Tuesday, July 23, 2013

"Confessions of a Shopaholic" and the works of Sophie Kinsella

My reading list tends to encompass a lot of genres. History, mystery, science fiction, fantasy... but chick lit doesn't get on there so much. Mostly because it's hard to find chick lit that doesn't feel like I'm melting my brain. (Unless I'm sick and my brain is so dead that chick lit is the only thing I can read and then it's quite perfect). I enjoyed "Confessions of a Shopaholic" but wasn't really interested in the sequels until I spotted "Shopaholic and Baby" at the library book sale last week. For $.25 I figured it'd be a fun summer read, and there was another Sophie Kinsella title that I grabbed as well. A quarter's a good gamble, right?

"Baby" was pretty fun. It wasn't that the content was so much richer than most chick lit, but... there was something about it that didn't make me feel like I was making myself stupider by reading it. "What is it?" I asked myself. I came to realize that Sophie Kinsella is a really smart writer and a good one too. You know she is poking fun at our society in the shopping obsessed character of Becky Bloomwood, but in a good-natured way. Becky may seem shallow, but she's spunky and kind and fun to read about. It's all very tongue in cheek, as the Brits do best.

And then I picked up "Twenties Girl" which was an absolute gem. It's about a girl who gets haunted by the ghost of her 105 great-aunt... but the ghost appears as her aunt was in the 1920's, as a spunky 23-year-old flapper. Suddenly two mindsets are colliding in a hilarious and poignant story. If the Shopaholic series isn't your style, I would still recommend "Twenties Girl" as a worthwhile read.

(Sex is alluded too but very discreetly. The F-bomb appears occasionally, so if that bothers you then you'll want to steer clear.)

I've already picked up two more "Shopaholic" books and I'm planning to get my hands on Kinsella's other works as soon as I can find them priced within my budget.

Friday, July 19, 2013

More on the Engagement (and Wedding!)

Wow. It's my third day of being engaged and it's still slightly surreal. My facebook has completely exploded with some of the sweetest, most encouraging messages of congratulations and best wishes. It's been so amazing and special.

The Ring has also been popular. I was very adamant that I didn't want diamonds, so Nathan found me this gorgeous vintage inspired piece that I am utterly in love with. I had shown him some designs I liked ahead of time, but none of them were anywhere near as amazing as this one is. (He ran it by both my sister and his ahead of time. My man is so thoughtful!)

Now, there are several questions I get asked over and over, so I figured I'd answer them properly here.

Were you surprised?
Not so much. ;) I knew he had talked to my parents, and I also knew that timing wise this was when it needed to happen. Plus he wanted to make sure it was a proposal I was very happy with, so I had some input.

We live in an area with some very beautiful parks. Nathan took me to one of them and we walked around the lake at sunset. It was absolutely gorgeous and just the right time and temperature that the bugs weren't out yet but we weren't dying of heat either. We found a little isolated peninsula that we reached by crossing a stepping stone bridge, and then he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him...

...and I wanted to make sure I really soaked those words in, so I asked him to say it again, and he did, and then I still wasn't fully saturated yet, so I asked him to say it yet again...  he was laughing so hard he could hardly get it out, but he did, and then I said "Yes!"

Do you have a date?
We have a day we very much would like, but we're still ironing out all of the details. We did just find out that the venue we'd like is availible then, so things are lining up. Still praying about God's timing though! The earliest the wedding would happen is January 2014.

How did you guys meet in the first place?
Okay, no one has actually asked me that, but considering that I always wonder it about other couples, I'm sure there are some of you who are curious. We actually met last December on ChristainMingle.com, after some friends and family had suggested to me that I check out internet dating. We hit it off immediately, and our first video chat lasted three hours! As soon as he arrived in state for his new job we had our first offline date and neither one of us wanted to say goodnight. ;) Two weeks later he officially asked me to be his girlfriend, and a month after that I got to go meet his family (who are fabulously wonderful people). And the rest is history.

