Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 in Review

Since this is the last day of 2013, I thought I’d visit some of the highlights and lowlights of the year. This year was very mixed. Some good things happened but it seems like we spent the year moving from crisis to crisis.

The year started out pretty good. Todd found out about a horror convention in Charlotte that was going to have Bruce Campbell as a guest. Bruce Campbell is one of those actors both Todd and I always wanted to meet but he doesn’t do a lot of conventions. We made plans, got a hotel room and someone to watch Emily. We did bring her on Friday and she got to meet Danny Glover, who thought she was very cute.

Todd and I had a great time at Mad Monster Party but we had gotten some bad news right before. Emily needed dental surgery because of teeth issues. It was going to be very expensive and we didn’t know if we were going to have to cancel our Disney trip.

We managed to get the money together for the dental surgery and Emily was fine afterwards. Her surgery was in May and things evened out a little after that. It was also this summer that I got to meet Neil Gaiman which was awesome. He was doing a book tour for his new book and Todd got me a ticket. I waited for hours to meet him but it was worth it in the end.

As we got into the later summer, Todd was having more and more issues at work. He had been unhappy at his job for years but didn’t feel like he could leave because the money was too good. It got to a point in August that he couldn’t stay. Thankfully
he got another job right away and he’s been much happier. But it was pretty stressful for a few weeks.

We still got to go to Dragon Con which was awesome as always. I got to be on two panels this year and it was great fun. Once Dragon Con was done, I went into high anticipation mode for Disney. The Disney trip was great. My pain levels were low the whole week and it never really rained except in the morning of the day we went to Hollywood Studios. Emily had a wonderful time and has been asking to go back. The only bad thing that happened was Todd got food poisoning on our last day so the ride home was pretty miserable for him. Otherwise, it was the highlight of the year.

Once we got home, we got back into the groove of things. Then at the end of November, my car died when Todd took Emily to school one day. He tried to fix it himself with the help of one of the dad’s of Emily’s preschool friends. But they couldn’t get it to start. Finally we just towed it to a shop and they pulled it into a computer, flipped a switch and it was working again. Thankfully it didn’t cost too much to fix though it was stressful again because Todd couldn’t figure out what was going on.

The last thing that really made 2013 an overall sucky year was the death of our cat Star last week. It put a damper on the holidays for me and I still am grieving his loss.

Mostly 2013 was not a good year for me but it did have its bright spots. I’m really hoping that 2014 will be a much better year. We don’t have anything big planning – just Mad Monster Party and Dragon Con. Plus I’ll be planning and attending the Browncoat Ball, which should a lot of fun. Otherwise, working and doing house improvements is our main goal as a family for next year.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Pain in the Way of Plans

Emily with Chronic Pain Bear
I have chronic pain and am in pain every day but I’m luckily than a lot of people who have constant pain. My pain levels are generally low enough that I can live a mostly normal life. But sometimes the pain flares up and slams me down, reminding me that I am sick and will be for the rest of my life.

Saturday night I went to bed feeling ok with plans of working and then doing some housework on Sunday. I slept the whole night but I woke up feeling exhausted with high pain levels. It had been raining and I think that’s what triggered this flare.

I managed to work my whole shift but felt awful afterwards so it was off to bed. I didn’t get anything done that I had wanted plus I couldn’t even find a comfortable position in bed so I couldn’t even work on my cross stitch. My pain derailed all the plans I had for that day.

All I can do when I get a flare is rest because there is no medicine that works for me. I’m feeling a little better today but the pain levels are still higher than normal.

I’m still lucky though. Some people in my chronic pain support groups can’t work, can’t do much of anything because the pain is so bad. For me flares come and go, but the pain always goes down after a while.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Book Club Cookbook

Swedish Meatballs
We like trying out new recipes in our house. My husband loves to cook and I love to bake, so we are always trying new things out. I’m also a big fan of books and have been a member of several book clubs in the past. The Book Club Cookbook by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp, which is newly revised and updated, combines these two passions very well.
The Book Club Cookbook has recipes that work with or are actually featured in dozens of popular books. These books all have in common that they are often used as book club sections. In addition to the recipes, there is a brief synopsis of each book as well as little stories about different book clubs who used these recipes to make goodies for their meetings.
Irish Brown Soda Bread
Since it is a cookbook, my husband and I decided to each make one recipe. He picked the Swedish Meatballs from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The recipe was easy to follow and he was very pleased with how they turned out.
I picked Irish Brown Soda Bread from Angela’s Ashes.It was very easy to make because I just threw all of the ingredients into my Kitchenaid mixer. I did have to knead the bread a little and put it on a cookie sheet to bake. It was a great dipping bread for soup or veggie dip.
My husband and I have had a great time reading the anecdotes in this book as well as looking for new recipes to try out. I would recommend The Book Club Cookbook to anyone who is interested is trying out some recipes that are inspired by popular books.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Her Majesty’s Explorer: a Steampunk Bedtime Story

