New Digs and New Routines

My blogging mojo flew the coop for awhile. In the days leading up to the move, I didn’t really have anything to write about. We were laying low and heading home after work. Even our weekends were fairly mellow. Plus, there was stress. Since I don’t like to use this space for venting, I didn’t want to come to the keyboard feeling out of sorts.

So I took a break and let things simmer. I think I’m ready to get back in the routine, but bear with me. I need to find my blogging feet again.

The good news? We’re in our new apartment! We stretched the move itself over a full week. Because of the way things worked out, we got the keys to the new apartment on July 7 but didn’t have to give the keys to the old one back until July 12. Jon and I spent every evening after work unloading the car in Manhattan, unpacking boxes, then loading the car back up again in Wamego. It was an exhausting process.

On Friday, I took the day off to finish emptying and cleaning the old apartment. This meant a total of twelve trips up and down three flights of stairs. I was in pain the rest of the weekend, but honestly? It was worth it to be able to say that I could do it. Our last move was horrible for me, so I was happy that this time around I could actually be of use.

We had some helpers that evening, and even though we’d planned to continue the move on Saturday, we didn’t need to do much. All of our boxes and furniture were moved before 9pm Friday night, and the only thing we did on Saturday was send Jon and two of our helpers back to finish cleaning and to grab our last few storage items.

I tried resting up on Saturday since I was doing the Relay for Life that night, but those stair trips took their toll, and the pain was a little more than I was prepared for. I did make it to the event for a few hours though, but I ended up leaving early. Between the pain and the heat and the exhaustion, I wasn’t feeling well.

Sunday was dedicated to unpacking the rest of what we could and having our new neighbors (but old friends) down to visit for a little while. Since we’d done so much throughout the week, unpacking was pretty easy. Everything found a “home” except for some books and wall hangings, and that’s only because we need a bookshelf and some command strips, both of which are waiting until they fit into the budget.

So much cabinet space...and this is just one small corner of our kitchen.

So much cabinet space…and this is just one small corner of our kitchen.

I love our new place. When we saw it the first time, we took into account the fact that it was smaller than our old place, so we figured that once the furniture was in, things would be a little cramped. Not the case at all. In fact, we have way more room than we’d originally thought we had, as well as more storage space than we’d anticipated.

It’s comfortable and cozy. The shower water doesn’t run different temperatures, we have a ton of stuff within walking distance, and coming home for lunch is pretty great…other than the fact that I don’t necessarily want to leave once I’m here. For the first time in a long time, I’m looking forward to having people over, and I can’t wait to bake in our nice, big kitchen.

Now that the move is over, it’s time to try to get back into my routine and get going on projects that I’ve been procrastinating. I’m still settling in and work has been busy, so it’s been somewhat of a challenge, but I think in a few weeks things should feel more settled on the homefront. Which is really good, because the rest of the summer is going to be busy with travel and social times.

A.

 

Influenster Review: #GoProFoot Products

Between moving and binge reading, I’ve done a little procrastinating on the review and blogging front, but I finally got the chance to try out my ProFoot products, sent to me from Influenster…complimentary, of course…for testing purposes.

Let’s start with the ProFoot Orthotic Insole. I’ve had some rotten luck with insoles in the past, so I tend not to use them. I’m always up for trying something new, though, and I have to say…these are by far the best one’s I’ve ever tried. They were super comfortable and I found a distinct lack of knee and back pain after walking with them a couple times. My favorite aspect? The fact that they don’t stretch all the way to the toe, which meant I had plenty of wiggle room.

Shoes meet ProFoot!

Shoes meet ProFoot!

Because I’m not used to insoles, I did have a little bit of a fitting issue with them, but I have a weird size, and I think I could taylor them a little better in the future.

The second product was the ProFoot Pedi-Rock. First thing to note about this little guy…he’s squishy. I was expecting something a little firmer. However, he felt great on my feet when I gave myself my own personal foot massage.

A different kind of pumice stone.

A different kind of pumice stone.

The squishy part allows the rock to conform to the angles and curves of the foot. It made my feet super soft and just felt good on them. I highly recommend using this after a shower when you’re feet area already softened from the water, but you can use it on wet or dry skin.

These are good quality products and ones I plan on using and purchasing in the future. A huge thanks to ProFoot and Influenster for giving me the chance to try these out.

A.

The Evolution of Romance Novels

Warning: there are going to be some touchy subjects in this post. Trigger warnings: rape, kidnapping, abuse.

I love romance novels. They can be cheesy and overdone, and a lot of historical romances read like a soap opera. I’m still a sucker for them. Recently, I decided to go back and read all of the books written by one of my favorite authors in the order they were written/published.

