Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Book Review: An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

If someone were to enter a debate saying that John Green is a bad writer they would lose.  Although An Abundance of Katherines may not be my favorite of his work, it is undoubtedly a well written story.  Quite frankly I think the main reason I'm not completely in love with this book is because I'm not a math person and I have never been dumped by someone I loved.

Colin, the main character, is a fairly likable nerd. He is a child prodigy with one friend, and a dream to leave his mark on the world that will elevate him from the title "prodigy" to that of "Genius".  Although it is completely unbelievable, the scholarly Colin has managed to not only date girls named Katherine, but he's managed to date nineteen of them (technically eighteen).

Green does a wonderful job with the characterization of Colin, and is able to leave his physical appearance mostly to the imagination.  Other than a brief mention of his "Jew fro" and "green eyes" one would assume that the child prodigy is not completely unfortunate looking.  I mean how else could a socially awkward kid manage to date nineteen girls?  At first when Colin is devastated that Katherine XIX has just dumped him, I felt bad, but eventually he just got annoying.  He literally obsesses over her.  He feels like he lost his identity now that she doesn't want to be with him.  I suppose this is relatable to anyone who may have just gone through a breakup, but for everyone else, it's like listening to a little kid whine.

His insecurities, obsessions, and mathematical rants would have been more difficult for me to stomach if not for his best friend, Hassan.   Hassan, his portly, witty, Arabic sidekick, brings a sense of adventure to the story for sure.  In my mind he is the epitome of a great friend.  He is spontaneous, fun, caring, and loyal.  There were several parts in the book that Hassan made me laugh out loud (an example of Green's brilliance).  Colin's character definitely became more appealing because of his relationship with Hassan.

Green incorporates footnotes into the story which makes it a bit more interesting.  Either John Green is a fountain of useless knowledge or he did a lot of research for those footnotes.  I did skip a handful of them because, and this is to quote Hassan, I found them to be "not interesting".  Speaking of skipping, I actually skipped several parts in the book where Colin explains his latest ideas on creating a mathematical theorem that can predict the future of all relationships.  To me that is definitely not interesting, especially when Colin figures out at the end *spoiler alert* that you can't predict the future.  Gasp!  He really is one of those cliche smart people who lacks common sense and has little social awareness.  It makes me wonder if John Green is this way, or if he is just a genius at creating characters.  I'm betting on the latter...

Okay, so what do I rate this book?  I'm going to give it 3.5 stars.  I preferred Looking For Alaska, and there is no doubt that I envy John Green's ability to tell a story and create some amazing characters, but this book didn't fit my personality.  I know there are millions of people that would find this book a great fit, I just wasn't one of them.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Notes From The Sub

I've been substitute teaching a lot lately and the funny/strange stories have been piling up.  That's why I've decided to share a couple of things with you before I forget them.

The first, and probably most comical, happened recently while I was subbing in a Kindergarten classroom.  For someone who is not used to teaching kids under the age of twelve, I always get a bit nervous knowing I'll be the only adult in the room with twenty or more five-year-olds who sometimes pee their pants or worse.  I love hearing the things that come out of the mouths of babes and that day during "Morning Meeting" was pretty classic.  I had gathered the class to sit in a circle on the mat and the kiddos were taking turns sharing something from their weekend, that morning, where they were going on vacation when they turned six, or how their dog pooped in the kitchen and their mommy stepped in it.  You never know what will come out of a little kid's mouth.  While I pretended to listen to a riveting tale about legos, little Johnny (obviously a name change), interrupted the speaker to ask a very interesting question.

"Is it true that hot girls get pregnant easier?"

Well who wants to hear about legos after a question like that?  As fun as it would have been to entertain  an answer, or start a debate, I explained to little Johnny that a good friend doesn't interrupt when someone is telling a story about legos.  Nice diversion right?  That would have been one heck of an interesting conversation.

The second story I have for you isn't as funny as it is perplexing.  I don't want you to think I'm making fun of this kid when I tell this story, so I'd like for you to get in the right frame of mind before I go into detail.  Think back to when you were say, eight or nine.  What did you look like back then?  Did you have a super cool haircut and awesome 80's or 90's clothes purchased by your mom from the kid section at Sears?  My clothes, size 6X corduroys that fit me for three years because I didn't grow, were actually from the same J.C.Penny where I had my bangs permed.  That's right, just my bangs.  Before you go picking on my mom, it was my idea, and against her better judgement she caved.  Anyway, do you have a rough visual of what I looked like when I was nine?  Kelly green cords, a white turtleneck, black and orange high tops, and kick ass permed bangs.  I rocked the fourth grade.

Now fast forward 21 years and I'm a substitute teacher taking attendance in a fourth grade classroom.  Not much has changed in terms of nine year olds being awkward.  What has changed, as I discovered during roll call, are names. Apparently unisex names have been trending with parents these days.  In this one class of nineteen, there was a Bailey, a Mason, a Peyton, and a Hunter.  Before you say those are all boy names, think again.  Bailey, Mason and Hunter were all definite girls.  Peyton however...  I still don't know.

I went the entire day waiting for Peyton's friends to utter a simple pronoun.  Nothing.  What did the kid look like?  Well, with short hair and clothes that could go either way, let's just say the physical appearance didn't give anything away.  I literally have no idea.  Have you ever seen the movie, It's Pat?  Well this was real life and I was/am equally perplexed.  The kid wasn't funny looking.  I'm honestly not making fun of the child.  During recess Peyton played with one boy and two girls.  When I talked to Randsome about it he asked about the voice.  "Girly voice," I said.  But honestly, how many nine year olds have masculine voices?

I'm sure if I spent more than seven hours with the kid I'd eventually figure it out.  I also may never figure it out.  I substitute teach in over fifteen schools in four districts, I may never see this kid again.  I may always wonder if Peyton is a boy or a girl because his/her parents decided to give their kid a unisex name, cut his/her hair short, and then dress him/her in clothing that could go either way.  Think about that before anyone gets offended by this post.

Okay, let's end this with a joke provided by a fifth grade boy.  It went like this:

Q.)How do you make a tissue dance?

A.)You give it a little boogie!

Kids are hilarious.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Lloyd Christmas

Happy post-holidays.  Since I didn't update What's New during the month of December I wanted to share something random from my Christmas season.  I have this friend, who years ago, I nicknamed "Connie".  She brings out the dryness in my very sarcastic sense of humor.  We don't see each other often, so instead we email every once in a while to check in.  The following is an excerpt from a pre-Christmas email I sent to her.  It's a response to her question asking if Cakes is old enough to know who Santa is.  

Cakers does not understand the concept of Santa.  We do have an Elf On A Shelf named Lloyd Christmas.  Randsome and I hide him on one another.  We tell her Lloyd is watching her when she throws her food on the floor, but she doesn't get it.  Last night I was picking peas out of the Christmas tree.  Maybe she's protesting because I named the elf on the shelf and technically the child is actually supposed to name it.  "Oh well Cakers, Mommy's better at naming toys than you."  I named her giraffe, Henry, and she named her stuffed cat, Kitty.  Amateur.

After rereading the email 'I got to thinking.'  Am I a weirdo because I name all my kid's toys?  It bothers me that until she can talk, her toys will remain nameless.  Is it selfish of me to take away the future opportunity of allowing Cakers to flex her imagination muscles?  I don't care about most of the toys, but Henry (her giraffe) has been with her since she was a newborn.  I didn't want him to remain nameless for the first two or three years of life.  How sad and lonely is that?  As for the Elf on the Shelf, I wanted to give him a funny name.  I admit I was scared she'd grow up and give him a cliche, Christmasy name like Snowball or Happy, so I pulled inspiration from one of the best movies of all time: Dumb and Dumber.  I mean come on, the name Lloyd is funny.  Don't ask me why, it just is.  Maybe it's the two L's.  Another reason I chose the name is because Randsome and I are constantly dropping movie and t.v. quotes.  What I hope happens, is for someday Cakers to tell her Kindergarten teacher her elf's name, and for that person to get the movie reference.  The teacher will instantly think Cakers has a fantastic sense of humor.  Well, if the teacher is anything like me she will.

