Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year

It's time to roll 2012 back into the archives and jump start the new and unexplored world of 2013.

2012 was, in my opinion, not a good year. It was filled with talk of fiscal cliffs, elections, a year of banks behaving badly, shootings, and stabbings

But somehow we survived The End of the World.

And there's only one place we can go....and that's up. I mean from the brink of death, financial disaster, and total world destruction I'm thinking 2013 has got to be better. Right?

So on that happy note, I want to wish you all a Happy New Year!!!

Let's get 2013 off to a good start...with no more talk of worlds ending, falling off of cliffs or bickering between polarized parties. Let's raise our glasses and say Cheers, Skal, Sante', or to life in any language you want to use.

Friday, December 28, 2012


So the holidays are almost over but it seems like they've been winding up for quite some time. Anyone else feel a little worn down, tired out, and over 2012?

Yep, I'm wondering:

Who's tired? Who's worn out? Who just needs that long winter's nap?

Well, we still have another holiday to make our way through: New Year's!

And, I'm working on party plans...mostly more food, feasting and holidaying.

How 'bout you? Any fun plans for the holiday?

Oh yeah, and I still have to see Les Miserables and The Hobbit!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Movie Review - Parental Guidance

We all wanted to go see Les Miserables. Unfortunately it was sold out for the showing we went to see. Instead of waiting around for an hour and a half, we decided to see Billy Crystal's and Bette Midler's new movie Parental Guidance.

And it was just what I expected: a little corney (okay a lot corney) but cute. It had funny moments that made me think back and smile and I even laughed a couple of times.

But the story was heavy-handed, predictable and, like I said, corney. So, it was a fun way to spend an hour or two but not high on my list of recommendations--especially if you aren't a parent. Only a parent can relate to a lot of this humor (and my kids made sure I knew...yeah, they whined a bit after the show) but still not a bad way to enjoy the holidays with family and friends.

All-in-all I'd give it a:

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Twas The Night After Christmas

Twas the night after Christmas, and all through the rooms
Ripped up paper was piled as high as the dunes.
The stockings were strewn on the dirty floor
After the kids had cried, “Isn’t there more?”

The children were hyper from candy and sweets,
Presents were forgotten underneath stinky feets
Like Momma’s carefully knitted Alpaca-wool cap,
Now all she wanted was that promised long winter’s nap.

But outside there arose such a noisy clatter,
No one would budge to go see what was the matter.
Momma had to go look out the window pane,
And she was sure she’d finally gone insane.

The moon beat down on the wet ground below
Of course it wasn’t as pretty as new fallen snow.
When, what to her bulging eyes should appear,
But more visitors that struck immediate fear.

“Hurry!” She screamed, “We’ve got to be quick.”
Presents we need—I’ve got just the trick
Pull out the fruit, candy, or wine for Bob, Joe and Uncle Nick
I knew exactly which gift she would ultimately pick
More rapid than eagles into the house they came,
Coming up with gifts can be such a ridiculous game!

“This is the best. Yes, the best thing by far”
"Homemade wine, better than. . .  a new car”
Then with bellies stuffed way past the brim
They laughed as their wine spilled over the rim
Staining the rugs, the tablecloths and clothes
Then little Andy stuck his finger way up inside his nose

Boogers he smeared all around our clean house
I wish he’d been quiet, say quiet as a mouse
But I’m never so lucky on Christmas Day
Now all I wanted, for them, was to just go away
But they’d come so far, so many miles they flew
I couldn’t say “Go!” That was too rude to do.

But the noise was exceeding what we’d call loud
And the house it was filled with more than a crowd
When up on the ceiling – no out on the roof
I thought I heard stomping – no the pawing of a hoof.
As I drew in my head, and thought about bed,
For a moment I wished I could just say what needed to be said.

“It’s time for everyone to leave, to just head on home!”
All I want this holiday is to just be left alone.
But I couldn’t say something so horrible – No, I couldn’t do that
I’d be worse than a rodent. Yep - I’d be a rat

So I tried once again to be happy and merry!
I pulled out the wine – made from sangria and a cherry!
My mouth I turned up like a pretty little bow,
And sprinkled sugar around to mimic the snow.

Holding my tongue, I gritted my teeth,
And wore the tree branches around my neck like a wreath.
I grinned and ate, yes I filled up my belly,
Until it shook and jiggled like that bowlful of jelly!

Now I’m chubby and plump, fatter than an elf,
And I'll be jolly - in spite of myself!
I’ll just avoid the mirror with a twist of his head,
Stay off the scale – yep that’s one thing I dread.

When the New Year rolls around, I’ll get right back to work,
Dieting, running, yep, I’ll be one giant, grumpy jerk.
Eating less - I'll be running more
Hopefully I’ll still be able to fit out that stupid door!

