Easter Eggstravaganza!

Easter Eggstravaganza

Since¬†we celebrated the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ this past weekend, I thought today’s post ought to take a slight detour from my usual topics in honor of this important holiday.

Not discounting the magnificent gift of Christ being born in human form, I believe the Easter holiday to be the most important. For all of our faith rests on that which we celebrated this weekend. If Jesus did not truly die and rise again to reign at the right hand of our Father in heaven, then our faith is for naught.

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That said, do not worry. It is not my intention to suddenly attempt the impersonation of a pastor. ūüėČ

Instead, I shall focus today on one of the funnest parts of our Easter celebration traditions: ¬†the Easter Egg. Decorating and hunting these eggs, which are said to represent the empty tomb and resurrection, are¬†one of the most anticipated parts of each years’ celebration.

However, this year my family thought we would try something different. So instead of the usual dying and hunting, we made Wobbly Ninja Eggs and experimented with Easter Egg Rockets. You can click the links for the original instructions which inspired our fun, but truthfully, this was a last minute decision and we didn’t have all the required materials so we tweaked things to fit what we had on hand.

In place of the recommended googly eyes and duct tape (which I know we have, but which seem to have found a super secret hiding space somewhere in our home), for the Wobbly Ninja Eggs we used permanent markers, sticky foam squares (left over from scrapbooking), and scotch tape. We also used some left over air dry clay on the inside in place of the recommended modeling clay.

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Our results may not be as Pinterest worthy as the originals, but my kids had a blast making and playing with them just the same.

For the rocket eggs I grabbed a generic box of seltzer tabs and a cheap bag of plastic eggs from Walmart while I was there picking up some other necessities. Then we used some leftover painter’s tape to cover the holes in the top and bottom before decorating (again with permanent marker). ¬†Also, since our eggs didn’t come with feet, we made little cardboard “launching stands” to hold our eggs vertical.

Rocket Eggs Close-up
The two I doodled on.
Egg Rocket Process
As you can see, we tried both water and vinegar in combination with the seltzer tabs to see which would produce the best results. Conclusion:  both worked equally well.

Although we did achieve success, I admit we had more fizzles than pops because the eggs were so flimsy. So if you are going to try this, I would recommend shelling out another buck or two to get the stiffer/stronger plastic eggs (the cheaper ones didn’t always have a satisfying snap when closed and those without a good *snap* didn’t pop). The stronger ones will just make your life easier.

That said, here are some clips of two of our successes:

More Easter Fun:

If you’d like to make some beautiful decorative eggs that any book-lover would adore, check out these Book Page Eggs.

If you’d like to learn more about the origin of Easter, check out this article.

How did you celebrate Easter this year? Do you have a favorite Easter tradition?

TWEETABLES:

If Christ is not raised, your faith is futile & you are still in your sins. 1Cor15:17 – Click to Tweet!

Fun Easter Egg-tivities for kids! РClick to Tweet! 

Becoming A Writer

Although I realized at a young age that my brain worked very differently from others, it took me a surprisingly long time to figure out that I was a writer.

In hindsight I can see the clues.

Paper Clues

In the 4th or 5th Grade I entered a poetry contest with the theme “Where The Sidewalk Ends.” ¬†(As an adult and fan of Shel Silverstein, I assume the contest had something to do with him, but at the time I only knew it as the theme for a contest my teacher talked about.) My entry didn’t win… anything… but my mom was so impressed with my poem that she took it to her college English professor who, according to my mom, was “very impressed” with my talent for my age. It was a VERY big deal for me that my mom and her teacher thought I was talented.

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Still, I didn’t consider myself a writer, and other than jotting nonsense in my lock-and-key diary that anyone could have picked with a toothpick, I wasn’t writing anything more than the assignments given to me by my teachers.

Then in the 6th grade I wrote a few opinion¬†articles¬†for my school’s newspaper condemning stereotyping, cliques & bullies, and other social ills I was very concerned with.

Soap Box Opinion

I remember showing the work to my English teacher who was very encouraging, and I even worked up the nerve to actually submit one essay to the paper. Anonymously. Yes, they printed it.

In the 8th grade I hated my English teacher. She was evil, as far as my 8th grade self was concerned. I am not exaggerating when I say that 70% of her class was failing at the 3rd quarter. She played favorites and it showed in her grading. You were either an A+ student or an F student in her class. I didn’t do myself any favors when I decided that I would “show her” by not even bothering to turn in¬†most of my assignments. Yeah. That really hurt her. (Note the heavy sarcasm.) The ironic thing was that I actually completed most of my assignments. I enjoyed reading and writing and was even writing short scary stories for fun and trying to get my friends to create a scary story club with me.

