Tuesday, November 24, 2009

It's a Crafty Time of Year

There's no denying it: I'm a crafty gal. When I spot a new craft idea, my heart pumps at top speed and my mind clicks and my hands start itching to get down to work. Naturally with the holiday gift giving season upon us the number of new craft ideas to be spotted seems endless. And my dining room table has been a wreck for the past week or so as a result. Here are a few of my latest projects:


These are shower favors from everydayMOM's baby shower on Sunday. They're scented bath salts (lavendar, peppermint, eucalyptus/spearmint, sweet orange, grapefruit/lime and rosemary). I bought the jars at Ikea and added some cute rub-on butterflies and then made a variety of bath salts (you can find a recipe in Pampering Gifts on page 96). Seemed like a good gift going into winter - nothing like warming up in a hot bath!

I got the idea for this from a free online class I did over at Jessica Sprague's website. You can find the instructions and free printable journaling prompts at Organized Christmas.com. Timid Daughter made this as a gift for her teacher - she picked out the journal and coordinating paper and had fun helping decorate the jar. Hopefully her teacher likes it as much as we do!


This pocket organizer was soooo simple to make. I found an unused school folder in my closet and dug through my scrapbooking supplies to put it together with things I had on hand. Now I have no excuse not to be prepared this Christmas. Although I guess I actually have to start using it, don't I. You can find instructions for the folder portion at Scrapping Our Stash. Free printable forms to fill the pockets are over at Organized Christmas (look out for that site - if you're a crafter you could get totally sucked in by all the creative ideas they have there).
(Inside of pocket planner)

(Left 2 pockets)
(Right 2 pockets)

So there ya go! Just a little bit of what happens at the Musing house when the craft bug bites! Watch out though... it just might be contagious (here's hoping it is)!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Midwestern Subtlety

Did you ever notice the regional pride that some Americans exhibit? Depending on where you live in the United States, you'll pride yourself on those things peculiar to your area. East Coast it's often seafood, like lobster boils or clam bakes. The Southwest has it's cowboy boots and Navajo art. And naturally, we can't leave out the Southerners with their sweet tea and hos-pi-tal-i-ty. Everyone's got there schtick and some more than others. But what about those of us here in the Midwest? What's our trademark? Corn? Yeah, right.

I think it's harder to pinpoint the traits of Midwesterners because foremost among them is subtlety. We don't parade our Midwesternness around. We don't busy ourselves touting the benefits of living where we do. We don't brag on the features that make us unique among American. We don't wax eloquent over our traditions. We don't blow our horns about the great foods we make. And we have no twangs or drawls or other accents to make us stand out. Yes, Midwesterners have mastered the art of subtlety.

However, I'm going to be a little no-so-subtle for a moment and actually tell you about two things that the Midwest can lay claim to that might matter right now.
  • Number 1: when you need help figuring out just how long to thaw that turkey or what you should baste it with, who are you going to call? Okay, so maybe you'll call Mom. But millions of other Americans will be calling the turkey hotline at Butterball U. And guess who will be answering? Some wonderful ladies right here in our fair city of Naperville. 'Cuz folks, if anybody can talk turkey, it's us Midwesterners, vanilla accent and all. Actually that's part of the appeal to having the hotline manned here - we're easy to understand by anyone anywhere. No burnt turkey because you misheard that twangy phone operator. Just some friendly Midwestern advice, given for free. That's how we are here.
  • Number 2: Glee fans, did you know that it's probably no accident that the show is set in Ohio? Midwest Living magazine points out that 22 of the top 25 show choirs hail from high schools right here in the Midwest. Yup, we can sing too!
And now you know. Us Midwesterners might not always tell you about it, but it's pretty cool living here. We have plenty of great things to see and do and be. But we're not going to beat you over the head with them. We'll just sit back and relax and wait for you to discover them for yourselves. Most of the time.

Inbox is at 5.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Planner or SOTP'er?

Next week is Thanksgiving. I'm hosting. This is a good thing. My kids "get" the hospitality thing. They know when we're going to have a bunch of people over that it takes us all working together to make it happen. And we do and it does. So I'm not at all stressed about hosting. But I am thinking about it, a little bit each day, wondering how much I should start doing now to prepare.

