Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Eve

Happy New Year's Eve!

I've never been big into doing much for New Year's Eve.  Christmas is the big December holiday for me, and while it's great to move into a new year and try to remember it when you write the date on a check, I never found the actual moment to be all that exciting.  I also never did New Year's Resolutions.  Until last year.

I made some New Year's Resolutions on my arts and faith blog at the beginning of 2014.  Let's see how I did.

1. To get back to building up that arts and faith blog, with a goal to update it monthly.

Didn't exactly happen.  I did continue with the blog - I did update it several times.  But rather than building it up into a main blog, I created this one, choosing to keep that one as a once-in-a-while, more serious venture.  So, I sort of kept the spirit of the resolution, but certainly not the letter.

2. To self-publish my poetry collection, with a goal of having it out by the end of February.

Did that one, though not until mid-December, lol.  But February was just a goal - the resolution itself was to self-publish some time in 2014, and I did manage that.

3. Be more disciplined.

Hmmm.  I didn't quantify that one at all, so it's hard to assess now.  I would say that, over the course of the year, all told, I was no more disciplined than I was in 2013, although I certainly had some very good disciplined spurts.  In my defense, 2014 was full of things like getting out of the Air Force, selling my house, moving, and so forth.  2013 was just business as usual, so I should certainly hope I was as productive then as I was this year.  Anyway...

4. To move forward into the unknown, trusting God.

Done.  And really, that was the most important one.  It's easy to get distracted, of course, and it's easy to get discouraged.  I tend to get in my own way quite a lot, as well.  But with God's help, that resolution was kept.  And thanks to the pastor at my new church, I was reminded of all that just a few days ago.  A very good way to end one year and move into a new one.

I don't know if I'll do any New Year's Resolutions this year.  Last year was an anomaly, but I did more or less sort of keep them.  I'll think about it.

In the meantime, Happy New Year's Eve.

Monday, December 29, 2014


Step right up, folks!  Step right up!


Do you have any idea how strange it is to be marketing your own book?  Seriously, I'm not a salesman.  It's completely unnatural to me.

But here I am, trying to make a marketing plan and all that.  It's not so bad planning - it's kind of fun, really.  I mean, I enjoy organizing, making lists, and planning things, so developing an amateur marketing strategy for my poetry book is kind of fun.  Sometimes, it's even exciting.  But actually carrying it out?  Whole other story.

So what's the problem?

It's very awkward to self-promote.  At least, it's very awkward for me to self-promote.  Some people are very good at it.  Some people can even do it without being arrogant.  And then there's me.  I fail at this.

For instance, I should be using this very blog post to put up a sample or two of the poems in the book, to give you an idea of what they're like and try to entice you to buy a copy.*  But do you know how weird it feels to do that?  That's the whole reason I've written everything I've written up to this point in the post - because I feel like I have to apologize for using my blog as a platform to sell my book.  Sigh.

So here's what I'm going to do: I'm going to create a new page at the top of the blog.  That page will be all about the book.  That way, you don't have to worry about me giving a sales pitch here on the blog, I don't have to worry about integrating a sales pitch here on the blog, and yet there's still a place for you to go and get information about the book in case you are interested, and for me to advertise it.

Whew.  Thank goodness.  I literally thought of that as I was typing that paragraph.  Fantastic.

I'll build the page later today.  I hope you swing by some time to check it out, if only because I am sparing you from blatant and unclassy advertising here on my main blog page.

Have a great week, and see you Wednesday!

*See what I did there?

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas Overview

Well, with Christmas over, it's always nice to look back and think about how we spent the time.

We had a nice week in Sunriver with the whole family.  Some of us got sick, but not terribly sick like four years ago.  We had a tree, of course, and exchanged gifts, although we kept it simple this year.  It was nice.

And then, of course, everyone went home.  I got to spend some extra time with Steven and Ezekiel, and with my brother Ben, who stayed until today, and with my parents (I beat Dad at a game of chess).  I took the Sunriver tree to my place and eventually re-decorated it.  I spent Christmas Day at Mom and Dad's.  We relaxed, coughed, and make/ate turkey curry.*  And I got my poetry book in the mail, which was very satisfying.**

Now it's two days after Christmas and all the visiting family are gone.  I'm looking forward to school starting up soon, and to watching the new Doctor Who Christmas Special^ with J and her family, who recorded it to watch later.

In the meantime, I got some book money for Christmas, so I have plenty to read.  :)  I also need to decide my next writing project and start actually marketing my poetry book a little.  Lots to do.

So Merry Christmas, everyone.  I hope you're having a wonderful day today.

*Usually eaten after Thanksgiving and/or Christmas.  Great way to use turkey leftovers.

**Even though I found a typo, after all that proofing.  Arg.

^And very happy to hear Jenna Coleman will be returning as Clara in season 9.  Seriously, although they did some really cool stuff with her character in season 8, they also did some stupid stuff, so I'm glad she gets another season to (hopefully)* be just plain awesome.  And Jenna Coleman is a fabulous actress.  And she and Peter Capaldi as the Doctor do really well together.

     *Come on, Moffat...*

          *Yes.  I am now using footnotes within footnotes (within footnotes!).  Footnotes are cool...  ;)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Wednesday Review: Christmas Movies

Merry Christmas Eve!

