Monthly Archives: August 2013

Completing a Journal

Writing has always been an important part of my life. I remember receiving my first journal when I was in first grade. Even though the entries consisted of who I played with, I enjoyed having a place of my own where I could write about whatever I wanted. Throughout the years I’ve gathered a handful of personal journals, but only a couple of them are completely filled. However, the current journal I’ve been writing in for almost two years is almost complete.

There’s something about filling up an empty journal that’s satisfying. It’s always exciting to start a blank journal. Pages are waiting to be filled with whatever your mind creates, whether it be a detailed account of your day or a short story about talking plants. Total creative freedom, that’s what writing is all about.

I’m curious to hear what you think about writing. Do you write? If so, what do you write? A few months ago I read an interesting book I picked up at Barnes and Nobel called Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg. One of the practices that I picked up from this book was keeping a writing journal. Inside the writing journal is where you practice your writing. Any kind of writing: fiction, non-fiction, descriptions, Q & A, observations, and dreams, the possibilities are endless. Goldberg even gives some examples of prompts for when writer’s block grabs a hold of your creative spark. The key advice of this book is to make writing a part of your everyday life.

I love the idea of a writing journal. I’ve kept mine for a couple of months now, but I’m a bit ashamed to admit that I don’t write everyday. We’ve all those excuses, right? So I’ll save you the trouble from reading my excuses. 🙂

Bath and Body Works Haul

 

 

A few posts ago I mentioned that Bath and Body Works is a store I like to steer clear of because I tend to spend too much money…. but I had some coupons that were going to expire. So I thought I’d share what I purchased and we can all marvel at how amazing this store is, yes?

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I didn’t get too much, but I had a 20% off your entire purchase coupon and a free travel sized signature item coupon (which my mom used). First up, Bath and Body Works had a sale on their small 6oz candles. Three for $10 USD.

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Pumpkin Apple is one of their new fall scents. The description reads: “Experience the blend of your two favorite fall scents- apple and pumpkin- enhanced by notes of cinnamon and clove”. Without it burning, I’m able to pick up the apple and cinnamon notes. There’s also a faint sweetness I can smell which is the pumpkin. I’m anxious to smell Pumpkin Apple when it’s burning.

Pumpkin Cupcake is a returning scent from last fall. I’m a sucker for bakery scented candles, seriously the majority of the candles I purchase are sweets scented. I loved this scent last fall so I had to pick it up again. The description reads: “Satisfy your sweet tooth with the scent of a freshly backed pumpkin cupcake covered in loads of rich buttercream frosting”. Without it burning, I’m able to pick up the rich buttercream frosting note which is, what I believe, the prominent smell. There is also a hint of pumpkin beneath the frosting note. What I like most about this candle is that it doesn’t smell too sweet. I believe the pumpkin note really balances out the sweetness of the frosting note.

Next is the body wash/bubble bath which was on sale for $6 USD.

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My apologies for the picture being a bit blurry, but this is the Aromatherapy Stress Relief eucalyptus tea body wash and foam bath. This smells heavenly. It’s a very calming scent which is said to calm feelings of stress and uncertainty. The description reads: “Soothing Eucalyptus Essential Oil and Tea help calm feelings of stress and uncertainty”. I’ve used another Stress Relief body wash and bubble bath before and these do help calm the racing mind. My only complaint is that this formula doesn’t bubble up as much as I’d like it too. When I take bubble baths I like to be surrounded by thick clouds of bubbles, these Aromatherapy products produce small amount of tiny bubbles.

Lastly, I purchased some Pocketbac hand sanitizers which were also on sale; 5 for $5 USD.

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The first Pocketbac is Vanilla Cupcake which unfortunately doesn’t smell at all like it’s name. It smells entirely like the alcohol used in regular hand sanitizers, bummer.

Next is I Love Cinnamon Buns which smells amazing. The scent is exactly like a warm cinnamon powdered bun.

Third is called Dazzling Diamond. This has little specs of glitter in the sanitizer. To me, Dazzling Diamond smells very berry. Almost like blackberry and perhaps raspberry. It’s very pleasant.

Last is Crimson Plum. The scent is straight up plum, a very ripe plum. This is a great scent for fall. Although the alcohol in the sanitizer gives Crimson Plum a slight shampoo-y smell which is a bit odd.

That’s all for my Bath and Body Works haul. I’m anxious to burn the two candles I purchased and to make good use of the stress relief bubble bath. I’m interested to know, what are your favorite Bath and Body Works products? Let me know!

Book Review: My Soul to Keep by Tananarive Due

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Rating: 4/5

Immortality, a blessing or a curse?

