Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Book Review - Miss Mayhem

Miss Mayhem
by Rachel Hawkins
273 pages

'Life is almost back to normal for Harper Price. The Ephors have been silent after their deadly attack at Cotillion months ago, and best friend Bee has returned after a mysterious disappearance. Now Harper can return her focus to the important things in life: school, canoodling with David, her nemesis-turned-ward-slash-boyfie, and even competing in the Miss Pine Grove pageant.

Unfortunately, supernatural chores are never done. The Ephors have decided they’d rather train David than kill him. The catch: Harper has to come along for the ride, but she can’t stay David’s Paladin unless she undergoes an an ancient trial that will either kill her . . . or make her more powerful than ever.


Even though the first book in this trilogy was weak, I did enjoy it enough to go ahead and read this second book.  In some ways I liked this one even more than the first, but once again, the storytelling is weak in many areas.

This book picks up several months after the events at the end of the first book.  Our superhero trio of teens is without guidance now and have decided to use David's oracle (see the future) abilities to see how their lives and the lives of their friends and families might turn out.  They've started running interference on things that his visions have shown will be problems in their lives.  For example, one of their ditzy classmates will have her life ruined by a drunken frat boy she meets.  Well, at least the vision shows that.  So of course paladin Harper is going to crash the party where these two meet and put a stop to it all.  You know, that kind of stuff.  David is unhappy with this new 'hobby' though and suggests to Harper that they might not be stopping or changing anything, but just altering the path that the events are destined to play out on anyway.

We do finally learn a little bit more in this book about who they are supposedly protecting David from.  The ancient and powerful Ephors are a group of men who have always owned the oracles and used the visions to get ahead in the world.  Male oracles are extremely rare and much weaker than females, which is why they originally wanted David dead, so the next (and hopefully female) one could be born.  But a mysterious ritual had been performed on David in the first book, and he's potentially the most powerful oracle ever now.  So of course the Ephors have changed their minds and want David alive and back under their control.  Aaaah, well that makes sense and I'm glad it was finally explained.

But then we get back to the weak storytelling.  It seems that Harper isn't a paladin after all.  She has not passed this series of tests yet, to prove her worthiness.  Uh, what?  They learn this after being drawn to a mysterious house and meeting one of the Ephors.  He says she will face three trials in the next month but won't know what they are or when they're coming, and is not allowed any help.  If she fails at any point, she will die.  Ooooh, dramatic.  Or not.  It just all sounded dumb to me right from the get-go.  Oh, and by the way, best friend Bee became a paladin in all that chaos at the end of the first book so she's a handy spare if Harper should happen to fail/die.  Also, mage Ryan doesn't have to go through any of this because, well, a mage is a mage as soon the powers are passed on to him.  Well isn't that convenient?  And why is Bee a fully eligible paladin but Harper is not?

The strong point of this book is again in the way the relationships are written.  All of the paranormal or fantasy stuff is very weak and barely explained or delved into, but everything else is quite well written.  You feel for Harper as she goes through confusion and jealousy of seeing her recent ex-boyfriend with someone new.  And you see the troubles brewing in her relationship with David.  Harper is not so perfect in this book, yet you can't help but feel for her and see why she's insisting on making these seemingly wrong decisions.

The relationship between David and Harper is falling apart because she refuses to let him go.  He realizes now that he can never be normal and wants to go with the Ephors and be trained to learn to live with his crazy new powers.  Harper is trying to hang onto their normal teen lives and refusing to admit that it just can't be done anymore.  David becomes more confused about things when he realizes he's been betrayed by more than one person, and puts his powers to the test in an attempt to break away from everyone who wants to control him.  Like before, you feel his pain as he struggles with these realizations, but the actual supposedly dramatic events are just cheesy and never really explained or explored deeply enough.  There are inconsistencies too, just like in the first book.  At the end of the book the mysterious man from the Ephors says he is the only one.  I got the impression he meant he is the last of his kind, but a couple pages later he's talking about "we" and "us" and I was wondering if he meant he's the only one at this particular location, the only one on this particular mission?  He also explains that if David manages to get away, their (Harper, Ryan, and Bee) powers will eventually fade and they'll just be normal teens again.  What the heck?  What happened to this deep, soul binding connection they supposedly all had now?!  If David had accomplished something with his new powers that no one had done before, how does this Ephor guy know what will happen with their powers?  And again, the passage of time seems odd and disproportional in this book.  In one part, after some rather dramatic events, the next chapter mentions how a week had passed since then but it leaves the reader wondering why.  If life is just normal and absolutely nothing happened for one week . . . why?  Why not make the next round of events the next freakin' day to really make it seem like things are troubled?

So yes, a lot of weak points in this book but just like the first, it was still quite an enjoyable read, and I will go ahead and read the third when I get my hands on it.  I *think* the third is the final one since it came out in 2016 and I see no mention of a new one coming out.

I actually own the book Debutantes & Daggers, which is a compilation of Rebel Belle and Miss Mayhem, and looks like this . . . 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Aug. 18 - This & That

Had a situation at work Tuesday and Wednesday.  I think I've mentioned here on the blog that I've thought about bidding down to a regular machine operator position and give up my lead position, haven't I?  It's always sort of my 'Wouldn't it be nice?' daydream line of thought.  Well, they're interviewing people to fill spots for an extra lead person on each shift, and through this potential shifting people around, a couple operator spots will very likely be opening up.  This would be my chance!  My supervisor asked if I was going to bid down, because he knows I've kicked the idea around.  I mentioned it to hubby Tuesday night and he thinks I should do it for my own peace of mind, so I'm not coming home so crabby or emotional all the time.  I mentioned it to Casey and he pretty much said the same thing.  So I spent Wednesday at work really thinking about it, weighing the pros and cons, and while bidding down would takes tons of the pressure of all the responsibilities of a lead person off my shoulders it does come with its own set of stresses.  In the end, it really comes down to the money.  It's quite a significant pay cut to go down to an operator spot, and at this point in life, when I'm sort of in a race to get things paid off and get out there, I think having more money to do that faster is what I want.  So yeah, you'll continue to hear me whine about work!  Yay!

