“Pop in a Box” Unboxing and Review

I’ve been subscribing to Pop in a Box for a few months now, but I haven’t been doing “unboxing and review” posts (except for this comparison post), which is actually a bit unfair to the service since I do a post for every other subscription box I receive. So, okay, no sense in talking about it…let’s just start doing it! I’m not going to go back and do the previous boxes I’ve received, but I’ll start with the most recent one and go from there.

So, first of all, since this is the first of this kind of post that I’m doing for this service, what is Pop in a Box? Well, as the name suggests, it’s a service that sends you Funko Pop figures…in a box (presumably). The service originated in the UK, but has also been running out of the US for several months now, which makes it significantly more affordable for Canadians. You can choose the number of Pops you want to receive each month – from one to twelve – and there are methods to ensure that you don’t get anything you already have, or don’t want. First, you build your collection on their site so they know what you already have. Then you give a “thumbs down” to anything you do not want, which creates a “graveyard” list of Pops that they’ll never send you. Finally, you give a “thumbs up” to things you want, which creates a “wishlist” that they’ll attempt to pick from if those Pops are available at the time. Anything that you haven’t given a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” is considered fair game; you’re basically saying that you don’t mind if they send you those Pops. Keep up with this easy system and you should always be happy with whatever comes in your box.

So, on to the actual fun bits! Here’s the unboxing video from my most recent Pop in a Box:

So, I like to be able to give you a sense of the value of the box, so for the sake of these posts I’m going to set the “value” of each Pop based on the value that is currently listed on Pop Price Guide. Keep in mind, of course, that these values are based on what kinds of selling prices are currently occurring around the internet, and are therefore subject to change. They also don’t reflect retail value, which is normally between $12 and $25 depending on the type of Pop and where it was purchased. At the end of the list I’ll give you the total based on Pop Price Guide, as well as the approximate retail value.

Luke Skywalker (Hoth) – Star Wars line #34
I love Star Wars, and I love Star Wars Pops, which is quite convenient since Pop in a Box seems to love sending them to me. This one particularly amuses me because it adds to an awesome little “Hoth” collection that I’ve got going on. Although when he’s standing alone you might not immediately realize that this is Luke, I’m certain that he’ll look perfect  standing next to my flocked, 6″ Wampa. Definitely an awesome start to the box!
Pop Price Guide Value as of March 3 2016: $10

First Order Stormtrooper – Star Wars line #66
And another Star Wars Pop comes out on the heels of the first, this one from the newest movie, The Force Awakens. I’ve collected several Imperial and First Order soldiers at this point and there’s not too much that I can say since they’re so similar, but I’m quite happy to be able to add another one of the “bad guys” to the collection.
Pop Price Guide Value as of March 3 2016: $10

C-3P0 – Star Wars line #64
Aaaaand, one more Star Wars Pop just for good measure. This version of our favorite golden protocol droid is almost identical to the original versions, but he’s sporting his snazzy red arm from The Force Awakens. Unfortunately, this also happens to be a Pop that I picked up in stores recently, which is one of the hazards of continuing to purchase Pops while waiting for your Pop in a Box shipment to arrive. That’s my bad though, and not something I can really fault the service for. It would have been a good pick if I hadn’t bollocksed up.
Pop Price Guide Value as of March 3 2016: $9

Agent Coulson – Marvel line #53
This is definitely one of the plainer Pops in the Marvel line. To be honest, if you didn’t already know who he was you probably wouldn’t be able to guess, and that’s why I never picked him up…there’s just nothing special about him, other than the teeny badge on his coat. That said, I’m perfectly happy to have him because I do actually love Phil, and he’s part of the Marvel Universe, which is my jam.
Pop Price Guide Value as of March 3 2016: $6

Mulan – Disney line #166
I may not have gotten this across in the video, but I really like this Pop. I think her hair and outfit are very nicely done, and I love that she’s holding Shan Yu’s sword instead of just standing there looking pretty like most of the princesses. She makes an excellent addition to my growing Disney collection.
Pop Price Guide Value as of March 3 2016: $8

Princess Celestia – My Little Pony line #8
I’ll be totally honest: I was a little disappointed to pull this one out of the box, not because I don’t like it, but because it’s basically a lesser version of a Pop I already have – the Hot Topic exclusive with sparkly hair. I didn’t want to give this one a “thumbs down” on the website though, because it would be nice to actually complete the entire line, although it’s not really a big deal to me to have both. I’ll probably let my daughter add it to the mini-collection she’s been gathering. 🙂
Pop Price Guide Value as of March 3 2016: $10

