Turkey Farm Jailbreak

pumpkin pie

Thanksgiving is often a 4 or 5-day reprieve from busy work and school schedules. Many families get together for visiting, food, football or movies. The hours leading up to Thanksgiving dinner can be busy for those hosting family, filled with cleaning house, grocery shopping and the inevitable hours spent in the kitchen. For kiddos, (after of course helping in the kitchen, and cleaning their rooms), the hours stretch out before them and soon they’ll be asking for tv or the ipad. What if instead of relying on screen time, they created their own worlds with their imagination?

I’ve taught creative writing to elementary students from 2nd-5th grade, and many are aching for inspiration to create those worlds. There are those students who have always loved to weave stories and have no problem writing pages and pages of narrative. There are others who are reluctant to write, and are often nervous about judgment or criticism. But often after a few classes, even those who claim to be “horrible at writing” have asked for “just one more minute…” while deeply entwined in their story arc.

I’ve put together five writing prompts for inspiration. For the reluctant writer, set a timer for 20 minutes and let him/her pick the most compelling prompt. Let your writer know there will not be any grammar, spelling or judgment of plot. This is an exercise on creativity and a gateway to building confidence and belief in one’s voice.

Most importantly, let them know that there will be a “live authors’ reading” after dessert in front of the Thanksgiving gathering of friends or family. (note: if the thought of presenting their story aloud makes them fret, offer to read the piece for them. I’ve found that 100% of the time the writer wants their voice heard.)

Writing Prompts:

Turkey Farm Jailbreak (Point of View)

The Day the Mashed Potatoes Dreamt (Personification)

Magical Pumpkin Pie (Magical Realism)

Being Grateful for Your Thanksgiving Dinner Guests (Gratitude)

Dear Me: Thanks for being you (Gratitude)

Deserted Island (Gratitude)


Turkey Farm Jailbreak (Point of View)

First person point of view: the viewpoint of a character writing or speaking directly about themselves, using variations of “I” – Wikipedia

You, dear writer, take the first person point of view of the head turkey on a turkey farm. Go ahead and name him or her. Let’s say its name is Tom Turkey. Tom lives on a bustling, feathery turkey farm and Thanksgiving Day is rapidly approaching. Tom is one smart turkey and decides enough is enough: he will orchestrate a coup d’état, or a turkey-rebel uprising, against the farmer. Start with Tom Turkey’s escape plan – who does he gobble his secret plan to first? Does he draw out a map using a piece of hay dipped in mud? Does he get his hands on walkie-talkies and don black clothes so as to better escape in the dead of night? Or does he and his turkey friends dig a trench near the pond with an elaborate maze of tunnels for escape? Try to write from Tom Turkey’s point of view and make sure you consider the following:

Setting or location: barnyard, barn, pigpen, turkey house, farmhouse, horse corral, pond, tractor, garage, or anything else you want to include!

*Extra points for drawing a map of the escape route!

The Day the Mashed Potatoes Dreamt (Personification)

Personification: the representation of a thing or idea as a person – Word Central.com

What is the mashed potato’s biggest dream? Perhaps it’s to meet the girl of his dreams: a pat of butter. Or maybe it’s to disappear the turkey so that it may be the star of the Thanksgiving table?

Pick a Thanksgiving dish and give it a dream. Here is a list of traditional dishes, or pick one you usually see on your own dinner table.

  • mashed potatoes
  • stuffing
  • gravy
  • turkey
  • sweet potatoes
  • Jell-O
  • pumpkin pie
  • pecan pie
  • green beans

Example: “My dream in life would be to take over the Thanksgiving table. My family and I would become a delicious variety of textures and flavors for every human’s taste bud: my brother the baked potato, my cousin the scalloped potato, my little nieces and nephews the tater tots! We would call it – Thankspotato Day!”

Magical Pumpkin Pie (Magical Realism)

Magic Realism: the matter-of-fact inclusion of fantastic or mythical elements into seemingly realistic fiction. – Encyclopedia Britannica

You have been charged with making the pumpkin pie for the Thanksgiving feast. What your family doesn’t know is that you have a magical ability to make one ingredient in the pie induce a very magical effect on those who eat it. Pick a regular ingredient that you will then bewitch to create a magical effect. Here are the ingredients for pumpkin pie:

Pumpkin pie recipe:

1 deep-dish pie crust

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

2 eggs

1 15-ounce can of pumpkin

1 12-ounce can of evaporated milk

Write a story about what happened during dessert to all of your guests at the table. Magical effects might be invisibility, ability to fly, the ability to read minds or any other forms of magic!

Being Grateful for Your Thanksgiving Dinner Guests

Pick a favorite character from a book you love. It doesn’t have to be your very favorite but it could be a fictional or non-fictional person you admire, or who makes you laugh, or who you would love to be friends with in real life. Next pick a friend, a real friend, someone you’re grateful to have in your life. Your real friend and your fictional friend are both coming to your house to have Thanksgiving dinner with your family. Write what happens.

