Planning – All Washi Tape Challenge

Hi, everyone! Today, I’m going to try the All Washi Tape Challenge in my planner. There are a lot of planner videos going around where people set up the next week’s pages with only washi. I’ve seen some people use stickers or add in doodles, even though I think that kind of defeats the purpose of the challenge. So, other than writing down actual plans in my planner, I’m going to only use washi this week.

Washi tape started in Japan as a kind of tape made with rice paper. One side is sticky, but it’s reusable. The other six may be decorated, have a solid color, or even be clear. Since it is made of rice paper, you can also write on washi. These qualities make washi tape perfect for journaling, arts, and crafts. I bought some cheap washi online once that turned out to just be cheap tape with random decorations. It doesn’t even work well as tape, so be forewarned and read reviews before you buy washi online.

For this challenge, I don’t need many tools. I have my MAMBI Happy Planner, washi, my¬†favorite purple Pilot G-2 pen to write in my planner, scissors to cut shapes in the washi, and my Bat Ruler for cutting strips of washi.

First, I’m going to pick a theme. This way, I can pull out just the washi that I need and push the others to the side. I want to use up some of that crappy tape I mentioned earlier, so I pulled out the green horse tapes. Then, I pulled out greens and blues from the rest of the washi. Matching the theme like this just makes the planner look a bit more pulled together than using random patterns and colors. I’ve made that mistake before, and even though it’s not a huge deal, it is a daily reminder to pick themes in future planning endeavors.

Now that I have my washi picked out, I’m going to start blocking off boxes, just to add decoration. A lot of planners like to decorate entire boxes just for looks. Because I rely so heavily on the info in my planner to get me through my daily life, I try to add decorations as an accent instead. I decided to start with the horse tape since this is a good way to use a lot of tape. Some weeks have great quotes at the bottom of the page, it this week just has a flower. I didn’t want to cover up the pretty flower, so I just cut strips of tape to place around the flower. This tape can be repositioned like washi, but also comes off easily, so I’m going to layer this stuff. I took my pages out to make taping around the sides easier. (One of the many benefits of using the Big Happy Planner is being able to easily remove and insert pages!) I’m extending two of the middle lines out into the Notes section to divide that section up too.

The next thing I need to do is separate out specific events. I always mark the days that we have the kids overnight and any birthday parties, lunches , or events we have on the calendar. To indicate when we have the kids, I’m using a line of washi (purchased on clearance at Michaels) with a couple of points at the end. I thought the green and brown pattern had a kind of modern Western look that would blend well with the horses, while also pointing out the Kids Days. I cut out a smaller piece of washi (this came with the washi I used on the Kids Days line), folded it in half with the patterned sides touching, and cut a point. When I open up the tape, there is one point at each end. After snipping the washi in half, I have two points that fit perfectly on the end of the washi line to make a little bracket for Kids Days.

Using a similar method, I’m placing a banner on the weekend. The skinny washi (1/4 in, got a whole set for cheap on Amazon) bends well to form a banner string. Taking a piece of patterned washi and repeatedly cutting the ends into triangles gives me flags for my banner. I’ve seen this method on a few vlogs and thought it looked complicated, but three minutes after placing the banner string, my flags were on the page. Easy Peasy!

I tend to use the Notes area for habit tracking with stickers. Since this is a washi only week, I’m making my own checkboxes with washi. I could also write out everything, but I think the washi will look a little snazzier. I know that I want four trackers this week. I want at least one blank line between my trackers to make things look cleaner. Luckily, the horseshoe tape is spaced just far enough apart to allow me to use the top two areas of Notes for my trackers. Laying down the thin washi one light at a time, I use my BatRuler to cut apart the washi. My favorite purple pen is perfect for writing in the trackers’ names and the days of the week. Each time I do one of the things on the tracker, I’ll black out the day with a pen or sticker!

Typically, I don’t use any other borders and would add decorative stickers at this point. Since I’m sticking to washi, I think I’ll just add some line embellishments to make the most of this washi opportunity. Et voila! C’est si bon! The journal is now ready for me to write down appointments and whatnot. Normally, I’d already have a ton of things written down before I even started decorating. It worked out well that this particular week is the one I’m using for this challenge.

