October 24, 2011

i am not a crafty person

In either sense of the word.

I have fond memories of doing crafting projects with my grandma when I was a child. Nearly every time we visited, she would have a craft of some sort for us to do, and I still have some of those projects today. (She was good at finding things that would be useful later, like the tea towels she had us paint.) Without Grandma, though, crafting never appealed to me. I think it's because coming up with a project, collecting the supplies, and then actually figuring out how to do things just seemed so daunting.

My sister Blendy, though, got Grandma's crafting gene. And for a few years, she's been asking me to do a craft with her. I always declined. Recently, however, I had a mental leave of absence and actually suggested we do a craft. I'm so glad I did.

I left the planning and implementation up to Blendy. She decided we would make coasters. She bought cheap (33¢) tiles from Home Depot, scrapbooking paper, Mod Podge, felt, and clear spray paint—and with those items, we created some really cool coasters! Our friend Joanna came over to craft with us, and we all three took the craft in different directions, but I think the results fit each of us.
All our supplies laid out and ready to go.
Blendy and Jo work on laying out their patterns.
Jo ended up with coasters that looked like quilt blocks. And yes, she does quilt!
My finished product. I'm going to do four more so I have enough for Bible Study nights!
I'd say my first foray into crafting in the last ten or so years was a success! Blendy and I are already talking about doing another craft with leaves we collect when we're in Indiana next week. She also wants to help me make a Christmas wreath ... it sounds daunting, but I'm sure she'll figure it out!

Are you "crafty"? Do you have any simple-yet-classy crafts I should try? If so, tell me about it in the comments!

October 15, 2011

35 before 35: #35

Go to a Nebraska-Ohio State football game

When I woke up last Saturday morning, I had no idea I was about to fulfill one of the items on my 35 before 35 list. But at 3:30 p.m., I found out my parents had turned down tickets to the Nebraska-Ohio State football game in Lincoln and those tickets were still up for grabs. I pounced, and soon a friend and I were careening toward Lincoln to join 85,424 other people cheering for the Huskers.

There's nothing quite like the atmosphere at Memorial Stadium on game day. The people. The red. The cheering. The tunnel walk. It's pretty incredible! Our seats were in North Stadium, top row—which meant we had a back rest! Rumor had it legendary quarterback Tommie Frazier was in one of the club boxes behind us, though I never saw him myself. And Ndamukong Suh was in the house, as evidenced by the crowd's cries of "SUUUUUHHHHHHHH" every so often. (If you didn't know better, you'd think the crowd was booing the action on the field—which it did a few times, especially in the first half.)

By halftime, we were trailing 20-6, and I was fairly soaked, thanks to the rain. Fortunately, the temperature was in the upper 60's or lower 70's, so it was bearable. I turned to my friend and said that if I'd been watching at my parents' house (since I don't have TV), I would have quit watching and gone home already.

The second half was absolutely amazing. With nearly 11 minutes left in the 3rd quarter, we were down by 21 ... and then the tide began to turn. Lavonte David "recovered a fumble" but basically ripped the ball out of the Ohio State quarterback's hands. And then a different Taylor Martinez showed up on the field. He and Rex Burkhead (whom the guy in the row ahead of me repeatedly called a stud) worked together to put the game away. It was the biggest comback in Husker football history! (Let me give some credit where credit is due, though—perhaps I'm being pessimistic, but I don't think the Huskers would have pulled it off had the Ohio State quarterback not gone out with an injury. The backup just couldn't make anything happen for the Buckeyes.)

And on a sad note, I witnessed defensive tackle Jared Crick's last game as a Husker. Coach Pelini announced this week that he's out for the rest of the season with an injury ... methinks this does not bode well for the defense!

So, why was this one of my 35 before 35 wishes? For the answer to that question, we have to go back about 10 years to my arrival on the Grace College campus. Tons of people from Ohio attended Grace, and they were pretty passionate about their Buckeyes. (And also their state. If I have to hear Ohio referred to as "God's Country" one more time, I may lose my lunch.) Soon, I began to dislike Ohio State football—even though my beloved Huskers never played them. I wanted them to lose—especially when they had that run where they were incredibly good. I fully understand that it's petty and probably even "unChristian," but I'm being honest here. That dislike never really wore off, and when the rumors of a Nebraska move to the Big Ten started swirling, my first thought was, "Good. Now we can beat the pants off of Ohio State." And thus, my desire to attend a Nebraska-Ohio State football game was born.

new and upcoming fiction

Believe it or not, I do occasionally read books I haven't agreed to review, and I have an extensive list of books I want to read when I'm not facing a review deadline. Here are a few books that either recently released or will soon release that I'm anticipating reading—whether I get to read them for "free" or not.