Petyr Baelish – Game of Thrones line #29
This was an unexpected (but not unpleasant) Pop to pull out of the box. I haven’t been actively looking for Game of Thrones Pops – simply because there are so many other lines that I’m focusing on – but this is an awesome one to add to the group. I love the character on the show, and although his Pop is one of the more plain, human ones that I tend not to like, it’s also one that is extremely well done. All the little details of his hair and outfit are spot on, making him instantly recognizable to any Game of Thrones fan.
Pop Price Guide Value as of March 3 2016: $8

Lumpy Space Princess – Television (Adventure Time) line #30
Adventure Time is one of the oddest shows I’ve ever watched, but also tons of fun, and the Pops are excellently done. This particular one doesn’t have a huge amount of detail because the character is basically a purple blob with arms, but she’s also very unique-looking in the world of Pops. Personally, I think she’s adorable, and she’s definitely going to look great with the rest of the crew from the show.
Pop Price Guide Value as of March 3 2016: $9

Capt. Apollo – Television (Battlestar Galactica) line #228
This is the first Pop that I’ve gotten from this service that means absolutely nothing to me, but I am hoping that won’t be the case for too long. I purposely left the Battlestar Galactica Pops open-ended on the Pop in a Box website because I’ve never actually watched the show, but I believe that I will probably love it when I do eventually get around to it. In the meantime, this little guy will have to hang out by himself, being under-appreciated.
Pop Price Guide Value as of March 3 2016: $6

Mushu and Cricket – Disney line #167
I’m really glad that these two little guys came in the same box as Mulan, because all three are going to look so cute together on the shelf. Mushu is an adorable little mini-dragon whose design is very loyal to the movie, and I just love that he came with a teeny Cricket Pop. Funny add-on in case you didn’t watch the unboxing video: there was an actual dead but in the Pop box when I opened it up. Maybe he was trying to rescue his buddy from the plastic.
Pop Price Guide Value as of March 3 2016: $10

Cogsworth – Disney line #91
Okay, I have to admit that I was pretty excited to see this Pop because, although I haven’t been actively collecting them, I think the Beauty and the Beast Pops are super-cute. I loved the movie as a kid, and I think they did a really great job on Cogsworth’s mold and paint. Now if I could only find a Beast to stand him with!
Pop Price Guide Value as of March 3 2016: $7

Ariel – Disney line #27
And last, but certainly not least, we have the princess of the sea. I feel like I didn’t express nearly enough joy when I pulled out this Pop (I think I was having an off-day during filming) but believe me, I was super happy to see this little mermaid. Ariel was my princess when I was growing up, so if I was going to collect any Disney Pop, she is definitely the must-have. I had previously gotten the human Ariel and the hipster Ariel Pops, but this is one I hadn’t seen around and I absolutely love her. I especially love that her fin is covered in pretty green sparkles. Magical!  ^_^
Pop Price Guide Value as of March 3 2016: $10

Total approximate value on Pop Price Guide: $103 (US) / $140
Total approximate retail value: $156 (CAD)
Total cost to me: $154 (CAD)

So, that was the whole box, and although there were a few negative points, I thought it was pretty great. I’m always happy to get Star Wars Pops, and I’ve been enjoying getting the random Disney Pops that I don’t normally look out for. I was a little disappointed in the MLP Pop since I much prefer the version I already had, and I don’t really have any feelings either way about the Battlestar Galactica one yet, plus there’s the accidental C-3P0 double, but the awesomeness of the Petyr, Lumpy Space Princess, and Cogsworth make up for those three. I also absolutely love the Luke Skywalker, Mulan, and Mushu and Cricket. And, of course, there’s Ariel, my all-time favorite princess in the history of Disney princesses.

The value is a little bit subjective, depending on how you look at it. I provided the Pop Price Guide values mainly because it gives you an idea of whether the Pops are common or rare, but personally I prefer to think about it in the sense of how much I would have paid for them if I’d bought them in store. Either way, the numbers work out so that I’m basically paying almost exactly the same amount of money, without having to actually go out and search for these Pops, some of which are impossible to find in Nova Scotia. So in that sense, the cost is definitely worth it; otherwise I’d have to order some of these Pops online and pay individual shipping costs every time. Plus, if the Canadian dollar ever does go back up, I’ll actually be paying a good bit less than retail value for each Pop, which would be awesome (fingers crossed).

