101 Hilarious Pranks and Practical Jokes! New Middle Grade Book by Theresa Julian

Theresa Julian, critique partner, writer-friend, published author, and fellow triplets mom, can be called a humor expert. Her first book, The Joke Machine, teaches kids how they can increase their own funny factor. Her second book, 101 HILARIOUS PRANKS AND PRACTICAL JOKES, illustrated by Pat Lewis, is now out in the world! Woohoo! Darlene Beck-Jacobson added an excellent post to her blog “Gold From The Dust: Bringing Stories to Life,” in which Theresa gives potential pranksters a leg up by sharing tips from her book. Darlene’s post is re-blogged below.

Theresa says:

Did you know:

  • Cows moo with different accents – depending on where they live?
  • The bones in the human body are held together by marshmallow taffy?
  • Snakes don’t live in swamps, they live in potato chips cans, like this:

If you didn’t know these facts, it’s okay because – none of them are true. I’m pulling your leg. Kidding. Pranking you.

If there’s a little jokester in your life who wants to learn about pranking, check out 101 Hilarious Pranks & Practical Jokesa middle grade book written by me and illustrated by Pat Lewis. This super silly book includes – you guessed it – 101 pranks, AND explains how to pull the perfect trick.

The book teaches kids how to pace their prank, find the right attitude, and create a story around it. It explains how kids can kick their pranks up a notch through physical humor, which is using their body to make someone laugh. It’s using goofy faces, funny voices, slipping, tripping, and weird smells and sounds to make their pranks extra awesome.

Here are some tips from the book:

Attitude

Start a prank with the right attitude. How would you feel if you were really in the prank situation? If you’re pretending you’ve just won a million dollars, act thrilled. If you’re pretending you broke a window, act shocked. If you’ve filled the cabinet with ping-pong balls, act casual and wait for someone to open the door. Pick an attitude, commit to it, and sell it.

Story

Create an interesting story around your prank. Let’s say you want to convince your friend that your family has a “dead finger” collection and you’ve brought in your favorite one to show her. But, of course, it’s really just your finger in a box, covered in ketchup and avocado mush.

If you walk up to your friend and show her the box, it may not be very effective. But if you build it up with a story that draws her in, and then show the box, you’ll get a bigger reaction. 

Try creating a story like this: You crept down your creaky basement stairs; opened the rusty door to the back room; and gagged at the stench of rotting skin. When you turned on the light, you found that there, in your very own basement, was a dead-finger collection – probably great-grandpa’s from the war. Now, when you show the box, you’ll probably get the reaction you were looking for.

Pacing

A good prank is carefully paced, not blurted out or rushed.

Picture this: Your brother walks into the kitchen and hasn’t yet seen the fake tarantula on the cheese casserole. Do you jump up and yell, “Look at the cheese casserole, ha ha!”? No, of course not. You sit and wait, distract him with comments about how good you’ve been (which, is always true, right?), and wait for the time to be ripe. It’s sooo much better if he finds the hairy spider himself!

Funny Faces

Let’s face it, facial expressions are key to a good prank because they help sell your story. Picture a face that’s afraid, amazed, annoyed, or bored, like the ones below.

The right face can say a lot more than words. So when you’re pranking, let your face do the talking!

Kooky Arms & Legs

Get your whole body into the prank. If you tell your friend the rat in the garage is THIS BIG, fling out your arms and show just how big. If you’re pretending you’re about to vomit, clutch your stomach, moan and double over in pain. In the prankiverse, body language reinforces your story and paints a picture, and is often funnier than words.

Silly Voices and Sounds

Silly voices and sounds make pranks more believable and fun. If you’re pretending you’ve broken a window, download a crashing glass sound and play it on your phone or computer. If you’ll make a prank call, you’ll need to disguise your voice with an accent or different tone. Funny voices are fun to create and once you’ve nailed a few, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them!