I hope you liked this post. Let me know in the comments what you think! Be sure to visit the links in this post for some great info and fun vlogs from people who are way more experienced at this than me ūüėĀ


Watercolors – Swatching Koi Water Colors

Until recently, I had only used Crayola watercolors. I mean, you know, they work, but not if you want to try to learn to do something other than paint a picture of a house and a tree for your mom. I have some watercolors that I got from an old job after they switched to digital mapping instead of handrawn maps. I tested a couple of colors and didn’t want to waste my fancy paints on another picture of my cat with hearts and stars in the background. When I saw Lhey and others online using watercolors in their journals, I thought, “This could be the way I use my fancy paints!” I didn’t want to start with them, though. So, I used a coupon at Michaels to buy a palette of Sakura Koi Water Colors (Pocket Field Sketch Box).

After over a month of journaling with watercolors, I’ve made some progress.

I like the crinkly paper in my journals, but I have problems recreating the effects I see on tutorials online. I have a hard time following directions, and all of the beginning watercolor tutorials say to swatch your colors and to use watercolor paper. I have some Canson Watercolor Paper (cold press, 4×6, 140 lb) left from a collage project that a group of my friends and I did as a birthday gift 10 years ago. It happens to be the perfect size to swatch the watercolor set. I gave it a try.

The results are so much better than I expected! The colors went on easier and were much easier to manipulate on this paper than random notebook paper. This must be why everyone working with watercolors has the same tips.

I also found a great series of watercolor how-tos from The Witty Gritty Paper Co. I did the first transparency exercise and was surprised at how well it looks. There should have been more of a difference between 1 & 2 and 3 & 4, but I still don’t think it came out looking too bad. I really have a problem with staying in the lines, both in art and in life. So, I clearly need to work on that (in art only!)

Well, that was my adventure in swatching my Koi watercolors. As you can see, I am still very much a watercolor Noob, but I hope to improve so that I can look back on this post in a couple of years and say, “Ah, the innocence of no experience and cheap materials. I remember those days of yore with much fondness.” (I may or may not have been watching a bunch of period pieces about Frankenstein and alienists lately.). Thanks for reading and starting this voyage with me!

Random Saturday‚Äôs – Journaling

Over the past couple of months, I’ve really gotten into journaling and planners. I found creative forms of bullet journaling on Pinterest a couple years back, but ended up really only tracking tv shows that I was watching.¬† That made me sad because I like to think that my life is made of more than work and tv (it’s not). I got into lettering last year, but didn’t make much time to really practice it right away. Sometime around last summer, I figured out how to practice lettering on my iPad so that I wouldn’t have to use paper. I tried to work on journaling as a way to practice lettering on paper, but it just took on much time. I want to do so many things, but have no time or energy!

That’s my big problem – everything takes time and energy…and money.

I’m sure most people feel this way, though. I started watching YouTube videos by Mommy Lhey on accident. She had a family, but also managed to do journaling, planning, watercolor painting, logging, and so much more. Plus, she seemed to be at least part Filipino. I never see people like me on tv or movies. So, imagine my surprise at finding this woman who worked on projects of interest to me and drew pictures of people who looked like me (and people of other ethnicities too)!

This opened a whole new world of creativity and organization to me. Blending so many interests of mine led me to join Facebook groups, find Etsy stores, talk to strangers at craft stores, and reignite a general feeling of ME-ness that has been missing for so long. Even before I got married, I was in a creative rut and couldn’t find anything that really excited me. After getting married and having the added pressure of craziness as a corporate peon, I though creativity was a thing of the past. It made me sad, which made me feel useless, which made me sad, which made me feel useless, and so on and so forth.

This week’s journal layout makes me happy! This week’s journal layout makes me happy!

In the past month, I’ve worked on lettering on my iPad and on paper, did some wine & painting events with good friends, started creative planning in a beautiful journal, and have already completed my first artistic journaling notebook. I also enrolled in a Skillcrush career blueprint that will hopefully help me make some money as a side hustle on art and web design/programming/anything while my day job helps keep this roof over my family’s head. I’m feeling better about myself and my life, and I hope my family has felt the effects too. It’s so nice to have a creative outlet again that helps relieve stress and connect me to other people in the world who have the same interests.

