1. The Summer Challenge TRIPLE THREAT

    July 22, 2017 ♥ Posted in: Books, Geek Events, Journal, Writing by Kristina Horner

    Booktubeathon is upon us yet again, and I fear I have made a grave mistake this year. Actually, let’s take a step back.

    So, as you all likely know, I am participating in Camp NaNoWriMo this month. I set a modest goal for myself, but writing 20,000 words in a month (arguably the busiest of the summer months) is still nothing to shake a stick at. I knew that attempting Booktubeathon and Camp NaNo in the same month would be a stretch, but I’ve never been one to look in the face of a challenge and back away. I welcome challenge. I thrive on challenge.

    This was all well and good – totally doable – until I found out about the Marauder’s Marathon. This is a month long virtual Harry Potter themed marathon, which I, of course, signed up for because you can absolutely trick me into exercising if you disguise it as a fun Harry Potter fandom activity. Plus I am trying to be more active, so why not apply a NaNoWriMo-esque filter to running, to make it more exciting? 26.2 miles in a month? A whole month? No problem!

    Problem is, it started on the 17th of July. While I was in New York, in oppressively hot weather. Listen, I’m as committed to pretending to be a wizard while I run as the next person, but I’m not going to start my running adventure in 90 degree weather. So here I am, finally home from NY, 5 days behind. But still determined.

    Okay. Okay Kristina. Three marathon style events in one month. All overlapping for one chaotic week starting on Monday. Is this possible? You can listen to audiobooks and run at the same time. You can get up early to write. This is doable.

    You can listen to audiobooks and run at the same time. You can get up early to write. This is doable.

    Oh wait. Your friends invited you on a spontaneous trip to Las Vegas for one of their birthdays starting on the Saturday of your Week of Madness, and you can’t turn down a spontaneous adventure? AND your best friend gets married on August 9th and you’re not only in the wedding, you’re also planning the bachelorette party, which happens right in the midst of all of this?

    Guys, nothing can save me now. I um… I may have over-committed.

    BUT! Follow me on Instagram and Twitter over the next couple weeks to see if I survive, and in the mean time… here’s my Booktubeathon TBR:

    The challenges:

    1/ Read a book with a person on the cover: PAPER GIRLS by Brian K. Vaughan
    2/ Read a hyped book: MILK AND HONEY by Rupi Kaur
    3/ Finish a book in one day: DEAR IJEAWELE, OR A FEMINIST MANIFESTO IN FIFTEEN SUGGESTIONS by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
    4/ Read about a character that is very different from you: HOMEGOING by Yaa Gyasi
    5/ Finish a book completely outdoors: MEN EXPLAIN THINGS TO ME by Rebecca Solnit
    6/ Read a book you bought because of the cover: THE WILD ROBOT by Peter Brown
    7/ Read seven books: THE ONE MEMORY OF FLORA BANKS by Emily Barr

    I forgot to mention… it would be so nice to have this weekend, this glorious Saturday and Sunday, to get ahead in writing, to do some solid running, cleanse my reading palate with some television, do laundry and relax and prepare for the insanity ahead – but I’m got another wedding tonight and won’t be back until tomorrow. *falls over and dies*

    Wish me luck, and please let me know if you’re participating in any of the above challenges. Bonus points if anyone out there is crazy enough to do all three, like I am!

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  2. Discovery Park – Hike #2

    July 11, 2017 ♥ Posted in: Hiking, Journal, Travel, Wedding by Kristina Horner

    We were supposed to go on our second hike sooner than this, but we had to skip our next planned outing because Jenn’s ankle hadn’t properly healed yet and then we had a couple of busy weekends. But then our friend Ariana was in town, and she’s all about that hiking life as well, so this past Saturday was the perfect time to (literally) hit the dusty trail.

    The Hike: Discovery Park
    Description: Discovery Park is a 534 acre natural area park, located next to the peninsular Magnolia neighborhood in Seattle. It overlooks Puget Sound, with views of the Cascade and Olympic mountains. The park is built on the historic grounds of Fort Lawton, which was originally a Confederate prisoner-of-war camp during the Civil War. Within the park is two miles of protected tidal beaches, a lighthouse, open meadow lands, dramatic sea cliffs, forest groves and more. While it’s advertised as a 3.9 mile heavily trafficked loop trail, all the branching paths and trails can leave a person wandering for hours.
    Length: Advertised as 3.9 miles, but that’s just for the loop trail.
    Elevation Gain: 570 feet
    How long it took us: We switched roads/trails at least six times, so we probably spent at least 3.5 to 4 hours walking around. No concept of how far we actually walked.

    Thoughts and anecdotes:

    So originally we had planned on checking out a different hike, and wanted to make more of a day trip out of it. Ariana had mentioned Lake 22 (which is on my list for sure) – but when the time came, Discovery Park made more sense.

    I’ll admit, I was a little disappointed. As a new hiker I am very eager to try out exciting hikes, ones a bit further away from home, with exceptional views promised to me for the effort. Discovery Park is right here in Seattle, and while I’ve never actually been there for hiking, I couldn’t imagine a trail so close to where I live being anything to write home about. I live by a lake with a well-known walking trail – I imagined it was going to be of that caliber. I left my cool hiking backpack at home. I prepared myself for a nice little walk.

    Let me take a moment to admit I was wrong.

    Discover Park is probably one of the most incredible things about my city, and I’ve lived here almost thirty years without knowing.

