Archives for category: Life Love and Puppies
barbie-careers
Okay, so this is my rant for the day…
People have been ragging on Barbie since I can remember for all kinds of thing. People are acting like it’s news that she’s not anatomically proportional, but I’ve got news for you: I learned that as a kid. And now, people are protesting and petitioning the Girl Scouts to end their partnership with Barbie/Matel because of unrealistic body image issues.
I’m sorry, but enough is enough.
Have you SEEEEEEEEN the other dolls out there? If you haven’t, go image search Bratz, Monster High, Fairy Tale High, or any of the others and tell me how they’re anatomically correct. (Not to mention some of the scandalous outfits and completely anti-girl-power messages I’ve seen on some of the boxes.)
And yes, as a girl was it a sad day when I realized I would never grow Barbie’s Class A rack? Lol, sure, but if it wasn’t Barbie it would have been something else. I hit puberty in the 90s – The Land of Silicone. While I realize that some girls do get some body image issues from Barbie, I would argue that with everything else out there, a lot of those girls were probably going to get those issues anyway. The point is that they GET OVER them. Get stronger. And move on.
Which brings me to the last point of my little rant. Barbie taught me to be strong and do what I want with my life. Sure, every year you’re going to get the newest Swimsuit Barbie out, and sure, some of them are only there to fill cross-promotions with things like Spongebob or Troll dolls (back in the day), but Barbie also does a TON of other things. Growing up I watched Barbie be a teacher, lawyer, equestrian, paratrooper, ambassador, firefighter, astronaut, chef, photographer, politician, screenwriter, cheerleader, and of course, princess. She did all kinds of amazing jobs that weren’t just “girl jobs” and taught me that I could be those things, too. When I wanted to be a zoologist, I remember seeing Barbie be one. Now that I’m working on becoming a published author, I can think back on those days I played with Barbie and two dozen of her friends with my sister and our friend A.J. Just ask Rachel – we did NOT play normal games. Barbie to Ken ration in our house was like 5 to 1, so Ken usually played twins or triplets, with all sorts of awkward misunderstandings in between. There were earthquakes, floods, relationship dramas, friendships, and (my favorite) bridges going out and leaving the hot pink limo suspended so that everyone had to climb across the car to safety. (Not everyone made it on those times. We had many casualties!) Looking back now I can safely say that some of my best training for creativity that has lasted into adulthood was not just the books my mom was constantly buying for us, but sitting secluded in our shared room, working out amazing (if completely unrealistic and drama-filled) stories for our Barbies to go through. While I have no problem with the desire for the existence of a more realistic-looking doll, I don’t think that pressuring the Girl Scouts into NOT joining with Barbie to yes, cross promote, but also encourage girls into a completely worthwhile organization is the way to fix anything. (And yes, I was a Girl Scout, too. All the way up to 4th grade.)
Thus concludes my rant. Thank you for your time 🙂
barbie

 

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So I’ve been thinking about this on and off for a little while now, and then I had a conversation a few weeks ago that made it stick in my mind even more.

If you know me, you know that I’m quite the Pinterest frequenter, and of course I pin book things all the time.  Well, one of the things that pops up in my feed is bookcase pictures.  Some are cut into really neat shapes or painted in cool ways, but all too often I get pictures like this:

bookcase 1

Neat, right?  Behind the stuff on your shelf, you can see a map of the world painted.  Well, sure, if you only own a couple dozen books.  But my bookshelves look more like this:

IMG_3904You know what you can see behind my other books?  MORE BOOKS!!!  Yeah, I don’t really have enough space for you to see a cool design back there or a bright splash of color…

(P.S. Click on any of the pictures – that aren’t of my bookcases – to get to the seller or, in the case of the next pic, the blog it comes from!!)

And that brings me to the next picture…

bookcase 2

Again, pretty color, and again, not that many books.  A lot of the pictures that pop up through Pinterest are like this, too.  They show you really cool ways to organize and decorate a book case.  I mean, look at all the cool picture frames and nicknacks and sculpture pieces and organizing baskets that Kate @ Centsational Girl girl did!  She’s got a knack for finding great deals and putting them together in creative ways to make awesome stuff.

And I’ve seen a ton of posts about what shelf should house which nicknacks, which one for picture frames, and which one for books.  Which ONE for books???

Um, here’s my bookcase with nicknacks and picture frames…

IMG_3906They’re all tossed together up there on the top shelf, while everything else is stuffed full of books!  Again, if you look closely, you can see the second row behind the first on each of the shelves, and if you look not too closely you can see the books I don’t have room for stacked on top of the others!

As far as organization?  MOST of the books up front are the ones I haven’t read yet (with maybe 4 or 5 exceptions).  The ones at the back are the ones I’ve already read, but might want to reread or loan out.

Or how about this shelf?

IMG_39091. This used to be a microwave stand

2. The bottom door broke off so I ghetto-rigged it…

3. Organization goes as follows:  Books to the left of Lovecraft are ones that need to be loaned the next time I see the person they’re intended for.  Books from Lovecraft right are ones I haven’t read yet.  All those books you see on top?  Yeah, those are all the ones that other people have loaned me that I need to read and get back to them.  (That stack plus my loaners are missing some because they’re sitting on my table in a bag, waiting to go to Anne tomorrow!  Hi Anne!!!)

Oh, and behind the dark curtain of a door lie the books that I disliked SOOOO much that they’re going back to Half Price.  They stay hidden until I get a big enough stack 🙂

And then there are the bookends.  I LOVE bookends!  They’re so nifty and inventive!  Just check these bad boys out!!!

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But again, what would I do with those?  Bookends are made for people with a few books siting on a decorative wall shelf.  Not for me.

OR for people that want just a few books sitting in the middle of one shelf of a bookcase.  And I think we’ve established by now that that’s not me either.

