Friday, April 28, 2006

Oh my - feel like a wet noodle! Just had an Indian massage - a combination of deep muscle massage, accupressure, and reflexology. She got all those sore spots and then some. Now it is Steve's turn so I am sitting at the pool bar, where there is wireless Internet connection. We were down here for breakfast and 1/2 the people in the place had their laptops out. So much for going on vacation without work intruding. I spent my online time this a.m. answering student emails.

We are staying at Nail Bay Resort on Virgin Gorda, in the British Virgin Islands. We took the fast ferry from St. Thomas to Road Town on Tortolla and then another ferry over to Virgin Gorda. Our rental car wasn't at the ferry dock so I actually road in an island "dollar cab" (truck with open seats in the back) for the first time since we moved to the islands. It wasn't too bad, but I was glad to get in the tiny Suzuki wannabe Jeep instead. The road out to Nail Bay Resort is the worst I have seen anywhere - even in the Yukon Territory years ago! It is very hilly and the rain has washed deep trenches down the hills so driving is like dealing with an obstacle course. But, it is worth every bump and jolt when you see the rooms. We are in a bi-level room with the bed and bathroom upstairs and a little seating area going out to our own plunge pool on the bottom level! We watched the sunset from the tiny pool last night. It would have been heaven if we hadn't been eaten alive by mosquitoes. I had Steve take pictures of the adorable critters the maid created out of rolled up towels, flowers and shells. They were on the bed and in the bathroom and all over. The shower is huge - no window in it - just a screen.

I haven't had time to read, but we do have a bunch of paperbacks in the room. Lots of them are wrinkled - clearly read at the beach or in the pool. I found a romance called Honeymoon by Patterson. I grabbed it, but haven't read a page yet. We were so tired last night that we got food to go, ate in the room, and crashed early. Today we went to a beach near the resort. We were the only people on the beach. Steve had a small octopus swim right up to him and a sea star float by. We saw a really weird looking sea cucumber and lots of little fish in the tidal pools. I was picking tiny shells to use in crafts. We are both a bit toasty and red after that. Had lunch at the Mine Shaft. It is supposed to be the best place to watch sunsets. We think our plunge pool is so we went for lunch instead. They have a put-put golf course in front of the restaurant but it looks like the only ones who use it are the goats and the roosters!

It is Carnival on St. Thomas so that is why we are on Virgin Gorda. Neither of us like crowds and Charlotte Amalie is nuts right now. The Children's Parade is today and the adult parade tomorrow. Going to the ferry dock yesterday was a nightmare with the detours through town. I love the quiet of Virgin Gorda instead! It will be sad when all the developers find this quiet island.

Anne and Nicke are in Manhattan for a few days before they go back to Finland. What a honeymoon this has been for them! Can't wait to hear what they think of Central Park, the Empire State Building, etc.

All for now - need to do some grading while I wait for Steve.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Sorry everyone who reads this to find out what I have been reading! I haven't had time to read, watch TV, or even work on the cross-stitch baby blanket. Nicke and Anne arrived from Finland last Weds. night and it has been go non-stop since then. I left them here on Thursday so they could get their first shade of red at Bluebeard's Beach Resort beach and went to Montessori, but that is the last time I have been in the car by myself.

Friday we went diamond shopping and Annika (her full name - we call her Anne, sounds like Aunna, long A, when you say it) picked out a gorgeous ring with white and blue diamonds. It is tradition for the groom to get the bride a necklace as a Wedding Morning gift so they picked out a 3 diamond necklace with 2 white and one blue diamond to go with the ring and added small diamond hoop earrings to go along with it. So she certainly wore something new and something blue. I won't mention what was the borrowed piece, you couldn't see it anyway! :-)

The Finnish way is for both the guy and girl to buy and wear plain bands when they get engaged and then the diamond ring for the woman is the wedding ring. And the woman picks it out, rather than the guy doing do as is the case with most of us. My Steve has wonderful taste in jewelry and I love my diamond engagement ring so I am not complaining! Nicke was drinking beer at 9:30 in the morning so he could deal with Anne deciding on which of the MANY rings she tried on! As it was she picked out a ring with 5 blue diamonds and only wanted 3 so the jeweler had to switch out two of them for white diamonds. In other words - it was an all day process. We did go to the 18th Hole in Drake's Seat and buy knock off sunglasses and a hat for poor Nicke whose face was bright red from the sun, and probably the shopping!