I bought fall wax today!  I noticed they had a lot more of the fall scents out at my Walmart, but they're still mixed in with the regular stuff and not in any sort of fall-only display yet.  I'm thinking of bringing back the Melted posts for the fall and holiday scents, so I'll do more indepth descriptions then, but for now . . . 
Honey Crisp Cider is a sweet, not so heavy apple cider scent.
Welcome is an interesting apple-pumpkin mix that's more warm and spicy than the usual brighter, sweeter apple-pumpkin scents.
Fall Into Autumn is the one I was all about last year because it should totally be a Christmas scent instead of a fall scent.  There is a touch of pine along with some juicy, fruity notes.

I didn't get these today, but I did get them recently.  Maybe last week?  I just grabbed one of each of the Mainstays fall scents.  They are all the same as last year and pretty self explanatory . . . Apple Pumpkin, Mulled Cider, Pecan Pumpkin Cake, and Pumpkin Spice.  I was bummed that they don't have Spiced Cranberry this year.  Maybe it will come out later.

Stopped at Target this morning to look at something and couldn't help but stop at the Dollar Spot to see if fall stuff was out yet.  It wasn't, but I did find this cute ceramic apple in the Back To School stuff that's still out.  It was only $1.00 and is maybe two or three inches tall.  This will go nicely with my early-fall decorations for September, which is more apples and sunflowers.

Bought myself a new book today too.  I usually don't buy Philippa Gregory books when they first come out.  Not sure why, but I usually come around to them much later.  And I sort of have a love-hate relationship with her books.  I know they get slammed for not being historically accurate, but they are still entertaining enough to teach you the basics of whatever famous character she's spotlighting at the time.  This one is about Lady Jane Grey and her two sisters.  Should be interesting because this gets into a time I don't know as much about.

I played around with some crafty stuff today but I'll save that for another post since I have a bunch of pics in this one already.

Oh!  The menfolk are still working on the barn each day.  We've been talking to our insurance company about getting it added to our policy, and found out if there is a wood burner in there it cancels out our whole homeowners policy.  So now we're trying to decide what source of heat to go with out there.  The insurance company recommended one, but hubby's friend thinks a different one would be better.  They had another coworker stop be today to help with some advice on wiring and whatnot.  And hubby tells me they're starting to put some walls back up inside, like where their little office area is going to be.  I didn't go out and look at all today.  I'll have to take a peek tomorrow after work.

And that's about it for now.
I'm off to read, as usual.  I'm almost done with the second book in that paladin series!  I don't have the third book though, so I'll dive into the new Tudor one next.

Anything fun happening in your corner of the world?
Any big plans for the weekend?

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Ancestry DNA Results

I've been interested in my family tree for a long time.  Like, all the way back when I was a teen.  Back then, with no internet and no resources, it was exciting to gather bits of info from talking to people at the annual family picnic and scribbling down notes about what they recalled of our history, or trying to piece things together from reading old obituaries and studying old photos.

My ambition for doing family research sort of died out many years ago after meeting a cousin of my grandma who is pretty much a professional researcher.  Once it became clear she had more info than I could ever dream of having, and that she knew all the hows and wheres of searching, I sort of gave up and figured I'd just swoon over the information she has.

Well jump ahead into the modern age of DNA and the growing popularity of those ancestry DNA test kits that you see advertised all over TV.  I've wanted to do one for a few years now.  The price always scared me away but they seem to be more affordable these days.  Then one day Ty and I were talking about it and he said he was quite curious about it all.  That's what got me to finally do it.

Back in June I ordered two DNA test kits from MyHeritage.com.  I did not do any sort of research on the different companies offering these kits, just went with this one because it was on sale at the time and because I was already somewhat familiar with the MyHeritage website.

I ordered two kits on June 19, at a cost of $69 each (on sale), plus $12 shipping.  They arrived on June 26 (I think) but since I was working that day we didn't do the actual test until June 27th, my  next day off.

Each kit contained a bit of information, a code that I had to go online and register to 'activate' the kit, two swabs, two vials, a zip baggie, and an envelope to mail it all back in.  Directions said to not eat, drink, or smoke for at least 30 minutes before doing the swabs.  Hubby is a smoker so it was funny when we tried coordinate when to do this.  We ate supper, he had a cigarette, then we set a kitchen timer for one hour later.  LOL

Ya know, you see on all the cop shows on TV where they just poke a swab in the mouth for a moment and they're good to go.  Ha!  With these kits, you take one swab and keep rubbing and swirling on the inside of one cheek for 30 seconds, then use the other swab for the other cheek for 30 seconds.  That might not seem like a long time but when you're rubbing your mouth raw with a large swab and practically drooling cuz your mouth is hanging open, it seems like forever.  So anyway, the spit soaked end of the swab is carefully placed into a vial and sealed, then the vials are put into the return shipping envelope and you send them back.

And then you wait.

On July 10 I received email notification that the kits had arrived at the lab, and then FINALLY on July 24 I received the results from my swab.  Hubby's results came the following day.  They emailed saying the results were ready, and provided a link to where we could see it all.

I was soooo excited, and nervous!  I even got quite emotional before I finally clicked the link.  I hadn't been expecting that!  My heart was racing and hands were shaking slightly as the website played a short little video, and then . . . 
(Click image to read results.)
Tada!  In a way I was not surprised because I'd always known we were German, Irish, and Scottish.  I'd been wondering how much of each we were though, and hoping the German roots prevailed.  I was surprised to see that fairly large amount of *East* European though!  True, the regions overlap and those ancestors could have still been close to Germany if they were Austrian, Czech, or Polish, but farther out from that would be curious.  I'd also been told from that family researcher of mine that there is proof of connection to Charlemagne, who was French.  (I always scoff at these claims because what proof can one have?  But hey, whenever his name comes up I claim kinship, hehe.)

So nothing TOO surprising in mine.

I was super curious to see hubby's results though.  He's always bragging about how he's a Viking, and how much Scandinavian blood he has.  We joked while waiting for the results that it would be rather awkward to find out he only has like 2% in him.  Still, we were both shocked by what showed up on the results screen . . . 
 (Click image to read results.)
Whoa!  51.2% Scandinavian?!  We were laughing a victorious Viking laugh when we saw that.  Then it all started to fall apart.  Maybe I don't understand the science of DNA enough but how can he be over 50% if his mother's side has no Scandinavian blood?  Also, why is Iceland not included in it?  Everything hubby's been told has a good portion of his ancestors coming from Iceland.  AND, his mother's side is supposedly a very large percent Polish.  True, that 11.6% Baltic might represent that, but it seems odd.  There is always the chance that Grandma and Grandpa's hand-me-down tales might not be accurate, but still.  Hubby's family totally scoffed and blew this test off as a money making gimmick and are sticking to what they've always been told.  Their attitudes pretty much killed any excitement I'd had about this whole experience, and that's why it took me this long to post about it.

