Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Few Christmas Pictures to share

Dawson came into my room at 4:37am too excited to sleep. I convinced him to wait a couple more hours. The boys are lined up youngest to oldest for "Diddly,Dee" or the longest march to the Christmas tree thanks to the tradition brought to our family by Mariel.

Tyfani brought us her family tradition of acting out the Christmas story on Christmas Eve.Since the host of our Christmas Pageant won't make costumes, the 2 angels had to use a mu mu from Hawaii, and...is that a granny slip?

Mary and Joseph and baby... Beans. This year we had two pregnant girls for the part of Mary, but no baby for the manger so Baby Beans made another appearance.

Cousin Conner with the boys. You just can't have enough frosting and sprinkles on those sugar cookies!

"The Friday Night Knitting Club" supersize me

BookLook January 7
“The Friday Night Knitting Club”
You don’t have to read the fine print if you check out a large print edition. I don’t need Depends or a walker quite yet, but I do have to watch my cholesterol – and slip on those reading glasses to enjoy a library book. “The Friday Night Knitting Club” by Kate Jacobs isn’t the best book, or the worst book I’ve ever read but it was certainly the easiest to see thanks to the bold black type. And the other benefit of the large print books is that you get a nice workout for your arms while trying to balance the super-sized volume and your glass of Metamucil.

Knitting Club is definitely a chick book. I am not much of a chick book fan but I did try to read more objectively than I would usually since it has been such a popular novel. The story was interesting and some of the characters were delightful. Unfortunately the main character Georgia Walker really grated on my nerves trying to prove that she wasn’t whiny and dependent while she complained and had to be bailed out by everyone around her. Georgia is a single mom and the owner of a yarn shop in New York City. A Friday night club brings a small group of disparate women together to share tips on knitting and advice about life.

As the lives of each character connect, or knit together, a sisterhood develops. Periodically at the beginning of a chapter the metaphor is enhanced with knitting definitions like the one for casting on. “The only way to get going is to just grasp that yarn between your fingers and twist. Just start. It’s the same with life…Casting on is as much leap of faith as technique.”

So if you don’t feel too embarrassed to be seen with a large print book, check one out and enjoy it’s bigger and bolder font. Although the shelf selection is scanty compared to the smaller print versions for the non-reading glass wearers, you don’t have much competition from other library patrons for these titles that are seldom on a waiting list.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

"The Christmas List" Don't Put it on Yours

BookLook December 23
“The Christmas List”

Richard Paul Evans has discovered something very important. There is a recipe for Christmas books. You may think that the recipe you have for your granny’s sugar cookies is priceless, but if you had the recipe for best selling Christmas books you would really have something valuable. Evan’s first sugary treat was delicious. “The Christmas Box” was something new with an inspirational message for all readers. We ate it up. Unfortunately, “The Christmas List” tastes a little too similar to his other books and we were hoping for something more.

The main character of this little book, and it is a little book with lots of blank space on the pages, is based on Scrooge. Dickens introduced us to the idea that a pathetic miser could be redeemed and we love his story. In this updated version, James Kier reads his own obituary in the newspaper and is naturally alarmed. I had a similar experience a couple of years ago when my BookLook column was placed on the obit page. With the book title “Left to Tell” and my picture the same size as the gentleman’s obituary printed right next to me, it was a bit unsettling.

Now, back to the story. Kier tries to make amends for a life focused on money but discovers that every damaged relationship cannot be mended. Some mistakes can be fixed, but some come with unalterable consequences. It is a sad but true lesson. Fortunately, having lots of money seems to help make things up to people though. Buying someone a house, giving a big pay raise to an employee, or paying for something your son wants will get you some forgiveness. Is this part of the lesson Evans wants us to learn? I think his message of “good will toward men” is a good one and we do need reminders about what is important.

We can read “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens every year and enjoy the experience. “The Christmas List” is a once read then re-gifted book. I know there are many fans of Richard Paul Evans (the Utah author with three names) so I can make someone very happy if I put it in a basket with a batch of granny’s delicious sugar cookies to sweeten the read.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Five Gold Rings

Let's just say that experience is gold.I have five gold "rings" of Christmas advice to share.If you have any golden tips, please feel free to comment. Maybe we can learn from each other so the holidays can be um, less stressful?

The Golden Treasury of Five Christmas Success Tips

I’m pretty sure they are unique to me and may or may not be based on my own experiences and there may be more but I will not confess to them, I mean make them up...

1. Don’t write out your cards after preparing salmon for supper.

2. Don’t hide chocolate covered marshmallow Santas for the kids’ stockings above the kitchen cupboards to find during spring cleaning in April.

