Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Resolution Follow Up

Here it is. The final hours of 2015.


What a crazy freaking year.


So here's my highlight reel.
  • Went to India
  • Started a home business
  • Finished a 5k
  • Took a writing class
  • Reduced my caffeine intake and increased my water intake (most days)
  • Found a partner in weird crimes who is absolutely adorable and increases my happiness beyond belief. (Take THAT, Loser Guys From 2014.)
I did not accomplish the following:
  • Money goals
  • Finish a manuscript
  • Wallow in self pity the whole year (just half of it)
  • Take amazing photos of random stuff
  • Planking. Seriously scary stuff.
I am, mostly, ok with all the things on both lists.



Reading accomplishments were minimal this year.


I read quite a few doorstoppers this year. I actually read a lot more than I expected to, coming in at 19 books.


I worked on reading more of the Bible, but still falling short of a daily/weekly routine. I am growing spiritually from reading, which is more the point.


I did not make any efforts to control my book intake until later in the year. Like... September, when my paperbackswap credits dropped to an alarming "1". ONE credit. In ten years this has never happened. I went a little wild with books at the beginning of the year, anything and everything. I was funneling brokenness into books again. I have it under control again, but my TBR shelf still bears the scars at a whopping 132 books.


Despite everything, I am counting 2015 as a success, simply because I'm here to see 2016.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

NaNoWriMo Follow Up

It's been two weeks since NaNoWriMo finished up. I wish I could say I successfully did something during the challenge. I didn't break the 5000 word count much less finish.

I tried to get into a daily writing habit, but couldn't manage that.

I struggled through my writing, already re-writing in my head as I went.

Anxiety, fear, as usual, were my enemies. I was my worst enemy.

I haven't yet decided where to go next, or worse, if I even want to.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Dark Skye

Dark Skye (Immortals After Dark, #15)Dark Skye by Kresley Cole
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

At this point, the IAD books are starting to blur for me. The plot arc of the series has become too big for my itty bitty brain to hold. This is my last IAD book. On that note, I will review this as a standalone book.

This was an engaging read. A lot of history and damaged emotions between the characters, which were sorted out and put away a bit too quickly, but for the sake of moving the plot forward it worked. The characters were bland for the most part. Fortunately the story telling made up for it.

Synopsis: ETERNAL OBSESSION
As a boy, Thronos, prince of Skye Hall, loved Lanthe, a mischievous Sorceri girl who made him question everything about his Vrekener clan. But when the two got caught in the middle of their families’ war, tragedy struck, leaving Thronos and Lanthe bitter enemies. Though centuries have passed, nothing can cool his seething need for the beautiful enchantress who scarred his body—and left an even deeper impression on his soul.

ENDLESS YEARNING

Lanthe, a once-formidable sorceress struggling to reclaim her gifts, searches for love and acceptance with all the wrong immortal suitors. But she’s never forgotten Thronos, the magnificent silver-eyed boy who protected her until she was ripped from the shelter of his arms. One harrowing night changed everything between them. Now he’s a notorious warlord with a blood vendetta against Lanthe, hunting her relentlessly.

CAN THE HEAT OF DESIRE BURN BRIGHTER THAN VENGEANCE?

With their families locked in conflict and battles raging all around them, will Thronos and Lanthe succumb to the brutal chaos that threatens everything they cherish? Or will the fragile bond they formed so long ago spark a passion strong enough to withstand even the darkest doubts?

Recommended Reading:
MacRieve by Kresley Cole
Dreams of a Dark Warrior by Kresley Cole
Lothaire by Kresley Cole

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Chai Tea Beer Bread

Beer bread is one of my favorite things. It's versatile, cheap and easy to make. I've never understood why people need to use the expensive mixes when it is so easy to make with just a few ingredients. This version of beer bread is made from a homebrewed coffee stout, and uses chai tea mix and chocolate chips for a subtle sweet and savory loaf.




Everything you need: self-rising flour, sugar, beer, chai tea mix, and mini chocolate chips.

Combine flour, sugar, and cha tea mix.
Pour in beer


Add chocolate chips

Place in pan.
You need:
3 cups self-rising flour
3 tbsp. sugar
1 beer at room temperature
1 tbsp. Wildtree chai tea mix
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Mix everything together in a bowl.

Place into prepared loaf pan.

