Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Books/Reading’ Category

As you may already know, dear reader, I am a HUGE fan of Stephen King’s extraordinary storytelling. The “Master of Horror” made an indeliable impression on me way back in the 8th grade when my Uncle Robert’s girlfriend at the time gave me her paperback copy of The Stand. Stephen King caught my attention and captured my heart with his character-driven story set in a post-apocalyptic world. Since then, I have read at least 40 of his novels (some of them more than once) and several of his short stories.

Therefore, it should be no surprise that Kelsi and I decided to spend each month of 2022 exploring King’s extensive body of work by reading a novel, a novella, or short stories written by him, then watching the screen adaptation of it afterwards. Subsequently, we will host a monthly livestream on Kelsi’s YouTube channel to discuss our thoughts on both the written work and the movie. Back in October, Kelsi and I had one of these chats where we discussed Cycle of the Werewolf and Silver Bullet. We had a blast!

Our January selection is Misery. I am more than halfway through reading this incredible novel and will be watching the movie later this week. Our livestream for Misery is scheduled for Sunday, 23 January at 2:00 pm CT on Slime and Slashers – A Nostalgia & Horror Channel.

For those of you who are interested in joining Kelsi and me on our journey through Stephen King’s universe throughout 2022, I have created a list of our selections for the entire year. We will encounter fanatical fans, menacing monsters, ghastly ghosts, the devil, and so much more, making this year frightfully fun.

Year of King Schedule

  • January: Misery
  • February: Gerald’s Game
  • March: “Langoliers” (Four Past Midnight)
  • April: The Dark Half
  • May: Pet Sematary
  • June: “The Mist” (Skeleton Crew) and “1408” (Everything’s Eventual)
  • July: It
  • August: Cujo
  • September: “Lawnmower Man,” “The Mangler,” and “Graveyard Shift” (Night Shift)
  • October: Needful Things
  • November: Dead Zone
  • December: The Shining

Needless to say, dear reader, #13 on my 22 for 2022 list is not going to be difficult to accomplish this year. Let me know if you are a Stephen King fan or may consider joining us on this literary adventure. Happiness!

“Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.” ~ Stephen King

Read Full Post »

Congrats to me, dear reader! I surpassed my 2021 Reading Challenge on Goodreads. My goal for this year was 50 books, and I read a total of 52 books. I think my reading success this year is attributed to developing a daily reading habit, creating a book club, participating in a Halloween readathon, and adding books to my thematic fun lists.

I participated in Gretchen Rubin’s #Read21for21 challenge, and I am amazed by how many books I read this year just by reading for 21 minutes every day. Establishing a daily reading habit and sticking to it has been an eye-opening experience. According to Gretchen Rubin, “If you read for 21 minutes per day for 365 days, that’s 7,665 minutes, or almost 128 hours of reading. You can read a lot of books in 128 hours!” And, she was correct. I read a total of 24 books. With the exception of The Money Tree, a fictional story implementing the steps to running a successful business, the books chosen for this challenge were nonfiction selections. They fell into the following categories:

autobiographies/biographies

  • The House of Kennedy by James Patterson and Cynthia Fagen
  • I Can’t Make This Up: Life Lessons by Kevin Hart with Neil Strauss
  • Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer

self-help

  • Atomic Habits by James Clear
  • Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
  • The Money Tree by Chris Guillebeau (business parable)
  • High Performance Habit by Brendon Burchard
  • Joy at Work by Marie Kondoand Scott Sonenshein
  • Fish by Stephen C. Lundin, Ph.D, Harry Paul, and John Christensen
  • How to Be Everything by Emilie Wapnick
  • The Art of Work by Jeff Goins
  • Refuse to Choose! by Barbara Sher
  • Joyful by Ingrid Fetell Lee

improv

  • Improv Wins by Chris Trew and Tami Nelson
  • Improv Nation by Sam Wasson
  • How to be the Greatest Improviser on Earth by Will Hines

inspirational/spiritual

  • Rewriting A New History by Havilah Malone
  • Resisting Happiness by Matthew Kelly
  • Everyday Grace by Marianne Williamson
  • The Wisdom of Sundays by Oprah Winfrey
  • Rediscover the Saints by Matthew Kelly
  • Perfectly Yourself by Matthew Kelly

writing/literary criticism

  • You Are a Writer (so start Acting like one) by Jeff Goins
  • How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster

I enjoyed the majority of these books and found some value in all of them. Reading the books on my list taught me some interesting facts, provided me with new strategies and resources, inspired me to take action in different areas of my life, and exposed me to new ideas and ways of looking at the world.

In addition to my daily reading challenge this year, I co-created the online Chills, Thrills, & Kills Book Club with my friend Kelsi. We scheduled a meet-and-greet with members in April where we voted for our first book club pick. In May, we met for our very first book club meeting to discuss our first selection, Later by Stephen King. No thanks to Hurricane Ida, I did not finish A Deadly Education. I am half way through it and plan to finish it (more like reread it) some time in 2022. And, as you can see from our list of reads this year, we opted out of reading a club selection in December since the holidays can get pretty hectic for everyone.

