The 2018 Budget: How I Plan to Slay my Debt

The 2018 Budget: How I Plan to Slay my Debt

I had some pretty big expenses in 2017. Most notable, I spent about $3,000 in car repairs. I had to replace my catalytic converter and water pump, among some other lesser things. (Maybe they were broken, maybe they weren’t. I just assume I’m being screwed over both because I’m a woman and I was at my car’s dealership and go on with my life.) So next year will be the year I try and recoup as much of that as I can. (It does not help that my one credit card has charges from way back in 2014 that I’m still paying off. I need to buckle down and pay off that credit card.)

But first, the rules:

  • Round down the amount of pay you take home.
  • Round up the amount of expenses you are paying for.

So, if your take-home pay is usually around $950 each paycheck, then round down to $900. If you pay $545 for rent, then round up a little to $550. Not everyone does this but I find it’s the best way to make sure you have a little extra left over at the end of the month.

Secondly, the break down:

  • Rent
  • Utilities
  • Credit card
  • Food
  • Gas
  • TV/Internet
  • Cell phone
  • Other

Some people may have a car payment or medical bills or what-have-you. Add what expenses you need to. The biggest expense is going to be rent or mortgage payment. (If you don’t have either, then you are a lucky person.) For me, utilities include gas and electric payments. Water, trash, and sewer are included in my rent. I separate the TV/Internet from other utilities so I can get a better handle on how much it is. Food is food; toilet paper and soap and such comes out of Other.

Third, the calculations:

Add your biweekly pay, or however often you get paid, together to get a monthly total. For me that’s:

 $900 + $900 = $1800

I rounded my pay down a little in my calculations. So, $1800 is my total budget. Now to add up expenses.

$550 rent +
$135 utilities +
$250 food +
$60 gas +
$160 TV/internet +
$40 cell phone +
$150 other =
$1345

You can see I left out the credit card. Since the credit card is something I want to pay off quickly, I’m going to subtract the rest of my expenses from the total pay and see how much is left and how much I can comfortable put toward the credit card bill. Now subtract expenses from total pay. I rounded my expenses up. My rent is actually $545, the utilities are $125, etc. Give yourself a little extra padding by rounding expenses up and income down a bit.

Forth, the end total:

$1800 – $1345 = $455

So at the end of the month, if I stay on budget and nothing else comes up or there are no emergencies (just had a good laugh at that), I will have $455 left at the end of the month. I’m going to round down, and say that there is $400 left, to give myself a good cushion. This cushion is for emergencies and other surprises.

My credit card bill stands at a little more than $3,000. If I am able to pay the full $400 each month, that means I will completely pay off the credit card in 8 months. (7.5 months.) All that rounding up and down also leaves me extra, which will stay in the bank account as emergency money. Hopefully, no emergencies big enough to completely ruin that month’s budget but one can only hope.

Can I do it? To be honest, probably not. Something is going to happen, either to something I own, my cat, or myself. The world is a unpredictable place and trouble finds me when I least need it. But this is the plan. I’m not depriving myself. I can survive comfortably on this and have a couple luxuries. (Candy, mostly. A geeky, fun item or two.) This is doable.

Remember, you are never going to follow a budget that is completely restrictive. Or at least you are not going to follow it for very long. Create a budget that has space for fun. My Other budget includes money for a meal or two out and maybe a movie or something. Luckily, I only have myself and my cat to worry about.

If you are a two person income household, add both incomes and round down before subtracting your expenses. Give your household a larger Other budget, for things like kids shoes, field trips at school, and emergency trips to the doctor for when your kid brings home the plague from school. You are more likely to have an emergency expense involving a child than anything else.

So that’s my budget plan for 2018. I’m going to try and keep to it all year and then reevaluate in the New Year. Hopefully, I’ll have no more credit card debt and will begin to start saving more and more money. (My big dream is to have enough to take a vacation to Europe for my 40th birthday.)

