Around The Web

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I still have an excitement hangover from sharing one of my announcements that I’m absolutely thrilled about and can’t wait to give away all of my ‘tricks of the trade’ with the possibility of supporting good causes. I’m at work on the website for that shop and looking forward to a longer weekend with my husband.

I also made some final adjustments to my blog design. My goal was for a minimal and delicate feel. You may or may not notice a new addition to the menu. I’m podcasting! A little while back I talked about doing a new series, Simplifying Sunday. I made my first post on it but, for some reason, I wasn’t digging it in the written format and so I deleted that post. The podcast will be filled with all sorts of tips and talk on living simply and the first episode will go live September 8th! I tune into quite a few podcasts and, to me, podcasts are simple on their own because you can be doing your dishes and still listen. I figured the medium fit the topic perfectly. I’ve never done a podcast before but I’m excited to start a new adventure.

The above photo was from a recent little perusing adventure I went on here in Austin. Well, on to some good ‘around the web’ finds.

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► Leo’s advice for starting a business. I’ve always been a fan of his business philosophy of saying screw SEO, paying for ad spots, business models and simply make good quality stuff. To let quality and word of mouth be your marketer. It’s not about sitting back and hoping people will show. It’s about working hard on quality stuff in hopes that they will stay.

► The best write-up I’ve read in a long time on how to go about becoming a traditionally published author.

► This woman’s artwork is unique, simple and and stunning. This one is probably my favorite, followed by this one. And here is her blog where she shares more of her art.

► A documentary movie suggestion called Happy, that I’ll be watching very soon. I was going to watch it last night, right after reading her post, but got caught up in things.

► Videos with strangers getting to know one another always make me smile.

► After watching Blackfish and really being struck to the core by all that I learned (and apparently a lot of other people were because Sea World’s stock plummeted the day of the release and hasn’t completely recovered), I went on to learn more about orcas and found this lovely documentary of a woman scientist who swims with them in the wild. I highly recommend it!

► A little database that helps you ‘delete your account from web services.’


What goodies have you been finding on the web? Any plans for the long weekend?

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1 AM

lately

Top to bottom, left to right: Found a Blue Jay feather │Feeling beyond inspired (Can’t you tell by my stern expression?) │Admiring simple beauty │Reflecting on travels │Loving peperoncini on just about anything │Remembering that we are not alone in this world │Enjoying daily routines of tea and books │ Biking to the library │ Leaving messages, creating stuff

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Last night I couldn’t sleep. It was 1 am and I was up until 2:30 and then woke up at 6:30 am, simply because I was excited for the next day. During that time alone, with just the sound of a humming refrigerator and the solitude or early morning darkness, I had the greatest moment of clarity. Have you ever had those? Where for the longest time you are too busy thinking how to go about something, going back and forth on it, asking others for help and not looking within – then, all of a sudden it’s crystal clear. You know what to do, how to do it and why you want to. I have this tendency to think a bit too much about things and now I feel like I am filled with much needed white space in my mind, free of all that pesky questioning.

Isn’t it just fantastical how the grandest things and greatest ideas come at the most unexpected times. Though, as of late, the middle of the night is when I think of all sorts of stuff, from story ideas to aspirations. Last night I thought of some additions that I’d like to make to the blog and I’m incredibly excited. But, since I’m a fan of the writing advice, “Don’t tell me, show me,” I’ll wait to share until I have something to show. Things are in the works for two ideas and I’m stoked, that much I’ll say.

Well, I have the car today and I’m off to do a bit of exploration and searching of treasures (or at least that’s how I like to approach it). That and the laundry won’t do itself.

Cheers everyone and happy ponderings,
Aubrey

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Hand Picked Prickly Pear Vinaigrette

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I have been wanting to do something with prickly pears. Unfortunately, they aren’t the cheapest thing in the stores. I knew of a cacti growing them on the way to Matt’s work. So I dropped him off today and picked myself some prickly pears.

