Monday, April 30, 2012

Ducks and Fritos

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There are a lot of birds up here.

I mean, a lot-a lot.

It's not like I've never seen ducks or geese before, but I'm just not used to big groups of them together . . . waddling around . . . and fighting flocks of seagulls while swans float on by without a care in the world.

Every morning, I'm woken by a chorus of: "quackquackquackquackquack"--you'd think it would be annoying, but I giggle every time I hear it. There's something comical about silly bird noises.

So, of course I was excited when I took a little trip to Mercer Beach and encountered lots of new, feathered friends. Initially, I was just looking for an outdoor area to rest and enjoy the mild, sunny weather that snuck its way into the late weekend. I found a sandy rock and plopped myself down.

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My little perch.

I watched the ducks glide through the shallow lake water, then noticed they were coming closer and closer to the shore's edge.

Initial thought:  "Oh my gosh!  They're coming so close--I'm going to get some great pictures!"
Second thought:  "Rarrr . . . what's wrong with the automatic focus on this thing?!!"  (Yes, I cheat.)

Third thought:  "Hmm . . . they're getting out of the water?  They're coming towards me!  They . . . oh, they want food."

I didn't have any food. Sure, I had just scarfed down a coney and fries at Tom's Root Beer Stand down the road, but I didn't think to save some crumbs. Hmpfh.

But, hark--the ducks quickly realized that there were some other people sitting not too far away from me. Fortunately, the little waddlers didn't attack me out of hunger/anger, and wiggled their little selves over to a picnicking family. Jackpot.

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"No food here. Quack, quack. Let's go bug those other people. Quack."

The little waterlings quickly made friends with this little guy (and his leftover Fritos):

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If you look closely, you can see that he's spilling more out of the bag than he's tossing to the duckies.
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"Quack, quack. Sure are some good snacks. Quack."

I never really thought of ducks as being cute before, but come on--look at that.

Quack, quack.

Enter the seagulls.

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Now, depending on where you're from, you may or may not have much experience with seagulls. If you're not familiar with this species, here's all you need to know: they're greedy, little thieves. And when they see food, they come a-flockin'.

Wish I had gotten a video during this--the ducks and the seagulls went absolutely crazy. And yet, I remained standing right under them, not too worried about being attacked . . . or being pooped on. I must have temporarily lost my mind, because it was slightly like being in the middle of a Hitchcock movie.

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EEEEEEE, EEEEEEEE! (Not as cute as the little quackers.)

After about five minutes of absolute chaos, the birds snarfed up the rest of the food and parted ways.

And then, it was Sunday afternoon all over again. Calm and beautiful, water lapping the sand.

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Those little ducks don't have it so bad.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Regional Geography & Cultural Anthropology 101

Last night, during my weekly trivia night outing (yes, I have weekly trivia night outings!), the subject came up of how Michigan and Virginia residents seem to be completely unaware of each others' lifestyles--or of each other's existence at all. Although the two states have been cohabitating within the same United States since our country's formation, there's almost an invisible force field around each that seems to disappear somewhere in the middle of Ohio. And nothing gets past the walls of that barrier.

Here's a handy visual:

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No disrespect to either state, but you know absolutely nothing about one another. And I am here to change that by debunking a few myths and clarifying a few interesting facts.

**Disclaimer: I know that not everyone can be grouped into these two categories, and not everyone thinks in one of these ways. This is merely an attempt to focus on the widespread misinformation that seems to have disconnected two beautiful parts of the U.S. And, okay--I might make fun of both places just a little bit.**


Lesson 1: Climate

Okay, all ridiculously-uncharacteristic weather patterns from this year aside . . .

Virginia, meet Michigan. The mitten does get more snow than the Commonwealth, but it is not a frozen tundra year-round. When it's hot (summer does exist), the jackets come off. When it gets cold, people don't lose their ever-lovin' minds and run naked in the snow like desensitized penguins--they bundle up. Same internal thermometers, same adaptation skills . . . fall just starts a little earlier and spring starts a little later. In fact, I'd argue that on many days, the numerical temperature here is the same as it is in southwest Virginia . . . it just feels cooler because of the northern air coming in over the lakes.

