Bullet Journal Comparison #3: Monthly Covers

Hey, hey it’s MJ,

            Back again with another Bullet Journal comparison. If you want to check out the other two I have done, you totally can and I would appreciate it. I have done posts on my Yearly Covers and my Book Trackers so far and now here we are with my Monthly Covers. 

            A lot has changed with my monthly covers since I started, I mean what we are learning with this post series is that a lot has changed over all with my Bullet Journal as I have learned my own style. That’s the thing about Bullet Journaling, you can experiment and see what your style is without the restraints of the standard day planner. It is not for everyone, it is a time commitment, but it is worth it for me. I like the control and the creativity that I can express while I work on my Bullet Journal each year. 

            So let’s start with the oldest one first, my experimental year. 2018, where I wasn’t all that sure what I was doing but I figured I wanted to do it anyway. 

            I am showing the April cover for the last four years. 

            2018: It’s an umbrella and I liked the lettering, it’s super simple, but all of my covers for 2018 were really simple. I was still really learning at that point and I didn’t really know what I wanted in a bullet journal at that point. I have said this before and I will say it again and again with this post series, 2018 was my experimental year to see if this was a hobby that I could sustain long term. 2018 was not the best year in general so there are a lot of qualities that I didn’t keep from this journal to my next journals and I don’t regret leaving some things in the past.

            2019: Another umbrella and I just realized that. I didn’t even think about it before today that April for two years in a row had an umbrella featured in it. 2019 I tried harder at my covers and I also added in a calendar that I never used, I like the bunny that I drew. This one for sure was an upgrade from 2018 but not even my best cover for 2019. I have a post on my fave BuJo pages from 2019 and you can see some of my better covers there. 

            2020: Two page covers became a thing last year and I don’t regret them one bit. This is probably one of my favorite covers from last year because I love the Avengers, my 2022 themes will all be Marvel. I am just not sure exactly what I am going to do yet which is weird but I’m working on it. I tried so hard on this one and it took me hours to do the building with any kind of accuracy to the movies and I love it. If you want to see the rest of April you can check out my 2020 Bullet Journal #1 Update.

            2021: Lilo and Stitch is one of my favorite movies and this one took me hours upon hours. That is the real difference between 2018 and today, the theming and also how long it takes me to actually do the covers and the final pages of the month. I was really proud of this one to be honest because I am trying to make better art. I could have colored in the sand below Stitch but I didn’t want to. You can see the rest of the month if you want to in my 2021 Bullet Journal Update #2.

            Well there it is, four years represented in under 1,000 words and I am only like half way done with this series. I have a few more comparisons I want to make. I have for sure changed my style with my Bullet Journals over the years and I love growing and learning as a creative minded human with projects like this. 

            Like I said, it’s not for everyone and I think you can buy premade Bullet Journals online, but that takes the fun out of it for me. I want to look at a blank journal and create my own thing on it’s pages. It gives you room to add other things to it and change and adapt to your style as time goes on. I actually used all of my pages in my Bullet Journal this year, that’s 251 pages all told and that’s crazy to me especially since in 2018 I only used 184. I missed two months, but still, I am learning and adding more things that I want in each journal. It’s fun. 

            Well I hope that everyone has a good start to the week and I will be back on Wednesday another post. (I am writing this at the end of August and this doesn’t come out until October so you can see that I am planning ahead!)

            Until then, I hope that every stays safe, happy, and healthy.

            -MJ 

Halloween DIY #2: a Witch’s House

Hey hey, it’s MJ,

            I got a new computer today so I am relearning how to type on it, I am used to the keys on my old computer so I am having a bit of trouble readjusting my fingers to actually hit the right keys at the moment. By the end of this post I will be back to typing all the right keys in the right order, but at the moment I feel a little clumsy. It’s been that kind of day and by the time this comes out on the blog it will be almost a month ago for me. Here’s hoping that October is treating me well. 

            I love Halloween, would I be a basic white girl if I didn’t love Halloween and fall? I am reminded of that video of the little girl saying, ‘I freaking love bats.’ It’s funny. I am super hoping that by the time that this post goes out it is not in the high 80’s. MJ is ready for sweater weather, I miss sweaters. I am ready to stop sweating and start sweatering. Yes, that just came out of my brain and I cannot take it back. We are rolling with it. 

            So I already went over one scene that I made for this season and hopefully if I remember next week (as of me writing this) I will be able to get over to the craft store and pick up some supplies for my last DIY of the year, I already have the homemade part down. (Plot twist: I’m saving it for next year instead) I just need to go to the store and get the rest of the stuff. I should not be allowed to go into a craft store unsupervised. That’s how DIY’s happen and while they are cute they can get expensive. 

            That’s not what this post is about though! I did another scene, it started out a lot different than it ended. 

What do you need to do the thing? Materials and such: 

            Hot glue gun (it’s my favorite tool, not really but for DIY it’s essential.)

            Miniatures, got them at Michael’s, I love Michael’s and the closest one that I have is an hour away so I don’t get to go as much as I did when I was still in Indiana when it was literally fifteen minutes away from my house and like five minutes away from where I went to college. Two ultimate date ideas for me, a craft store or a book store. Don’t buy me a drink, buy me a book. Seriously. 

            The terrarium, I got this one when I got the one for the graveyard because it was half off so I bought two for the normal price of one. 

            Paper, I used wood grain from a paper pack that I bought years and years ago and am finally using all of the paper I bought and then forgot that I bought because I am a hoarder for paper. 

            Cardboard, I cannibalized part of the box for my Book of the Month book because that was what made sense to me at the time. 

            Cob webs, I bought some last year and I have no idea where in my apartment they disappeared to so I had to buy more, thank the lord that I live in Walmart country.

            Spiders, also from Walmart because it was early last Sunday morning and I thought, “Spiders.” So I bought the spiders, now I have six that I have no clue what I am going to do with so that’s fun. 

Method to the madness, or just the chaos, it kind of depends on the day: 

            I am not going to number this because every time I do the blog has a panic attack and it doesn’t format right so here I am just making a nice list. 

            – Unwrap all of your miniatures. Marvel at all of the plastic and packaging because it’s so much for how small the miniatures are. Also get your hot glue gun warm.

            – Make sure that your terrarium or display case is at least kind of clean. 

            – Cut your cardboard to fit and then wrap your cardboard with your flooring paper choice. I really did love the wood look and if I had thought about it I would have tea stained parts of it before I glued the miniatures on to give it a more weathered and worn look. I would do that if I did flooring for a tableau again.

            – I glued all of my miniatures onto the floor before I put it in and like my other terrarium scene I did draw it all out at least as an idea first. I did so much gluing for this part because everything had to sit just right. Then shove it into the terrarium and shut the door.

            -Alright so here’s the deal, originally this is where everything stopped. I didn’t like it when I finished this part a few weeks ago. I wanted more, it just didn’t feel or look finished and I was not cool with that. 

            -Go and get another idea for it, I promise, it’ll be worth it. If you don’t feel like it’s finished, it’s not. I decided to put spiders in it, make it a miniature spider scene that a witch made for her pet spiders. Imagine me shrugging at this very moment, it worked out. 

            -Spread your spiderweb out after cutting off a chunk and realizing that your scissors need to be sharpened yet again which you just sharpened them like a week and a half ago and you are getting sick of it. 

            -Place the spiders and the spiderweb into the terrarium and realize that the spiders are too heavy to stay up, get your hot glue gun, and straight up glue them to the glass at the back of the terrarium. 

            – Now you can close it again and display it. I feel like I need creepier pictures of these scenes than just where they are in my apartment. Maybe I’ll do some sort of photo series on my Instagram or something after I have made them a little creepier. Who knows. I am bad at social media. 

