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Archive for the ‘Books/Reading’ Category

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…)

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

 

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Reading is my favorite way to pass time, so I added a new reading goal for 2020 inspired by Gretchen Rubin, the author of The Happiness Project. In 2019, as part of her yearly Design Your Summer and 19 for 2019, she took a literary adventure with Summer of Proust. After reading her blog post “Reflections on My ‘Summer of Proust'” and seeing how much she enjoyed reading all the works of Marcel Proust, I decided I wanted a “Summer of Poe” and put it on my 20 for 2020 list (#16). What a fantastic idea!

Edgar Allan Poe is one of my favorite American authors. My love affair with Poe’s work began in the 8th grade when I chose to recite the poem “Annabel Lee” for my Reading class. Throughout high school and college, Poe was assigned literature for English classes which always brought me considerable joy. As a junior high English teacher, I felt it was only fitting to impart my love for Poe to my students. For years, my students and I read and discussed “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Black Cat,” and “The Raven.” Therefore, choosing to spend the summer reading one author’s work was a no-brainer. 

PoeUnlike Rubin, I did no preparation prior to reading Poe’s work like she did for Proust. In hindsight, I probably should have done a smidge before starting my own literary adventure. From the beginning, I knew the odds of me reading everything written by Poe in one summer would be impossible. One reason, his writing is challenging. I personally cannot read his work quickly. Another reason, because his writing requires so much concentration on my part, I knew I would also need to read other books written by other authors that did not require so much mental effort. Therefore, I chose to read The Edgar Allan Poe: Anthology of Classic Tales since it did not contain a complete collection of Poe’s stories and poems, and it was given to me as a gift from Andrew. To my dismay, while perusing the table of contents, I soon discovered that over my lifetime I had only read six of his short stories and two of his poems. Thankfully, that is no longer the case.

I chose to read all of the short stories, poems, and the one novel, which were organized by genre, in the order presented in the anthology.  It was wonderful to revisit tales that I was familiar with like “The Fall of the House of Usher” (still scary after all these years), “William Wilson,” “The Pit and the Pendulum,” “The Masque of the Red Death” (haunting), “The Tell-Tale Heart” (never gets old), “The Black Cat,” “The Raven” (nevermore), and “Annabel Lee” (beautifully written poem about death). If you notice, dear reader, the tales of Poe that I have previously read over the years are included in the horror genre. And, I must confess, his short stories and poems in this category are quite riveting and are probably my most preferred of his writing. Of my new horror favorites, two are revenge stories, “The Cask of Amontillado” (confirms that I will never visit catacombs) and “Hop-Frog” (never underestimate a jester). “Morella” and “Ligeia” are equally creepy and best read during the day. 

My leisurely excursion through this treasury revealed to me that Poe was so much more than a horror writer. He is credited with inventing the detective story, and the two stories in this collection, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” and “The Mystery of Marie Rogêt” are suspenseful and quite enjoyable. There are seven short stories and his only completed novel under Adventures of Sea and Sky. I thoroughly enjoyed all of the short stories, especially “The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall,” “The Gold-Bug,” and “The Oblong Box.” “Mellonta Tauta,” which is set in the far future seems to eerily parallel our current societal times with the past of the narrator who is writing letters while on a balloon flight.  His novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, is about the adventures and misadventures of Arthur Gordon Pym on the high seas. While it took me a long time to read, this novel is interesting and entertaining. At some point in my lifetime, I will revisit it. Surprisingly to me, until I read this compilation, I was unaware that Poe wrote humorous and satirical stories. There are only three of those types of stories in this book; however, in my other book Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe, there are a total of 25 stories. Of the three that I read, I adore “The Spectacles” and “The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether.” Both are incredibly amusing. I cannot wait to read his other stories in this genre. Finally, there are only four poems in this collection, and I fancy all four of them. When checking my other book, Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe, it revealed a total of 55 poems. All gems, I’m sure. 

My “Summer of Poe” was a huge happiness boost and has made living through a pandemic more bearable. Clearly, I still have so many more stories and poems by Edgar Allan Poe that I must read, so another “season” of Poe is necessary. In the meantime, I will delight in the stories and the poems that I have read by Mr. Poe as I venture into a realm of other books by other authors awaiting my discovery. Have you, dear reader, ever devoted a period of time to reading a certain author or genre? If not, would you consider it, and which author or which genre would you consider? Happiness!

“All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.” ~ Edgar Allan Poe.

Poe Collection

 

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June has come and gone, and yesterday America celebrated Independence Day. Due to the impending bad weather and social distancing, I spent the day at home. I walked in the morning, read some, and finally wrapped up answering some questions from Mind Over Weight that I needed to answer before rebooting (again) my exercise/clean eating routine. Needless to say, I was not successful with getting back on track with eating properly or incorporating additional exercise into my daily routine. Clearly, I was not really ready to change my indolent ways. So, since I have now listed all the reasons I want to take this journey, selected some motivational strategies to keep me on track, and created an action plan with some realistic goals, I think (eye roll) I’m ready to take the first step starting tomorrow morning.

I have two main goals:

  • Lose 20 pounds (#5 on my 20 for 2020) by 06 December 2020. I weighed in this morning at 159 pounds. I haven’t lost anything since June 1st, but I also haven’t gained anything.
  • Run a 5K (#20 on my 20 for 2020) by the end of 2020. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has currently halted road races. Therefore, if I cannot actually register to run a race in 2020, I will have to create my own 5K. I ordered new running shoes which should arrive sometime this week. I will start my run/walk program next Monday.

