Vintage Fruity Monsters to the Rescue!

Vintage Fruity Monsters? Now, that ‘s a movie I want to see! If you are like me, your mind may have concocted an image of Bella Lugosi, Lon Chaney, and Boris Karloff starring in some bizarre Rocky Horror meets Avengers mash-up.

But no, I’m not talking about those kind vintage fruity monsters. (and if you’re not like me, than I apologize for putting that image in your brain). To make up for it, check out this Tumblr page full of cool vintage monster images.

I’m talking about these guys.

So how, you may be wondering, are a hot pink Frankenstein, chocolate-sucking vampire, and boo-tylicious ghost going to come to your rescue? Well, let’s say it’s less than a week before Halloween, and let’s say you somehow ended up getting nominated to bring treats to a school/office/whatever function. You’ve already blown a month’s salary on candy and costumes, you need something cheap and fast. Enter, the monsters.

Like the Halloween Mood Table, I blame my husband and his love for the website Dinosaur Dracula for the birth of the Monster Krispy. Throughout the month of October I’ve been experimenting in my lab kitchen, creating a new breed of marshmallow+sugary cereal treat.

Count Chocula’s turn came first…


Then Frankie had a turn in the lab…


Boo Berry, get ready, your turn is coming…

To make your own monster treats, simply gather the following ingredients:

2 10 oz bags mini-marshmallows (8 cups, give or take)

1 “family size” box  of Monster cereal (10 cups) , any variety (aside from the Unholy Trinity, Fruit Brute and Yummy Mummy are also haunting supermarket aisles right now)

1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter

Like a traditional cereal bar recipe, grab your cauldron pot, melt the butter, then add the marshmallows and stir until it looks like The Stay Puft-Man after the Ghostbusters blasted him.  Turn off the heat, mix in the cereal until it’s all a sticky glorious glob, drop it into a pan (I prefer a jelly roll pan lined with parchment paper) spread the glob out evenly using wax paper, parchment, or your hands (please wash them first). Let it set, then cut into bars. The more marshmallows you use, the softer (and stickier) your treats will be.

And you’re done! Time to party. Need some Monster Music to munch to? I’m a sucker for the traditional favorites like Monster Mash and Thriller, and check out this tune, a current favorite of the 2 mini-redheads in my house.

Need Help Setting the Mood?

With temperatures dropping into the 30’s and snow predicted for tonight, I can almost understand stores who deck their halls and aisles with Hallowmas – aka that bizarre trend where Halloween rubs elbows with Christmas…

Wait, no I can’t.  October is for Halloween. All Hallow’s Eve is less than 10 days away now, and if you haven’t gotten into the spooky spirit of the season, I may have something to help.

You see, at the start of October, I had no desire to to bust out the orange storage boxes and decorate our house with witches, ghosts and all things pumpkin. I just wasn’t in the mood. The husband has always been fond of my usual fondness for holiday decorating, and he kept nudging me about it – finally going so far as to request we create a Halloween Mood Table; an idea he got from Dinosaur Dracula, a website he’s followed for years.

“You want a what?” I asked.  And he directed me to DD’s blog post about this design phenomena.

Basically,  the concept is to make it look like Halloween puked all over the table of your choice. Now, my preference for Halloween decorating is to stay away from the gory gross stuff. I strive for more of a cute creepy vs. psychotic. This is what we ended up with:


At first I grumbled about it, but as we kept adding things to the table, like Halloween books and seasonal movies (and video games courtesy of the husband); I found that the table was doing its job – I was getting into the Halloween spirit!


We’ve continued to add some more stuff here and there (mostly crafts by Miss A and Lil’ G), and I have to say, it has been nice to have this big ol’ pile of Halloween greet me at the door. I’ve definitely gotten in the mood.

If you created a Halloween Mood Table, what would be on it?

What Gets You Through

“The only way out is through.” I don’t remember where or when I first heard this saying, but I’ve been cognizant of it for some time. This year I’ve become more aware than ever of the truth behind the sentiment, and the strength required to make the journey of “through”.

A few months ago I talked about why Friday – a day I used to look forward to and enjoy – has become a day I just need to get through. It’s been almost four months since that blog post, and nearly seven months since my dad died, and some Fridays have found me waking up without the heavy weight of grief tugging on every muscle and making me tired even before I get out of bed to start the day. But there are other Fridays, and other days that are not Fridays, that for one reason or another – for lots of reasons or what feels like no reason at all – are still very hard. Today was one of them.