    How have I gone about my day to day life, folding laundry and running errands and eating sandwiches and trimming my fingernails with a view like this just twenty minutes away? Literally, how does that happen to a person? How is this not some sort of mandatory Seattle resident onboarding information, like “welcome to the city – there’s a Starbucks on every corner and also this view will take your breath away, make sure you check it out as soon as possible.”

    The thing about Discovery Park is that there are a million little trails and paths. If I went back right this second, I don’t think I could retrace my steps. There are little paper maps offered at the trailhead of the north parking lot, and we tried to follow along with where we were going, but mostly our strategy was to go a new direction every time the path diverged. We walked on classic trails, dirt roads, paved paths, old wooden stairs, and spent a significant amount of time following the beach trail around the tip of the peninsula. We kept being surprised at how few people we saw in each new stunning location. That’s the thing about Discovery Park though – it’s just so big that even though it’s full to the gills with people, it’s still pretty easy to find your little piece of seclusion. Maybe it’s because everyone else is just as lost as you are, or maybe it’s because there’s so much to explore that everyone keeps moving.

    We kept being surprised at how few people we saw in each new stunning location. That’s the thing about Discovery Park though – it’s just so big that even though it’s full to the gills with people, it’s still pretty easy to find your little piece of seclusion. Maybe it’s because everyone else is just as lost as you are, or maybe it’s because there’s so much to explore that everyone keeps moving.

    I saw a lot of different amazing things on this hike, but for some reason I only took pictures of this incredible view. I think this is the point at which I realized how wrong I’d been about Discovery Park. That even though you’ve lived in a place nearly your entire life, you can never really know all there is to know about a place. It will find ways to keep surprising you.

    The main reason we stuck to our neighborhood in terms of hiking on Saturday was actually that we planned to come back on Sunday, and wanted to kill two birds with one stone and use this day’s hike for a bit of location scouting. Ariana had offered to take some engagement photos for Joe and I, and thought this park would be the perfect backdrop for our very Pacific Northwest relationship.

    Here’s the thing I realized about engagement shoots that had never occurred to me before. On Saturday, we hiked in workout clothes, ponytails and hiking boots. We sweat a lot and got dirty. On Sunday, we dressed for pictures. I wore a skirt and a cute sweater. Joe wore his nice new jeans. I wore little velvet black flats.

    But we walked on the same dirty trails. I stepped in the same mud.

    I’ve seen hundreds of engagement and wedding photos taken in the woods, in front of a waterfall, on the edge of a mountain. I’ve seen people in high heels, wedding dresses, suits, and with immaculate hair and makeup.

    And it has never once occurred to me how those people got out there.

    The obvious answer is that they probably brought a change of clothes. But that doesn’t explain the perfectly curled hair, the beautiful makeup, the fact that hiking with a garment bag isn’t much easier than trying not to get black velvet shoes dirty on a path made of literal dirt.

    It wasn’t actually a very pleasant experience if I’m being honest, between the rocks in my shoes and the constant worry that I’d accumulated some kind of nature in my hair. I now have a renewed appreciation for my hiking gear for all future hikes. I also have so much respect for the people who look flawless in their very extreme wedding and engagement photos. Unless they were somehow helicopter dropped into their location, those people are intense. Those people worked way harder for that picture than I ever stopped to consider before. And while taking pictures with Ariana was a delight on the interpersonal level, and I’m sure they’re going to turn out lovely, I so wished I’d brought a pair of sneakers. Or a mirror to check how I looked.

    On the other hand though, Joe and I aren’t the kind of people who’d think to bring a mirror on a hike, so maybe it’s a more accurate representation this way. Just like how I told Ariana I’d probably mostly keep the photos others would deem mess ups, the ones where we’re laughing or making silly faces, I probably wouldn’t like our pictures quite as much if Joe’s shirt wasn’t a bit wrinkled, or if you couldn’t see any dirt on my shoes.

    That’s just us.

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  3. June 2017 Life Update: North Dakota and Writing

    July 5, 2017 ♥ Posted in: Family, Travel by Kristina Horner

    I recently got back from a little family trip to North Dakota, the purpose of which was to visit relatives and introduce Joe to future in-laws.

    North Dakota is a really special place for me – it’s the state in which I was born, it’s where some of my relatives still live, it’s where my parents grew up, where my dad’s farm was, where our relatives settled when they came to the US… it’s also filled with food, language, traditions, and history that’s unique to my family, things that I fear will slowly fade away as people grow old, move away, or move on. As we grow more reliant on computers and chain restaurants and the internet and brands and phones, it’s natural that old traditions and habits slowly slip away, and it can be a very sad thing.

    One of my dreams is to write a book that captures and preserves some of this stuff. I don’t live in North Dakota. I’m not personally making the big life choices to help keep these small towns alive. I don’t cook North Dakota-German food as much as I could and I definitely am aware that each generation in my family knows significantly less of the low German language my family used to speak out on the prairie.

    So my way to contribute, my way to give back, is to collect stories. To collect anecdotes, and recipes, and ideas; to capture the lifestyle and write it into a book. Someday. Every time I visit I come back even more fired up about this plan, so I decided to finally tell someone, maybe as a way to hold myself accountable. It will happen. I owe it to myself.

    I’m obviously waist deep in a different book right now, but this one is always on the back burner. It’s in the back of my mind and I keep collecting notes and ideas and stories and recipes so that when I am ready to sit down and write it, I’ve already started doing the work. My future self will thank me.

    My future self will thank me.

    Side note: here’s the necklace I am wearing as I write this blog post about my birth state.

