Wednesday, February 29, 2012
I've been in need of new glasses for a while now. What kept me from getting them was the knowledge of how expensive the glasses would be given my coke-bottle prescription. Even our local Wal-Mart quoted me a minimum price of over $200 for the frames and lenses.
Serendipitously, I found WarbyParker.com online and then their incredibly social Facebook presence. They've developed a business model that will make them hard to beat either by other online or bricks and mortar competitors:
First, they have a FREE home try-on program where you order five pairs of glasses, they're sent to you via UPS 2-day delivery, then you have five days to try the glasses before you send them back again via UPS and again via free shipping. And if you don't find any you like in the first batch, no problem, you can order another five to try on at home. Which, of course, I did....and then ordered a pair from the first batch, in true Suzanne fashion.
2) You're encouraged to post your try-on pictures to their Facebook page to have other Warby Parker fans help you to choose the best looking pair. Very fun! I keep going back to offer my opinion to everyone who posts a picture. And to see if anyone else chose the frames I have...so far, not so much. I must be special.
3) Price: All of their glasses are a flat $95 with the prescription lenses!!! (Add another $30 if your coke bottles need to be compressed, as mine do). They also have sunglasses that can be ordered with prescription lenses. (Guess what I'm getting for my birthday this March?)
4) If you're wondering what you get for such a low price...a wide selection of super cool retro styles for all face types (including my chubby cheeks), as well as more conservative fare, for the office. They even have a virtual try-on feature where you can upload a picture of yourself and try-on glasses to the picture. If you have questions, you can call and actually speak to a knowledgable person. This means: great customer service and ease of ordering equals convenience: my glasses were delivered within a week of placing my order online.
5) Best of all: they give back. For every pair of glasses purchased, Warby Parker donates a pair of glasses via charities around the world. The business model of the future: doing good is good business.
For the record, this post was completely unsolicited, just an expression of my appreciation of a great product and great service.
Oh, and yes my eye exam was way overdue...my left eye went from +4.25 to +5.00.....the right eye stayed the same, which means I should soon be wearing a monocle.
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Please stop by a wonderful blog for readers and writers: I am a Reader, Not a Writer, where I divulge my favorite book, my alternate career plans, and the one flavor of ice cream that I believe is nutritionally complete.
You can also enter for a chance to win either an ebook or paperback version of Mrs. Tuesday's Departure.
Friday, February 24, 2012
Mrs. Tuesday's Departure is FREE today through next Tuesday (Feb. 28th)! Please download it, tweet it, and share it on Facebook!
I hope to get Mrs. Tuesday into the hands of as many readers as possible.
Thursday, February 23, 2012
Even now, says the Lord,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the Lord, you God.
For gracious and merciful is he,
slow to anger, rich in kindness,
and relenting in punishment.
Perhaps he will again relent
and leave behind him a blessing,
Offerings and libations
for the Lord, your God.
Blow the trumpet in Zion!
proclaim a fast,
call an assembly;
Gather the people,
notify the congregation;
Assemble the elders,
gather the children
and the infants at the breast;
Let the bridegroom quit his room,
and the bride her chamber.
Last night Mom and I went to Mass for Ash Wednesday. This beautiful reading from the book of Joel was one of the readings and it stayed with me afterwards, especially the line:
"Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God."
It says to me that God is less interested in what we give up for Lent and more interested in what is in our hearts. "Return to Me," says God. Let this Lent be a time of spiritual renewal in which we return to God and let Him speak to our hearts and renew our spirits.
With this in mind, I'm not giving up anything for Lent. Rather I'm giving myself to God, with my need for spiritual renewal.
Since January I've been good reading my Daily Walk Bible but I've allowed that to become a substitute for attending church, which it's not meant to be. Personal daily devotions have one place in our spiritual life, and attending church belongs to the part of us that needs communion with others.
Of course there's another piece to my lack of attendance at church. This was really brought home to me when Father Chris walked up to me right before Mass last night and handed me the Workbook for Lectors and walked away with a smile and not a word. A few months ago, I'd signed up to be a reader at Mass and then got cold feet at the idea of standing before the congregation, and had been avoiding church since. Which is odd since I loved doing it in the past.
With that in mind, I am returning to God this Lenten season through my commitment to go back to church and work on a part of my faith that I'm not generally comfortable with, being part of a church community. I am choosing to overcome my public shyness and embrace my greater desire for communion.