My Soul Keep by Tananarive Due tells the story of a group of men who have become immortal. They are each hundreds of years old. Each have gone through a ritual called the Life Ritual which allowed them to obtain a miracle blood that dispels death. One man, Dawit, is the center of the novel’s plot.

Over 500 years ago, Dawit attended a secluded meeting with his good friend, Mahmoud. This small group of men are anxiously waiting to hear from a man who seeks those interested in knowledge. Apprehension hangs around the group as they listen to the man, named Khaldun, speak of miracles. Khaldun reveals that he was present at the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. One of the men he was with stole some of Christ’s blood after his body was taken from the cross. A small amount of the blood, aptly called the Life Blood once Christ was resurrected, could heal any wound, virus, or even death. Khaldun explained to the awed men that he underwent the Life Ritual; a ritual performed on a recently dead corpse by injecting the Life blood into the dying veins. Those injected would never die. To prove his words, Khaldun sliced his belly open in front of the group. Each watched in horror as the man died before them. By morning, the men were awoken by Khaldun, who only had a fading scar across his abdomen; the only remnant of his brutal mutilation. Completely enthralled, each of the men agree to partake in the Life Ritual and accept poisoned bread to stop their heart and then some of Khaldun’s blood to restart it.

Centuries later, in the late 1990’s, Dawit is married to Jessica, a journalist, with a five year old daughter named Kira. After some unfortunate events including three murders, two of those being family or close friends to Jessica, she begins to question the odd circumstances surrounding her husband. Jessica starts to notice that his cuts and scrapes heal almost immediately. Even when he fell out of a tree in their backyard, his broken bones and deep gashes healed overnight. Dawit old excuse of having special blood has worn thin and Jessica is demanding the truth.

Reluctantly, Dawit takes Jessica to a secluded cabin deep in the Florida swamp where he shows her just how special the blood flowing through his veins is. He slices open his stomach, similar to Khaldun’s wound, in the cabin’s bathtub. Jessica is distraught when she finds her husband barely conscious, floating in a pool of his own blood. She tries her to best to stop the blood gusting from his self inflicted wound, but it’s too late. To her horror, Dawit’s life fades away. Knowing that help won’t arrive until the following evening, Jessica sobs herself to sleep on the bathroom floor next to her husband’s corpse.

Jessica awaken the next morning to see Dawit smiling apologetically from the tub. In a moment’s disbelief, Jessica tears away the sheet she used to stop the bleeding. All that remained from the previous nightmarish night was a jagged scar across his abdomen. Dawit then revealed some of the truth surrounding his miraculous awakening, mainly that he underwent a ritual that made him immortal. He told her that he had lived for over 500 years and has seen his friends, coworkers, and family succumb to death.

Not long after Dawit exposes some of the mystery surrounding his special blood, Mahmoud pays him a visit. The visit is not a friendly one, Dawit has broken the Covenant’s most important rule; secrecy. Mahmoud explains that Searchers will be coming to take Dawit away from his family, back to the Covenant’s secluded home. Not wanting to leave Jessica and Kira, Dawit makes a split second decision, he and his family were going to uproot from their Florida home and move to Africa where they were going to be together forever.

By this part of the novel, Jessica has developed conflicting feelings towards her husband. Although she continues to love him, she can’t fathom all the lies he has fed to her the entire time they knew each other. Frantically, she gathers her daughter and flees not knowing that she has been followed. She doesn’t get far until her follower catches up. While making a pit stop at a gas station, Mahmoud sabotages Jessica’s car. Terror creeps down Jessica’s spine when she realizes that Mahmoud is here to kill her and Kira.

Just before he can fire his gun, Dawit runs over his old friend. Dawit forcefully persuades Jessica to accompany him. After leaving Mahmoud’s slowly regenerating body in a secluded area, Dawit takes his wife and daughter to a run-down little motel where he prepares to perform the Life Ritual.

My Soul to Keep ends with Dawit and Jessica living apart from each other, both immortal. Jessica decides to put her new blood to good use. She and her sister set up a children’s clinic in Africa where they use Jessica’s blood to heal sick and dying children. Dawit eventually finds her to inform her that the clinic can’t be open forever, people outside of the area are beginning to notice the miraculous healing. Jessica coolly replies that they are prepared to move if necessary. Leaving Dawit to leave, somewhat reluctantly, his wife while patiently waiting for her to come back to him.

Although the beginning of the novel was a bit slow, I did enjoy this book. There were some parts that did seem a bit out of place, but they didn’t cause too much distraction from the plot. Tananarive Due is a great storyteller.

Lavender Chamomile Body Mist…A Good Night’s Sleep?