Bake one hour at 350 degrees.

Allow bread to completely cool before cutting, otherwise it crumbles.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Twix Bars

I originally made and posted this recipe when I was on maternity leave with The Diva. I made enough of them at the time to fix my craving for a very long time. I dusted off the recipe for my beastie's birthday this year. They are still fabulous and fabulously easy.

I thought it would be difficult to spread the caramel or the chocolate/peanut butter mixture, but everything was warm and pretty much poured itself into the pan. Now I just need to figure out how to loose the 20 lbs I'm going to gain eating these dang things...


1 tube refrigerated sugar cookie dough
1 bag caramels
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 stick butter or margarine
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter

Spread cookie dough in a greased 9x13 pan (I recommend glass pan). This is easiest done by slicing dough into even slices and placing in bottom of pan. Use your fingers to smush into an even layer. Bake at 350 degs for 18-22 minutes, or until edges slightly brown. Place in refrigerator for 15 - 30 minutes to cool.

In a medium saucepan over medium low heat, melt together caramels, sweetened condensed milk and butter. Bring to a low boil and remove from heat. Spread on cooled crust and refrigerate for one hour.

In a medium microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate chips and peanut butter. Microwave for 30 seconds, stir to mix well. Repeat as needed until everything is smooth. Spread over caramel layer and cool.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The (Un)Shampoo Bars from Great Cakes Soapworks

I am embarrassingly behind on posting about the rest of the soap I received from Great Cakes Soap Works. I posted my first review of the Sandalwood Goat Milk bar w-aaaaaa-y back in June, promised to post the reviews of the other three soaps that I bought, and then just disappeared.

I have attempted to write the reviews for the shampoo bars that I bought, and then completely deleted what I wrote. Several times.

Long story short: The shampoo bars didn't work for my hair and that was what I struggled with for an entire summer. Mid-August I finally admitted to myself that these shampoo bars weren't right for my hair. Sometimes that's how it goes. Hair is a fickle creature and getting away from commercial shampoo can be a challenge for anyone. Pantene has a good thing going. The search for the Perfect For Me shampoo bar continues!

On that note, I will be reviewing the shampoo bars as body bars. I only have pictures of the Coconut Honey Shampoo Bar because the Beer and Seaweed Bar pictures were on my other phone - which died a slow agonizing death in the Smoky Mountains this summer (better it than me).




Beer and Seaweed Ingredients: olive oil, coconut oil, beer, aloe vera juice, sodium hydroxide, castor oil, hemp oil avocado oil, patchouli essential oil, cedarwood essential oil, lemongrass essential oil, seaweed, rhaussoul clay, silk.


Coconut Honey Shampoo Bar Ingredients: olive oil, coconut oil, coconut milk, water, sodium hydroxide, castor oil, hemp oil, avocado oil, honey, rhaussoul clay, silk, and essential oils of orange, bitter almond, fir, litsea cubeba, and ylang ylang.


First Glance: The bars are round! (Does that make them no longer "bars"?) I love round soaps for their great hand fit. More soap should be round. Nothing extraordinary about the color, a very uniform natural and smooth soap. The Beer and Seaweed was the first that I tried. I loved the earthy smell of the seaweed and patchouli. In comparison the Coconut Honey Shampoo Bar was a very mild scented soap.


First Use: The beer and seaweed was difficult to lather, but once it started there was plenty of bubbles. When I used it for shampoo, my hair smelled strongly of patchouli (not a bad thing when in the presence of other patchouli lovers). Slight scent when used on body but not long-lasting. The coconut honey bar lathers quickly. No lingering scent for either hair or body.


Overall Thoughts: As mentioned, these didn't work for me as shampoo soaps. I did, however, order a second round of the Coconut Honey just to use as body soap!


Give these bars a try instead of your regular shampoo - even though they didn't work for me they might for you.


DisclaimerIn accordance to the FTC guidelines, I must state that I make no monetary gains from my reviews or endorsements here on Sherry's Stuff. All products I review are either purchased by me, given as a gift, won, or received in exchange for an honest review. 
 
 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Dirty Little Secrets

Soap currently in the witness protection program.
I have a secret.

Okay, it's not really a secret because everyone who knows me knows about it, we just don't talk about it. No one ever stages an intervention - they should, but they don't - they just let me do my thing.

