Friday, December 30, 2005

Woke up to what sounds like ping pong balls dropping onto the floor above our bedroom ceiling. Been hearing this off and on since we moved here but have yet been able to figure it out. The owner is out of town and we still hear it. Reminds me of Captain Kangaroo, bunny, and moose and ping pong balls that would fall from the ceiling. Boy am I old!

No yachts out in the bay today. Jimmy Buffett was here on one of his boats a couple of weeks ago. A friend of Steve's who works at a marina told him, but we never saw Buffett or his boat/yacht. We stopped at Sop Choppies about the same time and the bartender said Kenny Chesney and Kid Rock had been in for drinks that past weekend. We old folks are long in bed before the celebrities hit the bars. Lots of celebrities visit the VI but I have yet to see one. Even John Travolta has come through with his private jet. Now he is a celebrity I wouldn't mind meeting. :-)

Was going through my book shelves and found a copy of Connie May Fowler's Before Women Had Wings, that I bought several years ago, but never got around to reading. Fowler is a gifted writer and her use of innocent 8-year-old Bird as the narrator of this tale of family suicide and abuse makes this novel so raw and painful that a couple of times I closed it and walked away for a bit before I went back to it. Bird tries so hard to be as perfect and quiet as she can, but as a bright young child that isn't always possible and she bears the physical and emotional scars from the lashings she receives from both the belts and tongues of her alcoholic parents. Bird begs the Jesus in the dime store picture her Catholic mother put on the wall to help her family but to no avail. After her father has her mother beaten up to "keep her at home" and then shoots himself, Bird and her older sister find themselves living in a travel trailer with their bitter and angry mother. Bird's savior comes in the form of Miss Zora, an eccentric black woman. My heart still hurts for Bird, even though my head knows she is a fictional character. However, her life is all too real for many children.

Before Women Had Wings is the perfect example of the adult novel with a child protagonist, that certainly is not meant for a child reader. The themes are adult and the language is strong. It reminds me a bit of This is Graceanne's Book by P.L. Whitney in which the narrator is young Charlie, who adores his 12 year old sister GraceAnne. She is the target of abuse by her alcoholic mother, but Graceanne is one strong willed girl and her love for life is stronger than the belt. Whitney's descriptive writing is so beautiful that the Mississippi river stands out as a character itself. I would recommend both of these books to older teens, but they are certainly not YA novels.

On a brighter note - I also read Michael Dooling's delightful picture book biography, Young Thomas Edison. After hard-of-hearing Edison was called addled by his teacher, his mother - once a teacher herself- homeschooled Edison, where he read widely and experimented in his home lab for hours. Always looking for money for his lab equipment, Edison began selling newspapers on a train - that is until he set fire to the baggage car, where he had a mobile lab set up. Biographies can often be quite boring to children, but this one is interesting and funny. Dooling visited the locations he writes about and this is clear in the detail and authenticity of the high quality illustrations. A top notch addition to any children's biography section.

Back to working on Spring course syllabi.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

What a gorgeous day out there. Two dive boats out by the rocks, a yacht, 2 catamarans, and a mono-hull sailboat passing by. There were several jet skiers earlier. Makes me nervous to see them in the same area as the ferries going to St. John and Tortola.

I should have never made the comment about wishing for another day with both of us home. Poor Steve - he ended up having a relapse of the flu and came home Tuesday early afternoon and spent most of the last two days sleeping or looking miserable on the couch. I haven't caught it yet, but he had the air so cold last night I now have an aching upper back from the cold air blowing on it. I feel like I have an invisible neck brace on to keep my head still or my back twinges. Whine! Whine! Whine!