Carnival is in full swing on island with the Food Fair today, Jump Up tomorrow night, Children's Parade on Friday, and Adult Parade on Saturday. We are not "crowd people" so Steve and I are taking the ferry over to Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands and hide from tomorrow afternoon until Sunday. Carnival is like Christmas on the mainland as far as saving to buy new clothes, etc. The costumes are very expensive and the West Indians really get into this annual event.

Can't talk to you about any great books I have read, as I haven't had time to read! But, I can say that I am taking Harry S. Pariser's Explore the Virgin Islands, 6th edition, with me to Virgin Gorda. I read through the section on St. Thomas thoroughly and found a few minor editing errors - in one place it said there is no daily newspaper and then later in the section there was a editorial piece about the new owner of The Daily News, which is our daily paper. The locals don't care for the paper as it exposes the corruption in the government and the crime rate on the islands, etc. Steve won't go a day without it - mainly because he does the crossword puzzle! I gave up on reading it as I am tired of hearing about all the problems on the island. I read the world news online instead.

All for today - I am sorry if I missed a bunch of editing errors. I am feeling stressed out as this is also a big grading time for me - end of the semester so I am either on the go with Nicke and Anne (who are, thankfully, at the beach) - behind the wheel of the car, or in shops, being tour guide, or I am in front of the computer grading student assignments.

I'll write more about the actual wedding on Saturday next time! It was beautiful!!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

A bit of an overcast day but Nicke and Anne are already out on the deck amazed by the tropical flowers, ocean, etc. as it was barely above freezing when they left Finland yesterday a.m. Basically a 24 hour trip for them. They arrived at the airport in Helsinki as 5 a.m. their time and arrived here at a little before 5 a.m. their time, almost 10 p.m. our time. I thought for sure they would sleep late, but they are outside on the deck checking things out. I am going to Montessori today to let them have the day to veg and to walk down to the beach at Secret Harbor if they want. Anne looks wonderful! I have not seen her in 19 years and we started talking like we were together yesterday.

I have the new paperback editions of Virginia Hamilton's Zeely and M.C. Higgins, the Great in front of me. The covers are very attractive. I love the updated cover for M.C. Hamilton's books should be in every MS and upper elementary collection so I was delighted to see that Simon & Schuster is bringing them back in Aladdin paperback editions. The cover of The House of Dies Drear is spooky with a close up of a old man with snow white hair and beard. A new generation of tweens needs to be introduced to these books.

Sorry I don't have anything new to talk about today. I am having a hard time concentrating. Nicke and Anne are craving their caffeine and I don't even have filters for the coffee pot. We don't drink coffee so she has to use a paper towel! Steve and I get our caffeine by opening a can of diet coke first thing in the a.m.

That's it for me today. Need to finish getting my stuff ready to leave.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Six a.m. came too early again, but at least Sophie didn't wake me up at 5 a.m. to put her out. She was out last night when we went to bed and we both came flying out of bed when we heard her screaming. We have a new cat in the neighborhood and clearly it is a male. She came in sprayed - he was marking his territory I guess. I cleaned her up the best I could but she was absolutely indignant about the whole situation. So her days or ruling the roost around here are over. She hasn't even asked to go back out. Poor baby - she was queen of the iguanas for almost a whole year!