I did some reading after all this and found a lot of people trashing these DNA test kits.  I watched a couple videos from some investigative TV shows where they sent in swabs from identical twins and triplets and had varying results.  I read about how the databases are still fairly new an undeveloped.  Maybe if I'd read all that stuff before I never would have spent the money on these kits.  I haven't totally written them off like hubby's family has, but it has knocked my excitement back quite a bit.  At first I was super excited to get online and start researching my dad's side of the family, see if I could figure out just where that East European comes from, but then the ambition fizzled out.  Someday maybe I'll put some effort into it again.  My dad's side of the family, and hubby's family on both sides is still like a blank book when it comes to family history, so even if my grandma's cousin has my mom's side traced all the way back to the beginning of time, at least there are other areas I *could* dig around in.  For now though, my interests lie elsewhere.

So what do you think?
Are these test kits just a gimmick?
Would you still do it if you were given the chance?
Do you know much about your ancestry?

Monday, August 14, 2017

Aug. 14 - Yep, Still Alive

Well that was quite a break from blogging, huh?  And totally unintentional.  I'd come to realize during my week off at the start of the month, that I was just as miserable at home as I was at work.  That told me my funk was not quite as work related as I'd thought.  I just sort of shifted in my interests after that for a while.  I didn't worry about making cards or doing blog stuff, or really anything.  I just sort of hung out and puttered on other things, went to Casey's place a few times, started playing UO and Wizard101 more again, and just did whatever.  But the urge to blog has been growing the past couple days so here I am.

The barn project continues.  They have insulation up on all four walls now, except for a few spots along the sloped edges on each end.  They've done a lot of work inside, most of which is hard to show in pictures.
If you remember, there used to be two rows of support posts and leftovers from when there were stall walls on each side of the center cement slab.  Those are all gone now and they have the single row of support posts going right down the center of the building.  They also redid the stringers that run across the roof, raised them up about two feet so the eventual ceiling will be higher.  The place looks HUGE inside now.  Holy moly, it's like a whole new building!

Fattycat's 16th birthday was last week (Aug. 8).  He's still doing pretty good.  I need to make his appointment to have bloodwork and everything rechecked soon.

Casey's roommate moved out last weekend.  Yes, his second roommate has already left.  This guy was totally taking advantage of things, having his brand new girlfriend pretty much living there already.  It will suck for Casey having to pay all the bills on his own, but he says he already feels so much better living alone.  And he has Cinnamon to entertain him now.  Hopefully life finally settles down for him!

I've been out of 'everyday' wax for almost two weeks now.  I have a ton of fall scents waiting to be started on September 1, but for now I'm just going to take this little break.  I noticed at Walmart today that they have a bunch of fall scents in the American Home/Yankee line.  It was super fun to see and sniff them but I probably won't buy any.  The fall ones are on sale right now but I still prefer my Scentsationals/BHG.  There is a cranberry one in the American Home line though that I might get since Scentsationals/BHG lacks in that area.

Anyone watching that new show The Sinner?  I was intrigued and watched the first episode but haven't watched any after that.  I'm still intrigued but there was just enough weirdness to turn me off.

Game of Thrones has been pretty good though, huh?!  Especially last night's episode!  So many clues about Jon!  And I said to hubby at one point, "What if we all got it wrong and Khaleesi turns out to be the monster tyrant, not Cersi?"  Hmmm.

Alrighty, well, I hope you're all doing fine and dandy out there.
Are you reading anything interesting?
Watching anything good?
Doing anything fun?

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Book Review - Rebel Belle

Rebel Belle
by Rachel Hawkins
345 pages

'Harper Price, peerless Southern belle, was born ready for a Homecoming tiara. But after a strange run-in at the dance imbues her with incredible abilities, Harper's destiny takes a turn for the seriously weird. She becomes a Paladin, one of an ancient line of guardians with agility, super strength and lethal fighting instincts.

Just when life can't get any more disastrously crazy, Harper finds out who she's charged to protect: David Stark, school reporter, subject of a mysterious prophecy and possibly Harper's least favorite person. But things get complicated when Harper starts falling for him--and discovers that David's own fate could very well be to destroy Earth.

With snappy banter, cotillion dresses, non-stop action and a touch of magic, this new young adult series from bestseller Rachel Hawkins is going to make y'all beg for more.


This book was fun.  It was weak in a lot of areas, which I'll go into more in a bit, but it was strong in others and it was just a quick, fun read.  I actually have the book Debutantes and Daggers, which looks like this . . .
. . . and is a compilation that includes Rebel Belle and Miss Mayhem, the first two books in this series.  When I first saw this in the store I was like "Whaaaat the heck?" and couldn't help but pick it up to have a better look.  Then, seeing that it starts off saying something about how 'none of this would have happened if I'd had lip gloss,' I was hooked.

So anyway, this first book, Rebel Belle has main character Harper unknowingly and awkwardly becoming a paladin at the Homecoming dance.  LOL!  Okay wait.  The book is not an actual comedy, but it's not as serious and dark as something like the Shadowhunters books or other YA books.  Harper has some sass and plenty of arrogance.  It takes place in the south so all that southern charm is there, and I love how manners, etiquette, and respect are all very important.  There is sort of a Beautiful Creatures vibe in that way.

 When Harper becomes a paladin, she knows something has happened to her but doesn't know just what.  She soon suspects she has awesome new superpowers and spends the weekend watching Spiderman, X-men, etc. superhero movies as research.  She tries to figure out just what superpowers she's received by doing things like jumping to see if she can levitate, or staring at pictures to see if she has laser beam eyes.  It's all quite quirky early on!  She eventually figures out it's her enemy David she's now charged with protecting, and from there learns more about what a paladin is and why she has become one.