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Bath and Body Works is one store that I dread entering…mainly because I know I’m going to be spending a long of money. On one of my last trips, I ventured to their aromatherapy line. The products in the ‘sleep’ section caught my eye. Insomnia creeps up on me once in awhile so I thought that buying a product that promotes sleep would be beneficial.

I purchased the lavender chamomile body mist for $15 USD. The glass bottle that I purchased holds 4 fluid ounces of mist. The blurb stamped across the bottom of the bottle reads: sleep well, lavender and chamomile essential oils soothe and calm to enhance sleep. I’ve used this product a couple of times when I’ve had an extremely difficult time falling asleep. Although it doesn’t make me drowsy, the body mist does help calm my swimming mind.

I would recommend the lavender and chamomile body mist from Bath and Body Works to those looking for a way to calm their mind before falling asleep even if you’re not found of the scent of lavender. Personally, I’m not found of lavender, but surprisingly the lavender isn’t strong. The lavender and the chamomile scents compliment each other quite nicely. With a few sprays of this lightly fragranced mist, a calming sleep is not too far off.

D’oh! The Simpsons Tapped Out Andriod App Review

Image via Google

Image via Google

Rating: 4/5

As a long time Simpsons fan, when The Tapped Out app became  available for Android phones earlier this year I was ecstatic. Powered by EA, The Simpsons Tapped Out is a social media game where the player works alongside Homer and Lisa to rebuild Springfield. Along the way the familiar resident of Springfield are unlocked by completing quests. Depending on the importance of the quest, it may take a few hours or a day to complete. This process can be sped up by using premium content.

Similar to other social media games, players can purchase premium content by using actual money. in Tapped Out the premium currency is none other than pink frosting donuts. Players can purchase different bundles of donuts ranging in prices from $5 USD to a whopping $99.99 USD; the more money a player spends, the more donuts they’ll be rewarded with. Using these donuts, players can buy buildings, characters, and decorations to populate their personal Springfield. Be warned, items that can only be purchased with donuts are extremely expensive. The cheapest character is the Squeaky Voiced Teen priced at a cool 30 donuts.

Purchasing donuts isn’t the only means of obtaining them. Players can earn donuts by leveling up. As each quest is completed, players earn both money and xp (also known as experience points). Gaining one level normally awards the player with one donut to add to their collection. In some instances, players are presented with a chance to pick from three gifts when they level up. Each gift has donuts inside; a range from one to three will be rewarded. This event normally occurs when the player has reach the maximum level before a game update.

What separates the Simpsons Tapped Out from other social media games is the lack of reliance on other players. Neighbors can be obtained by signing up for a free Origin account. However, the amount of neighboring Springfields a player has, does not influence their progression.

Although I thoroughly enjoy this app, there are some complains I’ve had. One of my biggest complaints is the abrupt plot endings. Before the first summer update was released, players were able to place Herman’s antique shop in their town. The quest surrounding Herman included him supplying the Springfield residents with top-of-the-line pistols. Marge then develops a plan with Herman to have a protest down at city hall; a protest in which the two characters couldn’t recall the purpose of. Homer then jumps in and makes the redundant joke, that has last since the first level, about being surprised that the player was still playing the game. The quest ended abruptly with a three donut rewards and a weak plea not to complain to EA. A similar occurrence appeared with the first summer update which included the Springfield Squidport. Players follow the quest to rebuild the famous Springfield Squidport. Boardwalk shops such as The Frying Dutchman, Malaria Zone, and Turban Outfitters become available to place on the growing boardwalk. Despite the new buildings, decorations, and characters, the Squidport content is quickly forgotten. Especially with the newest Krustyland update.

Even though there is room for improvement, I truly enjoy having an everyday occurrence of the Simpsons in my life. Through this app, Simpsons fans can reminisce about some of their favorite episodes  and get reacquainted with their favorite characters. Don’t have a cow, man!

Game Review: Happy Chef 2

photo obtained from bigfishgames.com

photo obtained from bigfishgames.com

Rating: 2/5

Quick note: Time Management games are some of my favorite games to play when I just want some mindless fun. Once in awhile I download games from WildTagnet.com or Bigfishgames.com. Each website offers free game downloads, Bigfishgames.com offers a 60 minute free trial of each of its games while WildTagnet.com allows unlimited gameplay for the first time. If the game is good enough to play a second time, WildCoins can be purchased to unlock the game.  Happy Chef 2 is available to download on Bigfishgames.com or for purchase for $9.99 USD.

