>The Wonders of Coffee

July 14, 2011

>I woke up this morning wanting to blog, but 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

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 powder stuff – 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 & temperature – actually the 2nd & 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 sayin’.
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 usually buy Melita or sometimes plain old Folgers. 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 morning tweet – – I often start each morning by tweeting something like… “morning al l – enjoying my first cup of coffee… “ without coffee, what would I tweet about in the early morning?

So there you have it – my 10 reasons… and one more… fresh coffee=happy mama.

Thanks Mama Kat for the writing prompt!

>Time for a Giveaway!!

July 12, 2011

>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!!

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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

>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

>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?

>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:

Nate Rocks the World

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

>So I managed by some miracle to get everything purchased, organized, labeled, and packed for my two oldest kids, in preparation for their month away at summer camp.

Today was the day we they had been anxiously awaiting – drop off.

The plan was to drive there (hour and a half) unload two kids (fifteen – twenty minutes each) and drive home (hour and a half). I know what you are thinking – you are driving all that way to drop your kids off – kids you won’t see for a whole month – and you are only staying for fifteen/twenty minutes per kid???

Let me explain.

This is the fifth summer we have done this. Not only do I have unpacking down to a precise science, but before we have even fully stopped the car, the kids are off and running, trying to find their friends. Parents who? In their opinion staying twenty minutes is staying about fifteen minutes too long. (Plus, my husband has Phillies tickets you know!)

But let me back up so you too can experience the madness of drop off day:

1. Packing the car (night before) & leaving at 7:30am.
2. Sitting in rush hour traffic – because for some reason, drop off is on a Wednesday.
3. Sitting in a line of cars at the gate of the camp waiting to get checked in.
4. Trying to find a parking spot close to your child’s bunk while trying not to hit children running in every direction.
5. Bed selection…

Ah the bed selection… now pay attention because this is important. The camp has a strict lottery policy so as not to penalize latecomers. The policy is that upon arrival to your respective bunk, each camper picks a number out of an envelope. Each number corresponds with a bed. Done. Sort of…

In my son’s bunk, they do pick numbers, but then… . Last year, I spent a decent amount of time unpacking and placing neatly folded towels and clothing on the shelf next to the bed my son picked. Within ten minutes, everything was balled up & thrown across the room to a different bed. This year, I left all the clothes still packed in the plastic bins by his assigned bunk. He is 13 – he can figure out where his underwear is (maybe) when he gets to his final destination. I did however, make certain he knew exactly where the already addressed and stamped blank postcards were, that he needed to write and send home.

The girl’s bunk works a little differently. My daughter wanted a top bunk. In fact, she all but declared that her entire summer would be ruined if she did not receive a top bunk. She also insisted that I pick the lottery number, because I successfully picked her a top bunk the last two summers. Oy the pressure! So I picked… a bottom bunk. The counselor took pity on me, told me the top bunks were odd numbers and then opened the envelope wide enough so I could see all the numbers and told me to pick again. I picked number 11 – shocking I know!

I successfully unpacked and organized everything for her in record time. We said our goodbyes.

On our way out, we had to stop to drop off my daughter’s allergy medicine with the nurse. The line was out the building – and so we waited in another line.

We finally made it back to our cars – almost two hours later than our projected time. It happens almost every year – but looking back at all the kids playing and laughing and hugging makes all the lines and craziness so worth it!

>Hi all – I hope everyone had a great week! To be honest, it was an exhausting (and mostly great) week for me.   Before I start, thank you to all who asked about my four year old. He is feeling better and is back to his happy and healthy self. Now, onto my crazy week:

1. Dance Recital. My daughter was in two back to back shows – 8 dances in total. Two in ballet, three in modern/lyrical and three high-energy hip hop routines. I am always amazed that she can remember that many steps! There was a lot of rushing backstage to help with costume changes and then rushing back to my seat. The hair changes were the worst part for me. I definitely need ‘bun making for dummies.’ But – – it was SO worth it. She and all of the other dancers were amazing and so fun to watch.

2. Lightning. This actually happened last Friday, but it was after I had already written my Friday Five. At around 2:30 am, I woke to the sound of thunder that was so loud my house shook. Confession time – I am terrified of storms!! Lightning struck one after another after another. The next morning we woke up to discover that our big screen TV was fried, along with the upright freezer that is in the pantry room directly on the other side of the wall where the TV is. Of course, it completely missed my 20 year old washer and dryer – it had to go for the less than five year old appliances. Thank goodness I had unplugged my laptop after the first round of thunder struck (priorities you know!)

3. Book News. Busy week for NATE ROCKS THE WORLD! In case you did not see my post from a few days ago, my cover is finished!!!! I am so SO loving it. What do you think? My interior design is also completed and ready for print! Thank you again Deana at Book Starter for all your creative touches. It is now off to the printer and hopefully ready in just a few more weeks in both print and digital formats. I hope to upload chapter one for you to check out very soon.

4. Camp Packing. After my gung-ho start a few weeks back (and by gung-ho I mean pulling bins & duffle bags out of the attic and leaving them in the bedroom where they sat collecting more dust), I calmly realized majorly freaked, that the kids were leaving in just a few days with nothing really packed. So, I enlisted my two older kids to sort through their clothes and other necessities. They brought everything to my room (translation: they threw their things haphazardly all over my floor). I now have piles of stuff to sort through, label, and pack this weekend. Aren’t you jealous? Which leads right into number five:

5. Kids. I write about the packing and being exhausted and feeling like my children’s personal assistant, driver, butler, chef, and maid. And – well – while all that is true, I did sincerely love having them home all week with me. In between all of their various social engagements, we spent some quality time hanging out, playing games, shopping, eating out, talking and laughing. I think they may have even enjoyed hanging out with me as well… don’t worry kids – I won’t tell anyone!

Hope everyone has a great weekend – thanks for checking in. See you next Friday… and hopefully sooner!

Karen