  • Video Night by Adam Cesare (June)
  • Children of the Dark by Jonathan Janz (July)
  • Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (August)
  • A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik (September)
  • The Halloween Tree by Raymond Bradbury (October)
  • The Reckoning by Ruby Jean Jensen (November)

We chose some terrific books this year. I enjoyed all of the ones I read; however, my favorites were Later, Mexican Gothic, and The Halloween Tree.

Reading is one of my absolute favorite activities, and I am grateful to have such a wonderfully rich reading life. I am looking forward to continuing my daily reading habit of 21 minutes per day; however, instead of using that time to read nonfiction selections, I will be reading children’s literature. This will allow me to read quite a few books I already have stacked up in piles waiting to be cracked open to take me on new adventures. I will also participate in the Goodreads challenge. For those of you who like to read, please follow me on Goodreads @ Katherine Loyacano. I would love to see what you are reading. The Chills, Thrills, & Kills Book Club will resume in January. Our January selection is Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident by Donnie Eichar. It is our first nonfiction book club choice.

And, last but not least, Kelsi and I will be engaging in the Year of King in 2022. We are SUPER excited about this literary adventure. A couple of years ago, I did a Summer of Poe and spent the entire summer reading as many short stories, poems, and one novel written by Edgar Allan Poe. It was a wonderful experience. So, why not spend a year reading my favorite author? Kelsi and I have decided that we will devote each month to reading either a novel, a novella, or short stories written by Stephen King. In addition, we will watch the movie or television adaptations of the literary work chosen for the month. Towards the end of each month, we will do a livestream together discussing both the book and its screen adaptation. To kick of the new year, we have chosen Misery for January. We would love it if you would join us, dear reader. What’s more enjoyable than reading a book? Talking about it with others. Happiness!

“A book is a gift you can open again and again.” ~ Garrison Keillor

Read Full Post »

My Halloween Fun List this year included a thematic ReadaThon which I hosted with Kelsi. The ReadaThon turned out to be a spooky delight. Kelsi and I chose books and short stories focused on attributes of horror movies. Originally, each one of my prompts was assigned its own selection. However, with the unexpected surprise of landing a role in a local play, I had to adjust my original Readathon choices, so I could complete the activity. Basically, I re-shelved all three of the short stories I had selected from Night Shift by Stephen King as well as the novels, Thinner by Richard Bachman, Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh, and Night of the Living Dummy by R. L. Stine.

I kept the other selections from my original list and added “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving. While I am not a stranger to the movie, Sleepy Hollow (starring Johnny Depp), or the television show, Sleepy Hollow (starring Tom Mison), I had actually never read the gothic short story. In my opinion, it is the perfect spooky read for an October evening, especially one that is chilly enough to situate you in a comfy chair while reading the mysterious tale near a toasty fire. Ichabod Crane brings you on quite an adventure in the valley of Sleepy Hollow where he encounters the infamous Headless Horseman.

My favorite new read for the season is The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury. My book club unanimously voted to read it for October, so I added it to my ReadaThon (helped me double dip on two prompts). What an absolutely delightful piece of literature! It is a wonderful treat filled with beautiful imagery, mesmerizing characters, and a breathtaking journey through the history of Halloween. It is another perfect read for the Halloween season. My friend and fellow blogger Rita wrote an awesome review about the book that aligns with my own feelings about the book.

One of my favorite stories to read in the month of October is The Widow’s Broom by the wonderful Chris Van Allsburg. I adore picture books, and this one is an incredibly enchanting story about a widow who discovers the merits of a magical broom. Van Allsburg’s illustrations are captivating and whimsical. I saved it to read on Halloween night. It inspired me to make mini broom treats with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and pretzel sticks. Yum!

I chose two enjoyable short stories from A Newbery Halloween. This is a charming collection of endearing stories from exceptional Newbery Award-winning authors. The first story, “The Magic Ball” by Charles J. Finger, involves a “cold-eyed witch” who practices strange magic with the help of a magic ball. The second story, “The Man of Influence” by Paul Fleishman, includes a struggling stone carver, an affable apparition, and a surprising twist at the end.

The other books included in my ReadaThon were not October or Halloween related per se, but they fulfilled the remaining prompts on the list and added a spooky element to the season. As I mentioned in a previous post, My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix was wonderful. It was my first book by Hendrix, but it will definitely not be my last. Cabal by Clive Barker reminded me how much I enjoy his writing and swayed my initial feelings for the film adaptation of the novel which goes by the title, Nightbreed. The middle school book, Fear Zone 2 by K. R. Alexander, was a spooky enough sequel to Fear Zone and featured a creepy clown. Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King did not disappoint. It is a short book packed with action and terrific illustrations. Kelsi and I did a livestream chat comparing it to its film adaption, Silver Bullet.

Kelsi and I had an October Reading Wrap Up chat to discuss some of the books and short stories we read for our Halloween Horror Movie Mania ReadaThon. It includes our stats, such as the total number of pages read for the month. Books mentioned in the chat include: Cabal, My Best Friend’s Exorcism, Autumncrow, Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Halloween Tree, Cycle of the Werewolf, and more. Additionally, we had our friends Melanie, Melissa, and Rachael weigh in with their thoughts on The Halloween Tree. Please check it out, and let us know what you think about our book selections, our ReadaThon, and our chat in general. We welcome your comments, suggestions, and ideas for future ReadaThons and chats.