I am an obsessive compulsive hoarder.

You knew that already. What was it that gave me away?

My 130+ TBR shelf?

My 12k+ Pinterest Boards?

My lists and half finished projects?

My discarded hobbies?

My latest obsession has been growing over the course of two years. It's so bad that I have a secret  Pinterest board for it. I have two shoe boxes in my bathroom closet to hide it. When we had The Diva's birthday party a few weeks ago, I spent hours stashing stuff cleaning up so my extended family wouldn't see it. Because of all my obsessions, this one I'm the most embarrassed about.
The shower rack. A total of eight soaps currently in play, plus one muslin bag filled with soap scraps.

I love soap. I love to smell soap. I love to use soap. I love to make soap.
My bathroom sink: A lovely charcoal shea butter bar, a lavender spa bar, and a little piece left of the lavender clay bar I sell in the store.

But seriously... how am I gonna ever use up all this soap?

 

 


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Panda Bear Cupcakes

The Diva turned 8 in October. That means time for the great Cupcake Challenge. The Diva picks a theme and I have to come up with a brilliant cupcake to go with it.


Since we started the Cupcake Challenge, we have had:
2011: Tinkerbell
2013: Puppies. I forfeited this one and we bought a bakery cake. I know.
2014: Frozen. I did make cupcakes but they were so lame that they weren't even picture worthy. Just picture a blue cupcake, a pile of white frosting with a single large shimmery purple gumball placed on top. The kids loved it - cake! gum! - but it just wasn't Challenge worthy.


So 2015 was the tie breaker year. I knew it was going to be hard. I knew in her little evil Diva heart, she was going to stump me.


She was so close. I literally put the plan together the day before the party.


My inspiration cupcakes were here, but they were mini cupcakes. I knew I was going to have to think bigger to pull it off. Well, here's what I came up with.


I love them. The Diva loved them. And they were so easy. Seriously, from cake mixing to finished decorating was an hour. There are a few things I would change and they are noted here.


2015 Cupcake Challenge success! The losing streak is over!


24 cupcakes, 2 cups mini Oreos, 1 bag M&Ms, 1 bag mini baking Kisses, 1 tub frosting (see notes below), 1 bottle sanding sugar, and 1 fine-tip tube black frosting (see notes below).
Frost cupcakes and dip into sanding sugar.
Split Oreos and place in eye positions.
Secure brown M&M's to Oreo cookie.
Place Hershey Kisses for ears and nose. Add mouth with black frosting (not shown).
Tools:
Large frosting tip (optional) and frosting bag


Supplies:
24 baked cupcakes (I used a confetti cake mix and dressed it up with milk and real butter)
1 tub vanilla / white frosting [hindsight: I would make a large batch of homemade, or use 2 tubs]
2-4 TBSP powdered sugar (optional)
White sanding sugar
mini Oreos (I used about 1-1/2 "To Go Cups" shown here)
M&M's - you only need the brown ones. I had barely [heh] enough from one bag
Mini Hershey Kisses - I found these in the baking aisle, bonus that they came unwrapped!
Black gel frosting [hindsight: use chocolate or black non-gel next time. within a few hours the gel frosting had started to bleed into the sugar crystals so our pandas had cute little beards]


Assembly:
If using tub frosting, I recommend mixing it up with 2 TBSP powdered sugar per tub. This stiffens up the frosting so that it holds to the cupcake a bit better. If using homemade, make sure frosting is nice and stiff.


Frost cupcakes. I used a large Wilton 2A tip, but you can just plop it on with a spoon. It isn't going to matter how it looks as long as it covers the entire cupcake. Notice that some of mine are not completely covered as I was running out of frosting, and I only have 22 cupcakes as a result.


This next part is kind of scary the first time you do it, but trust me, it's easy. Pour the white sanding sugar into a shallow wide mouthed bowl. Invert frosted cupcake and gently press into the sugar. This will smooth out your frosting and make your panda sparkley. (Trust me, Divas looooove sparkley!)


Place two frosting dots (I used the black gel because I was out of white) towards the top of the cupcake. Split two mini Oreos, keeping the frosted half and placing it on the frosting dot. Place another frosting dot on each Oreo frosting and place a brown M&M. See what you did there? You just made Panda eyes! For fun I made the eyes looking in different directions - up, down, cross-eyed, you get the idea.