And this is where things get weak.  I thought a book about paladins would be an interesting new twist compared to all the vampires and nephilim and demon hunters in the usual YA books I've read.  I'm aware of paladins from video games like UO and World of Warcraft that I have played.  I thought this book had great potential!  But it just fell short because the author didn't delve deeply into that whole paranormal world.  Sure, we learn that David is an oracle (can see the future) and that he's ultra rare and needs to be protected.  We learn that his aunt who has raised him since he was a baby, is not really his aunt after all but had stolen him to protect him and oh, she's a mage.  Paladins AND mages?!  Heck yeah!!!  But no.  The mage explains that the three of them work as a team, that there must always be a paladin and mage to help protect the oracle.  Okay, but protect him from what?  From who?  It never really does go into that.  And thinking about it, an oracle in this day and age is probably not all that valuable.  I mean, we're such a small world now, insta-connected with everyone and everything in this tech age.  Unless an oracle is having nonstop and very clear visions about things that affect the whole dang world, does it even really matter?  Sure, back in the medieval age when things were spread out and secluded and your 'world' was your little area you lived in, yeah an oracle probably would have been important and worth protecting.  It just doesn't work in a modern age story though.  At least not for me.

Still, there was enough mystery and intrigue to keep me reading.  Who was this mysterious second mage that has appeared in the area?  Why does she want to claim David as her own, and kill Harper?  What exactly is Miss Saylor's (David's 'aunt') mysterious past?  There are a lot of hints that she might not be all she's pretending to be.  And who the heck are they protecting David from?!

Of course there is a big showdown, which is again quirky.  Tainted punch at the Cotillion, anyone?  And in a strange twist of events, two of Harper's friends are drawn into this mysterious mess.

Another weak area is that apparently six weeks or so pass in the course of this story but it seems like only about two or three days.  There is much made of Harper's training and how important everything is but the story just glosses over most things.  It's like, six weeks passed and only one or big things happened?  Well, heck, this paladin job is going to be a piece of cake.  In six weeks of supposedly intense training, why haven't we learned more about . . . well, anything?  If this oracle only had one very vague vision in that time, what is it about him that these unknown others are so determined to have?  Ya know?  Sooooo much potential just sort of skipped over.

The strong areas of the story are the relationships.  If this author has just regular YA or contemporary romance novels, I'd probably be very interested in reading them.  The relationships Harper has with her best friend, with some other classmates, with her boyfriend, and with David, are all really well written.  You go through the gradual decline of her relationship with her boyfriend Ryan and the building relationship with David, and you feel for all three of them.

The weak parts and the stupid ending really were eye roll worthy for me but there were enough good things about the book that I'll gladly dive into the next one to see where this all goes.  I also discovered that this author also wrote the Hex Hall series, which I've had on my wish list for ages!  I think I will go ahead and bump those books up to the top now.

Have you read Rebel Belle, or anything by Rachel Hawkins?

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Aug. 3

Hubby and friend got back to work on the barn today, although it was more just cleaning and rearranging some things in preparation for the next phase.  This next part won't be as quick and 'easy' as the walls phase was.  Now they're working up in the rafters, raising the stringers that run across, so they can create a higher ceiling.

Cinnamon (Casey's kitten) had his first vet visit today and all is fine with him.  Even his weird eyes.  What?!  Casey says the vet said they are just a unique color, sort of a rainbow color on a green base.  They're still weird.  But anyway, he had an exam and two shots, and got his neuter appointment set up for later this month.

Casey came over for a bit this morning and helped me move his old dresser and bookshelf down from upstairs so I can use them in the craft room.  I did manage to rearrange things in there but I'm not sure I like how it is yet.
I moved the desk up against the wall instead of sitting in the center of the room.  I also swapped the folding chair out for a wooden stool.  I like that things won't be falling off the front edge of the desk now and that I can just turn and hop off the stool to go grab whatever I need, but I don't like how all the light is now behind me.  The stuff on the shelves and along the wall needs to be better organized but I'm not sure how I want to do that yet.
Across the room from the desk, I've put the old dresser to use as my cutting station.  My Cuttlebug die cut machine will sit there, with the plates in the top drawer, and I've also set me large paper cutter there with the bulk white paper that I cut the most also in the top drawer.  I love that this dresser is a perfect working height for such tasks, and that that both pieces of equipment fit there on top.
Already mentioned the plates and white paper in the top drawer.  The second drawer now holds my baskets of stamps and die sets.  Again, nearly perfect level to look down on them as I flip through to find what I want.  The only thing is clear plastic pockets they're in stand just a hair too tall and I have to sort of push them back/down when I close the drawer.  Hubby suggested getting another basket so these aren't so full and can lean back a bit more.  I think I'll try that.

So yeah, I'm glad to have actually gotten this done but I'm such a 'Change is bad!' person that it all has me a bit twitchy for now.  Tomorrow I'll hopefully be able to try working in there and see if the process is less frustrating.

I'm still very curious to know what sort of price you all would pay for handmade cards.  Please let me know!  It will help me greatly in trying to decide how to go about selling them.

The football season starts tonight!  Yaaaaay!  Well, it's just preseason but still, football is back!
We have the game on (Cardinals and Cowboys) and I was watching but then came in here to blog.  And now I'm going to post this and head up to bed.
Tomorrow is my last day off on this vacation I've had.  I'm already feeling the stress and anxiety about going back to work start to stir in me.  Ugh . . . 

Are you a football fan?