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I had simply¬†stopped turning my assignments¬†in once I figured out my grades didn’t reflect my writing, but the fact that I wasn’t one of her favorites. The only F’s I ever got in my entire school career were in her class. Fortunately, my mother talked some sense into me in the final quarter and I squeaked out a D so I wouldn’t be held back a grade. Two years later I was scoring A’s and B’s in Honor’s English, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Although I enjoyed writing, I never thought of myself as a writer. Nor did I ever consider a career as a writer. Writing was just a hobby. That is, until one night in the summer after 9th grade when I woke up at about 4am in the morning with an idea for a novel in my head.

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Although by then I was a pretty prolific poetry writer in my spare time and occasionally wrote what I would call “vignettes” for fun, I had never even considered writing a novel. It just didn’t occur to me. Yet that night, or rather morning, I woke up and without a moment’s hesitation, grabbed a pen and a notebook, and started writing out the bones of a plot, complete with fleshed out characters.

From that point on I wrote regularly. When my family went on a two week road trip a few days after inspiration struck, I took a couple legal pads and several pencils along for the ride.

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While my sister clicked away on our green-screen Gameboys, I was hunched over my notepad scribbling. Most of the first chapters for that first novel were written out long-hand on the bumpy roads through the western half of the United States.

While I worked on that first novel, I also began writing other, shorter stories, with a higher frequency. My 9th grade English teacher, for whom I was later a Teacher’s Assistant, was the frequent first audience for most of my writing during my high school years. The man should be given a medal. It took me years to recognize those first writings for the rubbish they were, yet he was nothing but patient and encouraging.

In college I recognized the story for the disaster it was and threw out that entire first novel.

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However, all that writing wasn’t a waste. Through it all, I was learning, growing, and becoming a better writer.

Your Turn!

Can you relate to my story? What were your teachers/mentors like? Are you a writer? When did you know you were a writer? ¬†Please share your story with me. I love hearing from my readers! ūüôā


Don’t forget to ENTER TO WIN one of the fun prizes in my 2015 Books & Swag Christmas Giveaway! ūüėÄ

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How I Solved My Biggest Writing Challenge

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As the mother of three young boys, noise and chaos are simply a part of everyday life. I realize that now, though it was a struggle to accept at first.

Up until I had my own children I had never had any trouble finding some alone time in a quiet place to do my writing. It had been as much a given as oxygen in the air. Then along came one baby, then two, then three… and suddenly I didn’t have a moment to spare or a quiet corner to hide write in.

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My first reaction was that my writing career would simply have to wait until my children had grown up. I quit writing for several months…. and found myself utterly and completely miserable. I loved being a mother, but writing is as much a part of me as my brown eyes. Without it, I felt incomplete. There had to be another solution.

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After a long heart to heart, my husband and I came up with an arrangement whereby I could go out of our 750 sqft apartment by myself, once a week for up to 6 hours at a time. The plan was that I would leave as soon as he was done with work and go find somewhere to sit and write. The problem was finding a place I could do that.

Tuning out the sounds around me to focus on a book that I was reading was a gift I’d enjoyed since childhood. Yet for some reason, doing the same thing during my own creative process seemed impossible.

Sure, I could go to the library, but our closest library closed less than two hours after my husband got home and it would often take me almost 45 minutes just to set up and switch mental gears from mom to writer. Then when the library closed I’d have to pack up again, switch locations, and try to get back in the creative groove. It was very inefficient.

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So I looked to other places, but for some reason there aren’t any businesses that are willing to shush their other patrons so the writers camping out in the back corner can get some work done. Which left me with a very similar problem to the one I faced at home: ¬†nowhere quiet to write.

Quiet Writer at Work!

I tried several places over time:  sitting in my car, coffee shops, fast food joints, and bookstores. They all had their downsides:  no power outlet or bathroom, noisy machines, blaring televisions, too many people talking, and not enough chairs, to name a few.

Still I refused to give up and something strange happened over time:  I learned to tune out the noise.

It was like magic.

One day I was grumbling under my breath and packing my things because yet another group of rowdy teenagers had horned in on my corner of the McDonald’s, and just a few days later, I glanced up from my work to realize every table around me was filled with customers having conversations yet I hadn’t heard a word until just that moment.

Of course, I knew it wasn’t magic. God had blessed my perseverance. Not only could I tune out the majority of the noise, but I’d learned the skill of revving up my creative juices faster than ever. No longer did I need 45 minutes to get into the flow of things.

As time went on I continued to get faster. These days I typically write in my new home office, but on those days when staying home just doesn’t cut it, I can¬†arrive almost anywhere, set up my laptop, and be typing away in under 10 minutes.