I hope that, in your own way, you will also return to God this Lenten season.
David Foster Wallace said it better than I ever could:
"Because here's something else that's true. In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of God or spiritual-type thing to worship -- be it J.C. or Allah, be it Yahweh or the Wiccan mother-goddess or the Four Noble Truths or some infrangible set of ethical principles -- is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive."
-from a 2005 Commencement Speech given at Kenyon College reprinted in the Wall Street Journal
-from a 2005 Commencement Speech given at Kenyon College reprinted in the Wall Street Journal
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Mom wanted me to share this lovely table-scape with you. It was created with the red tulips she received for Valentine's Day.
The candlesticks are from a long-ago trip to Portugal. The plates are from a street seller in Kiev. The tablecloth is from a day-trip into the French countryside. The glasses are from our local thrift store.
I'm not sure where those decorative balls are from. I found them while unpacking one of the four thousand boxes I had in storage.
The pretty crystal basket holding the tulips and balls belonged to my grandmother. And the battery operated candles are from Wal-Mart.
But here's the really important thing...
Yesterday Mom had her quarterly appointment with her cardiologist and he told her that her heart is in better shape now than it was in Florida. He says he can't explain it other than she's enjoying life.
Which is a really wonderful thing.
He also told her she could eat whatever she wants, as long as she watches her salt intake.
Now for today's recipe, slow cooker BBQ beef ribs:
1 cup BBQ sauce
1 cup Mom's homemade beef stock
1/2 cup red wine
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 Tablespoon Minced Garlic
2 -3 lbs Beef Ribs
Place everything in slow cooker. Cook for 8 hours on low, 4 - 5 hours on high.
Serve with a vegetable of your choice.
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
When I decided that I wanted to create a book trailer for the re-launch of Mrs. Tuesday's Departure, I began with a google search of 'how to' articles. They were wonderfully informative and led me to finding the music and video footage that I imagined would provide a compelling visual story to describe my novel.
All I needed to do was upload it into imovies. Right?
Turns out, the only thing I've ever been able to get into imovies is a video of my brother John singing 'Happy Birthday' to me during a snow storm in March. Three. years. ago.
Luckily, I quickly remembered that my friend Mariellen Romer had recently left a prominent career in business to pursue her passion for film making. While I had no illusions that my little project would provide an adequate challenge, I wanted to ask if I could hire her to create the book trailer.
She quickly (and amazingly) agreed. Then just as quickly introduced me to her partner, Ed Shoemaker. Together they comprise: Three Moon Bay, with the very appropriate slogan: Telling Stories Through Film.
After one phone call and many, many, many emails, they took my sketchy description and came up with the evocative and hauntingly beautiful book trailer you see above.
What I want to accomplish in my own 'How to...' post is to let Mariellen and Ed tell you, in their own words, how work with a filmmaker to create your own book trailer...how to get your vision across, while letting the filmmaker use their talents to create the best final product.
Here's our conversation....
Q: When I came to you with my need for a book trailer for my novel, I'd already picked out my music and some newsreel footage that I wanted to use. Is that usual or helpful for a client to have that much of a formed vision for their video? Or do you want more creative latitude to choose the music and images yourself?
E: I think that it is very helpful to have a client that has a vision of what they would like to see. I think that it is far more difficult to work with someone who has no vision.There were lots creative decisions that we made using the content that you provided us so I don't feel that we lacked any latitude when creating your book trailer. For example, in the footage you provided us there was the image of a very young child in a stroller being rolled along that in some respects looked very much like the footage we did incorporate of people fleeing with their children. One of the reasons I did not include that particular footage because the image was for me, just too powerful. It was emotionally overwhelming and I think it would have been a distraction in telling the story ofyour book. Maybe it's because I am a dad but this image will haunt me forever…There were certainly other things that I would have liked to do. I really would have enjoyed doing an interview with you so that people could understand what motivates you to write and what compelled you to write this particular story. These, to me, are incredibly interesting questions…
Q: One of the most astonishing aspects of working with you both is that the finished product is exactly what I'd envisioned without me ever expressing it directly to either of you. I guess another way of asking is: how do you create a video for a book that you've never read? How do you come up with the theme or concept for the video?E: In creating this book trailer for you, you came to us with some fairly compelling content. That content along with the information that you did provide us about your book really informed us on how we might proceed. We also, with your help, did some research to determine what others had done in the book trailer space and started from there.It was an interesting challenge in that I wanted the viewer to follow the story about your book on the right hand side of the screen without paying too close attention to the compelling visuals on the left side of the screen that were helping to tell the story.