But, I did finish Melissa De La Cruz's second Au Pairs title, Skinny-Dipping while I lay on the heating pad for a bit this a.m.. Talk about a vicarious look into the rich and bratty in the Hamptons during a summer of smoozing with the celebrities, drinking, and hooking up. The reader gets swept up into the club and rich family scene that Eliza, Mara, and Jacqui are involved in. Eliza decides to work in the hottest club in the Hamptons and discovers that babysitting the celebrities is a lot harder than babysitting the filthy rich Perry kids, which she had done the summer before with Mara and Jacqui. Eliza is replaced by Philippe, a lazy, but delicious to look at piece of French eye candy. After a summer of misunderstandings, reality checks, and a hurricane - Eliza, Mara, and Jacqui rekindle their shaky friendship with plans for a third summer in the Hamptons. I just hope the teens who read about the Au Pairs can see beyond the Versace dresses and BMWs to how shallow this life can be. Mara's 15-minutes of fame as the It-Girl and her painful tumble back to reality is the best part of the story. My heart also went out to little Madison Perry - 11 years old and already weighing a chicken breast and worrying about her weight. Guess she is trying to be like her big sisters, Sugar and Poppy.

The reception Mara got after she fell from fame is as cold as the Arctic setting for Cold Paws, Warm Heart by Madeleine Floyd. What a delightful winter storytime option, with a "cool" message. Floyd states the the book came about after she painted a picture of a polar bear being offered a cup of hot chocolate - a random act of kindness that is just right for a polar bear! After reading about the nasty things the rich brats do to each other I was happy to spend some time savoring this picture book about an unlikely friendship between a very lonely and cold polar bear and a little girl who was enchanted by the lonely bear's flute music and decides to follow it. The village stories say that no one lived across the ice except for Cold Paws, a polar bear so big and so cold that if you touched him you would turn to ice. But Hannah couldn't resist the music and found Cold Paws, with a gentle smile on his face, playing his flute. But then Cold Paws let out a terrible shiver. Hannah knew what it felt like to be terribly cold and stepped forward and offered the polar bear her scarf. It warmed his heart and body a little bit, but Cold Paws was still COLD!! Hannah had a better idea for warming him up - she returned to teach him jumping jacks. He was pretty clumsy at it but he tried and it did make Hannah laugh and Cold Paws smile, but he was still COLD!! Hannah's third attempt to warm up Cold Paws did the trick - a cup of hot chocolate and a hug. Friendship can be the warmest comforter in the Arctic. :-) Love this book!

That's it for now.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Sophie and I have the apartment back to ourselves - not so sure I am happy about that. I really enjoyed Steve and I being home together on a mini at home vacation. We watched movies and ate! Oh boy did we eat! We pigged out on turkey, ham, and pumpkin/pecan pie. OINK!! I won't even mention the all but the kitchen sink oatmeal cookies I made that didn't last 3 days. We convinced ourselves since there was oatmeal and sugar free applesauce in them they had to be calorie free!

Yesterday was our last day to be lazy so we hit Blockbuster again. I picked Must Love Dogs with Diane Lane and John Cusak (my favorite guy actor). What a fun chick flick. I think Steve even liked it. I fell in love with the Newfoundland called Mother Theresa. Now that is a dog to share a bed with when no guy is around! :-) Then we watched one of Steve's picks. Oh boy! He has this thing for picking really weird and/or pointless movies. The Fortunes fits both - weird and pointless. Let's add boring to it as well! But, when a movie is that bad you hang with it hoping it will have a redeeming scene or two. Well, it had one - the arrogant jerk of the three friends gets hit over the head with a bottle by a midget, for calling him Little Guy. A midget, by the way, who has been in prison four times. They didn't say if it was for attacking other jerks who called him Little Guy or not. It is called Fortunes because the three guys stop at a fortune tellers who tells the married guy that something dreadful is going to happen to his son and he freaks out by being over protective to the extreme. The other guys goes into depression and starts hanging out at topless bars. Anyway - don't bother watching it.

