Two get-myself-to-school memories are etched into the ol' brain.  Perfectly placed bookends.

Fall.  And then falling.  Autumn coats the air.  Pumping the pedals to climb the last hill to campus.  Two nameless boys in front as I miss the rhythm, pulling a right leg too early to hop off.  Landing hard.

"Eat dirt?!!"

Grumbling internally.  Some unknown, surely less than witty remark to hide the embarrassment, tossed their way.  Rising up to walk the bike the remaining distance.  A big, huge hole at the knee of the only pair of jeans - any pants at all - owned.

I wore skirts the rest of the seventh grade.

By spring, a friend from the same neighborhood, was joining me on the avoid-the-yellow-school-bus trek.

The oh-my-goodness-what-am-I-going-to-tell-my-mom about this or that talk that went on as we walked home caused giggles to erupt.  But, it's The Pole memory that is the solid bookend to the get-myself-to-school memories.

Once a week, the school newspaper - a two sided ditto - came out.  We took turns reading it to each other, whether we were on bike or foot.

Coming out of the wooded patch, onto the steep hill, we climbed.  Once at the top, the street leveled out.  Then it was much easier to dive into the school news.

She read to me, completely captured by whatever tale that courier font regaled.  Listening intently, I no more saw what was in front of her than she did.

A pole.  A light pole?  I don't know what exactly it was in the moment.  But, she walked right into, school newspaper in hand.


From that day on, it was her pole.

Every school day after, she would give her pole a li'l hug as we passed by it, on our way home.

And on the last day of school, we even stopped to photograph her with it.

I'd share it with you, but then I'm sure she'd have to kill me.  And I'm not ready to do dead.

So, that particular seventh grade memory bookend will stay right where it is.

But, I remember both experiences vividly - acid wash jeans destined to become cutoffs after I crashed and burned in front of those boys for me and navy blue shorts, navy blue & white stripped tee for her and her pole.

I. Loved. Seventh. Grade.

You know how I'm sure?

My memory banks are bursting from that particular year.  Thank goodness.

Ran with Mama Kat's first prompt: a seventh grade memory.  I had oodles to choose from for that particular year.  So, to keep indecisiveness at bay, I ran with the bookends!
What do you remember from your seventh grade year?

Monday, April 1, 2013

Great Expectations

Guess where I get to hang out right now?

Greta, the fun, totally real mama of four, invited me to spend the day with her at G*Funki*fied.

Twitter struck again and led my way to the lady with the sassy pants and I'm so glad it did!  She tells it like it is, shares her fun family photos a la her Project 365, working towards her 2013 running goal (she's totally rocking it) with #Mamavation, and we've found a common bond through her own kidlet gluten free journey.  Make sure to join her #iPPP linkup, sharing phone snapped photos on Wednesdays.

Come on over to Greta's place where I'm sharing what happens when I'm desperate...and just how much I trust my husband.  And then stay awhile and visit with Greta!


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

#iPPP & WW: Valentine's

Thanks to Pinterest, Valentine's Day was a glowing hit here!

Looking for something for upper elementary age kids that didn't include candy, I came across these glow stick bracelet Valentine's.  Initially, I was just thinking of these for my older boy, but the wee girl thought they were so cool and wanted to make them for her class as well.

Glow sticks send me zipping down Girl Scout memory lane....but, that's another story for another time and another day.

Party City had the glow sticks (though, with 49 kids to buy for, these were the most expensive Valentine's we've ever made or bought!) and thankfully, the wee girl had the time and hand cut out all 49 hearts for both her classmates and her brothers.

Hubs has never been big on flowers, but ever since having a daughter, he brings me live flowers to plant in the garden every Valentine's Day.

And another one for her!
Hope you're enjoying your February.
It's one of my favorite months of the year!
Linking up with these awesome sites - come join us!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

#iPPP & WW { The Other Woman }

Driving north, the green freeway signs continued to pass on my right, assuring me the small town my new boyfriend lived in was getting closer.
I might have been a touch nervous.  My first visit to his place and I had heard all about the other woman who lived there.
Word on the street was how fiercely she ruled the nest.  Supposedly, it could get downright nasty if her claws were out.  She never hesitated to tell any female exactly what she thought of them.