O well, I’ll just have to starve until I’m thin as a whistle,
I’ll eat leaves, lettuce and maybe a nice thick juicy thistle.
But I have one thing to say before I fade out of your sight,
"Happy New Year!” Yep it’s coming but until then, “to all a good-night!"

The Day After

In our house, a lot of presents are homemade like these:

I guess you'd have to play Minecraft to know what this is. My boys made it for my hubby because he loves to go mining for gold, diamonds and obsidian and of course he has to avoid zombies, creepers and spiders along the way ;D

Here Jake is giving his Dad the gift and he's got a scarf wrapped around his neck that I made for him.
Lars got a huge kick out of this gift because he LOVES this game. So even though he's dressed as the Grinch, he wasn't a grump at all. He'll have this bunch of blocks sitting on his desk at work to make him smile throughout the day.

And here's a gift that Kathryn gave to Luke. If you want to check out more of her art, pop over here.

Here's one of the photos that inspired her painting.

There were a lot more homemade gifts: food, candy, cookies, scarves, blankets, pillows, artwork, poems and more but this gives you a "taste" of what we give and get at my house.

How 'bout you? Any fun homemade gifts you got or gave?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas Everyone

So my hubby is in the spirit! Merry Christmas everyone!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Birthdays

My brother and sister have a Christmas birthday that they share. No. They aren't twins.

We have a lot of that (shared birthdays) in my family: my hubby and I share a birthday, two of my children (again not twins) share a birthday, my brother and sis (like I said) share a birthday and my Mom and my brother-in-law. Kinda weird I know but that's my family. And you can tell how weird we are by this video, or maybe just how horribly tone deaf some of us are :D

But I thought I'd also share the cakes I made for the celebration. I decorated one and my hubby decorated the other.

I used whipped cream instead of fondant for the frosting. No one in my family likes fondant. So, if you have a delicious recipe for fondant, let me know. I'd be willing to try it.

I did use fondant to make the Poinsettia and the border but I needed a little something to make the cake pop.

We had a good time talking, singing (if you can call THAT singing) and eating. Plus, we even bedazzled our hair and nails.

 It's always busy at the holidays especially when you add in family birthdays! Now I'm off to finished getting ready for the rest of the celebrations:D

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas is Coming

I'm still finishing up projects. I know last minute. I always think I'll be done by Thanksgiving. But when you have a big family it isn't easy.

I'm sewing, knitting, baking and making all sorts of gifts this year.

How 'bout you...are you ready?

I keep telling myself, "Next Year I'll do better."

Now, I need to hurry to the store to finish up my shopping--yep, I even have some of that to do.

Tonight I'm hoping to curl up on the couch and watch a good movie...or two because after tonight, it's going to be crazy.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Pet Stockings

"Sew" I don't know if you hang stockings for your pets. But I do. We've always hung them up for our dogs and cats. I mean the kids would ask, "What's Sparks going to get from Santa?" And so the tradition began. But, I can't stand those mesh stockings you get at the pet store. I mean I would be ashamed to hang those up for my little loved one...even if that loved one is an animal. And, there are so many wonderful fabrics out there that why not make it yourself?

Here's how to do it. First you pick out a pattern that suits you. Don't you love these little paw print polar fleece pieces?

And, you only need a tiny piece (maybe an 1/8th of a yard - I always get extra cuz I worry about making mistakes and want to have extra on hand - just in case and still 1/8th is plenty).

I always have my ironing board up and at the ready when I sew. It's easy to fit the pieces together and iron them down to make sure they fit.

Then you simply put right sides together and stitch around the edges (that's the important thing to remember - when you're cutting out the stocking, you have to have about 1/8 to 1/4 inch extra around the entire edge - for the seam allowance).  Flip the stocking right sides out and "WAH-LAH" the stocking is ready.

I also sew a little handle on my stockings to hang them. And I tie a pretty ribbon through the loop to fasten the stocking to the hook or bannister.

As a last little embellishment, I add a jingle-bell to every toe of every stocking I hang in my house.

For these two stockings - the names were professionally embroidered. I know, I could have done it but time is running out...and the mall has a little kiosk that does custom orders in about 20 minutes :D

Now, that's "sew" simple ;D

Christmas Crack

Christmas Crack (Yep, it's that addicting!)

1 pan makes about 4 dozen little bars or “cookies”

2 1/2 Sticks of butter (1 1/4 cups)
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
4 dozen saltine crackers
12 oz chocolate chips


Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with tin foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Line up saltine crackers (yep, saltines) in rows - all in a single layer.

Microwave the butter to melt. Then in a saucepan, combine the butter and brown sugar. Stir constantly-or it will burn.

Bring to a boil. Boil 3 minutes exactly and continue to stir and scrape the sides of the saucepan constantly.

