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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: chef, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. New Ideas on How to Plot and Write the Middle of a Novel

I talk about the Middle of a novel, memoir, screenplay as an exotic world ruled by the antagonists. Both an exotic world and antagonists provide lots of scene opportunities while also creating and building rising tension, suspense, excitement and curiosity to replicate the energy of the Universal Story and keep the reader engaged.

A couple of years ago, based on novels, memoirs and screenplays I've deconstructed, I posted the following 8 tips how to keep the story moving forward and create page-turnability throughout the middle of your story.

1) call in the antagonists
2) create an exotic world
3) begin middle with overarching conflict or suspense plot point
4) ask yourself: because that happens, what happens next?
5) add a great subplot(s)
6) know the crisis
7) know the climax
8) begin filling in and deepening character flaw

Many of these tips rely on tension to create an energetic forward momentum.

Then, I delighted in watching Chef, a comedy-drama film written, produced and directed by Jon Favreau, create the same rising energy of the Universal Story without any or rather with only one antagonist.

The music, the pacing, the crowds, the dialogue, the love kept amping up the energy of the middle as effectively albeit more light-heartedly than all the usual negativity created by antagonists interfering with the protagonist's forward movement to her goal.

The overarching dramatic question developed at the beginning of the middle of the film pulls us forward though the external dramatic action in each scene keeps us connected, engaged and enchanted.

For an in-depth resource to all the questions to ask about how to write the middle of your story, refer to The Plot Whisperer Workbook: Step-by-Step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories.

Today I write!

For pre-plotting ideas and how to write a fast first draft:

1) Re-read the The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master book and follow the instructions how to pre-plot your story

3) Complete all the exercises and fill in all the templates (plot planners included) in The Plot Whisperer Workbook: Step-by-Step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories 

4) Forget next month for now and enjoy this month writing or revising what you're currently working on and take with you into next month The Plot Whisperer Book of Writing Prompts: Easy Exercises to Get You Writing for daily prompts to guide you how to write a story with a plot from beginning to end.

If you simply wish to continue writing and revising and are looking for plot help:
Read my Plot Whisperer books for writers

Watch Plot Video Workshops Series:

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2. What’s your gut feeling?

There is an unquantifiable amount of different types of food across the world, ranging from lesser known edibles like elephant garlic and ship’s biscuit to more familiar foods like chocolate and oranges. In the newly updated Oxford Companion to Food, readers will discover more than 3,000 comprehensive entries on every type of food imaginable, and a richly descriptive account of food culture around the world. The Oxford Companion to Food contains facts sure to delight foodies of all ages.

Welcome to Oxford University Press’s restaurant. We’ll take your coat. It’s time to find out just how much you know about the food you eat.

Your Score:  

Your Ranking:  

Headline image credit: Fruit and Veg, by Garry Knight. CC-BY-SA-2.0 via Flickr

The post What’s your gut feeling? appeared first on OUPblog.

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3. on holding our own tongues, and the movie "Chef"

Maybe I am one of the last people in America to see that delicious movie, "Chef," but maybe that's okay: I saw it when I most needed to. It's a Jon Favreau concoction (he wrote it, directed it, stars in it, produced it). It's Roy Choi influenced, cubano-sandwich powered, infiltrated by actors I love—Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey, Jr., Dustin Hoffman, Bobby Cannavale, John Leguizamo, Oliver Platt, Sofia Vergara. It yields wide patches of time to the fabulous young actor Emjay Anthony. It explores what happens when one's safe world implodes and there is nothing left to lose. You have a job as a chef in a fine restaurant? You have a beautiful girlfriend, an ex-wife who loves you, a little boy who thinks the world of you, security? It all blows up after a bad restaurant critic's review, and you fought back over Twitter? Boom. What are you going to do? Maybe you'll go small. You'll start a food truck.

