Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Christmas Craze

My whole life one of my major pet peeves has been that stores start pushing their Christmas products long before the Christmas season. For over two decades I've whined about how obnoxious it is that we can't celebrate the other holidays, because as much as I love Christmas there's just something creepy about listening to "Silent Night" in late October.

And now look at me: promoting my Christmas book and August isn't even over yet. Oh well. I guess we all have to eat our words sometime. :S

Christmas Games and Goodies was just released. Yay! Kimiko and I put long, hard hours into planning and pinning down every detail.... Okay, not really. But it was a lot of fun to do. I dreamed up the goodies and she concocted the games. For a few weeks we pampered all the employees at CFI with trial-run treats. They thought we were being nice, but truthfully I was just trying to see if I could destroy Lyle's diet. Hehe. :)

So watch for Christmas Games and Goodies at a store near you. As the back cover states (a misprint, I discovered; the ad copy got on instead of the blurb, but I never saw the proof so I didn't get a chance to mention it), this booklet is "the perfect gift." And at only $2.99 retail, it's not a bad price, either. And just in case you're wondering, the cranberry bars (can't remember the actual name, but you'll find it) was my favorite recipe. What inspired that recipe? No clue. I just like cranberries, I guess, and I love any recipe that combines fruit and cream cheese.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

C. S. Lewis Needs Your HELP!

By Christine Thackeray

C. S. Lewis: Latter Day Truths in Narnia is a great book. It is an overview of his life and works and ends with a section on his use in the LDS forum, especially by church leaders. There is an index in the back that is one of the most complete you will find which includes the quotes used in general conference and their references both in LDS writings and in C. S. Lewis's.

Seagull book and the independent LDS bookstores are currently carrying it but for some reason Deseret Book is not. It went through all the necessary copyrights and was approved by church headquarters. My only guess why-- and it is just a guess- is that since we missed the Narnia movies and they recently had a CD on Lewis released, they don't feel it would be a big seller.

It was suggested to me that if a number of people would be willing to go and order the book from Deseret Book, that maybe they would start carrying it to fill those orders. If you feel you can do this, I'd be grateful.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Win a Personalized Copy of Room for Two

If you’re interested in winning a free, personalized copy of Room for Two, fellow author and friend Anne Bradshaw is sponsoring a contest for one. You can read the contest details on her blog here. Contest is open through Wednesday, September 4th.

Doggin' Bears

By Brittany Mangus

This weekend my husband Que and I went camping with my parents. We went to a lake where we fished and Que swam. "Swam" as in across the lake (and back). I think he needs to taper off on the time he spends watching the Olympics. A canoe of people even stopped him and tried to rescue him.

We went to a campsite that was in Bear Country. And, while we were there, a camper called in a bear sighting- which was right in our campground.

Fortunately, the bear was caught:

It's a good thing the Park Rangers and the Forest Service guys (who came prepared with their bear cages and tranquilizer guns) had better vision than that of the camper that Madison frightened. Otherwise, poor Madison would have been tranked and released into the wild.

Unfortunately, word didn't get out so quickly that the angry, blood-thirsty, 200 lb. bear was actually a happy, 90 lb. golden retriever. The scare caused a mass-exodus from the campground.

To City Slicker Campers: Bears don't come in orange. Nor are they into wearing jingly dog tags. Madison is however, fairly large and hairy, so I guess I will have to give her a haircut and put her back on a diet. There is nothing like being mistaken for a bear to motivate you to lose weight.

Top ten reasons why big kids rock

by Lee Ann Setzer

Top 10 reasons why big kids rock.

I love babies. I really do. I like their fat little hands, and, as a speech therapist, I adore “talking” with them. I like the ear-to-ear toothless grins and the first steps and the silly nursery rhymes and the just-clean smell of a baby fresh from the bath. Toddlers and preschoolers are great, too.

But I’ve really gotten used to having big kids around. My daughter and her friends spent all day playing ancient Egyptians, including bowing down and worshipping the cat. My oldest son spent the entire summer making stop-motion Lego movies. My twelve-year-old determined for himself that the violin was not his scene, and hauled a baritone that probably weighs half as much as he does out of the store. I like hanging around, just to see what they'll come up with next.

Big kids rock. Here’s my top ten:

10. They get your jokes.

9. “You want to earn a dollar? Go get the electric hedge clippers and trim the bushes.”

8. The bathroom doors can stay open at night, because no one’s going to fall in the toilet and drown.

7. “Ok, everyone tie your shoes, use the bathroom, put on your seatbelts, and let’s go!”

