Showing posts from December, 2008

2008 Favorites List

Ending the year by looking back at some favorites from the past twelve months:

Top Books
Plain Truth by Jodi Piccoult
This was my first time reading Piccoult. It won't be my last.

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow, by Jessica Day George
I read few books this quickly. I loved it, and it inspired me with writing ideas like nothing else has recently.

Top Movie Experiences
I had very few favorite movies produced this year. (I think Black Knight would be up there, but I can't think of many more. Oh, wait. Mama Mia was fun.)

On the other hand, I had a lot of fun movie experiences, particularly with my kids.

-I introduced them to some of my old favorites: Footloose, Girls Just Want to Have Fun, and other "oldies" from when I was young.

-Taking my girls to the theater to see Kung Fu Panda and HSM3, the latter on opening night. I was one popular mommy that day.

Kids' Accomplishments
-D getting onto the school Shakespeare team and taking a trip to Cedar City for the Shakespeare festival.
-S r…

Post-Christmas Stress

Because of the way weekends hit, this is the longest Christmas break the kids have ever experienced. They've been around each other all day, every day, for a long time already.

It was fine at first; they even spent hours in the snow making forts and snow houses and came in with rosy cheeks and grins. But now the Christmas cheer is wearing thin. I'm already getting, "I'm bored!" (What, did all your Christmas toys break already? Didn't think so.)

I'm also getting sibling fights that rival the WWF. Today, one child actually drew blood. "Accidentally."

Uh, huh. Sure.

I planned to get a bunch of stuff done during this week, including some housework stuff that's languished for months (my mending "pile" resembles Kilimanjaro, for starters). But I also feel pressure to make sure the kids have fun during their break.

Like how I promised to take them ice skating at some point. If they weren't so set on killing each other, I wouldn't dread…

WNW: I'm a Paradox

Last Word Nerd Wednesday, I talked about how English changes, how it's useless to cling too hard to the "real" meaning of words and such that we can't see the natural evolution of the language.

It's an evolution that is happening, regardless of whether someone insists on "may" instead of "can" or cringes when someone says, "it sucks."

That's just the way it is. In that regard, I'm what could be called a descriptivist (someone who describes what's happening in language neutrally, without judgment).

But I'm also known affectionately among friends as the "Grammar Nazi." I wield a sharp red pen when I come across the misuse of lay/lie. My eye twitches at comma splices. So while I'm a descriptivist, I'm also a prescriptivist, meaning that in some areas, I insist that there are rules we should obey.

How can I be both? To explain, I'm going back to a class from my college days, taught by Dr. Oaks, my absolu…

Pulla? Must Be Christmas!

According to #2, it's not Christmas until she's smelled the pulla. Apparently, the Christmas season officially began in our house today, because we fulfilled our family tradition of making the Finnish sweet bread.

Pulla has always meant Christmas to me. We had it every December when I was a kid. Dad was usually the one who made it, and I have lots of great memories of sitting at the kitchen counter watching and "helping."

I'm no expert, but I do enjoy making pulla, and this year was extra special, because I had fresh cardamom straight from a Helsinki grocery store. This meant that the cardamom was not only mucho cheaper than the stuff in the States (a bottle here can run you around $15), but it has a stronger, better flavor. One whiff had my eyes rolling into the back of head.

Ooooh, yeah.

Lots of versions of the recipe are out there, but here's the one I use. The amount of cardamom listed assumes you have the fresh stuff. When I have to use a U.S. bottle, I doub…

Can't Wait!

And I don't even mean for Christmas. (Although I'm plenty excited for that, too.)

You may have heard already (it's been mentioned on lots of blogs the last couple of days), but registration for the 6th Annual LDStorymakers Writers Conference is officially open. The 2009 conference will be April 24 & 25, and like last year, the Whitney Awards Gala will follow.


I've blogged about the conference a few times, like here, here, and here.

And I've had the fortune to be part of the magic every single year. Last time I even co-chaired the entire puppy with Heather Moore. The conference is one of my favorite times of the year. I get to spend time not only learning more about my craft and networking with publishing professionals, but I get to hang out with some of my dearest friends . . . people who get the weirdness that is the writing part of me.

On top of all that, it really is a great conference, and it gets better every year. It also gets bigger, which became a …

WNW: Evolving English

This one might get me into a tiny bit of hot water with some people. Be forewarned.

