Friday, December 30, 2011

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Movie Review--Super 8

Super 8     1 hour 52 minutes      released 2011       rated PG-13

For four months Joe copes with the physical loss of his mother and the emotional distance of his father, the deputy of a small town. His friends decide to enter a movie-making contest with a Super 8 camera.

While shooting the movie, Joe and his friends witness something incredible. 25-year-old secrets begin to unfold causing events to quickly spiral out of control.

The story seems almost autobiographical the way it drew me in. J. J. Abrams does a masterful job of building the suspense slowly against the backdrop of a race for survival.

I was surprised at how much I liked this movie. It's a coming of age tale for Joe, his father, and his friends. I'd give it 3.5 stars out of 5. It's definitely worth a look-see.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Festive Cheese Ball

A good Cheese Ball offsets all the holiday sugar intake. Its fun to nibble during a fun, family game night or New Year's Eve party. This is from Christmas Recipes from the Lion House.

2 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese
2 cups grated cheddar (I like to use Colby-jack)
2 TBSP finely chopped green onion
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp lemon pepper
1 cup finely chopped nuts
chopped parsley

Soften cream cheese. Add remaining ingredients except nuts and parsley; mix well until blended. Divide mixture in half. Spoon into 2 small bowls lined with wax paper. Refrigerate for several hours. Lift out wax paper with cheese mixture from each bowl, and mold cheese into ball, using wax paper to protect hands. Roll each ball in chopped nuts and parsley. Refrigerate. Remove about 15 minutes before serving and serve with a variety of crackers. Makes 2 small balls.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tuesday Tips--Good Informational Blogs

Good informational blogs (sorry, I couldn't find just the right image for this). These are blogs I have found very helpful for the type of research I do. I know there are scads more out there. These are merely the tip of the iceberg:  He has good, practical information. I'm going to put up a Facebook timeline from an article he posted on his blog. Excellent for techno-challenged people like me. A very informative social network for writers.  This is the Community Writing Center run by Salt Lake Community College. They offer free and low-cost classes and workshops.  See her Query letter page. She is the Query Ninja!  A lot of good 'how-to' articles. You can download their free book The (Nearly) Ultimate Guide to Better Writing.  Several authors share their research on English History--Good resource!  She posts research articles related to everyday English life, from falconry to toys and games to economics and the Plague--a wonderful resource.

What are some of your favorite blogs? I could really use a good resource for Scottish history and accents.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Quote of the Day

"Happiness has one advantage over wealth--no one can borrow it!"--Unknown

Remember that for Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

7 Layer Cookies

This is a bar cookie that you'd better cut into small pieces because they are soooo rich and gooey!

Butter or spray the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch pan.

First layer--1 pkg graham crackers, crushed. Line the bottom of the pan.
Second layer--drizzle with one stick melted butter or margarine.
Third layer--Sprinkle with 2 cups chopped walnuts
Fourth layer--Sprinkle with 1 (12 oz) bag semi-sweet chocolate chips.
Fifth layer--Sprinkle with 1 (12 oz) bag of butterskotch chips.
Sixth layer--sprinkle with 2 cups coconut
Seventh layer--drizzle 1 (14 oz ) can sweetened condensed milk over the top
Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. If your oven gets too hot you may need to reduce time and temp. The coconut should be golden. Wait for cookies to cool before cutting.

Hint: I like to make my own sweetened condensed milk because it's so inexpensive. The following recipe is enough to cover 2 pans of 7 Layer cookies:

1 cup hot water
2 cups sugar
Heat until sugar is dissolved. Add 1/4 cup margarine (which is half of a stick). Pour in blender and add 2 1/2 cups powdered milk. Blend until smooth.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

My Top Ten Favorite Christmas Movies

 I love family-friendly Christmas movies. I especially love the LDS Church's Christmas videos depicting our Savior's birth. They went to great lengths to make them with as much historical accuracy as possible.

This is a list of fun movies I enjoy watching every year.
Counting down from #10-Ernest Saves Christmas--I know, corny, but Ernest embodies the child-like faith and joy of the season.
#9-Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus with Richard Thomas.
#8-The Story Lady with Jessica Tandy.
#7-Home Alone and Home Alone 2.
#6-The Santa Clause 1, 2, and 3.
#5-Holiday Inn and White Christmas.
#4-The Bishop's Wife with Cary Grant and Loretta Young.
#3-The Polar Express.
#2-A Christmas Carol with George C. Scott, of course there's zillions of different versions out there. This one is my favorite.
And #1 is It's A Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed.

You may be thinking that's cliche, but I don't care. I fell in love with this movie as a sophomore at BYU. I took the film class thinking it was a cake class but ended up learning something. I had never seen nor heard of this movie before. What a delight, but then, who doesn't love Jimmy Stewart? I'll be a fan until the day I die, George Bailey.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Easiest Fudge Ever!

Are you ready for the easiest fudge recipe ever? This came from my neighbor and friend, Linda:

Combine 1 bag semisweet chocolate chips with 1 cup of milk chocolate chips and 1 can of sweetened condensed milk and warm over low heat until it melts. Add 1 cup nuts or anything else you want (mint--mmmm). Pour into buttered 8x8 pan. Chill at least 1 hour.
P.S. Have you ever googled 'fudge' images? Mouth-watering!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tuesday Tips--Organizational Tool

You wouldn't know it to look at my desk, but I crave organizational tools. I sometimes use them to distract me from writing. I begin researching at almost the same moment I begin thinking of ideas for a new book. I try to keep my notes organized in file folders and a filing cabinet, but I sometimes forget how or where I filed stuff. I also like to gather pictures, maps and floor plans.