There are downsides to Pop in a Box that I should mention. For one, their shipping to Canada is painfully slow (although half of that might be the idiocy of customs in recent months). In addition to that, their shipping is very basic, so for people who are very concerned with pristine packaging, you have to realize that your Pops may not come in perfect condition. And finally, while it is possible to receive exclusives in your box, there is no guarantee that they will come with the sticker that proves the exclusive status.

That said, if you’re not terribly concerned about a dent or two or a missing sticker, and you’re patient enough to not get upset with the slow shipping, it’s an awesome service.

So yeah, basically, long-story-short, I love this service. 🙂 And if you’re interested, please use this link, which gives you 20% off your first order, whilst also giving me a percentage toward a free Pop. Win-win!

Ponies and Wizards and Godzilla, Oh My! (Funko Haul Time!)

Everyone has their hobbies and their little obsessions, and mine is a little (ha ha) line of collectibles called Funko Pop! vinyl figures. I love these little dudes, especially the ones based on my absolute favorite fandoms, and I enjoy sharing my purchases with my YouTube followers. But I don’t want to neglect you guys (love!), so today I thought I’d be lazy take a little break from the long posts and just share my most recent Funko Pop! haul. If you enjoy Star Wars, Minions, Harry Potter, and other awesome, fun stuff, you might just enjoy some of these little collectible cuties. Cheers! ^_^

Time Management….Pshaw

For better or worse, I’ve always been the kind of person who does things at the last minute. I was always a good student, but even when I was in the earlier levels of grade school I would regularly let homework and projects fester in my backpack until the night before they were due. Grade 8 Science was the first time I ever studied for a test more than one day beforehand, and it didn’t happen again until provincial exams in the 11th grade. By the time I hit college I still had no time management skills at all. I just did everything immediately before it had to be done. This may be the reason that I had such a rough go of it when college-level Calculus came around, but I can honestly say that I didn’t learn my lesson. I’m still a last-minute kind of person, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. It’s like it’s wired into my DNA.

Case in point: I made these My Little Pony "cutie marks" for my daughter's room a YEAR ago and they're still not on her wall. :P
Case in point: I made these My Little Pony “cutie marks” for my daughter’s room a YEAR ago and they’re still not on her wall. 😛

Another example: this past Friday I decided to submit an entry to Writer’s Digest’s “Short Short Story” competition. Do you know how long they’ve been taking submissions for this particular competition? Months. Do you know when the final deadline was? This past Friday. Yeah. That’s me, alright.

I’d been staring at the contest page for weeks, and since they regularly send out emails to remind you about ongoing contests, I stared at those as well. A thousand ideas ran through my head for what I could write for the “less than 1500 words” contest. Ha, I thought to myself, 1500 words! That’s nothing! I can write that in an afternoon!

And that’s pretty much exactly what I did because, as usual, I let the ideas sit in the back of my head until Friday, when I looked at the date on my computer and realized that the contest was ending at midnight. So I sat down at my computer after my daughter was in bed, and I whipped that story out fast. It was based on a short story I’d written (poorly) several years prior, so that helped me to write faster. I re-read the mini-manuscript twice, hoped that I hadn’t missed any glaring typos or superfluous adjectives, and whipped up a quick title page. Then I uploaded the file, filled out the online form, and hit “Submit” with only a couple of hours left to the deadline.

Honestly, I’m not expecting anything to come of this particular submission. It’s not bad, but it could definitely be better, and I’m sure there will be tons of submissions to this particular contest so I’m probably up against lots of competition. That said, I’m glad I forced myself to sit down and rip something out in order to participate. At least I can say that I’ve taken part.

And if I were to win one of the multiple prizes? Well that would just be awesome. XD

Gift Ideas for Christmas 2014: Toys Part 1

I’m gonna say one thing right off the bat: I’m a big child, and I love toys, and there are a lot of cool ones around these days, so it’s going to be hard to choose just a few. Therefore I’m going to do three of these toy posts to spread things out a bit. I’m also going to do my best to represent lots of different toy categories, including classic stuff, board games, video games, more affordable stuff, and more pricey stuff. So let’s get started!