English, like all languages, changes over time. Anyone who's attended a Shakespeare play can attest to that. More recently, a lot of Jane Austen's humor can be lost if you're unfamiliar with some of the words used them. Or, going much further back, good luck understanding The Canterbury Tales if you try reading it in the original Middle English.

Thanks to the printing press, languages tend to change slower than they used to. But they still change, even from one generation to another.

Maybe a year ago, there was some discussion on a list I'm on where some people argued that writers shouldn't use certain words because of what they "really mean."

The irony is that what a word "really" means is extremely subjective and changeable.

When my father was a boy, someone could say, "I feel quite gay today," and no one would bat an eye. I'd wager that most children …

On the Bright Side

A head cold

+A sick little girl crying a good chunk of the night

+Almost no sleep

= I'd hoped that today I'd get to sit around in jammies, wrapped in a blanket, sipping hot cocoa as I read a book and blew my nose all day and tried to recuperate.

Alas, it was not to be. Instead I ended up with two doctor appointments, a pharmacy trip, plus a very much needed grocery run. On slick, icy roads. (I like to look at snow, not drive in it.)

But . . . I came home with $185 worth of groceries for $83.11.

So, you know, that felt pretty good.

Now pardon me while I sneeze my head off . . .

A Few Christmas Memories

1) Listening to Dad sing Christmas songs. Sometimes along with his reel-to-reel tapes. Other times just in the house or yard or car. In particular, I remember, "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town." Dad has a great voice (was in a barbershop quarter in college). I was sorely disappointed when I grew up and heard the song elsewhere because almost no one knows the real opening to it.

("I just got back from a long, long trip across the Milky Way . . ." Know it? Bing does, of course.)

2) Making gingerbread houses with Mom. Many a year we did one beautiful one together and displayed it on the dining table for all to see. We weren't supposed to eat the candy and ruin the beauty until after Christmas. What we kids did, then, after the front looked pretty, was plaster the back of the house with tons of random candies and then eat THOSE all December long. It kept us happy, and the front of the house still looked nice!

3) My royal blue toy typewriter that really worked. Awesome g…

The Book Club Freak

The very first book club I ever attended (aside from the L. M. Montgomery reading/writing club I formed in ninth grade) was part of a BYU married ward.

Here I was, a brand-new wife, an English major, and in a strange new place, looking forward to meeting other women and making friends. I was also looking forward to talking about books.

I knew, of course, that there would be little to no chance of anyone there wanting to analyze anything according to the Rhetorical critical theory or wax eloquent about the Neo-Classical versus Romantic eras. Thank heavens; I wasn't there for a repeat of the English major stuff I was already getting at school.

But we'd talk books, and that would be fun.

The first one we read was an oldie but a goodie: James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl.

It was one I'd read as a kid, of course. (Who hasn't read it when they were young?) But reading the story as an adult was different, and I saw new things in it.

The book club gathered in a small apartment…

WNW: Holiday Edition

Today's Word Nerd Wednesday is brief but relevant in the Christmas gifting season, and it revolves around a very simple but often-forgotten rule of punctuation that makes my eye twitch whenever I see it.

Remember this one, for my sake:

Plurals do not take an apostrophe.

You wear shoes, not shoe's.

You have kids, not kid's.

And when you deliver a plate of cookies to the neighbors, the gift tag shouldn't be addressed to theJensen's.

You are giving the gift to a family comprised of lots of people named Jensen.

That's plural.

USE: Jensens

I invariably see little misplaced apostrophes everywhere on gift tags, Christmas card envelopes, and more. Twitch. Twitch. Twitch.

It's an illness. I know that. Humor me.

But why is the apostrophe wrong?

Here's the deal: An apostrophe before the S makes a word possessive. On gift tags, you're addressing a plural group, not declaring that one of them owns anything.

Worse, if the apostrophe is before the S (as is usual for this kind…

1 Tree, 2 Sick Girls, 3 Winners, 4 Adorable Kidlets

1 Tree
It didn't occur to me to post pictures of our Finnish decorations until commenters mentioned it. So here we are: some close-ups of the straw decorations, including various kinds of stars and snowflakes, pine cones, angels, and even straw garland.

You can see the tree in all its splendor as well as the goats (on the mantel) at the bottom of this post.

I've always been a white light girl myself, but hubby likes multicolored. We tend to trade off from one year to the other to keep us both happy. But this year, I insisted on white. To me, multicolored just wouldn't work with the straw ornaments. Last time we used all white, some of the strands died, so yesterday I went to buy more before we got the tree.

