What are we talking about today?

Normal topics suspended for the A to Z Challenge. It's all books from April 1-30.

If you're here from the A to Z Challenge hoping I'll comment back if you comment first: Sorry to disappoint, but that probably won't happen. I work full-time and I grad school full-time, so I can't give the time to blog commenting that I would like. I'll visit after the end of the semester, I hope.

31 December 2010

Holiday Reading Challenge Wrap-Up

This challenge was a lot of fun. I joined in on a whim, thinking that I wanted to do some reading over my holiday break anyway, and I ended up reading seven books that I wouldn't otherwise have bothered with. (Plus bits of a couple that I shouldn't have bothered with.) Many, many thanks to Nely at All About {n} for hosting this brilliant challenge.

30 December 2010

Tidying Up

So, here we are at the end of 2010. (You know, in case you hadn't noticed.) I hope your year was magnificent.

In an attempt to get ready for a New Year full of writing and earning all A's and sharing my various journeys with you, I've been stalking all of you (but you already knew that, right?) to see how your blogs are organized. And while I'm not ready to give up the "post every day" thing quite yet (it really is fun for me), I am going to keep a regular schedule of topics (at least for a couple of months) to see how I like it.

29 December 2010

A Texas Legacy Christmas

My final read for the holiday challenge! Sneaking it in just in time.

This book, like most of the others, was an impulse pickup at the library. It's historical fiction, set in the early 1900s in small-town Texas. A newspaperman who has spent a couple of years in New York moves back to his hometown to run the local paper. On the eve of his return, he is the unwitting victim of a pair of 6-year-old pickpockets, and he feels directed by God to adopt them and bring them home with him. Back home, he is reunited with a friend from his schooldays; she now works in the boardinghouse where he and the children are staying.

Sesame Street, I Miss You

Update: Timbra won the guess-how-old-my-dad-is postcard! She guessed 57; the correct answer is... 55! And now back to your regularly scheduled nonsense.

This delightful video has been circulating among my Facebook friends:



28 December 2010

Finding Noel

I'm still squeezing in these last few books for the Holiday Reading Challenge! (I've had to abandon the December Author Birthday challenge. Maybe next month!)

I read another Richard Evans book, Finding Noel. His books tend towards the saccharine, I have to say, although this one is not so bad. It's much, much less happy and loving than The Christmas Box. It's the story of two young people, Mark and Macy, who must address their respective pasts if they want to be able to handle the future. And I have to admit, I cried through pretty much the entire book. But I'm sappy and sensitive like that. (Warning: Kinda spoilers after the jump.)


Smiley & Festive Blog Awards

Kittie over at The Block gave me this award... quite possibly the happiest one I've seen so far:


This one doesn't come with any rules, so far as I can see, so I'm just going to hand it over to some bloggers that make me smile (but first, must obsessively check who Kittie gave it to so I don't double-award, then try to remember who I've given awards to already... forget it, here we go).

Faith @ Literary Coldcuts on Toasty Buns: has given me plenty for my TBR list and also renewed my hope for the Christian literature industry;

Mia @ My Literary Jam and Toast: hands out writer wisdom, giggles, and brilliant illustrations;

Thelma @ WidowSphere: Just go read it. Everything she writes is lovely;

and

Grandpa @ Life on the Farm: Breathtaking pictures and brilliant storytelling about a whole bunch of stuff I know nothing about.

So, my comrades-in-blogging: Enjoy it, display it, re-give it... or just pretend like you never saw it. Whatever you like. :)

And I also got this very Christmas-y award from Catherine at Kangaroobee:


But I'm not passing this one on, since Christmas has left us behind for yet another year. However, if you really really like it, by all means, take it with you. :)

27 December 2010

Happy Birthday!

These people really need to stop having birthdays. And by "these people", I mean my relatives.

Dad's the tall one.
I don't have any more recent pictures of my father. So here's what he looked like a few birthdays ago. (I look more like him every year, although I sincerely hope to avoid the hair loss.)

So! This is my dad's mumbleth birthday! Way, to go, Dad; we always knew you'd make it to mumble! Bet you don't feel a day older than mumble, huh?