IMG_3910Which brings me to my last bookshelf.  Yes, there ARE some DVDs taking up one whole shelf in there, GASP!  And candles, puppy pic, piggy banks, a pen jar…  But this shelf has ABSOLUTELY no organization beyond that!  When I was discussing bookshelves with my friends they were all lamenting that they wouldn’t know what to put on a bookshelf, because they didn’t know what books would be pretty enough to display.   Um…display?  Believe it or not, I did mini-tidyups on all 4 of these bookshelves before snapping pics of them!  To me, a bookshelf should be a display of all the things you love to read (that you didn’t download onto an ereader).  And if you want pretty books, buy hardcovers and take the slipcovers off.  But really, when you read/buy/trade/borrow/write as many books as I do…ain’t nobody got time for that!!

So what do you guys do?  Are your bookcases all nice and pretty?  Do you have just a dozen or so books, sparsely placed among nicknacks and artwork?  Or are you like me, and constantly running out of space on your shelves and begging for more??? (My husband is building me another one, by the way, I just don’t know where to put it!!)

Let me know your thoughts in the comments down below!!

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When my family moved from our home in base housing in Nebraska to a tiny, old town on the edge of the Texas/Oklahoma border, I was not the happiest kid.  Though military family are known for for their constant moves across the country and even across the world, my family had lived in the yellow duplex for over four years, and moving from a place of vibrant seasons and ridiculous snowfalls to a place of pale greens and browns and ice storms was not my ideal.  But over the years, I’ve definitely changed my mind, and I love to call the South my home.yes4

There are any number of reasons I can list for you as to why I love the south.  Southern cooking, warmer winters (usually), Southern hospitality (which can also border on nosiness), and believe it or not, I even love the hot, humid summers! (As long as you have A/C to retreat into!)

But the other day I was reminded of something else I love about living in Texas: Southern black women.  More specifically, older Southern black women.  Here’s what happened:

We’d made a stop at B&N for Black Friday to pick up The 5th Wave (for less than $10!!) and I had to run and make a bathroom stop.  While taking care of business, I heard the following conversation between and younger woman (whom I never actually saw) and an awesome older black woman (who I did see upon leaving):

Young Woman(sounding very flustered): Oh!  I’m sorry!  So sorry!

Awesome Older Black Woman: That’s all right, sweetie!

YW: I’m sorry, I just needed to come in here to check myself.  I’m really nervous!

AOBW(sympathetically):Why?

YW(sounding terrified): It’s my first date, and I’m really nervous about it!

AOBW: Oh, honey, don’t be nervous!  You look great!

YW(a little more relieved):  Thanks.  It’s just…it’s my first date…ever.  This is the first date I’ve ever been on I’m really scared about it!

AOBW(amazed): Don’t be scared!  You’re gonna do great!

YW(reapeatedly): Thank you, thank you…

AOBW: There ain’t nothing to be worried about honey!  You look good and you’re going to have a great time!  Don’t worry about a thing, baby!

YW(sounding much more confident than when she entered):Thank you so much!  Seriously. Thank you.

By the time I got out to wash my hands, Date Girl was already gone and the AOBW was there, smiling away at me.  I won’t lie, I had a little bit of tears in my eyes.  And yes, I do tear up at the most minute of things sometimes (you do NOT want to see me watching the end of Meet the Robinsons or Lilo & Stitch!), but really this little act of kindness made my Black Friday a little brighter and sweeter, even though this didn’t happen to me.  I left saying a small prayer for that poor nervous girl luck, that her first date ever might go better than most, even if nothing ever comes of it.  I’ll never know her name or what she looked like, but I hope everything went okay for her.

One day, about ten years ago, this AOBW that I worked with at the mall, suggested the radical idea to me that maybe I didn’t have to focus just on Biology as a major, and that since I had an interest in writing, I should probably pursue that, too.  Now at the time, I was thinking more along the lines of Journalism – I didn’t think I had the creative skill or dedication to do fictional writing.  Now here I am, working out the story for my 3rd (unpublished) novel, shopping for agents for the first, and waiting on the 2nd to finish marinating in its first-draftiness so that I can pull it back out and work on the next round.  I volunteer with the local library’s Night Owls Teen Writing Group, helping teenagers to explore the joy of creative writing, and really learning scads from them on how not to put limits on your own creativity, that when you get a “create your own fictional religion” assignment, it’s much more fun to think up an epic, heavenly battle between the Waffle God and the rebellious Pancakes than the idea I came up with.

Whenever I think of that AOBW I worked with, who helped set me on the right path more than she will ever know, I say a little prayer for her, too.  Like so many coworkers of days gone by, I cannot remember her name, but I’m grateful to her and her Southern Hospitality, and that little bit of pushiness to convince me to get over my own insecurities and just enjoys things instead.  So to all the Awesome, Older, Southern Black Women out there, I say you rock, and God bless 🙂

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halloween 2So for those of you who don’t know, Halloween is my absolute favorite holiday! 🙂  You get to have candy, dress in costume, embrace the scary, and you can almost NEVER overdo the decorations!  So, in honor of Halloween this year, I decided to assign my teen writing group a scary prompt last week, to write on something that scared them as a child and turn it into a story that would scare someone now.  So, like always, I accepted their same writing challenge and, like always, I didn’t finish it in the 30 minute time slot so I decided to finish it yesterday instead!  After all, what could be more fitting that writing a scary story on Halloween!

halloweenSo, here, for your reading pleasure, and for all those of you that helped provide name suggestions (Thanks!) I present to you…

