Wednesday, April 8, 2020

What Is It With Writers...And Cats?

Thankfully, the cat moved.

Had he not moved, I would be typing with one hand, and it would take forever just to get this far.

What is it with cats...and writers? I had just settled down after a 10-hour work day, dinner, dishes, and playing a little bit with the dog. I fired up the laptop, posted my Pic Of The Day, then tried to decide what to blog about. That's when our miniature lion decided to snuggle up next to me. He positioned himself with his head resting atop my right forearm. 

Pretty much stops any ability to write.

I have a lot of writer friends. And you don't have to be friends with writers to follow them on social media. So many writers have cats. Why is that? I mean, many writers have dogs, too, but dogs are predictable, especially when compared to cats. You play with dogs, eventually you wear them out, they lay down for a nap and you can get back to writing.

Cats...not so much.

Sure, you can play with cats and they get bored, too. But then, they'll pop back up after you think they're taking a nap. Then they'll try and sit on your lap or your laptop or your lap and your laptop. If you try to move them, they may get up and walk away, or they may try and claw your eyes out.

And maybe that's why writers have cats...the unpredictability of it all. You never know what's going to happen.

Yes, I'm lucky the cat moved...

At least, for now.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Looks Like We're Not The Only Ones Itching For A Puzzle...

My wife came across a story in our local news media yesterday. The headline says it all:

Utah puzzle company experiences an explosion of sales

It's one of the many consequences of a world-wide event where people are urged (or forced...) to stay home and not go anywhere. In hindsight, we probably should have seen a run on puzzles with everyone stuck inside. Then again, who could have even imagined anything like this happening in the first place. 

There's a lot we didn't see coming.

Last week we did a little grocery shopping and spotted one of Eric Dowdle's artistic works all chopped up to interlocking pieces. We picked it up. This is not the first Dowdle puzzle we've bought. In fact, one year we chose Dowdle puzzles as Christmas gifts for my wife's siblings. There's so many puzzles to chose from, we were able to find puzzles of the cities where my in-laws live.

One of my favorite Dowdle Folk Art puzzles is a scene of the Holy War university football game between the University of Utah and Brigham Young University. Great puzzle.

The local news article goes on to say how everyone is clamoring for more puzzles. You can access the story: HERE. We can definitely understand the draw. It's a great activity when you've run out of things you want to binge watch or read. And, the entire family can help out and enjoy the challenge. You can access the company website: HERE.

We bought the "Best of Utah" puzzle. The only downside for us is it was a 500-piece puzzle--it took us less than two hours to complete. We had hoped for at least a 1000-piece one. Looks like we'll need to do some digging in our storage boxes for the Christmas puzzles we have--that's the only other time we've had the time to do a puzzle, when we didn't want to go anywhere else. Now, even though the reason we're all home is different, the fact we're all home remains the same.

Monday, April 6, 2020

What Is It About Greenhouses, Anyway...?

Last month, we threw caution to the wind and ventured out to buy some plants. We feel plants need to be classified as "essential." We bought some plants and peat moss to prepare the ground for the vegetables we hope to grow this summer. With things the way they are, that survival mode kicks in and an overpowering urge to grow your own food, make your own clothes, and build your own shelter takes over.

We can't really build another house, we could try and make our own clothes (it would not be pretty...), but we can try and provide food for us--be self-sufficient in at least one thing.

We drove to our nursery of choice, Joe's Greenhouse on the Kaysville/Layton boarder in Utah. We love that place, and not just because the owner/operator is a friend I've known for almost thirty-five years. It's because it's not a mega-place that has everything for your yard like lawn gnomes and fountains. Nope--Joe's Greenhouse has plants and supplies you can use to keep those plants alive.

We walked in. My wife began looking for plants. I looked for something to photograph. Halfway through the second greenhouse I stopped and took in a deep breath, smelling that familiar aroma of clean dirt (yes, there is such a thing...) and new life.

I love that smell.