Friday, November 1, 2013

3 Little Piggies: DIY Ears and Tail

Happy Belated Halloween Folks!  Last time I talked about how to make a DIY Piggy nose and today I want to talk about how I made the ears and curly tail for my mommy and daddy pig costumes.  You can see our finished "Pig Products" in the photo below.

Randsome, Cakers and I at the Camp Sunshine Pumpkin Festival outside L.L. Bean's Flagship store

Pig Ears
Pink Felt
Hot Glue Gun


1.  Trace and cut out a pattern for your pig ears
2.  Fold your pink felt in half and trace or pin your pattern onto your felt. *Each ear will be made up of two pieces of felt in order to make them stiff.
You can't tell here but my felt has been folded in half.

3.  Once you have all four pieces cut out, glue them together along the edges.  You could also sew them together, but using a glue gun was easier and quicker for me.

Just in case I plan on using my headband again, I made sure not to get any glue on it.  I glued it inside of the pink flaps and I could actually slide my ears (together or further away) along the headband. 

Pig Tail
Pink Felt
Pipe Cleaner
Hot Glue
Safety Pin


1.  Cut out a piece of pink felt about an inch longer than your pipe cleaner.
2.  Roll the pipe cleaner up in the felt (gluing as you go).  It's kind of like rolling up a tortilla. 
3.  When you have finished glueing, twist the tail into a corkscrew shape.

4.  Take a safety pin, glue it to your pants, and you have yourself a piggy tail!

Katie Lou

Saturday, October 26, 2013

3 Little Piggies: Halloween DIY Pig Nose

I've always wanted to make my kids Halloween costumes, but the one we found online this year was so cute we couldn't pass it up.  I figured that we could get Cakers the cute costume and I could make costumes for Randsome and myself this year.  Before we even had kids we talked about how we'd like to dress up as a family.  It's dorky I know, but Randsome and I are total goofballs so what the heck; we were destined to be The 3 Little Pigs!  So I hoped online and found my ideas on Kim's blog over at 733.  I made a few changes to suit my needs and an hour later I was done.

Isn't she a cute little piggy?
As you can see Caker's costume is pretty amazing and even though I fancy myself artistic, I'm not that good.  You can find her costume at Chasing Fireflies.  I didn't expect my homemade pig costume to be as detailed or beautiful, but I wanted people to know that I was a pig.  The first thing I made for my costume was the snout.  Here is what you need to make yourself a pig nose!

Pink Yarn
Pink Felt
Bottle Cap (I used a generic brand Gatorade cap)
2 Pink Buttons
Hot Glue Gun


First, measure out your yarn to make sure that it is long enough to tie behind your head.  Then Glue the center of the yarn over the top of your bottle cap.

Second, cut out a felt circle to cover your bottle cap.  Cut slits in the sides so that your yarn can come out the edges (this will help you in the tying process) and glue it to the cap, covering the yarn.  

Next, glue the edges of the felt to the inside of your bottle cap.

Once you have all of your edges glued, flip your piggy nose over and glue the two buttons for nostrils.

There you have it folks, a ten minute pig nose!  It's super easy, cute, and as long as your bottle cap contained a beverage you like, it smells good!  Stay tuned for my piggy ears and tail!  Oink Oink

Monday, October 21, 2013

Book Review of: Loose Ends by Terri Reid

Once an author came and spoke to a group of kids I was working with.  I don't remember her name, but I do remember one piece of advice she gave to the group.  She said if you are reading a book for entertainment and you don't like it, stop reading.  It doesn't deserve your time.  She said that as a writer she would hate to think she was torturing her readers.  She only wanted people to read her work if they enjoyed it.  I liked this advice because I've always been one of those guilty readers.  If I think a book is boring I continue reading because I feel guilty if I don't finish.  Since listening to this author speak, I've slowly begun to take her advice.  I still catch myself finishing books that I don't care for, but for the most part I've learned to put down the ones I don't like.

Recently my mother let me borrow her Kindles.  I've had her Kindle for a good month and I've read three books on it so far.  My latest read was written by Terri Reid, and it is the first in a series.  It was either free or .99 cents on Amazon.  The book is called: Loose Ends: A Mary O'Reilly Paranormal Mystery and like the title, it is full of loose ends.  I don't like to write scathing book reviews, but this one is filled with a hefty load of critiques.  I'd like to preface my critiques by saying that underneath it all, I found the book entertaining enough to want to know what happened.  I think the author is a good storyteller, but she needs a better editor.  I'm not the best at editing mechanics, but I feel pretty confident  in the my ability to recognize strong characters, voice, continuity and flow throughout a story.

