Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Books to Read - DIY Project

Mason jars are, quite possibly, my favorite piece of kitchen supplies. You can use them for just about anything. I carry cream for my coffee in them to work (it never spills) and use a very large one for my homemade overnight oatmeal that I eat in the morning. I have a ton sitting on top of the fridge after going through a jam-making summer a number of years ago and they keep getting in the way when they aren't actively used, so I've been urged to find other uses for them. 

This brings in crafts. A long while ago an idea was floating around on Pinterest about having an empty jar at the start of the new year and placing a piece of paper in it, stating what great things have happened over the course of the year. At the end of the year you open the jar and revel in how awesome your life is. While in college, I had something similar given to me called the "Shit Box" where you put scraps of paper of bad things that happen in the box as if you're taking the bad thing, creating it into something tangible (i.e., the paper) and throwing it away in the box, therefore ridding it from your life. So that's another way to go around that idea.

But I digress. There was another idea involving scraps of paper and mason jars which wasn't quite as prominent on social media -- a To Read jar. 

The idea is simple: get a mason jar, write out books you want to read on scraps of paper, put them in said jar, then pick out a paper when it's time to pick a new book to read. 

But there's so much more to this. I'm a book hoarder -- I think that's part of being a book lover. Often enough, book lovers collect books. We like having them on display, we find them beautiful, we get an edge from buying the books, but we also buy the books quicker than we can read them. 

My bookshelf is a year and a half old. I bought it and only filled half the bookshelf at the time. Now it's packed to the brim with books, most that I haven't read, even though when I read books I often bring them back to my parents house or donate them it's still not fast enough to make room for my incoming reads. So I made a To Read jar and a promise to myself for the year 2015 that I would only read the books I already owned. I was saving for multiple trips and running out of room, so not spending the money on new books was an obvious decision and the mason jar was put together.

I grabbed some colorful paper and began jotting down the titles of the unread books on my shelf.

I cut the list of books out into strips then folded them up so that I couldn't see the titles. I'm a total cheater when it comes to picking things like this, so if I were to see a sliver of a name I know I'd look.

Once I had all the papers folded, I started packing them into my mason jar. The little folded tabs took up a lot of room in the mason jar so maybe a larger mason jar would be worth investing in, or simply having better organization in placing the papers in the jar. 

Once all the tabs were in the jar, I crammed the top back on and the jar was ready to go! It sat in it's place of pride on my desk and was ready for each moment I needed a new book to read. 

Monday, December 28, 2015

Worth a Second Look -- Top Posts of 2015

The month of December can guarantee you two things: articles about gift giving and end-of-year wrap ups. Best of, most attention driven, this is our favorite, or what to look forward to next year. It can get tiring but I really enjoy these posts as they often remind me of past articles I've enjoyed or give attention to things I've missed. I'm a nostalgic person by nature so I enjoy them, even if they're a bit repetitive. It's a nice chance to reflect on all that's gone on and if you're anything like me, you'll likely be surprised that so much has happened in a year.

This year was the rebirth of Soon Remembered Tales. After taking a year off from writing in this blog, I realized how much I missed reviewing and creating posts. It was such a solid part of my life for so long that I wanted to return to it. This time, with less pressure on myself that I had to write every week if I was busy--something that caused me stress previously.

With that, lets check out some highlights:

The Prince Lestat by Anne Rice
Poetry of Lang Leav 
Quiet by Susan Cain
The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Colonial Williamsburg -- Williamsburg, Virginia
Cajun Encounters -- Slidell, Louisiana
Homestead Farms -- Poolesville, Maryland

I've had so much fun over the course of the year and I've experienced a lot through travel and reading. I've rambled on and on about a lot of different subjects on the blog over this year and have an assortment of posts that I had an absolute joy writing and reliving the content. 

The Secret History felt like an assigned reading. It was deep, descriptive, and messed with my mind. But I enjoyed diving into that dark, twisted world during the chilly days of early spring. And Pilgrim at Tinker Creek only widened my mind to the description of the world. I found someone who loves nature like I do and can write about it in such detail it's inspiring. While My Salinger Year made me fantasize about working in publishing and writing that novel that's always been sitting in my brain.

I shared My Reading Nook and asked others to shares theres as well (hopefully, someone will! It's a fun look into the reading world). But my reading nook soon changed into so much more than just a place to do pleasure reading when I was accepted into graduate school and began my classwork. 

