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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Where I've Been

I'm sorry for the lack of posts lately. I've had a few things I've wanted to write about but I have had a hard enough time staying on track with my "National Novel Writing" goals that I didn't feel I could set aside extra time for blogging. I started out being ahead of schedule, my word counts always above the daily goal, but then over Thanksgiving week we had family in town and I was only able to scrape out a couple of hundred words a day at times, well under the 1,600 words a day you need to average to complete your project on schedule. Now, with a basically only two days left, I am a little under 2000 words short of my 50k word goal. The story is ending and I think the two remaining scenes I have left to write will end up getting me to the goal.

I guess being a product of the plugged in late 20th early 21st centuries, I tend to think in terms of scenes rather than chapters or whatever. I have divided up my novel in my head into various scenes each of which has to accomplish something, be it as minor as a conversation or as major as a character death. I also almost always switch points of view from scene to scene. I have written one or two pieces where everything is from the point of view of a single character, but I don't prefer to write that way. Honestly, if I had my druthers, there wouldn't be a point of view so much as an omniscient story teller who sees what everyone is thinking or feeling, but I have was told at one point that I don't write well that way and it kind of stuck with me. It is sort of limiting, having a character telling the story. You don't get to know what is going on in more than one character's head at a time, for instance. It does keep one from emoting too long on feelings which is something I tended to do far too often as a teenage writer. My characters would sit analyzing things in their heads for ages rather than just getting out and doing something.

Anyway, for the most part I am happy with my novel. I did decide that my ending would leave certain things un-settled and open for a sequel (I like trilogies. Everyone loves trilogies, right?), which means I will eventually have to write another story with the same characters. I have the next two installments minimally planned out in my head. I know how they will end, at least, even if I am not sure exactly what steps my characters will take to get themselves to those points.

Also I recently ran out of free storage space for my blog images, which sucks. I can buy more, but I don't particularly care to, so we will see what I figure out. Does anyone have any experience with image hosting? Is the best deal to buy through google? Let me know what you do and how you do it! I'm still very much a beginner at this blog stuff.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Marine Wife, Mommy & Life: Giveaway: Customized Military Pride Ornament from ...

Marine Wife, Mommy & Life: Giveaway: Customized Military Pride Ornament from ...: Just in time for Christmas! Another wonderful giveaway from an awesome Military Spouse sponsor, Michelle at Patriot Farms !  I love C...

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Christmas Tree Hat-Crochet Project

Last week I posted a pattern for a Santa's Helper Hat and mentioned that it was based on a Christmas tree hat I saw in a store. I had to go shopping for some embellishments, but I finally got around into making my Elf Hat into a Christmas Tree and I thought I'd post the results plus a link to the pattern I used to create the star on top.

First off: Star Pattern from Tangled Happy.

There are numerous other star motifs out there; this is just the one that suited my purposes best.

You can start with the buttons or with the star. I bought a package of plastic buttons from Walmart in Christmas colors for a few dollars and just sewed them here, there, and everywhere around the hat. I then attached the star to the top. It will stand up straight if you don't move around a ton. One difficulty I had was that my yarn needle did not fit through the button holes so I had to thread them by hand. You could remedy this by using embroidery floss and a smaller needle to sew them on, of course, but I didn't have anything like that lying around and I would rather just knuckle through it than go to the store again.

Pardon the bad self-portraits

the star on top

It's pretty ridiculously tall

lying flat

the buttons

what it looks like when it goes floppy.

still pretty cute

I might be a bit more careful hiding the seem next time

Merry Christmas!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Another NaNoWriMo Update!

I stole this cool little graphic from the NaNoWriMo site where I have been updating my word counts. So far I've been able to hit my goal words per day in writing almost every day, and I'm proud of myself. I had some plot details that held me up a little but I wrote through them. Those parts are probably going to get edited down a bit, because I find when something in my story isn't making sense, it helps to see it through the voices of my characters. 

Plot point doesn't make sense or I'm not exactly sure how my characters are going to accomplish things? Take two of them, put them in a room, and have them talk it out. It turns into a long, dialogue laden scene of just two characters talking, sometimes in circles, but eventually one of the characters says, "Well, why don't we storm the castle inside of a giant wooden rabbit? Why wouldn't that work?" and the other character says, "That idea is just crazy enough that it just might work!" and then they go do it. 

Possibly all the discussion leading up to that where the characters say, "We could go in dressed as bananas" or "why don't we just ask very nicely if they will let us into the castle. . ." etc will be edited out at some later date, but at least I got through it all and they have come up with a solution for me. 

I think that's why NaNoWriMo is so good for writers. Instead of getting discouraged and giving up when something about my story doesn't exactly make sense, I am forced to just write through it, to keep adding words to my word count until something finally does makes sense. Just keeping on going enables me to force my way into the more developed parts of my story, the parts that excite me and keep me interested and excited. 

I only have 17k words or so until my word count goal for the month (50k) and the site's estimator suggests I'll be done with my goal by the 23rd, a week early. I guess that will give me extra time in case something goes wrong. I'm not sure what I'll do if my story ends and I'm still a few words short. I might have to go back and add more in at some point. We shall see.

