"Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of. but do it in private
and wash your hands afterwards." --Robert Heinlein.

We've moved!

For the next two years (Summer 2014-Summer 2016) I'll be blogging our family's adventures in China at www.chinesemileposts.wordpress.com

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

80s movie GIF

Without really meaning to, Jed and I started watching 80s movies that one (or both) of us has never seen. We started with Girls Just Want to Have Fun (Jed had never seen it) and then a few days later watched Footloose (neither of us had seen it). Apparently, we're not just watching 80s movies, we're watching 80s dance movies. What should we watch next???

While we were both kids in the 80s, we were also both kids with older siblings that were teens in the 80s, so these movies are hilarious to us.

This one scene in Girls Just Want to Have Fun was so hilarious to us that I said it needed to be a GIF. Jed agreed and I spent a few minutes the next day trying to figure out how to make a GIF. Here's the final result:

Click here

A Review: Crepes by Suzette, an app

 I LOVE Monica Wellington's book Mr. Cookie Baker (and the accompanying recipe is wonderful).

A couple years ago Ms. Wellington asked me to review her new book, another joy, Colors for Zena. You can read my review here.

An older book of Ms. Wellington's is Crepes by Suzette, a lovely picture book about a street vendor, Suzette, selling crepes from her food cart in Paris. This beautiful book has been transformed into an app available on both iPad and Android devices (here, here and here). The app acts more like an interactive story book than a typical app, but it is still good (probably better for their little minds) for entertaining your little ones.







Ms. Wellington was kind enough to provide me with the app for review. The app includes the book (either you turning the pages and reading it yourself or having Ms. Wellington read the story to you as you turn the pages).  The book can be read in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian or Japanese. The app includes two videos- one is Ms. Wellington in her kitchen making crepes and the second is a street crepe vendor making a variety of crepes. Also included is a recipe for crepes. There's a "map" and you can follow the book moving from page to page interacting with the story, or you can jump around the pages on your own. On each page, Suzette is pictured making crepes and when you touch the customers, they say, "Si vous plait," or other French phrases with real photographs of France as the backdrop (on the map, it tells you where exactly in Paris the scene is set). On the map for each page, there is extra information about that scene such as vocabulary, extra pictures of that location in real-life or information on the famous artwork alluded to on that page.

Since the app is intended for kids, I had my own children (aged 13, 11, 7 and 3) play it and report back to me what they thought.

My oldest, a 13 year old girl declared her favorite part as the video showing crepes being made. She thought the pictures were cute. And even at 13, she spent a good amount of time exploring all the things available to view on each page.

My second, an 11 year old boy. He also loved the video showing real-life crepes being made. He wanted to be able to click on the cartoon crepes and drag them to the customers. He spent the afternoon creating his own crepe shop our of boxes and folded up circles of paper.




Kid number three, also a boy, aged seven wasn't as big a fan. He thought it was a little boring, only videos and one book. He did explore it a little and seemed to enjoy aspects.

And last, a three year old boy, who loved listening to the book and making the people speak over and over again. He also loved that when you clicked on the ladybug, she also spoke, saying "Si vou plait."

The pictures are lovely as are the allusions to true pieces of art and the introduction to the city and culture of Paris. My only complaint is that there could have been more. It would have been fun to have the kids drag ingredients around to "help" make the crepe batter or help fold the crepes or pick toppings or fillings and then deliver the finished product to the customers. As for an age range, it is probably more for the 2-8 year old crowd (ignoring my grumpy 7 year old's review).

Overall, my family gave it 4.5 out of five stars.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Trunky*

I'm starting to get trunky about China. We've been here almost a year and by this time next year, we should be back in the States. I'm excited and wanting to make all sorts of plans, but we have no idea where we'll be living, etc. I want to wear high heels. I want to eat a healthier diet. I want to declutter our lives. I want to plan a trip visiting all our families. All things I can't implement well here in China. I also realized I need to lose 15 pounds so that I can then gain 10 back eating Double Doubles from In N Out and all the cheese, candy and desserts I've been missing.

*trunky
Restless, antsy (2). Specifically, eager to leave or go home. Possibly referring to "packing one's trunks."

Thursday, May 28, 2015

A list of occupations every family needs

I've been compiling lists like this in my head for years. Each family (or "family") needs an assortment of professions within their ranks. Here's my list, what would you add?

Computer genius
Hair stylist (cuts and color)
doctor (preferably an orthodontist)
lawyer
construction handyness
car repair expert

Monday, May 25, 2015

When the Kids Are All Grown Up

It's probably too soon to start planning for when the kids are grown up, my youngest is not yet three and we're not even positive we're done having kids, but I want to make this list anyway.

Things I want to do when the kids are grown up:

Get a degree in library sciences
Take creative writing classes
Write
Take photography classes
Take culinary/cooking classes
Learn to quilt
Learn to arrange flowers


So far, that's all I have. What are your "the kids are all grown up" plans?

