Tag: photography

The Great Alabama Blizzard of 2018

The Great Alabama Blizzard of 2018

Two days ago, we woke up to probably like 3 to 4 inches of snow. I live in central Alabama, so snow comes very rarely and always leaves us in a panic, but it was nice to look at! I had the day off work, as the streets were frozen over and the government closed all the bridges going into the city due to ice, so I just stayed home with the puppies!

Disclaimer: the reason we panic when snow comes is because we don’t have all the resources available to us here that most of you in the north have. No one has ever salted the roads before a snowstorm. I don’t even know that we have people who could do that this far south. They put lots of dirt down on the roads AFTER the ice showed up, but we had no way to treat the roads beforehand. If you go into bigger places like Atlanta and Birmingham, you’ll see big tents on the side of the road every fifteen miles or so, and those tents are filled with salt. The cities DO have those kinds of resources, and have been pretty good about using them in recent years, but I don’t live in a big city. We don’t have big tents full of salt. So the roads ice over, and no matter what anyone says you just can’t drive on ice! Schools, businesses, and entire city governments shut down. Roads are closed. In my county, every road and bridge was deemed UNPASSABLE by the county government for two days. I learned this week that if you drive on closed roads or roads deemed unpassable and you get in a wreck, your insurance WILL NOT cover it! I know right? So we all stay home and play in the snow instead.

Anyway. Here’s some photos of my dogs playing in the snow. It took some time, but eventually they all learned to love it. Gidget, especially, loved the snow.

She would stick her whole head into the snow and then come inside with it stuck all over her face
Gidget and Abel. Abel was the snow’s worst fan. He does not handle the cold well so he spent most of the day inside.

She would also pounce on the snow, and it would puff up in her face, and so she’d pounce again, and it would puff up some more, and she’d keep pouncing. It was super cute.

Gidget and Dennis
Dennis is my brother’s dog. He didn’t really understand what was going on but he still had a good time.

Gidget and Dennis chasing Lou. Lou was also not a fan of the snow. My poor short-haired puppies.
She just had the best time of her life. She’s from Oklahoma so she probably remembers snow from her puppyhood.

Winter Wonderland! It’s been many, many years since the snow actually stuck to the roads!

 

A Spoiler-Free Book Review: Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray

A Spoiler-Free Book Review: Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray

So this has been a long time coming – I actually finished this book several weeks ago, but my MBA classes cranked back up and I just hadn’t had the free seconds to write up a review on Libba Bray’s Lair of Dreams. BUT, now I have a few free minutes so here we go:

Before I really get going, let me just make a disclaimer here: Libba Bray is the author of my all-time favorite series of young adult fantasy books, the Gemma Doyle trilogy of books (A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, and The Sweet Far Thing, each of which can be purchased by clicking on the respective links). These books are on par with Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings in my heart and head, and if you’re going to read anything Libba for the first time please start with Gemma’s story! I have read these books almost every single year, without fail, since the first one was released in 2003. I have gifted the first book to many friends – any time I participate in a book swap, A Great and Terrible Beauty is the book that goes out. I promise you won’t be disappointed!!!

Ok – now let’s get into the bulk of this post. Lair of Dreams is book no. 2 in The Diviners series, the first book being (not unexpectedly) entitled The Diviners. Your cast of characters is much the same, to include:

  • Evie
  • Theta
  • Henry
  • Uncle Will
  • Sam
  • Jericho
  • Mabel
  • the Proctor sisters

And a couple of new additions, namely:

  • Ling
  • Wai Mei
  • Louis
  • Memphis
  • Blind Bill

The story picks up about a year from where The Diviners left off, with diviners being the new big thing in the Big Apple. Without going too much into the plot of the story and giving it all away, let’s just say that divining getting bigger and bigger is perhaps not the best thing. Everyone’s powers seem to be getting stronger and they all seem to be tied to a new, central source. I am super stoked to see how this develops over the course of the third (and, I believe, the final) book in the series!

