Archive | March, 2014

What I’m Doing Monday

31 Mar

As I mentioned last week, I’m going to copy my friend at Paper, Pen, and No Plan and post “What I’m Doing Monday” each week. I can’t believe it’s already time for another one of these–the days go by so fast!

What I’m Writing

Yeah, so, I didn’t make nearly as much headway last week as I should have done, and as a result I’m going to be short of my quota this month. I really ought to have worked on things this weekend. Oddly enough, I’m going to be short the three articles that I missed in the first week or about which I said, “Oh, it doesn’t matter, I can make them up later.” As you can see… no. This week also starts a brand new month, which means starting fresh with the targets. I’m aiming for extra this month as I’m going to be in the States for three weeks in May, and while I’ll certainly have time to do articles–unlike when we go to Europe in September (which I’ll be preparing for in June, July, and August)–I want to have a stash prepared just in case. So, without further ado, here are the articles I finished last week:

  • The Origin of the Phrase Quitting Cold Turkey
  • Why Some People Are Morning Birds and Others Are Night Owls
  • The Short Life of the U.S. Army’s Camel Corps
  • The Actress Who Played Elaine in Seinfeld is the Daughter of a Billionaire

What I’m Reading
I suppose, technically, it’s still The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman. I barely read anything at all last week. This happens toward the end of each month when I’m stressed about meeting targets! I actually ordered two books last week that I’m looking forward to: Lady Thief by A.C. Gaughen (sequel to Scarlet) and The Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielsen (last in the Ascendance Trilogy). Hopefully those two will be able to get me back on track with reading!

Europe Tickets Purchased!

27 Mar

Ahhh, at last! Last night, my husband and I booked our tickets to Europe. I’ve been stalking airline booking sites for weeks and weeks, and there was a sudden price drop to $1600-something per person, so I grabbed it. Prices for plane tickets change so often, it’s maddening. You never know if you’re getting the best deal, and you’re left wondering if you’d waited just one more week, could it have been cheaper? Who knows.

These were about $300 less than what I’d been seeing, so we saved $600 total. Cal says I can’t go on ticket sites ever again, so that I don’t get upset if I do see something cheaper. We’ll see if I manage…

We haven’t ironed out all of the details of our itinerary yet, as we’re working on figuring out the first few destinations and waiting for a few people to let us know if they’re going to meet up with us and where. So, here’s the information we DO know:

August 30: Leaving Brisbane
August 31: Arriving in Paris, spending a day or two.

Traveling to Germany, where we’ll be seeing the Middle Rhine River Valley, Heidelburg, Hohenzollern, Sigmaren, and Lichtenstein Castles, Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau. Moving on to Italy, where we’ll be in Venice, Florence, and Rome.

September 19: Leaving Rome in the afternoon.
September 20: Arriving in Bangkok, Thailand at 2 p.m.; plane leaving at midnight. Possibly going into Bangkok to eat dinner, have a look around.
September 21: Arriving in Brisbane around noon.
SLEEP.

Also, we found a relatively cheap (for the location) hotel in Paris that is mere blocks from the Eiffel Tower. I think we might book it soon!

I just wanted to post a quick update. I’ll be posting more and more about this as the months wear on, and will update with a full itinerary when we have it. 

What I’m Doing Monday

23 Mar

My good friend Sarah over at Paper, Pen, and No Plan started doing weekly posts called “What I’m Doing Monday,” and I’ve decided to take it up as well–at least for this week!

What I’m Writing
As I’ve fallen a bit behind, I need to write 9 articles before the end of next Monday. Doable, certainly, but I’m hitting myself for not getting a few of them done sooner (my usual week is 5-6 articles)! I’m hoping this What I’m Doing Monday will hold me more accountable in the months to come. I don’t know exactly what I’ll be writing about, and we’re supposed to choose our topics one at a time, so I’ll leave a list of articles I wrote last week. Some of them haven’t been published on the site yet, so I won’t link them, but you can Google the titles if you’re curious and those that are published will pop up.

  • Why Native Americans Didn’t Wipe Out Europeans With Diseases
  • The Differences Between Rabbits and Hares
  • In the Original Story, Pinocchio Killed Jiminy Cricket, Got His Feet Burnt Off, and was Hanged and Left For Dead
  • The Man Who Parkinson’s Disease Was Named After Was Implicated In A Plot to Assassinate King George III
  • Why Do We Cross Our Fingers For Luck and When Lying?
  • The Year’s Free Wages That Resulted in the Novel “To Kill a Mockingbird”

What I’m Reading
The Ruby in the Smoke (Sally Lockhart #1) by Philip Pullman

Camp NaNoWriMo
Camp NaNoWriMo starts in one week, and I’ve only just decided to jump on the NaNo train once again. I’m not so much planning as I am continuing to write the story that I’ll be working on in the month of April–don’t want to lose momentum and all that. I like that Camp is a bit unconventional, as it allows me to write beforehand without a guilty conscience!