Fingers crossed! Happy New Year, everybody!

Thank you for reading!

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Thank you for reading!

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I hope everyone has a merry and bright Christmas! Happy Holidays, everybody!

Book Review: The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand

The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia HandThe Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand
Published: October 24th 2017
Format: Paper Book
Length: 385 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Christmas, Romance
Rating: 4.5 stars

On Christmas Eve five years ago, Holly was visited by three ghosts who showed her how selfish and spoiled she’d become. They tried to convince her to mend her ways.

She didn’t.

And then she died.

Now she’s stuck working for the top-secret company Project Scrooge–as the latest Ghost of Christmas Past.

Every year, they save another miserly grouch. Every year, Holly stays frozen at seventeen while her family and friends go on living without her. So far, Holly’s afterlife has been miserable.

But this year, everything is about to change. . . .

I am not a romance reader. I’ve stated many times in my book reviews that the most annoying aspect of young adult books is always, always, the romance angle for me. There is always some trope to the romance that I can’t stand. (The boy is an asshole because he’s trying to protect the girl and the girl loves the boy despite the fact she knows she should hate his guts because he’s acting like an asshole. I want to claw my eyes out every time I read this and it is everywhere in young adult books.) But The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand is a romance that does not use those much loathed tropes. It is a romance that did something different and I actually liked it. I know, it was shocking to me too.

This is a great Christmas book and I love the idea. The Scrooge Project uses the Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol as a blueprint to try and rehabilitate a single person every year. It uses some pretty snazzy tech to do it too. Like the Go Room, that allows the Ghosts to travel to the Scrooge’s home, and the Time Tunnel, which allows the Ghosts to travel in time to show the Scrooges the error of their ways. And we can’t we forget the Hoodie? Capital letter most definitely needed. The Afterlife of Holly Chase has the same fun and silly tone of My Lady Jane and just the right mix of paranormal fun and seriousness to entertain.

I liked all of the characters. Yes, Holly starts out as the consummate brat, the character you love to hate, but she grows. I loved all the characters at the Scrooge Project. The other Ghosts and all of the tech people helping run things behind the scenes. I even liked Blackpool, the grim and intense Ghost of Christmas Future. I would have liked a bit more development between Holly and Ethan. I see no reason why Holly should love Ethan so much after just seeing a photo of him. Lust, maybe, but not such deep love. That’s my biggest complaint with romance stories. No reasonable build up, in my opinion. The supposed depth of emotion just happens far too fast for me.

When it comes down to it, The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand is a romance book and the first romance book that I’ve actually liked in a long time. If, like me, you are a bit anti-romance, I suggest you read this one. It’s a perfect read for the holiday season and Cynthia delivers her signature quirky, imaginative brand of writing that I so enjoy.

Thank you for reading!

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Holiday Blogger Q&A

Came across this little Q&A tag on For What It’s Worth and decided to jump on the wagon. It’s been a while since I did a meme and since I’m trying to get back into blogging at least semi-regularly, I thought this would be a nice step that might bring some readers on my blog. After all, what is a blogger without at least a couple readers? Head on over to The Blended Blog to see the linky party and the rest of the posts. It’s a very cute blog too.

The Blended Blog Holiday Q&A

1) Real or Fake Tree? Neither? I live in a small apartment and have no space to put up or store a tree. I do decorate but no tree. I usually end up buying a bundle of pine branches and scattering them around my apartment for a touch of nature. Plus, nothing for the cat to destroy.

2) Favorite Christmas Cookie? It’s a split between the good old sugar cookie and thumbprint cookies, usually with raspberry jam but other jams and even Nutella are good too. Since having to go gluten free in my diet, cookies are a big problem. It’s hard to find GF items in a bakery and making cookies myself is still a bit of a learning process. I have gotten a good sugar cookie but have yet to produce an acceptable thumbprint cookie. Darn it.