Pour the melted butter/sugar combo over the crackers. Spread gently and evenly over the surface of all the crackers. Try not to disturb their places, you want them to remain in a single layer and not overlap.

Bake for 5 min.

The sugar will bubble up significantly but will settle down quickly. Sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly over the top. Allow to rest for a few minutes until all the chips are nice and shiny. Spread them with a knife or flat spatula, like you are frosting.

I break up almonds over the top but you could use pistachios or any other nut you like.

Refrigerate for 1 hour and break into pieces. Serve.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Stockings Were Hung

I always hang the stockings on the bannister because I don't have a fireplace. Where do you hang your stockings?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Santa Hat

I wanted to make a fluffly little hat for my great-nephew. So on Saturday night I pulled out the sticks (or knitting needles) and some red yarn. I whipped up this tassled topping to throw into the Christmas card I'm mailing off.

How 'bout you, did you make any cool crafts this weekend?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Hot Spiced Wine

When the holidays roll around you can always tell at my house. There's an aroma wafting through the air of cinnamon, citrus and warm sizzling comfort. It's what I call Glogg but others call hot spiced wine, mulled wine or Christmas Cheer.


1 Jug of red wine
1-2 apples sliced
1-2 oranges sliced
4 cinnamon sticks
1 can of frozen orange juice
1 can of frozen apple juice

Here's how I make mine:

First I throw a few cinnamon sticks in a pot.

Then I add a jug of red wine, a couple cans of apple and orange juice and then I slice up some fresh apples, oranges, tangarines and slow cook them on low heat for about 2 hours. Believe me it is yummilicious.

I serve the wine in a ceramic coffee/tea mug. The next day it can be served cold in a glass.

And I pull out the ingredients from the pot and use them as potpourri - it's so aromatic.

Thursday, December 13, 2012



So this is me now - Van Dancing all over the place.

I've got a mentor! And, I'm thrilled!!! If you'd like to meet the incredibly wonderful and super talented Heather Marie!  Pop over to her blog or twitter and check her out over at The Secret Life of Writers.

I am so grateful that she picked me!!! as her mentee.

I don't usually enter contests. Don't know why. I just haven't done them - maybe because of time and the fear of putting myself out there. Who knows? But, whatever the reason, I just haven't done it in the past. And, I can tell you that on 12-12-12 I knew it was going to be a special day...maybe because I was having an End of the World party with my gfriends where we celebrated the End of Days with Margaritas, Munchies and Manicures. But, I had no idea I'd be picked as a mentee!!!

I knew that the teams were going to be posted at 8:00 a.m. EST - that's 5:00 a.m. West Coast time (or what I call "my time").

So, I went to sleep--no problem--but I popped up suddenly at 3:00 a.m.

"Hum," I looked at the clock and thought "the birds don't even get up this early" so I went back to bed.

I woke back up at 6:30 and ran to check my email. Nothing. So, I was sure I wasn't selected. But then I popped over to Brenda Drake's blog to see who the lucky winners were.

And WHOO-HOO! I found my name on the list. I couldn't believe it and had to look twice to be sure it wasn't a dream.

Now, Heather Marie is going to help me get ready for the January pitches. And, after "playing" in the PitchWars, which is what I felt like I was doing because I met so many wonderful writers that I think we all won in this contest (which was put on by the wise and wonderful Brenda Drake), now we move on to the hard work (perfecting our pitches and getting our queries shined up for the next step) the agent round! The agent round begins on January 20th! I know that day is just around the corner and I want to be ready and I'm willing to work hard to get my story prepared.

If you don't know about PitchWars, here's a little blurb about the next round:

 Note: The material for the agent round will be a 3 sentence pitch and the first 250 words of your manuscript. Coaches will read manuscripts and query letters only once and give notes. It is up to the writer to use the notes from their coaches to get the manuscript and query letter in as best shape as they can to send to requesting agents. The coaches will critique the three sentence pitch and first 250 words. The coaches will read them as many times as they deem necessary. In no way will writers expect the coaches to read the manuscript and query letter more than once or the pitches more than twice.
·        January 20: Coaches will submit shined pitches to the contest email.
·        January 23 and 24: Agents will read and make requests on the pitches they like (it is likely that not all participants will get requests).
·        January 25: We'll announce the team with the most requests and who will take home the winning prizes (an amazon gift card for each).

I'm hoping you readers will be there to support me in this journey through the path toward publication! I can use all the cyber-hand holding I can get. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Homemade Pizza

I usually make at least two pizzas when I make homemade pizza. The reason is because I love thin, crispy crust and my kids like thicker less crisp pizza. (Bake at 425 for about 15 minutes or until crust is golden brown and cheese is well-melted)

Here's how I make it:

Pizza Dough Ingredients:

1 package of yeast
1 and 1/2 cusp of water
3 and 1/2 cups of flour
2 tablespoons of oil (olive oil)


Take the 1 and 1/2 cups of WARM water and pour the yeast into it and let it sit for about five minutes to let it activate.