But, I did read a great beach book during the break - The Botox Diaries by Janice Kaplan and Lynn Schnumberger. Chic lit for the middle aged! :-) Two 41 year old best friends - one a high power producer and the other just a regular suburban mom. Midlife crisis hits the happily married producer and she has an affair with a shallow game show type host while level headed best friend is helping produce a child production of My Fair Lady. All around fun beach read for those of us who are past the midriff tops and mini skirt stage in our lives. :-)

Not exactly in the Holiday vein, I also read Todd Strasser's Can't Get There From Here. It is not a pretty happy read by any means of the word, but a must read for any teen who thinks living on the streets is easy or glamorous. Just ask Strasser's street wise but doomed teens who are living on the streets of New York City, dealing with frigid temperatures and dying from alcohol poisoning, strangulation and AIDS. Maybe is the main character - a girl who ran away from an abusive home. It is 12 year-old Tears who makes Maybe look for help. She accepts the help of a public librarian, who in reality should not have opened his office or his home to these girls without calling in the authorities, but I have to remind myself this is a novel. And, he is the one who makes sure Tears is safe with her grandparents and helps Maybe realize that the group home may not be such a bad place after all. Strasser has a way of going for the gut reaction and he does it again in Can't Get There From Here. Is right up there with his Give a Boy a Gun as to books for the reluctant teen reader.

Can't leave this entry on a downer. For a wonderful musical smile check out Niki Daly's Ruby Sings the Blues. I chuckled all the way through this book as I remember my brothers telling me I was too loud. It was the only way I could get attention in a house with three older brothers! Ruby is having problems with her volume control both in the neighborhood and at home. When the kids at school tell her to turn her volume off she does. Ruby has the blues. But, the jazz players miss her booming voice and invite to her to learn how to sing the blues and she is AWESOME!! A wonderful feel good book to give to any little girl who is quite boisterous. Just the thing for our granddaughter Allyson. :-)

By the way - ignore the times it says I post these. For some reason I can't change that anymore and it always wrong! I can assure you I don't post anything at 4 a.m. as one of them listed the time.

Monday, December 26, 2005

The day after Christmas and we are both sitting here with our laptops watching old TV shows. Matlock is on right now. We wallowed in food and movies yesterday. I made both a turkey breast and a ham. We had turkey sandwiches for lunch and ham and the fixings for dinner. We were so full we didn't even get into the pecan pies I made. The law clerk and her boyfriend decided not to come over after all so we will be eating ham and turkey sandwiches and casseroles for days!

We watched The Polar Express in the morning. Other than the somewhat creepy elves I really liked it. Steve gave me the DVD and little Polar Express train for my birthday. I was saving it for Christmas. Then we watched part of Carnivale, the creepy series set in the Depression, about a carnival group with powers beyond what one would expect of carnies. Took a drive downtown to Blockbuster to pick up a couple more movies. We were suprised by the amount of traffic. Thought we were the only crazies out and about. I picked the movie version of of John Grisham's Skipping Christmas. I read it last Christmas and wanted to go see Christmas with the Kranks, but we just didn't get around to it. So when I saw it at Blockbuster I had to see it. I laughed my way through it and loved all the neighborhood lights. Then we watched Kate Hudson in The Skeleton Key, a creepy hoo-doo (Louisiana version of voodoo) movie set outside of New Orleans. The ending gave me the willies.

My last Christmas book for the season - The Golden Ring by John Snyder. What a lovely novel based on the true story the author's grandmother told him about the ring she wore on her little finger. In coal country Pennsylvania in the early 1900s, lived young Anna and her 4 brothers and sisters. Her father worked on the railroad and was caught in a snowstorm on Christmas Eve. While waiting for the snow to stop he finds a golden ring and talks to the woman who is selling it. It is her dead daughter's ring and she must sell it to pay bills. Anna's father buys it and then tells the carollers outside about the woman's plight and they begin to collect money for her. Anna loves her replacement ring - she had given her's away to a family who were down on their luck. A very touching book about the spirit of giving.

I am not a big Seinfeld fan so I didn't have my hopes up as to liking it when I saw a book by Jason Alexander - who plays my least favorite character on that show. But, I like him better as a caring father who comes up with a believable answer to his son's questions about the reality of the tooth fairy in Dad, Are You the Tooth Fairy? The illustrations by Ron Spears are an absolute delight and require several viewings to catch all of the humor that resides in the action and fantasy character packed pages. This is a fun one, and I am glad to see a Dad explaining about fairies.

