Wedding Week, Flowers, Family and Father’s Day

Pretty and Simple Centerpieces

My sister’s centerpieces were twine-tied mason jars filled with fairy lights and silk hydrangeas set on a glass tiles and surrounded by votives. These would be easy DIY centerpieces for a wedding, shower, engagement party, or even a backyard celebration–think gerber daisies or sunflowers.

Her bridal bouquet was made up of brightly colored flowers with the stems wrapped in satin ribbon.

The bride and groom, Ruth and Michael’s first dance.
Flowering cherry blossoms provide the perfect backdrop to my sister’s blended family.

And in honor of Father’s Day…

Me and Hubby.
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Wedding Week–Bachelorette Party or Bridal Shower Games

Does every Bachelorette-ish dinner need games? Probably not, but why not?!

Searching for activities that felt getting-remarried-appopriate and age-appropriate took some doing.  “How Well Do You Know the Bride?” and “How Well Do You Know Your Fiancé?” were the winners. Here’s how they work:

“How Well Do You Know the Bride?”

Each guest picks a question out of a bag and answers it. The bride-to-be confirms or corrects the answer. Fun!

  1. What is (the bride’s) birthday?
  2. What color are her eyes?
  3. What is her shoe size?
  4. What is (the bride’s) middle name?
  5. Who is her favorite author?
  6. What is (the bride’s) favorite food?
  7. Where did she go to elementary school?
  8. Where did she go to college?
  9. What is the name of her college boyfriend?
  10. Who is her celebrity crush?
  11. Where did (the bride) and (groom) meet?
  12. Where are they going on their honeymoon?
  13. What song will they rock out to at their wedding?
  14. Where is (the bride’s) dream vacation?

“How Well Do You Know Your Fiancé?” 

Before the dinner, the groom-to-be answers the list of questions. At the party, the bride-to-be has to guess her fiancé’s answers. Funny!

  1. What is your favorite color?
  2. Do you have any unusual birthmarks?
  3. Where did the two of you have your first kiss?
  4. Who steals the covers?
  5. What is your favorite breakfast food?
  6. Who said, “I love you” first?
  7. Are you a beer or wine guy?
  8. Do you have a pet name for (the bride)?
  9. Who has better dance moves?
  10. Where would you love to travel?
  11. What is your ideal date?
  12. What do you do that annoys (the bride) most?
  13. What does (the bride) do that annoys you the most?
  14. What is one item that you own that (the bride) can’t stand?
  15. What is one item that (the bride) owns that you can’t stand?
  16. What does (the bride) think is your most endearing quality?
  17. What do you think is (the bride’s) most endearing quality?

The funniest questions were 12-17. My sister mostly guessed her fiancé’s answers correctly. I’ll take that as a good sign!

Wedding Week–DIY Chocolate Favors

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DIY Chocolate Favors

Hon, you know I love a theme! My sister recently got re-married and I was in charge of the bachelorette-ish dinner. A pretty pocketbook was featured on the invitation, so when I found candy molds with pocketbooks and pumps, I was sold. There are endless molds to choose from making these DIY favors easy to adapt to different themes and occasions. Need a fun kids activity? Kid can measure, time, pour, pop the candy out of the molds and, of course, eat the chocolates. Yum!

Supplies:

  • candy molds
  • melting chocolates (I used a combination of milk, dark and white chocolate.)
  • cookie tray
  • wax or parchment paper
  • microwaveable bowls, spoons and spatula
  • favor bags and ribbon

Steps:

  1. Set up: Place candy molds on baking trays. Top another tray or cutting board with wax or parchment paper.
  2. Melt 2 cups of chocolate melties in the microwave for 1 minute. Stir. Microwave for another 10-12 seconds or until chocolate is smooth. Stir. If more than  2 cups of chocolate are being melted, microwave for 15 seconds. (note: Some chocolate melties melt better than others. It’s better to microwave for less time, stir, microwave again, etc. if you’re not sure. If the chocolate passes the melting stage and gets “crumbly,” it can’t be re-melted and becomes unusable.)
  3. Pour melted chocolate into candy molds.
  4. Place baking tray with candy molds in the freezer for 10 minutes.
  5. Pop frozen chocolate shapes onto wax/parchment lined tray. Let it come to room temperature before handling.
  6. Fill bags and tie with ribbon.

Source: Check out Sweet n Fancy Emporium where you can find endless choice of mold, cookie cutter, melties, sprinkles and frostings.

Wren or Writing?

Birds of a Feather

I was ready to write. Pen and paper? Check. Computer? Check. Manuscript to revise? Check. But how could I concentrate with a bird bustling back and forth yards away? The answer? I couldn’t!

