JaniceHeck

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A is for Adjectives, Anteaters, Armadillos, and Aardvarks

a-to-z-letters-2013

Welcome to the 2013 A to Z Challenge where bloggers write a series of 26 posts during the month of April.
This year our faithful organizers encouraged hope-filled A-Z participants to develop a theme for posts rather than posting on random topics as many of us did last year.
My theme for this year is . . .

Writing PLUS Grammar You Can See.

Through the month of April, I plan to give examples of how a strong knowledge of grammar can help writers produce more effective writing. More effective writing improves communication.

Along the way, I plan to throw in a cat or two. Sorry, they just have a way of sneaking into my blogs.
And now with a *blast of the trumpet* and a *roll on the snare drum*, we begin with . . .

A is for Adjectives, Anteaters, Armadillos, and Aardvarks

Pigs Little Three
Bad Wolf Big
Little Hood Riding Red

Did you grimace when you read these familiar characters?
Take a common phrase and mix up the adjectives, and it sounds like an off-key prima donna singing an aria at the Met. Our ears tell us something just isn’t right.

Parents read nursery rhymes and classic stories to their wee ones over and over and over and over, a trillion times in parent-count, to calm them at bed-time. At the same time, they unwittingly teach their little sponges unspoken rules for how our language works. Diaper-wearing toddlers learn the order of adjectives as they babble away practicing their early communication skills.

three pigs LGBMom reads The Three Little Pigs.
Rule: Adjectives come before nouns. (They can also be in two other places, but that’s for another post.)
Rule: Number adjectives come before size adjectives

Pattern: Adjective, adjective, adjective noun.

Dad reads Little Red Riding Hood.
Rule: size comes before color.

little-red-riding-hood-ladybird-book-first-favourite-tales-gloss-hardback-1999-1553-pChildren learn these rules seemingly by osmosis so teachers never have to teach about correct order of adjectives in school. Adjective order flows naturally in their speaking patterns without ever having to learn the official linguistic rules.

Order of adjectives is generally only a problem for non-native English speakers whose own language may have a different word order.

And yes, there is a prescribed order for adjectives. If you think about it for a bit, you can probably come up with the rules. But I’ll save you some time and give the order to you here:

1. determiners: a, an, the this, that, these, those his, hers, ours, yours several, ten, some
2. judgment (opinion, observation): beautiful, delicious, obnoxious, immature
3. physical description (fact: size, shape, age, color): small, round, ancient, golden
4. origin: Greek, Italian, Chinese, Mexican
5. composition: cotton, silk, metal, wooden
6. other specific qualifier related to the function or purpose noun . . .men’s clothing, children’s shoes
and finally, ta dah, *drum roll*, the NOUN.

Teacher-pleasing elementary students love to write lengthy sentences loaded with adjectives. Let them have their fun.

Giant, bushy-tailed anteaters with long, sticky tongues and elongated snouts vacuum up their mid-day snack of crunchy, tasty, black ants.
giant anteater
Toothless, armor-plated, Texan and South American armadillos roam around in the pitch-black, moon-less nights but roll up into balls when threatened by ravenous predators.
armadillow
That chunky African aardvark with the round, stubby, pig-like snout, catches ants with its long, inelegant sticky tongue.
aardvark

Bierce cover largeFor additional thoughts on order of adjectives, read all about “Frozen Yogurt with Adjectives on Top” by Jan Freeman, author of Ambrose Bierce’s Write It Right: The Celebrated Cynic’s Language Peeves Deciphered, Appraised, and Annotated for 21st-Century Readers. http://throwgrammarfromthetrain.blogspot.com/2012/08/frozen-yogurt-with-adjectives-on-top.html

So what? Who cares? Why do writers have to think about order of adjectives?
Writing instructors say, “Show, don’t tell,” encouraging writers to give more detail in their writing, but writers need to use adjectives more selectively than those eager-beaver elementary students.

Zinsser, On Writing WellWilliam Zinsser, author of On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction, says this about adjectives:

Most writers sow adjectives almost unconsciously into the soil of their prose to make it more lush and pretty, and the sentences become longer and longer as they fill up wih stately elms and frisky kittens and hard-bitten detectives and sleepy lagoons. This is adjective-by-habit — a habit you should get rid of.