As is always the case with anything Libba Bray writes, my absolute favorite part of this book is the way she builds the story. I’ve read a lot of books in my life, but I’ve never seen an author who can write like Libba writes. She is a wordsmith in the truest sense of the term, and writes in what I can only describe as a cinematic way – I can actually see everything happening in my head as she writes it. All of her books that I own are lovingly dog-eared, underlined, and notated to pieces. I copied complete passages, full pages, over into my commonplace book because that’s just how good she is.

What I have to admire the most is the depth of research that went into this book. With the introduction of Ling and Wei Mai, both of whom are Chinese immigrants in America during the Chinese Exclusion Act, Bray went to painstaking lengths to ensure that historical and cultural accuracy are represented by these two characters and their family members. As I read the book, I was researching some of the topics and symbolism that came up, and Bray has interspersed Chinese symbolism throughout in ways that aren’t even obvious until later unless you know what you’re looking for! That’s a quality I have always admired about her writing, and I’m so glad to see that it hasn’t changed over the last fourteen years.

Here’s the blurb on the back of my copy of the book:

After a supernatural showdown with a serial killer, Evie O’Neill has outed herself as a Diviner. With her uncanny ability to read people’s secrets, she’s a media darling. It seems like everyone in love with New York City’s latest It Girl – their ‘Sweetheart Seer.’

But while Evie is enjoying the high life, her fellow Diviners Henry DuBois and Ling Chan will fight to keep their powers secret.

A malevolent force is at large, infecting people’s dreams and claiming victims in their sleep. At the edge of it all lurks a man in a stovepipe hat who has plans of nightmare proportions…

As the sickness spreads, can the Diviners descend into the dreamworld to save the city?

The central source of conflict in this book is the sleeping sickness, which descended upon Chinatown and seems to be spreading outwards across the city. Its victims go to sleep at night and never wake up – they don’t die immediately, though; rather, they seem to be trapped in some kind of nightmare-land from which they can’t awaken, as their bodies are slowly burned up from the inside out until there’s nothing left.

This is what Evie and crew are trying to fight in this book – where is it coming from, who is causing it, why are they doing so, and how do they stop it? Although to be honest, Evie kind of takes a back seat to Henry and Ling, who are featured on the cover of my copy and who play more of a central role in this story than does Evie, who dominated the first book.

That’s truly fine by me, because I think Evie is exceedingly shallow and irritating, and I definitely prefer Henry, Theta, Memphis, Ling, Sam, and Jericho to Evie.

I really enjoyed learning more about each characters’ background and history, as Bray begins to drop significant hints about where they come from throughout this book (you’ve got to be quick and paying close attention to catch some of them, though!). There is truly a character that everyone can relate to in this book, and I can’t recommend it enough.

Overall score: 5/5 stars, definitely add it to your to-read list

Now I am just going to leave you with some of my favorite passages from this book:

I’ve never understood this obsession with where we are from that we Americans seem to have. We are from here, are we not? Sometimes I find this clannishness, these ties to old homelands, ancient traditions, and familial bloodlines, to be nothing more than fear – the same fear that keeps us praying to an absent God. If anything, I hope that our research into the great unknown of Diviners and the supernatural world proves that we are all one, joined by the same spark of energy that owes nothing to countries or religion, good and evil, or any other man-made divisions. We create our history as we go.

America had invented itself. It continued to invest itself as it went along. Sometimes its virtues made it the envy of the world. Sometimes it betrayed the very heart of its ideals. Sometimes the people dispensed with what was difficult or inconvenient to acknowledge. So the good people maintained the illusion of democracy and wrote another hymn to America. They sang loud enough to drown out dissent. They sang loud enough to overpower their own doubts. There were no plaques to commemorate mistakes, but the past didn’t forget. History was haunted by the ghosts of buried crimes, which required periodic exorcisms of truth. Actions had consequences.

“Diviners are truth-tellers. But people rarely want the truth. We say that we want it when, really, we like being lied to. We prefer the ether of hope.”

“But hope is necessary! You have to give people hope,” Mabel insisted.

“Why?”

“Why what?”

Jericho folded his arms across his chest. “In an amoral, violent world, isn’t it unconscionable to keep offering hope? It’s like advertising for soap that never gets you clean.”

“Now you’re just being cynical.”