Last night I had a dream about my dad. I was helping my mom move when the phone in the new house rang. It was an old-school cordless phone with a giant retractable antenna – beige – just like the kind we had when I was a kid. I can still see myself in the dream picking up that tank of a receiver and saying hello… and hearing my dad’s voice on the other end of the line. My heart gets stuck in my throat just typing that, but while I was in the dream, nothing about the phone call seemed odd or strange or off or anything. My dad and I talked about all kinds of things; very pleasant and matter of fact. Almost as if he was away on a long trip and I was filling him in on everything he had missed. I remember after talking to him for quite some time I asked if he wanted to speak to mom, and he said sure – but when I handed her the phone all she heard was static – and that’s when I woke up.

Those first few moments you wake up from a dream and come back to reality and remember? Yeah, they suck. That dream felt so real that at first I felt relieved; I had talked to my dad and he was doing ok. He sounded relaxed – happy even… I hate to use the phrase but he sounded like he felt “at peace”. It felt good to just talk to him and tell him about the girls and their activities, how Lil’ G just lost her first baby tooth, and how Miss A is really enjoying basketball. But then I remembered I didn’t actually talk to him at all – he is out of reach, and will never get to see Lil G’s gap toothed smile or cheer proudly at Miss A’s first b-ball game. And remembering sucks. How do I get through that?

A writer and a bookworm, a combination of these things have helped me work on the “getting through” part of this journey.

The first is a book a sweet friend gave to me when she heard the news about my dad.


The Next Place by Warren Hanson

She had lost her mother, and said the book had helped her cope. It is a wonderful book, simple and loving. And it was a perfect story to share with my daughters. If you have a friend who loses a loved one and you are not sure what to do to help or what to say; I highly recommend the gift of this book.

The second is a journal; created by a mother and daughter who struggled with the sudden loss of their son/brother.


Angel Catcher by Kathy Eldon and Amy Eldon Turteltaub

This journal is honest and frank; with questions and prompts that have helped me shape my thoughts into words so I could get them on paper and purge not just the grief, but some of the bitterness, anger, fear, and host of other emotions that spiral through you when you lose someone very close to you. A children’s version of the journal is also available, and I gave one to my 10 year old daughter, who celebrated her birthday with her Papa barely a week before he passed. She and my dad were very close, and this journal has given her the time and space to work through her own feelings at her own pace, in her own way.  Sometimes we talk about what she writes, and sometimes we don’t. But I know that while I have sometimes caught her crying as she scribbles in her journal, she too is working on the “through,” and tears are part of the process.

Sharing my thoughts here is also, in my own weird way, part of my process of getting through.  So thanks for that. If you are reading this and trying to find your own way through… or know someone who is, maybe something here will help you along the way. Even if it’s just the knowledge someone else is going through the “through” too.

Halloween Crafts That Aren’t Too Tricky

Today is 10/10, make a wish!

Did you wish for fun ideas to add plenty of thrills to your child’s Halloween party? You did!? Well you’re in for a treat because October is the month I put my witch hat on and get all crafty. (I try not to ride the broom and cackle too much, it bothers the neighbors).

I admit I’m one of THOSE moms. You know, the kind of mom who just loves planning class parties and gets goosebumps of anticipation while browsing Pinterest boards for spooky crafts, games and treats. At the same time, however, I’m also the kind of mom who likes to KISS (keep it simple, silly!). Kids don’t need too much to have fun. And fun is the name of the game.

One of my easiest Halloween treats is a healthy version of the Owl Smore, a fall dessert created by Amy Locurto. I first blogged about adapting her recipe HERE. My version is super simple: graham crackers, sliced bananas, raisins or craisins, and candy corn (or even better – almonds if nut allergies aren’t an issue). Put out the ingredients in bowls, and let kids assemble their own owls!


To make them look even more “owl-like” you can add a circle of fruit on top of the bananas before the raisin. Circles of mango or pineapple work best…but it does add to the mess!

