I Dare You Not to Smile

A friend sent me these. http://icanhascheezburger.com/






Fabio Is In The Building

No, unfortunately, not THIS Fabio…

(always looking for a way to post that picture LOL).

And definitely NOT this one (sorry, but nicknaming him Fabio is just WRONG!!! He’s Jud from Survivor Nicaragua)

 

But THIS Fabio is in my home:

Some of you may remember the Christmas gift that couldn’t be: Hubs had ordered it and the manufacturer (in Japan) kept shipping the wrong one and by the time they shipped the correct one, they’d upped the price by a good $600, so it was priced out of our range.

Hubs, wonderful man that he is, found another one. And it was delivered today. And I’ve been in it for the last five hours or so and I think I might just sleep here.

It does your back, your neck, your legs and your feet. And it’s a comfy writing chair when not using the massage function. A home run for Hubs in the gift-giving department. [And you can make of THAT sentence what you will ;) ]

So now I have my very own Fabio, so named by my Writing Wombat friends and I can honestly say that since I can’t have the real one give me a massage, I’ll take this one.

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Holidays to all!

Harry Potter World, Hot as Hell, but Definitely Heaven for Fans

Entrance into park

Sorry it’s taken me a while to post this. I was in Orlando two weeks ago and hit Harry Potter World at Universal on Tuesday. The day the temperature broke all sorts of records at 111 degrees.

So, my take on Harry Potter World.

I’m very glad I didn’t bring my family. But I absolutely LOVED it.

How does one reconcile these two sentences? Simple. No one in my family is a diehard Harry Potter fan but me. I’ve read every book; when the last one came out, we were just getting home from a vacation. I dropped my family off at the house, left them the car to unpack, while I took another one to the bookstore before it closed to pick up my copy of the book. Then I got home, said goodnight to everyone (this was at 5 pm) and told them not to bother me, that I was reading the book straight through. And I did.

We own every movie, have seen each one on opening day. I love this series. So when Universal announced it was going to have a Harry Potter World, I was trying to come up with every way to get there. But I knew my family would not enjoy long lines.

Truthfully, I would have preferred to go to the park in any other month other than July. Well, except maybe August. I HATE/LOATHE/DESPISE the heat. Can. Not. Stand. It. (get the picture?) But with the trip we took out west this summer, another family vacation of this magnitude just wasn’t in the cards and when RWA had to relocate the national conference and it just so happened to end up in Orlando, well, hey. I can read the writing on the wall as well as the next person. So, off I went on the internet to buy my one day pass. (Hint: those “convention” packages? Yeah, don’t get sucked in by them; I would have paid a LOT less if I’d bought the ticket at the park, AND saved on shipping charges. I’m annoyed at how much more I had to pay for.)

Emily and Donna

So, I arrived in Orlando very early on Tuesday morning, got to the hotel, dropped my stuff off in my room, and headed outside to the shuttle van (Mears shuttle, $18 RT, very affordable). While waiting for the van, I met a wonderful mother/daughter team by the name of Donna and Emily.

They were on a girls’ trip for Emily’s high school graduation and Emily is a HUGE Harry Potter fan. (I’m sure you can see where this is going.) They, lovely folks, invited me to spend the day with them. Since I was all alone, and Emily was as big, if not bigger, a HP fan than me, sure!

Emily was a godsend (and not just for her Facebook pictures).

I’m not one for people coming up to me to try to sell me stuff on the street. I hate people in my face, so when a park employee waved something papery in my face and said something along the lines of Anneheuser Busch (I swear, that’s what he said and I thought it was something for SeaWorld, which I love, but I was there to see HP World), I just walked by him. Emily, thank God, heard “Harry Potter World” and walked over. Turns out, the guy was giving out fast passes into HP World. For Free.

Hogwarts Express Conductor

So there the 3 of us were with our fast passes, by-passing all the poor people who were in the hours-long line to get in the part (did I mention it was going up to 111 degrees that day?) From where we got the fast pass to the entrance of the park was a 20 minute walk, and the entire way was lined with people in line to get in the park. I know it was 20 minutes, b/c the fast pass was valid in 20 minutes from when we got it, and we started heading back that way, and arrived just as they were letting  people in with that fast pass time. I have no idea why the park employee was giving this away, no idea why other people didn’t get a fast pass, didn’t even see a kiosk where you could GET a fast pass, but there you go… We waltzed right in to Hogsmeade.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. I’ve seen a documentary about the making of HP World, and checked it out online, so I knew that the team who made the sets for the movies were involved in making this park. They did an amazing job.

The snow on the rooftops looked so real it was a shame that I was still sweating. The buildings were jut like the movie, the steep pitched roofs, the hundreds of gables, the shingling… very cool. Of course there was the train engine. There’s an owlery and some shops and of course, Hogwarts. You can read all about it at Universal’s sight, but here’s my Traveler’s Guide to the park.

