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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Comfort, Food, and More Food


Since this is my post-Thanksgiving post, I will chronicle the recent activities of the not-quite-NINETY-THREE-members of MY family.

We drove to NY for the holiday, seeing a good bit of Pennsylvania in the process due to Mike's desire to avoid New Jersey (nothing personal, folks!) and listening to a LOT of storytapes (technically, CDs) and music.

Yes, we are the last family in America that does not employ DVD technology for looooong car rides (though our trip to Cape Cod last summer almost removed us from that category). Audio hits of this trip were Arthur chapter books (borrowed from the library, so one tape was busted and hence we never found out what happened with Prunella's cootie catcher), My Father's Dragon (Bougie's perenial favorite), Tom Lehrer's That Was The Year That Was ("Mommy, why are you skipping the song called 'SMUT'?") and Roger Miller's Greatest Hits ('Do Wacka Do' being my personal favorite), which was a steer from Neal Pollack - thank you, Neal.

We stopped in Easton, PA on the way and visited the Pez Museum (OK, technically we visited the Pez Museum gift shop, which the kids thought WAS the museum) and the Crayola Crayon Factory (ditto). We ate lousy pizza in a random spot and mourned the fact that our other planned expedition - The Caramelcorn Shop - was en restoro, due to a fire (presumably a tasty fire, not that one should joke about such things).

Other highlights of our trip (above and beyond a perfectly splendid Thanksgiving, featuring something like 23 of our nearest and dearest) were a trip to The Big Apple Circus (complete with positively mesmerizing blue cotton candy courtesy of Grandpa Dan), a trip to the American Girl store (at the insistence of Franny and her doll, Kit) and a trip to Mike's favorite restaurant, The Excellent Dumpling House (aka The Dump).

See how happy Mike looks when he's at The Dump?

That's because he's eating MY Hunan Special Rice Noodle Soup, which totally kicked his Hot and Sour Noodle Soup's tushie! Tushie is a Grandma Dearie word for BUTT, in case you were wondering. Still no word about the future of my BUTT book, for those of you who were wondering.

Speaking of books... NINETY-THREE IN MY FAMILY broke into the TOP FIFTY chart of Abrams books (at, um, #50, I think) and has been steadily climbing! This may be because BarnesandNoble.com named it a "Great Read Aloud" for 4-8 year olds. Or it may be because my mom is stocking up for her holiday gifts. Either way, it's all good.

AND, NINETY-THREE IN MY FAMILY also received a very nice review in the December issue of Washington Parent magazine (HOLIDAY BOOKS ROUND-UP)!

I'm hitting several school book fairs and book stores in the upcoming weeks, so please check my calendar and come say hi!!! Posted by Picasa

Monday, November 20, 2006

Get On The Bus!

Here are some pix of my trip to Nashville to speak at the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) conference last weekend. Left to right: Susan Lubner, author of RUTHIE BON BAIR: Do Not Go To Bed With Wringing Wet Hair (wearing her incomparable "Ruthie Bon Bair Hair"), me (wearing my squirrel hat), Joanna Cole, author of the eight-gazillion Magic School Bus books, and Bruce Degan, illustrator of the Magic School House books and many, many more, including the classic JAMBERRY.

The conference was lots of fun, as it gave me an opportunity to meet LOTS of enthusiastic teachers (many of whom snapped up the hot-off-the-presses NINETY-THREE IN MY FAMILY CLASSROOM ACTIVITY GUIDE), to see several author pals (big shout-out to Lauren Myracle, who I wish lived nearer to me!) and meet a couple more, and to hang out with my wonderful editor, Susan Van Metre and my outstanding pubility guru Jason Wells.

I also got to hang out with Susan Lubner (pictured above), who is a hat-ful of fun, I tell ya! We got lost about fifty times in the first five minutes with our "navigation-system-equipped" rental car, but after we got the hang of it, we piloted it out of the Opryland galaxie and all the way to an amazing Road-Food-endorsed lunch spot called SWETTS, where I had this feast:

MMMMMM! I could live on that squash casserole (located at 12 o'clock, above the fried chicken), I tell ya!

It was a good thing we ate hearty, though, because the Opryland Convention Center was designed by some bizarre sadists who seemed bent on keeping attendees decaffeinated, hungry and dry. The only vending machine I ever saw ran out of water early on in the conference and was never refilled, getting ANY coffee required a 45 minute wait in line at a cookie store and having lunch on the premises was basically impossible (after an hour of trying to find a place to sit and be fed and only succeeding in obtaining a beeper - which looked less than edible - Susan Lubner and I gave up and retreated to the airport).

Opryland is a strange, wacky universe, I noted to Tobin Anderson as we stared up at the bubble dome covering the faux version of antebellum New Orleans. "Sort of like being in the eighteenth century, only sent into space," he replied. Which we then realized would be like a bizarre combination of at least two of his recent books (Octavian Nothing and Feed... with a bit of Whales on Stilts tossed in for ambiance, in my opinion).

But I'll stop complaining because, these inconveniences aside, I actually love every minute of attending book conferences. There's something very thrilling about walking onto a book conference floor and striding up to a table where people will line up for you to sign your books. When we finished making wrong turns and actually got the car to move in the right direction, the navigation system told us "You Have Arrived."