Because my girls go to a charter school with a strong focus on healthy eating and green living, I find many of the traditional party games and foods just don’t fly. Hence, I end up tweaking things – like the owl treat above. Another tweak came about when I was trying to plan crafts and games. One of my favorite Halloween party games is the “Mummy Race” – where teams of kids are given a roll of toilet paper and race to see who can wrap a member of the team up as a mummy the fastest. However, I couldn’t justify using all that toilet paper and then just tossing it away! And while I am all for re-using, I doubt anyone would want to use toilet paper for its intended purpose after a bunch of kids have been handling it. So I decided to use it as stuffing in a craft. The idea came about when I saw a post about a Halloween puppet craft that called for turning an old sock into a bat puppet. I had a light bulb moment and decided I could do something similar. I put out a request for parents to donate lonely old socks (clean, of course) as well as buttons, ribbons, and fabric scraps. On party day, after the mummy game, the kids took all that unrolled TP flying around the classroom and used it to stuff the socks until they were nice and full and fluffy.  Then using the donated notions, markers and fabric paint, students decorated the socks and turned them into whatever Halloween-y creature their little heart desired.  Parent volunteers helped complete the creations with glue guns, and TA DA! Boo Buddies were born.


The Boo Buddy Bat


Mr. Bat joined by more Boo Buddies: a mummy and a ghost.

I loved how they turned out out! I think this ended up being a fun little craft that lets kids use their imagination. And  Boo Buddies make sweet take home keepsakes!

I’ll try to showcase a few more crafts and ideas before Halloween flies by, I hope you’ll stop by for a spell.

It’s the First Day of Fall and I’m Feeling Lucky (and Thankful)

Today we cross the border from summer to fall; a season so short and so sweet, but so wonderful. Sunny windy days that make me feel like anything is possible. The unique-to-autumn earthy smell of leaves that makes me happy deep down inside. On this, the first day of my favorite time of the year, I am moved to count my blessings and recognize the fact that while September has rushed by in a blur of to-do lists, I need to slow down and savor my favorite season before it’s gone. And while I’m at it, September has brought me some luck I need to take note of and be thankful for, because lord knows I’ve needed a bit of luck in what has easily been the most horrible year of my life. So, here are a few bits of recent luck I’m thankful for:

  1. Not too long ago I stumbled across a shared FB post about an article on Mamalode that led me to the blog of Alison Li. When I read something on-line that really strikes me, I track down the writer’s website to see what else they might have written that speaks to me, and Alison’s honest yet beautiful blog posts about being a writer, a mother, a woman… Well, it was a home run.  So in August when she posted about her upcoming 37th b-day, I totally could relate, as I will be saying hello to that same number in a few months. She was running a giveaway, and of course I entered, and was delighted and excited to learn I had won one of the prizes – a handmade knit purse in gorgeous fall shades crafted by Alma Boheme. Alma is also a blogger, and I soon discovered, another kindred spirit. Just from following that one shared blog post, I discovered two incredible women I can relate to, and won a lovely gift too. Now that’s lucky.


My prize from Alma and Alison, all wrapped up in a pretty package!

Alma has graciously allowed me to extend a special offer to readers if they’d like a purse like mine or another handmade treasure available on her Etsy shop (she has some gorgeous knit pieces up right now, perfect for fall walks) – you can use this code at checkout to save 10% on your order: THANKS10

  1. I was so excited for the start of this school year, because with both girls in school (Lil’ G started Kindergarten), I was finally going to have time to write! So far, that time has been spent mostly on other responsibilities, and it’s so easy for the writing to get lost in the shuffle. Add to that the paralysis at the keyboard that seems to set in some times. It’s hard to describe, I suppose I could call it the fear to move forward, because to do so would mean risking rejection. But sometimes a little boost comes along to help urge me back on the path, and such a boost came when I was recently notified that I was a finalist in the Indiana Golden Opportunity writing contest. Earlier this year I had decided to stay away from entering writing contests, but the fact that the IGO is set up much like the RWA Golden Heart (which is pretty much the biggest writing contest for unpublished romance writers, for those of you not in the know) – well,  I couldn’t resist entering;  if nothing else, to indulge my sense of  “what if…” And I’m well aware luck as well as talent plays in to these contests. I know so many factors outside of my control can influence the outcome. I’m just glad luck was on my side this time around, and I’ll get back to work using my talent to do what I can about the rest. **ETA:  My entry took first place in the paranormal category!
  2. I’m not just a writer, but a reader – an avid one at that. But like my writing, there never seems to be enough time in the day to fit much reading in. One way I’ve managed to indulge my reading habit while keeping up with the to-do list  is through audiobooks. An audiobook review site I like, AudioGals, asked followers of their website to share their reasons for why they love listening to audiobooks. A few weeks ago my list of reasons was featured, and as a reward for contributing, the lovely ladies at AudioGals treated me to a Tantor Romance Novel audiobook of my choice. I felt lucky to share my love of audiobooks, and extra lucky to pick out a new one! For my prize, I chose the second book in the MacGregor trilogy by Grace Burrowes. And if listening to a romance narrated by a man with a Scots brogue sounds appealing, well, check out the first book in this trilogy: The Bridegroom Wore Plaid.

