Friday, December 30, 2016

Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year Ahead

It's the day after Christmas and 6 days left in 2016. I'm done packing and ready to go home to Colorado. For the past 8 days, my husband and I have been staying at the Dusit Thani Hotel in Makati, Philippines visiting my family after a 7-year long absence. I have to say, the city has changed a lot: more crowded, traffic has gotten way worse, prices has gone up and the weather has become more hot and humid. Two things remained the same though: good food and bright, colorful Christmas lights and decor everywhere.

It was fun spending time with my family and visit the place where my husband proposed overlooking Taal Volcano (a volcano in the middle of a lake) in Tagaytay City where my husband got to talk to my sister and got to know her a little better while we hiked last Thursday. Then he got to spend some time talking to my brother and got to know him a little better as well during lunch last Friday. He was also able to talk to my dad and get to know him as well the first day (Monday) we arrived. And I'm glad he hit it off with my Auntie Jo (who lives in Australia) and visiting with the family this time of year as well. 

This time of year, a lot of people are now making plans, new year resolutions or goals. Right now, I'm still thinking them over but one of the few things I want to achieve in 2017 are to exercise more, walk my dog more, eat healthier, travel more and write more. Whatever you decide to do in 2017 I wish you success in achieving your goals.





Books I've Read Since Last Blog Post



Currently Reading 
  • Little Men by Louisa May Alcott (Little Women, #2) by Louisa May Alcott


Currently Writing

  • Helena and the Dragon - I’m at Chapter 3


Announcements

Just in case, I would like to share the blogs and/or podcasts I'm really enjoying which are also listed on the side bar...and these are in the order I discovered them...hope you'll enjoy them too!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Giving Thanks




I can't believe it has been seven years since I moved to Colorado from Manila and one of the holidays I very much look forward to every year is Thanksgiving because that is usually when families and/or friends come together and spend time with each other around good food and good company. This year, we hosted Thanksgiving and though we've lost one beloved uncle to cancer early this year, gatherings like this helps remind me to spend more time with those we do still have around and to be even more grateful for their presence in our lives. 

I have finally finished all five shawls and have shipped them along with other items in a large box early this afternoon and hopefully it will get to my family long before we get there as that box also contains quite a few Christmas presents that still needs to be wrapped, etc. 

On the music side of things, now that I've managed to free up some time to learn a couple of new songs, I've added two new videos on my Walt Disney Music Collection playlist on my YouTube channel. The two songs I've learned to play on my Yamaha DGX-660 are Once Upon A Dream from Sleeping Beauty and Part Of Your World from The Little Mermaid. You can watch those videos here

As for the writing, I have finished the first draft of Helena and the Seven Gnomes (Book 2 of the Helena Meets Magic series) and I've started working on Helena and the Dragon (Book 3). I've also updated Book 1 of the series titled Under The Moon to include a sneak peak of Book 2 and it will be available for free in all the ebook retailers sometime in December. Right now, I'm looking to change the cover of Book 1 and getting a cover for Book 2 and 3 made that way, it can be easily identified as books in the same series. 

This month has also been NaNoWriMo and though I did not officially participate, I have written 6,756 words on Helena and the Dragon this month as of November 26, 2016. If you are participating in NaNoWriMo officially or unofficially, how are you doing with your writing goals? Did you reach it or do you need to hustle and get your word count up for these last few days left? Whatever you do, keep writing.


Books I've Read Since Last Blog Post



Currently Writing

  • Helena and the Dragon - I'm at 6,756 words out of my 20,000 word count goal for this MG/YA book.


Finished Objects

  • Christmas 2016 Shawls - pattern used was On The Town Shawl by Julie Farmer, yarn used was Bernat Baby Sport, 100% Acrylic, Sport Weight




Up Next in Crochet Projects

  • A baby blanket for my coworker's baby boy
  • The Virus Shawl
  • Stripey Socks
  • Winter Hats


Announcements

Just in case, I would like to share the blogs and/or podcasts I'm really enjoying which are also listed on the side bar...and these are in the order I discovered them...hope you'll enjoy them too!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Almost Done

I am almost done with this crazy 2016 Christmas Shawls. I'm working on the fourth one (out of five shawls) and my office (day job)/creativity (yarn, writing, piano) room is a mess of care packages and Christmas gifts that I need to ship to my family in the Philippines before my husband and I leave to visit with them in less than two months. I just need to find a box large enough to hold everything and hopefully it won't cost an arm and a leg. Fingers crossed.

