Virtual Spring Break ideas for kids

Credit: es.phillipmartin.info

So… Spring is coming up, and just like last year, things are looking a little different. I know we are all itching to get out! Our family included! And this year, our family does have a plan to get out … a little!

But, largely — we will still be at home, so we will still be doing a bit of vicarious vacationing! I’ve compiled a list of wonderful resources to enjoy a virtual vacation!

Don’t forget laundry basket + water in a spray bottle + roller coaster videos

= Ultimate At Home Splash Mountain Experience!!

San Diego Zoo
Smithsonian’s National Zoo Webcams

Canadian Egg Farm
Canadian Apple Orchard
Undeniably Dairy- Visit a Dairy Farm

Yellowstone National Park – visit several locations in the park.
Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii

Yosemite National Park, California

Epic! App for Kids: The netflix for children’s books and research gold for writers

appstore_audio_480x360Raise your hand if you have young children? Now keep your hand raised if you also like to write books for children? Still have your hand in the air? Then you NEED to try Epic! An amazing app available on apple and android smart devices.

They have thousands of children’s ebook titles available, and are adding more each day including huge, mega popular titles and characters such as “Ramona”, “Peter Rabbit” and “Where the Wild Things Are.”

Here’s what my evenings look like now that we have Epic in our home. First, I set up a profile for my daughter and I to read together. Her current favorite books include “Old MacDonald’s Letter Farm”, “Duck Goes Potty”, and “Hello, How are You?” to name a few. That last one has taught her how to engage in a conversation with others. It’s very sweet!

Kids Profile_300x250After, my daughter is asleep for the evening, I switch to a second “research” profile and devour as many picture books, chapter books, and middle grade titles that I can before going to bed myself. If I find stories with structure or prose I admire, I can add those to my favorites to come back to and observe again later. I do this because, as a writer, it is difficult to write in your genre of choice without first taking the time to read many, many books in that genre! This is certainly helping me to shine up my very rusty writing skills.

lifestyle_fourkids_thousands_300x250You can try out Epic for yourself for 30 days for FREE!! Thereafter it is 4.99 a month to keep your subscription. That’s the cost of 1 board book per month, which I would likely easily be doing. (Or making special trips to the library to check out books, but who am I kidding? I’m a busy mom of a toddler … How often do I reliably make it to the library? In a perfect world we’d attend twice a week and engage in 20 minutes of uninterrupted storytime, but I digress.) Epic! makes life so much easier. We are building up a list of favorites and introducing new books here and there as well. She just loves the Beth and Bert stories from Highlights! Yup, Highlights! One of my favorite children’s literary magazines. Did I mention they have stories from Highlights?

Picture Book research at Barnes and Noble

This past sunday, I was able to get out and do something I haven’t done in quite awhile! I walked into a yummy book-scented Barnes and Noble complete with a cd section ala Blockbuster Music, and headed to read some popular picture books! Of course, whenever I pass anything that might of interest to my little one, I get distracted.

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I mean, come on, what 22 month old wouldn’t enjoy a soft barnyard full of chickens, ducks, cows, and pigs? Then again, maybe it delighted me just as much!

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I finally made my way to the picture book section, and pulled out these five fun stories — and devoured them! A new Enya song I’d never heard came on for my listening pleasure making the experience even more pleasurable!

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This little book, “Shh… we have a plan!” by Chris Haughton made me laugh out loud. The tiniest character on the left — That’s my daughter to a “t.”

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I left feeling refreshed, inspired and ready to write my own manuscripts. Being a children’s author certainly has its perks!

Writing and rain

 

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I opened up the front door earlier this evening to check for packages on my doorstep, and while I was not blessed with a bundle of goodies, I did get to take in a deep breath of damp, cool air with a slight musty smell that only comes with new rain. Though it is hours later now, I can still close my eyes and re-create the serenity that washed over me during that moment. I carried my daughter outside to show her the wonder of evening rain. She delighted in it so much, she ran inside telling her Dad “it’s raining.” Later, when putting her to bed for the evening, the tranquility continued. It wasn’t a raging in storm, just a light, constant pitter-pattering. It made me want to write! So after she was sound asleep, and for the first time in what felt like ages, I let words flow from my fingertips.

I’m back!

tortoiseSo … I’m back!

Where did I go? I ventured into the land of new-mommydom! And my daughter is almost a year old now. Oops! That was quite a long hiatus!

To make a long story short, the last year or so has been quite a transition for me, but I am finally finding my blogging/writing feet! And while I am moving at a turtle’s pace, I am making progress in all areas of my life.

I think if ever I could compare myself to a children’s book character it would be now. I am the tortoise in “The Tortoise and the Hare.” I can see the finish line, but I know it will take me a little while to get there. And that’s ok!

It’s good to be back!