All for now. I am going make a turkey and cranberry sauce sandwich. Yum!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas Eve! I spent a relaxing morning reading in bed with Sophie purring in my lap. We are headed into town to check the mail one more time - Steve wasn't quite as timely in his online shopping as I was. We'll go to Tickles for lunch as he wants a piece of they key lime pie! I found a great pumpkin and pecan pie recipe I am going to make this afternoon.

Yesterday as I was headed into the kitchen for my second cup of tea the power went out. It was out for 4 hours. I sat outside and read Shelley Hrdlitschka's Sun Signs. As someone who checks out her astrological prediction on the Yahoo web site each day I jumped right in. A very easy read as it is written as emails amongst a group of online students and their teacher, as well as the main character, Kaleigh's "letters"/journal entries to her immortal Gemini twin. Kaleigh is taking Science online because she has cancer and has been going through treatments. She decides to do her science experiment on the validity of astrological daily charts. She enlists three of her fellow online students to read and evaluate their daily charts as to whether they are valid or not. What she does find is that not everyone is who they say they are online. A short and sweet book about a girl coping with her illness and discovering a bit about herself and the other teens she interacts with. A fun read to offer to the girls who love TTYL.

All for now - I hear Steve up and about. He is still suffering from the nasty head cold type flu that is going around.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Lots of activity in the neighborhood this a.m. You can tell it is the Holiday Season - kids outside playing and laughing. Jet skis zipping around the bay, sailboats with happy tourists laughing and singing as they go by. Oh how I love this time of year. My cousin Karen called last night and we talked about our Gramma and when we were kids. She mentioned our very Finnish Gramma's insistence on her lace doilies being just so on the arms of the chairs. Now I know why Steve has nicknamed me Nils (from the Fraizer TV show) - I am persnickety. I think I got it from Gramma!

I am listening to Reba McEntire's Christmas CD as I type. I have many of the country singers' Christmas CDs as they remind me of the Patsy Cline and Lynn Anderson albums my mom used to play when I was a kid. Reba may have written two autobiographical books, but she hasn't delved into the picture book and novel writing as some of the other country musicians have. Have always enjoyed Kenny Rogers' music so I thought his book can't be too bad as it is co- written with Donald Davenport, a screen and television writer. I was right - I really did enjoy Christmas in Canaan. Middle school age DJ needs an attitude adjustment when he can't handle Rodney, a very smart black kid, telling him the right answer on the Social Studies homework assignment he is trying to finish on the bus. They get into a fight at school and as punishment DJ's East Texas farmer Dad decides the two boys need to spend a couple of days in each other's homes. The 24 hour togetherness and DJ and Rodney nursing a shot puppy back to health seals the bonds of a lifelong friendship between the two boys, but that bond is severed for a time when Rodney's mother appears and takes him with her to California where he becomes a writer. He writes and produces plays about his and DJ's life in Canaan, Texas. Having spent time in East Texas I loved this book. For the kids who enjoyed Armstrong's Sounder, or any other boy and his dog books, offer them Christmas in Canaan.

Yesterday I wrote about a book in which the cat had become a guardian angel. Today I am sharing an old favorite from the 1970s, The Christmas Cat by Elfer Tudor Holmes, illustrated by her mother, Tasha Tudor. An abandoned cat is found by the woodsman who feeds the animals on Christmas Eve. He delivers the cat to the farm of young Nate and Jason, who are delighted to wake up and find their new Christmas pet curled up sleeping in a chair by the fireplace. Included is the Gingerbread Animal Cookie recipe for the cookies Jake and Nate had been decorating in the story.

A fun Christmas gift would be both The Christmas Cat and The Tasha Tudor Cookbook: Recipes and Reminiscences from Corgi Cottage for the mom who loves to cook and bake with her kids. I can close my eyes and see my kids with red and green stained fingers and mouths from "helping" me color the frosting for the sugar cookies. One year Mary was on a blue kick and we had more blue Christmas trees and reindeer than we did green or brown ones. :-) They tasted great anyway - the love is the needed ingredient in all Christmas cookies. And, for the rum ball - only Captain Morgan's spiced rum. :-)

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Okay - so I should have kept my big mouth shut about the gorgeous Holiday Season weather we were having! Woke up to cloudy skies and now it is raining. Poor tourists! Happy cisterns!