The Night Monster

    The girls opened the backdoor and raced into the night.  Squeals of laughter and delight rang out through the warm July air as they scrambled onto the trampoline and began to bounce.  Syd’s mother stuck her head out the door, reminding them to keep the noise level down.  At two o’clock in the morning, the neighbors wouldn’t care that it was Sydney’s birthday.  The girls all echoed their consent and Syd’s mother headed to bed.
They chatted away in exuberant whispers, gossiping about boys, clothes, and pop stars as the sound of squeaking springs drowned out the nighttime country noises.
Syd felt like she lived on the borderline between small-town Southern families and backwoods hillbillies like the weird old man that lived across the street.  A swath of trees divided her backyard from the neighbors behind, and a full-on forest ran up to the back of weird, old Mr. Crawley’s place.  Three neighbors on the left, and a half-a-bock of blacktop before you hit the nearest neighbor on the right.  It was the perfect balance of connected and alone to allow for amazing summer adventures.
After a while, the girls grew tired of jumping and breathless they flopped down onto the bouncy black mat, staring up at a million stars overhead.
“Who wants to hear a scary story?” asked Syd, wiggling her fingers manically.
“Nooooo,” groaned Tammy, covering her face.  “I’ll have nightmares for weeks!”
“Meh,” said Emma.  “You’ll get over it.”  The other girls laughed, egging Syd on to spin her spooky tale.
“It was a dark and stormy night,” Syd intoned, making everyone but Tammy giggle.  “Sam was out driving with his girlfriend…Tammy.”  Tammy hit Syd in the arm.  “Just kidding.  Her name was Anna.  And her and Sam were listening to the radio when the announcer came on, warning everyone about a mysterious killer.”
“And he has a hook for a hand.  We’ve heard that one before,” whined Alana.
“Shut up, jerk face, this one is different,” Syd rebuked.  “Now, where was I?”
“Scary radio killer,” offered Emma.
“Right!  So, the guy on the radio said to be on the look out for this escaped criminal guy, Three-Fingered Woolley.”
Alana snorted.  “That’s a dumb name.”
“So’s Alana.  Anyway, Anna started getting all scared and freaked out because the killer was supposed to be in the area they were driving through.  Sam told her not to worry, but Anna kept freaking out.”
“What was that?” Tammy exclaimed.  Syd laughed.
“Yeah, like that.”
“No,” Tammy said, “I’m serious!  I heard something!”
Clara gave an evil laugh.  “It’s a vampire out to suck your blood!”
Syd felt a little bad.  Tammy had a notorious skittish streak that you couldn’t help but take advantage of.  Though at times she did wonder if they went too far.  Emma urged her to keep going, so she shook off the feeling and continued with the story.  “So, there they were, driving down the road with Anna going on and on bugging Sam to change directions, but Sam wouldn’t listen.  There was a little diner overlooking the city where he had plans to propose that night, and he couldn’t very well leave them with his engagement ring baked into the croissant, now could he?”
“Aw, how romantic,” Emma gushed.
Alana rolled her eyes.     “It’s a scary story, Em.  I don’t think they’re going to be living happily ever after.”
“Anyway,” said Syd, “Sam wouldn’t turn the car around and Anna kept getting madder and madder the further they drove into the woods.  She stared out the window, watching the trees race by, when all of a sudden—”
“Did you see that?” Tammy exclaimed, sitting up.
Syd sighed and tried not to lose her patience.  “Tammy, if you want to tell the story, be my guest.”
Tammy turned.  “What?  No, I really did see something.”
“It was probably a raccoon or something,” Emma said, waving her off.  “Don’t worry about it.”
“It was red,” Tammy insisted, but none of the other girls listened.  She glanced around at them and then lay back down.  Syd felt a twinge of guilt for getting her so worked up, but continued with the story anyway.
“So Anna was all terrified, convinced she’d seen something out in the woods.  Sam told her not to worry about it and kept on driving until they reached the rickety old bridge that led to the diner.  Sam had to slow the car way down in order to cross over the bridge without making it collapse.  The car started over, the boards underneath creaking and moaning as he went.  It made Anna nervous to watch the bridge, so instead she looked out the back window.”
“Guys.  What.  Is.  That?”  Emma sat up on her knees and pointed out into the darkness.
“See?  I told you I saw something!” Tammy said, scrambling up for a look.  Syd sighed and closed her eyes.  These people had no respect for the narrative flow.
“What are we looking at?” she asked, taking a spot with Alana beside the other girls.  Emma pointed out to where the end of the chain-link fence met the back corner of the house.
“Right there.  Do you see it?”  Emma asked.  Tammy whimpered and clutched on to Syd.
Syd squinted into the darkness.  “It’s probably just a branch or a rake or something,” she said, prying Tammy off of her.  Alana shook her head.
“I don’t know, it does kind of look like a person from here,” she whispered.
“What?”  Syd squinted and tilted her head.  “How do you get that?”
“I think it is somebody.  Look, he looks like he’s wearing a baseball cap and keeping his head down,” Emma said, pointing out the details like a cloud-watcher trying to pick out fluffy shapes in the sky.  Only in this case the sky was dark and the fluffy clouds were possibly a creepy figure in a baseball cap.
“What if it’s your creepy neighbor that likes walking outside in his underwear?” Tammy pleaded.  The thought had crossed Syd’s mind, but she didn’t say so out loud.
Alana shook her head.  “This is ridiculous.”  She cupped her hands to her mouth.  “Hey!  If you’re a creepy old creeper you might as well go back home!  Weirdo!”  Emma giggled and Syd punched Alana in the arm.
“Be quiet!  You’ll wake up my mom!” she laughed.  The girls all turned to the door, waiting for Mrs. Guindon to appear and chastise them, but the door remained shut.
“Look,” said Alana, “whatever that thing is hasn’t moved yet, so it’s obviously not alive.  Let’s just leave it alone and get back to Sam’s tragic death.”
“Thank you,” Syd said, flopping back down and making them all bounce.  She had just opened her mouth when the sound of something skittering through the grass made the girls all shriek and jump up.
“What was that?” Emma screeched, ignoring all semblance of whispering.
“I don’t know,” Syd said as she scanned the area, looking for movement.
“Could it be a cat?” Alana asked, looking scared for the first time.
Syd shook her head.  “The cats stay out of our yard.  They’re still afraid Lola’s gonna come out and get them.”  Syd’s big mutt of a dog had vanished two months ago.  It still made her sad to think about, but right now it made her nervous.  What if Lola hadn’t just run away?
Another scrambling noise made the girls jump and scream, sending the trampoline bouncing.  Syd caught her breath and looked around.  She might not be able to tell her scary story, but she could still have fun.
“Seriously, guys, I think that thing might be weirdo Mr. Crawley,” she said, looking back towards the house.  The others followed her gaze.  “What if he’s just standing there, waiting on us to go back inside?”
Tammy’s breath came fast and quick.  “But what was that in the grass, then?  The thing by the house hasn’t moved and there was definitely something out here,” she said, motioning around them.
“Well maybe we just didn’t see it,” Alana suggested.  Despite themselves, the girls all looked around, straining their eyes in the moonlight.
“What if it went underneath us?” Syd suggested, grinning to herself has all eyes dropped, down to their feet, as if they could see through the trampoline mat in the darkness.
“Nobody move,” Emma said, watching her own feet.  “If something’s under there I don’t want to land on it.”
No one dared to breathe.  Watching the others’ face, Syd gave her knees a good jerk, sending everyone bouncing.  She couldn’t control her laughter as they all shrieked and panicked.
“That was not funny!” Tammy yelled, her eyes wide with fear.
Syd threw her hands in the air.  “I couldn’t resist,” she said with a huge grin.  Alana rolled her eyes.
“Okay, but that still doesn’t explain the thing by the fence!” Emma insisted, moving next to Tammy.
“It’s probably just a tree or something,” Syd insisted.  “No big deal.”
“Sydney,” Alana said, “do you even have a tree over there?”  Everyone froze as they all waited for Syd to respond.
“Well…not that I can remember,” she said after a minute.  Tammy paled and grabbed onto Emma for support.  Emma hugged her while Alana just folded her arms.
“Well I think that since it’s your house you should be the one to go out there and check on it.  Find out what it is.”
“What?”  Syd looked to the other for some backup, but after her last scare maneuver, she could see that she wouldn’t get any.
Alana motioned towards the house.  “We’re waiting Miss Guindon.”
Syd sighed and headed for the edge of the trampoline.  Gripping the edge, she stuck one foot over the side.  “OW!” she screamed, falling flat to the mat.
“What’s wrong?” Alana yelled as the other girls gasped and jumped back.  Syd turned her head.
“Nothing,” she said, smiling from ear-to-ear.  “But it’s nice to know you guys are so ready to help me if some big monster was trying to eat my leg,” she said, indicating Alana’s outstretched hand two feet away.
“Hey, I would have helped you!” she protested as the other two grumbled.
“From all the way over there?” Syd laughed, jumping off the trampoline.
“You’re a horrible monster, Sydney Guindon!” Alana yelled after her.
“Back at cha!” Syd called as she jogged towards the fence.  The closer she got, though, the slower her steps became.  She’d never have admitted this back on the trampoline, but the thought of Mr. Crawley or anyone else hanging out in this corner sent shivers down her spine.  Besides, didn’t the person that went to investigate the strange things in scary movies always die?
“What’s wrong?  Scared?” Emma mocked from across the yard.  Syd almost turned around to stick her tongue out, but knew if she turned back now she’d run straight to the trampoline and wuss out and never hear the end of it.  Besides, no way would she turn her back on the potential serial killer lurking by her house.  People died that way in scary movies, too.
A light breeze blew through the trees and the shape in front of her moved.  Syd’s feet locked in place and refused to go any further.  Her heartbeat sounded in her ears and her mouth tasted like copper.  She took a shaky breath.
Syd leaned forward and squinted.  The wind moved again, ruffling the figure and changing its shape.  Syd smiled and relaxed her shoulders.  She’d gotten so scared over nothing.
“I told you it was just a tree!” she shouted over her shoulder, the now-familiar leaves dancing before her in the breeze.  “A squirrel just buried a nut here that he forgot to dig up.  Probably got hit by a car or something!”  She turned around, grinning once again as the girls on the trampoline all relaxed and returned her smile.  She shook her head and started back when a flicker caught her eye.  She stopped and squinted at the trampoline.
“Come on, Syd!” her friends called.  “Get back up here!”
Before Syd could make a sound, she saw a pair of giant, glowing red eyes opening up beneath the trampoline’s thin black mat.  A black tail the size of her arm flicked in the shadows, and as the creature yawned and stretched, rows of razor-sharp teeth glinted in the moonlight.
“What are you waiting for?”  Alana yelled from across the yard.  “Let’s get our bounce on!” she said, motioning for Syd to join her.
The girls all leapt into the air, and as Syd watched in horror, the creature waiting beneath them turned its eyes upwards and smiled.

