Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Celebrating Mocksgiving

A few years ago I had strep throat during the third week of November. So rather than try to put together a Thanksgiving feast while running a high fever, I decided (with full support from my family) to push our celebration back a week, and just pretend that it was Thanksgiving once I was feeling better. Thus the term "Mocksgiving" was born.

And if you know me at all, then it should come as no surprise that our postponed celebration was just as festive and happy as it would have been had it been celebrated on the "right" day. Because my family has always subscribed to the "it doesn't matter what the calendar says; we can celebrate whenever we want to" philosophy. And it has served us well over the years.

Once again we found ourselves ignoring the calendar this year. Because of the way that our schedule is going to work out, the kids and I decided to have Grandma over for dinner this past weekend and give thanks a little early. And even though it was kind of a last-minute decision, it still worked out just fine. We were just as happy, we had just as much fun, and we were just as thankful as we would have been if we had waited until Thursday.

In fact, I got so into the celebration that I even suspended my "no Christmas music until after Thanksgiving dinner" rule and turned it on while I made breakfast. An impromptu dance party quickly ensued.

Dinner that evening was fairly simple (as my family tends to prefer.) And the kids got to help, of course.

We made most of our traditional Thanksgiving foods. Including the baked chicken in place of a turkey. Because that's what I do.

Because it's easier. And tastes just as good. And once you get it on the plate you can't really tell anyway.

And the result was exactly what I was going for. Because these two little smiling faces make everything worthwhile.

In the end, it never matters what the calendar says. We can be joyous and happy, no matter the time or the reason. And for that, I am incredibly thankful.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Yellow Butterflies and Funky Music

Yes, friends, it's Monday. And once again that means it's time to reflect on the things that made us happy over the past week. And of course now is also the perfect time to set the tone for a great week to come! 

If you missed my take on LML, you can find it here. If you missed the explanation of LML Monday, you can catch up here.

An Abundance of Butterflies
We have to deal with some unpleasant things here in the Sonoran Desert... scorpions, spiders, and snakes, just to name a few of the worst. But there is another far more pleasant thing that we get to see a lot of this time of year.

Photo: arizonensis.org

 I'm not an expert, but from what I could learn, I believe they are cloudless sulphur butterflies.

I don't know if there are more of them this year, or if I just didn't notice them as much in years past. But lately I have been seeing these happy little yellow butterflies everywhere.

Okay. To be fair, I don't know for sure that they're happy. But I like to believe that they are. At least they always give me a smile

Play That Funky Music
I freely admit that I am not much of a singer, and I have no rhythm for dancing. But for some reason, when I'm driving alone, none of that matters. I can turn up the music, sing along as loudly as I want, and do some awesomely terrible dancing in my seat. I'm sure I look like a crazy person while I'm doing it, but it makes me feel better, so I continue unashamed.

The music varies, and I always enjoy a wide variety. But lately I've discovered that it is absolutely impossible for me to be in anything less than a fantastic mood when I'm singing along to this song:

Ok. I shared mine - now it's your turn! Please leave me a comment and share some of your recent LML moments. 

Focus on the happy thoughts, and let's all have a great week!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Movie Review: The Fault in Our Stars

I don't typically do a lot of movie reviews here, but since I reviewed the book by John Green earlier this year, I thought I would follow up with a review of the adaptation.

I'll skip the plot synopsis here, because it very closely follows the story laid out in the book (which you can read about in the above link.) I know that people have differing opinions about how closely a movie should stick to the source material. Should it make you feel like you're re-reading the book, or should it only share the title, and completely - and sometimes regrettably - rewrite the entire plot? (I'm looking at you, World War Z.)

I don't think that either option is necessarily correct or incorrect; it all depends on the individual project. In this case, I thought it was very well done. There is enough of the original book kept in tact that John Green fans can relive his beautiful writing, and there is also enough creative variation to make the movie stand on its own.

The passion involved in making this movie - from the writer and director through the entire cast - is obvious, and makes a tragic story that much more beautiful to watch. Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort are brilliant, and their on-screen chemistry made me fall in love with both of them. They are sweet, and smart, and witty, and completely bring to life everything that we all love about John Green characters.

This is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a feel-good movie. There are some charmingly funny moments, but there are also some very brutal moments. Even though I knew what was coming, and thought I was prepared for it, I still sobbed like a baby. But at least I wasn't alone in that, because the entire audience was doing the same thing.

As far as adaptations go, I give this one a thumbs up, and recommend it just as much as I recommended the book. When you're in the mood for a beautiful story of love and loss, this is the one for you.