 

Three baby puppies

I love English Bull Terriers! I have a post that’s been in the works about how much they touch the lives of their owners, but it’s not ready yet. In the meantime, I wanted to post pictures of these cuties. My mom breeds English Bull Terriers, and she recently had a litter of three baby boy puppies. They are the cutest pups ever (well that I’ve seen in a long time … I may be slightly biased.)

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Django and Cim

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Two of my published children’s stories feature bull terriers. They are true characters! I think these little guys just may show up in a new manuscript soon!

Stitch Fix Review #1- For a Hopeless Matchy-matchy Writer

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When I stumbled upon Stitch Fix, I was instantly intrigued. I’ve wanted to try a personal stylist for years, but never gotten around to doing it. Now, with Stitch Fix I get the benefits of a personal stylist from the comfort of my own home!

You may be wondering why I’m doing a review of clothing on my writing blog. Well, here’s the thing. I’ve had this dream of becoming a successful, carefree, AND eclectically styled writer. I could really use some help as I’m practically hopeless when it comes to creating outfits. So here’s another chapter in my writing journey, where I revise … my wardrobe.

Here’s what a typical shopping outing looks like for me. I go into a store with a list (ex. sweater, capris, tops, etc.) I come out of the store with a scarf, an ill-fitting yet cute top, and a pair of shoes (my weakness). And does anything go with anything else in my closet? No, not really.

I can put outfits together, but more often than not they’re too matchy-matchy. I want to master the art of choosing a patterned top, statement necklace, and skinny jeans that ‘turns heads’ or even becomes ‘pinworthy’. That’s why I’m super excited that every item I receive today includes a style card. A fabulous place to start!

I’d post photos of some of my fashion faux-pas over the years (matching floral leggings and tops, wild/busy, nauseating prints, etc.), but it seems I can’t find any photographic evidence. Go figure! But here’s a sneak peek at my first box…

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Here’s how Stitch Fix works:

  • Sign up and fill out your style profile. TIP: Link to your pinterest style board so your stylist can get visual ideas of what you like. 
  • Schedule your first “Fix”
  • Pay a $20 styling fee and wait for beautifully packaged items to arrive.
  • Receive a box full of items hand-picked by  your personal stylist, just for you, based on your profile
  • Try everything on, keep what you want, send back what you don’t. (The $20 styling fee comes off the price of anything you choose to keep and if you buy all 5 items, you get a 25% discount!)
  • Stitch Fix also offers $25.00 referral credits. If you decide to use stitch fix and use this link I will get get credit. (And once you sign up, you’ll get a link too so you can tell all your friends about it.)

Without further adieu, here are the contents of my first box!

Item 1: Aiden Flutter Sleeve Blouse, $48.00

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What I loved: Liked the High-low style.

What I didn’t love: The color. This royal blue color has always seemed an odd one for me. I have a hard time pairing it with bottoms, and I don’t think it looks great on me. Sizing was off. The arm holes were too big.

Status:  Sent back.

Item : Jaclynn 3/4 Sleeve Button Up Cardigan, $38.00

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What I loved: This sweater was so soft. It did fit nicely.

What I didn’t love: Too plain, not adventurous enough. Looked like many other pieces in my existing wardrobe. I’m starting to sense a blue theme going on with this fix…

Status:  Sent back.

Item 1: Dixen Mixed Stripe Button-Up Blouse, $48.00

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What I loved: Teal is fun (really stretching on positive comments for this one…)

What I didn’t love: I was swimming in this. It did nothing for my curves. And the view was even worse from the back. (I’m refusing to post that picture.) Once again with the blue …

Status: Sent back.

Item 1: Double Layer Circle Bubble Necklace, $28.00

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What I loved: Ivory and gold look great together. Seems like a versatile piece.

What I didn’t love: I was SO hoping this necklace would be mint colored like a similar one I’d seen online.

Status:  Kept!

Item 1: Sterling Belted Striped MiniDress, $48.00

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What I loved: This dress is adorable. My favorite piece of the day. I loved the cut — high in the front, low in the back. I can dress it up for evening, and pair with a cardigan for work. A hit!

What I didn’t love: Stripes aren’t my personal favorite pattern, but for this dress it worked.

Status: Kept!

Overall, I loved my experience. I’m hoping my fixes will only get better as I personalize my profile and give feedback to my stylist. (Like including some pieces in mint since I asked for it specifically!) In the coming months, I’m hoping my stylist can help me build a New York writer, headshot worthy wardrobe.

Please note: I purchased my own box. Stitch Fix is not paying me to advertise for them, though they do offer an incentive for referrals. If you’d like to try Stitch Fix click here to use my referral link, which will give me credit towards my next fix.

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Library Days: Rancho Santa Margarita Library

My latest library visit led my to Rancho Santa Margarita Library in you guessed it — Rancho Santa Margarita, CA. This visit happened shortly after the LA13SCBWI Summer Conference, so I was really in need of a decompression day.