We're Heeeeere!!

Disappointingly, the shops were made to keep in line with the books. Meaning, they are small. Narrow. Tight. Tiny. When you see the Weasely’s and Harry and Hermione and Draco and his dad getting their books when Gilderoy is signing… that’s how scrunched together you are in these shops.

Inside HoneyDukes

And there are only 2 stores, really. First is

HoneyDukes, the candy shop. Very pretty, lots of pink and mint green, bunches of glass bottles filled with Every Flavor Beans, and Chocolate Frogs

in pretty packaging (complete with the trading card of your favorite Hogwarts founder – I got Rowena Ravenclaw). I bought some

candied almonds from the self-serve canisters and scrunched up in line to pay for them. Someone, however, decided that to leave HoneyDukes, you have to go through the joke shop. Okay, that’s fine; we get to see the Weasely twins’ favorite place, but as for buying anything… I think it’s more a curiosity factor to go in that store. I mean, seriously, do you really need a whoopee cushion that says “Whoopee Cushion” on it? If it said Harry Potter world, maybe.

Oh, I forgot to mention, we had to wait in line for like an hour and a half to get IN HoneyDukes.

Butterbeer vendor

In the hot sun. Where they don’t have awnings covering the line. Or a place to sit. Or water fountains. They do have butterbeer barrels set up like vendor carts. I HIGHLY recommend the frozen butterbeer. It’s very good -kind of like butterscotch and gingersnap cookies mixed together with ice. A butterbeer slushie. Not too badly priced – $3-$4 (can’t remember). I had taken a tiny umbrella with me to keep off the sun, so I’d recommend that, because the heat is BRUTAL.

We were then going to go to lunch in The Three Broomsticks, but this, also had at least an hour and a

half wait. We figured we’d wait and do something else. Surely the lunch rush would die down.

So off we went to the one place I’d been dying to see. Olivander’s Wand Shop. When that scene in Olivander’s came on the screen in the first movie, I caught my breath. The movie makers had done such an amazing job with pulling details from the book, I couldn’t breathe because it was as if they’d reached inside my imagination and taken out how I’d seen Olivander’s. That was a magical moment for me.

Gileroy Lockhart - and yes, the picture moves

And after another hour and a half wait (in the hot, unrelenting sun, with no shade save for my umbrella and one very cool stone arch that we commandeered for longer than we should have), in we went to Olivander’s.

The promos for the park have talked about having the experience of your wand choosing you. I was looking forward to that. Yes, I’m a 45 year old woman and know that it’s not magic, but still, I could pretend, couldn’t I?

wands in Olivander's

Apparently not. What they don’t tell you in the promos is that only 30 people are allowed in Olivander’s at a time (see note above about the whole park being built to story-scale instead of millions-of-rabid-fans-clamoring-for-this-new-park-scale) and only ONE (or two if they’re lucky) KIDS are CHOSEN to be part of the “show.” That was a bit of a letdown, though for those two kids, it definitely wasn’t. Nor for their parents.

Mr. Olivander

The shop itself is EXACTLY like the movie, so it was wonderful. Boxes and boxes of wands, sample wands on the walls, Mr. Olivander himself, and, of course, magic. I’m glad I waited, but I’d really wanted to “experience” the wand choosing me. But I got to choose my own wand, because park employees then funnel the 30 people into another store where you can get Griffyndor clothing, or Slytherin capes, and any other HP-themed souvenir. And you can buy your own wand. There’s a wall with wands coinciding with your birthday. I wasn’t fond of the screaming skull for a February 13th birthday. I was thinking something that close to Valentine’s Day might be a little more upbeat, so I decided to buy Hermione’s wand. There’s another wall with character wands, but Dumbledore’s was sold out. They said they sell out of his the most.

Tourist hint: They give you a 10% discount if you have an AAA card. Luckily, my new “sister,” Donna had one, so I got my wand for $27 instead of $30. No, there is no unicorn hair inside it, or whatever Hermione’s has inside (sorry, I’d have to go check; I might be a fan, but I am 45 years old. The memory ain’t what it used to be.), and it’s plastic, but it’s pretty and it was my souvenir (well, along with the chocolate frog box – the kids and I shared the frog. At $10, it better be a multi-person piece of chocolate and it is – it’s about the size of my fist.)

Emily with chocolate frog in HoneyDukes

Another Tourist Hint: DON’T buy your chocolate frog during your first visit to HoneyDukes and then proceed to carry it around with you the rest of the day. Otherwise, you’re going to have to double-bag it (with HP bags, so that’s kind of cool) and beg for ice from the butterbeer vendors (the added bonus is you can put some ice in your bra to try to cool your body temperature in the ridiculously hot, sticky, sweaty Floridian July heat).