It's the most wonderful time of year (when you're not sick), and I have the movies to prove it!

I actually have what I consider to be quite a few Christmas movies (and TV episodes).

I've got some classics:

-How the Grinch Stole Christmas
-Frosty the Snowman
-A Charlie Brown Christmas
-Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
-It's a Wonderful Life
-Holiday Inn

Always liked this film as a kid.

I've got a couple more obscure TV Christmas shows for the nostalgia factor:

-The Homecoming: A Christmas Story (The Waltons, with a different mom!)
-Christmas at Plum Creek (Little House on the Prairie)
-A Christmas They Never Forgot (Little House on the Prairie)

And then there are these more modern classics:

-Home Alone
-Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
-While You Were Sleeping (a movie you can love all year round)

Favorite RomCom.

And the newbies:

-Arthur Christmas
-Frozen (because winter)

This one is very inventive.

I don't care.  I like it.

But Rachel!  You mentioned TV episodes, and you even listed a few in the 'obscure nostalgia' category.  What about -

Family Ties?  The one with the 'A Christmas Carol Plot'?  Nope.  Don't have it.  Want it.  Will probably get it, at some point.  But I currently just don't have it.

No, no!  Not Family Ties!  Doctor Who!!!!

Ah.  Yes.  Well, naturally I have all the modern Doctor Who Christmas specials.

-Christmas Invasion
-The Runaway Bride
-Voyage of the Damned
-The Next Doctor
-A Christmas Carol*
-The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe**
-The Snowmen
-The Time of the Doctor

Looking forward to this year's special...

So there you go!  I'm set.

Of course, I am missing some films that I really ought to have.  Like White Christmas and Miracle on 34th Street.  And I've never even seen others, like Polar Express.  And then there are the ones I very vaguely remember from my childhood: Prancer, The Year Without a Santa Claus, The Night They Saved Christmas...

But you can't have everything, and you can't do it all!  Especially when you're sick.  :)

So that's my list of Christmas movies (and TV episodes).  Good times.

*Starting with this one, the DW Christmas Specials become more directly about Christmas.  Before, they were just sort of extra long episodes that happened to take place at Christmas-time.  Now, the holiday is more fully integrated as part of the plot.  I like it.

**My favorite.

I know.

Monday, December 22, 2014

I'm Back (Sort Of)

It's been a long week.  Very very very long.

A trip to Sunriver with family should be perfect, and because it's Sunriver, it was still nice,* but my goodness.  Five out of the eight of us were sick all or most of the week.  And with varying illnesses.  I caught the cold Dad had mostly recovered from just a few days before we left.  Dad relapsed.  (We both partially lost our voices at one point.) Mom got a bad cough. Four-year-old Ezekiel got an ear infection, fever, etc, and Steven had a virus.  That left only Ben, Meredith and 2-year-old Nehemiah still standing.  Ugh.

Me?  I'm still sick, but feeling quite a bit better today.  Saturday and Sunday were pretty rough.

But hey! Despite all the sickness, we still had some fun.  A few of us played cribbage during breaks from all the chaos.  We went to Goody's,** of course, which was awesome.  I had a Turtle Sunday (the best!) before I got sick, and a scoop of some amazingly delicious pumpkin pie ice cream one day when I was feeling better.

And of course we went over to the lodge (the Resort) to show Ezekiel and Nehemiah the gingerbread houses!

Here are a few:

That one's pretty cool.

It's a Hobbit Hole!

Classic style house.

Camp Abbot!

And the reindeer corral and shed.

Good times.

We had some good fun before everyone got really sick, too.  The drive up was nice.

We went over Mount Hood.

And the boys got to explore a little, Sunriver style.

Nehemiah got to climb a rock at Fort Rock Park.

Ezekiel braved an icy wooden bridge.

And then we left the playground behind.

Ah, lava rock.  So much fun to climb.

Nehemiah got to explore quite a bit, too.

We also had a tree!

Like my new TARDIS ornament?

So, even though it was not the best trip, health-wise, we still had fun.

Because Central Oregon.^

*I know Disneyland/world says it's the 'happiest place on earth', but they are wrong.  Sunriver is the happiest place on earth.

**The best Ice Cream, Chocolate and Candy store ever.  The Sunriver store was the first.

^Part of the Seven Wonders of Oregon.  Best advertising campaign ever.  Watch all the videos!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Fun in Sunriver

Other than this quick post, I may not blog this week - I'm in Sunriver with family, so...  Holiday hiatus, perhaps.

It's great to be in Sunriver.  It's cold and extremely dry, of course, but the stars are amazing and last night it snowed a little - that nice squeaky, crunchy, dry Central Oregon snow.  Perfect.*

Yesterday Steven and I went to Redmond to pick up Ben, and the whole way we kept catching glimpses of Mount Hood.  You can't always see Hood from here, but even when you can, we had never, ever seen it like this.  Crystal clear and so big, at first I thought it was Mount Jefferson,** we could see the entire mountain down to the tree line.  Beautiful.

Of course, we could also see all the other mountains, but that's normal!

All the mountains look great covered with snow.  They all look slightly bigger, too.^

The Nephews had their first experience playing outside in Sunriver yesterday.  They loved it, of course - this whole place is a big adventure playground.  We got out tree last night and decorated it.  It was fun to hang out with Aunt Debbie and Uncle Kevin, and Aunt Mary in the morning before they headed home.