Goals for Using Adjectives in Writing
1. Use adjectives selectively. Piles of adjectives bore your readers. They skip over them to get to the action in your story or to the gist of your article. Don’t be like those adjective-abusing, but fun-loving elementary students.  Use fresh, original, surprising adjectives in your writing.
2. Get rid of common adjectives (nice, pretty, lovely, romantic, exciting). They have no place in your writing because they show nothing. Instead practice writing original similes and metaphors. Look for posts on S and M, oops, I mean similes and metaphors in the future. In the meantime, Catherine Johnson posts metaphors and metaphor-generating pictures on “Metaphor Mondays.” Look there for fresh ideas.

The Last Meow

And now a word from Grumpy Cat. Too bad the meme writer didn’t go to school on the day the teacher taught about apostrophesGumpry Cay-meme-wrong apostrophes and contractions. Oh well, there’s  always room for another blog post on the proper use of these elementary, confounding constructions.

Oh great. Now the Three Little Kittens are fussing because I haven’t given them any airtime. Sometimes you just can’t win.

Common Errors or Effective Writing?

Sentence fragments and short, choppy sentences have gotten bad raps having been labeled as (heaven forbid)

common errors in writing.

But these two style elements should have a place in every writer’s paintbox.

Developing writers rely on basic sentence patterns in their writing because they haven’t yet developed the ability to write more complex sentences, nor have they learned common revision techniques such as sentence combining. Unintentionally, they use sentence fragments and short, choppy sentences in their stories, reports, and essays.

The result? Boring, ho-hum, unsophisticated, first draft writing.

Yet effective writers deliberately use sentence fragments and short, choppy sentences to make their writing stronger. What’s the difference? Check these examples from Sandra Cisneros and Shammai Golan.

Sandra Cisneros (1954-         )

Although born in poverty in Chicago, Sandra Cisneros, celebrated Mexican-American writer, did not remain there. Encouraged by her mother, a voracious reader, and mentored by teachers, Cisneros rose above the impoverished conditions that hold so many back. She graduated from Josephim Academy and Loyola University in Chicago, and then earned a master’s degree at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop program.

But college life was not easy for Cisneros. As a Chicano in primarily white college classes, she rebelled against the traditional reading assignments that just did not relate to her early life experiences as a Mexican-American. Out of frustration and anger, she chose to write about what others could not—her life growing up in a poor, urban, predominantly Puerto Rican Chicago neighborhood in Chicago—a place significantly different from those she read about in her college literature classes.

The result? Cisneros developed a highly distinctive voice that reflected her Mexican-American heritage, the voice of a poor, female child of Mexican parents growing up in big-city America. Speaking through Esperanza, Cisneros writes,

Everybody in our family has different hair. My Papa’s hair is like a broom, all up in the air. And me, my hair is lazy. It never obeys barrettes or bands. Carol’s hair is thick and straight. He doesn’t need to comb it. Nenny’s hair is slippery—slides out of your hand. And Kiki, who is the youngest, has hair like fur.
—Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street, “Hairs”

Here’s another piece from “A House of My Own.”

Not a flat. Not an apartment in back. Not a man’s house. Not a daddy’s. A house all my own. With my porch and my pillow, my pretty purple petunias. My books and my stories. My two shoes waiting beside the bed. Nobody to shake a stick at. Nobody’s garbage to pick up after.
—Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street, “A House of My Own”

Cisnero’s writing captivates. It is conversational, warm, and comfortable, as if she speaks directly to you. Her fragments and short, choppy sentences slide out in a steady, smooth stream, but they fit her intended purpose—to reflect the natural conversational tone of her childhood. Just kids sitting on the front stoop, swinging their bare-feet, and talking about life and hope. Subject these pieces to an academic sentence-combining activity and the charm, rhythm, and honesty disappear. Her writing is not unsophisticated. It is a social commentary, rich in description about the truth of life in poverty. She uses sentence fragments and short, choppy sentences effectively for her own writing purposes.

Shammai Golan (1933-           )

Israeli writer Shammai Golan uses sentence fragments and short, choppy sentences with an entirely different effect.