6. Glass dishes can go on low shelves.

5. They can tell a difference between a weed and a tomato plant.

4. They’re not one breath away from death at the swimming pool.

3. You can give them a hard time, and get back as good as you gave.

2. They can beat you at wrestling (unless you cheat!).


1. They help you edit your books (for the price of a king-size Snickers bar). They argue about grammar.

I’ll get back to you in a couple years, on teenagers.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Maybe I'm Weird . . .

By Rebecca Talley

Years ago, I sat in a PTA meeting while we discussed changing the start time for our elementary school. I was pushing for it to begin later because kids, some as young as 3 years old, have to meet the bus at 6:30 am each morning because we are in a rural area and we start school at 7:40 am. That is very early, especially for young children. My own kids don’t start school until first grade so that I can teach them to read and can feel confident they are going to school with the ability to read, do simple math, and have a closer relationship with me. But, many parents send their children to pre-school and it seemed as though starting the school day a little later made sense. Last year, my first grader fell asleep on the afternoon bus everyday so I had to be sure to meet the bus at the end of my lane to make sure the bus driver didn’t forget my sleeping son and accidentally take him on her next route with the older school kids. As we discussed changing the start time, I was startled to hear a mother exclaim, “Start school later? Are you kidding? I’d rather have it start earlier so I can get rid of my kids sooner.”

Maybe I’m in the minority, but I always feel so sad when school starts and my children leave for most of the day. My older kids don’t come home on the bus until after 5:00 pm, which means they are away from me for over 10 hours each day. That makes me sad. I love being with my kids.

This summer was crazy busy with camps, a Youth Conference, Scout training, and my son returning home from his mission. The house was usually in disarray with all the kids playing games with each other, dressing up, and making crafts. We didn’t have a set schedule, though I did try to make sure we did some cleaning and watered and hoed the garden. It was a bit chaotic at times, but it was great. I loved watching the kids play together, especially with their younger siblings who don’t attend school yet. The summer ended far too fast for me.

Next week, will be even harder when my two oldest leave for college and the next step in their lives. They won’t be gone for 10 hours a day; they’ll be gone for days and weeks at a time. Yes, I understand that this is the normal cycle of life and that children grow up and leave home, but that doesn’t make it any easier. I often think of the song, “Sunrise, Sunset,” as I watch my children grow. Where does the time go? What happened to that little baby I held in my arms? I must’ve blinked.

And so here we are, another school year has begun and I’m sad to see my kids go. I miss having them around the house. I miss the hum of their voices. I miss the squeals and excitement while they spray each other with water. I wish summer break was 9 months and school was only 3 months.

Maybe I’m just weird . .

PS—Don’t forget to enter the contest on my blog for a chance to win a bottle of perfume All you have to do is tell 5 people about my book and leave a comment. It’s easy!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Hazards of Budget Travel

I am all for freedom of expression, but I think anyone would agree with me that if there were a non-medical, safe way to get a tired, cranky two-year old with a dirty cast on her leg to not express herself during a transcontinental flight, that would be something worth buying. Every summer our family books a flight and heads out west to bond with family, and every year I swear I’m never doing it again. Not because of the family bonding thing; that always goes well enough. The problem is the return flight. Without fail it is excruciating.

I realize that in many ways I am the architect of my own misery, not to mention the misery of those unlucky enough to sit near us on those long flights home. The problem is I’m drawn (possibly magnetically) to deals, and since it’s always cheaper to fly to Vegas than that it is to Salt Lake, we fly into Vegas. Besides, what’s a six hour ride up to Utah Valley in a Suburban packed with luggage and kids? Nothing. Well, at least not compared to the six hour ride back to Vegas to fly out.

Another aspect of deal chasing that gets me in trouble is the length of the trip. If we’re dropping a wad to fly out, I want to get my money’s worth. That means my husband usually has to fly back before us, which in year’s past I succeeded in telling myself was no big deal. I could handle being sole parent for the remainder of the trip, not to mention sole parent for the journey home. But after what happened this summer, if I ever agree to extending our summer trip, it will be a sign that I am certifiably crazy. Here’s why.

Having an early morning flight out of Vegoid didn’t seem like a big deal when we pressed "buy now." That, however,was before the air went out on my father-in-law’s Suburban–the Suburban that we piled into after landing on a scorching hot Vegas afternoon. The fix was going to be massively expensive and so the game plan was to grin and bear it, which we did. Slowly, however, I started to visualize myself driving back down to Vegas without air and since the pictures in my head all involved my children in old westerns, dressed in rags and stumbling into town begging for water, I figured I had to make the trek back to Vegas when it was the coolest, and that meant at night.