Dear reader, I hope you also had an enjoyable spooky season. I plan to publish a few more posts about the other activities I participated in throughout October. I am a tad bit behind with my writing because of performing in The House on Haunted Hill (fabulous reason), recording video chats with Kelsi (always time well-spent), and living life in general (several added commitments that have seriously enriched my life). They have all been wonderful experiences, and I am so grateful for them. And, I am grateful to you, dear reader, for stopping by and reading my blog. Happiness!

“Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul.” ~ Joyce Carol Oates

Read Full Post »

Autumn has officially started which means the month of October is just around the corner. Last year, I created a Halloween Fun List with all sorts of fun and spooky activities. Reading books, short stories, and poems was one of my favorite activities on the list. This year, Kelsi and I thought it would be fun to create a readathon with prompts based off of horror movies. We created a video explaining the prompts and announcing which books we will be reading for the readathon.

PROMPTS

1.“You know it’s Halloween. I guess everyone’s entitled to one good scare…” – Halloween

Read a book set on or around Halloween.

2. “Nothin’ can call it off.” – Pumpkinhead

Read a book with a pumpkin on the cover.

3. “Whatever you do… don’t fall asleep.” – Nightmare on Elm Street 

Read a book at night or in the dark to elicit nightmares! 

4. “Who ya gonna call?” – Ghostbusters

Read a book featuring ghosts or ghostly beings. 

5. “Being normal is vastly overrated.” – Halloweentown

Read a more innocent (but still spooky-themed) book geared towards kids, middle graders, or young adults.

6. “Wolfman’s got nards…” – The Monster Squad 

Read a book featuring any kind of monster…vampires, mummies, werewolves (because…nards), blobs, sea monsters, gremlins, aliens. Any monster or creature would be fang-tastic!

7. “Ding dong, you’re dead.” – House

Read a book or story featuring a haunted house, hotel, apartment, or any place that’s haunted. 

8. “If you believe in God, then you gotta believe in the Devil.” – The Last Exorcism (BONUS)

Read a book that features an exorcism or some kind of possession. 

9. “Susie, do you know anything about… witches?” – Suspiria

Read a book that features witches, wizards, or any kind of magic/black magic.

10. “What do you look like? It depends on who is looking…” – The Mothman Prophecies 

Read a book or story featuring something unexplainable, mysterious, or eerie.

11. “This one night changes everything for me.” – House of the Devil 

Read a book/story set in the 80s, published in the 80s, or a book that has an 80s feel/vibe. OR Read a book having to do with cults or devil worship.


12. “It will consume you.” – Color Out of Space

Read a book with a bright or neon-colored cover.

13. “You gotta see the shape of this fn’ guy that just walked in.” – Terrifier 

Read a book with creepy clowns, menacing mimes, or dangerous dummies. These are supposed to make you laugh, but some end up trying to murder you instead! 

Kat’s Picks

Kelsi created a bingo-style card (featuring a visual of the horror movies to accompany the prompts) for anyone who wants to join us in our spooktacular reading adventure. The card includes a bonus square for overachievers like Kelsi and me.

The terrific part of this fang-tastic readathon, dear reader, is you can tailor it to fit your reading needs. You can read novels, novellas, graphic novels, short stories, or poems. You can read something different for each of the squares or one selection could be used for multiple squares. And, you are under no obligation to choose every square…just pick and choose which prompts appeal to you. This readathon is designed for all of us to add a little more thematic fun during the Halloween season. Happiness!

“Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and caldron bubble.” ~ William Shakespeare, MacBeth (more…)

Read Full Post »

May is Zombie Awareness Month! However, both Kelsi and I had some unfinished zombie business, so our zombie fun spilled over into the beginning half of June. We both completed our movie marathons, and I enjoyed several zombie-related activities on my Zombie Fun List. I love zombies as you can see from my t-shirt, dear reader.

The bulk of our month was spent watching Zombie Horror Movies. While Kelsi chose seven movies to watch (zombies has seven letters), I chose to watch ten. Overall, I enjoyed all of them, and the zombies looked awesome. Interestingly, five of them are foreign films (Shaun of the Dead, Ravenous, #Alive, The Girl With All the Gifts, KL Zombie) and four of them are American films (Slither, I Am Legend, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, Army of the Dead) with Little Monsters being a mix of the two (Australia, UK, USA).

Out of the 10 films, three were rewatches, Shaun of the Dead, Slither, and I Am Legend. Five of the films are considered comedy/horror. Five of them have slow zombies (which I generally prefer) while the other five have fast zombies. Shaun of the Dead made the top of my list. It is a cult classic and one of my favorite zombie movies. KL Zombie ended up in last place. It is a super silly, low-budget film, but worth watching at least once. Not all zombie movies are created the same just like not all zombies are created the same.

Kelsi and I had two chats to discuss zombies. Our first chat was midway through the month of May to discuss Shaun of the Dead and Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse along with zombie survival tips. Both movies are comedy/horror and have terrific casts, plots, lots of laughs, and plenty of gore .

In addition to movies, I watched three television shows, Fear the Walking Dead (AMC), Betaal (Netflix) and Deadset (Netflix). I would recommend all three shows to anyone who enjoys the zombie genre. Originally, I chose six zombie shows to watch, but I clearly did not have enough time to watch them all. There is always next year.