I've always known I have weird dreams, but to wake up with tongue twisters going through my head! How weird is that? Let's hope the rest of this day is not as strange. Here's what was going through my head: Absentminded Amos ate an astounding amount of apples before admitting to an awful abdominal ache. Hmmm - wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that we went to dinner at Bonnie's by the Sea and I had chicken marinara and the garlic in the sauce was playing havoc with me later last night. Even eating Paul Newman's chocolate chip cookies while watching the b/w version of Holiday Inn with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire (not the colorized version - not the real thing) didn't distract me from the "abdominal ache"! So I added to the weirdness by having applesauce with my bagel this a.m.!

The atmosphere at Bonnie's was so relaxing. It wasn't very busy so we sat right next to the beach and watched the kids playing in the hammocks set up in the palm trees. Some of the condos had Christmas lights up and so did the nearby Arthur's restaurant. We watched a family come in from their sailboat by dinghy to have dinner. Oh the island life!

While going through my Christmas books I came across my first edition of Miracle on 34th Street by Valentine Davies, published in 1947 by Harcourt Brace. The dust jacket is in bad shape but I couldn't resist it for my Christmas book collection when I saw it in a used bookstore. Trying not to damage it any further, I curled up with it and enjoyed the print version of the story we all know and love as little Susan (Natalie Woods in the original b/w version of the movie) learns the truth about Kris Kringle and how important it is to believe in miracles. The novel was written based on the movie screenplay so there aren't any surprises, but I wasn't expecting any - just a visit with an old friend in a different format. The kids and I used to watch the original version every year and often the newer one with Sebastian Cabot as Kris Kringle. The kids liked it, but I love the old black and white "first editions". Harcourt published a facsimile edition of the 1947 edition in 2001 so it is available to share with your children. There is also an edition with illustrations by Tomie De Paola, but it just isn't the same.

Wish Allyson and MJ were sitting here with me while I just read Karma Wilson's Bear Stays Up - a delightful Christmas eve story about Bear and his friends decorating his cave for Christmas while he fights sleep, but when his friends fall asleep bear cooks and wraps presents while Santa sneaks in and fills the stockings. Bear wakes his friends on Christmas morning to open presents and feast and then they give him a bear sized quilt to bundle up in as he finishes his winter's nap. I fell in love with Bear and his friends in Bear Snores On, which was a bestseller and an ALA Notable book. Wilson also wrote Bear Wants More. These are wonder storytime books as they have such rhythm and rhyme and the illustrations are large enough for the kids to see.

On to working on syllabi for the Spring semester!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Another breezy and beautiful day in the islands. The sailors are having a great time with the breezes - there have been sailboats going to and from Buck Island all day. The day sails go out there snorkeling. I don't remember last December being this beautiful weather wise, but I am not complaining.

Still on my Christmas book reading kick - I grabbed the copy of Avi's The Christmas Rat that had been sitting on my shelf because the idea of a 11 year old boy dealing with a creepy exterminator intent on killing the rat that Eric found in the box of Christmas decorations in the basement of their apartment building didn't sound very cheerful. Well, it isn't! Granted, booktalking this one with boys will get them interested, but I was just creeped out by the militant white haired exterminator whose desire was to kill. He had a bow that shot bolts! Eric does save the Christmas Rat, but who the exterminator turns out to be was just too much for me. Couldn't bend my sense of disbelief around this one, but I do know middle school boys who will delight in this book, just not me. Had to turn on the joyful Christmas music full blast to get the rat poison taste out of my mouth from this one!