Longing by Karen Kingsbury. (Releases 11-22-11.) Longing continues the story of Bailey, Brandon, and Cody. (If you don't know who these people are, go back to the book that started it all—Redemption—and enjoy the ride!) I still haven't read Learning, the previous book in the Bailey Flanigan series, but my goal is to have it read before Longing arrives on my doorstepwhich will be Nov. 22, thanks to Amazon's release-day delivery service. My friend Holly at The Bookshelf was able to read an advance copy, and you can see her review here. On a fun notethe people who play Bailey and Brandon in the book trailers recently got engaged in real life! If the pretend Bailey and Brandon can get married, can't the "real" ones? (Alas, I'm afraid Kingsbury isn't going to bend to my wishes on this one!)

Love Finds You in Sunset Beach, Hawaii by Robin Jones Gunn. (Released 10-1-11.) This is for all the Christy Miller/Sierra Jensen fans out there—and I count myself among them! I never actually read all of the Sierra Jensen books, but I did skim the last one ... I wanted to know if Sierra ended up with Paul, the "Todd" of her series. (If you're lost, it's okay, just indulge me!) I don't remember how the book ended, but I do remember being disappointed. Well, now Gunn is giving all of the Sierra fans the resolution they wanted way back when, as Love Finds You in Sunset Beach, Hawaii is all about love finding Sierra! Here's hoping some characters from Gunn's other books make cameo appearances ... and even if they don't, I'm sure it will be a satisfying read.

The Accidental Brideby Denise Hunter. (Releases 1-3-12.) I am a big fan of Denise Hunter's booksI've reviewed one, and several others made my list of recommended books. The Accidental Bride is book two in Hunter's Big Sky series. It appears to be a twist on the "marriage of convenience" plot device, which is a favorite of mine. I'm hoping to get it free from Booksneeze, but if I don't, I'll definitely be buying it. 

Turnabout's Fair Playby Kaye Dacus. (Releases 11-1-11.) I have to give a big shout-out to Peter at christian-fantasy.com on this one. Had he not blogged about meeting Dacus, I wouldn't have known she existed—and I would have been missing out. I found The Art of Romance, book two in her Matchmakers series, for review on NetGalley, and I read it in just a few hours; I currently have book one, Love Remains, waiting on my shelf of "read when I don't have a deadline" books, and Turnabout's Fair Play is on my Kindle awaiting my attention. I love that Dacus's heroines—at least the ones in the Matchmakers seriesaren't the normal young, thin, gorgeous women with multiple suitors found in so many modern romances. (Sometimes I feel like if I read about one more 22-year-old falling in love, I'm going to throw up.) I know these characters are fictional, but they give me hopehope that someday, some man will see me for who I am and will love me for me. (I feel like I should instruct my mother to stop crying now. Mom, stop it.)

Beyond Hope's Valleyby Tricia Goyer. (Releases 4-1-12.) This release is a bit farther out than the rest, but I'm eagerly anticipating it, so I wanted to mention it. Beyond Hope's Valley is book three in Goyer's Big Sky series. I sometimes read Amish fiction because it's offered to me for review, but I wouldn't normally seek it out. This series, however, is worth lookingand payingfor. I've said it before, but it bears repeating: Goyer doesn't idealize the Amish lifestyle. She clearly shows its positive and negative sidesand I think that's because some of the characters in this book are based on friends of hers. Their journey to a real, living faith took them out of the Amish church. She interviewed these friends on her radio show a few months ago, and I just listened to the podcast.  If you're interested, you can listen here (scroll down to Thursday, 14th of April, 2011).

So there you have it: my top five "can't wait to read them" books. What books are you looking forward to?

October 3, 2011

why i'm still (mostly) happy with netflix

By now, I feel like the whole world knows about Netflix's recent questionable moves, but in case you've been living under a rock, here they are: first the price hike, then the decision to split into two services--Netflix for streaming and Qwikster for DVD rentals, which was announced in CEO Reed Hastings' "apology" letter to members.