I was also a little too enthusiastic about the amount of reading I wanted to throughout the month. I originally chose four books and an article. I read the article and two books, Dawn of the Dreadfuls by Steve Hockensmith (prequel to Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies) and The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks by Max Brooks (graphic novel).

My hubby and I invited friends over to eat boiled crawfish and enjoy a refreshing Zombie Apocalypse Cocktail. I give this cocktail two thumbs up. Everyone seemed to enjoy it.

For this fun-filled month, I offered my readers an opportunity to receive a free book. Since we should all know how to survive a zombie apocalypse, I chose one lucky reader to receive a copy of The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead by Max Brooks. The lucky recipient was Dave Pozefsky. Dave also loves zombies, and one of his top five favorite zombie films is Shaun of the Dead. His other faves are Train to Busan, Pontypool, 28 Days Later, and Night of the Living Dead. He also likes the zombie anime Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress. Congrats Dave!

As you can tell, dear reader, I had a delightful month immersing myself in the fascinating world of the undead. Check out the second chat that Kelsi and I had to discuss the remaining movies on our lists as well as my other zombie-related activities. What kind of bread do zombies prefer? Whole brain! Happiness!

“Elizabeth dropped her dagger, sprang toward the unmentionable, and tried to pry the flintlock from its grip. She quickly got the gun — and the hand wrapped around it, as well. It snapped off at the wrist with a dry crackle.” ~ Steve Hockensmith, Dawn of the Dreadfuls

Read Full Post »

I am halfway through my Zombie Movie Marathon. I have already watched five of the ten movies selected for this month. Ravenous was my first choice followed by Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, Slither, Shaun of the Dead, and #Alive. Without going into any details (discussing details with Kelsi after the marathon), I give two thumbs up to all five movies. Kelsi and I will be chatting specifically about Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse and Shaun of the Dead tomorrow, so be on the lookout for our next video chat.

I’m also participating in other zombie-related activities included on my Zombie Fun List. Currently, I am reading Dawn of the Dreadfuls by Steve Hockensmith. It is the prequel set four years prior to the dreadful circumstances of Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith. It reveals the evolution of Elizabeth Bennet, the Zombie Slayer.

Additionally, I watched the first and only available season of Betaal, an Indian television show created by Patrick Graham. It is a Netflix series that was released in 2020 and is comprised of four episodes. The story centers around an elite military unit called the CIPD, who are hired by the owner of the Surya Construction Company to relocate the Adivasi villagers from their home, so a highway can be constructed and the surrounding lands can be used for various construction projects. In order for the highway to be built, a sealed tunnel must be opened. Despite warnings from the locals, officials clear the tunnel and disentomb an army of British soldier-zombies.

I enjoyed Betaal and recommend it to anyone who likes the zombie genre. It is fascinating to me to see zombies in other parts of the world and in different cultures. While the trailer shows subtitles, the Netflix show is dubbed in English with subtitles for anything that appears in print (signs, text in a book, etc.). The zombies look terrifically horrific and are frightfully fast. It is eerie, gory, and includes many tense moments.

Yesterday, I watched the first episode of a British mini-series created by Charlie Brooker called Deadset which is about zombies descending upon reality television. It is also a Netflix series, composed of five episodes, that was released in 2008. So far, Deadset is pretty intense, and I’m enjoying it.


As you can see, I’m having a zombie-rific time this month watching and reading about all things zombie. In fact, to celebrate, I am having a Zombie Book Contest. One lucky follower of The Kat Files will win a copy of The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks.

For your chance to win this book that offers “complete protection from the living dead,” subscribe to my blog at the top of this blog post if you haven’t done so already AND email Zombie Book Contest to me at katloyacano@gmail.com and tell me your favorite zombie movie, television show, or book and what you love most about zombies.

The contest ends on Monday, 31 May 2021. Don’t forget to include your mailing address for receipt of your prize. Good luck, dear reader! Happiness!

“The dead walk among us. Zombies, ghouls — no matter what their label — these somnambulists are the greatest threat to humanity, other than humanity iteself.” ~ Max Brooks, The Zombie Survival Guide

Read Full Post »

May is Zombie Awareness Month! I could not be happier, dear reader, because I ADORE zombies. It has been awhile since I celebrated all things zombies during the month of May (2012 to be exact), so I suggested to Kelsi that we participate in a Zombie Movie Marathon to commemorate the undead. I have also created a Zombie Fun List that will include watching movies and television shows, reading books, short stories, and articles, wearing clothing, and making a cocktail all associated with zombies. If I come across any other zombie-related activities throughout the month, they will be added to my list. Undoubtedly, I will be zombified by the end of the month. HA!

Zombie Fun List

Movies

Television Shows

  • Fear the Walking Dead
  • iZombie
  • Reality Z
  • Deadset
  • Kingdom
  • Betaal

Books, Short Stories, and Articles

For those of you that don’t know much about zombies, check out the Zombie Research Society. They have been around since 2007. The organization’s focus is on “the science, survival, and culture of the living dead.” If interested, you can also follow them on Facebook (temporarily restricted), Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

I am so excited about celebrating the month of May with zombies. Be on the look out for additional zombie posts sprinkled throughout this month. As with all of our movie marathons, Kelsi and I will be have a rotting good time chatting about reanimated corpses at the end of the marathon. Of course, dear reader, you are also invited to join us for an infectious good time. Where do most zombies live? On dead end streets! Happiness!