Do you know how stinkin' hard it is to find plain old white lights?!

There were oodles of multicolored ones, but almost the only plain white I could find were icicles. Not what I needed. I ended up buying several boxes of the only other ones there: mini strands with of a…

A Book to Add to Your List

I got lucky a few months ago when an e-mail landed in my in-box, asking if I'd be willing to get a free book (Hello?! Do you KNOW who you're talking to?!) and review it here on my blog.

Since it's non-fiction and hence not a contender for a Whitney Award, I can review it. Yippee!

(To explain for readers new to my blog: I'm on the Whitney Awards Committee this year and get to judge two of the categories to decide the finalists, so my opinion of 2008 LDS fiction releases has to stay mum. You'll note on my Good Reads profile that any 2008 releases I've read this year don't have any ratings. That would be why. Nominate your favorite fiction by any LDS writer—that includes national writers as well as those in the LDS market. You have until December 31. Do it at the Whitney site.)

It was with much giddiness that I opened up my copy of the mother in me, a collection of essays, poetry, and photography entirely about motherhood, particularly the early years.


Feelin' Like Christmas

The Christmas spirit is starting to find its way into my heart . . . finally. I'm having a hard time grasping that the time is here again (where did the year go?!). To make matter worse, I'm nowhere near done with the shopping and all that. (Is it just me, or does having Thanksgiving so close to the end of November totally throw a wrench into things? I lost a week!)

We sat the kids down a few days ago and wrote down every Christmas-y thing we wanted to be sure to do this year. Then we plugged them all into the calendar. We have very few blank days; we'll be busy! I have a feeling we'll have a ball getting them all done.

The first item that made it onto the list is a family tradition inspired by my dad.

I grew up listening to Christmas carols on his old reel-to-reel player: Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra. You know, the classic goodies.

Because of those songs, I grew up with a simple belief: Christmas ain't Christmas without Bing.

Hubby discovered this early on…

Paying it Forward: A Giveaway

Those not in the publishing industry may not have heard about the ripples that the economy has made there. In short: it's very, very ugly.

This is an industry unlike any other: it's the only one I'm aware of where stores can order all they want and not pay upfront, then, if the books don't sell as much as they want, they just return them and never have to pay.

Here's what happened this fall: readers stopped buying books because of the economy. So bookstores had tons of extra books they hadn't paid for. They returned those books in droves. The result: Publishers are floundering, because they lost enough money in a month or two (not being paid at all for books, not selling any, and then losing more through returns and shipping) to throw them into the red for the entire year.

In many ways, it's an odd industry, because today's money comes from books acquired months if not years ago. Money from the books they're working on and publishing today won't co…

WNW: A Non-Native English Tongue-Twister

Wow: Word Nerd Wednesday two weeks in a row. It's a record. :P

I mentioned this one before, so I thought I'd elaborate on it (because of course these things fascinate me; I guess that's the point of WNW).

When I lived in Finland for a few years of grade school, the students were already taking foreign language classes. They started in third grade and got to pick either Swedish (the second national language of the country) or English. When they'd reach the equivalent of junior high, they'd pick up the other language.

I was part of the English class, which actually helped me learn Finnish. If you get a quiz where you have to write down "ruoka" in English, you have to know what it means in Finnish first (it means food, in case you were wondering).

My friends often tried out their English on me. When I first arrived in the country, the boys in our class yelled English phrases they'd heard on TV and in movies. I got a lot of "Bond, James Bond!" and &…

Visit Me

Today I'm on Blogger's Annex!

It's an oldie from my archives.

Chocolate! And a Cool New Site for Writers

First off, I've discovered an interesting phenomenon. My top three posts (based on hits and comments) have been about the following:

1) Politics
2) Twilight
3) Winning chocolate

Hmm. I should post more often on topics that people feel passionately about!

NOW . . . announcing the winner of the Word Nerd Wednesday contest:

Really truly, I used an online random number generator to pick the winner. I typed in the number of people who left their scores in the comments. The site picked #7. Then I counted down to find the winner.

I swear this isn't a matter of family loyalty, but it's still pretty darn cool that my sister-in-law at Lyon Pride won! (Yay, Tina!)

And for the sake of the sheer creativity of her comment, I'm going to award a second truffle bar to LisAway! (Lisa, e-mail me your address, k? I already have Tina's, so we're good there. :)

Finally, I have to point any aspiring writers to a cool new site where you can get critique feedback from other writers. It's ca…