3) Home on Christmas Morning or Travel? Travel. Although it’s rarely Christmas. We often gather on the closest weekend. It’s just my Dad, my Brother, and Sister-in-law these days.

4) Clear or Colored Lights? Clear! We always had colored lights when I was kid. (My grandparents had green lights on their tree.) But as an adult, I love the clean, simple look of white lights.

5) Send Christmas Cards? Yes! I actually join card exchanges because I love getting good old snail-mail holiday cards. The people in my life are less enthusiastic about it, the party poopers.

6) Favorite Christmas Present Received? The gold heart ring with my birthstone that my Mother got me when I was a young teenager. It doesn’t fit anymore, alas, but I still love it.

7) Favorite Christmas Present Given? That’s going to be the gift I got my sister-in-law this year. She asked for a prop from a TV show she loves but was unable to do the footwork to look for it. So after much searching, I finally found a Jadeite Fire King c-handle coffee mug that Giles uses in season 3 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She’s going to flip.

8) Stockings or No Stockings? No stockings. No fire place. But I do have the old stockings my grandmother used to hang on her fireplace when I was young. I’m afraid of them fading even more, so I keep them wrapped up but I do have them.

9) Christmas PJ’s? Nope. Plenty of other festive wear but no PJ’s.

10) Favorite Christmas Carol? 

Oh the weather outside is frightful,
But the fire is so delightful,
And since we have no place to go,
Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

11) Favorite Holiday Tradition? This one is tough. My family was never one for traditions. When I got to be a teenager, if I wasn’t the one to put up the tree, then it didn’t get put up. Or any decorations, for that matter. I was like 14 or so. We always had a meal and presents but very little effort was put into Christmas by my family. I know, kind of depressing.

12) Early Shopper or Last Minute? Early shopper! I’ve been done since before Thanksgiving.

13) Favorite Christmas Movie or Show? A Charlie Brown Christmas, of course!

14) Favorite Holiday Beverage? Hot Chocolate. Although hot apple cider is a close second.

15) Cookies and Milk for Santa? No. If I hadn’t seen it on TV, I wouldn’t have know that was a thing. Cookies are for eating, not bribing mythical spirits.

Thank you for reading!

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Christmas Bucket List 2017

Christmas Bucket List

Christmas is but two weeks away and you have limited time to get in as much holiday cheer as you can before the New Year. This weekend I’m going out to see some Christmas light displays with friends. I’ve got all my Christmas shopping done but I still need to send out cards. Bit behind on that. I’m dearly hoping for some snow for Christmas but that hasn’t happened since I was teenager around here. But I am hopeful and the weather man says it just might, MIGHT, be possible to have a white Christmas this year. Fingers crossed.

My cat is quite frustrated with the Christmas decorations. I won’t let her play with them and she is obsessed with a rice sock snowman I made a couple weeks ago. She’s knock it off the shelf and then drag it away to her lair, which is under the bed. I finally had to move it up high to get her to leave it alone. She was very annoyed with me after that. Thankfully, the is not tree for her to get at. My apartment is too small for one.

For Christmas, I shall attempt to make a gluten free cheery coffee cake using the Aldi’s baking mix. The recipe is on the back of the package. The baking mix makes wonderful pancakes but this will be the first time I’ve tried something else with it. I hope it comes out well. The holidays are a rotten time for people on a gluten free diet.

Stay merry, everyone! Have a great Christmas.

Thank you for reading!

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Christmas Reading Recommendation List

Christmas book rec. list

The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror by Christopher Moore

The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore‘Twas the night (okay, more like the week) before Christmas, and all through the tiny community of Pine Cove, California, people are busy buying, wrapping, packing, and generally getting into the holiday spirit.

But not everybody is feeling the joy. Little Joshua Barker is in desperate need of a holiday miracle. No, he’s not on his deathbed; no, his dog hasn’t run away from home. But Josh is sure that he saw Santa take a shovel to the head, and now the seven-year-old has only one prayer: Please, Santa, come back from the dead.