Image: https://www.facebook.com/HerMajestysExplorer
Steampunk has always been fascinating to me. I love the idea of it as well as the beautiful clothes. But thus far, my daughter hasn’t had much exposure to anything steampunk. But now there is an adorable storybook, Her Majesty’s Explorer: a Steampunk Bedtime Story, that introduced the steampunk genre to her.
Her Majesty’s Explorer: a Steampunk Bedtime Story tells the story of an automaton, St.John Murphy Alexander. He is an explorer for the queen, but when he comes back to his unit after a long day of exploring, he has to get some rest. St. John has a bedtime routine that echos many toddler’s bedtime routines, but with a steampunk twist.
The last few pages are about Steamduck, the steam-powered bath toy. My daughter and I especially liked reading about Steamduck, because it was cute and funny. It was our favorite part of the book. Her Majesty’s Explorer: a Steampunk Bedtime Story was created via CreateSpace, a publisher and self-publishing platform.
If you are a fan of steampunk, I would highly recommend this cute, steampunk bedtime story to read to your kids. Her Majesty’s Explorer: a Steampunk Bedtime Story is currently available in paperback and for Kindle.
Note: I received a copy of this book for review purposes.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Goals for 2014

Now that Christmas is over with, thoughts turn to the new year that is almost upon us. I’m really hoping that 2014 is better than 2013. This year had a lot of down moments though the bright spot was Disney. Next year, we are hoping to have fewer issues and just save in case anything comes up.

A lot of people make resolutions for the new year, but I prefer to think that these are goals. The theme of my goals for 2014 is to finish all the things. I have a lot of unfinished projects and I’d like to get them done.

The first one is finish the 2nd draft of my novel. I’ve been finding it hard to find time to write. I work in the morning and then after work I often feel drained because of my chronic pain. But I really need to make time to finish this novel if I ever want to be published.

The second is to finish Emily’s cross stitch Christmas stocking. It’s one of the biggest cross stitch projects I’ve done and I’m a bit sad that I didn’t finish it in time for this Christmas. But I now have plenty of time to get it finished. I do hope to have it finished early in the year because I have three costumes I want to make for this year’s convention season.

The third is finish Couch to 5K. This one may prove to be the hardest. I’ll run and get pretty far though but often I’ll have a pain flare and end up too sick to do anything but work and take care of Emily. Our tree is where the treadmill is so I haven’t run in quite a while. As soon as we take the tree down next week, I’m starting from the beginning and really going to try to get through the program all the way this time.

These are my main goals for 2014. There are other things I want to accomplish like making three different costumes and organizing my office. But these three things are a holdover from 2013 (and before) and I’d like to be able to move forward.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas 2013

I hope that everyone celebrates Christmas had a good one. Ours was pretty low key but fun! Like I mentioned in my previous post, Christmas Eve is my favorite part of the holiday, so that’s where I’ll start.

We got to church early since Emily had to get her costume and practice with the other kids. Her age groups, being the smallest kids, were stars. They sang a Christmas version of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” which was adorable. After they sang, she came to sit with us.

Five is a great age – she was singing along with the Christmas carols she knew and dancing around. It was a lovely service! The highlight for me was near the end when it was time to sing “Silent Night”. Todd had his arm around me while holding Emily and we were all singing. It was so magical!

After church we went home and Emily got to open her Christmas pjs, which is a tradition from when I was a kid. She got into her pjs and we watched some TV until it was time for her to go to bed.

 Todd and I waited a bit before Santa came to make sure she was asleep. She didn’t hear us at all because at 3:30 am, I heard her door open. She excitedly told me that Santa had come! I sleepily told her it was 3:30 in the morning and she had to go back to sleep. Thankfully she didn’t fuss too much and went back to bed.

At about 7 am, we got up and Emily started unwrapping her presents. She was delighted by everything she got and kept saying “Thank You Santa!” We got everything opened; the toys out of their packages and then got the wrapping paper cleaned up. We let Emily play for a little bit before we got dressed and go on the road.

Todd’s grandmother is down in visiting Todd’s aunt who only lives two hours away so we went to spend Christmas Day with them. There were more presents, lots of food and family time. It was a lovely way to spend the afternoon.

We got home at a reasonable hour and Todd went to the movies. I got Emily to bed and I settled in to watch Doctor Who. Todd got home just in time to see 11 regenerate into 12. I didn’t really care for the episode but I’m excited to see the new episodes with 12 next year. Since I had to work this morning, I went to bed once Doctor Who was over.

It was a lovely Christmas! Emily declared it to be The Best Christmas ever – but she does that every year!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas Eve!

Emily's Christmas program
Christmas Eve has always been a magical night to me. When I was a kid, the anticipation was high for Santa to arrive. As I got older, I found the magic in the Christmas Eve church service, especially the years I was in various choirs.

Since Emily was born, we always go to the child friendly service at church. Last year she was a little sad that she didn’t get to sing during the service. This year, she does get to sing since she’s part of the Sunday School choir. She and I are both excited for the service tonight.

Tomorrow will be fun with the presents, family and food, but for tonight we get to bask in the magic of this special night. Even though I know Jesus wasn’t born on this night all those years ago but somehow God always seems closer as we sing carols and learn about our Savior’s birth.