Golan moved to Palestine (pre-Israel) as an orphan at the age of fourteen (1947), leaving Poland and the difficult years of World War II behind. In 1951, he joined the Israeli Army in the on-going Arab-Israeli conflict, the background for this disturbing and powerful account of an Israeli’s soldier’s agonizing death.

In this brief quote, Golan conveys fear, shock, disbelief, and horror using fragments and choppy sentences to describe the last thoughts and minutes of a soldier’s life.

The Uzi’s a good weapon. Effective. For defense. For attack. In face-to-face-fighting. But today’s Friday. And there’s peace at the borders. And I’m only on watch over their road. They fired. Suddenly. Why’d they fire, suddenly? In war one fires. People get wounded. Killed. In the War of Independence. . . .
I’m breathing. With difficulty though. That’s because of the blood. I’m all wet. Maybe it suddenly rained. Sometimes it rains in September. Even before Yom Kippur. And I’m already damp. And flowing. All is flowing. And all is vanity. And you can never enter the same river twice. The Philosopher teacher. A great sage. . . .
And the leaves fall over my body. Soft. Purple. Like the water under my belly. Soft. Warm. How long can one flow like this. An hour. Two. Three. . . .
—Shammai Golan, “Ten Centimeters of Dust” in Laurel Holliday, Children of Israel, Children of Palestine: Our Own True

Golan communicates the gravity of this tragic situation as the soldier moves in and out of consciousness, hallucinating, remembering, regretting, wondering. Truncated sentences and stream of consciousness thinking create a stunning emotional impact on the reader. This must be what happens when someone thinks he is dying.

Bad Guys Turn Good

So, yes, there are rules for writing, but good writers often ignore these rules in order to develop their own style. Short, choppy sentences and sentence fragments can be effective in writing for specific purposes. Consider your purpose in writing when you use them.

Narrative writing with dialog seems especially suited for these two stylistic devices. People do not normally speak in full sentences in conversation. Instead they use body language, clipped sentences, repetition, and reliance on commonly known information to carry their meaning. They speak in fragments and in short, choppy sentences.

Academic writing, on the other hand, is not the place to overuse these structures. Teachers and professors prefer the more complex sentence structures that demonstrate higher levels of thinking and organization.

Sentence fragments and short, choppy sentences are not such bad guys after all.  But use them wisely, as part of an overall strategy to vary your sentence structure. Tell your teacher or editor I told you so.

YOUR TURN:
When have you used short, choppy sentences or fragments as stylistic strategies in your writing?
What authors have you read that use these two stylistic strategies effectively?

Saturday Sampling: Meandering through the Blogosphere

As I meander through the blogosphere, I copy and paste blog post titles that appeal to me into a blank post. At the end of the week, I sort through these titles and choose my favorites. Here is this week’s sampling.

Books:

Anita Ferreri at the Nerdy Book Club, Retro Review: Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne

Anita Ferreri, literary specialist in Winchester County, NY, reminds us of the excellent qualities in the Winnie-the-Pooh books.

Milne’s books are classics that teachers can read to children in the early grades. His lovable characters (Christopher Robin, Pooh, Tigger, Owl, and Eeyore) express wisdom that stays long in the hearts and minds of children and adults.

Grammar:

Sharifah Z. Williams, Dems da Rules: Adverbs

Williams, writer and and self-proclaimed word-eater, reminds us that unneeded adverbs, the “most sinister of writing faux pas,” don’t necessarily interfere with a good story line. In fact, if you are engrossed in the story, you will not notice the adverbs. Still, it is wise for good writers to use adverbs with care.

Spelling

Judythe Morgan, Spellcheckers and Pullet Surprise Work

Judythe Morgan reminds us that our spelling system is not perfect by quoting a 1992 poem by Dr. Jerrold H. Zar. Our spellcheckers are not perfect either; they do not check for context when doing their thing. Here’s a clip to prove the point.

I have a spelling checker,
It came with my PC.
It plane lee marks four my revue
Miss steaks aye can knot sea.

Hashtags

Tom Whitby, How Does #Edchat Connect Educators?

