Friday, January 29, 2016

I'm Back! Vacation Ramblings & Other Thoughts

Hi friends! I took a mini break from my blog and most interneting (except Instagram, because YOU CAN'T MAKE ME, I won't do it!) when Andrew and I flew off to Maryland for a bit. Then I decided to extend my blogging break for another extra week...mostly because I was feeling lazy. Anyway. We live in California, so we literally flew all the way across the US. It was a long, nasty day of traveling. So the actual getting there part sucked, but minus that we had a nice trip. I wanted to share some photos, which for the most part I already posted on Instagram, but I don't care and want to talk about them anyway! We didn't do a whole lot of touristy stuff this time, which was totally fine because I don't always like constantly running around when I'm on vacation. So stressful! But the one big big big thing that happened was - doo de do doooo - I got engaged! Yay! :D A handful of you already know (yay facebook!) and I really appreciate your kind words <3 I'm going to start recapping our trip and I'll talk more about that part when we get there!

Day 1 - I only took this lovely photo of my face that day so you're stuck with that and the poster of the movie I watched on the plane. I took that picture after getting off a SEVEN HOUR flight and was getting ready to board another plane for TWO MORE HOURS. My friend (who knows I hate flying) texted me, saying "YAY are you having fun yet?!" so I sent her that as a response. How is it that being on planes makes you feel so tired and gross when literally all you're doing is sitting there? Ugh. Have I mentioned how much I have flying? The upside was that the longer flight had those fancy TV things on the back of each seat with lots of movies, shows and music to choose from. The downside was that I picked a bad movie, hahah. I knew I should have watched the new Cinderella! Grrr. I'd been wanting to see "The Gift" partially because I like Jason Bateman movies, and also because I thought it was going to be more of a thriller type...but it's more of a drama with a couple twists. It left me feeling really bummed because (slight spoiler, but not really if you've seen the trailer) the bad things that happen are Simon's (Jason Bateman's) fault - he's a huge asshole so it wasn't all that surprising when someone wanted to screw him over...but his wife (Rebecca Hall), who had nothing to do with what happened, got screwed over even worse simply as an act of revenge. So sad! After this movie I took my mind off of it by reading the two newest issues of Saga :P

Day 2 - On the second day we ventured into Washington DC to eat at Texas de Brazil, somewhere I'd never heard of, but is super popular with Andrew and his family. There were so many of us going that we had to take two separate cars, and the car that we weren't in ended up getting stuck and were really far behind us. We killed some time by hanging out at a coffee place called Poets and Busboys, which I'd also never heard of but it was super hipster and interesting. I got a Thin Mint latte, so yummy! We eventually got to the Texas de Brazil, which was another interesting experience. It's sort of like a buffet, but not quite. You just go sit at your table, and when you're ready to start eating you flip your little card thing over so the green side is up (pictured). All around the restaurant the servers are walking around with these giant skewer/sword things filled with MEAT. So one dude will come over and toss a slab of steak onto your plate. Then a few seconds later another dude will come over and put a piece of lamb (which I tried for the first time, and didn't like) or whatever on your plate. There's a whole bunch of different meats going around, but you get the idea. So these people will keep coming to your table, throwing different meats on your plate, until you turn your card over to the red side which means MY MEAT MOUNTAIN IS TOO BIG, PLEASE LEAVE ME ALONE! It was an interesting experience, but also kind of ridiculous!

Day 3 - On day 3 we slept in and played tabletop games after breakfast! Thanks to us, Andrew's siblings are huge Munchkin fans now. Later that night we had reservations for Medieval Times! It's sort of like a dinner theatre, but the show is a live medieval tournament! The food is really good, too...but you have to eat it with your hands! I know it's supposed to add to the atmosphere and all that, but honestly that's the only part I don't like, hahah. Everyone is assigned to a different knight in the tournament and you get a crown and flag in your knight's color so you can cheer him on all night! It's even encouraged to "booooo!" the rival knights, if that's more your style. We had the black and white knight and he won the tournament! It's sort of hokey, but a LOT of fun! The first time I went was also in Maryland a few years ago. We don't have one super close to where I live, but it's only 15 minutes from where Andrew's family lives.