Build-a-Bear Stuffed Toys


I’m a huge fan of Build a Bear for numerous reasons. One is that their stuff is so well-made and nice-looking, not to mention being pretty resilient. Another is that they will re-stuff a previous purchase for free if it starts to get squished or worn down, which is just a nice service to have. A third one is that they make a bunch of licensed characters and they do an absolutely amazing job of making them look like the actual characters as they appear in their prospective cartoons/movies/whatever. Currently available in stores and online are a score of My Little Pony characters, all four modern-version Ninja Turtles, and Toothless from “How to Train Your Dragon”, amongst others. And right now you can even get Rudolph and Clarice from the Rankin-Bass stop motion Christmas classic. A single plush in any category averages between $25 and $30, which sounds like a lot for a stuffed animal, but they are a very decent size and very well-made. And if you want to really make the toy special, there’s a huge selection of clothing and accessories for your recipients’ little buddy. Just be warned: if you start delving into the clothes and accessories the price tag is going to rise very quickly.

Monopoly Junior


Before you say anything, no, I am not bringing this board game up because I got it for free from Influenster. I’m bringing it up because I was genuinely impressed with it, and the fact that my daughter wanted to play it a million times in a row proves that it achieves its primary goal. This board game is a great way to introduce little ones to board games because it is easy to learn, and it is designed for the rounds to take around 10 to 20 minutes, so kids don’t get board or lose interest. There’s even a bit of an educational factor to it, since there’s counting involved, and you can use the game as a way to help teach your kids about money. At $15-$20, I personally think this is a great present that you and your little ones can enjoy together.

LeapFrog’s LeapBand


Confession time: I haven’t actually seen this thing in action, but I do think it’s a really cute, interesting addition to the LeapFrog family. The LeapBand looks a bit like a smart-watch, and features software similar to the LeapPad “Pet Pals” games. Kids choose from a number of virtual pets, who then guide the child through fitness activities. They’ll be asked to jump, run, hop, roll, and any other number of activities, while the band monitors their motion. By completing activities the child earns rewards for their pet, levels up, and unlocks more games and activities. At $50 it’s not exactly cheap, but if you’ve got a small kid who is already becoming a bit of a couch potato, this might be just the thing to get them up and moving!

Come back tomorrow for more toy gift ideas!

A Generation Gap Filled

My generation (30ish-year-olds) is currently experiencing a pretty unique opportunity to bond with our children. Over the past few years we’ve been living through a total reboot of our childhoods. All of the things that we enjoyed as kids – everything from the Care Bears and My Little Pony to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the Transformers – have come back in a big way, and it makes for an interesting situation. Even if you’re not a fan of the new versions of old characters, you can’t help but feel the giddy sense of joy at seeing your children fall in love with the characters you too were once obsessed with.

A couple of weeks ago my cousin and I had the opportunity to take our daughters to see The Little Mermaid on Stage by Disney Junior, a musical play based on the original movie and performed entirely by kids and young teens. It was an awesome opportunity becdause both of our daughters love the Disney princesses and are fans of Ariel in particular, but if we’re being completely honest here, it was as much for us as for them. When Leah and I were kids we were obsessed with The Little Mermaid. It wouldn’t have been an exaggeration to say that we watched the movie a hundred times or more. We could quote every line, sing every song. When we went swimming we would hold our legs together and pretend we had mermaid fins. We lived and breathed The Little Mermaid. So to get the chance to relive a bit of that old obsession, while also getting to see how excited our girls were to see the show…well, that was pretty damn awesome.

Cutest little play-goers in the world right there!
Cutest little play-goers in the world right there!

And the thing is, like I said earlier, my generation has been given that opportunity time and again lately. I can snuggle up on the couch with my daughter to watch Ninja Turtles and genuinely enjoy myself because I still love the characters to this day. I can sit on the floor and play with My Little Pony toys with her and make her happy by actually knowing all the character’s names. I can read her stories about the Hulk and Captain America and Spiderman and be able to have actually conversations with her about the characters because I know their backstories. And all of this, of course, makes her happy as well, because she gets to enjoy the things she likes with mommy.