I wonder if Innovative will finally get our phone fixed today. It has not been working for almost 2 weeks. The fax machine rings, but not the phones. The repair guy showed up at 7:30 Saturday morning. What a bite! After being woken up the day before by the power outage and then rudely waken from a deep sleep by the light and Steve telling me you have to get up I was not a happy camper. I was sitting in the livingroom with a scowl on my face when the repair guy came in. After all that he never did go into the bedroom and we still don't have a working phone. This is the same company we have our DSL through - our bill would be minimal if we paid them for the days both worked!

The cover on Mariah Fredericks' Crunch Time is wonderfully 3D. I had the book on the floor next to my rocking chair and kept thinking it was a real pencil on top of the book. The chewed up #2 pencil has the words - A novel by the author of The True Meaning of Cleavage, which is my favorite of her books. All girls going into HS should read this book so they know the potential of what can happen if they get a crush on a less than honest upper classman. I also liked Head Games, but really disliked the cover on the hardback. It has a female face with open lips - very suggestive due to the title. In reality it is a great book about two younger teens who meet in real life and continue the dangerous game they play online. The cover on the paperback edition is much better. Anyway, back to Crunch Time. I do remember taking my SAT and bombing the math section, but I don't remember stressing about it. But that certainly isn't the case with the four juniors in this book. Daisy is worried because she needs a high score to be eligible for financial aid. Jane basically doesn't care, but as the daughter of a movie star she is expected to. Max is trying to get a higher score so that, for once, his father will not tell him he can do better. And Leo - he is the one who wants to be perfect, not that his father cares though. These four unlikely "friends" gather at Jane's swanky NYC apartment to study for the SAT. But, Max is thinking about Daisy and how to get her to think of him as other than a friend. Daisy is attracted to bad boys and Leo is going to be her next bad decision. Jane, she just wants someone to notice her (other than her stepdad) and like her for herself, not because she is her mother's daughter. This is no page turner, but it does give the reader insight into the stress teens are under to play the college prep game. The counselor at this school is a little Hitler and manipulates the kids so that his favorites get their applications in to the good schools first. All heck breaks loose when the smart goody-two-shoes steps forward and admits she took the test for one of the other students, but won't say who. Now the rumors fly. Who is the cheater? One of the four?

Off to Montessori for the day.

Monday, April 17, 2006

A sunny Easter Monday for the tourists. I was surprised at how few people were out on the beach at Bolongo Beach Resort when we went to Iggies for lunch on Saturday. I enjoyed watching a dad with his two little boys - one in matching swim trunks and the other with a hat that matched - in orange. The dark orange sure did contrast with their fish belly white bodies.  Iggies has good hamburgers (not like Shipwreck)and it isn't so loud you can't hear yourself think. We could actually have a conversation without shouting to each other and repeating "What?" many times, like in Shipwreck. It was a breezy day so we decided that eating outside would be a better idea. Iggies is right on the beach and one of my favorite places to eat and people watch. The service varies greatly but we were one of 5 or 6 tables of people in the place so we had good service. We were contemplating how to sneak out of there with the cool hammock that is right out front, tied between two palm trees!

We had a relaxing Easter Sunday. Steve brought me dark chocolate filled crescent rolls for breakfast in bed. YUM!! It was a lazy day of working on the cross stitch blanket for the grandbaby due in October and playing mah jong on the computer. We watched GARDEN STATE and DERAILED. Garden State was one of those movies that grows on you as you watch it. Initially I thought it was one stupid movie, but the longer I watched it the more I got into it and related to the character and how he had been numb for years (from medication) so that he couldn’t deal with the accident that put his mom in a wheelchair and then her death. I loved the quirky girlfriend! Derailed was the exact opposite – at first I was enjoying the movie and then it just got stupid. The more the plot twisted the less I liked the guy you were supposed to feel sorry for. I picked it up because Jennifer Anniston is in it and I have liked most of the movies she has done. Not that she is a great actress, I just like her – ever since watching Friends. But, the one movie I absolutely loved we just happen to catch on TV Friday night – I laughed, I cried, and I sighed – was THE MIGHTY. The book, Freak, the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick came out in 1993 and I had a copy at one point but I didn’t get it read before lending it to someone and never getting it back. After watching the movie about the LD big guy and the brilliant little guy with his stunted body, merging to become a “knight” – I really want to read it. There is a sequel to it called Max, the Mighty. You might recognize Philbrick as he is a great YA author – also wrote Last Book in the Universe, The Young Man and the Sea, and Rem World.