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So there it is!  Hoped you enjoyed it!  Only 364 more days until next Halloween!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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So this past weekend my husband and I celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary by traveling down to Austin for the Texas Book Festival.   It’s a free event held every year down at the capitol (like, IN the capitol building), but unlike the Teen Book Festival, it covers everything from cooking to memoir to fantasy to history.  Of course, I was only there for the Young Adult authors, but still 🙂  And I have to say it was an interesting experience getting to sit in say the House Chamber and listen to R.L. freaking Stine talk and read a scary story.  I mean come on!

It was amazing! 🙂 🙂

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So, first off let’s talk about the goodies!!!

Here’s my array of free things I picked up this weekend…

IMG_3852 IMG_3860So the poster, of course, was from the Neal Shusterman signing, and this is my favorite series EVER, so of course I had to pick this one 🙂  (and yes, that is his signature there on the left!)

Also, I got stickers and a bookmark from Kami Garcia, bookmarks from Aprilynne Pike, Jessica Khoury, postcards, and yes, even TWO free books and a free sampler book from Penguin!!!  How freaking awesome is that?!?

IMG_3854Next we’re on to the new books I picked up.  Of course, I had to get Unsouled, the brand, spanking new one from Neal Shusterman and Scorpion Shards which is one of the few books of his I haven’t read yet.  And Beautiful Chaos, the next one I needed to own in the Caster series.

Now, you wanna see all the books I got signed???

IMG_3858BAM!  Yes, there are 6 books from Neal Shusterman (My idol!  Plus he signed each in a different color and put a unique message in each one!)  Then we have two from Kami Garcia, Defy the Dark which is the collection of short stories that I just won from Epic Reads about two weeks ago (woohoo!!!  Plus Aprilynne Pike signed her story she wrote!) and last, but certainly not least, we have Switched by R.L. Stine who happened to mention that it was one of his favorite books he’d ever written and he seemed really pleased that that book was the one I chose to have signed 🙂

Also, Neal acted excited when I showed him the upside-down “e” or schwa symbol on the back of my shirt and the Skinjackers reference, too!