The #edchat hashtag connects teachers for Twitter chats on Tuesdays at noon and 7 p.m. each week. Interested Tweeters carry on a running conversation on pre-selected education topics. What a neat way to keep up with changes and trends in education.

I have used the #edchat hashtag on Twitter a number of times to pass on articles/posts worthy of an educator’s notice. This post tells more about this useful tag and how it came to be.

Health:

Michael King, A Cancer Story: Thoughts of Death

Cancer has hit my family hard, and it may have hit yours, too. The emotional impact of this horrible disease is deep but not always talked about openly. Michael King shares his physical and emotional pain in dealing with his own cancer. This is a good blog for cancer fighters and cancer care-givers to follow. Michael is fighting back at cancer by writing about it. My family fights back through Relay for Life.

Recipes:

Anderson Cooper, 7 Recipes for $7 (Charles Mattacks, The Poor Chef)

I love food blogs so I follow a number of them and look for recipes to try out. This post features Charles Mattacks (The Poor Chef) who shares recipes that cost about $7.00 each. I am going to try out this featured “Granny’s Chicken Curry” sometime soon.

Cats:

And now…*drum roll*… two cat posts for the week. You didn’t think I would skip the cats, did you?

Derek Perry, On the Subject of Cats and Poets, at WORD SALAD: Stories from the Savage Pen. Cat owners will love this post! Nuff said.

B.F. Kazmarski, The Creative Cat, Daily Sketch: On The Edge. Check this site for a delightful charcoal pencil sketch of Mimi and Jelly Bean.

YOUR TURN:

What was your favorite post this week?

Dining Out: Pizza at Home and Pizza in Italy

Finding good pizza on the Ocean City, NJ, Boardwalk is easy because the competition is fierce.

But many of us have our favorite place: Manco & Manco.

My niece, Lori, who now lives in Sedona, Arizona, managing the Alma de Sedona Inn, asked me to post a picture of Manco & Manco on Facebook. I guess she was a little nostalgic for the ocean breeze, the surf and sand, and the pizzzzzaaaaahhhhh!

Manco & Manco Pizza on the Boardwalk in Ocean City, NJ. Yes, that is a line to get in and sit down. Best bet: buy it by the slice and sit on a Boardwalk bench to eat it.  No waiting.

Next, Lori asked me to post a picture of an M & M pizza that she could put on her refrigerator at work.

Cheese pizza at Manco & Manco

All this talk of pizza reminded me of the wonderful pizza I had in Rome.

Walking near Campo de’ Fiori on a beautiful, sunny, May day, we came to a pizza shop…actually a doorway entrance to a bakery with two standing-only tables outside.

Down this way, around the corner, down an alley…

Come on. We’re getting close. I can smell something delicious. Ah, it must be coming from this doorway…

Marco Forno Roscioli

Antico Forno Marco Roscioli, 34 Via dei Chiavari, Rome, Italy. (Forno means oven.)

llll

You buy pizza by the inch (al tagio, by the slice) at forno Roscioli. I ordered “this much,” and the attendant cut off four inches of the margherita pizza, cut it in half, folded it over to make it sandwich-like, placed it in on brown waxed paper, and handed it to me. Delicious. Crispy. Flavorful. Hint of basil. Stringy cheese. Outstanding.

Tutto molto buono!

Wait, here comes another pizza hot out of the oven: pizza with tomatoes, ricotta, and fresh basil. Unfortunately, my four inches of margherita pizza had filled me up, and I couldn’t eat any more.

Here comes another: zucchini and cheese pizza. I think we’d better leave this pizza place! It is all too tempting.

Pizza. Now I’m hungry. Maybe I can sweet talk my dear, darling husband into running out for some now while I plan my next trip to Italy.

Saturday Silliness: Basset Hound Doo Dah Parade

Small cities have big imaginations, and Ocean City, NJ (OCNJ) is no exception.

To launch its summer season, OCNJ holds its Annual Doo Dah Parade the first Saturday after Tax Day in April.  It’s a ridiculous fun event not to be missed. We celebrate because taxes have been paid, and summer is just around the corner. “Hallelujah” from us beach lovers.