I actually brought Easter Monday in at the wee hours of the night as I picked up Ellen Hopkins’ Burned when I headed to bed last night, thinking I would read for a ½ hour or so before going to sleep. I read until I finished it. I enjoyed her first poetry formatted novel Crank, about a girl who slides into addiction, but Burned is even better. Pattyn is a Mormon teen who is questioning her faith and the subservient role women play in her religion. She is the oldest of 6 girls and spends her time at home taking care of the girls and at school as a loner. Her father is trying to numb his memories of a previous family with Johnny Walker Black. But it is when he drunk that his anger erupts and he takes it out on his wife and eventually on his oldest girls. Pattyn’s escape it to hike into the desert and target practice. That is where she meets Derek for the first time and where she finds out about lust, not love. Love she finds in Nevada, where she is sent to live with her reclusive paternal aunt. She falls in love with Ethan, who lives on the neighboring ranch. But all good things must come to the end and in the Fall she returns to the hell of her family home and her abusive father. I couldn’t put this book down until I knew Pattyn’s fate and what I did discover was heartbreaking.

Sorry - the bold face and italics isn't working this a.m. Who knows why.

Friday, April 14, 2006

A rainy gloomy day in St. Thomas - yahoo!! Maybe I can take a shower and get all the conditioner out of my hair for a change. Right now we are doing "boat showers" and taking in the laundry to be done due to the cistern going dry and having water trucked in. So when it poured down rain this a.m. I lay in bed relishing the sound of it. Especially after the power went out, but the wonderful sound of rain was disturbed by "BEEP!! BEEP!! - the surge protector box. I rolled over, "knowing" Steve would shut down the computer and turn off the beeping. BEEP!! BEEP!! BEEP, BEEP, BEEP!!! and then @$^%*&^^^^###!!!! from me as I came out of the bedroom to find Steve sitting out on the porch with a diet coke and the cat in his lap, saying he hadn't heard the beeping. Innocently he asked me if the power went out. ARGHH!! I went back to bed - no point in staying up, too dark and gloomy to read. But, when I got up later Steve was gone so I curled up and read. When he got home later he quietly came in and said he brought me a "peace offering" to improve my morning mood - a sticky bun from Frank's bakery. Oh my! It was huge and I haven't eaten one of these since my kids were little. I had to have it with a cup of tea. I savored every sugary gooey bite even though I knew my fat cells were expanding with every bite. Oh well - I'm too old for a bikini anyway. :-)

My a.m. reading was Magic in the Wind by Christine Feehan. I am hooked on her paranormal romances about the seven Drake sisters. This slim volume is about Sarah, the eldest sister, and the beginning of the prophecy as the gate open to Damon, the death pursued government/defense system think tank scientist who has retreated to her small coastal town to get away from people. Neither one of them expected to fall in love, but the Drake magic didn't give them much option. Unbeknownst to him, Sarah has returned home to protect Damon from mercenaries out to kidnap him again and further torture him for the information they want. What a great beach read, but be very careful about giving this one to teens. The sex scenes are very erotic - no vulgar terms, but Feehan can set the pages on fire!