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Want to see some pics of the authors??? Great!

R.L. Stine!!!

R.L. Stine!!!

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Me and Kami Garcia

Me and Kami Garcia

Me and Neal Shusterman!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Me and Neal Shusterman!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And then, to top it all off, Saturday night we got to go listen to R.L. Stine telling ghost stories, in the dark, in a graveyard….WHAT?!?!  My husband said, “Now you can cross this off your bucket list!”  Um, I don’t know of a world in which I would have fathomed that would happen!!!!  But yes, it’s checked off now!  (Sorry there are no pics from that, after all, though, it was in the dark!)

So that’s about it!  I do have a new list of books to add to my “wish list”, including:

Wings by Aprilynne Pike, Entangled by Amy Rose Capetta, Doomed by Tracy Deebs, All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin (Who I apparently had a short by story in ANOTHER book that I didn’t figure out until too late.  Dang!), and Origin by Jessica Khoury.  Good thing Christmas is coming!

And, in closing, here are some random pics from my trip!

Penguin bus!!

Penguin bus!!

HEB cart that you can drive from the kiddie seat!

HEB cart that you can drive from the kiddie seat!

How cute is that??? Get it?  Smarties for smart girls??? :)

How cute is that??? Get it? Smarties for smart girls??? 🙂

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Bats at the Congress Street bridge

Bats at the Congress Street bridge

For my momma who's a teacher!

For my momma who’s a teacher!

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Inside the capitol

Inside the capitol

Me and the hubby!  Waiting (I think) for R.L. Stine

Me and the hubby! Waiting (I think) for R.L. Stine

These are from the Austin Zoo.  It’s a non-profit that only takes in rescued animals.  You should check it out if you’re in the area!

He really wanted that ball, but it was stuck in the water.  He apparently did NOT want to get wet...


He really wanted that ball, but it was stuck in the water. He apparently did NOT want to get wet…

This jaguar appeared to be almost blind.  Sad day :(

This jaguar appeared to be almost blind. Sad day 😦

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So my week this week has been a mixed bag to say the least.  First of all, let’s start with the FAIL…

My big dog, Dyson, hates the bath and just pouts in it the whole time.  Little Lizzie B (who’s hit 50 lbs!!!!) on the other hand bites at the shower, and apparently fights her bathwater now.  So it was so hilarious I decided to take a video…if only I’d had my glasses on then maybe I’d have noticed sooner that Lizzie’s toenails were taking off the badly done bathtub refinishing, which we will now have to repair.  The video’s still hilarious, though…

Then onto the success!  We had a potluck at church and I wanted to make these Monster Eye Cookies I found on Pinterest.  Except the blogger used a different recipe so her cookies cracked and looked creepy, where as mine came out all smooth.  Also, my eyeballs weren’t sticking, so I made a “paste” using powdered sugar and water and dyed it red.  Then I painted “paste” on with a paintbrush and added veins. I think they came out pretty cool:

IMAG2203My kids in my primary class loved them at least.   So then, there was the Frankenstein cake.  The successful failure….

I’d seen a few different examples of how to do this cake online, so I figured I’d have myself a go at it.  Here’s the initial result:

IMAG2205Pretty decent, right?  Nice hair, solid nose, some stitches….  I used my cookie gun’s frosting attachments, though one trigger squeeze did run out on the smile, so that’s where the little mess-up came in there.   But all in all I thought it was pretty good.  But then there was the car ride to church….

IMAG2206Apparently the cake frosting hadn’t quite cooled yet.  But you know what?  That’s okay, because I almost like this one better!  In fact, that seems to be the general consensus from my Facebook friends.  Everyone likes this one better.  So yeah for Halloween and for things that aren’t supposed to look perfect!

 

That’s right, this is my 100th post!  And yes, I feel like I’m still learning this whole thing, and no, I haven’t blown up viewers (yet), but I’m okay with that because……

TwitterThat’s right!  Can you see that there?  That’s MY NAME in the middle of the Tea Time winners for yesterday’s broadcast!!!  AND they read one of my tweets out loud on the show!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I know, I know, I get excited about random things, but again, I’m okay with that 🙂

Besides, who doesn’t get excited about free books???

Anyway, my post today isn’t really so much about that, it’s about FOOD!  Yummy, yummy food :9  But I had to share my geeky news first! 🙂

Okay, so Netflix added two more seasons of Cake Boss that I hadn’t seen yet, and I may or may not have watched them all in a week…  For they record they are great to watch while crafting in front of the TV because you don’t have to watch every single second and they put you in the creative mood.

Anyway, sure enough by the time I finished my craft project I was ready to try something new with baking.  But not just any old thing, no this needed to be something cool that took some work.  So I remembered that over two years ago while playing Bigger, Better, Best with my Singles’ Ward at church I had ended up with this bad boy:

IMG_3734Only thing is, while the press was brand new, it did not actually come with directions.  Nor did it come with a sample recipe, and I had no idea what type of cookies went into a cookie press.  So of course, I hit the interwebs, and came up with this:

Taadaaaaaa!  So now, I not only had a visual on how to use the press, but a link in the description led me to the recipe I used.   (She said she’d tried a couple, but that her husband liked this one the best) Now I did try searching for other recipes, and came across a Martha Stewart one that looked possibly simple, but the comments underneath were either “This is amazing!  Use it all the time!” or people that couldn’t get it to work AT ALL or had to tweak it several times.  Now, I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be more confident that things are going to work right the first time, without the tweaking.  And here’s why:

After making a half dozen cookies, I was already frustrated.  The dough kept building up pressure inside the press, and trying to pop the end off.  Also, the dough wasn’t coming out very easily at all.  Turns out I had two problems: 1. I needed to turn the shaped tip around so that the curved edges of the shape faced the dough, and the flat side faced out.  THEN I realized that my dough had come out much too thick.  Now, this could either be from the recipe or from me not getting the butter warm enough before blending.  Either way, i wasn’t going to start over, so instead I just kept adding tablespoons of margarine until I got the dough to the right consistency.   (I think I added about 3 or 4 tablespoons by the end of it.)  After that, my dough matched the one in the video.  So, if you try this recipe and have the same problem, try margarine!*

SPRITZ COOKIES

(From http://kusinanimanang.blogspot.com/2010/02/butter-spritz-cookies.html)

 

Ingredients:
2-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salst
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1-1/3 cups confectioners sugar
2 egg yolks
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 400 deg F. Sift together the flour and salt; set aside.
Cream together the softened butter and sugar. Mix in egg yolks, almond and vanilla extracts. Blend in dry ingredients. Fill cookie press and shoot cookies 1.5″ apart on ungreased aluminum non-insulated cookie sheet. You may decorate with sprinkles or sugar before baking.
Bake 6-8 minutes until slightly golden brown at the edges.