Random Saturdays – Selfies

Ah, The Selfie.¬† I hate pictures of myself, so I don’t take many of these.¬† Friends and family want to take them sometimes, so I take them.¬† I don’t have a selfie stick, even though my kids have had quite a few.¬† Ben, luckily, shares this sentiment with me.¬† That is probably why we’re so bad at taking selfies.¬† I have started trying to take selfies with my husband at certain events to try to remember that we do things together and even enjoy it from time to time.¬† It hasn’t been a very successful endeavor.

Here’s one that we took on vacation in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Not so bad, right?¬† I mean, not the best, but I’m not a professional selfie taker/teenager.¬† My arms are short, so I’m very limited as to what I can get in the picture, but hey, our faces are 90% in the frame and we’re almost smiling.

Here’s one from when we went to see One Republic.

Hey!¬† We’re both smiling!¬† You can’t see our faces, but you can see our teeth and some terrible bright lights in the background.¬† It looked much better in person and this was the best out of three pictures.¬† Again, my tiny t-rex arms cropped out parts of our faces, but at least we’re smiling.

We went to see Imagine Dragons and had seats by the second stage.  I wanted to get a picture of us with the band right behind us.  So, I waited and waited and waited.  Finally, the moment came!

This was the third attempt.¬† The first attempt was just our faces in complete dark.¬† How did I manage that when there was so much light around?¬† Talent.¬† So, I said, “Okay, let’s try one last time,” and Ben said, “Okay, hurry, we’re in people’s way.”¬† You can see how well I perform under photographic pressure.

Finally, I said, okay, let’s try a regular picture with the band up front.¬† Ben rolled his eyes, but humored me, while also repeating his “We’re in people’s way” line.

Nailed it!¬† He looks like Jesus is coming down from the heavens to bestow a crown of light upon his head as he tells me that we’re in the way.¬† I am clearly not listening, and we’re both distracted by something in the complete opposite direction of the iPhone.

While some people take beautiful iPhone pics like this, I will probably keep my day job so that I can afford to go to more concerts where I get in people’s ways so that I can take bad selfies.

Random Saturdays – Is Country Music Sadder Than Rock Music?

Malcolm Gladwell did a podcast on Bobby Braddock, the man behind some of the saddest country songs of all time. ¬†Mr. Gladwell’s interpretation of American pop/rock music charts versus country music was interesting to me. ¬†He’s Canadian and I’m from Texas. ¬†I’m not a fan of much newer country music. ¬†I listened to alot of popular country music in the 90s because I was in Texas and my friends’ families all listened to it. ¬†Before that, I had only listened to older country music from people who weren’t from the suburbs. ¬†My favorite country songs, just like my favorite rock, jazz, pop, blues, rap, R&B, hip hop, classical, etc. have one of two things in common – they are either so sad that you want to throw your heart on the ground and hit it with a sledgehammer or they are so happy that your heart feels like it will burst with joy.

Anything in between is not good enough to be a favorite for me.

Since I listened to that podcast, I can’t quit thinking about Mr. Gladwell’s comments on “Wild Horses” by the Rolling Stones. ¬†I like the Rolling Stones’s version and, yes, the lyrics are not quite as sad as “From Boulder to Birmingham” by Emmylou Harris, to which Mr. Gladwell compared it. ¬†They’re both connected since Gram Parsons apparently wrote “Wild Horses” and his death inspired “From Boulder to Birmingham”. ¬†However, part of the sadness and heartache emoted in a song is in the music itself – the melody, the specific notes, the key of the song. ¬†While I think “From Boulder to Birmingham” is pretty heart-breaking, The Sundays‘s version of “Wild Horses” saddens a deeper part of me. ¬†Something about the fragility in Harriet Wheeler‘s voice shatters my heart. ¬†“From Boulder to Birmingham” is a finely-tuned piece of music, but The Sundays’s “Wild Horses” is something you sing to yourself while rocking back and forth and weeping in a corner.

