Today’s post is a special one. I’m linking up with writing friend and fellow DIY MFA staff writer Leanne Sowul for her monthly “What Makes Me Happy” series. (Click here to go directly to her December post.) Plus, as you might have noticed from the post’s title, this will be my last blog post for 2016. And with Christmas and the New Year around the corner, it’s a good time to celebrate the little things that make you happy, right? 🙂
Since it’s still the holiday season, I’ll start with…
I Love My New Christmas Tree
After rearranging my living room earlier this year, I knew I was going to need a new Christmas tree. The old one had nothing wrong with it. But with the new furniture arrangement, the tree was too wide for the only available spot in the room. So I bought this 6-foot, 42-inch pre-lit tree when it was on sale at the arts-and-crafts chain Michael’s. And once I assembled it and turned on the lights, it was love at first sight.
There’s something magical about Christmas trees. Maybe it’s the lush green color, even if the tree isn’t real. Or maybe it’s the soft golden glow of the lights and how they kindle something bright and warm in your heart. Or maybe it’s the ornaments, and the memories and stories attached to each one. But most likely, it’s all of those things, and how perfect the tree looks in that spot, and how much it fills me with love and joy.
I’m Sipping Teavana’s 2016 Holiday Joy Tea
Speaking of joy, I tried a sample of Teavana’s Joy last December and absolutely relished it. But I never got around to getting my own supply of it. (It’s a seasonal tea, so it’s only available November through January.) So I snatched up a tin of Joy a couple weeks ago, and my tastebuds have been smiling ever since.
Joy blends black tea with oolong, jasmine green, and marigold petals. So it leans more to the bolder side, but it’s mellowed by the oolong’s sweetness, the jasmine’s floral scent and nuances, and the subtle warmth of warm apricots and peaches. It’s wonderful for breakfast, but its profile also works well as an afternoon pick-me-up or as a hot beverage for a holiday party. I highly recommend brewing Joy for 3 minutes with under-boiling water, so you can savor the stone fruit flavors without any overpowering tannins.
I’m Getting Back into Yoga
With all the summer busyness of Writer’s Digest Conference and my friend’s wedding, it’s no wonder I fell out of my yoga routine. My attempt to resume it at home in September bombed, too; I had gone without practice long enough (2+ months) that I couldn’t remember any of the movements. So when a friend recommended her friend’s new class at a brand new yoga studio, I knew it was time to step back in.
As of today, I’ve been taking Monday night yoga classes for 2 weeks, and it’s been AMAZING. I haven’t noticed any physical changes yet, but my regular breathing has already deepened, and I come away from each class feeling calmer, more confident, and able to tackle stress more productively. December may be a hectic time of year, but spiritually I need this class right now. So I’m grateful I’ve taken the initiative to get back to it.
I’m Listening to the Elder Scrolls: Skyrim Official Soundtrack
I’m not a gamer, but I’d heard of Elder Scrolls: Skyrim before I stumbled across a 3-hour YouTube mix of fantasy film and video game scores. And… gosh, I couldn’t believe my ears. Jeremy Soule’s orchestral arrangements are beautiful, dramatic, and evocative. And there’s a great deal of variety on this OST: triumphant, chant-filled marches; quieter, forlorn elegies; and even a few acoustic, “minstrel-style” numbers that would sound perfect by a campfire. I already adore Skyrim‘s music so much that a) I’d put it on par with Howard Shore’s Lord of the Rings score, and b) I know I’ll listen to this music while writing future stories. 😉
I don’t have a favorite song on Skyrim, but “Ancient Stones” was one of the first tracks I listened to. So it’s near and dear to my heart. Plus, I love the unique touch that the harpsichord gives. (I assume it’s a harpsichord…? Or maybe it’s a keyboard tuned to different sound?)
“Skyrim Atmospheres” is more like a new-age instrumental than an orchestral track. But it’s. So. PRETTY. Between the synthesizers, nature sounds such as rain and wind, and jaw-dropping length (42 minutes), it makes stunning background music for reading, writing, meditation, or winding down after a long day. And despite it being slightly different in genre from the rest of the soundtrack, it still fits the overall tone.
I Watched “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them”…
I finally saw “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” two weekends ago, and left the theater in giddy excitement because it was so. Much. FUN! There was so much to love about it: Eddie Redmayne’s portrayal of the socially awkward yet absolutely adorable magizoologist Newt Scamander, the overall excellent cast of actors (and the surprise of who was playing Grindelwald!), the setting (Prohibition-era NYC) and how America’s unease with magic fits the time period’s tone, and the gorgeously rendered creatures, from the great and terrifying to the small and adorable.
A number of people have said that “Fantastic Beasts” may be too scary for younger viewers. I agree with that opinion; there’s a dark magic element involving death and children with suppressed magical powers “flaming out,” so to speak. So I’d recommend waiting to show this film to kids until they’re able to handle Harry Potter movies like “Prisoner of Azkhaban” or “Order of the Phoenix.”
But what did I love most about “Fantastic Beasts”? The idea that magic isn’t just for children, but also for adults – or, rather, for anyone who’s a child at heart. 🙂
… And “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”
I was planning to limit myself to five happinesses… But after seeing “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” with my brother last Friday, I knew I’d have to make an exception. This standalone prequel to the first-ever Star Wars film explains how an unlikely group of heroes steal the design plans for the Death Star (a.k.a. the Empire’s ultimate weapon of mass destruction) on behalf of the Rebellion. In short, I really enjoyed “Rogue One” and would put it on par with last year’s “The Force Awakens.” It was fun and gritty that retained that classic SW feel, with an triumphant yet unexpectedly devastating ending that sets it apart from the other films. If you’ve seen “Rogue One,” you probably know what I mean… But the way it ends also makes the movie more powerful.
Apart from that, the acting was fantastic (especially Felicity Jones, as the fiercely independent and initially reluctant leader Jyn Erso), and the cast of characters was wonderfully diverse. (I loved the blind Jedi-ish monk, Chirrut Imwe!) Part of me does wish there had been more character development from the core quintet of rebels, and that Forest Whitaker’s character Saw Gerrera played a larger role. Otherwise, I highly recommend “Rogue One” to all Star Wars fans, and I hope the “Star Wars films at Christmastime” continues to be a tradition for a few more years. That way, I can keep buying movie tickets as part of my brother’s birthday gift. (His is December 27th.)
Announcement: I’m on a Blogging Hiatus until January 3, 2017
Yup! I may pop in now and then to respond to comments and check out any blogs I follow, and you’ll still be able to find me on social media. Otherwise, once Christmas is over, my focus will be on plotting (and possibly starting Draft #1 of) my next WIP, a novella set in the same world as my novel The Keeper’s Curse. And no worries, I’ll take some time to read, relax, and do other things, too. 😉
Until then, I wish everyone the happiest of holidays and a bright beginning to your New Year. Have fun. Be safe. Enjoy good food, love, and laughter. And above all, keep working to make your dreams come true.
Another Quick GoFundMe Update
As of today, the GoFundMe campaign for my trip to the Iceland Writers Retreat has raised $470 (13% of the $3,500 goal). If you’d like to donate but prefer to wait until after the December holidays, that’s completely understandable. There’s still plenty of time left in the campaign (the deadline is February 4th, 2017), and plenty of perks are still available, if you’re interested in loose-leaf tea, writing coach sessions, 1st chapter critiques, or trial memberships of One Stop for Writers.
What are some of the things that made you happy this month? Do you have any plans for the December holidays?
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