So we left Alpine at ten, got to the airport at three, hung out until we boarded at six, then flew to Denver. Surprisingly, this part of trip wasn’t bad. The unraveling of it all--my sanity and my little kids’ patience--occurred on the last leg of our journey, the flight from Denver to Tampa. It was nothing but chaos and evil looks, evil looks and chaos. My four-year old couldn’t stop kicking the chair in front of her and my two-year old couldn’t stop screaming. No amount of cajolling, distracting, bribing was doing the trick, and my only salvation was the thought of landing, or not. Whichever one came first.

As you may have guessed we landed, and as soon as we did, the guy in front of me who was justifiably bugged said, "That was horrible."

Something inside of me snapped. "What more could I have done?" I asked him. "What more could I have done!" I might have also thrown in something about what an impatient crappy father he was going to be one day, but that’s not really the point. The point is, I have learned my lesson. There are some deals in life you just have to pass on, because in the end it’s going to cost you.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Happy Pink Shirt

by Shirley Bahlmann
In one single week I overheard three different people say what a wonderful Deseret Industries St. George, Utah had. "The best in the state," "the best in the country," "the best ANYWHERE."
So when I made the 4-hour drive to visit my son in St. George, I decided to visit the thrift store paved with gold. Hm. Well, it turns out is was not gold paved, gold gilded, or gold anything, unless you count the cheap paint on the velvet Elvis painting. In fact, it looked like a regular old DI to me; some trash, some treasures. I actually thought the one in Provo was better because it was bigger.
But then I started leafing through the racks, and I found a few treasures of my own. I always pick about thirty things to try on, and usually only 3 or 4 fit well enough to consider buying. I had a promising-looking pink t-shirt among my treasures, but when I put it on, the neckline plunged so low I was afraid it would end up in Antarctica.
"Mommy, that's so pretty!" my youngest son said, staring up at me as I tugged the V-neck up and up and up.
"The neckline is too low," I said.
"But, Mommy, you can wear a shirt under it," he said.
"I don't know..."
Then came the line that made me know he was a plant, a miniature D.I. salesman, "But, Mommy, it makes you look young again."

Win Perfume

By Rebecca Talley

I'm sponsoring a contest on my blog and the prize is a bottle of perfume that I designed to go with my book, Heaven Scent.

If you tell five people about my book, you can enter the contest. The perfume smells really good and who wouldn't want free perfume?

Come on over and leave a comment and you'll be eligible to win Hope (Heaven's Scent).

See you there :).

Monday, August 18, 2008

The End of The Trouble with Cake

Well, here it is: The Wedding Cake.

The object of my frustration and, thankfully, ultimate joy over the last month.

Royal icing is stuck to my wall and my kitchen is still covered in powdered sugar, but at least The Cake is done. And I had to show it off, just a little. :) It's all fondant, with icing calla lilies and about a million edible beads--all hand-made. The bride loved it, though, so all's well that ends well, right?

It almost didn't end well; I was frantically doing cake right up until 40 minutes before the ceremony. That was a little scary! I actually sent the cake over in pieces. This cake went over first, then the birthday cake (which you see below) and last of all the satellite cake I made for the bride and groom to actually cut (not pictured).

Isn't it cute? It was for the groom's mother, whose birthday was the day of the wedding. The croissants in the background kind of blend into the cake top--oops--but it gives you an idea for how tiny this cake was. I had to smile when the mother refused to cut into it and decided to take it home instead. Things like that just make my day. :)

I've also included a picture of the anniversary cake I had to do for the day following the wedding. That cake was a lot of fun, though. Unlike the wedding cake, it behaved well and everything came together without a single problem. Can I mention that my new favorite thing is cake glitter? Pearl dust is just waaaay too much fun to play with. This cake also went home--they wanted to show it off to friends before they cut into it, which is extra nice for me because it's kind of painful to see the cake you worked on crumbled into a mangled heap on the cake plate.

So anyway, I thought I'd get brave and post pictures even though cake decorating is pretty far off-topic for this blog. Ah, well. :)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A trip to the ostrich farm

By Lee Ann Setzer

Visited an ostrich farm in Tehachapi, California recently—ostriches, because they figure prominently in my next book; Tehachapi, because my mom lives there. My kids and met Ralph, Susan, Rita, and Connie the ostriches. For some reason, my attempts to work ostriches into casual conversation mostly fall flat. But I know you’ll be excited to learn these tidbits about ostriches:

Ostrich dung does not stink.