I've been so lucky to travel quite a bit within the United States and write about the places I've seen. I update my Trover account with my most favorite vacation photos but for specific experiences, I write about them here. But I really enjoyed writing about the Pennsylvania Ren Faire--a faire I go to yearly if I can, sometimes multiple times! And my most favorite post, above all, was writing about Yosemite Park. I still can't believe I was able to go to Yosemite and I can't wait to go back!

  1. The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
  2. First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen
  3. Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen
  4. Quiet by Susan Cain
  5. Paper Towns by John Green
  6. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
  7. Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge
  8. Shadows on My Heart by Lucy Rebecca Buck
  9. The Wolves of Mercy Falls Books 1-3 by Maggtie Stiefvater
  10. Love and Misadventures by Lang Leav
  11. Lullabies by Lang Leav
  12. The Raven Cycle Books 1-3 by Maggie Stiefvater
  13. You Have to Fucking Eat by Adam Mansbach
  14. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  15. The Shape of My Heart by Mark Sperring
  16. Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck
  17. The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
  18. Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor
  19. The Fall of Arthur by J.R.R. Tolkein
  20. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail by Cheryl Strayed
  21. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  22. Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry
  23. Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
  24. Blankets by Craig Thompson
  25. I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
  26. What Pet Should I Get? by Dr. Seuss
  27. Edward Scissorhands Volume 1: Parts Unknown by Kate Leth
  28. Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour
  29. Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George
  30. The Wicked + The Divine Parts 1 and 2 by Kieron Gillen
  31. Owl at Home by Arnold Lobel
  32. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  33. The Quiet Gut Cookbook by Sonoma Press
  34. Fables: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham
  35. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
  36. Compulsion by Martina Boone
  37. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  38. The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman
  39. Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach
  40. A Sense of the Infinite by Hilary T. Smith
  41. Leviathan by David Sedaris
  42. A Death by Stephen King
  43. The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allen Poe
  44. The Lesson by Toni Cade Bambara
  45. Happy Endings by Margaret Atwood
  46. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  47. My Last Duchess by Robert Browning
  48. MLA Handbook for Writers
  49. The Eatonville Anthology by Zora Neale Houston
  50. Cattle Haul by Jesmyn Ward
  51. Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu
  52. Memories by Lang Leav
  53. St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell
  54. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
  55. There is No Right Way to Meditate by Yumi Sakugawa
  56. Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

The Secret History by Donna Tartt [Link]Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry [Link]The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen
Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen [Link]Quiet by Susan Cain [Link]Paper Towns by John Green [Link]The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge [Link]Shadows on My Heart by Lucy Rebecca Buck
The Wolves of Mercy Falls Books 1-3 by Maggie Stiefvater
Love and Misadventures by Lang Leav
Lullabies by Lang Leav
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater [Link]Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour [Link]
A Sense of the Infinite by Hilary T. Smith [Link]
Chasing Shadows by Swati Avasthi [Link]
Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George [Link]
Edward Scissorhands (Parts Unknown) by Kate Leth [Link]
Blankets by Craig Thompson [Link]
I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson [Link]
Walden by Henry David Thoreau [Link]
Compulsion by Martina Boone [Link]
On Writing by Stephen King [Link]
Le Morte d'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory [Link]
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by JK Rowling (softcover) [Link]
The Wicked + The Divine Vol. 1 by Jaimie Mckelvie and Kieron Gillen [Link]
The Wicked + The Divine Vol. 2 by Jaimie Mckelvie and Kieron Gillen [Link]
A Little Maid of Old Connecticut by Alice Turner Curtis [Link]
A Little Maid of Old Virginia by Alice Turner Curtis [Link]
A Little Maid of Old New York by Alice Turner Curtis [Link]
A Little Maid of Old Massachusetts Colony by Alice Turner Curtis [Link]
Heidi by Johanna Spyri [Link]
A Little Princess by Francis Hodgson Burnett [Link]
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery [Link]
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott [Link]
Pilgrim on Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard [Link]

Thursday, December 17, 2015

A Bookish Christmas

If I ruled the world, or at least had complete control over my own life, I would do such things as own multiple houses in different places, have more time in a day, and always cook the perfect meals. I'd also have more time to craft -- something I got into while in college but haven't had much opportunity to continue once I joined the work force. Still, every once in awhile I'm able to get crafty and the holidays are no different. In fact, I probably do more crafts around the holidays than the rest of the year!

