KaleoGuy and Mrs. KG celebrated 2 years of wedded bliss this week. How about a quick peek down memory lane? This is one of my favorite photos! Congratulations and may the Lord bless you with many more wonderful years!
Earlier this week found me back in West Texas for my great-uncle’s funeral. Great doesn’t even begin to describe Conner. On his eighty-eighth birthday he left behind a family that loves him, misses him, and had a great time celebrating his life. Someone called him the “glue” that held us all together. That would have probably embarrassed him, but I think it would have made him smile just the same.
Post, Texas is where my mother is from and where her people are buried. What is it about those open plains that has a way of drawing a person in, making you feel insignificant and an important part of something big – all at the same time? Located on the edge of the Caprock (you geography buffs can look up “llano estacado” if you like), Post was founded by Mr. C.W. himself, cereal magnate and visionary. Post Toasties anyone?
As far as I can remember, it has been 10 years since I’ve been to Post; the last occasion was my grandmother’s funeral. I miss our family gatherings and reunions, especially the ones that revolve around happier life events such as births and weddings. Once I finally have all the “who is related to whom” sorted out, it’s time to leave. Typical of many Texas towns, this one has a main street, a courthouse square, some old buildings, and a Dairy Queen. The schools my relatives attended are still there, along with the small house in town and the homeplace out in the country. My great-grandmother ran a dress shop after Granddaddy passed away. It’s still there.
Some things will never change, but I doubt my pioneer relatives would have known what to do with the daily special at George’s Cafe. I should have figured something was up when the front of the menu featured the story of the Parthenon. And that artwork on the wall sure didn’t include cows, farms, or a single lone star. The clientele may have been turned out in their best starched Wranglers and Tony Lama boots, but the cuisine was decidedly international. Right next to the chicken fried steak and enchilada plates was…Gyros and Souvlaki. You bet I tried it! Tender chunks of marinated and grilled pork, served with fresh pita, onions, peppers and a killer of a tzatziki sauce. I’m not sure you’d find these sides on the Mediterranean – french fries and Spanish rice – but it was a tasty plate just the same. (What is “George’s” last name you wonder? I asked. It began with “K” and ended with something like “-iatides”. I wonder who he is and how he ended up here?)
We finished the afternoon at the cemetery, saying our goodbyes to each other while the sounds of the bugler’s Taps still lingered. The USAF officers had performed their flag ceremony with ritual grace and precision, presenting the thankful reminder of my uncle’s service to my aunt. The drive away from town brought still more history lessons: the mill where my grandmother walked to work, cotton fields, and oil. Standing next to grazing cattle, bobbing their own dark heads are the oil wells. Some are still while some still generate a check once a month. And windmills! These aren’t the stuff of vintage photos, rather they are white, energy producing monoliths. They are planted everywhere, like some giant space alien flower garden. Old and new, both finding their place on the landscape. Reminders of where we came from and where we’re going.
Maybe it’s because I love to cook (although I will never refer to myself as a “foodie”, even if it is easier to type than “a person who loves to cook”) but this book was a fun, quick read. Not quite as quick as the 30 minute recipe that earned its author one million dollars, but Ellie Mathews’ The Ungarnished Truth proves she can write more than just winning recipes.
As you can imagine, I do have a fondness for contests that feature Alex Trebek as the host 🙂 and The Pillsbury Bakeoff has always fascinated me. Mathews takes you inside the competition, yes, but she also weaves the story around how her recipe came to be, the effects of winning, the circus that came afterward, and yes..what she did with the money. I found her to be refreshing, if a bit unconventional. Despite what you might expect of a contest winner, she is comfortable enough to document her journey with her dry humor and wit intact.
This has to be my favorite passage in the book (and my favorite simile of the year!): “I remember the kitchen where I grew up and that the shelf to the right of the stove had been designed by my parents’ architect to accommodate my mother’s store of seasonings, nearly every product put out by the Spice Islands company in the fifties. Like little glass soldiers, those straight-sided jars of anise and coriander and summer savory, tarragon, chervil, marjoram, caraway, and all the rest, with their distinctive brown caps and red printed labels, seemed somehow like keys on a flavor piano, each combination resulting in a unique chord that only my mother knew how to play.”