Every year, House Wrens make a nest in one of my birdhouses. If you think the Wrens are busy as they gather twigs and grass, you should see them once their babies hatch! The flit and fly all day long, handing off  juicy bugs to hungry beaks. The babies trill insistently when a parent returns. I imagine they’re saying, “Feed me! Feed me! It’s been ten minutes since my last meal.”

If I so much as go outside to look at the birdhouse, the daddy (I think it’s the daddy) perches atop our outdoor table umbrella and, literally, gives me the stink eye. Really! 

When a chickadee or starling comes close and cocks its head to hear the chirping babies, one of the parents hops and squawks, chasing the intruder away. Interestingly, my dog Lucy isn’t perceived as a threat, which she isn’t…unless you’re a chipmunk or a mailman.

Dawn and dusk are full of activity and, when night falls, the family quiets down and gets ready for bed. Last night, when I retrieved something from the back porch, under the birdhouse, a little head popped out and tiredly looked at me.

“Don’t worry,” I said, “I’m not going to hurt your babies.”

 

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Click here to watch a video of a House Wren singing.

Click here to watch a video (with funny commentary) of House Wrens leaving their nest for the first time.

Keynote Speaker Tami Charles’ Words of Wisdom

Author Tami Charles
Charles delivering her keynote speech at the NJSCBWI18 conference.

Inspiration for Everyone

Tami Charles, whose middle grade novel Like Vanessa debuted in March, delivered a keynote speech at the NJSCBWI18 conference this past weekend.

She talked about the value of hope. “Somewhere between no and yes lies hope.”

She talked about rejections. “The word no has empowered me, broken me, and put me back together again.”

She talked about persistence. “You keep writing. You don’t stop.”

And she said, “Step into your greatness.”

Thanks, Tami, for words of wisdom that ring true for me as a writer and also for anyone trying to reach a seemingly insurmountable goal.

Click here to watch a short video about Charles and Like Vanessa. Take one guess which book I’m buying as gifts for some important tween girls in my life.

In this semi-autobiographical debut novel set in 1983, Vanessa Martin’s real-life reality of living with family in public housing in Newark, New Jersey is a far cry from the glamorous Miss America stage. She struggles with an incarcerated mother she barely remembers, a grandfather dealing with addiction and her own battle with self-confidence. But when a new teacher at school coordinates a beauty pageant and convinces Vanessa to enter, Vanessa’s view of her own world begins to change. Vanessa discovers that her own self-worth is more than the scores of her talent performance and her interview answers, and that she doesn’t need a crown to be comfortable in her own skin and see her own true beauty. Goodreads

James Dean and Pete the Kitty

James Dean, artist and creator of the Pete the Cat series.

 One cool cat!

Guess who stopped by Words Bookstore in Maplewood, NJ? James Dean who, along with his wife Kimberly, writes and illustrates the Pete the Cat series! He enthralled a whole lot of children (and adults) with his blue Cat in the Hat hat and down-to-earth personality. Dean read from his new picture book, Pete the Kitty and the Groovy Playdate, sang the song from Pete the Cat, I Love My White Shoes, and drew Pete and Grumpy Toad. Fun!

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Pete the Kitty is super excited to visit his friend Grumpy Toad’s house for a playdate! Grumpy Toad has all the best toys: a truck, building blocks, and a superhero cape. Far out! It’s going to be cat-tastic!

But when Grumpy Toad refuses to share any of his cool toys with Pete, neither of them are having any fun. Will Grumpy Toad ever share his toys with his friend Pete?

In this easy-to-read and engaging picture book, little readers will learn all about sharingwith their favorite blue kitten!  Goodreads

A bunch of years ago, when visiting Cheekwood Botanical Garden in Nashville, TN, I came across a not-so-scary scarecrow of the famous blue cat. Meow!

Pete the Cat scarecrow.

The One and Only Ivan, Book Review

When you read a story, how does it make you feel? 

THE ONE and ONLY IVAN, a middle grade novel written by Katherine Applegate, illustrated by Patricia Castelao, and named the 2013 winner of the Newbery Medal made me curious (Will Ivan and his friends ever live a different life?), chagrined (“I was born in a place humans call central Africa, in a dense rain forest so beautiful, no crayons could ever do it justice.”), and introspective (“Humans waste words. They toss them like banana peels and leave them to rot. Everyone knows the peels are the best part.”). The story is layered and poignant. I cried.

“The One and Only Ivan is a work of fiction, but the inspiration for this imagined tale lies with a true story. Ivan, a real gorilla, lived at Zoo Atlanta, but on the way to that happy ending, he spent almost three decades without seeing another of his own kind before being moved to Zoo Atlanta in 1994.” (from The One And Only Ivan website.)

Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan’s unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope.   Goodreads.

Have you read this book? How did it make you feel?