So, after we bought our wands, we decided to check out lunch again, because it was now about 2 pm and surely there was no longer a long wait at The Three Broomsticks.

The Three Broomsticks

We were right; it was only about 15 minutes. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised at the food. Not fast food at all, though you order it cafeteria-style, but it was good. Ribs, chicken, fish & chips, shepherd’s pie (looked good but too small), and other English fare, the prices were pretty reasonable, too. I had ribs and chicken, some potatoes and an ear of corn, plus milk for about $13. Oh, and the water bottles from the vendors are only $2.25 (maybe $2.75, I can’t remember – that memory thing, you know. I need a pensieve for myself…) So, not too bad there.

Check out the next post for our visit to Hogwarts.

Hogwarts with Griffyndor tower

And it’s official – I’m a princess

My brother-in-law is a prince among men, so it’s only fitting he be the one to confirm my royal status.

One of the most thoughtful and fun Christmas gifts that I’ve ever gotten. Yes, it’s funny, and yes, it’s campy, and no, I don’t really care. It fits me to a T. Plus the fact that Chris wasn’t sure which princess to get me, so he picked Cinderella because blue is his favorite color.

I told him he could have gone with any of them and they would have been a hit, but the fact that it’s his favorite color earns him bonus points.

Thank you, Chris!

and a close up:

practicing the Royal Wave:

Innovation – the “Mother” of Necessity

So, does anyone have any uses for a terrycloth bathrobe besides wearing it when you get out of the shower?

I do.

When your kids don’t clear out the garbage disposal before setting the dishwasher to turn on and said dishwasher can’t empty so it spews its water all over your kitchen floor, the terrycloth bathrobe is quite handy for sopping up the mess.

Of course that will leave you naked in your kitchen while you try to siphon the rest of the water from the dishwasher into bowls that you almost break yanking them from the cabinet and which fill up far too easily with the dishwasher water, and while shoving paper towels under the cabinets/dishwasher/stove to wick up the water that’s flowing everywhere, not to mention picking up the kitchen rugs that have also turned into sponges…

That’s what you can use a terrycloth robe for.

Sadly, once sopping wet, it does NOT make a very good shield for you to use to run naked through your house as the Fed Ex guy drives up your driveway.

I kid you not.

And, of course, all of this necessitates a few loads of laundry from all the dishtowels that you started off using before you thought to whip off your robe (and THEN close the blinds. I swear, my neighbors probably WENT blind from that sight.)

Luckily I heard it dribbling (more like fountain-ing) onto the floor, said, “That doesn’t sound right” and ran into the kitchen so it didn’t make it to the drywall in the ceiling below. But, oh, how how much water there was in that short amount of time.
And as for windows… one of the best features of this house to me is the windows. My last house felt  like a dungeon – this one has LOTS of bright light and windows.

Yep. It does.

My poor neighbors.

Oh, and just to add to today’s fun, this all happened after I took a Kid to the bus, only to find out said child didn’t have the necessary clothing for the after-school thing, so we had to drive back home (I’m in my FLUFFY blue robe at this point), where Child could run in and grab the clothing.

We miss the bus at the NEXT stop and it doesn’t stop anywhere else in the neighborhood. Luckily, the bus driver stopped when I blared on the horn as I followed him out of the neighborhood. Unluckily, said Child forgets the bag of stuff that needs to be returned to a teacher so I have to get out of my car in my FLUFFY blue robe and run to the bus.

The neighbors on that street texted me. What a good mom am I.

And all this fun by 10 am.

So, how was your day?

Ocean View

Got this in an email from a friend of mine. She wanted to know which Mer brother this was. Your guess?

 

Ocean View

I have no idea how this works, I have never been that good at these optical illusion pictures!!!!�� But the friend who sent me this said if you stare at it long enough, you should be able to see the ocean.�� I tried for a while.�� I can’t see any stupid ocean!
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Congratulations to a Good Reader!

I participated in GoodReads’ Giveaway program and gave away a signed copy of In Over Her Head and the winner is:

tammy rigney goodreads winner IOHH

Congratulations, Tammy! Look for the book to arrive in your mail soon, and many thanks to everyone who played along.

And never fear, there will be two more contests, one for the release of Wild Blue Under (taking place now) and Catch of a Lifetime (in January), so stop by and register to win!

Julie & Julia… and Judi

Okay, perhaps not the most innovative title, but appropro nonetheless.julie_and_julia_ver2_xlg

Last night, a few of my Survivor Girls and I went to see the movie starring Amy Adams and Meryl Streep (yes, I put Amy’s name first on purpose. No disrespect meant to Meryl, but Amy is Giselle from the movie Disney made JUST FOR ME.)