What about that chicken dinner? Well, we tried it. The family couldn’t figure out why on earth it won a million dollars, a fact I attribute more to our unfamiliarity with chicken seasoned with cinnamon and cumin than Mrs. Mathews’ skill in the kitchen. I might make it again and tweak it just a bit…hmm…wonder where that road will lead?
The movie title says “…Heaven” but I’m not so sure. Heaven for dogs might be the days they spend on earth here with us. For Nestle, life didn’t get much better than a walk around the block, a chance to tear out the back door in search of the elusive squirrel, or a midnight rendezvous with a loaf of bread.
Since the vet diagnosed him with lymphoma a week ago, he has gone downhill quickly. We miss the Nestle that used to greet us in the morning, waiting for the first of (as many as he could score) milk bones. We love him even if he is sick and we know his days are drawing to an end.
This morning I walked downstairs,couldn’t sleep at 4:00 AM, wondering what I’d find. The usual warm spot of carpet, the first thing my cold toes hit at the bottom of the stairs wasn’t there because he wasn’t there. He’s where we left him last night, trusting brown eyes watching me walk into the kitchen to give his chocolate head a friendly pat. His food dish, untouched since dinner, has been moved right next to where he is laying. I guess one of the kids tried to get him to eat something. There is a fork in his bowl.
“People have been trying to understand dogs ever since the beginning of time…Some people call this loyalty. I don’t. I may be wrong, but I call it love–the deepest kind of love.” -Wilson Rawls, Where the Red Fern Grows
You and You Alone is a new CD from Sovereign Grace music’s Canadian pastor Pat Sczebel and his sons Josh & Joel. (Homeschool connection: If you’ve been around long enough to remember Gregg Harris and his son Josh, well Josh is now a pastor of a Sovereign Grace church in MD. Josh’s little brothers Alex and Brett are authors in their own right.) Confession: I’m typically not a fan of “praise music” because it tends to be high on the “cringe factor”, i.e. repetitious emphasis on me, myself, & I instead of the One who truly deserves our highest praise. This CD is a breath of fresh air! The mood ranges from enthusiastic to contemplative while the words resound with rich truth. Favorite tracks include “The Greatest of All” (new tune mixed with the classic “Redeemed How I Love to Proclaim It”) and “Trust in You.” Click here to listen.
What happens when a group of veteran homeschool moms can’t find anything new at the homeschool bookfair? They get excited over cell phone gadgets, that’s what! I’ve had my cliphanger for almost a year now and I don’t leave home without it. I keep it clipped to the dashboard when driving, to my purse when I’m out and about, and to my belt loop when I’m in “hands free” mode. The clip fits smoothly around my fingers to allow me to carry my phone and not worry about dropping it.
Have a great weekend everyone!
TeacherPerson wins the prize (and I’m sure my mother will also be grateful) for nudging me out of my “stuck in blogging neutral” gear. I suppose the best cure for “What do I write about since it has been an entire month?” is just to…get started!
What has life “Post-Jeopardy!” held in the last month?
*An invitation to speak to our homeschool group on the joys of choosing curriculum. Someone requested that I type my notes and post them. They’ll end up here soon.
*The unveiling of PREP’s new website and is it a beauty! All the late hours were worth it.
*Vacation planning! Where should the Ms go this summer? In order to experience a totally new culture and language, we’re leaning toward…New York City! Still working on the details, but suggestions for the DC, NYC, and PA areas are welcome!
*Keeping up with the classes. Two highlights from the past week: (You really can’t make this stuff up!). The high-schoolers had a very interesting conversation comparing main characters in Red Badge of Courage to Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, & Eeyore. Random, unscripted, and unplanned? Of course! But they were thinking…
And the award for the best writing prompt submitted by a student (and the one that resulted in the most interesting paragraphs): “I knew there was something wrong with the sushi.”