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Extinction

I hate having things I love disappear out of existence. And I'm not talking of extinct animals, or about losing loved ones. This post is much shallower than that. I'm talking about favorite restaurants, foods, TV shows, etc. I remember as a kid loving the nachos at a place called Naugles. Naugles shut down when I was ten. Last year, the best Mexican restaurant ever, the one I've been eating at since I was three, the tiny cafe in my hometown, came very close to closing its doors for good. It didn't and I ate there every chance I got last summer when I was in town (when I wasn't eating at In N Out Burger).  With the current economy in the US, other than the job security of my friends and family, the one big worry I have is that the places I've come to know and love will go out of business. It happened to Borders. Remember how the Twinkie almost went away for good? It used to be that Krispy Kremes were opening all over and now the only one in my parents' county is closed. Last year, in Ohio, we had to drive 45 minutes away for our kids to experience a fresh Krispy Kreme donut. There used to be Kissables, they were little chocolate chip sized Hershey Kisses coated in a candy shell. Gone. I'm not cool with the things that I love going away.

And I know. I said things, but remember, I already said this post was going to be super shallow.

Here's the good news, the way TV and movies are in this digital age, even when a show I love gets cancelled, there's still a chance it won't be gone forever. Boy Meets World came back as Girl Meets  World. There's a new Full House in the works called Fuller House. Arrested Development came back with a Netflix season. Veronica Mars (I jumped on this bandwagon after the movie came out) used a Kickstarter to fund a movie (and then there were two books written, yes, I read them). Last week The Mindy Project was cancelled and just a couple of days later it was picked up as a Hulu show! And, The X-files series ended in 2002, the second movie was released in 2008 and they are now working on a new comeback miniseries.

I'm loving this digital era.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Nicknames

We decided to make a list of all the nicknames Little Guy has since he has so many. It's funny because he's probably the least on board with us calling him anything but his name but he's the one who naturally lends himself to having nicknames. On the other side, Buddy has been trying to convince us to call him Fanta for years.

Little Guy's nicknames:
[his name] - the last two letters +ey
Tiny [his name] - the last two letters +ey
His initials
His name backwards (he says he likes this one)
Fritz/Fritzy
Eyebrows Johnson
Fritz the Spritz McGillicuddy, 3rd Earl of Tootington, Heir to the Cheerio Fortune
Donut Thief
Baby Stink Breath
Your Highness
Little Raja
Absent-minded Professor

The other kids wanted me to list their nicknames as well.

Princess Sparkley:
[her name] exchange the a for an e
Eloise
Smelloise
Lou
Consuela
Sweet Pea
Stella

Buddy:
the German version of his name
the Spanish version of his name
Q-ball
GPS
Bottomless Pit
Phil
[his name] + ber
[his name] + by

Squirt:
Cochise
[his name] -the last two letters + ey
[his name] exchange the s for a b

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Electives

The students at the Chinese high school where Jed teaches have a huge assortment of nonessential-type classes to pick from. At first this shocked me because my experience with students of Asian ancestry in the United States was that they were focused, over-achievers when it came to academia and that type of person didn't seem to be the type who also took dance and art and chorus and German and gender studies classes. I expected these students to be completely focused on maths and sciences, mainly. The group of teachers who arrived with us included several PE teachers, a dance teacher, several language teachers and a couple of music teachers. There are also Physics, Economics, Chemistry, all types of maths and English teachers as well as a bunch more I don't even know about.

Discussing this with Jed the other day, I realized I don't even feel like I had the opportunity to take an elective in high school. I was on the "college prep" track. This meant I took English, science, math, history, and a foreign language each semester, all four years of high school. That's five classes in a six class day. For the first two years, I was also required to take PE. So for two years, no electives at all. Here are my classes, to the best of my poor memory...

Freshman:
English
Intro Physical Science
Spanish 1
PE
Algebra 1
Geography/Health


Sophomore:
English
Biology
Spanish 2
PE
Geometry
World Civilization

Junior:
English
Chemistry
Spanish 3
Geometry (I had to retake 1 semester) and then the second semester Child Development
Intro to Trigonometry/Algebra
US History

Senior:
English
Oceanography/Marine Biology
Spanish 4
Economics (1 semester) and then Criminal Justince/Pre-law
Algebra 2
???

See, no room for a fun elective. And, as I remember it, this the "college prep" track. I had to have four years of English, four years of math, four years of science, two years of PE. I think history (beyond the first two or three years) and a foreign language (beyond one or two years) might have been my electives.  Child development was an elective and I only took it so I could make a doll out of a five pound bag of sugar and carry it around for two weeks. I remember my sister doing that in high school and I had been looking forward to it for years.

But otherwise, where's the fun in that?! Even when I got to college, when I had to pick an elective from a list of qualifying classes, I almost always picked the English option (and I was an English major). Aside from two semesters of beginning guitar and two wasted semesters taking "effective study habits" and "career development" or something (not sure why I took either of those classes), I didn't take any fun classes in college either. Well, fun outside of my major. I took creative writing, literature & film and young adult literature... all of which I loved. But no extracurricular type classes. I feel like I need to enroll at a community college with my kids in a few years and just take fun classes.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Changes in Photography

As I was out walking today, I saw students from the high school where Jed teaches out around campus with fancy cameras around their necks. I didn't actually see any of them taking pictures, but they were wandering around, looking, trying to find something to photograph for an art assignment. It got me wondering why I never took an interest in photography in high school.