It may seem a little childish on the suface, but I personally think that a little childishness in life can be a good thing. And besides, what better way is there to bond with your child than to share mutal interests? After all, it can be hard enough to close the generation gap between parent and child, so why not take every opportunity that you can? Relive your childhood a little, and help your kids to live theirs with you in it. 🙂

Accountability Wednesdays: Week 16

Before I get started today, I want to send out a belated “Happy Easter!” to all those who celebrate the holiday, and I hope you had a good one! This Easter was the first one that I really got to celebrate with my daughter since she was too young to understand what it was about the first two years, and last year I was working on the other side of the country during the holiday. Since I had the opportunity I staged a little egg hunt with goodies (cream eggs, M&M’s, mini-eggs, and little plastic bracelets) in plastic eggs. It was too fun watching her run around looking for the eggs, sometimes staring right at them and walking past. She also got a Build-a-Bear Fluttershy (My Little Pony) from us, which was the first thing she ran right for, which of course made my heart melt. Throw in some books and candy and a couple of games for her LeapPad from the grandparents, and the little missy had quite a lovely day, and therefore so did I. Little joys, my friends. Little joys.

Also, decorating eggs is a necessity! :D
Also, decorating eggs is a necessity! 😀

And now that I’ve thoroughly cleansed your pallet, it’s time to muck it up with a week’s worth of failure. o.o

Goal #1: Lose ten pounds and become healthier overall.

On the upside of things, I weighed myself this morning and I am almost three pounds lighter than I was when I had my meltdown last week. I’m not exactly sure how that happened, or whether either of those two weigh-in’s was accurate, because it doesn’t seem likely that I lost three pounds in one week without doing anything at all. But for now, I’ll take it.

The bad side of things is that I had an awful week for poor eating, due in part to the Easter holiday. I mean, come on, chocolate was everywhere. I also had a lot more pop than I should have, so I’m reasserting myself to avoid it this week. Water, water, water…maybe if I repeat it enough times I’ll start to enjoy drinking it. lol

The other bad side of things is that I did almost zero activity last week. I hopped on the treadmill once, and that was it. My FitBit should seriously have some kind of shock function that fills me full of voltage if I get fewer than so many steps in a day. >.>

But there is another upside! Kinda. See, I’ve got a plan. My plan partially hinges on the weather not being an ass, but it’s a plan none-the-less. I broke out an old book I’ve got called “Buff Brides” that I used when I was trying to lose weight for my wedding. It’s actually a pretty nice program, laid out in a simple-to-understand “do this on this day” system, and it helped me last time so I figure it can help me this time. The program involves weight training three days a week, starting with simple exercises that neither take too much time nor beat you out so that you end up quitting right away. It also encourages three days a week worth of cardio, so I’m going to hike up my britches, pay that my stomach holds itself together until the doctor’s can give me a more definitive answer about my gastronomic issues, and start my Zombies! Run! app again. I hope to start my new plan this Sunday – starting with a Zombies! run – but I’m not committing to it for certain because I’ve got some other things to deal with between now and then. If not this Sunday, it’ll be the following Sunday. Hold me accountable, people! Ask me how I’m doing and yell at me if I say anything other than “Great!”

Goal #2: Be more active on social media and work hard on my “author platform”.

This week was much like the previous week. I’ve been doing pretty well with Facebook and the blogging community, interacting and getting conversations going and the like. Twitter is my weak point and I’m not really sure what to do about it. For some reason it feels like a lot of extra effort to add that one site to my daily routine, and I think it’s because I can never think of anything to say that I can compress into less than 140 characters. I’m just too wordy, I guess. 😛

Goal #3: COMPLETE my zombie apocalypse novel, Nowhere to Hide.

This is the crux of my failure right here. I keep telling myself that I’m going to work on it, and I keep daydreaming about what it will be like when I’m 100% done and sending the file to Create Space, and yet it never happens. Partially my problem is a mixture of laziness and lethargy – I’ve been very badly obsessed with sitting on my ass and playing video games the past while – but at least part of the problem is good-old-fashioned fear. I long to have my book finished and published, but I also fear it. It’s that stupid human way of fearing both failure and success simultaneously. What is wrong with the human mind? A great many things, it would seem.

That said, I stand before you now (or rather, sit behind my side of the computer screen) and swear to you all that I am going to get something done toward this goal this week. Even if it’s just to go through and fix the invisible typos that my beta-reader pointed out, I will do something this week, I promise.

Goal #4: Write 500,000 words.

