Monthly Archives: August 2015

Norfolk: A People’s History

I ordered Norfolk: A People’s History specificially for the 2015 Reading Challenge as my book that is set in my hometown. Yeah….I realize that I could have searched for a fiction book set in Norfolk, but I didn’t have much patience for it. I’m also not a fan of “manly man military fiction books” which, if it involves the Navy, will at least mention Norfolk, VA.

Speaking of which, BF’s been binge watching NCIS and we are amazed by how they’re able to get from DC to Hampton Roads in 15 minutes or less! There was also an early episode that mentions I-264 (or I-64, I can’t remember which) when they’re clearly on I-564 (564 being the direct route to the base). Anyway, I digress.

But…maybe I’m not digressing too much. I mean, that’s a main theme of this short history: how Norfolk is both defined by the Navy and yet refuses to be defined as anything but “Anytown, USA”. We’re often mentioned whenever the Navy is, but at the same time, it’s an anonymous place. The media can’t even be bothered to get the basic facts right when it comes to portraying this town. Huh, while double checking whether Kevin Bacon’s The Following is set in Norfolk (as I remember hearing shortly before it premiered) I learned that Wikipedia has a page for “Books set in Norfolk”, but the 4 that I checked are all set in Norfolk, England, which is why I gave up (even Mr American). Anyway, back to The Following–I think there was an article in The Virginian Pilot about the show which said that even though it’s supposed to be set in Norfolk, locals would recognize nothing.

This history is short and to the point, which has it’s benefits and it’s downfalls. It’s like reading an article on Wikipedia: you’ll get the gist of the story, but depth and nuances are lost.

For instance, one point I thought was lacking was on how Norfolkians responded to Union occupation during the Civil War. Ms. Rose claims that there was a lot of dislike of the Union Occupiers because Norfolk was Pro-Confederacy. This is inaccurate–the towns of Norfolk and Portsmouth were actually Pro-Union for the most part. Now, the rest of Hampton Roads was mostly Pro-Confederacy and I’ve read the diary of one woman from Chesapeake who hated Benjamin Butler and accused him of all sorts of inhumanities even as he treated her husband fairly enough. But my absolute favorite story of the Civil War in Portsmouth (which was essentially an extension of Norfolk) was of the ladies fainting in the streets as it was announced that Virginia had seceded the Union. They were certain that Lincoln was going to turn the guns of Fort Monroe upon them and blow them to kingdom come. In fact, this idea never crossed any official desk.

A few years ago I was appalled to learn that in Virginia it is perfectly legal to not educate your children (2 or 3 years ago there was a census of like 2000 kids who were not participating in any structured education). While I can support homeschooling and believe that a parent who can educate their children should be able to do so, I do think that it’s society’s obligation to ensure that those children are at least taught the basics and that the Standards of Learning (SOLs–VA’s state tests) should be required of all students to check that they are getting taught something useful! I’d like to think that even without state tests, these children are learning to read and do basic math and are getting an appreciation for science and history, but then I’ve been reading Homeschoolers Anonymous and hearing the personal accounts of what some children went through. There are a few topics where I feel that one person is too many and this is one of those–one child being denied a good education while the government lets it happen is too many.

This history of Norfolk explains that this lack of educating in Virginia stems from not only the lack of importance placed on education prior to the 1950’s, but also was the result of opposition towards desegregation. In fact, in the 1950s, the VA Assembly abolished the law that made school attendance compulsory, which is why it’s legal in VA to not educate your children. Grr.

