Sunday, August 3, 2014

Reading with the Kids: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

One of our summer's biggest delights are the stories, tales, and written words read by both myself and my kids.  They aren't li'l ones anymore, so we all read independently, but even each of us reading our own separate worded worlds while all of us are in the same room feels like we're sharing our books together.

More than once there has been one kid reading from a printed book on one end of the sofa, while I'm on the other, reading an ebook on my phone, while the other kidlet sits on the floor right next to us and reads an ebook, checked out from the library on the laptop.

And occasionally, two or three of us might share a special story.  Recently, I started reading Anne of Green Gables aloud to my sweet girl and with each word spoken, I wander down memory lane, revisiting when those words were my first time reading them as a girl myself.  She loves sharing the story so much that her prized yard sale find this summer is her very own copy of the old book that she picked up for fifty cents.  Now, I read aloud as she follows along, gingerly turning the pages of her newest treasure.

And even better, a book that again allows me to wander through my memories and that I'm then able to pass on to another generation.  The imaginative tale of  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl has been just that tale.  My boy was first introduced to Dahl reading Matilda with his class a few years ago and laughed himself sick.  And my girl has been experiencing his worlds with James and the Giant Peach before Charlie arrived on our doorstep.  

Dozens of books, thousands of pages, and millions of words have yanked the three of us into dozens of different writers' imagined worlds.  And we are smiling because of it.

What are you reading this summer?  If you have kids, what books, pages or screens, are they sticking their noses in?

This post was inspired by the classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. To celebrate, Penguin Young Readers Group, in partnership with Dylan’s Candy Bar, the world-famous candy emporium, and First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise that provides books for children from low-income families, is launching a year-long international celebration.

Head over to From Left to Write to learn how you and your child can have a chance to win the Golden Ticket Sweepstakes where the grand prize is a magical trip to New York City plus much more! For every entry submitted, Penguin Young Readers Group will make a donation to First Book. Then, join From Left to Write on July 24 as we discuss Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. As a book club member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Monday, May 19, 2014

From Left to Write: Summer Fun

With three weeks left on the countdown clock 'til the school's last bell rings, the buzz coming off the kids is palpable.  Ready or not, summer is coming.

And while I am more than excited to ditch the 5:40 am alarm clock, I would rather be ready and have some activities planned out, or at the very least, thought out.

There are the inexpensive to free activities that will be the staples to fill our days:

~ Trips to the coast to build sandcastles & take adventure walks along the
~ Summer library reading programs to keep li'l & big brains from getting
~ Tending to our growing edible garden in the backyard
~ Riding bikes through the neighborhood
~ Playing with neighborhood friends
~ Mornings at the park (mornings, because uber hot days & I are not on
    the friendliest of terms)

~ Painting with the kids (looking forward to framing some new pieces)
~ Learning how to play the guitar

And then there are those activities that cost some dough, but are totally worth it:

~ Taekwondo (Big Bro began taking classes over a year ago and four
    months in, Li'l Sis jumped in too)

~ Swimming lessons
~ Local day camp
~ A couple of local museums we want to visit
~ The Zoo
~ Jelly Belly Factory tour
~ Mrs. Grossman's sticker factory tour
~ Exploratorium

That should keep us pretty busy!  What are you up to this summer?  Any exciting plans?  Any fun destinations you're looking forward to visiting?

This post was inspired by Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, a novel that exposes the gothic underbelly of an American dynasty, and an outsider's hunger to belong.  Join From Left to Write on May 20th, as we discuss Bittersweet.  As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Affiliate links used.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

From Left to Write: Sparkle Words Shine in Ruby

"Use your Sparkle Words!"

Flashing back to my son's first grade classroom, I easily hear his teacher rallying her students to include descriptive adjectives into their writing.  As they were six years old, those words often consisted of a favorite color from an eight pack box of Crayolas;  or the words a lot, very, manygreat, or cool.  As simplistic as those words are, even several years later, I still think of those or any descriptions as Sparkle Words.

Clearly, those lettered images grow as kidlets' vocabularies increase.  And by the time words are whipped into published story, hopefully those stitched together letters and phrases paint pictures for readers to see into the writer's world.

Cynthia Bond transports her reader, creating magic with her Sparkle Words, in her debut novel, Ruby.  The imagery her words paint firmly embeds a reader into time, place, sight, sound, and smell.

My eyes sucked in the opening of Bond's tale, telling of a mad woman, but it was only the second paragraph that grabbed and pasted me stuck like a winged creature on a permanent fly paper pit stop.  Bond uses her version of Sparkle Words to tell us of Ruby Bell.

Eyes read those words, just as I was taught at three, moving from left to right across the page.  But, once was not enough.  And I still did not have enough, even reading it five, six, seven times.  Due to its subject matter, the book is not one my kidlets are ready for, but I knew those words in the second paragraph - the ones that would not let me go - are the perfect sample of where I hope they learn to grow their own versions of Sparkle Words, so I read it to them.  And even still, it was not enough.

It took me at least a day before I was able to move beyond just the second grouping of sentences.  And the very last set of words from that second grouping held so tightly to my breath, I fell asleep several nights watching them parade across my closed eyelids.

Fortunately, Bond continued to share her rich and layered imagery for my eyes to greedily suck in the hundreds more paragraphs in her tale.