Slipping, Tripping and Prat-falling

101 Hilarious Pranks & Practical Jokes teaches you how to pretend you’re slipping, tripping and falling, so you get the reaction you want. For example, here’s how to pretend you’re hitting your head on a door:

The book also explains how to crack your nose, bite off your finger, detach your head, spit out your teeth, push a pencil through your head, rip your eyeball out, slip in poop, and control gravity. You’re welcome.

So, if there’s a little prankster in your life who’s looking to learn completely ridiculous skills, such as how to use goofy faces, funny voices, bad smells, weird sounds, and smooth body moves to trick their friends, check out 101 HILARIOUS PRANKS AND PRACTICAL JOKES which goes on sale Sept. 28, 2021. Then — watch your back

Theresa Julian loves chocolate, changing her ringtones, and writing humorous books for middle graders. Her books have been featured in TIME for Kids magazine, the Barnes & Noble Kid’s Blog, and Today.com. Theresa is a graduate of Boston College and has a Master’s in Corporate Communications. After many years of writing business documents for large corporations, she’s now happily living on the beach, writing funny books for kids. Her mother claims Theresa spent most of first grade sleeping on her desk, but don’t worry, she’s awake now, dreaming up new ways to keep kids reading and laughing.

Connect with Theresa on http://www.TheresaJulian.com
Twitter: @Theresa_Julian
Instagram: @tm_julian

Show-n-Tell, Baby Cable Ridge Blanket

One of my nieces gave birth to a sweet baby girl!

The minute I heard about the pregnancy, my hands were itching to knit a baby blanket. I couldn’t decide between light pink or variegated yarn. I checked with the mom-to-be and it was decided–I’d combine a cool, modern yarn with a traditional pattern (shout out to Patty, the owner of Wool & Grace, who suggested the yarn and pattern). I hadn’t knit cables in a very long time (maybe not since college?) but, after a quick reminder, I was ready to go. I love how this Baby Cable Ridge Blanket turned out!

Details:

  • yarn–Malabrigo Rios, 100% Superwash Merino Wool, color “276 Medusa”
  • finished size–approximately 24″ x 32″ but after blocking, the one I knit is 27″ x 46″

The Vast of Night, Movie Review

Images source: imdb.com

Noises and Night and Unexplained Lights, Oh My!

Humans are eternally fascinated by the possibility of life on other planets. I never tire of movies about venturing into space (The Martian), encountering creatures we never imagined (Arrival), or contemplating a fourth dimension (Interstellar). Enter into this genre “The Vast of Night, a PG-13, 1 1/2 hour “micro-budget sci-fi indi” movie made in only 17 days on a tight budget of $700,000. Available on Amazon Prime Video, the movie starts as if it’s an episode of “Paradox Theatre Hour” (a play on “The Twilight Zone”) and follows high schoolers Everett and Faye as they enter their high school’s basketball game and then leave for their jobs as a radio show host and switchboard operator, respectively. Everett and Faye talk fast and walk quickly, and it isn’t until they leave the high school that you get to know them on a more personal level. Stick with them and you’ll be in for a ride. I was all in and can’t stop thinking about this movie–it was that good!

To get a full synopsis and review, check out Sheila O’Malley’s write-up for RogerEbert.com, in full, below.

‘There’s something in the sky.’

It’s a testament to what director Andrew Patterson has pulled off in his micro-budget sci-fi indie “The Vast of Night” that when that line comes, it feels like it’s the first time those words have ever been said, even though there’s a line just like it in every movie of its kind. Something about Patterson’s approach—precise and inventive—makes a moment that could have been a cliche into something fresh, vivid, filled with the strangeness of what it would really be like. The line is whispered into an eerie nighttime silence, and the mood is one of awe, terror, excitement. What is out there in the vast of night? There’s something in the sky. How on earth Patterson made a movie about a UFO hovering over a small town in the late 1950s without falling back on every cliche in the book is the fun and wonder of “The Vast of Night.” You already know the plot. You’ve seen it all before. But the way the story is told is new. With “The Vast of Night,” it really is about the how, not just the “what happens.”