But it wasn’t until the 1990’s that education became important in Norfolk and I was one beneficiary of the push for pre-school education for poor children. When I got into Pre-K, even though it was taught at what was going to be my elementary school, admittance was limited to poor children who needed extra help. There was a test of basic knowledge that I had to take and according to my dad, the person giving the test had to lie about the fact that I could identify my stomach to get me in so that we could get that little bit of free child care so my mom could work a little more (it was only a half day back then). Even though my parents did a lot to prepare me for school and I didn’t really need the Pre-K classes for education’s sake, besides the child care, Pre-K also got me started in a school environment a year earlier than Kindergarten would have which actually made me about the same age as a Kindergartner. You see, my birthday is in late October, but the cut off for Kindergarten was being 5 on September 30th. I wouldn’t have started school until I was nearly 6 without Pre-K!

I did learn one thing about myself while reading this history: everyone looks Italian too me (my mom’s family is Italian)! I did NOT know that the Deckers and the Doumars are Lebanese–I thought they were Italian! And I thought I was multi-cultured! I was surprised that that infamous Greek Festival wasn’t mentioned even though a basic history of the Greeks in Norfolk was covered. I’ve never been.

Anyway, this is a good overview of the city and I’m intrigued to read more of these snapshots of American life.

Duck Invasion, Norfolk, VA
Duck Invasion, Norfolk, VA by Snowpeaceful
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Almost Famous Women

Ehh…I’m torn between not caring for Almost Famous Women because it wasn’t my taste/style and liking it for forcing me to take a step out of my comfort zone.

Having just finished Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science-and the World and not having done my research before I ordered this book from the library (I’m doing the 2015 Reading Challenge and this one was a book “based on it’s cover”), I wasn’t expecting historical fiction. I thought I was going to be reading actual short biographies of these women.

I’m relatively sure I could draw the line between fact and fiction for all of these ladies, but going back to style issues, I’m not sure where the author drew her line. I’d like to hope that the goal was to having a snapshot of life that the real woman/women, if given a chance to read it would say “yes, that’s me/us”. But I think only someone who’d done as much research as the author did could judge that.

I guess my biggest issue with this book is that about half of the women showcased in this book I don’t really care to learn more about. These are the ones who were the used (and in my opinion abused) lovers of the (also female) famous. I guess there’s something interesting to be found in what would cause a woman without real prospects (given her time and place) would be drawn to women who are wealthy/famous/etc even though said lover treats the women like dirt. But I don’t glamorize these relationships when the perpetrator is male, so why should I be intrigued since the perpetrator is female? Maybe I’m callous, but whilst reading these snapshots I could only think “I’m sorry that you lack the self-esteem to realize that you deserve better than this asshole”.

My last critique is possibly not an issue: when can one accurately use the term “autobiography”? One of the snapshots is of the 4 year old illegitimate daughter of Lord Byron and is titled something along the lines of “The autobiography of Allegra”. The entirety of this snapshot is written from the perspective of her nurse and so I find it incorrect to label it an autobiography. Of course, there may be some other way to define autobiography which would make this usage correct and I’m open to that being the case.

Gentry Bros. Circus, 1920
Gentry Bros. Circus, 1920 by HistoryPhoto
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The Princess and the Pea: A Very Short Tale

This is essentially just an extended joke with a single punchline. It’s not very different from the original and is indeed a VERY short story.

I can only wonder whether I’d be able to feel the pea if I were the “princess” because at work there are always holes all over the floor (from the hole punch) and they’re not flat pieces of paper. I can feel them through my boots and it’s quite uncomfortable.

Getting Old is Criminal (Gladdy Gold #3)

More than just a murder mystery, Getting Old is Criminal deals with many of the realities of getting old. I laughed, I (almost) cried, and if I hadn’t already been a fan of this series, I would have become one. These books just keep getting better!

From the back of the book: “Gladdy Gold had reached a golden moment. There she was, soaking in a hot tub with a man she adored, far from Fort Lauderdale and her nosy neighbors…until an urgent message sent her running home. Now her exotic vacation is a memory, Gladdy’s would-be beau, Jack, is furious, and not only are the girls of the Gladdy Gold Detective Agency all alive and well—they’re onto a hot new murder case.

