Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Weekend in Spring

It was a terrific Spring Saturday - wow, do I love Saturdays!The Saturdays I love the best have only a little planning and a little serendipity thrown in as well! Yesterday was that perfect Saturday.

We started by going to do some service at the church. We went down early (7 am!) and got some tasks done extra early so we could have more of the day to play with.

It was perfect spring weather so we treated ourselves to a visit to the Tempe Festival of the Arts down on Mill Avenue near ASU. It's always a great celebration of creativity. Music, art and Kettle corn!! Mmmm. (Rich is all about the chocolate covered strawberries though.)

See this booth?
INCREDIBLE fine custom jewelry!
Compassionate artist.
Judy Lazar.

I've known I wanted to re-design my wedding ring for a long time.
I just didn't know what I wanted.
(I can be like that sometimes - like ALL the time!)
I've spent lots of time looking on the computer, in stores, and wishing.
When the engagement ring broke awhile back my searching intensified. (I never knew there was a time limit to how long a wedding set would last?!?! I guess 34 years is a long time in ring years.)

Who knew I would find just what I wanted at the Tempe Festival of the Arts??

This artist had lots of designs I was already attracted to. With a few comments from me she was able to quick sketch a great design and whet my appetite.

(When we were engaged in the pre-blogging- dinosaurs-walked-the-earth-days, no one photo-documented it. Now we are doing it right! )

We returned later with my broken wedding ring and spent about an hour with Judy and the design process really took off. It was like she read my mind! I was just about in tears...Oohhh, I can't wait.

We enjoyed more of the festival - imagine where I found Rich....
He made one of these babies his!

(cute grandchild not included in the price!)

I had saved up enough money and yesterday was the perfect day. Rich had scoped out bike prices and I bought the bike I need to spend some more exercise time with him. I love to walk but Rich is a bike rider! He loves to ride his bike and has been strongly suggesting that I get a bike so we can enjoy rides together. I figure if he will willingly attend author lectures and book festivals that I can make the 'sacrifice'! Now we can cruise the canals and bike paths in style - walking OR riding!! The bike's a beauty. Now to name her. (It's an extra-small frame - the first time I've been an extra small in anything in years!!)

My basketball team had an amazing ride in the NCAA championships - I will not be greedy and want it all. Maybe I can watch the rest of the Final Four without needing heart medication.

The day was getting pricey - too much fun. I guess suggesting another trip to the bookstore was out of the question. Another good part - I avoided housework for another day!! Wahoo! Why stay inside when there's spring outside??

My book companion this weekend has been Once a Spy by Keith Thomson. I'm really enjoying it. One of the protagonists is a man who was secretly a covert operative and is now suffering from Alzheimer's. His son always thought he was an appliance salesman! This book has been out for 18 months and reminds me of a twist on the movie, Reds. It is well done and the writing is clever and crisp. Meeting the author was a fun perk.

Church and basketball, family and friends were the words for Sunday. It was almost too pretty to stay inside for long. There seems to be a magnetic attraction to the patio on days like this. It was also perfect strawberry weather. Those juicy, ripe berries dribbled down our chins - it's so much fun to eat with a four year old! It brought back lots of memories of Sunday afternoon drives when we lived in California years ago. We would drive to the fields and buy two flats of strawberries. We would strip the boys of their shirts and hand each of the four boys a basket of strawberries; munching and singing songs all the way home. It was just like that today!

The night is beautiful and I'm not ready for the weekend to end. But bring on the week, I don't want to be greedy. It's been a super weekend.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

March Madness!

I am in my basketball element at this time of year..... it's March Madness! But the more I think of it, March Madness is a great name for what tends to happen around here at this time of year anyway!!

* I LOVE the NCAA basketball tournament and round the clock basketball games and excitement! It's now or never kind of intensity and enthusiasm.

* My old college is in the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in over 30 years (That's like 390 dog years or something - it seems like forever ago though.)

* Our hometown team is playing this afternoon - keeping my fingers crossed. Fridays game was a nailbiter! My mom was a professor there, my stepdad too. It's like a religion to watch UA basketball with my family. (Richard's family just doesn't get that, but it's okay...I forgive them!)
* Spring Break - Book Festival, chillin', Spring Cleaning - carpet cleaning and renovations while Rich attacks the yard, hot temps, grandkids visiting and just plain old fun.* Book Group Mystery Madness. We read one of two mysteries to discuss and then any other mysteries to give Book commercials on. We all come with pens and paper to write down new titles. It's great temptation.

* Author visits at the Poisoned Pen. We went to some and there are more all month! We love a trip to Grimaldi's for dinner but recently Barbara Peters (owner) recommended two new places to try. We love the date night.