For the record, I do actually know how old my father is. (And I mean old! Wow! Ahem) Despite all my objections to the contrary, I can add. A little bit. I'll tell you this much; he was too young to serve in Vietnam (for which we are all very grateful), but too old to care about Sesame Street. Feel free to have a guess in the comments. Closest guess gets a postcard! (Relatives are disqualified.)

Okay, this post was supposed to be about my dad... His name is Bill. As in, "Did we pay for the electricity this month?" But not William, as in "Watch me shoot this apple off my son's head." Technically, it's Billy, as in, "That move where Adam Sandler plays a spoiled rich kid is on."

Since his birthday comes so close to Christmas, it was pretty much ignored throughout his childhood, which is really depressing. Especially since his siblings-- all 7 of them (my grandparents were crazy)-- had the traditional birthday fuss for their special days. So, he's spent my whole life telling us that he hates his birthday. We've all seen through the façade, and know that he in fact loves his birthday, but it's fun for him to pretend that he hates it. And if he should happen to read this blog post, he is certain to rant for 45 minutes about me putting it on the internet. Sorry, Mum.

Who am I kidding? He doesn't read my blog! Ha ha! I can post about the time I got stung three times in as many minutes and how it was entirely his fault (really, it was) and totally get away with it! Brilliant!

The other half of the balloon fiasco.
Where was I? Oh, yeah, Dad's siblings. So a couple of years ago my sister and I were decorating for our mum's birthday, and we had some balloons attached to a table, and we debated for a little while about moving them so that the kids couldn't get to them. Then we decided that it was no big deal if the kids did play with them, actually, and left them where they were. Come the day of the party, the "kids" played with them all right: Dad and his younger sister pummeled each other with balloons, while everyone under 10 never even touched them. For that matter, no one under 40 touched them. Ah, sibling love.

Happy Birthday, Dad!

26 December 2010

Christmas Gifts, The Earth, and No Impact Man

I'm taking the day off for Boxing Day.

Ha! I've been taking the day off for two weeks. Today will be no more lazy than usual. :)

So, my Christmas gift to my husband was a compost bin, and all the stuff needed to get started. I realise that this sounds like the most bizarre Christmas gift ever, and in some ways it is, but there is an explanation.

25 December 2010

Happy Christmas!

THE Tree

The older tree, also known as "Grandpa's Tree"

The doodads under the tree

No gifts in these pics, because I took them after decorating on Christmas Eve and as Chad's gift was, ahem, "differently wrapped" (I stuck a bow on the side), I couldn't get out until Christmas morning. And my gift is coming via UPS, who do not work the same hours as Santa, so I don't have it yet. Happy Christmas!

24 December 2010

White Christmas

Yeah, we're not likely to have one of those in Austin. Apparently there's a cold front expected, but the forecasted low temp is 32 F (O C), so yeah, no snow for us.

Image from Wikipedia.
But never mind that! This post is about the movie White Christmas. It's been one of my sister's favourites for years, and by virtue of repeated exposure, it's now one of my favourites, too. AMC was kind enough to play it all weekend long a couple of weeks ago, so I watched it about four times.

23 December 2010

Toastmasters

Chad joined Toastmasters a couple of months ago, and has since been badgering me to come along, try it, and join in myself.

I have no intention of diverting my attention from writing to speeching, however.

But, I did go along to their last meeting of the year, which included a holiday potluck, and as a bonus I brought along Chad's (okay, my) contribution to the spread. And it was a great spread, by the way; the food was fabulous.