Is a retirement-home Romeo to blame for the mysterious deaths in Florida’s most luxurious communities? Gladdy and her curious kibitzers will have to go undercover to find out—covering themselves with as many fancy-schmancy airs as possible. But with Gladdy’s drama queen sister Evvie playing the role of a Palm Beach flirt, their fun and games turn deadly. For by the time the girls ID their perp, Evvie is in the arms of a killer—and loving it.…”

Vintage Retro Style Woman iPhone 5 Case
Vintage Retro Style Woman iPhone 5 Case by SassySues
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Idea Bank #60: My earliest memory of food is..

Hmm…Well, my earliest memory of food is actually one of my earliest memories period. This is what I “see” in my memory:

“I’m sitting on a wooden office desk that’s one of a row of office desks running down the center of a room. At the far end is a HUGE button making machine (even though the actual button making portion is quite small) Around me are presses of various shapes and sizes. Someone has handed me a Frosty that’s literally as big as I am. I am happy.”

My dad tells me that this is me at one of the various print shops he worked at (or just hung out at, I’m not sure). This one specialized in making novelty items (buttons and personalized pencils are the two things I remember making with the help of the older kids). He’s not sure what’s up with the row of wooden desks, but I suppose that it could have been a bunch of work tables (but he’s pretty sure I probably was sitting on someones actual desk). The frosty was given to me a few times when a mom would bring her kids frostys, but I doubt they were giving me one that would have been extra large.

The button machine wasn’t as huge as I want to remember. It was tall because the base would have held some kind of motor and it probably wasn’t that tall since I was tiny and had to get picked up to play with it. It was probably made of cast iron.

My only other memory of this shop was being at the receptionist’s desk which was where the pencil embosser was. Or so my memory says, I’ll have to ask my dad if this was true.

BF’s smoking update

He hasn’t bought himself a new pack since I took the ones he had!!!

He’s been “bumming” them off his friends whenever he can, but that’s only gotten him about 1 per day. Which is kind of fantastic considering that one of those friends is a chain smoker and before when they were together, I’d watch BF light up 2 or 3 times. Yay progress!

He’s also gone a few days without being around any smoker friends, which has meant he’s gone 24 hours at a time without a cigarette! Ugh–I just asked him for an update since I’ve been avoiding the subject this week and he said that he took 2 and smoked them back to back while he was picking up his paycheck this afternoon. I REALLY need to beat up his “friends”. They aren’t helping me any!

But, he hasn’t taken any of the ones I took out of my bag. I know this for a fact because I booby-trapped them. I wrote a little message on a slip of paper then wrapped the paper around each of the cigarettes. I know he’ll say something when he finally sees them! The papers aren’t really attached to the cigarettes; they’ll slide off without much effort. But it would make him stop and think which helps break the mindless cycle that is smoking.

Dragonbane by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Well, I’m going to start this review off with a minor spoiler alert: it ends more or less on a cliffhanger and the next book won’t be published until Aug. 2016. Boo. BUT, this is still a fantastic read for anyone who likes fantasy romances. Though, when it comes to this series, I really recommend starting from the beginning because even though every book stands alone, the characters intermingle amongst themselves and there’s a lot of subtle stuff that you’d miss out on if you read them out of order. Like the major squeal that escaped me within the first 5 chapters or so, hahaha!!! I’ll stop there because that’d be a MAJOR Spoiler! But I assume all fan-girls (and fan-guys) have already read this one, so I’m not very worried.

Anywho. Bad-ass dragons. Amazon warriors. The usual stuff for a Dark-Hunter novel. I’ll admit that these books get to the point that they’re really formulaic, but the stories themselves are so nuanced to keep things interesting. For instance this book explains the invention of the entire Were-Hunter species, which we fan-girls have been dying to learn for like 15 books!

