Sunday, October 28, 2012

Taming the Beast. 7 fun activities to get your kids through the storm.

I'm securely land-locked west of the middle of this great piece of land we call America, but that hasn't kept my overactive mind from dreaming up a list of things to do in the event of Halloween being ruined by an uninvited monster of storms.

In doing so, my mildly intelligent IQ led me to realize, Hey, I can do these things for my kids, too!

[We'll ignore that fact that a desire to prepare for thwarting off the world's latest terror threat (aka, the weather) is what motivated me to make plans for a fun Halloween in the first place.]

Hopefully, this list will introduce you to some new favorites and remind you of some old!

1. Ghost, ghost, ghoul (as in, duck, duck moose)

2.  Mummy saran-wrap tag. You'll want to supervise this activity, for obvious reasons. I'm assuming Frankenstorm will do more damage outside than your kids will inside with some ground rules established beforehand (just keeping it in persepective!). Wrap kids from their calves to their shoulders in saran wrap (yes, arms get tucked in, as well). Sit them on the floor and have them play sharks in the minnows or regular tag.... watch them writhe and wiggle in doing so!

3. Apple and Pig Relay Race. This can follow the Saran Wrap tag. The players will need to be slightly more mobile with being wrapped from right above their knees to their shoulders (arms in again). Line up two teams facing each other. Place two apples in the middle on the floor inside small circles marked with masking tape. On the word, "go", one pig from each team does what he/she can to retrieve the apple and bring it back to their teammates so that the next player can bring it back to their team's circle in the middle. This relay race continues until all pigs have either retrieved the apple, or brought it back to the middle.

3. Pin the Nose on the Pumpkin, or Pin the Heart on the Monster

4. Apple to the core contest. Put apple on paper plate in front on each player, first person to eat apple clean to the core wins.

5. Balloon volleyball (indoor). If possible, use Caution Tape to mark the top of the "net" and the field of play

6. Marshmallow bowl. A blindfold game. To goal is to transfer as many marshmallows as possble from one bowl to another with a spoon while being blindfolded. The size of the spoon and bowl are up to you, depending on the level of difficulty you would like to give each player. The only hand they can use is the one holding the spoon.

7. Readers theatre. After all these activities, as Frankenstorm is howling (or not) outside your door, settle things down and cap off the evening before bedtime with sharing a book or story by reading it aloud as a group. Suggest that your readers read the book in a way would make it the scariest or silliest story they have ever read. (Leave it up to their interpretation of how it should be narrated.) Kids actually get a kick out of reading this way and hearing stories read this way. It becomes  competition to see who can give the best "performance."

Have any other suggestion? Share them here!

Wishing everyone a safe but fun Halloween!


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Next Big Thing... a railroad cookbook?

Welcome to The Next Best Thing blog hop! If you haven’t heard of this shin-dig happening over the blogosphere until now, consider yourself officially looped in and connected with the party!

I would like to thank Penny Ehrenkranz for letting me play a part. Every day Penny features new posts about writing and writers on her blog, so you may want to take a peek to see what is being offered up there.

Today is my blog’s day to be an active stop on the hop, which means I get to respond to a handful of questions. Next week, four other fantabulous authors will do the same, and I’ll point you in their direction at the end of this post. So, don’t go until you find yourself being introduced to new friends (because friends are a wonderful thing)! Take my word on that.

For now, I hope you’ll settle back, prop your feet, and take a little walk around the blog-hop with me.

What is the working title of your book?

Right now I’m leaning toward: The Roundhouse Cookbook, Recipes of a Railroad Housewife.

But I am definitely open to suggestions, so if you begin to feel shivers up and down your spine over an alternative idea, please feel free to send it my way!

Where did the idea come from for the book?

My grandmother, Elizabeth Shade Kennedy, was the wife of a railroad engineer who managed the engine shops in Avis, Pennsylvania in the early 1900s. Her husband’s shop was responsible for maintaining and fixing all the engines operating on the NYC line. Most workers at that time rode the rails into these outlying, rural areas from their homes in the cities. Given the travel time and length of the trip, these workers often counted on boarding houses to supply them with a roof over their head and meals during the week while they earned a living. My grandmother offered them this type of home away from home, and kept a cookery journal of her recipes while doing so. When Charles William Kennedy died tragically in 1920, Elizabeth became a single mother and sole provider for her family. Her boarding house became a means for survival for herself and her five young sons. Luckily, her house was large enough to do so. The boys were moved to the 3rd floor, while two other rooms on the second were rented out. This did not mean she only had 2 boarders. Apparently, boarders shared rooms and many found a meal at Elizabeth’s table. It is reported that she served daily meals / dinner for at least 15 people three times a day.

What genre does your book fall under?

The wonderful world of cookbooks!

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Yes, it has happened before—movies made from cookbooks. Although such a scenario is highly unlikely, I suspect veteran movie-goers wouldn’t mind watching Helen Mirren be a mother-hen for the railroad workers who depend on her kitchen and sage advice as the world unfolds along the steel lines expanding out into new territories around them. Of course, if this would be filmed as a family saga, I believe Sandra Bullock or Drew Barrymore would be great in representing a strong woman who raised a family of five boys and survived hardships despite losing a husband and two young daughters. I love the depth of talent of these actors.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A taste of history, from a period when the heart of America pushed through and rose above some of the toughest challenges of our time.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Given that this is a niche cookbook, and a labor of love, my mother and I are self-publishing this book together. She has done an incredible job doing research into the historical background of many of the recipes, while I have done the layout and design.

