Friday, July 31, 2009

Updates and a Long Overdue GCC Post for Carleen Brice

General Stuff Update: I lost much of the week to The Omnivore's Dilemma, which I started reading on Tuesday and am about to finish. HIGHLY recommended to anyone who eats. I'd read (and geeked out majorly on) Fast Food Nation, which I had signed by Eric Schlosser himself at a reading in Madison a few years I thought I knew a few things about the life cycle of french fries and hamburgers (and how they may not be so conducive to supporting OUR life cycle), but Michael Pollan delves even further, covering so much more territory, in Dilemma. And whoa, can the man turn a phrase.

Cat/Bunny Conundrum Update: Tuesday, the day after the bunny incident, the orange "cat came back...the very next day." Grrrr....This time, I had a pet carrier ready. He readily came to me when I called (friendly little sucker--hard to believe he was such a killer), and I herded him into the carrier. Success! I then called the Humane Society, which dispatched a Community-service Officer to fetch Kitty and return him home with an admonition and citation for absent city cat license.

I haven't seen him in the neighborhood since Tuesday, and my fingers are crossed that his owner keeps him indoors. Because if I wanted a friendly, wildlife-killing cat in my yard all day, I'd get my own. I don't know how the baby bunny is doing, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Okay! On to some long-overdue business. My author pal Carleen Brice is making the GCC rounds to celebrate her second novel, Children of the Waters, and I am excited to showcase her here today.

About Carleen: Carleen Brice’s debut novel, Orange Mint and Honey, was an Essence “Recommended Read” and a Target “Bookmarked Breakout Book.” For this book, she won the 2009 First Novelist Award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association and the 2008 Break Out Author Award at the African American Literary Awards Show. Orange Mint and Honey was optioned by Lifetime Movie Network.

Her second nove
l, Children of the Waters (One World/Ballantine), a book about race, love and family, just came out at the end of June. Booklist Online called it “a compelling read, difficult to put down.” Essence says, “Brice has a new hit.” You can read an excerpt at her website.

Meg Waite Clayton (author of The Wednesday Sisters) had this to say about Children of the Waters: "This moving story of two sisters separated by prejudice will open minds and touch hearts" and Jacquelyn Mitchard said, "I was exhausted and singing the blues the hour I began Carleen Brice’s new novel, CHILDREN OF THE WATERS. Five hours later, I’d finished this fresh, free-rein novel about mothers’ secrets and children’s sorrows and was shouting ‘Hurray!'"

Great teasers!! Let's move on to the interview:

1) Now that you are published, what (if anything) have you changed about your writing routine? Lately, I haven’t been writing as much as I’d like because I’ve been too busy promoting. For me it’s hard to do both, but I’m about to buckle down and get back to it.

2) Do you listen to music while you write? Usually, not while I write, but sometimes before I start I’ll listen to get pumped up.

3) Have you found that as you've developed your writing and story telling skills, you watch movies or read books 'differently?' Definitely! It’s kind of a bummer because it’s hard to just enjoy a book or movie now. I get sucked into how & why the author, screenwriter, director did what they did.

4) What vacation would be most inspiring to you as a writer? ANY real vacation (meaning not going somewhere to sell books) would be great right about now! But I suppose as a writer, going to Paris and writing in a café would be very inspiring.

5) What is one of your strangest / most quirky author experiences? A woman emailed me pictures of herself and her daughter after reading my first novel ORANGE MINT AND HONEY, telling how well we’d get along and how we should be friends. I found it very strange.

Thanks, Carleen! Best of luck with your sophomore sounds fabulous.

I'll be back next week with a few photo essay-ish posts. Have a large time this weekend!

Monday, July 27, 2009

The $100 Bunny

Let's see...I have a wedding to tell you about, and a belated GCC post for the extremely talented Carleen Brice, but those will be coming later this week, because today I rescued this adorable baby bunny from what I'm guessing would have been a very ugly fate.

While walking this morning, Daisy and I encountered the bane of my existence: the orange and white cat that roams our neighborhood. Now, I like cats. They can be cuddly, amusing, and quite personable. So, I like cats. When they are kept INDOORS. This particular cat has, over the last two years:

  • Turned portions of my yard into his own personal litter box;
  • Squished and/or shredded expensive perennials in my yard;
  • Killed shrews in my yard;
  • Killed a nest of baby Cardinals in my yard; YET~
  • Somehow evaded roaming packs of cruel children, speeding vehicles, other larger cats, dogs, coyotes, thorns and prickers, disease, parasites, get the picture.

It is nearly ALWAYS in my yard, lying in wait near my bird feeders or bedding down in my flowers, and Daisy and I routinely shoo it away (or spray it away with the hose set on F-22 Fighter Jet). I have also, on four separate occasions, seen other neighbors carrying this beast down the sidewalk, back to the address listed on its collar. So it has a home. But not very responsible owners.

This morning, the cat was skulking away from the neighbor's yard with a screaming baby bunny in its mouth.