Both moves, I believe, were dumb and handled poorly. Do I understand a price hike? Yes. For the amount of streaming I do, I know I'm getting a bargain. Do I understand a price hike of 60%, sprung out of the blue on customers? No.

I've seen it over and over again in news articles and other blog posts: Netflix's lack of quality movies in its streaming catalog greatly diminishes its value. And it's true that recent hit movies are sorely lacking on Netflix, and it's just going to get worse when the Starz catalog disappears next year.

Yet I'm still content. While my queue is populated with movies no one has ever heard of--many of which, quite frankly, will be nearly unwatchable--I also have a wealth of TV shows at my disposal. Probably 90% of my streaming activity is TV shows, and I'm not alone. I found this article today, which states:
"50% and sometimes 60% of viewing is TV episodes now," said Netflix's chief content officer Ted Sarandos, during a joint keynote at the MIPCOM conference in Cannes with Miramax CEO Mike Lang.
TV is what I want, and TV is what Netflix is giving me. Without Netflix, I wouldn't have discovered Jericho, Prison Break, Veronica MarsMonarch of the Glen, Dollhouse, or Felicity. I wouldn't have been able to catch up on Parks & Recreation in time for the premiere of Season 3 last spring. And I wouldn't have become downright giddy recently when My Boys, Melissa & Joey, and Upstairs, Downstairs showed up in the "new TV" section.

I did dump my DVD rentals before the price hike went into effect, and I expect to use Redbox when I just "have" to see a movie. But in the month since I went to streaming only, I haven't missed the DVDs at all.

Perhaps Netflix will soon make another lame-brained move that will drive me away. But for now, I'm happy to say that I'm still a Netflix subscriber.

How do you feel about Netflix? Are you checking out Hulu or Amazon Prime? And what's your greatest Netflix "find"?

If you're looking for a laugh, check out this SNL sketch. Just a warning: it gets a little risqué near the end. But if you're a Netflix subscriber, it's pretty hilarious.

October 1, 2011

35 before 35: #20

#20: Go back to school

Ever since I graduated from college (seven years ago--how is that possible?), I've been thinking about going back to school. I thought about getting a master's in library science, a master's in creative writing, even a master's in accounting. But I never pursued anything—I just did a lot of thinking.

This summer, my responsibilities at work changed, and I started working on the financial side of things. Because I have no experience in accounting, I thought about taking a class. Then I thought about getting a master's in accounting. Then I realized how insane that was, and I went back to thinking about taking a class. At the end of July, I decided it was time to stop thinking and time to take action, so I got on our local community college's website to see what kind of accounting courses they offered. In the midst of my search, I noticed a blurb about a library certificate. Within minutes, I was taking steps to sign up for the library program, and all thoughts of accounting fell by the wayside.

My program is a certificate in Library and Information Services. It's only 18 credits, but because of the way classes are set up, it will take two full years to complete ... if I decide to stay with it. I'm taking one class this semester, and it's online. In the beginning, I hated the class; I felt like it was a lot of busy work. Now, the class is getting better, but I wish I could just go sit in a classroom for three hours one night a week and be done with it. This is the first online class I've ever taken, and I think I'm more of a traditional classroom kind of girl. (Unfortunately, this entire program is online, so I don't have the classroom option.)

When I'm finished, I'll have completed the requirements to be a certified public librarian in Nebraska. (Many libraries require their librarians to have a Master's in Library Science, but that's not a state requirement.) I figure if I completely fall in love with it, I can go on to a Master's program. If not, I should be able to get a job in a public library—which is something I've always wanted to do.

The reason I'm not sure if I'll complete the program is because of the time factor. I already feel like I have no free time (which isn't true; I'm just not managing my time well at this point)—I shudder to think what this spring will be like with speech season, a full-time job, and another class! But I also know that this is the perfect time for me to be in school. At this point in my life, I'm responsible for myself ... and that's it! If I need to stay up until 2 a.m. working on a paper, I can. If I want to grab a bowl of cereal for supper while reading, I can. And I can fairly completely recuperate each weekend (at least until speech starts). So I'm tentatively planning to sign up for the next course in the spring.

I'll keep you posted.

Have you thought about going back to school years after leaving college? If you did it, what was your experience?

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