Merry Xmas

Hey there!

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I won’t be posting this week since Christmas is only days away and I suspect most of you are having amazing family adventures right about now.

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I hope you give each other the perfect gifts…

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…and fall into the deepest food coma imaginable,

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and watch fun, Christmassy things on TV while you drink hot cocoa/tea/eggnog.

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Whatever your plans are, I hope you have a spectacular week πŸ˜€

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Merry Almost Xmas (And Happy Almost-Almost New Year!) to all of you!

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Obsessed: Big Bang Theory

The Big Bang Theory’s been on for years, and I’ve been into it for years. But now that ShAmy’s relationship is mega serious (Amy broke up with Sheldon right before he’d planned to propose, she dated a few people, then Sheldon declared his love for her and they got back together) I’m waaaaayyyy into it.

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Apparently last night’s episode is about Sheldon and Amy finally… “getting physical.” I’m gonna watch it today. I’ll be surprised if they actually, er, go the distance. Either way it’ll be funny, though. And one of my favorite comedians, Bob Newhart, is guest-starring again. (If you’ve never seen The Bob Newhart Show, you’re missing out.)

I don’t have much to say today. I’ve got the flu and can’t really think through the chills and aches. But I hope you all have a great weekend!

Road Trip Playlist

Welcome to Travel Thursday: Road Trip Edition!
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I’m all about road trips, but haven’t taken one since moving from the East coast to the West in the US in 2010. One of my most favorite things about hitting the road for hours and hours, aside from the beautiful scenery and spending lots of time with the awesome people in your life, is listening to music. I’ve never made a playlist for a road trip, but I’ve been on a lot of them. I usually just put my iPod on shuffle and see what comes up. But certain songs are best for certain moods, and you go through a lot of moods on a road trip.

Sunny beginningsAll I Want Is You — Barry Louis Polisar


When you have to pee
Bird Flu M.I.A.


When the person you’re driving with misses the rest stop
Chop Suey — System Of A Down


90s nostalgia
Shape of My Heart — Backstreet Boys


Eat our #%$*%#@ dust!
Won’t Get Fooled Again — The Who


Turnt
Collard Greens — Schoolboy Q feat. Kendrick Lamar


Are we there yet?
How Soon Is Now? (cover) — t.A.T.u.


Now that I’ve thought about it while staring at this endless stretch of road, I’m convinced me & my S.O. are so right for each other and everyone else can suck it
All Eyes On You — Meek Mill feat. Nicki Minaj & Chris Brown


Cruisin’
Electric Relaxation — A Tribe Called Quest


That f**ker in the red truck just cut me off!
In My Eyes — Minor Threat


When shit gets weird
Starstruck — Santogold


When shit gets weirde
r —Β Spin Spin Sugar — Sneaker Pimps


Why do we exist?
Amnesia — The Vines


Crossing the state/country border
Oh My God — Ida Maria


I’m glad we’re here, but I kinda wish we could just keep driving
The Time Warp — Rocky Horror Picture Show Cast

 

What makes your road trip playlist?

Happy Thursday! πŸ™‚

Illustrated Books

I love visual art almost as much as I love a good story. When the two are combined, I’m pretty much this || close to wetting my pants with the turn of every page. Many novels aren’t illustrated, unless they’re novels for children, and I’ve been wondering why that is. Sure there are other things you can pick up to get your picture fix, like comics, graphic novels, and the like. But sometimes it’s nice to see the world you’re reading about at least partially visualized.

One example of this that comes to mind immediately is the 1st American (Scholastic) edition of the Harry Potter series, in which each chapter begins with a relevant illustration.

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This is a poster including every single chapter illustration from the entire HP series. Want.

This method seems to strike a good balance between guiding the reader’s imagination, but still allowing them to do most of the work when it comes to picturing the people and places in their minds.

