Writing Workshop Wednesdays (24)

At a Soul Collage workshop, the facilitator had us, the participants, write “Resilience” at the top of our journal pages and then write nonstop, pen to paper, for two minutes.  We then had the option of sharing, and the result was some heartfelt writing on the page.

So, for this Writing Workshop Wednesdays, write “Resilience” at the top of your page and then set your timer for two minutes.  Write continuously never allowing your pen to leave the page.  You might be amazed at how your writing may reveal how resilient you truly are.

Book Club Babes II: Strega Nona

Our latest first-grade book club discussion covered Miss Avery’s selection of Tomie dePaola’s Strega Nona, a Caldecott Honor Book.  Yum, a book which revolves around pasta, my carb-loving body as well as my squirt’s are more than sold.

Finding a Scholastic DVD, Strega Nona . . . and more stories about magic, of the story at our award-winning Glen Carbon Centennial Library, we began the evening with a viewing of the picture book.

IMG_1523Once this was complete, participants ate an endless bowl of spaghetti much like Big Anthony followed by cake (okay, not an element of the story, but definitely a necessity).

Then, the real learning disguised as fun began under the direction of Miss Wendy, momma and teacher extraordinaire.  Covering character analysis using adjectives on slips of paper, each book club member was given an opportunity to decide whether the descriptive word in question described Strega Nona or Big Anthony.  So cool!  Even my third-grade-daughter assistant could not resist joining in on the characterization.

IMG_1541Bookies then shared from their journals . . . a picture depicting a favorite character, scene, etc. from the book and one discussion question.  Open-ended questions evoked thoughtful answers such as, “Why was Big Anthony told not to touch the pasta pot?”  Yes, tears of joy were streaming from my face at this literacy in action.

To conclude, Miss Wendy had the young ladies create a house identical to Strega Nona’s complete with a “yarn” of pasta overflowing from the pot.

Next book discussion:  Miss Elise’s selection of Stellaluna

The Girl Scouts Take on The Magic House and Win*

Interested in four hours of nonstop playful learning for your third grader (or Brownie or Junior Girl Scout) followed by a slumber party?  Then, a Wintertime Blues Camp-In is just right for you.

Arriving at 8 p.m. at The Magic House in Kirkwood, Missouri, our Brownie troop checked in, dropped off our gear of sleeping bags and pillows, and were then let loose in The Magic House for an hour of free play.

Think the Kracken with an endless supply of energy unleashed x10.  Yes, young girls given free reign in this 55,000 square foot children’s museum.  The result . . . laughter, wide eyes, perspiration, hurried movements, and exploration due to such activities as fishing, cracking bank vaults, rocking babies, shopping for groceries, and climbing the beanstalk over and over and over and over again.  Time out . . .  I need a minute to catch my breath.


After an hour passed, stinky bodies (okay, my stinky body) gathered in the legislative branch to hear our instructions for the evening from our young, energetic facilitators.  Directed to our snack of pizza and beverage, we were then assigned our Scavenger Hunt to complete as a team for a special prize.  Passing this task on to our former Cookie Queen, Miss Toni guided the girls from room to room in order to discover answers to such questions as, “How many yellow balloons are in the Conservatory?”  When all questions were completed, the girls hustled to the front desk so that their answers could be graded for completion.  Discovering an incomplete response, the girls hustled back downstairs in search of the correct answer.  I, on the other hand, decided to hold down the fort right where I was.  With another climbing of the bean stalk under their belts, the girls returned to the front desk in order to retrieve their prize, a colored pin of their choosing with The Magic House logo.


Allotted further free time to play before our assigned Art Class at 10:30 p.m., the girls spent a great deal of time in the special exhibit, Magic Tree House, based on the children’s book series by Mary Pope Osborne.

IMG_1506 IMG_1507 IMG_1508 IMG_1509 IMG_1510

By the time Art Class rolled around, I was beat.  Finding a place on the carpet, I rested my head on my Rapunzel backpack while instructors led the girls in Simon Says before leading them in a stamping project.


Once again granted free play until our 11:30 p.m. settle down and make camp time, the Brownies played in frenzied delight while I found a chair with a back in a corner of the bank where I observed robberies, deposits, and overall Magic House mayhem.

Grateful when it was time to roll out the sleeping bags, my squirt staked claim on a closet for us to sleep in our designated area (insert forced “Woo!” here).  With the sound of steady snores and gregarious giggles in the background, I actually drifted off to sleep until close to our 7 a.m. wake time.  With a doughnut in each of our bellies, we exited the building with our much deserved patch in hand (it’s hard work earning a fun patch) and our carelessly folded baggage under our arms.