3. Don’t put your daughter’s only gift that she requested away in the craft box as you frantically swoop up all the wrapping stuff in the guest room last minute Christmas Eve. Again, it won’t be found until spring cleaning in April and after her trip to France.

4. Don’t forget to buy stuff for your husbands stocking. He may notice that he got teenage sized mittens and the candy the neighbors brought over and catch on.

5. And finally, don't let Santa pull you onto his lap and kiss you in front of hundreds of people when you are writing a news story about his arrival in town - even if you have known him for 20 years (look how tight his grip is on me so I couldn't escape!)

Hope these are helpful - or at least let you laugh at someone (me) with their permission and that is bound to relieve stress.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Hangin' Out With Movie Stars

Interviewed two movie stars, which is not my usual newspaper assignment so that was fun. Edward Herrmann (The Gillmore Girls etc.) and Krista Swanson (star of movie version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer etc.) are starring in a Christmas movie being filmed in Mapleton at the Model A Cafe. Big news!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mark in the News

Mark's school, Cherry Creek Elementary was the only Title 1 school in Nebo district that achieved "High Achieving Title 1 School" so this is a very big deal! This is the article from the Daily Herald (unrelated picture from the summer)

Springville's Cherry Creek Elementary earned a $1,500 grant and state recognition as a high-performing school this month, achievements the school's administration credits to proactive teachers that keep a sharp eye for the individuals within their classrooms.

"We create pretty individual programs to try to help those children to be more successful," principal Mark Balzotti said. "It's a school-wide effort, and it takes everybody working hard to identify specific needs."

Cherry Creek is classified as Title I, or a school with a large low-income population, and is thus entitled to extra federal support. The school, now four years old, has been Title I since its creation.

"The United States Congress has long recognized that higher poverty schools face unique challenges in educating students. ... Schools that meet high levels of achievement and close the learning gap despite these challenges are to be commended," the Utah State Office of Education stated in a letter to Cherry Creek.

Cherry Creek has stayed abreast of the science, math and language arts benchmarks set forth by the 2001 federal No Child Left Behind act, which outlines a nation-wide goal to have every child, regardless of sex, race or economic background, performing at or above grade level by 2014.

In order to overcome any socioeconomic hurdles standing in the way of federal standards, Balzotti said the administration encourages teachers to get creative in finding tailor-made solutions for their classrooms.

Third-grade teacher Tiffany Searle, of Payson, secured a $1,500 grant from the 100% For Kids Credit Union Education Foundation to buy document cameras for each of the school's three third-grade classrooms. The $500 apparatus is like a cross between an overhead projector and a video camera. Searle said the device, which also runs through a computer, where it can be manipulated, will help her better display things like hands-on projects.

"If one of my kids does something that I want to show off, I can say, 'Oh, look how this kid is doing this,' " Searle said. "I can put it up there and that will motivate them."

The foundation, which has donated more than $5 million to Utah schools since its 2002 inception, is funded by credit unions, credit union members and other individual donors. 100% For Kids donated computer projectors to Cherry Creek for third-, fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms in 2008. Searle applied for her grant in June of this year, but didn't get accepted until this month due to a few snags in the application process; her resilience paid off.

"She's a young teacher, she saw a need, but didn't whine about it; she just took it to task," Balzotti said. "It's that kind of people that I have on my staff. They're go-getters, they're not just going to sit around."

It's that kind of initiative, Balzotti said, that has kept Cherry Creek above the federal standards, which not only demand high performance as a school average but high performance within subgroups, such as race and wealth, as well. Failure to meet these standards, which climb each year en route to 2014's 100-percent mark, can result in penalties for the school. Performance is measured each year by the Utah Criterion-Referenced Test.

"If you fail in any of those population groups, you fail as a school," Balzotti said. "It's pretty high stakes. However, hopefully what we're doing is not driven by just a test, but driven by children learning."

Friday, December 11, 2009

Indiana Jones - the Christmas Book

I had to clip Amazon's jacket photo since this is too new for my library.It is listed as young adult fiction at the library so that's interesting. I guess since there is no sex,or swearing only violence?
“Indiana Jones and the Seven Veils”
Indiana Jones is the best action hero ever. He’s a brilliant archaeologist, a dashingly handsome international adventurer and he knows how to use a whip. He reminds me of my son Chris. Well, ok Chris works with archaeologists at their sites as a botanist but he is also brilliant and a dashingly handsome international adventurer. I’m not sure how great his whip skills are but he is amazing with a GPS and a machete in the jungles of Guatemala. Mark and I enjoyed a trip to the ruins of Tikal with Chris a few years ago and it is a remarkable place. He has traveled back to the site several times to complete his Masters degree so when I saw that this Indian Jones book began in Tikal; it had to be Chris’ Christmas book.