Once these shawls are done, I'm going to be working on my friend's baby blanket in Woodland colors. She's due on November 3 but I told her that she probably won't see it until she gets back from maternity leave. After that, I'm planning on making the Virus shawl for myself using the Louet Gems lace yarn that I bought from The Recycled Lamb last August and hopefully I can get back to finishing Helena and the Seven Gnomes, find an editor and book cover designer on top of everything else. 

I have also partially filled out my outline for the next book, Helena and the Dragon. I feel there will be more books involving Helena and her friends and I definitely need to settle down with a series title. I'm thinking Helena meets Magic that way, the stories can evolve into other non-fairy tale magical creatures. What do you think? 

Books I've Read Since Last Blog Post



Currently Reading 


Currently Writing

  • Helena and the Seven Gnomes


Finished Objects

  • 2016 Christmas Shawl in Baby Taupe
  • 2016 Christmas Shawl in Baby White
  • 2016 Christmas Shawl in Cool Blue


Currently Knitting/Crocheting

  • 2016 Christmas Shawl in Blossom


Announcements

Just in case, I would like to share the blogs and/or podcasts I'm really enjoying which are also listed on the side bar...and these are in the order I discovered them...hope you'll enjoy them too!


Monday, September 26, 2016

Fall: It's Official!



Yes, as I’ve mentioned (a lot) before, I love fall. Cooler temperatures and the brilliant colors around us. 

This month was really bad for my writing. I didn't get to write much, and my day job was a nightmare. 12- to 15- hours and sometimes 18-hour days is just not for me. No point in sharing the details as it is all over now - thankfully - and let us just hope that it will never happen again. Moving on… 

Because Christmas is just 3 months away now (gasp!) and I have 5 shawls to crochet as Christmas gifts, I will be on hiatus for book reviews and I won't be writing as much on Helena And The Seven Gnomes. Because of this 2-week delay caused by my day job, I now have to devote all spare time to crochet and I am currently halfway through the  first shawl. I truly hope I finish all 5 before Christmas. The end of the month post is still on my plans at least.


Books I've Read Since Last Blog Post



Currently Reading 


Currently Writing

  • Helena And The Seven Gnomes - I'm finally on the last chapter! 


Currently Crocheting



Announcements

Just in case, I would like to share the blogs and/or podcasts I'm really enjoying which are also listed on the side bar...and these are in the order I discovered them...hope you'll enjoy them too!


Monday, August 29, 2016

Fall Came Early This Year

Here in Colorado, the weather can change so drastically throughout the day and there was one day this summer where we experienced all four seasons in one day. It was hot in the morning, cloudy by noon, drizzling after that and by the time I was 2 miles from home a hailstorm hit. It was a crazy day. 

Three weeks later and it's been chilly and foggy all week. And every time I look up from my computer to stare out the window when I'm working at the Denver office in my little cube, I wish I were curled up in bed reading while crocheting something. But of course, I really can't do that. At least I have my hot tea though.

On the yarn and fiber related side of things, Colorado's Annual Yarn Along The Rockies Yarn Crawl officially started last August 20 and ran until August 28. I went by myself in 2014 as part of challenging myself out of my comfort zone and it was a truly fun experience. 


I did not go this year as I already used up my yarn budget early this month when I visited The Recycled Lamb in Golden, CO for the last time during their closing down sale. I hope you all were able to stop by that lovely yarn store and got some goodies for yourself before its completely gone.


Sheep Ceramic Yarn Bowl


Louet Gems Sportweight in Crabapple

Ella Rae Extrafine Superwash Lace Merino in Peach/Deep Pink

Nirvana Needle/Hook Case Folded in Half

Nirvana Needle/Hook Case Rolled Up

Nirvana Needle/Hook Case Rolled Up - Such a space saver!