“Am I? What about war? We keep grappling for power, killing for it. Enslaving. Oppressing. We create ourselves. We destroy ourselves. Over and over. Forever. If the cycle repeats, why bother with hope?”

“But we also overcome. I’ve seen people fight against that sort of oppression and win. What you’re talking about is nihilism. And frankly,” Mabel said, taking a steadying breath, “frankly, that bores me.” Nothing emboldened her quite as much as someone claiming the good fight couldn’t be won.

“How is it nihilism to embrace the cycle and let go – of attachments and morality, yes, and the opiate futility of hope?” Jericho fired back. Mabel’s naiveté annoyed him. She might think she’d seen the world, but, really, she saw only a particular slice of the world, neatly bordered by hedgerows trimmed daily by her parents’ idealism. “All right,” he pressed. “If you believe in hope, what about true evil? Do you believe there is such a thing?”

Mabel felt as if the question were a test, one she might easily fail. “I believe real evil is brought about by a system that is unjust or by people acting selfishly. By greed.” She’d never really articulated her thoughts on the matter before, and it satisfied her to say them aloud.

“That’s the do-gooder answer.”

Mabel bristled. “I don’t go for the bogeyman. There’s plenty of evil to fight in life without having to make up devils and demons and ghosts. If you believe there is Evil int he world, capital E, doesn’t that take away your belief in fee will? I still maintain that people have choices. To do right. To have hope. To give hope,” Mabel said pointedly.

The land has a memory.

Every stream and river runs with a confession of sorts, history whispered over rocks, lifted in the beaks of birds at a stream, carried out to sea. Buffalo thunder across plains whose soil was watered with the blood of battles long since relegated to musty books on forgotten shelves. Fields once strewn with blue and gray now flower with uneasy buds. The slave master snaps the lash, and generations later, the ancestral scars remain.

Under it all, the dead lie, remembering.

The atoms vibrate, always on the verge of some new shift.

Shift and the electrons lean toward particle or wave.

Shift and the action requires a reaction.

Shift and the stroke of a typewriter elevates i to I, changes God to god.

Shift and the beast acquires a thumb; the thumb, a weapon.

Shift and right become wrongs; the wrongs, justification.

It’s all in the perspective.

And finally – from the Author’s Note:

The story of America is one that is still being written. Many of the ideological battles we like to think we’ve tucked neatly into a folder called “the past” – issues of race, class, gender, sexual identity, civil rights, justice, and just what makes us “American” – are very much alive today. For what we do not study and reflect upon, we are in danger of dismissing or forgetting. What we forget, we are often doomed to repeat. Our ghosts, it seems, are always with us, whispering that attention must be paid.

Cora’s 4th and Rory’s 1st Birthday Party!

Cora’s 4th and Rory’s 1st Birthday Party!

This weekend, a sweet friend of mine let me come out to her babies’ birthday parties and take all the photos my heart desired. I ended up snapping about 1,500 photos that I gave to her on a jump drive (two jump drives, actually) as David’s and my birthday gift to her and the babies.

Probably my favorite part about this whole day was being able to watch Courtney and Alexx interact with their babies and just be able to be in the moment, rather than trying to capture the moment themselves. None of these photos have been edited by me in any way, shape, or form, but I think so many of them still turned out so well!

Here are some of my absolute favorites from this weekend:

 

SaveSave

Plan With Me: October 2017

Plan With Me: October 2017

We have officially entered the fourth quarter – where has this year gone? Yesterday it was January. Is this what getting old feels like?

I heralded the new month with gluten-free pancakes, coffee, and this brand-spanking-new-to-me no. 5 Wanderlust Butterscotch single that I found on the buy-sell-trade boards on Facebook. Wanderlust Butterscotch has been a unicorn Foxy of mine since I found Foxy Fix in June 2016, and I am so thrilled to have finally got my hands on one!

As you may or may not have come to expect at this point, I’ve made some minor changes to my FN system as we move in to October. I couldn’t keep my hands off the Butterscotch once she came in, so I’ve moved Autumn Rose to the shelf for the time being. The good part is that because I only use no. 5/B6, I can switch out covers whenever I like!