Happy Chef 2 follows an unnamed female chef through five restaurant locations: Italy, Hawaii, United States, China, and France. Each location has its own special recipes the player must cook up. In each location there are fifteen levels which slowly increase in difficulty. Some levels, once completed, unlock different food items special to that location. At the conclusion of each level, the player is awarded coins they’ve accumulated by serving a customer. Golden spatulas are also awarded for completing certain achievements; such as serving 100 customers or serving 500 drinks. These spatulas can be used to purchase three special equipment upgrades for the restaurants.

The true challenge comes with the increase in customers. The maximum number of customers is around 25. Unlike other time management games, all the customers have an extremely low patience level which runs low within seconds after they arrived in the restaurant. To offset the low patience meter, however, the food does cook extremely quickly leading to moments where the gameplay becomes completely chaotic. I’ve discovered the most efficient way to handle the chaos is completing one order at a time. This not only allows for orders to be completed in a timely matter, it also cuts down on the confusion.

In the less chaotic moments the gameplay is quite simple. Dragging the different food items from pans to plates is all done with simple mouse movements. Essentially there are 75 levels in Happy Chef 2. A seasoned Time Management game player can complete the game within two or three hours. After some time, the levels do tend to become monotonous especially since there are not a lot of upgrades available for the player to purchase.

As Time Management games go, Happy Chef 2 isn’t outstanding. The price, $10.00 USD, is a bit steep. Even though the gameplay is simple and easy to maneuver, the lack of options like shop options or new recipes, and the impatient customers make the game fall short of being completely enjoyable.

obtained from bigfishgames.com

obtained from bigfishgames.com

obtained from bigfishgames.com

obtained from bigfishgames.com

obtained from bigfishgames.com

obtained from bigfishgames.com

 

Book Review: The Good House by Tananarive Due

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Rating: 4/5

The Good House is a chilling tale about a curse set upon an African American family, the Toussaints. In the early 1920s Maria Toussaint moved into the small town of Sacajawea, Washington with her baby daughter. Marie, a young woman who has supernatural talents, is being led by Papa Legba. Papa Legba is Marie’s spirit God, he is the one she prays to and gives sacrifices to. After the brutal death of her first husband, Marie received visions of a large house on a steep hill that is guarded by a large oak tree. The oak tree, she feels, harbors the spirit of her grandmother who also had supernatural talents.

She arrives at the house in Sacajawea where she discovers that the house is owned by an old man by the name of Elijah Goode. With some persuading, Maria convinces Goode to allow her and her daughter to live with him. When Goode passes away he leaves the house entirely to Marie. This action does not sit well with Goode’s family and the small community of Sacajawea.

Despite the trouble, Marie was able to secure her place in the community. She did her best to subtly help the people of Sacajawea with her abilities. Some residents valued her abilities. These are the people who rely on her advice or the healing teas and other concoctions she makes. However, there are those who are completely against everything Marie believes in. These are the residents who want her and her second husband, a Native American the locals called Red John, out of Sacajawea and have no trouble expressing their distaste. The sheriff, who is among those who dislike Marie, even put bullet holes into her font door, hoping that would scare her off.

In a moment of emotional weakness, Marie loses her temper. In a fit of rage, she casts a curse over the entire small town by rejecting Papa Legba’s wishes. The evil she unleashes brings not only a destructive mud slide to the town, but also a demonic spirit that possesses one of the local girls. Marie does her best to vanquish the demon from the girl, but she realizes that the evil she unleashed is not only destructive to Sacajawea, but to her and her descendants.

Decades later, in 2001, Marie’s great-great grandson, Corey, kills himself in the basement of her old home. The rest of the novel focuses on Corey’s mother, Angela. She is determined to uncover the reason why her son killed himself. Angela must come to terms with her grandmother’s abilities; something that she tossed aside as a family legend. As she uncovers more clues about her son’s odd behavior leading up to his death, she realizes that the rituals her Grandmother Marie used to perform were no useless fluff.

This evil entity that Marie Toussaint mistakenly unleashed wraps its hold on some of Angela’s closest friends. Like an invisible smoke, the entity seeps into Angel’s friends, making them do unthinkable things; such as possessing a loving father to hold his young son’s head underwater until the boy’s lungs were filled with water or possessing a man to walk, grinning, into an oncoming truck.

Despite an otherworldly force trying to scare her away, Angela fights through the many obstacles thrown at her. She finally is able to uncover the truth behind her son’s death. The novel ends with Angela finally opening her mind to her grandmother’s powers in order to banish the evil that has taken away her son, ex-husband, best friend, and lover.

The last couple of pages bring together what I feel is the general moral of the novel; the importance of family. Without the love for her family, Angela Toussaint would never have been able to save her son, her marriage, or her grandmother’s spirit.