            -Enjoy the spooky season however you celebrate it. Have fun or have a spooky time. Enjoy making things, enjoy creating, and enjoy this fun little thing that is still amusing me every time I look at the bookcase behind my desk. 

            Well there it is, hopefully the second of three DIY’s that I present this spooky season. I will be back later in the week with another post, so I hope until then everyone stays safe, happy, and healthy out there.

            -MJ 

September Book of the Month Review

Title: Rock Paper Scissors

Author: Alice Feeney

Hey hey, it’ MJ,

I need to preface this post, sorry there was no post on Wednesday, I was going to post something but my Wi-Fi is out and I am trying to not use all of my hotspot data on my phone. I could have posted it at school but this week had us in the eighth ring. So my Wi-Fi is still out and it will be until they can run an entirely new hard line into my apartment because everything is rusted. That’s fun, it’s so fun, last week was like the worst and I can only hope that it gets better. I need better, I need some joy, and I just kind of need a win.

Now onto the review though…

            Wow. 

That’s all I can say about this book for my third month of BoTM. I wasn’t actually sure how I felt about the choices when they came out at the end of last month. This was the least objectionable to what I like to read. 

There will spoilers because this is a review and that just happens! If you want to read the book then stop reading and I will see you with my next post. 

I read it in like three days and I would for sure give it like a 3.9/5. It was so good, slow start but there was so much subterfuge that my brain is still processing what happened throughout the novel.

It’s told from two perspectives at first with interstitial yearly anniversary letters, you think that letters are being written by the main female character and then things get weird. Another perspective is introduced and you have no idea who this women Robin is to the main characters. It took me well over half the book to put any connections together because of how the story is woven. 

It is woven masterfully by the way, I was guessing and hooked most of the book while my brain slowly started to explode in my head because of everything that was going on. It’s just a lot and there isn’t really another way to put it. 

Marriage seems hard and you think that this marriage has been going on for years and then someone cheated on their spouse, that’s super true but the woman who we meet at the beginning is not the first wife, it’s the one that he cheated on his wife with and I needed to stop reading for a moment and process that. 

This is one of those books that sticks with you, it will stick with me for the foreseeable future because it blew my mind. I am going to say that over and over again because usually books don’t blow my mind. Usually they are kind of predictable and usually I like predictable, this one, this one was unexpected. So many lies, twists, turns, and just a hint of crazy. 

I have so much that I want to say but I am still reeling from this book, it was so much and I could not put it down I read most of the book in two days, I just couldn’t get enough and it kept me wanting to keep turning pages while making me question everything I had read to that point. 

I like multiple perspectives and this one has less than the last few I have read, I like when and author puts the perspective as the chapter title; it’s so helpful when reading. I don’t mind the switching perspectives especially in a thriller because you get to see everyone’s innermost thoughts. 

I also really liked the limited cast of characters that you see throughout the novel itself, I love a good locked room mystery and this was that. A converted chapel in Scotland where a weekend away was supposed to save a marriage, an ex-wife planning revenge, and a snow storm keeping everyone in place. 

Everyone in this book is crazy, I have to say that for sure; no one was the hero. No one was a victim or just a villain, love makes you do crazy things, but this book is full of so many lies and crazy situations that I am still trying to figure everything out. 

I like the mix of present and past with the letters, I think that letters in a book are fun, they provide information that may not be in the full plot line, the letters condense entire years into a few pages and it’s so good. 

I have started so many paragraph’s with I but here we are because it’s my review. Book of The Month is really great and I am so excited for next month’s choices, I need to not get another thriller. I need to branch out in what I am reading genre wise, but this one it’ll stick with me for a while because it blew my literary mind. 

If you want to read the other Book of The Month’s that I have gotten this year, you totally can because I just started this in July: July and August.

I hope that everyone has a good week and I will see y’all later in the week with another post. Until then I hope that everyone stays safe, happy, and healthy!

-MJ

Coffee

Hey hey, it’s MJ,

            That’s it, that’s the title. Coffee. I love coffee and that is no secret. I used to drink a lot of Starbucks, I don’t really anymore just because their coffee is so expensive. I also used to use single use K-Cup pods for my Keurig, but again, expensive and not so great for the environment. 

            Now I just buy bagged coffee. I get it cheap at HomeGoods usually, but this year I discovered something so much better. 

            Bones Coffee Company.

            I just really like their coffee, I want to shout out a good coffee company that makes a good product, that’s it, that’s the post. 

            I have tried several of their flavors and I have more in my fridge so I can use those in the coming weeks because I love flavored coffee. This post isn’t going to be super long it’s just me talking about coffee. 

            I love Bones packaging, their flavor names, and I get a sticker in my box and I am always excited about that. I ordered when they were having giveaways and I got an extra bag of coffee each time. 

            Seriously their packaging is amazing, I love the artwork with the skeleton’s so fun and it’s so creative. Kudos to whoever does that, it’s awesome, keep up the good work. 

Flavors I have tried so far: 

            Paradise Pie: I think that was what it was called, I don’t have pictures of any of these because I am an idiot so this post just won’t have pictures. Also this one is no longer on their website, I got two bags of this and thoroughly enjoyed both of them. Oops my bad, I just looked in my fridge and I still have one of the bags so I still get to enjoy one of them, exciting. 

            Sinn-O-Bun: Who doesn’t love a good cinnamon bun? I know I do and this coffee was so good. The best part of all of these is the smell and the taste for all of them is perfect. 

            Cookies & Dreams: So good, I wanted about a dozen Oreos every time I smelled this. It tasted to good too. 

            Strawberry Cheesecake: I bought a bag of this in my second sampler pack as well because I loved it so much. This one the one where my filter didn’t work so I had a bunch of coffee grounds in my cup, that was not fun. 

            Smorey Time: This one was probably my favorite of all the first batch that I tried, I love s’mores but I cannot handle eating one, they are just so messy. I love the smell though. 

Flavors I have, but haven’t tried yet: 

            Strawberry Cheesecake Chocolate Edition: This was my free bag last time I ordered because they were having a giveaway and I am so excited to give this one a try because of how much I liked the regular Strawberry Cheesecake.

Holy Cannoli: I have never seen The Godfather and I know that is a sin, I am very aware, but I love the packaging on this one. I have only had like two cannoli in my life so I really don’t know what this one is going to taste like, it smells really good though. 

French Toast: I love French toast so this one I am super excited for. I am always really excited for coffee. 

Electric Unicorn: Two points right off the bat, the packaging and the name, they are both phenomenal and I am so excited to give this one a try. I hope that I like it better then I liked the fruity pebbles coffee creamer, I really didn’t enjoy that one. 

From Dusk Till Donuts: I love it! I looks like a movie poster and who doesn’t love a jelly donut? I should just strip the stickers off the bags and keep them because I love them so much. 

I want to try all the fall/Halloween flavors too, but I don’t drink coffee during the week before school, only on the weekends during the school year so I don’t know if I am going to get the chance to try them this year. I love their names though and if you want amazing small batch medium roast coffee give Bones Coffee Company a try. I saw them online for almost a year before I pulled the trigger and bought some and I don’t regret it one bit, I regret waiting so long. 

I will see you all later in the week with another post, I hope everyone is properly caffeinated and stays safe, happy, and healthy. 

-MJ 

Books I’ve Read in 2021 Part #4

Hey hey, it’s MJ, 

         So here was are in the last days of August or the early days of September. I am starting this at the beginning of July and I am hoping that by the time that this is posted I have read like a lot. I have over half of the books I want to read this year still currently sitting on a shelf. I am so hoping by the time that this goes up on the blog that I have made a significant dent in that list. 

         This year is for sure overall different from my book habits of years of the past, I actually have a To Be Read pile, I usually just read what I want. That’s why last year I read 20 cozy mysteries. I have well over 100 books in my collection that I have had forever and not read, so for now those are going to take precedence. That will also be true for next year and the year after as I have already picked the books I plan on reading, at least some part of them. 