Affection, humor, tenderness, food you can practically eat off the screen—it is abiding in "Chef." But resiliency is the film's primary theme. Getting back up after someone's been unkind to you, after the unfair thing has happened, after you lose your decorum, your reputation, your holdings in the blink of a Twitter eye. What is the trajectory of second chances? That is what "Chef" is about.

We're out here as writers, and some critics will be unkind. We're out here doing our service jobs, and the person on the other end of the phone has demeaning attitude, that power that comes from being the one in charge, that edge in the curl of their words. We're out here letting the lady at the ATM yell at us because she's having a bad day. We're endlessly holding our own tongues, being the better guy, stepping aside, or stepping up. But, who knows? Someday we may just blow. We may just speak our equalizing minds.

"Chef" is about the guy who blew and the guy who got it back.

It's about hope of another kind. Hope that we can be our best selves again. Hope that the world will make room.

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4. Interview with Kelly Fiore, Author of Taste Test

[Manga Maniac Café] Please welcome Kelly Fiore to the virtual offices this morning!

[Kelly Fiore] Thanks so much for having me!

[Manga Maniac Café] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Kelly Fiore] I’m an author, mother & former high school teacher. I love Hair Metal (think Def Leppard) & baking. I’m obsessed w/my Fiat 500 & I’m a sucker for movies with James McAvoy.

[Manga Maniac Café] Can you tell us a little about Taste Test?

[Kelly Fiore] Sure – TASTE TEST is about a high school senior named Nora who applies to be a contestant on Taste Test, which is a show like Top Chef but for teenagers. Nora gets on the show, but has to leave her best-friend-and-maybe-more, Billy, behind, along with her dad and the barbecue business she loves. When she gets to the set of the show, Nora’s faced with a snotty roommate named Joy and an infuriating fellow contestant named Christian. Christian is super-competitive and, of course, super-hot – and that only makes Nora dislike him even more. As Nora gets further into the competition, secrets and mysteries begin to surface – there is a huge scandal bubbling just below the surface, a scandal that could bring down another contestant and maybe even a judge. Nora is determined to reveal this dramatic twist to the producers of the show, but when accidents start happening in the kitchen, she realizes she’s got bigger problems after all. Nora needs to dig a little deeper to find out the truth about what’s happening on the Taste Test set – before she becomes a victim, too.

[Manga Maniac Café] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Kelly Fiore] There are certain shows that have characters with great chemistry and sexual tension – the Pacey/Joey factor is what I like to call it (for those of you who don’t know, Pacey and Joey were two of the characters on the 1990’s show Dawson’s Creek.) Blair and Chuck from Gossip Girl are another great example. I really tried to emulate that frustrating but satisfying relationship between Nora and Christian.

[Manga Maniac Café] What three words best describe Nora?

[Kelly Fiore] Competitive, Sassy, and Loyal

[Manga Maniac Café] If Christian had a theme song, what would it be?

[Kelly Fiore] That is a GREAT question! That might be the best one I’ve been asked!

I think Christian is the type of guy who would have a playlist, like in the locker room – how athletes play certain songs to psych themselves up. I feel like AC/DC “Back in Black” would be a good bet, but also something like “Can’t Deny It” by Fabolous. Something with a lot of “smack talk” to it.

[Manga Maniac Café] Name one thing Nora is never without.

[Kelly Fiore] She has two pictures that she brings with her from home – one of her and her dad and one of her with her best friend, Billy. In some ways, she’s never without those two people, even though they’re far away from her. She learns to respect her roots and the culture she grew up in – I know that’s not really a tangible thing, but it’s definitely something she carries with her.

[Manga Maniac Café] What three things will you never find in Nora’s kitchen?

[Kelly Fiore] Another fantastic question! In Nora’s kitchen, you’ll never find something fancy taking the place of something simple. No lobster, no caviar, no fois gras – she’d much rather cook ribs, potatoes, and corn on the cob!