I also thought I would share a little bit of my novel . . . and a picture of me fighting a dinosaur with fire:

The First Chapter of my Novel:

Shannon held her breath against the acrid stench of the cavern, her back pressed flat against the rough, unnaturally warm stone.
            “Just press forward,” she thought desperately. “One way or another this will all be over if you just press forward.” But her feet wouldn't move. She forced her eyes open. She could make out the vague outline, like a great, leather cloak draped over bumpy furniture but about a thousand times bigger. He seemed to be sleeping. If she turned back now perhaps she could still live but that meant going back to everything that had driven her to this insanity in the first place.
            As she timidly moved one slippered foot forward, she recited from the Wizards' Practical Guide to Dragons under her breath, “Dragons like puzzles. Dragons love gold. Dragons can be swayed by flattery and bought with presents.”
            She touched the strap of her knapsack just to be sure it was still where it should be and prayed her offering would be enough. She took another step, her stride stronger now, one way or the other this was going to end. One way or . . . The dragon moved. She swallowed a scream as her legs gave out underneath her . . . oh why oh why had she ever come to Regone? If only she'd listened to Martin. . .

            Three months before:
            Shannon drew a deep breath. She hated confrontation, but she was in the right in this, and Martin needed to know. She had been assuring herself of this her entire trip through the university's echoing halls, her boots slapping out a rhythm of “it's unfair; he should've come to me first. It's unfair. He should've. It's unfair. . .” She wasn’t good at being angry; it simply didn’t come naturally to her, and if she was going to assume an air of righteous indignation she would need to work herself up and keep herself there. If she was indignant enough he’d have to listen.
            She threw open the door to his study not even bothering to knock. Her friend sat behind his desk, quill pen in hand. He was hunched over some papers but when she burst in he looked up and raised his eyebrows.
            “Shannon? Is something wrong?” he asked.
            “Yes, something is wrong!” she burst out. Her voice sounded shrill. She swallowed and considered adjusting it. Even she couldn’t take that voice seriously. She sounded like a six year old. She cleared her throat to begin again. “I just talked to Henri in the library. He told me you had put him on the short list for the assignment in Regonian. I didn’t know you were even interviewing candidates yet, and Henri has already had two interviews and is on the short list. I’m twice as qualified as Henri, Martin! This is because I’m a woman, isn’t it? I know the headmaster is old fashioned but, the choice is yours, not his. . .”
            “No, that’s not it. Dame Allison is on the short list too,” he said, sticking the quill into the ink well and leaning back wearily in his seat. She gaped. She couldn’t help it. She gaped. Allison knew her alchemy, she admitted it, but she had no imagination, no ambition. She was like a walking reference library, true, but if it came to thinking out of the box, Shannon knew she could run circles around Allison.
            “That. . .that only makes it worse, Martin,” she said, managing to control the pitch of her voice. “I’m a better alchemist than Allison and I know more botany than Henri. Why are they both on the list when you never even interviewed me?”
            “Do you even know what this assignment involves?” Martin scowled.
            “I saw the letter they sent the headmaster.” She nodded trying to come across as firm rather than shrill. “The Regonian steward wants a scholar versed in alchemy, botany, and apothecarianism, and I was top of my class in all three. You know I’ve been wanting. . .needing. . .to leave the university. Why didn’t I make the list? I should’ve been the list.”
            “Because it’s Regone!” he said, sounding unaccountably exasperated. She blinked at him. He drew a deep breath. “You don’t know what that means, do you?” he asked. She shook her head. “You do live under a rock, don’t you?” he groaned. “Regone is cursed, Shan.”
            She let her brow crinkle. She could never tell when Martin was joking but this had to be a joke. She’d heard of cursed objects, cursed people, even an occasional cursed castle, but an entire kingdom? The amount of magic it would take to curse an entire kingdom was unfathomable. His eyes were placid, though, no twinkle.
            “How so?” she asked. He eased himself behind the heavy wooden desk and into his chair.
            “The current king of Regone, Edwin, is the second son of the previous king, Ernest. The first son, the Crown Prince Ewan, was killed about five years ago by a dragon,” he explained.
            “Unfortunate but hardly in the realm of the supernatural.” Shannon shrugged. “Men are always trying to prove themselves against dragons and it rarely ends well.”
            “I’m not finished. Upon hearing of his brother’s fate, Edwin swore vengeance upon the entire race of dragons and, along with the majority of the knights from the Regonian court, began hunting them from one end of the continent to the other. Rumor is he and his entourage killed at least half a dozen of the great wyrms before they encountered an entire nest of them and, outnumbered by the beasts, they were roasted and rent . . .”
            “Again, sad but the inevitable consequence of tangling with dragons. . .” she interrupted.
            “Again, not finished.” Martin’s scowl returned, a little deeper this time. “Miraculously one or two of the knights survived, Edwin being one of them, though he didn’t escape unharmed. He was grievously injured. When Ernest saw them bring back his only remaining son clinging to life by a thread, he collapsed and never awoke; his heart gave out and he died within the hour. Edwin, of course, survived, but he is severely maimed and in constant pain from the dragon venom in his wounds, which is why they need a scholar in the first place, someone to help alleviate his symptoms. Nothing has gone right for the royal family since Prince Ewan’s death. The kingdom is nearly bankrupt. Many of the nobles have left the kingdom or are simply refusing to pay taxes because they know King Edwin does not have the man power to force them to do so, the majority of his army having been devoured by dragons, as it were. I grew up in Regone. When I was a boy it was thriving. Ernest was a good king, and Ewan had potential to be an even better one. . . he wasn’t an idiot. When I’d heard a dragon had got the drop on him. . I couldn’t believe it. You don’t need to be entangled in that mess, not your first trip out of the university.”
            “But I’d be perfect for the job,” she persisted. “I know I’ll be fine, Martin. I can handle myself, and I promise I won’t go anywhere near dragons.”