Doo Dah Parades have a history in other areas of our country (Pasadena, Columbus), but they don’t quite measure up to the Ocean City parade.

The Ocean City spectacle parade always has several lowpoints highlights. The first is the appearance of a nationally known celebrity as Grand Parade Marshall. In past years, Carol Channing, Mickey Rooney, Larry Storch, Captain Kangaroo, and Soupy Sales have been our esteemed parade leaders. This year, Chuck McCann, TV and stage actor and vocal artist, did the honors.

Abbott and Costello, Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Jack Benny, and Lucille Ball regularly appear in the parades. Okay, so they are impersonators, but who knows the difference?

The second, but most important feature, basset hounds, garbed in their tax season finery, strut their stuff.  Well over 400 of these floppy-eared, waddling doggies entertain the crowds as they meander huff and puff wobble down Asbury Avenue and the Boardwalk. Some bassets sport humiliating outrageous costumes that make them want to run and hide their owners think are cute. Others, rigged up in more sartorial splendor, reign with an air of pomp and cirumstance, all the while looking down their snouts at those lesser-dressed, riff-raff, tag-a-longs.  Take a look.

Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.

“Here comes the bride. See how she waddles from side to side.”

I don’t know about you guys, but I just wanna play around with da chicks. (Chick magnet, get it?)

Honest now. Would you wanna waddle in a parade wearing this ridiculous hat? I wouldn’t wear this even for a high-falutin’ society wedding.

I. Will. Not. Go. One. More. Step. And. You. Can’t. Make. Me!

This parade is just so much excitement. I just can’t handle it all. Lucky I have a slave owner to carry me when I get tuckered out.

Here’s the deal. If you flop down and refuse to walk, someone will come along and give you a lift. Got it?

Here’s another possibility. Kiss up to the Grand Marshall and get to ride in comfort and style in the limosine parade golf cart.

Of course, any parade with 400 to 500 dogs is bound to be a bit chaotic at points, and this fiasco procession does not disappoint.

And, don’t forget. There are awards: “The Golden Hot Dog” award for local tri-state (NJ/PA/NY) participants and The “Double Doggy Doo Dah Glutton-for-Punishment Award.” How do you get the 4DGPA? Participate in another Doo Dah Day Parade somewhere in the country, and the honor is all yours besides, no one else wants it.

And there’s more. People Furry fellows and felines of all shapes and disguises flounce in this parade, too. Every year Sir Rapid T. Rabbit sponsors the annual furry (and a few feathers) critter consortium in the parade.

Rapid. T. Rabbit of Delaware’s (The Furst State) Furry Forum, leads frolicking furry freaks friends down the OC Boardwalk

Marching bands and vocalists Riding bands and musical groups roll up the Boardwalk throwing out sounds and love to the crowd. Sometimes they throw Schriver’s, Fralinger’s, and Steele’s Ocean City Salt Water Taffy to the sticky-fingers eager hands of candy-eaters  freeloaders parade guests.

Here’s Jan’s sister trying to horn in on a classy musical performance

If you can’t afford wheels, you just have to do it the old-fashioned way and walk.

And when the parade’s all over, you get to have pizza at Manco & Manco. Okay, so there’s a line. What did you expect? It’s a warm, sunny Saturday in April. There’s been a parade on the Boardwalk. And people are out on the beach sticking their toes in the water. Of course, there’s a crowd…and a line. The wait is worth it.

What kind of pizza do you want?

Oh, I forgot to mention one thing. Dogs are not allowed on the Boardwalk.

Oh well, I guess that once you’ve paid your taxes, anything goes! Besides, for those lovable basset hounds, OCNJ will just look the other way.

Want to read more posts about Ocean City? Click here, here, and here.

YOUR TURN:

What’s your favorite kind of parade?

Dining In: Peasant Chicken from San Gimignano, Italy

A recipe for Chicken with Herb Roasted Tomatoes and Pan Sauce posted by Epicurious (recipe here) reminded me of a delicious Peasant Chicken dinner that I had in San Gimignano, Italy this past May.

Peasant Chicken is similar to Hunter Chicken (a cacciatore), but the unique feature of this dish is that it includes green olives.

Here is my photo of the dish as served in San Gimignano.

