Monday, August 31, 2015

A garden request

The lovely Akiko White (who makes amazing cakelustrations; check out her site, you'll know what I mean) asked for photos of our garden, so this is for her. :)

Some random pics of the garden:
he south garden, just outside of the main fenced garden where comfrey, squash, watermelons, and cukes are grown (a small fenced area at the end has tomatoes and eggplants)

Inside main garden, the south strip...

the middle strip of the main garden is a bit of a jungle-y mess right now; the kale is sporting a Tina Turner look...

the north strip of the main garden

a panorama taken against the north side of the main garden; the empty beds await fall crops planting

inside the greenhouse where the malabar spinach is taking over; the front eggplant has died back, but the ones behind it are still going strong, trying to hold their own against the malabor spinach

There's a north garden outside the main garden area but there's not much in there aside from a bed of sweet potatoes mowed down by the deer. And we have various fruit trees spread out all around the property. It's a lot to take care of; kudos to hubby and the boys for keeping on top of things.

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, August 03, 2015

Vacation photos

Because it's always pretty in Vancouver, that's why. :)
Walking around the Third Beach area of the Sea Wall at Stanley Park
On one of only two or three cloudy days while we were there (looking out to Indian Arm from Burnaby Mountain)
Funky sculpture
More funky sculptures, this one made with armature and plants
Wouldn't be Vancouver without good food: this was at a Persian restaurant
And this was at a Chinese restaurant
Dinner at home at my dad's house - roast pork, roast duck, and choi sum
And a lovely day at Deep Cove
I've still not decided whether to come back regularly to this blog. I think I'll save it for text or photo-heavy posts. I prefer to keep my WordPress blog lightweight. 

Hope you're all having a great summer!

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, May 11, 2015

SQUEEEE! Look what I won!

Last month, the awesome author/illustrator Russ Cox held a giveaway for his newest book, FARAWAY FRIENDS. It was the easiest contest to enter ever: all you had to do was Like the Facebook page, and since I already adored his art, why not like the page, right? (And you might want to Like the page pressure or anything. I will just be mad at you if you don't...kidding! I can't even keep track of my own schedule.)

Guess who won?! Yes, my next door neighbor!

Riiiight. It was me! I think it was quite appropriate that I won because I write sci-fi and picture books, and I love sci-fi and picture books. Plus, it was Mother's Day yesterday and will be my birthday this coming week. Since my family doesn't get me anything, I rely on the kindness of strangers (or myself) for presents.

Check it out: a copy of the book, a poster, bookmarks, aaaaaand...
(pssst...a secret: the book cover glows in the dark!!)
an original drawing! Woohoo! This baby is getting framed (in a good way; not a "it's going to take the fall for me" way).
Take a look at the fun endpapers and copyright page of the book:
 If the end pages don't make you want to read the book, you might want to get your eyesight and sense of humor checked out ASAP. So run to your nearest bookstore or library and get this book to read. You can thank me later. I take major credit cards.

I think you'll agree that this was worth breaking from my blogging break for, don't you?

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, April 27, 2015

This is not the post you're looking for

This is merely a Jedi blog trick to redirect your attention to another post elsewhere, that elsewhere being my One Good Thing blog where I shall begin The Adventures of Perpetually Perplexed Percival, the Squirrel on the first of May.  
Here's a preview:
"What's that squirrel so busy writing that he won't play acorn catch with me?" thought Percival. "Writers are such oblivious snobs! And so sedentary that they're unathletic. I'll bet he can't catch. I'll bet he has two left paws, and that's why he's ignoring me!"

Come join us on the Light Side.

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, April 20, 2015

So here's the plan

Now that I have accounts that I actually use (some minimally, some a lot) on
-Blogger (U R here)
I feel that I have to cut back somewhere or I won't have time to do anything else.
What I would rather be doing than pretty much anything else...
So, I'm going take a hiatus from blogging here for a yet to be determined amount of time. If any of you actually miss me, come check out my 365-Day blog on Wordpress where I post a photo of an illustration I drew or something else homemade daily. I don't write anything lengthy there, if anything at all, so you won't have to read a tome. :) Or follow me on Twitter or Instagram (links above). I prefer Instagram right now. I post photos more regularly there.

I'm still debating whether to make the 365-Day blog or my Instagram account the place where I showcase my art. I know that some artists make Instagram their online portfolio. I'd love to hear any arguments for or against that idea.

Thanks for stopping by; hope to see some of you on the other sites!