IMAG2194 IMAG2195Now you can leave them plain, or add sprinkles to them before they cook.  I also added cinnamon to some of mine, and they came out yummy! (I also tried the Cinnamon Sugar as well, but those didn’t come out as good.  Use the regular cinnamon to get the full effect!)

IMAG2193Also, when I first started, I had to squeeze the press’s trigger twice to get the dough to come out all the way and stick to the pan.  It works, but it will change the shape of your cookies (obviously).  It’s just up to you how much you care about that.

IMAG2198Also, after tasting these bad boys, I decided they would be GREAT dipped in some chocolate (Which, okay, might have been a Cake Boss side effect as well…)  Well, I was right!  They were scrumptious!  The only problem was, the hubby had used all of my almond bark for making molds of chess pieces.  (Married to an engineer.  Don’t ask.)  So I melted chocolate chips to use instead, which tasted great but never fully dried.  Hubby didn’t care, but it would make delivering these to people fairly hard…

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I don’t know about you, but I think these came out lovely!  And they remind me of Christmas, when my mom would buy that classic blue tin of butter cookies and they’d disappear in about a day.  Mmmmmm…..  Guess who’s making homemade ones for Christmas this year?!?

IMAG2199

*Margarine has a tendency to make cookies spread out more.  I wouldn’t use it for the whole recipe, or you’ll lose the taste of the butter in the butter cookies.  I’d only use it to smooth up the dough, and only as needed.

Yes, I know I’m terrible at this. I really should have been posting this a week ago, but oh well.  Better late than never, right???

So since we go there a bit late we missed Maggie Stiefvater’s opening remarks, though I have to say, I just finished reading Shiver and I loved it!  So instead we hit some of the swag tables (which you already saw my haul from) and then headed up to the INTO HEARTS OF DARKNESS panel that included Holly Black, Jon Skovron, Mari Mancusi, Robin Wasserman, April Genevieve Tucholki, and Victoria Scott as the moderator.  First off, let me say that since Holly and Robin were the only two whose books I’d read beforehand I was a little geeked out that the two of them are writing buddies and friends outside of the Festival universe 😛  (It’s like when a beloved TV show ends and one of the actors lands on a new show, and then brings on one of their old castmates for a cameo.  LOVE. IT.) Also, sorry if my pictures aren’t that great.  I was decently far back in this one…

IMAG2163

Left to right: Victoria Scott, Mari Mancusi, April Genevieve Tucholki, Jon Skovron, Robin Wasserman, Holly Black

It’s always interesting to listen to authors talk about how they came up with their story ideas (at least it is to me, since I find mine come from the most RANDOM places…).  Like that Robin Wasserman wanted to have a town where everyone goes crazy, but imagine you’re trapped inside…  Or that Holly Black has had a life-long obsession with vampires, and a mother that used to warn her not to astral project as a child (no wonder she comes up with such random, but amazing stuff!)   Also love finding out things like that Mari Mancusi is a Texas girl (woohoo!)  And I know the purpose of these things for the authors is to convince people to buy there books, but MAN they are effective!  I haven’t picked up any of these author’s books yet, but that was more about $$ constraints than about desire.  Definitely added them to my list!

Also, at the end, they played Truth or Dare.  Here’s a shot of Holly following through on her dare to steal the devil horns from someone…

IMAG2165Okay, so the next stop for us was the Fierce Reads vs. Dark Days panel.  My friend tried to convince me to sit on the Fierce Reads side, but I’m sorry!  I had to sit on the Snarkles side!  I don’t care if we were team Slytherin!

IMAG2168Do you see him there on the table with his little mustache??? So cute!

AND, I have to say it, this was probably the highlight of my whole freaking day!!!

IMAG2169EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I got to meet BOTH Margot AND Aubrey!!!! Seriously, I watch Tea Time every freaking week!  In fact, I’m kind of just writing this while I wait for Tea Time to start.  Yes, I’m a nerd, I know.  But I’m okay with that!

So this was just a fun little panel where they two groups of authors competed against each other in Newlywed-type games (go marmosets!) to a Taboo-like game with pictures (who doesn’t know Alan Rickman???) Anway, I think at the end Fierce Reads traded us 15 of their points for half of our Purple score so that they could be lilac…don’t ask, but it was fun!

Team Fierce Reads: Leila Sales, Alexandra Coutts, S.A. Bodeen, Marissa Meyer

Team Fierce Reads: Leila Sales, Alexandra Coutts, S.A. Bodeen, Marissa Meyer

Team Dark Days: Michelle Gagnon, Sherry, Thomas, Mindy McGinnis, Madeleine Roux, Rae Carson

Team Dark Days: Michelle Gagnon, Sherry, Thomas, Mindy McGinnis, Madeleine Roux, Rae Carson

And then afterwards I jumped in to take one of the crowd signs they were giving away and got it signed by our beloved Tea Time girls and ALL of the authors! (Well, except Sherry Thomas, who I somehow missed, but I did run into her in the bathroom later if that counts for anything!)

