Monday, January 31, 2011

10 Good Things on a Monday 1/31

10 things that make me smile:

1. Thinking about decorating our new house.
2. Scotty's smile.
3. The way Loki runs around like crazy on the floor, licking everything and exploring.
4. The after-the-rain smell outside right now.
5. The three tiny little cow erasers on my desk.
6. Seeing a pile of courier books on my desk at work, ready to be read.
7. Angry Birds. (I just downloaded it yesterday. I don't know why I didn't try it sooner.)
8. Sleepy puppies, like my mom's boxer Ruger the other day - puppy yawns are so adorable.
9. Hugging my mom. She gives great hugs.
10. Looking through amazing photos on Flickr.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Review: The Knife of Never Letting Go

The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking, #1)The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I honestly have no idea what to say about this. Man. This book was intense. I loved it. I loved Todd, and Manchee, and Viola, and everybody else in the effing book except those I hated. Why hasn't the second book arrived on my desk yet? Dammit.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Loki's new castle

Scotty and I have been working on this project for awhile: a castle for Loki's tank, with a hide, basking spot, and spot for her food dish. It's made out of polystyrene (pieces attached with wood glue), grout, textured "stone" paint, and a layer of Mod Podge; the bricks were done with Sharpie.

Here it is, completed, in her tank:

It was really a very simple project, and can probably be done in a week or so. We just took our time with it.

I introduced it to her first before it was in her tank. She loved it right away and decided to "storm" it.

It was like she knew it was hers.

Once it was in the tank she quickly became fixated on one spot (where the Mod Podge slightly discolored the layer of grout beneath).

All in all, a really fun project for a really fun pet.

Speaking of Loki, how cute is this? It's a bad cellphone picture, but you get the idea.

She snuggled right up to my neck and practically fell asleep. Cutest thing ever.

Review: Moon Over Manifest

Moon Over ManifestMoon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

My rating: 4 of 5 stars 

Moon Over Manifest is a story I think I would have enjoyed more as a child; I could feel my younger self identifying with the tomboyish protagonist, the people of the town as they're described in the story, and the history, as it related to what I was learning in Social Studies. As an adult, I can see some weaknesses in the story, which when combined make it feel a bit contrived, but yes: me as a kid would have read the heck out of this.

The book cleverly combines 1936 Depression-era Kansas with flashbacks to 1918, introducing World War I (a topic I never learned much about in Social Studies, which usually ended with the Civil War and then the entire 20th century crammed into a week or so), and the influenza pandemic during that time period (also barely touched on in class). While some characters cross over, others don't, which adds a layer of mystery to the other puzzles in the book and packs a bit of a hard punch when you find out what happened.

It ends with a nice little chapter with some background information on the location and other aspects of the story, which I liked a lot. I was often intrigued by offhand remarks in stories as a kid, but rarely did any further research.

A few things felt strange; the central spy mystery of the novel wasn't really well-done and actually ended up being a little confusing in parts, the 1918 "ending" is very pat, and the connections between 1918 Manifest and 1936 Manifest are sometimes pretty frail. The book is a little laggy in the middle, and the "storytelling" aspect is pretty much lost, because the voice the stories are told in doesn't really carry through.

However, overall, I enjoyed this. It's certainly better than a dry Social Studies textbook.

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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Review: Paper Towns

Paper TownsPaper Towns by John Green

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this book, which was an endearing mix of sympathetic high school characters, a mystery, and themes of growing up and learning to recognize people for who they are. Although I have to say I found Margo more obnoxious than loveable, the voice of the protagonist and the well-plotted clues kept me reading.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The house

Everything feels a little overwhelming right now. Okay. A lot overwhelming.

We went house-hunting on Saturday and completely fell in love with a house. Since then, it's been a whirlwind of activity: signing the contract, waiting on pins and needles for the seller (who is also the credit union we're financing the home purchase through) to get back to us, meeting our realtor last-minute at Starbucks to sign the "counter-offer" where really all that was changed was the wording.

The house, and our realtor's vehicle.

Next comes the appraisal and inspection and all of that... the part I've begun to worry about is getting the loan itself through and processed. I really like to research and be on solid ground with whatever I'm doing (whether it's cooking, going to the zoo, shopping...) but mortgage stuff is pretty darn confusing and very difficult to research online, so I kind of have to sit back and let it happen.