When considering what has the greatest bearing on whether or not to include illustrations in a book, here are some factors I’ve mulled over:

Genre

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Certain genres seem well-suited to the inclusion of illustrations — like fantasy or sci-fi — because their stories aren’t set in worlds we’d recognize. Therefore, it could follow that a reader might need some help here and there visualizing the complex systems or mythical creatures being described. Those genres are also a couple of the most fun to see rendered, exactly because the stories aren’t reality-based, and probably some of the most fun to illustrate, too. I’m one of those people who wonders whether or not my imagination is taking everything into account, so seeing illustrations is great for catching details an author has described but that your mind may have passed over.

Age Group

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The intended demographic for a book will of course have a lot to do with how it’s presented. Since kids have shorter attention spans than (some) adults, sticking pictures into whatever they’re reading probably helps keep them from flinging the book across the room. Illustrations also help develop their minds into crazy dream machines. Getting an imagination-boost wherever you can is awesome, but especially when you’re at that age of deciding what is and isn’t possible. I guess publishers figure grownups shouldn’t need pictures to keep them interested, but it’s not even about that. Sometimes it’s just nice to see a gorgeous illustration, amirite?

Level of “Seriousness”

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In a similar vein, I’ve noticed that books that aren’t…you know…like, War and Peace or something might be more likely to include an illustration or two. Not that people being ripped to shreds in a horror novel, or a spaceship exploding in a sci-fi novel isn’t serious within the context of the story. When I say “serious,” I really mean literary fiction aka fiction based on “real life” situations. But then that goes back to my first point because it implies that there aren’t typically illustrations in literary novels because we’re already familiar with that type of world. But in the end, I think it’s down to…

Author/Publisher Preference

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The nature of a project is ultimately what determines whether or not sections of a novel will include images of any kind. For example,

Yes, these books are categorized as YA. But there are plenty of YA books that don’t include images. In this case, the images are key to the Miss Peregrine’s trilogy, especially when you consider that manipulated photos were used instead of drawings. The black and white photos have the effect of making the story feel more like a history you’ve stumbled upon rather than make-believe.

What’s the point of all this? There isn’t one; it’s just something I’ve been thinking about. I really like the inclusion of drawings, photos, crazy fonts, and all that biz in the books I read…but only if it serves the story well.

Do you like your books with pictures? Any you’d recommend?

Happy Writing Wednesday, folks.

Christmassy evenings.

I’ve fallen into a new routine.

I bought a desk for my bedroom. As soon as I put it together, I started doing all computer-related activities in there, neglecting my poor, poor, little living room. But now that the Christmas season is upon us, it’s gotten colder outside, and the winds are howling like the demon hound of the Baskervilles, I’ve started doing that thing where you hover by the window being grateful you’re not outside getting blown into a fence. What is it about enjoying bad weather from the comfort of your warm, dry home? Whatever it is, I dig it. So now I’m spending more time in my living room, cuddled up near my bay window, listening to the wind blow.

Of course I have to set the mood before settling in. I’m not just gonna crouch in the dark with a blanket around my shoulders, peeking outside like your creepy neighbor down the streetΒ (you know the one) who in their spare time is probably a witch living in a seaside cave. Nope. Firstly, I turn the heat on because my flat can get mighty frosty. Then, I light a candle or two. My current fave is this one, by Canova (which I bought from a local shop):

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It burns well, and it’s easy to light despite being in a can. I hate when you’ve got, like, a week’s worth of candle left to burn but you can’t get to the wick because your lighter won’t reach. That shit is the stuff of nightmares.

Then, I switch on my Christmas tree! I bought a tiny one, perfect for me and the fuzzballs. When I went home last month, I dug through some of my boxes and found the ornaments I bought for my first Xmas tree in England before I moved here. I don’t remember why I left them behind. Probably something to do with the weight of my suitcase. Luckily, this is my first English Xmas tree (didn’t get one last year), so I hadn’t missed my chance to use them! I’ve bought more ornaments since I’ve been here, too. Right now, I’ve got just enough to cover the visible sides of my lil’ Charlie Brown tree. πŸ™‚


And with the lights out, I’ve got my own personal rave plant.