Yeah.  Basically having a lovely time.  May or may not see you Wednesday and Friday.

Merry Christmas!

*Unless you want to build a snowman or make snowballs to throw.  Then you may want a wetter snow.  It makes great powder for skiing, though!

**And that my memory of just how big Jefferson is from here must be faulty.

^Which makes sense - of course you'll notice a difference in size between a bare mountain in summer and a winter mountain with 20 feet all over it.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Poetry Book Release

I am very pleased to announce that my book, To Do This Right, is available for purchase on the CreateSpace eStore and Amazon.

It's been a very, very long process getting this book out into the world.  God and I initially discussed it back in July of 2012, and I started really working on it in July of 2013.  Hard to believe it's finally finished, almost two and a half years in.


I had a lot of difficulty with the cover design - I'm no visual artist.  I'm also no computer whiz; I messed around with Microsoft Word for a while, trying to make a cover from scratch, but it was taking way too long and becoming very frustrating to me.  Also, I would've had to go through another round or two of proof orders to make sure everything lined up right.

In the end, with my final deadline already several days gone and no clue what I was doing, I decided to use one of the cover design packages available through CreateSpace, where I published the book.  I found one that I liked, uploaded my choice of artwork (Saint-Georges majeur au crepuscule, by Claude Monet), played around with the font styles (no control over font sizes, unfortunately), and came up with a blurb for the back of the book.

Here it is:

To Do This Right is a personal collection of lyric poems about following Christ.
Rachel Lulich's poems are sincere and considered, born of her own experiences
walking with God. Her use of plain language and unobtrusive rhyme, combined
with an abundance of biblical references, makes her poems readable and insightful.
They reflect the triumphs and failures, the joys and regrets, and above all, the
beautiful mysteries inherent in the Christian Life.

Think you might be interested, but not sure a poetry book is for you?  That's ok.  I understand.  I myself used to be very anti-poetry, if you can believe it.

Don't worry: I'll soon be posting a few of the poems in this collection, right here on my blog.

So stay tuned!  (I might even do a giveaway...)

Poetry Book Countdown!

This is it, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Yes.  I have finished my poetry book.  Completely.  Really.  I'm serious, this time.  It's done.  Complete.  Finished.

Didn't think this day would ever come?  Neither did I!!!  But here we are.  :)  The book is available to purchase on Amazon.  Pretty darn exciting.

The book is called To Do This Right.  It's a collection of 62 lyric poems about walking with God, broken up into four (4) categories: Prayers and Praises, Calling, Musings, and Mystery.

Thank you to everyone who helped with this project, and especially to those who prayed me through it.  Special thanks also to Steven for all the work he put into it.

And that's it for today.  Anything I could possibly blog about after that would be dull, uninteresting, and insignificant.  So there it is.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Poetry Book Update

Well.  It's taken me forever, but I'm finally done with all the organization, all the editing, and even (incredibly) a cover design.*

So what's left?  The book is being looked over by the powers that be, then I'll check to make sure my new cover design saved correctly, then I'll fix it if it didn't, then I'll look at an online proof, then I'll be done!  I'll order a few copies for myself, and I'll put it up for sale!  Hard to believe.  I'm so close!

For now, I have to wait.

You may be wondering what this alleged poetry book actually contains.  It contains 62 lyric poems of faith.  They're all about the Christian life, as I know it.  The poems are divided into four sections: Prayers and Praises, Calling, Musings, and Mystery.

Now that it's done (for all intents and purposes), I'm feeling rather giddy with excitement about it.  Now that it's done, I'm happy with it.  Now that it's done, I feel a sense of completion.  And now that it's done, perhaps I can finally move on with my poetic life and start working on poems for a new collection.**

So anyway, thank you to everyone who has ever spent any time in prayer for me and my book, and to all the people who took the time to help me put it together.  We're almost there.

*I even wrote a back-of-the-book blurb I feel happy about!  And let me tell you, that was not easy.

**I already know what it's going to be, but so far I only have three poems for it.  That's not enough.

Christmas Music Top Picks

It's that time of year, folks!

We're a musical family, and I love to sing.  Christmas is also my favorite holiday.  And I'm a Christian!  So basically, the Christmas Season is the best time of year for me, musically.

Now, obviously, there are some Christmas songs that make me grit my teeth when I hear them at the store, but I'm very fond of Christmas music in general.  So rather than a review today, I thought I'd go through my Christmas Music Playlist (and sheet music) and pull out my favorites.