You know what? I’ve changed my mind. This is the crux of my failure. If there’s one thing that I know for sure that a writer has to do, it’s write. We have to write, write, and write some more, and then have a couple of cups of coffee and keep writing. I have completely failed this aspect of writer-dom during the month of April. I figured – I really did – that if I wrote and scheduled all my A to Z Challenge posts in advance, then I would have tons of time to write other things throughout April without having to worry about the blog. Technically that did happen. I’ve had time to write. I just haven’t been using it. I completely wasted three weeks of not having to worry about writing blog posts by completely failing to write anything else. This past week the only thing I wrote – literally, the only thing that wasn’t a Facebook status or a comment reply – was last week’s accountability post…for a grand total of 875 words. The really sad thing? That was actually a better total than last week.

So my second promise for this week is to write something every day, even if it’s just a couple hundred words of nonsense. This complete and utter laziness toward writing has got to stop. How can I ever consider myself a professional writer if I don’t write?

Accountability Tuesdays: Week 52 and A Year in Review

This is it. Not only is this my last accountability post of the year, but at midnight tonight 2013 will be complete.

Image borrowed from seaandbescene.com

It’s been a busy and interesting year. I spent the first six months of the year working out West in the Alberta oil sands on a 2 weeks out, 2 weeks home schedule that involved a heck-of-a-lot of flights back and forth across the country and quite a bit of time away from my daughter and husband. The other six months I spent contentedly unemployed, enjoying just being home but also very busy with a growing toddler, your usual insane amount of housework, and trying to fit lots of writing and a reasonable amount of leisure time in there was well.

This year I turned 29. Thanks to my work out West I paid off both my and my husband’s student loans, and completed the payments on our car, leaving us with no other debt besides our mortgage. I also struggled – both during work and during unemployment – to work as hard as I could on my writing, both the fiction and the blogging varieties. This year I participated in my sixth NaNoWriMo and netted my fifth win.  I also (nearly) completed editing on my first ever finished manuscript, and I wrote a significant amount toward a fantasy adventure that I’ve been working on for several years now.

I wrote 248 blog posts this year. Two hundred and forty-eight.

My daughter turned three years old this year. I made her a kick-ass MegaMan costume for Halloween, which she loved, and I built (from scratch) a tickle trunk for her for her birthday. Speaking of which, I baked and decorated about a million My Little Pony cupcakes for that birthday as well.

We had an awesome holiday, I was given some truly awesome presents by my husband and my whole family, my daughter proved that she could quickly figure out the use of a kid-tablet that’s marketed more toward older kids, and here we find ourselves at the end of 2013, just waiting for the clock to tick over.

And so here is my last bout of accountability for the year, with comparisons to the “Wildly Improbable Goals” that spawned them in the first place.

Health and Body Image Goal

1. Get into some kind of shape that makes me feel good about my body again…I’m not looking at a particular amount of weight-loss or anything specific, just a state of physical being that I feel good about. I slate this as a wildly improbable goal because, as I’ve mentioned before, my work schedule makes devoting time to such a thing particularly difficult.

A year has passed since I wrote the above, and not a lot has changed outwardly. If I were to go hunt down a photo of myself from last January and compare it to a photo now you probably wouldn’t see much of a difference. I had periods throughout 2013 where I did an excellent amount of exercise, and periods when I was more slovenly than I’ve ever been in my life. I had periods during which I ate pretty well, and periods during which I deserved every second of the stomach pains that I incurred. I managed to work myself toward running a 10 min/mile, and then completely lost that ability.

But here’s the thing: though I didn’t lose any (significant) weight or inches, wasn’t able to go down a pant size or stick to a healthy eating routine, I did accomplish something. I came to a realization that while I do want to lose some weight and become healthier overall, I am perfectly satisfied with my body the way it is right now. I don’t feel fat, I don’t feel ugly. I feel like a mom and a wife and a tradeswoman, and that’s okay with me, even if I go a whole year more without losing a single pound.

Editing Goal

2. Finish editing my zombie apocalypse novel, Nowhere to Hide. It’s time to get this f’er on the shelves, damn it!

A good chunk of 2013 saw this goal effectively ignored, due to my complete inability to find a decent word processor to work from my tablet while I was out West. But when I did finally get to work on this goal, I really went crazy. Everything came to a screaming halt once the holidays hit, but to date I only have approximately two and a half chapters (which, I think, are the best-written chapters anyway) to finish editing. So while I didn’t technically complete this goal, I feel very good about where I managed to find myself and am confident that I’ll be able to do something great with my manuscript in the new year.