Day 4 - On the fourth day we went to the National Aquarium in Baltimore! I LOVE aquariums! Seeing the jellyfish is always my favorite. That's why Andrew proposed to me that afternoon in front of a giant jellyfish tank! Then I started crying. Then everyone else started crying. SO MUCH CRYING! But they were all happy tears of course, so it's all good. Yay! :D Writing detailed, emotional posts is not something I'm great at, so I'll just leave it there. I'm so happy, though! Yayayay <3 Oh, and I even got to touch a moon jellyfish! All the jellyfish exhibits I've been to, and I had to wait until I was 24 to actually (safely) touch one. After the aquarium, Andrew and his family were really insistent on showing me the Barnes and Noble that's on the same street. I was like, "I know I like books you guys, but I don't need to go to the Barnes and Noble, really!" But we still went, and it was really cool! It's part of a giant building called the "Power Plant," because it actually used to be a power plant from 1900 to 1973. The inside looks like a steampunk Barnes and Noble! We explored there for awhile - their games/toys department is much bigger than the Barnes and Noble here. They even carried the Heroes of the Storm Funko Mystery Minis! Andrew bought me two of them and I ended up with the variant Stealth Nova and Tyrael. I really want Nazeebo and Chef Stitches!! I guess that's how they get you :P So for obvious reasons day 4 was the best day of the trip <3

Day 5 - This day was also pretty chill, it was a Tuesday (Monday was a holiday) and Andrew's parents both had to work. However his younger siblings had a half day at school, and when his sister got home we ate ice cream and watched Kingsman: The Secret Service. I loved the parts with Colin Firth and Samuel L. Jackson! Later that night I discovered my new favorite hard cider - McKenzie's Black Cherry! SO GOOD. Sorry, Angry Orchard. Unfortunately since coming back to California I haven't been able to find it anywhere. I even checked BevMo yesterday! The hunt goes on.

Day 6 - This is the day we flew home! Since you already read how I feel about planes then you can imagine how this day went. But! Our layover was in New York, and I really, really wanted to get one of those super touristy "I <3 NY" shirts." We didn't have much time before we needed to get on our next plane, so when I walked by like ten stores without the shirts I was upset and about ready to give up. But we found them! I bought one for me, my friend and my mom :) We finally landed in San Francisco around eleven! We had a great vacation, but I was really excited to sleep in my own bed that night.

...and now I'm home! Getting back into the swing of things after a vacation is always rough. Especially when we got home past midnight and I had to work early the next morning! Welcome back, Natalie. Hahah. Now I just need to get caught up on all my blog reading! Feel free to link me to any of your posts I should read ;)

Monday, January 18, 2016

Guest Post: Confessions of a Part-Time Sorceress

Good morning, friends! If you read the title then you'll see that today presents the very first guest post here! (Gasps) By the time you read this I'll be in another state, where it's cold and snows and Andrew won't let me wear my Crocs. You can keep up with me on Instagram, but for the most part I'll be gone from the blogging world for a few days.  In the meantime, Mandy from The TRUE Ultimate Fangirl Officially, offered to step in write about Confessions of a Part-Time Sorceress, a girl's guide to D&D! I absolutely loved the idea; because even though I play D&D, I've never been great at talking about it. I don't know why! Anyway, enough from me. Here's Mandy!


Confessions of a Part-Time Sorceress by Shelly Mazzanoble is a hilarious, witty, and fun read for any girl looking to learn more about the D&D universe.

With a tongue-in-cheek style, Shelly walks you through the gaming process, teaching you the basics, and drawing you in ever so slightly page by page, until you too want to join in on an adventure and roll up a character of your very own that’s basically just you only “thirty times cooler!"

Confessions of a Part-Time Sorceress

She does focus mainly on the sorcerer class in this book, so if you’re wanting to play a different type of character in the game, I would recommend getting your hands on a Dungeon’s & Dragons Player’s Handbook (version 3.5 is the best), and looking up the things you’re interested in in there. She does touch briefly on the other races and classes and weapons and such, but the Player’s Handbook is going to be your best friend if you really want to get into gaming.  Shelly really does make the game appealing to women in this book, showing that it’s not a “boy’s only club”, and that girls can have just as much fun, if not more!, than guys in role playing.

She shows you this through her own experience in playing D&D with a group of her coworkers, and she goes from newbie to badass in no time flat, enjoying the heck out of herself, and even ensnaring her friends into playing the game by surprise at a girl’s night in, and much to their surprise, having them enjoy it!