         Well here I am with the fourth of six of these posts this year and hoping that there is like a dozen books on this list because I need to read more. If you want to know what else I have read this year you can click on the number and it’ll take you to that post: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Soulless by Gail Carriger      

I have had this book in my collection since late 2014 and so it’s moved with me a few times and I have another book by the same author that really sparked my interest in reading her work. Soulless was very funny and by now everyone should know how much I love Victorian England. This was much more my taste in 2014-2015 with supernatural creatures and all of that. I liked a lot of the characters, but I don’t know if I will read the rest of the series because there were some parts that were a little much for my sensibilities. I don’t read romance any more, I used to, but not so much now. There are some characters in this book that had me rolling with laughter while there were some parts where I just skipped or skimmed. That is really just my personal taste in books though, it was cute and a fun story to read with an interesting mystery element. That all being said I don’t know if I will continue to read the series, I know I said that already but I feel it needs to be said again. I love an outspoken main female lead especially when it’s written in this time period, but for me if you want a strong female lead in this time period without the more adult content I really would suggest the Stalking Jack the Ripper series. 

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

         I liked the book, World War 2 era Britain, very interesting. I will say this, I did not like the n word used so much, I know that it was common place at that time and historically accurate, but not super great to the modern ear. I liked the book otherwise. I love a good love story that is touching and can be tear filled when necessary. Love is war and war is hell. I had a number of family members serve in World War 2, my paternal grandfather was a gunner on the USS Pensacola, and according to him when he was alive, he was the only one on his gun that survived. My paternal great uncle, my grandfather’s brother, my Uncle Jack, was a Marine and lived the rest of his life with a drinking problem. My maternal grandfather was an army doctor on the front lines in France, he never talked about the war. My maternal great uncle, my other Uncle Jack, was in a field hospital in London, also a doctor. I can’t imagine what World War 2 was like, I have only seen it through the lens of history in both fictional and non-fictional accounts. This book was good, it mixed characters and struggle, and hardship, but also love and commitment. It was good. 

The Complete Sherlock Holmes Volume 1 by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

         This took me like a month to read, it was so much. I love Sherlock Holmes, I have read a number of books that use this character, I have watched movies and TV shows and I love the character. This book was so long though, I found myself skimming it and I never skim books. I wish that it was split a little differently but that’s what I get for buying the Barnes and Noble versions in 2012. If it was split out a little more I think I would have enjoyed it much more than I did. 

Dream London by Tony Ballantyne

         It was weird, it was good, and interesting. I feel like I don’t really have words to describe this book. It took me some time to get into and then I read like 300 pages in a day. I am not used to reading books from a male point of view, usually the narrator or main character is female. I have had this book in my collection since I was in college, the first time. (I have two bachelors and a masters, so I have been through a lot of schooling.) It was good when I got into it, and I loved how the chapters were titled. (you will just have to see for yourself if you want to) I love the idea of something starting to change the city that you are living in, the theme kind of reminded me Annihilation, which I read about this time last year. When I say this, I mean in regard for something happening to a place that was normal before and no one is sure why. It’s vivid and a little confusing, but the story is meant to be confusing and rushed. There is a lot of swearing so if you are sensitive to that, this may not be the book for you. I’ve been watching Loki and for some reason Angel Tower and that whole concept reminded me of the show, again, I don’t know why, but it did. 

A Study in Darkness by Emma Jane Holloway

         This is the second book in the trilogy and I read the first one in January of 2016, I remember enjoying it, but I don’t remember much about the story. Which was a problem as I read this one, I really did enjoy it though. It puts a twist on Jack the Ripper for sure and I have now read what feels like a half dozen books this year where Jack the Ripper is a figure. It’s very strange to have that much contact in different novels with one true crime character. Though I have read a lot of Victorian era fiction this year, so I should not be surprised. I read this book in 4 days I think, it was just really good if you like steam punk and Sherlock Holmes. I plan on reading the third and final novel in the series next year as one of my free choice books because I have had the series for at least 5 years now and I actually need to get things read that I have in my current collection. 

The Marlowe Papers by Ros Barber

         I liked the subject matter and the content of the book, however, I didn’t like how it was written. It was written in verse and while I thought that would be cool, I feel like I absorbed almost nothing. It made it a very quick read because I read this book after finishing A Study in Darkness. I love the conspiracy theory that Shakespeare wasn’t a real person, that it was someone else who wrote all of his plays under a pen name, it’s fascinating. It was an interesting read, but the form of the book itself and how it was written in verse made it difficult for me to read. I like a novel, I love a good book of poetry, but I am not a huge fan of a book written in the form of many poems. It’s just not for me, it might be for you and that’s super cool. I read the back and thought how cool it sounded, I didn’t look into the book before buying it at least a few years ago, I also missed two critical words in the synopsis on the back, in verse. This would be a really good audio book, I don’t listen to audio books, but this, like a play should probably be read to you; you should listen to it. I now want to do more research on Christopher Marlowe because I know very little about him and this book did give me some understanding, but also confusion because I didn’t absorb much of what I was reading.  

A Confederate Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain

         This one also took me almost a month to read and I feel like I didn’t gain much from reading this book. I know that I should like the classics, but they are a little hard to read with a modern ear. Sometimes it’s books like this that also need to be read aloud and listened to. I love Arthurian legends, who doesn’t? It was an interesting premise, bringing someone from the 19th century into the sixth and allowing modern (well modern at the time of writing the novel) technology to be implemented. It would be like going back to the time of the American Revolution and bringing cell phones and Wi-Fi, you would probably be burned as a witch. I did skim some of it because I was finding myself bored, I don’t like to be bored when I am reading a book and I was reading two at a time this month trying to make up for the fact that I have not read enough books so far this year. We all had to read something by Mark Twain in high school, where I went we read Tom Sawyer, I SparkNoted it and 11 years removed from high school, I can say that with no shame. Mark Twain, while a cherished American writer, is a little dry for me. 

Escaping From Houdini by Kerri Maniscalco 

         I did not think that I would be reopening this document for the fourth time this week and the second time today, but here I am. I could not put this one down, I really couldn’t. I love this series, it’s now one of my favorite series and I only have one more book left in it and I’m salty about that. It was so good, it reminded me of The Night Circus which is my favorite book. I love circus and carnival stuff themed around this era of Victorian England. I love Aubrey and Thomas and this novel got a little interesting with the added intrigue of the ringmaster, if you want to find out his name read the book, I promise it’s worth it. I read it in three days and I do not regret it, though I do because that means I’m ¾ of the way done with the series and that I am not okay with. I didn’t pick the killer, I never do in her books and it sets up the next one so well with a certain turn of the century serial killer. I am so excited to read the next one, though that will probably be in November or December because I have a number of books stacked up in front of it. I love the Tarot cards that are illustrated at the end of the novel and I cannot get over how detailed and vivid imagery that Kerri Maniscalco has in her novels. To me it doesn’t really read YA, it just has young characters. 

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

         I like funny books by funny people, that should shock no one anymore. I think Anna Kendrick is hilarious and I have for years. I was a teenager when Twilight came out and I was at the proper age for Twilight-mania, I didn’t read the last book. I was in college when Pitch Perfect came out and a bunch of my sorority sisters all went to Buffalo Wild Wings (as you do in a sorority in college) and went to go see it together. I have very fond memories of that evening. I loved this book, I laughed out loud, alone in my apartment a lot throughout reading it. This book came out in 2016 so a lot has happened since then, but these books are almost a time capsule to a time before today, before all of the things that have happened since 2016. It was funny, it was touching, and it got a little weird, but I would expect nothing less. It was good, give it a try if you want to, I don’t think that you’ll be disappointed. 

