Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Bestie Visit 2014

Well, the thing I was looking forward to since I got back from vacation is now over.

Sad Face.

But, rewinding to Friday morning, I woke up later than normal, because I moved my usual Weekday Day off to Friday. Gave Janie her meds (I'll be so glad when she's done with those!), had some coffee, and drove to Eppley to grab my bestie, Lauren!

That's her plane! She's here! She's here!
I was so excited to see her. We haven't seen each other since Kiri and I drove to Colorado for our cousin's wedding, and we had a late lunch at Cafe Rio (I really want a tall glass of Mint Limeade just talking about it!), before heading on to the rehearsal dinner.

When I picked her up from the airport, we headed out to Jimmy's Egg for breakfast (by this time, my coffee was starting to make me jittery without anything to sop up the caffeine), and started talking and chatting like old times. We go out to eat and we talk. It's what we do.

I couldn't eat all of my breakfast, as I was still recovering from having food poisoning last week, but the rest of it kept until breakfast the next day.

After breakfast, we drove to the MAC in Council Bluffs to pick up mine and Kiri's race packets for the next day, before running home, and getting changed to go to the zoo (I was looking all sassy, and not wearing appropriate walking shoes for the hilly Henry Doorly Zoo.

Photo Dump!

Going backward, we ended with the Skyfari, which was fun. I rarely do things that cost me money, but $3 for a birdseye view of the zoo is always fun.

Beautiful giraffe
Garden of the Senses
Being attacked by a hippo. No big!
Before the Skyfari, we walked around, and got to see the bears, which are a favorite of mine. They were filling up the Polar Bear pool, but he was hanging out on his cliff, doing his best Simba impression.

Closest thing to Pride Rock you can get in Omaha.
Before the Bears, we went around the Butterfly/Bug House. I love seeing the butterflies and some of the bugs, but the bugs I wanted to see weren't on display (I love bees. They keep us fed).

A couple beautiful birds at the Butterfly habitat.

Almost everywhere in the zoo was packed with people. Despite the weekday, there were lots of field trips going on, and lots and lots of children. *twitch*.

It's not that I don't like kids, but that number in an enclosed space was crazy.

That being said, the aquarium was fun because it's changed a lot since the last time I was there with my dad.

Upside Down Jelly Fish

Moon Jelly Fish

More Jelly Fish

The penguins were in full on show that day.

Wall o'Fish!

Bruce welcomes you to the Aquarium
 The Lied Jungle was so much more crowded and humid than I remember it being, and I've been going since they built it in 1991! It was fun, but man, was it hot!

Not sure what kind of turtle this is, but he looked melty.
 In 2010, they closed Rosenblatt Stadium and tore it down. This broke my heart for a number of reasons, but I'm glad that the zoo bought it and kept the sign, some of the seats, and that home plate is still there. Everywhere else is a parking lot, but at least they've memorialized it.

When we got home, Kiri and her best friend, Lisa, were waiting for us, and it was amazing seeing Lisa again. Lisa's kooky, but it meshes with our version of kooky, and we all have fun together. Plus, she and Lauren got alone really well together.

On Saturday morning, Kiri and I did the Color Me Rad 5k, and had a blast, and even saw my parents on the track. When we got home, mom said she's going to do it with us next year. I hope she does. Maybe dad could even do it. *hint hint!*

Saturday afternoon was REALLY low key. Kiri, Lauren, Lisa, and I drove out to the Red Robin in Pappillion for lunch, as we were all starving. There was talk of going to Build-a-Bear at Oakview, but alas, naps vetoed it. Lauren and I also watched Austenland, which was really cute (I know. I promoted it through Yekra a few months ago, and if you're still interested in it, here's the link).

Shockingly enough, Lisa and Lauren hadn't seen two super popular movies, so we decided to watch them. Lisa hadn't seen Frozen yet, and because of that, no one would let me sing along while we watched. Rude. Lauren had never seen The Avengers, and we watched it after dinner (and after my shower. Had to get the color out of my hair somehow!). I think she enjoyed it, but Avengers is one of those tricky movies where it helps to watch The Hulk, Iron Man 1 and 2, Captain America, and Thor beforehand. My family is actually starting a marathon up soon, watching them all in order. To get the order, go here.