And Michigan--I say this lovingly: just because Virginia is south of you, that doesn't mean it's a tropical island. I've gotten so many comments from people who think the mid-east coast is eighty degrees year-round, with no traces of snow and lots of sweltering days. Sure, the Commonwealth gets some sun, but it also knows what winter is (and spring and autumn, for that matter). People from this four-season climate don't normally have light-jacket-weather in January, either . . . so a "mild" winter for Michigan can also very easily be construed as a "mild" winter for Virginia.


Lesson 2: Reputation

Virginians think Michigan is one, big Detroit stereotype. They think everyone in the state has bars on their windows, and that the only people who live here are long-time GM employees who don't have enough sense to get out.

Michiganders think that Virginia is a foreign land that sustains itself primarily on coal mining. I should also mention that many Michiganders think that Virginia and West Virginia are the same thing.

(Related note: I met a cashier in a local Bed, Bath, & Beyond that didn't know "MD" was the abbreviation for Maryland. Did someone build a wall between the Great Lakes and East Coast regions?)

Reality:

Michigan is outdoor-centric. People up here fish, hunt, boat, swim, run, farm, picnic, climb trees, whatever--all the time. Sure, there are parts of the state (many in Detroit) that have seen better days, where fire and crime have claimed the upper hand. For the most part, though, people live very active and often nature-oriented lives, and cities like Detroit are coming into an economical renaissance. Also, while I can attest to the fact that GM does play a huge role around here, it's not because its employees have no other career choice. In reality, there are more new residents moving into the area for respectable careers than many people would imagine. If that's not evidence of a prosperous economy, I don't know what is.

As for Virginia? It separated from its western counterpart a looooong time ago (West Virginia being where the coal mining is). Just like Michiganders, Virginians like to boat, hunt, fish, and whatnot--in fact, you could say it's a lot like Michigan itself (minus a lot of lakes and plus a whole bunch of mountains). There are also lots of urban areas in northern Virginia, near D.C. (an area referred to as "NOVA" by most Virginians). And yes, we're glad you've heard of Virginia Tech--but do you know anything about the University of Virginia, William and Mary, Radford University, James Madison University, or Virginia Commonwealth University? There's so much schoolin' floatin' around, it's a wonder anyone can choose. And while we do love VT, we want you to know that we're proud of all of our alma maters.


Lesson 3: You both have a peninsula.

Isn't that cool? Now you have something else to talk about--not every state can say they have a little almost-island clinging to its edge. Peninsula power, baby.



- End of Section 1 -


Now, don't you feel enlightened?

I'm sure I'll post more of these "lesson plans" in the future, but I figured I'd stop here for now and let you all add any other misconceptions that irk you to the list.

In the meantime, your homework is to go find someone who lives in a different state than you and make friends. C'mon. Let's love each other. Or at least be aware that the interstate doesn't disappear somewhere in the middle of Ohio.




Monday, April 23, 2012

This is How I'm Lovin' This Earth

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As most of you probably know, yesterday was Earth Day--a time for everyone to show a little love and appreciation for this big, ol' rock we all live on. Now, I'm not a tree-hugging hippie by any means, but I do love life--and few things allow us to see the beauty in life more than being surrounded by lush greenery, bodies of blue water, and gorgeous skies. I enjoy napping under the warm sun on breezy, summer afternoons, and I will never cease to be awestruck by the colors that arrange themselves into evening sunsets. And, in return, I don't think it's so hard to put my drink bottles in the appropriate (recycling) bin in our kitchen, because why not turn what we already have into something new and useful? Plus, disclaimer: I really hate wasting things.

This Earth Day weekend was pretty chilly, but deceivingly sunny and gorgeous, so Brad and I were determined to spend some time outside. Activity of choice? Fishing. I'll bet you can't guess who chose that one.

I didn't have a fishing rod (or license), so we went to the lovely Gander Mountain on Saturday afternoon to get stocked up. Determined to get a very girl-tastic fishing pole, I picked a black and hot pink specimen, only to swap it out a couple minutes later for a very similar model that was five dollars cheaper and came with a bunch of lures. Plus, the rod came in a very awesome, pink package with script reminiscent of that from a Barbie box. Just ridiculous enough to stereotype my lack of fishing skill, yet charitable in the fact that our purchase supported early cancer detection. Laugh all you want at the girl with the pink rod--but buddy, I have no shame.