I wanted none of that.
No way was she going to interfere with my first visit to my new man.
Whipping my li'l white car into the driveway, turning the engine off, grabbing my purse, stepping out and squaring my shoulders.  I climbed the stairs, determined.
A single knock on his door and there he is.  Leaning in, he tries to kiss me.  No.
"Where is she?"

"You can have a kiss after.  Where is she?"
"Oh.  She's over there, on the couch."
Without hesitation, I walked away from him and over to her.
Holding out my hand to her, I waited.
She sniffed.  She gave me the eye.  She opted to play coy and appear bored.
But, I knew.  I was in.

You see this sweet, nearly twenty year old kitty?
This is Bonnie, the other woman.
Legend has it, before I came into the picture, this sweet, innocent looking cat would hiss and spit at any female that came over.  And I'm not a fool, I knew who's fur not to ruffle.  While she merely tolerated me in the beginning, there was never a hiss for me and ultimately, she came to know where to get the best cheek scratches.
On January 16th, Bonnie passed away in my husband's arms, just like her brother did three years ago.  This photo was taken two days before she left us, happily soaking up sunshine.
We miss her.  But, there are so many sweet and often silly memories with this li'l nine pounder.  She was a Manx/Siamese/Tabby mix and high on personality.
In her younger years, you had to keep your eyes peeled with this one.  She was the original Stealth Kitty and could jump up, cross your lap and steal a piece of pepperoni off the slice of pizza in your hand and you would never know - until you looked at said toppingless piece.
Bottlecaps were prized kitty toys.
There was never a sun's ray she didn't like.
The same kidlet who sent her running for the hills when he learned to walk as a tyke later became her best buddy to hang with.  They were amazing calming forces for each other and in her last year, when arthritis was hitching her hips, he was her own personal physical therapist getting her to go on "Walk Races" back and forth, until she no longer limped - every single day.

And she was the bomb at the photobomb and never failed to get in on everything I snapped out on her deck.

We love her.  We miss her.  We happily remember her.
Linking up with these awesome sites - come join us!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

What are you reading?

Here a book, there a book, everywhere a book book.

On a shelf.  Stuffed full, spilling over with pages.

Stacked in closets. Next to bedsides. In cabinets and cupboards.

On a computer. In an app. On a phone.

Books, digital and paper, everywhere.

I love books - both reading and simply books themselves, keepers of information to grow brain bumps with, fantastical tales to get lost in, both the familiar and the foreign.

The words of Chris Pavone's first novel, The Expats have whisked me off to Europe this month. I read it with the From Left to Write book club and shared my response inspired by the book earlier this week. It's a thriller filled with a husband and wife wading through, running from, living their secrets.

 The Hunger Games.  Who hasn't read this one by now?!  That would be me!  At least, not all the way through.  I couldn't get into it and put it down pretty early on.  A Target receipt playing the role of a bookmark has rested on page 43 for the last year.  I am refusing to see the first movie until I read the book though and with the second one, Catching Fire coming out next fall, I pulled it out to get back to reading.  Really hope I catch the Hunger Games bug that infected so many others.

I'm about to dive into is a collaboration by one of my favorite thriller writers, James Rollins and new to me, Rebecca Cantrell.  The Blood Gospel is a blend of thriller, mystery, and horror.  I don't read horror.  I don't even watch horror movies.  So, needless to say, this isn't exactly a genre I would naturally gravitate towards.  Rollins is what sold me on trying it.  So, I read City of Screams, a short story eBook also co-authored by the same two writers that sets up The Blood Gospel late last year in order to give this a shot.

The Taker by Alma Katsu has been waiting more than patiently for me to pick her back up.  I was fortunate to win a copy during a From Left to Write Twitter party and enjoyed tweeting and chatting with the author.  The cover is gorgeous and Alma was kind enough to sign it.  Once again, this is a genre I haven't read much in.  But, I'm enjoying stalking words from books and in new to me genres, opening my eyes to so many other worlds, proving our imaginations are our only limitations.