 I hope he knows what a treasure he's getting!
Okay, I feel a little egotistical posting that one, but I've gotten that comment so many times I do want to answer it properly. First of all, I feel so humble and grateful that so many people would have that reaction. The truth though? I'm the one getting the treasure. Nathan is so good to me. He is sweet, considerate, funny, hard-working, and incredibly selfless. He's already stuck by me through some difficult health stuff and made it clear that he's in for the long run. He is so much more than I ever dreamed I would find in a future husband and I credit that entirely to God's provision.

What is he like?
Well, some of you have actually gotten to meet him, but for those who haven't... he was homeschooled, like me. He is a very strong believer and really encourages me in living a Christ-centered life. He works as a creative content developer for a prominent gaming company (board games and RPGs, not video games), so my mother calls us "two creative peas in a pod." Example: for CONvergence he not only went in costume as one of my favorite comic book heroes (his idea, not mine) but actually helped me make the costume! And my family rather adores him which is just such a confirmation of how right we are for each other.

So... I think that's all the pertinent information. Wedding planning is already in high gear and we're having fun with it. My sister and I decided on Wednesday morning that we wanted to go dress shopping... and lo and behold the very first dress I tried on was THE ONE. I kid you not. I have spent years trying to imagine my wedding dress and NEVER could figure out anything I really liked. Then BAM. This one appeared. I tried on several others but none of them compared to the ONE. So. My parents went ahead and bought it. Totally unexpected, but rather a relief to have that done! Amanda keeps teasing me that I ought to have the cake made by now... I do have a hold placed on the venue hall and first draft of the guest list done!

I am definitely going to keep this blog from being completely taken over by wedding everything, but I'm sure it will continue to surface, as I only intend to go through this process once and would like to share some of my thoughts as I come up with them.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

He proposed...

... and I said "YES!"

I couldn't have asked for a more perfect setting...

And I certainly couldn't have asked for a more wonderful man to be my future husband. God is SO good!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Printer at LAST!

Installed my new printer today - finally. It's been sitting in a box in my room for over a month, waiting for me to have a moment to give it some proper attention. Unfortunately between my sister's graduation and out of town visitors and CONvergence, that has really gotten delayed.

Today I finally had a bit of a break from work and was able to sit down and pull it out. It took under an hour to set up, which was longer than I was expecting (but not longer than I feared). Everything went smoothly though and I'm happy with how it is printing. I went with a Brother printer as it can take much cheaper ink than other brands. And let me tell you, deciding on this brand and model was an exhausting task of reading far too many Amazon reviews. But I think it's a good choice, and it was just around $100 so huzzah!

(And when I say cheap ink, I mean I can get them for less than $2 a cartridge if I order in bulk.)

The other bonus is that it's smaller than I was expecting. The reviews complained of it being bulky, but it is smaller than the printer my dad has in his office which really is a huge old thing.

Anyhow, I can now properly print out invoices and reference photos and driving directions without having to monkey with the fussy printer upstairs. Very excited.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Tweet Length Book Reviews - July

I got some good responses to June, so I figured I'd give this another whirl in July. So here goes.

The Wild Queen by Carolyn Meyer

YA retelling of the life of Mary, Queen of Scots. Not as raunchy as the title sounds. First half quite good, second rather dull. Worth reading the first half. #historical fiction.

The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie

Christie takes on an action adventure! Archeologist's daughter finds herself caught up in a dangerous diamond heist and murder mystery on a journey to Africa. #Mystery #Notherbestmystery #butfun

The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelly

What if Jo March had descendants and they lived in modern day London and learned much the same lessons the original Little Women did? The letters themselves sound as if they were actually written by Louisa May Alcott. Very good.

The Kingmaker's Daughter by Philippa Gregory

War of the Roses seen through the eyes of Anne Neville, daughter of Warwick the Kingmaker and wife of Richard III. Captivating, sympathetic yet honest, very believable. More accurate and less sensual than Philippa's earlier works.