I didn’t expect her earlier ones to be great. Most authors get better over time. As far as writing, characterization, and melodrama were concerned, the first two in her portfolio were as I expected. Not great, but still readable, with a few moments that I enjoyed.

What I had forgotten about (having read these books when I was much younger) was the use of kidnapping and rape as a route to romance. The first one was Stockholm Syndrome all the way. The heroine is kidnapped and forced to submit to her kidnapper because he wants her. But it’s okay, because even though she tells him ‘no,’ her body wants it (riiigghht). And after a hundred pages of shame and anger, suddenly, she’s in love with him. Because that’s how it works (heavy dose of snark there).

The second book is another Stockholm Syndrome love story, but the rape is more blatant in this one. In fact, it happens repeatedly. The word rape is used at least twenty times in the book. And then boom…the heroine is like “Whut? I ain’t mad.” At one point, she even says something along the lines of “Well, yeah, he raped me. But he didn’t kill anyone, so it’s okay.”

Yes, I’m taking the stories out of the context of the time they were written. Yes, I’m overlooking the fact that they fall into the category of “bodice ripper” romance, which apparently is all about the man taking control and using force to show the woman how desirable she is because he can’t help himself. Reading other reviews of these books, I found that many people were disgusted at the material. Others were very much of the mind that these were written in a different time and can still be enjoyed as a work of fiction.

Dude, you're in the middle of a field. But some pants on!

Dude, you’re in the middle of a field. Put some pants on!

These novels were also considered “historical romance.” So even if the time they were written wasn’t reflective of that time period, is this justified by the fact that during the time period it was set in, those things were common? These books weren’t without their “sweet” moments, but it wasn’t always easy to get over how someone could go from hate and anger to love and acceptance that quickly.

These books were published in the late 70s and very early 80s. I also read some novels from the mid-80s (different authors). There wasn’t any rape in these ones, but the chauvinistic male was prevalent.  In one novel, the man told the woman constantly that she was his…within the first day of meeting her. When she told him she wasn’t interested, he continued to seduce her. Which, okay, I suppose the whole “winning her over” thing was supposed to be romantic. But there was a distinct lack of respect for the woman’s boundaries.

In another one, the man verbally berates the woman to get a reaction out of her. He never apologizes. Once she agrees to date him, he refuses to allow her to do much of anything else. She can’t talk to her other male friends. She can’t go out without him. She pretty much as to let him know what she does and does not do. Yet in the end, she’s fallen in love with him, can’t live without him, blah blah blah. He never changed at all, but we’re supposed to believe that she’s going to be happy with him.

In some ways, those books were more offensive to me than the others.

There has definitely been an evolution in romance novels though. I’m not saying there aren’t still horrible ones out there that make the woman seem weak or stupid, but with regards to even the aforementioned author, her later books involve strong women who give as good as they get. They also feature women who aren’t “the most beautiful creature on earth,” but instead have something else that wins the hero: kindness, a sense of humor, etc. The heros are no longer “I take what I want” types, but gentlemen who might steal a kiss or two (which is still frowned upon…I know), but they keep it in their pants until things get consensual.

I’m not trying to make a statement about rape culture or feminism in this post. I just think it’s interesting the way literature reflects certain views of the time, possibly without meaning to. I read all kinds of things, so it’s hard to offend me, but I understand that many people wouldn’t be able to get past the scenes in these novels.

I’m reading the third book published by the author, and I’m fifty pages in with no rape of the heroine (though there has been rape of other characters…like in the opening scene). There has also been some dismemberment. The tone of this one is much darker…I’m not even sure how this is going to turn into a romance at this point.

If you’re interested in seeing the books I’m talking about, you can follow me on Goodreads. I’m also interested to hear what other people have to say on the subject.

Do you guys like bodice rippers or do you find them offensive?

A.

 

Worst Date Contest and “Almost Royalty” Release

A few months back, I read and reviewed Almost Royalty by Courtney Hamilton. I really enjoyed it, so I was excited when Courtney asked me to take part in her Worst Date Ever Blog Tour. The problem? I didn’t date much and so couldn’t remember a really bad date. I had a few bad nights in my wild college days, but as far as bad dates? Nothing to catalogue.

Luckily, I was able to still take part by hosting the contest on this blog and inviting my readers and friends to submit their worst date ever stories. Read on to find out how to enter…then get the book. And read it! – A. 

Courtney Hamilton’s “Worst Date Ever” Contest (U.S. Only)

Worst Date Ever Pic 2

Courtney Hamilton is giving away a $10 Amazon Gift Card and a signed copy of her novel, Almost Royalty, to the top 5 winners! To enter, all you have to do is tell her:

What is your “Worst Date Ever” experience? Share your story in the comment section below.Worst Date Ever Pic

Courtney will personally read every participant’s entry and pick the top 5 best stories. The winners will be announced through Courtney’s Facebook page, Twitter, and blog. This contest will hosted on various blogs, social media sites, and forums.