Here are a few holiday book-crafts you can give a try:

Paper Star Ornaments
I had an ARC book laying around that I really didn't enjoy reading. Since it was an ARC, I couldn't donate it to the local bookstore, and since it was taking up space I figured I would repurpose it. I don't believe in buying books just to destroy for purpose of crafts but if you have something that's falling apart and on the verge of being thrown, I feel this is a wonderful way of recycling the book so that it can continue living on in one way or another.

I made a how-to post a few years ago and still have these ornaments for our tree. I made a number of the stars and gave them out to coworkers that year. They're fun, they're Christmasy by means of their star shape (and colors!), and they bring reading into the mix.

Another way of repurposing this book (which I kept, despite destroying it, for other craft purposes), is to make even more holiday decorations! Earlier this month I posted about making two Christmas ornaments with scraps of book pages. I love glass ornaments and it seems there are plenty of clear ones on the market. I feel this is a great way to add some festiveness to the bulbs and make them pop while still appreciating that they are clear and allow in the light of the Christmas tree.

This project only takes one or two pages from a book, depending on how big your ornament or curls are, per ornament. It's a super quick and fun project to do and I love that you can use any book pages you have. Maybe one day I'll actually craft these up with worn copies of some Christmas books I have (when they are past their prime of reading and falling apart... believe me, I have a few). 

Paper Heart Ornament
Another ornament I made was a Mod Podge creation with some hand lettering over it. I'm just getting into hand lettering so this was the perfect opportunity to test it out and give it a go. This was fun and I was able to use a lot of the same material I used for the previous ornaments.

In no time, I was done. Honestly, I think amongst the three ornaments, this was the quickest to make!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Wanderlust Wednesday: Crystal Spring Tree Farm

Where: Lehighton, VA
When: December 2014

I'm a creature of nostalgia. I am a person who celebrates holidays to the fullest and so much of that good tidings originate from my mother, who always made a great effort to have holidays be magical and special no matter where we were in life. We built a lot of traditions that I still hope to follow and pass down to my children (whenever I have them) and Christmas is probably one of those highlighted traditions.

For the earlier part of my childhood, my family was a live tree family. We would get a live Christmas tree every year and it would stand in all its glory until we sent it back to the woods a week or two after Christmas. For a span of time, we had a fake tree, and I hated it. This is back when fake trees looked like fake trees and they didn't have such great candles that smell like balsam fir. The tree, eventually, became shorter than me as I got taller and my dislike of it grew as well.

While I lived in apartments and the like, it was a fake tree again. My own tiny fake tree I bought that could only sit on a table, but it was better than nothing. But when I moved in with the beau and we had a first floor house, I was determined to get my live-tree fill in while I could.

But where could we get a tree? My parents, who live in Pennsylvania, are surrounded by tree farms and during my years living there I knew the Christmas tree process. Come October, a lot of the trees were sawed down, packed and shipped to various places that would have tree lots. The majority of Christmas trees you can pick up from a tree dealer in a parking lot had those trees cut for two months before the holiday season. I want a tree to last for a solid month. I want that thing glistening and full of life from the start of December to the beginning of January.

We didn't really have many ideas of where to get a tree straight from the ground but my parents' hometown... that was a great area to start looking. The question was, could my tiny Prius handle a tree strapped to the roof for the three hour drive back to Virginia? We were going to find out.

The start of December we went to visit my parents and had plans of getting a tree from a farm right down the street from their house. Unfortunately, it was closed for the season. But there was another tree farm, further away but reportedly still good, that we could try.

So off to Lehighton we went!

The Crystal Spring Tree Farm is something of a prized posession for the area. For multiple years, Crystal Spring has provided the White House with a Christmas tree. If the White House is deeming this tree farm good enough for their home, it's certainly good enough for ours.

With a bit of poking around we discovered the details of the farm: you can select pre-cut trees, you can select epic huge trees for those of you with ridiculously high ceilings, or you can go into the hills and find your own special tree and cut it yourself.

Hand saw grasped tightly, we headed for the hills. There are handy carts you can take with you and unless you're going for a small tree or have someone very strong with you, I'd suggest grabbing the cart. We went in search of the perfect three: something tall, full, with a great scent and needles that don't draw blood. They had a lot of various trees to look for, some much smaller than others, but we eventually tracked down The One.

