Author Archives: Jenn Castro

About Jenn Castro

I have always written -- on napkins, backs of envelopes, and in newspapers, diaries, and journals. In May, 2013, HIPPOWLPRESS published MOM*ME, my debut children's picture book about being a mom and being a kid. When I'm not writing books, I'm homeschooling my children and urban homesteading with my husband in California.

The Kid’s Novel You’ve Been Waiting For!

I am thrilled to announce release of children’s author Alina Sayre’s third novel, The Iluminator Rising, Book 3 of The Voyages of the Legend on June 10. To celebrate, Alina begins today a book tour with the first stop at jenncastro.com   Along the tour Alina will provide reviews, interviews, guest posts, and commentary on other notable authors. There’s also a radio interview! At the end of the tour there will be e-book giveaways of The Illuminator Rising Book 3 (See Rules at Bottom).

Come join Alina and her author circle. You won’t want to miss a single day!

Book 3 ebook cover, BN, smallest

Advance praise for The Illuminator Rising, Book 3 of The Voyages of the Legend:  “…a thrilling read…[Sayre] has a flair for being able to capture the interest of a reader and hold onto it.”

-Readers’ Favorite, 5-star review

Synopsis:  Driven from their home island of Rhynlyr, Ellie and her friends must solve a riddle to find the survivors of the Vestigia Roi. But instead of a safe haven, they discover a hopeless band of refugees paralyzed by fear. Strengthened by new allies and new gifts, the crew of the Legend faces dangers like never before. Can they escape being shot out of the sky, falling over the Edge of the world, or being engulfed by urken armies long enough to rally the Vestigia Roi? And can they rekindle a fire from the ashes of the One Kingdom before Draaken takes over the world?

IMG_0189Author bio:  Alina Sayre began her literary career chewing on board books and has been in love with words ever since. Now she gets to work with them every day as an author, educator, editor, and speaker. Her first novel,

The Illuminator’s Gift, won a silver medal in the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards, and all three books in The Voyages of the Legend series have received 5-star reviews from Readers’ Favorite. When she’s not writing, Alina enjoys hiking, crazy socks, and reading under blankets. She does not enjoy algebra or wasabi. When she grows up, she would like to live in a castle with a large library.

 

Blog Tour Schedule:

June 8: Jenn Castro (jenncastro.com)- Book 3 announcement with synopsis and cover, e-book giveaway

June 9: Margaret Bloom (webloomhere.blogspot.com)-Book 1 review, Book 3 announcement with synopsis and cover, giveaway

June 10: Publication day!!! Announcement on alinasayre.com

June 11: Angela Wallace (angelawallace.wordpress.com)-guest post

June 12: W.R. Gingell (wrgingell.com)-guest post

June 13: Rabia Gale (rabiagale.com/blog)-Book 1 review, Book 3 announcement with synopsis and cover

June 14: A.R. Silverberry (arsilverberry.com/blog)-guest post

June 15: D.M. Stoddard (kingdomoftorrence.com/my-blog) – guest post and giveaway– requested e-book give away

June 16: Intisar Khanani (booksbyintisar.com/blog)-interview

June 18: Caleb Fong (geekosupremo.wordpress.com)-radio interview

RULES for e-book giveaway: 1) Subscribe to the jenncastro.com webpage (including email) and 2) add the following on the jenncastro.com website: your name and a comment on a post on the jenncastro.com website.  If you have read one of Alina’s books, a comment about that book at alinasayre.com would be appreciated. The winner will be randomly selected and checked against the jenncastro.com subscribers list. Good luck.

Toddlers Act Out (Airplanes)

At 2016 Children’s Book Week, toddlers and moms join me in acting out MOM ME movements during a MOM ME book reading at Village House of Books, Los Gatos, CA. Shown here moms and children stretch their arms to perform, “Sometimes my mommy can be an airplane!” I chose to act out the second half of the book because I didn’t think parents would appreciate their kids miming, “My Mommy is not a tissue!” village

Things I Wish We Could Talk About

table-2The oddity I feel when a transgender friend shows up at our house dressed to the nines including earrings, stockings, breasts, and perfume. We exchange hellos while I, crouched under a desk, vacuum cobwebs housed for years under a former craft table.