            She almost laughed at the memory. She certainly had broken that promise. Well, hopefully Martin would forgive her. She knew dragons . . . at least she knew books about dragons. If anyone could talk a dragon down, she could; she knew she could.
            It was time to wake the beast.
            Stepping boldly from the wall, she shouted out: Dragon! Her voice squeaked but echoed loudly. For a moment nothing happened but then, all at once, the dragon moved, unfolding to its full size, easily as big as a house. Its neck arched upwards like a great snake posed to strike. A burst of flame shot from its nostrils causing its slate gray scales to glow red for a moment before the cave plunged back into darkness except for the green glow of the beast’s cat like eyes. She gasped and almost fell over backwards. Somehow she steadied herself, bracing her legs together to keep her knees from knocking. Her heart, however, persisted in pounding and she knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it could hear her. Suddenly a deep, decidedly masculine voice boomed, “You’re too tiny to be here for a fight. Did the peasants think if they sent me you as a meal I’d stay away from their sheep? If so, I’ll have to tell them that you aren’t even a healthy appetizer.”
            His head lowered to rest between his fore talons like a resting dog but his gaze stayed focused on her. Her vision was recovering from the flash of flame now and while the ambient light was poor, she could make out enough to get a good idea of him. His head was shaped roughly like that of a horse but with a beak like upper lip, sharp as an eagle’s maw. He had great, fan shaped ears and curled horns that circled back until right behind his glowing eyes, eyes which spoke to an intelligence more human than animal. He had four great limbs, each tipped with glinting talons, and wings that were folded close against his side though she could imagine their span could easily fill the cavern if he chose to unfurl them. He was, she supposed, not large for a dragon as she had read of many being the size of a large house and this one was maybe thirty feet from nose tip to tail tip and about ten feet in height, young, she imagined.
            “Want me to close my eyes and count to ten?” he yawned. “I’m feeling lazy, so you have a sporting chance.”
            “I’m not here as a sacrifice. . . I . . . not yet, anyway. I brought you a gift,” she stammered. He snorted and once again the flames lit the cavern. She blinked and squinted back at him.
            “A gift?” he chuckled. “I must admit, I’ve never heard that one . . .  I’m intrigued. What is it?” She reached into her satchel and pulled out the golden chain. “Ah, shiny,” he said. “I have been putting off starting my horde. Once a dragon nests on a pile of gold and puts down roots moving becomes awkward.”
            “I . . . I was hoping I could talk you into leaving,” she stammered.
            “This is a very nice cave,” he said. “It’s going to take a lot more than a necklace to get me to vacate, especially since they apparently send girls to do their fighting here, unarmed ones at that. Are they out of knights?”
            “That’s what I’m here to talk to you about: they have a knight and a very good one. He’s killed at least a dozen dragons and if you don’t leave he’ll come for you next.”
            “Am I supposed to be frightened?” he asked. “Thank you for the warning, but I’ll take my chances. Just put the gold down wherever.” He closed his eyes again. She set the chain down on the cave floor and stood watching him. After a moment he opened his eyes again. “That was your cue to go.”
            “I can’t go,” she swallowed. “If he kills you he gets to marry me and he’s an absolute bore.”
            The dragon lifted his head and cocked it to the side quizzically.
            “Let’s start at the beginning. Who are you, exactly?”
            “My name is Shannon. I’m a scholar and an alchemist in the employ of King Edwin. This knight named Roderick has been paying me favors, but he’s awful. I’ve been polite but one of the good things about being a scholar is that I don’t have to just marry the first man to wink at me, and I informed him of that. . .but then you showed up and he said he’d dispatch you, but only if I agreed to marry  him afterwards. He really is a formidable dragon hunter. You really don’t want to go up against him. I wanted to just refuse but Edwin wants you dead in the worst way. He really has it out for dragons and now that he can’t hunt them on his own, it’s worse in some ways.”
            “Believe it or not, we dragons aren’t too keen on him either. You know he has killed a good number of us.”
            “Because one killed his brother.”
            “Is that why?” the dragon looked sober for a moment. Then his voice took on a mocking tone once more. “How do you know one of the dragons he killed wasn’t my brother? Or all of them, for that matter. What do you know about dragon family structures. . .”
            “Quite a bit, actually,” she said. “Dragons usually mate for life but don’t usually raise their young because they hatch fully formed and. . .”
            “No one likes a know-it-all,” the dragon interrupted.
            “I’ve been told that before,” she blushed. He snorted in a way that might’ve been a laugh.
            “Of course you have. . .scholar, huh?” She nodded. “I normally don’t like people in my cave, but I have to admit, I’d been rather bored over the past several months, and I’m definitely not bored now. I’m not sure what I can do about your Sir Roderick, except maybe eat him . . .”
            “Oh no! I . . .I don’t want that!” she gasped.
            “Oh, so now you care about him?”
            “I. . .I just don’t want to see him eaten, is all. . .or anybody for that matter,” she stuttered.
            “Ah. . well, I actually don’t prefer the taste of human. Too fatty,” he said. “I can’t promise I won’t kill him, though. If he comes at me, I will kill him, experienced dragon hunter or not.”
            “Cocky, aren’t we?” She frowned.
            “Confident. . .and very good at self-defense is all. Sir Roderick won’t be the first knight to take a swing at me, and he won’t be the last. . .I actually came here to draw King Edwin into a fight, but it looks as if he has others do his dirty work now.”
            “Well, with his injuries, he isn’t exactly in fighting condition,” she said. The dragon’s ears twitched. “You. . .you don’ t know, do you?” she said. “The King was seriously wounded several years ago in a battle with a dragon. He can barely walk let alone wave a sword around in full armor. That’s why he hired me. I’m helping him purge the dragon venom from his system.” The dragon made a strange sound in his throat.
            “That’s . . .disappointing. I supposed some scores can never be settled,” he murmured.
            “So he really did kill your brother, then?” she pressed. “You weren’t just being flippant?”
            “Something like that,” he said. “Let’s just say, my motives for staying in Regone have decreased significantly thanks to you. . .any chance your witchcraft will get him back on his feet?”
            “I’m a scholar, not a witch,” she scowled.
            “Semantics,” he said, shrugging his gigantic shoulders. She drew a deep breath, trying not to let him annoy her since that was clearly his goal.