Nirvana Needle/Hook Case Opened - Yes, the Clover Soft Touch fits!


Since apparently Fall came early to Colorado, I'm now thinking, "I should get started on my Christmas projects so it will all be done by Christmas or earlier." I'm thinking shawls, particularly my favorite shawl project On The Town Shawl by Julie Farmer because it works up really fast (2 weeks if I only work on it for 2 hours every day and about 6 hours on the weekends) and it has that lovely lace edging. 

On The Town Shawl I made for Aunt Marian


How about you, what books are you planning to read this Fall and what projects are you looking forward to starting/finishing? Let me know in the comments below. I'd love to hear your thoughts.



Books I've Read Since Last Blog Post



Currently Reading 


Currently Writing

  • Helena and the Seven Gnomes - I'm down to the final chapters! Woo hoo!


Product Reviews











Announcements

Just in case, I would like to share the blogs and/or podcasts I'm really enjoying which are also listed on the side bar...and these are in the order I discovered them...hope you'll enjoy them too!


Monday, August 15, 2016

[Book Review] Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn





My Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Audiobook Edition
Genre: Thriller, Crime and Mystery



Part 1: From The Book Cover

THE #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer? 


Part 2: Recommendation

I was motivated to read this book because I didn't want to see the movie without having read the book first (I still have not seen the movie and I'm not sure if I ever will). For a thriller, the pacing is slower than I had anticipated, both Nick and Amy are not to my liking and Amy is definitely psychotic and very dark. Gone Girl is so dark and twisted, it's brilliant in that sense. I just wish that the book ended with justice served but it didn't.


If you like dark fiction at a slow pace with a sad ending, this book should be on your list. If not, you can just watch the movie (or not) and move on.

Monday, August 8, 2016

[Book Review] Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert





My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Audiobook Edition
Genre: Nonfiction, Self-Help, Inspirational, Mindset



Part 1: From The Book Cover

The instant #1 NEW YORK TIMES Bestseller

Named a Hot Fall Read by USA Today, Vanity Fair, Newsday, O Magazine, the Seattle Times, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Mashable, Pop Sugar, and the San Antonio Express-News

Named a Best Book of the Year by Brainpickings and Book Riot

"A must read for anyone hoping to live a creative life... I dare you not to be inspired to be brave, to be free, and to be curious.” —PopSugar

From the worldwide bestselling author of Eat Pray Love: the path to the vibrant, fulfilling life you’ve dreamed of.

Readers of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration and empowerment from Elizabeth Gilbert’s books for years. Now this beloved author digs deep into her own generative process to share her wisdom and unique perspective about creativity. With profound empathy and radiant generosity, she offers potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration. She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us. Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work,  embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy.


Part 2: Recommendation

I was curious about Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and decided to read it when I read a quoted text from another non-fiction book called The Successful Author Mindset: A Handbook for Surviving the Writer's Journey by Joanna Penn. 

Continuing on with the mindset, self-help category, and after the disappointment of Committed, I needed to read something from Elizabeth Gilbert that will hopefully make me like her work again — that and I was curious about what she meant by Big Magic and how exactly does one live creatively beyond fear?

It's not so much as becoming fearless but more on being able to move forward despite the fear, anxiety and doubts that plague any creative pursuit. Big Magic also talks about mindset, the types of fear that a person needs, how ideas come and go, giving yourself permission to be creative, persistence, trust, and a few other topics important for pursuing and embracing a person's creative side.


Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert is truly amazing and inspiring. Definitely worth a read if you want to move forward with any creative pursuit but are having doubts and fears.