“A non-frightening zombie is a lame zombie.” ~ Scott M. Gimple

Read Full Post »

For Catholics, the Christmas season officially ends tomorrow, 10 January, with the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord when Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, thus marking the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. With that being said, it is time for me to reflect on the festive activities that I participated in throughout the Christmas season, mainly during the month of December. I had a jovial time watching Christmas movies, reading Christmas stories, consuming a mirthful beverage, and so much more as I celebrated the delightful season of Christmas.

As I mentioned in previous posts, dear reader, Christmas is not my favorite holiday; however, creating a Christmas Fun List helped me enjoy the joyous season with good cheer. Kelsi also created a fun list. Similar to Halloween, our lists consisted of movies (horror and classic), books, accessories, treats, and extras. Since we incorporated a Christmas Horror movie marathon and a Christmas Classics movie marathon as part of our fun lists, Kelsi and I had TWO Christmas chats. Again, Kelsi is the mastermind behind the technical aspects of our conversations and does an awesome job of hosting our chat and creating the finished product. I’ve included our Christmas Retrospective in this post.

Without delay, here are my thoughts on how I spent the Christmas season.

Movies

I selected 24 movies, 12 Christmas Horror and 12 Christmas Classics. What an insane amount of movies for me to view in a month! I decided to complete my Christmas Horror Marathon prior to starting my Christmas Classics Marathon. To read more about the Christmas Horror movies that I watched, to listen to the song I wrote about the Twelve Days of Christmas Horror, and to check out my conversation with Kelsi discussing the Christmas Horror movies, please visit my post “The Gift of Christmas Horror” which includes all three components. Unlike a few of the movies on my Christmas Horror list which I didn’t like very much, I loved all the movies chosen on my Christmas Classics list. The movies are ranked in the order of how much I liked them and the stars represent my rating.

My top six movies all received 5 STARS from me. I have seen all six of these films numerous times over the years. My absolute favorite is Love Actually. It is a fantastic romantic comedy full of wonderful characters whose lives intersect while navigating through the chaos caused by love and loss during the Christmas season. I watch Elf every year. It never gets old, and Will Ferrell is hilarious! Next up is How the Grinch Stole Christmas with the brilliant Jim Carrey as the Grinch. The 2009 version of A Christmas Carol is beautifully animated and terrifically terrifying in all the right places.

I had not seen Home Alone in several years, so it was a real treat to revisit. Andrew and I watched it together, and I laughed hysterically throughout the entire movie, especially at the shenanigans of the Wet Bandits. The Polar Express is another visual delight. I’m a fan of the author, Chris Van Allsburg, who wrote and illustrated this beautiful story. I love how well the film captured the heartwarming message of the book.

Out of the remaining six movies on my list, three of them were new watches. Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey is a marvelously magical musical that gave me a holiday happiness boost. The young actress Madalen Mills who portrays Journey is pure delight. I hope to see her in other productions in the near future. Klaus is an amazing animated breath of fresh air with a heartfelt message and a new spin on the legend of Santa Claus. It is not a musical, but it has a lovely soundtrack. And, Rashida Jones, alum of The Office and Parks and Recreation, is the voice of Alva.

My third new watch, He Sees You When You’re Sleeping is an enjoyable movie-of-the week based on a mystery novel by Mary Higgins Clark and her daughter, Carol Higgins Clark. I’m a fan of both authors. In fact, I’ve been reading Mary Higgins Clark since I was 18 years old. This movie isn’t exactly a Christmas movie, but it takes place during the Christmas season. The acting isn’t stellar and there are some cheesy scenes, but it does have a decent plot. As for the final three movies, which were all rewatches, it was lovely to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas. My favorite scene is when all of the children are dancing on stage. Of course, Snoopy steals the show with his endless imagination and sense of humor. It has been over 20 years since I’ve seen The Muppet Christmas Carol. Luckily, I was able to see it with my hubby in the theatre. It is a lovely musical starring the talented Michael Caine as Scrooge alongside the fabulous Muppets. Last but not least, A Christmas Story. I know I have seen this movie quite a few times and in recent years; however, there were many scenes I did not remember, so I’m guessing I had it playing in the background while engaged in other activities. It’s not my favorite, but it has plenty of entertaining moments that make it worth the watch.

Books/Short Stories

I picked out two books to read throughout the month, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and Santa’s Twin written by Dean Koontz and illustrated by Phil Parks. Even though I have seen a variety of cinematic versions of A Christmas Carol over the course of my lifetime, I have never read the classic novella. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is a superb piece of literature that I highly recommend to everyone. Santa’s Twin is another equally enjoyable read. It is a beautifully illustrated picture book with an endearing story featuring two charming and spunky little girls.

Initially, I was only planning to read those two books. Shortly after I finished them, I read four more terrific books. Two of them are picture books, The Polar Express written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg and The Animals’ Santa written and illustrated by Jan Brett. One of them is a splendid children’s lit selection that features a debonair mouse, Merry Christmas, Geronimo. The final one is an anthology, Krampusnacht: Twelve Nights of Krampus edited by Kate Wolford. I think anyone who is a fan of Krampus will enjoy this collection.

