Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Stephanie Morrill is a twenty-something living in Overland Park, Kansas with her husband and two kids. Her only talents are reading, writing, and drinking coffee, so career options were somewhat limited. Fortunately, she discovered a passion for young adult novels a few years ago and has been writing them ever since. Stephanie is the author of The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series and is currently working on other young adult projects. To check out her blog and read samples of her books, check out www.StephanieMorrillBooks.com and www.GoTeenWriters.com.
Monday, December 27, 2010
I have to admit I love making resolutions even though I don’t always keep them. There’s something about a fresh new year with new intentions and hopes.
My resolutions aren’t anything unusual:
1) Keep up with my running
2) Control my eating and lose 20 pounds this year
3) Be more efficient and improve my time management
How about you? What do you hope to do during 2011?
Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Out now is her humorous contemporary romance novel, Single Sashimi, and her romantic suspense, Formula for Danger. In her spare time, she is a staff worker for her church youth group, and she leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service. On her blog, she ponders dogs, knitting and spinning wool, running, Asiana, and other frivolous things. Sign up for her newsletter YahooGroup for giveways!
Click here to find out how you can join my Street Team—it’s free and there’s lots of chances to win prizes!
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Over on one of my yahoogroups populated by plain folks who use the Internet, there’s a big discussion on the commercialism of Christmas. One I kinda have to agree with, especially when I drive past the mall and the traffic to get in is so congested you can only imagine what the stores are like. I’m not a big fan of cramming Christmas shopping into an already busy season. So, I started thinking of ways to stay out of those crowds and slow down a bit.
- Buy gifts throughout the year, as you see them. Summer is big on neighborhood craft fairs and art shows, so you could pick up a pretty blown-glass candle holder for your mom, or an fun little print for your best friend made by a local artist.
- In the late summer and early fall, can fruit and make jam. Then, at Christmas, tie a pretty bow around the jar, or put a collection of canning in a basket and give it to the whole family to enjoy.
- Make gifts as you have time throughout the year. Know what’s really in right now? Aprons. Yep, thanks to TV shows like Mad Men and movies set in the 50s and 60s, those fun retro aprons are back. They’re straightforward to sew, and guess what … the fabric stores are full of cute retro fabrics to match the era.
- Reuse and recycle. Another way to use your creativity is to look at old things with an eye to making them new. Do you have a jewelneck T-shirt that you don’t wear anymore? Get some chiffon, a couple of sparkly buttons, and some ribbon and dress up the neckline. Check out tops in online stores like Nordstrom to get design ideas and make your own. Or how about that sweatshirt with the stain down the front? Cut off the binding at hem and sleeve, cut it down the front, and bind all the raw edges with strips of velvet. Then embellish the front with ribbon roses. Voila–the advantages of looking new with the comfort of feeling old.
- Decorate with things from the yard. This year, our Christmas tree is a recycled one from a local event at the community center. And the garlands on the mantel? They’re branches from the trees outside. We have bay trees everywhere in this neighborhood–I joke that they flourish like the wicked instead of the other way around :)
- If you make your garlands from bay leaves, they’ll dry over the season–and hey, you can strip the branches in January and put the leaves in an airtight jar to use in cooking throughout the year.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
We actually have many fun traditions that “it would not be Christmas without.” Here is our list:
• Putting a creative twist on the Advent Calendar (Last year I slipped a verse or Christmas quote into each slot along with a treat and Nathan had to read it before he got the candy. This year he is thanking God for something before eating a Hershey’s Kiss.)
• Each of our sons gets a special ornament so they’ll have a collection to take with them when they move out.
• Putting the nice Christmas China in the cupboard at least a week before Christmas so we can use it several times instead of just on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning
• Making Russian Tea Cakes (We aren’t Russian, we just like the cookies.)
• Watching A Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story and The Polar Express
• Setting aside an evening to wrap gifts while watching Little Women
• Pasta for dinner on Christmas Eve
• Attending our church’s Christmas Eve service
• Leaving a cookie for Santa even though both sons know who really eats it as soon as they go to bed
• Reading the verses and quotes taken from the Advent Calendar, before opening gifts on Christmas morning (This we started last year and I saved the verses.)
I often wonder what my kids will pass on to their own Children. What will they think up on their own?
What are some of your traditions? How do they make celebrating Christ’s birth even more meaningful?
Friday, December 17, 2010
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Monday, December 13, 2010
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Do you ever have a hard time finding the perfect gift for your friends or family members? It can be a challenge, especially when the people I love don't really need anything. I always want to give something they will enjoy and keep enjoying, but I also want my gifts to make Jesus smile. It's His birthday, after all.
This year I found the perfect gift for everyone on my Christmas list! The gift of music and freedom. JUBILEE is an indie folk rock band based in Seattle, and they're also a registered non-profit organization. 50% of all their sales goes toward the work of International Justice Mission, fighting modern-day slavery and human trafficking.
JUBILEE's new album, To See You Well , releases in January (it's amazing!), and right now they're offering a special opportunity to pre-order for Christmas.
"But wait," you say. "January comes after Christmas." You are very observant. And so is JUBILEE. If you pre-order To See You Well before December 15, you'll receive a card with original album artwork and other goodies in time to give them (or keep them!) for Christmas. The CD will follow as soon as it is released. Click HERE to watch a brief video explaining how you can give the gift of music and freedom. The Christmas special offer ends December 15, so order yours today.
I'm pretty sure you and Jesus will both smile.
Wednesday, December 08, 2010
- a waterbed (they were cool back then)
- new Jordache jeans (all the rage)
- a VCR (yes, the old tape kind)
- the soundtrack for Pretty in Pink (on cassette)
I remember being jealous when the day after Christmas these two girls confirmed their parents had fulfilled their wishes. I also felt a little sad for them. I mean what's the fun of opening Christmas presents if you already know what's inside?