On the YA front I loved Sharon M Draper's latest, Copper Sun. I have liked, if not loved, all of her books and was very glad to see the Hazelwood High trilogy back in print. My copy of Tears of a Tiger has seen better days. The cover art for Copper Sun is stunning with the shades of orange (setting sun) background with the silhouette of Amari, the 15-year-old African who is stolen from her village and finds herself a slave on a plantation in the Carolinas. She is a gift to a sadistic spoiled 16 year old plantation owner's son. I found myself gasping at the viciousness of the slave traders and the plantation owner and his son. Clay, the son, uses the cook's 4 year old as gator bait - tying Tidbit with a rope and throwing him into the river to lure the gators so he and his buddies can shoot them. Draper slowly builds a solid friendship between the indentured teen, Polly, and Amari as they work for Teenie, the cook. This is essential as they must keep each other alive when they escape, headed South to freedom, instead of North. The extent of Draper's research, and her own personal interest in the slave trade as the granddaughter of a slave herself, are evident in the depth of historical information that is deftly woven in this heart breaking story. Historical fiction is a hard sell with many teens, but booktalking this one will keep it on the reserve list in your library for many months. Amari and Polly are teenage girls, best friends in the worst of circumstances, who today's teens will want to read about.

Enough for today. I need to go break down the boxes I am collecting for the move to North Carolina so I can get the second bedroom ready for Annika and Nicke. My foreign exchange daughter from close to 20 years ago is coming from Finland to be married down here. I wonder if she will recognize me at the airport?

Monday, April 10, 2006

I have not been able to get to the blog for days. GRRR!! Either the Internet isn't working, the power is out, or I am just too busy or grumpy to do so! We ran out of cistern water this weekend so now we are paying for every drop the truck delivered on Saturday. Steve is watching me wash dishes to make sure I am not using too much water while I rinse them and I didn't get all of the conditioner out of my hair last night. We had to bring our laundry in to to be done for us. I am praying for rain! I will be so glad to be back on the Mainland where running water is a "given" - not a luxury!

We watched most of the Master's Tournament this weekend, except for when the power went our yesterday, during the last round - of course. I was hoping Freddy Couples would win but I was okay with Mickelson too. I can't believe I am watching golf! I have never swung a club in my life, but Steve loves to watch it and he is in control of the remote.

A trip to Kmart and to get the mail on Saturday was interesting. We actually got mail! The guy who owns the private mail box place got it all sorted finally. It was like Christmas to get all the catalogs and magazines at once - window shopping overload!! Speaking of Christmas - I also received the Christmas present my foreign exchange daughter sent from Finland! The stop to get gas was interesting when the cop in front of us drove away with the nozzle still in his SUV. Luckily the hose pulled free and gas didn't spew everywhere. No one seemed too upset - other than me envisioning someone lighting a match. He just moved to another gas pump so why was he driving away to begin with? The highlight of the excursion was KMart. The photo machine was working for the first time in months so I was able to drop off a film. And, they even had the Oreo thins I love. It is amazing what can delight a woman who lives on an island! :-) I was literally bouncing on the way out to the car!

While the power was out yesterday I did finish Todd Strasser's Battle Drift, part of the Drift X trilogy. I hadn't read the first one, Slide or Die, but I was fine with the references to what probably happened to the main character, Kennin, in the first one. He is one interesting half Asian teen who loves to drift - speeding until the car slides between traction and no traction. Not something I want to do, but I love cars so I did enjoy this gearhead type book with a Hispanic girl being the one who built the car to drift. This is not high quality literature, but it certainly will get those car guys to read a novel - most likely all three. I was a bit irritated with the abrupt ending, as the reader doesn't get to find out what happens in the race until the third book, Sidewayz Glory. Strasser is a car guy himself so I am sure he had fun writing this series with a gearhead audience in mind.