I also found three separate $5 Etsy gift cards in my email last week – the only catch was I had to use them on three separate purchases, so I bought a bunch of paper clips and a planner charm that all totaled under $5 with shipping and ended up with free accessories! The dot clip and the bow clip pictured here are from PugPaperCo – my other clip and charm haven’t arrived yet. 🙁

Haven’t made any changes to my monthly going into October – just the addition of that cute little clip. Lots of birthdays this month but school has slowed down so I’m super stoked about that! Insert, as always, from PristinePaperie.

Weekly inserts have had one minor change – the addition of washi tape! One stripe of tape across the top of the page to add a little color – ha! I’ve also dropped down from two classes to one for the rest of the semester, and that is a welcome change! Insert found at LightsPlannerAction.

Dailies are still found in the Muji B6 grid notebook, but are now marked with that cute little bow clip from PugPaperCo (link above). This layout just works for me, so why would I change it?

I covered the Muji notebooks with some scrapbook paper – looks cute on the outside, less cute on the inside. 😀 But I’m still happy with how it turned out! The left insert above is still where I write my non-date-specific notes and keep my grocery lists and other miscellaneous information. The right insert is a new addition for the fourth quarter, something I’m trying out to see how I like it. More info below!

I saw Leuchtturm’s Some Lines A Day notebook on the Goulet Pens website a while back and loved the idea. I’ve always liked the concept of journaling but have never been able to be consistent with it. I didn’t want to buy a whole new notebook just for this, especially when I’m not into A5 size at all anymore, so I popped an extra Muji insert into my FN, titled it Some Lines A Day, and am going to try my hand at just writing a sentence or two each day about what happened. I think it will be a neat thing to look back on later, provided I can keep up with it!

Gratuitous photos of the Butterscotch because OH MY GOD look at that texture and pebbling I just love it so much. Pine tree gold-embossed on the spine. Ignore that weird smudge on the desk.

Ancora Imparo gold embossed on the cover – this means, “I am still learning,” which I think is appropriate given my current stage in life. If you were on the fence about buying a Butterscotch (or any of the Wanderlust leathers – I have a Wanderlust Licorice micro wallet that has held up beautifully to the beating it inevitably takes as a wallet), let this be the nudge that pushes you over!

SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave

Plan With Me: Foxy Fix #5 Autumn Rose

Plan With Me: Foxy Fix #5 Autumn Rose

So here’s the thing: I might have changed things up again. But in my defense, I didn’t know how perfect a single-strap would be until I got my hot little hands on one! And my Foxy Fix no. 5 Autumn Rose delivered on Friday. And it was love at first sight!

Before we go any further let’s just look at her because OMG – I’m usually not in to bright colorful leathers, I like that rustic look, but as soon as I saw these listed for presale I knew I had to have one (Super Shoutout to Best Husband Ever for agreeing with me and not fighting my desire to splurge even though I had said I wouldn’t be buying anymore notebook covers – you da real MVP)!

Ok but come on…
COME ON!!!!! How can one thing be so perfect?

These are my first photos of her unboxing – I just love the way Foxy packages their items, there’s always so much care that goes into each one! I got a Boss Babe Kate leather sample – love Boss Babe so much. Fun Fact: my first experience with Boss Babe leather was through a Foxy gift I had bought for a sweet friend of mine’s birthday and I also fell in love with that leather. I had a no. 8 and a no. 4 Boss Babe at one point in time but then that B6 life swept me up and I haven’t looked back.

ANYWAY. Back to the fun stuff. Single life. As you may or may not know, depending on how long you’ve been lurking around here, I’ve made some quite significant changes in my planning over the past six months. I started out in a no. 8 single-strap that I got in the mystery sale – I didn’t love singles in that size, likely because the inserts were so big it made it all so heavy and also at that point in time I was still trying to carry around a bunch of crap I don’t necessarily need (more on that later). So after carrying the no. 8 single for a about a month, I ordered a no. 8 Sugar Cookie 6-strap wide, thinking I’ll be able to put my LT1917 in it along with some other inserts (that’s the logical fallacy most BJ-Turned-TN folks make, I think).