While we’re on the topic of cover songs, we should talk about “Hurt“. ¬†Nine Inch Nails put out this song while I was in one of the deepest parts of my depression and it helped me. ¬†It made me feel a little less alone, like Trent Reznor understood what I was feeling. ¬†If Trent Reznor could feel that way, then maybe I wasn’t quite as alone in the world as I felt. ¬†When I first heard that Johnny Cash was doing a cover of the song, I felt the same way that Trent Reznor says he felt. ¬†The song just didn’t seem to fit. ¬†Johnny Cash is a country music legend, but Nine Inch Nails was filed under “Industrial Rock“. ¬†It just seemed so weird. ¬†Then, Johnny Cash’s version of “Hurt” was released. ¬†If the song itself wasn’t heart-wrenching enough, then the video would certainly make up for it. ¬†Whereas the Nine Inch Nails song moved me because of how I felt, Johnny Cash’s version moved me because of how he felt. ¬†We all know Johnny Cash’s story. ¬†We know his pain is real and he feels every word he sings, every chord he strums. ¬†You can see this clearly in the faces of Johnny and June in the video. ¬†There is no acting here, just memory.

I really don’t think that country music has more power to make me cry than rock music. ¬†Although, I have been moved to tears by many songs in both genres. ¬†For me, it’s more of the combo of lyrics, music, and personality that determine whether a song makes me cry. ¬†I know some people who feel the same as I do. ¬†I also know people who would agree with Malcolm Gladwell. ¬†There are also those who have never been moved by music in that way. ¬†I’m just sad for them because there’s a certain magic about being moved so deeply by a song that you cannot hold back your tears. ¬†It’s cathartic and also makes you feel connected to the world around you in a very unique way.

With that, I leave you with one more beautifully sad song. ¬†It’s from one of my favorite artists, Sara Bareilles. ¬†She was supposed to repeat the chorus to the end of the song, but was crying so hard while recording in the studio that she could no longer sing. ¬†If you love NYC the way I do, then you may find yourself tearing up at her broken-hearted sacrifice along with me.

Random Saturdays – Lego’s New(ish) Desk

Ah Pinterest. ¬†The place where dreams and imaginations run wild while my actual butt sits in a chair. ¬†I do use Pinterest for inspiration for plenty of things that I actually do, but that hasn’t really been much in terms of home improvement projects. ¬†I’m always sick, working, trying to sleep, or otherwise busy. ¬†However, I am here to make an announcement.

I have completed my first furniture makeover project!

*and my mom slow claps* 

*and the crowd goes wild*

Lego had a decent desk, but it’s ugly as crud. ¬†It’s been through some incidents including candle wax, paint or nail polish of some sort, rogue screws, and who knows what else. ¬†I wanted to redo this desk for him for awhile and thought it would make a great birthday present. ¬†When his birthday came around, I was tied up in the middle of nowhere, watching three other teams play football while their parents yelled things like, “Hurt ‘im good!” until it was Lego’s and Minecraft’s turns to play. ¬†Then, Ben and I went to Lowe’s to get a few things and I saw some Oops ¬†Paint in colors that Lego would like. ¬†I decided that since I kinda had a window of time, I might as well redo the desk. ¬†So, I bought the paint. ¬†Researching the desk, I decided to use this plan on Pinterest with these points in mind. ¬†Before starting, these are the supplies I gathered:

Piece of crappy looking laminate furniture
150 – 220 grit sandpaper that my husband had sitting in a filing cabinet
Tack Cloths
2 cans of Rust Oleum 280715 American Accents Ultra Cover 2X Spray Paint, White Primer, 12-Ounce
6 in mini roller
Paint pan thingy (I just bought a kit – easy & cheap)
Mini foam paintbrushes for tight spots (I had some already in a drawer for another craft that I never did.)
Top Coat (My husband’s had good results with Minwax in the past, so I just got that.)
Plastic tarp, plastic bags, old fabric, or cardboard to lay under your work area
Respirator or face masks (I didn’t realize that I needed these until after I did the project and my nosehairs were covered in primer.)
Screwdriver, Xacto knife, and hammer (depending on what kinds of pieces you have on the desk)

Step 1 РTell your stepson to take everything off of his desk except for his computer if he wants a surprise from you the next time he sees you.  You may have to do this twice in order to get him to remove 75% of the stuff from his desk.
Step 2 РRemove all the crap off the desk when your stepson is gone.  Shove it all out of the way.  Shove any other furniture as far as you can get it from the ugly desk too.  Pick up all the crap on the floor around the desk and vacuum around your work area.  Remove any hardware or broken parts from the desk using a screwdriver or sledgehammer.  I ended up with lots of screws and hinges to donate to future projects, a door that will be turned into a shelf in another room, and some junk to throw in the trash.