    Rather than spoil anyone on my unwritten future book, I’m just going to share a couple of pictures from my trip. It was a trip on the quieter side for my usually loud and rambunctious family – but we didn’t come during a holiday, so not as many people were around. I missed my other relatives, but it was nice to have quality time with my two grandmas, the two remaining grandparents I have. They both live in North Dakota, about an hour apart.

    This is my mom’s mom, the biggest firecracker of a lady you’ll ever meet. She’s taken to coloring lately to keep her mind and hands busy in her nursing home, so we made sure to stop in to color with her, among other things.

    My aunt had a little BBQ at her beautiful home, and was happy to share with us her collection of hammocks. This was probably the part of our trip that felt the most like a vacation.

    These are two of my cousins’ cute kids. They gave me a tour of the entire property and even taught me how to pick asparagus from the garden. I’m not sure we were supposed to, but they seemed to think it was fine, ha.

    My dad’s cousins have a ton of property on which they keep a huge amount of the world’s remaining Nokota horses. It’s a pretty amazing story, actually. These horses are completely wild, and were on the brink of extinction before our relatives moved them here. It’s always such a treasure to get to go out and see them in person.

    I always love taking pictures by cool old stuff when I’m in North Dakota – in fact my dad likes to tell people the drive out to his old town takes “twice as long if Kristina is with, because she always makes us stop to take pictures of all the old barns that have fallen down”.

    Joe and I had to take an obligatory vacation photo by this old buggy, which is the very same one my great aunt and uncle used to give tourists rides on in a town about two hours away. They’ve both since passed away, but I fondly remember many rides in this buggy as a child. I’m pretty sure my parents used to give them $20 to drive my brother and I around in circles until they were done at the bar, haha.

    Playing card games at Grandma and Grandpa’s house has always been a staple of trips to ND. It’s very sad Grandpa isn’t around to play with us anymore, but we still always play in his honor.

    Our little trips to North Dakota don’t always look like much, but they mean everything to me. I’m so happy I get to share them with Joe now, and I’m excited to accompany his family to New York in a couple weeks to share the same kind of experience with him.

     

     

     

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  4. #READINGBINGO

    June 15, 2017 ♥ Posted in: Books, Nerd Topics by Kristina Horner

    I don’t know what’s wrong with me – I get an idea in my head and I can’t let it go until it comes out as a real, living thing that people can experience. This is exactly what happened with #readingbingo.

    What is #readingbingo? It’s a readathon, one that I have invented. It’s going to be low key. I’m saying that more to myself than as part of this announcement.

    A little backstory: Probably at least a year ago, I had this idea that it would be fun to pick reading challenges off a bingo board. It gives the participant some agency in deciding what they read, but they’re still within the constraints of picking the challenges that make a bingo together. I also love that there are varying degrees of difficulty, depending on if the participant decides to make one bingo, two bingos, or go for a whole blackout. Bingo boards could also be reused by bringing in other types of bingos as well, like 4 corners or the L shape or whatever.

    Essentially I couldn’t get this idea out of my head, so it’s happening. It’s happening the week before Camp NaNo July, which in hindsight wasn’t the best plan, but HERE WE GO ANYWAY!

    So there you go! If you’d like to participate in the first ever #readingbingo, it’s happening from June 19-25. The best way to keep up is to follow the channel on Instagram. The bingo board of reading challenges is live now, and there will be daily Instagram challenges and other fun surprises over the course of the week. My intention for this readathon is for it to grow and change over time, so this first one is more of a test, and I’d love your feedback!

    My intention for this readathon is for it to grow and evolve over time, so this first one is more of a test, and I’d love your feedback! Happy reading, and thanks for always being down to try out my crazy ideas. Let me know in the comments of this blog post or over on the Instagram account if you have any questions.

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  5. Writing Confessions (Wordbound, Week #22)

    June 14, 2017 ♥ Posted in: Books, Wordbound, Writing by Kristina Horner

    This week was a “blogging prompt” week on #wordbound, and there’s really no excuse not to participate on those weeks (for me at least). It’s just so much easier than writing fiction, haha. So here I am! Being productive! Doing #wordbound!

    The prompt is: Make 3 writing related confessions.

    1. There are maybe 3 people on this planet who have ever read one of my book drafts in their entirety, and none of those people are family members or close friends. None of them is even Joe. One is an established and successful YA author I look up to, one lead a company that was thinking of publishing books written by YouTubers back before everyone decided to write an autobiography, and one was the then-girlfriend of a friend I only knew from online that lived in Australia. This is a very, very strange assortment of people and I really can’t tell you how each one came to read my writing. They all read the same book too, which is actually the one I recently dusted off and decided to work on again. I can say with certainty that what they read was not ready for external eyes, but you live and you learn. And then you don’t show anyone else your writing for many, many years. Haha.
    2. I definitely worry that I’ve hyped up my writing and my NaNoWriMo wins for so many years now (a decade!!) that by the time I actually publish something, people will expect something much better than I am actually capable of. I hear all the time that to be actually pro level at something, you have to practice for 10,000 hours. It applies to anything – musical instruments, crafting, cooking, sports, etc. 10,000 is a long time – it’s a lot of hours. 10 NaNoWriMos is also a long time, but I chalk most of those years up to “practice”. I think it’s okay that I haven’t been ready to share yet, but the fear of not meeting expectations is real.
    3. One of my biggest regrets, though, is not being one of the first people to write and publish a book about internet friendships, or fanfiction, or fandom, or cons. I’ve been practicing writing books about these types of topics for years, and they were still pretty novel even just a couple years ago. But now I feel like books about fandom are the new dystopian YA or vampire books, and so many of them are so obviously written by people who are jumping on a trend and not writing their personal truth. These types of books are so pervasive now days that I almost don’t want to write one anymore, even though I know I could definitely write something from a very unique perspective. Maybe I’m just bring a brat, but with the ever-constant desire to write something ‘different’, I feel like that experience has gotten a bit oversaturated in the YA book world.