Take two mini Hershey Kisses, turn them so that the flat side is up. Press them into the side of the cupcake above the eyes (at about 1 & 11 o'clock) to make panda ears. Take one Hershey Kiss on its side with the flat side towards the eyes and the pointy side towards the bottom of the face. It's a perfect chocolate bear nose - yummy!


Using the black / chocolate frosting, make a swoopy "W" shape for the mouth. Make sure the middle of the "W" is longer and goes up to the point of the nose.


And that is how you win a panda bear cupcake challenge!







Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Dawn of NaNoWriMo 2015

Here it is... the dawn of NaNoWriMo 2015. Day One. I have spent weeks pushing as much off my plate as I could. I have tried to make my life as simple as possible for this month. I'd like to apologize to my kids in advance for macncheese being on the menu twice every week. Hopefully I come out the other side with a finished manuscript.

One Word

Sunday
Sleeve
She stood up from the pile of leaves. Her face was sternly set. She wasn’t laughing any more. He reached out to pull a leaf from her hair, her sleeve, and he wanted to pull her close. He wanted to kiss her, but that’s what had driven her out of the leaf pile to start with.


Tuesday
Anatomy
The body has a system. A set appearance. An anatomy of systems. This is a dumb word. What is this? grey’s anatomy. what makes up stuff. be your anatomy.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Shari's Handcrafted Soap

This summer I joined a soapmaker's forum and it's been "interesting". I mostly use the forum from an android app on my phone. One day I happened to be on the laptop when I noticed that some (most) of the users have signature lines. Some of them even have links to their soapy blogs and / or ... gasp!... the website where they sell soap! Insert excited little girl scream here.

I chose my first seller carefully. I wanted to buy from someone who not only seemed knowledgeable and open minded, but also was nice about giving advice, criticism, and corrections on the forum. I finally chose Shari's Handcrafted Soap - having the same name helped!

I hopped onto her website and immediately put one of every bar she had into my cart. Reality handed me a big fat check upside the head, so I geeked out on her website for a week before choosing which bars I would buy. I convinced myself I could narrow the list to four, I put five in my cart, and at the last minute I added a note to Shari that I found her website through the forum and my own user name.


When my box arrived, there were six bars, a shower poofy, and two lip balms! Oh lovely lovely handmade soap and lip balms! The Diva and I oohed and aahhed over the box for a good hour, then she grabbed one of the lip balms for herself and dashed off to do whatever divas do when their mom is distracted by pretty soap.


Shari's lip balm: I didn't get to try The Diva's Gooey Caramel lip balm - but she told me it is "utterly divine". She has it stashed in her school bag and I see her with it several times a day, so it must be good! The lip balm I managed to keep for myself is margarita flavored and isn't on Shari's website. I'm not sure if that means it's an obsoleted flavor or a new one - I have to make a note to ask because I love it and I'm going to be sad if I can't buy another one (or ten) now that it's gone. Aside from the flavor, the balm has great glide and staying power. My lips feel instantly soothed and softened. I will definitely be checking out her other flavored lip balms (Pizza! Rootbeer Float!) to tuck into the kids' Christmas stockings.

Sometimes toughing out the drama on a special interest forum is a good thing. I know using Shari's soaps and lip balm have been a special little treat for me that I wouldn't have found otherwise.

Disclaimer

In accordance to the FTC guidelines, I must state that I make no monetary gains from my reviews or endorsements here on Sherry's Stuff. All products I review are either purchased by me, given as a gift, won, or received in exchange for an honest review.


Saturday, October 24, 2015

One Word

So while you're all waiting for the next book or soap review, here's something to keep yourself entertained.


One Word. As I'm prepping for NaNoWriMo - writing up my plot outlines, scene outlines, psyching myself up to actually do it, and getting the rest of my life in order so crap doesn't fall apart - I'm also putting my brain into writing mode. Just getting some darn words on paper and not editing myself to the point of NOT writing.


The idea is simple. One random word. 60 seconds to write about it. Try it - I'd love to see your One Word in the comments!


Thursday
Styled:
Kayde couldn't hide behind anonymity. Her looks, her voice, her actions were carefully styled to make her stand out. She wasn't meant to be normal. She wasn't meant to fit in.