Sunday, it was pouring rain. I had to be at both services for church, as I was singing a special. I was going to share a video of my special, but the sound was all funky, so that's not happening. Sorry.

After church, we had soup and sandwiches (perfect for rainy weather), and started watching "Thor." Sadly, we had to cut it short, because we had tickets to the Opera to see Cinderella. It was interesting. The music was pretty, but we all honestly felt underwhelmed by it. I think too much of it was excessive and repetitive. I'm still looking forward to going to next year's season, though. I do love experiencing Opera, even if the story isn't my favorite. This year, Carmen was my favorite. Bizet is beautiful.

Cheap seats? GOOD seats. :-)
A stop at Runza on the way home, and a few episodes of Community later, Lauren and I started a project that is about eight years in the making. We've been really good friends since about 2007, but we've known each other since 2005. We enjoy eating out and watching movies together. We're simple girls, and creatures of habit. Last night, we set up our own blog to share our thoughts about movies, and once it was set up, we watched our first movie: Clueless. Lauren found pictures for the blog, and I edited it. Please check it out. We're really proud of it. Riffs From the Dork Side. It's gonna be a thing.

I was sad to see my best friend go today, but we had a parting lunch at Pickleman's, one of our favorite restaurants from our college days. They don't have them in Colorado, and ours is a recent addition. It was wonderful, and I'm so glad that we got to go. I really need to see if they'll deliver to work sometime.

Au Revoir, Bestie. I miss you already!
I had a great weekend, and I'm sorry it's over. I don't get enough girlfriend time with all of Nebraska separating us (Dang Cornhuskers).

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Color Me Rad 2014!

 Just a forewarning, this is going to be a MASSIVE photo dump. 

Today, I got to do my second 5k, the 2014 Color Me Rad 5k, but this time it was more epic. This time, I got to not only do it with my sister, but my parents were on the path to cheer us on, and mine and my sister's two best friends were there, also acting as cheerleaders. It was a great morning.

The route was almost exactly like it was last year, with a teensy change, with less back tracking.

Started out going North, and went around, counter clockwise.

Without further ado, pictures.

Bright and Shiny before the start of the race.
Waiting for our Wave to start.

Next year, we've decided to do the earliest wave.

And We're Off!

Just hit the orange, and got hit in the teeth.
So much yellow on the ground, if you wanted color...

This is what Kiri had to do...

I can see the finish line!
I wasn't keeping track of my time this time around, because we pretty much just walked. It was still fun. I'd love to RUN a 5k, and I hope my next one will be this summer at the Glow Run.
My best friend, Lauren, and I.
Best Cheerleader Ever!
My sister and I also introduced our best friends to each other, and they seem to like each other. I love when that works out!

Lisa and Lauren

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Has it really been...?

It barely feels like any time has passed since I was in high school. Dancing in Show Choir, acting in plays, studying, researching Queen Elizabeth for National History Day. There was the stress of tests, and friendships, auditions, contests. Craziness ensued, but I still managed to escape unscathed (and in several of my senior yearbook photos, despite being out sick for group pictures).

Bellevue East Jazz Festival, 2001
High school is that awkward stage where only a select few make it through looking and acting fabulous all the time, and those few are usually in movies, and not even teenagers. When I was in high school, I started feeling more comfortable with who I was. I remember that I'd started not caring what people thought, and doing my own thing when I was fifteen. I took classes that my friends didn't because I wanted to branch out, and I'm glad I did. If I hadn't taken French or Painting, I never would've gotten super close to my friend, Sara, and if I hadn't taken Painting, I would've had to take Geology (I tried to skip that science requirement), but was forced to take Science my Senior Year, and opted to take Human Biology, which I think enforced how much I like health-related subjects. The human body is fascinating.