Splotched with paint at the front of the desk, I aim to flip it so the paint spats are at the back and the new owner will have a clean space to work. But it’s not easy, because the desk has only a small square space to turn in. So, dressed in a black skirt and pretty blouse, our transgender friend, skirts female self for a moment and steps into manhood to help me lift the desk up over the other desk so the craft table can spin in a circle.

As we turn the table together, I, dressed in the same blue jeans and crumpled t-shirt left last night un-hangered on the floor, transform into my female self. Without missing a beat, I let my friend direct the furniture move. My friend lifts the work table, spins it, while describing the physics. Me? I lift a little, but mostly caution against not knocking a protruding Egyptian sculpture and a shadow box full of painted metal figures off the wall.

Strange how we fluidly we can change roles.

Exercise is Not Optional – the first in a series

brainDo you ever wake up and want to exercise? It’s a rare day I do. Out of eight mornings in a new regimen, yesterday was the only rooster time I awoke rested and ready to run. And yet, on most days, after one lap —  sometimes — it takes just half way around the track when I realize, I’m happy I started.

The problem, or rather the challenge, is that the relaxed post exercise state that steeps in the bloodstream, lasts a scant 24 hours. Exercise endorphins are like drugs, and the dosage is one small injection per day. runner

While in the endorphin-induced euphoric exercise moment, I commit, completely confident that next morning, theIMG_5177re will be no internal discussion about whether to jog my mile. But every morning, like, well, clockwork, 6:30 a.m. arrives, and it’s a Monty Python argument (“Yes you will, no you won’t.)

I create combative conflict about whether to go out and run.

Here’s the script:

  • Resistant me: “Not today’s, it’s my day off.”
  • Resilient me: “Get out of bed now!”
  • Resistant me: “Exercised every day this week (It’s Tuesday).
  • Resilient Me: “You’ll feel better if you go.”
  • Resistant Me: “Time to rest.”
  • Resilient Me: “Get Dressed.”
  • Resistant Me: It’s warm inside; cold out there.”
  • Resilient me: “Just walk today, you don’t have to run.”

On the days resilient self agrees, resistant self grudgingly follows.

At the park, my resilient self remembers why I returned to the track. I always feel better.

Each day I commit builds on the day before.

What motivates you outside to run or walk or exercise when you don’t want to?  Got any tricks or internal dialogue to share?

Step-By-Step French Toast

Do your kids (or anyone you know) need a new idea about what to cook themselves for breakfast? Here’s a step-by-step recipe for making French Toast.  If they are not used to using the stove on their own, stand next to them while they follow these steps.

French Toast on an Electric Stove

Part 1

  1. Crack one egg into a bowl. Add pinch cinnamon, one small shake vanilla. Mix with fork.
  2. Cut with butter knife or fold in half one slice of bread.
  3. Soak bread in egg mixture until egg is gone from bowl.

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Part 2

  1. Put frying pan on burner, turn stove on high, set timer for one minute.
  2. Put small slice of butter in pan.
  3. Turn down heat to four.

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Part 3

  1. Put egg-soaked bread slices in frying pan.
  2. Turn timer on for two minutes. Watch carefully. Using a spatula, lift slice.
  3. If it’s golden brown, flip. If not, leave for one or two more minutes.
  4. Repeat #2, #3.
  5. When toast is done, turn off burner, put French Toast on plate.
  6. Eat. Yum!

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To Move or Not To Move; That is the Question

durvishPracticing the art of not moving things is a challenge. Out for the morning one Saturday, I come home to a piled pair of people on the sofa. Noon, it is, and one is reading, the other researching.

Walking in, I notice, birdseed, dust, and wood chips, on the floor. Couches are covered in games, books, and pillows; no place to sit.

Resorting to the kitchen to cook lunch. I vow not to move or wipe anything. My vow is impossible. All the stove burners are piled with pots.

Exiting the kitchen, a yellow clump catches my eye. Stooping to investigate, I learn it’s butter. Committed to my rule, even if it gets mashed onto the bottom of someone’s shoe, I leave it.