Though it’s not a brilliant piece of literary prose, the Seven Veils is a fun read. Author Rob MacGregor has carefully included the important ingredients of Indydom. The book begins with the typical crisis involving booby-trapped entrances to lost grave sites. “Tikal, Guatemala-March 7, 1926. The torchlight flickered in the close quarters. The tunnel was tight, the air choked with dust and the dank smell of earth. After two days of slowing removing one stone after another….a hole the size of his arm now opened into a dark chamber inside the pyramid.” See what I mean? You’re hooked right away just like the movies.

MacGregor continues to combine the true mysteries of history with a liberal sprinkling of fantasy. There is a prologue containing an excerpt from the diary of real-life British explorer Colonel Percy Fawcett who disappeared searching for the legendary lost city of Z. His mystery forms the basis of the Seven Veils book and makes you want to read more about what could have happened to Fawcett in the Brazilian jungle. The fantasy part of the book is pretty fantastic. While searching for the colonel and the city of Z, Indy is captured by a mystical tribe who can control his mind. These blue-eyed tribesmen seem descended from the druids and live in a world where reality is blurred by dreams. Of course the exciting escape involves poisonous blow darts, jumping into river rapids, and cannibals.

I know Chris already has a GPS and a machete, but I may need to get him a whip and a hat to go with this book for Christmas. The next time he goes down to Tikal I am sure he will want to pack the book, wear the hat and use the whip.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Don't Judge Too Quickly

What would you think if a child in your class drew this and showed it to you? Yes, that is what I thought too! But actually, her mom sells snow shovels at Home Depot...

Thursday, December 3, 2009

BookLook Review for a Favorite Book

“The Help” by Kathryn Stockett is my number one gift book for Christmas 2009. I can’t give it to my dear friend Rosemary since she is the one who raved about it until I read it a few months ago. When you find someone who knows the books you like to read always listen to their recommendations! She wasn’t alone in her enthusiasm. My entire book club gave it their unanimous A+ rating. This is remarkable since these12 women rarely agree whole-heartedly on any book choice. Since the novel is set in the south, it is perfect for my mother from Virginia. Since it is about a young woman who is creative and caring, it is perfect for my daughter and daughter-in-laws. Since it has a beautiful cover … you get the idea.
The help are a group of black women working as maids in Mississippi in 1962. As the book begins, we hear the voice of the main character Aibileen as she describes her latest charge: “Mae Mobley was born on a early Sunday morning in August, 1960. A church baby we like to call it. Taking care a white babies, that’s what I do, along with all the cooking and cleaning. I done raised seventeen kids in my lifetime. I know how to get them babies to sleep, stop crying, and go in the toilet bowl before they mamas even get out a bed in the morning.” Right away the musical rhythm of her speech transports the reader into Aiblileen’s southern world. It is a place filled with fascinating characters and many wrongs and injustices.
Aibileen’s friend Minny is also employed by a white family. Every day she leaves her own large brood of children to work for less than minimum wage as a maid. She has a reputation as the best cook in town, but she has a “sassy” mouth and a sense of fairness that overrules her position in society. “Civil Rights” is a new and dangerous phrase. These women are joined by other maids to secretly tell their stories of prejudice and abuse. They are trusted with the daily care of the children, but not with the silver. The guest bathroom is off limits and they must never drink out of cup or use a spoon, even though they are the ones doing all the washing and drying every day.
When twenty-two year old frizzy-haired Miss Skeeter returns home after graduating from Ol’ Miss. she searches for something meaningful to do that summer. Her friends are all married and the mothers of small children. She desperately wants to get out of the south and work in New York. She is in many ways, as trapped as the maids who work in her home and the homes of her friends. When a New York editor challenges her to write about something meaningful she decides to secretly interview the maids and tell their stories.
These three women begin a risky journey together to reveal injustice and improve conditions for the future. As they cross their societal barriers of race and position, they discover the courage and faith they all share. It is an unforgettable book. If you are giving a book to a woman on your Christmas list (and you had better be!) this is the perfect choice.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Post Thanksgiving Pictures

Here are a few pictures from Thanksgiving. Mark and I were the orphans at the Gleave feast since our marrieds were all at the in-law/outlaws this year.

After only one night of neices and nephews...the Granats look like this!

Dave and Dan are living proof that pie increases facial hair.

Eli and mom four wheelin' after turkey dinner.

Ava wants to go four-wheelin' too like her cousin. This is the 3rd picture I took because she checked the other 2 and told me to take another one she would like.