…my new best friend that is. All good things must come to an end and if I had to lose, at least it was on a question that I just didn’t know. No regrets, I just couldn’t pull that answer out of anywhere. As my sweet husband pointed out, it’s like being an Eagle Scout. Once you are, you are one forever. Just making it on to the show in the first place was an amazing experience. To be able to claim the title of “Jeopardy Champion” goes beyond my wildest dreams. (And the best part about winning on Friday? I got to be the undefeated champ for Saturday…and Sunday…and in Houston…until 3:55 PM.)
If I had to go out as a “one hit wonder”, at least I had the chance to beat a 3-timer and be beaten by one smart little cookie. Homeschool Moms… I wanted to do us proud!
After my game finished, we decided to go back to the hotel and get in some sight-seeing and relaxation. (Remember, we still had a funeral coming up when we got back to TX. Talk about a roller coaster!) I’ll be honest: It’s hard not to shed a tear when you’ve wanted something that much. While we walked down the sidewalk, waiting for our cab, a whole group of little school girls mobbed us. They had been in the taping, on a field trip, and just bubbled over with good wishes. “We love you Renee! You were great!” (Shoot, one of them even complimented my sweater! Bless her heart.) It’s hard to stay sad amidst that kind of enthusiasm. I hope their memories of the day are as special as mine are.
Nobody’s wasting away in Margaritaville over here. Who knew that a pirate’s little ditty could be the (sound)track to a Jeopardy! championship?
(The first rule of blogging may be “keep it short and sweet” but for the next couple of days I feel like breaking that particular rule. Consider yourself warned <G>.)
First thing on the agenda: Sending out a giant thank-you to everyone who came to the parties! Watching the show with all 140 of you was an experience of a lifetime. I’m going to put up some pics and a video or two as soon as I figure out how.
The afternoon party was a chance to watch the show, as it aired, with my family, students, their moms and siblings, and assorted friends. Since this was the “kid party”, it was juice boxes and cookies all around. My youngest created a Jeopardy! board out of rice krispy treats. The candy bowl featured, what else?, Smarties and Nerds! Plenty of blue and yellow balloons along with some J! style trivia (I put that desk calendar to good use) added to the decor. Later that evening we welcomed 68 more friends for the nighttime party. Yesterday we kept things to a smaller scale and just had 16 in attendance for the family crawfish boil.
Gold Stars to: Beth, the winner of the Texas Jeopardy! game, Jordan D. who attended all 3 parties, Barbara B. for the most requested recipe of the evening (will be posted here shortly); Diane who photographs all the important events in our family, and of course my family who pulled together to help pull these celebrations together.
A little post-game analysis: Jason and Grant were both tough competitors. I had to listen to Grant get a lot of questions right as we watched from the audience. And then to see Jason win 3 games in a row! When he got that first category, The Solar System, and proceeded to fire off those responses, I was worried it was all over. How did I manage that $1000 question? I figured I could count my planets before the time ran out. “My Very Elegant Mother Just Served …” UranusNeptunePluto….Got it!
Yes, I’m naturally a smiley person. My daughter just told me, “Mom, you look the same way when you play Cranium.” Yep. I love to play! It was so exhilarating to be there on that set, in person, playing my favorite game. Once the cameras were rolling I just settled in to do what I came there to do. (Kind of like getting to the hospital to have a baby. Only a lot less painful. And without cameras.)
Sixties Sports Legends and John Locke didn’t look too friendly at first, but like most Jeopardy! categories, you never know what will turn up. I managed to pull out a few responses. “Big Daddy” Don Garlits was a regular name (along with Shirley “Cha Cha” Muldowney) when I was growing up watching TV commercials for the drag races in Tucson, AZ.
That final category? One thing I’ve learned is that you never bet based on your comfort with the category. Even the scariest looking ones might have enough information to tease out the answer. Best to bet strategically, so I wagered enough to beat Jason by $1 in case he doubled his score. He in turn bet enough to beat me by $1 in case I missed. Was that the easiest question ever? At that point I honestly didn’t care. If the writers wanted to throw us a softball, my mitt was ready and waiting. To put it another way, bring on the shaker and salt!