Daily I wonder what would happen if I stopped picking up, cleaning, clearing, wiping, replacing, and reminding about all of the above. Would someone else do it? And if I find out it doesn’t get done, then what?

But here’s a better question. Does it need to?

Sadly, or perhaps happily, all of this mess has always been here, and until recently, I’ve been spinning myself into a frenzy trying to keep up with it. All of the swirling to see how many plates I can throw and keep in the air, tossing them higher and collecting more with each trick, so that I’m juggling first three, then eight, then 10, then 20, or more — is me, a dervish, twirling.

But not in a pretty, sequined colorful Turkish skirt. Instead, and unfortunately, it’s a “Watch me. I’ll do it all. I’ll make the house orderly and then we will feel settled and happy, and we will live this way.”

But we won’t. Because all of the mess is activity. It’s life, and it’s here to stay.

The real work is for me to stop cleaning and clearing. Make and leave more messiness.

The cleaning and clearing of other’s things, and the self-assigned task of reminding them to, are avoiding life. I’ve got things to do, and need to step to.

Got a cleaning or clearing task you don’t need (or want) to do? Got something more meaningful and important to create?

 

 

 

 

 

Non-Caring Person Cares

pioAgkRBTLong ago, a friend of my moms left a bottle of medicine at our house. I saw it on the kitchen table and didn’t tell her. When her friend arrived home, she called my mom to see if her medicine was there.

“I knew she left the medicine,” I told my mom.

“Why didn’t you tell her?” she scolded. “That wasn’t very thoughtful.”

Though I couldn’t explain it to her, I had a reason.

I was working on becoming what my then 10-year-old self called, “A non caring person,” a person who didn’t take care of everyone, a person who didn’t notice when others forgot their things. I was tired of noticing other’s oversights.

Toni, a girl in my fifth grade class could absent-mindedly drop her pencil while she raced down the stairs and it was I who picked it up. Scampering after her, I’d hold out the pencil, saying, “Here Toni, your pencil.” My fifth-grade mind thought remembering her pencil might create a bond between she and I. Maybe we could be friends. Sadly, retrieving the falling yellow stick yielded nothing, barely a glance let alone a thank you.

With my mom’s friend, I didn’t intend to be unthoughtful, instead, my 10-year-old self, was trying to be less attentive to others. I wanted to “not care” thinking if I didn’t, maybe others would find my things. I wanted to be carefree. Perhaps I wanted to attend to myself.

On a recent morning many years later, I am in the stall at the park and notice hanging heavy on the door a white canvass bag. Peaking inside I find a phone and other purse things. Someone has left it.

When the bathroom door opens, I know it’s the owner of the bag. But she is silent. She does not say, “Hey do you see a bag on the door hook?” Does she not know she left a bag in here? I wonder. I step outside. A woman stands tentatively at her idling car, which is live-parked at the curb. A man waits in the driver seat.

“Did you leave something in the disabled bathroom stall,” I call to to the lady. She nods, still tentative. She walks slowly, but does not speak.

“Is it a canvass bag?” I ask?

“With red straps?” she finishes.

“Yes,” I say. As she plods to the door, it’s clear she needs help. I ask, “Would you like me to get it for you?”

She nods again, staring at me. I fetch the bag and hand it to her.

After all these years, I still notice things. But as an adult, I enjoy noticing. That morning I made a connection with the woman who left her bag. Entering the flow of that stranger’s world for one minute, I am in synch with her. Noticing her we connect, and I help.

The woman walks to the car. The driver, likely the caretaker, and I make eye contact. He gives me a thumbs up. As her caretaker, it must be a relief for him to have a bit of help for that one moment. He notices too!

Paying attention is good; it creates an opportunity to connect to another person.

Anything you can notice today? Maybe you, like me will find an opportunity to help and connect with someone.

Attribution for bottle image: <a href=”http://cliparts.co/clipart/2332183″ title=”Image from cliparts.co”><img src=”http://cliparts.co/cliparts/pio/Agk/pioAgkRBT.png” width=”350″ alt=”Medicine Bottle clip art – vector clip art online, royalty free …” /></a>

 

 

Fresh Spinach, with Roasted Red Peppers, Almonds, and Blue Cheese

Long ago in a time I can barely remember, I ate lunch at a place in Hartford, Connecticut called the Arch Street Tavern. In my just-twenties, looking for a restaurant on a work lunch hour, I found this cafe. On the menu was a spinach salad with roasted red peppers, blue cheese, and toasted almonds.