It had been very rainy just that week, so unfortunately we had a good bit of mud to deal with, but what do you expect when you're on a farm? The wind was quick and bitter as well, something that isn't uncommon when you're on a hillside, so I say this to you, any future visitor of the farm: dress appropriately. While I really wanted a super cute Christmas tree farm photo op, it was definitely better to be warm and ready. Heavy gloves for prickly needles, boots that can get wet or muddy, and I certainly ended up being very thankful for the hat I brought with me.

Part of what is so wonderful about getting your own Christmas tree is to see all the other families meandering around in search of their own. People get so excited, adults included, and everyone is generally in a festive mood. We found a few trees that we enjoyed, all achieving the height we were going for, and went back and forth between them as we looked over the pros and cons of each. Finally, after a lot of deliberation, we settled on our perfect Christmas tree. I was ecstatic while the Beau was left with his first time experience of having to cut the tree down.

Lucky for him, my father is a pro and helped him get the tree cut down. We trimmed it on the spot, loaded it onto the wagon, and brought it down to the tree lot building. Here, the tree is loaded up to be shaken to death so all loose needles go flying, you can also opt to have a hole drilled into the bottom of the tree. For anyone unfamiliar with having their own live tree, having a hole drilled in the bottom is a wise choice, as it allows the tree to drink water more easily. It's also best to try and do this right before you set it up so that it doesn't get covered in sap.

Once it's shakened up, the tree is tied down and put onto your car. With payment, you get a little mug which we added to our Christmas mug collection. With the tree tied to the car (they have twine for this, but my father brought along sturdy straps which I'd suggest you do as well if you have a far commute) and we headed out. The following day we drove the tree home--all three hours--to Virginia. It made it there without issue and filled our house with the smell of Christmas. Our cats even loved it, Lily took up roosting under the tree and Joe dedicated his stuffed animal Yodas to the tree on a regular basis.

The tree lasted all through December and when we brought it to the curb to be taken away (on the second week of January when they had designated pick up) it was still fresh and ready to go if we had the chance to keep it longer.

While driving out of state for a tree was a bit of an extreme, it made for a great story and a wonderful way for us to remember "our first tree." Happy tree hunting, folks.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Letters from Father Christmas

Personal Photo - From Instagram
J.R.R. Tolkien invokes imagery of Middle Earth, elves, hobbits, wizards and dragons. He's a magic man, a man of fantasy, a writer of wordy literature, and rarely do people immediately think "He was also a father." Of course that's part of the facts and anyone who has even glimpsed at his Wiki page will see he had children, but it's often left out and not often focused on when the world of Middle Earth is there glittering in front of you.

But privately, Tolkien had a normal family life with little kids who believed in Santa. 

These letters are written to his children; notes from Father Christmas as he replies to letters they sent him, includes artfully done drawings and paintings of his world, and urges the children to keep hanging up their stockings as they grow older.

They're simple letters, written with a shaking style (Father Christmas comments on that a few times). He details the North Pole and the many battles that are raged with the goblins, the antics of his friend the North Polar Bear, and happy notes of pleasant moments. For me, the saddest part of the letters were commentary from "Father Christmas" about the older children becoming to old to receive letters. One by one, new names appear on the letters as older names are left off. The final letter, one to Tolkien's daughter, makes comment about it being the last as she's growing up and I felt sad. I know my parents were rather saddened when I stopped believing in Santa, so I imagine there was a bit of sadness for Tolkien and his wife, it seemed that way through the letters.

These are not the detailed lines you're used to from Tolkien's other works but quick articles meant to be read by children. I enjoyed them though and I read the book quickly and have it back on my bookshelf. It's inspiring, in a way. I'd love to write letters to my own children, penned by Santa, whenever those little ones come along. 

For lovers of Christmas, nostalgia, and Tolkien, this would be the perfect Christmas gift.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Bookish Christmas Ornaments: Merry and Bright - DIY

What's fun about this activity is, as always, there's so many options of how you can go about creating the ornament. Our Christmas tree has a silver and gold theme and I like sticking with those two colors for ornaments. I also feel it matches the book print better and allows you to appreciate both aesthetics. But if you like a rainbow of colors or have another color scheme in mind, you can work with those colors as well! This is an ornament that you can really make your own.

I picked up my ornament from Michael's. It's extremely light and made out of a cardboard paper-like structure. This isn't something you want to press too heavily on as I feel it could crush it, so, I took my time and handled the heart with care.