Want to see what other people have to say about the letter F this week? Be sure to visit ABC Wednesday.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Party Like The Doctor

As I'm sure many of you will recall, last November marked the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who. And when my kids found out that it was coming up, they asked if we could have a Doctor Who Party. Being a fan of the random reasons to celebrate (remember the 12/12/12 Party?) of course my answer was "Sure. Why not?"

The party was small, and kind of thrown together without a lot of time to plan ahead, but it was still a huge hit. And it led to the conclusion that we must have another one some time. In fact, we eventually decided that we should mark each series premier and finale with a party. Because... why not?

So in preparation for the Series 8 premier on August 23rd, I thought I would help us start getting ready to celebrate its return. 

I haven't really started the preparations for this party yet (that's coming soon) but I figured I'd share some of the things that we did last year, in case any of you would like ideas for your own Doctor Who Party.

Of course my daughter and I had to do our now famous Dalek nails.

And I made some Sonic Screwdrivers.

But the food was the most fun part.

The wormhole pizza was okay.

And the DW pizza was okay.

I was a little disappointed with the TARDIS pizza. (I'll have to experiment with that one a little more before next time.)

But the Dalek pizza was definitely the best.

We had some fruits and veggies.

And of course lots of other fun treats.

If you get all of those references, then you can live your life happily, knowing how awesome you are. If there are some that you didn't get... you should really watch more Doctor Who. :)

The next party will include even more fun and games (I'm thinking "pin the face on Cassandra" will have to be a thing.) So come back after the 23rd and I'll tell you all about it. I'd tell you more now, but, you know...


If you'd like to see what other great things that people are doing with the letter D this week, be sure to hop on over to ABC Wednesday.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Quiet Houses, Girlfriends, and Motivational Coffee Mugs

Yes, friends, it's Monday. And once again that means it's time to reflect on the things that made us happy over the past week. And of course now is also the perfect time to set the tone for a great week to come! 

If you missed my take on LML, you can find it here. If you missed the explanation of LML Monday, you can catch up here.

Back to School Time!
My kids went back to school last Thursday. (I now have a first grader and a third grader - I can hardly believe it!) My daughter was incredibly excited. My son was dealing with it as a necessary evil. And I was... well, if you have kids, you know how I was feeling.

Sure, I'm going to miss having them with me all day. But it's been a very long time since my house was this quiet, and I have to admit that I'm thoroughly enjoying it.

National Girlfriends Day
Last Friday - the day after the kids went back to school - happened to be National Girlfriends Day. And with perfect timing like that, I just had to take advantage of it. Since several of my friends have first graders this year, we decided to mark the day with an our-kids-are-finally-in-school-all-day-so-now-we-can-have-adult-time lunch. It was fantastic, and I am blessed to have such wonderful friends.

Because this is true, and a very important thing to have in life:

Of course, this is also true:

And perhaps most importantly:

Motivational Coffee Mugs
Y'all know that I love coffee. A lot. So it stands to reason that I also love coffee mugs. And I have a lot of really cute ones that I love to use. But lately, this one has been my favorite go-to mug.

It makes me smile every time I use it, and helps remind me that yes, life is most certainly good.

Ok. I shared mine - now it's your turn! Please leave me a comment and share some of your recent LML moments. 

Focus on the happy thoughts, and let's all have a great week!

Friday, August 1, 2014

May/June/July Reading Challenge Update

As you may recall from my post earlier this year, I decided to take part in the 2014 Reading Challenge through Goodreads. I set a conservative goal of reading 26 books this year, and (despite some recent setbacks) I'm still doing well.

I started off the year really strong, and was loving how many books I was able to make it through. I was also happy that I was well ahead of schedule to reach my goal, because I knew that sometimes in life there just isn't much extra time to do the things we love, like reading every day.

This summer was one of those times, and sadly I was only able to finish two books in the last three months. However, I'm still at 69% of my goal, and three books ahead of schedule, so I guess I'm still doing alright.

Here is a recap of what I did manage to read this summer. You can find the full reviews by following the links below.

Allegiant by Veronica Roth

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Book Review: The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

Despereaux Tilling is a mouse like no other. Born with his eyes open (which is simply unnatural, and quite disturbing to his family) and with ears that were much too big (also unnatural and disturbing) he is destined to be set apart from the rest of the mouse community.

He steps further outside of typical mouse-like behavior as he develops a love of reading, is mesmerized by the light and the beauty of the world, and falls desperately in love with the human princess. Eventually this leads Despereaux to being banished to the dark, deadly dungeon.

In the dungeon lives Roscuro, a rat who also loved the light of the outside world, but has now been trained in the evil ways of the rats. Through a series of unfortunate (and slightly ridiculous) events involving a chandelier and a bowl of soup, Roscuro is left bitter and hateful, and determined to exact his revenge on the princess.