22 December 2010

Sunday

Chad wakes me up 15 minutes early.
I say "Grr-mmmhh-aarrrgh," which is Su for "If you don't stop poking me I'll pluck your nose hairs."
Chad goes away and then comes back to ask if I'm really going to sleep for 15 more minutes.
I give in and get up.
Chad informs me that a cup of tea does not qualify as breakfast.
I ignore him.
He continues to harass me.
I give in and have half a peanut butter sandwich.
I turn on my computer and cash in my 250 tabs in Chrome for a Cause. (Charity: Water. Which one did you choose?)
Chad says it's time to go.
I check the clock. He's right.
We race down to the bus stop and wait for five minutes.
We're still waiting.
Bus arrives. We get halfway to church and the driver gets off and goes for a stroll.
After church our gang discusses where to eat. Tres Amigos wins.
We discuss hunting, ethanol, and whether the migas are any good.
Someone from church at another table buys lunch for the six of us. Awwww!
At home I make a grocery list and check the bus schedule.
We almost miss our stop.
We check Sears for the presence of Christmas bears. None there.
We go into HEB and then back out because we forgot a basket.
We're going the wrong way around the store so we get our frozen stuff first. Oops.
We stand in the tea section for five minutes and then leave with no tea.
We stand in the eggnog section for five minutes and then leave with no eggnog.
We wander in the produce section for 20 minutes and leave with a stack of vegetables.
The bus stop is across the freeway.
Good thing there's a pedestrian crossing at the underpass.
A bus comes. It's the wrong one.
We get on it anyway.
Chad insists that even though there are five Cameron Road stops, we shall only refer to one of them as The Cameron Road stop.
The bus lets us off at the Cameron Road stop.
We wait for the next bus. It's late.
Chad tries to talk to the deaf people next to him but he only knows a couple of signs.
He starts playing Shadow with me and gets on my nerves.
I move so he can't watch me.
He rings the bell for our stop.
Time for wassail.
But first I need to unload the dishwasher.
And put away the groceries.
I get the wassail going in the crock pot.
Chad needs clean laundry for work.
I berate him for leaving a trail of dirty socks around the house.
Time to write a blog post!
My Facebook friends are funny.
Ooh, a book to read.
I just thought of another blog post.
The laundry is washed and needs drying.
Is the wassail ready yet?
Mmmm. Citrus-y.
Chad doesn't like the wassail.
More for me!
I hang up the laundry so Chad doesn't have to wear wrinkled shirts.
Another cup of wassail.
I think I just swallowed a clove.
Should I check WebMD to see if I'll die of clove poisoning? Nah.
I have a clever Facebook status.
Holy smokes! It's 10 already?

21 December 2010

The Christmas Box

When the movie The Christmas Box came on TV in 1995, my whole family tuned in to watch. That's because we are all pretty tremendous fans of Richard Thomas (yes, I had to look up his real name; I've called him John Boy since I could talk), and also because my father, who has a reputation for being Ebeneezer Scrooge, also has a soft spot for Christmas movies. It's strangely incongruous.

So, the movie came on, we watched it, we liked it, and life went on.

Many many many years later, I found out The Christmas Box was a book first. Who knew? It's been lurking on my mental to-read list ever since, but I finally took it off the mental list, went to the library, and read it.

It was brilliant.

20 December 2010

New Year Blogfest

My original post about the blogfest didn't get a lot of interest, so I was all set to say, "Oh, well, never mind"... and then that entry skyrocketed to the top of my "most popular" list. Goodness. Knocked Megan right out of the spot she's had for two months.

So, I'm proceeding. If it turns out some random spasm of Google sent people to my Blogfest post instead of the cute kittens or whatever they were looking for, well, then I guess we'll cancel the blogfest later, yes?

Be Jolly By Golly Blogfest

Do you remember me mentioning that I joined every blogfest going? Yes? Good.


The Rules (from Jen's blog):
1.Blog Post to be posted on December 20th (whatever time you desire)
2.Show pictures of your decorations, holiday lights & Christmas tree!
3.Share your favorite treat (Recipe included, chance for others to steal the yumminess!)
4.Share your favorite drink (Recipe included, chance for others to steal the alcohol – or non)
5.Last but not least… visit others!!! Take part in their holiday cheer!

Note: For those who don’t celebrate Christmas, you’re welcome to share any other holiday you are celebrating in this year!


19 December 2010

The Snow Globe

I'll be done with the book reviews eventually, I hope promise. In the meantime, the Holiday Reading Challenge is keeping my reading life active and trips to the library frequent.

The Snow Globe, by Sheila Roberts, is absolutely delightful. It's definitely a feel-good, happy-ending chick lit book, but it's not sappy or maudlin-- the characters are very real-life people, with real-life problems. I will definitely be reading more from Ms. Roberts.

Actually, this is one of those books that I wish I'd written. I don't think it's intended to be a comedy, but I did laugh a few times while reading. It's a story about romance, friendship, and making your own happy ending.

This book is a new release, just in time for this holiday season. It's not too long-- I read it on a bus ride home (of course, the bus did get caught in a traffic jam). For something fun, uplifting and inspirational, get your hands on The Snow Globe.