I'm trying to remind myself of what I talked about in my last entry. If this happens... awesome. I love this house, and it would be an amazing place to settle into. If it doesn't work out... that's okay too. There are other houses and other opportunities. It's just hard not to get attached.

Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Where the heart is

I am really excited.

I think 2011 is going to be my year. Our year. Even just the number 11 is good, you know? I like it. (And I normally hate odd numbers.)

This is the year that good things are going to happen. Maybe not all good things. But I'm certain I will learn lessons, and experience life in new ways.

We've started the process of buying a home of our own. Not a house, a home. I am looking forward to it in so many ways: touring homes, moving in, never having to put anything except holiday decorations in storage again. Decorating, putting up pictures, buying frames and prints. Getting the sofa we've already picked out. Having room, places to put things, a library, even if it's just "some bookcases in the den." Having a housewarming party.

And eventually having room to start building our family - that's exciting, too. We'll be keeping that in mind as we look at houses, as well as the million other things we like and don't like and never really thought about.

I am really looking forward to this year. I have a feeling there will be some frustrating moments. Heck, probably a lot of frustrating moments. But no matter where I am in January of 2012, I'll be the better for it, because I'll have learned things through the experience.

You can never fail if you take knowledge from every experience.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Review: Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook (Pathfinder RPG)Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook by Jason Bulmahn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm converting my current D&D game from 3.5 to Pathfinder, so I wanted to buy myself a copy of the rulebook rather than mooching off my friend's. Naturally, in the game store, I also had to buy the Bestiary and Bestiary 2. I forgot how expensive gaming books are when you buy them new and not at the used bookstore. Jeez.

I read through this book, skimming some parts I knew well, and reading others more closely. It's very well-written, more accessible, I think, than D&D is. Many of the rules are explained more fully and in a more comprehensible way. I also really like the art, and the emphasis on capable and experienced adventurers no matter their gender or age.

As long as I have some people who are really experts in my group, I will probably never need to read this cover-to-cover, and for that I'm grateful, because my head starts swimming after battle statistics after awhile. But it's definitely a well-done book and worthy of the adulation it gets in my group.

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Friday, January 7, 2011

Review: The Shadow Year

The Shadow YearThe Shadow Year by Jeffrey Ford

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this creepy tale of a year in a boy's life in the 1960s. There's something really sort of dreamlike and surreal about it, with odd touches that sort of take away the book's anchor with real life. It reminded me a lot of my own childhood, which was spent making up stories and riding around on my bike with my brother (although, of course, we had much less free range than the boys in this book did).

There's a large cast of supporting, minor characters in this book, which really brings the flavor of the neighborhood the unnamed protagonist lives in to life. I liked the pervading creepiness better than the horror found in Stephen King's It, because all of the things that happened could easily be waved away as imagination. It actually does make you feel a lot like a little kid who knows something's wrong and nobody will do anything about it.

I liked it, but... at times the book is slow and the characters behave in almost mind-numbingly stupid ways - ways that seemed actually pretty out-of-character, and really brought down my enjoyment of the book.

I didn't think I'd read anything by this author before, but I see now he writes a lot of short stories and he's had stories in anthologies I've read, so I think I'll look further at his stuff.

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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Review: Amazing Cows!: Udder Absurdity for Children Ages 5 to Infinity

Amazing Cows!: Udder Absurdity for Children Ages 5 to InfinityAmazing Cows!: Udder Absurdity for Children Ages 5 to Infinity by Sandra Boynton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I first fell in love with cows a few years ago when I read a news article about how Fidel Castro once suggested supplying miniature cows to Cuban families, which could provide them with daily milk and graze their grass for them.

Once I read that, I was enchanted. I liked cows well enough. But miniature cows? There is such a thing?

Oh my gosh, so freakin' cute!! And thus, I fell in love with cows of all sizes. It was only cemented when I visited a local family-operated farm and met Buster, who is also freakin' adorable.

No, no, really, I mean, adorable...

As you can imagine, I snapped this book right up. Somebody failed in not getting this for me for Christmas. It is all about cows and how amazing they are, and it illustrates this with terrible knock-knock jokes, two short stories, an old-fashioned superhero comic and a cow myth. Not only are there cows, there are chickens and a very strange goat who sings about static electricity.

It's wonderful.