The film opens at a high school basketball game. The entire town is in the stands. Lanky players lope around the court. Cheerleaders do cartwheels on the sidelines. Two high school kids, Everett (Jake Horowitz) and Fay (Sierra McCormick), leave the game and walk across the deserted town to their nighttime jobs. He hosts a nightly radio show, and she mans the town switchboard. Once ensconced at their jobs, they realize something strange is going on. There’s interference in the radio signals. She notices calls are cutting out. A weird sound comes through the line, a sound Fay doesn’t recognize. She calls Everett and plays it for him. He doesn’t know what it is either. A woman calls the switchboard, screaming through the static about something weird going on on the outskirts of town. But Fay can’t hear her through the fuzz. Fay and Everett are both technology nerds. They decide to figure out what is going on.

All of this is familiar territory to anyone who has seen “The Blob,” “The X-Files,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” “The Twilight Zone,” you name it. The trappings of the genre are present, and writers James Montague and Craig W. Sanger don’t shy away from any of it. They even place the entire film within a framing device of a black-and-white TV showing an episode of the “Paradox Theatre Hour.” This is just one of the distancing techniques in operation. The audience is kept at a slight remove. You notice it right away in the opening sequence, a long meandering take, following Everett and Fay as they walk through the gym and then outside into the parking lot, talking the whole time. The most obvious thing right off the bat is that there are no close-ups, nothing to familiarize us with the characters. Their dialogue is fast and overlapped, ridden with slang (“Razzle my berries.” “Cut the gas, cube”), and it takes some time to figure out what they’re talking about. This continues during their walk across the empty town, the camera stalking them from behind, gliding along creepily at street level.

But a funny thing happens during this opening sequence. In a way, the whole thing is alienating. It refuses to let you in. “The Vast of Night” doesn’t come to you. You must go to it. You must submit to its rules, and once you do, it yields tremendous rewards. Patterson’s style, in partnership with cinematographer M.I. Littin-Menz, infuses these well-worn plot points with urgency, creating an overriding mood of strangeness and mystery. By the time Patterson finally gives us close-ups of his two young leads, we already have gotten to know them, just from following them around. It’s old-fashioned in a beautiful way: once upon a time, a close-up really meant something, and close-ups really mean something in “The Vast of Night.”

The moments of technical virtuosity are amazing when you consider the budget and that Patterson basically funded the movie himself. There’s a tracking shot through what appears to be the entire town, down the main drag, around a corner, over some grass, past the power station, through the gym parking lot, into the crowded gym, and then out again. Another standout scene is a ten-minute single take where Fay, at the switchboard, takes calls, makes calls, plugging wires in, pulling wires out, each call with a different agenda, ignited by Fay’s increasing sense of alarm that something is very wrong “out there” in the vast night. It’s a complicated sequence, and McCormick handles it all with aplomb and skill. Patterson’s style is flexible and patient enough to allow for shadings, nuances, even complexities in not just Everett and Fay, but the people they meet along the way.

“The Vast of Night” is not just a stylistic exercise. It is not ironic in tone, and it doesn’t have quotation marks around the genre. The tail-finned cars, the saddle shoes, the cat-eye glasses, the Sputnik references, place us in time, but the period is not belabored and/or condescended to. Instead, what we get is a thickness of atmosphere and texture, a strange and eerie mood, and affection for the characters we meet. The distancing choices made at the beginning just increase the feelings of intimacy and warmth by the end.

This is an astonishing first feature. It works like gangbusters, start to finish.

Sheila O’Malley for RogerEbert.com

 

Muffin-Tin Turkey Meatloaf with Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Image source: delish.com

I admit it. I’m not a huge fan of ground turkey, but I like it when cooked in savory Turkey Chili. Searching for a new recipe for an out of town guest who is a fan, I came across Delish.com’s Muffin-Tin Turkey Meatloaf. Hubby made his yummy mashed potatoes to serve on top. We added roasted cauliflower and broccoli and a side of whole-berry cranberry sauce. The meal was a winner!

Happy cooking, hon.