On the other hand I snort laughed my way through Roald Dahl's delightful The Vicar of Nibbleswicke, which he wrote for the Dyslexia Institute. Poor young Reverend Lee! He had conquered his unique version of dyslexia until he takes on his first church assignment. His nervousness gets the best of his tongue and he keeps getting words quite backwards. His congregation just thought him a bit eccentric and enjoyed the changes that occurred to words during his doG-fearing sermons. But I don't think the maiden lady Miss Prewt appreciated being called Miss Twerp when he visited her. She slammed the door in his face when he asserted, "I am Eel, Ms. Twerp! I am the new rotsap, the new ravic of Nibbleswicke! Dog help me!" This is only page 23 and I have already woken Steve twice with my snort laughs (problem with reading late at night)! But I had to leave the bedroom when I began to read about the parking problem in front of the church. "It is not only unsightly but it is also dangerous. If you all krap at the same time all along the side of the road you could be hit by a passing car at any time. There is plenty of room for you to do this alongside the church on the south side if you feel you must." Reverend Lee's congregation may have been dumbfounded into silence by their pastor's remarks but this reader was laughing so hard she had tears rolling down here face. I just hope I never come down with a bout of Back-to-Front Dyslexia while I am in front of a class lecturing or presenting at a conference! ;-) This book is 40 pages of Dahl's wit and Quentin Blake's hilarious illustrations.

And on that potty humor note I will conclude!

Monday, December 19, 2005

What a terrible blogger I have been of late. Too much going on at the end of the semester and online Christmas shopping, etc. Here it is the Monday before Christmas and I think I have caught up. I got both snail mail and e-card Christmas greetings sent out and only have a few more packages for Steve to wrap.

Been reading Christmas books, of course. While barcoding and entering MARC records into Destiny at Montessori last week I came across the 1952 edition of Frances Frost's novel version of Gian-Carlo Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors. What a lovely look at the Three Kings on their way to greet the Christ Child. They stop for a rest at Amahl's home and the shepherds joined them to entertain the Kings. Amahl's crippled leg is healed and he joins the Kings as they journey on, following the star. One has to love this characterization of Kasper - almost deaf and a bit childlike. Brings a smile to the reader's face, if not a chuckle. Would make a lovely family read aloud for the Holidays. Not sure if it is still in print, but if so, it would be a fine addition to any library, personal or otherwise.

This is the time of the year we also think of angels. A number of years ago, not long after my Mom and son Mic died within months of each other, I visited a psychic at a Renaissance Festival and she told me I had two guardian angels on my shoulder. I just smiled as I already knew that - Mom and Mic! Steve and I went to Tortola for Thanksgiving and we were driving back to the Resort from town and got caught behind a truck with two very large pallets of shrink wrapped "towers" of boxes and bags. As we started up a hill I knew one of them was going to fall off of the truck and quietly told Steve not to get too close to him. Don't ask me why I knew - I just did. There was such a certainly that it would happen I didn't even question it. Sure enough, after Steve slowed down and let the truck pull ahead one of the pallets came off the back - it would have landed on the front of the Jeep we were driving if we had been right behind him as we had been. I said a quiet thank you to my guardian angels and we proceeded to have a wonderful rest of our short holiday.

Guardian angels aren't always human. It isn't easy for children to deal with death and Angel Cat by Michael Garland is a touching story of a family's guardian angel cat that wakes the youngest child when an ember from the fireplace catches the rug on fire. Even though Garland's illustrations were done electronically, they are beautiful - especially the one of the other cat playing with his angelic counterpart. You might recognize Garland's name from his The Mouse before Christmas.

If you are a TV watcher, catch The Three Wise Guys if it is shown again this season. A funny modern "baby born in a stable story" with a pregnant Vegas dancer running from three hit men. Of course, there is a bit of a love story here too. Was a nice diversion as I wrote Christmas cards yesterday.

All for now - need to find the top of my desk and wrap a couple more presents!