1,000,000 Word Goal

3. Write 1,000,000 words in 2013. This is the big one. Where am I going to find the time? I have no idea. But between blog posts, drabbles, new stories, and new scenes added to NtH during editing, I want to accomplish a total word count of ONE MILLION words by the end of 2013. Wouldn’t that be something? I think it would.

It became evident within the first few months of the year that this wasn’t likely to happen. There just weren’t enough hours in the day while I was out West in order to write the 83,333 words per month necessary to complete this goal. I eventually came to the conclusion that 500,000 words was a more reasonable goal, though I continued to refer to it as the 1,000,000 word goal, because wouldn’t that be awesome? Unfortunately, as with my editing goal, the holidays hit at just the right time to keep me from progressing quite far enough. As of the completion of this post, my grand total word count for the year of 2013 came to 457,067 words. I didn’t come anywhere near my original million word hope, and I came several thousand words short of my revised half-a-million word hope, but I have to be honest: I’m quite amazed with what I did manage to do. I’ve been writing for more than 15 years, and I don’t know if I wrote so many words over the course of the first 14 all together, never mind that many over the course of one year. I’m incredibly proud of myself and have every intention of blowing away that personal record in 2014. Here’s to acting like a real writer. 🙂

So there it is. One year ends, another one begins. I hope everyone has a great New Years Eve, and that everyone greets 2014 with heads held high.

See you all next year. 🙂

Tracey’s Gift-Giving Guide: Part 5 – Last-Minute Ideas

There’s only a week left until Christmas people! And yet I know that some of you barely have any shopping done…some of you even have NO shopping done. For shame.

For you people, here are a few last-minute, minimal-effort ideas.

Gift Cards

Personally, I’m not a fan of gift cards at Christmas. I can’t help but feel like there should be a note on them that says, “I don’t know you well enough to have any idea what you might like, so here’s some pre-spent money, and please do the leg work for me”. No offense to those who like to give gift cards…that’s just how I feel about them.

That said, there are certain types of gift cards that I feel are acceptable. Two of them are shown above. If you know a Tim Horton’s coffee lover, a Tim Card is an excellent choice because it’s money that you know they’re going to spend anyway. Alternatively, a Playstation Network card (or a Microsoft Points card for the XBox lovers) for the gamer in your life is a wonderful choice because it allows them to “load” their account with funds without having to attach a credit card number to their account. (For those of you who don’t get the whole gaming thing, your recipient can use the funds to download games or virtual goods for their games.)

Depending on what your gift recipient likes there are other good choices for gift cards, but I beg you to avoid certain stores…giving a gift card to a department store says, “I had literally thousands of choices around me, but still didn’t know what to get you”, and please, please avoid those Dollarama gift cards…even if your recipient regularly shops at the local Dollar Store, giving them a gift card for one screams “I think you’re cheap!”

A Themed Christmas Decoration

There are literally thousands upon thousands of themed and licensed Christmas decorations out there these days. They’ve always been available at stores like Hallmark and Carlton Cards, but they’re also prevalent at the department stores and supermarkets now, so you can’t possibly try to say that you can’t find any. For a few bucks you can get your loved one something cute and/or personalized that they can use to decorate their house for years to come.

Does your loved one love the old Rankin-Bass Christmas specials? There are tons of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer decorations out there. Do you have a kid on your list who is obsessed with a particular cartoon? I can almost guarantee you that you’ll find a couple of tree ornaments dedicated to that particular show. My daughter has her own miniature Christmas tree and it is covered in Ponies, Ninja Turtles, Spongebob, Sesame Street characters, and Disney Princesses. Take half a glance in the decoration section of any store and you’re bound to find something, I promise.

A Throw Blanket

Hear me out. If you live in a tropical climate, feel free to ignore this one, but if you live anywhere where, at some time throughout the year, the temperature drops below freezing, this is a great gift. There’s nothing quite like snuggling up on the couch to watch TV/read a book/play a video game/screw around on the computer with a soft, snuggly blanket wrapped around your shoulders. For a cost of between $10 and $30, depending on where and what you buy, you can share this joy. I’ve both given and received these wonderful little squares of material, and they’ve always been appreciated. In fact, I have one wrapped around me as I’m typing this post. Trust me on this one. Lovely, easy gift.