Q: Can you give us a peek into the video making process?E: Creating this book trailer was little unusual in that we didn’t actually go out and film anything! It was a little unusual too in that we were working from material that had already been pretty tightly edited challenging us to get the "perfect" shots out of the material so we could tell the story of your book. But if we were to break the film making process down into the steps that we generally take it would be something like:· We try to discover the story that our client wants to tell
· We try and film and photograph people, places and things that are germane and help tell that story
· We gather and create elements, like music and graphics, that support the story and the film
· We edit all of those pieces together
· We try and test what we have produced as we go along to gauge peoples reaction and make sure what we have done is having the desired response
· We refine what we have done until it worksQ: When we worked on the book trailer for Mrs. Tuesday's Departure, Mariellen was in England, I was in Colorado, and Ed was in Washington. All of our communication was via email, and yet it all worked. How do you two manage to work across continents?E: The magic of the internet is how we span the distance! We use e-mail to communicate but we also use web based video conferencing (Windows Live Messenger in our case), VoIP for low cost phone calls (Vonage) and sites like Vimeo to share the film as it went from rough concept to finished product. As for the time zone difference, we just don't get all of the sleep that we should!Q: If an author wants to engage you to create a book trailer video, how much time do you need to create video from first contact to finished product?E: I hate to say this but, it depends. Things like access to content and other projects we have in the pipeline influence how long it might take to produce a book trailer. But if you want to know what our experience might suggest I would say between one and four weeks, depending…With all that being said for us it's still more about, did I get the story right, when someone watches something we've produced, than how much time did it take to produce it. It may take a little time to get it right.Q: Now please tell us a little about yourselves....how did you come to video/film making? And what do you enjoy most or least about working with new clients?E: I think that you can sum up, "how did you come to film making", by saying that it is about the passion for storytelling. Our tools and canvas may be a little different than say, a sculpture's tools, but I think that the same things drive us to do what we do.I think that we enjoy working with new people because it's a new story for us to discover and tell…
Q: And finally, if an author is interested in working with you, how can they get in touch with you?
There you go......if you need a reference from an author who has worked with Mariellen and Ed, email me. I highly recommend these two. They were a pleasure to work with, they're incredible perfectionists, wonderfully patient, and always insightful and creative. In the end, they created a mini-film that perfectly captures my vision of Mrs. Tuesday's Departure and which I hope will capture future readers' imaginations. What could be better than that?
Monday, February 13, 2012
I don't eat enough fruit. Sometimes Mom's appetite isn't as hearty as it should be. And then there are mornings when we just want to throw together a quick healthy breakfast that doesn't involve the stove or cold cereal.
Which is when I get out my trust blender and throw together a protein shake. There are as many variations as there are ingredients in your pantry, but here are my essentials:
- One bannana. The potassium is good for Mom since she has to take a lot of water pills, which sometimes results in leg cramps.
- A handful of strawberries or blueberries (I've now started buying the large bags of frozen berries from Costco, so I don't have to worry about the cost of getting fresh fruit out of season).
- Half a cup of plain non-fat Greek yogurt. It's high in protein.
- A scoop of protein powder, the one we use also has vitamins in the mix.
- A cup of low fat milk. Although I'll probably change this to Almond Milk eventually.
- A handful of ice.
- I'll probably begin adding a tablespoon of flaxseed in the future.
Blend to the consistency you like. This makes enough for two large shakes.
Mission Accomplished. And it's delicious.
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
I first published Mrs. Tuesday's Departure as an ebook on Amazon's Kindle a little over a year ago. It went well. But as the year went on, I felt that the book was not as good as it could have been. Which inspired me to take advantage of an ebook's fluidity, to make some changes and plan it re-launch.
This post will give you an overview of the myriad events involved in this process. Later I'll delve into some of these areas in greater depth to provide you with more information, so you may be inspired.
Changing the Story...
Mrs. Tuesday's Departure, in its original form, was quite a bit different from the book I published in some important ways:
First it was written in the First Person Point of View, which gave it a much more intimate feel, which as it turns out, was the right POV for a story about a family experiencing the most terrifying moments of war.
Second, it was actually set in Budapest, Hungary during World War Two, not in the fictional other-world it was thinly disguised as.
