Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Long Time, No Blog

Contrary to what you might believe, I am still alive and well. ;)

Okay, I guess it's only been a little over a week since I posted, and that seems to have become the norm for me, but it feels like it's been much longer.

 I do have some exciting news, though. I've now officially finished my second post-Mount Hermon draft of my book! :D It's not ready to send off just yet. I'm currently reading through it from start to finish and making corrections. I'm also having some writing friends help me edit it in the coming weeks.

Still, this is a huge victory for me. Why? Because this is the first time I've actually written the thing from start to finish since I started...ahem...five years ago. :} Getting a great idea is one thing. Writing a book all the way through, imperfections or not, is much harder.

I don't know what God has planned for this book, but I'm excited to find out. Traditional publishing would be my first choice. My self-doubts like to kick in and inform me that it's not really good enough for anyone else to want to publish it. Maybe it's not. Maybe it is. All I know is that I'm moving forward with it, no matter what. If nothing else, I can start a Kickstarter page to fund self-publication. ;) Even if only ten people read it and are blessed, I've done my job and shared my joy. :)

Again, I can't thank all of you enough who have encouraged me, supported me, and done so much for me every step of the way. :)

I wish so much that I didn't have to pixelate this picture. Part of me wants to post everything right now and share it with you right away! ;) But I know that in the long run, waiting until it's ripe and ready for everyone to read is the best way. I can't wait to share this story with all of you. :)

So, as you can imagine, this project has kind of distracted me from blogging. Once I hand it off to my editing friends, though, I'll get cracking on those sad little draft posts that have been waiting for me for so long. Blog comments responses and email responses are high on my priority list, too.

I think I need a secretary. ;)

I haven't talked about the gym much here on the blog since I started in August. I've tried to keep it pretty low key here since this is a place people come to talk about dolls and toys. However, for those of you who are interested, I have been keeping up with my gym vlogs. I'm up to 26 of them now, with more on the way. :) (You can see all of them on my Gym Vlogs Playlist HERE.) My plan is to record vlogs until Skinny Jeans ends in mid-November.

Going to the gym has been one of the best decisions I've ever made. I'm feeling and seeing changes in my body, I'm learning a lot, and gaining confidence. I don't even hate pictures of myself anymore! :) As evidenced by my selfie session in the school parking lot today, taken while waiting for my girls to finish Homework Club:

I should have been editing my book, but I felt like being goofy instead. ;)

I have four weeks left and can't wait to see the further changes that come my way. :) Going to the gym throughout the week has made my schedule a little crazier, but the benefits to my body and my health are definitely worth it.

And since I really should give you some toy news of some kind, here are a few little tidbits. :)

Disneystore.com is offering free shipping on any purchase until Wednesday (tomorrow). The promo code is FREESHIP. I put some things in my cart but was a good girl and walked away before clicking the order button. ;)

While traipsing around town today, I found some fun MLP-related goodies at Walgreen's that I haven't seen anywhere else. 

First up, there were giant Princess Celestia...

...and Princess Cadance brushables. These are the same size (around 8 1/2 inches tall) as my giant Fluttershy, which I reviewed HERE. They're super cute, but I'm focusing more on Funko Vinyl ponies and Blind Bag ponies in my collection now instead of brushables. Plus, I have no room! ;) 

Both ponies were $9.99 each.

Right next to them was this cute Pinkie Pie and Scootaloo set with a little stove, also priced at $9.99.

And then there were these plastic-haired Equestria Girls dolls that I'd seen online but never in person. They're pretty simplified and not my style, but I thought I'd mention them in case anyone else is interested. :)

I haven't been tempted by much of the Equestria Girls line (aside from THIS darling Rockin' Hairstyle Fluttershy with the sweetest face who has tried to jump into my shopping cart several times). ;) However, I'm really looking forward to THESE VERSIONS of them, created with Hasbro by the founder of the Pocket Princesses. :D I might have to add at least Fluttershy and Twilight to my collection when they're available. :) Plus, they're small, so they won't take up much room! :D

Now if she would just work with Hasbro and design collectible Pocket Princesses! ;)

Okay, I think that's about all I've got for you now. Stay tuned for toy review posts! I know I keep saying that, but bear with me. They're coming. :} Really and truly. ;) 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Ladies Retreat 2015

Happy Monday, everyone! Hope your week is off to a great start. :)

I had a wonderful time at Ladies Retreat this weekend. Mom, Mom Prewett (my mother-in-law) and I got back Saturday evening after two and a half fun-filled days. :)

On Thursday, we headed up to Ashland, Oregon for the retreat. We arrived several hours early, so we went to Medford to explore Fred Meyer's and Harry and David's. :)

Tess with the Harry and David's truck out front. (I tried to get a picture of her with the store in the background, but none of them turned out.) ;)

For those of you who have never been to Harry and David's, it's a great place with all sorts of produce and gourmet snacks. They also have lots of yummy samples. :)

There were lots of pumpkins on display outside the store, both small... 

