Thursday, March 27, 2014

Jen, the book addict.


Just a few days ago my daughter (not the one pictured above) and I went to a book signing for an author that we both love. Shannon Hale. Oh my word, she was so funny, totally someone you want to hang out with. She is that girl next door whom you have slumber parties with, staying up late, eating Doritos and Red Vines. She is also so sweet and gracious. I couldn’t get over how kind she was to all of the little girls who were star struck, my daughter included.

Listening to her talk about her struggle to get Goose Girl, her first book, published all those years ago was so encouraging for this aspiring author. And look at her now, with her 15th book coming out this year. So inspired was this girl.

Anyway, this got my girl friend and I talking about how wonderful this time is for young readers. I don’t know about you, but I was not one of those kids that loved to read. I know, insert gasp here.  I hated it, in fact. I only read what was assigned in class, and even then I usually skimmed the book, or watched the movie.

So what happened? You ask. Well, I read THE BOOK. What book? "The book" is different for everyone. It is that book that first entranced you. It’s the first time you became so engrossed in the story that you couldn't put it down. And, when you did finish it you wanted to find another book just like it because lets face it, a good book is addictive. For me the book was Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. (I am embarrassed to say I was in my early twenties). Man, I flew through that book and then devoured everything gothic that I could get my hands on. Now, I love just about anything. Like I said, I am a bit of a book addict.

I know there were great book when I was a kid, I just hadn't been pointed in the right direction. Now, on the other hand, our kids seem to be having great books brought to their knowledge left and right. All of my kids are big readers, thank heavens! I asked each of them what their “book” was. My youngest is seven so she really hasn’t found “the book” yet, but she loves Arthur and the True Francine by Marc Brown. My ten-year-old is an intense reader like her mother. The first book that really hit a home run for her was The BFG by Roald Dahl. My second son read Eragon by Christopher Paolini at the age of ten and never looked back, and my oldest refused to open a book until he read the first The Last Olympian novel by Rick Riordan.

I can’t tell you how grateful I am for authors like Shannon Hale who write amazing stories that inspire my kids. (My daughter’s favorite book of hers is A Book of A Thousand Days, in case you were wondering).  I am grateful for all of the authors out there who never gave up even though this is an industry filled with rejection. Who kept on writing even though there really isn’t much monetary gain for even successful authors. And, who share a piece of themselves so kids like mine can experience the beauty of a good book, and maybe find the inspiration to write their own stories.

Who are we kidding. I was a little star struck too.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Jamaica, need I say more?

I know, I know. I am slowly getting through our vacation we went on over a month ago. After this post I have just one more, then I will move on.

Jamaica, Jamaica. There is so much to say. Where to begin? Well, I had heard good and bad things about this island before we ventured on our trip. Because of this, when booking our excursions, we decided to go through the ship. This was our most expensive day by far. But, it was my favorite. Definitely the most tropical of the islands. Being from Arizona, I go all gushy at the sight of green.

We decided to do the Dunn River Falls, and the Mystic Mountain Bobsled tours.

First, the falls. This was highly recommended by many. The falls were beautiful, the water not too cold. You have to bring river shoes to wear, or purchase some there for $7. The falls were very easy to navigate. This was my family’s only complaint. I think they wanted something a bit more challenging, and they didn’t like the hand holding… but who really likes holding hands with strangers? By the end we all had a great time and it was well worth it. The guides were very energetic, fun for the kids. Though, one of our guides got in a screaming match with someone on the phone just before our tour started. There were some colorful words said on his part, at least I think so, I don’t speak Jamaican. I have no idea what was going on on the other end, but it must have been heated. I would have been annoyed if his hand gesturing wasn’t so animated. It was really quite fascinating watching a man, stand facing the ocean, yelling at the top of his lungs. 

Anyway, you can bring your own water camera, or buy their CD. They do take lots of pictures and are annoyed when you don’t buy their product. I used a disposable water camera. I WILL NEVER DO THIS AGAIN. You will see, the pictures turned out terrible. You can also see some lousy pics on this post due to this bad product.

We were warned in advance about walking through the market on our way back to the bus. The venders are known to be pushy. Some were, but a lot were really nice. We stopped and talked to a few. And yes, we did spend more than we had planned on. There was only one shady individual I had to steer my kids away from. I had prepared my kids for this particular situation in advance. Honestly, I think it was good for them. When traveling anywhere you need to be aware of your surrounding’s and any danger, yet I don’t want my kids to be afraid of leaving their comfort zones. I know people who are scared to travel anywhere outside of their own little bubble. I don’t want my kids to feel this way. They would seriously be missing out on some amazing experiences. And who are we kidding… Phoenix can be a pretty dangerous place too.

Mystic Mountain was AMAZINGLY beautiful. We had to ride a sky-tram/ski-lift to the top of the mountain. I hate heights so I was a bit ill at this part. It is very high and the lift didn’t feel safe. My family, on the other hand, loved it!

Once on the top there are more pricey shops and the bobsled/rollercoaster. You get to control your own speed so even the littles have a good time on this one. There was also a zip-line through the trees that looked really cool, but again, expensive. I do wish we had booked it for Travis. Who knows when we will be back?

I met a really sweet woman who made baskets. I love baskets, though I never know what to do with them once I bring them home. I think it’s an art, basket placement.