So yes, I’ve had some recent luck, and I’m thankful for it. There have been many dark, horrible days this year but life goes on, and I have to move past the darkness and embrace my life as I have it. Because I am lucky to be alive, now, in this moment as the seasons change.

I wish you an autumn full of sunny, windy, leaf-strewn days…the kind of days that make you feel thankful to be alive.

Why I Love Eleanor & Park

The time I get to spend reading for pleasure is rare and precious—as a mom and a writer I always feel I should be busy doing *something else* but  sometimes, a book comes along so good it cannot be denied, and everything gets ignored: laundry, word counts, dishes, edits. Such was the case with the book, Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. In fact, here’s my tweet about the first page:

E&P lived up to page one’s promise. I truly enjoyed this book in a way my writer’s mind rarely allows me to these days: I became invested in the characters and the story and didn’t stop to ponder how strong the plot was, or if there were flaws with character development…my editor’s brain was turned off and my reader’s mind was turned on. That is the best thing I can say about any book, and I can’t say it often. This book gave me the gift of many “happy reader sighs”—you know, those little coos of pleasure when you come across a particularly delicious passage or a an achingly perfect moment. E&P was full of these, and rather than break the whole book down, I’ll simply share some of my favorites:

My favorite Eleanor moments:

Oh, fine, Eleanor thought. The children of hell shan’t go hungry on my watch.

Oh, Eleanor, how I understand this sentiment. The fact that there are cruel people who feed off the misery they cause others, and knowing you are fresh meat—I get it. From the moment Eleanor expresses this self-aware and droll observation, she had me hooked.

I don’t like you Park…I think I live for you.

This girl, who is so afraid of the truth…so afraid to allow herself to feel…she pulls the rug right out from under you with her brutal honesty.

Beautiful. Breathtaking. Like the person in a Greek myth who makes one of the gods stop caring about being a God.

Her description of Park in this moment…wow. Forget the details of eyes and hair and mouth, let me turn on my internal editor for a moment to say that this is deep POV at its best.

Don’t bite his face, Eleanor told herself. It’s disturbing and needy and never happens in situation comedies or movies that end with the big kisses.

And then, moments later when Park says something perfect and sweet and understanding and RIGHT, she says, “God, it was like he wanted her to eat his face clean off.”  And I smiled, despite the bizarre imagery, and nodded my head in understanding.

Thinking about going out with Park, in public, was kind of like taking your helmet off in space.

See what I mean? It’s lines like that which give me the happy book sigh.

The world rebuilt itself into a better place around him.

This one too. Sigh.

My favorite Park moments:

…because people want to remember what it’s like to be young? and in love?

This was Park’s answer to why Romeo & Juliet has survived over four hundred years…and my former high school English teacher’s soul ate this right up. Yes. And precisely one of the reasons E&P is so amazing as well.

Holding Eleanor’s hand was like holding a butterfly, or a heartbeat. Like holding something complete, and completely alive. … When he touched Eleanor’s hand, he recognized her. He knew.

I spent a decade as a high school speech coach—directing kids in such events as Prose and Verse. If I were coaching now, I’d be all over E&P. This amazing piece of poetry as prose alone could earn a performer the state title, I think.

She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.

***Happy Book Sigh Alert***

Eleanor’s face crumpled, and it made him come unhinged. You can be Han Solo, he said, kissing her throat, and I’ll be Boba Fett. I’ll cross the sky for you.