As bookstores continue to disappear (ack!), I have found a way to compensate by using the samples available for download and reading a little bit from the inside pages to decide what book I'm interested in, which words speak to me most - much like I would inside a book store. (Don't worry, I still haunt bookstores too!)  Currently, I have several different books on Buddhism, Zen, and Romanian Gypsies in my e-reader app, looking at their samples to see which ones need to come home with me, either with paper pages or digital words.

What are you reading?  What's waiting in the wings, hoping to be your next read?  Are you a die hard paper bound book fan?  And exclusive eBook reader?  Or do you, like me, enjoy a harmony of both mediums?

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

#iPPP & WW { Car Wash Style }

Car washes. I could. not. stand. them as a kid. I had some irrational fear that the whole place would fill up with water; even held my breath while going through them.  Seriously big aversion.

And now?  Love 'em.  Besides the obvious clean car factor, it's fun to take pics while inside the car, inside the wash.

That last one, is overhead, taken through the moon roof.  All of these were snapped with the ever handy phone.  One of these days, I'll remember to take my good camera with add to the already unusually large number of car wash interior water, suds, brush photos already in my files.

It's official.  I'm obsessed.

I'm weird, I know.

That's okay.  Normal is boring.

Angry Julie Monday Live and Love Out Loud

Monday, January 21, 2013

One Word 2013

One word.

Just one word to see me through 2013.

2013 marks the fourth year of selecting one to march three hundred sixty-five days forward.  Each word and each year have varying levels of connectivity and impact.

2012 and my word, Animate, didn't gel quite so well...which probably played a factor in my late arrival at 2013's word, this twenty-first day of the first month of this new year.  But, 2011 and my word, Grow, taught me just how much focus a solitary word can bring to a year's journey.

Late last year, the word Imagine called to me, but when January 1st arrived, it was no longer set on the navigator's seat.  Act, Do, Forward all rang at the door, but never fully stepped through.

And then in the most surprising fashion, as I wrote the last paragraph for a book club response earlier today, a word that had only whispered so softly before, charged through the door and rather assertively took the navigator's seat.


One word, Create.

2013, meet Create.

I'm looking forward to our journey together.

From Left to Write: The Expats

Moving from one home to another, state to state, town to town, one coast to the other and back again, layers up inconveniences and work.  It also affords grants many favors and freedoms.

Beginning a childhood career of moving at three weeks of age, it took many less years that one might think to garner awareness of these delights.

From early on - though, not quite that first move at three weeks old, for sure - I reveled in the excitement of a move.  Dad always left for the new location, Mom prepared the house for sale, and there were lots of visitors that I learned, as I grew, were people looking to buy what would become our old home.

Sure, there was the pain in the backside to packing - whether it was a company move that provided help or not - deciding what to keep and what could be parted with permanently.  And when little, the parade of people visiting your home is fun, but as you get a little bit older, you have to help prep the house for each potential buyer.  The man that came with the video camera who insisted I stand in the pictures for his wife, so she could get an idea of scale - even though I was home sick - was certainly worthy of a groan.

There's the work and the inconveniences and the good-byes and all the changes.

And then, there's all the changes.

Moving to a new place means everything is new.  A new house to explore.  New friends to find.  New schools to enroll in.  A new neighborhood to navigate.

And a new You.

Everything is new.  Everything is full of possibilities.

Loaded baggage will travel with you from one place to the next.  But, each new location also leaves one hand free to explore what might happen if that baggage is laid down.

Baggage can always be laid down, regardless of a new location, a new you.  But, inevitably it is a much easier and obvious choice to make when geographically starting over.

Moving more than many military families growing up, I can vividly remember the dazzling excitement of a new least, until I was old enough to assume the responsibilities of moving myself - then, it was a whole lot of work!

And now, happily living in one location for more than a baker's dozen years, I also know the peacefulness of remaining still.

But, no longer will a new location invariably create a new me with little effort.  Staying still means any change I now want, I have to create.  And that is an entirely different, and foreign to me, journey to travel.

This post was inspired by mystery thriller novel The Expats by Chris Pavone. Kate Moore happily sheds her old life to become a stay at home mom when her husband takes a job in Europe. As she attempts to reinvent herself, she ends up chasing her evasive husband's secrets. Join From Left to Write on January 22 as we discuss The Expats. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.
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