Friday, July 29, 2011

The Friday Five - 7/30/11

Normally, I enjoy getting up early in the morning, making myself a cup pot of coffee, and settling into the silence to write. This morning, I’m writing this week’s Friday Five to the sounds of jackhammers and bulldozers as this roadwork apparently is never going to end. Forgive me if my head spontaneously combusts! Ok – on to the Friday Five:

1. Camp. My kids are home, my kids are home! Finally after a month of them away at sleepover camp, it was time to pick them up and bring them back. Of course I blogged about it – you can read all about my adventures in “de-stankifying” here. As expected – there were no additional letters from my son. Final letter tally – daughter – 4, son – 1.

2. Book News. Nate Rocks the World for Nook is now officially available at BarnesandNoble.com! Also, I would like to thank Kathy Reinhart for interviewing me this week on her blog: Inkdrop Presents. She herself is a talented author, and I really enjoyed speaking with her. And speaking of authors – Chaz Young, a wonderful author of teen novels, picked up a copy of Nate Rocks the World, giving it a 5 star review!

3. Cat. Thank you to everyone for all of the kind words about my sweet Sterling’s passing. We all miss her so much. I knew it would be hard on my husband, our kids, and myself, but I was not expecting my other cat, Vaughn (named after Stevie Ray) to be so heartbroken. He and Sterling were like an old married couple – Frick and Frack is what we called them. They bickered non-stop, but at the same time, they were best buddies. I never thought about it before, but I suppose it as if Vaughn is now a widow. He lost his other half – his “frack” so to speak. He has not left my side in days – only to eat, use the litter and check the places that Sterling used to like, to see if she has returned. I hope each day gets a little easier for him.

4. Trees. The other night, out of nowhere, the skies opened up and we received some much needed rain. But it wasn’t one of those lovely summer rains that helps things cool off. It was a monsoon! Okay not really – but it was crazy enough to take down a branch off a monster tree on the edge of my neighbor’s yard. This branch was so large, it was a tree in itself. On the way down, the branch took out our cable/internet/telephone wires. The horror! Luckily, we still had service – phew. Oh and it missed our house also.

5. Car Troubles. Do you know what I hate more than those concrete parking barrier curbs? The large bolts that sometimes pop out of them! The other day, I was enjoying a nice afternoon at the pool with my four year old. Apparently, when I parked, my bumper went over the top of the curb (where I had enough clearance). But this bolt, got caught under my bumper. When I went to back up – I heard that sound that makes you cringe – rrriiiipppp. I got out of the car to find my bumper no longer attached to my car on the right side. I managed to get home. I learned something new about Toyota’s. Apparently they are held together with clips that snap together. My husband was able to snap that bumper right back into place. I do unfortunately have a lovely tear in the bottom of my bumper though. Blah.



Hope everyone has a great weekend. See you next Friday... and hopefully sooner!


Karen

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Camp - Part 4: Pick Up Day

This past Sunday was one the day I had been looking forward to all week... camp pickup day! I definitely missed my two older kids and was ready to have them back home.

In theory, the counselors are supposed to have the kids all packed up and ready to go... in reality, it went something like this:

Once again we woke up early to hit the road. We had an hour and a half ride in front of us, and the gates opened at 9:00am. We got there around 9:30 and were thankfully spared of the 9:00 line of cars waiting to get in. Unfortunately, that meant there were few parking spots close to the bunks remaining.

The camp is shaped like a giant horseshoe. We arrived at the boys’ bunks first. I spotted my son right away in the gaga pit (no relation to Lady Gaga... just the name of some camp game I don’t understand). I felt a huge sigh of relief. Not only because it was great to see my son, but because I could actually *see* my son. Last year, he was nowhere to be found when we arrived – we finally found him hanging out in the girls’ bunks (yes – we actually did send him back to the same camp.)

When we asked if he was all packed up, he responded “sort of.” I cautiously entered his bunk (a) because I didn’t want to see the mess I still had to contend with, and (b) well after spending four weeks with twenty boys in one hot bunk, the air can get a little ...um... stinky. I was right on both counts. At this point, we just wanted to leave, so my husband shoved everything that was still out into any of his bags that had room. It was on to the girl’s bunk.