And finally, it had a spiritual element that explored a particular element of religious faith that has always perplexed me....the challenge of believing in something we cannot see.
With that in mind, a few months ago, I resurrected the original manuscript and set to work dusting it off and making a few changes, hopefully clearing up things that in reviews of the first Mrs. Tuesday release had caused consternation for some readers.
Changing the Cover...
Then I decided to re-design the cover of the book. And with your help I finally decided on the cover you see at the top of this post. By the way, thank you for your invaluable input. It really did make a difference.
To create this cover I used the 'Cover Creator' on CreateSpace.com, which was part of the process of creating the new paperback version of Mrs. Tuesday which will also be launching in the next week or so....more on that later.
Formatting the Different Book Files...
I wanted to make sure my ebook read like a professionally produced book, and not something I tossed online from a Word file (which is pretty much what my first book looked like). So I hired Lani Rich Davis from Storywonk.com to handle the formatting of the different file formats for Kindle, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords, as well as the paperback version for CreateSpace.
Lani and I had a wonderful time and quickly developed a terrific working relationship, made possible by her incredible patience when I went through my book cover melt down, which lasted about two weeks.
And the beautiful interior that she created for the paperback version of Mrs. Tuesday is truly special.
We'll discuss why it's important to work with a formatter, or how you can tackle this project yourself in an upcoming post.
Creating a Book Trailer....
Then I began to think about marketing the new book and decided that what I'd really love is to have a book trailer that would provide a quick visual story of the new Mrs. Tuesday.
I read a few posts online and was inspired to try it myself. I got as far as finding music and video images. And then stopped when I realized that I had no idea of how to operate 'imovie' and even less desire to learn how.
Then I remembered that my friend Mariellen, had recently embarked upon a new career in video and film making. I contacted her to find out if she would have an interest in creating a book trailer.
Thankfully she said yes....and I was able to work with her and Ed, her partner at ThreeMoonBay.com to create the video you see below.
I highly recommend Mariellen and Ed, for their incredible attention to detail, their desire to exceed the goals of their clients, and in my case, for their infinite patience in working with a client who stares off into space and then asks, 'but,what if?' about one hundred times.
The good news is that they are wonderfully patient and produce beautiful work. Check out their website for more videos and stay tuned for another post, in the coming week, about their process of working with clients.
In the meantime, enjoy the video...and if you haven't read the book, please download a copy or order a paperback from Createspace.
This is just the beginning.....stay tuned!
Sunday, February 5, 2012
Friday, February 3, 2012
We woke up to two feet of snow this morning, so we weren't going anywhere.
Mom suggested waffles were in order to celebrate our first snow day in at least two weeks or has it been over a month?
Since I didn't have any pre-made mix on hand, I looked up a recipe in my 1982 edition of the Joy of Cooking and then created a recipe of my own. Whenever I find myself in this situation, where I have to create something from scratch instead of using a prepared food-mix, I think of my brother John telling me: "Necessity is the Mother of Invention." Which I took as his way of saying, 'it's good to know how to do stuff for yourself.'
Instead of using cake flour, as Joy recommended, I used whole wheat flour and oatmeal, because oatmeal is good for Mom's cholesterol, but she refuses to eat a bowl of cooked oatmeal. Hence my strategy of sneaking it into other things like waffles and cookies.
Then I added baking powder and apple pie spice, although you could add cinnamon, or pumpkin pie spice, or any other flavor that strikes your fancy. And a teaspoon of sugar...although I bet you could also just skip the sugar altogether without it making a difference to the taste. I'll try that next time, as I'm trying to cut down on sugar in my diet.
Now add the wet ingredients: three egg yolks (aren't they beautiful!) and then milk (or buttermilk would be wonderful).
A few vigorous beats, the batter will be thick, and then gently ladle into the waffle maker and spread out over the surface. And try not to make the mess that I create with batter falling over the edges.
This Black and Decker waffle maker, which I've had for years, actually chirps when the waffles are done. And it makes adorable heart shaped waffles.
Serve with bacon or sausage, to get that savory / sweet hit, and a splash of maple syrup. Yum!
1 1/4 cups Whole Wheat Flour
1/4 cup oatmeal flakes
1/2 teaspoon Apple Pie Spice or 1/4 t. Cinnamon
1 teaspoon sugar (omit if you're watching your sugar intake)
3 egg yolks
3 Tablespoons butter, melted