How long did it take you to write the first draft?

Too long. I’ve had a working copy of the recipes ready for years, but it was continually side-lined by other projects. It wasn’t until I brought my mother on board that this project was given wings. Not only is she an amazing and talented cook, she has been able to help dig into the background of the recipes, evolution of American kitchens, and snippets of  American history that have really helped shape this cookery journal. When we are finished we will publish a nugget that offers a glimpse of rural American life that shaped our country through the Great Depression and the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My grandmother, Martha Grugan Kennedy. After the publication of my first cookbook, The Book Lover’s Cookbook, Recipes from Celebrated Works of Literature and the Passages That Feature Them, which was co-authored with Janet Kay Jenson and published by Ballantine (2003), she said, “Did you know your talent and love for cooking runs in your blood?” She showed me my great-grandmother’s cookery journal, which I had never seen before. That journal contained gems of recipes—recipes like Railroad Cake, Mountain Cake, Homemade English Muffins, and Elderberry Wine (and to think she lived through Prohibition!)

I became so excited by the contents of her journal, I knew I wanted to share these recipes with others who have a passion for history, railroading, and the steadfast resolve of people who persevere through difficult times.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Many of Elizabeth’s recipes for salsas and sauces call for “mangos.”  These are not the fruit mangos that can be found in supermarkets.  According to our research, use of the word “mango” was ascribed to green bell peppers. This use originated with the coal miners in Pennsylvania.  When I first saw these recipes, I asked my grandmother what a mango was because I doubted the mango fruit would have been available in Avis in the 1920s, nor would it have been used in a spicy tomato sauce back then. My grandmother responded to me as if I were dumb and nuts. “Don’t you know what a mango is?” Apparently, the original reference was lost on me. But in the 1887 edition of The Original White House Cook Book, there is a recipe for Green Pepper Mangos which describes the green bell pepper perfectly wherein the seeds of the pepper are removed and the vegetable is filled with a mixture for baking.
I can’t wait until our cookbook is published! It will probably be ready before the 2012 holiday season.

Next week, stay tuned for more posts in The Next Big Thing blog hop.  Watch for posts on Oct 31st from these authors!

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Fresh Perspective on Point of View

I’m definitely not the sort of person who has been immune to “down days” throughout my life. I get my dose of the good with the bad just like anyone else—sometimes faring better than others, and sometimes feeling like I’m barely getting by.  

But lately, I feel like something different is happening around me.  My perspective on life, on situations, has begun to change; and I’m not sure what spurred this new outlook.
Did the far too many days of sunshine and no rain in my great state of Utah finally take effect on the melatonin in my brain? Or did my perpetual practice of trying to always look on the bright side and shrug off the bad finally start to take hold and become more a part of me rather than apart from me?
I’m not sure, but I’ll share some examples where my point of view shifted from the typical reaction I would expect from myself.

The first has to do with winter. We all know winter—well, those of us that live in the more northern part of the hemisphere know winter. Usually I watch the approach of winter with dread. I hate the shorter days, the colder nights. I despise driving at night. And I don’t like feeling like I’m locked inside. But not this year.  For some reason, as I’ve been finding myself driving home in the enveloping veil of darkness at earlier hours, rather than being bothered, I’ve felt more akin to being wrapped up in a blanket. A cozy one, tucking me in from a long day of work. To be perfectly honest, I haven’t felt like this about nighttime hours for as long as I can remember (although Nighttime and I might have been perfectly chummy when I was a kid.)
And then there was the basil episode. For those of you that are dying to know how I ruined $400 worth of this precious herbal plant, it didn’t take too much effort.  (You can read about it here.)  And it left me without a bountiful supply of pesto, which I‘d been planning on making. Did I stomp my feet? Growl at my stupidity? Kick the cat? Nope. Instead, a funny thought trickled through my head: Well, I guess this means I’ll be coming up with a new recipe for pesto. One that doesn’t use basil. And what’s more, I was even kind of excited about the idea. (I’m thinking sage will be a good way to go.)

Am I on meds? No.
Have I had a windfall of good fortune? No. No lotto yet. (I don’t even play the lotto.)

Have I gotten that pay raise I’ve been hoping for? I’m not sure, but if I don’t get it then I’ve decided I’m fine with thinking that next time I want to take a day off, I won’t feel so guilty about it (and living life without guilt is a good thing!)
My point is, we all have good days and bad days.

I’m not one of those lucky people whom hasn’t seen a bad day.  But I’ve learned that I can control my perspective, my outlook, and my attachment to situations that are occurring around me (but not from within me).  I can shift my point of view
And the good news, is we all can.  With practice – and it does take practice – we can slowly learn to let go of the expectations that have been ingrained and that often lead to disappointment, and embrace other possibilities.  With practice we can live through anything with a fresh perspective.