Friday
Past:
She couldn’t move past it. The hurt was too raw. The horror was too mind numbingly real. She had seen his eyes, open, heard his cries. She had watched the truck fill up with water. She hadn’t found the wrench fast enough.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Sugar Queen

The Sugar QueenThe Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There's something magical about the way Sarah Addison Allen writes. Her characters and the magic within them create beautiful stories. Stories you want to read in one night, stories you don't want to end.

Summary: Twenty-seven-year-old Josey Cirrini is sure of three things: winter in her North Carolina hometown is her favorite season, she’s a sorry excuse for a Southern belle, and sweets are best eaten in the privacy of her hidden closet. For while Josey has settled into an uneventful life in her mother’s house, her one consolation is the stockpile of sugary treats and paperback romances she escapes to each night…. Until she finds it harboring none other than local waitress Della Lee Baker, a tough-talking, tenderhearted woman who is one part nemesis—and two parts fairy godmother…

Fleeing a life of bad luck and big mistakes, Della Lee has decided Josey’s clandestine closet is the safest place to crash. In return she’s going to change Josey’s life—because, clearly, it is not the closet of a happy woman. With Della Lee’s tough love, Josey is soon forgoing pecan rolls and caramels, tapping into her startlingly keen feminine instincts, and finding her narrow existence quickly expanding.

Before long, Josey bonds with Chloe Finley, a young woman who makes the best sandwiches in town, is hounded by books that inexplicably appear whenever she needs them, and—most amazing of all—has a close connection to Josey’s longtime crush.

As little by little Josey dares to step outside herself, she discovers a world where the color red has astonishing power, passion can make eggs fry in their cartons, and romance can blossom at any time—even for her. It seems that Della Lee’s work is done, and it’s time for her to move on. But the truth about where she’s going, why she showed up in the first place—and what Chloe has to do with it all—is about to add one more unexpected chapter to Josey’ s fast-changing life.

Brimming with warmth, wit, and a sprinkling of magic, here is a spellbinding tale of friendship, love—and the enchanting possibilities of every new day.

Recommended Reading:

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen
The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Stress Relief Bar from Great Cakes Soapworks

The Stress Relief bar was one of the free samples in my first Great Cakes Soap Works order. I used the small soap ball as a facial bar. I didn't notice a scent at the time, but loved the feel of the bar. Curious to try a whole bar, I added two of them to my second order.

I'm glad I did. The Diva went through my soap stash one night and found one of the bars. She took a big whiff of it, proclaimed it hers and to the upstairs bathroom it went. Once there, The Spawn claimed a co-ownership of the bar. After that, there was no way I was getting my hands on that soap. See? Good thing I ordered two.

Ingredients: tallow, olive oil, coconut oil, water, sodium hydroxide, shea butter, castor oil, cocoa butter, essential oils of eucalyptus, spearmint & peppermint, sodium lactate, and dried peppermint leaves.


First Glance: This is a brilliantly white bar studded with peppermint leaves. One deep whiff of this bar makes me think of starlight mints. The eucalyptus is a very mild background scent - my kids only notice the mint. This bar is bigger than the Sandalwood - or at least it seems that way. I looked at my notes and it seems that they're the same size... but for some reason the Stress Relief bar feels heavier and looks like a bigger cut bar.


First Use: Creamy bubbles abound with this soap bar. I think this bar may have a higher lye discount, because it feels super moisturizing. The mint essential oils are not overpowering and did not cause any skin sensitivity. Very refreshing to use as a face wash. Amy doesn't advertise it as an acne bar, but it did dry out and heal up a recent seasonal acne breakout without stripping moisture out my face.


Overall Thoughts: My kids and I are both loving this soap in our showers. An eucalyptus mint dupe is going onto my What To Soap Next list. In the meantime, we'll continue to use and buy Amy's awesome soap.


DisclaimerIn accordance to the FTC guidelines, I must state that I make no monetary gains from my reviews or endorsements here on Sherry's Stuff. All products I review are either purchased by me, given as a gift, won, or received in exchange for an honest review.



Friday, October 9, 2015

The Replacement

The ReplacementThe Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I put off reading this book for awhile - I was interested in it enough to want to read it, but at the same time repulsed by the idea of the book. While I was looking for something for The Duder to read, I picked up this book and committed myself to reading it. I'm glad I did and I hope that TD will read it too.

It's a strong character driven story, we're given a clear view of the protagonist and the antagonist is hearsay and acts until almost the end of the story when she is finally a character. I loved that aspect - we knew who we were against, but the struggle was to get our hands on her! loved it.

I also enjoyed not getting fed an entire history of being for the strange creatures that live under Gentry, or even a definition of what they really are. It let my imagination fill in the details (I pictured them very Tim Burton-ish) and the story wasn't held to any rules - as often happens with creatures (such as vampires, werewolves, fairies, etc).

There is some strong language (about 10 instances of the "F" word), sexual references, and teenage alcohol use, however I feel that this is not out of context with the story line (read: situational and not gratuitous) or real teenagers.

Looking forward to reading more from this author.



 Summary: Mackie Doyle is not one of us. Though he lives in the small town of Gentry, he comes from a world of tunnels and black murky water, a world of living dead girls ruled by a little tattooed princess. He is a Replacement, left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago. Now, because of fatal allergies to iron, blood, and consecrated ground, Mackie is fighting to survive in the human world.

Mackie would give anything to live among us, to practice on his bass or spend time with his crush, Tate. But when Tate's baby sister goes missing, Mackie is drawn irrevocably into the underworld of Gentry, known as Mayhem. He must face the dark creatures of the Slag Heaps and find his rightful place, in our world, or theirs.



Recommended Reading:
Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
Torment by Lauren Kate
Matched by Ally Condie
Crescendo (Hush, Hush Saga #2) by Becca Fitzpatrick
Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia
Radiance by Alyson Noël

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

October-ish

October is here. Oc.to.ber. Also known as The Month of Pumpkin Everything.

It's crazy how fast life is moving these days. It seems like just last week I was just prepping the deck and yard for summer, and now it's time to put everything away to bundle up for another winter on the prairie.

The leaves are slowly changing color, slowly falling from the trees. Soon this will pick up the pace, one day the trees will be clothed in beautiful yellow, orange and dusky red, and then the next they'll be bare, exposed branches. We've had unseasonably warm weather here, and I've been enjoying it. I've spent more time in my yard during September and (so far) October than I did all of the summer.



I'm still struggling with This Girl. She creeps in when I least expect it, I can only turn myself inwards, breathe, and try not to hurt anyone with my broken pieces. I am not healing, I am not fighting back, I am only surviving at this point.


Anxiety has been killing me since August. Every day I seemed to be wound up in knots, my thoughts and emotions like fallen leaves blowing across the yard. Whirling around and around with no destination. I'm working on getting rid of this anxiety, but sometimes setting up the boundaries and saying no umpteen million times creates a lot of short term anxiety itself. Most of my anxiety is caused by other people thinking I'm available at the drop of a hat or not respecting my time. I'm over it. I need my life back. I need to enjoy these things that I'm doing.


I have several goals through October.
  1. Continue managing my anxiety (or if not managing it at least being cognizant to recognize when anxiety could influence my behavior and gracefully excusing myself to a better place), boundaries, and keeping my to do list proportional to reality.
  2. Read three books. I seriously let the TBR list get out of control this year. Three books really isn't going to make much of a dent in that stack, but it will make me feel better about goal #3.
  3. Finish prepping for NaNoWriMo. This year I am not reading in November. I am consciously choosing to not read. This hasn't happened in a decade. I have always had a book started, a book I'm struggling through, or a book that I'm blatantly ignoring in favor of Netflix. I am not reading in November. Instead I'm going to really do NaNoWriMo. No more of this moaning about never finishing my manuscript. It's getting done. I'm going to take all that stuff that I struggled to learn in my college class and put it to work in October so I can sit down and just write. Write and finish.
I have a few other small goals around the house, but they're just "blah blah blah". Little projects that once I sit down and do them I can easily knock out in an hour here and there.


October is going to be a month of renewal for me, I can feel it.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Patchouli Soap From Shari's Handcrafted Soap


1995 called and they miss me. I've been madly in love with anything Patchouli (and Sandalwood) all summer. It's been taking me back to my incense burning high school days. The colors in this soap are just an awesome tribute to Autumn, earthiness, representing a time to just settle and gather yourself (returning my inner hippie to her box in the corner) so I thought this would be a great time to try the Patchouli Soap from Shari's Handcrafted Soap out.

Ingredients: Olive Oil, Distilled Water, Coconut Oil, Palm Oil, Sodium Hydroxide, Buttermilk, Unrefined Shea Butter, Castor Oil, Palm Kernel Oil, Fragrance, Sodium Lactate, Skin Safe Mica, & Tussah Silk

First Glance: This bar is stinking huge! I didn't even look at the bar weight when I ordered, but when I took the bar out of the box I was floored by the size. It's manageable for small adult hands, but it's a thick cut bar with a good weight to it. The website says it's 5 ounces, but I'd guess that's a general minimum. I didn't weigh it to check. Packaged in stiff heat shrink with two open ends for sniffing capabilities, I could see most of the bar even with the two stick-on labels on the front and back.

 
The soap itself is lovely. Beautiful swirls that made me think of falling leaves blowing across my yard. The colors are solid and consistent, no graininess or unmixed color blobs in the swirls. The bar had a very glossy sheen and beautiful planed edges.
 

First Use: The soap lathered immediately with big luxurious bubbles. The bar is super hard, so there wasn't much change at all to the appearance of the soap. I was kind of disappointed in the smell - it didn't seem very "Patchouli" to me. I had to work to really pick out that scent. It almost seemed like there was a light citrus and powder scent covering up the patchouli. I do like the scent, it just wasn't what I wanted from a patchouli soap. No lingering scent after showering - which is ok and expected.




Overall Thoughts: This is a great soap, and while the scent wasn't what I expected, I am still ecstatic with my purchase from Shari's Handcrafted Soap. I look forward to using the other five bars that I bought from her. (Reviews coming! I promise!)





Disclaimer

In accordance to the FTC guidelines, I must state that I make no monetary gains from my reviews or endorsements here on Sherry's Stuff. All products I review are either purchased by me, given as a gift, won, or received in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Sweetheart of Prosper County

The Sweetheart of Prosper CountyThe Sweetheart of Prosper County by Jill S. Alexander
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was very easy to fall into. It was a well written story with characters, plot, struggle and resolution. I appreciated the spiritual aspects featured in the book - and if this was written as a YA Christian book, it was very REAL. This book didn't preach, it talked about boobs, and boyfriends, and squishy feelings. It also talked about prayer and letting God be God. I would have no problems loaning this book to any of my Youth Group kids - which is probably the first time I have said that about a Young Adult book, EVER.

This is the author's first book and I'm looking forward to adding more of her books to my reading list.



Synopsis: Almost-15-year-old Austin Gray is tired of standing at the curb and watching the parade pass her by. Literally. She decides this is the year she’ll ride on the hood of a shiny pickup truck in the annual parade, waving to the crowd and finally showing the town bully that she’s got what it takes to be the Sweetheart of Prosper County.
 But far from simply being a beauty contest, becoming Sweetheart involves participation in the Future Farmers of America (FFA), raising an animal, and hunting or fishing. Austin will do almost anything to become Sweetheart, and has the support of her oldest friend, Maribel, her new FFA friends (including the reigning Sweetheart, and a quiet, cute cowboy), an evangelical Elvis impersonator, a mysterious Cajun outcast, and a rooster named Charles Dickens. If only her momma would stop overprotecting her, and start letting Austin live her own life. But Austin can’t move on until Momma moves on, too—and lets the grief of losing Austin’s daddy several years before out into the open.
 Here is a bighearted story that will leave readers agreeing with Austin that sometimes, it’s not what you ride, it’s how you roll.


Recommended Reading:
North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley
Pop by Gordon Korman
All the Broken Pieces by Ann E. Burg
Donut Days by Lara Zielin
Prophecy of the Sisters… by Michelle Zink
Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our StarsThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I am completely underwhelmed. Did I miss something? What was the plot of this book? What was the struggle? What was the flaw to be overcome? This book had no point, no purpose, other than to host a couple cute sentences of dialogue and few zingy one-liners. The only compliment I can pay to this book is that the sentence structure and word choice were well done.



Summary: Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten.