Here are my favorites:

Category One: Serious Songs (in no particular order)

1. In the Bleak Midwinter

2. I Wonder as I Wander

3. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

4. It Came Upon the Midnight Clear

5. O Little Town of Bethlehem

6. I'll Be Home for Christmas

Category Two: Boisterous Songs (in no particular order)

1. It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

2. Christmas Island

3. It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

4. All I Want for Christmas is You

5. Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree

6. Step Into Christmas

Category Three: Classics (in no particular order)

1. Angels We Have Heard on High

2. Do You Hear What I Hear

3. God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen

4. While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks

5. Joy to the World

6. O Holy Night

7. There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays

Category Four: Deutsche Lieder (in keiner bestimmten Reihenfolge)

1. O du Fröhliche

2. Still, Still, Still

3. Tochter Zion, Freue Dich

4. In eine Welt Voller Dunkelheit

Category Five: Non-Traditional Songs (in no particular order)

1. To Be With You - Sara Groves

2. Heirlooms - Amy Grant

3. Hallelujah (Light has Come) - Barlow Girl

4. I Celebrate the Day - Relient K

5. It's True - Sara Groves

6. A Snow Globe Christmas - Pink Martini

7. God is With Us - Casting Crowns

Category Six: Christmas Albums (in no particular order)

1. O Holy Night - Sara Groves

2. A Christmas Album - Amy Grant

3. Home for Christmas - Barlow Girl

4. Christmas with the Puppini Sisters - The Puppini Sisters

5. A Lovely Way to Spend Christmas - Kristin Chenoweth

6. Joy to the World - Pink Martini

So there you have it: those are my favorites!  What are yours?

Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas Party

On Saturday, I went to a Christmas/Birthday party for my cousin Sierrha and her husband Dirk.  This is my story.

Sierrha and Dirk know how to throw a party.  They have a great house for entertaining, and they go all out with food and drink.  Check it out:

Snacks for grazing.

More substantial fare.

I didn't take a picture of the fridge, but I should have - it was packed with sodas and, to my delight, individual serving bottles of sparkling cider.  They also had jello shots inside strawberries, and I think vodka soaked gummy bears.  I didn't have any of those, but they looked pretty!

Yep - they have their own little tap. Pretty cool, really.

And let's not forget the sweets:

Pie Cake (or is it Cake Pie?) - Sierrha made this!

She made this, too - best caramel corn I've ever had.

Bowls of Christmas-y chocolates were everywhere.

They had a bunch of fun stuff to do, as well: Nerf guns would occasionally be fired, the place had plenty of decor to admire, and they had a little 'photo booth' with a small Polaroid-type camera.

Me, Mom and Aunt Debbie.

Dad stayed home with a bad cold, and Mom was pretty tired from taking care of him, so we went home after just a couple of hours.  Unfortunately, we left right when the White Elephant Gift Exchange started, and after that was games.

Still, we had a really fun time while we were there.  :)

Thanks Sierrha!!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Busiest Time of the Year

Short post today, because 'it's the most busiest time of the year'.  :)

So, I love winter - it's always been my favorite season.  Occupational hazard when you grow up in Central Oregon, really.  Snow, crisp air, Christmas...what's not to like?  It's also a very busy time, so the days seem to fly past and this part of the season seems short, adding to the magical feeling.

This year, I've been caught up with getting settled into my new apartment (I made stew yesterday!), getting ready to go back to school again in January, figuring out finances, getting started with some editing for Ashberry Lane, catching up with family and friends I haven't seen in a long time, doing NaNoWriMo, and so forth.

For example: Yesterday I spent the morning running college-related errands, followed by normal errands.  In the afternoon/evening I was editing. Then I watched Ella Enchanted on Netflix at Mom's request - she had just seen it and thought it was hilariously ridiculous.  I had seen it once a long time ago and sort of vaguely remembered it, so I went ahead and re-watched it.  It's somethin' else... But I have to say, even in a crazy movie like that, you can tell Anne Hathaway is a good actor.*

Today, I drove up to Mom and Dad's mid-morning.  Dad was out for the count with a cold, so Mom and I took a nice walk along the river, went over to Aunt Debbie's to drop off a few things, and headed out to a store to look at toys for my nephews (Mom's grandkids). I spied a European Foods market, so we went in for a look.  90% of it was in Russian.  I got a nice spiced cabbage hand pie that reminded me of all the times I've lived abroad.  Wonderful.

Next, we went to The Happiest Place On Earth: Barnes and Noble.  I got a couple books for my older nephew,** but the real fun was running into Aunt Mary!  We were also treated to some local talent - they had kids from the local Vancouver School of Arts and Academics there performing throughout the afternoon.  We basically heard an instrumental ensemble, an ensemble choir, and saw part of a production of Little Women.  So much fun!

After that, we went home, fixed poor Dad some soup, and took off for my cousin Sierrha's Christmas party, which was a lot of fun - I'll blog about it on Monday.

So much to do, so little time, but all of it enjoyable.

*I did have to cleanse my early Anne Hathaway palate a little after that movie, though; I watched the scene from the Princess Diaries II, wherein Julie Andrews sings again.  Such a fantastic moment.

**Did you know Emma Thompson is writing new Peter Rabbit books?!  If it was just anyone, I'd be affronted, but she's such a good writer - I think it's awesome.  I particularly liked the Christmas book.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Wednesday Review: The Great TV Procedural

Welcome to another edition of The Wednesday Review!

Today's topic:

How fun is this? Pic from IMDb.

Introduction: Now in it's 10th season, Bones is a crime procedural drama inspired by the writings of Dr. Kathy Reichs.

Dr. Temperance 'Bones'* Brennan (Emily Deschanel), a brilliant forensic anthropologist at the Jeffersonian Institute in Washington, D.C., specializes in identifying remains by nothing more than, guess what?  Their bones!  Working with her unlikely FBI partner, Special Agent Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz), and a crack team of scientists, a psychologist and an artist (Michaela ConlinTJ ThyneTamara Taylor and John Francis Daley),** they solve murders and catch the bad guys.