The Dalek Generation by Nicholas Briggs

         About once a year I read a Doctor Who book, I really enjoyed the series for a long time. I don’t get BBC America at the moment so I haven’t watched since Peter Capaldi left, but there was a time when I bought a lot of Doctor Whonovelizations. This was one of them. I don’t really have much to say about it, I enjoyed it and 11 was my favorite Doctor so it was cool. It was also interesting to see the tables turned with the Doctor’s oldest foes. It was good, it was a quick read, and I don’t even know if you could get this book if you wanted it, but if you like Doctor Who, it’s worth a read. 

Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire by Rafe Esquith

         This book was in a box of books that I got from a teacher that I worked with, she was retiring and we went through all the books in her office. She spent the last several years of her career as a literacy coach (and my across the street neighbor) in the school where I was an instructional assistant while I was getting my Masters in Education. I found this book in one of those boxes, it had been in a box for years. This year has been difficult with teaching, I lost out on a job that I really wanted because of circumstances beyond my control. But it was something that I really wanted. Reading this book helped restore my faith in things, even just for a moment. I couldn’t put it down because I needed to read about someone that has been in this profession and has seen so much. I worked in a high poverty, high gang activity, and high risk district when I still lived in Indiana. That district taught me a lot and prepared me for pretty much anything a classroom can throw at me. Even though this book came out in 2007 most of the advice is still relevant and I don’t know whether I should laugh or cry about that. It feels like we haven’t gone anywhere in education in over a decade and the kids are the ones who are suffering. You cannot go into sixth grade with a first grade reading level, but it still happens. It’s broken and no one seems to know how or wants to fix it, everyone wants the Band-Aid, blaming the teachers, blaming the funding, blaming the curriculum, and blaming everything else. The kids are suffering and they shouldn’t be. 

Half Sick of Shadows by Laura Sebastian:

         I wrote an entire post about this that came out a few weeks ago and I will say it again here, the book was phenomenal. I cannot describe how much I loved it. I love fantasy and historical fantasy is always cool. If you want to stay spoiler free don’t go and read the post, it’s full of spoilers. I will leave you here with the first line and a warning, “I will die drowning; it has always been known.” It does talk about some sensitive topics, like mental health and suicide, so if you are sensitive to those walk into it with that knowledge. As someone who deals with their own mental health issues on the daily I still loved it, those issues were handled well, and it was so good. 

Not A Happy Family by Shari Lepena 

         Like Half Sick of Shadows there is going to be a dedicated post on this book as well, it’ll be out in a few days. It’s a good murder mystery that kept me guessing the entire book. I had no idea who had actually done it until it was revealed at the very end. This book like the last one I read shifts perspectives a lot and it made the tension in this book palpable. The characters were convincing and even though I have never seen Knives Out it gave me Knives Out vibes, it was something about the trailer that made me think of it when I was reading this book. 

The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris by Jenny Colgan

         It took me awhile to get into it and then I read like 200 pages in a day. It’s a cute story, it’s heartwarming. It was also sad. I can’t describe it any other way, I enjoyed it. I was left a little confused by the epilogue, but sometimes that happens because the end came on so fast and it felt like there were still loose ends. I don’t mind loose ends, it leaves interpretation to the reader and leaves you to draw your own conclusions. I have heard Paris is a beautiful place, I cannot speak French, I regret not taking it in high school. The book mentioned Notre Dame a lot and it was published a number of years before the fire but that is one place that I always wanted to see. That and all of the art museums, I just love old historic cities. It was good, it was cozy, and it was a quick read once I got into it. I read from chapter 10 to the end of the book in one afternoon. I hadn’t meant to, but I got sucked into it and that meant that I read most of the book. Oops. 

Live and Let Chai by Bree Baker

         It’s a cozy! I love cozies and that should shock no one, I have written a lot of blurbs on cozies. I even wrote a cozy suggestion post last year. I really liked this one. The last name Swan will always remind me of Once Upon a Time which I loved when I was in college so that was fun. It was a really quick read, I started it in the morning and finished it in the evening with lots of breaks in between because I had other things I had to do. I was not going to read it in one day, I did though. It’s about an iced tea shop in a fun little beach town and it had me guessing on who done it until about the last five or six chapters, I did figure it out before the end of the book. For a cozy, that is odd for me, but I figured this one out. I would recommend it if you like a good little cozy mystery and I plan on going to buy the rest of the series or at least the next few this week so I can read them soon. (Because after I am done with my year TBR, I can read whatever I want and it’s all going to be cozies, prepare yourselves.)

The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore

         I love historical fiction, that is not a secret. This one has been in my collection for quite a long time. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting when I got this book, it’s about the war over the light bulb between Edison and Westinghouse, with Tesla thrown in as well. It’s focused on Westinghouse’s lawyer, it’s really interesting. I feel like normally this wouldn’t be a book that I would pick up, but it was so cool. I learned a lot and I now want to read the non-fiction accounts that are talked about at the end of the book. It took me almost a week to read just because it was the first week back to school and I have not had a lot of time to read this week. I loved it, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it when I read the synopsis in the front, I don’t know what possessed me to pick up this book from the book annex at Barnes and Noble when they used to actually have books in the Annex. (Now it’s coffee table books, cook books, and a small section of regular books and it makes me sad.) If you like inventions and law then this one is for you. There was a brief moment in my life that I thought I would go into law, (entertainment) it was a very brief moment, but I find law fascinating. 

A Grave Matter (Lady Darby Mystery #3) by Anna Lee Huber

         This is the third in the series and it just keeps getting better. Everyone should know by now that I love a book with a good relationship. Strong, stubborn, and independent woman and the man who just has to deal with her and her ridiculous behavior. Maybe that’s just the relationship that I am looking for because I am a ridiculous person. I love a good mystery and this is a really good one even as someone who normally doesn’t read realistic fiction that takes place before about the Victorian era, this takes place in the 1830’s. Like I said though, I love this series. I have been reading it since like 2017 or so and I am only on the third book because I am so bad about reading the books I already own. The grave robber aspect of this one was really interesting and the twists and turns of who did it and the reactions and revelations that took place throughout the novel itself. Keira is an amazing protagonist and her and Gage are really cute. I am reading the next one next year for sure, it’s already on my list and I need to finish all of the ones that I own because with the promises made in this one I cannot wait to see where it goes. 

         So I read a lot more than I thought I was going to, just under 20 books in two months and that is so insane to me. I wasn’t planning on having a post this long because I wasn’t planning on reading this much in two months and then I did. So here we are, I hope that you liked the post because it is so much longer than I expected it to be. 

         I still have a chunk of books to read and every time I look at the books shifting on my shelf it makes me feel better that I am getting closer and closer to my goal. I have already decided that if I hit my goal before the end of the year I am just going to read cozy mysteries and I am totally cool with that. I kind of miss them ,but I am also getting a chance to read such a variety of books that I have been sitting on my shelves for years just collecting dust. 

         Eventually when I move into a house a plan on being able to unbox all of my books and have a library of my own because that really is the dream. A library all my own because I can’t live in an actual library or a book store even though that would be really cool. 

         Well that’s my book list until my next book post, which by the time this comes out I might already be ready to start the next one. I hope that everyone has a great rest of the week and I will see everyone on Sunday with a new post. 

         So until then I hope that everyone stays safe, happy, and heathy. 