* Birthday bashes. This week there are three events!! Love those days....oh yeah, throw in a wedding too!! Party on.* AIMS preparation! Yikes, It's back to school tomorrow and the countdown to the BIG standardized test begins. As well as I think we've done we can always use refreshers and reviews. It's my first time in 7 years since I've played this game. I'm trying not to get nervous or over-excite the kids, I'm just hoping that we all can "show what we know!"

* Meetings, meetings, next two weeks are packed with them. I actually had to pencil in a time to go work out to make sure I do it! Also have a few report cards to finish up. Since the computer virus ate my grades two weeks ago, this has been a real experience!

* Wonky weather. Spring break week was 90 degree plus and we had the A/C on. Now it's cloudy, we're slated for rain tomorrow and temps in the low 60s. Gotta love the madness of March.

* Reading two great books - Once a Spy by Keith Thomson is a page turner. It's the first novel by the author. We went to hear him talk this last week and we were sold. I got to it first but Rich keeps asking how far I am. He's chomping at the bit I think! Of course it helped that the author brought a drone to fly at the bookstore. Cool gadgets and toys like that hook Rich every time!! 32 Third Graders and One Class Bunny by Phillip Done is hysterical!! Of course it helps that I live this life, but the short essay format and typical day to day events keep me in stitches. Rich has to ask what I'm laughing at now, every time I have my nose in this. I'm reading it to keep smiling when I truly would like another week of Spring Break!

I remember the 'dog-days' of March when I was a kid. Everything moved at a snail's pace and I looked out windows longingly. Those days are no longer around for me. I think that the calendar moves incrementally faster. The days are packed. The garden grows overnight. Okay, I still look out the windows a lot, but it's more to get life to slow down a bit! I do think March Madness is a great title. Now, why didn't I think of that?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sunday at the Book Festival

This is what a Book Festival looks like as it is waking up...
The air was cool and full of anticipation for another day.

First Session - Brandon Mull
Fablehaven Fame!!

This session was perhaps the best one of the whole weekend.
Brandon Mull was early to the venue and that gave him time to visit with some of us that were early also.
They announced to him that his newest book, Beyonders, was available at the Festival for early signing (it was not going to be on sale until Tuesday) and he signed for a few of us that were there.
We all felt kind of privileged.
I was there both as a fan and as a representative of my students.
I have 18 kiddos that got copies of Fablehaven and started their own book group and asked ME to join.
We meet every Thursday at recess and now I will be able to bring so much more to our meetings PLUS a photo!
They will love it.

Brandon led a great session complete with a video/slide show presentation.
He was funny, serious, introspective and so respectful of his career, his fans, and of us - the audience.
At the end of the presentation he answered questions and truly came alive as he answered the questions of the kids.
It was almost like watching a sparkler!!
He was aglow as they asked the most detailed of questions.
He was just like a kid himself.
It made me smile.

The book has a special tag on the back and an app on my super-de-dooper phone allowed me to download the book trailer and watch the video right there!!
Too cool.
Wow, was Brandon impressed with all of it.
He truly is loving every minute of this ride!

When I went out into the sunshine to travel to Session #2
this is what the Book Festival looked like.

Oh yeah, throw in more stormtroopers and even Qui Gon Jinn in full costume. There was a darling gal there with the coolest Stormtrooper backpack on.
When I told her that there were stormtroopers walking about she gave me the best line I heard at the whole festival,
"Oh, I'm married to a stormtrooper! They're heroes, you know."
For some reason I just thought this was classic!

Second Session - NO Photos- rats

Women in the Shadow of War: Histories Mysteries

Rebecca Cantrell and Suzanne Arruda
moderator - Christine Burke

This was my least favorite presentation of the whole conference.

NOTE - Blogger just ate 2/3 of this post so I will call it well and done and just name photos.... Rats! Technology@#$%@ sometimes we have a love/hate relationship, I think!

Third Session - Creating Imaginary Worlds - Four Young Adult Fantasy Authors

Pamela Keyes, Charles de Lint, Aprilynne Pike, and Janni Lee Simner

A very interesting session and I loved learning about new authors and their creative minds.
Aprilynne Pike is very chatty and excited about her series.
I don't think she's used to sharing the stage or mike with others.
Janni Lee Simner was so nice and thrilled about sharing her stories with others that I think everyone there would read her books just to share her enthusiasm and positive energy.
Maybe it was just her sense of wonder.
It almost glowed from her.

Fourth Session - Scene of the Crime: Scene as a Character

Martin Cruz Smith, Jennifer Lee Cantrell, Cara Black, and Josh Bazell

Some interesting insight and three new authors.
A warm Sunday afternoon.
Little sleep the night before.
I did NOT nod off.
But almost.
Not their fault!
I promise.