Etc, etc., etc.

My Review:  I find this show strangely addictive.  Now, I've seen my fair share of procedural crime dramas.  I particularly enjoy the occasional episode of NCIS.  But it's not a genre I usually care too much about.  These shows are fun for a while, but they inevitably go stale - it becomes a case of plot theme and variation, mixed unpleasantly with awkward efforts to 'develop' the characters.  So why does Bones continue to hold my attention?

Here's the deal.  Bones is different from many other procedural dramas in three crucial ways.

1.  Unlike most procedurals, Bones is a character-focused show - character development and crime fighting go hand in hand.  While said development may not always be exactly subtle in terms of how it relates to the plot, it is consistent in its integration, starting with the pilot.  Well-developed from the start, these characters change gradually and believably over the course of the entire series.  This is not common.^

2.  This show has fantastic supporting characters/cast.  First, it's consistent. We've got a core group that has been there since day one or close to it, which gives a cohesiveness to the show beyond the two leads.  That, in turn, makes the world of the show feel bigger than what we see on screen.  Second, it's malleable.  Every once in a while, we lose and/or gain someone.  This keeps a freshness that you need in a long-running show, and the frequency keeps such changes from being too disruptive.  Finally, these are mostly well-developed, well-acted characters.  You get to know them. Although there are technically two leads, the show feels like an ensemble.  This is a good thing.

3.  If you're going to write ten-plus years of murders that require the expertise of a forensic anthropologist, you better be creative.  Happily the writers, led by creator Hart Hanson, are endlessly imaginative.  There's a nice mix of reasons behind the murders, ranging from accidental manslaughter to crazy genius serial killers, and the variety of methods for murder (and states in which to find the remains) is astounding.  In almost 200 episodes I have yet to see a story that felt like a repeat of a previous plot.  That is impressive.

So there you have it.  There are, of course, aspects of the show I don't care for so much, characters I could live without, occasional clunkiness in the character development department, and some repeated plot devices, but all told, this is still one of the best-written TV shows out there.

Booth and Brennan.  Photo from

Seasons: 10 (9 completely aired)
Episodes per Season: Yeah.  Anywhere from 13 to 26.
Episode Length: Around 45 minutes

My Rating: 5 stars

*See?  The title of the show is awesome, in that it could refer to either the actual bones, or to Dr. Brennan.  Wordplay, ladies and gentlemen.  You know this is going to be a well-written show.

**Not to mention the 'Squinterns'!  -Eric Millegan, Eugene Byrd, Michael Grant Terry (my favorite), Carla Gallo, Pej Vahdat, Joel David Moore, Ryan Cartwright (2nd favorite), Luke Kleintank, Laura Spencer and Ignacio Serricchio.

^This is, in fact, so uncommon, I thought it prudent to reiterate the fact in a footnote.

Monday, December 1, 2014

NaNoWriMo for the Win!

30 days; 51,375 words.  Not bad.

This was my first year participating in National Novel Writing Month.  I was excited, because I already had a story idea, complete with the names of two main characters, that had been on the back burner for a couple of years.  It seemed like the perfect opportunity to actually write the book.

So I did!

For those who are unfamiliar with National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), the goal is to write a complete novel of at least 50,000 words during the month of November.  It begins at midnight (am) on November first, and ends at midnight (pm) on November 30th.  If you accomplish this mission, you are an official NaNoWriMo Winner.*

But Rachel, isn't it hard to write through all the Thanksgiving holiday festivities?

Yes.  Yes, it is.  Which is why I missed a couple days of writing during the final week of NaNo, which is not when you want to be falling farther behind.

Actually, I started falling behind on Day Four, when the movers came and delivered my stuff.  Thus began a pattern: fall behind, catch up, fall behind, catch up most of the way, fall behind, make up for the new deficit but not the accumulated lack of words, etc.  On Day 30, I had to write over 4,000 words to reach my 50,000.

When I finally hit the word-count goal, I had not quite finished the book yet.  And it was only around 8:00 or 8:30 pm.  So I kept typing - part of the deal is, it's supposed to be a complete book.  I finished somewhere around 9 or 9:30, I think.  I ended up writing 5,753 words yesterday, which is awesome.

Winning NaNo is very satisfying, especially for a would-be author such as myself.  It's nice to see how much you can actually do in a mere month.  I now officially have no excuses for not being a highly productive writer.**

Now of course, in this case, I already knew basically what I was doing with this project, so I didn't have to spend a bunch of time thinking about plot and character and what-not, which can suck up a lot of time.  But the point still stands.

So basically, the lesson of NaNoWriMo is: I can do The Writing!

But Rachel, what will you do now that you've finished writing the book?

Well, now I'll pledge to do re-writes (NaNo follow-up).  And, you know, actually do them.  *Sigh*  That's going to be a lot of work.

You see, when you're doing NaNo, you're not supposed to edit as you write.  You're just supposed to lay out whatever comes to mind, be it genius or be it drivel.   Now, I will admit to having done some editing as I went along, but not much - it's still a rough draft.  And since the plot and characters developed a bit differently than I had originally intended,^ I definitely have some changes to make, like integrating concepts I thought of on Day 20 into the opening section of the novel so that when you encounter the idea in the Day 20 segment, it's not new information.  Moving stuff like that around will, I think, constitute the bulk of the re-writing.