I guess it's probably not too early to plan out the menu and let my mom and mother-in-law and aunt know what parts they can bring. And after I've done that it would also be a good idea to map out what things I need to make when and which pieces can be done ahead of time. A wise friend (and kitchen whiz) already gave me some great tips for make-ahead stuff. The day before: cut the onions for the stuffing, peel and cut the potatoes, make the turkey stock. (Btw, I'm half listing all these things so I don't forget them myself).

And here I was thinking I was so on top of things to already have made a pumpkin pie and put it in the freezer. Hmm...maybe not so much.

I suppose once I've mapped out my Thanksgiving dinner prep plan, I might as well dig out my Christmas binder and start updating the Christmas card list and begin planning out the gift buying and so forth. Because, you know, I'm so organized and all (ahem!).

I do know that any of this that I do will make DH a very happy man. He is a planner to the nth degree. I think he's constantly annoyed at my "lack of organization" (which really and truly isn't that lacking, but when you are hyper organized like he is, anything short of that seems disorganized). He is the consummate planner. Me? Well, I'm not a "seat-of-the-pantser", but probably somewhere in between. All the planning I've mentioned here is kind of pushing it for me, but I get that it works and try to work it when I can.

How about you? Are you a planner or a SOTP'er? How do you approach things like hosting Thanksgiving dinner?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Book Week Day 5: Christmas Miracles Book Blog Tour

I'd like to introduce you to another new book today co-authored by a man (Cec Murphey) who has been an immense help to me as a writer. And I'm interested to learn more about Marley Gibson, who partnered with him on this project. Anyway, Christmas Miracles promises to be a good holiday read, so check out the description and interview that follow to learn more. Also, please note that this tour again offers a chance to win a great prize - this time a wonderful gift basket (see a photo at the end of this post). So leave a comment (drawing will take place after Nov. 23rd, so you have until then to comment)!

Christmas Miracles

Cecil Murphey/Marley Gibson
Foreword: Don Piper
St. Martin’s Press, Oct. 2009
Hardcover, 256 pages
ISBN: 978-0312589837
Retail: $14.99

(Atlanta, GA) Many ordinary people experience Christmas miracles—those special moments during the season of giving and receiving when Christmas becomes more than just a holiday. In Christmas Miracles (St. Martin’s Press, October 2009), Cecil Murphey and Marley Gibson share the stories of those who have recognized the special moments that transcend daily experience and transform their lives.

In these stories, people overcome desperate situations through a miraculous twist of fate—all during the most wonderful time of the year. A young boy sits down to read a Christmas book and discovers that his learning disability has vanished. A woman stranded in a blizzard is rescued by a mysterious stranger who she suspects is an angel. And a woman living far from home gets an answer to her prayer in the form of an unexpected gift.

Bestselling author Cecil Murphey says, “We all face discouraging times, whether it's the lack of money, being stuck on a road in a snowstorm, feeling stress, or being hungry and homeless. But God's help is available. I want readers to see that miracles do happen—sometimes simple, unexpected blessings or those that involve the supernatural. We start by asking, and in strange and wonderful ways God tiptoes into our dark nights; we experience renewed joy in life and witness God in action through people and unexpected events.”

Award-winning writer Cecil Murphey is the author or co-author of 114 published books, including the NY Times bestseller 90 Minutes in Heaven (with Don Piper) and Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story (with Dr. Ben Carson). He’s also the author of When Someone You Love Has Cancer and When God Turned Off the Lights, both 2009 releases. Murphey’s books have sold millions and have given hope and encouragement to countless readers around the world. For more information, visit www.cecilmurphey.com.

Marley Gibson is a young adult author whose first publishe
d books in the Sorority 101 series were released by Penguin Group in 2008 under the pen name of Kate Harmon. She has a new Ghost Huntress series with Houghton Mifflin written under her own name. She can be found online at www.marleygibson.com.

Interview with Cecil “Cec” Murphey

by Marley Gibson

Co-authors of Christmas Miracles, from St. Martin’s Press

I am extremely privileged to have the opportunity today to talk to my friend and co-author, Cecil “Cec” Murphey, and to chat about our upcoming book, Christmas Miracles.