IMG_3732So then at lunch we got to hear Sarah Dessen and Rob Thomas (no, not the Matchbox 20 Rob Thomas, the Veronica Mars one!).  They were both really interesting to hear.  Now I’d always heard about Veronica Mars, heck even my dad’s suggested it a few times, but it was just one of those things that I never got around to watching.  So I made sure to rent at least the first disc from Netflix before going to the Festival and of course I loved it.  PLUS Rob used to write for Dawson’s Creek which yes, being the nerd that I am, I have to say that I do own almost all the seasons of that show on DVD.  But I digress…  I also have to say that I wasn’t expecting to come away having a desire to buy anything of Sarah Dessen’s, she’s just not really my style, but after hearing her talk about Dreamland I say I’m in!

IMAG2177

Next we skipped the TALES OF TOMORROW panel so that I could actually hear the DARK DAYS panel talk about their books.

IMAG2178So there is not a book on this panel that I’m not excited to read!  Asylum has a gorgeous cover and Madeleine was awesome and creepy (on purpose 😛 ).  The idea of trapping your characters in an abandoned asylum is always great!  Sherry Thomas was funny (and helped create a story about zombie cats during the FR vs DD panel).  Also, she apparently buys her story ideas wholesale at Costco!  (She actually did get the idea for her book while walking across a Costco parking lot.  “The day I was born, stars fell…”  How cool of a line is that?!?)  Then there’s Mindy McGinnis (whose book I did buy), who also had to remind the audience that while the panel was goofy and funny her book (about a post-apocalyptic female sniper) is not.  She also said that once she got her first line correct, it never changed, no matter how much else did in the later drafts: “Lynn was nine the first time she killed to defend the pond…”  Michelle Gagnon was entertaining and her books look awesome.  And Rae Carson convinced me to read her stuff with 3 words: Magic Naval Bling.  (Sherry Thosmas’s were cross-dressing Harry Potter, which got me, too…)  Plus Amy Tintera was there as a moderator, and I’ve been waiting to get Reboot for a while so I picked that up, too! (Oh, and Madeline as the coolest fashion sense!)

IMAG2181Next it was on to the FIERCE READS panel!!

IMAG2183This one was fun because at least I’d read books from 2 of the authors.  I’d just finished Cinder (which was awesome, and I got it signed for a friend) and The Compound (which was creepy and scary…you don’t even want to imagine what’s behind that yellow door!)  I thought it was really cool that Leila Sales (This Song Will Save Your Life) gave away a free mixed CD to someone, and that when asked what her protagonist would think of her she answered that her protagonist would probably just think she was a random adult, but would probably find it strange how similar their tastes in music are 😛  Also, Tumble & Fall looks really interesting because I love the idea of what do you do when you think you might only have hours until the world ends?  All in all, great panel!

IMAG2184Last panel we hit was POWERS STRANGE AND PERILOUS, and I won’t lie, for me that one was mostly because Rosemary was going to be there and I absolutely love her!

So LOTS of people in this one... On the left, husband and wife team Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston.  Then Linda Williams Chima, Maggie Stiefvater, Robin LaFevers, Lisa McMann, and of course, Rosemary Clemet-Moore!

So LOTS of people in this one… On the left, husband and wife team Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston. Then Linda Williams Chima, Maggie Stiefvater, Robin LaFevers, Lisa McMann, and of course, Rosemary Clemet-Moore!

This group was funny and great as well, though I can say by the last panel of the day, I think the audience was getting tired of the audience questions like “Which part is the hardest for you to write?” and “Where do you get your ideas from?”  Dude, those have been asked in every stinking panel so far.  If you don’t have your answer yet, you never will…

That said, my friend actually did come up with an interesting question for them.  She asked what their feelings were on fan fiction, which could go either way with a set of authors.  The general consensus seemed to be though that as long as you weren’t stealing from the author outright, fanfic is great and gives a lot of authors a good place to start!

Also, I haven’t read a lot of these authors (other than Rosemary!) but my friend has read a lot of Robin LaFevers and talks about it all the time so I’m definitely down to check that out.  Oooh, and Raven Boys looks pretty awesome, too!

AAAAAAAAND then there was the final closing with Holly Black!

IMAG2186Who of course was awesome!  And apparently had a creepy childhood growing up…  Also, I would like to say that the super old copy of Interview With A Vampire that she read as a child was the same one that I have!

interview vampire 1977 back cover

 

And then that was it!  Well, besides the book signings which were awesome!!!  I brought a small suitcase full of books to get signed, so between those and the new ones I picked up, I probably got about 15 or so signed?  5 of which were by Robin Wasserman alone!

IMAG2189

And 4 by Miss Holly Black!

IMAG2187Both of whom were super nice, and I also got Rosemary to agree to come back to my teen writing group next year (especially since I’m about to be in charge of it!!!)

So…that’s about it, kids!  If you want a full list of the authors, check out Austin Teen Book Festival’s website, because they still have everything up, including the book covers!  Anway, Tea Time is on and I gotta go!  See you alter and keep reading!!!

Oh my gosh!  So this Saturday was so freaking awesome!!!  If you guys live in Texas and ever have a chance to go to the Austin Teen Book Festival, you should totally go!  Totally worth the gas and effort to get there!  (Even with the rainstorms that delayed us in 3 separate spots in the middle of nowhere….)

So we got up to leave DFW around 5 am, and made it to Austin a little after 9, which meant that we did miss the first speaker.  But that’s okay, because we  were able to hit up one of the volunteer tables and start picking up some swag!

 

 

IMG_3730

Okay, first off we’ve got a card for Shannon Hale’s Dangerous coming out next year in 2014.  She wasn’t there, but I have read a couple of her books, so I’m intrigued to check out this one later.

To the right we have a sample book for No Safety In Numbers by Dayna Lorentz.  Story of a ton of people all trapped in a mall during a quarantine.  I haven’t read any of the sample yet, but I’ve always thought trapping people in a mall would be a great story.  I mean, you’ve got food, toys, clothes…you could keep a moderate number of people occupied for a little while at least (especially if there’s a book store in there!).  But that mall Subway can only make so much fresh bread until they just run out of supplies.  What then?