As we drove up the road to my daughter’s cabin, I had visions of her waiting on the steps, watching anxiously for us to arrive, and then running with arms wide open toward us as we parked the car. Instead, I found her hiding in the bathroom, tears in her eyes that it was time to leave. After many, many group hugs involving more teary eyed girls, she finally walked us over to her bed, where we discovered she had even less packed then her brother. We once again threw stuff randomly into bags and hit the road, to head home.

As fun as all that sounds – the fun for me really does not begin until we get back home. It is then when I truly realize the extent of what I like to call “camp stank.” Those of you with kids who go to overnight camp know exactly what I am talking about. “Camp stank” is the stinky, damp film that manages to cover every fiber of every belonging that your child has had with them at camp. I spend the next several hours of my day “de-stankifying.” Laundry, laundry and more laundry. Unpacking is always interesting. This year, I expected to find the usual stray sock or t-shirt that belonged to a bunk mate. Instead, in my son’s belongings I found not one, not two, but six pairs of sneakers. Six!! No, my son is not a thief. They are all his. However, I only packed two pairs. It seemed that Imelda sneaked (no pun intended) the other four pairs into his bags when I wasn’t looking. You are probably wondering why my thirteen-year-old son has six pairs of sneakers. I’ll save that for another post... For now I'm enjoying time home with my kids.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Friday Five - 7/22/11

Hi all – this blog has been a bit quiet this week as we’ve been away (and I tried to stay semi-unplugged while on vacation). Unplugging is not easy! I limited myself to checking email... maybe peeking into facebook & twitter a couple of times... oh & I might have been on Goodreads once or twice. But I did take a break from writing - I have to admit, it did feel good to re-energize. So we have a lot of catching up to do... here’s what I’ve been up to:

1.Sterling. With a heavy heart and tears in my eyes, I am sad to report that my sweet 17+ year old kitty, Sterling - my first baby, has passed. We knew the day was coming, but I still was not prepared for the level of sadness and emptiness I feel. She was a wonderful, affectionate & playful kitty right up until her last days. I still haven’t told my oldest two who are away at camp. That will not be an easy conversation. My four year old burst into tears when he realized Sterling would not be returning home. My other cat has been moping and crying wondering where his other half is. Sterling – we all love and miss you. You will never be forgotten and will aways be loved and in our hearts. RIP...

2.Hot! Hot! Hot! Well it finally happened – the one thing I had been dreading since the air-conditioner repairman told me two summers ago that my AC was on its last leg... it finally kicked. Great timing too since we are in the middle of a heat wave. The new AC is coming today, thank goodness. The only saving grace was that we already had a mini-vacation planned (see #3 below), so it gave the AC repair guy time to order a new unit, and gave us time away in an air-conditioned hotel. We did have to spend last night in the heat though. It was a bit balmy to say the least. Um ... Mr. AC repairman - - feel free to show up any time now! Ooops - nevermind - he showed up while I was typing this - YAY!

3.Vacation. On Monday, we packed up the car and headed south to Baltimore for a few days. It was HOT – but that didn’t stop us! We had a great time! On Monday night we went to the Red Sox/ “Oroes” (as my 4 yr old calls them) game. In typical 4 yr old fashion, we only saw three innings, but it was fun nonetheless. There were Boston fans EVERYWHERE – (my husband & son included... don’t worry Phillies – you are still #1 for us) – we felt like we were in Boston not Baltimore at times. The next couple of days, we headed over to the Inner Harbor, Fells Point & the Aquarium. So nice to get away & have an air-conditioned hotel room to stay in!

4.Letters from Camp. I received not one, not two, but three letters from my daughter this week! And from my son.... zero. That makes the tally: daughter – 4, son – 1. Sounds about right. There are still two more mail days for him to catch up. Unlikely, but I'm not giving up hope just yet. They come home this weekend – I can’t wait to see them!

5.Book News. There is plenty to report this week! First, I received a lovely review from one of the people who won a copy of Nate Rocks the World from my Goodreads contest. You can read the review here. Also – I am excited to share that my book is now available direct from the Apple Store and the Kindle Store for those who like to read using a Kindle, ipad, iphone or ipod touch. Coming up this week on Wednesday, I am being interviewed by Kathy Reinheart for “Inkdrop Presents.” Thank you so much for all of the wonderful feedback and support. I truly appreciate it.

Hope everyone has a great weekend. See you next Friday... and hopefully sooner!