I must think about my future self. Obviously, I am not getting any younger. If I do not commit to a healthier me TODAY, it is evidently not important enough to pursue, and my future self will be the one that suffers when it’s all said and done. If not now, when? Without sounding overly dramatic, the answer is never. I have made the decision that if I cannot change my ways in the health and wellness area of my life at this point in time, then I’m done. I’m tired of talking about it. I’m tired of thinking about it. Frankly, I’m tired of dealing with it.

Additionally, I will be spending the next 30 days breaking up with my phone. A couple of weeks ago, I listened to Episode #6 (“Dial D for Distracted”) of Season 2 of The Happiness Lab podcast. It was an eye-opening conversation between Dr. Laurie Santos and Catherine Price, a science journalist and author of How to Break Up With Your Phone. Yes, I bought the book! Sadly, I am addicted to my phone, and COVID-19 has added fuel to that fire. In order to protect my brain, I must reevaluate the relationship I have with my phone and set some boundaries with it.

The next few weeks of my life should be interesting, dear reader. I’ll be going through withdrawals from sugar, a breakup, and the pain of having a tooth extracted, so approach with caution if you see me in public. I hope my future self appreciates everything that I’m doing for her. Happiness!

“If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? But when I am for myself, then what am “I”? And if not now, when?” ~ Hillel the Elder

Books & Coffee Cup

 

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Since I was off from school for Mardi Gras break, my hubby decided to take vacation also. We opted to spend our vacation this past week at home. Our only commitments for the week were to take Comet (aka Tooty) to the vet for a dental cleaning, bring the hubby’s truck to the Toyota dealership to be fixed (recall issue), take Sonic to the dermatologist to evaluate his bum, and get our taxes done. This left plenty of opportunities to spend quality time together and complete tasks on our never ending list concerning our house. I also gained more time for reading, watching movies and anime, and puttering in my scrapbook room.

I am almost finished reading The Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill (horror) and The Keys to the Kingdom: Mr. Monday by Garth Nix (fantasy-adventure). Currently, both of my protagonists are in peril, and I’m hoping their stories end well; however, I’m not too optimistic at the moment. For those of you that do not know Joe Hill or his work, he is Stephen King’s eldest son who writes novels, short stories, and comic books. Like his famous father, he writes horror and dark fantasy. He also writes science fiction whereas King writes supernatural fiction and an array of other genres within the realm of the macabre. As for Garth Nix, he is an Australian author who writes fantasy novels for children and young adults. Mr. Monday is the first book in The Keys to the Kingdom series that recounts the adventures of twelve-year old Arthur Penhaligon as he navigates his role as the Rightful Heir of the House.

Rug 1At the beginning of the week, I purchased another table for my scrapbook room. This allowed me to move my Cricut machine to its own table. And, I can still have a friend come over to scrapbook with me. This also led me down the rabbit hole of looking at rugs for my room. The hubster and I spent a couple of hours driving to various stores around Hammond looking at rugs. Unfortunately, they were either, too large, too small, too expensive, or not the right color. Later that evening, while watching a video posted by a member of the group Craft Room Organization with JenniferMaker on Facebook, I noticed her lovely rug on the floor of her crafting space. I inquired as to where she Rug 2purchased it (Wayfair), and my mission to find a rug continued. By Tuesday afternoon, I tagged 41 rugs that had potential. Andrew dropped by and helped me narrow my choices down to eight rugs. I asked the hubster for his opinion and settled on four choices. I would make a decision the following day. I ordered both a rug and a rug pad on Wednesday. The rug pad was delivered Friday, and the actual rug was delivered on Saturday. I am beyond pleased with both items.

Overall, our staycation was wonderful. We did have a couple of disappointments. The part needed to repair my hubby’s truck was not available like he was originally told, so the dealership had to keep his truck. We are not really sure when he will get it back. The silver lining is the dealership provided him with a rental truck at no charge until his truck is repaired. We also did not receive the best news from Sonic’s dermatologist. Sonic’s perianal fistulas have resurfaced. And, the doctor is concerned that Sonic’s thyroid is not working properly; therefore, he ordered a blood test to check out his thyroid. The silver lining is the perianal fistulas situation has been caught early. Sonic’s oral medication has been increased, and we will continue keeping his anal area as clean and dry as possible. Hopefully, we will hear something soon about his bloodwork.

GrapefruitsSome other highlights during our week off that gave me happiness boosts:

  •  Eating boiled crawfish with our neighbors
  •  Barry making progress on the utility room
  •  Seeing my friend Michelle when picking up the Girl Scout cookies that I ordered
  •  Lunch with my parents
  •  Bathing the big dogs (finally had a day warm enough and without rain)
  •  Driving around town in Son #1’s beautiful, black Mustang (he’s in Singapore)
  •  Working on Andrew’s Ireland scrapbook
  •  Fried oysters, a stuffed artichoke, Cajun crawfish pasta
  •  Watching anime (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure) with Andrew
  •  Picking the remaining grapefruits off my grapefruit tree

Dear reader, I must admit that the biggest happiness boost of all this week was owning my time. Having time off to relax, recharge, and reflect has been joyful even with the stumbling blocks we had to maneuver around this week. As we march into a new month and through the season of Lent, let’s be grateful for those moments of respite from the daily grind and make a point of carving out time for reflection and renewal. Rejoice, for our new month also brings daylight saving time, and that dear reader is cause for celebration. Happiness!

“Taking time off will help you spend time better.” ~ Julian Hall

 

 

 

 

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