But hold on! There’s an angel waiting in the wings. (Wings, get it?) It’s none other than the Archangel Raziel come to Earth seeking a small child with a wish that needs granting. Unfortunately, our angel’s not sporting the brightest halo in the bunch, and before you can say “Kris Kringle,” he’s botched his sacred mission and sent the residents of Pine Cove headlong into Christmas chaos, culminating in the most hilarious and horrifying holiday party the town has ever seen.

It’s funny and silly and has some cursing, be warned.

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The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum

The Life and Adventures of Santa ClausEvery child knows about Santa Claus, the jolly man who brings gifts to all on Christmas. There are many stories that tell of his life, but the delightful version relayed in The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus is by far the most charming and original of all. Relates Santa’s life, from childhood to old age and immortality, mentioning such adventures as those with the friendly Wood-nymphs and the wicked Awgwas. A human foundling child, adopted by a wood-nymph and raised by the creatures who inhabit a magical forest, grows up to be the immortal Santa Claus. Only L. Frank Baum, the man who created the wonderful land of Oz, could have told Santa’s tale in such rich and imaginative detail.

This is a pretty old book but my library had a couple copies of more recent printings.

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A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings by Charles Dickens

A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas WritingsDickens’ story of solitary miser Ebenezer Scrooge, who is taught the true meaning of Christmas by a series of ghostly visitors, has proved one of his most well-loved works. Ever since it was published in 1843 it has had an enduring influence on the way we think about the traditions of Christmas. Dickens’ other Christmas writings collected here include ‘The Story of the Goblins who Stole a Sexton’, the short story from The Pickwick Papers on which A Christmas Carol was based; The Haunted Man, a tale of a man tormented by painful memories; along with shorter pieces, some drawn from the ‘Christmas Stories’ that Dickens wrote annually for his weekly journals. In all of them Dickens celebrates the season as one of geniality, charity and remembrance.

It would be hard to not have seen A Christmas Carol in some form. There are cartoons, TV shows, and movies galore. But the written version is the best, in my opinion, and Dickens wrote many other Christmas stories, all of them with the Victorian regard for spookiness. Telling ghost stories is an old Christmas tradition that has sort of fallen out of favor in modern times. This particular book is just one of many collections you could choose to read to get into the holiday spirit.

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My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories by Various Authors

My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories by Various AuthorsIf you love holiday stories, holiday movies, made-for-TV-holiday specials, holiday episodes of your favorite sitcoms and, especially, if you love holiday anthologies, you’re going to fall in love with My True Love Gave To Me: Twelve Holiday Stories by twelve bestselling young adult writers, edited by international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins. Whether you enjoy celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah, Winter Solstice or New Year’s there’s something here for everyone. So curl up by the fireplace and get cozy. You have twelve reasons this season to stay indoors and fall in love.

This anthology has stories from some of my favorite authors, most notably Holly Black and Rainbow Rowell. Like all anthologies, I liked some stories more than others but I enjoyed the book as a whole. There are a lot of genres, not just contemporary but also paranormal and historical. It’s a great mix.

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Hogfather by Terry Pratchett

HogfatherSusan had never hung up a stocking . She’d never put a tooth under her pillow in the serious expectation that a dentally inclined fairy would turn up. It wasn’t that her parents didn’t believe in such things. They didn’t need to believe in them. They know they existed. They just wished they didn’t.

There are those who believe and those who don’t. Through the ages, superstition has had its uses. Nowhere more so than in the Discworld where it’s helped to maintain the status quo. Anything that undermines superstition has to be viewed with some caution. There may be consequences, particularly on the last night of the year when the time is turning. When those consequences turn out to be the end of the world, you need to be prepared. You might even want more standing between you and oblivion than a mere slip of a girl – even if she has looked Death in the face on numerous occasions…

This is a book about the nature of belief. I adore Terry Pratchett and his Discworld series and this is one of the best in the Death series. I know. How Christmasy could it be if it involves Death? But it’s funny and quirky and great tongue-in-cheek observations about humanity.