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Friday Five - 7/15/11

Hi all – wow these summer weeks sure are flying by! Here's what was happening in my little corner of the world this week:

1. Book News. It was a busy week for me with full on blitz marketing! First I hosted a giveaway on Goodreads. I met so many new people! The contest ended in the wee hours of the night – congratulations to Lisa, Faith & Tracy. Your copies are now in the mail. Also exciting this week – my first interview posted. Morgen Bailey was so generous to offer me the opportunity, & I loved her questions. I’m officially international as she lives and blogs from the UK!

2. They’re back! No not the kids... the road work crew. Just when I was getting use to the silence, they decided more work needed to get done – right out side of my house – at 7am – every morning – ‘nuff said.

3. Letters from camp. I was beginning to think my daughter had disappeared into camp abyss, but I am happy to report that I did finally get a letter from her. Of she asked if our kitty was still alive :( (she is, but may not be by the time the kids get back). No additional letters from my son. Official count: daughter -1 son -1.

4. Heart Attack moment. Did you ever have one of those moments where you look over at someone just at the moment something bad happens? Well that was me a couple of days ago. I had just dropped my youngest off at day camp. Drop off was on the playground that day. He ran through the gate, so happy to see all his friends. I was barely able to catch him long enough to kiss him goodbye. I walked back over to my car & just as I started the engine, I looked over to the slide to see my four-year-old belly flop off the top of the slide (not on purpose) five feet down to the ground. The counselors did not notice at first, and I was just frozen in shock seeing my son laying there not moving. I jumped out of the car and ran over to him, so glad to see his mulch covered body stand up. In between tears, he was able to tell me nothing hurt. I took him inside to get him cleaned up and checked over. All he wanted to do was get back to the playground. Boys will be boys!


5. Book review. This may sound a little crazy, since I spend so much time thinking and talking about books, but it had been ages since I actually read a book (other than the countless edits of my own!) So when a fellow author asked me to review her book, I jumped at the opportunity. She sent me a digital file – my first. Since I don’t own an actual Kindle (I know!), I decided to download the app on my phone. I was worried it would be hard to read a book on the small screen, but I was wrong. Now on to the book... called Gateway to Celesta by Tessa Apa. This book is in the Young Adult (YA) genre – meant for teens – but honestly, I loved it also! Gateway to Celesta is about three siblings who have been given a powerful puzzle to solve - a Qui - they discover that the Qui allows them to hear and control thoughts. However, they must protect the Qui from those who are evil. Those people know that the Qui exists and that the children possess it. The rest, you will have to read...



Hope everyone has a great weekend. See you next Friday... and hopefully sooner!


Karen

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Wonders of Coffee

I woke up this morning wanting to blog, but was unable to come up with anything to blog about. Even my trusty shower failed to produce any ideas. So I went into the kitchen to get my first morning cup of coffee. I opened my laptop and began my morning routine of catching up on emails, tweets, facebook, blogs... you know the drill. It was then I stumbled upon Mama Kat. Mama Kat has an awesome blog that includes a Writer’s Workshop section. You simply click on the tab and you are instantly given a random writing prompt. I decided to give it a try. My prompt:



A list of 10 reasons you do or do not drink coffee

photo credit: Coffee shop sign via photopin (license)
Well – obviously for me it is a “do” response... so here we go:

1. The morning kick – need I say more?
2. The smell – yummy – licious. People who don’t like coffee have admitted to me that they love the smell.
3. The taste – yes I LOVE the taste of coffee with just a bit of cream (I actually like the non-dairy stuff which I affectionately refer to as the powder crap – don’t judge). Even when I was pregnant and had to give up caffeine, I switched to decaf because I missed the taste so much.
4. The intake – nothing beats that first cup – it is the perfect combination of fresh taste and temperature – actually the 2nd and 3rd cup are pretty good too!
5. It allegedly curbs your appetite – It’s been 20+ years – I’m still waiting for that one to kick in!
6. It’s the perfect excuse to have a slice of cake or cookie(s) later in the day (refer back to #5)
7. You can drink it hot or cold. I’m a big fan of iced coffee. But in the morning – it must be hot – just saying.
8. It’s the one aspect of your life where it is acceptable to be a “snob” about something. For example – some people drink only Starbucks, some swear Dunkin Donuts is best, some like only organic or fair trade. For me – my top pick is Wawa (it’s a northeast thing). Dunkin Donuts isn’t bad, but it is always way too hot – even with cold milk. I hate having to wait for my coffee to cool down (can you see the snobbery coming out?) I really don’t like Starbucks, unless it’s a frappacino – yum. At home I'm less picky. I usually like a good quality light or medium roast. But one thing is always true – I always have some sort of coffee stocked in my house.
9. It’s good for you – It’s bad for you – It’s good for you – It’s bad for you... the reports seem to change every week – so I’m going with “It’s good for you.”
10. My kids... My morning coffee = happy mama. They deserve that don't you think?

