Big Brother — 6th Annual Holiday Writing Contest Entry

I’m at it again — not reviewing a book, but entering a contest. They’re addictive, OK? I love the prompts, the ability to stretch my brain, the camaraderie with other entrants, and reading all the creative entries. The book review will come soon. Promise. Plus, I’ve been jamming on the first draft of my middle grade novel. Jamming, I tell ya. The excuses are piling up.

Now, on to the contest . . .  the 6th Annual Holiday Contest is put on by Susanna Hill. Please go check out her blog. It is filled with something for everyone — parents, teachers, and writers, alike. This year, we were asked to write a no-more-than-300-words children’s (ages 12 and under) holiday story using The Twelve Days of Christmas as our inspiration. Without further ado, here is my entry:



Today is Christmas, and I don’t know how things could get much worse. My big brother has been in super-charged, torture-little-brother mode and is set on ruining my life. For example:

On the first day, he started off the countdown to Christmas with a noogie. Not horrible. I can handle it, but, you know.

On the second day, my brother dished out two headlocks . . . in front of my friends. Not cool.

On the third day, he hurled three giant spit balls at the back of my head — splat, splat splat.

On the fourth day, he gave me four wet willies. Just gross.

On the fifth day, he sat on my head five times for no reason, and you know what happens when someone sits on your head.

On the sixth day, my brother gave me six embarrassing nicknames. No, I’m not telling you what they are.

On the seventh day, he pinned me down for seven massive tickle fights, one which made me rush to the bathroom.

On the eighth day, he threatened to tell on me eight times! EIGHT TIMES! Ugh.

On the ninth day, he told me nine lies. Nine lies that I thought were truths, so I told my friends, and they laughed in my face.

On the tenth day, on ten separate occasions, he hid around the house and jumped out at me. I’m still screaming.

On the eleventh day, he gave me eleven wedgies. I have yet to recover. Same with my underwear.

So, today is Christmas. I’m geared up and ready for whatever he is going to give me.  

“Hey, little brother.”


“Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas.”

“I love you.” 

“Huh? I mean, I love you too?”

“Let’s go get some pots and pans, and wake up sis.” That’s more like it.


Whatever holiday you may celebrate, I hope it is filled with community, generosity, love, and belly laughs.

Review: GO TO SLEEP, MONSTER! by Kevin Cornell

img_1944 Well, there went Halloween! But I am still going to review a Halloweenish book. More specifically, the boys and I read GO TO SLEEP, MONSTER! by author/illustrator Kevin Cornell.

A young boy named George won’t turn off his light and go to sleep. His sister Anna tells him it’s time. But George can’t go to sleep. He’s afraid of the monster under the you-know-where. Anna tells the monster to stop scaring her brother as it’s time to go to sleep. But the monster under the bed can’t sleep either, because there is a monster under the floor. And, the adventure starts for George and Anna.

First, the illustrations put you in the mood for a spooky story. The protagonists’ eyes are big and round. The setting is dark with dashes of light from a small lamp, a chandelier, and lava. Yes, lava. The house, the furniture, the doors are all drawn slightly curved and crooked. You get the feel that you should be scared.

Then you start giggling, because the story is anything but, really. The layers of Sesame-Street-like monsters underneath the bed and then under the floor and then under the room, etc., had my 6 y/o captivated and laughing. Page after page, there is monster after monster after monster, until the final scaly monster the kids find at the center of the Earth who has its own fear. When I think of a monster-under-the-bed story, I used to not even go there with my kiddos. I didn’t even want to plant that seed, because they wouldn’t go to bed…ever. (Or at least it felt like ever.) But that was then. Now it’s time to scare them. Seriously, though, this book takes the monster-under-the-bed concept and flips it on its head. Monsters under the bed are now silly!

img_1948Because of the layers of monsters, my boys and I decided the book was a lot like a pie with a bunch of layers. So, we’ve made a . . . I don’t even know what to call this, so I will make up a name. We’ve made a Is There a Monster at the Center of the Earth? Pie. Yeah, that’s it.

Enjoy this tasty recipe…



Crust (I told you I’d give you my recipe. It’s the bomb and easy as, well, pie. Which isn’t that easy, but this crust recipe makes it easier.)

3 cups King Arthur

1 stick of frozen butter (cut into small slices)

1/2 cup shortening

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tspn of salt

9 tablespoons of ice water

Red Velvet Cake

Big cheat here! I used cake out of a box. Doh! You will need:

Vegetable oil



I cheated again and bought jarred caramel. (Do you see a pattern here?)

Chocolate Pudding (I didn’t cheat here. Shocker! This is my mom’s recipe. Yummmm.)

1/2 plus 1/8 cup sugar

1/3 cup flour

1/2 tsp salt

2 cups milk

2 slightly beaten eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 oz squares unsweetened chocolate (add to milk)

Whipped Cream

1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

2 tbsp sugar

1 oz block of semi-sweet chocolate (shavings)




Using a food processor, combine the flour, butter, shortening, sugar and salt. Pulse 10 times. Add 3 tablespoons of ice water, mix on high for a count of 10. Add 3 more tablespoons of ice water. Mix on high for a count of 10. Add the last 3 tablespoons and mix on high until the dough clumps together. Remove the dough, pat into a loose ball, and wrap in aluminum foil or cling wrap. Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. (I sometimes skip this step, but for novices, the colder the dough, the easier it is to work with.)