For example, I love the character Hermione from the Harry Potter series. “The doorbell rang and Cathy and I went to answer the door. It was Hermione and not only was she right on time but she had a book under her arm. “Hi! I can’t wait to have Thanksgiving dinner with you! It’ll be my first Thanksgiving ever and I’ve been researching all about it. Did you know that when the Pilgrims arrived…” Hermione kept talking and Cathy and I looked at each other and giggled….”

Dear Me: Thanks for being you

This exercise sounds a bit strange but I’m aiming for a little appreciation of something we don’t thank enough: our body. Your body works tirelessly in ways you don’t think about every day. Your lungs help you to breathe, enabling you to deep breathe while running, or hold your breath while swimming. Your heart never skips a beat and distributes fresh blood throughout your body with its endless pumping. Your legs provide you with the ability to run, skip, jump or walk. Your brain gives you thoughts and solves problems and creates dreams.

Write a letter to a body part, thanking it for all the ways it has been there for you. Here’s my example:

Dear Hands:

Thanks for being there for me, Hands. You’re there for me when someone waves hello, or gives me a high five. You often catch me when I fall (even though you sacrifice the palms getting scratched up) and you are great at throwing and catching a ball. You help me grasp tree branches so I can climb high. When gloved, I can hold ski poles for the slopes in winter, or even while wet I can hang on to paddles on a kayak. I can dance with you, I can snap, clap and flick with you. I’ll take good care of you, Hands, and always give you a band-aid when you need, or wash you with soapy water when you’re dirty, or give you a rest on my lap when you’re tired.

Sincerely, Me.

 Deserted Island (Gratitude)

First step: think about a person you’re thankful for. Maybe it’s a family member, a teacher, a friend, or someone who has helped you out in a time of need.

Now imagine you’re headed to an island with one single house for you and this person, but no other people inhabit the island. You can also bring one thing, and one food (there’s enough drinking water in the house). You’ll be on the island for one school year.

Here are my picks: I’m thankful for my Aunt Rebecca because she’s a writer and she has always encouraged me to keep writing. I would bring my favorite book, one that I never get tired of reading, “My Brilliant Friend” and I would bring a black bean and cheese burrito with avocado and salsa.

Now that you’ve made your choices, write about a typical day on that island. Wake up and look at the beautiful azure sky and the brilliantly clear-blue waves hitting the sand. What do you do next?

Photo Credit: QuintanaRoo via Compfight cc

Turkey Farm Jailbreak



I hear The Walking Dead is a great show. Apparently I’m living it with an extra special meaning. The zombies are germ and bacteria infestations. I’m being chased by these zombie germs. I fight to protect mini fragile bodies from turning into messy heaps of zombie germs themselves. But I can’t fight the zombie germs off and several of us fall down as our flesh is infected. I limp around the house, dragging my feet, moaning and hacking and blowing my nose endlessly. My daughter was up all night barking a croupy-zombie cough. My son’s fever clung to him for days.

When my zombie self watches tv, I see all of those cold and flu commercials are directed at me. Those marketing folks know exactly what they’re doing. This past week we needed stronger medicine than what those commercials offered: three out of five in our family is either on Amoxicillin or Zithromax.

How to go to Battle During the Sick-apocalypse

  1. Be aware. October might as well have a flood gate, or a starting line painted around its middle stating: START OF THE SICK SEASON. On or around Halloween is the epicenter.
  2. Go into the season prepared: Flu shots. I have yet to read or hear a good argument against them. For reluctant shot-takers, the nasal spray works seamlessly. It’s a live vaccine so one might feel a little feverish but I have yet to see that happen with my three. Most doctor’s offices carry both the spray and shot, but often they run out of the spray.
  3. Pharmacy stock up: Invest in the medicines now instead of waiting until someone is in pain and you have to go to the pharmacy in your pajamas. Pain reliever/fever reducer (Tylenol or Motrin), cough syrup for kids over 5 years, cough drops, Vick’s Vapo Rub, boxes of tissues with lotion, and a powerful humidifier.
  4. Grocery stock up: In case any of the sickness comes with gastrointestinal issues, stock up on soups (chicken noodle) and plain crackers, Gatorade and/or Pedialyte, and bread. Remember, for the big D the acronym is: BRAT; Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast.
  5. Invest in an easy, trustworthy thermometer: Especially for the littles, the Braun ear thermometer is just awesomeness. No sticking it uncomfortably under the tongue or pit. It’s probably not as accurate as under the tongue but it’ll signal you if it’s time to head to the doctor’s office.
  6. Cleaning Supplies: I’m not a big fan of bleach and chemicals with my cleaning supplies, but during the cold and flu season I definitely ease up on my morals. Clorox antibacterial wipes and a roll of paper towels is really all you need. Just remember to wipe down doorknobs, faucet handles and any other shared spot in the house. Paper towels can replace the hand towel in the bathroom temporarily.
  7. Rest and Fluids: duh, right? The good and the bad: no, wine doesn’t count as a fluid but yes, watching the entire season of Narcos on Netflix does count as rest.