One of the reasons I like the Were-Hunter stories (which is a subsection of the Dark-Hunters Universe) is because there are two types of “Weres”–those who are humans who can shift into animals (Arcadians) and those who are animals that can shift into humans (Katagarians). One of the running themes tackles the issue of who the “real animals” are and the answer isn’t necessarily the obvious one. In previous books we’ve been told/shown that they’ve been hunting each other for centuries because of some endless civil war. In this book, we learn what started it all.

Like I said, this book ends with me whining for more even more than I do usually with this series. I miss the days when I was 15 books behind the author and could order a new one every week! But actually, for anyone looking to get hooked on this series, there are about 6 additional books hinted at within this one (which one HUGE one, if I do say so myself).

Find it here on Amazon! Yes, that’s an affiliate link, haha.

Dragon Sunset
Dragon Sunset by DreamFlame
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The Lookout
The Lookout by tigressdragon
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Idea Bank #29: Fictional Loves

Since I haven’t finished a book yet this week (I’m only in the middle of 3 right now), I’ve decided to prove I still exist with another installment of the Idea Bank:

In a fantasy world, forget about spouses and loves, if you could fall in love with a movie or tv character, name 5 you would choose. Not the actors but the movie characters.

First of all, I’m going to expand this a bit to include a few book characters.

Number 1 on my list: The Doctor

No, I’m not really picky. (The War Doctor is by himself simply because I couldn’t find a proper image of all 13).

Number 2 on my list: Is a toss-up between Acheron or Styxx. Right now Styxx might have a slight upperhand because he got a slightly shorter end of the stick. But definitely if you’re going to read ONLY these two books in the Dark-Hunter series, read Acheron’s first. But if you like not-your-typical-vampires/Greek mythology fantasy romance novels, these are totally right up your alley and I say start with Night Pleasures so you can learn all the nuances of these characters! Rated M for Mature, though.

Number 3: Darling Cruel from Born of Silence part of The League series. It’s pretty standard that the males in a Sherrilyn Kenyon book will be beat down physically and emotionally so that they can be saved by the woman they would never have believed to exist. Darling takes that premise to a WHOLE new level. I think I started crying while reading this book 2 or 3 times because his case was so awful. I’d suggest starting with Born of Night so that, again, you can learn his backstory before you reach this book. The hints you learn early on will increase the experience when you finally get to read his story.

Okay…I promise that I won’t choose any more of Sherrilyn Kenyon’s characters for this post. Though…I think there’s only 4 that immediately jump out at me (all from the Dark-Hunter Series): Vane, Fang, Zarek and Valerius. (Links go to their books via Amazon).

Number 4: Malone from Catch of the Day by Kristan Higgins. Strong and silent yet happily smitten with a klutzy, talkative town sweetheart. Oddly enough, Malone here is probably the closest we’ll come to my actual boyfriend. Though…BF does have his issues that align him more closely with the first “3” listed here. Anyway. Higgins is my go to when I need a quick and happy read. There’s just enough drama to keep things interesting, but not so much as to make me worry that a happy ending won’t happen.

And finally Number 5: Once again I have a toss up between Morpheus of the Splintered series and Harry Dresden of The Dresden Files. These would be the guys that would be hella interesting to be with, but based on their characterization in their respective series, would be prone to dramatics and not just because of the danger involved in their lives. While my earlier choices have had their share of personal issues affecting their relationships, they’re all open to the possibility of finding “The One” (yes, even The Doctor). Morpheus, however, tends to be a bit too much on the selfish side and Harry is currently stuck in a holding pattern of poor decision making in the romance department. Both can be redeemed, but in my opinion, it’d be more the work of the woman than them.

My own experience with a guy who had been in a “holding pattern of poor decision making in the romance department” (i.e. my current boyfriend), the fact that he met me and THEN decided to dump the dead-weight girlfriend, then took another 2 years to ask me out gave him plenty of time to work a few things out about relationships for himself before he started one with me.

My first “Mojo Monday”!