What You'll Need:

  • Mod Podge Foam Brush (or any small foam brush)
  • Medium-small paint brush; I used a brush from Craftsmart's super value brown taklon pack
  • Cardboard or wooden ornament
  • Acrylic paint color of your choice; I used Folk Art's titanium white
  • Mod Podge matte sealer
  • Sharpie Pen

When you're ready to get started, make sure you have everything laid out and ready to go. For me, it seemed that a lot of the liquid paints (paint and mod podge) dried quickly, so I definitely advise being ready to go but there's certainly a way about it all that will allow you to get the most done in the quickest way possible. Here's how!

Begin by doing a base paint on your ornament. For this, I picked white and I urge you to do the same. This way the pages of the book blend in more readily to the ornament. I took my time and painted everything with even strokes. Again, since the paper from your book of choice is going to be covering this paint, it isn't necessary to be perfect. Paint it as thick or thread-like as you please.

Once you've painted the heart your base color (this may take two steps since it's two sided!) sit it aside to dry and grab the book you're recycling. Rip out a page or two then begin ripping each page into strips. Depending on the size of your ornament, you may need to rip the pages into smaller pieces but try to follow the lines of the page so that you get full sentences, rather than a random halfword, on each scrap of paper.

Once the ornament is dry and your book pages are ready, begin painting the ornament with Mod Podge. It's key to have solid layers of Mod Podge over your ornament as this adheres the paper to the ornament.

Press pieces of the torn book pages to your ornament. Try not to overlap too much as the top layer of paper won't adhere since there isn't any Mod Podge underneath it (unless, of course, you want to add that but it could cause a gloppy mess). Once you have covered the entire ornament with paper, it likely will not look very pretty. But fear not! This is completely fixable.

Trim the outer edge of the ornament or use a thin blade to cut off the excess paper on the edges. Once you're through with this, the ornament will look much neater. Flip it over to do the other side of the ornament then sit it aside to dry.

Prior to working on the ornament, or while it's setting to dry, quickly draw the outline of the ornament on some scraps of paper. Once you have the general shape of the ornament down, begin working on samples of what you would like to have written on your ornament. Toy with the creation of the words and hand lettering. Once you've nailed a format that you like and the ornament is dry, grab your Sharpie pen and begin to write out what saying you've chosen in the style you've picked.

When you've finished writing out your words of choice (I picked two sides: a saying on one and the date on the back) grab your Mod Podge once more. Make sure that the sharpie/pen ink is completely dry before you begin to paint over the ornament again. This second layer of Mod Podge helps seal the whole deal. Be very carful while you're applying so that you do not accidentally flip up corners of the book paper and get it stuck that way.

Ensure both sides of the ornament and all corners are painted over before you sit it aside to dry. When that's all done, you can add some bling to the ornament if you'd like. I advise that if you plan to add paint colors or further doodles of the ink variety to wait until this step and do it on top of the Mod Podge cover. The book paper can make for runny ink or paint and doing hand lettering on it is likely enough. This way, if it's over the Mod Podge, you don't run the risk of having streaking paint over the ornament you worked so hard on. 

And that's it! You're all done! Another Christmas bookish ornament created. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Bookish Christmas Globe Ornaments - DIY

Christmas is one of my favorite holidays. I find the craftiness that comes with it to be inspiring and I really love all the different traditions that emerge.

My family and I have always made a big deal about decorating our Christmas tree. We had boxes of ornaments that we collected over the years and when I was a preteen, I even got my own Christmas tree. The tiny two-foot tree at first received some cheap filler ornaments but then the collection began to grow. I had my own ornaments that I selected, ornaments given to me as gifts, and my favorite ornaments -- my grandmother's.

But when the beau and I moved in together we realized one thing: we could get our own Christmas tree. A real Christmas tree. Something tall and majestic and just begging to be decorated. But we certainly didn't have enough ornaments -- I had my box for my two foot tree but that wouldn't cover something more normal sized. So we picked a theme -- silver and gold -- and set out to picking up silver and gold-themed ornaments whenever we had a chance.

Still, I wanted to do more.

With the aid of the internet and such awesome sites as Pinterest and Tumblr, I found a lot of ornament ideas and decided to make a bookish Christmas ornament.