[Manga Maniac Café] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Kelly Fiore] In terms of YA, my greatest writing influences are YA authors I admire – there are so many great writers out there. Some of the books that I find most inspiring are Liar by Justine Larbeleister, Please Ignore Vera Dietz by AS King, and Teach Me by RA Nelson. As a writer in general, poetry is what helped me establish my writing style and my voice. I have an MFA in poetry and it was my first love – I feel like poetry taught me how to tighten my prose and be more expressive in an abbreviated space.

[Manga Maniac Café] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Kelly Fiore] Coffee, noise in the background (usually the TV), and natural light. I work best around lots of windows!

[Manga Maniac Café] What was your biggest distraction while working on Taste Test?

[Kelly Fiore] The internet. Ugh – social networking is SO my downfall. It’s far too easy to get sucked into the lives of other people instead of creating the lives on the page.

[Manga Maniac Café] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Kelly Fiore] The Fault of our Stars by John Green is absolutely as good as everyone says it is, and it was probably the last book I read that really blew me away.

[Manga Maniac Café] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Kelly Fiore] The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. It was such a clever, magical world and I was totally enamored with the way Juster described his characters and settings. It’s such a great story – so creative.

[Manga Maniac Café] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Kelly Fiore] I spend most of my time with my husband and son – we love going on road trips and going hiking. I love to cook and try to do it as much as possible, although it’s admittedly less often when I’m working on a book!

[Manga Maniac Café] How can readers connect with you?

[Kelly Fiore] Follow me on Twitter! I’m @kellyannfiore – I would love to talk to readers! You can also find me on Facebook @ www.facebook.com/KellyFioreYAAuthor or at my website, www.kellyfiorewrites.com.

[Manga Maniac Café] Thank you!

About the book:

If you can grill it, smoke it, or fry it, Nora Henderson knows all about it. She’s been basting baby back ribs and pulling pork at her father’s barbeque joint since she was tall enough to reach the counter. When she’s accepted to Taste Test, a reality-television teen cooking competition, Nora can’t wait to leave her humble hometown behind, even if it means saying good-bye to her dad and her best friend, Billy. Once she’s on set, run-ins with her high-society roommate and the maddeningly handsome—not to mention talented—son of a famous chef, Christian Van Lorten, mean Nora must work even harder to prove herself. But as mysterious accidents plague the kitchen arena, protecting her heart from one annoyingly charming fellow contestant in particular becomes the least of her concerns. Someone is conducting real-life eliminations, and if Nora doesn’t figure out who, she could be next to get chopped for good.

With romance and intrigue as delectable as the winning recipes included in the story, this debut novel will be devoured by all.

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5. Silly Frilly Grandma Tillie by Laurie A, Jacobs

5 Stars Silly Frilly Grandma Tillie Laurie A, Jacobs Anne Jewett Flashlight Press 32 Pages Ages: 5 and up Inside Jacket:  Sophie and Chloe are lucky that their Grandma Tillie knows how to be royally silly. To their delight, whenever Grandma Tillie babysits she seems to disappear, only to be replaced by a parade of [...]

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6. Review: Lead Me Home by Vicki Lewis Thompson


Title: Lead Me Home

Author:  Vicki Lewis Thompson

Publisher: Harlequin Blaze

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Thanks to his skills with difficult horses, trainer Matthew Tredway has traveled all over the world. And his new gig? The Last Chance Ranch. But after a chance glance at the ranch’s hot little blond cook, Matthew’s libido is immediately set to sizzle!

Chef Aurelia Smith has been trying to tempt the ranch hands with mouth-watering concoctions, with less-than-stellar results. But when Matthew is sent in to intervene, his attraction to Aurelia boils over.

Before long, they’re cooking up a storm, in and out of the bedroom. But Aurelia knows that while she might have led her horseman to bed, she can’t make him stay….


Whenever I get into a reading slump, I find myself reaching for a Harlequin category romance.  I don’t know why, but these things always seem to get me back on a reading track.  Maybe because of the formula, and because I know that despite all adversity, the protagonists will find a way to get together.  I’m not suggesting that they are all 5 star reads, but I find a great deal of comfort in the formula.  I have only read a few titles under the Blaze imprint, and so far, they have been quick, satisfying reads, so I  gravitated to one of these.

