Sunday, November 29, 2009

Is It Monday Yet?

Oh, my goodness. What. A. Weekend.

In a good way, of course.

Thanksgiving Weekend 2009 is winding to a close, and I am thoroughly exhausted. So much so that the thought of sitting on my bum all week writing computer code sounds like a bit of a vacation.

Kara, the girls, and I had a nice dinner here at home. A few weeks ago, we'd talked about taking a trip down to SeaWorld, but decided that would be just a bit too much, and would probably throw us off for the rest of the weekend.

Kara makes a wicked good turkey, and together we made our traditional honey pumpkin pie. (If there's enough interest, I'll have her post recipes.) I also made our famous eggnog ice cream (pour one quart eggnog into an ice cream freezer and say 'go.' That's it!) and baked a key lime pie recipe for my friend Josi (she writes culinary mysteries, and I'm lucky enough to be part of her test kitchen).

The girls helped quite a bit with making the other side dishes, which made the day fun. It was busy, but we spent some good, quality family time and had a great meal.

The rest of the weekend was work! The lawn got mowed, the bushes trimmed, Christmas lights were hung, shopping done (Christmas and grocery). We also had a family movie night and a family game night, and got a jump on our indoor Christmas decorating. The tree isn't up, but a bunch of other stuff is.

And this year, Alyssa and I decided to do a gingerbread house. This house is going to be a little different, as we're making one that will fit under our covered cake plate. This will keep the gingerbread smell from adding to allergy load, while keeping the candy and cookies free from dust. We got the dough made tonight, as well as a cardboard mock-up of the house so it will fit under the cake plate.

Watch this space for more details and photos as the project progresses, as well as the many back posts I need to write to catch you up on the significant events in our lives. I have at least three other topics listed in my notebook that are way past due!

Friday, November 20, 2009

My First Publishing Credential

There's a new Christmas story collection available, and I'm part of it!

The book is called Stolen Christmas and it's a compilation of winning stories from the LDSPublisher blog annual Christmas story contest. These books are being sold for the very affordable amount of $7.99. You can't even buy a hardback bestseller from Wal-Mart for that price! To purchase your very own copy (or two or three), click here.

By Lds Publisher, Roger Bonner, Don Carey, Laura Craner, Joyce DiPastena, Sarah M. Eden, L. T. Elliot, Gussie Fick, Melanie Goldmund, M. Gray, Taegyn Hutchinson, Angie Lofthouse, Lori Nawyn, Tristi Pinkston, Brian C. Ricks, Sandra Sorenson, Janice Sperry, Christine Thackeray

What happens when you're so poor you have to steal your Christmas presents? Have you ever taken a punch in the face as your Christmas gift to the girl you love? Or saved Christmas while hunting were-weevils?

These award-winning Christmas stories are the best of the best from the LDS Publisher Christmas Story Contests. From Christmases past, to present, to future; from sweet and inspirational, to zany and delightful-there's a story for everyone in this eclectic collection.

Seventeen stories to celebrate the season, from Sarah M. Eden, Tristi Pinkston, Joyce DiPastena, Christine Thackeray, Don Carey, and more.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Review: Am I Not A Man? The Dred Scott Story

Recently, I received an email from my friend Tristi Pinkston, Senior Editor of the new Valor Publishing Group, asking if I would read and review Am I Not A Man? The Dred Scott Story as part of its virtual book tour. The book was written by Utah Attorney General Mark L. Shurtleff, and is the first title to be published by Valor.

I jumped at the chance to read and review this book, as I have heard a lot about it, and the story it tells marks a pivotal moment in the history of this great nation. Plus, I'm always happy to let someone send me a free book.

The complete description of this book can be found below, but in a nutshell, Dred Scott was a slave who took his fight for freedom all the way to the U. S. Supreme Court. The Court's decision in the case of Scott vs. Sanford galvanized both sides in the slavery debate, and was referenced heavily in the successful presidential campaign of Abraham Lincoln.

Am I Not A Man? The Dred Scott Story is a very powerful book. It is a novelization of true events, and as such, some liberties were taken in inventing dialog and details, but the story itself comes straight out of history. Many of the facts surrounding slavery in the United States are unpleasant at best, and often downright brutal. Because of this, Am I Not A Man? can be difficult to read in places. This is no light-weight beach book.

However, the story of courage and determination -- from Dred Scott, his family, and his white benefactors -- is truly inspiring. While not strictly chronological, the book covers the whole of Dred's life, from his birth on the Blow plantation during a visit by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, to his death a few short years before the start of the Civil War.

Mr. Shurtleff does an excellent job of presenting the story of Dred Scott, both his trials and his triumphs. I must admit at first to being put off by some of the historical asides that pepper the narrative, but as the story progressed I found myself grateful for the context and background these asides provide.

Am I Not A Man: The Dred Scott Story arrived in bookstores on November 3rd, and will make a worthy addition to your reading list.