Which, is interesting because I do not love yard work.

That smell conjures memories going back to the late 1970s. My first job was at a greenhouse. Where Farmington Jr. High now stands Miller Floral once stood as a monument to local business. Decades ago a few of my friends and I were paid next to nothing to plant starts. We were paid by the flat--it was probably only pennies per flat, but we didn't care too much. It gave us money for stuff like playing pinball at Lagoon's Penny Arcade or buying candy at the Farmington A/G.

There's something about the smell of a greenhouse that stops me. 

Since that first job I worked a season on the Lagoon Garden's crew as well as helping out at the no-longer-there Pineae Greenhouse in Centerville. Over the years I've worked a lot of side gigs. I could think working at a greenhouse again. Joe's Greenhouse brings it all back and, at the same time, makes me think about doing it once more.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Blue Lemon Blues...

Ever since we've been told to stay away from basically everyone, we've tried to do our part in helping others. One way of doing this is ordering take-out. We've ordered more take-out in the past three weeks than normal.

Because we want to help.

But last night, things just seemed to go so many ways.

Things began well enough. We're fortunate enough to have a Blue Lemon restaurant close by. They're offering a family special--a good deal on four meals. In addition to my wife and I ordering out for our weekly Date Night, three of our kids wanted in on the Blue Lemon goodness as well. 

We placed the order. 6:20pm pick up time.

All was well.

We showed up at the restaurant--take out only. We parked in one of the stalls and waited. My wife and I usually get take out for our Date Night meals, so waiting outside was nothing new. The half a dozen cars also waiting for their dinner, perhaps not--some seemed pretty steamed.

We stayed in our car listening to conference. We were there maybe 10 - 15 minutes before anyone even came out of the restaurant. They were obviously backed-up. A frazzled-looking employee came out with a large order. Several were out of their cars waiting. She said my wife's name and I took the package from her.

We placed six orders. I counted only five. We went back to our car and tried to figure out which order was missing. The employee came out again and people started in on her. "We're a 6:30 order." We've been waiting since..." We figured one of our children's meals was not there, but which one. I took a meal and went to take the keys out of the ignition. As I backed out of the car, the sandwich fell out of the package and landed on the pavement. 

Now we're down two meals.

I took the rest of the food home, then came back to pick up my wife who talked to the worker and let them know we were down a meal (she didn't say anything about ordering a new sandwich--the place was so busy...). I picked her up and we called the kids to see which one wanted the one sandwich we got. One kid said they'd take it--the other said a Wendy's burger would be okay. When we got home, the one who wanted the Blue Lemon meal ended up not wanting it--because when we called we described to them the wrong sandwich.

Eventually, we all ate. Since we were exhausted from a long day of yard work and other things, we were not in the best of moods to begin with. I can only imagine the other people waiting for their dinners were equally tired. Plus, throw in the pandemic element only adds to the situation. I should say that I do not blame Blue Lemon--it was one of those nights and I feel terrible for them--the night already sucked and it wasn't getting better.

When we called the kids to ask them who wanted the sandwich and who wanted Wendy's, my wife just started laughing. She almost couldn't communicate she laughed so hard. It was just one of those nights that did not go well. We still hope to help out local businesses in the future--maybe not on Saturday nights, though.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Abigail Haunting...A Showcase For Chelsea

Abigail Haunting (2020)

One thing about participating in the arts, you meet so many amazing people. If you get in a community theater production, you meet dozens of people who then appear in other shows that you'd like to see. If you hang out with authors, every time you turn around another writer publishes a book you're dying to read.

And if you dabble in film, you meet actors who go on to do incredible things.

Last week on Amazon Prime I watched an indie film titled, Abigail Haunting starring Chelsea Jurkiewicz.

I'm not a big horror film fan. I definitely understand the lure. For some, a good horror flick can be a cathartic experience. And some people just love to be scared. Abigail Haunting is a story about Katie, a girl returning to a home where she grew up, only things have changed, and not for the better. Little by little, we learn about these changes and know that Katie's life is in danger.