WRONG. The wide was too wide. I don’t stuff my TNs like some other people do, so it just looked all sad and empty. Ordered a no. 8 Boss Babe Kate compact and listed the Sugar Cookie for sale. I had the Sugar Cookie embossed with my monogram (I know – rookie mistake) so it took a while to sell, but sell it finally did. Or trade, anyway – someone offered me the no. 5 Bay Blackout traded for the no. 8 Sugar Cookie and I jumped all over that. I had been eyeballing the no. 5 size for a while but couldn’t justify switching sizes and having to buy all-new inserts again. My sweet trade partner hooked me up with a bunch of inserts, though, and I’ve never looked back! B6 is my size till I die. So I listed the no. 8 Boss Babe Kate for sale also, ended up trading that for a Chic Sparrow Outlander Verona, and pre-ordered the no. 5 Autumn Rose when it came available.

The problem with the compacts (and I didn’t realize this was a problem until I got the single) is that they are still a little large, so I found myself carrying inserts around every day that I don’t use every day, just for the sake of being able to have a “stuffed” compact. The arrival of Autumn Rose changed all of that.

SO – here we go! My New and Improved Planning System, featuring Only the Essentials, and None of That Extra Crap!

Insert 1 is now, and always has been, my monthly insert. This one is from PristinePaperie, when she used to offer printed inserts (now they are only available as printables – which sucks because I can’t ever figure those things out!). I especially love these inserts, too, because they have space for little reflections on the month, which will be cool to look back on later, and because they are undated.

Insert 2 is now, and always has been, my weekly insert. These are my lifeline for future planning when my MBA classes are in session. This is where I keep track of all my assignments. Bonus Feature: also undated, so no pressure to use one every week if I don’t need one every week. Double Bonus Feature: that little section of dot-grid, which allows me to keep a mini weekly habit tracker. Triple Bonus Feature: THIS IS AVAILABLE AS A PRINTED INSERT FROM LightsPlannerAction OMG!!!!!

Dashboards – I’ve never purchased one on my own, nor would I have ever thought I needed one, but they are so cute and totally functional in a single. My trade partner included these in with the Bay Blackout. The sparkle one she had done, but I recently purchased some scrapbook paper and I did the pink and black one. Love these little guys. So cute. Can’t believe I scorned dashboards in the past.

See? Dashboard on the left, featuring: a picture of my tiny little Dot Nugget, some tips on communicating effectively from one of my MBA classes, and my transaction register (from this blog post).

Here’s another fun thing I did recently: used the scrapbook paper I mentioned earlier to cover my MujiUSA B6 inserts. They just come with a grey cardboard cover that is NOT super attractive. I originally saw this done over by FreeSoulPlanner on instagram and knew I just had to do it, too!

Inside the MujiUSA is where I still keep my daily rapid-logging – no changes made there. Rapid-logging will probably be my daily planning style until I die. 13 months and going strong.

That last insert is a square-grid insert from AORJournals and is just for notes and other miscellanea. The back of that dashboard has a picture of Gidgimon, the Gidgital Monster, and one of my favorite quotes, and also houses my tiny ruler.

So what I’ve done is gotten rid of the book reviews insert – I don’t need to carry that around on the daily, like come on. Especially not when I’m in school still and all my reading is in textbooks. I’ve also completely kicked the idea of a fitness tracker insert, which I had previously for like two weeks – not my style, don’t use it, out it goes. I’ve finally streamlined everything so that I’m only carrying the essentials every day, and it just so happens that a single-strap is the perfect medium in which to carry the essentials.

I especially love them because the four inserts go flush to the edge of the TN cover, so I don’t get any of that awful bending at the end from the rubber band, and because four inserts is enough to make a single-strap look sufficiently stuffed. I already sold the Outlander Verona and placed an order with those funds for a no. 5 Santa Fe single. I may end up listing the Blackout, also, to get maybe a Rowena or a Wanderlust Butterscotch single. Will update on that later.

If you are a minimalist planner like me and were on the fence about whether or not singles are right for you, let me take this opportunity to push you over the edge.

ALSO, Foxy Fix is now taking pre-orders for their second round of Autumn Rose – you can get one for yourself here!