Here are my do’s and don’t of Jamaica…

Do your research. Know where it is safe to go and where it isn’t.
Do: get in with the locals. Be friendly, but be safe.
Do: Bring the kids to Mystic Mountain. Bobsled deserves two thumbs up!
Do: Bring lots of spending money to shop and tip, tip and tip.
Do: Bring a good waterproof camera if  you don’t plan on buying their pics.
Do: Prepare your kids. Always, with anywhere you go, discuss safety and a plan incase someone gets separated.


Don’t go out on your own.
Don’t believe anyone who wants to give you something for free and tell your kids not to except anything either.
Don’t loose sight of your kiddos. Keep them close.

Don’t feel pressured to give anyone money if you don’t feel they earned it, or you want their product.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Sometimes a salad just won't do.

 Today’s post is just going to be a bit of rambling. If you are not in the mood to read a bit of nonsense, I am warning you now to go find something else to do. It is a beautiful day here in Arizona, a walk would be lovely.

Having just eaten my way through Manhattan, I have rededicated myself to salads for a while. Oh, how I envy salad lovers. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like a good salad from time to time, but this salad everyday thing is killing me. I have tried to mix it up with other healthy choices, but sometimes you just want a cheeseburger, or a beagle with cream cheese and jam. (I blame my niece’s husband for getting me hooked on those again.  They were my passion in high school).

Yesterday my sister wanted us girls to get together and put some final touches on the family reunion that is coming up next month here in Arizona. It is going to be such fun, by the way, (western theme, visiting old ghost towns, Sedona, a swap meet competition, the whole nine yards). I am in charge of decorations for the talent show/family dinner, and the day trip up north. They knew not to put me in charge of the food. I am good at eating the food, not necessarily making it.

We decided to meet for lunch because we all have to eat, right? My suggestion was, because I always have good intentions, a salad place. Rumbi’s? I love Rumbis! For those of you who don’t know, it’s a Hawaiian restaurant. They put enough bad stuff in their salads to satisfy me, yet they are relatively healthy. 

So, do I order a salad when I am face to face with the cashier? Of course not. I order the teriyaki bowl. I did order brown rice, so I do get points for that.

I hope this character flaw doesn’t bleed into other aspects of my life. I do love to indulge, to not miss out on anything. So, when faced with a yummy teriyaki bowl, my thought process goes something like this…

Oh, I love teriyaki bowls.

But a salad is what you need. You came for the salad.

I love teriyaki bowls.

Yes you do, but do you know how many carbs are in that bowl? And, what about those 5 pounds you gained last weekend?

But I may not get this chance again to eat a yummy teriyaki bowl. There may be a shortage on rice, or that yummy sauce. The restaurant could go out of business. I may end up living the rest of my life having never eaten a teriyaki bowl at Rumbi’s again!

Oh, when you put it that way, you had better order that teriyaki bowl right this minute.

Unfortunately, this conversation does coincide with other aspects of my life…. shopping comes to mind. I can’t tell you how many times I have walked into a store telling myself I will just pick up one item, then leave with three. Books too. I will sit down to read for just 15 minutes or an hour and before I know it the day is passed. I have to rush and get my house picked up before my family gets home so it looks as if I slaved away all day being productive.

Well, today is a new day, and this is a new morning. But, boy, don’t waffles sound really good right now? ;)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Women Need Women, and a bit of N.Y. too.

I had the most dreamy time these last four days, all in thanks to a Christmas gift My hubby gave me. What was this gift? A girl’s trip to visit my niece in the Big Apple.

This trip almost didn’t happen. As the date neared my sister, sister-in-law, and I all got cold feet. Why is that? Why is it that when women plan to do something for themselves there is usually this sense of guilt hovering over their heads? It’s as if we are failing our families if we dare to leave them.

I have traveled quite a bit, and it does seem that if I am going with my husband it’s no big deal because we are strengthening our relationship. BUT, if I go alone I always question my motives, as if doing something for myself is not a worthwhile investment.

Nevertheless, we all swallowed our apprehension and went anyways. And do you know what? We had a fabulous time. My niece, Natalie, who is one of the sweetest people you will ever meet, opened her home to us. She is a professional blogger. You should follow her here. What she writes is beautiful, mainly because she is a truly beautiful person. What I am doing here is merely doodles compared to what she is able to produce.  She has a book coming out next year. It was fascinating talking to her about her career and her creative process. I am always intrigued by how artistic people create.

New York was windy and cold. I mean cold! I am pretty much an Arizona native so for me there were moments I worried I would die from it. Still, we bundled up and ventured out, braving the chill like New Yorkers.

Manhattan is an amazing city. I fell in love with the mixture of old and new buildings. Central park was a dream! And the Met made me cry. Yes, I get gushy when looking at the real thing in person. We spent three days wandering around, riding the subway, and people watching.

My most favorite part of the whole trip was not the sights, but the people I spent that time with. I have heard many times that women need women. I never really took much stock in it. Growing up, I never had many girl friends, only one or two at a time. Even now I have a small circle of close friends. Going on this trip opened my eyes. Oh, how I love these women. I cannot put a price tag on the time we spent talking till 4 o’clock in the morning. Let's face it, there are some parts of ourselves that only another woman can understand. I don’t think I will ever forget our trip. I am SOOOO glad we went.  And do you know what? I came home to a clean house and a happy family who appreciated me more because they had to live without me for a bit. A win, win, if you ask me.