Monday, September 15, 2014

Our Favorite Family Movies

My husband loves movies, especially classic movies. I do too. I've already posted a list of some of my favorite black and white movies here. My husband has been making a list of movie recommendations for his friends, so today I'm sharing his list. We prefer clean movies, and these are clean enough for us. But everyone's standards are different. You may want to check the reviews on some of the newer movies before watching them.

Here they are:

African Queen
Back to the Future
Bedtime Stories
Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure
Bridge Over the River Kwai
Bringing Up Baby (Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn)
Cast Away
Christmas Carol (George C. Scott)
Christmas Story
Christmas with the Kranks
Desk Set
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941)
Ella Enchanted
Father Goose (Cary Grant)
Follow Me, Boys!
Friendly Persuasion
Galaxy Quest
Get Smart
Gods Must Be Crazy
Gods Must Be Crazy II
Groundhog Day (Bill Murray)
Harry Potter, series
High Noon
His Girl Friday (Cary Grant)
Hunt for Red October
I Remember Mama (Irene Dunne)
It Happened One Night
It's a Wonderful Life (Jimmy Stewart)
Karate Kid
Lawrence of Arabia
Life with Father
Lilies of the Field
Lord of the Rings
Magnificent Seven
Modern Times (Charlie Chaplin)
Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (Cary Grant)
Music Man
My Fair Lady
My Favorite Wife (Cary Grant)
Nacho Libre
Napolean Dynamite
North by Northwest (Cary Grant)
Philadelphia Story (Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Katherine Hepburn)
Princess Bride
Princess Diaries
Rear Window (Jimmy Stewart)
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Sky High
Some Like It Hot (Tony Curtis, Marilyn Monroe)
Sound of Music
Star Trek
Star Wars IV, V, VI
The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (Cary Grant)
The Court Jester
The General (Buster Keaton)
The Gold Rush (Charlie Chaplin)
The Incredibles
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart)
The Quiet Man (John Wayne)
The Robe
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2014)
The Seven Samarai (foreign film)
The Wizard of Oz
To Catch a Thief (Cary Grant)
Toy Story
Treasure Island
Uncle Buck (John Candy)
What about Bob? (Bill Murray)
Willy Wonka
You Can't Take It with You (Jimmy Stewart)

How about you. Do you have a recommendation that's not on our list?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

So You Think You Can't Dance?

I'm going to go out on a limb and make a very politically incorrect statement here. Most white men won't dance. My husband is no exception. He will slow dance, but he will not fast dance in public. Ever. Even if I drag him out into the middle of the dance floor and dance around him. Here's what I've learned--it actually draws more attention to see a tall white man standing perfectly still in the middle of the dance floor than to see him dance. People come up to us and say things like, "You two are so cute" as I dance next to him.

After our last escapade on the dance floor at a wedding reception, I told my husband I wished he'd take dance lessons. A few days later, he came up with a deal for me. He would take dance lessons if I went to a gun class with him. (I have been refusing to go to said gun class for about a year now.) That got me. I said I would do the gun class if he went to the dance classes first.

Friday was our first dance class. I was surprised how many people were there—about 20. And, get this, there were MORE men than women. The men were also, in general, younger than the women. I about fainted.

The class consisted of some young couples who were there to learn to dance for their weddings. Then, there were singles, who I guess go there to meet people. And there was one older couple who was there for fun. The single guys were really nice. I danced with a couple of them while my husband was dancing with the instructor. Not that I'm looking to trade up or anything--especially now that hubby's taking dance lessons.

We learned the waltz, the rumba, the swing, and the hustle. Most people think waltz is the easiest. Not us. We did best at swing and hustle. I guess we're just cool like that.

The beginner’s class was at 7 pm. Then they had a dance party at 8 pm. Lots of older couples and singles came to the dance party. Since we’d already paid for the class, we could stay as long as we liked without paying again, so we stayed and practiced during the party. It was great for people watching. There were some really great dancers there--including old people who danced circles around us and sometimes bumped into us because we didn't know what we were doing.

It was fun to watch the single people. Like I said, there were a lot of young single men—mostly not white men. (What is with white men and dancing?) But here was the most interesting thing: the older single women got to dance over and over again with the young single guys. (Hint hint, ladies.) Who would have thought a ballroom dance class was such a great place to meet other singles? Not me. Now I'm wondering what other places are great for meeting people.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Win New Fiction Titles

This month my publisher is sponsoring a giveaway on You can enter to win a copy of Sense and Sensibility: A Latter-day Tale or another great book like these:

Just click here. Then scroll down to fill out the entry form. You'll need to enter the titles of the books you'd like to win and what format (paperback, kindle, etc.)

I have won books at this site before, so it's not impossible.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Prelude Chains for LDS Hymns

Most of my kids play the piano and, thanks to their awesome teacher, they love it. I love to play the piano in the privacy of my own home. I'm not so sure about playing anywhere else. I have a motor-control problem with my eyes that makes it hard to read notes quickly. I almost always make mistakes when I play. However, sometimes people get desperate enough to ask me to play at church. Right now, I am playing the hymns for our Relief Society meetings.