18 December 2010

Politically Correct Holiday Stories

I love this book. Love, love, love, love it.

I was introduced to James Finn Garner's Politically Correct books by my junior English teacher, who told us how funny they were. She was correct.

17 December 2010

More Holiday Book Reviews

I don't usually look at the reviews on Amazon before buying things, because people put dumb stuff on the internet. But I did go back and look at the reviews for Stupid Christmas after I finished reading, and I gotta say: This book will not appeal to all senses of humour, and the reviews confirm that.

It's a collection of the dumb stuff people do around Christmas-- altercations with mall Santas, Nativity Scene thefts, burglary by people in Santa costumes, and other things that make the season bright. It wasn't bad, but not terribly funny, either. That is to say, I didn't laugh out loud, although I did snicker a few times.

This book is free on Amazon Kindle.

16 December 2010

Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas

This book is fabulous. It helps that it includes many of my favourite Christmas songs, of course, but I loved it. It's not a novel, of course, but rather a collection of stories of the origin of each of the songs.

If I were to choose a weakness for this book, it's that it verges on the maudlin from time to time. But the stories are lovely and enjoyable enough-- for me-- to overlay the sappiness. Of course, I'm pretty sappy as it is; the story of "Do You Hear What I Hear?" had me a bit teary.

If you love Christmas music, this book will probably be enjoyable for you. It's available for free for the Amazon Kindle.

**Note: When I tell you that a book is free on Kindle, that's really just to tell you where I got it, and to save you a little money, if you like. I am not getting anything from Amazon. But if you're from Amazon and you want to pay me to mention you in every post, let's talk!**


A Spanish Story, Again

I was quite flattered that the Runner from A Runner's Life requested the Spanish version of the story I posted a couple of days ago. So, if there are any other Spanish-speaking readers out there, here's the original! You can read it in English here (unless you're anxious to get Google Translate some work; in that case, on you go).

15 December 2010

Happy Birthday!

I had this as my FB profile pic for a
while, and Chad's friends who don't
know me kept asking if Denise was his
wife. I changed the pic.
My brother and sister have birthdays so close together it should be illegal. My parents didn't do it on purpose, but these two have holiday-ish birthdays while I'm way off on the other side of the year.

Not that I am complaining.

14 December 2010

The Gift of the Magi

I've (finally!) started the Holiday Reading Challenge, and now it's time to share my reviews with you.

Okay, so this first one isn't actually for the Reading challenge, being as it isn't a book, it's a short story, and I read it in about three minutes. But it bears repeating. And it's about 100 years old, so if you've never read it, don't worry about spoilers: STOP READING THIS BLOG RIGHT NOW AND GO READ THIS STORY WHO LET YOU OUT OF SCHOOL WITHOUT READING IT ANYWAY IT'S FREE ON AMAZON KINDLE GO GO GO!!!

Right, now that we have that sorted out, let's begin.

A Spanish Story

I wrote this story for an in-class composition for Spanish class, decided I didn't want it going to waste, so I published it on Facebook in Spanish. However, the majority of my FB friends (and, I suspect, blog readers) are not Spanish speakers and therefore couldn't benefit from my mad storytelling skills. ;)

I'm actually really proud of this story, because I wrote it directly in Spanish. For my essays, I generally write in English first and then translate to Spanish (because my Rhetoric brain wins over my Spanish brain pretty much every time; I have to get the ideas down in one form or another, and English is the easiest way to do that). But since this was a fiction story, and my first Spanish writing since I was in high school, I was über-happy with it. And I got an A on it, which is always a bonus.

So I translated it to English to share with you.

13 December 2010

There's an Extrovert in Here Somewhere...

Senior yearbook.
Shyest.
Yeah. They didn't know
me very well. :)
Once upon a time, between the ages of about three and ten, I was quiet and timid and known, if people noticed me at all, for being really shy. I still give people the impression (correctly, to some extent) of being reserved when they first meet me. That's because I am being "reserved"; I'm "reserving" all my cheek until they've had a chance to get to know me. I think it's unfair to unload the snark upon someone the first time I meet them.

12 December 2010

New Year, New Blogfest!