For one pie crust, take half of the dough (Save the rest for another pie! It freezes well.) and pat into a disk. Place on a lightly floured, smooth surface and add a little flour to the top of the dough, so the rolling pin won’t stick. Roll out the dough evenly into a large circle. Roll out the dough so it is larger than the circumference of the pie pan by about an inch. To get the dough in a pie pan, I roll the dough around a floured rolling pin and then unroll it onto the pie pan. Press the dough firmly into the pie pan. I like to tuck the extra inch of dough hanging over the edge of the pie pan under, so I can make a fluted edge.

Parbake the crust. Be sure to prick the crust thoroughly on the bottom and the inside edges with a fork, so the crust doesn’t bubble up. Cook at 475 degrees for 7-8 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Red Velvet Cake

Follow the instructions on the box. Pour about an inch of batter into the parbaked crust. Place in the oven at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Make sure the cake is thoroughly baked and the crust is flaky. Remove.


Pour 1/4 cup of caramel over the hot red velvet cake. Set aside to cool.

Chocolate Pudding

Mix sugar, flour, salt; slowly stir in milk with chocolate. Cook and continue to stir over medium-low heat until mixture boils and thickens; cook 2 minutes longer. Stir 1/2 cup of hot mixture into eggs; stir into remaining hot mixture. Stirring continuously, bring just to boiling. Add vanilla. Pour on top of caramel layer. Let cool.

Whipped Cream

Once the pudding is cooled and shortly before serving, combine cream and 2 tablespoons of sugar in a bowl. With an electric mixer, beat the cream and sugar on medium speed until soft peaks form, 3-4 minutes. Spoon over pie. Garnish with semi-sweet chocolate shavings.

Cornered — Halloweensie 2016 Entry

img_20161030_140917789_hdrNope, this isn’t a review and there is no pie either. Booo, hisssssss. Not so quick! Halloweensie is an annual writing contest hosted by children’s author Susanna Leonard Hill, and I couldn’t pass up writing a little Halloween ditty for the kiddos. The contest rules are:

1) The story must be appropriate for kids and no longer than 100 words. Keep it brief, people.

2) It must be a story — beginning, middle, end. Make it arc, people.

3 ) The story must include the words ghost, spider, and moon. Let’s do this, people. ENJOY!



“I don’t like Halloween,” Dot said.

“Me neither,” York agreed.

“Here they come!” Junior shouted. “HIDE!”

“Where? There’s no place to go,” Reese said. “Stay still.”

A ghost and spider hovered over them and stared for what seemed like hours. The ghost reached out and grabbed Junior and Dot.

“AAAAH!” they screamed.

The spider wrapped one of its legs around York and Reese.

“NOOOO!” they yelled.

“Kids? Say ‘Trick or Treat.’ Say ‘thank you.’”

“Trick or Treat! Thank you!” The ghost and spider dropped the candy in their bags, ran to their parents, and disappeared down the moonlit street.




Review: 88 INSTRUMENTS by Chris Barton and illustrated by Louis Thomas

img_1924This book struck a chord with me. Obviously, that pun was intended. Chris Barton’s 88 INSTRUMENTS follows a young boy at a music store who is told by his parents he can pick only one instrument. In most situations when a child needs to pick something . . . anything, really . . . the choices can be overwhelming. I wanna try this one. That one’s cool. What about this? Can I have more than one? Can I have them all? More often than not, that is the experience for kids on up through adulthood. (Recently, I’ve wanted to have all the different flavors of ice cream. Yes, I have. Choices are hard people. Feel free to judge me.)

What I love about this beautifully illustrated book is, well, many things. I love that it’s about music and to see the love and curiosity of the main character as he plunks, thomps, toots his way through each instrument in the music store. The word-play is fun — honkiest, twangiest, bashiest — and delighted my kids’ ears. And, I appreciated the tie-in with the 88 instruments — it seems there are that many to try — and the 88 keys on the piano. Can the main character learn them all? Yes . . . slow and steady, one at a time.

My 8 y/o son plays the violin, and he didn’t go through this experience of choosing an instrument. He knew he wanted to play the violin, but playing it was a different story. He wanted to be a virtuoso straight away. Instead, just like everyone else, he needed to learn one string at a time, one bow at a time, take your time, which is the message I get and hope my kiddos get when reading 88 INSTRUMENTS.

This book is certainly read-againiest.

img_1890Now, if this book were a pie, which one would it be? I thought coming up with a pie for this book would be difficult. What pie tastes like an instrument? Kidding. Anyway, my 8 y/o came up with a flavor that made sense to me, and it is based on the brassy illustrations. He said, “Make a mango pie, Mom.” Why, yes, indeed. And I did. It’s delightful and different, if you like mango. (Full disclosure: I don’t like mango. Sorry, mango, it’s me, not you.) But if you like mango, this pie is right for you. A summery pie, so not the best to offer as we start the dive into the fall, but I live in Austin, so it truly feels like summer here until always.

Here’s the link to the recipe I used:  Mango Pudding Recipe. All you need to do is bake off a pre-made pie shell and let it cool. Then pour the pudding batter into the cooled shell and let the pudding set in the refrigerator for two hours. Bon Apetoot! (I had to sneak in one more instrument pun.)