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Some other stories I could recommend to get you in the Christmasy or wintery mood. (Look at me, just making up words all over the place.)

Santaland Diaries by David Sedaris

Winter Prey by John Sandford

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfiled

The Immortal Nicholas by Glenn Beck

Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien

Mr. Dickens and His Carol: A Novel of Christmas Past by Samantha Silva

Thank you for reading!

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My PCOS Journey (Post 1)

My PCOS Journey

I have PCOS; Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. PCOS is a health problem that affects 1 in 10 women of childbearing age. But even then PCOS can cause problems from puberty onward. As a child, I was overweight and had horrible acne much younger than my peers. When puberty hit, my menstruation cycle was completely out of whack. I would have 2 or 3 periods a year and those periods were heavy and painful. I was put on birth control pills when I was 14 years old. The pill didn’t do anything for my weight or complexion but it forced my menstrual cycle into line.

I didn’t know I had PCOS back then. I kind of coasted through my teenage years and early 20’s without much change. I was unhealthy; verging on type 2 diabetes, and already with high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and very overweight. I wasn’t eating that bad and I was at least moderately active but nothing budged. Then, in my mid-20’s, I decided to go off my birth control pills. (I wasn’t sexually active and I was sick of paying for them.) Huge mistake. My body freaked out.

My weight skyrocketed to the heaviest I’ve been in my life. I had acne constantly. Periods were nonexistent but I still had horrible cramps. I started having problems with my joints and muscles aching. But the worst, emotionally, was my hair starting to fall out. I would find big clumps of hair on my bathmat after showering and there was hair all over my clothing. It was devastating. My part and the crown of my head began to get thin. I could see my scalp. I had always had thick, wavy hair and to see most of it end up on the floor was heartbreaking.

Signs you may have PCOS…

Symptoms of PCOS

I had no idea what was happening. I went to the doctor and she did tests on my thyroid but said they came back normal. I had to keep pushing and even then I pretty much diagnosed myself and contacted an endocrinologist. He repeated the test and more. Found out my thyroid was a little low, just not low enough for my regular doctor to bother with. I was put on synthroid, metformin, and spironolactone. The synthroid helped my low thyroid numbers, the metformin helped with the blood sugar issues, and the spironolactone helped with the high blood pressure. This is pretty much the trifecta of medicines a doctor will put a PCOS patient on.

pcos in a nutshellFor about 5 months, this worked. My hair stopped falling out and I just felt better. My skin cleared a little and my weight stopped going up. Unfortunately, the metformin tore my stomach apart. I had a constant upset stomach and with some foods I’d get horrible pains, that I later found out was from extreme bloating and gas. Apparently, the metformin can do that to some people. I was taken off the metformin but then all of the benefits stopped too. I was right back where I started.

I tried so many things and it took about two years of adjustments before I found something that really worked. Here is what I did…

• Sugar. There are lots of ways to try and control the insulin resistance that comes with PCOS; like metformin, cinnamon, or chromium. But the only sure fire way and the most effective is to limit your sugar intake. The goal is to get yourself down to 4 teaspoons of additional sugar a day. I’ve since stopped drinking soda and only lightly sugar my coffee and tea. It took time to wean myself off the sugar but it was worth it.

Insulin resistance

• Diet. I had a terrible diet when I was a teenager. A picky eater in the extreme and then I ate junk and too much of it. It was only in my upper 20’s that I branched out and started to vary my diet. Avoid junk food and processed food. Shop the outer ring of the store; fresh fruit, veggies, and meats, before going for anything in the center of the store. Whole foods are much better for you and your body.