The plane tickets were ordered and the hotel reservations were made. Jeopardy! suggests contestants stay at the Culver City Radisson because it’s close to the studio and there is a nifty little shuttle bus that takes contestants there first thing in the morning. Who else but a Jeopardy! contestant would be standing in the lobby at 7:30 AM, garment bag in hand (might need those extra outfits!), sans makeup? No sweat for the guys, but please… NO MAKEUP at that hour of the morning???? IN PUBLIC? Y’all, I don’t go down the street to my mailbox without makeup!
But I’m getting ahead of my story. Before leaving for sunny CA, there were three weeks at home in which to continue to prepare. I’ve already told you about the study materials. What else is there to do besides memorizing world capitals, first ladies, and bodies of water? Plenty! Let’s look at two ways to practice:
1. Buzzer Skills – One common misconception among viewers is that if a contestant doesn’t ring in, it’s because they don’t know the answer. Nope. I’m standing next to two people who went through the same audition process I did. Odds are all 3 of us know the answer. It all comes down to buzzer skills. (Note: Not really a buzzer, more of a “signaling device” since it doesn’t actually make noise.)
One thing viewers don’t see at home are the two rows of lights on either side of the clue board. When Alex finishes asking a question, those lights are activated by a staff member offstage. That in turn activates our buzzers. Ring in too early and you’re locked out for a fraction of a second. Ring in too late and the next podium over has already beaten you to the punch. How to practice? At the Jeopardy! audition we all received chunky little logo pens that just happen to be almost the same size as the buzzers. (Hmm…think someone planned that?) I spent a lot of time at home, watching 2 shows per day, practicing with my little clicky-pen. The process goes something like this: Look at the clue and read ahead to the end. Must stay one step ahead of Alex Trebek! Decide if I know the answer or am willing to risk a guess (not a good strategy, but I’ll confess to a few of them.) Listen for his voice to land on the last syllable, anticipate the lights coming on, and clickety-clickety-clickety as fast as I can. By the time I arrived in CA, this action was very comfortable to me.
2. Stand Up Stand Up for Jeopardy! (I know, I know…not the hymn we sing in church). One thing I tell my kids in Study Skills class is not to “study” for a test, but to “rehearse” for it. I figured I should take my own advice. How to put myself in “game situation”? I practiced by watching episodes and standing up the entire time, behind my couch, clicky-pen in hand. Future contestants take note…you don’t get to sit down! During commercial breaks or time-outs for technical difficulties, you stay behind that podium. The phrase “thinking on your feet” has a whole new meaning for me!
I’m off to bake a gazillion cookies for the viewing party tomorrow. More to come later!
This is all starting to seem very real! (How easy it is to forget!) Saying “Howdy” to everyone.
Next, in our series of Questions About Being on Jeopardy!:
“Do they tell you what to study?” Well, yes. But, no. Not really. If you spend any time at all watching the show, you start to realize that certain categories and people show up fairly regularly. So while the J folks don’t give you a printed syllabus, it’s pretty easy to figure out which categories to bone up on. World capitals, Shakespeare, the Bible, and Literature are all fair game. On the other hand, there are certain categories that I knew would never be my strong suit. Northeastern NFL stadiums anyone?
Did I study? You bet I did! Was I going to pursue appearing on national television and take a chance that I might look, ahem…less than prepared? Not if I could help it!
My study materials consisted of: FanDex (Shakespeare, US Presidents, Artists, Composers, and United States facts).
The 2007 World Almanac (geography facts plus awards and recent newsmakers)
Books: Secrets of the Jeopardy Champions by Chuck Forrest, Brainiac by Ken Jennings, Prisoner of Trebekistan by Bob Harris, and How to Get on Jeopardy and Win by Michael Dupee.
The Jeopardy Archive It’s possible to “play” entire games by reading and answering clues. This website is a team effort put together by some very dedicated volunteers. This site is a treasure chest of study material!
National Academic Quiz Tournaments publishes a “you gotta know” article on their website. I downloaded almost all of these onto my palm pilot and studied them when I had a spare minute.
There’s a whole lot more to preparation than just memorizing facts. More on that tomorrow!