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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Review: Bird

BirdBird by Rita Murphy

Goodreads summary: A girl easily carried off by the wind.An elderly widow whose husband died under strange circumstances.An isolated dwelling that breeds fear.Miranda has no recollection of where she came from—only that years ago, a gust of wind deposited her outside Bourne Manor. The Manor’s sole inhabitant, Wysteria Barrows, took Miranda in and promptly outfitted her with special boots—boots weighted with steel bars to keep her anchored to the ground. But aside from shelter and clothing, Miranda receives little warmth from the aging widow. The Manor, too, is a cold place, full of drafts and locked doors. Full of menace. Full of secrets. Then one day a boy named Farley appears. Farley helps Miranda embrace her destiny with the wind . . . and uncover the Manor’s hidden past.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My first book of 2011. I finished this early Saturday morning, and I have to admit, I was disappointed. I expected more from it, but I think I was drawn in by the beautiful cover and the potential of the story.

There's so much left unexplained here, and it doesn't feel like that was intentional. It really feels as though there's a developed world out there, but the author just isn't giving it to us. The whole book has a dreamlike quality to it that works in some sequences but is ultimately just frustrating.

However, I liked the writing style and the concept. It wasn't a chore to slug through, and I'd read other books set in this universe.

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Review: Ways to Live Forever

Ways to Live ForeverWays to Live Forever by Sally Nicholls

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was my last book of 2010. Not really a bad way to end the year, kind of putting me in mind of death and the continuance of life and all that. I liked Sam's story, although at times it was a little too perfect. It's absolutely predictable. However, Sally Nicholl's writing saved it from being too trite for me. She captures Sam's personality well and she frames his story in an engaging way.

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Monday, January 3, 2011

Another Day in the Life: Jan 1, 2011

Here is my DITL for January 1, 2011... this month is all about the rounded edges! I had a cold or something going on with my sinuses this past week (which particularly sucked yesterday, which I spent throwing up and huddled in bed) but I did manage to take pictures.

DITL 01 - Midnight Kiss, Black and White
Midnight on New Year's! A kiss to celebrate 2011.

DITL 03 - Ready for Bed
And then a dose of generic Nyquil, to ensure I can sleep the night.

DITL 04 - Alarm
Yep... I definitely managed to sleep! Luckily Scotty fed Loki at her normal time, or she'd be really unhappy.

DITL 05 - Tissues
A recurring theme.

DITL 06 - Loki in Her Tree
Good morning, Loki.

DITL 07 - Fighting a Cold
Good morning, medicine.

DITL 08 - Internetting
Good morning, Internet, and Groupon.

DITL 09 - Cow Necklace
I go get ready for the day with my cow necklace (a Christmas present from Alicia and Chris).

DITL 10 - Getting Ready
Deodorant, and behind it, a whole row of Japanese Cherry Blossom stuff from Bath & Body Works. <3

DITL 11 - Star
Geeky hairclip, also from Alicia and Chris!

DITL 12 - Sparkles
I love how my perfume makes me sparkle.

DITL 13 - Gaming
When I come out of the bathroom, Alicia is trying a new game we got with Christmas money, 3D Dot Game Heroes.

DITL 14 - Pancakes
My awesome mother-in-law made pancakes and bacon for breakfast!

DITL 15 - Internetting
After breakfast - more computering.

DITL 16 - On the Road
Scotty and I head out to Walmart to procure the Move bundle for the PS3 (it comes with a Move controller, Sports Champions and a camera).

DITL 17 - Erasers
We also got these adorable erasers! Sorry it's blurry... but aren't they cute?

DITL 18 - Euchre
When we get home, Scott, Virginia, Chris and Alicia are playing euchre. (Alicia is holding the giraffe eraser that also came with the cows and panda above, which I gave to her.)

DITL 19 - Scott with the Move

DITL 20 - Playing with the Move
Scott & Scotty play some Sports Champions.

DITL 21 - Uno
And then we all play Uno.

DITL 22 - Loki Ready for Bed
Around this time, I went to check in on Loki, and realized the cool side of her tank was really much cooler than it should be. So I shut the window in the room, which brought up the temperature quite a bit. She finally turned light again (after being dark all day), ate some munchies, and then went to get ready for bed.

DITL 23 - Loki
So freakin' cute.

DITL 24 - Jack in the Box
Scotty and I are sent to Jack in the Box to procure tacos and spicy chicken sandwiches for everyone. 14 tacos!!

DITL 25 - Epic Mickey
I end the night with Epic Mickey.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

DePhoMo Mosaic

DePhoMo2010 Mosaic

All of my DePhoMo pictures for the year!