In honor of the “Worst Date Ever” contest, Courtney is also having a Velveeta Kindle Special. For a limited time, Almost Royalty is only $2.99 for the Kindle. Download the novel here: Amazon Kindle Store.

Participating Websites: Want your blog to host future giveaways? Contact Amanda at alarson@ftpublishers.com. The full list of participants in Courtney’s “Worst Date Ever” Contest is available on her blog at: Eco Chain of Dating

Courtney Hamilton’s Worst Date Story:

I went to a party and met this guy—he was 31-32—I was 17.  The guy called me and asked me to come to dinner at his “new house” and—could I bring a friend? I begged my roommate to come with me and told her that it was going to be a fun, sophisticated evening with “older guys” and a “special meal” in their brand “new house.”   We had to drive over an hour and a half to get to there.  When we got to the address, there wasn’t a house there—it was just the wooden frame of house, just the skeleton, on a cement foundation—this was the “new house.”  I walked around the back and the guy and his friend were sitting around a cement fire pit with a six-pack of beer. The guy said, “You thought we were going to make dinner or something?” My roommate and I left in about 90 seconds. I don’t think she ever forgave me.    

Terms and Conditions for Entry Eligibility

No purchase necessary to enter. Sponsored by Forrest Thompson Publishers. Giveaway ends June 16, 2014 at 11:59 PM (PST). Open to U.S. Residents only. 18+ years of age. Void where prohibited. Winners will be announced on Courtney Hamilton’s blog at http://www.Ecochainofdating.com/blog. Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or their winnings will be forfeited. By entering the giveaway, you give Courtney Hamilton and Forrest Thompson Publishers permission to repost your story or recite it in a video for media purposes. Forrest Thompson Publishers reserves the right to withdraw or terminate this contest at any time without prior notice.

 

Road Trip To Texas

This blog will take a little more of a personal turn than the last one did. Since Dallas Comic Con is a huge thing, I wanted to give that recap its own space. However, there were other parts of the trip that happened, and I wanted to give them a little bit of air time too.

We left after work on Thursday with the plan to stop halfway and stay the night somewhere. The drive was nice. We listened to Welcome to Nightvale, which is weird and random enough to be enjoyable for both of us. We also got to use our fancy new K-Tag through the tolls. Up until recently, you had to buy the K-Tag and then buy the tolls as well, but since we didn’t travel enough to actually warrant a tag, we never got one. At the Kansas Sampler Fest, they had a booth. As it so happens, K-Tags are now free! When you sign up, they take your debit information and take a monthly payment based on how many tolls you use. If you don’t use at least $10 in a month, it rolls over to the next month. Since that was definitely more our speed, we signed up.

We stopped in Oklahoma for some Braum’s (because I love Braum’s and we don’t have one here), then kept on until we found a hotel. We had no luck in Guthrie and then we almost had no luck in Edmond. I’d wanted to use some of my Wyndham points for a free night, but it didn’t happen because there were no Wyndham hotels where we stopped. Yes, I know I failed to plan, but I wasn’t entirely sure when we’d be ready to get off the road. We stopped later than I wanted to anyway, and most hotels were booked. We found one empty room at a Hampton Inn and paid way more money than we wanted for it. But now we’re Hilton rewards members, so we might be able to use that to our advantage at some point in the future.

The room was comfortable and we were back on the road earlier than we’d anticipated. In fact, the second part of our drive was a lot shorter than we’d planned for. Besides the fact that road construction wasn’t horrible, we were also driving during a low traffic time. There was only one place in Fort Worth where traffic slowed to a crawl and it didn’t last long.

Our first day was spent visiting with family, eating at local restaurants, and grabbing a couple geocaches in the area (which meant we scored our Texas souvenir…whoo!). Our second day was Dallas Comic Con and a trip to Whataburger.

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We left early Sunday morning and made the long trek back to Kansas. However, we got in a couple roadside stops. In Davis, Oklahoma, we stopped at a place that makes fried pies. Think hostess snack pies, but better. I got a cherry pie and Jon got pecan. We passed another one up near Tonkawa. In hindsight, I kind of wished we’d stopped again. They were so good! We also stopped at a local diner in Blackwell, OK to have lunch. The regular fast food joints get old after awhile, and we usually find great food at good prices at the local places.

We actually made good time getting back home, but I was tired and sore for a few days after from walking around the convention and from sitting for so many hours driving. It was a blast though, and I’m glad we made it down. Road trip season has started, and this was a great way to kick things off.

A.