Me and my friend, Jesse, singing "All I ask of You" in 2002
Most of the subjects I stuck to in school, however, I was comfortable with: Choir, Drama. These were what I thought were my passions, and I had a mad desire to be an actress in Hollywood. That was my goal, and nothing could keep me from it.

My sister and I singing "Tell Him" in 2001
I think I was known as the girl who likes Celine Dion, which is an embarassing moniker, but embarassing is the name of the game in high school. I have plenty of stories that I'll be keeping mum about from high school, because they make me blush to high heaven just thinking about them now. Ten years, and there's still an impact.


Me and my Senior Prom Date, Reggie, 2004
Senior Year was not my most stressful (that would be my Sophomore Year). I was busy with getting ready for college, and participating in show choir, but since drama club tanked by then (We started out with a teacher who seemed cool, but she flaked out two months in), so that freed up a lot of my time. Senior year was probably more frustrating than any, just because of Drama (Theatre, not Teenage Drama). Despite everything, the end of the year went well. To my surprise, so many classmates that I didn't think even knew me gave me hugs and said they'd miss me. Must be what HIMYM referred to as "Graduation Goggles," and now those goggles are coming back with the Reunion coming up. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm interested to see where everyone has gone, and if their life paths have changed as much as mine has (I'm NOWHERE near where I thought I'd be). Truthfully, though, I'm a professional writer. I have a day job, like many freelance writers do to make ends meet. I'm active in my church, I love to travel, I'm too poor to have my own place, and I haven't found the elusive One yet. That's me, in a nutshell. 

I did it. 2004
I'm actually kind of excited for the Reunion now. My high school best friend always talked it down, and I didn't really want to go until this year. Guess it's something that you don't really care to do until you reach that peak. It's not until September, so we'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Easter, Schedule Change, and Food Poisoning

I'd intended to write this post on Monday, but I switched up my work week, because my amazing best friend is coming for a visit, and I decided to take Friday off instead. 

Santa Fe, August 2010
But then, the weirdest thing happened: my dad and I got food poisoning. It's something I never want to relive, but I'm happily on the mend (but seriously feeling dehydrated). I was up on Monday night, every three hours, and it was probably the most gross thing I've ever experienced. Not quite Bridesmaids (Watch at your own risk NSFW), but it was still pretty nasty. I spent all of yesterday either sleeping, or on the couch, watching Dirty Dancing and It Could Happen To You. I could only eat cinnamon buttered toast (no sugar) to start, but later I was able to add some strawberry jelly to it without complications. Last night before bed, my mom sang me "Soft Kitty," I got around ten hours of sleep with the help of Tylenol PM, was extremely thirsty upon waking, and was craving French toast sticks this morning, so a stop at Burger King was in the cards. 

Once I got to work today, I was exhausted, but after lunch, I started feeling a lot better. My mom also made me homemade chicken and noodles. I have an awesome mommy. 

Before all of the crap went down, however, on Saturday, my family and I got to enjoy one of our favorite Easter traditions: Dyeing Easter Eggs. We've done it since I was a little kid, and the only years I didn't dye eggs were when I was in college. And I didn't realize how much I missed it until Easter 2010, when we got to dye them again.

On Friday night, I boiled 3/4 of the eggs (we got 4 dozen), and steamed the rest (I put them in my rice cooker for 20 minutes). While waiting for the eggs on the stove to boil, I heard a pop, but couldn't figure out where it had come from until the steamed eggs were done. Then I discovered this:

Anyone else channeling "Alien?"
 Still good. It got painted blue. :-)

I chose pink and blue. Princess Aurora Colors. Yes, I'm that chick who puts Disney Princesses with my Colors.

Merida, Aurora, Rapunzel Eggs
The fourth carton had two of each color in it. So bright and pretty. I love dyeing Easter Eggs. Absolutely love it.

We usually follow up dyeing eggs with a screening of The Ten Commandments, but that didn't happen this year. I still hope to, because it's one of the greatest movies ever, but hasn't yet.

I'll have more to update later this week once Lauren gets here, and I run in the Color Me Rad 5k this weekend with my sis and some coworkers. Thankfully, my food poisoning was just that, and not the flu, like what's hit a lot of people at my church.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A "Healthified" Pinterest Brownie

Happy Hump Day!