P.s. there is one more day to enter a giveaway at the interview the lovely Joanna Marple did of me!

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, April 13, 2015

A rare writing-related post

It's really not so much writing-related as language-usage related, but since writers use language as their weapon of choice, it might as well be labeled as a writing-related post.
These are some of the words and phrases people tend to overuse and/or use completely wrong:

1) literally - did you know that a kitten dies every time someone says or writes "literally" when they mean "figuratively"? ;)
2) indeed - academics overuse this
3) begs the question - it doesn't mean what you think it means
4) utilize - when the simpler, less pretentious "use" is often the correct form
5) theory/theorize - when people actually mean "hypothesis/hypothesize." A theory is a well-tested hypothesize that is supported by an abundance of empirical data. A hypothesis is just an idea...more often than not thought up on the spot. E.g. Someone spies a squished frog on the pavement and tells his friend, "I have a theory as to how this happened." Um, no; you have an idea, a hypothesis. You've not tested this thoroughly; it's not a theory.
6) at the end of the day - just an awful cliché

What are some other words or phrases you've noticed that people use wrong or too much? Please share in the comments! 

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, April 06, 2015

Doodle Day March

I participated in Doodle Day again in March. It's a good way to get me to do a 10-minutes-or-less sketch daily, keeping those drawing muscles somewhat limber. But with some deadlines to attend to, I could only get up to the letter K for the theme of "imaginary friends."
aardragon - I'd repurposed this drawing from KidLit Creatures Week
Bob the badger bakes me biscuits

my Couch Potato pal is a bad influence

After that, the rest of the month was spent panicking about a couple of deadlines I had, and I quit doing these doodles. 

This month, however, I have foolishly optimistically picked up another challenge. The A-Z Challenge where you post an alphabet-related something (doesn't have to be art) every week day in the month of April. I found out about it from Catherine Johnson and it seemed less intimidating than some challenges. If you want to check out what I've been doing, go to my Wordpress 365-Day blog called "One Good Thing."

Speaking of my One Good Thing blog, I've been considering dropping this blog and just doing the other one. Who really has time for more than one blog?? I love Blogger, but I may love short, pithy blog posts even more. They're very different in feel and nature. What do you think I should do?

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, March 30, 2015

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies, a recipe

I could have sworn I had posted this recipe before, but I couldn't find it here when a friend asked me for the recipe. It is one of our favorite cookies, so I thought you might all enjoy it, too. 
Oatmeal Whatever-Chip-You-Want Cookie

based on Hilary Clinton’s winning recipe in the bake-off with Barbara Bush

1.5 C unsifted AP flour
1 t salt
1 t baking soda
1 C solid veg shortening
½ C granulated sugar [I use ¼ C]
1 C firmly packed light brown sugar [I throw in ½ C of whatever brown sugar I have on hand]
1 t vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 C old fashioned rolled oats
12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chip, or butterscotch chips, or cappuccino chips, or some combination thereof (adjusting for sugar level)
Preheat oven to 350F
Combine flour, salt, and baking soda; set aside.
Beat together shortening, sugars, and vanilla until creamy.
Add eggs, beating until light and fluffy.
Gradually beat in flour mixture and rolled oats [I alternate ¼ of each at a time].
Stir in chips.
Drop batter by well-rounded teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheets.
Bake 8-10 minutes until done [in my oven, I bake 14 minutes and the cookies are drier and crunchier, the way we like them].
Cool on sheets for 2 minutes before placing on rack for further cooling.

Makes about 7.5 dozen cookies

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, March 23, 2015

Soaps make me clean and happy

Many moons ago, when I first started blogging, I also became interested in making soap. I started with melt-and-pour because it was something easy and fun to do with the boys as part of our homeschool learning.
Sushi soap...with wasabi soap and pickled ginger soap
skull and crossbone soaps
 In researching soap-making, I stumbled upon the thoroughly awesome Soap Queen blog and was immediately drawn into the whole wonderful world of soapers. I have made some of the nicest friends from this caring and encouraging community.

Anyway, as a fun break from writing, I've started up with soaping again, this time cold process soaping. I like making tangible, useful things when not writing or doing art. Baked goods fill my tummy, knitted good keep me warm, and soaps clean us up and help us smell better. Writing does none of those things.

I had made a bunch that turned out pretty well last fall to give as holiday presents. Then, I had to take a few months off to prepare for the NYC Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators conference. With that stress behind me, I can now make soaps between writing and drawing again.