Silence ensued on the ride home as I dreamt of an actual bed in which to rest my weary forty-three-year-old body whereas, I am sure, my squirt and her fellow Girl Scouts remembered fondly, then and for a long time to come, the previous night’s events at this house filled with much magic.


*This post is dedicated to the fearless Mommas who survived a night at the museum.

Five Minute Friday: Share

Share.  Participating in Kaitlyn Bouchillon’s #fmfsnailmail, I have been able to meet some incredibly strong women.  Some of these women have had to endure some hardship in one way or another, but have grown in their faith because of it.

In my inbox, I found an author who answered Ten Questions via my blog.  This same author, Jennifer Cook, just so happens to be on my current #fmfsnailmail buddy list.

So, what better time than now to share her Author Interview so that you may, too, have the pleasure of making her acquaintance.  Share.

Jennifer Cook

Why do you write?: I write because it is fun and God whispers little stories to share...or prompts.
I write because it makes me feel free.
I enjoy writing about our family, motherhood, faith, and seeing my own stories evolve.

Describe where you write.: in our home office at a PC

Who or what is your muse?: our family

Three wishes . . .: To visit Italy, To cruise to Alaska, and to live happy long life

Favorite childhood book, and why?: The Secret Garden, It took me to a place of friendship and beauty I dreamed possible

Explain when is your ideal time to write.: early a.m. -- pre dawn

Name a book you would reread again and again, and why.: Bible, always new nuggets and so long and complicated I can never master its full Truth

E-book or print? Why?: print, I like to hold books...although my own writings and yours are E-books...so I guess I enjoy both

Favorite magazine, and why?: Southern Living, dream homes and recipes that will never truly be mine but seem awesome

What would you like readers to take away from your writing?: encouragement and joy

Jennifer Cook


Looking to be owned through a 40,000 word novella?  Then, look no further than Skyla Madi’s Broken. 

A chance encounter on a subway brings together student nurse Emily and seasoned underground fight club participant Jai.  What evolves is a sense of teamwork like no other . . .  think 50 Shades of Grey meets Cliff’s Notes.  Easily read in one sitting (and then reread and read again), be sure and keep the cold compresses handy just in case because you are going to need them.

In all seriousness, though, Madi’s descriptive writing uses sensual language throughout (and not just in the juicy parts) as in, “Fear and desperation curl in thick strands and wrap themselves around my stomach”  (9) when Emily describes her physical response to her unwanted situation as well as her desired physical locale, “. . . a slither of excitement coils around my spine. . . . I’ve always wanted to move to Italy . . ..  Sitting on my porch, I would overlook a vast vineyard while I sucked on feta stuffed olives and wine”  (12).

My one complaint is the misuse of the word “trust” on the top of page 51 when it most definitely should have read “thrust.”  Wait, perhaps I should reread again to be sure . . .

Now, if willing to take that leap of faith and read this novella, Broken,  remember Skull’s (yes, he really is a character) three simple rules:  1) do NOT tell anyone;  2) don’t kill anyone OUTSIDE the cage; and 3) fight when it’s your turn, or you DIE.

If the above doesn’t tantalize you, I am not sure what will.  As for me, I am not so patiently waiting for the release of Twisted, the sequel to Madi’s Broken.

For a chance to win a FREE copy of Broken, click below.
 a Rafflecopter giveaway



Writing Workshop Wednesdays (23)

Due to my current vision problems, the hub and I had a deep discussion (as we often do) about whether, if given the choice, would we choose to lose our sight or our hearing.  Weighing the options, we both unanimously agreed we would choose to keep our sight so that we wouldn’t miss one minute of seeing our girls blossom into young women, watching the change of the seasons, discovering new wrinkles on each others’ faces, and reading the written word.

So, for this Writing Workshop Wednesday, which sense would you choose: sight or hearing, and why?

Get Your BBQ on at Beast Craft BBQ Co.

Reading through the Belleville News-Democrat last weekend, I came across a mouth-watering article by Teri Maddox about Beast Craft BBQ located at 20 South Belt West in Belleville, IL.  With my hub and now girls being lovers of bar-b-que, I knew we needed to taste for ourselves.

Although breakfast is offered on the weekends at Beast Craft BBQ, we knew we wanted to first try their lunch menu.  Arriving ten minutes before lunch, we anxiously awaited the kraft paper menu change on the board by the owner David Sandusky.  As we read the menu which changes daily, the people in line behind us grew and grew and grew.


Having read about the roasted Brussels sprouts with pork belly prior to our visit, I was like a kiddo in the candy shop when I saw it was offered on today’s menu.  The hub also opted for the sprouts as one of his two sides to accompany his entree entitled, Well-Fed Beast, a platter consisting of pulled pork, kielbasa, rib tips, and brisket.  Our two young girls ordered the ribs with hand-cut French fries and one chose a banana as her second side while the other chose blueberry yogurt.  Yum!

For my oldest daughter, this was actually her first attempt at eating ribs.  Her reaction, “They [the ribs] are much better than chicken legs!” and, believe me, she loves her chicken legs.


Although there was a wait, the friendly staff repeatedly checked in on us.  My oldest urged me to ask if their sauce, a beautiful near transparent blend, was for sale as we dreamed of making sauced meatloaves and chickens at home.  Not yet, we were told, but hopefully coming soon.  Besides the breakfast menu option on weekends, the sauce alone is enough reason for us to visit again sooner rather than later.

Writing Workshop Wednesdays (22)

Reading the acknowledgement page of my daughter’s book club book, Three Times Lucky, the author, Sheila Turnage thanks her parents for instilling in her the love of reading.

Thinking of my own love of reading and wondering when it developed, I remember being so excited for library day in elementary school.  There was what I remember to be a structure known as The Pit which we, the students, basically fought one another for in order to claim the ideal spot.  We were even allowed to drape our legs over the back of the structure if we wanted which, at the time, seemed so scandalous.  Now I think if I attempted to sit on The Pit, I don’t think I would be able to walk right for a week;  padding was definitely not a component of The Pit.  The librarian (aaah, when all school libraries employed librarians) would read us stories in The Pit much to our delight, and then ultimately a uniform groan would rise from The Pit when our teacher told us it was time to return to class.  I can still feel the disappointment of quality storytelling coming to an end.

So, for today’s Writing Workshop Wednesday, who or what instilled your love of reading?

House Hold: A Memoir of Place

Whew!  What I thought to be a memoir consisting of memories related to places turned out to be so much more in Ann Peters’ House Hold:  A Memoir of Place.  Peters, an English professor, also offers the reader a mini survey course of sorts of literature which pertains to dwellings.

Raised in Wisconsin and eventually finding her way to New York City, Peters describes the architecture of each home as well as the people associated with said residences using insightful rhetoric:

Homesickness, the longing for a familiar landscape, was part of it, and homesickness, of course, has as much to do with what one wanted and didn’t get as it does with the facts of the past.  (12)

I liked the reminiscing, but still I was surprised by it. . . . It occurred to me that the requirements for authenticity had changed, no longer defined by staying put, but by a hunger for shared memory. . . . Of course , lots of people were still around who could talk to Betty about those early days, but it was as if my memories seemed more pure because they had not been altered by the new taverns or been crowded out by all the new people who had since moved out to the ledge.  In leaving I’d frozen the Holy Land in time.  (81)

Besides her deep analysis, Peters presents the players in her memoir with uncanny description:

In obvious ways, Kathryn was the more urbane of the two, the one who seemed most like what I imagined city people to be- quick, competitve, fast talking.  She had a flair for satire and for rage.  I see, fuzzily, the Watergate trials blasting from a television and then my grandmother, a lifelong Democrat, cursing from the couch before sending a book hurtling at the screen.  At the bridge table, she bested all the ladies in town, and when she played Scrabble with her grandchildren, she would not be moved by discrepancies in age or education, giggling gleefully when she dropped her x on the triple letter score. (118)

Oooh, how I love that above description of her grandmother.

Furthermore, Peters philosophy on teaching and reading makes my heart go pitter pat:

I usually tell my students that on a second reading of a book, you go back and notice what you are trying to ignore or resist.  Or you identify the places in the text that lull you, the places where you find yourself unthinkingly giving in.  (214)

When discussing Jefferson, the summer/weekend home purchased by Peters and her husband, she tells of the need to tackle the perennial garden and raised vegetable gardens already in place.  Although admiring her mother’s gardening as a child, “. . . [Peters] never paid attention to how she created it. . . . So much excitement at the beginning.  By August, vegetables rotting on the vine” (238).  With a smile, this quote brought to mind my own laziness in terms of gardening especially towards the end of the growing season.

A discussion of House Hold:  A Memoir of Place accompanied with a small tray of cheese and olives as Peters often did with Dee at 113 1/2 West Fifteenth Street would be ideal for that feeling of home.