Sunday, August 31, 2008

We're back!

Hi readers! We're back from camping on the Olympic Peninsula and still a little tired, although we had a great time. I'll post photos & cute stories later this week, along with a picture of my mystery-solved squash! But for now, here's a photo of how we all feel, along with Munchkin's comment in church this morning, "I have lots of tired in me."

So what is Mr. Tired doing during his nap time right now? For the last 40 minutes he's been banging on a drum and singing like a wild Indian. I don't mean to be politically insensitive -- there was a real Indian on the ferry playing a drum and singing and Munchkin sounds just like him, only wild. Scott commented a few minutes ago that it's a good thing 's only part Indian.

I'll post more tomorrow, or the next day, or whenever I get our laundry done!

How "The Purple Elephant" was born

When Munchkin was a baby and taking multiple naps/day, I had many hours during which I had to do something really, really quiet in order not to wake him up. I read a lot of books, and sometime in the fall I picked up a copy of "No Plot, No Problem" by Chris Baty. I’ve always wanted to write a children’s book, but I get hung up on that one little detail commonly known as "the plot!" The idea of being able to write without a predetermined plot was revolutionary!

Chris Baty may be better known as the founder of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which occurs in November. His method of writing, which isn’t actually new, is that you just write, write, write and worry about the details later. NaNoWriMo attracts tens of thousands of participants every year who pledge to write 50,000 words during the month of November. There are online and regional support groups, weekly email encouragements and a special logo for those who actually make it. "No Plot, No Problem" explains the method in detail.

That November I decided to go for it, although I never thought I’d actually complete 50,000 words. Partway through the month I linked up with a local support group, without whom, I think, I never would have made it. Once I joined the group, I just couldn’t quit!

By the end of November, I had my first draft of "The Purple Elephant." I spent the next year editing it and then attempted to find a publisher. My real motivation in wanting to get the book professionally published was that it needs illustrations and I knew a publisher would provide them. After too many attempts and several very nice rejection letters, I gave up and instead explored self-publishing. I have finally found a way to self-publish that won’t cost a fortune, but I am still looking for an illustrator (who won’t charge me a fortune). My goal is to do one more complete edit, add illustrations, and self-publish the book by Christmas 2009. I don’t know if anybody will buy it, but it doesn’t matter since it’s really for Munchkin, who will be almost old enough for it by then. (OK, I hope somebody buys it!)

In the meantime... it’s always fun to share what you’ve written. "The Purple Elephant" is similar to those old magazine serials in that it’s meant to be read one chapter at a time. I’m going to post Part I of my book as a chapter each week until Christmas. Check my blog for "Sunday Story." Please forgive the formatting as it won’t be perfect and my text needs another complete edit, which I'm sure I won't keep up with! I welcome any comments anyone might have. If you give me a really great idea, it might even work its way into the next edition! Finally, to anyone who thinks they can steal my book, I'd say, "Go write your own!" I know I’m taking a chance, but hey, my faithful readers can all vouch that they read it here first!

Tune in next Sunday for the first chapter of "The Purple Elephant!"

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Budding modern artist?

We're finally leaving on vacation, tomorrow morning. Fortunately, it's turning out for the best since the weather this week has been very stormy and it's supposed to clear up tomorrow. I hope you don't hear from me again until August 31! That day I will introduce a new feature that will run on Sundays from September through Christmas. Just thought I'd tantalize you a little.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with a little modern art from Munchkin.
Munchkin has discovered the "Paint" program on the computer, and now he begs me to let him play with it. His favorite thing to do with "Paint" is to direct a willing adult (me, naturally) to draw for him whatever he wants, but most of the time I make him do his own work. He is very particular and if he doesn't like the placement of something, he immediately asks for the eraser to get rid of it. Anyway, what do you think? College scholarship in modern art? What would it sell for in New York?

Munchkin's is certainly better than mine, but in my own defense, I had a wiggly preschooler squirming in my lap who directed my every move. You try that sometime!

Mystery plant has baby squash!

Finally, two blossoms opened up yesterday and I was able to hand-pollinate (I'm way too curious to trust the bees on this one!). It's growing already! I know it kind of looks like zucchini, but the color is too light. I suppose it could be a variety I've never grown before, but I still think it's something else. Anyone think it could be delicata? That's what I'm hoping for!

Next mystery plant update will be after I get back from vacation and I think by then we should know for sure!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Mystery plant has blossoms!