I hope your world is adorned with Sparkle Words - words you hear, words you read, words you write, words you speak.

This post was inspired by the novel, Ruby, by Cynthia Bond, a gripping story about overcoming our past and embracing love in a racially charged rural 1950s Texas.  Join From Left to Write on May 8th, as we discuss Ruby.  As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Monday, March 10, 2014

My Writing Process

Writing stories, since I was a kid, was just something I did.  Then, I had kids, life took over, and I read stories to my children, rather than write my own.

Three years ago, Mandy, from In Mandyland, inspired me get back to my writing, even if she didn’t know it at the time.  Though, I’ve told her since that it was her own creative writing she shared online that made me want to move some of the characters parading through my head back onto paper…or my laptop.  Her writing brings her characters to life, always making me feel as if I’m in the room with them while curled up with the book that writes of their tale.

So, when she asked me to participate in a Writing Process Blog Tour, of course I said yes!

What am I working on?

If you’ve swung by here in the last year, you may know that my muse decided to take an extended vacation – an unapproved, extended vacation.  With or without my favorite muse, I have continued to write, albeit mostly offline, rather than on.  Thankfully, I'm beginning to see sparks of mojo returning.

I have focused more closely on editing the beginnings of two novels and slowly adding to them, in an attempt to get back on track.  And there is a microfiction/photography project that I have been toying with for a while now and am finally beginning to work on.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Honestly?  I’m not a fan of labels.  I think the minute we use them, we remove our ability to try or see something new.

And since what I’m working on currently dances in four different “genres,” I’m glad I don’t subscribe to them.  I understand how quickly and easily we human beings want to slap a label on something and make it easy to define, but personally, I really don’t want to live in a world where we only look at the surface.  For me, life is rather boring that way.

Why do I write what I do?

I grew up moving.  A lot.  And in each new state, town, school and/or workplace, new friendships were formed.  Through those encounters, I watched and learned about relationships in a way that I don’t believe I would have if I had grown up within the same community all my life (though, if I had, I’m sure I would have learned a lot as well, just from an entirely different perspective).  Consequently, a lot of what I write looks at the bonds of friendships and the individuals that create them.

How does your writing process work?

It’s the call of a character parading through my head that leads my fingers to tap a keyboard.  That is inevitably where I begin writing a story, whether that is the actual beginning, middle, or end of the tale itself. 

I suppose that makes me somewhat of a pantser in terms of just sitting down and writing.  Though, I am finally caving and know I need to embrace outlining to help me get past the walls I’ve hit with those two novels.

And fortunately, I’ve even learned how to write when the kidlets are immersed in their own activities three feet from me.  Though, editing amongst chaos does not work for me and for that, my brain needs quiet space to twist the words and hear the characters on the pages in front of me.  Because, really, just how many voices can my poor brain hear all at once?

Next Monday, the Writing Process Blog Tour moves on to four writers I’ve connected with through both ends of the word loving spectrum - an online writing community (Write on Edge) and an online book club (From Left to Write):

Shelton Keys Dunning is the author of paranormal mystery novels The Trouble with Henry and Hagatha Kittridge Must Die, along with several short stories and the blogs Expressions of Talking Leaves on blogger, and The Scribe, The Quill, and the Secret Notebook on Tumblr.

Eva Greene Wilson is the editor and owner of, an award winning website for Caribbean parents.  She has also written and published the children’s book, Anancy’s Family Reunion.

Shannon Morgan is an editor and a food and travel writer working on her first novel.  Visit her blog at Shannon Morgan Creative.

Jessica Claire Haney is a writer and mother of two who is working on her first novel. She blogs at Crunchy-Chewy Mama and has two essays published in the recent anthology, Have Milk, Will Travel: Adventures in Breastfeeding

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

#iPPP a la Girl Scouts

Back for #iPPP and it hasn't even been a whole year since my last visit!  Say what?  Only two weeks?  Call Guinness!

Life's been busy, busy, but last weekend, busy also meant tasty.  My sweet girl was working on her Snacks badge for Brownies (Girl Scouts) and got crackin' in the kitchen, creating a sweet treat and a smoothie.

Saturday night, for dessert, she made yogurt strawberry parfaits, layering greek yogurt mixed with a li'l honey, sliced strawberries, and granola.

And while the first set of parfaits were made gluten free, using Udi's vanilla granola, she needed to go one step further for her brother, who can't have dairy,  to join in the sweet treat fun and swapped out the greek yogurt for almond yogurt creating a GFCF parfait delight.  Looks nearly the same, eh?

Can I share the most random and yet helpful thing I learned over the weekend?  Thanks to friend Jenn visiting, I finally learned how to spell dessert and not get it mixed up with desert!  Dessert is spelled with two 's's because you want more and desert with only one 's' because you supposedly want less (since I'm not a fan of the heat, this totally works for me).  Told ya it was random...but, it will save me when spell check isn't nearby!

On Sunday, she blended up a smoothie, using frozen organic blueberries, frozen strawberries, frozen mangoes, fresh ripe banana, fresh baby spinach leaves, and coconut water.  We slurped up smoothie and then poured the left over mix into popsicle molds for desert this week.  Delish.

Coming back for an #iPPP visit with

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