Muffin-Tin Turkey Meatloaf

Ingredients:

  • cooking spray or baking cups, for muffin tin
  • 2 lbs ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • Freshly chopped parsley, for garnish
  • garlic mashed potatoes, click here for a recipe

Directions:

Yield: 12 mini turkey loafs

Tip: Cook ahead of time, freeze, defrost and re-heat for about 30 minutes on 325 degrees F.

Wedding Week Cont’d–Brides & Bubbles

When Aline and Cherie asked about throwing their wedding at our house, they wanted to know if we had any giant games. We used to have giant Pick Up Sticks and a picnic blanket-sized game of Checkers but, nope, we don’t have Cornhole or a giant Connect Four. They rented both and also brought bubbles. The games were a hit, and the bubbles were the best!

If you want to add giant soap bubbles to your next outdoor event, here’s what you’ll need:

  • big bucket
  • bubble wands
  • giant bubble solution
  • sense of magic

*Wands and giant bubble solution can be purchased or made.

(Click on each pic to view full photo.)

Wedding Week: DIY Flowers, Cake, Chuppah

Aline’s bridal bouquet, created by Wildly Floral Co., was a combination of pink anemones, yellow calla lilies, white daisies, craspedia yellow billy balls, and eucalyptus.
Cherie’s boutonnière echoed Aline’s bouquet.
Matching sparkly sneakers.

Aline and Cherie’s flowers, cake and chuppah were as sunny as the day! What made everything even more beautiful? The love and affection flowing from friends and family to the two brides. I loved the flowers–yellow and white with soft green accents, Aline’s lace dress, Cherie’s blue suit, and the couple’s matching sparkly sneakers.

Aline and Cherie’s friends built a chuppah out of birch logs. Wishes from friends and family were printed on green paper, cut into leaves, and laminated. Shout out to Aline’s sister Gavi for sewing the leaves onto the fabric that created the roof of the chuppah.

Aline assembled bouquets to adorn the chuppah.

The gorgeous, rustic-looking, strawberry shortcake wedding cake was baked by Cherie’s sister Cristal. Shout out to Cristal for maintaining her focus and composure while the house and yard buzzed with people setting up and arriving from out of town.

Wedding Week: Table Decor

Visual interest was created by the use of both farm and regular tables.

It’s amazing how tents, tables and chairs can transform a space, especially after tables are decorated. At my niece’s wedding in our backyard, a pretty and relaxed tone was set with gauze runners, long boughs of eucalyptus, small and medium bud vases, wood-framed photos, and wooden coasters. Hon, you know I love texture and color, so I found the play of filmy blue fabric, soft green leaves, sharp wooden edges, smooth clear glass, and bright yellow flowers a pleasing combination.





Tents, tables and chairs created places to gather and eat.

Set on top of light blue gauze runners, eucalyptus boughs encircled wooden frames, bud vases and wooden coasters.

My niece created DIY decorations/favors by modge-podging photos onto wooden coasters.

Aline and Cherie’s dog, Mochi, may have been with a dog sitter, but she was there in spirit.

Wedding Week: DIY Chocolate Favors

Chocolate wedding favors.

My niece got married in our backyard this past Saturday, so this week is Wedding Week–pics of the beautiful event!

You know what happens when I get an idea in my head? It swirls around, taking up space and not letting go, until I write, do, or make the thing! This goes for story ideas, preschool crafts, store displays, party favors and so much more. Maybe this is why I feel compelled to take on multiple projects–the only way to stop the swirling and get a good night’s sleep is to act on the ideas. Call is creativity overload!

My niece didn’t ask, but chocolate wedding favors got in my head, so I bought molds, melties and favor bags and got to work. And how nice was this? I called my favorite source for molds, cookie cutters, melties and sprinkles and the like, Sweet n Fancy Emporium in Cranford, NJ, to check that they had the molds I wanted in stock. I was running late but the new owner, Amanda, had a hunch I was still on my way and waited for me before she closed! So-umm-sweet!

DIY chocolate favors are so easy. Here are the steps:

  1. Melt chocolate melties or chips in the microwave, first on 50% power for 30 seconds and then full power for 15 second intervals, stirring in between. Chocolate is ready when it’s shiny and liquidy.
  2. Spoon into molds.
  3. Place in freezer for 5 minutes (no more!)
  4. Pop chocolates out of molds.
  5. Clean edges of chocolates if needed.
  6. Bag and hand out.