            “I would like to think I will be able to relieve his pain, but I’m not a miracle worker, and even if I was I don’t think I’d want to heal him just so you can devour him whole. Are you going to leave Regone or not?”
            “Not yet. But don’t worry, I won’t let your Roderick get the best of me so you can break his heart all you want.”
            “I am not. ..” she began to protest but stopped. “You know, in all my reading, I never read that dragons were this infuriating.”
            “I’m special,” he replied.
            She had to smile. This was the most simulation her brain had had in months and she really didn’t want it to end. Still, even if he didn’t seem likely to eat her, she didn’t want to wear out her welcome.
            “Well, thank you for your time,” she said. “I had better leave now. It’s already later than I intended and I want to be off the mountain by nightfall.”
            “You won’t make it,” he said. He craned his neck towards the mouth of the cave. She turned her head in that direction and even from a distance she could tell the sky was already tinged with pink. “You can stay here tonight. I don’t have anything for you to eat, but I can promise I won’t make a meal of you.”
            “I have some supplies,” she responded. “Thank you.”
            It was probably more dangerous to turn down an offer like that than to accept it, after all.
            “Let me show you around,” he said. He rose onto all fours and breathed into a dark corner of the cave. A pile of branches that had been hidden there burst aflame and the light flooded the cavern. There were a few small tunnels branching off from the main chamber, but none large enough for a grown man to stand up in, let alone a dragon. In the back of the cave water dripped from the ceiling into a large pool. “That’s my basin,” he said. “It’s a hot spring, very relaxing even if I can only get my front feet into it. You should try it. . .um. . .I think that’s about it. I have some scraps of this and that in the tunnel over there, things I’ve collected over the years; I think there might be a couple of useable blankets. Make yourself at home.”
            The adrenaline that had been coursing through her body was beginning to dissipate, and she felt both tired and hungry. Sitting at the edge of the spring, she dug into her pack for an apple. She glanced at the dragon who was once again settling into an amorphous mound in the shadows.
            “What should I call you?” she asked. There was a moment of silence.
            “Is something wrong with dragon?” he asked.
            “You must have a name to distinguish yourself from others of your kind,” she pointed out. “There are hundreds of dragons, after all.”
            “Aye, but how many of them do you know?” he asked. She shrugged and took a bite of her apple.
            “A name would be nice, all the same,” she said after swallowing.
            “Gnaw?” She laughed. “As in to chew on something?”
            “As in, that’s the only name I’m giving you. Shut up about it or I’ll Gnaw one of your arms off,” he replied, his voice cold. She shuddered and quailed back a little. He raised his head again and cleared his throat. “Seriously, though, you can call me Gnaw.” 
            “All right, Gnaw,” she said. She convinced herself that he’d meant to be funny, but the thought of those teeth still made her nervous, terrified even. “You promise not to eat me?” she asked with a wavering laugh.
            “Cross my heart,” he yawned. She munched on her apple. “I’m surprised they let you come up here to consort with me,” he commented. His eyes were intense and glowing, cat like but with a human quality that she quite liked. It was hard to pin point exactly why, but she wanted to trust him, if only because it made her position less hazardous.
            “I didn’t exactly ask permission,” she said. “No one knows I came here. If they knew I was going to they would’ve locked me up as a lunatic. Dragons and virgins aren’t usually friends.”   
            “Virgins. . .” he chuckled and she blushed. “I wonder if virgins taste differently than looser women. . .”
            “Well, you aren’t going to find out tonight,” she scowled.
            “Of course not. I gave my word,” he winked. That was unnerving. “This Roderick must be an ogre if you’d rather risk being my meal than his bride.”
            “I don’t like men who think with their muscles rather than their mind,” she snorted.
            “Well, that’s one thing we have in common. So he’s stupid. Don’t women like stupid men? They’re easier to manipulate, after all.”
            “I don’t want someone I can manipulate. I want someone I can talk to and respect and admire. Like I said, being a scholar gives me the luxury to take my time, and I’m holding out for someone who is as smart or smarter than me.”
            “Well, that shouldn’t be that hard.” She dropped her apple and glared at him. He snickered.
            “You really are infuriating,” she said.
            “I try.”
            “It’s not a good thing.”
            “It keeps me amused.”
            “Well, as long as you’re amused,” she gave an exaggerated sigh. He gave a quiet but throaty laugh. . .she quite liked that as well. “So what does a dragon do for fun?”
            “Huh?” he picked his head back up off the ground and blinked at her. “Fun?” He hesitated for a long moment. “Fly, I suppose. It’s the main advantage to being a dragon. . .that and the general physical prowess that comes with being the largest predator in any given environment. I’ve spent the last several years traveling from one end of the continent to another. I’ve seen some incredible things.”
            “That sounds exciting. I’ve never traveled much . . . but I’ve read a lot about a lot of places I like to see. My family lived an hour’s walk from the Academy of Magic and Sciences, and I used to go there and sit in their library and read years before I was old enough to enroll as a student.”
            “That sounds . . . fun,” he yawned.
            “It was for me,” she said. “I don’t suppose Dragons read.” 
            “They don’t exactly make books in my size,” he pointed out. They sat in silence for a moment before he cleared his throat and said, “But I appreciate stories. A couple years ago I waylaid a scholar on the way from the Academy. I just wanted some news about human goings on, but he ended up having a satchel filled with novels and I told him I wouldn’t eat him if he read me one. I enjoyed that.”
            “I thought you said you didn’t like the taste of human.” She frowned.
            “I don’t, but he didn’t know that.” She laughed.
            “I don’t know if you are clever or just cruel,” she then said.
            “If I were cruel I would’ve eaten him anyway,” he pointed out before laying his head back on the ground. “I don’t suppose you have any volumes in that backpack of yours.”    
            “Novels, no,” she said. He nodded and shut his eyes. “How do you feel about biographies?” she asked. His head shot back up, eyes wide open.
            “It’s not about a famous poet or anything sappy like that?” he pressed. She shook her head.
            “It’s about the first king of Regone. I figured, since I’m staying here, I should brush up on my local history. Do you want me to read it to you?”
            “Yes!” he said. She smiled at him and he cleared his throat again. “If you don’t mind, that is.”
            “Not at all.”