    What are your writing confessions? I’d love to read them!

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  6. Cherry Creek Falls – Hike #1

    June 11, 2017 ♥ Posted in: Hiking, Journal, Seattle by Kristina Horner

    For the last year or so, I’ve had this inkling that I wanted to start hiking. Which is funny, because when I was young I hated when my parents would make me go hiking (“why would we just want to walk around in the woods when there are books to read?”), and I also distinctly remember in college making fun of the fact that the very first thing you’ll see on anyone’s dating profile here in the Pacific Northwest is that they “enjoy hiking”, like there is nothing more stereotypically Seattle than a loud and proud love of hiking.

    But… I mean. I work at Microsoft and graduated from the UW and started hiking and even recently bought my first The North Face jacket, so honestly… maybe I just need to admit that I’m pretty stereotypically Seattle. Maybe I should just embrace it.

    Anyhow, my friend Jenn and I decided to start hiking. We’ve both been trying to be more active lately, including signing up for (and actually going to!) a gym, and signing up for a 5k (The Bubble Run!) at the end of the summer. And yesterday we did our first Pacific Northwest hike, complete with sweet new hiking backpacks.

    And yesterday we did our first Pacific Northwest hike, complete with sweet new hiking backpacks.

    25 foot cherry creek falls hike seattle

    The Hike: Cherry Creek Falls Trail
    Description: A hike along old logging roads to a 25 foot tall waterfall on Cherry Creek just outside of Duvall, WA.
    Length: 5 miles (out and back)
    Elevation Gain: 718 feet
    How long it took us: About 4 hours round trip, with about a 30 minute stop for lunch and pictures at the falls, and Jenn struggling with a hurt ankle on the walk back.

    Thoughts and anecdotes:

    This was a fantastic first hike! The trail itself was moderate to easy, with a few tricky mud puddles to cross here and there. There’s also a point about 2/3 of the way in where you have to cross a literal creek, which added to the challenge and excitement. I’m not sure if it’s because we went early in the season, but there’s also about a half-mile stretch in the middle where the trail is really thin and a bit overgrown, so you spend a bit of time pushing through bushes and shielding your face, which was just a little bit annoying but overall not too bad.

    When you get to the end of the trail, there’s this beautiful viewpoint that overlooks the falls from above, but the real magic happens when you hike down the last steep stretch to find yourself at the base of the little body of water that forms at the bottom of the falls. We were disappointed it wasn’t warmer, because what a place that would be to take your shoes off and splash around in the water. We made due just eating the sandwiches, carrot sticks and chocolate chip cookies we’d brought along which enjoying the view.

    The people we encountered on this hike were friendly and had cute dogs, and even offered Jenn a beer after we passed each other multiple times during her ankle-hurting saga. We respectfully declined, because as savvy new-hikers, we’d already brought our own tiny wine bottles. Because we’re classy.

    The only strange thing that happened on the hike was near the most treacherous mud puddle – Jenn and I were cautiously making our way over when we heard a phone alarm go off. Jenn wasn’t too concerned right away, because she assumed it was mine, but I don’t use a phone alarm. I use the silent vibrate alarm feature on my Fitbit. I assumed it was HER phone, but it quickly became clear it wasn’t coming from her direction. In a few seconds time, I was certain either someone had dropped their phone on the trail, or there was someone waiting just off the path, ready to kill us.

    Once we’d cleared the mud, we walked a few more paces, and a man was just standing at the top of the next hill, by himself. It was his phone. He was holding it in his hands. And he obviously had been able to hear us saying “where is that alarm coming from? Whose phone is that? This is creepy!” from just around the bend but chose to say nothing!

    He was friendly as we passed, and we all laughed about it, but I was still pretty creeped out. I might have to write a scene in a book sometime where characters find out they’re not alone in the woods by hearing someone else’s phone go off loud and clear. Probably at night. Probably when their flashlights have gone out.

    For the record, I packed extra batteries for my flashlight, so this fictional horror scenario would not happen to me. Always be prepared.

    We’ve got our next hike planned for next weekend, and I’m so excited to make this a regular thing! Stay tuned for more blog post updates/reviews of the hikes I go on.

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  7. Catching up! (Wordbound, Week #20)

    May 22, 2017 ♥ Posted in: Wordbound, Writing by Kristina Horner

    Okay. I’ll be honest. I started the year with stars in my eyes, and I did (I believe) 9 consecutive weeks of my own writing project, #wordbound. Like, I completed the challenges and posted them on this blog. Then I got sick, and then I got busy, and while I definitely kept posting the new challenges each week on Twitter and Instagram, I fell out of the habit of actually completing the challenges myself.

    Here’s the pattern I saw: When I was doing the challenges each week, participation was high. When I wasn’t doing the challenges, participation dropped off. The last few weeks only a couple people have actually been doing it, and that made me sad — so I decided that was exactly the kick in the pants I needed. I love this project. I love seeing everyone sending in their writing. So I’m back. And I’m going to set a good example.

    I love this project. I love seeing everyone sending in their writing. So I’m back. And I’m going to try to set a good example!

     

    Wordbound Week #20: Subtly mention something strange on a mantle.

    “Cheryl! Can you come down here?”

    I roll over and look at the clock, and the boxy letters read six am. On my birthday.