I don't know about anyone else, but I've got a serious chocolate obsession. Sometimes, I don't feel like making a whole pan of brownies, so Pinterest has become my go-to place to find fast, easy brownies. I have actually found a winner that is so easy to make that I have it memorized.

 If you can't read that, this is what it boils down to:
  • 1/4 Cup Flour
  • 1/4 Cup Sugar
  • 2 TBS Cocoa Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 2 TBS Canola Oil (I tried olive oil first, but it was VERY rich)
  • 3 TBS Water
Mix dry ingredients, Add Wet ingredients, stir well. Cook for 1 minute 45 seconds. Add ice cream if you choose.

I've been known to dress this up with nuts, chocolate chips, peanut butter chips. Very tasty noms.

That being said, I said that I was going to show off a "Healthified" version of this same recipe (I said I liked to dress it up and change it, right?).

I did this: 
  • 1/4 Cup SPELT Flour
  • 1/4 100% Maple Syrup
  • 2 TBS Cocoa Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 3 TBS Water.
Mix as directed above (Actually, I mixed the flour, cocoa, and salt before adding the maple syrup). I did only add two tablespoons of water when I made it, but I felt it was a little dry.

As for taste, because of the spelt, it was a little bit more chewy, and it wasn't AS sweet as with the regular granulated sugar, but honestly, I didn't feel as sick as I normally do after eating this brownie (the sucker is humongous!), which was DEFINITELY a plus. If I wanted to make it a Sundae, but keep the healthy thing going, I would use banana soft serve. 

If you've never had banana soft serve, it's as easy as it could possibly be. Freeze a very ripe banana and pulse it in the food processor until it's got a soft serve consistency. I usually add some peanut butter because peanut butter and banana is amazing. My mom and sis LOVE this, but my dad not so much. I just love how easy it is. I wouldn't try to blend it in a regular blender. Mine is a Signature Gourmet from Walgreens, and it has issues with blending frozen foods without massive amounts of liquid in it (as I discovered trying to make a green smoothie yesterday). If you have a BlendTec, Ninja, NutriBullet, or VitaMix, blend away, otherwise, use a high powered food processor (We got ours at the Goodwill for $9, and it works so well for everything!). 

Have a brownie and get through your week. We can almost see Friday! Have a good one, peeps!

Monday, April 14, 2014

I am a Writer: Believing in Yourself When Your "Real" Job Gets You Down.

I've wanted to write stories for a living since I was nine years old. I don't remember the date, but I remember the cause. Up until that time, I knew I either wanted to be an actress, a painter, a singer or a dancer.

That all changed in Fall 1994. I was in the third grade at Loess Hills Christian School, and my parents took me to see Little Women at the Omaha Cinema Center (Don't ask me how I remember that little fact!). All I knew is that it was a period piece, and I so wasn't into period pieces. Who watches period pieces in 1994? In all my third grade glory, I thought I knew everything about film and what people like. It all changed when I saw this movie, and was floored by the beautiful story, especially that of a young girl in Civil War-ravaged America who wanted nothing more than to be a writer, and live out her adventures through her stories. It was as if the Heavens opened and offered me my entire future in one viewing. I promptly went home and tried to write my first story.

Ever since that time, I tried to write what I was interested in. I tried to write what I knew. My first "epic" story involved a girl with many siblings who shared my name, and her boyfriend had the same name as my crush at the time (who shall continue to be nameless to this day). As I think back on it, that story was a whole lot of happenings, but not a lot of plot, structure, or direction.

