Wednesday, June 26, 2013

What's up Wednesday: Weight Watchers and Chopped!

I have two big goals coming up in the near-ish future.

1. Lose 20 pounds by September 23
2. Become the 2nd Annual Chopped Champion!!!!

Don't worry, I'll explain...

I lost about twenty pounds a little over two years ago, and over the course of the last two years, I have put 21 pounds back on. When I did it the first time, I counted calories and worked out. I ate only 2,000 calories per day and worked out at least 4 or 5 times a week. It MELTED off!! But maybe it wasn't super healthy.

I'm a big coffee drinker, almost 1/4 of my calories was going to my coffee (because I put sugar and creamer in it) and I couldn't eat as many other things because my cap was 2,000 calories per day. Yes I lost the weight, but  don't feel my that my overall health improved as much as it could have.

NOW, I am doing weight watchers plus. I have a daily allotted amount of points and 35 extra points per week that can be used whenever. Daily points don't roll over, but your weekly points are there all week. The best thing about this program is that most fruits and vegetables are 0 points! The points are calculated based on fat, carbs, fiber, and protein, so the healthier the food, the fewer the points.

Also, you can earn points back! Say I plan on eating a lot this weekend, I can work out every day this week to build up activity points to cover it! And one week into it, I have lost 5 pounds (I need to average 1.5 pounds a week to hit my goal)!

And I actually DO feel like I'm healthier and have a little more energy. I've been eating more fruits and vegetables and working out everyday!

Now for the most serious of the two topics...Chopped!

My little sister , Eric, and I started this competition last year after my sister and I watched tons of "Chopped!" over the summer. Sadly, I did not win. Eric won and he rubbed it in all year long with the prestigious t-shirt declaring him the First Annual Chopped Champion.

What we do, is we go to the store and pick 3 ingredients for the meal we are judging (appetizer, entrée, dessert). Then we blitz the store, taking bout thirty minutes to come up with a plan and buy the ingredients for the two meals we will cook.

We define a time limit (in the show they have 30 minutes for each round, but we are nowhere good enough to do that), and cook! Then the judge tastes the food and decided who won the round. Whoever wins the majority of the rounds is the champion. In the even of a tie, the chef's must prepare a meal out of only the ingredients lying around in the house (this hasn't happened to us yet).

Anyway, I have been doing my research this year. I know how to make a basic soup without a recipe, lots of different smoothies, different ways to treat meat, and ways to cook root vegetables that scare me away because they look ugly.

I'm READY!!!!! Cue Rocky montage

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

What's up Wednesday: 4 things I learned this week

This is the first post in a series of posts called What's Up Wednesday. WUW will be exactly what it sounds like. What's up with me, my writing, the world if there's something particularly interesting going on.

For this week's What's Up Wednesday my topic is 4 things I learned this week.

1. How do I shut off water to my house?

We've been growing a garden. It's been real. It's been fun. It's been real fun. BUT, there are tons of things that just keep popping up for us to deal with in the yard work department. Lowes has quickly grown to be one of my favorite stores, all they need is a grocery department and we'd be all set.

Anyways, we've had a problem with the hose spigot, it leaks everywhere! We can fill up a 10 gallon bucket of leaked water just in the 10 minutes it takes us to water our garden! We've (and be we, I mean mostly Eric), have spent the last three weeks trying to fix it. It was leaking through the handle and we needed to remove the handle to see what was wrong...but you can't remove the handle without dousing yourself with cold water. So obviously we need to figure out how to shut water off to the house.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Countdown to editing my book

It's about that time...It's been 4 weeks, I only have two weeks left until it's editing time and so many things are on my mind.

I work a full-time job and devoted my after work free time to writing. Near the end of my book, I was on a roll with a writing commitment of 1,000 word a day. Since my book-writing hiatus started, I have been  doing my best to fill the extra time with value added stuff (and by that, I mean value added to writing).