I hope all of you who celebrate have a very Merry Christmas and to everyone else Happy Holidays (or happy Tuesday)!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Rest in Peace Star Kitty

Yesterday I came out into the living room like I always do. Emily was with me since she had just woken up. We were talking and I noticed our oldest wasn’t moving. I nudged him and it was obvious he had passed away.

We adopted Star back in 2005. He was at this really bad shelter in Hendersonville that had rows and rows of cages. He was very sweet so we brought him home. A few years later that shelter closed down because of issues with being cruel to animals.

The shelter had named him Starburst because of a white patch on his head and because they thought he was a girl. But when we took him in to be fixed, the vet told us that she was a he and he was already neutered.

We changed his name to Star since that was a little more manly. He adjusted to being our pet quite well even after we added another cat, Willow, and a baby to the mix. He was always so sweet with Emily even as a baby.

A while ago he started losing weight and having breathing issues. We took him to the vet but the vet couldn’t find anything wrong. He didn’t seem to get worse but he didn’t get better either.

So it wasn’t that surprising that he passed but it was shocking to find him that way. We aren’t sure how old he was but we had him for 8 years. He was a great kitty and he’ll be sorely missed. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Alumni Christmas Party

I have two college degrees. My first one is from Central Michigan and it’s my B.S. in Broadcasting. When the economy was so bad in 2007 / 2008, I went back to school and got a degree in Medical Office Administration from a local college, AB Tech.  I never got to do any alumni activities with Central since I moved to NC and I don’t know about any local chapters. But I’m still in the area so I do alumni things with AB Tech sometimes.

Last Friday was the alumni Christmas party. Emily and I had gone last year and had a great time. So we decided to go again. We took the highway because we live across town from the college. We got stuck in traffic and Emily was very concerned that we were going to miss Santa. Thankfully we made it only a few minutes late.

They had a craft table set up and snacks. Emily started working on crafts while I got us some snacks. She colored some Christmas magnets and had fun using a small paper punch. It wasn’t long after we got there when it was time for Santa to make his grand entrance.

Santa led us in a round of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and then went to sit down to meet the kids. Emily was the first one over there and she happily told Santa about the My Little Pony toy she wanted. She got her candy cane and went back to make crafts.

After a while a friend of mine and her kids came in. Emily went played with her older kids while we were able to catch up a little. The party was winding down so it was time for us to go.

It was a lovely party. Emily’s only complaint was that Santa didn’t read “The Night Before Christmas” like he had last year. Beyond that, we both had a very good time!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

I’m a huge Tolkien fan and have been since I was a kid. I adored the Lord of the Rings movies and I loved the first Hobbit movie. I was able to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug at the midnight premiere and it didn’t disappoint.

Now I’m going to let you know, I’m not a huge fan of The Hobbit as a book. I always preferred Lord of the Rings. I re-read The Hobbit after seeing the first movie, and it is really lacking in some area. Character development is a big one and a lot of things seem rushed near the end.

After the image, there will be both book and movie spoilers.

Image: http://en.wikipedia.org/

Desolation of Smaug was very good. I think what I like best about the Hobbit movies are that they try to give the dwarfs beyond Thorin some character development. Kili gets his own subplot with the new elf character, Tauriel. I like the character of Tauriel a lot but they were a little heavy handed with trying to compare her to Arwen near the end.

Beorn and Bard were awesome to see come to life, as well as the barrel ride. Bomur actually got to shine in that scene. The subtle and not so subtle hints that Thorin is starting to lose it were extremely well done as well.

Smaug was so good and that entire sequence where the dwarves and Bilbo are trying to evade him to get out of the mountain was brilliant. It was just a lot of fun to watch. I was also happy to see more of Gandalf once he left the company. That was one of the biggest things that bugged me about the book is that Gandalf goes off but in the book itself we don’t know what the heck he did.

The only issues I have with the movie is that they built up this whole subplot with Kili being poisoned and Tauriel having to save him. But Kili dies in the book during the Battle of the Five Armies. Annoying enough in the book we don’t see the death, it’s just mentioned that him and Fili had died like an afterthought. It makes me wonder if the movie will let them live.

Beyond that, the movie was great. I was hoping to see Bard against Smaug but the movie ended right before that. I’m very excited to see the 3rd movie next year!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Trimming the Tree!

Yesterday we got our house finally decorated for Christmas. I think this is the latest that we’ve gotten done it but at least the tree is up now.

Emily loves putting the decorations on the tree and was very excited to get started. Unfortunately, none of our lights were working so I had to run to the store to get new lights. Luckily the store wasn’t too crowded and I got in and out pretty fast.

Todd and I strung the lights on the tree. We let Emily start putting ornaments on after that. Todd got her our step stool so she could put some up higher. We thought this might save from the normal clumping that always happens. What happened was she just wanted to put the ornaments on the higher branches instead of the lower ones.

This year we also used some of the breakable ornaments since Emily is older now. We made sure to put them up high enough up so the cats couldn't reach them. One ornament did get smashed. Emily accidentally dropped it. She did feel badly but we made sure to let her know it was an accident.