Here's the latest on my "mystery" plant. I'm pretty sure it's squash, now, but what kind???? If the blossoms ever open up, I'll hand pollinate it so we'll know. Until then, any guesses?

Friday, August 15, 2008

OLS #11: BLT on the go!

By the time you're probably reading this, I will be knee deep in packing for our vacation. Or maybe I've already left. :)

As I was thinking about writing this "Gone Camping" post, I realized I hadn't posted, or even thought about, our local meal this week. I've been swamped. But tonight's dinner is a clean-out-the-fridge-before-we-go meal and it's going to qualify! No picture, haven't even made dinner, yet, but the menu this evening is:

BLT Sandwiches: bacon from our pig, backyard lettuce, farmers' market tomato, non-local bread
Corn on the cob: Fresh from a local farm, served with local butter, non-local salt & pepper
Carrot sticks: Farmers market

Next week is going to be the interesting one for local eating, and I'm not sure how that's going to turn out! So check for me back online by 8/25. Also, I'm planning a fun new series of blog posts for the fall which I will introduce on Sunday, 8/31. I'll keep you in suspense til then...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Bookworm alert!

Hi fellow bookworms! I just wanted to alert you that I've got a new review up on The Blogging Bookworm of the book "Lost Mountain." Come on over and check it out!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Ant Song

Munchkin had us in stitches on the way to church Sunday morning as he sang, "The Ant Song." I’m sorry I can’t remember the whole thing, and I had to approximate the pitches, but the song went something like this:

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Book Review: The Shack

New York Times bestseller, "The Shack" by William P. Young is all the buzz right now and those who love it say that it has changed their lives. After hearing so much about the book, last week I finally decided to read it for myself. If it hadn't come so highly recommended, I'm not sure I would have made it past the preface.

The story, for those who haven’t already heard, is a fictional account of a man whose young daughter is brutally murdered. Several years after the murder, the man gets a letter from God inviting him to spend a weekend in the shack where the murder occurred. The first quarter of the book is mostly flashback, and the rest is primarily dialogue as the man talks theology with a giggly and somewhat clumsy middle eastern man representing Jesus, a gardening Asian woman representing the Holy Spirit and God, who is portrayed as a black woman who goes by the name of "Papa" and can be found in the kitchen baking scones. I had many issues with the book, but I’ll highlight three of them...

Issue #1: I found the flashback of the murder chilling enough to give any parent nightmares. I could see it especially vividly because Young used a real place (Oregon’s Wallowa State Park campground) as the setting. Every detail was accurate as I remember it. I’d advise that if you have small children, or if you camp, or especially if you plan to visit the Wallowas someday, don’t read this book.

Issue #2: The way Young portrayed the trinity (God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit) was weird. Some may find the various characters helpful in expanding their thinking about God, but it seemed to me that Young instead reduced God to a manageable size. It reminded me of a book title from back in the 60's: "Your God is Too Small." I was looking for the "awe" of God, and it wasn't there.

Issue #3: The theology in "The Shack" wasn't bad, but I felt like it was lacking. Young tackles many of the age-old questions (the nature of the trinity, the reason for pain and suffering, etc.) by having the characters representing God explain the answers in very neat, simple packages. These are questions that have been under discussion for thousands of years. Having "God" give the answers the author believes are correct seemed to me to be presumptuous. I also felt there was a lack of respect for the church, traditional understanding of theology, and the scriptures.

"The Shack" is obviously written from the author’s life story, which so far he has not shared, and since I’ve never experienced such a devastating loss I can’t really know if his approach is helpful to those who have. Obviously the book is meaningful to many people. I can see how some of Young's theology might be helpful to someone who has been hurt by the legalism that is all too prevalent in the Church. He also paints a clear picture of God's love for humanity. That's my best guess as to what it is that people like so much about the book. For me, I give "The Shack" 1 out of 5 stars. I recommend that church leaders read it so they know what it is, but I don’t recommend it to anyone else.