What You'll Need:

  • Clear ornaments with removable tops
  • Book pages (two pages per ornament should suffice)
  • Paint of your choice
  • Scissors
  • Paint brush of your choosing
I went to Target and picked out a really pretty box of round glass ornaments. I didn't want to go too crazy so I picked a box with mixed ornaments and only two clear bulbs. That's the ticket in my opinion -- clear bulbs, not frosted or with sparkles -- because you want to have the book pages as visible as possible to show off your hard work! Recently, while browsing through Target, I saw they had a box of bulbs that were entirely clear!

With the pages of a book I've slowly been recycling with different crafts, I painted silver and cold over the printed words very lightly and I only painted on one side of each paper. My paint was old and lost a lot of its thickness so it came out somewhat see-through. If your paint isn't like that (I'd suggest testing it out first), you can always water it down. Just be careful not to put too much paint on the pages, you want to make sure it's spread out very lightly so as not to wrinkle the paper.

I didn't paint the full page, leaving the edges free of paint to cut off. Really, you want as much of the printed words visible as possible so you see it fully in the ornament and not just blank paper. Once it's painted, leave it to dry. With it being such a light layer of paint it dried pretty quickly!

Snip away the edges of the paper and then cut it into strips. I followed the spaces between lines and it seemed three lines of text were enough.

Roll each strip up. Do it carefully so as not to crease the paper and curl it to your desire (I made them like ringlets, the tighter curls didn't let you see as much of the text). 

Once you have your curls, just gently push them through the opening of the ornament. I would occasionally shake the ornament to settle the curls a little to make room for more. Once the ornament is full, I popped the top of the ornament on and voila! I love how these ornaments came out. The light silver and gold on the paper is caught by the Christmas lights on the tree but you can still see the printed words. 

Give it a try and happy tree decorating!

Monday, November 30, 2015

A Month in Reviews -- November

November is an interesting month. I really like the month and have liked it more as I've grown older. It's the last dregs of autumn but also a touch of winter. It's the excitement for family-oriented holidays and the start of the Christmas season. When I was a tiny little thing, my mother would get me in the car and we would leave New York with the destination of my grandparents' house in New Jersey in mind. We would descend on their big house, my cousins, aunts and I, and we'd take over it for Thanksgiving vacation. Together, my cousins and I would watch the Macy's Day parade while my grandmother, mom and aunts would begin Thanksgiving dinner. I would have my first run through with my Christmas dress as I would get to wear it for Thanksgiving dinner and we would somehow manage to break one wish bone up amongst seven grandchildren. 

That was my Thanksgiving experience from the very start of my life, so I always associate the holiday with good, happy things. When I was a teen, I lost my one aunt to cancer during Thanksgiving. A few years ago, we received the panicked call that my grandfather was rapidly deteriorating on Thanksgiving night. At least we were able to spend one more Thanksgiving weekend, the entire family together, before he was gone. 

So now I'm inching closer to thirty and I still find I love the month of November and get more excited for the Thanksgiving holiday than I probably should. But, there's those little sadnesses associated with it now that makes it a little hard to get through. Still, we make the best of it. 

This month has certainly been more calm than October, but it's also been more crazy--at least toward the very end. It was a lot of gently moving along up until the week of Thanksgiving.

For the first time ever, I partook and hosted a Friendsgiving celebration. I also cooked the largest turkey I've ever cooked. The previous three years, I cooked something that could feed two people max, but this year it was a twenty pound turkey and boy was I scared of that bird. I honestly had more fun prepping for the festivities by means of making decorations and table arrangements. 

The theme for our friendsgiving was hugge. It's a Danish concept, followed through out Scandinavia, and with everything going on, I've been really focusing on trying to bring hugge into my home. Not being Danish nor never living in Scandinavia, I don't know if I'm doing it quite right but it's worth a shot. I normally get winter doldrums so it's worth a shot. Maybe the Scandinavians have the key to winter happiness and hugge is it.

Beside Friendsgiving, we had three people visit us the week of Thanksgiving, putting our house at maximum level. All of this during my first week of finals! At least we're rolling along to Christmas, another favorite holiday of mine. On the blog I'm going to be taking "off" but still posting. All posts will be holiday oriented and end-of-year wrap ups so I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed making them.

Now, this week is my last week of class and my last final is due. Unfortunately, I only have two days to work on it instead of a solid week because we are heading to Pennsylvania on Wednesday for my mother's heart valve replacement surgery. Scary stuff, so I beg of you all to keep us in your thoughts.