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I think they tossed it with bacon dressing. It was the only thing I ever ordered there. Recently while “gathering” at a local market, red peppers catch my attention, and I remember this lunch experience. Inspired by the memory, I recreate the salad, sans bacon dressing. Gorgonzola cheese replaces the blue. IMG_5128

Ingredients:

Two roasted red peppers

Twenty almonds, sliced, and lightly roasted

Three cups fresh spinach

¼ cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese

Directions:

Roasting Red Peppers –. Place red peppers on a cookie sheet. Use top oven rack; put tray of peppers under broiler until lightly blackened on all sides. Turn frequently. IMG_5125Remove from oven. Put in bowl and cover tightly with plastic. I repurposed a produce bag and pulled it tight across the bowl. Leave about 15 minutes. Cut peppers in half; remove innards, seeds, and stem and peel. Slice lengthwise into 1/8-inch pieces, cut these pieces into thirds. Set aside. (Or buy a jar of roasted peppers and slice.)

Almonds – Slice  lengthwise into about four pieces each. Put in dry frying pan. Turn pan on high and shake until almonds are an even brown.  They will smell good. (You could also buy pre-sliced almonds and roast.) IMG_5129

Spinach – Place in salad bowl.

Cheese – Crumble onto spinach.

Toss in almonds and half the peppers. Use the other half for sandwiches or another salad the second night!

Gently toss all ingredients together. No dressing needed. Yum

Beyond Bed and Bath

IMG_5121Shopping for bed sheets today at Bed Bath, and Beyond, my arms are full. A helpful employee asks if I need a cart.

“Yes, that would be nice,” I say.

“I’ll get you one,” she tells me.

She’s African American, and immediately I feel the usual, overly self aware, sensation, afraid I’ll do or say something wrong, act phony, or come across as, “Hey, I’m one of the nice white people.” See jenncastro.com/2014/12/07/take-your-seat-white-america/

Lately, I’m very aware of micro aggressions, where white people naively say or do something insensitive to a person of color. I don’t want to commit a micro aggression.

Aware I am definitely over complicating the interaction, I’m certain she is making sure I know, that by helping me, she is just doing her job. Still I’m aware that whenever I’m around an African American person, I feel like I’m seeking to be forgiven.

“Could you tell me where to find the kid’s sheets?” I ask.

“My children’s sheets are behind you to the left,” she responds. A minute later, I’ve forgotten the directions and walk through the store in an endless circle. Cycling back to her department, I have to repeat my question.

She tells me. I don’t find what I want, and seek her help again, “Do you have printed queen size sheets?”

She doesn’t, but offers to special order them.

I hesitate, “Will there be a shipping fee?” I ask.

“That would depend on the cost,” she replies. She looks it up, and there is.

“Well, I’ll just get these,” I say pointing to the drab beige in my cart.

“Maybe shipping could be waived for a one-time deal since we’re out of stock,” she offers. It can. I thank her.

“Would you like to pay here or downstairs?” she asks.

“Here is easier,” I respond. I give her all my information. She suggests I continue my shopping and offers to find me to give me the hard copy of the receipt.

I tell her I’ve finished shopping, so she invites me to follow her to the printer. I do.

We walk through the endlessly full, busy aisles. We don’t talk. I don’t expect to. Arriving at the printer, I’m aware of every move. I extend my hand to hers to receive the receipt, thank her, and head down the escalator to finish my other purchases.

But I want to thank her more. How? I wonder as I wait on line. About to leave, I ask to see a manager. “Was there a problem?” the cash register employee asks.

“Not at all, I just received some very nice help from someone upstairs, and I want to let her manager know,” I offer.

“Do you know her name?” he asks. I don’t.

“She’s an African-American woman in the bedding department,” I respond.

“Yes, I know her, I’ll tell the manager,” he says.

Suddenly I feel connected. Maybe I helped. A little.

Here’s a question.

Any action around the Black Lives Matter movement you can take, today?

Black Lives Matter.