Band of Bloggers - August 2017 / Vol. 20

Band of Bloggers Photo  
Pop quiz, hotshot: How well do you know your favourite Band of Bloggerette? Sure, we're all reasonably up to date on each other's interests, hobbies and the pretty, glittery things that make our hearts go pitter pat, but when it comes to the vitally important markers of a person's character - favourite band, desert island scent, fight stance in the zombie apocalypse - how well do we truly know our virtual neighbours? :) Let's delve into 10 deeply random questions and find out, shall we?
1. No really, zombie apocalypse survival strategy: Fight or flight?
Flight, because proper zombies are slow and stupid.  I don't like how zombies have evolved into fast, thinking, planning, banding together supermonsters.
2. You've been a bad, bad kitty and you have just one final meal coming your way. What's on your plate?
Rocky Rococo's sausage pizza with a side of their bread sticks and marinara sauce, and a big cold Mountain Dew.  Oh, and some chocolate....Hershey's bar with almonds is my current fave.
3. Aside from wax (or nail polish, or crafting supplies, or beauty products) what item do you have major multiples of?
Hmm, since you've taken wax and crafting supplies out of the equation I can't think of anything.  Dragons, maybe?  I have a lot of dragon figures, like stuffed animals, collectibles, toy figures.
4. You've just won the lottery. Before best friends you didn't even know you had begin to show up on your doorstep, what's the first thing you buy without even thinking twice?
A full set of Tombow markers for crafting!  Normally I would say pay off the house, but I can still do that after I have my markers.  LOL
5. Biggest celebrity crush? This can be anybody - an actress, a musician, a fictional character from a favourite movie, book or television show, or maybe even an historical figure.
Although I am King Ludwig II obsessed I don't think it's a crush.  His story is so sad and fascinating, but I don't think I have feelings of  'Oh, I want to marry him and save him.'  
*thinking thinking thinking*
Maybe Edward Cullen, from the original Twilight book only.  He got kinda whiny and annoying as the series went on.
6. Flats or heels? Or are you running barefoot through life like some sort of hippie?
Sneakers are pretty much the only thing you will ever find on this blogger's feet.
7. Whether it was created through a customs order or simple pick-and-mix blending at home, what's the greatest scent blend you've ever stumbled upon?
I can't even answer this.  I'm not a custom blender or an at home mixologist.  I mean, there were a couple really nice ones way back in our Smelly Sisters Muffin Club days but even those weren't mine.  One was a borrowed blend idea of (Rosegirls) Peppermint/Watermelon Slush/Marshmallow Smoothie.  And the other was hubby's idea of (Rosegirls) Hot Apple Pie/Pecan Waffles/Pie Crust.

8. It's snack time! Are you reaching for the sweet or the salty?
More likely to be sweet, although I do love a good bag of salty chips too.
9. What's a personal style moment you'd never care to re-live?
No answer for this because I'm very bland and always have been.
10. You are going to live in a biodome beneath the sea for the next three years and have been allotted space for just ONE book (tiny dome!) What cherished book will keep you entertained for the next 1095 days?
My first thought was to say Twilight, but actually I think I'd rather have Embrace, by Jessica Shirvington.  Like Twilight, I absolutely LOVE this first book of the series, but then the following books all fall far short for me.

If you'd like to play along at home, please feel free to answer these questions in the comment section below, and we hope you'll visit these Band of Blogger blogs and help support the blogger community!
Amanda at Thrifty Polished
Jessica at The Meltdown Blog
Lauren at LoloLovesScents
Liz at Furianne
Sandra at Finger Candy
If you are a blogger and would like to join the Band of Bloggers for our monthly posts, please contact us.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Aug. 2 - Cards

No work on the barn today.  Like I mentioned yesterday, I think they're finally feeling burned out.  They're also trying to decide how they want to continue from where they're at, like which part to tackle next.  Hubby's been falling asleep at about 6pm these past couple days.  Yeah, I think they need this little break.  Hopefully momentum and ambition doesn't slide with this down time.

I went back and forth between playing a lot of Wizard101 and working in the craft room today.  Both were frustrating, which is why I was going back and forth.  I worked on one till I got pissy, then went to the other till that one pissed me off.  I think I've figured out a couple things about why I get frustrated and overwhelmed in that craft room.  It needs to be set up different.  Right now the desk is crammed so full of stuff that I have to constantly move and rearrange things every step of the way.  The shelves are behind me, which also makes it awkward whenever I need something.  My chair is just a temporary folding chair, not a swivel type desk chair, so to get anything off the shelves behind me is a pain in the butt unless I actually get up.  Sooooo, tomorrow I'll be working on rearranging things in there and trying to set up stations for different tasks, like my die cutting machine will have its own place and I'll go to that spot, instead of lugging it out and moving things on my desk like I do now.  I'm actually looking forward to seeing what I can come up with.

I also found it's quite nice to have a good selection of stamped images already colored and cut out.  I haven't been making cards lately but I've been coloring a lot of images, trying different markers and different papers, etc.  Today I spread them all out on my desk and fairly easily found some fun combinations that allowed me to make three cards.
While it was frustrating during the process, I actually *really* like these cards.  The picture does not do them justice since I took it in the fading light of evening.  That's another thing I want to incorporate into the craft room, a photography spot.

I have some questions, and I'm really hoping you guys will take a moment to answer.  A couple people have already offered to buy cards I've made.  I've kinda blown it off because I just wouldn't know how much to charge.  Greeting cards bought at the store can be ridiculously expensive, like easily $4.00 for a simple one, and even up to $7.00 (or more!) for fancier ones.  I've browsed Etsy a bit to see what people are charging.  I have no idea what I would charge for my cards.  So I'm asking all of you what your opinions are.  What you pay for a handmade card like this?  Or what sort of price range have you seen for such things?

I'm also wondering about single cards vs. sets.  I'm not wild about the idea of sets because what if someone absolutely loved the pink one above but was like 'Darn, I only want that one, not the set,' and decided not to buy any?  Hubby suggested making duplicates of things I would have in sets.  I suggested having all single cards but have deals on two or more, which lets the person pick their own 'set.'  What do you all think?

I really *really* would like to know your thoughts!

Other than that, not much to report today.  I took it easy, played with the kitties, and watched some true crime shows on TV when I wasn't playing Wizard101 or fumbling to make cards.  Tomorrow Casey takes his baby (Cinnamon) to the vet for the routine kitten exam and shots, and schedule his neutering.  I'm really curious to hear if the vet says anything about the weird eyes!

Okies, people.  I'm off to bed, and look forward to your thoughts on the questions I put out to you all.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Aug. 1 - Barn Natters

Ahh, little Cinnamon with your weird eyes and small head.
I went to Casey's for a bit today, had to play with the baby.  lol

Yesterday I was at my mom's, taking her shopping and doing her laundry.  I got really frustrated and angry with her for a bunch of reasons but managed to bite my tongue.  When I got home from there, Ty was here doing his laundry.  He hung out for a while and we chatted about stuff.  This morning Casey stopped over on his way home from work.  He had a problem with his debit card and was waiting for the bank to open so he could call them.  Turns out they called him first and he had to go there to get it straightened out.  Apparently there was some sort of breach related to Kmart and many people had their accounts hacked.  Someone tried to make a purchase in Spain with Casey's card but it was flagged and blocked.  Whyyyyyyy do these lazy asshole hackers have to do this crap?  Why can't people just get jobs and contribute to society decently?!  Ugh, it makes me so mad.