Thematic Potpourri

Besides watching both creepy and classic Christmas movies and reading holly and some not so jolly stories, there were several other thematic activities that I engaged in throughout the month. I wore a pair of Christmas socks a few times during the month. Every day at work, I wore different Christmas pins. Although I did not buy a Christmas sweater (the only item on my fun list I did not complete), I bought a Christmas mask to wear at work. I sent out Christmas cards to family and friends which included flying wish paper. Kelsi and I both included flying wish paper demonstrations in our chat.

I made a sweet and salty Christmas treat. It is super easy to make and only requires three ingredients (a bag of Snyder’s Snaps Pretzels, a bag of Hershey’s Hugs, and a bag of red and green M&M’s). I used my toaster oven and set it for about 275 degrees. Put a piece of aluminum foil on a pan (you can also do it without aluminum foil). Place pretzels on the pan first. Place a Hershey’s Hug on each pretzel. Put the pan in the oven for two minutes to make the Hug soft. Take it out the oven after two minutes and press an M&M on each Hug. I carefully take the aluminum foil with the treats and place it in the refrigerator to harden. Voila! You can basically make this treat anytime and for any holiday just by changing the colors of the M&M’s.

On Christmas evening, my hubby and I went over to Shelly and Kerry’s house for our annual Christmas visit. We generally have a glass of wine or a cocktail and enjoy leftovers from lunch. What a perfect time to try a Christmas cocktail! Kerry, who is our designated bartender, mixed the Grinch Cocktail for us. Instead of using Ginger Ale, he used Sprite. He also did not get the simple syrup or the green/red sanding sugar to decorate the rim of the glass. It was a yummy cocktail that I would definitely drink again. Afterwards, we enjoyed a glass of 19 Crimes Cali Red, featuring Snoop Dogg. With that, my Christmas Fun List is complete!

December was an amazingly merry month thanks to having a Christmas Fun list. Seeing Christmas decorations lit up in the evenings when I’d drive through the subdivision, reading thematic stories, and watching both creepy and classic Christmas movies added so much joy to my life. I will definitely be doing this again next year although with fewer movies on my list. What did you do to celebrate the Christmas season? I hope you will take a look at my conversation with Kelsi, dear reader. We’d love to get some feedback on our conversation and what we might consider for next year. Happiness!

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” ~ Dr. Seuss

Read Full Post »

Halloween 2020 has come and gone; however, I must reflect on the fang-tastic activities that I participated in throughout October before I can get into the heart and soul of November. I had a horror-rific time watching Halloween/horror movies, reading scary stories, consuming a spooky libation, and so much more as it all led up to the magical night of Halloween.

As you know, dear reader, Halloween is my favorite holiday which makes the month of October super special for me. Inspired by my dear friend Kelsi, who also adores Halloween, I created a Halloween Fun List. Basically, it was a fun list of activities planned for the entire month of October that encapsulates the spirit of the season. My list included: movies, books, accessories, events, and extras. I took the liberty of incorporating some spur of the moment items which included a spooktacular conversation with Kelsi. We were actually scheduled to have our conversation the Thursday evening before Halloween; however, it was postponed because Hurricane Zeta swept through Louisiana causing damage and power loss. Unfortunately, Kelsi was one of many who lost power, thus putting a slight kink in out creeperific plans. Thankfully, her power was restored, so we recorded our conversation Friday night. Please check it out! It is my first attempt with this type of format. And, I LOVED it! Podcasting is something I really want to do in the near future, so having this opportunity was both important and exciting for me. Kelsi is such a pro and is responsible for setting everything up, editing it (such cool graphics), and getting it out into the world.

So, without further ado, my thoughts on how I spent the month of October.

Movies

I chose 13 movies. Five of them were movies I had seen before, but wanted to revisit since it had been quite awhile since I had seen them last. The Haunted Mansion (ghost story), Hocus Pocus (witches), The Nightmare Before Christmas (animated dark fantasy), Sleepy Hollow (headless horseman), and Salem’s Lot -1979 (vampires). Thankfully, movie theatres have opened again, and the AMC Theatre in Hammond is showing FAN FAVORITES for $5. I was able to see both Hocus Pocus and The Nightmare Before Christmas in the theatre to my great delight. I cherish both of these films. I enjoyed all of my re-watches, but was a bit disappointed with Salem’s Lot. I remember it being terrifying when I saw it as a kid but not so much as an adult. In all fairness it was released as a made-for-tv movie back in 1979. The head vampire is a nod to the German vampire Nosferatu (awesome), the vampire children floating outside the window are still creepy, and seeing David Soul again was visually appealing.

As for the other eight movies on my list, I was pleased with my choices. My new favorites are Train to Busan (zombies), The Ritual (Norse mythology), Death Note (Japanese death god), and The Innocents (ghost story). I definitely recommend them to anyone who enjoys the horror genre. The Vatican Tapes (demonic possession), Dark Skies (aliens), and Color Out of Space (sci-fi) were all entertaining. While they are not necessarily my favorites, they are all worth the watch, especially Color Out of Space. Based on a H.P. Lovecraft short story and starring Nicholas Cage (a fave of mine), it is an artfully, over-the-top gem. My only disappointment was House of the Witch (witches). It wasn’t terrible, but not really scary. There were a couple good jump scares, nice special effects and makeup, and an interesting plot twist. While some would enjoy it, it is one where watching it once was enough for me.