So there you have it – my 10 reasons.

Thanks Mama Kat for the writing prompt!








*****
http://bit.ly/KPTbooks

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Time for a Giveaway!!

Everyone loves a contest right? Well today is your lucky day (hopefully). Today through Friday I have my very first giveaway open on Goodreads. I am giving away three copies of my book NATE ROCKS THE WORLD.  Good Luck!!




Goodreads Book Giveaway





Nate Rocks the World by Karen Pokras Toz



Nate Rocks the World


by Karen Pokras Toz



Giveaway ends July 15, 2011.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.




Enter to win


Friday, July 8, 2011

The Friday Five - 7/8/11

Hi everyone! I hope you all had a great week and are staying cool – we are in the middle of a heat wave here – but I’m not complaining (well maybe a little.) It still beats all the snow. This was definitely a (mostly) fun week... here’s what’s been going on...


1. Happy Fourth of July! We had a really nice 4th of July weekend. As usual, we stayed home. There is nothing I hate more than fighting traffic on holiday weekends! On Saturday, I took my little guy to the pool. He actually went in, which is a big improvement over last summer... baby steps... The next day, we went to see Cars2. He definitely loved it. Mom & Dad enjoyed it as well. It was a pleasant surprise, since the reviews had not been stellar. Then on Monday, we went over to see the parade with some good friends and topped off the holiday with a barbeque at our neighbors. Good food, good drinks, & good company - now that’s my kind of weekend!

2. Bee Sting. It had to happen eventually. My little guy was stung by a bee on Tuesday at camp. Thankfully, he showed no signs of any allergy. It was traumatic for him nonetheless. On the ride home from camp, as his big alligator tears streamed down his face, he declared that the only thing that would make him feel better was lots of TV. FYI – it seemed to have worked.

3. Jingle Bell Run.  Team Toz is officially official!! We are now set to run/walk the Arthritis Foundation’s 2011 Jingle Bell 5K Run on December 11th in Malvern, PA. If you would like to help contribute to the cause, or if you will be in Eastern PA on Dec 11, come support us! Walk or Run – the more the merrier! I am super excited to be the 2011 Spokesperson/Honoree for the race this year. For information, please visit our team website.


4. Book News. So much is going on, I don’t even know where to start! Nate Rocks the World is now available on Amazon.com! For those who use a Kindle/Nook/Sony Reader, IPad, or other electronic device, the digital version can be found on Smashwords.com. Thank you to those who have picked up a copy. The reviews are starting to come in! For more information, reviews, purchase links, and interview dates, visit my website: www.karentoz.com Thank you to everyone for the overwhelming support!


5. Camp Update. After writing my last blog post, I decided I would do a weekly letter tally from now until the kids return on the 24th.  Here are the results for this week’s letters from camp: In an unprecedented turn of events... son-1,  daughter-0 . Here is a little snippet from his letter: “Can you send me some Axe and Old Spice Swagger Spray?” Watch out girls...


Hope everyone has a great weekend. See you next Friday... and hopefully sooner!


Karen

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Camp - Part 3: Letters from Camp

My kids have been at overnight camp for exactly one week. I’d like to be able to report that they are doing great, but I cannot... well – this is not completely true as the camp posts pictures on their website regularly, so I can at least see their smiling faces... but I’d much rather hear about it in their letters to home.

I’m not really surprised. The first year my son went off to camp, I received three one-sentence letters in this order: “I love you,” “I miss you,” and “See you soon.” These letters were in response to my regular pleas to him through my own letters to write home. I even gave him multiple questions he could answer in his letters should he be suffering from summer writer’s block.