When threatened by a predator, baby ostriches huddle into a group, puff out their feathers, and spin in circles, very fast, to confuse and frighten the predator. (I imagined one of those “spinner” fireworks, only made of feathers).

Female ostriches are brown. They sit on the eggs in the daytime, and they look like brown shrubs from a distance. Males are black. They sit on the eggs at night, and they look like shrubs in the dark.

Ostrich legs are hinged like our arms, and they can kick a lion across a field. For an ostrich kick, imagine a backward-jointed knee swinging up.

On Fear Factor once, a guy had to drink a whole, raw ostrich egg.

You already knew that ostriches don’t stick their heads in the sand.

Deer Husband

By Brittany Mangus

Hunting freaks me out. I couldn't even kill the praying mantis that was mortally wounded by our garage door. On the other hand, my husband, his family and all of my attorneys are blood-thirsty hunters. They're kinda like Noah, in that they seem to have the goal of collecting 2 of every animal. (I said kinda like Noah.) They hunt everything: Deer, wild pigs, turkeys, elk, grouse, rabbits, geese and swans. Swans!?
Hunting may freak me out, but I'm not exactly anti-gun. I'll go shooting with Que's family. We annually buy pumpkins from a local patch the day after Halloween, take the pumpkins to an undisclosed location and blow the shivvy out of them. (Pardon my language.) Bustin' a cap in a defenseless pumpkin is about as close as I come to killing something with a gun.

I've gone on hunting trips with Que and his family before. I took the above photo of this doe while my dear husband was out trying to fill her deer husband full of arrows. This year I decided to sit it out. Even though the thought of hunting hurts my heart, I am strangely conflicted about it. I personally don't want to hunt anything (besides pumpkins), but I don't want to stop other people from hunting either. I find myself actually hoping Que gets a deer; I just hope I don't have to see it. (The first year we were married, Que got a deer and left it strung-up in our carport; I walked outside and saw it.)
My attorneys went on a goose hunting trip to Canada earlier this year. In honor of that, I doctored this Far Side cartoon with my lead attorney, Bruce's name and put it on our office bulletin board. I'm pretty sure this is what Bruce will be doing as soon as he gets to heaven. (In case you can't read the caption, it says "You sure you're supposed to be doin' that, Bruce?")

Ironically, I feel like I can put up with things like decapitated deer heads and large dead fish (with teeth!) mounted on the walls. (The above Alaskan salmon lives in our law office.) That being said, I have but one rule: No stuffed birds. No geese, grouse, chucker, owls, swans or sparrows. I don't want my house (or my workplace) to look like The Bates Motel.

Friday, August 15, 2008

He's Home

By Rebecca Talley

I’ve been somewhat absent from the blog world since I’ve been preparing for my son to return home from his mission. We’ve been cleaning and getting the boys’ room ready, which is no small feat. How two boys can be so messy is beyond me. Any why I agreed to letting them have toads, and lizards, and a turtle in their room is even more beyond me.

Wednesday we were all working hard so we could leave for the airport to pick up my son. We’d been counting `down the days (I admit, I was counting down the hours) and were all so excited for his arrival. The phone rang. We figured it was probably my son. As soon as I heard his voice, I knew something was wrong. He explained that his plane in Rome had been delayed and by the time it arrived in New York, he’d missed his connecting flight. He couldn’t make it home Wednesday night. He could make it as far as Salt Lake, but no farther. And, since it was an air traffic control problem in Rome, the airline was not obligated to get him a hotel room. Fortunately, one of his buddies is living in Provo and he agreed to go get my son and bring him back the next morning. I was thankful for, and envious of, my son’s friend, though I felt like someone had socked me in the stomach. But, I looked on the bright side and knew I’d see him the next day.

Thursday morning (yesterday) I popped out of bed to get some chores done and then we drove into town in our big, enormous 15-passenger van. We ran a few errands, all the while talking about how excited were all were. Tears sprang spontaneously from my eyes each time I thought about seeing him again after two years.

We drove over to the airport a little early and found that his plane was expected earlier than we had anticipated. I was relieved I hadn’t listened to my kids and gone to Walmart on the way to the airport. If I had missed his arrival . . . well,
I’m just glad we went straight to the airport.

I stared at the clock and we all counted down the minutes. It was like New Year’s Eve, but with a much better thing at the end of the countdown. My sister and 9 of her 10 kids came bounding through the lobby doors. They were armed with posters and balloons. My sisters-in-law, a brother-in-law, a nephew, another nephew’s wife and baby, and my mother-in-law and her husband all arrived. We were a large crown gathered in our tiny rural airport. Passersby stopped to see the posters and watch the excitement.