Classic Americana Weekend

I feel like I had a classic Americana weekend. The town next to ours (which is actually a suburb but has a sweet Main Street) had a festival and the boyfriend and I went to it. I've lived in this area for almost 15 years and I'd never made it to this festival before. High time I did.

Okay. I'll admit it. When I heard there was going to be a book sale at the library, there was no way I could resist going in. And it was so worth it. I got two bags of books for just $8.50 and it would have been only $5.50 but at the last minute I saw a "put on a Shakespeare play!" kit that looked great and I threw that in. (Friends, we'll be doing "The Taming of the Shrew" at one of our parties in the near future, I'm sure. Just warning y'all.)

Then we walked from the library to Main Street, which is about two blocks and both sides of the road were lined with gorgeous antique cars for the antique car show. I'm not really into cars, but I love historical things and my grandfather is absolutely crazy about antique cars, so I've learned to appreciate them. So that was cool.

Main Street was blocked off from traffic and the road was filled with an art show. Quite nice stuff for fairly decent prices. The shops along the way had fun things going too, so we got some appetizers from the Thai place, which were nicely priced and gluten-free and my favorites. And of course we followed that up with ice cream.

See what I mean about classic Americana?

Sunday, after church, we went antique browsing and I was totally proud of myself that I walked out of a fantastic antique mall only having spent $1.

And then we had a random swing dancing session last night. Turns out the boyfriend is pretty good... ;)

In other words, this weekend was what a 4th of July weekend typically should be, we just got it a week late because last week we were at CONvergence... with the "British Invasion" theme.

(And I say "Americana" rather than just "American" because it gives off a cool vintage-y vibe, okay?)

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Adventure that was CONvergence 2013

C2E2 was my first ever comic convention and it was a fantastic and literal assault on the senses. You could spend days drooling over the vendor hall and lose your entire bank balance and gain a massive migraine from the stimulation (which I did). 

Minnesota's CONvergence is a very different game. It is also pretty large (7000 attendees) but much more spread out. The Con took over the entire Double Tree hotel in Bloomington - all 22 floors - as well as some meeting rooms in an other hotel across the road. While there was a vendor hall (25% leather work) and an Artist Alley (about 8 artists), that was only a small part of the con's appeal. CONvergence is actually a collection of dozens of parties, with a gazillion panels and just generally a fan festival. It was totally okay to find a corner (or an empty middle of a room) to sit down and play a game.

(Major thanks to Meg for her photography and camera assistance as demonstrated below)

I wanted to spend time actually enjoying the Con and not fuss about my costumes, so I only went in full get-up one day. Above, still at the mall, after finally tracking down the essential white gloves for my Rogue.

The walls of the hotel were completely plastered in signs. Some announced panels and parties, others were just there to bring laughter and the sense of "we all love the same things." Random sticky-notes joined the fray, as seen above.

Our friend Andy came from out of state to join the fun, and spent the first day in a heavy wool coat as Sherlock. This included the 4 hours of waiting in line to pick up badges...

(This was the single main complaint I have about this otherwise pretty awesome convention. By the time we got there, the official wait time was 5 hours. C2E2 has a much better system wherein people who preorder get their badges mailed to them.)

I've seen pictures of weeping angel cosplays, but this was my first time getting to see them in person. And how awesome was it that CONvergence's them was "The British Invasion" celebrating Doctor Who's 50th? Yes, that's why there is a TARDIS for people to pose by...

Meg, as Ms. Marvel, found a Captain Marvel to pose with!

No, this is not actually Peter Davidson, just a brilliant lookalike.

The boyfriend and I with Caitlin Blackwood, aka young Amy Pond. We also attended one of her panels, during which she answered questions from all four members of our group. Meg filmed the panel which you can watch here. It was great, I highly recommend watching the whole thing if you have the time!

I found a Nightcrawler! We were saying we wished there was a Mystique, an Azazel and an Irene to round out the family.