Step 3 – Ask your husband to move the pallets he painted out of the way so you can get to the plastic sheets you use for painting. ¬†When he doesn’t do that, tear apart some large cardboard boxes from stuff he’s ordered and place it under your work area. ¬†This will assure that your husband finally gets your plastic wrap out for you to use.

Step 4 – Lightly sand the desk. ¬†When you find crud on it, use your handy dandy box cutter to¬†scrape that junk off the ugly desk. ¬†You may discover that large chunks of fake wood are missing from the desk as well. ¬†So, you’ll probably have to go downstairs and ask your husband where the wood filler is. ¬†If you’re lucky, he’ll know where it is off the top of his head. ¬†Now, you can go back upstairs and fill that fake wood with faker wood. ¬†(Follow the directions on the bottle, more or less.)
Untitled Step 5 – Use tack cloth to wipe down the desk. ¬†This is where you remember you were supposed to wipe down the desk with vinegar and water or something before you sanded it. ¬†You’ll also forget that you had that wood filling stuff that needed to dry before you did anything else to the desk, but that’s okay because it’s in an inconspicuous area and will be hidden behind another piece of furniture anyway. Untitled

Step 6 – Forget what the next step is and check Pinterest.

Step 7 – Now it’s time to open up some windows because you are about to prime your desk. ¬†Read the directions on the primer and follow them carefully. ¬†When you are done, make sure that the desk is left in a ventilated room while you go somewhere that will allow you to breathe for a few hours. ¬†This is when your husband will ask you if you need that plastic wrap stuff again. ¬†For the second time today, reply, “Not anymore, thank you.” ¬†Ask him if you have primer on your nose hairs so that he can make fun of you for not using any of his respirators or face masks that you didn’t realize he had. ¬†Wait a few hours for the primer to dry while half of your brain cells die. ¬†Go ahead and make an appointment with the respiratory therapist while you’re at it. ¬†You might not remember to do it later.

Step 8 – Ready to actual do some painting? ¬†Good. ¬†The weather probably isn’t right for painting anymore, randomly dropping 40 degrees, but once it warms up again, you can try. ¬†Pop open your can of paint and stir it up real good with a paint stick. ¬†The color will be completely different from the color on the paint can and you’ll understand why this was Oops Paint. ¬†Pour your wrong-color paint into your plastic paint thingy and get your paint roller ready for fun. ¬†Dip the roller in the paint and then roll it over the bumpy parts of the plastic thing. ¬†Roll paint the hell outta that desk. ¬†You will find it interesting how some parts of the desk are immediately covered with paint and other parts are not. ¬†Paint will get all over the cardboard on the floor, but none within the bottom 4 inches of the desk. ¬†You will keep finding places on the desk where you have forgotten to roller paint. Step 9 – When you’ve covered the desk in paint, go back over the smaller areas/missed spots with your sponge brush. ¬†Don’t ask me what the best method is. ¬†I approached this like a child with fingerpaints, just mushing color anywhere that my tiny arms would reach. ¬†You can go over paint drips if they’re still wet, but will otherwise need to wait to sand them down once they’re dry (unless you’re lazy like me.) Untitled

Step 10 – Let your paint dry. ¬†Mine only took about an hour, but I had to log on to work, so I couldn’t put the finish on it right away.

Step 11 – ¬†If you painted the desk correctly, then you pulled a muscle in your back or something and can only sit or lay for the rest of the next day. ¬†Make sure that water and ibuprofen are within arm’s reach.

Step 12 – When you are able to move again, go back upstairs and open up a window. ¬†Spray a coat of the top coat over the painted areas of the desk. ¬†It should dry in an hour or two. ¬†If your back spasmed while you did this, then you should just turn on the ceiling fan and leave the room. ¬†These cheap desks aren’t meant to last a lifetime anyway. ¬†Plus, your lack of skill and broken back will ensure that the desk has that coveted “rustic” look that so many bloggers envy.

Step 13 – At some point (48 hours to 6 weeks) the desk should dry. ¬†Dispose of the junk you used to halfway protect the carpet and try to move the desk back into place without pulling any muscles. ¬†Wait until the last possible minute to put anything on the desk, and then wait a day or two more, especially if the desk is for your beloved stepson. ¬†He’ll appreciate the time it took you to get distracted with work and laundry and dinner and work and more laundry and more work. ¬†Having no desk will make him feel like a Native American, able to live off the land armed with only centuries of ancient wisdom and an iPad.