This tip comes from a blogpost by Canda Mortensen on the website. The post is her notes on an interview with Nancy Allen about the notebook she puts together when she writes. I like this system because I can put all of my research in one spot, and I'm not confined to a certain number of pages--it can grow with my research. Here is Nancy Allen's notebook--each tab has a purpose:

Tab 1--Brainstorming: She puts all random thoughts, beautiful phrases, action, ideas, etc., in here.
Tab 2--General Outline: She writes a synopsis, no details or elaboration--just a half page of how the story  starts and ends. (For me, I prefer J.K. Rowling's method of outlining. If you'd like a copy of what my outline chart looks like, leave a comment with your email address.)
Tab 3--Individual Character Analysis: This includes physical characteristics, interests, strengths, weaknesses,
family history, motivation, goals, most prized possession, etc. (My character development comes from James N. Frey: physiological traits + sociological factors [family, background] = psychological [motivation, and what he really wants], pedigree and family group sheets with images from the Internet if possible, and the character's life story, including all of his secrets, written by that character.
Tab 4--Research: She keeps all of her notes in one place (historical details, dress, sayings, etc).
Tab 5--Running Edits: If you need to make changes you can jot down a note in this section about what needs to be fixed on what page without interrupting your writing. You can go back and fix items in your list later.
Tab 6--Next time notes: When you run out of time for writing jot down the ideas that are still in your head
or goals for your next session.
Tab 7--Scene Maps: First, she writes the goal of the scene. What's the point of this scene? Then she uses
sticky notes to write one event/action on each one. Then she can move those around to get the order she wants before writing. If she has 5 sticky notes and only uses 3 in that scene, she moves the other stickies to the next scene (this is the one I'm most anxious to try).
Tab 8--Sources: This is the place to document the books, movies, websites, documentaries, etc., that are
used in researching the story.

The best part of this system is that it is totally customizable. For my use, I combined Research and Sources together in the same tab, so that I could add another tab for maps, floor plans, architectural pictures, pictures of historical figures, and my own drawings. I also put my scene maps right behind my outline section.

This is so much nicer than having file folders all over the place. If I need my research on another project, its going to be a lot easier to find!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Quote of the Day

"If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write something worth reading, or do something worth writing."  ~Benjamin Franklin

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Thursday Book Review--All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin

I'm reviewing a few YA books for my local library for the Beehive Book Awards. So far, I've read two books. The first book did not hold my attention enough to plow through the bad language, and since I have little positive to say about it, I won't. I realize that I have rather puritanical tastes so just know that I can't recommend Dreamland Social Club. One of the reasons I read YA is too avoid offensive language.

Anyway, on to my review of All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin.

This is a dystopian set in 2083 New York City. Water and paper are scarce. Coffee and chocolate are illegal. Sixteen-year-old Anya Balanchine's family have been in the chocolate business for years. Her father was the crime boss of the Balanchine family until he was killed by a hitman when she was nine, and her mother was killed three years before that. Her bedridden grandmother is her legal guardian. At the time when this story takes place, Anya is saddled with the responsiblity of caring for her bedridden grandmother, and older brother who is mentally incompetent, and a younger sister. She does whatever it takes to keep her family together while her life becomes increasingly complicated.

The story is well written, and the characters are very well developed. I found myself synpathizing with and cheering for them. Anya struggles to keep her own values while faced with so much responsibility. There is an element of suspense that adds to the intensity. Anna is forced into creative problem-solving, but the story ends on a hopeful note. There are occasional four-letter words, but not distracting, and there is an 'almost' love scene but we are spared the description.

All in all, I'd give it 3 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Easy and Yummy Chocolate Eclair Cake

This is a yummy treat for any time of year, but I usually make it for Christmas parties.


1 package graham crackers
2 pkg (3 oz) french vanilla instant pudding
3 1/2 cups milk
1 (8 oz) carton cool whip

Start with a 9 x 12" pan. Butter (or spray) bottom and sides of pan. Cover bottom of pan with a layer of graham crackers. Mix pudding with milk and blend in cool whip. Layer pudding, graham crackers, pudding and end with graham crackers. Spread Frosting over top.

2 squares of melted unsweetened baking chocolate
1 TBSP corn starch
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 TBSP milk
3 TBSP melted butter

Chill for 24 hours. This lets everything soak in. It really is worth the wait.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Monday Morning Motivation--Life after NaNo

Life after NaNo

All of a sudden the keyboard is silent. I have to admit, I had to take a minute to remember what I was doing before Nano.

I took a couple of days to regroup and list goals.

Sometimes I get sidetracked by the temptation to search for the elusive "perfect Idea" that will knock people's socks off and change the world, and I'll make millions.

That totally sucks all of the joy out of writing for me.

I have to remind myself why I write:
1. because I enjoy reading so much.
2. because writing brings me clarity of thought--which becomes harder with each birthday.
3. because of the sensation I get when characters and events take on lives of their own.
4. because writing teaches me something new every day.
5. because writing is worthwhile and will hopefully bless the lives of my family (see President Hinckley's quote on my sidebar).
6. because I enjoy having a reason to do research.
7. because, most of all, it brings me a simple joy.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Ta Da!

I did it! My final word count is 51991 and I actually finished Tuesday, November 29 at 7 pm. I could've written more, but I was fried.

Although NaNoWriMo's website validated my word count at 51856, I'm sticking with what my computer said--51991. Every little word counts!

And yes, I will be printing this off!