Anyway, moving on before I rant for days . . . 

Work on the barn continues, although it might be slowing down for a while.  Hubby and his friend are finally starting to feel burned out.  Not only that, but work is picking up back at the shop and they need to start putting in some overtime.  While this cuts into their barn work time, the money from the overtime will come at a good time because we're going to have start making some more expensive purchases soon for them to continue.  We were discussing whether to do windows now or later.  Hubby and the friend both voted for later, like in the spring.  They are more concerned with getting the walls done, insulation up, and siding on so they can be doing work out there in the winter.  Makes sense I guess, but I'm just so anxious to see it with windows and doors back in it!

It's harder now to get pictures of the work that's been done each day.  A lot of it is smaller things, or inside things, stuff that's hard to show in pictures.  I can show you a before and after of the south wall though.
This is the side that faces the house, the side we look at the most.  This is the side that will have the most windows, and they're hoping to do a fancy, custom built door for the main entrance there on the left.

I also found out they have much bigger plans than just using this space as a casual crafting hobby.  They want to turn it into a small business, selling online and at craft fairs and even from the shop itself.  I'm not sure how I feel about venturing back into an actual business but after hubby explained it all to me in more detail it appears that I'll be able to sell my cards and papercrafts (if I ever get going!) and might even start up soap making again.  The soap part is iffy right now.  I'd probably wait until I could retire from my actual job before I threw myself back into that again.  Still, it's all kind of exciting even if I am a Nervous Nellie Debbie Downer.

Seems like I had so much more to natter about but now I'm drawing a blank.
So on that note, I will get this posted and go play some Wizard101.

What do you think?
About anything?

Saturday, July 29, 2017

July 29 - Hello!

Well hello!  Remember me?!  Yeah, I've been struggling here lately.  I thought the dark funk was past after I called in sick that day but nope, fell hard back into the abyss for a while.  I've wanted to blog, there have been things to natter about, but when I'm in that mood I just stare at the screen and give up in a fit of 'Who cares anyway?'  But enough of that!  I'm feeling better for the moment so I'm cranking out a post while I can.

Look what's newly stocked at my Walmart.  Yesssss!  We're pretty much completely out of candles so I knew I'd be buying these when I saw them.  I don't know if I bought any last year.  I'm thinking we went through leftovers from 2015 last year.  So I'm not absolutely certain which scents they had in 2016 but I believe Crisp Evergreen, Pumpkin Waffles, and Caramel Cinnamon Roll are the same as always.  This apple one is slightly different than what they had in 2015 (both in name and description), and I didn't see a cider or flannel one today.  The evergreen one will get tucked away for the Christmas season.  The other three will get set aside until fall.  I'll start with the apple one in September.  Yay!  We're getting closer and closer to fall!

Work continues on the barn.  I'm so far behind on updating pics, so we'll just look at this pic from today.  They're still out there working on it every day.  They're still going to work early so they can get home earlier and work more.  They're still starting out there at 5am on the weekends.  Go, guys, go!  This is, oddly enough, part of my funky mood lately.  I have a sort of jealousy happening because they're so into this project and have things to look forward to.  I'm absolutely glad they're doing it but it just sort of highlights my own boredom.  I just have half-assed hobbies and interests that no one else is interested in.  Hubby tried to cheer me up with 'But the barn is yours too!  Just think about all the projects we can do!'  Yeah, down the road, but for now I'm just dragging myself to work to help pay for their excitement.  *sigh*

I was able to visit with my sister and nephew/godson at my mom's again this week.  This time we took pics!  lol
Ty even stopped by to impress Sheri and Mom with The Beard, as we've started calling it.  Julius wanted nothing to do with him at first but eventually warmed up to him enough to have a quick pic taken.

 Casey's having a new round of drama in his living situation, but in happier news for him . . . he has a little furbaby now.  This poor little guy was the last of the litter over at a friend's house.  I'm convinced there is something not right about this kitty.  This pic doesn't really show it as much as others but his eyes look weird.  I was sure he was half blind or something but no, he seems fine.  There is just *something* odd though.  I'm curious to hear if the vet comments on anything in particular.
But anyway, the little guy is four months old and was already named Cinnamon so Casey's going to leave it at that.  And boy, these two are hooked on each other already.  It's so cute, and I think it will be good for Casey.  He was very much a cat person even when he was at home.  It was one of the perks of moving into this particular apartment building, that limited pets are allowed.

Okies, peoples, there is my update.
If the moody funk stays in neutral mode, maybe I'll be able to natter again tomorrow.
For now though, I'm off to bed.

Anything exciting or interesting or just plain boring happening with you lately?

Friday, July 21, 2017

Loot Crate - Wizarding World Box / July 2017

I received my latest Wizarding World box from Loot Crate today.  I had not seen any teasers or anything about this box, and had actually forgotten it was even time for the next one.  So yay for surprises!  Let's dive right in!

Open the box and this is what you first see.
Turns out this is a Defense Against the Dark Arts themed box.

Ah, a lovely t-shirt.  Nice!  I think four of the five boxes I've gotten so far have included a t-shirt.

This is pretty cool.  It's fairly large and heavy pin version of Tom Riddle's second Horcrux, Marvolo Gaunt's signet ring.

A neat little pocket or purse sized journal.  The cover is a soft faux leather type material, the 96 sheets of cream colored paper are lined, and there is an attached silk ribbon to mark your place.
AND the inside cover has the signatures of Dumbledore's Army.
Pretty neat!

These are super cool!  They are Guardians of Hogwarts bookends.  One says Locomotor, and the other says Piertotum.  They are metal, decently sturdy, and sufficiently large to look awesome holding up those big ol' hardcover editions of the Harry Potter books.

And then there is this.  Oh my gosh, when I pulled this out of the box I think I totally did a fangirl screech.  The pic doesn't show it enough but the box says 'Ollivanders' and 'Severus Snape.'  It's a wand pen!  Snape's wand!  *screeeeeech*  The handle part of the wand just pulls off and the black wand part is the pen.  It's actually really heavy for a pen!