Yes, I gave in. It didn't take much, really. I saw all those blogfests, and decided I wanted my own. And since Christmas is already SO well covered, I'm going for New Year. Plus, it's a special holiday for some other reason... what was it? I'm sure my husband knows. I should ask him.

Thanksgiving Blogfeast!

Today's the day for Erica's Blogfeast! Go here to read the rules (in case you'd like to make a last-minute entry) and see all the other entrants.

My entry, Gordon and Mollie, is already up, so click the link to go read it!

11 December 2010

Luna in America: Harry Potter Blogfest



Harry Potter BlogfestMichael at In Time is having a Harry Potter blogfest today! Yes, these blogfests are getting around! (Stay tuned... I'm announcing my own tomorrow. Everybody's doing it!) Drop by his blog and check out all the entries in the Blogfest.

In my entry, Luna Lovegood is spending Christmas-- and Boxing Day-- in America with her Muggle-born boyfriend, who she met last summer in Diagon Alley, and his family. I wanted to do a "wait-- we don't celebrate Boxing Day"-type thing, and Luna seemed the most likely character to spend the holidays out of the country.

Natasha and Clayton: A Midwinter Blogfest

Marieke is having a Midwinter Blogfest! Here's the description:
What does your MC do for Midwinter? Any special celebrations? Yule, Christmas? Celebrations for a midwinter solstice? A Festival of Light? A Wild Hunt? Perhaps something else completely? Christmas on the beach or winter in June? Maybe your MC has good memories of a winter’s day past when life was easier before the story you as Evil Writer wrote?
If you'd like to enter, it's not too late; skip over to Marieke's blog and throw your hat in. Or whatever the saying is.

So, this scene is (kinda) from my NaNo novel; that is to say, it's planned, but this is all that I've written of the Christmas chapter. It was kind of fun to skip waaaaaaaaaaay ahead and write a scene!

10 December 2010

A Glimpse

At our local NaNoWriMo wrap-up party, we each brought a paragraph from our novels. We hung them up on a clothesline, and the idea was to take one and find the writer, by asking questions like, "Do you have a character called Natasha?"

The following is the paragraph that I took with me. It was remarkably well-received, so naturally I'm hoping that's more because I'm a writing genius than because the people around here are really polite. Truthfully, I'm sure it was a combination of me picking one of my good paragraphs and people being encouraging. :)

Anyway! This scene, in the original, is from Clayton and Natasha's first date. In the rewrite, I'll be keeping the conversation but moving it to earlier in their friendship, before they start dating.

09 December 2010

Beth's Epic Contest

Apparently it's going to be two posts a day throughout December. :)

Beth Revis, author of Across the Universe, is having a tremendously large giveaway on her blog. Scoot on over, ooh and aah at her prize packs, and enter to win!

New Genre for Me!

A real, live schoolroom from the time
of the school story heyday.
 For years, I've been obsessed with school stories.

At some point in high school, I realised that I was only about 50 years behind the times with my favourite genre, since apparently the heyday of school stories was before World War Two. One of my favourite series, The Chalet School by Elinor Brent-Dyer, is indeed from this time period. EBD's writing style influenced mine a lot for a while, which is kind of a bummer, because it's not really a modern-day voice (and as much as I like her stories, her writing is actually kind of wonky), but I think I've managed to shift her out of my immediate consciousness and found her a place in the composite of authors who all influence me a little bit.

Moving to Britain was a revelation, since there are a lot more British school stories than American, and I could get my hands on a lot more of them. And thanks to the genius of JK Rowling and Harry Potter, the school story as a genre has been brought back from the vaults. Yay!

08 December 2010

A Running Story

I'm on a running kick, to make up for all those weeks of neglect, I guess. So here's a running story that has nothing to do with anything, for your reading... yeah. And probably for the amusement for a 13-year-old.

Chad and I volunteered a couple of times at an area-wide lock-in night for the church youth groups in Lubbock. These events had basketball, soccer, racquetball, a mechanical bull, a rock-climbing wall, and all sorts of bouncy inflated things.

07 December 2010

Sorta Like Sprinting

I'm beginning to feel guilty, because there are people who drop by here thinking they'll get a running blog. And I guess they do, a little bit, but since my last running post was back in October, anyone who wants to read about running has probably been bored.