And finally we have poor, poor Miggery Sow. Traded by her father for a handful of cigarettes, a hen, and a red table cloth, her new "uncle" is dark and abusive, giving Mig "a good clout to the ear" every time he is unsatisfied (which is almost always.) This abuse not only leaves her with cauliflower ears, but also very hard of hearing, and (understandably) extremely dim-witted. (Basically, the poor girl never had a chance in this world.)

Eventually Mig is brought to the castle that Despereaux and Roscuro call home, and becomes a chamber maid for the princess Pea. Once there, Roscuro pulls Mig into his revenge plot, leading her to believe that she can somehow trade places with Pea and become the princess herself. And so it becomes Despereaux's destiny to take on the role of mouse in shining armor, and rescue his lovely princess.

This is a sweet story, filled with adventure, heroism, and a very wide range of emotions. I had never read it before (and honestly wasn't eve sure what it was about) but my sister recommended it for my kids, and so we read it together (complete with the dramatically performed voices that my sister insisted on. Good times.)

Although some of the more complex themes were lost on my six-year-old, she still really enjoyed the story, and got invested in the characters and their adventures. My eight-year-old was better able to understand more of the subtleties, and got a little more out of the story than his sister did (while also loving the characters and their adventures.)

I really enjoyed the book too. It was silly, but sweet, and had enough thought-provoking elements to keep adults entertained. If you have kids, I would recommend enjoying this one together.

On a side note, I haven't seen the movie adaption, but my sister strongly recommends that you avoid it. According to her (and I trust her as reliable) the movie is terrible, and does not do the book justice at all. So if you've seen the movie, and it left you with no desire to read the book, keep in mind that the book is much, much better.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Celebrity Grammar Snobbery

If you've been on Facebook at all over the last couple of weeks, there's a good chance that you've seen people posting the video of Weird Al's "Word Crimes." If you haven't watched it yet, you really should.

I've always loved Weird Al, but I respect him even more now. (Being an admitted grammar snob myself, I suppose that's no surprise.) He says several things in the song that I've said for years. But maybe now that a celebrity has said it, people will start to listen. ;)

The best thing about this song is that within just a couple of days after it was released four of my friends had sent me the link to it, and suggested that I would appreciate it and/or that I should adopt it as my new theme song. I love how well my friends know me.

And if you happen to be a fellow grammar snob (or appreciate funny grammar snobbery) then after you watch Weird Al's video you should also go check out The Oatmeal. All of his stuff is fantastic, but I particularly love his grammar related comics, like "What it means when you say literally" and "How to use a semicolon." Great stuff.


I hope this has given you a few laughs, and helped brighten your day a little. To see what other people have to say about the letter C this week, please visit the ABC Wednesday page.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Book Review: Allegiant by Veronica Roth

Once again picking up right where the previous book left off, Allegiant finally brings an end to the story of Tris and Tobias, and all of the other characters that we came to love (and hate) in the first two books of the series.

After the shocking revelation at the end of Insurgent, when everyone learned that the factions did not simply evolve the way that they had been led to believe, society is left in even greater turmoil.

While some believe that the faction system should be completely abolished, others still feel a strong allegiance to the only way of life they've ever known. Meanwhile, a smaller group is determined to venture outside of the walled-in city to discover the full truth behind their existence.

 The truth, it turns out, is nothing that they ever could have imagined, and understandably difficult to adjust to. With a history of genetic manipulation and the government's repeated attempts to correct their mistakes, the great moral question of genetic superiority/inferiority has become an increasingly heated source of conflict. Now Tris and the others must decide which side they will take.

None of those answers come easily, and while everyone struggles to come to grips with their new reality, Tris and Tobias's relationship (as always) is put to further test. Unlike the two previous books, which were told entirely from Tris's perspective, this one alternates point of view between Tris and Tobias. It's an interesting change, and makes sense as far as the plot is concerned, but it does take some getting used to.

I know that a lot of people had a problem with the ending (with varying degrees of passion and anger.) I won't give any spoilers here, but I will say that it was a bit emotional. Personally, though, I didn't have a problem with it. A "happily ever after" ending to this kind of a story would just seem out of place.

Overall, I enjoyed this one, as I did the rest of the series. It wasn't my favorite (in my experience, the rest of a series rarely lives up to the first one) but it was still a fun, exciting read, and I thought that it concluded the story nicely.  I think Roth has quite a lot of potential, and I look forward to seeing how she develops as a writer.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Volcanoes, Water Babies, and Frozen Concoctions

Yes, friends, it's Monday. And once again that means it's time to reflect on the things that made us happy over the past week. And of course now is also the perfect time to set the tone for a great week to come! 

If you missed my take on LML, you can find it here. If you missed the explanation of LML Monday, you can catch up here.