My heart was beating so fast and I felt like I couldn’t breathe as I waited for my son to walk through the doors. As soon as the doors opened, my heart felt like it was going to jump right out of my chest. After a few passengers, my son emerged with a smile plastered all over his face, and we all let out screams of delight. I rushed to him and threw my arms around his neck. Tears flowed freely as I pulled him close to me. It’s hard to describe the incredible joy at being reunited with him after two years. It was even better than the day he was born. He was safe, in my arms, once again, my strong, wonderful son who had just dedicated his life to serving the Lord for two years.

It was surreal as I watched him hugging other family members. I was so filled with joy at seeing him and, yet, almost couldn’t believe he was actually there. I felt like I needed to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. I was filled with so much gratitude to the Lord for watching over my son and protecting him and magnifying him. I was so thankful that my son had made the choice to serve and though his mission was difficult, he never gave up. He stayed and he worked and he prayed and he grew.

It is definitely a sacrifice for a young man to serve a mission, but the blessings outweigh the sacrifice by a hundredfold.

A Stitch In Nine, Maybe When He's Nine

By Marcia Mickelson

Yesterday, I spent an hour sewing a patch on my son's Cub Scout shirt. He'll be nine in six weeks and in Scouts for almost a year, and this is the first time I've tried to really sew the patch on. I know, I'm lazy--very lazy when it comes to sewing. I don't have a sewing machine--wouldn't know how to use it. So, I sew by hand. I can do buttons, even though it usually takes a few weeks to get around to them.

Patches are a different story. I have to say I'm a little glad I never sewed the patch on because we just moved to a new town two months ago. If I had sewed the patch, I would now have to take it out and put a new one on for his new district. So, see it worked out better in the end. I'm not done with it yet. It's about halfway done, then I have to do his pack number and a few other ones. I hope to have it done by Wednesday so he can wear it to Scouts. He reminded me yesterday that I had promised to have it done last week. That was a promise I broke. So, I really have to keep this one and finish it by Wednesday.

I told my husband yesterday that we are never moving, at least not until my three sons have finished Cub Scouts because there is no way I'm ever sewing another one of those things on if we move to a different district.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike...

By Brittany Mangus

I used to think that riding a bicycle was just for people who had to. Like missionaries or people with too many DUIs.

Now that I've dropped a few pounds and won't get easily winded by just watching people exercise, a bike ride didn't seem too bad. (It still seemed bad. But not as bad.)

Que (my husband) and I have been slowly building up strength this summer by riding our bikes in the neighborhood and taking them to parks and in the mountains. This past weekend we went to Bear Lake and brought our bikes. We rode along a bike trail and before we knew it, we had gone 12 miles! 12 miles!!! (!!!!) (At 7600 ft. elevation!) I couldn't believe my body let me do that without angrily protesting by snapping my knees or deflating my lungs.

As you can see, I brought along a nice picnic basket (which, unfortunately does not hold a golden retriever) so I decided to fill it with some nice sandwiches instead. (Whole wheat sandwiches, of course). And incidently, it's hard to pedal a bike while wearing a dress like that. I'm considering trading it in for a day-glo biking leotard, but I can't even stomach wearing one of those LIVE STRONG bracelets. Maybe that's something else you have to slowly work your way up to.

Book Review, "Caught in the Headlights. Written by Barry Phillips

JoAnn Arnold's Review for
Caught in the Headlights by Barry Phillips

As I read Barry Phillips book, Caught in the Headlights, I found myself nodding in agreement so many times that I got a kinked neck. His humor put me at ease, immediately, making the study even more enjoyable. (Perhaps it also helped me retain the messages in those little paragraphs that literally applied to me).

It is a book that should be set somewhere in sight so that when it is needed, you don’t have to go looking. It’s filled with welcomed advice instead of lectures. It talks of happiness, self-esteem, pride, freedom, control, tolerance, forgiveness, success, in a way that you can understand and, I think, relate to.

I want to quote a paragraph from Barry’s book just to give you taste of his insight.

“By now you’ve no doubt noticed a pattern in the ten things that we
pursue and then find out that they’re really not what we’re after. In
the end, the most compelling thing that we really want is not happiness
or success or any of the other things we’ve discussed. At least not by the
standard definitions most people go by. What we really want is peace.
That feeling that we are on the right path, doing the right things, and
our relationships are all intact. It sounds so simple but takes a lifetime to
achieve. All the other things talked about in this book directly or indirectly
affect our ability to obtain it.”