Marley: Cec, thanks for spending some time with me today.

Cec: Marley, it's great that you could take time away from important things like making a living to spend a little time with me.

Marley: I’m so jazzed about our Christmas Miracles book that’s coming out soon. I’ve had a lot of questions from folks wanting to know how we met, what brought us together, etc. So, I thought we’d do a back and forth on how it all came to be. Of course, I have to give props to our amazing agent and friend, Deidre Knight, for bringing us together. For those of you who don’t know, Cec co-authored the runaway New York Times bestselling hit 90 Minutes in Heaven with Don Piper.

Cec: I have to say thanks to Deidre Knight as well. Between Deidre and my assistant, Twila Belk, I've been able to sell quite a few books. 90 Minutes in Heaven has been my big book. I'm also proud of a book I wrote in 1990 called Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story. The book has never been out of print and has hit close to four million in sales. Early this year, Cuba Gooding Jr. starred in the made-for-TV film version.

Marley: That’s amazing! You are truly prophetic and definitely “the man behind the words.” Now, people ask how we teamed up. Sadly, there was a personal tragedy that brought Cec and me together as friends.

Cec: True. In early 2007, our house burned and our son-in-law died. Aside from the grief over Alan, we lost everything. Deidre and Jan, my-then-assistant, sent the word out of our tragedy without telling me. I'm immensely grateful for every gift people sent, but I probably wouldn't have admitted I needed help and wouldn't have asked. They taught me how much we need other people.

Marley: Deidre put out a call to other clients of The Knight Agency, to help Cec and his family out in any way in their time of need. At the time, my company was moving and we were cleaning house. We had a ton of office supplies that we were either going to throw away or give to some of the charities the company worked with. I got my boss’ permission to send a large care package to Cec…full of office supplies for him to re-stock his writer’s office. You name it…post-its, staples, paper clips, pens, pencils, markers, white out, ruler, scissors, paper, notebooks, notepads, envelopes, a laptop case, tape, glue, folders, binder clips…etc. A veritable potpourri of office delights. I was hoping that it would help Cec have a sense of getting his office back so he could keep working.

Cec: Marley's gift was the most unexpected I received. We hadn't met, although Deidre Knight had spoken of her many times and kept telling me she was wonderful. I wonder if you can imagine what it was like for me to open that box from someone I didn't know. I saw all those practical things for my office and yelled for my wife. I felt as if I were reading a first-grade book. "Look! Look and see! Oh, look!" I was overwhelmed by the gift and even more to receive it from a stranger. Those supplies were the most practical gift anyone could have given me. I'm still using black paper clips and red folders from Marley.

Marley: Awww…thanks, Cec! I didn’t have to think twice about doing it. Writing is such a solitary “sport,” but the writing community always astounds me with how they help their own. Not long after that, over plates of spinach and Gouda omelets, Deidre introduced me to Cec in person and I was thrilled to finally meet the man behind the words. Deidre knew we needed to work on a project together and thus began our brainstorming. What did you think of that first meeting, Cec, and cooking up the idea to work together?

Cec: Deidre and I had already spoken about a Christmas book and I had some idea about what it should contain, but nothing had come together. One day Deidre told me that Marley was coming to visit her and she wanted us to work together on a Christmas project. Marley and I talked before we ate and again during the meal. Everything felt right to me. I knew my strengths and Marley knew hers (and Deidre knew both of us). Everything clicked. Marley, a far better networker than I am, immediately sent out the word for submissions. Within days she had almost four times more than we could use. (She read every one of them!)

Marley: I was truly impressed with the submissions we received and it was hard narrowing it down to the ones we chose for the book. We’re fortunate to have such a go-getter agent in Deidre Knight. Cec, can you share how the whole idea of Christmas Miracles came about and what you thought of the project originally?

Cec: For me, it actually started while I was on the rapid-rail train from the Atlanta airport when I listened to teens talk about Christmas and it was mostly about gifts. I had the idea then, but nothing really came together. Months later when Deidre I and had a meeting, she brought up the idea of a compilation and mentioned my working with Marley. I've been Deidre Knight's client since 1997 and I've learned to listen carefully when she comes up with an idea. I said yes before she gave me all the information.