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Where have fibre optic trees been all my life?! And in case you’re wondering, that large dark space that looks like a black hole is where my big ole Queen of Hearts ornament is XD

With everything else in place, all that’s left is to do is get comfy on my couch and gaze out into the night.

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And of course the cat-monsters come in and get cozy with me, too πŸ˜€

How do you enjoy the holiday/autumn season at your house?

Happy Tuesday!

 

 

 

Obsessed: Foyles’ Christmas Ad

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I don’t know if you can read that. If not, it says:

“It’s a time machine
It’s a beautiful place
It’s a friend
It’s a message
It’s a talking point
It’s a teacher
It’s a guide
It’s a life changer
It’s a journey
It’s a pleasure

It’s a Book”

I bet at least one of those phrases rings true for every single book-lover out there.

When I was little, without brothers or sisters, books were friends. Now that I’m older, they’re time machines. The good ones impart provocative messages. The great ones change your life. From front cover to back, you’re taken on a journey. Dropped in the middle of beautiful places. Profound teachings and guidance are sometimes disguised in pages of fantasy or romance. Good or bad, they’re an inexhaustible talking point. And always a pleasure. This has got to be my favorite ad ever. And its relevance is timeless; no matter the season, I’m always excited to dig into a new book (or back into an old one).

Warm fuzzies…this ad gives me all of ’em πŸ™‚

Will you still need me/Will you still feed me/When I’m…halfway ’round the world?

Tr- Tr- Tr- Travel Thursday, y’all!

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After reading lots of travel blogs and talking to other expats, I’m about 98.7% sure that the hardest thing about being an expat for me is also the hardest thing about it for pretty much everyone else: Missing friends and family.

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Luckily, technology has moved light years ahead in just the last few years, not to mention the last decade or so. Now, we’ve got Skype, Facetime, WhatsApp, and a bunch of social media platforms to use to show people how we’re doing and what we’ve been up to. But if being back in the US for a couple of weeks revealed nothing else, it made clear how much better it is to be in the same room with the ones you love. Watching movies, eating out, discussing the mysteries of the universe — it’s so much more fun to do these things with a living human instead of a head on a screen.

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A great thing about moving abroad is that it really shows you how much you mean to the people you left. Whenever I move, I’m consistently visited by the same people. I know that no matter where I am in the world, my mom, my mom’s parents, and certain friends will come see me. If they don’t visit, they’ll keep in touch regularly. I’ve gotten letters, greeting cards, emails, Skype messages, and the like to let me know they’re thinking of me — and I do the same for them. If you want to whittle your social circle down, move abroad. You’ll figure out very quickly who your nearest and dearest are. (This is of course excluding folks who would write/see you if they could, but for important reasons, cannot.)

Another amazing thing about moving abroad? Coming home for a visit! There is absolutely NOTHING like arriving at the airport and seeing someone you love waiting for you.
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And when you’re in the car staring out the window, you get to see what’s changed since you’ve been gone and what’s stayed the same.

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Going home for the holidays is particularly special. I won’t get to be with my mom for Christmas, so we had Thanksmas instead. I also brought along gifts for a couple of friends, too. I felt alllll the warm fuzzies when they unwrapped their gifts and loved them b/c it meant that, although we haven’t hung out regularly since I moved, I still know them well enough to give them something they’ll love πŸ™‚

I’m super grateful for the people who take time out of life to let me know I haven’t lost my spot in their hearts despite being so far away. In fact, I think I’ll go hop on Skype… πŸ˜€

Happy Thursday, y’all!

Getting back into a story.

If you were here yesterday, you saw the tragic gif starring Leonardo DiCaprio that represented my lazy torment over getting back to blogging after a break. But it’s not just that! When I went to the US for Thanksgiving, I took a break from creative writing, too. Now I’m back. And I have to start again.

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I know, Leo, I know. It hurts.

It can be tough getting back into a story once you’ve left it for a while. Sometimes it may even be hard to resume a story you’ve only left for a couple of days. Now that I need to start my brain back up again, I’ve been kicking around some ideas on how to do that. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far.