His next summer, I was more specific. The instructions were to write at least three sentences in each letter – one telling me if he was enjoying camp, one telling me about an activity he enjoyed, and one telling me about the other kids. However, I failed to tell him how many of these letters I wanted, as I only received one letter.... two days after he was already home. I think it was that oh crap – it’s pickup day and I forgot to write home letter.

By his third year, he had much improved. I received three descriptive letters. We shall see what this year brings.

I was at least expecting a letter from my daughter by now. She set the bar for herself higher early on. Her first summer, I had a letter from her after just a few days. It was her first summer at camp, and I was anxious to hear if she was having a good time. Her letter said, “I miss you, send a folder.” Huh? Her letters got better as the month progressed and came every few days.

Last year (her second year) she continued to impress. In her first letter, she asked that I send her robe and slippers. Apparently my daughter had mistaken overnight camp for the Four Seasons Hotel. Perhaps she would like a mint on her pillow as well? However, my favorite letter from her came towards the end of her stay. After telling me all the great things she was up to, she ended the note with:

“P.S. Did you know that J (her older brother) kisses girls?”

 Ah-ha – this explains why he didn’t have time to write home *sigh*

Anyone want to place bets on when I get my first letter?

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Friday Five - 7/1/11

Hi everyone. Happy first day of July (rabbit, rabbit). Hope you had a great week. Talk about an emotional week! Unfortunately, the week did not start out so good as you will see, but someone was sure looking out for me by the end of the week. So here it goes...

1. Cats. We had the follow up visit for my little black kitty that I told you about a few weeks ago. If you recall, she is 18 years old. At her last visit, she weighed just over 4 lbs and had thyroid issues. We’ve been giving her medication and while her thyroid numbers are back to normal, she is not doing well. She lost over ½ lb and is now suffering from kidney disease. The vet tells us she is not in pain, so at this point we are just trying to keep her comfortable and give her extra snuggles, until it is time to say goodbye.

Sorry to start the week with such a downer, but the week does get better:

2. First day of day camp. My 4 year old started his first day ever of day camp. Bad Mommy forgot to take a picture :( But I am happy to report that he mostly loves camp. I say mostly, because the pool is still in question, but we are working on it. I am determined to have him loving the water by the end of the summer. However, to make up for his dislike of the pool, the camp has supplied him with ice cream and chocolate milk, so it’s all good!

3. Overnight camp. On Wednesday, we packed up the car and headed up to the mountains to take my older two children to overnight camp. The trip was a complete success. I am happy to report that both children disappeared within minutes after finding their bunks. Yes – this is good. It means they are with having fun with their friends. I did manage to get a goodbye hug and kiss from each of them before they left. You can read more about our drop of adventure here.


4. Jingle bells. I know what you’re thinking – it’s only July... why are you talking about jingle bells? For those who do not know, I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis four years ago. I have an amazing and supportive family, and I get through each day, one painful step at a time. A few years ago, my husband began participating in the Arthritis Foundation’s annual Jingle Bell 5K run/walk. Last year, I decided I wanted to give it a try. I joined a gym to train (yes – I had to train to walk 3 miles). Well, I did it! Okay, well maybe I finished in last place after everyone was already starting to pack up, but it’s not my fault! I was pushing a four year old in a stroller (bad mistake), and my daughter and her friend kept stopping to look at the horses along the route. Anyway – this year, I was asked to be the spokesperson/honoree for the race!! I’m super excited and humbled. More on the race to come...

5. Book news. I am officially published! I received a proof copy of my book earlier in the week. Oh my gosh – I can’t tell you how crazy it felt to actually hold it in my hands. I spent the next few days reading it over – making sure everything looked okay. After that, I gave the approval to the printer to go live. My hand was shaking as I pressed the ‘accept proof’ button on their website. So now what? Well, my book is officially for sale!! For the moment, it is available only on the printer’s site. Within the next week or two it will be available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other on-line retailers. Also – I am preparing digital files for all you kindle/nook/ipad/sonyreader/etc – etc users. I will have all of the details in a separate blog post coming soon!! For now, I am so excited to announce that you can officially purchase Nate Rocks the World here:



I told you it was a crazy week!!!

Hope everyone has a great weekend – thanks for checking in. For those in the U.S., have a happy & safe Fourth of July weekend! See you next Friday... and hopefully sooner!



Karen

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