Anyway!  NaNoWriMo mission accomplished.

New Goal for December: Finish my poetry book and put it up for sale.

*I'm a little relieved that I made it through the final push - I pre-ordered my winner's T-Shirt, so that could have been embarrassing...

**Even after I start classes - most days I fulfilled my word count in an hour or two at the computer.

^I know, right?  Shocker.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Japanese Garden

So what do you do when it's late November and the weather is unseasonably warm?  You go exploring!

On Wednesday, Ben and I decided to drive over to Washington Park and poke around.  Our first planned stop was the Japanese Garden, which neither of us had ever been to before.  We almost made an unscheduled stop on the way when we passed the sign for Pittock Mansion.  We pressed on, though, deciding we would return to the mansion at a later date.  It was a good decision - perhaps we'll visit the mansion on a rainy day.  Yesterday, overcast but bright and dry, was perfect for visiting the garden.

Now, I didn't know what to expect from the Japanese Garden, having never been there before, but I was very impressed with it.  It's a beautiful section of Washington Park.  There are so many fun plants and decorative things in there, and all these little winding trails.  Well worth a visit - Ben and I were both happy that we went.  We spent a couple of hours there, even retracing our steps to enjoy the scenery a second time.  Here are some photos, which really don't do it justice:

This little pond was gorgeous, even with all the bare trees.

These lacy leaf maples are always so cool.

This was a great waterway with tons of multi-colored Koi in it.

Biggest of several little waterfalls.

This stone path led to the pond in the first picture.

Beautiful color on these trees.

Stone bridge over a brook.

The rock garden, seen from above.

Got to love the ripples.

Awesome tree behind the pavilion.

Enjoying the view: Portland and Mount Hood.

After the garden, we made our way downtown for a delicious lunch at Deschutes Brewery and Public House.  We both had the elk burger, which was amazing!  They make a pretty good house root beer, and we had a sample of the house ginger ale, which was amazing - and I don't even like ginger ale!

Elk burger!
And that was pretty much our day.

Yesterday, of course, was Thanksgiving.  Ben and I made a nice fruit salad and headed over to Aunt Debbie's for dinner with family.  It was great seeing everyone, and the food, naturally, was fantastic.

I hope everyone had a great holiday.  Today it's absolutely pouring down rain, so I'm glad we went to the Japanese Garden on Wednesday!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Oregon Wine Country

Yesterday, Mom and Ben came and picked me up, and we set out for Oregon Wine Country.  It doesn't take long to get to if you live in the Portland area - there are tons of vineyards and wineries.  When I was a kid, I don't remember there being *any*, but it's a booming business now, and it's easy to see why.  We went out to Newberg and Dundee to check out a few of the local wineries.

I tend to despise whatever alcoholic beverage I'm tasting, and I've never been a wine person.  In addition, this area is known for its pinot noirs, which is not Mom's type of wine - she was going for the pinot gris some of the wineries make.  Therefore, wherever we went, we just shared one wine tasting flight.

Before we started sampling wine, we had a nice lunch at Red Hills Market.  If you ever go there, you have got to try the roasted filberts* with bacon and rosemary.  It's delicious, and just so very 'Oregon'.


First, we went to Sokol Blosser, where we tasted a couple of white wines, including a chardonnay that I was shocked to find was to my liking, and several pinots (gris and noir).  Mom and Ben were after the 2012 pinot gris, which they'd just had a bottle of recently, and they got the very last two bottles.  Good timing, I'd say.  The tasting room at Sokol Blosser has a great atmosphere, very Pacific Northwest, and the staff were approachable and friendly.  We enjoyed our tasting there.

Vineyards at Sokol Blosser

Next, we went and found Evening Land's tasting room, where we sampled really good locally made wines out of grapes from Oregon, California, and France.  After that, it was off to Panther Creek Cellars.  We just tried their pinot gris, which was fabulous.  Our last stop was Argyle Winery.  We ended our wine tasting with their sparkling wine flight.  I have to say, the Knudsen Brut that can't be bought in stores was excellent.

I wish I could tell you all about what distinguished the various wines, and what I liked about the ones I liked, but I'm no wine expert.  The Sokol Blosser chardonnay was mellow and the Argyle Winery Knudsen Brut was tangy, but that's about all I can tell you.

Now in possession of all the wine we'll drink in a year (or more), we made our way to Oregon City to have dinner at the Stillhouse Scottish Pub.  I had a traditional beef pasty, while Mom and Ben went for fish and chips.  We shared sticky toffee pudding for desert.  The food was great, and the atmosphere was pretty awesome, too.

Beef pasty with coleslaw

All in all, while wine tasting would not be my activity of choice on a normal occasion, we had a really great day.  I may even do it again next year!

*Filberts is the local word for hazelnuts.

Monday, November 24, 2014

No-Stress Dinner Party

The books are all over the place, there are a couple of unpacked boxes, and my fridge was pretty much empty.  But hey!  The furniture's all here, the kitchen's operational, and it was high time I invited a few people over.  Dinner party, anyone?