Spoils of the weekend!

Alan Jacobson - The 7th Victim
Jacqueline Winspear - Maisie Dobbs
Brandon Mull - Beyonders

A great and comfy sleeping shirt with 'Book Lover' on it!
A great U of A bag to schlep around ASU country.

Then there are the memories....
can't wait til next year...
we've already got the dates down.
March 10 & 11, 2012.
Yep, I can see I'm booked already.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Spring Break

I will now take a moment to revel in the fact that....

I laid in bed and read til school would have started!

I ate breakfast on the back porch in the cool breeze.

I sat on the porch swing and finished Major Pettigrew's Last Stand & loved it!!
(Okay, Suey, you were right!!)

It is almost noon and I am still in my cool new "Book Lover" sleeping shirt in front of the computer and loving every minute of it....I HAVE finished washing all the bed linens though.

I have every intention of doing something.



Monday, March 14, 2011

Saturday in Heaven - I Mean- At the Book Festival!

The Festival of the Books had a grand beginning.
Frog and Toad were there. Stormtroopers marched. 7 Pipers were piping!!
There were balloons. There was a parade. I got goosebumps.

I found a seat on a bench next to a very dapper gentleman.
Author Thomas Perry!!
We chatted and visited ( he said that we 'loitered together.')
I was off with a bang.

First session - Favorite Fiction: What Book Clubs are Reading Now

Helen Simonson, Lisa Genova, Jamie ("I'm a Dude") Ford, and
moderator, Sue Everlove

What a terrific panel to start off the festival!! I was pleased at my choice as it was a tug-a-war with other classes to choose from and this one won out. I decided to really mix up the genres this year and go to differing presentations. This was a home-run! Helen Simonson is a riot!! All of the authors are thoughtful and even spoke in beautiful was delicious. When they read from their books I was in "book lust"! (Helen Simonson was different though - with her reading I 'heard' the humor that I have been missing as I am reading Major Pettigrew's Last Stand...I am going to have to go back a few pages now and re-read with her voice in my head. She's a stitch and now I can catch it in her characters. I can also hear her British accent in my ears and that was a help :)

Favorite moments -

Lisa Genova: Felt that the message of Still Alice is that "we are more than what we can remember." She feels that the message of her new book, Left Neglected, is "slow down and make different choices." As a neuro-scientist (PhD from Harvard) she always hoped to contribute in some way to the world around her. She felt a sense of loss when she wasn't able to really do that on a day to day basis. Now after Still Alice she has become a speaker for Alzheimer's and feels like she is finally beginning to make a little of a difference. She has spoken before Congress even and feels like she is making her Nana proud. Funny how she is making a much bigger impact as a novelist than as a scientist.

Jamie Ford: He wrote the book, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet as a tribute to his parents and his grandpa. I loved it when he told the story about his grandpa and how after the death of his grandmother, his "grandpa pushed the re-set button on his heart." He said that his grandpa had a "great third act!" You could feel his affection for the family. He also stated that his book is a love-letter to the Seattle area.

Helen Simonson: Well she basically stole the show with her wry British humor. The authors all adored her as well. When asked she explained what fairy cakes were she told us that they are round sponge cakes cut in half and turned into butterfly wings with butter frosting in the middle. She also explained about having tea in England. "tea time" is 4 o'clock with scones and cakes and "High Tea" is at 6 o'clock with a fish or egg dish and is also called "a poor man's supper." Although she was wont to admit it, her book is more than a fiction-light, it is a social remark on cultures in England and far beyond.

Second Session - Wild Science: Adventures in Crime Fiction

Graham Brown, Susan Cummins Miller, James Rollins, and
moderator - Christine Burke

This was a fun panel and although the title of the session was chosen by the festival, it was kind of science-lite. They did address the science 'illiteracy" of our nation as a whole, but I conjectured that it is because science has become so specific. You can have a general idea of science (ie., the circulatory system) but people specialize in so many areas that pretty soon your general knowledge seems small and inconsequential.

Graham Brown is new to me as an author as was Susan Cummins Miller. Graham Brown has recently been asked by Clive Cussler to write the next NUMA files book with Clive. Wow. What a feather in his cap. Susan Miller writes for a university press so has to go before review boards with all of her 'facts' in her mysteries. Imagine that! She has to prove that if she talks about a ground squirrel that it is accurate and documented!! That would take the fun out of things for me! (And evidently others too! Graham Brown is content to have 'his' Mayan Indians populate the Amazon jungles no matter if it is true or not!) He said that he is just out to have a good time!