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Me: "I feel like I'm standing in a toy store, holding my new Barbie."
Brad: "That's pretty much what you look like."


All was fine and dandy until we got to the park (our spur-of-the-moment trip didn't really allow for a more exotic fishing destination), munched on a delicious picnic lunch, then lugged our stuff over to the water. Brad put together my rod and reel, I held it up to play with the spinny thing, and he told me to flip it over because I was holding it upside-down.

Um . . . the reel was kind of on the wrong side.

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"But I'm right-handed . . . "

So, yay. My new fishing rod was made for a lefty.

I think Brad was more annoyed than me, but designated himself as the official re-packager of Barbie (my nickname for my useless, new purchase) while I stole the other fishing pole and perfected my line-throwing skills.

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My catch of the day! A nice, slimy wad of grass . . . or slime . . . or something.
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He looks grumpy, but he's okay.

You can't tell from these pictures, but the temperature had dropped down to the 40's and the wind was very unforgiving. After a little more line-tossing into what seemed more of a goose hunting ground than a fishing hole, Brad and I packed up and called it an afternoon (and for those of you who were wondering, fear not--we exchanged Barbie right afterward for a right-handed version, sans the extra lures and plastic organizer box).

The next morning, we made a little after-church trip to Target so Brad could look for an Xbox game he's been wanting. No such luck, but we picked up some shampoo and a couple other things on our way out. Rather than putting our stuff in a usual, plastic bag at checkout, the cashier surprised us with one of these little goodies:

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"Oh, yeah! Today's earth day!"

Free reusable bag for us! Way to go, Target--you promote your environmentally-conscious self. I will gladly accept anything free you want to give me.

So, with Earth Day on the brain (and being the festive person that I am), I brainstormed things I could do to make the occasion feel a little more worthwhile.

Dress in burlap? No, cotton's softer. That counts, right? Hmm, I wonder how much of my closet is actually made of something that grew out of the ground. Plant a garden? I don't have a yard . . . but I do need to give my little lavender plant another go. Spend another afternoon outside? No, thank you, winter relapse. I might just make the occasional trip outside, though. On the way from one building to another.

Then, I remembered that Disney Nature had just released an adorable-looking movie, Chimpanzee,  promising to donate a portion of ticket proceeds during opening weekend to the Jane Goodall Institute. Sounded good to me. Plus, that baby chimp on the movie poster was super-cute.

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Left: My indoor, townhouse-appropriate "garden": a re-blooming poinsettia.
Right: My new buddy, Oscar.

So, it was no planet-saving initiative, but my weekend was pretty lovely, regardless. I got to spend time outside, focusing on little things that we so often take for granted. I'm also enjoying taking advantage of every beautiful afternoon, whether it's 70 degrees or 40. That's something new I've learned from living in Michigan--people up here don't brush off the cold; they know it's here. They just know that bundling up and enjoying the afternoon is much more fulfilling than sitting inside and griping about the weather. And that's something I think we can all learn from.

Did you do anything special for Earth Day--whether volunteering in clean-up and conservation efforts, or just spending the day outside? Let me know. :)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Bag Lady, Business Lady.

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Library bum.

I come with a lot of baggage.

No, really. I'm not a skeletons-in-the-closet kind of girl, but I do tend to tote a lot of items around with me on any given day. Purse, laptop bag, another bag for things that don't fit in any of the first two . . . it goes on. And I have the red marks on my shoulders to prove it.

Because sitting around in the same place day after day (i.e., my house) tends to drive me nuts, I've been packing a portable office and lugging myself across town to the public library. My latest ventures have had me spending my afternoons here, considering the fact that I've recently had a huge brainstorm of ideas and lots to do. Free desks and Internet, all in a fresh location where I can force myself away from distraction (and relive my familiar college study habits). The crying babies, cell phone talkers, and no-eating-in-study-areas thing can be kind of hindering, though. But that's all right, because today, I haven't yet run into any babies (*note: loud, stomping, baby showed up when I finished this post), there's only one guy talking on his phone and he's at least being quiet, and I snuck a granola bar in my purse (although, I think I may have annoyed the girl across from me while I unsuccessfully tried to unwrap the crinkly paper in a discreet manner).