From Grandma With Love also shared on The Peaceful Mom

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Old Navy/Crowdtap Sample and Share

I've mentioned in other posts my use of online survey site Crowdtap. I recently completed a sample and share hosted through them with Old Navy. I received a coupon for a free dress for myself and one to give to a friend (I chose my next door neighbor mostly because I don't interact with that many people locally yet. I hope she uses it, but if so she hasn't mentioned it yet.). I love going and collecting my free item. The cashiers always take my vouchers without question which is a plus as I've had issues at other stores where they have all but accused me of fraud when attempting to redeem offers in store. I wanted to link to the dress I did purchase on their website, but it is either no longer offered online or I am simply not as skilled at navigating basic websites as I thought I was because I couldn't find it. I'm guessing it is a seasonal item and they are phasing it out, but if you happen to have an Old Navy in your area, there were still plenty in stock in my local store, so I imagine you will find it in store if you choose to go check it out.

I should preface this by saying, I am NOT the fashionable friend in my circle . . . or any circle for that matter. I have weird taste. I don't like trendy clothes. When we were first married my husband informed me (this was in the days when he still bothered to say everything in a "nice" way) that I dressed like an artist. I took this to mean I had a nice, easy, Bohemian style. Since then he has commented that I tend to wear things that are "shapeless" when left to my own devices, so I guess my "flowy, peasanty" clothes are not his particular style. Since I generally do dress to impress him (self-expression is nice, but to be blunt, so is being enthusiastically and impulsively seduced because he comes home and likes how I look at that particular moment; definitely worth the extra effort), I keep that in mind when making my purchases, but it doesn't come easy to me. 

When I got to the store with my two kids in tow and my voucher in hand I was torn between a striped  3/4 sleeve dress with a narrow belt and a wrap dress. I've never had an actual wrap dress though I've had faux wraps and really loved them. I loved what the wrap did for my figure (it really cinched in my waist, accentuated my bust, etc; it would've needed a camisole but definitely a winner style and fit wise), but it was only available in electric blue and a green print that I didn't care for much. If they had had it in solid green it would've been my pick. They did have the green in a faux wrap but I didn't think the fit would be as good. I did hesitate a little with the striped dress because the skirt is above the knee and I do not find that to be a practical cut for me. I'm always on the ground. I like to sit cross legged. Where modesty is concerned, I'm a skirt's worst nightmare. Then I remembered the pair of black leggings I had picked up at a second hand store the other day (medium length story: I was actually shopping for Coryn but for some reason they were in the kids' section of the shop and I picked them up thinking they were a child sized small and got home and realized they were an adult sized small and actually fit me really well), and even with my limited style sense I kind of had an idea that this would work really well. 

Below you can see the outfit I put together when I got home:
The outfit I put together with my free dress
I went with a pair of boots but I wanted to wear this with black flats .  . . unfortunately, Caen, the dog, ate my new black flats and I feel bad just going out and buying another pair when we've been spending so much this month already (we just dropped over a thousand dollars on furniture). So, that is my sample and share experience. If you click on the crowdtap link at the beginning of the post you can sign up to be a part of the service and I get credit for you signing up. I do recommend this site. It takes very little time overall and can get you free clothes from time to time among other things.

what happens if I ask my husband to take my picture and don't supervise his use of "zoom"

Also check out this sweet giveaway on the Marine Wife, Mommy, and Life Blog for a nametape bracelet! I recently won a Coach ID holder from a giveaway on this blog and so I highly recommend following her if you like a good giveaway.

parents as teachers


Amanda’s Books and More

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Santa's Helper Hat-Crochet Pattern

As always, please check out  my crochet creations in my Etsy Shop.

I haven't posted an original pattern in awhile, but this week I came up with one that was so easy and cute that I thought I had to share it. I was in a big box store the other day and Coryn dragged me into the Christmas section. I say drag because I'm still resisting any Christmas activities until after Thanksgiving. . . well, except Christmas shopping. Generally, if I don't have the majority of my Christmas shopping done by Thanksgiving, I feel behind. It normally starts in June when I am looking for something for my sister's birthday (at the end of July) when I find more than one "perfect" present for her and not being able to make up my mind, I buy both and reserve one of them for Christmas. That starts the dominoes falling and before I know it I've bought a present for everyone who is easy to buy for (which means everyone but my dad, my husband, and my in-laws, the "hard" people to shop for).