Book Reviews:

Other Posts:

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Fables: Legends in Exile

I've had this sucker on my to-read list for ages. So long, in fact, that I forgot completely about it until I was looking through a list of suggested graphic novels and this was what was offered. I then realized, oh right, I wanted to read this. Off I went to the bookstore and then back home with this in my hand.

This has a lot more dialogue than the other graphic novels I've read. While the other graphic novels seemed to lend a lot of time and detail to imagery, this was much more about the story. Wording was crammed into the pages and the images were more comic-book-like. 

The story is simple enough: all the fairy tales had to escape their realm due to an evil presence. They now live in New York and have different jobs while also intermingling with people like us. Snow White is the ruler of the gang and the Big Bad Wolf is an investigator. 

Right away we're taken into a 'who dunnit' scenario. Rose Red is missing, possibly murdered, and there's a ball to plan. I enjoyed that many of the "monster" characters came in and out of their monster appearances. The Big Bad Wolf has a shadow of a wolf and when he grows angry, he's more wolfish. The Beast of Beauty and the Beast becomes more beastly when he's stressed out. But overall, I found myself struggling with this story because I'm not really one to enjoy crime shows or story lines. 

I also find I'm still a stickler for the fairy tales I like. I love Little Red Riding Hood, I love Beauty and the Beast, I really have never liked Snow White. So having this comic centered around Snow White (her being a main character) was a real drag for me. Granted, this particular Snow White was much more bearable but I just... never found her that interesting and I am irritated that she often is made to be the top "princess" in fairy tale-based story lines. Why can't it be Belle? (Also, I  hated how snobby Belle appeared in this book). 

I suppose, if you're in for a good crime story and like fairy tales but aren't particularly disturbed by the story lines being twisted, or the characters you loved as a child appearing differently, this is a good read. If you're like me and you are nearly personally offended by anyone daring to make your favorite storybook characters act differently than how you see them, then maybe stay away.

I plan to give this book to a friend who was interested in reading the series. I think she'll have more enjoyment out of it. I certainly have read other books that play with fairy tales and make them unique and new that are better, but this just wasn't of my interest.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Wicked + The Divine Vol. 1 Faust Act

We keep returning to graphic novels, don't we? 2015 should be considered the year I became a graphic novels fan. After so many previous posts where I say "I don't really read graphic novels," I think we're at the point where that would be a lie. I do read graphic novels but I'm just new to the entire thing. I'm still asking for recommendations and often a little lost wondering if I'm picking up the right book and whether or not there was a previous volume. Still, I'm reading graphic novels and actively looking for more. I get the sense of accomplishment when I read a graphic novel over the course of a night but I also have found I really adore the materials I've read and the artwork involved. 

So here we are, another graphic novel, and one that was suggested to me. When I looked up TW+TD I nearly got the wrong book (whoops) until I spotted the first volume. The cover alone captured my attention and it only was further captured as I read the blurb about it: 

Every ninety years, twelve gods incarnate as humans. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are dead. The team behind critical tongue-attractors like Young Avengers and PHONOGRAM reunite to create a world where gods are the ultimate pop stars and pop stars are the ultimate gods. But remember: just because you’re immortal, doesn’t mean you’re going to live forever. Collects THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #1-5

Sounds awesome, no? When I grabbed the graphic novel I flipped through the pages and fell in love with the artwork. I am not sure if there's a difference between graphic novels that seem to worship art as much as the story, there definitely is a difference from them and some comics I've read, which are crammed with small imagery and a lot of dashed fonts, but I think I prefer the type of graphic novel that TW+TD falls into. The colorful, clean artwork is just so beautiful and bright!

For me, it took a hot minute to adjust to the full story. I wasn't entirely sure if we were being introduced to the gods bit by bit, if they were just arriving in this cycle on Earth, or what. As we start off the graphic novel, the gods have already been welcomed to the present day for this particular cycle. They were normal people, living their lives until suddenly they were informed they were gods. That's when the memories returned and people began to love and hate them. The world knows of this occurrence and the gods have many fans--people who flock to worship them and hope, desperately, that they may be one of the various gods that come back in cycles.

We're quickly introduced to a handful of these gods, while others remain a mystery, and it's to my utter surprise that I became completely enamored with Lucifer and the modern day interpretation of her (yes, her). The character development is a little sloppy at first because our main character (an utter fangirl named Laura) is already privy to all of the gods who are out in the open while we, the mere readers, are not. Slowly you catch on and before long, you're in the middle of it as Luci (Lucifer) is blamed for a murder and Laura tries to help prove her innocence.