Statue outside the front doors of the public library. Every time I see these kids, I think they're real.

So, my current agenda is made up of several long lists, one of which serves as a brief for the overhaul of my mom's craft business. A big part of what I'm doing for her right now is building her online (particularly, social media) presence, and aside from the new logos and headers, fan pages, and Etsy storefront, I decided to get her up to speed on a little thing I like to call Pinterest.

Oh, Pinterest. The tease queen of DIY-dom.

For those of you who use Pinterest, you know how addicting it can be. Learn how to cook a different recipe every night of the week, plan your dream vacation, design your future home, put together your wedding--you'll completely lose track of time. All you need is an account and a ready-to-click mouse button. Then, you're ready to pin more creative ideas than you'll ever have time to try in your entire lifetime.

Easy-peasy, right?


WRONG.


As much as I like Pinterest, I have a bit of beef with the site--all relating to their "invitation-only" policy. Google+ did it back in the day, and I didn't like it then, either. The whole idea is to maintain a sense of exclusivity, making users feel like they've passed some kind of special interview to become the newest member of the Internet's most prestigious club. But when everyone and their dog can join the site, and the only hindrance to joining "the club" is waiting an extra day (or week), I don't call that exclusivity. I call it a pain in the butt.

Must be devout, uppity craft snob to join the Pinterest club. But really, must only authorize access to Facebook account.

So, I sent a Pinterest invitation to my mom. Then, I requested another invitation on a spare email account of my own. Then, I repeated steps one and two, just in case Pinterest didn't hear my urgent demands. Then, I sat back and griped about how evil Pinterest is with its new, online monopoly, and I vowed to boycott the site until its services were open to everyone on the Internet.

Then, the next morning, I received an email from Pinterest, saying I could create a new account. And I got over it.

Ah, c'est la vie.

I feel like my mom should've gotten at least 12 invitations by now, especially since I've been sending her email invites for about half a year. Maybe that's the real reason I have the impression that Pinterest puts people on the back burner for so long. Time to teach my mom how to respond to her emails.

Anyway, time to get back to work . . . I hear a crying toddler stomping behind me, and if I don't accomplish something soon, I might pull my hair out.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Monday, April 16, 2012

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

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Candlelight

For those of you who don't know, I'm from a small town in Southwest Virginia, just a few minutes down the road from Virginia Tech--a place otherwise known as Hokie country. Regardless of your affiliation with Virginia Tech or the Blacksburg area, you're probably well aware of what happened five years ago today, and how that horrible day changed the lives of so many in the blink of an eye.

What you may not know, however, is the scale of Virginia Tech's community and the strength that lives not just in people affiliated with the university, but with anyone and everyone who has ever been fortunate enough to call this area home.

I still remember that Monday morning like it was yesterday. I was a college student at the time, not at Tech, but just down the road at Radford University. The amount of pure shock, heartache, fear, and confusion were overwhelming that day, and looking back at it now, I still have trouble fathoming that it actually happened right there. Where I had grown up, where everyone knew one another, where everything had always been so normal.

The following days with news crews and visitors from everywhere was insane . . . and I'll never get over watching everything that happened just 10 or 15 minutes from home on the same broadcasts that were being transmitted all over the country--or all over the world, even.

But you know what? Something beautiful grew out of that fear, out of the confusion, out of the pain. Our community came together like no other within the next few days, and the strength and camaraderie that echoed through the Hokie nation has grown stronger over the years. To this day, I have never seen another university that even comes close to mirroring the school spirit that Virginia Tech presents to the world. It's the absolute definition of unity.

Today, I clicked on a link from ABC News, headlining the five-year anniversary of April 16th, 2007. And what I saw when I opened the article--a photo slideshow of everything from that day that no one wants to remember--made me sick. I had to close the browser window to keep from feeling upset.