Question: What's the first thing you do when you want to have friends over for dinner and you're not a foodie?

Answer: Call and get a simple but delicious recipe from Mom.

You see, my Mom is an outstanding, fabulous, amazing, unbelievable cook and baker.  Seriously.  It's a little ridiculous.  We grew up referring to her food as 'Penny-made' (her name's Penny), and if I had a nickle for every time someone said she should open a restaurant or a bakery or a pie shop, well... I'd be several dollars richer.*

The two best soups that Mom used to make for us were beef stew and corn chowder.  I made the stew for the first time just a few months ago, before I moved out of my house in Georgia to start my cross-country trek back to Oregon, and it was amazingly delicious.  However, I knew the stew would take more time to make than the chowder, and I also knew that my friend J isn't a huge meat and potatoes fan.  In addition, both of my college friends who came to dinner had eaten Mom's corn chowder before and loved it, so I knew it would be a good choice.

I'd only made the corn chowder once before, a long time ago, so I called Mom up to be reminded of the recipe.  Which, by the way, is award-winning.  Which is why I'm not putting it up.  It's a family secret.  I will, however, give you a hint: it has corn in it.


Spoiler-free Instructions:

So there you have it!  An easy, surprisingly quick meal.

But Rachel, are you saying corn chowder is a complete dinner party meal?

No, no, no.  Nothing of the sort.  But remember: Not a foodie.

I don't multitask very well in the kitchen, you see.  I'm too inexperienced - I do everything kitchen-related about ten times slower than your average home chef.  There was no way I was taking on more than one dish and coming out the other side with everything unscathed.

But there's an easy fix to that: have a pot-luck!  While I, as the hostess, made the main course, I asked my friend E and her husband to bring a nice salad (it was fabulous - spinach, apples and nice cheese of some sort with a homemade dressing), and I asked J to bring her famous Dilly Bread.  I stopped by See's Candy for desert.

The dinner was fantastic.  :)

Again, I don't do a lot of multi-tasking while cooking, so I'm afraid I didn't take any photos while I worked.  I took a few for you today, though:

A couple of the raw ingredients (more recipe hints!).

Terrible photo of the delicious finished product.

Dilly Bread!  Unfortunately, no photo of the fabulous salad.

Now, trust me: If I can make this corn chowder, you can make this corn chowder.  It's delicious, and perfect for winter time.  Super easy.  All you have to do is become a close family friend to get the recipe.

*Because honestly, nickles don't add up all that fast.

Friday, November 21, 2014

A Productive Day

Some of you must have been praying for my time management!

Yesterday I had a great, productive day.  I worked a full day during fairly normal hours, making myself take an actual break for lunch, and making myself stop at dinner time and take a dinner break before moving on to whatever I felt like doing, since my work day was officially over.  Naturally, having been productive all day, I felt like working some more.  :)  So I did!

So what did I do yesterday?

1. NaNoWriMo, obviously.  I'm almost all caught up on my total word count!

2. Work-related reading.  (It's not my fault if it's also enjoyable...)  I'm doing some editing with Ashberry Lane Publishing,* a local Christian small press.  I'm reading through the first three books in the Thistle Series by Dianne Price, so I can help edit book #4.  I've really enjoyed the reading.  It's set mainly in Scotland during WWII, in the Hebrides Islands, and the characters' dialogue is all spelled accordingly - it's smooth reading, because the author eases into the spelling, and it gives you a great sense of the accent.

3. Correspondence.  I didn't get it all done, but I did write to my sponsored kids.  I sponsor kids with Compassion International, a wonderful program that really emphasize letter writing, which is so fantastic.  Over time, you really start to get to know the kids, and it's a wonderful way to speak love and encouragement and God's Word into their lives.  A couple of my kids have birthdays coming up, so I sent them cards, and I wrote Christmas cards for all of them.  I'm a bit late this year, so they probably won't get them until after Christmas, but better late than never.  :)  I also included a small watercolor painting (on paper)** that I got at the Made in Oregon store for each of them.  I love those kids.  :)

4. Getting organized.  I created a calendar for each month from now to next December on my computer, and plugged in important dates and so forth.  I created deadlines for myself for finishing my poetry book and put those on the calendars, as well.  I'll add more of those self-created deadlines later.  I also created a daily work schedule for myself.^  My plan was to start it Monday, but I kept pretty close to it today.  It is so satisfying to finally be organized.

5.  What else?  I checked my emails, naturally.  Did some paperwork.  Made a couple of lists.  Advertised my editing services a bit.  Made an appointment with an academic adviser for school.  Did a couple of military-related surveys.  Worked a little on organizing my books.  Um... That might be all!

All in all, a good day's work, I'd say.  :)

*You may want to sign up for their newsletter - it's fun to read, and they'll be doing some holiday giveaways soon.

**If you're a Compassion sponsor thinking about sending your child a gift with your next letter, be sure to check the restrictions in advance.

^Obviously, this will have to be adjusted come January when I start classes.  But still.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wednesday Review: LEGOs

So, I was going to do Christmas music because I bought Idina Menzel's Christmas CD, Holiday Wishes yesterday, but then I thought, it's not even Thanksgiving yet!  So I'll save the Christmas music review for later.  You're welcome.

Today, I'm going to be talking about LEGOs.  Prepare yourself: there's gonna be a lot of pictures.