1. Whenever you aren’t writing, think about what you should be writing.
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Even if you’re not putting pen to paper/finger to keyboard, nothing’s stopping you from inhabiting the world you created. Go over scenes in your head (the ones you’ve already written and the ones you haven’t yet). Take an imaginary tour through a character’s living room or bedroom. Ask yourself about the relevance of that big explosion in chapter 10, or if Megan’s aunt should reeeaaallly be the one to reveal that her niece is actually one of a set of sextuplets who were each adopted by somebody different. You don’t necessarily have to be writing to be productive.

2. Set the mood.
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Listen to a song that reminds you of your protagonist, or a particular moment in your story. Read work that uses narrative techniques you’ve been wanting to try out. Watch a movie in the same genre as what you’re writing. Basically, put yourself in the right frame of mind so that, as soon as you sit down to write, you’re where you need to be mentally & emotionally.

3. Take a theme bath.
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This is kinda cheating b/c it’s similar to #2, but slightly more specific. Get your hands on work that handles the same themes you’re working with. See how those authors tackled it, and think about why they chose that method over another. You might get new ideas about where to take your own work.

4. Dive in!
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You can always just go in cold and see what happens!

Do you guys have any ideas on how to get back into writing after taking a break? Any and all suggestions are welcome.

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Scrapin’ Cheese

Whyyyyyyy is it so hard to go back to doing something after you’ve taken a break from it? WHY?

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OK. Deep breaths… Alright, cool.

Have you ever tried raclette? No, that’s not a fancy name for eXtasy. It’s two things (according to Wikipedia): 1) a type of “semi-firm cow’s milk cheese” whose surface you melt and scrape off the larger mass of cheese onto other unsuspecting foods (or maybe just onto a plate), and 2) a dish with French & Swiss origins which involves the heating and scraping of cheese onto foods which traditionally include small potatoes, gherkins, pickled onions, and dried meats. Either way, there’s scraping involved.

Last week, I went out with the super amazing trio of Frankie, Flick, and Sophie to try raclette for the first time at the lovely Truc Vert in Mayfair. It was the day after I’d flown back into England, and the jet lag struggle was too real. I was the laziest food-eater/cheese-scraper/blog person ever (Flick side-eyed me in a major way when I wiped my phone’s camera lens with my finger. SO tired, y’all…). An interesting, double-decker contraption was in the middle of the table. The first level looked like two grills flanking a smooth granite rectangle. The level underneath had individual, triangular trays for heating our cheese slices. The four of us examined our cheese trays and poked at the cooker like a bunch of toddlers. I don’t think any of us had tried raclette before; it was all pretty fascinating.

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After bringing us a bottle of the house white wine, our friendly servers brought over all the accoutrements: the potatoes, the gherkins, the pickled onions, the platter full of mouth-watering meats, stacks of bread, and the star of the show, sliced raclette cheese for melting. This is when my curious foodpanions went into serious blogger mode with their awesome cameras clicking away. Me, I took a few lame-o shots with my finger-smudged phone camera (cuz deep down, I’m just a 5 year-old who’s hungry AF).

Observations:
1. Pickled onions make everything better. Where have these sweet, tangy lil bulbs of deliciousness been all my life?!?!?!

2. Trying to eat more than 2 melted slices of cheese (as in melting more than 2 slices at the same time and trying to eat it) is no bueno for me.

3. If #2 is true of you, too, it’s a good idea to eat with at least one cheese champion, like Flick, who’ll eat the melted cheese you don’t eat b/c you’re being a candy ass.

4. No amount of bread is ever enough.

5. Raclette is tasty and fun!

If you’re looking for a cool social eating experience, give raclette a try. And if you need somewhere to try it, Truc Vert’s a great place to lose your raclette virginity. Do it.

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Thanks for inviting me along, Frankie! And thank you to Truc Vert for being such awesome hosts πŸ™‚