There is also this white cardstock with some images that can be popped out.  The pic, again, doesn't show it very well, but it's a white stage and a Dementor type shadowy figure behind it.
There are instructions for how to refold the box and insert the card, then use a flashlight to cast the shadow and patronus images.  Kinda fun but I think I'll just leave them intact to save them.

Pretty cool stuff, huh?
I think I have one box left in my subscription.  As fun as they are to receive, I won't be renewing my subscription.  I just have no use for most of the fun things I've gotten.  Years ago I would have just been thrilled to collect everything.  These days though, I ooh and aah for a few minutes and then it gets tucked back into the box and shoved aside to gather dust.  I keep telling myself that someday I'll have my library built and I can display things on the shelves.  Will that day ever come?  Who knows?  So for now, yeah, the boxes I've received so far are just shoved aside and gathering dust.  I've been considering some fun giveaways, but want to wait till my subscription is complete first.

So anyway, what was your favorite thing from this box?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

July 20 - Ludwig's Turning In His Grave

It's back to work on the east wall of the barn now that the cement has had plenty of time to set and harden.  It's hard to tell from this pic because the tractor is in the way, but they've started framing in the new wall.
There was nothing really picture worthy to report yesterday because they'd mainly just been cleaning up the pile of debris that had accumulated in that interior corner to the left, where the boards are now laid out.  They've broken two hammers, lost another hammer, and lost a pry bar so far in this project.  lol

Yesterday was a so-so day at work.  My mood wasn't quite so dramatic.  Today, my day off, was pretty mellow.  I had no plans, no place to be, no one here to bother me, and I loved it.  I puttered on small little things that needed to be done, played with the kitties, watched some murder shows on TV, did some stamping and coloring.  When things slowed down or when I sat at the computer too long my dark mood started to creep back in, so I had to talk myself into getting up and getting busy on something else again.  Overall though, a pretty good day of finding some inner peace, at least for the moment.

I finished reading my Ludwig book last night and posted my review this morning.  I finished watching that Neuschwanstein DVD today.  While it was really cool to see all the castle stuff, there were some things that made me feel sick to my stomach, made me feel so bad for Ludwig.  Let me explain.  His castles were meant to be his private sanctuaries.  They were not for prying eyes or guests or conducting business.  During the standoff at Neuschwanstein that final night, he told his last few loyal people to keep those rooms private, like his final plea.  And yes, we all know that Neuschwanstein was opened to the public within months of his death and that it is now one of the biggest tourist attractions in Europe.  I've been there myself!  But to see on the DVD just how many people go there, and how packed the courtyard is with people milling about, and the different lines for guided tours set up according to language . . . I seriously almost wanted to cry for poor Ludwig!  I think it said thousands of people tour the castle each day.  Each tour group has 65 people at a time and lasts about 35 minutes.  Some people have complained they feel rushed when they take the tour, but I suppose it's so they can keep groups moving through.  I think it would have been a tiny bit better if the staging areas for the tours wasn't *in the courtyard*.  If they'd have the gates and turnstiles and overhanging signs and things outside the actual castle, maybe it wouldn't seem quite so disrespectful.

Another thing on the DVD was a little news story about one of the tour guides.  He said he'd lived for five years at the castle and I was like "Whaaat?!"  Apparently his father had been a tour guide there for many years and had actually lived at the castle!  In some rooms in the gatehouse, or gardener's house on the grounds or something?!  Now this guy was a tour guide and lived there.  Gah!  Again, disrespectful!  Poor poor, Ludwig.  I must admit though, it was neat to see this guy's story because it showed him cleaning things in the castle, getting ready for another day of work.  It was neat to see things besides the usual rooms and views that you usually see when they show anything about Neuschwanstein.  He was also talking about how almost all of the people that visit the castle know nothing of its history or of Ludwig, they just come because it's a tourist site.  He said the rare person that comes through that is knowledgeable about it and asks questions, he always stops and chats with them.  That was kinda cool, but still . . . poor Ludwig!!!!

Anyway, I'm not sure what to read now.  I really want to go back and read the second book I'd read about him again, but I also want to get to some other stuff that has been gathering dust here.  I'm pretty sure my mind would be distracted though so I'll probably just grab that Ludwig book.

And I'm totally nattering here.

Tomorrow I'll have a little craft haul.

What are you reading?

Book Review - The Swan King (Ludwig II of Bavaria)

The Swan King (Ludwig II of Bavaria)
by Christopher McIntosh
1982 (but last updated in 2012)
307 pages 

'The Swan King is the biography of one of the most enigmatic figures of the nineteenth century, described by Verlaine as 'the only true king of his century'.  A man of wildly eccentric temperament and touched by a rare, imaginative genius, Ludwig II of Bavaria is remembered both for his patronage of Richard Wagner and for the fabulous palaces that he created as part of a dream-world to escape the responsibilities of state.  In the realization of his fantasies, he created a ferment of creativity among artists and craftsmen, while his neglect of Bavaria's political interests made powerful enemies among those critical of his self-indulgence and excesses.  At the age of 40, declared insane in a plot to depose him, Ludwig died in mysterious circumstances.  What truly happened on that fateful night has never been discovered.'

This is the third book I've now read about Ludwig.  While it is my least favorite of the three, it is still a very good book.  Author Christopher McIntosh was a Wagner fan first, then became interested in Ludwig through that connection.  The fact that McIntosh was a Wagner fan first shows in this book.  It seems to show Wagner in a much better light than all other accounts I've seen about the man.  And because there can be no story of Ludwig without Wagner, there is a lot of time spent on the whole subject in this book, as there always is.

This book relies heavily on referring to other books about Ludwig, and has tons of quotes and passages from diaries and memoirs and things from many different players involved in Ludwig's life.  I do like how the author seems to look at things almost as an investigator, mentioning something and then breaking it down slightly to see how accurate it might be.  Keep in mind, a lot of the information about Ludwig, especially in his later years, comes from those who held grudges against him and were glad to see him fall.

There are very few pictures in this book, which is a bummer.  Even among those few pics, only one or two are actually of Ludwig.

The translations are a little easier to follow in this one than in the other books I've read.  The others seem to have more literal translations, where this one seems to be phrase things in more easy to understand way of English speaking.  (Does that make sense?)