Mix together the flour, olive oil and yeast-infused water. Mix and until well-blended. Then put your ball of dough in a metal pan (that has been greased with olive oil) and cover with saran wrap.

The dough will rise best if the room is warm. If it's not, put your covered dough near a heat vent or on top of the stove. Let it rise for an hour and then roll it out.


2 cans of Tomato paste/sauce  (you can use spaghetti sauce - if you want)
2 cups of mozzarella
2 cups of cheddar cheese
1 cup of chopped olives
(optional: chicken, beef or ham)

I like cheese pizza best but you could add whatever you want. Here's how I made my pizzas.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Kate Herzog Scholarships

Willamette Writers and Barnes and Noble

Sponsor the 2013 Kate Herzog Scholarships

In 2013, high school seniors and college freshman and sophomores can enter. There are four scholarships. Financial amounts to be determined will be in the range of $100-$250.

To apply for a 2013 scholarship please forward:

1. Original, unpublished writing sample of less than 1000 words, typed, double-spaced. The sample should be titled, but should not include any information about the author. Writing published in school publications is eligible. Any topic. Fiction and poetry also accepted.

2. A cover letter with contact information that includes the title of the writing sample, and a paragraph that includes information about the student's goals as a writer.

3. Letter of recommendation from an instructor in the current academic year.
Submit all materials to the following address:
    Kate Herzog Scholarship
    Willamette Writers
    2108 Buck St
    West Linn, OR 97068

In previous years, student entries have ranged about one third fiction, one third essays, one third memoirs, and some poetry. Letters of recommendation have generally run one to two paragraphs.

Dates to Remember
    Application Deadline March 27th, 2013 (post mark deadline; must be in the mail by the 27th)
    Finalists Will Be Announced June 15, 2013
    Scholarships Will Be Awarded August 4th, 2013

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Great Critique

Subject: The Great Critique

The Great Critique - January 19, 2013

A chance for writers to be critiqued by a professional and their peers.

Location: TaborSpace, 5441 SE Belmont St, Portland, OR 97215

Time: 9:30 to noon.

Never been in a critique group? Wish you could be critiqued by someone who is ahead of you in the publishing game? Want to strengthen your work? Need a fresh set of eyes and ears on that oft-revised piece? Want to have your manuscript ready for the May conference? This is your chance. A published writer will lead each small group and critique your manuscript. You'll also hear others' work and get feedback from those writers too. Plus you'll learn from the comments by the critique leader about the work of others. Cost:

Early Bird Rate:

SCBWI members - $8.00 (That's less than the price of a Friday night movie!)

Nonmembers - $13.00 (If you bought any refreshments, your movie night would cost way more!)

After January 1, 2013: $10 and $15 for members and nonmembers respectively.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Tulle Cute Christmas Tree

I made one tabletop tree out of left over scraps of material I had used to make some tutus for the Shamrock Run. See the tutus below from our fun run.

 But there's always leftover scraps (because I'm not the best seamstress and I always buy a little bit extra in case of mistakes...which I usually make) - and I HATE to throw anything away, that comes from growing up in a family with nine kids and a Dad who worked in a plywood mill to support us all. I'm cheeeeeap.

Anyway, I have to find a way to use the leftovers. So, green tree...wah-lah!

Then a gfriend said she'd like a pink one and that got me thinking about a friend over in France who probably won't want to run out and buy a tree, stand, skirt, lights and ornaments. So, I thought why not send her a tabletop tree? Here's how I made it:

I laid out the tulle on a cutting board and then cut strips of material. 

I took a dowel and a piece of wood and painted them pink. Then I drilled (okay, actually my hubby drilled) a hole in the base and glued the dowel in place. Then I took the tulle strips and started making holes in the center of the strips.

Then I put the strip on the dowel and pulled it apart - repositioning it to form a fluffy base (this is kind of like making a bow).
Then I alternated colors (light pink - dark pink) and just keep adding volume to the tree.

You can shape the tree any way you want. Longer pieces at the bottom and shorter at the top.

You simply pull the ribbon/strips to make the tree look the way you want it to look.

I took a light-weight Christmas tree ornament (a snowflake) and put it at the top like a star. Then I still wanted to do more. So I plugged in my handy-dandy glue gun.

While it was heating up, I found some old beads and rhinestones and laid out a few.

Then I glued them on the tree.

I left one side unembellished, in case McKenzie thinks it's just too much. :D

Now I have to think of a way to mail it. Hummmmm.....