Actually, that's kind of funny, because whenever I list this blog somewhere (Networked Blogs, BlogHer, wherever), I always list my "tags" as running, writing, college, and Christianity, because in my head, that's what I write about. In real life, that's not what happens, because real life doesn't fit neatly into four tags, no matter what Networked Blogs says.

06 December 2010

Coming of age

And another thing I've learned since going back to uni:  It's fun watching people take their first steps into the adult world.

I'm beginning to see the appeal of teaching at this level, and it's scary, because I've never wanted to teach at university. And I still don't, but... it's fun to watch.

Watch what, you ask?

05 December 2010

Coming Soon...

In my joy at returning to the land of blogging (following the end of NaNoWriMo and with one final left to take in my semester), I've gone a bit mad and entered all the blogfests and challenges that grabbed my fancy. Can you say "crazy"? Part of it is exuberance, as I said, and part of it is that the creative and I-love-writing juices returned in full force during NaNoWriMo. I can't believe how long it's been since I've written for fun on a regular basis (instead of every now and then). Now I remember why I loved it.

Anyway! I've already posted my entry to Erica's Thanksgiving Blogfeast; you can see it here. It runs until Sunday the 12th, if you'd like to join (and really, more people should!).

Next up, on this coming Saturday (the 11th), is Marieke's Midwinter Blogfest. The challenge is: What your MC celebrates in winter (Hanukkah? Christmas? Kwanzaa?), and what he/she does to celebrate.

Also on the 11th (I think they all got together, or something), is Michael's Harry Potter blogfest. Write a 500-word scene with any HP character and a winter holiday. I have no earthly idea yet what I'm doing with this one, apart (perhaps) from making it a Boxing Day adventure.

And, just for good measure, I'm participating in the Holiday Reading Challenge by Nely and Angela's Author Birthday Challenge. Which means a trip to the library is in order, as soon as I get my last paper written.

That ought to hold you for a while, right? Should you need any more challenges, just keep your eyes open; I've passed up a few just in the past few hours. There are blogfests all over the place! I may have to get my own.

Gordon and Mollie: A Thanksgiving Blogfeast

Erica is having a Blogfeast for Thanksgiving: Participants are each writing 1500 words mixing Thanksgiving and family secrets. Read on and enjoy (and I had a hard time staying under 1500 words!):

04 December 2010

A Blog Award

Megan over at The-Write-At-Home-Mom very kindly gave me this blog award:


And the reason you haven't heard about it before now is that she gave it to me during NaNoWriMo. So, Megan, my apologies for the delay, and many thanks for thinking of me and continuing to read my blog! (And if you aren't yet reading Megan's blog, scoot on over there and see what you've been missing!)




03 December 2010

Heard At University

This is a (slightly) more grown-up version of the "Heard in Journeyland" posts I've amused myself with from time to time. Today is the final day of my first semester at UT. So here I have, for your reading enjoyment, amusing things I've heard on campus since August:

02 December 2010

Rhetoric and the Classmates of Crazy

I love the rhetoric major. I love that essay-writing is a major part of my grade in my rhetoric classes. You know what I don't love? Peer reviews.

Now, I've never really paid much attention to peer reviews, even in middle school, but from time to time I get good information from them. That has generally not been the case this semester, which causes me angst and also a swelled head, as discussed on Tuesday.

01 December 2010

NaNoWriMo Wrap-Up

You know, I love how there's a looooong list of blog posts in the sidebar on the last day of a month, and the next day, it's back to teeny-tiny again. New months are fun.

Anyway! At about 11:30 PM on November 26th, during an online word war with my Austin NaNoWriMo buddies, I typed my 50,000th word.

The overly-large grin that crossed my face at that moment was comparable to finishing my first marathon, or watching my brother get married, or seeing my husband graduate from college. I stopped writing-- just for a second-- to go back to the chat page and type "50K!!" (thus messing up everybody else's word war, since they stopped writing to offer congratulations). I don't expect to get that level of exhilaration and happiness from 50K words on any future NaNos, now that I know I can do it. Because going into this, I didn't "know". I've been looking at the "verify & win" link on the NaNoWriMo page since early October when I signed up, wondering if I'd ever get to follow that link and put in my novel.

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