An illiterate slave, Dred Scott trusted in an all-white, slave-owning jury to declare him free. But after briefly experiencing the glory of freedom and manhood, a new state Supreme Court ordered the cold steel of the shackles to be closed again around his wrists and ankles. Falling to his knees, Dred cried, "Ain't I a man?" Dred answered his own question by rising and taking his fight to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Dred ultimately lost his epic battle when the Chief Justice declared that a black man was so inferior that he had "no rights a white man was bound to respect."

Dred died not knowing that his undying courage led directly to the election of President Abraham Lincoln and the emancipation proclamation.

Dred Scott's inspiring and compelling true story of adventure, courage, love, hatred, and friendship parallels the history of this nation from the long night of slavery to the narrow crack in the door that would ultimately lead to freedom and equality for all men.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Used and Abandoned

So Saturday, after I got the mud washed off of me and my tools, it was time for the weekly grocery shopping trip. I like taking one (but not both!) of the girls with me, as it's fun to have someone to talk to as I go from store to store. Neither one really likes going, though. However, I still ask anyway.

When I asked Alyssa if she wanted to go to Costco and get some samples, she said, "Park?"

I agreed that if she came with me, we could stop at the park (or in this case, the playground at her school).

While I pushed her on the swings, it occurred to me that I had forgotten the RedBox video, which needed to be returned. So we drove back home to get the movie.

Once we were there, Alyssa insisted that I leave her at home.

"Don't you want to go to Costco and get samples?"

"No! Me home." There was no convincing her otherwise, and I ran my errands all alone. She'd gotten her trip to the park, and nothing else mattered.

Used and abandoned by my own child.

Monday, November 9, 2009

When Check Valves Check Out

We have at our house and aerobic septic system. This means that the water gets separated and processed and purified and pumped out through sprinklers in the back yard, while the yucky stuff stays behind in the tank. It's an efficient system, and works pretty well.

Except when it doesn't.

We've noticed that while one of the sprinklers has been spraying correctly, the other one has been sporadic, and recently stopped working all together. This triggered an alarm condition on the system, and we called the maintenance guy to come take a look.

He fixed a problem with the pump, and then went to look at the second sprinkler. Nothing was coming out, even though the pump was working and the first sprinkler was going great guns.

So he took the sprinkler head off. Nothing.

Assuming this must mean a rock or something was plugging the connection, he dug up the end of the pipe and cut it off.

Still nothing.

Since this fix-it guy charges big money per hour, and the problem was obviously in a piece of PVC pipe between two known points, I decided to tackle the rest of the job myself.

Armed with rubber gloves, several shovels and a pipe cutter, I found that the check valve - a little one-way flow regulator that keeps the water from running backwards - had turned into a no-way flow preventer.

So after a trip to Home Depot and $15 worth of bits, both sprinklers are as good as new.

Now if only the same could be said about my bending over and digging muscles. Oooh - ouch!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween At Sea World - Seen and Heard

The girls and I had a great time at Sea World yesterday. I will attempt to share the fun of the day in Seen and Heard format, with a Texted thrown in for good measure.

Seen: Anna watching cartoons on her computer instead of getting ready to go.
Heard: Dad - Anna, come on and get in the car. It's time to go.
Anna - But I haven't eaten breakfast yet!

Seen: Some kind of butterfly migration taking place near San Antonio and making a mess of our windshield.

Seen: Anna and Alyssa loving on each other while posing at the Trick or Treat Street props. (Sadly, Alyssa was too old to participate in the Trick or Treat Street.)

Seen: This guy, standing ten feet tall, wearing a glittery blue fish on his head, and giving me a great idea for a character in a future novel.

Seen: Alyssa absolutely refusing to pose with a mermaid.

Heard: Alyssa insisting on posing with this couple, and Anna being the one to refuse.

Seen and Heard: The Count, Elmo, and the gang. Alyssa loved this show even more than I expected. Anna was a good sport about it.

Seen: Dad carrying Alyssa through half of the Haunted Forest, which was in "Family Friendly" mode, meaning full daylight and without the actors who jump out and say "Boo!"

Heard: Alyssa - Yeah, me go spooky place again.
Dad - You want to go back to the Spooky Forest?
Alyssa - Yes.
Dad - No way. You were already freaked out before, and I had to carry you. Now it's dark and they have the people who jump out and scare you.
Alyssa - Yeah, me go!
(We didn't.)

Heard: Dad - Repeatedly nagging the girls to ride on a roller coaster with him.
Anna and Alyssa - No!

Seen: Dad bribing the girls with ice cream to sit and wait for him while he rides The Great White roller coaster.

Heard: Dad (On the first big drop) - Whoooooooo!
Alyssa (At a picnic table very near the roller coaster) - Dad?

Texted: Anna to Dad - Heard you screaming.
Dad to Anna - I was cheering.

Seen: Dad and Alyssa sitting outside a gift shop while Anna goes in to buy a post card. Anna then comes out and hands Dad a bag.
Anna - I don't want anyone to think I'm stealing this. (She hands over a previously-purchased nick-knack, while in her other hand is the as yet UN-purchased post card.)

Seen: A dad and his girls enjoying their Halloween. We hope you had a fun one, too!