I also laugh at the things we thought were cool back then. Fads come and go, which makes me think of my own Christmas wish list.
This year I have a few things on my wish list that I'd like. They include some WWII non-fiction books and a few fun bath items, because soaking and reading is one of my favorite past times. My own list isn't as large as it used to be, mostly because I've been practicing being more thankful--even before Thanksgiving.
During the Christmas season it's easy to be more focused on what we want, rather than what we have. And while it's okay to be eager to see what gifts await you under the tree, our greatest gifts aren't wrapped with bows.
"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows" (James 1:17).
What to feel really thankful? Take a moment to think about what would happen if God took these "gifts from above" away. Frightening isn't it?
Considering this gives me a whole new outlook. It also makes me more eager to create a new type of list.
One of the things I've been doing lately is thinking of 10 things I'm thankful for as soon as I wake up in the morning. It's amazing what this does for the outlook of my day.
My thankfulness list doesn't include my bed, jeans, dvd, or iPod, although it could. Mostly I've been thanking God for my health, for money to pay the bills, for good friends, for a husband and children who love me, and for my salvation. These are things that mean the most--true gifts from God.
What's on your list? I'd love to hear. There will always be little things we'd like to have, but remember to take time to thank God for the large gifts in your life you don't want to live without.
Sunday, December 05, 2010
Last week a friend took me on a tour of Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael, California, as research for a writing project. We had a great tour guide. Susie spent over an hour and a half with us, showing us all over the grounds, introducing us to dogs and adorable puppies (guide dogs in training), and telling about the genetics, science, and careful selection that goes into training and choosing dogs that will be most capable of leading the blind and visually impaired.
When I told her that I was visually impaired, Susie took immediate interest. Of course she asked if I’d ever gone through guide dog training or considered using one. I explained that, while I was born legally blind, I had been trained to adapt to the sighted community. After we talked for awhile, Susie made an interesting comment.
“You might be seen as someone who has just enough vision to not trust a guide dog.” I also learned too many adaptation skills to let a dog lead, no questions asked.
I have a feeling that Susie is right. I can’t remember I time when I wasn’t encouraged to rely on my ability to compensate for limited sight—to find a way to “do it myself” instead of expecting others to hold my hand. The good part is that I memorize quickly, listen closely, and don’t need to see something to find it or get a job done. On the other hand I hesitate to ask for help with anything vision related. If a guide dog tried to stop me from crossing a street and my ears didn’t detect a problem, I might just keep walking and get mowed over by one of those new quiet cars.
Later I thought about other areas where I have just enough confidence in my own ability to be a threat to myself. Take God, for example. There are times when I must admit that I have just enough vision to not trust Him. I know what I’m doing. I know the plan. I’ve mapped out my route. “I can do it myself.” How often have I gotten frustrated with Him for holding me back and ran on ahead, only to be knocked down, or carry out a plan without consulting Him at all?
Maybe it’s better to be blind sometimes. When you are blind you know you need help. So I took note of Susie’s comment and applied it to my walk with God. I don’t want to be a child who has too much vision to trust—too much confidence to admit my need for Him.
In what areas do you have just enough “vision” to not trust? How have you learned to rely on Him as if you were a blind girl with her guide dog?
Friday, December 03, 2010
Some things I'm not too picky about. My closet, as you can see. My drawers. My pantry. So, I got to thinking. I'm so used to these areas of clutter, I don't even notice them anymore. I scrounge through my stuff until I find what I need and go on about my business.
Just for fun, I had a friend who's good at organizing take a peek into my pantry. "What do you think? How bad is it?" She's a good friend, so I wasn't too embarrassed.
"Tell the truth."
"Well, you could start by putting like things together. You know, canned goods and whatnot."
Then I started thinking. Is my heart cluttered? Are there messy areas inside me that I've been ignoring for years? Things I've overlooked? Habits I should do away with? Thoughts that weigh me down? Have I gotten so used to being the way I am, that I've not noticed the junk?
I'd like to say nope, that I was spotless on the inside. But I wasn't.
I actually made a list. I've struggled with these same areas for years. I'm working hard at changing. Even if it means I have to clean up my thoughts daily.
2. Perfectionism (you wouldn't think so with the looks of my closet).
3. Choosing to please people rather than God.
4. Not trusting God--thinking I know best.
I'm working on my cleaning my closet, drawers, and pantry--and my heart. Thank you for reading. Can anybody relate?
Thursday, December 02, 2010
Instructions: Copy this into your NOTES. Select all and get rid of my bolds, italics, and asterisks. Then mark your own list as follows.
• Bold those books you've read in their entirety. ...• Italicize the ones you started but didn't finish or read only an excerpt. Put and asterisk (*) by the ones you've seen as movies, or seen part of as a movie or TV program
1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen *
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien *
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte *
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling *
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee *
6 The Bible *
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte *
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens *
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott *
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy *
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare *
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier *
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien *
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot *
21 Gone With the Wind - Margaret Mitchell *
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald *
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams *
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck *
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll *
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame *
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens *
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis *
34 Emma -Jane Austen *
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen *
36 The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - CS Lewis *
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - A.A. Milne *
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery *
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy *
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding *
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen *
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens *
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck *
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas *
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville *
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens *
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett *
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce *
76 The Inferno - Dante
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray *
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens *
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro *
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - E.B. White *
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle *
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery *
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams *
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas *
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare *
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl *
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo *