Birthday Harvest {2019}

Hello, dears!

Yayyyyy, it’s here – my annual birthday gift post! ūüėÄ Before we begin, the obligatory disclaimer: I’m not posting this to brag in the least; I’m posting it because I like to read these posts and you guys seem to as well… also because I wanted another chance to say thank you once again to my dear friends and siblings and parents who nearly overwhelmed by your generosity this year. I’m so, so grateful to have people like you, who are far more precious than even the amazing gifts you gave me. ūüôā ‚̧

Alright, let’s begin! I tried to randomize the gifts a little bit, so I won’t be going in any particular order. Sit back and relax, because this might get a little long. ūüėõ

Continue reading

{Summer 2018}

Hello, dears!

Oh my, it was VERY hard to restrain myself from starting this post with the overused “I can’t believe summer went by so quickly!” (Wait, but what did I just do…? XD) Instead… let me think. Oh! I saw a marquee sign the other day that said “Summer should get a speeding ticket.” Much more original, right? AND TRUE.

ANYWAY. I seriously am having a hard time believing it’s September already, especially since this is the first year after graduating when I don’t have school! :O It feels strange, but it’s exciting. Even though it’s not¬†technically fall yet, it doesn’t quite feel like summer anymore. Maybe it’s… fummer. NOPE, THAT SOUNDS TERRIBLE. Maybe it’s just September. Let’s go with that.

Ahem, what I was TRYING to say was that this post will be about 20+ things I did this summer, in no particular order. Not an exhaustive list, but a good summary. (Or rather, summery. SORRY I COULDN’T RESIST.)

Wow, I really better start using pictures instead of words, now. This is getting out of control. O.o Heh, let’s begin. Continue reading

Summer 2017 {Memories + Photos}

Heh heh, I know this is rather late for a summer post, but hey, we haven’t fallen too far into autumn yet, right? (See what I did there?) Anyway, I loved Clara’s summer recap post, so I decided to do one of my own!

Here’s a recap of this summer’s happenings in pictures.

Raising and selling a litter of darling baby bunnies. ♥

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Taking a lovely trip to Assateague and Chincoteague Island.

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Writing and illustrating letters.

Playing piano at the nursing home and filling in for the pianist at church. O.o

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Finding barn kittens.

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All the flowers.

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Watching a cardboard boat race. XD

Working on a¬†project I will hopefully reveal soon… (Here’s a sneak peek:)

the color box button

Hayley’s ATC Trade.

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Playing Gaga Ball on the trampoline with my siblings.

Swimming at our neighbor’s pool.

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Re-designing a board game I created. (Sneak peek:)

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Playing games with family and friends.

Saying goodbye to Clementine. ūüė¶

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Making lots and lots of art.

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Taking lots and lots of pictures.

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Pizza and movie nights.

Watching sunsets.

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Helping out at a wedding.

Celebrating fourth of July with family. (Photo credit to my aunt.)

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Going camping in tents with cousins and grandparents.

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Meeting new people and making new friends.

Hatching swallowtail butterflies.

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Cutting and creaming 150 quarts of corn from our sweet corn patch. O.o

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Books.

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Blogging.

Watching the eclipse (even though I got rather poor photos XD).

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Having simply splendid time at Amelia Island with friends.

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Finally¬†watching Star Wars. ūüėõ

The County Fair.

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Starting WordCrafters 3.

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Gardening and canning produce.

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Consuming many 50 cent Frosties at Wendy’s.

Sewing class.

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Video-chatting with a blogger friend.

Making decorations for our monthly church meals.

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Emailing, writing to, and debating with blogger friends. ūüėÄ ‚ô•

CWWC (see my entries here) and BIBPC, (this my latest entry).

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Nature Study with friends.

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Bonfires, big and small.

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Gathering eggs. :/

Megan’s birthday (which included a water balloon fight).

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Family reunions.

Labor Day adventures.

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Making memories. ‚ô•

It was a lovely summer. ūüôā I had a lot of fun but I also learned a lot, I think more in practical knowledge than book knowledge. It’s been good.

How was your summer?

***Allison***

25 Incredible Books to Read This Summer

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Background image via unsplash.com

Hello, and how are you, dears? Good, I hope!

Well it’s summer, which means lots and lots of reading, right? Except¬†if you’re like me, you don’t know what to read.

Don’t panic! Grab your library card and go check out some of these books.¬†I’ve compiled twenty five of my favorite books, including plenty of series to keep you occupied. ūüôā

In case you’re wondering, for the most part they aren’t in any particular order. I added a short description – you can ask for a longer one in the comments –¬†and a link to the book on Amazon. (Just note that I didn’t shop around for the cheapest option. Also, these are not affiliate links.)

Now without further ado, I present to you twenty five incredible books!

  1. The Mysterious Benedict Society Series: THIS IS (one of) THE BEST SERIES EVER! There’s no bad language, magic, or inappropriate content; it’s great for all ages; and it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read! Unfortunately it’s super hard to explain the plot without spoiling it or else making it sound boring, but I’ll give it a try. After¬†following a¬†strange¬†advertisement in the newspaper¬†and passing a series of mind-bending tests,¬†four children¬†embark on a¬†strange adventure to stop the evil Mr. Curtain from taking over the world with his Whisperer in¬†a most terrible way. They must use their¬†abilities and work as a team¬†to solve the riddles and mysteries at every¬†turn.¬†Ugh, that was an awful¬†summary. You can read a slightly better one¬†here.
  2. The Penderwicks Series: Follow the four Penderwick sisters on many hilarious and heartwarming adventures (and misadventures). Filled with funny, well crafted, and extremely relatable characters, these books are immensely satisfying must-reads, and perfect for summer!
  3. The Chronicles of Narnia Series:¬†This is¬†part of Amazon’s summary: “four children travel repeatedly to a world in which they are far more than mere children and everything is far more than it seems. Richly told, populated with fascinating characters, perfectly realized in detail of world and pacing of plot, and profoundly allegorical, the story is infused throughout with the timeless issues of good and evil, faith and hope.” If you haven’t yet read these wonderful classics, well, what are you waiting for?
  4. The Mighty Miss Malone: I read this just recently, and it was so good it’s now one of my favorite books! Narrated by a black girl living in the time of the Great Depression, this historical-fiction-ish story is full of humor, warmth, and¬†wonderful characters.
  5. Miss Piggle-Wiggle Series:¬†¬†Charming, clever, and hilarious. Another perfect read-aloud.¬†Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is a rather eccentric old lady who finds the most peculiar cures for children’s bad habits. Like the time when she cures a boy who doesn’t want to take a bath by letting him get so dirty, his parents can plant radishes in his hair. Or the time when… well, I could go on, but maybe you should just read them yourself. ūüėČ
  6. The Green Ember Series: A delightful adventure story starring two rabbits named Heather and Picket. When their peaceful world is disturbed, the two siblings are thrown onto a dangerous path that will take strength they didn’t know they had. Joined by many interesting and sometimes mysterious characters, the two rabbits join the fight “Till the Green Ember rises or the end of the world.” These books¬†are kind of a blend of Watership Down, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Lord of the Rings.
  7. Freddy the Pig Series: Freddy the Pig is no ordinary pig. He’s also a writer, a detective, and¬†leader of all the animals on Mr. Bean’s farm – in short, Freddy is a hero. He, along with¬†his friends¬†Jinx the cat and Mrs. Wiggins the cow,¬†lead the farm animals on all sorts of wild adventures, uncovering schemes and concocting clever plans.
  8. Charlotte’s Web:¬†Wilbur the pig goes into hysterics when he finds out he will be butchered one day. But with the help of his talented spider friend Charlotte and farm girl Fern, they come up with a plan that just might save¬†his bacon. This is definitely another children’s classic.
  9. Do Hard Things: This is quite different from the rest of the books on this list, but it’s one of the most life-changing. Do Hard Things is a how-to book written by teenagers that shows you how to overcome society’s pathetically low expectations for today’s teenagers and use your life to make a difference. That involves sometimes scary¬†things¬†and stepping¬†outside your comfort zone, but the rewards are sky-high. The authors are unashamedly Christian, but¬†their points are still as true and¬†thought-provoking for non-Christians. Read this. Please. (They also have a website called therebelution.com.)
  10. Pippi Longstocking Series: These books contain the laugh-out-loud escapades of an unusually spunky, peculiar, and delightful red-haired girl who can turn anything into an adventure. A great read-aloud for all ages.
  11. Anne of Green Gables Series: A sweet, funny series about another¬†lovable¬†red-haired orphan girl. Anne-with-an-e has¬†a big heart and a¬†flair for the dramatic. She¬†encounters many trials in her life such as that hilarious escapade with the “raspberry cordial,” nearly drowning while pretending to be a heroine in a poem, and a certain boy named Gilbert who insists on calling her “Carrots.”
  12. Swiss Family Robinson: An exciting adventure story about a family who is shipwrecked on an island and must fend for themselves. The language of the original is rather dense, but the story is sooo good once you get into it! Mom read it to my siblings and I quite a few years ago and we all loved it.
  13. Little Women: Four sisters learn to make their own fun from what they have¬†while their father is away at war and their mother works hard to support their family. Sorry, this one’s a little hard to summarize. XD But it IS really good! ūüėČ
  14. The Little House Series: The classic (true) story¬†of life as a pioneer. It’s amazing how very different Laura and Almanzo’s¬†lives were from ours – a world without cars or electronics, where everyone made their own clothes and built their own houses and grew most of their own food.¬†I like how my little sister¬†says reading these¬†make¬†her feel all warm inside – me too!¬†ūüėÄ One of my top favorite series ever!
  15. Peter Pan: Three children visit Neverland – a magical world of fairies, mermaids, pirates, and boys who never grow up. A delightful children’s classic.
  16. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH: When Mrs. Frisby’s home is about to be destroyed,¬†the mouse¬†seeks help from the mysterious rats of NIMH, rats¬†who are¬†abnormally strong and intelligent.¬†But why? What¬†happened to the rats and how¬†are they¬†connected to NIMH, whatever that stands for? I think this is a lesser known book/series that deserves more popularity. It’s really quite good!
  17. The Borrowers Series: Unbeknownst to the humans, a family of tiny people live within their walls, surviving by “borrowing” human things – dollhouse furniture, scraps of food, bits of thread… But what would happen if the humans discovered them? It looks like they’re about to find out.
  18. Mr. Popper’s Penguins: Part of Amazon’s summary: “A classic of American humor, the adventures of a house painter and his brood of high-stepping penguins have delighted children for generations.” This is such a funny, charming book.
  19. Mary Poppins Series: Let’s do another Amazon summary: “When their new nanny, Mary Poppins, arrives on a gust of the East Wind, greets their mother, and slides up the banister, Jane and Michael’s lives are turned magically upside down . . . Mary takes the children on the most extraordinary outings: to a fun fair inside a pavement picture; to visit Uncle Andrew who floats up to the ceiling when he laughs; on a spectacular trip to see the Man-in-the-Moon!”
  20. My Side of the Mountain Trilogy: A boy named Sam runs away and makes a home for himself on the side of a mountain, learning how to hunt, cook, make a house out of a tree, and more. This series reminds me of Swiss Family Robinson and The Little House.
  21. The Wizard of Oz Series: A tornado suddenly whisks Dorothy and her dog Toto away to a strange new land with talking lions and scarecrows and tin men Рand a mysterious wizard who seems to be hiding something. But what? And now how will Dorothy ever get back to her farm?
  22. Winnie the Pooh Series: An adorable, hilarious story about a stuffed bear and his companions who live in the Hundred Acre Wood. I absolutely love the writing style, the gentle yet laugh-out-loud humor, and the lovable characters. This is meant for younger children, but older children and adults will love it too Рa perfect read-aloud.
  23. James Herriot Series: A sort of autobiography about the adventures of James Herriot, a vet who works in the England countryside. He encounters many strange and funny cases, but he manages all of them with a warm sense of humor and some soap and hot water.
  24. The Secret Garden: One of my favorite classics! A young girl discovers a hidden garden and takes it upon herself to uncover its secrets and bring it back to life. The garden miraculously does the same to her and her friends and makes them grow and blossom in ways they had never thought possible.
  25. And last but the opposite of least… The Bible! The Bible is not only the most important book you will ever read, but it has some quite interesting (and true!) stories in it: the stories of Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Ruth, Esther, Daniel, David, Paul,¬†and of course, Jesus, among many, many others. The amazing thing about the Bible is you can always find some new detail or meaning every time you read it. Try it and see! You might be¬†surprised at how a supposedly familiar Bible story or passage¬†encourages you in a fresh new way.

Well, I hope you found some new stories to try in that list, my friends. Which ones are you looking forward to reading? How many have you already read? And what are a few of your favorite books?

***Allison***

P. S. I have sooooo many more favorite books that I originally was going to do a list of 50, but I thought that would get a bit long. XD So maybe I can do another book list post! What do you guys think?

What to Learn from Good Books {A Writer’s Guide}

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{image via unsplash.com}

Hello, dear readers! I finally got around to writing this post. ūüôā¬†I’m so happy that you guys liked the last writing tips post, and I hope this one will prove helpful too!

I’ve been reading plenty of books lately, and I always naturally pick them apart a little when I read. I wanted to share with¬†you guys some of¬†things I’ve learned just by reading, because that is an¬†great way to¬†improve your writing: read good books. Not just interesting, fun to read books, but books that you admire for the author’s writing style, books you wish you could write. Poke around the pages and try to notice what you like about¬†the book. Is it the characters? The words? The images the writer calls to your mind? Always be on the lookout for your own writing tips.

A little disclaimer before we start: I am by no means a professional writer. I don’t even write that often, actually! (Except for plenty of blog posts. XD ) I just thought I’d share these tips¬†which I need to remember, and hope they help you too.

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Okay, so want I want to do is give you two¬†wonderful examples of books (or rather, series) that I have learned a lot from. They each have good things to emulate and bad things to stay away from. Then I’ll do a general summary of some tips I learned from good books. Are you ready? Let’s start with my all time favorite…

The Mysterious Benedict Society

AHH I LOVE THIS BOOK! It’s so clever and suspenseful and entertaining and… well, you’ll see.

  • Originality: One of the top things that draws me to a book is how originally or creatively the author tells the story.¬† That’s something I have trouble with: coming up with original plots. Although I can’t say the basic plot of MBS¬†is super original (in a nutshell, four children work as a team to save the world from the terrifying plans of an evil genius), the details and characters are pretty creative. I would never have thought of¬†many of the¬†interesting characters¬†or the delightful riddles and puzzles that intrigue you as a reader.
  • Interesting and Relatable Characters: This is one of my favorite things about the MBS. Each character is unique. Reynie is the leader of the children, a thoughtful and intelligent boy who has always felt out of place. Sticky, the worrier, has a photographic memory and a mysterious and unhappy past. Kate is a bright, athletic girl who always carries a red bucket filled with everything you could possibly need in an emergency. (She and Sticky especially have some of the funniest quirks and characteristics.) And Constance… well, the children don‚Äôt know quite what to make of the tiny, sleepy girl who‚Äôs always complaining, arguing, or making up terrible poems. Even though the children are so different from ordinary children, you can still relate to them and their worries and triumphs.¬†Some other interesting characters are Mr. Benedict, who has a strange condition that causes him to fall asleep at inopportune moments; “the pencil woman,” aka Number Two, who hardly ever sleeps, is always famished, and is too embarrassed to use her real name; and Milligan, a sorrowful,¬†weatherbeaten¬†man with a very mysterious and surprising past.
  • Mystery and Plot Twists:¬† I love all the mysteries, the many plot twists, the clever riddles, and the can’t-put-it-down factor of this book. Almost any story can be improved by an element of unknown. It keeps the reader hooked.
  • Skillful Writing: I also appreciate Trenton Lee Stewart‚Äôs excellent writing style. I think this is why the MBS is still at the top of¬†my list. Other books may be more exciting or interesting, but very few are as well written as this one, in my opinion. His style is¬†very natural, interesting, and sometimes funny. The way he wrote the book with a mix of old and new technology makes it seem timeless and not old-fashioned, and I like the way the author brings out the characters‚Äô story rather than focusing too much on the time period or setting. He has mastered the art of invisibility, he lets the characters tell their own story.
  • Slow Beginnings: The one thing that I think could be improved upon is a quicker start to the book. It’s a little slow at first, which was fine with me, but as an author you have to be quick on your feet to keep readers from abandoning you before they even get started.

 

Keeper of the Lost Cities

This is one of the most exciting series I’ve ever read! It is sooo hard to put down.

  • Suspense: This book is SO suspenseful! Sharon Messenger nearly drives you crazy with all the mystery and suspense, but in a good way. ūüôā I believe the key to keep your readers reading is to leave out¬†a few¬†important¬† facts that they can’t wait to uncover. The author is a master at that! If anything, I think she goes a bit overboard. There are so many mysteries that Sophie, the main character, has to figure out for herself, and you can’t help but wait with bated breath for her searching to pay off.
  • Interesting Character Relationships: Keeper is a lot different than the MBS in this way. I mean, the character relationships are both good, but the ones in Keeper are just… different. The relationships are more complex, and she develops the characters so well, they feel like real people! You feel very close to¬†the characters and this makes it easier to fall into their world. Which brings us to…
  • Well-Developed Setting: Shannon Messenger takes extreme care in creating the elvin world. She provides enough background information to make the world believable. She makes you think, “Well I know this isn’t true, but it almost could happen.”
  • Poor writing style: PLEASE DON’T KILL ME, KEEPER FANS! XD¬†This is strictly my opinion, and I’m sure¬†there are lots of¬†people who¬†absolutely love her writing style. Anyway, there are several things I don’t care for. Number one, it does not seem very natural. The author seems to be trying hard to make the story even more suspenseful by adding, for instance…¬†Way. Too. Many. One. Word. Sentences.

And her paragraphs are one-lined a lot.

Like this.

I think one-lined paragraphs are extremely useful when used in moderation, but when you overuse them it gets¬†tiringly dramatic. True, in some ways it is easier to read, but on the other hand, it’s almost too easy. My brain likes it better when it has to work just a little bit to extract the story. And number two (or is it three?), I don’t appreciate how modern the words are. That is just my preference, but I don’t like how she uses such casual, sometimes slang language. I would enjoy reading it much more if she had more of the timeless style that Trenton Lee Stewart does. That’s probably THE main difference I like the MBS better than Keeper: because of the writing style.

Alright, I’ve gone over a few of the things I like and dislike about two certain books, but now I want to summarize some general tips that go for pretty much all fiction books.

  • Be Original: Use words no one else has used to tell a story no one has ever told before. Don’t tell a story that’s already been told unless you can tell it in a more interesting way. Stay away from clich√©s and make up your own metaphors and descriptions that no one else has thought of, to¬†give your readers an interesting perspective on your subject. No one needs to tell us again that her eyes were as blue as the sky; what about as blue as the mountains where she came from?
  • Keep Them Reading: Don’t let the reader know everything. Things left unsaid make the¬†him want to¬†keep reading. Plot twists and mysteries are handy little tools that really go a long way towards making your book a can’t-put-it-down-er.
  • Spend Time on Your Characters: I personally think characters are one of the most important part of the book – sometimes even more important than the plot! Think about it. Some adventure stories, or stories without much of a plot, can survive because you’re just reading for the characters. You laugh at their antics and cry at their tragedies, because they have become your friends. While you read about them, they are real people. That is your goal as a writer, to make your characters seem like real people. Rereading the book should mean visiting old friends, not just remembering the plot you already solved. So, spend time on your characters. The best characters are relatable, which means they aren’t perfect, just like you, and just like the reader. Just like everyone. Good characters have quirks and fears and likes and dislikes just like real people. And believe it or not, not everyone in the real world is an orphan or a princess. (Even though, sadly, there really are the former if not¬†many of the¬†latter.) But don’t make the character too imperfect or he’ll become a one-sided bad guy. Give your character some good traits so that the reader wishes he or she could have too. And as for character relationships, I’ve noticed that a little bit of romance (even just a tiny bit, not anything too gross XD ) makes the book more suspenseful and interesting. But that, of course, is up to you and your tastes.

And thus concludes my lengthy opinions! I hope this was helpful to you guys. ūüôā¬†What writing tips have you learned from good books?

Thanks for reading!

***Allison***

Beauty from Ashes, Part 1 (+BIBPC)

Hello, hello! How are you¬†lovely people doing? (Isn’t that sort of a rhetorical question though?)

I have some writing and photos for you today.

First up, Beauty from Ashes. Beauty from Ashes is a short story I’m working on. It’s basically a medley of Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast, ’cause you’re never too old for fairy tales, right?

I’m still looking for a picture that fits my idea of Cinderella. :/ Hopefully next time I’ll have it.

Enjoy the first part!

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Beauty from Ashes

Part 1.

‚ÄúCinderella!‚ÄĚ a whiny voice rang out from upstairs, ‚ÄúCome up here at once!‚ÄĚ

I sighed. It was all I could do not to run out the door; not to run, run, run, and never come back. I would never have to answer to my stepsisters again. But¬†I¬†wouldn’t survive¬†and I knew it. Even though my life was miserable here, at least I had a life, if you could call it that. I heaved my tired body up the winding staircase. With every step, the arguing voices grew louder.

‚ÄúI said I wanted roses first!‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúDid not! You stole my idea!‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúOh no I didn‚Äôt. You just won‚Äôt give me credit for anything, Anastasia!‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúThat‚Äôs because you never have any good ideas! I‚Äôm going to have roses, whether you want me to or not. So there!‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúMotherrr!‚ÄĚ

I could hear Lady Tremaine shushing her daughters. ‚ÄúNow girls. If you are ever to impress the Prince, you absolutely must control your tempers. Anastasia, you will have red roses, and Druscilla, you will have white ones. Listen to Mother, dears. Don‚Äôt be like that nasty Cinderella who never obeys anyone.‚ÄĚ Lady Tremaine directed this last remark at me as I entered the room. Anastasia and Druscilla instantly forgot their enmity in their mutual delight at my poor, embarrassed face.

Lady Tremaine didn’t lose a beat. ‚ÄúCinderella, go fetch twenty red roses and twenty white roses for your sisters. If they are to have dried flower crowns for the ball, we must start preparing them now. Go, child! Don‚Äôt just stand there looking stupid! Away with you!‚ÄĚ

The girls snickered and turned back to their preparations. Oh how I wished I could join them! As the date of the Prince‚Äôs ball drew ever nearer, our household was in an uproar over the various preparations necessary to present Anastasia and Druscilla at their finest (which wasn‚Äôt saying much). But though I had begged and pleaded, Lady Tremaine refused to let me go to the ball. It was an unnecessary expense, she said. But the King had ordered all eligible maidens to come, I protested. She only scoffed at this, saying I was hardly ‚Äúeligible‚ÄĚ with my dusty, ash-stained face and dingy clothes. I chose not to point out that all that could be fixed with a bath and a new gown. I knew when I had lost. I knew because I always did lose and always had lost, ever since the day my father died.

I stomped outside, gritting my teeth to keep from exploding. At least I got to visit the forest. I picked my way sluggishly to the two lush rosebushes in the middle of our woods, trying to drag out my freedom. When I arrived, I plucked the roses as slowly as possible, carefully avoiding thorns. I had only gathered the red roses when a crackling noise made me freeze in mid-pluck. Some great animal was snuffling and stomping its way through the woods. It drew nearer and nearer to me, but I was afraid to turn around. My heart pounded madly in my chest like a captive bird desperate to escape. Finally the crackling stopped. The beast was so close I could feel its hot breath on my back.

I just had to turn around.

Immediately I wished I hadn‚Äôt. I was face to face with an enormous¬†beast ‚Äď what looked like a cross between a bear and¬†a lion.

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It was by far the most terrifying thing I had ever seen. My breath came in ragged gasps; my sweaty hands clutched the roses as if to protect them.

Then the beast spoke.

‚ÄúWho are you?‚ÄĚ it questioned in a deep, growling, voice. If I hadn‚Äôt been terrified out of my wits before, I was now. A talking bear?

I gulped. ‚ÄúM-my name is Ella, Sir‚Ķ Sir‚Ķ‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúCall me Beast,‚ÄĚ it snarled.

‚ÄúMy n-name is Ella, Beast.‚ÄĚ

Beast¬†growled menacingly. ‚ÄúVery well, Ella, give me one of your shoes.”

I blinked. ‚ÄúExcuse me? But, Sir ‚Äď I mean, Beast, these are my only pair! My mother will be furious!¬†Please, may I give you my hair ribbon or-‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúYour shoe. Give it to me.‚ÄĚ His voice left no room for doubt. I passed him one of my forlorn slippers with trembling hands. He nodded and continued, ‚ÄúIf you want this back, you must return to this place tomorrow at this time. Or else-‚ÄĚ he opened wide his mouth and roared like a lion.

I shielded my face with my arm. Sweat plastered my¬†yellow-gold hair to my head, and tears streamed down my dusty face. ‚ÄúYes, yes Sir ‚Äď I mean Beast. I will do that. I promise I will. Please, please may I go now?‚ÄĚ Beast nodded his huge head.

I lost no time in racing back to the safety of home, sobbing with terror all the time. When I was halfway there it occurred to me that I hadn’t picked any white roses. Nevermind. I was NOT going back there, no matter how angry Druscilla would be.

But the worst part was, I had promised, and my promise was backed by the terrifying threat of the Beast’s roar. I had to go back tomorrow, like it or not.

Oh. No.

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There! I hope you liked that! It was a lot of fun to write. ūüôā More parts are coming up soon!

And now for my BIBPC entries.¬†I know the first one is late, but since Megan is my sister,¬†she’s already¬†seen my¬†photo. Yay for sisters! (Unless the sisters in question are Anastasia and Druscilla.)

BIBPC #4 – Category: Broken

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OH MY GOODNES IS HE NOT ADORABLE?! Oh. Right. Perhaps I should explain that the bunny isn’t “broken” like that. It’s just a technical way of saying “spotted.” And you thought… Shame on you! XD

This is one of our five baby bunnies, a. k. a. cuteness itself. I believe my brother Logan chose this one. He named it “Higgledy Piggledy” for some strange reason. Don’t look at me! XD Never fear, a bunny post is coming up soon with lots more juicy details and fluzzy pictures.

BIBPC #5 – Category: Old Things

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Last night we acquired¬†a few lovely,¬†ancient books from my great-grandma. One is called “Human Use Geography.” I find that quite funny. Human Use? As opposed to what, penguin use? XD But seriously, it’s a really neat book! There are notes and names and scribbles all throughout the book, and some pages are practically falling out.

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This would also have been a good photo for the “Broken” category. Broken is often quite beautiful, isn’t it? We’re all like old books in¬†that way, I guess – broken but beautiful. ūüôā

***Allison***

Birthday Stuff Reviews :D

I finally finished this birthday haul post a month after my birthday. XD It’s not really a birthday haul post, actually. It’s more just reviews of¬†some of the things I got for my¬†birthday.¬†Get ready for a really long post!

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Mysterious Benedict Society Series:

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Click here to see the Amazon listing

(The link is for the hardcover collection which I have. You can also get a paperback collection on Amazon.)

I absolutely LOVE this series by Trenton Lee Stewart. It’s probably¬†my favorite series! “The Mysterious Benedict Society” is a group of extraordinary children who are sent on several extraordinary missions. The characters are so fun to¬†read about – there’s Reynie, Sticky (you’ll understand his name when you read the books), Kate, and Constance. Once you pick up these books, it’s hard to put them down! They’re filled with exciting action, surprising plot twists, hilarious anecdotes, and riddles and puzzles that will stretch your brain.

Notes: The synopses are not actual back-of-the-book summaries, I just¬†wrote them myself. Also, the pictures of each book are from their Amazon listing. If you click on the “via” links, it will take you to the listing. Some of the covers on the books below are a little different than mine, but mainly the same.

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The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict

 

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Pages: 470

This book is a prequel to the series although you don’t necessarily have to read it first. (I didn’t.)¬†Like in the rest of the series, the plot twists, clues, and riddles throughout the book keep your brain whirling. There are a bunch of mysteries in this book, and some of their conclusions may surprise you. It’s exciting to read how Nicholas uses his genius mind to¬†solve problems and outsmart the Spiders and other fearsome foes. Nicholas also has a¬†condition called narcolepsy (which is real by the way), which means he falls asleep at random times.

Synopsis:¬†This story¬†covers¬†about a¬†year in the childhood¬†of Nicholas Benedict, the man behind The Mysterious Benedict Society. Nicholas moves to a new orphanage filled with surprises – from a huge library to a secret overlook, tough bullies to loyal friends, and maybe even a treasure! Nicholas will need all of his¬†talents and genius to unpack the mysteries surrounding him – and to do so before it’s too late.

 

The Mysterious Benedict Society

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Pages: 485

This is probably my favorite book in the series. I especially love the beginning when everything is so mysterious and there are gobs of strange riddles and puzzles that bend your brain. The book is exciting and clever, and some of the plot twists just blow you away. At the end you learn something totally unexpected and funny about Constance. You HAVE to read this, guys!

Synopsis: An advertisement in the newspaper starts it all: “Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?” Join Reynie, Sticky, Kate, and Constance on the adventure of their lives. After passing a series of mind-bending tests, they are sent on a very important mission: to save the world from an evil genius with¬†a terrifying plan to control the world – and the minds of everyone in it. They will have to work as a team and put all of their extraordinary gifts to use¬†after arriving at a¬†strange institute. What is Mr. Curtain’s evil plan? Who is Milligan really?¬†What is the Whisperer?¬†These are just a few of the puzzling questions the Mysterious Benedict Society has to answer.

 

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey

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Pages: 440

This isn’t my favorite book of the series, but it’s still great. I love that you learn something new about Constance in this book. Her newly discovered¬†talent really adds to her personality. You also meet some new characters like Cannonball and¬†the Bullfrogs.¬†The duskwort plot thread is really interesting and exciting too. (See synopsis.) Here is a quote I like from this book: (Cannonball is¬†comforting Constance, who is quite short, by the way.)

” ‘You know what I like about buttons?… They’re very small things that hold bigger things together. Awfully important, buttons – little but strong.’ ” – page 154

Isn’t that sweet? “Little but strong.” ūüėÄ

Synopsis: After a year apart the Mysterious Benedict Society reconvenes. They have been anticipating a surprise Mr. Benedict planned for them when¬†they find out that someone has unpleasantly surprised him. Their beloved Mr. Benedict is in danger!¬†Will the scavenger hunt lead them to their heart’s desire, or into a trap? In the meantime, Constance discovers a new talent, and a plant named duskwort is of imminent importance. If the duskwort falls into¬†the wrong¬†hands, everyone is doomed.

 

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma

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Pages: 391

The Prisoner’s Dilemma is the last book in the series. (Except for the puzzle book, but that doesn’t really count.) I really like it! It’s fun and suspenseful to follow the clues with the Mysterious Benedict Society gang, but not everything is as simple as it seems. You might be surprised – actually you probably will be! The end is quite satisfactory. ūüėÄ

Synopsis:

The Mysterious Benedict Society is bored, bored, bored. They have been¬†cooped up¬†together in Mr. Benedict’s house for months because¬†it’s not safe to leave: Mr. Curtain will do anything to get back his precious Whisperer, including snatching up certain children in his way. But when Constance disappears after an appointment with the Whisperer, boredom is flung to the winds. Reynie, Sticky, and Kate are on a race against time to find their grumpy companion before the Ten Men do. They must decode secret messages and follow curiously easy clues… that lead them to an unexpected place. This adventure includes two brave girls and¬†two smart boys, a Salamander, a missing friend, sneaky clues, a couple of “S” pies, a red bucket,¬†and¬†a few daring leaps.

 

The Mysterious Benedict Society – Mr. Benedict’s Book of Perplexing Puzzles, Elusive Enigmas, and Curious Conundrums

Whew! Why do the titles have to be so long? XD I’ll just abbreviate it “Perplexing Puzzles.” Perplexing Puzzles is a really fun book filled with… well,¬†riddles and puzzles. It is a gorgeous book –¬†it’s¬†printed on glossy pages and the whole book is in color instead of black and white. Most of the puzzles are¬†quite hard, but a few of them are easy. (There are hints in the back of the book to help you along. If you need another hint, I might be able to help you too! ūüėÄ ) Scattered throughout the book are¬†quotes from the series, illustrations and profiles, and other “archival materials” as it says.¬†I love the a riddle at the very end that requires you to use letters and numbers from previous puzzles to¬†reveal a last secret message.

Here is one of the riddles: (your answer has to fit in the blanks)

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Umm… I can’t really do a synopsis of this one. XD

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Pros and cons: The covers all have delightful illustrations on them, and the books are all beautiful and¬†well-made. Like I said, the Perplexing Puzzles book is particularly gorgeous. The¬†box that they come in¬†is really nice too! The inside looks like it has been plastered with newspaper clippings from the first puzzle in Perplexing Puzzles.¬†Umm… there aren’t many cons. ūüėĬ†Of course I liked some books better than others, but I enjoyed them all. The one problem is that it’s a little hard to pry a book out of the case, but that’s okay. ūüôā I highly recommend both this series and this hardcover collection.

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Premo Polymer Clay

Polyform Premo Clay Sampler Pack, Assorted Colors, 24-Pack

Click here to see the Amazon listing

(I’m pretty sure you can find a pack like this for cheaper if you shop around Amazon or stores like Michael’s or Hobby Lobby, but this is the listing I found.)

Premo brand polymer clay is a very good quality clay. (At least in my opinion and from what I’ve read.) You can see lots of things I made with it here.

Let me compare and contrast it with Sculpey III, a popular brand of clay made by the same company. Premo is more of a professional clay, while Sculpey III is more of a recreational, hobby-type clay, not meant to be super durable. Premo is much stronger when baked than Sculpey III, and not as gooey and hard to work with¬†as Sculpey III can be. (But see “Pros and cons.”)¬†Although I do¬†think Sculpey III¬†has more colors available.¬†They are both good for different reasons, but I prefer Premo to Sculpey III.

Pros and cons: Usually I love¬†this brand of polymer¬†clay, but the pack I got this time was a lot softer than normal. That is really helpful for conditioning and mixing¬†clay, but not so¬†good for sculpting.¬†Normally though,¬†it’s a really great clay –¬†not too hard, not too soft – and¬†this sampler pack comes with some really neat options, such as translucent clay (which looks transparent-ish when you brush a¬†gloss over it), and faux rock clay which really looks like rock! The sampler pack lasts a long time if you make small things, like I do, but¬†I found it¬†helpful to¬†get an extra pack of white Premo clay because I use white a lot. Even though the changeable pliability¬†is annoying, I would still recommend this product.