Now, can you hardly wait to sit down with this book in one hand, a chocolate bar or a brownie in the other (careful not to smudge the pages), and read what is really important? Let me put it like this, following the example of Barry’s poetic prose that is found throughout the book.

A small, simple book, it may seem.
Yet dynamite comes wrapped much the same,
And to light it, we find explosive awakenings,
Just as the truths in this book erupt into flame.

What is it, in life, we are really looking for?
And just what is the true meaning of Pride?
Tell me; is there more than just one definition?
Ah, read and let your question and answer collide.

When you finish reading all the pages,
And you hear yourself say, “I’m impressed.”
I think you’ll want to keep this book near you,
And let it sit where the remote usually sat.

What else can I say except that if you really want to know, get the book.



Wednesday, August 13, 2008

My Last Blog

Friends and fellow authors. I have not been as active on this blog as I'd hoped to be in the beginning. But I have made a few posts and I've enjoyed reading yours. I will not be participating anymore because CFI has decided not to publish my books anymore. It seems that I quote the brethren too much. I wish you all the best in your future publishing endeavors and I want to publicly thank Kammi Rencher and Heather Holm who have been such a great support along the way. God bless you all.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What a Way to Get A Job!

by Shirley Bahlmann
It's curious how things work out. For the last couple of years, my husband, Bob, has aspired to work as Sports Editor for the local newspaper. He's talked with the owner about possibilities, and she's always lamented that, although she'd love to have him on staff, money has been a problem.
Yesterday, she left a cryptic message on our answering machine. "Bob, I need to talk to you about a couple of things, One is a story idea, and the other thing is bigger. Call me back."
When Bob finally got hold of her, she revealed that her current sports editor was caught breaking into the newspaper office to steal money. When the police tested him for drugs, he was positive for meth, and had ecstasy in his possession. Since he no longer works for the newspaper, Bob was hired on the spot.
Life can be more surprising than novels. But that's where writers get their ideas, don't you know?
Boo! (You weren't expecting that, were you?)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Book Review "Prepardness Principals

JoAnn Arnold
Book Review: Preparedness Principals by Barbara Salisbury and Sandi Simmons

One day, I was sitting beside Barbara while we were both doing book signings, and we became immediate friends. I browsed her booth, filled with samples, ideas, and booklets. I listened as she talked about being prepared, and I was impressed with the vastness of her knowledge.

At another book signing, she was giving a workshop. While keeping an eye out for potential customers interested in my book, I inched my way close enough to hear her speak. That day I bought her book Preparedness Principals. Oh, let me tell you. This book is the most complete and informative book on preparedness you will ever read. It is filled with everything anyone would need to know about being prepared.

On that back cover, there is a statement that I think summarizes the contents of the book. I quote “Barbara brings together years of research and experience, giving you the know-how to set up an organized, practical, personal preparedness program that will provide for most wants and needs in any emergency situation. Preparedness Principles, the most comprehensive preparedness guide ever published, offers exclusive details about: • Four new categories of preparedness • New bare-bones basics • The Pantry Principle • Storm shelters, safe rooms, and safe havens • and much more! If you're serious about a personalized preparedness action plan, this quintessential reference book is for you!”

“Crises and disasters don’t make appointments before they come calling,” she tells us. “Emergencies do happen, and the time may come when you have to rely on yourself. It’s time you open your eyes and stop counting on your crossed fingers to keep you safe and happy. It is possible to keep going even when the floor drops out from under your feet, but it doesn’t happen by accident. It happens because you are prepared.” Powerful words! Powerful book! And I’m buying one for each one of my sons, for their families.

Barbara shows her humorous side in giving out advice in this book, and it only adds to the content.

Now, if I were to give you some motherly advice, it would be this: Don’t put of until tomorrow what you can do today - and today would be a very good day to purchase this book, then read it, and thereafter, follow the advice given therein.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A Good Online Visual Dictionary

Don't you hate it when you’re trying to describe something but don't know the name for it? As a writer, this really bugs me.

The other night I was tying to find out what you call those pads that hold your glasses to your nose (they're called "nose pads" if must know) and stumbled across a really useful visual dictionary from the good people at Merriam-Webster. I haven't gone through their entire offering but it seems to be at least as good (maybe even slightly better) than my giant visual dictionary I've been refereeing to until I got too lazy to pick it up last night. And what's really cool is that they list the definitions to all the words on the bottom of the page.