But decorating, Christmas music, and Christmas cards really should wait until after Thanksgiving (though it is handy to do the Christmas card list early if it tends to change from year to year the way mine does).

Anyway, Coryn dragged me excitedly into the "sparkly" aisles and there, on an end display with Santa hats and stockings there was this adorable Christmas tree hat. I turned it over in my hands a few times and then thought, "Yep, I can do this!"

Here is the hat from the store:

Tree Hat from Target.com

I knew I could make something as cute or cuter, but since the store I was at didn't sell yarn, I had to head across the street to box store number two and grab two skeins of green (was disappointed by the selection at this store as well. I'm probably going to stick with fabric.com in the future).

Instead of being worked in a round like most of my hats this hat is crafted as a large triangle and then sewn up the side. Because it is narrow, if you use a stiffer yarn it stands straight up and looks very Christmas Elf (as opposed to Wood Elf, High Elf, Night Elf, etc). Noticing this, I decided to post pictures of it at this point rather than "trimming the tree" and showing it off as a tree hat. I will do that later and post new pictures if someone else wants to give it a go. The only tricky part will be the star on the stop but if you google star crochet patterns, you will find a lot of different options, so you can get started on that without me if you like. I am torn right now between decorating it with buttons, puff balls, or yarn circles. Buttons would be absolutely adorable, don't you think? It would mean another shopping trip, though, so we'll see.

Coryn as Santa's Helper
To start with you'll want to make a chain long enough to circle your child's head (or your own head if you'd like). Remember that yarn is stretchy! For Coryn this was 77 chains. Add three stitches for the first double crochet and then double crochet in the third chain from the hook.

Double crochet down the length of the chain. Remember when working in double crochets you want to count the chain three at the start of every row as if it were a double crochet stitch. If you don't your piece will shrink (or in the case of this project where you will be intentionally reducing, it will reduce at the wrong rate).

I chose color A to be a dark green and color B a lighter green, since my ultimate goal is for it to look like a tree. You could do it all in one color or in other colors as well. I think this would look really nice in red and white or green and white (think peppermint stick) or red and green, but I digress.

So the first row is worked straight (no reductions), but after that you'll want to reduce as follows:

R2, Decrease in the first two stitches (DCD), work in DC down the length of the piece until the last two stitches (one of which will be the chain three at the beginning of the first row, remember we are treating it like a stitch) DCD these two together and chain three and turn.
R3-7, repeat R2, at the end of R7 switch to color two if you are choosing to do stripes.
R8-14, Repeat R2
Switch colors again at the end of R14.
Now in order to get the hat to be narrow and conical we need to increase our decreases. Isn't that fun to say? Increase the decrease! Make it so!
R15-21, DCD twice, work down the length in DC until the last four (again, chain three=stitch), DCD twice again, chain three and turn.
Switch colors.
R22-28, repeat R15-21
Switch colors
R29-35, repeat R15-21 one last time,
Switch colors one last time,
R36-37, same old, same old, repeat DCD twice, work through, DCD twice more
R38 (Last row) Reduce three times. This should leave you with about four stitches across. If you have more or are working a different size you probably are still going to want to finish up here because the hat won't stand up if you make it much taller. You may have a little less of a pointy top, but you can adjust that a bit when you sew it up.

Rows complete not yet sewn up
 So, now you should have a large triangle. When I reached this point it came to mind that this could make a pretty cool Christmas tree decoration/wall hanging on its own with just a little tweaking. I might work on that later.
folded in preparation for sewing
 Fold the piece in half so the two sides meet (go from an obtuse to an acute angle!). Make sure you keep them lined up evenly as you sew
Sewing up the side
 Sew the piece shut. You are going to turn it inside out when you are done so your seams don't have to be pretty or perfect, just sturdy.
if you are striping, the colors will show, but the piece will be turned inside out
 When you get to the bottom, turn the piece inside out and you are ready to go!
the finished project
I hope you like it and can give it a try. Still trying to decide whether to decorate it or not. Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions as to decorating it. Thanks!


Shared on The Peaceful Mom's Show and Tell Saturday and Craft-O-Maniac.

Super Sunday Sync

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Marine Wife, Mommy & Life: ***Giveaway/Review: Live Everyday Like He Deploys ...

Marine Wife, Mommy & Life: ***Giveaway/Review: Live Everyday Like He Deploys ...: Please welcome Marine Wife's Newest Sponsor, an Air Force Wifey, fellow Stay-at-home-mommy and artsy lady: Boonie Stampin' By Sherry . S...

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Positive Customer Service at Old Navy

I've shared poor customer service reviews of outlets before, so I thought today I'd take the time to share a positive review that I am sending regarding my local Old Navy location. 

I just got back from a long day shopping with my two daughters, ages four and nine-months. My older daughter loves shopping and wants everything in your store. My younger is in that difficult age where if she gets fussy the whole trip comes to a premature end. We have always had a very positive experience at your stores. The employees at the fitting rooms are accommodating. We generally are using one of the stroller-carts provided at your stores and they make sure we get a fitting room I can fit myself, my girls, and my cart into. They're understanding with the chaos that my little group can cause and will let me use a fitting room to nurse if the need arises (The location I have been frequenting is at the Cordova Mall in Pensacola, Florida). I normally don't think any thing of how smoothly our shopping trips go (though I do give a positive review when I take the time to answer the survey on the receipts), but today after shopping your store we headed next door to the Ross outlet and the lack of accommodation was such a stark contrast that I felt I need to write both them and you and let them know what you are doing right and they are doing wrong. 

At the Ross outlet I went in and selected a clothing item which I needed to try on to be sure of the fit. I don't usually take a stroller shopping with me as my daughter is old enough to sit upright when buckled into a cart and so I was using the cart provided by the Ross outlet. I tried to go into the back only to be informed that, for whatever reason, I couldn't take my cart into the fitting rooms. When I asked why I couldn't and what they expected me to do with my baby when I was trying on jeans the employee got flustered and had to call a manager. The manager simply repeated that it was policy not to allow carts inside fitting rooms and that I could put my baby on the bench or the floor. Both of these options being unacceptable due to sanitary and safety reasons, I walked out and did not make a purchase.  This is the second time I've totally avoided making a purchase at this particular mall at another retailer because of rudeness or bad policies the employees were enforcing, but both times I've ended up purchasing items from your store with no difficulty in spite of my awkward entourage. I've found your employees to be friendly and helpful and this is why you will continue to have business that competitors at the same location have lost.

Heidi Lyn Burke
Pensacola, FL

From Grandma With Love

Saturday, November 3, 2012

NaNoWriMo Update #1-Day3

So far this month (three days in) I've managed to meet my 1,600 words a day goal every day with a little to spare. Tonight I have already finished my word count but I've got a glass of wine and there is no reason to stop now. This, however, is where it gets difficult because now I'm at the "boring part" of the story between the introductions and the first pivotal plot points. . .Something needs to happen there but I'm not always sure what.

I usually force myself to write my stories "in order" because if I skip ahead and write the exciting parts I sometimes lose interest and stop writing the story. Sometimes I'll write down notes or a few paragraphs just so I don't forget my best ideas. I find if I keep writing through these transitional scenes sometimes whole new characters and plot lines pop up that I wasn't expecting, just to entertain me while I wait around for the big confrontation between the hero and the villain or that romantic scene where the girl and the guy finally kiss.

I'm happy with my tone for this novel and that is a big deal for me. I'm also writing almost every chance I get and that's a big deal. It is going to be harder when I actually get into the work week and have to do my cleaning and such. I'll need to avoid wasting my time in order to devote more of it to my novel.

Wish me luck.

Willamette Valley Wonder Woman

Friday, November 2, 2012

Beware. . .

Beware of Labradoodles
They're not labs but they're not poodles
and they'll eat up all your noodles
and canoodle with your schnoodles
Beware of Labradoodles

You've been warned

Thursday, November 1, 2012

National Novel Writing Month

Well, it is November again which means a lot of my friends are doing NaNoWriMo and this year I'M GOING TO DO IT TOO BY GUM!

If you aren't familiar with National Novel Writing Month the title is somewhat self-explanatory. It's a bunch of people attempting to write a 50k word novel during the 31 days of November.

I've mentioned my struggles with neglecting my writing before (here and here for instance) and even shared one finished work, but I figure if I'm ever going to get my writing off the ground again, I need some sort of goal or accountability or both. So I'm going to try and scratch out a novel this month.

I'm sort of cheating because I already had 3,000 words plus a lot of notes scratched out for this particular story, but I'm simply not going to count the first 3k so my personal goal will be 53,000 words. It's probably not a publishable piece so much as it is a personal fulfillment piece (it has a love story that makes me want to stalk my husband like a rabid panther), but at least I'm trying.

I'm putting this on my blog partially so people know because people knowing is supposed to shame you into actually doing it and partially to explain if my blog goes neglected because if given a choice between putting in my slightly more than 1,600 words a day that I need to do to stay on track and making a blog post, I'm going to have to force myself to do the 1,600 or else I won't get anywhere with this (for instance, I need about four hundred more words to meet today's goal and I'm still typing away on this instead).

So wish me luck and hopefully I'll get a chance to share what I've completed at the end of the month.

Halloween Observations

Coryn with her candy (her lips were chapped so no "real" smile)
So Halloween is over and while there is much candy to be eaten (three different trick or treat sessions produce a lot of candy loot), there is no longer any reason to wear the costumes and our jack o lantern will come down in a day or two. This was actually Coryn's first time trick or treating in the states. She was too young when we were in San Diego and we were in Japan for the last three years. Things are different here in a lot of ways (it's a lot warmer for one thing. Japanese Autumns can be icy) and I ended up making a lot of negative comparisons which I really just want to rant about.

The thing is I am not big on negativity. I know everyone needs to blow off steam sometimes, but if you are negative more than you are positive, you start to get on my nerves. Ironically, my husband is one of the most pessimistic people I've ever met but he does not get on my nerves, mainly because he's also pragmatic and has this cynical sense of acceptance of everything which I also really appreciate (ie he doesn't complain aloud often). He takes a lot in stride and I find that both admirable and sexy. . .really sexy. (Insert tiger growl noise here). I think a lot of people do it because it is so much easier to sound clever when you are complaining or putting things down than when you are excited about something. I can think of a myriad of clever ways of criticizing any given thing, but it's a lot harder to creatively and interestingly tell someone how good something is. That's why I sometimes need to check myself when I'm on one of my rants. Am I just complaining to sound clever or is there actual edification here? Or am I just blowing off steam? And how often does one really need to blow off steam?