I am brain dead after a day of writing a final exam and grading. I got up early and made sure I was dressed and out in the livingroom, waiting for the phone guy to get here. No such luck. The fax machine in the printer rings, but the phones don't work. Doesn't help any that the cell phones don't work here at the apartment. Oh the joys of island life. Doesn't work well when you are trying to live the hectic life of a Mainlander with the problems of island service. What did we do before the days of email, faxes, cell phones, pagers, etc.? Well, probably enjoyed a more relaxing life! Cell phones are a way of life down here. Even our elementary kids carry them around. The ear buds are on 1/2 the people you see on the street and even the checkers in the store. You never know who they are talking to. Okay - enough for now. I am going to veg and work on the new grandbaby's cross stitched quilt.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

I feel like I dropped of the face of the earth electronically! Since last Thursday the Internet and phone connections on island have been acting wonky, or not working at all. The teachers and administrators were coming in the library at Montessori to ask me why the library Internet connection was working and the others weren’t. I had no idea, but I was glad it was so I could download MARC records from Follett’s Alliance Plus. Such a slick and easy way to get records into Destiny. But, when I got home the Internet was not working. Nor was it all day on Friday. It came up long enough for me to check email on Saturday morning and then went down again. Sunday it was down all day so we decided to try and get me online via a dial-up and our land line wasn’t working either! Yesterday it was up and down all day, but I did get some grading done when it was up. Today I am home in bed with an intestinal bug, but at least I am online – well, some of the time – it keeps dropping out on me. Finished the August Reader’s Advisory column for Library Media Connection and got that emailed in. I should be working on my Annual Review for ECU but I am afraid to switch computers for fear the Internet will go down on me and the printer isn’t configured on my laptop yet. Life was so much easier before all this technology came about!

Looked through the list of the cool YA authors who will be at the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents (ALAN) Conference, which is part of the larger National Council on Teacher of English (NCTE) Conference in Nashville this November. I am introducing Janet McDonald so I excited about going. Although I have been a member of ALAN for many years I have never gone to their conference. I guess it is at or near Opryland. J

I wallowed in an early chapter novel this a.m. as I lay in bed feeling sorry for myself and my upset tummy. Colleen O’Shaughnessy McKenna’s Third Grade Wedding Bells? is an absolutely delightful book. It would be a great read aloud in a 2nd or 3rd grade classroom as well as for kids to read on their own. Poor Gordie – he can’t get a break from the verbal taunting of Lucy Diaz, the most talkative and intelligent (in her opinion) student in class. She hasn’t given Gordie a break since he forgot his lines in the last play and ran off the stage. But, they join forces when they think their teacher might be getting married and moving. I had forgotten how much fun these early books are. I’d buy the whole Third Grade Series for a primary school library and suggest all four titles for read aloud in the classroom.

My latest YA novel read was Beth Goobie’s The Dream Where the Losers Go. Goobie is one of my favorite YA authors from Canada and she didn’t let me down with this book. Wow! This was one heck of creepy read, but one that would not let me go. I loved every minute of finding my way along with Skey as she maneuvered through her dark dream tunnels. She could feel carvings on the wall while she felt her way along the outside walls, figuring out how many tunnels there were – it varied from dream to dream. Then a boy joins her in the dream tunnels. She can’t see him but she hears him. From his breathing she can tell he is scared and when she calls to him he runs away. He is afraid of someone getting him. She picks up the rock he kicks into the center of the cavern to make sure there isn’t a pit. The rock is still in her hand when she wakes up the next morning. It becomes a talisman for her – she keeps it in her pocket. Skey’s waking hours are not much better than her scary dreams. She is in a treatment center for self destructive behavior – she cut up her arms with a razor blade. Skey is the girlfriend of the head of the Dragons, a gang of vicious rich kids. Jigger has complete and total control of Skey and threatens her if she even looks at another guy. Matter of fact, he and his gang beat Lick, her school protect partner, to the point of hospitalization because he spent time at the treatment center with her working on their project. There is a connection between Skey and Lick – could it have anything to do with the dream tunnels? What Skey and Lick discover about the tunnels may be their way out of the dreams.

Now let’s see if I can copy and paste this into my blog before the Internet goes down again!