Okay, then there’s the bookmarks from Mari Mancusi’s Scorched (think Friday Night Lights but with Dragons!) and Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl (a girl writing Harry Potter-esque fanfic that can’t quite let fictional life go).  I also got one for Leila Sales’s This Song Will Save Your Life (full of 90s music, yeah!) and Mindy McGinnis’s Not a Drop to Drink (post-apocalyptic with a teen sniper and no water), but both of those are already in use in my books, so oh well 😛

The top square thingy is Mindy’s business card with a quote from the book on it: “Regret was for people with nothing to defend, people who had no water.”

Beneath that is a magnet for Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings with a quote: “A true scholar must not close her mind on any topic, no matter how certain she may feel.”  –Jasnah.   Now, I have to say, I’m not familiar with any of Brandon Sanderson’s books, but he had BY FAR one of the longest signing lines in the whole place, longer even than Sarah Dessen.  So maybe I’m missing out.  Anybody read his stuff?

Then at the bottom we have a big box and a tiny box, both for Sherry Thomas’s The Burning Sky.  In her words, “Harry Potter with cross-dressing”.  So the little box is hand balm, and the big box is bath tea.  Didn’t know that bath tea was a thing?  Well, guess what, neither did I.  But how cool is it to get super awesome swag that you can use in the tub???

IMG_3731Okay, so for this next free sample book, I am super duper excited!!!  It’s The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey.  Alien invasions, and people seem to just be going nuts over this book.  If you haven’t seen the trailer for it, I’ll include it at the end of this post…

Next a card with some upcoming books from Penguin Teen, including Man Made Boy which looks pretty interesting (teen Frankenstein living in a theater).

Then there’s a postcard for Sara Beth Durst’s Conjured.  Now, she wasn’t there so I don’t know much about this one except it has a “dangerous magic-wielding serial killer”, which is about all I need 🙂

Okay, then we’re on to a sticker for The Infects (zombies!) by Sean Beaudoin.  Underneath that there’s the free sampler for Landry Park by Bethany Hagen.  Comes out next year, and it involves futuristic nuclear power heiress discovering that her family’s company is destroying the common man.

Last in this set we have Teen Seer Magazine which is based on Tessa Gratton’s The Lost Sun, which involves Loki , Odin Alfather, and Asgard.  Score!

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And last but not least we have my free (if slightly squished) poster for Vampire Academy.  Again, I’ll admit I haven’t ready any of these yet, but I’m a sucker for a YA book with an upcoming movie.  You know I’ll be reading it soon!

 

 

 

 

 

Seriously, I feel like I made out like a biblio-bandit!  Now, I would love to give you the rundown of the entire day, but that would make this post just the most ridiculously long thing every!  So, swag first, details of the day later.  Here’s a couple of the trailers for the books that were being promoted there, as well as one for the Vampire Academy movie!  (P.S. some of these are better than others…)

THE 5TH WAVE

NOT A DROP TO DRINK

THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE

CINDER

ASYLUM

VAMPIRE ACADEMY

So tomorrow some friends and I are getting up at 5 AM to go to the Austin Teen Book Festival.   SO.  FREAKING.  EXCITED!!!!!!!!!!  Seriously, can I tell you how cool it is that there’s an entire festival dedicated to YA books just 3 short hours from where I live???  Let me tell you about all my geekiness about this….

First of all, there’re the authors.  People like Holly Black (LOVE!), Rosemary Clemet-Moore (Such a doll!), Robin Wasserman (Skinners for life!…ish), Marissa Meyer (go androids!), and so many more!  They’re all going to be there and talking about things and signing books and….AHHHHHH!  It’s going to be amazing!!!

Second, there’s the book signing.  While I am also excited to go to the Texas Book Festival next month, you can only buy books at the event and only have those copies signed.  At the Teen Festival, for every 1 book you buy, you can get 3 person copies signed.  That’s 3 for the price of 1!!!!!!

Third?  They list the food prices for the day ON THE WEBSITE.  Now, that might not sound like much, but when you’re trying to budget for gas, food, and books, it’s important to have an idea how much cash on hand you might need.

And last, but in no way least…Epic Reads.  They’re going to be there.  That’s right, these two lovely ladies will be there live and in person!

tea timeWhich is so awesome it makes me do that exact same happy dance. And then a book shimmy.  So much feels!

(Which, p.s. if you’re not familiar with Epic Reads’ Tea Time, once a week they do live chats and show you what new YA books are coming out from HarperTeen and discuss books.  How freaking cool is that?)

And yes, I might be a little more geeked out than normal about them being there since they actually responded to me on Facebook, but whatever.  I like attention and people responding to be with gifs of Colbert and Kermit doing a happy dance.  So there!

kermitSo, I have my list of potential book buys all made up!  Although, hang on a sec while I go print that…

I’ve got the giant bag of trail mix made, Honey Mustard Pringles (which are waaaaaay too addicting), water bottles…I wonder if anyone’s gotten Twizzlers yet?  I should probably ask the Candy Queen coming with me.  If not we need to get some.  Twizzlers are amazing because of the amount it takes before you start feeling sick to your stomach.  That’s an important quality in a strictly sugar-based candy.

Also, we made some really awesome shirts so that we can pick each other out in a crowd, and because well, we just like making shirts, okay?

IMAG2129 IMAG2161Of course, while the front matches, the backs were each done individually.  I think mine is the only one with hearts on it.  Some of my books got too close together, and some of them left gaps.  Though, looking at it now, I might add a tiny heart btw Percy Jackson and Beautiful Creatures.  What do you think?

Anyway, geeked out about this trip.  Sad that husband has to stay at home, but somebody’s gotta let the dogs out to pee and work on my car!  (That sounds, bad, doesn’t it?  Meh, he’s the only one coming on the next trip, so there!)  And, whether or not you asked for it, here’s the latest puppy picture:

IMAG2151Isn’t she a beast?!  She’s 40 lbs now!!!  It’s insane!  Plus she ate another book last night.  We’re going to have to find a way to put a stop this…Book eating will not work in my house…

Anyway, I promise I’ll take pics and post them!   If you follow me on Twitter you can see my updates there during the day! See you all on the other side!