Since I'm still a newbie, I've decided to stick with an easy recipe in Anne Marie Faiola's "Soap Crafting: Step By Step" book (which I highly recommend).
Southern Peach scented soap
Linden Blossom scented soap (on left)
Champagne scented soap
I've already promised a couple of bars as gifts, and might offer a little bundle of them as a prize to celebrate my 600th blog post over at my One Good Thing 365-blog. But I should have enough soaps to last my family a little while. Besides, I'll be making more! Can't wait to try out some other formulations. :)

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, March 16, 2015

Coffee Cloud Cake

Because our chickens have finally started laying again - molting is such a pain - we have a lot of excess eggs. I have, therefore, been in search of recipes that use a lot of eggs.

There is a yummy sounding recipe in the New Good Housekeeping Cookbook called Coffee Cloud Cake that uses 6 eggs, so I decided to give it a try.

It turned out pretty darned tasty, and because some friends on Facebook asked for the recipe, I'm sharing it here.
Coffee Cloud Cake

6 eggs, separated, at room temperature
1/2 t cream of tartar
2 C AP flour
1 C strong cold coffee
1 T baking powder
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 t salt
4 oz walnuts, finely chopped

1. In large bowl, at high speed, beat egg white and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Beating at high speed, sprinkle in 1/2 C sugar (I use about 1/3 C instead), 2 T at a time; beat until sugar is dissolved and whites stand in stiff peaks.

2. Preheat oven to 350F. In another bowl, on medium speed, beat 1 1/2 C sugar (I used a bit over 3/4 C only) and egg yolks with flour, coffee, baking powder, vanilla extract and salt until light and fluffy. With rubber spatula or wire whisk, gently fold flour mixture and nuts into beaten egg whites until just blended:

3. Pour batter into ungreased 10" tube pan. Bake 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes, until cake springs back when lightly touched. Invert cake in pan on funnel or bottle; cool completely in pan. With metal spatula, carefully loosen cke from pan; place on cake plate. Because I can't be bothered washing too any things, I just left the cake in the pan.

I still prefer citrus chiffon cake (which I might make this coming week), but this did smell incredible when it was baking! I think it would taste even better with a bit of chocolate or coffee whipped cream.

Let me know if you try this!

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, March 09, 2015

Never stop learning

I'm an autodidact (my whole family is, really), but I don't like to have to take exams, write papers, or attend classes in the evenings...or, heck, even leave the house. My favorite ways to learn are by reading - of course - and by watching The Great Courses lecture series.

Unfortunately, as good as our library is, it doesn't have most of the courses that we want. Here are all the classes that we have:

some of those on the left hand end are free DVDs from Howard Hughes Medical Institute
I recommend nearly all of the classes, in particular the ones about physics (classical, quantum and particle) by Sean Carroll, Richard Wolfson, and Benjamin Schumacher, "Understanding the Human Body" by Anthony Goodman, and "The Fall and Rise of China" by Richard Baum.

Have you ever watched The Great Courses DVDs before? If so, which one(s)?

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, March 02, 2015

That sneaky week

I don't know how it happened, but a whole week managed to sneak by me. I had grand plans for this week's blog post...okay, no I didn't. I had some ideas, maybe, but here it is, Sunday afternoon. So, I'll just babble on about a few things and pretend like it's a *real* blog post.

One of my Facebook friends, I believe it was Salina Yoon, the amazing author of the Penguin books (e.g. Penguin In Love - not affiliate link), mentioned something about my having plenty of hand-knitted socks for the winter, and I believed that I did. But when I tried to scrounge up my knitted socks, I realized I do not actually have enough! I only have 6 pairs, 2 of which have holes and need darning. 
the blue-white striped ones on the left are made of a chitin yarn
So, it's a good thing I'm knitting a new pair of socks for myself right a lovely shade of green, no less. Come on, Spring; bring it on!
Also springy is a little sketch I did for my good friend, Elaine Kiely Kearns (who founded the amazing site and runs it with our other good friend, Sylvia Liu) for an absolutely sweet story she wrote. If any editors or agents are reading this (HAH!), you really need to check out Elaine's story. :)
Lastly, more great news: Russell James, the leader of our Minnows Literary Group, announced that he'll be sending a check to Doctors Without Borders for about $130 for December's earnings on our anthologies...AND, that the earnings for February's sales will be more than double that! I feel like we are single-handedly fighting ebola with MSF...without, you know, putting ourselves in mortal danger, unless you consider getting harsh reviews of our books as dangerous.

Happy March!

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams