Sunday, June 14, 2015

Of This and That

Of Ice Cream and Kids' Books
Yesterday, we had the delightful opportunity to go to a presentation by children's authors Tui Sutherland (Wings of Fire series, Menagerie series, etc.) and Christine Taylor-Butler (numerous non-fiction and Lost Tribes series.)  The kids knew the former author very well from several of their favorite books--earlier, they'd both agreed that they liked her dragon stories more than Harry Potter!  We hadn't knowingly read any of the latter author's works (though we saw copies of a book on Pluto that I know we had) but were interested in her new series that involves lots of codes.

Sutherland intrigued the kids with stories on how she became an author (via publishing), how she works (late at night), and how she fleshes out an idea (sometimes with a character first, sometimes with the idea of a world, like Wings of Fire--draw a map, she advised!)  She showed lots of cover art, including book 8 in the dragon series, and generally encouraged the children's creativity.

Taylor-Butler, who is an MIT-trained engineer, also always wanted to be a writer but hadn't thought it was a paying "real" job until she was an adult.  She wrote close to 75 non-fiction books, often on contract with Scholastic, looking for what interested her in such subjects as American History, meteorology, etc.  Only later did someone ask her to turn a short children's book about a boy who thought his mother was an alien from Venus into a novel.  And now she's written a novel about codes, Lost Tribes.  She talked about existing codes--and kid's pages on the FBI, NSA, and CIA websties--and did a few scientific experiments (magnets and money, paper clips on water.)  She says she always bases science fiction on real science.  Our kids were fascinated.  Mama and I liked her, too, as she repeatedly said what a nerd she was . . . and proudly!!

We stood in short lines to meet both authors and take pictures, buying copies of Lost Tribes for the kids.  I teased Mama that she might need her own copy!

 Afterwards, we went to our favorite farm ice cream stand--we hadn't been in such a long time!  And it was as good as we remembered.  I couldn't decide and so got strawberry AND peaches & cream, sharing it all around.  Mama got Jersey cow (coffee ice cream with chocolate and caramel chunks); Bud, purple cow (raspberry ice cream and chocolate chunks); Sis, caramel swirl.  Delicious!!  They're planning all the flavors we can make this summer.

Of Slushies and Straight Swords
Bud had a local kung fu competition today, this time a mixed martial arts contest between teams at one of the local amusement parks.  Most of the other groups were karate--Bud said that there was a lot of breaking boards!--and some very young kids doing simple forms.  He did both his fist and straight sword forms as part of the large team performance.  And they came in second!  They were all very pleased.  Plus, there were slushies and fried dough and ice cream! And a rollercoaster that almost did Mama in.  A fun day out.  With a team trophy for langiappe.

Of Cake and Crochet
At home, Sis and I had our own fun today.  We started off with a trip to the craft store for supplies--my first drive out to the mall since my surgery (my longest drive yet!!)--and then picked up pasta at Sis's favorite Italian place (chicken fettucine alfredo for her, "pink" pasta with prosciutto for me.)  We watched a lot of "Doctor Who" and petted the cats.  Midday, we made Tex-Mex Chocolate sheet cake, which we shared with our neighbor who had been so kind to give us brisket yesterday (he's into smoking brisket these days--and we are the happy recipients of his experiments.  His sauce was better yesterday!)  Sis took some to his family and also to our friend Miss K, the teacher.   We watched more tv, with me finishing two un-edged crocheted afghans and Sis completing a thread art project.  Later, Sis told Mama that we had an awesome day!  Yay!

Of Pie and Puzzles
Well, not really pie but close . . . . Last week, we had a Cobbler-Off.  We made two kinds of cobbler:  pie-crust-topped mixed berry, based on my aunt's Dewberry Cobbler recipe, and a skillet peach cobbler from the Homesick Texan cookbook, with its more cake-like top.  Why?  One each for Bud and Sis!  And I was trying out the different types of crust.  I wasn't completely pleased with the peach, not fluffy or cakey enough.  I think I might still like the topping of Swedish Apple Pie best for cobbler.  Something worth playing with this summer.

Meanwhile, we started a new puzzle.  Mama is on a puzzle kick because she's been doing them with her team at work.  And so we've done a few here, including this multi-colored cupcake one which was challenging.  Mama and I like to do the border; Bud and Sis like to do the section they like the best, with or without the frame--this time they'd choose a color.  But some of the colors didn't vary enough to make it easy to put together.  But we like a challenging puzzle, made more so by the cats that kept sitting on them.  We finished it tonight, after a slow try-each-piece-in-each-spot approach for the last, most difficult cupcake.  I wonder what we'll do next?

Of NYCats and Connecticats

There has been some progress on the cat front.  The basement boys, Mojo and Mr. P, are definitely more comfortable, in fact even prefer, being on the first floor with us.  P sits in the cat tree near the front window, next to where I am on the couch (hence all the photos of him--that and he's easier to photograph than a black cat.  He sits there so much that the cover is beginning to fray--it's an old cat tree--Sis and I bought new furry fabric today); Mojo likes being on the couch, also wandering around (he's even been climbing the refrigerator and kitchen cabinets.)  And even when Hermione approaches, they either hiss or just ignore her.  It's rare that they race straight downstairs.  In fact, at least once, we put our "old" cats in the basement while we let the "new" cats have the top two floors.  Mr. P even slept with us!  But Mama says that in the morning, Albus and Hermione were crying, "You accidentally locked the wrong cats in the basement!"  They'd even pulled part of the frame of the small cat door off.  They were all so exhausted afterwards, that the four cats went to their usual places and slept all day.  Last night, we didn't even separate anyone.   They all lived.  And came together again today without much hissing.  It's nice.  Or at least as nice as it has been so far.  (We're still aiming for no hissing.)

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