Brace Yourselves: Camp NaNoWriMo Is Coming

23 Mar

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Well, it’s that time of year again. I debated for a long time over doing Camp NaNoWriMo this year, and the lure of the challenge is just too much for me. What I like about Camp is the ability to set your own word goals, and yes, mine will be lower than the norm.

I’ve been struggling with writing lately–actually, I’ve been struggling with keeping on top of just about everything. Since the beginning of this year, I’ve felt like I’ve had far too many things on my plate, and when my head’s spinning around a million miles per hour I tend to get absolutely nothing done, which just adds to the stress.

The past couple of weeks, however, I’ve stayed more or less on top of deadlines, pushed a few unnecessary things off my plate, and have been succeeding in turning off the laptop some time before bed to get in a few chapters of reading, which has, for the most part, helped out with sleep. The result? Amazing, supersonic bursts of creativity that I don’t think I’ve experienced since high school.

The result? An idea for a picture book series (now I just need an artist). Revisiting the dreaded Thesis yet again. A page-long summary of a brand new story idea that struck me one evening, causing me to rush to Nameberry to find the Perfect Names for some shiny new characters. Plot twist: I’m not actually doing any of these for Camp, but it was nice to have an actual idea and be able to think about fiction for a while!

So, here’s my plan. I’m going to be rewriting the novel I did for Camp last year. It was called The Foxglove Alliance then, and I’ve renamed it The Taddin Stone now (tentatively) to reflect the changes I hope to make. I feel as though I’ve planned it out a lot better this time, and hopefully the writing will be easier. But… plot twist #2: I’m writing long-hand.

Say what? Yeah, I don’t really write long-hand. But I already started the rewrite in this shiny new notebook that I have and still haven’t typed it up. I’m sort of afraid I’m going to lose momentum if I try. So I’ll be writing this NaNo out for as long as I can stand it. What this means is that I won’t have a hard and fast word count until the very end, which also means no daily updates on my NaNo progress this time around. But hey, if I’m writing, I’m writing, am I right?

What I like about long-hand writing is that you can easily edit, add things in, and cut things out as you’re typing it up. I like to think of it as a “free” editing session, because you were going to have to type it up anyway, so why not make a few tweaks here and there? Long-hand writing is always my go-to when I’m feeling stuck, partially because I know I get that chance to edit right off the bat. If you’re stuck, try it out–it’s saved me many times!

Are you participating in Camp NaNoWriMo? What will you be writing this time around? What’s your word goal? Any tips and tricks to share? Let me know in the comments below!

Book Review: Set in Stone by Linda Newbery

15 Mar

ImageWhen Samuel Godwin moves to Four Winds, the lofty home of the Farrow family, he expects to serve as an art tutor to Mr. Farrow’s teenaged daughters. He doesn’t expect to fall hopelessly in love with the place, and become intrigued and beguiled by the younger daughter, Marianne. But there are secrets here that Samuel is only just beginning to unravel–and even as he thinks he’s found his answers, even more horrible conclusions are drawn, until it seems quite too late for Samuel and the entire Farrow family.

On the cover of my copy of the book, it says that it’s won the Costa Children’s Book Award. While I am not debating how well written or deserving this book was of such an award, I do want to put in a disclaimer that this book deals with some pretty heavy issues that might not be entirely appropriate for all young adults. There isn’t “content” so much, as events have all taken place in the past, but I thought I should mention it since the books I review are usually void of anything potentially distressing.

As I said before, this book is quite well written. It takes place at the tail end of the 1800s, and the sense of place shines through in description of the surroundings as well as the dialogue and mannerisms of the characters, which I always enjoy! In terms of plot, it snatches you up and spits you back out only when you’re done. I will say, at first I thought it was rather simple. I “saw it coming” a mile away… only what I saw coming turned out to be only half of it, and I was taken by surprise (and disgust) when all was revealed. It all goes rather quickly, and I finished the book in just a couple of sittings.

The characters were engaging as well. I loved Samuel’s quiet curiosity, the many layers of Juliana, Marianne’s fiery nature, and Charlotte’s desire to protect. The Farrow sisters and their governess had a lot of different things going on that are hinted at from the beginning and tied together seamlessly at the end.