Have you ever heard a baby bunny scream? It's not pleasant. It actually sounds very human. So Daisy and I swung into action, eventually convincing the cat to drop the baby in the middle of the intersection and run off. (This 'convincing' consisted of Daisy going apeshit-bananas-crazy all up in the cat's face...strangely, she never even noticed the baby rabbit.)

And there lay this infant bunny, small and brown and helpless in the middle of the street. Damn. My heart sank, because at that point, I was "involved." I picked the little girl up, took her inside, tucked her into a box with some towels and a warm water bottle, and called every local wildlife rehabber I could find. Unfortunately, among those I could get ahold of, nobody was taking rabbits.

So I drove her to the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary, which willingly accepted this sweet little critter into their rehab program. I know the odds are still long for her survival (wild baby rabbits don't do well in human care), but I wouldn't be able to sleep tonight if I hadn't at least attempted to save this tiny life--because it was dropped very nearly at my feet, and also because that's just me. Before I left the facility, I wrote them a check for a hundred bucks. "That's quite a bit for just a little bunny!" the woman at the counter replied.

It wasn't just for the rabbit, of course. The sanctuary is a non-profit nature education center, caring for over 4,000 orphaned, sick, or injured animals in 2008 alone. I can think of worse things to spend a hundred bucks on. My good deed for the day? Totally worth it.

I recently saw the cat sneaking back to the scene of the crime, and Daisy and I chased it off again. My neighbors must think I've totally lost it. I may need to call the Humane Society tomorrow. It could be time to give the local wildlife a break from Mr. Killsforfun. A confrontation with kitty's owners is out of the question. If four of my neighbors couldn't convince, perhaps the inconvenience of fetching kitty from a facility across town will. And who knows? Maybe a compassionate individual would adopt him and keep him INDOORS, safe from cat fights and cars and disease.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Ah, Summer...

I am writing this with a bulging belleh, the result of gorging myself on the first watermelon I've eaten this summer. Oh, and raspberries from the farmers' market. And a grilled cheese on seed-studded bread spread with dijon mustard sandwiching two slices of caraway-flecked cheddar and thinly-sliced tomato I bought for $1.50 from a chain-smoking old man.

It was a Beefsteak.

I still have a tub of shredded summer squash in the fridge, which shall be transformed into a mountain of zucchini "crab" cakes tonight. Last night, the shreds joined the party in a batch of chocolate cupcakes. Unfortunately, the mix was too wet, and my cupcakes have sunken, gooey centers. If you eat them with a spoon, you can pretend you're eating a pudding cup.

Look at these sad bastards. I haven't the heart to throw them away, so we'll just pick at them until we can't take it anymore.

Things are blooming like crazy around the house, which makes me all giddy. First up are some volunteer sunflowers.

Across from some baby tomatoes: "Black from Tula." Definitely not a volunteer. I'm not sure he even wants to be there. The seed package called them "the ugliest, best-tasting heirloom tomato you can grow." I'LL be the judge of that.

Some hot peppers...mostly ornamental, though. I might eat them eventually, because I'm almost too curious not to.

Part of my rangy, rambling backyard. I can't remember the delphinium ever blooming at the same time as the coneflower. It's been a weird weather summer.

Below we have another volunteer sunflower. Only one of the sunflower seeds I intentionally planted came up, but I have little surprises sprinkled all over the yard.

I have brussel sprouts tucked in this bed:
Bees love the blanket flower. I was so happy these guys came back in spring.

And finally, a piece of art made by my sister, who is getting married this Saturday. She made this from bits of wallpaper samples. Don't you kind of hate her? Seriously, she is lovely and incredibly talented, and I am beyond happy for her.

PS: If you're out and about in Oshkosh this summer, you have to stop at this lemonade stand on Witzel. I bought a cup of "the yellow" from them a few weeks ago when I picked up my CSA box. Not only are the kids adorable, but I think they're going to one day take over the world. So you want to be nice to them.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

GCC Presents: Samantha Wilde

Today on the Girlfriends' Cyber Circuit I'm pleased to present author Samantha Wilde, currently touring to promote her debut novel THIS LITTLE MOMMY STAYED HOME.

About the Book: Joy McGuire has gone from being skinny and able to speak in complete sentences to someone who hasn’t changed her sweatpants in weeks. But now with a new baby to care for, she feels like a woman on the brink and as she scrambles to recapture the person she used to be she takes another look at the woman she is: a stay-at-home mom in love with her son, if a bit addled about everything else. As a new mom herself, Wilde, a graduate of Yale Divinity School, wrote THIS LITTLE MOMMY STAYED HOME after the birth of her son when she was experiencing the ups and downs of new motherhood.
According to Wilde, “I wrote the book because I couldn’t not write it. I took my lap top to my bed during my son’s naps and wrote and wrote. I wrote the book I wanted to read. The book takes a hard look at the effects of new motherhood on a woman and on a marriage through the eyes of one stressed but insightful woman. It’s a story that will keep mothers going when they think they can’t go any further.”
Sounds like a book I'll be buying for a certain preggo friend of mine in a month or two! Samantha provided the following answers to my interview questions (which, don't you think I should mix them up soon? I do.).