...and large!

Tess beside some of the bulk snacks.

There were so many wonderful types of apples there.

I loved the variety of colors. 

Tess especially liked these "Smitten" apples. They made her think of an apple from a fairy tale story. :)

One of my very favorite things from Harry and David's is their "Moose Munch", which is basically gourmet popcorn. They have everything from caramel corn to dark chocolate covered corn.

They had samples of two different types of Moose Munch. Tess and I liked the dark chocolate Moose Munch best. :)

There were also some other samples, like this Pumpkin Pecan Butter. It was pretty yummy, too. 

Since Moose Munch is one of their specialties, they had several different plush moose toys for sale.

Tess liked this little pudgy one.

He was just her size. I decided it was too early to start buying souvenirs, though, so he stayed at the store.

When we finished up at Harry and David's, we headed back to Ashland to check into our hotel.

The room was nice and spacious. My mom and I shared this one. Mom Prewett had her own room.

There was a TV and a desk on this side of the room (opposite the bed).

Our pile of stuff, including a box of dolls I'd restrung for a friend. She lives a few hours away, and her mom was at the retreat, so I took them with me to deliver to her mom. :)

The bathroom sink.

And here is the only picture of yours truly. It's funny, I have a hard time getting out of the "anonymous blogger" mindset when I travel. I keep forgetting that I can share pictures of myself with all of you. :} Maybe next time I go on a trip I'll do a better job. ;)

The bathroom...not that it's all that exciting, but I was trying to give a full hotel room tour. ;)

Our wardrobe...could it lead to Narnia? (It didn't...I checked, just in case.) ;)

With the drapes opened, this picture didn't turn out so well. But beside the front door was a table and two cute little chairs.

The walls had pictures of Mark Twain...

...and William Shakespeare. Ashland is known for its Shakespeare festival, so a lot of the decorations and shops there are Shakespeare themed.

Tess and my mom's doll Honey, relaxing on the bed. :)

I didn't get any more pictures from the first day, and I feel so foolish! I never got any pictures of the conference room with all of the pretty mirror decorations. I wish I had. It would have been fun to share them with you.

Our theme this year was "Seeing God's Reflection in You", with II Corinthians 3:18 as our theme verse. There were four sessions that included music, skits, giveaways, and a short devotional by different women in the church. Each devotional focused on a different type of woman and how they could reflect Christ. The themes were "The Persecuted Woman", "The Christ-Like Woman", "The Grieving Woman", and "The Faithful Woman". Each of the devotionals started with an introduction narrated by a Bible character or a character from history who exemplified the character trait for each devotional. I got to portray the character for the last devotional (given by Mom Prewett), which was a lot of fun. :)

 It was such a joy to connect with the other ladies, to worship the Lord together, and to be reminded of what is truly important. :) I'm always so refreshed and blessed after a ladies retreat. :)

In between the sessions, we were able to see more of the sights around us.

I'm sure it will come as no surprise to you that we found a Toys R Us. ;)

We also hit several antique and thrift shops, but I didn't get pictures of those.

The weather was gorgeously overcast for most of the weekend, and the scenery was lovely.

Tess and Honey had a fun time hanging out in the hotel room, too.

P.S. Aren't these chairs adorable? I want one for my house. ;) They even swivel!

We all enjoyed some Food Network shows before bed. :) 

We watched until we couldn't keep our eyes open.

On the last day, we checked out of our hotel room and took some dolly photos around the hotel.

Tess wanted to get this picture especially for Maggie since there were unicorns on our room number sign. ;)

Here, Tess is in the parking lot of the hotel, just outside our room.

It had such a lovely, old-fashioned feel.

And here's a look at the other side of the parking lot.

I didn't get a picture of the inside, but our conference room was right under that roof. :)

Some of the hotel rooms. 

More hotel rooms. 