Dallas Comic Con 2014

The weekend before last, Jon and I took a mini road trip to Texas for Dallas Comic Con. My brother-in-law invited us a couple months ago and scored passes for us, so we couldn’t resist. The drive is a longish one…eight hours to Burleson, where we stayed with family, and then another hour to Dallas for the con. It was well worth it!

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We made sure to get there early to try to avoid long lines. We didn’t avoid them entirely, but it was okay. In fact, we waited in three lines. This first line was the one to get into the ticket pick-up area. It wound around and down the convention hallway. It moved fast, though, which was nice.

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I found Waldo!

The second line was just as quick. The convention staff had this down to a science. We picked up our orange bracelets (one of the staff called them “fun shackles,” and yes, we giggled like 12 year old boys) before heading down to our third line, where we ended up having to hang for awhile until they opened the exhibitor hall doors. We stood behind Batman and Catwoman, and the cosplayers were nice enough to let me take a picture.

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The exhibitor hall was huge. Jon and I started by browsing the booths and taking some pictures of the vehicle models they had on the floor. The Winchesters’ Impala (from Supernatural) was the highlight of the vehicles. I made sure to get some pictures for my mom, who’s a huge fan of the show (yes..my mom is a fangirl).

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Weeping Angel…don’t blink!

100_2496 100_2498Sadly, I started tiring out quickly, though I don’t know if it was because I didn’t pace myself or because I didn’t sleep well the night before. The floors of the exhibitor hall were brutal, so it wasn’t long before my legs started hurting. Still, I wasn’t giving up. I stopped by a few vendors I’d wanted to see, then went down to the autograph hall.

One of my favorite movie villains of all time is Freddy Kruger. I was watching the Nightmare on Elm Street films long before I was what most parents would deem age appropriate, but none of the gore and horror struck me as a major thing when I was young. When I found out that Robert Englund and other cast members were going to be there, I was cautiously hopeful about getting to meet him.

The line wasn’t super long when I got in, but it filled up quickly. Not only did I get his autograph and get to meet him, but I also got a selfie with him as well.

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In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that yes, I did pay for both the autograph and the selfie. While I don’t normally spend money for celebrity encounters at fan cons, for me, this was worth it. I’ve heard horror stories of celebs taking your money and giving you a quick autograph with little to no interaction, so I knew I was taking a chance. But Englund didn’t disappoint. He was very nice and we even talked for a bit about the movie and the mythos around it.

As part of the combo, I also got the autograph of Amanda Wyss who played Tina in the movie. Once again, another celebrity who was nice, who chatted, and who seemed genuinely grateful to her fans.

And as a bonus, while I was standing in line, I got to see Brent Spiner, who walked through the curtain to get to his booth and gave us all a wave and a “hello.”

I found Jon and we went and grabbed some lunch before heading to the Q&A panel with Christopher Lloyd. He talked about the Back to the Future movies and some of his other work.  
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Later, we went back to the panel hall for the Nightmare on Elm Street reunion Q&A. It was interesting to hear them talk about the film and their experiences making it. As a bonus, it also got Jon interested in doing a NoES movie marathon with me…which is awesome since he doesn’t normally like horror movies.

100_2509We ended the day playing some board games. DCC had a whole area dedicated to gaming…which is one of our things…so we played a new game called Loonacy, a round of Fluxx, and two rounds of Ticket to Ride.

It was a fun day, but I crashed hard that night. There were a lot of people there. Luckily, my social anxiety stayed down for the most part. It was so worth going, and I’m hoping we can make it again next year!

A.

Quiet on the Homefront

Things haven’t actually been quiet, but I’ve had a tough time getting my butt in gear to do any blog posts. I got a bit overwhelmed with projects and volunteer opportunities, so I sort of shut down while my brain incorporated all the new things and took a break from blogging and creative ventures.

However, the plan is to get back into the groove over the next few days. I’ve been asked to participate in a blog tour for a book release. I’ll be hosting a contest on this blog, so my fellow book lovers…stay tuned! I think it’s going to be a fun one.

I also received the GoVoxBox from Influenster, and I’m looking forward to reviewing the items in there for your reading and picture viewing pleasure. Since we’ve been packing and traveling, I haven’t had a chance to really dive into the items, but that’s on the to-do list for the rest of this week and weekend.

I’m also playing with the idea of starting a new blog dedicated to exploring Kansas. I haven’t worked out the details yet, and I’d still keep this one for the grindy stuff, but I like the idea of doing news and reviews for places Jon and I visit in this lovely state. And I say that with no sarcasm. The longer I’m in Kansas, the more I appreciate just how beautiful it is.

So if you’re still with me, then here’s to hoping for some new content soon and some motivation to crank out the updates!

A.