• Gluten free. I only saw great improvement in my health when I went gluten free. My joints and muscles stopped aching. My headaches lessened and my stomach issues declined. I was also able to start taking metformin again without it upsetting my stomach. Also, I began to have periods again. If I eat gluten, I can instantly feel it. A headache within 20 minutes, upset stomach by an hour, and joint and muscle soreness by the next morning. I used to have to wear an ankle brace on my left ankle just to be able to walk without pain. I no longer have to do that and it was only after going gluten free. I also won’t have a period that month if I eat gluten, even though I take birth control pills again.

• Exercise. As in you have to do some. Many of the symptoms of PCOS can be helped with moderate exercise and strength training. I try to get up and walk as often as I can at work and then at home I use a small floor cycle and a set of weights to focus on my arms. I have lost and kept a good amount of weight off and it helps your body in many, many ways. I can’t stress how much a sedentary lifestyle will hurt you in this situation.

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  • Anxiety/Depression. Mental health problems almost always come hand and hand with PCOS. Maybe you think you’re coping, maybe you think you can handle it. But let me tell you that you will feel a world of difference if you take your concerns to your doctor. I’d always been a shy, introverted, and anxious person but I never thought I had depression or a mental health problem. When I started having panic attacks at night last spring, I had to admit to myself that I needed help. It’s made me feel so much better and really lowered my stress level.

Along with the prescribed medications, I also take several supplements to counteract the symptoms of PCOS, which I will address in my next post. There is no way to cure PCOS, but we can manage the symptoms. Lifestyle change, diet, and exercise will be the fundamental foundation that you will build your PCOS treatment on.

Links for some further reading:

Looks Like PCOS to Me: A Visual Guide to Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

PCOS Diva: Just Been Diagnosed?

My PCOS Diet: Let’s be Real

PCOS Diet Part 1 / Part 2

Thank you for reading!

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Why It’s Ok To Have A Non – Traditional Thanksgiving

Why It’s Ok To Have A Non-Traditional Thanksgiving

The past few years, my family has been having what some people would call a “non-traditional” Thanksgiving. The reason for this is two-fold.

First: We’re lazy. Wow, are we lazy. When I was younger, a kid or a teenage, we were less lazy. But I’m now thirty-mumble-mumble and the lazy is full blown.

Second: My family has shrunk. I’ve always had a small family. It took me until I was like fifteen to realize I should have two sets of grandparents. I had my maternal grandparents but, in my mind, my Dad burst forth from the bowels of Hell fully formed. (Not really. He wasn’t that bad, just a grouch with a short temper.) But we lost my grandparents many years ago and then my Mom in 2014 to cancer. So, for a little while it was just my Dad, my brother, and I for holidays and it just seemed like so much effort. We still met but the year my Mom died, we had Chinese food. It was all we had energy for.

Since then, my brother married and we have one more person at the dinner table for holidays. But my Dad’s health has declined, so much so that a big to-do is pretty much beyond him. However, he still lives in the house I grew up in (we’re trying to move him to the same apartment complex as me but it has to be first floor and there is a long waiting list) and that house is pretty much the only place that will fit four people. We could go to my brother’s house but it’s always a mess and even the short drive is too much for my Dad. So, short and simple has been the word for holidays.

Two years ago we ordered our Thanksgiving dinner from Whole Foods. It came with a turkey and sides. My brother and sister in law actually had to return to Whole Foods because the server had forgotten a couple of sides. So, pro-tip, if you order your Thanksgiving meal, and there are a lot of places that will do that, always check everything before you leave the store. It just might save you the hassle of a trip back.

The dinner from Whole Foods was ok. The sides would good but for some reason the turkey didn’t have any skin. It was cooked (actually, I think it was smoked) but we had to put it in the oven to give it a little color and flavor. I wouldn’t do it again.

Last year we did a beef roast in a crock pot and my sister in law and I made sides. My brother made deviled eggs because that’s just what he does for holidays. It was a very nice Thanksgiving. (I was also invited to my sister in law’s family’s house for Thanksgiving dinner and was completely overwhelmed with how large her family is. I mean, it was only nine people including myself, but it was way more than I was used to.) Pro-tip, if you are looking for hassle free holiday meals, the crock pot is your friend. Embrace the crock pot.