Parts of Eye Glasses

One note when using visual dictionaries: Occasionally visual dictionaries use the technical word for or a part or piece of equipment instead of what the part is commonly referred to. If the word sounds to strange, ask someone who knows what it’s really called.

Check out Merriam-Webster's visual dictionary here.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Trouble with Cake

This post really has nothing to do with books or anything related to publishing, so you can skip it if you want. Really.
But if you are the teeniest bit curious about something unrelated to books, keep reading. I can't promise it'll be as entertaining as Shirley's book reviews (I love reading those; actually, I just love reading anything Shirley writes), but you might find it at least mildly interesting. Or perhaps depressing.

Have you ever had to fork out 200+ dollars for a wedding cake? Did you ever think to yourself "I am NOT paying X amount for a stupid piece of frosting!" or "Those cakes are incredibly overpriced" or "That cake cannot possibly be worth $50 let alone $500" or anything else along those lines?
Repent. Apologize. And pry open your wallet.
I always thought it'd be fun to be a cake decorator. You bake a cake, smooth some frosting on it, put on some pretty flowers, and--ten hours later, tops--wallah! You have a wedding cake.
Now we'll push Play on the real scenario: Three months in advance you start frantically making decorations: rolling beads, molding leaves, painstakingly painting roses together. This goes on until about three weeks before the wedding, at which point you bake enough cake that you have to buy another freezer to hold it all. You spend a couple of days making batter, greasing pans, wrapping cake in foil to freeze, eating nasty old freezer-burnt food to make room in the freezer that you do have because you can't afford another one, and doing endless dishes.
And then the real work starts.
You start in on the batches of buttercream icing. By the end of day one, your kitchen is covered in powdered sugar. By day two, the house is covered in Crisco. By day three, the house is encased in a sticky white mess and you have five huge bowls of buttercream icing--icing so heavy that it has cracked your table in half and that you have to hire a team of movers to transport the icing from your broken table to your new table.
The fourth day your expensive Bosch explodes because it just can't handle making royal icing. You bury your Bosch remains in the back yard, and throw the royal icing at the wall where it sticks, hardens, and remains for time and all eternity.
The fifth day you enter the world of marshmallow fondant. Basically this means that you lose track of time and you add marshmallow goo to everything else already covering the house. The marshmallow fondant stage goes on for what seems like years, but eventually you knead the last batch and turn to face The Cake.
The Cake should have been defrosting for about two hours, and therefore should be cool but not cold, springy and easy to cut. At least that's what you think until you start cutting into it. Either it's frozen in the middle or it crumbles into dust as soon as you get out the cake leveler. If it is frozen, you plow ahead. If it crumbles, you pull out the styrofoam cake blocks and hope the bride doesn't plan to serve cake at her wedding.
Now you start the frosting process. This takes about four hours for every full-sized layer you have, and that's if everything goes smoothly. You painstakingly build your cake, making icing dams and filling the middle with fudge or whatever, and then you carefully spread buttercream over every inch--twice--to ensure crumb control. Once the icing is perfectly smooth and even across the tops, sides, corners, etc (something I'm convinced is actually impossible and we only believe thanks to some great photoshop jobs), you get out your fondant, grease every surface in sight, and roll the fondant out. Then you very, very carefully dump it (or throw it) on the cake (fondant is HEAVY!) and frantically try to smooth down the sides and corners. If all goes well, you end up with a slightly lumpy marginally lopsided cake that is 90% frosting. If something doesn't go well... Then you have a scenario that includes, at best, hours of kneading or scraping sticky buttercream off of half-dry fondant, and at worst that includes a large garbage can.
And just when you thought you were done, the worst is yet to come. Because you don't build a cake and then cover it with icing; you ice a cake and then build it layer by layer. So now that you've got your cake layer covered, you have to get it on the rest of the cake. That's right: you have to pick it up and put it on the rest of the cake. (Have you ever seen a cake disintegrate mid-air?) So imagine a four-layer square cake (which looks something like the Tower of Babel). The first layer isn't too bad, but every layer after that you have to pick up the cake AFTER IT'S DONE and put it (dead center) on top of the cake you've already placed. This is even harder than it sounds for 3 reasons:
1. The Cake is too tall for you to see the top without climbing a ladder, and trying to climb a ladder yet alone get balance to place the cake is not easy.
2. Cake is heavy. Don't believe me? Have you ever tried to heft a wedding cake? Or even a batch of fondant? There's a reason that they wheel cakes around on carts.
3. Cake is sticky. So you've got the cake, you're perched on a ladder looking down on The Cake, and when you go to place the sticks to everything. Your fingers. The spatula. The pan you have it resting upon. Whatever. Not fun.
So after you get the cake placed, you re-smooth the cake as best you can. You usually yell a lot a the cake for being so difficult before giving up on the super-smooth look. Then you hope you have enough decorations to cover the parts you ruined.
Now you're finally on the home stretch: The Cake is built, your kitchen is a mess, and you only have about 20 hours of placing decorations on The Cake left. But this is not 20 solid hours, since cake carpal tunnel will strike after about only an hour of squeezing the decorator bag. So really you've got to throw in time for a lot of breaks and possibly a few surgeries.
Then you're done! Granted, you have a few weeks of cleanup ahead of you, but no biggie. As long as the kids don't pick off the decorations, the cat doesn't shred the fondant, and no earthquakes strike the house, you only have one hurdle left: transportation.
This is why most cake decorators have minivans. It's not to haul kids around. It's to haul cake. You hire another moving team to come take your cake (which now weights approximately 1000 pounds) to the car. You have your handy no-slide mat set up for the cake. You have your "Cake on Board" sign in the window and your emergency lights flashing. Going a top speed of 15 miles an hour (the cake is so heavy you can't go any faster) you haul the cake and the moving team over to the wedding, where they take the cake in, you collect a measly 200 or so dollars, and then you leave the cake to be chopped into little pieces by the bride and groom.
So the bottom line is this: never underestimate the value of a Cake. Even a tiny one probably took a good 20 hours to decorate. Wedding cakes can literally take hundreds of hours. So the next time you go to buy a fancy cake, give your decorator a nice tip and tell her how beautiful the cake is--it'll go a long way toward keeping her from going home and having a nervous breakdown.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Our Vacation