James Rollins said that his audience has always been picked for him by his editors. He says that it is fun to play with technology and science as it affects his characters. He limits his research to 90 days and this is to commit himself to writing. On the 90th day he stops researching and starts writing. He considers himself the laziest researcher and just calls up places - "Hello, this is James Rollins, where do you store your anthrax?" He mentioned that he finally called up NASA and asked about the plans for flying the space shuttle. The next day a thick operators manual for the space shuttle appeared on his doorstep (with no return address!!) He is a fun author both to read and listen to!

Third Session - Writing the Opposite Gender

Alan Jacobson, Thomas Perry (my dapper loitering partner from the morning,) Elizabeth Gunn
moderator (and author) - Robert Dugoni

This was a lively panel and included three new authors for me. The only author I knew the work of was Thomas Perry, but I love his characterization of Jane Whitefield so I would go hear him any day!!

I really enjoyed discovering other authors and I look forward to reading books by all of them. The conversation was lively and spirited and filled with laughter. Bob Dugoni (Yep, we're to nicknames now :) was an excellent moderator. He led the conversation along and only pushed his books a few times. He asked some terrific questions and you could see his lawyerly skills at work. They gave away autographed copies of books when "key" words were asked. That really contributed to the fun and frivolity.

Alan Jacobson and Thomas Perry
(They asked me to take a photo and then were more than indulgent for me to snap one of my own!)

One question during the discussion led me to wonder who the questioner was...I was curious about them when she said her name was Jill. Later that afternoon I heard her voice again (in crowds of 75,000 - 100,00 people this was astonishing on its own) and I thought I recognized the other gal who she was with!! I finally spoke up. It was Jill and Alyce. What a fun connection to book bloggers!! We stood and talked in real life and it was fantastic for me. I really felt like I was meeting super heroes - they have awesome blogs and read well and carefully.

(Jill from Rhapsody in Books and Alyce from At Home with Books)

Fourth Session - Genre Wars

Jacqueline Winspear, Diana Gabaldon, and J.A. Jance
moderator/author - Jennifer Lee Carrell

What a great backdrop in one of the Student Union Ballrooms at the University of Arizona.

By this point in time my note taking skills were trailing off but my listening ears were in full swing!! I sat next to two enjoyable women and we each came to hear a different author on the panel. Too funny! We each thought that Ms. Gabaldon was quite full of herself but that Jacqueline Winspear could be our new best friend. We decided that Judy Jance would be our quirky next door neighbor and that she would always be the one to invite to a party because of all of her great stories. Wow, it's fun to meet folks at the Book Festival!

Jackie (I told you I was up to nicknames now) Winspear stated, "Genre Wars smacks of snobbery and people looking down their noses. A good story is a compelling story whatever it is. The entertainment business is what this is no matter if I'm writing for myself or not!"

None of the panel outlines at all and both Jackie Winspear and Judy Jance were about 50 pages from the end of one of their books when they were surprised at "who dunnit"!! They were both taken aback as they had not had any idea at all. Judy Jance stated that sometimes people will come up to her and say, "I knew who did it all the time." She says she laughed at one and said, "Well good for you because I didn't!"

After visiting with new friends I shopped and wandered and soon it was 5:00 and Rich and I finally reunited. He was as excited as I was and we talked all the long walk to the car. We soon rendezvoused with family and enjoyed great Mexican food at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant called El Sur. (Thanks for the recommend, Ben, we'll go there again!) There were 12 of us there and the kids were fantastic. I loved seeing all of them together. We stayed at Hotel Mellor (mom and Bob's house) and had a great night visiting with them too!!

The Book Festival was great,
The Book Festival was fun,
Tomorrow is another one!!

Yippee - Sunday recap to come.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Been There, Done That!

Tucson Festival of the Book!
Been there,
Done that!
It was great!!

I'll post more later.
Now I want to unpack, bask in the book-love glow
take a bubble-bath!!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Can't Wait!

Can't wait....

'til Spring break.

'til the Tucson Book Festival.

I guess I better stop wishing my time away and enjoy the week ahead of me....but I really wish it was Friday afternoon already! Geez, I am such a kid ;)

On the reading front Major Pettigrew's Last Stand is finally picking up for me. Again, maybe reading this one is all about the timing. I may not be in my most patient and reflective state!! Guess I am too excited about the coming weekend!! (Grow up, Gaye!)

We had a great Saturday in Tucson with our cute family!!!!
Temperatures were PERFECT - 79 blissful degrees.
Congratulations to Emma on her baptism :)
We saw little Hero and Miss Ariel.
My Basketball team won.
We had Eegee's.