I started my day with a manicure at the Luxe Organic Nail & Spa and had my nails painted with my latest color obsession — mint! I love that they use organic products and natural cleaning products. Not all of their polish is organic but they do have some options that are.

PolishThen I headed for a sushi lunch at Sake Sushi. Can you see the steam rising from my lightly salted edamame?

IMG_2075Finally, I made my way to the library. Naturally, I looked at the return cart first, curious to see what the children were reading. The books were arranged in such a haphazard way it made me believe that the picture book section was being thoroughly enjoyed that day. A storyteller was there as well reading aloud several picture books to a handful of cheerful and inquisitive children.

IMG_2060I also grabbed several books to study that were recommended by Deborah Halverson at the Summer Conference as excellent examples of picture book rhythm. Her suggestions were spot on and included:

Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by Eric Litwin and James Dean

Ella Sarah Gets Dressed By Margaret Chodos-Irvine

I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More by Karen Beaumont

An excerpt from my favorite, Pete The Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons, a fantastic example of picture book rhythm that I could read over and over any day.

Did Pete cry? Goodness, no. Buttons come and buttons go.

 He kept on singing his song:

My buttons, my buttons, my two groovy buttons. My buttons, my buttons, my two groovy buttons.

Overall, I had a glorious outing. I have two more weeks of summer, and hopefully a few more trips to the library left. I love my summer library days.

SCBWI 2013 Summer Conference Recap

I met Jon Sciescka at the 2013 Summer SCBWI Sonference.
I met Jon Sciescka!

Every year I have the intention to write a recap shortly after attending the LA SCBWI Summer Conference so I can share about my wonderful, life-changing experiences, and never seem to find the time to do so. I always leave feeling so ready to write that I think that’s what gets me. I go out and write, and write, and write — and neglect my blog in the process.

I’m still writing up a storm in the aftermath this year — journal entries, revising current works, reworking a current picture book into something quirky and new, and dabbling in a historical piece. But this year is different in one way — I’m actually posting about my experiences because I really feel this oozy-amazingness needs to be passed on.

Laurie Halse Anderson commenced the conference with an inspiring keynote. I felt as if she could see into the brain of every writer in the room. Some of my favorite quotes:

All you have to do is be brave today. -Laurie Halse Anderson

There’s a reason you dream a different reality. – Laurie Halse Anderson

Jon Sciescka followed up with an equally inspiring keynote. And this was just within the first few hours of the three day conference. The stage was set for an amazing weekend. (By the way, … did I mention that I met Jon Sciescka?)

[Because his daughters favorite book was the Gingerbread Man and he was sick of it, he thought:] What if the Gingerbread Man was made of cheese? That changes everything. – Jon Sciescka

The days that followed were filled with breakout sessions, editors and agents panels, meet-n-greets galore, the black and white gala, and more deep-yoga-breath inducing keynotes. The weekend was truly jam-packed.

IMG_2057Towards the end of the last day we were treated to a keynote from the illustrious Richard Peck:

Because nobody, but a reader ever became a writer. -Richard Peck

 

I walked away with a notebook full of valuable knowledge, a heart filled up with stories bursting to be told, and friendships to last a lifetime. I can’t wait till next year!

 

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SCBWI Summer Conference 2013 – What I’ve gained and why you should go.

-Resources-Image-scbwi-logoH66W170A1The SCBWI LA Summer Conference is only one week away! I’m so excited. I’ve been packing for a week already. Next step — meal planning! I have food allergies. Eating away from home can be difficult. And on top of that, hotel food can get pricey.

There are a few spots still open for this life-changing conference extravaganza. Don’t delay! Register today.  (Sorry for the rhyme. Couldn’t help it.)

What have I gained from this event? One word describes it. As was featured in keynote speaker, Bruce Coville’s talk in 2011 — ripples.

Rewind to 2011 … my first summer conference. I didn’t know anyone. I went online seeking an SCBWI buddy in my area. I found one immediately. We started out as coffee buddies, and then conference buddies; now we are close friends.

Fast forward to 2012 … my second summer conference. I knew a small classroom full of people. And I built even more connections. This is the year that my big take away was “dig deeper.” They were several moments of bawling at this conference, but it was breakthrough bawling, which is totally ok.

And now it’s 2013 … I’m actually attending a Pre-Conference party on Thursday, and dressing up with a group for the gala (which I’ve always wanted to do.) Me — shy, little me!

This event helped further my writing career, feed my soul, and shed my introverted skin so I could interact with some of the most amazing people I have ever known. I hope you will think about attending. And if do, and you happen to see me, don’t be afraid to say hello! I love making new friends, and will be happy to help out if you are new!

I also wanted to share the following comics below created by Debbie Ohi who has a great SCBWI Success Story!! Her comics capture the pre-conference newbie jitters perfectly!

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