I searched the Internet as well as my own vast collection of cookbooks for recipes for peasant chicken and came up with several possibilities.

Epicurean.com has a recipe for Chicken with Green Olives that sounds like the dish that I had. That recipe is here.

I checked The Tuscan Sun Cookbook: Recipes from Our Italian Kitchen by Frances Mayes and Edward Mayes and found Chicken with Olives and Tomatoes. Mayes’ recipe uses both black and green olives. I am sure that the recipe varies with regional preferences.

I will try the Frances Mayes’ recipe today and see how my rendition compares to the original in San Gimignano.

Grocery list: Chicken, wine from the Chianti region of Italy, Jersey Fresh cherry tomatoes, broad leaf parsley, black  olives, and green olives. I already have extra-virgin olive oil. Consult the cookbook for exact quantities for these ingredients.

First, oven roast the cherry tomatoes. Cut the tomatoes in half, season with salt and pepper, and toss in garlic and herbs. Roast for a few hours on low oven heat. Here’s a peek at a bowl of the tomatoes (half the batch).

Now brown the chicken in olive oil and add a bit of chianti. Move the chicken and wine to a baking dish. Cover with a mix of the olives, parsley, and roasted tomatoes. Bake for thirty minutes.

Serve over nests of angel hair pasta or your own favorite pasta.

This is how my dish turned out. It smells so good, and it is delicious. It looks similar to the San Gimignano version, but I think the San Gimignano recipe uses white wine and more olive oil. Regardless, this recipe is definitely a keeper.

Next week, I will try the Epicurean.com recipe and see which dish comes closer to the one Mama made in Italy.

YOUR TURN: Have you tried to duplicate a dish from another country or another area of our country?

Mash-Up: Saturday Sampling of Posts Worthy of Notice

Data: 430,802 bloggers wrote 964,269 posts today on WordPress.Com.  Add all the new posts on Blogger.com, and you have an overwhelming number of blog posts to read.

Who has time to read them all?

Freshly Pressed by WordPress features excellent posts of the last day or so, and mash-ups by individual bloggers help to identify other good ones. Here is a Saturday sampling of my own blogosphere wanderings this week.

Humor: Leave it to Wana112 groupie, Laird Sapir, to find some off-the-wall humorous oddity to write about. In this post, she writes about Party Rats. Read her tongue-in-cheek post to learn how you can use these little critters for night blogging.  http://www.lairdsapir.com/2012/07/lets-party-rats/

Writing: Barbara Forte Abate reviews the true meaning of some common expressions we use in everyday speaking and writing. I’m not going to let the cat out of the bag by telling you which expressions she writes about; just take a look-see for yourself. I think you’ll enjoy reading her comments at http://barbaraforteabate.wordpress.com/2012/07/26/hair-of-the-dog

Luca the Wonder Dog

Dogs: Speaking of “Hair of the Dog,” here’s a post by Cassandra Heck (my stepdaughter) about her dog, Luca. Luca is a comedian in canine wrappings. This 90-pound behemoth wraps his owner and family right around his little toe. He gives lots of love in return, so the trade-off is worth it. Read about him at http://cassandraheck.wordpress.com/2012/07/26/this-crazy-thing-called-luca/

Culture and Literature: Jacqui Talbot, storyteller extraordinaire, writes down memorable Choctaw tales as told to her by her grandfather. This particular tale tells about great waves crashing down on Choctaw land and destroying everything. One survivor, who had predicted a catastropic flood, had built a raft in the mountains and survived. This tale is mesmerizing.  http://justjacqui2.com/2012/07/

Parenting: How do blogs and parenting connect? “Homemadekids” suggests a number of ways bloggers can help parents, from passing on recipes to sharing ideas about how to bring up children to become thoughtful adults.  http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/07/25/focus-on-parenting-blogs/

Photos:  I lived near San Francisco for a number of years and always loved going over the Golden Gate Bridge.  Sometimes it was in fog, and sometimes it was in the clear; either way, it was always beautiful. This particular photograph is spectacular. http://ilikephotoblog.wordpress.com/2012/07/25/golden-gate-bridge-san-francisco/

Travel: “Where’s my backpack?” writes about the Franciscan Monastery of Mount St. Sepulchre in the Brookland neighborhood in northeastern Washington, DC. The Franciscan Order, established in the 12th century, was charged with caring for all Christian shrines in the Holy Land. The buildings and grounds of this monastery, built later to provide “a taste of the Holy Land,” features replicas of those shrines and chapels in the Holy Land.