God is good.

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How My Brain Isn’t Normal

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It might surprise you to know that writing isn’t something I chose to do. Rather, I believe it’s a part of who God made me.

I have known for many, many years now that I am odd. No really. There is something very different about how my brain works and I have a very vivid recollection of the exact moment when I realized that I was not normal.

I am sitting in the backseat of our family car. It’s dark out and we are at an intersection near my elementary school.¬†I don’t remember where we are¬†going or exactly how old I am, but I remember a¬†moment when it occurred to me to ask my parents a question I’d never thought of before:

“When you hear other people talk, do you add on things like ‘he said thoughtfully’ or ‘she shouted’ in your mind?” (Sidenote: ¬†Yes, I know these are terrible dialogue tags. Give me a break, my age was still in the single¬†digits here.)

To their credit, my parents do not look at me as if I’ve lost my mind, but they certainly appear surprised as they answer that they do not think that way. Then I ask:

“Do you rewrite what you say or what other people say in your head over and over until it sounds right?”

“Umm, no.”

“Oh.”

And that was it. That was the moment I knew my brain worked very differently from everyone else’s.

Method to My Madness – Historical Research Note Tracking

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One of the most time consuming, rewarding, and frustrating parts of writing historical fiction is doing the historical research.

It’s time consuming because, well, as an avid history fan I can easily find myself playing the role of Alice following the white rabbit down the proverbial hole and somehow find myself hours later reading about some random part of history which, while absolutely fascinating, has nothing to do with my work in progress¬†or the purpose for which I first consulted the text.

It’s rewarding because I get to learn fascinating new parts of history that they don’t have time to teach about in school. Like how one of our local gold rush towns got its name and that the man it was named after moved away about 2 years later and never moved back. In fact, he didn’t even return for a visit for 18 years and he wound up running a hotel on the California coast 26 years later, and did you know there was a horse named after him and….. Yes, you caught me. None of that has anything to do with my current works in progress. This is a tidbit I picked up in one of those rabbit holes.

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Where was I? Oh, right….

Historical research can also be very frustrating. Not only because of those pesky rabbit holes, but because it can be rather difficult keeping track of everything you read and where you read it. Picture me scratching my head trying to remember which library, which section of that library, which book title, which chapter, and on which page I found that particular fact about Julian’s jail once housing the only public toilet months after I actually read about it. (In this case it wasn’t even a book, it was a website.)

In response, I’ve begun collecting pages and pages of copies of books and articles and websites in addition to an increasing number of books for my personal reference shelf. Now, I do have a particular system for keeping track of all of those items…. no really, I do…. okay so it’s not exactly perfected but…. that’s not what I want to talk about right now. Right now what I want to share with you is how I track the relevant¬†information within those items.

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When I reference a note, I’m usually looking for something in particular, so if all I did was highlight everything interesting in yellow, I’d never be able to find anything. I have many different categories of notes including things like notes about food resources, people born/married/died, places built/destroyed/expanded, important events, etc. ¬†So if I were instead to give every category of notes a different color, you can imagine that I would run out of highlighter colors rather quickly. Ask me how I know.

Then it hit me. This was a familiar problem.

If you are familiar with the method of inductive bible study, then you may be familiar with the concept of creating a unique symbol for each important word or recurring theme. These symbols are used to mark up the text with the idea being to slow your reading down and help you engage with the text as you extrapolate its meaning. I have been using this off and on for years in my¬†personal study of the Bible. ¬†However, I can’t stand the idea of actually marking up my Bible, so instead I print out sections at a time and work with that. It also allows me to create really wide margins which provide room for a little creative journaling while I’m at it.

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So what does this have to do with my historical research? Well, I’ve developed similar symbols for each of the categories I want to easily find in my notes. Now as I am reading, I just highlight in yellow all the stuff I think I might want to refer back to later and add the category symbol in the outer margins. ¬†This way I’m not constantly searching for and switching out different colored highlighters, and when I want to find notes in a particular category, I just flip through and scan the edges of the pages. Oh, and I keep a key to my symbols at the front of any texts. If it’s a copy of a library book page, I’ll staple a blank page to the front and make my key there. That way if I forget what symbol I used for a particular category, I have a quick cheat sheet. I also keep a photograph on my cell phone showing all my most frequently used symbols so that I can be as consistent as possible from text to text.

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I still cringe when marking in a book and it’s not perfect, but it works for me.

Your Turn!

A lot of people do research for their work or school. What do you think of my technique? I’d love to hear if you have any other tips or techniques you use to do research!