Prickly pears are the fruit of the cacti. We are never devoid of cacti here in Texas.

When picking prickly pear:

  • Wear gloves
  • Bring something to put them in (I used a paper bag)
  • Use a pair of tongs or layered newspaper to pluck them
  • Pluck from the top (leaving the bottom ones for animals to eat)
  • Try not to pluck more than 20%, so as to keep the pears alive and kicking on the rest of the cacti.
  • Use your tongs to grab the pears and twist them off. Go for ones that don’t have markings, cuts or the like.
  • Be very careful. In addition to those spikes on the cacti, prickly pear have what are called glochids which are incredibly tiny, hard to see little pokers. I know, I’ve had to pull a few out of my hands with tweezers because the glochids will fall off the pears too,  which is why I recommend gloves.

Pickly pear come in green and red, without getting too technical. There are many tips on when to harvest them. I recommend this website and this video for tips.

You can harvest them early, which I did and why the insides of mine are green. When you harvest them early they are more tart. When harvested at their peak they are sweeter.

Here is how I made some homemade prickly pear vinaigrette.

See the steps at the end.

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Step 1 Using tongs, rinse them. Then use an old toothbrush, or brush of some kind, and brush all of the little spikes off. │ Step 2 Cut the ends off both sides, just until you see the seeds. │ Step 3 Slice or peel the sides off.│ Step 4 Throw your peeled and cut prickly pears in a blender and blend away. Then put some cheesecloth over a bowl, securing it with a rubberband. Pour your blend over it and then squeeze all of the juice out with your hands, leaving the hard seeds in the cheesecloth.

Now to make it a dressing, use and mix:

  • The juice of 9 pickly pears (that’s what I used) or 1/2 cup of juice
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper

If you want a sweeter dressing, then add some sugar or maple syrup. I wanted it tart. Then pour the dressing over your beautifully made salad.

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Cheers to hand picked eating!

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A to Z Book Survey

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I saw this book survey on I Believe in Story, which first emerged on The Perpetual Page-Turner, and fell in love with the idea.

Author you’ve read the most books from.

That’s easy, J.K. Rowling. I’ve read all but her last book, The Cuckoo’s Calling, and I have that out from the library now.

Best sequel ever.

Balls that is tough. I don’t read a lot of series books but I’ll have to say Harry Potter because it touched my soul and reminded me of why I read. Though it would be closely followed by The Kingkiller Chronicles which reminded me of why I write and gave me inspiration via a vivid and wonderful storyteller, Patrick Rothfuss.

Currently reading.

The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss and How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff (because I saw the recent movie trailer and fell in love).

Drink of choice while reading.

A hot cup of caffeine free tea, preferably rooibos.

E-reader or physical book?

Physical book, hands down. I like the feel, touch and, especially with library and used books, I like that they have a history. Used books are stories within stories because of the mere fact that someone else had and experienced them prior.

Fictional character you probably would have actually dated in high school.

I didn’t go on an actual date until I was in the military so I will consider that time period and say, Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Okay, I know it’s not a book but it did continue on in writing (via comics). I had a tendency to go for the ‘bad boys’ and I’m glad I learned my lesson and got myself a good guy.

Glad you gave this book a chance.

Angelfall by Susan Ee. I’m super picky about YA books but this one is fantastic and I can’t wait to read on.

Hidden gem book.

The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell. A life changing book.

Important moment in your reading life.

Reading Edgar Allan Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado in American Lit 1 during my undergrad. Without the works of Poe I would not be a reader or writer.

Just finished.

Bookwise, I just finished Reconstructing Amelia. However, the last thing I read was the graphic novel, Kick-Ass 2.

Kinds of books you won’t read.

Old westerns – they bore me to tears. I’m also not a big steampunk fan. Okay, I also can’t stand YA books that are dubbed down for young adult readers and don’t give them the credit they deserve by challenging their minds and imaginations. I suppose that’s why I love The Hunger Games series because Collins doesn’t hold back and she fills the stories with messages and controversial topics, allowing the reader (no matter the age) to ponder a bit more.