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Artist’s Pastels

Pro Art Square Artist Pastel Set, 48 Assorted Colors

Click here to see the Amazon listing

I requested these to use on polymer clay. They’re kind of like chalk. First you scrape them on paper to obtain colored powder, then you use a paintbrush to paint the powder onto baked or unbaked clay¬†for more realistic shading effects. It’s kind of like paint, only more subtle. Pastels work very well for shading miniature food. The cookie on the left is not shaded with artist’s pastels, and the one on the right is. (Sorry, it’s not a very good picture, but trust me, some clay artists can do amazing things with artist’s pastels! Like Tracey, for instance.)

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Pros and cons: Certain shades of brown are missing that would be helpful, but at least you can mix colors. I haven’t had much experience with artist’s pastels, but these work quite well for my purposes! I would recommend this product.

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“Gelly Roll” White Gel Pens:

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Click here to see the Amazon listing

These pens are really nice! Not to mention there are three of them, so they should last me a while. ūüôā They have a fairly fine tip and write smoothly as long as you don’t write too fast. You can use them¬†to mark highlights on your drawings, for things such as hair and eyes:

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The¬†ink¬†is almost marker-resistant – you can see on the left of her hair one of the squiggles is slightly more muted. That’s where I¬†drew over it with marker and the gel pen still showed through. When you draw on top of marker, the marker ink bleeds a tiny bit with the gel pen ink, so it’s usually not quite completely white. (In the picture above, the ink turned a little grayish.)

The white ink looks stunning on black paper! Here is an ATC I made with one of the gel pens:

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Pros and cons: The pens write quite smoothly unless you write fast; then they’re a little scratchy. The optimum background seems to be black paper. The ink will smudge if you’re not careful, but it’s not super smudge-prone. I would recommend this product.

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PicMonkey Royale

I was really excited about getting this, because I use PicMonkey a lot. (Royale gives you access to lots more¬†features¬†– extra effects, overlays, collage options, and more. But you do have to pay for Royale.¬†ūüėČ )¬†Three of my favorite things about PicMonkey Royale¬†are the “Custom Effect” feature, Clone feature,¬†and the Royale collage options. You make a¬†custom effect by¬†adding different effects¬†to a¬†photo like usual, then saving all the things you did as one effect that you can use over and over again.

Here is a photo I edited with Royale: (More kitten pictures coming soon! ūüėÄ )

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I used clone to “wipe off” some dirt, Miniature Effect, Eye Brighten, and then¬†several other non-Royale effects and features. So cute!

Pros and cons: It’s definitely nice to be able to use features like clone, Custom Effect, extra Overlays and Collage layouts, and more. Pretty much the only con is the price. If you don’t use PicMonkey a lot, or don’t use it much besides the basic touch-ups which are free, you probably won’t need this. However, if you love photo-editing or PicMonkey or both, I recommend this feature!

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Of course I got a bunch more things for my birthday, but it would take a few more months to review them all at this rate. XD I hope you enjoyed this! Which was your favorite item? Do you have any of these things?

***Allison**

6 Ways to Make Work More Fun

Everything is more fun when its… fun!¬† Here are some ideas¬†that¬†help make work more fun, whether it’s washing dishes or shelling beans.¬† I hope it helps!

1. Listen to an audio-book РIf you like curling up with a book, but your hands are occupied, try audio-books.  We have several at our library, and some of our favorites are Freddy the Pig, and Hank the Cowdog. (These are also available in book form.)

2. Play a game – Just because your hands are busy doesn’t mean you can’t use your brain!¬† Try these classics:

20 Questions¬† – Choose one player to think of something in one of the following categories: Animal, Plant, Mineral, and Other.¬† The other players take turns asking questions to try and figure out what the “it” person is thinking of.¬† If¬†it is guessed¬†within 20 questions, whoever guessed it gets to be “it.”¬† If they don’t get it within 20 questions, the person who stumped them gets to be “it” again.

I Packed My Grandfather’s Suitcase – Choose one player to start.¬† He says “I packed my grandfather’s suitcase, and in it there was ___.”¬† He fills in the blank with something that starts with the letter “a.” Go around in a circle, each person starting with “I packed my grandfather’s suitcase.”¬†When it’s the second player’s turn, he repeats what the first player says, making sure to include whatever the first player chose for “a,” and he also adds something starting with “b”.¬† Keep going like this until you either reach the end of the alphabet, or everyone is out but one person.¬† Someone can get out by saying the wrong thing, forgetting what he was supposed to say, or skipping a letter.¬†¬†One variation to this game¬†is to have a certain category that the items¬†have to be in, such as¬†“food.”

3. Listen to music. – This one is simple, but it does make things more fun when you’re humming along to your favorite tunes.

If you looking for ways to make the work go faster, while still having fun, try some of these:

4.  Have a race.  Who can finish shelling their bowl of beans first?

5. Beat your record.  Keep track of the time you spent each time you did a certain job.  Try to beat your record, but be careful that no dishes are broken in the process!

6. Set up a timed reward system. РIf they get done with their jobs in a certain amount of time, they get computer time, etc.  Make the time limit challenging, but not impossible.

So that’s it! Hopefully these will make chore-time a little bit more fun.¬† I’ll go now, so you can get to work!

***Allison***