Introduction: You see, my brothers and I grew up with LEGOs.  Generally speaking, we'd get a LEGO for birthdays and/or Christmas.  I remember for a couple years running, we'd have a small LEGO stocking stuffer and a bigger one under the tree.  These are LEGO sets, by the way, not boxes of random bricks.  So we collected quite a few over the years.  Some may have been lost over time, but most were kept safe for us by Mom and Dad while we were going through college, and now we each have our own sets from growing up.  I have a few more, having become interested in them again in recent years.

In my review today, I'll be comparing old LEGOs and new ones, and giving my opinion about the themes available now.

My Review/Reminiscence:

1. Old LEGOs.  Some of our favorite old LEGOs were the Pirate LEGOs.  Like this pirate ship:

The Black Seas Barracuda*
And my very first set:

Sabre Island
And my favorite pirate set that I owned:

Lagoon Lockup
We had a great time with these two belonging to my brothers, as well:

Eldorado Fortress
Imperial Trading Post
These things were awesome.  They were cool-looking, they were a great theme for the imagination, and they were sturdy.  So much fun.

We also enjoyed some of the Castle LEGOs.  We had a few small sets, including one or two Dark Forest/Forestmen sets (basically Robin Hood inspired), but the ones that stood out were the big Castles.  Over time, we had Castles from several different sub-Themes.

King's Mountain Fortress

Black Monarch's Castle
I didn't get my own large Castle until near the end of my LEGO enthusiasm:

Royal Knight's Castle

Ah, the good old days.  These LEGOs were detailed, sturdy, and difficult to build - the instruction books showed pictures of what your set should look like as you built it, but rarely told you what pieces to put where - you had to figure it out by studying and comparing the picture with your set.  It also didn't tell you how many pieces were placed in each step, so you had to be careful not to skip any.  It was a nice challenge.

Now!  Skip ahead a decade or so, and I got interested in LEGOs again.  I decided to go online and check them out.

2. New LEGOs.**  I was saddened to see that there were no Pirate LEGOs, but they had a good run and LEGO is always coming up with new things.  Let's look at the positives and negatives of the newer LEGO themes.

First, Space sets.  Some, like the current Galaxy Squad, just don't look very interesting, but I was pleasantly surprised by the Alien Conquest sets they had out a couple years ago.  I only got a few of them, but they were sturdy, fun to build, and aesthetically pleasing.

I'm normally not a big fan of the alien space ships, but this UFO Abduction set was great.

I wish I could say the same for the Castle themed LEGOs.

I got a couple of small Castle sets.  They were pretty bad.  The line seems to be dying out, and no wonder.  They were built mostly with large specialty pieces, so there wasn't as much building fun, and they were incredibly unsturdy.  In addition, the mini figures and their accessories looked cheap.

No, right now, it's the City sets that reign supreme.  I got several of those, and they were fun to build, detailed, and sturdy.  Incidentally, they're still going strong - pieces I bought two or three years ago are still available.

My favorite:

Museum Break-In
Why is this my favorite?  Because it's awesome.  The vehicles and mini-figures are good, but the real joy is in this lovely, detailed City Museum.  It's got pillars, sky-lights, banners, lights, mini-figure gargoyles, and a security system for the door, not to mention the displayed artifacts inside.  It's basically awesome.

Then there are vehicles like this:

Cement Mixer
And this:

Camper Van
And this:

Logging Truck
The police, fire, medical and coast guard sets are and/or look pretty good, too.

Finally, there's the newest sub-theme: Arctic.

These are the sets that I want but don't have yet.  Except this little one:

Arctic Snowmobile
Here's what I like about these sets.  They look sturdy (and this little one actually is), and they're very imaginative.  They're set in the arctic (obviously), where scientists and explorers are mining the ice fields for crystals, which can represent pretty much anything you want.  Lots of potential there.

Plus, they kind of remind me of the Ice Planet 2002 and Aquazone sets Ben and I were starting to collect right at the end of our LEGO enthusiasm, so there's a nice little nostalgia factor.

But Rachel, what about all the movie-themed sets?

Seriously?  No.

Anyway, to sum up: LEGO sets these days are a little hit and miss in terms of building fun and stability.  I'd recommend buying a small set from the theme you're interested in to see how you like it before investing in the larger, more expensive sets - I've noticed that if one set in a theme is good, the others are likely to be, and same goes for sets that are bad.  If you're like me and are getting back into LEGOs after a long hiatus, be aware that the new packaging and instructions make building a lot easier (aka, less fun) than the old sets.  That said, they come with extras of the smallest pieces (in case you lose one), so you'll have some nice detail bits to add to your pile of random, set-less LEGOs for building straight out of your imagination.

Not even going to attempt this.

My rating:
Pirate: 5 stars
Various old Castle: 5 stars
Misc (like Aquazone and Wild West): 4 stars
New Castle: 1 star
New space: 4 stars
New City: 5 stars
New Movie-Themed: I said no.

Overall for all LEGOs throughout time: 4 stars - 5 if you're careful which sets you buy.

*Pictures from

**LEGOs can be purchased directly from the source through their website or your local LEGO store.  I highly recommend you immediately sign up for the VIP Program, as it's free and gives you points toward purchases.