Marley: That’s the truth about Deidre! Getting back to those submissions, I want to say we got more than two hundred submissions for Christmas Miracles. So many wonderful stories to read through and select for the book. It was a challenge to pick and choose which ones were right for the book, but I loved every minute of it. After I chose the entries that would go into the book, Cec toiled long hours editing the works for a unified voice. What was the biggest challenge you found in the editing process, Cec?

Cec: I've been a ghostwriter and collaborator for twenty-plus years and this was a switch to give the book a unified voice—which was mine. It would have been easier to stay with each writer's voice, but the book—like many compilations—would have been uneven in tone and quality. When I discussed this via email with our delightful editor, Rose Hilliard, she was (to my surprise) familiar with my work. She told me she liked the warm tone of my writing and that I don't waste words. "That's the voice we want," she said. It still wasn't easy, but it was an exciting challenge. After Marley and I agreed on the stories and gave them that unified voice, our editor pulled six contributions. Although different, Rose felt they were too similar to other stories.

Marley: Can you give our readers a preview of the book? A favorite story perhaps…or one that moved you to tears? (I have to say the little boy who wished for nothing but to be able to read a book all the way through because of his stutter had me bawling when I read the submission.)

Cec: That's not fair! I liked them all. The one that touched me most, however, is the last story in the book, "Sean's Question." We had almost finished the book and I was teaching at a conference in Florida. I felt we needed one strong story at the end. Despite all the good ones, I didn't feel fully satisfied to conclude the book. On the last day of the conference, I met a conferee named Sara Zinn for a consultation. As we talked, I mentioned Christmas Miracles and that I still needed one more story. "I have a Christmas story," she said and told me about Sean. As I listened, tears filled my eyes—but, being the macho type I am, I was sure it was an allergy. Sara wrote the story, and it became the one I sought.

Marley: Oh yes…that one is an emotional one all right. It was meant to be in the book because of how you met at the conference. Now, you and I have both had challenges in our lives that others might have found too much to take, but we are both very strong in our faith and our relationship with God. How do you think Christmas Miracles is going to help others feel closer to God and experience His miracles in their own lives?

Cec: Awareness and appreciation are the two things I want readers to grasp. Awareness means for them to realize that they're never totally alone in life. Those unexpected, out-of-the-ordinary events remind us of that. Appreciation means to be thankful for what we already have. Too often, and especially at Christmas, we focus on what we'd like or what is supposed to make us happy. Christmas Miracles gently reminds readers of both.

Marley: In this day and age when our country is fighting two wars, unemployment is high, and a lot of people have a lack of hope and faith for their future, what do you want readers of the book to take away from Christmas Miracles and how can the stories in our book help provide comfort to those struggling?

Cec: I want readers to see that miracles do happen—sometimes simple, unexpected blessings or those that involve the supernatural (as in one of Marley's stories). I call myself a serious Christian. For me, the world's greatest miracle began with the birth of Jesus. Regardless of a person's religion, this book encourages readers to think about life during the Christmas season and see that life as more than gifts and celebrations. It's also a reminder that God loves us and hears our needy cries.

Marley: Beautifully put, Cec, and I couldn’t agree with you more. Can we share what’s next after Christmas Miracles? J

Cec: Why it's the Cec and Marley show, of course. Because of our go-getter agent and our enthusiastic editor, we've already received thumbs up for The Christmas Spirit. This will be stories of people who express the true spirit of Christmas by acts of love and kindness, for release in the fall of 2011.

Marley: And I can’t wait to start working on that project! Thank you so much for your time, Cec, and answering my questions. It was a privilege and honor to work with you and I look forward to our future projects together. You’ve helped me along during a trying time and I appreciate your friendship and support.

Cec: I liked this project because Marley had to send out the word, collect submissions, read them, and discard the weaker ones. I get to see only the better-written stories. (Don't tell her that I have the better job.) Although I mentioned only one story, all of those in the book touched me because of the poignancy of their situations and the miraculous answers. I won't say the stories increased my faith, but they increased my appreciation for the delightful mix of human need and divine intervention.