If you want to know more about God, don’t read "The Shack" and don’t watch the inevitable movie, instead read the Bible. Find a version that is in plain English (no King James-eth!). I suggest starting with the book of Luke in the New Testament – it's my favorite -- and follow it with the book of Acts. Now that's 5 star reading!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Fire station tour

Today, I took Munchkin to a tour at a local fire station. He dressed up in his full uniform, of course -- fire jacket with gloves in the pocket and fire hat. We got there before the rest of the children that were scheduled for the tour so we had time to visit with the firemen. Munchkin was as shy and speechless as I've ever seen him! Mr. Chatterbox gets totally tongue-tied in the presence of his heroes! When the firemen stepped out of the room, I asked Munchkin how he was doing. He said, with a big grin, "I'm starting to get happy!"

Munchkin was puzzled by the few cars in the parking lot, since there were no other kids there when we arrived. I told him that the cars most likely belonged to the firemen, who had driven to the station from their homes. Munchkin thought about that until he announced, "Some of the cars belong to their mommies who drove them here!"

The tour was of not only the fire trucks but also of the living quarters. When Munchkin got home, he proceeded to pack his fire truck (his bed) with all the new tools he needed, and he turned a cabinet into the "showers" for the firemen. He wore his boots until bedtime.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

OLS #10: Tacos

Creating dinner out of local foods is getting easier and easier as the summer goes on. It's not that I'm getting better at it, it's just that there's so much more variety available in the farmers' market than there was a month ago. Monday night as I was preparing dinner I was thinking about what I should do for a local meal this week. Some things are not too tough. For dinner I was already making tacos with:

grass-fed ground beef (local)
onions (farmer's market)
spices (see OLS #8 post comments for my homemade taco seasoning mix)
cheese (Tillamook)
lettuce (backyard)
tomatoes (farmers' market, finally!)
tortillas (non-local) I've tried to make my own, but my family won't eat them. If you're wondering why, click on the link and see accompanying picture. :)

So there's my local meal. Not fancy, sorry no pictures -- I decided to just make it easy.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

How to get a preschooler to eat...

Hamburger? With catsup.

Broccoli? With catsup.

Zucchini? With catsup.

Blueberries? With catsup.

Cantaloupe? With catsup.

Don't look at me like that -- it was his idea!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Muffin

We went out for dinner to a little restaurant that is one of our favorites. Every time we go there, Scott orders the same thing and I order the same thing. I hadn't realized how Munchkin had paid attention to that detail until the waitress came by to ask if she could get us something to drink. Munchkin promptly responded, "Daddy wants a muffin!"

When she took our order, and so Daddy could enjoy his muffin, we also ordered one for Munchkin.

Later, the waitress returned to ask if everything was OK. She saw Munchkin's bare plate and asked if he liked his muffin. Munchkin answered, "Umm, umm, I'm trying to eat all the crumbs!"

Friday, August 1, 2008

OLS #9: Pumpkin Mac & Cheese

I can’t believe we are nine weeks into the summer already! As more produce ripens, it’s getting easier and easier to prepare meals starring local foods. This week we had several, including roast chicken with potatoes and broccoli (all local) and a stir fry meal prepared with leftover chicken, local veggies and CA rice, but the meal I want to highlight is the night I made Pumpkin mac & cheese. The idea and recipe were a copycat of green bean’s meal last week. They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – thanks for the recipe, green bean!

It was with fear and trepidation that I added a bag of last fall’s frozen pumpkin puree to the sauce for the mac & cheese. I added little by little, tasting as I went, but everything seemed to be just fine. The pumpkin greatly improved the color. I noticed a little difference in texture, but that is probably because I used the pumpkin that I had not pureed very well – I forgot there was one bag of puree that had not been processed through the food mill! Anyway, the mac & cheese didn’t taste quite as good as my normal baked mac & cheese recipe, but it was very tasty just the same. No one (read: my husband) noticed the peculiar addition and Munchkin ate every bit on his plate for dinner, and leftovers for lunch the next day. Smashing success! Along with the mac & cheese, we had all-local string beans and fruit salad.

Macaroni, salt & pepper: non-local
Milk, butter, cheese: Lochmead & Tillamook, both local
Pumpkin puree: local from last summer’s CSA
String beans, peaches, raspberries: local farm stands
Blueberries: six feet outside my kitchen door

I read recently that caterers for the democratic convention are complaining because the organizers suggest that the food be 70% sourced locally or organic, they want at least three colors (red, green, yellow, blue/purple and white) and no fried food. Purportedly, the democrats have been ridiculed on Leno and they've taken a beating in other news media as well. I’m sure it’s harder on a large scale, but I fulfilled their requirements almost every night this week without even trying. Maybe they should hire some us us to cater their convention!