Feel better!
Photo Credit: ivepurpledideas via Compfight cc


South Beach Boondoggle


Last week I promised I would come up with a good jingle/mantra/slogan to counter the plucky quip “..mix, mingle and not to be single!” found on South Beach Magazine’s post for a Girl’s Guide to Nightlife. I had to ask myself, what did I find myself doing over my 72 hours in South Beach? What were my goals versus what I ended up actually doing? What was the pulse I felt as a 41 year old woman/mother/wife visiting this vibrant slice of Miami?

I came up with a few:

“to swill, chow and gain fat blisters from too-tall heels”

“to imbibe, munch and people watch”

“to wonder where all the people were our age, ogle tiny dresses paired with giant boobs, and order nachos at 3am”

“order extravagantly, drink lavishly, and regret not sleeping more”

In our version of the Girls Guide to South Beach Nightlife, you will traverse the hot concrete of South Beach with us as we actually did it.

Thursday – we stayed at 1 Hotel, right on the water. Huge hotel (by Tom Colicchio) with 5 pools, a rooftop bar and of course, the beach.

Dinner at Beach Craft – I gave it an 8 out of 10. We ordered the Stone Crab largely because I had never had it and I wanted to eat local. Hefty price tag of $45 for 3. The octopus was tough and delicious with long tentacles. The tuna crudo was fresh and spicy with its jalapeño topping.

Fed and having washed it all down with a few glasses of white and bubbles, we headed up to the rooftop bar and pool. Exactly the kind of vibe you would expect: tiny dresses, fancy drinks, and a salty breeze coming from the direction of the sea.

Our first night! Rooftop @ 1 Hotel
Our first night! Rooftop @ 1 Hotel

Late night we wandered to a nearby decidedly more grounded watering hole called Sweet Liberty to drink beer and nosh on cauliflower nachos. (We knew this was our place when they referenced a tv sitcom from 1982).

Talk about your awesome slogans...
Talk about your awesome slogans…

Friday – we walked down Collins Avenue to Lincoln, a street lined with retailers and restaurants. We opted to lunch at a place called Yuca and ate al fresco. We went local with our entrees; my friend had ropa vieja and I had vaca frite – both a variation of meat and plaintains. A couple of El Presidentes from the DR paired extremely well with our lunch.

Then it rained on us, we made for a taxi, shopped a little, and headed back to the hotel for an all-important nap.

Cuba Libres
Cuba Libres

That evening, we started our happy hour at the Bar Centro in the SLS hotel on Collins. The Cuba Libre, basically rum and Coke, was good but super sweet. I imagined it did the same for me as a Red Bull and Vodka (hello!). We had dinner at Sea Grape in the Thompson Hotel and sat outside on the back patio. Although Sea Grape was a great meal, the service was lackluster and the scene verged on boring.

After dinner we went back to the SLS hotel to check out their “nightclub by the pool.” Way too young, way too “Girls Guide” plus we paid $40 for two vodka sodas. We left.

I wanted to dance so I dragged my friend to the local gay bar/club Twist. Rooms and rooms and more rooms of go-go dancers, various forms of house music and videos on mounted televisions. The music wasn’t quite what we (I) was looking for so we headed to the Delano hotel for dancing at their club the FDR. This was surprisingly fun…initially. The DJ was definitely skewing to those who were closest to his booth, and he started out with some good 80s and 90s mash ups. But then he changed the tunes and our dancing feet became increasingly leaden. We left. We then made our only bad decision of the weekend: we went to the W next door for a late night beer. It was sweaty and packed with pill-fueled twenty-somethings. We couldn’t make our way out of there fast enough.

Keanu Reeves
Johnny Utah at a hotel on Collins Ave

Saturday was mostly pool. The weather was finicky, first hot and balmy and then raining. When the rain shooed us from the pool, we took a free “house ride” in the hotel’s Tesla to the Broken Shaker. This was the bar/pool scene at the Freehand Hostel. Because it is a hostel, it had this bohemian, hipster vibe: the Brooklyn/Silver Lake of South Beach.

The scene @ Broken Shaker
The scene @ Broken Shaker

Saturday pm we went to The Edition, a hotel 5 minutes away, and had dinner at the swanky Matador Room. This was our finest meal. What won our hearts was the local dish, Arroz y Pollo (chicken and rice). Simple yet delicious. I’m hoping my friend can replicate it on her food blog.

Dwayne Wade and his wife Gabrielle Union sat a few tables away. The word was there was a bowling alley and bar downstairs, yet we opted for the bar at The Edition afterward. Great scene, a perfect way to end an amazing weekend.

In sum, South Beach is super fun, full of everything you would hope to find in a balmy, glam, southern Floridian city on the beach. As for the Girls Guide…we didn’t hit a single club they suggested. There’s always next time…

South Beach Boondoggle