The book is about a private (paranormal) investigator.  She is a former cop who was shot on the job, died, and then had the opportunity to come back knowing that her life would be different.  When she came back from the dead, she could see ghosts.  Now she helps spirits cross over to the other side.  Even though the book is paranormal, it isn't scary.

One of my major problems was with the cheesy characters.  They are likable enough, but I feel like Reid could have made them a bit more realistic.  For example Mary, the main character, talks to herself a lot when other people are around.  Reid may have been trying to make the character seem cute or endearing, but I found that it actually took away from her writing.  Many of the comments Mary makes out loud would be far more effective if they were said in her head.  I also didn't like the cutesy banter between Mary and her love interest, Bradley; I found it shallow and chintzy.  Often the two characters would say things simultaneously which is a bit too tongue-in-cheek for my taste.  It was like a really bad Hallmark movie.

I did like Mary's two older friends who stop by her office daily.  They were likable, funny characters.  My only issue (and it's a doozy) is that Rose, the older woman, carries a blow-up doll in her makeup case.  She said she uses it to try on outfits to make sure they will look good on her.  All I can say to that is COME ON!  At one point Mary uses the blow up doll to sit at her desk so her police tail won't know she left her office.  It's all a bit stupid.  It's obvious that Reid needed a plot device so she made a normal character into a total nutter with a blow up doll.  I mean Reid describes Rose's character as a classy, well-known real estate broker and then out of no where she adds this bizarre tidbit.  I didn't like it.  It didn't mesh.

As far as the loose ends found throughout Loose Ends, there were a few.  One scene Mary is running through the woods, chasing some ghost children, when she runs into a fort.  It was all strange and confusing, but what got me was when Mary wakes in the care of a paramedic who seemed to appear out of thin air.  She was running in the woods, knocks herself out, and BAM! Paramedic!  He is not a ghost.  He's an actual person.  This paramedic proceeds to drop a concussed Mary off at her car, all the while disclosing a long lost memory from his childhood.  This memory is a clue to help solve Mary's case, which is quite convenient because the paramedic disappears just as quickly as he appears.  By the way, Mary drives home and passes out in her driveway because of her concussion.  It just wasn't believable.  Oh and I hated the fact that she ran into a fort.  It was weird.

There were other mistakes in the storyline.  For instance, Mary tells Bradley the code to her home alarm system and then days later she says she doesn't use it because the ghosts mess it up.  It had little inconsistencies throughout the book that bothered me.

Some may say that I shouldn't complain as I did choose to read a cheap book from Amazon about a woman that sees ghosts, but I've read some pretty good freebies in the past.  I'm also a sucker for the paranormal mystery.

If you are interested in a super easy/cheesy read, you may like this book.  It's totally predictable, and some people dig that, but I like more of a challenge.  I do think the story beneath all of the critiques has potential.  I'd also like to point out that I did finish the book, so that's saying something.
-Katie Lou

Sunday, October 13, 2013


Like most babies, Cakes loves technology.  Wether it be cell phones, computers, tablets, remote controls, or our surround sound, Cakes goes crazy over buttons, screens, and blinking lights.  At 17 months she has managed to call and text friends, purchase apps (luckily we intervened), and a family favorite: clean my cell phone in the toilet.

This morning, after wrestling my cell phone from her kung fu grip, Randsome had the clever idea of giving Cakes an old, crappy tablet that we had all but forgotten.  As he was trying to get a game to load, the device started to buffer.  We all know how frustrating it is to wait for any device to buffer, but Cakers summarized that feeling so well.  She laid back on the floor and began a mini tantrum: kicking her feet and yelling at the tablet.  She even slapped it a couple of times.  Normally a mini-tantrum makes me angry, but this morning I had to laugh because seriously, who doesn't want to kick and scream in frustration when they want a program/video/picture to load?
Yes she's sitting in a bumbo.  She loves chairs.