I enjoy making cards but I’m always afraid that every one of my cards will end up looking the same simply because I lack imagination. I’m simply not an inventive person. I’m great at recreating something put in front of me, but ask me to come up with something out of nothing…yeah…it’ll take me forever. I have to have a good source of inspiration at the right moment for brilliance to happen. And that’s what happened this afternoon.

Here’s the sketch we’re supposed to follow:

And this is what I came up with:

IMG_20150803_202902497_HDR

Yep! I totally didn’t follow the sketch verbatim! I’m planning on submitting my entry into the contest, but won’t be offended if I’m disqualified for being too different. I’m too excited by how much I really like the way this one turned out! These are all items that I’ve already been working with this week, but I doubt that I would have come up with this design without the sketch challenge. It’s a little outside my comfort zone.

Coming up with the design was really organic (from seeing the sketch to final card couldn’t have been more than 30 minutes). I knew I was going to use the butterflies in place of the star and since I didn’t really have any other shapes to work with I was going to make a pile of the black and white butterflies with a colored one on top. The pile idea quickly revealed itself that it would look muddy, so I started spreading them out and using larger sized ones. I really liked the red striped paper, but had a little trouble figuring out what color I wanted to use for the bottom of the card. It was totally an accident for the blue to take up as much of the card as it does–I had intended for it to better match the sketch, but when I went do glue it down, it got away from me. However, since at the time I hadn’t figured out what to do with that honking rectangle that was supposed to be in the middle of the card, what ultimately ended up being the sentiment looks fantastic on the oversized piece of blue (in my opinion). I was flipping though all the sentiments I had to work with (I cut them out of a single piece of 12×12 that was it’s own collage of “signs”) looking for one I intended to go in the middle like it was supposed to, but this one caught my eye as being a perfect compliment to the bunch of black and white butterflies and one blue one. Plus the color was a great match with the red stripes.

Like I said, this card just presented itself to me as I flipped through my purposefully limited stash. I could have gone to the Cricut Design Space and found the shapes to re-create the sketch exactly, but I know for a fact that I wouldn’t have been as excited about that card as I am about this one. Who cares if it doesn’t look like the sketch–without the sketch it would never have been born!

Card Shop Launch!

For the past couple mSerendipitous Cardsonths I’ve been playing around with the idea of selling the note cards I make. I recently found shophandmade.com which is a lot like Etsy, but without the fee for posting items. Of course, Shop Handmade doesn’t have the fanbase that Etsy does, so I’ll have to do a lot more marketing of my cards to make it work. I lack self-esteem when it comes to the stuff I make, so I figure no one will want to buy my stuff anyway. But it’s there for the world to see at Serendipitous Cards!

My “gimmick” is that I love taking a patterned piece of paper and cutting images out of it with my Cricut. As I say, serendipity is a much better artist that I ever could be. l’m usually amazed by how pretty the shapes come out and it’s something that I could never replicate with a similarly shaped paper punch! Unfortunately the pictures I take don’t do my cards justice–I never claimed to be a photographer, haha.

Each of my cards is more or less unique with fate playing a role in the particular coloring of each of the shapes and my hatred of monotony acting to keep me from making more than a few cards at a time that are “extremely similar”. When I print a sentiment on the inside of a card (which happens well before I decorate the outside), I won’t print out more than 10 sheets (hopefully I’ll get 2 cards per sheet) with the exact same sentiment. I simply get bored easily if I try to do the same thing over and over again even if it’s simply printing out the sentiments. So, if you get a hankering for one of my cards, be sure to understand that the image you see on the screen is only an idea of what your card will ultimately look like. I will try to post cards by batches so that the color scheme you’ll see online will be close to the eventual card you get. When I make 10 or 20 cards that are really similar, I’ll give that card a name and create a listing for it and whenever I get back to making cards that are like the first listing, I’ll create a new listing using whatever cards I’ve made the 2nd go round. I suppose you could say that my cards come in “limited editions”.