Be Thankful

It’s ok to have a non-traditional Thanksgiving, or any holiday for that matter. What matters is family. Even if that family is small or far away, it still matters. Even if that family is not related by blood or has four legs and a wet nose. Have Thanksgiving with your boyfriend or girlfriend curled up on the couch with a movie and pizza. Have Thanksgiving with your best friend with a board game and mac&cheese. Put the cat’s bowl on the table, just this once, while you eat cereal. Host a community potluck dinner. Skype and chat with friends you only know over the internet while eating pizza rolls. Attend a Friendsgiving. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you remember that we are all human beings and we are all in this together.

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Ideas for non-traditional Thanksgivings:

  • Finger foods. Mozzarella sticks. Potato skins. Stuffed jalapeños. Frozen pizza. Queso dip and tortilla chips. Anything that’s easy and can be heated up in the oven or microwave.
  • Movies Marathon. Get a couple bags of microwave popcorn and some boxes of candy from the dollar store and have a movie marathon. Food an entertainment.
  • Potluck. Have everyone bring a dish and spread around the work.
  • Order dinner. Full Thanksgiving meals can be ordered from places like Whole Foods, Dierbergs, Kroger, other large grocery stores, and some restaurants.
  • Got to a restaurant. Most places are closed on Thanksgiving but wait a day or two and go out. I’ve more than once waited until the Saturday after and gone out with a couple people to whatever restaurant hit out fancy.
  • Friendsgiving. They’ve become popular the last couple of years. Invite your friends over for Thanksgiving and spend the holiday with people you actually like.

But the point is that Thanksgiving does not have to be your blood relatives sitting around a table eating turkey, potatoes, and the green bean casserole your aunt brought but nobody will eat because it tastes weird. Gather. Gather with friends. Gather with co-workers. Gather with neighbors. Just gather with other human beings and be together.

The setting is not important. The food is not important. How you gather with others is not important. Just gather.

Thank you for reading!

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Fall To-Do List 2017

Ah, November. We are truly into the autumn season now. Halloween is over and Thanksgiving is just around the corner. (Soon it will be December and Christmas will rush into our lives.) But for now, we’re still firmly in autumn.

I live in the Midwest and our temperatures are already dropping hard. We’ve already had a hard freeze. The growing season is officially over and the plants have been put to bed. The days are getting shorter. (After daylight savings time is over, the days are getting really, really short.) So I present to you, a list of things to do before winter sets in; a Fall To-Do List to get the most out of the season.

Fall To-Do List

I would say I’m sad to see summer go but that would be a lie. I’m much more of a spring and autumn girl. Even winter is better than summer for me. I like to put on cozy sweaters and drink gallons of pumpkin spice whatever while reading a favorite book in my favorite spot on the sofa. Summer is hot and icky. Give me a cool wind and chilly temperatures and I’m a happy girl. Happy autumn, everybody!

Thank you for reading!

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My Halloween 2017 Reread List

I’m going to confess that I haven’t been reading much. I’ve been dealing with… things. I’ll do a personal post after Halloween. Now, autumn is my favorite season. In no small part because of October and Halloween. In my part of the U.S.A. our weather is just starting to get really cool. Halloween is forecasted to be in the low 50’s for the high. My favorite weather. My favorite sound is dry leaves rustling around in the wind. I’m 34, have no kids, and live in an apartment where I get no trick or treaters, but I still put on my hooded cape and witch’s hat and walk around the neighborhood. Nothing thrills me more than seeing the little kids all dressed up, going from door to door, and everyone’s decorations.

And since I haven’t been reading much lately, I’d thought I’d ease back into things with a reread of my favorite spooky and chilling books. So, here I present, in no particular order, my list of Halloween 2017 rereads.

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

houndbaskervillesI’m a devoted fan of Sherlock Holmes and The Hound of the Baskervilles is arguable my favorite of Doyle’s stories.