I picked Lead Me Home to load on my Kindle because of one thing:  the hero is a horse trainer.  I am always a sucker for a book with horses.  I am also extremely critical of stories featuring horses, because there are certain ways we do things at the barn, and then there’s the way everyone else does things.  Usually, it is in sync with how I expect horse care and horse training to be described.  Sometimes it is not.  With the exception of young Lester’s “natural” riding abilities, and the abbreviated time spent training Houdini, the unruly stallion, I didn’t have much to complain about with the horse scenes.  I would like Lester to come and show me how to canter on a runaway horse, because I am having a heck of time cantering on one of my mares.  Of course, Lester was helped out by a jerk throwing a rock, so maybe under different circumstances, he would have a problem, too.

Anyhoo, getting back to the book, Matthew is a huge guy, 6’5” and solidly built.  He is a muscle machine.  I am assuming that he’s training quarter horses, and my only other nitpick is that he is a big guy.  Quarter horses aren’t huge horses(well, except for their rear ends).  I am thinking that he looked pretty silly on Houdini, unless the stud was built like a brick sh!thouse, too.  I know how ridiculous my trainer looks on one of my mares, and she isn’t a small horse.  Oh! I am wandering off track again! Sorry!  Let’s try again!

Matthew is a famous horse trainer, probably along the lines of Clinton Anderson.  He is a published author, and everyone recognizes that he is a horse training expert.  He jets all about the world, working his equine mojo.  He also feels detached from people, and has no real committed relationships.  Both of his parents have passed away; his mother when he was a young child, and his father just a few years ago.  His father was so devastated by his mother’s death that he was an emotionally distant care-giver.  Matthew found completion training horses, and hi

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7. Review: Deep Autumn Heat by Elizabeth Barrett


Title: Deep Autumn Heat

Author: Elizabeth Barrett

Publisher: Random House-Loveswept Romance

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

In this sexy new Star Harbor romance series, featuring the too-tempting Grayson brothers, a celebrity chef turns up the heat for a local café owner—and things start to sizzle.

Lexie Meyers decides there’s nothing sweeter than watching Sebastian Grayson’s perfect, wicked mouth devour her coconut cake. He’s hot, he’s hungry, and he’s sizing her up like she’s the best thing on the menu. But she’s been burned in the past and flings just aren’t her thing. Too bad Sebastian can’t resist a challenge.

Worldly, famous, and notorious with the ladies, Seb had planned a weekend of fishing and relaxation with his brothers. Until Lexie, with her kissable lips and frosty “get lost” attitude, makes him want to forget his culinary empire and create some magic with her. After he fires up his charm—including challenging her to a televised cook-off to break through her resistance—it’s now hotter in the bedroom than it is in the kitchen and Lexie isn’t sure whether she’s lost her mind . . . or just her heart.


I don’t think I have read many romances featuring chefs.  Either they didn’t make an impression on me at all, or my innate dislike of cooking has steered me away from books with chefs.  I just don’t find them very sexy.  Sure, it would be divine to have a culinary artist at my beck and call, preparing mouth-watering dishes to please my taste buds and tame my wild heart, but then I remember what a glutton I am, and I realize that if I did find a sexy chef of my own, I would soon weigh as much as my horses.  Like, both of them put together.

In Deep Autumn Heat, both protagonists make a living by cooking.  Lexie runs a small restaurant in Star Harbor, a tourist town on the East coast, and Seb is a glamorous and wealthy chef. His New York restaurant is popular, expensive and five-stars in every way, and his skill in the kitchen has made him rich.  His good looks has landed him a TV show, and, well, this guy has an ego the size of a houseboat.  His first opinion of Lexie’s place is that it’s quaint and a step or three beneath him.  He makes a terrible impression on Lexie; first, he treats her like she’s “just” a waitress, and then he acts as though being in her place should be an honor for her.  He’s THE Sebastian Grayson, after all, and he is eating in HER restaurant.  Then he tries a slice of her coconut cake and it’s all over for him.  He loves her cake and wants to know what’s in it.  After sizing her up again, he decides that he wouldn’t mind getting to know what’s in her pants, either.