That’s it. I’m done. Book clasped to my chest, tears wiggling their way free. Damn, I love this book.

Do yourself a favor and read Eleanor and Park...though if you need to get any writing or cleaning done—well, you’ve been warned in advance

Why Fridays Are Hard

Once upon a time, I loved Fridays. I loved how Friday perched on the edge of the weekend: a bundle of anticipation, of fun not yet had,and of free time not yet spent. I looked forward to the Friday buzz, felt it deep down in my bones—the tickle of all the good things yet to come.

That all changed three months ago today. April 26th, 2013 was a perfect Friday. A beautiful, sunny day. The first truly nice day to come along on what had been a  very gray, rainy spring. One of the wettest on record, in fact. My father, an avid cyclist, had been chomping at the bit to get out and enjoy a long ride. That Friday morning he packed up his gear and hit the road, looking forward to his first ride to work of the season. (Despite many protests from myself and other family members, my dad would ride his bike to work when the weather allowed, which was a 30 mile trip ONE way).  I can only imagine what he was feeling that gorgeous Friday morning, the sun warming his back, the wind in his face, as he headed out on his ride. I can only pray his heart was full of all the happy possibilities the best kind of Friday can bring. I hope so with every particle of my being because in a flash, my father was gone. Some compassionate passers-by found him on the side of the road, fingers still gripping the handlebars.


I was at a Friday writing session with some writer buddies when I got the jumbled phone call from my sister…time slowed down and I could hear the blood rush in my ears as I numbly packed my stuff and headed for the hospital, not knowing exactly what had happened, not knowing if my father was alive.

He wasn’t.

When I arrived at the hospital I was led to a room in the ER, and when they pulled back the curtain I stepped in to the oddly dark and quiet space on wobbly feet. And gazed down at my dad, who looked asleep. Surely, he was sleeping.

He wasn’t.

There are no words for what happens in those first few moments you are in the presence of the empty shell of someone you loved deeply for the whole of your existence. If you have been through it, you know.

Since that Friday, my life was measured in painful seconds, minutes, hours days…and finally weeks as I counted and collected each Friday as it passed, waking up to wonder…what if this Friday had been different…what if this Friday he was still here.

I can remember leaving the hospital and feeling a bizarre sense of disorientation as I drove down sunny streets full of people rushing here and there, getting ready to enjoy their Friday evening. The axis of my world had stopped spinning, and I could not absorb the reality that life was still moving around me, pushing forward as normal. At first I  was afraid to share my grief in public, but in this age of tech-connectivity, getting the word out to friends and family via social media was an unexpected blessing, the warmth and comfort from the thoughtful comments a surprise. I don’t know if I would say misery loves company, but somehow, the pain is dulled when you realize how many other people you know have suffered through similar heartbreaking loss, and have come through it on the other side.

If I’ve learned one thing in the last 3 months, it’s that time DOES NOT heal all wounds. And no, it doesn’t get easier— but you do get stronger.

Last Friday afternoon I sat with more than a thousand other writers at the RWA National conference and listened to a luncheon speech presented by author Kristan Higgins. At one point Kristan described some of the darker moments in her life, including the sudden tragic loss of her own father who was hit by a drunk driver.  Yes, I was a slobbery mess by the end of her speech…but listening to her helped. She’d suffered horrendous loss and yet had found the strength and courage to chase her dreams and create stories with heart and a happy ending.

Yes, Fridays are hard. Some more than others. But the only way past is through, and as I make it through another Friday, I find myself cherishing the wonderful things in my life: my husband and my daughters, my dear friends, my health…and I know that every day is a Friday…perched on the moment of possibility: with memories yet to make, dreams yet to achieve, and love still to share.

***Blogging about grief isn’t easy…after all this a very personal subject, and everyone deals with loss differently. But in those first harsh weeks after losing my dad, I found myself strangely fortified by reading blog posts from others who had lost their fathers suddenly and unexpectedly. I don’t know why, but somehow it helped to know I wasn’t alone. So while I mainly wrote this to post help myself purge a bit of what is heavy on my heart, should anyone out there who finds themselves unable to sleep or think past the immediacy of loss stumble across this post, you’re not alone. You may walk this path at your own pace, and shoulder the burden in your own way, but on this road, you are not alone***