I did not want to see this movie. I had zero interest. Zip. Zilch. Nada. I’ve never been a big fan of Julia Child. (I almost apologized for this to the J.C. fans, but then realized that I don’t have to apologize. I’m allowed to not be a fan of hers.) Anyhow, I went along because I’ve had my nose buried in my laptop working on the first book in my genie series, I Dream of Genies, and needed a break. The kids were monitoring the new kitten, the dogs were napping and Hubs & Friend were playing chess with the Eagles’ Pre-Game hoopla on, so yes, I’d go out with the girls.

Like I said, I’m not a fan of Julia Child and even though I love Amy Adams’ work, that whole “bon appetit” in Julie Child’s odd voice just didn’t sound appetizing (pun not intended, but, boy hey, I’ll take it). I figured some popcorn, a soda (no diet – might as well really blow the diet with butter and sugar), some time out… I’ll have a good time

Boy, how wrong I was.

I had a GREAT time! The movie was so not what I thought it’d be. Now, it still hasn’t made me a fan of Julia Child (I much prefer the Dan Akroyd version – and full props to Nora Ephron for that wonderful clip!!!), but I loved the REAL story behind the movie.

It’s a movie about writers. How Julia Child came to write her cookbook and how Julie Powell came to write her book.

And Julie – if you ever read this, I want you to know I was cheering right along with you – and had more than a few tears in my eyes – for those 65 phone messages!

What a surprise! What an experience!  I was NOT expecting this at all.

To have someone (Julie) go from “want to be a writer” to becoming one… well, those of us striving for that will get it.

As for both Julie and Julia’s husbands, I have to say, mine fits right in. Their support, their encouragement, their belief in their wives… it really helps to have someone who is as confident – if not MORE – than you are when you’re trying to make it happen. They don’t go through the “what if this sucks?” thoughts. They don’t have the “no one will ever read this,” or “why do I think I know what I’m doing?” thoughts. They’re there, they’ve got our backs and they’ll prop us up when we need it. [And major kudos for the Casting Director for Chris Messina and Stanley Tucci!]

So today I did some online research and I was glad to see Julie’s “Project” blog was still up. (Julie’s current blog.) I like her post about Julia Child’s death. I haven’t had the chance to read it, and don’t know that I will, but maybe when I need a break from my own writing, I’ll stop by and read a few posts.

I followed the link for the ABC interview. Have to say, I’m a bit disappointed by the tidbit they revealed that’s going to show up in Julie’s next book (and, thank goodness, that hasn’t happened in my life), which sort of took the blush off the apple for me a bit. I guess I wanted the heroine to be perfect, and perhaps, like Julie’s revelation about Julia, so too did I have one about Julie…

But as for the experience of the movie – even if you’re not a fan of Julia Child but are a writer looking for publication, or are in the midst of it, you will get this movie. And you will rejoice right along with both ladies.

Our Newest Addition

EVEN MORE BREAKING NEWS: Salem’s name has been changed. She is now Pagan.

And my sister got a kitten on the same day. Neither of us knew the other was getting one! So they now have Porter.

BREAKING NEWS:

Darling Husband has caved in come up with the best idea: get the kids (and the dogs) a kitten. Our other cat, Kimba, came to us in the middle of a snowstorm in 2001 and stayed. He was in indoor and an outdoor cat and on June 12, 2008, he made sure to come home to die.

We were all very sad, but how could we ever replace him? He was the perfect cat. And DH, who isn’t exactly a cat lover, tolerated him. Even liked him. And Kimba liked him too.

But another cat wasn’t happening.

Or so we thought.

So, today, with DH’s blessing, kids and I went to the local SPCA and found our new family member:

 Salem in her favorite spot

 

 

Salem. She’s two and half months old and utterly adorable.

And in a weird twist of fate (or spooky paranormal coincidence if you’re me, a paranormal writer), Salem was born on the one year anniversary of Kimba’s death.

Almost like he picked her out for us. :)

me and salem

Salem and shoe

Mermaid Sighting?

Talk about perfect timing! My first book, In Over Her Head, features an entire undersea world of Atlantis with Mer men and women. It’s got talking fish. Grumpy starfish. Nasty sharks and a sea monster or two.

Turns out, I might not be that far off.

Some folks are claiming to have seen a “girl with a tail” smiling at them off the coast of Israel and it’s giving tourism in the town quite a boost.

And for anyone who gets a picture of this mermaid, it’ll give their bank account quite a boost: one million of them.

I couldn’t NOT put this on my blog. Enjoy and let me know what you think:

 

<script src=”http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/.element/js/2.0/video/evp/module.js?loc=dom&vid=/video/world/2009/08/17/hancocks.israel.mermaid.cnn” type=”text/javascript”></script><noscript>Embedded video from <a href=”http://www.cnn.com/video”>CNN Video</a></noscript>

Link to video since I can’t embed it for some reason

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