Lexie, for her part, is too busy and too focused on making her business successful to give Seb much more than a second glance.  OK, so she gives him a third and a fourth glance, because he is drop dead gorgeous.  Of course he is!  He’s rich, dresses in black, and rides a motorcycle, too, which makes him like a bad boy chef.  A bad boy chef who knows how to clean pots, pans, and various cooking implements, and has a smile that makes every woman’s brain go numb when he flashes a great big smile her way.  Kind of like gulping down a gigantic Slurpee and getting a case of brain freeze.  That is Seb’s effect on all women, including Lexie, though

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8. Making a Splash...

I've been working on a couple of different things lately.  I've stepped back into the chef panel, doing a little here and a little there.  I put in a layer of color on the architectural elements and started the grape leaves creeping across the top.  I added a couple of minor veggies and filled in the purple grape at the bottom. 

My challenge here was the splash.  I originally started using cerulean blue and was horrified - blech!  Switching to ultramarine was much better...but, wait a minute!  I didn't try pthalo.  Might have to try that tomorrow.

Another thing I started was a study of a tree - the type of tree that will go in panels 1 and 2.  This is especially challenging because it's a truck load of green, green, and more green.  I have 3 different greens in the hillside and another 3 (or more) greens that make up the tree.  I'm having to find ways to create contrast, even though in the reference pictures that I'm using, it does blend together at times.  I need to work on it a bit and work out the kinks.

Not very accurate color, but wanted to share
what I have so far

I think I have a studio guest at night.  I'm not sure, but I think it might be this guy:

I've heard him rustling around here and there.  I suppose we can share the space for now...so long as he doesn't start using my paints.

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9. It's Raining Veggies...

The produce has started flying - so far lettuce, onion, garlic, celery, broccoli, tomatoes and yellow squash.  Of course, there's more to come...

A little touch added to the panel that wasn't in the original is some produce on the floor (garlic and onion in the background, a celery stalk in the foreground).  I have another change planned, but I won't spoil the surprise, now.

Also, the chef now has a complete mustache (I'm sure that will come as a great relief to everyone).

A stylin' "stache"

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10. Chef Study

The latest work in the garage involved a study of the chef.  After drawing and painting the original proposal, tracing/adjusting the figure on the panel, and now drawing and painting the study, I went back and looked at the chef in my sketchbook.  I did this when I was just playing around and brainstorming.  Drawing is more my strength and the sketch is much looser and fun. 

Original sketchbook "brainstorm" for the chef
The biggest difficulty and motivation behind the study was to figure out the right hand gesture.  But, since the study is small, I can only work out so much.  I kind of wish I'd gone back and looked at the sketchbook designs before I started painting - I might have taken the figures in a slightly different direction.  But, I also know that I'll always find something to second guess myself and I'm better off letting go of some things and letting the painting develop as it will (for sanity reasons).  The truth is that I'm learning a lot every day that I'm out there painting.  And, it's far from done - much more detail and "whimsy" will follow.

Photocopy of chef panel used in the projector and recent color study
My biggest lesson on this panel is the realization that the yellow that I purchased (which I chose because it was the most lightfast and permanent version of the yellow I needed) is probably the most transparent paint I picked up.  That explains why I've gone through more of it than any of the other paint colors.  It takes a lot more of it to cover anything and to create the mixtures that I've used for the various foliage.

In the past, I've had frustration with acrylic paint in general - mainly, the short drying time making which meant I had to remix colors frequently and the fact that it dries a slightly different color than it goes on.  But, with the Nova Color paints, the Sta-Wet Palette, and all the time spent working on this project, I can safely say that acrylics and I have made peace.  In fact, I plan to work with acrylic paint for more of my future illustration projects.

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11. Rounding the Corner...