Volcanoes (and Great Views)
Our summer plans changed a lot this year, due to several unforeseen circumstances, so we didn't get to do most of the things that we had planned. (That's just the way life goes sometimes.) But since the kids will be heading back to school later this week, my husband and I decided to take a few days last week and squeeze in some fun.

We headed up to Las Vegas, where unfortunately the weather isn't any better than it is in central Arizona, but at least it was a nice change of scenery. And the views, as always, were fantastic.

We decided to stay at The Mirage this time, which was nice.

We had a pretty great view of the volcano. (It was impossible to get a good picture at night because of the reflections.) But we got to watch all of the "eruptions" from our room, which was cool. The kids got a kick out of it every time.

And during the day, the volcano's waterfall made a pretty nice background for a photo of some adorable children. :)

Water Babies (and Relaxing by the Pool)
Speaking of adorable children...

Most of the times that we've vacationed in Las Vegas, we've done quite a bit of sightseeing and exploring. We still did a little bit of that this time - Hershey's Chocolate World wasn't open yet last time we were there, so we had to check that out - but mostly this trip was more about relaxing and enjoying the end of summer vacation.

My husband and the kids (who are fortunate enough to not be allergic to the sun) spent a lot of time in the pool. And I (the one who is not so fortunate) spent a lot of time in the shade. But that was good too.

I had a nice view.

And plenty to keep me entertained.

Unbeatable Frozen Concoctions
Far be it from me to advocate overindulgence. But when I'm in Vegas, there's a pretty good chance that I'm going to enjoy the free-flowing alcohol at least a little bit. There are plenty to choose from, of course, but during the summer the frozen drinks are definitely the way to go.

And if you're anything like me, when you hear the phrase "frozen concoctions" you immediately think of wasting away again in Margaritaville.

A bit overpriced, perhaps, and it always takes forever to get a table. But it's still one of my favorite places to visit at least once while we're in town. If you're a fan of Jimmy Buffett, and/or the island atmosphere, you kind of have to love it there.

Ok. I shared mine - now it's your turn! Please leave me a comment and share some of your recent LML moments. 

Focus on the happy thoughts, and let's all have a great week!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Being Bipolar

I've shared a lot with y'all over the years, but there is one thing that I've always held back. It's not so much that I was hiding it. It's just that it can still be really, really hard to talk about, even after all of these years.

Because the thing is, mental illness still comes with a stigma. Sure, things are better than they used to be. There are much better treatment options available, and people in general are starting to be more understanding and less judgmental. But we still have a long way to go.

When I was in my early twenties, I was (mis)diagnosed with depression. I had already been suffering from chronic pain for many years, which, understandably, is depressing. But there was more to it than that. And even though I had suspected for years that I might be bipolar, I was too afraid to speak up. Because I was afraid that I might be right. And I was afraid of what it would mean.

After remaining untreated for much longer than I should have, I finally reached a breaking point. And it was during a week-long stay in the mental health wing of the hospital that I was finally diagnosed and began receiving the treatment that I so desperately needed.

Okay, I have to pause here for some incredibly painful honesty. Even though I've come to terms with my illness, and I know, logically, that it's nothing to be ashamed of... it is still terrifying to talk about it so openly. To tell someone that you were hospitalized for mental illness means holding your breath and waiting for the judgment. And the look of "oh, I didn't know you were that crazy."

So even though it's scary, I still have to talk about it. Because the more of us that do - the more that we can be open and honest about it - the less painful and scary it will be.

I don't want people to be scared of talking about this. I don't want people to be ashamed, or feel like it's better to suffer in silence than to get help. We should never, ever have to go through this alone.


A big thank you to ABC Wednesday for inspiring me to share this story. To find more beautiful "B" posts, be sure to visit the their page.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Return of LML Monday

Those of you who have been with me for a while might recall a thing I started a couple of years ago about wanting to see more LML (love my life) in the world, and less FML. (You know what that one means.) If you haven't read it, please go check it out.

Not long after the idea for LML, the idea for LML Monday came along. In a nutshell, it was all about focusing on life's little happy moments, finding reasons to smile, and trying to make Mondays suck a little bit less. If you haven't read that one either, please check it out too.

Sadly, LML Monday kind of died late last year. I lost momentum. It fizzled out. Things happened. More stuff happened. It wasn't that I stopped seeing the LML moments. They just never made it to the screen. And that always kind of made me sad, but I never did anything about it. Until now.

As I mentioned last week, I'm kind of at a point of new beginnings right now. (Or at least I'm trying to be.) So in keeping with that, I thought I'd try the revival of LML Monday that I've wanted to see for a long time. Join me, won't you? Let's see where it takes us. :)

I'll leave you with this, as we start the week...