That’s it! ¬†You’re done! ¬†You have successfully Pinterested an ugly fake wood desk into a rustic piece of furniture that your family will cherish for hours to come. ¬†Give yourself a pat on the back if you still have any upper body mobility!

Random Saturdays – Christmas Treats

Christmas is not even here yet, but I have partaken in many a Christmas treat.  Allow me to share some of my favorite goodies that have helped me fatten up and stay warm this Christmas season.

Caramel Apple Praline Cookies – Central Market
Someone at work brought these to our team and they were so delicious! ¬†Dried apple pieces, caramel, chopped almonds and pecans…If it weren’t for all the sugar, they’d be pretty healthy.

Chocolate Cherries – Marich
These are dried cherries covered in chocolate. ¬†The cherries are soft and the chocolate is smooth. ¬†They’re so rich that I can’t eat more than two at a time. ¬†How crazy is that?!

Holiday Popcorn Tins
It doesn’t matter what brand it is, I love popcorn. ¬†I love the holiday popcorn tins because they’re cute and they usually have flavors you don’t get the rest of the year either. ¬†Oh, and they’re everywhere. ¬†I went through two tins (almost entirely on my own) before I stopped because my gums were torn up and the only popcorn left was maple and bacon flavor. ¬†Even Blackish shouted out to the wonderfulness that is multiple flavors of popcorn in one container.

Jacobsen’s Danish Butter Cookies – World Market
These cookies are everywhere are Christmastime. ¬†My beloved husband turns his nose up at most brands because they only have one kind of cookie with the giant sugar crystals on them. ¬†Jacobsen’s has three different kinds of cookies with the giant sugar crystals on them. ¬†Eseentially, they’re all made of the same cookie dough, but in different shapes. ¬†Something about the sugar crystals makes them feel more special, though.

I’m too hungry to continue this list now. ¬†Let me know if I forgot anything particularly yummy so that I can eat it!

To Vote or Not To Vote

November 8th will be my 5th opportunity to vote for the president of the U.S. ¬†That means that in my voting life, I’ve only been able to vote during some really jacked up elections with extreme issues and world problems on the line. ¬†The first election during which I was old enough to vote was Bush, Jr. vs Gore. ¬†There was so much wrong with that election – the candidates, the Nader “throwaway” votes, voting system scandals, etc. ¬†This election time, the U.S. is voting on Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump or a bunch of other people who have no chance of winning.

How did we get to this place???

We can speculate from a logical standpoint, from a historical standpoint, from a political standpoint, or from a ridiculous standpoint. ¬†The truth is, none of that matters. ¬†Those are our choices and there’s no going back now. ¬†Due to the lack of support behind either candidate for most Americans, I think we are going to have record low voter turnouts this year. ¬†That makes me pretty sad.

Women have had the right to vote for less than 100 years in the U.S. ¬†The country was established over 200 years ago, but we’ve only been able to vote for less than half of that time. ¬†Women outnumber men in this country. ¬†A woman is running for president this election term. ¬†Most of the women I know (who live in the metroplex) are not voting.

That’s not to say that I think that women should vote for Hillary Clinton just because she’s a woman. ¬†I just think that they should vote. ¬†Even if you think it’s a throwaway vote, it’s not. ¬†Find someone on the ballot whose record supports your values as much as possible and vote for that person. That is the best way to get out of this two system voting party craziness that¬†leaves so many Americans feeling like their votes don’t matter.

More importantly, there are other offices and issues on the ballot that will affect your everyday life directly. ¬†Don’t let the presidential election overshadow local elections and propositions that will affect your housing taxes, education policies, local businesses, and even the cleanliness of your drinking water. ¬†It’s not too late to learn about all of the other important issues on the ballot and vote. ¬†You don’t have to pay money to vote. ¬†Voting doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll have to do jury duty (even though it’s your civic duty and you should be proud to be included in the process no matter how much of a pain in the butt it can be), and you can take notes into the voting booth with you so that you don’t have to remember exactly how you want to vote on every issue or seat. ¬†Here are some great resources to help you navigate your local elections and issues on this year’s ballot:

League of Women Voters – Don’t be fooled; ¬†this isn’t a women-only resource. ¬†After women gained the right to vote, they wanted to make sure that everyone had the opportunity to make informed choices. ¬†So, they switched gears from suffrage to voter education. ¬†They do a great job of questioning candidates on issues and providing answers on common voter questions. ¬†Just go to the site above and enter your address to find info for your area.