Well, I've finally made it into panel 5 (and it's turned against the side wall of the garge - hence, turning the corner)! 

Just started mapping out the floor tiles and fixing some proportions.  While the projector was incredibly handy, working from a very small original painting means that little distortions are increased in my tracings - mole hills become mountains.  So, some adjustments to the chef are necessary.  Also, the floor tiles are taking a little bit of time to get a sense of fairly balanced visual perspective without being overly hard-edge and mechanical.  But, I'm enjoying working on something different for a while.

The toasting figures are in a good place for now - I'm content with the direction that they're going.  I was not able to capture much detail in the original proposal because the scale was too small, so I've been making them up as I paint.  I'm not working from any models either - they're basically imaginary composites.  

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12. cathy june

Smoothie from "We Eat Food That's Fresh!", Our Rainbow Press
© Cathy June 2009

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13. Roberta Baird

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14. Revising for Audience

I’m writing a picture book that I know should work. But it’s not.

Consider the Picture Book Audience

Part of the problem with this story is that it’s set in a commercial kitchen and I have a kid who wants to cook. Critiquers tell me that the writing is great, the kid is great, but they wonder about that kid in a commercial kitchen.

Wouldn’t it violate child labor laws?
Wouldn’t the kid be in danger of getting burned?
Would a kid even WANT to be a cook? Why?
How old is this kid anyway?
Why is the kid even in this restaurant, so he gets hooked on cooking? Maybe, it’s his uncle’s restaurant and his parents work and he has to go over there after school and study.


Obviously, the adult audience for this story doesn’t connect. What about the kid audience?

At nine or ten, I was baking birthday cakes — from scratch — for my six brothers and sisters. One of the few dissenters in the group of critiquers says that her kids LOVE to make her coffee (Obviously, she lives in the great NW.) It just seems natural to me that a kid would want to cook! I’m convinced the story will work, if I can get around the adult objections.

And I do understand the objections. And I will address the objections. But it will mean starting from scratch and reconsidering both audiences for picture books, the adult and the child.

Research, then Revise

I decided to research. I’ve read through How I Learned to Cook, edited by Kimberly Witherspoon and Peter Meehan. This fascinating book is first-person accounts from some of the world’s greatest chefs on how they fell in love with cooking as a way of life. How I learned to cook

Many of the accounts are about a chef’s young adult years, or about some mistake s/he made during chef school or at a first job. But a couple were about falling in love with food and cooking at an early age. I’m also doing free-writes about why I liked cooking as a nine year old. And I’m reaffirming what is the heart of the story for me, remembering why I wanted to write this story.

A new draft will come. And it will be better.

Post from: Revision Notes Revise Your Novel! Copyright 2009. Darcy Pattison. All Rights Reserved.

Related posts:

  1. The Dual Audience for Picture Books
  2. Audience
  3. Audience

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15. Summer Smells

Don't you just love this weather? It's in the high 80's here today. Last night we sat on the deck and you could smell all the BBQ's in the neighborhood wafting our way. We discussed how great it would be to bottle that BBQ smell, perhaps mist it over the deck sporadically; yummy! With summer BBQ's come things like pasta salad, corn on the cob, baked beans, brownies, and cherry crisp. Wow! My mouth is watering, is yours?

I remember as a young girl, our families had a yearly family reunion and everyone would bring their favorite dishes to pass. What a feast! Not to mention, catching up with loved ones, great stories and loads of laughter. My, but the stories were GRAND.

Here's an illustration inspired by summer, loved ones, and good food. The pasta salad was a yummy dish my talented SIL Nelda Jane made for us while we visited her and my brother Buck last year in Florida. K and I still rave over the fact that they were the most incredible host and hostess - Buck and Nelda, thanks for the good time, and for spoiling us-you rock! Wish we were there!

Today is my Mom's Birthday, and she and Dad are spending it with Buck and Nelda down south, WE LOVE YOU MOM and hope you have the best birthday ever! We can't wait to see you and Dad in a few days!

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