1) Now that you are published, what (if anything) have you changed about your writing routine? Now I have to do it. So instead of lying in bed on a laptop, I sit on a big blue ball in an office/guest room. And I get to worry more. I could do without that part.

2) Do you listen to music while you write? No. I can’t imagine doing that. I’ve got so sieve-brained having young children it’s all I can do to think a single thought without a distraction.

3) Have you found that as you've developed your writing and story telling skills, you watch movies or read books 'differently?' I hope that never happens. I read for pleasure and reading gives me so much pleasure. Maybe the only thing I do differently is really appreciate authors more, even if I don’t love the book, I think of all the effort that went into it and feel a lot of compassion, sort of like, “wow, this sucked but I’m still impressed.”

4) What vacation would be most inspiring to you as a writer? You know, I love where I am, and I love where we vacation. Perhaps most inspiring would be having some alone time. Either that or spending more time with my family….

5) What is one of your strangest / most quirky author experiences? Telling people I’ve just published a book. It’s amazing to me how they respond. I feel like I’ve just announced that I floss. I’m surprised by how “not-a-big-deal” it is to most people, when it’s such a hard world to get in to.
Thanks Sam, and best of luck with your literary debut!
I'll be back Monday with some thoughts on my latest haircut (Are you supposed to leave the salon wondering, "Am I usually this ugly, but my split ends kind of hide it?"). Unless I discover another tiny hand in my garden. That would deserve immediate attention.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Aunt Selma & Patty-ing it up in "My Vacation Slide Show"

We've been back from Victoria, BC for a few days, and I still feel keyed-up. It was absolutely jam-packed and amazing, and the highlight of it all was reuniting with my birth father & sibs and meeting a slew of wonderful aunts and uncles and cousins I've never met in person before. So much happened that I don't quite know what to share, so I'll let my camera winnow the chaff and direct the show.

These funky, freaky, fantastic masks were hand-carved by a local tribe, on display with the Royal BC Museum. The museum was featuring a traveling exhibit from the British Museum, including a mutilated statue of the god Eros. 'Mutilated' because its head, nipples, and genitals had been scratched off by early Christians. Which had the odd effect of making me feel much less guilty for not going to church in a very long time.

J and I are such tourists. Of course we had to go to the Butterfly Gardens, where we took far too many shots of this moth perched on a crabby face. The highlight of this outing (for me) was meeting a tourist from New Zealand who was beyond excited to see an animal she hadn't seen since 1975. And what was this exotic animal of the new world? A chipmunk.

My excellent host and uncle told us that this was not Parliament, but the BC legislative building. Sadly, I missed the lesson in Canadian politics that was shared later, but J informed me it was all very confusing.

I'm standing before some amazing native totem poles, and I'm probably grinning like a dolt at some lady walking a puppy. Also, this was around the time I kept hearing a cuckoo-like cheeping from the trees near me, and carried on and on about "What bird is that!?" and "I can't wait to see what that bird is!" only to find out later that the cheeping was coming from the streetlights to serve as a guide for visually-impaired pedestrians. Safe to walk. Also, safe to assume I don't get out much.

J proves beyond the shadow of a tall tree that he is a much better photographer than me.

Here, too. This totally reminds me of the Peanuts' Halloween special. We'll call this one, "I got a rock."

Tidal pools. If you're on a budget and you live in Wisconsin, you can get a slightly similar effect on the north shore of Michigan's UP, on Lake Superior. Minus the tides and the briny ocean scent, and it helps if you squint.

Thanks to fabulous hosts Dan & Karen, and to J's awesome parents for watching Daisy. I was so happy to hear she only peed on your floor once.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Leaving on a Jet Plane

We're leaving for Victoria, BC tomorrow. Strange to be celebrating the Fourth of July weekend in another country. No fireworks, but maybe someone will have some leftover Canada Day confetti we can throw at each other on Saturday.

I'll update from the road, hopefully with pictures after I bribe J to learn how to upload them to my laptop.

Thumbs-up: The Hangover, lavender shortbread (I may visit the lavender farm from which I got the recipe), J's fabulous parents who are watching Daisy, the Twilight Zone marathon on SciFi this weekend, and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which I CAN NOT WAIT to read on the plane. (The Booklist reviewer said--somewhat disdainfully, "What's next? Wuthering Heights and Werewolves?" To which I reply, "PLEASE, YES! I would TOTALLY READ THAT!" Because it would be FUNNY.)

Thumbs-down to whatever killed the baby Cardinals in our lilac shrub. Jerk! And also to all the gray hair springing up on my head. Seriously gray hair: WTF? Cease and desist immediately! Be brown, dammit! Be brown!!!!!

In closing, don't hold the cherry bomb after you light the fuse, don't run with sparklers, and stand AWAY from the Roman Candles. Oh, and watery, warm potato salad. Stand away from that, too. And don't put it in your belly.