This monastery is on my list of things to see before I travel (I hope) to Israel in December. “Where’s my backpack?” does a great job giving descriptive detail, historical background, and photos of this site. Read both posts. http://wheresmybackpack.com/2012/07/25/catacombs-and-old-byzantium-i/ and http://wheresmybackpack.com/2012/07/25/catacombs-and-old-byzantium-ii/

Zucchini Tart (after dinner)

Recipes:  Panini Girl has an obsession with Italy and with food, two of my favorite topics.  Recently she posted a recipe for a tomato tart (July 6, 2012), and this week she put up a recipe for a delicious-looking zucchini tart. I went out today, bought all the ingredients I needed, and made one up for dinner. It’s as delicious as it looks!  The recipe for the zucchini tart was posted on July 26, 2012. Here’s a picture of my attempt.

Recipes: What to do with those extra blueberries? You have more than enough to make my easy-peasie blueberry tart (recipe here), so why not make this blueberry…umm…casserole pie found on the Three Clever Sisters blog on July 26, 2012.  This is a great pie for a big family gathering.

Cats: And finally, no mash-up of mine would ever be complete without the feline connection. Cats just make me happy. Last week on Saturday Silliness, I posted “Where do cats sleep?”  Andmycat.com posted a collection of delightful kitties here:  http://www.andmycat.com/2012/07/todays-featured-kitties-july-27.html

YOUR TURN: What was your favorite blog this week?

YA Book Review: Silki, The Girl of Many Scarves: Summer of the Ancient

Something isn’t right on Concho Mountain.

Someone or something is out there.

Silki knows it, and Silki’s horse, Smiles, knows it.

What? A snake? A mountain lion? A wild, winged creature with an agonizing shriek? An Ancient Ant Man looking to settle a grudge?

Silki’s active imagination and Smiles’ skittishness force a hasty retreat back to the safe confines of the family compound.

Silki races to tell her “extreme tale” (another one!) to Birdie, her best friend (former best friend?), but Birdie’s mind is already on her new, cool, more sophisticated (and normal) volleyball friends. Besides, Birdie is secretly just a little freaked out by Silki’s fantastic stories of a revenge-seeking Ancient Ant Man who demands the return of sacred relics they have collected near Red Rocks on the Rez (Navajo reservation).

This engaging book, written by Jodi Lea Stewart, has several themes. Being an adolescent, one theme, is not easy with its sometimes wobbly friendships, divided loyalties, and changing interests. Add some mystery, let’s say scary mystery, and you have a spell-binding story. Now add Navajo culture and traditions, a few characters with long-held secrets, a bit of odd behavior now and then, a kidnapping, and… I’m breathless!

Open the book to any page, and you will find exquisite writing with descriptions fresh and alive. The story begins on “a sweet pepperminty day in the high country when spring teases winter into moving over a little” and goes on from there. Upper elementary and junior high teachers will delight in using this book and having students pick out their favorite passages.

Here’s a little teaser.

What was I doing? It was more than just boredom egging me on. It was like I was uncorking a bottle and all the troubled Wol-la-chee liquid was pouring out and I couldn’t stop it no matter what. A thrilling craziness pulled me like a magnet.

The thrilling craziness in this book kept me up ’til the wee hours of the morning. I loved the book, and now I am sending it to my twelve-year-old granddaughter who lives in Arizona.

Hurry up, Jodi, and finish the second book in the Summer of the Ancient series. I want to know what happens next.

Surprising New Jersey: Photos by Cassandra Heck

I am delighted to have Cassandra Heck as my *first* guest today on my blog.

*Marching band and blaring bugles.*

Cassandra is a multi-talented young lady whose flair for fashion, style, and panache are well known in this area. She is a hair stylist extraordinaire, designing the most imaginative up-dos for proms, weddings, and other special events. She creates dramatic feathery, flowery, beady, glammy hair pieces to go with those adorable, up-scale (any color you want!) hair-dos.