Monday, December 12, 2005

What a Christmas Concert we went to last night at the Reichhold Center for the Arts outdoor theater on the University of the Virgin Islands campus. It was the Rising Stars - a 150+ member steel pan group that is sponsored by the Virgin Islands Superior Court, where Steve works. These young people were incredible! They played everything from classical, to hymns, to delightful Christmas music. During the intermission Santa and Mrs. Claus appeared and handed out gifts to the little ones in the audience. The Rising Stars and their young conductor were a joy to watch. The only disappointment is that the theater was not full - these young musicians need support all year, not just during Carnival.

Celebrating the Holidays in the islands is certainly different from where I grew up - Upper Michigan. I miss seeing all the Christmas lights and the Santa's sleighs on the roof, actually in snow. So it isn't surprising that I thoroughly enjoyed reading Will Weaver's Full Service. It may take place during the summer of 1965, but it is set in rural Minnesota, very much like Upper Michigan with the lakes and summer tourists who come from Lower Michigan and Chicago. Paul is the only son in a farm family who are part of a fundamentalist religious group similar to the Quakers or Amish. They gather for services in each other homes and join together to harvest their crops. So it is no surprise that the other young men are more than put out when Paul's mother insists he learn about the outside world and takes him into town (Hawk Bend, popular 1,750) to get a summer job. While pumping gas at the Shell station Paul learns many of the residents' secrets and finds reasons for a few of his own, especially in relation to Janet, the daughter of the hippie couple living on their farm until they can get their van fixed. They are on the farm because Paul saw one of the other station workers tamper with the van, causing the oil to drain out. Paul is questioning his family's way of life after being exposed to retired gangsters, pretty school band leaders who aren't who they seem to be, and to a family of pot smoking hippies. A well written, poignantly funny coming-of-age story. A must have for all YA collections. I enjoyed this book so much I am tempted to find my copies of Weaver's Billy Baggs' baseball books, Hard Ball, Striking Out, and Farm Team, and read them again.

Winter time, even while living in the tropics, has me in the needlework mood. I am working on Christmas stocking at the moment, but am looking through the projects in Shannon Okey's knitgrrl. This Watson-Guptill title has color photographs of the finished projects and easy to ready directions. One of them is a bag for an Ipod, with a spot for speakers too! Remember Olivia Newton John bouncing around getting physical in her legwarmers? Well, you can knit your own set of legwarmers too. :-) My favorite is the fuzzy yarn soda cozy. With all the knitting groups for teens being formed this is a great addition to a YA collection.

That's it for day. Only 12 days until Christmas! Those online orders had better get here in time.

Friday, December 09, 2005

What a dark and dreary day here in the islands. Oh well, I can't complain - the last few days have been gloriously sunny and bright. This time of the year the sun beats on the porch in the afternoon and the boards get so hot you don't want to stand on them. If I wanted to be baked I sure could do it out there, but not today. I am sitting here with mango flavored tea in my snowman and snowflake cup so I am happy, especially since it does not taste like Starbucks coffee! I made the mistake of craving coffee and making two small pots of it. Not only did I remember why I don't drink coffee - it makes me really hyper and leaves a nasty taste in my mouth for hours after - the flavor stayed in my tea pot until I ran two sets of vinegar and water through it. I am definitely over my coffee craving!

Found out from the owner last night that we are the only ones in Little Taj by the Sea who are staying on island for Christmas. So poor Steve gets to deal with the darn cistern water pump when it acts up. Seems to do that whenever we have a power outage or surge. Oh well, at least I can play my Christmas music as loud as I want to! Right now I am listening to the songs from Michael McLean's The Forgotten Carols. It is both a book and a musical stage show. I read the book this a.m. and it is wonderful. A no nonsense nurse takes on the care of crazy "Uncle John" who says he was there when Jesus was born and talked to the Inn Keeper, the shepherds, etc. He sings the forgotten carols from the perspective of these secondary Nativity characters. Her hard heart melts and she forgives her parents who showed her no love. The music is as beautiful as the story. A perfect Christmas gift for anyone who loves the Nativity story. Very accessible for teens. McLean also created the movies Mr Kruger's Christmas and Nora's Christmas Gift, neither of which I have seen. Now I am intrigued and will check to see if I can get them through Blockbuster online.