Once the tree was decorated, we had some supper in the glow of the lights. The tree looks great and it’s nice to have all of our Christmas things up!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Great Tree Hunt

Every year, we try to find the perfect Christmas tree. We get a real tree because it reminds me of my childhood and because it’s a lot harder for the cats to knock over.

When I was younger, we would go to the same tree farm every year. We would stomp through the snow to find the perfect Blue Spruce tree. Usually we would do this on Black Friday instead of engaging in the shopping madness. Once we got the tree home, we always said we were going to wait a day to decorate it. Nearly every year, the tree was decked out by the time that Friday was done with.

We did this every year, including my mom’s last Christmas. It was a lot of fun. Once my mom passed and I moved away, I usually got a fake tree because it was cheaper. Once we moved to North Carolina, we tried to use the fake tree we had but our cats liked to climb the tree. Fake trees don’t hold a lot of weight, so we went back to real trees.

For the last few years, we’ve gone to the same tree stand. Their prices are reasonable and the trees last all season. We went over there yesterday to pick out our tree. It didn’t take too long to find a tree that was blue in color that had a nice shape. We brought it home and Todd got it in the house. Since we have three cats we never decorate the tree on the same day. This is so the cats get a little used to it before we deck it out. I also don’t put my breakable ornaments on the tree because I don’t want them to break. And I have an excess of ornaments anyway.

Our tree hunt is shorter than the ones I did when I was younger. But it’s still fun to go out in the cold and find that perfect Christmas tree.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Image: http://www.thehobbit.com/
Since The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug comes out this week, I thought I'd share my review of the first movie from last year!


I’ve been a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien nearly all my life. One of my earliest memories was my dad reading The Lord of the Rings to me. I would sit on the arm of his old red chair as my father brought to life the story of Frodo and the ring. When I heard that movies were going to be made, I was very excited. While there were parts of the story left out in The Lord of the Rings movies, I loved all three and saw each one several times in the theater.

Peter Jackson did a great job of bringing Middle Earth to life with The Lord of the Rings, so I was psyched to see what he could do with The Hobbit. I saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in 3D, in 48 fps and I was not disappointed.

The movie had stunning visuals. With the 48 fps, it almost felt like I was in the movie. The extra frames per second was a bit jumpy in several parts of the movie. But overall, I could tell the difference with the faster frame rate, which made it even more defined than just normal 3D.

With the 3D visuals, the rolling hills of the Shire were immediately striking. The battle scenes put the viewer right into the action. For example, when the wargs were chasing after the party, there were  close-ups on the warg’s face and it made me it feel as if I was the one being chased up a tree. And when the party is captured by the goblins, I felt like I was also there under the mountain surrounded by the hoards.

The Hobbit is a lighter story and has a great deal of humor in it, unlike LotR. The movie is the same, especially centered around Martin Freeman as Bilbo. His expressions alone caused me to roar with laughter as he tries to deal with the invasion of the Dwarves in his hobbit hole.

There are more laughs in the sequence when everyone is captured by the trolls and Bilbo must talk his way out of being eaten. Even during the riddle game with Gollum, the humor remains. Freeman was a perfect choice for Bilbo.

The last time I read The Hobbit was a while back, so I was a little fuzzy on the details of the story. The movie seemed to be very faithful to the book but there were obviously some scenes added to the movie, such as the Rivendell sequences that included both Galadriel and Saruman. As noted in the appendixes of the LotR stories, Saruman tries to put the breaks on Gandalf’s work. And there’s a short original scene between Galadriel and Gandalf where she supports his decisions and encourages him to continue.

There was quite a bit of foreshadowing of the events that will happen in the LotR trilogy, but it also worked well in the course of this movie.

While the journey represents the physical one that the dwarves, Bilbo and Gandalf take to the Lonely Mountain, we also see Bilbo’s  emotional journey as he finds out who he truly is inside, which is the heart of the story. Even though there are two more movies to go, Bilbo is transformed from a homebody to someone who is willing to risk his own life to save another’s. This is a story of hope and trying to find your way home.

I would highly recommend everyone to see The Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey. It is a wonderful adaption that I think really captures Tolkien’s story. I would also recommend seeing in 3D with the new 48 fps because it makes the movie so amazingly beautiful, even more so than regular 3D.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Emily and The Cats

When we first got our house, both Todd and I got a pet. I got our Star kitty and he got a dog that kept trying to bite us in the face. We took the dog back because he wasn’t a good fit for us. We adopted our second cat, Willow, after we got home from our honeymoon.

I love my cats and I was a little afraid that they would be weirded out once we brought Emily home when she was a baby. They adjusted quickly and all was well. Even when Emily was very small, we taught her to be gentle with the cats.

A few years ago we decided that Emily was old enough that we could get another cat. We picked out a small orange kitten and named him Sam. Even though Emily was good with our other cats, the addition of a kitten was probably a little too early. Sam was young and so is Emily so there was a bit of an adjustment period.

We continue to stress that Emily needs to be nice to the cats. She has gotten scratched before because she tried to do something that wasn’t nice (like pulling on Sam’s tail) and we would patch her up, but not punish Sam at all because he was just defending himself.