It's fast paced and you're stuck from beginning to end and thank goodness I had chosen to pick up the second book when I bought the first because I dove right into that one as soon as I was done. But gosh, the imagery of this book, I fawn over it whenever I view it.

If you want to read this, be sure you have the second book close by!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

A Month in Reviews -- October

October was a whirlwind of good and bad. It was here and gone like a flash and here we are, entering the mid-range portion of November and I'm trying to wrap my head around that.

I took a bit of a hiatus on the blog during October because I wanted to focus my mind elsewhere. The month began with a lot of bad news: my mother needs heart valve replacement surgery, we were evacuated from our home in the middle of a cold and rainy night because there was a massive gas leak in our neighborhood, and we had to take one of our cats to the vet for an emergency procedure. It also was the start of one of the conference seasons at work, which is always pretty exhausting but this was the busiest yet. Add to that, I had graduate school class with lots of homework and a week-long trip to Louisiana to prepare for. Whoa. Just writing all of that makes me feel exhausted. Obviously, October was a busy time.

Despite everything, the fact still remains that October is one of my favorite months. With everything going on, with trying to get ahead with school work while also desperately needing breaks, we still managed to have fun on weekends and enjoy the autumn environment.

We went pumpkin picking at our favorite farm (I talk about that farm down below!) and visited countless farms for autumnal enjoyment. We were able to dive head-on into a huge corn maze and when that wasn't enough, we worked on a fancy costume that I planned to wear during Halloween. All of this plus lots of school work--I was so busy!

Then the end of the month finally arrived--the time I had been waiting for--my trip to Louisiana.

Two years ago I went to New Orleans to achieve a dream of sorts. Back when I was a teen I was a die-hard fan of Anne Rice and her Vampire Chronicles. I wanted to visit New Orleans, the location for many of her books, and see the restaurants and buildings that she so lovingly described in them. I fell completely in love with the Crescent City and I was so excited to return to it. This time, it was even better. When I was a teen and all involved in the Anne Rice community of the Livejournal days, I met a number of girls my age who loved the books just like me. We became friends through the Internet and over many miles, years passed, and some of us were even able to meet each other.

Ten years later, we're all still friends and over a year ago we thought, "Why don't we go to New Orleans together?" A girls weekend. I've never had one of those but this seemed the right time and for the right reason. So for over a year we pinched our pennies and planned our trip; finally, after all that planning, we were off to NOLA.

It was so fun getting to meet a bunch of book lovers that I've known for so long. When you're friends with people online for so long, you expect it to be weird that here you've known each other for a decade and you're only meeting each other now. Surely, it'll be uncomfortable, but what's odd about it is just how comfortable it is. Here you are, finally face to face, but it's so relaxed and normal--as if you've done this all the time. And you sort of have, it's just been online.

We dressed up and celebrated a rain-soaked Halloween on Frenchman Street. We ate a lot of great food, toured the Lafayette Cemetery, and adventured through swamplands and old plantations. It was a wonderful trip with great people. I can't wait to return to the city and I can't wait to see these friends again.

Now I'm back in Virginia and gearing up for the next few months. Thanksgiving and Christmas are my two of my favorite holidays (Halloween is the third). I really love Thanksgiving because I'm able to be surrounded by family and friends. I also love the traditions it brings. In my household, we cook the turkey carcass after the holiday into a soup that lasts us for awhile and is the right fix to the chilly incoming December weather. For the past few years, it's meant seeing my boyfriend's family, which is always a good time. For the holidays, they've been unique and crazy since I moved out of my parents' home. Last year was an insanely busy day: Christmas gifts in the morning, lunch at my boyfriend's parents' house, and dinner at my aunt's home in Maryland. This year may be much of the same but with a friend joining the fun. All of this but also my mother's upcoming surgery and the end of one of my classes (and the start of the next one).

But what happened last month on this blog? Let's take a look.

Book Reviews:

A Sense of the Infinite by Hilary T. Smith
Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard

Other Posts:

Homestead Farm in Maryland

So here we are, it's November and I have a lot to get done. Posts are ready for December but not as much for this upcoming month. Bear with me as I get back to the swing of things and throw more reviews at you!