One of the challenges I had when I started was that I needed to find peaceful prelude music to play before the meeting started. I google-searched "prelude chains" trying to find lists of hymns in the same keys that I could play together. No such luck. I only found music books I could buy. Instead of spending the money, I made my own prelude chains.

Once I had my list, it was so easy to play beautiful prelude music. I carry my list in my purse all the time and just prop it up beside my hymn book when I play.

In case this might be helpful to others, I'm posting my three favorite prelude chains. The numbers indicate the hymn number in the LDS hymnbook. You're welcome to copy and paste. Here they are:

Key of D: 113, 122, 129, 131, 134, 145, 220, 295, 298, 301, 304

Key of G: 97, 98, 108, 133, 135, 136, 141, 22

Key of F: 9, 44, 67, 81, 100, 124, 125, 143, 270, 278, 296, 300, 303

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Celebrating in August with Watermelon

We have come to the end of another great summer vacation. Like most moms, I feel like I need my own little vacation right now. But it has been fun.

This week was my birthday. Because I have two boys on gluten-free diets, I usually end up making my own "cake." I use the term cake loosely because most times I don't feel like baking a real cake for my birthday. This year, I made a cake from a watermelon. I've seen the idea floating around on Pinterest and Facebook, so I adapted it for my own.

My recipe calls for a large watermelon, raspberries, pineapple, and strawberries.  I didn't frost it like I've seen others do. I just cut a big cylinder out of watermelon and decorated with fruit, sometimes using toothpicks. You can find other watermelon cake designs here on Pinterest.

This month, I joined a new critique group. I now have three author friends who meet with me every week on oovoo, which is sort of like skype. It's great to have a little deadline every week to keep me going. It's also great to have people telling me how I can improve during the early stages of my work.

Speaking of my work, I am well into my next project. People often ask me if I write an outline or just write by the seat of my pants. I do a little of both. I outline, but I change my outline as I write.  This is what my current posterboard outline looks like:

This time around, I'm using Blake Snyder's outlining method that's in his book Save the Cat. We'll see how it works out. Coincidentally, my outline is in watermelon colors. Did I mention that I love watermelon?

As you can see, I still have a few plot points to fill in on the outline, but I am well on my way.

It takes me a good 100 pages of writing until I start to get into a new book. I'm only about 65 pages in right now, so I still miss Elly and Maren from the last book. No wonder so many authors write series.

If you'd like to know more about the crazy events in my life, you can visit me on Facebook. I'd love to hear what's going on in your life too.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Based on a True Story

Sometimes people ask me how much of what I've written in a novel has really happened to me. That's a hard question to answer. A lot of the things in my novels have happened to me. They just didn't happen in the same way. For example, in Sense and Sensibility: A Latter-day Tale, one character works as a programmer at a library software company. I also worked at a library software company, but I worked as a technical writer. There are a lot of other examples like that in the book.

Like my characters, I have an autistic sister. I know what it's like to handle an outburst in a public place. On the other hand, my sister's disabilities are much greater than Grace's. My emotions are the same as my characters' emotions regarding their sister; the details are different.

The Prigel Family Creamery (photo by Baltimore Sun)

For the most part, the places in the novel are all real places. Cunningham Falls, Muir Woods, the Kennedy Center, and The Shamrock exist outside my novel. You can visit them yourself. The dairy store is based on the Prigel Family Creamery, a little ice cream shop I visited once in Maryland. The Cuban restaurant is based on one I used to frequent in Provo, Utah. I don't think it exists anymore. I invented the Silver Linings shop in my head, but I have been to shops like that around Sonoma County, California.

The Lake near Cunningham Falls

Cunningham Falls

I also share a lot of hobbies with my characters. Like Elly, I love to tap dance and take things apart. Like Grace, I enjoy musicals. And like Maren, I have studied art history.

Chapter 42 of Sense is probably one of the most autobiographical things I've ever put in my novels. It didn't happen to me for the same reasons it did for Maren, but we both ended up in the same place, so I wrote much of the chapter from my personal memories.

I have never had poison ivy, but conveniently my son has had two very severe cases--one of them during edits for this book. Such a helpful boy!

Then there were things I made up. You'll have to guess what those were.

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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Peppermint Patty Ice Cream

I have a tradition of sharing a recipe from my books when each one comes out, and today, I am sharing a recipe from Sense and Sensibility: A Latter-day Tale, where some of the characters work at an ice cream shop.

We make homemade ice cream every summer on July 24th. This is my favorite recipe that we invented one day when my husband bought the wrong ingredients. We make it in a 4 quart electric ice cream freezer.

Peppermint Patty Ice Cream

Mix together:

4 cups milk
1 quart half and half
2 3 1/2 oz. packages vanilla instant pudding mix
8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted
1 1/2 cups sugar (optional)
1 package peppermint patties, chopped or torn into small pieces

Freeze according to ice cream freezer directions.

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