I started the blogging class, launched a Twitter account, joined a critique circle and have been critiquing a lot of stories, began doing weekly short stories, and I researched a lot about the editing process and finding an agent. SO I've found myself in this little cocoon of fun things to keep me busy. Things that matter, things that are helping me become a better writer. And now I'm like a kid graduating high school. What's going to happen to me now? Blogging and I will be friends forever...right? I'm nervous that when I start writing/editing again, I will no longer have time for all these little things that I'm nervous to give up.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Why "City of Bones" may not be worth your time

I have a weakness when it comes to teen paranormal romance...or at least I thought I did. I LOVED Harry Potter, I liked the Twilight books (don't look at me like that), Vampire Academy, Maximum Ride, Beautiful Creatures, etc. I think I've always been drawn to exceptional circumstances, and the possibility that there are people who have powers and abilities such as those written about in the above books.

I don't think interesting worlds and creatures are enough anymore. The YA market has been saturated with books that appear to rely on  vampires, witches, and werewolves to make the story interesting. Again, this is no longer enough.

City of Bones, by Casandra Clare, has an incredibly interesting premise that I felt could have, and should have, been further developed. Instead, it felt like the story was built from a standard template that many YA paranormal romance books are following.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Flash Fiction: The Choice

Another Flash Fiction from Chuck Wendig. This time we were asked to merge the themes of two major pop-culture works. Mine randomly generated works were "Star Wars" and "The Stand." This was the hardest one for me yet...

 “She doesn’t know what she’s doing,” Jackson said. His nostrils were flaring and his teeth were clenched. Lana had been his only companion for years and she was being straddled by his new leader who’s dagger dug a little too far into Lana’s neck. A thin streak of blood traveled gracefully down, gathering into a small pool on the ground where she was pinned. Jackson locked gazes with Lana. He shook his head, why did she come here? He couldn’t take his eyes from her. She was risking her life for him, just like the first night they spent on this planet.
After the ship landed on Anthus, almost all of Jackson’s crew came down with an unfamiliar virus and died within hours. Only he and Lana were immune.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

How to create a mind map

For last week's Blogging 101 assignment, we were asked to create a mind map for our blogs. It wasn't super hard, I plopped some lines, circles, and text onto a page and began labeling each of my thought categories. I did notice, though, that others seemed to struggle a bit with creating the structure of the mind map.

SO, along with the actual theory of mind mapping and why it's helpful, I'm going to post about how to actually get a pretty neat mind map onto your paper.

Why is a mind map helpful?
Do you ever sit down to blog and just CAN'T COME UP WITH ANYTHING? Then this will be helpful to you... Say that I want to blog about learning how to write (which I am), I don't have to constrain myself to JUST learning how to write, I can actually post samples of my writing, I can blog about the other sides of writing that don't get as much attention (editing, getting an agent, writing query letters, things to consider during publishing, marketing, etc.)

How do you get started?
Easy. Start with a circle in the middle of the page with your blog topic.


Monday, June 10, 2013

7 Things I loved about this week

It's SO easy to get wrapped up in life and to forget all the little things that make you happy - so today I felt like writing about ten things that I loved about this week.

1. I met my new team at work! These are the people I'm going to be leading for the next year and a half, I was thrilled to meet them sand start getting to know them. MY job is to make THEIR jobs easier and making sure they are living up to their potential. Seeing people better themselves makes me happy, and I am blessed with a bright crew that wants to learn and improve :)

2. Silver Linings Playbook. Whoa. I know this movie has won tons of awards and whatnot, but I just got around to watching it this weekend and, again, whoa. Have you ever known a movie was going to be special within seconds of it starting? This was like that. Impossibly unique characters, impressively witty and challenging dialogue, and an incredible plot. And even though it was a relatively serious movie, it was HILARIOUS!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

How to give negative feedback

Giving negative feedback is never fun, but sometimes it's an obligation. Being an aspiring writer, I feel that it is part of my duty to be honest and constructive of others' work. Especially in an environment developed for giving/receiving critiques. No one learns from an empty "That was so great! A few typos, but I loved it!" I'm not saying never give people compliments, but if you really have no suggestions of how to make the piece any better, then tell them EXACTLY what you loved about it instead. This way the author knows what it is they're doing right.

Again, it is far from pleasant to give someone negative feedback, but there are ways to make it a little easier.

1. The age-old compliment sandwich. This is my favorite, my GO-TO. I love me a good ol' compliment sandwich. I'll tell the author what I really liked about what they did (maybe they have amazing description, vivid imagery, they really put me in the scene). Then I give them a little constructive criticism (like the fact that the character wasn't developed quite enough, or that the story doesn't have a defined point in the first chapter). What comes next? That's right. Another compliment (like the intriguing hook they have at the end of the first chapter).

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Great Gatsby


When I was in high school, one of the obligatory novels we had to read was "The Great Gatsby." You know how it goes, the teacher assigns the book, you put off reading it until the day of your test, your flipping through the book to learn who the important character's are and what they did in the last four chapters...But, something was different about "The Great Gatsby" for me.

I won't say that the characters "spoke to me" because that sounds...pretentious, but they were much more interesting than the books I was forced to read up until that point. I should also note that at this time I was already an avid reader, I lovedlovedloved the Harry Potter books, I liked mysteries, romances, even a little poetry -- but I didn't love being forced to read something.

The characters in "The Great Gatsby" were tragically relatable. I was elated and heartbroken for them. I wanted life to undo their pasts and heal the scars that turned them into who they were at that moment. The structure of the book was so...poetic? Lyrical? Genius? The fact that the narrator is Gatsby's neighbor and Daisy's cousin didn't make sense to me when I first started reading the book, but then it DOES. You can't handle feeling what Gatsby feels. Sure, at first it might be okay -- some parties here, some loving from afar there. At the end, though, we would have felt Gatsby's desperation, the feeling of everything he's ever wanted slipping out from under him slowly. He devoted years of his life to become who he was to be worthy of Daisy.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Sprucing up my blog

I got a lot of feedback from my boyfriend and from people in my Blogging 101 class about ways I could spruce up my blog and make it better in general. I may not have taken every suggestion but (I HOPE) it is more focused and less sloppy than before. Here are some of the things I found important to change, and you may want to consider adjusting your blog too if you made some of the same decisions that I initially did.

Feedback: My layout was a little sloppy and not user friendly.
The picture in the heading didn't extend as far as the content of the blog did -- I used a photo editing site to adjust the length of the picture. The widgets in the banner on the side were oddly laid out, they were adjacent to each other as opposed to above/below each other (they looked too close together and one hung off the side of the banner) -- I changed the template layout to a single column display option. There were  two rows of topics in my "tags" banner (6 on top and 2 on bottom, leaving it feeling unfinished and unprofessional) -- I edited what tags could be displayed so a full single row is now being displayed.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Flash Fiction: The Mark

Rahni’s hands were cracked and peeling, her face badly sunburnt, her feet callused and covered in dirt. The warm curls of her unblemished, white-gold hair were the only thing that lent her any beauty. With a tub of laundry on one hip and a bucket of water in the opposite hand, she made her way to Plom Picket’s. She shoved through the swinging door and dropped the bucket of water to the ground at Plom’s feet. He shoved some coins into her hand without breaking eye contact as he continued trying to sell some beat up hides to a man that just came in for directions.
She smiled to herself, admiring the way Plom tried to turn every situation into a sale, then she noticed he shorted her 2 coins and was less amused. He tried this with her every week and every week she noticed. She knew he would have the remaining coins ready for her when she came back, handing them over without even the slightest look of guilt.
 She continued down the dusty street toward the Heplog Inn, adjusting the basket of folded sheets on her hip. The largest carriage she had ever seen pulled up to the Inn as she approached. The massive doors opened and a handsome man in seemingly untouched clothing emerged. His dark hair framed his face in soft waves, paired perfectly with the crown of thin silver and gold woven together. His boots were scuff-free and Rahni looked down at her own blackened feet in embarrassment.  She hurried inside the inn with her head down.