    I roll back over and stuff a pillow over my face. A girl only turns sixteen once you know. I am owed the right to ignore the trying calls of parental units. I should get to spend this birthday morning in the way I choose. Which is not being awake. Or embarrassed, or surprised, or anything like that.

    I hate being surprised. I hate attention. And I hate that people loooove to do that kind of stuff to you on your birthday.

    I’ve almost convinced my brain to reenter the warm and comfortable dream I’d been having, about kissing Tommy Feldson on a beach, when I hear a stampede of footsteps assault my room.

    “Wake up wake up wake up, birthday girl!”

    Mom is jiggling my shoulders and Dad is tickling my feet, while Emma (the little brat) has climbed clean over me and is jumping up and down and head-banging, with her long stringy hair whipping me in the face.

    “This is the literal worst birthday wake up a person could receive,” I mumble, trying to burrow down deeper in the blankets, but in a flash, they’ve been removed from the bed entirely. Dad is holding the whole bunch in his arms, grinning like a maniac.

    “We have a surprise,” he says, unable to contain himself.

    Of course they do. Of course.

    “Come on come on come on,” Emma says, grabbing my arm and tugging me, her little baby hands cold on my skin.

    Mom moves to help me out of bed too, and I push them all away. “Okay, yeesh. I’m coming.”

    My feet are bare and my nightgown hangs around my knees, but I follow the whole batch of loons out the door, down the stairs, and into the living room. The curtains are shut tight, but the lights are bright and I notice Dad’s left his cell phone on the mantle again. It’s propped up strangely too, like he was trying to take a selfie and then forgot all about it. I chuckle a little to myself, imagining Dad trying to take a selfie.

    Everything in the living room looks completely normal – except, of course, for the three layer cake.

    “You woke me up for cake?” I ask, trying not to sound ungrateful. But in terms of birthday surprises, it’s pretty basic.

    “Sure did,” Dad confirms, and the three of them huddle in the doorway, watching me.

    It’s got light pink frosting, framed with a bit of a teal blue border done with a wobbly hand. It’s definitely homemade. It leans a little to the left. I imagine it could look pretty delicious if it wasn’t six in the morning. But right now it just looks like something I’m not as excited about as I am about sleeping.

    “Cake!” Emma screams in her little sister way, like a battle cry. She has way too much energy for this time of day.

    “You should cut yourself a slice,” Dad says conspiratorily, handing over a plate and a knife he unearths from… I have no idea where.

    “Shouldn’t we start with like… oatmeal? Or eggs? Like a normal family?”

    “Cake,” Dad says, thrusting the utensils into my hands. “For the birthday girl.”

    I’m extremely skeptical, but my family all looks like they took crazy pills, so I do what they want. It’s usually better that way. I’m starting to worry some kind of clown is going to jump out of this strange looking dessert, but it’s six in the morning and my family is all strangely obsessed with a cake much too small for surprise clowns, so what choice do I have? I set the plate on the coffee table next to the cake stand.

    I’m not really sure where to start, so I give my parents one last side eye and sink the knife right through the middle. It glides through easily, straight to the bottom.

    Huh. Maybe it really is just a normal cake.

    Mom and Dad are literally holding their breaths. It’s like they’ve never seen cake before. I don’t get the joke. It’s just a cake.

    “Keep going…” Mom says, and I have to admit this is starting to get a little weird. I wonder for a moment if I’m still dreaming, and will myself to wake up. I close my eyes for a second. The real test is if Tommy Feldson shows up, ready for some kissing. That’s how I usually know it’s a dream.

    “Cheryl!” Dad says, and my eyes snap open. Okay. Not a dream. And still no clowns, no shower of balloons, no kids from school jumping out of the closet yelling “SURPRISE!”

    We might actually be in the clear. It could be a sixteenth birthday miracle.

    Alright already!” I move the knife in an angle from the first cut, making myself a reasonable slice of cake. We’ve never had cake for breakfast before. It’s not any kind of Casey family tradition. It’s not natural. I’m still so skeptical, but we’ve made it this far without incident.

    The knife is halfway down the cake when this time, it catches. No. No. They couldn’t just leave it. There’s always gotta be something. Trick candles. People singing to you in a sombrero. Something stupid hidden in the cake.

    I push harder, just wanting to get it over with – and hear a “beep beep!” outside.

    Wait. What?

    I pause, then push the knife down again. “Beep beep!”

    My eyes widen and I pull the knife out, dropping it, forgotten on the table. I don’t even hesitate – I shove my whole hand inside the cake. At first it’s just cold, and a little slimy, but then my fingers lock on something solid. I pull.

    “Oh my god, you didn’t!” I squeal, like I literally scream, and I jump to my feet and head to the window. I shove the curtains aside there’s a little white car I’ve never seen before sitting in the driveway. Then I look down at the frosting covered mess in my hands.

    “Beep beep!” The lights on the car flash in sync with my pressing of the key fob.

    I turn around slowly, where my parents and even Emma (the little monster) are all beaming at me.

    “This is absolutely disgusting,” I say, holding up the cake smeared keys.

    Mom laughs. “A ‘thank you’ would work as well.”

    I run back to them and pull both of my parents into a hug. “Thank you both so, so much.”

    “Still hate surprises?” Dad asks as I pull away, and I narrow my eyes at him. Mom runs to the hallway, then comes back with an old towel. She hands it to me, and I start wiping the excess frosting from my new keys.

    “You got lucky this time, Dad. This surprise I guess I’m okay with.”

    He chuckles, scooping up Emma (the little piggy) who was sneakily inching toward my cake.