Monday, August 1, 2016

[Book Review] Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert





My Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Audiobook Edition
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, Marriage & Relationships



Part 1: From The Book Cover

At the end of her bestselling memoir Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert fell in love with Felipe, a Brazilian-born man of Australian citizenship who'd been living in Indonesia when they met. Resettling in America, the couple swore eternal fidelity to each other, but also swore to never, ever, under any circumstances get legally married. (Both were survivors of previous bad divorces. Enough said.) But providence intervened one day in the form of the United States government, which-after unexpectedly detaining Felipe at an American border crossing-gave the couple a choice: they could either get married, or Felipe would never be allowed to enter the country again. Having been effectively sentenced to wed, Gilbert tackled her fears of marriage by delving into this topic completely, trying with all her might to discover through historical research, interviews, and much personal reflection what this stubbornly enduring old institution actually is. Told with Gilbert's trademark wit, intelligence and compassion, Committed attempts to "turn on all the lights" when it comes to matrimony, frankly examining questions of compatibility, infatuation, fidelity, family tradition, social expectations, divorce risks and humbling responsibilities. Gilbert's memoir is ultimately a clear-eyed celebration of love with all the complexity and consequence that real love, in the real world, actually entails. 


Part 2: Recommendation

I read and enjoyed Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert back in July 8, 2014 and it was such a great experience, that I decided to follow-up on the story with Felipe and thus read Committed. While it was not as great as Eat, Pray, Love and it was not meant to be an exact sequel but designed to be ramblings on what marriage truly means, why is she so skeptic about the whole thing, her fears surrounding marriage and everything she discovered about marriage through research and talking to the married people she met throughout her travels with Felipe. 

I was a bit disappointed with this book in the sense that there was very little mentioned about the relationship (struggles and growth or lack of growth) between Liz and Felipe. This book really was more focused on marriage and divorce statistics, historical research data on the reasons why people get married, (which, by the way, you can easily have figured out by reading a couple of historical romance novels) and transcripts of her interviews with married women. I realize that Committed is Ms. Gilbert's attempt at understanding marriage and her way of coming to terms with it and as her way of preparing herself for her own marriage to Felipe and she succeeded in delivering that, it's just that I felt cheated in the sense that I didn't pick up this book to read someone else's [diary] ramblings on marriage and relationships when it is quite obvious she is not the marrying type and should probably never have gotten married. In light of recent events in Ms. Gilbert's personal life, I feel sad and pained for her and Felipe as all this could've been avoided by finding another way or another country to live in. I mean, writers can work literally everywhere in the world so why couldn't Ms. Gilbert settle in Bali (or anywhere else) with Felipe and never have to get legally married and would probably have avoided all the trouble they went through in this book. 


In conclusion, Committed served only to solidify my belief that if a person truly doesn't feel like getting married, then don't get married. Some people are meant for marriage and some aren't. If you are someone who is thinking about getting married and/or engaged but is having a tough time deciding whether to go for it or not, then this book might give you some perspective and statistical data that may or may not scare you off. If it scares you off, then maybe the person you're planning to marry is not the right one after all.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Music Is Back!

Back in May, I mentioned in this blog about how my musical brain is back in full force and that I was consuming digital piano reviews on YouTube. I also mentioned that it was a close call between the Yamaha DGX-660 Portable Grand Digital Piano and the Yamaha P-255 Portable Digital Piano. While they both sound great (based on YouTube videos) and both have 88 weighted keys, I decided to go for the DGX-660 because it has more voices and more styles than the P-255. Well, thanks to my day job's unexpected bonus at the end of June, I was finally able to order the Yamaha DGX-660 with the complete Home bundle from Kraft Music on July 16, 2016 and it arrived on my doorstep on July 21, 2016. The husband and I put together the stand and secured the piano on top and I attached the 3-pedal board and put together the piano bench all by myself. It took about 2 hours and 24 minutes for the whole thing to get set up and ready to play.



Of course, I started re-learning how to play Canon in D by Johann Pachelbel that I arranged about 10 years ago. By July 23, 2016 I've put together an audio recording of it and uploaded it on YouTube. After church on July 23, I completed re-learning how to play Fur Elise by Ludwig Van Beethoven (yay!) and on July 24, I spent practically the whole morning polishing Fur Elise for recording. On top of relearning the songs I used to play, I also want to learn a couple of songs by Yiruma and I'm quite excited about that too. I'm just not sure when I'll get to it though. Hopefully soon.