She’s pretty good now and likes petting any cats that happen to be in my lap or Todd’s. She knows that our cats are part of our family and that we need to be nice to them.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Fletcher Tree Lighting Ceremony

We live in a fairly small town that is between Hendersonville and Asheville called Fletcher. Not much is here but we do have a park that’s about five minutes from our house. The Fletcher Parks and Rec department does several activities throughout the year, like the Halloween Carnival we went to in October. I got an email a few days ago about a tree lighting they were having and decided to take Emily to it.

The event started at 6 pm so it was already dark out. Earlier that day I had gotten Emily some glow sticks and she had fun waving them around as we walked to the ceremony site. She told me on the way that she wanted to help light the tree and I told her that probably wouldn’t happen.

We had brought some can goods for the drive they were having so we dropped those off first. Then we got some hot cocoa and cookies to munch on while we listened to some kids singing. Once the singing was done, the mayor came up and said a few words.

Then it was time for the tree lighting and they asked for a child to help the mayor light the tree. I told Emily to raise her hand if she wanted to do it. She raised her hand and waved and she got picked! She was brought up on stage and asked her name, and then she helped the mayor turn the tree on.

I was a bit bummed because my flash wasn’t working great on my phone so I didn’t get a picture or video of it. And she was blocked by a pole when she was actually turning the tree on. We did get approached by a reporter asking Emily’s name and age. The only news article I’ve found this morning online doesn’t mention her though.

After the tree was lit, all the kids were invited on stage to hear Twas The Night Before Christmas. The kids were pretty good until they saw Santa arrive behind the stage near the end of the story. Emily got off the stage once the story was done and I got a quick picture of her by the tree she had lit. Then we got in line for Santa.

Emily waited very patiently for Santa, running around a bit but staying close to me. It took a while but finally it was her turn to meet Santa Claus. She went right up to him, sat on his lap and told him that she wanted a My Little Pony toy. She got her candy cane and we head off since the event was winding down.

We both had a good time. Luckily, the rain had held off until later that evening and it was pretty warm out too. Emily told me when we were on the way to the car that she told me that she was going to get to light the tree – and she had been right!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Happy Birthday Walt Disney!

I’ve been in love with all things Disney since I was very young. My favorite stuffed animal was a Winnie the Pooh and all my favorite movies were from Disney. This love was cemented when I was seven years old and got to go to Walt Disney World for the very first time with my parents and younger sister.

I brought that love to the next generation by introducing Emily to Disney shows pretty early on. Our trip this past October was magical so I think she'll be a fan of Disney for years to come.
So I’d like to wish a happy birthday to the man who started the empire. Walt Disney would have been 112 years old today if he hadn’t passed away in 1966, which was 11 years before I was even born. I’m sure I’m not the only Disney fan out there who is thinking about Walt today.
Happy Birthday Walt Disney! I'll be celebrating by going to see Disney's newest movie Frozen with Emily and Todd.

Living Under Blankets

A few months ago there was an article on The Onion about a girl who was going to stay underneath her blanket for the next five months. Since it was The Onion, it of course wasn’t true. But I really do spend my life under blankets.

I’m cold a lot and my husband is warm most of the time. Since it’s easier for me to cover up, we keep our house at a comfortable temperature for him and Emily. Because of this, I spend a lot of time underneath different blankets.

I work from home, so I have a blanket that stays in my office that I have on my lap while I’m working. I also have a space heater in my office because it’s the coldest room in the house. I also have a couple of blankets in the living room. One for the chair and another for the couch so I can have a blanket no matter where I sit. Then, of course, I have several blankets in the bedroom.

I like blankets because they keep me warm. It also gives me a place to keep all my cross stitch things in one place when I’m working on a project. Plus it’s always good to keep our heating bills down.

Emily also loves her blankets – she sleeps with a bunch though most have fallen on the floor by morning. My husband uses blankets least of all of us, but still likes it for the living room in the wintertime.

Blankets are good, especially in the cold of winter!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Uncomfortable Flashbacks

Me at the horror con
Todd and I are big horror fans. We found a horror convention in Charlotte earlier thisyear which had Bruce Campbell as a guest. We had such a good time that we are planning on going again next year. They have started announcing guests so we decided to watch The Lords Of Salem last night because some of the guests are in it.

Rob Zombie movies tend to be hit or miss for me. This one started out okay and had a lot of potential, but the end was really weird and bad. But the movie made me increasingly more uncomfortable to watch as the main character started to see things that weren’t there.

A few years ago, I got very sick. I lost two days that I don’t remember at all. Todd says that I was awake and seeing people that were all white. When I do start remembering, I would see things that weren’t there out of my right side. It was vague shapes and I ended up in the hospital for five days thanks to a mass in my brain.

I recovered, though it took months. Finally I was back to normal but the doctors didn’t know what happened or why I had this mass in my brain. They just knew it wasn’t cancer because it got smaller. It was the most frightening thing that has ever happened to me so I was really uncomfortable watching the character in the movie going through something a little similar.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Christmas Countdown Chain

When I was a kid, every year for Christmas we would make an advent countdown chain. My mom would carefully cut out strips of green and red construction paper to make rings while there was a topper colored by my sister and I for each of our chains.