With this last gift-giving guide post, I would like to say one last thing… Pay attention to your loved ones. The reason we all tend to have so much trouble (and stress) shopping during Christmas is because we can never think of what to buy, and the main reason that we can’t think of what to buy is because we simply don’t pay attention to one another. I’m not trying to give the impression that I’m exempt from that statement…I’m as bad as anyone. But the worst offenders, I’ve found, tend to be the parents of young children. Working in retail has shown me that a lot of parents pay so little attention to their children’s likes and dislikes that it actually frightens me, so here’s a hint: if you think that every video game is a “Mario” game, or you can’t name even one of the characters of the TV show that your child loves…you need to start opening your eyes and your ears and stop relying on sales associates to help you figure out what to get your kid for Christmas.

Do you have any gift ideas that you’d care to share with the panicked, stressed-out last-minute shoppers? Leave a comment! We’d all love to hear your ideas!

This concludes Tracey’s Gift-Giving Guide. I hope I’ve helped a few people come up with some ideas for great gifts for their loved ones, but now that we’re down to one week left I plan to not even think about any more shopping. 🙂

Happy last minute shopping, everyone!

Tracey’s Gift-Giving Guide: Part 4 – MORE TOYS!

Battle-Shell Ninja Turtles

Do you have a Ninja Turtle fan on your list? Check out these awesome action figures of the Nickelodeon iteration. These four “battle shell” turtles are larger than your average figure, standing about 11 inches high, and come with weapons that fit snugly into a compartment behind each turtle’s shell. They’re perfect for a fan of the Turtles, and since my wonderfully rough-and-tumble niece has a couple of her own I can assure you that they are kid-resistant. A wonderful choice at approximately $30 each. 

Talking Sophia the First

My daughter very recently fell in love with Sophia the First, an amazing little show on Disney Junior that follows a young peasant girl who suddenly becomes a princess overnight when her mother marries the king. Toys for the show have just begun to explode this year, and this 10-inch doll is one of my absolute favorites. Pressing Sophia’s magical amulet makes her share one of dozens of phrases, and when you bring one of her three animal friends close to her amulet the two will “talk” to one another. It’s a sweet toy, especially for a lover of the show. A bit of advice: shop around for this one. I’ve seen it as low as $30 and as high as $45 depending on where you go.

Collector Series Exclusive Nightmare Moon

If you’re someone who has been paying any attention at all to this blog, you know that my daughter loves My Little Pony, so I consider myself something of an authority. That said, this Toys R Us exclusive Nightmare Moon would be an excellent addition to the collection of any lover of the show, or ponies in general. This large figure of the series’ premier villain talks, and her wings move and light up when you press the button on her “cutie mark”. She comes with a comb and four barrettes (of course) with which to style her mane and tail. This toy is an exclusive item that can only be purchased at Toys R Us, and is also part of a collector’s series that probably won’t be around forever, so if you want to get your little pony-lover something special, this just could be it. The regular price for this talking, light-up figure is about $25.

LeapPad Ultra

If you’re looking to spend a little bit of money on something fun and durable that is also an excellent learning tool, I present to you one of the biggest toys this holiday season: the LeapPad Ultra. I have to admit that I haven’t yet seen one of these in action, but I’ve read so many good reviews that I feel I can still tote it as an excellent gift option. The latest in a line of “kid tablets”, the Ultra is the largest and most durable version of LeapPad to come out. It brags excellent specs, a 7 inch screen, 8 gigs of storage space, and front-and-rear-facing 2 megapixel cameras. Unlike previous versions, this one is wi-fi capable, and incorporates a child-safe web-browser that only allows the user to access pre-approved sites (the PBS website is an example of an approved site). This model also has a built-in rechargeable battery – unlike previous models – which is gold considering how a child can chew through batteries on a toy like this. The game/book/app library is huge, and includes plenty of options for kids ages 3 through 9. If your little one is as ingrained in technology as mine is, the LeapPad Ultra would make a wonderful gift that lets them feel like they’re using a “real” tablet, while playing games with their favorite characters and learning a ton in the process. This model costs approximately $160, depending on where you buy, and in my opinion it’s worth every penny.

Do you have any great ideas for toy gifts? Please share!

Stay tuned for Tracey’s Gift-Giving Guide Part 5: Last-Minute Ideas