Books/Short Stories

I chose two short stories written by Edgar Allan Poe, “The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion” and “The Purloined Letter.” Of the two stories, I enjoyed “The Purloined Letter” more. It featured C. Auguste Dupin, a fictional character who uses his intellect and imagination to solve mysteries even though he is not a detective by profession. Then, I chose three short stories from A Newbery Halloween, and all three were gratifying. My favorite of the three was “The Year Halloween Happened One Day Early” written by Virginia Hamilton. The short story is taken from Chapters 7 and 8 of her book Willie Bea and the Time the Martians Landed which was inspired by “The War of the Worlds” radio drama.

Of the three children’s novels that I read, Ghost Squad, Witch Catcher, and The Collected, I was disappointed with The Collected. It didn’t quite have the same creepy energy as K.R. Alexander’s other scary books. I also added Coraline which is a reread for me. Neil Gaiman is a fantastic author and one of my favorites, and Coraline is a classic. I would highly recommend the book and the movie. Lastly, I tackled the monstrous novel NOS4A2 written by Joe Hill. It was AMAZING! I feel like I must devote a whole post in the future to this novel and Joe Hill because there is so much to say about it. Kelsi and I discuss it more in depth in our conversation, and she reviewed it on her blog Kelsi Explains It All.

October Reads

Thematic Potpourri

Besides watching spine-chilling movies and reading scary stories, there were several other thematic activities that I engaged in throughout the month. I wore Halloween socks and pins every day to work and on the weekends. My hubby and I attended a screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I savored a wicked beverage called Witch Potion Cocktail while socializing with my best buds from high school. On Sunday evenings, I immersed myself again in The Walking Dead universe. On a whim, I posted a Halloween-related Snoopy picture daily on Facebook (my story). My favorite was Pinhead Snoopy. And, for the first time, I sent out a few Halloween cards to friends I know who appreciate the holiday as much as I do.

And, last but not least, Kelsi introduced me to David S. Pumpkins. It is completely absurd but totally entertaining. I watched it numerous times throughout the month.

Halloween Night

On Halloween night, I dressed as a witch. My plan was to hand out treats to all the trick-or-treaters in our neighborhood. One of our neighbors had signs made for anyone in the neighborhood who wanted to hand out treats. We placed the sign in our front yard, so the children and their parents would know who was handing out candy. I placed the candy in my cauldron and set it on a table. I wore a mask and socially distanced. Son #1 dressed as Cookie Monster and his girlfriend Kayla dressed as Oscar the Grouch. They brought an inflatable Haunted House that we set up in front of my table, so it looked like I was in the house. It became a huge hit with the children. Many parents took pictures of their children in the entranceway or near the haunted house. It was a pleasant night. Afterwards, I watched Eli Roth’s History of Horror. The episode was on witches. Then, I watched a little bit of Halloween before hitting the hay.

October was an incredibly BOOtiful month thanks to having a Halloween Fun list. Seeing Halloween decorations lit up in the evenings when I’d go for a walk, partaking in seasonal events, reading scary stories, and watching creepy movies added so much joy to my life. I will definitely be doing this again next year. I’ve already started compiling my list. What did you do for Halloween? I hope you will take a look at my conversation with Kelsi, dear reader. We’d love to know what you think and what we might consider for next year. Happiness!

“Villainy wears many masks, none so dangerous as the mask of virtue.” Ichabod Crane, Sleepy Hollow

Read Full Post »

Back in June, I had listened to Episode #6 (“Dial D for Distracted”) of Season 2 of The Happiness Lab podcast. The episode included an enlightening conversation between Dr. Laurie Santos and Catherine Price, a science journalist and author of How to Break Up With Your Phone. Shortly after listening to the episode, I bought Price’s book because I felt like I had a phone problem. After reading the first part of the book called The Wake-Up, I scheduled The Breakup which is a hands-on approach to establishing a healthier relationship with your phone. The experience of breaking up with my phone revealed surprising information about myself, my relationship with my phone, and helpful tips to dealing with screen time in general. 

Initially, I thought I was addicted to my phone. After spending 30 days  (July 06-August 04) breaking up with my phone, I realized that I had an unhealthy relationship with screens in general, specifically internet-related screens and mainly with social media. And, that relationship, which was having an adverse effect on my mental health and well-being, took root rather quickly and stemmed from the uncertainty and isolation brought about from COVID-19. At the start, it was fun staying connected through Facebook, playing games, and taking silly quizzes. Additionally, lots of time was spent watching the news, scrolling daily through data on COVID, and reading articles about life during the pandemic. Unfortunately, as time passed, fun was replaced with feeling depleted and numb which then turned into shame. And, being “informed” nonstop about the pandemic and its negative effects on the world was causing me to become anxious. For three months, I spiraled down the rabbit hole of mindless scrolling and unconscious living. Without having the ability to freely go places or engage in work or social activities with other people outside your pod made me feel stagnant. Except for my daily walk, I was not spending my spare time intentionally.