Marley: Thanks again, Cec! God Bless! And to our readers, please be sure to pick up a copy of CHRISTMAS MIRACLES, out October 13, 2009 from St. Martin’s Press. It’s a great stocking stuffer or gift basket filler. We hope you, too, will discover your own Christmas Miracles in your life.

Leave a comment for a chance to win the Christmas Miracles gift basket.
Wouldn’t you love to take home this amazing basket filled with Christmas goodies galore? This amazing gift basket contains everything you’ll need to make your Christmas holiday a success. Inside you’ll find a stocking stuffed with hard candies, kitchen towels and oven mitts, seasonal potpourri, holiday-colored candles, stuffed animals that talk, snowman candle, nutcrackers, Christmas ornaments, gift bags, gift tags, gift bows, ornament hangers, Christmas cookie cutters, a Merry Christmas doorstopper, a picture frame, Christmas cards, Santa ear muffs, and not just one, but two copies of Cecil Murphey and Marley Gibson’s Christmas Miracles – one to keep and one to give away to someone special.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Blog Tour: Set Apart, Day 2

This is the second installment on the new Bible study guide by Jennifer Kennedy Dean, called Set Apart. Today features an interview with the author about the book, along with a few extras.

An Interview with Jennifer Kennedy Dean

You are known for your extensive research and your fresh insights. Do you have a method for gleaning new concepts?

Of course, the truths are not new, but I think I sometimes am able to frame old truths in new ways. I always find that when I put the words of Jesus into their original Hebraic setting and experience the scene through the viewpoint of His real-time audience, some new little fragment of truth finds its way into my thinking. I like to let the Scripture breathe. To let it sit in my heart until its full aroma has time to emerge. There's the hard-core research, and then there's the marinating. Turn your imagination loose and unfurl your curiosity, and listen to the living Word.

You have a series of Bible studies in the format of Set Apart, designed to be interactive. This series of studies has video series and leader's kits available. What is the advantage to this kind of format?

I try to produce a new Bible study with video series every year. I like the interactive format because I like to pull the reader into the Scripture to experience the Word. I like to challenge the reader to interact with the thoughts and ideas and to take the time to absorb them and apply them, rather than just to read. The other thing I like about this format is that it can be done by an individual, or as a group. In the video series, I like to be able to teach the main points of the material and set the learners' up for a productive week of personal study. I love feeling like I get to be part of your Bible study group! The kits have lots of other resources for leading a small group in the study.

Several of your studies have theme songs that go with them, as Set Apart does. How do these songs come about?

I have developed a song-writing relationship with a talented musician named Roxanne Lingle. I write poems, we turn them into lyrics, Roxanne composes and arranges the music, and Roxanne records the songs. For Set Apart, we have the theme song in the form of a music video, which is a new addition. In the leader's kit you have the audio track, accompaniment track, lead sheet, and the music video. The theme song becomes an important and worshipful part of the study experience.

You'll be encouraged by the music video produced especially for Set Apart. You can check it out here:


Jennifer Kennedy Dean also provides a video commentary to introduce Set Apart content.


Jennifer Kennedy Dean is Executive director of The Praying Life Foundation and a respected author and speaker. She is the author of numerous books, studies, and magazine articles specializing in prayer and spiritual formation. Her book Heart’s Cry has been named National Day of Prayer’s signature book. You’ll find articles and daily quotes from Jennifer at the National Day of Prayer website. Her book, Live a Praying Life, has been called a flagship work on prayer.

Jennifer was widowed in 2005 after 26 years of marriage to Wayne Dean, her partner both in life and ministry. They are the parents of three grown sons. Jennifer makes her home in Marion, KY.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Blog Tour: Set Apart by Jennifer Kennedy Dean

For Day 2 of A Musing Mom's "Unofficial Book Week", I'm pleased to take part in a blog tour introducing you to a new study guide on the Beatitudes. Note that this tour features a special drawing for those who leave comments on this post (hint, hint). Tomorrow I'll share an interview with the author and some links to a video commentary and a theme song designed to accompany the study. Check it out:

New Hope Publishers

ISBN: 10-1596692634

ISBN: 13-978-1596692633

Release Date: 9/1/09

Retail: $14.99

About the Book:
(Marion, Kentucky) - In a world of self-love and materialism it's reassuring to know that God's Word has a better plan for living. Renowned author and speaker, Jennifer Kennedy Dean, provides insight to the life of Christ, specifically the Sermon on the Mount, in her new book, Set Apart: A 6 Week Study of the Beatitudes.