On the writing side of things, I'm still working on the last two (or three chapters) for Helena and the Seven Gnomes (Fairytale Series, #1) and I probably should start looking for a cover designer. I feel like this whole series is more Middle Grade than Young Adult. I guess we'll see.

On the yarn related stuff, sad news came to my inbox last July 20, 2016 as news of my favorite yarn store The Recycled Lamb, located in Golden, CO announced their store closing after 9 years in the business. It is always sad to hear of businesses closing but I'm happy that at least I got to shop there back in 2014 when I did the Yarn Along The Rockies crawl and now I need to drive back up there before they close so I can get myself a yarn swift. So, if you are in the area, please do give them a farewell visit. They're also having a closeout sale if you're interested in getting deep discounts on specialty yarns and tools.


Books I've Read Since Last Blog Post



Currently Reading 


Currently Writing

  • Helena and the Seven Gnomes


Product Reviews









Announcements

Just in case, I would like to share the blogs and/or podcasts I'm really enjoying which are also listed on the side bar...and these are in the order I discovered them...hope you'll enjoy them too!


Monday, July 11, 2016

[Book Review] Blood Faerie by India Drummond





My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
eBook Edition
Genre: Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Mystery



Part 1: From The Book Cover

Unjustly sentenced to death, Eilidh ran--away from faerie lands, to the streets of Perth, Scotland. Just as she has grown accustomed to exile, local police discover a mutilated body outside the abandoned church where she lives. Recognising the murder as the work of one of her own kind, Eilidh must choose: flee, or learn to tap into the forbidden magic that cost her everything. 


Part 2: Recommendation

This book has been on my TBR pile for the longest time and thank goodness for the name pronunciation guide in the front as I would've butchered it in my head. I wasn't exactly sure what to expect with Blood Faerie as this is my first exposure to India Drummond's work but this was surprisingly well-written. It is mostly urban fantasy with a little bit of mystery and a hint of romance (nothing explicit) and can be read by more mature teens despite its target audience being adults.

Being the first book in the Caledonia Fae series, it explains what crimes Eilidh committed which resulted in her exile and immediate death if she so ever takes a step into faerie lands but it doesn't go any deeper on details about the Fae kingdom or about other faeries. Blood Faerie focuses more on what is happening in the human realm, the discovery that her magic is not what the other faeries perceived it to be and that the faerie kingdom is at more danger now than it ever was and Eilidh and Munro takes it upon themselves to protect both realms. 


Overall, Blood Faerie reads at a steady pace and though the premise is simple, I enjoyed it and the ending makes you want to read the rest of the books in the series (and of course, I've already added them to my ever growing TBR pile on Goodreads). 

Monday, July 4, 2016

[Book Review] BeSwitched by Molly Snow





My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
eBook Edition
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy



Part 1: From The Book Cover

Surla and Cathy have a HUGE secret!

After spending hundreds of years as a familiar to an abusive witch, Surla runs away to find freedom. But there's one catch! The Black Cats' Curse states she will have to switch bodies with the first lonesome soul to cross her path.

Painfully shy Cathy Phillips can't muster the courage to ask hot water polo player, Craig Nelson, on a date. Neither can she stand up to the three biggest snobs at Washington High. What's a girl to do? Could switching lives with a sassy, magical cat be the answer to her wishes?

The "curse" of being "BeSwitched" may just be the most purr-fect secret these new best friends could ever have! 


Part 2: Recommendation

I had this ebook for the longest time and finally got around to it. It has been so long since I downloaded the book that I completely forgot that it was YA. Not really paying attention to the cover image, I was pleasantly surprised to realize that the characters in the book were high school students. 

The storyline deals with friendships, social skills issues, witches and magic. It's a refreshing read where the protagonist, Cathy Phillips, learns to be brave as well as realize her self worth while stuck in a cat's body while Surla takes Cathy's body for a sassy spin and a fabulous makeover. 


It's a short fun read around Halloween (and you'll just have to read it to see why I recommend reading it around Halloween). Being the first book in the series, I just hope that all the characters will evolve as the series goes on.