    “Can I drive it to school?” I ask, only then really realizing the car is mine. “I can’t wait to tell all my friends.”

    Dad’s suddenly got that look on his face again, like there’s more to the secret. He sets Emma down and swaggers over to the fireplace, casually picking up his phone from the mantle. “Oh… they’re already going to know.”

    I’m confused for a moment – until I see what he’s doing. He innocently taps on the ‘end video’ button.

    “Don’t you dare,” I warn, but he’s already pulling up Facebook. He’s tagging me in the video. He’s typing “LOL we totally got Cheryl”.

    I lunge at him, but he’s too fast for me. He hits ‘submit’ before I can knock the phone out of his hand. We stare at each other for a moment, both unsure what the other one is going to do.

    Then I reach for the cake.

    Dad howls and yelps backward, and I’m cackling. I manage to get cake in his beard, and he tries to retaliate but instead he gets mom, right in the ear. She shrieks and flails, but she’s laughing too hard to actually fight back. Emma (the little slob) seizes the opportunity and runs to the cake where she proceeds to stick her whole face in it to join in on the fun. This makes everyone laugh harder, which makes her do it again. She’s got cake all in her hair. She starts licking it off her fingers.

    “You guys are so weird,” I say, finally caving and licking a bit of cake off my finger. It’s just as delicious as it looks, even for six in the morning. “And this is the best birthday ever.”

     

    I’m going to pick a week this summer to use as a catch up week for #wordbound – and hopefully make it a week people that will feel inspired to try to do a prompt a day as a way to catch up on any they might have missed. That week there will not be a new prompt – instead, you can pick from any previous ones you haven’t already completed.

    I’m still working out the details. Maybe we’ll do it during Camp NaNo. Stay tuned!

    Leave a comment!
  8. May 2017 Life Update – Wedding Planning and Traveling

    May 21, 2017 ♥ Posted in: Journal, Travel by Kristina Horner

    Life has really been a sprint lately. I wrote a blog post recently called Adjusting, about how I’m trying to chill out and not run myself ragged, and I thought it might be a good time to check in on that. Really, I’m still exhausted and super busy, but I do think I’ve made incremental changes that are worth noting and celebrating.

    I’m going to run through a few bigger life categories both to catch up on what I’ve been doing, and to measure if I’ve made any sort of positive progress.

    GENERAL: My biggest hurdle in terms of lowering my stress levels and breaking free from the cycle of “always being busy” definitely falls in this personal fulfillment category. This is where I suffer from guilt for not making videos, for not having an Instagram with a strictly defined visual theme, for having cosplay photos on my computer that I’ve never posted anywhere, for never being up to date on all the good new TV shows, for ever watching TV at all, for not having made enough progress on my book… the list can go on forever, if I let it. My goal this year is to not let it. These things are

    These things are bonus. These things are the cherry on top. And I’m slowly learning how to be okay with that.

    Lately, I’m not sure if people have noticed, but I’ve significantly slowed down making YouTube videos. So far I’ve made 6 videos in 5 months, and honestly, I feel great about it. I have a few more that I’ve filmed but still need editing, and I have some ideas for others, but YouTube has become a hobby again in a bigger way than I’ve ever let it before, and it feels really good. Goodbye, shackles!

    I’m trying to keep this blog at least updated a couple times a month, with one of these larger life updates each month. I’ve embarrassingly behind in #wordbound, but that’s becoming a priority again as we phase into summer. My Instagram is still probably my favorite social account, and I try to keep it updated – including doing Instagram stories, which is new for me! That’s been kind of fun. I’m starting to get it.

    I don’t have any cosplay plans until PAX (end of summer), so that’s a relief. That leaves me to happily work on my book for the next couple of months in any free time I carve out. And to just… hang out with Joe. Play games with my friends. Be a guest on a super fun Sailor Moon inspired tabletop stream. Go to the gym. The things I so often had to pass up or feel guilty about doing, before.

    WEDDING: We’re still 11 months out from our wedding, so I am trying to take baby steps. Make incremental progress. I’m a planner to my very core, so I’d always rather over-prepare and then take a breath closer to the deadline than save things for the last minute, but the wedding industry is one of very mixed messages. I wish people would do studies on the pressures of being a bride, seriously. Maybe they do. It’s a very, very weird space.

    Almost every day I am hit with so many opposing points of view. “You have so much time, you don’t need to be thinking about this yet. It’s too early. Your weight is going to fluctuate, you shouldn’t be ordering things yet. This is your day, do whatever you want and whatever makes sense for you. We don’t even need to meet until fall. You have so much time. Literally stop working on your wedding it’s too early.” And in the same breath, I also get, “What is your wedding theme? What are your wedding colors? Why haven’t your out of town relatives gotten save the dates yet? Where are you going for your honeymoon? You know a dress can take 8-10 months to arrive, and then you need another 2-3 months for alterations. You should really have ordered it by now. This day isn’t just about you so here’s the list of seventy-six traditions you should consider doing arbitrarily because that’s what people expect. Where’s your hotel room block?”

    *falls down dead*

    I am a very organized person, and I’m trying to do this whole wedding planning thing at the rate that makes sense for me. It’s very difficult not to lose my mind sometimes, but I already plan events for work and I feel like I am doing an okay job. I’m just going to keep repeating that to myself.

    For inquiring minds, here is my actual progress: At 11 months out, Joe and I have selected our venue and the date. We’ve talked with a friend about designing our save the dates. We have some ideas about fun things we want to plan for during the wedding reception. We’ve mostly selected our wedding party but we haven’t asked them yet. I’ve picked out a dress, even though I had given myself another month or two to make that decision. And now that I have a decided on a dress, I am pretty sure I am set on our wedding colors.