Because it's an indie film, I understand they don't have the budget to have all the bells and whistles we see in other films. I thought the cinematography was good. It's set in Arizona and the desert scenes highlight the isolation of the main character, and give a sense of loneliness.

Then there's Chelsea's performance. 

An indie film usually means a smaller cast. Abigail Haunting fits the bill. Because it's a smaller cast, Chelsea is in almost every scene. The movie is her character's story, her struggle, her fears realized, her horrors played out. With so much face time, you've got to be really good to carry a film, and Chelsea pulls it off wonderfully, quite a feat for any actor, but especially impressive for one Chelsea's age. 

Then again, this is just one of many IMBd credits.

I know I'm biased. I would not have watched the movie if she had not been in it (back in 2018 she and I were in a very short film--it's where we met...). And I watched her knowing I have this bias. Still, I cheered Katie on, hoping she would vanquish the evil and come out victorious.

Abigail Haunting is a well-made horror film that makes the most of what they have. And they have Chelsea Jurkiewicz as a lead actor, which is a very good thing.

Chelsea Jurkiewicz Picture

Friday, April 3, 2020

If You're Looking For Starts...Check Out Taylor Academy Plants

A few months ago our homeschool thought it might be cool for your youngest (and last student...) to looking into starting a business, something a teenager could do. We came across a project some other homeschoolers were doing--planting vegetable starts then selling them when they were ready.


Our son gets to learn about living things, what it takes to start a business, and seeing the product go from beginning to end, start to finish. We're to the point where the first plants are available to purchase so we created Taylor Academy Plants.

We even created a Facebook page, and you can access it by clicking: HERE.

Currently, we have just a few plants available, Cilantro, Artichoke, and Green Cabbage. By the end of April, we should have Broccoli, Cauliflower, Kale, Red Cabbage, Tomato, Lettuce, Basil, Eggplant, Watermelon, Cucumber, Pumpkin among others.

We had no idea what kind of a world we'd be in when we decided to do this. We had no way of knowing that people will be looking at the possibility of a home garden in a new light.

As you can see, the majority of the plants are not available yet, but if you go to the Facebook page and "Like" it, we'll keep you up to date on which plants are available. You can also contact us through the site to ask questions.

Check out Taylor Academy Plants! Come on--it'll grow on you.

(okay, that was bad...)

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Karma Chesnut's "Unfit"...A Book Review

Unfit by [Chesnut, Karma]

One of the most challenging events in any new family's life is preparing for the birth of a baby. Imagine facing this exciting, yet daunting arrival while living in a dystopian hell-scape where humans deemed until are imprisoned and sterilized. In Karma Chesnut's debut novel, Unfit, a family faces laws, family pressures and conditions--barbaric by today's standards, but considered reasonable at times through history--to try and find a way to be together.

Chesnut crafts a terrifying post-pandemic world where a person's physical worthiness determines not only their place in society, but what rights and opportunities they have. The decisions made in the story are logical (based on the society's warped sense of duty and correctness...), and well-developed. The reader gets a sense that something like this could actually happen, mostly because cultures have made such decisions in the past...polygamy, eugenics, etc.

I know dystopian novels were all the rage ten - fifteen years ago. And, they still may be. I haven't kept up on the genre since reading the Hunger Games and Divergent series. These stories succeeded due in part to the strength of the storyline and the well-roundedness of the characters. Unfit shares many of these traits. Because of how humans have acted in the past, it's completely believable that they would copy and reintroduce atrocities from the past into future societies. To me, that's what makes Unfit so frightening, is that this nightmare could happen, because it has happened before.

Unfit is available April 7th. You can access the author's website: HERE. It's incredible that Chesnut's story is being released now, at a time never-before experienced. If you like stories of courage, survival, and the enduring human spirit, give Unfit a chance. It's a good one!

Karma Chesnut