         -MJ

Let’s keep track shall we?:

Classics:  6/10 (Alice in WonderlandTuck EverlastingThe Secret Garden, Dracula, The Complete Sherlock Holmes Volume 1, A Confederate Yankee in King Arthur’s Court,)

Historical Fiction:  4/5 (The Last Days of NightThe Marlowe Papers, Everyone Brave is Forgiven, West of Sunset)

Sci-Fi/Fantasy:  4/5 (Dream LondonSoulless, The Starless Sea, Good Omens)

General Fiction:  4/5 (The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris, Me Before You, All is Fair in Love and Cupcakes, Bridget Jones’s Diary)

Memoirs/Autobiographies: 2/2 (Yes, Please and Scrappy Little Nobody)

Non-Fiction:  1/1 (Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire)

Thrillers: 1/2 (I, Ripper

Free Choice:  12/15 (Eaves of Destruction, A Wrench in the WorksShot Through the Hearth, Stalking Jack the Ripper, Premeditated Mortar, Hunting Prince Dracula, Death in Bloom, A Study in Darkness. Escaping from Houdini, The Dalek Generation, Live and Let Chai, A Grave Matter)

Book of the Month (late addition): 2/6 (Half Sick of Shadows, Not A Happy Family)

Writing Binders

Hey hey, it’s MJ,

            I have been writing long form fiction for about a decade now and that is crazy for me to think about. I have 13 almost 14 finished projects, (it hopefully will be 14 within the month) a few current projects, and like 15 future projects. My brain is full of ideas and it never stops. I cannot write fast enough to keep up with the ideas in my brain…ever and that’s hard. 

            This is going to be a long post so if you are planning on reading the whole thing go get a coffee or a tea and a snack. Buckle in. 

            I have used so many methods of actually keeping all of my stuff organized. I have tried notebooks, outlined on sticky notes, just hung current projects on a cork board, and finally binders came into my life because they keep everything organized. 

            Now I have two kinds of binders, specific story binders with the deep dive information that I think I might need, (I do a lot of research online so the binders are pretty empty) but having a binder keeps things as organized as I can while I am working on a project. My other kind of binder is my general projects binder that is a snapshot of everything I have finished, am currently working on, and have already figured out for the future. 

            I don’t share my writing because I fear people stealing my work, I know I need to share it to get feedback for publishing, but I am still scared to. I have sent things to people in the past and they have “skimmed” my work, I want you to read it to give me feedback, I don’t want you to skim it, skimming it doesn’t help me. 

            Let’s go over what a normal story based binder looks like. I will not be showing my outlines because these projects, until they are ready to hit a bookstore are still my babies, they all take pieces of me and I don’t want anything to happen to them.

            Here’s the thing about the story binders, I have been using my general binders a lot more lately because I have been working on different projects that aren’t actually in the binders. The last book I wrote where the binder was super helpful was one I finished at the end of last year that I started writing in 2017. Inspiration struck last fall and wrote like a bunch in two months and finished it. 

            The binder I am using in this example is a series, there are going to be seven books in it that comprise four separate groups that overlap in each of their own books. Started out as one group with a planned three books, then I got an idea for something else which has two, and the other two groups only have one and all four stories culminate and end at the same event so that’s fun. It’s ambitious for me, this was my first “series”, I normally am a stand-alone person but roll with me.

            Most of my binders are set up the same way. Five tab dividers are my best friends! 

            Characters: This is where I have a major characters sheet, sometimes I do a deep dive and have full character sheets that I constantly ignore throughout the process of writing the book. I know a lot about my characters, they all live in my brain, but I want them to form organically even for me. 

            Outlines: I have done outlines so different over the years, stick notes, notebook, and finally a types “idea sheet” I don’t really outline. My first book was outlined by chapter, now I don’t chapter until I am done writing it because I don’t want to put myself in a box. I call them “idea sheets” now because I don’t want to see the outline as set in stone. I have put things in outlines and then completely scrapped them over the years and that’s okay. Find something when you are writing that works for you. I type everything so I have a digital copy and a hard copy because that’s what works for my brain. (You don’t want to know how many folders I have to go into to find anything on my laptop, but everything is incredibly organized!)

            World Info: This is more for anything that I am writing that isn’t realistic fiction, in the book I finished last winter this was where I had the town square, the items for sale in the shop that my main character’s family owned, and several other pieces of world info that I needed because I made up the town. I also have used world building sheets from E.A. Deverell to help me plan things out and have an idea or an expansion on my ideas.

            Misc Research: It is exactly what it sounds like, any research that I do that I want to be able to reference as I am writing the book, things that I will need repetitively as I work. This section is underutilized in my work and I know that because I will Google something and then have to Google it again because I didn’t write it down. I also use the comments feature in Word because then I have a record of questions that I have for myself as I go and can reference later. 

            Visual Ideas: Character mood boards, character sketches, misc. world sketches, house layouts, anything that I will visually need to reference while I am working. For one of my series I have a map that is a 500 miles radius from Nashville, and that is a visual idea I need for that series. 

            Now we move on to the general binders. They are set up similarly to the story binders but the content is easier to carry around. I have three one inch binders that make up most of my canon of work in short form. I started out with one, my Current projects binder, I then created the future projects binder when my ideas started to grow and grow for future projects, and finally very recently I created the past projects binder for use when I am doing revisions. The tabs in all binders are different so we will go through each. I will start with the Past Projects binder.

            Past Projects: All of the binders I have decorated like I am back in high school and I am still using one of those ugly day planners that the school gave us that I covered every year because I didn’t like them. At the front of each of these binders there is random information and stuff, in this one it’s my chapter break down for revisions and also my original word total and my current draft word total.

can you tell I’ve been revising?

            I did co-op these tabs from another story binder because I cannot find cute tabs anywhere right now, when I do the other binder will get it’s tabs back and I will have more appropriate tabs for past projects. So what’s in here at the moment?

            Not much, this is still a work in progress binder, until a few days ago it only had the revision stuff in it and then I printed a bunch of character sheets and outlines. I know I want to have more stuff in here, I’m just not sure what because these are all finished projects. That probably should have been the title but I liked Past, Current, and Future Projects when referring to them. This binder is where I have come from with my writing and I think I’ve come pretty far since I started. 

            Current projects: This is everything that I am actively working on, I mean some of the things in my Future Binder I am currently toying with but these are projects that I am already in and have been writing for some time. This one is much more fleshed out than my Past Projects Binder, it’s decorated as well because I am one of those people. If I need to take a binder with me, it’s this one because it’s what I’m in the process of finishing. 

            Birthdays: Yes I have a calendar that is all of my characters birthday’s, are they super important for the story? Not really, but I still like to know them in case I have to go back and write something in something that I am revising. 

            Extra Layouts: I have moved this over to my Future Projects binder so I need to have something else to put here, it’ll probably just be layouts that are in current novels I am working on. 

            Outlines: Self-explanatory I think, it’s the outlines and idea sheets for everything I am currently working on. That’s one reason why this binder is important, it has all the information I need in a slim binder as I hop between projects, which I do a lot. I always have 4-6 works in progress at any time. At the moment I think I have six or seven, maybe more that I am kind of actively working on. I am trying to get one draft finished that I started in 2019 and just want to get it done because I have another draft that I started in like 2017 and I am still working on that one. I am excited for it and I know exactly where it’s going but I am in a slump on that one. Now that fall is upon us I am hoping to get back into it. 

            Characters: Also self-explanatory, it’s all the major characters for my current active projects. I have more in here than actual current projects because some stuff has been left in here for future projects that are in a series. Those are kind of in limbo projects, they don’t really have a good home so some are in the future projects some are in current projects. 

            There is no fifth tab in this one, it’s empty, I should probably have visuals here because I might move away from the “story binders” here eventually, but who knows. 

            Future Projects: Last binder I promise. This one I came up with when I had a bunch of projects in my Current Projects binder that didn’t need to be there. I am always coming up with new ideas for fictional works and it’s a little annoying. Early in my writing I feared running out of ideas and now I have 15 future projects some I haven’t even started yet and that’s insane to me. The dream is to write full time, but that’s just a dream at the moment. This is my most full binder of all three and that’s a good thing and a terrible thing at the same time.

            Misc Info: This is where I keep a list of all my future projects, if I have even started them, if they are sequels or a series, if I have not started them at all, or if I am not sure if that project is viable at the moment. They may become viable in the future but they are up in the air for the moment. 