Through careful study of the Hebrew traditions of biblical times, Dean leads participants into a deeper awareness of this early ministry sermon series by Christ.

Jennifer guides readers to a heightened understanding of each beatitude, correlating the Ten Commandments with the Sermon on the Mount to tie these Old and New Testament principles together. Dean shares how living the Set Apart Life is an exciting and life-changing spiritual journey. Participants surrendered to Christ will see a total transformation: outward actions of holiness as well as inward attitudes of joy. Believers following along in this workbook will experience the life God intends. This blessedness comes from seeking and knowing God. Anything outside the realm of Jesus Christ results in emptiness--the ultimate opposite of blessing.

Each chapter includes interactive questions for readers to answer, emphasizing God's desire to reproduce the character and attitudes of Jesus in each Christian's life. Along with the Bible study book, there is a Leader Kit that includes six DVD sessions and a CD with bonus material for small-group leaders. Jennifer's website, www.prayinglife.org, provides opportunities for previewing the Set Apart materials and extra resources for pastors and leaders.

Adapted from Set Apart by Jennifer Kennedy Dean
"I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor 12:9-10).

My weakness is my greatest asset in the Kingdom. My weakness is where God meets me. My weakness is where Christ's power is most clearly displayed in me. Only when I am confronted with my own helplessness can I experience the power of Christ in me.

"Your helplessness is your best prayer. It calls from your heart to the heart of God with greater effect than all your uttered pleas. He hears it from the very moment that you are seized with helplessness, and He becomes actively engaged at once in hearing and answering the prayer of your helplessness." (O. Hallesby, Prayer)

I recently had the tiniest glimpse of how powerfully helplessness speaks. A few years ago, I lost my husband to brain cancer. During the final months of his illness, he became utterly helpless. The man I had leaned on for 26 years, whose strength I counted on, was now dependent upon me for his every need. During those weeks, my ear was tuned to his every sigh, his every restless movement, every change in his breathing pattern. If I had to be out of his room for even a few minutes, I had a monitor with me so I could hear him if he needed me. When he was strong, I was not so attentive. His needs did not fill my waking moments, when he could meet them himself. His helplessness spoke louder than any word he might have spoken. Because of his helplessness--because I knew he could do nothing on his own--I was on watch day and night.

My experience is but a pale shadow of the reality of the Kingdom, but still it helps me understand how my weakness is the opening for His strength. The fact of my helplessness is the only prayer I need. It speaks louder than eloquence.

Let your helplessness and your weakness be the offering you bring to Him. He is not waiting for you to be strong. He is waiting for you to recognize that you are weak.


Please leave a comment to be entered in a drawing to win the following items from Jennifer. If you are a leader (small groups, book club, Bible Study, Women's Ministry), please note that you are--you will automatically be entered in the contest. If you are a member of one of these groups at your church or community, mention that you are a group member.

You will be entered to win:
A Set Apart Leader's Kit (video and leader resources and a student book) retail $79.99
A copy of Fueled by Faith (retail $19.99)
Jennifer will have a live web event just for your group.

Jennifer Kennedy Dean is Executive director of The Praying Life Foundation and a respected author and speaker. She is the author of numerous books, studies, and magazine articles specializing in prayer and spiritual formation. Her book Heart’s Cry has been named National Day of Prayer’s signature book. You’ll find articles and daily quotes from Jennifer at the National Day of Prayer website. Her book, Live a Praying Life, has been called a flagship work on prayer.

Jennifer was widowed in 2005 after 26 years of marriage to Wayne Dean, her partner both in life and ministry. They are the parents of three grown sons. Jennifer makes her home in Marion, KY.