Longest book you’ve ever read.

Well, once I finish The Wise Man’s Fear it will be that one, which is 994 pages.

Major book hangover because of…

Pretty much any book that I end up loving because they make me think, wonder and dream afterwords. I like thought provoking and emotionally churning reads.

Number of bookcases you own.

None. I don’t have bookcases and actually sold near all of my books. I’m a library gal and only buy books that I really really want or have read again and again. I call them my “forever books.”

One book you have read multiple times.

Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors by Piers Paul Read. I’ve read it four times. Two of those times were during my deployment in Afghanistan because if those guys could get through what they went through then a deployment pales in comparison.

Preferred place to read.

In bed. It’s also where I prefer to write.

Quote from a book you’ve read that inspires you.

“Everybody is special. Everybody. Everybody is a hero, a lover, a fool, a villain. Everybody. Everybody has their story to tell.” from V for Vendetta by Alan Moore.

Reading regret.

Not reading at a younger age. Many find this odd, as I’m a library science grad and fiction writer, but I didn’t read for pleasure (and consistently) until college. I’m happily making up for that time with lots of good reads.

Series you started and need to finish.

In books: The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice. I read Interview with the Vampire in December of last year and right after that Anne Rice went straight to my favorite authors’ list.

In comics: Buffy Season 8 & 9. I’ve read nearly all of 8 but need to reread and then finish up.

Three of your all-time favourite books.

The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell, The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss and V for Vendetta by Alan Moore.

Unapologetic fangirl for…

Comic books. Many don’t include comics and graphic novels in the mix of books but they are books and stories nonetheless and had it not been for my husband I would not have ventured into comics and graphic novels.

Very excited for this release more than all the others.

The Doors of Stone by Patrick Rothfuss. It doesn’t come out until 2014 but I can’t wait!

Worst bookish habit.

Leaving them on the floor. 0__0 My cat Dexter loves library books so much that I’ve had a few bite marks on some of them. He also rolls around and wipes his mouth on them (marking the books). He only does this with used books.

X marks the spot: the 27th book on my shelf.

Since I don’t have bookshelves, I picked the 27th book on my Goodreads to-read shelf – The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression

Your latest book purchase.

I sell books on Amazon and eBay so technically it would be one of those but the last book I purchased for me was Fresh From the Vegan Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson. I’ve made at least 5 recipes from it and am making one today. I love it!

Zzz-snatcher book (latest book that kept you up way late).

Angelfall by Susan Ee – There was something incredibly addictive about that story.

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Austin Bat Watching

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If you ever visit Austin, I highly recommend coming during bat season. Austin is known for its bats. We have bat statues here, bat boat tours and even a Bat Fest. We went tonight and it was just magical. The Congress Avenue Bridge (the road the Capital building is on) houses 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats. We decided to do the lake boat bat watching tour instead of standing on the bridge because we read that the experience is much better. Turns out, we decided to go on the tour the day Bat Fest was going on. So there were loads of people on the bridge, with live music, vendors and viewers galore.

Basically, those 1.5 million bats hang out under the bridge in the little crevices and come dusk, they come out in waves. It takes them about 20-30 minutes to come out completely. They do this every day from March – October but we read over and over again that August is the month to see the highest number of bats, which is probably why Bat Fest is in August. You guys, it was amazing! It was worth the $10 each for the all electric boat ride and just beautiful to see them come out. Also, they have what they call scout bats where the ‘bad’ bats, who haven’t been all that good, have the job of scouting. They come out and go back in and do that repeatedly, looking for looming prey. They are basically the signalers, saying it’s okay to go. So it was really neat to see them at work. I took more than quadruple the pictures you see here and had trouble cutting back.

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Finishing up with the sky after all of the bats made their way east, away from the sun. It was so lovely to see all of these people in canoes, boats, and hanging over the bridge to watch something so natural and rare. It was such a pleasure and I would surely say, add this to your list but make sure to come around August.