Holmes and Watson are faced with their most terrifying case yet. The legend of the devil-beast that haunts the moors around the Baskerville family’s home warns the descendants of that ancient clan never to venture out in those dark hours when the power of evil is exalted. Now, the most recent Baskerville, Sir Charles, is dead and the footprints of a giant hound have been found near his body. Will the new heir meet the same fate?

Although Holmes reveals the completely non-paranormal motive behind the murder and the strange canine seen upon the moors, it’s still my favorite of the more spooky Holmes stories. As Holmes says in ‘The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire’, “This Agency stands flat-footed upon the ground and there it must remain. The world is big enough for us. No ghost need apply.”

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Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare BlakeWhenever I get asked my favorite book, Anna Dressed in Blood pops into my mind as a strong candidate. It’s probably may favorite YA book involving a ghost I’ve ever read.

“Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.

So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father’s mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. They follow legends and local lore, destroy the murderous dead, and keep pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

Searching for a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas expects the usual: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he’s never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping with blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.

Yet she spares Cas’s life.”

You can read my review of Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake here. It’s incredibly well-written and very deserving of the positive reviews it received when it was published in 2011.
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The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book by Neil GaimanReally, any of Neil Gaiman’s books would fit pretty well into a Halloween reread list. I also loved Coraline, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and Neverwhere. Of course, we can’t exclude The Sandman graphic novels.

“After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family…”

You can find my author feature for Neil Gaiman, including a video preview of The Graveyard Book, here. For some reason I can’t find the review I wrote for, although I’m pretty sure I did write one. Oh well. Gaiman’s books have this other worldly quality and a spookiness that make them great books to read for Halloween. The movie adaptation of Coraline is also on my list of not-so-scary movies to watch for Halloween.

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The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall by Katie Alender

Book Review: The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall by Katie Alender

A ghost story from the view point of the ghost. I was surprised with how much I love Hysteria Hall. It was a giveaway prize but I ended up really enjoying it. It was a unique ghost story of the type I had never read before.

“In this asylum, your mind plays tricks on you all the time…

Delia’s new house isn’t just a house. Long ago, it was the Piven Institute for the Care and Correction of Troubled Females—an insane asylum nicknamed “Hysteria Hall.” However, many of the inmates were not insane, just defiant and strong willed. Kind of like Delia herself.

But the house still wants to keep “troubled” girls locked away. So, in the most horrifying way, Delia gets trapped.

And that’s when she learns that the house is also haunted.

Ghost girls wander the halls in their old-fashioned nightgowns. A handsome ghost boy named Theo roams the grounds. Delia finds that all the spirits are unsettled and full of dark secrets. The house, as well, harbors shocking truths within its walls—truths that only Delia can uncover, and that may set her free.

But she’ll need to act quickly, before the house’s power overtakes everything she loves.”

You can read my review of The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall by Katie Alender here.

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Some other books I plan to reread this season are…

The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury – Creepy but almost impossible to find. I happen to own an ancient copy.

Dracula by Bram Stoker – Come on! You have to read Dracula. Or at least watch some of the movies. Bela Lugosi is my favorite of the fanged fiends but Netflix keeps taking the DVD out of rotation.

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie – This one has always been my favorite of the murder mystery legend’s writing, although I find Christie’s style rather sterile and sparse for my tastes.

The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice – My favortie is, of course, Interview with the Vampire, but I’ve been meaning to read more of the series. I think there are a dozen books now. And I obviously need to rewatch the movie.

All the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling – Yeah. Movies too.

The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike – (giggle, snort) Yeah. I read it because of the movie. I’m not ashamed.

I might read some more stuff too. Definitely watch some movies. I’ve got nothing but time this coming weekend. Time, a library card, and temperatures in the low 50’s. There will be hot chocolate and much snuggling of a very put upon cat. Stay wicked, people.

Thank you for reading!

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