To begin with, I'm not even sure my high school had photography classes. The only time I was aware of photography as a thing in high school was the handful of school newspaper photographers. I'm not artistically inclined, so I didn't go anywhere near art classes in school. But photography, that's the type of art I could embrace and maybe even be good at. I had a camera. A nice camera. But not a "photography camera," just a point and shoot camera. 

Then I realized something. When I was in high school, photography was a very different art form then it is today. It didn't involve computers at all. You had to have a dark room and chemicals and hang the photos to dry after you developed them. There was no screen on the camera to let you know if you'd gotten a decent shot, and if you didn't get a decent shot, all the time you spent developing the photograph was for naught. This. This is why I wasn't involved in photography back then. I have no interest in that sort of thing. I mean, it seems cool. I like the image created for the type of person who would be interested in developing photos. The same type who would have a bike with a basket as her means of transportation. I wish I was that person. I'm not.

So that is why I'm an extreme amateur when it comes to photography. I recently replaced my broken, maybe seven(!!) year old Nikon Coolpix camera with a newer, more expensive version of the same camera. I'd wanted to splurge and get a "photography camera," but then I realized I needed to wait until I could also enroll myself in a bunch of classes to teach me how to use it. Then... then I'll wander around with a fancy camera around my neck looking for stuff to photograph. I'm adding it to my list of things to do when the kids are a little more grown up and I have more time. That happens, right?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Defining Oneself

You know how any social media asks you to write a description, a few words that define who you are to the rest of the (digital) world? Sometimes it's nice to be free and open to the online world, more so than I am to the random acquaintances I am forced to mingle with at real-life social functions. But sometimes, it would be nice to have that little box describing who I am attached to me in real life too. I feel like socially I'm completely incompetent. Some days/parties/interactions are better than others, but in general, I don't see myself as a social person, let alone one who appears cool and put together when forced into interacting with others. It would be nice to have that little box, helping define who I am. When we go to work functions with Jed's colleagues, I'm the woman with four kids. Or the lady who homeschools. That's it. They have no idea of any other interests, talents, personality traits that I have, nor do they care. And I don't blame them, all I know about each of them is the subject they teach and the state/country from which they originate. But at an event where everyone thinks having four kids is nuts and they are all professional educators, it'd be nice to be known as more than the homeschooling weirdo with all the kids. Plus, in China, I'm limited by the other things I would typically use to define myself. It doesn't matter that I have a degree in English-teaching because I'm not using it. It doesn't matter that I love baking/cooking, nothing I'm doing here is noteworthy and I'm not bringing amazing creations to parties or events at school or church to show off in my little way something I enjoy, that I'm good at. So, while at times I do feel limited by a small box to define who I am: wife, mom, Mormon, homeschooler, baker, reader, etc. Sometimes it feels like an introduction to get to know me better.

Monday, April 20, 2015

"She's writing, she's writing, she's writing a novel..."

I've been writing again. Or trying to. Or editing. Or something. I have great ideas for books to be written. And I do a decent job writing some of the scenes, so much so that years later when I reread them I'm frustrated with the author (myself) for leaving them unfinished so I don't know what is to become of the characters.
Here's my problem, I don't have all day to sit around, day-dreaming the scenes I'll perfect after a few run throughs in my head and then put on paper (or computer screen as the case is these days). That's how I did my writing in high school and in college.
And editing. I'm working on a story I started so many years ago I don't even want to think about it. I finally erased the start date from the top of the document so it would stop freaking me out. I'm constantly changing things around, and editing the story parts that I have written so they make sense. And then there are so many scenes to add to make the whole thing come together and make sense (and be the length of an actual book). Then I go and do stuff like change a characters main passion in life, so I have to rewrite a bunch of things. Plus I'm still not sure which direction this story should take, how the guy should win the girl back, how hard she should resist, how it should all happen.
But I'm writing. That counts for something, right?
 


*Post title taken from the song, "Open Book" by Cake.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Winter Cold

I realized I'm more tolerant of cold weather leading up to Christmas and New Year's.  Now that both of those holidays have happened, I'm ready for it to warm up and I find that I've become much more impatient for the arrival of spring.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Favorite Books of 2014

I didn't read nearly as much as I normally read in a year this past year, so it feels like cheating to have a top ten.  Instead I'll just pick a few favorites.

The Rosie Project by Graeme C. Simsion

Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan

It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

The 100-year-old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by  Jonas Jonasson

Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (and other concerns) by Mindy Kaling


Books by Kaling, Jonasson and Vizzini include swearing (including the F-word).  Books by Simsion, McCahan and Vizzini include some mild sexual discussion.
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