The truth is that there were, indeed, so many wonderful people who were separated from Earth on that day. But the bad stuff is what strangers think of--people who don't have any other images of the VT community to draw up.

I see it differently.

When I think of Virginia Tech, I think of serenity. I think of the way the Blue Ridge rolls in the background, the art shop where my sister buys painting supplies, and my mom taking me to Squires every Tuesday afternoon when I was in eighth grade for my clarinet lessons. I think of football games, driving downtown with friends during my lunch break, and cheap movies on campus on Friday nights. I think of how proud I was when my fiance walked across the stage in Cassell Coliseum in his cap and gown, and how we posed for photos at the Duck Pond one week later on the day we were married.

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I suppose it comes with the territory, but I love my hometown, blemishes and all. And I know there are thousands of others who wouldn't hesitate to agree with me wholeheartedly.

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Sending lots of love your way, Hokies.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Tim Allen is EVERYWHERE.

He lent his voice to the epic Toy Story franchise, and when he seemingly disappeared into oblivion after Home Improvement, Tim Allen became somewhat of a faded memory--the type that manifests itself in our brains as a bumbling tool man or unconventional Santa Claus. He's had his ups and downs, both in life and with the media, but remains a household name for families of the 90's nonetheless.

So, did you know that Tim Allen is still hanging out on your TV? Besides starring on the recent sitcom, Last Man Standing, Allen has continued doing voice-over work for several well-known brands. Just in case your ears haven't caught on, here's a look at what the TV personality has added to his resume:

Campbell's - "It's Amazing What Soup Can Do"


I'll bet you knew this one. Allen's been on the "It's Amazing What Soup Can Do" trail since Campbell's announced the campaign two years ago, and the message continues to keep going strong. Nothing like having Buzz Lightyear tell your kids (more or less) to eat all their soup, right?


Chevrolet Cruze - "New Kid"


Ah, the Chevy Cruze. The combination of seamless video with Tim Allen's voice is like a bedtime story in this one--quiet, reassuring, relaxing. That's how I feel throughout the commercial, right up until the end when I see all the toilet paper. And that's when I find myself starting the video back at the beginning to figure out what, exactly, I missed.


Pure Michigan - "A Simple Sunrise"

And, of course, I have to mention Allen's role in the Pure Michigan ads. Pure Michigan is the tourism campaign for the state of--can you guess?--Michigan, and is probably the best tourism campaign I've ever seen. Featuring snapshots of communities across the state, Pure Michigan ties its television/radio/outdoor/etc. campaign together with the familiar voice of Tim Allen, a "pure Michigander" himself. In my opinion, this is all kinds of right.


**After-Post/Update**: Tim Allen's narrating the upcoming Disney movie, Chimpanzee, too! Hope you enjoy this bonus clip I scouted out. :)

Disney Nature's Chimpanzee

So cute.

Have you noticed Tim Allen's vocal chords rumbling through your surround sound speakers? Or, are there any other familiar voices out there that have caught your ear? You may be surprised at what you notice once you start paying closer attention. :)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Easter Snapshots



    


    

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Photos, left to right, top to bottom:
1. Pink blooms on Easter morning, 2.  Me and my sister in our Sunday best, 3. Easter basket, 4. Tulip season in Virginia, 5. Note from the Easter bunny, 6. Brad tinkering with an RC truck, 7. Brad's granny enjoying the sunshine, 8. Maggie, playing and being silly, 9. Maggie's football, 10./11./12. Egg Dyeing and Decor


To me, Easter always has been and always will be a family holiday. This year, Brad and I visited our family in Virginia, and had a fantastic weekend composed of 70-degree weather, Titanic in 3-D, and lots and lots of ham. Easter, with all its blooming flowers, egg dyeing, and twirly skirts is something to be shared--but above all, it's a time to celebrate the ultimate gift we've all been given.

At church this Easter Sunday, we saw two baptisms and listened to a sermon and invitation that led to six or seven men and women becoming saved. Scratch that--the sermon may have been a nudge, but what really turned those people to Jesus was prayer. In fact, the pastor told us through tear-filled eyes at the end of the service that several of the lives saved that day were people the church had been praying for for a long time.