Local Newspaper Websites – The Dallas Morning News has a great Voter Guide, and if your values align with that of the paper’s, you can even see which candidates they endorse for each office. ¬†If you enjoy more independent magazines and newspapers, look up their websites and they can help you find candidates and issues that align with your values.

Google – Type in Voter Guide 2016 and you can search for early voting guidelines, voting locations, ballot issues, etc. ¬†If you’re wondering about a specific race, candidate, or issue, type that into Google and off you go.

Whatever you do, don’t think that your vote doesn’t matter. ¬†It does. ¬†If everyone who didn’t think her vote mattered actually voted, we could see more options on the ballot and politicians would realize that they are directly accountable to their constituents.

Since I’m in Texas, I’m going to offer a couple of FYIs for my fellow Texans:

  • Early Voting is October 11 – November 5.
  • Statewide elections are being held for important positions like Railroad Commissioner, State Supreme Court Justices, State Appeals Court Justices (this is where your Making of a Murderer and the Serial podcasts addictions matter!), and House Representative.

Random Saturdays – Ranger Martin and the Search for Paradise

FULL DISCLOSURE РJack and I are blogging buddies.  He gave me an advanced review copy of his eBook, but did not pay me or beat me into the agreement to review the book.  He requested only that I read the book and give an honest opinion of it during the week of its release.  I agreed because I wanted to read the book before everyone else.  Suckers!

Ranger Martin and the Search for Paradise will be released on Tuesday, October 20th.  This is the third book in a series written by my buddy, Jack Flacco.  I will say right now that this book made me cry.

Ranger Martin and the Search for Paradise

Ranger Martin and the Search for Paradise

From reading the previous books, I’m fond of Ranger and his rag tag group of kids. ¬†I call them kids, but by the third book, even Jon, the youngest, has lost all traces of childhood. ¬†I guess you have to grow up pretty quickly during the Zombie Apocalypse. ¬†I wouldn’t know, having never been through one and intending to kill myself immediately upon hearing of at least five dead people who are eating living people.

In this book,¬†Ranger and his crew hear about a place called Paradise where he and the kids might¬†finally be able to live in¬†a world without 24 x 7 adrenaline battles. ¬†Could it be too good to be true? ¬†Before they could figure that out, they’d have to get to Paradise, and travelling anywhere in the Zombie Apocalypse is a trying task. ¬†They meet new people and run into old allies along the way.

As with the others, the book starts out in media res, so it’s hard to get a grip on what’s going on at first. ¬†I assume that’s intended by the author to make the reader as disoriented as the characters must be. ¬† ¬†When Ranger’s group stumbles upon another group, they seem to grow close quickly. ¬†There’s a reason, but it was still a bit too quick for me. ¬†It felt like that part of the movie where you see something happen quickly with one line as an explanation and you yell at the screen, “Oh, the book goes into it much more than that!” ¬†Moving through the story, there are some flashbacks that explain a bit more of Ranger’s past than before, which was nice. ¬†Although, I’m not sure that it moved the story forward much at this point. ¬†When the group decides to set out for Paradise, the real action starts. ¬†Jack excels at, “Woo! ¬†That was close! ¬†Oh crap, it’s not over yet?!?!” moments. ¬†It’s quite a battle to get to Paradise, but when I saw how many pages were left before the group could get into Paradise, I knew that I wouldn’t be enjoying a peaceful ending any time soon.

If you like your endings tied up in a pretty package, then you will hate the end of this book. ¬†Initially, I was mad, wondering if there were going to be more books even though this was supposed to be a trilogy. ¬†Then, I let it settle in and came to accept the ending as fitting to the zombie genre in general. ¬†Good zombie books and movies do not have pretty endings. ¬†They always leave you with questions and they always leave you wanting more. ¬†For Ranger Martin and his group of adolescent comrades, it would be unfitting to have the group live happily ever after. ¬†Overall, I’m pleased with the series and this was a pretty exciting read.