In her off hours, Cassandra creates and photographs her own vegan and vegetarian specialties to enhance her own well-being and to tantalize the taste buds of her non-vegetarian dad. An artistic person, she has been known to fashion other-worldly creatures out of wasabe and ginger at a favorite Japanese restaurant, leaving the confused waiter to wonder whether he worked in a food establishment or an art gallery. Her almost constant companion, Luca (pictured with her) brings many chuckles to our lives. He has his own take on life, but that’s another story.

Cassandra is a social media pundit who adds pictures from her ever-present iPhone on her Facebook pages, and she inserts sharp-edged, insightful comments on everyday happenings in her world.  In her words, she is “complexed by my own complexity.”

And oh, did you notice her last name? Yes, she is related. She is my husband’s daughter, my stepdaughter. Yes, I know, talent runs in families! That does give us bragging rights.

On a recent dawn’s-early-light outing with her equally talented artist/musician/singer/photographer seeeesster, Amanda Heck, aka Akwarian Sea Rebel (mentioned in an earlier post), Cassandra captured the look of innocent and surprising New Jersey.

Surprising New Jersey

Many people have a jaundiced view of New Jersey from driving through on the Philadelphia-Newark-New York corridor with its factories and smoky stacks, compacted interstate traffic, and congested housing and industrial complexes.

But get off that macadam throughway, and you find a state filled with hidden beauty. Cassandra has taken on the challenge of photographing some of these treasures. Let’s see what she has captured.

Today’s Stop: Ocean City, NJ at Sunrise, 58th Street beach, boardwalk

Dog on Ocean City beach at sunrise

58th Street Beach, Ocean City, NJ

Mandy Heck photographing sunrise. Photo by Cassie Heck

Self-portrait

These are great pictures, Cassandra. Thanks for sharing them on my blog. I look forward to posting more pictures from your wanderings in Surprising New Jersey.

Saturday Silliness: Where do cats sleep?

Where do cats sleep? Like 800-pound gorillas, cats sleep anywhere they want.

Cats pride themselves on NOT being ordinary. They are creative, inventive, independent, unique creatures. They have live-and-let-live attitudes (unless you forget to feed them or interrupt their naps), and they have the most flexible bones in the world. Cats have their own point of view on just about everything.

Here are a few amusing kitty siestas spots as found on And My Cat, Petflow, Cat Swag, E-Cute, 1,000,000 Pictures, or from Internet friends.

The all-time favorite place for cats to sleep is in a plain, old box. Size doen’t matter. This demonstrates flexibility and adaptability.

Sleeping in a basket is another popular choice. The bird is optional. Picture: Haryo Bagus Handako

Of course, some humans have designed special beds for their spoiled sweet little kitties.      1,000,000 Pictures

Ah yes, another human indulges provides the kitties with these adorable bunk beds.
Picture: And My Cat

Bunk beds? How about octo-beds?
Picture: Troy Perault

Maybe it’s a  little lumpy and small, but a Barbie bed is not a bad place for a nappy.
Picture: Tara Robertson

Some kitties have their own idea about perfect sleeping arrangements.
Picture: And My Cat

Sleeping in a violin case? Whatever.
Picture: Cat Swag

The original in-and-out cat
Picture: And My Cat

Sometimes ya gets so tired, ya falls asleep wherever ya falls asleep.

And sometimes your buddies find a good place for a nap, and you just have to join them.

Sleeping all coiled up.
Picture: e-cute

At least it’s cooler here!
Picture: Petflow

The queen’s bed is always a nice place to snuggle.
Picture: Rebekah Mayes

Shhhh. Don’t tell Mama where I am!

Babysitting is such hard work that a nap is often required. (Laps for naps!)
Picture: And My Cat

Buddha’s lap is a little harder, but it’s still an okay place for a little shuteye.

But this is the best place for a cuddle-nap: in Mama’s arms when she’s feeling punky.
Picture: E-Cute

YOUR TURN:

What is the most unusual place you have seen a cat sleep? And where is your favorite place for a cat-nap?

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