            Layouts: I moved my extra layouts here, I love house plans and I have so many saved on my computer from the internet because I use them as inspiration for characters apartments and homes. It gives me a visual so I don’t say that a house has two bedrooms on the first floor and then later in the book say it’s three. 

            Outlines: I have idea sheets for all of my future projects except for the one that I came up with this morning. Yes, that’s right I had a dream that built on an idea that I was already rolling around in my brain and now it’ll eventually be on the list. A writer really is just a bunch of worlds shoved into a person suit, my brain is a creative, but really loud place. 

            Characters: I love my character lists and we can leave it there, this is a common tab in all of my binders, I don’t need to explain it again.

            Visuals: There isn’t anything in this one, I need to put things in it and eventually I will have to upgrade this binder to a larger one because there is almost too much paper in it now. 

            Anything I write with someone else is all stored in a Google doc because it’s collaborative, I have several of those, but those aren’t for sharing. 

            So there it is, this is a super long post so if you made it this far, kudos and thank you. I appreciate any views of this because writing is deeply personal for me. I know there are a lot of writers out there and I read so much that I know how amazing putting words to paper and having something come out of it is. 

            I have other projects that will never see the light of day, that I will never finish and I am okay with that. I hate unfinished things but some of them were written or starting to be written at different points of my life and I cannot finish those stories as the person that I am currently. Maybe down the road those works will open themselves back up to who I am then. I like being a storyteller, I have always liked telling stories and I hope that never changes.

            I will be back later in the week with a new post, I actually don’t know when this post is going to come out it’s either the end of August or the beginning of September because I am waiting for my August Glam Bag so this was a late addition to my docket and I am glad that I wrote it. 

            So until I see everyone again I hope that every stays happy, healthy, and safe!

            -MJ  

Bullet Journal Comparison #1: Yearly Cover

Hey hey, it’s MJ, 

            This is going to be a series, I plan on having one post like this for the next several months because I need a little bit more to write about and maybe this series can help someone who is embarking on the Bullet Journal trend like I did in 2018. I blame Pinterest for a lot of things in my tactile creative arsenal and Bullet Journaling is one of them. I could link all of my Bullet Journal posts here, but that would be in a word; excessive. I will link a few important ones though, like my updates so far this year, (they are linked near the top of the linked post) my Bullet Journal supplies post, and my 2020 Bullet Journal. (again the links for all of those updates are at the top pf the linked post) 

            I don’t expect these posts to be long and rambling, I just want to talk about how much my creative process for these have changed over the years. 

            I started Bullet Journaling in 2018 because I was moving and I could never find a planner that was exactly what I wanted, Pinterest turned me on to this mythical and magical thing called Bullet Journaling. It was such a concept to me, buy a blank journal and then make it what you wanted, creating hundreds of pages out of thin air and I was up for the challenge. 

            This first post I figured could focus on one page, all of them will focus on a singular page in my journals for the last four years. My methods might be different than other Bullet Journalers, (I don’t know what to call it) but that’s alright we can all have a different method to journaling. That is the intense beauty of a Bullet Journal; it can be whatever you want it to be. 

            I am not a professional, I make mistakes in every journal, no matter how many times I have worked on them, I am working on my 2022 BuJo already and I have already made mistakes even though it is almost a carbon copy to my 2020 and 2021 BuJo in regard to the layout. 

            So my page for this post is the yearly cover. These posts are going to give some spoilers for my favorite pages this year but at the moment, I don’t care; just roll with it. 

            2018: I have no idea what I was doing when I threw this page in, I really didn’t. I remember sitting at my desk when I was still in Indiana and staring at the page hoping that it would just tell me how to make a good cover. I went with Hello in over a dozen languages and just ran with it. It was the not the most creative and at the time I will say, my 2018 Bullet Journal was very much a prototype to see if I could sustain actually doing something like this.

            2019: Who doesn’t love balloons, I wish I would have done more with them. Shading or something to make them look more like balloons and not made a few mistakes in them. It was just as simple as my 2018 yearly cover and this is honestly a page I rarely look at throughout the year, but still, I could have done better with this one. 

2020: After what we all went through in 2020 I never want to hear the phrases ‘2020 vision’, or ‘hindsight is 2020’ ever again. I was so optimist at the beginning of last year and then it was a dumpster fire. I wish that I could have seen the future and made this a dumpster instead, but we can’t see the future and that is not a super power that I would want. I loved this cover though, I loved the sunglasses and if I wasn’t a glasses human who has really poor vision I would for sure have about six pairs of sunglasses that looked exactly like these ones. 

            2021: if you were around last year and were following my BuJo posts then you will remember this castle from my October BuJo Disney spread last year. I did all Disney this year and my 2021 Bullet Journal is actually fully complete. I traced the castle, I am not going to lie, I traced it because I am not great at free-handing anything. I didn’t go for the ombre that I tried last year, with this cover I went with more of a stained glass look because I love stained glass. There is no secret there, stained glass is beautiful and scary; too many sharp edges for me to try and make. I think that last year and this year have stretched my creative vision for my Bullet Journals and this cover is my favorite so far. 

            So there it is, one page over four years. I don’t know what 2022’s cover is going to look like; I have not decided that yet. I know what my theming is next year but I have figured out very little when it comes to the actual creative part of all of it. I still have some time to figure that out before I start. I am getting all of the basic pages in as well as the monthly days because I know if I don’t I will fall behind and it won’t be fun. It will be a slog to get through like I did for all of 2018, 2019, and the beginning of 2020 and now I am ahead and I want to be. 

            Covers are just the beginning, I will be comparing a lot of pages and some will look really similar because I have found that if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. I have certain pages that I love and have the same year after year because that is what makes sense to me. You may think it’s lazy to copy a page year after year, I don’t see it that way. I see it as finding something that works for you and sticking with it until something better comes along. 

            Alright, I will see everyone mid-week with another post, I hope that everyone out there is staying safe, happy, and healthy. Have a good start to the week! 

            -MJ 

Fave Comics

Hey hey, it’s MJ,

I have been meaning to write this post for like a week but have been putting it off. I don’t know why, I just didn’t feel like writing it. Sometimes creativity flows and sometimes the drain gets clogged. The beavers are building a dam upstream so nothing gets through and you become an unmotivated mess. 

            I am going to preface this post with some truth, I have not bought a comic book in about a year and a half. I just haven’t, I love them and I used to get single issue comic books almost weekly. I don’t have a local comic book shop, so that makes getting things more difficult. I have a lot of trade paperbacks as well, but I have over 100 single issue comics that I need to really get bagged and boarded because right now, they are just sitting on a shelf and that is not the best for them; oops, my bad. 

            Some of these might be series that I got in single issue and some will be those that I got as trades, they are not just one comic brand, though much of my collection is Marvel. 

            These are my recommendations as of today, they are characters that I enjoy, and I do not have a large comic collection as compared to others. I like what I like and if you don’t, that’s cool, we can agree to disagree on our faves. 

            I only started reading comics in college because I liked the MCU, so don’t come for me I don’t know all of the things . If you want people who know all of the things go and listen to The Wizard and The Bruiser podcast on Spotify, that’s not a plug they just do a lot of research and I have learned a lot from them. 

The Wicked and The Divine

            I only have the first five trades in this series, there are nine trades in the series  and it’s finished so I need to get the rest of the collection. I started reading it on a whim and it’s so good. Every ninety years twelve Gods return to Earth and in two years they are dead (paraphrased from the back of trade one The Faust Act). It’s this cycle and it’s so good, the art is amazing! I need to reread them before I continue the series but it’s so good! If you like modern retellings of mythical God’s this one for sure is for you. 