    Now that those things are decided, I think I deserve a tiny break.

    Then we’ll start addressing envelopes.

     

    TRAVELING: Work has been so, so busy lately – so I am extremely happy to have a few trips lined in the coming months. Last weekend, Joe and I went to Vegas with his family, which was a total blast.

    The trip was for a combination of Joe’s mom’s birthday as well as mother’s day, and we did such a unique combination of activities for a Vegas trip. We started with the Beatles LOVE Cirque show, which I’d seen before but not since my 21st birthday. Sidenote – that was a long time ago.

    The next morning we got up very early and headed out to Red Rock Canyon for a morning hike. I was very skeptical of hiking in the desert, but the weather was beautiful and there was a slight breeze, so it was actually kind of a perfect scenario. The trail was pretty bouldery, too – which I think makes hiking a lot more fun.

    We also spent a good amount of time at the pool, in the casino, and eating delicious food. The gambling method of choice for both Joe and I is blackjack and craps, so we partook in just enough that we came home from the trip about even. There were of course jokes and delusions about winning the money for our wedding in Vegas, but unless you can throw a wedding for $-40, that’s a no go.

    One of our biggest regrets is that we didn’t at least try this Dungeons & Dragons themed slot machine. I’m always on the lookout for the funniest slot theme, and this was the trip’s winner.

    I started reading The Book Thief at the pool, and while it’s not the most lighthearted summer read, I’m glad I finally decided to give it a try. I am loving it so far. We also went to an ice bar, where they give you a parka and gloves, and essentially stick you in a very social freezer. Everything is made of ice, including your cup. I would show you pictures, but because it was Las Vegas, we weren’t allowed to take any.

    Only in Las Vegas would they construct a bar made entirely out of ICE in a DESERT and then not even let you take pictures. The whole situation was very, very poetic. Las Vegas is a ridiculous place.

    Upcoming trips include a camping trip for Memorial Day weekend, a jaunt to North Dakota to see relatives, and then a week-long trip to New York a bit later to meet some of Joe’s extended family. I also plan to do some hiking this summer, so I’ll hopefully do blog updates about that as well.

     

    Overall, I’m still a little busier than I’d like to be, but I’m continuing to find the balance. I’m getting there. I don’t think there’s any real “there” to actually ever get though, so it’s just a system of constantly checking in with myself. And right now, I’m okay. 🙂

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  9. April 2017 Life Update – Cosplay, Writing and Disneyland

    April 22, 2017 ♥ Posted in: Journal, Travel by Kristina Horner

    It’s been a bit of time without an update, so it seemed like a nice little Saturday morning to laze in bed a bit longer and write a blog post. I haven’t been as active online lately, but I’ve definitely been keeping busy! Especially since the weather has been getting nicer (and then worse, but then nice again – Seattle likes to play hard-to-get) I’ve been feeling more energized and motivated lately, which is always a nice shift. You can feel it in the air.

    Wedding: Luckily since my wedding is still over a year away, nothing feels very stressful or rushed yet. I’m hoping I can space things out enough to keep it that way. Joe and I finally decided on a venue (which is probably why I am so much less stressed about this now – that part was killer) and we’re working on getting save-the-dates made. We also asked my adorable cousin to be our flower girl, so I’m feeling good about our progress.

    Writing: I’m about 7,000 words into my Camp Nano project, which is also the new book I am throwing myself into after deciding to put down the last one. This is not nearly as much progress as I was hoping at this point, but I am still proud of myself for continuing to work on it, and I’m hoping to keep up a regular pace even after Camp NaNo is over. My goal is to have a first draft of this book done by NaNoWriMo proper this year, which feels reasonable to me. That gives me 6 months.

    I’ve still been updating #wordbound each week with new prompts, even though I’m a little behind in actually doing the prompts myself. I’m going to get myself back on track soon, and I’ve been so thankful for the folks continuing to write their stories each week for the prompts. You guys are great.

    Cosplay: While Emerald City Comic Con ended up being somewhat of a non-event for my friends I with regard to cosplay (just 2 rewears) we were planning to go all out for SakuraCon. This year was the 20th anniversary of the con, so many cosplayers chose to go retro anime with their cosplays. We jumped on board this train, finally bringing to fruition a long time goal of cosplaying as the colorful and eccentric Amazoness Quartet from Sailor Moon.

    I’m not sure I’ve ever worked harder on a costume than this one, and the days leading up to the con, it’s all we did after work. My living room was a disaster of ribbons, hair wefts, and fake roses.

    And then, on Friday, I started getting a tickle in my throat. I tried to ignore it, but there it was.

    I woke up on Saturday feeling miserable. But I couldn’t let my quartet down, so I groggily put on my wig cap, glued on my fake eyelashes, and affixed the pieces of my tiny costume to my body. And guys – I looked fabulous. But I felt like death.

    cerecere cosplay, amazoness quartet cosplay, amazoness quartet costumes

    We managed to walk around the con for about two hours (which was about enough time to film a segment for a cosplay music video, go to the Sailor Moon meetup and do our personal photo shoot) before I had to give up and go home. I did not see even an inch of the show floor. And I didn’t end up going back on Sunday (when I planned to wear a new Lolita dress). I absolutely adore SakuraCon, so I was pretty disappointed, but I was so sick. Now we have to figure out somewhere else to wear these costumes because we definitely did not get enough use out of them.