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

Poem “For Our World”

I wanted to post a poem on 9/11 and found “For Our World” by teen poet Mattie Stepanek. Though my memories flooded back and I wrote “Who Can Forget?”, Stepanek’s poem is as relevant now as the day it was written. The poem addresses strife in our world while, also, speaking to anguish on a personal level. On Yom Kippur, the most solemn day of the Jewish year, we ask G-d and our loved ones to forgive us for our sins as we contemplate our mortality.

And. And, this year is the 5th anniversary of my mom’s and, three weeks later, sister-in-law’s passings. My mom would have been 80 and Sharon would have been 60. When my mom thought, for a brief moment, that she might live, she talked about what she wanted to do with her future. Up until her diagnosis of lung cancer, she’d spent most of her time working, with some time for reading and gardening. Granted, she had an amazing career as an award-winning investigative journalist and editor, but she lamented not finding something else besides occasionally spending time with friends and grandchildren that brought her joy. My mom said she wanted to volunteer at Stella Maris, a long-term care facility where she’d interviewed the nuns.

My mother-in-law, an 86 year old Holocaust survivor, whose health has recently declined, has also been talking about what she’d like to do in her future. When is the right time to add into our lives “the blessing of songs that grow in our hearts?”

The culmination of the Days of Awe is the fast day of Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement). This is the day…according to tradition, God seals the Books of Life and Death for the coming year. The day is devoted to communal repentance for sins committed over the course of the previous year. Because of the nature of Yom Kippur and its associated rituals, it is the most solemn day in the Jewish calendar.

My Jewish Learning

For Our World

We need to stop.
Just stop.
Stop for a moment.
Before anybody
Says or does anything
That may hurt anyone else.


We need to be silent.
Just silent.
Silent for a moment.
Before we forever lose
The blessing of songs
That grow in our hearts.


We need to notice.
Just notice.
Notice for a moment.
Before the future slips away
Into ashes and dust of humility.


Stop, be silent, and notice.


In so many ways, we are the same.
Our differences are unique treasures.
We have, we are, a mosaic of gifts
To nurture, to offer, to accept.


We need to be.
Just be.
Be for a moment.


Kind and gentle, innocent and trusting,
Like children and lambs,
Never judging or vengeful
Like the judging and vengeful.


And now, let us pray,
Differently, yet together,
Before there is no earth, no life,
No chance for peace.

September 11, 2001

© Matthew Joseph Thaddeus Stepanek 1990 -2004
from Hope Through Heartsongs, Hyperion, 2002

Mattie Stepanek was 11 years old when he wrote this poem on the day of 9-11.
Sadly he passed away in 2004 after a long battle with Dysautonomic Mitochondrial Myopathy.
You can learn more about his brief, amazing, inspiring life at his website: http://www.mattieonline.com/

9/11 Who Can Forget?

Image source, Louie Lighting

On the 20th anniversary of 9/11,

Who Can Forget?

Our nation’s loss of innocence,

a class parents’ meeting at elementary school,

the nurse whispering in the principal’s ear,

one mom fleeing upon hearing the news

implementing the emergency call system,

watching annihilation in real time,

screaming and crying at the t.v.,

clinging to my three-month old baby,

rushing my triplet seven year olds home,

my son vowing to become a soldier,

praying for my husband who worked in Manhattan,

fielding concerned calls from across the country,

learning that a friend ran to the city to canvas hospitals

while her children stayed at a neighbor’s

for days,

hugging my husband when he walked in the door,

witnessing smoke curling into the heavens

from an altered skyline,

passing empty cars in parking lots,

working at a childrens boutique,

crying with customers who were dressing their children

for parents’ funerals,

learning whose spouses came home

and whose didn’t,

attending the funeral for my friend’s husband,

and recognizing how unspeakable horror

wreaks everlasting destruction

on hearts, minds and lives.