The Umbrella Academy

            This one should be obvious on why I am reading it, first of all huge My Chem fan, second it has a Netflix series, which is so good. This comic is for sure different than the show, but it’s really good. Ironically the song I Think We’re Alone Now is playing on my Spotify and that’s hilarious. I only have the first two of three trades that are out there currently, I will be getting the third one at some point, but not today. 

Labyrinth Coronation

            It is no secret that my favorite movie is Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, it’s been my favorite movie since the first time I saw it. It’s ridiculous and everyone I have shown it to does not share my enthusiasm to it. I only have the first volume and I need to get the rest, this is a prequel of sorts to the movie and I love it so much. 

Civil War

            And Civil War 2, I have that all in single issues. Civil War the comic is very different from Civil War the movie, I know, I have read the novelization as well, you can see how I felt about that in my books read post number one from last year. I said it there and I will say it again here, if you consider the comic and book as one entity and the MCU film as another they are both amazing, they are not real similar. 

U.S. Avengers

Yes, the first issue is a variant cover. I was living in Indiana at the time and I had to have the Indiana Avenger cover.

            I have all of the single issues for this one as well, I don’t have any of the trades though I would like to get them some day. I really enjoyed the series when I read it and it sticks in my brain even though I haven’t opened any of them since probably 2018, if not earlier. That is the only Avengers series that I have in single issue and I really enjoyed it. 

The Invincible Iron Man (2008)

            Really any of the Iron Man series that have come out recently but My Five Nightmares was my first trade so it holds a very special place in my heart. It was also the first series that I read from front to back. The art is great, the story is great, and Iron Man is my favorite so of course I liked it. 

Ms. Marvel (2014)

            I loved this iteration of Ms. Marvel, G. Willow Wilson did an amazing job bringing this character into the modern realm and making her believable. I only have the first five trades and need to get the rest, I keep saying that, but it’s true. I loved this series when it came out. I actually may have some single issues of it as well but I don’t remember at the moment and my stack of single issues is large and unmarked because I am an idiot. This series is amazing, there is nothing else to say about it, it’s amazing. 

Harley Quinn (2013)

            Any of them, I have a few different Harley series and I love her. She’s been one of my fave characters since I was a kid, she was a doctor before being manipulated. My favorite crack ship is her and Deadpool because that would be the most chaotic thing ever. She’s a really strong character when she’s not juxtaposed next to The Joker, this series is all about her being on her own, at least the first trade is. I have a lot less DC comics than I do Marvel, though I have a lot of first issues, Titans, Teen Titans, Hellblazer, Superman, Wonder Woman as well as others that I can’t think of off the top of my head at the moment. I grew up on all of the animated Batman series of the 90’s and 2000’s, I loved the old Justice League, but I didn’t start collecting DC comics until after college and I have no single issue DC comics from the current generation. Grab bag comics from the 90’s and 2000’s sure, but I never sought out DC like I did Marvel, Dark Horse, and Image.

            So there it is, some of my fave comic’s all trades except for a few and I bet anything I have in single issue I would get in trade now, I know that there are thousands of series out there and we can all have our favorites, from the most chaotic to the most heroic. I have Captain America, Hawkeye, Thor, Avengers, Guardians, and many other Marvel comics, but if I added more it would just be a list of the around 30 series that I have in my collection, some of those are just the first trade and then I didn’t buy any others. There are other series that I have wanted for a long time and never got, but I have a lot of comics books and giving a small sample is probably for the best. 

            I hope that everyone has a great rest of the week and I will be back on Sunday with another post! 

            -MJ

A Fun Summer DIY

Hey hey, it’s MJ

            So I actually did this DIY almost a month ago and I have been considering it for several months I was just looking for the perfect container to put it all in. Here I am with another almost quarterly DIY because I enjoy making things and sometimes I can’t find the thing that I want, so I have to make it myself. 

            I meant to write this post pretty much right after I finished the DIY, I did not. Oops my bad. 

            I love those beautiful terrariums with succulents in them, I cannot keep a succulent alive to save my life. It’s a problem and I can’t seem to fix it, so I figured, I’ll just use fake ones and roll with it. 

            This DIY isn’t even in my apartment, it’s still at my parents’ house because I haven’t figured out how to transport it safely, I should have thought of that before, but your girl is kinda of dumb sometimes. Then my dad told me that he really liked it so I am going to have to make another one just to leave there when I get a chance to get more succulents. He’s not a huge fan of art, but apparently he likes tiny succulents. I arrange flowers for my mom all the time so at least he likes something that I do creatively. I am going to tell you a short story about my father, this was a few years ago when he found out that I like to write books in my spare time and he asked me if I had any of them published. I looked over like I was looking at a camera on The Office and said no, but it’s a goal. You think that he would realize that if I published a book I would have told him!? I love my dad though and this is for sure a very story time moment at the beginning of this post. My bad.

            Back to the DIY because I rambled! 

Materials (what you gonna need): 

            Succulents: I got mine at Michael’s in like March, you can get them from Amazon or your fave craft retailor. Pick ones that you like, I stuck with a bagged package and one that my mom liked (I had to cut that one down off its stem so if you do this, make sure to have pliers, pretty much whenever you are working with flowers. pro tip: have pliers.)

            Moss: or some kind of ground cover. I used floral foam for my base and covering it in moss was the best option for me. You may recognize this moss from one of my Halloween DIY’s last fall. Next time I need moss I will actually have to go and buy more because I used the rest of it. Also this stuff gets messy to be prepared to have dust and particles of moss everywhere. 

            Floral Foam: It’s a good idea to have a base on these kinds of projects especially with the terrarium I chose. I got small blocks instead of big blocks and cutting them with a serrated knife tends to be the easiest. I used my mom’s bread knife, sorry mom. I cleaned it right away though. 

            Terrarium or container: I got this one at HomeGoods and I was so excited because it was only like $15. I wanted a glass and gold terrarium and this one just happened to be there so I grabbed it. You can find these pretty much anywhere anymore, I have seen them at Hobby Lobby and on Amazon. The completed ones in terrariums like this were what really inspired this project but I never liked any of them, so I made it myself. 

            Tiny Rocks: I was actually going to use rocks straight up out of the rock beds that are landscaping at my parent’s house, my mom said no. Luckily we had these river rocks that you usually use for vases in flower arranging and these were extras so I grabs a bunch dropped them on hot glue and that was how I did the little clusters.

            Time: This project start to finish probably took me 30-45 minutes, give yourself time to make it how you want it. 

Steps (procedure, directions, whatever you want to call it):

            -Gather your materials, that should always be your first step. Also get your hot glue gun on like right now. It’s going to take a few minutes to heat up.

            -Next step really is hot glue, get a good base of hot glue in whatever shape you want on a sheet of parchment paper (do not do it directly on any surface that it could burn, stain, or stick to) and drop rocks on it, do not put the rocks down and put the hot glue on top, it doesn’t work they just fall out of the hot glue when you turn it over. Putting them firmly in the hot glue seals them in. Make sure that you give them time to dry, they look like little islands and I wanted to have more substantial rocks and not just sprinkle them around. 

            -Now, get your terrarium and cut your floral foam to fit, you will probably need multiple pieces, I didn’t want mine all at one level so I cut them a little different for height. Some advice from me though, try and keep it as even with the opening of the terrarium as possible. 

This is the mess you can expect!

            -Cover that in your moss or ground cover, I am not here to tell you how to live your life if you don’t like moss, you could use all stones. Yes, I know that succulents grow in rocks and things, I like moss. It’s whatever makes you happy and looks good in the terrarium. 

            -Grab your rock formations and slip them in wherever you feel like it, use your heart. There is no formula for this, it is personal preference on how many rocks you put in or don’t put in. I would suggest at least some though. 

            -Put in your succulents! Arrange them how you want, I started in the center with the biggest one I had and then put the rest around it, I don’t know if I would start in the center again, I think I would start at the back and move forward because it did get hard to put things in. Every mistake is a learning experience right?