Break up PhoneThankfully, Catherine Price’s handbook brought me back to reality and helped me reclaim my time and sanity. The first task Price assigned was downloading a time-tracking app on my phone. I chose Moment which she recommended in the book for iPhone users. In my opinion, this app is helpful. I still have it on my phone. My goals were set for 3 hours of screen time and 50 pickups. Looking at my Moment Data, it is clear that I rarely go over my screen time or my pickups. There was one day that my screen time was 6 hours and 47 minutes. This was the day that Shelly was taken to the ER in Florida. Texting was our line of communication between one another and our friends. My heaviest pickup day was 12 August with 68 pickups. School was back in session, so most of my pickups were school-related texts. For me, this app curbs my craving to constantly check my phone or reach for it to check Facebook, so that is the main reason I still have it on my phone.  

On Day 5 of the plan, Price recommends deleting social media apps. The only social media apps that I have on my phone are Facebook and Instagram. I immediately deleted Facebook. I rarely use Instagram, so there was no need to delete it. The point was to make accessing these apps more difficult and less appealing. It worked! I have since reinstalled the Facebook app on my phone; however, my time on the app is limited to mainly posting pictures/inspirational content and checking on family/friends, and my usage is at designated times of the day and for a designated amount of time. On Day 9 of the plan, she recommends tidying up your apps by organizing them in categories. This was quite simple since I don’t have many apps on my phone. My only junk food app is Trivia Crack which is an enjoyable game. While it can be a big time suck, it did not consume as much of my time as Facebook, so I chose not to delete it. Since the breakup, I have limited my game time tremendously.

Days 20 and 21 were the most challenging part of the plan. This is the trial separation from your phone for 24 hours. I chose 7:00 in the evening on Friday, 24 July through the following evening on Saturday, 25 July. In addition to disconnecting from my phone, I also disconnected from my other devices. In the beginning of the trial separation, I was antsy. My main concern about this assignment was someone trying to reach me since my phone is also my family’s home phone. To put my mind at ease, I turned my ringer on, so I could answer any calls. Checking text message was limited to twice during the 24 hour period. Once I accepted the challenge and put my phone away, I felt lighter and excited about the next 24 hours. From my data log, the screen time and pickups on Friday were prior to 7:00 that evening. On Saturday, the data shows 4 minutes of screen time and 4 pickups. Clearly, my time was well-spent, and I felt a sense of freedom.

At first, the hardest or worst part of the breakup was feeling disconnected from others virtually. In addition, observing others constantly reaching for and checking their phones made me feel uncomfortable. Unfortunately, our world relies too much on technology to feed the mind and soul. I kept a time log during my breakup to see where my time was going when not using my phone. In the beginning, I discovered I was playing a bunch of Words with Friends on my iPad, as well as scrolling mindlessly through Facebook. Fortunately, the best part of this experience outweighed the worst part. I quickly realized that I hadn’t become addicted to my phone, but to social media and games. Luckily, I now view my phone more as a tool that allows me to communicate with others both personally and professionally, listen to podcasts and music, access necessary information (maps, email, appointments, etc.), and record memories through pictures, video, and audio. Facebook is no longer on the main screen of my phone and is no longer checked first thing in the morning. Trivia Crack is played daily but only for a few minutes. Since the breakup, I put my phone away more often when working on tasks or participating in activities. I find that I am more creative, more focused, and happier. As for other devices, I limit any frivolous time spent on them. I would rather use my time to write, scrapbook, read, play card/board games, watch something on television, or spend time with family and friends. 

Breaking up with my phone was a valuable experience, dear reader. I gained new insight about myself, gained more time to be creative, and gained healthier habits with screens. If you feel like you have a phone problem or a social media problem, I would highly recommend How to Break Up With Your Phone by Catherine Price. For more information on budgeting screen time, check out Episode 23 (“Good Screens and Bad Screens”) of Season 1 of The Happiness Lab podcast and Catherine Price’s website Screen/Life Balance. Happiness! 

“The difference between technology and slavery is that slaves are fully aware that they are not free.” ~ Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Game

This is “The Royal Game of Ur” created by Andrew’s girlfriend Aileigh as a gift to Andrew which I recently learned to play in my spare time.

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

HappierHealthier.Blog

Creative personal growth toward better health and happiness

Cristian Mihai

builds stuff

Keto Zeal

Living A Keto Lifestyle

Movy

Watch New Movies

Finger Lakes Connected

Finger Lakes Connected connects consumers to local businesses.

Eat Think Wellness ᐈ Health, Wellness And Fitness Blog

Our blog provides dietary supplement reviews and health articles to help you make informed decisions to achieve your health, wellness and fitness goals.

Health Matters

Health matters at your finger tips

The Kat Files

Finding Adventure in Everyday Life

Never Alone

Empowering Oneself

Creating Websites From Scratch

HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript

Get On With It

Writing and drawings about work, family and the stuff in-between

theleadlesspencil

Musings on the 3Rs: Reading, Running and t-Ravelling. Or anything else that makes me ponder.

Daniel J Bockman

Businessman, Author and Speaker

Li. A. Wake

Author and Screenwriter

dastardly.reads

procrastination.queen

This West London Life

Attempting to live a better story ... and scrapbooking it.