Can anyone guess where we spent the last week?

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Timing is Everything

During scripture study today my children were having a difficult time. My oldest daughter was tired and busy holding her cat. She kept saying "huh?" when anyone asked her a question, and "where are we?" when it was her turn to read. My younger daughter got her feelings hurt (I don't remember why) and began mumbling/crying when she read. So we stopped. Even though we had only read a few verses, I knew it was time.

In the past, when I've pushed on and made them read until the end, someone, or even everyone, ends up leaving mad and/or crying. I often have to ask myself what my purpose was when we began. Well, for one, it was to bring the spirit into our home, and for another, it was to help my children gain a greater understanding of the scriptures. If I had kept reading today would either of those purposes been met? I think not. Which is why I stopped on a good note. Granted, we had only read for a few minutes, but sometimes that's enough.

There will be times when we read an entire chapter, and times when we read one verse, but it's the time - the time we spend together, what they learn, and how they feel when we're finished, that's most important.

Saturday, August 2, 2008



It was one of those trying days, where you “try” too much to make your kids have fun. I never thought there would come a day where I would have to drag my kids out of the house and force them into outdoor fun. Being outside in the sunshine and breathing fresh air is essential to my survival. I need it, crave it and must have it. My children, two of who are teenagers would rather sleep until 11am and then lounge on the couch for the better part of the day. One short year ago, they were waiting at the front door for me with their swimsuits on or their water bottles filled and ready for a bike ride. Today, I am dragging them out of bed.
So today I forced them to go to the splash park with their younger brother for a full 90 minutes, with promises of dropping them off at the movie theatre or the mall after attending their brother’s social gathering.
A few moms from my son’s special education classroom have been gathering for about three months now and holding social outings for our kids, who rarely (if ever) get invited out.
We arrived at the splash park and my two older children immediately plopped down in the shade and made sure everyone knew how completely bored they were. Bennett, being autistic, moved as far away from the other children as possible and then stood in the shade and recited cartoons and a list of movies he would like to see, in order.
I chatted with the other moms and watched their children splash through the fountains and falling water. Mine continued to stay in the shade. Exactly 90 minutes later, my older kids reminded me of my promise and so we packed up, said our goodbyes and headed to the mall.
As I drove home from the mall with Bennett in the back seat, reciting for the thousandth time the movies he wanted to see, in order. I took a deep breath and thought how trying my day had been. Trying to make my kids have fun, trying to give them new experiences, trying to expose them to new and different people, trying to make them smile, trying to keep myself sane, trying, trying trying.
So I went home and did what good writers do, I looked up trying in the dictionary. Trying: causing annoyance, exasperating. I think my kids would agree that I am trying too hard.
Then I scanned up a line or two and saw the word try; to test the result of effect by experiment; to test; to make an effort.
Tomorrow, I will wake up and continue to annoy my kids.