My one complaint is the style in which this book is written. It is told from the alternating first-person perspectives of Samuel and Charlotte. It was confusing at first, because while their names are listed at the top of the page depending on whose perspective it is, when switching chapters I didn’t always glance up. It does help that their chapters were regular–that is, it was Samuel, Charlotte, Samuel, Charlotte rather than Samuel, Samuel, Charlotte… you get what I mean. It just would have been easier to differentiate if one of them had been in the third person. Having finished the book, I suppose I can see why each was in first, but at the beginning it seemed unnecessary and I wonder if there might have been a better way to accomplish the same ideas.

That said, I couldn’t put this book down, and I’d recommend it to anyone who likes a good character-driven historical novel. Definitely one of the better books I’ve read this year.

Europe Trip Purchase: Mountain Designs Horizon Travel Pack + Nomad Day Pack

1 Mar

Well, I haven’t updated on Europe in a while! My husband and I have been planning this trip for over a year, and it’s finally happening. We’ll be headed over to Europe in September, assuming my husband gets the days he requested off. We’ll find out more about that on Monday. To prepare ourselves, we went out and bought our backpacks today.

To preface this post, we are not going to be backpacking through Europe with tents and sleeping bags and all of that. We will mostly likely be staying in hostels or hotels in major cities. However, having been around Europe before with a rolling suitcase, I did not want to repeat the experience of wheels getting caught between cobble stones and the suitcase butting up against my heels and having other people tripping over it. It was miserable.

I’ve read plenty of cons that a bringing a backpack presents, but I knew I had to try it out for myself. Backpacks are much more compact and easier to carry. Hopefully, we find that they are more convenient than rolling suitcases. I’ll certainly write a review after the trip to let everyone know what we thought.

While researching backpacks, I compiled of list of things I wanted out of a pack, and I think I found everything in the Mountain Designs Horizon Travel Pack (50L and 60L) + Nomad Day Pack (18L). We got the 50L in “wine” for me and the 60L in “Poseidon”  for my husband. They have so many cool features–and we got them on sale!

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Most importantly for me, this pack does not open from the top like a lot of hiking packs do. Instead, it has a zipper along the side that opens up into the main compartment. If you’re just traveling from hotel to hotel like we are, this is the way you’ll probably want to go, as it lets you get into the bag like it’s a suitcase. You won’t have to pull everything out of the pack from the top in order to access something you packed in at the bottom.

The next nice feature is that it has a panel that can be rolled out to hide the cushioned straps and hip belt. This is particularly good if you have to check the bag for your flight, as you won’t need anything to contain the straps and they won’t get caught on anything. Great for bus or train travel too–no straps getting stuck in overhead compartments!

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Speaking of overhead compartments, this pack comes with a top handle, side handle, and an additional strap so that the pack can act as a duffle bag. There are tons of ways to easily grab it and go.

On the pack itself, there are two outer pockets–one larger and one smaller–that will make some items easily accessible. The larger inner compartment is pretty much no-frills, though the clip that will compact the stuff I put in there has a nice extra pocket that will be good for a few toiletries or something.

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And then there’s the day pack! One of our biggest points was that we wanted an attachable day pack on these things. At first, it looked like this pack didn’t come with a day pack, and we were leaning toward a few less comfortable, bulkier, more expensive packs that did. However, when a sales assistant pointed us toward the Nomad Daypacks that were compatible with the Horizon. There were 10L and 18L options. We went with the larger size. These are an extra cost, but if you purchase one with the bigger pack, they are 50% off–coming to about $40, which is just about how much you’d be spending on a quality pack here in Australia anyway, and at least this one comes with the option of clipping on!

We plan to use the day pack to carry a camera, lunch, water bottle, and light jacket at this point. We didn’t need anything big or fancy. The day pack has two compartments: the smaller one has several small pockets for organization. The larger one has a large back pocket. It’s perfect for what we need.

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Moreover, this travel pack is quite comfortable. We looked at packs a few months ago and found Mountain Design’s Gulliver pack, which has since been discontinued. Cal was really leaning toward that pack, and while I thought that one was wonderful in the way it was set up, it just wasn’t very comfortable for me. The Horizon has just about everything the Gulliver did, but it’s also quite comfortable.

The Horizon 50L is listed at $199.95 AUD. The Horizon 60L is listed at $229.95 AUD. However, we bought them during a “Spend $300 and save 30%” sale, which means we saved $126.97 off the total price. Not bad, right? In addition, each of the day packs ended up being $39.99. So, all told we spent $380.89 AUD, which isn’t bad considering these packs should last us quite a while.

There you have it! Like I said, I won’t get much of an idea of how useful they are in practice until after the trip, and I’ll write up a proper review later. I just thought I’d give a little update. I’m getting excited. Only 180 days or so left until we’re in Italy!

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