As we got older, we still made the chains, but we did most of the work ourselves by looping the chains and stapling them together. I hadn’t done the countdown chain with Emily for Christmas yet, but she loved her Disney World countdown chain that I decided to do a Christmas one this year.

I cut out a Star for her top and she decorated it with stickers and crayon. I cut out the rings and looped them together. When it was all done, we hung it up in her room so she can take a ring off each night.

This Christmas countdown chain is a cheap and easy project to do. I bought a pack of construction paper for a couple bucks and just used tape I already had to attach the rings. Emily had a great time with it and was very excited to take off her first link at bedtime.

It was really great to be able to introduce a beloved tradition from my childhood to my daughter.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Happy December!

It’s really hard to believe that it’s already December. I did wish most of the year away counting down to our Disney Trip. But now I’m looking forward to the holidays and the new year to come.

I love Christmas and I’ve been itching to get our house decorated since Thursday. Slowly working on it but we won’t get our tree until later this week because Todd works on weekend.

Emily and I will be making her Christmas countdown chain this afternoon. It’s something we always did when I was a kid and I’m happy to bring this tradition to Emily’s childhood. I got construction paper to make red and green chains. Emily will make a tree or a star for the top.

I hope everyone has a great holiday season this December!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

War of the Seasons Book 2: The Half-Blood – A Fantasy Novel

Image: http://www.ailionora.com
In the second book of the War of the Seasons trilogy, readers are taken back to the magical world of Ailionora.
The Half-Blood takes place a few months after the events in The Human. Story has stayed in Ailionora to be with the love of her life, the elf, Eirnin. But things are tense as the elves prepare for war with the fae. Things get even worse when Eirnin is poisoned which propels Story on a quest to save him.
The Half-Blood is a great sequel that I enjoyed even a little more than the first book, The Human. Story grows as a character as she finds herself between a rock and a hard place as she tries to get an antidote for Eirnin. She even enlists the aid of the Spring Prince, Morrigann. He is, in my opinion, the most interesting character in this book as some of his past comes to light in the story.
I would recommend The Half-Blood to anyone, but especially for people who enjoy fantasy. War of the Seasons Book 2: The Half-Blood is available in paperbackKindle and Nook formats.
Note: I received a copy of this book for review purposes.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Our Thanksgiving

Usually for Thanksgiving, we go down to GA to spend the holiday with my aunt, uncle and cousins. This year, Todd’s grandmother was down visiting his aunt in Charlotte so we went to have Thanksgiving there.

Todd volunteered to make the meal, but he made most of it the day before. When we got up, he was making the potatoes and stuffing. We got on the road and made it to his aunt’s house at about 12:30.

Todd got all the food warmed up and we enjoyed our Thanksgiving dinner while watching the Lions kill Green Bay. I ate way too much but still took Emily to the nearby park to play during half time.

Once the game was over, we packed up and headed home. Emily fell asleep on the way back because she had been running around all day. It was nice to see Todd’s family – it’s been a couple of years since we were up in Michigan and able to see his grandmother.

Todd went to the movies after we got home and I got Emily to bed. I tried to watch some MST3K on Netflix but I was just too tired. I didn’t do a whole lot but the traveling really gets to me lately. It doesn’t help that I have a cold right now.

After his movie, Todd went to hit some sales. He had a movie at Target but the line reached all the way to back of the store to check out. He decided not to wait in that massive line and just came home. He’ll be doing a little more shopping today.

For me, it was a good holiday. I’m working today, but thankfully from the comfort of my own home. After work, I’ll be getting the house ready so we can decorate next week. Todd also works today but his normal shift.

I hope all of you had a good holiday!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Perks of Working From Home

I work from home doing tech support. Even though I sit in my home office, usually in pjs, it’s very similar to the other call center jobs that I’ve worked. I have co-workers that I talk to over a chat program and I have a set schedule.

My boss is very flexible about moving my schedule around if need be. If I get sick during the week, I just work on my day off. If I want the weekend off, I work longer hours during the week. Yesterday was Emily’s preschool Sharing Feast and I got to work a shorter shift to attend.

It was so cute to see her with her friends during the short program beforehand. And we got to eat lunch with some of her friends and their parents, which was nice as well. If I was working another job, it would be harder to take off without using vacation time.

There are some downsides from working from home. But as I watch it snow outside my window, I’m glad that I don’t have a commute and that I can be there for Emily’s school programs. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Snow - Why I Love it and Hate It

Our front yard a few years ago
When I was growing up, snow was the norm for nearly six months. We lived about ten miles from Lake Michigan so we would get lake effect snow. Most years our yard would be white from November until March. I was very happy when I moved down south where the winters are much shorter.

But I have mixed feelings about snow. Before December 25, I love it because it never feels quite like Christmas without a little snow. After Christmas is over, I hate snow because then it becomes cold and annoying.