That, my friends, is what real miracles look like. And that--not candy or bunnies or three-day weekends--is what Easter is all about.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Let's chat.

So, I was reading a post from Roo at Nice Girl Notes about things readers can do to make bloggers happy, and decided to spread the word by drawing from some of her advice (which, spoken or not, is on the tip of every blogger's tongue).

WIBS Follow Me
Where you can find me outside of the blogosphere.
You already drop by here during your lunch break, in the evenings during commercial breaks, or--and don't deny this--when the office just gets a little too tedious to take on without a few mental break minutes. Did you know that you can chat with me on Facebook and Twitter, too? Oh, and not to mention the whole "subscription" thing. Just click on the orange RSS feed button, and you can add Wading in Big Shoes posts to your email or preferred blog reader. I also have buttons for Bloglovin' and Google Friend Connect, if that's your preferred speed.

Facebook
WIBS FB Page
New cover collage, assembled by moi as a tribute to the lovely state of Michigan (I have to say that this is the best part of Facebook's new Timeline set-up). On Facebook, I post lots of pics and teasers about my adventures, as well as links to fun commercials, campaigns, and such.

Twitter
Twitter Page Screenshot
Like my Facebook page, I utilize Twitter to gab about Michigan-related things and to alert the general public when I have a new post. You're also likely to see more media-related news and quips here.

And, of course . . . there's the good, old comment section at the end of every post, accompanied by a plethora of "share" buttons for your convenience.

Comments & Sharing
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This poor, little section is often neglected. Please show it some love.

I truly do appreciate each and every reader and how often you visit my blog, and comments really are the icing on the cake. Have a question? Let me know. Been to a place featured in a post or saw a really cute dog commercial during American Idol last night? Let me know. Heck, even if you just like a picture . . . I'm all ears (or . . . eyes). I write for you all, and a little give-and-take is just the kick I need to build on this blog and figure out which topics you all like most.

So, hit me up! The conversation possibilities are endless, but long overdue. I'll be here.

P.S. How do you all like the new background and header? Stay tuned for a few more layout improvements, coming soon. :)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

M.I.A.: The Hunger Games Edition

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I am a bandwagon-jumper.

You see, there's this little phenomenon going on right now, and it's known as The Hunger Games. People have read the books, stood in line for the movie, and are going absolutely gaga over the series everywhere you turn. For the past few months, I'd heard murmurings about the story and the giant fan base it had accumulated, but I just reserved the whole thing for the fanatics. After all, didn't we just go through all that Harry Potter and Twilight madness? Come on--a girl can only keep up with so much.

Well, as time went on, my curiosity grew. The movie trailers for the new Hunger Games movie got my attention, and my friends told me right and left via Facebook and Pinterest that I needed to invest my time in reading the books. So, I gave in.

Well, people weren't kidding when they said to reserve a few days from the outside world, because you truly cannot pull yourself away from these things. The first book was my favorite, because there were literally no logical stopping-places to take reading breaks. I found myself at the end of long afternoons and evenings, literally wondering what happened to the day--but wondering more about Target's store hours so I could go buy the second and third books. Even Brad started reading them--which is great, because it's all either one of us really wanted to talk about since last week. Except . . . I finished the last book a few days ago, and he's still reading. So, I've basically lost my husband in his own little world for the next day or two.

As for the movie? It was okay. It's another one of those instances where half the story is omitted due to time constraints, and characters are not exactly the way I envisioned them from the book. Then again, I guess that's always the case with book interpretations--everyone's imagination is different, and I respect that (but I still consider my imagination to be the most accurate ;-) ). I will also say that I am in favor of the book being turned into a mini-series . . . I am definitely not opposed to re-living every last detail through the magic of cinematography.


Who else is obsessed with the Games? Are you new to the arena (har, har), a long-time fan, or trying to stay away from the whole thing? If your answer is the latter, I highly suggest you reconsider. Just make sure you don't have a busy schedule for the next few days, because none of it will end up getting done.


P.S. Has anyone tried out this site yet? I'm headed over there right now to see what it's all about.
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