Monday, September 21, 2015

A Game of Thrones

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1)A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I got sucked into the hype, I'll admit it. It was enjoyable and I look forward to the next books. The story is told from multiple view points - each chapter is a new character clearly marked so that there is no guessing (I like that). The overall story voice was very static, not much changed in rhythm or word structure to indicate a new voice, although characters were very strong in action and thought. Plot was strong, action was strong, a beautiful weaving together of fantasy and medieval history into a world we can make sense of but yet a new place with history and traditions (and stories!) to be discovered. It was difficult to find the protagonist and antagonist in the story - until I realized it isn't one person against another, it's family against family. There are loveable characters - characters to cry for and laugh with. Characters to fall madly in love with or shake them from their stupidity. This book is very strongly anchored in many of the things that secure a strong series, and I'm glad I fell into the hype.



Synopsis: Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. To the south, the king’s powers are failing—his most trusted adviser dead under mysterious circumstances and his enemies emerging from the shadows of the throne. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the frozen land they were born to. Now Lord Eddard Stark is reluctantly summoned to serve as the king’s new Hand, an appointment that threatens to sunder not only his family but the kingdom itself.

Sweeping from a harsh land of cold to a summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, A Game of Thrones tells a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens. Here an enigmatic band of warriors bear swords of no human metal; a tribe of fierce wildlings carry men off into madness; a cruel young dragon prince barters his sister to win back his throne; a child is lost in the twilight between life and death; and a determined woman undertakes a treacherous journey to protect all she holds dear. Amid plots and counter-plots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, allies and enemies, the fate of the Starks hangs perilously in the balance, as each side endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.


Recommended Reading:
A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin
The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Soapmaker's Companion

The Soapmaker's Companion: A Comprehensive Guide with Recipes, Techniques & Know-HowThe Soapmaker's Companion: A Comprehensive Guide with Recipes, Techniques & Know-How by Susan Miller Cavitch
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a source of great information - there's lots of it, from technique to science. It was a bit dry and hard to follow at times. Recipes are for large batch. Must read it again to take notes for some of the chemistry breakdown. No photos, pictures are hand drawn (note: this is an old book, published over 20 years ago), no relevant information for internet suppliers, etc.

Summary: Basic soapmaking instruction and specialty techniques like marbling, layering, and making transparent and liquid soaps.

Monday, August 10, 2015

I Was Kidnapped

True story.

You haven't seen or heard from me because I was kidnapped by this crazy thing called life. And I don't mean talk-to-yourself-in-the-grocery-store crazy, I'm talking axe-wielding-sociopath-stalker crazy.

It has been insane around here.

Hopefully in the coming weeks I'll get back to a regular writing and reading schedule.
 
I went to India. I came back from India.
 
I swore off dating. Then I got a boyfriend. [I am NOT going to win the lottery. Repeat: Not.Winning.The.Lottery.]
 
I started a college writing class.
My laptop died. Along with it all of the writing I had done since 2012.
 

There was a firework mishap that resulted in three stitches at the ER. Scariest mom moment ever.
My baby went off to summer camp.
 
I went to Tennessee for a week.
I did a 3 mile hike in the Smokies - half of it in the pouring rain.
I finished my first 5k.
 
Replaced the laptop.
I conquered my fear of power tools and finally put the handles on my built-in.
Painted 89% of my back deck (floor).
Made a bunch of soap.
Got a solid handle on my housekeeping. (Don't look upstairs.)
Started but haven't finished yet the youth group room at the new church.
 
Finished my  college writing class.
 
I have two weeks until the CofC head off to school. Two weeks of absolutely nothing. Seriously, no one is going to kidnap these two weeks from me. If I'm doing something, it's what I want to do. I'm gonna read some books out on the deck. And go rollerskating. And work on my manuscript outline. And pull the weeds around my house. Tonight, I'm washing my floors. And I am so excited!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

That Girl


I have been thinking about the girl in this photo a lot the last few weeks. This is me almost exactly a year ago, June 21, 2014, but yet it's not me. I've been a lot of different people since this photo was taken.

That Girl had been hurt, but healed. That Girl didn't think she could hurt any more. She'd been bruised, but had never had her skin broken. That Girl was still trusting and believed in happy endings.

Six months later, That Girl was cracked wide open. She became The Other Girl - the hurt one. The crying one. The one that couldn't move, couldn't breathe. The one who didn't want to go on, didn't think she could go on. So she didn't.

The Other Girl became This Girl. The angry one. The one who doesn't think she'll trust again. The one who only expects to be hurt. The one who is afraid that love doesn't believe in her.

I'm not sure what to do with This Girl. Do I embrace her as a family member or start charging her rent?