I didn't get a lot of opportunity to write for school until about eighth grade, when I was in public school, and had two English classes per day: one was for literature and writing, and the other was more of a life skills class (Hello Miracle of Life video of something I didn't EVER need to see!). I worked my butt off writing stories for the literature portion of class, and became pretty well known for writing compelling stories (at least that's the feedback I got from my classmates). You can imagine my disappointment in high school when story writing wasn't nearly as important as giving oral reports and debating the good and bad of different subjects (that's another story I never want to get into). I continued to write, and discovered Fan Fiction. When I was fifteen, I was a ridiculous Roswell fan. I even wrote my own character in (I"ve since stopped writing fanfiction, because that's a bad/obnoxious habit to get into). My friend, Amanda, was the only one who ever read it, and I had big dreams of becoming a screenwriter, and writing great shows like Roswell (Yes, I've since learned from rewatching that it wasn't great television).

For the longest time, I looked down on people who couldn't make it as a full-time writer right out of school or college, but at the same time, I was having trouble getting literary magazines to take my work. I admit, I am extremely haughty when it comes to my work. It's something I'm trying hard to overcome, and I'm trying to respect the opinions of my betas (even going so far as to find betas who aren't related/friends with me to get an outsider's opinion). I'm finally learning, after much introspection and real life experience that it takes more than a good idea to become a full time writer. It takes time, sacrifice, tears, and hard work. I'm one of the people that I used to look down on, and I didn't consider myself a real writer, really, until I published my first book back in 2012. Even before then, it took a long time for me to actually say the words.

I am a writer.

It still seems surreal. As much as my big picture dreams involve living in a cute little house with a husband and kids, working on the blog, and putting out a couple books per year, I still have to remind myself that I'm not quite there yet. If I keep pressing on, I COULD be there, but the important thing is to keep writing, even when it's hard, keep dreaming, even when I'm sitting at my regular job, wishing I could be working on my book on my phone, and most importantly, I need to remember that even before the published book, before the college degree, before the obnoxiously bad fan fiction, I was a little girl who discovered that people actually created stories. I became a writer the moment that I started working on my first story. That's almost twenty years of being a writer. How many 28-year-olds can say that they've been working toward that dream for as long?

I'm still learning, though. I've got so much to learn about myself, and about the craft of writing, editing, and publishing. I think it'd be cool to actually own my own publishing business one day, but until that day, I'll keep writing, keep editing, and keep working toward my goal. It's still there. The passion to create has never left me, no matter how much I've tried to push it down. That's precisely how I know it's here to stay.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Movie Review: God's Not Dead

We go through life each day, almost never having to take a moment, or three 20-minute sessions, to explain our lives, how we got here, our belief system, etc. I'm thankful that I don't have to explain myself very often, because to be completely honest, I know what I believe, but I don't want to have to explain it.

I like to believe that if it came to it, I would be able to step up to the challenge and fight for my Lord and Savior, because there is nothing in this world that I believe in more than God's love for me, but until God places us in that position, we have no way to prove it, except to living out His word every day.

The premise of the film God's Not Dead is just that. A young college Freshman, Josh (Shane Harper) who wants to go to Law School has to take a humanities course for his major, and opts to take Prof. Radisson's (Kevin Sorbo) Philosophy 150 course. Prof. Radisson is a hard core atheist who, in order to not have to teach the part of the curriculum about God's existence, demands his students write on a piece of paper that "God is Dead," and sign their names to it. Josh, a Christian, refuses to do so, and in order to not lose 30% of his grade, Prof. Radisson (mockingly) says he'll have to prove God's existence through a debate, where he (Radisson) will be the judge. Josh makes an alternative proposal: They put God on Trial with Prof. Radisson as the Plaintiff and Josh as the Defendant. He's given 20 minutes at the end of the next three classes to make his point (I'm guessing they only meet once a week for at least two hours).

Add caption
There are other storylines throughout the film that are connected to what is going on. We meet Amy (Trisha LaFache), a blogger for The New Left, who is introduced to us with a bumper full of vegetarian leftist stickers, and an iPhone recorder to the mouths of Duck Dynasty's Willie and Korie Robertson, demanding answers as to why they're making poor ducks suffer in the name of sport. Willie's answer of making the death as quick and humane as possible for the animal, which they would then use for consumption, is a better alternative to cooking it alive (He's not wrong). She's seen ignoring calls from a doctor, and it is discovered that she has cancer.