So give this book a read, even if just for the sake of all the fun that’s in it! She’s quirky and silly and it’s a perfect combination!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Bookish (and not-so Bookish) Thoughts #16

1. This year instead of making a specific reading list, I made a goal. ONE super easy, attainable goal: read more of the books I already own. I own SO MANY books I haven't read yet, it's embarrassing. I guess I just get distracted by new releases, things people recommend me, ARC's and all that. And I still plan to read those things in 2016...just not as much. One of the (many) reasons I made this goal is so I can (hopefully) start clearing off my shelves a bit. I'm running out of room for all my books. The shelves themselves are already full, and now I'm just accumulating stacks of books everywhere. Not cute. I'm hoping if I read more of what I already own then I can decide what's worth keeping and what's ok to donate. I hate parting with my books...even the ones I dislike, but I have to draw the line somewhere.

2. I went to see The Hateful Eight this week and absolutely LOVED it. I love Tarantino movies and I didn't read much about the synopsis before seeing it because I like being surprised. And I was! It was awesome. Sort of like a western "who done it" movie, where they're trapped in a cabin all night. I have this thing about movies about people trapped in places (wow, typing it out all of a sudden made me feel creepy about it - I'm not creepy!) There was only one part of the movie I didn't like, as it kinda made me feel gross...and it had nothing to do with all the blood. But I won't spoil anything =X

Hateful Eight Movie Poster
Also I really like this poster for it.

3. During the Steam Winter sale Andrew grabbed me a copy of Hatoful Boyfriend (it was only $1.99!). This was my first foray into the world of dating sim video games, and I have to admit that I really sucked at it. You play as  "...the only human student at the prestigious St. PigeoNation’s Institute, a school for talented birds! Roam the halls and find love in between classes as a sophomore student at the world’s greatest pigeon high school." I've had my eye on this game for awhile, mostly because it's a game about dating pigeons. In theory it sounds like a lot of fun, but in reality I lost patience with it after two days. There's just so much dialogue. SO MUCH DIALOGUE. Which I realize is normal for these type of games, but like I said, I'd never played one of these so I hadn't really thought about it. I guess I was hoping it was going to be a little more like a choose-your-own-adventure game; but it's more like just reading the story, with very few decisions sprinkled in. Either way, I still plan to log a few more hours into this game because both the endings I've gotten so far were pretty lackluster (one of them was because I didn't know what I was doing, the second was just bad luck I think).

Hatoful Boyfriend Punkgeon

4. I'm really excited that It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is back! I love that show. Andrew and I watched the first episode yesterday, and it did not disappoint. With this and X-Files, it's just a really good month for TV. I'm sure there's other awesome things coming on this month as well, but I usually suck at keeping up with what's currently airing so you'll have to clue me in on the rest.

5. Speaking of X-Files, have you entered my giveaway yet? You could win a cute little pin, handmade by yours truly. I wear mine all the time so we could be twinsies (which, let's be honest, is the real prize). When I don't have it pinned to something plaid and flannel (because #FlannelFriday) I usually have it pinned to a scarf, because my cold neck is really into scarves right now.

6. I'm strongly reconsidering my blog layout, but I don't know what to do about it for a few different reasons. One of the things that's bugging me is that it feels a little too crowded, so toning down all the colors might help. Except I don't think I want just a plain white background because I feel like everyone in the universe has a plain white background right now. What's going to make my plain white background stand out? So while I decide on that I settled with widening the post part of my site, so there's more white and the blue is more of like a border. However the bigger issue is that even if I were to change my layout, I still suck at HTML and coding so I'd have no idea how to do what I wanted with it. Life is hard, friends.

Bookish (and not-so Bookish) Thoughts is hosted every Wednesday (meaning that I'm posting it late, d'oh) by Bookishly Boisterous :)

Friday, January 8, 2016

Tales from the Bookshelf - December Reads

Friends! I've fallen so far behind on book reviews, it hurts. I may not have had time to write about everything I read last month, but I DID get a good chuck of reading done. Here's what I read in December :)

Saga (Issues 1 - 32), by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples
Saga volumes 1 - 5

"When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe. 
From New York Times bestselling writer Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina) and critically acclaimed artist Fiona Staples (Mystery Society, North 40), Saga is the sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the worlds. Fantasy and science fiction are wed like never before in this sexy, subversive drama for adults."

I've finally read Saga! I'm always behind on reading the cool and popular comics, but I always read them eventually. In the beginning of December I picked up volume 1, and later that week picked up the rest of it; I was hooked! Now I'm all caught up and have to wait for each issue like the rest of you -_-

The art is often a "make it or break it" thing for me when it comes to comics and graphic novels. I like the drawing well enough in Saga, but what really drew me in were the vibrant colors and unique characters. Each character has their own style and story, and I often felt myself feeling sorry for the "bad" characters as often as the good ones. I love this series!