The outdoor pool and spa were here. We enjoyed the warm spa both nights. :)

There were all sorts of beautiful places to take pictures at the very front of the hotel. Mom and Mom Prewett were very patient and sweet as I took picture after picture.

Can you spot Tess and Honey in this one? ;)

After we'd checked out of our hotel (and finished the doll photo shoot), we headed to some of the cute little shops in Downtown Ashland.

The nifty drinking fountain by the information center.

It had these really cool face sculptures.

I was NOT so impressed with the other fountain directly across from this one (which I didn't capture on film). It had some sort of special mineral water. I took a sip and spit it out. Hopefully I didn't offend any native Ashlanders. But honestly, it tasted so odd and was in such a different looking fountain, I was afraid I had taken a drink from something I wasn't supposed to, so spitting it out was my first impulse. :} It was like drinking salty rust. Blech.

Hee hee. I had to take a picture of this sign. It was a little spendy to take home, but fun to look at. Maybe I can make my own version to hang over my desk sometime. :)

My other favorite sign from another shop said: "Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is deciding which ones to keep." Yet another excellent quotation to hang over my work space. ;) 

My two partners in shopping, Mom and Mom Prewett. :) Love these gals!

The weather was wonderfully overcast and slightly rainy again, and the flowers and fall colors were just beautiful. :)

Partway through our shopping, we headed to Lithia Park. I'd been here a couple of times in high school and college, but I'd forgotten what a beautiful place it was. I knew it would be the perfect place for a doll photo shoot, so I got Tess out of the van and took her with us.

I'm not normally a bold doll photographer type, so taking all of these pictures in a busy park was a bit of a stretch for me. It went really well, though. I didn't get too many weird looks, and I got some fabulous pictures. I also felt like a famous photographer with two assistants, because Mom and Mom Prewett were wonderfully helpful, from holding Tess between shots, to holding my phone when I was setting her up. I should take them with me more often on photo shoots. ;)

Tess beside the park sign.

I have no clue who these ladies are, but I loved this picture, so I thought I'd use it anyway. :)

There was a beautiful duck pond with very obliging ducks who kept swimming right into my shots at the perfect times. Mom said it was because they thought I was going to feed them. Hey, whatever works! ;)

I loved the brilliant green of this lawn. :)

Sweet little Tess. I love taking pictures of her. :)

Walking through the park.

Still walking. ;)

I thought these stairs were pretty cool, and this bottom railing was just the right height for a regular railing for Tess. (Thanks for the photo idea, Mom!)

I loved this little bridge and knew I wanted to get some pictures of Tess here, too. This was one of the spots I remembered taking pictures with one of my close friends when we did an Ashland photo shoot, so it was special for that reason, too. :)

It was tricky figuring out the best angle for these.

I really like this one, especially since the ducks once again had perfect timing. ;)

Climbing trees.

This photo turned out a little bit dark, but I loved the look of the reflection on the water.

I LOVE this one! I tell you, the ducks were just completely on my side this day. :) 

I thought this tree was really nifty. :) 

We finished at the park and walked around the town a bit longer.

I snapped a picture of this bronze wall sculpture because I remembered it from earlier visits here. I don't know who all of the people are, but at least some of them are characters from Shakespeare's plays.

This was my favorite toy store. With a name like that, how can you go wrong? ;) 

We were pretty hungry by this time, so we stopped at Zoey's Cafe for lunch.

The menu.

I had the Turkey Swiss Calzone. I'd been really good with my eating the whole trip, so I decided to splurge a little on this meal.

Every bite was worth it. ;) I definitely want to remember this place when I go back. :)

I didn't have the special ice cream OR gelato, which is a huge victory for me. I also turned down the fresh cheesecake in a variety of flavors that was offered at Friday night's dinner. :) It feels so good to make positive changes and not HAVE to eat everything in sight. :)

We saw a few more shops in Ashland, and then headed home. The weather was partially cloudy, partially rainy, and the scenery was just breathtaking. I couldn't stop snapping pictures all the way home:

All in all, we had a fabulous time together. It was nice to get back home and see Hubby and the girls, though. :) 

Now I've got to get back to those last five chapters of my book, clean my house, and keep up with the crazy school/gym schedule. But after my weekend, I feel ready to take on the world! :D

Review posts are coming people. Honest. ;) Stay tuned.

I'm changing the header, so here's a copy of my previous one. :)