    Work: My job has been keeping me pretty busy lately as well – and as usual I really can’t say much. This is one of the most difficult parts of this job, truly. I am so used to candidly sharing tidbits about my life, but for some reason, I always end up working on projects at Microsoft that are tented, unannounced, or confidential. I still work in HoloLens-land, which is exciting. I’m also shifting focus a bit toward Microsoft’s new mixed reality initiative, which you can read more about here.

    Whenever I can share cool stuff about what I am doing at work, I promise, I will. For now, just trust me – I’m surrounded by awesome technology every day and I feel so lucky. Also, you can follow this Instagram account my team launched if you’d like. It’s gonna be cool.

    Life: My personal initiative to go to the gym at least twice a week took a tiny bit of a backseat because I had to take a week off to finish my costume… and then I got sick, but I already started making up for it by walking around the lake I live by yesterday with Joe. And I’m going to pick it back up again next week when I can breathe normally again.

    Beyond that, I’ve been reading a lot – I read a whole book while I was sick, and Goodreads tells me I am something like 10 books ahead of my reading goal for the year. I specifically set myself a pretty low reading goal this year (only 30 books) because I didn’t want reading to become a stress in any way. And now I’m blowing past the goal, which feels nice!

    I also went to Disneyland a couple of weeks ago with my girlfriends! Jenn had never been, so we needed to right a wrong. We went for two days (one park each day) and I’m pretty impressed with how thorough we were. We hit just about every ride we wanted to, saw the Mainstreet Electrical Parade, the Frozen show and World of Color, hit up two Disney dining experiences and participated in the food and wine fest. It was a solid weekend.

    Standard obligatory Disney jailhouse photo-op.

    belle dress disneybound, live action belle disneybound

    This was the day we decided to disneybound every dress Belle wears in the new live action film. Of course, Gaston was the first person we ran into. Typical.

    anna disneybound, elsa disneybound, anna and elsa

    Eia and I fulfilled a lifelong need to disneybound Anna and Elsa (and seriously, this dress has been hanging in my closet for this sole purpose for YEARS). What better place to immortalize our perfect outfits than in front of the #bluewall?

    It’s funny – when I was in middle school, I went to California Adventure with my friend Stephanie. While we ran around losing our minds on rides, her mom and aunt spent most of the day sitting in the Mendocino Terrace Wine Tasting area, and we thought this was the stupidest way to spend your time at a theme park. Well… my life has come full circle, because we spent at least two hours there on Sunday, mostly because our feet hurt and also wine is delicious.

    We also ate at the Blue Bayou, which was a first for me as well!

    We mostly spent our time shopping, because shopping is great and also Disneyland does that thing where the gift shops are mostly the same but you really have to see them all to see everything. And we decided to be completionists.

    I got sick of wearing that blue Elsa dress about halfway through the day on Sunday so I switched into an entirely new outfit of things I had purchased that day. #noregrets

    Overall it was an amazing weekend of pin trading, spending all our money, eating delicious food and wishing we could do weekends like this more often. I had a great time with my lady friends and I can’t wait for our next getaway.

    Looking forward to summer and some other trips I have coming up with both my and Joe’s families, and I’ll keep updating this blog to keep you all posted on what I’m up to, since I’ve been a little quieter online lately!

    Leave a comment!
  10. Camp NaNoWriMo Affirmations!

    March 31, 2017 ♥ Posted in: Writing by Kristina Horner

    I didn’t mean to wait until the last minute to do this, but it’s March 31st so here I am.

    Camp NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow and it totally snuck up on me. I’ve tried doing the April or June iterations of NaNo a few times now, and I’ve never actually been very successful at it. It’s never had that ~November~ spark for me, like the “real” NaNo does.

    This April, I already have a trip to Disneyland on the books, and a costume I need to finish, and an Anime convention to go to. Things are busy at work, and I’m going to the gym more, and it’s spring so there’s also this underlying desire to spend more time outside – but I’m going to do it. See my previous blog post about why this laundry list of things I’ve already laid out here has has has to be secondary to my goal of writing at least part of a first draft of my new book idea.

    Because after all:

    My Camp NaNo goal is 30,000 words. That’s a big lofty goal for the coming month, but it’s the most important thing so I’ve got to try.

    I’ve been getting a lot of emails from NaNo in preparation for April 1st, and one had a really nice little exercise that I decided to do. I think the intention was probably to do it privately, for yourself, but I thought it would actually be a nice thing to share with others.

     

    “Today, take ten minutes to write three affirmations: one for each of your three biggest fears or anticipated obstacles in starting your April writing project.”

     

    1. I’m afraid I won’t make it to 30,000 words.

    Kristina, that literally doesn’t matter. 30,000 is an arbitrary number that YOU picked and you just need to do your actual best and write as much as you can. Carve out time. Really do it. Whatever happens by the end of April, you can just keep writing in May. <3

    2. I’m afraid I’m going to keep writing books with weak plots and flimsy characters.

    Isn’t that why you’re practicing so much? Isn’t that what practicing is for? Isn’t that why you took that certificate course in fiction writing, to study story structure? Aren’t you already so much better than you were a year ago, and won’t you continue to improve?

    3. I’m afraid people won’t like my books once I finally let them read it.

    This is a big scary one, but you can’t worry about that right now. Just write. If you like it, someone else will too. And you’ll someday have beta readers to help you make it better, and then an agent and an editor to help to help you make it better, and even when it’s the very best it can be some people still won’t like it. But that’s okay. There are people who don’t like Harry Potter. Remember that.

     

    Camp NaNo starts tomorrow! Who’s joining me?

    Leave a comment!