Snow is in the forecast for tomorrow and I hope we get some. Though this is very early for snow to come down here in North Carolina and I hope it’s not a sign of things to come. Luckily I do work from home so most of the time I can watch the snow without having to go out in it.

Emily always gets excited for snow because she really wants to play in it. The one year we went up to Michigan for Christmas there was no snow on the ground and didn’t really start snowing until we were driving home.

So snow is welcome for now but hopefully winter won’t last too long past Christmas.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The "War" on Christmas

This past weekend was Asheville’s Holiday parade. On the local news’ Facebook page, there is always a ton of posts complaining that the parade is a Holiday parade and not a Christmas parade. I’m a Christian and I celebrate Christmas, but I never understood the whole war on Christmas thing.

There are tons of Christians out there celebrating Christmas every year, but there are lots of other people too that celebrate other winter holidays. I’m not a big fan of trying to push my religion down people’s throats. I’ll talk about it if people want – my former best friend was agnostic and she had a lot of questions about my religion and what I believe. I answered them all honestly, and I think it gave her a lot to think about.

But I like the use of ‘holiday’ because it’s inclusive. I may say Merry Christmas, since that’s what I celebrate, but I wouldn’t mind if someone said Happy Hanukkah or Blessed Yule if that’s what they celebrate. This country is supposed to have a freedom of religion, so lots of people celebrate different things (or in some cases, don’t celebrate at all).

I wish all Christians would try to be more Christ-like and inclusive to people who aren’t just like themselves. I have plenty of non-Christian friends who I care for dearly and I hope all my friends have a great holiday season.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

War of the Seasons Book 1: The Human – A Fantasy Novel

Image - www.ailionora.com
The Human is the first book of the War of the Seasons series byJanine K. Spendlove. This book is an engaging fantasy novel that follows a young girl named Story as she journeys to a strange new world and the quest she embarks on to save it.
I love fantasy books, and the ones that involve someone from our world going to a fantasy world are some of my favorites. I think this may have something to do with the fact that I would love to find myself magically transported to a magical world.
The Human is this type of book as it follows 17 year old Story as she finds herself in the world, Ailionora, after falling in a cave while spelunking. She gets drawn into this strange, new world finding that she is in the middle of an ancient feud that exists between the elves and faeries of Ailionora.
Story is quickly joined by an elf named Eirnin. This book, in part, revolves around the relationship between these two characters as Eirnin helps Story along her way, teaching her about Ailionora as they go.
This is a tale that has many levels. On the onset, it seems like most fantasy novels, but it does have a deeper layer as Story tries to discover who she is, what her strengths are and how to deal with extreme loss. I enjoyed this book immensely.
Note: I received a copy of this book for review purposes.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

How I Became A Whovian

Image - http://en.wikipedia.org
I like fandoms and I have several that I consider myself to be a part of. I’m a Browncoat, which is a fan of Firefly / Serenity / Joss Whedon. I’m part of the Tolkien fandom, especially when a new movie is coming out. And in the last few years, I became a Whovian which is a fan of Doctor Who.

Since today is the Day of the Doctor and the 50th anniversary episode is airing later this afternoon, I thought I’d talk about how I became a Whovian.

When I was small, I remember seeing Doctor Who on TV and thinking that it was strange. I was a geeky child but the British program was a little out there for me. My dad, the major geek in my family, didn’t watch it regularly which is another reason I didn’t get into Doctor Who as a child.

I grew up and several of my friends were really into the new Doctor Who. I’m a little OCD and I like seeing any series from the beginning. With Doctor Who, I put off watching it because I was tempted to start from the 1st Doctor. Several friends convinced me that I just needed to start with Nine, at the point of the New Who reboot.

I started watching it on Netflix, and I found the first few episodes a little cheesy. As Nine’s season progressed, I enjoyed it more but I didn’t really become hooked until Ten came along. Ten is my favorite Doctor but by the time I had gotten to his seasons he had already been replaced by Eleven. It took me a while to get caught up. Partly because I didn’t want Ten’s time to be over, and partly because I wasn’t a big fan of Eleven.

Finally I was all caught up and fully a fan of Doctor Who. Even though Eleven isn’t my favorite character, still enjoyed the show because I liked the companions. I was very excited to hear that Twelve would be replacing Eleven during the Christmas episode.

Even my daughter is a Whovian. I have watched some episodes with her, trying to pick the ones that aren’t too scary. Though she picked the episodes that took place in the Library one day, and I was afraid that they would scare her because it had freaked me out. She thought it was funny and kept walking around the house saying, “Hey, who turned out the light?”

Emily’s favorite Doctor is Ten as well and her favorite companion is Donna. I probably won’t watch the simulcast this afternoon while it’s on, but wait until Emily is up from her nap. That way we can enjoy our Doctor Who fandom together.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Catching Fire Review

Last night, I went to my local theater to see the Hunger Games double feature. The Hunger Games was one of my favorite movies of last year and I love the books. The double feature was fun – it was great to see The Hunger Games on the big screen again. Plus I got to see the new Hobbit trailer twice. After the first movie, some of the theater staff came in and gave us all lanyards which was cool too.