            -Take a billion pictures of it at every angle because you love it so much. Display it where you want, I have a spot for mine on the garden table in my living room window. I just have to get it home first. 

            I really enjoyed doing this project because while yes, I could have bought this from a store completely finished; that takes the fun out of it. I like crafting and having tactile crafts keeps my hands busy when I am not writing. If you want to buy something like this premade, cool, you do you. 

            Well I think that’s it for this one, I will be back mid-week with another post. I think it’s going to be my favorite comics, I have no idea how I am going to write that post; we’ll figure it out. I hope that everyone has a great start to the week. Stay safe, happy, and healthy. I’ll see y’all with the next one! 

            -MJ

Books Read so Far in 2021 Part #3

Hey hey, it’s MJ,

            Well it’s July? Or is it June? I really don’t know at this point, it’s probably June, I think that’s when this post is coming out, for me, it’s still May. I for sure should have started this post two books ago but here I am needing to write two books worth of information all right now. 

            Well this was supposed to go up in June but your girl is an idiot and posted her Bullet Journal update a week early, so here we are in the first full week of July with this update, that should have been out two weeks ago. Sorry about that, it’s been a scattered couple of weeks in my brain. 

            I decided after my last post to actually write out all the titles of the books I have read throughout the year next to their category because it seemed the easiest way for me to keep track as I move through the year. Especially for the categories that are not free choice. 

            If you want to know what else I have read this year you can click on the number and it’ll take you to that post: Part 1 and Part 2.

Yes, Please by Amy Poehler:

            I love funny books by funny people and Amy Poehler is a really funny person. I have had this book in my collection pretty much since it came out and that means it’s been on my bookshelf for a while and I finally got around to reading it. I should have read it years ago. I loved Parks and Recreation, it was such a good show and one of those shows that stuck with me even after I watched it. I didn’t really ever watch SNL but so many amazingly funny comedians have come from that show that have such an influence on the pop culture sphere and I love it. I liked reading a memoir that took the past and the present and mixed them. I feel like I should have more to say because it was a 300+ page book, but I don’t really have much to say. Beyond, if you like comedic people, you will probably like this book.

Premeditated Mortar by Kate Carlisle 

            I think this one actually has gotten me caught up with the series and now I am upset that I have to wait for the next one to come out. This book didn’t have a murder until like halfway through the book which for a cozy mystery was strange but I wasn’t too upset about it. I want to visit some of the places that are described in this series and The Gables is for sure one of those places. It was more focused on other things and I think that was nice, I want more books in this series and I know there will be more. I love all of the relationships, friendships, and family relationships that are interwoven through this series and I am so glad we are seeing an expansion on the characters and the universe as a whole. I am so excited for the next one. 

Theodore Boone: The Fugitive by John Grisham

            I read this to make a vocab quiz for my sixth graders, you can actually still see my sticky tabs for potential vocal words and their context sentences. I read it in like a day and a half because it is a book meant for middle schoolers. It’s also the fifth book in the series, but I get why so many of my middle schoolers love the series. I now want to read the rest of them, or at least eventually get them for my classroom library. I really don’t have much to say except this is the first John Grisham book I have ever read even though he is an incredibly prolific writer. I liked it and if you have a middle school aged student, they may like the Theodore Boone series as well. 

Dracula by Bram Stoker

            Classic number 4 on the year, which is really good because it’s taken me like three weeks to read this book. I love classic literature but it’s so dense. I understand why it is a classic and has spurred so much literature and pop culture along with it. I love the character of Dracula in more modern times. It was a dense read, I liked it, but I am glad I am done with it. I like the diary format in books, I always have. It was one of those books that I enjoyed but I slogged through it. I feel like I don’t have much to say about it besides when I was picturing the characters I was picturing the characters from NBC’s version of Dracula from like 2013-2014. The next book I am reading is the second in the Stalking Jack the Ripper series and I am already enjoying it. 

Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco

            I read it in four days. That is all I have to say. I loved this book just as much I loved the first one in the series which was Stalking Jack the Ripper. So good, I don’t feel like I have much to say on it because it is just one of those books that you need to read, the imagery is amazing throughout and everything is so well tied together. I love the relationships of the characters and the whole aesthetic. Normally I am not a YA reader, which I think I mentioned in the blurb about the first book. I could not put this one down, I read it while I was working out and I think it made my workout’s better because I was so gripped by it and I cannot wait to read the next one. I won’t be reading it for a while now because I am following a list and if I deviate from it I won’t read all the books I want to get done this year. If you want a gothic Victorian mystery with just a touch of flirtation and moments that make you roll year eyes in the best way possible, this series is for sure for you. 

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

            I don’t want to spoil anything, but it’s been out for almost a decade and there was a movie. I cried a little bit reading it. It was a lot to process. I have read another one of her books and that was in 2016, I read Last Letter to Your Lover. I liked this one a lot better. I feel like I am writing really short sentences and I am sorry for that, this will be one of those books that sticks with me for a while. It was heart wrenching and I really want every story to end happily, even though I know that not all stories end happy. We all look for the good and we hope that at the end of the book or the movie that the characters get their happy ending. I would recommend it if you like something that will both make you very happy and very sad at the same time. 

Death in Bloom by Jess Dylan

            I am in the middle of reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Volume 1 also at the moment but I needed a break because classics are long. I was going to read another cozy, but my mom is reading that one right now so I switched gears. I bought this one on a whim when I was getting the new Eve Calder cozy and at the moment I am dealing with a lot of reliance faith, fate, destiny, and manifestation for something in my life. Picking up this book and reading over the last few days where, manifestation is a big theme I felt like it was fate. It’s a really good story though and I am looking forward to reading the next one when it comes out later in the year. That is such a problem with cozies, I read so many and then run out of ones to read. There is a corgi in this one and everyone by now should know my love of dogs, also I love flowers and arranging fake ones is a hobby of mine. If you like a small town, old acquaintances becoming new friends, and the gossip that happens when something goes wrong in a small town. I think you’ll like this one. I also wish that Sierra’s grandmother was my grandmother too, if we are being completely honest with ourselves.

            A bonus picture of the fact that I finally cleaned out my reading chair in my office so now I can actually sit in my office and read in a comfortable chair that isn’t covered in blankets and random stuff that I just pile there.

            I was really hoping to have at least one or two other books on here because we are now over halfway through the year and I have not even read half of the books I have been slated to read this year. I will say this the classics really do slow me down, I cannot believe people read all of that back in the day. Man have we slipped. 

            I am currently reading two books in tandem because The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is super long, I mean so long, it’s like 650 pages and it’s so dense. So I am going to read other books while I read it otherwise I am going to get bogged down and not get anywhere close to my goal this year. 

            I will be back at the end of August with another post like this one, hopefully there are a bunch of books on it because my showing this year has not been so great. 

            There will be another post on Sunday so look forward to that, it’s a DIY and I love it so much. I hope that everyone has a great rest of the week and into the weekend, stay safe, happy, and healthy. I’ll see y’all later! 

            -MJ 

Let’s keep track shall we?:

Classics:  4/10 (Alice in WonderlandTuck EverlastingThe Secret Garden, Dracula)

Historical Fiction:  1/5 (West of Sunset)

Sci-Fi/Fantasy:  2/5 (The Starless Sea and Good Omens)

General Fiction:  3/5 (Me Before You, All is Fair in Love and Cupcakes and Bridget Jones’s Diary)

Memoirs/Autobiographies: 1 /2 (Yes, Please)

Non-Fiction:  /1

Thrillers: 1 /2 (I, Ripper

Free Choice:  7/15 (Eaves of Destruction, A Wrench in the WorksShot Through the Hearth, Stalking Jack the Ripper, Premeditated Mortar, Hunting Prince Dracula, Death in Bloom)