Monday, May 30, 2011


Gardening has always been something I've enjoyed. I'm not a huge fan of bugs, but I love having fresh vegetables in the house. However, because of the temperatures around here and the fact that we've had frost in June, gardening can be a tricky business. There's no guaranteed best time to put in a garden; you simply have to wait until it's warmed up.

It's warmed up. And by warm, I mean, 90 degrees, hot, sticky, and humid. Summer takes it's sweet time getting here, but when it arrives, it arrives with a vengeance.

So today I tagged along with my parents while they went shopping, and we went to a greenhouse to get some plants. In previous years, all that's ever done well in our vegetable garden has been tomatoes and squash, despite me and my mom's best efforts to grow peppers, eggplant, pumpkins, and watermelon. One year we did have a huge amount of snow peas, which were delicious, but because we had to wait so long to plant our garden, decided not to grow them this year. So this year, I decided that since squash and tomatoes were all that really did well, that was what I was going to grow. We bought two tomato plants (any more and we can't use them fast enough, they all go bad), four cherry tomato plants, zucchini and summer squash. And because we just can't pass up an opportunity to try something knew (and because my dad wanted to see if we could grow it), we also bought some acorn squash.

We brought the plants home, and I began weeding out the garden and then planting. By the time I finished I was hot, sweaty, covered in dirt, and in desperate need of a cold shower, but the garden looks pretty good. Sure, the tomato plants are completely dwarfed by their cages at this point, but they'll grow fast, and if last summer is anything to judge by, the zucchini is going to go wild. And my less-is-more philosophy seems to be catching on; my mom looked over the garden and agreed, "That's plenty of vegetables for the summer," and my dad agreed.

One place that I have been letting myself buy and grow almost anything has been with herbs. A few months ago, a woman who has an herbal tea business came and spoke at our library, and I found it really interesting, so I've been wanting to enlarge our selection of herbs and experiment with using them in new ways. I've already started, making an iced tea from lemon balm and pineapple mint that was surprisingly potent despite the fact that the leaves barely colored the water, and today I picked up oregano, rosemary, and spearmint to add to our garden. I'd like to try growing chamomile and ginger, but I'm pretty sure I'd have to start the chamomile from seed and ginger can't tolerate cold so I'd have to bring it inside. However, I'm definitely going to keep working to build up a sizable herb garden, and I'll continue to post updates on how it goes and how I'm using the herbs, in teas or recipes.

Off to relax in the air-conditioning, after being outside all day...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Music and Books

As you might know, music and books are the two things that I am completely obsessed with. I have two five-shelf bookcases in my room that are overflowing and hundreds of songs on my iPod. If an entire day goes by without me reading or listening to some kind of music, then you know something's seriously wrong with me.

This is why bad music and terrible books are so devastating to me. I was convinced that the music and book industries would never be able to recover from the horror of Justin Beiber and Twilight. I had accepted the fact that I was going to have to hunt out obscure bands and read books that were published before the rise of the teen-fantasy genre.

But let me tell you, my viewpoint on that is rapidly changing, because 2011 is shaping up to be one heck of a year for music and books.

First of all, OneRepublic seems to be becoming even more popular; I've heard their songs on TV and the radio a lot more than usual, and they performed on Dancing With The Stars. If they continue in this direction, it means I can actually expect them to play 'Good Life' at our school's homecoming dance in a year or two. (2010's homecoming was like a sample of all the popular songs in 2008 and 2009. I was seriously considering chasing the DJ out and taking over the music myself.)

Then there's the fact that Christina Perri (of "Jar of Hearts") released her first full album, "Lovestrong"; I've already listened to some of the songs, and it's amazing. Owl City, which has been the one good artist among all the popular mush, is releasing "All Things Bright and Beautiful" on June 14th. Even better? Vanessa Carlton's finally coming out with a new album, "Rabbits on the Run", on June 21. Judging from the singles, both these albums are going to be beyond amazing.

And what about books? Chris D'Lacey's sixth book in the "Last Dragon" series, "Fire World" came out on April 26. Sarah Dessen released her tenth book, "What Happened to Goodbye" on May 10. I've already ordered it, and it's on it's way. "The Warlock" (Book five in "Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel" by Michael Scott) comes out on May 24. Not sure what's going on over the summer, but on September 20, Pseudonymous Bosch releases the fifth (and final) book in "The Secret Series" appropriately titled, "You Have To Stop This." (And he really does, it's driving me CRAZY not knowing the Secret.) Then, on November 8, the last book in The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini comes out. My dad and I have been waiting ages for that.

All of this is really exciting. But you know what the really weird thing is? All of the things I've mentioned were released or will be released on a Tuesday. That's right. All of them.

Well, for some unknown reason, I've always liked Tuesdays...


Friday, May 13, 2011

The Adverb Debate

First off, I wrote this last night, but wasn't able to upload it until today because this site was in a "read only" mode. That being said, here's my post.

The topic of adverbs is one that people can never seem to be in complete agreement on. True, most writers agree that it's better to eliminate them and come up with one strong verb to describe your character's actions, but a lot of times - especially on the NaNoWriMo forums - there's at least a few people who disagree, often strongly.

In general, I agree that adverbs should be used sparingly; they have their place (like a few words ago in this sentence) but eliminating them often sounds better and is at the very least worth a try. However, I've come up with a recent conundrum in my writing - mainly in my dialogue. In an effort not use adverbs, and not to repeat terms such as 'whispered' or 'muttered' or any other speech tag that isn't as common as said, I've found myself adding descriptions after 'he said' and 'she said.' For example, 'he said, his voice low', or something along those lines.

The problem with this quickly becomes obvious. That type of description is becoming repetitive, and anything sounds bad if you use it over and over.

Take my situation today, the one that prompted me to write this blog post. I was working on a scene where the characters are in awe - they're seeing the dwarf cities in the mountains for the first time. One of them is a dragon, and a dwarf tells him that none of his kind have seen the cities for hundreds of years. I wrote his response:

"I would consider myself lucky to see a sight such as this even if that weren't the case," Fireclaw said.

I stopped writing there, and when I came back to the scene later, I thought, hmm, maybe I ought to change that. I want to convey how reverent he is. I was about to change it to,

"I would consider myself lucky to see a sight such as this even if that weren't the case," Fireclaw said, his tone reverent.

When I stopped, and thought, wait. I use that type of sentence all the time - I should try something else. So of course the first thing that jumped to mind was,

"I would consider myself lucky to see a sight such as this even if that weren't the case," Fireclaw said reverently.

I'm still torn about which one sounds the best. So here's MY adverb debate: Do I avoid the adverb, even if it means risking repetitive phrasing? Do I use the adverb and just make sure there aren't many others nearby? Or do I leave the sentence as-is, letting Fireclaw's words alone show his reverence? What do you think?

As my youth leader often says when silence envelops the room - "That was not a rhetorical question, guys."