The author addresses different subjects in their own chapters, and not so much an overall chronological telling of Ludwig's life.  This is both good and bad, for me at least.  It's nice to have everything about, say, his building phase addressed all in one chunk, but it doesn't give you a clear picture of what else was really going on in his life at that time.  For instance, the chapter about his homosexuality is very interesting and has some emotional entries from Ludwig's own diaries included, but I kept wondering 'Ok, at what point was this entry made and what might have gotten him so worked up?'  I found myself browsing back through the book or Googling things to try and match up a timeline.

I liked that the author spent time showing Ludwig wasn't always 'crazy.'  There is plenty to show that he did try in the beginning, that he did take care of business, and that he was devoted to trying to save his beloved Bavaria.  The author presents Ludwig's decline in a way that you can follow, and you really feel for the guy as things get out of his control and the depression and isolation build.  While it does touch on his unpredictable temper, this book seems to show him as a slightly more mellow and thoughtful man.

While I like all that about this book there is just something that still felt to, I don't know, thin.  It didn't quite pack the punch of the other two books I've read.  Maybe because there is nothing really new presented here?  This is interesting because just yesterday someone asked me that.  At work we have contractors that come in and service our filler machines.  One that is often there is from Austria (although lives in the States now), and I've known him many years.  He happens to be at the plant this week and on one break yesterday he saw this book sitting by me on the table.

Johan - "Ah, the crazy king!"
Me - "Yep, you're boy."
Johan - "Heh, yeah . . .  [and proceeds to read the back cover]."
Me - *dreamily reveling in hearing that Austrian accent talk about Ludwig*
Johan - "Oh, Wagner?  Yes, the composer.  Hmm."
Me - *thinking 'Read the whole book to me.'*
Johan - "Did you know that Disney modeled their castle after this one?  *pointing to Neuschwanstein on the cover*"
Me - "Yes.  I've been there."
Johan - "You have?!  I have never been there myself."
Me - "Whaaat?!  It's, like, just down the block for you?!"
Johan - "I know.  I should go."
Me - "I'm obsessed with Ludwig right now.  This is the third book I've read about him."
Johan - "And have you learned anything new from one book to another?  Or is it just all the same stuff?"
Me - "It's all pretty much the same stuff.  The only thing that changes is what theory the author subscribes to about his death."
Johan - "It was poison."
Me - "Was it suicide, or was it murder to remove him?"
Johan - "Either way, it was poison."

Okay, well, obvious Johan from Austria isn't up on his Ludwig history but the conversation made me chuckle and does bring me to my next point.  In the author's preface of this updated version of the book, he states that he believes in the suicide theory.  In the actual part of the book that covers Ludwig's death, it is presented neutrally, going over facts and letting the reader decide which camp they fall into, the murder camp or the suicide camp.  Where do I fall?  I'm still not sure.  Before reading my first book about him, knowing very little coming into it, I thought I was a firm believer in the murder theory.  That first book opened my eyes and I jumped over to the suicide camp.  Since then, I lean more towards the suicide camp but I still have way too many questions and doubts.  The murder scenario seems more and more unlikely to me though.  They already had him in custody, declared insane and unfit to rule, already had his replacement, had carried out their plans.  Why murder him and get themselves into even more trouble?  I would like to think it was the lesser talked about escape theory, but again, there are still so many questions.  I guess we will never know.

That is, until the Wittelsbach family consents to having Ludwig's body examined by present day examiners with modern techniques.

All in all, a good book if you're interested in learning about King Ludwig II, but not the best out there.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

July 18 - Sick Day

Hubby and Friend went to work early this morning so they could get home earlier to have more time to work on the barn.  They're plan is to do it that way the rest of this week.  Today they poured cement in this section where the old gutter actually ran under the east wall of the barn.  They can't do any other work on this wall until the cement is set, so they moved on to another area.
This is the southwest corner, the front, the side that faces the house, where the main door was and will be again.  Just from these two pics it doesn't seem like the did much in all the time they worked today.  Maybe they did some other stuff inside, I'm not sure.  And this evening hubby said their boss from work is even going to get in on helping with this project.  He's going to help with the electrical stuff that needs to be done out there.  How cool is that?

Well, I sort of fell back into my dark place today.  I've felt like I've been dancing around the edges of it again for a while now but when I woke up this morning I found myself deep in it.  I'd had a horrible dream just before waking up, actually it IS what woke me up, and my anxiety was sky high.  Just thinking about all the problems I'd be facing when I got to work was too much and I called in sick.  UGH!!!  My morning was miserable, wallowing in it all, and I knew I had to get busy on something to reroute my mood.  Started feeling much better around 10am and actually considered going to work.  Then it all just whacked me in the face again and I spent a chunk of time moping around on the verge of tears before I managed to get myself distracted with other things again.  I'm in a sort of neutral territory mood-wise right now as bedtime approaches.  I know I need to get my butt to work tomorrow.  It's just something that needs to be done.  I can't quit just yet.

One of the happy distractions I managed this morning was this addition to the craft room.
Not long after our trip to Germany back in 1999 I'd gotten these puzzles.  Hubby made the frames, and then for whatever reason these were never hung up anywhere.  They'd gotten set aside and moved around over time and I'd eventually forgotten about them.  Until now.  I founded them in behind stuff in our hall closet and knew exactly where I wanted them to go.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that one of the puzzles is Linderhof!  I'd remembered them both as Neuschwanstein.  I also moved my three little King Ludwig II pics from their shelf over to this wall.  I think it looks pretty darn cool!

When hubby came in from working on the barn this evening, he had a package that UPS or FedEx must have left on the porch.  It was this Neuschwanstein DVD I'd ordered just the other day.  Woohoo!  I haven't watched all of it yet but even so, it's not quite what I'd thought it would be.  I had thought it would be more of a tour of the castle, showing a lot of the inside.  While it does show some stuff from inside, it also has a lot of stuff about the general area of the castle, about Hohenschwangau (the little yellow castle nearby), and some other things.  It's really cool to see the Hohenschwangau stuff, but still, this isn't quite what I'd hoped it would be.

I also did some coloring today, playing around with different markers on different papers.  I didn't think to take any pics though.  Just imagine some very colorful fairies and unicorns.

Alrighty, I'm going to drag my delicate mind up to bed now to read more about Ludwig and hopefully have some peaceful sleep tonight.

What is your biggest stress right now?