Next up we are going to go to Bracken Cave in San Antonio which houses 40 million Mexican free-tailed bats. Boy, I thought that was a lot of bats tonight at 1.5 million.

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Those Moments

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It’s those untouched, unedited moments that often speak at the highest volume. Like when I was reading a great book, right after doing some knitting, set down the book and snapped a picture because I loved how the needles and yarn curved around the book. I saw it as two of my passions intermingling in play. It wasn’t planned or positioned. Or when Leia curled up next to the books I just purchased for resale and I captured it because she is named after Princess Leia and here she is curled up next to some Star Wars books.

It’s those moments that remind you, you have a glorious life.

Sometimes we miss those moments and instead remember the ones involving someone cutting us off, ignoring us, judging us. We get caught up in the blur of things that are not worth pondering about.

The more attentive we are to those moments of grandeur, wrapped up in a box of simple actions and movements, do we then start to focus more on the wonders in life and not the worries.

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Worth Watching: Blackfish

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I’ve never had a blog that didn’t include film reviews. Ever since I was in elementary school and first heard of Roger Ebert, I always said I wanted to be a movie critic when I grew up. Film has a special place in my heart and I unabashedly enjoy watching a good feature film or television show. I watch big box movies, indie movies, foreign films and documentaries. If it’s good quality, I will watch it. Next week I’ll share a group of great films I’ve seen but every now and then some are so special that they need their own spotlight.

Blackfish

Documentary │83 Minutes
Summary (from the movie’s website):

Blackfish tells the story of Tilikum, a performing killer whale that killed several people while in captivity. Along the way, director-producer Gabriela Cowperthwaite compiles shocking footage and emotional interviews to explore the creature’s extraordinary nature, the species’ cruel treatment in captivity, the lives and losses of the trainers and the pressures brought to bear by the mulit-billion dollar sea-park industry.

My Thoughts

Absolutely a must see. Growing up as a kid I have gone to Sea World a few times. I saw the performances. I ooo-ed and aaaa-ed over the splashing, the tricks, over their massive size swimming around right in front of me. I even had my very own ‘Shamu’ stuffed animal to cuddle at night. The last time I went was in September 2006 and not long after that we made the decision to never go back again. It just didn’t make sense to us, didn’t seem right to put such a large animal in such conditions. With that said, even having read a lot on animal welfare, we didn’t know the half of it.

Blackfish validates our decision but informed us even further. It starts off with the killing of Dawn Brancheau by Tilikum at Sea World back in 2010. But director Gabriela Cowperthwaite takes it far further than that. Blackfish addresses that Dawn’s death was by no means an isolated incident. It acknowledges the absolutely kind, intelligent and gentile behavior of killer whales in the wild. Not only does it show many of those other incidences but explains why they happened, that these animals are not cruel. They are frustrated. They are isolated. They are deprived.

Blackfish showed the conditions, informed viewers of the history but also exposed the lies. I remember, when I first started informing myself about the conditions of places like Sea World (what I could get my hands on), in 2006 I put some blame on the trainers. I didn’t understand why. But what I’m grateful for the most about this film is that it showed that these trainers, the majority, cared deeply for these animals and they were outright lied to. They were never told of past events. They were told information, which they were then told to pass on, about killer whales that just wasn’t statistically true and they hid much from them. They, in a nutshell, had their trainers and employees lying but those very employees didn’t know they were lying. They had their employees in dangerous situations but those employees would have never otherwise known. The film explained why those situations were dangerous and that they were caused by the conditions, by captivity.

I’m really not sure if I can sum up this film properly. So instead, I will leave you with the trailer, would love to hear your thoughts, and just ask to please consider watching this movie before ever buying a ticket to that park.

It is still in theatres and will likely be in a local theatre that plays indie films, and it’s worth every single penny to support the spread of such information.

A side note: The people working on Finding Dory (the sequel to Finding Nemo) were so struck by Blackfish that they changed the ending to their movie.

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