I will admit that there are some misspellings and poor grammar sprinkled throughout the book. ¬†Jack wrote and published the book himself, so it’s hard to get everything as sparkling clean as expensive publishing houses require. ¬†Even then, a certain red-headed wizard in a very well-known book series was referred to by the name of the actor who played him in the movie, rather than the book character’s name. ¬†I have read some other self-published works that were just too painful to slog through at all, no matter how much I wanted to like the book or how free the book was. ¬†If’ you’re unsure, go ahead and read the first chapter on Jack’s site. ¬†Then, buy the book. ¬†It’s a relatively quick and easy read that will keep you engaged and excited. ¬†I’m grateful that Jack gave me the opportunity to read and review the book in advance. ¬†I’m still waiting to see how he tackles leprechauns and unicorns, though.

Random Saturdays – Food Love

I recently decided to try subscribing to Love with Food. ¬†Each month, you get a box of snacks sent to you along with coupons and information on that month’s charity. ¬†With every food box sold, the company donates one meal to feed the hungry. ¬†Considering that similar snacks sell in the vending machines at work for around $2, the price and cause make the monthly Love with Food box very reasonable. ¬†Honestly, I liked some of the snacks better than others, but that’s another plus of the food box. ¬†You can try things without committing to jumbo bags of something that you might not like.

September was the Smarty Pants Tasting Box. ¬†Like I said, it was hit and miss, but here’s what I thought:

  • Adult Complete Pack by Smarty Pants – These were gummy vitamins, but since they had gelatin and I don’t really like gummies, I didn’t try them. ¬†I gave one to Dora and one to Lego and they liked them. ¬†You have to eat like, 6 gummies to get your daily dose of vitamins. ¬†So, it might be a better option for kids, who need smaller doses. ¬†For now, I’ll stick to my regular multivitamins and supplements.
  • Sea Salt Caramel Apple by Bear Naked – Delicious! ¬†I tried it alone and stirred into some Chobani Pumpkin Yogurt (bought separately). ¬†Brilliant combination!
  • Mini Peanut Butter Clutter by JimmyBar! – This made me feel like I was eating a very fancy fig bar without the cakey part. ¬†It wasn’t too sweet, not hard, not gloopy. ¬†I was impressed.
  • Cookie Thins (Cake Batter OR Chocolate Chip) by Mrs. Thinsters – I had Cake Batter flavor in my box and they were super delicous! ¬†The cookies were crisp, thin, vanilla-y, and buttery. ¬†They may have been too buttery because they left a bunch of butter on my fingers. ¬†I told myself that made the cookies healthy, since I wasn’t ingesting all of ¬†those calories.
  • Pretzel Crisps¬ģ Gluten Free Original Minis by Snack Factory¬ģ – I have had these before, but not the gluten free variety. ¬†They were very crunchy, but had a weird aftertaste. ¬†I’ll stick to regular pretzel crisps, but this seems like a good alternative for people with celiac’s disease.
  • Cheddar n’ Stuff SUPER CRACKERS by Funley’s Delicious – The package says the crackers have broccoli in them, but that you won’t be able to tell. ¬†They are yummy and they are cheesy. ¬†I didn’t taste broccoli, but I tasted a deeper flavor than what you’d expect with a cheddar cheese cracker. ¬†I’d buy them in the store, for sure.
  • Harvest Snaps Snapea by Calbee – These were the most surprising item in the box. ¬†They tasted like fancy potato chips. ¬†I don’t mean fancy potato chips with crazy flavors or anything, just the kind of potato chips you find in the organic section of the grocery store, you know, preservative free, “organic”, blah blah blah. ¬†I had no idea that peas could taste like potato chips!
  • Fruit Snacks by YumEarth – These were yummy and cute. ¬†While I don’t like gummies much, I do like fruit snacks, but I don’t eat them. ¬†Dora and Lego are supposed to avoid fruit snacks because they already have tooth problems, so I didn’t feel bad eating these. ¬†They were good and a nice snack, but I don’t think I’ll add them to my regular grocery store trips any time soon.

If you’re looking to try a food subscription, this is a nice one to try. ¬†I’m pretty happy with the results, so I’m going to keep my subscription. ¬†In fact, I think I’ll go ahead and do the year subscription for the biggest discount.