So tonight when I came back from trick or treating with a little bit of "ranter" in me, I thought I'd do my best to stagger the good and the bad in this post. After all, life (people, circumstances, fate, whatever) is a mixed bag and you have to put up with some caterpillars if you want to get to know the butterflies. . .I'll credit that quote at the end of the post because I want to see if anyone knows where it is from (it's from memory so I doubt it is exact, but if you know what that phrase is from, scroll down now and put it in the comments). People who "don't want to live on this planet" anymore after one bad encounter or who write off a business after one bad customer service experience or a restaurant after one badly cooked meal perplex me in a way. Does nothing bad ever happen to them that this is such a big deal? Have they never really had an off day and don't understand how people can mess up? Even with my recent annoying experience with Gymboree I tried to give them multiple chances to rectify the situation before I put them in my rear-view mirror.

So that's just a long preface to the actual post on Trick or Treating in Pensacola.

Negative one: trick or treating in cars.

We trick or treated for about an hour I was stunned by how many cars were on the streets. Ours is a very light traffic neighborhood and so I wasn't expecting to encounter a lot of vehicles, but they were a constant worry. Some were parked in the middle of the street with their hazard lights blinking, the (presumed) parent of the trick or treaters watching from a distance as the kids knocked on all the doors on the block, often with a cigarette in hand (why do people still smoke? Really, where have they been for the last . .I don't know. . .30 years?). Then, when their kids had cleared the area, everyone would load up in the car and they'd move over to the next street. I'm not a helicopter parent. I generally stay back at the end of the driveway and let Coryn go up to the doors on her own, so I have no problem with parents watching from a distance. It's the laziness of it all, for both the kids and adults. I remember when I was a kid tramping up and down street after street, sometimes in the pouring rain (never make a costume out of paper when living in Oregon. Paper melts). . .and this isn't a rant against "fat people." I saw plenty of heavy set people walking with their kids. This is a rant against laziness. Unless every single one of those cars belonged to someone who is physically disabled (which I consider a low probability), there is no reason to go trick or treating in a car. That's just ridiculous.

Positive offset one: Awesome Batman

I wish I could've gotten a picture of this but I didn't want to embarrass the child or mother by asking, but I saw one of those parents you always hear about who had decked out their child's wheelchair as a bat-mobile  It was so well done that at first I didn't realize that it was covering a wheelchair; it was only a glance at the little boy that caused me to realize he was in the bat-mobile because he was too weak to even hold his head upright, and that jolt of sadness realizing that the boy was sick made me appreciate the care the family had put into constructing his vehicle all the more.

Negative two: teen aged trick or treaters

In my mind, if you are old enough that at first I can't tell you are a child, you really shouldn't be trick or treating. This goes double if you aren't even bothering to wear a costume. We only had time to answer the door for a handful of trick or treaters (well, a handful of groups, there were about three to five kids in average in each group so we may have had twenty or so altogether) before we were off on our own adventures, but of those handful at least two groups were what I consider way too old. The first was a group of three (not in costumes), the first two were maybe 13 and I thought, whatever, and gave them candy; they walked off and the person I thought was a parent just stood there. He was probably at least 6 feet tall and when he stepped closer and brushed back his hoodie hood I realized he was maybe 15 or 16. I gave him candy but said, "Oh. . .I thought you were an adult," which I'm hoping (and this is mean, I guess) embarrassed him a little, because seriously, what are you doing trick or treating at 16? And not even in costume? I'm interested to find out what the general consensus is for the cut off age now because I would've thought 12 or so. . .there was also a pair of teen age girls in super slutty superhero costumes who I really wanted to say something to. Seriously, if you have that much cleavage, don't go door to door asking for candy. Children don't show boobs. Adults don't go trick or treating. Pick one, please.

Positive offset two: kind of bragging

Coryn is so polite! It only took her a couple of houses of being shy before she got used to talking to people at the doors and managed a bold and audible "trick or treat" and "thank you, good-bye." She was also very brave. At one house they had a black, plastic bag curtain set up around the porch to create a "haunted house" look and a young man standing outside to warn people because some little kids had run away scared after going in so he was supposed to warn and assure them. Inside it was just a Grim Reaper statue with a motion detector arm so it "waved" when the kids approached. Coryn informed me, "That's not scary, Mom."  We didn't cover a lot of ground, but we managed to fill her plastic pumpkin bucket. Towards the end she started complaining that it was heavy. I told her if it was too heavy for her to carry she obviously had enough candy and we could go home. She stopped complaining for a few houses, then agreed to go home. To speed up the walk back I took charge of the candy, and dang, she was right. That pumpkin was heavy. I guess we got enough candy.

Negative three: second hand smoke

Okay, I mentioned earlier, I don't get why people start smoking in the first place considering everything we know about smoke, but a lot of people do, and a lot of people apparently need to do it so much that they can't stop for a few hours to allow the trick or treaters clean air. There were people sitting out on their porches, handing out candy, surrounded by visible clouds of second hand smoke. Why would you do that? Trick or Treating starts at dusk and is pretty much over by 8pm. Is that so long to go without lighting up? How do people like that hold down jobs with so many work places being smoke free?

Positive offset three: it doesn't matter

None of it really matters. Coryn didn't notice any of the things I just complained about. Claire certainly didn't notice. She got candy. She had fun. I even got some exercise out of it if you could an hour and a half slow walk as exercise.

Oh and as promised the quote about the caterpillars and butterflies is from The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupery, a short book that has a whole lot to do about how I think about life and that actually got me through some low points of the last stages of growing up.