 Saga: 5 out of 5 soot sprites (Like my new rating system? Hahah.)

Library of Souls, by Ransom Riggs
Library of Souls

"A boy with extraordinary powers. An army of deadly monsters. An epic battle for the future of peculiardom.

The adventure that began with Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and continued in Hollow City comes to a thrilling conclusion with Library of Souls. As the story opens, sixteen-year-old Jacob discovers a powerful new ability, and soon he’s diving through history to rescue his peculiar companions from a heavily guarded fortress. Accompanying Jacob on his journey are Emma Bloom, a girl with fire at her fingertips, and Addison MacHenry, a dog with a nose for sniffing out lost children.

They’ll travel from modern-day London to the labyrinthine alleys of Devil’s Acre, the most wretched slum in all of Victorian England. It’s a place where the fate of peculiar children everywhere will be decided once and for all. Like its predecessors, Library of Souls blends thrilling fantasy with never-before-published vintage photography to create a one-of-a-kind reading experience."

This is the third and final book in the Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children series. There's something about all three of the books that I just can't place...they all start off strong, and then halfway though I start getting bored and take forever to finish the book. But then the ending is always really good, too! It's weird. Anyway, I still applaud the books for being a YA series that I don't hate, and the creative illustration format. The "thing" about these books is that they're illustrated with real, vintage photographs; which for the most part are unaltered. Library of Souls probably included the most photos of all the books, but I have to say that the photos in the second book, Hollow City, were much more interesting. I'm really interested in seeing for the movie turns out! You can read my reviews of the first two books here and here.

 Library of Souls: 3 out of 5 soot sprites

Batgirl vol 1: The Batgirl of Burnside, by Cameron Stewart, Babs Tarr & Brenden Fletcher
Batgirl vol 1: The Batgirl of Burnside

"Barbara Gordon is no stranger to dusting herself off when disaster strikes, so when a fire destroys everything she owns, she spots the opportunity for a new lease on life – and seizes it! Following the rest of Gotham City’s young adults to the hip border district of Burnside, Barbara sets about building an all-new Batgirl…and discovers new threats preying on her peers! As the new hero of Burnside, Batgirl gets started by facing twin sister assassins on motorcycles!"

Another comic I picked up in December (thanks library)! I really enjoyed the art style, it felt new and fresh. I also love Barbara's new outfit - no more spandex, yay! Unfortunately I felt the story line to be lacking a little. In an attempt to make the characters seem modern I think they also made them more annoying - definitely gave off the "trying too hard" vibe. AND all the "enemies" that Barbara fights, are...really lame. I'll probably read more when another trade paperback is released, but I wasn't hooked enough to bother looking for individual issues.

 Batgirl of Burnside: 3 out of 5 soot sprites

The One-of-a-Kind Cat Book, by Ciye Cho
The One-of-a-Kind Cat Book

"The One-of-a-Kind Cat Book is a whimsical treat for cat lovers everywhere. Dive into its pages to meet Catalina the narcissistic movie star, Kit the steampunk genius, and Guillaume the macaron chef. Browse through letters, notes, and photos to learn about mystery cats from Svalbard and the Amazon. Follow a detective as he unravels the crimes of “Murder Kitties.”

The OOAK Cat Book is a grown-up picture book full of modern themes: a shameless search for fame (or infamy), an obsession with true crime, and our constant need for adventure and kawaii cats. The felines here will guide you to places like Paris, Varanasi, Woodstock, and the Great Barrier Reef."

I wasn't entirely sure what I was getting into with this book (is it a picture book? a graphic novel? what's going on here?), but when the author, Ciye Cho, e-mailed and asked me to take a look...well, how could I say no to a colorful book about cats? In many ways The One-of-a-Kind Cat Book reminded me of a modern Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, the book that the musical Cats was based on (minus the poetry aspect). There's no overlaying story, but it makes up for it with colorful imagery. In each chapter you meet a new cat along with a little story (really little, like one or two pages). Each story is written in a different format (such as in letters, an FBI case file or a magazine article), which I also enjoyed. It's a fun book to pick up and just read a little at a time. If it wasn't only available in e-book format it would make a really fun coffee table book! In the meantime you can pick up the e-book here!

 The One-of-a-Kind Cat Book: 4 out of 5 soot sprites

Joker, by Brian Azzarello & Lee Bermejo
Joker, by Brian Azzarello

"The Joker has been mysteriously released from Arkham Asylum, and he's none to happy about what's happened to his Gotham City rackets while he's been "away." What follows is a harrowing night of revenge, murder and manic crime as only The Joker can deliver it, as he brutally takes back his stolen assets from The Penguin, The Riddler, Two-Face, Killer Croc and others."