Finally it was time for Catching Fire. The movie was great and I really enjoyed it. But I have some comments that are spoilers – for both the book and the movie. So if you want to read the spoilers scroll down past the movie poster.

Image: http://catchingfiremovie.org

The casting for this movie was really brilliant. I especially thought that Johanna Mason and Finnick were spot on. I wasn’t very happy that Mags was silent. It’s been a while since I read the book but I could have sworn that Mags did talk. It was just really distracting that she was mute.

The only other thing that didn’t seem to make sense to me was the spinning cornucopia. The spinning was fine but the comment that Plutarch Heavensbee makes about the tributes not being able to tell time now didn’t make any sense. The tributes didn’t seem to have any issues telling the time in the arena because the lightening tree didn’t move. It just felt off to me.

Otherwise, it was great, and very true to the books. I’m still curious on how the 3rd film will be because Katniss spends most of that book in the throes of PTSD. I’m sure they will focus a lot on the action stuff that happens later in the book.

All in all, Catching Fire was a great movie. I think I liked The Hunger Games a little better, but that’s probably because I liked the first book better than the 2nd too.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thankgivings As A Child

With the holidays fast approaching, I’ve been thinking back to the holidays I had as a child. I grew up in Holland, MI and most of our family was on the other side of the state in Bay City. While most of my friends would travel to family on Thanksgiving, we would stay at home.

Nearly every year, we would do the same thing. We’d get up and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Usually I was the only one who watched it from beginning to end. My mom, with some help from my dad, would start working on our Thanksgiving feast while the parade was going on.

After Santa made his big entrance, we would turn the channel to football. Lunch was always cheese, crackers and summer sausage. It was enough to keep us from being hungry but not enough to make us too full before dinner.

Usually during the game, my sister and I would get out our room Christmas things and decorate. Though when I was in high school, I started following football so I would watch the game with my parents.

After the game, we’d have our turkey dinner with all the trimmings. We use my mom’s china and drink sparkling cider from wine glasses. We would have apple and pumpkin pie for dessert.

Our Thanksgiving continue on Black Friday. We never went shopping, except at this local craft type store that always had a 50% off coupon. What we did instead of shopping was we would go to cut our Christmas tree.

We had a Christmas Tree farm we went to every year. They would give us a saw and a sled, and we’d all tromp out into the farm to find the perfect tree. Some years it would be really cold and snowy, but there was always hot chocolate at the barn while our tree was measured and wrapped up.

We would spend the rest of the day decorating the house. My mom really loved Christmas so we had a lot of Christmas stuff. The whole house would be decked by the evening and we would always sit down to watch a Christmas movie – usually It’s A Wonderful Life.

This tradition continued pretty much until my mom passed away. She was really sick her last Christmas, but still came out to the Christmas Tree farm with us. My dad, sister and I tried to keep it going after she passed but it wasn’t the same.

Now I have a family of my own and we do our thing for Thanksgiving. But I still have fond memories of my childhood traditions.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

My Ghost Adventures - The Eerie Basement

Image: Amazon.com
I’m a believer – I believe in God but I also believe in ghosts. I’ve had several brushes with the paranormal that have made me a believer. I currently live in a haunted house, but it’s not too scary most of the time. I thought I’d start to document my experiences.

When I was about six years old, my parents bought the house that I spent the rest of my childhood in. It was a nice house with three rooms, one and a half baths and a half-finished basement. In the half of the basement that wasn’t finished was our laundry room and in later years, my dad’s lab. We had a family room and my mom’s office in the finished half.

The basement creeped me out! From the time we moved in until the time I last visited before my dad sold the house. The finished part was ok, but I never liked going into the back part where the laundry stuff was. It just had a creepy vibe that I didn’t like.

I never experienced more than the strange vibe in the basement so I’m not sure if it was haunted at all. I’ve had some more concrete experiences in other places. But this started my fascination with ghosts and hauntings, though it would freak me out to think about it.

The only strange that that really ever happened down there was that a few years after we moved in. In the basement, I found a Choose Your Own Adventure book titled The Haunted House. I loved the Choose Your Own Adventure books but that wasn't one of the books I owned.

My parents couldn't explain where it came from but it soon became one of my favorite books. The next spooky experience didn't happen to me until I got to college.

Up Next - Help Me!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

All About Grandmas – A Children’s Book

Image: http://us.penguingroup.com
My daughter is five years old and like many kids, she has two grandmas. Both of her grandmas are very different, but they are both the same in the fact that love their grandchildren. In the new children’s book,All About Grandmas by Roni Schotter, all kinds of grandmas are shown doing all kinds of different things.
As a parent, I really liked this book because it not only showed that a grandma can have different jobs and different hobbies, but that grandmas aren’t perfect either. It’s written in a way, with great illustrations by Janice Nadeau, that small children can get the message. It’s great to see see a book that shows more than the stereotypical grandma that is shown in popular culture.
All About Grandmas is recommended for ages three to five. I would recommend this book for any kid who has a grandma, especially if their grandma doesn’t fit in the stereotypical grandma mold.
Note: I received a copy of this book for review purposes.