Still in my Christmas mood, I read a Carolyn Hart Christmas setting Death on Demand Mystery - Sugarplum Dead. It was not one of my favorite books but then again I am into this type of mystery. I bought it because of the Christmas time setting. I kept saying to myself - get on with it and the solve the dang thing already! Annie and Max Darling work together to figure out who murdered a movie star's sister and then her. Who in their greedy family was willing to kill before the aging movie star gave her fortune to a charlatan who has convinced her he has helped her communicate with her dead husband? After 405 pages I was more than ready for the murders to be solved. I think I had quit caring who did it but I had to finish the book to find out! But, with one of the murder suspects being a 14 year old girl teens who love mysteries may enjoy this book.

That's it for me today. Gotta get the scissors and cut the plastic off the the three CD set of Christmas songs Steve brought home last night. Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Louis Armstrong - be still my jingle belling heart. :-)

Monday, December 05, 2005

Good morning all. It seems so weird to have the Christmas tree up while the hedges are in full bloom! Not exactly like the Upper Michigan cold and snowy Holiday Season I grew up with. Talked to Mary the other day and she said it was 10 degrees in Green Bay. BRRR!! It is so hot outside in the sun right now that my eyelids were sweating when I was out on the deck. Not exactly the weather to get into a "chestnuts roasting by an open fire" type of mood!

Steve took me to St. John for my birthday. We took the car ferry over and stayed at Westin Resort. We hadn't been on that part of St. John before and it is quiet and lovely. The Westin is a gorgeous resort that does not allow cars beyond the registration area and the parking lot. They have carts to take you up to the rooms, the pool, the restaurant, etc. if you don't want to walk. We had time to sit in the hot tub (they have 2), swim in the huge pool and the ocean before we sat and watched the sun set. The weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are slow so locals can get a decent rate - otherwise this is pricey resort. We drove into Cruz Bay to have dinner but there wasn't a parking place to be had. We drove the loop several times, but I didn't mind as I was busy people and Christmas light watching. We ended up back at the Westin open air restaurant, which was fine with me as it was gorgeous and the steel pan music was a kick. Ever heard Sinatra's My Way in steel pan? It is interesting to say the least! :-) By then I was happy to crawl into the downy Westin bed. This is my favorite hotel because of the comfy beds with all the down pills, blanket and duvet. I keep telling Steve I want to buy a King size Westin bed - and you can, for about $3200.

But, before our wonderful trip to St. John I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon with Jason Wells from Abrams. He was on island for a friend's wedding so I showed him the local St. Thomas that the rest of us see and he had his first West Indian roti at Fungi's. It was great fun and I was delighted that he brought me the ARC for Lauren Myracle's ttfn. Oh, what fun! I love ttyl and so do the MS/HS girls at Montessori. One brings it back so another can check it out! Teenage girls will be delighted to hear Zoe (zoegirl), Angela (SnowAngel), and Maddie (mad maddie) are back in another e-mail message formatted novel! Jason says there will be a third and I can't wait. I also love Rhymes with Witches. What a wickedly cool twist on the witchy girl cliches in a High School. Myracle has the teenage girl psyche down pat. Clearly her inner teen is alive and well!

It is their junior year and they are of driving age so what could go wrong? From Angela's point of view - everthing. Her father loses his job and takes a new job in El Cerrito, CA - more than a bit different from the Atlanta she loves and daily interaction with her best friends. Add the weird clingy Glendy - daughter of her father's boss - and Angela is miserable. Zoe on the other hand is falling in love - with the guy who Angela had decided she didn't like, but doesn't want anyone else to have either. Zoe is discovering that bodies aren't so gross after all! Maddie has fallen for the stoner Clive, who she called Chive, and he introduces her to smoking pot. It is definitely a fun read and beautifully sends a message about sex and drugs, but not in a didactic way. A gotta have for any YA collection.

As much fun as this is, I really need to get some grading done. I cannot believe the end of Fall semester is already upon us. I need to finish grading so I can start working on Spring. Hmmm - so much for the idea of lazy island days for me!