Amy interviewing the Robertsons
Amy is dating Mark (Dean Cain), who is a smarmy lawyer who makes partner. When he tells her his news (ignoring how sullen and upset she looks), she's just found out her diagnosis, and when she tells him, he can't even muster compassion and tell her it's all going to be okay. Instead, he dumps her, and leaves her with the check (Quite the class act).

Mark's mother has dementia, and his sister, Mina (Cory Oliver) is the one taking care of her. She's also a Christian dating Prof. Radisson, who dresses down her intelligence in front of his work colleagues. She turns to her minister, Reverend David (David A.R. White), to ask for assistance, and he does a good job explaining to her why she's feeling torn. David is also the sounding board who gets the ball rolling for Josh's arguments in the debate.

David had a missionary friend come to town, and this friend, Reverend Jude, wanted nothing more than to go to Disney World. Every time they tried to make the drive, they ran into car trouble (it not starting), prompting Reverend Jude to say that they were needed in town, and only God knew the reason. Part of that reason was to help Ayisha (Hadeel Sittu), a young woman in a Muslim family who secretly has accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior.

Another young person, Martin (Paul Kwo), a Chinese student attending university in America, has been having doubts about the beliefs he grew up with in China, and frequently calls his father to discuss it. His father keeps telling him to stop talking about it, especially on the phones (Hello, NSA-induced paranoia rampant in the states!).

When I first found out about this movie, and the movement behind it (an independent film widely spread through social media), I knew that it was a film I wanted to support. It's a film that speaks to my desire to explain my own thoughts on the subject, but have been unable to, due to my fear of public speaking. I admire Josh pushing forward and actually fighting for Jesus, who he'd long considered his friend. His arguments were logical, thought provoking, and extremely clear.

I thought the athiest/agnostic characters had as much of a journey as the ones who'd already found God, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't cry once. There were several moments when my heart broke for the characters (Specifically, when Ayisha's traditional Muslim father kicked her out of their home, and you weren't sure if he was going to kill her, a la part of the Sharia law, or just make her leave the family).


I didn't really care for the ending, as I felt it went with scare tactics to make its point, but at the same time, sometimes Christians have to really go in for the kill, so to speak, to really make their point. I would've liked to have found out the rammifications of what happened, as it wasn't that clear, but Amy's search for answers at the end of her life and David's understanding of why he couldn't get to Disney World came to a head at a Newsboys concert. The Newsboys even got my continued stamp of approval for being awesome and praying with Amy before their concert.

People only know the hypocrite Christians who spout off the Bible in a holier-than-thou manner. I've never wanted to be that person, and I hope that I come across as a person proclaiming the love of Christ, and why I choose to obey his commandments (or at least try). Frankly, a lot of people find out I'm a Christian, and the response I get is, "But you're so nice!" I promise! We're nice people! We're imperfect, but who isn't?

I would recommend this film to everyone, and I'm not the only one. It's been out for three weeks, and has stayed in the top five (currently #4 at the box office, beneath Captain America: The Winter Soldier (A Must See!), Noah (I won't be seeing that one in the theatre. I don't believe fallen angels became rock monsters, or that Noah tried to kill his grandchildren), and Divergent (also a must see for YA fans!). Christians want quality films. I'll be the first to say that earlier Christian films are a little on the cheesy, hokey side. I keep seeing previews for Heaven is for Real starring Greg Kinnear and Kelly Reilly, and I'm excited for it. I didn't read the book, but I'm optimistic about the film. There's another film I saw on Netflix, October Baby, starring John Schneider about a young girl who had survived an abortion attempt, and suffers health problems as a result. Soul Surfer about Bethany Hamilton is another strong Christian film. They're coming! Slowly, but surely, Christian voices are being heard, and our desire for quality entertainment is finally happening.

If you're a fellow Christian, I urge you to see this movie. Continue to support Christian films by liking them on social media and seeing them in theaters. Grassroots campaigns work. Fan support works (see how it worked for Veronica Mars?).

And with that, I leave you with the Newsboys, who wrote this song, which we regularly do at church, and it's one of my favorites.