I think Joker is an interesting character, but this book was surprisingly boring. And the parts that weren't boring were just...bad. The art was ugly. The very minimal story line was a letdown. It's told from the POV of wannabe-henchman, Jonny Frost. Which is kind of cool for like five minutes, but after that you realize that Jonny Frost is boring and has no depth.

My biggest qualm is how Harley Quinn is portrayed. You see her a handful of times, so you know she's in the picture, but she doesn't say a single word in the whole book. She's just treated as this hypersexualized thing. In her first entrance you learn that she's working as a stripper. Scene: Joker and some other dudes are chilling at the bar, and you see Harley walk in, moving right past them. Then on the next page it's a full page spread of her sprawled out onstage with no top on. And that's basically her one "big scene" in the whole book. After that you only see her in the background or just kind of hanging out with them, usually drawn at an angle where you can't see her face and mostly only her chest and bottom. It was really bizarre.

Finally, they couldn't come up with a better name for this? I know it's just a one-shot comic, but still. You know how many hits come up when you type in "Joker?" Yeah.

  Joker: 1 out of 5 soot sprites

Happy reading! :)

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

5 Things to Do While You're Waiting for The X-Files

X-Files I Still Want to Believe Poster
*brb drooling*

Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhh!!! The wait is almost over, friends! January 24th is only a few weeks away. In the meantime I've collected a list of things to help keep you sane occupied. Be sure to read to the bottom for a little extra fun :)

Get creative with some X-Files coloring pages. I hope you're on board the adult coloring book train, because I totally am. The only issue is that I'm super picky. I feel like all the coloring books I see in stores are either for little kids, featuring children's shows I don't know about, OR super boring adult coloring books with intricate flowers and mandalas (which is cool, but I find really boring after awhile). Anyway, the official X-Files twitter shared this coloring page a few months back as part of #TheXFiles201Days campaign (which I am almost caught up with), inspiring me to look for even more. Unfortunately I've only been able to find a few more free ones since then. Check them out here and here! If you're interested in spending a bit of $$$ on more, here's two more options.

X-Files Coloring Page

Get your (not so) casual cosplay on with your own Mulder and/or Scully FBI badge. I've been asked a handful of times where I bought my Dana Scully badge. Natalie, is this something that you regularly wear out, often enough for people to ask where you got it? Yes, yes it is. So I'm here to tell you that I didn't buy it anywhere. I found a badass template on DeviantArt. Here's Mulder's, and here's Scully's. When printing, I found out I had to shrink the images down a bit so they'd be the right size. Unless you prefer them bigger. Go crazy! You can either print it, cut it out and laminate it, or just get one of those clear ID badge sleeves and slide it on in. I laminated mine and attached it to an ID holder because I'm obsessed with laminating things. I also found printables (not as good quality, but at least they're there) for Doggett, Reyes, as well as The Lone Gunman press badges. Have fun :P

X-Files FBI Badge

Read some comics. 
I'm not going to shut up about The X-Files Season 10 comic books until you've read them, so you might as well get it out of the way now. Another good option is The X-Files: 30 Days of Night. It's slow to start but give it some time. Everyone loves a good crossover, right? If you're more interested in the series mythology start with Season 10. If you're more interested in "monster of the week" episodes, go with 30 Days of Night. If you equally enjoy both then read all of it in one day with tea and your favorite snack.

X-Files Comics

Play a board game (and invite me over?) I only recently learned about The X-Files board game, but it sounds SO fun! One person plays as The Syndicate and the other players are FBI agents. The FBI agents try to solve X-File cases while The Syndicate tries to hide the truth. I'm tempted to buy it myself, but I'm not sure how many people would play it with me :(

X-Files Board Game
Left two images from

Enter my giveaway! Yay, giveaways! Just a small one this time, but still fun (I hope). I made a handful of these "I want to believe" pins, and I want to share them with THREE lucky winners! They're a simple plastic laminate (told you I'm obsessed with laminating things) with a bar pin glued on the back. Maybe a little tacky, but I think they turned out cute :) I'd love it if you wore it while watching The X-Files on January 24th, or whenever you decide to start watching the new episodes. It'd be like we're in our own little alien club. So if you win, be sure to send me a picture!

I want to believe

Simply enter using the widget below. The giveaway is only open for a week to ensure I have time to mail it and have it arrive on time. Open internationally! Good luck :)