Which is exactly what it felt like. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Nashville, here I come!

For all (both?) you loyal readers, I just wanted to let you know that I'll be away for a few days.

I'm off to Nashville, Tennessee to speak at the National Council of Teachers of English conference. I'm very excited about this opportunity, and not just because it means staying at a hotel (with a pool!). And not just any hotel with a pool, mind you, but the Opryland Hotel. I'll also get to see my pal Trine (aka Red Dane), who has come out of the woods at long last and is now the most over-qualified salesperson at the Nashville REI. And I'll get to meet Bruce "Jamberry" Degan, who is signing books with me and Susan Lubner.

And I'll get to wear my squirrel hat and sing NINETY-THREE IN MY FAMILY in front of an audience with a median age greater than five, which is kind of new for me (and hopefully won't be an unmitigated disaster).

I'll report back either way, I promise.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Yes, Virginia, there is a...

Note the double entendre of my title... I am in VIRGINIA (the state) with Santa Claus. I'm actually at Jabberwocky, in Fredericksburg, VA, which is apparently the reading-est little town in the entire country. I have never seen so many people buying books (particularly MY books, which is always a thrill). Must be the amazing proprietresses of Jabberwocky, Mona and Linda. Or else there's just something in the water there.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Chew on THIS

Here's what I thought was a little known fact about me: I love stale candy.

Apparently it is not so little known, because while visiting my friends Liz and Tim recently, they surprised me with a treasure trove: a bag of Halloween candy they saved from LAST YEAR especially for me.

Okay, I'm sure many of you are saying "Ewwwww!" so let me clarify. No chocolate or perishable stuff, just items like tootsie rolls (chocolate and fruit-flavored) and Starburst chews... stuff that keeps FOR-EVER.

I can't begin to tell you how good it is. The flavors are, basically, the same. But the texture is sublime. Much, much chewier and resistant to the bite than the fresh stuff. Kind of adds an element of intrigue to the consumption: Am I going to lose a filling? Is this cherry-flavored nugget actually ALIVE and putting up a struggle?

Until Liz and Tim rocked my world, I had to resort to strategies like tunneling to the back of the rack to find the firmest confections. I would get excited in random places, like stores with long-ignored candy counters. I'm not a big risk taker with my health, so I shun selections that are covered with dust or located too close to the ground. But packaged treats that appear to have been sitting pretty for aeons? The wallflowers of the candy world? Bring 'em on.

I've had the bag for a few days now and I've already put a serious dent in it. The item I plan to eat last is a single wrapped piece of red licorice, which I know from my gingerbread-house-making days is pretty much the ne plus ultra of stale candy. Of course, if I were really self-disciplined, I'd set it aside for another year... or two.

But I'm not. Another not so little known fact about me.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

More Halloween Recap

Here are some more photos of the wonderful Janney Elementary School kids in food-related costumes. There were also two kids dressed as milk and cookies and later on I saw three kids dressed as peas in a pod.

I particularly liked how the kid who dressed as a stick of butter put tablespoon marks on his side - a nice touch! Clearly, this kid's on a roll!
Get it? Butter... on a roll??
And of course, I had to follow through with a picture of the girl I devoted an entire entry to:

Franny's friend Rebecca as...


For a six-year-old, her campaign literature was pretty impressive. She definitely has MY vote. Posted by Picasa

Halloween Recap

Happiness is... a principal who is willing to get into the Halloween spirit by not only donning a costume, but actually shaving his head (but for Charlie Brown's signature frontal tuft) to complete the ensemble.

Way to go, Mr. Cartland!

As some of you know, my girl Franny originally lobbied for a store-bought costume. However, due to unforseen events, that did not come to pass. She ended up developing (with some guidance from her grandma, Maryann Sewell) a top-notch home-made costume, to wit: The Girl With a Pearl Earring. Many adults and kids fawned over her, praising her creativity (which never happens when you go as yet another Disney character!) and only one very small child misidentified her as "a magic mirror." (Franny was momentarily troubled by this, before I pointed out that he couldn't read yet - her title is clearly displayed on the frame).

Hey, a magic mirror would make a good costume, too... maybe next year.

Food costumes were big at Janney Elementary this year (see "More Halloween Recap" and "It's All Greek To Me" entries).

Addie (right) is a bag of jelly beans, and Isabel (left) is a container of baking powder.

I think I saw Isabel later Halloween night trick-or-treating with a friend (sibling?) dressed as a container of baking soda. Would I make this up? Posted by Picasa

It's All Greek To Me

Technically, this is NOT my favorite Halloween costume of the year (that honor would be held by my daughter Franny's costume... see "Halloween Recap" entry) but it IS my favorite Halloween costume worn by a child outside of my immediate family (namely, Franny's friend Elena).

The costume, as you can see, is: GREEK SALAD. Gotta love kids who are creative enough to shun the obvious costume choices and dream big (can you tell that I was once a child who insisted on dressing up as: THE SCHOOL LUNCH MENU?). Extra points for kids who are also clever enough to convince grown-ups (in this case, a talented aunt) to break out the sewing machine and fashion a cucumber hat, soft-sculpture olives and tomatoes and styrofoam feta chunks!

Excellent job, Elena!!! Posted by Picasa

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