A fantastic Spiderman. Peter Parker is my sister's favorite Marvel character, so of course I had to get a picture with him for her.

The boyfriend as Gambit. (Photo edits by me.)

Full Rogue cosplay!

We took a whole bunch of photos, which I'm going to get up on the sewing blog eventually. This one was my favorite of the two of us. :)

Rogue and Carol meet again! (Photo edits by me)

Rogue has an unfortunately green encounter with Dr. Banner. (Photo Edits by Me)

Someday I want to do Madam Vastra, but I highly doubt I could top this...

I discovered that my boyfriend can take EPIC jumping pictures.

Andy (Dr. Banner) and I had a lot of fun playing around with the special effects in this picture.

More fun fan signs.

We called Deadpool over to pose with us. He had his mask on so I had NO IDEA what he was saying! Everyone else was laughing and I was like "WHAT?" and Meg told him "She's taken!" and he was like "I don't care!" (which I still didn't hear but I figured out it was about me at this point) and they told me "he wants a picture with you!"... it wasn't until afterwards that they told me he'd said "I want the sexy lady with the Rogue hair in the picture with me!" and I just about died laughing.

Meg just about died of happiness when she discovered a Merlin and an Arthur.

The vendor hall. Small compared to C2E2, but super cool nevertheless.


Meg discovered another Dresden Files cosplayer.

Another favorite picture of mine... I told the story on my tumblr.

(At C2E2 I learned that carrying around a backpack or purse was neither practical or comfortable. For CONvergence we took along my little suitcase on wheels and it was fantastic.)

RUFIO! I've never seen someone cosplay Rufio before, so this was pretty cool. And timely, considering that they just announced his possible inclusion in OUAT's third season. At one point he went through the hall in character chanting "RUFIO! RUFIO!" and everyone joined in and he was high-fiving people... it was epic.

Also epic was the appearance from the knights of Monty Python and the Holy Grail galloping through the halls banging coconuts together. There were at least a dozen of them and it was just amazing.

The single "do not miss" event was the Masquerade. I'd never been to one before (it's kind of a fashion/pagent/talent/skit show thing), but Andy said it was the best one he'd ever seen. There were costume awards in various catagories and some majorly fantastic entries. My favorite skit was the one performed in the junior catagory - "A Hogwart's Life", which was a song and dance performed by five youngsters representing the different houses to "A Hard Knock Life" from Annie.

Most unexpected delight was the art show. Normally I wouldn't be too enthused by an art show, but this was a geek art show, and there were actually things within my price range (and skill set, I want to bring some pieces next year). I bid on and won a particular item which relates to "The Mermaid and the Unicorn"... pictures of that coming later.

The very last event we attended was the "A Crack in Time" tea party, thrown by the Victorian Lady Doctors. It was a fantastic event in the Garden Court and chock full of Doctor Who cosplayers! The 5's were my overall favorite group.

...but the 11's were pretty nifty too. The lovely lady in the center was the mastermind of it all and I adored her costume. Andy, to the right of her, was also pretty awesome. ;)

11's Companions, including Meg as a fabulous Amy, and the amazing TARDIS dress.

ALL of the Doctor Who cosplayers!

This lovely lady and I chatted for quite awhile. She is cosplaying Nine, and wearing Victorian widow's weeds which is so appropriate for the Post-Time War Nine. We talked all about costuming, Victorian doctor designs, and their group in general.

I wish I'd gotten a picture of the tea itself, as they had all the proper fixings, including scones, cucumber sandwiches and Devon cream. They even had some gluten free cookies! (although I'll confess, I indulged in a few other treats as I so rarely get a proper tea!)

Meg and Andy, getting photo bombed by cardboard Ten.

Our group, last shot of the con... I was tired out and ready to go home by this point, but over all I'd had a lovely four days and I am very much looking forwards to next year!

(We took MANY more costume shots... you can see over 50 of them here!)