Monday, November 09, 2009

Books, Books & More Books

I'm unofficially declaring this "Book Week" here at A Musing Mom Speaks. Later in the week you'll get the scoop on two books just released. But for today, I'm going to get personal and share with you the contents of my bedside reading pile. It has maintained a good height for the past few months and I have often lost track of where I am in which book (thank goodness for bookmarks, huh). That means that I'm trying to absorb more than my usual dose of daily reading. And that comes from getting many recommendations and reading many glowing book reviews. I should probably just keep a list. But instead I click over to my library's website and place a hold on books as I hear about them or borrow books from those who recommend them. Hence the pile. Here are the current occupants (with commentary):

  1. The Great Christmas Bowl by Susan May Warren - recently released and a fun read, especially for this time of year. I'm anxious to see how it ends, but not anxious for it to end. Know the feeling? Guess I'm stuck since it's only a novella. May have to get more Susan May Warren books after this.
  2. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell - because everyone is talking about this book and his "10,000 hours" premise. Picked it up today from the library. My thoughts after an initial scan: interesting to a point, but not entirely useful information for a writer mom. Probably an excellent read for those in the business world. However, I expect/hope I'll revise my opinion after further reading, with all the praise it's getting from people in a variety of circles (including moms).
  3. Writer Mama by Christina Katz - aha! a book for people just. like. me. Highly useful information, so much that I think I need a copy of my own. I've just used up the last of my 5 renewals on it, so back it goes soon. Love this book!
  4. Writer's Digest Handbook of Magazine Article Writing edited by Michelle Ruberg - yeah, another writing book. What can I say? I'm a writer, working on magazine articles. I can use all the help I can get. Which would be why DH gave me this for my birthday...not! He got it because it was on my Amazon wish list. Right, dear?
  5. Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss - a book on punctuation punctuated by lots of great British humor. A must read for everyone. We could all do better at knowing how and when to use things like a semicolon; it's use has diminished greatly because of a lack of this knowledge. And as you can see, I have not yet commenced a proper reading of this tome. I've only skimmed it enough to know that I need, need, need to read it.
  6. The World in Half by Cristina Henriquez - borrowed from my mom. Written by her friend's daughter-in-law. From what I can tell, it's literary fiction, which means it's good to read, as in good for you in a literary way. And since I'm a writer, I need extra doses of literary stuff. After The Christmas Bowl, this moves to the top of the pile, fiction-wise.

Ah, see there? It's an even half-dozen. And since I returned A Life That Says Welcome by Karen Ehman when I picked up Outliers today, I'm keeping a steady pace. Although there is that bag of books a friend handed to me at church yesterday...

Any good books on your bedside? I'm always open for more recommendations. I'm pretty sure the pile could handle a few more without toppling.

Inbox at 6!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Puts a Smile on My Face

There are certain things from childhood that stick with you, for better or ill. Like the time a boy (the only person in my childhood to share my birthday) gave me a black eye during kindergarten recess. Or playing Breyer horses in my best friend's basement. Or in first grade when my eighth-grade buddy insisted on carrying me around during our school Halloween parade because he thought I was so adorable. He was dressed as a doctor. I don't remember my costume.

And then there were the smiley-face cookies. Back in the age when children could bring in treats for their birthday (before food allergies posed such a threat), some kids would bring the yellow-frosted smiley face cookies from the local bakery. These were my absolute favorite birthday treat. Only the rich kids would bring them in. Thankfully enough, there were plenty of rich kids at my school. The rest of us brought homemade treats. I always wished I could be one of the ones to bring smiley-face cookies. But they were too pricey and besides, I think my mother enjoyed making birthday treats.

I relived that memory the other day when picking my daughter up from a friend's house. This family owns a bakery and they had given the Uber-Princess a cool pumpkin-face cookie to take home. It reminded me of those smiley-face cookies, so I recounted my story to the friend's mom. Several days later she showed up at school with a little green gift bag. Inside were two smiley-face cookies from their bakery. "My husband sent these for you," she said.

I grinned like those cookie faces the rest of the day. Too bad my kids can't bring treats to school. I would definitely be sending smiley-face cookies from my friend's bakery. I may just have to find another occasion to get some again.

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